He’s in fashion… Or how a young designer’s using tech to reach his audience

The modern world is moving fast – no one is more aware of this than the average journalist, who has gone from concocting multiple pieces from the same event or interview for a variety of publications to creating a multi-faceted approach for one outlet.

Of course, these days, the average online publisher expects not just copy, but images, a gallery, video, audio, a quiz, a chart, a call to action.

PIC CREDIT: Hari Greenough
PIC CREDIT: Hari Greenough

Manchester-based clothing designer Hari Greenough has jumped on board the new tech available to us all with both feet.

An innovative example of the modern fashion industry, Hari has pledged to overhaul the relationship between designer and consumer with quirky ideas such as using photography social network Instagram to show off his new collections as they’re being worked on.

There’s something to be said for using the media that’s accessible to us.

After all, the large majority of news consumers do so on their mobile phones, and they’re looking for new and interesting ways of using apps and sharing news with their friends.

I hope Hari’s approach gains traction, because he’s a young, exciting designer and those new ideas deserve to be heard – here’s hoping the modern world takes a minute to listen.

Read the piece here.


Nul points… Or why Eurovision is about more than just the music

Eurovision can send people one of two ways.

The annual song contest may fill you with patriotic dreams of triumph, memories of good humour and an excuse for a party.

Or you might bloody hate it. Eurovision_Song_Contest_logo

As a spectacle, I am fairly good natured towards it, but I was pretty surprised to chat to Dr Eurovision.

The Cardiff-based academic Paul Jordan earned his PhD, The Eurovision Song Contest: Nation Building and Nation Branding in Estonia and Ukraine, from the University of Glasgow in 2001.

It’s one of those moves that have given him a media presence, but also offers a political and cultural significance behind the frankly out-there performances from competitors every year.

In my view, it’s a really great chance to have a window onto the cultures of our European neighbours.

Personally, I’m not worried if the UK don’t win – which is probably just as well.

Read the piece here.

The force be with you… Or the famed actor who wasn’t at all starry

I am not alone in my affection for the original Star Wars trilogy.

I wouldn’t call myself a megafan – someone with a Darth Vader cutout in their lounge and an entire history of the galaxy memorised for more than just the sake of pub quiz skills.

But I always enjoyed A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi with my family when I was a kid, characterising every Christmas and Easter outing of the films with an obsessive detailing of the script.

Warwick CollageSo speaking to Warwick Davis, who started out his film career as Wicket the Ewok in 1983’s Jedi, was both thrilling and nerve-wrecking.

I was talking to him about his ITV programme in which he and his family went on days out in the UK.

I toyed with how to broach the subject of Star Wars before the call, imagining that as an established and talented actor with an incredible range of roles between him and his time on the forest moon of Endor – he’s been in Labyrinth, Willow, some of the Harry Potter movies and teamed up with Ricky Gervais for comedy TV like Life’s Too Short and An Idiot Abroad – he’d be unwilling or unhappy to hark back to something so long ago.

I needn’t have worried. As well as being charming and engaging, Warwick still has a passion for his work with George Lucas.

He was funny and self-deprecating, and a real delight, especially when chatting enthusiastically about his new venture, the Reduced Height Theatre Company which stages theatrical productions cast exclusively with short actors and using reduced height sets.

As well as feeling privileged to chat with him, I was so grateful that my childhood memories remain undamaged.

Read the piece here

Buon appetito!… Or how talented, intelligent cooks wrote their own success story

As one of three sisters, I see now I’m in my 30s that my parents missed a trick.

Had they trained us to sing, dance, play sport a la the Williams sisters or excel in some other way, we would have been onto a winner – in both financial and career terms.

Sadly they were not the sort of tiger parents who thought of our success from birth – a real chiappashame if you ask me – and we went our own separate ways.

The Chiappa sisters are three Welsh Italian sisters who are successful independently of each other, but also thriving as a package; celebrity cooks.

There is no suggestion here that they were forced into the kitchen at a young age, prodded by a frightening mum and dad determined to create a family dynasty.

But their family given skills, nous and talent in cooking and food mean that they have featured on television, on Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube channel and in their own cookbook.

The best part is, not only are they great at what they do and gorgeous, but they’re also really, really nice.

Wonder if it’s too late for the McCrum sisters to launch some sort of Northern Irish cooking empire…?

Read the piece here

Life’s great healers… Or how we can take inspiration from all around us

Sometimes you speak to someone who casts your life achievements into stark relief.

In a way, that’s why we get into journalism – so that we’re able to shine a light on these lives and reflect the amazing effort of human endeavour to our readers.

Anne Watts was just one such person. A nurse who has travelled all over the world, she has anneworked in the Yukon, Vietnam, the Middle East and more.

She has nursed soldiers who were dying and children who had lost limbs, and for her it was all her duty to do so.

The idea of travelling the world has a sheen of glamour to it, but hearing Anne talk of her patients like ‘the little 10-year-old girl who’d lost her legs and her family in Vietnam’ shows, to me, an almost superhuman dedication to the preservation of others.

On one level, I know I will never be able to give as much as Anne has to the world – I will never have the skills nor the attitude to care for and medically treat people in agony and desperation like she has seen.

But I truly hope that just writing about her exploits and revealing them to a wider audience will help inspire others one day to follow in her brave and determined footsteps.

Read the piece here

Walk this way… Or the weatherman who walks and talks for Wales

I’ve previously mentioned on this blog the unique celebrities who pop up in various parts of the UK.

Thanks to skipping from one part of the UK to the next in my adult life, I can happily say, ‘Fred, there’s no bread’ and ‘Gonnae no dae that’ where it will be recognised.

But it wasn’t until moving to Wales that I understood the power of an enthusiastically-delivered ‘shwmae’.

PIC CREDIT: Media Wales

Courtesy of Derek Brockway – weatherman, presenter and much-loved personality in these parts – it’s almost a national catchphrase, simply meaning ‘hello’.

I spoke to him for a piece on his book, Great Welsh Walks, and it was very entertaining hearing his stories of wandering the Welsh countryside.

One of the most endearing details is that Derek often finds himself meeting people who recognise him on his walks, but for the Weatherman Walking it’s all part of the exploration.

“I forget where I’ve been, I’ve done so many of these walks,” he laughs. “But it’s important to me that people get out and explore.”

Almost enough to inspire me to get my boots on and start stomping through the countryside. Wonder if I’ll bump into Derek up Pen y Fan. I’ve got my ‘shwmae’ all ready…

Read the piece here

Talk talk… Or the power of ideas presented as entertainment

Anyone with access to a computer these days probably knows what TEDx is.

Starting out in leafy California in 1984, the original TED Conference was a one-off event with talks focusing on technology, entertainment and design.

tedFast forward a few decades and TEDx is in play.

The independent TED-like events which can be organised by anyone who obtains a free license from TED, are a series of global conferences where wildly diverse speakers are invited to stand, inspire and enlighten.

Cardiff’s 2012 event was stunning, and the 2014 day didn’t falter, with amazing ideas and inspirational thinking come from the likes of explorer and scientist Niall McCann and journalist-turned-baker-turned-One Mile Bakery entrepreneur Elisabeth Mahony.

The idea for our magazine piece was to give a number of different views on the event – people who have spoken at TEDx events previously, the organiser, and even a first-person reaction to the 2012 talks from an enthusiastic attendee: me.

Read the piece here

No more heroes… Or how it feels to speak to a living legend of journalism

“Don’t meet your heroes, they’ll only disappoint,” they say.

How many of us, given the opportunity, would say no to an actual conversation with a person who inspired them?

I interviewed the BBC world affairs editor John Simpson many years ago and it was one of the most nerve-wrecking and fulfilling moments of my career.

I was frightened and babbled, and he was charming and pretended not to notice, thanking me profusely for my time before speeding off the catch a plane to Baghdad (this is entirely true).

When it came to speaking to Kate Adie, I could barely stop shaking long enough to dial her number on the office phone.

An incredible intelligence and fiercely inquiring reporting style meant that she was second to none throughout her BBC career, reporting from outposts including Tripoli, Tiananmen Square during the protests, the Gulf during the 1990s war, Rwanda and Sierra Leone. adie

As a child watching the BBC News, she was the gravity and realism of war in our front room, and I was smitten when I realised a woman was just as capable as a man – in this case, Adie matched Simpson in my small mind.

The interview I conducted was in support of her book Fighting on the Home Front: The Legacy of Women in World War One, as she was appearing at Monmouth Women’s Festival which was scheduled to coincide with International Women’s Day.

Her research was impeccable, her writing engaging and her interview manner – positively terrifying. I quickly realised that she wasn’t going to accept any ‘umms’ and ‘aaahs’, and made sure I had a raft of interesting questions ready for her to answer.

Coming off the phone, I only hoped I had made a good impression, because I certainly won’t forget the red letter day I spoke to one of my heroes.

Read the piece here

Sowing the seeds… Or an important window onto modern farming

Farmers are more known for working the fields than surfing the web, but Gareth Wyn Jones is one North Wales farmer who is bucking the trend.

I first encountered Gareth on Twitter where he was often to be found making comments on everything from the price of food to the treatment of rural services in Wales.

Draw that up into a neat bundle with his appreciation for his stunning surroundings on the Carneddau Mountains and he was one of the most vocal farmers in the UK.

As I spotted him, so did BBC Wales, and when they showed his programme The Hill Farm, it was a terrific chance to see the man behind the social media persona.

Starting the four-part series with winter scenes which saw Gareth dragging countless sheep garethcarcasses from snow drifts that topped the height of a full-grown man, it was an emotional and intimate portrayal of the life and work of a man and his family.

A massive part of the strife which meets modern farmers seems to be competitively representing themselves in the market they’re in.

Gareth tells a story of going to a large supermarket with his daughter one day after the harsh winter on the mountain.

“I came to one shelf with a few pieces of Welsh lamb. Stacked high next to it were three or four shelves of New Zealand lamb at half the price.

“You imagine how I felt at seeing that, after saving as many of those lambs as I could during the snow.

“Honest to God, if I was the sort to cry, I would have.”

It seems that we’re all lucky Gareth counts his smartphone alongside his quad bike as an essential tool for the modern farmer.

Read the piece here

It’s only natural… Or how the world around you has good points and bad

Coming from Northern Ireland (via Scotland), I’ve got an array of cultural references which, frankly would make no sense to the average Welsh person.

Such Norn Irish folk heroes as May McFettridge or Julian Simmons may fill me with memories, or Scottish presenters like Dougie Vipond and Sally Magnusson, who are household names north of the border.

Credit: Keith Morris

It was only when I moved to Wales that I realised the fame of Iolo Williams. A nature expert and wildlife presenter, he’s a regular go-to for the BBC Wales and S4C nature output – a safe pair of hands with the expertise to back up his TV chops.

Aside from admitting that his love for animals didn’t stress to all of the natural world – “If I was a dictator, I’d just do away with all cats” – Iolo was chatting about his love of the sea and the coastline of Wales.

Having never lived further than 40 minutes from the sea at the most, I’m inclined to agree with him when he says, “I was always fascinated by the sea”.

Those raised paddling in rock pools, swimming in inclement waters and generally messing about in the salt water understand when they grow up exactly how closely related to the marine world we are, how it’s simply an extension of land under there.

That didn’t stop me from developing a pathological fear of sharks which has stayed with me throughout my days – but then, as nature lover Iolo shows, even if you love one part of Mother Nature’s bounty, you don’t have to love it all.

Read the piece here