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It Looks Like Snow !

November 10, 2013 — 71 Comments


I plucked up the courage to ask Jon Snow for a quick ten minute interview for my blog during my train journey from Glasgow to Warrington.  I had my fingers crossed that he wouldn’t tell me to “go away”; however, he was very charming and left me completely star struck.

Jon Snow is a British journalist and presenter best known for presenting Channel 4 News.  I grew up watching this man most nights on the T.V. as my Mum watches the C4 news.  In 2011, Jon Snow presented the multiple award-winning investigative documentary; ‘Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields’ which documented war crimes committed in the final days of the Sri Lankan conflict in 2009.  After writing this article when searching for a picture I read that he declined an OBE because he believes working journalists shouldn’t take honours from those about whom they report.


Picture from www,

I hope you enjoy my impromptu interview 🙂

I can see that you’re listening to music, do you enjoy classical music or opera at all and what type of music do you like to listen to the most?

Jon – I like classical music particularly choral music but my knowledge of opera is very limited. I’m listening to ‘St John Passion’, Bach at the moment, choral music.

I was a chorister and when I was seven years of age when I got a scholarship to Winchester Cathedral and that paid for my education.  I remained there until I was 13. 

What was your favourite repertoire that you remember from singing at that age?

Jon – I think it was Herbert Howells ‘Collegium Regale’.  I did Desert Island Discs and it was one of my discs.

My mother was a student at the Royal College of Music in London she was very musical and played piano a lot, a lot of Brahms.  I used to pick up harmonies and sing along with her when I was extremely young about 4 or 5 years of age, I showed a talent for singing and being able to comprehend the structure of music and she decided I ought to get put in for one of these scholarship, so that was that.  She was taught composition by Howells.

Marvellous!  Do you play a musical instrument?

Jon – Yes violin and piano.

What made you pick up violin and piano?

Jon – The violin I was told to because it was more use than the piano but in fact the piano has always been a fantastic instrument to learn.  I have my mother’s Bluthner. A boudoir grand, a nice size ebony black. 

What kind of music do you like to play on the piano?

Jon – I like to play mainly from ear, from the baroque period.

Do you miss having that musical environment around you from when you were younger?

Jon – I do but it’s difficult to recreate it and I do a day job that makes it difficult to arrange practise with a choir because I’m always working at 7:00 pm and that’s when they usually practise.

What University did you go to?

Jon – I went to Liverpool University.  I got thrown out.  I was involved in an anti-apartheid demonstration against investments in South Africa, we had a sit-in and eventually the ring leaders were thrown out and I was one of them.  It was the best thing that happened to me because I was reading law and I would have been a terrible lawyer and I ended up a journalist.

Is that how you fell into journalism then?

Jon – Not really there was a bridge in-between I worked in a day centre for homeless and vulnerable people and after about three years I discovered I was better talking about it than doing it.  I was based in Soho, London.  I cared for 16 to 21 year old, lots of Scots!

Would you ever consider one of these T.V. programs such as joining a Gareth Malone choir for a one off series?  Like the Military Wives Choir? 

Jon – I did consider doing a BBC TV series about conducting called ‘The Maestro’, unfortunately it was the year of the American elections and I had a lot of work commitments over the Atlantic so I had to drop out which was really sad as I would have loved to have done it.  You got really well trained.  I would love to do something like that again if it ever came up again in the future.

Charlotte (in response) – one of our teachers was the deputy to the main teacher on that program so I watched that program, it was amazing.  I hope you get the opportunity to take part in it.

Would you ever put your feet into something like ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ (Dancing with the Stars)?

Jon – No! My brains too far from the extremities of my limbs I would never crack it.  You could make a real fool of yourself.

Do you think you’d enjoy the costumes?  I ask because of all of the lovely ties you wear when presenting the news, they catch my eye.

Jon – Yes probably, I wouldn’t mind.  It wouldn’t be my first choice.

On a different note, are you allowed to express your own opinions on the news or do you have to be completely impartial?

Jon – Well you are supposed to be balanced and objective, but there is no such thing as a neutral human being so the way in which you write, or express, or interview people will probably suggest some kind of position on something.  I think it is impossible to disguise completely but I think you try to very hard to be objective about and to offset whatever prejudices you have.  I don’t think you have time to hide your opinions, you have to sort of get on with it.


Serendipity strikes again, who would have thought such a chance meeting would generate such an interesting and informative chat.  Jon, if you ever get the chance to do the BBC Maestro, I sincerely hope you do I’d love to watch it, and you need a young soprano to conduct you know who to call 🙂   I was kicking myself because my business cards were in my suitcase, however, I quickly jotted down my blog address and left but not before I was really cheeky and asked for a photo which Jon, being a fabulous sport, agreed to even though he was tired after a long day.  I thanked Jon for his time and I returned to my seat, leaving Jon listening to the tracks on my blog.  He was kind enough to send out a “Tweet” after listening 🙂


Jon told me to tell my teacher she was doing a great job so I sent a text to Kath and she was thrilled.

Whilst trying to put pictures together for this post I discovered Jon has a blog called the ‘Snowblog’
Recently Jon interviewed Sir Alex Ferguson on players, politics and the press.  If you want to see how a real professional interviews it is worth a watch ( Link )

When I arrived at the station and excitedly explained to my Mum what had happened on the train she asked me if I had asked him about the HS2 high speed train link to Glasgow, his thoughts on student fees and what did he think about the Scottish Independence question ?  I replied, “Oh Mum he deals with those sorts of questions at work every day”  🙂

What a great early birthday present this was, it’s my birthday tomorrow, two decades and out of my teens, I’m hoping to put a couple of my scrapbook photo’s together tomorrow for a birthday post.  I’ve had a fabulous weekend of performances too. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.


Helen Kay, Denis Kay and I outside St Mary in the Baum church, Rochdale.

Dennis Kay is the Principal Conductor and Director of Music of Tideswell Male Voice Choir. Helen Kay, Dennis’s wife, works alongside him providing ideas and support in every aspect of the choir’s life. Dennis joined the TMVC when there were 30 or so members and in the intervening 8 years the group has grown to 63 members.

Helen’s role is multifaceted. Dennis and Helen are very much a team and they have worked together to bring about changes that have resulted in the choir becoming less traditional and more adventurous than many other similar groups. Together they are able to make things happen – Dennis by painting in broad brush strokes and Helen filling in the detail. Helen plays a key role in ensuring the smooth operation of many aspects of the choir’s larger events. Her attention to detail spans programming, sound, lighting, costume, dressing room arrangements etc. etc. and Dennis would be lost without her! (and her spreadsheets!!)

1. I know that you both met through Music, would you share how you met with my blog friends?

Well, actually it came about as a result of Helen chatting to her daughter’s music teacher at primary school. Helen’s mum was a singer and Helen enjoyed singing in the school choir when at senior school. Her daughter’s music teacher was, at that time, a member of Dennis’s choir in Rochdale and suggested that Helen went along. The rest, as they say, is history!

2. Do either of you play any instruments, if not which instrument would you choose to learn from scratch?

Yes, we both do. Dennis can play most brass instruments with the exception of the trombone. However, he would have loved to play the piano, and play it well. Helen had piano lessons from the age of six until she was sixteen but was ecstatic to be able to abandon them when studying for ‘O’ levels! She does, reluctantly, bash out a few notes at choir rehearsals if Chris gets held up in traffic and she also played for the singing lessons which Dennis used to offer.

3. Dennis, how did you get involved as the Musical Director of the Tideswell Male Voice Choir?

Eight years ago Dennis decided, after almost thirty years of directing choirs, to retire. Within a matter of weeks he received a ‘phone call asking if he could help out at Tideswell. The choir had just parted company with its M.D. and needed someone to see it through the following two or three months until a replacement could be found. Dennis does say that he wondered what he had taken on, but was impressed and encouraged by the enthusiasm and commitment of the thirty or so members. After three months the choir asked him whether or not he would consider accepting the position on a permanent basis. Eight years on still wondering “why?” but still enjoying the job.


Catherine Riddiough, Christopher Ellis, myself, Dennis Kay and Helen Kay.

4. Choosing repertoire is very difficult, how do you decide what to do each year? Do you plan monthly or annually?

This is indeed a very difficult area, but generally Dennis attempts to plan repertoire at least two years in advance. He firmly believes that, being in the business of entertainment, it is important to keep abreast of the times and have a deep awareness of what brings people out of their homes to see and hear live music.

5. How long does it take to perfect each song?

Actually Dennis does not believe that perfection is ever reached because each time a piece of music is performed, different emotions come to the fore. For Dennis it’s all about the moment.

6. What is the most enjoyable thing about running a choir?

The challenge of directing a group of singers and relaying your inner emotions to them that ultimately brings to life words and music that at the outset are merely dots a piece of paper.


The Tideswell male voice choir at St John’s Church, Tideswell.

7. How did you meet Christopher Ellis, the accompanist for the choir, your right hand man?

It was a happy coincidence that, some years ago, Dennis heard Christopher at a music festival in Hazel Grove and was immediately struck by the inspired and sensitive accompaniment which he provided for several of the classes. In due course, when seeking a Principal Accompanist, Dennis contacted Chris in the hope that he could persuade him to fill that role and was delighted by Chris’s acceptance.

8. How do you recruit more members for your choir, it has grown into a large group of men now?

In 2010 Dennis decided to run a twenty six week project entitled ‘Come and Sing’. This resulted in thirty new members joining the choir. More recently he did a similar project but this time for just six weeks. As a result of the choir’s success new members are attracted on a regular basis. The turnover in membership is very small but we do lose people for varying reasons from time to time and so it is important to continually welcome new recruits to the team.

9. How much of your week does the choir planning, preparation, concert booking, arranging, and rehearsing etc. take up?

To do this job properly requires total commitment and a clear vision for the future. The choir rehearse twice weekly and perform around twenty events annually. All of this takes up a huge amount of time, requires great effort and planning and many, many, telephone calls. Helen and I work late into the night putting together programmes, writing editorials etc. etc. so we endure many sleepless nights. From putting out the chairs, to stepping on to the concert platform and, everything in between, takes up most days of the week from dawn to dusk and beyond, without Helen’s love and support, I simply couldn’t achieve what I do.


Dennis Kay and the Tideswell male voice choir at Gawsworth Hall.

10. Helen, do you wish it was a mixed choir? Or do you think that male only choirs are easier to manage ?

That’s a really good question. Having been part of an all female choir myself I wondered what it would be like working with an all male chorus. The fact is that there’s not much to choose between them. LOL ! Do women gossip more than men? No! In fact I have found that an all male group exhibits most of the same characteristics as an all female group! I don’t have any experience of being part of, or managing, a mixed voice group so I can only guess what the dynamics of such a group might be. I do miss being able sing myself so I suppose a mixed choir would give me the opportunity to perform, however, I would probably get into trouble for being naughty!

11. How many events have TMVC got booked for next year? And am I included ?  LOL

The calendar next year is taking shape. January to April is reserved for working on the choir’s programme for the forthcoming concert season and hopefully recording a CD. However, in late March 2014 the choir will be visiting St. David’s in Pembrokeshire. The concert season proper will commence in April and we already have a number of events confirmed. Of course you will be involved Charlotte 

I hope Buxton, 9th November, is already in your diary and as soon as we get the date for Gawsworth we’ll let you know, and that’s just for starters!! Don’t worry there will be plenty more 


First of all I would like to pass on my grateful thanks to David Nichols for agreeing to record an interview for my blog diary. David is a Producer, Writer, Production Manager, Consultant and Advisor in the film industry. His credits include: “The Tourist”; “Seven Years in Tibet” and “To Rome with Love”. (Link)

Charlotte: Do you live in Italy or are you on holiday?
David Nichols: I have lived in Italy for 15 years and speak Italian.
His wife Jenny cooks; she cooked for Angelina, Brad and the kids! Whilst filming ‘The Tourist’. They have seven rescue dogs. (Link)

Charlotte: How do you choose the films that you produce?
David: They call me.

David doesn’t raise the money. Other producers do that job. He organises the film, he is given the script, asked to calculate how much it will cost (create the budget) and determines where will it be filmed.

David: Most fun part is deciding where to film it!
For the “Seven years in Tibet” David spent six months all around the world deciding where to film it, he missed Jenny, his lovely wife, though.

Charlotte: What do you like the best about producing a film?
David: Everyday is a different day. I never know what is going to happen next. It’s a great challenge, I get tired of it too and it can be stressful. Everyday has new problems to solve or experiences to enjoy. Every film is a prototype, every film you have to settle a whole new set of problems. I often have to restart from zero.

Charlotte: What career advice would you give to your daughter?
David: She is 24, a chef training in NYC, Creative writing is her thing. My advice; ‘Do what you love and love what you do. Otherwise you live your life waiting for the weekend’

Charlotte: Who did you enjoy working with the most: Actor; technician; costume; Director?
David: I would have to say Woody Allen. I most enjoyed working with him.

Charlotte: Do you help to select the actors for the film?
David: The Director chooses actors; some films are made because they have the actors e.g. ‘The Tourist’ was made because the opportunity for Johnny Depp and Angelina Jolie to be in the same movie arose. In big budget films, the actors create the films.

Charlotte: Do you want to make a film about a young blonde singer who wants to break into the world of Opera? 🙂
David: Laughing – The next time I need a young talented blonde singer I will give you a call! It won’t be as an extra but a singer, if you hear an extra sing you have to pay them featured rates.

David Nichols was a lovely man who was relaxed and welcoming. I was able to have a good laugh with him, in fact when I listened back to the tape I think I need to work on that loud guffaw of mine 🙂 it’s not very lady like.

David said that he’ll follow my blog. So be super nice to him in the comments 🙂

And David if you’re reading this I’m free July to September 🙂 LOL


As it was Max’s 21st birthday I had the good fortune to meet his Mother Dr Sarah Fane, Dr Fane is a very inspirational woman, she will receive an OBE in January 2014.  She was told about it on the Queen’s birthday, Saturday 15th June 2013. Dr Fane was awarded the Order of the British Empire for services to charity and in particular her services to the children of Afghanistan.

It all began when she was a medical student in Afghanistan when the Russians were at war there. She worked in a mother and child hospital. She returned to Afghanistan under the rule of the Taliban and was inspired to set up the charity called AFGHAN CONNECTION (link) in 2002.

They began focusing on health issues giving vaccinations to 72,000 children and concentrated on maternal health.  Then the charity twinned 20 schools in England to ones in Afghanistan – creating a teaching programme, writing letters and posting them out to Afghanistan.  The charity raised funds through schools in the UK.  The children in Afghanistan had no school buildings so the charity raised the funds to start building the schools.

In the last 3 years the project concentrated in one area, Worsaj in the North East (Hindu Kush) none of the women Dr Fane’s age could read or write, so they built schools for the children who could not reach schools due to the remoteness of the area. At the start of the project 800 children were in the schools they set up. These were children who could not access education due to the distances involved to attend established facilities. The charity trained 450 teachers in that region, and built 8 new schools for over 5,000 children and helping the local education department.  The charity have been invited to do the same again in another district nearby.

Dr Fane’s son (Alex) noticed that the Afghan cricket club had climbed their way up the cricket leader boards. Going from bottom of the world rankings to 15th in no time at all. The sportsmen came from refugee camps and are now considered heroes  within their own country. The charity obtained support from the M.C.C. in London and have run big summer camps involving over 2,000 children, both boys and girls. The Afghan team came to the camps to help teach them the children.  The charity obtained coaching for some of cricketers to help them to become professional coaches.

In recent years Dr Fane’s focus has changed to education and cricket rather than her initial interest in health.

To close the interview I asked her what she would change.

She answered that she would like to give the children in the schools a proper future, after constant war for over 30 years, to create a more peaceful country and give the women more rights.

I wish Dr Fane every success in the important work that she does.  It was an inspiration to meet and talk with her and I will take away a different perspective of Afghanistan.