Female founders are a force to be reckoned with- so lets start sharing our experiences!

Sophie Luhr & Lizzie Hardy

Sophie Luhr & Lizzie Hardy

Interview with Lizzie Hardy & Sophie Luhr - co-founders of Collective Two  by Emma Symes- founder of Pomba Girls. 

Meet Sophie & Lizzie: a dynamic enterprise duo with a passion for connecting people through the medium of “unforgettable experiences”. They met whilst working at Hearst Magazines producing high profile events for major fashion labels; in 2016 they joined forces thanks to a shared belief that together they could offer something unique to the growing marketplace for brand experiences. Their ambition drove them to take a giant leap of faith and launch their own business: Collective Two- a creative events agency that specialises in producing experiences enhanced by “the power of the human connection”. Last month I met up with them to discover more about their workand learn about the challenges they have faced getting down to business collectively as female founders.

When I arrive at our meeting at the Hoxton Hotel, Lizzie and Sophie are sat together on a king sized sofa, sipping cappuccinos in a calm, collected manner. When asked how their enterprise journey has gone so far, they both eagerly respond “better than expected!”  Their impressive levels of positivity explains perhaps their success juggling the demands of running a creative agency wherein they must manage uber-high expectations, tight budgets and unforeseen logistics on a day to day basis. Not easy! Neither is the challenge they face as business owners at this crucial stage of evolution within the life of Collective Two, growing from successful startup into a sustainable business that retains a solid position in the market. This level of evolution does not just happen, it takes careful engineering and a whole lot of faith, but by the time I left our conversation I was in no doubt Sophie and Lizzie have the power force to do it!

Q. How has it been taking the leap to set up your own business and what advice would you give to entrepreneurs starting out?

Lizzie: When you start you don't know what to expect - there is always so much uncertainty. You need to be as proactive as possible. Talk to as many people as possible. Meet as many people as possible. Look for networks like We Flock where you can connect up with people; the nature of our business is all referral and recommendation.

Sophie: Instagram for us has been a wonderful tool for promoting the events we do, as events are very visual it is all about people sharing. It's all about getting yourself out there and being seen,

PaperShake instillation on #FutureShapers Instagram

PaperShake instillation on #FutureShapers Instagram

Lizzie: Especially with the brands we work with, content generation is one of the most important factors when designing experiences. Remember that people want to be apart of something, become an insider not just a viewer. When faced with how to achieve that connection for our clients through the digital experience we need to focus on “pictursing” the event so it can become as immersive and sharable as possible.

Sophie:  We want every moment to be Instagram worthy, although this is not always easy if you only have a small budget. If it is not possible to do everything we want, we try to make a focal point. Marie Claire Future Shapers Awards is a good example wherein we created an effective focal point a PaperShake origami instillation that went all over social media.

Sophie and Lizzie are pioneering a new approach to creative production that takes on board how we are experiencing events in today's culture; both in the moment and digitally via social media platforms such as Instagram. For this reason they talk of “picturising” their experiences and creating “sharable” moments.These are not simply industry buzz words, they are new ways of describing what is it brands and consumers are demanding as a result of how we are experiencing events in today's tech enhanced society. 

Collective Two: Insider Insights:

#NewLookPoolParty on Instagram

#NewLookPoolParty on Instagram

A great example of how they make their viewers an insider was the New Look Pool Party they hosted in April which captured my attention via the video they shared on twitter. As a viewer we are drawn into an immersive highly visual experience, thanks to a host of unique experiences curated in and around the pool: synchronized swimmers, mermaid glitter bar and the amazing Pan ‘N’ Ice stand wherein ice cream is magically created by a man with Adonis worthy arm muscles before your very eyes. (Watch the video below to experience it yourself!)

"Natural demand for the product"
Wilderness festival-goer getting messy in nature

Wilderness festival-goer getting messy in nature

To make brand experiences work effectively Lizzie and Sophie talk of the importance of discovering environments with a "natural demand for the product". A great example being their latest project, which they are working alongside Chorus by Maxus, anArm & Hammer toothpaste pop up zone they are hosting at Wilderness Festival. Whilst a toothpaste making experimentation zone might not ordinarily be something you associate with a music festival, when you consider that many festival goers cavort around fields seeking out fun stuff to get messy with the move appears a smart one. Combine this with the demographic of Wilderness Festival a place packed full of eco-loving, vintage donning, outdoorsy types who are more than likely to connect with a retro, organic toothpaste brand like Arm & Hammer and we grasp the significance of the “natural demand”.

#FutureShapersLive Instagram Posts

#FutureShapersLive Instagram Posts

Our discussion into all things immersive, experiential and digitally sharable in todays consumer savvy culture did not end there. And I could have easily spent all day chatting with Lizzie and Sophie, but first thing on a Monday morning business was calling for all of us. To end they shared with me some reflections on their recent event: Marie Claire Future Shapers Live- a female focussed, power fueled day of inspirational talks and immersive “Bounce Back” zones they curated around brand sponsor Neutrogena . As Lizzie shared with me, a lasting impression that came out of the event discussions was that women in todays society are proving themselves in all areas to be a “force to be reckoned with” and that in itself is a powerful stimulus to push us to go further.

Certainly the enterprise success of Collective Two is proof of what women can achieve in the world of business by having the drive to get out there and go for it. And following what was for me both a power charged discussion and a very pleasant “chit chat” (as my Nanna would say) - I impart this advice onto all other female founders out there:

Always remember to make the most of your experiences, keep connecting and sharing what you do because as Lizzie and Sophie prove: collectively we are stronger!

New Look Pool Party Video

Article by Emma Symes, Creative Director of Pomba Girls, Twitter @Lorioca

Collective Two: www.collectivetwo.com

POMBA TRIBE: She who dares wins!

"Pomba Tribe" Photo-Shoot in Peckham. Photography by  Liz Gorman , Makeup by Sophia Attias  Squiggles & Wiggles , featuring the  Pomba Girls.   Nines Rooftop - Copland Park Estate, Peckham

"Pomba Tribe" Photo-Shoot in Peckham. Photography by Liz Gorman, Makeup by Sophia Attias Squiggles & Wiggles, featuring the Pomba Girls.  Nines Rooftop - Copland Park Estate, Peckham

MEET THE Pomba Tribe:

Right now the Pomba Girls are evolving. From our birth as a collective of female performers with a passion for partying the company has grown into a "tribe" of fiercely ambitious creatives on a mission to galvanize London’s events industry. In order to embrace this moment of rapid evolution, we decided to bring together old and new members of our Pomba Tribe to participate in a photo-shoot intended to unleash the force of our "Tribal Spirit" across the rooftops of London!


Performance Duo:  Stereo Puppets

Performance Duo: Stereo Puppets

Pomba Territory:

Peckham is a place we consider “Pomba Territory”; it where our Pomba Girl performers sleep, eat, shop and party!

Performer & Yoga instructor: Isabelle Bonfrer

Performer & Yoga instructor: Isabelle Bonfrer

Many of our "Pomba Tribe" looks were constructed using the baddass bling, multicolored Lycra garments and hair extensions sourced from Peckham’s own high street - most especially the African fashion retailers, hair salons and vast discount stores that offer up an Aladdin's cave of cheap wonders. 

For this reason it was crucial for us to occupy a Peckham location for our photo-shoot and thankfully with a local community renowned for embracing creative, culturally charged and “peculiar”  projects we were able to make our project happen. 

With a little hustling we convinced the management of Copland Park estate to give us unlimited access one of their rooftops - a vast and visually stunning location that gave amble opportunity for the Pomba Tribe to explore the urban jungle surrounding them . The shots captured are testimony to the fact that if you put a tribe of female performers on a space that affords them the sensation of being “on top of the world” they will unleash a powerful hit of energy on the world around them.

International tribal trio- Pilar Fortes (Brazil) , Sandra Boom (Greece) , Helen Watkins (France)

International tribal trio- Pilar Fortes (Brazil) , Sandra Boom (Greece) , Helen Watkins (France)

Tribal initiation:

Performer & Singer: Luna Tico of Stereo-Puppets

Performer & Singer: Luna Tico of Stereo-Puppets

By spending a day together on the roof each member of the Pomba Tribe had the chance to not only explore their tribal identities as individuals but also discover how the different skills, ambitions and desires of all member of our "tribe" can support each other.


She who dares wins!

Following the shoot it is fair to say that all members of the Pomba Tribe felt power-charged for future actions. Already there are exciting activities on the agenda that will set to unleash our Pomba Tribe at events in London (follow us @PombaGirls for more).

And whilst we may not no know how the Pomba Tribe will evolve as exciting new members continue to join us on our journey; with "world domination" being just one of the activities on the "to do" list, we are confident that our future Territory has no limit!

Follow Project: #PombaTribe @PombaGirls

Pomba Tribe Collaborators:

Photography: Liz Gorman: www.lizgormanphotography.co.uk

Makeup: Sophia Attias - Squiggles & Wiggles

Production: Emma Symes (Creative Director: Pomba Girls)

Film documentation: Florence de Schlichting: www.from-florence.com

Tribal Soundrack:  Nicola Robinson Earth Boogie

Location: Copland Park Estate (Peckham)


Sandra Boom (@sandralaboom), Isabelle Bonfrer (@isabelle.bonfrer), Helen Watkins (@lnwatkins), Saskia Collyns (@sassydionysus), Jasmine Tidswell (@stereo_luna - Luna Tico), Pilar Fortes (@fortesccosta).

Performance Collaborators: Dio Divine (@diodivine) // Stereo Puppets (@stereopuppets)

Music Festival business is BOOMING as Brand Experiences draw in consumers with open minds, mouths and wallets!

Are you buying into music festivals this summer?

If the answer is "NO" - can you say with all honesty you are not tempted to? 

Is your Facebook homepage currently being bombarded with videos of festival goers dancing in sun soaked euphoric bliss via ad campaigns? The example below is one recently uploaded by Citadel Festival - with a staring role played by the Pomba Girls who were caught parading around the various zones as Corona Sunset Goddesses

It is not surprising that pleasure loving city dwellers (like moi) are currently being targeted by music festival advertising. Now the sun is showing it's face again we are desperate to get lost in carefree festive revelry in a world of Freedom, Beauty, Truth and Love!!! Or is it Secret Cinema where that is happening?

One this is crystal clear- the music festival business is BOOMING as we the consumer continue to demand MORE from our festival experience. Not satisfied with a lineup of bands we also want spiritual playgrounds filled with reiki healers, enchanted forests with 20ft adult climbing frames and drag queens teaching the art of "vouging" . Music festivals are essentially well orchestrated commercially driven rituals that enable us to escape from everyday life and indulge in a whole array of activities designed to stimulate our sense and release our inhibitions. It is therefore no surprise that once we cross their threshold we feel the immediate desire to consume the world around us and journey around their various zones with our mind, mouth and wallet wide open!

This consumer playground can only function if we have a vast quantity of sellers able to accommodate our every need. Those who sell to us at festivals area varied bunch, that still to a degree includes the “humble artisans” pitching their tents of hand made costumes (only now they arrive with card readers powered up in their custom made bum bags). Positioned next to the independent traders we also now have entire festival zones occupied by BIG Brands. It is alcohol brands that are taking over the largest territory offing not only pop-up bars but stages with a top DJ line up and an array of activities for consumers to experience in an immersive, indulgent and carefree capacity.

It's all very smart as drawing us into these branded worlds they are not simply selling to us but actually connecting us with their brand identity whilst our senses are in a state of festival euphoria. And if they film this activity they end up with a stockpile of digital content for sharing across their media channels wherein our smiling faces play the staring role.

Jose Curevo Tequila Town (Citadel)

To investigate the matter first hand, last year I took the Pomba Girls along to a London based festival which was loaded with Brand experiences: Citadel. Our sizzling Sunday adventure included venturing into the depths of a magical “Swedish pine forest” to indulge in a pint of Kopparberg Fruity cider, hanging out in a colorful Mexican hacienda where we binged on authentic street food and margaritas courtesy of Jose Curveo. Finally we embraced the summer sunset downing ice cold beers whilst dancing to beats inspired by beach parties of the Balearics on the Corona Sunset stage. Our Citadel “sunset ritual” was also made even better by the fact that it was sponsored by the crew of Corona Sunsets themselves who let us come down as dancers for the set of number 1 DJ Cal Jader.

Photography by @Pressherephoto

Photography by @Pressherephoto

Even though our own outfits were not technically sponsored by Corona Sunsets (just something we had in our Pomba Costume Box) given their association with the Corona Sunset stage design we were passable as Brand advocates. As we paraded around the festival grounds we were endlessly mobbed by the pubic wanting to take photos, follow us and become apart of our “tribe” by insisting we covered them in glitter. This experience gave me and my fellow Pomba Girls a unique insight into the behavioral patterns of the festival consumer and how we as performers had the power to influence them.

To examine these findings I shall relate to you a hypothetical scenario wherein you - in the role of festival goer become unknowingly converted to consumer and brand advocate a cleverly engineered brand experience.  At all times I encourage you to reflect on moments wherein spending may have happened and question the value behind such spending. In true Pomba Girl format I have broken the experience into 3 key stages based upon the ritual processes that form the backbone of how we produce our own event experiences: Come Together, Transform & Unleash!

Stage 1: Come Together:

You and your festival crew are roaming free around the festival site hungry for adventure when suddenly you encounter a trio of performers dressed (for the purpose of this exercise) as three Corona Sunset inspired "Goddesses”. Drawn in by their visual splendor your first instinctive reaction will be to request a photo with them. The Goddesses conform to this request gladly on condition that you tag #CoronaSunsets so you will remain connected, and able to continue to share your moments between each other. Now the Goddesses invite you and your crew to follow them to their Corona Sunset Kingdom. Together you journey across the field,  recruiting more and more festival goers who are drawn into the beauty of the Goddesses. By the time you arrive at your destination your small crew has become an impressive tribe! To celebrate you head to the bar and get a first round of drinks in - 10 ice cold bottles of Corona, for you, your new friends each of the Goddess’ (who did mention they were thirsty along the way). When you return to the rest of the tribe a circle has formed around the Goddesses - who are sat on patterned rugs with an array of pots filled with glitter, face-paints and brushes and all necessary equipment to lead onto stage two of the process..

Stage 2: Transform

The shimmering beauty of the Goddesses has inspired you to also upgrade your “festival look” to something that channels the vibe of the SUNSET TRIBE! They invite you into their circle wherein you bask in the sunshine knocking back your beer as they adorn you with face-paint and glitter in the distinct colors and patterns that form part of their identity. This process is often a lengthy one as everyone wants their turn for a transformation, so you sit back and enjoy the summer beats whilst the beer continues to flow - as each member of the tribe dutifully takes their turn to head to the bar and relinquish the thirst of the other members. Whilst chilling out you continue to take pictures, share posts and pose for photographs with the festival photographers who are now as infatuated with you as they are with the Goddesses. Now that everyone has their look complete and bottles are raised into the air and a final moment is captured (shared)  before moving on to the final stage of the process.

Corona Sunsets.jpg

Stage 3: Unleash!

The sun is starting to set and we are building to the crucial stage the ritual wherein all energy brewing over the course of the previous two stages will Unleash on the dance floor! The DJ hits the decks to drop some sizzling summer beats and the Goddesses begin releasing yet more energy as they dance around in circles casting golden confetti into the air. Whilst you may wish to capture this moment on camera you are too caught up in it to be bother retrieving your i-Phone. Rest assured however there are plenty of other cameras on the action from phones and hired photographers. The beat gets stronger as a crew of live drummers take to the stage, the Goddesses start to spin you around. Feeling high on happiness you decide to take a moment and witness the sun setting over the crowd of dancing golden bodies. As you gaze across the crowd you swig bag your beer and close your eyes - promising yourself that you will will remember this moment forever.

In the above scenario casts an awareness to how a few hours of time within the festival may have cost you the festival-goer but also what you got out of it. The £37.50 Corona Sunset round that appears on your statement between the £24.50 Kopparburg forest splurge and the £49.50 blow out in Tequila town - (plus the sequin knickers £24.99) - might help to rack up just some of the days spending. However surely your experience as a consumer who generously give to others and the pleasurable act of consuming various products in delightful environments - makes it all worth it right? And do not fret over the fact that your festival adventure as a free spirit was actually a well engineered marketing exercise that quite literally left you “branded”- was it not still deeply enjoyable? How about feeling a thrill of excitement that in today's world this fleeting moment may well have been captured and even edited into a sexy video that personifies everything you hoped your festival experience should be.

It might even be worth taking a very moments cruise a few you-tube streams of Brands you recall encountering at festival just in case you stumble across a video that features a flash shot of yourself caught up in essence of the experience.

Found one?  Great - then share it!


Article by Emma Symes (@LoRIOca)

Creative Director: Pomba Girls


WOW - 2016 was a massive year for the Pomba Girls! This scrapbook shares the journey in pictures, from Palaces, to Pirate Ships, Pina-Coladas to Jungle Boogies, Carnivals to Music Festivals! Here's our top moments with the Pomba Girls (and Pomba Boys)....

Female Entrepreneurs feeling the POWER CHARGE!

Last week was Global Entrepreneurship Week and as a female entrepreneur it left me feeling: POWER CHARGED!

That’s what Enterprise is all about - the Power Charge!

I feel it every time I plug myself into my Enterprise Network: a power-source made up from start-up charities, grant schemes, co-workspaces, business mentors and digital communities. The network is powered by a philosophy that we all have the potential to succeed no matter what gender, race, class, or age we may be. For that reason ambitious women (like me) feel a strong magnetic pull toward it and once inside we bounce ideas, hatch plans and Power Charge ourselves up to conquer the world of business!

The reasons why women are making such an impact in the world of Entrepreneurship has been a hot topic for discussion during this years GEW 2016. In the wake of the US election results that left Hilary Clinton reminding us all how women have “still not shattered that highest and hardest glass ceiling” - my fellow female entrepreneurs and I have been sharing our success stories and embracing the opportunities we have on offer today. And why not? Even the UK government is supporting us more - with an announcement in last weeks Sunday Times Business News that they will “put £750,000 of state cash behind female entrepreneurs” as part of their latest Innovate UK scheme. And it makes total sense to back us, after all by encouraging more women to enter into entrepreneurship it is the UK economy that will ultimately benefit- BOOMED by the brilliant businesses these women will inevitably create.

I say “inevitable” because once women cross the enterprise threshold the pace by which they accelerate forward is fast! When I embarked upon my enterprise journey (18 months ago)- establishing my performance company Pomba Girls as a business offering immersive experiences for events - even the challenge of juggling a Masters degree did not slow the pace. On the contrary, I made good use of my departments studio facilities, enlisted my colleagues as freelance performers and secured £2000 in student grants to enable me to develop my business (T&P Student Project Fund + Innovation Award for Creative Enterprise). As Goldsmiths like many other Arts institutions has a predominately female student body they hold the potential to be a powerhouse for female entrepreneurs. Proof of this can be seen in the Make it Happen film Goldsmiths launched to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week - which features myself and three other female entrepreneurs sharing our thoughts on why more creatives should enter into entrepreneurship.

The success stories of female entrepreneurs were brought into focus at number of events during GEW 2016 , The success stories of female entrepreneurs were brought into focus at number of events during GEW 2016 , including the Hackney Enterprise Conference hosted by enterprise charity The Startup Kitchen and Hackney Council which culminated in a Women in Business discussion panel. For the past six months I have received continuous business support from the The Startup Kitchen program - including 1-2-1 mentoring and masterclasses. Before the Women in Business panel kicked off I got chatting with The Startup Kitchen executive director Fay Cannings about why she felt it was important to give visibility to the successes of female entrepreneurs and leaders during this years conference:

"Having seen so much talent and innovation in the start up world especially over the last year, from the young female founders who are starting business in their twenties to the variety of women leading change in the Tech and start up eco-system I was convinced it was the perfect opportunity to showcase that and also inspire others to follow their passions. Whether that's taking the plunge to fully explore that business idea that's been whirling around for a while, becoming an intrapreneur (we need them!) or even becoming a mentor or change-maker - its about tapping into your unique talents and taking the next step".  Fay Cannings: The Startup Kitchen


The panel was comprised of a mix of women from different industries ranging from law, journalism, fashion & food all united by their genuine passion and fierce determination to turn their ideas into something concrete. They did not shy from talking openly about the challenges they had faced as women wanting to tap into industries wherein the influential decision makers are “still typically men”.  Taslima Khan founder of fashion Brand Taslima K recounted her own frustration when she was once asked “are you the assistant?” by the male CEO of a company she was pitching her business to. Pippa Murry founder of nut spread Pip and Nut spoke of her experiences dealing with all male manufacturing teams who “treated me like their daughter” and reflected on how women’s “need to prove it as an age old problem.” The advice from Peggy Pauwels - lawyer and business transformation leader who has substantial experience of being the only women in the board room was quite simple:

“don’t let it stop you. Be yourself and be proud of being a women”.

Understanding how to be successful doing business whilst embracing being a women is one of the greatest challenge faced by female entrepreneurs. It is interesting to me given that my breakthrough as a performer came about when I discovered how to harness both my femininity and feminist frustrations as a powerful tool for expression. Figuring out how to do exactly that as an entrepreneur will I feel be the equivalent of unlocking my own inner power source, generating for me both financial success and personal fulfillment in the business world. To achieve this I need To keep practicing putting myself out there as an entrepreneur and embrace the experience It awards me as a women. By doing so you realise even sexist preconceptions aired by men sitting in the power seat become a power fuel when they are converted to lively banter shared with other female entrepreneurs over bottle of prosecco after sealing the deal.

One final point well worth mentioning whilst reflecting on the resources women have at our fingertips for combating business is that of our capacity to impact digital culture. This point was raised in the earlier part of Hackney Enterprise Conference during a workshop by Lesley Stonier Founder of female focused marketing consultancy We Mean Business. She drew our attention toward the impressive enterprise successes of Kim Kardashian who has used her personal brand to design her very own App - [Insert Link] which is now worth 7.1 billion. Whilst Kim’s personal brand has never been something I have wanted to buy into myself - the example is proof of how women can conquer a male dominated industries by being highly resourceful about what they can bring to the table. It is also evidence of how technology can be a powerful weapon for female entrepreneurs- giving us control over how the world perceives us.

So when I question whether female entrepreneurs have what it takes to shatter the glass ceilings of the business world- my resolute answer is YES!

As a measure for my own enterprise success I think of how this past year I have crossed the threshold of more impressive glass buildings than ever before. And no it has not been shattering glass that has got me inside -but rather by using the talent and resourcefulness I possess as a female performer and entrepreneur to convince business men and women to let me in because they want to discover more about what I can do.

And believe me - performing to top influences on top floors in glass buildings is undeniably POWER CHARGING!

Text by Emma Symes founder of Pomba Girls: "Empowering Female Performers though Enterprise"

Twitter: @ LoRIOca

"SHOW ME THE MONEY!" : Emma Symes as Performer & Entrepreneur - (In Rio & London). Follow my journey: @LoRIOca.

"SHOW ME THE MONEY!" : Emma Symes as Performer & Entrepreneur - (In Rio & London). Follow my journey: @LoRIOca.

Useful Links:

Pomba Girls: Female driven performance company who host parties & create immersive experiences at events.

The Startup Kitchen: Where young ambitious founders pair with proven successful entrepreneurs, advisors and business experts for 1-1 mentoring and masterclasses.

We Mean Business: London based Marketing Consultancy supporting entrepreneurial individuals and women in business

Hackney Enterprise Women in Business Panel:

Pippa Murry - Founder of Pip and Nut (Food)

Jaycynth Basset - Founder the Bias Cut (Fashion)

Taslima Khan - Founder of Taslima K (Fashion)

Peggy Pauwels- Lawyer (Commercial business)

Lisa Williams- Founder of Tantrum (Lifestyle and Children)




Want some Rio action here in London? Then head to Peckam- it's got all the best bits!

This years coverage of Rio Olympics has kept me hooked! Not only has there been the Olympic Superhero stadium action but this year we have had the visual stimulation of crashing waves, sexy sunsets and beautiful people jogging, surfing and cavorting around the breathtaking city of Rio de Janeiro!

This off stadium Rio action has been addictive viewing for one such as me - a sufferer of obsessive compulsive "I wanna live in Rio" disorder - something I picked up ten years ago following the time I left home and bounded off to the tropical city in search of teenage adventure.  10 years on, following 5 more visits and a 2 year stint living there (which made the disorder even more serious), I have found the only way to cope with not living in Rio is by trying to live a Carioca (Rio local) here in London. Even setting up the Pomba Girls came from my determination to transpose aspects of their festive culture to London - the name deriving itself from party loving female spirit "Pomba-Gira" which hails from Brazilian Umbanda ritual practices.

Luckily for me, living in London- a city ever embracing of cultural diversity, I can still encounter some of my most loved aspects of Rio lifestyle right on my doorstep, which happens to be the buzzing high-street of Peckham!

Here's my top 7!

1. Street-life

In Peckham, like Rio, life happens on street. When the weather is good the locals love nothing more than hitting the concrete pavements for some street drinking culture! Venues like Peckham Springs / The Nines have even taken on board the trend for improvised battered old seating/ DIY benches that began in Rio's poorest favela communities. We just need a few glamours transvestites to give us a real downtown Lapa vibe (this can be arranged surely?)

2. #Superfoods!

Like Rio - Peckham's high-street has a surprising abundance of exotic fruit, vegetables and fresh coconuts that allow me and the Pomba Girls to power ourselves up on all the latest #Superfoods! And if you need some blending advice head down to Ali Baba Juice - Peckham’s very own street Juice Bar (so Rio) where a handsome man in a hat (so Rio) called Mihu (kinda Rio- ish??) can fix you up a Super-Dupa-Superfood-Juice!

3. Outdoor Fitness:

It's not just during Olympic season that the people of Rio get sporty, this is a HOT beach side city where people love to wander around with minimal clothing and as a result Cariocas are obsessed with fitness. And while here in Peckham we do not tend to hang out in our bikinis we can still enjoy an intense body pumping session down our local Yard: Pure Rio Action!

4. Afro-Beat:

Walk out of Peckham Rye Station station and take a direct right. Close your eyes & listen to the beat. Calm down - no need to rush just imagine you’re in Rio let your body move to the Afro-Beat. Got it? Ok now walk to the beat and own the street.

5. Beleza (Beauty):

If your dare to keep following those Afro-Beats with your eyes closed you will probably wind up in one of our many local Afro- beauty salons. These tribes of Peckham Divas would be well at home in Rio where beauty pampering is an absolute essential. And the Pomba Girls have made the most of the beauty shops- creating Rio Carnival inspired outfits from Afro-Hair extensions and the epic BLING encountered whilst waiting for acrylic nails to dry- Que Beleza!

6. Rooftop Occupation:

This fierce trend sweeping the London skyline is believed (so Peckham legend has it) to have started by a chap called Frank who proved that rooftop car-parks really are cool hangout spots provided you supply enough Aperol Spirtz! However the people of Rio were doing rooftop occupation long before us in a bit to utilize every last plot of urban space found in cities controlled by cruel property tycoons (sound familiar?) But when it comes to rooftop action for the Pomba Girls nothing can beat the feeling of dancing on top of one! Flashback last summer when we hit the roof of Copland Park estate with our Pop-Icon (come dance instructor) FEMME for a #RooftopRioDance class inspired by Rio based dance troupe: AfroFunk Rio.

7. Carnival LOVE

True that when it comes to Carnival rave ups in London Notting Hill is a big competitor (although any street party that shuts its sound systems at 7pm is hard to classify as a 3 day Carnival by Rio standards).  Luckily in Peckham, if you LOVE CARNIVAL the way they do in Rio you can get your fix down every two months by hitting the Love Carnival club-night at our local Bussey Building. Hosted by London's hottest Latin American music promoters: Movimientos this night promises to unleash "hypest Tropical Bass, Global Beats, Carnival Vibes, and Dancehall Riddims" till sunrise! To make it happen they got DJ Cal Jader + DJ Selecta Mad Max firing up the decks with an ever evolving party crew of special guest DJ's live musicians, dancers and mind blowing tropical visuals/ party decorations. So if you crave the vibe of a Rio Carnival party - aka the chance coat yourself in glitter and dance until you sweat it off (onto the glitter covered sweaty bodies grinding next to you) then get yourself down there!

Find me and the Pomba Girls at the next Love Carnival: Friday 8th October @ Bussey Building Peckham. Tickets HERE

Text by Emma Symes:  @LoRIOca - (London Girl with Rio Spirit!)

Love Carnival Photos by Ila Brugal: @ilabrugal



Who are they?

AfroFunk Rio: Feminist collective of dancers, performers and DJs based in Rio de Janeiro who do dance workshops, photo-shoots and host club nights to raise awareness to women's rights and combat racism.

What do they want to do? 

"Dominate the world!" 

Taisa Machando (Co-Founder)

They claim to be "warriors" who use dance as their weapon against a class divided society that is both sexist and racist.

Reality check in Rio

In Rio de Janeiro if you are a women getting on the underground during rush hour you will be able to sit in a pretty pink carriage that is strictly female only.   The "ladies elusive carriage""  is a small attempt made by Rio's public security to combat the major problem of sexual harassment in the city. Small in the sense that whilst this carriage might enable a certain minority of women to feel more secure during the brief time they spend inside its Barbie doll interior, it does not benefit those (generally poorer women) who have had the misfortune to travel on the sweaty overcrowded city buses...and it is certainly no solution to this problem in wider society.

Having lived in Rio a number of times I can vouch that dealing with the city as a women is complicated. Living there as a European women I embraced Rio culture as one that enabled me to let my hair down, wear a skimpy bikini and openly "twerk" the moment I hit a dance-floor. However like most good things in life- all this freedom comes at a price. Women in Rio are made to feel like both a Goddesses and a victim; if you don't protect yourself against the latter you will find yourself in trouble.

Just to clarify, when I mention sexual harassment in Rio, I am not referring to the odd wolf whistle.  Sexual harassment is when a man believes that by wearing a mini-skirt you are offering him an open invitation to put his hand directly up it - and in Rio should you give him a slap for doing so he may well give you one back- or worse. This is a society wherein male bravado is encouraged and femininity is quite confusingly both worshiped and viewed as a weakness. 

"I am both feminine and a feminist"

Sabrina Ginga co-founder of AfroFunk Rio opposes quite firmly the notion by stating: "I am both feminine and a feminist". The idea of embracing femininity whilst openly declaring yourself a feminist is something that forms the basis of the AfroFunk Rio project. These girls use activities that are generally considered forms of feminine "play"  such as dressing-up in glitter and feathers, posing for photos and making up dance routines a powerful tool for social resistance. Backstage at their events as they apply their lippy they jokingly remark "let's prepare for war" . When I asked them about the meaning behind the statement they told me they were comparing themselves with the Brazilian indigenous people who use red paint to prepare themselves as tribal warriors.

Their dance workshops are also viewed as "war preparation" wherein they use "Afrocentric" dance moves to build strength and express themselves in exactly the way they want to. AfroFunk Rio believe that connecting with the body begins in the mind and hence they ask participants of their workshops to embrace a mentality inspired by African cultural heritage and Carioca Funk dance culture (which hails from Rio's slums and also has strong African roots). 

Founder Taisa Machando states proudly that she is s girl- "born and created by Funk culture". As a personal friend of mine I can vouch that her dance moves come direct from the Bailie Funk scene -  illegal dance raves organised by gangsters in favelas - most but not all have been banned owing to police occupation. These are dance raves wherein " Tudo liberado"- everything is allowed! 

The dance classes offered by AfroFunk Rio place emphasis on training participants in these techniques in a safe "uncensored" space. During my most recent visit to Rio I got to see this in action whilst I stayed with AfroFunk Rio for performance research purposes. Whilst it was not possible to film during their workshops here's a video from an event they hosted in Ipanema which demonstrates Taisa's skill at powering up a group of women. I also had the chance to run a photo-shoot with AfroFunk Rio with a collection of headdresses designed as a special commission by Jodie Cartman that fused the crown of Candomblé Goddess Oxum with Afro-Futurist fashion. Photography by David Peixao.

If you happen to be in Rio during the Olympics and feel like fusing fitness with feminism, discover more about Afro-Brazilian cultural heritage, Rio's favela dance scene and have alot of fun then its not hard to find these girls! As part of the Rio Olympic cultural program AfroFunk RIo will be performing their latest production AfroPower: Between the Sacred and Profane at the Parque de Madureira 18th August at 18:00h. Or if you want to have a go at dance training they run workshops at Fundiçao Progresso (behind arches of Lapa): Wednesdays and Fridays 9am - 10am, Thursday 8pm- 9pm and Fridays 7pm - 8:30pm.

And don't forget to follow them on Facebook / Instagram to check out more amazing photos/ videos! @AfroFunkRio #NaSuaCara.










Last week team LoRIOca were given the chance to dress up in our finest costumes and head down to a Royal Palace (the one in Lambeth) for a prestigious Garden Party celebrating The Prince's Trust 40th Anniversary!

This chance came thanks to LoRIOca Performance being selected as one of 40 businesses start-ups chosen to showcase the work of The Prince's Trust Enterprise Program- a charity which helps thousands of young people "get down to business". The event was a fantastic opportunity for us to sharpen our sales pitch and demonstrate our talent for unleashing “Rio Spirit” on a party!

Ever The Prince's Trust launched LoRIOca Performance (September 2015)  the charity has nourished my entrepreneurial drive with one-to-one business mentoring and expert training workshops that have enabled me to shape my talent as a performer/ event producer into a business. The services I have developed offer immersive experiences for events by injecting them with Pomba Girl Party Hosts, Live Performance and Dress-Up Activities such as our Photo Shoot Pop-Up . The idea takes direct inspiration from what I define as "Rio Spirit" -  the festive spirit of Rio de Janeiro I encountered whilst living there- hence the name LoRIOca: (London + Rio).  By injecting "Rio Spirit" into events in London we enable guests to Come Together, feel Empowered and Unleash their party spirit!

To make the above possible at The Prince's Trust Garden Party I brought along a dynamic Pomba Girl performance duo (Sandra Boom and Gur Arie Piepskovitz) and our leopard print loving photographer (Liz Gorman) to host a LoRIOca “Photo Shoot Pop-Up”.Whist a Photo-Shoot hosted by a troupe of elaborately dressed performers may not be an activity imagined by the PT event team thanks to my persuasive powers (aided by the P.T sales experts Eliot Kay & Lilia Severina) when I pitched the idea - they said YES!  


Getting down to Business! 

The Prince’s Trust is a charity which gives young people the determination, drive and pragmatic tools to "get down to business"! It specifically targets young people faced with the challenge of starting at the bottom - with little money, no carreer and seemingly no plan for the future.

This was how it was for me when I discovered the Princes Trust after returning from a 12 month stint living in Rio de Janeiro training as a street theatre performer. The adjustment back London life was made painstakingly hard by the fact that I had no money, no job, no stable home and an overwhelming sensation that at age 27 that I was the worlds biggest failure. It was whilst weighing up my list of seemingly hopeless options suggested to me by the job centre that I discovered The Prince's Trust Enterprise Program and followed it up on the basis that I had quite literally nothing to loose.

My journey began with successfully completing the 5 day intensive Enterprise Course that where I learned that setting up a business would probably be the hardest challenge of my life but ultimately if I succeeded I would have what I always wanted - the chance to do things my way. And it also made me realize that I did have something - I had an idea, all be it a vague one at this point - more of an instinct that my passion for dressing up, performing and hosting parties fueled by all that “Rio Spirit” I had picked up on the streets of Rio was worth something.

To understand the true value of that “something” has driven me to develop a business model that has involved juggling my time performing/ producing with undertaking market research, conducting case studies, figuring out business logistics, keeping track of my cash-flow and planning ahead into points in the future that I had previously never dared imagine!

Since I began my enterprise journey I have felt powered up by the endless possibilities of all the amazing things I could do. Fortunately this high has not resulted in a crash thanks to the continued mentoring support offered by The Princes Trust Enterprise program. This mentoring has enabled me to comprehend how achieve around 10% of these “things” right now and plan head for the other 90%-  that I believe can and will happen one day...

Until that day comes I am quite content to dance around the grounds of Royal Palaces with my team of Pomba Girls, throwing "money" into the sky and cavorting with enthusiastic guests who share our passion for dressing up!

Text by Emma Symes (Business Owner)

Photography: Liz Gorman @lizmakespics

For Booking inquiries email Emma: lorioca@live.com 

Follow Us:

@ LoRIOca 




Rio Street Party Photoshoot: Lapa

To gather inspiration for our Rio Street Party packages I took to the backstreets of Lapa - downtown Rio de Janeiro with Queen of street parties Renata Baptista Santos. The looks we used mix Carnival icons such as Carmen Miranda, Rio street trends which included the "high glamour" most flaunted by some of Lapa's notorious transvestites - one of whom (Tyler) joined us as a model for the shoot. We also used the iconic image of Zé Pilintra - patron saint of Lapa for the gangster look Renata showcased around the historic arches. The locations used on the shoot are all part of Renata's stomping ground - having her with me was essential for gaining the trust of locals - who were keen to assist in the production of the shoot!

Black Power unleashed in Ipanema with AfroFunk Rio

This month I am back out in Rio checking out what's trending as Rio warms up for the Olympics. So far my findings have proven that "Black Power" is HOT on the agenda and there is one particular female collective who are causing a stir: AfroFunk Rio. 

This week they were invited to Casa Ipanema to teach the crowds at the #soudesses event how to "Solta quadrillia" - (flex up the hips) and "samba in the face of society"- hence their hashtag #NaSuaCara (#inyourface). According to AfroFunk Rio to learn how to release the body we first need to discover how to think differently and embrace a mentality inspired by African cultural heritage and Carioca Funk (also African) dance culture. 

Founder Taisa Machando states proudly that she is s girl- "born and created by Funk culture". As a personal friend of mine I can vouch that her dance moves come direct from the Bailie Funk scene -  illegal dance raves organised by gangsters in favelas - most but not all have been banned owing to police occupation. These are dance raves wherein " Tudo liberado"- everything is allowed! 

Running a pop-up dance workshop at an event hosted in one of Rio's chicest neighbourhoods (Ipanema) was an ideal opportunity to see how a public removed from favela culture take to this liberating dance practice. To make a start Taisa invited the crowd to play a game which involved imagining they are not in Ipanema -  namely a place "educated" in terms of the northern hemisphere. The body first needs to understand that nothing is off limits and that you "Pode rebolar" - "rebolar" that movement when you wiggle your hips to the floor.  

The crowd seemed to have no problem embracing this idea and it was not long before the whole room was dancing. As the majority of those attending the #soudesses event that this month promoting the work of black Carioca women - was in general a clued up crowd of black Carioca's all of whom had a natural talent to "rebolar". Taisa's did not hold back her thoughts about what their dance workshop set out to do - but as each word was met with roaring cheers why wood she? 

"I want the whole of Ipanema to smell like black pussy!" 

Well - it all looked, felt and smelt pretty good to me! 


AfroFunk Rio Dance Workshops:

Fridays 8pm @ Casa Tá Na Rua, 35 Avenue Mem da Sa. Lapa

Wed 9am - 10am @ Fundação Progresso. Lapa

Cost: R$30


With Rio Olympics on the horizon 2016 is set to be a big year for LoRIOca Performance and plans are already in motion for a host of exciting events to celebrate! Before we kick start ourselves into the action we wanted to take a look back on all that was achieved last year in our LoRIOca Performance 2015 Scrapbook!  




Pomba Performer Initiation

In preparation for "The Pomba Girls: Halloween Possession Party" the Pomba Girls ran 2 x Performance Training Workshops exploring the theme of "Possession in Performance" with a group of students from Goldsmiths University London.

"Our intention during our first workshop "Possession in Performance" was to strengthen our performance collective by recruiting new members in an exercise would serve as a Pomba Girl 'performer initiation'. We lead participants on a journey around Nunhead Cemetery; this unique environment offers for those who enter its gates a profound sense of escapism though its overgrown nature and associations with the spiritual word.

Together we journeyed around the cemetery chanting the music belonging to the original Umbanda ritual: “O Sino da Igreginha”. This process acted as a kind of “initiation” for our new members and gave us [the Pomba Girls] a chance to re- connect as a performance collective. The spiritual nature of the surrounding lead us to reflect upon our individual intentions for involving ourselves with this performance - which we explored in a deeper sense during our Shemanic Drumming workshop the following week.

Oh and not forgetting we developed our skills as donut dunkers!"

Emma Symes. Pomba Girl



The Pomba Girls: Unleashing the Spirit of Halloween!


This October the Pomba Girls reunited to host another riotous night of live performance in celebration of one of their favorite festive occasions - Halloween! This time around they took possession of The Stag’s Head Hoxton by hosting a Pomba Girl Party that intended to “Unleashing The Spirits of Darkness down the East End!” As ever the night did not disappoint and the party spirit was let loose with everything from fiendish trick ‘n’ treats to a Rocky Horror piano sing-along and not forgetting the Pomba Girl performance that kept us dancing from dusk till dawn!

The parties success was no surprise to The Pomba Girls- our collective of performers who a few weeks prior to the event embarked upon on a journey of vigorous performer training and creative experiments that enables them to unlock their inner spirits and prepare their party ‘ritual’. To give homage to their efforts we shall be sharing across the blog 4 key stages they took along the journey.

Stage 1: Preparation  

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For our preparation as performers it was necessary to delve once again into the roots of Umbanda ritual practices- a region hailing from Rio de Janeiro from where we Pomba Girls derive our inspiration. We focused our attention as performers on the “Pomba Gira” - a dark spirit who is seen to embody the notion of a ‘transgressive female’, aligning herself with figures such as prostitutes, enchantresses and gypsies. 

During the original Umbanda rituals she enters the body of initiated member belonging to the religion and embodies the spirit through her ‘performance’ in which she dances, drinks and cavorts with guests. Our collective use the inspiration of the Umbanda Pomba Gira to inject the ‘spirit’ into our Pomba Girl Parties by transposing her character into different female icons that are aligned with our own popular culture and event theme. To enable us to discover their characters we commit to a series of rehearsal experimenting with some of the physical theatre techniques I encountered during my performer training in Rio de Janeiro with Brazilian street theatre company Tá´Na Rua under the direction of Amir Haddad.


Our Pomba Girl Halloween personas ranged from a Victorian/ Gothic take on the original Pomba Gira spirit (myself), a seductive lycra bound serpent (Sandra), a corset busting Madonna bride (Hannah) and extra scary adaptation of Pomba Girl “Cassandra” from our notorious gender transgressor (Gur). Once each of us had discovered our inner Pomba Girls our next challenge was to explore how they could transform into them during the performance in a way that would evoke the idea of spiritual possession played out in original Umbanda rituals.

Emma Symes (Pomba Girl)

Stag tuned for Step 2 “Initiation” - coming soon!