The humble rise of the Prom June 22 2014
It is the season of Proms, when school kids celebrate their last senior year, the girls get to dress in gorgeous flowy dresses and the boys get suited and booted. Over the weekend, I went to wave my niece Olivia and her friends off to their Prom in a vintage bus.
The bus was privately owned and its proud owner gave me a brief history and let me on board to see its original leather and fabric interior with bunting hung inside, it really was adorable. The bus was lovingly made in 1954 and was originally with the Aldershot & District Traction Co Ltd for the London link.
As we ate canapés, chocolate strawberries all washed down with Shloer, parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters all got snap happy in taking photos of the excited group of friends.
But how did Proms get started? When I left school, they just had a Leaver's Disco, in fact, our year were so bad, the school opted not to have a Leavers Disco for us!! I also think it may have had something to do with fact that there was a teachers strike going on as well not just we were the naughtiest year in the school!!
Virtually unheard of 15 years ago in the UK, Proms are now the highlight of the school leaver's year, where pupils look forward and start planning their big day way in advance.
So where did it all start? Prom's started across the pond in the US, it was an event to bring together people from all financial standings and heritage. Ever see the film "Pretty in Pink"? If you have, you get the idea!
The word “Prom” comes from the French word, "Promenade", which means "walk" or "stroll". Early in the Twentieth century, it was considered inappropriate to dance with men that you were not married to so the girls would take short and heavily-chaperoned promenades around the block with their dates.
In the 1930s and 40s "Prom" stories of good and bad memories were published by school papers and were taken seriously. By the 1950s and 60s Proms had moved from school gyms to fancy ballrooms with heavy competition for the titles of Prom King and Queen becoming a popularity contest, usually going to the best looking and best dressed couple.
In 1963, President John F Kennedy had to cancel a fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton because the hotel double-booked a school Prom. The Hilton tried to cancel the Prom but luckily for the Senior Highs, the President cancelled his event!
In 1975, President Gerald Ford’s daughter, Susan, got to have her prom at the White House. No stinky old school gym for her!
Today, parents from the US and UK alike complain that Prom's have become expensive and more of a competition of who has spent the most as much as it is a show for the kids. Yes, it can be expensive if you let it but you can buy a Prom outfit fairly cheaply if you shop, around and look no different to someone who has spent a small fortune. It's not necessarily how much you spend but how you wear it.
All in all, the Prom is a wonderful night, for boys and girls to dress up and celebrate the end of their exams and the end of their school years with friends who they have shared so many laughs, tears and experiences with. And as the girls and boys are teetering on the edge of adulthood, the Prom will hopefully, be a night remember.
Psychedelic Fun Run... Man... April 29 2014
Over the weekend, my bestfriend Emma and I did a fun run with a difference... It was neon lit at night! Fresh from the USA, the Electric Run has been taking the world by storm and its premiere in the UK was at London's Wembley Statium. Run it, walk it, the event was for Breast Cancer and participants were encouraged to sling on their neon outfits and have the whole world rubbing their eyes not quite believing what they were seeing.
Entry fee was £30 early bird up to £50 last minute. Also, race packets (T-Shirt, race number, some glow items) had to be picked up on the Thursday/Friday before the event or for an extra £5 on the day (which is a cheek as they don't tell you that when you're registering only about a week before the event!) And if you ordered extra merchandise, like I did (LED glasses, glow necklaces, glow ring) you are given a ticket with your order and you have to queue again to get them, although the wait wasn't that long.
It was the most fun but most surreal run I've ever done. I can only describe it as going to a rave but without the drugs!!! With pumping dance music, glow in the dark everything and a view of the Wembley Stadium arch lit up, me, Emma and about 15,000 neon snappy dressers were raring to go. The atmosphere was electric, if you pardon the pun... I felt like I wanted to high-five anyone and everyone who had made the effort to dress up!!! Woo YEAH!!
As there were so many people, the starting line was staggered to prevent a mass exodus into the neon lit wild. The run was due to start at 8pm when the sun had gone to bed and we were due to go about 8.45pm. As we waited with other excited runners, the MC was throwing neon glow sticks into the crowd for them to carry on the psychedelic wonderland. Then came our official countdown, "10, 9, 8, 7..." And we were off...!
Emma and both found that right at the very start, people were already walking which made it frustrating and slow as we wanted to run! I think the big slope just after the start line had something to do with it but then I think a lot of people were there just for the experience rather than to run which is fine because it was a fun run all for charity.
The one thing I will say is my disappointment (and Emma's too) in that I was given the impression that the whole 5k route would be lit up all the way (as I think most people were) giving a light show with music and although it was in some parts, a lot of the run was in the dark and silent... Not quite what I was expecting but it was still fun nonetheless and Emma and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
The half way line was also a watering hole with neon coloured plastic cups with water. There were psychedelic lit up trees and screen projections, there was even a UV chill out area and a big blow up Battersea Power Station to run through.
As the end of the run was nigh and the finishing line was in sight, we ran through again, I felt it was all a bit of an anti-climax. I wasn't expecting Stars and Spangles but I thought they could have lit up the last 100 yards and have bubbles blowing from a bubble machine for a more grander finish but it really was something of nothing much.
For the hardcore, there was an after party with a DJ and stage light show for those who wanted to party on. There was also a food and drink area if you were feeling peckish after burning off those calories. Emma and I were hungry and opted to stop off for a Maccy D's in Brixton, not something I usually eat but our change of clothes were in the car and it was now 10.30pm and getting cold and re were hungry. Wearing a leotard and lace leggings with a tutu isn't the warmest of clothing!
All in all, I felt the whole experience was unique and had a festival atmosphere about it... And considering the amount of participants, the whole event was well organised although a little pricey.
If you're interested in doing this next year, it's not a race or a serious run, it's just a bit of fun to do with friends or even on your own but you to get to wear the most horrendous outfit without being arrested by the Fashion Police!!!
Laura Mvula October 06 2013
Totally unexpected, I got a call from my brother to ask if I wanted to go to see soul singer-writer Laura Mvula at the O2 Shepherds Bush Empire in London. "Oh yes!" was my reply. I had seen Laura Mvula play a set on a late night showing on TV at Glastonbury in the Summer. She sang, "Green Garden" and I instantly liked what I heard, a raw heavy stomping sound stripped bare of any kind of remix or collaboration.
Laura Mvula (pronounced Mmm-m-vu-la) was born born in Birmingham and within 12 months of sending two demo tapes, she had a debut album, "Sing to the Moon".
First into the venue, my brother and I took our pick of where to stand... At the front, naturally, where we could get a good look and take decent photos! Only, no one told us that photographers would be standing right in front, trying to get one decent shot for their rag! It only went on for the first three songs much to the annoyance of the front line audience but once they were gone, we were free to enjoy the rest of the set and be as snap happy as we liked without a photographer's head getting in the way!
Dressed in a Black jumpsuit and a long Black snood, Laura Mvula is one cool chick whose stage presence had everyone in the house captivated. Her set was a mixture of drum heavy stomping to soul smooth strings of the harp, cello and violin. And her song "Diamonds", a song she said she penned for her friend who sadly passed away, brought a tear to my eye. It was so pure and beautiful. Somebody shouted from the audience, "Laura, you're an angel!". Whether you believe in angels or not, Laura Mvula certainly makes you believe there are...