What I love most about my job is that I get to meet interesting and inspirational people. Aidan Phelan is one of those. During a marketing contract at Carshalton College, South London, I got the chance to meet and interview him, even throwing in a few cheeky questions about David Beckham.
I enjoyed the interview a lot and felt that Aidan is a true ambassador for the British hairdressing industry. If you are lucky enough to be under his tutelage at Carshalton, listen very carefully to everyword he says – this guy could very well be the making of your career!
My visit to Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery surpassed all of my expectations. At Home with Vanley Burke, is a free exhibition. I wasn’t sure what to expect – I was met with was an explosion of detail, memorabilia, black history and a sharp analysis of British contemporary culture through the eyes of a Jamaican immigrant.
The collection, which started off as a personal collection and grew exponentially with gift donated from members of the local Birmingham community, almost pushing Vanley out of his flat, where the entire collection was housed.
The space in the gallery feels sparse and the items are laid out carefully, reflecting room-by-room Vanley’s home, whilst simultaneously representing the homes of many black families in Birmingham and beyond. At first glance your eyes take in the colourful wall-hangings, the fold up sofa, the African carvings, but when you slow down to really look, you see a child’s desk, images of the funeral of a young man, a jacket weighed down with nails.
Out of the blue, Vanley appeared in the exhibition to the delight of visitors and we followed him around, pied-piper like, around the gallery as he talked animatedly about each piece, his ideas and the composition. As with any exhibition or book, meeting the curator, author or artist enriches your experience of their work a hundred times over.
Vanley’s early photographs of young Jamaican youth, capturing their bemused expressions as they were getting accustomed to life in the UK, is what Vanley is best known for. But Vanley’s talents extend to painting, and storytelling. Storytelling Vanley style is about detail – moments, and collecting fragments of past lives that help us to understand the now and maybe even the future.
If you’re considering visiting the exhibition, stop considering it – just go!
There’s quite a lot of code below and I’m not 100% sure how to make this look pretty so I thought I would embellish this post with pretty words and vintage wallpaper!
If you click on the link below, you will see my business card design, ordered and on its way to me in time for some hard-core networking. I will be attending Richmond EXPO, the big deal for South West London business owners, and as the summer rolls on, sweeping my way through various breakfast meetings, dinner clubs, and other events and conferences.
Setting up a business, is like creating a never ending painting. The design and creative elements – coming up with a name, brand design, key messages etc. can be exciting and intellectually challenging. There is a learning curve to climb, even if you are a seasoned entrepreneur. No two businesses are the same to set up. Changing environmental factors can impact your business in unforeseen ways, new opportunities need to be seized even if you are not 100% ready operationally.
But whilst you are wallowing in the enjoyable mud of new ideas and creativity, there are essentials you need to take care of: Website hosting. Business stationery. Accounts and taxation. Business cards. NEVER, underestimate the power of that small but powerfully effective marketing tool.
Given out with a smile, a handshake and plenty of hope, business cards are a business marketing tool that endures.
If you see me at an event with one, please take one graciously, and give me a call.
I made this video a couple of years ago, a lot has changed in my life since I recorded myself (and I don’t just mean my hair style!). One of the main challenges about making personal goals to create change in your life is to stick to them. Life coaches and psychologists seem to confer that vocalizing your thoughts is a good way to get them clear in your head. Once they’re clear in your head – you’re half way onto making them a reality. (Well, perhaps a quarter way, there are other elements you need to address too, but let’s focus on the vocalisation of your goals). How completely crazy of to post a ‘selfie’ video of myself – barefaced, except for lipstick, basically talking out loud! I’m sharing this now because I’ve lost that sense of vanity that can hold you back. I’m now in that ‘fearless’ stage where I’m comfortable in my skin and excited about the creative direction that my life is currently going in.
I’ve set up a copywriting business, which has enabled me to work on diverse commissions such as content for a high-end consumer children’s wear website to event marketing strategies. A non-fiction book I have been nursing since 2011 is at the peer review stage, I’m working with creative individuals in areas like fashion and design (read my post about BwoyWonder and his amazing Lego creations!) and I’m planning an holistic event with talented complementary therapists. Reading this back, I’m sort of stunned at the extent to which my verbalized and loosely coherent thoughts have come to fruition!
What’s interesting watching this back, is that a lot of the ideas from my free-form piece to camera, have become a reality in my life. I think there is a lot to be said for ‘speaking’ your truth it’s all part of the process of affirming exactly what it is you want which enables you to move forward with conviction.
New age theorists believe that the law of attraction works that way and so does prayer, and magic for that matter. In a way, I’ve always been a copywriter, even when I’ve been doing other things, as I instinctively understand the power of words to create change.
“When people ask me how did I get into web design, I tell them the story of a friend who had a disastrous experience with a web-designer who hadn’t spent any time understanding her business, charged too much money and walked off with her domain name – I saw an opportunity! We both agreed: “How hard can it be to build a website?” Eight years later, after re-training, I now create websites that look good, add value and deliver results.”
How do you get your inspiration?
“Listening to my clients is the key to my success. When it comes to inspiration my clients are often clear about what they like – and what they don’t like! This is the starting point; I usually develop the final design in consultation with my clients. As everyone has such different visions and desires for their website, my job is to identify exactly what a client needs and deliver a website that reflects his or her character, their product or service – in essence their unique brand proposition.”
What sort of web designs to you enjoy doing most?
“It is very satisfying to work for clients who are starting out in their sector and watching their business grow with them over time. I have a continuing relationships with many of my clients and that is what I enjoy the most.”
“I think clients who are in creative industries have great imaginations, sometimes that means I need to temper their desire to have it all on their website and remind them of their original budget! You can of course have it all but we are all constrained by budgets.”
As a solo-preneur, what techniques do employ to grow your business?
“Growing my business has been key over the last three years to its success. I have used marketing and a small amount of advertising which brings fresh leads. Most of my new business at the moment is now coming through a business network, Athena, that I visit each month. Not only do I get referrals from other members but I also learn from them too.”
What one key piece of advice would you give a young web designer starting out?
“As I have been teaching web design for beginners at adult college I often talk to people who hope to run a business in web design, I advise them to read the trade blogs and news to see what is up and coming. I also tell them to keep training as this industry is on the move and your skills need to be up-to-date. If I had more time to mentor them I would also advise them to really listen to clients.”
What or who inspires you?
“I get inspiration from many different places. I love art, colour and visual expression so I enjoy a slow meander through a gallery. I also like to walk and take in the sights and sound of London around me; whether it is the simplicity of nature or the jumble of a bustling market. I love to listen to the younger generation who have such fresh ideas, you can learn a lot from them and get inspiration from their no-boundaries approach to technology.”
For the past three years Caroline Bressey and I have been researching interwar Black history in relation to London’s art world. The African and Asian presence in Britain in this period is fascinating and crucial to our understanding of modern British history, yet it has been systematically neglected within British historiography. Those who have worked to combat this neglect include Hakim Adi, who has published several important books reflecting on anti-colonial, Pan-African and communist politics in relation to the African diaspora in the early twentieth century; Rozina Visram who has published pioneering works on Asian history in modern Britain; and Susheila Nasta who led the recent Making Britain project.
In our work, we have explored how artists, anti-colonial and Pan-African activists, writers, musicians, performers and others from diverse ethnic and social backgrounds interacted with each another. Our focus has been on exploring the lives and…
Well, by an afternoon with Jacqueline Wilson it wasn’t just me and her, but nearly five hundred girl fans and their mums (mainly) crammed into Kingston’s Rose Theatre. Viv Groskop was understated as literary event host, the two seats opposite, that me and my son had our eye on, were soon occupied so we shuffled down on our silver and brown fluffy floor cushions brought from home and got comfortable. Off we went.
Jacqueline Wilson is watchable. With her shock of short grey hair and huge silver baubles, black cowboy boots and her dark darting eyes, she’s mesmerizing. She’s answers questions in fast-paced humour, her mind flitting around round like a butterfly.
I loved her answers to some great questions thrown at her by an adoring fan base of girls aged mainly between seven and thirteen. Borrowing her passion for first person writing, here is my personal impression of this creative lady’s talk:
“Writers don’t usually get a choice about who their illustrator is – I was lucky the publisher set up a meeting between me and Nick. Sometimes if you earn lots of money for the publishing company, you have a bit more say! It’s funny but we were both rather shy. He was wearing a very smart grey suit and looked very buttoned up. I was looking for someone who was quirky someone who could do all of these little pictures I had imagined to go in Tracy Beaker. Someone who could really bring her character to life on the page, almost like doodles in a diary – I don’t ask for much! Anyway I had just reached down to pick up a tissue out of my handbag or something when I looked under the table and noticed that he had bright yellow socks on. That was it – I knew he was the right man to illustrate my book.”
On finding names for her characters:
Opal Plumstead? Well I’d just spent a huge amount of money on a rather large opal ring and was feeling a bit guilty about it, so I thought I call the book Opal, I can say I named the book because of the ring! Tracey Beaker. I was in the bath – that’s my day dream time – and I was thinking about a surname for Tracy. I knew I wanted to call her Tracy and wanted a last name that was a bit silly that would stick in the mind. Toilet, soap, flannel all sounded a bit silly. When I went to rinse my hair, I use an old snoopy beaker for this, I thought that’s it – Beaker!
On being a writer:
I’ve always wanted to be a writer since I was very little – I used to read a lot as a small child and even before I could read, I used to make up stories to picture books. It took me a long time to make it as a writer, I had some very good teachers at school, but none of them would have imagined I would succeed at being a writer. I used to go to those grim adult parties, where you have to introduce yourself to complete strangers. I would always say my name clearly because usually no-one can never remember anyone’s name. People ask you what you do for a living, I would say I write children’s books, they would say; what name to you write under? Clearly the implication being, they had never heard of me!
I’m very disciplined, I make myself write 1,000 words a day in the morning, even before I start any of the other writer-ly duties, such as checking proofs or doing publicity. As long as I’ve done my word count each day I feel better.
This is the point where more people heard of Jacqueline Wilson’s the writer; Tracy was a lot of fun to write, she is sassy and spirited and likes to do things her own way. Tracy Beaker was a lucky book for me, I met Nick Sharratt, the illustrations were just as I wanted them and Tracy and her adventures were commissioned by the BBC.
On why my main character’s are girls:
Well, I feel I know more about girls, I have a daughter and no sons so it’s feels natural for me to write about girls. I really enjoy it and I’ve even sat through Frozen and I will be going to see Cinderella at the cinema! I also tend to write in the first person, to make my books feel immediate. I was a little girl a long time ago, so I can pretend to be my characters and this seems to work.
I really enjoyed the talk, as a writer, albeit for a different genre, I learned a lot.
Choosing a designer to build your copywriting website Is the same as choosing a designer to build any site yes? Well, yes and no. As any copywriter will tell you, the word has it. Whatever your specialism, you will have an eye for detail, punctuation, sentence length and if you’re an advertising copywriter, you will know about type and font. This is brilliant. These are the skills your clients pay you for. But they can also be a hindrance when dealing with a web designer whose eye is equally trained on balance, form and their own portfolio!
Working with a designer you know, can be a blissful marriage of ideas and creativity. If you don’t know the designer, you might want to consider asking these key questions before you start the creative process, or include them in your brief:
Brief me right, brief me good!
How many copy amends are included in the estimate after the website has been built?
Who pays when copy errors creep into the build when correct copy was supplied?
What happens when the website is built and you wish to change to a previous design?
Who is responsible for proof-reading, especially if you have many versions?
Will the web designer put your site on their own site?
Does the designer request a credit on your website?
For a writer of any description, launching a website is like walking naked in front of your clients and colleagues. Your writing style, your case studies, your design, in fact everything is there for all to see. Your web design will tell, in capital letters, your personality, your deepest fears, your writing DNA. It’s easy to obsess about this process, but it’s essential to work through your neuroses and find yourself on the other side where there is clarity and (hopefully) a jolly good end product.
Budget is a consideration of course, which can make things more complicated. A polished show reel to show case your portfolio? A ‘selfie’ video to show you’re a natural presenter? A transactional site so you can sell and promote your services simultaneously? The possibilities are endless.
Whatever site design and functionality you decide upon, think carefully about why you are choosing that option, research the market. And once you have made a design decision, stick to it. Hone it. Refine it. Love it. And accept you will probably be changing it in a year or two anyway!
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers, daughters of mothers, friends of mothers, mothers of mothers…it’s a day to celebrate your achievements and tenacity. For all of your patience, solitude and endless love. I’ve written a small poem in honour of all of you. Please feel free to share :)