This unusual looking creature hasn’t had the easiest start in life. It is one of the most Critically Endangered amphibian’s in the world, but was discovered in a cereal box by UK Border Force agents as someone attempted to illegally smuggle him and three others into the country. Today, this Chinese giant salamander Continue reading “The world’s largest amphibian makes London debut”
Every year, I am honoured to be invited back to Dr Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Awards. Last month, I flew back from Germany earlier than planned to attend the ceremony at London’s Continue reading “Another wonderful year at Dr Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Awards”
I was made aware of Beth’s story when in discussion with a fellow guest at this year’s Dr Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots Awards in London last week. From the brief story I heard, I knew I had to find out more about her eye-opening campaign and short film on the cub petting industry, so got in touch with Beth myself. Here’s what she had to say…
C: How would you describe Claws Out?
B: Claws Out began as an awareness blog and soon snowballed into a full time role as a Campaign Manager for IAPWA (International Aid for the Protection & Welfare of Animals). The entire entity stemmed from my experience as a volunteer in 2015, hand rearing lion cubs after being led to believe that I was contributing towards conservation. It’s now the charity’s only lion welfare campaign, raising awareness about the plight of lions in South Africa Continue reading “Spotlight: Claws Out founder, Beth Jennings, reveals the truth behind cub petting”
In April, my partner asked me to marry her and I, of course, said yes! For my birthday earlier this year, she’d bought me a voucher for afternoon tea at London’s Fortnum & Mason since it’s my favourite shop and I’ve always wanted to go there for it. When I arrived (as I was meeting her there from work) I saw that she had a rose… that’s when I knew something was going on.
Filled with excitement and anticipation, we were seated at a table by the window. With the sun beaming in, and before having ordered anything, she started telling me how much I meant to her. And that’s when it happened! Once I’d figured out what she was going to ask me, I was itching to say yes but I didn’t want to ruin what she’d prepared, so waited patiently. It was from then on that I had the biggest grin plastered across my face and it stayed there for the rest of the day. I wish I could relive it over and over as everything was just perfect and so filled with joy.
Now, we’re in full wedding planning mode. With one venue appointment done and several booked for this month, with the invitations designed and the guest list almost written, along with preparing to try on my first bridal dresses this weekend… life couldn’t be any better!
Last Friday, my cousin and I headed to London’s Troxy theatre near Limehouse for RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 6 winner Bianca Del Rio’s latest show, Not Today Satan.
Filled with excitement, we arrived at the venue, of which the queue snaked around the building. We knew we had tickets for Row Y, but naively we didn’t realise it was the very last row at the very back. Being a mere 5 foot 2 and a lifelong glasses wearer, this proved to be a slight problem. The staff at the Box Office however, were so wonderful and were able to offer us tickets closer to the stage…. five rows from the front!!!
Now, I knew Bianca was going to be funny but in no way, shape or form was I prepared for the high volume of laughs that she was able to bring out of the audience. Although I was a little apprehensive, I was delighted to find that she was just as funny as when we saw her on Drag Race. In my opinion, she took the evening to the next level when she would come out with on the spot comments, which were reactions to the audience. By the end of the show, my face was aching and I had a stitch in my side.
What I love about Bianca, is that she is not afraid to go there. No race, gender or human on this planet is safe from her Rolodex of Hate. For the almost two hours she was on stage, she made you believe everything was great with the world. Although briefly mentioned, you didn’t dwell on Trump, there were no thoughts on the shit show called Brexit. It literally was just a barrel of laughs. I can’t wait to see her perform again!
If you didn’t get a chance to see Bianca on tour, do not fear… it’s coming to DVD soon. The performance I attended was one of the shows being recorded, so who knows… I may even be in it! Be sure to keep an eye on her website for more details. With all the crap going on in the world at the moment, watching Not Today Satan is something you won’t regret.
Thankfully this week wasn’t as eventful as the previous, even if the city’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, did declare a public health emergency following the toxic air that descended upon London.
17th – time to plan:
On a Tuesday, the team would usually need to stay much later than 5:30pm to ensure that the magazine was completed in time for the Wednesday deadline. Now, we’re getting things complete so much quicker. This allowed me to spend time researching and planning ahead for future issues.
18th – sunshine:
I noticed when I got off the tube and begun walking towards the office that the sun was shining down on my face. This brought a feeling of calm and was a nice change from the cold, rainy weather we’ve had of late.
19th – wedding invite:
Two of my good friends, Laura and Sarah, excitingly got engaged last October. Since they’ve got lots of friends, I wasn’t expecting to be asked to go but I was overjoyed when I received an invite! There’s nothing like planning for a wedding – even if it is six months away…
20th – working from home:
To promote our magazine, The Week Junior, we had a stand at Kidzania’s Careers Week event. Logistically it made no sense to go to the office for half an hour before leaving for my 11 o’clock start, so instead I worked from home for a couple of hours and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The sun was shining, I missed the morning rush and I was able to have marmite on my toast! The little things… plus I had an absolute blast at Kidzania. I hope to work there again sometime.
I was also greatful for old English gentlemen:
Usually on the tube, people push to get on, terrified that it’ll leave without them. On my way back to the office, after working a couple of hours at Kidzania, a gentleman who was probably in his 80’s insisted that I get on the tube first even though I had been behind him on the platform. It was so kind!
21st – a decent sleep:
I decided to head home the previous night to suprise my mum as my plans had changed last minute. It was pure heaven to not have noisy neighbours above me hollering throughout the night.
22nd – slipper socks:
In the Christmas sales I treated myself to an unbelievably cosy pair of slipper socks that have the fluffiest of linings. They were practically glued to my feet all weekend as I refused to take them off!
The increased pollution and dense fog meant that the temperature was also affected, making the morning commute a very chilly one.
So writing little and often didn’t quite go to plan… especially when I was writing daily paragraphs on my phone! I think I’ll instead publish my small daily entries on a weekly basis as a sort of roundup to what I am grateful for.
10th – good feedback:
Last week, my responsibilities were increased at work. Both my manager and editor praised me on what I’d produced that day. It’s such a fantastic feeling to know that I’m doing a good job.
After becoming unwell the moment I got into work, the HR department (who were kindly looking after me) were forced to call the paramedics. They arrived within minutes and were wonderful. They took care of me, checking all my vitals and keeping me preoccupied to bring me around quicker. It was my first experience of receiving paramedic and ambulance staff care and they were absolutely wonderful. After the medics gave me the all clear, my company kindly paid for a cab home (which was very much appreciated).
Following the previous day’s events, I decided to stay home to let my body fully recover. Whilst recovering in bed, I finished The Vampire Diaries, The OA, watched the Sense8 Christmas Special and watched more Scorpion and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. What would I have done without this top streaming service?!
13th – caring colleagues:
When I returned to work after my dodgey spell, both my team and the HR members that looked after me all showed their true colours. They all expressed their concern and asked how I was feeling, which they didn’t have to but was really nice of them. When I began to flag in the afternoon, a colleague helped me finish off my page as I just couldn’t focus.
14th – a good nights sleep:
Since the mid-week drama, I hadn’t been able to relax enough to get a decent nights sleep. Although the flat upstairs seemed to be having a Bob Marley party, I was still able to get a decent nights sleep, which was heavenly.
15th – adventures:
Exploring London with two of my good friends, we went to the Natural History Museum… in my opinion the greatest museum in the UK. We saw the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Awards, which is always so inspiring.
To me, there’s nothing better than climbing into bed after putting fresh sheets on following a long day at work.
Until next time….
Happy New Year!
Last year, my posts were very sporadic… I discovered that becoming a writer as a full-time job, sadly made me less inclined to spend my free time sat typing away on my MacBook.
This year however, I’ve decided that I will write little and often. As well as my drag queen posts I will be writing short posts about the things I am grateful for. In today’s society, we as humans spend the majority of our time focusing on the negatives… how expensive things are, when we get stuck in traffic or (especially in the UK) the weather. I want to change that.
I will not be setting myself New Year’s resolutions this time (although I did achieve all three of 2016’s). Instead I’m going to be mindful. I’m going to appreciate every day for what it is… a day to live my life as much as possible.
1st January 2017 – Best friends:
On this New Year’s day I woke up at my best friends house after celebrating the beginning of the year at theirs.
2nd – Stress free journey:
Here in the UK, today was a bank holiday – a public holiday honouring New Year’s day (which fell on a Sunday this time). Although here at The Week Junior we had to come into work, the public holiday meant that the pavements, and more excitingly the tube trains, were gloriously empty. I wasn’t stuck in anyone’s sweaty armpit, I didn’t have to swerve to avoid dawdlers and to top it off – the sun was shining brightly in the sky. It was wonderful!
3rd – today I was grateful for going to bed early.
Because the magazine goes to print on a Wednesday, the team would usually stay in the office until around 7/8pm on a Tuesday, but following a team shake up last year we seem to be more capable of leaving at a reasonable time. We left the office just half an hour later, which allowed me to have dinner and fall asleep much earlier than usual.
4th – touchscreen gloves!
I’d forgotten I’d ordered them over the Christmas break and now can’t imagine ever going back to normal ones. Not only can I now keep them on in the cold weather, but they also have the most divine fluffy lining. It’s the little things in life!
5th – increased responsibility at work.
To keep us writers continually learning and developing their skills, we often switch pages and this time, I have been given another page and a half!
6th – Christmas discounts!
Most people see January as the most depressing time of the year… not me! I picked the right day to shop in Debenhams as they were reducing everything to 70% off! I managed to get some fabulous bargains for this year’s parties and presents.
7th – I know I already said this at the start of the month, but it’s hanging out with best friends. I spent the weekend at their house again – we recorded some tracks, watched telly and enjoyed a Chinese takeaway.
8th – adult colouring books.
It may not still be a big thing but I still enjoy taking some time out of my normal life to immerse myself in some therapeutic colouring. My besties bought me this unicorn colouring book (right) for Christmas and I couldn’t resist making a start, more or less, straight away.
9th – walking.
In London, there was a tube strike which closed the majority of the network forcing many people to find alternative means to get around the city. I opted to walk since the journey would only take 50 minutes and luckily, my friend from work lives close by, so we shared the journey both to and from the office together.
A few days before it was released in UK cinemas nationwide, I was invited to Disney’s FDA Multimedia Screening of the hotly anticipated Tomorrowland: A World Beyond, in London’s Leicester Square Empire IMAX!
If you haven’t heard of this film yet, you must have been stuck under a rock somewhere. Not only is it brimming with star quality performances but it’s got amazing special effects, the creative design of the future world is super cool and most importantly, this film carries a couple of very important messages. I’m just not too sure it’s going to be powerful enough to reach everyone…
When I arrived, I was greeted by a red carpet and hordes of fans packed around the cinemas entrance. Bemused, I double checked my ticket to make sure I’d gotten the correct venue and indeed the correct day… but I hadn’t been mistaken. I knew it couldn’t have been the Tomorrowland European premiere as this had already taken place the previous Sunday, so I decided to wait around… to see who went in, of course! A couple of glammed up women went in first, who unfortunately I didn’t recognise (sorry!) but then I spotted motorbike enthusiast, world explorer and presenter of the Long Way Round programmes, Charley Boorman. My family and I are huge fans and thoroughly enjoyed watching all of the crazy adventures he’s been on with Scottish actor Ewan McGregor, so that was quite cool to see him.
And then I could hear a cluster of cheers and screams to my left. Randomly (or so I originally thought) it was Baywatch and Knight Rider actor, David Hasselhoff shuffling down the red carpet. It looked like he was really taking the time to stop and talk to as many people as he possibly could, which was nice to see. I thought at first that maybe he might have had a cameo role in some sort of futuristic getup but alas, this was not the case. I have only recently found out that he was actually there for the premiere of his own TV show, Hoff The Record, which airs on Dave later this month.
But anywho, back to the film I’m actually reviewing! I went in and nabbed the best possible seat that would provide me with the greatest experience. But before the film began, we were treated to two exclusive new trailers for Marvel’s Ant Man (due to hit UK cinemas 17th July) and the one that everyone’s been raving about, Star Wars: The Force Awakens (due to hit UK cinemas 18th December). Don’t hate me, but I wasn’t that fussed by either of them – that said, I’d still like to see Ant Man just incase the trailers haven’t been doing the film justice.
So without giving away too many spoilers, this film begins with a really detailed flash back to Disney’s 1964 Tomorrowland; a recreation of the original Tomorrowland found in Walt Disney World Florida’s Magic Kingdom, which opened back in 1955. This is where we meet young Frank Walker (played by 12-year-old Thomas Robinson) and his awesome gadget, that he wishes to submit for the New York World Fair. From this point onwards you are treated to an action-packed two-hour special-effect extravaganza, with inspiring designs of what a futuristic world could look like (as you’d expect, with jet packs and the like), and, yet more unfortunately, quite a bit of sciencey tech-like jargon – some of which flew right over my head!
One of the things I loved, and it’s a pretty simple one really, is that they designed Tomorrowland to look like a futuristic, space-aged Cinderella’s castle! Another concept of the film that I liked and was fairly comical, were the robots that were constantly chasing George Clooney (aka older Frank), Britt Robertson (who plays Casey Newton) and Raffey Cassidy (who at the young age of 12, gives a stellar performance as Athena), in an attempt to stop the trio from reaching Tomorrowland… they of course failed!
One of the things I most liked about the film, is the constant underlying messages that are subconsciously emphasised throughout, telling us (mostly) that we need to look after our planet, as it’s not going to last forever the way it’s currently being used. Young Frank Walker says wisely during his (unfortunately unsuccessful) World Fair pitch, something along the lines of “Inspiring people makes the world a better place. I’d feel anything’s possible if I saw people flying with a jet pack over me” and I felt that it was a great way to show kids to be optimistic, believing that they can achieve anything if they put their mind, and heart, into it. But I think the character who was given the most poignant messages to deliver was Hugh Laurie’s character, as towards the end he (in my opinion) spoke some home truths that some people prefer not to accept or even acknowledge. He was explaining how we as a human race create so many fictional books and films that feature the “end of the world theme” but even then, we fail to realise that this is a very possible future for our planet and not just fantasy. As he references in the film we are shown so many warning signs, such as the glaciers and ice caps melting, species becoming extinct, the changes in the climate, drought etc, but we continue to turn a blind eye. We see it as the future is far in the future… as if there’s nothing we can do about it now. There’s everything we can do about it now! A very poignant line that resonated with me is “how is it possible that we have an obesity crisis and starving people around the world at the same time?!” And I quite frankly (pardon the pun) couldn’t agree more! It’s the same with poverty and people without money, yet we have football players receiving an obscene amount of money to play a game?! Consider my mind well and truly boggled.
I’d say the only downside (which of course I’d need to watch again for verification), is that I think I spotted a continuity error in the film. If you don’t want to know any spoilers before you see it, then stop reading… right now… stop! But, in the famous scene regularly featured in the official Tomorrowland trailers, where Franks house is under attack by the crazy cyborgs we see Frank clamber into the bath tub first to sit on the left and Casey squeeze in after him, now sitting/laying squished in the tub on the right. However, after the
bath tub/ capsule/newly-formed-rocket-ship is catapulted from the house, it lands in the river. As the roof comes off, we see Frank climb out of the bath from the righthand side and Casey is lying in the left side of the now-boat. They’d somehow managed to switch sides in the space of 30 seconds… and in the small confinement of a one person bath tub!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my review and I’d just like to leave you with this last thought, as I feel that we really need to ask ourselves this every now and again – “What if there is a place; a secret place where nothing is impossible. A miraculous place where you could actually change the world. You’d wanna go?”. Think about it… I mean really think about it. Don’t you feel like this place is now? As we have the ability to change the future of the world. Right here. Right now. So what are you going to choose?
This post was written as a result of being invited to visit as press whilst I was working at NG Kids Magazine. All images my own.
Dear fellow Ozians… As Wicked celebrates its ninth year in London’s Apollo Victoria Theatre, becoming the 10th longest running show currently playing in the West End, I went along to find out more about this green phenomenon that has already played over 3,500 performances in London alone!
Based on Gregory Maguire’s 1995 global best-seller ‘Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West’, this musical shows you a different side to the story in the legendary classic, The Wizard of Oz, and tries to make the audience understand why things may have turned out the way they did. When we think of Oz, the trio of witches or the wonderful Wizard, we instantly picture the 1939 film starring the fabulous Judy Garland as none other than Dorothy, who makes some unlikely friends as she tries to make her way back home to Kansas from this magically unusual land. Unbeknownst to many, this film is actually an adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s children’s novel published over a century ago, called The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – so this 156 page story has inspired many other books, musicals and films since its release in 1900! Which leads me to the thrillifying wonder that is Wicked: The Untold Story of the Witches of Oz! From Chistery’s first excited screech signalling the opening number, right through to the last note sung in the finale, I was transported to a crazy land where anything is possible and, quite frankly, anything goes! We go back to a time before the Wicked Witch of the West, otherwise known as Elphaba, was born and even then, it was far from plain sailing for the Thropp household. Now with her sister, Nessa-Rose (later known as the Wicked Witch of the East) wheelchair bound and without a mother to care for them, their father sends them off to boarding school. This is where the story really gets started!
I’m not going to give you a run through of the entire show as I don’t want to spoil anything, but what I will say is that the soundtrack for this musical is absolutely flawless! Every single song is on point and the lyrics really are an extension of the story. Plus, I feel like many of the songs are incredibly relatable to so many individuals at so many moments in their lives (but I guess this could be put down purely to interpretation). But, for example, the lyrics in probably what is the most widely known Wicked score, Defying Gravity, are the empowering words “Something has changed within me, something is not the same. I’m through with playing by the rules, of someone else’s game… It’s time to trust my instincts, close me eyes and leap”. This can be applied to so many realisations that inspire people to create a new start for themselves… it’s so Ozmopolitan! I also loved all of the clever little references made towards one of the most famous adaptations, The Wizard of Oz – the flying monkeys; lion, tin man and scarecrow; a nod to the saying “lions and tigers and bears… oh my!”; Glinda’s transportation bubble; the poppy field; the Wicked Witch of the East’s stripy socks and jewelled slippers; Dorothy and her famous dog; as well as the most iconic Dorothy saying of all time “there’s no place like home”.
Another thing I’d like to quickly touch on is the theatre itself. Built in 1929 as a cinema, this grand stage has been the platform for many hit musicals including The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof and of course Starlight Express. But you can really tell that Wicked has taken over this venue and it’s not just clear in the first shop in the main entrance either. The entire foyer is lit with a green tint, the theatre’s largest shop (and the majority of the other merchandise booths found throughout) are called the ‘OzDust Boutique’ and the most divine little bar found upstairs, is called ‘The Elixir Bar’. I mean there isn’t a thing these guys haven’t thought of!
Now just wait a clock tick… it is evidently clear as to why Wicked has been seen by over 47 million people across 13 different countries, and has won over 100 awards internationally. This year, Wicked won the coveted This Morning Audience Award presented by the Olivier Awards, which is the only award that is decided by us, the viewing public. Wicked went up against Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical, Billy Elliot The Musical and Jersey Boys, and a few weeks before the winner was announced, costumes from each show-stopper were on display in a small shop just off Covent Garden. I can’t believe how tiny some of the waists are on the dresses – how do they take a deep enough breathe for some of the notes they belt out?! I really did enjoy my one short day in the Emerald City and left the theatre feeling very empowered, as if I could conquer the world! Also, to have two women as the lead characters (and with such powerfully fine-tuned voices, capable of giving so much light and shade, and conveying emotion perfectly) was refreshing, too. I want to send the hugest congratulotions to the cast and crew for putting on astounding performances eight times a week! Now, if you haven’t seen it… what are you waiting for?! Go and get your tickets and rejoicify in the magic that is truly WICKED!
This post was written as a result of being invited by Wicked to visit as press whilst I was working at NG Kids Magazine. Permissions given for all images used.