Jess Glynne at MTV’s Lockdown

The divine Jess Glynne!

The divine Miss Glynne!

This week I had the honour and privilege to be in the audience as part of MTV’s new show, Live Lockdown, starring the incredibly soulful and uplifting voice that is of course… the one and only…*drumroll*… Jess Glynne!

It was late Monday night when I received the email, inviting me to be a part of an intimate gig with this British singer-songwriter from North London. Of course, I didn’t even have to think about it – I immediately clicked the link and applied for my tickets. In the back of my mind, I knew that my chances of getting the tickets were slim as with over fifty-six thousand followers on Twitter, almost eighty thousand on Instagram and a number one solo single that topped the UK charts for three consecutive weeks under her belt, there were a lot of Glynners to compete with! So, I tried not to get too excited by the prospect that I could be listening to her extremely powerful voice live… although that didn’t stop me from playing her hits before I drifted off to sleep (check out one of my favourites below!)

It was during my lunch hour the next day that I received a second email from the audience company… I’d been approved! I couldn’t contain my excitement as I read the crucial words “Jess Glynne on MTV Lockdown – Your Tickets” and with that, let out an involuntary little squeak of sheer joy (much to everyones clear surprise judging by the looks on their faces… not that I cared of course!).

Fast forward to Thursday and it was time to party, so I donned my dancing heels and hopped on the tube! We arrived at the secret filming location in plenty of time and joined the queue… albeit in the pouring rain. Although to everyones relief, the staff kindly let us in 15 minutes earlier than they should have because of the awful weather. As we all piled in one by one, we were wristband-ed and led into a large village hall-esque room (which by the looks of it was actually a large rehearsal studio). We were numbers 29 through to 32 so I thought that we were for sure getting in – but then they started calling in the priority people… 1-100! Eeeek! Thankfully, the venue was a lot bigger than I’d expected and we managed to find ourselves in the second row directly behind the band… can you believe it?! Plus I might even be able to spot myself on TV, boogie-ing with my folks like there was no tomorrow (unfortunately there was a tomorrow… a tomorrow in which my feet were definitely paying the price of the previous nights added height – but it was all worth it!).

We settled into our places and the presenter (whose name I’ve already forgotten… oops, sorry!) recorded all of her intro/outro bits and pieces, which I found extremely fascinating as it reminded me of the handful of times I’ve done on-camera presenting for work (click here to check out my most recent How To Train Your Dragon coverage, recorded in Norway). And then it was time… the stage was set, the band were in place and the lasers were out in all their glory.

Jess Glynne's upcoming album, I Cry When I Laugh

Jess Glynne’s upcoming album, I Cry When I Laugh

I’m not going to spoil it for people waiting to watch it on MTV, but Jess was absolutely, 100% on FIRE! She sang everyones favourite hits; Hold My Hand, Right Here and Real Love; as well as two incredibly uplifting songs from her new album, I Cry When I Laugh (out 14 August), called Ain’t Got Far and Gave Me Something. I’d not heard these tracks before but I’m already addicted to them both! Her lyrics are so heartfelt and truthful – I know that they will be empowering for many women (and no doubt, men) across the world who have ever felt different or at all segregated in their lives. Bring on the album release, I say… bring it! In-between each track, Jess took the time to talk to us and really acknowledge the audience, which was so lovely. She came across as a very humble and down to earth independent woman, and sang as if it was as easy as blinking – absolutely effortless. I’ve never witnessed anything like it!

I foresee that Miss Glynne and her gorgeous copper curls will be in very, very high demand after everyone’s ears have been graced with the magic of her album later this year, and I hope that she goes on tour asap, as I could easily listen to her for hours! Stay amazingly flawless Jess!

Be sure to listen to Rather Be (below) too – this clever collab with Clean Bandit (more stars in the making) was one of the fastest selling singles of 2014 and also scooped Best Dance Record at this years Grammys!

I’m off to this years NTA’s… again!

As a few of you may remember, last year I was given the opportunity to photograph the celebs on the red carpet at The National Television Awards in London’s iconic O2 Arena. I had so much fun and everyone I met was so friendly and not snooty in the slightest! This year, I’m heading back to the famous spikey dome near the Thames, just unfortunately without a red carpet pass. That said, it will still be a fantastic evening – who wouldn’t want to be at such a big live event and get access to the VIP after party?!

Me again with the giant NTA! (2014)

Me again with the giant NTA! (2014)

This year, I have voted for the following programmes and celebs who I’d love to see win:

* Most Popular Talent Show – I love both Strictly Come Dancing and The Voice in equal measure, but in the end I opted for The Voice as I was lucky enough to attend last years live semi-final and it was an absolute blast! Plus, Strictly won last year so I thought I’d give someone else a chance.

* Most Popular Serial Drama – Coronation Street won last year due to the outstanding performances from both Julie Hesmondhalgh (who played Hayley) and David Neilson (who plays her husband Roy). It was an incredible story line, which gripped the nation. However, this year I voted for Eastenders as it is the only soap that I actually watch properly and have done for many years.

* Most Popular Comedy – I voted for the same programme as last year, The Big Bang Theory! As many people already know, I am more or less obsessed with this show and desperately want to see it filmed live in LA. However, last year the award understandably went to Brendan O’Carroll’s cracking show, Mrs Brown’s Boys, and I wouldn’t be too surprised if they won it again this year.

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Mrs Brown’s Boys: Brendan O’Carroll with his wife (but onscreen daughter), Jennifer Gibney! (2014)

* Most Popular Drama – Unfortunately, I don’t actually watch any of the nominated drama’s that made the shortlist this year (Cilla, Doctor Who, Downton Abbey and Sherlock), however I think I gave my vote to Cilla in the end as Sheridan Smith is just so talented! Last year, not surprisingly (as Matt Smith was the most incredible Doctor there has ever been!), Doctor Who beat Downton to the award, although I’m not too sure they’ll be able to do that for a second year running.

Most Popular Drama Performance – This was one of the easier votes to give. Sarah Lancashire played the most incredible character in the BBC’s captivating programme Happy Valley. Plus, she is a superb actress anyway! That said, she is up against Benedict Cumberbatch…

* Most Popular Factual Entertainment – I’ve always been a huge fan of Paul O’Grady, so to see him scoop this award for the second year, with his adorable show For the Love of Dogs, would be absolutely fantastic! However, the popular (not with myself I must add) programme Gogglebox, where you watch people watching TV (?!?!), has somehow found itself in the ‘Factual’ category… I’m sorry, but how could this programme possibly be factual?! Unfortunately, I think this one will regrettably win.

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The wonderful Paul O’Grady with two of our Junior Photographers! (2014)

* Most Popular Daytime – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a year where This Morning hasn’t won! Don’t get me wrong, after watching Phillip Schofield’s 24 hour live TV challenge to raise money for the Text Santa appeal last year, he is one of the greatest TV presenters on our tellies. However, even with that in mind, I decided to give The Chase my vote this year as I’ve recently really enjoyed watching it and I end up learning so much from it, too. Sorry, Schofe!

* Most Popular Newcomer – This again was an easy one for me, as I think this actress brings much needed comedy to soapland. As soon as Maddy Hill (who plays Nancy Carter) stepped onto the square – or should I say carried over the shoulder of Danny Dyer’s character – I knew she would become one of my favourites and I’m overjoyed to see that she has made the shortlist! Last year I predicted correct in this category, with ‘Enders Khali Best (who plays Dexter) scooping the award – I even had the opportunity to congratulate him at the after party!

The gorgeous Maddy Hill!

The gorgeous Maddy Hill! (2014)

* Most Popular Serial Drama Performance – From one Carter to another, my vote was given to Danny Dyer, who again brings so much comedic value to the show as Queen Vic landlord Mick Carter. The two together are quite the double act and even though to begin with I was rather apprehensive for Dyer’s entrance, I’m so pleased the Carter family joined the cast!

* Most Popular Entertainment Programme – This was a tricky one as all four programmes are equally great in their own right. However, I think I voted for Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway this time because it’s the one I watch the most of. Either way, Ant and Dec have a 50% chance of winning this award as I’m A Celebrity is also nominated (and the show actually won last year, too).

Most Popular Entertainment Presenter – Since Ant & Dec won this category last year, as well as the award above AND the 2014 Landmark Award, I decided to give my vote to the hilarious (and on many occasions inappropriate) Keith Lemon. I absolutely love Celebrity Juice and thanks to this programme, played the funniest party game with my American relatives… Don’t Show Keith Your Teeth!

* Most Popular Chat Show Host – This was another category in which I found it extremely tough to decide who to give my vote to – I literally enjoy watching every single nominee! Since they are all worthy winners, I had to alter the question slightly… “Who would I most like to meet?”. Even though I very briefly asked Alan Carr last year if he would have a picture with our Junior Photographers and thanked him for it afterwards, I’d still really like to meet the hilarious Chatty Man properly. Et voila!

The wonderful Alan Carr with our Junior Photographers! (2014)

The wonderful Alan Carr with our Junior Photographers! (2014)

* Most Popular Multichannel Programme – As I briefly mentioned a few categories ago, I find Celebrity Juice addictive and very much a feel good show, as it never fails to make me laugh! However, and this is probably the biggest however I will make on this post, it is up against the incredibly popular Game of Thrones. So in theory, it unfortunately has absolutely no chance on winning!

* Most Popular Skills Challenge Show – This was a coin flip between The Apprentice and The Great British Bake Off (not that I actually had a coin handy – typical!), as I thoroughly enjoy both. Thus having no coin to flip, I decided to vote for Bake Off as not only is Mary Berry the sweetest lady I’ll ever meet (albeit briefly at, none other than, last years NTA’s), but Mel and Sue’s comedy narration throughout is just pure genius!

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The adorable Mary Berry in our photographers limelight! (2014)

* Most Popular TV Judge – Surprise, surprise, I voted for Mary Berry for this category, too! I don’t watch X Factor anymore since both Nicole Scherzinger’s and Gary Barlow’s departure, so that cut the shortlist in half right there (both Simon and Cheryl were nominated). I then dismissed David Walliams as I thought that he probably has lots of different awards for numerous things – although he does seem like lots of fun!

So those are my predictions/hopes ahead of next weeks National Television Awards – I can’t wait to see who wins! Also, if you’ve made it all the way to the end, thank you very, very much!

Change of plan

Today’s post is to go a little off-piste so to speak… slightly wayward! I wasn’t inspired by the suggested prompt so I’ve decided to do my own thing this evening.

Fireworks.

Does anyone else think they’re overrated? Or is it just me? Call me a grouch or even an old fuddy-duddy if you will, but I just don’t understand why anyone would want to stand outside in the freezing cold, to basically be left with their ears ringing for the rest of the night?! Plus, they surely can’t be very environmentally friendly, right? And not that I’ve bought any myself, but they can’t be that cheap if you’re doing a display either – you might as well just watch your money burn instead… Although, don’t get me wrong, I completely understand the symbolic nature of the night, that’s been a firm tradition in this country since 1606 (we did a comic in the magazine about Guy Fawkes, which I fact checked to the ends of the Earth!), but there has been fireworks going off here most nights now since Diwali (22nd October) and I’m just ready for a firework free night.

What do you think fellow bloggers?

From the collection of the artist

#205: It’s the year 2114. A major museum is running an exhibition on life and culture as it was in 2014. You’re asked to write an introduction for the show’s brochure. What will it say?

The year 2014. Oh how they did things differently back then! Not that it wasn’t great… they had the triumphant 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, the oh-so controversial Winter Olympics in Russia, the FIFA World Cup with Germany emerging as it’s victors and of course, the gorgeous Prince George’s first birthday, but to name a few.

There were however, incredibly devastating disasters such as the disappearance of Malaysian Flight MH370, the overwhelmingly tragic crash of MH17 a few months later, the terrible wars and conflicts between Russia and Ukraine, followed shortly by the violence between Israel and Hamas and then the insanely evil Boko Haram. As the Queen used back in 1992, this year was also in many peoples minds, an Annus Horribilis!

On a lighter note, that year the world was blessed with Disney’s epic film Frozen, people of all ages were obsessed with selfies, planking and loom bands, and most importantly, same-sex marriage became legal in sixteen countries! It really was the beginning of a new era, as you will find out from this new exhibition. Get ready to step back in time!

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Image: royalista.com

From Here To Eternity Review

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On the 3rd July something spectacular is going to take over a cinema near you… so be prepared for a musical like no other! Welcome to From Here To Eternity!

Based on the classic James Jones’ novel of the same name, From Here To Eternity takes you back to the year 1941, where many people believed that the safest place to be, furthest away from the already raging war in Europe, was Hawaii. Following an American military base in the lead up to the attacks on Pearl Harbour, we are not only invited into the lives of the G Company soldiers, but more intimately four individuals, who ultimately fall in love with people they really shouldn’t have!

It kicks of with a malihini, which is the Hawaiian term for an island newcomer, named Private Robert E. Lee Prewitt (played by Robert Lonsdale), who we learn is not your average soldier. For me, he stood out the most, not because he is effectively the lead male, but because of his absolutely phenomenal vocals! I am a huge West End theatre geek and I knew, as soon as I heard ‘Fight The Fight‘, that I needed the soundtrack to this musical in my life. I just have to find out where I can get my hands on it now…

Siubhan Harrison, who in my eyes plays the lead female, compliments Roberts vocals beautifully in her portrayal of Lorene, a kind-hearted woman caught in an unescapable situation. Another cast member who I feel also deserves a mention is Ryan Sampson, whose character Private Angelo Maggio, provides the majority of the comedy – it would certainly have been a different musical without him!

The staging was great as well, as you weren’t focused on the set changes one bit, so without realising, you’d seamlessly entered new rooms and scenes! There were also fantastic slow motion scenes throughout, which the incredible cast made look like a piece of cake… although I’m sure it’s far from it!

Even though this isn’t your typical “feel-good” musical filled with daisies and sunshine, it certainly leaves you thinking about what these men had to go through, especially in relation to the recent 70th Anniversary of D-Day. I left this special cast and crew screening wanting to meet and thank the brave soldiers (both survived and passed) for the sacrifices they’d made in order for us to have the world we do today.

Tim Rice’s incredibly timeless musical is set to play in over 250 cinemas across the UK and Ireland. I highly recommend catching this film, especially if possible at a Cineworld as you’ll be given the opportunity to purchase the glossy programme as if you were at the theatre – I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed as it’s packed full of history, exclusive interviews and amazing photography! I must admit, halfway through the show I was so drawn in that I’d completely forgotten I was in a cinema screening, as opposed to a theatre! Don’t get me wrong though, I LOVE West End theatre like there’s no tomorrow, so I’d never want it to be replaced, but it did leave me with this thought – “welcome to the future of affordable musical theatre for all to enjoy”…

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Watch the theatrical trailer here!

NB: words not written or at all edited by a third party – these are my own views and opinions, no one else’s.

365 Days of Writing Prompts rebellion: Nerf Zombie night!

As of this moment in time, I can’t choose a favourite blog in order to complete today’s prompt. So, instead, I thought I’d share my account of the mysterious event I went to, where I got to shoot zombies for a couple of hours! As a side note and to set the scene a little, as well as working for NG Kids, I also freelance for Souper Media who publish SPLAT!, the best interactive iPad magazine for boys. I hope you enjoy it and the video will be uploaded during the week!

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When SPLAT! was invited to an action-packed Nerf launch night, which involved a secret mission, live actors and lots of surprises… how could we say no!

The mystery night began when the SPLAT! team were driven across London, to a secret (and sinisterly quiet) location in pitch black darkness. We were instructed to suit up with our I.D. badges, bullet proof vests and fully loaded ammunition belts ready for the battle to begin at any time… except, at this point, we were still weaponless!

When we pulled up, the building we were heading towards seemed to be an unused, abandoned warehouse. Boy, were we wrong! As soon as we entered, we were greeted by an army major and had our unique I.D. numbers written on our arm in UV pen. We then progressed to a gated room, where we were covered in decontamination spray… it tasted weird! (*WARNING: keep mouth closed at all times during the decontamination process). Once we had passed the medical, we were led to the debriefing room. This is where we were given our mission.

“You are currently locked, *ahem* situated, in a secret medical facility. You do not know where you are and neither does anyone you know, so we are counting on you to succeed… no one else can do it for you. Unfortunately, some of our medical trials have gone slightly wrong and well, to put it bluntly – the zombies have managed to escape and we can’t let them run riot in London, as this would mean the end of the world as you know it! We’ve brought you here as the best of the best, to eradicate these breakouts, so get a move on before they get you.”

Hmmm. No pressure then!

First, we were introduced to some zombies who were still contained, just so we knew what we were up against. Once we’d been terrified by the task ahead, we began our intense training… foot stepping through tyres, climbing over huge walls, crawling in the mud under mesh nets. It wasn’t easy. Finally, it was time to bring out the weapons!

Throughout the event, whilst we tried to clear the facility of all zombie lifeforms, we were treated to a whole host of Nerf weaponry! We began with the Nerf Zombie Strike Hammershot Blaster, which allowed us to shoot five darts one after the other, avoiding having to constantly reload. In the next room, we collected our Nerf Zombie Strike Sledgefire Blasters, launching a powerful triple strike, firing three darts at the same time… this took zombies longer to recover, giving us more time to reload the canister ready for the second round! Progressing to the next floor, we were given Nerf Zombie Strike Sidestrike Blasters, which came with a handy holster that we could clip onto our belts. We had these whilst we manoeuvred through the zombie maze – they were everywhere, but we all made it through! Just when we thought we’d managed to get them all, we’d completely missed an entire floor. Heading back with caution, we grabbed our Nerf Zombie Strike Crossfire Bows, jumped into action and saved the planet!

The Crossfire Bow was by far my favourite as I used to love participating in archery when I was a kid. When I got home, I even searched for venues in London where I could take up archery again. Alas, My search was unsuccessful. I’d never taken part in any sort of paintball/zombie shooting game before (except from obviously via games consoles), but I found the experience great fun and I even won a trophy!