Friday, 19 September 2014

Mega Roller Disco Cheltenham

Last weekend I went to Mega Roller Disco at the Town Hall with Cheltenham with some friends. This is a brand I created around two years ago, before selling it on to an event company, before going travelling. It was great to go to an MRD event that I wasn't working at and to check it out at it's relatively new home, as it was previously held at leisure@cheltenham.

Myself, Emily, Mark and Peter at Mega Roller Disco in Cheltenham

It was great to see that my friend Stefan who manages the events has continued taking the events from strength to strength and it worked so well having a bar open for the adult session. This gave customers a nice space to go and chill out between doing a few laps on their skates and encouraged people to stay for the whole session.

Mega Roller Disco also run a family session earlier in the day and run these events regularly throughout the year. You can find out more by visiting their website here, where you can also enquire about booking MRD for a private event, including schools, music festivals and birthday parties. 

I've uploaded a brief video above, to prove that I've progressed from clutching to walls, which I'm pretty pleased about! I'm in the purple t-shirt. When I ran the events, I barely skated at all, so it was nice to give it a proper go. I woke up the next day aching a lot though, as I did fall over quite a lot! I kept the wrist protection that was provided along with the skate hire on all night, and was surprised to see many people choosing not to wear it. Safety first, people!
My roller girl Emily at Mega Roller Disco

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Stefan's birthday in London

To celebrate our friend Stefan's birthday, my girlfriend Emily and I returned to London to stay with him and his fiance Jemma. I wrote a short blog post about our last visit here, which was just three-weeks ago. Jemma had planned a few surprises for Stefan for the day, including the fact that Emily and I would be visiting, had I not put my foot in it and inadvertently told him a few days before!

We headed towards the London Eye, where we boarded a Thames Clipper boat. We enjoyed a pleasant journey down the Thames towards Greenwich, spotting lots of famous landmarks on the way. When we got to Greenwich, it was just a short walk to the Emirates Air-Line cable car, which I was really excited about! It reminded me of being back in a ski-resort and this particular cable car was very similar to the Medran in Verbier, Switzerland, where we worked for five weeks, finishing earlier this year. The views of the area were great and it was quite surreal floating so high above the bustling area. 

Cable car selfie!

We were in the area during the Royal Greenwich Tall Ships Festival, which seemed very popular, with tons of people enjoying various entertainment. It was very well organised, with lots of stewards ensuring a good flow of people, including on the DLR, which was particularly well managed. We were a bit short of time by this point, but we did get to have a quick peek at the Cutty Sark, which looks very impressive in it's permanent location, on dry land. We also all had quick and tasty street food from Greenwich Market, which I'd highly recommend.

Cutty Sark

Later in the evening we headed back out, towards Shoreditch, which we had visited by day recently. We'd visited the area previously to check out The Cornershop - an art project where the entire contents of the shop are made of felt. You can read more about that here. Our first evening destination was Happiness Forgets; a small bar in a basement in Hoxton Square. Stefan has heard about this when it kept cropping up as highly rated, when he was researching good cocktail bars in London. They have a delicious menu of fancy cocktails, that don't have a ridiculous price tag. I went for the Tokyo Collins, which mixed Beefeater Gin with Yuzu Sake, along with squeezed lemon, grapefruit and soda. It was beautifully presented and tasted delicious and refreshing! 

There was a Bill's restaurant a few doors down, which we discovered for the first time on a day trip to Brighton in July, which I wrote about here. Having had the best breakfast of my life on my last visit to a Bill's, I had high hopes for my halloumi and humous burger, with guacamole and skinny fries - and it didn't disappoint! It was top notch food, with great service and really reasonably priced too. My carnivorous friends enjoyed a half roast chicken, steak and grilled sea bream, along with various tasty trimmings and all three of them thoroughly enjoyed their meals too. All was washed down with a very tasty house white wine and some generous portions of eton mess!

Shoreditch street art at the Red Market venue

More Red Market street art in Shoreditch

On the short walk from Old Street station to the cocktail bar earlier in the evening, we had spotted a cool looking venue called Red Market. We popped in for a drink on the way home and really loved the layout and atmosphere of the place. The venue is a converted car park place, along with some marquees and stylish decor, along with some great street art on both permanent brick and temporary wooden walls. The market element is a collection of street-food stalls around the edge, offering lots of well-priced and tasty looking food, to enjoy with surprisingly good value drinks. There was plenty of seating, good music and a really relaxed atmosphere. The venue shuts at around 11pm, but it's a great place to start a big club night or end a more chilled out night like ours!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Creamfields 2014

A couple of weeks ago, I went to my fifth consecutive Creamfields, over the August bank holiday weekend. Creamfields is a huge dance music festival, on an estate in Daresbury, not too far from Liverpool. This was my fourth year managing the Headphone Disco on the Friday night at the festival, this year overseeing the distribution of 15,000 headsets over three arenas, with a large crew of hardworking headphone distributors. 

Every year the weather seems to take a turn for the worst about a week before, and this year was no different! Thankfully the terrible weather forecast got quite a lot better as the festival approached and we were only rained on a little bit this year. Two years ago the festival was badly flooded, which I wrote about here. Since then, the organisers have invested a lot of time and money into helping prepare the site for bad weather, including extensive drainage systems.

After a busy afternoon of sound checks after arriving on Thursday, there was a beautiful sunset over the site, which seemed like a good sign for a great weekend of weather, work and fun ahead! 

Sunset over the Daresbury Estate

The World's Biggest Headphone Disco ran very smoothly once again, with my team of 75 ensuring everything went off without any issues. Despite still being the World's Biggest Headphone Disco, this year was smaller than last year's phenomenal show, with 25,000 headsets, which you can read about here.

This year, acts including Riva Starr, MJ Cole and Danny Avila entertained the crowds in the silent disco tents, with a great selection of house DJs entertaining festival-goers in the rather more chilled out Cream Hospitality VIP area. You can view an official Creamfields video about the 2014 silent disco arenas below.

The World's Biggest Headphone Disco at Creamfields

My girlfriend Emily and I were due to work again at a VIP after party on the Sunday night, handing out headphones to guests when the DJs switched from amplified after the noise curfew at 11pm. We spent most of Saturday and Sunday enjoying the excellent line up of dance music across the site. and were lucky enough to meet a few incredible artists too. These included Dubstep pioneer Skream, who I had met previously at Dakota Nightclub in Cheltenham, where I used to work. We also saw two thirds of Swedish House Mafia backstage and I was pretty excited to get a photo with Axwell! 

It was also great to catch up with MC Dread, who I haven't seen for a long time, who is currently working exclusively alongside Redlight. He used to live in Cheltenham and was a regular at Bassix and That Thing club nights at Dakota. He's a great guy and it's awesome to see him doing so well. 

Bumped into Skream backstage

Axwell before he performed on the Departures stage

Since discovering them a couple of years ago, Emily and I have become pretty big fans of Above & Beyond. I met them last year after their set and bettered that this year, when we were invited to enjoy their set from the side of the stage, along with some of their guests. Above & Beyond released an absolutely incredible Acoustic album earlier this year, which I've played to death. I wrote a short blog post about this album here. It was such a privilege to hear samples of this album from the side of the stage, whilst they performed to an estimated 8,000 fans!

Emily and I watching Above & Beyond from the side of stage

After a long drive back and unloading of the van, Creamfields was over for another year, other than the small matter of taking the batteries out of 15,000 pairs of headphones! I'm already looking forward to Creamfields next year - always one of my favourite festivals of the season. 

King of headphones!

Benny Bear's Stag Do

Having recently been asked by my good friend Stefan to be his best man, it's got me thinking about ideas for his stag party next year. This reminded me that I've been meaning to write a blog post about my friend Ben's stag party from back in May for quite a while...

I'd only just got back from a few months of travelling, arriving back in time especially for the stag party and the wedding, at which I was an usher. We decided to head to Cardiff, as this was a reasonably central place for all of us to meet, travelling from Southampton, Swansea and Birmingham. We'd also heard that the nightlife is in Cardiff is pretty decent.

Buggy racing

Best man Stew booked the stag do through an events company called Chilli Sauce. They booked an activity day with a choice of two activities, a pool table session, guest list for various bars and clubs in Cardiff and hotel rooms, all for a fixed fee of around £120 per person. When we worked out how much all the things would cost individually, this seemed like good value. 

I was impressed with the Chilli Sauce online system, which allowed each of the guests to be able to log in to pay their deposit and balance for the stag do. Overall the Chill Sauce experience was pretty good, although they did manage to mix things up, so that the activity centre ended up being in Bristol! Luckily Ben and Stew were able to arrange a minibus at fairly late notice and find a willing driver, so it all worked out fine.

Ben shooting clays

The name of the Bristol-based activity centre escapes me, but we had a fun afternoon buggy racing around a dirt track and clay pigeon shooting, which were the two activities we chose. We raced in pairs around the dirt track, with the last circuit being timed. We all got roughly the same time, other than our friend Jon who simply couldn't get to grips with the buggy at all, with his final time being nearly three times longer than the fastest person! In his defence, he hasn't passed his driving test yet, but I fear for the safety of the general public if he ever does! Ben was by far the most accurate person at clay pigeon shooting, smashing far more of the clays than anyone else. We let him win, as it was his stag do, or at least we told him that!

Benny bear!

It's customary to try and humiliate the stag at their stag do, but I think we were pretty tame with Ben. He looks a bit like a big cuddly bear in real life, so it seemed fitting that we give him a nice fluffy bear suit to wear for our meal and drinks out in the evening! We gave him a 'free bear hugs' sign to wear and a glass honey jar to carry, for people to give drinks to him in. Ben needed no encouragement [at least, not after a few drinks], with taking on his tasks, which included getting at least 30 people to give him a big bear hug, which he surpassed within the first hour! 

We were in taxis on the way to the pool club in the evening, when the driver mentioned that the club was in a bit of a rough area and "things kick off a bit in there quite often". Not really what we wanted to hear as we paraded into the venue with a stag dressed in a big fluffy bear suit! Thankfully there was no sign of any trouble and we had a good few games of pool. Seeing Ben looking daft took some getting used to and made me chuckle everytime I turned round to see him standing there with a big beaming smile and a pint of beer!

We had a tasty meal at Zizzi's, where they kindly gave us a free round of Sambucca. We all instinctively poured our shots into Ben's honey jar, which definitely sent him on his merry way, if he wasn't there already! We headed into the town centre after the meal, where Ben got lots more attention and we drank long into the night. 

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Ghostbusters Lego

As a thank you gift for being an usher at Sarah and Max's wedding last weekend, they got me this amazing Lego Ghostbusters set. There were two best men, one of whom was given a Lego Star Wars Millenium Falcon and the other a Lego Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter. You can tell you've got great groomsmen when all of three of them appreciate Lego as a gift! 

Lego was a bit of a running theme on the wedding day, with a Lego band on the Pyramid Stage [top table] and a letter E painted with a Lego design on the Lovefest sign. See more here

I was keen to construct the set before going away for the next month, so stayed up late putting it together with the detailed instruction book. After opening all the packets, I realised that it probably wasn't the best idea to start constructing it at 11.30pm at night, but I didn't let that put me off! 

The whole set is super detailed and the Ghostbusters Minifigures themselves bear a great resemblance to the characters! I hadn't yet put them on them, in the photo below, but they also have proton packs that go on their backs, along with radios and other accessories. The attention to detail on the Ectomobile is brilliant and I can't wait to put this set on display, alongside my ever-growing collection of Lego Minifigures!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Lovefest Wedding Extravaganza

My little sister Sarah got married to the very awesome Max last weekend. I normally try and keep my blog posts fairly short and to-the-point, but no amount of words and photos will do justice to how incredible the whole day was, so this one may go on a bit, in my quest to show how lovely the day was! It was really hard choosing photos to help show different aspects of the day, as there were simply so many photos and so many memories to choose from! 

Sarah and Max wanted to have a festival-themed wedding, with every aspect planned by themselves.  They booked Woodmill Outdoor Activities Centre on Woodmill Lane in Southampton, where a wedding hadn't been hosted before. This was a perfect setting, as it was local for many of the guests, and was an ideal blank canvas. The centre already had toilets, a kitchen and power available from a lodge-style classroom in the grounds of the venue which was a great bonus. The planning included sourcing their own bar, alcohol, staff, marquee, furniture ...basically everything!

Months and weeks leading up to the event, Sarah and Max planned every detail and bought literally a whole room of their house [and then some] worth of stuff to create the wedding and to decorate it beautifully. The week of the wedding involved lots of collecting things and last minute planning. The day before the wedding is when it all came together. A small army of their friends and family pitched in, in different ways, to help create the wedding that Sarah and Max had dreamed about for so long. It was a very long day and everyone worked very hard. It was all worthwhile to see the Lovefest Wedding Extravaganza take shape and what an amazing result it was!

Daddy Kinnersley walking Sarah up the aisle

After a busy day of setting up, Max and I stayed at our friend Tom's house, along with Nick who had arrived from Guernsey for the wedding. Tom is a chef and made us an incredible breakfast of eggs mixed with cream, jalapeno peppers and spinach [dubbed 'Dragon eggs'], which is such a tasty start to the day! I had the absolute pleasure of being an usher for the wedding. As I finished getting my smart suit on, the two best men  - Steve and Jake - arrived in their matching posh outfits. We headed to the reception venue for one final check and then on to the church.

Meanwhile Sarah and her two bridesmaids Alice and my lovely girlfriend Emily were getting ready at Sarah and Max's houses, along with their housemates and my Mum and Dad. I popped in to grab some stuff on the way [keeping Max well out of the way, of course] and the house was literally a girly glitter bomb of make up, hair stuff and general girly weddingness! 

Sarah kept Max in suspense by arriving late [she forgot her bouquet!] but the wait was worth it as she arrived looking lovely and in style in a VW Campervan. The amazing camper van belongs to friends of friends Amy and Steve, who had only that morning got back from a three-week campervan holiday around Ireland. Their ferry had been cancelled, thus the later than planned arrival that morning. Owners Ash and Katie really pulled out all the stops to make sure they arrived on time, with their very sparkly vehicle! Much appreciation from many people, especially the happy couple, for all their efforts.

Helping my sister out of the Campervan and into the church

As everyone arrived at the church, I gave them an order of service and a kazoo. "A kazoo?!" I hear you cry!? Sarah and Max wanted to set the tone for the fun times ahead for the rest of the day, with the first 'hymn' of the service being All You Need Is Love by The Beatles, with added kazoo from the congregation in the relevant parts. The band you can hear in the background are friends of the happy couple: Alice [also maid of honour] on bass, Phil on cajon and James on guitar. Check out a short video of this below!

Mr and Mrs Dragon being showered with confetti!

After the ceremony and after lots of throwing of confetti and congratulatory hugs, we all quickly walked around the corner to the venue, which is conveniently a less than ten-minute stroll away. This is the first glimpse that most people had of all the hard work that many people had put in, and you could tell that people were really impressed! The newlyweds had ordered printed festival wristbands for Lovefest, which everyone was given as they walked in to the 'festival' entrance.

Lovefest wristbands

Sarah and Max had asked eight different friends or couples to paint a letter each, spelling out Lovefest. This was the main focal point as you walked in and was an ideal backdrop for many wedding photos. Emily and I painted the second Christmas-E [get it?!] which also had fairy lights all the way around it, to make it look even tackier as it got darker in the evening!

After everyone had a chance to check out the surroundings, it was time for lots of wedding photos with different combinations of friends and family [and with the amazing camper van!]  Below is a photo of my family, who don't get together as often as I'd like. It really was very lovely to all be together celebrating such a wonderful occasion.

My family

Sarah and Max with Bluebell the VW Campervan

Me and my very beautiful girl

After the photos were done, it was time to sit down in the marquee, which has been beautifully decorated. All of the guests were assigned a stage/table to sit at, which were named after Glastonbury Festival stages. The top table was the Pyramid Stage. Each of the stage decorations you see below were handmade by Sarah. I love the Lego band on the Pyramid Stage, and this had fairy lights around it too!

The wedding meal was a delicious BBQ, cooked and served by a local butcher shop. Everyone said the burgers and sausages were delicious, and my veggie alternatives were top notch too! A little later in the afternoon the pudding arrived, in the form of an ice cream van playing it's merry tune, as it parked up next to the marquee! This was a surprise to most of the guests and you could tell people really enjoyed the novelty of eating ice cream cones or oysters next to an ice cream van at a wedding! This was a really fun and nice touch by Sarah and Max.

After the meal it was time for speeches. My dad, the father of the bride, was up first. He did a very different take on his speech, telling a fairytale style story about a handsome prince called Max from Totton, looking for his princess from Swaythling! Hard to explain it if you weren't there, but it was great and really made people smile. Sarah and Max followed, with a joint speech, which they wanted to dedicate to thanking their friends and family for being generally awesome! It was really lovely and thoughtful and I'm sure lots of people will remember it for a very long time. The best men both did excellent speeches, both very different. All in all it was a full house of successful speeches!

My friend Stefan recently proposed to the lovely Jemma and they are planning their wedding next year. Stefan asked me to be his best man during the afternoon, which I am very proud and delighted to do. I'm going to start planning my speech now, as I have so much to fit in and I want to get it just right!

Space hopper race - two pairs of newlyweds!

Space hopper races - kids category!

Mixed age sack races

During the afternoon it was time for the Lovefest Sports Day, with space hopper races and sack races. Sarah had asked me to compere the races and it was fun commentating and encouraging people to take part. We did lots of races, both forwards and backwards and with different combinations of younger and older competitors. It was such a fun way to spend the afternoon and there are so many funny photos of different people that we spent ages laughing at afterwards! The rest of the afternoon was spent putting tents up [for those camping the night at the venue] and getting to know new people or catching up with old friends.

After most of the evening guests arrived, it was time for the happy couple to cut the topsy-turvy cake that my Mum's friend Kim had made. It looked great and tasted fantastic, with each layer baked a different flavour, including fruit, coffee, carrot and chocolate. I really love this photo below of Sarah and Max cutting the cake and being photobombed by my nephew who is licking his lips at the cake!

The happy couple cutting the topsy-turvy cake

After the cutting of the cake, it was time for the first dance. This was I Can't Help Falling In Love With You by Elvis. I've never seen so many other couple join in the first dance, which was really lovely.

After the first dance, it was time for the first band of the evening to do their first set. This band was Thrill Collins, who I've known for a long time, also being from Cheltenham. They play skiffle version of 80s, 90s and 00s pop covers and always have the crowd on their feet and singing away within seconds of starting! They are an absolutely ideal wedding band and it was great to see so many people who haven't seen them before enjoying them so much. 

As Thrill Collins started playing Time Of My Life from Dirty Dancing, they encouraged everyone to attempt 'the lift'. I decided it would be a great idea to get lots of people to lift Sarah over their heads, which turned into both Sarah and Max dancing on the shoulders of two very tall wedding guests [one being best man Steve and the other Jason, who Max randomly met at Reading Festival many years ago!] Check out the photo below of the shoulder-dancing fun.

Sarah and Max had planned wedding shots at the bar into their itinerary. With a completely free bar provided by Sarah and Max for the guests, most people were pretty well boozed already, before it was even DESIGNATED TEQUILA TIME!

Thrill Collins playing their first set of the evening

Shoulder dancing!

The wedding photographers were Emily's cousin Charlotte and her boyfriend Phil, who run a fantastic and professional photography company called Electric Blue. They set up a photo booth in the evening, where you could put on lots of silly hats and accessories for photos. This was set up quite differently to other photo booths I've seen, with a backdrop and professional lighting set up, but not in an enclosed space. This worked so well, as people could watch others having their photo taken, so it was much more fun and interactive than piling into a small box for photos. The turnaround on these photo booth photos was very quick, and I've posted a silly photo of me and my dad below. The rest of the photos from the day will take a little longer to be ready and I can't wait to see them all! 

The second band of the evening was a three-piece rock covers band called Stone Free. The bassist is Max's cousin Mario, who was a really pleasant chap to talk to, having met him for the first time earlier in the day. The evening entertainment ended with most of the guys wearing their ties around their head and Sarah and Max being absolute rock stars, singing along to Run To The Hills by Iron Maiden with the band!

As the band finished, Sarah announced that it was time to head to the campfire area to round off a perfect day. There were dozens of jam jars with candles in them lining the route to the camp fire area, which was deep in some woods at the venue. A few different people, including Phil and James who played at the church at the start of the day, played lots of covers which everyone sang to. Emily and I were pretty excited that James knew how to play Let It Go from Frozen!

As I said at the beginning of this post, it's so difficult to demonstrate what an amazing day we had celebrating the wedding of Sarah and Max, but I hope you get a bit of an idea of how great it was. 

Seeing them both so happy together and seeing the day they planned go so well made me an incredibly proud brother. The celebrations really reflected their fun and loving personalities and it was a real privilege to be such a big part of their special day. I will be remembering their wedding for many years to come and I'm sure I'll be telling people all about it forevermore! 

Congratulations Mr and Mrs Dragon :)