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And he used to be such a nice, quiet boy

Kitty Cointreau’s Bra Ha Ha!

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It isn’t often these days that we get out to see live entertainment, so when we do, we always hope it will be something pretty awesome.And this time we were certainly not disappointed!  And here’s why:

Kitty Cointreau and her troupe of glittery lovelies have been touring the country for over a year, gaining highly favourable reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe festival. On the bill that night were such graceful figures as Raven Lenore, Cherry Shakewell, Vendetta Vain and Florence Fontaine.

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Firstly we were introduced by the host for the night, Wil Hodgeson.  He was a good host, interesting and just funny enough.  It is a difficult balance to get right, as Dave Twentyman will tell you.  It is bad form to be funnier than the comedians you are introducing.

Burlesque Compere

Then the curtain went up to reveal Vendetta Vain’s balloon act, which was quite a site.  Apart from one minor nipple tassel malfunction she did very well.

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Hot on her stilletto heels was comedian Phil Ellis.  He had a good dry wit, a sense of timing and I had noticed, great shoes. Cherry Shakewell‘s truly awesome act followed, a shower of gold and glitter with herself as the centrepiece.

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After a short break we were entertained by Oli Carey, a young, up and coming Comedienne

Then we were introduced to the purring sex kitten herself.  Ms Cointreau put on an amazing performance with grace and true elegance.

By a mile, the best Comedian of the night was Duncan Oakley, who’s slightly drunk and wired performance had us in hysterics.

So, it was a few days later that I managed to catch up with the fine lady herself and ask her a question:

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What have been your career highlights so far?

The 2011 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It was BraHaHa’s second full run of the festival – with more than twenty shows in a very concentrated period. We attracted a lot of press attention and were featured in the Edinburgh Festivals Magazine, The Guardian, The Scotsman, Telegraph, and received so many great reviews. We built a lovely fan base too who kept coming to see the show night after night. We had so many big names on the bill and I was proud to close the show every night. As stressful and tiring as it was, it was a great pleasure and I have so many great memories from that festival. I also performed many guest slots around the festival, including Best of the Fest, Chortle’s Fast Fringe, Kabarett, the List Magazine’s opening press launch and compering the press launch for our venue, Just the Tonic, with The Culture Show present.
Kitty in vintage bathtub by Kate Donovan

So, after all that I think she has earned a long soak in the bath.

So, you can catch up with all the performers on Facebook by following the links.

Photo credits to Grace Elkin and Kate Donovan

Written by Nick Gilmartin

March 12, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Violet’s Blaze of Glory

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VBlaze 4
Welcome back, and yet again, apologies for my endless absences.  Surviving the recession as a struggling kitchen monkey is always hard work.  But I needed a beak, so I am determined to get back in to some writing.
So, to start strong, I am introducing you to a Burlesque star who has been lapping up applause from Pennsylvania to Valencia.  One of the hottest booty shakers and heart breakers ever to walk in heels.  I asked her a few questions via email and hoped she would be no shrinking Violet.  Just the opposite, I could hardly get a word in edgeways.  She gave her reply in one long pitch.
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But first, ladies and gentlemen, let me show you her brand new routine, Jealousy
So, Ms Blaze, tell us a little about yourself?
My name is Violet Blaze, I have been a burlesque performer for 2 years, and my has it been a busy time! 
I started out by going to a “Burlesque Siren” course with Missy Fatale, an excellent teacher and stunning performer!
After my graduation ceremony I knew I wanted to hear that applause again… so I decided to continue on my burlesque journey. 
 
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It really has been the biggest adventure of my life. Burlesque has allowed me to travel not just nationwide ( I’m from the UK ), but also worldwide too! There have been many highlights : 
 
Winning Burlesque Idol UK 2012
1st Runner Up at the Pennsylvania Burlesque Festival
1st Runner Up at the World Burlesque Games ( Newcomer competition ) 
Performing on tour with TABOO in Valencia and Barcelona, Spain
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I have also met some INCREDIBLE performers and have been told that I have inspired many women, including those who are of the more voluptuous frame! Which is great! Because that is what I wanted to do. 
 
My biggest inspiration in burlesque is Perle Noire. Seriously. Go look her up. She is SOMETHING ELSE. I saw her on YouTube and thought….. THAT is the response I need to get the moment I step on to the stage. THAT is the passion I need to bring to that stage. THAT … is BURLESQUE!!!
 
As for CADBURY! Well… 
 
Let me start off by saying that I am not (contrary to popular belief) OFFICIALLY affiliated with Cadbury……. YET. 
I decided to do a routine called “Cadbury’s Queen” simply because of my complete and utter love for the brand itself. It’s not just the chocolate I love, the “Cadbury Purple” is my favourite shade, I love the history, the logo is so simple yet so recognisable, the font… EVERYTHING about this brand I absolutely adore. I have always had a passion for advertising too (coming from a TV presenting background I was always surrounded by stuff like this) so I wanted to pay tribute to Cadbury in the best way I could.
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Cadbury got to hear about me because I tweeted them, letting them know about what I am doing, mainly because I didn’t want to get into any trouble! They seemed fine with the idea and as time has gone on we have established a great rapport! 
I went to Cadbury World in Birmingham dressed as “Cadbury’s Queen” … I think it’s safe to say not a lot of work got done that day! They absolutely loved it. 
Cadbury recently sent me a package of chocolate and a lovely letter for my birthday, which I will frame and keep for ever. 
 
My goal is to eventually work for Cadbury in some way shape or form. Whether it is for their social media team, promotions team, or ( my BIGGEST dream) to be the face of Dairy Milk!!!! Everyone says it should be me… perhaps I should start a petition?

 And you recently did a performance from Chicago inspired by Queen Latifa’s performance in the movie?  So who want’s to see it?

If all that has got your pulse racing then check out her website www.violetblaze.co.uk or on twitter @violetblaze777

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Written by Nick Gilmartin

February 13, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Posted in Art and Culture

We Are Getting Married

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Well you lot,I have a little announcement

After 12 years together, myself and my partner, Claire are finally getting married.  I know, about time too, says you.

 

We moved in together in late 2002, and finally got engaged in 2005.  Of course, a lot of things happened after that such as a crippling recession that put our lives on hold for years.  But things are picking up now and I finally have consistent work with a good company.

 

We are getting married out in Cyprus, because my mum lives there now.  She has been appointed Wedding Planner, as she is in the area, and knows everybody.  I think we are going with a Catholic church, as there is a nice one in Paphos with a restaurant next door that caters for large parties.

 

This means we get a little sunshine and the country appeals to a Classicist such as me.  So I wil keep you posted on the developments as they come in.

Written by Nick Gilmartin

May 17, 2013 at 9:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Say Something Funny

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Dave Twentyman

Of all the speaking jobs, and there are indeed many, none strike me as more nerve-wracking as stand-up comedy.  For the simple reason that it is just you and your voice entertaining a crowd of slightly drunken locals looking for a good night out.  Add to that, the fact that what ‘funny’ is, is difficult to define.  So it  takes a set of brass balls to pull it off.

But indeed some people do pull it off, night after night, in hostelries and clubs up and down the country.  Prominent among them is an old Twitter friend of mine, Dave Twentyman.  He is, as I write, somewhere between North Yorkshire and Hull, gigging.  If he can make a Yorkshireman laugh, he knows no fear.

Do you have a natural fear of public speaking and how did you overcome it?

I was petrified at the thought of public speaking. I was always the centre of attention amongst my social circle, and I always felt I could transfer that to the stage with performing comedy. However, I had no experience of talking to an audience. I’d never done drama in school, and I was never given talking roles in school plays. So in my first few months of standup, alcohol was very much my crutch. However, I knew I had to stop and face my fear head on. I would sometimes be crippled with nerves. My hands would shake and my voice was such that you’d have thought someone was holding a gun to my head.
I overcame it gradually by structuring what I was going to say. I don’t mean word for word, I believe that’s counterproductive as you end up focusing on a script in your head, so instead of projecting outwards, your looking inwards and thus you’re more disconnected from the audience. I used bullet point words so I could talk more loosely around the subject. So for me, it was structure and knowing the subject I was talking about really well (not word for word). I also found that it was good to hold something in my hand, like a bottle top, small bouncy ball, a coin or something which I could fidget with in my hand without them noticing. It was like it was absorbing the nervous energy and also reminding me to slow down, and talk more slowly. I still do this now if I feel a little out of my comfort zone. However, 10 years later I’m so relaxed before a performance I could quite easily eat a big meal before I go on stage.
 Do you have a pre-show warm up process?
There’s no point fidgeting and pacing around beforehand, it makes your heart rate go up more and instils that feeling of panic. I sit down and relax. Even though I know my material I will still have a quick glance at my bullet points. It sounds crazy but I find having a nice cup of tea before you go on stage really settles me.
Are there any words that you trip up on?

Yes, I really struggle with the word ‘comfortable’. I’ve no idea why so I just say ‘comfy’ instead.

As a comedian you have played some pretty scary places.  Give us a good ‘rough gig story’?

I’ve done gigs in all sorts of places. The gig that mostly sticks in my head though was when i was in my first year of comedy.   I was at a pub in Manchester in an area so rough the UN probably wouldn’t go in. It was about as friendly and welcoming as that bar in Star Wars. I was on stage and this big fella starts heckling me. He didn’t appreciate my offer to get him some crayons and started threatening me. Thankfully the other ‘locals’ kicked him out. I thought that was the end of it but then a brick came through the window, glass shattered everywhere. I had no idea what to do so I just introduced the next act on stage. I’m still very good friends with him. He just looked petrified. He has a very broad, scouse accent. The last thing this Manc audience wanted, right after the confrontation and the window being smashed in was some Scouser. They made him feel about as welcome as Nick Griffin doing the moonwalk in a mosque.
If you want to book him, drop him a line via dave@davetwentyman.co.uk
Or check out his website
Or even stalk him on twitter at @davetwentyman

Written by Nick Gilmartin

January 28, 2013 at 5:14 pm

Posted in Speech

Tagged with ,

Speaking Up

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Hello you lovely lot. Hope 2013 is treating you well so far. We got through our little snow dramas, so onwards and upwards.

For the next few months I am doing a few posts on speech and speaking. As some of you know I am a lifelong stammerer. It makes my life more of a challenge, but then again, no one said life was ever going to be easy.

I have always been slightly in awe of people who can and do use their voices for a living. I wanted to know what the secret was. How do you tame and control your speech like that?

So I have been in touch with a few people who make their livings from their voices.

The first one, which will be along shortly, was comedian Dave Twentyman.

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Written by Nick Gilmartin

January 28, 2013 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Speech

Tagged with ,

Life and stuff

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It is very rare that you get a personal post out of me.  The reason I am doing one now is just to take stock of my life, check how far I have come and double-check where the hell I am going.

Our story starts way back at the end of 2008.  Your intrepid hero here, was working as a manager within the hospitality side of a exclusive Golf and country club.  It was a great job and I enjoyed it a lot.

I had heard on the news something about a recession hitting America, which must suck.  A few companies had gone under and Wall street was starting to resemble the panic of 1929.  Now this was a little worrying, but still nothing really to do with me and mine.  The TV was full of pictures of people suddenly devoid of jobs, with huge debts and no savings or insurance to fall back on.
Like the Tsunami of 2005 I figured this was all pretty awful but still very far away and ultimately nothing to do with me.  Then the recession hit Britain with the force of an economic hurricane, destroying all in it’s path.  People in some industries were being made redundant, not in tens or twenties but in their hundreds, and even thousands.  Businesses, often high street names, were folding at a rate of one a day.  It was shocking and bewildering, especially to someone with a sense of history who had seen all this happen before.

Then one day I found a letter from the management in my pigeonhole.  I was one of three people selected to be made redundant at the end of the month, which happened to be December.

This was completely unexpected, and thoroughly frightening.  I had been doing really well at my job and had learned how to run large functions in a relatively short time.  And now my skills were no longer needed, simple as that.  They simply couldn’t afford to keep me on.

I knew the big executive cars in the car park were getting fewer and fewer.  The Golf club had just paid out millions to build a hotel extension on it’s side, and now had been caught short.

With a pay-off of barely two weeks wages I was let go the day before Christmas eve.  You have got to love the Dickensian twist on that one.

By sheer luck my better half knew of a guy at a small hotel chain who needed a night-desk receptionist for his premises. Naturally I took it while I looked out for something else.  But it was quickly clear that there was nothing else.  Nothing at all.

So I set to work every night, on my own in pitch blackness.  Naturally I hated every minute, and simply could not adjust to such an inactive role after management.  I sat and wrote my blog, as you can see through my posts of 2009.  Some of my best writing was done at 04.00, fueled by some very strong coffee.  You can probably tell.

After nine months I was promoted to day-time supervisor, which was much better.  I felt I was finally getting back to somewhere like where I was.  I had a huge restaurant and bar to look after, and a lot of responsibility.

About this time we were intending to relocate from Oxfordshire to Warwickshire, to be closer to my partner’s parents.  They had not been well the past year and it would hopefully be cheaper to live up there, and find work.

Indeed we did find a home to rent just around the corner from her parents, at a surprisingly cheap rate.  We both found jobs at a local pub and hotel.  We settled into the town with little trouble, but not into the jobs.  It is difficult to say why, but we just didn’t fit.  We came from a different culture with a different style of management.  The new place was run with a rod of iron, even though the end product was not great quality.

I began a desperate search for something better somewhere else.  But therein lay the problem.  Our new town was positioned between three cities containing well over fifty decent size hotels and clubs.  Yet jobs were rare any applying for work had somehow become a nightmare.  Literally hundreds of people were applying for every single position, no matter how small, or part time.

My current job was simply unbearable so I decided to take a gamble and do agency work for a while.  Now this would be an experience.  It was wholly manual labour, and very demanding at that.  While I had stamina, I had no remarkable physical strength.  Suddenly I found myself emptying trucks and lifting packages of every size and shape at all hours of night and day.  It was very hard work, but I had nothing else so I could not complain.

As so often happens with agency work (as I found out) I got a phone call to say I was no longer required there.  No reason given, beyond that they were a bit quiet there at the minute.  So I applied to another agency.  From now on I would be packing internet orders for a well known British high street shopping chain.  I packed everything from dresses to toys to christmas gifts.  Then suddenly after christmas it tailed off completely, for over six weeks.  Now this really left me out on a limb.  I had no money, no work and no prospects of getting a job.  I applied and applied, stating my numerous qualifications and years of experience, but somehow nobody seemed interested.  I was so scared and bewildered.  It just didn’t make sense, I had done nothing wrong, but I was an outcast.
As a person, I changed.  I must have been unbearable to live with.  I became prone to outbursts of temper, deep, dark moods, and attacks of panic every time I checked my bank balance.  One day when another agency cancelled my shift again, I sat at home on my own and screamed at the top of my lungs for maybe ten minutes.  I had just had enough.

Even now, writing this, I feel haunted by that day.  I had known people who had committed suicide, and had seen the devastation it caused their families.  It was only that knowledge that kept me from ending it.

The calls from the bank came daily and more persistently.  I just couldn’t get through to them that I could not pay bills with no income.  But, through family help and sheer bloody-minded persistence I managed to scrape work here and there.

I took an assymetrical move back into hospitality by becoming a chef.  Something I never really wanted to be.  At first I wasn’t very good.  I had trouble prioritizing and committing menus to memory.  Luckily my head chef was no overbearing Ramsey type, and very patient with me.  Mostly because I never refused a shift and would change my plans at the drop of a hat.

At the same time I was still doing agency work as a packer for an internet sales company.  But work came in drip form and money was tight

But I just kept chipping away and I found another job as a chef for a small garden centre cafe at weekends.  I held this down while still doing two other jobs, and barely scraping to survive.  Then a chef went out sick and I was required to cover two more days a week, which was just fine.  The new kitchen was much harder, however and required a level of skill that I did not possess at this stage.  Although my new chef and manager were great people and true professionals, I knew I was letting them down.  Also, I needed to find a job with a full time contract, somewhere, somehow.

For a long time, none seemed to be forthcoming.  Your applications just seemed to get lost without a trace.  Other interviewers who saw me would smilingly offer a zero hours contract.  This meant they could drop you like a stone at zero notice.

The summer of 2012 and very miserable and suited my mood entirely.  As desperately as I tried, I just could not make enough money to pay the bills.

Around this time two of my biggest character strengths began to pay off.  Firstly I have huge physical endurance.  This let me just go on working without getting ill or overly tired.  Secondly, I have a sheer bloody minded refusal to quit anything I start.  If you show patience, sooner or later, the other guy will blink, or get bored and make a mistake.

A vacancy came up for a chef at Birmingham airport.  I heard about it through a friend, who put my case forward to the powers that be.  In an echo of an earlier episode of my life a long line of “no’s” ended up with a  guy taking one look at me and saying “yeah, alright.” and put me on a trial.

The job itself was right up my street, cooking food fresh and fast.  But the hours were hideous, and still are.  But I adjusted my life to suit.  The only other problem was my security clearance that took a lot of work.  They needed a full career history of everything I had done for everybody for the last five years.  Now this took some doing, and involved taking two weeks off work while it was all sorted out.  But now it is done and I am a bona fide chef for a very good company with international perks.

So, on that note I am downgrading my state of personal emergency to a code yellow.  I am looking forward to 2013 and maybe getting my life back in some sort of order.  I may even return to writing.
Be good, you lot.

Written by Nick Gilmartin

October 22, 2012 at 3:09 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Curvy Models Rule

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Amid a stream of high fashion and stick thin models it seems that Britain’s Ms Average (who according to survey is a size 16) has been passed by.  For too long she has been dictated to by the godawful Fashionistas of Paris and Milan.  Not only that, she has been force fed every fad diet going from Atkins to Dukan.

So at last, and to some personal relief, some home grown talent has finally emerged that would not disappear if you beckoned her over a cattle-grid.  Josie Blood, set up Curvy Model Management on her own initiative to cater for fashion models with a fuller figure. One of her first signings was Britain’s Got Talent star, Fabia Cerra.

Her timing was excellent, the same month, the Editor of Italian Vogue began a campaign to highlight the curvier figure. To her credit, Franca Sozzani had decided it was time to break free of her French cousins and take her magazine in a daring new direction.

So I caught up with Josie to see how the girls of this Brave New World of modelling were getting on.

Is the fashion industry missing out on a huge revenue stream by not appealing to curvier women?

Yes most definitely,  the catwalks should have healthy plus size models on the catwalks. On Loose Women the other week they were saying how models shouldn’t always be ‘stick thin’ but more ‘real’ women. Marlyn Monroe was a size 16 and she was stunning and very curvy.

Who is your favourite photographer to work with?

Colin Hampton-White,  he is also the agency photographer and he is part of the agency as well.  Colin works for Conde Nast and in particular Vogue Italia.

Are there any other UK based Curvy Model agencies out there?

Well obviously I did a little bit of homework on the modelling agencies and no,  we are the first plus size modelling to have launched in the UK,  there is one agency that goes up to a size 16 but our models are size 16+,  but can i also stress that the models we have on our a books are a size 16+ healthy models,  we are in no way promoting unhealthy models.

All photos courtesy of Colin Hampden-White photography.

Check out his site here: http://www.colinhampdenwhite.co.uk

Written by Nick Gilmartin

April 13, 2012 at 1:45 pm

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