Tag Archives: BBC

When I was young… I was a pop star.

Cover Art FynnjanIt’s true. Early morning calls from TV – “Can we come round and film you?” Radio stations. Promotional CDs. Music video. Posters. The lot.

My song was even played at half time Wycombe Wanderers v Cheltenham FC. And that’s the epitome of pop stardom.

OK, OK – I admit it. I’m not talking about myself. I’m looking into the future at the memories that my friend Fynnjan will have. He’s 11 years old, he has Aspergers – and he’s in the midst of an audacious bid to get to Christmas number one with a song he wrote himself. It’s called The Spirit of Christmas.

He spent Wednesday doing that very difficult thing – smiling on cue, again and again, for hours on end – with film cameras glaring surrounded by the main crew and then the “making of” film crew – all braced themselves for “Just one more run through.” That was for the music video – it’s still being worked on.

So what’s this really all about?  Fynnjan tells it better than me:

Sometimes I just get tunes in my head. In October 2012, when I was 10 and had nothing to do at my Granny’s whilst my parents were on their honeymoon, I decided to write one down. I thought it would be nice to show my music teacher, Mrs Smith. She said it was so good that she wanted me to perform it at the school Christmas Concert, if I wrote some words to it. At the concert, I sang the opening verse and my Dad, Wink filmed it.

Fynnjan centre with mates in studioAn awful lot of fuss was made and Mum was really happy as she had not ever heard me sing before! Mum sent Wink’s video to her sister in Australia. Auntie Sarah also made a fuss and suggested Mum get it recorded professionally. Luckily, Mum had spent the last year recording an album for my Dad’s band Buzz, so she had an idea about how to do this. She asked me if I wanted to record it. I said this would be OK as long a I could use it to raise some money for Asperger’s.

I wanted to raise money for Asperger’s to help other people like me and also to help my school to help other children who have special needs. I needed a lot of help from my school and if it weren’t for them, I would still be crawling about under tables refusing to come out. Now I have the confidence to sing in front of my Mum and the whole school.

nas-logo.ashxI went on the internet to see what the biggest charity for Asperger’s is and it is The National Autistic Society, NAS for short. I sent them an email and they thought it was great idea and would support it.

I asked Buzz if they would play the backing on my song and together we sorted out an arrangement which would be right for a single, about 3 minutes long. We recorded the music and I sang a guide vocal so Mrs Smith could teach my Y6 class the new arrangement ready for the recording. I recorded my actual vocals on 13 July and on 16 July my whole class came to Runway Studios to record their parts.

Three girls in the studioIt was the hottest day of the year and funny to think we were singing about Christmas trees and sleighs! During the day the word got out and Mix 96, an Aylesbury Radio Station wanted to interview me. So we did that on the way home.

We all had an epic day out and it was a great way to spend time with my friends on one of the last days we would all be together. Five days later, we broke up and are now at different Secondary schools. Since the big recording day, I got busy designing the look of the website, drawing the buttons, etc, which I hope you like!

My aims are:
To raise lots of money to help people with Asperger’s and Autism.
To raise awareness of Asperger’s to show that with quite a lot of help, people like me can understand how most of you see the world so we can live more happily in it with you.

Nordoff Robbins Logo Landscape Colour JPEGSince then, another charity, Nordoff Robbins music therapy has come on board as well as the National Autistic Society. And 10% will go to help special educational needs provision at Fynnjan’s former primary school in Seer Green in Buckinghamshire.

Lots more has happened too. Fynnjan and his mum Su were featured on BBC Radio 4 (you can listen here – fast forward 1 hour 15 minutes in). Su said on air that trying to learn about the music business in such a short time was like studying for a law degree – but crammed into just a couple of weeks. Among the people who heard this mum taking on the music industry’s corporate giants were some other spectacular women – respected professionals in music management, plugging, social media and film making. Like the rest of us, they were already busy. But somehow they’ve pushed everything else (including their livelihoods) to one side, to help Su and Fynnjan in what, all of a sudden, is no longer quite such an impossible dream.

The director Cathy Jones (right) arranges the children for The Spirit of Christmas music video shoot.

The director Cathy Jones (right) arranges the children for The Spirit of Christmas music video.

I’ll celebrate them another time – perhaps in a post on the subject of female solidarity. Because along with Su, it’s women taking the lead. Not considering it. Not assessing it. Not talking about it. Doing it.

I can’t share the video yet. But it was huge fun to make. (The director wouldn’t let me be filmed. Apparently I looked so fabulous I would have distracted attention from the children who sing the song. Or something like that.)

ITV News interviews Fynnjan

ITV News interviews Fynnjan

But you can see Fynnjan on ITV News – here. Now other outlets are taking an interest. Generous businesses lend a hand. Volunteers muck in. It’s a daunting, crazy, wonderful thing.

Not long ago Fynnjan‘s mum had never heard him sing. Now he’s aiming for the top of the charts. If ever there was an example of what a child could achieve – he’s it. The boy with an aversion to the limelight is enduring it to give his classmates an experience they’ll never forget. The kid who had communciation problems is holding his own in live broadcast interviews with complete strangers. (He even had a reporter from Italy to cope with.) The stone which the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.

So it’s all lovely. But what’s the catch? Yes – there is a catch.

This all depends on people pre-ordering the song via Fynnjan‘s website – www.fynnjan.com or you can search for him by name on iTunes. All the pre-orders will kick in on the official December 9th release date and – hopefully – rocket his song The Spirit of Christmas up the charts.

Fynnjan and his mum Su

Fynnjan and his mum Su

You can also “like” his page on facebook or follow @fynnjan on Twitter.

This is a post for the Loose Bloggers Consortium. (Sorry I missed last week folks, but you have an abundance of words this week.) The LBC members sharing stories of their youth include  Ramana, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, MaxiPadmumShackman and The Old Fossil.

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Can you meet this dark challenge? (Prize for the one who does.)

Ooky spooky Halloween time competition. Can you guess what this creepy film is?

Can you guess what it is?

Can you guess what it is?

There’s a prize for the one who best gets it. (Probably a book. I’ve got loads of them. I’ll give you a selection to choose from. It’ll be a good one. Not written by me.) So whether you’re in Zambia, Tajikistan, Bhutan or Greenland – get closest and there’ll be something lovely in the post to you.

And to treat you further Continue reading

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Music

Komla - pic by Lorenzo Guerrieri http://www.lorenzoguerrieri.com/

Komla – pic by Lorenzo Guerrieri http://www.lorenzoguerrieri.com/

There is not enough music in my life. But here’s my personal top ten lis of live gigs of 2012 – in no particular order, except for number one.

10. Komla – In a Soho basement. Never seen, heard nor heard of them a week ago. Very good – mellow, charismatic, smooth – a bit Eagle Eye Cherry (which is a good thing). The band website is here. (They were supporting the relaunch of the charity Art Saves Lives.)

Aletia Upstairs9. Aletia Upstairs – This Cape Town, South Africa singer song writer and I shared a radio studio. I was plugging an excellent book, The Obituarist, by, ahem, me – available to download from Amazon here or Smashwords for non-kindles here. She arrived expecting to play some CDs, but rose magnificently to the unexpected  challenge of playing live instead. I’m listening to one of her CDs as I type. South Africa can be very annoying in the same way Swiss people are – irritatingly and seemingly effortlessly multilingual. Aletia sings in various languages. (You can see her and hear the radio show – and me – by following this link.)

8. Tom Williams and the Boat – Another intimate performance. Just Tom and Anthony (lovely riff) Vicary rehearsing for a live radio show I produced. It was almost as though I’d arranged the whole thing just so that I could have a gig all to myself. But I’d never be so devious, would I?

7. Adam Beattie and the Consultants – Again, another complete surprise. Very good, including a song dedicated to and about his late grandfather, who died aged 100. (Or so the songs say anyway.) See it here.

6. Africa Express – Baloji, Paul McCartney, Baaba Maal, Damon Albarn, Fatoumata Diawara, Noisettes, Rokia Traore, Seye, Spoek Mathambo, Thandiswa, Tony Allen – breathtaking array of African musicians and some Brits playing behind Kings Cross railway station in London. Assembling and moving this crew must be the musical achievement of the year. You can get a flavour here.

Tsivi Sharett - pic by Ottavia Castellina

Tsivi Sharett – pic by Ottavia Castellina

5. Nights at the Bonnington Cafe – cheap food, priceless music. Pretty much everyone there is a performer except me Continue reading

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Scary and shocking times with Buzz Aldrin

Steve Dodds (THE Steve Dodds) and an astronaut called Buzz Aldrin. You might have heard of him.

Quick! Give me something to calm me down! I can’t cope with the excitement – the surprise – and the fear! (Not to mention the exclamation marks!)

First it was Buzz Aldrin – I encountered him through work today.

Buzz Aldrin. THE Buzz Aldrin. Buzz Aldrin!

Buzz Aldrin in his work clothes. Yup. He’s on the moon.

He was charming, chatty, understated and interesting – as you’d expect. He was supporting the Aerobility charity effort to raise funds for a flight simulator for people with disabilities.

So he talked about that a bit. But I have to admit I was thinking the whole time – but what about space, the rocket, THE MOON!!!    We did get on to that Continue reading

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The oddest place I’ve ever slept…

It was pipe like this – except without the bed, the door, the electric light…

Top five oddest places I’ve slept in, on or under…

  1. In a pipe – at some construction site near Grenoble, France. (“Ce n’est pas un lit,” I thought to myself.) I woke and left before being hoisted up by a crane.
  2. Under a wardrobe (and some mattresses) – after a big night in Dublin. Took a while to be discovered and then extricated.
  3. At the edge of a cliff – by accident. It was dark. We had been trekking over some small mountains. We were tired. Luckily – so we didn’t walk any further forward. In the morning we discovered the tent was covered in snow. As was the land on either side. But not in front. That’s where the cliff was – and the sea.
  4. By petrol pumps near Karlsruhe, Germany. That’s where my last lift dropped me. I’d hitched from Poland. There was grass and undergrowth which looked more soft and inviting, but was rustling with quare fellas.* So a nap amidst the hard surfaces, flourescent lighting and idling engines seemed preferable.
  5. In the middle of a sentence while broadcasting live on the radio. One moment I was giving out some racing results, then next I was slurring… murmuring… silent. People checked the tuning on their radios. Then they heard snoring. How mortifying.** Continue reading

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Care Giving

Lesley Joseph (right), with her hosts Pat and Malcolm in the BBC’s When I’m 65 season on ageing.

If you’re looking for unsung heroes, look no fourther than care givers.

Though you may find them hard to spot, because as well as unsung – they’re often unappreciated, unsupported, unpaid, unhealthy themselves, quite likely unhappy – and unable to get out much. Such is the burden of responsibility and sheer physical exhaustion involved in looking after someone else.

According to Carers UK, there are an estimated 1.3 million people aged 65 and over who are the primary (perhaps only?) carer for someone else. So as well as the self-sacrificing goodness involved, they’re also saving the state (i.e. the rest of us) a lot of cash.

So it’s good when someone pays attention to them, or even better, lends a hand.

Whether it’s a care worker paid for out of those pesky taxes, a neighbour or – in this case – actress Lesley Joseph, who played Dorien in the TV series Birds of a Feather.

Sure it was for a TV show – part of the BBC’s When I’m 65 season – but that doesn’t mean it can’t be sincere and helpful – nor that she doesn’t personally have her own insight. She has a 100-year-old Mum of her own after all.

Birds of a Feather – back in the day: Linda Robson, Lesley Joseph & Pauline Quirke

I met Lesley when Continue reading

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Bread and Wellies

For your entertainment and enlightenment, check these out.

1. The Adventures of an Unfit Mother.

It’s up for a big British blogging award. It’s great fun – lighthearted and witty and warm. And you can help transport Emma, who writes it, all the way from little Glenavy village in County Antrim, north east of Ireland, all the way to Big London for the finals of the 2012 MAD (Mum and Dad) Blog Awards. All you have to do is go here and vote for Adventures of an Unfit Mother in the MAD Family Life Category. I did it and immediately my hair looked more glossy, my stride longer and my teeth more sparkling. Why don’t you try it? (Hair toss. Smile. Gleam.)

2. Bread

Jonathan Kent – using his loaf to accomplish a much needed facelift.

You think you know about bread? Ha! Think again Continue reading

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