Gillingham goes green for Medway’s first St Patrick’s Day parade


Above: Children with their homemade St Patrick’s Day banner.

With the sun shining, everyone in green and Guinness in full flow you could say that Medway’s first ever St Patrick’s Day parade was a success.

Hundreds of people gathered in Gillingham High Street on Sunday afternoon with shamrocks painted on their faces, Ireland flags wrapped around them and Guinness hats swaying in the breeze to join in the festivities.

The parade was product of the Medway St Patrick’s Day Group which was set up in 2013 by Tina Lawlor-Mottram, who is from Dublin and Sarah Jenkins, whose mother is Irish.

Sarah Jenkins said: “When we started this we never thought we’d get such an enthusiastic, happy response to our little parade – we thought there would be five of us.”

“We’re so grateful for this wonderful turnout and would never have dreamed there would be such a huge representation of the Irish in Medway,” she added.

Creative artist and co-chair of the Medway St Patrick’s Day Group Tina Lawlor Mottram led the creative art workshops with local children and their families where they made badges and designed the banner which led the parade.

The banner was followed by The Pentacle Drummers and Irish dancers from the Hackett Kyne Academy of Irish Dancing and McManigan’s Academy of Irish Dance who jigged up and down the High Street in traditional dresses.


Above: The Pentacle Drummers march through the High Street

There was also a nod to Britain in the parade with volunteers carrying two Union flags and the Air Cadets marching band could be heard playing ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary’.

Mayor of Medway, Cllr Josie Iles was also in attendance and she hopes the parade will be an annual event.

“Why not?” she said, “there are so many cultures within the Medway towns so it’s important to show support and get around them all in the same way.”

After the parade, the festivities continued at St Mary’s Social Club – a hidden Irish gem in the heart of Gillingham – with a buffet, Guinness on tap and traditional Irish music courtesy of Calliope House

As St Patrick’s Day falls during Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish language week) there was also a ceilidh dance and a number of workshops put on at St Mary’s including Irish language classes and Irish dancing tutorials.

Nula McManigan, 34, of the McManigan’s Academy of Irish Dance was more than happy to get involved with the parade to showcase Irish culture in Medway.

“As everyone else is, we’re giving our time and experiences to represent the Irish in the community and let people know we’re here,” she said.

Despite having taught Irish dancing for the past 14 years all over Kent, Nula too, was thrilled at the fantastic turnout.

“I don’t think anybody expected it to be this big,” she added.

So what is next for the Irish community in Medway?  An annual parade, hopefully, and Sarah Jenkins, Co-chair of the Medway St Patrick’s Day Group believes we need to be celebrating the Irish language:

“I think it’s important when you own your own language, you own your own story. A lot of people say ‘Oh no one speaks Irish’, I don’t care – it’s part of your identity, what shapes you,” she said.



Surviving Christmas with an Eating Disorder


It’s hard to imagine Christmas Day without the beloved turkey dinner perfected by ham, Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes but for those with an eating disorder it’s hard to imagine anything worse.

Figures from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence suggest that 1.6 million people in the UK have an eating disorder, a figure that is up 15% since 2000.

It is estimated that 10% of sufferers are anorexic, 40% are bulimic and the rest fall into the EDNOS (Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified) category, including those with a binge eating disorder.

One person who knows just how tough Christmas can be is 19 year old Louise Maye from Dublin.

“Christmas dinner is always awful and although it’s just one dinner, there’s just so much anxiety about it because you feel guilty for not eating it but you feel so guilty when you do,” she explains.

Food is pretty much unavoidable at Christmas. You turn on the TV or open a magazine and you’re greeted with adverts featuring succulent turkeys, yummy puddings and delicious mince pies.

She added: “Even when you’re not around food, you’re thinking about it. You can’t get away from it, and on normal days that’s bad enough.”

Louise describes her experience last Christmas as “awful”. Her eating disorder made her incredibly “sneaky” and left her feeling very “anxious”.

“I would always have a napkin with me to ‘wipe my mouth’ but would really be spitting out food, and one of my relatives picked up on it. She called me out about it straight away and my whole family became very aware about my eating disorder then.

“They watched me for the rest of the day and I couldn’t go to the bathroom to purge because someone would always be around me,” she says.

She adds: “I felt so hopeless because Christmas is supposed to be this extremely happy time but for me I just felt so upset.”

Louise was diagnosed with bulimia in early 2012 following a long childhood battle with binge eating and is now in recovery.

She admits that she spent the first six months of recovery in “complete denial”, continually making herself sick and lying about it to everyone around her; she even left college because things got so bad.

However things are finally looking up for Louise. “Now I’m back in college and things are going well. Recovery is a long process, and although I am technically recovered, there are days I still question what I’m eating.

“You think that everything will be solved when your collarbones jut out and you have a thigh gap, but no matter what you look like, you are still you with the same problems you started with.

“You are technically destroying your body for a peace of mind you are never going to get. It is so hard sometimes and you have to keep fighting, but it’s so worth it,” she says.

Moya White, 52 is a Freelance Dietitian in Kent who has specialized in eating disorders for the past 30 years and understands how stressful Christmas can be for people like Louise.

“Christmas is a time when we celebrate with food and there is often an excess of food around which these patients find hard. Stress makes eating disorder patients more likely to eat less or more depending on their problem,” she said.

She advises those with bulimia to have a “healthy, balanced diet” but would urge them not to have snacks around the house which could tempt them to binge.

“The sooner people get help the better the outcome”, she added. Those suffering with eating disorders can seek help from GPs, school nurses or from b-eat, a charity.

B-eat are based in the UK and aim to change the way people think about eating disorders and to improve the way services and treatment are provided to sufferers.

They want to help anyone believe that their eating disorder can be beaten by providing support and encouragement for people to seek treatment and recovery.

B-eat is also a forum where fellow suffers can come together, offer each other advice and feel comfortable talking to someone else who knows what they are going through.

Anna, 20, from Devon has anorexia but believes it is important for fellow sufferers to see Christmas as a “day off”.

“Everyone will have a Christmas every year for the rest of their lives, and so it is something that is part of our lives, not part of the anorexia.

“It is vital that Christmas doesn’t become a day of food terror, but rather, a day to celebrate love, family and friends,” she explains.

Lauren, 24, from Scotland will be spending her first Christmas free from anorexia this year and she plans to make the most of it.

“I remember refusing point blank to eat the Christmas food my mum had lovingly prepared. I skipped many Christmas parties and refused to go out with friends because of the fear and anxieties I had”, she says.

Food is a massive part of Christmas in Annabelle’s family. The 24 year old from London is now recovered and thankful she can finally enjoy all aspects of the holiday.

“Thankfully now I am recovered I can almost enjoy the ‘food’ side as much as the catching up with everyone, buying presents, carol singing and decorations,” she explains.

Christmas is a time to be with the ones you love, relax and be merry.

If you are suffering with an eating disorder this holiday season, beat it – don’t let it beat you. For more information or to seek help visit


Father of the Rainbow Nation.

Last night at around 9:50pm, I received a breaking news update on my phone from BBC News telling me that Nelson Mandela had died aged 95. While I immediately felt shock and sadness, I wasn’t exactly sure why.

I always knew he was the first black president of South Africa following many years imprisonment for his people. But it was not until he died last night that I became fully aware of just how remarkable he was.

After reading the initial BBC story, I quickly googled Nelson Mandela and spent a good half hour just reading about his life and everything that he achieved.

I was amazed.

He spent 27 years in prison fighting against apartheid and minority rule in South Africa. His election as President following his release from prison in 1990 paved the way for the future, not just of South Africa, but the world over.


He was the epitome of all that is good and right with humanity and a true leader. He taught the world  that anything is possible and that reconciliation, not resentment, is key.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

South African President Jacob Zuma said: “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”

It is strange how people work; we don’t appreciate something until it’s gone.

I do not think there is anyone in the world who doesn’t know the name Nelson Mandela but I bet they are many who don’t know who he was and what he achieved.

I feel slightly ashamed that it took his passing for me to appreciate fully what he did for the world but I suppose it’s better late than never.

Even though he is gone, it is unlikely anyone will be forgetting him anytime soon. His legacy will live on and continue to inspire millions around the globe.

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”
Nelson Mandela: 1918 – 2013



Photo by Franklin Fann

Bradley McIntosh and Jo O’Meara proved there’s still no party like an S Club party as they performed in front of hundreds of excited fans at Bliss Nightclub in Gillingham. I was lucky enough to chat with them before the show.

How does it feel to be back performing again?

Bradley: When the band finished back in 2003 and then we did our first gig a few years later, those ones were kind of weird but we’ve been doing this a lot over the past 6 years, just here and there y’know, especially at this time of the season.

What’s it like with just the two of you?

Jo: We work alright together don’t we? We’re musically connected.
Bradley: It doesn’t matter how many you’ve got on stage, once the music comes on you just get into it.

How do you think the music industry has changed for mixed gender bands? When will there be a new S Club?

J: There’ll never be a new S Club (laughs). I don’t know, things like that just go around in stages. Groups like us will probably come back again in fashion at some point.
: You might’ve just spoke too soon because there are a couple of mixed groups in X Factor.

Would you ever consider doing a show like the big reunion?

B: Number 1, it’s a great show and we know a lot of the bands anyway and I’ve seen them since and they’ve had a great time. People have always said to just ‘oh when you going to do it?’
J: But it’s not right for us at the minute.
B: No, we’re really busy I mean you know kids, well kid (points to Jo) and Rachel’s got another one on the way. Getting 7 people together is a lot harder than most bands.  If we were to do it we wouldn’t need that TV show, we’d just do it maybe in three, four or five years.
J: We’d all love to do it.
B: Yeah, we’ll just get someone else to dance and we’ll just sit on some chairs.

You’ve all branched out and done different things over the years.

B: Yeah, Jon’s in the theatre playing Frankie Valley in Jersey Boys.
J: Tina’s writing and recording, Hannah’s done TV.
B: And I’m more behind the scenes in the studio.

Do you all still keep in touch?

J: Well yeah, every now and then. Me, Bradley and Paul were in touch, probably the most and I think Hannah and Jon were in touch a lot.
She wouldn’t stop calling me.
J: I can’t leave him…
B: We’re like brother and sister.


Photo by Franklin Fann

Are you excited about performing tonight?

B: Yeah it’s gonna be fun. We haven’t been down here before, it’s a new one. It’s all down to the crowd so as long as the crowd are having a good time; we’ll have a good time.

Even though your fans have all grown up, they still want to hear the old classics…

J: It makes us feel quite old because they’re all out drinking and getting drunk now and they’re like ‘Oh I remember you when I was six’ and we’re just like ‘Oh god’ (laughs)
B: I feel very proud to be able to be a part of people’s childhood.
J: We’re lucky, we’ve always had good fans.

What were the advantages of having 7 people in a band?

J: You could never really get bored of one person, there was always someone else to flit off to. If Bradley was getting on my nerves, I’d just go talk to Rach for a bit.
B: Also in TV interviews if someone wasn’t feeling quite chatty then you know you’ve got six other people to cover it for you.


New Ambition!

Oh to be a great feature writer. That’s exactly what I want to be.

I’ve always struggled with the question “What kind of journalism do you want to do?” but today it all became a little clearer. Knowing from the beginning that I didn’t want to work in TV or radio, print journalism was always what I intended to go into once I finished university, but what kind of print journalism? Politics definitely wasn’t for me and even though I always fancied myself as a reporter interviewing celebrities on the red carpet at glamorous events like the Oscars or the Golden Globes, I had never thought about feature writing.

Features are a lot more in depth and they give you a chance to be more creative and more tools to entertain your reader. As part of my lecture on features this evening, I was asked to read this article by Ed Pilkington about the NFL footballer Dave Duerson who committed suicide as a result of a disease he acquired after suffering multiple head traumas because of the sport.

This article is written in a way that is so powerful that you feel every emotion possible by the time you’ve finished reading it, I literally couldn’t stop reading. Every aspect of this man’s tragic life captivated me and made me feel so sorry for him and his poor family. It’s amazing that something he loved so much eventually brought about his end. 

I can only hope that one day I will write something as moving as this.

As a writer all you really want is for your words to have an impact on someone, even if it’s only for a few minutes.

A Fresh Start

I’m now back in lovely Medway, getting settled in to my new house – all in preparation to start my second year of university. I honestly can’t  believe how fast last year went, I really do not feel mature or experienced enough to be going into second year – still a fresher at heart! 

Last year was a bit of a breeze so seeing as this year actually counts towards my degree, I’ve decided to set myself a number of goals this year in order to get as much out of my course as possible:

  • Pass 80wpm in shorthand before Christmas
  • Achieve over 60 (2:1) in ALL assignments
  • Apply (and hopefully get) more work experience
  • Maintain this blog!
  • Write more for the Medwire (Student Magazine)
  • Be better prepared for morning conference (even if it means leaving the comfort of my amazing double bed)

BUT before all this hard work starts, it’s time for REFRESHERS – you can’t miss freshers no matter what year you are!

News Story of the Day – Four convicted for Delhi gang rape

Four men have been found guilty of the fatal gang rape of a student in the Indian capital Delhi last December.

At long last justice has been done! The four men, who viciously attacked and raped a 23 year-old woman on a bus which resulted in her death, have finally been convicted. But would you say the death penalty is the right way to go about it? 

A lot of people, myself included, believe that the death penalty is just the easy way out. These men deserve to live with what they did and deserve to rot in jail for the rest of their miserable lives. 

However, the death penalty is always a tricky argument. While, in most circumstances, I would agree with the above view, there is also the reasoning that the world would be a better place if these criminals were gone completely without the risk of them getting out on good behaviour. 

In keeping with this, Ariel Castro (The Cleveland Kidnapper) most definitely took the easy way out when he was found hanged in his cell on September 4th. Castro was serving life imprisonment with no parole after holding 3 women against their will at his house and raping them continuously over the course of a decade.

I believe that for this man, a life sentence wasn’t even close to being enough punishment for what he had done and yet he couldn’t even last a few months in prison.

You know what they say – If you can’t do the time, DON’T DO THE CRIME.

It’s a good week to be from Derry!

Sorry for the lack of posts this week but I’ve been out enjoying Fleadh Cheoil Na hÉireann!Image

For those of you that don’t know, Fleadh Cheoil Na hÉireann is a traditional Irish music festival that celebrates the best in Irish music, dance and literature. 

Derry was the first Northern city to host the Fleadh and with an estimated 430,000 people flocking to the city throughout the week, it is no surprise that organisers say it is likely to return to the Walled City.

Speaking to the BBC, Director General of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, Labhrás Ó Múrchu said: “We are dealing with one of the best fleadh’s in its 62 year history. This was the biggest fleadh ever. It was the biggest by fifty percent.”


Shipquay Street

Derry has been famous for its troubled past but during this last week, it was like nothing had ever happened.

There was a brilliant atmosphere throughout the city all week and everyone, no matter what part of Derry/Londonderry they were from, was in great spirits and enjoying the music.

It wouldn’t be Derry without a few showers but even so, both Waterloo and Shipquay Street were overflowing with people, never mind the bars. Irish pubs along Waterloo Street like The Gweedore, Peadar O’Donnell’s, The Dungloe and the Bound for Boston must’ve made a small fortune during the week.

The Fleadh did a great thing for the city in bringing everyone together and allowed people to forget their worries for a week and just get lost in the music. I think many would agree that Derry should be like that more often.

So after this week, not that I wasn’t before, but I’m even more proud to be from Derry. Fingers crossed for Fleadh Cheoil’s return in 2016 :D


Scientists develop cure for Daily Mail


This is absolutely brilliant.

Originally posted on The Evening Harold:

Could it's 117 year reign of terror really be about to come to an end?

The only two word combination that signals a higher concentration of mediocrity is Quote Unquote

Harold scientists Rachel Guest and John Goody have today announced that after many years of trials and research they have developed a cure for the Daily Mail.

“The Daily Mail has blighted lives for over a century” said John Goody. “We’re very proud to have beaten this scourge once and for all. Hopefully soon the sidebar of shame, the hideous use of the phrase ‘all-grown up’ to justify sexually objectifying children and a crazed love for declaring that anything, absolutely anything at all, can give you cancer will be just a bad memory.”

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News Story of the Day: Today’s girls are sad clones – including mine!

Okay, so I know this isn’t really a news story but it struck me as odd that the woman who wrote this article seems to think that she has had no input in making her daughters “shallow”.

First, she talks about how her daughters only want to wear clothes from Topshop, not Primark and about how they love short shorts, crop tops and tight clothing as it’s what their ‘idols’ wear. Can I just ask, who buys them these clothes? Teenage girls of 15 and 13 surely don’t have the money to be buying clothes from Topshop all the time so obviously the mother is the one paying for it all. I am 19 years old and I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything from Topshop as it’s all ridiculously over-priced. My mother would NEVER have let me wear clothes like that when I was so young, no matter how much I might’ve wanted to.

Secondly, the little anecdote at the beginning of the article about the hair straighteners is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. Now, while I would never go anywhere overnight without my straighteners, I would not get bought a new pair just because I was forgetful enough to not pack them. If there is one thing these girls are, it’s spoiled, and that is not their fault.

“The girls consider it a crime worse than death to leave the house without mascara.”

Okay, first of all, it is a crime that you let your 13 year old daughter wear mascara. It really baffles me how, in situations like this, parents truly believe that they are doing nothing wrong. They blame it all on the media and popular culture. I understand that some people do get heavily influenced by what they see on TV and in magazines but there has to be a line. As a parent you need to put your foot down and show you’re children that there’s more to life than looking “perfect” and going shopping.