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January 2017

JANUARY PLAYLIST 2017

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January Playlist 2017

I am planning on creating a mini playlist for each month, finding and collecting songs that I have been enjoying over that month and putting them together in a little post for you to discover! So, let’s begin…

January playlist artist: Marika Hackman

SONG: In the Bleak Midwinter

JANUARY PLAYLIST 2017

ALBUM: Wonderland EP

So I know January is about to draw to a close, but this ‘Christmas’ song by Marika Hackman is still on my playlist. And as the song is called In the Bleak Midwinter it still seems fitting for this dreary time of year. Now, strictly speaking Marika herself did not write this song. It is in fact a cover but the first time I heard it I mistook it for an original Marika Hackman song. It’s an easy mistake to make as the song is actually based on a poem by Christina Rossetti, before being transformed into a Christmas Carol in 1906. It seems obvious to me now that Marika would choose this song to cover as the melancholy and archaic melody and chords fit her genre down to a T. Also, the fact that it was a poem first seems appropriate as her lyrics are often poetic. Even the title sounds very much as if she had named it herself.

On 2nd December 2016, Marika Hackman released a Christmas EP, if you will, called Wonderland EP. She combined her versions of Winter Wonderland, O Come, O Come, Emanuel and In The Bleak Midwinter, with some Christmas songs she had penned herself, like Driving Under Stars and Paper Crown.

But back to In the Bleak Midwinter. The track opens with the plucking of two strings on an electric guitar accompanied by heavily distorted and effected vocals with the sound of something atmospheric, sitting just out of reach in the background of the song. The lyrics ‘Snow on snow on snow’ are emphasised by floating choral harmonies, and the electric guitar brings in a rhythm to stop the song from dragging. The arrangement is very minimal playing around with effects on the guitar and vocals to create an otherworldly sound, and this makes me love the track even more. If Marika Hackman was a Christmas song, this is the exact song she would be. Take a listen.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZqcBO1szKU

January playlist artist: The Decemberists

SONG: Make You Better

JANUARY PLAYLIST 2017

ALBUM: What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World

The Decemberists are a strange old bunch but I absolutely love them for it. Their songs tell of historical happenings, and mad old tales (listen to The Mariners Revenge Song), written as if lead singer, Colin Meloy, had swallowed a thesaurus. However, this is exactly what makes them so unique. The Decemberists hale from Portland, Oregon, and are made up of five members, with Meloy being the main songwriter and lead singer. Taking immediately to their lyrics and their affection for folklore, I can’t help but love them, especially as they often take inspiration from British and Irish folk music. The last album they released back in 2015, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World is actually their 7th album release and includes one of my favourite Decemberists tracks, Make You Better. Ironically I think it’s the musicality over the lyrics that I love about this song. The opening melody is what hooks me every time and is perhaps the main reason for my love of this song. I think something else I also respect about the song, is how it takes on a more serious tone (again my love for melancholy shines through!). This is in comparison to a lot of their other songs which play around with the imagination making sure they don’t take themselves too seriously (having said that, Make You Better does have a comical music video to accompany it). For anyone who wants a quirky and imaginative take on American Indie Rock, you should definitely have a look through their vast collection of songs!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yb8oUbMrydk

January playlist artist: Flo Morrissey & Matthew E. White

SONG: Grease

JANUARY PLAYLIST 2017

ALBUM: Gentlewoman, Rubyman

Now, it wasn’t intentional of me to include two covers in this post, but it just so happens that I stumbled across English singer-songwriter Flo Morrissey’s new music project and I wanted to include it. I can’t say I’m a particularly big fan of Flo Morrissey, but I do find that every so often I am drawn to her, and one of those moments happened to be when I saw that she was releasing Gentlewoman, Ruby Man, a cover album with Matthew E. White from Virginia. The album takes on 10 songs, covered as a duet, swaying towards a warm and funky 70s feel! I think it was Matthew E. White who actually started and drove the project, but I had not heard of him until Morrissey put him on my radar. The first time I heard this version of ‘Grease’  I was unaware of the title, as I think I heard it in the background of a video, but I immediately started tapping my foot and as soon as the line ‘Grease is the word’ chimed in I couldn’t believe how oblivious I had been. I can’t say that this is a sound I would usually listen to, but something about the 70’s style and chilled vibe that reminds me so much of the summer time is what captures my attention, and it’s a struggle not to bob my head whenever I listen to it. Plus, you can’t not bob your head to such a great classic!  Their voices blend perfectly well together, with Flo’s clear and gentle voice and Matthew’s distinct, almost whispery vocals adding something unique to each song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QuwwnNIZ3I

January playlist artist: Laura Marling

SONG: Blackberry Stone

JANUARY PLAYLIST 2017

ALBUM: I Speak Because I Can

I don’t think I have ever mentioned English singer-songwriter Laura Marling on this blog before, which is odd considering she is (from what I remember) the main reason I started song writing. When I was about 14 I discovered her album I Speak Because I Can, and after that I was obsessed, and decided I also wanted to write poetic sounding lyrics. Obviously my first few attempts were downright awful as I was never going to be Laura Marling, but I still take inspiration from the way she writes today and whenever I’m stuck in a musical rut I go back to what inspired me in the first place. As much as I love all the songs on this album, the track that resonates with me the most is Blackberry Stone. I still to this day have no idea what the peculiar title means, but what I do know is that when I listen to it I never want it to end. It’s the melody which seems so terribly, terribly sad that sucks me into it, along with it’s opening lines

“Well, I own this field

And I, wrote this sky

And, I have no reason to reason with you.”

As I said, poetical stuff.

Her delicate guitar playing and gentle soothing voice transports me into another little world, and when the string arrangement comes in, I am then completely lost. I wish I could say the same for her following albums, but sadly for me it’s only her first (Alas I Cannot Swim) and second album that I fell in love with. She is just about to release her latest album Semper Femina and I have tickets for her show at Manchester’s Albert Hall in March (so expect a blog post) and I’m excited to see her live for the first time and rediscover the magic of her music, old and new.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoRNfpvWhwQ

January playlist artist: Florence and the Machine

SONG: Queen Of Peace

JANUARY PLAYLIST 2017

ALBUM: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

In one of my previous posts from September, I talked about my rekindled love for Florence and the Machine and her album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful that seemed to completely sail past me when it was released. Four months later I am still swooning over the same album, particularly the track Queen of Peace and I felt I had to add it to this month’s playlist. Being one of the more upbeat tracks of this post (and my playlist in general!), this is a song that you most definitely want to move your body to. The track is first led by a string and brass arrangement before the drum brings in the driving tempo and so the song commences. It’s very much Florence with the strong melodies and ethereal hooks, especially in the chorus, that could arguably be described as anthemic. The brass section really adds something to the soundscape of the song and the driving tempo combined is what makes you want to move along. Listening harder though it’s clear that the undertones of the music are actually quite sombre, not just the lyrical content but the melody is quite brooding and the instrumentation heavy. As I also mentioned last time, there is a video called ‘The Odyssey’ that is part of the album, and so there is a video accompaniment for Queen Of Peace. This leads into the next song Long and Lost which I love for its contrasting mellow and stripped back feeling. Give it a listen here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KSM0lLbVYOo

If you have any song recommendations please let me know, as I’m eager to discover new music, anything old or new!

M x

My Current Favourites

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With January being a cold and bleak month I often find it’s perhaps harder to be inspired when you probably need it the most. I decided to review some of my favourite things from these past couple of months and compile it into a blog as a way of inspiration.

MusicMy current favourites

My current favourites, so let’s start with music first.

A band I have found myself often reaching out to over the past couple of months has been the return of Bon Iver. Justin Vernon, better known as Bon Iver released his new album in September 2016. It’s taken 5 years for Bon Iver to bring out new music under the title 22, A Million, which was eagerly anticipated – certainly by me at least. At first, I was a little confused with where the sound was going as it strays a fair way from his first album For Emma, Forever Ago, and even his second album Bon Iver, Bon Iver that had already progressed in the sense of instrumentation from the first album. But 22, A Million experiments in a whole new way, including the song titles which are stylized with symbols, so much so that I don’t know how to replicate it on my computer!

The first single from the new album to be released was 22 (OVER SOON). If I’m being honest, the first time I listened to this I was somewhat disappointed as I was expecting Vernon’s usual indie-folk style. But I wasn’t going to give up on it so easily, and when the second single 10 dEATh bREasT came out I was ready to embrace the new style and found myself getting lost in this track. What really sealed the deal was when I heard 33 GOD, it completely caught my attention and kept me hooked and I was excited by this new Bon Iver. Have a listen here.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6C5sB6AqJkM

Local MusicMy current favourites

Speaking of musicians, I felt it was only right to talk about unsigned and local artists too. There are a heck of a lot of amazing unsigned musicians out there, in every part of the country (in every part of the world!) that have not yet been recognised. But that’s ok, we can keep them to ourselves for a little longer before the rest of the world catches on and sees just how good they really are. The thing I love most about the music community is the support that comes with it. There’s always a musician who can recommend another and working together can bring everyone opportunities. It was actually quite hard to pick just one act because there are so many good ones, but I’m sure I’ll have other opportunities to mention them again in this blog or on my social media, so keep your eyes peeled.

A current artist who I really admire is Sobi. She is a songwriter from London, who studied in Manchester and now currently lives in Hanover, Germany. She’s acoustic folk orientated, where not only is her voice beautiful but also her words (I just can’t get enough of lyrics!). She also has the wonderful knack of writing really catchy melodies, not in a pop kind of way, but in a haunting manner that sticks in your head for days. I was fortunate enough to support her for a couple of dates on her UK Tour which I mentioned in my 2016 Highlights Blog. Here she had a band to back her delicate vocals and guitar playing adding something even greater to her sound. Sobi swaps between an acoustic and electric guitar (I personally love the electric tone against her vocals) whilst being supported by a bassist who occasionally exchanges for a guitar and a drummer and really, nothing else is needed. Her latest EP ‘Biting Back’ is available here, you should definitely give it a listen!

https://sobi.bandcamp.com

ArtMy current favourites

Someone that has inspired me greatly over the past few months is a young Swedish artist named Jonna Jinton. I have often shared her work through my social media because I find that I am continually inspired by not only her artwork but also her lifestyle. My attention was first caught by Jonna’s photography. She captures the most amazing scenic views of the landscape and mountains that surround her in a little town, Grundtjarn in Sweden, where she works and lives. Sometimes she includes herself in the photos surrounded by beautiful landscapes producing somewhat magical and otherworldly shotsMy current favourites

I spent a lot of my childhood in the French mountains and I find it to be an incredible place of inspiration, which is why I think I relate so much to her photography, because I desperately want to be part of this world that she has created for herself. She often posts YouTube videos about her life, tucked away in the mountains in a little red house with a woodstove and her dog, and it appears to be a hard life living in extreme conditions in a very small village with very few people living there. This hardship, though, reaps endless rewards, and watching documentaries about her it seems that living this way makes her extremely happy and allows her to appreciate the smaller things, even if it’s just a fire in the fireplace after spending the day in the icy cold. She has explained that being closer to nature in this way is what makes her happy and she captures it perfectly in her artMy current favourites

She has a website with a portfolio of her work but also where she blogs about the beauty of her life in Grundtjarn, accompanied by the wonderful photos she takes. Even her style of writing (once translated into English) is beautiful as she conjures the most magical images to mind before you even scroll down to see the photos. She is an artist too, quite obviously taking inspirations from her surroundings (why wouldn’t you!?), taking into account a more abstract approach. I feel I could dedicate a whole blog post to this remarkable woman because she inspires me endlessly. I find myself enchanted by her writing and art and use it to the best of my advantage for helping my song writing.

http://jonnajinton.se

StoriesMy current favourites

 ‘A folk-tale, in its primitive plainness of word and entire absence of complexity in thought, is peculiarly sensitive and susceptible to the touch of strangers hands…They are the romances of childhood of Nations: they are the never-failing springs of sentiment, of sensation, of heroic example, from which primeval people drank their fill at will.’My current favourites

I couldn’t write this post without mentioning something I received only the other day, but is already on my favourites list. I love anything to do with folktales and fairy tales, and anything that appears magical and enchanting. And I also love books. So when my dad presented me with East of the Sun, West of the Moon, I knew immediately I was going to be inspired. Not only does the book appear as if it’s vintage, but the stories are also accompanied by beautiful illustrations by Kay Nielsen, a popular Danish illustrator in the early 20th Century and who was part of the ‘golden age of illustration’. These illustrations actually date back as far as 1914, with the stories themselves deriving from Scandinavian fairy tales, which I assume have been passed down over generations. The book consists of 15 stories, all ‘Old Tales From The North’, and I know it is something I will keep for a very long time.

PoetryMy current favourites

It’s no secret that words fascinate me. When I was a child I always said that I wanted to be a poet or an author, so I suppose song writing isn’t too far from that. And because of my love for words, I’ve decided I would like to dedicate some time this year to exploring more poetry and an array of poets and I think it could help my song writing along the way. My poetry collection at the moment is only very small, but I thought I would pick out a few poems that I love. For my 21st Birthday my dad bought me a poetry book (reoccurring theme here?!) by Vikram Seth that incorporates a collection of his poems. The book is rather a large one so I’m only about a third of the way through, but I thought I’d mention some of my favourites so far. I have no idea what it is that draws me to these particular poems other than they are melancholy and I like melancholy. If you know of any poetry you think I might like, send them my way as I’d like to discover something new.

A Winter Word

Cold cold friend, Frost-

Night comes, and I

Am dispossessed.

Most cold, cold

Is this night;

And my youth old.

My spirit lost.

I cannot rest.

I walk alone.

Frost, burn upon

My every bone.

 Night Watch

Awake for hours and staring at the ceiling

Through the unsettled stillness of the night

He grows possessed of the obsessive feeling

That dawn has come and gone and brought no light

 Passage

 Your eyes, my understanding, all will rot;

The trees we see, the books we read, will go;

The way that we use words; as like as not;

And we are fortunate that this is so.

 All You Who Sleep Tonight

All you who sleep tonight

Far from the ones you love,

No hand to left or right

And emptiness above-

 Know that you aren’t alone.

The whole world shares your tears,

Some for two nights or one

And some for all their years.

These are just a selection of things that I found have been inspiring me recently and I’m sure that they will continue to do so for a good while longer. But tell me, what’s currently inspiring you?

M x

 

RY X at The Deaf Institute

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RY X at The Deaf Institute. November 2016, I attended possibly the hottest gig of my life. This was due to Manchester’s Deaf Institute (yes, I was there again!) being full to the brim with RY X fans who managed to sell out the popular venue.

RY X at The Deaf Institute

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G47vW_1Gte0

At the RY X gog, whilst feeling a little like sardines, my sister, Dad and I crammed ourselves into the busy room in anticipation of Australian singer songwriter, RY X. These tickets were a rather spontaneous purchase I’ll admit, after only hearing one of his tracks on a playlist at work about a month ago. Upon arriving home that day I searched desperately for more of his music, discovering a whole album was available and that he was touring the UK on my birthday! Well, what better way to celebrate than seeing him live, so, dragging my Pops and sister, Ella, along I bought some tickets!

It’s quite possible that RY X and his band are the epitome of the word ethereal. Or ambient. Either will do, as regardless, those words sum up his music perfectly.  He, himself, uses the word dreamy, which is equally suitable! This was something I already knew from listening to his album Dawn repeatedly over the past month but somehow the ambient levels increased in a jam packed room. Not only was the sound beautiful but also the attention to stage detail too. Smoke machines provided a mysterious setting as smoke billowed and drifted across the stage and into the room. Candles were lit and placed over the stage also, and combined, the soaring smoke and open flame gave the best stage setting I’ve seen in a long time. With the spot lights shining through the smoke, creating silhouettes of the musicians, there was something very magical about it all.  This was before even the first hypnotising guitar notes were played or before RY X’s soft husky voice uttered the first words of his opening song Shoreline.

On stage, RY X was accompanied by only two other members. For a band made up of only three people, the sound they created was equally full as it was spacious. RY X himself made up the lead vocal part and used (from what I could see) a foot pedal, that every now and then he pressed to produce backing harmonies to add layers to his songs. He also swapped throughout the set between his electric and acoustic guitar. His acoustic guitar created mournful and haunting melodies, whilst his electric guitar provided magical sounds that contributed to the spacious feel. Combining his acoustic guitar and his falsetto layered vocals, it very much reminded me of Bon Iver’s early sound, but RY X experiments with more electronic features in some of the tracks. These electronic effects were produced by RY X on stage because next to him stood some sort of synth. From where I was standing, I was unable to see exactly what instrument he was playing but the synth sound enhanced the ethereal and ambient quality I mentioned earlier.In addition to RY X, was a pianist who may also have been creating further synth and ambient sounds, but it was hard to tell amongst all the smoke that distorted my vision of the stage. On the other side of the stage was a drummer who included electronic drum parts as much as acoustic drums, fulfilling the electronic vibe once again. Although the majority of his songs are very melancholy (that you all know I love) they were equally soothing and it was easy to get lost and captivated by the music they made. Each song seemed to last between 5-10 minutes but it never became boring only easier to be enchanted. This, I suppose is the ambient element to his music that makes it so hypnotic.

Tracks such as Vampires, Lean and especially Deliverance, provided more tribal and dance-like vibes, but still concentrating on a dark mood throughout. His delicate songs Sweat and Salt were just as fascinating, causing a hush over the audience so that we could listen to his barely-there vocals and acoustic guitar playing. I love that there is a balanced mix between his up tempo songs and his more gentle tracks, both on his album and when he performed live, and I look forward to seeing him live again. The album was released only in May 2016, so I hope we don’t have to wait too long until his next release of songs, as I would love to see where he takes his music. Until then I’ll certainly be listening on repeat to Dawn, and getting lost in his ambient world.

M x

Highlights from 2016

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My 2016 highlights, now that 2016 has come to a close, let’s brush away any of the negative vibes from the past year and start 2017 in positive spirits! I thought perhaps it would be nice to reminisce on some of my favourite memories and achievements of 2016, because quite frankly, I’m very proud of what I have achieved! I feel very privileged to have had these experiences, and I’m grateful to anyone has been involved in some way.

RAG N BONE MAN

The beginning of 2016 started off amazingly well when I had the opportunity to support Rag’n’ Bone Man, who recently won Brits Critic’s Awards 2017 (that he definitely deserved!). I was lucky enough to meet Rag’n’Bone Man, real name Rory Graham, just before his set at Glass Butter Beach Festival in 2015. With an appearance that could almost be described as intimidating to small little me, as he’s endlessly tall, with many tattoos and a big beard, he was actually one of the loveliest people I have met in the industry. He was more than happy for me to have a photo with him and a little chat, and even gracefully accepted my EP’s. Little did I know that three months later he would be tweeting compliments about my music and then personally inviting me to support him at an event he was putting on at Manchester’s Sound Control.highlights from 2016This is by far, one of my favourite moments in my little musical journey (if not just life in general!) having the opportunity to have played to a sold out venue where the audience were incredibly enthusiastic and welcoming to both me and River Mathews, who also joined us on the night. My guitarist, Liam, and I played an acoustic set for the occasion and this photo below is arguably my favourite photo, not only as it was captured by Rag’n’Bone Man himself, but also because of the incredible buzz in the room that created so much adrenaline and energy on stage for us. The night overall was amazing, as Rag’n’Bone Man finished off the evening with a fantastic set. I wish him every success and hope that we’ll meet on the road again some day.

highlights from 2016

Click the image to visit the Rag’n’Bone Man website

STAFFORDSHIRE & CHESHIRE MUSIC AWARDS

In February, I attended the Staffordshire and Cheshire Music Awards after my song ‘Early Morning Riser’ was nominated for Best Single. The Music Awards made its debut in 2016, and is dedicated to supporting local bands and artists of Staffordshire and Cheshire.
The amount of effort and contribution they put into supporting local musicians is really quite amazing and I felt very fortunate to have even been nominated. The band and my family joined me on the evening which was held at Kings Hall Stoke, and I was amazed and overwhelmed when my name was announced as the winner of Best Single of the Year! To all the lovely people who had voted for me, whoever and wherever you are, a big thank you to you for your support. It never goes unnoticed.highlights from 2016Surprisingly, I have actually been nominated for 2017, as Best Solo Act. I was so thrilled to have been part of the event last year, so to be nominated again this year is such a wonderful feeling!

2016 Highlights

If you would like to vote, click on the image and follow the link

CORNBURY FESTIVAL

February to June of 2017 flew by in absolute blur, as I was in my final year of my degree and was spending most of my time writing my dissertation and endless essays and projects, so a lot of my time and energy was focussed on that for a little while. However, summer soon came round, which meant the festival season was in full swing. Having played a wonderful array of local festivals, I was also lucky enough to be invited by Caffe Nero to play on the stage as part of Cornbury Festival. In my first blog post I talked about how much I enjoyed the whole festival itself, which prides itself on being the most civilised festival, of which I can definitely confirm! The whole atmosphere was so calm and peaceful, and I felt privileged to have been able to just spend the weekend lying in the sunshine listening to a range of bands and artists. We took to the stage on the Sunday morning at 9am (!!) and were overwhelmed by the people that stopped and stayed to listen to our set, even at that time of the morning, and who equally stayed to chat afterwards with the band and I. Perfect end to the perfect weekend.

highlights from 2016

To find out more about the Cornbury Festival, click on the image

GRADUATION

November 14th saw the end to my three years of studying Songwriting. Those three years quite literally changed my life as clichéd as it sounds, but I most certainly would not be where I am today without the guidance of my degree. Although, the academic side of the course was interesting, the practical involvement of the course was what made my time there so valuable. From the people I met, to the opportunities I was given and possibly most importantly the confidence boost it gave me it allowed me to experiment, develop and grow as the songwriter I wanted to be and to find my feet in the industry.highlights from 2016So on the 14th it was a bittersweet event to be graduating from a place that I had made so many memories and achievements at but knowing that all my hard work had paid off. Our graduation was held at Manchester’s Town Hall and we were in fact the first graduates of the Manchester campus, so it was a wonderful feeling to be graduating with people who I had met right from the beginning. They are friends that I will probably still be in contact with, if not working on music with, in the foreseeable future.highlights from 2016

LONDON SUPPORTING SOBI

November was a busy month for me, and part of that was supporting singer songwriter Sobi, at both her Manchester and London gigs. The band and I were invited to support Sobi as part of her tour, and we were excited to be heading to London as it was our first opportunity to play as a band there. We certainly were not left disappointed, with the most warm and welcoming audience at The Slaughtered Lamb. It meant a lot to us that people who had never seen or heard of us before had stuck around with enthusiasm to watch us perform, especially as we were somewhere completely new! Thanks to Sobi for having us! You can check out her music, and I even made a little vlog of the evening.highlights from 2016Click the image to watch the clip

WITH TIME’ RELEASE

highlights from 2016

Click on the image to visit Itunes and listen to and buy “With Time”

Another reason November was so busy was because I released my latest single ‘With Time’, which I don’t think I have actually addressed on this blog. The band and I are really rather proud of this track, as it is the next step into how we want the music to sound, which is a darker, more ethereal and climatic sound, and this track is the transition into that. We hope that you will enjoy the track as much as we enjoyed making it, and thank you to anyone who has already listened, bought or shared the single.A week later we actually had the opportunity to have the song filmed live as part of Fat Pigeon Sessions. I have worked with Fat Pigeon once before as I played a solo set for their sessions, but this time we were invited back as a band to showcase some of our new songs. The team at Fat Pigeon, are some of the loveliest and hardworking people I have ever met. They transform what is essentially a village hall into a scaled down version of ‘Jools Holland’ to create a TV studio to film the set for you, with an audience being featured in the background. The quality of sound and production is absolutely incredible, and they don’t get enough credit, so you should definitely go and check out their channel. Here, I’ll give you a little taster to get you into the swing of things.  highlights from 2016Click on the image to watch the clip

WEDDING!  

To round off 2016, I have a personal highlight, but as it was such a wonderful day I thought it deserved to have a mention; my mum and dad finally got married!! After being together for 25 years, they secretly went off to finally tie the knot, surrounded only by me and my siblings, before spreading the news to everyone straight after, to which all our family and friends were of course surprised but elated by the news. This was the icing on the cake, to what has been a wonderful yearhighlights from 2016I hope that 2016 has brought great achievements and memories for all of you, and that 2017 is even better! Thank you for the support you have given me throughout this year and I hope you will want to stick around and see what else we have in store. Here’s to 2017 *clinks glasses* Cheers!highlights from 2016