Auntie Cath’s Energy boosting flapjacks

Auntie Cath’s Energy boosting flapjacks

This month’s recipe is one of my absolute favourites – Auntie Cath’s energy-boosting flapjacks. They’re super healthy and kids are going to love making them. They’re fab for lunch boxes, and you can freeze them!

Catherine Tyldesley (or Auntie Cath as she’s often known!) is one of the UKs favourite actresses. Making in her mark in the likes of BBC Ones ‘Lilies’ , sitcom ‘Scarborough’, ITVs ‘View Point’ and Ofcourse- the nations favourite‘Coronation Street’.

Catherine has recently finished filming another drama for ITV and was crowned Winner of All Star Musicals 2021. Cath’s other huge passion in life is Food! After study nutrition on maternity leave with her first child- Caths enthusiasm for food grew. Especially nutritious, budget friendly, tasty family meals. We’re thrilled to bits to have Cath join us and share her knowledge and passion! You’re in for a treat with Auntie Caths recipes!

AUNTIE CATH’S EASY ENERGY BOOSTING FLAPJACKS

Ingredients
3 large bananas
175 g dates chopped
180 g oats
75 g butter melted
1 tsp ground mixed spice
1 pinch salt

 

Instructions
Preheat oven to 180c/Gas 4
Mash bananas in a bowl (get your hands in there, it’s strangely satisfying)
Stir in everything else, mix it up and let it stand for 15 minutes
In the meantime, grease an 8″ square baking tray
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown on top
Take out of the oven, let cool and then enjoy a little piece of damn healthy heaven!

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Culinary genius Simon Wood’s Inspiring Journey and his goal for a Michelin star

Culinary genius Simon Wood’s Inspiring Journey and his goal for a Michelin star

SIMON WOOD OF WOOD MANCHESTER AND WoodKraft Cheltenham. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

“I want to have a Michelin star restaurant and I’ll do it! It might take me ten years, but I will do it!”

Culinary genius, Simon Wood, rose to fame as the winner of MasterChef in 2015. In 2016 his debut cookbook – At Home with Simon Wood was published and in 2018 he realised his dreams when he opened his first restaurant – Wood Restaurant in Manchester. He then opened his second restaurant in the December of 2018 – WoodKraft in Cheltenham. But the road to success was not without hard work, sacrifice, and enduring lots of challenges. Simon became a father at a young age and at the time he was working at McDonalds. By the time he was 22, he and his partner had three young children, life was far from easy and career success was seemingly a world away. So when we had the pleasure of sitting down with Simon at his sophisticated Manchester restaurant, we were bowled over by the father of four’s inspiring and incredible journey, and we are sure it will inspire all of you too!

Simon Wood
SIMON WOOD. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE
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As soon as we sat down, Simon was so welcoming and jumped straight into a conversation about how dramatically his life had changed since he first became a father…

Simon – “By the time I was 22 I had three children under 5 years old, so I know what it’s like earning £140 a week and making it stretch. ‘Can I get a beer on a Friday night, or do we need nappies?’ Of course, you always have to choose the nappies. That’s the way it was. Then I ended up being a data scientist and made a successful career out of that. Then MasterChef happened and here we are – I’ve got no money again!” He laughs “I’m a grandad now as well, my middle lad has had his first child, so my granddaughter is one and a half. I’m still not sure I’m ready to be called a grandad yet either!” he laughs.

So, has cooking always been a passion of yours?

“Yes, I’ve always done it. I’ve just always loved cooking. I used to find ways to make ends meet, whilst raising three children. I would regularly cook for friends and family, and host dinner parties. And I would do buffets, weddings, christenings – any private events really, just to earn a bit of extra money on the side at weekends.”

And you mentioned earlier that you first became a data scientist. How did that come about?

“I’d spent a lot of time learning about data, initial basic programming, so I became a data scientist and no one ever wakes up and says ‘I think I’m going to become a data scientist.’ People don’t do that. But looking back, it was great learning curve, and it still helps me now – with percentages, GP calculations, wage calculations, negotiations etc – so there’s lots of aspects from it that I still use today. Back then I also managed quite a big team so again, that helped me gain experience as I obviously manage a large team now too. I also met some great contacts doing that, for example, through one of my contacts as a data scientist I ended up cooking for Billy Ocean and Pink Floyd – which was mental.”

We imagine this industry doesn’t lend itself to family life does it, how did you find that adjustment as a father?     

“I was all set to be chef from an early age and I didn’t do it, because life took me in a different direction and it was family life that changed that – of course in a nice way, I have no regrets. I wouldn’t be where I am now without doing it the way I did. I’d probably be sick of it, pulling my hair out, trying to earn a living somewhere else with two or three failed restaurants behind me. That’s the reality of it, that’s what can happen if you’re not focused. But as it stands, I’ve got a good platform, a good springboard, and a good support network around me (within the Manchester industry in particular.)

People that have supported me and have told people about us, now other people want to come down here, its great! As well as the good food, it’s about being hospitable, it’s called hospitality for a reason, it’s about earning a living but enjoying what you do as well.”

Simon Wood
SIMON WOOD. IMAGES © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR BROOD MAGAZINE

Covid notoriously hit this the hospitality industry really hard, how much did this affect you, both as a business and as a family?

“Going back to the family thing, every one of my family has worked in this restaurant. Because being honest, I’ve needed them to. Everyone seemed to quit after covid. Despite the staff being kept on furlough for 18 months or so, everyone came back but did six services then left! We lost around eight staff in total. This was hard. They were people we’d been loyal to. Really loyal, even when we’d struggled to find money for their wages, I couldn’t see them struggle, so had to take it out of our my own pocket before the government paid it back in 6 weeks.

Plus, they’d all accrued holidays while they were all off, so when we re-opened, six services in and our head chef just quit, our sommelier, followed by our assistant manager. The Chef de partie was being offered head chef roles elsewhere, even though the restaurant offering them wasn’t ready, the industry was on its knees, and it was brutal. That was probably the most challenging time. I had my sons on the pots, I had my daughter and her mum polishing cutlery and glasses in the back. I was taking peas home to pod on my day off because I didn’t have enough time to do it there, all kinds of stuff had gone on, but that was a challenging time and I’m lucky I have a great family. They’ve all been really supportive of me. They’ve been through the whole journey, of course, since MasterChef especially, it’s been beneficial for me, there’s no escaping that but it has been for them too, because it’s given us [all] a fantastic quality of life, maybe not fantastic, but it’s certainly a better, more diverse, and interesting one! The people that you see, the people that you meet and that you cook for. Even doing things like this. That’s what makes hospitality worthwhile, it’s a network of enjoyment, I guess. It’s hard, you know. We might do 80 hours in four days, and then I wake up on a Sunday morning to go get Charlotte, my daughter, because it’s her day with me and I can’t get up – literally; so I have to sit for a minute and finally start to wander round like a 90-year-old, then finally by 4 o’clock when you’ve had a glass of wine, you can move around again a bit quicker.”

How do think it has impacted and inspired your children overall?

“Growing up, the lads have had other jobs over the years, that weren’t in the restaurant sector, but when they’ve come in to help out here, done a day on the pots, then suddenly whatever job they’d been doing before, doesn’t seem so bad. They’d do 7 and half hours with an hour’s lunch break at their work place, whereas here, when you’re 7 and a half hours in, it means it’s only half past three, and we haven’t even started service yet! When you’re in at 8am and you don’t leave until 1am – that’s working hard! So, it’s been good for them to see how hard it is, its definitely been grounding for them. They’ve learnt a lot from that, but so have I. You know I came from an office background originally, I used to go in the office early around 6.30am to miss the traffic and get an early start, but I’d always leave early and be home by 6pm. So, it’s not that long of a day looking back – for an office day, it’s probably quite long for an office job now I guess, but in this [restaurant] world it’s not at all.”

You’ve obviously always had a strong work ethic, do you think that has come from you having such a lot of responsibility from being a father at such a young age, or has that come from somewhere else?

“I got that from my parents, you know, I was always told, if you want money, you go out and get a paper round. Whereas I probably made the mistake of saying to mine not to – I felt like it was a bit risky them being out that late, for not a lot of money – I wasn’t sure it was worth it. So I didn’t push them in that direction. Well, at least with my first lad I didn’t, whereas my second lad he wanted to, so he did it regardless. And my third lad works the same hours as me in a Michelin star restaurant – as he’s a chef now too. So, it’s funny how your dynamic changes throughout. But in the end, they have all worked really hard, following their own passions and they really enjoy it. And that’s the key isn’t it, it’s making sure you’re doing something that you enjoy. We all know that if you’re enjoying it, it’s not really work. It might be stressful, it might be difficult, but it’s still enjoyable. If even on your worst day you can think – it’s alright – well, once you’ve thrown a few things that is. He laughs.

The margins are tight, there’s all kinds of things that you have to do but if you love what you do it’s worth it. We’ve even slept in the restaurant to save hotel bills; we’ve done home deliveries to save on fuel – you name it, we’ve done it. It’s definitely not as glamorous as it might seem on the outside sometimes.”

I think that’s something that we feel very passionate about with BROOD, is getting across the reality of what goes on behind the scenes in order to get to that success or achieve your dreams, whilst juggling your kids, as it’s very rare that it happens overnight or without sacrifice.

“Oh yeah, for around 6 years, I worked in a warehouse in the morning at half past six until quarter past three and I would pick the kids up from school, then my missus would go out and work in the same warehouse and do the half past three while 10 o’clock shift – and that’s how we did it back then, because we had to. It was hard. And some weeks you would throw in a bit of overtime on a Saturday to make ends meet, the lads would have football on a Sunday and then your week would start again! Then I started to dabble in IT in the late 90’s, taught myself basic programming and different other bits, and just progressed from there and ended up being quite successful in a more corporate industry, because I needed to do something more than what I had been doing. I couldn’t even afford a computer to practise on, but I was determined to change course no matter what. Once I got into that industry, and I had the tools to progress, I did it quite quickly. In a year I was managing the team, in two years I was managing the department and then I moved into the university side of things – looking at statistics there.”

So, at that point you had obviously carved out a new career for yourself that you were doing really well in, what made you decide to do MasterChef?  

“Well, I’d gone to work one morning, and my boss had really got up my nose! So, I clicked off my emails, got myself a coffee and started to look on Facebook and a little advert popped up at the side and it said, ‘Are you the next champion?’ [of MasterChef] so I just clicked it and that was that. I got on and won it! I had always been that guy at home questioning ‘Why are they cooking that!’. Everyone had always said to me, ‘Why don’t you do it?’ But in reality, I applied in temper. Everything I wrote in that application was very honest, but it probably had a little edge to it!” [We all laugh.]

“After getting through the application process, you do three telephone interviews, then you go to a hotel, take a dish with you – I was shaking, frightened to death at that point. And after that, once you’ve got through all that, you get into the kitchen and that’s it – the rest is history.”

At what point did you think, I could win this?

“I was never over confident to start with, I have to be honest, but there are points that I do remember where, at the end of each show you would walk around and look at what everyone else had done and you get to taste the food, I started to think, ‘Mine’s better than that, it’s better than that, it’s better than that one’ and it was at that point that I’d think, ‘I’m alright here’ and then I’d get through to the next round. Looking back, there was a couple of pivotal moments, like we’d had a shocking round as a team, I didn’t think it was managed properly and I lost my temper. So then I ended up running the team for the episode with the red arrows, and I was like a top gun geek and I was on the runway with red arrows and they’re flying around and I’m running the kitchen and I was just like, ‘this is me, I’m done now, I’m happy’ and I think it was there where a little switch clicked and it made me a little bit into what I am today, tenacious, direct, driven and passionate. I knew 100% from that point that was what I wanted to do and where I wanted to be.”

You have achieved so much already, what other goals do you have and what do you want for the future of your business?

“Well, we’re pushing towards a Michelin star, so my aim is to get a Michelin star, I want to have a Michelin star restaurant and I’ll do it! It might take me ten years, but I will do it! One way or other, because that’s my goal. I’m going keep trying and we’ve got a great team here. It’s really enjoyable despite it’s ups and downs, the kids are a little older now, my youngest Charlotte is taking her exams soon.”

Do you ever switch off? And if so, do you find it easy to switch off?  

“You’ve got to try and find a way to run a business by keeping your stress levels down so that your home life isn’t affected. Like on my Sunday, that’s my day with my family, so if I’m having an off day  I’m stressed, you know, that’s not how I want that day to be but it’s ruthless at times so it can be hard to switch off.

Especially when you’re tired, your body’s broken and you’ve not broke even that week, they’re the weeks you’ve got to try harder than ever to find that balance. But most Sundays, I manage it, and we’ll either watch the football or eat out so I’m not cooking, and when the boys have gone home me, and Charlotte will watch a box set or something together. We’re closed Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, which highlights how hard the other days are. Although we’re meant to be off on a Tuesday and a lot of us (the chefs) still come in, because we all know what needs to be done. You can’t really switch food off though, because it’s not up here (points to his head) it’s in here (points to his heart).”

And finally, what tips would you give to anyone else starting out into the world of business or looking to achieve their career goals? How does someone find the type of drive and determination that you’ve got?

“I think circumstance can dictate the amount drive that you have, like my dad died when I was 11. I had a paper round then, then I went working at the working mans club, then onto McDonalds at 15. So, I’ve always worked. I think family or personal circumstances change your work ethic. I think I would advise any young people wanted to find that work ethic to come into hospitality because it’s fun, it’s fast, it’s frantic, it’s ferocious – it’s always entertaining and it’s always hard. I think it’s something people can learn from very quickly. Hospitality is just a great steppingstone no matter what you want to do. If you can cook or pour a pint, you’ll never be out of work any where in the world – simple as that!”

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Interviewed by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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Mel sheehy

MEL SHEEHY © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHYMelanie Sheehy is one of the co-founders of the renowned Manchester PA Network (MPAN) and Manchester PA Awards. Alongside this incredible career accolade, Melanie is also Chapter Manager for YPO (Young Presidents Organisation), as...

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Bank Holiday Baking with Kate Devine

Bank Holiday Baking with Kate Devine

Bank Holiday Baking with Kate Devine

BANK HOLIDAY BAKING WITH kate devine

Well, aren’t we lucky this month…two long weekends and it’s #worldbakingday on Tuesday 17th May! That means indulgence on many levels! Also, don’t you just feel like May is a positive month? It’s beautifully Spring but nearly Summer, there’s lots of lovely sunny days and nights in the garden to look forward to (hopefully – come on British weather, be kind to us this year!), and I feel we all enjoy and appreciate food more.

It’s such a sociable thing food, it brings people together, and that’s exactly what World Baking Day is all about! It’s a time to spend with family and friends; baking delicious food to enjoy together; spread the joy of food and embrace the deliciousness that baking can bring to your day!

So…dig out your spatula and get creative with your kids by making treats for friends and family, neighbours, or the hard-working teachers at your kids school. I mean, who doesn’t love a homemade treat made just for them?

Personally, baking and I don’t mix well (pardon the pun), but I’m just one of those people who’s too impatient to measure and sift ingredients. I get easily distracted and weigh the wrong amount of the wrong thing and inevitably end up with a soggy bottom!

Having said that, I’ve managed to master the old faithful, chocolate brownie, so here’s a healthy and quick version, that even I can do, to get you cracking on World Baking Day! Have fun! Oh, and don’t forget to share your creations on Instagram @broodmagazine & @the.devine.life and #worldbakingday 

Sticky BB Brownies – packed full of polyphenols and prebiotics to help support the gut

Makes 12

Ingredients:

  • 125g tinned black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large organic eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 20g organic cocoa powder
  • 80g organic rolled oats – Gluten free if necessary
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 8 small prunes – pitted
  • 6 Medjool dates – pitted
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 120ml milk of your choice – nut/dairy free milks will work just as well
  • Pinch of rock salt
  • 50g dark chocolate chips – Gluten free if necessary
  • 2 tbsp of crunchy peanut butter or 30g walnuts (optional) – you can substitute the nuts for dried cranberries if you prefer

You will need:

  • Minimum of 12 cupcake liners
  • Bun or muffin tin
  • Blender

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180 degrees fan/400F/gas mark 6
  • Weigh out all the ingredients before starting – believe me, this is the key to successful baking!
  • Place all the ingredients, except the chocolate chips and walnuts/cranberries, if using, into a blender and blitz until completely smooth – around 3 mins
  • Place the cupcake liners in the muffin tin, then, using a teaspoon, divide the mixture between the cupcakes liners
  • Dot in the chocolate chips and nuts/cranberries (if using)
  • Place in the oven and bake for around 10-12 minutes, then remove form the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 5 mins. Enjoy!

You can keep the brownies in an airtight container and consume within a week. Alternatively, you could wrap each one individually and give to someone special.

 *Recipe adapted from ‘Eat Yourself Healthy’ & ‘Hemsley & Hemsley’ cookbooks*

 _________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 This takes me nicely into the May Day bank holiday weekend

I never really knew why we had an early May bank holiday. I just remember celebrating it as a kid and watching people dancing around the Maypole, but not really understanding what it was all about. Then as an adult, you just see bank holidays as a well needed extra day of the weekend and thank god for the day off! But, I’ve since come to realise that it is a day of unity, togetherness and rebirth, regardless of race and culture, where people come together as one in celebration. Traditionally, people would leave baskets of spring flowers and treats on their neighbours doorsteps. How lovely! International Workers’ Day, also known as ‘Labour Day’ is also traditionally celebrated on this May bank holiday and is a demonstration of the labour movement and its efforts to improve worker rights across the globe.

Why not bake my brownies above and make your own May Day basket with your kids and celebrate it the traditional way?! It’s nice to be kind, you never know just how much a random act of kindness can change someones day.

I wish you all a wonderful May and don’t forget to email me at kate@thedevine.life with any questions you may have regarding nutrition or fitness and I’ll answer on my instagram or in our June edition.

BY KATE DEVINE

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Kate’s Leftover Easter Chocolate Smash!

Kate’s Leftover Easter Chocolate Smash!

Kate’s Leftover Easter Chocolate Smash!

Kate’s Leftover Easter Chocolate Smash!

Hello lovely people, I hope you all had a wonderful chocolate bunny filled Easter and enjoyed a well deserved long weekend of rest and delicious food! 

I just wanted to share a little recipe that I’ve made with my kids, to get rid of the left over Easter egg chocolate that sits in the cupboard calling your name every time you walk past! It’s a chocolate bark smash full of lots of healthy ingredients that the kids will love to add along the way. 

 

Ingredients:

  • 200g of milk chocolate – or dark chocolate – at least 70% organic for a healthier snack alternative 
  • 30g of white chocolate for the topping
  • 50g of dried fruit of your choice e.g. raspberries/cherries/goji berries/cranberries
  • 20g of nuts – crushed in a pestle and mortar e.g. pistachio/walnuts/almonds – you can leave the nuts out if you prefer, just add a different dried fruit 

What you will need:

  • Medium saucepan
  • Glass bowl to rest on the top of the saucepan for melting the chocolate
  • Spatula/mixing spoon
  • Medium size baking tray
  • Parchment paper

Method:

  • Weigh out all ingredients before beginning the following process…
  • Place the chocolate in the bowl, grab the saucepan and fill with cold water approx 200ml 
  • Place the bowl of chocolate on top of the saucepan and heat on a medium to high heat
  • When you notice the chocolate begin to melt, stir continuously with a spatula until smooth 
  • In the meantime, cover the baking tray with parchment paper
  • Once the chocolate has fully melted, pour into the baking tray and spread evenly with a spatula approx half to 1cm thick
  • Add the fruit and nuts, spacing evenly. Push any larger piece into the chocolate so they set properly and place in the fridge for 10 mins
  • Meanwhile, melt the topping chocolate the same way as the milk chocolate 
  • When the 10 mins is up, remove from fridge and using a fork, flick the topping chocolate over the bark chocolate and fruit and nut pieces on the baking tray
  • Return back to the fridge for 30 mins or until fully set
  • When set, remove the parchment paper and smash with a rolling pin into snack size pieces
  • Share with family and friends and enjoy!

I also make this as a snack for myself but use dark chocolate (as mentioned above) and leave out the extra chocolate topping. Store these in an airtight container in the fridge and they will last up to a week, although I doubt they’ll be any left after a few days, they’re that delicious!

Ingredients Facts:

  • Chocolate Some research suggest there may be healthful nutrients belonging to chocolate, including improved immunity, greater longevity and quicker recovery from intense exercise. Dark chocolate without unhealthy additives and sugar have been shown to lower blood pressure, cancer and stroke risk as effectively as antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables.
  • RaspberriesPacked with antioxidants, potential benefits in regulating metabolism and fighting diseases – contains the antioxidant compound, ellagic acid, which is cancer protective
  • Cherries – Rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory and help in the treatment of gout. They also contain melatonin, which helps treat insomnia and encourage good sleep.
  • Cranberries Again, high in antioxidants, helps prevent infections from taking hold in the urinary tract, kidneys, and bladder. Aids digestion by helping to prevent stomach ulcers, helps alleviate heavy periods, stomach upsets, sore throats and laryngitis.
  • Goji BerriesThese berries belong to the nightshade family that includes chilli peppers and tomatoes and are rich in a combination of antioxidant nutrients that benefit cardiovascular health – they contain carotenoids known to boost metabolic processes and promote good sleep and memory.
  • AlmondsGood source of zinc, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, which supports the brain, cardiovascular and respiratory systems and are rich in cholesterol-lowering monounsaturated fatty acids and help regulate blood sugar levels.
  • Pistachio NutsContain anti-inflammatory properties, high in beta-carotene, oleanolic acid and phytosterols, a type of anti-inflammatory plant hormone associated with improved immune function, lower levels of LDL cholesterol and reduced risk of cancer.
  • Walnuts – Rich source of Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) and omega-3 fatty acid. ALA helps lower unhealthy cholesterol (LDL) levels and keeps arteries healthy. They contain antioxidants and tocopherols (Vit E complex), helping to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease and maintain skin and tissue health. They also contain serotonin, a brain chemical that can help lift depression. 

READ MORE FROM KATE HERE

easter egg leftovers
Nutritionist Kate Devine
Easter Eggs Leftover
KATE DEVINE IMAGES ©
written BY KATE DEVINE

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brood magazine has a new resident baby!

brood magazine has a new resident baby!

Cath Tyldesley & Tom Pitfield Baby Iris

Congratulations Tom & Cath!

Huge congratulations to our co-founder @tompitfieldphotography and @auntiecath17 on the birth of their baby girl! 🤍🤍🤍
Posted @withregram • @tompitfieldphotography We are so happy to announce that our beautiful daughter has arrived. We are grateful beyond words and feel overjoyed that our family is complete.
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#congratulations #babygirl #welcometothebrood #newbaby #family #newaddition #brood #baby #happynews #love

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Kate’s Leftover Easter Chocolate Smash!

instagramKate's Leftover Easter Chocolate Smash! Hello lovely people, I hope you all had a wonderful chocolate bunny filled Easter and enjoyed a well deserved long weekend of rest and delicious food!  I just wanted to share a little recipe that I’ve made with my kids,...

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brood magazine has a new resident baby!

Congratulations Tom & Cath! Huge congratulations to our co-founder @tompitfieldphotography and @auntiecath17 on the birth of their baby girl! 🤍🤍🤍Posted @withregram • @tompitfieldphotography We are so happy to announce that our beautiful daughter has arrived. We...

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instagramBANK HOLIDAY BAKING WITH kate devine Well, aren’t we lucky this month…two long weekends and it’s #worldbakingday on Tuesday 17th May! That means indulgence on many levels! Also, don’t you just feel like May is a positive month? It’s beautifully Spring but...

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Sarah Jayne Dunn & husband Jon Smith DISCUSS finding empowerment in MAKING your OWN choices & breaking out of society’s parental moulds.

“…You shouldn’t be doing that, you’re a mum.”

Earlier this year well-loved Actor, Sarah Jayne Dunn, was thrown into a media whirlwind when she joined the platform – OnlyFans. After walking away from a seemingly dream job at Hollyoaks (when she was given an ultimatum to choose between the two), Sarah has been continually forced to defend her decision. Throughout it all Sarah’s husband, Jon (a well-respected PT in his first year of running his own gym), has stood firmly by her side and their family is happier than ever. Overall, Sarah has received more support than negativity from the public, but not surprisingly, one of the leading criticisms was – ‘You shouldn’t be doing this, you’re a Mum!’. A glaring example of the unfair expectations society continues to place on women once they become parents; that we should somehow forget who we were before and no longer think of ourselves.

As they arrive at the studio and begin to get ready for our shoot you immediately notice their close bond as a family. After the fun of the shoot is over and Stanley beams from being awarded the star of the shoot, he proceeds to happily catch Pokemon around the studio. As we start chatting, a number of things become apparent = Sarah’s beauty is striking, and Jon has equally modelesque looks, but what’s special about Sarah and Jon runs deeper than that; they have navigated some rocky roads together, done a lot of soul searching, been bold enough to take risks and change course within their careers – all whilst raising their lovely little boy, 5 year old, Stanley.

We listened intently as they chatted openly about the turbulent, life changing journey they’ve been on this last year, and how lockdown contributed to them taking stock and looking at different options within their careers to improve their life as a family.
We were inspired by their strength and determination to put their wellbeing and happiness first, so that they can be the best parents possible to the adorable, Stanley.

So, Jon, we’ll start with you and how did find yourself in the fitness industry and what made you take the leap into running your own business?

Jon – “Well, I’ve always been self-employed as I started out as an Actor – that’s how we met. I also worked in coffee shops and shoe shops etc. Then, when we found out that we were expecting Stanley, I decided that I needed to do something else to properly provide for a family. I decided to look at becoming a Personal Trainer, as it had always been something that interested me, and I wanted to have more stability within my career. I found that I loved learning, I enjoyed the classroom environment – which was completely different from when I was at school, as I had always mucked about! I went on to get a job at a PT studio and I became a Sport’s Therapist too.

SARAH JAYNE DUNN, JON SMITH AND THEIR SON STANLEY. IMAGE © TOM PITFIELD PHOTOGRAPHY

However, as much as enjoyed being a PT, my earnings were capped and when Sarah wasn’t filming, I found that difficult. As the man I felt like I was failing by not being able to provide enough and I took that hard. I was never busy enough to feel comfortable or safe, and I blamed myself. I would beat myself up. At that point I took a job, which was a completely cerebral decision – which kills you!”

Sarah – “Being in the acting industry, there is always that fear financially – that was one of the reason’s you stepped away, wasn’t it? (Turns to Jon) There’s just never that security. Even with a long-term job – like me being in the show for years and years, on and off – you still just never know what’s coming in week to week. You can be busy one month, doing well, and the next month, you might not be in any storylines and not filming and have nothing coming in. During those months you’re struggling to pay the bills and it’s hard. People don’t see that though, they think ‘Oh you’re on the tele, you’re obviously making an absolute fortune!’ Jon taking that job had meant we knew where the money was coming from every month, but it made him miserable.”

Jon – “Yes, and it was in lockdown that I realised I couldn’t carry on like that. I was completely miserable. One evening our neighbour, who is a friend and someone I had worked with in the past, said to me would you not go back into the fitness industry, and I said yes, but only if I could own my own gym. He said he felt the same and it started from there.”

Sarah – “It was actually over a few bottles of Prosecco in the garden during in lockdown! Myself and our neighbour’s wife were both cheering them on saying ‘Yes! You should do it! Do it!’” (Both laugh)

Jon – “We decided to give it a go. The idea is to create more stability, it’s a future investment and I can control more in terms of where I want the business to go, where we want to push it. It all came down to – a) me being happier and doing something that I’m interested in and b) having something to show for it at the end of the day.”

And how did lockdown affect you and your career Sarah?

Sarah – “Well the industry just shut down completely! I was unable to work at all and it was driving me crazy! I like to be busy and working towards something and obviously lockdown took that away from us and also with that, being self-employed, the financial side of things went too. I felt miserable – as we all did! We had said for a while that we needed to find something that I could do on the side, to help with my wellbeing during the quiet periods and also to help us financially, because of the lack of security in the acting industry. We had toyed with a few ideas such as opening a coffee shop etc, but we realised that wouldn’t work for us for various reasons and we didn’t have enough knowledge about running a coffee shop etc. We really wanted to find something that I could do alongside my acting career, with financial stability that was still creative and something that I would enjoy doing. That’s where the decision for me to join OnlyFans came about. We’d had a lot of conversations about it, it wasn’t done on a whim. We’d probably been discussing it for about 6 months.”

Jon – “Yes, we had a lot’s of conversations about it. It was never going to be OnlyFans at the start.”

Sarah – “Well we were just thinking about different options at the start and we kept circling back to the OnlyFans platform because of it’s business model. It’s already got the infrastructure in place, it’s global and it’s populated.”

Since making the decision to leave behind your role at Hollyoaks, how has life been for you as a family?

Sarah – “Despite what happened with my job, it’s been the best thing that we could have done, because it’s offered us both time and financial stability. I get to be my own boss. I get to take Stanley to school and pick him up. I get to be creative and decide on what I want to shoot and when. Essentially I’m just doing what I was before, but now I’m getting paid for it and I get copyright of all my images. It’s really empowering. I understand that there’s a stigma attached to the platform and it’s a bit taboo, but I think that’s just a generalisation, when people hear it – a bit like what I did when someone first mentioned it to me, I was like ‘Woah! No, no, no, that’s not the kind of thing that I’m doing.”

Did you receive a lot a judgement or criticism because of that stigma?

Jon – “I think people judge you more when you’re known.”

Sarah – “The response has been amazing and actually super overwhelming, in how positive it’s been. I didn’t announce it to the press so the big media thing that happened wasn’t my choice. I was suddenly whipped up into a media whirlwind. It was a horrible four weeks. It was overwhelming and intense, and I was like I’ve just got to ride this and defend myself. I felt like I was in fight or flight mode. I was pretty much running on adrenaline.

The judgement came more from people making assumptions about my role as an actor – ‘Why have you given up this well-paid job’ All these figures were flying around – none of which were accurate, but people read it and think it’s true and ‘Well isn’t she stupid to give up all that money and such an amazing job! Because they know nothing about it. No-one judged me on facts or asked me how I felt.”

How did the judgements affect you as parents?

Jon – “The biggest concern for me and still is, is Stanley – beyond anything else. And we still don’t know what the consequences will be for him, personally, as he gets older.”

Sarah – “But for me, the images are the same type of images that I’ve been doing since 1999, there’s no problem with that, because you could just google my name and those images will pop up. The issue for me is once he goes to high school because I would then be conscious of other children doing what grownups have been doing to me and saying ‘Ugh, you’re on the platform’ and making assumptions and making judgements. But we’ve spoken about this, I don’t know how long I’m going to be doing this for or where it will take me. But who knows in 3- or 4-years’ time this might be a distant memory and by then he’s not even 10 years old, he’s not in high school and hopefully the taboo of the platform and the stigma will have changed? And I think it will, because all the platforms are going in that direction in that they are being monetised. Instagram has just trailed it in the US that you can have a subscription alongside your free platform. Tik Tok are doing it. They will all go that way and I think OnlyFans is the original yes, but it will probably just blend in with the others. “

“…You’ve got to be the best version of you, in order to be the best parent.”

We have found when talking to other mum’s that there is a definite loss of identity when you become a parent. Do you think you will inspire other mums to think – ‘Yes, I’m a mum but it’s ok to still want to feel sexy and feel empowered by their sexuality?

Sarah – “Yes. One of the reason’s that I wanted to do this in the first place was that I really wanted to empower other women, to go, actually, when you become a mum, you don’t suddenly stop wanting to look nice, wanting to feel sexy, wanting to feel empowered. And in fact, with the sexier images that I was putting up on my Instagram prior to going on OnlyFans, I was getting so much support from other women. Saying you’ve inspired me; I think that it’s amazing that you’re doing this. That you’re looking after yourself. You’re finding the time for you, your health, your wellbeing etc and with that comes confidence. You know it’s hard work being a mum, having a job, trying to look after yourself and take time out. It really is hard work trying to juggle all those things. So, I try and be relatable on my Instagram and show the reality of that, by saying ‘Urgh, it’s been a dreadful day. I feel like crap today. Stanley’s been poorly. I’ve not managed to get to the gym – and all those things that happen.”

Jon – “Yes, just the usual, everyday stuff that is life!” (both laugh)

Sarah – “Yes, so I had so many positive messages from women, but the minute I switched my images over to OnlyFans, the main negative comments that I did get were from people were ‘You shouldn’t be doing this you’re a mum!’ Which, why it’s any different because I’ve moved my images from one platform to another – I don’t know. But also again, why? Who says that when you become a mum you can’t do that anymore? You can’t wear a short skirt. You can’t wear a figure-hugging dress. You can’t feel like your best self. You can’t look after yourself as ‘you shouldn’t have time for that’. I think it’s society saying when you’ve got all those things, in terms of being a parent, that you just can’t have those other things. But you can. It’s not easy, but if somethings important to you, you should be able to do it.”

Do you think we do lose ourselves  a little bit, both when we become parents, and through the expectations of society?

Jon – “I think when you first become a parent you do lose yourself. I think it’s inevitable. You lose your identity, you lose…”

Sarah – “You’re mind!” (laughs)

Jon – “You do lose your mind!” (We all laugh, as we can all relate to this!)

With your first especially!

Jon – “Yes, I mean everyone say’s it, ‘Your world is turned upside down!’ but that’s the truth. That doesn’t necessarily make sense to you, until you’re in it… and then it’s too late! (Once again laughter echoes around the room) Nobody can tell you how to get back to yourself and you won’t even necessarily know that you’ve lost yourself a little bit. You have to do it yourself and that what we did. And going back to the decision I made to take that job, it took me even further away from who I am. If I would have stayed like that, stayed being ‘half me’ I wouldn’t be able to the best parent, the best version of myself for my son. And for you.” (Turns to Sarah)

Sarah – “When Jon was doing that job, he wasn’t himself and he wasn’t happy. The minute he stopped doing it, I noticed the difference. And he said the same about me. As soon as I left the show and knew I wasn’t going back. That first week Jon said to me ‘Sarah’s back’. We had both lost ourselves.”

Jon – “I think that can really be difficult to grasp, especially if you don’t have a clue what you’re doing with your life.”

Especially when as a parent you’re meant to hold it together at all times!

Jon – “Oh yeah, you’re not aloud to show any pain. But making decisions from a place of ‘oh should do this, I should do that’ is the wrong way to live your life.”

Sarah – “Yes, because (pointing to Stanley) he’s going to get miserable parents.”

Jon – “Exactly!”

And finally, do you have any tips for fellow parents wanting to pursue their dreams or change course in life?

Sarah – “Coffee! So much coffee!”

Jon – “Don’t take advice from me!” (laughs) “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, or you will live your life in a box.It’s so easy to stay safe. To not listen to yourself. I’ve spent most of my life trying not to make mistakes and I wish I would have made more”

Sarah – “Yes and follow your heart. It sounds cliche, but you’ve got to be truthful with yourself. You’ve got to be the best version of you, in order to be the best parent.”

Written by Lolo Stubbs
PHOTOGRAPHY BY TOM PITFIELD

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