Browsing Tag

great ideas


December 31, 2016

It’s safe to say that 2016 has been a teacher of sorts, for everything it has challenged us with. But we won’t dwell there too much, we can’t. For 2017 is awaiting and requires from us a fresher, more progressive mode of thinking.


There are people who never set goals. In fact the word ‘resolution’ sends them frowning. It can definitely feel overwhelming when we try to identify our purpose at New Year and are swamped by reminders of what we are still to acquire. But intention setting is great, because the root of it is not concerned with scarcity. It’s not about setting goals based on a fear of what isn’t within our reach. It’s about what we really would like to engage with in a time period, that, at its core, brings excitement and inspiration. Ideas that give off sparks and get us revving. And the world really needs that energy right now, the world needs us to engage with what we want deep inside, if we are to make it a place in which we truly wish to live in.


Intentions feel lighter. They help us to understand ourselves so that we can identify the value we can add to the collective. They ask us to narrow down what we want to the bitesize: like little chocolates. They can be specific phrases or words that resonate with us and are more focused on the theme of what we want to be feeling or living rather than just material outcomes. The climate we co-exist in demands new breeds of listening and acceptance, not judgement; a type of unity that supersedes division. In order for us to begin to connect more meaningfully with each other, we must first seek true fulfillment and connection within ourselves. Intention setting is great for this. Listen to Wellness Coach Debbie who explains how she does this every year with an intentions jar:


To make space for the New Year, there will inevitably be certain things we will all need to let go of, especially those that do not support what we seek to achieve on personal and collective levels. Clearing out our bedrooms and our back gardens, our limitations and bias, is necessary, so that the seeds we sew have the adequate space to grow and come true.

The best thing about intention setting? It promotes simplicity. The encouragement to peer at oneself, even for just a moment in the mirror to reflect on our lives and ensure we are aligned with what we truly wish to achieve. The process of identifying very simple words and phrases that help us to align with the reality we want to be living. When coming from a place of love, these are also normally very basic, simple, positive things.

Among other things, 2016 has taught us some treacherous lessons about division. Intention setting can help us to engage with ourselves at our core, where we find ultimately we have more in common than anything that separates us. We are all working towards similar hopes and dreams. Let’s allow ourselves time starting tomorrow to engage with what we authentically desire for ourselves and ensure there’s very positive vibes associated with each of those things. As we celebrate each forward motion, who knows what New Year’s Eve 2017 will bring.



November 2, 2016

Traditional ideas about curry, what it is and what it stands for were butter-nut squashed at Bengal Bites last Friday: the second in a series of innovative pop up supper clubs in East London. Community enthusiast and former school teacher Imad Ahmed challenged a diverse, eclectic crowd of diners to think beyond the Brick Lane confines of an ‘Indian,’ providing an intimate space for authentic Bengali cuisine to be the food of rich conversation and cross-cultural exchange.

Variety was very much the spice of this event, set in a hipster-esque pocket of Clapton, just above the infamous Palm 2. Greeted at the door by friends from Bar Bedoun, preparing a refreshing array of middle eastern mocktails, the aromatic rose and pineapple savours watered our palettes and opened our minds to a cosy, sensory filled evening.

Imad’s sister Shopna Nessa, whose name literally means ‘dream’ in Bengali, was very much the inspiration for the whole thing. She was born in the mountainous, tea-growing lands of North-East Bangladesh. Her skill at cooking became famed in her village and surrounding areas even as a young girl. Having moved to the UK over twenty years ago, she continued to cook and share her passion with others, and naturally assumed the lead as Head Chef for this.

As we took our seats at the long, candle lit dinner tables, Imad spoke of life as a ‘son of immigrants,’ and his desire to invite us into a space that felt like ‘home.’ But not necessarily the home cultural stereotypes might assume for a practising Muslim of Bengali heritage, living in East London. More home in a visceral sense: the home he has created for himself, drawing on the ingredients from the cultural melting pot within his reach.

He described exploration of his identity, growing up in a space very different to that of his parents, who were born in Bangladesh. An East Londoner himself, he displayed enthusiasm for the way the area has evolved over the years, drawing much inspiration for the evening from the diversity of inhabitants he has been exposed to along the way. Hackney has undergone a period of rapid development, expansion and gentrification over the past ten years and with that has evolved a diverse population, visibly evident as you roam the Clapton streets. The elements of the evening focused on fusion, encouraging the mind to break free from cultural classification and area stereotyping. To make use of the collective dining space to dig into things a bit more deeply.

It didn’t take long to recognize the breadth of experiences brought to the space that evening and the enjoyment gained from sharing perspectives alongside refreshing Bengali cuisine. He purposefully chose the Turkish run space to host the evening, on the basis of a shared love for food and community. The live jazz band, who were the soundtrack for the evening, were ex-colleagues from the local school. The floral details and eclectic wooden feel were distinctly hipster and Imad admitted to having drawn upon local inspiration for this. After working in Clapton for some years, he’s made connections with inhabitants and business owners all down Lower Clapton Road and the range of diners sat around the table reflected this.

The concept of ‘Shopna Nessa Supper Clubs’ helps us to think beyond the conventional. To look beyond the superficial definitions of curry culture that we are familiar with and past cultural experiences we might classify as distinctly ‘different’ from our own. It invites us to try out new flavours of thinking. To open our minds and our palettes to blend new definitions of the spaces we share, using food as the fuel to dream up meaning for the shared places in which we live.

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July 31, 2016

Sunday Funday or Sunday Blues, it’s safe to say Sunday is the day of the week we’re less busy, or at least more inclined to take on ‘leisurely’ activities. This might be the time of the week to fold out the broadsheet, follow your nose through a cook book, begin an inventory of the back garden flower beds, or set a meeting point for friends at the park to go and soak up the sun. With such little time and so many possibilities, it’s natural to feel a bit like you’re missing out, or at least missing something: You want to relax in the garden, but you’ve been feeling a bit cut off recently. You want to enjoy yourself alongside friends, but you’ve also been meaning to dedicate a bit of solo time to catch up on things independently.

This is where Sunday Papers Live (SPL) comes in. Fresh out of a recently successful SPL Special at Citadel Festival, this novel idea doesn’t deliver the newspaper to your door. It doesn’t fit through the letterbox, neither is it brought to you by a panting dog, (although I’m sure they are on that one!)

John Hudson at Sunday Papers Live, Citadel Special

What’s the idea?

At Sunday Papers Live, each section of the Sunday Papers is presented by an expert speaker, performer or group. As part of the audience, you sit back without the need to turn a page, manage reader’s cramps, or suffer the inconvenience of inky handed lethargy. In this format, you kick back, relax and listen carefully as the paper is brought to life right in front of you. Normally the concept takes place in an over sized living room in central London, but at Citadel in Victoria Park, it was housed in a tent laden with sofas and intimacy. Sheltered from the sun, the performances of each section of the paper took place on a stage plonked right in the middle. Belting out the perfect balance of silly and serious, the experience is a positive one and you can’t help but feel connected to the fellow audience members who populate the vicinity.

From Olympian turned Comedian Eddie ‘The Eagle,’ that had the audience in stitches going over his experiences in both industries, to the UK Military’s very own Survival Instructor John Hudson heading up the Travel news, there were some fantastic opportunities to engage and be entertained concurrently. By far the best bit for us was the novel, section designed to give a voice to audience views, namely Talkaoke.


Talkaoke is a polo shaped pop-up talk-show that gets conversations going quickly and inspires open, candid expression to take place with ease and energy. Providing an answer to the comments section of the SPL newspaper, ‘Talkaoke’ facilitates freestyle chatter and creates a safe space for contributors to disclose uncertainty. At Citadel, festival goers were invited to take a seat around the table and encouraged by the host to speak their mind on chosen topics quite openly. We tuned into the edition just as they were on the subject of hair – a perfectly universal theme allowing contributors to get involved almost immediately. And quite magical were the results. A contributor with little hair is left empathetic to the challenges of the life full of dreadlocks experienced by the guy seated opposite. In a short space of time people are finding common ground and developing empathy in the parts of discussion where they may think differently.

Talkaoke hosting the Comments section of SPL at Citadel Festival 2016

Sunday Papers Live puts the love into Sundays, not just for its ability to present you with the norm unconventionally, but for the freshness of the concept to inspire you to engage in the news experientially. You’re no longer the passive reader of the newspaper after this experience, but warmly welcomed to contribute and develop with it enthusiastically and collectively.


Find out more:

Get your ticket for the next one in London in October:


July 10, 2016

Have you ever felt like you got dressed in the dark? The unfortunate pang that seems to kick in after you have left the house in the morning, as you catch a glimpse of yourself in a bus stop or a mirror. Your clothes don’t seem to fit you like they used to: you’re back to front and inside out, you’re blue and green without an in between and there’s a stain on your blouse blinking back at you. More sobering, is admitting to yourself that you left the light on that morning. That despite the mountains of garb available to you, (half of which you never got round to wearing) you can’t seem to find the inspiration and zing from it all that you used to.



Jude Galea hosting her own Swap Shop this Spring.


Meet Jude Galea (Jan ‘15 & ’16 Retreater.) By day she’s a doctor, by night she’s a conscientious creative, searching for ways to revamp her wardrobe without the overspending and waste that she’s used to. Despite her overwhelming schedule, she recently made time to host a ‘Swap Shop’ at her home in Brixton and we caught up with her to hear more about it and provide some inspiration to remedy the clothes woes…

What’s a Swap Shop?

A Swap Shop puts people with articles to exchange or trade in touch with each other. In this case, it’s friends and clothes. Attendees bring what they don’t want anymore and leave with what inspires them. It’s a way to be creative about your wardrobe, without the usual waste, cost and to do – and it’s fun!

What inspired you to put on the Swap Shop?

I’d wanted to do one for ages. It’s a great way to revamp your wardrobe on a shoestring ready for summer, usually I would go and buy a whole new wardrobe and spend a fortune. The idea was that I could get the wardrobe, but this time it was free! It was also about making time for things I enjoyed and making things happen. So often it’s easy to schedule things in and then let work dominate.

What did you have to prepare in advance?

It was so easy! The only issue is that I only get my work rotas a month in advance, which isn’t enough notice for Londoners – so I had to ask work to take me off that weekend. After that though, it was just making a Facebook event stating details and how it would works I also read a few blog posts about Swap Shops. Originally I’d envisaged a pile of clothes on the floor, but the posts I read suggested putting clothes on rails. I really enjoyed setting up my flat nicely, with my popcorn maker and a vegan cheesecake I had baked – I took real pleasure in making an effort and preparing snacks for myself and for friends.

How was the experience of running it?

Really fun without any pressure or stress. I got so much pleasure from it manifesting too! It gives you a lot of confidence to think about running other things. I enjoyed swapping clothes and it doubled up as a chance to catch up with friends as well. I also just enjoyed the experience for what it was. 

What advice would you give to others who have an idea they want to try out?

Making time for things you like and ‘’showing up for yourself’’ is so important. If it is hard work then think about all the smaller steps and try to take pleasure in each stage. It’s also important to focus on one thing you enjoy. Maybe in the past I would have tried to make five different vegan snacks, but I focused on just the cheesecake and got a lot more pleasure out of it too. 

Want to know more?

-Interested in running your own ‘Swap Shop?’ Go for it! It doesn’t have to be just clothes, it can be books, electrical appliances, artwork, themed objects, arts materials, small pieces of furniture, baby clothes, children’s toys, old records etc. Here’s some great guidelines for you to read up on to help you get going.

-Interested in conscientious consumerism? Read up on Swishing, the UK’s only all-in-one clothing exchange and retail fashion store.

-Have an idea of your own that you’d like to try out? Join us on our next Creative Retreat!





April 29, 2016

I’ve never forgotten the tense moments at school in History lesson when the teacher would cold call on me to recall an important date, or recite the intricacies of a moment of ‘significant importance’ in history. Despite wanting to have an answer and most preferably the ‘right’ one, I would freeze up, victim to my lack of attention. Out of panic, I’d just blurt out anything – promptly get laughed at – made to explain why I didn’t know the answer – and instructed to repeat it verbatim before getting thrown out of the classroom for not listening.

So when I was recently invited to attend an ‘Eat and Learn’ evening on the Israel/Palestine conflict and told that there was ‘no preparation required,’ I was instantly catapulted back to those memories. But it didn’t take me long after I arrived to realize that this evening supported a different philosophy of learning completely. It was the first event of its kind, with the novel idea of creating a safe space to be entirely clueless about a given topic and provide an informal, comfortable vibe to develop knowledge and understanding. Everyone has brought along a dish and as the plates are passed around, we are each invited to explain why the subject’s of intrigue.

It’s comforting to find there’s a range of experiences and motivations. Hannah Prytherch, the host, has lived in the region for a year; others are graduates of International Relations or History; then there’s some of us who’ve only really engaged with Israeli/Palestinian affairs through the news – or a heated docudrama such as The Promise on TV. Amidst an initial freestyle discussion, we realize that our collective knowledge only scrapes the surface of this immensely complex and volatile issue. To help us to explore the conflict more deeply, there is Grazia who brings with her over seven years experience working for a Palestinian NGO in Ramallah and spoonfuls of patience for our questions, ideas and misconceptions.


Before we tuck in to a range of home-baked dishes, Kate Weiler (the organizer) gives us the chance to consider our own questions. This is a key part of the evening and allows us to clarify what it is that we would like to understand about the conflict for ourselves: to make it a personal and relevant issue. Some want specific details of things they’ve heard, others want to know what they can actually do about it: all input is welcomed and accepted. Grazia is incredibly knowledgeable and makes an impressive attempt to fit centuries of history into edible mouthfuls. The openness of the conversation means we have the chance to throw in further questions. Hannah seasons the historical references with stories from her first-hand experiences of affairs such as checkpoint crossings, (which are notoriously difficult for Europeans trying to enter Palestine) and her insights of the challenges for those living on either side of the conflict. This includes the story of her friend Abu Sakha, a Palestinian member of the state circus who was detained by the Israeli Military for unknown reasons last year and whose sentence continues indefinitely.

Kate Weiler (above) is a January 2015 Retreater and the Organizer of Eat and Learn.

By the time it’s dessert, we’ve been fed up with ample food for thought and inevitably a lot more questions than answers. Although I’m still not at the point of teaching the topic to others, I’m definitely more confident and informed as a result of attending. Mainly down to the level of ease and openness from the crowd and Kate’s laid back approach to facilitation. We end with a video of the Palestinian Spoken Word Poet and Activist Rafeef Ziadah who is campaigning for a boycott on Israeli products from the international community. The reality of the struggle for all parties who are suffering from the conflict really hits home at this point and we’re left with a powerful and thought-provoking comma in our thinking.

Do you have an appetite for learning? Be part of this great idea:


By Maxine Clay