Last weekend was a big weekend.

On Friday night, I attended a dance performance by the Eliot Smith Company at Dance City, at which Eliot Smith and I launched our new book ‘Martha & Me’. There I was, holding my own in a world that had been completely alien to me less than two years before. I felt confident, proud of what I had achieved, and happy to be surrounded by some of my people. People who were there to support me and celebrate with me. People I’d lived alongside when I first moved to the North East twenty years ago. Friends who loved dance and/or loved reading. My tribe.


On Saturday night, I took to the streets of Newcastle for a culture crawl courtesy of the Late Shows. My friends and I started with a salsa lesson at Dance City. Same venue, different friends. Different vibe, different outfit, different me. This night, I felt abandoned and carefree. I felt childlike and adventurous. I was wearing a CHOOSE LIFE T shirt, after all. And this was a different tribe, the group of friends who’d all witnessed our kids growing up together and who all felt comfortable to be ourselves together and express ourselves in our own way. We drank weird cocktails and explored the Happiness Project and listened to a story in a dark cave and live music outside under twinkly lights and danced the night away to 80s music.

On Sunday, I was at a Christening, celebrating welcoming little James into the church family. I was with my people again. These people feel like family. Like my tribe. But a different tribe, a different family. And a different version of me to the one talking about my new book on Friday night and giving it my all on the dance floor on Saturday night.

This weekend left me pondering. Wondering which version of me was the real me, something I’d been digging deep to find for a long while now. A kind of holy grail. Each one of these versions of myself felt real. In none of these situations was I pretending, putting on an act, trying to be something I was not. I had a place in each of these each of these environments, with each of these tribes. Each version of me was the real me.

I can feel it now, just sitting here writing this. I can simultaneously experience conflicting thoughts and feelings. I can feel happy and sad at the same time. I can feel excited and nervous at the same time. I can feel confident and undermined at the same time. There’s a crowd of people inside this head and heart the whole time – all wanting to be heard and recognised and cared for. Not a single one of these voices is the real me, the only real me. Each one is part of the internal family that makes me me.


I wouldn’t have said that I suffer from dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder), but I glimpse an understanding of those that do. In extreme trauma, from what I understand, these internal personalities become disassociated from one another, detached. They take on a life of their own. Anyone who’s seen James McAvoy in the 2016 film ‘Split’ will know what I’m talking about. There but for the grace of God, go I. Or you. Maybe we all have the potential for that within us.

This has all become a little clearer to me since reading the fantastic book ‘The Body Keeps The Score’ by Bessel Van Der Kolk. There’s a whole chapter in this insightful book called ‘Putting the pieces together: self-leadership’, which introduces a therapy I’d not come across before called internal family systems therapy.

The mind is a mosaic. We all have parts. right now a part of me feels like taking a nap; another part wants to keep writing.  Page 282

Life is all about listening to our different parts and making sure they feel cared for and stopping them sabotaging each other.

In the chapter, the author describes that when we are hurt or in danger or suffer trauma, we employ extreme behaviours (aggression, depression, anxiety, obsessions, arrogance etc) as strategies for self-protection. It’s all about finding a way to cope, to get through each day in one piece. Strong figures within us step up and take control. They’re the managers, the fire-fighters, the ones that protect the vulnerable version of self.

And so I have embarked on a new journey to acquaint myself with my internal family. A few of them came out to play last weekend. I’ll take the time to get to know and understand the managers and the fire-fighters, even if I don’t like the way they’re behaving. They’re being difficult or rude or stubborn or selfish or obnoxious for all the right reasons: they’re trying to protect me from getting hurt. Sometimes, I need to encourage them to stand aside though and let me see the ‘me’ they’re protecting. The vulnerable, compassionate, creative, affectionate, loving, tender me. I’m particularly loving my inner child. She hasn’t been encouraged to play nearly enough. To her, I say this.


Come with me. Let me get to know you. I’ll look after you. Show me what you need, what you want to do. Let’s play.



For the last eleven years, for one weekend in May, attractions across Newcastle and Gateshead have opened their doors after hours for the public to visit creative spaces, watch shows and get involved themselves in all sorts of fantastic cultural adventures. This fabulous after-hours programme, known as The Late Shows, offered over 60 different venues this year, showcasing a range of arts, culture and heritage experiences.

So Saturday night saw nine of us friends joining with the other intrepid explorers of The Late Shows, armed with booklets and glow sticks, to venture out on the streets of Newcastle after dark in search of excitement, inspiration and fun.

And I loved it! Absolutely loved it! And here are ten reasons why:-

  1. The booklet

These Late Shows booklets are like gold dust! Or maybe we just don’t frequent the right places. We struggled to get our hands on one. We had a planning meeting on the Monday before the event – yes, seriously, it had to be done! About fifteen minutes in, there was a knock on the door and a friend appeared with a booklet she’d picked up at the local library for us. She saved the day! I love a trail, a map with numbers, descriptions of magical-sounding events…I was hooked.

2. The glow stick

The Late Shows glow sticks are also hard to come by and yet the evening would not be complete without one. As we walked up Grey Street, we recognised fellow culture crawlers by the glow sticks around their necks. We greeted total strangers like long lost friends. We were all in this together.

3. The opportunity to dress up

When we set our hearts on ending up at Kommunity for a George Michael Tribute Evening, it didn’t take long for us to order a job lot of CHOOSE LIFE T shirts. So we may have looked like a Hen Party and one of our party may have looked like the hen, but we were happy. We had our dress code. And what I loved was that we all had the T shirt, but we all did the look completely differently. We expressed ourselves.

4. The opportunity to try new moves

Trying new stuff is exhilarating. Whatever it is, I love to have a go. So we started at Dance City with a Salsa class. I don’t know that we would ever all have done that together under any other circumstances, but this was the Late Shows. This was what the event was all about. We were here to leap out of our comfort zones and leap we certainly did!

5. The opportunity for local artists to showcase their skills

We queued to get into the Happiness Project at 13 Grey Street – and this venue just proved that happiness means different things to different people. This house divided us. Some of us loved it and could have stayed there all night. Others really didn’t get it and wanted to get out of there as soon as possible. I was in awe – each room had a different theme and activity and was so well thought out. It felt like I was wandering around inside my own brain, moving from experience to experience.

6. Embracing difference and being ourselves

There were nine of us in our group – nine completely different individuals. Some wanted to eat; others did not. Some drank alcohol; others did not. Some wanted to join in; others wanted to observe. We tried to cater for each individual taste in the activities we planned to attend. Some were huge George Michael fans; others not so much. But we all felt able to be ourselves without judgement or teasing. If we wanted to sit out, we sat out. We felt that freedom and sense of security with each other.

7. The vibe

Everywhere we went, everyone was so friendly. We chatted to all sorts of people. It all felt safe and cheerful and positive and just a really cool celebration of art and culture in the city. I felt proud of the North East and all that’s being done here.

8. The laughter

Key to a good night out. We had a really good laugh. That’s what happens when you step beyond the familiar. Curious people, curious places, curious events – curious weird and curious inquisitive.

9. Dancing like we were teenagers again

It was our era. The 80s. The DJ was onto a winner. Every time I went to sit down, the next track started and I was back on my feet again. We sang and danced and sang some more. We felt like we could dance all night – until we couldn’t any more.

10. The photo opportunities

We took a lot of photos and plastered them all over Facebook. We now have some fabulous memories and some photos to back us up. That great night happened. Whenever we catch a glimpse of one of those images, we will smile and remember.

So thank you to the organisers and all those artists involved in the Late Shows. We loved meeting you all.

And we’ll see you all again next year!


Name: Imogen Mansfield

Instagram: @imogenski



Have you always been into clothes? How did you dress as a kid?

No, I was never one of those kids who steals their mum’s high heels and lipstick, and I’ve never had any interest in following trends. My interest in clothes and style has developed as I have matured and grown as a person, though I’ve never really thought too much about what I wear.

Who over the years has influenced and inspired the way that you dress?

I love people watching and I am always so inspired by other people, especially when I visit new places and experience other cultures. My mum is another influence. I always wear her velvet shirts from the 80’s – she had some amazing clothes. Another influence and inspiration is The Beatles. I love their music and style, and I have a pretty extensive collection of John Lennon inspired sunglasses.

How would you describe your look?

Colourful, cosy, creative, quirky.

Would you describe your look as vintage?

A mishmash of vintage, new, and handmade.

How do you define the word ‘vintage’?

Vintage to me is any item of high quality clothing from generations passed. The thing I love about vintage clothes is that each item has a story, and has been loved by someone else. I think vintage clothing is an art, and it’s really cool to own something truly beautiful and unique that you discovered stuffed at the back of a thrift store.

Where do you buy your clothes from?

I love to explore vintage stores whenever I’m visiting a new place. I was dancing in Berlin a few weeks ago and spent hours getting lost in vintage stores! I love to buy clothes in different places in the world, because that item will always remind you of the experiences you’ve had there. I also use Etsy, because you can type in any random thing your heart desires and you will probably find it! My favourite vintage stores in Newcastle are Flip Vintage, and The Yesterday Society, as well as the many huge Vintage fairs and Weigh and Pay sales!

And where would you never, ever dream of shopping for clothes?

Primark. Unoriginal, unethical, mass-produced clothes. I recently watched The True Cost, and I realised just how awful the working conditions are in fast fashion.

What was the last item you bought?

A pair of vintage Levi 501s from Flip Vintage in Newcastle.

And what’s the favourite piece of clothing you’ve ever owned?

Blue velvet Doc Martens. Or a super cosy, bright blue stripy jumper that I never take off – my mum hates it.

What do you think the way you express yourself through your clothes says about you?

That I am crazy, a bit of a weirdo, don’t take myself too seriously, and I enjoy life.

When you wake up in the morning, how do you select what you are going to wear that day?

I don’t! I am always half asleep when I’m getting ready in the morning. But my go-to outfit is always Levi 501s and a vintage t-shirt, plus Doc Martens (obviously).

What’s your most important accessory item – bag, scarf, jewellery etc?

Doc Martens are the only shoes I ever wear, I don’t feel like myself without them! Socks are also really important to me – I can’t dance well if I’m not wearing a good pair of socks.

What do you think your look will be in twenty years’ time?

I hope it will be colourful, unique, and interesting.

Whose look do you really admire right now?

Margaret Zhang, Camille Rowe, Leandra Medine, Djuna Bel, and Maria Kochetkova.

What piece of advice would you give to someone wanting to express themselves more in what they wear?

Don’t think – just do! I never think about how a new item will match and coordinate with the rest of my wardrobe. Just buy what you love and are drawn to, and then experiment.



‘Be an expression of yourself,

rather than a reflection of the rest of the world.’






Jo Hutton is the happy, smiley face behind Happy Yoga Newcastle. She’s a yoga teacher. And she’s also a vegan. She doesn’t talk about her veganism in her yoga classes, but was happy enough to have a chat about it for Pretty Vintage Life.

  1.  What made you decide to become vegan?

I have never felt comfortable eating animals. I have always had pets and understood that animals can have complicated emotional lives and if they can feel pain and sadness, why would I want to contribute to that when I could just eat something else? It took me a while to get to the point where I was able to go vegan though. I fell off the wagon many times and had some false starts. One day however, I was teaching a group of pregnant women and I was explaining about the hormone oxytocin that is present in the body when breastfeeding. This hormone is commonly referred to as the ‘love hormone’ as it’s present when we bond with each other and it’s also the hormone that causes the ‘let down’ in breastfeeding (this is where the milk moves to the front of the breasts for baby to feed). I was saying this, something that I had said hundreds of times before and it suddenly struck me like a ton of bricks that milk in a mother’s breast is produced by the same hormone that causes us to love each other, that milk is a product of a mother’s love. My own biggest fear is to be separated from someone I love and I just couldn’t be a part of an industry that separates mothers from their babies anymore. After that, I decided to do an experiment of a month of eating vegan and I found it really easy. I can’t imagine going back to eating animal products now.

2.  Are you vegan because you’re a yoga teacher?

I was a yoga teacher for years before I was vegan and I never bring my veganism into the studio. It’s none of my business what my students eat. I’m there to offer the teachings of yoga to my students, so they can decide which bits they want to take and how to interpret it. I think I would be vegan even if I wasn’t a yoga teacher. I try to live my life in accordance with the yamas and niyamas of yoga and for me being vegan is a logical expression of ‘ahimsa’ (to do no harm). I would hope I’d try to do that even if I wasn’t a yoga teacher and before I was vegan, I tried to live my life that way too. It has helped me personally with my yoga practice, because it was something that was making me feel conflicted before and now I’m not, so my mind is more peaceful than it was before I was vegan, but being vegan hasn’t affected my teaching at all.

3.  What’s the hardest thing about being vegan?

I don’t find anything about being vegan hard anymore. To be honest, I barely think about it unless someone else brings it up.

4.  What’s the greatest thing about being vegan?

The best thing about being vegan is when new vegan places open or somewhere launches a new menu, also feeling part of something. There is a really bustling vegan community and it’s such an exciting time to be vegan.

5. What’s your absolute favourite meal?

My absolute favourite meal is the same as before I went vegan: it’s good old pasta with tomato sauce. I love it so much I could live off it. In fact, when I was a student, I did. I only have it once a week now on a Sunday, but it’s my all time favourite comfort food. I used to cover it in cheddar cheese, but now I just add extra veg and it’s just as nice.

6.  Where’s your favourite place to eat out?

I eat out so much, it’s my favourite thing to do. We are so lucky in Newcastle, because there are just so many places for vegans to eat. Me and my sister meet every Friday and go for lunch and we usually try a new place every week and still haven’t ran out of places to go. We don’t even go to special vegan places (she’s a dedicated omnivore), there’s so much choice! This month, we’ve eaten sushi at st sushi, Italian at Zi Zi’s, Turkish at Red Mezze and Mexican at Las Iguanas. We go for places with a lunchtime special, so most of the time, we can eat for less than a tenner a head.
When it comes to dedicated vegan places, Newcastle is spoilt for choice. My absolute favourite is definitely The Ship Inn: it’s a must for everyone. Their Sunday Dinners are just simply the best in the North East.

7. How do people respond when you say you’re a vegan?

Most people are lovely and are sometimes a bit curious about it, so ask some questions. You get the odd person who is quite confrontational about it, but when they see you’re not going to argue with them, they usually get bored. I am happy to have conversations with people about it, but I won’t just argue for the sake of it. I’ve had a few people getting really angry when I say I’m vegan, but I think that reflects more on them: if they can get angry because someone is deciding not to eat meat or dairy, then they probably should examine in themselves why it makes them angry.

8.  Do you think vegans have a bad press? Why is that? Are you one of ‘those’ vegans?
To be honest, I think anything that goes against the grain of societal norms is going to get a bad press. The personal is political and when someone decides not to partake in an industry because they think it’s unnecessary and cruel, then obviously that is going to upset some people, because even if they never talk about it, the simple action of abstaining is seen as a judgement and people don’t like to feel that their actions are being judged as unethical. Most people never question where their meat comes from and very rarely make the connection between the meat on their plate and an actual animal, I think this is natural when we live in a world where we are so detached from where our food is produced. However, I think it’s strange that people get so upset when a vegan tells them something that makes them see the connection, I just don’t understand it. Either you’re not bothered by it so you don’t mind seeing and hearing about what happens in a slaughterhouse, or you do mind and you should try and stop contributing to it. I think that people should be informed, so that they can make clear decisions about what they eat. Once you have all the information, then it’s up to you what you do with it, but I’m always stunned by how many people believe they are eating meat from happy animals skipping around the fields. I personally will only talk about it when I’m asked, but I am happy that campaigns such as ‘Veganuary’ and ‘Go Vegan’ are becoming so prominent, as an informed public is a powerful one. I genuinely believe most people care about animals, you just have to look at the outrage against the dog eating festival in china to see that.

9. Why did you start your vegan blog? Are you looking to ‘convert’ people?
When I started my blog, it was just to accompany my one month vegan experiment. I wanted to document how I found it to be vegan for a month, mostly because when I had tried to be vegan in the past, I had failed, so I decided if I said in public I was going vegan for the month, then I had to stick with it. I genuinely thought I would do it for a month, miss cheese too much and then go back to eating meat and cheese with a funny story about how I have no will power. However, I didn’t find it as hard as I thought I would and as the month went on and the further I got from eating cheese and meat, the weirder it seemed to me that I ever had done to begin with. When the month was up, I knew there was no going back.
Like I said earlier, I eat out a lot and it became a natural progression for me to take photos of the places I ate out at so people could see how easy it was. I think lots of people would like to try it, but are worried about it being too difficult and I wanted to show that not only is it easy, but it’s cheap and fun too.
I’m not trying to convert people, but I think there are lots of people who are curious and are looking to see what’s on offer and how you would practically do it, so it’s good to show them.

10. How do you think the perception of food is changing in the UK (if at all)? Do you notice any shifts in thinking? What are the issues around food in Western society in your opinion?
I’ve seen a massive shift towards veganism, even in the year and a bit since I went vegan. It has become so much easier. New places are opening all the time and supermarkets are competing for the vegan pound, so products are hitting the shelves pretty much monthly. Last month, Tesco launched its new vegan cheese range, which in my opinion is the closest thing to cheese we’ve had so far. It’s really exciting and the products are only going to get better.
Veganism isn’t going anywhere. It’s sometimes dismissed as a diet or a fad, but I think there’s some confusion about veganism and clean eating. In my opinion, clean eating is dangerous, as it demonises certain foods and creates a dichotomy between good and bad foods, which can lead to feeling anxious around food and could spark disordered eating. Being vegan is a lifestyle where you try to live as much as practically possible without exploiting animals. I’m always surprised when people say that my diet is restrictive, because I don’t feel that way at all. In fact, there’s very little that I ate before I went vegan that I don’t eat now. My relationship to food hasn’t changed at all. I just don’t eat stuff that comes from animals.

I am not a vegan. I’m not sure I ever will be. In the yoga world I spend much of my week immersed in, there are many vegetarians and vegans. I feel I’m being nudged in that direction, but as I say about so many things, I’m not sure it’s ever going to happen this side of heaven!

I am thinking carefully about what I eat however: where it is sourced, what effect it’s having on the environment and on me, the reassurances about the meat and fish and eggs that I buy. It’s been good to talk to Jo and broaden my perspective still further.

She certainly doesn’t give the impression that she’s suffering for the cause, does she? She looks like she’s having the time of her life!

If you’ve enjoyed reading Jo’s responses, you discover more from her in the Geordie Vegan Blog. Don’t worry if you’re not a vegan: Jo makes it clear that all are welcome.

Whether you’re a herbivore or an omnivore please feel welcome here.

Which is exactly how it should be.




Ingredients to prepare: Pour boiling water to cover over 1/2 cup sultanas and set aside. Place 1 cup dates in a blender with 1/2 cup of hot water and whizz to a paste.

Dry ingredients: 1 cup plain flour, 1 cup wholemeal flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 1/2 tsp salt

Wet ingredients: 3 mashed over-ripe bananas, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 1 tsp vanilla extract, date paste (see above) and 1 beaten egg.



Preheat the oven to 200°C.

Place 12 muffin cases in a muffin tin.

Sieve all the dry ingredients into a large bowl.

Mix wet ingredients together in a bowl.

Add wet mixture plus drained sultanas to the dry ingredients.

Blend until well combined.

Spoon mixture into each muffin case.

Place in the oven for around 20 minutes (until an inserted skewer comes out clean).


Trust me, these muffins are delicious.

And here’s the thing: they’re even more delicious the next day, if there are any left!