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Lifestyle and Interviews

Interview With Manchester’s ‘Bee Love’ and ‘#WeStandTogether’ Artist Amy Coney

July 3, 2017

In the aftermath of the tragic events at Manchester Arena, like everyone within the local community, Artist Amy Coney just wanted to help. The horrendous attack had taken place just minutes from her house.

The very next morning Amy did what knew best: she picked up a paintbrush and started to create a giant worker-bee mural in central Manchester a symbol of the city’s hard-working past, during the Industrial Revolution. When I saw the photo of Amy and her friend hugging in front of the painting I cried. It really conveyed the grief of the community and how everyone was trying their best to support each other in the aftermath.

Amy didn’t stop there. In a bid to help raise money for the victims and their families she set up a collaboration with poet Tony Walsh who delivered the now iconic poem entitled ’This Is The Place’ at the official vigil outside Manchester Town Hall. This piece is called ‘Bee Love’ and has captured the hearts of musicians across the world including Elbow, the 1975 and George Ezra who have flocked to sign her canvas in support. In this interview I catch up with Amy about the process.

You created your beautifully moving street art piece #WeStandTogether featuring Manchester’s worker bee the morning after Manchester’s tragic bomb, can you tell us what you were thinking when you picked up your paintbrush and set out on that journey?

Two of my friends at Social Chain contacted me that morning with the idea that they wanted to do a mural, something positive in reaction to the heartbreak. I jumped at the suggestion having spent the last 12 hours mainly pacing and feeling helpless as we watched everything unfold on the news and Twitter.

A few phone calls to Outhouse MCR (they provided the wall) and by 1pm we were painting. Social Chain’s team helped me with the base and I managed to get most of the detail finished before running off to the vigil at Albert’s Square, I then came back to do final touches a day later.

The whole thing was quite surreal and adrenaline-filled, feeling the most intense need to do something as well as be around people. There was comfort in the comradery of creating something positive publicly – something for others, not just ourselves, something unifying. The #WeStandTogether was and is a powerful message and so relevant. When I put the brushes down and paused to see what we’d created, all of the emotion that had been numbed in the shock came over me like a wave. Sad and grateful tears all at once.

The Charlatans with Amy as they sign Bee Love

What has the reaction to your street-art piece been from the local community in Manchester?

Whilst painting several people gave their appreciation, including many from offices whose windows overlooked the piece. The lovely people at BooHoo actually gave us a round of applause from their window when we finished on the day which was incredible.

From then there has been so much positive feedback especially on social media – people are still photographing it and leaving the loveliest comments.

You are working on another Manchester Bee piece featuring the words of ‘Longfella’ Tony Walsh’s inspirational ode to Manchester at terror attack vigil. Tell us a little more about this project and how people can get involved.

Bee Love is a giant worker bee painting with the words from Tony Walsh’s famous poem entitled ’This Is The Place’ written in the wings with all proceeds going to the We Love Manchester Emergency Fund and Forever Manchester.

The canvas has been signed by a number of celebrities baking the cause including Elbow, the 1975, George Ezra and Jonny Marr. The auction will be resuming on the 1st August after we’ve gained more signatures. Prints will be available shortly. If people want to donate or purchase a print they can, alternatively people can help make noise by sharing it on social and telling as many people about it as possible.

Johnny Marr is one of the many musicians that have signed Bee Love

In what way did the words of the poem influence your piece?

I listened to the poem every day following the attack, there was something comforting about it, powerful, raw and strong. Tony’s poems are fantastic, but this one resonated with everyone, and it was also his delivery that made it so and his ability to stand in front of that crowd at a time when not many could have done the same. It gave a lot of people strength. It is Manchester.

‘Some born here, some drawn here, but all call it home.’ I was drawn here and this is my home.

 Art has always been your passion and you have turned this dream into your career. What advice would you give to other people that want to follow in your footsteps?

Keep persisting, and surround yourself with people that support you. Work with others that are better than you and listen to them, they speak from experience, be appreciative of their time and don’t undervalue your own. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there or fail, you can always go back to your office job but what a waste if you never tried. Enjoy learning.

For those of you that are new to LedByLucy you may want to have a nosy at the People and Projects section of my blog where I regularly feature interviews with inspirational women working within the creative field. You may also like the Travel and Places section.

Lifestyle and Interviews

INTERVIEW WITH MATT HENRY FROM KINKY BOOTS

May 8, 2016

DSC00183Cyndi Lauper, sequins, drag, dancing, a little bit of cheese and a lot of sass. Watching Kinky Boots is like attending a kitch-tastic party, by the end of the night the whole audience is up out of their seats, singing and dancing. But at the heart of this musical is a poignant message: you can change the world if you change your mind.

After watching the show at The Adelphi London, I caught up with Matt Henry who stars as Lola. 

Life lessons are one of the main themes in Kinky Boots. What have you personally learned from your experience of performing as Lola?
I have personally learnt to listen more. Its so easy to run away with your own opinions and point of view that you don’t really listen to what people are really saying.

This production features some fabulous drag queens and you all seem like absolute pros, dancing in those killer heels takes serious skill. Have you and the Angels all performed in drag before or is this your first time?
This is my first time performing in drag. I know that Luke Jackson one of my angels was in the original production of Pricilla Queen of the Desert.

Matt Henry (Lola) and Angels in Kinky Boots - photo Matt Crockett

The cast seem like a hoot, once you’ve sang your heart out and slipped in and out of those infamous sequined outfits umpteen times do you all get a chance to celebrate and party together offstage?
We are such a close cast and have such a great time working together. So any excuse to throw an after work social get together is always welcomed.

Your performance as Lola in Kinky Boots was fabulous. It must require an immense amount of self-discipline to maintain such high standards. What is your typical day like?
Typical day –
Vocal rest until 3pm
Eating healthy-  small and often (due to corseted costumes)
Gym -Weight training or Pilates
Massage

What advice would you give to other people with big dreams and ambitions?
It’s your dream so build it yourself. Stay focused. It’s not always going to be easy but learn and grow from every experience negative and positive experience and don’t give up. Nothing happens before its time.

To book tickets to watch the show visit the website here.
Photo Credit: On stage image taken by Matt Crocket, other by me
Lifestyle and Interviews

INTERVIEW WITH ASHLEIGH GRAY, WICKED’S LEADING LADY

June 29, 2015

LedByLucy-Wicked UK-Ashleigh-Gray (3)

LedByLucy-Wicked-Lowry

At The Lowry Theater on my way to watch Wicked

Ashleigh Gray, a graduate fresh out of drama school, once sat wide eyed in the audience of Wicked, then turned to her friend and said “I have to play that role.” Of course she meant Elphaba. A dream that many budding young starlets undoubtedly share. But for Ashleigh, this dream really did come true.
I saw a quote recently that said “everyone wants to be successful, until they see what it actually takes”, it was superimposed onto a photograph of a ballerina’s battered and blue toes. A sight that is usually hidden by silk ballet shoes.
Wicked’s emerald green Elphaba is one of the West End’s most renowned and coveted roles.
The leading lady Ashleigh now blasts out the famous, unwavering notes from Wicked eight times a week, making each performance seem like the first.
I wondered what a day in her ruby slippers is really like and how she overcame the challenges along the journey to becoming Elphaba.
I caught up with Ashleigh after watching her performance at The Lowry to find out more.

LedByLucy-Wicked UK-Ashleigh-Gray (13)

Have you always wanted to become an actress?

For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to perform. It started with singing really, I was always found singing around the house or the playground as a child. I guess the natural progression was to get involved with amateur dramatics and then go on to train professionally! I feel very lucky to be an actor. It’s not many people that can say they love their job!

Show business is an industry that many people dream of working in but only a small minority actually reach success. How did you keep yourself inspired and motivated to reach your goals?

I’ve been so lucky that throughout my own personal journey, I’ve had wonderful people around me, spurring me on and encouraging me, especially through the tough times. Be it Music Teachers, Directors or my own family, I’m so grateful to everyone who has helped me get where I am now. I do it for them, just as much as I do it for myself! I’m so passionate about this industry and I think that’s what’s kept me going all these years! I just don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t a part of it!

What is your favourite part of the job?

Meeting audiences who’ve been touched or moved by our performances. There’s nothing better than live theatre! A live audience will have no hesitation in telling you just how much they are enjoying or not enjoying a performance! And as an actor you can absolutely learn from that. I am forever learning and evolving, not only as a performer but also as a person thanks to the nature of my job! Luckily, Wicked seems to reach out to people in such a positive manner that the reaction is always one of love.

Your performance as Elphaba at Wicked was spectacular and incredibly intense. I read that you perform eight times a week when you are on tour which is unbelievable. It must require an immense amount of self-discipline to maintain such high standards. How do you achieve this?

It does take a lot and especially on tour. Being out of your own comfort zone and away from your usual support network of friends and family can be very difficult! I count myself very lucky that I have such an amazing ‘tour family’ around me. We get each other through! But I also have to look after myself. I eat well, sleep a lot and work out everyday to try and keep up the stamina requires, both physically and emotionally, for playing this wonderful gift of a role 8 times a week!

What is your typical day like when you are on tour? Have you managed to see some of the sights of Manchester?

I’m lucky that I’ve toured here several ones before and Manchester is such a great city! With only having Sundays off, time is a bit limited and I spend most of my weekdays either swimming or doing a bit of yoga or just relaxing and recovering ahead of the show. Saying that, I took a trip into town this weekend, did a bit of shopping, had some wonderful food at Artisan and took in the Makers Market at Spinningfields, it was delightful! I look forward to getting in again and seeing more of what the place has to offer.

What is your favourite quote from Wicked?

“Everyone deserves the chance to fly!”

I think it’s so true – and not only in the literal sense we use in the show. I firmly believe that everyone should have a chance to shine in life and never be brought down by anyone else! If your head and your heart are flying high, happiness won’t be far behind! And happiness is the key…..to everything!

From now until the 25th July 2015, you can catch the spellbinding performance at The Lowry for the last leg of its UK tour. Visit The Lowry website to find out more about the show or book tickets.

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