Swirl Wine Group is the fruit of collaboration between a small, dedicated band of freelancers who we are greatly missing in lockdown. Call it an excuse to catch up – but we wanted to shine a light on the little team who’re keeping Swirl moving in these straitened circumstances.

If you’ve been to any of Swirl’s events, it’s likely that you’ve seen Niki Shefras somewhere in the background. A true woman-behind-the-curtain, Niki keeps the team on the straight and narrow – ignore her deadlines at your peril! Niki runs her consultancy, Nth Degree Consultancy, from her home in the heart of Sussex wine country.

Sum up your lockdown in five words

Zoom, MacBook Air, Kundalini yoga, fire, nature.

Apart from the obvious, what’s been the biggest change for you work-wise during lockdown?

Whist we have been talking about launching a digital offering prior to the onset of Covid-19, we had to create and deliver one with stratospheric swiftness, and have had to be agile in creating new ways to deliver ongoing value for our clients.  It has been great to work from home, hear the birds singing and catch up via Zoom calls with the team.

On a personal level, the whole situation has made me even more conscious about how I consume, how I consume on every level; from what I eat, drink, think, read, and watch, to who I spend my time with and how I spend it.  It has made me even more aware of not wishing to waste a single second of this beautiful life!

COVID-19 has obviously had a massive impact on both the on- and off-trade drinks industries, but Swirl has worked hard to keep our brand personality and tone intact. What other drinks brands/ companies do you think have nailed it?

I have long been a fan of immersive experiences and brands such as Secret Cinema. They’re an events-based business, so with the onset of the lockdown they launched “Secret Sofa”, creating a ‘take-away’ version of their magical live events. Secret Sofa comes complete with menu recommendations, playlists and even costume ideas. Through their digital event offering and a private Facebook group, they have found a brilliant way to engage with their audience, establish a sense of community, and bring the personality and voice of the brand cleverly into people’s homes. All whilst imparting a sense of fun and escape from within four walls. Very impressive.

The launch of Swirl in the Cloud has allowed us to keep our community (and our clients’) engaged when we can’t host them in real life? What are you doing to connect with your community?

I am very fortunate to be surrounded by beautiful countryside and quickly realised that some of my friends and colleagues from around the world are not so fortunate. I have been hosting Fire Ceremonies in my garden, giving people a chance to connect to nature and the elements and come together in a unique way to share their experiences. It has been really special and we have examined various themes during these moments, including what it feels like to be in this strange, liminal space – this time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next’, this place of transition that we are currently traversing.

Everyone is super focussed on what they’ll do when lockdown is fully lifted. But what will you miss when ‘real life’ resumes?

The pollution free skies, the clean, quality of the air, the sound of nature in its purity without human noise.  The fact that whilst we humans are on this “pause” Mother Nature is celebrating, singing and regenerating – that for me that should continue to be cultivated.  One of man’s biggest sins would be to go back to “business as usual” after this and to ignore this opportunity to change our mindset from a consumer to a restorer culture.

But of course, we also what to know the first thing you’ll do when lockdown ends!

Go and visit my parents and give them a big hug!!!

Where do you check in for your essential content? 

I find mainstream media to be rather monotone and not particularly helpful – especially at the moment, so I only glimpse at the main news via a daily news brief. I have also been tuning into the content on various digital freedom platforms and content that the main social media sites are banning in order to get a more balanced view of what is going on. However, I mostly prioritise content which expands my mind.

What does your daily drinks routine look like? 

Herbal infusions with herbs from the garden, water with essential oils, Yogi tea, and my own private ceremonies with Ceremonial Grade Cacao on the weekend! I am really enjoying the ceremony, ritual, connection and insights that I get with the plant medicine.