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Aaron Hayes, Singer / Actor

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Aaron Hayes is a singer of opera, swing and pop music, as well as an actor.

Returning to familiar territory, we spoke to performer Aaron Hayes about what inspired his love of entertainment and what provoked a very sudden change of career direction…

It can be gut-wrenching when you have to decide whether you chose the right university course. Especially when you have had your heart set in an ambition for so long. We find out what provoked performer Aaron Hayes to switch from wanting to become an actor to pursue training as an opera singer.

HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN BASED IN BOURNEMOUTH OR POOLE?

I was actually born in London, in Chelsea Westminster Hospital, and we lived in Kingston until I was around a year old. But I grew up in Poole.

WHAT OR WHO INSPIRED YOUR LOVE OF PERFORMING?

When I was younger and I used to watch films and see shows, I just remember the effect they had on me. The feelings they provoked. Feeling excited or feeling moved, laughing etcetera. I remember wanting to do that myself and wanting to make people feel things through watching my performance.

YOU ORIGINALLY STUDIED AT ITALIA CONTI ACADEMY IN LONDON. WHAT PROVOKED THE SWITCH OF INTEREST FROM DRAMA TO OPERA AND CLASSICAL SINGING?

My ambition at the time was to be an actor, and I wanted to go to drama school, learn more about that craft. But it just happened, at the time when I was at Italia Conti, I wasn’t entirely happy there. That may not necessarily have been so much down to the course as where I was in myself. I just felt that I needed to change course; being at Italia Conti, I didn’t feel as though I was achieving what I wanted to in terms of becoming a better actor. Some of the enjoyment of acting was getting sucked out; I felt I was becoming a little too aware of how I was doing it, getting a little too wrapped up in that and losing my natural instinct for it.

But I had always done singing; I studied with a classical singing teacher when I was younger, and I was in a church choir. So I had some experience there. My singing teacher had mentioned about applying to music college when I was younger, but I never gave it much thought. Until I was in the situation of wanting to change course. I looked into it, and the course I found at music college seemed to be a good way of combining the acting skills I had with those in singing.

Also, opera seemed, in my opinion, to be a stronger form of acting. Because you’re not just speaking and moving but you’re also singing. It’s a more emotional way of acting.

WHAT WAS YOUR THEORETICAL UNDERSTANDING OF OPERA BEFORE YOU STARTED STUDYING IT?

I didn’t have much knowledge of opera, but I did know my way around classical music a bit. And also musical theatre and opera-style musical theatre like Les Misérables, things like that. So I had to do my research, watch a few operas. And I really got into it. My favourite is La bohème by Puccini.

WHO WOULD YOU CALL YOUR INSPIRATIONAL FIGURE?

It’s hard to name one in particular. In terms of an inspiring person who has tried to good and has done good through their art, I would say John Lennon. He was very truthful in what he used to say and used what he did as a singer to try to change the world for the better.

ARE YOU STILL ACTING OUTSIDE OF YOUR TRAINING AS A SINGER?

Yes – I’m currently doing some supporting artist work here and there. Most recently done some filming for The Crown for Netflix – unfortunately I can’t go into too much detail there. That came about via an agency; the jobs come through and they ask if you’re available. And one came through for The Crown. We were shooting in Wales for some scenes dealing with the Aberfan Disaster in 1966. Olivia Colman was there – it was great.

DO YOU INTEND TO TACKLE ANY OTHER SIDES OF SHOWBUSINESS? SUCH AS WRITING OR DIRECTING, FOR EXAMPLE?

I would love to direct actors – I feel I can understand where they’re coming from in terms of their process. Maybe produce as well? Have a vision and see it through. In terms of writing, I have tried a bit in the past. I collaborated with a friend on a sitcom script. That is something I find more challenging – I can create ideas, but I find the actual writing of scenes and dialogue quite difficult. But I would love to be able to do that.

WHAT IS YOUR DREAM ROLE – FILM, TELEVISION, OR THEATRE?

As a singer, I am a baritone. But if I were a tenor, I would love to play Jean Valjean in Les Misérables.

WHAT IS THE DREAM OR END GOAL FOR YOU AS A PERFORMER?

I would love to do a bit of everything, really. Work in the West End, in films and TV. Also, I wouldn’t mind doing some recording – I sing swing and some pop. So perhaps I’ll do a bit of that in future. A few gigs. To have a varied career would be the end goal.

You won’t find Aaron on Facebook, but why not listen to him on Soundcloud or follow him on Twitter? If you want to book him as a singer for your next event, click here.

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Shaun Horlock, Artist & Designer

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Artist and Designer Shaun Horlock

This story is a true jewel in the Humans of Bournemouth crown, as it concerns a very naturally-talented artist and designer. We have the honour to introduce Shaun Horlock…

When you’re running a publication like this, it helps to keep a list of people you want to interview. On that list, there are a few names belonging to people who we would LOVE to get talking to, but they’re so busy or so good at what they do that the interview is unlikely. Apart from actual, living celebs from Bournemouth, of course. Poole-born artist and designer Shaun Horlock is one of those names.

Having followed his career since its beginnings, it was clear from the start that this guy was going places in terms of art, graphics and fashion design. From the clothing brand that put him on the map – Openmind – to his tattooing career at Westbourne’s Black Lodge. He’s always been so busy, pinning him down for an interview has never seemed possible. But a chance in-person encounter is all it took. We were able to get him alone for a while to tell his story…

YOU HAD A TALENT FOR DRAWING AND DESIGN QUITE EARLY ON. HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU REALISED THIS TALENT AND THAT THERE MIGHT BE A FUTURE IN IT?

The first memory I have isn’t one from my own brain. It was a home video of me when I was three. I used to draw with a hooked hand and I would turn the paper upside-down, tongue sticking out. And I would be doing that, instead of what my brothers were doing, playing around in the garden and stuff like that.

It was good to see that when I was around 12 or 13, but I guess I found out I had a talent for it when I was in Year 10 in Graphics class. So, I was 15 when I realised I could cash in on it. My brothers were getting jobs at 16 and I didn’t like the idea of that. I was in bands at around that time, and a couple of my band friends needed logos designed. So I spent that summer as a designer of T-shirts and album covers.

DO ANY ARTISTS INSPIRE YOUR DRAWING STYLE?

At the moment, I try not to focus too heavily on who inspires but more on what inspires me. I think, back in the day, when I was starting out on the venture as a graphic designer, there were an artist that was my major inspiration. Absolutely love this guy called Dan Mumford, who is a T-shirt designer. I loved his work rate and how much focus he put on his work being set apart and completely different from other people’s. Ten years down the line, you see loads with a similar art style to his. But he pioneered it, which was really inspiring.

As for what inspires me; I used to be obsessed with Pokémon. The style of it, the tale that was told. And other than that, I am inspired by historical figures that have made an impact. People like Tesla, Graham Hancock and Alan Watts.

TAKE ME THROUGH YOUR CAREER AS A DESIGNER, FROM THE BEGINNING OF OPENMIND…

Openmind started around a year after college finished when I was 19. In between that and the band logos, I tried my hand at a few YouTube videos. That was in setting up a design business called SHDesign. It was a vinyl cutting company. Making stickers for cars and stuff like that.

There’s a long and personal reason as to why I called the brand Openmind. Essentially, I had a really rough time one summer. Came out of it feeling like I needed quite a few changes in my life. I still had some good experiences and it led me to the point where I was thinking, ‘There’s more out there than what I’m getting.’ It was a point where I was depressed and couldn’t face the outside world. Openmind saved me in a weird, roundabout way.

I took all the lessons, what I was good at, what I wasn’t good at, and decided to make something creative. Worked on the project in the dark; didn’t tell anyone for a few months. And it all started from there, really.

AFTER RUNNING OPENMIND FOR A LITTLE WHILE, WHAT SPARKED THE MOVE INTO DOING TATTOOS?

When I was 13 or 14, I used to love Miami Ink. And a few years ago, my friend Abbie was getting into tattooing. She was an artist who had just finished uni. And then after about a year of doing Openmind, she messaged me quite out of the blue saying, “We have a space at the shop. They’re looking for an apprentice. I remember you saying you liked my stuff. Are you interested in this position?” That was in 2014.

So, I did the apprenticeship. It was a great apprenticeship but I was running my business on the side. And really, for the next couple of years, I flitted from being full-time in the clothing, full-time in the tattooing. Working the weekdays, working the evenings, the lot. And it got to a point where the business was doing really well, but I was doing less of what I enjoyed, which was the designing side of it and the drawing. I was doing everything else: liaising with manufacturers, running the social media, marketing campaigns, the groundwork, the promotion. And so I sat down and thought, ‘What am I doing?’ when all I wanted to do was draw, really.

The clothing slowed down after that. I think it was quite a natural process where the drawing took over and I just fell back into the tattooing. And I haven’t looked back since.

YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FROM ANIMALS AND SPIRITUAL AND MYTHOLOGICAL IMAGERY. WHY DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DRAWN TO SUCH IMAGERY AS A DESIGNER AND WHY DO THEY APPEAL TO PEOPLE?

The reason I find them appealing is I think there’s a lot about ancient history that isn’t brought to the forefront. We have to look at our society pragmatically and think that we’ve all come from somewhere. And, in my opinion, to better understand where we are and what we’re doing to this planet – even how there are similarities between cultures that aren’t geographically near each other – I think it’s all tied in with ancient history.

I think a lot of people are fascinated by what they could achieve back in the day. You think of the size of the pyramids, the scale of them, why they’re there. And I feel like people naturally gravitate towards those things.

Not only that; there are so many belief systems in the world that it’s quite interesting to look into all of them. Pick what good parts there are about them and use them for your inspiration.

WHAT IS THE DEFINITIVE FAVOURITE THING YOU HAVE CREATED AS A DESIGNER?

Two years ago, I did a wolf illustration. It was part of a series of animals I was doing, inspired by Native America. I spent a lot of hours on that drawing and a lot of sleepless nights! It turned out really nice and I think it’s one of my proudest pieces to date.

In terms of clothing, my favourite is probably the Flower of Life T-shirt I did. It’s an all-over patterned T-shirt and, for some reason, it hit off. Not just over here but in the U.S. as well!

As for tattooing, I think I’m still a long way from being fully satisfied with what I’m doing. That’s the curse of an artist.

IF YOU HAD NO BUDGET OR EQUIPMENT LIMITATIONS, WHAT IS THE DREAM, AMBITIOUS DESIGN YOU WOULD CREATE?

I think, in terms of tattoos – at least with creative direction – I would love to be able to draw endless, freehand illustration and use the entire body as the canvas. That’s quite an ambitious goal; can’t see myself doing that in the next ten years. And with art itself, I had this vision a few years ago to create a massive art studio and draw on every single square inch. Every surface that is plastered.

AS A DESIGNER, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO ANY LIKE-MINDED CREATIVES?

Creatively, don’t compare anything you do to someone else. I’m talking specifically for people who are just starting out, doing art. They’ve just set up their Instagram account, they’re on 100 followers and they’re posting their first ten pieces of work. It’s very easy to find your way on the homepage, and find someone who’s 38 to 45, who has hundreds of thousands of followers; their work is esteemed, it’s worldwide, everyone knows them. It’s very easy to cut out the process of actually doing the work and then thinking, ‘I’ve failed’ before actually trying it.

The other big one for me would be that failure isn’t a bad thing. I think this is what’s helped me get over hurdles. If your post isn’t doing too well or a product that’s failed – don’t take it so emotionally that it debilitates you. Look at it from a more logical perspective and think, ‘What is there that I could do to change this?’ And usually there are very concrete reasons as to why something didn’t work out.

At least from my point-of-view, success has been a repeat succession of failures in the right direction.

WHAT IS THE DREAM OR END GOAL FOR YOU?

For once, right now, I’m at a stage where I don’t need to worry about where I’m going. A year ago, that was all I could focus on, because I had to! As I mentioned earlier, way back when, I tried YouTube. I feel like that’s a good platform to branch out on. I’d also like to teach art in the future. Maybe not in the most conventional ways, but it’s a very important thing — if you’ve cultivated mastery of a subject — to eventually pass it on to someone. And I think that’s something I missed out on when I was starting out. Seeking advice from someone who had already made it.

And obviously, I’ll say again about the massive art studio. If I were to have a house or a dwelling, more than 50% would be a space that I could just create in.

If you want to know more about Shaun, his art and tattoos, check out Openmind on their Facebook and Instagram pages. Or just head on over to his website here.

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Nikolay Peronski, Pastry Chef

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Pastry Chef Nikolay Peronski

Now it’s time to meet a true talent in the kitchen. Pastry chef extraordinaire Nikolay Peronski…

We come by our interviewees in a variety of ways. Sometimes it’s word-of-mouth, other times they approach us directly. And then there are those that we come by via social media. Such as Nikolay Peronski, pastry chef at The Noisy Lobster in Christchurch. We found him and his amazing pastry and dessert creations on Instagram, and just had to know more about him and his story…

WHERE ARE YOU FROM ORIGINALLY? WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO BOURNEMOUTH?

I am half-Russian, half-Polish; my father is from Russia, my mother from Poland. I grew up in a military camp in Poland, and basically the circumstances of life forced me to change country. There were too many bad memories. My partner died, which was the trigger. Eleven years in a relationship; there was nothing left for me there. I was quite depressed and I thought, “I need a change”.

So, when I was at a party with all my friends, we had a map on the table. And I said, “I’m going to close my eyes and point at a country, and that’s the country I’m going to go to.” I pointed exactly at Blandford Forum. It was quite funny, but I believe it was fate, because within one month there I had a job and accommodation. That was in 2012. And so I said, “Okay! I’m going! I’m leaving!” I sold everything I had left, and on 23rd September 2012, I was in Blandford, which is where everything started.

WHEN DID YOU DECIDE YOU WANTED TO BE A CHEF?

That was around 20 years ago, when I was 17. When I was a little kid, I always used to help my mum. I had tiny fingers for making cakes and mixing flour. Flour likes me; it likes my hands. My first cakes and desserts, I made them when I was around nine or ten. And since then, I knew I was going to be doing something to do with cooking.

I did some college and then university. In Poland, becoming a chef is very different to how it is in England. In England, you can go from off the street into a restaurant and they could give you a job. It’s a process in Poland. You have to do three years of college, pass the exams. You do it in stages — hot section, larder section, and so on. Basically, you start on pot-wash and go up and up and up. Then, if you want to be a head chef or sous-chef, you need to go to uni and study it. It’s not so easy, and it took me a long time. And once I had done all that, I chose to be a pastry chef. When I was 17, I started my first real job.

TALK ME THROUGH YOUR CAREER — WHERE WAS YOUR FIRST RESTAURANT?

My first job was in a French hotel chain called Accor Mercure. It’s not that well-known in the UK but I have seen a few up north. I was trained by a French pastry chef. Very old, very boring behaviour with a hard personality. But he taught me a lot. By this time, I had already chosen to be a pastry chef, because sugar and everything worked so well in my hands. Even my head chef told me, “You’re going to be quite a good pastry chef in the future. Because you’re patient.” And since that day, I’m covered in flour, eggs and butter all the time!

In Poland, being a chef is not a well-paid job, so I went through a few restaurants there. I have worked for Italian chefs, French, Bulgarian; I’ve also travelled a lot in Italy and Greece. Cooking with chefs in Sofia, Samokov and Plovdiv in Bulgaria. Quite interesting experiences. Also in Moscow, because my dad knew people who I could stay with. And then, when I decided to be a head chef, I found a restaurant in my hometown. But that unfortunately was at the time when the unemployment crisis started. It was really hard to get a decent job. I decided I had to everything because I had no choice; I couldn’t just concentrate on just pastry. But I’m still in touch with my bosses from before and we have really good memories. It was a really busy restaurant in the middle of my hometown, which is very touristic.

WHAT MAKES A GOOD PASTRY CHEF?

I am always saying, “Every pastry chef can be a chef, but not every chef can be a pastry chef.” Pastry is a very difficult and complicated section in the kitchen, because it is mostly chemistry, physics and maths. In the hot side of the kitchen, you can put a burger on the grill and just cook it. With pastry, it’s different. The ingredients, the measurements, the timings. I never found things like carving meat very appealing. But I remember working with sugar, making caramel, making sugar sculptures — that was my thing because I could express myself.

In terms of what qualities make a good chef, I would say patience, for sure. Also organisation, and a heart for cooking. You have to have a heart for cooking. If you don’t, all the anger or the lack of enthusiasm will be on the plate and it’s not going to taste good. After nearly 20 years in this industry, I can say that if you don’t like what you’re doing, stop. You have to love your job — I love my job more than anything in this world and I can’t imagine doing anything else. I love the rush, I love it when it’s busy, when you’re getting sweaty. That’s the kind of thing I love.

JUDGING FROM YOUR INSTAGRAM PAGE, YOU ARE A MASTER AT FOOD PRESENTATION. WHAT IS YOUR SECRET?

First of all, you need to have the idea of what you want to do. And then with plating, I don’t think about it, to be honest. I do that when I’m serving the dish. It all comes out when the check comes in. My brain works on that high a level. I don’t try to plan or predict how I’m going to plate the dessert; it gets done in the moment.

WHAT IS THE DREAM OR END GOAL FOR YOU AS A PASTRY CHEF?

In the beginning, I thought of being on a television programme like Great British Bake-Off or something. But I did that. I passed all the stages, went up to London to do the cook-off with Cherish Finden. I’ve met Mary Berry. I passed everything, but in the end I decided that that’s not me. I’m not a celebrity chef. Cherish Finden contacted me recently, actually, asking me to think about it. Maybe I could do next year’s series. The problem is, financially, it’s very hard to do. It’s five weeks of filming, and in that time, who’s going to pay my bills?

I have already met Cherish Finden, who is one of the top pastry chefs in the world. It was my dream to meet her; she’s someone who’s very important to me, professionally. Now, I would like to open my own pâtisserie, but I’m not sure if it’s going to be in Bournemouth. We’ll see — I’m going to wait until I’m fifty and have enough money.

TAKE A LOOK AT SOME OF NIKOLAY’S DESSERTS

If you like the look of Nikolay’s work and want to see more, check out his Instagram page here. And for more amazing and inspiring stories from the people of Bournemouth, take a look at our Humans section.

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Natalie Ukpabi, Architect

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Architect Natalie Ukpabi

At Humans of Bournemouth, we don’t just interview people halfway on their journey towards their dream. There are also those who are only just beginning. Here we have one such individual; aspiring architect Natalie Ukpabi…

ARE YOU BASED IN BOURNEMOUTH AND WHERE ARE YOU FROM ORIGINALLY?

No, I come from London but moved down to Bournemouth with my family. I used to live in Nigeria when I was younger but moved here when I was 15.

WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO AT THE END OF YOUR COURSE?

I plan on going on to do my Part Two; try to get work experience outside the country. Part One is your undergraduate degree, Part Two is your masters or postgraduate degree and then Part Three is your professional practice qualification. All three are needed to be an architect.

WHAT MADE YOU CHOOSE THIS PROFESSION?

I was confused at first on what exactly I wanted to do with my life, but I knew I didn’t want a normal 9-5 office job. I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with that, but it wasn’t for me. My original plan was to pursue medicine, so people were quite shocked when I said I wanted to be an architect. But with this profession, I can express myself with my designs. Although not all of them get built, it is nice to see the impact or change your design makes in your community.

WHO ARE YOUR ROLE MODELS?

I am inspired by all successful black women around the world who are making a difference.

HOW HARD IS THE PROCESS OF BEING AN ARCHITECT? ARE THERE ANY COMMON MISCONCEPTIONS?

It’s a long process. Seven years, in fact, and I’m just starting. People think all we do is draw buildings, but there is a lot that goes into every design. From the materials used, to the insulation, to the type of foundation so the building stays up.

WHAT OTHER SKILLS BUT DRAWING DO YOU HAVE AND WOULD YOU EVER THINK OF DROPPING ARCHITECTURE FOR THOSE?  

I can braid hair, as well as sew. If I were to drop architecture, I would want to go into fashion.

Keep an eye on our Humans page to read more of our locals’ stories…

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