Gibraltar-born Kirsty Almeida is an international singer and award-winning songwriter best known for her eclectic mix of musical styles in world folk music. After enjoying huge success in the music world, Kirsty set her sights on another dream and co-founded The Wonder Inn in 2014. The much loved not-for-profit creative wellness centre is based in a renovated 1810 Grade II-listed building on Shudehill near Manchester’s Northern Quarter and aims to ‘raise the vibrations of its local community through creative and conscious events.’
Kirsty and her team consistently source Manchester firsts in creative events, including the London-born fitness movement VOGA and Japanese flower arranging to alcohol-free morning raves. The centre has also has been one of the venues chosen for the Manchester International Festival. The Wonder Inn is home to an organic, vegan café and a lively bar which hosts regular musical events from across the artistic spectrum.
What got you started in your field of work?
I travelled as a singer and songwriter for many years and kept a little book with me where I wrote down ideas of what amazing offerings venues around the world made to artists – a hot cup of coffee on arrival, a healthy home cooked meal, a beautifully decorated stage, fresh flowers, incense, any little special touches. I wrote them down in my book in the hope that one day all those special touches would come together in a venue in my lifetime. Then, when I was pregnant, I needed to create a community for my child that I could feel part of. A family friendly venue. I went through a lot of grief after my child was born, from a break up, a lack of family, and a broken body from a very traumatic birth. So, somehow through my journey of healing my grief I was able to see what other people might need too.
Who have been the biggest influences on your work?
Mari Oda, a Japanese ceramist who began the project with me, and the people around me who have helped to create the venue. Each member of the team who have joined me to create my vision along the way has been incredibly important.
What is your proudest achievement so far?
Creating a venue from next to nothing. Having a baby and drowning in grief to building a project and roots in my own wellness at the same time. Venue wise, I loved hosting the Manchester International Festival. That was a little dream for me.
What does your typical day involve?
I usually get up around 5am so I can clear the house from the night before, clear some of my emails and listen to something inspirational to start my day right. I’m beginning to add yoga to that too. Just ten minutes but, still, ten minutes. Then I feed my child in the morning and drink my tea and cuddle him lots. I get him dressed whilst catching up on more emails, trying to send back all the tennis balls – which is how I see it. Ray and I head into town where he then gets picked up and I go straight into back to back meetings, after which there’s usually an area at The Wonder Inn that needs setting up for an event. Twice a week I go to therapy, one for trauma and one with Bob my psychotherapist. Ray comes back and we go home, I make sure I have some quality time with him before dinner, bath and reading his stories. Then I work really hard for a couple of hours and listen to an audio book before bed.
And how do you relax on your days off?
I walk in nature. I love walking. I love it so so so much. I read. I listen to audio books. I paint. I play my guitar. I sing.
What is the best advice you have been given or can give?
We are usually more afraid of success than we are of failure. I’ve been given so much incredible advice through my life. Here are a few of my favourites. Creativity is all around you, you just need to get out of the way so you can become a channel for it. If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain (Maya Angelou).
If things hadn’t worked out, what else could you have seen yourself doing?
I am totally unemployable. I am an artist right through. I can’t imagine doing anything else at all. It’s just not possible. But if I really had to squint my eyes and think really really hard, maybe I’d be an art teacher. Nah, I’d be sacked within no time. Hmmm, a florist then. I have a wee dream about having a tiny florist filled with magic and room sprays and chocolates.
Tell us one thing about yourself people might be surprised to hear
I’ve not had a television or radio since 2004 and I refuse to read any newspaper or magazine that isn’t totally independent. I choose my news. I also like to plant gardens in the moonlight, I moonbathe. I feel like I get very special magical energy from the moon, just like the sun.
Red or Blue?
Name your three favourite places in Manchester
Heaton Park, the cherry blossom tree park in Old Trafford and Unicorn in Chorlton.
If you could change one thing about Manchester, what would it be?
And finally, what do you love most about Manchester?
The freedom to create.