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XOYO Presents 2011

December 20, 2010

One of the things I love about this time of year is the abundance of lists which fill every webpage, Sunday supplement and magazine in sight in attempts to either sum up the past twelve months or herald the forthcoming year and all its shiny new baubles. I love the more off-kilter of these lists, like the Guardian’s (genius) Professor Green’s top ten service stations which delivers this gleaming accolade to a building crammed with pay-as-you-go toilet facilities and greasy chain restaurants: “Love the architecture of this place, plus the Steam Hammer exhibit in the picnic area adds a bit of history to the place.”

I devoted one cold December night to ushering in the new, rather than commemorating the old, at Old Street’s XOYO (previously the location for Swap-a-rama madness) for their XOYO Presents 2011 night of fun and frolics. Their bookers had assembled four acts from across the musical spectrum in a Mystic-Meg style prediction of who will be dominating spotify playlists in 2011, and cold beers in hand, all eyes were on stage.

First to the stage was east-end based rap supremo Jagga, fresh off Rusko’s tour and armed with a bone-shaking array of electronic-infused songs bursting with a slow-burning bass. Eyes transfixed in an unnerving stare, with rap which veered towards the keening and plaintive rather than the chart-friendly aggro spitting, Jagga managed to rouse an audience of barely fifteen to a corral of awkwardly skipping legs and flailing limbs, especially with the final “Freaks”. He’s ending his year on a radio-friendly high, with Fearne Cotton spinning his most pop tune Modern Day Romance (complete with singalong chorus and woo-oo-ohhs) on her Radio One show. Mick Jagger should watch his back… (awful , I know).

Time for a key change. I’d already caught London act Talking Pictures with their self-proclaimed “disco disco disco” supporting The Naked and the Famous at the Hoxton Bar and Kitchen, and, like a junkie seeking a fix, couldn’t resist a top-up of their irresistibly danceable music.

On first sight, it might not seem that such little things could make such tremendous sounds, with orb-like eyes beaming out of pallid faces framed by indie-cut-out hair and legs skinnier than my arm plunged defiantly into chunky black sneakers. Appearances are nothing when the music they make stays in your head longer than a Crazy-Frog marathon. Try the cutesy love-struck First Kiss or the anthemic Mirrors for a taste of pop-out and-keep pop.It’s the stuff that hand-clapping and feet-tapping was made for, promise.

Although The Guardian calls their gigs “an immersive experience you don’t want to end” on first listen The Milk aren’t exactly purveyors of ground breaking, thought provoking muzak. If you like your sounds rich and soulful, a serving of The Milk will go down a treat, much in the same way as a cosy night at your local. The lead singer boasts a meaty vocal and has a way with a mic stand most rodeo cowboys would envy, especially in the bass-heavy cover of Diddy’s Bad Boys For Life, but I ultimately I found most of the tunes more suited for the CD player of Mum’s car than for turning up loud and proud at a house party. Try Broads for a Maroon 5-esque frenzy.

I saw headliner Sunday Girl way back in May at the perennially amazing Dot-to-Dot festival in Bristol, tucked away in a darkened corner of the O2 Academy. Pushed to a cupcake binge out of sheer jealousy of her arching vocals and tumbling brunette locks, it wasn’t hard to predict that this ex-pet-shop assistant would be topping charts in no time. Since then, she’s supported Ellie Goulding on tour, dj-ed for fash parties under the guises of Gucci and Erdem and been treated to a stunning Diplo remix of Four Floors Down.

If you like your easy listening girl-pop less breathy than Ellie, less in-yer-face than Jessie J and with electro stripes that recall early Noughties pop, you could do a lot worse than this girl. Future single Stop Hey clashes wanton longing with oh-so ‘80s synths in an immensely likeable and aurally pleasing smush.

© Miranda Thompson 2010


PTC Awards 2010

December 8, 2010

On my Magazine Journalism course, there are certain mantras we’ve seamlessly adapted as a 30-something group. Buy Heat Magazine religiously every Tuesday (and then SHARE). Panicking about finding news stories for our Camden based-patches is nearly the same as actually finding one. If in doubt, tweet.

Perhaps the most important adage that holds true for each one of us is that ten-letter word – NETWORKING. Is there any more appropriate phrase than “it’s not what you do, but who you know” in buzzy media-land? Our course leader endlessly extols the virtues of how a handshake, a smile, an introduction or a follow on Twitter can make one’s career prospects gleam a little brighter than before. Forget how ferociously intellectual your analysis of the latest EU farming policies is (or even exactly how hot Harry Styles is), in this industry it seems your personal reputation is just as important as the way you wield your pen.

Which brings me reasonably neatly to the 2010 PTC (Periodicals Training Council) New Journalist of the Year awards, a seriously swanky event held at Viniopolis near London’s Borough Market. I was among the lucky seven or so to be plucked from the Magazine hat to accompany our course leader (and to represent the City massive, of course!) for a day to be spent celebrating the freshest, most exciting talent the world of the magazines has to offer. Towards the end of a myriad of weeks spent mired in endless deadlines and surprise new assignments, the opportunity to see the perks of the industry in action and to meet some of its legends was too good to pass up.

That, and a luscious four course meal including cheesecake and champers.

The day began at 9.30, and slowly the room began to fill with painfully smart magazine students from courses across the country: Uclan, Cardiff, Goldsmiths and City students all nodded at each other in shy recognition from nerve-wracking interview days which had coloured early 2010 over steaming bowls of tea and coffee.

Hands clutching just one more biscuit, we were corralled in an upstairs meeting room for a talk from Gill Hudson, Editor of Reader’s Digest and the chair of the PTC Editorial Training Consultants Committee for a talk on How to Have a Good Idea. It’s really not quite as simple as one might have thought. We were steered through the magazine minefield of what to consider when thinking of features for a certain publication, such as why this? Why now? Why this magazine?

Ideas bubbling over, we were split into groups in order to furiously brainstorm ideas for features for certain magazines – with its editor. I was lucky enough to be put with the amazing Victoria White, editor of the monthly-must-buy Company magazine, while others were treated to the insights of such experts as Hattie Brett from Grazia, Tom Hawkins of the PPA, Phil Hilton of Shortlist Media, Gill Hudson, Barry McIlheney, the CEO of the PPA and Hugh Sleight of FourFourTwo. In short, every aspiring networker’s dream.

Katy and I in action.

Our brief was to come up with a “good idea” for our chosen magazine, and amid a flurry of ideas and hands and blurts of inspiration, the group decided to pitch the Company Happiness Survey, drawn from David Cameron’s Happiness Index, supported with a range of multi-platform ideas such as a national “happiness map” as well as social media resources on Facebook and Twitter. However, my knees did begin to knock slightly on seeing the strength of other groups’ ideas as we all explained our “good ideas” to the assembled groups, and even more so when Phil Soutar (CEO of Shortlist Media) ran through each one’s strengths and weaknesses.

To my shock and delight, our Company idea was named the overall winners for the feature pitch, with particular reference to our digital developments and the apt targeting of the piece to our readership, and awarded two bottles of gorgeously green, ice-cold champagne. All of the hours spent toiling in university computer rooms, on shorthand, in lecture theatres, out chasing stories on the Camden streets, suddenly made sense.

Excitement levels still running high, it was time to return to the glitzy awards ceremony area, with glasses of champagne and wine readily available. Imminent deadlines began to seem like a century away as I managed to navigate the room and try my hand at small-talk with some of my industry favourites. My highlight? Introducing myself to my editor idol, Lisa Smorsarski of Stylist, who used to edit Smash Hits at its peak. Our course leader would be proud.

It was also truly fantastic to meet all of the ex-City magazine alumni who have been carving their way through the world of magazines, (five of the six nominated for Most Promising Student Journalist of the Year graduated this year) and to see the reputation of our course in action, particularly in the winner of this title, Moya Sarner, now of Good Housekeeping.
Inspiration was also to be found in the (very fine) form of the overall winner, Alex Harris, whom judges named “a sensational investigator” who had a “fearless and honest approach”.

I left Viniopolis that afternoon somewhat buoyed by the free-flowing wine and the award win, yes, but perhaps most importantly in the age of Generation Zero, a renewed confidence in my career choice.

I Have Never…..Been Gunged by Dave Benson-Philips

November 1, 2010

Being a penniless student living in London, I realise that there’s certain things I would do unswervingly for a wad of cold, hard cash, but last Wednesday, warm goo dripping off my crimped hair and pooling at the feet of autumnal-coloured Primark leggings, it struck me that perhaps I’d hit a new low.

To clarify (and for my mother’s sanity), no, I wasn’t enacting key scenes from Secret Diary of a Call Girl. Things haven’t got that bad.

Let’s rewind to a few weeks ago, when an email dropped into my inbox. “NEW OPPORTUNITIES FOR STUDENTS”, it read, and like the keen bean that I am, I clicked on, and read. The words “EXTRAS”, “MONEY”, and “DAVE BENSON-PHILIPS” jumped out at me, and before you could say “Get Your Own Back”, I’d signed my housemate and I up for an afternoon earning some dosh bopping behind one of the ’90’s greatest children’s presenters in order to promote Barclay’s student magazine, 100 voices on their Student Money TV. This fantastic venture is written for students, by students, and as an MA Magazine masters devotee, I probably should have opted for the written route than prancing in front of a camera. However, it is scientifically proven, (somewhere), that twins automatically crave more attention and I suppose launching my career in front of the camera only strengthens this point.

The basic premise of the shoot was to demonstrate why it’s great to invest in education over anything else, done so in a ’90’s themed studio and outfits, and backed up by the legendary Benson-Philips, who was on hand to gunge anyone who disagreed with this idea. For those scratching their heads at the mention of D B-P, as I now like to think of him as, see if this link below jogs your memory.

That’s right: I spent the afternoon in the company of the ultimate gunge-tank gang master and king of jazzy t-shirts.

To add to the ’90’s ambiance, us extras had been issued with instructions to dress like we were off to a church hall disco in 1995, and it was with bright-red ears that I boarded the tube across London in scabby white trainers and layered t- shirts bagging over leggings. On arrival, my home-grown ensemble was quickly forgotten as ACTUAL HAIR AND MAKE-UP PEOPLE descended to transform us into fashion’s forgotten past.

This…this is where the red cloud of being high on life arrived. In cahoots with the lovely girls, I sped through no less than three hair and make-up looks, from the atrocious double-low-ponytail….

…to my “raver” alter-ego with hair stiffened by back-combing….

….to when the make-up artist realised she was onto a good thing (aka, someone who can’t say NO) and pulled out the heating tongs for an intensive crimpathon. Add to this eyes circled in aqua blue and magenta, like an Avatar with conjunctivitis and a wardrobe (self-styled, tragically), consisting of as many patterns as possible, and fitness just wasn’t the word, really.

Meanwhile, a cheeky audition had meant I’d snared the part of “the student who would invest in plastic surgery” and was definitely up for a good gunging. Quoting classic “The Only Way is Essex” lines over and over in my head, it was with trepidation (and the velvet floral leggings) that I slunk onto the set.

Under a blaze of studio lights and the banter of D-B-P, (YOU FIIIIINE GURL, YOU DON’T NEEEED NO PLASTIC SURG-A-RYY), all too quickly the time came to get gungy. The other unfortunate idiot (who’d chosen travel as an investment, durrr) and I were coralled into an eeney glass container, above which loomed the ominous purple froth of Dave’s “special receipe gunge.

The countdown from five to one has never been so long. The clunk of the handle, never so loud. The gales of laughter as the gunge gushed onto our head, never so raucous.

© Miranda Thompson 2010

Hardy’s How-To Halloween

October 28, 2010

The nights are drawing in. Long, lazy jugs of Pimms and endless nights of frolics are reluctantly consigned to the “SUMMER’10 AMAZINGNESS” Facebook album and cinnamon scented candles and hot water bottles are strictly the order of the day. Who can be bothered to scrabble for a glitzy body-con dress when Tesco’s are doing Buy-One-Pringles-Get-Two-Free and Harry Styles’s floppy locks are far more attractive than huddling in an endless queue at an over-priced club? As the clocks tick forward this weekend, it’s all one can do not to fabricate a duvet nest out of Primark blankets and hibernate until the annual Christmas bingeathon begins.

Thank God then, that to celebrate The Miranda’s re-launch in the oh-so-snazzy (and oh-so technologically-out-of-my-league)Wordpress format, I’ve recruited one very special guest blogger to snap you out of the autumnal gloom and pump you up for the pumpkin-fest of the Halloween weekend.

Renowned nationally as “the life and soul of the party”, Hatfield College (offof Durham University) Social Sec and all-round good egg, Ladies and Gentlemen, with her step-by-step guide to the ultimate in how to create an unforgettable, bargainous Halloween costume, may I present Sarah “Halloween” Hardy! (cue applause)

Fancy Dress: a Hardy How To!

As the days get colder and the nights drawn in; it can mean only one thing. HALLOWEEN. For the fancy dress connoisseur such as myself, this is the biggest event of the year. Fancy dress is of course, entirely appropriate at all times of the year, especially if you’re enrolled at one of the UK’s finest educational institutions. And indeed it was whilst at University that my penchant for ridiculous thematic dress really took hold and I even graduated with a First in costumes, which has been surprisingly useful in my second gap yah. But, to the point, at Halloween everyone joins in and fancy dress becomes a whole lot more socially acceptable. Here are my top tips to ensure your fancy dress success.

1. Be inventive

One particularly exceptional outfit I came up with was my cleaner costume. The theme was very clever- ‘What did you want to be when you grew up?’ – and whilst my answer to this is obviously Blue Peter presenter, wearing unbranded, multi-coloured high street apparel and a cheesy grin didn’t seem ambitious enough. Also the kind lady on Durham Market knocked me 50p off my tabard and offered advice such as ‘you will look smart in navy’. How could I resist? I teamed this with a headscarf (Primark), ‘Dot Cotton’ rollers (Poundland) and a rather nice feather duster (Also Poundland). It went down a storm and I could even keep my phone and purse in the roomy pocket at the front. Good times.

Hardy the Scrubber

2. Be OTT

Like I said, at Halloween, I really go to town. From Pumpkin, to Voldemort, to Edward Cullen, my costumes over the last three years have been both relevant and terrifying and proved quite excellent. Here’s how to be the classic Halloween Pumpkin.

a. Buy orange body paint and green hairspray.
b. Apply the above in large quantities.
c. Acquire large orange sheet and sew yourself into it. I stuffed with plastic bags, but this was rather warm and caused disruption through perspiration to said orange body paint covering. I recommend you find an alternate stuffing if you try this at home. Sawdust?

I’m the one on the right.

3. Do not try and look sexy.

For a Cluedo themed party I rejected the foxy Miss Scarlet in favour of the elderly, male Colonel Mustard. To recreate such realistic eyebrows, simply apply Pritt Stick (or Tesco’s own glue stick) to your own brows and stick on copious amounts of cotton wool. These guys have genuine pulling (and staying) power- wear with caution. You might also want to throw a load of dry shampoo/talc/flour (unless it’s raining) in your hair to make it the same colour as your lovely new facial hair.

Witness the Fitness

4. Face paint is the basic and essential skill. If you’re not confident, ask a friend to help. You can use Google to find some quality designs to follow.

Clowning around.

Happy Halloween!!

I hope you’ve soaked up Hardy’s pearls of wisdom like the precious gems that they are.

I’ll leave you with my personal all-time fancy dress fave. Please bear in mind that I was entirely sober and managed to last until 4am in this ensemble, palling up with a penguin for Artic solidarity at some point in the house-party carnage that ensued.


Like the look of these? 

© Miranda Thompson 2010

Hello world! Hello Lil’ Wayne!

October 13, 2010

Social Whirls

October 7, 2010

One of the things I like most about living in London, (apart from the readiness of most shopworkers to dish out free booze to me, as has been on the agenda of late) is its sheer variety of bits and bobs and odds and sods on offer out there in the murky spires. If you have time to find it, that is.

I like the way people watching can become a certified skill; Old Street station on a weekend night hosts more vividly bedazzled birds of a feather than Bill Oddie could ever hope to see. I like how a wrong turn can mean unearthing some joyous architectural gem, or a fresh, green space, or a fairy-strung Love Actually paradise, like Exmouth Market. Most of all, I like the completely contrasting nights a weekend can bring. Only a few weeks ago I was gaily tearing off a pair of maroon jodphurs and flinging an oh-so ’90s camouflage jacket on top whilst bartering with a man resplendent in a wedding dress over a Russian fur hat whilst a sequinned bloke beat-boxed.

The aim of the game was Swap-a-rama, and the rules were simple. Turn up dressed in clothes you scraped from some dusty corner cupboard somewhere (or Oxfam’s bargain bin), and prepare to enter into an exchange more frantic than the Wall Street Stock market. Sponsored by vintage fashionista fave Beyond Retro, the smallish basement space of XYXO was liberally spread with clothes either dangling from washerwoman washlines or arranged on stage in an EVERYTHING-MUST-GO style. Even if you don’t own a single sartorial bone in your body, the sight of so many textiles, fabrics, shapes and styles would have made even Simon Cowell strip off his V-neck and reach for a sailor-girl playsuit. Or maybe not.

I came, a B*Witched cast-off in a silken yellow handkerchief dress, and left a top-heavy Serbian housewife via Dickensian London, resplendent in a tweed blazer covering a multitude of fashion sins I’d acquired during the night and locks locked down with a floral scarf. A word of advice? If you want to maximise swappage, try not to stick on the beer goggles too early. Thompson #2 departed the club in a whirl of tie-dye and “really comfy jeans I put on because I was TIRED”. Aforementioned jeans would not look out of place at a Texan line dance. For men.

If stripping down with complete strangers ain’t quite your bag, baby, how does the magic formula of felt-tip pens, numbered sheets and women holding lots of balls sound? It’s bingo, but not as we know it.

When Underground Rebel Bingo first started out a few years back, it held true to its maxims closer than it does now. No old people, no wankers, no boring people. Photos reeked with the glare of glitter and good times. When we rocked up nearly a month back for the “secret” event on South Bank (aka joining a queue stretching into King’s College Student Union), the event was far more freshers than precious. However, a few tumblers of toxic KCL cocktails later and we were soaking up a rowdy atmosphere and wielding Crayola with relish. Two rounds of bingo saw prizes roll off the stage of a calibre the Generation Game could only have dreamed of: a cuddly panda, a GINORMOUS sleeping bag snuggie thing, and my dream, a boombox-sized ipod speaker. Too bad I’d managed to scrumple up my sheet in a flurry of bingo madness.

Next on my list? This bad boy

About this song? To quote Enrique, (and myself, interminably) I LIKE IT.

© Miranda Thompson 2010.
DISCLAIMER: The video links hosted on my blog are not being presented as my own. If you believe that the copyright in your work has been violated through this post, please contact me through the blog


October 2, 2010

Chunky beats + slap-happy drums + kerazy keyboard plinks + velvety smooth vocal stylings = Bobby Brown. Ignore the heavy drug addiction, the spiralling, destructive relationship with Whitney and the sagging moobs – watch this and love.

Particular favourite arrives in the form of verse two and a vest/leggings combo Eric Prydz would give his left turntable to see in the gym.

P to the S – is Mike Tyson rivalling Seth Rogen for Americana comedic value or what?

© Miranda Thompson 2010.
DISCLAIMER: The video links hosted on my blog are not being presented as my own. If you believe that the copyright in your work has been violated through this post, please contact me through the blog