30 December 2015

the best of sketches in travel december

Well the Christmas pudding should have digested. The turkey is well and truly devoured and the presents already used, broken or returned! Hopefully it was a joyous time for you? The new year is now fast approaching and as always Sketches looks back at the month before moving on. This month, music has featured heavily as has testing out the superb Suunto Traverse GPS watch and Lego! So in no particular order here is the months best bits and the top picks from the year.

Selfridges - Bond Street
European Life Magazine -  This months article for the luxury magazine was about shopping. Well it is that time of year and the sales are now in full swing. Selfridges is one of the UK's premier shops, a place for luxury and decadence. It's also quite a tourist attraction that should feature on any visitors itinerary to London. Follow the link to learn more Shopping at Selfridges

Shopper Lottie Magazine - Although we've spoken about this wonderful folk group on Sketches before, we decided to write a slightly different article about the folk trio, Said the Maiden. Their delayed EP will launch in the early new year (10th January) so here's a chance to see their new video and make sure to order your copy. They have a big 2016 ahead of them, click on the link for more Said the Maiden

Said the Maiden
Suunto Traverse Amber - I was given the opportunity by the wonderful people at Suunto to test out the new Traverse GPS watch. A luxury accessory for the adventure and sports market. With an abundance of functions it's a watch that not only looks good but is also the perfect accompaniment for a skiing trip to a hike. There's also a new review at Shopper Lottie Magazine. Click on the link to see the full review Suunto Traverse

Sweet Billy Pilgrim - We all have our personal favourites when it comes to albums and songs that we've loved throughout the year. Here was my choice from Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Motorcade Amnesiacs. Trust me when I say you will be drawn in by their mix of sounds Sweet Billy Pilgrim

Most popular posts from the Year
As a final look at the year I've also included the best posts from the Sketches year. 

1) The most popular post was when I visited the wonderful Corfe Castle in Dorset The 1040 to Corfe Castle

2) A different type of post, linking Coffee with Travel. What's not to enjoy about sitting at a cafe watching the world go by?  
Coffee and travel

Cafe Culture 

3) The Boeing 747 changed travel forever and we celebrated that with this post Boeing 747


Can I just take this opportunity to thank all my readers for your support and comments throughout the year. I honestly cannot believe the huge steps this blog has taken and without you I wouldn't be writing this. So thank you and I do hope you will be joining me as we continue Sketches journey into 2016. I wonder whats around the corner?  Wishing everyone a safe and prosperous new year.

29 December 2015

why lego should be in your life

The Christmas turkey has been well and truly eaten, gifts opened, friends and family entertained. If you, like me have finally got a bit of time to look through the gifts given, you'll either be very happy with them or about to take various item(s) back to shops. Santa gave me some Lego this year, I know I'm not a kid anymore but who can argue against a bit of the brick or in this case Technic pieces to fill in the gap between Christmas and New Year? 

From the Lego Bulldozer kit
Building Blocks
So why should everyone have some Lego in their life? I'm sure many of you have had it as kids and then long left it behind to gather dust. Perhaps to return to it once you have introduced it to your own children? Since M & K came along my love for Lego has returned and some. If however you have remained childless then that shouldn't deter you from finding those dusty bricks or visiting a Lego store and giving it a go. Here's three reasons why you won't regret it..

1) Its fun 
2) Its a great stress reliever - takes you away from distractions like phones and the everyday stresses we all face.
3) Its educational - the Technic sets are a great way to understand how mechanics. 

Lego Technic

Technic Lego
The Bulldozer slowly coming together
The Bulldozer 
This Christmas I was given a bulldozer! It's not the biggest in the Lego Technic collection and probably not the hardest to build, but what fun. The joy comes in discovering how its put together and what each component does and how each individual section connects to create this wonderful machine. This set has 600+ pieces so will provide you with a few hours of fun. And once it's complete and you want a change, this set gives you a second vehicle to create, giving you hours more fun. 

The Bulldozer taking shape
Why you should have Lego in your life
Lego isn't cheap, some sets are upwards of £160+, but the entertainment far outweighs the expense. And there are some bargains out there. It could be argued (please do in the comments) that it's the greatest children's toy invented? Knocking down all barriers, bringing together young and old, across both all genders and race. So whether its the Technic sets or just the coloured bricks, it doesn't really matter. Go on give it a try, go and build, be creative and salute the wonder of Lego.  


When was the last time you built something with Lego? It would be great to hear about or see your creations, just click on any of the social media channels at the top of the page. Happy building..


22 December 2015

suunto traverse

Suunto Traverse Amber 
Are you planning a skiing trip or a hiking expedition next year? Perhaps you are looking to rid the excesses of the festive period with a bracing walk or run? When Sketches was given the opportunity by the good people at Suunto to test out their new Traverse range of watches I just couldn't refuse. The weather hasn't been the kindest but after getting my head around how to use its functions we set about testing the watch. Here is our tale..

GPS watch
Suunto Traverse Amber
Walking in the hills 
Living in a rural area (The Chiltern Hills) didn't present too many problems when thinking about setting about testing the traverse. Perhaps not the most challenging of landscapes but a useful place nevertheless to test the watch and our compass reading skills. Suunto wanted us to test the watch against the old map and compass. So with M and K in tow we headed out for a bracing walk. It wasn't particularly hard; muddy yes, undulating definitely not. For the most part we were on the tops of the hills. Immediately it was clear that using a compass and map can be cumbersome, especially with the wind blowing. A great way for the kids to understand maps and how a compass works, but for the more seasoned user with the advancement in technology people want instant help or readings without the hassle of getting out maps. This is where the watch comes into its own. 

On a road to nowhere?
Sunset approaches in the Chilterns
M getting to grips with the compass

Using the watch
We decided, to do compass work and using the Suunto Traverse at the same time. The watch can have programmed routes via the Movescount app or as we did on this particular occasion you can record your route. Initially this proved tricky, well I'm not the most tech savvy person out there. So after a bit of fiddling around and a short practice at recording a route, actually done whilst cycling home from work. I felt confident enough to use it for our test. 

Throughout the duration of the walk we checked the watches functions and found them easy to read, informative and fun (as the pictures below demonstrate). M and K especially liked comparing the compasses to check they were accurate (the watch has one).  A touch of a button changes the screen to the information you require, whether that is co-ordinates, the route or timings. So even though this was a simple test I would feel very confident about using the watch in more demanding terrain.

Suunto Traverse Amber in action at the start of the walk

The watch creates a map of your route

The Suunto Traverse 
The Review 
First impressions are everything these days and the Traverse delivers that from the moment you open the box. Yes its chunky, but aren't most watches nowadays? It's very well built and light for its size. The watch almost demands to be put through its paces. The Alps are calling! After initial set up and charging up the watch (the battery lasts approximately 100 hours between charges). Its advisable to create an account with the Movescount app. This way you can sync the watch with your phone and/or PC and also work on planning routes. Which can be shared in the growing community of walkers. Just remember to turn the Bluetooth on your phone! It took a while to get used to the watch (size mainly) but after a few days it felt comfortable. Would I wear it all the time? Probably not but there is no reason why you can't. It's eye catching that's for sure. For more information please visit Suunto's website, where you can also download the user guide and find the nearest retailer Suunto Traverse Collection

The watch has a many functions, including GPS, a compass, it measures your steps daily, tells you the sunrise and sunset times and of course the routes you've planned can be stored on them. You can also record whilst walking. Giving you plenty of details as you progress, calories burned, distance walked, average speed. For the hiker or trekker its the perfect accessory. So you could conceivably say goodbye to the map and compass. 

The Verdict
If you are an adventurous traveler then this watch is the perfect accessory. Whether you are skiing, hiking, walking, cycling or running it will also meet with your needs. Suunto have added a great watch to their growing family of products. With the Traverse coming in a variety of colours (amber, black, white) it also has a certain amount of chic. A quality product that I will use again and again. 

May I take this opportunity to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and thank you for your continued support. 


15 December 2015

sweet billy pilgrim

Motorcade Amnesiacs 

Music makes for a great Christmas gift and if you are prepared to push the boat out and go with someones recommendation that isn't part of mainstream pop music then this is for you. We've been featuring music quite a lot recently so it felt appropriate to add another strand by giving you Sketches album of the year. Sweet Billy Pilgrim released Motorcade Amnesiacs back in the early summer and to say its an absolute corker is not an exaggeration.

Sweet Billy Pilgrims latest offering

This is an album that takes you on a music journey through a landscape that is actually quite hard to define. On the one hand rock, throw in a little prog rock and a touch of acoustic guitar and some harmonies and you are kind of there. Just when you think a song has found its rhythm, it decides to head off in a different direction. Taking you on a completely different journey. Some songs start slowly and build to crashing conclusion such as the wonderful Ffwd To the Freeze Frame, which like a good thriller has a wonderful twist (like I mentioned above) towards the end. Other tracks bound along like a well-oiled pop song, dding in wonderful choruses that you will hum for days and days. Just above Midtown, the video featured, is testament to that. There are also times when its all driving guitars. I could go on but don't want to spoil the enjoyment. 

Sweet Billy Pilgrim
Some bands get the plaudits, the attention and the record sales to boot. Some though create fabulous music and hardly get a look in, but should. Sweet Billy Pilgrim are one of these such groups. Even though they were nominated for the Mercury Prize with their second album; Twice Born Men. They deserve so much more. So if this Christmas you're looking for some new music to discover? Then may I suggest you take a look at this wonderful band. They really do deserve your attention. 

11 December 2015

bauble bowls

Travel Games - Bauble Bowls
You've put the Christmas tree up and you have a few moments to spare in-between wrapping presents, preparing office party dresses or heading out to a Christmas Market. In those brief moments of spare time here's a little game you can play, call it a festive travel games special from Sketches. They sometimes sparkle or shine in the bright lights. And to be honest demand your gaming attention. So if you have a few spare lying around then perfect. Or if not just take them off the tree so that you can have a quick game of Baubles bowls!

Pick your Bauble! 

The Rules 
This is really just a simplified version of crown green bowls adapted for the indoors. So all you need is a smooth surface and a bit of room. Perhaps the hallway would be a good starting point? From thereon the rules are as follows..

* Each player has four baubles if playing individually or two each if playing in pairs.
* Pick a smaller golden or silver coloured bauble as the jack.
* Throw the jack down the hall or open space. 
* The idea is the team who gets their bauble(s) the closest wins a point. If more than one of your balls are the closest, then that's two, three or four points respectively. That will complete the first end.
* Play as many ends as required until the first team or individual reaches 21 points. 

Bring some bauble fun to your Christmas preparations
Baubles Bowls
The concept seems easy and fun to boot. Although with one side being weighted down by the hanging section (if that's what its called?) it means some skill is required. A word of warning to anyone playing with youngsters, baubles can shatter easily so perhaps don't play it around them. And to get into the festive spirit why not add in a glass or three of mulled wine? What better way to lose yourself for an hour or two on a dark Christmas evening? 

Why not share in your bauble games by sending in pictures or telling us your tales of winning or woe? Thanks as always for your support and happy bauble bowling.

4 December 2015

5 reasons to get out and about this december

Christmas is coming and the goose is getting fat!
Yes its the season to be jolly, eat to much, drink a little more than normal, indulge in too many chocolates, exchange gifts and then start thinking about how to get the weight we've just put on, off! So before / during / after, heading to the office party or meeting up with the relatives. Sketches gives you it's monthly reasons to get out and about. This time its the five steps to a perfect Christmas

I is for Ice Skating: London has them aplenty and many major towns around the UK have them too. Over the last five years or so outdoor skating rinks have become a feature of the run up to Christmas and beyond. So why not put those wholly scarfs and hats on and get skating. The Natural History Museum has one, as does Somerset House in London, giving you that added ambiance to the fun of constantly falling over! 

N&C is for Nativity and Carols: Sometimes we need a little reminder that Christmas is not just about giving and receiving presents. So why not add an extra element to the Christmas run up and visit a carol service or perhaps a live nativity? Many villages and towns are holding these events that incorporate many people from many different backgrounds and faiths. What's not to like about a live nativity with live animals, carols and sketches? Or singing along to a few hearty carols around an open fire? 

C is for Christmas Markets: OK, so if you read last months 5 reasons you'll know I mentioned them there. Well they are a great way to get into the Christmas spirit, literally! What's not to like about having a warm mug of mulled wine or cider? Buying a great little gift or some decorations for the tree? Many towns have a German style market, others venture down the Victorian route. The National Trust hold Victorian themed events at their properties and one of the more popular examples of the Christmas Market is held in Bath. 

P is for Pantomime: "It's behind you". "Oh no they are not!" "Oh yes they are!" The Panto is one of the great British Christmas traditions. Bizarre perhaps to many from outside the UK, but incredibly popular. If you are visiting you may wonder what the fuss is all about. People mucking around making silly jokes. Grown men dressing up as women in outrageous makeup and women dressing up as men. Panto is Britain's take on the traditional fairy tale. Cinderella, Aladdin to name two. Great family fun, with a few famous celebrities and lots of jokes and fun thrown in for good measure. Any town with a theatre will probably have one and its a great way to keep the kids entertained for a couple of hours. Want to get a feel of the Christmas season in the UK, then go see a panto!

LP is for visiting your local pub: There is something rather comforting about visiting a cozy looking pub which has an open fire and serves a good old pint of warm British beer during the Christmas period. Well it is the time to indulge a little and what better way than to find a good pub and meet up with friends for a chat or take the parents for a winter warmer after a long walk. Many pubs will have special winter ales and beers to choose from. Cheers!

So there we are, 5 reasons to get off the sofa and out and about this December. Turning that Christmas run up into a celebration itself, full of fun and frolics. Have you got any suggestions? Then please let me know. And if you find a good pub selling a great winter beer and please let me know...I'll be the one at the end of the bar! 

Thanks as always for your support. It really is appreciated. This is the first Travel Days of Christmas post. So be sure to look out for the others in the run up to Christmas.  


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



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