We would like to take the opportunity to present our members for the IAEJ community of journalists and photographers during these trying times of a global pandemic. Next to go is one of our journalist members from the UK: Lulu Kyriacou
Questions & Answers
Q: Where exactly are you based?
A: I have lived in Newmarket, for the last ten years or so. It is a small town about an hour from London and famously the home of horse racing. There are at least five thousand horses here in training plus stud farms. If you don’t like horses, it is probably best to live elsewhere!!
Q: Do you live with any partners, family and/or pets?
A: No, I live on my own, which, when I am doing a lot of journalism, is an advantage, as I can change plans quickly.
Q: Do you work independently or are you affiliated with a particular news organization?
A: I have been a freelancer, pretty much since I started although I have had a couple of long term contracts.
Q: How long have you been an equestrian journalist?
A: Since 2003 mostly part time.
Q: What was your path to becoming an equestrian journalist?
A: I grew up in a Brixton (poor area in London) basement flat, with six of us sharing two rooms and no bathroom without a horse in sight, so how I became horse mad, I do not know!
I was very good at writing at school but I had no proper training except when I worked for my sister for a bit, she is a very high powered PR. I had always worked with horses despite being born and raised in Brixton in London and I was a freelance groom working mainly in eventing, but I was also a Listed dressage judge at the time, and a qualified instructor who had also competed a lot at one point but a bad accident (traffic not horses) stopped me seriously riding myself. It was while I was recovering from that, I helped my sister in her office. Not a horse in sight but she knows about the media, it was a crash course in learning about press and PR.
So, one day I was reading a little known (at the time) website, and they had featured a horse I liked so I emailed them to say how much I had liked it. The editor, Hilary Manners, emailed me back and we got talking and she, when she discovered I was about to go to Badminton with a horse, asked if I would write a piece about grooming. So I did and that went well, so i started doing some show reports and one thing led to another until I was doing more writing than grooming. Hilary asked if could do some photos as well, so I bought a camera and sucked up to all the photo guys at shows to learn how to use it!!
Q: What sports and types of competition do you cover?
A: To be honest, I love horse sport, I will do anything but I was really green about international horse sport! I have to thank a few people for taking chances on me, when I embarked on this career change. Big kudos to Robin Marshall at Horse Talk, Pam Young and Kathy Carter especially.
Q: What new skills did you pick up during quarantine? How has the Covid-19 pandemic effected your life?
A: As far as writing goes, Covid 19 has not affected much. In 2019, after Badminton, I had come to an amiable conclusion to five years, editing the English language version of Grand Prix, mainly because I was a bit burnt out. By that point, despite writing daily content about ordinary happenings, my reputation for not being afraid to take on any story was making my life a bit difficult. Vincent and Sebastien at Grand Prix always gave me full support, but I was tired of writing about the next equestrian scandal. It was not what I had envisioned when I started. Several of those stories involved welfare issues and I do not regret writing any of them, most of which did result in either rule changes or sanctions on those responsible, but I was getting to the point where I dreaded opening my messages in case it was either another threat or another story tip off. Some of the press offices at shows were getting difficult with me, in case I wrote something they did not care for I suppose, but one thing that Hilary Manners and Pam Young taught me was that if it happens, as a journalist, it is your duty to stick to the facts and report those.
So my plan, after Grand Prix, was to take six months off, take a complete break and then see if I could start again in 2020…. That, as you can imagine, did not go as I had hoped! I have missed going to shows, massively. Many of the grooms and riders, as well as the press are real friends.
Q: What’s your all-time favourite moment in equestrian sport?
A: That is a really hard question!! Any British win! Those aside , when friends do well. Kevin Staut, winning at Windsor, i met him at Budapest when he was not even in the top 50 and he was so helpful answering my dumb questions for the article i was doing at the time, we kept in touch, so I was thrilled for him. Kitty King being best of the Brits at Blair Europeans, Francis Whittington winning at Blenheim.
Q: Talk about your most memorable adventure while covering equestrian sport.
A: Well, I have had a few. Going to a big championship is always an adventure, so is getting stuck at airports when flights are cancelled but I think the biggest one for me was going to Rio for the GCT, the first time I went. We were all staying at the The Copacabana Palace which is a legendary hotel, where all the best people stay. TAP Airlines had flown most of the riders and staff in (I was the press officer for the Tour at the time) and managed to lose a large amount of luggage. There I was, in this fabulous hotel in jeans and a t-shirt! My luggage took three days to arrive, but I was in good company looking like a tramp!
Q: What is your favourite competition venue and why?
A: Another hard question! Badminton because Julian Seaman and team cannot do enough for you. Geneva for the same reason, For sheer enthusiasm for sport, Budapest, indoor and outdoor versions. Major championships are too much like hard work!!
Q: What is the last book / latest streamed series / favourite podcast you read / watched /enjoyed?
A: I am going to lose any credibility I might have had, but I love Ru Pauls Drag race although I don’t watch much tv if it is not a sport. My last book was called Saving the Mona Lisa about how the treasures of the Louvre were saved during the war. Fascinating, I love the Louvre. I love going to live sport, especially football and horse racing.
Q: Who inspires you?
A: As far as journalists go, I would have to say Pippa Cuckson. She is not afraid to say what needs to be said. For the rest, I admire anyone who does a job really well.
Q: How do you spend your time when you’re not working?
A: Right now, I have had to go back to grooming to earn some money, so less free time, but usually I love art so you will often find me in a gallery of a museum. I am also an amateur magician, so I am often studying effects for that. I like walking, especially round London, which is the place I most love being in.
Q: What is some of your work of which you’re the proudest of?
A: I wrote an article for Horse International about FEI sport in Eastern Europe that ended up being translated to several languages and prompted an FEI World Cup Rule change so that was a good one, then there was this one for Horse Talk (https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/news/2010/10/126.shtml) which really got the blood debate going and together with the work of Pippa Cuckson got more rule changes and clarifications in the pipeline. Since then, all the work I did on Grand Prix where we broke a few big stories. As far as my press jobs go, I was very proud of what I did for the Global Champions Tour as their press officer, we really raised the profile of it in places where it did not normally go and I met some excellent journalists and photographers through those press offices that I would not have met otherwise.