Beat Hotel, Marrakech

I wasn’t planning on going back to Marrakech after a pretty disastrous trip back in 2011 (see my other post about that), but when I was asked if I’d like to shoot Beat Hotel, a four day festival overlooking the Atlas Mountains… well I jumped at the chance!

Beat Hotel has been a staple at Glastonbury since 2011 (the tent we always go to on the Sunday night to grasp those last precious Glasto moments) and was travelling to Morocco for the first time over Easter weekend. Held in the Fellah Hotel, one of the most striking festival settings I’ve seen, with red villas contrasting against sculptured green cacti, and swimming pools framed by palm trees.

A small festival with a lovely bunch of people, we enjoyed headline sets from Maribou State and Young Fathers, DJ sets from Gilles Peterson and James Holden, epic poolside sessions, secret house parties, creative classes from the likes of Patternity and a whole range of wellness workshops… disco nap yoga, early morning meditation, gong baths and mystical tarot readings.

Here’s a few of my favourite shots from the weekend. See you there next year?

Poolside at the Fellah Hotel, Marrakech

Poolside at the Fellah Hotel, Marrakech

Making (positive) Marrakech memories

Memories from my first visit to Marrakech back in 2011 are not particularly happy ones. I was constantly running to the bathroom (food poisoning), feeling endlessly harassed, upset at having my arse grabbed by a teenager and ended up crying on the doorstep to our riad. To top it all off my relationship was coming to an end. That holiday sealed the deal I think.

I swore I’d never go back to Marrakech. So when I was asked if I’d like to shoot Beat Hotel festival in March (see my other post here), I did hesitate… for about two seconds… then proceeded to book flights and give Marrakech a second chance.

And Marrakech had changed. A lot. Or perhaps I had?

I hadn’t remembered how much of a vibrant and mysterious city it was, that you could lose yourself for hours in a labyrinth of tiny alleyways. A real city of extremes… busy and noisy in Jemaa el-Fna (the main square), with calm and tranquil spots tucked away from the Medina. Souk vendors seemed way more relaxed this time, people were friendlier (apart from the kid who told me to f*ck off!) and I was in photography heaven. Filled with rich colours and the intoxicating scent of spices, I fell head over heels in love with Marrakech this time.

Jemaa el-Fna, the main square in the heart of Marrakech

Jemaa el-Fna, the main square in the heart of Marrakech

Dungeness, Kent

Dungeness in Kent, a place I’d been desperate to visit since first hearing about it a few years ago. So on a recent trip to Brighton, my brother and I decided to make the journey and see what all the fuss was about.

Turns out Dungeness is hauntingly beautiful. With its rugged, barren landscape, it felt like we'd stepped into the Wild West. There was no one around other than the occasional fishermen mending a net or painting a boat - we felt completely remote and isolated from the real world.

Small wooden cottages adorn the peninsula, with a huge nuclear power station adding a mark on an otherwise flat horizon. Overhead wires dissect the sky, disused railway lines lead towards the sea, whilst abandoned boats, rusty machinery and old shacks add a touch of beauty to the vast and deserted shingle beach. 

It's an otherworldly place, which captures your imagination and I’ve no doubt you would unearth something new every time you visit. We easily lost track of the time and if it hadn’t been for the sun setting so early we would've spent hours longer exploring. 

Instead we ended up in the only pub we could find, and of course were the only punters. Dungeness has a particularly eery feeling after dark, so we were keen to make a swift exit and get back to the hustle and bustle of Brighton.

Dungeness
Dungeness
Dungeness
Dungeness
Dungeness
20181106-BRD03994Dungeness.jpg
Dungeness
Dungeness
Dungeness
Dungeness
Dungeness
Dungeness
Dungeness
Dungeness
Dungeness
Dungeness
Dungeness
Dungeness

Bonfire night in Lewes

Bonfire night in Lewes is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It’s organised anarchy. And you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it.

The town’s November fifth festivities mark the exposure of the gunpowder plot in 1605 and the burning of 17 Protestants in the high street. In preparation, roads into Lewes are closed early and shop windows are boarded up, as thousands of people descend onto the streets. I started to wonder what the hell I’d let myself in for.

As darkness falls, Bonfire Societies from all around Lewes start to parade through the tiny streets carrying flaming torches, effigies and burning crosses. Gently at first.

An hour or two later and things have gone up a notch. Piles of discarded flaming torches have created small fires on the roads, bright red flares are lighting up the crowds, firecrackers (so loud you have to ram your fingers right into your ears) are being set off everywhere, huge effigies of Boris Johnson, Theresa May and Guy Fawkes have made an appearance and the air is smoke filled and smoggy.

Each bonfire society then leads the way to their designated bonfire site, which means there are six different bonfires and firework displays going off in the town at the same time! After the fireworks people take to the streets, light fires, set off more firecrackers and do crazy things like jumping through flames.

It’s a long, noisy yet exciting night. You’ll jump out of your skin several times as a firecracker lands by your feet, so it’s definitely not for the faint hearted. If you go prepared with drinks, snacks, earplugs and a big happy smile on your face, then I defy you not to love it.

A man in one of many historical costumes worn by society members parading through the streets carrying torches, effigies and burning crosses

A man in one of many historical costumes worn by society members parading through the streets carrying torches, effigies and burning crosses

A knight in shining armour?

A knight in shining armour?

Carrying burning torches through the narrow streets

Carrying burning torches through the narrow streets

Watching poppy wreaths being lit at the War Memorial

Watching poppy wreaths being lit at the War Memorial

Gathering discarded torches and putting out small fires along the way

Gathering discarded torches and putting out small fires along the way

The calm after a firecracker fuelled storm on one street

The calm after a firecracker fuelled storm on one street

Red flares light up the crowds

Red flares light up the crowds

Watching Cliffe Bonfire Society’s bonfire

Watching Cliffe Bonfire Society’s bonfire

Cliffe Bonfire Society’s monstrous bonfire which was too hot even from this distance

Cliffe Bonfire Society’s monstrous bonfire which was too hot even from this distance

Revellers enjoying Cliffe’s epic firework display

Revellers enjoying Cliffe’s epic firework display

The last few to leave Cliffe’s bonfire

The last few to leave Cliffe’s bonfire

A couple walk home in the early hours of the morning as flares and firecrackers are still being lit

A couple walk home in the early hours of the morning as flares and firecrackers are still being lit

Carnage on street corners in the early hours of the morning

Carnage on street corners in the early hours of the morning

Happy in Hampi

I’d heard friends and fellow travellers rave about Hampi over the years, so it was top of the list on my most recent trip to India.

Arriving on a bumpy overnight bus from Bangalore, I was greeted with the pinky orange hues of sunrise and a strange landscape of ancient ruins and huge oversized boulders dotted along the horizon. I felt like i’d landed on another planet. Finally I'd made it to Hampi.

And I didn't leave for three weeks.

Three weeks of wandering around bare foot, swimming in local lakes and rivers, visiting ancient temples, learning to ride a scooter, spotting the most vibrantly coloured birds, eating masala dosas and clambering up boulders to sunset point every day where the “Chai boys” would sell sweet hot tea after school and people would come together to play music.

A UNESCO world heritage site and ruins of Vijayanagara, the former capital of the Hindu Vijayanagara empire in the 14th century, Hampi attracts not only backpackers but pilgrims from all over India who come to visit Virupaksha Temple, one of the holiest temples in the country.

Hampi is one of those places where everyone seems to linger much longer than anticipated or return time and time again. Stories of unexpected delays aren’t unheard of either… I was even bitten by a dog meaning I couldn’t leave on time!

Perhaps the allure of Hampi lies in its surreal landscape with its golden boulders and bright emerald green rice fields, or perhaps it’s the captivating ruins as far as the eye can see, or maybe it’s the friendly pilgrims you’ll meet, or the mystical tales of Gods and Goddesses. Whatever it is, there’s something really magical about this place and you’ll always be happy in Hampi.

A hand painted boulder I discovered on a scooter ride outside of Hampi

A hand painted boulder I discovered on a scooter ride outside of Hampi

Stunning green rice fields and Virupaksha Temple in the distance, as seen from Sunset Point on Hippy Island

Stunning green rice fields and Virupaksha Temple in the distance, as seen from Sunset Point on Hippy Island

A family visiting Hampi’s temples and making their way to a huge wishing tree nearby

A family visiting Hampi’s temples and making their way to a huge wishing tree nearby

One of the “Chai boys” who sell tea to people enjoying sunset every evening on Sunset Point

One of the “Chai boys” who sell tea to people enjoying sunset every evening on Sunset Point

Huge golden boulders with little people on the top enjoying views at sunset

Huge golden boulders with little people on the top enjoying views at sunset

Views from Hanuman “Monkey” Temple at sunset

Views from Hanuman “Monkey” Temple at sunset

Crossing the river from Hampi Bazaar to Hippy Island by boat at sunrise

Crossing the river from Hampi Bazaar to Hippy Island by boat at sunrise

A surreal landscape of boulders, ancient ruins, rice fields and banana plantations from Hanuman “Monkey” Temple

A surreal landscape of boulders, ancient ruins, rice fields and banana plantations from Hanuman “Monkey” Temple

Trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal

I travelled to Nepal in spring to trek the Himalayas. It was by far the most physically demanding, challenging, yet most rewarding thing I've ever done.

Imagine turning your phone off for three weeks, living high above the clouds and exploring an ever changing landscape each day. From snowy Himalayan peaks to traditional Tibetan Buddhist villages, pine forests to rhododendron forests, glaciers to ice lakes, tropical rainforests to deserts and river gorges to open plains.

Up each day at sunrise, it was easy to fall into a routine. Trekking until noon, eating Dal Baht for lunch (and sometimes dinner too), exchanging “Namaste’s" (hello) with friendly locals along the way, drinking copious amounts of tea, staying in colourful wooden tea houses, taking afternoon naps, playing cards and hitting the sack exhausted every night before sunset. I was in heaven and ended up staying in the mountains for 26 days.

Don't listen to any of those trekkers who try to tell you the Annapurna Circuit is just "too commercial these days". It's simply stunning and it literally took my breath away.

Upper Pisang village on the Annapurna Circuit after a sprinkling of snow overnight

Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels have rolled up paper inside bearing a mantra, and it is believed that spinning the cylinders emanates positive energy

Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels have rolled up paper inside bearing a mantra, and it is believed that spinning the cylinders emanates positive energy

A colourful teahouse in Chame with perfectly displayed crockery

A colourful teahouse in Chame with perfectly displayed crockery

A view of the Manang Valley on a side trek up to Kilcho Tal ice lake

A view of the Manang Valley on a side trek up to Kilcho Tal ice lake

A grandmother and her granddaughter in the pretty village of Tal

A grandmother and her granddaughter in the pretty village of Tal

A porter takes a break from carrying more than his own body weight in pots and pans

A porter takes a break from carrying more than his own body weight in pots and pans

A view of Mungi and the valley below

A view of Mungi and the valley below

A little boy in Manang, a village at 3,519m where trekkers stop to acclimatise for a couple of days

A little boy in Manang, a village at 3,519m where trekkers stop to acclimatise for a couple of days

A nerve wracking trek across this terrain to reach Tilicho Lake base camp

A nerve wracking trek across this terrain to reach Tilicho Lake base camp

Trekkers rest after a strenuous trek to the frozen Tilicho lake at 4,919m… this side trek helps with acclimatisation for Thorong La pass

Trekkers rest after a strenuous trek to the frozen Tilicho lake at 4,919m… this side trek helps with acclimatisation for Thorong La pass

Snow fell the night before our big ascent to Thorong La pass at 5,416m

Snow fell the night before our big ascent to Thorong La pass at 5,416m

It was no mean feat making it to the top at 5,416m… many people turned back due to altitude sickness, some were carried up on horses and others were even air lifted out by helicopter

It was no mean feat making it to the top at 5,416m… many people turned back due to altitude sickness, some were carried up on horses and others were even air lifted out by helicopter

Ranipauwa at the foot of Thorong La pass is a stop-over for Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims on their way to the Temple of Muktinath, and weary trekkers

Ranipauwa at the foot of Thorong La pass is a stop-over for Hindu and Buddhist pilgrims on their way to the Temple of Muktinath, and weary trekkers

First view of Kagbeni in Upper Mustang after clambering down a crevice enduring high speed winds, which turn up every single day after 11am… be warned

First view of Kagbeni in Upper Mustang after clambering down a crevice enduring high speed winds, which turn up every single day after 11am… be warned

A little oasis called Tiri in Upper Mustang, which you can reach by walking along the Kali Gandaki river basin

A little oasis called Tiri in Upper Mustang, which you can reach by walking along the Kali Gandaki river basin

View of Machapuchare “the fish tail” at sunrise from bed in Tadapani… didn’t even have to get out from under the covers

View of Machapuchare “the fish tail” at sunrise from bed in Tadapani… didn’t even have to get out from under the covers

Escaping the 9 to 5

The thought of sitting behind a desk working in marketing forever was terrifying, but the idea of quitting my job and venturing out into the unknown filled me with complete fear.

Dolly Parton as 'Doralee Rhodes' in Nine to Five (1980)

Dolly Parton as 'Doralee Rhodes' in Nine to Five (1980)

After an agonising twelve months weighing up the pros and cons, I eventually gathered up the courage to resign and then as fate would have it, I was made redundant. Initially I was shocked, but ultimately it couldn't have happened at a better time. I was free!

In the run up to this day I'd been in a battle with myself (and probably bored my friends to tears!) over whether leaving my job was the right thing to do. What was I going to do instead? How would I pay the bills? What if no one would employ me? I'd started to panic and think I should just stay put, or that another marketing job might make me happy. I'd always thought this, but the new jobs came and went and they were never "the one".

I decided I needed to find another way. That I didn't want to settle for this life. So here's how I escaped the 9 to 5...

▫️ I signed up for Escape The City, joined their London Facebook group and went to one of their Monday morning workshops, where I met a whole bunch of people who were feeling just like me! Knowing I wasn't alone, was so reassuring.

▫️ Through Escape The City, I found Amanda Devine, a life coach offering free sessions at the time. Amanda helped me break things down into smaller pieces, made everything feel more manageable and gave me confidence in knowing I was making the right decision.

▫️ I started saving as much money as I could ready for my escape.

▫️ I talked to likeminded people, those I knew would understand, and avoided those I thought might pass judgement. I was surprised how many people I started to meet who had either quit their jobs or were thinking about it.

▫️ I broke the news to my parents and hoped that they would be supportive - luckily they were!

▫️ I began saying out loud to friends "I'm going to quit my job!" and then it started to feel real and I knew it was the right decision.

▫️ I immersed myself in the book The Artists Way by Julia Cameron, taking myself on weekly artist dates and writing morning pages each day in hope of rediscovering my creativity.

▫️ I took some time out in London to reflect, make space for myself and just be.

▫️ I booked a two month trip to Asia to travel and visit my sister.

▫️ I contacted friends about freelance work so I had some money rolling in each month. Amazing opportunities turned up and I found myself gaining great new experience.

In an ideal world I'd have known my next career move beforehand or volunteered alongside my job to gain experience elsewhere, but I didn't have the answers at the time, so when redundancy came along it gave me the chance to take some much needed time out.

There have been some highs - travelling for extended periods of time and sunbathing in London parks when everyone else is at work, and some lows - having no money to afford meals or gigs with all my mates. But overall the excitement of not having my life mapped out in front of me replaces my fears, and even though I'm still exploring what comes next, one thing I do know is that I'll never regret leaving my 9 to 5 job.

Written in the stars? A Vedic Astrology Reading

I’ve always been fascinated with star signs, especially since “luck” would have it I’m a typical Aries – fiery, adventurous, stubborn and as head strong as, well, a ram. But I’ve never had much time for horoscopes, fortune tellers, astrology readings or Mystic Meg… what could they possibly tell me about my life? Well a lot apparently.

Today I had my first Vedic astrology reading with Dr Prateek Mishrapuri in Rishikesh India. Vedic astrology is an ancient science in India dating back to 3,000 BC. It places higher importance on the moon, whereas western astrology with its tropical zodiac deals with the solar system.

Sitting in Dr Prateeks’s waiting room I was feeling slightly apprehensive, the cynic in me was convinced he’d tell me a bunch of generic truths and then I’d hand over 500 rupees and feel duped.

Well the cynic in me was wrong. In twenty minutes he’d given me a run down of my past, present and future. How did he know I’d left an office job early last year? That I was searching for something more fulfilling and hoping to work for myself? That I’d been living out of a bag for a year? That I’d been thinking about getting a tattoo on my hand?

He offered up intriguing advice about my career, my love life and told me some spicy things about my sex life… apparently I’ll be “doing it” until a ripe old age!

The session ended with me laughing in disbelief, buzzing with positive energy and wondering if our lives are actually written in the stars. I’ve been feeling lost for a while, not sure I’m on the right path, but with so many parallels between the reading and what I’ve been thinking, I wonder if I finally am.

I made a promise this year would be all about learning new skills and guess what? According to my birth chart this is the perfect time for just that. So let’s hope Dr Prateek is right and that this ram is finally gonna make some headway.

Time for change

The reason we become directionless and lost is because we’re not on the path we actually are meant to be on—we’re following someone else’s “should." Jamie Varon

I feel like I don’t know myself. For the past thirty five years I haven’t been paying any attention to what’s been going on inside me, or what that little “inner voice” has been trying to say. If truth be told, I hadn’t ever really stopped to think, or even realise that I had an inner voice screaming out for my attention.

I’d been living my life following other people’s “shoulds”. Studying a degree in architecture, although my heart wasn’t in it. Working for ten years in marketing, when I knew deep down it wasn’t right. And buying a flat in London, because, well this this is what grown ups do right?

This realisation hit hard. I mean why had I just gone along with all these “shoulds”? Why hadn’t I chosen my own path? What was wrong with me? I gave myself a hard time initially, then decided to accept the past and realise I actually had no regrets. Afterall they’ve made me who I am today. I just wish I’d learned to listen to myself earlier.

It was time to make a change. The “shoulds” needed to go. So last year I left my marketing job, moved out of my flat, spent some time exploring Asia, found myself a great life coach and finally set up this website.