The Observer Mag - August 2011

The Great Escape

What happens when you
liberate a singer from the confines
of the city and release her
into the wild?



Niomi McLean-Daley, better known as the double Brit award- and three-time Mobo award-winning artist Ms Dynamite, may have grown up in north west London, but she takes the helm of a narrowboat in the gentle Oxford countryside like a natural.

“ I guess people assume that because I grew up in Camden, I’d have no idea what to do with myself outside an urban environment. My mum was strict when I was a kid, so we weren’t allowed out too much, but my dad lived in Sussex. We’d spend holidays running amok in the fields and woods. It was quite exciting: my dad would come to get us and we’d wonder where we were off to because he moved around a lot –
it seemed like such an adventure lay ahead.”

She clambers on to the roof of the boat in her 5in heels with such ease it’s a little disconcerting. “I’ve never been on one of these before,” she says. “I’ve seen them at Camden canal but never really thought you could just hire
one for a day.” She takes the helm and steers us , only needing a little help when we reach a drawbridge. She says her son, Shavaar, has just turned eight and she’s relieved that he is not the type who is glued to the TV: “If he could live in the garden, he would. As long as he’s got a football, food and water, he’d be fine. He’d absolutely love to be on a boat like this. I’m going to have to bring him on a day trip.” Talking about how she comes up with her
lyrics, she sa ys: “Maybe I’m turning into a bit of a hippy , but I believe it’s important to be at one with nature – it grounds and inspires me. I don’t know who I’d be if I hadn’t had those childhood escapes .”