29 February 2016

the best of sketches in travel february

Hope springs eternal, well lets hope so as we say goodbye to February and hello to the first month of Spring; March. February has been another busy month, full of contrast, from festivals to singer / songwriters, competitions and travel guide reviews. So as is tradition we give you our pick of February.

Chichibu Shrine
Shopper Lottie Magazine - Two articles were published this month, both travel related, both from very different viewpoints. The first was actually the second part of a two part look at why Japan should be on your bucket list. The second part featured towers (Tokyo Skytree), trains and toilets! Towers, Trains and Toilets! If you are a fan of paintings then the second article looked at the work of Sasha Harding. I've featured her here before and wanted to do so again but from a different viewpoint. I hope you enjoy them? The artwork of Sasha Harding

Setsubun Festival artwork
Festivals - At the very beginning of the month we did a feature on a Japanese festival; Setsubun. Although that festival has now gone, Sketches will be looking at various festivals from time to time throughout the year, so why not get a flavour of what is to come? Setsubun festival

Singer / Songwriters
Sketches has been very fortunate to have collaborated with singer / songwriter Kelly Oliver. A rising star of the young folk movement. This first part looked at her early work; an EP and album. Part 2 will be coming out later in the week, ahead of the release of her new album Bedlam; so be sure to look out for that one. Kelly Oliver interview

folk singer
Kelly Oliver
So another interesting month in the life of Sketches. As always I have to thank you for your support; it's truly amazing. March looks like being an interesting one with more from Kelly, a feature on Venice and another Travel Doodle. 

Oh talking of travel doodles, February's featured a giveaway! There are still some apps available, so leave a comment here of a place you're visiting this year and I'll send a code for a travel app from GPSmycity. Click on the link for more details Competition.

Until next time.....


26 February 2016

kelly oliver

Towards Bedlam - Part 1
The journey of a folk singer / songwriter

Kelly Oliver
If you need any proof that travelling can be the catalyst to a future career, then look no further than the experience of folk singer Kelly Oliver. Having traveled through South America, Kelly returned inspired and with a hat full of song writing content to pursue her dream of becoming a full time singer / songwriter. Ahead of her new album release - Bedlam, Sketches has been given access into her burgeoning career. In the first part we look at those beginnings and the making of her EP and first album. 

Into the Den 
Taking a seat on the comfy sofa surrounded by guitars of every variety, you have the sudden realization that you're in a very professional environment. The Den, as its seems to be referred to is the home studio of Kelly's manager and record label owner (Folkstock records), Helen Meissner. Its also where Kelly and Lauren; producer, artist, musician (and daughter) of Helen's' produce their magic. You get the feel you're in very good company. With cuppa to hand, Kelly and Lauren settle down to discuss all things music.

Kelly (left) and producer Lauren
Back to the Beginning
We go back to the beginning, thinking of the times before releasing her first EP "Far from Home". She talks about how her travels influenced those early days. Kelly speaks eloquently about the impact Brazil and Argentina had on her and the delights of seeing and hearing the music from those countries, even though she isn't particularly keen on the samba sound. She continues by discussing how the subsequent meeting with Helen (she was initially told to go away and work on the areas which Helen felt were lacking; absence of any social media being one of them). And come back she did, four months later with a slot at Helen's music festival; Folkstock, which started this journey and the eventual recording of the EP with Lauren. Subsequently it's success was based in part on local radio plays and selling the EP at gigs. Avoiding a day time job helped to capitalize on the EP's success and any opportunities that came her way. And thus her rise in the folk music world began. 

This Land
With the EP in the bag and a number of songs ready to go, along with a producer (Lauren) ready to pull the strings, it was only natural to get an album "This Land" made as soon after the EP as possible. For both you feel this was a rights of passage, the moment when everything really came together. For Kelly a chance to get her songs properly reviewed; normally EP's don't get reviews. And for Lauren her first album credits as a producer. They talk about the recording process, the fact that they took their time, and were able to hone the songs to their liking without time constraints. Allowing they say for the strength of the songs and songwriting to shine through. It's hard to argue with that when you listen to them. The stripped back album; mainly guitar, harmonica (both Kelly) and bass (Lauren) received critical acclaim. No less from the likes of the Daily Telegraph, who also included it in their top 60 folk albums of the year. A number of awards also followed, showcasing that those songs had hit the mark.

As our conversation continues, they like a good natter! It's clear they are both very passionate about their craft. And as a partnership there is clearly a special bond between the two of them. There is a joy at talking about music and the processes of producing music. It's not long till our discussion moves on next part of her journey, the upcoming album, Bedlam

In Part 2 of our interview we talk about that album and also what the future holds for both of them. If you would like to learn more and listen to Kelly's work then please click on the link Kelly Oliver website


19 February 2016

only in london book review

Only in London 
A Guide to Unique Locations, Hidden Corners and Unusual Objects

One of travel's great challenges is finding the unusual, the unique or just plan bizarre. Travel writer Duncan J D. Smith is the inspiration behind these unique travel guides that help to unlock some of these mysteries and Sketches has been given the opportunity to review his London edition. So with M in tow we picked out our locations and with book in hand we headed up to London to take the guide through its paces.

Only in London
Our guide for the day
Up the Monument
The guidebook works through the attractions and locations by the London postal codes, for example W, WC, EC etc..We chose a small corner of the EC area to take in a couple of major locations and attractions. It felt a nice way to give the book the justice it deserves. There are so many places to visit! That doing more than a handful of them wouldn't allow us to take everything in. The book is packed full of history and interesting facts, that need mulling over and discussing. This makes it an accessory to take on every trip to the capital, not just as a one-off visit. So wherever you may be, take a quick look at the guide and there's no doubt that something of interest will be nearby. 

For our trip we started with the Monument. The memorial to the Great Fire of London. The book gives you an in-depth account of the reasons for its being and also the number of steps! Very handy. Oh, 311 steps if you're wondering.

Great Fire of London Memorial
The views at the top are fantastic and I hope the pictures below do justice? It's a tight squeeze up top but the landmarks on show more than make up for that fact. As long as you don't mind the spirally steps then its a London attraction that's well worth a visit. Be mindful though that during school holidays the queues can be long. 

view from the monument
Towards Canary Wharf

skyscrapers of London
London's changing skyline

St Pauls Cathedral
Towards St Pauls
Onto the Museum
We headed onto our next destination - The Museum of London. We could have stopped at other suggestions on the way but time was a little against us. Bank of England museum anyone? Walking through the city, you can imagine Duncan wondering around the streets, pen in hand as he observes all that's around him. Such is the in-depth research he must have conducted and that is evident throughout the book. The handy map on the inside front page came in useful to highlight our way, and the book once again gave us details about the museum and its exhibits. (I'll be doing a Museum of London post very soon).

Museum of London
Only In...
The Only In London guide provides you with information from unusual museums to crazy cafes, majestic, opulent homes to ghost underground stations. They are books to dive in and out of at your pleasure. Good enough for using when visiting multiple locations or if you're just passing by and notice one. Duncan clearly spends a lot of time on these and that labour of love is well rewarded. The Only In London guide will be travelling with me on every trip to the big city, ready to educate and inform me on the bizarre to the magical. There can be no greater praise than that? If you are interested in this book or want to know about any other of his Only In... series then please visit the following site - www.onlyinguides.com

If you have any questions on the guide or have been to any of the locations featured then why not drop us a comment. Would be great to hear from you. Thank you Duncan for welcoming me into his travel world. I hope you will join us? 

12 February 2016

travel doodles #2

Around My Place
"The Well"
How often do you actually take in what your city, town, village or hamlet has to offer? Its main feature say. I was thinking about this on a recent walk around our village and so with that as my inspiration this month's travel doodle comes from the very heart of where I live. 

Our village is a mix of the old and the new. Old pubs and shops to 20th century housing estates. At it's centre though is an old water well. Now acting as an intersection in the road, but preserved for all to enjoy. The hole has been concreted in so it has lost some of its charm however its structure remains, reminding us of times past.

So what is our call to action this time? Well simple really. When you have a moment, take the time to go out and venture around your town. I'm sure there is something there waiting to be discovered and it might just surprise you. Happy hunting.

Competition time
Sketches have teamed up with GPSmycity. They create app guides with self guided walks and useful information on many of the worlds top destinations for both android and iOS. To find out more just click on the link GPSmycity

So for the first 20 readers we'll give you a free app of your next destination of choice. All you need to do is comment on the post about a landmark in your city or town and also tell us which destination you are travelling to next, and i'll send you the app code, for your destination, for free! 

7 February 2016

5 reasons to get out and about this february

February is that strange month where winter is having its final say and the early signs of Spring are arriving. So with the imminent arrival of a new season its still worth a wander out into the open to enjoy a little of what the UK can offer. So if a resident or a visitor this months 5 reasons to get out and about will hopefully inspire you to do so.

national trust
Cliveden - One of the National Trusts properties
L is for Lantern - Three years planning and open for the next month. The Magical Lantern Festival will be a real treat for anyone visiting London. Set around the grounds of Chiswick House you'll be able to celebrate the coming Chinese New Year in style. Magical lantern

C is for Chinese New Year - With the celebrations just around the corner (starting 08th Feb) there's no reason why you can't add this to your visit. Head to China town and get yourself involved with the celebrations. Its the year of the monkey and as the poster suggests its free! Happy New Year everyone.

Poster being advertised on the London Underground
P is for Pancake - Shrove Tuesday is fast approaching, 9th to be precise, so why not check out a pancake day event? There are a number of organised pancake races including the wonderfully titled The Flipping Marvellous London Bridge City Pancake Race. There are many others but what better excuse than to have a pancake or three and also have some fun to boot?

HT is for Half Term - If you're in the UK this February you'll notice many places will be that little bit busier. The middle of February marks Half Term for schools, so many attractions will be busy. So why not head out of the cities and find a National Trust property, take in some history or walk around one of their many gardens. The daffodils have started to poke their heads through as have the snowdrops. Catch the right day and you'll be in for a real treat. 

V is for Valentines - Well we couldn't leave this one out could we? Well how about something a little different? fancy making your own chocolate and then sharing it with the one you love? London Time Out currently have offers for such an event. Follow the link for more details Chocolate making masterclass

So there we go, plenty of festival fun this month and really no need to stay in. I hope you have a fun filled February and please let me know what you will be doing. Happy February!


2 February 2016


"Oni wa soto, Fuku wa uchi" or "Devil out, happiness in"

Wise words indeed and as we head into February perhaps they are words we should all consider? In an occasional series Sketches is going to highlight some traditional festivals that may interest you from here in the UK and abroad. Starting with this wonderful Japanese festival. Setsubun is a festival that's celebrated on February 3rd or 4th. Although it may look a little sinister it's actually a rather nice as it welcomes in the coming Spring

japanese art
Setsubun paper art from the Japanese School in Ealing (London)
Dating back many centuries people have been performing rituals of chasing away evil spirits. From burning sardine heads and creating a noise from drums in the 13th Century to the modern tradition of throwing roasted beans around the house or temple or shrine. Then yelling the phrase in the introduction as you do so. Once done you pick up the number of beans that correspond to your age, and then you eat them. That's to symbolize you will receive good health throughout the year. Now that is certainly something we could all do with. 

Good health to you all. Happy Setsubun! 



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