2019 Event

Foka Wolf

Subversive street artist Foka Wolf has been pasting their art on the streets for over a decade. Their subject matter ranges from cartoons to celebrities, gory heads to thumbs up, but their most recognisable works are their joke adverts. 

Foka’s advertising agency has covered subjects including forehead extension and rent-a-curse, tackling both comedy and serious social and political commentary. 

Their work has been featured in the Metro, Time Out and BBC News, amongst many others.

Felicity Hayward

Felicity Hayward is a British curve model, social media influencer and activist. Felicity has quickly become one of the most recognised curve models in the fashion industry and she is renowned for breaking barriers in the beauty and fashion industry with not only her stellar looks but her fearless personality. Felicity was first scouted dancing to Diana Ross in an East London pub by fashion photographer Miles Aldridge while impersonating the late great Anna Nicole Smith. From that moment, she was thrown into the fashion industry head first. Felicity was an early pioneer of the plus-size industry in the UK and became a trailblazer in pushing for change within in the fashion industry through her ground-breaking collaborations with a multitude of world-renowned fashion brands. With an I-D cover under her belt, a Mac Cosmetics campaign, face to Loreal and Katy Perry’s INDI fragrance to name a few even when “curve” wasn’t popular, she has used these editorials to gain momentum on her social platforms to promote body confidence and self-love in a world full of one type of body image ideal. She has worked with some of the most credible fashion photographers in the world, including Patrick Demarchelier, Ellen Von Unwerth and Rankin.

 Felicity was one of the first models to show stretch marks, cellulite and scars in global campaigns with brands such as Missguided and The Body Shop which were inspired by her digital campaign and body positive movement #selflovebringsbeauty. Felicity’s #selflovebringsbeauty movement promotes self-love, diversity, confidence and acceptance in the fashion industry for everyone. When asked why Felicity created the brand, she says she “wanted to create something for everyone, to view beauty from your perspective, not the media’s view on body image and worth”.

 This year Felicity was one of the hosts on Channel 4’s Naked Beach in which she helped the nation work on their body image and mindset and promoted the fact she believes “ the perfect body does not exist as there are no two humans on this planet that are the same, so you have to aspire to be the best version of yourself, not someone else”.

Levi Washington

Levi plays a large variety of styles of music and likes to incorporate flavors from all his favourite genre’s. He’s known in Leamington as a one man band who incorporates 2 loop pedals, a drum pad, a keyboard, 2 guitars, harmonicas while doing his own backing vocals and more all at the same time!

Last summer in addition to performing at bars and restaurants all over the midlands Levi was invited to support Tom Clarke of The Enemy on the first show of his acoustic UK tour and has just been booked to support John Power of The La’s and Cast in November!

Along with his passion for music Levi has also been involved for a number of years in youth work and mentoring for young people. He is part of an organisation called Sync Education that provides musical therapy and confidence building to help positive changes in the lives of the young people they work with

Rob Lawrie

Rob Lawrie hit the global headlines in late 2015 whilst working as a lone volunteer in refugee camps around Europe.  Watching people talk about helping, but doing nothing, drove him to sell his business. He invested the money to bring what little help he could to the most vulnerable child refugees in those camps.

It was whilst volunteering in the Calais Jungle – a sprawling sea of makeshift tents housing thousands of refugees – that his life turned upside down. In a decision taken in seconds he agreed to break the law to help rescue a little girl from the squalid suffering he saw around him. He wanted to help her desperate father get her to relatives in his home town of Leeds. That decision cost him dear.

Rob was arrested at the British border and faced human trafficking charges. A media frenzy developed as people clashed in their responses to his actions. In January 2016 he appeared in a French court and was shown leniency by the judge. The interest in the case helped generate awareness of plight of child refugees and Rob used the attention to expose the lack of humanity shown by Governments across Europe to these innocent victims.

Today, long after the dust has settled on his individual story, the problems still persist for thousands of child refugees and Rob still works tirelessly on their behalf. He lives in Leeds with his daughter, Ruby, but continues to travel to camps around Europe.  In the winter of 2018 he raised over £10,000 to buy thousands of waterproof boots, along with food, tents and other basic human necessities.

Rob is deeply committed to holding Governments to account and exposing the shortcomings in welfare provision for the most vulnerable in society. He lectures in schools and colleges about the dangers child refugees face as they travel across borders and he aims to highlights what YOU, as an individual, can do to help.  For Rob, doing nothing is tantamount to being compliant in their suffering.

Rob’s story is currently been adapted into a Hollywood film that will bring the pain and suffering of refugees to the wider audience. He often reflects on the actions he took that forced a line in the sand moment: facing a lengthy prison sentence for doing what he thought was right.

Be ready to laugh AND cry when you hear Rob’s amazing story at our event.

Bobby Friction

Bobby is world renowned for his specialist knowledge of British Asian Music & South Asian music from the Indian / Pakistani Sub-continent. As a DJ for nearly the last 20 years he’s preached the Desi Music gospel across the continents as well as written about it extensively. He’s also an accomplished & award winning broadcaster & documentary maker for radio & TV specialising in Music, Politics, & Society.

Bobby joined BBC Radio 1 in 2002 co-hosting the Sony Gold award winning show, ‘Bobby Friction & Nihal’, and in 2005 joined the BBC Asian Network presenting the station’s Saturday afternoon ‘Album Chart Show’, before moving to ‘The Mix’, on Sunday afternoons. Bobby won his second Gold Sony award in 2005 for his BBC documentary ‘Vote Friction’, and then in 2006 he started his week nightly ‘Friction’ show on the Asian Network. The show, seen by many worldwide as ‘the definitive’ Asian music show won Bobby his third Sony Gold in 2007. Bobby now presents his own Drivetime show on the Network broadcasting 5 nights per week & covering culture, art, show-biz, film & of course lots of music.

Bobby has also made numerous documentaries for Radio 1, Radio 4 & the Asian Network over the years covering topics such as the Arabic Walt Disney, Amir Khan the Boxer, Rock music in India & British Asian’s in Prison. He has also done lots of TV work which included being the main focus for the BBC 1 documentary ‘This England’, fronting the Channel 4 TV show ‘Bollywood Star’, & Co-Hosting the BBC 1 Music reality programme ‘Clash’ as well as presenting documentaries like ‘The Countryside Sucks’ & ‘Generation 7/7’ for Channel 4. His TV work has also included appearances on The Wright Stuff (Channel 5), The Daily Politics (BBC 2), Sunday Morning Live (BBC 1), Celebrity Mastermind (BBC 1) and has appeared & worked on Newsnight (BBC2), Channel 4 News & BBC News 24.

Bobby has also written for many publications on British Asian culture & music including a monthly column in Rolling Stone Magazine, India & writing for NME.

Ash Palmisciano

Ash is an actor, writer and presenter. In 2018 Ash landed the ground breaking role of Matty Barton in ITV’s Emmerdale and became the soap’s first ever transgender character.

Quickly going on to win Inside Soap‘s 2018 ‘Best Newcomer’, he is now one of the Emmerdale’s established regular characters and has become a positive role model to others.

After going on a journey to find his true self he went back to the drawing board and decided to pursue his real ambition of becoming an actor, something he was told wouldn’t be possible. Ash attended summer acting classes during 2015 at Central School of speech and drama. After gaining his confidence he went on to have his first small TV role in romantic comedy Boy Meets Girl on BBC2 (2016). Ash then took to the stage at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and landed a part in the 2016 production of King Lear whilst also juggling this with his front of house job collecting tickets.

With his new found creative side coming alive he started writing and after a few successful online spoken word pieces he was picked to write and voice a piece he entitled ‘The Lady that Dances’ which aired on Channel Four earlier last year. Ash is now set on using this platform to make a positive difference in our society and recently became a judge for the National Diversity Awards.

Lee Towersey

Lee is a droid builder and operator who has worked across the Star Wars franchise since 2013.

A long-time member of the R2-D2 Builders Club, his journey from ‘fan’ to ‘film crew’ began at the Star Wars Celebration convention in Essen, Germany where, while showcasing their R2-D2 replicas to fellow fans and members of the public, the builders engaged in a conversation with Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy about their work.

A few months later Lee Towersey & Oliver Steeples were contacted on Kennedy’s recommendation and the pair were subsequently hired to develop R2-D2 and other droid props for Star Wars: The Force Awakens as part of the film’s creature effects team.

Lee returned for subsequent Star Wars film instalments and has worked as a droid operator on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Solo: A Star Wars Story and is currently involved with Star Wars: Episode IX The Rise of Skywalker.

After his childhood love of Lego and remote control cars led him to Hollywood, Lee actively exhibits and demonstrates his creations to help encourage the next generation of engineers.

Karl Drage

Karl has established a number of leading Renewables businesses in the UK, Europe and the US at the forefront of Smart, Cleantech, Digital, Renewable Heat, with a particular focus on the “Heat as a Service” business model. Over a decade and a half and more than £40m in equity and project finance, he has overseen teams that have installed more than 5,000 Renewable Heat Systems including some of the largest and most innovative renewable heat schemes in the World.

A Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, experienced at achieving growth, leading innovation, digital disruption, business change and mergers and acquisitions. Karl has worked in Engineering and Technology in Germany, Japan, Spain, and the US, as well as founding companies in the UK and Europe. One of his businesses was shortlisted as Clean Tech Startup of the Year 2017. He created a technology start-up exemplared by Bill Gates at the Consumer Electronics Show and established a business in the US which won the contract for the Empire State Building’s new energy system.

Ellie Gowers

Ellie is certainly not new to the local music scene, quietly brewing her self-penned songs in folks clubs for a while. She has been regularly performing music that embeds a fierce energy that echoes that of the 60’s folk revival scene and although she may be small, Ellie manages to hold pride of place on stage with her strong vocals.

Her songs are built through an early love of literature and traditional folk music as well as the notable observations she makes on the zeitgeist narrative of today’s society. She has garnered support slots with critically acclaimed artists up and down the UK, enticing watchers with her poetic lyrics and rhythmic guitar playing.

Richard Fry

Richard is an artist, writer and performer. He has just performed his 8th solo show, O Starry Night, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to much critical acclaim. Previous shows Bully, Smiler and The Ballad of the Unbeatable Hearts have toured internationally and saw Fry shortlisted for the Amnesty International ‘Freedom of Expression’ Award and the prestigious ‘Peace Trust’ Award in Australia. A feature film of Bully goes into production in America next year.

A previous show, Ex Child Genius, is re-emerging as a lo-fi B-movie with Fry in the lead role. It will be his first film role in 10 years after playing a cop hot on the trail of a psychopath schoolgirl alongside Spice Girl, Mel B.

Away from performing, Fry runs a successful art publishing company and has built a following designing supercool enamel pin badges.

Emma Gunn

Emma is the author of three foraging books published under the title Never Mind the Burdocks.

Born in Canada, she came to England when she was 3 then to Singapore from 7-11 years old. Her love of plants started at an early age and when she was 11 she taught herself about hedgerow medicines, then from 14 she became fascinated by edible plants. Emma trained as a garden designer at Pershore College with Chris Beardshaw as her design lecturer and after graduating she headed to Cornwall to her paternal roots where she joined the Eden Project 21 years ago. Her jobs at Eden have ranged from propagation, draughtsman, guide, skilled horticulturist to seasonal displays supervisor. In her spare time Emma runs foraging walks, talks, masterclasses and forage and feast sessions as well as doing garden design and is a Mum to a bright 4 year old budding forager.

Her mission is to educate people in a better understanding of nature, survival and how we can protect nature and ourselves for the future. “The more we understand the better equipped we are. With such a plethora of food and flavours on our doorstep, let’s get outside and explore!”

Find the Never Mind the Burdocks series of seasonal foraging books here: www.nevermindtheburdocks.co.uk/bookshop

Andrew Pain

Having lived and worked in El Salvador, Mexico and France, Andrew is now based in the UK, Birmingham, running his own leadership development business, helping people to deliver on their unique potential. He serves people at all levels of society from ex-offenders to sixth form students in schools and colleges, to business leaders in corporate organisations and successful entrepreneurs.

Andrew divides his time between his own business and a homelessnessprevention charity based in Birmingham, where he is responsible for developing the skills of those furthest from the job market, including people struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse, poverty and social isolation. Andrew’s passion is to see people who are written off by society, to grow in confidence, develop their business skills and secure paid employment.

In his spare time, Andrew runs a support group (MenSpace) for men experiencing domestic abuse and is a dad to 5 children.