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Backcountry (2014) Film Review

Can you imagine being hunted by a black bear in the outback? Without a phone, a weapon or someone to help you? If this doesn’t terrify you then you need to watch Backcountry (also known as Blackfoot trail).

This film, (based on a true story), is in one word: chilling. It taps into human emotions of fear and the ability to fight for survival. In a nutshell the plot is a couple go on a camping trip in the Canadian wilderness, but it soon takes a turn for the worse as they become lost without food or water and to make matters worse they soon discover they are being hunted by a black bear. It is a simple narrative but one that resonates.

I know I will be the first to admit that throughout the film I had a sense of fear (and nausea) in the bottom of my stomach. Their reality is so terrifying to watch and let unravel. We may think we are the ultimate hunters, however when in the wild, without weapons, we are vulnerable.

The production

Backcountry is a low-budget film that does not rely on special effects nor fancy techniques, but instead, relies on the situation unfolding to create terror and suspense. The lack of blood, guts and gore leaves your imagination running wild.

“In the true story, they got attacked at a campsite in the backcountry and he fought off the bear with a knife the best he could while the bear was mauling his girlfriend.  He put her in a canoe and they were like three hours out in the deep backcountry, so it wasn’t looking good and she passed away, sadly, in the canoe on the way.  The canoe is a big symbol for me in the end of the movie.  That’s what it’s based on.  It’s based on a tragic occurrence, but the sad part is, this happens again and again.  This happened many times.  There’s an older couple in Algonquin that was murdered in their sleep, eaten in their sleep by a black bear in Algonquin Park.  This is real stuff.”

You can read more from the Director, Adam MacDonald in this interview.

Overall I think the director manages to tastefully tell this story in a hard-hitting and emotive way; it’s a story of tragedy and loss, yet at the same time hope. It is refreshing to see a strong female character leading the narrative. Her resilience and strength is inspiring and captivating throughout. You find yourself praying for her survival.

Where would you run to? Where would you sleep? Do you think you’d survive?

If you haven’t seen this film then I really would recommend it. If you take away the drama and characters, it ultimately reminds you to be sensible when you are out camping; pack the necessities, know where you are camping and be aware of nature/wildlife. Do your research and don’t be foolish thinking you know best.


The Lowdown on the UK’s 5p Plastic Bag Charge

“We’re livinggg in a material world and I am a material girl…”

Well Madonna, the materials are slowly but surely being sorted out! If you haven’t noticed, as of October 5th 2015, shoppers in the UK are being charged 5p for every plastic bag given out by supermarkets/large stores. The UK have been quite behind in implementing this change, but it is one that is much needed for our environment and resources.

As the BBC discusses the aim is to “cut the 7.6bn bags given to shoppers at major supermarkets every year, and retailers are expected to spend the money raised from the charge on good causes”. The latter is obviously dependent on the supermarket and as we know, [here comes the cynic], big corporations often have other plans or hidden agendas.

Astonishingly, last year witnessed 7 major supermarkets giving out over 7.6 billion plastic bags. This is a phenomenal, jaw dropping amount which the BBC equates to 140 per person and 61, 000 tonnes in total. Think of how many football pitches that could fill!

So, is this a welcome change?

Since this charge has been introduced I have heard a lot of mixed views, from colleagues to friends, to fellow food shoppers browsing the grocery aisles. Some people feel that if they buy something from the supermarket they expect to receive a bag [free of charge] to transport it home. People can’t always be expected to carry plastic bags around with them, can they?

On the other hand some people feel this initiative is well overdue and it will hopefully undo some of the damage we have inflicted upon our environment. As well as:

  • Save money clearing up litter
  • Save money in carbon savings
  • (Hopefully) reduce the number of animal related injuries and deaths with plastic bags

People may ‘umm and ‘ahh but the bottom line is plastic bags are not biodegradable and this is a problem (and always has been).

What do you think?

When will you have to pay for a bag?

The 5p charge only applies to shops with 250 or more full-time employees.

The Association of Convenience Stores, which represents over 33,500 local shops, reports that only 8,000 of these were planning to charge for plastic carrier bags. We may see this fluctuate in the next few months.

When will you not be charged for a bag?

Free bags are provided when buying uncooked meat, poultry or fish, prescription medicine, some fresh produce (flowers/potatoes), live aquatic creatures in water, and unwrapped ready-to-eat food such as chips.

Most home delivery services are also giving consumers an option to opt for a ‘bagless service’. Morrisons and Ocado in particular are still charging 5p per bag for deliveries but will return this cost when customers return the bags back to them to recycle.

Although it may still be confusing to know exactly when you will be expected to pay for a bag, this change will hopefully shift people’s way of thinking. It is early days and all changes require time. In my opinion, this will hopefully encourage people to look at their behaviours and promote sustainable actions. It isn’t hard to be prepared and have bags at the ready, whether that is kept in a handbag or in the boot of your car.

A resourceful and renewable outlook is one that we should transfer to other areas of our lives. Food waste, recycling etc. Sustainable living is something that needs to be practiced as well as preached and I am pleased to see this change. It is just a shame it takes a law to make obvious changes that benefit our world…

If you still haven’t got your bag’s worth, check out these interesting related articles:

Tramlines headliners 2015


Gilles Peterson, A Guy Called Gerald, Basement Jaxx (DJs), Evian Christ, Romare (DJ), James Holden & lots more added to Tramlines Festival Lineup

The lineup for Tramlines Festival has just got even bigger thanks to an injection of electronic and alternative artists to the 2015 bill.  New acts to perform in Sheffield from 24-26 July include Ninja Tune’s Romare, 6 Music’s Gilles Peterson, the young talent of Evian Christ, the legendary A Guy Called Gerald, a DJ set from Basement Jaxx and many more.

Now in its seventh year with The Charlatans, Basement Jaxx and Wu Tang Clan already in place to headline, Tramlines is one of the UK’s most musically eclectic festivals. Held across multiple outdoor spaces and venues across Sheffield city centre, Tramlines is the alternative festival to discover a ton of hot new talent alongside internationally acclaimed acts – and it’s seriously good value for money at just £30 for a weekend ticket.

Katy B - Main Stage - Tramlines 2014

Following their live headline set on the Main Stage on Saturday night, Basement Jaxx will stay on to play an after-hours DJ set at o2 Academy, filling the dancefloor like only they know how. Elsewhere is the hugely talent Romare, whose cut-and-paste production has attracted the attention of fans from across the bass music spectrum; legendary record collector, DJ, producer, label boss and experimental music polymath Gilles Peterson; Kanye West collaborator Evian Christ; the UK’s first acid-house producer and the man behind the seminal classic Voodoo Ray A Guy Called Gerald; and Border Community head honcho and trend-setting producer James Holden.

For fans of house and techno, there’s plenty on offer as Tramlines has topped up the bill with the minimal warehouse techno sounds of Sheffield’s Lo Shea; acid house and techno from Berlin-based Klasse Recordings founder Luca Lozano; and bags of grime-inspired house and techno from Pev n Kowton of the Livity Sound trio.

Keeping its late night programme as diverse as possible, Tramlines has drafted in talent which spans the bass music scenes. Acts include a live set from South London producer Henry Wu, who’ll delve into garage, jazz and funk; local residents from the hugely popular Banana Hill night Cervo & JVC, with their flamboyant crossover of African and Latin American sounds and global electronica; emerging hip-hop producer Cypria; dancehall and UK bass artist (and partner in rhythm with Toddla T) Serocee; and from jazz/hip-hop artist Sumochief.

Other new additions on the alternative tip include Sheffield’s Blood Sport who, as well as a performing a live set of blistering guitars and techno-gilded polyrhythms, will curate the Tramlines Millennium Gallery Sunday lineup for a second year; 19 year-old singer-songwriter Billie Black, whose soulful R&B has attracted the attention of Gilles Peterson; and Warp Records signing Lonelady.

These acts join a bill that already includes Erol Alkan, Mike Skinner (DJ Set), Surgeon, Roman Flugel, Ghostpoet, Buzzcocks, Sugarhill Gang, Melle Mel & Scorpio, Billy Bragg and dozens more.

Tramlines festival director Sarah Nulty commented:

“We are very excited to add even more fantastic and diverse artists to the bill. We want to ensure that the night at Tramlines is a strong as the daytime. We almost have a continual run of music for 24 hours a day, and with all this in store, we expect people will be getting very little sleep this year!”

Weekend tickets can be purchased from for only £30+ BF, which makes Tramlines one of the UK’s best value festivals to attend.

For up-to-the-minute information about Tramlines 2015, visit or follow Tramlines on Twitter @tramlines


LINEUP – (new additions in bold)


The Charlatans / Basement Jaxx / Wu Tang Clan


Billy Bragg / Buzzcocks / Martha Reeves / Sugarhill Gang


A Guy Called Gerald / Basement Jaxx (DJ Set) / Charlotte OC / Dutch Uncles / Erol Alkan / Evian Christ / Ghostpoet / Gilles Peterson / GoGo Penguin / Honeyblood / James Holden / Jimmy Edgar /  Kate Tempest  / Marika Hackman  / Melle Mel + Scorpio / Mike Skinner (DJ Set) / Rolo Tomassi / Roman Flugel / Romare (DJ) / Surgeon / West Street Mob


And So I Watch You From Afar / Aquilo / Billie Black / Blanck Mass / Blood Sport / Bodyjack / Bruising / Cervo & JVC / Cypria (DJ) / Diagrams / Ekkah / Formation / Gnod / Gulf / Hannah Lou Clark / Henry Wu Duo (live) / Hey Sholay / Hidden Orchestra / Jagaara / Jus Now / Kamera / Knifeworld / Kris Wadsworth / Lone Wolf / Lo Shea / Luca Lozano / The Moon / Nai Harvest / Pev n Kowton / Polo / Portico / Robyn / Serocee / Sherwell / Shopping / Slaves / Sumochief / Tropics / U / Ultimate Painting / Walls


Will you be attending Sheffield’s most loved festival?

Bear’s Den: The Cluny, Newcastle 12th February 2015

Tucked away on the outskirts of Newcastle is one of the city’s best bars with space upstairs as a music venue. The Cluny offers an intimate room for performers with a basic square stage and narrow audience standing area. Only last month (15th February) did I have the pleasure to hear live music from Bear’s Den. This review is a little ‘better later than never’, as the band deserve recognition for their ear pleasing melodies coupled with catchy lyrics.

Bear's Den, The Cluny

This is the fourth time I have seen them live and they always have the crowd hypnotised with their sound. I remember seeing them last year at Somersault festival and they managed to instantly win over and capture the audience’s attention despite a 45-minute long sound check. This shows both their professionalism as well as natural stage presence. The thing I like about the lead, Andrew Davie, is his humour and audience conversation is not in any way forced.

Bear's Den live gig at The Cluny, Newcastle

Year on year they have grown as a band and I can definitely say they offer a tight-knit set with little hesitation. Similar bands such as Iron and Wine and Mumford and Sons started just like this; raw sound, energy and emotion and I hope Bear’s Den follow in their (paw)prints and go on to gain further fans and opportunities. Though obviously keeping ticket prices reasonable for all those loyal fans, right?

Their hour and a quarter long set (approx) did not disappoint and they performed some, if not all, of their carefully crafted songs that provoke such emotion and energy. ‘When You Break, ‘Elysium’, ‘Agape’ and ‘Sophie’ were the most memorable of the night.

The beauty of their music is that it is raw and does not rely on being heavily produced or manipulated. It is very simply, a handful of guys and instruments with little production, married with the distinctive vocals from lead, Andrew Davie.

I have noticed recently they’ve been updating their songs ever so slightly. For instance, early fans may recognise that their latest YouTube video of the powerful hit Agape, has been sped up and features different harmonies. It is
filmed in the beautiful beach setting of the South West, Devon (where I consider my second home).

I for one prefer the original but can see the benefit in the recently-produced, smoother version. However the cutting edge, raw sound is forever embedded in the first recording of this song.

The Bear’s Den epidemic will reach a venue near you, in the not too distant future hopefully…

Bear’s Den can be found here, they’re also on Facebook and tweet over at @bearsdenmusic. If you haven’t come across this band yet, be sure to lend them your ear to Spotify one evening this week!

How I failed last year and how I want to fail again

I am all for New Year resolutions. I think this “idea” provides a safety blanket, a bravado, a ‘fake motivation’ that somehow spurs us to really fulfil our year like no other. Cliché as they may seem, paper filled with endless lists and top tens, how useful are they to us?

I for one like the belief and drive they instil in some people (myself included), and though some may mock people’s unachievable goals I think it is important to remember that having aims in life, or for the foreseeable months is never a bad thing.

Last year I over ambitiously set out to read 52 books in 52 weeks. I may have failed to read that number (due to some books being 700 pages) yet I still left 2014 with a sense of real accomplishment. It was not tainted by one of my friends continuously emphasising how I had totally failed this goal of mine.

However that should not have mattered to them and nor to me as I did succeed: I attempted my goal and reshaped it as I went through 2014 realising my page heavy books would slow me down and mean missing my ’52 target’.

This feeling of self-accomplishment isn’t necessarily one found at work or shared with others; it is an emotion felt at a very personal level.

A similar thinking blog caught my eye the other day as the author mentioned how she is focusing on one word to take her through 2015. This isn’t a new idea by any stretch of the imagination but it is another way to concentrate on your mental attitude. A way to feel ‘refreshed’ in your body, mind and attitude.

It can also be very therapeutic to list your dreams or aims no matter how farfetched and in turn, you can then plan how to meet these. I think the biggest obstacle in making changes, whether that is changing your diet or exercising more, is rewiring your mental state. Blocking out negative hurdles before the race starts.

Stop and think – how do you really feel about this goal? Is it one you really want to do – is your heart, mind and way of thinking in this one hundred per cent? It goes hand in hand with the saying, if you think it you can do it. It is without a doubt, our biggest strength and power is our mind. It goes further than even we know and is always two steps.

Do you have your own resolutions? How do you find they help you?

Book review: The Bees, Laline Paull

The Bees by Laline Paull

The Bees is centred around Flora, an ordinary sanitation worker in the hive. Her role is one of little hope with her ‘kind’ looked down upon and treated as the lowest of the low. However, she is unlike other workers, going against the grain and speaking out – showing her courage and resistance to conformity, whilst the others remain mute.

The reader is taken on a thrilling journey through her eyes, understanding what it means to be in a hierarchy, the beliefs of the holy hive (including devout worshipping to the Queen Bee and priestesses) and what happens when you break away from the rules.

There is a slight ‘1984 feel to the story with the ever-present fear of torn about by the fertility police and constant reinforcement of hive values. At times you really do sympathise with Flora and as the plot thickens so does the terror and scenarios she faces. The book brings together an array of ideas and history well, for example; the dangers facing bee populations (pesticides and weather), the foragers compared to WW1 pilots and different ranks.

Hope is restored as she is allowed to forage as a reward for her brave acts. We see her develop a fiercer attitude though this comes with conflict with her heart, conscience and loyalty. The real turn comes when she breaks the most sacred law of all – challenging the Queen’s fertility, falling pregnant. As you find out, this is not the first time either. Does she survive?

There are some horrific and memorable scenes of slaughter and gender bias which inevitably leave you to contemplate the lives of these poor bees.

This is a very well-written narrative that thrusts you into an imaginative insect world that soon becomes very real. Drama, tension and conflict, this book has it all.

Thanks 4th Estate for sending me this to review. I have added it to my 52 books in 52 weeks challenge!

There is a real buzz around this book and for good reason too!

Interview with Illustrator, nick’s fault.

Art has no limit or boundaries and I am always to intrigued to get inside artist’s heads to find out what makes them tick. I actually came across freelance illustrator, Nick Willis of nick’s fault, as he entered my herbal tea competition on my other blog. Working in a funeral directors during the day and freelancing at night, I ask Nick more about his creative skill and dreamy, hypnotic drawings.

nick's fault illustrator

Where did your love of art come from?

My love of art is an old and deep-set feature of my childhood; my brothers and I would sit backwards on the pews in church as kids and spend the whole service drawing batman and cars – My dad used to pitch in (presumably if he wasn’t all that taken with the message!) and always managed to create really brilliant pictures in an incredibly short period of time, usually of steam trains and the like. I think I always just wanted to emulate him – What young boy doesn’t want the approval of their father? I also had a very immersive experience of picture books as a youngster; a story was never as good if it wasn’t filled with full colour, lucid illustrations. From then on, I always described the world to everyone around me through pictures.

Is illustrating your full-time job?

Sadly, illustrating isn’t my full-time job yet – I try to get as much freelance work as possible and am always working on my own projects but that isn’t paying the rent just yet, so I work full-time as an in-house desktop publisher for a funeral directors, of all places!

What or where do you draw inspiration from?

I try to escape reality in my work and always have. It’s not that there isn’t plenty of interesting stuff to draw from on earth, it’s just that I prefer to study it, learn to draw it and then take it apart, using various elements from everything that I’ve ever seen to create worlds of my own. I look at new and exciting science articles, hand drawn maps, old writings of explorers and biologists anatomical drawings – All of it end up influencing my work one way or another, albeit indirectly.

What materials do you use for your illustrations? And what computer programs?

I try to mix up my working methods but always have a safety net of ink pens and Photoshop – I’m always playing around with printing inks and lino cutting, as well as good old colouring pencils, but when I need to produce a professional final piece of work it tends to be rendered on paper and then coloured on the computer; it just means that I know I can make it print ready for my clients!

If you had to pick one of your illustrations, which has been your favourite to date?

Choosing one of my own illustrations as a favourite is really tough! I think I can pinpoint one which signifies a point at which I started to really raise my game in a technical sense and that’s an image called “Flying Inventions” – It’s just a bit of fun but it reflects my style and desire to create new things, as well as tapping to some more detailed colouring skills. I think I’ve probably created more detailed work since then but, for me, this image reflects my style and captures the fun I have while drawing.

What advice would you give someone trying to get into illustration?

It’s hard to give advice to would-be illustrators because I really still class myself as one too! For what it’s worth, I think it’s important to find your own style and go for it, unrelentingly. Anyone can follow tutorials of how to perfectly render a million photorealistic images online but it’s the people who create their own style from scratch and find a voice through it that have always made the biggest impact. Also, don’t give up if you haven’t made it in a year, 3 years or even 10! If you love it, keep doing it – Make ends meet however you need to but never let go of that small part of your soul that wants to draw something.

Sum up your design style in 10 words.

Escapist, skeletal-free whimsy in a world that’s too serious.


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