A couple nights ago, I took to the stage at Raconteurs, a live storytelling/spoken word event here in Toronto. Many of you will remember when I performed at Spark London in the UK two or three times. Since then, I developed a taste for live storytelling, probably because it feeds into my need to be a ham, and talk about myself. Womp womp.
Last month, I performed at The Moth in New York City. That experience was probably the most exhilaration storytelling event of my life. There was easily 400 people in the crowd, and the massive standing-O and cheerful roar of applause after I was done was so galvanizing and fulfilling. They’re sending me the video footage of that night, and soon Raconteurs will upload the footage of my story to their YouTube. so stay tuned, munchkins. I hope to do Spark London, The Moth, and Raconteurs again. I listen to all of their podcasts, and am glad to be featured on there too!
Live storytelling feels like an obvious step in my evolution. I double-majored Theatre and Creative Writing for my undergraduate degree. Live storytelling combines them both, you get the performative aspects and the audience pay-off, but also you get to employ the nuances of language and creative non-fiction. I can pretend I’m one of those actor-writer types like Ethan Hawke (who has also performed at The Moth, fyi).
Expect to see more of me on the storytelling stage, my dudes. Dudebros. Brojangles.
Okay I’ll stop now.
Photography by 1nspireinc
In two days, on May 1st, I am leaving London permanently. I’ve been living here on-and-off for the past seven years, and it’s finally time to move on. I will spend a couple days in my old stompin’ grounds of Brussels (SO EXCITED) and Amsterdam (ZOMG), and then will spend about a month in Copenhagen before settling in Berlin in June. This route is almost the EXACT same route I took in 2006 when I was backpacking around Europe (I’m skipping Luxembourg… because, ew).
Anyway, I’ve had quite the journey here in London in the last year, and here are my greatest hits! These are experiences that I couldn’t have had anywhere else in the world. They are unique to London, are very London-centric, and I am all the more richer for having been a part of them:
#1 Obviously, being cast in a TV show
I beat out over 14,000 other applicants from across the UK to appear in the massively-popular documentary series First Dates on Channel 4. I was featured in the premiere episode which millions of people tuned in to see, and was also in the commercial advert for the show:
Read my blog post about my experience here!
But here’s something I haven’t really talked about on here… I was cast in a movie too. I can’t give you any details, but here’s a jolly photograph of me in full costume.
I had to sit in the makeup chair every day for an hour. That’s not a wig, it’s my hair. They curled it, teased it, sprayed it and pinned it, and then had to stitch that hat to my hair. Also, I had to be sewn into that dress. 16th century MADNESS.
When it comes out next year, I’ll let you know.
#2 Getting to climb atop the O2 Arena for free and singing Christmas carols with an entire choir at the summit!
Normally, the “Up at the O2” climb is a pretty expensive adventure activity, but I was asked to do it by the organizers of a social media website, so I got to climb to the summit for free! And the view of London from up there was spectacular! I felt like I was had literally just climbed on top of the world. I had to look down to see heaven. Read my blog post about that experience here!
#3 Speaking at the inaugural Best of Spark London live-storytelling event
(Up on stage at Spark London! I’m 3rd from the right.)
I was invited by the organizers of Spark London, a weekly event here in London where people tell true stories live in front of an audience, to speak at their very first Best of Spark London event! It was a huge honour and I was so glad to take part! You can listen to my story on their podcast of the night here. I’m the first speaker in the podcast, so you don’t have to scroll through the audio to find me! You can read my blog post about that event here.
#4 Seeing the London Symphony Orchestra perform live at Royal Albert Hall on New Years!
I won a contest (huzzah!), and was treated to tickets to see the amazing London Symphony Orchestra in concert as they performed the soundtrack to The Artist live as the film played in the background at the sumptuously-ornate institution of the Royal Albert Hall. Oh the things I get to do for free…. That crossed off three things on my bucket list: seeing the LSO in concert, attending a performance at the RAH, and doing something spectacular in London for New Years! Read my blog post about that incomparable experience here.
#5 Participating in the Inside/Out Project at Somerset House, and meeting street-art-superstar JR!
As you all know by now, street art is MY JAM. I love that shit. I eat that shit up. And I’ve been photographing the work of French artist-superstar JR for years around the world with his Inside-Out Project. So when I heard it was coming to Somerset House, I had to take part! I stood in line for 2 hours to get my photo taken, and it was then pasted down on the Somerset House grounds. When I noticed JR just chilling nearby, I went over, and we had a lovely chat. He was totally humble and cool!
Read my blog post about that experience here!
#6 Dining at the super-secret Gingerline nomadic restaurant!
Here’s something I haven’t talked about at all on here, because Gingerline is SO SUPER SECRETIVE that they ban you from talking about it on social media for at least a month after you have attended the experience. Well, I attended the Gingerline in February, so I think I’m good to go now.
So, last year I read on Londonist.com about the Gingerline, a dining experience that is so secretive, you don’t even really know what you get for the ticket price. All I knew was that they were fully booked for months, so I bought my ticket FIVE MONTHS in advance!
Here’s how it works: You buy a ticket, not knowing where the restaurant is or what you will experience when you get there. On the night of the event around 6pm, you have to make sure you are at one of the stations on the London Overground line (the name “Gingerline” refers to the Overground, as it is coloured ginger on the tube map). At 6pm, and not a minute before, they text you the location of the event. You have exactly one hour to hop on the Overground and get to the location, as they lock the doors at 7pm!
I got there on time, and this is what I walked in to…
This basement in a non-descript empty building in the Haggerston area had been transformed into a spaceship with super-sexy-1960s flight attendants with ginger hair from the planet Gingerline!
There was a huge piece of ginger root in that centre display there. APROPOS.
My table looked like a Star Trek console!
Nah, it’s where the flight attendants would inject you with ALCOHOL.
TV panels advised us of our “flight status” and ‘takeoff’ and “landing” hahahah.
They handed us our meals through the port-holes above our heads!
Here was the awesome menu!
And of course, the whole experience had to be seen through 3D glasses.
I met some awesome people there too!
This was their take on the in-flight safety manual!
LOL at “interphalangial.”
Of course we started a conga-line… which involved a lot of “slut-dropping.” If you don’t know what a “slut-drop” is … just … never you mind.
You go girl.
The artificial gravity unit was operational for me, thank fuck.
Yes, Intergalactic Ginger Mom.
Anyway, it was a great experience, and even though the tickets were £50, which is really too rich for my blood (and out of my budget, ahh!), I decided that even poor lasses like me deserve some kind of quality of life. So this was my one and only splurge for February. I can live with that, and I feel like I got my money’s worth! Highly-recommended if you love the thrill of a surprise!
So there you have it, munchkins! My wonderful life in London is coming to a close, but I know that my adventures in Copenhagen and Berlin will be just as wonderful and splendid and exciting. Because life is unpredictable . . . and I wouldn’t have it any other way. There are so many reasons to love London, but life is too short to spend it all in one place.
As one last parting glance at my London home, here is a short film that I made about London’s thrilling street art and graffiti scene.
I hope I never fucking see you again.
As I previously blogged, the second season of First Dates has come to an end, and the entire cast was on hand this past weekend to celebrate it in full-London style at Café de Paris in the heart of Piccadilly Circus. It was such a trip to have been cast in this television show. I found out recently that over 14,000 people applied to be on the show this year, and I was one of 50-some-odd people to make the final cast. That really is humbling. And also, a small source of pride:)
Here are some photos of me bonding with the rest of the cast from the omni-shambolic clusterfuck that was the all-night Wrap Party! In the above photo, it’s me and my harem of bearded men. Jonathan, Ralph, my date Paul, and Steve. I’m sure all of you have already seen my episode (the premiere episode, of course!), but if you want to see the rest of the series starring these lovely lads, be sure to watch them on 4oD!
Me and date Paul. You see, people? Despite what some audiences thought when they watched our date, Paul and I actually got on like gang-busters. We are great mates and we have nothing but love and high-fives for each other. I’m not gonna lie, throughout the wrap party, there may or may not have been some crotch-grabbing on our parts. YOU HEARD ME.
Of course, it wouldn’t have been a party unless Paul and Steve rubbed their beards ALL UP IN MY GRILL.
Here’s Mo (who was also in the premiere episode with me) and Corinne, who was featured in 3 episodes and, memorably, was reduced to tears by the infamous Rajan. Mo is such a great guy, we had such a great time getting to know each other at the party. We’re both Middle Eastern so having this experience was important to us, to show that not all Arabs are terrorists! We can be LUVAS too, ya know. As for Corinne, there was a bit of drama at the party, which I won’t get into here, so that’s probably why in this and the below photo, she’s pulling quite odd and awkward faces.
Back to the party! There’s Chloe, who also was featured in the premiere episode with me. Remember her dog Bentley? Aw bless. The doggie stole the show.
And there’s Saniya. Who could ever forget her hilarious comment about Mo and, uh, spaghetti. I’m still not sure I understand it.
SNOGGING STEVE. My life is complete.
Sarah Jayne, as you’ll remember from the First Dates commercial, was looking for her Prince Charming. Jonathan, the Alan Carr doppleganger, was on the hunt for a more ‘seasoned’ lady. They were such fun at the party 🙂
And that’s a wrap, people! Thank you for watching and for your support! It was quite an unforgettable experience, and it reminded me that life is always full of surprises, as long as you keep allowing them in. There is never, ever, any excuse in this life to be bored. This chapter is closed. Onto the next!
And let me tell you, from what I’ve got planned, the next chapter in my life is going to be something else.
Just you wait.