27 November 2015

the best of sketches in travel november

A Musical November
Brrr the cold days have finally arrived in the UK and Christmas is just around the corner. From a Sketches point of view this has been quite a month. A real early winter warmer. Where some of the following articles are going to take us is anyone's guess but hopefully you'll be along for the ride? And what fun it's been. Alongside the usual posts we focused on music this month, contributions to other publications (the exciting part) and a bit of food. So in no particular order here are Novembers best bits of the month. Just click on the bold words to go to the posts.

The Forum in Rome - from the article "When in Rome"
This month proved to be a turning point for us as a travel and lifestyle writer. I think I can call myself that? I had my first article published through European Life Magazine, called When in Rome. Its a project I'm very excited about and I hope that shines through in the written text? The second article will be out in December. Also I'm very happy to be contributing to Shopper Lottie Magazine, the first article being Museum hopping around London and again I am really excited by the prospects of this collaboration and where it's going to take us. Hopefully you have enjoyed the articles too?

Said the Maiden
The other major collaboration was with the upcoming folk trio Said the Maiden. In Part 1 we looked at their beginnings and why they chose to be a folk band; Said the Maiden interview Part 1. In Part 2 they bring us up-to-date with their current Pledge Music campaign and the release of their new EP and video Said the Maiden interview Part 2. Two more articles are to follow coming in December. It's an exciting time for them at present with the release of their new EP. If you would like to reserve your copy and be a part of their adventure? You can do so through their Pledge Music page www.pledgemusic.com/projects/saidthemaiden

Publicity shot of Said the Maiden
Short but sweet
So what a month its been. A turning point? Quite possibly? And the fun doesn't stop there. There are more articles to come in the magazines and there will be more posts on Said the Maiden regarding their touring and the new EP. Also in the run up to Christmas we're be doing a special series called The 12 Travel Days of Christmas - with some favourite posts from the year and some new ones. 

As always thank you for your support. It's truly amazing. See you in December.

24 November 2015

taste of london food festival

Taste of London Winter Food Festival - Travel Diaries: November 2015
When the opportunity arises to go and taste some of the UK's best independent produce, whether that be food or drink, its very hard to refuse. Having been given some complimentary tickets by the good people of Swig Luxury Flasks we headed up to the wonderfully named Tobacco Dock near Shadwell in London and the Taste of London Festive Festival

Taste of London Festival at Tobacco Dock

At Tobacco Docks
Once inside you immediately feel you are in a warm and comforting environment. Gentle lights glow, stoves are cooking up wonderful smells and aromas, bricked tunnels lead you into exhibition halls, bars and show areas. There are DJ's and live bands also performing. Oh and there are a lot of people! On arrival you are presented with a number of different ticketing options depending on your preference, including a champagne one, (we didn't have that option, but no matter.) To taste some of the great food or micro brewery beers or ciders you have to purchase tokens. These come in books of 10 with £1 representing one token. Once you have made these decisions then it's time to wonder and get tasting. 

Taste of the World
As you wonder around there are a number of showcase stands or should that be performance areas? Some of the UK's Top chefs show their skills, and around these areas is where you can use your tokens to try out some of their dishes and beverages. Typically in tapas size, you are looking at about 5 tokens for a dish. The picture of the burgers is a prime example. 

taste of london festival
Pulled Beef Burgers from one of the many tasting stalls
If however you are on a limited budget you can wonder around the company display stands and sample everything from chocolates, cakes, cheese, wine and whisky to chili sauces and coffee. You can then purchase products at much reduced prices. Everyone it seems is a winner here. What is noticeable when wondering around is that our food industry seems to be in a healthy place. It's so good to see that local produce from around the UK is not only being successful but also that the flavours of their products taste so good. Who said British cuisine was bad? 

Taste of London
For a first time visitor, the Taste of London festival was a great experience. The venue really helped to give it an authentic, almost rustic feel. Much better than say in a nondescript exhibition hall. It has a friendly atmosphere and is a great way to get a flavour of what this rising industry is all about and also why it should be supported. So if you have the chance to go there next time then please check out this wonderful foodie festival. It seems they have seasonal exhibitions so there is plenty of chance to catch it.   

Have you been to the Taste of London Festival? Where you there this year? Then why not let us know what you thought about it by any of the social media buttons at the top of the post. 


19 November 2015

said the maiden part 2

As folk music continues to increase in popularity, Said the Maiden are about to release a new EP through the pledge music site. In the second part of our interview, the girls discuss their debut album and the upcoming release. 

Said the Maiden - live in concert
When you released your first album, A Curious Tale, where were you expecting it to take you and has that been achieved?
We released our first album, A Curious Tale, in June 2014.  We are really proud of the recording because we self-released it and we had a lot of friends and family involved in its production, so it's a very personal thing and it was a big achievement for us.  We didn't have any specific goals or ambitions when we embarked on the recording - for us it was a challenge because it was the biggest project we had undertaken at that point and we had very little experience of recording, and so we wanted to learn about the process.  We also wanted to have something physical to take to gigs with us to sell!  People had started to ask at gigs whether we had any CDs they could buy, and although we had a five-track EP which we recorded in 2013, we thought that we had moved forward since then and wanted something more substantial to offer.

Did your sound and the way you worked as a band change after its release?
A Curious Tale had some very positive reviews from folk magazines and websites such as FATEA and Bright Young Folk, which was really great and gave us the confidence and motivation to keep singing, keep performing and to continue to develop as a group.  Having a recording available also meant that we gained more interest perhaps, through radio play and selling the CD through our website and at gigs.  We also learned a lot about what works well and not so well for us in terms of recording, which was a big learning curve and helped us to move forward with our next project.

Moving forward. You’re about to release a new EP. Tell us about the thought process behind this decision and about the EP itself.
We wanted to record again before too long so that we could put into practice some of the things we had learned from our album recording, and we wanted to have something to represent us at our current stage as we continue to change and develop our sound and become stronger as a group.  We thought a four-track EP would enable this nicely and decided to record two tracks with a professional producer, and two tracks live in front of an audience, to show two different sides of our sound.  We approached Stu Hanna from the highly acclaimed folk duo Megson, who is also a producer, and he recorded and produced two songs for us: The Soldier and the Maid, and Dolly Parton's Jolene (as you've never heard it before!).  For the two live tracks we chose Redbourn Folk Club as the setting, as the people there have been so supportive of everything we've done and we knew we'd get great audience participation from them!  So we recorded two songs live at the club in October: Liz and Paul Davenport's Spring Tide Rising, and our own song, Polly Can You Swim?  Jess's brother Steve and our friend Andy recorded the two live tracks and Steve has mixed them.  Steve also recorded and produced our first EP and album, and we are so grateful to him and Andy for all of their help as they have done all of it fantastically, and for free. 

The involvement of Pledge Music came through a need to raise funds for the studio recording, and also for a music video which we wanted make for The Soldier and the Maid.  We also had some professional photos taken for the very first time, to use on our new EP artwork and on promotional material etc. So as you can imagine, all of these things have come at a financial cost which we weren't able to afford between us and so we set up our Pledge Campaign to help.  Pledge Music is a 'crowd-funding' website where fans of Said The Maiden, or people who have just discovered us, can buy the new EP or the album, or merchandise and novelty items and all the money raised goes towards our project.  We think it's a really great way to fundraise as it gets people involved in the process as we're actually doing it - we've kept everyone who has pledged updated with the progress of the recording, the video and the photos, so they know where their money is going!  We have raised just over 50% of our goal at the time of writing this, and we have until the 10th December to raise the rest.... 

So, here's our plug - please visit www.pledgemusic.com/projects/saidthemaiden and pledge to show your support!  You can pledge as little as £5 and every little bit helps.

What are you expecting from the release of this record? Will it alter the way you work? Where you tour? What you record next?
We are hoping that our new EP, 'Of Maids And Mariners' will be a good display of how far we've come over the last few years, and will be an opportunity for new people to listen to us if they haven't already discovered Said The Maiden.  We are hoping that the new recording will be met with the same positive feedback as our previous recordings have been, and we will be sending tracks off to various radio stations - some local, some national - to try and gain some airplay.  Ultimately, all of the above could in turn lead to more performance opportunities at folk clubs and festivals in 2016 and beyond, which will enable us to keep doing what we love to do most - sing for people.

Where can people purchase the new EP?
Of Maids And Mariners will be available to buy from our website www.saidthemaiden.co.uk, and from us directly at gigs.  We will also release digital downloads of the tracks online.  The EP is due for release on the 13th December, however if people want to pre-order a copy and help us to raise much-needed funds, they can do so via Pledge Music www.pledgemusic.com/projects/saidthemaiden.  You can also have your EP signed by purchasing through the Pledge Campaign.


It would be great if you could become a part of Said the Maidens journey. They are a hard working band who deserve success

Coming soon: Life on the Road and a review of the EP. 


17 November 2015

said the maiden

Said the Maiden

Folk music has had something of an renaissance in the past few years here in the UK. It has become a genre of music that is far more accepted, not just for crusty old men with beards, drinking ale. A much younger audience has taken an interest. The proof in the pudding is the number of folk festivals that make up our summer of music schedule, including Cambridge and Cropredy. Sketches has been given the privilege of following, speaking and soon seeing a folk band that are about to release their most ambitious project to date. So in the first of a series of exclusive posts we speak to Said the Maiden. In the first post they talk about their beginnings and who and what influenced them. First though a little background.

Over the last two years the Maidens have gone from strength to strength, releasing their debut album and securing support and headline slots at folk clubs and festivals around the country, which in turn have led to opportunities to support many fantastic artists including The Fisherman's Friends, Jim Moray, Megson, Martin Carthy, Sam Carter, Hannah James and Sam Sweeney, and Clannad.  They were also honoured to join legendary fiddler Dave Swarbrick on a successful UK tour in the spring of 2014.

Photo by Rodeo Whiter

Can you tell us about the origins of the band? How you got together and where your band name comes from.

We have known each other a long time!  Since childhood really - we all went to school together in St. Albans, Hertfordshire and were all involved in the musical life of the school, from singing in choirs and playing in orchestras, to taking part in theatre shows and concerts.  We all went our separate ways after school but kept in touch and after finishing our various studies at university and returning to the area, we discovered a mutual love of folk music.  We consequently went to various gigs and festivals together and we were inspired to have a go ourselves!  We started regularly visiting our local Redbourn Folk Club for their open stage nights about three and a half years ago, to experiment with our own arrangements of traditional songs and to build our confidence.  We were met with an overwhelmingly encouraging, welcoming group of people who were able to share their knowledge and gave us so much supportive feedback, so we kept going back and adding songs to our repertoire until we were able to do a full set for one of the Club's guest nights.  From there on in we have just tried to gain as much experience and as many performance opportunities as possible. 

We didn't have an official band name for quite a while as we were very indecisive (this hasn't changed much over time)!  However, we looked for inspiration within the songs we were singing and were drawn towards a line from one of the first songs we arranged together - The Fine Young Smith, the tune for which we learned from Sean Lakeman and Kathryn Roberts.  We loved one particular line: 'Quoth the Maid', but felt it wasn't too catchy and was a bit of a mouthful, so we changed it to 'Said the Maid', and then finally decided upon 'Said The Maiden'.  We like the fact that our name suggests a story is being told by someone, as this is what a lot of folk music is all about. 

What was it about folk music that influenced your decision to go down this genre of music?

It definitely wasn't a conscious decision to form a folk band specifically; the whole process has been very organic and so things have just happened as and when we have felt the time has been right. We were just naturally drawn to the genre because we all enjoy listening to folk music and other related genres so much.  Going to lots of folk gigs and folk festivals probably helped to inspire us further too, as we heard songs and tunes that we wanted to try and learn and arrange for ourselves.  We also all enjoy the fact that the folk tradition is one of sharing and learning from other musicians and singers; of passing on traditional songs and tunes which may be hundreds of years old, and giving them new life.  When we sing our own arrangements of traditional songs it feels like we are part of a huge, extended family who all share this music and its history.  We love that about the genre.

Photo by Rodeo Whiter
How would you define your sound?

We sing mostly in close three-part harmony and largely acapella - without instruments - however we accompany some of our songs with guitar, mandolin, violin and flute.  We sing mostly traditional folk songs in our own arrangements, as well as some of our own original songs which, so far, also have a traditional feel to them. We have also covered a few more modern folk songs in our own style, and a few non-folk songs which we have given a make-over with our own distinctive sound!

Tell us a little about your personal musical journeys.

As we mentioned earlier, we all studied music at school and were involved in lots of musical activities throughout this time.  After school we all gained different musical experiences through studying, in the working world or otherwise. Music is a big part of our lives even outside of Said The Maiden. 

Jess: I grew up surrounded by a lot of music in the house. My dad listened to Asia, Queen, Mike Oldfield, Tracy Chapman, people of that era. Mum listened to a lot of Clannad and Enya. My brother listened to a lot of indie and brit pop: Blur, Oasis, Space Hog, Nirvana, Green Day, a lot of stuff, and my sister listened to groups like My Life Story, the Bluetones, Portishead. I was exposed to an eclectic mix of music and liked it all! We have all, as a family, always sung or played instruments. We actually played in a band together when I was young. I started on recorder then was promoted to flute and singing. I became aware of folk music as I know and love it now about 8 years ago, when I saw a trailer for Seth Lakeman's new album at the time. I was really struck by the fact that he was singing and playing violin at the same time.  That seemed incredible to me, so I searched for more people who did the same or similar, and here I am now!

Hannah: I also grew up in a family where I was exposed to a huge variety of musical genres, from pop and rock to classical and jazz.  My grandad was a musician and piano tuner and I would love hearing him tell stories of his days as a professional pianist and organist.  My mum also plays piano and clarinet and encouraged me and my brothers to take up various musical instruments whilst we were at school.  I later gained a degree in Music and since graduating I have not only pursued music as a hobby but have worked in various musical settings including a specialist music school where I assisted in organising concerts and events, and for a music charity which runs music courses for adult learners. I have also worked in several educational settings supporting young adults with a range of learning difficulties and disabilities, and have been able to use my musical background and experience to support them in their studies of music and performing arts. 

Kathy: Singing has always been a part of my life.  One of my earliest memories is of joining my Grandpa Ernie on stage for a rendition of 'Any Old Iron' at his 80th birthday party.  I learned my trade, as it were, in the Markyate Church choir; my first experience as a paid musician was earning £2 for singing at weddings.  At school I joined every choir and orchestra going and have always particularly enjoyed close harmony singing.  I also enjoyed performing in the school musical every year, gaining a particular appreciation for Gilbert and Sullivan and later spent my university years as part of the Exeter University Gilbert and Sullivan Society.  It was also at university that I first began to listen to folk music.  I particularly remember hearing a friend of mine playing 'Crazy Man Michael' on the guitar and thinking - I must find out more about that... and I did.

In Part 2 Said the Maiden discuss their first release and the upcoming new EP and why they are using the Pledge Music site. Your comments are as always very welcome and please check in on Thursday to find out about the wonder trio. To visit their pledge music site please click on the following link Said the maiden at pledgemusic


10 November 2015


Are Cud the most travel influenced band in the world?

Bands travel the globe to sing about love, heartbreak and just about anything else inbetween. And we all lap it up. So what about a band that sang about all these things and perhaps, more relevant with a travel blog; travel. Well Cud could well be that band. In the late 1980's to the mid 90's this four piece combo brought their guitar driven, dancable tunes to the masses. Although not as well known as other indie bands of the 1990's, they produced a wonderful array of songs that have lived with me and many others ever since. When I heard their song "Oh no won't do" recently I just felt I was being taken on a world tour. From Madagascar to Buenos Aires. Santiago to East Anglia (a region of the Uk). Quite a feat in two and a half minutes. 

Cud, it seems enjoy singing about travel. Other travel related titles from their back catalogue include Spanish Love Song, (Only) A Prawn in Whitby, Carl's 115th Coach Trip Nightmare and When in Rome, Kill Me. They recently reformed and were on their travels again with the wonderful new song; Mexico.

So there we are. Are Cud the world's most travel related band?
Quite possibily. Perhaps you know of others? If so, then please share them so we can build up a travel map of songs from around the world. I also hope you will take a moment to dig further into the repertoire this band has produced. It's jolly, fun, danceable and a wonderful listen. All hail Cud....Now I really must visit Mexico.

4 November 2015

5 reasons to get out and about this november

The weather has turned, the clocks have gone back and darkness is upon us like a unwelcome blanket on a muggy summers night. That shouldn't however stop you from venturing out and about this November. There is plenty happening to fill those daylight hours. Remember this is the month before the festive season, so now is an especially good time to have some fun, see some places and partake in some great activities before we all get caught up in the festivities. So here are 5 reasons to get out and about this November.

guy fawkes night
Remember, remember the 5th November

F is for Fireworks
"Remember, remember the 5th of November. Gun powder, treason and plot. There must be a reason for remembering this season, but whatever its reason I've forgot!" - The Kipper Family

Of course here in the UK we head out into the cold nights to watch the fireworks, eat marshmallows and drink some hot punch. Guy Fawkes night remains as much a part of our culture as fish and chips! Most towns and villages have one so all the more reason to get out and enjoy it. Let's just hope the weather is kind and allows everyone a soaked free evening. 

V is for Visiting Museums
It's that period between half term and the festive period. Schools have now returned and its the low season, the down time until the Christmas markets arrive. So why not take a weekend out to visit a museum near where you live? Or if you are visiting London then you'll probably have them to yourself. Enjoy it whilst you can.

C is for Christmas Markets
Towards the end of November the Christmas Markets open and with it the run in towards the big day. Most major cities and larger towns around the UK hold one. They are normally themed for example German, Victorian and so on. Interestingly the first Christmas market to start up after they were revived in the early 80's was in Lincoln. Its a great way to get into the Christmas spirit, eat some festive food and drink some mulled wine. 

LM is for Lords Mayor Show
On Saturday the 14th of November London hosts the annual Lords Mayors Show. It's celebrating its 800th year, so has become an essential part of London and its traditions. Its an event that anyone visiting London during this time should take in. It's pageant and party time rolled into one. The main parade starts at 11 am and concludes with fireworks (them again) in the evening. With performers from around the globe. Call it London's alternative carnival. 

F is for Fungi foraging 
As you may well know we often feature activities to get you into the great outdoors. Well how about a bit of mushroom hunting? The National Trust are running such events during November. Find our where to see a Slippery Jack or eat a Giant Puffball! If you visit the National Trusts events page it will list the nearest mushroom event to you.

Getting out and about
So there we go, some great ideas to keep you busy during this mid to late Autumn month. Do you have other ideas? I'd love to hear from you. So get that woolly jumper on. Find those wellington boots and get out and about this November. Most of all...have fun. 



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