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The Bolder Interview – Dominique Afacan and Helen Cathcart


5 Minute Read

Writer, Dominique Afacan and photographer, Helen Cathcart are both in their late 30s, in 2015 they launched the website be-bolder.com which featured inspiring people Over-70. Their mission is to change perceptions around growing older and they’ve spent the last few years interviewing funky, interesting Over-70s. Recently, they published a book – Bolder – Life Lessons from People Older & Wiser Than You.

So you and Helen are in your late 30s – how did you think of this idea re Bolder, your website?

The honest answer is that, despite our relatively young age, we were both scared of ageing. The message from society was that time was running out – we were constantly being reminded of our biological clocks, we were sold creams and potions that promised to ‘turn back the clock,’ and the conversations we had about growing old tended to be shrouded in negativity. Somewhere, deep down, we knew our fear was wrong. We met interesting and inspiring older people all the time! So we decided to do something about it – and Bolder was born.

Do people think it’s a little strange for you both at 30 to be engaging with age?

Not at all. Having interviewed 50 people over the age of 70 for the website and the book, it is clear that we are far more concerned about getting older than the people we speak to. There’s a lot of fear about the future at our age, whereas most of the people we speak to for Bolder are having the time of their lives and have let go of a lot of the worries and panics that we have every day.

What is the concept around Bolder?

The idea is that we interview a collection of stereotype-shattering people over the age of 70 and feature their stories on the site together with a beautiful portrait. We both normally go along and meet each person together as we get such a lot from these meetings. We’ll often stick around a lot longer than we planned – we sat drinking Guinness with Eve Branson in her garden after her interview!

Why is it important to you? And how do younger people respond?

We really want to show the positives of getting older and change the narrative around what it means to age. Ageing is a privilege after all and we are all lucky to be doing it every hour, every day – if we’re lucky.

How did you decide to make it for Over-70s?

When we started, we decided that 70 was the age we both felt was officially ‘old.’ We’ve since seen the error of our ways and know better than to stereotype or categorise by age at all, but that’s the truth!

And what about the book? How did that come about? Of course, Helen is a photographer which is handy?

We always suspected that the interviews and beautiful photos would come across well in print. We were lucky enough that Hardie Grant (our publisher) spotted that potential too!

Why is the idea that older people are educating younger ones? 

The reason we chose that strapline (life lessons from people older and wiser than you) is because we learnt so much from our subjects along the way. Alongside all the interviews in the book, we provide commentary on what the two of us have learnt about everything from love and health to success and regrets through the project. We really wanted to share that wisdom with our peers.

How did you go about finding these fabulous people over 70?

It was surprisingly easy! There are plenty of inspiring older people out there, it’s just that so often nobody is listening to them or giving them space in the media. Even the famous people we included were happy to take part – Michel Roux even invited us to his villa in the south of France and gave us an afternoon of his time – followed by a bottle of Bollinger in his garden!

I’d like to hear about Sue Plumtree, 72, who is a Over-50s Love Coach?

Sue was great. After decades in an unhappy marriage she found the strength to leave and start over. She’s a fantastic example of what it means to be ‘bolder.’ As she says, many people over a certain age just submit to being unhappy in a happy marriage because they can’t bear to face up to the years they have already wasted. But being brave really paid off for her; she not only found true love, but has started a new career and has a new enthusiasm for life.

And Eddy Diget the 73 year old personal trainer?

We met Eddy in the gym where he works and he ended up giving me a training session! He was far fitter than me! When we started Bolder we wanted to find people who drank gallons of wine or smoked 50 fags and were still going strong. But the reality is that most of the people we met looked after themselves, both mentally and physically. I think some of that has rubbed off on us.

Which story and person were you personally moved by?

I don’t think I can pick one! But our cover star Muffie Grieve always resonates with us as we met her over in New Zealand when we were at the wedding of our friend who designed Bolder (both the website and the book) for us. So it felt like this brilliant serendipity of what happens when three friends come together on a creative project. Muffie is a force of nature; at 87 she’s just got remarried, she’s learning Spanish and she plays championship tennis!

Are you carrying on finding people for more books?

Absolutely! We are always looking for more people! This project is by no means a one-off or a book project that is now and dusted. It is a passion project that breathes life into us and I can’t imagine either of us wanting to stop doing it.

AofA People: Julie Williams – Dog Groomer, Reiki Master, Coach


9 Minute Read

Julie Williams, 61, runs a mobile dog grooming business called Gentle Friends, is a Reiki Master teacher and the founder of Active Connection, a series of Soul Coaching sessions.

Age (in years)  

61

Where do you live? 

Stockport, Greater Manchester

What do you do?

I run a mobile dog grooming business called Gentle Friends with my partner Steve. We cover our local area. I’m also a Reiki Master Teacher, combining the Reiki with basic animal communication, I’ve developed a new modality for rehabilitating groom-phobic dogs that’s proving quite successful.

I’m the founder of Active Connection, a series of Soul Coaching sessions to collaborate with clients to find a connection to the wonder and fabulousness of the soul that they came here with.

I do Shamanic journeying, talk to trees, worship the moon, connect in ritual and gifting with Mother Earth daily, where I receive “downloads” of wisdom.

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

It’s great. I feel so much more confident and brave to be myself, to dare to do new things, than I did when I was younger.

I had a hysterectomy at 43, so I went on the menopause, closely followed by a couple of bereavements,  redundancy and a relationship breakup, culminating at 44 with burnout from the corporate world. At that point, I realised that self care and genuine happiness was more important than ambition, acquisition and consumerism.

I got rid of everything that cost money to run and took four months off to recover. I took an evening job so I could go out in the sun, a dog and a bike. I read and read and read, philosophy, self-help books, spirituality, and basically self-healed.

I met my partner eight years ago, we set up a business together. I don’t think I would have had the courage to do any of that when I was younger.

I embarked on a series of therapy sessions at the age of 60 and regret I didn’t do it earlier. I had been on a spiritual path for 20 years prior to that, and I think the three things together – reaching 60, therapy and the spiritual journey – all clicked at the right time. Before that, I was scared to put my head above the parapet, to be vulnerable and authentic, so I wore my mask of “everything’s fine”, when often it wasn’t.

So what’s it like to be my age? It’s fabulous.

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

Much more happiness and laughter for sure. Wisdom and courage too.

I have my loving partner, the first relationship I’ve had where I believe we are both really equal.

I have in my life my three beautiful grandchildren who are teenagers now as well as two beautiful step grandchildren, three gorgeous stepdaughters, three lovely terriers, the business, the grooming modality, the new coaching business, lovely silver streaks in my hair and a much more solid sense of self-love and joyful entrepreneurship, leading to personal satisfaction.

I also have The Silver Tent. This is an international online community for women over 50, started three years by the visionary Francesca Cassini. There are nearly 7000 women in the group, and it’s a veritable cauldron of wisdom, creativity, projects and collaborations between women from all over the world. I’ve made some amazing friendships there and learned so much.

What about sex?

Yes, it’s great, really caring and nurturing. Not as often as when I was younger, as I might have had a somatic response to historical trauma during therapy. This diminishes as time goes by, and I’m getting back to my enthusiasm for sex.

And relationships?

I’m happily co-habiting with my life and business partner of eight years, Steve.

I reconnected four years ago with my dad from whom I was estranged for about 25 years. It went great at first, then “stuff” came up, therapy helped, and dad has been really supportive, compassionate and open. I’ve only just recently tentatively reconnected with my mum, our estrangement wasn’t total, yet our relationship was always difficult. She’s recently become quite poorly, and I’m starting to visit again. My own ability to respond rather than react, learned with the benefit of aged wisdom is softening our interactions. I’m hoping we can continue to see each other regularly.

My relationship with my 40-year-old son is, for me, a deep and open one. We have discussed issues arising from his childhood, my healing as he was growing up wasn’t that fast, and there were times where my inappropriate behaviours impacted on him. I have apologised and acknowledged my part, and he is very compassionate, intelligent and able to understand and forgive. He is an excellent father to his three children and a devoted partner to their mum. I’m very proud of him.

My relationship with my teenage grandchildren is as it is whilst they are discovering themselves. Contact isn’t as often as when they were younger, and I do miss them a little. I support their lives 100% and cherish the time when we can get together.

I have made some beautiful treasured friendships through the Silver Tent, which I hope will go from strength to strength, to even include working collaborations. There have been a few physical meetups that have been wonderful, online is great but face to face is far better. My partner and I recently met socially with one woman and her husband, we had a great time. This is a new experience for us.

How free do you feel?

In my heart I’m totally free and I enjoy my newly found self-sovereignty. I’m enjoying being free from a lot of the negative emotional burden I used to carry. I really do feel free to be me, I’m blessed to be loved enough to experiment and try new things too.

Yet I’m a Capricorn and ruled by earthy Saturn, so I do nod to the need to have an income, a roof over my head and security. Consideration of those things doesn’t mean the opposite of freedom to me, it means I’m free to recognise my needs and own them.  

What are you proud of?

I’m proud that I’ve learned to truly love myself, to do the inner work, which will continue until I’m no longer on this earthly plane. Also I’ve learned to stay strong in my own vision, a big one, as I used to put other people’s needs first to the detriment of my own.

I my really proud of my son and daughter in law and their family. Things were difficult for my son from the start as his father abandoned us when I was pregnant at 21, I married someone else, and that didn’t work out, my dad wasn’t around, so my son has never really had a male role model to learn from. Yet he has worked so hard to be a great and balanced partner and father to his three children, and he is amazing.

I’m proud of my relationship with my partner. We have learned to consciously co-create, both of us coming together in later life with a lot of personal baggage. We work through the difficulties of being together all the time, at home and at work, we work hard at it, and we make mistakes: we laugh and love a lot too.

I’m proud to have had the courage to start our grooming business and make a success of it. And I’m proud that I’ve brought together my skills that I love doing, my abilities and drive to create two new modalities that I’m bringing into being.

I’m proud of never giving up.

What keeps you inspired?

I’m inspired by the beauty and sheer joy of love and life, believing that there are so many wonderful experiences and discoveries yet to come for me and my loved ones in this life.

I’m inspired to be a strong role model for my grandchildren, this is very, very important. I’d like to say that my legacy will be to tell them to grasp the nettle and just do it, yet more importantly, it’s to show them the example that they are magnificent, very much loved, and perfect just as they are.

I’m inspired to share my story, to show that someone who had hidden, felt isolated and buried themselves under traumatic memories, can learn to balance the light and dark, and to love those two equally. For all our  experiences are what makes us our unique and wonderful selves.

And I’m inspired by the Silver Tent. I’m a passionate supporter of it. The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying that Western women will change the world if so, those of us over 50 in the Tent are making a really good attempt at it.

When are you happiest?

It’s difficult to single out one thing.

I love seeing my family happy and I’m happy working, laughing and loving with my partner. I’m happy when I meet up with loved ones and friends, laughing and hugging.

I’m happy walking in nature with my dogs, particularly communing with trees. I’m happy when I do my daily practice, an earth based ritual and offering, I receive from it such wisdom.

I’m happy working with dogs, I love Reiki and connecting to energy, particularly when dogs respond to the energy.

I’m happy when I create something that others enjoy. I’m happy when I coach someone and they benefit from my service.

I’m happy connecting with the women in the Tent and seeing new projects happen, friendships forming, new skills being taught and shared.

If I had to choose a when I’m happiest, I’d say very early in a morning when I sit quietly with my coffee thinking about my daily gratitude practice. It gives me the opportunity to reflect on my blessings, which are many.

And where does your creativity go?

I write – poems – and I’ve tentatively started writing a book. I’m restarting my blog that’s been neglected for a while. When I was a child, I loved reading and I wrote short stories. This was abandoned due to other distractions, career and so on, and I’ve recently returned to it.

I’d love to paint abstract pieces. That’s on my list for when I slow down a little.

I’ve also created the service modalities, so I suspect work and play overlap in my life. Work as play, play as work.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Connecting to my inner spirit and doing what brings me joy. Being kind rather than right.

Remembering that everyone has a beautiful soul inside, no matter how deeply they bury it. And remembering that it’s all about love.

And dying?

It’s a journey beyond the veil.

I’ll sign up for another incarnation please.

The story behind Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag


11 Minute Read

Ollie Moore is 58 and a saxophonist who used to be in the very funky Pigbag. Papa’s Got A Brand New Pigbag was No 3 in the singles chart in April 1982. Here he explains how it all happened. Let’s go down this 70s and 80s lane…

It’s important to say that the song was written collectively, as that was always the way we worked as a band so everyone had an equal input to the music that evolved.
I think it’s fair to say that Pigbag, the band, and Papa’s got a brand new Pigbag were inseparable in many people’s view.

I will endeavour to explain my part in how this tune came to be.

As I am the only remaining member to live in Bristol, this is entirely from my perspective and, inevitably, this is linked to how my career in music started.
My father wanted me to learn the clarinet whilst at Bristol Grammar School, and my Uncle, who played clarinet in the London Symphony Orchestra, sourced a reasonable student model for me to play. I still remember the pleasing smell of the instrument in its furry case with its cork and woodiness.

Ollie MooreOllie Moore

Any pleasant associations with this intriguing instrument were soon to be dashed by an abusive, bad-tempered teacher called Mr Stone. I was 12 years old.

He was a lumbering figure of a man who stood at about six foot three and wore a suit several sizes too small for him. He also drove a three-wheeled Reliant Robin car, in which he looked ridiculous. A bulging leather briefcase completed the dishevelled look.

He would ‘correct’ my mistakes with a thrust of the base of the clarinet upwards against my teeth. If I made a squeak or played a wrong note, his face bulged and turned puce in colour, as if he were about to burst a blood vessel, as he spat angry words in disgust at my incompetence.

Consequently after a few lessons with this monstrous man, I stopped going altogether.

I didn’t tell my father who was Head of Music at BBC Bristol until the end of term.
My parents were divorced by the time I reached 18. The family house was sold and I went to live with my father, who had bought a flat in Clifton.

It was now 1979. I had finished an intensive one year A level course in Birmingham, where I had lived with my grandmother, in her large house where she rented out rooms to overseas students plus an Indian family who lived at the top in a self contained flat. It was very multicultural, and she was featured in an article in the BIrmingham Mail, where she was described as Mrs United Nations. This was 1970s Birmingham where the English population weren’t very tolerant of ‘foreigners’.

So I was now back in Bristol, armed with three O level passes, two of which I had already!

So I now had an O level in Law. Let’s just say I did a lot of socialising and didn’t quite knuckle down to study, despite my dear Gran’s best efforts.

I sold my year old motorcycle, which I had saved up to buy, as the insurance had risen drastically, and bought a car for £95. I then bought a Martin Tenor saxophone in silver from the music store in Hotwells. It cost £240. I was over the moon and excited about learning how to play it…BY MYSELF!

I had already met Simon Underwood, bass player with the Pop Group. At their gigs. I knew the lead singer, Mark Stewart, as we had been at the same school together. Simon was becoming disillusioned with the band, and the inevitable clashes, personal and musical, had come to the fore. It was time for him to move on.
He was becoming more and more interested in jazz and world music, and was eager to experiment in that direction. He shared a lot of this music and I was eager to lap it up. I ended up buying a lot of records from him and from Tony’s record store at Focus in Clifton village. Eric Dolphy, John Coltrane, Albert Ayler, Archie Shepp, Don Cherry, Fela Kuti, Chico Freeman, Funkadelic, James Brown, and of course, the totally out there Sun Ra and his Arkestra.

Unfortunately, my father wasn’t very keen on me playing the sax in his flat, and I had several complaints from an elderly retired Austrian doctor, who lived in the flat below.

A toilet roll stuffed down the bell of the saxophone wasn’t a very effective mute. Luckily, I was able to move in with old school friend Rich Beal, artist, singer and songwriter with Head and Pregnant. It was a tiny room at the top of the house in Regent St, Clifton.

Friends who lived in a basement flat let me use their cellar to practice, so there was of not so much likelihood of upsetting the neighbours.

This was just a temporary move until I moved into a squat in Hotwells. This was called Trinity Rooms and was a great place (and free!) to live, as there was a rehearsal room there where we could play pretty much whenever we wanted.
It also had an empty church hall out the back with a great natural reverb echo.
My first band was called Fish Food, featuring the now sadly departed, hugely talented and eccentric singer/poet Andy Fairley, who went on to record with the mighty Adrian Sherwood and On U Sound. Howard Purse was on guitar, Daniel Swan, former Cortinas drummer, also featured. The Cortinas were the first proper punk band I ever saw. They supported the Damned at Malvern Winter Gardens in 1976. They were riveting.

The first gig I played was at the Granary in Bristol on Welsh Back. A band called Double Vision were playing, featuring Melanie Dicks on vocals (Bristol City manager Alan Dicks’ daughter!). Rob Merrill was on drums. I ended up on stage with Mark Stewart who was singing a version of Max Romeo’s Chase the devil. I had been playing sax for about 3 months now! A little while later, I hitched up to Hitchin in Hertfordshire and played with the Pop Group. On this occasion they had two drummers, Bruce Smith and Brian Nevill who later joined Pigbag after Chip had left in 1982.

By this time, my dedication to practice and playing had paid off and I was quite proficient at navigating the full range of the horn.  Although later in the summer of 1982, Pigbag played at Bracknell Jazz Festival on the same stage as jazz heroes Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell with Nana Vasconcelos.
A subsequent review in the Guardian described my saxophone tone as like being in an Iron foundry!

In the spring of 1980, I was jamming with Simon, and we had been put in touch with some guys in Cheltenham who had heard that Simon had left the Pop Group and asked if he would be interested in playing with them. We would go up to Cheltenham and play in a place called Beech House in a room with black walls. Sadly early recordings of these sessions were lost from an Akai reel to reel tape recorder.

These sessions were where Papa was born and it would go on for about 20 minutes in a frenzy of percussion, including frying pans and horns!

The band was James Johnstone and Chip Carpenter, who were in a punk band called Hardware. Roger Freeman was on timbales and percussion and Chris Hamlin on congas and clarinet. Myself and Simon Underwood. Chris Lee was on trumpet.
After a few months in the summer, I decided to head off to France to look for an adventure while working picking fruit. I took the saxophone with me. Janine Rainforth’s father – Janine would go on to form Maximum Joy – had a house near Avignon and there was a possibility of some work. It didn’t work out. I don’t think he was overly impressed with our work ethic.

I returned some six weeks later on the day the Pop Group played their last gig at a huge CND rally in Trafalgar Square on 26/10/1980. Coming back to Bristol things had moved on and Pigbag had played their first gig supporting the Slits at Romeo and Juliet’s. Fortunately I was welcomed back to the fold.

Dick O Dell had approached Simon with a view to managing us and he wanted to record Papa.

We rehearsed at Janine’s dad’s house in a village outside Keynsham, called Burnett, near Bristol.

I remember that it was the day that John Lennon was shot and killed in New York by Mark Chapman. 8th December 1980.

My first gig with the band was at a Bristol Recorder event at the Anson Rooms at Bristol University. We were supposed to be top of the bill.
But the other acts, including the Electric Guitars, played over their allocated times and we were left with 20 minutes before the curfew. The porters turned the power off and we carried on acoustically, banging frying pans and blasting away on the horns for a good 20 minutes longer.

We continued rehearsing with a view to arranging Papa to around 3 and a half minutes. This took place in Cheltenham and we were booked in to the studio in Berry St. Studios in Clerkenwell, London. This was March of 1981. Legendary film- maker and documenter of the punk movement Don Letts was there with his video camera.

He filmed us as we recorded it. Unfortunately, the story goes that he didn’t actually have any film in the camera. I’ve never seen any footage.

As we were still raw, rough, self-taught musicians high on energy, we didn’t have a grasp of bar lengths and sections so when it came to recording the solos it was decided that Roger would stand in front of us with a stopwatch and after one minute of free blowing he signalled us to end!

Dick O Dell, in what turned out to be a very shrewd move, withheld the release after a year or so of regularly selling 1000 or so singles weekly and attaining top position in the independent charts of the time. The strategy worked, and in the summer of 1982, the single entered the top 40 playlist and Radio 1 had to give it airplay. The pre-order sales had built up over six weeks or so. At that time, the chart positions were based on weekly sales. We got to number 30, then number 9, then number 3. We were denied the number 1 slot by Bucks Fizz and Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder with Ebony and Ivory.

I remember it well, on a sunny Tuesday afternoon, on the green outside my flat, listening to the radio, hearing the chart countdown. Happy times.

I’d particularly like to thank my clarinet teacher, Mr Stone because my experience with him directly led to me teaching myself the sax.

At work, a few days ago, one of my colleagues introduced me to two other workers at Bristol docks.  ‘Do you know who this is? Do you remember Pigbag?’  ‘Yeah’, one of the guys, who was about my age, replied. ‘My mate was the only one who could dance to that song.’

There had been some discussion about whether or not we should do TOTPs. We were concerned about ‘selling out’. Fortunately we decided to do it. Roger Freeman wasn’t happy though, as he claimed we had told him that he couldn’t wear his donkey jacket, which he always wore. He decided not to appear and subsequently left the band.

That was a shame. He is a very talented musician and taught himself trombone in a short space of time. He played a solo on the 12 inch extended version of the song.
My only regret now is that we didn’t include the single on our debut album.
Our reasoning was that we wanted people to hear new material as we felt we had moved on since recording Papa and people could hear it by buying the single.

One of my most enduring memories was supporting the Specials at the Rainbow in Finsbury Park – later to become infamous as a mosque where the radical Muslim Abu Hamsa made his hate speeches. The Specials had just written Ghost town and were playing it in the sound check with the great late Rico Rodriguez on trombone. Wafts of ganja smoke drifted out from the open door of the dressing room as the legendary trombonist warmed up on his instrument.

We were very nervous to be playing in front of a huge crowd of mods and Skinheads and ended up playing at nearly twice the tempo. Jerry Dammers was grinning at the side of the stage, encouraging us on. We were on for about 25 minutes.
After a couple of numbers one of the youths at the front shouted ‘Oi, what’s the name of the band? The single wasn’t in the charts at this time.James Johnstone guitarist, percussionist and keyboards player, leant forward and politely said; ‘Pigbag. What? Pigshit?’

We were then met with chants of ‘PIGSHIT’ after each number. I think they enjoyed it really though…

AofA People: Jilliana Ranicar-Breese – Radio presenter, writer, poet, salon host


9 Minute Read

Jilliana Ranicar-Breese, 74, is a radio presenter, writer, poet and hosts a Spoken Word Salon in Brighton on the first Tuesday of the month. Jilliana is a veritable one-woman hive of activity and role model for getting older brilliantly.

How old are you?

I am 74 [Capricorn] and reside in Brighton

What do you do?

A lot in this day and age of Social Media. I am the co-presenter and co-producer of a weekly Friday radio programme called ‘Your voice matters’ at Brighton and Hove Community Radio [BHCR]. I choose my guests carefully, brief them and also interview them separately for my own YouTube channel for my series ‘Jilliana in Brighton’.

I travel as much as I can, up to five months of the year, studying the country, culture and language as a project before I leave. At my destination, I interview people in English, French, Italian or Spanish for my YouTube channel or do Vox Pops. I go to markets and am passionate about fashion, food, music and photography. I am also a senior reviewer for TripAdvisor so I am constantly making notes and taking photographs of food, hotels and restaurants as well as ‘Faces and Places’.

Last year I began my monthly Spoken Word Salon [Jilliana’s Spoken Word Salon] in Hove and created more work for myself!

I fervently write my vignettes and narrative poems when I have time between writing daily to friends and e-friends, sending photographs and texts all over the world to people I have met or people who I will meet. There is not a day when I am not writing something to someone, if not to myself! I cannot live without the power of the word!

Tell us what it’s like to be 74?

I am proud to be a mature 74 knowing that I don’t look my age nor, thankfully, act my age. I had to make the decision when I turned 70 that I would not hide my age if and when asked. The only thing that irritates me, when meeting new people, is if they ask me straight off, if I have grandchildren!

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

A good question. I did not have life experience nor worldwide cultural knowledge. I only spoke Italian at 25 in 1969 and had not experienced life in Paris which became my cultural education. Nor was I a writer. I didn’t have an identity either. I was not a property owner so at 25 I was a free spirit. I had no proper career and no goals. In fact I was an enthusiastic travel agent at Global Tours (Number 3 in the UK) in Oxford Street planning my journey to Brazil in 1970 which would influence my life forever lured by the Bossa Nova and the beautiful sound of the Brazilian Portuguese language – music in itself to my ears.

What about sex?

Well, what about sex? That’s like opening a can of worms. A bit of a joke for me as I used to deal in ‘Erotica’ prints and postcards in Paris and London in the late 70s and recently have interviewed at least 5 Sexperts for my ‘Jilliana in Brighton’ series on Sex Education. An education never given to me in the 60s by my pharmacy owner Mother when I was growing up in Liverpool.

And relationships?

After betrayal by my husband in 2006 and two events in 2013, men do not figure in my life. I am not gay but frankly prefer the company of women to men. I find woman more honest, open and willing to share their experiences and stories. Women don’t play games, men do – in my book!

How free do you feel?

I have freedom of choice now that I have no husband to ‘control’ my behaviour. 25 years of restricted behaviour! I am also free of being in business and earning money, meeting deadlines and being polite to clients and colleagues who, at times, I could not express myself freely to.

What are you proud of?

Proud that from being a technophobic about 7 years ago, I have mastered basic Social Media and am not afraid to ask for help. Never stop learning, I say.

I am proud of becoming a radio broadcaster.

I am proud of winning the award for best co-presenter and co-producer of 2017.

I am proud of winning the Rotary Club of Brighton and Hove award for Community Services Award in December 2018.

I am proud being the MC at my own Salon.

I am proud at my Page Spoken Word reading of my vignettes and poems to an audience.

I am proud I can make an audience laugh.

I am proud I can interview people and get them to reveal stories that they never thought they could tell.

I am proud that I created an international business in the antique collectibles world with the investment of £200 in Paris in 1977.

I am proud that I founded and created Retrograph Archive in the mid 1980s that was under offer to Duke’s University, Hartman Collection for seven years before I was told they did not have the funds to buy it. They wanted me to donate it! Proud I was ahead of my time. Finally my Nostalgia Archive went to another museum in London. 2,000 of my images ended up in the Mary Evans photo library in London and I receive no income. A tragic story not ready to be revealed involving betrayal.

I am proud that I did the fire-walk despite having a fear of fire. Mind over matter. I am unstoppable.

I am proud that I am confident without being conceited.

Proud I became a radio journalist and broadcaster

Proud I became a narrative poet

Proud I found my Voice to express my thoughts and life experience

Proud I was invited to perform my vignettes and poetry in Paris, Chaniá, Kalkan and Fethiye.

Proud that people consider my writing inspirational.

Proud I speak several languages.

Proud that I started to travel at the age of 22 and despite getting into hot water, learned to manage my life through my mistakes.

Proud that I became a world traveller without fear of the unknown. I opened the door to Europe and further afield.

Proud that I survived a serious ‘Breakdown/breakthrough’ and rose from the ashes of my former life.

Proud that I became a better individual with a greater understanding of others, less fortunate then myself.

Proud that I became less selfish despite being an only child in a silent home

Proud that I am a sincere good friend to my close friends.

Proud that I have let go of the betrayal in my life.

Proud that people consider ME inspirational.

Proud of my Jewish cultural heritage

Proud that I am an honest person. What you see is what you get.

Proud to be a Liver Bird.

Proud that I founded Retrograph Archive and its photo library.

Proud that I became an Archivist and a Picture Researcher/Visual Consultant.

Proud that I created and styled non-digital ‘RetroMontages’ in the late 80s that were published in the UK, Munich and New York.

Proud to be the Mentor to my adopted Cuban ‘daughter’ Ingrid.

Proud I became ‘Sultana Jilliana’ and created my own original Sultana fashion style.

What keeps you inspired?

Meeting positive people from all walks of life who have a story to tell and teach me something. Everyone has a story to tell. That’s the jigsaw of life.

Seeing beautiful clothes on lovely beings.

Seeing beautiful colourful flowers and trees or seeing exotic photographs of animals and nature that people kindly send me through social media.

When are you happiest?

Watching good classical movies from the 40s, watching American chat shows or comedy shows on YouTube, listening to world music, listening to piano and violin classical music, selecting music for the radio show, being with tropical plants and flowers in a lovely garden or walking in botanical gardens, being with dogs and cats, especially with Neko, my adorable cat who I have written about.

I am happy when I am on holiday or in the company of my best friend and Soul Sister, British of Jamaican heritage, Pauline Weir who is inspirational. We inspire and appreciate each other. I am happy when I am writing and inspired by my own creativity. Frankly, I enjoy my own company.

Where does your creativity go?

Today my creativity goes into my appearance. I live for colour, which uplifts my spirit. Colour combinations and textiles and textures are essential for me. A daily dose of colour keeps the doctor away!

My creative release is more importantly through my writing. I cannot live without being creative and expressing myself through the Spoken Word. I am forever telling my true stories and have now found a platform and an audience globally. Spread the Word I say. Write what you say and say what you mean’.

Are you still dreaming?

I believe if you wish hard enough for something, it will manifest. I rarely remember my dreams. I am a realist. I don’t dream. I know Walt Disney said ‘If you can dream it, you can do it’ but my whole life has been synchronicity and Happenstance. I never planned my life, it just happened. A door opens and I walk through it.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Live abundantly for the moment. No one knows when our time is going to be up! Speak your truth. Be a good, kind and generous friend to your friends and surprise others not in your life from time to time.

Be a mentor to others less fortunate than yourself. Share your life knowledge with others. Take an interest in your health, mental well-being and physical well-being. I repeat. Be generous and share. We came into this world alone with nothing and we will depart from this world alone with nothing. We only ‘borrow’ possessions. In fact, we need very little in life. But in later life we need a comfortable bed, a pet and friends we can confide in. A sense of humour is essential even turning a tragedy into comedy. I speak from experience. In a way I must thank my dear departed husband for his betrayal and mental abuse, otherwise I would not have become the woman I am today.

Of dying?

I do not think about death. I live for the moment. Carpe Diem. My funeral will be a celebration of my life. I hate it when people say ‘What WAS your name? ‘ I usually growl and say ‘I’m not dead yet!’

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

I had always planned to age disgracefully like my dear departed late ex-husband did with the inevitable consequences, which caused my breakdown/breakthrough. Now I have changed my mind because people can get hurt through selfishness and cruelty.

Last action was 2013 in Berlin! I was dared to do something and took up the challenge. But was it really outrageous? Umm. But what IS outrageous? We all have different ideas according to background, culture and age. Now that I am a public figure in the Brighton and Hove community, I have my reputation to consider. After all, I AM Sultana Jilliana!

Jilliana’s Spoken Word Salon is on the first Tuesday of the month in Hove. www.jilliana.com

AofA People: Elizabeth Carter – Leadership Development Coach


1 Minute Read

Elizabeth Carter is a transformation lead at NHS England, working on a campaign to promote nursing as an aspirational career of choice. A change leader, feminist, and radical, Elizabeth is determined to enable young women in education and their careers to unlock their full potential. In her discretionary time, she coaches and writes with a focus on her passion, women in leadership. She is a fierce advocate for living well until dying and sees this fourth quarter of her life as a time to embrace the inevitability of death and preparing for a good death by living a good life. Elizabeth is appearing at the Stoke Newington Literary Festival as part of the AoA session on Sunday, June 9th at 5pm in the Mortuary Chapel. She will be reading a piece she wrote – with Nadia Chambers – for AoA on Living Well until Dying.

Age (in years)  

59 ( 60 in October)

Where do you live?

Oxfordshire right now.  I moved here last April having spent 5 years in Spain.  I have lived all over – longest I have ever lived anywhere ( since I left home at 18) is 5 years.  I always know when it’s time to move on and I act on it.

What do you do?

I walk my dogs, I dream a lot, I write stuff.  Oh and I coach leadership development especially women in leadership and coach narrative to leaders.

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

I feel exactly the same as I did when I was 17.  I sometimes feel like it’s a bit of a joke that I am actually the age I am but clearly it’s true!I think the best thing about being this age is that I am incredibly kind to myself and allow large amounts of selfishness to keep healthy emotionally and physically.

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

An ability to sit still, to meditate, do yoga.  I was so full on then.

What about sex?

I like sex! I am very comfortable with my body and have no shyness or hang-ups.  Great sex is wonderful and I have had some great sex!

And relationships?

Hmm – someone recently said we are hard-wired to be in a relationship – I don’t agree.  I think society tells us that. I am currently single and very happy and fulfilled.

How free do you feel?

Totally.  I really do as I please.  It’s like being at a permanent festival.
I love it!

What are you proud of?

My friendships and the feedback I get when I coach.

What keeps you inspired?

Other people – my faith and trust in young people – I think that Gen Z is amazing.  i am so hopeful for the future in their hands.  And the night sky.

Wherever I am I gaze at the stars – always amazes and inspires me.

When are you happiest?

Pretty much all of the time! Particularly if I am having a great one to one with a friend or family member.  Sparking off each other.  When I am dancing and listening to music

And where does your creativity go?

On paper – I write and I write.  Also into the work that I do – I love thinking up cool ways to engage people.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Do it – every day.  Live it well with kindness and thought for others and always smile and say hello to elderly people – you might be their only contact in any given day.

And dying?

It’s inevitable.  Embrace it and lean towards it using every living breath well.

Are you still dreaming?

All the time awake and asleep.  I am a master day-dreamer!  Or should I call it visualisation?  My night and sleep dreams are wonderful.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

I don’t know that I do anything outrageous.  I am prone to spontaneity and follow impulse and it usually works out ok!

A of A People: Lynne Franks – Writer, Entrepreneur, SEEDSower


2 Minute Read

Lynne Franks, 71, is still innovating and creating. This time in Wincanton. She has a new venture Hub at No 3 which she describes as ‘a dynamic new concept in bringing women and men together to heal themselves, each other and the planet’. She runs workshops and events there. Of course, Lynne is the reason that Suzanne Noble and Rose Rouse met and eventually co-founded Advantages of Age.

Women’s Power of 7 Retreat in Wincanton on May 3rd – 5th

And her first women’s retreat working with her daughter Jessica Howie is in Marrakesh this November.

Age (in years) 
71

Where do you live?

Randomly moved to Wincanton in Somerset three years ago.

What do you do?

I have just started three new businesses including a café, a shop and a workshop hub with bedrooms.  I write books and articles; am developing my SEED women’s empowerment programmes; working in my local community with girls from our local school, creating a craft market for disadvantaged women etc etc etc.

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

Don’t really have time to think about age. I have always been busy and nothing has changed.

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

Experience.

What about sex?

Love it with the right guy.

And relationships?

Never giving up on love.  Just coming out of a lovely relationship with lots of love because we are both just too busy running around.

How free do you feel?

As free as I allow myself.

What are you proud of?

My daughter and my son who are great parents and individuals.  And of course my twenty years of work with helping women around the world plus a lot of other projects I have done. I tend to forget a lot until others remind me as always moving onto the next.

When are you happiest?

When I am creating new ideas that will help others. I am a SEEDSower, which is one of my archetypes in my Power of 7 women’s leadership programme.

And where does your creativity go?

My creativity goes into my work and my home and all my activities.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Living my truth and living life to the full. Always ready for new adventures.

And dying?

Don’t really think about it – no time.

Are you still dreaming?

Totally dreaming all the time – when I stop dreaming, I know it is the end.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

Starting all the aforementioned new businesses in a new town where I didn’t know anyone and just leapt in anyway.

AofA People: Philippa Perry – Writer, Psychotherapist, TV and Radio Presenter


5 Minute Read

Philippa Perry, 61, is a psychotherapist, TV and radio presenter, who is marvellously bold. Of course, she’s also married to Grayson! Her new publication The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read happens to be a witty selection of dos and don’ts on the parenting front. You can buy it here.

What is your age (in years)

61

Where do you live?

London and Sussex. Having two homes is ridiculous. I can never remember which one has run out of tomato ketchup. But, I love being in the country with no noise and no street lights and I love being in the city for the friends, new people and opportunities.

What do you do?

I am a writer, but also a psychotherapist and also a TV and radio presenter.

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

I’m alive, I have consciousness for most of the time when I’m awake. I can feel sun on my skin, the ground under my feet. I am aware that I have lived much longer than I shall continue to live, and I keep in mind how I can live my remaining years and have as much fun as possible. Fun, for me may mean sitting in the garden staring into space, or watching Pointless on the telly, or playing with my phone. It also means hanging out with people who I feel the most comfortable with. And reaping the rewards of delayed gratification. I hated writing my last book, it was a struggle. But now, the book is doing really well and I’m basking in the pride of accomplishment. That is fun. And yes, it’s a cliche, but I am aware of more aches and pains but I can still walk so yippee. I don’t like working for more than 3 or 4 hours a day. I don’t really like working less than that either.

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

LOADSA MONEY

What about sex?

You think about it so much when you are young and spend so much time doing it, thinking about it and thinking about who to do it with. It’s nice to have the headspace that not being obsessed about it anymore gives you.

And relationships?

I have two mega ones. One with my husband, and one with my daughter. Then I have some very important ones indeed with very dear friends, then I have some great ones with people I have met over the years, and some great ones with people I see more on Facebook than in real life, but these are important too. Relationships, all of them, are extremely important to me. New ones, old ones, I even feel satisfied with my exchanges with strangers on the bus.

How free do you feel?

I would rather be bound by my relationships than be completely free. I have fantasies of extended times of travel but they don’t appeal to my husband so much and we miss each other if we are away much longer than a fortnight. So I choose love over complete freedom.

What are you proud of?

Some of my documentaries. Very much liked Sex, Lies and Lovebites: a history of agony aunts, and How to be a Surrealist with Philippa Perry – they were fun to make. Also proud of a radio doc I did, The Truth about Children Who Lie. I have a couple more in the pipeline at the moment. I don’t know whether I’ll be proud of them or not. I’ll have to wait and see.

I’m proud of all my three books. Couch Fiction, How To Stay Sane and The Book you Wish your Parents Had Read. The last one is doing really well. I am very proud of all the people who have bought it, read it and wrestle with it. Behttps://amzn.to/2CqKd7lcause for some it brings up a lot of psychological stuff and can upset or make the reader angry, but if they don’t throw it out of the window and stick with it, it can work as good therapy for them. I’m sorry it hurts sometimes. And it gives me so much joy when I hear it has helped someone, or a family. I’m proud when I hear any of my books have helped people.

What keeps you inspired?

What keeps me inspired is what I know already and then what is just outside of that, that fits or challenges with what I know, so that I can expand through new connections with ideas, people, philosophies.

When are you happiest?

Probably when I’m not aware of being happy, when a group of us are laughing and laughing and just in the moment.

And where does your creativity go?

I take issue with the word “creativity”. It is overused. But I’m good at cooking.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Don’t miss out on box sets or books or biscuits because you are too busy. Use alliteration whenever the opportunity arises.

And dying?

Treasure those people you would like around your death bed.

Are you still dreaming?

I hanker after a bigger garden in town sometimes.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

I shoplifted a bottle of prosecco by accident. The Co-op thought I was mad when I tried to give it back the next day. Honestly, if I was really going for it, I would have got champagne. I think I find the word “outrageous” almost as offensive as “creativity”. It is not something I would be by design.

AofA People: Debra Sofia Magdalene, Spiritual Entrepreneur


1 Minute Read

Debra Sofia Magdalene, considers herself timeless but came into this body in 1961, she’s a spiritual entrepreneur and a digital nomad. She’s been home-free since 2011.

What’s your name?

At birth, I was given the name Mary Deborah Philomena plus my family surname on my birth certificate but always known as Deborah. I took on my husband’s surname when we married and after a numerology reading in the nineties, I changed the spelling of my name to Debra and took on two initials of N G to bring in different energies. When we divorced, I didn’t want to return to my maiden name as it didn’t resonate. In 2011, I was moving into a new chapter of my life and needed a new passport. I set the intention for my new name to come to me. Debra Magdalene came in whilst I was visiting a dear friend who’s a numerologist, followed two weeks later with my middle name of Sofia. When my friend checked out the numbers, she confirmed that it brought in energies that would support me – so I am now known as Debra Sofia Magdalene and changed my name by deed poll.

My son asked why I had taken the name of a prostitute. It was then I received an insight that I’d been given the name ‘Magdalene’ to raise awareness that Mary Magdalene was a spiritual teacher in her own right. Your name carries a sound frequency to the Universe that holds codes for the experiences you have. When you change your name, you change the game you’re playing here on earth. My life is very different since I changed my name. I was able to let go of addictions to food, sugar and alcohol which I’d struggled letting go of previously.

[It’s interesting that at birth my first name was ‘Mary’ and now my last name is ‘Magdalene’. I call my blue Honda Jazz ‘Mary’ and the first two initials of the registration plate are ‘MM’. I knew she was mine as soon as I saw her!]

What is your age?

I consider myself to be timeless – I came into this current body in 1961. I no longer define my age in terms of numbers. I actually feel younger now than three decades ago. Age is a state of mind and a state of being. Time is an illusion so why limit ourselves?

Where do you live?

I’ve been home-free since the summer of 2011 when I sold my house and gave away most of my furniture and possessions so that I was free to travel and follow my soul’s calling.   I’m now a digital nomad and can work from anywhere in the world as long as I have a good internet connection. I live in other people’s houses looking after their homes, pets, plants, businesses. I choose which assignments I take on and check in with my intuition as to where to go. It’s rare I have gaps between gigs. I had a cancellation earlier this year when a client had an injury so was unable to travel so I took the opportunity to work on an organic farm (WOOFING) in exchange for food and accommodation. I was in heaven and loved every minute. I also gained valuable experience of planting and harvesting crops and looking after livestock (donkey, pony, sheep, pigs).

What do you do?

As a spiritual entrepreneur, I have a portfolio of services which create multiple streams of income. I love to collaborate on joint ventures and make new connections.

  • Essential Oil Queen at Magdalene Wellness: I teach you how to use essential oils as safe, natural alternatives for health, replacing chemicals in the home, detoxifying and cleansing the body, using for emotional release, using for spiritual purposes, using to replace chemicals in the home, using to make healthy raw chocolate and in the kitchen etc. I have a team which is growing internationally and I mentor you for free if you want to create an additional income through teaching people about essential oils. mydoterra.com/magdalenewellness and https://www.facebook.com/magdalenewellness
  • An awakener of souls: I help you to see your own light and to move out of lower vibration emotions to the liberation of unconditional love for self and others. I do this through 1:1 coaching, events and retreats. https://www.facebook.com/pg/magdalenespiritualjourneys
  • Therapies and Healing: I have trained in several healing modalities, from spiritual healing, shamanic healing and energy healing and have developed my own intuitive healing combining knowledge and wisdom gained from my life’s journey. I offer AromaTouch sessions using therapeutic essential oil plant essences and Sacred Anointings which clear trapped energy from this and previous lifetimes to free the soul.
  • HUGS House and Pet-sitting Service: I started this business on 1 January 2017 when my last relationship ended and love the flexibility that it offers me to travel and take on gigs in parts of the world which I want to visit. Last year I spent five wonderful weeks in Turkey with a fellow house-sitter and dear friend looking after 5 dogs, 6 cats and 20 chickens in a mountain home in Turkey. https://www.facebook.com/HUGShouseandpetsittingservice
  • HUGS House & Pet-Sitting Service Agency: My business has been such a success that I now have a team of people I trust who I can match to sits in different parts of the country that I’m unable to do personally. This enables us to provide a service not just in the UK but overseas too. I love how it’s growing organically and how delighted clients are when they see how lovingly their furry friends are cared for. I love animals and enjoy a deep connection with every one of them. We can learn so much from the animal kingdom.
  • Bed & Breakfast Business Relief Manager: This year I’ve been running B&B businesses in Glastonbury when owners go on holiday. I have made beautiful connections with people from many different countries who have become dear friends.
  • I’m an event manager and promote spiritual teachers whose work I have personally experienced and happy to recommend. In alignment with my purpose of raising consciousness, I ran spiritual events in Manchester, UK for 10 years. I’m also invited to speak at events and organise retreats for other teachers.

Now that I’m traveling, I do interviews with people online or in person and upload them to my Mastery Path youtube channel. https://www.youtube.com/user/MasteryPath

  • Silver Tent Radio Host: I’m a Silver Grove member of The Silver Tent – an online community of wise, wonderful women 50+. I interview people who have positive messages to share to help raise consciousness. After the interviews have gone out in audio format through the mixcloud platform, I upload the video to my Mastery Path youtube channel and share across social media platforms. https://www.mixcloud.com/debra-sofia-magdalene/
  • I’m Director of Hugs and have a Facebook group for Global Hugs Ambassadors – the mission is about helping the excluded to feel included and to share unconditional love through offering hugs. Hugs are healing and beneficial in so many ways. Do join us.   https://www.facebook.com/groups/globalhugsambassadors

The things I’ve mentioned are some of the things I do. I do so much more than that.

I’m an Alchemist!

What it’s like to be your age?

Age is irrelevant to me. I feel that I’m in the prime of my life and feel very grateful to be in this physical body at this exciting time on planet earth when we’re going through a mass awakening. I have a lot of energy and stamina, I take my doTERRA high quality supplements every day (this is my health insurance), I do regular cleanses and detoxes (this is an act of self-love to care for my physical body), I eat healthily, I love to be out in nature and connecting with the land. I feel so blessed.

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

When I was 25 I was married, in a high-powered job with big house, company car, good income, no children, had a small network of friends.

I’m now happily and amicably divorced, I have a son and daughter who have children of their own and I love being a grandma.

I have a global network, more skills, more knowledge and more wisdom.

I don’t need anything external to be happy – I have everything I need within me.

What about sex?

I love sex and have a high libido. However I don’t sleep around and I am extremely careful about whom I let into my energy field. My rule is: ‘Don’t have sex with anyone who you don’t want to be like’ – their energy stays with you. To me, sex is a sacred experience. Ancient cultures and mystery schools recognised the power of sex magick for creation and manifestation and this knowledge was suppressed by religions for the purpose of power and control. It took a lot of work on myself to undo this deep-seated conditioning and to find my own truth.

And relationships? 

When my husband left me for another woman, I went on a healing journey to dissolve feelings of unworthiness and rejection. I knew I needed to be in a higher vibrational state before entering into another relationship, otherwise I would attract a partner who was in the same low vibrational state that I was in (processing grief, sadness etc). When I felt ready, I made out a list of what I wanted in a partner and after dating several men, realised that I was being judgemental as they didn’t match up to my list. So I asked the Universe to send me the man I would have the most growth with. He showed up soon after and I had to smile at the cosmic joke because he was the opposite to everything I had on my list! From day one, I suggested that our relationship be one where we chose to be together rather than stay out of any sense of obligation. We agreed to follow our hearts and to make every day a choice. During our relationship, there were several times when it didn’t feel right for me. So we’d change our status to friends and take a period out for reflection. When it felt right, we’d come back together and our relationship would be elevated to a new level. He brought balance to my life and I did to his. On our ninth anniversary of getting together, we evaluated where we were and agreed that the relationship had run its course in its present format. We changed our status from partners to best friends and remain so to this day. We still have a deep love for each other, enjoy each other’s company and he’s still a part of my extended family.

In terms of other relationships, I have a huge network of friends and a close inner circle. Most importantly, I have the best relationship with myself that I’ve ever had – I’ve learned to love myself unconditionally.

How free do you feel?

I’m a free spirit and always will be. The nomadic lifestyle that I’ve consciously created for myself allows me to follow my heart and go wherever I feel drawn. I’ve reclaimed my sovereignty and can easily disengage from the matrix. I am whole, I am sovereign, I am free!

What are you proud of? 

I’m proud of who I have become – the journey back to wholeness, the journey back to my heart and to unconditional love. Work on myself is a constant process – I use others as a reflection to gain insights and do not get caught up in drama playing out around me. I am able to take a higher perspective and keep centred in the midst of chaos.

I am proud of getting to the root cause of my unworthiness belief which had come from indoctrination from the Catholic religion. After repeating “Lord I am not worthy to receive you but only say the word and I shall be healed” at every mass I was forced to attend, it took a lot of unravelling. I had this insight whilst in Peru and made a point of attending Catholic mass and affirming “Lord I am worthy to receive you and I invite you to share consciousness so that we may have a beautiful union”. It was liberating.

I’m proud that I was able to access hidden parts of myself when travelling.

I was attacked by a pack of wild dogs whilst walking alone in the mountains in Bolivia. I accessed my inner warrior, became Alpha dog and they backed off after seeing my fierceness.

I connected with wild dogs when living in the mountains of the Sacred Valley and they walked by my side. When some locals got out of a passing Tuk Tuk – the dogs went to attack them and the locals fled. The dogs then returned to me and we continued walking up the mountain. Experiences like this have given me confirmation that I am truly standing in my personal power and able to master my energy.

I have had so many incredible experiences in my life and I am grateful for every one of them.

What keeps you inspired?

I am inspired by so many things. Observing the fractals in nature; watching a drop of rain on a leaf; being with my grandchildren and other children; having beautiful exchanges with animals; working on the land; being still and meditating; watching inspiring movies; listening to music which touches my soul; poetry, reading, learning and expanding my knowledge and skills … so many things.

When are you happiest?

Happiness is a choice in every moment. Many years ago, I developed a talk called ‘7 Steps to Happiness’ and love to teach others how to be happy.

These are a few of my favourite things: When I’m out in nature; when I’m with my children and grandchildren; when we have extended family gatherings; when I’m meditating; when I’m travelling; when I’m connecting with people; when I’m being of service and see how others are benefitting; when I’m eating raw chocolate; when I’m swimming in the ocean; when I feel the sun upon my body; making footsteps in virgin snow; playing and connecting with animals …

Even when I’m experiencing a dark night of the soul, at a deeper level I’m happy that I’m learning such valuable lessons and receiving insights which will elevate me even higher. You can’t experience the highs without experiencing the lows. For example, when my marriage broke up, I wasn’t expecting it and although I was experiencing deep grief, I also knew that my husband was doing me a big favour and that he was setting me free. We had a soul contract for this to happen and it was a catalyst to my awakening. I reframed him leaving me for a younger woman and gave it the meaning: “He’s set me free and I can now become the person I’m destined to be”.

This was enormously empowering and helped me through that deeply emotional time.

And where does your creativity go?

Business: I’m an entrepreneur and see opportunities everywhere. I love to create opportunities for myself and others which are mutually beneficial and to connect people within my huge network.

Painting: When I was in the Amazon Rainforest living with the Shipibo Tribe in 2013, I started to paint with acrylics for the first time ever. I’ve since enjoyed experimenting with different medium and allowing my intuition to lead me artistically.

Writing: When I was living in Cusco, I started to write a book called ‘Life Lessons from Mosquitos’ inspired by a big healing I had with a mosquito I the Amazon when I merged consciousness with it. It’s still work in progress and I’ll complete it when I feel the impetus to pick it up again.

Poetry: After merging my consciousness with a huge rock in the mountains above Cusco, I have developed an ability to tap into the consciousness of standing stones and trees, in particular Yew Trees. I receive poems from these wise beings and will publish them when I get around to it.

Photography: I love taking photos and capturing magic moments, nature, insects, flowers, animals, family etc.

Music: I’m from a musical family and in addition to singing in a choir, I played piano, violin, guitar and oboe as a teenager – none of them very well. I love music and have a wide taste, from mantras to rock music.

Dance: I love to express myself freely through dancing and find that it transports me to other dimensions. Unlike my earlier years when I needed a few drinks to lose my inhibitions on the dance floor, I have dropped ego which kept me from doing spontaneous things and feel free to express myself in any moment no matter where I am or who I’m with. It’s a liberating feeling.

What’s your philosophy of living?

When we are born, we forget who we are and our journey is simply to remember our Divinity. We are here to experience and grow the collective consciousness.

There is no right or wrong at a Higher level. That comes from duality thinking which comes from the illusion of separation. When we remember that we are not separate but part of all that is, we move from ‘I’ to ‘We’ – all part of the One.

Live in the moment of now – it’s all we have and it’s where we create from.

I always trust my intuition and follow my heart – it’s my inner guidance system.

Be loving, be compassionate, be accepting of others, be grateful.

Don’t take like seriously – lighten up, have fun and do what brings you the most joy.

Ultimately, love is all there is.

And dying?

Being in the physical vessel of the body is a temporary experience in which the soul can experience and expand. When I was in the Amazon Rainforest, I experienced a shamanic death and a life review which gave me deep insights. We never die – our consciousness lives on eternally. We create our own heaven and hell on earth. We are not our physical bodies.

I have had the privilege of being present at the passing of three people. First time was when I was living in the mountains of Quillabamba in Peru on a coffee plantation where I was nursing Rosa who was coming to end of life. Her passing was very peaceful and her daughter Gladys (a doctor) was present too. Initially, the Gladys attempted resuscitation which failed and I gently reminded her that it was Rosa’s time to go. After a cup of tea, we cleaned Rosa’s body and dressed her in her wedding dress which she would be buried in. This was a rite of passage for me and prepared me for my own mother’s passing last year.

I’ve given sacred anointings using a special oil blend to people who have been dying and they have found great comfort and deep peace. One lady told me that whilst I was doing the anointing, all her past memories came flooding back to her and that she now felt ready to go. The essential oils are working emotionally, physically, spiritually and multi-dimensionally. It was an honour for me to be of service in this way.

Are you still dreaming?

Always. We create through our thoughts and our imagination. Life is exciting!

What was a recent outrageous action of yours? 

I received a parking ticket which I felt was unjust and after having a rant on Facebook, a You tube video posted on my timeline from a friend sent me down the rabbit hole as I researched the legal system. I discovered that there’s two systems operating – the Legal system which is based on maritime law, and the Lawful system based on the law of the land dating back to the Magna Carta (some of which still applies today). I went through a process of reclaiming my sovereignty in respect of not being bullied by an unlawful system which uses fear to control the population. I refuse to be bullied by organisations and corrupt systems which rely on ignorance and fear of the masses to line their pockets. You could say that I’m a peaceful non-conformist.

Find out more about Debra:

www.facebook.com/debrasofiamagdalene

https://www.linkedin.com/in/debrasofiamagdalene/

AofA People: Debra Watson – Performer, Tutor, Poet


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Debra Watson, 53, is a wildly exciting woman. She runs a participative theatre, art and media charity. She’s a performer who’s interested in intimate methodologies. She’s a tutor. She does sensual poetry performances as part of The Crimson Word, The Bloody Poets and the Poetry Brothel London.

Her next performance is this Thursday where she will be performing FemmeDom, tickets are only on sale beforehand from Eventbrite.

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Up in leafy Muswell Hill. It’s very suburban and also very green and pretty. I moved here when my son started high school. I love North London because of the proximity to the Ladies Pond on Hampstead Heath. It’s a life-saver in the summer!

WHAT IS YOUR AGE?

53

TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE YOUR AGE?

It’s great! I’ve had a fantastic last two years creatively. I am full of ideas and have some great people around me to work with. I worry as I am not sure how much longer I can go at this pace. I had to take a month off for health reasons in mid-October.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE NOW THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE AT 25?

Debra Watson by Steve Gregson

I am a lot more at peace with the fact that I am odd. My 25th birthday was amazing. I was working on a hit show at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg. My sister brought my nephew and niece backstage and brought a cake. I was semi-famous. That year, we were invited to perform at the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh and then for a run at the Tricycle Theatre in London. Yet somehow, though my work now is much more marginal, I have much more confidence in my process and output, than I had then.

WHAT ABOUT SEX?

Ah. I have discovered that sex is not as difficult to get as I thought it would be for someone my age. I enjoy it immensely when I have it. I don’t currently have any long-term sexual partners. I’d prefer that to a series of one-off encounters. I’m super into intimacy. I’ve discovered I’m not really that promiscuous anymore. I long for depth and the scariness that comes with allowing someone to know you. You can discover a lot about yourself. I am surprised at how sexual I still am. This year, I’ve performed intimate poetry in a few different sex-clubs. It’s been an eye-opener. I clearly have a lot to learn and explore. I feel lucky to still feel sexual desire and to be desired. I know that for many women and men, sex becomes irrelevant to them as they age. It’s a genetic thing, I think. My mum was the same.

AND RELATIONSHIPS?

I am separated from, but immensely close to, my ex-husband (whom I met when I was 25!), I work with him sometimes. He is my best friend. I can’t imagine a life without him. We co-parent. He wipes away my tears when my lovers break my heart. I have been experimenting (badly) with polyamory. It has been chaotic. I don’t enjoy relationship chaos. I like being treated well, with consideration and sensitivity. I can’t bear being blindsided by stupidity.

HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?

In what way? Personally, there are things I feel free about, but to be honest, I think I would feel freer if I had more liquidity. I am not free enough to travel as much as I would like, or to give up working for money or to just pack up my flat and go full Nomad. There are many ways in which I feel constricted. Not free at all.

Debra Watson by Lilith Costela

WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?

I am super proud of my creative output in the past three years. On my 50th birthday, I did a ‘dress tease’ for my friends and it started off a creative process that has been wonderful for me. In my late 40s, I started writing poetry again and this has led to an interest in performing intimate poetry. In the last two years, I have been performing with The Poetry Brothel London, The Bloody Poets and this year, have started a new intimate, immersive poetry collective The Crimson Word, with my friend Winter James. We are set up to do events, pop-ups, and parties; but we keep changing our mind and expanding the horizons of the company. The Bloody Poets was started in London by Mad Pirvan and Belen Berlin in 2017. Mad moved to London a year ago and runs the event once a quarter. It’s been very experimental and probably the closest I have come to re-picking up the thread of exploring experimental performance work I was doing in the early 80s and 90s.

WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?

I can be a lone wolf, but I really enjoy working in collectives. I get tremendous inspiration from other artists and tend to enjoy having events and themes to write to. My work is very, very personal, but having a group and compatriots that are also focussed on work and creativity has been crucial for me in developing in ways I haven’t expected. Social media is fun too. I’ve found that Instagram is an amazing tool for reaching new audiences. That being said, I need downtime and alone time to process, research and write.

WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST?

When I am creating. Even though it can be fraught, I love the creative process. The starting with a blank page, or one phrase, or one image and then building that up ‘into’ something. I am often not at all sure that I am going to pull off an idea. It is fabulous when/if things come together. I also get very, very happy when people pay me well and when they tell me that my work has moved them or impacted them in some way or another. Sometimes, especially after the very intimate 1-2-1 readings, people have an after-glow. They say: ‘It’s better than sex’. I used to be very shy about approaching performers and acting all fangirlish. No more. I realise how important it can be, in those dark and lonely hours when you think all your work is shit and that you’ve never have done nor will do anything well, to remember a kind word or a moment of sincere praise.

AND WHERE DOES YOUR CREATIVITY GO?

I perform, I write, I make costumes. A lot of my work is concerned with intimacy/intimate performance. It’s so intense and unpredictable. I also run a participative theatre, art, and media charity, so I also tutor and facilitate creativity. Part of my life is me being a big show off and another part is engaging very sensitively with other people to get them to tell their own stories.

WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIVING?

Go towards what terrifies you.

AND DYING?

I recently had a health scare. I am not out the woods yet. I am still in terrible pain on alternate days, but they don’t think I am dying. Before the diagnosis, I had a very serious discussion with my ex. I felt 100% that if it turned out to be critical, I would take this as an opportunity to step off the planet. I am not too keen on living for long. The world seems to be going to shit. I think I have had a good run of it, I think there is more fun to be had, but if it all had to end, I hope to face it graciously. Secretly, I am envious of people who die suddenly and quickly. It’s horrid for those left behind but I am not, and never have been, a fan of chronic pain and slow decay.

ARE YOU STILL DREAMING?

Yes. And there’s still so much I feel I need and want to do.

WHAT WAS A RECENT OUTRAGEOUS ACTION OF YOURS?

I tend to do all my outrageous acts in performance. The Crimson Word is just about to launch the first of a series of ‘Suprasensual Poeticals’ at a private members club in Hackney. It’s a continuation of work we have been exploring over the summer. Our theme is ‘Venus in Furs’ after the 1870 novella written by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch. It explores themes of female domination and male submission. So, I am going to be exploring FemmeDom in performance. I hope it will be fun! It’s a small audience in a beautiful room in a private members club. No tickets will be available on the door. Only sales in advance from here.

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