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Writing guide l Why you should blog

Blogging can be as much for personal enjoyment and fun than it is for a steady income or personal achievement. As an aspiring journalist (kind of), I see the value in online blogging. Some of the best ideas have originated from blogs and it is definitely a great way to deliver a message to an audience; both well targeted and alert. It can create a high level of engagement and provoke responses from all over the globe. Yet it all came from the comfort of your home, office or space.

 

Different types of blogging

 

Enjoyment – first and foremost blogging can be about expressing yourself online. It is one of the best places to voice your opinion and receive almost instant feedback. You can create small communities online depending on your likes/dislikes or interests. Blogs can also be combined with your other ‘stamps’ online such as Pinterest, Google+, Flickr, Facebook and Twitter. So within the space of someone reading your blog they can connect to the other sites you express your personality and identity on.

Reviewing – if you are fortunate enough you can be paid to review products online. This can be great publicity for your own blog as well as for the company asking for the review. Usually you will be given the opportunity to try a product and then write a balanced review [though the company will obviously be hoping for a positive review]. If you are headhunted, or you a find a particular company you love, you could be reviewing a number of products; from the latest innovative hair and beauty product to a newly released film or novel.

Guest blogging – guest blogging is the perfect opportunity to gain more exposure as a person and for your website. It creates a larger ‘web’ of your presence online. Perfect. It can also be an exciting way to acquire new readers and build relationships with other bloggers. It is also (here comes the SEO part) great for search engines such as Google and Yahoo. You will also be in a new community online which is great for extending your knowledge and interests (also known as personal development).

Online portfolio – whether you are a student finishing college or university, or perhaps an expert marketing assistant an online portfolio can continue to showcase your writing skills and the ability to adapt for web. It can be a second CV in addition to your electronic (or possibly paper) copy. Being online shows you are in touch with technology and you can also demonstrate to a future employer your range of skills, for instance with photography, InDesign, Photoshop, WordPress, Flickr etc. The list really does go on!

Paid bloggingit is a dream job to be paid for blogging yet that is right, it shouldn’t just be a dream. If you create enough chances (usually to do with your great writing skills) this can soon become a reality. Or alternatively there are full-time jobs working as a ‘blogger’ for a company or within their social media and marketing department. In Journey’s words “don’t stop believing!”


Top five tips for blogging

  1. Find four bloggers that you like and follow them on a regular basis. Take note of the articles they are producing and how they acquire an audience.
  2. Sign up to Google Alerts and find trends which you enjoy writing about. For example you could sign up to the latest film releases and write a weekly film review. It is a great way to find content which will receive hits quickly in a short amount of time. Bear in mind these blog posts may not be evergreen content so always think why you are adding the content to your blog, ask yourself, what is the purpose of this post?
  3. Write in your own style. Individuality really is key and this is sometimes forgotten in the World Wide Web.
  4. Promote your blog posts via all your social media channels. However remember to target these websites differently. Keep your audience in mind. No doubt (and it goes without saying) people using LinkedIn are using the site differently to that on Twitter.
  5. Above all else have fun and enjoy writing whatever your style may be or personal preference. I still hand write notes before I go anywhere near a computer, so don’t be afraid to express yourself the way you want to. Blogging can open up a ‘new world’!

 

I am available as a guest blogger for your site, so if you like my writing style or think I can do something for you please contact me. If you are a business or company with new products I am available for reviewing. I have previously reviewed products for the health and beauty industry and written critical pub and restaurant reviews for Sussex Food and Drink Guide 2013.

Please leave a message below if you would like to get in contact or if you have any questions/thoughts regarding this blog post (or any others). I appreciate hearing from you.

Review: Purbeck Folk Festival 2012

Foot stomping, rain dancing, raw talent and the beautiful Dorset countryside, this is Purbeck Folk Festival 2012. PFF has everything you could possibly want from a festival; incredibly talented folk musicians and bands, a picturesque location and plentiful supply of locally produced delicacies and award-winning ales and ciders. Cheers to that!

Running throughout the bank holiday weekend (24-26th August), Purbeck Folk Festival was awe-inspiring, uplifting and managed to successfully encompass the broadest definition of ‘folk’.

What is on offer at Purbeck Folk Festival?

Not only does the festival showcase the most gifted folk musicians, it also offers; captivating poetry slam competitions, beard and moustache competitions, art and craft stalls, woodwork demonstrations, open mic sessions, workshops for fitness, drama and comedy, face painting, Morris dancing, tarot card reading and much more!

Who is the festival suitable for?

This festival has such a friendly, warm and vibrant feel, making it extremely ideal and suitable for the young, the old, families, couples and friends. There are plenty of activities for children over the weekend which just adds to the pleasant environment. This is also a rarity which is often not provided at other festivals.

Which bands/artists stood out in particular?

With such a fantastic and varied line-up it was extremely difficult to choose who to watch. The artists perform on one of three different stages (middle barn, long barn and an outdoor stage, the fire stage) throughout the day and evening. This is a brief selection of some of the artists I had the opportunity to enjoy over the weekend:

Larkin Poe– the song writing sisters really brought soul and joy to Dorset. A fantastic set by the pair, enjoyed by all!

KT Tunstall– headlining Saturday night KT certainly created a stir in the long barn! Her sound was electric, energetic and above all else entertaining. The Scottish singer knew how to work the crowd and we certainly loved her. Playing fantastic hits such as ‘Suddenly I see’ and ‘Other Side of the World’ the crowd were well and truly mesmerised by the chart-topping star.

Shooglenifty– this six piece band from Edinburgh was phenomenal. They played a variety of songs that combined traditional Scottish sounds, rock and electro pop with funky melodies and rhythms. A musical cocktail that sure tasted sweet. They are definitely highly recommended.

Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson– this pair are simply astonishing, bursting with such energy, creativity and flair you cannot help but fall in love with them. Described as ‘beauty and the beast’ they produce such beautiful, upbeat music; think folk, blues, stunning vocals and ladies and gentlemen you are a little closer to understanding what makes Hat Fitz & Cara Robinson tick! You really won’t be the same after these two.

The Penny Red– this four piece band from Wiltshire is a delight to watch. Their music is punchy, emotive and fresh, I can see this band going far with the charming voice of Jess Vincent seducing you on the way.

The Paper Shades– Sarah Dollar and Jon Rixon produce dreamy, acoustic music that really sounds great. They work well together on stage and are a joy to watch.

Ant Henson– Henson’s sound is undeniably infectious and captivating. His lyrics bare honesty, emotion and are the works of a hardworking and passionate, young songwriter. At the tender age of twenty-three Henson is an all-round entertainer and crowd pleaser: definitely worth a listen.

Chris Woodford– He is an incredibly talented young man and when let loose on a twelve string guitar you are unknowingly lured into his magical world. And boy, you won’t want to leave.

The Widowmaker– emotive, moving and mesmerising successfully sums up The Widowmaker. His music discusses on a satirical level, the reality and disillusionment of the modern world we live in. His sound can be described as atmospheric and affective; I can guarantee you will want to listen to The Widowmaker over and over again. Satisfyingly addictive.

Catherine Burke Band– Catherine Burke Band is an upbeat, folk band that uses humour well and are open, honest and downright entertaining.

What makes Purbeck Folk Festival so fantastic?

The rural countryside location, the very reasonable ticket price (which includes camping), the array of unique musicians, interactive events running throughout the weekend and finally, perhaps most importantly, the wonderful people who attend and run the festival.

Help show your support for grassroot musicians. Think folk, think Purbeck Folk Festival 2013; book your tickets online now.

Cross dressing, chaffing and Cinderella

December 29, 2010 1 comment

Oh no it isn’t. Oh yes it is. If you thought it was behind you, you were very much mistaken. Pantomime season is back; familiar sing along songs, clapping, cheering, heckling and a ‘journey’ for all the family to enjoy. Nationally they dominate theatres for two months and now as the crisp winter air chills Bournemouth, families and friends rush inside the prestigious Pavilion to enjoy the delights of Cinderella with a celebrity filled cast.

“I feel too old for pantomime.” “Don’t be silly I am eighty three next year! I am older than you” two elderly women cackle behind me as they take their seats.

Pantomime dates further back than the middle ages and uses dance, music, humour and limp wristed mischief to provide entertainment for the audience. The audience participates in the show and supports either the goodies or the baddies following the slapstick adventure. The lead male character is traditionally played by a female often sporting a connoisseur moustache, whilst the males playing the ‘ugly step sisters’ are akin to a Beryl Cook caricature. Alongside these characters, the shows contain modern references and jokes reflecting the zeitgeist of today’s world.

Bouncing off the wall childrens squeals and screams reach unimaginable decibels. Parents mutter disapprovingly at their children. Teachers frantically gather their groups, “can you all keep the noise down please.” Whistles hang loosely around childrens necks. Flashing ears and light sabres create a sparkling display as children run in the foyer. Outside of the Pavilion cars swarm the car park, people rush frantically towards the building as the ticket kiosks work in overdrive. Ten minutes before show time. 6.50pm.

The decor and arrangement in the theatre is impressive, with solid white pillars supporting the building, red draping curtains, a bare stage with minimal props and a backdrop reading: once upon a time there was a poor girl who lived with her father who was kind but weak. The ceiling is overwhelming, a sight definitely not to be missed.  The high dome covering expresses splendour and elegance. A young girl no older than seven stares in awe at the mesmerising lights against the white washed walls. Pink hearts and twinkling stars illuminate the room. “Excuse me, can we get to our seats?” The rows continue to fill with people and excitement. Rustling wrappers and fidgety children become impatient whilst Michael Buble is played in the background.

“I love the fact pantomime regresses adults back to children. It brings the whole family together and it’s a local night out.” Parents still enjoy taking their children (or themselves) to pantomimes for the night. Cinderella managed to keep adults ‘alert’ and amused using a range of puns, innuendos and cultural references. “House prices are up” exclaims the father to the ugly stepsister. An elderly gentleman laughs behind me. Even the economic crisis had its five minutes of fame on stage, alongside an unexpected appearance by a certain Anne Widecombe, albeit an inflatable one.

“Oh Buttons, I love you as a friend.” Free sweets. Goody bags. Games on stage. After a two hour show the finale is truly magic. Oh yes it is. The audience applauds and cheers the ‘happy ending’ as Cinderella and Prince Charming marry and leave on real Shetland ponies. As the curtain drops the clapping and shouting fades to an inaudible murmur.

“It’s cheerful and uplifting and I love it. I was in the pantomime last year here, for Snow White. With only a few weeks to rehearse it was hard work but I love performing on stage”, says a glittery eyed dancer as she stands outside the dressing room in a puffy red ball gown.

“I loved the ‘colourful’ stepsisters” says a couple walking arm in arm. I wait patiently outside in the freezing cold at the backstage door. Time passes slowly and cars trickle out of the car park one after another. Muffled voices can be heard behind the closed door and in the blink of an eye Byron Mondahl walks past, looking plain and tired in comparison to the glitzy glamour queen on stage only an hour ago. “It has been amazing playing an ugly sister, I have thoroughly enjoyed it. We only had a week and a half to rehearse and then one week for technical rehearsals. Changing costumes so often throughout the night is very hectic.” Mondahl’s eyes glisten and he exhales a gentle sigh. “It has been so lovely being here in Bournemouth. I have managed to see glorious winter snow and clear blue skies during my time here. The celebrities in the show are so down to earth and supportive. Everyone has so many stories to tell and it has been a great pleasure being around these people.” Mondahl leaves in a yellow taxi whilst young dancers rush by to be collected by their parents.

Rushing around to the front of the Pavilion, small childlike voices can be heard. “Mum I am here”. The pavilion looks empty as the remainder of the crowd filters out into the car park.

A man in a khaki hat, coat and glasses walks down the entrance steps. I notice that it is the much loved CBeebies star Chris Jarvis. Despite the cold he willingly shares how he felt starring and directing in the show, “[It is] a very privileged job, you know, because we get to do a little bit of everything, work with amazing people and not just big stars but people who are setting out, who have so much [energy] to give. Every year it is always different. You learn from the pros and learn from the people who are full of life and setting out.” His eyes glisten as he speaks fondly of the energetic cast, reflecting serenely, “just as I am getting a bit older”. “A lot of people think the rehearsals are too long but I need that time to get my head around it…When you start from scratch you need all that time.”

Jarvis looks across the sea and reflects on the night’s performance. “It was a very small house; [the atmosphere] was a bit flat. But that’s not a problem as long as you look out and see smiles. It doesn’t really bother me I am a bit OCD, I’d rather they didn’t miss a laugh and laughed through the next gag…I don’t really mind if it’s a small house.” Looking directly into my eyes he exchanges a ‘knowing look’ of relief and gratitude that the night is coming to a close. “The figures are up on last year, and I think they are everywhere, nationally, which is brilliant considering we are in a recession. People are going to the theatre and I think that Southampton and Poole are also doing well.”

The references to Bournemouth and adult jokes made a naughty but entertaining show. Jarvis sniggers, winking, “Where there any? I am all innocent.” Oh yes he is.

Pantomimes are the perfect winter warmer and offer light hearted entertainment to the whole family. We all want a little bit of magic in our lives. A fairy godmother. A Prince Charming. Start counting your magic beans and discover what pantomime can do for you. Oh hang on; it is just for children right? Oh no it isn’t.

What do I do at eighteen years old?

December 13, 2010 1 comment

At eighteen years old the prospect of turning nineteen is daunting enough. The end of ‘teen’ years and the prospect of being an adult, forever. Bye bye teenage years. At this young, tender age we are forced to make decisions that supposedly shape our future forever. Colleges, parents and friends are uttering the words university, travelling or full-time employment continuously. Is it possible at eighteen years old to know what path to choose? Even after making a decision the anxieties and worries soon follow. Fear not, I meet with Student to be this September, Bronwen Rees, nineteen years old, who went against the grain much to everyone’s surprise.

Overlooking Worthing’s seafront I await to be greeted by Bronwen Rees. Grinning madly and dressed casually in jeans and a blue t-shirt I meet this eager young girl described by close friends as “a straight A student destined for University after college”. A care free attitude and freedom surrounds her. “After three weeks at Bristol UWE I left. The course, the accommodation and the people were not for me. And when you know, you know. So without looking back, I left Bristol. I needed a break from education having spent the past two years in college with people who couldn’t wait to go to University or the opposite; Van Wilders’.” She grimaces. “My parents were shocked at first along with my friends. I remember phoning one of my closest girlfriends, Rebecca, and she was speechless. From starting high school I had always been destined, and almost pressured to go to University.” The waitress brings over two omelettes with chips and salad. A classic light summer meal.

“I decided to research jobs that would interest me and within a week I found the perfect job and applied. I flew out on the 14th December to Austria to work for four months as a chalet girl.” Bronwen’s eyes glistens as she reminisces. “Austria was amazing. To wake up each morning with the mountains greeting you was beyond breathtaking. It snowed a total of four times and the quantity of snow was unreal, like nothing I had ever seen before!” She sips her drink eagerly. “The work itself was repetitive. The same chores each day; preparing and cleaning rooms, working with food and so on. The chalet itself was always fully booked but it was not overwhelming. I mean, at first, I struggled. I missed my boyfriend and home but this feeling soon went. In the four months there I met some incredible people and frankly, some people I never want to see again.” She sniggers to herself.

“The experience taught me a lot about myself and made me more responsible. Although I was alone at University and ultimately depressed, the feeling of being alone in Austria was quite the opposite; it was exhilarating. I had jobs and duties that had to be completed on my own or otherwise I would not be paid and could result in losing my job. After finishing my jobs I was rewarded. The reward was the fact that I got to ski every bloody day and yet customers at the chalet were paying thousands to ski for a week!”

It almost sounds too good to be true as I sit observing this young blonde who starts tucking into her meal. Bronwen laughs ludicrously, “No, no. There were downsides. One male customer was outrageous. He would click to call me over and boy did I have to bite my tongue! However most of the customers were pleasant and we would eat and drink with them. I did meet two guys from the band Fightstar who were lovely and an Aston Martin racing driver.”

I sit and absorb all of the information of her travels I feel a tiny twinge in my stomach; resentment. Students often want to travel but in this day and age, a career is deemed the ‘correct’ path. I ask Bronwen about her thoughts. “I am the perfect example. Everyone had told me to go to university and in a way I had just become used to the idea. However, life doesn’t always work out the way others want it to and so I decided my own future. To students out there unsure of University, I say use a year of your life to travel and along the way decide. Go abroad and work and gain that experience, whether it is purely to earn money and travel, or to pursue a hobby. I am ‘crap’ with languages but I survived. As long as you’re willing to learn a country’s language and culture then you will be just fine.”

I lean forward and ask quietly what her plans for the future are. “Ha-ha. Don’t worry I know I have talked a lot about travelling but I do want a degree. I am going to Winchester University in September to study graphics, but before then, I am going to New Zealand for three months.” As I pay the bill and we depart I feel inspired, and I have only travelled to Worthing!

For those students who have reached university and who feel unsure or unsettled. Finding a different path is not failure. In Bronwen’s case it has been very beneficial. Not only has she earned money along the way, but she has chosen a university that has the course she wants to do and the gap year allowed for rational thinking.

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