Monday, 20 March 2017

A letter to my body (5 years after Hodgkins Lymphoma).

There was a time I felt you'd let me down and that I couldn't trust you, but then you made miracles happen. Six years ago I discovered a lump in my neck. I thought it was just my glands... Maybe I had an infection. Turned out I had Stage 2 Hodgkin Lymphoma. I underwent four months of chemo and came out cured but broken, mentally and physically. I had post traumatic stress and later experienced panic attacks. Steroids and stress resulted in me ballooning in size. I sported a scar on my neck and arm that I hated to look at and my hair was thin and lack lustre. I'd lost confidence in you. Fast forward five years and I have two beautiful babies, thanks to you my miraculous body!
5 Years: Cancer free...
& look who's with me at the appointment!

I wasn't exactly confident in my reproductive abilities in the lead up to chemo. My consultant seemed relaxed about my chances but I heard of someone else in another part of the country having her eggs frozen,even though she was having the same treatment for the same condition as me. Well at my five years in remission check up I was able to take my twins and thank Dr Kanfer for being right that all would be OK.

It's not so much a happy ending as a new beginning filled with new challenges. And you, my lovely body have a map of our adventures together. In the crease below my tummy a line runs along where the wonderful surgeons lifted my beautiful twins from their home of nearly 9 months. My tummy is covered with stretch mark upon stretch mark created from holding my two babies to term. My breasts are a slightly different shape after providing some milk for three and a half months for two hungry mouths and I still sport a scar on my neck and arm from my brush with Hodgkins. Those scars that I found upsetting for a while are now my battle wounds joining the new ones that I am deeply proud of. They have prepared me in ways I never thought possible for this new stage in life. Some of the lessons I learnt from being a patient in hospital, listening to my body, dealing with needles better and taking each challenge with a level of humour and hope were all helpful in pregnancy. So body, thank you. I may have doubted you at times but you have done amazing things for me. May the future keep bringing healing your way and help me and my babies little bodies grow stronger each day. May all those other bodies in the world, dealing with their own challenges be granted the same!

Friday, 29 August 2014

A really exciting project! Vanley Burke and how the contents of his flat may end up in the Ikon Gallery

Getting to make films about interesting stories is a great job. But getting to make a film about something that catches your heart and imagination makes me feel like I have the best job in the world! 

I know I often share my projects but I cannot express how much you should watch this. Vanley Burke is a renowned photographer and keen collector, specialising in the African Carribean community around Birmingham. He's a fascinating guy and the Ikon Gallery are planning to move everything in his flat into their Gallery. I hope this project will go ahead and I am keeping my fingers crossed that I'll get to be part of following his ongoing and fascinating story. It's not surprising that after visiting Vanley's home and hearing some of his music compilations all three of our film team have invested in the project through Art Happens and are eagerly awaiting a future Vanley Burke mix CD. 

Any of you music lovers, photography appreciators, archive curious, West Midland residents, history buffs, or just plain curious in exciting events please check out Vanley's story: If you like what you see please do contribute and spread the word. It’s a chance to be part of something very special. 

Thank you. x

Thursday, 27 March 2014

For telling a guy in a club who groped her... - #nomakeupselfie Part 2

When a Jeanne Marie got groped in a club and told the guy it was inappropriate... this was the result:

She was beaten up. But instead of letting her aggressor win she made a stand with this #nomakeupselfie

On Facebook she said this:
"i am sorry cancer research, but my ‪#‎nomakeupselfie‬ is for a different cause:
for telling a guy in a club who groped me that it is completely inappropriate to touch a woman without her consent, i was beaten. he told me to "Smile!", too. (
no, we do not have to wear makeup
no, we do not have to smile
and, most importantly,
no, we do NOT have to be touched.
i'm trying to channel my rage into something constructive, so i'm raising money for the Oxford Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre (OSARCC). please text OXRC47 £3 to 70070 to donate £3 (or OXRC47 £1 for £1 or OXRC47 £10 for £10, etc.). if you're not in the UK (or don't want to text) please visit my justgiving page to donate here: feel free to share this post, as well.
thanks, friends. sometimes you just have to make the best out of a broken nose, right?"
I think most women have experienced some sort of sexual harassment. I am sad to say that from that from far too early an age onwards I have. By my teens I was enraged by it and have made a stand on many occasion. But the fact that this young woman has made such a public stand is heartening and inspiring.
It frustrates me that some men feel that they can touch a woman without her consent. It absolutely enrages me that they can inflict such damage when someone like Jeanne Marie says no. I hope others will feel inspired to stand up against such abuse, and I hope onlookers will be inspired to stand up and protect such brave women. 
Well done Jeanne Marie. I hope you heal and remain strong.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Bright sunny days, cold beers and a bit of brass!

What's more lovely in Summer than to sit outside on a hot day, listening to free gigs on our nations beautiful bandstands! Here's a little film to keep the sunshine glowing bright, care of the wonderful and very talented Onyx Brass... Oh, and I might have had a hand in making what you are about to see. 

Onyx on stage... me on camera.
Photo: Nicky Thomas Media
Onyx Brass are touring the UK from today, playing free gigs in bandstands. London will feature on their schedule in May and June but any of you in Glasgow can see them playing today. 

Never work with children or animals...
unless they appreciate your efforts that is!
Photo: Nicky Thomas Media
Tour de Brass will also be bringing cheer and dulcet brass tones to bandstands across East Anglia, the South West, the North East, the North West and another date in Glasgow. 

I would highly recommend checking them out! ... even if I have been listening to one of their tunes on loop whilst editing the video... I still love their sound! ... in fact I'm humming it now ;)

22 March - Glasgow:

18 May - East Anglia:
Ludham Festival, Great Yarmouth, Bury St Edmunds Festival

20 May - London:
Victoria Embankment Gardens, Hyde Park Bandstand

28-30 June - South West:
Beaminster Festival, Devon, Somerset, Dorset

5 July - London:
Southbank Centre Festival

12-13 July - North East:
Durham Brass Festival, Superact's "Our Big Gig", Durham County, Miner's Gala, Auckland Castle, Barnard Castle

2 August - Glasgow:
Commonwealth Games Cultural Festival

7 September - North West:
Liverpool, Widnes, Chester

Saturday, 22 March 2014

#nomakeupselfie?! Really?!

I must admit that when the  hashtag started cropping up in my social media feeds I was a bit sceptical. 

My initial thought was "Really?! How on earth is this going to help cancer awareness in any way?!". And apologies, but it just seemed a bit vain. 

So my response to being tagged was to side step the selfie and post with this:

#nomakeupselfie? How about donating to a cancer charity?

I suggested three fantastic charities:

Thankfully others had the same idea and before long people were actually truly raising money for charity, as well as awareness. In fact Cancer Research has reported receiving over 1 million pounds in charitable donations since this current selfie craze!

Despite this, I still can't get over the slightly self validating feeling of it all... and don't get me wrong... I posted all about my experiences of cancer on social networks. For some, that may have felt like over-sharing, others may now be thinking "pot, kettle, black".  Plus, I'm not exactly shy about posting photos of myself online. However, I have never been a big fan of the those chain letters guilting you into not breaking the chain... and this feels a bit like that. Plus the expectation of responses of "oh honey, you are a natural beauty" is just a bit too cringe for me.

I think my friend Ali had the best and most memorable post with this:
 "Here's my no make up selfie. I know, shushhhh...I'm just SO blessed"
Haha. Brilliant!

Now whilst I'm still not that keen on uploading a "selfie" for cancer awareness, I respect those that do. You have all done a great job of genuinely raising money and awareness, despite my initial scepticism. So here's my compromise, a photo, not taken by me, without a scratch up of makeup... I was just too busy to even think about mascara... But hush, no affirmations. Thanks ;)

Friday, 28 February 2014

Maybe it's just me but...

I can only imagine that a man designed this Chrysler ad aimed at women! Ok, so I'm not adverse to spending money on clothes, makeup, hair and other products but this feels a little bit patronising and vacous! 
"Hey women, all you're interested in is looking good for your man... forget that... he'll be so much more interested in you if you go for this car... anyway, it's not about the car is it,  because all you women really care about is that it's red!"

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Today, someone did something very kind for me...

Today, someone did something very kind for me.
  Here in London... 
    the big city with over 3 million people! How often does any one member of this bulging society pay a stranger a bit of attention?! Can you remember the last time you did something nice for another person in the 'Big Smoke'?

Londoners have a reputation for being unfriendly. Not surprising when you consider that many visitors' first impressions of the residents of this great city are made during encounters on public transport. The long, expensive and overly busy daily commutes are hardly conducive to a friendly atmosphere! 

I have to say that I have generally found London to be very friendly place. OK, so getting to know your neighbours isn't often high on many people's agenda here. And yes, the Northern Line at Rush Hour is not fun when many of it's passengers use their elbows like a crowbar to shimmy their way onto those already over packed trains. However, I've witnessed many a kindness as well. Today, for instance an older lady was offered a seat twice on the Jubilee line (the second person not hearing that she was getting off at the next stop). 

The destination that I was headed for is also a good example of London at it's best. The members of Cecil Sharp House Choir, which I have been part of for many years have become a mini community who perform many acts of kindness for each other. It's not unusual for one of the 60 or so people who attend every Wednesday to bring some fruit or vegetables that they have grown for others to enjoy. A couple of members voluntarily arrange refreshments for the group each week, someone brought home baked flapjacks today and that is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how those wonderful people have helped to make each others lives that little bit better. But I still haven't got on to the main kindness that prompted me to write today's blog.

After a long day I stumbled home. The route is not great by public transport as it takes double the time cycling or driving should take. When I decided that walking all the way was a bit ambitious in my current state I decided to hail a cab and see how far the £5.50 in my purse would get me. Being a bit skint at the moment I planned to walk the rest. So, it was such a nice surprise when the taxi driver said that his job was to make sure I got home safely. It's not like a live in a dodgy area either. I had reassured him that I felt safe but bless hime he drove me all the way to my road. It's not even like I am a young girl trying to get home on meagre pocket money. He had already made his mind up to drive me the distance before I said I was having a tight month. I thanked him profusely and he was so modest. What he did for me meant so much not just because he helped me out but because his act of kindness made a big impression on me. I hope I remember his name correctly, because I'd like to thank Sharab, the taxi driver. Thank you for getting me home safely. Thank you for your kindness. Thank you for reminding me how people do care here in London. You have earnt some karma... not that you sought it. You talked of the importance of society and I agree. It's an important thing. So for anyone reading this: I appeal for you to do something nice for a stranger, acquaintance, friend or family. Let's get that community spirit going and make someone else's day. Let's pass that karma from Camden to Paddington, from Canning Town to London Bridge, from Walthamstow to Wandsworth... Offer a seat; a hand carrying some shopping; a simple smile may be enough. Of course, there is so much more that we can do. Let's get that sense of community spirit being felt all around our capital city!