Keeping your Mental health in Check: A Conversation with Dan Draper

Releasing the stigma around Mental Health, A Conversation with Dan Draper

With mental health being at the forefront of Dan Draper’s podcasting journey, this presenter, influencer and friend is determined to remove the stigma surrounding mental health. Speaking from the comfort of our homes, Dan’s set up screamed podcaster mode. From his mic to his professionalism, it was time for me to reverse the roles and delve in Dan’s journey.

Beaming and smiling, Dan began by telling me about his childhood and growing up in Harlow, Essex. Paired with the hustle and bustle of his large family (not forgetting his dogs of course), he was also exploring his creative side as a drummer. It was apparent that Dan’s extroverted personality has been a big part of who he is from a very young age.

“I was bouncing off the walls”

Following his school life, he went on to work various jobs, and got well acquainted with HSBC for 4 years. It was during this time that a 2-week trip to Thailand left Dan with a thirst for exploration. It was at this point that Dan realised he didn’t want to be living his 9-5 any longer.

“I can’t do this anymore; I can’t just be a corporate number”

 This feeling became a catalyst for Dan to fly out and begin his travels within South East Asia. Reminiscing the people who he met along the way, who he referred to as “family” as well as being humbled by the contrasting lifestyle, Dan soaked in the sites.

“It grounded me”

Revealing that his own mental health was in top form whilst travelling, he was “on a constant high” and having the freedom to do whatever he wanted was a foundation for that.

Little did he know that the amazement and experiences of this trip were to be paired with the most devasting news.

Following the news of a close family friend passing away from terminal cancer back home, alongside aiding an ill travelling companion to hospital, the trip’s course began to change. Whilst navigating a Vietnamese hospital, Dan returned to his place of stay to receive the news from his family that his Nan had also passed away as a result of Dementia.

Already an emotionally tolling week for Dan, he made the decision to fly home early for the funeral. Prior to his journey back home, Dan was staying with a local family where he received news about Dean.

“Dean was my cousin, we grew up like brother, we were genuinely inseparable… we had that sort of twin effect”

An initial call from his Dad informing Dan that Dean had suddenly collapsed, spurred Dan to accelerate his journey back home and get on the next available flight back to the UK. Making the journey from the remote village he was staying in to the airport was over 6 hours before he made it to the airport.

“Even if he was gonna be alright, I knew I had to go back”

Arriving at the airport and connecting to the Wi-Fi was when Dan was able to video call his family back home.

Dean had not made it.

Finding out this news in such a public setting manifested grief in a way that led to Dan being stripped from processing in a private setting. Nearly missing his flight, Dan was processing the news whilst trying to make it for the flight. With Dean’s cause of death being an underlying, undetected heart condition, he lived a very healthy lifestyle and this condition could’ve affected him at any time.

21 hours and 4 hours later, Dan landed back in the UK to the support and love of his family. Running to him in the airport, Dan admitted he had exhausted himself on the journey and “had run out of tears”.

“It was like a scene from Love Actually”

It was the time following Dean’s funeral that proved detrimental to Dan’s mental health. Feeling a lack of motivation as well as bottling up emotion, led to Dan experiencing a panic attack on a Christmas gathering at the pub. Paired with a feeling of confusion and sadness, Dan interestingly noted that he didn’t want anyone to know he had suffered with a panic attack and felt he had to put on a “brave face” and continued to enjoy his night.

“There’d be times where the lights were on but no one was home for me”

With a ‘keep calm and carry on’ mindset regarding his mental health, Dan thought his feelings were just what grief was and never suspected that his mental health could be suffering. With the offer of grief counselling, Dan admitted that he let his male ego get in the way of getting help for how he was feeling.

It was at this time that Dan was offered a job with a London start up, where he built new connections and new friends. Delving in the London working life, Dan decided to make the move the city (which is where Dan first came into my life), and has been living there until the present.

2020 has become a transitional year for Dan, from changing work circumstances to getting ready to travel, it’s not been all bad for this amazing podcaster.

“This year was meant to be my year, I’m turning 30, I’m gonna travel, I’m gonna get my first tattoo…and then corona hit”

Lockdown was the reason that, for many people, mental health issues had manifested. A change of pace in life, followed by intense uncertainty, not only created stress for people but also fear. Working in the hospitality industry, Dan was also affected. The pub was closed and Dan was put on furlough. Recognising how lockdown was making him feel, Dan knew that other people must be feeling the same way.

The Dan Draper Podcast

Alongside the emotions that lockdown was stirring Dan was fuelled by the memories of Dean. Putting aside his search for another corporate job, he had decided it was time to pursue and indulge his creative side. The Dan Draper Podcast was born!

The Dan Draper Podcast is a set of conversations, hosted by Dan, that explore mental health. From mental health charities and sportsman to presenters and influencers, Dan’s goal is to release the stigma surrounding mental health. Consistency and passion are what drive Dan Draper and being a guest on his show myself, I am very excited to see what it around the corner for this amazing presenter.

This natural conversationalist, allows his guests to open up in a way where there is room for vulnerability and uses it as a tool, to educate himself further. Using exercise as a means to keep his own mental health in check, Dan is continually exploring the intricacies of mental health and checks in with his audience daily. Being transparent in this way, shows the genuine care that Dan has for connecting with his audience and showcasing both the ups and downs in his quest to get people conversing abut mental health.

Quarantine Creatives: Amber Sandhu

Amber Sandhu

Amber the firecracker has an absolute abundance of energy, but don’t let that fool you, this young radio producer has her head screwed on and her hands in all the right pots. Speaking from her home in the Midlands, Amber’s animated conversation brought much entertainment to us both whilst in lockdown. Even during quarantine Amber is keeping her creative juices flowing and bringing the finesse to her skill set.

Born and raised in Wolverhampton Amber went to an all-girls grammar school and was always known to chatter. Reminiscing on her teacher’s words telling her “to put that voice to good use” paired with her love for radio is what spurred Amber on for a career in media from a very young age. Whilst completing A-Levels she got her foot in the door at Wolverhampton Community Radio (WCR) and lied about her age- saying she was 18- to gain some hands-on experience. It was at this point Amber’s go-getter attitude was cementing more and more for me and her cheekiness didn’t make it hard for me to believe.

Whilst growing her experience at WCR, Amber applied for media apprenticeships but to no avail and decided to pursue her other passion in physical activity and study Sport Science. This Active Alice indulges in cricket and loves sport so educated herself further and went on to play games at a high level. Amber’s passion for the media still hadn’t extinguished as she completed internships at Sky for Soccer AM and the Daily Mirror, but radio was still where her energy lay.

Following graduation, Amber went on to be a PE teacher at Silkmore Primary school and admittedly went to school every day and “had tennis balls thrown at her”. Her gruelling schedule at this time, meant she was still putting in the hours in at WCR, working as a PE teacher whilst upholding her sports commitments and looking for full time jobs in radio. She admitted that this was a time where her “self-care didn’t exist”. Although loving her job at the school, she knew this wasn’t her long-term dream.

After applying to the BBC Asian Network through Creative Access, Amber made her way to London for her first interview, not realising that this would be the first step into the world of national radio.  Off the back of her interviews, Amber was a top-notch candidate for an internship at the BBC as an assistant radio producer.

Starting on a Tuesday in the spring of 2019, Amber walked into the Birmingham studios to be greeted by no team (little did she know that people typically work from home on a Tuesday). “I didn’t meet anyone; I didn’t meet anyone on the team… and as the week went on I met the team, everyone was super nice and welcoming”. She revealed that her first few months at the BBC, she “struggled to come out of her shell” in fear that she wouldn’t be taken seriously. As an intern in the media industry, this is a commonality for many trainees as it’s often their first step within their chosen enterprises.

“I think I got a bit of imposter syndrome”

As Amber continued to develop, she showcased her potential. By working on the cricket world cup to going on to assistant produce weekend shows, her proactivity ensured her success amongst the team. An example of her initiative is shadowing the social media team in the London studios and then learning to create social media content for the Birmingham studios too. This thirst for learning and continually wanting to advance is a tip that Amber gives to anyone starting off in a creative industry. The importance of finding a work life balance is something that is apparent to Amber’s journey and reminds future interns to make sure to enjoy time.

“You’re still learning and you’re new as well…be proactive and be creative”

Quarantine Creatives: Jamie Oliphant

Jamie Oliphant

Jamie Oliphant joined me from the comfort of his home in South London with a beaming smile and a special guest, Odin. Odin the cat saturated my conversation with Jamie with much entertainment and magnified the wholesome energy that was felt through the screen, in what felt like a chat with an old friend. As Odin sashayed past Jamie’s camera, it was interesting to see this young comedian off stage and in the contentment of his bed surrounded by his well-kept house plants.

Born and raised in West London, Jamie always had a creative flair. From his school productions and acting to his first stand up experience, Jamie always put his creativity at the forefront. Before life as a comedian, Jamie initially went on to pursue his career path in acting. Going on to study drama at the University of Exeter, Jamie excelled during his time there and revealed that a memorable moment was his involvement in the play Trainspotting. “Like 1000 people auditioned for that and I got into that and that was probably the biggest bug for me, the acting bug in moving forwards and feeling like yeah I can do this”.

“I’ve always wanted to do drama”

Having graduated from the university with his drama degree in hand, Jamie went on to work in a bike shop to earn money whilst working in his first paid outdoor theatre project for a show called Child’s Play, at the same time.   This was a learning curve, as he quickly learnt that his input wasn’t as valued here as his work on productions during his time in his Exeter “bubble”. Jamie admitted that after a series of rejections and little input here, from not only himself but his team, he left with a feeling of “what’s the point”. After two or three months of working on Child’s Play, Jamie moved on to his next steps after recognizing that he was “enjoying the bike shop more than the acting”.

After revealing that his initial first step after graduating was sending “about 150 letters to agents in London”, and “hoped for the best. One agent “wrote back to me and said “let’s set up a meeting”. This was great for commercial work for Jamie, but still kept his foot in the door at the bike shop.

With theatre work not fulfilling Jamie in the way he thought it would, he decided to brave an open mic night and try stand up. What began as a dabble, then became addictive for this comedian and got him thinking “how can I get better at this and write better jokes and I was really determined to get better”. Jamie divulged that this was the first time he felt this strongly about something.

Jamie built up a series of comedy shows under his belt, learning to perfect his craft and even went onto win a New Act competition for comedy. He was then “roped into the sales team” for a credit card company. This made his regular input on the comedy scene reduce significantly and he saw that the comedians who he started with “were gigging like machines” and progressing fast whilst Jamie’s stagnation was prominent. Recognising that working in the credit company was stunting his creativity and his ability to get better as a comedian, he left after two years of service.

 “I really enjoyed it, but I definitely knew this isn’t something I wanted to do forever”

Sandwich deliveries is what was next on the cards for Jamie Oliphant, this ensured that his evenings freed up for his pursuit in the comedy world. Of course, financially he took a toll, but this accelerated his skill set and gave him more platforms as a comic.

From doing 5-minute open mic nights and working small stages and audiences, Jamie has now graced Edinburgh Fringe and sold out comedy clubs in London, with his storytelling style. Fuelled by his experiences working in the variety of jobs, including that of a Teaching Assistant. I personally went to see him in Waterloo and loved his animation and almost childlike blanketing of his set and performance.

Being in a creative space doesn’t often pair with the notion and idea of stability and this was something that Jamie had to fight the grain with, especially with his parents. “Edinburgh Fringe was a way to show my progression with this, there was a room full of people who weren’t my friends”. It’s apparent that as a comedian, the harder you work the better you get. Jamie was absolute about putting the time in for anything you love and have a passion for. An inspiration for all creatives.

Interviewing Jamie Oliphant was a pleasure and during this uncertain time, he upheld his optimistic outlook which I have to say left me feeling encouraged myself. Also, the fact he still uses the same headshots from 10 years ago may be proof that laughter really is the best cure for ageing.

Wannabe Foodie #11:Beijing Dumpling, London Chinatown

When it comes to dumplings, peoples’ experiences can often be hit or miss, but with this little gem in Chinatown you will be satisfied with these hand made bundles of joy.

Beijing Dumpling will probably catch your eye as you stroll through Chinatown because of the queue that is often seen outside the door and the window display that beholds the churning out of fresh dumplings. Once you are inside you will be seated quickly and given a paper menu on which you tick off what you want to try. The turnaround in here is pretty quick, so perfect for casual dinner.

Pork Dumplings

We went in as a group of four and decided on getting a range of starters (so we could try as many dumplings as possible) rather than mains, so we could try different bits and pieces.  In terms of dumplings we went for spicy pork and pork xialongbao (soup dumplings), sea food dim sum platter, pan fried pork dumplings and spicy chicken dumplings in soup. We accompanied this with crispy duck pancakes, hot and sour soup and tom yum soup.

With a focus on the dumplings themselves I would definitely go for the spicy pork xialongbao. With a light steamed pastry, juicy pork filling and broth inside, this dumpling is an absolute delight. If you prefer milder food then go for just the pork xialongbao for the same dumpling minus the spice.


Alongside this pork delight, the pan fried options are also great, served on a plate rather than a steamer basket, these are great if you prefer a crispier outside. The chicken dumplings in soup, has a steamed outside and are served floating in a broth. For me the soup itself wasn’t really anything to rave about, but the dumplings themselves were yummy.

The other starters that we chose (the duck and soups), we lovely, but very standard. I would definitely pay Beijing Dumpling a visit if  dumplings are going to be the centre of your meal. Although I can’t attest to the rest of the mains on offer, I cannot stress how foolish it would be to not try the dumplings.

Considering the reasonable price range, you would be surprised that Beijing Dumpling has been awarded a Michelin Star. Coming in at around £8 for a basket of the more expensive dumplings, split between a group you will not leave hungry.

Paired with an ice cold green tea, this is great place to grab a bite to eat and leave feeling satisfied and your wallet not taking the heat.

Price: ££

Check it out:

Wannabe Foodie #4: Honest Burgers

Honest Burgers, on this particular day, was a life saver! I was starving and on the hunt for a good quality cure. I strolled into Honest Burgers whilst roaming the streets of Covent Garden and was more than pleasantly surprised.

Considering it was a Friday night, I was seated immediately, which was a bonus, and was greeted with a cozy walkway and friendly staff. Immediately the music put you at ease, playing remixes and reggae. Once we were seated we got started with drinks and the beauty about Honest Burger was the small, quality menu.

I went for the classic Honest Burger which came with Rosemary Fries. The burger consisted of a beef patty, red onion relish, smoked bacon, cheddar, pickled cucumber and lettuce. This was served on a classic brioche bun. It was lovely. The patty was served medium rare and you can’t really go wrong with a burger and chips around the £10 mark.

Honest Burger with Rosemary Fries and a likkle bit of mayo

London which I’m sure will offer the same delightful experience.

Price: ££

Check it out here:

Wannabe Foodie #3: Brother’s Cafe

Leather Lane is abundant in  great food finds, so I decided to venture into Brothers Cafe which sits at the beginning of the street. There was no particular reason I was drawn to this place, aside from the fact that it had been recommended to me as a satisfying lunch spot.

I must say, I was pleasantly surprised with the food. I went for the small lamb wrap (and I’ve gotta say, it was not minuscule in any way) and a halloumi roll (halloumi wrapped in semi sweet pastry and deep fried). This all came to less than a fiver (take cash, unless you plan on spending more than that). Brothers also offers chicken, falafel, halloumi and salads too.

The Lamb Wrap was fab, served in a warm flatbread, the lamb was grilled on a skewer and served fresh after cooking. I had all the salad, hummus and chilli sauce to accompany my salad and I can confirm it was a good choice. Brothers offers a range of salad and you can choose exactly what you want. The halloumi roll on the other hand was good, but it was reheated in the microwave. The pastry was very similar to that of a samosa so goes a tad soggy when re heated in the microwave. I can imagine that straight out of the fryer, this side is an absolute delight!

Lamb and Salad Wrap

The shop front would not lead you to believe that the quality of wrap is as good as it is. It looks very old and the seating area is very basic. At the front of the cafe there is buffet of hot food and then at the front is where you can order your wraps. The service here seems very friendly as is very quick paced during lunch so try and have your payment ready to keep the line moving.

Don’t let the decor fool you, the wraps here are top notch!

Price: £

Check it out:

99 Leather Ln, London EC1N 7TS

When I say Kojo, you say Funds…

The Golden Boy has given us a Warning that his tour around the UK is going to keep us in Check. He’s Dun Talkin, and ready to entertain the nation.

I had the pleasure of experiencing my first mosh pit in Manny last weekend. The vibe was hosted by Kojo Funds and his guests. Hosted at the o2 Ritz in Manchester, he graced the stage with his Golden Boy Mix tape and I thoroughly enjoyed!

We came into the venue and have to admit we weren’t there at the 7pm doors opening time… Asian Timing. We got there around 8:30pm when support act Alicai Harley was performing. She seemed very fun, kinda reminded me of Stefflon Don, but I don’t know if that was just the hair or not…

Fund’s hype man then took over and did as the title given to him, we got hyped! With tracks played, by Kojo Funds, as well as other tracks within the grime and hip hop genre I can say that this was just what we needed before the gig. As with standard for hype men, we did a right vs left side of the room competition, except this time the winning side had free merch fired into it. I just wasn’t strong enough to make the cut to grab a free t-shirt (sad times).

‘Brown skinned girl, get your silly on’

Then the gig began and out came Funds with a spark in his step as this was only his second performance of the tour. I must say he started strong and it was brilliant, but I noticed a lot of the time he got the audience to sing the song on his behalf. I mean I personally love it when this happens, but after a while it was a tad overkill ygm? As the gig went on, he continued to do this, but then replayed the song and sang all the way through, defo made up for this!

Me ft. Lonely Straw on the floor

I was surprised when he came off the stage and into the crowd (well near the front), and the crowd flippin loved it! I must say as well as the gig itself, the crowd was amazing and really did add to the vibe. I mean my friend and I ended up dancing with random people and eve got our pics taken (bonus – I know, I’m easily pleased).

Overall it was brill to go and see a gig in in a different city, especially a grime one as because I normally just stick to London. Also Manny is my uni city so woop woop!

Wannabe Foodie #2: Hakkasan

Wowwwiieeeeee. Ya girl went to Hakkasan.

As a group of three, we headed to the Hanway Place branch to get our dim sum on. There seems to be a recurring theme here, but I promise I do eat other foods!


Hakkasan is a contemporary Chinese restaurant and is not for those who are living the London broke life. However if you go before 18:30 you can enjoy a set menu for £38. So I guess that’s something… As we were going for dinner, we went for the after 18:30 menu that was £65 and we added extras on too. If you’re a total baller and going for A La Carte be prepared, as there are some dishes that you can pay up to 300 quid for.

With two London locations, Hakkasan offers contemporary Chinese cuisine. From delightful duck to stunning sea bass, Hakkasan provides the best Chinese flavors in a refined manner. I had the pleasure of dining in Hakkasan, Hanway PlaceT

Our meal began with a Dim Sum selection and this was delicious. With a prawn and chive filling, scallop and pork and prawn these mouthfuls were delightful. Following this I had a starter of hot and sour soup and chicken and sweetcorn. Hot and Sour was Peng! The chicken and sweetcorn seem pretty standard to me, you could probably pick this up for a fraction of the price in Chinatown and it would be fine.


For my main, I had Spicy Prawns (with lilly bulb and almond), Peking Duck and Pancake, Sweet and Sour Pork and this was accompanied by rice and noodles. In comparison to the starters that we tried, the mains did disappoint. Although they were still tasty, next time I would happily exchange my main dishes with more dim sum or another starter. The meat was tender, however the noodles tasted like something I could probably remodel at home.

Finally, the dessert offered a different take on Asian desserts. Until my visit to Hakkasan I have never been impressed with Chinese desserts. We ended the meal with the Matcha Apple Custard Bun and the Jivara Bomb (milk chocolate and praline desert). These were a delight, they were not too rich and encompassed eastern flavours with a subtle sweetness. The Matcha bun requires an acquired taste, but I loved it. The pastry was lovely, and if you like green tea this will be a delight.


So the food ranged from delicious to standard, but I must say the service was notably mediocre. Considering the price tag of eating here, you would expect the service to be on point. Because of this we decided to remove the service charge ( which I don’t often do) and this caused all sorts of drama which cemented why we took it off in the first place.

Hakkasan is definitely worth going to and is perfect for a special occasion or date night as the atmosphere welcomes occasion, but better service would have made me more tempted to come back here. There are more places around London where you could have equally tasty dim sum.

TIP: Don’t over order (as there is no option to take away any remaining food). Order as and how you want more food. They bring it out quite quick and it’s better than wasting money.