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“Why is it I always sound better in my bedroom than I do onstage?”

There can be several reasons for this, nerves, acoustics, background noise … but one of the main explanations lies in the dark and oft forgotten art of microphone technique. All too often great singers become good singers and good singers become OK singers … all because of what they’re doing or not doing with the mic.

Reading this article will not give you great mic technique, but it will hopefully set you on the right path, and with a few sneaky tips in your pocket.

The true secret to good mic technique is practise. If you want to hone your skills in this and just about every other aspect of live performance, the best advice is to get yourself down to every open mic night or other stage opportunity you can find. You’ll be surprised how much you’ve learned after even just a few visits.

And when it comes to practising your mic technique, if you have your own mic and the means to amplify it, you’re off to a clear advantage, do you have an old karaoke machine at the back of a cupboard somewhere?


So, to get off to a start, let’s look at the technical aspects of microphone technique:

1)    Putting the mic too close to the speaker, or even pointing the mic at or near the speaker can cause feedback. Feedback is caused by the mic picking up sound from the speaker, sending it to the amp, which it amplifies and chucks out through the speaker as louder sound. The mic picks up the louder sound, sends it to the amp which amplifies it again, the speaker chucks out even louder again sound, which then gets picked up by the mic, and … well, you get the idea.

2)    Having the volume too high can result in feedback (for the same reasons as above) and distortion. In extreme cases you can damage equipment.

3)    Incorrect wiring and connections can cause electric shocks, equipment breakdowns, nasty humming sounds and can even pick up radio signals including the police or local taxi firm!

However, for most gigs you’ll play, these factors are largely outwith your control. If the person responsible for sound at your gig is worth their salt, you shouldn’t have to worry.


So what can you do onstage to make yourself sound better? Here are Out of the Bedroom’s quick and dirty tips:

The most common problems come from either having the mic too close or too far from your mouth. This can cause you to sound respectively muffled or distant, so practise and find a distance that sounds good with your voice.

Remember that if you tend to alter the volume of your own voice with quiet bits and shouty bits, you’ll need to alter the distance between your mouth and the mic. Move in when you’re going quiet, and back away when you’re getting louder / shouting.

The same thing goes if you sing parts of your songs in lower or higher pitch than the rest, move closer or further away respectively.

“How far should I move?”, I hear you ask. Well basically … go practise! It really varies from person to person.

As a rough guide, two to three inches is about the right distance for most people singing at normal levels, but do experiment. Even if you’re in front of an audience, try moving closer to and further from the mic and get used to the difference it makes. If you do it gradually they probably won’t notice much, but you’ll know yourself what sounds best and you can remember it.

This of course depends upon you being able to hear yourself properly. If there’s a monitor (which is usually a smallish speaker on the floor pointing up towards you) where you’re playing, try and get the volume of that right before you start your song properly. You want to be able to hear both your voice and the instruments that are backing it, but make sure you can hear your voice clearly above all.

Don’t be afraid to (politely) ask the sound person to turn either the mic or any instruments up or down in the monitor for you. You aren’t being bossy or telling them how to do their job … it’s almost impossible for them to tell without your help, and if they’re even half decent at what they do they’d much rather you asked than didn’t. Remember the monitor is there purely for your benefit, so it might as well be doing its job properly.

On the other hand, don’t try and alter any controls on the monitor yourself (unless you are told to). This is a very effective way of annoying a sound person … and if you’re in any way worried about sounding good this is probably the last thing you want to do!

Pops and hisses can be another common set of problems for inexperienced mic users. Due to the movement of air in the mouth, sounds like Ps and Bs can cause a loud thud or popping sound in the mic, whereas sibilant sounds like F, S and Z can create a hissing sound (as can whistling or breathing heavily into the mic if you do this).

As a beginner, you can often be tempted to try and sing everything directly into the mic. However, most modern mics are very sensitive to sounds from around about. This is useful to you as a singer, particularly for those difficult consonants. Simply aim your mouth away from the mic head slightly, the rush of air from your mouth will bypass the mic, but the sound of it will be captured and amplified. Bingo, no pops or hisses.

It can be a lot to remember and a lot to think about at first, but with a bit of practice good mic technique will come as second nature. Good luck!


What to Learn from Performance

Posted 24/12/2008 By admin

If you want to play at OOTB:

Get to OOTB as early as you can and put your name on the blackboard. Once the compere has arrived, he or she will speak to people in the order their names appear on the blackboard, offering them a slot. After all the slots are full, the next two or three are in the queue for a ‘squashee’ slot: i.e. one song.

If you’ve played a full slot one week, you can’t do it again the following week: you can, however, get a squashee slot the following week if one is available.

If you don’t manage to get a spot – come back next week! Numbers fluctuate quite a lot and just because the roster was full by 7:15 this week doesn’t mean it’ll be the same next week. It’s easy to forget that we are on stage to entertain the audience, and we need to find a way to connect with them rather than just become immersed in ourselves. To entertain, you need to perform the music, not just play it. There are a million different styles of performance, and you need to find one that suits your own personality, and the type of music you play …. we’re not going to prescribe one ‘correct’ way of performing, but practice practice practice will help you find the style that suits you…

Nothing beats just playing live as much as possible…

Performing the songs you have spent hours/days/weeks slaving over in your bedroom can be one of the most nerve-wracking experiences of your life . . . and it can be hard to control the nerves in order to do the song real justice. An amazing song can be lost on an audience if a dodgy performance distracts from it (conversely, a distinctly average song can get a great reception if performed well). So how do we get around this? As we’ve said, being well practiced beforehand is incredibly important, but we all know that however many times we can perfom perfectly at home, being on a stage in front of a pub full of expectant punters is an entirely different matter! Now, I would like to be able to give you an easy answer about how to control one’s nerves, but there is nothing better than just practicing performing. Play the open mic circuit, and try and play in a mixture of places – the places where everyone listens intently to you (OOTB, the Listening Room), as well as the places where you have to work at it to get attention (the Blind Poet on Tuesday nights for example).

Things to practice while performing:

1. Eye Contact. Look at the audience – it’s easy to get distracted watching your hands on the guitar or looking at the floor – the audience are more likely to ‘connect’ with you if you look at them. Try looking at the back of the room above people’s heads instead of the floor, if you really can’t eye-ball anyone; it can give the impression you are looking at people even if you are not (sneaky!).

2. Talking between songs. Try and say something between songs, even if it’s just a wee ‘hello’, or an introduction to the song. Although you might say nothing because you’re nervous, it can come across to the audience as just a bit rude (even more so if it’s a gig they’ve paid to get into…). You’ve got to be pretty amazing, and have a particular brand of ethereal noise-scape music (see Sigur Ros) to really get away with saying nothing at all. Some music needs less talking than others, but speaking once or twice during the set won’t do any harm. On the flip-side, don’t go on too long explaining the deep meaning of the song to the audience, let them work some of it out for themselves, and you dont want to eat into your playing time, or even more importantly, the next person’s perfomance time! ditto with faffing – see below.

3. Not faffing. This can be tricky at open mics if the guy/girl before has been hammering the strings and knocked them all out of tune, or if the house capo has gone walk-about, or the strap’s not the right length for you, or you cant find your set list etc etc … but try to spend a minimum amount of time faffing before/between songs – no-one wants to see it, and people in an audience loose attention very quickly, and once you’ve lost them, it’s hard work getting them back!


Be wary of excessive alcohol consumption to control nerves – you might think you sound great, but the chances are, your ability to play has gone downhill a bit!!

After the performance:

Try and think about what you did well, so you can consolidate it next time; and what you didnt do well, so you can do it different next time. You could ask a friend in the audience – “did i look up much?”. Sometimes you feel like you’ve been making eye contact but in reality you have only peeked up once or twice. Ask if your friend could understand what you said in between songs. I, for one, just mumble at top speed when i’m nervous.


Take Advantage of the Monitors

Posted 24/12/2008 By admin

What are monitors?

Monitors are wedge shaped speakers that sit in front of performers on the stage. The job of these speakers is to allow the performers to hear what they are performing. Therefore it is important that you know how to make use of the monitor(s)

Monitors are controlled at the sound desk by the engineer, but we need feedback from the performers to understand if they are ok or what adjustments to make. The simplest way to do this is to tell the engineer what needs to be altered. You may have heard performers asking “could the vocals be turned down” or someone asking for “more guitar in the monitor”.

Sound at Out of the Bedroom

At Out of the Bedroom, we do not have time to sound check each person, therefore we rely on experience to get approximate levels and then alter this as performers play. Again we need the performer to let us know about the monitor levels. Leave the front of house sound to whoever is on the sound desk.

Sound checks at gigs

During sound checks for gigs use the time to make sure that the monitors are correct for you (and your band). Don’t worry at this time about the sound front of house where the audience will be the sound engineer will make sure that the sound is balanced and level.

At a sound check, the sound engineer will go though each of the instruments and vocals at a time to get an approximate level and try to get the eq. rights. Once the engineer is happy with these approximations you will then play together so that the engineer can get the balance right with the monitors and then the front of house speakers. At this time make sure that you and your band are happy with the sound on the stage, if you (and your band) are happy on stage then the performance will be more enjoyable for you.


If you need the monitors levels changed, say what needs to be changed in between songs and the engineer will make changes accordingly.

Not every sound check will be the same the above “Sound checks at gigs” is an example of what some engineers would do.

If you are giving a time to turn up to do a sound check, make sure that you (and your band) turn before this and be prepared to start the sound check at this time.


Song and Set Selection

Posted 24/12/2008 By admin

Song and Set Selection

We’re not going to try and tell you how to write songs: there’re 1,000,001 ways to do that, and one of OOTB’s strengths is that it encourages all of them. Therefore, as far as song/set selection is concerned, the only rules we’ll ever impose are that you only play three songs (in 15 minutes), and that you don’t play any covers!

Similarly, we could give hints on how to at least be entertaining within your set, but one man’s junk is another man’s treasure, and there can be wild range of opinion on what styles people at the Canons’ Gait are into. If you’re just starting out, bear these pointers in mind, but the main thing is you express yourself.

1) Try to vary the set as much as possible. Even when it’s good, no-one wants to hear the same song twice in a row. Think in terms of varying tempo and key principally.

2) Take a step back, remember you’ve got an audience, ask yourself if you’re being excessively self-indulgent. Lyrically, try and give your listener something that draws them in/they can relate to. For metaphysical poetry to work, you’ve got to be damned good at it.

3) Play to your strengths in your songwriting. Find that stylistic thing that’s going to be different to the person before/after you, and be sure and let the audience know about it.

Three songs isn’t a lot of time to make your mark, so use it well, Gunga Din. If you do, though, and get offered the featured slot, that’s when you’ve really got to think about how your set’s coming across- people’ll tolerate 15 minutes of nonsense more readily than an eternity-esque half hour!!


Selling CDs and Downloads

Posted 24/12/2008 By admin

Selling CDs and Downloads by Norman Lamont

Ever thought you might get rich from your music? No, I didn’t think so, but you might still want to offer CDs and downloads for sale.

There are arguments for and against offering paid downloads – there are lots of people who refuse to pay for downloads, and can get anything they want on Limewire or whatever. Others sign up to subscription services like iTunes and Napster and pay 50p or so for a ‘legal’ download. As struggling indie songsters we can choose to give away our music so that it simply reaches more ears, or we can say that listeners will value it more if they pay a small fee for it. These arguments can and do continue on our discussion forum. For now we’ll assume you want to offer paid downloads and sell CDs.

We’ll also assume for this post that you have your own website, that is your own hosting space, not just a MySpace site. I’m sure there are ways to sell downloads and set up shops via MySpace but others who know more can write about them.

Free music
The easiest way, of course, to give away an mp3 of your song, is simply to put it on your webspace and offer a link to it eg: http://www.mywebaddress.com/downloads/myfabbysong.mp3

Anyone clicking that link will be offered the option to save the file to their PC and that’s that.
Another simple way to let people hear the songs freely but not download them is to use Wimpy Player. It puts a little Flash button on your page which plays your mp3. There are examples on my site normanlamont.com. The Wimpy Button script costs $19.95 and for that you use it as often as you want. Once you get it, if you want to reduce the amount of code on your page for each instance of it, contact me and I’ll show you how I make each link in a few words. Before I used Wimpy I used to make an mp3 for downloads then convert it to WMA (Windows Media) for streaming, and had to upload both files plus an extra text file that allowed the streaming. Wimpy is a simpler and more satisfying solution, as the same mp3 serves for streaming or, if you want to offer it, free download.

Setting up shop

The simplest and cheapest shop software I’ve come across is Digital Goods Store, which lets you set up an online shop for any downloads. It costs £9.99 and the producers will install it for you – they’re very helpful. Be aware, though, that if you want to group your downloads into categories e.g. albums, you need buy the categories add-on for another £14.99! The store is very basic – it allows you to customise the appearance of your store page (somewhat), and list items you want to sell, which must be in a designated folder on your server. The finance is handled by PayPal so you need a PayPal account in order to receive any money. It’s only intended to sell downloads, not actual CDs. You can see it in action at normanlamont.com shop.

A bit more upmarket but offering much more is DLGuard, which allows you to set up a ‘protected’ area of your site which includes a shop for both digital and ‘real’ products, but can also include members-only pages, free downloads, mailing lists and newsletters. There’s a good video walkthrough of it at www.musicianscooler.com/dlg

Finally, if you just want to sell CDs but not downloads, simply get a PayPal button – free – from PayPal. Look under Merchant Tools and you’ll find Buy Now buttons – you fill in on a form the name of the CD and how much you want to charge, and it generates a paragraph of encrypted rubbish, which you paste into your web page. When you view the page, there’s a PayPal button which your fans can click and buy the CD. You receive an email saying the money’s in your PayPal account and the address to send the CD. This one I know you can put in a MySpace page too.

Norman Lamont


Practice Makes Perfect

Posted 24/12/2008 By admin

Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re planning on playing a set at OOTB or anywhere else, the importance of having rehearsed can’t be over stated.

Many of us can get up on stage and knock out a tune at a moment’s notice, but a well-rehearsed set is almost always going to look and sound better. Even the most famous musicians tend to practise with regularity.

In the build-up to your performance, make sure you know your songs properly. Some people play on stage with a lyrics and chords sheet – particularly with newer material, and this is fine. But why not go the extra mile and learn the song? You’ll almost certainly give a much more convincing, better sounding, and better-looking performance if it comes from within. When you’ve balanced a crumpled set of lyrics on your knee and it falls to the floor half way through the song – well it doesn’t fall into the category of ‘endearingly amateurish’!

Wherever possible, play through your whole set at least once properly on the day of your performance. Make sure you can play and/or sing your entire set easily and with confidence. You might like to record yourself as you practise and listen back – do you really sound as good or bad as you think you do?


James Igoe – History of OOTB

Posted 25/12/2008 By admin

Jim Igoe – History of OOTB

Edinburgh 1992; acoustic music meant folk music played in folk pubs, talented musicians were writing songs in their bedrooms hoping somehow to meet like-minded musicians to work with and local bands competed against each other in the ever-increasing number of pay-to-play venues.

USA 1992; Tom “TG” McEwan took a trip to Nashville, Tennessee: “All over the city were open stages dedicated purely to songwriters.  On my return to Edinburgh, I vowed to do the same”.  There is a saying: ‘from small acorns do great oak trees grow’.

Tom teamed up with Niall McDevitt via the Edinburgh Evening News and in March 93 started Workers in Song in the Gallery Bar (now The Wash) on the Mound.  The idea was simple, songwriters would sign-up on the night to do 15-minute sets and the only rule was “no cover versions”.  Niall left for Eastern Europe in July but Tom kept it going through the summer until the venue grew cool on the idea “some of the songwriters could get a little outrageous (volume, nudity, swearing – the usual stuff)” and Tom turned up one night to find the plug had been pulled. The Tron Tavern and Ceilidh House offered the Tuesday night slot and in early October 1993, Edinburgh Songwriters’ Showcase was born.

In 1994 a joint CD “Gallery” featuring nine of the artists was released on the Deadbeat label.  Tom got a job that kept him out of the country all too frequently and Woodstock Taylor took up the baton in late ’95, running it for almost two years. In this time a six-band CD “it’s a life sentence…” (featuring a fledgling ballboy) was released. Craze took it on until he started Koala Music, releasing albums from five of the regular songwriters. Polly Phillips took up the helm in 1998 and a CD was released in the summer of 1999.  “Writer’s Block” is a fairly definitive collection featuring 21 Tron regulars of that era.  The music night remained in the Tron until the end of 1999 when the new management decided an open mic night didn’t blend with the pub chain’s corporate image.

(Norman Lamont has also written about the ESS – This Next Song … )

A new home at the Cas Rock was found and housed the Edinburgh Songwriters Showcase for six months until that bar too was re-branded… as a salsa theme bar. The Waverley Bar hosted the night until its demise in October, apart from August when a brief truce with The Tron was called for the duration of the Edinburgh Festival.  In December 2000 a special night was organised at Edinburgh College of Art’s Wee Red Bar with five handpicked bands launching what was hoped to be a regular Tuesday night slot.  The night was a great success but the Wee Red Bar priced itself out of the running. So Edinburgh Songwriter’s Showcase died… That’s the bad news.

But, right now the Edinburgh open mic/acoustic scene is very healthy and run by people who are passionate about live music and, of course, they’re great places in which to meet interesting people and see and hear things you would never see or hear elsewhere.  And just maybe you’ll be at a concert at Murrayfield Stadium one day saying “I saw him/her when they were really good. There was this open mic night…”

James Igoe, March 2002

Point of information: I set up the WORKERS IN SONG night single-handedly all those years ago.
About a year into it, Tom began supplying the use of his PA system.
He had nothing to do with the founding of the event.
I’m glad to hear this has evolved into Edinburgh Songwriters’ Showcase.
You can’t beat a good idea.
Niall McDevitt

Posted by: Niall McDevitt | 20 Jun 2007 13:11:17

Apologies for omitting you from the story Niall. I remember your
introduction to my second appearance at The Gallery Bar when I turned
up with my leather jacket, electric guitar and distortion pedal. You
mentioned I’d lost my open mic virginity the week before and you were
right! 🙂

Posted by: James Igoe | 13 Nov 2008 22:07:03


Having Confidence on Stage

Posted 20/12/2008 By admin

Having Confidence on Stage

There are times in life when you will be nervous about performing. That’s just a simple, unchangeable fact of life. There’s nothing you can do about that. What you can do, however, is to think about how you handle the nerves when you are onstage.

One of the biggest points that sets beginners apart from seasoned pros is how they value their material while onstage. It’s all too common to hear someone saying “Sorry, that was rubbish” after a song, or “I don’t know why I’m playing this, its not really finished”. While it may sometimes come across as self-deprecating and humble, more often than not the audience finds themselves thinking “well if its not that good then why are you playing it?” You should try not to apologise for your songs – if you genuinely didn’t think they were any good then you would probably not be going to an open mic night to play them. Have confidence in your work, don’t try to judge it by other people’s standards, just write your very best songs and get them out there for people to enjoy.

There will always be times when you have to play after someone that you really like and respect. Sadly, we very often hear people saying “that last guy was amazing, I could never hope to follow that”. Instead of trying to compare your work to theirs, try to think about how your work differs to theirs, how your individual style can offer the audience something they didn’t get in the previous set. The whole thing can work to your advantage, in fact – if the previous person really did play a great set then they will have warmed up the crowd for you. Use this momentum to make a great start into your songs.

It’s true, there’s a fine line between appearing confident and coming across as just plain cocky. Just remember though, the audience are there to be entertained. They come along to open mic nights to see people play their songs, not apologise for them.

The most important piece of advice anyone can give you is just to have fun. I mean, really, it’s not like you’re pouring out your soul to a room full of strangers or anything…


A List of 100 Download Sites for Unsigned/New Artists

Thanks to DigitalTRAFFIC for this current, active list of 100 top music download sites for unsigned / new artists. They all allow you to create an artist page, bio with your music uploads. Most are free, some require a small one off payment others charge a fee – check the small print on site. Some require label submissions only. Some are social networking websites that allow you to sign up as a band and submit your music.

1. http://www.musicfreedom.com/digitaltraffic/

2. http://www.glasswerk.co.uk

3. http://www.audiostreet.net

4. http://www.imeem.com

5. http://www.ubl.com/artists/digitaltraffic

6. http://www.pumpaudio.com

7. http://www.itunes.com

8. http://altsounds.com/digitalTRAFFIC

9. http://www.zooped.com/digitalTRAFFIC

10. http://www.we7.com

11. http://www.allmusic.com

12. http://www.synthtopia.com

13. http://www.sectionz.com/

14. http://www.indiestore.com/digitaltrafficmusic

15. http://www.soundclick.com/digitaltraffic

16. http://www.freemymusic.com

17. http://www.dmusic.com

18. http://www.artistlaunch.com

19. http://www.acidplanet.com

20. http://www.broadjam.com/digitaltraffic

21. http://www.showcaseyourmusic.com/digitalTRAFFIC

22. http://www.masscharts.com/

23. http://www.britband.com/bands/digitalTRAFFIC

24. http://www.extraplay.com/digitaltraffic

25. http://www.music.com/digitaltraffic

26. http://www.unsigned.com/digitaltraffic

27. http://www.garageband.com/artist/digitaltraffic

28. http://www.ArtistServer.com/digitalTRAFFIC

29. http://www.noisehead.com/mypage/digitaltraffic

30. http://www.mp3.com

31. http://www.arkade.com/digitalTRAFFIC

32. http://www.scotloads.co.uk/artist.php/digitalTRAFFIC/

33. http://www.last.fm/label/digitalTRAFFIC/

34. http://www.amazing-tunes.com/dashboard.aspx?hID=1582

35. http://www.musicane.com/Store/digitalTRAFFIC

36. http://bandmix.co.uk/profile12719.html

37. http://www.numberonemusic.com/digitaltraffic

38. http://www.projectopus.com/digitaltraffic

39. http://www.funender.com/

40. http://www.purevolume.com/digitaltraffic

41. http://bandwagon.co.uk/band/digitalTRAFFIC

42. http://www.isound.com/digitaltraffic

43. http://www.napster.com

44. http://www.tunetribe.com/

45. http://music.yahoo.com/

46. http://www.cd-wow.com/

47. http://www.tiscali.co.uk/music

48. http://www.hmvdigital.com

49. http://www.mycokemusic.com/

50. http://www.eMusic.com

51. http://www.audiolunchbox.com/

52. http://www.bleep.com/

53. http://www.bignoisemusic.com/

54. http://www.sonyconnect.com/

55. http://www.epitonic.com/

56. http://www.virgindigital.co.uk/

57. http://www.songslide.com

58. http://www.artistopia.com/

59. http://magnatune.com/

60. http://www.beatport.com

61. http://www.trig.com

62. http://www.cruxy.com

63. http://www.cdbaby.com

64. http://www.payloadz.com

65. http://www.beatsdigital.com

66. http://www.musicfinity.com

67. http://www.altsounds.com

68. http://www.scotloads.co.uk

69. http://www.mymusicstream.com

70. http://www.unsignedrevolution.com

71. http://www.bleep.com/

72. http://amiestreet.com

73. http://www.mindawn.com

74. http://www.sellaband.com/

75. http://elisteningpost.com

76. http://www.labelsound.com

77. http://www.bandlink.net

78. http://www.icompositions.com

79. http://www.napload.net

80. http://www.musicsubmit.com

81. http://www.loudbeats.com

82. http://www.reverbnation.com

83. http://iacmusic.com

84. http://www.soundsurf.co.uk

85. http://www.motionbeatz.com

86. http://www.blooter.com/

87. http://www.bebo.com

88. http://www.snocap.com

89. http://cdbaby.net/

90. http://www.electrogarden.com

91. http://www.the-muzic.com

92. http://www.musicdock.net

93. http://www.musicgorilla.com/

94. http://www.freewebs.com/digitaltraffic

95. http://www.audiosparx.com

96. http://indimu.com/

97. http://shadowglobe.com/

98. http://www.indie911.com/

99. http://www.music.coca-cola.com/music/digitaltrafficmusic

100. http://www.blastmymusic.com


Read More …

Posted 19/07/2012 By admin

OOTB Presents… Tina Avery

OOTB 483

Thanks so much to those that came along on Saturday night, helped out and played their songs to everyone. Special thanks goes to Jim Bryce, for such excellent compering – and his song about a cat and well, it’s complicated, you know…

Just to mention, both the Listening Room (Blue Blazer, Sundays, 8pm) and The Ale House (Clerk St, Tuesday & Fridays, 9.30pm) which are also excellent open mics and well worth a visit.

You may also want to check out the latest news on the open mic and gig front by going to


This Saturday coming, we have the haunting and memorable songs of Tina Avery. So bring along your songs and your friends, and pin back your ears to hear some fantastic music!

All the best

See you out there!

Nyk Stoddart – OOTB Secretary