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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.

Who are Older Women Rock?


6 Minute Read

Leah Thorn explains who OWR are. She started this inspiring group when she was 65.

blood memory

I am an old age, all age woman,

no way past my use-by date.

Walking in ancestral sisters’ footsteps,

I am an archive on legs,

a time traveller, alive to life,

I embody time, provide testimony,

a radical, lyrical, womanist legacy

 

Women’s blood memory speaks in me

 

 a found poem by Leah Thorn, created after reading ‘Out of Time’ by Lynne Segal

                                                                                                and ‘How to Age’ by Anne Karpf

 

Using poetry, personal stories, ‘fashion’ and film, ’Older Women Rock!’ creates pop-up art spaces in which to raise awareness and explore issues facing early-old-age women in our 60s and 70s. It challenges our invisibility by placing us centre stage on our own terms; strengthens our resilience and our networks as we move into older age; and importantly, subverts society’s assumptions and prejudices about us.

How it started

I started ‘Older Women Rock!’ when I was 65. My generation of women made decisive change. I hope we never give up our vision of the world we want and our intention to have it.

In my 70s now, I am inundated daily with messages that as an older woman I am inconsequential and my thinking outmoded and no longer needed. This attempt to invalidate us builds on decades of oppression, where our existence has been diminished and erased.

I wanted to ‘hang out’ with older women to stop my growing sense of isolation and struggle. I was keen to see what their experiences were and to find a creative way to share what I was learning.

I set up opportunities for conversation with different kinds of women in their late 50s to mid 70s. I led workshops for women in a Zumba Gold class; women in prison; a deaf women’s group; women at a MIND Day Centre; lesbians in an Age UK Older LGBTQ project; daughters of Holocaust survivors; Women’s Institute members; unpaid carers; women who identify as feminist and those who definitely do not.

We addressed issues such as –

  • the lack of older women in the media or the misrepresentation of us as a stereotype or a joke
  • the fortune the beauty industry makes from the insecurity we feel that is manufactured by sexism and intensified by old age oppression
  • poverty and the fact that many women have small state pensions because of low-paid work and/or breaks in employment to raise children or to care for ageing parents
  • body image and the need to conceal or be ‘discreet’ about physical changes, like greying hair, facial hair or incontinence
  • sexuality
  • being a carer

Poetic clothing

Based on our conversations, I created poetry and then collaborated with older women artists to embroider, burn, print, bead, engrave and spray-paint words and images onto retro clothes sourced from local charity shops. Here are a few examples –

1

You speak of me in metaphors

of catastrophe. Soon I will be

an agequake, a grey tsunami.

My age is your nightmare.

A numerical fanfare

to fan your fear

 

Sculptor Nicholette Goff interpreted this poem by customising a 1940s jacket with skeins of grey hair and a beautifully constructed bar of ‘medals’,

2

Only men grow old on screen.

Women disappear from film and TV by fifty,

hit dread and disgust in early middle age

and suddenly we’re no longer fit for public display,

unless we’re flogging stair lifts, baths or wills

or we have a frozen face

or we’re de-aged by digital alteration.

It’s a kind of symbolic annihilation

 

Fashion designer and stylist Claire Angel burnt words from this poem onto a leather jacket.

 

3

         The beauty counter screams ‘Buy This Cream’.

Got taut, tight skin? You’re in.

Got ticking clocks? Botox. Detox.

Resist signs of ageing at all cost.

Stop. Reverse. Hide. Slo mo.

Smooth your skin ego.

Feel the urge for a youth surge?

Want a victory of science over time?

Want to reignite your youthful light?

Deny age. Defy age.

You’re in control with phenoxyethanol.

Replump with sodium phytate.

No. Retaliate. Fight age hate.

It’s a diabolical conspiracy

for women to age agelessly,

line-, scar-, crease-free

 

I refuse to let the forever-young drug erase

the handwriting of life across my face

 

Allie Lee of the Profanity Embroidery Group embroidered an image onto a 1980s jumpsuit in response to my poem –

 

4

         Vulva lost its youthful lustre?

Want a quick fix?

Try My New Pink Button,

rouge for labial lips

 

Annie Taylor of the Profanity Embroidery Group interpreted this poem onto a vintage negligee

5

         I’ll never have

a designer vagina

that vajazzle dazzles

and permanently dilates

 

Allie Lee of the Profanity Embroidery Group embroidered and beaded this poem onto a 1970s swimsuit.

 

6

         In my day, stockings came in black, bronze and American Tan,

opening a bank account needed the signature of a man,

girdles held in sexual urges, touching below the waist was no-go

and Dusty passed as hetero

There was no such thing as pubic hair wax and you daren’t use Tampax

or have a sexual climax for fear of being thought nymphomaniacs

 

A collaboration between members of the Profanity Embroidery Group, sculptor Nicholette Goff and myself, an extract of this poem was emblazoned onto a vintage wedding dress.

 

Pop up shops, a flashmob and films

 

There have been –

  • three pop-up exhibitions of the poetry clothing in shops in Folkestone, Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under Lyme and one extended exhibition in the art gallery of Keele University
  • several ‘Older Women Rock!’ programmes of talks, performance, film screenings and workshops creatively celebrating ‘early old age’ women
  • Subversive Catwalks of older women ‘modelling’ the clothing while I read the poems
  • a wild Zumba Gold flashmob in Folkestone Shopping Centre

And three films have been made during the project –

  • ‘Older Women Rock!: The Documentary’ by filmmaker Clare Unsworth, a creative record of the pilot project in Folkestone showing poetry-emblazoned retro clothes, nineteen older models strutting a subversive catwalk and the Zumba Gold flashmob
  • ‘Love Your Lines’, a Public Service Announcement film shown on performance artist Tammy WhyNot’s YouTube channel

What next?

Fashion designer and stylist Claire Angel and I are responding to requests to buy ‘Older Women Rock!’ jackets by creating pieces for sale, which will be featured in our up-coming pop-up shop in Folkestone, Kent 17th-23rd December and in an online shop in the New Year.  

There will be ‘Older Women Rock!’ workshops in the New Year, including ‘Customise Your Clothes With Pearls’ and ‘Try Out Skateboarding’ and an intergenerational workshop, ‘Tattoo Stories’. 

For more information follow us on Instagram @loveolderwomenrock or contact us at loveolderwomenrock@gmail.com

What the hell is Tre?


5 Minute Read

Have you heard people talking about Tre? I have. So I invited Tre teacher, Sylvia Tillmann to explain.

How are you post-pandemic? Well, not so post.

I spoke with friends the other day about how we were – and still are – coping with a global pandemic, a couple of lockdowns and the ups and downs of life.

We are a mixed bunch of people between the ages of 50 and 70.

Some people have dogs and enjoyed the company and the daily walks – at least something was dragging them out – some people are very much into gardening, others kept sane by swimming in the sea all year round. I noticed that nobody in this group complained about this era and the ‘new normal’; in fact, we all welcomed the more reflective mode, fewer commitments and concentrating on what was really important in life.

As for myself, I reassessed my life and reorganised my career during the first lockdown. With a business background and on furlough, I was grateful for the time I was given to take stock.

First I enrolled in various business courses, but then I asked myself: ‘What does the world really need? Surely not another business guru!’

I concluded that we all need laughter, optimism, community and a robust immune system – and I trained as a Laughter Yoga Leader.

That was fun and being interested in alternative health, positive psychology and what makes us tick, I found it amazing to see how much research has been carried out on the benefits of laughter.

I loved it, but I wanted to take it further.

Having listened to many lectures, presentations and discussions on trauma – after all, we had all just experienced a collective trauma, I rediscovered TRE.

What is TRE? I hear you ask.

TRE (Tension and Trauma Releasing Exercises by Dr David Berceli) is a somatic stress management tool I had experienced once, about ten years ago.

I honestly can’t remember if I didn’t get it at the time or if I totally dismissed it because ‘I had never experienced trauma’ – or so I thought!

Now I was convinced that TRE could be an amazing self-help tool to support anybody who’s struggling – psychologically or physically.

I decided to go for it.

This training took everything I had learned before to a whole new level. My go-to modality had always been talking therapies, I had counselling sessions myself and then completed the foundation training as I wanted to train as a bereavement counsellor.

Learning TRE addressed everything I missed when working cognitively. The mind is super busy, the thoughts are going round and round and … well, at least for me, it didn’t help me massively.

Why not give our busy minds a rest and concentrate on the body?

And that’s exactly what TRE enables us to do. Practising TRE means – literally – to shake off tension and stress.

To shake it off? Really? How does it work?

The easiest way to explain TRE’s principle is by watching a dog.

Yes, please bear with me …

A dog who experiences a stressful situation immediately shakes off the excess stress after this encounter and then happily gets on with life.

Animals do it automatically, but people have un-learned this process, although we are genetically encoded to tremor – and it would be so good for us.

That’s where TRE comes in, as it activates our stress release mechanism.

Over the course of the training, I also learned that trauma isn’t just big T trauma, i.e. the truly awful things that can happen. The simple fact that we are human beings means that we all experience trauma to some degree – think of family/relationship issues, work/money stress, health scares/illness, divorce or death etc.

This time I really got it. TRE is making so much sense because mind and body are intrinsically linked, so let’s include the body.

Let’s explore it in a bit more detail: When we experience stress, we mobilise energy to defend and protect ourselves, which is helpful. But if we want to run or fight and we can’t, that energy doesn’t get used up and stays inside of us.

The result is that we stay on high alert, i.e. high on adrenaline and cortisol, always expecting danger, constantly ready to fight or flight – we might have sleep issues, psychosomatic pain or avoid certain situations that caused this response.

This is exhausting and only when we are able to complete the cycle, i.e. use up the excess energy, the body can find its equilibrium again.

By practising TRE in a safe and controlled manner, this energy can be accessed and discharged.

How to practise TRE?

TRE starts with six warm-up exercises to fatigue the muscles and prepares the body to tremor. This is followed by a grounding exercise and then the actual TRE process. By lying on a mat, feet sole-to-sole, knees out, the tremors emerge. Your brain might perceive it as unusual, if not weird, but for the body, it feels quite natural. Afterwards, participants report a deep relaxation.

How does it make me feel?

I’ve been practising TRE for well over a year now and it only takes about ten minutes a day. I credit TRE with becoming more resilient – I’m just so grateful for having TRE during the pandemic – and also with the disappearance of my lower back and hip pain.

Over the last few years, I struggled with pain and sometimes it was so bad that I thought I have to stop playing tennis – which I love – and wondered if I need a hip replacement.

TRE helped me to shake off that tension in my back and hips – I don’t know what I was holding on to, and I don’t need to know; that’s the beauty of TRE, there’s no need to verbalise anything.

Curious to find out more? Check out Sylvia’s website on www.tremendousTRE.co.uk. She runs regular TRE courses, mainly online, so you can stay in the comfort of your own home.

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

Outrage Column: Concern versus Care


7 Minute Read

Does showing concern mean that you care?

Does caring mean that you must be concerned?

I am using these two words to illustrate some differences I see between two kinds of human behaviours, which often occur together or are mixed up with each other, and why my answers to the questions directly above are firmly NO.

But first I will tell you a story.

Not so long ago, my dear friend found himself locked out of his ground floor flat.

Well, he managed to get the large sash window open just enough to squeeze in. He decided that it would be better to go in feet first rather than headfirst. So, he got one leg through the window, was about to manoeuvre his other leg up as well and shimmy his way in, when his other leg got caught in a bramble patch by the window!

He phoned me at this point to call for assistance as he was well and truly stuck. But on my way over there (I am a good 10 minute drive away) he called again and said; ‘I’m in!’  When I got there, over a cup of coffee, he told me how he managed this feat.

One of his neighbours had happened along. A delightful young woman and also a climber. I mention that she is a climber because that means to me that she is someone who does physically challenging things. So she also probably has an understanding of the process of people facing physical challenges. As it turned out, she was very respectful too.

Anyway. He told me that she had been absolutely brilliant.

She had asked him if he would like some help.

When he said ‘Yes’, she then asked:

‘Tell me, what you would like me to do to help you?’

‘I would like you to get my leg out of the brambles and up onto the window sill for me.’

And she did precisely that and he managed to enter his flat, found his keys and all was well.

What this story showed to me was that the young woman acted with the utmost caring and respect. What she did not demonstrate was concern.

He clearly felt great about how it all happened.

Perhaps this begins to explain how I see the difference between caring and concern.

To me, caring is a deep empathy, respect and a preference to be of assistance to fellow humans (and other life forms) in whatever way that they may need and that you feel able to offer. It comes from the heart, from love and from our humanity.

Concern, on the other hand, is associated with worry, fear, anxiety and the projection of these emotions, and also beliefs about the person’s weakness, age, vulnerability and likelihood of getting hurt, being incapable and so on.

Sometimes when I have had people be concerned about me, I have experienced some irritation or other discomfort, as if it is an imposition. This is tricky to handle because caring and concern are often mixed together and come as a package. So, while I may feel uncomfortable about this concern, I feel I must do my best to hide my discomfort and be gracious and appreciative of the efforts of the concerned individual. I may also feel bad about feeling irritated!

So those less comfortable responses have to be dealt with internally. Though in less gracious moments they may inadvertently spill out!

Sometimes phoning a friend to have a bit of a rant helps! I received a call like that recently.

Something had happened on Facebook. A FB friend had posted that they were concerned as they hadn’t seen posts recently from this friend of mine. As you can imagine it set off a chain reaction with lots of comments including the suggestion that a friend be contacted. My friend read all this and felt various discomforts about it. Being talked about instead of personally contacted, having to do something about an escalating ‘bundle’ of concern being generated amongst a group, seeing people speaking about them rather than with them about their vulnerability. Not wanting to upset the person who started the posting and yet needing to communicate that it didn’t feel right and all the while having to deal with their own feelings about it.

It reminded me of ‘Does he take sugar?’ a phrase that was coined to illustrate how people sometimes do not address a wheelchair user but speak about them – in front of them to their ambulant companion – having made an assumption that because they cannot walk unaided they, therefore, cannot speak for themselves.

Has this ever happened to you or someone you know?

As we get older, get a few grey hairs and wrinkles and perhaps, as with my friend, our balance and gait change, people project their concern upon us more often, when actually what we really want is simple, practical, respectful care.

We all need help sometimes but would like the help, without this sense of people looking at us with thoughts such as: Oh no. They are weak, falling. Oh no. They are going to hurt themselves. They mustn’t do that dangerous thing. They cannot function properly /survive/take care of themselves.

I have sometimes observed that a show of concern does not always mean that someone cares. It may just mean they are reacting to something due to their own internal attitudes and/or feelings.

There is a parallel with people telling their kids; ‘You’re going to fall!’ Then the child falls and the adult says; ‘I told you so’ thinking they were right, not imagining that the child may have actually lost their balance because of the powerful statement that the influential adult just made! Children are especially impressionable. The adult thought they were taking care of the child. But they may have taken away some of their confidence and with it their ability to balance and trust their own abilities!

Yes, projections are influential. They do not have to be spoken either. Thoughts can also project.

So… concern can feel annoying, and an imposition, but also can actually be damaging. Because what you are doing when you get concerned is that you are throwing a powerful thought at the person. You may be expressing it verbally, or with facial expression, voice tone or body language. A thought which is founded on fear and based on expectations of harm, hurt, loss, or whatever else. I know I have done this, as well as having been on the receiving end!

We cannot help getting concerned at times, especially when someone seems to be struggling or suffering. I know it’s not easy to let go of our own fears and anxieties.

But most especially at these times it is better for them to feel the other’s caring and respect rather than their concern.

And to remember that if you are trying to help someone and they are getting irritated, perhaps they are feeling disempowered, disrespected, or patronised… even though that may not be your intention.

And if you feel that irritation when someone is being concerned about you… remember, behind all their weird projections they probably care.

Sadly, there are some who just want to exhibit concern in order to ‘be seen to care’. Those people you can tell firmly ‘Thank you, but no thank you.’ Or something less polite!

I would like to add a quote from my mother, who worked for many years as a social worker working specifically with older people who were leaving hospital. She helped them live where they wanted and needed to be as well as getting the support they required. She had a great respect for her clients. Some would move into sheltered housing or care homes, but some were absolutely insistent that they wanted to go back to their houses, perhaps after a fall, or a series of falls, while their families would be putting a lot of pressure on them to go into a supervised home because of their concern. Mum represented the interests of her clients as best she could and would have to deal not only diplomatically with the relatives but also with her own fears as to whether this fiercely independent person would fall again in their old terraced house, with an outside toilet that they were adamant they wanted to stay in. She had a few sleepless nights from time to time. But, one day she said something to us that I have always remembered.

‘If you cannot live dangerously when you’re eighty-five or ninety-five, when the bloody hell can you?’

Is Etiquette Dead?


5 Minute Read

I’m a swimmer. A pool swimmer. I’m proud to be part of a world – a swimmer’s world – where etiquette and codes of conduct prevail. There, at the foot of the swim lanes is a sign, Pool Rules. It’s clear and simple.

I pride myself on etiquette in and out of the pool, and thankfully there is a place I can go where civility is recognised and respected. That said, alas, lately I’ve noticed that even pool rules are being flouted and broken, and that is when I feel as if I am completely alone. A lone shark, seeking solace and a sign that etiquette is not yet dead.

I have had more than one incident of a ‘surprise sharer’ – someone who thinks nothing of getting in and starting to swim without asking – I would never share a lane without first getting a thumbs up from the person who was there first – that’s what we do! It’s a common courtesy.

Quite often, if I’m asked, I will agree to share – but please ask first. Once sharing has been established, there is no certainty that the rest of the codes of conduct will be observed. Beware of the powerhouse swimmer – who I’ve agreed to share with but who still breaststrokes across the entire lane, or freestyles so ferociously that swallowing their kick water is impossible to avoid.

Then there are the little fishes outside of the swim lanes but who seem to have a strategy to flip for fun over the ropes into the swim lane at the exact spot and at the precise moment I’m passing, resulting in near misses with precious children, and a ‘what if’ shock to my system. Contra-indicative to doing exercise for health or activity for relaxation, to say the least!

There are also, what shall we call them, lane hogs who clog up the lanes and cause traffic. Lane hogs like to think they are swimming but they are mostly taking up valuable swimming real estate. They may swim a lap, but then they stop, and stand. There’s no rhyme, no reason, there is no pattern to their process unless you call swim, stop, stand and chat a pattern. They might swim another lap, but then again, they might not. That’s not lap swimming, sorry!

I want to continue to swim, so I keep my opinions to myself for as long as possible. I have even tried going to another pool club! But there is increasing evidence on my arms and legs of lane-rope cuts and bruises from avoiding collisions with humans; audible yelping, like Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy, ‘I’m swimming here!’ which no one seems to hear. I am left feeling stunned, shocked, nearly defeated, and dare I say, invisible, what are my choices?

I do not want to be invisible. I want to be seen and heard. And I want everyone to observe the pool rules!! Why is it so difficult? I watch and I wonder, is it just me? I’m new here. I am not an influencer here. My mind spins and seeks solutions.

I spot Marilyn, and the clouds lift. Marilyn swims. She also knows and talks to everyone. She lives in both camps. She’s got all the gear – the mask and snorkel, the fins, the webbed fingers. When she’s not swimming, she gets into the pool in a full outfit, including hat, long-sleeved shirt, leggings and shoes, to walk and chat! This is a sight to see. It’s quirky, and it serves a purpose – it’s a new trend to avoid sun exposure. The sun mimics a light bulb over my head.

‘Marilyn,’ I say, ‘we should have a fashion show and you should definitely be in it.’ She laughs out loud. As one hilarious idea leads to the next, a fashion show is born – and the theme is Pool Rules.

I talk to Mikey, the entertainment director. He is cautiously enthusiastic, whatever that means. Maybe he knows something I don’t. I talk to some of the others, Sue and Donna, and they love it! They start to list some of the ridiculous rules at the club and discuss which rules should be changed. Like, NO Restaurant Food on the Top Deck. Like, the Snacks Only rule. Like, NO Wheels on Beach Bags. It’s not long before Sue and Donna have their theme – Sue will wheel Donna in as if she’s on a parade float. Their rule will be – NO Wheels on Beach Bags. And they will campaign to change it. It’s pretty wacky, and I’m not feeling so alone anymore. Together, we hatch the idea of a Pool Fashion Show and Water Escapades Show. It will be a variety show. We will involve the lifeguards, and Mikey will recruit all the young families with children. I don’t know what I’ll be wearing yet, but I will be campaigning hard for in-pool rule adherence.

At the end of the day, I sit with Donna and Sue in the cafe, and we chat further about the show. Then the mood changes; clouds descend again. Donna is concerned that this theme might expose her as a rule breaker. She is not so sure it’s a good idea. Sue and I muse, ’Oh really? What rules are you breaking?’ Donna goes quiet. Time passes. I take my cue from Sue, and I don’t press her any further. We do not get an answer. And we never do the show.

Being at LoveJam, a festival where Baby Boomers are in the Minority


10 Minute Read

I felt cynical on the way there. I knew I was going to be a rarity. Festivals often feel as though they belong to my generation. Talk about entitlement. Yep, that was me. Putting out festival entitlement.

Oh no said a loud voice in my head, not young facilitators, young teachers of yoga, young breathwork teachers. Hell is a festival like this. It’s going to be endlessly rosy in the worst way. Spiritual bypassing with the flowers intact. What do they have to say to me at 68? Been there, got the Make Love Not War T-shirt.

At least we had a bell tent. I’ve always aspired to own a bell tent and now I could pretend with this delightful borrowed five-metre lovely from my friend Jake. I could at least relish that. I’d even taken fancy lights to adorn it. Not to mention a puce pink garland.

Here we are – arriving on a field in Cambridgeshire, using our grand age to take advantage of passing through the barriers (we can’t park here and pull a cart full of our stuff across the field, we’re too old) and something else happens.

The clouds darken, a rainbow appears. It is a heavenly portent. A message from the festival gods. A double rainbow. We bathe in this extraordinary light, this is a sign of the times.

I still have my ‘observer’ hat on. Vegan cafes, a sober festival with no alcohol, an upcycling clothes stall, a lot of Hemp talk and products. A main marquee with the Hemp Redemption stage – all huge pagan drapes and hangings, a van which half made up the stage, tassels, fairy lights and a very young technician. At first, I thought he was a small person and then I discovered it was Xi, a thirteen-year-old ‘lege’ – as my niece who is co-creating this LoveJam Camp Out 2021 puts it – who plays didge, juggles fire and tends to the musical equipment on stage. In his spare time.

As the light fades, we – I am with my other niece, Mils, and Asanga, my partner – wander over to the sacred fire, which is located behind some odd mounds. A dandy poet declares words of love and honour. There seem to be Vikings amongst us as well. Long haired young men with bare chests and long coats. Violins. Accordions. A young woman sings into the wind, laments, stories of freedom and connections to the ancients. I realise quickly that ANCIENT is a very important word at this festival. It’s everywhere – on lips, hips and in philosophies.

I’m not listening to their hearts yet, I’m still on their style. Modern medieval, I conclude. But there’s Rasta thrown in there. And a lot of natural fibres. No makeup, just face paint.

The next morning is the Opening Ceremony – we gather (maybe 100 of us out of the 600 that will be present on Saturday), Nathan, my niece Zena’s boyfriend, who’s 27 and founded LoveJam by inviting a few people to Victoria Park in London to drum together– starts us off with acknowledgements. He’s also had his grandfather die in the last few days so is trying to cope with that as well as running the camp. He invites offers to lead it and up steps PK – short hair, black humour, a lot of it and a wolf at her side. Well, okay a dog. PK takes us to the four directions and we honour their qualities and what they will bring to the camp while we move around this axis. Someone else invites us to freesound (new verb to me) and lo there are wild, cascading sounds. The dandy poet proclaims our virtues. A blonde-haired young woman sings with passion. That’s it we’re ready to go.

There’s a lot of Nathan-venerating, I worry slightly and hope there isn’t a guru-type situation brewing – after all, that’s where so many communities in the 70s and 80s went awry. By giving too much power to one person and pedestaling spiritual leaders.

One of the joys of LoveJam is that in attendance with my family. Invited by Zena – niece and co-visioner of LoveJam – my other niece Mils is here, my son, Marlon, and his girlfriend, Lina are soon to arrive. We’re an encampment. My sister, Ro, and her husband, Martin, are staying in a Shepherd’s hut a mile away. We’re eating together outside. We’ve made roast vegetable tarts and blackberry – from the hedgerows of Wales – pies. And we’re toasting the proceedings with tonic and lime. They are so tasty. Who needs gin? What a pleasure! And a blessing to be able to do.

And then there are the workshops and the dancing. Tonight we go exploring in the woodland music village. A relic from the Secret Garden brigade, it is a wonderland of trees with a pink neon heart stage called funnily enough New ANCIENTS stage. There’s some psytrance whirling – not my kind of sounds so we find a pathway which leads us to another new world – a fire, wooden structures, huge ones all around, more lights, mandalas specifically made around an oak tree, a young man turns up with a flute and blesses the arboreal altar, a few naked beings scamper towards the sauna in the next area. It’s cinematic. One from the Heart.

The red sign on one of the other trees says – not all those who wander are lost. 

Exactly my ethos.

A quixotic creature with a swirling light tail passes by. A mythical reminder that we are in fairyland.

We walk back to the tents, past so many bell tents, and gatherings of musicians. Guitars, flutes, drums – they regale us with their haunting tunes as we meander.

One of the advantages of not having alcohol is that I’m up and ready for Phil’s yoga at 8 the next morning. He’s a Scouser, who is part of the organizational trio – Nathan, Zena and himself. He also seems to know an awful lot about mudras and Sanskrit. His session is fast and furious. Backbends, front bends, warrior poses, full wheels if you so desire, sun salutations. I do what I can do which is quite a lot. I observe Mils doing some great binding in front of me. My arms are too short for binding but I’m a star at bending. It is dynamic and I appreciate that as well as his devotion to the practice.

And then there is a highlight. Naked swimming in the lake. I wasn’t sure if this was going to be socially possible. I’m with my partner, and my son and his partner. But Asanga and I decide to go for it. And Marlon and Lina lie down and look away!! It’s that thing about the freedom of strangers and the boundaries around family. But I’m so glad we did ditch our clothes and allow that cold water to seep over our bodies. There was hardly anyone around and it was a holy moment. In homage to water and bodies. Amid the water lilies. And so refreshing. There was even a wonderfully positioned carpet over the stones so that walking in can be graceful!

There’s lots of nakedness over the weekend at the lake and it’s so welcome. And lovely. And innocent. These gorgeous bodies. I change my dress code when more of my family is around – brother in law, sister – and opt for a costume. I notice and feel proud that my LJ co-visioning niece strips off and jumps in when her dad is in the water. Great confidence and knowledge of what is right for her.

Nathan is running a Breathwork and Intimacy workshop next. He developed it himself. Impressively – and this is one of the key differences with younger facilitators – he stresses that intimacy doesn’t mean that fire of passion, that it’s not about exchanging that fire and asks for our consent on that front. Everyone’s hands go up. Which really clarifies and distinguishes sexuality and intimacy and prevents blurry lines.

The breathwork was simple in a good way – six breathes in and then out. A grounding support. To recorded bells so we could be in unison. And then the intimacy exercises which most I am familiar and comfortable with. It’s about being open, in your heart and just receiving and giving from that place of love. But wow, what a gift to do with this community. We give each other heart words/appreciations while gazing right into the other person’s eyes. We are walking slowly around the tent until Nathan invites us to stop in front of someone. After a few times around the tent, I realise that Marlon, my son, is in there still. Some people faded away as we came to these structures. And then we’re in front of one another, and unconditional love is pouring forth. I am crying first and then tears roll down his cheeks slowly. We use the breath to ground ourselves and carry on looking deeply into one another’s eyes with such everlasting tenderness.

What a supreme moment!! How blessed we are to both be in the same workshop and get to do this exercise together. This is a first for us. Being in a workshop at the same time.

I honestly felt after this experience, I didn’t need anything else from the festival. It had given me this precious witnessing. But the festival went on giving.

At 5 pm, a band sets up at the end of the pontoon which extends into the lake. It is like being at a wedding, the perfect location. They play Brazilian tunes and a Forro class with partners starts in the middle of the lake. I joined briefly but I am not feeling it so I go rogue and solo

I dance in the breeze. Giving everything to those minutes.  Surrounded by fresh water and naked loveliness, caressed by eddies of air, it is rapturous. My body spins around, limbs twirl, head bobs. It is an utter joy. A sumptuous young woman joins me, we go wild together. We let go into melting and communing. And laughing with our flesh.

In the evening we make our way down to the Hemp Redemption stage and Mobius Loop, these Lancashire musicians who have songs about veganism and death, get the entire tent dancing. And singing. Rollicking, proclamative, political, humorous, they are like crazy cabaret dervishes. My favourite song is Dance Dance Dance while you can, We’re all going to die, Dance Dance, Dance while you can. I sing it very very loudly.

It could be an Advantages of Age anthem. I sing it with determined abandon. I couldn’t agree more. Dance now while we can. We break out into ceiliad -stripping the willow. The joy of dancing and singing about death at the same time. The next day they are down at the protest nearby which is about closing down the beagle puppy farm where they are sold for animal testing. Mobius Loop sing about ending slavery of all sorts, including these puppies. Campaigning and dancing at the same time.

On Monday morning, there’s the closing ceremony. We gather around the sacred fire. Nathan, Zena and Phil do their thank-yous. People stand up and declare themselves grateful. PK does a closing speech – speckled with expletives, honesty and fire. I decide that I need to speak. To honour the young that have created and facilitated this festival. I mention that it’s often the elders/olders that are respected and honoured, but that I also think there’s a fallacy about older people having all the wisdom. We are not automatically wise because we have lived for a long time. We can learn so much from each other.

And then I simply thank them for creating a festival so full of love and kindness and inclusivity and sweetness. That it has enabled me to expand into my better self and also to fulsomely be here.

You will gather that I am no longer cynical about a festival run and peopled mostly by young people, instead I am inspired and ignited on an intergenerational level.

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