Album Artwork

Hamilton: An American Musical Image c/o: http://www.hamiltonbroadway.com/

As a History student, it’s kind of expected that I would be interested in things like period drama, historical fiction, retellings of the past… which is all true. The inaccuracy sometimes pains me, which is the double-edged sword of studying History, but it’s one of my great loves. That being said, when Hamilton first came onto the off-Broadway stage, I didn’t pay it much attention. I had spent so much time reading about the American political system, I reasoned, that there was no point in looking into this new, edgy interpretation of the founding fathers. But then, one day on Tumblr, everything changed.

I was reading a quote, and I had no idea where it was from. The lines read “I’m past patiently waiting, I’m passionately smashing every expectation, every action’s an act of creation”. I thought it was a motivational quote from one of the study blogs I followed! But it was a line from Hamilton. Scrolling through that blog led to more quotes, gif sets, stills, and a video of a young Lin Manuel Miranda performing the first song of the musical, Alexander Hamilton at the White House for President Obama in 2009. I was hooked.

For those of you who have managed to escape the hype that has spread across the world, Hamilton is a musical about one of the founding fathers of the USA. Alexander Hamilton was a revolutionary who fought in the war at the side of George Washington, and became the Secretary of the Treasury. He created Wall Street, negotiated the location of the capital, and founded several of the long lasting institutions that make up America today.

The musical incorporates rap and hip hop music as well as a diverse ethnic cast to, as Miranda put it, represent America today in a story of America in 1776. The musical swept the Tony’s, nominated for a record 16 awards and winning 11. It’s sold out in the States until next year, and is set to come to the UK in late 2017. I honestly can’t wait!

I think the retelling of Hamilton’s story is fundamental to understanding the state of America today. Miranda has managed to engage people of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities in the life of the forgotten founding father, and reengage people with Broadway. Through complex interwoven musical motifs and expressive lyrics, even just listening to the Official Soundtrack makes you fall in love with the flawed but phenomenal creators of the USA, and gives you a wealth of history many people wouldn’t actively seek out. I certainly can reel off more key dates to the formation of the states than I could before I listened to the soundtrack!

Not only is the soundtrack available, but Hamilton truly harnesses the power of social media and thrusts the musical even further into the future, whilst remaining accurate to the past. Every day, new footage from behind the scenes or the Ham4Ham shows outside the theatre is released on YouTube and Snapchat, and there is constantly an active engagement with the fans. It’s refreshing to see a musical reaching out to the younger generations, diversifying their cast and making sure that no one feels left out. To be quite honest, I don’t think I can ever see George Washington as a white man again, and Hamilton will always be Latino to me now. They have made sure to embed Hamilton into the very heart of the USA just as his story will always be at its foundations.

Although I have the songs memorised, I have refrained from watching the bootlegged recordings of songs from the show. I really respect that Miranda has asked not to be bootlegged, and I can understand that it’s his baby, it’s his brainchild, and he should have that request upheld. I hope that Hamilton will continue to lead the developments in West End and Broadway and swiftly record and release a more affordable and accessible version of Hamilton online, something that is only really available for the long-running money-raking shows like Les Miserables and Phantom of the Opera. If Hamilton continues to make the show accessible and in touch with the younger, less wealthy generations who want to watch musicals but can’t afford to or can’t get to New York, it will no doubt remain one of the most popular musicals of the twenty-first century. Plus, who can get enough of Leslie Odom Jr. and Daveed Diggs?


Cover Image courtesy of https://feministspectator.princeton.edu/2016/02/24/hamilton/ 


HOW TO // Dress for a Summer Wedding

Summer weddings – a timeless tradition, a great way to celebrate the union of two people. Also, a complete and utter fashion panic. What do you wear? What will the weather be like? If you’re going abroad, how do you know what is appropriate? Never fear – TIOBA has this one covered.

This summer, my uncle is getting married in Lucca, Italy. A gorgeous walled city, Lucca boasts phenomenal weather, historic surroundings and an all-round perfect venue for the family to come together for my uncle and his wife-to-be.

So what are the questions to consider when picking out a summer wedding outfit? I think there are four key elements.

How to dress for a summer wedding header


This is the easiest qualifier for a wedding outfit. Many couples will, along with their invitations, specify a dress code so that their guests aren’t left completely lost. It could be smart casual, beach smart, formal, white tie, black tie… there are many different ‘dress codes’ and it’s even more tough for women, who have many subsections of dress code within the standard!

If your couple hasn’t specified a dress code, don’t hesitate to contact them about it – they will most likely feel flattered that you care enough to ask. You earn brownie points whilst putting your mind at rest about element number one.


Weather is the most changeable of the factors to consider, but is equally important when choosing an outfit. Where is the wedding going to be held? If you know it’s in a hot country like Italy, you’re going to be swayed by tea dresses and lighter materials such as silk and organza, and staying away from satins and velvets. However, if you know that the weather may be changeable, I would recommend an outfit with layers (I am wearing a silk tea dress this summer with a pashmina), in order to adjust to comfort. Keep an eye on the weather and, if there is a wide margin between the hottest and coldest possible temperatures, plan two outfits with layers. That way, you have all eventualities covered.


This is so important, and is something that many people forget to consider – what is the culture of the location of the wedding?

This, again, is something that has been especially important for us this summer, because Lucca is one of the oldest cities in Italy, an incredibly religious country. It has to be taken into consideration that modesty is a key value of Italian Catholicism, meaning covering up shoulders and not showing too much leg. To ensure the smooth running of the wedding for the bridal party, researching and adhering to the dress code of the local culture is essential.

Saying that, if there is no cultural restriction, or you’re going to a local wedding which doesn’t have any difference in culture, go wild! You know and are comfortable with your own culture, and can experiment within that.


Finally, you have to wear something that makes you feel comfortable. There is no point in considering all of these guidelines if you don’t consider how it makes you feel to wear the outfit you’ve chosen. Are you more comfortable in a maxi dress or an elegant tuxedo suit? Are you more confident in an off the shoulder number? There are ways of working within a dress code to make sure that everyone is comfortable, it just takes time and effort to find them.

Ultimately, everyone is at the wedding to celebrate, and enjoy each other’s company. Most importantly, you’re witnessing an important and beautiful event. As long as some thought is put into an outfit, there is no reason why it can’t be one of the best days of everyone’s lives.


BOOK REVIEW // Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

It’s a book series which has been around for over twenty-five years. It’s a hugely successful TV show with a cult following. It’s falling in love with Jamie, the daring ginger Highlander. It’s Outlander.

When I saw that there was a new show airing on Amazon Instant Video called Outlander, I wasn’t too concerned with watching it. Instead, I continued binge watching some terrible cop drama… until an advert for Outlander popped up. I was transfixed. I watched it as it aired, and became so enthralled with the historical fiction, the clothes, the accent, the acting, that I went out and bought a copy of the book upon which it was based, by Diana Gabaldon, also published as Cross Stitch in the UK.

The Outlander book series is most certainly a behemoth. The books are around 600 pages each and are filled with details about the Highland way of life, interspersed with Gaelic and absolutely riveting in the fact that time travel is involved. I mean, I’m personally not a fan of the time travel trope, but Gabaldon makes it work. She really makes it work.

Outlander is the story of Claire Randall, who journeys to Inverness with her husband, Frank, after the Second World War to get to know each other again. Whilst there, Claire finds herself transported through a stone circle to 1743, a time very different to her own. With no apparent way to return to Frank, or her own time, Claire embarks on a journey full of excitement, terror and the occasional bout of compassion.

As I said, I read the book after watching the TV show. I honestly believe that made it slightly easier to read, because I had a visual picture of 18th century Scotland, I had images of the characters, and a pretty good grasp of the accent, so it wasn’t as foreign as it might have been pre-show.

Image c/o Starz Outlander

Image c/o Starz Outlander

Having said that, it did differ from the TV show in ways that most adaptations do – there was more detail in the book, the Gaelic was harder to read as it wasn’t phonetic, there were things that were altered for ease of watching because some descriptions are hard to take to the screen.

Since reading the first book and falling even more in love with the Scottish tale, I’ve gone out and bought the rest of the series. Personally I find them easier to read on the Kindle because then I’m not constantly checking how far through each book I am, but you might feel satisfaction with a book that size.

Overall, I think that Outlander is a challenging but rewarding and truly enjoyable read. It fits into so many genres I can’t even list them all, and the added bonus is that Sam Heughan brings Jamie to life so well! I can’t wait to finish the series and continue with the TV show. If you’re looking for something with a bit of a bite to read over the summer, there’s nothing better than Outlander!

Verdict: Although I love the book, it is tricky to read and it takes a while to immerse yourself in the history of Scotland unless you have a background in it.

Verdict: Although I love the book, it is tricky to read and it takes a while to immerse yourself in the history of Scotland unless you have a background in it.

BUCKET LIST // Water Skiing

The first thing on my Summer Bucket List was to learn a new skill, and last weekend I was given that opportunity by the Woodham Ferrers Water Ski Club. The WFWSC shares the clubhouse with our Yacht Club, and I’ve always wanted to try it out for myself. We do, after all, live on a river, so why deny ourselves the pleasure of all it has to offer?

The chance to try water skiing arose because it was the taster days for both the Yacht Club and the Water Ski Club. Gemma, Holly and I signed up to try it out, and off we went at 8am on Saturday on a beastly power boat with two great instructors, Tim and Rob.


Now, most of our area of the River Crouch is under 8 knot restrictions, because there are lots of moorings and it’s a popular location for sailing and kayaking, so we went to Clements Green Creek, just down the river. We were treated to a full throttle ride on the motorboat which made us all feel a bit like James Bond before setting up for the water skiing experience.

I can honestly say I thought I was never going to be able to do it. Given that my joints are prone to injury and I have several healing sprains, it probably wasn’t the best idea in the first place, but thanks to the boom (a metal pole used to teach water skiing), I was able to distribute my weight enough that I didn’t fall into the water. I did, in fact, apparently have the best form when standing up out of the three of us! I have a feeling that the ultra fashionable helmet was possibly my favourite part of the entire trip.

Holly enjoying the salt spray // Gemma seated and ready to start // Me in the safe position before rising

Holly enjoying the salt spray // Gemma seated and ready to start // Me in the safe position before rising

After we powered up and down ‘The Hammerhead’, the almost completely still body of water at the top of the Creek, it was time to step it up a notch. Tim, helming the motorboat, started introducing us to turning on the skis, whilst Rob instructed and videoed us. It was a very strange experience, but I would liken it to turning on a ski slope with a bit more resistance on your legs and salt water smacking you in the face.

One thing I didn’t expect to do on Saturday morning was try skiing on the rope. It seemed a bit too advanced for three young women who hadn’t tried water skiing at all prior to that morning, but the guys said we should, so we did! It’s much more important to keep your arms straight on the rope because as soon as you give the line slack, you go into the water, and that was the most difficult part to remember. It’s instinctive to bend your elbows if you feel a bit out of control, and bring your arms into your body, but you have to fight that and keep to the form you’ve been instructed to take.

Overall, it was a fantastic experience, even if I did end up drinking half of the water in the Crouch! Hopefully we’ll be able to do it again very soon, and I have to once again give a massive thanks to WFWSC for taking the three of us Machiavellian Hopkins girls out for a spin, and showing us how the other half live!

BUCKET LIST // Summer 2016

I can’t believe it’s July already! Where has the year gone? I’ve moved out of my second year house and I’m back at home, prepared to do another summer at Starbucks. I’m trying out a new method of self-motivation over the summer through creating a bucket list for the two months I’ll be back, so here it is.

Summer Bucket List.png

  1. Learn a new skill
  2. Visit a new country
  3. Blog more
  4. Get my knee sorted out
  5. Learn to use my new camera
  6. Find material on my dissertation
  7. Read a new book series
  8. Go tech-less for 72 hours
  9. Establish a morning routine for university
  10. Clear out half of my possessions
  11. Make one garment
  12. Redo my Curriculum Vitae

It’s not a huge list, right? What I want to do is make my goals more manageable, and do things I might not otherwise do, like redoing my CV or cutting down on my clothes. I mean, I have a separate list of books I’m aiming on finishing but that’s a post for another time! I think the most difficult thing to tick off the list will be the tech-less 72 hours, but I want to be able to switch everything off and just reconnect with the things I used to do before technology, like climbing trees, or scrap booking, or even just spending time with my family without being distracted by anything.

Do you have a summer bucket list? What do you hope to do over the summer?