unseen: reggie yates in conversation

Just short of a year ago I set foot in the publishing world for the first time, visiting the glorious offices of Hachette UK at their Inside Story event. The atmosphere was amazing, and it was there that I realised publishing was definitely the right thing for me. I also met a lovely young lady named Megan on that day; we sat next to each other and got on pretty well, found each other on Facebook, and the rest, as they say, is history. We may only have met up a handful of times since then, but it feels as though we have been friends for years. We have been able to support each other in our mission to work in publishing, and a month or so ago we both made those first steps - she started her first 'proper' publishing job, and I started my MA in publishing. When the opportunity to attend a book event together came up, we couldn't say no - even if it was just to pretend like we were there as publishers. The book event in question was Reggie Yates in conversation with Clara Amfo about his new book, Unseen. It was hosted by Penguin Live at the absolutely beautiful Round Chapel in Hackney as part of Black History Month.

I have grown up with Reggie being a part of my life. He was on the telly when I was a kid (The Crust, anyone?), and I always loved listening to him on the radio. In recent years he has turned his hand to making documentaries. I wouldn't say that I'm a particularly big documentary watcher, but there is something about this man's programmes that draws me in and keeps me there. He has always felt like an incredibly genuine person to me and it's something that really comes across on screen - he deals with difficult subjects in a very sensitive way.

I don't really know what I was expecting from the evening, other than I knew it would be interesting. But hearing Reggie speak about his success, some of his most difficult experiences, and how being 'Mr Saturday Night' wasn't for him made me respect him so much more than I already did. He has this drive to do the best that he can, and I don't think that anyone will get in his way - he says he's only at number two on his ten-point-plan, which is pretty remarkable. You really get the sense that he puts his all into whatever he does, and that it can be draining at times, but he does it because he loves it and because he believes it is important. He does not make these programmes because he cares about himself, or his position - as he says, you don't make documentaries for the money - but because he feels these stories need to be shared.

I am sure that I could write for hours about the words that were said and the laughs that were had, but I will not do that to you. Instead I will just say thank you to Penguin Live for organising the event, Clara Amfo for conducting such a wonderful interview, and Reggie Yates for being so open and, to be quite frank, one of the loveliest people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting (yes, ten year old me - you better believe it). Oh, and one other thing: go and buy his book. You won't be disappointed.

nick mulvey at shepherd's bush empire

If there is one thing that I miss about my time in Birmingham it is the live music scene. More to the point, it's the fact that I never had to walk more than 20 minutes to get to a gig - something I always took for granted. At the start of my second year of uni, I saw Nick Mulvey play in what is still my favourite venue, Birmingham's Institute. Fast forward just short of three years and I'm in an entirely different venue (the still very beautiful Shepherd's Bush Empire) but feeling just as enchanted by this man's guitar playing as I was back in Brum. I may also add that I appreciate a Birmingham crowd much more than I do a London one. It's the old lady in me, I know, but London crowds have far less respect - a Nick Mulvey gig is not one where loud, drunken heckling is appreciated (though, to be fair, is it appreciated anywhere?) and his lack of acknowledgement to it was proof that he wasn't keen either.

Wake up Now is an album which definitely sees Mulvey develop musically. While First Mind was all about his incredible, layered guitar sounds, this album is a lot bigger - there was certainly a lot more dancing at this gig than there was the last time I saw him! He seems to find so much joy in performing, and you get the sense that it rubs off on the audience. It most definitely had that effect on me; I had the most wonderful evening and came away appreciating the new album a whole lot more.

    mental health matters


    The other day my doctor congratulated me on having the courage to pursue an entirely different career to the one in which I trained. That was a big deal to me. Just over a year ago I was not in a great place. I was struggling through my final year of uni and trying to work through in my head just exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I knew that, although, for the most part, I loved what I was doing, there was something about it which just wasn't quite right. I had never experienced the kind of thoughts and feelings which had surfaced at various points throughout my degree, and I decided that it was my choice of career which was taking its toll on my mental health. I was surviving, not thriving.

    I finally found another career path which excited me and spurred me on to complete my degree. Things immediately seemed to be going my way - I passed my degree and achieved the 2:2 which was going to give me a fighting chance when it came to applying for a masters, I was offered a job which I very much enjoy (and which has made me realise just how negative my previous work environment had been), visited a publishing house for a day, had an interview at my choice of university, got an offer from that university, received a scholarship offer from that university (do you get the picture yet?) All of these positive things made me feel about 95% sure that this was the right decision, but there was still that little thought in the back of my mind. But when my doctor sat there and told me that he sees so many people who are incredibly unhappy in their jobs and that, though it takes courage, making that decision is so incredibly important, I finally felt 100% certain that it was right. That affirmation that, yes, my mental wellbeing is a good enough reason to change my mind - it's my choice and only I can make the one that's right for me. 

    I wanted to share these thoughts because it's mental health awareness week. I know that my story pales in comparison to many others, but every struggle, no matter how small, needs to be talked about. I didn't speak to many people about the days when I didn't want to get out of bed, or my chest was so tight it felt as though someone was standing on me. I didn't know what it was or how to deal with it. But those who I did tell helped me to understand it and get through it, and that's why it is so incredibly important to talk. Mental health matters.