The rise of the half make up selfie: challenging makeup stigmas

Women are judged on the application of their makeup as much as they are on their weight and fashion sense. Too much make up and she is slut shamed, or seen as doing so to attract male attention. Not enough makeup and she is judged for not making an effort with her appearance. It is a fine and shaky tightrope to cross. The idea of makeup itself is pretty insane, when looked at objectively. The idea that it is expected of women to paint a new face over their existing face, to smooth over and conceal their natural skin tone distinctions, is bizarre and not something that would be expected of men. Nobody should feel as though they have to hide their face in public. Nobody should be made to think that their natural beauty is somehow not enough.

On the other hand, I don’t appreciate being shamed for wearing makeup. Like many things, make up can be a creative means of expressing yourself. I for one love experimenting with the dramatic smokey eye look on a night out. Makeup can be a means of putting on different faces for different occasions. For example, for formal occasions I like to wear a modest, simple layer of makeup in order to look polished and professional. There is no real discussion about how some women apply makeup for themselves. Because, let’s face it, its fun. Its fun to dress up and put on various glamorous personas much as it was to paint your face as a Tiger when you were five years old.

Well known Beauty Blogger, who goes by the pseudonym NikkieTutorials, has now shared a video tutorial where she meticulously paints half her face with seamless, radiant makeup. She accentuates her eyes and cheekbones, pencils and darkens her light eyebrows. She quite literally defines herself. The other half of her face she leaves bare. Her skin is a little more flushed. Her powder blue eyes are slightly more shadowed. She still looks beautiful; younger and more vulnerable perhaps. The made up Nikkie looks fiercer and ready to take on the world. What this image says to me is that it is okay to be “two faced” in your beauty regime. It is okay to dab on the lippy for the club and the next day go for a long country walk with all your freckles and laughter lines proudly on show.

Nikkie has spoken of her video as being a means of fending of makeup shame and has now sparked an online trend of women posting pictures of themselves with half a face of makeup, the other half is left raw and natural. These women are celebrating both their natural beauty and their badass makeup artist skills simultaneously. Alongside these pictures are inspiring messages about the woman’s positive relationship with make up. It is clear that these women are choosing to wear makeup for themselves and not for the purpose of appearing attractive towards a potential partner.    

Makeup should be for fun, not for the pleasure of others or indeed to hide yourself away. No One should be judged on how they use makeup. Also, the natural and unique beauty beneath the foundation should be celebrated and spoken about. I believe that online trends such as this signal a move towards a much healthier attitude towards makeup and female beauty standards in general.     

Five best places in Manchester to throw a brilliant celebratory party

Got a best mates surprise birthday bash to plan, or a favourites colleagues leaving do to pull together at the last minute? Struggling to think of the perfect venue that will make the night extra special? Dont panic. Party planning should, and can, be fun and your Superheroes over at WO Magazine are on hand to give you some much needed tips on where to find that all important venue to keep things running smoothly. Now just sit back, relax and get the first champers in.      

  1. Lock 91. Lock 21 has two beautiful venue rooms in it’s pretty cottage style building to choose from depending upon your individual needs and party size. The first is The Lounge, which leads out on to a secluded, canal facing terrace with BBQ facilities. This is a very popular venue for birthday parties and is even sophisticated enough to hold regular wedding receptions. The lounge is sumptuous, comfortable with stunning timeless furnishings and a lovely old fireplace.  The second venue is on the third floor; The Attic and Study. This space can hold up to 150 guests… perfect for more popular hosts! This is a truly gorgeous, elegant setting with a spacious dance floor.
  2. Gorilla. Gorilla has an incredibly stylish room for hire, known as The Gin Parlour which can be adapted for pretty much any occasion. The Gin Parlour can hold up to eighty guests for a party and has an impressively stocked private bar, with plenty of gin as the name suggests! After the do ends, why not head on down to Gorilla’s fantastic nightclub venue where Gorilla’s continuously superb line up of DJs will keep your guests dancing to the early hours.
  3. Sardinista. Try out super cool Sardinista who can hold up to eighty guests in their chic downstair bar. Not only is this a really lovely looking venue, the Sardinista team seem to excel at helping you plan your dream fiesta down to the exact detail. They will help you source a band to play, and will provide you a DJ if needed. Tasty tapas packs, ideal party food, are available for your peckish guests. Cocktail masterclasses are even available from six up to thirty guests which add a fun and memorable element to any party.    
  4. The Whiskey Jar. The Whiskey Jar’s striking basement event space is the ideal venue for any true whiskey aficionado on their birthday. The Whiskey Jar prides itself on its fantastic array of high quality whiskeys. However, there are drinks to suit any palate. A bespoke cocktail menu is available on request to suit your individual party. There are also a choice of catering options including a hog roast, canapes or a selection of buffet foods. A second to none soundsystem and DJ facilities make this an ideal location for music lovers.       
  5. Cloud 23. For the ultimate special evening book Cloud 23 at the iconic Manchester HIlton. Guests can enjoy true VIP treatment whilst admiring the Manchester skyline from the very best viewpoint in the city. You can rent out the whole of Cloud 23 for up to 300 guests, or you can opt for one of the more intimate lounges for a more intimate event. You can also choose from a number of luxurious food and beverage packages. One of which which even includes candy floss and rum hot chocolate… bliss!  

Culture: Five terrible people that without fail you always meet at a house party

House parties would make a truly fascinating site of exploration for social anthropologists. A weird mixture of differing social groups with various tenuous link to the host; all stirred up with some pretty bad alcohol. I’ve met some of the best, funniest people over a game of ring of fire in a grubby student house. I have also met quite a lot of people who in another less claustrophobic setting, I would avoid like the vomit stains all over the bathroom. Here is my conclusive list of the five awful people that, without fail, you always meet at a house party. Please feel free to add to this list… there are plenty more I am sure!      

  1. The person who finds themselves to be much more interesting than they actually are. I normally get cornered by this person who sees me as easy prey, due to my chronic politeness. In the past I have nodded away silently for an hour and forty five minutes (I counted) whilst somebody spoke to me about their undergraduate dissertation as if it had just won the nobel prize for literature. I have listened with dutiful wide eyed enthrallment to people’s crushingly average life stories as if I’m a discount Piers bloody Morgan. The difference is however that Piers Morgan actually asks the questions, and might even get a word in edgeways.   
  2. The person who stares glumly into their phone all night and doesn’t make eye contact with anyone. These people intrigue me. What are they doing at a party if they aren’t in the mood? Could they be a spy or an undercover journalist researching for an article about dreary suburban house parties? They will probably make a few tweets or checkins on their phone, solemnly and dutifully recording their social life, as if for future historians to unearth.     
  3. The person who photographs absolutely everything. “Get in! Get in! Get in the picture!” they will command you as they aim their phone like a revolver. You will comply, stretching your mouth into a grin and wrapping your arm companiably around people who you were previously making small talk with who you will never, ever see again. The photos will inevitably emerge, alligator like, on facebook a day or two later and they will make you look as though you have about ten chins.       
  4. The person who is completely desperate to let you know how absolutely crazy they are. This person will come in a variety of forms but one thing’s for sure. This person has genitals and they want you to know about it. They will talk about all the times that they have had sex as if they are the first person to discover it. They will then look excitedly around the group for a sign, any sign, that they have somehow shocked or offended; kind of like a toddler who has just shouted the word “poo”. They won’t have shocked anyone. And the desperation for any sort of human recognition in their dull, frightened eyes will make you want to give them a hug.      

5. The overly emotional person who brings you into a gin soaked philosophical conversation that will leave you staring nihilistically and companionably down the barrel of your own empty existence. At the time, you will feel like you have forged a deep and lasting bond but you will have forgotten by the morning and the faux intellectual points that felt so intensely true and hitting the nail on the head at the time will make you cringe for the next three weeks in the cold, sober light of day.

Five best pizza places in Manchester

I don’t know if there are many things more satisfying that having a really decent, piping hot slice of pizza. All too often we rely on the, frankly overpriced, big name pizza brands to satisfy our cheesy cravings. However, there really is no need as Manchester city centre is bursting with high quality, independent Pizza Parlours with flavours that will knock your socks off. Throw your super brand menu’s in the recycling bin and check out this scrummy lot.      

  1. Slice. My personal favourite. I used to work about 30 seconds from Slice and, if my waistband would have allowed, would have eaten there every single lunch time. Think super thin, crisp bases and light, tasty toppings. They are also cut into neat little squares that you can nibble on delicately without getting your fingers too greasy. Slice also offers some seriously delicious ice cream for afters that you can enjoy on the outside seating area on a sunny day. Authentic, italian style bliss.   
  2. Dough. Dough is pretty great for more selective eaters; there are tasty pizza options for those who are gluten free, and even dairy free. As the name suggests, this pizza place prides itself on the artisan quality of its dough which makes for the best bases in Manchester. A range of speciality dough bases are on offer to suit every palate, all topped with a range of fresh, seasonal ingredients.         
  3. Crazy Pedro’s Part Time Pizza Parlour. For sheer inventiveness, try Crazy Pedro’s Part Time Pizza Parlour. Where else will you get a pizza topped with nachos, hot dogs or waffles? This is also the funnest pizza place that you are likely to find. It is basically a full time party bar complete with boozy milkshakes, tequila and a chilled out vibe.     
  4. Artisan. Great for when you want to feel a bit swish, but you also just really crave a good, solid pizza. Spinningfields based Artisan is super stylish and on trend; complete with art installations and regular live music acts. Their rustic, wood fired pizzas taste fabulous when paired with their good selection of beers and come in a variety of experimental and slightly off the wall flavours. Perfect for that relaxed yet classy date night.
  5. Dogs and Dough. If you like big, cheesy, magnificently overblown pizzas packed with all your favourite toppings and then some then this is absolutely the place for you. Dogs and Dough even have a pretty amazing dessert pizza for those of who firmly believe that pizza should be a staple of every meal. This dessert pizza come topped with nostalgia inducing nutella and marshmallows and a choice of sugary sweet toppings that will make your inner child jump up and down. Great for an evening of laughs with your mates.      

Manchester Comedy Store Review

I still can’t believe that last week was my first ever visit to the Manchester Comedy Store. I’ve pretty much lived in Manchester all my life and am a huge comedy fan. I’ve been highly recommended a night at the Comedy Store on numerous occasions. I suppose that this is partly due to how you never really fully appreciate the awesome venues on your own doorstep. Also, with comedy so many of us have our TV favourites who we will pay megabucks to go and see. We so often forget that there is a diverse and hilarious world of comedy outside of panel show contestants on Dave or E4 and so we miss out, hugely.   

The Comedy Store is perfectly catered for a full night out of eating, drinking and laughing. The welcome at the bar feels warm and genuine. The restaurant overlooking the canal has a really great vibe to it, and this is bearing in mind that my visit was on a Thursday evening. Photographs of comedy legends lined the exposed brick walls. Balloons drifted above chatty tables where people were celebrating birthday parties. The food was very tasty and reasonably priced. I had a fishcake starter and a chicken tikka kebab main from the a la carte menu, which included a number of home comfort favourites. My hearty meal, washed down with a couple of cold pints set me up nicely for an evening of guffawing.  

There is something unique about the atmosphere before a comedy gig, something that you can’t quite find even at a music gig. There is always plenty of anticipatory laughter and a sort of community feel that you get amongst true comedy fans. This is particularly true of the comedy store which has the feel of being built brick for brick out of the love of good comedy. Even the staff had a noticeable buzz about them, despite the fact that comedy must be to them what spreadsheets are to the rest of us. The venue itself was perfect. Small enough to feel intimate, yet large enough to accommodate a sizeable audience.       

The host of the show was John Maloney who has a wonderful knack, not dissimilar to Jack Dee, of telling risque anecdotes with a completely straight face. His interaction back and forth with the audience had natural, easy going hilarity of a comedic dab hand. I was particularly amused by a story involving his stressed cat, which was made even more humorous by his dry delivery and dour tone of voice. The first comedian that Maloney introduced was was Pierre Hollins. Hollins has a confident and charming persona that resonated with the audience. His witty observational style and irreverent social commentary sent wave after wave of chuckles throughout the venue. Much like Maloney, Hollins has a clear, hard won professionalism matched by his evident lasting joy and enthusiasm for being on stage.      

Brilliantly, The Comedy Store also prides itself on showcasing promising emerging talent in five minute slots, as a means of earning that all important comic apprenticeship. The two new Comedian’s were Cal Doughty and Bobby Murdock. Doughty is a thoroughly modern Comedian: self deprecating, whimsical and just a little bit dark. He is also super funny in that natural way that can’t easily be taught which he channels through a pedantic and witty persona. Murdock is from more traditional stock; down to earth, relatable and extremely likeable. He is a born storyteller with great audience rapport and on-the-dot comic timing. Both emerging Comedian’s shone and I’m sure it won’t be long before we are seeing plenty more from both of them.           

The star of the night for me was Carey Marx, who was also the last Comedian on stage. This was a little bit of a dangerous choice as I was still shaking with little bursts of laughter on the tram home, which won me a few odd looks. Marx had me pinned helplessly to my chair with laughter at various times throughout his performance. If you like dark, slightly surreal humour delivered with a good deal of intelligence and a fair dose of smut, then Marx is the Comedian for you. The content of his performance was original and memorable. His delivery felt effortless.
Laughing fully from your whole stomach is possibly the best way to spend an evening. An evening at the Comedy Store is perfect for breaking the ice on that awkward first date. It’s a brilliant location for that alternative night out with your best friends or your work mates. I would thoroughly recommend an evening at the Comedy Store for anyone looking to expand their list of favourite Comedians.                     

Summer Dreaming 1973 Review

It is incredibly hard to pick up a Shakespeare play, with all its multilayered plots and complexities, and place it in a different time and place. Many have tried with varied successes. A popular route, used by many well meaning high school movie Directors, is to take the bare bones of the story and adapt it to the point where many of the subtler, more distinctive aspects of the plot are lost. However, the Manchester Shakespeare Company have managed to update A Midsummer Night’s Dream for a modern audience without resorting to diluting or dumbing down the plot. Crucially, they have also made a new and original performance in its own right.      

Summers Dreaming 1973 is what I would describe as a successful Shakespearean adaptation. It is also a loving and genuine homage to the era of the 1970s; the music, the clothes, the bawdy slapstick humour. Writers and Directors John Topliff and Gina Frost were cabaret stars at the beginning of their career and this passion is threaded nostalgically throughout the play, which at times has notes of Morecambe and Wise. However, the play never slips into mawkishness and the 1970s setting never feels forced. Indeed, the social class parallels made between Elizabethan society and the 1970s are quite compelling. If any of Shakespeare’s plays were to be placed in the 1970s, then it would certainly be A Midsummer Night’s Dream; trippy, surreal and counter cultural.   

The play Summer Dreaming 1973 is certainly a new take, yet it also remains diligently faithful scene to scene to the original. From speaking personally to John Topliff and Gina Frost before the play, it was clear that they had both a scholarly attention to literary detail and theatrical devices. Topliff’s experience as a former English Teacher certainly shows through the careful and pedantic hands that guide the famous plot. Most of the language used throughout the play is contemporary, colloquial Mancunian. However, the conversations between characters remain remarkably similar despite this, with snatches of original Shakespeare text here and there. More so than many other Shakespearean comedy performances, Summer Dreaming is a very considered and witty character exploration. After all, it is the characters that keep Shakespeare’s stories timeless and endlessly adaptable.

The reimagining of Frances Flute and Hermia as second generation women’s libbers feels timely and relevant, and gives much more of a strong female presence to the play through these two incredibly funny actresses (Charlotte Rhodes and Ellen Rogerson). Rhodes Frances “Frankie” Flute is opinionated and outspoken whereas Rogerson’s Hermia is an uptight and witty comic partner to Josh Fyson’s wonderfully dozy Leroy Sander (Lysander in the original). Oberon (Tony Charnock) as a free loving hippy feels like a natural decision as does Peter Quince (Tony Charnock) as a straight talking, northern Union Leader. It didn’t even bother me too much about the presence of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in a 1970s setting. Not only is Aiden J Harvey’s impression of Prince Charles fabulously accurate, but reimagining Theseus and Hippolyta as a 20th century celebrity tabloid royal couple feels somehow right. This is also true for Jess Wood’s updated Demetrius as spoilt and fickle Businessman’s son Donald Truss.      

The cast are astoundingly good with an abundance of comic talent between them; each with a stage presence that seems to transcend the modest, cosy theatre space around them. The singing is brilliant, and there are a number of flawless solos. Particularly memorable is Sophie Grace Toland as lovelorn Helena who gives a real belter of a vocal performance that is surprisingly emotional in the midst of an overall comical performance; showing off her significant acting range. The chemistry between the cast members is palpable and genuine. You get the sense that even after practising and performing the play together numerous times, the cast still enjoy acting together and are still amused by each other’s lines. There were a couple of moments of corpsing on the night of my visit but these were pulled of pretty well and corpsing was after all a well regarded theatrical device in Shakespeare’s day as a means of inducing audience laughter.

Particularly hilarious performances come from Allyn Thomas who plays Robbo Goodstuff (known as Puck in the original text). Thomas is a born Comedian with expert comic timing and the ability to embody a character fully with every gesture, eye movement and syllable. Sophie Ann Ellicot plays the Fairy Queen Titania as a temptress with a twinkly eyed vivacity. Ellicot has a brilliantly expressive face and her scenes with Nick Bottom are some of the funniest and most memorable in the play. Dale Vicker who played Nick Bottom, shown here to be a head-in-the-clouds aspiring actor, has a naturally down to earth and humorous stage presence that commands every scene.                 

The laugh out loud humour of Shakespeare comedies often, sadly gets lost with more by-the-book renditions with authenticity often displacing entertainment value. However, in this performance the centuries old jokes feel fresh and relevant. The final scene of the play within a play had me in stitches. The genuine waves of laughter from the packed audience was a review in itself. I would recommend Summers Dreaming not only to Shakespeare fans but also to those who enjoy good, irreverent comedy in general. Perfect Friday night fun.   
 

Six Fabulous Crafty Creative Businesses in Manchester

Manchester is renowned for being a hub of creativity and individuality, and this has always included arts and crafts. Traditional crafts, such as textile work, have now come back into fashion in a big way. Younger generations are beginning to see the subversive potential and the artistic merit of craft. Craft can mean anything from jewelry making to crocheting hats and can reflect various tastes, interests and styles.  This is all totally great for those of us who like a bit of individuality when shopping for that special gift. Here are just six examples of awesome crafty businesses that are helping to keep Manchester creative and unique.    

  1. Wired and Wild. This is some of the most mesmerising craft work that I have ever seen; consisting of puppet making and beautiful child friendly textile work. The imaginative scale of Mandy Beck-Mckim’s handiwork is enhanced by the bold, vibrant colours used in her designs. This work is made extra wonderful by the fact that it is used for the purpose of educating young children. Beck-Mckim and her team of puppeteers and storytellers work with children within schools and through community programmes to teach them about artwork and vital environmental issues.    
  2. Pixiecraft. I’m biased because I have a complete penchant for embroidery with a contemporary spin. These intricate works of art are eye catching, quirky and painstakingly detailed. Self taught Katie Fenner has the ability to capture the texture of a foxes fur of the shimmer of a bird’s feather through her perfect choice and use of threads. Her work has a cheery vibe and often includes upbeat words of inspiration. Much of her work takes the form of lovely pieces of art that would look wonderful on any wall. However, she also sells other products such as cushions and even super adorable mini cushions that you can hold in the palm of your hand.        
  3. Minimanna. Mega talented Sam Owen channels her experience of motherhood through her pretty and super cute designs. She has a strong emphasis on beautiful fabrics and upcycling and her background as an artist shines through with her fantastic eye for color and design. Versatile Sam makes and sells everything from cushions to bunting, from hip greetings cards to felt bunny rabbit brooches. Word of warning however: you will want to buy everything in her etsy shop.     
  4. Daisy Lee Overton. Daisy grew up in the Peak District and her fascinating jewelry designs reflect the rolling hillside of her childhood. Her work transcends jewelry design and instead feels more like miniscule sculptures that you can wear about your person; perfect for having a special piece of art with you at all times. Daisy creates bespoke jewelry on request.      
  5. A Girl Called Boz. This nature inspired business, ran by Designer Laura Perks, is meant to bring a little reminder of the country to city dwellers and does just that. Think adorable badger pins, quirky butterfly necklaces and eclectic mismatched button earrings. Laura’s fun designs make for a completely original present for that jewelry loving friend of yours.
  6. Kate Conaghan Design. Another talented crafter who brings the wild into her work, but this time with a dark fairytale twist. Kate channels elements of creepy doll faces, magical black cats and Alice in Wonderland to create a unique and striking range of products. She is also a friend to animals. For example, money from Kate’s kooky and cute bat necklaces will be donated to Bury St Edmunds Bat Hospital after she rescued a bat called Maude that she later released into the wild. A great example of creativity being used to help towards worthy causes.   

Goodbye Deirdre Love: In praise of strong Corrie women

The quiet announcement of Deirdre’s unremarkable death by Bev Unwin was Corrie drama at its kitchen sink best. As was the awkward passing of her glasses, the bitter crying in the back alley and the dazed pub announcement. The ghostly wind blowing open the doors of the rovers only cemented Deirdre’s role as a constant discerning presence on the street, and I don’t think there could be many viewers left unmoved.  

Growing up, I got a good deal of my ideas about what adulthood would entail from watching Coronation Street. I understood the various plotlines that could unfold within a relationship which could include anything from fraudulent identities to attempted murder. I knew how to spot a wrong ‘un or a bad egg. I felt that if push came to shove then I could most definitely pour a pint over someone’s head. To this day whenever I envision a strong woman, my mind doesn’t instantly go towards CEO power women, but to the archetypal Corrie Landlady who wields the power to bar unruly patrons from the Rovers and to delve out pearls of world weary advice to barmaids.   

My life has, unsurprisingly, turned out to be much quieter than the tangled plotlines of Coronation Street. Moreover, men have turned out to be much less dastardly to me than soapland warnings led me to suspect. However, I believe that years of watching Corrie has irreparably invaded my psyche, my philosophy, the manner in which I enjoy various “boiling pots” being left to simmer in a film or a novel. Coronation Street exists in a world where loose ends eventually come together only to be inevitably undone all over again. A semi nostalgic world where despite bitterness and grief and disappointment the central, loved characters remain resolutely unbreakable.

It is the personal world in which Corrie exists and is therefore more or less run by iron strong female characters who get the funniest lines, the filthiest slanging matches and ultimately carry much of the emotional weight of the drama. Indeed, it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to describe Corrie as a goldmine for those interested in discussing working class feminism.                 Corrie, and especially Corrie women, embodies so much homespun Mancunian wisdom and warm hearted northern wit. We watched Deirdre’s whole life unfold on a grimy backstreet terrace in cramped living rooms and pub booths. In half an hour slots, we saw her fall in and out of love She was a mouthy teenager, a young single mother and later a stuffed marrow making Grandmother. She wasn’t glamorous or rich, and neither was she polished. She wasn’t defined by a career or high status which is the modern marker of identity. She smoked like a chimney, made terrible pottery and could easily be charmed and led astray. She could have been your auntie or the chatty one at work, and that was why she was so wonderful.

The 1983 wedding of Ken and Deirdre gained more viewers on ITV than did the more royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana. Fans cheered when the announcement that Ken and Deirdre reunited after Deirdre’s affair with Mike Baldwin was broadcast on the scoring board: Ken 1: Mike 0. Coronation Street was considered much more radical during its early years for its frank depiction of ordinary working class life. However, it is sad to note that, in many ways, things haven’t changed too much. Our society doesn’t celebrates the lives opinions of real northern class women like Deirdre Barlow.  How many working class women do we see depicted in television drama in a non patronizing way? How many become as an iconic as Deirdre? For this she should be remembered, celebrated and discussed.   

  

   

 

Travel + Events: Six Romantic Places to visit in The UK for Literature Lovers

The United Kingdom has produced some of the most beautiful words ever written, by some of the most iconic and memorable Writers. It is no wonder therefore that there are so many corners of our little island touched by a literary hand. Our literature and places are intertwined in that we cannot help but envision a city, a village or a stretch of hillside through the eyes of the Writer’s who immortalised them within their work.

This summer will see countless couples jetting out to Paris, Venice and further afield for a romantic weekend away. However, there are so many loved up corners of the UK to explore that have inspired the greatest love stories and poetic turns of phrases of all time. Where better to find the words to say exactly how much your other half means to you? Plus, this way you can avoid the dreaded airport queues. Here is a list of just six literary weekend away destinations that will have you both reaching for pen and paper.   

  1. Bath. I personally can’t think of elegant Bath without thinking of Jane Austen. Bath has long since been a place of relaxation and leisure: all afternoon tea rooms and bath houses. However, it is Austen’s young, lovelorn heroines that have forever shaped Bath in the public imagination. Austen lived here for several years when it was a fashionable spa and party resort amongst members of the aristocracy. Northanger Abbey and Persuasion are both set in Bath and perfectly capture the excitement of its Georgian heyday. Gorgeous period architecture, regal tea rooms and Jane Austen tours make this an absolute must for anyone who has ever wanted to escape inside the covers of Pride and Prejudice.       
  2. St Ives. Virginia Woolf spent many childhood holidays at her family summer home Talland House. St Ives inspired many of her most famous, and poignant, novels including To The Lighthouse. St Ives boasts some of the beautiful, golden sandy beaches in Britain and has numerous striking coastal paths to explore. Fans of Daphne De Maurier will appreciate the crashing cornish waves and shaded coves full of mystery and intrigue.  
  3. Haworth. Think sweeping moorland teeming with restless lovelorn spirits, quaint cobbled, village streets and rolling, rocky hillside. It was here where the Bronte sisters lived and wrote, inspired by the intense Yorkshire landscape and frustrations of village life. Poet Sylvia Plath, who is buried close by, was known to have loved Haworth and it has become something of an unofficial pilgrimage for misunderstood writers worldwide. Make sure to pack a sturdy pair of walking boots and head up to Top Withens, a site with truly astounding views that inspired Emily Bronte’s turbulent novel Wuthering Heights.           
  4. Near Sawrey and Far Sawrey. Who could fail to be charmed by Beatrix Potter’s timeless stories of mischievous rabbits and silly puddle ducks? Pretty much unchanged since the days of Tom Kitten, Near Sawrey and Far Sawrey is a particularly unspoilt part of the poet’s paradise that is the Lake District. You can still visit Beatrix Potter’s breathtaking cottage with its achingly pretty gardens. You can enjoy walking not quite as lonely as a cloud through fox glove strewn woodland and can row on the glacial waters of Lake Windermere.       
  5. Whitby. Perfect for more gothic minded couples. Rugged cliffs, hilltop abbeys, and general nods to Whitby’s most vampish resident lie in wait around every corner: Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Whitby also boasts pretty much the best seaside fish and chips in the world, courtesy of The Magpie. Enjoy a top notch chippy tea before taking an evening stroll along the striking Whitby Beach. Maybe pack a bit of after bite in your suitcase though….       
  6. Stratford Upon Avon. Shakespeare has set the bar pretty high in terms of swoon worthy sonnets and generally wise words concerning matters of the heart. Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford and his family with Anne Hathaway was raised there. You can visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s cottage and many other insightful landmarks that will help you build a picture of the infamous, yet often mysterious, Playwright. Far from being delegated to the history books, Stratford is still very much a hub of vibrant theatres and poetry festivals that celebrate both traditional and contemporary writing.         

Seven Seriously Kickass Girl Groups that you need to listen to right now.

Even after the heavenly vocal chords of Nina Simone, after the riot grrrl movement, after the world conquering force that is Beyonce, people still insist that creating powerful, fiery music is a boys game. This is particularly obvious when it comes to the, usually frustrating, discussion all girl bands whereby talented girl drummers and guitarists are seen as somewhat of a novelty. However, there are so many awesome girl bands out there who are proving the doubters wrong. Here are just seven awe inspiring girl bands to make your day.

  1. Cocorosie. An aching, eerily distinctive vocal style lingers in your head long after you’ve stopped listening. They music often covers haunting discomforting themes, reflected in the gothic style of many of their music videos. Cocorosie aren’t afraid to tackle hard hitting female issues through their lyrics, for example through the gut wrenching song Child Bride.         
  2. Girlpool. Californian punk rock duo with punchy lyrics and shrill, furious vocals. All fists, outrage and dirt. Girlpool has all the angst and passion of two girls in their late teens yet with the self awareness, cynicism and humour of slightly older women. If you want to listen to songs about thumping terrible guys in the mouth then this ones for you. Bloody satisfying stuff after a bad breakup.      
  3. Dum Dum Girls. One of my favourite established bands, male or female. Flawless bass guitar riffs, catchy as hell songs and boldly diverse and experimental style. These girls can make you dance one minute and tear up the next. Singer Guitarist Dee Dee Penny has the strong, smouldering stage presence akin to Pat Benatar or Chrissie Hynde, artists whose influences, amongst others, shimmer throughout the three albums to date.
  4. Honeyblood. Cherry sweet vocal performances that sound upbeat even with lyrics such as “I will hate you forever. You really do disgust me”. I could listen to these girls all day, and in fact I think that I’m going to. Bright, sparky indie pop packed with attitude that shows all the bland indie boy band acts how it’s done. Listening to Honeyblood will make you want to run away on an all girls road trip.   
  5. La Luz. Seattle based La Luz create defiant music that remains fearless even after surviving a high impact car crash. Their sound is psychedelic surf guitar music, delivered through gorgeous four piece vocals and will make you feel nostalgic for 1960s girl groups, even if you weren’t actually around in the ‘60s. Listen to on a summers afternoon for full sundrenched effect.   
  6. Skating Polly. Grungy, addictive stuff that you won’t be able to sit still to. The sheer, raw energy of this talented duo is infectious. Multitalented step sisters Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse were only nine and fourteen years old respectively when they first formed the band, which is a realisation that has seriously made me reevaluate my life decisions. Their style is super eclectic, borrowing from both indie pop and riot grrl sounds, however their sound is always their own: distinctive and super fun.        
  7. Warpaint. Soothing, harmonious voices with a musical tone and style sometimes reminiscent of The Raincoats. Listening to a Warpaint album can at times can feel like walking through a series of slightly disconcerting dreams. Warpaint’s eleven years of existence have solidified their reputation as a hypnotic shoegaze band that juxtaposes its chilled melodies with intense and often erotic lyrics. Like all great female led bands they play on the endless paradoxes that come through being a woman. Great writing music.