Labyrinth: the best bits

Such sad news to wake up to this morning. The world is in shock after hearing of the loss of music legend, creative genius and beloved hero, David Bowie. He was the face of British popular culture and a true artist.

I’m not usually one to talk about the death of a celebrity, and as much as I find it sad when any life is lost, I often don’t feel it as keenly as others clearly do. I’m feeling awfully sad today though, perhaps because of the shock of the news, and perhaps because of the incredible impact Bowie had on the music, film, art and fashion industries.

I’ve had the radio on lots as usual, and it’s been amazing to hear all the stories and tributes to Bowie, not to mention such a large sampling of his work. I remember thinking when I finally watched Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes a couple of years ago, about the huge expanse of his work and its influences on other artists. In fact, I just heard an interview with Michael Eavis, who put Bowie up there with Elvis and Sinatra, and I think he’s right when he says that there’ll never be anyone like him.

As a child of the early eighties, and like many of my peers, the film Labyrinth was my introduction to Bowie. Few films were watched half as often as this one in our home, the themes and ideas in it resonating throughout my childhood as well as in my own creativity. The Escher-inspired staircase… the twisted fairytale story… the outrageous, but somehow completely perfect costumes, hair and make-up… the beautiful but frightening masquerade ball… and of course, Bowie’s immaculate soundtrack…

And so, by way of a tribute, and to bring a smile at a sad time, I thought I’d share some of my favourite moments from Labyrinth….

“It’s a crystal. Nothing more. But if you turn it this way and look into it, it will show you your dreams. But this is not a gift for an ordinary girl who takes care of a screaming baby.”

Maybe this was the start of my love for all things shiny, hours spent in crystal shops and even longer spent trying (and failing) to master this trick….


“You remind me of the babe.”

“What babe?”

“The babe with the power.”

What power?”

The power of voodoo.”

Who do?”

You do.”

Do what?”

Remind me of the babe.”

Surely one of the most memorable introductions to a musical film scene ever…I defy anyone not to bop along to this track….


“I’ll paint you mornings of gold.
I’ll spin you Valentine evenings.
Though we’re strangers ’til now,
We’re choosing the path
Between the stars.
I’ll leave my love
Between the stars.”

This scene left such an impression on me that it became the basis for my first ever event design. I’d love to completely recreate it one day, the swagged chandliers, the golden clock, the haunting music and those magnificent but disturbing masks….


“Live without your sunlight.
Love without your heartbeat.
I…I..Can’t live within you.”

I think it’s probably true to say that the film was the start of my fascination with mazes and labyrinths… I always badly wanted Sarah’s wooden labyrinth game for myself, and was desperate to explore anything vaguely maze like as a child (and to this day). And it’s so perfectly fitting that the climax of the film, the end of our journey through secret passageways and hedged mazes, takes us to this thoroughly confusing and disorienting take on the Penrose Steps….


“Through dangers untold and hardships unnumbered, I have fought my way here to the castle beyond the Goblin City to take back the child that you have stolen, for my will is as strong as yours, and my kingdom as great —You have no power over me.”

Watching Labyrinth back as an adult, it’s always struck me how desperately serious and severe Sarah is…as a little girl though, it all seemed so perfectly matter-of-fact. And it’s with that same ardor that we lapped up this iconic scene, Bowie somehow resplendent in grey tights and metres of marabou, as our heroine wins the day. How could any little girl not dream of being in Sarah’s shoes?….


Now, I think I’ll have to go and watch the film in full….it’s been too long. Although you may like to know, if you don’t already, that BBC Radio 2 has cleared this evening’s schedule in tribute…. Simon Mayo’s show will feature an “All Request Bowie” slot, with Rick Wakeman as guest, then at 7pm Ken Bruce presents “Bowie at the BBC”, after which the station gives us another chance to hear “Bowie Live at Maida Vale”, recorded in 2002 and presented by Jonathan Ross.

Ems x


(One year on) Our Wedding: The Music

DIY Wedding, hired jukebox instead of PA or DJ

I think it’s fair to say that most of us are pretty keen on music. And for all the weddings I’ve been involved in, music has played an important role in some way, shape or form. I’ve seen brides walk down the aisle to Bjork, “Daisy, Daisy” and even “Eye of the Tiger”; and seen all manner of first dances, from carefully choreographed waltzes and tangoes, to fun freestyle boogies.

In fact, some of my clearest memories of the weddings I’ve planned are music related…..the beautifully touching first dance of Emily and Mike to Sam Cooke’s “You Send Me” at the first reception I ever planned….rushing around a venue trying to find anyone who had a certain version of a certain song on their MP3 player, because the CD the groom had given me didn’t work (crisis averted, thanks to a very helpful bar manager!)…..the amazing string quartet who played a couple down the aisle to their own version of “Whole Lotta Love”…..and that moment when a groom tested his iPod ahead of a ceremony, and my shock as I realised that the track they’d chosen was full of swear words (luckily they only wanted to use the intro, so I was saved from that discussion!).

So, as fairly avid music fans ourselves, music was something that featured heavily in our own wedding planning. It’s one of the simplest ways to personalise an event, and to evoke the kind of atmosphere you want to achieve. And, forgiving the odd difference of opinion, we thoroughly enjoyed putting together all the music we needed for both “Part One” (our ceremony) and “Part Two” (the reception).

For the ceremony we only needed a couple of pieces of music as we’d decided to keep things pretty short and simple…..but of course that can often make things even trickier as our choices would count for even more! Both of the tracks we went with were pretty obvious choices though, because they mean such a lot to us, and remind us of moments we’ve shared.

From early on after our engagement (and perhaps even before if I’m honest!) I had thought of the perfect piece of music to walk down the aisle to…..when we lived in London together for the first time, we watched Battlestar Galactica together, and absolutely loved everything about it, including its amazing soundtrack by Bear McCreary. To me, the piece entitled “The Shape of Things To Come” made for a perfect aisle track, and when I suggested it to Adam, he fast agreed that it should be first on our list of definites. I still go all goose-pimply when I hear it, and it will forever remind me of the anticipation of our ‘legal bit’.

For walking out together, we both had a few ideas of up-beat, celebratory tunes we loved. It wasn’t long before we worked out which one it should be though…..I’ve always loved Mama Cass Elliot’s “It’s Getting Better“, and as we’d regularly hear it on the radio, Adam grew very fond of it too. When we sat and read the lyrics together (Adam is more of a melody person, whilst I like to analyse every word!) we decided that it was the perfect track, happy and positive, and very *us*. We typed out the lyrics to show on our notice board at the party too, and played it again during the reception play list.

DIY Wedding, music menu notice board

Our next choice came to be for our first dance. We’d not initially planned to do one at all, but we’d been taking ballroom and latin beginners classes, as well as a couple of modern jive workshops and really loved it… when I came up with an idea for a track, Adam found he couldn’t say no! Another show we’d loved watching together was the anime series Cowboy Bebop, and we were always both crazy about the awesome jazz title track, which is called “Tank“.

Now it doesn’t sound like an obvious first dance track I’ll grant you, but to us it just seemed the perfect choice. We didn’t want a really long drawn out slow track, as we didn’t feel comfortable being ‘on show’ for any great length of time, and the short version of Tank being only a minute and a half long (and very fast!) made us much more comfortable! We also loved the big band, jazzy feel to it, and knew it would work well with the style of dance we wanted to go for….our amazing teachers, Lee and Dawn (modern jive world champions in point of fact!) choreographed it for us with modern jive, foxtrot and samba moves (a nice change for them, apparently!) and we had six private lessons with them to learn it all.

Some bits were trickier than others to master (the glider lift in particular!) but we thoroughly enjoyed our classes and although a bit nervous on the night (resulting only in a couple of footwork mistakes!), really loved dancing it to officially open the dance floor. Our friend Holly was kind enough to take a little video, which she shared with us afterwards….I love our friend Rachel’s sort of commentary! It looks waaaay slower than it felt to dance, and you get a bit of an up-skirt shot at the end, but it’s a lovely reminder for us!

For the rest of the party music, we split the evening into three sections…. for the first two hours we made a playlist of background music for the time people were arriving and saying their hellos etc….then for the next few hours everyone got to choose what they wanted to hear from the jukebox we hired, which featured every top ten song since the fifties, as well as lots of other favourites besides…..and finally, after our first dance, we created a playlist of floor fillers to dance the night away to.

For our joint hen and stag do, we’d organised a modern jive workshop with Lee and Dawn (followed by a meal and cocktails, obviously!) and so we decided to start the dancing with some of the tracks we’d used at that, to encourage people to join us on the dance floor and help jog their memory of the routine we’d all learned together. After that, we ordered the songs (more or less) chronologically, as that helped them flow from one to another….Adam actually learned to mix and edit them so that we could cut short any that were too long (meaning we could include more songs!) and omit any weird bits or long pauses between tracks. It took him aaaaages, but was well worth it, as it was like having a DJ play everything we wanted, and in the order we wanted it!

DIY Wedding, hired jukebox instead of PA or DJ

We most carefully chose the last few songs, as we were keen to finish the night on a high note….after a few of our favourite more current tracks, we played Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now“, leaving in a pause at the end so that everyone would think it was the last song (it does make a great last song in my opinion!). Then to *really* finish, we chose AC/DC’s “You Shook Me All Night Long“, which we both love, and seemed rather apt! I have wonderful memories of a whole load of us doing a sort of ‘Hokey Cokey’ to it, all singing along and having a great time.

Planning it all out like that helped us to keep track of time on the night, and give a little structure to the eight hours we had. We’d toyed with the idea of getting in one of the amazing bands or brilliant DJs I’ve worked with before, but it was a (budget enforced) choice between those and having a full, open cocktail bar, plus there’d have been set-up and time restrictions too. All in all, we wouldn’t change the way we did it at all, and doing it this way was really cost effective….the jukebox we hired came with additional speakers and lighting, so we didn’t have to hire in a PA system, plus we could very easily plug in an iPod (we had three in total, just in case one failed, plus a CD!) for our own playlists. I’d really recommend going this way to anyone who wants full control of their music and doesn’t have an endless budget….the editing and mixing is well worth doing though so that it’s all seamless!

I won’t bore you with a full list of what we included in our playlists, but here are some of my highlights……

From the reception:

As the Days Go By / Talking Heads
Everlasting Love / Love Affair
Go Your Own Way / Fleetwood Mac
Rebel Rebel / David Bowie
One, two, three, four / Feist
Teenage Dream / Katy Perry
Walking After You / Foo Fighters
Daydream Believer / The Monkees
Born to Run / Bruce Springstein
At Last / Etta James
One Track Lover / Matt Berry
Walk Idiot Walk / The Hives

From the dancing:

Get Lucky / Daft Punk
Forget You / Cee lo Green
Mr Blue Sky / ELO
Let Her Dance / The Bobby Fuller Four
Tiger Feet / Mud
Superstition / Stevie Wonder
Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough / Michael Jackson
Jump / The Pointer Sisteres
Roll To Me / Del Amitri
I Wanna Dance With Somebody / Whitney Houston
Everybody Dance Now / CandC Music Factory
Return of the Mack / Mark Morrison
Don’t Stop Movin’ / S Club 7
Take Back the Night / Justin Timberlake
We Found Love / Rihanna
Sex on Fire / Kings of Leon


What was your first dance to? Or do you have a song you dream of walking down the aisle to? I’d LOVE to hear about it!

Ems x

DIY Wedding, hired jukebox instead of PA or DJ

My Best of 2014

Screen shot 2014-12-31 at 14.49.17

Just a bit of fun, here’s a list of my best-ofs and favourites from 2014!….

Grand Budapest Hotel (precisely my kind of film….action packed, romantic, hilarious and stunning to look at!)

Charlotte Grey (finally got around to reading this whilst on honeymoon, and was totally hooked!)

Song (I can never choose just one, so…)
Rather Be, Clean Bandit
Happy, Pharrell Williams
Wrapped Up, Olly Murs

TV Show
Luther (closely followed by Mad Men, which I finally got round to watching!)

Jersey Boys in the West End (I took my Mummy for her 60th and we had a ball!)

Obviously, my Wedding day (perfect intimate occassion, super weather, great food, and two separate strangers said I looked like a Princess so I felt like Grace Kelly!)

‘Part Two’ of our Wedding day (a massively fun party filled with silliness, dancing, cocktails and yummy treats…not to mention our ace friends!)

Proud moment
Buttoning up my dear friend Claire’s wedding dress, stepping back and crying as I saw how stunning she looked (also proud, but nervous to have been in charge of veil duties!)

My portraits of our boys (love those boys SO much!)

The Indian silk with which I made my wedding dress (was going to say my Louboutins that I wore at the wedding, but they were the first thing I bought, way back in early 2013)

Bali (tough one to beat, especially as it was our honeymoon! I loved the people, the culture, the heat and the food)

This one by our incredible wedding photographer Sharon Cooper (I love the story it tells, and I never thought my legs could look so good!)

Ems x

Blog Every Day in May: Bad Advice

“What is the worst advice you have ever received?”

I really can’t think of any memorably bad advice anyone’s given me…not personally at least. Here though are some truly rubbish bits of ‘advice’, care of some of my favourite (although possibly least romantic) songs….

Mungo Jerry, In The Summertime

If her daddy’s rich, take her out for a meal
If her daddy’s poor, just do what you feel
Speed along the lane
Do a ton, or a ton and 25
When the sun goes down, you can make it
Make it good in a lay-by

(Classy man, classy)

Tammy Wynette, Stand By Your Man

Sometimes its hard to be a woman
Giving all your love to just one man

(Er no, that’s just how it’s done)

The Turtles, Elenore

Elenore gee I think you’re swell,
And you really do me well,
You’re my pride and joy etcetera

(Etcetera? Seriously?)

Nancy Sinatra, These Boots Were Made For Walkin’

You keep playin’ where you shouldn’t be playin
and you keep thinkin’ that you´ll never get burnt.
Ha! I just found me a brand new box of matches yeah
and what he know you ain’t HAD time to learn.
Are you ready boots? Start walkin’!

(Well that sounds like a healthy approach)

Rolling Stones, Under My Thumb

It’s down to me, yes it is
The way she does just what she’s told
Down to me, the change has come
She’s under my thumb
Ah, ah, say it’s alright

(Oh, shut up)

Every Breath You Take, The Police

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

(Creepy. Mighty creepy.)

For good measure though, here’s some really *good* advice, even if it is from an album about horrible break-ups….

Fleetwood Mac, Don’t Stop

If you wake up and don’t want to smile,
If it takes just a little while,
Open your eyes and look at the day,
You’ll see things in a different way.
Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow,
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here,
It’ll be, better than before,
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.
Why not think about times to come,
And not about the things that you’ve done,
If your life was bad to you,
Just think what tomorrow will do.
Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow,
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here,
It’ll be, better than before,
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.
All I want is to see you smile,
If it takes just a little while,
I know you don’t believe that it’s true,
I never meant any harm to you.
Don’t stop, thinking about tomorrow,
Don’t stop, it’ll soon be here,
It’ll be, better than before,
Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.
Don’t you look back,
Don’t you look back.

Ems x

Blog Every Day in May: Music Love

“What are your top 5 favourite albums and why?”

I’ve already said I’m rubbish at these top five lists. For a start, I can never narrow it down to that few, and then of course I forget and miss things out. Still, I’ve had a good bash at this, and because we can interpret these prompts as we like, I’ve interpreted ‘Top Five’ in my case to mean ‘Top Fifteen’. So there.

Anyway, in no particular order…..

Blur, The Great Escape

I suppose most peoples’ favourite Blur album is Parklife, but I just adore this album. The Universal is one of my all time favourite songs (shame British Gas sort of ruined it!) and this album reminds me of my teens. Damon Albarn is also a God.

Katy Perry, Teenage Dream

Obviously a more recent addition to my favourites, this one I could listen to again and again for ever though. It’s silly, fun, romantic and pretty epic I reckon.

Elvis Presley, Presley

Like Fox Mulder, I LOVE Elvis. His voice is so melt-in-the-mouth and his songs just some of the best around. Teddy Bear is my favourite. Love.

Electric Light Orchestra, All Over The World

I know I shouldn’t keep choosing Best-Of’s but just allow me this one more….I couldn’t possibly choose just one ELO album, as I have lots of favourite songs of theirs spread across their albums….Mr Blue Sky, Shine a Light and Livin’ Thing are my absolute faves though.

Spirit, Spirit

This reminds me of driving with my Dad as a kid….I owe a lot of my music taste to him and this album has stuck with me for over half my life. It kind makes me feel cool just listening to it.

Pink Floyd, Relics

Another one I owe to my Dad, he was a huge Pink Floyd fan and I believe my name actually comes from this album too!

Leftfield, Leftism

I used to have this on vinyl but lost custody of it when I broke up with an ex. Still, it’s a classic for my generation and I could listen to it all day.

The La’s, The La’s

I’m not sure why, but this album sounds like summer to me. Another one that I lost my vinyl copy of, but I will replace it one day as it sounds so wonderful compared to the CD.

Puppini Sisters, Christmas With the Puppini Sisters

A Christmas Album was bound to find its way onto my list, and this has to be my favourite. I saw the Puppini Sisters one Christmas at the Union Chapel and it was such a great, festive, jolly night.

Bon Iver, For Emma Forever Ago

This reminds me so much of getting together with Adam, our first kisses, our first holiday together and so many memories besides.

Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly., The Chronicles of a Bohemian Teenager

This album is dreamy in my opinion. Another great one for driving in the summer, it’s relaxing and uplifting at the same time.

Duke Special, Songs from the Deep Forest

I just love Duke Special. He’s so creative and original, and I adored seeing him at Wilton’s Music Hall last year….it was Adam’s first time there too so a bonus.

Band of Horses, Cease to Begin

This is another one that reminds me of getting together with Adam. I love their sound, which is so emotive to me.

Ben Folds, Rockin’ The Suburbs

This album means a lots of different things to me, reminds me of lots of things (good and bad) and can make me both cry and smile.

Fleetwood Mac, Rumours

If I really, really, really, really, really HAD to choose just ONE favourite album it would have to be this one. I will never EVER tire of it, and I truly believe it must be one of THE best albums ever made.

Now I could easily ramble on for hours on this, as my tate is so eclectic (or bad as some people would say!)….I know I’ve left lots of things out….Michael Jackson, Annie Lennox, Robbie Williams (don’t judge me), Will Young, Sugar Babes, Beach Boys, ABBA, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Eagles, Jeff Beck, Charlatans, James….and I could easily have gone to twenty five, but I won’t bore you and I really should get off the computer and enjoy this sun!

Ems x

Andy McKee at the Union Chapel, with bonus Jon Gomm and Preston Reed

As I mentioned earlier, I took the short trip into London last night to see the very marvelous Andy McKee. I’ve seen him once before, and at the same venue actually….the incredible Union Chapel in Islington (it’s one of my all time favourites).

I wasn’t sure if I should expect more of the same as last time, but I really was hoping for something a bit different. And of course, as usual, Andy delivered.

First up as his warm-up was Jon Gomm. I’d not heard of him before we bought the tickets, but a quick Googling took us to this incredible video. I mean, seriously, HOW?! It’s just ridiculously amazing. The man makes one guitar sound like an entire band! And what’s more, as we found out last night, he’s from Blackpool and dead lovely. After he regaled us with stories of his first gigs in Northern Working Mens’ Clubs and Glaswegian pensioners who wanted to hear something they knew, he treated us to one of the most remarkable covers I’ve ever heard…..his ’emergency disco number’ in fact, his version of Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody had me bouncing in my seat with joy! Love!

When Jon introduced the next act, it was with such respect and awe that I couldn’t wait to see what was coming next! In fact, Preston Reed has been a massive influencer and hero of both Jon’s and Andy’s, and so I was super keen to hear him play. His sound is much more bluesy and blue grassy, but plenty funky too. I loved the sounds he created, not to mention his beautifully glossy silver curls! He makes playing look so incredibly effortless, despite the complex nature of what he’s doing. And when he finished up by promising us he’d be back at the end to play with Andy and Jon, I was more excited still!

Next up, Andy McKee himself took centre stage. I was really pleased to hear some things he’d not played when we saw him before, but more pleased still that he performed his amazing Hunters Moon and Drifting (two of my favourites and his most famous ‘percussive guitar’ songs). He’s such a charming performer, and it’s impossible not to warm to him instantly. Apart from that though, he is so amazingly skilled, and really does something different. I was only disappointed that he didn’t play his version of Tears For Fears’ Everybody Wants to Rule The World….. next time perhaps!

There was one last treat though, as promised, as Preston and Jon joined Andy on stage to play all together. They began by playing an adapted version of one of Jon’s songs, and we could see right away how well they work together and how much they enjoy it too. One of Andy’s songs was next, and I think this was the one that showed each musician off best….both Preston and Jon took a little ‘solo’ in it, and Andy just looked so thrilled to have them both there on stage with him. My favourites though were Preston’s songs that they played last, but still together. We were warned it was about to get a little more funky, and it certainly did with the whole audience clapping along and grinning just as much as the three men on stage. It was a real joy to see three solo artists join together so beautifully, and part of the charm of their performance together was how much they clearly just adore playing together.

It all made me want to pick up a guitar, and as I thought just that on the way home, I realised that what is not usually my favourite instrument (I’m a piano and violin girl usually) had just been used to such a level as I’d hardly realised they were all ‘just’ playing guitar. If you’re at all a guitar fan, or you just enjoy listening to something different, I couldn’t recommend seeing all three of these musical geniuses enough.

Ems x

Living for the weekend…… 1st and 2nd September 2012 in London

I’ve been making lots and lots of lists this week, in readiness for our move……and not just packing lists and furniture buying lists either. There are so many things I want to do and see before we leave London…..I’ve lived here for 12 years and still haven’t done everything I want to! But then I’m sure I could stay another 12 and still not get through the ever-increasing list! And we’ll not to be too far away, so I’m trying to cut myself a little slack and just make sure I get to as many things as is reasonable! There are a good few things on the list for this weekend of course, and lots of them things that are only on for a few days, so they get priority……

Kings Cross Ice Cream Festival

1st and 2nd September, 11am to 6pm

The Granary Building, Granary Square, Kings Cross

Free entry

This free, family friendly, two-day festival showcases the best ice cream makers in London and the South East and celebrates the history and production of ice cream in the region. Ice cream enthusiasts will learn about the history of ice cream and how it’s made, as well as having the chance to get involved with milking cows, making art, and making ice cream using the latest in nitrogen technologies.


31st August to 2nd September

ICA, The Mall

Tickets from £10

You may well be as shocked as I am about this, but believe it or not, David Bowie is 65 this year and his seminal album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is celebrating its 40th anniversary! And what a great way to celebrate the man of awesome….with the UK’s first film festival dedicated to David Bowie. The festival includes screenings, talks, Q&As, and is going to make for a truly unique event.

The London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Medals

Until 9th September

The British Museum, Room 37

Free entry

As part of my quest to see every room at the British Museum this year, I popped into Room 37 this Monday and was very impressed with the mini-exhibition there. The display tells the story of the production and design of the medals for the London 2012, including details on the mining of the metal by Rio Tinto, the process of the designs by David Watkins and Lin Cheung, and the fascinating production by the Royal Mint. As usual, the British Museum goes the extra mile by giving historical context for the medals in the shape of 19th and 20th century objects highlighting the longstanding links between Britain and the Olympic and Paralympic movements.

Regent Street Festival

Sunday 2nd September, 1pm to 8pm

Regent Street


Head to Regent Street this Sunday for the thirteenth annual Regent Street Festival. Expect eentertainment on the street itself, as well as in-store activities and discounts. The restaurants in the food quarters, Heddon Street and Swallow Street, are also serving special menus and cocktails to boot, and you can keep up to date with everything going on using the Living Regent Street app on your iPhone.

Liberty Festival

1st to 3rd September

Various locations

Free entry

As part of the Mayor of London events for 2012, Liberty Festival offers Londoners the chance to watch the world’s top deaf and disabled performers and artists from the UK and beyond. At venues ranging from the Southbank Centre, BT London Live in the park, the BFI and Potters Fields at More London, you can see comedy, theatre, film and music events, as well as watch the coverage of the Paralympic Games.

The 39 Steps

Criterion Theatre, Picadilly

Special offer tickets from £20

I wouldn’t usually single out one show as a must-see in one of my weekend ideas posts, but I saw this for the second time last night and I just think it’s an unbeatably good night out. Start with a pre-theatre dinner at the stunning Criterion Restaurant (just £19 for two courses on the their set menu, which is packed with seasonal and ethically sourced produce as well as home made bread and butter!), then head just next door to the theatre to see this brilliant show….. Hitchcock’s classic spy thriller, The 39 Steps, has been cleverly and hilariously adapted for the stage, and has won the Olivier Award for Best New Comedy to prove it. With a brilliant cast of just four, the story is acted out using wittily chosen props which imagine up the dozens of settings. It’s fast paced, intelligent, and super funny…..and with special offers on tickets with Time Out, there’s no excuse to miss out!

I hope that’s inspired you! Have a fab weekend!

Ems x

Cape Town Opera’s Porgy and Bess at the Coliseum

Last night I was lucky enough to go to the home of the English National Opera, London’s Coliseum, to see The Gershwins’ masterpiece, Porgy and Bess. I’ve been there lots and always enjoy the ENO productions, but it was a lovely change to see a production by another company. Welsh National Opera provided the orchestra, so it was fabulous to hear them too for the first time.

I’ve been wanting to see Porgy and Bess for years, having come to love so many of the songs…. There can’t be too many people who don’t recognise at least one song from the show, and ‘Summertime’ is one of the most recorded songs in the world, having been covered in almost every style, including jazz, rock, reggae, soul and samba. And so, in the company of my dear friend Jane, I watched this moving story whilst swaying and humming my way through ‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’, ‘I Loves You Porgy’ and ‘I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin’.

First performed in 1935, the opera Porgy and Bess was based on DuBose Heyward’s novel ‘Porgy’ and the subsequent play. Originally set in Charleston, South Carolina in the 1920s, Cape Town Opera‘s production moves the action seemlessly and aptly to apartheid-era Soweto. Marking 75 years since Gershwin’s untimely death, and to celebrate Cape Town Opera’s 10th anniversary in 2009, this vibrant and truthful production reflects the ubiquitous and enduring message of the story.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect if I’m honest… knowing so many of the songs in a more jazzy style, I couldn’t imagine how they would fit into a classical opera. And yet, all the well known songs, alongside some equally beautiful melodies, just seamlessly fuse into an amazing score which leads us perfectly through the action. I think this makes it a great first-opera-experience for anyone who would like to get into the genre, but isn’t quite sure if it’s for them. Sometimes, knowing a melody makes you enjoy the performance more, and so this would seem a great show to start with.

There are still tickets available from £19 here, from this evening to the last performance this Saturday evening.

Go see!

Ems x

Ideas for the weekend……. so many Festivals!

It’s summer (apparently), and what means summer more than festivals? But it’s not only the usual music festivals we have to look forward to….. London is jam packed with celebrations, fetes, fairs and all sorts of festivals this summer! Here’s my pick of things to do over this weekend and the next few weeks…..

Celebrate the City starts today and runs for four days, celebrating all the City has to offer…… stunning architecture, rich history and heritage, must-see exhibitions, as well as a host of special events and entertainment. Most of the activities on offer are free and include, tours, walks, talks, and open days for some of the most impressive venues in the Square Mile.

It all kicks off this evening with a grand opening and launch event  at Guildhall Yard, with students of the famous Guildhall School of Music & Drama playing Tchaikovsky’s dramatic 1812 Overture in the shadow of the 600 year-old Guildhall. You can view all the events by date or type on the website here, but here are a few of my favourites…..


Reach for the sky

“A melting pot of ambitious modern structures and old buildings, this walk is a must for architecture fans.”

– Starts outside St Lawrence Jewry (front entrance) at 7:30pm. Free.


Keats in the City walk

“Keats was known as the ‘Cockney poet’ and this 2.5 hour walk explores parts of London where he lived and studied. Starting at Keats birthplace in Moorgate, it weaves through the quiet streets to Cheapside, to Apothecaries’ Hall and along the river to London Bridge, crossing the Thames to finish by the Keats memorial statue in Guys Hospital. Enjoy a selection of readings from Keats poetry and letters along the way.”

– Starts at Moorgate tube station (exit Moorgate east side by NatWest Bank, opposite cafe Nero) at 11am. Free, but contact Keats House to book on 020 7332 3868.

All Hallows by the Tower tour

“Take a tour of this historic church All Hallows based just by the Tower of London – reputedly the oldest in the City – which examines its heritage.”

– Starts at 2pm. Free.

The public face of Art

“Around almost every street corner in the City you’ll find a piece of public sculpture – this tour leads you here and explains how the enhance the Square Mile.”

– Starts at Bank Junction at 5pm, ends at Tower Bridge. Free, but to book email

Amore in the Churchyard

“Come and enjoy this exciting and fresh opera group in the romantic ruins of one of Sir Christopher Wren’s churches.”

– St Dunstan-in-the-East, St Dunstan’s Hill EC3, 6pm. Free, but to secure a place email

Sundowner at Tower Bridge

“Where better to watch the sun setting than from the world-famous Tower Bridge with a glass or two of champagne in your hand?”

– Tower Bridge, 6:30pm to 9pm. Free to enter, champagne cash bar, no booking required.


Bank of England Tours

“Take the opportunity to see inside the parts of the Bank not generally accessible to the public on these guided tours which leave every 30 minutes.”

– Bank of England Museum, 9.30am-5pm (last entry 4pm). Free.

Guildhall Market

“Tickle your tastebuds and browse Livery stalls at this one-off market in the historic Guildhall Yard.”

– Guildhall Yard, Gresham Street EC2, 10am-5pm. Free.

Bishopsgate Institute Open Day

“Head to this revamped cultural institution Bishopsgate Institute by Liverpool Street Station for a day of free talks, discussions, tours, music and courses (some activities in partnership with Spitalfields Music Festival).”

– 230 Bishopsgate EC2M 4QH, 10am-5pm. Free.


Building Opening: Guildhall

“This majestic 600 year-old Guildhall throws open its doors – peek into the Great Hall which will be set up for the next Sheriffs election; admire the Livery Hall; enjoy the Guildhall Art Gallery; marvel at the Old Library; check out the Print Room; hide in the Crypts and gasp at theRoman Amphitheatre. Come and see the Magna Carta (on display in the Amphitheatre) and other City of London treasures including Shakespeare’s Folio dotted around the complex. A treasure trail like no other!

– Guildhall, Gresham Street EC2 10am-5pm. Free.

Building Opening: Goldmsiths’ Livery Hall

“An opportunity to see inside the beautiful Goldsmiths’ livery hall with its magnificent rooms filled with rare and historic treasures.”

– Goldsmiths’ Hall, Foster Lane EC2V 6BN 10am-5pm. Free.

What the Dickens!

“Follow in the footsteps of Charles Dickens through the alleys of the City: his ‘magic lantern’ of inspiration.”

– Starts at Guildhall Yard, Gresham Street EC2, 10am and 1.20pm. Free, but to book email stating day, walk title, time and number of attendees. Maximum two bookings per adult.

Walk: The blooming City

“There are around 200 gardens and plazas dotted around the Square Mile – discover these oases of calm.”

– Starts at Guildhall Yard, off Gresham Street EC2, 12noon and 3pm. Free, but to book email stating day, walk title, time and number of attendees. Maximum two bookings per adult.

The City of London Festival starts this Sunday and lasts until the 27th July. The Festival seeks “to entertain and inspire the City’s workers, residents and visitors with special events and world-class artists in beautiful surroundings, whilst providing unique opportunities for targeted business dialogue, community involvement, learning and participation. Each summer the City of London Festival brings the City’s unique buildings and outdoor spaces to life with an extensive artistic programme of music, visual arts, film, walks and talks, much of it free to the public. Inaugurated in 1962 to revitalise the cultural life of the City, it has established itself as one of the UK’s leading arts events.”

Events range from large-scale orchestral concerts in St Paul’s Cathedral to intimate chamber recitals in the City’s beautiful but hidden livery halls, and from innovative aerial acrobatics to jazz bands in the Guildhall Yard. There are also exclusive walks and talks…… you can search the list of events by date and type here.

The London 2012 Festival opens today and will see over 12,000 events and performances across the UK in celebration of the Games, with incredible cultural events and top artists across the world. I’m not even going to attempt to cover this, as it’s huge, but you can see the festival brochure and guide here to learn more about the arts, literature, comedy, dance, fashion, film, food, heritage and music events coming up.

Some of 
East London’s most iconic venues open their doors to host a fabulous range of classical and contemporary music, family activities, and special tours for the Spitalfields Music Summer Festival. Bringing together world class artists and locals alike, the festival draws inspiration from the creative hub of East London, with the aim of bringing people together, changing perspectives and engaging body, emotions and intellect. Tickets vary in price, but you can find out how to book here and there’s a map of the events here….

I love this idea….. with the rain set to continue all Summer, the Old Vic Tunnels is the perfect place to enjoy a Summer Holiday Camp! There’s going to be indoor crazy golf, badminton & basketball courts, a ping-pong table, face painting and a bouncy castle! There’s also a Pimm’s summer meadow to relax in, as well as a circus tent with popcorn, ice cream and a Punch and Judy show! Oh, and the wonderful Tootsie Rollers will be playing around the campfire.

– Thursday 21st June to  Sunday 24th June,  Thursday to Saturday 7pm til 1am and Sunday 2pm til 9pm. Tickets are £15 in advance and £17.50 on the door.

Fabulous West End performances, including Lion King, Top Hat, Matilda and the Wizard of Oz will be shown in Trafalgar Square this weekend as part of West End Live. Featuring showcase performances from every  West End musical, live bands and a wonderful array of interactive exhibits from many of London’s top museums, galleries and cultural institutions, this free event is bound to be super popular!

Well, that should be enough to keep us all occupied for a while! Enjoy!

Ems x

Tosca at the ENO

I’m sitting under the vastly impressive dome of the London Coliseum, and thinking how well the Italian Renaissance architecture echoes the very Roman setting of Tosca. My favourite opera is back at the ENO and I couldn’t resist seeing this wonderful production again.

From the first dramatic blast of the orchestra, I lean forward in my seat and the goose pimples form all over my arms. Perhaps it’s that music, combined with the historical setting which makes me want to see this performed again and again, and why I can listen to it so many times and never tire of it.

There has been chatter for as long as I can remember about Opera having had its day…that it’s elitist and exclusive, and suffers as an art form for it. And despite attempts to win over more vast audiences with bargain tickets and film directors taking on rather forgotten productions, I think it will be productions such as this one that will do best in keeping opera alive.

Acclaimed soprano Catherine Malfitano has staged an utterly thrilling and awe inspiring Tosca, with no theatrical tricks and no gimmicks, and she has done so to perfection. This production is all about Tosca….the stirring music, the intense story, and one of the greatest female characters of all time. Claire Rutter fills this part effortlessly and to hear her is divine.

Anthony Michaels-Moore provides a chilling Scarpia and as his voice meets those of the choir in the Te Deum at the end of the first act, I’m reminded of why I come to the opera and always will. Amongst the set of fragmented, layered, ever decreasing circles, simple chiaroscuro in the lighting design echoes and heightens the drama. Shadows are projected upwards and away across the stage, framing the diva and surrounding her with conspiracy and foul play… a pool of blue she sings of her piety and begs…..and as she opens the door to her lover’s torture, the burning light from beyond would have us believe she has opened the gate to some hell.

Like a season of 24, the action is played out for us minute for minute, and this I think is why it engages us so emotionally and thrillingly. How could anything be more dramatic than taking us on a journey with such a story, having us witness each string-quivering moment of contemplation, consideration, anger, spite, love, tragedy?

This opera sings to me more than any other, and if it’s not just because of  Puccini’s incredible score, it is perhaps because it offers me so many of the things I yearn for in art and theatre….Lust, betrayal, history, politics, religion, fate and love are all at work here. And what could make a more powerful recipe than that?

Tosca runs at the ENO until the end of the month.