The Collective

Women of the Year 2013

Dagenham Women of the Year _2702837b

The Dagenham Women are recognised some 40 years on for their efforts to stamp out the equal pay gap

Meet Britain’s true ‘It Girls’ – from Waris Dirie to those Dagenham women

As far as women’s award ceremonies go, there’s only one that stands out on the business calendar: The Women of the Year lunch. It’s one of the rare times a mix of steely Dames, Olympians, bestselling authors, FTSE 100 directors and politicians both laugh and cry in equal measure. Josephine Fairley gives us the low down from yesterday’s invite-only event.

I do feel that the Women of the Year Lunch committee is missing a trick by not going to Kleenex for sponsorship. Because if you think that Dames, Olympians, bestselling authors, überagents, FTSE 100 directors, architects, politicians and magazine editors are too steely to be moved to tears by other women’s tales of bravery, fortitude and general indomitability, you’re dead wrong.

At yesterday’s annual Intercontinental lunch, as ever, it was hankies a-go-go. As Sandi Toksvig, for the last nine years MC (and a woman who manages perfectly to walk the tightrope between hilarity and poignancy as she leads the proceedings) put it: ‘This is an event where women find ourselves laughing and crying in equal measure.’ To wit: the lunch segue-ed from Sandi’s self-deprecating jokes about being the event’s mascot (‘I am also available as a key-fob, life-size’), through to a filmed first-person recollection of Female Genital Mutilation from a Somali girl, as a preface to the presentation of this year’s WoY Campaigning Award to Waris Dirie. Read More…

The Joy of Soap


If you haven’t notice already, we have a bit of an obsession here at Phylia with beauty and health products. We could go on and on about our favorite sink side goodies, and if you keep watching the “Favorites” section of this very blog, you’ll soon see it fill up with oils, lotions, and potions, that we love.

But in the end, much like food or art or thank you notes, there is nothing quite like making it yourself. Over the last few years, as a hobby and a way to relax, we’ve been hand-making soaps, combining all natural ingredients, setting the results into sweetly shaped molds and giving away the finished beauties as gifts to family and friends. Soap making is a fascinating process, a soothing, rewarding ritual. It is a long-standing tradition as well, a craft that has existed for centuries, passed down from one generation to the next.

In fact, dig into soap making history and you’ll find that that foamy bar on the side of the tub is the result of thousands of years of evolution. As early as 2800 BC, in fact, Babylonians were making a mixture of akali and cassia oil for bathing. The Egyptians followed suit, using cyprus and sesame oils. The Romans added animal fat to create something close to the soaps we know today, solid blocks of waxy substance, dressed up by varying combinations of oils and scents.

The French, however, were the ones to truly refine soap making and transform the process in an art. By the 19th Century French soap makers were churning out pure, luxury soaps, replacing animal fat with rich olive and vegetable oils and rare exotic scents. Read More…

Catherine Turner’s India

Catherine Turner’s India

In the end, the decision had been easy to make. After nearly eight years as Beauty & Health Director on a glossy magazine, I’d handed in my notice and was about to trade my dream job for a dream trip to India. This was no out-of-the-blue decision. I’d discovered yoga 11 years earlier: it had rescued me from a rather bleak time when I had been made redundant.

My stressed and stiff desk bunny body gradually melted and transformed into something resembling fit, healthy and flexible. I admit it, I’d become a yoga bore – it was that life changing – so I decided to walk the talk which is how, out of all the things to do on a trip to India, I ended up on a teacher training course at an ashram on the banks of the river Ganges in the Himalayas. At the risk of lapsing into hippy dippy ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ territory, it was my own little spiritual journey and I’d advise anyone (into yoga or not) to go and soak it all up. It’s a mind blowing experience on many levels – you’ll never forget it.

First Stop Rishikesh

It’s a bit of a journey to get there, and I did it the easy way. I debated for ages as to whether to fly to Delhi and get the full local experience by jumping on the train to Rishikesh. A true hippy would have got the bus. In the end I decided to catch an internal flight from Delhi to Dehradun which is then a 40 minute cab ride in to Rishikesh, and managed to persuade one other girl heading for the ashram to do the same. I’m glad I did, as I was troubled by a few horror stories of scams at Delhi train station.

Still, my fellow yogis made it by train or road without any problems, so it confirms I’m a ‘better to be safe than sorry’ rather than a risk-taking traveller. Either way, arriving in Rishikesh is an all-singing, all-dancing intro to India. Hordes of people, chaos and cows. Sun going down, beaten up old cab, horns blaring, tuk-tuks overtaking, dusty road, monkeys hanging off every tree…..and the smell. So bad, yet so good with bursts of delicate jasmine hanging in the hot evening air. Read More…

Maggie Alderson’s Sydney


From the moment I arrived in Sydney for the first time, twenty years ago, I felt like I’d come home. I stepped out of the airport into the bright white morning light, caught a drift of eucalyptus on the air from the gum trees in the car park, and felt my whole body relax. It just felt right.

Of course, it always helps when you share a language with a new country, but there’s more to it than that. Sydney’s not a city you have to try hard to enjoy.

Read More…

Pasta Sauce Raphael


Pasta Sauce Raphael

Gill: With thanks to the Silver Palate Cookbook, I have made this pasta sauce so many times, it is almost a signature dish. All the vegetables are sautéed and simmered together, relinquishing their individual flavours to achieve a special new one. In the winter I serve it hot and in the summer months I serve it as a cold pasta salad dish. You can use any pasta, but I particularly like it with penne or over tortellini. Read More…

Jo Fairley’s Hastings


My attitude to Hastings can be summed up in a single phrase: ‘I do like to be beside the seaside.’ (Those of you who believe in such things might feel it has something to do with being a Cancerian. And, with the dawn of the internet (both a curse and a blessing), it’s become possible to live pretty much where you’d like. Which, in my case, is Hastings Old Town: more a ‘village’, really, of 4,000 people living in an extraordinary patchwork of buildings (from medieval to modern), tucked between two steep hills – with the beach at the end of the road. What’s not to love…?

When we moved here (that’s me and Craig Sams, health food entrepreneur, biochar guru and my co-founder in Green & Black’s Chocolate), it wasn’t exactly ‘Shoreditch-on-Sea’ – which is one of the comments often heard nowadays, as DFLs (Down From Londoners) discover our quirky mix of dozens of independent shops and restaurants.

Because it was hard to get our hands on good, organic food, we decided to take over our local bakery (founded 1826), turn it organic and put in a one-stop organic and local food store. Then, two years later, frustrated that there wasn’t somewhere I could go to do Yoga or have a fab massage, I transformed a run-down local Regency-era council building into The Wellington Centre: a 9-room ’boutique’ wellbeing centre which offers 20 classes a week (Pilates, Yoga, Tai Chi, etc.), and every imaginable therapy from Colonic Hydrotherapy to Deep Tissue Massage, via facials and Physio. In the past seven years, we’ve seen an influx of Londoners, who – like us – have moved here for improved quality of life. Read More…