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AofA People: Gilly Hanna – Dancer, Advertising Copywriter


4 Minute Read

Gilly Hanna is a founder member of Grand Gesture, a performance company of older dance artists in London. She’s also an advertising copywriter; and in past decades has worked as an aerobics teacher and library assistant.

What is your age?   63

Where do you live?

Central London, in Wapping. I’ve lived here for over twenty years and love this quiet, historic, riverside neighbourhood. Like many older Londoners, I did once consider downsizing to a place by the sea but soon realised I’d miss London too much. No other place is as diverse, multicultural, buzzy, green, fashionable, arty, walkable, villagey, and old, yet always new. I just hope Brexit and the Tory government won’t lead to London’s decline.

What do you do?

I work as a freelance copywriter, on an ad-hoc basis. I was a creative director in advertising for several decades. Sadly, the ad world is notoriously obsessed with youth and I was edged out of full-time employment in my early fifties. Only 6% of people in ad agencies are over 50, yet people in their fifties are the UK’s largest age group! I’m also working on Grand Gesture projects, such as choreography, filming and running our website.

What’s it like to be your age? How do you feel at this age?

I’m starting to settle into the idea of being in my sixties. It’s an interesting time, but rather daunting too when you realise how ageist our society is. In Grand Gesture we’re campaigning to have more age on stage. Older people need to be seen and heard a lot more.

What do you have now that you didn’t at 25?

Wrinkles. Nearly forty more years of experience and memories. Self-acceptance. I always wanted to be an extrovert and was often criticised for being stand-offish or too quiet. Finding out that I’m an INFP, one of the Myers-Briggs personality types, has given me peace of mind that it’s okay to be an introvert!

What about sex?

Hugging, holding hands, touching, being close makes you feel good, I do need physical affection. I’m also into erotic art forms like burlesque, celebrating vintage showgirl glamour and the 1940s pinup. I’d love Grand Gesture to do a fabulously theatrical exotic dance performance one day! I think it’s important to express your sensuality and sassiness as you grow older.

And relationships?

My closest relationship is with my husband who I met in ‘76. He’s a guitarist and we had a band and wrote radio commercials together in the eighties. We recently wrote and recorded a song for Grand Gesture, called We Love Living. As an introvert, I only have a small circle of friends. Being reserved and shy, I find it hard to make new ones.

How free do you feel?

I thrive on structure and routine, so lockdown restrictions didn’t bother me too much. Having a stable routine keeps me grounded and frees my imagination. I’m a minimalist and feel freer with fewer choices.

What are you proud of?

Co-founding Grand Gesture and helping to push boundaries in creatively staging ageing. Having a successful career and winning awards. Learning new things in lockdown, such as cutting my hair, editing videos and baking tasty sugar-free, flour-free cakes!

What keeps you inspired?

Curiosity. Being open to new ideas. I’ve recently discovered Wabi Sabi, the Japanese philosophy which celebrates imperfection and the passing of time. I’m also seeking inspiration from age activists like Gang des Vieux en Colère and Ashton Applewhite; older bloggers like Alyson Walsh (That’s not my age) and dancers like Charlotta Ofverholm. I’ve started exploring elder tales for a Grand Gesture project too.

When are you happiest?

I’m happiest when I’m absorbed in a creative project. But I’m pretty happy most of the time. I don’t like feeling down or negative, and if I do, walking or dancing will usually boost my mood. Motion is lotion!

And where does your creativity go?

A lot of things. Marketing, choreography, writing, the house, the garden. I’ll put my imagination to anything that needs a great idea or a new solution.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

It’s harder to shock or scandalise these days. But in Grand Gesture I’m releasing my inner rebel and rejecting the norms of ageing by having fun and being audacious. It’s time to rewrite the ‘rules’ of what it means to be older. Ageism is unfair and unnecessary; we all need to confront it and laugh at it.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Keep an open mind. Find your passion. Do your best, and that can be good enough – I’m always fighting my perfectionist tendency. Follow the Golden Rule, which is the principle of treating others as you would want to be treated. Appreciate oldness. Stay playful. And remember, you’ve got to be in it, to win it.

And dying?

Quickly, quietly, painlessly, and feeling content that what I’ve left behind is in good order and in safe hands.

Are you still dreaming?

Yes, it’s never too late to do something great. Hopefully, the best is yet to come.

The Culture Interview – Daphne Lander and Anne Jones who have written a musical.


12 Minute Read

Daphne Lander and Anne Jones are both in their mid-70s and they’ve just written a musical Artaban which is about to be shown in the West End.

How old are you both?

Daphne: Anne and I are both 75 – Anne is just older than me by a few days – she is 24th December and I am 29th.

Anne: We were both born under the star sign Capricorn and have always had similar interests and outlooks on life. I understand that a trait of the Capricorn is we will always achieve what we set out to do! Certainly, this trait has helped us both through the exciting but, at times, challenging journey we have travelled with our project to create Artaban, the musical.

How do you know each other?

Daphne Lander

Daphne: We met at secondary school at age 11 and so have been friends for many years.

Anne: From the day I met Daph, at our first year at Mayfield School, Putney, which was one of the first comprehensive schools of the fifties, I was attracted to her vitality and – sorry Daph – slightly crazy ways! She was a natural actor even then and entertained the class with her antics and impersonations. We competed for the best marks in English each year and both enjoyed writing and drama. In the fourth year we were involved in the annual Drama Competition; our class put on an extract of King Lear and it was a natural that Daph played King Lear and I was the director. We became close friends then and have stayed close since with the form of friendship that can revitalize itself even when we don’t see each other for months on end.

Daph went on to shine in the amateur dramatic arena and I went on to write books; I have seven self-help books published to date.

Why a musical at this point in your lives?

Daphne: I don’t think I set out originally to write a musical – it was more in my mind to write a play which in fact I did, but then when Anne read the story, she saw it as a musical and found Rick Radley who was able to write the music inspired by Anne’s lyrics. So, through many amendments the musical was born.

Anne Jones

Anne: The idea of the musical came once Daph passed me the book The Other Wise Man. I had never considered writing for the stage before then.

How did it come about?

Daphne: I was Chair of a drama group and in the choir at my Church and had written two plays already – one celebrating the centenary of the Church and the other adapting a radio play for the stage. A member of the congregation approached me one day with a book in his hand and said that he thought I would be able to do something with it. Meaning I guess, he thought I would adapt it for a play which the drama group could perform – I read the story and was enthralled by it and sent it to Anne who was similarly moved.

Anne: Daphne passed me the book The Other Wise Man written by American Henry van Dyke, a philosopher, clergyman, and short story writer of the early twentieth century. As I read it, I could see it being performed in vivid colour and vibrancy on the stage as a musical. I could see a full cast dancing, singing, and performing on a major stage – I could even see some of the dance sequences! Which is odd as I cannot write or play music and I cannot even sign in tune! And I don’t dance either! But I felt compelled to work with Daph to create a musical and as I enjoy writing and have written some poetry, I thought I would enjoy writing the songs. Daph had stage experience, so the stage play was a natural for her.

Why are you fascinated by this book The Other Wise Man ?

Daphne: The story is very strong on many levels – if you are a Churchgoer then it resonates with the story of Christ and his message to the world and if you are not, then a story of compassion to your fellow man and making sacrifices means something to everybody. The story came out of Henry van Dyke’s head – he said and I quote ‘I do not know where it came from – out of the air perhaps. One thing is certain, it is not written in any other book, nor is it to be found among the ancient lore of the East. It was a gift. It was sent to me.’ How could you not be fascinated by this story?

Anne: Although I am not religious, I was brought up with the story of the birth of Jesus and the message he brought. I am a spiritual healer and teacher and the story of Artaban the Fourth Wise Man resonated so well with me. Artaban missed his opportunity of giving gifts to Jesus in Bethlehem because he was delayed by his need to help a sick man he saw on the side of the road. Despite his overwhelming desire to join the other Three Magi he felt compelled to help the man and missed the family who had moved on to Egypt by the time he arrived. He then spent the next thirty odd years of his life looking for Jesus but also stopping off to help those in need. Like so many of us he was faced with a dilemma and pulled in two directions. To do the right thing, to be compassionate and help others (including our families) and to follow our personal dream and seek our own fulfilment – to follow our hearts calling. It’s only a small book but the message is strong and as timely now as it was when Henry first wrote it. It is also a tale of good and evil. The story tells of the corruption and greed in the world at that time making the lives of ordinary folk miserable and the cruelty and oppression of the despotic Roman leader Herod. Similarly, we don’t have to look far in today’s world to see the two sides of humanity. The wonderful acts of kindness on the one side and on the other the scamming of the innocent and the misuse of power of many world leaders.

Was writing it at your ages, an advantage of age?

Daphne: I guess the main advantage was in being retired which gave the time and space to write it. I don’t think if I had still been working full time it would have been easy given the time that it has required to polish it to its present state.

Anne: As Daph says, I have more time now than I had when working full time. But I think age has brought a certain level of WHY NOT philosophy to me. I don’t feel scared to try something new because if it doesn’t work it just doesn’t matter – I won’t lose my self-esteem if I do something that is rejected, whereas when I was younger success mattered. Now I am prepared to give anything I feel good about a try, give it a chance and to stretch myself, to push out boundaries and not be intimidated by anxieties about what other people may think about me or my work. Once you take the fear of failure from a project you have a far higher chance of success.

Is it religious?

Daphne: The basic premise is religious because the story is undoubtedly linked to the birth, life and death of Christ. We cannot deny that this is the backdrop, but we strove to broaden the story so that Artaban could be every man or woman who has a quest or goal in life, who has to battle to fulfil that goal and has to make sacrifices along the way. This has had particular resonances recently with the COVID pandemic when so many people worked so hard to help others often at great danger to themselves. The carers of this world got the recognition that they deserved but at what cost? So the story reflects all and none of the religions I guess.

Anne: It is based on a religious story but the message is spiritual and of human kindness. Also the battle everyone has at times to feel good about themselves. Araban felt happy to help others but unhappy that he wasn’t reaching his goal, fulfilling his quest to meet Jesus. It’s a very happy and uplifting story and the music reflects this mood of hope and the power of loving kindness.

Can you tell us something about the songs?

Daphne: Over to Anne on this one as I didn’t have any input into the songs at all – apart to stand in awe as the lyrics just kept coming into my inbox – each one better than the last!

Anne: As Daphne shared earlier, Henry was inspired to write this story from a source beyond his understanding and I experienced a similar sense otherworldliness of where the words came from! I would read Henry’s words from his book and then think how to put them into a song. And the words just came! I also held in mind the mood and the feelings I wanted to share with each song. I looked back into my own life’s experiences to find inspiration; especially relating to the love story that winds its way through Artaban’s journey, with the inevitable highs and lows, close times and separations. The words we write will always have greater resonance and authenticity when they come from our personal experiences. The most exciting time was to hear the music created by Rick that brought my songs to life – such a thrilling experience!

What was the process of writing like?

Daphne: Sometimes very easy and the words just flowed and at other times very difficult to get just the right “tone” – I have always enjoyed crafting words and I had a superb story to base my words on – although Henry did write in the vernacular of his times – lots of thees and thous which had to go. Also, the story changed along the way so there was always something new to think about and put a new twist into the story. My words reflect the Artaban that Henry wrote about, and I hope he would approve of what we have done with his hero.

How did the staging develop?

Daphne: Through many processes! We have been helped along the way by lots of people all of whom have contributed in different ways. A neighbour of mine introduced us to a musician who in turn led us to our musical Director Kipper Eldridge. Through that contact we staged a workshop in Pimlico which taught us a great deal and which has stood us in good stead for the forthcoming Showcase in St Paul’s Church – sometimes you have to fail and pick yourself up again and learn from your mistakes – just like Artaban! Another friend mentioned the Actor’s Church and we were so pleased that the Church was interested in staging it. We were introduced to a casting agency who have sourced us a great cast and a lovely Musical Theatre Director – so all of these elements have led us to this point.

Anne: As Daphne says we have been down some dead ends, fallen into some bear traps but, fortunately, we have managed to keep our sense of humour and sustained our friendship with all the members of the production team. Not only have I loved the creative times with Daph and Rick Radley, the amazing guitarist and singer who composed the music, but also our partners have been a vital component in the creation and production of Artaban and made it fun.

Do you want to write more?

Daphne: Not for the time being – I have spent so many hours with this that I think now it’s time to let Artaban find his way into the world and I will watch him hopefully entertaining and inspiring many people in the future. That would be a wonderful end to the story.

Anne: I would love the opportunity to write more songs – I found the experience of writing the words and hearing them transformed by great music one of my life’s greatest thrills! Yes, I think, I will write more songs once this production is over and we pass Artaban into the hands of professionals to take him on the next stage of his journey.

About Artaban – the story

We meet ARTABAN, magi and astrologer, in despair of a world filled with corruption, oppression and greed. But all hope is not lost; he and his fellow magi have discovered from their studies of ancient prophecies that there will be a new leader; a king who will bring light back to the world.

This uplifting story follows the adventures of ARTABAN the fourth Wise Man on his lifelong quest to deliver his gift of gemstones to Jesus. Will he succeed? Will his sacrifices reveal the true light and purpose of his life? As the story unfolds, we are introduced to the assortment of colourful characters ARTABAN meets on his journey.

With breath-taking performances by a West End cast, we witness his struggles and achievements. The story is brought to life by the vibrant music and songs which tap into all emotions.

A rock vibe is interweaved throughout, taking you on a mesmerising journey, as the songs morph from the soulful tracks “Sacrifices of the Heart”, “Love goes on Forever” and “Journey’s End” to the gritty, impactful guitar riffs of “Herod” and “Artaban”. The rousing finale of “I Now Understand” will have you bubbling over with hand-clapping, foot-tapping joy.

For more information (and to listen to some of the original music) see: https://artabanthemusical.co.uk/

To book tickets: https://actorschurch.ticketsolve.com/shows/873618294

AofA People: Antony Fitzgerald – Model, Stylist, Art Director


5 Minute Read

What is your name:

Antony Fitzgerald

What is your age?

57 years old

Where do you live?

London, UK

What do you do?

I am a full-time model but more recently I have been also doing styling and art direction at photoshoots.

Tell us what it’s like to be your age?

Being 57 – means that people often take you seriously and listen to what you say. But I feel the same as I did when I was in my 20s.

What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?

Confidence. I’m still self-reflective but I’m less concerned about what other people think of me. I’m more keen to add my perspective to the “pot” without fear of criticism.

What about sex?

Do what makes you happy. I am open-minded and as long as adults are consenting; who am I to judge?

And relationships?

We are all in a relationship with someone, be it a love relationship, friendship, work or family relationship. I think it’s really important that those relationships enhance and support who you are so that your “self” does not disappear in that relationship. It’s how we grow as individuals. And even when those relationships are not as they should be, they can spur us on to greater things.

How free do you feel?

I feel the freest that I have ever felt in my life. I do a job that can influence the industry and other people. I have the opportunity to live in another country and still do work/what I love.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 17: A model walks the catwalk at The Icon Ball 2021 during London Fashion Week September 2021 at The Landmark Hotel on September 17, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/BFC/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND – SEPTEMBER 17: A model walks the catwalk at The Icon Ball 2021 during London Fashion Week September 2021 at The Landmark Hotel on September 17, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/BFC/Getty Images)

What are you proud of?

I am proud of setting up ‘New Silver Generation’. It is a group/collective designed to promote models of colour over 50 within the fashion and beauty industry. Already, we have attracted the support of significant fashion designers Olubiyi Thomas and Julia Clancey. As a result, I walked for them in London Fashion Week in September 2021. And it has created opportunities for those models that I support.

What keeps you inspired?

Two things.The fear of failure. But also the sense that I have not yet reached my potential. I’m still growing and the mature model industry is still growing with people like me at the cutting edge of change. I am 57 but I am less granddad and more you 30 years later. Every 20-year-old wonders who or what they will be 30 years later. I represent a group of people who challenge the stereotype of what it means to be “old”. I still dance, I still meet my friends in the West End. “Soho is still my second home”. I would still happily go nightclubbing were it not for the Covid19 pandemic.

When are you happiest?

I am happiest when I am surrounded by my friends, dancing, modelling and knowing that I am inspiring people over 50 to do the same.

And where does your creativity go?

I create shoots. Sometimes I am in them or sometimes I am behind the scenes. But I create through concepts, colours, textures and materials. I try always to include older models of colour. And I use these images to challenge the industry and redefine what is beautiful.

What’s your philosophy of living?

A little of everything does you good. Regret nothing. Everything is a learning experience even if it causes us pain. Even if my friends let me down I still have me. And in me I have enough strength to keep going. Love with passion. Through your relationship with someone else, you can achieve so much more than you thought possible. And finding peace in your life is priceless. Even if you have to let relationships go to achieve it.

And dying?

I fear death. But then to a certain extent, I fear sleep. I’m a workaholic so anything that involves doing nothing frightens me. So that means that I am in a race to achieve some of the things that I would love to achieve in my life. The problem is I keep “changing the goalposts”

Are you still dreaming?

I am a dreamer. And the more I achieve the bigger my dreams. I remember thinking when I first started modelling, that if I did London Fashion Week, and if I saw myself on a billboard then I would have succeeded within the modelling industry. Now, I have been on many billboards, magazines, TV and walked in London Fashion Week nd Paris Fashion Week. I have surpassed all of my targets. So what next? For me, managing the careers of older models of colour to start with. And who knows for the future.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

We are just coming out of a pandemic so nothing much outrageous. However, walking for Julia Clancey during London Fashion Week September 2021 was ground-breaking. The oldest by about 30 years and the only male model wearing a kaftan for this women’s wear designer. For me, boundaries are just temporary obstacles to be overcome.

The Culture Interview – Jan Day, author Living Tantra


10 Minute Read

Jan Day is one of the UK’s leading Tantra teachers. She trained for 15 years with Art of Being founder and, like her, former Osho follower Alan Lowen in Europe and Hawaii, as well as being a CTA certified coach. Jan encourages men and women to learn to trust their own unique journeys, to embrace and move beyond the limitations of their own wounds and to move towards their potential. She is happily married and lives with her husband, Frieder, in England. Her book Living Tantra – a journey through Sex, Spirit and Relationship is out on Nov 9th. You can pre-order it here – https://smarturl.it/livingtantra

Can you tell me about the evolution of Living Tantra for you as a teacher?

I started teaching Living Tantra 1 which is a seminar in about 2006 and began the Living Tantra Training in 2009. Prior to that I’d been teaching for about seven years, since 1999, mostly in Switzerland with some workshops in Hawaii (where I was based at the time) and some in the UK. I was offering workshops on a range of topics such as intimacy, touch, being in love, relationships, forgiveness and of course including sexuality.

When I started the Living Tantra Training in 2009, the work developed very quickly and the topics we explored during the seminars evolved a lot because in seminars we were (and still are) responding to whatever arises in the group. I carried on exploring and learning for myself and incorporating anything I found useful. I did some Gestalt training, worked with Genpo Roshi at a Zen retreat learning Big Heart, Big Mind which developed further the Parts work I had already started working with. In one seminar we needed to work with conflict and it became important to dive deep into listening with the group, and that became a process that we incorporated going forward. Of course, the increased understanding of trauma work and attachment theory has become

important to incorporate.

Why was it so important for you to write Living Tantra – a journey through Sex, Spirit and Relationship?

So many people had been asking if I had written a book that they could read either before or after a Living Tantra workshop and I also realised it would be a wonderful and very accessible way to reach people who couldn’t do a workshop. Although group work is a very powerful and effective way of learning and has the advantages of learning with other people, of course it is more expensive than accessing information in a book.

I’d been asked for book recommendations but there wasn’t anything that I could say represented my work fully. Many tantra books are focused on sexual technique and Living Tantra is much broader than that. It really is an embodied form of spiritual and personal growth.

How do couples and singles benefit from your tantra work?

The majority of people who come to my workshops are singles. Couples can attend together but I usually recommend that they come individually to most of the workshops because it is deep inner work. Having a close partner there with you can reinforce old patterns of behaviour and it can also be a welcome distraction from going into your inner world and facing difficult situations. When couples attend separately, the intention is that they do their inner work so that they can bring all the gifts of that learning back to their relationship. So the relationship can thrive and become more fulfilling. I’ve seen it light up both individuals and the relationship with a new sense of meaning and aliveness.

The workshops give people a powerful sense of connection to themselves, a coming home to themselves, to become more sensitive and aware of the sensations, feelings and energies flowing in their body. They develop their capacity to stay present in their own body and to hold themselves in all that is happening within them, so they feel more grounded and confident in their own being.

Because they share a very deep experience, it also leads to an ongoing connection to each other. This happens even in the 7-day workshops but is especially powerful within the 18-month training groups where a strong sense of community develops. It is much easier to grow and let go of old patterns when you are part of a group that is supporting you and cheering you on.

The workshops give people an opportunity to explore their relationship with touch, how they receive it, how they give it, what they expect, how to know and communicate what they want and don’t want. When those things are established, we can find our own unique natural sexual nature, an innocence with it and we can begin to more fully enjoy the pleasure of giving and receiving touch and being sexual. For so many people touch and sexuality have been damaged by insensitive or abusive touch or by distorted beliefs about what touch means. We all need touch to thrive. If it has taken on a false meaning such as ‘this is what you have to do to get loved’ or ‘it’s really unpleasant’ or ‘I’ll be used’ or ‘any kind of touch is going to lead to sex’ etc, then we can’t enjoy the benefits of touch or sex. In the process of learning about touch, we learn about communication, we learn to feel and stay in connection with ourselves, we learn to hold ourselves, we learn to care and to develop empathy. One of the main teachings is the weaving together of body, heart, mind, higher mind and spirit. For body, we include the lower chakras, our sexual nature and wanting. Heart includes our feelings, care, compassion and love. Mind includes our intellect and understanding. The higher mind is about a deeper listening, sensing, a connection to source and intuition. Spirit means we are open to the transcendental realm, the sacred, Source, God, the Divine, the Beloved. It’s a journey. It begins with weaving together sex and heart because these are often split.

People also learn to feel into and attune to others, to stay in connection with themselves, to see and be seen, to understand and experience intimacy and discover how they sabotage that. They learn to listen and feel into the perspective of others. So in short, they learn how to be in deep connection and intimacy with themselves and they learn how to be in deep connection and intimacy with others. Which affects every aspect of life in every moment of our lives.

How is your teaching different to that of other Tantra teachers?

People say they feel safe, they know there is no pressure to do anything or have anything done to them, but rather to keep feeling into what is right for themselves moment by moment. They feel accepted and able to show up and not pretend to be some ideal or other. There is more general work to explore and expand the whole person rather than a narrow focus on sexuality. When we are exploring sexuality, our focus is on integrating heart, sex and the sacred in one dance.

Who has inspired you the most as a teacher and why?

I’ve been inspired by so many teachers. I worked with Alan Lowen for a long time and his creativity and courage was very inspiring and I still use many of the processes he developed. I certainly learned a lot about leading groups from him. I was inspired by Genpo Roshi in the way that he applied Voice Dialogue and included the transcendental realm. Recently I’ve been inspired by how Martin Ucik applied Integral Theory to relationships and how he presented it with such humility and generosity. I was deeply touched by Amma many years ago by her devotion, love, dedication and humility. Different teachers have inspired me in such different ways.

Have you seen a sea change around sexuality in the past ten years that you’ve been teaching in the UK? What does that look like?

Two things stand out.
I think men are now more wary about doing anything that could be deemed inappropriate and that can lead to a loss of confidence and an unwillingness to own their sexuality or show desire. Moving through this to attune to women and understand what it means to honour both themselves and a woman, is important learning.
There is also a lot more mainstream interest in BDSM since 50 Shades of Grey came out. For a few different reasons, we don’t work with that in our workshops. But now I have to be explicit in asking people not to start spanking in touch structures.

What is the number one teaching in Tantra?

To weave together an embodied aliveness that includes sex, power, heart, being, mind and spirit, which means we can be fully present to all experience and all that happens.

What do people misunderstand the most about Tantra?

The biggest misunderstanding is that Tantra is all about sex. It does include sex for very good reasons, but it is absolutely not limited to sex.

How does learning Tantra enrich our lives and relationships?

By making us more embodied and alive, being able to stay present to our whole experience and so to open in love, care, understanding and compassion for all beings.

Could you describe one exercise that we can all do that would help us be more connected?

EXERCISE from Living Tantra, the book – Touch yourself with love

Lie or sit comfortably and put your arms around yourself. Hold yourself as if you were holding a small child who is in pain. Use your hands to soothe and stroke yourself. Gradually over minutes, allow your hands to move further over your body, sensing what feels good, what you’d like. You may find yourself stroking your face or putting your hands on your heart, running your fingers through your hair or exploring a hand or an arm as if you’d never seen one before. Give yourself the fullest attention you can. Stay connected with your feelings using your breath to bring focus and attention to the different areas of your body. Try opening and closing your eyes. Notice if you can be more present and connected with yourself with eyes open or closed. Notice any thoughts that arise. End as you began by holding yourself and find some encouraging words that feel true to say to yourself.
Make some notes about the experience in your journal.
How did you feel about doing it?
How did you feel afterwards?
Did it feel familiar or strange to hold yourself and give yourself loving touch?
Could you enjoy it?
Could you relax into it?
Was there any difference when you had your eyes open or closed?
Did you have any feelings that surprised you?
Did you include your genitals and breasts?
Was it easier or more challenging than you expected and why?
Did you feel more or less connected to yourself after this exercise?

This Wednesday, Nov 3rd at 9pm, she is being interviewed by psychotherapist Noel McDermott for the Well-Being podcast. You can access it here https://www.youtube.com/c/NoelMcDermott/live.

She is being interviewed by Jo Good on Radio London on Nov 9th at 11pm.

The Zoom Launch is on Nov 10th and Costa Prize-winning author, Monique Roffey is interviewing Jan and has been her student. Should be fascinating. You can register here https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/living-tantra-a-virtual-book-launch-tickets-182697803047?fbclid=IwAR1tpryYP7VBZOiewj10Q6XZwl3iwx19jRgH0w3Lq3TarPd2Y22vIg_i-jI

AofA People: Lorraine Bowen – Performer, Singer, Crumble Lady


7 Minute Read

Now known as The Crumble Lady, Lorraine Bowen won David Walliams’ Golden Buzzer on Britain’s Got Talent and has attracted tens of thousands of new fans of all ages; children are singing the Crumble Song at school, as are grown men in factories.

Lorraine Bowen is a unique performer! Quirky costumes, original idiosyncratic songs, vintage Casio keyboard played on an ironing board. She adores the fashion sensibility of the 1960s and has one of the largest polyester wardrobes in the UK.

Lorraine began her career playing the piano with Billy Bragg in massive venues in the UK and stadiums in Europe as well as both sides of the Berlin wall. Since then she has produced 6 albums, 100 videos on her Youtube TV Channel and regularly performs nationally and internationally.

How old are you?

59 (60 on 31st October)

Where do you live?

East Sussex, England

What do you do?

Musician, performer, composer, BGT Golden buzzer winner, crumble lady….. bonkers lady!

I write songs, put on shows, wear polyester fashions, think of new ideas, write lyrics, make videos on TikTok and YouTube, sing, dance and muck around on stage.  Others call it performing!

What do you have now that you didn’t at 25?

At 59 you start to see the world in a more landscaped view.  Women of my age should be in charge of the whole world cos we’ve seen a lot, been through a lot and can see the problems and could work through the answers in a more levelled state than a lot of leaders!  It will happen…. It will!

I have stability now that I didn’t have at 25.  Mind you I’ve had to work for it!

What about sex?

Sex?  I’ve got to do the washing up first!

And relationships?

Relationship – 36 years old relationship now.  Met in a pub in Deptford in 1986.  We were punky in nature – still are at heart.  It’s good to keep the grunge at heart.  Privilege isn’t a good thing really – it’s much better to have risen from the dirt and grime – makes you appreciate everything.  If you’ve been through the rough and tumble in life it keeps you centred and focused.  Nothing is a nightmare.  Well, another tornado in Haiti is a nightmare but the dishwasher blowing up isn’t a nightmare.  Keep it real!

How do you feel at this age?

I feel free and fanciful…. But like others, I do often worry about the world, climate change, right-wing terrorism, stupid people and what’s going to happen when I’ve got dementia and am dribbling down my own chin…

What are you proud of?

I’m very proud of my daring creativity over the years.  I’ve written lots of songs and haven’t cared what fashion they fit in, what lyrical strain they fit in – I’ve just done what I fancied and largely it’s turned out well!  My YouTube/Spotify stats tell me my biggest listening age group is 18-25s – how hilarious is that!

I’m proud that I never had kids and am part of a growing group of women who relish being free from all that.  I’m proud that I feel as a woman I’m at the forefront of a new frontier, a new age of thought.  We don’t have to conform.  We are new! We are pushing the boundaries and the boundaries are ever dissolving.

Mind you, I realise no one sees me in the street.  I’m 59 and therefore invisible… except when I’m proudly wearing my bright 1970s polyester jackets and you can see people squirm and smile at my fashion sense!  Ha ha!

What inspires you?

What keeps me inspired is that the world is quite a boring place really. Really boring. It’s up to us to brighten up things, look forward to a new day of being here, keeping it positive, keep the energy gushing out doing good things whether that being creative or working towards goals that are good. I love a new project and if there isn’t one there I’ll make one happen.  I’ve got a big show – my Greatest Hits show – in London on 10th October at ‘Above the Stag’ cabaret lounge and so am working towards that.  Also have been given a tremendous night in Brighton on November 20th to put on my Polyester Fiesta show.  Lots of my models can’t make the date …. so I’ll get some new ones!  Lots of work but a great challenge – HURRAH!

When are you the happiest?

I’m happiest when working on music…. Lyrics that make me laugh out loud, lyrics that won’t work and I wake at 5 am in the morning to scribble something down on a notepad by my bed!  Honestly lying on a beach in the sun doesn’t make me happy at all!  Being happy comes from achievement.  Working hard towards something than seeing how the hard work has made others laugh or brought about some catalyst in life.

Where does your creativity go?

My creativity goes towards my music/lyrics/songwriting/composing.  I’ve just finished writing a musical during lockdown – that took ten months – it was commissioned by a lovely young chap in Germany.  Sheer delight!

Then I recently wrote three environmental songs for piano and voice: ‘Down to Earth’ … and now I’m working on my live shows and wait for it.. a classical piece for mezzo-soprano, piano, cello and timpani!  Why not?  I’m 59 and can do what I like!

Do you have a philosophy of living?

Life is short – make the most of each day. Try to say to yourself – I’ve achieved this or that today… it might only be saving a bee from dying at the side of the road but that’s very important too!  (Without bees we as humans are dead in 9 years. My grandfather was a famous beekeeper in his day and warned of the destruction of the natural world). I think humans have got about 20 years left to sort themselves out…. Else it’s BOOM!  And unfortunately, everything else comes with us.

And dying?

My song ‘Would you like to be Buried of Cremated’ sums up everything!

Audiences love it as it puts life into perspective and you get them dancing on the table!  Total joy!

Would you like to be

Buried or cremated,

Mourned or celebrated?

I’d like to know,

Before you go

 

Would you like a coffin

Or any ‘ol thing to go off in?

Do let me know

Before you go

 

Cos

Life is such a day to day affair and often quite surreal

One minute you’re waiting for the bus

And the next you’re underneath the wheel, So!

 

Would you like your funeral

With all your favourite tunes and all

Can we dance

If we get the chance?

 

Cos

Life is such a day to day affair and often very weird

One minute you’re a little baby girl

And the next you’ve got a really long beard, So!

 

Buried or cremated?

Mourned or celebrated?

Can you face the music? cos

It’s up to you to choose it

 

Buried or cremated

Mourned or celebrated

I’d like to know for certain

Before you draw the curtain!

Are you still dreaming?

Of course, I’m still dreaming! I’m just about human and only humans have dreams and beliefs… no other animal or mammal would be stupid enough to have them! Why do we have them? It’s crazy!  They are a yearning, a make-belief that there is another way that could be better out there/something better that we could do… so dreams have to be fun. Dreams can lead to you doing crazy things so keep having them!  As a geeky spotty teenager, I used to dream of being a fashion model… now I am in my own Polyester Fiesta fashion show… I didn’t fit in with other people’s reality so made my own dream come true!   Have a go at your own!  Go-Girrl!

LORRAINE BOWEN’S GREATEST HITS TOUR DATES

https://abovethestag.org.uk/cabaret-lounge/lorraine-bowens-greatest-hits

Lorraine Bowen’s Greatest Hits

SUN, 10th OCT

15:30 – 17:30

Above The Stag Theatre & Bar (map)

72 Albert Embankment, LONDON SE1 7TP

Lorraine Bowen performs her Greatest Hits from her many original albums and of course the BGT famous Crumble Song!

 

SAT 20th NOV

Lorraine Bowen’s POLYESTER FIESTA

At the Ironworks Studio, Brighton, BN1

Lorraine and friends strut their stuff on the catwalk on polyester’s 80th birthday!  Nylon, Crimpelene, Terelene and more – come dressed up in your best flowery dress and join in the audience catwalk competition!  Fun night guaranteed!

No, No, No – Age isn’t just a Number


4 Minute Read

This is the first in a series of our OUTRAGE opinion columns about what gets our personal goats as older people. Please do join in. Write to me at rosejanerouse@yahoo.co.uk with your suggestions.

It appears on threads in discussions all the time. This innocent anodyne little sentence – Age is just a number. It is served up like a dish of cold ancient rotting turkey as a rationale for agelessness, as a justification for our ‘do what we like’ oldster rebelliousness, as part of our pride in ageing well.

BUT THIS IS DISINGENUOUS.

It’s more of the same, the same – we are young really, we don’t need to age, eternal youth is here. Misguided bollocks, in fact.

Can’t we decide as a community that ageing, getting older, putting on the years, doesn’t have to be something that we constantly avoid?

Being in our 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 100s is not monstrous. We are not monsters because we are Over-50. It’s not just the external – media headlines like the Daily Mail denigrating older women far too often – critics that matter, it’s our internal critics that sabotage us.

The ones that tell us that we’re not worth anything now with these creases, fuller figures, aching bones, worsening eyesight, tiredness. I’ve got them too – those voices that instruct me to lose weight, that insist that my jowls are sagging – but I am determined to defy them.

Mary Beard urges a grey revolution around this very thing. Now Mary Beard has declared she wants to create an ‘old movement’ to encourage people to take pride in growing older.

The television historian announced that she is ‘reclaiming the word old’ in the same way ‘queer’ was embraced by the gay community.

And the 59-year-old said she hoped to rally older people into joining her in a political debate to take away the word’s negative connotations.

She said: ‘I do, partly to annoy people, say “how could you say that to an old woman like me”. I do it to reclaim the word “old”. Old instantly connotes the hunched lady or gentleman. I want an old movement. By the time I die I want “old” to be something we say about ourselves with pride. Guardian

Do you say how old you are in an assertive yet graceful manner? For me, being able to say how old I am publicly and without the everlasting shame of being old – has been liberating. Now I can relax. I no longer pretend to be younger. I just say it how it is. It all started when I was 60. I’d been on dating online sites and taken ten years off my age in order to get men my age to look at my profile. I always pretended – in my 50s – that I was younger than I was. I actively longed for people to look at me and come to the conclusion that I was at least ten years younger. I couldn’t bear not being looked at by men my own age.

And at 68, I’m still there. Out and proud. I always say how old I am. Age is not just a number. It’s part of my lived life. It’s a declaration of substance. I have been here for 68 years and I’d like to be recognised for it. I have survived. I’m not running away from the physical consequences.

Although I really do not want to be patronised either. Recently I have been working with two young black choreographers creating a dance piece for Over 60s. They told us that their collaborators assumed that our group of Over 60s were frail, elderly and limited in our movements. We are not as extensive in our movements as we were but we are doing pretty well. Rhys, one of the choreographers who is 28 said – ‘They would be surprised at the depth of movement that you all bring’. That made my soul sing.

And then Rhys mentioned that he’d heard me saying something about ‘being in my twilight years’. I remonstrated. ‘I would never say that,’ I declared emphatically. But you know, I was deluded and defensive – I am in my twilight years and what’s wrong with recognising that. Twilight years is a bit twee for my liking. Old is fine. But I am still learning what to re-evaluate and accept.

However, age is definitely not just a number – it is a certain number and we are all different at our different ages. That’s the point too. We are not a uniform bunch of older people – we are the motley array that we are!  I still haven’t come round to pensioner!

A of A People: Michele Kirsch – Music Education Coordinator at The Premises


8 Minute Read

Name: Michele Kirsch Music Education Coordinator at The Premises
From the time I started to listen to records and go to gigs, I was always the nutter, sticking her head in the bass amp. I thought when I started to grow up, I would grow out of that, but it got worse. I wanted a job that would let me play music (of other people, otherwise I would be condemned to a lifetime of Kumbaya on a starter guitar) while I was doing the job.
This started extraordinarily badly. My first proper job was as an assistant school teacher in a very liberal, folky dokey holistic private school in Greenwich  Village, NYC. It was a class of five-year-olds and when the main teacher would have her break, I would supervise “mat ” time, when the kids would lay themselves out on yoga mats and go to sleep while listening to The Four Seasons by  Vivaldi, not the Frankie Valli ones. It was very boring, and I hated that record, which was what they played when you were on hold on the phone. So one day I brought in Rocket to Russia by The Ramones, and the kids went apeshit, rolling up their mats and boinging each other on the head and just going hog wild. The headteacher had to have a word with me.

Now since then, I have had to do jobs that require a lot of concentration, but also, some jobs that mainly require standing up and chopping stuff (cheffing) and standing up and cleaning stuff (cleaning) and of course, raising my kids. For all the ones that did not need concentration, I needed a soundtrack. Music makes any job a thousand times better. If you are slipping the skins off eleventy-billion broad beans, then it goes faster if you are listening to Boogie Down Productions. Trust me. When my kids and I used to clean the house after wrecking it with art stuff all day, I would put on Little Richard’s Slippin and Slidin. It still brings a HUGE smile to my face. We played air piano to it.
When I worked, not very long, as a kitchen coordinator for a Brain injury charity, the best bit of preparing lunch with people living with brain injury, was the “Let’s DO THIS” music we put on at the end of cooking and beginning of service. This one poor kid had quite bad brain trauma but was WORD perfect to Despacito with Daddy Yankee and Justin Beiber. We would all dance around the kitchen and sing along. I think with hindsight, it was inappropriate.  That’s kind of my middle name.
Who am I, what motivates me:

I have done lots of jobs but the main thread that runs through all of them is writing or some kind of communication. My aim started small, which was to not piss people off, which I did for a sizable chunk of my early working life as a journalist. I mean I DID piss people off. It was my MO.  I have moved up a gear and I am actively trying to be a “people person” and specifically, within the music business. I used to pass by this recording studio pretty much every day on the way to another job, and see people, rock and roll or soul people, just, my TRIBE, loading gear into and out of these recording studios. I thought it must be fun to work there, plus the commute would be a cinch.

I used to work in the music business, first as a writer, then as a tour manager, which was a disaster, but a GREAT story, and then as a PR for an independent label. I had to do some crazy things in that job, but I loved it. I had to dress up as an alligator, and I had to take these five guys, average age, 75, who played a type of music called Mento, on homemade instruments, to a Goth Night in Camden. But we got to listen to music all the time, which made the days fly.
Just before the first lockdown, I saw a local online newsletter that mentioned the formation of a rock and roll book group. We managed about two meetings talking about rock and roll books before we had to just stop everything, but I made friends with this guy, and he turned out to be the CEO of The Premises, the recording studio where I thought it would be fun to work. It turned out there was some part-time work going there, which was to take over running of the education programme, which uses the studios but for lessons, workshops, etc. What motivates me is an understood mutual love of music. The music is at the heart of everything fun, and important to me.  That people might want to learn how to be better on their instruments, or better singers,  or do that and be with equally enthusiastic people, there is no greater buzz than being part of that.
When did I start the job: 

I started in April, and have mainly been focusing on promoting two workshops. The first is a Piano Week with Nikki Yeoh, and working on that has taught me quite a bit about jazz and the jazz scene, which was previously off my radar. Stupid me.  The next one, which I’m working on now, is a Vocal Recording Workshop running the first three days of October, with a professional studio recording on the third day. The people running the course are people I kind of fangirl anyway: Sarah Moule, Simon Wallace and Liane Carroll. It’s about getting the best out of your singing voice without relying on autotune and stuff like that. What’s funny is I would be hopeless, myself. I can’t sing for toffee. Even my own cats cover their ears when I start to warble along to say, a PJ Harvey track, but I bring home the Dreamies, so they have to put up with it. We have a cat in the studio, which to my mind, is the mark of a great place to work. Her name is Doris and she sits at my desk. Cat, music, cool boss, fun place to work. Local business. It’s a great fit for me.

Is your work primarily a means to an end ie money, or the motivating force of your life?
 I like to learn new things and meet new people, always, so this has opened up a whole new area of music that, while I did not dismiss it, it was not my thing. I can’t promote jazz stuff without learning more about it, particularly the current scene, and the young people involved.  There is this brilliant woman who comes in to rehearse, Roella Olaro, and she’s so young, and so talented, and so humble. It’s great to see the buzz around her and when she pops by the office to stick her head in and say hi, it makes my day. Lots of musicians call in to say hi to my boss, Viv Broughton, who owns the joint.
There is a real love there, people like to hang with him, tell him what is going on, and I find that so uplifting. This is NOT a workplace where people come in, in a bad mood. Everyone is chilled and in good form, or excited. We had The Lightning  Seeds in just before the football cup final. They did that Three Lions song and it was thought they might have to do it again if England won. They asked me to get an autograph but I was suddenly attacked by a bout of shyness, something that has never troubled me so that we got someone else to do it. This week, Marc Almond is in and when he was in last, I just listened outside the door and had a little dance and when the tune finished, I stuck my head in and said, “Oh, that was SO GREAT” and they were fine with that. Gracious.
When you were 8, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a scientist who figured out how to stop all pollution. I wanted to plant apple trees on the motorways and I wanted to invent a time machine so I could go to all the concerts I missed for being too young at the time.
What is your dream job?
I like any job where the people are nice and laid back. The work itself is less important than the atmosphere. I still write and would like to write more, for money, but that’s turned into my side hustle.
If UK-based, are you glad, indifferent or disappointed that the official pension age is rising?
I am NOT HAPPY that it has been raised. Because I would like a bit of my life where my health is good, my body is strong and I can spend all my time doing fun stuff. I am 60 now and the thought of working for another seven years, even doing something I like, does not spark joy in my heart. Plus I have not been that smart, pension wise, and will be mainly reliant on the State one if they have not abolished it. I fully expect to live on Dreamies and the kindness of strangers.
You can book a vocal recording workshop with top jazz musicians Sarah Moule, Lianne Carroll on this link:

Aof A People: Mish Aminoff Moon – Artist and Photographer


8 Minute Read

Mish Aminoff Moon, 63, is an artist and photographer. She captures images every day with her camera – from her particular perspective, details of London life. She blogs at https://www.mishaminoff.com/ with her photographs being the main focus. Mish took some amazing shots of our Dance Me To Death performance; no one else had her eye.

What is your age?

I’ll be 64 in August.

Where do you live?

In London, near Kentish Town.  I love the location as it’s near Hampstead Heath and also quite close to the centre of town, so it’s urban but also close to nature. One of my photographic projects has been taking the ever-changing view from my window through different seasons and light conditions. It feels exciting to me to witness a cityscape out of the window.

What do you do?

I’m an artist. Most days I wander around the streets with my camera capturing whatever piques my interest. I paint too but photography is something I do every day. I also produce a regular blog that combines images and text.

Tell us what it’s like to be your age?

I feel very fortunate to be here and to be relatively fit and healthy. I lost a good friend a few days ago and another of my friends has been seriously ill for a while. I reached a turning point when I turned 60 – when I began to appreciate life in a different way. In my 30s and 40s I was probably more concerned about ageing but now I see life as a gift.

What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25?

For a start, I have two grown-up sons! I’m also married (for the second time), and we live together in our own apartment. I have nearly 40 more years of experience and am still learning. I’ve discovered that I’m a good singer – this only happened as I approached 50 when I was looking for a transitional activity to replace the regular salsa dancing in clubs. I joined an Afrocuban choir called The London Lucumi choir and have been singing ever since. We’ve performed alongside amazing artists and recorded several albums. In terms of my physical identity, I have much longer hair, which is streaked with grey.

What about sex?

On the one hand, I felt a bit wary of this question as I don’t want it to be sensationalist like “we broke the bed the other day” (which we did). I value all the senses and for me, sex and sensuality are an important part of intimacy and connection. I treasure the fact that my partner and I are lovers as well as companions. I don’t know if my feelings around this will change but this is how I’ve felt up to now.

And relationships?

I met my husband Stephen when we were both 55 and single. I was in a good place creatively and socially but relationship-wise I had totally resigned myself to being single. There’s actually a funny story connected to this. When we met, I had an exhibition of my photos at Bar Italia and sold some pictures to several people, one of them being Stephen. With some of the deposit money I went and treated myself to some fancy lingerie. I was recounting the story to a woman from the Great British Song Book who used my words verbatim as the chorus to a song which we performed at the Barbican. The chorus goes like this:

“ I’m going to buy myself the most beautiful bra in the world. Nobody’s ever gonna see this bra but I DON’T CARE!!”

So, after the exhibition was over, Stephen and I arranged to meet for an afternoon coffee. This coffee was the start of something that then developed into a relationship I hadn’t anticipated or expected. It felt and still feels incredible to have met my soulmate and something about finding each other at such a late stage means that we are appreciative of each day we have together.

How free do you feel?

I feel quite free as an autonomous individual but I also feel that my duties and responsibilities are going to increase in terms having to care for my mother who is in her 80s. So fantasies about spending months living in Venice might have to remain fantasies for a while.

What are you proud of?

This is a tough one. I’m proud of my sons and my relationship with them. I’m proud of what I consider to be my bravery and fearlessness in certain situations – I’ve worked hard to live in a way that I feel is authentic.

What keeps you inspired?

I’m inspired by reading. Relatively recently I read The Choice by Edith Eger, a holocaust survivor who was presumed dead amongst a pile of corpses but survived. She still goes swing dancing with another nonagenarian! Talk about Carpe Diem. I’m particularly inspired by black women authors and am currently reading a fascinating book by Raven Leilani who is only 30. I love watching world cinema (which I used to teach) and listening to music. But I am also aware of too much “consumption” so try to keep a balance.

When are you happiest?

Lots of situations – I’m happiest hanging out quietly at home with Stephen, but I’m also extremely in the sense of pure life energy when I’m dancing, singing and around rhythm. I recently bought a pandeiro-type of Brazilian tambourine and even a few minutes of playing totally raises my spirits.

And where does your creativity go?

I take photographs or work on my photography every day. I’m also into fashion and some of that creativity goes into my personal style. I think I’m quite a creative cook too, which has made lockdown a rather tasty one. My newest dish is a re-creation of a Sicilian speciality I read about in one of Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano novels!

What’s your philosophy of living?

The following phrases inform and inspire me day to day:

“Keep on Trying … I just keep on trying” Faith Ringgold, an incredible artist from Harlem who found success relatively late in life, said this in an interview to Alan Yentob prior to her solo exhibition the Serpentine. She was in her late 80s at the time.

“You don’t have to keep up dear. You just have to keep open”- spoken by Anna Madrigal, the transgender character created by Armistead Maupin from the conclusion of Tales of the City series of books.

I mentioned Edith Eger before; she writes that we always have a choice irrespective of how dire the situation is, and we can choose to have a victim’s mentality or that of a survivor. She says “we have a choice: to pay attention to what we’ve lost or to pay attention to what we still have.”

This is also linked to the idea of being an active or passive agent in your life. This brings me to my next nugget of philosophy:

“Some pursue happiness, others create it”. I first came across this in New York – part of a motivational project called Be Mighty where people could tear off little inspirational quotes from flyers in the street (see attached photo). This one really resonated with me. I later found out it is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

And dying?

I’ve taken small steps towards acknowledging and confronting dying; the tai chi and qigong practice I’ve been doing increasingly since lockdown (see attached photo of people practising on Hampstead Heath) help me come to terms with acknowledging loss, notions of seasons, transience, change and letting go.

Mish Aminoff

Are you still dreaming?

Yes, but I don’t always remember them. One dream that had a profound effect on me was a kind of premonition involving bonding with a woman in a red flowing dress. This was followed in waking life by encountering the Red Rebel Brigade of the Extinction Rebellion movement in a similar scenario. I photographed them and wrote a blog called Red Flow which develops the theme.

Mish Aminoff

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

I don’t really go for outrageous – I tend to strive for balance and harmony. But I do have a lot of adventures and spontaneous wonderful experiences. For instance the other week I had been dancing Forro – a type of Brazilian dance in the bandstand at Regents Park. After the class, a Brazilian dancer started a Maracatu line dance parade with live percussion in front of a crowd and my friend Alicia and I joined in even though we’d never done it before. We ended up performing in the front row, doing movements representing slaves getting rid of chains and it was incredibly powerful. We ended with impromptu wild ululation! And the crowds cheered…

AofA People: Kevin Allen – Film Director


7 Minute Read

Kevin Allen, 61, is a film director and old mate of mine from our Portobello days. He made Twin Town (before Rhys Ifans was on the cinematic map) to great acclaim and now runs the Mobile Film School where he teaches people of all ages to make films on their smartphones. His latest feature film, La Cha Cha, was shot during lockdown using Iphones with anamorphic lenses. It was a Mobile Film School production engaging a mix of students and seasoned pros. It stars Ruby & Sonny Serkis, Liam Hourican, Dougray Scott, Rhys Ifans and Keith & Alfie Allen. It’s scheduled for release in cinemas at the end of Sept – depending on the third Covid spike, of course. 

Age                                                                                              

I’m sixty-one year’s young.

Where do you live?

In a cabin by a magical lake on a farm on the fabulous Gower Peninsular, South Wales.

What do you do?

I write and direct films – and run my Mobile Film School, teaching people of all ages from all walks of life, to make films on their smartphones.

Tell us what it’s like to be your age?

I wasn’t at all happy about reaching the big Six-Oh. It’s around about the age when my relatives used to kick the bucket. But most of them had tough lives, I guess. I suppose sixty isn’t really that old these days. I don’t feel old. I think my kids are a decent barometer. They don’t really see me or treat me as an old git, and that’s nice. Although I suffered two serious knee injuries, my body is holding out okay.

What do you have now that you didn’t have at 25? 

Four bird feeders and a beard.

What about sex?

It’s definitely up there with a good Sunday roast. Always up for a bit of hanky-panky when the occasion arises. Although one-night-stands cease to satisfy these days, the ergonomics of Tinder has been a Godsend.

And relationships?

My marriage broke up about seven years ago. It took some time to get over but it was a good 16-year shift and we get on well. I’m happily single. I’m not sure I could live with someone again, to be honest. I know you never know what might come along but I do like living alone in my little cabin on the farm with my dog and chickens. The relationship I have with my rescued mutt, Schmeichel, is very satisfying. Our love for one another is unconditional.

How free do you feel?

Freer than ever I suppose. I live virtually off-grid, have no debts, no mortgages, and all my kids will be adults in a few years. FB keeps its eagle eye on me, of course – but I don’t really give a fuck who’s working out my algorithms. I can slip anchor anytime I want really. I have a loaded air rifle by my front door, should I be required to join the revolution. Although I’ll probably just film bits of it and sell it to Netflix.

What are you proud of?

My four kids. They’re lovely individuals. I don’t just love them, I actually like them. I’m really proud of the house I designed and built in Ireland … of my debut feature, Twin Town, and of my movie adaptation of Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood. But, I’m really chuffed with La Cha Cha – the movie I shot during the lockdown. It’s a sort of counterculture rom-com set on an alternative care-home/caravan park, where creative oldies can let their hair and pants down. We treat the elderly so appallingly in this country and the movie offers a glimpse of what could be a viable alternative for those wanting to go out with a bang, rather than a whimper.

What keeps you inspired?

Since setting up The Mobile Film School, we have trained many young filmmakers from scratch. Literally thrown them in at the deep end whilst making a movie. It’s a wholly immersive alternative to rip-off three-year Uni media courses. Watching them develop and blossom on set is truly inspiring. Balm for the soul.

When are you happiest?

Pottering about on the farm, cooking outside for friends, walking the mutt along one of our many beautiful beaches. I’m very happy when I’m making a movie. After the interminable grind of writing everything opens out during pre-production, followed by the adrenalin rush of shooting a film. I feel especially happy working on the score with my long time composer, Mark Thomas. Music is a critical component of my filmmaking and it’s just so much fun to play around in the studio after wrapping a movie shoot.

And where does your creativity go?

Quite often it goes straight into the bin – and sometimes it develops into something interesting and worthwhile. The filmmaking process can be quite protracted and often soul-destroying. It’s a journey that involves a huge amount of collaboration and juggling all the individual elements that go into making a movie is such a huge creative endeavour in itself. Filmmaking aside, I try and see the art in just about everything. With the lucrative proceeds of a big studio movie, we moved from Hollywood to a remote part of Ireland where we bred free-range pigs – and four free-range kids – in relative isolation. I learned to recognise and appreciate the art of the field. The creativity that goes into good farming is something to behold, and this is what inspired me to create the Flat Lake Literary & Arts Festival in County Monaghan, with the novelist Pat McCabe. The Arts Council of Ireland told us such an event couldn’t possibly happen in such a cultural backwater. We proved them wrong, and it was the ludicrous dichotomy of farmers and urban intellectuals coming together on the border that made the festival so genuinely special. It also made a significant cultural contribution to the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland – that Brexit just royally fucked up.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Don’t trouble, trouble – until trouble troubles you is a quip I picked up while writing a movie in Alabama years ago, and it sort of stuck with me. I guess I spent too much time in my early career looking for trouble that I didn’t need to address with such cockiness. I was so hell-bent on confronting what I loathed about my cartel-run industry head-on, that it only led to burning a few too many bridges. Leaving the Hollywood treadmill behind to farm in Ireland allowed me to rethink and reprioritise what I really wanted to do, and I naturally re-engaged with filmmaking with a quieter, calmer, more sustainable approach to achieving what I felt I could achieve.

And dying?

As more mates drop off around me, I guess it brings one’s own mortality into sharper relief. I’ve lost three best mates, the most recent hanged himself. It was traumatic, to say the least, and made me think a lot more about making the most of what I have left. I want to carry on making films until I’m physically and mentally unable – then check out in a place like La Cha Cha, the caravan park where my last movie is set. I’d like to spend my final chapter bathing in creativity. Painting, sculpture, growing weed, dancing around a campfire, taking lots of drugs … and if the body and mind allow, a bit of slap ‘n tickle by the lake at twilight.

Are you still dreaming?

Yes, I recently dreamt of making the perfect sherry trifle. My kids entered me into the world of sherry trifle-making championships held at Queen Elizabeth Hall. It was a close run contest between me, Salman Rushdie and Fiona Bruce. Bruce pipped me at the post, but then failed a random drugs test, so I lifted the coveted Golden Trifle. I returned to Swansea on a double-decker bus where thousands of sherry trifle fans lined the streets. A male voice choir sang at a special ceremony at the town hall where I was handed the keys to the city. The triumph was bittersweet though, as I later learned that Fiona Bruce had been dropped from the Antiques Road Show. However, we all know that the Sherry Trifle circuit is rife with drug abuse, and the way of the transgressor is hard.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

I just spent 200 quid on a tin of organic olive oil from Umbria.

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