Monthly Archives: July 2012

Remembering Amy Winehouse

It’s hard to believe that it has been year today since we lost the fabulously talented Amy Winehouse. I remember the moment well; there was a lot of speculation of her death ruminating around Twitter. Hoaxes on social media websites are not unheard of and, as I couldn’t find any viable source confirming her death, I hoped this would be the case. Then I heard the announcement on the radio – Amy Winehouse had died aged 27 at her home in Camden Square, London.

Due to the very intense lifestyle that Amy had lived, the news wasn’t entirely shocking but to lose her at such a young age, in the prime of her life and career, was saddening and such a loss to music.

I had been quite a late follower of Amy’s. Being aware of the buzz that surrounded her, but the music never really registered on my radar. That was until 2008, when I saw her performance of Love is a Loosing Game at the Brit Awards:-

From that moment, I was hooked. It was refreshing to hear an artist subvert the current chart conventions and hear soulful jazz inspired songs hitting the top spot. I instantly wanted to know more and began delving deeper by exploring her albums. What I liked about Amy was her retro vibe mixed with a sharp observational tenacity. You only have to be out at the weekend in a city centre to see life imitating the art as the lyrics from her song F’ Me Pumps unfold in front of you. She wrote lyrics from the heart but kept them current, combining this with musical production and her appearance that had a nice vintage twist, something reminiscent of The Shirelles, Martha and the Vandellas or The Marvelettes from years gone by.

In this superficial world that we live in, plagued by stories of scandal and celebrity, it’s almost too easy to take Amy Winehouse by face value. Rather than the headlines and hearsay that surrounded her career, let’s remember her for the music. The cannon of work that she has left behind is small but impressive. By those high standards, it is a shame that we will never know just how high her star may have risen to had she have lived longer. Amy Winehouse may be gone but her legacy will live on in her music and the new artists that she will continue to inspire for many years to come.

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Making Mental Health Positive

I find one of the things I enjoy most about radio is the opportunities it gives me to meet many interesting and inspirational people. Dawn Perry would be included way up at the top of this list; we first got in touch after she listened to my shows on North Manchester FM and contacted me about promoting her Facebook page: Making Mental Health Positive.

The campaign is about eliminating discrimination and the societal stigma that surrounds mental health issues, providing a platform to encourage self-help through positive peer-to-peer discussion. It has been uplifting to see the page progress from its formation into a thriving social media community, with well over 1,700 members based all over the world and growing. Health and wellbeing issues have a strong community connection because it is something that is universal and could potentially affect anyone.

My background working in the area of mental health spans back quite a few years to when I worked for the charity Anxiety UK as their media liaison officer. I started at around about the same time that I became involved in student radio. The combination of the two sparked my interest in music therapy, especially to aid relaxation. Over the years ‘Chillout’ is a musical genre that I have become synonymous with, rolling out the format I developed to radio stations across Greater Manchester.

Working for Anxiety UK taught me about meditation, mindfulness and self-hypnosis techniques that I have since incorporated into my lifestyle. My work here let me explore these interests deeper as well as helping others and promoting the many case studies of recovery that were used in the media. Years later, when Dawn approached me with her Making Mental Health Positive campaign we already had common ground as Dawn had been a member of Anxiety UK on their mentor programme.

It’s been a privilege to be involved with the campaign; to watch it progress and see the positive affect that it has on members. I’m glad that I can use my broadcasting experience to give the campaign a voice and spread the word about the good it does for the local community and beyond. Now not only a virtual social media page, the campaign has a strong presence within the North-West, partnered with The Lowry in Salford Quays. Meet and create groups are being set up, using the arts as a stimulus to bring people together and creatively helping end mental health discrimination. The first meeting will be delivered by Stich Art textile artist Joanne Walker on Sunday the 22nd of July. The August workshop will focus on photography and September’s will use the art of drama.

To hear my report from a recent campaign strategy meeting CLICK HERE.

The team hard at work(!) in last month’s strategy meeting.

Around the bend!

The essential guide for anyone learning to drive…

JUL l platesHighway Code from back to front, not to mention the countless hours of relentless private practice that, yet your theory and practical test revision is still driving you around the bend! Don’t worry, all the help you need to pass your driving test is right here and the best part is, you don’t even need to start the engine!

Now the academic year is drawing to a close I’ve noticed a lot of people making the great decision to learn how to drive. I thought it would be useful for me to post this article to my blog which I originally wrote for my college magazine, just after I had passed the test myself, almost six years ago. Some parts of the test have changed slightly since I became a qualified driver but I’ve researched this in order to keep as up-to-date as possible. If you are currently learning to drive, or just want to brush up on some facts, then I hope this article can be of some help to you and that driving gives you as much enjoyment as it does me.

The  fact is that everyone you see behind the wheel of car that doesn’t have L Plates attached must have passed their driving test – otherwise it’s a blatant offence. The only difference will be if someone passed the British driving test before the 1st of July 1996 they would not have taken a theory and hazard perception test first.

If you thought that all you had to do to get a valid UK driving licence was to drive a car around for 40 minutes then you’re wrong. Learner drivers now also take 50 Who Wants to be a Millionaire style questions, which could range from what to do first at the scene of an accident to what to do when there is fog on the roads. Then you have to watch 14 clips of road hazards developing. This isn’t time to put your feet up; you now need to be constantly paying attention. It probably feels like a lot of extra pressure, but these additions to the driving test will make you a safer driver in the long run. Think about it – if you didn’t take this test then how would you know how fast your reaction speed is? This could greatly reduce the risk of involving you, or anyone else, in an accident.

The Theory Test

There’s no need to worry about taking the theory test; now more people are learning to drive now than ever before, so you can choose whatever method of revision you want. Either CDs or the ‘back to school’ version of books, the choice is yours. It really isn’t as bad as it seems once you get started… honest! Don’t let the prospect of taking the test get you down because it’s nothing like the exams you will remember when sitting in an exam hall. You have questions with multiple-choice answers – you don’t even need a pen in your hand! The test is taken via touch screens in test centres all across the country, proving that this new section of the test really does belong in the twenty first century.

Hazard Perception

Hazard perception follows directly after the theory test, you will see 14 clips that have been specially recorded and contain examples of all common types of hazards. This could be anything that can potentially happen in real life situations, from a cyclist cutting in front of you to a lorry parked on a bend. There are 5 points available on each clip and the earlier that you spot a potential hazard the more points you will be awarded. The computer records your responses when you click with the mouse as soon as you spot one. Don’t under-estimate the hazard perception part of the test; it’s a lot harder than it sounds but with some practice from the Internet or DVDs you should be fine.

Practical

We’ve got the theory side sorted, now lets think about the practical side of things. Once you’ve passed your theory and hazard perception you then have a maximum of two years to pass your practical test. Make sure you use the time wisely with your instructor, private practice sessions in your own time do help a lot too. Your instructor will tell you when you should to be entered for a practical exam. You then take the test at your local test centre in either your instructor’s car or one of your own choice. Just make sure that it’s up to MOT standard first, otherwise it won’t be eligible!

The duration of the test is approximately 40 minutes and, after a quick eyesight check, there are two ‘Show me’, ‘Tell me’ vehicle safety questions the examiner will ask you before you switch on the ignition. This gives you the chance to display how a section of the car works, which could mean checking the oil level, if the brake lights work, and so on. If you answer one or both of these questions wrong it will result in either one or two minor faults being recorded.

During the test you will encounter some hazards along a pre-planned route – just like in real life.  You will have to complete manoeuvres that you have been learning in lessons as well. These manoeuvres will consist of any two of the following:

  • Three-point-turn,
  • Parallel parking,
  • Reversing around a corner,
  • Reversing into a parking bay (if your test centre has a car-park).

You may also have to do an emergency stop, but only if you are in an appropriate location to do so. The examiner will tell you this beforehand.

Don’t panic! You’ve been learning all of this with your instructor during lessons, so you will know what to expect when the time comes. All that’s left for me to say now is to wish you the very best of luck for your driving test but, more importantly, in all your future driving – after you rip up those L Plates!