Monthly Archives: May 2012

Brills, Skills, Thrills: the LIPS edition

So, this is an entirely self-indulgent post. How is that different from my usual posts, you rightly ask? Not at all, except this is something I’m actually involved in, rather than just what i reckon about something. The choir of which I am a very proud member, LIPS, performed at the Union Chapel this Sunday gone, and it was Brills, Thrills and Skills all wrapped into one.

If I haven’t bored you to tears about LIPS Choir before, or forced you to come to one of our concerts, here’s the low-down:

LIPS is an all-woman pop choir based in Islington. Formed in summer 2009, the choir has now boomed to over 70 members. We rehearse every week, with a wide repertoire ranging from girl-pop of the 40s, 50s and 60s, to iconic dance and disco tracks, ballads, rock anthems plus the greatest old-school soul and nu-skool R&B numbers.

It’s difficult to write anything other than strings of gushing adjectives about how much i love this choir and the 70-odd extraordinary women that make up its numbers. But for fear of bursting into sentimental tears in the middle of the office, I shall attempt it.*

In the three or so years since I’ve been in the choir, it’s grown from 20 women doing a little concert in an upstairs room in Camden in December 2009, to 70 women performing in front of 700-strong audience at the iconic Union Chapel (with a lot of rehearsals and raucous “socials” in between). To have performed on the same stage as my icons, such as Bjork and Bruce Springsteen, is quite something, and it’s only sunk in after the event. Still, it’s probably a night  I’ll retell long into my dotage…

To hear LIPSters talking humbly in the run-up to the concert, every time we nailed a rehearsal or someone revealed a new skill, you would think that this all happened by accident. But the enormous amount of effort, skill, vision, support and talent that has gone into LIPS’ growth, which is often invisible to audiences, tells another story.

The lovely Shauna from choir has done a blog post about how supportive LIPS is, and I think its testament to the feminist founding tenets of the choir, that it is such an empowering and supportive place, rather than descending into the bitch-fest that sexism expects when women get together. But this is no fluffy hugs-and-cupcakes environment (although that totally happens. With booze and fags. And dancing. Maybe some shouting). This is real women, not the kind you see on the telly or in films, and this is women at their very best, I think. That’s something we seem to communicate at our concerts, and from the many reports of tears at our rendition of “You Don’t Own Me”, it seems to work!

For me, no matter how tired or stroppy I am (which by Thursday evening, is usually the case), choir practice always lifts my spirits, and I know there are many other women in the choir who think of it as a sanctuary or a confidence boost. I’ve been lucky enough to get to know some world-class women there, and together, the LIPSters are a force of nature.

I look forward to LIPS taking over the world, or just getting barred from some more London hostelries.

*too late. sentimental tears a-go-go

Photo by Amy Harris-Sandstrom

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Stamp of approval

Now that writing letters is rather vieux chapeau (no matter what hipster revivalists tell you), post has lost some of its charm. None of its utility though – I feel like I get more post than ever, thanks to Mr Internet. Not that the endless postal spam I get from various banks or piles of battered brown boxes from online shopping aren’t charming, that is. But they rather lack the excitement offered by a beautiful bit of stationery or immaculately wrapped box (the online retailers really need to up their game on this) arriving at the door. Or, more likely, the receptionist’s desk at work.

So, i think it’s nice that in the midst of this Britishness overload going on right now, the Royal Mail is focusing on what’s really important with a set of fashion stamps depicting the great work of our talented and stylish Britons. The iconic pieces (as in actual design icons, rather than “iconic” in the lazy PR sense) have been photographed by Sølve Sundbø, and represent the fashion that’s built the country’s reputation for skill and cray-cray. Designers include dear Aunt Viv’s garish tartans, Paul Smith and Tommy Nutter’s super-sharp suits, refinement from Hardy Amies and Norman Hartnell, as well as the oft-forgotten Jean Muir, and the unforgettable McQueen.

Shopping without looking

For a former fashion gal, and seasoned international shopper, I don’t actually like shopping that much. Contrary to the sexist female tropes, I don’t find any great liberation or inspiration from trawling around the shops (however, I reserve the right to still love chick flick shopping montages, Pretty Woman being the zenith, of course)

However, I do like buying stuff, which is different. That’s why I’m so into the idea of subscription retail. It’s all over the trendsphere (yes, that’s a thing). So far, the product offers seem to be highly gendered  (deodorant or razor subscriptions for men and knickers and beauty products for women) or very dull things (loo roll and cleaning products). This ad for Dollar Shave Club, however, is aces:

Anyway, I would like things that I purchase regularly, or things you can never get hold of them when you need them, delivered to my door. Including, but not limited to:

  • Shu Uemura cleansing oil
  • MAC lipstick
  • Fizzy sweets
  • Whatever not-horrid shampoo and conditioner are on spesh in Boots
  • “Extra Bits” orange juice, salted butter, artisan bread
  • Cheap white Ts
  • What’s Love Got To Do With It on DVD
  • The latest conceptual/unflattering navy Cos dress

Wouldn’t that be brill, to have that delivered to me the minute the last one reached the end of its useful life. There’s all sorts of tech that can apparently do that for you. As long as I’ve been a trendster, there hasn’t been a year without the launch of a “revolutionary” new fridge which senses its contents and orders replacements when they’ve run out. Still, people’s fridges seem to have gone un-revolutionised. I suspect they don’t work, but whatevs.

And of course, all the clever algorithms employed by Google, Amazon et al supposedly learn what you like, while the heavy behavioural trail we leave with every online purchase should give companies enough information to know when we’re ready for more stuff, and what stuff we want. And the systems have got cleverer in some ways, while still being dumbass in others – like the Target data analysis which could work out whether a woman was pregnant from her purchasing patterns (clever) and then telling the world by sending her targeted mama-marketing (dumbass).

But, could a subscription service do something cleverer? For example, could Boots send me the on-spesh stuff without me having to trawl the shelves, or, you know, choose something specific? Or could Sainsbury’s online grocery service sense when I’m bored of ordering “My Usuals” (like now) and send me some new inspiration, based on my Gojee browsing or whatever annoying cookery show I’ve been watching? Surely my Sky+ algorithm should be able to talk to my online shopping data trail?

Obvs, if this actually happened, I would pretty much have no reason to leave my house, of which I am always in danger. Or if I invent it, I could be a millionaire. That sounds like effort, though…