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The Key To Effective Journalism: Embrace Social Media


Like many other people these days, it seems an impossible task for me to turn on a computer without first logging in to facebook.com, closely followed by twitter.com. I find that, alongside a cup of tea, a little bit of light procrastination is the best way to start the morning and ease into the day’s workload. It’s a chance to catch up on all the latest happenings whether they are posted from friends, celebrities or just particularly interesting people. But I also feel it’s a fantastic source for updates on UK or even global news and for discovering the latest trends. Usually, I would allow myself half an hour to have a thorough browse and share my own semi-interesting thoughts with my followers. Then I am free to continue with my daily pursuits.

March 11th was one such typical morning. Yet, social media played a larger part in that day than I ever could have expected. Waiting for me at the top of my twitter newsfeed was a tweet from @BBCBreaking: “Huge earthquake hits Japan.” Shocked, I scrolled down. @guardiannews: “powerful earthquake hits Japan,” @TelegraphNews: “Tsunami hits Japan after 8.8 magnitude earthquake.” And then my eyes caught the trend on the right hand side simply stating “#pray for Japan.” I, and the rest of the world, said a prayer for all those affected, although, the number was yet to be known.

The rest of the day was spent frantically watching each and every bulletin trending on twitter. I was redirected to news websites with more devastating information, images and videos. It showed a country under ruin, under rubble, under water. Few buildings had survived. Few people had survived.

And for those who had survived, their lives had been shattered.

Youtube videos were uploaded of the tsunami rapidly covering the land, boats crushed under bridges, cars washed away, homes drowned. It was truly terrifying to watch. I found myself moved to tears as images were uploaded onto Flickr as the crisis was unfolding. A small boy and his father are pictured looking out into the distance, facing the destruction that was once their home. With their backs to the audience, we can only imagine their saddened expressions. Another image showed a tiny little girl, perhaps no older than 5, being rescued from the rubble. I wondered what she was thinking and feeling behind her confused and worried little face. I wondered whether behind the photographer she had parents waiting to meet her, or whether hers was another tragic story.

Facebook seemed to be a popular medium for reassuring loved ones that all was well. It was a distressing time but the Japanese locals and those in the country on work or on holiday were desperate to let everyone know they were safe. Others hadn’t been so fortunate. On March 12th @guardiannews shared on twitter: ‘Japan mourns amid fears quake toll could hit 10,000.’

Piece by piece, each social network website played a significant part in informing and showing the world the tragedy as and when it happened. It then dawned on me the huge impact social media has on global news reporting. How a simple four-word tweet had grabbed hold of my attention and maintained it for an entire day through continuous reports of the horrendous natural disaster. Not only by informing through the one social platform but by redirecting me to their websites with more details, to other related articles and informing of special not-to-miss news programmes.

It seems that social media has become a new platform for journalism and a new and accessible method for distribution. Had I not logged into my twitter account it is likely that the message would not have reached me so quickly and the sheer enormity of the situation may not have been fully grasped had I not seen the massive response from journalists and users around the world. I decided to speak to journalists in the professional industry to discover to what extent social media is reshaping journalistic practices.

Karen Fowler-Watt, ex journalist for the BBC and senior lecturer at Bournemouth University, explained to me how Journalists are utilising social media to get their stories out quickly and effectively. She said: “Journalists’ lives have been transformed… there is no more waiting for live feeds or pieces to camera as they can tweet a headline and follow up in more depth later.”

It is this referral to newspapers and websites for more depth that is perhaps acting as a life-saver to the newspaper. It can be seen to be generating traffic to newspaper websites and from there to the printed papers.

Reading Chronicle editor, Sally Stevens, said social media platforms are not only effective for informing the public of breaking news but also for reporters who use the online mediums as a source for information. She said: “Reporters here will use Facebook and Twitter to track people involved in specific issues and to invite people to send in their personal experiences.” This was seen during the recent events in Japan with many news teams requesting additional information from their Twitter followers. @TelegraphNews wrote: “If you have any pictures/videos from the earthquake in #Japan or #tsunami damage, please email.” Sally explained that this is not a new technique as radio and television news have been asking their audiences to contact them for many years, but online media makes this a more accessible task.

On the 15th January 2009 it was twitter users that broke the news of the plane that crashed in New York’s Hudson River. @JimHanrahan was the first to tweet: “I just watched a plane crash into the hudson rive [sic] in manhattan.” At this event citizen journalism was at its finest with images, videos and tweets documenting the unfolding drama. It was fifteen minutes after this that the mainstream media began to report on the crash.

Social media has also been a great source for contacts for showbiz entertainment news. Celebrities left, right and centre have their own Twitter and Facebook pages now which they continuously use to promote their latest news, both personal and professional. Ex news editor of financialtimes.com and Bournemouth University lecturer, Liisa Rohumaa, said: “Showbiz journalists track twitter for updates, for example about Lilly Allen’s pregnancy, as well as to break scoops, such as when TMZ used twitter to announce Michael Jackson’s death.”

I must admit, breaking news for celebrities seems to feature rather heavily on my twitter feed due to the number of celebrity gossip gurus and magazines I follow. For me it has perfectly transformed the art of celeb spying. A recent example tweeted by @OK read: “Kym Marsh has given birth to a baby girl! Full story on its way…” Of course, I stayed tune.

But with all the positives of social media it seems a little too good to be true. There must be some downsides surely?

Sally Stevens said it’s extremely frustrating when a reporter accidentally gives away an exclusive they are working on due to the fact that social media is such an open forum for conversation. Asked the same question, Karen Fowler-Watt explained to me that consumers today are bombarded with alternative ways of engaging with the news due to the many prompts to create traffic via social media. When a viewer sits down to watch the news or listen to the radio they are repetitively told to follow them on Twitter or to become a Facebook fan which can be quite frankly annoying. Also, many academics argue that social media can encourage journalists to lapse into opinion reporting, often blurring the boundary between an objective account and a subjective story. But she said: “Social media is here to stay and the key is that journalism practice embraces it but still keeps a beady eye on the need to be impartial and to present a balanced account.”

Yes, whether we like it or not, social media is here to stay. And I believe it’s for the good of both the public and the professional journalistic practice. Social media has the power to provide fascinating, real time running reports and real life accounts of major incidents which alongside traditional, trusted methods of reporting creates an eye-opening story. As horrific as it was to watch, it’s undeniable that the ability to share over the internet information and footage of the Japan disaster from those experiencing it at that very second, has transformed journalism.

Photos: google images/flickr/twitpic

March 26, 2011 Posted by | Features, Journalism, Portfolio, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

Bournemouth locals advised not to worry about high crime rates


My attempt at news writing after being designated Central Bournemouth as my patch…

Bournemouth residents are being advised not to worry about high crime rates in the town’s clubbing district by the Council’s night-time initiative.

A new website set up by the Home Office shows that Bournemouth is home to some of the highest crime figures in the country. Fir Vale Road and Lansdowne Crescent saw 72 and 68 crimes respectively in December 2010.

Jon Shipp, Night Time Economy Coordinator for Bournemouth Quality Nights (BQN) Initiative, says that crime has decreased in the past two months. He said: “Bournemouth has a massive amount of visitors compared to other towns so crime rates are going to be higher. It’s important to keep this in perspective.”

BQN Initiative, part of Bournemouth’s Townwatch, is responsible for improving night-time safety. The initiative ensures police and chaplains patrol the streets at night and organise the annual Best Bar None audit.

Best Bar None will run for the fifth year in August awarding pubs and clubs points for reduction of crime and disorder, health and safety and licensing regulation.

Shipp added: “The majority of premises in Bournemouth are very well managed as you can see from the 24 accredited clubs in our Best Bar None initiative but if clubs do not take their responsibilities seriously then vigorous action must be taken.”

Upmarket clubs The Studio and Priva lost their licence this month after complaints of assault, drunkenness and drug abuse.

Rob Knowles from Dorset’s Door Supervisor Training Organisation says strict regulations are also being introduced to club bouncers. He said: “It’s important that bouncers are trained to intervene safely so that they don’t react violently to someone and make a situation worse.”

Bournemouth University student, Hannah Bedwell, often visits the town’s clubs but has never been a victim of crime. She said: “I always make sure I stay in a group but as it’s a busy area I know there’re always people around if I need help.”

Last year Bournemouth was awarded The Purple Flag which recognises excellence in the management of town centres at night. Bournemouth was praised for providing a safe, clean and pleasant night-time experience.

Photo: Bournemouth Echo

March 10, 2011 Posted by | Journalism, Portfolio | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Medley of Musical Films


Whilst working at Romley Davies Publicity over the summer I was given the task of writing a series of features to publicise the release of the new film The Concert…

 

To celebrate the release of The Concert on 16th June 2010 we take a look at the top 10 films that are based on up and coming musicians from both reality and fiction.

1.The Concert (2010) Thirty years ago, Andrei Simonivich  Filipov (Aleksei Guskov) was the celebrated conductor of the renowned Bolshoi Orchestra. But during the communist era, he was fired at the height of his fame for refusing to get rid of all his Jewish musicians, which included his best friend Sasha. Now demoted to the position of cleaner at the Bolshoi, he learns by chance that the Chatelet Theatre in Paris has invited the orchestra to perform there. Andrei decides to reunite his orchestra and to perform in Paris in the place of the current Bolshoi Orchestra. He wants Anne-Marie Jacquet (Melanie Laurent), a young virtuoso, as the solo violinist to accompany his old Jewish and gypsy musicians. If they all manage to overcome the hardships ahead, this very special concert will be a triumph. 

 

 2.The Pianist (2002) A moving film which follows the experiences of acclaimed Polish pianist, Wlad Spielzman, during WW2. He was born into a wealthy Jewish family and led a successful life until his life changed dramatically as he becomes a prisoner of war and is deported to the ghetto of Warsaw. He manages to escape and has no choice but to live in hiding moving from one abandoned home to another. The film portrays the horrific conditions of war through the musician’s eyes and depicts his struggle to survive and the loneliness he feels due to his family being taken away from him. Ultimately it is his musical gift that helps him to survive as he is forced to play for his life.

 

 

3. This is Spinal Tap (1984)  A mocumentary about English Rock band, Spinal Trap, who go on a nationwide tour starting in America to present their come-back album ‘Smell the Glove’. The first concerts begin but as the film progresses problems start to occur for the band such as concerts being cancelled and distributors refusing to sell the album due to its cover being sexist. Throughout, the film satirises the wild behaviour and musical pretensions of rock and roll stars.

 

 

 

4. Ray (2004) A biographical film which depicts the struggles of Rhythms and Blues musician Ray Charles who despite going blind at the young age of 7 is determined to make a success of his life.  Inspired by his mother who told him never to be a cripple he learns to play the piano and from then becomes known to all as a musical genius and famous singer. However, it is not plain sailing for the man who becomes addicted to Heroin which threatens to ruin everything for him. The story tells of the drive and determination the man has to take control of his life and not be defeated by whatever the world has to throw at him. 

 

 

5. Brassed Off (1996)  A comedy-drama about a close-knit community in Yorkshire where for 100 years the town’s men have been playing in The Grimley Colliery Brass band. On discovering that the local mine is to be shut down the band leader decides to enter into a national championship competition to give some hope to the town’s men once again but with other worries on their minds the men are not focussed. That is until pretty female flugelhorn player, Gloria (Tara Fitzgerald), returns to the town where she grew up and wishes to join the band. This sends a wave of interest back to the players and especially her childhood sweetheart, trumpeter Andy (Ewan McGregor).  

 

 

6. Amadeus  (1984) The film adaption of Peter Shaffer’s play which is based upon the life of the genius musician and composer Wolfgang Mozart told by Salieri, another composer from Vienna who is confined to an Asylum. It portrays the envy and agony that Salieri feels towards Mozart whose music he likened to the voice of God and his failure to understand why God did not pass the gift onto him instead. Throughout the film Salieri cunningly plans to take revenge and conquer Mozart. 

 

 

 

7. The Piano Teacher (2001) Based on Janice Lee’s novel, the highly respected and talented piano instructor, Erika, teaches at a famous music conservatory in Vienna and is known for her strict and disciplined lessons. However, outside of her lessons she has a strong and violent sexual appetite which she finds difficult to control. When a handsome, self-assured student auditions for her class an immediate attraction forms and she invites him into her fantasies and allows him to soften her.  

 

 

 

8. Bird (1988) Clint Eastwood directs the biopic film about saxophone player, Charlie Parker, who travels to New York in the 40’s to establish his career with his new style of revolutionary jazz music. It is a tragic story in which after finding fame he gets caught up in drug addiction and dies at the young age of 34. The film explores his life from childhood through to his adulthood and his marriage to Chan Richardson who was always by his side supporting him. 

 

 

 

9. The Soloist (2009 ) Another true life story in which journalist, Steve Lopez, discovers cello prodigy Nethanial Ayers living in squalor on the streets as a street performer.  Although he had attended Julliard Music College for two years and was known as one of the most gifted students his future was doomed as he battled with schizophrenia. As the journalist gets to know the man behind the mental illness the respect he has for him grows and he is determined to help Ayers gain the recognition he deserves. In order to help him, as well as the other under classed, to have a better quality of life he writes a series of articles about the extraordinary talent the homeless man has.  

 

 

10.Walk the line (2005) Based on Johnny Cash’s autobiographical works, the film traces the life of the country music legend (Joaquin Phoenix) and reveals all of the poignant moments of his life which inspired and led to his fame. It relives his troubled childhood through to his experiences in the armed forces and then his attempts to start a music career. His love life with June Carter (Reese Witherspoon) is of particular focus and its tragic ending resulting in his fatal drug addiction. 

 

September 5, 2010 Posted by | Features, Portfolio | , , , , | 1 Comment

A honeymoon to remember


Whilst working at Reading Chronicle last summer I had the following feature published in their annual Wedding Planner magazine.After months of stressful planning for the wedding of your dreams, a honeymoon is essential for every newly married couple. It is a chance to spend quality time together and reflect on the past chaos and celebrate a long and happy future. If planned properly it can be a once in a lifetime opportunity to choose an extravagant holiday or experience you have always longed for.

Before setting off to the travel agents it is important to consider your budget. Yes, for the perfect honeymoon it can be expensive with the average cost now well over the £1500 mark.   However, whatever you choose to spend, there are plenty of options out there to ensure you make the most of the honeymoon period. And, you could always add travel vouchers to the wedding gift list, that way your guests can treat you and all that’s left for you to worry about is the destination.

Perhaps relaxing in an exotic country with glorious sun, white sand and clear blue sea is what is needed. With everyone gathering around, keen to offer advice and help you plan wedding it may be that seclusion and alone time with your partner is all you hope for. You need to choose a country where the weather will be hot at the time of year you are planning for and a hotel that meets your need to be pampered. There are many all inclusive honeymoon packages available in islands such as The Caribbean, The Canary Islands, Mauritius or places like Dubai. If you can’t decide on one destination then why not consider a cruise? Wherever you choose, be sure to let the locals and hotel staff know that it is your honeymoon and then prepared to be lavished in luxury…or at least receive a hamper on the house!

It might be that you would prefer an action packed honeymoon hiking in a jungle, experiencing a safari in South Africa or having a cultural adventure in India to create everlasting memories. If you wish for a selfless and rewarding experience with your partner then volunteer honeymoon’s are becoming increasingly popular. The UK charity Globalteer offer volunteers an opportunity to spend a couple of weeks rebuilding communities in developing countries. Whether you work on schemes with Cambodia Kids or Thailand Animal Rescue, the challenging shared moments with your partner will take your relationship to new depths right from the start of your marriage.

May 9, 2010 Posted by | Features, Portfolio | , , , , , | Leave a comment

How to lose those Bournemouth winter blues


This is a feature about Bournemouth that I wrote for an assignment in January 2010.

The clear blue seas are sparkling under the bright rays of sunshine and the sandy white beaches are warm under the feet of masses of tourists. Bronzed sunbathers lie still as children laugh and squeal building forts and castles around them. Beach balls, rounders balls, volleyballs can all be seen flying through the air being dodged by the squawking seagulls that are on the hunt for discarded picnics and Harry Ramsdens’ fish and chips. Tiny heads can be seen bobbing in the waves watching the jet skis and the speed boats further out in the distance. The mums are paddling their baby’s feet at the edge of the water while couples, young and old, walk hand in hand along the sea front.  It’s a typical August afternoon on Bournemouth beach- why would you want to be anywhere else?

But what about when those dark, cold winter months draw in, when it’s time to put away the swimwear and suntan lotion for another year? I asked Bournemouth locals how they rid themselves of their winter blues when the tourists have fled and the beaches are bare.

“As much as the beaches are wonderful in the summer, I love how in the winter you can go for nice peaceful strolls along the promenade”, Joy Whittingham, a professional woman from Moordown, told me during one such stroll on a chilly November afternoon. The waves of the sea looked rough and the beach in the cold, crisp weather did not seem as inviting as in the summer but Joy found the quietness a place she could escape from her usual busy lifestyle and be at one with nature. As we continued along the beach we noticed a dog being set free from its lead onto the spacious sand, she added: “I know that many locals enjoy how they are able to walk their dogs here when all the visitors go home”. In the winter the locals can enjoy having the seaside back all to themselves and are allowed to take dogs to the beaches from 1st October to 30th April. Also bike riders can cycle along the prom during the out of season months without having to worry about making room for the summer tourists.

However, just because the holiday makers have packed up for the year, it is a mistake to think that the sea is not swum in during the winter. Bournemouth Spartans Winter Sea Swimming Club runs from October to April where swimmers of all ages ranging from 10 to 90 get into in the icy cold sea every week. John Brookman, the club’s treasurer said: “We go for a swim every Sunday morning in the winter months. We don’t wear wet suits as we are communing with nature. Although, it is the annual Christmas day fancy dress dip which draws in a crowd of a few hundred.’ The annual Christmas day dip into the sea on the east side of Boscombe pier has been taking place since the club was formed in 1951. Crowds of 300 have been known to gather as the swimmers arrive dressed in extravagant fancy dress ready to be judged by the mayor of Bournemouth before making their dip at 11.45 am. The costumes in the past have often been crazy such as a Reindeer, a pantomime dame, and Neptune, but most opt for the more comfortable attire of Victorian style swimwear.  Dave O’Donnel, Chairman of the club, said: “come along and try it as anyone is welcome. Don’t say no until you’ve given it a try.” But if the biting cold of the water isn’t for you, spectators can feel smug as they watch the event from the warmth of their woolly hats and winter jackets.

As well as the Christmas dip, there are many events in Bournemouth to mark the festive month such as Christmas concerts and pantomimes but it is the Christmas Market in Bournemouth Square that draws in the tourists in the winter. The square sparkles with Christmas decorations in every colour that cover the 50 alpine stalls offering the traditional German Bratwurst (Sausages), sweets, crepes and coffee as well as gifts for all the family. In the centre of the market, which is open from the 19th November to the 3rd January, is a German alpine bar with a beer garden for shoppers to escape from the festive chaos. Hannah Bedwell, a student from Poole, is one of the many shoppers relaxing in the beer garden, with shopping bags surrounding her as she sat drinking her glass of mulled wine. “I think Bournemouth is great for Christmas shopping anyway but the market just adds such a merry atmosphere to the town. It’s great to watch the other busy shoppers while I get to take a break and enjoy my drink.” While speaking to Hannah, in the background is the familiar ‘sound of the Salvation Army brass band playing ‘Joy to the world’ and carol singers could be heard singing along. The town really does have a joyful atmosphere at this time of year.

So from my discussions with the locals it seems that in the run up to Christmas Bournemouth continues to thrive. I thought perhaps once January arrived and the busy Christmas season was over then the winter gloom would set in. This was not the case.

Fraser Smith, aged 22, from Winton, told me about the temporary ice rink at the Bournemouth International Centre which last year sold over 60,000 tickets. It’s open from 17th December until 21st February and is set to be just as popular this year. He said: “it was such a laugh last year, I went a few times with a group of friends and although I love the summer at the beach it was a really fun substitute in the winter months. It’s a shame it’s not there all year really.” After the rink is removed there are still a couple of dull months to go before summer peak sets in, right?

Wrong. Local motor car racing fanatic, Gerald Whittingham from Moordown, told me that “In the winter I personally look forward to February when the Sunseeker Car Rally is in Bournemouth.” The event is the largest and fastest motorsport event in the South of England and runs over the weekend from 26th to 27th February. The event has pulled in large crowds over the past who are keen to watch their favourite national rally drivers live in action. Enthusiastically Gerald continued: “The race starts at the Seafront Special Stage and runs through here twice so that is the best place for onlookers to wait around. They race right through Bournemouth Gardens up to the Seafront and off towards Boscombe.” Many families love going to the event as children, young and old, love the high speed races and exciting atmosphere.  

In the final month before tourists once again begin to take over the town, entertainment at the BIC will keep your diary full. March 2010 has all kinds of concerts from celebrity pop star Peter Andre to the beautiful classical singer Catherine Jenkins. Shows like ‘Oklahoma’ are set to be very popular and audiences will be moved by ‘The Soldiers-the coming home tour’.

So, it would seem that Bournemouth is the place to be whatever the season. However, if these winter events and activities still do not cheer you up and a fix of sunshine is in desperate need then why not take advantage of one final perk of living in Bournemouth during the cold months. You can always book a flight at Bournemouth’s Airport and migrate over the winter to a hot and exotic destination.

May 9, 2010 Posted by | Features, Portfolio | , , , , | Leave a comment

A right royal achievement


For an assignment in January 2009 I wrote a feature interview about Karen Murty (wife of footballer Graeme Murty) about how she uses her status as a WAG positively.

If asked to imagine a footballer’s wife, it is likely the image of a stereotypical ‘Chardonnay’ will appear in your mind. A Gucci obsessed woman, full of self importance who at every opportunity grabs fame and fortune off the hard work of her husband. Karen Murty, wife of ‘The Royals’ (Reading FC) captain Graeme Murty, subverts this representation with her casual fashion, down to earth nature and willingness to express her family values and love for using her status as a ‘WAG’ to help others. She can now proudly boast her Sue Ryder Care ‘Woman of Achievement 2008’ award for her hard work within the community as co-founder of ‘Royal Families’, the fundraising organisation set up by the wives and girlfriends of the players. Karen explains the success since the organisation was established and her charitable plans for 2009.

On arrival at the exclusive development near Basingstoke where the large, modern, family home was placed, a warm greeting was made by Graeme followed by a wide smiled welcome by Karen. She was carrying and doting on her nineteen month old daughter Freya Caitlin. After I was comfortably seated on a luxurious brown leather sofa in the ivory schemed, open plan kitchen, I witnessed the loving and playful nature of the family . After lots of cuddles between Freya and Graeme he had to rush off to his busy schedule, leaving Karen to explain more about her work with ‘Royal Families’.

“We never expected to raise so much money”, exclaimed Karen when discussing the achievement of raising over £112,000 in the first year of establishing the organisation with Amanda Hahnemann (wife of goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann) following Reading’s promotion to the premier league in 2006. She laughed, “when asked in a press interview how much we intended to raise, I randomly said £60,000 as a target and Amanda nearly fell off her chair saying she would have said £10,000. Well you’ve got to aim high haven’t you?” A champagne tasting session kick started the partner’s events in the first year and its success was followed by a Valentine’s Day ball, a race night and a golfing day. Although, Karen commented, “The champagne tasting was the most funny as each glass was a full one.” The money was split evenly between the two local charities ‘Parents and Children Together’ and ‘Berkshire Women’s Aid’.

Karen believes that the wives and girlfriends can use their status as footballers’ wives positively in order to make the events a success. “We can turn around and say the players are going to be at the events and then give them a kick up the backside to go,” she joked. ‘Royal Families’ had a lot of media attention due to their originality Karen explains, “lots of footballers’ wives raise money individually but we are the only club to do it collectively.” When questioned about why this is the case and the motives behind their hard work she replied, “well, my reasons are quite selfish really; I love it when you see the smiling faces of the people you give the money to.” However she continued “charities which are family related are especially important to us because we are very family orientated”.

The three large family portraits centrally positioned on the wall above where Karen was seated highlighted the importance of family in the Murty household. Karen was a dedicated teacher before having Freya, yet she informed, “I’m happy at the moment. I’m not interested in going back to work until a lot later on.” With a smiling, thoughtful expression she claimed, “I don’t want to miss a thing. So far I’ve been there for every single first.” When discussing how happy Graeme seemed playing with Freya, Karen recalled their family Christmas 2008 when he was unable to play in the Boxing Day match against Cardiff City due to his recent leg injury. “Had it been a couple of years ago he would have been really arsy all Christmas break as he hates not being able to play but having Freya here has really softened him.”  Christmas was relaxing and special this year according to Karen, “we had a quiet family Christmas with my sister and brother-in-law, Graeme didn’t have to leave for training Christmas day and he could have a proper Christmas dinner as he didn’t have to do the whole carbohydrates load up!” With a childlike grin she explained her meaning of Christmas, “we made it really magical for Freya. I love the magic of Christmas and having the family together”.

The ‘Royal Families’ website states that to date they have raised more than £200,000, yet, according to Karen, there is still more to give in 2009. “This year the main focus is going towards the charity Graeme is patron of, ‘Swings and Smiles’, as it’s his testimonial year with the club” Karen explained. The charity’s vision is to create ‘a place to play’ for children with special needs. “We’re definitely going to do another bowling night and the R-Word (Reading’s version of Gordan Ramsay’s F Word) was excellent too,” Karen revealed in encouragement to anyone interested in taking part in events and helping the organisation. Then she pointed down at the royal crest printed on the pink hooded jumper she was wearing, “these are sold in the RFC shop and the money goes to Royal Families and also the money from each sold calendar.”

 Karen beckoned me over to the window where her sparkling ‘Woman of Achievement’ award was proudly and deservedly placed and joked, “it’s not just Graeme who has trophies!” Then a well behaved Freya called her Mummy into the living room where she had been playing with a friend of Karen with new Christmas toys; a toy piano and a children’s kitchen set. However, among such lovely toys it is a little football she was fixated with, kicking and passing it to Karen. “She takes to football naturally, although I would have liked her to be a dancer like I was,” Karen laughs. Whether Freya is gifted with football or dancing, with such an inspiring mother as Karen Murty it would be no surprise if she too dedicates her life to helping the community.

May 7, 2010 Posted by | Features, Portfolio | , , , , , , | Leave a comment