Minnie Meets… Jonathan Dickins

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“I didn’t meet any other managers, I only met him – and I made my mind up that I wanted him to manage me before he made his mind up that he wanted to manage me.”

These were the words denoted by Adele in her opening address at the Music Week Awards in 2012. She was at the ceremony to present the ‘Manager of the Year’ Award to Jonathan Dickins, her own manager. Six years earlier, Jonathan founded September Management and within eight years, a portfolio of incredible musicians from Jamie T to London Grammar have blossomed under his care and guidance.

Music and the industry itself, are in Jonathan’s blood. His grandfather, Percy Dickins co-founded NME Magazine and in 1952, he invented what we now know as the pop chart. His father, is a booking agent working with artists such as Bob Dylan, Diana Ross, Neil Young and Jamiroquai whilst his uncle, Rob Dickins, was at the helm of Universal Music UK for most of the eighties / nineties and simultaneously constructed songs such as Cher’s ‘Believe’ and Madonna’s ‘Ray of Light’.

At the Web Summit last month, I had the honour and privilege to sit down with Jonathan and discuss his motivations, his definition of success and questioned why saying no can be a positive.

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How would you describe yourself, both personally and professionally?

I always define myself as both a Dad and as a manager. 

Within the music industry the Dickins name is somewhat of a legacy. Did that instill any fear or concern in you when you first ventured into this domain? 

Fear? I was terrified! My family were and are so involved in the business, you couldn’t help but be a little nervous about it. Though, I’ll be honest, my transition into the music industry would not have been as smooth without some of those connections but having a family in the industry can be both your greatest strength and your biggest weakness. I began in the industry by working with my uncle, (Rob Dickins) someone that I get on very well with but it was only when I began to work for myself that I really felt like I was no longer in my family’s shadow. I’ve been really lucky! 

I would define luck as the moment where hard work meets opportunity. 

I would agree. We have an incredible team at September Management who work ridiculously hard! 

Speaking of your team, what do you look for when you are recruiting within September Management?

Someone once told me that you should hire people who are better than you and I think that’s very true. September Management began from a bedroom in my house and the majority of the team have grown with the company, almost since the very beginning. The most important element of the team is that the people who work with me love what they do and have such an intense passion for music. That’s essential!

On the Music Summit Stage, you spoke about being somewhat baffled as to why artists over-publicise themselves and saturate the market with their branding. Thus, you and your artists say ‘no’ quite often. On what basis do you make such decisions?

For me, 70% of my work and the decisions that I make are based on gut instinct. The other 30% comes from experience. Perhaps other people would question the maths of that but I think it has worked well for us so far. 

In 2012, you were awarded ‘Manager of the Year’ at the Music Week Awards and Adele’s album ’21’ became the first album to sell over three million digital copies but in terms of your career, how do you define success? 

Winning ‘Manager of the Year’ was amazing and receiving recognition is incredible. I could do the cliché thing and say that winning awards means nothing but honestly, that’s bullshit. However, the true definition of success for me is being able to do something that you are incredibly passionate about every single day and I am so fortunate that I am able to do that. 

September Management has been in existence for eight years but how do you envisage the future of the company?

I want to keep doing what we are doing. Deliberately, we keep our roster of artists small so that we can concentrate our time and efforts into each of them. As we grow I want to continue to cultivate the culture and ethos that we created in the early days of September Management which is that the artist is our priority but creating music and especially brilliant music is the most important element of all. 

My final question for you, Jonathan – what do you think is the specific element that makes music brilliant?

I’m probably the worst person to answer that question because it’s strange, most of the music that becomes a hit, I don’t really like it. That’s what’s so great about Adele, London Grammar, Jamie T and many of our other artists – I love what they do. They’re the anomaly.

Thanks so much to Jonathan, Katy and Niall for all of their assistance in the organisation of this interview. To take a glimpse at the full music roster of September Management, you can find their website here.

If you enjoyed this interview, there’s quite the possibility that you may find the other ‘Minnie Meets’ conversations interesting too. You can find them here.

Minnie Meets… Justin Cooke

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As a teenager, Justin Cooke was the post-runner for Tom Ford, when Ford was at the helm at Gucci. At eighteen, Cooke had the title of PR & Marketing at Stella McCartney whilst at twenty five, he was named the Global Vice President of Public Relations at Burberry. His stint with Christopher Bailey and Angela Ahrendts lasted seven years before taking on the role of Chief Marketing Officer for Topshop.

His appetite for innovation and creativity within the fashion domain has been well-documented particularly with projects such as Burberry’s ‘Art of the Trench’ and Topshop’s ‘Shop the Show’ campaigns. However, after almost fifteen years enveloped by the fashion domain, Cooke’s thirst for disruptive innovation was no longer quenched by the industry.

Inspired by his mentor, Sir Philip Green, Cooke departed Topshop to lay the foundations for his own digital consultancy, Innovate 7. Their first product, Tunepics, is similar to Instagram in format but with the addition of an ability to link images to music via iTunes and the possibility of denoting the emotional experience which that inspires.

At this year’s Web Summit in Dublin, Justin Cooke spoke about ‘What Millennials Want’ on the Marketing Stage alongside Philippe von Burries of Refinery29, Brian Lovell of Red Agency and Jane McDaid of Thinkhouse. I was fascinated by the discussion and feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to interview Justin after the session.

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How would you describe yourself both personally and professionally?

I’m a highly emotional person that likes to understand and connect with other people and how they’re feeling – it’s a Piscean trait. I like knowing the things that people aren’t going to say or don’t want to say and having an understanding on how to communicate with them and help them to express the things that they don’t find easy. That’s a really important part of my personality in both a personal and professional context. 

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Extraordinary Women: Nicole Turner

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October has been designated as Dwarfism Awareness Month. I used this thirty-one day period as a vehicle to express some of the challenges which I face in quotidian life. It has also been an extremely powerful platform to address questions that friends, family and followers may have – particularly through social media.

One of my personal highlights from this month was speaking about difference, disability and questioning the labels which society assigns us at the One Young World conference. With 1,300 delegates in attendance from over 194 different countries, it was the definition of an incredible experience.

With only hours until November begins and with Little People of Ireland celebrating their 17th annual convention this weekend, I wanted to celebrate the denouement of Dwarfism Awareness Month in a very particular way.

Nicole Turner is but twelve years of age and is the youngest person to be interviewed for the ‘Extraordinary Women’ series to date, but do not let that fool you. She is incredibly disciplined, articulate and passionate about swimming and very soon will be competing to represent Ireland at The Paralympic Games.

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Nicole, tell me a little bit about yourself.

My name is Nicole Turner, I’m twelve years old and I live in Co. Offaly.

I hear that you are the most famous person in Offaly, just after Brian Cowen.

I’m not sure, but I’d like to think so. (*laughs*)

Do you enjoy school, Nicole?

It’s great – I love it. I’m in sixth class in Cloneyhurke National School and there’s a total of five people in my class. There’s no bullying in my school and all of my friends are really supportive.

You mentioned that your friends are really supportive but what do you mean by that?

It’s never happened to me before but if another student, maybe someone in the younger classes, came up to me and asked me why I was small, they would be there for me and explain to them that I am just the same as every other sixth class student in the school.

Now, you and I both understand what we mean when we describe ourselves as ‘small’ but if someone was reading this who did not know neither you nor me, how would you explain it to them?

A few years ago, I heard you talking about how you explain it to the students that you teach – that we are the same as everyone else but our arms and legs are just a little bit shorter. That’s how I describe it to people now too!

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Minnie Meets… Zoë Jordan

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Stepping into Havana Boutique, I was immediately enamoured by the wealth of designers and intricate pieces which are available in-store. Nestled into a side-street in Donnybrook, you could find Simone Rocha’s beautiful pearl-encrusted Autumn/Winter ’14 collection hanging alongside the ruched skirts of American designer, Rick Owens.

I meandered into the store, not to fawn over their garments but to meet London-based Irish designer, Zoë Jordan. As the daughter of Formula 1 driver, Eddie Jordan, it would be easy but untrue to think that Zoë’s success stems from her family’s notoriety. With a background in finance and a clear vision as to what her design aesthetic is and how it may develop, the client-base which she has assembled is because of her own merit.

Collaborating with Havana Boutique, the designer showcases ‘Chicane’, her Autumn/Winter ’14 collection in a two week pop-up shop. Even as one of her first Irish endeavours, it proves promising but I’m eagerly anticipating what Zoë does next.

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How would you describe yourself both personally and professionally?

Oh gosh, I haven’t quite figured it out yet. I am probably a mixture of being quite balanced and laid-back versus a perfectionist, quite anal, someone who likes to succeed and a person who seeks out challenges and adventure.

Is it easy to balance those two elements of your personality?

I go with my gut and what feels most comfortable on any given day – particularly when I’m making decisions.

When you were growing up, you were surrounded by mechanics and you were the little girl who played with the ants and the worms but what first drew you to the fashion domain?

I have always been quite drawn to the design world, I loved design at school and went on to study architecture in college. My designs are quite mathematical and almost formulaic which perhaps stems from my background in finance and analytics but it is also because of the way I was brought up. From a young age, I was travelling a lot, seeing a lot and I think fashion is something, even without knowing, that my family were quite involved and interested in, in their own way. When I worked in the city, I wanted to feel that I was being taken seriously by people and fashion just felt natural to me.

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For What It’s Worth

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Whilst walking through Dublin this afternoon, it began to rain. Within minutes, what was a light shower, quickly became torrential and I had forgotten my umbrella. In the midst of searching for shelter, I crossed paths with a man who appeared to be homeless and was asking passers-by for their loose change. Reaching into my coat pocket, I had less than one euro in coppers and apologised for the small amount but placed the coins into his polystyrene cup.

As I continued my fast-paced walk, I heard someone calling ‘Love, love, love’ from behind me. I turned around and the man who I had just given money to was trying to gain my attention and was asking me to come back to where he was sitting on the concrete. He asked me if I had an umbrella and having explained that I’d left mine in college, he offered me a navy teddy-bear umbrella; one of the very few possessions he had on his person. I refused and said that I couldn’t take it from him but it fell on deaf ears. He told me that the rain was too heavy and I would get sick if I was walking around in it for much longer. He placed the umbrella in my hand and merely asked me to return it the next time that we run into each other.

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I was completely flabbergasted. I asked him his name, introduced myself and shook his hand. The rain continued to worsen and as I raced back to college, I could not help but think of how cold and wet that man must now be. Two hours later, the weather cleared and Dublin experienced some brief sunshine. With the umbrella and a thank you card in-hand, I meandered back to the location where I first met him and luckily, he was still there. Shaking his hand, I thanked him for his generosity and incredible kindness. His response? You’re welcome.

How often do we walk past the people living on our streets and think little of them or even worse, ignore them completely?

An umbrella doesn’t have great monetary value but when you are homeless, it’s worth is more lucrative than money. For the rest of the day I found myself asking, if the roles had been reversed today, would I have offered my umbrella? I hope the answer would be yes.

Extraordinary Women: Áine Lawlor

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This blog began as a college assignment, whilst I was studying to be a primary school teacher. It was never supposed to amount to anything other than be a fictitious link between my prospective class and their parents.

Several years later, it is somewhat unfathomable that it has provided me with several opportunities to converse with and meet such an array of talented and incredible people. As inane as it might sound, sometimes it feels a little surreal.

One such ‘surreal’ moment occurred earlier this month; it involved me drinking tea with RTÉ broadcaster, Áine Lawlor. ‘Morning Ireland’ was the soundtrack to my college commute for almost five years and hearing news bulletin at 9am was my measure as to whether or not I was late for lectures.

Áine is the presenter of RTÉ One’s ‘The Week in Politics’ and the co-presenter of RTÉ Radio One’s ‘News at One’ but more than that, she is one of the most warm and generous people you could meet. Conversations with Áine challenge your biases and alter your perspective – even when you’re discussing gardening!

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How would you describe yourself both professionally and personally?

I’m a woman, I’m a journalist, I’m a mother, I’m a wife, I’m a sister, I’m a daughter, I’m a friend and I’m lucky. They are all challenging but I get to enjoy them all and I revel in each experience and role.

What first drew you to the profession of journalism?

It kind of happened by accident. I was President of the Students Union when I was in college which probably meant that I was a blabbermouth and a bit of a student activist. When I left college in the mid-eighties, my Mum was sick so I didn’t emigrate like most of my friends. I kind of ended up in RTÉ’s newsroom and I’m just lucky that it suited me.

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Unbreakable: The Mark Pollock Story

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Recently, there have been a number of discussions encapsulating what defines an Irish film and also, the caliber of the genre. For me personally, I am constantly in awe and somewhat surprised by the measure of talented actors, actresses, directors, writers, costume designers, assistant directors and crew that exist and work on this isle. Furthermore, I’m extremely proud of the work that they produce and the stories which they present to audiences at home and abroad.

At the beginning of this month, I experienced something that I hope never to forget; ‘Unbreakable: The Mark Pollock Story’.

The feature-length documentary denotes the story of Mark Pollock and his partner, Simone. Mark lost his sight at age 22 and ten years later, he was the first blind person to race to the South Pole. Throughout the film, the audience follows Mark’s triumphs and challenges and narrates the ways in which a couple re-build their lives after an accident leaves Mark paralysed from the waist-down.

The film made me think, question, laugh, cry, smile, angry and feel. It altered my perspective, not only on the world itself but on my own life and the challenges and highlights that I have experienced.

When an opportunity arose to speak with the film’s director, Ross Whitaker, I jumped at the chance – quite literally. Speaking with Ross was one of the most fruitful and thought-provoking experiences I’ve had this year and could not recommend the film more highly.

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What first drew you to the career of film-making and directing?

That’s going way back! I finished college in 1997 – Wow! That’s a long time ago…

I won’t tell you what age I was in 1997…

Please don’t! I studied Business and Political Science in Trinity. My friends all wanted to become accountants, management consultants and finance ‘people’ – whatever it is that finance people do – but it never really appealed to me. I had a grand idea that I wanted to spend my life doing something that I liked. So, without being too conscious about it, I took some time out. I worked and travelled in Australia, New Zealand and Paris in bars and on building sites. When I reached Paris, I arrived at this point where I had been travelling for around eighteen months and I started to think that maybe it was time that I should do something with my life. In Paris, they have all of these amazing cinemas where they show such a wide range of film; old, new, world cinema – everything really. I would go to an 11am screening before the bar (that I worked) in opened and see small independent films and old blockbusters. Everyday, I’d go to the cinema whilst still questioning myself, ‘What do I want to do with my life?’ After about two months, it dawned on me and I thought, ‘I think this is staring me in the face! I’m going to see films every day, maybe I should explore a career in that domain’.

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Competition: Smile Like You Mean It

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One of my strongest memories from secondary school is encapsulated by the phrase ‘Do you want some Vaseline?’ Before you lose the run of yourself, I’ll explain.

Perhaps it was because I attended an all-girls school but we were quite taken by the routine of sharing one’s tin of blue Vaseline to ensure our lips didn’t dry out. Looking back, it was not the most hygienic of practices but it’s amazing what you choose to ‘forget’ for the sake of friendship.

This year, Vaseline are celebrating their 140th birthday and are re-launching their entire hand, body and lip range but with a twist. The traditional packaging of my teenage years has been updated with new tins showcasing a vintage design whilst maintaining the healing qualities that are synonymous with Vaseline’s Petroleum jelly.

Thanks to the lovely people at Vaseline, I have some of these beautiful tins to give away; one for you and a friend!

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How do you enter? Through snapchat! Simply add me via my username ‘minniemelange’ and send me a photograph of your best pout / duck-face. The more ridiculous – the better!

The competition spans until Thursday, October 16th but keep an eye on the Facebook page where the winners will be announced. You might even see an entry or two…

If you don’t have snapchat but still want to enter, please feel free to email me your ‘pout’ to minniemelange@gmail.com and your entry will still be counted!

May the odds be ever in your favour!

Extraordinary Women: Ramona Nicholas

Yesterday, this ‘Extraordinary Women’ interviewee received ‘Women Mean Business’ Female Entrepreneur of the Year award; an accolade that is extremely well deserved.

Why did she win? I have no hand, act or part in the judgement process but from speaking with Ramona, I imagine it is because she is diligent, honest, loyal, inspiring, modest, ambitious, competitive and incredibly hard-working.

Perhaps I should not admit to this but since interviewing Ramona, I’ve made a conscious effort to be proud of being the eldest child in my family and moreover, I’ve scribed a list of goals that I too want to achieve; maybe not today or tomorrow but someday.

Ramona NicholasHow would you describe yourself both personally and professionally?

Gosh, that’s a hard one! That’s like something you would get asked in an interview.

Ha! In a sense, I’m turning the tables and being a ‘dragon’ of sorts…

Let me think! Personally, I’m extremely honest; with me, what you see is what you get. I am not someone who has a hidden agenda and those that know me or are close to me know that I will never be anything but truly honest. I am an extremely loyal friend; when someone becomes a close friend, my loyalty could never be questioned. I’m not good at letting people in, but when people do break down those barriers, I would like to think of myself as a very open, loyal and honest person. I have been diagnosed as being a perfectionist with hints of obsessive compulsive disorder but on the whole, I’m a very happy and grateful person who is extremely family-orientated. Professionally, I must admit that there isn’t much difference as I am a firm believer in the notion that I don’t have a work ‘face’ and a home ‘face’, I’m just me. From an employee’s perspective, I would like to think that I am fair, honest, approachable, understanding – but then again, as an employer you have all of these aspirations for the characteristics you emit but you would have to ask the employees for a definitive answer. From the buyer’s perspective, I’d like to think that I’m concise and a good time-manager.

As co-Managing Director of Cara Pharmacies, decision-making must be a core element of your work. Do you find that an easy task?

I trust my gut. Frequently, when I’m buying new products or employing a new team member, I make my decisions on instinct and so far, it’s been reasonably successful.

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Extraordinary Women: Roe McDermott

In June 2013, RTÉ 2FM presenter Eoghan McDermott declared that Roe McDermott was the most ‘exciting, gifted & talented young writer / interviewer in the country’. Although the duo are brother and sister and some may consider Eoghan’s opinion to be tinged with a certain bias, I’m inclined to agree with him.

Thus, when the opportunity arose to interview Roe for this ‘Extraordinary Women’ series, I was awash with nerves and excitement. That lasted approximately thirty seconds as her warm, endearing nature envelopes you immediately and you feel almost at ease asking her the most intimate of questions.

I had the fortune of catching up with Roe prior to her brief emigration to the US as a Fulbright Scholar. It was a genuine pleasure to converse with her about feminism, social media, criticism and the treatment of sex in the media. It’s worth a read, even if I do say so myself.

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How would you describe yourself both personally and professionally?

I feel like I’m on a dating website.

This isn’t Tinder, don’t worry.

See, I don’t have Tinder because I don’t have Facebook.

Honestly, you’re not missing out.

I can’t imagine I am but back to your question. First of all, Roe isn’t my real name – I think Sinéad Gleeson first put that tidbit ‘out there’ – my name is actually Sinéad too and we’re all starting a girl band, I don’t know if you’re aware of that.

I’m not, but I’d most definitely like to join.

Of course! But yes, I’m an arts critic, I’m the film editor for Hot Press, I love doing book reviews, theatre reviews and radio essays. Then, I had an experience with a certain women’s lifestyle website, I came in before it was really established, we were told that it would be Ireland’s answer to Jezebel, but quickly it became apparent that that was not what we were doing. So, myself and a few other people decided that we needed to set up our own feminist website, so we started Fanny.ie and I became the ‘Fanny Sex Girl’. As you can imagine, my parents are so proud. At dinner parties, they gush how their daughter is the ‘Fanny Sex Girl’. So yeah, that’s the general ‘thing’…

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