deanne oliver-pickard | dj, yoga teacher, connector

From superstar DJ to yogi may seem like a leap, but there are actually some surprising crossovers as our latest BTNer, Deanne Oliver-Pickard, tells us. And that’s not all Deanne’s got cooking either, she also runs retreats and has recently set up a new venture to foster connection among women. Phew! We caught up with Deanne to find out more…

You’re a busy woman! DJing, teaching yoga, running retreats, a new venture, and that’s before we get started on being a mum – where do you find the time? We need your organisational tips!
Haha, it’s a juggle! I love the variety of working on different projects, I’ve never really been one for doing the same thing and I’ve pretty much always worked for myself – so the motivation is always there, if I don’t do it, no-one will. I have a lot of ever-growing lists…

It helps that all of work is fun and enjoyable, but by far my most favourite role is spending time with my wee one. It’s a daily life lesson and just so amazing. 

So what prompted you segue from DJing to yoga?
So, prior to living down here by the sea, I was living in London for 16 years. I love DJing, as music is a massive passion for me and always has been. I found I was going out most nights to play parties, events, then weekends at festivals and was travelling a lot – it’s a very fun diverse life. But a lot of the time, I’d be leaving the house when most people were just having dinner or making plans with friends – it can be the most anti-social sociable role. I like sleep, too, and I wasn’t able to get much of that as I wasn’t one for lying in. I was also about to get married and was hardly getting to see (my now-husband) Barney very much. 

My mum is a yoga teacher and my dad used to be a DJ (I know, I’ve basically merged into my parents!) and I knew inevitably I’d teach one day. I’d practised yoga for years side by side the music and this has always helped me to keep balance in my life. I was in the Middle East playing a gig for Hed Kandi and it just slapped me in the face. My life is like that: I don’t plan that much, I wait for a sign, then I act on it. I returned home, took myself off to India and undertook a wonderful intense yoga training in Ashtanga Vinyasa in Goa with the idea that if I enjoyed it and wanted to share it when I got home, I would – and I haven’t stopped teaching since. 

We love that! On the face of it, those seem like two very different jobs, though – do you find they fit well together?
Life on the yoga mat and under a disco ball are very different but very similar – it’s an energetic thing. I’m holding space in two very different roles, but it’s still about creating an atmosphere and environment for people to move and enjoy themselves. 

For a few years I worked on each as much as the other, then we moved to Brighton and had our little boy Willow, so I was teaching a lot more than the DJing. Lockdown happened and, of course, sadly, the music industry really struggled but I was teaching lots of yoga as we all needed it! It was kind of an enforced break from DJing for me and since everything has re-opened, and music is back (!), I’m now playing lots, but with more passion and appreciation for it. Sometimes it’s good to step away from something, find the spark again and a certain freshness. I find I can carve out a life where I can enjoy both the yoga and the music equally now and I love the balance I’ve created.

Balance is so important! You’ve got another business with your husband, too, haven’t you?
Yes, we built a business of yoga and paddle-boarding called Flow + Paddle. We host wonderful adventure retreats in exciting places around the country [Ed: we’ve been on one and would highly recommend it!], but this summer, we also launched a series of monthly day retreats here in Brighton. They comprise yoga in the Yellowave Clubhouse with views along the beach, paddle-boarding on the sea, wood-fired sauna with our friends at Beach Box, wild swimming, cold plunge pools, followed by dinner at Yellowave (they make a great veggie chilli). For us, it’s all about bringing people together for shared experience and good times. It helps that we’ve also been massively fortunate with the weather! 

We’d love to hear about some of your faves now. Favourite place you’ve played and favourite place you’ve taught/practised yoga (it’s pretty special down by the beach)?
I’ve played in some great places; I love a festival set as they’re just so much fun – probably up there is playing in Croatia. I hosted a boat party and had Horse Meat Disco playing with me – it was a lot of fun sailing out on the Adriatic Sea, good times! 

Teaching-wise, yeah –being outside in the sunshine at the beach is pretty special, but I love teaching on retreats, too, you can’t beat it. We just hosted two sun-drenched retreats in South Devon, they were brilliant and pure magic. Cups filled right up kinda vibe.

Coming back to that new venture we mentioned earlier: you recently started up The Gather, a themed monthly event where women can connect and listen to inspiring speakers – what prompted you to set it up?
Yeah, so I used to go to women’s events all the time in London and had my own platform back in the day called Speak Easy. There is a lot of magic that can happen when women gather to open up, share and support each other. Since moving down here, I found that I was looking for that connection to other women. I have met a lot of great women through teaching yoga but I wanted more, so I decided to create my own. 

The Gather is a monthly meet-up where we enjoy open conversation around a theme. It’s not a panel talk, it’s an inclusive meeting of energy and minds. We sit in the beautiful Gather home of Studio 50 in Hove. I plan a theme and invite some guests who I know either work within that field or have something interesting to share on it. It’s very relaxed – we drink wine (and other drinks), eat chocolates and sit chatting for hours. It’s a lot of fun and the subjects we cover are enjoyable, enlightening and often educational.

What’s been your favourite event so far and what’s coming next?
I only launched it at the start of the year, but honestly, each monthly event has been individual. It’s the passion that is shared between us all and, honestly, just sharing a space with around 30 other women is so powerful.

We’ve covered themes of ‘ritual’, innovate’, or what we thought was more like ‘life pivot’. We had ‘transition’, where we discussed the female cycle from menarche to menopause, and could have literally stayed there for hours! We’ve also had ‘identity’ which was deep and eye-opening and massively educational. 

The next event on Wednesday, 20th July is ‘pleasure’, which has turned a lot of heads. We’ll discuss how we can all enjoy more of life’s pleasures, what pleasure means to us all and how we can all seek and enjoy more joy in life. This is big for me as I live my life by doing things that are mainly always fun! I’m a fun-seeker and believe that we all need more joy in our lives. I have two wonderful guests for this one as well as a special sensory experience for all to enjoy…

We hear you’ve got some retreats and a party planned for this year, too…
You hear right! I’m hosting a party on Saturday, 10th September. We’re taking over Studio 50 and their new space next door – it’s currently a greasy car garage but come September, it’ll be filled with disco balls, a Margarita cocktail van by Mama’s Cocktail Bar [Ed: they make some of the best Margaritas out there], a pizza truck and a lot of ladies! The party is from 7 – 11pm and, of course, we’ll have amazing female DJs playing, cocktails and excellent vibes! All are welcome. It’s a place for women to connect with other women, dance, have great conversations and a jolly good time! 

I’m also about to launch details of a women’s retreat in a wonderful location in Cornwall [Ed: the gorgeous Cabilla]. I’m beyond excited, as it’s going to be very special indeed. The retreat is 6th – 9th October and will be four life-enhancing days of yoga, meditation, breath work, sound meditation, incredible plant-based food, hiking in nature, wild swimming, open conversation, great sleep, rest, connection and more. 

Also, bringing the summer to a close – and if four days away is too much to commit to – I’m hosting a women’s day retreat in Sussex at the lovely Inner Bloom out in the heart of the South Downs on Sunday, 30th October. It’s all of the above but in one day and without the sleep!

You and your DJ alter ego, Blonde Ambition know a thing or two about having a great time, where are your favourite hang-outs in the city?
Ah, well, I still feel new in this city, as since moving here I’ve been learning to be a new mum and then we had life locked down… I’ve spent most of my time in the wonderful parks or at the beach (my second home), as I try to swim daily, but I’m most pleased that Brighton Beach House is here. I’m playing a lot of music down there at the moment. There is no place like it for great vibes, great location, great cocktails (or mocktails as I’m recently alcohol-free) and the perfect beachside location.

And your tune for the summer?
It’s gotta be ‘Witchoo’ by Durand Jones & The Indications.

Great pick – all of the summer vibes! And where do you live in Brighton and why?
I live in Fiveways and love it. Mainly for the community, it’s like a little village but close to the hustle of the city. I spend a lot of time in Blakers and love ‘Pesto Park’ as my little boy calls Preston Park! I’d like to be closer to the sea as I’m there so much but it’s eight minutes on my bike and that I can’t grumble too much about. I feel very lucky to be here and for all of the wonderful people that I’ve connected with since being a Brightonian. September will mark four glorious years! 

And finally, can you describe your perfect day in the city?
I can indeed! It starts with yoga with my amazing teacher Calli, then in this heat, it’s an iced oat coffee from Flour Pot and a trip down to the beach. Sea swims and sandcastle-building with Willow, lunch at the beach as I love a picnic, then onto Brighton Beach House for dancing with friends. Every base covered there!

Told you she was a busy woman! You can find out more about Deanne and everything she’s up to at the links below:
The Gather
Flow and Paddle