Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Dancing Squares first at Kings Cross

Today was the second attempt at Dancing Squares, this time at Pancreas Sq. Kings Cross...
and it worked! Mainly thanks to Thomas who supported me at Euston yesterday and works in an office overlooking St Pancreas Sq. He brought a wonderful bunch of co-workers along and we did an intro to Mambalsa session.  We were joined by a man who worked on the building site, which shows how the group can grow.
The equipment worked fine after I switched to flight mode and the sun shone.
Most importantly, many people stopped and watched and took note as we had fun. Fingers crossed for next week :-)

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Thursday, 31 December 2015

New Years Eve 2015

Ok it's New Year's Eve 2015 and the end of a very challenging year.
Challenging in the sense that it hasn't been easy but I feel I've finally got myself motivated and moving and have achieved quite a lot of things.

Running two shows at Edinburgh was the best thing by far. It gave me a goal to focus on and a real sense of achievement. Preparing for Edinburgh meant training and loosing three stone which really boosted my self esteem and sense of self control.
Fringe shows are one hell of a learning curve where, if you get it wrong, you have to stand up in front of the public for twenty five days on the trot and explain! Fortunately I got them right-ish.
Edinburgh showed me I can do it, whatever the 'it' is.  

Post Edinburgh was very tough. No goal, no plan, no strategy. So I floundered for a couple of months.
I also turned fifty, which isn't as depressing as it sounds, but brings with it a reality check.
DO it now or shut up about it! Or in other words get organized get the skills and above all get in with it!
A younger me would never ask for help but I had my first session with a NLP business coach/ Jedi called Lynne Copper. Just the preparation for the meeting was fantastic and I've used the techniques for tackling procrastination daily.

So Mambalsa 2016
My basic boiled down plan is to prove it's viability for a jobbing small scale dance teacher. Then invest in building a team of teachers who roll it out in the Autumn.
Along side this is making the brand quirky, fun, and adventurous. That means finding new ways to get it out there. Watch this space!!!

.... and happy new year


This week has proved a difficult one.
The planned Mambalsa 1Day Challenge isn't looking good. Simply not enough interest, or to put it more accurately, not enough lead time, or to put it more honestly, not enough action in the lead time!
Time to be brutally honest and as Helen says, 'have a wee chat with myself.'
Time switch on mr Negative and play devils advocate....
It could be lack of an appealing message:
It could be lack of demand:
Demand is driven by 'needs', I need therefore I want. So what 'needs' does Mambalsa fulfil? Pleasure? Entertainment? Company?
The current message is 'try this its new'. So what? Try tango you'll look like this! Try jive you'll have cool retro chic. Try salsa and you'll be able go clubbing.
Try Mambalsa and .....
It could be lack of reach:
Its a numbers game stupid! If one in a 10,000 who hear about it try it, I need to reach 1,000,000 then I'll have a hundred.
It could be lack of penetration:
Are they reading it? Have we grabbed them? Do we have a call to action? What is the action?

On the up side I'm having this wee chat with myself. Getting it right is the goal, not getting it right first time. So I've screwed up, that doesn't mean Mambalsa is bad, just my first marketing guesses. Thomas Edison said "I have not failed, I've just found a thousand ways not to invent a light bulb"Shit! Another 999 to go!

This week I had a telephone chat with Lynne Cooper who's a super star business coach. Hopefully she'll take me on as a client and I'll get an experience sounding board with the skills to tease out my mashed up to do list.

September Blog

September Blog
 I wrote this back in September at a low point. Think of it as a 'wee chat with myself'
So September has come and nearly gone. The leaves are turning into Autumn colors as am I although they are going brilliant reds and oranges and I’m going silver and beige.
Coming back from Edinburgh was a bump. Exhausted mentally I knew it was going to be hard but I didn't realize how hard. I've always misjudged September. It starts as 'Hey September's here, let's get going' and then there's three weeks of slog before it actually does.
I also have the annual self assessment/critique that comes with a birthday on the 24th. This year is a big one- FIFTY! Yes it deserves capitals. Fifty means my youth is over and the end game begins. That's not as bad as it sounds. I'm going into my fifties fitter that i was at 25, wiser than i was at 25, better resourced than I was at 25. And with realistically expectation of years of full health left there's a lot to be done. There will be upsets and knock backs along the way but that's never a reason not to start anything. If I was comfortable with life I’d be very tempted to be a silver sofa surfer.

I find that Edinburgh gave me insight into skills I didn't think I was very good at. Skills that will change this second half of  my life. The skills of planning, preparation, troubleshooting and engaging with strangers were honed. Most of all, the skill of accepting failure. which means i can now take the risks i need to take without fear crippling me from the outset.
Obviously I take with me the fears and doubts that have shaped my life but they might just be a little more manageable now I’m aware of them.

So my September blues have past and my birthday’s gone (thanks for all the kind wishes)
In many ways, the more significant anniversary is Mambalsa’s first birthday. October the 4th 2014 was the first Mambalsa event. Sarah Jewels birthday party in Islington. Grace and I did a full on Mambalsa taster which went down very well. The following day was the first ever Mambalsa development workshop.

And a year later......
Well it’s been quite odd. I’m more convinced than ever that Mambalsa has a place in the pantheon of partner dancing. I played with it for a year and discovered so much about it and me.  Thomas Edison famously said “I have not failed, I’ve just discovered a thousand ways not to make a light bulb” (why doesn't anyone give credit to the guy who invented the light switch?) and so it is with marketing Mambalsa. I group my marketing misadventures into:

Shyness- a childish word but it fits. It’s tough shouting to the world “Hey I’m here and I’ve created this..” When I do the reaction has nearly always positive and yet although it’s easy to talk the talk and walk the walk, believing in the talk as you walk is hard! So  more effort and more practice is required, but it’s becoming less uncomfortable with practice.

Mixed messages- This was a major flaw in the Edinburgh show marketing and may well have been a flaw in the show as well. Am I selling a dance or a show? Am I selling a dance or an event? Am I selling the effects of the dance or the dance?
Certainly the Edinburgh show should have been aimed at non dancers. ‘Why He Can’t Dance! A massive potential audience compared to those who are interested in partner dancing and not even one they do!

Time Management-
I’ve never considered myself even barely competent at it. I’ve got books on time management but never got around to finishing them. Edinburgh gave me deadlines and a positive goal. I dove into tasks and got into the ‘flow’. Now I’m back I've vague unbelievable dreams/goals and I’m relying on the deadlines of failure i.e.  ‘it must get done or else’.

and yet.
My shyness has become an inconvenience rather than a barrier. My awareness of it means I can plow through it and give myself a pat on the back.
My marketing messages can be clarified like my street corner flyering pitch. Four words that work. Just knowing my shyness's potential to limit everything I do, makes me want to clarify my messages.
I’m even finally reading one of those books on time management! 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Monday moving home

It's Tuesday and I'm on the train on the way back to London from Edinburgh the beautiful East coast is rolling by. A time for reflection and planning the next step.
Sometimes I think it good to consider the highs and lows. To acknowledge the stuff that went wrong and the stuff that went well.
These are in no order:
High - I did it! Never did I think lets pack up and go home. Never did I get wingy or 'Woe tis me' I've never considered myself a great planner but this was conceived planned and implemented with an unusual level of control over my own life that I find surprising. Welcome to the stage .. The New Me!

Low... The sad news that my friend and fellow open mic'er Nigel Roberts had died suddenly. We had gone from open mic acts to coffee shop friends in no time. His sudden death at sixty two was too soon and gives me a sense of deja vous as my father died in similar circumstances aged sixty. The lesson is clear. Live as if today is your last. A cliche, only because it is true.

High... Helen my land lady. Ceo of Rowan Alba charity. Passionate about real food, politics, friends and known to like a wee drink or two :-)
Helen has become my official soul sister and I look forward to many a blether.

Low... The Mambalsa show was not a busy as I'd hoped for but the Free Fringe averages six audience per show and i managed over seven. I'm actually not unhappy with the show which is a delight to perform. It's the marketing that was wrong. The marketing message appealed to dancers but not to the non dancers. Not enough connection with public before the Fringe. They'll be way more on this in later post.

High.... Camden Comedy was a massive success. My compere skills have gone from ok to high quality if you'll allow me to blow my own kazoo. Connecting the audience and riffing without offence. Building energy and noise and now, at sodding last, i can seamlessly move from compere to material.
Camden comedy has taught me so much regarding marketing. A four word pitch. Conversations not flyer volume. Tons and tons more later.

Low... Tiredness
Candles are burnt at one end for a reason! I have to find ways to manage my energy better. The habitual energy cliff experienced in London came to Edinburgh. Add that to Helen's hospitality and many shows that I would have enjoyed did not get seen, many contacts didn't get made.

High.... Running. The training and weight loss as part of the preparation for the fringe have paid off. I like the way I look. I like running and I like not sweating buckets on stage. Most of all I like getting up early and starting the day energised.

Low... Back pain. One of my big fears was some sort of injury. It hurt and I literally had to grin and bear it. Taking ten minutes to get across the room followed by a hours hobble home was not fun.

High... Dancing in the street with  the Mambalsa Strut. It was fun when it was just a few but when i had groups of four plus it was brilliant. We owned the space and promoted dance and joy.

Low... Web site crash. Totally critical to my business the crash left me doubly frustrated as I couldn't do anything about it and i hadn't taken the action before i came. Two lessons: Take action sooner; Finish the tasks I set for myself and build in fail safes.

High... Flyering! I don't love it, but I can now say without doubt that I can flyer. I can manage a flyering team and I can take action to effect the necessary  changes where I need to.

By the way reader. Now I'm back the blogs will get a little further apart so please clibk follow so Blogger will inform you when I've posted.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Sunday - and finally folks!

I cannot express how weird it feels getting up on the last day of the Fringe feeling like I've only just arrived. My familiar routine is about to be shattered, dismantled and packed away for another time.
On Stage at the full Irish
Wake up, out of bed, shit, shower and shave to use the army vernacular. Coffee, brekky and blog to use mine.

No Strut!

Gig1) The Full Irish. The show for Irish comedians so once again "I'm Paddy O'Sadler feckerty feck feck feck. Top 'o the mornin' to's  ya"
The Staff at Whistlebinkies were fab!
"Give me a cheer if you've been to Ireland?" "What's it like?" I think they saw though the thin veneer of my character. I tell the story of two mythical Irish giants, Diddly Dee and Diddly Di and how they inspired Irish dancing.

Gig 2) Camden Comedy
Nearly full with Jack Brooks, Susie Steed, Colin (couldn't remember his name) Chadwick and David Tsonos. A really good show and a fine way to end Camden Comedy at the Fringe.

Gig 3) No one showed at first for Weeners the show after us so rather than leaving an audience hanging, I just went in and just riffed. It seems like a million years ago that I got stage fright.

After the PBH clear up at Cowgate Head and a few goodbyes it was a pleasant afternoon with Fliss. We Mambalsa'd in the Royal Mile to a busker, bought the obligatory Fringe T shirt.
We returned later for the party but very few in at first and so we went to the Beehive for a beer where I was accused of nodding off when I was just resting my eyes!
Finally we returned to the party to say a few more goodbyes.

This isn't the last post of my Fringe blog as we're still in Edinburgh. I would also like to do a special post on the highs and lows of the Fringe and a summary of stats and conclusions.

Dalry we have lift off

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Saturday Sadness

It's coming to the end, and to misquote Oscar Wilde "Fringe love is the beginning of a life long romance" I imagine that sort of misquote would really upset Oscar, yes he'd be wild! Boom.
I'm sad in two ways today, and although I perhaps should start with one sadness I shall continue to take it from the top and let yesterday unfold.

I talk in the Mambalsa show about breaking through barriers. Closing something, stopping, ceasing, all have a tinge of sadness. As I come to the end of this amazing run my mind starts to make little notes of conclusions, lessons learned, little pats on the back and kicks up the arse.

Today was the last day of the Edinburgh Mambalsa strut in the street. The four from the yesterdays show came along and we were joined by another lady. What worked especially well was having Fliss there to Flyer and chat while I led the dance.

 Camden Comedy, penultimate Edinburgh show and what should be a banker, i.e. a good take in the bucket and a seamless show.
11am send out reminders to acts. This is a great way to gather all the excuses into one lump of disappointment and frustration, which I never let show to them. Occasionally if they've rolled in drunk in the wee hours (it's been known!), they'll almost certainly have left their phone on, and they're pulled into consciousness, I imagine their salutations to the Irish god of comedy- O'Shite!
It's 11.15am it was clear that three acts out of four had bailed, and one had car trouble.
'Welcome to my solo show :-)'
I posted help posts in certain facebook groups and messaged acts I thought were around.
11.30 David Mullholland confirms - Hero! His tenth year of the Fringe and he's loving every gig he can get.
11.50am So with my two handed show do I have enough material to survive half an hour?
My pre-Fringe brain shouts noooooo!
My Fringe brain says Helllll Yeah! Tons and Tons of material. I can chat and riff the audience easily for twenty mins. I've 20mins of stand up on Edinburgh alone, 20mins on teaching dance and 20mins of topical stuff like the Bob Marley groaner set and the Jelly fish.
12.01pm  The show prior to mine finishes. I exit flyer and David Tsonos (car trouble) arrives.
David has been my hero several times this Fringe, but he excels this time with a simple suggestion. "Why not ask the acts from the previous show?" Booom!
Damian Kingsley, my first ever facebook comedy friend, Richard Pulsford and Maxine Jones.
12.05 on stage with a full line up!
What a show.
My warm up was full of joy (I wonder why?)
Damian smashes the opening set.
Richard does an awesome tight five of one one liners followed by Maxine.
David Mullholland nails it! Finishing on his 'no more nails' joke which I've heard many times before by for some reason it had me corpsing off and on stage. We finish with David Tsonos who's so suited to this kind of gig. His cat/x-ray joke totally rocks!
Like we say on the flyer 'Camden Comedy - It's Awesomely nice'

Mambalsa Show 3-4pm
At two 2.45 there was just one older couple who had come from Glasgow just for the show. They had danced all their lives and their daughter was a Ceroc teacher in London. Mum and had recently taken up 'Ballet for the over fifties' which is a fantastic idea!
Two other couples got willingly roped in and a post marriage stag party? That's right, he got married the day before and then has his stag party the next night.
It was the last show and I had a heap of fun ending in nearly all of them up and dancing Mambalsa.

A familiar face arrived during the show. I could place her until after the show. It was Sue a journalist and often plus one (for bringer gigs) to Nigel Roberts.
Sue had come in person to tell me that Nigel had died suddenly two days earlier.

Nigel had performed many times at Camden Comedy and many other open mic nights and had become a personal friend. Last time I saw him was in a coffee shop in Muswell Hill where we had chatted about comedy and the show's narrative curve. I will miss him.

After a tea and cake Fliss and I wandered back and had a pub supper where I had Haggis Tatties and Neaps. Yummmy
Had a good old blether with Helen into the wee hours.

Nigel Roberts