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


8 Minute Read

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

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

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

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

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

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

How I Ended Up Living on a Narrow Boat


1 Minute Read

I’m 59 and still not really sure what life’s about, but glad to be part of Advantages of Age – I feel like I may have found my tribe. I haven’t met any of you yet but can feel the positive, slightly naughty vibes leaping off the FB page.

A bit about me. In my Life Part One, which goes from birth to fifty years, I was always fairly rebellious, in my own middle-class middle-England sort of way. I was expelled during my A levels – the local boys public school trialled having girls in the 6th form – and I was culled pretty early on in the experiment. Aged 17 I hitchhiked to the South of France with a friend to try grape picking but we were three months too early so I ended up as crew on a superyacht which lasted four glorious years and taught me that I never want to be stupid rich – that, as it happens, has panned out. I got engaged to the engineer, but my parents felt there was more to life than a cockney grease monkey and I returned to England – since then I vowed never to interfere with my children’s lives.

Various other jobs including working privately for a tax-exiled British couple who wanted to develop an island in the Bahamas a-la Richard Branson’s Necker Island. I used to go out to the island with the developers by tiny seaplane but a proper runway was required so that guests could bring more baggage than they could ever possibly use on a desert island, and the Bahamian Government was opposed to it. Apparently, drug runners use these airstrips unless the island is permanently manned. I did offer to permanently man it and keep a close eye out for drug runners but that didn’t work.

In 1992 at the end of the Gulf war, my husband and I moved with Saatchi’s Advertising to the Middle East. I worked as Brand Marketing Manager for Jack Daniels whiskey – I was responsible for the Middle East and African markets. You don’t automatically imagine working in liquor in the Middle East, but the only dry countries are Kuwait and Saudi. I spent a lot of time in Lebanon even during bombings – such a wonderful little country with delightful people and a big heart. Ditto Jordan, where I navigated as a co-driver in the only female team in the Middle East Rally Championships and received a cup from King Hussein which was pretty weird.

Then in 2012 a strange fifty-year-old took over my mind and body. I didn’t recognise her at all. She took one look at the now plastic fantastic exorbitant overcrowded Dubai and said ‘Let’s get the hell out lady.’ So I did. The new me decided that as Life Part Two was about to start, going it alone would be a more dramatic change. I left my lovely home, great job, very nice husband and the dog – which broke my heart. As my two children had just finished school and my daughter wanted to come to England to study, it was the perfect opportunity to make the break. I reverted to my birth name of Hope and choose it daily.

I started my new life with six weeks in Oaxaca, Mexico, during Day of the Dead – a fab way to celebrate and gently say goodbye to my first life and commence the rite of passage into my next. I stayed with a super cool 70 year old American lady who encouraged me to write and started my love affair with Frida Kahlo.

I still travel regularly and cheaply, buses and hostels are my happy place and work away is a great way to meet local people and keep the costs down. https://www.workaway.info/en/workawayer/RachelM62

Since returning to England, I have not owned a home. Not only because I was too old for a mortgage but, because after working for 30 years corporately, I wasn’t willing to get the sort of soul-sucking permanent job that I knew would be necessary. My mother suggested working in nearby Milton Keynes, and that’s the last suggestion I will ever let her make. I have rented here and there but mostly travelled or stayed with family and friends, so it was never a problem. Especially as the only single one of four siblings, you tend to get more than your fair share of parent duties.

But then March 2020 arrived, we forgot about Brexit and the pandemic started. Everyone was told to self isolate and I got caught out – like musical chairs – the music stopped and I had nowhere to lay my head. I had previously thought bubble-less meant flat champagne.

There’s always an upside to life though, and I am now the proud owner of a 30-year-old narrowboat and love it.

A boat didn’t immediately spring to mind, I originally wanted to build a cabin but with no land and can’t build for toffee – that was a non-starter. Then one day, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces, my favourite TV fix, featured a narrowboat. What’s more, Rosie & Jim and Prue & Tim seemed to be having a blast, so why not me?

At 55ft long and 6ft wide, it’s actually quite spacious, particularly as I don’t have to share it with a ton of coal and a family of eight. I have seven rooms if you count the two front and back indoor/outdoor spaces, nine if you allow for the dining room to double as an office and triple as a spare bed.

The galley kitchen is petite but means I can put on the kettle, wash the dishes and open the fridge all without moving my feet. Aside from having to get down on my knees and roll back the mat to open the oven door – it’s very functional.

The bedroom, bathroom and a sitting room all have doors to separate them and the large rear end – stern deck technically – and small cosy nook in the bow, are full of cushions and plants in the summer, and wellies and coal in the winter. Unless you have some form of central heating, you’re either boiling hot or freezing cold, depending upon your wood burner skills. You are, after all, living in a metal tube that, like trains and container trucks, was designed to move commodities around, and not for your personal creature comforts. As I simply cannot keep my wood burner going all night, I have installed two oil-filled radiators and only light the fire when it’s really freezing or I have enough patience.

The toilet is the compromise. There are two main choices – the Porta Potti or a pump-out tank stored onboard, most often under your bed. Not only do I not want to sleep on top of a load of crap, I do not want to keep moving my boat across to the other side of the marina to pump out. I am a learner driver whose confidence has been shattered by the person opposite who keeps repeatedly shouting ‘Don’t hit my boat, this is not a contact sport’ every time I switch on the engine.

So, Porta Potti it is. It needs emptying pretty frequently and involves splitting the loo in half, lugging the loaded part up the steps to the jetty and onto my sack barrow, that I’d only ever previously used to cart cider across a music festival. You then arrive at the Elsan which is like a giant’s toilet and deposit your goods. One year later and I still hate doing it. Everyone in the marina knows me as the ‘marigold lady’ as I simply refuse to touch it without rubber gloves.

The choice of location for your boat is varied. Canals are colourful and much easier to moor on than rivers, but personally, I like being in a marina. I need to plug into electricity, have a constant water supply and a car nearby. I also am not capable of the gipsy life that requires you to keep moving every two weeks if you don’t want to pay fees or taxes. I am technically and mechanically incompetent and simply would not survive. As soon as anything starts making a weird noise I call the marina manager to come and fix it. We pay £2500 per year for these privileges along with a boathouse and small shop. You then pay approx £1000k per annum for river or canal fees, so it’s a little pricier than some may imagine.

Yes, we live in close proximity. I could hold hands with my neighbour whilst drinking tea in bed, except I don’t think his wife would like it, but, we are right on the river with fields in front of us and a sunset to die for. I hand feed the birds, swim in the river and love the connection to nature. I am mindful – of enough water in the tank before I get in the shower, and minimal – you’re not wasteful as space is precious.

But most of all I get to live alone in my own tiny home within a wonderful community. What more could you ask for.

I’m still work-averse but love my writing. My memoir about muddled midlife is entitled The Dharma Drama – Dharma means purpose and I was rather lacking it when I started my book. This is where I want to put the link to Amazon so you can buy it, but a lot like me, it’s still a work in progress. It seems to have morphed into a journal that will never end. Journaling was a miraculous discovery. As Joan Didion said “I write to know what I think” and that seems to be the case. My pen reveals all sorts of things that I simply did not know.

My other great wonder is the tarot. Halfway through my first course in learning the tarot, my reading partner left me in tears. The teacher consoled me by saying that I really had the knack and uncovered some painful home truths for her. Thankfully this was followed up by a note from her saying that she had faced the issue head-on and all is resolved so thank you very much. Phew. The tarot is unique in that it is a mirror. It reflects back to you and shines a light and what you already know but keep deep inside. The universe then throws up opportunities and some much-needed oomph to set you on an exciting new journey.

I have recently coupled my two passions for journaling and tarot and developed them into a new business, Soul Sisters Community, which hosts retreats for midlife women looking for more. At this point, I am going to unashamedly put a link to Soul Sisters and say please take a look, ladies. And do please come. I would absolutely love to host some of you for a few fab days of self-discovery.

Apologies gents, this one’s just for the gals – but I am looking into running The Best Karma Exotic Funky House of Creation in Sri Lanka next January/February 2022 for all genders to enjoy some spiritual sunshine. If that appeals, please send me a note at: rachelsoulsisters@gmail.com I would love to gather a group who can help me shape it into something wonderful.

Carl Jung says “Life really does begin at forty, up until then you’re just doing research”. Well, at nearly 60,  I am still doing research because the day I stop being curious will be the day I die.

Soul Sisters retreats are happening this July 10th – 13th and July 13th – July 16th. Please check it out, mention AoA and I will gladly give you a super duper discount.

Look forward to meeting you all soon. Namaste!

Daughter and Mother – Ruby, 56, interviews Maria, 95


7 Minute Read

Ruby Millington is a journalist, zeitgeist expert and great cook. During the lockdown, her mother Maria, 95, moved in. In fact, they came to my family Boxing Day Funk Up this year. Recently, I asked Ruby if she would interview her incredibly glamorous mother about how it is to be her age.

 Maria MacLaren was born in Devon in 1925. She was in the ATS during WWII and worked as a secretary for the Southern Electricity Board Consultative Council until her marriage to John in 1959. She has two children, Martin and Ruby.

R: When did you first feel you were ageing?  

M: At 80. I’ve never been afraid of physical work but I realised I could no longer dig the garden, wheelbarrow bricks or walk long distances. My eyesight was deteriorating with macular degeneration and I began needing cortisone injections for arthritis in my hands. I feel my hands and eyes are just 49% of what they were and it’s frustrating because I always liked to be busy. But that’s not to be now and I just have to accept it and feel lucky that I can sit back and be cared for. Not everyone has that. But don’t forget I looked after your father during the last years of his life, pushing him around in a wheelchair, so I learned a bit about what was coming my way. And my life is very enjoyable now. You’ve taken me into your home and we’ve had a lot of fun and done many projects together. And I’m in the fortunate position of knowing that Martin and you would do what you think best for me. I don’t feel I’ll suddenly be abandoned and that gives me a feeling of peace and security.

R: What are the important lessons you’ve learnt over 95 years?   

M: My parents taught us from an early age never ask or expect people to do for you what you can do for yourself. And never be afraid of hard work. Most important has been believing in the goodness of others. That certainly made me a better person than thinking everyone was horrible and I hope I continue believing that till the end of my life. During my last stay in hospital, for example, a few people were stealing surgical socks and abusing and threatening the nurses and yet the staff treated those patients just as well — lovingly really — as they did the rest of us. That’s stuck with me. It reinforces that most people are decent, caring and kind.

And I’ve always tried to look on the bright side, to be optimistic and make the most of life.

R: You do always seem bounce back very quickly. And you never brood or sulk. Is that a factor in your longevity?  

M: Very probably. I’ve had ups and downs but I geared myself up to put them behind me and get on with life. I was very close to your grandmother and when she died in 1991 and when John died in 2004, those were very dark days. My sixties were another low point. Something was missing. Although I was happy I felt there was more to life than dinner parties. I feel there are more positive things going on around me now, especially being here. And I’ve been very touched by the kindness of your friends too. I feel involved and part of something.

R: I think it’s crucial for old people to stay engaged. Most people want to feel recognised and valued and accepted. You used to say you were still learning every day. Do you still feel that?  

M: Definitely. My education wasn’t as bright or helpful as it could have been but 80 years ago it was considered adequate. I’d hate to stagnate. I’m constantly learning — thanks to you mainly because I’ve learnt a tremendous amount through being here, about the world and about myself. I’ve never used a computer, for example, but the internet has changed my life with shopping online and Instagram, eBay and Zoom. I’ve learned lot about you too. You’re very vulnerable and caring and supportive and very, very willing and not afraid of hard work. You’re not the tough nut people always thought you were.

R: I can’t imagine anyone would ever think that about me.   

M: We didn’t know you. You were away from the age of 17 and then you lived abroad. So I feel I know you much, much better now.

R: What about disappointments or regrets?  

M: I wish that John and I were younger when we married but then, as you know, he was married to someone else and we were carrying on an affair for ten years. It was out of our control. And it’s no good looking over your shoulder.

R: That’s one of your favourite phrases.  

M: Well, it’s true. I always look forwards.

R: You still buy lottery tickets every week! What are you looking forward to now?  

M: Christmas. Or the summer at least — seeing your garden progress, the vegetables coming to life. If you don’t look forward to the seasons you’re pretty well done for. I feel I have everything to look forward to, being part of life here. I look forward to all my meals and my walks and even just planning my outfits. I’ve always tried to keep myself looking good and been interested in fashion. It’s not vanity. I dress to please myself although it’s always good to bear in mind what other people might think and I was often stopped by strangers in the street who’d comment on how elegant I looked. Now little things give me a lot of pleasure. Some flowers, a new ornament to look at…

R: Do you feel that over 95 years you’ve had any control over what’s happened to you?  

M: A little bit. I’ve never had to worry too much about material things but life hasn’t all been plain sailing. Obviously you can’t control everything that happens. You know the old saying: Life is what you make it. I think that’s very true. I’m grateful for having a life at all.

R: But what if someone can’t make life what they want it to be?   

M: Lower your expectations. Like Jo Brand said when I heard her at Christmas. But that doesn’t mean people shouldn’t keep striving. Hope is the one thing that keeps us going.

R: I’m sure you thought it would be business as usual for the rest of your life and never imagined a pandemic would happen.   

M: I knew life would be very, very different and it has been for the whole world. I remember being very frightened about what would happen to me when they said the over 80s should stay indoors, alone, for three months. But then you said I should come here. I was also terrified about the number of deaths and the lack of ventilators and how the NHS would cope. I was frightened, not just for myself, for everyone. If I’d been on my own I’d probably be dead now.

R: You think so?   

M: I’m sure so. I would have been so frightened and so lonely it would have been the end of me.

R: So when people talk of losing the will to live, it’s not just a figure of speech. You can will yourself to keep going?  

M: A lot of it is luck. I came from good hardy stock on both sides. I’ve inherited good genes and lived a fairly privileged life. But quite a bit is attitude. My advice is try to stay healthy, have a target and find something to look forward to, whatever your age. I know the future might not be great for me but it doesn’t stop me hoping.

 

 

AofA People: Joolz – poet, novelist, artist, illustrator and tattooist


6 Minute Read

Joolz, 66, is a poet, novelist, artist, illustrator and professional tattooist. She came to prominence in the 80s when she was often called a punk poetess and was instrumental – Justin Sullivan, the lead singer was her partner at that time – in the rise of New Model Army. She’s still writing, painting, drawing and expressing her opinions from her base in Bradford

Where do you live?

I live in the same house in Bradford I’ve lived in for 35 years. It’s an end terrace in a hidden cul de sac in a very poor area but by chance has a large garden with trees. It’s extremely untidy and full of stuff and art materials. It’s very comfortable despite being in disrepair.

What do you do? I’m an artist, writer and tattooist, although I’m semi-retired from tattooing because it’s exhausting work. I have my own studio and set my own rules so I don’t have to get up early or any of that nonsense. I spent my whole adult life working at night either on tour with the band or just because I like it and it racks me off when people say ‘not up yet?’ I probably didn’t go to bed until 3.00 am whilst they were snoozing at 9.00pm. I’m sure it’s lovely to see the sunrise and I often do, just before going to bed.

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

I will be 66 shortly. My current joke is ‘one six short of the Beast’ which no one finds funny but me. Life is a see-saw – when you’re young you have all the energy and no wisdom, in middle age, it’s 50-50, now it’s all wisdom and naps. It’s frustrating my body which was always fit and strong is still strong but less fit and I live with the constant pain of arthritis in my knees due to motorcycle accidents and the sports I did but hey. Everyone has something wrong with them. I don’t put up with bullshit and I speak as I find, so people try and pigeonhole me as a grumpy old woman but I’m not. I’m half in this world and half in the other world so I see things much more clearly than I did.

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

Insight and courage, I was a very damaged and hurt girl, I suffered serious sexual and physical violence, decades of abuse and bullying – now I understand and despite the legacy of CPTSD and depression, I’m actually much more liberated and free than I was. At 25 I didn’t have knowledge that I didn’t need anyone else to be happy. Now I like people well enough but I don’t need them.

What about sex?

I have a partner who’s 30 years younger than myself and extremely good looking. All my bits are in working order. It’s not a problem. I don’t lack for suitors either, but that’s their gig, I’m not bothered.

And relationships?

They have been extremely problematic in the past and I’m shit at them, I just take it day by day. I don’t expect the traditional holding hands in the twilight of our year’s stuff now. I had years of domestic abuse physical and psychological so I’ve seen the worst relationships can bring and I’ve also seen the best. I think people expect too much of their partners sometimes. They want a mother, father, sibling, best mate, nurse, counsellor and lover all in one and that’s a terrible burden to put on someone else. Just look at them as a person like yourself with problems like yourself that you’ve entered into a partnership with so you’ll each have someone to be close to over the years and never ever marry someone you couldn’t spend two weeks in a two-man tent in the Lake District with.

How free do you feel?

Extremely free. No one tells me what to do and I won’t be shouted at by anyone. I do as I like and make what I like.

What are you proud of?

Surviving. Being successful in every career path I’ve taken. Being a hard worker and researcher. Loving people. Loving my cat Scout. Having nice grey hair.  The garden.

What keeps you inspired?

Absolutely everything. Every day is a revelation and brings fresh insight. I’m not even kidding or bullshitting. Just keep your eyes open it’s all out there.

When are you happiest?

In bed reading with Scout lying beside me. Scout is a 9kg male Black Smoke variant Maine Coon cat so it’s like having a dog that purrs. We love each other. I feel safe, warm and comfortable and can dream of other places, places I’ll visit when we can travel again.

And where does your creativity go?

Into everything I do and am.

 

What’s your philosophy of living?

I don’t think too hard about that. Don’t get wound up about small stuff. Tell the truth and shame the devil. Stand up for what you believe in but question everything. You don’t get owt for nowt so be prepared to pay the price. Love with all your heart, if the loved one turns out to be shit that’s their karma. Women should always have money of their own and men should give up trying to control everything. Children are our most precious resource, don’t spoil or hurt them. Don’t use children as props to your ego or weapons against your partner. Respect your Elders, you don’t have to like them but they gave you life. Be polite.  Swear if you feel like it. Let your hair go grey and be proud of it because it’s two fingers up at Society that says we should be ashamed of being old.

It’s just part of the journey. We all die. I’ll make an end of it myself if I’m too ill to go on with dignity like my father did. At least I hope I’ll be that brave. There’s nothing to fear in dying, just try to do as much as you can prior. Think of it as the end of the summer holidays and that bright shore waiting.And dying?

Are you still dreaming?

Every day.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

My entire existence is an outrage to many so I don’t have to do anything special.

AofA People: Tim Hutton – multi-instrumentalist/producer/songwriter


10 Minute Read

Tim Hutton, 59, is a multi-instrumentalist (self-taught guitarist, bassist and drummer as well as a brass and piano player) producer/songwriter. He’s toured with many high profile bands like Dexy’s to Fela Kuti, Groove Armada to Amy Winehouse and Prodigy plus written songs and recorded as a vocalist or instrumentalist for several others.

What age are you?

59 and a half. As I approach each new decade for some reason I start straining at the bit, only to arrive there, cast my eye around and wish I could leave. Next year I’ll be thinking about subtracting at least five years off in answer to this question. Seriously though, I feel kind of relaxed about being a 60-year-old. It’s the new 40 – maybe I’ll achieve the kind of gravitas we were originally all supposed to get when we hit that age.

Where do you live?

I live in Leeds. I met my lovely now ex-partner, with whom I have a nine-year-old son when I was in the middle of a tour in 2002, and we had a night off in Leeds (I was living in London then, as I did for 30 years). I made a lot of friends that night and used to love visiting for fun times. Eventually, about five years later we properly got together, and as I was at a kind of crossroads with things generally at the time, and it wasn’t an option for her to move down, I made the move up. We ended up living ten miles out of town in Guiseley and I absolutely hated it. We however loved each other and had a son, which gave me a very concrete reason to be up there, and when we split up, very amicably, I had the opportunity to move back into the centre of Leeds, which was always what I liked. I’m an urban kind of, um, spaceman. I’m very happy about my new situation there, which I’ve been in now for nearly three years. I’ve been looking after my son a lot of the time this last year, it’s been fabulous.

What do you do?

I’m a musician – songwriter, singer, instrumentalist, arranger, producer. I do productions and sessions from my set up at home. I play live and tour with an array of bands, most currently being my band Doghouse Derelicts, of which more later; Dub Pistols, which I’ve been part of for 20 years now, and play mainly brass but sometimes bass or guitar live and all 3 on recordings. Above and Beyond, whose acoustic/semi orchestral tours I have played on without exception over the last 10 years, taking in venues like Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood Bowl and Sydney Opera House and playing the trumpet, trombone, French horn, guitar, keys, tuned percussion and vocals (they call me the Octopus); and also Red Snapper, for whom I’m playing the odd gig (when they happen) playing the guitar, and I travel wherever needed for other sessions and writing gigs. I’ve got writing/singing/playing credits with people like the Prodigy, Ian Brown, Amy Winehouse, Groove Armada, etc.

What’s it like being your age?

I’m finding this upcoming shift into my seventh decade quite profound, slightly terrifying and kind of beautiful. I’m starting to feel very differently about my place in the world, and how I go about things, how I handle and present myself, and how I’d like to be remembered. I’m being forced, this time, to think about eating and exercising correctly through likely impending type 2 diabetes, following my dad and his dad before me at roughly the same age – it’s yet to kick in though so I think I can do loads to offset its arrival. I also seem to be totally reappraising my approach to being in relationships (I’m not in one) and what I want out of life in that area.

What do you have now what you didn’t at age 25?

On a material level, it’s the means and knowledge to create fully produced music on my own equipment – something very few people could achieve when I was that age, and also clearly very useful to me, and something I fantasized about in younger days, and on a personal level an awful lot more confidence and sense of self than I had then.

What about sex?

Sex is taking a back seat for me right now. I’m not really communicating with the sexual part of myself – at all – through active choice. I was an absolute hound for sex and drugs on tour and off for a good couple of decades and I just need to give the whole thing a rest, and it feels great, and incredibly energising. I don’t think about sex at all when I’m alone. I appreciate a pretty girl when I see one but that’s where it ends. I guess lockdown has something to do with it, but I welcome it.

And relationships?

Since splitting with the mother of my 9 year old, I’ve had three very short-lived relationships, all of which ended with the feeling that I would just prefer to be on my own. I’m not saying I’ll never be in one, but I don’t want any more of that type of brief and ultimately disappointing scenario, and I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my own company so I’m not going to be persuaded without being absolutely steamrollered by an incredibly deep and beautiful connection with someone. I look forward to that happening, I just don’t expect it any time soon.

How free do you feel?

Personally, I feel very free. The freedom to do what I enjoy and am good at in order to survive; and the freedom to be the person I am, or want to be. The one proviso to this would be Brexit, which seems to be disastrous for touring prospects in Europe so far – the source of a significant chunk of income annually, up to now.

What are you proud of?

Mainly my boys. My elder two have turned out to be such lovely and capable people whom I really admire, who have both pursued careers of their choice in and around music (I tried to warn ‘em haha!) – my eldest Jake is a sound engineer and drummer who works with Edwyn Collins and others (he engineered David Gray’s last album) and Liam has been a pro drummer since a very early age and has a string of credits to his name (also Edwyn, plus Neneh Cherry, Mabel, and a constantly growing list of new bands and producers), and my youngest is just incredible – so talented in any direction he chooses, but he’s only nine so has yet to set his course, and I’m not pressuring him – but he loves performing, is very musical, very literate, quite sporty, and so comfortable in front of a camera in a way I just wasn’t. He amazes me every day.

What keeps you inspired?

People I meet and spend time with, changing circumstances keeps me inspired and on my toes, movies and books, new and old, familiar and unfamiliar music, instruments and players; and a little bit of mild (not skunk) weed. I don’t drink and I’ve stopped everything else.

When are you happiest?

When I’m with my boys.

Where does your creativity go?

Probably fairly obvious by now I’ll have to say music – I do also like writing, and want to write a book sometime before I expire – but I haven’t really found an outlet for that yet, or given much time to it. My mum was a writer, with the pen name Barbara Whitnell, and was prolific, and I’ve inherited some of that urge for sure. Her Dad (whom I never knew) was a keen musician, and that’s the bug that got me.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Treat everyone as you would be treated yourself, and find what it is you want to do, and pursue it doggedly. Don’t be put off by fear of the consequences and playing safe if that’s what you really want to do, be serious about it and go for it – the rewards will be great. Ok, I’m a single 60-year-old man living in a flat in Leeds, but don’t judge…

And dying?

Death is looming large for me at this very moment, as my Mum died last week…I don’t fear my own death at all, but I fear the deaths of those I love. However, for my Mum, it was a blessed release in many ways, and she was in no discomfort at the end – and suddenly she’s no longer the small, helpless, isolated old thing she’s been for the last year, unable to speak the words she wanted to after a stroke four years ago, she’s gone but suddenly in our hearts and minds she’s the person she was in her prime again, and we can forget her trials of the recent past. I guess I’ll say that death is inescapable, and part of life for us all. I don’t know if there’s anything afterwards – the science-minded will say definitely not, but consciousness itself hasn’t been properly located anywhere in the brain, so…if there is, wow! If there isn’t, I shan’t be bothered, clearly.

Are you still dreaming?

Oh god yes. I’m dreaming like a mf most nights, usually, there’s a festival, a gig, a party or my kids in my dreams, and a lot of repeating themes – one being that there’s an amazing gig I’m about to do, but I either can’t get to the stage, or I do and I realise I don’t know the parts, or I’m not plugged in, and usually the gig never gets started. But I’m also still dreaming in terms of ambitions in life – I have dreams for my boys and me, – and Doghouse Derelicts, the band that I started seven years ago with my northern dwelling, bass playing compadre in the Dub Pistols Dave Budgen. We have started at last attracting interest from people offering opportunities to take it where we wanted to – we haven’t played the industry game at all, concentrating on creating and releasing tunes and playing live (when we can), and finally people are coming to us. Our dreams are big, and we’re worthy of them.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

Hmm, tough one…I haven’t done much outrageous stuff recently – my last outrageous action was about 15 years ago, when I knocked a ridiculously overzealous bouncer out onstage at an Ian Brown gig in San Francisco, and a picture of me looking like Muhammed Ali (I’m very far from it!) ended up on two pages of the NME! More recently I’m afraid I’m struggling to think of anything. I’ve done some outrageous long-distance drives after gigs on very little or no sleep, that I wouldn’t advise anyone else doing. Sorry, that’s all I’ve got or all I’m saying…

The King of the Streets


9 Minute Read

He was an English vagabond whose name was John.

I’d seen him sauntering through the winding, narrow cobbled streets of Trastevere for all the years I’d lived in that quarter of Rome. Thirty-two years, from 1978 to 2010. Sometimes he disappeared for a whole season and I wondered where he got to and would he ever come back? He always came back.

When I first came across him he was a tall, strong man in his late twenties, I supposed. He had piercing hazel eyes, an uncombed mop of brown hair, and not bad looking, although dishevelled given his lifestyle. From my third-floor window, I would watch him energetically drag a cart topped with rags to the rag-and-bone man, or iron to the iron-monger down my street, who would give him a few coins for his wares. He also collected discarded magazines and books, and I’d hear him mutter in a voice loud enough to be heard by all: “Books are for reading not for throwing away,” over and over again on his way to another customer who might buy something off him.

In time, his back became a little curved and his step became less brisk as he dragged his cart of wares to sell. But eventually, the ironmonger, rag-and-bone-man and others like them disappeared to make way for upmarket restaurants and a plethora of bars advertising Happy Hour drinks in tall glasses topped with little Chinese paper umbrellas, and Giovanni lost his customers

A gregarious man he could often be found lounging on the chipped marble steps of the 16th-century fountain of Santa Maria in Trastevere. He’d get to see a sea of people strolling by or taking the sun on the steps, and engaged some in conversation. His Italian was severely flawed, but he could make himself understood. He liked to flirt with the women who sometimes stopped to chat with him.

In years he became known as the King of the Street, and was well-liked by the clergy and staff connected to the medieval basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere.

The church has a long tradition of charitable work, and the Christmas lunch in the shaded basilica’s nave, where incense perfumed the air, a cornucopia of festive foods is set on folding wood tables placed on the Cosmati marble floor under 13th century gilded mosaics of saints, cherubs and doves, is a well-attended ritual by the many ragged, the desperate, the maimed and lost. Clustered together they compose a living work of art that mirrors a Baroque painting. As steaming plastic plates piled with pasta topped with garlicky sweet tomato sauce were passed around, Giovanni, as he was known, presided over these banquets as master of ceremonies.

There would even be an occasional piece about him in a Rome newspaper, defining him as the head of the homeless and telling some small story about him.  For days afterwards, he’d proudly show everyone the article.

“Guarda, guarda, sono io,” Look, look it’s me he pointed out in very English accented Italian.

Seasons slipped by. He now had a grey beard, his brown winter coat was in tatters, the navy-blue wool cap he wore when the weather turned cold, covered a mop of salt-and-pepper hair. But always he was cheerful, and, indisputably, still the sovereign of the streets. I didn’t know where his small change came from. He never begged.

The last time I saw him was on the balmy evening of the full moon in April of 2010. He was sitting on the steps of Santa Maria della Luce, a church in Via della Lungaretta. The narrow street, which leads from the main drag (Viale di Trastevere) to Piazza Santa Maria, was crowded with loud Romans, curious tourists, rampaging youths and the ubiquitous gypsies and derelicts: bums, vagrants, beggars on crutches, winos sucking at plastic cups filled with cheap liquor, swaying emaciated junkies with their cluster of dogs. Mingling with the cacophony of human voices screeching bats whizzed overhead.

Giovanni looked eerie and far away in his private world, and hardly his usual jovial self. I’d never seen him in this mood, or state. His hefty calves were bandaged below the dingy khaki trousers he’d pulled over his meaty knees, and infected boils and sores showed over the gauze. He was staring intensely at the huge moon, his eyes were aglow with the fire of insanity. Where will he sleep tonight, I wondered? In a dilapidated sleeping bag placed on cartons under the awnings of some supermarket, as so many of the street people do, or in a crowded dormitory the Caritas charity offered?

Shortly after this encounter, I left Rome

It was a chilly, grey evening at the end of October of 2011. I was on the 91 bus, going home after a guitar lesson at City Lit. The atmosphere on the half-full London bus was tranquil, but then at the next stop, a visible shift took place amongst the passenger as an overpowering plume of an odious pong wafted through the air. A pulse of agitated movement shivered through the travellers. People looked up from their mobiles, The Evening Standard, their babies in pushchairs, their reveries and meditations.

Enveloped in malodour, a heavy-set, grey-bearded man, wearing a navy-blue wool cap over his white hair boarded the bus. Wrapped in an ill-fitting sheep-skin jacket, carrying a stained canvas sack that overflowed with stuff stuffed in plastic bags, he limped past me and sat down next to the woman behind me. She quickly said, excuse me, got up and took another seat at the rear-end of the bus. It can’t be, I must be hallucinating, I thought, and turned around to look at him again, and yes, I recognised him

“Are you John from Rome?” I asked.

“I’m Giovanni, from Trastevere,” he replied firmly.  I got up to sit next to him.

“What are you doing here?”  I asked, astounded. He had to leave, he said.

“I lost all my friends in Rome,” was as much information as I could get from him. He said he didn’t want to talk about it as it was too painful.

I knew that for some years now, Alemanno, Rome’s fascist mayor, had been cleaning the streets and piazzas of the street people. Police swooped down on them, asked to see identity papers and shifted them back to wherever they came from. I suspected that Giovanni had finally been given his marching orders by the Italian authorities also and shipped back to his native England.

He hates London, he said. “You can just die here and no one cares. When my mummy and daddy died they couldn’t have cared less. I was shocked to see how cold and nasty people can be. That’s when I moved to Rome. The people there are warm.”

What kind of mommy and daddy did this man have? What kind of childhood? What brought him to the streets? I can only guess.

With a bitter expression on his timeworn face, he continued telling me how awful it was for him to be in London. “If I don’t die soon I’ll kill myself.” A man who had basked in the Rome sunshine now looked as grey as the London weather.

“Where do you live?” I asked.

“In a prison,” he said with scorn. Which probably means one of those desperate hostels for desperate people like him. I’d heard it’s a hell on earth.

“See you in heaven next time we meet,” he said as I got off the bus.

Should I have invited him to my home? Had him take a shower? Fed him? I couldn’t do this; I wasn’t strong enough to take on the mammoth task of befriending him.

I didn’t know what to make of this startling encounter, and later that evening consulted the I Ching: “What is the significance of my bumping into Giovanni?”

Hexagram 8 – Union.

The waters of the earth flow together wherever they can, as for example in the ocean, where all the rivers come.

Giovanni, I think, must be the vagrant in me.

November 14, 2011

Two weeks later Giovanni got on the bus again. This time he recognised me. “I met you the last time, didn’t I?” He said as he sat down next to me; I tried to handle the stench. The young guy who was standing near me moved off. We chatted, again he told me how much he hates it here, how uncaring people are.

He grumbled about the state of things. “We have become American,” he said disparagingly. He complained about the government and the Royal Family. “What good do they do? Do you know how rich they are?”

“In Rome, they have the rich Vatican,” I said.

“Don’t confuse the two, the Vatican is about spirituality, the Royal family is just about making money. What do they do for the people?” He might have another point, I thought and was glad when the bus reached my stop.

April 24th – 2012

On my way home from a visit to the British Museum, I stopped to have a coffee on the terrace of the cafeteria in Russell Square Park. Spring sunrays spilled over the leafy tops of towering plane trees, flowerbeds, shrubs, happy dogs, nervous pigeons and an eclectic array of people sitting on wooden benches around the fountain or sprawled on the green lawns in this oasis of tranquillity. I knew I was privileged to be here.

Then, I made my way to the nearest bus stop, and who did I see sitting there?  Giovanni. I did not want to stop and have another conversation with him; I did not want to hear his unhappy and bitter story again. I didn’t feel that there was anything I could do for him, so I walked to the next stop, got on the next 91 bus, and was relieved he was not on it.

The next time I saw him was from the bus’ window. He was sitting on his own at a pavement café in Kingsway; his canvas sack and other plastic bags at his side.

And then some ten days later, again from the bus’ window, I saw him sitting at an outdoor café near Euston Station, talking to what seemed like another homeless friend.

I was pleased to see he was in company. He was, after all, a gregarious chap.

And again! On a cold afternoon in February 2013, I saw Giovanni near the Angel Underground. What to say?

I am aware that only a thin line separates Giovanni and me, and that there, but for the grace of God, go I

AofA People: Mat Fraser – Actor, Writer, Musician


4 Minute Read

Mat Fraser is a disabled actor, writer, and musician, who’s been in American Horror Story: Freak Show, His Dark Materials, Silent Witness, and played Richard III on stage in 2017. His writing has been sometimes awarded, and recently, published.

His solo show “Cabinet of Curiosities: How Disability Was Kept in a Box”, won the UK’s Observer Ethical Award for Arts & Entertainment 2014, and he wrote the ONEOFUS production of “Jack & The Beanstalk”, for which the New York Times awarded him and his director/performer wife Julie Atlas Muz “New Yorkers of the Year” 2018.

Mat was thrilled when BBC Arts commissioned him to curate the series of monologues around Disability, “CripTales”, for BBC 4 & BBC America, also writing & acting in one of the pieces,“Audition.” Mat believes that authentic disabled voices and faces are vital in liberating narrative and portrayal of disability, and mainstream life in Society.

Mat is currently working with a TV company on an anthology of 30 min dramas around disability, written by and starring disabled people. He’s also practising his triplet and quadruplet rolls hard, for that ever-elusive drumming gig.

Age (in years)

58

Where do you live?

On the China Walk Estate, Lambeth Walk, OI! London

What do you do?

Writer,  actor, and occasional these days only, musician

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

Quintupsensually OK, good for knowledge, knowing myself, knowing answers, knowing what to say and do in most circumstances, hard for losing my fitness and superb body, harder work needed to maintain, harder to be relegated to irrelevant by the young without becoming hateful toward them, weird to know you’ve lived more than half your life now… I’ve always totally ignored many of Society’s stupid rules and acting my age is one of them, I just act the age I feel, and I’m still having a ball. Speaking of balls, yes they hang lower but oh boy do I get pleasure from them. Luckily no lumps yet.

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

Knowledge. Money. Dwelling. Experience, marriage & thus consolidated partner happiness, pensions in my sights, an inability to suffer fools gladly, intolerance, a knee replacement, white pubes, scars, gut, a hernia mesh, regrets, resistance bands, a mobile phone, a computer, a shitty Wi-Fi deal with Virgin, an electric toothbrush, arthritis, people skills.

What about sex?

Yes, can’t go hard at it for quite as long as I used to, but still, have lots of great sex….1st lockdown we made a home porno for fun…an urgent sexual response to the weird feelings, but then it dissipated..luckily it has returned for a decent regular sex life, offscreen.

And relationships?

Long term, loving, happy. THE BEST thing about growing older is the amount of time you’ve known your friends, and how much more meaningful those friendships become with time….being a friend online to people alone, important, parents included…

How free do you feel?

Free to be me, unfettered by mainstream opinions, State propaganda, but I’m stiff and in arthritic pain now too so less free in my body.

What are you proud of?  

CripTales, my body, helping other disabled people get work, taking care of my Mum, my black belt when I was 38, my disability and lived experience giving me insight into what others miss, Jeremy Corbyn, BLM, #metoo…

What keeps you inspired?  

My continued need for ever-elusive righteous justice and equality for disabled people.

When are you happiest?

When I’ve just written “The End”

And where does your creativity go?

Scripts, songs.

What’s your philosophy of living?

Try to be kind, question everything you are told, stay fit, enjoy life, fuck the system but cleverly so no one notices, be an agent provocateur at all times creatively, do unto others etc.

And dying?

Yeah well, it’s gonna happen, but I’m trying to put it off.

Are you still dreaming?

Yes, of greater achievements, love, and care, a better Society, a Democratic Socialist Government, an Oscar, growing into a really old age with Julie by my side.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

Bottomless Zooms, commissioning 7 disabled writers, scoring £300 worth of weed because of lockdown.

The Culture Interview – Glen Colson, 72, music PR


5 Minute Read

Glen Colson, 72, is an ex-music PR – his clients have included Lindisfarne, Ian Dury, Kokomo, and Elvis Costello. I always remember Glen as a prankster PR who was interested in the ‘craic’ more than the selling of records. He worked for Stiff Records at one point, and re-papered the NME’s editor’s office walls with Costello’s new album cover. He has just published the book of his life as a music PR and typically, it’s called Nefarious. Although I think Glen was more hilarious than nefarious! He’s now more into his bamboo growth… Nefarious is available here – www.glencolson.com

I didn’t realize that your mum and dad ran the Magdala Tavern in Hampstead?

 I lived at the Magdala Tavern for 19 years.  In 1958 Ruth Ellis murdered a racing driver outside the pub and became the last woman in England to be hung. 

And you come from a long line of Kent publicans?

Yes, all my uncles had pubs in Margate.  My uncle Bob’s pub, The Dog and Duck, was the biggest, right on the seafront.  I was born in the Princess of Wales which is opposite Dreamland.

Tell us a bit about drumming and you? How come you didn’t end up as a drummer rather than a PR?

I have been drumming since the age of 10 and had lessons with Frank King, a famous tutor in Archer Street, W1.  The reason I didn’t end up drumming as a career was that I couldn’t find any like-minded musicians in Hampstead growing up and fell into PR at the age of 21 and never looked back.  Only drumming after that for pleasure.

You used to frequent La Chasse, a private members club for the music industry, in the 70s?

The Chasse was a private members club in Wardour Street where the Charisma office would relax after a hard day’s work. It was frequented by musicians and roadies from all the great bands of the day, including Marmalade, The Nice, The Searchers, Fleetwood Mac, David Bowie, Keith Moon, and Stan Webb.

And your tutor in PR, Terry The Pill?

Terry the Pill was a villain who sold pills to the Beatles in Hamburg and then managed Eric Burdon and ended up becoming the fly poster King of London.

Oh and your stay in NYC which included being asked to dance by the great Pattie Smith? Which, of course, was at a party hosted by Frank Zappa in 1976.

In 1976, I spent 18 months living in Manhattan, sleeping on Chris Charlesworth from the Melody Maker’s sofa before getting a job with the rock manager Pete Rudge.  He managed The Stones and The Who.  I had originally arrived from the US to promote a Van der Graff Generator date at the Beacon Theatre. 

Glen Colson
Keith Allen, Jock Scot, Neneh Cherry, and Glen

Tell us a few Stiff tales…

My favourite Stiff anecdote took place when waiting outside the offices for a coach on the 5 live Stiffs tour. 

A robbery took place on the opposite side of the road at the house of Tracey Ullman.  The perpetrator fled along Alexander Street and was pursued by an entire coach load of Stiffs and finally being tackled to the ground by none other than Nick Lowe.  

Who was your favourite behind-the-scenes character in the music biz? 

The funniest guy I ever met in the music business was Tony Ashton who was a Hammond organ player who was originally with the Remo Four from Liverpool.  He later formed on Ashton, Gardener and Dyke who recorded ‘Resurrection Shuffle’ famously covered by Elvis Presley. Tony always drank his beer from the water jug. 

How did you meet Keith and Kevin Allen? And I guess there were a few japes in those years?

I first met Keith when he played the Albany Empire and latterly met his brother Kevin when I intervened in the two of them brawling in a club in Convent Garden.  I ended up waking up the next morning with a black eye for my troubles. I recount many tales of the Allen brothers in Nefarious.

Glen Colson
Andy Paley, Glen, and Brian Wilson

And then there was the spirited, gifted Kirsty MacColl?

Kirsty was a close friend who I sorely miss.

I like your honesty about Trinidad and ‘the local lovely’ who made off with your shoes, shirt and shorts after sex following your claim that you ‘had no cash on you’.

This event took place in a Trinidadian nightclub when I made the mistake of picking up a girl who unbeknownst to me turned out to be a hooker who demanded money from me when we entered my hotel room and then made off with all my clothes when I was sleeping.

And the Viv Stanshall years? You seemed to genuinely like him?

After drumming sting with the Bonzos in 1969, Viv became my mentor who I would work with for the next 25 years.

Although not Ian Dury, who seemed famously tricky?

I worked with Ian Dury when he was in The Kilburns and latterly The Blockheads, although, he could be a very tricky customer who had a wicked tongue.  From time to time I would feel the lashing from it.

I guess I can’t miss out The Warwick in Portobello which is where I know you from. What a place! The characters.

After starting to work with Keith Allen, he introduced me to his local pub The Warwick Castle in Portobello Road. The pub was brim-full of Runyonesque characters, murderers, thieves, actors, musicians, market traders, dustmen, and alcoholics. The landlord, Seamus Costello specialised in pigs trotters and pints of Guinness. 

What are your reflections now on music PR at that time?

I have absolutely no interest in it whatsoever.

And how did you get into gardening?

I have always loved and been fascinated by growing things ever since I planted my first tulip bulb in a window box as a young boy. Many years later I was lucky enough to be accepted as a volunteer at Kew Gardens. After taking an RHS course in Horticulture at Twickenham College, I spent ten years at Kew working in various departments until my retirement five years ago.

AofA People: Mychael Owen – Brand Builder


5 Minute Read

“Mychael Owen has built 10 brands of his own and has advised some of the world’s biggest brands – at board level – how to build theirs.
In his late 40’s, Mychael ‘wiped the slate clean’ and closed all his businesses to pursue what he felt he was born to.
These days, Mychael ‘Builds Braver Brands’ with his new agency mychael.co.uk, writes daily stories (3650 stories, 1 each day, for 10 years) at 50odd.co.uk and leads global clothing brand Always Wear Red as they build their reputation for creating The Best Hand Knits In The World.”

What do you do?

What I am born to do.

www.50odd.co.uk.
www.alwayswearred.com
www.mychael.co.uk

 

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

It’s OK.

I am aware of the brick wall, though.

The end.

Death.

But I am also aware that I will live for 1000 months only.

That’s it.

So I live bravely.

That’s why I closed down a raft of 7 figure turnover companies that I’d built when I was 46.

To do what I was born to do.

I thought that I’d better hurry up as I’d used 600 months or so doing shite that didn’t really matter.

Working with (some) people I didn’t really like.

It’s much nicer doing things that do matter.

And working with nice people.

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

A daughter.

Izzy Willow.

Izobel is 4.

Insights that make judgement and comparison with and from others less powerful.

A determination to see just one film as I lie on my deathbed.

Most people see two.

The film they were in.

And the film they wish they had been in.

I am determined just to see just one.

The one I want to be in.

And what about sex?

It happens quite a bit.

Actually no, wait.

There has to actually be someone else there with you doesn’t there?

No.

It doesn’t happen much.

And relationships?

I’m with Lisa.

Lisa puts up with me very well.

And is probably much more important than I imagine.

How free do you feel?

Interesting question.

Always Wear Red is a business that defines me most accurately.

Always Wear Red is the best hand knits in the world.

For the most important times of your life.

Your downtime.

It’s your permission to pause.

I believe in 8/8/8.

8 hour working (on something you love).

8 hours of sleeping.

8 hours free.

For pausing.

Because the time you do nothing can mean everything.

All of that (albeit authentic) brand-speak aside.

I am not as free as I could be.

But that might be OK, as it goes.

I’m not sure.

Freedom in of itself is not valuable.

What you do with it, is.

What are you proud of?

Izobel.

Always Wear Red.

Not turning into either my dad or my stepdad.

Both of whom were cnuts (conscious misspell).

What keeps you inspired?

Tomorrow.

And Izobel.

When are you happiest?

Mornings.

When Izobel is laughing.

And where does your creativity go?

Everywhere.

I imagine a world I want to live – and then I live it.

And I insist on people around me being endlessly free-thinking and creative.

I want them to think and behave in a blurty, Tourettes kind of way.

I assertively remove anyone that erodes the creativity inside anyone or anything with a great degree of determination and focus.

Creativity is breathing.

I can think of not one scenario where it’s inclusion would make anything less good.

What is your philosophy of living?

Life is nothing about what you do.
Life is all about what you are for.

And this… generosity is the most powerful driver of preeminence and leading an exceptional life.

Because generosity leads to a feeling of value and self-worth.

And value and self-worth lead to confidence.

And confidence leads to excellence, preeminence, and leading an exceptional life.

I see this as very straight forward.

And dying?

It makes me very, very sad.

And urgent.

I’m still processing death as a notion.

I plan to avoid it if I can.

If I ever meet God.

(Which I won’t.

Because she doesn’t exist.

But if she did).

I’d encourage her to leave the death bit out.

To create both love and death in the same lifetime is the cruelest idea.

Are you still dreaming?

Yes.

Always.

It is food to me.

Imagination and creativity are everything.

Research shows that judgment and comparison begin to erode dreams and creativity at the age of 5.

We rediscover dreaming and creating as we get older.

Because we remove the two aforementioned blockers more effectively as we celebrate (and indeed crave) our uniqueness more confidently.

I could run, growling into every day.

Desperate to dream and do at every juncture.

And take everyone with me, too.

What was a recent outrageous action of yours?

I appeared on a TV programme where a psychologist was placed with me and my team for a week.

His intention was to bond us so closely that we’d come to work naked on the Friday.

This was pilot show for Virgin 1 TV channel relaunched.

They asked.

I said yes.

3 million people saw it in year one.

10m+ to date.

Being filmed driving 10 miles to work with an A to Z on your willy is.

Err.

Interesting.

(And cold).

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