“I’m 160lbs & I Can Catch a Dick Whenever I Want” – Amy Schumer

 

If you’ve clicked this link wondering, “Who the hell is this Amy Schumer everyone’s banging on about?” then you need to stop reading this and spend the next 167 hours of your life attempting to catch up on everything the hottest thing in comedy has been doing. Seriously, why are you still reading this – GO! Go to YouTube right this second and don’t come back until Amy Schumer is your queen.

For the rest of you who do know who she is (my kind of people), you’re about to become extremely freakin’ jealous of me: last night I was lucky enough to attend the Glamour screening of her brand new movie http://mitchellsgarage.net/project-attributes/photography/ Trainwreck (amazing, I know) followed by a Q&A with the woman herself, hosted by none other than Caitlin Moran (even more amazing – I KNOW!!)

“Amy Schumer’s comedy is not just incredibly funny; it’s necessary and beautiful and revolutionary. What she’s doing right now is actually important; she’s having a massive viral hit pretty much every week and her stuff is like 100,000 years of patriarchal bullshit being definitively sorted out one step at a time.  Anyone who’s seen any of her sketches will agree –Last Fuckable Day, Girl, You  Don’t Need Makeup, The Trial of Bill Cosby, Young Female Celebs on Chat Shows, Rape in Football and, my favourite, Milk Milk Lemonade – which may have ruined both booty hip hop videos and anal sex FOREVER in one video. This is the feminist dream – the biggest, hottest things in the comedy world right now are righteous, feminist, arse punching glory. Amy Schumer has perhaps invented Funinism (Go with it, I’m copywriting it – I have merchandise.) Last night she won the Trailblazer award at The Glamour Awards and gave a five minute acceptance speech which, and I’m not exaggerating, was like watching a young Richard Prior come in and tear the fucking room up. It contained the affirmation “I’m 160lbs and catch a dick whenever I want” which got a standing ovation; a woman who won two Olympic gold medals did not – that’s your context right there.”

Picture stolen from the Glamour website as all my pictures were a blur due to me shaking with laughter.

Amy Schumer didn’t really need an introduction for her Q&A but Caitlin Moran gave her the perfect one anyway. You know that kind of laughter where it starts to hurt/you think you may pee yourself/snot runs down your face (or, if you’re super sexy, all three at the same time)? Well Amy managed to get that out of me for 30 minutes solid during her chat with the audience. Even in her exhausted, jet lagged state she naturally managed to ensure that is seemed like every 5th word she said incited a rapturous round of laughter from her fan girls (and boys). Discussing how autobiographically the film is (55% apparently), Tom Hardy’s MySpace photos, the plan for the female writers of her show to wear wedding dresses to the Emmys (“Just to freak everyone out”), and Chris Rock’s wife and her diva demands (you had to be there*), the New York born comedian proved (not that she needed to) that she’s just as funny unscripted and off the cuff as she is on screen.

Trying to dissect my favourite anecdotes and moments for this blog is too hard; it’s like asking me to choose between burritos or ciggies – I just can’t do it. If you’re going to pressure me, I think my personal highlight was her discussion regarding being a woman and how we approach sex:

It’s hard being a strong chick. We’re still expected to have sex with men and be like “No, no, I don’t want an orgasm – I’m just proud to be part of your process.”

(I enjoyed that because I’m fed up of boys being busy talking about giving a girl ‘the D’ without any concern to giving her ‘an O’.)

And what about the film? How does http://sharepoint-insight.com/2009/12/21/list-of-all-possible-content-place-holders-of-sharepoint/ Trainwreck measure up? Well of course it was ABSOLUTELY AMAZING – it was never going to be anything but. It’s the new Mean Girls/Bridesmaids/whatever film featuring strong comedic female characters – God forbid we watch a female led film without first being reminded that women have proven themselves to be funny in the past. Seriously, can we not be persuaded to watch a film led by women/a woman any other way?

http://jmservice.com/contact/ Trainwreck is as refreshing as it is relatable, hilarious as it is heart-warming, and leaves you feeling positive that we’re heading in the right direction regarding women in the entertainment industry.

With the likes of Amy Schumer leading the way, we may just get ‘there’ a little faster than we thought.

** I just want to remind you that I WAS THERE.

When you’ve exhasted the YouTube videos, have a read of this.  I don’t think I’ve ever related to a personal essay so much before.

Thank you Glamour, you absolutely made my month!

See also: Polly Vernon’s Hot Feminist

Polly Vernon’s Hot Feminist

Hot Feminist

Definition: One who care greatly about the way she looks and greatly about the rights of women, feels that neither concern is compromised by the other – would indeed go as far as to say each reinforces the other; so don’t go telling her it doesn’t work like that, unless you’re up for a fight.

Example: She who routinely wears leather trousers to work because she knows their overtly sexy vibe freaks out male colleagues, rendering them vulnerable.

Stop rolling your eyes and muttering ‘Another bloody book about feminism’ – this is not what you think. Are you a bit jaded by the whole movement of late? Fed up of being told how you should be a feminist? Are you dying to comment on some Everyday Sexism posts with a ‘Hey, I don’t mind a wolf whistle now and again’ but fear the backlash? Ever get the feeling that there’s only one accepted way to go about gaining equal rights for feminism and it doesn’t involve enjoying taking a pride in your appearance? Basically, are you suffering Feminist Fatigue? So was Polly Vernon, author of Hot Feminist, so she went out and wrote the book she’d be waiting for someone else to write!

Part manifesto, part memoir, part road map, Hot Feminist is a brave new perspective on the quest for equality – it is modern feminism, with style, without judgement. It’s also very f**king funny. The reviews from the broadsheets aren’t the most complimentary but if you’re anything like me, that should make you want to read it even more.

To celebrate the release of Polly’s debut book, Grazia Salon hosted an intimate Q&A about fashion and feminism; the Hot Feminist being grilled by Telegraph columnist and The Wrong Knickers author, Bryony Gordon. Together, they put the (feminist) world to rights and led a refreshing discussion for anyone who’s been perplexed by the effort going into banning Page 3 when women are still paid so much less than men. Girls, men are making a bucket load more money than us for the same jobs – I’m not about putting high earning glamour models out of business to be quite honest with you; bigger fish to fry and all that.

And that feeling sums up a lot of the night’s chat – Polly’s brand of feminism focusses on not sweating the small stuff. Wolf whistles don’t bother her, the gender pay gap does. Call her babe? She won’t bite your head off – however, if you don’t believe women should have easy access to abortion she may well do. While some women want to discuss whether wearing heels is feminist, she wants to chat about the fact 1 in 5 women will experience sexual assault in their lifetimes and how the f**k we can change that?

“I quite like being called ‘babe’. Let it go, there are bigger things that fuck me off. If it bothers you, that’s fine, I won’t stop you – I’ll just sit this one out. I’m not sweating the small stuff. It seems you can only have an opinion as long as you’re the victim. Sometimes we’re spending time worrying about how to please other feminists and worrying what they’ll think – what the fuck’s all that about?”

Women in full-time employment earn 15.7pc less than men (adding up to a pay difference of £5,200 a year between the genders) and this pisses Polly (and every other woman I suspect) off.

“The world doesn’t seem to think women are worth as much as we are. I’ve been working for a long time and I’m owed a damn lot. I like buying things – I want equal pay!! The only reason I can see for men being paid more than women is the cost of having a penis must be incredibly high – ‘The Penis Upkeep Grant’ I call it.”

While I can’t say I agree with absolutely every single thing mooted by Polly (but there’s a damn lot I do), whatever your stances on feminism, you cannot deny it’s not friggin’ brilliant to hear a woman talk candidly and honestly about rape, abortion and consent.  Listening to a woman discuss the fact she’s had three abortions, with absolutely no shame, was incredible – it’s 2015, why is there still a stigma around terminating unwanted pregnancies? And why do some women struggle to get access to abortions? If more women spoke as freely about their experiences like Polly maybe that could start end the taboo of abortion?

The best quote of the night, without doubt, was this:

“Don’t sleep with boys that aren’t feminists.”

Honestly, don’t. From my experience, misogynistic pigs tend to be bad in bed.

Buy Hot Feminist.

See also: Why I’m So Here for Beyonce the Feminist

 

Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction #ThisBookClub Quiz Liverpool, in partnership with Grazia and All Bar One

Things I like:

  • Books.
  • Booze.
  • Events combining the two.

Things I don’t like:

  • Seeing a cool event advertised and then learning it’s being hosted in London. As per.

logo

Grazia have somehow read my mind and are hosting a literary ‘Girls’ Night Out’ in LIVERPOOL (that’s right, not London) with cocktails, canapes, quizzes, prizes and fun. And to make it even more perfect for me, it’s happening on my birthday – Tuesday 19th May.

Tickets cost £20 per team of up to four people (so that’s a fiver each) and includes quiz entry, drinks, canapes and a goodie bag. Available to buy HERE.

So if you live in the North West, take advantage of the type of event normally reserved for London being held on our doorstop. And if you want to buy me a birthday drink there, I like prosecco – thanks in advance.

Full details below:

Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction

#THISBOOKCLUB QUIZ

Are you the queen of all things fiction? Think you know your Gone With the Wind from your Gone Girl?  Why not get together with your best girlfriends to connect over brilliant women’s writing, with a cocktail!

Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction – the UK’s only annual international book award for fiction written by women – in partnership with Grazia and All Bar One brings you the ultimate quiz night. Compered by Radio City’s Leanne Campbell, the quiz is a chance to get together with friends over the novels you know (and those you don’t!). Join us to celebrate the best of writing by women, raise a toast to your knowledge with delicious Baileys Flat White Martinis and tasty canapés – free with every ticket purchase!

We’ll be giving away prizes all night, from bonus bottles of Baileys after each round to the ultimate winner’s prize – a set of this year’s BWPFF six shortlisted books, together with a £100 gift card to spend in your local All Bar One.

The winning team will have their photograph taken which will feature on graziadaily.co.uk the following week – but don’t despair, if your book knowledge isn’t up to scratch, you’ll still be taking home a Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction tote, filled with lots of goodies including:

A delicious mini bottle of Baileys

#THISBOOKCLUB: A Brilliant Woman’s Guide To A Very Modern Book Club

The latest issue of Grazia magazine

A gold membership card for All Bar One’s cocktail society

Beautiful Baileys Women’s Prize For Fiction goodies, including a bookmark and bookplate

Book clubs are evolving and the #THISBOOKCLUB quiz is just one of the many ways you can be part of this new movement. Sign your team up now (up to four friends) and join us as we celebrate the very best writing by women. #THISBOOKCLUB.

Tickets cost £20 per team

A team ticket is valid for up to four people and includes entry into the quiz, plus all drinks, canapés and a goodie bag

Event times: 19.00 – 22.30 (the quiz will start at 19.30, so don’t be late!)

Over 18s only

Can’t make it? Play along with us or catch up on all the highlights @BaileysPrize or @Grazia_Live

grazia

See also: Book Review: #GIRLBOSS

Book Review: #GIRLBOSS By Sophia Amoruso

 

“A #GIRLBOSS is in charge of her own life. She gets what she wants because she works for it.”

The first thing Sophia Amoruso sold online wasn’t fashion – it was a stolen book. She spent her teens hitchhiking, committing petty theft and dumpster diving. By twenty-two, she had redesigned herself to employment, but was still broke, directionless and working a mediocre day job she’d taken for the health insurance.

It was there that she decided to start selling vintage clothes on eBay. Eight years later, she is the founder, CEO and creative director of Nasty Gal, a $100 million plus online fashion retailer with more than 350 employees.

I hold my hands up - I'm a stationary geek and mini post it notes are my life

I hold my hands up – I’m a stationary geek and mini post it notes are my life

I’m not sure how a copy of #GIRLBOSS came into my possession. Sure, I know that I ordered it via Amazon and signed for the delivery when it arrived but, having never heard of Nasty Gal or Sophia Amoruso, I’m still bewildered to what motivated to send it to my basket at 4am one night. Actually, ordering books whilst 67% full of wine is kind of my thing – this isn’t the first time a book has appeared at my door a few days after a night out. Some people drunk dial their ex, I purchase literature whilst under the influence.

So it’s safe to say I read this without any preconceptions about Sophia Amoruso or her kitschy online boutique. I do, however, love vintage fashion and women killing it in the business world, so drunk me had ordered herself something suitable at least. As you can see by my excessive use of post it notes, I had a lot of thoughts by the end of the memoir for Millennials.

What got me wanting to Instagram extracts?

  • “I treat my Internet passwords as modern-day sigils, embedding them with wishes or promises to me, or even financial goals for the company.” My password for Facebook was once getanewjob so it’s great to know I’m not the only werido out there.
  • Unpaid internships suck. Working for free for months on ends favours kids from wealthier backgrounds, rather than those actually deserving of breaking into the industry. Sophia’s view on interning had me all ‘I need to immediately Tweet this with a solidarity fist emoji’. “I see so many resumes of people who’ve interned at 20 million amazing places. That’s great, I’m glad you were able to explore your interests and gain exposure, but if you’ve been interning for five years, it seems to me as though you don’t need to work. I respect people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and get the job done, even if it’s a shitty one. Trust me, there ain’t no shame in the game.
  • Sophia is proof that you can study for years, read all the books, complete every work experience placement going, but sometimes you’ve either got it or you haven’t when it comes to business. She is self-taught and the earlier chapters are inspiring – the care she put into her first packages, giving the impression it wasn’t just her in a bedroom, to when she had to chip in at the warehouse as a CEO; so many little anecdotes that give you reassurance that if you know you’ve got it in you, you can achieve it (with a lot of hard work).
  • Money looks better in the bank than on your feet She’s got some good financial advice. Having ruined her credit on crap (been there my friend, been there), Nasty Gal was built without borrowing a penny from anyone. In this day and age, where we max out a credit card for our coffee fixes, her common sense pearls of wisdom are a must read for anyone who is an aspiring #GIRLBOSS

What got me rolling my eyes?

  • “By the time I was in my twenties, vintage was almost all I wore. In San Francisco my friends and I picked a decade and stuck to it. We listened to old music, drove old cars and wore old clothes. My decade was the ‘70s. I had long rock ‘n’ roll hair parted in the middle, with a uniform of my new eBay high-waisted polyester pants, platform shoes, and vintage halters.” This extract from page 25 almost lost me. Vintage clothes are amazing but does anyone really need to dress exclusively from one decade?
  • The book is marketed that Sophia came from nothing, and while she doesn’t herself pull an Alan Sugar (banging on about humble beginnings), the blurb and general praise for her rise to success seems a little flawed when you start reading between the lines. While she may talk about her days of dumpster diving and dining on discarded bagels, you get the impression she comes from quite a middle class background. She spent her teens hitchhiking and stealing yet was able to return to her family home to recover from a hernia operation – it often seems like her lifestyle was a choice, not something that was inevitable. There’s a lot of emphasis on the fact she’s a high school dropout but I feel we’re often all guilty of romanticising not finishing compulsory education, or failing at it. Look, we have to go to school until 18 – it’s not the be all and end all, but if you’re forced to do something, by law, then you may as well have a go at doing well at it. Of course, her success is solely down to her work ethic but I don’t think this is entirely the rags to riches tale the reviews claim it to be.girl boss
  • Shoplifting (and hitchhiking) saved my life Sophia claims to recount her light-fingered past with ‘zero pride’ but with a whole chapter dedicated to her elaborate schemes and her criminal past, it’s not hard to detect a little pride coming through. And hey, I’d be pretty proud of some of scams she invented, but maybe don’t mention it on the first line of your book if you’re claiming you’re pleading deep shame for your actions.

Kindle or Print Purchase?

Okay, the fact that it’s called #GIRLBOSS, hash-tag and everything, it can be tempting to make this a Kindle purchase to avoid any sneers on the train, but this is a strictly print buy -if only for the perfect layout and wonderful sketches. Plus, it’s actually more expensive to download than it is to have an actual book in your hand – what the hell is all that about? Who do I speak to about making it illegal for any Kindle book to be over a fiver?

Up all night reading or gathering dust on the bedside table?

You can certainly read this all in one sitting, if you want, but the format of the book means it’s perfect for dipping in and out of. I find that one of the pros to non fiction; you don’t feel a rush to finish the story – you can take your time.

Recommend to a friend?

The cover alone gives away just who’d enjoy this kind of memoir. This is one for all your mates with an entrepreneurial edge.

 

Notable quotes

Sophia seems to constantly hit the nail on the head when it comes to Millennials and our expectations for life:

Be a nice person at work. It doesn’t matter how talented you are; if you are a total terror to work with, no one will want to keep you around. And the worst kind of mean is selective mean – people who are nice to their boss and superiors, but completely rude to their peers or subordinates.

I recently heard someone use the acronym “IWWIWWWIWI’ – “I Want What I Want When and Where I Want It.” One might call this the motto of my generation. We’re internet kids who have been spoiled by our desires being no more than a click away. We think fast, type fast, move fast, and expect everything else to happen just as fast. I’m guilty of it, too.

girlboss

 

It pays to be as unemotional as possible when asking for a raise. First, be really honest with yourself and make sure you deserve that raise you’re asking for. You do not automatically deserve a raise just because you’ve been somewhere for a certain amount of time. 

In my book (and this is my book!) magical thinking is the alchemy that you can use to visualise and project yourself into the professional and personal life you want. I’m not talking about The Secret self-help book, which basically tells you to tape a picture of a car to the wall and then sit on the couch and wait for someone to drop it off in your drive. I am talking about visualization that works when we get up off our asses and do stuff.

There is no auto-correct in life – think before texting the universe.

moneyBUY #GIRLBOSS HERE

See also: Review & Interview: Dawn O’Porter’s Paper Aeroplanes

Capital of Boobs: Trying Alternatives to Going Under the Knife

Originally published in OPEN Magazine

Kim Kardashian’s oiled up behind attempted to #breaktheinternet earlier this year, and although the web remained intact, the hysteria surrounding her backside certainly reaffirmed our fascination with all things booty related.

2014 saw a 13% increase in Brazilian Bum Lifts across the UK, and no one could escape the 30 Day Squat Challenge. But while it may seem like boobs have taken, ahem, a ‘back seat’ to bums, breast augmentation still remains the most popular form of plastic surgery. Based on last year’s facts and figures, Liverpool is now the boob job capital of the UK; more women across the city are getting silicone implants than anywhere else in the country.

While Merseyside is certainly still in love with ballooned boobs, the rest of the country seems to be deflating. Following the lead of the likes of Victoria Beckham and Katie Price, not only has demand for boob jobs dropped by a quarter, many women have actually had their implants removed or reduced.  A shift seems to be occurring; glamour model style tits are out, a natural, ‘less is more’ look is in. Are Scousers *gasp* becoming a bit dated with our quest to fill DD bras? Liverpool normally leads the crowd, not lags behind – what is happening?

pam

Not all trends from the 90’s make a comeback

 

“For me it’s not about fashion, or having massive Pamela Anderson style boobs,” Rachel, 27 argues in defence of meddling with what God gave you. “I’m currently putting every spare penny I have towards my boob job fund. I’m a 32B and I want to go up just a couple of cup sizes, nothing fake looking. It’s for confidence – nothing to do with trends or fashion. I’ve felt this way for years so this isn’t a flippant decision.”

With Rachel adamant that she wants to go ahead with her plan, but the average cost of surgery around £5000, we decided to explore a few cheaper, non-surgical alternatives to going under the knife.

The non-surgical boob job

The effects of a boob job without the pain, surgery or scars? With this sounding just too good to be true, Pure Rise on Rodney St (the only place in the UK to offer this procedure) had to be our first port of call.

A quick look at some amazing before and after pictures had us intrigued; how are such incredible results achieved without even so much as a needle? But before we could start bombarding Caroline, the director of Pure Rise, with questions, she got something more important than increasing a bra size out the way – a breast check.

photo 2

Before a session at Pure Rise

“It’s shocking how many girls don’t know how to examine their breasts,” she revealed while feeling Rachel’s breasts for any lumps. “There is a huge history of breast cancer in my family and I want to do as much as I can to help educate women about what to look out for,” she explains. “I’d much rather girls come here to boost their breast size rather than risk going under the knife or stick needles in their boobs that can be so damaging to your health.”

With Rachel’s 34B’s thoroughly checked, it was time to see if she could become another of Pure Rise’s success stories.  The treatment involves a combination of vacuum suction, massage vibration, micro current charge and photo dynamic light therapy. And what does all that entail? Lying back on a bed while some big clear cups vibrate over your breasts, basically.

“It feels so weird,” Rachel squirmed as I laughed at her boobs jiggling in clear, cone cups. “It’s a bit uncomfortable at first but it’s quite relaxing, in an odd way.”

After...wow!

After…wow!

The whole process takes around 30 – 40 minutes with absolutely no side effects, other than a slight bit of redness straight afterwards. The length of how long the results last varies, but typically one session will last around 7 days and the more you have, the more prolonged the effects are.

Acting as a temporary alternative to going under the knife, it’s a fantastic way to ‘Try before you buy’ if you’re in the market for bigger boobs. After all, you wouldn’t drop 5 grand on say, a dress without making sure it was the perfect fit, so you need to check you suit larger breasts before parting with your cash at the plastic surgeons.

www.purerise.co.uk Prices start from just £50

Rachel’s verdict: Absolutely amazing. I still can’t get over how instantaneous the results were. Looking in the mirror was like looking at someone else’s boobs! I only wish the results were permanent then I wouldn’t even be looking into surgery. I will certainly be coming here again before my holiday this summer!

Hello Boys….and bras

Since the Wonderbra first burst into our lives way back in the 90’s, the underwear industry hasn’t stopped developing and improving bras that boost our assets. The high street has plenty of offerings promising to give the ‘Hello Boys’ effect, but which one out there creates a cleavage that could stop traffic? Well you’ll find it alongside cock rings and nipple tassels – that’s right, Ann Summers boasts the best one on the market with their Triple Boost Plunge Bra.

hello boys

 

Rachel’s verdict: Although it’s fabulous for if I needed boobs to fill out dress, or want a killer cleavage, it’s still just a bra – it’s not really a long term solution for me. However, it is without doubt the best bra I’ve ever tried.

Makeup magic

Hollywood blockbusters are praised for their CGI etc, but some of the real special effects you see on screen come from expertly applied bronzer and blending. It’s no secret that in the past, the boobs of flatter chested leading ladies have been boosted in the makeup room, most notably Kiera Knightley in Pirates of the Caribbean. “They painted my tits on me for the films, which is extraordinary because it’s kind of a dying art form,” the actress revealed back when promoting the franchise. “And I loved it, completely loved it. Because it was the first time in my life I had big tits, and I didn’t even need surgery.”

Keira said the process of creating the cleavage took 45 minutes every morning before filming started.

Keira said the process of creating the cleavage took 45 minutes every morning before filming started.

This isn’t something reserved for the A List; contouring the chest is becoming increasingly popular across the region.

“A lot of smaller chested girls have asked me if I can teach them how to strategically apply a bit of bronzer & shimmer across their chest to create an illusion,” local make-up artist Louise divulged. “It’s certainly something a lot of brides look into for their special day.”

While some in possession of A cups may resent their bee stings, they can’t deny the pro of being able to wear floaty, strappy tops without ugly bra straps on show. Learning how to deceptively blend and bronze is perfect for when you want to ditch the bra filled with more chicken fillets than a Nandos.

“The first thing to remember, keep all your products Matte,” Louise wisely advices. “Too much sparkle and glitter all over your chest and everyone will be onto you.”

“There’s not much to it really,” she explains as talking us through the steps. “It’s a case of getting a large body brush with some bronzer and running it down the crease of your boobs. Then you need to take a highlight and trace an ‘m’ shape over the top of your breasts. Finish off with a brush of bronzer over the same ‘m’ shape and you should be good to go. This is a very simple guide, you can get some great YouTube tutorials, but this is roughly all you’ll be doing.”

Rachel’s verdict: This is a nice trick to master but ultimately, like the bra, it’s not really a solution. Although, I must admit, I will contour my chest as much as my cheeks now I know what to do.

And what’s the overall outcome? Will Rachel be helping Liverpool retain its title as Boob Job Capital of the UK next year or has she been swayed to stay away from the surgeon?

“I’m certainly going to carry on saving up,” she admitted. “However, after hearing Caroline talk about breast cancer and her experiences, it definitely made me slightly more reluctant to go down the surgery route and meddle with my breasts. I think I’m going to have a few more sessions at Pure Rise done and see how I get on. Getting my boobs done could end up being a regular appointment; like having your nails or eyebrows done. I’m not promising I won’t go under the knife but I really glad I explored a few options.”

See also: 10 Things Girls With Big Boobs Hate About the Summer

If Britney can make it through 2007

“If Britney can make it through 2007 then you can make it through today.”

Hmmm, well Britney had shed loads of money and access to some pretty good prescription drugs to help her get through it. All I have is cake and a Netflix subscription.

The Britney shout is often bandied around from those having a shit day at work who seem to forget that Miss Spears wasn’t just mad at Joan from accounts for stealing her milk; she was going through a pretty serious mental breakdown.

I’ve had my own Britney 2007 style breakdowns. Unlike Brit, I don’t have any money so all my dad could get conservatorship off was hundreds of sweet wrappers from under my bed and a load of receipts from some questionable purchases. I never went as far as shaving my head but looking at the pictures of me with rusty orange hair; it may have been a better alternative. Blonde hair, seek medical care.

I’m not alone with my experience – 1 in 4 of us will at some point in our lives suffer. This stat doesn’t cover all our actual encounters with mental health; while we may not be diagnosed with depression ourselves, we will know someone who will. We will all experience stress or anxiety at some level. In the current digital age, where we need an online personality alongside our real life one, it’s not hard to get a cluttered space of mind.

Given the nature of my jobs; most days I’ve checked Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest, Tumblr, emails and Buzzfeed before I’ve even brushed my teeth. I was bored of #TheDress within about 5 minutes – my dad will probably be ringing soon to say he’s “seen this dress on Facebook. Now, it may be blue but your mum thinks white…” I may roll my eyes at the idea of a ‘Digital Detox’ but when you start to dread the sound of your notifications on your phone, you find yourself wishing you had the willpower to log off everything.

With all this in mind, the latest exhibition at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) should be worth a visit for anyone who’s ever felt their head get a bit ‘crowded’ from the modern world. Group Therapy: Mental Distress in a Digital Age (between 5 March – 17 May 2015) explores the complex relationship between technology, society, and mental health.

It’s hardly ground-breaking news to learn that today’s society is characterised by a constant use of digital devices. Simultaneously, most of us face some kind of mental health issues during our lifetime, affecting either ourselves, or a friend or family member. But how is our use of technology connected to our wellbeing, and how does it affect our values and the way we see ourselves?

Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Week 2015 (11 – 17 May), works by designers, researchers and artists will encourage visitors to rethink their understanding of mental health and wellbeing, by exploring the past, present and future of mental health and wellbeing in relation to societal values and technology

A variety of digital tools including apps, games and online forums will be displayed, illustrating the diverse ways we use technology to manage and mediate our emotions in the 21st Century.

Vanessa Bartlett, who is co-curating the exhibition with FACT’s Director Mike Stubbs, says ‘Group Therapy proposes that art and the creative use of digital devices can challenge dated ideas about mental illness, helping to reduce stigma and encourage open discussion about our personal wellbeing.’

Part of the exhibition is also an interactive archive showing 20 years of FACT projects for participants with mental health issues, in which artists have been working closely with the community in creative projects as well as created digital tools that support mental health. These projects have been organised in collaboration with various mental health organisations, including Mersey Care NHS Trust.

Artists include Dora Garcia, Kate Owens & Neeta Madahar, Quintan Ana Wikswo and Katriona Beales.

Group Therapy: Mental Distress In a Digital Age

Exhibition at FACT, Liverpool: 5 March – 17 May 2015

See also: Group Therapy: FACT’s New Mental Health Exhibition

Group Therapy: FACT’s New Mental Health Exhibition

Originally published for OPEN Magazine

It’s been 10 years since I upgraded my Morgan schoolbag to a little Warehouse number and sauntered off to college; thinking that I looked the height of sophistication. If you’re ever looking for a reminder that you’re now hurtling towards 30, the realisation that nearly a whole decade has passed since you attended your leavers’ prom, dressed like a reluctant bridesmaid, ought to do it. I sat my GCSE’s during a time when Steve Brookstein had a number one album, the Crazy Frog ringtone was very much a thing, and The Sugababes had only so far made their way through two line ups.

A lot has changed over the past decade when it comes to technology; MySpace is over (Give it up, Justin – you can bring sexy back but not MySpace); you can check your bank balance online, unlike the quite frankly barbaric days where you had to go to an actual cash machine or local branch; and possibly the most impressive – you can order, and track, your takeaway via your phone. That’s right; the Just Eat app has got your back to ensure you don’t need to go to all that hassle of making a 30 second phone call to Nabzys.

Although catering to my desire to reduce my human interactions to an absolute minimum, not all technological developments are positive. I may be the first to roll my eyes when my mum tells me all about the latest ‘Digital Detox’ she’s read about in The Guardian, but when you start to dread the sound of your phone’s notification alerts, it’s hard not to wish you had the willpower to log off everything for a few days.

Back to the start of my college days, all those years ago; the smartphone was in its infancy, and there was no danger of your teacher adding you on Facebook, as half your classmates hadn’t even got an account yet. However, although being ‘tagged’ was still associated with a playground game, not a photo of yourself online, Revenge Porn still managed to make an appearance on campus. One afternoon saw every student in the cafeteria receive grainy footage via Bluetooth (God, I’m old) of a fellow pupil engaging in a sex act. Back in 2005, Revenge Porn wasn’t even a term – let alone illegal. While teenagers (and, rather disgustingly, some lecturers) buzzed off a bit of salacious gossip, and being part of what was to become a local viral sensation, no one really stopped to think about the mental health implications for the victim of something now dubbed ‘virtual rape’.

Sadly, we all know this wasn’t a one off event; the past decade has seen many, celebrities included, become the targets of iCloud hacks, leaked nudes and gross invasions of privacy; with technology lending a hand to the abusers. Whether it’s a teenage girl having her topless one second Snapchat screenshot, or Jennifer Lawerence’s entire camera roll ending up online, the digital age is proving to be problematic. Throw in online abuse; with Twitter’s chief executive recently acknowledging in a leaked memo that the company “sucks at dealing with abuse and trolls on the platform, and we’ve sucked at it for years”, and the realisation that we have to have an online personal brand and persona, as well as just, you know, an actual IRL personality, and suddenly that digital detox I roll my eyes at sounds more and more tempting.

With all this in mind, the latest exhibition at FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) should be worth a visit for anyone who’s ever felt their head get a bit ‘crowded’ from the modern world. Group Therapy: Mental Distress in a Digital Age (between 5 March – 17 May 2015) explores the complex relationship between technology, society, and mental health.

It’s hardly ground-breaking news to learn that today’s society is characterised by a constant use of digital devices. Simultaneously, most of us face some kind of mental health issues during our lifetime, affecting either ourselves, or a friend or family member. But how is our use of technology connected to our wellbeing, and how does it affect our values and the way we see ourselves?

Coinciding with Mental Health Awareness Week 2015 (11 – 17 May), works by designers, researchers and artists will encourage visitors to rethink their understanding of mental health and wellbeing, by exploring the past, present and future of mental health and wellbeing in relation to societal values and technology.

A variety of digital tools including apps, games and online forums will be displayed, illustrating the diverse ways we use technology to manage and mediate our emotions in the 21st Century.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the exhibition is certainly The Vacuum Cleaner’s major new commission Madlove, supported by the Wellcome Trust and The British Psychological Society (BPS). Based on the artist’s own experience of psychiatric hospitals being punishing rather than loving environments, he has worked with members of the public to collaboratively-design a more appropriate asylum. Madlove features advisors from across the health, high education and science as well as design sectors, including principal partner the Institute of Psychology, Health and Society, University of Liverpool.

“I began to struggle with my mental health at the age of 17; suffering from depression and anxiety,” The Vacuum Cleaner revealed in interviews prior to the exhibition. “By 19 I was admitted into my first mental hospital, for a year, and began to become fully aware that they aren’t conducive with good mental health.”

Just what is it that fails institutions?

“Aside from the fact that mental health is dangerously underfunded; there is no consideration for how the space is designed and the impact it has on a patient’s mental health. For me personally, and many people I’ve spoken to, you can often leave these places more traumatised than when you entered. A locked word, no access to outside space, nothing to do, boredom – it can feel more like a prison which is so messed up. You’ve done nothing wrong, you’re just ill.”

“This project is a test of the research that we’ve done so far – we’ve held seven workshops across the country and worked with people with mental health issues, and other stakeholders, about just what a good space entail.”

And the name – why The Vacuum Cleaner? Cocaine addiction?

“No, no. When I began making work, like a lot of street artists, a lot of it was on the boundaries of being illegal so I don’t work under my own name to protect myself. The Vacuum Cleaner comes from an exhibition I did called ‘Cleaning up after Capitalism’ in which I cleaned the streets of Wall Street and the City of London.”

Group Therapy: Mental distress in a digital age will also display how artists use new technologies to enable visitors to explore the feelings of themselves and others. Lauren Moffatt’s 3D stereoscopic film Not Eye deals with the anxiety and paranoia created by a society saturated with images. The common perception that technology distances us from our bodies is challenged in George Khut’s interactive installation The Heart Library, where the user’s heart-rate influences the colour and sound of a large, ceiling mounted video projection – digitally connecting body and mind. Katriona Beales’ new commission – an installation combining sculptural elements with moving image and audio – responds to the emerging field of Internet addiction and has been created in dialogue with Henrietta Bowden-Jones, neuroscience researcher and specialist in Internet addiction.

Vanessa Bartlett, who is co-curating the exhibition with FACT’s Director Mike Stubbs, says ‘Group Therapy proposes that art and the creative use of digital devices can challenge dated ideas about mental illness, helping to reduce stigma and encourage open discussion about our personal wellbeing.’

Part of the exhibition is also an interactive archive showing 20 years of FACT projects for participants with mental health issues, in which artists have been working closely with the community in creative projects as well as created digital tools that support mental health. These projects have been organised in collaboration with various mental health organisations, including Mersey Care NHS Trust.

Other artists include Dora Garcia, Kate Owens & Neeta Madahar, Quintan Ana Wikswo and Katriona Beales.

Group Therapy: Mental distress in a digital age

Exhibition at FACT, Liverpool: 5 March – 17 May 2015

See also: Follow at FACT Feat. Shia LaBeouf

Christmas Gift Guide: Sex Toys

Originally published for OPEN Magazine

Who said Christmas loses its magic once you’re a grown up? Sure, the festive period for adults can be painful; the credit card abuse, the ever expanding waistline and, of course, relatives quizzing you about your relationship status over dry turkey butties. However, there are plenty of gift sets on the market that give a bit more satisfaction than what Boots have to offer. Swerve exchanging socks and Soap & Glory sets and stock your drawers up with some of the best sex toys out there right now.

FOR HER

RAMPANT RABBIT THE METAL ONE: £50 – ANN SUMMERS

This stylish little Rabbit is sculpted to be slimline, but don’t let the size fool you

The Metal One is smaller than other Rabbit offerings, but it certainly supports the age-old claim that size doesn’t matter – it packs a punch! With 3 different speeds, 7 pulses and a powerful aluminium shaft (that can provide a hot or cold sensation – your choice); this stylish vibrator guarantees a festive buzz with a happy ending.

BUY HERE

ROCKS OFF AMMUNITION RO-80MM 7 SPEED BULLET VIBRATOR: £9.95 – SIMPLY PLEASURE

For the girl who needs EVERYTHING to be leopard print

The standard bullet is around the same size, and price, as a MAC lipstick and to be honest, a must better use of a tenner. Let’s face it; everyone needs a leopard print vibrator – the perfect stocking filler.

BUY HERE

ROSE GOLD MINI VIBRATOR: £10 – ANN SUMMERS

This Rose Gold Mini Vibrator is a slightly bigger and better version of the bullet and makes for a much better Secret Santa gift than chocolates. Rose Gold Vibrators > Boxes of Roses.

BUY HERE

FOR HIM

LELO PINO RECHARGEABLE VIBRATING SILICONE COCK RING GIFT SET: £98.95 – SIMPLY PLEASURE

 

Have you ever bought a cock ring and thought: “Gee, this is great but I sure wish some cuff links came with this purchase?” Well, your prayers have been answered with this unique gift set.

BUY HERE

FOR COUPLES

BOOTY BUNDLE: £28 – ANN SUMMERS

Butt stuff

 

It’s said that it’s better to give than receive, so give the gift of anal this Christmas. (Seriously, it’s handy to hold off on the bum fun until the 25th if you’re on a budget.) Included in the bundle is a 4” butt plug, 6” Thai Love Beads, a vibrating butt plug and, err, a mini douche.

BUY HERE

WE-VIBE 4 PLUS WITH APP CONTROL: £127.99 – NICE’N’NAUGHTY

We’re the generation that has apps to accompany their sex toys – that’s what we’ll be remembered for in years to come. “With the We-Vibe app couples can connect in new, exciting ways, whether they’re in the same room or on a different continent. She can wear We-Vibe 4 Plus anywhere and her partner can tease and please her from the palm of their hand.” Perfect if you’re in a long distance relationship over the festive period.

BUY HERE

FIFTY SHADES OF GREY ULTIMATE CONTROL HANDCUFF RESTRAINT SET: £24.99 – SIMPLY PLEASURE

If we ignore the fact that they’re official products of the God awful Fifty Shades of Grey franchise; this Ultimate Control handcuff set is actually a pretty handy addition to your bondage boudoir.

BUY HERE

HIS AND HERS CRACKERS: £25 – ANN SUMMERS

Novelty presents can be a bit naff but these His & Hers Crackers are filled with a few decent treats (cock rings, bullets, body candy, silk tie & info/tips cards rather than naff jokes) to add to your naughty drawer on Christmas morning.

BUY HERE

PLAY TOGETHER GIFT SET: £45 – ANN SUMMERS

Because selection boxes that only contain Curly Wurlys, Freddos, and Chomps are for kids.

BUY HERE

See also: The Alternative Annual Goop Gift Guide

Review: An Evening with Noel Fielding

Originally published for OPEN Magazine

I once gently persuaded (emotionally blackmailed) my friend Nicki into accompanying me to review Les Dennis’ one man show. It was over two hours long. No interval. No free bar. Presented with two tickets to An Evening with Noel Fielding last Saturday, the decision of who to be my plus one was obvious – it had to be Nicki, I owed her.

We turned up to the Liverpool Echo arena a little behind schedule but had no idea that we were in fact, a handsome 24 hours late. Turns out I actually had tickets for the performance the night before – Oops. Luckily, the staff were a bunch of good eggs and sorted our tardy arses out with some seats. (Special mention to Nicki for resisting the urge to point out that I never got the dates mixed up for Les Dennis.)

We settled down just in time to witness Noel, in keeping with his #personalbrand, stride onto the stage draped in a full length, sequin cloak and begin his unique take on the traditional stand-up performance.

“I’m over 40 now,” he informs the crowd (I know, right? Just when did that happen?) “So I’m like a day old helium balloon – not touching the ceiling anymore but not quite down on the ground just yet”. While comically self-depreciating about his new middle aged status, he’s certainly not lost any of the youthful energy and off the wall humour he’s famed for. Complete with support from his brother Michael (Naboo in the Mighty Boosh) and Luxury Comedy’s Tom Meetan, An Evening with Noel Fielding is an eccentric mix of comedy, a back catalogue of classic characters, music and general whimsical nonsense.

Whimsical nonsense is all very well and good but it can turn reviewing Noel Fielding into a bit of a poisoned chalice. On one hand, ‘Yay, free tickets’ (and it’s a big Yay – as much as I love you Noel, I put Koka noodles on my credit card this week so forking out nearly £30 to see you was out of the question) but on the other, how does one successfully convey to the reader something that basically becomes a bit of a stoner’s pantomime towards the end? There are affairs with triangles, ‘in-between jobs Antonio Banderas’ cameos, surprisingly impressive Andy Murray impersonations – it all proves rather tricky to put into words just how Noel captivates and engages with the audience in such a unique manner and, unfortunately for you, I’m not a talented enough writer to do so. (Also, I’m pretty hungover writing this.) Sorry about that.

One observation from the evening, aside from the realisation that I’m piss poor at reviewing, is just how at ease Noel is with traditional stand-up comedy. Renowned for his surrealism with The Mighty Boosh, I can’t have been the only one in the audience wondering how he’d fair with just a mic and a stage. Turns out, he’s pretty bloody good at it. He’s not delivering mundane drivel like the likes of Mickey Flanagan, don’t worry. No no, he recalls the time he dreamt he was a teabag and the middle class politics involved in the teabag cupboard. With the first act consisting of mainly a solo performance, Noel proves he’s certainly capable of having the audience laughing without any props or costumes to hand. He has, by his own admission, ‘an easy charm that the mums love’. A statement you can’t deny once you spot the high number of Radley bags under the seats in the audience.

All in all, An Evening with Noel Fielding more than makes up for making someone spend an night with Les Dennis so thank you Noel, I owe you!

See also: Interview: Noel Fielding

A Weekend In Birmingham

Break ups, job stress, money woes or just that general “I hate the world so much that I’ll even snarl inanimate objects” PMT – we can all have a shitty time of it now and again. You tend to just hide under your duvet; binge watching Netflix, whilst simultaneously scoffing junk food and moaning about your weight gain. At least, I think that’s what happens – I wouldn’t know, as when you’ve got Scouse Bird as a friend she doesn’t let that happen. She tells you to pack a bag and whisks you off for a glamorous weekend away. The destination? Birmingham. Now, don’t scoff; the Midlands city and the word glamorous may not be synonymous to you but, after this weekend, I’m calling bullshit on anyone who slags off England’s 2nd city (That’s right – Birmingham officially has that status so pipe down Mancs.) Here’s what the West Midlands has to offer:

Shopping

Liverpool, I love you but you really need to up your shopping game. While Liverpool One is a welcome alternative to generic  shopping centres like The Trafford Centre and Westfield, we desperately need a designer injection (first world problems and all that). While I personally sometimes struggle to justify splurging on a River Island bag, it would be nice to see Selfridges, Harvey Nichols or Louis Vuitton open their doors in Liverpool for those able to finance the #WagLyf. Birmingham residents don’t have this problem; not only have they got the high street shops for my fellow Primark Prins, they also host a flagship Selfridges amongst their abundance of designer stores -Lucky Brummies.IMG 6271

Although the stunning building is filled with enough bag porn to make you consider selling a kidney on the Black Market, the highlight of the shopping experience was discovering a stall that created personalised Nutella tubs. For just £3.99, you can wander round town with that iconic yellow shopping bag and no one will know that all you’ve actually bought is a tub of chocolately goodness that literally has your name written all over it.

The Hotel & Spa

Birmingham New St station may have recently had £600 million redevelopment but when we arrived on a Saturday morning, we discovered that they seem to have neglected to get a good few taxi pick up points on the go. In what was set to become a recurring theme of the weekend, we struggled to flag a cab down. I swear to God I will never slag off Delta again –black cabs in Birmingham are harder to get hold of than an interview with Lauren Goodger in which she doesn’t mention Mark Wright (together 10 years, yano?).

Trusty Google Maps informed us it was only a 10 minute walk but obviously didn’t factor in the fact we were in heels and Birmingham loves a cobbled street almost as much as Liverpool. When we finally arrived at Hotel Indigo, situated in The Cube within The Mailbox (yeah, it all got a bit Marc Jacobs Inception-ish) we were certainly ready to abuse the hotel’s spa facilities (excluding the gym – ain’t nobody got time for that on Saturday.)

IMG 6167

Now, we all know the best massages you can get are the ones your fella gives you, before he gets bored after 5 minutes and stops (it really is sod’s law) but the hotel’s masseuses are some serious competition. The hour was ridiculously relaxing and, due to the fact we accidently booked a couple massage, I even heard Scouse Bird doze off; I had to resist temptation to whisper to her masseuse “Pssttt, it’s a waste of a massage on her now – double team me and get working on my feet.”

The hotel room was stylish, modern and had actually been designed by someone with a bit of common sense; plug sockets located next to beds and mirrors! A nice little extra was the TV speakers in the bathroom so you can listen to Louis Walsh chatting shite on The X Factor while you’re getting ready (although, come to think of it – I’m not sure whether that’s a plus after all).

Another rather big bonus is that breakfast is served until a Godly hour – 11am! Of course, we still managed to miss it and had to head to Bar Bodga for their offerings of burritos and hair of the dog cocktails, but still, the thought was appreciated.

Food and drink

Our first sampling of Birmingham’s food scene was a Saturday night dinner reservation atCielo – a premier Italian restaurant by Brindley Place. After a taxi drama (of course there was), we were running a bit late and found ourselves wandering around an area of chain restaurants, trying to locate, and correctly pronounce when asking for directions, Cielo. However, silver lining – as we wandered around the streets of Birmingham, we learnt just how admiring the local lads can be. Seriously, they are not shy about telling you that they think you look good. If you can’t afford Paris for an ego boost, head down the M6 to be showered in compliments (in an appropriate way, not a creepy street harassment way).

Back to the important stuff – food. Italian’s love their carbs and cheese so we knew we were onto a winner before we even ordered but Cielo really exceeded expectations. With accompanying vodka cocktails, Prosecco and a gorgeous ambience, Cielo was a warm, scrumptious dining experience.

 

IMG 6198

 

Next on the itinerary were cocktails at The Edgbaston. While our taxi driver struggled to find it, he can be forgiven as the exclusive drinking spot is seemingly unmarked and, to the unknowing eye, just appears to be an old stately home. From the second you enter, you feel like you’re at a Great Gatsby party (a classy one, not the ones students have with a job lot of their mum’s pearls and kitten heels).

Taking residence for the evening in one of the bars of the boutique hotel and cocktail lounge, we steadily worked our way through their extensive offering of drinks – all for research purposes, of course. Their cocktails are a little pricier than your average ‘241’ offerings of Sex on the Beach but the quality of the alcohol, exceptional service and general environment makes it worth splashing out. Example? Well, order the ‘Crumble’ cocktail and as you sip on the mix of dark rum, fresh lime and Bramley apple, pear & crumble syrup, the area around you will be sprayed to smell like custard to ‘accompany your crumble’! Well played, Birmingham – well played.

 

IMG 6308

 

It’s easy to see how you can enter The Edgbaston, intending to just have one, and still be there, hours on, drinking your way around the world’s cocktail offerings – we certainly did. Before we knew it, it was half one and we realised we’d missed last entry to the club we planned to attend – whoops.

Does the second city get a second date?

It most certainly does. Like Liverpool, Birmingham suffers from an unfair image problem now and again but it’s an extremely cosmopolitan city with plenty on offer. Next time a tour neglects to visit Liverpool, rather than nipping over to Manchester and rushing to get the last train home etc, I’ll seriously consider nipping down for the Birmingham date and making a weekend out of it. The Midlands is much closer than I realised too – just 1 hour 40 minutes on a train.

With Christmas sneaking up on us, and Birmingham hosting the biggest Christmas markets outside of Germany, it’s the perfect UK destination to go and give the credit card a work out.

XOXO

Originally published for Scouse Bird Problems. Below are some links to more content I have provided for the site:

Restaurants – Pack It In

Men to Avoid 

Valentine’s Day for Side Chicks

New Year, New Positivity

Who is Your Champion?

Where Are All The Fit Men in Liverpool?

Nu Clinic: Mother Pucker

10 Reasons You Need to Ink