The Man Behind The Harmonica

‘Busking is pure. If you can get people to like you in ten seconds, you’ve consolidated all your practice in that one moment’

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Philip Achille is not your average busker. He’s the kind that shatters every expectation. You may have heard him modestly playing his harmonica on the London Underground, possibly playing an impressive rendition of Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor on… yes a harmonica, to London’s commuters.

The British harmonica player, from the West Midlands, is in fact a Royal College of Music graduate whose list of talents is endless. The bass, saxophone, violin and piano are just some of the other instruments on which he experiments his jazz and classical styles.

Playing music is “something I feel like I have to do”, he tells me. Adding to the history of the harmonica is his mission and he says he achieves this by busking. “That’s the great thing about busking, I get an intense personal enjoyment out of it as well as the financial gain. Especially busking in London, the exposure and ability to connect with other people, the sheer volume of people that you end up playing to is quite amazing. For me, it’s been a great tool to get myself out there in a way.”

Philip shot to fame last month after a video posted by the jazz pianist John Turville went viral, featuring on the Huffington Post and on social networks. The reception of the video has compelled Philip to take his music to another level. He is currently raising money to fund a recording album, of which he has gained significant support.

Some of the musician’s proudest achievements to date have included playing the introduction for Jon Bon Jovi’s finale of the Royal Variety Performance in 2007 and playing at Andrew Lloyd Webber’s birthday celebration in Hyde Park in September 2008.

The classical player’s pure and graceful style is owed much to his mother, he explains, who ensured that he was given a wealth of opportunity as a child. Searching for a music teacher for the saxophone at nine-years-old led him into the hands of the only harmonica teacher in England. “So I just thought let’s give this a go. It turned out to be the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”

Only in his twenties and Philip has already won numerous awards, including National Harmonica League Player of the Year 2005, World Youth Solo Chromatic Harmonica Champion 2005, World Open Harmonica Champion 2005, Birmingham International Jazz Festival Young Musician 2006 and Eurovision Young Musician of the Year Finalist 2008.

The talented player began busking at sixteen years old in his hometown of Solihull. Since then, his ambition, passion and charm have allowed him to become a regular on one of London’s sought-after busking pitches. “It’s an amazing thing for a busker to know you’ve got a spot. I’ve met loads of cool people, got some cool gigs, recording sessions from it. The system definitely works as well because you don’t have to pay anything for it and you get to busk in the greatest cities in the world.”

For Philip, he says he tends to do really well with commuters. Providing background music is what he likes doing. He emphasises that with busking you cannot get disheartened. “As a busker, you’re always thinking about the fact that people are there to get on a train and not to hear you play. I don’t think people actively ignore you; they’re just in a hurry. The idea of good background music is that it doesn’t get in the way, but at the same time, it enhances the experience so people still enjoy it. For me if someone stops, I just appreciate it even more.”

Often perceptions of buskers are usually quite negative, with many people not taking them seriously. Addressing this view, Philip says, “The more people expect something the harder it is to actually impress them. When you’re busking, because people expect very little, they have no preconceptions. So when I go there, I give the best possible show I can, which means that many people listen in a pure sense.”

What has he learnt from busking? “Having done busking, it’s changed the way I play and teaches you how to hold a melody. It is quite a high level of performance because you’re trying to convey something to someone who will judge you based on the ten seconds it takes him or her to walk past you. Busking is pure. If you can get people to like you in that ten seconds, it’s almost as if you’ve consolidated all your practice in that one moment.”

 

Top 10 Twitter handles to follow for Islington

islington-ward-map-1Islington has increasingly become more trendy over the last decade, with so much to do and see, its hard not to feel like you’re missing out! Here is (quite a varied) Twitter list that will keep you in the know on different topics and things happening in Islington and may even provide you with some possible leads.

1. @MPSIslington

For every borough, there is a robust police force. Islington’s police are equally as robust on Twitter, providing updates directly to users almost every hour. It’s good to check in with this feed for follow-ups on stories published in the local papers, policing and meetings.

2. @IslingtonLife

This feed gives you news that is otherwise not featured in the local papers. With an impressive following, it’ll keep you updated with views and events in the area.

3. @Islingtongztte

Of course, this is a must-follow twitter handle that every journalist scouting the area should have.

4. @IslingtonBC

This is a great place to search for news as the Council regularly updates the feed with events, announcements and new policies that are being enforced.

5. @creat_islington

Creative Islington is a network organisation for the arts and creative industries in Islington. Visit to find education, arts and cultural issues, events and interesting things in the area.

6. @nosey_islington

Though not entirely trustworthy, this feed is perfect for getting in on community gossip, reading reviews and finding opportunities in the area.. (which all could possibly lead to a news story.)

7. @1stofN1

This quirky group is a place where you can find a list of  ‘firsts’ that have originated in Islington and the surrounding area. They constantly update this with new ‘firsts’ (so keep a look out – it may be in your patch!).

8. @IslingtonInside

IslingtonInside keeps you in the know by providing you with a birds eye view of what is happening in the borough.

9. @IslingtonPRS

If you are looking to write about any issues related to housing, Islington tenants provides information, support and advocacy for all Islington residents renting in the private rental sector (PRS). It definitely highlights the gap between the rich and poor in Islington.

10. @IslingtonTrib

Had to put this here – another great newspaper where you can find follow-up stories.

For the full list, click here

 

A new generation of aspiration, passion and commitment

Inderneel Singh

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Inderneel Singh is well conversed with luxury and all things five-star. Being son of a renowned hotelier, his new role comes easily. In February this year, Inderneel was appointed as the General Manager of the five star Mayfair Hotel, which is part of the longstanding Edwardian Group, founded in 1977 by his father Jasminder Singh.

With a reputation of legendary high standards and impeccable service, Mr Singh’s role will be more of maintaining it, with a subtle touch of new expertise. Expressing his delight at becoming General Manager and satisfaction with his staff, he purports to keeping Mayfair “fresh and in competition”.

Mr. Singh’s background is not dissimilar from many other young upcoming and ambitious entrepreneurs. He graduated from Warwick University with a 2:1 in Management Science and pursued a career in accountancy with KPMG. However, after five years, he joined the Edwardian group as an accountant in both Audit and Advisory, stating that he always regarded the hospitality trade as a “major part of my life” taking into consideration that his father was at the centre of one of the biggest managements in London.

Inderneel had the perfect teacher in his father to teach him the fundamental basics. “He has always given us valuable advice when it comes to business and how to empower employees and ensure a great culture within a business. I took that learning with me when I went to university.” He further emphasised his father’s importance in his life by calling him his greatest inspiration.

Asking whether he ever felt pressured to join the family business, Inderneel responded, “It was some- thing that my siblings and I always wanted to be part of and never something that was forced. My father would never give anyone a position they didn’t merit or have proved their ability to have or show the passion and commitment and that is the same when it comes to family.”

The hotel business is a people-facing business and no doubt is wrought with challenges. Inderneel explained that in today’s world, guests have a much larger and active voice, which means that staff need to be agile to their needs whilst remaining confident with the hotel’s values and business vision. “One way we succeed in being nimble, is with in-house resourcing – such as with our construction team and interior designers. It means we can quickly make decisions to improve our product offering to guests. Another way is our constant investment in IT for both our operations and guest experience. It is also vital to move with the times and respond to guest demands in a responsible way – for example, at Edwardian Group London we take our commitment to the environment very seriously and we consistently adhere to responsible best practice.”

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With a new role comes a new vision. “The current vision is to continue on the principles of the Group which is to be opportunistic in seeking growth but maintaining a strong balance sheet. As a group we are focussing on the Leicester Square development where we’ve appoint- ed award-winning international design firm Yabu Pushelberg to work for us on the concept. We really do see this project as transformational for the whole of Edwardian Group London going forward.”

Extending some wisdom to other aspiring entrepreneurs out there, Inderneel said, “I think it’s important to keep having those aspirations to achieve your dreams with both passion and commitment. It is important to be able to be mindful of the bigger picture and keep knock-backs or issues in perspective.”

Nice to meet you

My name is Tanveer Mann and I’m a freelance journalist, currently studying a Masters in Newspaper Journalism at the highly-reputable @CityUniversityLondon. I set up this blog in the depths of an undergraduate English Literature degree, with too much time on my hands & a clear lack of motivation. Now, well into a Masters raring with enthusiasm, yet almost no time on my hands, the idea of blogging has cast its spell on me once more. Here you will find a little bit of everything and some things in between (with a gentle focus on News, Food & Fashion, which I try not to make too obvious!). If you have any topics you would like me to blog about, comments or suggestions, you can contact me on: tanny_mann@hotmail.com xoxo

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Delicious Street food: The Story of Bunnychow

Truck, bread and moving beyond curry

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The latest endeavour by Shanti Hospitality, involves a truck, some bread and some big global flavours. If you put them all together, you get ‘Bunnychow’, a new and intriguing fast food concept, recently launched in the UK. The interesting creation is essentially a hollowed out loaf of bread stuffed with an array of different fillings including ‘Bangcluck Chicken’, which is flavoured with a Thai inspired spicy ginger sauce, succulent chicken and an Asian slaw, or ‘Pork n’ Pickle’ slow roasted pork and homemade pickles or the signature ‘Monkey Gland Meatball’ cooked in a South African, BBQ inspired monkey gland sauce.  The Bunnychow received investment from Shanti Hospitality in 2013, and although it’s a new concept in the UK market, it actually originates from Durban, South Africa in the 1940s.

CEO of Bunnychow, Atholl Milton explains, “This is a South African concept which was created by the workers so that they could carry their daily curry to the sugar plantation fields, by using a loaf of bread, as the vessel for carrying the filling.  It was a good source of protein as well as carbs and helped them get through the day.   Bunny chow is now a legendary dish in Durban, South African and we loved the idea of using the loaf as a vessel for a range of exciting fillings, to keep the workers of London sustained throughout the day.  In 2013, we developed the bunnychow food truck which roamed around London showing up at events or festivals.  This really tested the product. Soon after, we found there was a huge interest in Bunnychow so we opened up our very own shop in Boxpark.”

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Bunnychow’s first stationary appearance thus came in the heart of Shoreditch.  Housed in adapted shipping containers, Boxpark offers a bunch of pop-up shops and global street food spots, the perfect spot to ensure Bunnychow is completely at home.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 18.02.26Speaking about the strategy to grow this new business, Milton said, “Since we launched, we have received great feedback from the customers and the press with the likes of Olive Magazine and Charles Campion hailing it as a key trend for 2014.  We have finally secured a location in Soho that will become our year-round equivalent to Pret-a-Manger, where you can get hot food, as well as breakfast. The roll out strategy is then to set up 7-10 of these in the next few years. There will be a variety of food on offer from breakfast through to dinner and we’re looking to launch our own branded products, in-store such as our range of healthy, freshly squeezed fruit and vegetable juices.   It’s also important that we continue to evolve and adapt the menu with the seasons and with an awareness of new trends and flavour profiles.  

Asking Milton what compelled Shanti Hospitality to choose this particular type of cuisine, he said, “Well, nobody has really done it in a big way, over here. A lot of people are doing sandwiches, pizza, burgers but that is everywhere.  Bunny chow is something which has a tradition to it and a history to it.  You can also adapt this type of food to the local culture and change the flavours according to the season. Also the bread itself can be varied to appeal to different types of customers, for instance gluten-free. 

bunnychow-‘hops-into’-BOXPARKAs fast food goes, Bunnychow increasingly attracts many lovers and Shanti Hospitality hopes to fulfil the demand by expanding the company across central London. Milton said, “At the moment our concentration is on launching individual outlet concepts such as Wardour Street in Soho, and from there, we’ll assess the market and move forward, store-by-store.” 

Bunnychow received investment from Shanti Hospitality, a part of C&C Alpha Group but has been conscious not to blow the budget on traditional advertising and marketing.  Milton said the secret is, “we decided to take a more untraditional route in the sense of talking about the brand. So, for example, we’ve used social media to get people talking about Bunnychow, taking pictures of it on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook, that has all created a huge buzz, which has been really encouraging”.

If the Bunnychow tweets, ‘likes’ and Instagrams are anything to go by, this new food phenomenon is set to be deadly competition to all existing fast-food joints!