Monday, 25 November 2013

Social media for designers, not doing maths and helping you win awards

Social media for designers, not doing maths and helping you win awards

Wednesday was such fun!  Dieneke runs an organisation called Hidden Art, turning passion into products by providing advice and support to designers, plus an online shop to sell their lovely products.  We met a couple of years ago in the oxygen chamber and have attended exhibitions together in trendy galleries across London.  She invited me to be the prize in a competition for 800 designers nationwide!! Three ‘lucky winners’ got to spend an hour one-to-one learning how to boost their business using social media.  Their prize also included an hour with Mark, my accountant who mentors in business strategy and realistic growth for small businesses, especially fashion and creative people.
Imaginative Training and Development | Social Media blog
Social media session with Emerald Faerie
We met some fantastic designers!  Barley describes herself as a textile designer maker, upcycler, craftivist and textile teacher.  She’s the founder of Fabrications, a gallery, shop and design studio based in Hackney.  Mark Finzel is a surface designer, creating fantastic wall coverings, flooring and furnishings which reminded me a bit of William Morris on acid.  Fiona’s company has the engaging name Emerald Faerie –she creates contemporary lighting: beautiful chandeliers and, to attract a wider customer base, jewellery.  The feedback was excellent, which was just as well as it wouldn’t have been a good prize if they hadn’t benefitted.

So from one prize to the next… Leaving Hidden Art in a fine mist of rain, Mark (accountant, not designer) and I travelled on a filthy overground train, then tube, in a floor-sweeping, black and silver sparkly evening gown (me, not him).  At our most iconic landmark, the Tower of London, we celebrated Mark and his colleague Joe’s successes in the British Accountancy Awards.  I do sometimes joke about accountants being boring but these ones are not and we had fun, champagne and a very delicious dinner. Entertainment was provided by Miles Jupp, a hysterical comedian and actor that I’d never encountered before but will look out for in future.

In case you’re wondering, I was invited along because I’d successfully completed the award applications on their behalf, a feat that requires plain English, linguistic and marketing skills; it wasn’t because of my proficiency with a calculator – although I was in the top set for maths at school, where Gill and I spent many happy hours playing hangman instead of listening to the teacher, who she fancied.

I missed a lot of school.  Working in the market on Thursdays meant I never did the double maths lesson or the dreaded PE; and having a stomach ache every Tuesday for five years got me out of double French, biology and whatever else I didn’t like in those days.  My next door neighbour Angie also had a stomach ache every Tuesday so we made ourselves feel better by dancing around our homes to 70’s pop or sneaking off for day trips to Carnaby Street.  She moved to Ireland years ago (with real emerald fairies), but popped over yesterday for a fun afternoon with pink wine and onion rings.  She’s on the plane flying home as I write this – see you again soon!!

So with the winning streak in mind… ‘Never could believe the things you do to me, never could believe the way you are.  Every day I bless the day that you got through to me, ’cause baby, I believe that you’re a star.’  Very nicely said, Mr Brown.  If you fancy winning a business award, find out more about my copywriting award winning service – ask me here: @WeekendWitch

Monday, 18 November 2013

Music heroes, scary creatures and a trip to City Business Library

Music heroes, scary creatures and a trip to City Business Library

I have a new lodger.  A squirrel seems to have made itself a snug little home in the roof space above my office.  The first time I heard it I thought there was an intruder upstairs; definite footsteps and what sounded like rummaging through bags.  Grabbing my keys I ran to my car, where I sat shivering for five minutes while deciding whether or not to call the police.  The arrival of my neighbour prompted me to venture out of the car and he, oh so bravely, ran through the premises ready to confront the burglar.  I know he thought I was bonkers and no one, or nothing, was there.  I’ve since heard the noises several times, as well as scuttling along the side of the office wall along a gap little more than two inches wide.

My friend Alan is Head of Licencing for the public protection team at the local council.  He’s the client who first commissioned me to run a series of training sessions on alcohol awareness, and we’ve remained friends ever since – having shared some wine and a good few cream cakes along the way.  I’m a member of the public in need of protection so I’m hoping he’ll be able to advise me on how to remove the cheeky little creature and let me get on with my work.   Turns out it’s pretty hard to concentrate on writing a social media book with its constant scrabbling above my head.  Some days when I’ve been too distracted to focus, I’ve wandered down to my local library and worked in the reading room.  But… I have a new favourite place to go now: the aptly named City Business Library.
Imaginative Training and Development Ltd | Social media blogDo you know it?  I’ll be running some mini social media workshops there in the new year, so I went along this week to meet the team and see the training rooms.  What a fantastic place!!  It’s a veritable hive of knowledge for small businesses – or any business in fact.  If you need help – on line, through workshops or with the help of some very well informed people – this is the place to be.

The computers contain a whole hoard of databases so you can search for information on virtually anything you can imagine! I went with one of my clients; together we’ll be offering a business growth workshop that covers finance and all-sorts, so he needed to see the venue too.  While we were there, he decided to carry out some research on music.  Now, as you know, I love anything to do with music, especially if its origins were in the 80s.  While he played around, I discovered how easy it is to create a targeted mailing list in a couple of minutes – with The Joshua Tree ringing in my ears.  (No singing along though…it’s very peaceful in the City Business Library!)

The library’s part of Guildhall, a fantastic medieval structure that I toured a couple of years ago as part of a sponsored walk through London to raise money for the Sick Children’s Trust (SCT).  Harry Potter was at his best that day as we wandered through Diagon Alley… Yes it’s here, right in the heart of our city!

I was thinking about the SCT in the build up to Children in Need, and the amazing work they do for families.  Talking about music, I missed Children in Need Rocks when it was shown live – don’t tend to watch much TV but so many people were commenting on Facebook that I caught it on catch-up   After laughing at Chris Evans’ Botoxed smile we watched some of the music industry’s cream performing for charity and, yet again, I marvelled at the way in which Bob Geldof changed the world.  I’ve spoken many times on my respect for this absolute superstar who managed to achieve where governments failed to even try.
And I remember the night of Live Aid Imaginative Training and Development Ltd | Social media bloglike it was yesterday – a fancy dress party with Gill and I dressed as Betty Rumble and Wilma Flintstone, dancing in the street at midnight to Bowie and Jagger.  That was way before my afternoon working with Sir Bob, which I still count as one of my favourite projects, by the way.  And his inspiration and charm keep him firmly in my top ten of heroes.  Who’s in yours?

I play Sir Bob often, but not tonight. Tonight’s reserved for the songs playing in my mind at the City Business Library.  ‘Through the storm we reach the shore; you gave it all but I want more.  And I’m waiting for you…’  Come and find me: @WeekendWitch.

(Thanks to for sharing the pic.)

Monday, 11 November 2013

War, fashion fit for a princess, war, poppies, war – just war

War, fashion fit for a princess, war, poppies, war – just war

Friday night’s Fashion for the Brave event was just fantastic!  The opulence of London’s Dorchester Hotel provided a gorgeous backdrop for Hilary Alexander’s stream of models parading the catwalk with spring florals and shiny hair.  The dinner was outstanding – as many of you witnessed with my Facebook photos of flaming brulĂ© and flowing champagne – with pounding music raising the atmosphere to fever pitch.
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The glamour and beauty of the fashion show and the presence of a princess couldn’t quite mask the horrors of war.  I was privileged to share the table with two casualties of war who have returned to civilian life, minus limbs, to take on projects that inspire other wounded servicemen and women.  These deservedly award winning men fight an on-going battle – as do their families – and the Soldiering On Through Life Trust works so hard to ensure they receive help and recognition for their efforts.

But the highlight for me was sitting next to retired Air Commodore Charles Clarke OBE – one of the bravest men on whom ‘The Great Escape’ was based.  The Hollywood film was made before I was born and I’ve never seen it, although I’ve been told it’s Steve McQueen at his best – an adventure movie of handsome allied officers pulling off one of the most audacious wartime acts.
Imaginative Training | Social Media blog | fashion for the brave
The reality of life behind the barbed wire for these captured servicemen is unimaginable.  Charles Clarke’s joint plan for the prisoners to tunnel their way out of the camp was fixed for a moonless night in March 1944.  Despite the ingeniously hand dug tunnel’s exit being on the path of a patrolling perimeter guard, 76 people managed to escape – with three making it home to the UK.

Charles was shot down in 1944, a year in which my dad was taking his first steps and my mum was just a twinkle in her father’s eye.   Both my grandfathers served in that war; yet, other than a few faded photographs, I know nothing of what they experienced.  However, my cousin Adrienne’s American father Harry documented his time, and the letters he wrote to his wife Dorothy have survived, including his account of liberating the Dachau concentration camp.
Imaginative Training | Social Media blog | fashion for the brave
Cousin Harry

This year, Adrienne donated those letters to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, along with pictures, postmarked envelopes and an original ‘Annihilation of Metzrich’ pamphlet, telling of the annihilation of the town by the Nazis.  These items, the Harry Oberyant Collection, are proudly displayed by my family as an enduring testament to the absolute tragedy of war.  They’re also used in research and lectures to maintain the credibility of the Holocaust.  My cousin says, “The hope is that no one ever forgets; but we know that can’t be – the generations will go and it will become harder, harder – we can only all hope to make some small – infinitesimal contribution to something.”

Of course I don’t remember cousin Harry as a soldier.  I remember a smiling elderly gentleman who taught me to swim in Florida, took me to my first London show (Annie) and bought my first strawberry daiquiri.  He was simply my cousin’s daddy.

I supported the Fashion for the Brave event in a dress covered in beaded red flowers, not exactly poppies, but pretty close.  The emblem of Remembrance Day stems from John McCrae’s enduring poem In Flanders Fields, written when poppies bloomed across some of the worst battlefields of World War I, their brilliant crimson an appropriate symbol for the spilled blood.

So this week, no song lyrics, but a remembrance of all the people who have died or been injured throughout our history, and still, today.  “Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow; loved and were loved, and now we lie in Flanders fields.”  Keep your poppies on for a few days longer.  I will.   @WeekendWitch.  (If you respect the work of our armed forces, please share this blog.)

Monday, 4 November 2013

Love letters, being hypnotized and laughing ocarinas

Love letters, being hypnotized and laughing ocarinas

Sue described Saturday as my poetry/art/Bohemian/music event, and that was a pretty good description!  But, I must point out – it wasn’t actually ‘my’ event… 32 artists contributed to the exhibition, and my own exhibit, ‘Love Letter’ was a collaborative artwork with Martyn Royce.  The response was phenomenal!!  Our work was pronounced as “powerfully evocative” and “an emotional knockout.”

A huge amount of talent was evident in the room, and I particularly loved Darren Ray’s installation.  Who knew it would be such fun to mangle a thread of wire into words to add to his display of written dreams and visions?  The music was fantastic too: Avant-pop band French for Cartridge performed wearing paper fan masks and offering unusual, participative instruments to the crowd.  If you don’t know this group you should check them out on YouTube; Cat’s voice is hauntingly beautiful and my friends blew their ocarinas with more laughter than tune.
Imaginative Training social media blog
If you’re on my mailing list or follow me on social media, you would have received a couple of emails advertising the event.  And this is what I love about entrepreneurial people: an enterprising caterer named Evelyn received my email and promptly contacted me to say she would be happy to cater the day.  I introduced her to the organiser, and lo and behold, Evelyn arrived with a delicious buffet to complement the wine that flowed throughout the afternoon.  Her teenage assistant came equipped with a portfolio of her own artwork and attracted a good deal of attention for that too.

It was also fantastic to see Avril Mills,Imaginative Training social media blog the inspirational force behind The Dream Factory.  Martyn and I are donating our artwork to that amazing charity to help make more dreams come true for the very sick children that Avril tirelessly supports.  Special thanks to Gill, Sue, Steve and my family for coming along – and to those of you I’ve met at networking events who came via my Facebook posts and email – especially Julie, Ju and co.  And lovely to meet Pippa, the energy healer who found me on line and booked a place on my time management training session.  (It’s running later this month at Canary Wharf.)

And speaking of healing, I am eternally grateful to Steve Short for hypnotising away my phobia of eyes.  No more will I be forced to get off the train because a person with a stye has sat down opposite me.  Never again will I swerve the car because a radio advert for Optrex has freaked me out.  And I can now sit quietly through Greys Anatomy and The Walking Dead without shrieking and terrorising the cat. Thank you Steve!!

I’ve had a bit of a Scritti Politti kind of week, so this couldn’t be more fitting: “Hypnotize… How could your nothings be so sweet? You left your love letters incomplete.”

If your writing’s incomplete, let me help you.  Copywriting, editing, business writing training… Whatever you need, I’m happy to give it to you. @WeekendWitch