A busy few days in my constituency, meetings in parliament and campaigning in Scotland

I finished last week with a busy few days in the constituency.

Friday first thing I met Debra Green of national charity Redeeming Our Communities, which hopes to take over the management of the Fuse in Partington.

This is a really exciting development, and I promised to put Debra in touch with local businesses who might support the project. If you run a business locally and would like to support this amazing initiative, which will work with young people, older people and those at risk of exclusion and isolation, in a state of the art, purpose built building designed by local young people, please get in touch.

Then I travelled into Manchester to meet Breakthrough UK for a fascinating meeting with this disabled people’s organisation. The team were fantastically well informed about every issue from employment to enabling disabled people to live independently to healthcare. I really enjoyed the discussion, and I learnt a lot too.

After that, I attended the ceremony to mark Action for Mesothelioma day in Albert Square. This is always a tremendously moving event, with sufferers and their families displaying so much courage and dignity in their fight for justice. This year, there’s been something to celebrate, as the Mesothelioma Act, on which I worked over the winter, and which will ensure payments to more sufferers who contracted this terrible lung cancer at work, passed into law earlier this year. But in another way, it was even sadder than usual, since it was the first commemoration since the death of Paul Goggins, who did so much for the campaign for justice for mesothelioma victims, at the beginning of the year.

I spent the afternoon in advice surgeries, helping constituents with a range of problems. My colleague Catrin was there to support me – staff in my office do a huge amount of the follow-up work as well as taking copious notes!

Saturday was also busy, beginning with an hour with the South Manchester foodbank, helping them to collect donated items from shoppers at the Old Trafford Tesco. Then I met local Labour party members to go out on the doorstep, to talk to local residents in Stretford about road safety issues, following the recent serious accident in Davyhulme Road East. We got lots of ideas for improvements in road safety which we will follow up.

In the afternoon, I headed over to Urmston for the 66th birthday celebrations for the founding of the NHS. My colleague Cllr Jo Harding had put in a huge amount of work to organise this, and it was a really great event, with lots of organisations coming along with stalls, cakes, drinks, and information. She even sorted the weather – it was a fabulous day.

On Sunday, I visited the As-Salaam centre in Stretford to discuss a whole range of matters with members of the mosque, including how we can build closer relationships between all sections of our community. This is something I’ve heard all the mosques in my constituency discuss in recent months, as tensions between communities rise. I was glad to have the chance to raise the issue with the minster the very next day in parliament in Home Office question time.

Monday evening was taken up with a long meeting with campaigners who’ve prepared a comprehensive report on the UK’s record in complying with our international obligations towards disabled people. It isn’t good, as the coalition government’s policies have put progress for disabled people into reverse. And it wasn’t very impressive either that our room booking had been messed around, necessitating those attending, including some in wheelchairs, criss-crossing Westminster, only for us to end up back in the room we had first booked.

Tuesday began with a breakfast meeting with insurance company Aviva, who have a large call centre in my constituency, and with whom I’ve been working on affordable insurance products for social housing tenants. The meeting was well attended, and very interesting, but I had to rush off early to speak in a debate on organ transplantation mark National Transplant Week. This is a subject on which I do a lot of work in parliament, and I’m pleased that since I began to work on it, there have been some small improvements in the way organs are allocated for transplant. I hope that will help us in the North West, where waiting times are the longest in the country, and too many patients die waiting for a transplant. But now I’ve been told there are problems with funding, so I asked the minister about that.

Then I dropped into a reception to mark the Summer Reading campaign, and was delighted to be allowed to choose some children’s books to donate to a local library. Into Cabinet Office questions, to ask what the government’s doing to help more learning disabled people to register to vote and participate in elections. In the afternoon, I was back in another debate on enabling learning disabled people to get out of residential care and live independently. Finally, off to two simultaneous receptions (this happens a lot, I really need to clone myself), one on a new report about the youth courts, and one organised by the fabulous Fabian Women’s Network.

Wednesday and Thursday have been much less busy, with time to catch up with my staff, and do a bit of reading and thinking, something I don’t give nearly as much time as I should. I’ve had a few meetings with campaigners, and with Capita, who carry out Personal Independence assessments, went into the chamber to support my colleague Chris Bryant, who was asking an Urgent Question about the government’s disastrous Universal Credit programme, and attended a reception hosted by NHS Blood and Transplant, again for National Transplant Week.

And now I’m on my way to Scotland for a day’s campaigning with Scottish colleagues, ahead of the forthcoming independence referendum in September. As a Scot who’s lived in England for more than 30 years, I simply can’t imagine Scotland leaving the UK. I’m looking forward to a packed programme of events to discuss how we’re all better off together, pooling our resources, sharing risks, and protecting our influence and relationships abroad. It should be an interesting visit!

A lot of what’s achieved in parliament actually happens outside the chamber

My new researcher, Neil, who’s based in London, visited our constituency office last week. It’s always nice to have the whole team together, and it doesn’t happen very often. Not that I saw much of them – I was out of the office meeting women in Old Trafford to discuss what’s going on in their area, then into town for a meeting of the Greater Manchester poverty commission, and finishing up with a meeting at Wythenshawe hospital.

It was back to Old Trafford on Saturday, for another community meeting, to discuss the redevelopment plans for Shrewsbury Street community centre. I’m particularly anxious about getting the right health services in the new premises. We discussed what’s important to local people, which was very useful, since I had an appointment with health secretary Jeremy Hunt on Tuesday to discuss the project and the need to sort out the financing. He has promised to get back to me, and I will be chasing up for an early response.

I headed off to Trafford Carers’ Centre on Sunday, for their celebration for carers’ week. They do absolutely fantastic work, and have made some promotional videos about the support they can offer carers – watch them at https://vimeo.com/dfptv/review/97510490/a9ecf7b57e

https://vimeo.com/dfptv/review/97508943/1a7eba6b1c

https://vimeo.com/dfptv/review/97509178/4384ee8232

On Monday, I had the great pleasure of attending a ceremony at Trafford General to mark the end of the first internship programme that has been run there for learning disabled people to get real work experience and develop new skills. This is a fantastic programme, and I am so impressed with the trainees, who’ve worked right across the hospital, in every department from housekeeping to pharmacy to IT. Some of the trainees already have jobs lined up, which is great news, but now we need local bosses to offer the others work. I can promise they’ll make excellent colleagues.

I then took the train down to London, arriving in time to join an event on sickle cell disease. This disease is most common among African Caribbean people, but I recently met a young Asian woman in the constituency who has the disease, and she’s keen to raise awareness that it can occur in other ethnic groups too.

I then went to a briefing by Macmillan, the cancer support charity, about their new research showing that cancer patients are waiting months for decisions on the Personal Independence Payment that can help meet the extra costs of living with a serious illness. I was shocked to meet a young woman whose husband had died earlier this year – his benefit was finally approved after his death. That just isn’t good enough.

On Tuesday, I had a very interesting meeting with Habinteg, who specialise in providing specially adapted and accessible homes for disabled people. Then a meeting with the Children’s Society to hear about their new research into family debt, a meeting with Peter Kelly from Poverty Alliance, and a discussion on fracking (a big issue for us locally) to round off the day.

On Wednesday, I sat in on a debate on the closure of the Independent Living Fund, which supports disabled people to live in their own homes – though due to a quirk of parliamentary procedure, I wasn’t actually allowed to speak. Then went to a lunchtime discussion on making business more disabled-friendly, a great meeting with my constituent Kirsty McGregor from Stretford who was in parliament to talk about Mind’s new mental health campaign, a cup of tea with Baroness Thornton, with whom I used to work on the equalities team, and finally off to a dinner hosted by Granada TV for North West MPs.

I headed off Thursday to meet Prospect, the union which represents the healthcare staff who work for ATOS carrying out work capability assessments – a very interesting meeting indeed. So it’s been quite a busy week, but the one thing I’ve scarcely done is actually go into the debating chamber. A lot of what’s achieved in parliament happens outside.

Another very busy week in Westminster and in my constituency

Parliament can be very frustrating. I was up VERY early on Thursday morning to submit an application to the speaker to ask an urgent question about disability benefits. Made the deadline of 8am, and then began to consider the short speech I’d make if my application was successful.

At 8.45am, I was told it wasn’t. I could have had a couple more hours in bed.

But I understood why my urgent question hadn’t been selected when I discovered another question had been submitted, on the appalling delays at the passport office in recent weeks.

The chamber was packed with MPs wanting to raise problems their constituents had experienced. I wanted to ask about families in my constituency who have contacted me about the problems they’ve had.

But again, frustratingly, there were so many MPs wanting to ask questions that there wasn’t time for us all to be called, and once again, I missed out. Thankfully, I’d at least been able to raise the issue earlier in the week when we were debating the Queen’s speech.

I’d had a busy few days at the end of last week in the constituency. I was delighted to attend the opening of new premises of Trafford Park company, Northern Drives and Controls. This fabulous company services and repairs electronic equipment and motors, highly technical, specialist work. It was all the more exciting to meet former England goalkeeper Gordon Banks, who performed the official opening.

I also went along to meet residents who live near Urmston station, who are unhappy at the new fence erected by Network Rail. They weren’t consulted about that.

And I also held a surgery on Friday, and another on Saturday, both of them very busy.

Plus a visit to Faizan e Islam mosque to present a cheque to the family of 9 year old Haris, money raised by the community to help him get the specialist health treatment he needs. Dropped in to the sewing group that meets in Stretford Mall, and attended a wedding on Saturday evening.

Sunday was a fantastic day, my annual road safety event at Stretford fire station. We were joined by Greater Manchester Police, the North West Ambulance Service, Institute of Advanced Motorists, the Probation Service, and Trafford Council. The sun shone and more than 300 people came along. I’m very grateful to the Fire Service for hosting us.

I set off to York early on Monday to speak at a conference on fairness and poverty commissions. I’ve been involved in the Manchester poverty commission, and in parliament, the All Party Group on Poverty, which I chair, has commissioned a report on these commissions, which now exist around the country. It was a very interesting event.

Then down to London to host a tea party for Kellogg’s in parliament, to mark their 16 years of support for school breakfast clubs. These clubs make such a difference, especially to children whose parents struggle to afford a healthy diet, or who leave very early for work.

Tuesday began with a photocall with the Kennel Club and a beautiful spaniel puppy, part of my Marvellous Mutts campaign to encourage dog owners to have their pets microchipped. Then I had a visit from some teachers from the constituency, part of a lobby of MPs organised by their union, the NUT. We discussed a whole range of issues about what’s happening in schools both nationally and in Trafford.

I went into the chamber to ask Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt about funding for new health facilities in Old Trafford. We desperately need new GP premises, and I was pleased he agreed to meet me to discuss it further.

I met representatives of the Fire Brigades Union, who wanted to talk about their concerns about the new North West control centre. Then a meeting of the Shadow Work and Pensions team, a meeting about suburban services and family incomes, before heading off with a group of women MPs for the hen night of our colleague Jenny Chapman, MP for Darlington. And we had a great time!

On Wednesday, I met ABTA to continue the discussions I’ve been having about safety on overseas trips. Then I met the British Deaf Association, who wanted to talk about their campaign for British Sign Language to have legal recognition. PMQs, a quick catch up with Niall from Church Action on Poverty on their new report on hunger and the rising use of food banks, and then I went to a drop in organised by LGBT Labour on tackling discrimination against trans people, where I was delighted to see Anna from the constituency and her partner Teraina.

I listened to the final part of the day’s debate on the Queen’s speech, helping to take notes for Rachel Reeves, who was summing up. Finally, I went off to dinner hosted by the fabulous Manchester United Foundation. So it hasn’t all been hard work this week.

A little persistence in parliament can pay off

I’m just leaving Westminster for another two weeks back in the constituency, which I’ll be spending campaigning for Labour’s candidates in the local and European elections at the end of the month.

It’s a great way to stay fit. And I love the chance to get out and about to meet constituents on the doorstep. That’s the best way for me to hear about the things politicians need to change in parliament.

It’s how we know for example about pressures in the NHS, problems getting a place at the school you want for your child, or the difficulty of assembling a package of care for a frail and elderly relative. There’s no doubt the doorstep is one of the best sources of information about policies we’re thinking about as politicians.

I attended a very interesting conference on Monday organised by asbestos victims support groups. I’ve become more and more involved in the campaign to bring justice to sufferers of this terrible disease since working on the legislation that led to the passage of the Mesothelioma Act early this year.

That legislation now means some victims will receive payouts from insurers if they were exposed to asbestos at work but can’t trace an employer’s insurer. It’s a welcome step forward, but there’s still more to do, and at the conference we discussed some of the changes that are still needed. I was very pleased to confirm Labour would ensure there is funding for more research into the disease as well as legislating to guarantee the level of financial contribution made by the insurance industry.

I was also very pleased to see when I got back to parliament that the government is doing something else I’ve been calling for. We’re debating the Deregulation Bill, and the government has proposed a clause in the bill that means that families of mesothelioma victims won’t have to get a court order to access employment records after a victim’s death. That’s another small step forward, and it shows how persistence can pay off in parliament.

A meeting I had with officials from the Business Innovation and Skills department (BIS) this week also shows that it can be worth persisting. I’ve been campaigning since I was first elected to parliament for higher safety standards on overseas adventure activities. Luke Molnar, the 17 year old son of constituents from Stretford, died in 2006 while participating in such an activity in Fiji. Together with his parents, I’ve been pushing for more information about safety measures.

It’s been a long haul, but I was pleased to hear the Foreign Office as well as BIS are finally taking action to raise awareness of safety issues and get information to consumers. Citizens Advice are also helping to disseminate information. Again, the battle is far from won, but there has certainly been some progress. And that’s thanks to the determination of families like the Molnars not to let matters rest.

I’ve been speaking in a few debates this week: on the government’s idea of a huge secure training centre for hundreds of young offenders (I think this creates huge risks, and I spoke out against it); on changes to help with paying council tax that will leave many low income households struggling; and on protecting the human rights of elderly and disabled people in residential care accommodation. We’ve all heard some utter horror stories about this, but a loophole in the Human Rights Act meant those in private residential homes wouldn’t have the same rights as those in council care. I asked the minister for more information about steps the government is taking to address this.

There have also been some very good meetings organised by All Party Groups that I’ve attended – a meeting on migration and how the public feel about it; a meeting with young disabled people to discuss access to shops, bars, and clubs, and accessible transport; the All Party Group on the Magistracy, discussing sentencing for drink driving; a meeting to hear about new research into motor neurone disease, attended by a constituent, and her brother who has MND (both spoke movingly and powerfully about this horrible disease); and I was very pleased to be guest speaker at a reception organised by a group of organisations campaigning for services for deaf people.

Their persistence has paid off too: for months, they’ve been highlighting changes that have meant deaf people were unable to get funding for British Sign Language interpreters to enable them to function at work. MPs have been asking questions about this too, and just before the reception we were really delighted to hear the minister has agreed to carry out a full review of the problem.

Getting things done in parliament is always best when it’s part of a joint effort.

A short but very varied week in Westminster

Tom, who manages my Urmston office, has been visiting us in Westminster today. We’ve just got on the train back to Manchester, and I pointed out the wheels of the train to him. Last week, I visited the company on Trafford Park that manufactures them. It was really exciting to see the production line.

It’s been a short week in parliament. Because of the bank holiday, and then a visit I made to meet disabled members of Unison on Tuesday morning, I feel I’ve scarcely been there at all. But there’s still been time to attend some really interesting and fun events.

On Tuesday afternoon, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty, which I chair, launched a new report into the role of non-governmental and civil society organisations in tackling poverty in the UK. We were very pleased the government minister came to the launch, and also – if this doesn’t sound too perverse – pleased he said he didn’t agree with the report. One, it shows he read it, and two, we wanted it to spark debate – so we’re pleased to have achieved that. The report is available on the APPG website here if you want to read it.

I was also incredibly honoured and pleased to announce that the APPG in conjunction with the Webb Memorial Trust will award a prize to a local voluntary or community group that’s working to reduce poverty in memory of the late Paul Goggins MP. Paul served as secretary of the Group, and we miss him very much in parliament. Details of the prize (worth £3,000) and how to enter are also on the APPG website.

Wednesday began with a couple of meetings. The first was with my colleague Debbie Abrahams MP, who’s a member of our Shadow Health team. Then I met a woman who is campaigning for fair access to IVF treatment. This has been an issue I campaigned on in Trafford, and I’m very pleased that some treatment is now available. But Trafford still doesn’t comply with NICE guidelines on the number of cycles of treatment it offers. I was interested to hear about the campaigning that’s going on nationally and how I can keep up the pressure locally.

Wednesday was also my fabulous researcher Liz’s last day working for me (she’s moving to work in our International Development team). So Rebecca, who also works in my Westminster office, and I took her off for a farewell lunch. There was another celebration later in the day when I attended a reception to mark my colleague Margaret Hodge MP’s twentieth anniversary in parliament.

Then it was off to another meeting. Westminster life is very varied!

Predictions for Second Semi-Final of Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen This Evening

Moving on from semi-final one in which we predicted eight out of the ten qualifiers to Saturday’s final, which included the pleasant surprise of San Marino qualifying for the first time alongside Montenegro, this evening’s second semi boasts a selection of varying styles of music.

However, while there are a couple of stand out acts – Israel and Poland – there appears to be a lack of the usual quality when compared to previous years.
Israel has opted for the contemporary sounding Mei Feingold while Poland has a humorous critique of ‘Slavic Girls’ which has pulled in more than 42 million YouTube hits which would seem to be based on the visual content over the lyrics!

You will have read about Carl Espen here on the MEN blog and so we think his haunting ‘Silent Storm; will make it through to Saturday’s final.  Austria is also getting a lot of media attention with its ‘bearded lady’ which might bomb given the fears generated at such things in Eastern Europe and Russia in particular. Despite this the song is actually very good and strongly performed by Conchita Wurst (the stage name for Tom Neuwith).

Paula and Ovi are back for Romania with the song ‘Miracle’, and whilst the song is okay and is likely to qualify, it will not, in all honesty, reach the dizzy heights of third overall as they did back in 2010 in the Oslo Eurovision final with Playing With Fire.

Tonight, also look out for Malta – many are considering this as the dark horse of the contest with the Mumford and Sons-esque ‘Coming Home’.  Greece also has a good chance and although it sounds a bit messy to our ears, it should qualify.

Our neighbours Ireland are also in this semi, but we think they’ll struggle with a similar sounding song to last year, complete with stereotypical Irish dancers on stage – surely there’s another form of dance in Ireland?

Other ones that will struggle to qualify will be FYR Macedonia and Slovenia – both good songs and performers, but maybe not instant enough for the audience.

So, our 10 qualifiers out of the 15 songs will be:

Malta
Israel
Norway
Poland
Austria
Greece
Romania
Lithuania
Finland
Switzerland

Sadly, we think we will be saying goodbye to

Ireland
FYR Macedonia
Georgia (and their parachute)
Slovenia
Belarus

But then again……!

Predictions for Second Semi-Final of Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen This Evening

Moving on from semi-final one in which we predicted eight out of the ten qualifiers to Saturday’s final, which included the pleasant surprise of San Marino qualifying for the first time alongside Montenegro, this evening’s second semi boasts a selection of varying styles of music.

However, while there are a couple of standout acts – Israel and Poland – there appears to be a lack of the usual quality when compared to previous years.
Israel has opted for the contemporary sounding Mei Feingold while Poland has a humorous critique of ‘Slavic Girls’ which has pulled in more than 42 million YouTube hits which would seem to be based on the visual content over the lyrics!

You will have read about Carl Espen here on the MEN blog and so we think his haunting ‘Silent Storm; will make it through to Saturday’s final.  Austria is also getting a lot of media attention with its ‘bearded lady’ which might bomb given the fears generated at such things in Eastern Europe and Russia in particular. Despite this the song is actually very good and strongly performed by Conchita Wurst (the stage name for Tom Neuwith).

Paula and Ovi are back for Romania with the song ‘Miracle’, and whilst the song is okay and is likely to qualify, it will not, in all honesty, reach the dizzy heights of third overall as they did back in 2010 in the Oslo Eurovision final with Playing With Fire.

Tonight, also look out for Malta – many are considering this as the dark horse of the contest with the Mumford and Sons-esque ‘Coming Home’.  Greece also has a good chance and although it sounds a bit messy to our ears, it should qualify.

Our neighbours Ireland are also in this semi, but we think they’ll struggle with a similar sounding song to last year, complete with stereotypical Irish dancers on stage – surely there’s another form of dance in Ireland?

Other ones that will struggle to qualify will be FYR Macedonia and Slovenia – both good songs and performers, but maybe not instant enough for the audience.

So, our 10 qualifiers out of the 15 songs will be:

Malta
Israel
Norway
Poland
Austria
Greece
Romania
Lithuania
Finland
Switzerland

Sadly, we think we will be saying goodbye to

Ireland
FYR Macedonia
Georgia (and their parachute)
Slovenia
Belarus

But then again……!

Molly’s Dream – to Win Eurovision Song Contest – and for it to be staged in Manchester in 2015!

AFTER many years in the musical wilderness the BBC has chosen little known singer Molly Smitten-Downes to represent the UK on Saturday, at the 59th Eurovision Song Contest

The contest, which will be held this year in Denmark, will feature the usual array of weird and wacky songs with the emphasis heavily on ballads. However, no such thing for Molly, who follows in the footsteps of recent UK Eurovision flops which include Bonnie Tyler last year and Engelbert Humperdinck in 2012.

Molly, 26, will carry British hopes in Copenhagen, Denmark, with her song Children of the Universe. The Leicestershire pop singer has already had a taste of the limelight after having a UK top 10 hit in 2008 with Sash on the song Raindrops (Encore Une Fois).

She also sang on Basshunter’s 2009 album Bass Generation and has supported Jake Bugg, Tinie Tempah, Labrinth and Chase and Status live In 2012 she won the urban/pop category at the Live and Unsigned contest at the O2 Arena.

Before she took to the stage Peter Devine caught up with her in Amsterdam to discover more about this largely unknown singer:

PD – We have been hearing all about your fantastic song in Manchester and for the BBC to put it on BBC 6 is bringing it bang up to date.

Molly – Yes, it’s been amazing. This year the BBC is taking it really seriously. It’s not that The BBC hasn’t been taking it seriously before, but it has just been the wrong approach, and it wanted to do something entirely different this year and that is why I am involved. And so far it has been amazingly positive.”

PD – “You have suddenly been propelled into this showbiz world where you get to Copenhagen you will be faced with thousands of journalists and broadcasters keen to know about your song?”

Molly – Yes, it’s crazy and it feels very like that for me too. I know what I am so to speak, so at the moment this is all about ‘wow’ and ‘okay’, and it’s great that people are being really so encouraging, and so far it’s like fun for money.

“On the other hand, it’s really hard work but it’s still fun chatting to so many different people.”

PD – “What is your earliest memory of Eurovision,”

Molly – “I think my earliest one was Gina Gee when I was at school and then there was Katrina and the Waves.”

PD – “Has the song itself got any particular meaning for you.”

Molly – “Yes definitely, when the BBC got in touch, I realised there was no point in me putting forward a song I didn’t have any confidence in.

“While it’s almost impossible to write a musical composition that everyone is going to like, as an artiste you still have to believe in it. It’s a spiritual song which captures a feeling that many people experience. Initially you believe you are not worth much in life before then coming to the realisation you are worth much, much more, in that you are integral to everything and have an important place.”

PD – “A lot of well known musical artistes in the UK won’t participate in Eurovision?”

Molly – “Yes, and I can see why, and I had the same reservations that they have had. The thing for me is that this year the BBC is coming at it from a completely different angle and it is trying to break down all these preconceptions and that’s what really excites me.

“I guess at heart I am a bit of a rebel and I like the idea of changing people’s minds. I think that’s a massive challenge. How good would it be if the Eurovision Song Contest became something, where when mentioned, people didn’t necessarily roll their eyes and think that is naff. We will see. Ask me in a year’s time.”

PD – “If the UK wins in 2014, can we expect to stage the final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Manchester next year?

Molly – “God, I really hope so, that would be amazing, that would be the dream. Yes, if I can bring it home for us, I would be over the moon. So fingers crossed I will try my best.”

 

Molly’s Dream – to Win Eurovision Song Contest – and for it to be staged in Manchester in 2015!

AFTER many years in the musical wilderness the BBC has chosen little known singer Molly Smitten-Downes to represent the UK on Saturday, at the 59th Eurovision Song Contest

The contest, which will be held this year in Denmark, will feature the usual array of weird and wacky songs with the emphasis heavily on ballads. However, no such thing for Molly, who follows in the footsteps of recent UK Eurovision flops which include Bonnie Tyler last year and Engelbert Humperdinck in 2012.

Molly, 26, will carry British hopes in Copenhagen, Denmark, with her song Children of the Universe. The Leicestershire pop singer has already had a taste of the limelight after having a UK top 10 hit in 2008 with Sash on the song Raindrops (Encore Une Fois).

She also sang on Basshunter’s 2009 album Bass Generation and has supported Jake Bugg, Tinie Tempah, Labrinth and Chase and Status live In 2012 she won the urban/pop category at the Live and Unsigned contest at the O2 Arena.

Before she took to the stage Peter Devine caught up with her in Amsterdam to discover more about this largely unknown singer:

PD – We have been hearing all about your fantastic song in Manchester and for the BBC to put it on BBC 6 is bringing it bang up to date.

Molly – Yes, it’s been amazing. This year the BBC is taking it really seriously. It’s not that The BBC hasn’t been taking it seriously before, but it has just been the wrong approach, and it wanted to do something entirely different this year and that is why I am involved. And so far it has been amazingly positive.”

PD – “You have suddenly been propelled into this showbiz world where you get to Copenhagen you will be faced with thousands of journalists and broadcasters keen to know about your song?”

Molly – Yes, it’s crazy and it feels very like that for me too. I know what I am so to speak, so at the moment this is all about ‘wow’ and ‘okay’, and it’s great that people are being really so encouraging, and so far it’s like fun for money.

“On the other hand, it’s really hard work but it’s still fun chatting to so many different people.”

PD – “What is your earliest memory of Eurovision,”

Molly – “I think my earliest one was Gina Gee when I was at school and then there was Katrina and the Waves.”

PD – “Has the song itself got any particular meaning for you.”

Molly – “Yes definitely, when the BBC got in touch, I realised there was no point in me putting forward a song I didn’t have any confidence in.

“While it’s almost impossible to write a musical composition that everyone is going to like, as an artiste you still have to believe in it. It’s a spiritual song which captures a feeling that many people experience. Initially you believe you are not worth much in life before then coming to the realisation you are worth much, much more, in that you are integral to everything and have an important place.”

PD – “A lot of well known musical artistes in the UK won’t participate in Eurovision?”

Molly – “Yes, and I can see why, and I had the same reservations that they have had. The thing for me is that this year the BBC is coming at it from a completely different angle and it is trying to break down all these preconceptions and that’s what really excites me.

“I guess at heart I am a bit of a rebel and I like the idea of changing people’s minds. I think that’s a massive challenge. How good would it be if the Eurovision Song Contest became something, where when mentioned, people didn’t necessarily roll their eyes and think that is naff. We will see. Ask me in a year’s time.”

PD – “If the UK wins in 2014, can we expect to stage the final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Manchester next year?

Molly – “God, I really hope so, that would be amazing, that would be the dream. Yes, if I can bring it home for us, I would be over the moon. So fingers crossed I will try my best.”

 

Carl – The Boy Who Learnt to Sing in Front of a Bedroom Mirror Performs for Norway at Eurovision – Exclusive!

A SONG which is attracting a lot of attention for Norway is set to be performed for the first time in the second semi-final of Thursday’s Eurovision Song Contest in Copenhagen.

The song Silent Storm and the singer, don’t exactly go together, given that Carl Espen Thorbjørnsen, 32, looks more like a rocker than a balladeer.

The song picks up on a lot of Celtic sounds and is bound to be popular among an older generation more attracted to a quiet simple ballad than the usual key changed renditions that litter Eurovision

Carl was raised by his mum, with his two siblings on the island of Osteroy off the coast from Bergen. Even though the island is not more than a 40 minutes drive from Bergen city, it is a very rural and idyllic place

According to the blurb, Carl has always loved to spend time in the nature, and was a real fishing enthusiast as a boy. His mother sang a lot, and his childhood home was always filled with music.

Among his cousins, aunts and uncles, you can find the woman behind the song Silent Storm, Carl’s cousin Josefin Winther, a London based artist and songwriter born in Bergen in 1986.

Josefin had always thought that more people should hear Carl’s voice, and in August 2013 she finally sat down a wrote a song especially for him.

They decided to enter into the Norwegian national selection, Melodi Grand Prix, and the rest is history.

Before he going on stage to represent Norwat Carl explains to the MEN the type of music he likes

Carl: “lf I am just a regular guy who chose to sing and a lot of people enjoy my voice. I first started playing the guitar when I was a teenager and when I was 17/18 I started writing a few songs and then I went into the army and when I came back I stopped writing but then instead I started listening to music a lot. I listened to everything from jazz to opera and everything in between”

Peter Devine: “And how did that help you develop your own singing?”

Carl: “When I was younger I was developing my voice and singing falsetto. However, later on my biggest inspiration was Jeff Beck who I discovered when I was 17/18 and it was one album I used to listen to and to play and sing the songs.”

PD: “Where were you singing was it in church or at a music academy?”

Carl: “No it was in front of the mirror”

PD: “Did the neighbour ever knock on the wall!”

Carl: “No we were a musical family and we lived in a VERY rural location in the country.”

PD: “Does this song that you have brought to Eurovision describe the type of singing artiste that you are?”

Carl: “Yes, it really shows off my voice in a good way, but I can do other things with my voice including high notes. However, this is a hard song to sing.”

PD: “Is it the high keys that are difficult to sing?”

Carl: “Well not the song as much excepting that that you have to have a lot of air in the lungs to sing it. And it was written by my cousin so it is very personal to me.”

PD: “How is it personal for you?”

Carl: “Well if I want to put in a good performance of the song I have to bring out this emotion I have inside and that is what the song is about.”

PD: “What’s the most positive thing for you and your career about coming to Eurovision?”

Carl: “It’s just to show my voice to all these people and that’s great because there is no other arena like this with an audience of 108 million people.”

PD: “When you mention that it is personal to you. What would you like people to pick up on when they hear your song?”

Carl: “I hope people have already picked up on the fact that life doesn’t always end up like you had planned when you are in your early 20s, how you visualised your life and how you thought it was going to be.

“You have a girlfriend, you have a boyfriend, you get married, you have a car, a house and you set yourself up and I think it’s the same all over and people can relate to that And that is why the song is so popular outside of Eurovision

PD: “Songs that do well at Eurovision, often contain universal truths that speak to people?”

Carl: “I know and whatever happens, I will remember 2014 for a very long time.