A selection of stories for the Bracknell Standard and Reading Post
November 18, 2012, 11:26 pm
Filed under: Interviews, Journalism

Here’s a snapshot of some of the stories I have written in the last couple of months – for more just click on my name on each story.

Gold medallist Beth Tweddle pays tribute to Pinewood coach Fergus Beedham

Friends of Sir Jimmy Savile’s shock at abuse allegations

‘Reclusive’ man could have taken overdose

Mum with 24 pets calls for tougher laws after firework near miss

Stepfather jailed for breaking baby’s legs

Crowthorne Women’s Institute calls for hearing loop because members cannot hear meetings

Bracknell burglars who ransacked vulnerable man’s home jailed

Drug addict kept stun gun for ‘protection’

Family of killed motorcyclist back campaign for tougher sentences for death drivers

Family of teen “living on borrowed time” appeal for donations to take him to Disneyland

Oh and here’s a review of a lovely tea barge!


Five minutes with Kyla La Grange
October 9, 2012, 8:56 pm
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: ,

I’ve been working as news editor for ThisFestivalFeeling.com since January but two weeks ago moved over to music editor of KettleMag.com. I’ve been to a gig or two since then and set up some interviews.

My first interview has just been published and it’s with Kyla La Grange. Read it here.

Lady Sandra Howard feature

Although I am doing work experience in Devon, I thought I would share with you a feature I wrote on work experience the week before Christmas.

I had to ring Lady Sandra Howard and interview her and here’s what I came up with:

LADY Howard is best known as wife of former Conservative MP, now Baron Michael Howard.

But in recent years she has been making her own name writing women’s novels and as a freelance journalist.

Following successful novels Glass Houses, Ursula’s Story and A Matter of Loyalty, she is working on a fourth, Ex-Wives, to be released in April.

Her busy schedule also includes the role of president of The East Kent Breast Cancer Mammography Appeal.

She told the Gazette she was “delighted” to be asked to take on this role.

The 71-year-old grandmother said: “This appeal is so important and we’re really going for the final push.”

The appeal has so far raised over £720,000 towards a £1.2 million target which has meant three machines which diagnose breast cancer earlier have been bought for Canterbury, Margate and Ashford hospitals.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK and almost 46,000 cases are diagnosed every year.

Jean Byers, chairman of the appeal, said: “We are very honoured that Lady Howard agreed to be our appeal president.

“After a long and varied career as a wife, mother, model and writer we are pleased she agreed to give us her support.”

Thanks to the appeal, the trust was able to buy the machines at a bulk buy price.

Rupert Williamson, fundraising manager for East Kent Hospitals, said: “We have had fantastic support and further promises of golf days and coffee mornings with the appeal still running.”

At Kent & Canterbury Hospital, more than £215,000 has been raised by the League of Friends.

As well as her involvement in this appeal, Lady Howard is a trustee of Addaction, a drug and alcohol treatment charity and vice-president of NCYPE, providing care for young people with epilepsy.

She recently travelled to Jordan and is off to Vietnam in a month, writing for the Mail on Sunday.

The writer said: “My favourite place is Africa, especially Zambia as I spent time there as a child.”

Her father was an Air Force doctor who was often posted overseas.

One of two children, she spent a lot of her childhood travelling with her parents while her older sister Carma went to boarding school in England.

Carma, who lived in South Africa, died from a stroke on New Year’s Eve three years ago.
At the time, the bereaved wrote “I’ve lost a uniquely wonderful sister” in a tribute describing her regret at not being close to her in adult life.

The mother-of-three married Michael, her fourth husband, 36 years ago.
Now that Baron Howard is no longer an MP, the couple are enjoying spending time “seeing the world.”

Sandra revealed: “We love travelling and making the most of our time.”

However the pair will spend Christmas at their home in Lympne.

Mrs Howard added: “We have all the neighbours over on Christmas Eve then a quieter Christmas day.

“I’ll see some family over Christmas but my daughter is married to an American so they will spend it over there.”

The author has three grandchildren and it was always her ambition to write novels after a successful freelancing career.

Interview: Scarlett Wrench, NCTJ Student Journalist of the Year

Scarlett Wrench has just won Student Journalist of the Year at the NCTJ Society of Editors Conference today.  She is 22, from Burgess Hill and studied at Brighton Journalist Works.

I interviewed her about this prestigious award and will publish the article I have written for tomorrow’s Argus on my blog tomorrow.

Congratulations Scarlett. How does it feel to win this award?

I’m very flattered. My award entries were stories I wrote while on my internship with the Crawley Observer, one of my local papers. I owe a lot to the people I was working with there for trusting me to take on some of the bigger stories – rather than just leaving me to make tea and chase up missing cats.

Who was the first person you told when you found out you’d been shortlisted?

I was with my Mum when I found out. She’d been eyeing up the letter for a while, clearly having guessed what it might be. I had no idea what the letter was for when I opened it, so there was no dramatic build-up.

How will you celebrate?

I’ve had a bit too much to celebrate recently – my new job, leaving home for the first time, turning 22… I’ve brought my Grandma to the awards to thank her for paying for my journalism course.

How were you at school?

I was a bit of a swot. I took my work very seriously – maybe too seriously! I wouldn’t say that I enjoyed school and I’m definitely having a better time now that I’m out of it, but I think I made the best of things while I was there.

How was your time studying at Varndean College?

I was a member of the journalism society (there were only two of us, it really wasn’t a very popular club) and I used to draft press releases about college goings-on and send them to the Argus.

What made you want to become a journalist?

I’d probably been reading too many books and had an idea that a career in journalism would be all Hemingway and Hunter S Thompson. Then I went to work on a local paper and quickly realised it wasn’t going to be much like that. Journalism is long hours in front a computer screen, looming deadlines and re-writing the same paragraph five times in one day. But I love it and I don’t even remotely regret going down this path.

How is your job working on Men’s Health?

I love it. It still feels slightly surreal sometimes, to have landed a job like this at a time when finding work is so difficult for people my age. I’m working quite long hours and the commute is a bit wearing, but it’s well worth it. And no one takes me any less seriously because of my age or lack of experience, which I’m grateful for. I’m enjoying the opportunity to work alongside so many talented people and for a publication that has a real chance to affect people’s lives. I’ve always been more drawn to men’s magazines than to magazines aimed at women. On the whole, men’s mags just tend to be funnier, more varied and a little less patronising – I don’t know why that is and I hope it’s not always the case.

What would be your best piece/s of advice to any aspiring journalists?

Get out there and do it. Don’t just learn about it. Get some real-world experience.

What made you choose the NCTJ route rather than university?

I didn’t want to be out of work for two years and end up saddled with a load of debt. I studied for my NCTJ part-time, so I was able to work about 25 hours a week in my local pub at the same time. It helped me retain some kind of independence.

What would you say to anyone thinking that maybe the university route isn’t for them?

Well, I’m no expert, but I think anyone would agree that so long as you work hard, stay focused and persevere in whatever it is you want to do, you can’t go far wrong.

What grades did you get on the NCTJ course?

News Writing was a B. All the others (Law, Public Affairs, Subbing, and the Business of Magazines) were A grades.

What was your favourite portfolio piece?

At Esquire magazine they let me write the contents page for their November issue and it managed to make it past the editor with relatively few changes. It felt very cool to see that in print.

Where was your favourite place to do work experience and why?

Esquire. It’s a magazine I have always enjoyed and admired, and that’s where I caught the ‘subbing bug’. It’s also where I met Emily Miles, who is now production editor at Men’s Health and who recommended me for the job. I owe a lot to Emily and to Esquire’s chief sub Jeremy White for their advice and support.

What do you aspire to do in the future?

I’m not writing much at the moment because I haven’t had the time, so ultimately I’d like to strike a balance between subbing and writing… and maybe be a production editor myself in five years time.

Anything else you would like to add?

If it’s of any interest to you, before I went down the journo route I used to be the lead singer of a band called The Malchicks. In 2007 we released an album in the UK and America, and we toured Europe and Japan. I also worked as a backing singer for cult 60s R&B band The Pretty Things. I’m telling you this because The Argus ran a story on me and the band about four years ago… they might even still have a slightly moody photo of me standing outside Varndean college!

Thanks Scarlett.

Top tips in a tweet for journalists: unstorified
November 9, 2011, 9:58 pm
Filed under: Interviews, Journalism

Thanks to all the people who have checked out my Storify on top tips for aspiring journalists.  I’ve now developed it into a blog post.

Top tips in a tweet for journalists

An experienced and well-respected journalist told me a journalist never stops learning, so this piece is for everyone; from aspiring students to old-hand hacks.

Every journalist knows the importance of a Twitter account.  Where fifteen years ago there was the barrier of phone books to trawl through and PRs to persuade, there is now instant access to news, celebrities and journalists at the click of a mouse.

For some, the overload of jargon; tweets, trends, hashtags is a bit too much to take in at first, but it’s worth getting your head around.  I decided to use Twitter to my advantage and gather some top tips from top journalists, while networking and gaining followers at the same time.

“Be agile, creative and interested. Network on and offline.” @egrommet

Michael Taggart, former national newspaper hack turned blogger, and Head of Digital and Social at PR Company MRM said: “There are three types of journalist – brilliant, lucky and poor. None start the former and all start the latter.”  It’s evident that if journalists want to succeed, they have to start at the bottom.

Richard Morris, a journalist from Sussex said: “Pick a different career! Or make sure you make you CV stand out with work experience and blogs etc.”  For those still on board, the prevailing message from journalists was make sure that your CV is accurate and that you get writing and get as much experience as possible.

George Hopkin, a journalist based in Dubai who is a whizz on all things digital, suggested that you create your own opportunities and also: “Set up a tumblr and curate news/links for the beat or sector in which you’d like to score a gig.”

Richard Kendall, web editor for Peterborough Evening Telegraph said: “I’d say, look online at local, national, global publishers: plenty of examples of new methods of communicating, storytelling.”

There is a new way of communicating born each day and most of the online tools are very simple to use and can connect through your Twitter or Facebook.

Laura Oliver, community coordinator of news for Guardian.co.uk said: “Experiment (lots) with how you tell stories now (tools, media, format) and find out where your strengths and interests lie.”

Make the most of free digital tools to yet yr journalism out there.” @JTownend  

Try Storify or tumblr to get you started.

Joanna Geary, Communities Editor, for The Times said “Experiment! (Even if the results aren’t great first time)”

A real buzz word in answers was one we are all familiar with – network.  Hannah Swindon, journalist and sub-editor from Brighton said “Network furiously. You’ll either get good advice, a great story or gain a friend.”

Sarah Booker, acting web editor for The Argus and social media buff, said: “Network, listen and teach yourself new tricks. Build contacts and be willing to learn as much as possible.”

There was a tip of what to do once you’ve got the contacts from Richard Godwin, Evening Standard columnist and Evening Standard Magazine contributing editor, who said: “Ask the rude questions but remain respectful; don’t show off; be as clear as you can; and your secret weapon is kindness.”

“Never take no for an answer and be persistent, always.” @alice_emily

Of course, there were several answers relating to writing and style with freelance writer and author Roxy Freeman explained: “Write for a reason: Make sure you know the purpose of your piece before you put pen to paper.”

“Find your own voice and keep writing, the more the better.” @LaLuminata

Stop aspiring and start writing was the prevailing message from freelance business journalist and author of ‘This is Social Media, Guy Clapperton, who said: “Stop aspiring and write – get your first commission as quickly as possible so you can say you’re a journalist.”

“Write with passion. Care about the truth.” @russbravo

“Be curious, build your brand, follow your passion, network, spellcheck :)” @suellewellyn

My favourite tweet came from ‘Gaz the Journo,’ editor of The West Londoner, who said: “learn to drink until sunrise without showing the effects. (or buy a Dictaphone!)”

Luckily I have a Dictaphone, maybe it’s time for anyone who hasn’t to invest in one!

Finally Jon Slattery, freelance journalist said: “Listen and learn from those journalists who are more experienced than you but stay true to yourself and don’t get too cynical.”

Twitter is excellent in terms of journalism in the way it is the perfect practice for cutting out unnecessary words and being concise.

Thank you to all the journalists who tweeted me some very helpful advice.


Interview: Jamie Finn
September 4, 2011, 9:03 pm
Filed under: Interviews | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Following last night’s No-Wave Social Club, I’ve been chatting to No-Wave curator Jamie Finn, 24.  Yesterday evening, the DJ played a variety of danceable favourites at the Farmhouse, resulting in a happily heaving dance floor.

Alongside his final year of studies at Kent Uni, Jamie has a massive presence on the social scene of Canterbury, as resident DJ and promoter at Indiecate, a monthly night at the Attic and curator of No-Wave.  As well as playing other slots in bars between here and Brighton, he is the editor of a new magazine which he also does design work for.  Read on to find out more details of this new mag, as well as some exciting stuff coming up in Canterbury, as well as recommendations from the innovative fellow…

What brought you to Canterbury from Liverpool?

Well, University I guess. I visited Canterbury on an open day and really liked it here. The uni also offered a year abroad which in the end I did not take but that helped. The inevitable deciding factor was its distance from Liverpool. I wasn’t enjoying being in the city anymore and going to probably the furthest away city in England appealed to me.

What’s your favourite venue, a) as a punter, b) as a DJ?

Locally? My favourite place to go is the Farmhouse – really different music and a great crowd. As for DJing, you can’t beat The Venue for equipment but without being too obvious, I’ve been doing Indiecate for so long that I get a really good response from the crowd. It’s always so much fun.

What do you think about Canterbury’s nightlife and social scene? Is there anything you would like to see change?

If you’d have asked me this a few months ago I would have definitely said live music was missing but with Indiecate putting on live bands and No-Wave likely to do the same, (as well as a few other new exciting events coming,) I think this year is going to be loaded. I am personally in the process of putting together a live music week where loads of venues and loads of bands get involved. It’s very much in the planning stage but watch this space. If I had to say now what I think Canterbury needs it’s a few more later opening bars willing to take chances on interesting events. I recently saw that Ballroom is going to host a new event called Bombo which seems very exciting.

So, No-Wave Social Club, how did it all begin?

Well, No-Wave began as a cinema club running as an offshoot of UKC’s Art Society but it quickly grew to surpass that. No-Wave Social Club started because I used to DJ at the Farmhouse’s previous indie night which now no longer takes place. When they stopped, the venue asked me if I would fill in with a new night. I had to idea to extend the name from the cinema club since it already meant a certain notoriety. The Social Club, like everything No-Wave does is non-profit. All the money from the night goes to pay for other No-Wave projects to make it even bigger.

You’ve posted some opportunities up on Facebook regarding a magazine and some music stuff, what’s coming up?

YES. I’m quite excited about this actually. We tried to start a magazine earlier this year but due to poor financial planning it fell apart but was definitely a useful learning curve. Now, with regular funding secured (thanks to No-Wave Social Club) we’re ready to go. The first issue of the rebranded No-Wave Magazine will be out first week of October and will be monthly!

Exciting! What’s the mag about?

It will be an alternative culture magazine focused on music art and film. There will be a leaning towards local events but also some really good international stuff. I’m quite excited about our interview with Canadian director Guy Maddin in which he reveals an exclusive for us!

You’ve certainly got your fingers in lots of pies, which one’s your fave?

I am very proud of Indiecate, it’s kind of became the flag-ship for the indie scene in this city and I get nothing but good feedback and I work with some really great people on it. I have to say though, that since No-Wave is entirely my project, I do have affinity for it. I’m very proud of No-Wave as a whole so I would probably say that. I would like to give a little mention to my new club night Hang The DJ which will be launched later this month in The Attic. 

So lots of new ventures in the near future! Where would you like to see your No-Wave enterprise going next?

Well, interestingly enough someone asked me to work with them on some experimental theatre pieces recently which is really exciting. I’d like for the magazine to be a success and I think that it will be. I’ve thought about trying it in different cities as well but we will see.

Also, please can you recommend any books/films/music and why you rate them.

Oh, wow, there are so many! I’ll give one for each:

Book – I recently read ‘I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive’ which I really enjoyed. It’s about a doctor turned heroin addict who is haunted by the ghost of Hank Williams. It’s very fun and quite well written.

Films – My favourite film of the year is Animal Kingdom. It’s a drama about an Australian crime family, but it’s about so much more than that. Power dynamics for example feature heavily in it. I am a fair believer in the power of realism over idealism. Not in terms of plot so much but in terms of believable characters and dialogue. A film can be said in space but as long as the human interaction is real then I think it’s good. This was full of that backed by some amazing performances.

Music – I love the Balam Acab CD. I actually did a remix of one of the songs on it, which I am quite proud of. It was the album of the week on the radio show I host which is every Wednesday at 8 o’clock on CSR FM.

Thanks Jamie!  What an inspiring chap.

See Jamie at No-Wave Social Club is at Farmhouse once a month.

High Rankin plays at Indiecate this Thursday.

Bye for now xx