Events

York Railway Museum Presents Wang Fuchun’s One Billion Journeys | AD

Posted on 4 min read

one billion journeys exhibition entrance on launch night

This is a sponsored post written in collaboration with National Railway Museum x One Billion Journeys.

A week ago today I was invited down to the iconic National Railway Museum in York to cover and create content surrounding an equally iconic event involving world renowned photographer Wang Fuchun. It was the UK’s first ever launch of his new and exclusive intimate portrait exhibition – One Billion Journeys: Wang Fuchun’s Chinese On The Train – and I had the honour of breathing the same self-effacing air as the man himself as he spoke about his monumental life on the rails; 4 decades in fact.

One Billion Journeys follows everyday trips across the ever changing Chinese railways and depicts the real human connection and communication that is so naturally existent in people no matter what our statistics. For forty whole years, Wang has captured unguarded moments between an abundance of passengers; family, friends, lovers, strangers casually commuting and unaware they are about to be produced into a beautiful, wholesome novella through tender, poignant and ultimately real artwork,

It’s the incredibly vivid candid snapshots that makes One Billion Journeys so special and unique. Wang has documented every human emotion, sentiment and situation you can ever think of and when exploring the black and white gallery placed with pride you can really feel this range of expressions.  The people portraits are of achromatic effect but the colour in the scene is metaphorically visible. There’s crocodile tears. There’s comfort. There’s care. There’s laughter. There’s romance. There’s hellos and there’s goodbyes. There’s boredom. There’s passive entertainment. There’s work and there’s rest. There’s culture. There’s health. There’s spirituality. The micro dramas occurring in fleeting moments and passing minutes that wouldn’t have been distinctively and viscerally remembered  if they weren’t on camera is a powerful reminder of the intersected microcosm of life.

However, that’s not where it finishes. Highlighting the universality of human experiences and immersing you into their world isn’t all One Billion Journeys portrays. The linear imagery showcases the developing change of China’s high functioning society over time and the profound period of change in China’s history. How the railway has evolved from the steam locomotives right up to business class of luxury high speed and how both the country and the people have reshaped are all recorded in Wang’s photos .

Not only does the exhibition have unvarnished beauty and authenticity permeating in close proximity, it also demonstrates the destiny of the future. Every picture is supported with a caption signifying how the nation has progressed, how the standard of living has improved and how technology has taken over. For example, early images show a mass of rural crowds perched around a TV and later ones are a contrast to the pace of both modern resources and the introduction of mobile phones.  It’s both an adventure and an education to see it in the flesh – and most of all, an honour.

A train is a big temporary family or a small floating society which condenses the diversity of life.

Before the harmonious art was unveiled to the public, Wang gave us an insight into his life as a railway photographer with a hearty interview and Q&A. As his words were translated and we got to know what he represented, I found myself contracting a great admiration for him and the genuine, impassioned dedication to his work and his family and us as people. He described what he does as his profession, his duty, and his mission; emphasising the fondness and the desire he has to click that button on every single loaded train journey when people have time to think and rest. “A train is a big temporary family or small floating society which condenses the diversity of life” Mr Wang proclaims in interpreted Mandarin as I sat enthralled in his enthusiasm and commitment.

I’ve always thought of myself as a professional thief, not because I stole possessions from people but because I stole moments out of their everyday lives through photography.

Hearing his own stories as well as visiting the ones he’s caught and created was so engrossing. He informed us of the many times he’s suffered from his art, once receiving a punch because a man with a paparazzo camera isn’t always perceived as positive.  “I’ve always thought of myself as a professional thief, not because I stole possessions from people because I stole moments out of their everyday lives through photography.” It was this statement that brought savoury flavouring into my soul. and it was seeing Mr Wang taking photos of his audience appreciating his photos that allowed me to perceive the dear joy he has in living and traversing and composing. I was mesmerised by his talent and ability to vocalise and visually encapsulate the expressive essence of what it is to be a photographer. His words, his knowledge and his experience were fascinatingly inspiring and I can only hope to be that prevailing level of skilled and structured as I pioneer my own avenues.


My blog brings me some fabulous opportunities but this is by far the most uplifting, interesting one to date. I didn’t just enjoy the event as an entirety, I really did grow a true, steadfast admiration for his art and I know anyone who follows along with my musings will fall in love just as fast as I did. Ever since learning about and seeing One Billion Journeys for myself I’ve been so much more aware of deep community on railways. Only last weekend did I fill up watching an old man crouched at the window of my carriage blowing a kiss, touching the glass and waving to his wife as his emotions got the better of him. In that moment I wished I had the authority, electronics, and characteristic eye to snap that very motion.

The exhibition is now open for the summer from 24th May right up until the 11th August and it’s all absolutely free to visit both the One Billion Journeys exhibition and see the museum itself. Situated at the National Railway Museum which is just a short walk away from York’s station, it’s a tourists dream and I couldn’t recommend it enough. You’ll honestly be mesmerised by how instantly touching and elevating it is seeing these ordinary moments turn into a delightful masterpiece.

Mr Wang, I salute you.

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Three Course Heaven @ The Fox, Menston

Posted on 6 min read

What to do on a bleak, rainy day? What would perk up those senses and inject some vitality back into your veins? Why food, of course. More specifically, a delectable three course meal. And even more specifically, a half hour drive with the fam down the country roads of Yorkshire paying a visit to The Fox, Menston – newly refurbished and ready to welcome you with open arms, a log fire, and a cosy booth beside the panelled windows as you watch the world go by.

I was kindly invited down to The Fox, Menston to review their evening menu, last week. To immerse the revamp, indulge in as much food and drink as my feeble stomach can handle, and spend some quality time with my loved ones in a setting perfect for embracing the lot. Situated between Ilkley and Otley, it’s the ideal place for a traditional country pub with class – and a reachable distance from Leeds itself. Living in the city I don’t often get to experience the home from home dining feel so it was nice to settle into the rustic surroundings with some hearty grub. It brought me back to my childhood when we’d stop off in the countryside after holidaying at my grandparents’ caravan. The same lovely, warm, and friendly atmosphere!

I brought my mum, grandma, and brother along with me to enjoy the luxuries and we were all so totally spoilt. I haven’t heard anything but praise and a “we must go back again soon it was utterly divine”, since. The staff were so accommodating and serviceable; the whole range of culinary goodness was available for us, nothing was off limits, and so of course we made the most of it.

 

We all have different tastes which is an advantage when you’re reporting back. It provides a chance to experiment with variety and compare the best and the worst. Only this time, there was no worst. I don’t even think it’d be possible for the worst to exist, here!

My brother ordering Scallops of the Day was a close contender but that’s only because any kind of fish is a no-no in my books. He absolutely devoured them and almost licked the plate when he’d finished so that’s enough confirmation they were just as amazing as my starter. I opted for the Crispy Karaage Chicken to satisfy my taste-buds as a teaser of what was to come and it was finger-lickingly tasty. I love chicken – whether it’s fried, grilled, oven-baked, mixed within other dishes – it’s all I eat at home, but I am very fussy with the textures and the flavours. This appetiser was balanced flawlessly; just the right amount of succulent and crisp!

My mum is a mushroom fanatic so she predictably went for the Thyme-Roasted Portobello Mushrooms and I was actually a little envious. There was a ladle of creamy mushrooms in a bishop sauce served with rustic toast on the side and what a lush combination it was! My grandma also went simple but scrumptious with the Duck Liver & Port Parfait – she often has pâté as a light snack at home and this was a higher tier version. In her exact words – ‘it was absolutely beautiful’.

 

For the mains, I was the only one not to go for whole meats. I fancied some real juicy carbs so the Pancetta Carbonara stood out for me. It was 100% the correct decision, it satisfied my cheese admiring appetite and was mouthwateringly pulpy and creamy with smoky flavouring oozing from the bacon. My brother and his massive gusto for food in general were on the other side of carbs as he tucked into the homemade British Beef Burger (with added halloumi by his request). Layered up into a neat tower of rich, dirty tang, chunky, tender beef, and a fresh bun, he savoured the lot and there were many satisfied mumbling noises emerging from beside me. He said it was the best burger he’d had in ages which speaks volumes for the amount of food he consumes on a daily basis!

Staying with the meat, my mum and grandma had the same meal; 7oz Fillet Steak with chunky chips and a unique ale-glazed shallot tart with another Cropwell Bishop sweet, zesty topping. If you’ve read my past food reviews with my mum in tow from March and June last year, then you’ll know this was always going to be the obvious choice in her eyes. She’s steak mad and loves to trial the fillets and the sirloins when visiting different places to eat. She did, however, insist on stating this was a worthy winner as well as the soft, fluffy, dense potato to go with it. With one bite you could sense and distinguish just how much care had gone into both preparation and the cooking itself. It was firm and fresh, piping hot, melt in the mouth texture – and most importantly plated up meeting her exact call for nothing but well done, please.

 

 

 

Two courses would have been more than enough for our dietary contentment but thankfully we also got to experience the wonders of the desserts. Unfortunately the famous Melting Chocolate & Peanut Bomb was unavailable but there were plenty more options to fill my sweet tooth and sugary craving boots. My brother and I had the Home-Baked Triple Chocolate Cookie with a mix of Praline and Vanilla ice-cream – a divine combination which was demolished and ravished by us both, and my mum and grandma had the Sticky Toffee Pudding – the ideal winter finisher which was thoroughly enjoyed.

The food at The Fox, Menston was utterly impeccable and we couldn’t fault it. The exceptional quality really shone through, as did the presentation. Everything was hand cooked and made from scratch with your order in mind! The assorted menu catered for everybody and it was great value for money. However, it didn’t just stop there. Nope. The ample selection of cocktails were also on hand to complete your nightly feast.

The Fox, Menston actually held an event in October for bloggers to sample their new gin based cocktails in the midst of their makeover but unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend. Now, gin is my jam. I’ve recently become the biggest basic boozer with pink gin but my only problem is I hate tonic and soda and I’ll only drink it with lemonade. This is why I didn’t go for the newest cocktails on the list but after recently discovering my kick for rhubarb gin, I regret not having a glass of their Cucumber Ribbons.

 

 

My mum and I were still pretty complacent with our martinis, though. Mum had two of the Pornstar Martini because she couldn’t get enough and her eyes physically lit up as soon as she took a sip. I had the Candy Floss Martini which is something I’d never seen before but something that worked a treat! It came with genuine candyfloss in a glass and a dainty side bottle of rum and ginger that you poured in to create – in their words – a magical marvel. It was then washed down by a cuppa and a coconut biscuit which was the ultimate ending to a fab night!

 

 

Whilst we relished in the atmosphere and the cuisine (and the dreamy toilets) I couldn’t help but notice the festive menus on display. My mind went straight to how amazing it would be to sit by the roaring fire with your family; revelling in the merriment, the speciality beverages, and classic delicacies, on Christmas Day. I know for sure there’d be no disappointed faces around the table. Now all I need to do is persuade my own family to dine there on the 25th in the forthcoming future!

If you’re Yorkshire based I couldn’t recommend The Fox, Menston enough. Huge thank you to the team for providing us with unlimited indulgences, and for hosting an evening to remember for all four of us!

 

*Food and drink were all kindly complimentary by The Fox, Menston in exchange for a review. All thoughts, opinions, and images are my own. See my full disclaimer for more information.

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The Ivy Leeds Launch

Posted on 3 min read

Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited to the pre-launch event of the brand spanking new restaurant that’s just hit Leeds City Centre and situates within the acclaimed Victoria Quarter in a lavish, historic, listed building located on the bustling streets of Vicar Lane.

With a wide range of culinary mastery set across two floors, two terraces, and a beautiful bar setting, this botanical space is bound to draw the crowds in… and it certainly did on a warm, celebratory September night.

Mingling in with the professionals and the stars, drinking far too many exclusive signature rose cocktails and glasses of champers as they were handed to us one after the other, and nibbling on some canapes as we giggled the night away, myself and 1/7 of my gal pals honestly had some top tier fun to shake those Monday blues away!

Thankfully I’d thought of photographing the flamboyant decor before the fizz went to my head and sent me spiralling (quite literally) and also before the swarms of people headed in to create a merry buzz that lasted until after hours. The atmosphere was fab; everyone chatting and never without a drink in hand, the bar staff running their rocket speed service underneath the ember lighting, faces displaying all smiles and flushed cheeks, but the hundreds of attendees did end up blocking the views of the gorgeously decked out views!

The interior is everything my heart desires; walls full of quirky, bold artwork that takes bland and squashes it right down to dust. Bursts of colour and plush prints in every corner. Dreamy flower bouquets on the marble tables, monochromatic tiled flooring, a greenery theme throughout – whether that be authentic towering plants or patterns plastered on the walls. Sophisticated but retro and exactly what a brasserie should be.

 

 

We stayed downstairs in the capacious bar area for the majority of the time but somehow towards the end of the night we ended up upstairs as we trailed to the fancy washrooms. That means we also got a taste (pun intended) of how the second floor looked and that was just as aesthetically pleasing, if not more. It’s the perfect place to sense that homely warmth as you’re enjoying your meal; large windows making it light and airy, high ceilings, and comfortable seating.

 

Speaking of meals, I must venture back there sometime soon to trial and savour their food offerings properly. In all honestly I can’t even remember what little bites I was grabbing off the silver platters all night but something that sticks in my mind are the delicious mini crème brûlée donuts and the berry tarts. I must have had about five and I easily could have had more! The desserts were sublime and I have no doubt the rest will be, too.

They have such an amazing range of menus available – breakfast, a la carte, afternoon tea, weekend brunch, and of course the drinks and desserts. I saw a bloggers breakfast was held this week and all the grub looked divine. That alone has tempted me to go and indulge myself! I promised my mum I’d take her for some food and cocktails before the year is up so it’s no surprise that The Ivy is right at the top of my list of where to go.

With venues already in Harrogate and York, this Leeds addition is a welcomed treat to the popular Leeds eatery scene and I am excited to see it flourish. It opened for the public on Tuesday so if you’re thinking about paying a visit, it’s all ready to go!

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A Three Course Secret Supper, Bar & Kitchen @LS1

Posted on 7 min read

A couple of months back I wrote about my visit to the Crowne Plaza in my Self Care post – raving about my super soothing spa experience and my appetising afternoon tea delight at the new and improved Bar & Kitchen @LS1 within the hotel. Fast forward a few weeks and, coincidentally, another email arrives in my inbox inviting me back along for a taste of the full package as part of their special secret supper event. One to one guidance and a chat from the renowned in-house head chef Lee Miller, an exclusive sneak peek at the brand new spring menu, and copious amounts of stupendously cooked cuisine straight from Yorkshire’s finest – it was set out to be a gratifying evening all round!

You know they say you notice the intricate details of something or someone on a second investigation? Well that’s exactly what happened with me strolling back into the restaurant tucked away at the corner of the lobby. The second time round I was really able to appreciate the cosy, homely essence of the place; especially at the time of day when the (lack of) sun was about to set and dusk was close by.

The hidden gem isn’t what you usually expect of a hotel – both in modern Scandi inspired setting and delectable food quality – and that’s what makes it so unique. With its laid back, relaxing feel, and interjection of a vast touch of local trade, it steps away from fine dining whilst still bringing in that passion and flare.

Greeted with a glass of prosecco and some fruit mixers upon a marble table, artsy decor, carefully laid tables, swinging chandeliers, and a host of hospitality top dogs, press, prs, and some other lovely Leeds bloggers for chatty, cordial, and welcoming company, any anxieties that I have about attending events alone had vanished in just a few seconds!

To get us started and warmed up before the big extravaganza from the main man behind the delicious dishes as he slaved away attentively in the kitchen, we were delivered a simple platter of tear and share Yorkshire puddings, rarebit, and marrowbone gravy for dipping which was renowned Liquid Gold by a fellow full time blogger Nadine on her first foodie visit (and she was more than right, fyi! I told you the company was grand), so that was of course an instant winner in the eyes of the self proclaimed Yorkshire pud enthusiast; aka me.

After some further musing around as we devoured our appetiser, it was time to gather together and sit down ready for the three course I was more than ready for (note to self: drinking on a fairly empty stomach in post gig recovery after a long day travelling to and fro Manchester isn’t always a swimmingly good idea, swimming being the main word here). I was seated with a bunch of friendly folk, including two staff members who were so affable, so easy to talk to, and genuinely interested in our thoughts, opinions, ideas, and any constructive criticism – it made the experience even more real and authentic.

Lee was just as warm and accommodating, although I was informed he is the feisty kind when he wants to be. I guess fantastic food comes at a price and that price is a streak of bossiness and extreme determination!

Himself and Stephen Hornsby, the general manager at Crowne Plaza, introduced us to the tasting night, telling us what we should expect, what the hard working team behind this newly refurbished and improved space stand for, and talked us through the spring dishes they’re ready to introduce widely.

I was instantly inspired by Lee and the way he spoke about his passion and his career, so much so that for the first time at a food event I took some notes down on my phone. You could really feel the enthusiasm and the zest that radiated from him as he took us on his journey to becoming a chef and what trademark he believes in bringing to a place he’s called home for 10 years.

Lee built his way up as a chef, beginning with an NVQ, a movement of work experience in different places, and now he holds a licence of 22 years in the making which makes him a man of knowledge and expert skills!

What stood out for me, personally, was the established creations he metaphorically and literally transports to the table. He is all about partnering with local Yorkshire produce; on the farms, in the suppliers trade, and even as nearby as down the road. His cheeses are sourced in Wakefield, and some even include the famous cheese served to the queen once upon a time!

The entire arrangement of carefully fabricated dishes are freshly prepared with the Yorkshire flair in mind and developed to match his own penchant for homely dishes. Using the finest ingredients from the local commerce, the menus are synonymous with the region, they incorporate some of the country’s favourite comfort food, bursting with flavours and taste and most important, a contemporary Yorkshire twist! Having this exclusively in their arsenal maintains a distinctive approach they can be proud of!

Something that caught my attention was the mention of how Lee bakes bread. Bread is my absolute weakness but I have to be careful what kind I eat as bloating and aggravation of IBS symptoms is often very common with my doughy indulgence. However, Lee spoke about bringing it back to basics, excluding e-numbers and minimising intolerance with his choices, and he was so on point with what he was saying. The wholesome warm roll straight from the oven wasn’t only just the most deliciously soft and mouth watering roll I’ve ever tasted, it also didn’t give me that horrible aftermath feeling and that in itself gets mega bonus points.

With our gold menu with the option of starter, main, and dessert, I felt like a queen myself as I rolled it out in front of me contemplating on what to go for. In the end I opted for the Yorkshire Charcuterie Board (which we all found out was a bit of a tongue twister to say), the 6 Hour Braised Beef Cheeks, and the Rhubarb and Strawberry Bakewell Tart with ice cream on the side – all absolutely cooked to perfection and probably the best three course meal I’ve had in years.

The board had a selection of cured meats; chorizo, salami, and air-dried royal ham, along with home marinated vegetables and the most pungent house Henderson relish which was gorgeous. I cleared my plate in the shortest amount of time and I couldn’t even stop myself, that’s how good it was. As a fussy meat eater, it’s a testament to the chef – it’s made me want to delve further into the chilled meat section of supermarkets, but I doubt any will live up to the impeccably presented platter.

The main was strips of beef on top of a ball of creamy colcannon mash potato and buried pockets of vegetables covered in Leeds’ very own brewery ale gravy. There’s only one word: scrumptious! The slow cooked meat was so succulent you didn’t even have to chew it, it just fell off the fork and melted in the month. The rich, relishing flavours oozed through with the combination of components and it really did just feel as though as I was back home savouring a traditional Sunday dinner made by the family cooking I adore.

As much as I didn’t want it to end, it had to sometime, and the rhubarb and strawberry bakewell tart was the optimal finisher to a worthy menu basking in the British! You could tell it was homemade straight away. You know when you’ve baked and the stench wafts through the house and then you bite into the spongy pastry and a rush of sweet heaven rushes through you? That’s exactly how it felt tucking into the slice that was crusty around the edges and soft in the middle. It was just the right amount of tangy and catered to my mega sweet tooth!

The attention to detail and care that takes place in the Bar & Kitchen @LS1 is obvious, and once again it was painted to us during the final stage of the night (handed over with the cutest box containing two miniature desserts to try for ourselves… culinary genius and generosity!).

Lee came back out to get the verdict and nothing but positive approval was fed back to him. He said the experience of the night helped him and his team during the constant learning curve and expression of the kitchen and that it put in that curveball helped them understand and develop, to be able to play with real foods and cater accordingly to society.

With so much visible passion and time behind the food, the connection that Lee strives for is instinctively formed. Portions that are just enough to leave you comfortably content, and the simply sharp recipes, are five stars all round. The entirety of the food is totally seamless and not overpowering in the slightest; completely different to most of the naff and bland hotel food I’ve had in the past.

Bar & Kitchen is in a league of its own and although it’s not amongst the major central restaurants, it definitely has the same (if not more) power and promise. Trust me when I say it’s not to be overlooked and overshadowed just because it’s centred within a hotel!

There’s a constant theme running through Lee’s ethic and that’s customers enjoy what they believe in. The intimate community he aims to create is what food is about – getting people together and just purely enjoying it.

And that we did.

Thanks so much to Sam for inviting me, I had a whale of a time and was honoured to be part of an important bunch. I’ll definitely be back, I’ve already raved to my family about how we need to treat ourselves to a trip sooner rather than later!

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Dining Experience @ Lost and Found, Leeds Club

Posted on 4 min read

A few weeks back now (Galentines Day to be exact) I had the pleasure of spending my Tuesday evening in the company of three of my favourite ladies and the newest sumptuous joint in Leeds. The Lost & Found already has a site on Greek Street but now they’ve unveiled another free spirited professor in the iconic Leeds Club building on Albion Place (aka my ultimate spot for charming, traditional buildings that are not only picturesque but provide some of the best food and drink names in town!)

I was lucky enough to attend their soft launch event before they officially opened to the public on the 16th Feb… and oh how lucky I felt. Walking in there felt like stepping foot in an enchanting whimsical world of mixology, seasonal cuisine, and a bloggers’ dream, with its high ceilings, flowered, woodland trimmings, winding staircase, marble top tables, and extensive cocktail collection.

It’s such a beautiful restaurant, the kind of place that gives you a relaxed, cosy feel twinned with authentic class where you can’t help but feel a lot more high and mighty than you would at home on your sofa with your feet propped up and beans on toast on the menu. With two main rooms; the lavish bar downstairs set into separate areas, and the main restaurant area upstairs, along with an exquisite secret bar and the prettiest interior, you’re onto an all round winner right away.

The place was heaving with glory and delight from all walks of life; a warm and friendly atmosphere with the attentive service to match, and aside from the fixed sharing platter starter of mixed warm breads and antipasti – which were bladdy deliciously appetising may I add – we were able to choose anything we desired from the main menu, complete with unlimited cocktails and a dessert to finish.

Thankfully the choices complied to all our varied tastes! And when I say there was something for everyone I really mean there was something for everyone with my mum, the fussiest eater in Leeds, in attendance. Her having zero complaints about the feast is pretty much equivalent to a bachelors degree in cookery, to be honest. That’s when you know the quality of  food is at the very top!

We all ordered different – I went for the Chicken Milanese with a sourdough crumb (£12) and a side of skinny fries (£3.50) which tasted almost identical to McDonald’s chips – only with a little more savouring class.  I’d had the Chicken Milanese whilst in Spain a few times before and this one didn’t disappoint to the ones I’d already previously tried and tested, the sourdough adding that extra tang. My mum opted for the 8oz Sirloin Steak (£18) in a request of well done and she said it was cooked to perfection. It’s rare I head out to eat with my mum without her sending a steak back in disapproval so this really does determine the efforts of the chef. She asked for well done, she got well done! My friends, Beth and Jade, who aren’t bloggers just guests who got to experience a piece of the action for the night (they’re privileged to have a friend like me js), went for the Wagyu Beef Burger (£13) and a side order of fries, and the Peri Peri Chicken Pizza (£11.50) and by the looks of the empty plates and the thumbs up for being finger-licking good, it was thoroughly enjoyed all round. Plus, the look of the mountain of melted cheese alone is mouth watering!

Moving on to dessert (despite our stomachs being satisfyingly and maximally filled) we opted for the Millionaire’s Shortbread (£8) and Passion Fruit Cheesecake (£7). We were informed they would be served deconstructed which wasn’t something I was familiar with but something which I was definitely intrigued by. Turns out, there’s just a lot more crumby contents and it’s a little messier, but it tastes just as nice. The chocolatey essence in the shortbread was ravishing and totally addictive to a sweet tooth fanatic like moi but after a few minutes of stuffing my face it did get slightly overpowering. I reckon you could get away with sharing a dessert if you feel like shelving greedy cravings for the night (which isn’t always easy, I feel you. The more chocolate, the better.)

Cocktail wise, we went somewhat overboard. Stocking up on the sparkling prosecco based cocktails and the classic spirits and managing to down three each until around 10:30pm. I think (my brain is still a little foggy from that night, I swear) we consumed multiple of the A Penny For The Cat (£8.95), St. Clementine’s Garden (£9.25), and Fine & Dandy (£8.75), which not only awakened the tastebuds but worked wonders for the ‘gram.

By the end of the night the general consensus was that A) we were delectably fed and watered more than we ever could have imagined, B) for what you are given and the quality of the grub, it’s well worth the price tag, and C) we definitely should have watched what we were drinking instead of giggling our way through the cold February evening.

Before we stayed fix abode until closing time, we made our way out as discreetly as possible – bellies heavier and heads lighter but with a fun few hours to treasure and a promise to head back sooner rather than later.

(I’m already thinking about summer plans with the natural light as an advantage. IMAGINE how stunning it would photograph in the daylight with a refreshing cocktail for company!!)

Have you headed down to Lost & Found yet?!

*Food and drink were all kindly complimentary in exchange for a review. All thoughts, opinions, and photos are my own.

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#BlogAtTheBeach – Talks and Tips with icelolly.com

Posted on 15 min read

When I was informed by the lovely Hayley at Tea Party Beauty that there was an email waiting for me with an invite to icelolly.com‘s fifth (and my first) #BlogAtTheBeach, I was a sharp mix of excited and apprehensive. I’ve always followed the buzz of their popular events but only via social media and this time I had the opportunity to head down to a distinctively themed function itself.

I can’t help but worry I’ll be a little out of place at these kind of events, surrounded by all the girl bosses who have smashed their way to the top and are circulating and thriving in their established friendship groups, when I’m just a mediocre blogger who hasn’t grown at the same speed and success rate over the years. BUT it turns out worrying is just my forte (no shock there) and there was absolutely nothing to be nervous about.

To say I didn’t make the best instant impression as I stumbled into the venue and nearly fell flat on my face as my clumsiness took over my awareness and a small step obstructed the way, I thankfully managed to settle in right away (nothing like acclaiming your ditsy name as a conversation starter, right?!).

Everyone was there for the same reason – to network, to support and uplift each other, to encourage, to inspire, to learn, to share their unique qualities, and to just sit back and have fun – and I superficially ticked all those boxes. The entire room was filled with friendly faces, passion and ambition, and 85 bloggers ready to show (or snow) a studio turned ski resort what we were made of.

As we grabbed our name badges, mingled and chatted to some new and old faces with a cup of complimentary mulled wine, notebook, and camera in hand, I grabbed my front seat like some sort of VIP whilst the icelolly.com team were preparing to introduce the three main speakers of the day from three prestigious names in the blogosphere; Kirsty, Bee, and Kaye. What I loved the most is how approaching the marketing team were, speaking so highly and postively about the influence bloggers have on their brand and hosting competitions exclusively for us to take part in (this time it was some beaut watches up for grabs). They were happy to chat, to take on ideas, and to put forward and stress that to use a platform for collaborative effect is a major strategy in their consuming media. Followed on by an insightful few hours of talks and presentations complete with tips, tricks, advice, shout outs to those bloggers unattended but still killing it, and improvised details that added that genuine touch, really put into perspective why I enjoy being part of such a nurturing, ever-growing, and fast becoming authoritative community.

First to take the stage was Kirsty, a travel blogger who’s recently took the step into freelancing with her extensive knowledge behind her, and boy did that show! Her topic of the day was ‘How to Pitch Successful Travel Collaborations with Brands’ and with the current unnecessary and damn right out of order drama over on a certain bitterly exploitative FB page at the moment, championing pitching couldn’t have come at a better time.

Now, I could take you through step by step but 1) you’d most certainly get fed up halfway down the lengthy essay, and 2) the slideshows from the three ladies are now up on IceLolly’s blog for you to read and download.

Instead, I want to briefly touch on the guidance given and what I learned and took away from the talk.

A ROUNDUP OF KIRSTY’S TIPS:

  • Don’t beat about bush, get straight to the point and tell brands what you want.
  • Ensure it’s relevant to your blog and your speciality as the most effective pitches are the ones that fit your niche.
  • List three things that makes YOU unique – the more unique you can be with your ideas, the better.
  • Show examples of your work!
  • Don’t use a template email or a copied wording because it will be transparent.
  • Tell them what you can offer, is it your SEO, your social media skills, your photography? Add depth, a quirky twist, and put it on a plate of “here’s what I’ve done, this is the content I’ve created.”
  • Don’t let lack of followers put you off as they’re not always relevant or top priority. Draw focus away from your follower count to emphasise on your favourite approach, engagement or photography instead!
  • Don’t over promise, be realistic with what you can do in return, but also be specific from the off.
  • Don’t be afraid to directly ask for what you want.
  • Pitch ideas they can visualise.
  • Be specific on the collaboration – is it social media takeovers, sponsored blog posts, vlogs?
  • Explain how your input will benefit their brand.
  • Do your research and keep track of what they represent by checking up on their channels.
  • Ask yourself if they really are a brand you admire and aspire to work with – there’s no point just diving in to all corners.
  • Use LinkedIn wisely – it’s a very handy platform and the perfect place to find relevant contacts and connections. Fully optimise your profile and connect to brands to the make the most out of the professional marketing tool.
  • Set up spreadsheets to audit your schedule and to make a note of who you have and haven’t pitched to.
  • Create and update a media kit as it helps and boosts your trademark enormously (something I definitely need to do!)

WHAT I LEARNT:

  • Followers aren’t the most important part of a pitch and if you can tick the boxes of being a good fit for the brand then you’re still in with a chance of achieving that dream partnership.
  • To remain cool and confident is key and you have to drill it into yourself – what’s the worst that could happen?
  • You have to think of it as a bringing in business opportunity – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with reaching out to pitch a potential collaboration, it’s how people get to know you, how people recognise you, and how you build a name for yourself. It’s how businesses and the freelance industry work and offering a perfectly reasonable service is not a crime. If brands are there to callously chastise, demean, and dirty you when you do, and are willing to work hard, then they’re not worth it.
  • Don’t think chasing them up is being rude, reaching out shows them that you do care and are determined.
  • Being more personal is more effective. Point out and congratulate a brand’s triumphs, tell them what it is you like about them, and develop a way for them to subconsciously see you for future reference, even if not now.
  • Tailor picking is the best way to do it as then it’s specific to you and not just everyone, it has to be something you truly want to feature.
  • People are scared to reach out because of lack of time, or not knowing what to say, but you can’t let the hang ups get the better of you and you can’t let a refusal get you beaten up.
  • Learning valuable sales skills, growing your blog and receiving more content opportunities is only going to spur you on more!
  • But mainly you have to create your own opportunities, do it yourself, be your own cheerleader! Kirsty has definitely given me the boldness and courage I need to just hit send.
  • It was so elevating to see how Kirsty has grown from strength to strength and to take that conduct away with me to adapt to my own blogging career!

WHAT THE ICE LOLLY PERSPECTIVE SAID:

  • Engagement is absolutely key, it’s all about how you draw in audience!
  • If you’re not listening or reacting, then the number of followers may as well be non existent.
  • Brands do get lots of enquires so it’s important to prove why you’ll be the best, most impressive candidate, and how you’ll stand out.
  • Finding common ground and being flexible and negotiable is a leading aspect.
  • Sometimes pitches will be missed, there’s certainly no harm in chasing emails because it shows you’re passionate and you really want to do it!

Next up, we had Queen Beady living up to her name. Bee is such a joy to be around and as soon as she got up in front of the microphone you can tell why she’s so well liked and why she’s such a bad-ass blogger prospering in all directions. Throwing out Celebration chocolates to those who answered questions, making light of those curve balls, rolling with the punches, and prompting lots of giggles in return. Her natural authentic personality really shone through and highlighted that calling she puts in the spotlight!

A ROUNDUP OF BEE’S TIPS:

  • Don’t take opportunities in what don’t fit and you don’t enjoy because everyone will see right through it.
  • Do less of what you don’t love and make writing about your enjoyment in life the forefront.
  • Don’t force it and don’t write for the sake of it as it will be obvious to your readers.
  • If you need a break away for days, or even weeks, allow yourself to take them. You’ll more than likely come back more motivated and refreshed.
  • INTERACT. Be genuine and responsive, converse with those who leave comments, leave a question at the end of a post to encourage people to engage with you etc.
  • Ways in which to be more productive include: setting your alarm an hour earlier, using your lunch breaks wisely, meeting up with friends for blog-related social gatherings, scheduling your posts the night before, surrounding yourself with an environment you’re concentrated and comfortable in.
  • Take your camera everywhere with you because you never know when inspiration may strike (one of my favourite tips and one I can definitely relate to!)
  • Think of your top 3 achievements, what they translate to, and why they’re advantageous.
  • Being able to show brands why they need to work with you is paramount. Provide hard evidence that you do make a marked effect.
  • Find your style of voice, your passions, and think about what makes your blog stand out from the crowd.
  • Emulating someone else’s success won’t get you far! You are your own person for a reason.
  • Familiarise yourself with SEO: include a link with a high DA, optimise your social channels to drive traffic, learn your keywords.
  • Reinvest back into your blog to reap even bigger rewards. This can be done in so many ways, for e.g. grabbing a fancy design, having a makeover, purchasing a new camera or lens, booking those cheap flights, enrolling yourself on a blogging course, working with professional photographers, going self hosted so you have more creative control over your site. Just keep it fresh and updated and in turn this will continue to develop your skills!
  • Transfer skills you have learnt from work or uni or any other primary notion to boss your blog. They really can be incremental to the running procedure!
  • But whatever you do, don’t let it take over your life, recognise when you’re heading for a burn out, know when to stop, don’t force it, and have a breather.

WHAT I LEARNT:

  • We all have the same amount of time in a day as Beyonce but none of us have an entourage the size of Bey’s. This really stuck with me because it’s true, it’s the reality. No matter how talented and incredible you are at blogging, you will never compete or be at the standard of a blog that has it all and is at the top of the market. You are in this alone but you can do it; be savvy, juggle time effectively, and keep the momentum going.
  • No one can do you and there’s no right or wrongs. As you’ve probably guessed by now, I prefer the long, wordy posts compared to the listicles and that’s okay – that’s what makes me, me!
  • Once the pennies start rolling in it’s a fantastic feeling (I already knew this but it’s nice to stimulate yourself and your mindset.)
  • Understanding your camera makes a hell of a difference. Test out different styles, reevaluate to your lifestyle, go outside to gain a new perspective, work with what you’ve got and not the typical cliches!
  • It’s perfectly okay to big yourself up! You matter, you have credibility, people are interested in your work. I’ve certainly been encouraged to sell myself and add value without feeling guilty.
  • Once you’ve found your voice in the blogosphere it will all flow naturally but interchange and mix it up because it will amplify your niche.
  • Sitting and recording yourself on voice memo to see if your speaking voice fits with your writing voice is a handy technique (for someone who cringes to the point of second hand embarrassment at the sound of my own voice, this is definitely something I want to test out and take on board!)
  • I need to make the most of weekends and breaks. Take blog photos in batch, plan, and capture as much content as you get because then it won’t feel like you’re stuck in limbo and you have lots of projects in process to be working on.
  • Thinking about and continuing to talk about the achievements you’re proud of is practical, it’s good to be reflective and it will be fruitful for brands.
  • Pay more attention to and ask my following what they want to see, number one tip for overcoming the insta algorithm is to optimise your content so I need to give it a more of an endeavoured try!
  • You have to think of your blog as your own little business and use your skills efficiently wherever you can.
  • It’s totally tacky to copy someone else! Simply decide what works for you and that authentic blogger title will arrive in no time.

WHAT THE ICE LOLLY PERSPECTIVE SAID:

  • Pretty much exactly the same as Bee because, you know, she’s a pro.
  • Having a niche is what sells it.
  • Brands do want to know about your achievements but the determined factor is all about what creativity and ideas you can offer!

For the third and final talk we were blessed with the presence of the famous Kaye Ford who’s behind Fordtography and her own personal blog, and of course behind the most talked about and most desired imagery within the blogosphere. If you haven’t heard of Kaye or seen her work then where on earth have you been? I adore her work, she’s seriously talented, and has a real eye for capturing the heart of both people and landscapes. I may or may not have fangirled a little (okay a lot) but how can you not, she is ultimate goals, and the ardour oozes from her. She was on hand to provide her travel photography tips and we were all more than keen to hear!

A ROUNDUP OF KAYE’S TIPS:

  • You don’t always have to focus on your travel buddy. Stop and think about who you’re taking photos with, aim for a more visually interesting photo and focus on landscape rather than your company.
  • Find ways you can counteract.
  • Don’t be a carbon copy of the same old shot you’ve seen a thousand times before.
  • Don’t look to produce the same content in popular locations as everyone else, don’t take pictures of your typical scenario, be individual and think of different ways you can play around with angles.
  • It’s more about capturing the essence and atmosphere of a place in a more memorable way rather than it being samesy.
  • Know beforehand what areas you want to visit and where you want to go. It’s a case of organising your schedule, making time and spending time. There’s no limit but it’s good to know the specifics!
  • Include tourists in shots, utilise the naturalness that gives a sense of regularity with a vibe. Embrace people, shoot through them, use their head as a block out part, don’t erase a crowd in a high tourist area.
  • Always shoot in raw so you can edit the white balance to your satisfaction.
  • The recommended is to always use your camera in manual.
  • Learn the bare basics of your camera, experiment, test and trial, and carry it around everywhere! The key is to teach and educate yourself so you can get the most out of your baby.
  • Respect wishes. If photography isn’t allowed in some restricted areas, then do not go against their policies just because you want to update your Instagram.

WHAT I LEARNT:

  • Having anxieties about travelling solo is fine. If Kaye can still produce the quality she does with people around her, then so can I!
  • Kaye finds buildings boring. It’s assuring to know a respectable and renowned photographer doesn’t feel the pressure to encapsulate architecture because simply, bricks really aren’t that interesting, are they?
  • People in the picture make it more alive. I no longer have to stand and wait for people to vacate before I take a photo because I’ve seen the ways the passing of the public can enrich a scene. It’s gonna save me a lot of time!
  • People never move out of the way in Iceland. It’s impossible to avoid. Handy to bear in mind if I ever head on a trip there (I’m already thinking about how I can use the tourists to my advantage).
  • Taking a snap of the whole scene is not always as efficacious as centring on precise parts. For e.g. Kaye shot from the window of Edinburgh castle with the frame in focus and the beautiful background in the distance and that made the end result more unique.
  • Snow will always have blue tones. Ideal to remember for the blustery winter we’re having! Remember to shoot in raw so you can edit!
  • Don’t be afraid to edit. This is major!! We all know over-editing is silly but we also know every photographer edits their work. You have the basis, and with editing you can enhance to its aesthetic potential!
  • Buying a camera to use for blogging? Don’t read the manual, go to YouTube and find a how to modern instructional piece.
  • Try and squeeze as much as you can into your hand luggage, you’ll be surprised how much you can fit in there with the allowance!
  • When travelling, you only really need the bare minimum camera gear – a 50mm lens, a tripod, and a long shutter. It’s all about playing with the settings and adjusting them appropriately.
  • A simple change of f-stop can make a photo less flat in an instance.
  • 50mm is very close to what your eye naturally sees.
  • Shoot directly or from above and then you’ll avoid shadows and double chins.
  • It’s so easy to use everyday essentials as a magnifier. She suggested making a rainbow with the reflection of a CD and it’s something I’m now desperate to try out.
  • I’m also at the stage where the mode is being switched to manual opposed to the aperture priority I usually use. I will master it! It’s time for upped change.
  • Kaye is a kinesthetic learner, and I’ve come to the conclusion so am I!
  • “It’s like Harry Potter; you don’t choose the wand, the wand chooses you” my favourite quote to come out of the day and the perfect way to end the seminar. Whatever camera you have, whether bridge, or DSLR, cheap, or expensive, it’s yours!

WHAT THE ICE LOLLY PERSPECTIVE SAID:

  • Kaye’s a genius.
  • That’s pretty much it.

And that marks the end. Congratulations if you’ve made it here, and I hope you’ve managed to get some valid information from my heavy post. Even if you weren’t there on the day, please feel free to contribute with your own blogging tips and your own achievements in the comments!

I’ma finish off with my hands held high to the entire IceLolly team! To say they are an independent site purely running to help you find the best deals for your ideal holiday, and drawing in 20 millions visitors a year, the way in which they connect and respond to the influencer market really is praise worthy and oh so very apt. They know what we want, they know our aim is to achieve our blogging goals, and they manage to arrange annual events to sustain and reinforce this with their especial backup and full surveillance.

(The fact it’s exclusively a Leeds event is just a bonus. I mean, I’m absolutely not biased when it comes to my hometown pleasures, nope.)

My head is filled with a whole load of initiative and I’m still feeling the galvanising spirit but if I was to take just one thing from Blog At The Beach it’s that bloggers really are mighty. We’re writers, we’re photographers, we’re editors, we’re social media assistants, we’re SEO experts, we’re life coaches, we’re personal motivators, we’re designers, we’re decorators, we’re dozens of other professions all rolled in to one and THAT is a win!

We win at life.

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