Review: Pitch Black, live in London – Oslo, Hackney

PB4 leadImage courtesy of Michael Hodgson.

20 years after their debut at The Gathering, Pitch Black have satiated a packed venue of fans at London’s Oslo, in Hackney.

Living on different sides of the world, it’s been three years since Michael Hodgson and Paddy Free have performed together – though you wouldn’t have thought it. What they delivered was a high-energy, united and polished performance – no one would have guessed that they had also taken on the challenge of working with some new equipment for the first time. High risk perhaps, but we would expect nothing less from these true Kiwi pioneers of electronic music – and it paid off.

I arrived about an hour before Pitch Black hit the stage, to a crowd happily vibing to Radioactive Man. There’s something special about going to a gig attended mostly by Kiwis – there’s always a unique energy about it. When I interviewed them, Mike and Paddy had remarked on how they are now on a second generation of fans – and this was definitely evident from the people filling the room, eager to experience whatever they had in store for us. It’s the first gig I’ve attended in awhile where the over-30s/40s significantly outnumbered the younger generation… and everyone seemed to be happily straddling both the present as well as a space somewhere in their own memories. Smiles were abundant. Meeting and connecting with strangers was abundant. There was a lot of aroha in that space.

Paddy was there: vibing with the crowd to Radioactive Man. Chilling at the bar, engaging in conversations with fans. He was completely generous with his time and attention, as was Mike, for each and every individual that wanted to connect with them.

Then it was time for Pitch Black to take to the stage – no mucking about; things took off right away, and we were transported to a place – somewhere unique for each of us, yet experienced together at the same time. The synergy between Mike and Paddy on stage spread to the crowd in front of them. I’m a little too young to have been at The Gathering in 1996 – but last night, I felt as though I may well have been there. The crowd was a diverse and eclectic mix of people from all walks of life – travelling together with the beat, experiencing the music as an extension of their being. The only way I knew for sure that it was a room mainly full of Kiwis, was the lack of footwear… shoes abandoned, people leaping barefoot.  It’s completely fair and justified for Pitch Black not to categorise themselves within any specific genre… because their mix of styles really transcends that. And they are masters of what they do. I had an incredible night, on a journey through sound, where I honestly forgot I was in London in 2016. But let me be clear: this music is not dated. Michael and Paddy continue to push the boundaries of genre and of electronic music; of what is really possible with equipment. Still pioneering electronica… crossing multiple genres. Having experienced some of their new material from their upcoming album in September, I can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

It’s interesting to consider if these guys had been born in England, rather than New Zealand, that they might easily have been bigger than the Chemical Brothers.

To me, these humble Kiwi blokes will always have set the benchmark, for what electronic music should aspire to.

Seamless excellence from Pitch Black – left the crowd wanting more, left themselves wanting more. Like a fine wine, this duo only seems to get better with age.

 

Review by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission.

A Kapa Haka Tale – the man bringing Kiwi culture to the Rugby World Cup

Corey Baker squareCredit: Chris Scott by Tim Cross 

New Zealander Corey Baker is bringing Kiwi culture and kapa haka to Britain’s shores and people –all wrapped up in the excitement of the Rugby World Cup. Kapa Haka Tale and Haka Day Out will tour UK-wide during the world cup, showing the locals that there’s more to Haka and New Zealand than the All Blacks.

Originally from a drama background, Corey Baker has been a dancer and choreographer for some time – forging a reputation for making accessible and engaging productions. “I don’t do dance for dance’s sake,” he explains. “Our shows are put on mainly outdoors. National theatres are expensive, whereas I make great art more accessible by putting things outside.”

Having been in the UK for four years, Baker was starting to realise that he was becoming more stereotypically “British”. He wanted to connect more with his New Zealand roots, so he proactively sought out the New Zealand community in the UK.  “The UK doesn’t really celebrate culture,” Baker remarked, “so it was refreshing to see this amazing group of New Zealanders celebrating kapa haka. We have an amazing culture.  I’m from New Zealand, and I don’t know a huge amount about New Zealand culture – so what about people in the UK? I did some research about what people know, and it’s really only the Lord of the Rings and the All Blacks. And the All Blacks is what they know of the Haka”.

“I asked myself, why am I not taking responsibility to do this?” There was the opportunity to create a show. The British already know something of the haka through the All Blacks, so the Rugby World Cup seemed like the perfect opportunity to bring New Zealand culture to England.

Baker then returned to New Zealand for a period of research, and to train in kapa haka and find a story or narrative. “Just having a medley of kapa haka on stage is not that exciting,” he explains, “and other people are already doing that anyway. I wanted to create something where the audience can follow and understand the art form – and engage with it.”

He travelled all around New Zealand, and it was in Rotorua that he came across an animation of the Maori tale of Hinemoa and Tutanekai, by Andy Shaw. “The animation was so beautifully done,” Baker reflects, “I then learnt the story and fell in love with it. I cancelled everything else to really explore the story, their marae, the rock where Hinemoa sat, I met and spoke with direct descendents, and explored loads of different versions of the tale.”

And so, Kapa Haka Tale was born. It has developed into a theatre show, just over an hour long, and will tour art festivals as well as theatres all around to UK – in addition to staging the free outdoor 20 minute performance called Haka Day Out in Rugby World Cup Fan Zones in 11 host cities. It’s a unique opportunity to share New Zealand and Maori culture with rugby and sports fans, and it’s Baker’s hope that they will be intrigued enough to want to experience more – with tickets to the longer show that same evening or matinee being available. Each theatre will individually determine the cost Kapa Haka Tale tickets, but the price range will be between £6 to £12 – making theatre more accessible and appealing to people who are maybe put off by the higher prices theatre is typically known for. “In the Fan Zones it will already be a populated crowd,” Baker says, “and these are perhaps not the same crowds that come to see shows, dance or theatre – so I’m very excited to engage with them, and hopefully make the art more accessible to them. The whole idea is to excite and engage with these sports fans.”

“And I’m really excited about the geographical spread of this going so wide. We’re taking this to areas where people usually miss out. Not just London! I’m really looking forward to it.”

The theatre show has a central cast of 8, forging a powerful connection with the audience and the performer.  Kapa Haka Tale aspires to engage with the local community and rugby groups, using haka to open the show, and incorporating a plenty of rugby moves into the production. Cameo appearances will be made by important players in host cities.

Haka Day Out tours have already commenced and will continue until November, with Kapa Haka Tale premiering on the same day that the Rugby World Cup opens. A behind-the-scenes of Kapa Haka Tale and Maori culture is planned for UK broadcast, and Baker hopes to take the production on a tour of New Zealand at a later date – once rest, timing and funding allows.

The productions are still not entirely funded, and Corey Baker Dance has set up a Kickstarter campaign, hoping to raise the last 10% of funding – with only a few days to go. If you’d like to get involved and contribute to the Kapa Haka story, visit the Kickstarter campaign here.

kapa haka tale leadCredit: Ria Uttridge by Andrew Fox for Birmingham Weekender

Article by Charlotte Everett, originally featured in NZ News UK. May only be re-used with permission.

Remembrance, Rugby and Richie McCaw

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A special article for Remembrance Day 2014.

It’s not every day as a journo that you attend a post-match press conference and a rugby player brings tears to your eyes. But that is essentially what happened to me on Saturday after the All Blacks played England at Twickenham.

As a Kiwi, I’ve grown up with remembrance. For as far back as I can remember, I’ve always attended services for ANZAC Day (25 April, the anniversary of the Gallipoli landings). It started with me marching in the ANZAC morning parades as a Pippin, Brownie and then a Girl Guide. As a city-dwelling university student, I attended the dawn services at Auckland War Memorial Museum. ANZAC Day was a day off – students would often have a big night on the 24th, but it didn’t matter what wretched state you were in early the next morning, you got up, you went to the dawn service, and you damn well paid your respects. In my group of friends at least, the one thing you would never dream of doing is treating ANZAC Day as a day for a lie-in to sleep off yet another holiday hangover.

Things were no different on moving to London. If anything, I’ve witnessed the ANZAC spirit taken even more seriously. It’s no small feat getting up for the ANZAC dawn service at Hyde Park Corner; it’s a bit more of a challenge than at home – it requires irregular night buses, a little more self-motivation (unlike at home where everyone in your flat would be going), and of course it’s not a day off – so you’ll be dragging yourself out for a strong coffee and brekkie afterwards, before making your bleary-eyed way into work. But you don’t complain. And no, you don’t think you deserve a medal. But there’s a sombre sense of completeness that you’ve done what little you can to briefly acknowledge someone else’s sacrifice.

But this isn’t about the ANZACs specifically. That just comes from me drawing on my own personal experience. This is about remembrance in a broader sense – why we Remember Them, and if we even understand what we’re remembering.

In this year, the centenary of the start of the First World War, a few friends and colleagues have been rather taken aback by my “fixation” on remembrance. I’ve been criticised from all angles – and some of the places the criticism has come from has been a surprise. Some believe it’s an interest that springs from coming from a military family of sorts. Others have said that I’ve become fixated on remembering the dead because my mother is dead. It really is quite astounding and shocking what people come out with.

And most surprising of all, is that most people don’t even bother asking me WHY – they’d rather just hold the opinion that I’m a little odd and morbid.

The truth is, contrary to the family I come from (who never really spoke about either war) and my participation in and attendance of commemorative services, I actually knew very little about either WW1 or WW2 until very recently. The interest has really sprung from a trip I took out to the WW1 battlefields of the Western Front with First Festival Travel a couple of years ago. It was an experience that changed my life and my opinion on remembrance forever; you can read about it here. But in a nutshell, I was somewhat ashamed to be forced to admit that actually I knew NOTHING. I had opinions on things I knew absolutely nothing about. In fact, even though I knew Gallipoli, I had no idea what the Western Front was, let alone its importance. I had no clue (if I am to be perfectly honest here) about why the First World War even started, or what it was we were fighting for. I was naive to the real numbers of those who fought, of those who fell, and of those many whose graves are unknown. I had no knowledge of the propaganda, of when and how conscription worked, and of who was making the decisions.

Is it important we know these things? Yes, it absolutely is. Because if we don’t know what or why we’re remembering – to be frank – remembrance becomes empty and devoid of any real meaning. If we’re just going through the motions, what is the point?

The truth is that many people have no idea about the “what’s” and “why’s” we’re remembering – and it is absolutely not their fault. I’m still scratching my head as to why I was taught about Gallipoli at school, but the Western Front was never even mentioned – even though more New Zealanders died at Passchendaele than at Gallipoli. This is just an example, but from what I’ve seen anywhere I go, there seems to be a general lack of awareness and understanding about the First World War. How can we expect people to truly understand remembrance – let alone learn lessons from that past to understand our future – if we don’t give them the knowledge to begin with?

Back to Saturday… pre kick-off, Twickenham Stadium. It’s the day before Remembrance Sunday and also the centenary year of the start of the First World War – a commemoration is taking place pre-match on the pitch, involving flags, music and the British Armed Forces – and it’s impressive. The Last Post sounds. Rather than being followed by a minute’s silence, however, 82,000 people burst into cheering and applause. I was absolutely horrified. But the fact that the majority of spectators thought it appropriate to applaud the Last Post is testament to a lack of understanding that they can absolutely not be blamed for.

At the post-match press conference, All Blacks Captain Richie McCaw was asked if given the proximity of this match to Remembrance Sunday, if it was extra emotional for the team to put the jersey on, thinking back to those others who have worn it – and no doubt alluding to the 13 All Blacks who died in the First World War specifically.

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“It definitely has significance for our team,” Richie answered. “We always make sure we take a moment to understand why you put the poppy on the sleeve, and why people remember all those years ago. One of the things that always hits Kiwis – and especially our team – is when you say that during the First World War the population of our country was only a million, and 100,000 of that million then came to fight over here… and that puts a fair bit of reality around what you do. It adds a little bit of something extra to why you want to go and play well when you have the poppy on the sleeve. There’s no doubt that our boys understand that, and we make a point of remembering that. We’re all here living the way that we are because of what a lot of men did all those years ago. I think the great thing is that we have a chance to pay our respects, and go out and perform, and in that way too, pay our respects.”

Now to be clear, I’m not trying to suggest that Richie McCaw is extraordinary in his capacity to understand remembrance. But the reason his words touched me so much was because I was thinking, “Now here’s an ordinary guy, a rugby player, a typical Kiwi – who gets it”. The difference isn’t that Richie McCaw is a legendary All Black – the difference is that he makes “a point of remembering” and taking a moment to “understand why” you put the poppy on the sleeve, for example.

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Whether Richie McCaw’s point of reference comes from seeking understanding himself, or having it fostered within the team, I’m not sure. But it doesn’t really matter. The point is that if we want to understand the true meaning of remembrance, we have to seek the answers (and the questions) out for ourselves. And it’s something that I hope this Remembrance Day, you will make the effort to do. What remembrance absolutely is not, is glorifying an old war. What remembrance is, is understanding why we had to fight, why we remember those who had no choice but to fight, and crucially, what we must learn from it today.

Lest We Forget.

Written by Charlotte Everett. May be re-used with permission only.

All Blacks snatch victory 24 to 21 in controversial match against England

Originally published by NZNewsUK.

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The All Blacks snatched victory from England to win 24 to 21 at Twickenham, in a game that was too close to call at times – some would say even by the referee.

Playing the hosts on their home turf has never been an easy task for the New Zealanders, and this occasion proved no different. The boys in black had not only an England team in great form to contend with, but also the ever-increasing spirit of their fans. Predictably, the England faithful deployed their strategy of “making the All Blacks dance to Sweet Chariot” (sung loudly over the top of the haka) – but the world champions appeared unfazed and delivered a powerful performance that made up in physicality for what could not be heard over “Swing Low…”

England reminded New Zealand that they are a force to be reckoned with however, with an early try from Jonny May within minutes of kick off. Aaron Cruden rewarded the Kiwis with one to follow, however a number of missed kicks paired with penalty triumphs in England’s favour ensured that the hosts dominated the first half and secured a 3-point lead into the interval.

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The All Blacks were back with a vengeance in the second half, with tries from Richie McCaw and Charlie Faumuina. It was not an easy win, however – New Zealand survived both the sin-binning of Dane Coles in the second half, as well as a late penalty try for England.

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The game was not without controversy. Dane Coles’ yellow card in itself was controversial, with referee Nigel Owens seemingly going against the recommendation of the TMO. Owens then appeared flustered as he requested to watch several replays of Charlie Faumuina’s try – even though it had already been awarded. The Welsh referee was subject to criticism from both sides throughout the match as he made a number of other controversial calls which were met with roars of disproval from the stands and some of the men on the field. In his defence, he appeared to only be requesting multiple replays in response to spectator anger resulting from replays that were shown. The issue of a television producer calling the shots on which plays should be replayed on the big screens and which should not was back on the table.

When asked if he thought that TMOs were becoming too much of a problem, All Blacks coach Steve Hansen diplomatically responded: “My biggest concern isn’t the TMOs and the refs… My biggest concern is that TV producers are starting to have a big influence on games. We don’t need the TV producer to replay it 100 times – that’s not in the spirit of our game. Referees will make mistakes just like players. Some of those mistakes will cost you the game, but you live with it because another day you get the rub of the green.”

Captain Richie McCaw was named Man of the Match in front of a record Twickenham crowd of 82,223 spectators. The turnout and the excitement around this match bodes well as England heads towards hosting the World Cup next year.

Charlotte Everett is both London Editor and a freelance journalist for NZNewsUK. Article may only be re-used with permission.

Democracy vs Empire – what were NZ fighting for in the First World War?

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On Thursday 16 October, the NZ-UK Link Foundation held their Inaugural Annual Lecture at the University of London’s Senate House, and I was privileged enough to attend. This year’s lecture was given by Sir Hew Strachan, one of Britain’s leading military and First World War historians, and entitled: ‘Democracy or empire? Reflections on the British imperial experience of the First World War’.

The event was run in association with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS), and part of Imperial War Museum’s Centenary Programme Partnership. A number of honoured guests were in attendance, including the New Zealand High Commissioner, Sir Lockwood Smith.

It was an incredibly thought-provoking lecture that still has my mind ticking over – but I will attempt to convey what I took from the evening.

Sir Hew opened by addressing the questions:

Why did we fight?

Was it for British values and the rights of small nations – or rather for the British right to run its empire?

He went on to quote two very different men on the British side of the war – one, John A. Lee, a civilian-turned-soldier (and later, a politician) from Dunedin in New Zealand’s South Island – and the other, King George V.

The stark difference of perspective illuminates the dilemma of military service for Commonwealth citizens in the army in 1914. Men are given citizenship and the care of the State – and in return, they have the reciprocal duty to protect the State at war. The understanding of “democracy” was very different in 1914 – in truth, there really wasn’t one as far as the British Empire was concerned. Approximately 40% of British men did not have the right to vote in 1914, and as far as the empire was concerned, Britain was controlling the rights of a multitude of small nations far from home.  George V called on his subjects to defend democracy – but the understanding of democracy at the time was simply one of civic and military duty. For civilian volunteers in uniform such as Lee, it was a loss of liberty – whereas from the perspective of George V, it was in defence of liberty.

How far could the British Empire of 1914 be described as a democratic institution? Canada, Australia and New Zealand were important to the empire, because they were members of it voluntarily, rather than by force. Moreover, they were tied to Britain by colonial migrants and a shared culture. By contrast, other parts of the empire – such as West Africa – were perceived by Britain as uncivilized, yet their men were fighting to prove to Britain that they are citizens, not mere subjects, and equal to citizens of British ancestral descent.

Ultimately, the involvement of the wider empire in the First World War focussed mostly on Canada, Australia and New Zealand because these three nations were considered as equal partners, even if other members of the empire were not. It’s important to note however that the three nations were not free to choose whether or not to enter the war (that order came from London) – but they were free to decide how they would fight that war.

New Zealand joined the Great War on 31 July 1914. In contrast to Britain, New Zealand was rather more ahead in terms of the modern definition of democracy. More adult men, including Maori, certainly had the right to vote – and indeed, women had been given the right to vote in New Zealand since 1893. Furthermore, New Zealand held a wartime election; by contrast Britain chose not to and essentially ruled during wartime without a parliamentary mandate.

The major point where New Zealand followed Britain’s lead and differed from Canada and Australia was the introduction of conscription in 1916. By this time, the voluntary system of enlistment had come to represent inequality, and compulsory service had come to represent equality of sacrifice. Conscription ensured that 20% of all eligible New Zealand males were sent to war, versus only 13.5% of eligible males from Australia and Canada.

Sir Hew’s lecture was concluded with a Question and Answer session. One guest in attendance raised the question of the Gallipoli campaign as the “birth of nations”, as far as the ANZACs are concerned. Sir Lockwood Smith commented in response by saying that in New Zealand, the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February 1840 is seen more as “the day of our nationhood, whereas ANZAC Day is undoubtedly New Zealand’s most sacred day”.  He went on to say, “But it is growing. I see so many young people out on ANZAC Day wearing their Great-Grandfather’s medals – and it’s the same in Australia. It’s getting bigger. Gallipoli and ANZAC Day are what make us [Australia and New Zealand] unique in our national identity.”

Sir Hew responded to Sir Lockwood’s remarks by commenting on the vast difference between those ANZACs returning home to Australia in contrast to New Zealand. He suggested that many returning to Australia in the 1920s saw ANZAC Day as a day to party (similar to how returning British soldiers saw Armistice Day), whereas in New Zealand ANZAC Day was held as a sacred day, with pubs closed and sombre observance. He further remarked that it’s interesting to see ANZAC Day held with such reverence in New Zealand despite the fact that more New Zealand soldiers died at Passchendaele on the Western Front than at Gallipoli.

The evening was concluded with a drinks reception sponsored by the New Zealand High Commission.

NZ-UK Link put on a captivating and highly interesting evening, and I look forward to attending their lectures in future. Attendance is free and open to anyone, but registration essential – so I hope that you will join us at future events.

Article by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission.

INTERVIEW: Anika Moa

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I grabbed the opportunity to chat with Anika Moa for NZNewsUK ahead of her recent London show on October 30.

Anika, you are one of NZ’s most iconic singer-songwriters. How did you get into music, and had it always been your dream?

Anika: Hi! Both of my parents are singers who travelled all over New Zealand, so I was born into it. I truly fell in love with music at high school because it was so much cooler than maths or science. I started writing at 13, and grew from there. Such a nerd! My dream is to write for other people such as Beyoncé. Haha! I wish.

You were picked up by Atlantic Records in the United States as a teenager. You were determined to stick to your own unique style of Kiwi-folk acoustic songs… did the record company have other ideas, and how difficult was it to remain authentic?

Anika: My record company were amazing. Not only did they want to nurture my needs, but they waited for me to grow a bit musically. I toured my first album all over America and it was so full on, I got homesick and had to come home… That is where I discovered that I had to do it in my own country before I went anywhere else.

You’re now mother to twin boys. How has it been, juggling family life with your music career?

Anika: Having twins is soooo hard but sooo amazing. My sons have inspired me to work harder and my heart is full of love for them. I write less but when I do, I really make the most of it!! I’ve released a baby album called Songs for Bubbas that I released last December and it’s been a huge hit – even more so than my actual adult albums. LOL.

You’ve been recording your fifth studio album. What can you tell us about it?

Anika: It’s simple, elegant and heartbreaking. The usual, but with strong beats and my producer Jol Mulholland makes it. We wrote the songs together and it was a slow, easy process. I will release it and then tour it everywhere I can! I hope you love it.

You’re playing Bush Hall in London on October 30th.  How do you find the vibe here in London?

Anika: I’ve lived in London so I’m happy to be going back to see all the old haunts. I love the live music scene and catching up with old friends. It’s super exciting being there – I also see my family in Gloucestershire, which will be fun, fun, fun!

What are you most looking forward to with the London show, and what can the crowd expect?

Anika: I can’t wait for people to hear my new stuff. I want them to swim in it and my voice, and to have a drink and listen to my intensely strange but awfully good stories – and to be taken back to life in New Zealand.

Will you have any “down time” in London – and how do you plan to spend it?

Anika: Downtime with friends and family and beer. LOL.

After London – what next?

Anika: Spain! Part holiday part music conference, then back home to nearly summer in New Zealand. Yay!

Interview by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission

ARCHIVE: Interview with Six60’s Ji Fraser

Ji Fraser

Kiwi rock superstars Six60 were back on British shores in May, with gigs at London’s O2 Empire and Edinburgh’s Bongo Club. I had the pleasure of chilling with lead guitarist Ji Fraser over a flat white in London’s East End, ahead of the band’s much-anticipated return to the UK.

Given that the band had been based in Europe last year, many of the Six60 faithful in this part of the world may have hoped that their six months living in Berlin would have become a more permanent thing. Yet moving back to New Zealand has not meant that the boys will be spending less time up here – quite the opposite in fact. And with Ji’s girlfriend living in London, perhaps we may even be able to seduce them back to this side of the world on a more permanent basis.

That being said, “It’s hard to base yourself anywhere”, Ji remarks. “We travel so much. I mean, even though we had the house in Berlin, during that time we were in the US, we were in the UK… we were everywhere. It doesn’t really matter where we’re based. I’d say we spend at least quarter of the year in New Zealand, but the rest of it would be spent in different places, touring.”

So how do they find the scene in Europe?

“Good! It’s funny, when we first came to London, our first show was at The Forum and we sold that out – it was like 2,500 people, and I was like: this is it! You know, I really didn’t realise it was like the second biggest Kiwi city in the world. But yeah, it’s good. I guess we’re quite spoilt in New Zealand and Australia – you can play anywhere from 1,000 up to around 6,000 people in a night. Just recently, we did 6,000 in Dunedin and then 10,000 in Wellington – and then you go to Frankfurt and do 500 people! But it’s good – it keeps us real.”

I was curious to know how many fans in places like Frankfurt are actually Kiwis. “Yeah they’re definitely not all Kiwis,” Ji explains, “but there’s quite often some kind of connection. That being said, to be fair, in Germany it is becoming quite organic; they’re really starting to take a bit of ownership of us – which is what we want really. And we want to go to the States and have people there that have that same connection with us like the Kiwis do… they start to say: ‘You’re our band’. We want that all around the world. And I feel like that’s really already happening in Germany at the moment. The more we can do in Europe, the better. The bigger the shows we can do, the more time we can spend here, rather than having to go home to do the big shows in New Zealand to be able to afford ourselves the opportunity to come over here. It’s definitely happening though. I definitely feel like we’re getting there.”

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It’s quite an achievement when you consider that the band has only been around for five years. Ji agrees, “I think part of the key to our success is that we are so critical of our own achievements. We’re constantly trying to achieve more, and yeah, it is great, but we’re always trying to see how we can get ourselves to that next level. I think that’s been paramount, and how we’ve risen so far so fast. People often forget that we’re still in our mid-twenties. I was in Germany and I was talking to this lady who was saying they’d had Fat Freddy’s come in and sell them out the previous week, and I was like, yeah, but they’ve been around a lot longer than us, and she was like: ‘Noooo, they haven’t.’ I was like, ‘Yeah, they have. I know because I’m from New Zealand – I was at school when they were playing.’ She was still insisting, ‘No, you two are the same age!’ But all she was trying to say really was that we’ve been around a long time. But I think it’s good to remind people that we have only been doing this for five years, and that there’s still a lot more to come from us.”

So on that, when can we expect a second album?

“There’s a certain amount of pressure – second album syndrome,” Ji explains. “We gave ourselves a grace period of a year to tour, and the two-year mark has just passed, but if we look at it honestly, we’ve actually been writing for the past year and a half. We’ve re-written the material two or three times over, but we’ve been wanting the right ingredients and the right people to come on board with us so that we can take it to the next level this time. It’s just been a preparation thing, making sure that the songs are good and that the quality is there. But it should be ready in a couple of months I’d say. And then we can get recording and get the roll-out ready for the New Zealand summer.”

So with a new album in the pipeline, what can fans expect from this UK tour?

“Going from what we’ve just done in New Zealand, it’ll be a totally new thing again. We started this thing in New Zealand where we just started giving away guitars – I don’t even know if we’ll be doing that with these shows, but yeah, we were just buying them, signing them and giving them away. We’re always looking at making things a little bit better and a little bit bolder, a little bit more exciting. And we’ll be playing some new songs off the new album as well. Probably four or five new songs – we’re really looking forward to playing them for everyone. So yeah, there will be some new songs and probably some giveaways of free stuff! The tour in itself is different every time. We bring as much as our team over as we can, and we really try to take things to the next level. Every show we do, you can definitely see the appreciation in the crowd. We can even be playing a sold out show somewhere like New York, and you’ll spot in the crowd the Kiwi guys who have probably driven four hours to get that little piece of home. That’s really special, and definitely something we notice in the crowd. But what we want, is that feeling for everyone. That feeling that Kiwis get, we want that feeling for everyone who comes to our shows – the locals – without exception. And we want more of you guys – London and Edinburgh – to take ownership of us.”

Reviewed by Charlotte Everett – article may only be republished with permission.
Photos courtesy of and copyright Ji Fraser.
Interview adapted from and originally published on NZNewsUK.

Further ANZAC commemorations in London

Following the dawn service, ANZAC continued to be marked in London with a number of other services and commemorations throughout the day.

Despite ANZAC Day not being a public holiday in Britain, large numbers continued to turn out for the wreath-laying at the Cenotaph on Whitehall, and the Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey. Both were ticketed events – free of charge, but needed to be obtained in advance.

ImageBrigadier Antony “Lofty” Hayward lays a wreath at the Cenotaph on London’s Whitehall. Photo copyright Charlotte Everett.

Proceedings at the Cenotaph opened with a parade march, led by the Band of the Blues and Royals. Military personnel, veterans and family members from both the New Zealand and Australian forces were included, as well as British forces – and the Chelsea Pensioners.

Reverend Canon Dr John Cullen began the service with a two-minute reflection. In his address, he remarked on not only what this commemoration means for the two ANZAC nations, but also paid respect to the toll of other nations involved – “whether friends or foes” – and commended how countries from both sides of World War 1 now stand united under the UN, working to resolve things peacefully, with courage and perseverance.

The wreath-laying commenced with the first wreaths laid jointly by the New Zealand and Australian High Commissioners, Rt Hon Sir Lockwood Smith and Hon Mike Rann. Wreaths were then laid by the Heads of the New Zealand and Australian Defence Staffs, Returned Services and other Armed Services and Governmental divisions or organisations. Representatives from Britain, Turkey, Malta, Ireland, Canada, Tonga, Belgium, France, India and Sri Lanka also laid wreaths.

ImagePhoto courtesy of the Dean of Westminster.

Shortly following the service at the Cenotaph, the service at Westminster Abbey commenced. Numerous VIPs were in attendance, including the Lord Mayor of Westminster and His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester. The Very Reverend Dr John Hall, Dean of Westminster, opened with a sombre Bidding. The hour-long service included a number of prayers, hymns and readings – including readings from both the New Zealand and Australian High Commissioners. Ahmet Unal Cevikoz, Ambassador of Turkey, gave the following reading:

“Those heroes that shed their blood and lost their lives… you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours… You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries, wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well. (Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, 1881-1938)

Wreaths were laid by the New Zealand and Australian High Commissioners at the Grave of the Unknown Warrior. Ngati Ranana, the London Maori Club, led the congregation in the hymn, “How Great Thou Art”.

ImagePhoto courtesy of the Dean of Westminster.

Concluding the service at Westminster Abbey, more informal commemorations commenced. The New Zealand Society of the UK held their annual commemorative drinks reception in the penthouse of the New Zealand High Commission, giving an opportunity to those who had had to work during the day the chance to commemorate ANZAC Day in the evening. Despite the event being hosted on a Friday night this year, it was a sell-out, with well over 100 people in attendance. NZ Society President Tania Bearsley gave a sombre and moving address, followed by an address from the NZ Studies Network who are conducting a conference about all aspects of New Zealand and the First World War later in the year. They gave three emotionally-charged readings of First World War poetry, before the Last Post from Bugler Ellie Lovegrove. The evening then took a lighter turn, with music from Michelle Nadia, Kiwi-themed canapés served by Escense Catering, and a number of New Zealand beers, wines and ciders on offer.

ImagePhoto credit: Stewart Marsden of SunPrints.

ImageMe (pictured in the middle) at the NZ Society event. Photo courtesy of Stewart Marsden, SunPrints.

Throughout the day, from both commemorations in the morning, and at the going down of the sun, New Zealanders and Australians in London came out in large numbers to remember our ANZACs. Overall it was a day of unity, remembrance, and above all – the resonating vibe of camaraderie and the ANZAC spirit.

Lest We Forget.

Article written by Charlotte Everett – may be re-used only with permission (please contact charlotte.everett@gmail.com), and you must please credit the author.

Article originally published on NZNewsUK.

 

Unity of ANZAC spirit as 2,000 gather for London’s dawn service

Article and photos by Charlotte Everett

The unity of the ANZAC spirit was the dominant theme at this year’s ANZAC dawn service in London. Australians and New Zealanders came together in friendship at the 5am service at Hyde Park Corner, which was supported as always by a large number of British, including Chelsea Pensioners. Approximately 2,000 people in total turned out to pay their respects not only our fallen family, but to Australians and New Zealanders involved in all conflicts and peacekeeping.

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In previous years the service has been held at either of the ANZAC memorials, with New Zealand hosting one year, Australia the following year, and so on – with a wreath-laying at both. But in a move from tradition, this year’s service was held in front of the Wellington Arch itself, in an effort to adopt a service that incorporates both memorials simultaneously, and resonates with the unity of the ANZAC spirit.

Reverend Canon Dr John Cullen opened the service, with prayers and reflection. He remarked that the legacy of the ANZAC spirit also lies in our commitment to continuing the peace that was secured for us. Brigadier Antony Howard ONZM then followed with the reading of a letter written in November 1917 by Sister Mary Reidy of No.1 New Zealand Hospital in France, to the mother of a patient.

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Australian school children led the hymn “Abide With Me”, before a joint ANZAC address from the New Zealand and Australian High Commissioners. New Zealand High Commissioner Sir Lockwood Smith opened the address, paying special tribute and detail to conflicts on the Western Front, with particular reference to New Zealand’s “darkest day”, in 1917 at Passchendaele. Sir Lockwood remarked how both he and Australian High Commissioner Mike Rann have lived in each other’s countries, so have therefore witnessed “the ANZAC camaraderie” first hand. Sir Lockwood closed by saying, “the ANZACs will always draw us together. They will always inspire us.”

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A reading from Brigadier Bill Sowry AM CSC and prayers were to follow, before a wreath-laying at the New Zealand memorial, with a special welcome by members of the London Maori Club, Ngati Ranana. This was followed by a wreath-laying at the Australian memorial, before the crowds came together once again in front of Wellington Arch for the Ode, led by Brigadier Hayward, and the Last Post, with the piper on top of the arch itself. Two minutes silence were to follow, with the Lord’s Prayer and the singing of the British, Australian and New Zealand national anthems to close. All in attendance were then invited to sign the Books of Remembrance.

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The 2014 ANZAC dawn service was in a sense a “dress rehearsal” for the 100th ANZAC anniversary of the Gallipoli landings in 2015, when much larger crowds are expected to descend on Hyde Park Corner. The service succeeded in illuminating ANZAC unity, with many in attendance commenting that they felt a much greater sense of togetherness and shared spirit with the proceedings moving to the front of the Wellington Arch.

This morning’s dawn service will be followed by a wreath-laying ceremony at the Cenotaph on Whitehall at 11am, as well as a service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey at midday.

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Originally published on NZNewsUK.

 

ANZAC on the Western Front – the pilgrimage that changed my life

ANZAC Day often takes on a new significance for Aussies and Kiwis living in Europe, and for many, the time will arrive when the decision is made make a pilgrimage to Gallipoli.

Last year, I decided that for me, this would be the year.

ImageCaterpillar Valley Cemetery. Image copyright Charlotte Everett.

An unexpected turn of events came about, when – before I’d even had a chance to look at Gallipoli tour options – a friend happened to mention to me that she and her husband were going to spend ANZAC on the Western Front instead. The Western Front? I had to confess, I knew very little about it. I thought it was a bit odd that a Kiwi couple would choose to go there over Gallipoli. My friend explained: “Gallipoli was amazing. But from what I’ve heard, the Western Front is mind-blowing. It’s something else entirely.”

Curious, I decided to look into it. One thing that had stopped me attending the Gallipoli ANZAC services in the past was concern that the crowds would affect the overall experience for me. First Festival Travel were offering a Western Front tour that promised a sombre and unique experience away from such large crowds. I was also surprised and rather disappointed in myself to discover that I knew so little about the Western Front – the most heavily fought area of WW1. In just one day of battle on the Western Front, the number of ANZACs that died is equal to the number that died during the entire Gallipoli Campaign.

Having mentioned in cyberspace that I was thinking about doing the Western Front tour, a few other friends came forward to say that they’d been on the same tour in previous years. One was insistent that I do the tour. She was convinced that this was a trip that would change my life.

From the moment I booked the tour, my journey began.

First Festival staff encouraged investigating whether we had any family who had fought or died on the Western Front. When I mentioned to my 90-year-old grandmother over the phone that I had booked the tour, she was overcome with emotion. Her father (my great-grandfather), Peter Gill, had served almost 4 years on the Western Front with the NZ Expeditionary Force, as a horse-drawn field ambulance driver. He had survived, but from his wartime diary (which astonishingly my grandmother still had) it was clear from the horror he witnessed and experienced that he got to the point where he thought he would never make it home. My uncle transcribed his diary, and emailed it to me. It was a heart-wrenching read. Along with photos of both my great-grandfather during the war – and photos of the cup he had been awarded by Major-General Sir AHR Russell KCMG for having the best ambulance horse – I was already getting a deep sense of the significance of the Western Front.

Image My Great-Grandfather, Peter Gill.

Having booked the tour before knowing that it had any personal significance for me or my family, I was feeling incredibly grateful to now have a personal history to unravel. I certainly wasn’t expecting to then find anything more – but there was still the paternal side of my family to investigate.  I casually asked my Dad about the Western Front, not expecting any life-shattering discovery. He told me that his father’s eldest brother Bob had been a heavy gunner on the Western Front and had survived, but that was all he knew.  My own investigations kept running into dead ends. Until  a few days before my departure, when an English cousin recalled something his grandmother had mentioned to him almost 50 years ago. Bob wasn’t my grandfather’s eldest brother – he was my grandfather’s eldest SURVIVING brother. Granddad’s eldest brother, Jack, had been killed on the Western Front in WW1. Granddad had seemingly never mentioned him. Family in New Zealand weren’t even aware that Jack had existed. And as neither Jack nor Bob had any children, if this discovery had not been made now, their stories could have been lost forever. I was to be the first member of the family to visit the Western Front since the First World War. And I was determined to find Jack and pay my respects.

Upon arrival in Lille on the morning of 24 April, we boarded our coach to journey through the battlefields of the Somme region with our local guide, Mike. Mike took us through and to several major sites of importance for both Australians and New Zealanders; including Villers-Bretonneux, Lochnagar Crater, and Caterpillar Valley – where many NZ soldiers are buried. Mike was also able to shed some light on where some of the places were where my great-grandfather had been, so I was able to get a sense of standing very close to his own footsteps. Given that the countryside has changed so little, it was remarkable to look out over the fields and consider how different it would have been for my great-grandfather and his ANZAC comrades as they journeyed through these areas.

Mike also shared his own father’s recollections of life on the Western Front during WWI:

“I was cold. I was wet. I was hungry. I was thirsty. And I was frightened… And the German soldiers were feeling the exactly the same as I was, on the days that I was.”

Having checked into our accommodation in Ypres that evening, many of us headed down to the Menin Gate Memorial (to the missing) – the only place in the world where that Last Post Ceremony takes place every day of the year, at 8pm. It was incredibly overwhelming. The memorial itself is of staggering scale (think of other great arches you’ve seen around Europe); covered in names – and not all of the missing are named here. In fact, no New Zealanders are named here, as the decision was made for NZ soldiers to be remembered closer to where they fought and fell.

ANZAC Day, we attended the Dawn Service at Buttes New British Cemetery, Polygon Wood. Here, I was to lay a family wreath on behalf of my grandmother. We were led by candlelight through the woods, to a clearing in the cemetery, where the intimate ceremony took place. It was unlike any ANZAC service I had ever attended. Following the service, we were all invited to come and collect little crosses and place them on the graves of fallen ANZACs. It was then off to breakfast with the Australian and NZ consulates and dignitaries, before we spilt into separate Australian and NZ groups to attend our own services and events, coming together again to join the march through Ypres to the combined ANZAC service and Menin Gate.

In the afternoon, something very special was to happen from a personal perspective. Our local historian, an Otago boy – Martin, offered to take a couple of us out to pay our respects to our own. I was taken to the Ploegsteert Memorial to the Missing, where my great-uncle Jack was named. I had been sad to discover from a friend who had done a bit of research into Jack for me, that he had no known grave, but grateful to have the opportunity to visit Ploegsteert, and place a little memorial cross for him on behalf of the family. When I saw his name, I broke down. I was so sad for Jack, and for my family. Yet I left Ploegsteert with a sense of peace and closure having been able to pay tribute to his memory.

Image Visiting the Ploegsteert Memorial.

The next day was spent walking through the Messines area for a few hours, in the footsteps of the Kiwi soldiers – lead by our wonderful guide, Martin. The weather was horrendous, yet I doubt any of us would have wanted it any other way. We paid our respects to an unknown Kiwi soldier who had only been found and re-buried late last year. We then visited Tyne Cot – the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world – the scale of which was unimaginable. We also visited a German cemetery, which contrasted sharply with the look and style of the Commonwealth cemeteries.

The final visit for the day was to Essex Farm, famous for John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”. This cemetery was one that really got hold of me emotionally. Here, there is a grave belonging to a 15-year-old Irish boy – the second youngest of the fallen, that we know of. His family only found out he had enlisted when they were informed of his death. At Essex Farm there is also a Dressing Station, which gave me a deep sense of my great-grandfather and the sheer horror that his day-to-day life on the Western Front entailed.

Image My Great-Grandfather Peter Gill is standing between the two horses. His ambulance horse is the darker of the two.

Although almost a year has now passed, my experience on the Western Front is still sticking closely with me. I am still struggling to process it all. I feel immense gratitude to the people of France and Belgium, for the respect they continue to show to our fallen – not only in the way they care for our memorials and cemeteries, but also in their capacity to show friendship and compassion towards us, and in embracing our heritage – several towns, museums (and even a school!) are dedicated to all things New Zealand; all things Australia. Above all, I have left the Western Front with profound appreciation for life and humanity.

The Western Front has a lesson for all of us. If we choose to listen, we can greatly impact our future.

This article is adapted from my original article featured on NZNewsUK. First Festival Travel are very generously offering readers a discount on their Budget Coach Package for the same tour this year. Please contact me via email or via the NZNewsUK Facebook page for your discount code.

REVIEW: Shakespeare’s “Richard III”, adapted and directed by Gavin Harrington-Odedra (Lazarus Theatre Company)

London-based New Zealander Gavin Harrington-Odedra’s dark and seductive adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III is a fitting tribute to the bard in the 450th anniversary year of his birth.

Many would agree that Bill Shakespeare’s words are timeless, and therefore should easily lean against any modern backdrop. But to do so convincingly and with a certain degree of class is rather difficult to achieve. Harrington-Odedra also had the task of editing arguably Shakespeare’s greatest history play down to under two hours. Tackling such a beast takes courage, and I’m delighted to say that in this case the risk has paid off.

The small studio space of Camberwell’s Blue Elephant Theatre lends itself well to Lazarus Theatre Company’s production of Richard III. Audience are welcomed by the ensemble into what feels like an exclusive nightclub, and shown to their seats on any of the three sides of the thrust stage.  The intimate setting succeeds in drawing the audience instantly into the frantic and electric world of the royal house of England. The production opens with lights out, dance music, and our players raving away with only a few strobes and their neon glowstick-bracelets flashing. We have arrived in the midst of a party – peace and prosperity have been restored; Edward IV is on the throne.

ImagePhoto by Adam Trigg.

The only person not celebrating of course, is our villain Richard of Gloucester. Prince Plockey must be commended for his strong performance as Richard; the major cuts made to the script and the lack of any sort of physical disability or deformity do not do him any favours. In saying that, it is clear that Harrington-Odedra’s edits and directorial decisions are intentional and have not been made without deep consideration. Stripping Richard of physical dysfunction, Plockey is tasked with the challenge of winning sympathy somehow from the audience in the midst of his murderous and manipulative schemes, purely through character alone. The result is to consider the human behind the monster, to attempt to understand the heart of the character, free from the bias of perceived disability.

ImagePrince Plockey as Richard. Photo by Adam Trigg.

Plockey’s polished performance may not succeed in necessarily arousing sympathy from the audience, but his schemes and cheeky demeanour do succeed in endearing him to you. He is upstaged at times by the strong female characters he is playing opposite – however this only enhances his human qualities, and the production as a whole. Shakespeare has written some incredible female characters in supporting roles, and sadly they are all too often treated as an afterthought. Not the case here, however – Harrington-Odedra should be praised for breathing life back into the complex women of Richard III. Powerful performances from Catherine Thorncombe as Lady Anne and Roseanna Morris as Queen Elizabeth in particular, showcase the strength of the modern woman that we can all relate to.

ImageCatherine Thorncombe as Lady Anne. Photo by Adam Trigg.

The production oozes with dark sensuality and the stench of sex. The intimate space, cloaked in black, and intense use of lighting allow for a minimalist set – a simple, clean backdrop where we are hypnotically absorbed in to  the soul of each character without distraction. The ensemble are sexy in every meaning of the word – their look, their movement, their voice – a reflection of the upper echelons of our modern society, and on this occasion, we are willingly drawn into their circle.

ImagePhoto by Adam Trigg.

Lazarus’ Richard III is a bold and lusty production which has catapulted the bard’s work into the 21st Century at warp speed. If you love Shakespeare, be sure not to miss it. And if you’re not a fan of Shakespeare, you will be after seeing this production of Richard III.

Richard III is on at Blue Elephant Theatre in Camberwell, London, until 29 March 2014.

Interview with Don McGlashan – I chat to him ahead of UK tour with Dave Dobbyn

Originally published on NZNewsUK

By Charlotte Everett

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Two true Kiwi legends – Dave Dobbyn and Don McGlashan – have come together on stage for the first time, and this weekend sees the start of their UK tour. Don McGlashan took time out of their hectic tour schedule to have a cheeky chat with me ahead of their much-anticipated shows in Edinburgh and London.

Don – you are two of New Zealand’s most successful and best-loved songwriters. To have you sharing the stage together for the first time no doubt has fans all around the world excited. How are you feeling about it, and how has this finally come about?

There was a vague plan for us to do an acoustic show together in Edinburgh a few years ago, and although that didn’t happen at the time, the idea remained hanging in the air like the name of your favourite music teacher at Primary School, who you can’t quite remember, even though she looked like Ingrid Bergman.  Then a few months ago we were asked if we’d consider doing the now-established “Acoustic Church Tour” together in NZ this October. We jumped at it.

Your UK shows follow tours across New Zealand and Australia. How has the response been Down Under?

We got a great response to this show in New Zealand. We haven’t finished the Australian leg of the tour yet, but Melbourne was terrific, so I think it’s going to go well. 

 

What’s it been like working together for the first time?

Brilliant. Learning each one of Dave’s songs is like meeting an old friend.

Neither of you are strangers to the UK and Europe. How are you feeling about returning to the UK, this time together?

I seem to still have a fairly healthy following in the UK, both from when the Mutton Birds lived there in the 90s, and from my solo tours there in the years since. It’s always good to see old friends in the audience.

How do the London fans/shows differ from those back home?

No matter where you are, every audience is different; every night is unrepeatable. That’s why playing live matters so much.

 

Your Edinburgh show sold out, so you’re now doing another one. Did you expect as much? And how do you find the fans in Edinburgh?

I’m always surprised when audiences show up. You can’t take anything for granted in this business. But houses have been pretty full throughout this whole tour; I guess people realise it’s a rare occurrence, and they are interested to see how Dave and I bounce off each other musically.

Fans here know to expect a combination of classic tracks from both of you, as well as new material. How much of the content is new, and how has it been received so far?

We’re both playing a wide range of material across our whole careers, including one or two new songs.  The new ones have gone down very well.

Likewise, what old classics have driven fans wild on the tours so far?

Well, hearing ‘Loyal’ and ‘Anchor Me’ in the same set seems to wipe away any last vestiges of reserve in the audience.

Other than the shows, what else will you get up to in London and Edinburgh?

Eel and Pie in London; Haggis in Scotland.  Oh, and single malts. A lot of research needed there.

How to survive the long-haul nightmare

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I’ve just gotten back to New Zealand after another 25 hours spent on an aircraft. A few people have questioned why I’ve come back so soon, given that I was only here in February. Well, this will be my first Christmas at home in 5 years – there’s something extra-special about being here for that experience, and I’ve been unable to travel at this time of year for the past few years for a variety of reasons. Plus, my grandmother is turning 91 in January, so the chance to be here for Christmas was too important to let pass…

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My grandmother on her 90th birthday in January. Photo by Jackson Andrews.

But I have to admit, the thought of 25 hours on a plane again so soon didn’t exactly have me jumping for joy. This is a trip I try to do at least once every 18 months (once a year if possible!) – and it does get a little easier each time. There are a variety of factors though that determine how well I cope with the journey, and the after-effects – including jet lag. So since a few people have asked, I thought this would be a good time to share my tips for the most pleasant long-haul experience possible. But first, let me shatter a couple of myths for you…

Myth 1: “You’ll be jetlagged for at least a week unless you do a stopover.”

Now don’t get me wrong. I’d love to break up my journey with a 2-3 day stopover in LA, San Francisco, Hong Kong, Singapore or Bangkok. But these things cost money, and I quite simply don’t have the luxury of either the time or the finances (yet) to take a break between legs. Yes, it is true that the longer you’re on the ground between flights, the less jetlagged you’re likely to get. And when I first started doing long-haul, I was often jetlagged for a good few days. But this hasn’t happened for years. Plenty of people travel smart non-stop, and even go back to the office the next (or even the same) day that they’ve completed their long-haul travel.

But if you are going to do a stopover, I recommend you do it on your way to the colder climate/season. Plenty of people (myself included) have remarked on how they’re less likely to suffer jetlag upon arrival in a warm and sunny climate, whereas travelling from the heat to a dark snowy winter often equals post-travel suffering.

Myth 2: “You’re less likely to get jetlag or other side effects of long-haul travel if you travel Premium Economy or Business Class.”

This simply is not true. I’ve had the good fortune of being upgraded a couple of times – but this had no effect whatsoever on jetlag, or even how I slept on the plane. Yes, you’ll have more space and be more comfortable – but that’s about it.

Right. So, myth-shattering accomplished, here are my tips for the most pleasant non-stop trip possible…

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1.) Book night flights

Where possible, try to book flights with either an evening or late-night departure time, as it’s less likely to mess with your sleep patterns. As most people usually take a few hours to wind-down into a flight (after being fed and watching a movie) a late-afternoon departure would also be acceptable. I was fortunate enough to have both legs of my journey at night on this occasion: departing London at 8.40pm, and Hong Kong at 7.20pm.

2.) Wear comfortable clothes in-flight

Avoid jeans and tight clothing that will restrict you from getting totally relaxed in your seat.

3.) Pack your cabin bag with long-haul essentials

An unsung hero of comfortable journeys is the humble cabin bag. A lot of people just seem take what would usually be the contents of their handbag and a book, and stuff it into the overhead locker or under the seat in front of them, only to remain untouched for most of the journey. But here are a few things that I always have in my cabin bag, to ensure maximum comfort throughout the journey…

Neck pillow – thankfully, a lot of people these days are starting to embrace the traveller’s neck pillow. Yes, airlines include a pillow and blanket on your seat, but neck pillows are far better designed for in-flight travel (especially for travelling Economy). My comfort during travel changed dramatically with the purcahse of this inexpensive item.

Poncho (or loose jumper) – this one may seem a bit strange, but is an essential for me. I always get cold in-flight, even with the blanket – and a poncho is more comfortable for sleeping than sleeping in a jacket.

Socks – your feet swell in-flight, so I always take my shoes off once I’m in my seat and cover my feet in big warm socks.

Eye mask and ear plugs – the lights aren’t always dimmed, and there are other distractions that may disturb your sleep or wake you up – such as people moving about, the passenger next to you putting their reading light on, coughing and babies crying. I barely manage to get a lot of sleep on long-haul flights anyway, but do get significantly more now that I use an eye-mask particularly.

Deodorant, wipes, toothbrush and toiletries – I rarely freshen up in-flight, but I always make a point of doing so between flights. After the first leg, my first stop is always the ladies bathroom so that I can brush my teeth and freshen up. Unless you’re fortunate enough to be a member of a business lounge, most airports do not have public shower facilities – and after one long-haul flight, you really already need one. I usually go into a cubicle, get undressed, and wipe myself down with body-fresh wipes. You can even buy specific travel ones for an “instant shower”, but I find that the regular body or facial wipes are fine. Then some deodorant, and change into some fresh clothes. This really does make all the difference in my opinion. The tap water in the bathrooms at most airports is safe for drinking (or labelled otherwise), so perfectly fine for washing your face and cleaning your teeth. Just remember the 100mL limit for liquids in cabin baggage on flights – so be sure to take travel-size or check the volumes of any cosmetics before packing them in to your cabin bag. I rarely wear any make-up on long-haul flights – the air inside the cabin will dry your skin out, so pack a good moisturiser to apply to your face several times during travel.

Change of clothes and underwear – as mentioned above, freshening up and changing into some fresh clothes between flights makes a world of difference. If space/weight allows, I sometimes take a third set as well for changing into before arriving at my final destination.

4.) Drinking

It is really important to stay hydrated in-flight – so do drink plenty of water. To save getting up all the time or having it brought to you by the cabin crew, it might be a good idea to take an empty drink bottle onto the plane for them to fill up for you.

I’ve been told to avoid alcohol if I want to avoid jetlag, but personally I’ve found that having a couple of drinks in-flight is the only thing that will settle me and get me to sleep. Just don’t go crazy – a jetlag hangover is far worse than a standard one.

5.) Eating

Eating light long-haul is key, though you don’t want to starve. Make an effort to eat the in-flight meals and ask for snacks if neccessary, but avoid eating a large meal at the airport between flights – your body has enough to cope with long-haul already.

6.) Get active

Your blood circulation slows down and sometimes struggles in-flight, so it’s important not to stay seated for hours on end. Every 1-2 hours try some exercises such as rolling your shoulders, ankle circles, arm curls etc – and get up and walk around the cabin when possible. I usually go near an emergency exit to do some stretches. For long-haul, I always book an aisle seat regardless of where I’m going, so that I can get up regularly without having to worry about climbing over sleeping passengers and their tray tables.

7. Be mindful of getting some rest

As tempting as the in-flight film selection may be, it is important to at least try to get some rest. I limit myself to two films before putting my eye mask on and just relaxing, even if I can’t sleep. Then I’ll watch something else in the last 2-3 hours of the flight. Try to rest during the designated time that the cabin lights are dimmed – once they’re up again, the crew will be making a heap of noise with the breakfast service and other things.

8.) Take some anti-jetlag pills

“No-Jet-Lag” is the only product I’m familiar with – and unfortunately, I’ve only ever seen it in New Zealand. But it can probably be purchased online. It’s an inexpensive homeopathic product designed specifically for long-haul travel.

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9.) Between flights

Time on the ground or in transit can be boring and drag you down emotionally. If you’re in a transit lounge or stuck at the gate for a couple of hours, do some stretches or yoga, and try to move about a bit. If you have free reign of the departures terminal, wander about, even if you don’t plan on shopping. Your body will thank you for it. Resist the temptation to simply sit in a bar or restaurant and “load up”. Make sure you’ve packed a book even if you have no intention of reading it in-flight – it can save your sanity in between flights.

10.) And finally – after the flight… stay awake!

The final and in my view most important tip is to resist the temptation to simply crash out after your flight. As hard as it may be, resist the temptation to take a nap – as it will only muck your body clock up even more. Do your best to stay awake until the evening, and then get an early night. Under no circumstances go to be before 5pm! Staying up until 9pm is ideal. This will allow your body to adapt more easily and quickly to the new time zone.

I hope these tips make long-haul travel a much easier experience for you. Bon voyage!

Charlotte🙂

NZ’s All Blacks leave England “desperately disappointed” after 30-22 victory

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to have a press pass for the All Blacks vs England at Twickenham. What a game it was! Following is my match report / run-down of the big game – published on NZ News UK

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Photo by Getty Images

Article written by Charlotte Everett

The All Blacks remain undefeated after snatching victory from England at Twickenham.

In a match that at times was too close to call, Stuart Lancaster’s team were left “desperately disappointed” by an All Blacks win – despite high hopes after defeating NZ at Twickenham last year, and an overwhelmingly optimistic fan base who were determined to see England triumph.

Twickenham was a sea of black – however this seemed largely attributed to winter coats, rather than the All Blacks loyal. The stands were dominated by a loud chorus of England fans who were determined to throw New Zealand off their game from the get-go – going so far as to drown out the haka with their own calls of “Swing Low…”

Despite their best efforts however, the All Blacks were quick to demonstrate why they are the world’s 1st, with Julian Savea scoring a try within the first two minutes of the match. Savea was also deservedly the day’s Man of the Match – a massive turnaround from being in a French hospital only a week ago. Steve Hansen remarked on his team’s focus on making the most of every opportunity – demonstrated well by Savea – with the All Blacks controlling the first 20 minutes of the game; England dominating the next 20; and the next 20 being shared. Kieran Read scored the second try of the game soon after Savea’s – however being slapped with a yellow card gave England a 10 minute advantage to gain momentum and bring the score dangerously close; half-time seeing England with 16, New Zealand with 20.

The match wasn’t without its injuries, either. Dan Carter – celebrating his 100th cap – had to leave the game after 26 minutes, having injured his Achilles (not the one previously ruptured). Hansen reported post-match that it’s probably not ruptured, but the seriousness of the injury cannot be gauged until scans are done. Tony Woodcock also pulled a hamstring just before half-time, and is subsequently unlikely to play in Dublin next week.

Andy Farrell is “gutted for the boys”, after England “worked their absolute socks off” – but felt that two exits went wrong for the hosts, resulting in a “dejected changing room”. Nonetheless England remain optimistic for the World Cup next year, though they “talk more about belief and building a team” rather than purely looking towards the World Cup as an end game. England’s coaches are grateful that England – and the Twickenham crowd in particular – are 100% behind the team, and are celebrating moving from 6th in the world to 3rd, while inching ever-closer to 2nd.

Richie McCaw’s boys knew today’s match “was always going to be a battle”, but nonetheless have savoured victory yet again with a defeat over England 30-22 – and are now only 80 minutes away from the perfect year.

“Expectations”: brave triumph of NZ playwright’s debut play

I was recently invited by Shaky Isles to review a new play: Expectations, by Emma Deakin. The review has been published on NZ News UK and Theatreview – you can also read it below.

It’s on at London’s Pleasance Theatre until 24 November (click on the link for more details) – do go and see it if you get the chance.

Photo by Jenifer ToksvigImage

Reviewed by Charlotte Everett, 7 November 2013

Expectations is a brave, beautiful and artistically daring production that breathes life into discussion around miscarriage.

Being a “rainbow baby” myself (having been conceived once my parents had seemingly given up after a series of miscarriages), I have to admit I was apprehensive about seeing this production. My mother hadn’t spoken about her miscarriages – and seeing the pain it clearly brought to her eyes, I dared not ask.

For New Zealander Emma Deakin of London-based theatre company Shaky Isles, her own experience in this area prompted her to write her first play – Expectations. Given that 1 in every 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage, it’s astonishing that there are not more plays, films, books and poetry dealing with this painful and devastating “fact of life” for so many people.

Deakin has courageously responded to this lack of support around miscarriage, and Expectations boldly brings the discussion out in the open.

Although the play is intense – enhanced by the use of intimate studio space, and a striking set dressed in red, black and white – it is far from depressing. Moments of heartache are balanced with a high dose of humour. The play is set within a game show – “Let’s play Expectations! Where you can play to win the BIG PRIZE!” – the relevant irony being of course that it’s possible for both teams to win the “big prize”, as well as for neither team to win the big prize.

The “games” take us on the journey of two couples: Richard and Amanda (outstanding performances from Kane Bixley and Deakin herself), and Paul and Scarlett (equally well-played by David Eaton and Natalie Ann Jamieson). Richard and Amanda are a typical, seemingly happy and well-rounded married couple who yearn for a family, but are blighted by disappointment from previously miscarrying, as well as the fear of miscarrying again – not to mention additional pressure from those around them. Paul and Scarlett on the other hand tell the story of a young woman carrying through with an unplanned pregnancy where the father is out of the picture – Paul, her housemate, providing her with much-needed love and support, from an entirely unromantic motivation. The contrast between the different lives of these two couples – teams on the game show – highlights the universality of the suffering miscarriage can bring, and the impact miscarriage can have not only on the mother carrying the child, but also on those close to her who have been supporting her through the pregnancy.

The play deals with the expectations not only of the couples who are expecting, but also with the additional pressure of others expectations: soon-to-be grandparents, friends and colleagues, nursing staff and midwives – and even fate itself, portrayed through the presence of children of the ancient gods as the game show hosts. Deakin’s words – “We’re against the odds, you know. It’s actually really hard to be born” – summarise the harsh reality that miscarriage in many respects is down to chance. The play seeks to offer hope to anyone affected by miscarriage; to inspire courage through loss and to demonstrate that life not only goes on after miscarriage, but that it can be – and is – a truly perfect and wondrous thing.

Expectations is a polished work infused with energy. This can be attributed to the talented and committed cast of seven, and the dedicated direction of Stella Duffy – who has been working closely with Deakin and Shaky Isles for a number of years – and the depth of their creative relationship shows. The resulting production – which will no doubt continue to evolve as the season continues – is the reflection of a hard-working and united cast, as well as a director who has clearly nurtured and cared for the work as a whole in a way that shines brightly throughout.

This is a brave, collaborative work that seeks to illuminate the darkness in many lives, and succeeds in doing so. In addition to raising awareness about the heartache of miscarriage, it is a truly stunning production, not to be missed.

Looking to go to the theatre in London? Check out my review of “Boy in Darkness”

boy_in_the_darkness057 (2) LEADImage by Lidia Crisafulli; featuring Gareth Murphy.

If there’s one thing you must do while visiting London, it’s of course head to the theatre. More people attended London’s theatres last year than Premier League football matches.  But with hundreds of options to choose from – ranging from plays at the Old Vic, to the big West End musicals – how do you choose something that ticks all of the boxes, and is easy on the budget?

Might I suggest something a little different. The West End is wonderful, but it can be pricey, and you have the opportunity to see a lot of the big musicals in places besides London.  London is famed also for her many smaller theatres, where new works are created and daringly developed, and also where some of our most accomplished theatre-makers were born and nurtured.

The Blue Elephant Theatre is one such gem, tucked away in the South London district of Camberwell. If you’re looking to go “where the locals go”, the Blue Elephant is just the place.

Currently showing until April 4 is an adaptation of Mervyn Peake’s dark novella, Boy in Darkness. The Blue Elephant has enjoyed a special relationship with Mervyn Peake’s work, having already produced successful stage premieres of The Cave and Noah’s Ark. Boy in Darkness is the story of a privileged young teen escaping a castle; a story steeped in adventure, horror and the macabre. The novella has been re-worked as a solo performance by adaptor and performer Gareth Murphy, and directed by John Walton.

The story’s root as a novella shines through in Murphy’s performance, which is a wonderful mix of storytelling and physical theatre. It lends itself well to being a solo work, with the performer craftily switching between the narrator and the story’s four characters with a smoothness as though reading a storybook.

The energy and physicality of the piece enables the adult performer to convincingly convey the young boy’s terrifying journey. The studio theatre has been converted to utilise a thrust stage that creates an even greater intimacy, pulling the audience into the dark depths of the boy’s adventure into the underworld. Murphy utilises the space to its full potential – climbing about not only Martin Thomas’ brilliant timber set, but also scaling the walls of the theatre itself, radiators, and clambering behind the audience.

The boy’s disturbing encounter with the unsavoury characters of Goat and Hyena sends chills down the spine, but is nothing on the evil that is to come later in the form of their lord – the apparent boy-eating Lamb. The presence of these three characters easily justifies the fear that dominates the boy – in his eyes, his facial intensity, his words and of course, his movements.

Boy in Darkness is a fairytale for adults that makes the Grimm Brothers look like Disney. If you’re looking for either something different to experience – or simply physical theatre and storytelling at its finest – be sure to check it out. And at only £12.50 full price (or a tenner for students), it’s an absolute steal for theatre in this fine city.

Blog written by and play reviewed by Charlotte Everett.

Boy in Darkness is on at Blue Elephant Theatre until April 4, shows Wednesday to Saturday, with all performances at 8pm.

boy_in_the_darkness004 (2)Image by Lidia Crisafulli; featuring Gareth Murphy.

REVIEW: London audience intoxicated by Wellington’s soulful Louis Baker

Louis1Photo by Karl Burrows.

It’s a rare talent to command the undivided attention of a packed London venue, but that is exactly what Wellingtonian Louis Baker achieved upon his return to London last week with a sold-out gig at St Pancras Old Church.

Louis provided an aural experience of sensory delights in a venue that reverberated with the sincerity and generosity of the performer himself. Opening with his well-known song Birds seemed a highly appropriate choice, as the set quickly took flight into the heavens themselves.

Two songs in, Louis remarked, “Playing in a place like this… I’m just warming into it… it’s such an experience; so good to be here – I’m just coming to terms with it”.

The intimate, candle-lit setting could not be better suited to a performer who is clearly motivated by the desire to share something of great value with his audience. The music serves as a vehicle for the values that Louis upholds himself and was proactive in speaking about: “I truly believe in us moving forward together as one people – that’s what this song Movin’ is about”… Just Want to Thank You is about intuition and trusting yourself… and his song Love, written when he was only 17, shares his belief in non-violence. Back On My Feet tells the story of how Louis’ journey with music has helped him get back on his feet – a journey that he is now sharing with his growing number of fans throughout the world.

Louis’ set overall provided a relaxed vibe that showcased the beauty and power of solo performance as well as allowing his soulful vocals to shine. Although alone on stage, Louis is not content with simply entertaining his audience, rather, he craves audience participation – vocals, foot-tapping, clapping – and the crowd is always happy to accept his invitation. Attending one of his gigs, you really get a sense in sharing in the music and creating something together.  He has a casual vibe and his interaction with his audience always allows everyone to feel at ease. His cover of Purple Rain was eagerly embraced, and he completely elevated the energy in the room finishing with his own Get Back. Clearly won over, the crowd roared for an encore, to which they were enthusiastically given a rendition of Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On.

Every time Louis Baker returns to London, his fan-base seems to have at least doubled in size. It’s hardly surprising, considering his immense talent and generosity as a performer – once you’ve been to one gig, you’ll be keen to go to them all. Definitely one to keep watching – be sure not to miss him next time he’s in town.

Review/article by Charlotte Everett. May only be re-used with permission. Originally written for NZNewsUK.