Her Story, Her Words, Her Mission – TSF Proudly Presents Ms. Zahra Tehrani, Director of the Young Women’s Music Project

A special introduction by The Shipping Forecast founder, Mr. Scott Lyman

Ladies and gentlemen, over the past seven years, I’ve helped bring some fascinating interviews to this blog so that readers, from around the globe, can discover someone they would not have otherwise known of. Whilst this interview is no exception, the subject of it is, without doubt, exceptional.

Ms. Tehrani has been involved with the Oxford-based YWMP for 15 years. She has helped mentor countless young ladies in an effort to help them realise their voice, self-esteem, confidence and identity. I am only too honoured to help her spread the word about this amazing non-profit project. For, without it, too many aspiring female musicians either wouldn’t know where to begin or would be too afraid to pursue their dream of making music.

Due to an illness (at the time), Ms. Tehrani sent us a very special gift; she recorded her answers to the queries we sent her. Her responses are far more powerful than any transcription we could share. After listening to her thoughtful and considered replies, twice, I invite anyone who views this post to take the time to hear the audio in its entirety.

Please visit http://www.ywmp.org.uk to learn more about this noble endeavour.

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TSF Presents: A Woman Who Rocks – Our Chat with Famous Banana Pictures Founder Laima Bite

Her name is as intriguing as the name of her video production company is playful. She’s a multi-talented filmmaker, singer, guitarist and songwriter (along with being a Film Studies graduate from Oxford University) who has been a cornerstone of Oxford’s legendary music scene for 20 years. So, how did we get the top banana of Famous Banana Pictures to agree to an interview with us? To be honest, that’s a jolly good question. The answer is, Ms. Bite loves afternoon tea and a cracking chin wag…and we’re quite adept at providing both…in our very humble opinion 😉

Ms. Bite was not only kind enough to visit the patriotic dwellings of Anglophile Studios, she even gifted us with a signed guitar (how lucky are we?!) to add to our growing collection of guest provided souvenirs. Ms. Bite truly is a woman who ROCKS 🙂

1. What inspired the name of your production company?
It was originally to be called “Box of Frogs productions”, I had a little frog logo and everything, but that was already taken when I researched it, so I started thinking about things that were more personal to me and it just fell into place. When we were in our early teens, my friend Sarah and I would spend the school summer holidays shooting sketches and spoofs with my dad’s camcorder. It was a massive thing that you could plug straight into the VCR after hours of cable searching as I recall. We had devised a couple of characters called John and Mike, who were meant to be huge pop stars from the 1960’s (they went more glam rock in the 70s and had developed some pretty disturbing characteristics by the 80s), they both look a bit like Jeremy Beadle! We made up a TV
show for John called “John’s Star Corner”, and during the title sequence (“John’s Star Corner” written crudely on the inside of a shoe box lid and held up in front of the camera) a plush toy banana with googly eyes was bounced around, really just as a novelty. Then out of nowhere, John exclaimed “Oh look, it’s the famous banana!”, and that saying has stayed with us throughout the years as a private joke really. I couldn’t imagine it being called anything else, now.
2. What motivated you to get behind the camera and help bring other act’s visions, for their songs, to life? Which do you prefer more, performing or making videos?
I think I love both equally, but making videos for other artists feels more rewarding, and is more challenging. I’m also less limited by any preconceived ideas and subject matter that I already understand in my own music, so I can build something new on lyrics that are someone else’s. It’s fun to visually show the artist what you’ve taken from their music, as it will always be different to each listener. We all make our favourite music mean something personal to us, even if we don’t realise it. Well, I think so anyway. I’ve been encouraged by my family to be creative since I was a child, but the motivation really
came from necessity. I reached a point where I had to leave the soulless day job, go and study, and try to turn what I love into a career. It was a now or never moment that I’ll never regret. And it’s not come without its sacrifices, but it had to be done. I’m still trying to reach my goals, the struggle is very real!
3. In the context of your film production work, what has been your proudest accomplishment thus far?
I shot a short half hour film a few years ago between Oxford and Somerset. Its been my biggest challenge to date and tested all of of my capabilities as a screenwriter, a director and a produce and I am extremely pleased with it, and so grateful for the crew and actors I worked with, they truly were an absolute godsend, and I still work with some of them now. It was a real team effort taking months to shoot and I now take nothing for granted when shooting even the simplest of scenes. The experience really broadened my knowledge and appreciation for the difficulties of filmmaking, and the fact that I was able to do this, has left me with a new sense of bravery regarding the tasks I take on. Also, I learnt that you can fit six people and a dog into a one bedroom accommodation if you really have to!
4. You’ve mentioned that you’re an Oxford girl through and through. What do you love about the city? As a musician, why do you believe the city has produced so many amazing bands over the last three decades?
So many great bands have emerged because there are so many venues and opportunities to play. There is something happening every night and many open mics for people to start at. The music scene is great and really varied here, and its all pretty compact, to the point where music events like The Punt (which Ronan Munro of Nightshift Magazine has been putting on since 10 BC) are able to spread across the city centre, and people can discover all kinds of different and new acts over one evening without getting too many blisters.

For me, Oxford is all about the music community, and the little family environments created by promoters such as Klub Kakofanney. I’d rarely leave the house of an evening, if it weren’t for this.

5. Who or what inspired you to become a musician? Why do you believe that, even in these modern times, female musicians are in such short supply?

I did music at school and we had to compose our own songs. I fell in love with the process from then on. I was in a duo with my friend Sarah Wilson called “Michael Myers”, then did open mic for years before joining my first band. That broke up and I started another, which eventually also broke up, so its really tough doing music to be honest, and you need a real sense of determination, that most people will lose at some point as the reality and responsibilities of life kicks in, especially when people reach the point of wanting to start families. So its hard for men and women to really get somewhere musically. I don’t think women in music are in an overly short supply to be honest, but I do believe that their achievements are less recognised publicly, but the way has been paved by the likes of Joan Jett, Chrissy Hynde, Siouxie Sioux, Debbie Harry amongst others when it comes to women having a well deserved place in rock and alternative music. But perhaps there are still expectations of us within the industry which can cause a feeling of limitation. There are still also gender stereotype issues within society and there is definitely an uneven balance when it comes to male and female musicians rather than solo artists and singers, but luckily Oxford is full of women playing instruments, and things are always changing. I’ll leave it at that, because there is literally a whole essay on women in film, media, and music!

6. Who are your top five favourite bands of all time?

Of all time?! Wow, way too difficult to name just five. Let’s give it a go. The Drifters, Queen, Crowded House, Muse, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Siouxie and the Banshees, Roxy Music… no I messed up already. Too many. Can’t compute.

7. What Oxford bands past and present do you love the most?

I’m not sure that all the bands I love are Oxford based actually, but I often see them in Oxford, so I’ll go with that. Past: Ivy’s Itch, Borderville, Cogwheel Dogs (might still be going?) Barry and the Beachcombers, Phyal (who do still occasionally play), Los Diablos.Present: Kanadia, Orange Vision, Cherokii, Vienna Ditto, and Man Make Fire who have been going for a long time and I never get out to see them enough, they are brilliant. The Other Dramas are a duo with Richie Wildsmith on drums and Oxford legend Maria Ilett on vocals and guitar, and they are very enjoyable to watch. I’ve recently worked with Beaver Fuel (a punk three piece) and The Shaker Heights who are making a come back and have changed their sound from indie rock to electronica, kind of, which I’m loving. There are more no doubt but I’ve gone blank. Kanadia are probably the most exciting band around at the moment for me, huge sound and hopefully destined for success.

8. Describe the collaborative/creative process between you and a band, as you create a video. How does it compare to crafting of a song?

Most of the time the artists don’t have a plan, just some ideas, so we discuss those. I listen to the music and visualise the entire video several times. Then I figure out whether or not everything I’ve imagined is doable. Once the technical aspects are sorted I’ll run through the ideas and process with the band to get everything okayed, which usually involves down playing the “suffering” aspect! Its similar to songwriting in a way I suppose, as everything in my head needs to become real, and that’s the challenge. Its usually quite fun, and I enjoy seeing the artists really putting in their best performances into each piece, despite the fact that a lot of the time they can feel quite vulnerable in front of a camera. It is daunting, so having fun is a must.

9. What are your favourite local venues in Oxford to see live music?

The Wheatsheaf. Always the Wheatsheaf. The Cellar is also great. The James Street Tavern has no stage, so its more of an intimate old-school gigging experience and I’ve always enjoyed that.

10. What band would you like to make a video with, and why?

Are we talking fantasy scenario? Because that would be Muse. Their sound is so epic that the visuals would have no limits. And although she’s not a band, Lady Gaga has produced some of my favourite videos to date, also The Horrors. Any band in pointy shoes is good for me. But back in the real world, there are many local bands I’d love to work with, and hopefully I’ll get the chance to over the next year.

11. You’re on Desert Island Disks and Kirsty has asked you to select a book and a luxury before she casts you off. What do you choose and why?

Well I’m slowly making my way through the leather-bound beast that is the Necronomicon: ‘The best weird tales of H.P. Lovecraft’, so I’d imagine that would keep me going for quite some time (and would then double up as a shelf, for my coconut). Would it be cheating if my luxury item was my entire bed? If so I’ll make do with just the duvet. Life on the island would seem less daunting from under my duvet.

12. What advice do you have for any aspiring female musician who simply needs a boost of confidence?

Don’t compare yourself to anyone else, you’re just doing your own thing and that’s enough, in fact it’s probably brilliant.

13. What makes you proudest to be British?

Reeves and Mortimer.

14. As a songwriter, what comes first for you; music or lyrics?

I’m assuming you are referring to the writing process? As a solo artist I will write the music and lyrics together. Its a kind of ‘see what happens’ process with a vague theme. With a band the music will generally come first and then the lyrics. If you are referring to the overall experience, then for me as an audience member when watching a band, it has to be both. You could have the greatest sound going but if your singer is no good, the whole thing is no good.

15. What is the most memorable concert you’ve seen?

Probably Iron Maiden in Cardiff. I don’t remember the year, maybe around 2003? Eddie was huge, dressed as a reaper and came out of the stage floor. That’s really what you’re after at a gig! Locally though, I’d have to say the Sexy Breakfast reunion at The Wheatsheaf. What a performance. I was blown away by the sheer energy of it, it was a brilliant night.

16. If you could have afternoon tea with any musician, who would you invite?

If I could use some strange magic and bring Freddie Mercury back, that would be the best afternoon tea ever. I’d be a complete fan girl and probably freak him out. He’s such a legend and an inspiration, and quite frankly, I love him. If I can’t do that, which I’m guessing I can’t, then I’d have to try to choose between Cyndi Lauper and Dolly Parton. Those two ladies have the best stories and I could listen to them both for hours.

17. When all is said and done, what would you like your legacy to be?

One good film would do me. One good cult black comedy horror, ideally staring Alice Lowe. That’s a big dream, but why not.

The following are two videos from Ms. Bite’s growing portfolio:

 

 

If you’ve officially had your mind blown, we invite you to visit http://www.famousbananapictures.com or send a shout out to Ms. Bite on Twitter @famousbpictures

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We Give Many Thanks to Nightshift’s Ronan Munro

Today, on this side of the Atlantic, families are gathered, all over the country, to gorge on turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and God knows what else, as a way of taking time out, from hectic work schedules, to be with one another and celebrate the beginning of the holiday season (that is, until Black Friday commences, and peace and harmony are chucked out the window and replaced with stress, anxiety, tension, street crime and general pandemonium).

As we prepare Anglophile Studios, for the holidays, we decided it was a jolly good time to invite a new guest into our patriotic inner sanctum. This time round, we’re putting our Union Jack spotlight on Mr. Ronan Munro, the founder, head writer and editor of Nightshift, Oxford’s premier music publication that features the very best of Oxford’s local music scene. During our chin wag, accompanied by our famous afternoon tea (along with a bottle of red wine, Ronan’s favourite tipple), Ronan indulged us like we’ve never been before.

We hope you enjoy the following transcript 🙂 Happy holidays to everyone!!

1.   Who or what inspired/influenced you to become a music journalist?

I’m not sure I was inspired to do it, I more fell into it. I love writing, and I love music, so the two went together well, and I always wanted people to discover good new music rather than accept the mediocre crap they’re fed by mainstream media. Also, I saw loads of great new bands who, pre-internet, had no way of getting into the national music papers, so I started doing a local mag as a way of hopefully providing that missing first rung in the ladder.

2.   Where did you see your very first concert, in Oxford, and who performed?

My first ever gig was by OMD (supported by The Cocteau Twins) in 1982 at Hammersmith Odeon – when I still lived in High Wycombe, before I ever came to Oxford. I moved to Oxford, to study at what was then the Polytechnic (now Brookes) in 1984, and I think my first gig in Oxford was probably by at the time local goth heroes Chatshow in the union bar. I still know the guitarist, John, who is a well known sound engineer for some seriously big bands. I think around the same time I saw The Smiths at The New Theatre – I bought the last available ticket – back row of the balcony. There was a stage invasion. Fantastic scenes.

3.    You’ve watched bands like Ride, Radiohead, Swervedriver, Supergrass and Foals go on to worldwide, award winning acclaim. As Jon Spira’s amazing documentary, Anyone Can Play guitar noted, so many other notable acts weren’t able to get their due, for whatever reason. Of the many bands you’ve seen that have come and gone, over the years, which ones would you have loved to have seen go on to bigger success?

Oh god, so many. The Candyskins so completely deserved massive success, and were right on the cusp of doing so not once but three times, but as Jon’s film shows, they must be the unluckiest band ever – nothing that happened to them was of their own making, it was all just circumstances, often tragic. Personally I’d have loved to have seen Death By Crimpers, Beaker and Little Fish make it big, mainly because they were all amazing bands, but also because there’s never been a successful female act come out of Oxford. The industry is still very skewed towards men and women have to work twice as hard to be taken seriously. The Crimpers were all close friends of mine and I saw firsthand how they got treated – by agents, journalists, record companies. They were ultimately destroyed by their own record label. Julia Walker from Little Fish has one of the greatest voices I’ve heard – she’s an equal to Patti Smith or Chrissie Hynde; she’s also been badly stung by industry machinations and probably needs a good confidence boost to recognise her own talent.

4.    In your humble opinion, who are the five greatest live bands to ever come out of Oxford and why those five?

On a purely live basis, Foals take some beating – the first time I saw them they blew me away and they continue to do so. Supergrass were always this unstoppable ball of energy and every song was a hit. Little Fish had so much grace and aggression and poise. Sextodecimo were absolutely astonishing: seriously, just the heaviest, sludgiest, most oppressive thing you can imagine – I think I once described them as sounding like the radioactive waste from Chernobyl if it formed a band. And of the current crop I’d say Vienna Ditto – they’re a oddly ramshackle boy/girl duo who make brilliant, wired sci-fi jazz, rockabilly and electro-pop, all mashed up, like Billie Holiday fronting Suicide at times. When they’re on form their shows teeter between absolute chaos and outright genius; that tension is what makes any gig exciting. They take all their equipment to gigs in a stolen shopping trolley. Totally unprofessional but totally brilliant.

5.    What is it about Oxford that produces such a rich diversity of music? I think about some of my personal favourites, like Rhosyn, Spring Offensive, Richard Walters, Hold Your Horse Is, Undersmile, Gunning For Tamar and Coldredlight.

I think the local scene has grown and expanded at a pretty organic rate over the last 25 or so years, mainly because there have been people who have been totally dedicated to making things happen, and as we’ve produced more successful acts, that’s attracted others to come here, either as students or just to form or further their band. You see that more and more often now. Gunning For Tamar definitely came to Oxford for the music. Undersmile is a different matter – they’re all grunge and metal kids from around Witney, but they were inspired by other local acts like Sextodecimo and Sevenchurch, so you have a generational thing going on, where even cult local acts can inspire the next bunch of kids. And of course, they all know they stand a good chance of getting a review, if not the guarantee of a good one.

6.    You’re on Desert Island Discs and Kirsty Young has asked you to select a book and luxury before she casts you off. What book and luxury do you choose and why?

The book – probably The Secret History by Donna Tartt – an incredibly moving story. She has an almost magical ability to make you root for even the most unlikable character, though Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel, which I read earlier this year, had a similarly huge impact on me. As for luxury – I’m torn between a bottle of red wine that never runs out and a link to Wycombe Wanderers’ online media player so I can still follow all their matches.

7.    As an avid drummer, I feel compelled to ask; who do you think would win a drum duel between Loz Colbert and Phil Selway?

Tim Turan.

8.    Have you met Thom Yorke and Yannis Phillippakis? If so, what are they like in person?

Yes. I used to see Thom a lot back in the beginning as I helped out with Radiohead’s formative fanclub and interviewed them a couple of times, back when they were still On A Friday, though I’ve not seen him to talk to for a long while. He was very shy but very determined and focussed, a classic introvert, which is why he maybe comes across as prickly or elusive, but he’s always been a nice guy in my experience. In fact Radiohead are all absolute gents, and Colin Greenwood is rightly considered the nicest man in Oxford music. Seriously, he makes Dave Grohl look like a right tyrant. Yannis is a nice bloke too, though I wouldn’t say I know him well. Like Thom he knows what he wants, which helps when you’re trying to make it in music, and again I think he’s essentially quite a shy, thoughtful, highly intelligent bloke who comes across as rather more brash and prickly than he really is. I bumped into him a year or so ago and had a nice chat. Bands who make it out of Oxford don’t really do big egos.

9. How many concerts do you attend in any given week? Do you find out about new bands on your own or do you receive recommendations?

Funnily enough I was talking to someone about this at the weekend and I worked out I’d been to 23 gigs since the start of October. Which, combined with having kids and not being as young as I once was, is pretty tiring. I’d happily go to even more but I’d be dead before Christmas and I like Christmas too much to miss it. Finding out about bands can be from all sorts of places – demos they’ve sent in, catching them live by chance, or being recommended by promoters, friends and other Nightshift contributors. Joal Shearing at The Wheatsheaf has a good ear for a new band and he always lets me know if there’s some he thinks I’ll like.

10. At this time, what band(s), and even solo artists, are you excited about? Why?

Seeing Glass Animals doing so well is genuinely gratifying as I gave them demo of the month back in 2010 before they’d even started playing gigs. They’ll probably be headlining Glastonbury in a few years. Of the current crop bubbling under, Vienna Ditto are always a treat live, and Coldredlight could be huge if they can keep writing songs of the calibre of `Little Scorpion’. Both Gaby-Elise and Casper are astonishingly talented, and way ahead of their very tender years musically. The August List possibly don’t get the credit they deserve, perhaps because they’re such an understated couple, but they write beautiful songs, as does Cameron AG; he has a gorgeous voice.

11. What’s the greatest compliment you’ve received from an artist that you’ve spotlighted?

I got a kiss off Cerys Matthews from Catatonia once; does that count? Ed and Colin from Radiohead saying they wouldn’t have made it without the help of myself, Mac from the Jericho Tavern and Nick Moorbath from the Zodiac was lovely. Complete bollocks, but lovely. They’d have been huge whatever. I got a handwritten letter off a band whose album I’d reviewed once promising that I was going straight to hell. I’ve been working towards that all my life so it was nice to get confirmation.

12. What did you think of Ride’s reunion tour, this past summer?

I only saw their first reunion gig at upstairs at the O2 in Oxford, but that was a bit emotional as I saw their first ever gigs back in the beginning – I used to work in the same record shop as Steve Queralt, and later sold t-shirts for them on tour. It’ll be interesting to hear what the new songs are like when they finish recording them.

13. What sort of preparation do you undertake when interviewing a band or artist?

Drink heavily, force them into a corner and ask them what the hell they think they’re doing. Sadly, due to the nature of life almost all interviews now are done via email, so it’s all extremely cordial. Checking what questions they’ve been asked before on various blogs is always a good start, so you don’t just repeat what’s already been said. Actually hearing their music is usually the first and most important bit of preparation.

  

14. What interview has been fantastic/disappointing/surprising?

The best interviews are usually with people who have been out there and done things in life, or have strong opinions or a wild imagination. A group of young blokes with little life experience beyond playing in  band rarely makes for a thrilling read. ShaoDow, a rapper who made his name in Oxford before going off to tour round the UK, was always really interesting on all sorts of levels. I think maybe The Goggenheim did the best interview – they were all a bit older, were all into very different things and had loads to say  – too much to fit in the interview. Musically they were insane too, which always helps.

15. Enquiring minds want to know…what is Dave Gilyeat REALLY like?

He has lovely hair, likes cats and loves David Bowie. He’s also even more of a Doctor Who geek than me and would win a James Bond trivia quiz in his sleep. Other than that – awful man.

16.  When Ronan Munro has long left the Earth, what would he like his legacy to be?

There’d be a lot less wine left in it.

17. What makes you proud to be British/from Oxford?

I’m actually from High Wycombe, but I do love the community that’s built up around the Oxford music scene. I love everything about Oxford, except the football team.

18. What is your biggest accomplishment with Nighshift?

Probably just keeping the mag going for over 25 years now. I’ve been so close to it all ending a few times in the past due to lack of money, but somehow managed to keep afloat, while remaining completely independent. After all this time I don’t think I could do anything else. I’m institutionalised.

To listen to BBC Introducing in Oxford, go to: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p001d7q6

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Louise Beech, You Are TSF’s Artist of the Month

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As writers, we admire, respect and proudly salute anyone who can skillfully take words and turn them into powerful, thought provoking prose (for the past five years, we’ve been trying to do just that). The moment we came across the work of acclaimed author Louise Beech, we were inclined to get in touch.

Of the many honoured guests we’ve invited into Anglophile Studios, over the years, Ms. Beech proved to be of the exceptional type. She not only complimented us, effusively, about our studio’s patriotic décor, she actually brought some treats to add to the afternoon tea that we treat all of our guests to. Needless to say, we were highly impressed 🙂

Many thanks, to Ms. Beech, for the delightful chin wag that you’re about to read…

1.    Describe your writing process; do you prefer longhand or a laptop? Do you need peace and quiet or is there background noise?

 I scribble notes in a notebook when and as the ideas come. I then transfer them to my computer, at my desk. This is where I do the ‘proper’ writing. As in, sit down, with a deadline, very strictly, and get those words down. When writing I like music. It inspires me. But when editing – as in reading back, twiddling, perfecting etc – I need quiet.

2.    In your bio, on your web site, the opening line reads, “Louise has always been haunted by the sea.” That’s a very curious, ambiguous and intriguing beginning. What exactly do you mean?

 I suppose it is, yes. Really it refers to my eternal love of water. The sea. Rivers. But then also – more deeply I suppose – my fear of it. We flooded in 2007, had our house, belongings, and car destroyed. I also nearly drowned when I was three. And of course there’s my sea-faring ancestry, which haunts me most of all.

3.    Where you do look for inspiration? Is it a combination of reading other books, hearing stories from family and friends, living in Hull or is it what you experience in everyday life?

 Ah, I’m inspired by everything. The past, both my own and others’. What’s going on around me. Things I hear on the bus, odd phrases and curious words. What friends tell me, what family say. My surroundings, yes, they too inspire. Music does. Books I read, films I watch. Everything makes me think, makes me imagine, makes me want to write.

4.    Who are your top five favourite British authors?

 Oh, a difficult one to narrow this down. It will change tomorrow, but here we go. Charlotte Bronte, as a classic, timeless writer. Matt Haig for the issues he explores currently. I adore Julian Barnes’ writing style. I love modern writer Amanda Jennings’ style too. And I admire JK Rowling’s tenacity and perseverance.

5.    You’re on Desert Island Discs and Kirsty Young has asked you to choose a book and a luxury before she casts you away to your island. What do you select and why?

 I would take John Irving’s The World According to Garp because it’s the book I read years ago that utterly cemented my desire to be a writer. Also, I can read it again, anytime, and see something new. My luxury would be a good bed.

6.    What makes you proudest to be British?

 Our incredible history, the beauty of our rolling hills, and the (mostly) welcoming and wonderful people.

7.    What author would you love to have lunch, afternoon tea or dinner with?

 Definitely with Margaret Mitchell who wrote Gone with the Wind. One of my all-time favourites, that I devour every few years.

8.    What makes you proudest to be from Hull?

 I love how proud the city is. I love how no matter what stick (and there’s been plenty!) it gets, it fights back. Of course, I’m proud of our maritime history, and love the marina, the docks. I live just outside the city, so really I’m an East Yorkshire lass, and this I’m proudest of all.

9.    You’ve written, on your web site, that you love words and that you always have a story in your head. Are you constantly writing or do you need step away, for a bit, throughout the day, to switch off?

 It’s very difficult for me to step away. It’s not something I can easily switch off, which makes it quite tiring at times. Since I also work (in a theatre) and have a family, my husband always tells me to pick one day in the week and make it my day off. But it’s hard.

10. If you had to go one day without writing, how would you fill the hours of that day?

 I’d read, go to the theatre, see my friends, go to the cinema, enjoy some nice food, travel.

11. What does writing mean to you?

 Absolutely everything. It’s therapy. It’s escape. It’s adventure. It’s just magic.

12. When all is said and done, what do you hope your legacy will be?

 Wow, good question. I hope I leave behind books that inspire people, that take them away from the real world for just a few hours. I hope the fact that I’ve little education really (I got pregnant at Sixth Form College) and had to struggle for many years but still made my dream come true makes others believe it possible too.

 13. You have written novels, short stories and a play. What’s next for Louise Beech?

 Oooh, more of the same definitely. I’ve just finished a recent edit of book three – Maria in the Moon – and am working now on my fourth book, The Lion Tamer Who Lost. I recently submitted a play to a competition, and who knows, I may even write some poetry!

To discover more about Ms. Beech/purchase her novels, please visit louisebeech.co.uk

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The Helen Rappaport Interview (for Catherine)

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She was educated at Leeds University and calls West Dorset her home. She has 11 lauded books to her credit and is fluent in Russian. She also happens to be one of the favourite authors of our CEO’s girlfriend. So, when the opportunity arose to contact Ms. Rappaport, we took advantage straightaway.

During her visit to Anglophile Studios, Ms. Rappaport was a most obliging guest (she even complimented our signature afternoon tea arrangement). Below is the transcript of our chin wag with her.

1. What inspired/influenced you to become a writer and what do you love about the process?
My love of history and getting to the truth of real life events and people are what inspired me. I love the research phase of winkling out information on my subjects. The thrill of finding new material has always given me a tremendous buzz.
2. What is it about historical non-fiction that captures your interest/attention? How did you choose the individuals that you decided to focus on?
I have always felt that non-fiction is far more interesting, fascinating and surprising than anything that has been made up.   I particularly enjoy uncovering the lost stories of people whose lives have been overlooked or consigned to the footnotes. I’m not particularly interested in writing about people who are already well known unless I can come up with new research and a new perspective on them.
3. Of the many books you’ve written, which project are you most proud of/satisfied with? Which subject challenged you the most in terms of the research?
I am proud of all my books and they all, in their different ways, were a considerable research challenge.  I loved writing Beautiful For Ever about the Victorian con-artist Madame Rachel. I had to rediscover her entire story from searching the contemporary press of the day and also undertaking a fair amount of genealogical research to pin down her family roots. I suppose that in that respect this was the most satisfying book to do, but I was also very pleased to have been able to uncover so much new and unknown material about the Romanov sisters. My latest book, Caught in the Revolution is full of people who are totally unknown to history and whose stories I uncovered through a lot of long, hard searching.
4. Describe your approach to writing; do you write longhand, utilise a laptop or tape recorder, etc.?
During the reading and research phase I write a lot of notes in longhand in large A4 workbooks; other notes I write straight on to screen. Then I start piecing the text together on my desktop Mac . I don’t like writing on a laptop as the screen is not good for my neck problem. 
5. Who or what sparked your fascination with Russia?
I did!   Nobody really got me into Russia and the Russians, I just developed a fascination for the subject in my teens.  But I shall be eternally grateful to the wonderful history teacher at my Grammar School who inspired a love of history and made me want to write it in the first place and to my  Grammar School for providing the opportunity to study Russian.
6. What inspired you to write about the Romanov sisters?
Walking round Ekaterinburg when researching my previous book, about the murder of the Romanovs, I kept thinking of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, shut away in a provincial town in Western Siberia and how much they reminded me of the Romanov sisters at the Ipatiev House. Hence the UK title ‘Four Sisters’ which was a nod to Chekhov. I wanted to tell their story because they had always been in the background of the Nicholas and Alexandra story – as just cyphers with no real personalities of their own. I wanted to give the sisters back their own individual identities.
7. Who are your top five favourite British authors/authoresses?
Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte, Peter Ackroyd, Helen Dunmore
8. You’re on Desert Island Discs and Kirsty Young has just asked you to choose a book and luxury to take with you before she exiles you. What book and luxury do you select and why?
I’m passing on this one – no idea.
9. What advice do you have for aspiring writers and particularly those wanting to write about history?
I first wanted to explore and write about history when I was about 14. Life took me on many different directions before I finally got to do so. You need a lot of living behind you to write history well – I’m glad I didn’t start doing so till I was in my 50s.   So I’d say, if you really want to write history it’s never to late, but you have to read and read and read and soak up life experiences and an understanding of the world first, in order to do it well. And you must never ever cease to be curious about everything.
10. What makes you proudest to be British?
That such a small country has produced such a gifted range of writers, artists and musicians; that we have not been bowed and defeated or overrun  since William the Conqueror; that we are quirky and brave and individualistic. And that we had the courage to vote to leave the European Union.  I am a passionate patriot.
11. Who are your top five favourite British music acts?
 
David Bowie, Kate Bush, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Nitin Sawhney
12. What are your top three favourite books of all time?
 
Bleak House, Middlemarch, Jane Eyre
13. As an author, and in your own words, why do you believe books are essential?
 
How else can one understand the depth and range  – the subtleties, the pain and the joy – of human experience other than by reading?
14. What would you like your legacy to be?
That my daughters and my grandchildren are proud of me and enjoy the benefits of my literary estate – however modest – after I am gone.  That I made some small difference as a historian in adding to our knowledge and understanding of the subjects about which I feel so passionately .
To discover more about Ms. Rappaport, we invite you to pop over to http://www.helenrappaport.com/
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TSF’s Band of the Year – Coldredlight

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We returneth! After embarking on a two month sojourn that included catching up on some Radio 4 and BBC Introducing in Oxford podcasts, we decided, unanimously, that it was high time we updated our labour of love. And we couldn’t be happier to share one of our most satisfying discoveries.

Care of Dave Gilyeat and Co at BBC Introducing in Oxford (who never fail to broaden our collective, discerning musical palette), we were recently introduced to a band that have since spoiled our ear drums with a sonic gift that carries on giving. That band is Coldredlight, its members are vocalist/guitarist Gaby-Elise and drummer Casper Miles and their gloriously, soulfully moody blues debut track is Little Scorpion.

We must admit; we know absolutely nothing about this duo…other than that their gem of a demo is the audio equivalent of the Hope diamond (this is not hyperbole, it’s pure matter of fact goodness). After our initial listen of the track, we played it again…and again..and again…and again (add about 10 more agains and you’ll see a subtle pattern develop).

What makes Little Scorpion so potent is the intoxicating combination of Gaby’s powerful doom and gloom vocal melody/delivery and guitar riff, which are eventually enriched with Casper’s simple yet highly robust drumming (the kind that would make Meg White smile and nod with approval).

Please clink on the link provided to hear our band of the year perform our track of the year.

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Our Grammatically Correct and Properly Proofed Interview With Editor/Proofreader Emily Hetherington

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Anyone who knows us is well aware of our undeniable Anglophilia (and all this time, we thought we were being ever so subtle…). What isn’t commonly known, is our equal love of grammar, punctuation and spelling. For as much as we love to play with words, we want to make sure they’re safe and spelled correctly before any such playing commences.

When we came across the work of Ms. Emily Hetherington, we decided, without hesitation, that she would be our next guest inside Anglophile Studios. The fact is, her work as a proofer and editor is second to none (we would say none to none, but such a comparison is unprecedented and structurally. it’s awkward…and here at TSF, we’re not about being awkward). She’s perfectly polished novels and short stories and we were honoured to welcome Ms. Hetherington into our humble, Union Jack-accented dwellings.

As we partook in a signature afternoon tea, we had a right and proper chat with Emily. Here it is in all of its properly proofed glory:

1. When did you realise that becoming an editor and proofreader was what you were meant to do? What do you enjoy most about the editing/proofing process?

The idea of becoming an editor and proofreader came to me after I found myself getting increasingly annoyed at finding errors in the books I was reading, but that was in my late teens and I didn’t do anything about it for a long time. I finally looked into doing it when I was laid up at home for a long time following an operation and needed something to do. My grandmother put me in touch with her publisher and it went from there. That was in 2012.
My favourite part of the process is discussing different options or ideas with the author. Most of the time changes are made because they are necessary, but sometimes I want to make a change in order to make the story flow better or because I think it sounds better and in those cases I often end up discussing the change with the author to find the best solution and we perhaps try out various options.

2. When you’re in the midst of correcting a project, what enables you to spot errors that a software programme like Microsoft Word would miss? In other words, how do you spot spelling, grammar and punctuation errors that you believe a computer or even another editor might miss?

First of all I read through the whole manuscript making changes only on the most obvious errors in order to get to grips with the story and the characters. I don’t leave comments or make any changes that I’m not sure about. Also on that first read through I clear up anything that Microsoft Word flags, so on the second read through there are no squiggly lines to distract me. I hide the mark-up and view it as if it were the final draft, which also helps to reduce distractions. On the second reading I read each paragraph twice to make sure I’ve caught everything and this time I will leave comments or move back and forth through the manuscript to check for continuity errors. Then I send it back to the author for them to check and accept/reject the changes and ask me any questions. Ideally they would then send it back to me again for a final proofread, but not everyone bothers with this final step.
3. Of the many projects you’ve edited, what has been the most unique and why?
I’m not one to shy away from certain genres, so I’ve worked on a variety of different themes, but I have to say the most unique was The Naming of Cats by Britney Bolling. It was a strange kind of mix of science fiction and erotica of the like I had never read before and haven’t seen since. I can’t really explain why without giving away the story, but it’s available on Amazon if you wish to find out.

4. What is your perspective on slang and colloquialisms? Do you believe that they can actually have a negative effect on both writing and conversation, particularly with respect to speech patterns and vocabulary?

I believe that slang and colloquialisms should be used in a natural way i.e. if a character is from a certain area or is of a certain age where that kind of language would be very common then that language should absolutely be used in their dialogue, but I don’t think it should be used in the narrative. I do, however, think it should be used sparingly. You want it to sound natural, but you don’t want it to be too taxing on the reader. I remember trying to read Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh and giving up within a few pages because it was so difficult to read. Then again, that novel was so popular that it was turned into a very successful film, so I wouldn’t say it should never be done. At the end of the day it’s not my work, it’s not my story, and it’s down to the author to decide whether they want to take that risk.

5. What are the most common mistakes that you notice when editing/proofing a manuscript, or do the mistakes differ depending on what it is that you’re actually correcting?

There are always the kind of typos where a word has been spelt incorrectly, but it actually spells another word so it doesn’t get picked up by the word processor. Those are probably the most common along with punctuation issues. But in general each manuscript is very different in terms of how much work it needs or what kind of errors there are. Some only have those kinds of typos, others have lots of grammatical errors or continuity errors.

6. We would love to get your take on the following; why do you believe “gonna” is used far more frequently than “going”?

That’s an easy question for an English teacher. I have to teach my students this all the time. It’s simply because when we talk fast we ‘eat our words’ as we say over here. Sounds get lost as we join words together and ‘going to’ sounds like ‘gonna’. I think it’s fairly standard to want to write in the same way as we speak and for that reason we have begun to write ‘gonna’ as well. It’s not something I often see in manuscripts because we tailor our writing as we tailor our voice for different things. It might appear in a dialogue, but we tend to use more formal language for a narrative depending on the target audience.

7. What makes you proud to British?

This is a difficult question for me. I don’t consider myself to be proud of being British. I find it especially hard to be proud of being British while the UK is in its current situation. I do, however, feel grateful – or maybe lucky is a better word for it – for being born in an English speaking country, having English as my first language, and being brought up in a place that has such a diverse culture. I’m just not sure that ‘proud’ is the right word for it. After all, it’s no achievement of mine.

8. You’re on Desert Island Discs and Kirsty Young has asked you to select a book and a luxury before she casts you off to your island. What do you choose and why?

Can I choose a book on survival? I don’t think there is a single book that I loved so much I could read it several times over. I have read several books more than once, but I don’t really have a favourite that stands out above the others, or at least not one that I would want to keep with me and read over and over. The luxury would have to be something that doesn’t run out quickly, so not chocolate or anything like that. Perhaps a large fluffy blanket to snuggle up with at night. I hate the cold.

9. Who are your top five favourite authors?

Well I have to say my grandma, Jenny Twist, of course, but I admit I’m totally biased. After that, Tess Gerritsen without a doubt. But then it gets more difficult to choose. I like lots of different authors, but I always struggle to choose favourites. Also, these days, I tend to read more books from relatively unknown authors and I’m rather out of touch with the best selling books and authors. I love the work of some of the authors I’ve worked with e.g. Wayne M. Sefton and Chris Ward, but I really struggle putting together a top five of all time.
I actually get much more passionate about children’s books because getting children to really love reading is so important, so anyone that successfully does that is a hero in my eyes. Listing favourite children’s authors is much easier: Julia Donaldson, Jill Murphy, Janet and Allan Ahlberg, Tony Ross, Giles Andreae. I could go on!

10. What one author’s work would you love to edit/proof and why?

You might expect me to list a very famous author here, but actually I wouldn’t like to do that. I like to help the self publishing authors try to get the best start they can. To that end I would really like to edit for Dan Worth. He’s an author that was recommended to me because he is a sci-fi author and I love sci-fi, but unfortunately his books were in desperate need of editing. It’s such a pity because the stories had such potential and were really interesting. I struggled on to the end of the second because I wanted to know what happened, but I must admit it was painful reading and I couldn’t face the third. I would love to work with someone like that who has written really interesting stories that I really want to read and someone that I feel I would really be helping.

11. What prompted you to leave England and relocate to Spain?

This is very much down to my Aunt and Uncle. I’ve always loved working with children, but I always focused on nursery age and teaching never really occurred to me. But my Aunt and Uncle presented me with an opportunity that was just too good to miss. They thought I would make a good teacher and they had set up an English academy out in Spain and were looking for native teachers so they not only offered me a job, but also offered to pay for my teaching course! I would have been mad to pass up an opportunity like that.

12. How did you become involved in the National Novel Writing Month project?

My family seem to have directed my life quite a lot, it turns out! This one is down to my sister. I always liked the idea of writing, but never thought I was any good at it. I found it too difficult because we were always taught at school that a story had to have a beginning, a middle, and an end and that we had to plan it all out beforehand. I just can’t plan like that. So school put me off the idea of even trying to write and I never bothered after I left school. I’m what they call a pantser in the NaNoWriMo world. A devout pantser at that! I have little more than a vague idea before I sit down and write. I just start writing and see what happens.

My sister on the other hand is an amazing writer and loves it. She introduced me to the National Novel Writing Month project one year when she had either bought or been given an achievement badge set for that year’s project. They often have things like that available for motivation. In this case she would get a badge if she recruited someone else to the project, so she spent a couple of weeks trying to convince me that it was worth doing and that I actually could do it, which is something I really didn’t believe. In the end I gave in and said I’d try it out at the very least. She gave me a lot of encouragement and tips during the month as well and I absolutely loved the whole experience. The idea of ‘pantsing’ – of just sitting down and writing without any sort of plan – was revolutionary for me and I amazed myself with what I came out with. I amaze myself with that every year. I think I’m now officially a NaNoWriMo addict, although I now have a different problem; I can’t write without the NaNoWriMo experience – the challenge, the deadline, the community, the progress bars and charts.
13. What is your all-time favourite novel…..and why?
Well, choosing one above all the others is very difficult and this is one that I have only read once (although I am sure I will read it again one day) but it is one that always stays with me: Perfume by Patrick Süskind. It was so powerful and I marvelled at the author’s ability to describe smells so perfectly. The character development was excellent as well. Yes, he’s an evil serial killer, but you kind of understand why. And the ending is just fabulous.
To find out more about Ms. Hetherington, please do visit her website at http://www.emilyevaediting.weebly.com
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