So I am back writing! 👋
Hello to everyone that used to enjoy my blogs and welcome to the newbies. I took some time out to process some real loss and grief. I can’t believe it’s been 2016 since I’ve written a solid post. Don’t get me wrong, I have attempted many a time to write & post. I have taken so many blog-esque photos with the intention to write but then when it came to it, I couldn’t get anything out.
I’ll start by saying, it wasn’t a creative block but more an emotional one.
I lost my dear Uncle Ian suddenly to a heart attack in his sleep. I was told by his partner, whilst at work & had the task of informing my mum and brother, who in turn had to tell my Grandparents and extended family. I think relaying the shocking news to my mum and brother was one of the most difficult and worst moments of my life. Rushing from the school I was working at that week to her workplace and enlisting my brother on route, before she left for home was reminiscent of Avengers: Infinity War, when the MCU rush to Wakanda for safety… the universe was crumbling but we had a mission to complete and nothing was going to get in our way. Everything was a blur and I was going to burst if I didn’t get this information to my mother as soon as possible. I felt guilty holding it before her.
The shock rippled throughout both sides of my family. Ian was well loved, fun-loving, well-travelled and kind… 5 days later my boyfriend at the time screamed at me for not collecting his dry-cleaning on time & dumped me. I was on compassionate leave & of course was still trying to help others, stay busy & keep my mum sane. I was grieving whilst simultaneously getting attacked on social media by my narcisstic ex who rarely even posted. Real manipulative behaviour. The funeral happened weeks later. My friends gathered round, let me cry on them, took me out, let me be angry and frustrated. Flowers arrived from said ex, addressed to my mum.
Summer came & I still cried unexpectedly but my favourite months were approaching and I was determined to feel the sun shine on me. My birthday was soon & I was planning a celebration… then less than a week before, I got a text. My cousin Luther had been stabbed multiple times and was on the way to hospital. This time it was the other side of my family, I can’t describe what it did to everyone when he died. The wounds were ripped wide open. My heart in my mouth again… his heart stabbed. Again another heart… why?
Luther was attacked by over 15 men and stabbed 7-8 times, one fatally to the heart. His protective sister, my big cousin and the mother of his first child fought the animals off but couldn’t wade into the fray without getting kicked, punched and pushed out. The community reeled, people I knew, friends, acquaintances came forward with stories about him, some that I didn’t even realise knew him. He died leaving two daughters. One a baby, 10 months, who shared his deep brown eyes, the other a gorgeous pre-teen, his twin, with cerebral palsy and warrior spirit; who he had raised since the age of 19 and utterly adored.
Another kind, beautiful soul gone.
My family fought against York Hall, the police, the savages that went into hiding-to get justice for Luther. Marches, meetings, Movado even created a dedicated dubplate for Lu’s favourite song ‘Story’. He touched so many people, helped old people in his community, paid gas bills, bought shopping for neighbours, paid commissary for jailed friends- that no one even visited. He took his HGV test multiple times before he passed, so he could change his life & provide for his family. He was the head of his family and took that responsibility seriously.
In 5 months, my heart broke 3 times. I spent the rest of the year healing. I tried to create and carry on but actually, I didn’t want to share my feelings. I pulled back from social media and blogging. My heart wasn’t in it. I didn’t want to speak to anyone on a night out that I didn’t know, I was paranoid that any man could be my cousin’s killer, I didn’t want to date… I didn’t have time for nonsense.. I didn’t even have space to deal with the silly break up BS, whilst grief ebbed through every vein in my body; let alone open up to a stranger who wouldn’t understand. I didn’t have anything to give.
I’ve spent the last 2 years just focusing on making the most of life. Meditating, enjoying my family, my friends. Shouting Luther’s name. Doing things that would make Ian proud. Getting my career on track. This year I’ve enjoyed consistency, two plays, a music video by Nigerian artist Will Teg and a huge campaign for my former college Lambeth College. My goal was to get an agent and in my first role this year, a play called The Rally, I achieved this. I got to the finals of War Horse, the national tour. (I lost out due to height but they loved me supposedly, soo fingers crossed). I’m so grateful to have got in the room for some great jobs.
I’ll be posting all those wonderful blog photos I’ve taken over the last 2 years and finally share my thoughts with you lovely lot again.
Please also check out Luther’s page, where you can download his track and keep up to date with the progress of his case here.
Taking time out to refresh your mind is one of the most beneficial things for your health. Whilst we run ourselves ragged working 5, 6, even 7 days a week, taking time out to see friends, family and meet up for dinners/birthdays. Trying to fit in trips to see the latest film or that comedy show and for the fitness conscious, the gym and gruelling personal trainer sessions. (Not to mention food prep and the packed, delayed public transport journeys we take to do all these). Whether it’s catching up with our favourite shows or even just snapchatting our lives, living in this generation we are constantly busy.
When do we actually take time to just sit and reflect?
I say this after returning from a short break to Portugal, having time to do absolutely nothing. It was a simple trip with the intention of recharging and celebrating love. (Despite the lack of it in my own life lol). Of course, I wanted to go to the water park or do boat trips & meet up with friends but when it came down to it I spent a lot of time alone… and loved it.
I was visiting Vilamoura, on the Algarve for a friend’s wedding and really needed the time away, as many of you know I recently lost two family members just months apart. I travelled alone and stayed with a friend in an Airbnb and although I had company, we weren’t necessarily together constantly and took our own time individually to recharge. (Also he’s not into sunbathing lol).
I really think that travelling alone and exploring new places creates a shift within. Whether it’s your mindset, your consciousness or raising your confidence levels. I didn’t plan an itinerary and just decided to go with the flow. Without the distractions and demands of London, I allowed myself to fully relax and reflect on the months of the year so far. The only thing I planned to do was visit the ancient Roman Villa ruins ‘Cerro da Vila’.
I really urge you to travel, be fearless, even if it’s a 3-day trip to Spain or even Cornwall. There are so many ways to travel on a budget if you really want to explore. If you aren’t so confident, start with your own country, learn about the hidden gems full of history and culture that we possess. If abroad, learn a few simple phrases, download Google translate, research places to visit and set the journey in your maps before you leave the country.
Take a detour from your life.
As a woman, especially, we are told that the world is a scary place; which prevent so many from courageously discovering places they dream of visiting. With friends not always on the same page when travelling, sometimes the best thing is to just GO! You’ll make friends when you get there and won’t have to compromise with anyone on holiday plans.
One of the best things about uninterrupted time away is quitting your mind babble and really just thinking. I thought about my goals, my achievements and those that I’m yet to reach. The mistakes I have made and lessons I’ve learnt. How I will get to where I want to be and what actions I need to take. In the past I’ve been guilty of setting huge, unattainable goals and then beating myself up when I don’t reach them! (Silly I know).
To aim big isn’t always effective.
I now set small bitesize chunks of my goals, almost like building blocks. I find it works more effectively for me, I can see the finish line of every step and don’t feel overwhelmed. I really meditated on the ways I can change my life for the better and breathe some life into my acting career again, which has gone stale after a number of setbacks which left me feeling unmotivated and frustrated.
You probably hear this often but manifesting what you want in your life is a powerful tool to engineering your future. Personally I hadn’t taken it seriously until the last couple of years & already I can see things shifting in my favour. With the things I have visualised & chanted (Buddhist) for becoming a reality, I have manifested and meditated on and off over last 3 years but now it has become a valuable habit.
I’ll be writing more blog posts on this in the coming months. If I can motivate you then that will be another bitesize goal.
Back in May I finally went on my first beach holiday in 3 years. YES THREE. Due to an awful whiplash injury, which wiped me out for almost 2 years, I was seriously lacking that Vitamin D and needed Vitamin Sea! The destination was Cancun, on the beautiful Caribbean coast with 5 of my Queens. In those last three years I have upped my knowledge on the chemicals and nasties in our beauty products, a couple of years ago I switched to aluminium-free deodorant and for the last 5 years I have used only natural hair products free from parabens and sulphates.
Although I have been using organic and botanical skincare for many years I was hoping to find some products that matched 30 degree heat without leaving me sweaty or with an oil-slicked face. (I have combination skin)
Due to my highly-sensitive skin I usually alternate between two brands, Elemis and Organic Surge. I’m the girl who can’t fall asleep in her make-up, without having a major breakout the next morning. Due to this I try to avoid any harsh chemicals on my skin, I also understand that our skin is the largest organ our body has and everything we put on it is absorbed into our bloodstream and carried around our bodies. YUCK!
Most of you may have heard of Elemis, they are a British brand and staple in many spas and beauty salons across the country and now internationally. The concept of the 25 year-old brand is based on fusing nature, science and aromatherapy. They use ethically sourced powerful marine and plant actives and team it with ‘intricately-blended aromatics’ and skin-science and ground-breaking techniques. Elemis prides themselve on being pioneers within their field.
‘All ELEMIS products are tested by ELEMIS Master and Elite therapists and the results are fed back to the laboratory. This cycle of maturity can take up to three years until each product does exactly what it professes to, achieving real results. That’s why ELEMIS is able to say it delivers pioneering treatments for face and body’.
I love the Camomile Cleanser and Apricot Toner set and cannot live without their SOS cream for breakouts. It’s my secret weapon for minimising spots at short notice. Their face masks are also wonderful for an injection of luxury at home, my favourite being the Papaya Enzyme Peel, which smells so delicious and has a thick creamy texture. It exfoliates your skin in the gentlest way which is perfect for sensitive skin.
Their Cellular Recovery Skin Bliss Capsules are wonderful little pockets of highly potent anti-oxidant oils which revived skin in the form of two different capsules. Rose for day, Lavender for night and Moringa oil thrown in for delight. These are great to use once back from holiday or even for the flight, when your skin in thirsty and re-adjusting to the pollution and city environment.
I know I’m not middle-aged and my collagen is still pretty prevalent but the Pro-Collagen range is fantastic! One of my favourites is the Pro-Collagen Cleansing Balm, which is packed full of oils and waxes such as Lavender, almond, Rose, Mint Leaf, Eucalyptus, Geranium, Elderberry, Orange, Chamomile and anti-aging Padina Pavonica. Your make-up instantly dissolves and it leaves your skin as soft as a baby’s bottom. Actually softer! This was lovely to use some nights after a good few hours in the sun. I have often left this on for a few hours or overnight. (Actually I have done this after a night out and upon waking, with eyes still closed, touched my cheeked and shouted “OMG my skin is sooo soft!” Scaring the life out of my friends LOL). In other words it’s bloody amazing!
Organic Surge is a brilliant little British brand, which ranges from skincare to toiletries and baby products. It’s a great alternative to Elemis at affordable prices, if switching from generic skincare brands. I first discovered their line of skincare in Boots, much to my surprise. Eventually the line was discontinued and so I panicked for a while and sadly went back to Nivea, until I realised that I could buy from their website. The brand is 10 years old and prides itself on products ‘NOT tested on animals and are 100% free of harsh chemicals – no parabens, sodium lauryl sulphate, no artificial fragrances or colourants and no genetically modified ingredients. And the very soul of Organic Surge lies in its charitable donations and hands-on work spanning many years’.
I am absolutely in love with their luxurious face creams, packed with essential oils and extremely moisturising. The highly-reviewed ‘Overnight Sensation’ night cream contains lavender oil which instantly relaxes you before bed. The ‘Daily Care Refreshing’ face wash is gorgeous, I find useful after the gym after sweating and also having the sauna/steam rooms open your pores and release toxins, it’s reassuring to know that you aren’t just piling back on the toxins by washing chemical-filled products when washing your face. I decided to try their ‘Brightening Hot-Cloth Cleanser’ to take on holiday with me, I have used the Elemis one but wanted to try a cheaper option and give it a chance. (It is AMAZING btw… so thick and creamy, packed with Orange, Geranium and Rose Essential oils). I would give it 10/10. I also decided to try their ‘First Class Face Mask’ and gel eye cream whilst on holiday, which didn’t disappoint either.
Rose and its Essential oil seems to be a staple in my skincare routine. My toner ‘100% Organic Rosewater toning spritz’ from Boots’ Botanics range is 100% organic (as you may have guessed) and made from the highly-prized Damask rose. At £5.99 it can feel pricey but it’s free of parabens, tested on people and the bottle is also made from 25% recycled plastic. Whenever I buy the spritz it’s usually on offer, for example there is 1/3rd off Botanics range right now making it £3.99 and it lasts quite a while at 150ml! Last time, I bought two and kept one in my gym bag.
I was happily surprised to discover Boots stocked a new range Garnier skincare called ‘SENSITIVE advanced’ with no parabens, colourants or sulphates. It’s also hypoallergenic and their After-Sun is enriched with cold cream, a nourishing agent used since the ancient times which is perfect for hydrating and protecting skin. I use SPF 50 generally and although I wouldn’t necessarily put an all-purpose cream on my face, I was happy to see that their after-sun was suitable for face and body. I bought two of each and have been using the after-sun since my return too, it’s really thick and moisturising, smells delicious and keeps your tan golden brown.
10 of my other holiday essentials were:
1. Coconut oil and hair masks. Shea Moisture Hair Mask was my weapon of choice. I used a hair mask roughly every other day to keep my hair moisturised, especially as it’s prone to getting dry anyway; let alone in immense heat. Sometimes I just used it on the tips or the ends and often used it when slicking my hair up in buns or ponytails. (See my holiday hair post for how I incorporated Coconut Oil and hair masks into my holiday routine).
2. Body scrub! As much as we hate to see the tan escape down the plughole it REALLY does help enhance your tan. I used ‘Scrub of your life’ by Soap & Glory (50ml)
3. Leave-in conditioner. If you know me, you know that Mixed-Chicks is my go-to product for shampoo and conditioner. This was vital during 10 days in the sun! View more on my hair post.
4. Amazing, moisturising shower gel. I use vegan-friendly Original Source, I love their ethos and combinations! For this holiday I chose Coconut and Shea Butter, with 100% natural fragrance too- I really felt quite tropical!
5. Face Mask. I usually do quite a few face masks on holiday due to the extreme conditions my skin is under. As much as I try not to get my face in the sun too much, it’s still affected by the heat, sand, sun and chlorine from the pool. I brought along my Organic Surge First Class Mask made with rosemary and lemon organic essential oils. It leaves your skin feeling so refreshed and smells delish!
6. Exfoliating gloves. These were heaven-sent, although best used in the morning rather than evening after a full day in the sun. I made the mistake of using them before going out for dinner and spent the evening very sore!
7. Foot Cream. Our feet on holiday are so exposed, with sandals and beaches, running around barefoot- it makes sense really to bring along your foot cream. I use The Body Shop Peppermint foot cream daily and used it maybe 3 times a day on hols.
8. Lipsyl. You often underestimate how much the sun can affect your body. Lips need SPF protection too. I love Burt’s Bees, it’s natural and smells delicious. My favourite is enriched with Coconut and Pear. Mmmm.
9. Cuticle oil. This is so overlooked but no one wants to ruin their gorgeous holiday nails with awful cuticles. I use OPI Cuticle oil, enriched with avocado oil.
10. A great hand cream. My hand cream was passed amongst the ladies the most I think. I received a Cowshed hand cream called COW PAT in my Birchbox and it was a lifesaver! It was also 50ml so I brought it in my hand luggage. I find sun block too sticky for hands although I use my La Roche Posay on the back of my hands to avoid raisin fingers (and to protect).
What are your favourites?
Although we’re coming into Autumn now, I’m sure there will plenty of you booking sun escapes throughout the colder months. Remember to let me know if you try any of these products and what you think!
If you know me you’ll know how much I love tea! I must drink roughly 4 cups a day and carry it with me too, so you can imagine how happy was to receive this beautiful hamper from Yogi Tea. The company is based on Ayurveda, the ancient system of conscious and healthy living, which originated in India more than 5000 years ago, it is often referred to as the science of life. (Ayur = life; Veda= science or knowledge).
The Yogi Tea company has a rich history. In 1969 when Yogi Bhajan, an inspired and inspiring teacher of holistic living, started teaching yoga in the West. He shared with his students the wisdom and knowledge of healthy living and the beneficial properties of herbs that he had mastered in India, all while serving a comforting and aromatic spiced tea they affectionately named “Yogi Tea.”.
Included in the recipe were five traditional Ayurvedic spices: cardamom seed, cinnamon bark, clove bud, ginger root and black pepper. When blended and brewed, these delicious and aromatic spices leave you feeling vibrant and alive, while supporting overall well-being. Intrigued by the complex flavor and inherent health benefits of this unique combination of spices, it wasn’t long before several of the yogi’s students were inspired to brew their own “Yogi Tea.”
Many of the range are detox tea. I’ve really been enjoying the Throat Comfort since I caught a summer cold, it is fantastic with a bit of honey. I’m now addicted to the Classic tea, with a splash of goat’s milk, the spices make it perfect for an evening cup of tea.
Featured on each box is a simple yoga pose to try “Easy Yoga For Energy” and my favourite part is the inspirational quote or piece of wisdom found on the tea tag, it is a lovely little pick me up to keep in your thoughts throughout the day.
I now want to share the happiness with you!
I have 6 boxes of Yogi Tea to giveaway to lucky followers of mine. The flavours are:
Licorice, Throat Comfort, Classic, Choco, Bedtime, Stomach Ease
1- Upload a photo of you unwinding and enjoying your favourite cup of tea to Instagram or Twitter, whether that is in your favourite mug or sitting in your favourite place, it can be a selfie or from your point of view (like the photo above).
3. Write the following caption ‘All you need is peace, love and tea!’ www.sophiasinclair.com/blog #YogiTea
4. State which flavour you would like. (not guaranteed)
5. You must be a UK resident.
Winners will be chosen at random and the closing date is Sun 2nd August. Good luck!
So there I was, about to venture into the scrum by the barriers of Piccadilly Circus Station and make the long packed, sweaty journey home; then I spotted the cute mint green Greedy Goat pop up. As a goat’s milk drinker for the last 9 years after a stomach bug left me unable to stomach cow’s milk, I was intrigued and delighted to see a unique range of goat’s milk ice creams staring back at me.
The offer to try the flavours was way too tempting so I dived in! With flavours on sale like:
Chocolate and Hazelnut (So smooth and subtle)
Apple Pie (Sweet and exactly like apple pie!)
Cappuccino (Coffee heaven)
Strawberry Cheesecake (Crumbly bits of cheesecake… I just don’t have the words)
Lime and Basil (Refreshing, sorbet-esque and surprisingly one of my faves)
These are only six of the flavours in a range of more than twenty (including Gin and Tonic!!). I picked a generous two-scoop pot for £5.00 of Strawberry Cheesecake and Chocolate and Hazelnut and sat on the pretty birdcage chair to people watch and indulge.
DID I MENTION THEY DO MILKSHAKES?? For £3.50! Sorry for shouting but I don’t know how to describe the joy and the difficultly of finding a milkshake ANYWHERE that 1. Does soya milk. 2. Has it in stock. 3. Has ice cream to add in that has NO cow’s milk. (BTW there is nowhere for that last point I made). I’ve found my milkshake haven.
The brand Greedy Goat are a British company, with a factory based in Wimbledon. Made with 100% British goat’s milk and usually based in Borough and Leather Lane Markets. With a 40% rise in alternative milk such as soya, rice, almond and goat’s milk in the last three years, people are now looking for alternative ice cream and desserts. With goat’s milk being easier to digest than cow’s milk due to it having 10% less lactose and less fat content too, it is much better for you than the traditional choice. The ice cream is light, yet bursting with flavour; I found it so hard to just pick two flavours and was tempted to buy a tub to take home! (There is still time lol). They have seasonal flavours and are constantly conjuring up new flavours for us lucky people. The brand were recently spotted in Grazia magazine and featured in Elle UK, they have a loyal following and are currently trying to get into stores. You can see the rest of the flavours on their website and follow them on Twitter and Facebook. Even if you have never tried goat’s milk, I’d encourage you to try it and try the ice creams for their delicious flavours, the Apple Pie and Basil and Lime alone had me hooked.
If you’re passing Piccadilly or either Market and fancy something BOOMBASTIC, sorry I mean something different then go and check them out! You won’t regret it, especially if you have a sweet tooth like me.
Borough Market: Wed-Sat (10am-5pm)
Leather Lane Market: Wed-Fri (12-3pm)
The pop-up runs Mon-Sun until the end of August.
Sending positive vibrations to you all, I hope you’re having a brilliant week. After a conversation with a friend I really thought about the power we don’t realise we have. Many times we are in situations or circumstances and find we have come to a dead end. We don’t believe in ourselves any more or we feel like we can’t change the hand we’ve been dealt. The funny thing is, that is the exact opposite. We allow people to treat us badly, we want to lose weight but are unsure how to take the first step, we want to give up smoking but don’t believe in ourselves to the extent we think we can achieve it. I, myself have been at a point where I was coasting through life mulling over the bad things that were happening to me, not realising the more I thought about it and moaned about it, the more I was attracting negativity to myself.
On Monday I decided to join in an aerobics class at my gym with a friend, I have been avoiding certain classes for some time due to my whiplash and back injury. I didn’t think I was fit enough and couldn’t keep up. Well I told myself I need a challenge. I can DO IT. If I feel that I need to stop, then I will, which I did, I paced myself, paused when needed and modified the moves to accommodate my back. When I finished I felt AMAZING!!! So re-energised and proud of myself. I DID IT!
The things we tell ourselves internally are some of the most important words, they affect our mindset, mood and behaviour. As hard as it may be to stop the constant negative chattering (our minds/thoughts), you CAN turn your thoughts around. WE ARE SO POWERFUL! If you think about your brain and the way it works, neurons communicating with each other constantly… so if you’re constantly thinking “Ahh my life is so rubbish, I can’t believe this is happened to me” “I’d love to go swimming but I think my legs are so fat”, “Why does he treat me like an idiot, I’m such a fool”, “There is no way I can complete a marathon even though I love running” all you’re communicating to yourself is negative things. I’m telling you, things will just continue on the same path, believing in yourself is a powerful way artists, like myself, and sportsmen/women achieve greatness. After constant knocks, let downs and rejections we have to uplift ourselves to continue and I’ll let you into a little secret… They believe in themselves to the point of insanity. Look at Kanye West, as misunderstood as he is, he calls himself a GOD. Many people think it’s because he’s an arrogant fool but those who understand him, realise he believes in himself so much to the point that he feels that he must refer to himself as one of the greatest entities, something that should be worshipped. He feels like a God in his own world, someone to be respected. We should all believe in ourselves and love ourselves this much. Just imagine if we did, the greatness people would be achieving!
Here is a way to turn it around:
Every time you notice yourself thinking a negative thought about yourself or what you can do. Automatically correct yourself, tell yourself no. You can do it. Compliment yourself instead of putting yourself down. Notice something you did well that day or achieved. Every time you think negatively repeat it and tell yourself something good. When you think about something that has gone wrong or find yourself worrying think to yourself “How can I change this situation around for the better?”, tell yourself that you WILL get past this and it is a temporary situation. Next week or next month you will laugh about it. Eventually you will start to block out your negative thoughts and realise your power. Many people ask me how I stay so positive, it’s because I know my power and refuse to let myself talk to myself negatively. It isn’t easy and it does take time but remember YOU ARE A FORCE TO BE RECKONED WITH!
Take yourself out of the rut and turn it around, you will thank yourself later.
Have a lovely day people. Love, peace and hairgrease!
Last week walking back from the Act for Change debate on the Southbank I noticed a striking shop window in one of the arches under Waterloo Bridge. I’ve seen it many times but this time I decided to take a closer look. Have a gander below!
The top of the arch represented the Third Eye, which is also known as the inner eye. The Third eye symbolises a state of enlightenment and spirituality, it represents a higher level of consciousness and provides perception beyond ordinary sight, for example clairvoyance, psyche ability and the ability to see auras and chakras. The Greek philosophy, Theosophy (which coincidentally is derived from the word ‘Theosophia’, which means “God’s wisdom” due to Sophia meaning Wisdom) links the Third Eye to the pineal gland, which is also known as the “seat of our soul”, which can be awakened through different exercises, one being meditation. The Third eye is viewed as a sixth sense, when you feel your intuition and act on it, you’re connecting with your Third Eye and using it correctly. Everyone has a Third Eye and it is a sensory part of the human body. It is also recognised throughout different religions, such a Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Chan and Christianity.
Covering the windows below the Third Eye were a series of brilliant quotes, pieces of wisdom and witty descriptions of publicists and publicity in different fonts. some sarcastic, some funny! This is why I LOVE the City of London, whether it’s something that you pass everyday and read with a chuckle or discover as a tourist. The wacky, artistic discoveries make London what it is.
I don’t know who created it or how long it will be there but I had to share the joy with you lovely lot! If you spot anything you think I would love. Let me know, have a great weekend xo
The audience in the Olivier Room at National Theatre buzzed with an determined energy yesterday. Determined for change. It had also probably never looked so diverse! The theatre included subtitles on a screen and 2 signers for the deaf. People of all cultures, backgrounds, abilities and ages (the youngest included a 5 year old and a baby of just a few months) sat side by side with the same aim. The event was The Act For Change Project diversity debate, a campaign group which have risen significantly in the last year promoting and campaigning for diversity within the live and recorded arts (AKA TV, Film and Theatre) within the UK. The founder Danny Lee Wynter is an experienced, trained, frustrated actor who decided to take action and has built a movement full of artists, creatives, art-lovers and fans. Of course, this isn’t a new discussion. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnicities have been having these debates for decades, I myself have been part of many of these discussions with other frustrated actors and creatives. “Where are our roles?” “Why isn’t more diverse work being commissioned?” “All is get is stereotypical ethnic roles” “I wish there was more work for me?” “I had to audition for the ‘black’ role even though I was probably more suited to the lead”. These debates are a regular occurrence when talking to a British actor about their career but one that Danny has decided to bring to the mainstream, whilst creating a strong army on the way and for that we thank him.
The website states:
“In January 2014, after responding to a trailer for a new season of TV drama which failed to include a single BAME or disabled artist, the actor Danny Lee Wynter brought together a group of colleagues from across the entertainment industry, Ruth Wilson, Stephanie Street, Daniel Evans, Andy Pryor, Malcolm Sinclair, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Ony Uhiara, and Matthew Xia. What started as a small handful of voices has become THE ACT FOR CHANGE PROJECT.”
Click here to read the hilarious yet devastating open letter Danny wrote to Ben Stephenson, Outgoing commissioner to BBC Drama earlier this year.
The Act for Change debate was chaired by Shami Chakrabarti, head of civil rights group Liberty. Panellists included actors Adrian Lester and Cush Jumbo, director Phyllida Lloyd, critic Mark Lawson, shadow culture secretary Chris Bryant and Jenny Sealey, co‐director of the 2012 Paralympics Opening Ceremony. The audience included the culture minister Ed Vaizey and actors Cyril Nri (RSC), Jimmy Akingbola and Nicholas Pinnock. Everyone wanted their voice to be heard and hearing other’s experiences really brought it home that there is a massive demographic of people who don’t see really a representation of themselves ANYWHERE in the arts, which is shocking considering art’s sole purpose is to represent life and act as a mirror to society. Asian actors of Chinese background have trained, spent their money, time and invested years into a profession which currently holds no roles for them to work. I felt disgusted and let down sitting in that huge auditorium. This is 2015 people.
When you think of the National Theatre, it’s a huge space built solely for the purpose of representing the whole of Britain and telling it’s stories. The National Theatre director Rufus Norris was interviewed during the debate and recognised that there is a lot of work to do. He also highlighted the huge lack of diversity in hiring staff from BAME and disabled backgrounds backstage. In 2014 only 15% of staff were from ethnic minorities and disabled backgrounds. FIFTEEN PERCENT?! Yes people, this is a Theatre that represents the Nation. This man is paid over £100,000 per year, the least he could is implement the basic requirements of the National Theatre and create a balanced range of theatre productions for the City of London and the Nation which reflects it’s people. The fact that Norris himself said back in 2013 that black actors aren’t given the same opportunities as white actors and and criticised how far behind America we are with colour-blind casting. This is a man who directed the legendary Marianne Jean-Baptiste on her first British performance in 10 years in ‘The Amen Corner ‘ with an all-black ensemble. Rufus Norris is fully aware of the unbalanced state of the arts, I’m just glad he wants to do something about it.
The mission is simple: for the live and recorded arts to represent the Britain of today as it should like a mirror image, to strengthen diversity in the arts upfront on the stage and within employment behind the scenes; to also include those in society who are unrepresented due to their disability or ethnicity.
Norris revealed he was yet to decide on whether the NT should introduce quotas for greater diversity at the venue and is considering it, despite claiming hiring backstage and reaching the necessary diversity was much harder than on-stage. His aim was 20% even though 2014-15 had a high on-stage BAME figure of 33% fueled by the New York transfer of David Bryne and Fatboy Slim’s tale ‘Here Lies Love’ which followed the life of Imelda Marcos, the First Lady of the Phillipines and also the Mumbai-based adaptation of the book ‘Behind the Beautiful Forevers’. In my opinion it shouldn’t take two plays set in Asia and India for there to be ethnic minority actors on stage, front and centre, it should be the norm.
Cush Jumbo is an award-winning, extremely talented powerhouse, a lovely actress who’s shared her frustrations with me previously during a conversation we had about the state of play in the UK. We met years ago and despite her success, there is still a constant battle for representation as an actress, of mixed race with an unusual name. Cush is an actress who decided to write, produce and star in a one-woman show called ‘Josephine and I’ based on Josephine Baker. She had an idea and didn’t see anyone else producing the story she wanted represented, so she did it herself! After a small run at the Bush Theatre, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, the play transferred to New York and won numerous awards. Cush (who has a regular role on ITV’s Vera) also recalled her experience during the debate, of being at the Olivier Awards and called it a ‘lie’. “I remember it really hitting me in the face when I sat in the audience for the Oliviers and realising that I was one of the only brown people there,” she said. “And the reason I thought it was so unfair is because that’s not the industry I work in. It’s fake. It’s a lie.” I totally agreed with her, the industry is not just filled with white middle class men and women, they are just the ones who are fortunate enough to be the gatekeepers, unfortunately they are the ones who also lock many out. The fact that they may not even know that they are doing it, by hiring people that look like them and that they can relate to, is even worse. The BAME experience just doesn’t come into their train of thought.
Phyllida Lloyd summed it perfectly when closing her argument at the end:
“We have to get the keys of buildings into the hands of [minorities]. Things have changed in the past 10 years. Women are running some significant, so-called ‘big hitter’ London theatres: Madani [Younis] is running the Bush, there are big changes everywhere. But white middle-class men need to take on associates who are not mirrors of themselves.” Huge cheers and applause erupted after this statement. I wanted to spring from my seat and hug her myself if I’m honest! Phyllida is a woman who directed an all-female cast of Julius Caesar at the Donmar, with Cush firmly in place as Mark Anthony. Not one to be messed with.
I thought I’d share with you a couple of videos I came across a while ago of Danny Lee Wynter sharing his experiences and how Act For Change was founded.
The video below was filmed just after the 2015 General election.
Even Eastenders think they have filled their quota by adding a disabled actress, more Black and Asian characters and families, however distant their portayal is from our real experiences. If you actually go to East London and look around, it looks nothing like Eastenders… Oh look there’s another period drama! (Of course full of white people, something I’m unlikely to get a role in). I really think that as a movement things will start to change, we live in a social media era now where it’s impossible to ignore these issues. An era where many people are doing it for themselves and don’t apologise for it either. A lot of people left the debate frustrated but I felt sparks of hope. I left inspired and excited. (Despite exiting the National Theatre amongst a sea of white, elderly pensioners queuing up for the afternoon Matinee.)
We are the only ones that can force the hand of the gatekeepers, create our own work, support each other’s work, connect and network so that we can produce pieces that reflect the forgotten, yet important demographics that make up our society and start to tell our story our way.
I’m looking forward to the next one and all the developments in between!
Related articles and media on the debate:
Adrian Lester highlighted in The Stage.
The Act For Change Twitter page
I love Street Art, it’s a brilliant way for artists to express themselves, react to social issues and create a vibrant buzz in an area. Brixton has always been a vibrant, creative community, a melting pot of culture. Music on the street, independent shops, amazing food and produce on the market, the smell of incense wafting under your nose and of course graffiti and street art. Stockwell Park Estate is full of amazing graffiti art and there are a number of murals all over Brixton. Most were commissioned in the early 80’s after the Brixton Riots, painted on the sides of houses, at Brixton train station and of course the huge ‘Children at Play’ Brixton Academy mural (By Stephen Pusey, 1982) which faces SPE, a painting I used to be scared of (hilarious in hindsight) walking towards my Nan’s and trying not to look at the scary faces of the children!
Wandering down Atlantic Road a couple of weeks ago, I noticed some striking street art on the shutters of shops under the arches of the railway bridge and starting taking photos. After a while I realised they all followed a fighting theme and was part of the campaign against Brixton’s gentrification and fight to save the livelihood of the shop owners under the Brixton arches. As I continued a local artist was creating a new piece on one of the bare shutters and one of the campaigners approached me and asked if they could take a photo of me for the #savebrixtonarches campaign. We got talking and I realised this is a real community affair!
A few months ago I had heard about Network Rail walking into the independent shops and businesses in the railway arches, as their landlord and telling the tenants they have 6 months to vacate before a refurbishment and regeneration work begins on the area. In partnership with Lambeth council, Network Rail propose to evict over 30 units and regenerate the area, over a period of at least a year and increase the rent by 300%. The long-standing tenants wouldn’t get first refusal on the newly-refurbished units and would have to apply like any other business.
I was disgusted and appalled that these people, whose businesses have stood for decades, some longer than I’ve been alive were being treated like this by their local council and a company that continuously runs a shoddy train service, despite rising fares and bonuses alike! This ‘refurbishment’ will essentially ostracise the very people who have served the Brixton and South London people, from their own community. A compensation of £1000 for relocation costs from Network Rail is a kick in the teeth for the independent business owners, who saw Brixton through the Riots and eras where Brixton wasn’t a ‘foodie central’ with a ‘village'; where hardly anyone wanted to visit, let alone live!
Last month I got into a minicab and whilst chatting to the driver, I mentioned that I used to go to college in Clapham common and noted how much the area had changed. The driver revealed he used to have a Deli in Clapham for fifteen years, he came here from abroad and set up the business, hoping it would eventually be a family business. What he didn’t anticipate was the landlords increasing the rent so high over time, he had to give up the business and was currently working as a cab driver to support his family. I felt his heart break again as he told the story, his voice cracked and his eyes stayed steady on the road. I had actually been in his deli as a teenager and told him. Standing on Atlantic Road, I couldn’t help but think of him and his story. The gentrification of areas like Clapham, Borough, Dalston and Brixton socially cleanse the area of the businesses and people who made these areas magical in the first place. London is one of the diverse cities in the world and part of it’s charm is the individuality of each area. Devoid of chains and huge conglomerates our high streets were full of character and we do not need every high street to look and feel the same, whether or not the new lovey dahling middle-class residents decide to move there and expect a Waitrose Local .
The buildings and architecture, the independent deli’s, shops, hairdressers and cafe’s and the PEOPLE make an area personal to it’s community. I can’t even imagine a Pret a Manger in one of those units. The glass front and doors, the rushed service… Ugh. I would hate to see Network Rail and the council win and evict these local people. You can join the campaign and support by signing the petition below (it takes all of 30 seconds):
Sooo the fun 48 hour project where we all had no sleep, ran around the streets of Aberdeen, made a film with no script, magical minds colliding… is up!
Our film won 3 awards at the 48 hour film project and was part of the first Aberdeen International Film Festival. I had so much fun making this film after a long time injured and not acting, I discovered Aberdeen and made some new talented (and wacky friends). Thank you to Andy and the team!
Enjoy and let me know what you think!
This film was made for the 48 hour film project which was part of the 2014 Aberdeen international film festival
Character Lionel or Lucille Denwood, Lecturer
Prop a salami sandwich
Line “What are you planning to do with that?”
Awards: “Cold Slice” by Aberdonian Artefacts
Second Runner Up for Best Film
Best Editing (Andy Birkett)
Best Actor (Austyn Robb)