My West London Life

Juliet Russell


Singer, composer and vocal coach on BBC's The Voice as well as co-founder of cultural showcase Salon and Also Festival Juliet Russell discusses Artificial Intelligence, building ideas and learning to listen better

Where is your hood and why?

Ladbroke Grove. I love it because it feels like a proper community where I know my neighbours, people in the shops and in the market.

As co-founder of monthly cultural showcase Salon, can you tell us about a couple of your favourite past line-ups?

So many! [Business leader] Margaret Heffernan’s examination of collaboration over competition in A Bigger Prize; psychotherapist Philippa Perry is always a brilliant speaker; Sarah Corbett’s approach to gentle protest with her Craftivist Collective; and Tony Juniper’s work on the economic value of nature in Britain. Some of the hardcore science made somehow understandable by theoretical physicist David Tong, science writer Michael Brooks and astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell also stand out.

Can you reveal any trends that we should look out for in the art, science and/or psychology worlds this year?

Our spring series at the Hospital Club kicks off with Artificial Intelligence, which understandably we equate with robots and our relationship with them, but the big questions we need to be asking include the democracy of health, disappearing jobs, surveillance and the best use of our time.

Who is your favourite artist?

There are so many people who inspire me. Joyce Treasure is a London-based artist whose work I really rate – she creates everything from street art to paintings to jewellery. I love Björk for always evolving and experimenting. Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On is my favourite ever album because he addresses social justice so eloquently, musically and beautifully. I was also blown away by sound recordist Chris Watson’s latest installation Okeanos, which takes you on an aquatic sonic journey from the Antarctic to the Arctic.

What was the last play you saw?

Red Velvet by Lolita Chakrabarti at the Garrick theatre. Adrian Lester was excellent as Ira Aldridge, a black Shakespearian actor who wasn’t accepted on the London stage in 1833 – very pertinent given the lack of diversity at the Oscars and elsewhere. It’s crazy that nearly 200 years later we haven’t moved further.

What has the experience of running Salon taught you?

If you have an idea just do it. Build it, make it happen and you can improve and develop it as you go along.

You launched the Transmission Prize in 2012, which celebrates talent and big ideas. What’s your personal big idea for 2016?

There are two. I’m inspired by Theodore Zeldin’s work, which has what we can learn from each other at its heart. I’m learning to listen better and to have more conversations. People are endlessly interesting.

The other thing I’m trying to work out is how I can have more personal impact to affect change.

You’re also a singer, composer and vocal coach on BBC1’s The Voice. Can you reveal who has been the best and who has been the most challenging artist to work with?

I found Yoko Ono inspiring to work with. It’s great to be around someone in their 70s (then) with so much creative energy and personal vigour. Maybe I’ve been lucky, but I haven’t found anyone really challenging. Most artists want the same thing: to have a productive creative environment and to create something that really connects with an audience.

What’s on your bedside?

A stack of books, a necklace, earrings, a thing you connect a microphone to a stand with, a notebook, a pen and an iPad.

What are you most proud of?

Maybe rebuilding my relationship with my mum so it became a very positive one. I’m proud of her for that, too.

What’s in your secret address book?

I love the Island Experiment at the Paradise on Wednesday nights, A Taste of Funny comedy event above the Red Lemon on the second Thursday of each month and Del’s stall on Golborne Road on Fridays. I bought a coffee table made from gold plastic deer from him recently – it’s amazing! On Friday and Sunday, the undercover market is great for bargains and one-off finds. I also love the ful medames at Miramia on Golborne Road and curries from Makan on Portobello Road.

What’s your philosophy on life?

Make a difference where you can. Do your best to treat people well. Keep growing emotionally, intellectually and spiritually. Enjoy what you do and who you’re with. Stay relevant.

This summer will be the third Also Festival – what can we expect?

Sunshine! I’m really excited about this year’s festival. Expect bold, brilliant ideas, space to create and explore, multi-sensory experiments, healthy hedonism, kids club, great music and DJs, a friendly, switched-on crowd and fabulous food – all set by a beautiful lake.


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Where do you live and why?

Having grown up between Islington and Scotland, I’ve lived in Parson’s Green most of my adult life. I love village atmosphere, the mix of ‘country’ pubs, young families, and its proximity to the King’s Road.

How did you get into cooking, is

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I have always had a strong interest in food and wine. I used to run a gastro pub company and I have also owned and run a vineyard in South Africa. I was a private chef in the South of France for a couple of years and I am a food TV director…….so… Read more →