EDITORâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S LETTER The Difference issue is our first issue of the 2017-18 academic year. It explores occasions where our world has created divides in politics, society and health through difference. We are also looking at individuals who are thriving through their difference and setting an example by embracing and celebrating ethnicity, creativity, opinion or religion. Our cover represents the celebration of difference, metaphorically just like a stamp collector celebrates the differences between his stamps. Because how boring would a stamp collection be if every stamp were the same? In the Spanish region of Catalonia, crucial differences have led to a controversial referendum and a political crisis, dividing Spain in two. Jesus Barrera examines the background of current demonstrations and police aggression, whilst Elsa Barb visits the small town of Aiguaviva in north-eastern Catalonia to talk to the residents, who were badly affected by police brutality on October 1st. Dan Marino interviews professional footballer George Moncur, who is also a devout and practising Christian and talks about what happens when religion and sports collide. While the mental health sector is going through a financial crisis, Charlotte Layton speaks about how this is affecting patients and the way they are cared for. She and others share their experiences of being detained under the Mental Health Act and losing all sense of self and control over your own body. Difference within society means diversity, and London is one of those cities whose identity lies within the diversity of its inhabitants. Just a look at our newsroom shows that we are from many different cultures and ethnicities, we speak different languages, have different sexualities, no two of us are alike. Still discrimination is by no means an old issue. Anjuman Rahman tackles the issue of racism and talks about being south asian, muslim and gay. In the face of challenging times like these a common reaction is to reject and hide differences, when in truth what matters most is to discuss and celebrate them. And it is through the exploration of those differences that we also realise that we have far more in common than it would first appear. This magazine was produced in the Journalism and Publishing department of London College of Communication (part of University of the Arts London). The environment this magazine was created in, is one where individuality and identity are valued, and that do not exist without difference. Difference is also represented by Artefacts change of format. We have condensed the magazine into a handy, portable A4 size. It would be great to have your feedbackâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;mail us on email@example.com.
CONTRIBUTORS Magazine Tayo Andoh, Recka Begum, Valentina Bulava, Molly Burgess, Zaynah Butt, Andra-Maria Ciupitu, Connor Davidson, Rachel Garner, Elizabeth Gillings, Jamie Hilferty, Edena Klimenti, Apai-Ketuya Marchant, Zoe Mundell. Isabel Ramirez Cintron, Luisa Rossi, Josephine Schulte, Aino Silvennoinen, Emilia Slupecka, Danyang Zheng Social media Danielle Anastasi, Charisse Chikwiri, Josie Collins, Valentina Curci, Elana Dickson, Anna Dolgova Omima Elmattawaa, Charlotte Layton, Shannon Lyford, Danielle Mayall, Elyse O’Donnell, Diana Orfani, Phoebe Robinson, Alysha Shariff, Michael Ukaegbu, James Underdown, Antoinette Wentworth-Smith Website Jesus Barrera Rodriguez, Fiona Berbatovci, Natalia Faisal, Christopher Forsythe, Jennifer Freitas de Castro, Teresa Gottein Bartosz Kielak, Denieka Lafayette, Daniel Marino, Carla Mbappe, Virginia Pettitt, Anjuman Rahman, Alba Regidor Diaz, Elsa Sanchez Barbera, Defne Saricetin, Pavel Troughton, Alexandra Vislyaeva, Phali-Tavia Wakadima, Flavia Wright Tutors Simon Hinde
Website artefactmagazine.com Facebook artefactmagazine Twitter @artefactlcc Instagram @artefactmag
CONTENTS 04 The tattoo trend Zoe Mundell 05 Why are South Koreans so bent on having white skin? Rachel Garner
38 The vougue for face-lifting in asia Danyang Zheng 43 Freedom of the fro Ginny Pettitt
06 South Asian, Muslim & gay: a triple terror threat Anjuman Rahman
46 Should models work for free? Valentina Bulava
08 Can the living talk to the dead? Tayo Andoh
50 What’s the future for radio 1 Pavel Troughton
10 Fighting the opioid epidenic Josephine Schulte 12 Oh, Theresa May! James Underdown 14 Not just a country of drug-runners Alba Regidor Diaz 18 What it’s like to be sectioned Charlotte Layton 24 The art of the wheel Natalia Faisal 26 Cocaine in the kitchen Dan Marino 28 Instagram, anorexia, and anxiety Luisa Rossi 30 I was born bad Andra-Maria Ciupitu 34 No lost generation Defne Saricetin
54 The pain in Spain Jesus Barrera Rodriguez 58 The mysteries of Albania Valentina Curci 64 Small town, big heroes Elsa Barbera 72 Is there a gun culture in the UK? Edena Klimenti 74 Faith and football Dan Marino 76 The rise of the milking robots Sara Silvenoinnen 78 Is cash becoming obsolete Jamie Hillferty 82 Is the fox becoming a hunter? Apao-Ketuya Marchant
“All of your rights are taken from you as soon as you’re admitted to hospital”
Feedback firstname.lastname@example.org Art Direction & Design Oswin Tickler, Smallfury
Published by London College of Communication, London SE1 6SB 3
The tattoo trend How body art became a fashion statement
The Spring/Summer 2018 (SS18) fashion season saw the integration of tattooed models on the runways more than ever before. From the likes of Alexander Wang and Coach, designers are casting models with tattoos and using them to emphasise their original collections. Jamie Bochert was cast for Marc Jacobs SS18 show and strutted the runway in a backless dress, showcasing her fanned-out snake, skeleton tattoo which slithered down her entire spine. Slick Woods was a tattooed model to feature in the Spring/Summer 2018 shows, walking for Helmut Lang, displaying her rifle tattoo across the centre of her chest, alongside several tattoos running down her arm. The presence of tattoos in fashion has been on the rise for almost 30 years. Martin Margiela was the first to be inspired by ink with his tribal motif designs in his 1989 Spring collection. This was followed by Jean Paul Gaultier’s Les Tatouages 1994 Spring collection which also featured tattooed skin prints. Gaultier’s next collection featuring tattoos debuted in 2008. His designs incorporated traditional Japanese-style tattoo prints. The next big appearance on the runway came from Chanel in 2010 with the creation of their own temporary tattoos. Pearl-beaded designs with their iconic logo were stamped on the thighs and wrists of the models walking for their Spring/ Summer runway show. Some designers did the same including Gucci, who was recognised for covering famous model Loren’s entire body in temporary tattoos. Since then the growth of tattooed models has only popularised and has begun to seep into high street fashion. Ivan Pulido, 36, a heavily tattooed model signed with two London agencies, Ripped Models and We Got Pop, has been to many castings and has been cast for various jobs, which he feels is partly due to the interest of his unique body ink; from modelling for fitness brands to small fashion labels. He believes that “as tattoos become more popular and common to the eye then it’s naturally accepted.” It seems that, within the fashion industry at least, tattooed models are no longer a taboo. However, the stigma attached to tattoos, is still very much alive, according to Ivan who says: “I get offered a lot of stereotype roles for gang leaders, including one for an English TV series, Silent Witness. 4
However I lost the role to Zombie Boy.” Zombie Boy, originally named Rick Genest became eminent within the fashion industry, notorious for being covered in tattoos head to toe. Zombie Boy loved tattoos from a young age and decided to get his first at the age of 16. Today his collection of tattoos includes cobwebs, bugs, skeleton bones and a skull face; as well as a zombie-like brain at the top of his head. It wasn’t long before the press began to notice his unique look. And in 2011 fashion director Formichetti discovered and exploited Genest. This heavily influenced and aided the inclusion of tattooed models. Genest first publiclly appeared in a big way in the industry walking for Theirry Mugler’s Autumn/ Winter collection on the catwalk; as well as being the face of their website. Since, Zombie Boy has worked alongside Lady Gaga in her ‘Born this way’ video and has appeared in magazines such as Vogue and GQ style. The inclusion of tattoos within mainstream and high-end fashion brands has undoubtedly helped change perceptions of tattoos and the stigmas attached to them. It has been supported and pushed forward by celebrity figures such as Cara Delevigne, Kate Moss’s predecessor, who has proudly splashed her ink across social media for the world to see- from the iconic lion’s face on her finger to the calligraphy on her wrist. This change has not leaked through to all industries, unfortunately, but the once negative connotations associated with tattoos have
Words: Zoe Mundell Image: Taylor Herring and Rick Genest
certainly minimalised and with more and more people getting tattoos every year, it certainly won’t be long before is becomes the norm. Just like fashion, the tattoo industry has formed its own platform in which trend forecasts are being made by leading publications and blogs including ASOS blog and MTV News who have predicted trends such as delicate botanical styles and wrist tattoos for 2017. Ivan has also recently become a tattoo apprentice for West London Ink Tattoo Studio and has noticed the trends forming within the industry. ‘Back in the 90’s when I got my first tattoo, tribal was very popular. Now, girls are getting lots of mandala pieces, it’s the new tribal-way more artistic; as well as styles such as dot work’ he explains. Although it appears millennials have generated a new platform which has altered the way in which tattoos are perceived, Pulido believes there is a downside to this which is causing the tattoo industry to ‘lose its authenticity and essence.’ He explains, ‘People are coming in and bringing the same design as someone else. It is not very artistic to copy someone else’s design.’ Tattoos, like fashion, have always been an expression of art and individuality, to tell a story or experience, something which is personal and to remember history. Regardless of how you feel, the normalization of tattoos in society and the continuing tattoo trends within pop-culture looks as though tattoos are here to stay permanently. b
Words: Rachel Garner
Is white really beautiful? How fair skin is becoming the ideal in South Korea
It is thirty degrees outside in sunny Seoul, humidity is at a sweltering eighty percent—and there are scores of people walking around in long-sleeved shirts. Despite the lack of rain, groups of young women carry colourful umbrellas, shading themselves from the sun. The elderly are sporting extravagant visors on their heads, ensuring not an inch of sunlight reaches their faces. Every possible measure is being taken to avoid the sun, to avoid the risk of tanning. While most of the Western world have embraced the idea of bronzing their skin—most South Koreans are utterly convinced that having fair, pale skin is the only way to look beautiful. Both historically and universally, having tan skin was once a telling factor in being of a lower class. Those with darkened skin had spent hours working outside under the sun, completing physical labour to earn their way. On the other hand, those with fair skin were those who could afford the luxury of not having to work outside, and because of their subsequent milky complexion—radiated wealth and status. When the nineteenth century rolled around, and with it the industrial revolution, the western world did a three-sixty. The lower class began to work inside factories, and as result of the lack of sunshine developed pale complexions. Those with money started to travel abroad, returning home with darker, glowing complexions and a new-found admiration for golden skin tones. Pale skin was largely no longer favourable, nor in most cases particularly desirable. In the East, however, fair skin was—and remains still—a sign of wealth and beauty. The craze for pale skin in South Korea specifically has become somewhat of an obsession, with a large percentage of the population even turning to skin whitening products and procedures to achieve their ideal porcelain skin colour. Known as the plastic surgery capital of the world—skin lightening has become one of Korea’s most common procedures. Dr. Chris Lim of the ME Cosmetic Clinic in Seoul says; “Our most popular procedure is the glutathione injection, which people often call the ‘Beyoncé injection’.” Glutathione is a substance used to impede the process of pigmentation, in effect, lightening the skin. “A lot of middle-dark skin Asian patients want to
have a brighter skin tone.” He went on to explain the possible downsides of the injection. “While we’ve been doing this procedure for around five or six years now with zero reports of negative side effects, taking glutathione long-term has been linked to lower zinc levels. Inhaling glutathione may also trigger asthma attacks in people who have asthma. We don’t accept patients with asthma or any kind of pulmonary issues.” The popularity of the injection, the high usage of skin whitening products, and the efforts taken by the general population to prevent natural tanning leaves one question—why are South Koreans still so bent on keeping their skin white?
“I think it’s a cultural thing.” Dr. Lim explains, “The standard of beauty in middle Asia is ‘white skin’. Actors and actresses shown on TV all have white skin tones, and this really contributes to our standard of beauty.” Eighteen-year-old student Suyeon gave a similar opinion. “Some people feel pressured because of the media, but it’s not only because of idols, and models, and so on.” She spoke, thoughtfully. “For most Koreans, our criteria of beauty is simply ‘being white’. Some Koreans think white people are better than us and darker people are not. It’s quite silly. However, truthfully, I want to be whiter too. I think being whiter would make me look so much better.” The South Korean media industry undoubtedly presents to the public, intentionally or not, that pale skin is desirable. The K-Pop industry, perhaps the largest and most influential, is saturated with fair skinned beauties—who in several cases are banned from tanning by their entertainment companies. Members of these
groups often publicly tease their darker skinned members. It’s not unheard of for some celebrities to have undertaken skin bleaching procedures, either. Dr. Lim agreed; “Celebrities definitely have an influence. Many patients ask us to make them look like one of the celebrities. They’ll bring a photo of their favourite celebrity to make their face look exactly like them.” Twenty-six-year-old post-graduate Kim Gonju shared the same view. “Because most celebrities in Korea have white skin, especially idols and actresses, the public envy them. There’s one celebrity here called IU. When she first came out, she wasn’t very fair skinned. Now, she became far whiter. I don’t know how, probably a dermatological treatment. After that happened, hospitals even started naming whitening procedures after her.” Well known across the nation for her radiant beauty, he continued by explaining the influence that she’d had by her actions. “They hit the jackpot. Every girl wanted to look like her.” Celebrities and the media aren’t the only ones encouraging the idea that ‘only fair skin is beautiful’, however. It is common for South Korean beauty products to contain a subtle whitening aspect. Popular photo applications include filters that lighten the skin. Girls can often be seen wearing foundation shades lighter than they are. Being compared to snow is considered a compliment. Gonju spoke about his skincare routine. “While I use sunblock, I don’t take any drastic measures to keep my skin from darkening. The funny thing is, my mom bought a pack of whitening face masks yesterday and I’m going to use them as well. I’ve never actually used a whitening product before, but my mom, my sister, and my girlfriend all use them.” “Most women prefer white skin; Korean women especially love that kind of stuff.” 24-year-old Song Kipeum agreed. “It just seems purer.” Student Ohui Hyun spoke similar words. “I don’t necessarily think that white skin is portrayed as better, but in television and advertisements— all the actresses are, for sure, white. I think it just looks a bit tidier and more intelligent.” While tan skin is slowly becoming more accepted as beautiful, for now— fair skin remains, the ideal of beauty in South Korea. b 5
South Asian, Muslim & gay: a triple threat? LGBT members in the Muslim community are experiencing increased discrimination
Words: Anjuman Rahman
Discrimination manifests itself in numerous and varied ways—racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, sexism, etc. And though it’s the most colourful community to the eyes of the world, the persistence of it also lurks amongst the mainstream LGBT community when it comes to Muslims, queers and ethnic minorities. There’s a minority within a minority constituting a marginalised group into further subgroups of their own community. Already ostracised within their religious communities, many are also exiled from their homes because of internalised racism. Therefore, the one place they rightfully feel the most comfort in should be their safe space—the LGBT community where people share and advocate the same values and not judged by their identity. The ‘typical white, masculine and built’ has become a stereotype in the LGBT community, therefore it is inevitably becoming a victim of all of intolerance and prejudice. And for those who belong to more than one minority group, such as South Asians, Muslims and gays, this threat is multiplied. The Brexit referendum and American election proved to have many ramifications. There was an upsurge of hate crimes, 42 per cent to be more precise. Following the suicide attack at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester there was an increase of anti-Muslim hatred. Similarly, a ‘fivefold increase in Islamophobia attacks’ after the London Bridge attack was recorded by the Mayor of London’s office. The attacks against the LGBT community have rocketed by 80 per cent in the last four years. Moreover, recent reports, that the US had voted against the UN motion to ban the death penalty for homosexuality, are a stark reminder that homophobia is only intensifying despite legislation in favour of the LGBT community. It’s a repercussion 28-year-old Yusuf Tamanna endures regularly. As a music and culture journalist, Yusuf regularly writes about LGBT rights for brown Muslims and South Asian gays. He also volunteers for Stonewall (a campaign for the equality of LGBT in Britain). Today he tries educating the LGBT society about them and he is speaking out on Islamophobia within the gay community. He and his sister get looks, stares and comments from everybody. “After the Westminster
aspects of Islam dictated in the Quran are being compassionate, understanding and being respectful of one another. He declares, “It’s a case of practicing what you preach, trying to navigate with nature, having a good balance with work, family, your social life and doing the best you can. I am doing the best I can as a human being regardless of my sexual orientation.” The circumstances get more toxic as news of someone’s sexuality is shared across the Asian society where neighbourhoods are known to be culturally very close-knitted. It becomes a very fast game of Chinese whispers and it can get nasty as reactions aren’t very supportive. Growing up as a British Pakistani, Yusuf has lived through this predicament and following advice from his sister, concealing his full identity by not being visibly gay. These habits add an immense pressure forcing ‘closeted’ gays to carry a burden in continuing hiding their identity, which often results in self-destructive behaviour, low self-esteem and depression. There’s an unspoken agreement amongst members of the Asian dominated areas not to address such explicit issues. Nominated for the National Diversity Award and appearing on the Rainbow List 2015, Khakan Qureshi has a solution in making a difference to the old-fashioned attitudes within the religion. “Going to a mosque or temple is much more challenging, LGBT individuals are being thrown out when they’re trying to share information as they’re refusing to acknowledge such individuals exists in the South Asian community”. He emphasises that powerful institutions should work with all aspects of diverse communities and operating on a more active approach to clear the insensitivity towards the issue. He believes, ultimately, it is the younger generation who can break the taboo and stigma surrounding the topic of LGBT with the Asian community as they are the voice and vision of the future. Evidently, we are living in a world where gay people are still seen and treated as the ‘others’. For the following generations to be more united and harmonious, we need to learn to fight internalised racism which exists in many communities. The LGBT society should be welcomed wholeheartedly—whatever their race, religion and ethnicity. This is the next step forward. b
attack and the London bridge attack, even the 7/7 bombings, I got called everything under the sun” he says. “I have experienced discrimination from white, gay men just purely based on Islamophobia ideas. They’ll say ridiculous things like ‘Your family’s religion throws gays off buildings!’ and ‘oh, aren’t all Muslims terrorists?’” Similarly, Khakan Qureshi, 56, founder of the first South Asians LGBT group in Birmingham, has also been subject to racist slander. He experienced a form of prejudice and discriminations amongst the LGBT community. “Since the 9/11 in particular things have worsened for those who identify themselves as Muslim LGBT.”
Aware of the bigotry against South Asian gays, he took the duty upon himself as an influencer in the LGBT community to establish ‘Finding A Voice’—a platform to empower the gay and lesbian people of South Asian origin. Questioned regarding their identity daily, a frequent and criticised factor is the validity of being both gay and Muslim. An automatic response is to expel them and rip them off their religion. Yusuf states he does not consider himself a practising Muslim. “I identify myself as a Muslim not because I want to, but I’m always going to be a Muslim, my name is Yusuf. I’m always going to be identifiable as a Muslim when I go to the airport, I’ll be stopped and searched more than anyone else. When I’m talking to other gays, they’ll be like ‘Ooh. But your religion—it really hates gays.’ Khakan Qureshi describes his position in his faith in which he acknowledges himself as a ‘spiritual one’ and believes he can reconcile his faith with his sexual orientation. Growing up, he observed Muslims who profess to be devout and practicing but breach many regulations of Islam by drinking, smoking, eating pork etc. He explains the most important
Nollywood meets Hollywood How different continents’ film industries are coming together
Niyi Towolawi is an award-winning British and Nigerian film-maker whose work merges Hollywood and Nollywood platforms together to create ‘mixed’ and ‘multicultural’ film content. Mostly, British and Hollywood films have been at the top of the list globally, followed by Bollywood (Indian Film industry) and Nollywood (Nigerian film industry). Nollywood in particular is growing fast with new films being released daily. This is encouraging the different industries across the world to come together and create new content for new audiences. Niyi’s film Desecration is a collaboration between Nigerian and British actors. Rita Dominic, one of Nigeria’s leading actresses, came to the UK to participate in the movie that was shot here alongside UK-based actresses, one of whom was Nicola Alexis. With some Nollywood film-makers working on a new production every week, the Nollywood scene is spreading across Africa reaching the film industries in Uganda, Ghana and Cameroon. UK-based Cameroonian media producer Dorothy Diamond has invited actors from Cameroon to feature alongside UK-based actors in her new picture Curtains; shot in Britain it will be showcased at the Odeon cinema Greenwich on November 24. Examples of other films that have merged the African and western film industries include 30 Days in Atlanta directed by Robert Peters featuring American actor Vivica Fox and Desmond Elliot from Nigeria, and The Mirror Boy directed by Obi Emelonye, filmed in the UK and Gambia and featuring actors from both countries as well as from Nigeria. Turning Point is an example of Niyi’s work. It was shot in America and featured American and Nigerian actors. Both it and Desecration have been nominated in various categories this year at the at the BEFTA (Black Entertainment Film Fashion Television and Arts), African Film awards and Cameroonian academy awards, which are all taking place in the UK. With nominations that cover best director, best screenplay, best feature film, best actor and best actress, the multicultural film maker could even be scooping awards next year as his most recent work is yet another African film called BUSH. This feature was shot in London over the summer, and its producer Goretti
Etchu-Egbe, had also premiered a film called Woman at the Odeon Cinema in Greenwhich two years ago which sold out. Because he is creating films that potentially have different audience types Niyi is interested in the reaction of different audiences are when they watch his films: “Desecration is a perfect example of this. It was well received. It touched on various issues. Both expectations and reactions differed in different places. The prospect of an interracial couple was not really picked up by Nigerian cinema audiences but was a big deal by UK audiences.” At the beginning of November this year he will take a slate of several ideas he has to the American Film Market (AFM) in Santa Monica, California. Later in the month he will also be attending the Nollywood Summit where practitioners from around the world will be coming together to attract foreign investment into Nigeria, boosting the Nollywood industry further, which in turn will widen the multicultural film market. Niyi filmed his first feature film at 29. He says the hardest part of his job is having the motivation to continue film making and that comes from the fear of failing: “When I see films being created for $200million I cannot help but ask myself if I’m capable of creating a film like that,” he tells us. “But when I break down the films and realise they are like the films I am creating but on a larger scale with more resources and investment, for that I am
Words: Apai-Ketua Marchant Image: Jane Okuribido and Jebi Ndimuntoh
compelled to keep striving for better rather than settling for a local champion title.” Ultimately, the growth of African cinema and online streaming has encouraged African Film makers and investors that the higher quality the film is the better the return. This has encouraged more and more film makers and artistic people in Africa to attend specialist schools that are required for their field. Overall this makes the movies more valuable and appreciated; some actors and actresses in Africa are now attending some of the best acting and drama schools in world and the quality of this training shows on screen. However, although the African film industry is growing it can also have its downsides. Some think because the growth has been so rapid they can just become a film maker or producer overnight. It is still a craft and a field that people need to educate themselves on if they want to involve themselves. Some invest a lot of money in films without any knowledge of the film, production team or cast. They simply gamble their money based on assumption. Niyi is very clear: “Take your time to understand what the film industry is, do not pay a director to experiment with your money. Take the time to read books or take a course that will educate you on what you are involving yourself in. Nobody will respect you, invest in you or appreciate you if you do not demonstrate you know what you are doing.” b 7
Can the living talk to the dead? Many get comfort from mediums who say they can contact people who have passed away—but the practice remains controversial
Have you ever wondered if it’s possible to speak to loved ones who have passed away? Is death really the end or do we go on to another life? Once our physical beings are no longer of use do our souls live on? Where do our souls go? The questions are endless, but the people who claim to have the answers are mediums. Mediums are individuals who say they have the ability to speak to those who have passed on to the ‘other side’ and are said to have a ‘gift’: they communicate with people who are dead. Author and medium Claire Broad describes it as a ‘blending of the minds’: “It’s my belief that consciousness survives physical death, I’ve come to this conclusion after years of receiving personal evidence of survival”, says Broad. “During a sitting, the consciousness of the being in spirit blends with my own awareness and when this is achieved to a high degree we can perceive one another’s thoughts, much like tuning into a radio frequency.” The death of a loved one can be one of the most challenging things a person will face in their life, leaving a massive gap. President of the Spiritualist’ National Union (SNU), Minister David Bruton says, “Mediums are often able to bridge that gap through some form of communication between the grief stricken soul and the departed.” Mediums can see clients on a one to one basis, and a typical reading with a medium can vary in price from £20 to over £100. People can also attend events and spiritualist churches filled with audiences of people hoping for a message from their loved one or to see what contacting the afterlife is all about. During a service, a medium may describe a person whose characteristics or features fit the person you are trying to connect with, whereas other mediums will come directly to the person the spirit wants to communicate with. Mediums have been known to produce details as specific as names and phone numbers of those in the ‘afterlife’; others can be vaguer, describing images, objects or signs that they must make sense of with the help of their client. However, many mediums will insist that the client does not give too much away during a reading: a simple yes or no is usually all that’s needed in response to what the medium is replaying across. Spirituality is nothing new and it 8
stretches back many years. Minister Bruton explained how spiritualism began: “Modern spiritualism was ‘born’ in Hydesville in New York State in 1848 following the experiences of the Fox family and in particular two of their daughters, who after moving into a new home began to experience phenomena in the form of rappings which disturbed their night’s sleep.” The Fox sisters were known as the pioneers of spiritualism. They were said to have the ability to connect with the afterlife through séances. Seances involve groups of people who attempt to contact spirits with the help of a medium present. The sisters were said to have launched the spiritualist movement. However, the sisters later confessed that their ‘gift’ was in fact a hoax; despite this the movement continued to grow to what it is today. People turn to mediums for personal validation that there is indeed another life beyond earth’s plane; others want answers about the circumstances leading up to the death of their loved one. Bruton says spiritualism reached its height during the second and first world wars when many people who lost loved ones needed comfort and clarification in knowing their sons, brothers and husbands were alive and well in the spirit world. The SNU estimates that around 100,000 people attend their services in the UK each week. Bruton says “many of our churches do regularly have young people attending their services, sometimes they attend thinking it is all a big joke and they try to
Words: Tayo Andoh Images: Petre Birlea, Tania Poppieta, Ron Hewey
poke fun, but after experiencing a demonstration of mediumship most change their opinion.” So what happens during a spiritualist church service? I visited my local church for the first time a couple of years ago in the hope of connecting with my little brother Leon, who passed away in 2009 aged 10. A spiritual church service is far from traditional. Instead of singing a hymn to start proceedings we found ourselves singing Robbie William’s Angels. Apparently the pop numbers help lift vibrations and encourage spirits to join us. The service was filled with a few tears from those who received messages, laughs, comfort and clarity for many. My family are predominantly believers; my mum got into Tarot cards as a teenager and says she has experienced seeing the dead before. My grandad, Alan, has said he is in frequent contact with those who have passed away, mainly when he’s sat alone at home or things are quiet at his workplace. He recently had a young girl visit him and he explained what the experience was like for him: “the girl was in her early 20s, I kept getting her picture in my head. The first time I saw her she had long black hair, the second time she was in hospital with visible hair loss. She was with another girl who also looked really ill, they looked like they had chemotherapy.” Alan saw the girl a further time— “she showed herself again, I usually sense spirits from my right side. She was
wearing a black bomber jacket with silver embroidery and was dancing to rave music.” My mum encouraged Alan to visit an open circle at the spiritualist church. Open circles allow mediums to develop their gift, and with a lot of thought Alan went along to one of the evenings. He said he needed to share his experience as it was bothering him that he didn’t know who the girl was. “I described what I was seeing and a French lady said I had described her niece to a T. She showed me a picture of her niece and it matched the image in my head perfectly.” A few months after Leon’s death my mum went to a see a medium who told her that it was too soon to contact him as he would need to learn how to communicate all over again. My first ever reading was with a medium called Joyce. My mum and I sat in a room in her house in the leafy suburbs of London clutching our pens and paper hoping that we would be able to fill it with messages. Joyce could sense my apprehensiveness and nerves to which she said: “Don’t worry my heads not going to spin round, I just go into a deep relaxed meditation. Right let’s see what we get. ” She immediately described a young boy who loved
football: that was my brother all over “He sees you dancing in your room”, she added. At the time I would blast music and dance in my room to take my mind off things. “He said he has your back”, which is something we always said to each other. In my mind I was blown away: Joyce, a woman which I had never met before, was describing my brother and quoting things to me only he and I would know. This kicked off my fascination with the afterlife, I felt like I had confirmation that death was not the end. Since then I have found myself visiting many other mediums including television personality Tony Stockwell. Stockwell held an evening of mediumship at the London College of Psychic Studies in South Kensington, a place where many mediums and clairvoyants hold lectures and talks. I sat amongst many others with photos of loved ones hoping that they would be able to get Stockwell’s attention. Near to the end of the evening Stockwell asked for one more picture, my mum immediately held up a photo of my brother. He took the picture and said “what a beautiful boy, bless him”, he closed his eyes and began to connect. What came
“This kicked off my fascination with the afterlife, I felt like I had confirmation that death was not the end”
next stunned my mum and I: “I am being drawn to the head”, Stockwell confirmed that Leon passed from a rare brain- related illness. “He would have been 18 now, he’s very happy to be older”. This was true Leon would have been 18, he couldn’t wait to grow up. “You light candles for him”, he added, and around winter time and Christmas my mum would always light candles for Leon every evening. “He wants you to play a clip of him singing to hear his voice again”. He had a beautiful voice unlike my mum and I who are tone deaf: we both missed him singing to Michael Buble and rapping to Dizzee Rascal. Once again, a total stranger was telling me about my own brother. How could he know all of this? However, not everyone is completely sold by the idea of mediumship and the practice has had its fair share of criticism. Some mediums have been involved in media scandals. Psychic medium to the stars, Sally Morgan, faced backlash in 2011 when she was accused of receiving information about the people she was reading for during a live show. She denied this. Heleana Prangnell, who is 21 years old, is unsure as to whether she believes in the afterlife, she calls herself an in-betweener. “I feel I lost faith the older I got. The older I got, the more I put things out of the ordinary down to more plausible answers, so, if I heard a bang I’d think it’s just the pipes not it’s a ghost.” She added, “I’m in between because there have been events in my life but I try to put it down to science. For example, when I heard someone at my friend’s house say his name, no one was there apart from us and it was as clear as anything, that freaked me out.” She said that she did initially believe in spirits, “I was brought up Catholic and there is a notion that after you die you go to heaven, but it never explained why ghosts ‘existed’, it made me think that there must be a different notion to just heaven.” The Spiritualists National Union say that according to the last national Census Spiritualism is the eighth largest religion in the United Kingdom. Spiritualism is not for everyone and maybe it is fair to say that for many people the questions about the life after death will only be answered when it is our time to go and mediums cannot provide any clarity on that. But for others the clarity is already there. b 9
Fighting the opioid epidemic Artefact investigates the drug epidemic that is currently killing thousands of people every year in the US
Words: Joséphine Schulte Images: Dennis Yap
“This isn’t the first drug epidemic; it won’t be the last,” says Carol Baden, a member of Ohio’s Heroin Unit. Deaths from opioid overdoses in the U.S have been on the rise since 2000. Baden sees and feels the grief of the lives lost, the suffering of those who are addicted, the isolation and shame of families and the addicted on an everyday basis. In Ohio alone, 4,050 people lost their lives to unintentional drug overdoses in 2016, and even though there is no specific data yet, the number could be twice as high this year. That would mean roughly 8,000 deaths; almost three times as many people as those killed in the 9/11 attacks. “It has changed every aspect of my life. This epidemic is destroying the very fibre of family and community by tearing away the moral basis that human life is sacred”, says Baden. “I was losing sleep. I was seeing the outcomes of those affected by opioid addiction. Persons ranging in age from 17 to 72 lost the ability to control the dependence, addiction, and consequences.” In May of this year, Mike DeWine, Ohio’s attorney general, filed a lawsuit against five leading prescription opioid manufacturers and their related companies. “Our lawsuit alleges that the drug companies engaged in fraudulent marketing regarding the risks and benefits of prescription opioids which have fuelled Ohio’s opioid epidemic,” DeWine’s office says. “It also alleges that the drug companies violated the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act, and created a public nuisance by disseminating false and misleading statements about the risks and benefits of opioids.” The lawsuit was filed in the Ross County Court of Common Pleas because Southern Ohio was likely the hardest hit area in the nation by the opioid epidemic. “We started hearing of the overdose deaths, especially in our own community, the young people who had so much promise and had gotten addicted following an injury, a surgery,” Baden explains. On the bright side, a major achievement of these last years was the acceptance and use of Naloxone, an antidote that reverses an opioid overdose. “To help defray the cost and make Naloxone more accessible, my office negotiated with the drug’s manufacturer—Amphastar Pharmaceuticals, Inc.—which
became new opioid users in 2016 alone. Moreover, the over-prescription of pills following surgery resulted in 3.3 billion unused pills, enough to provide every American with 36 pills. It was in the 1980s that pharmaceutical companies pushed doctors to consider pain as the fifth ‘vital sign,’ saying that pain was one of the most important indicators of the body’s vital functions. Furthermore, studies suggested that the risk of addiction with opioids was minimal which resulted in opiate-based pain medication being, not only easy to obtain but brutally overprescribed. The American population was, more or less, drowned in available opiates. Complaining about almost anything would get you an opiate prescription. Most people had opiates in their medicine cabinets, just in case pain occurred. Everything was designed to make sure nobody ever felt any pain. Statistics show that in 2008, prescription opiate deaths were 370 per cent greater than in 1999 – 14,800 people died that year, making drug overdoses the leading cause of accidental death in the
agreed to provide rebates for Naloxone syringes bought by non-federal Ohio agencies,” states Ohio’s Attorney General Mike DeWine’s office. Baden, who works for DeWine, adds that the antidote has in fact saved countless lives and is continuing to drive stigma out of the picture. Because “stigma,” says Baden, “remains a monumental barrier to saving lives.” Ohio is in no way unique in its situation, many other parts of the United States are also affected. All over the U.S., the consequences of the epidemic leave people in desperate straits of homelessness, incarceration, being trafficked, isolated, and denied fundamental rights for medical and mental health attention. And many pay the highest price of their lives lost, explains Baden. Surgery and post-surgical pain play a significant role in this opioid problem, as they often lead to the initial introduction to the drugs. An analysis of the impact of opioid overprescribing in America by the QuintilesIMS Institute that came out in September of this year stated that almost three million patients undergoing surgery
“This epidemic is destroying the very fibre of family and community by tearing away the moral basis that human life is sacred”
U.S. and leading to stronger regulations. Opiates were not going to be prescribed as much anymore. Dr Shawn Ryan is an addiction specialist emergency physician, the director of the Ohio Society of Addiction Medicine and a founder of BrightView, an outpatient rehab facility that can accommodate up to a thousand patients a time. He has been working with victims of the opioid epidemic for the past six years. “It shouldn’t have been a surprise to anyone that people who are dependant on opioids based on the prescription opioids situation, couldn’t just stop,” he says. Doctors knew, from animal studies and previous opioid dependency and abuse studies, that people are not able to just stop taking the drugs, Dr Ryan explains. Nevertheless, it was decided that an opiate prescribing reduction therapy, thus taking the medication away, was the right thing to do. What this left behind was an innumerable amount of addicts who did not have any access to prescription pills anymore, and had to turn to more harmful and illegal chemicals such as heroin and fentanyl. In the United States 3,041 people died from a heroin overdose in 2008, 12,989 died of the same cause in 2015, and in seven years the deaths related to heroin quadrupled. “We get a question asked pretty frequently: Is addiction really a disease?”, says Carol Baden. “It is asked by a young woman who admits she has a family member who has been to rehab multiple
times, incarcerated etc. Following our answer, she gives us a hug, tears in her eyes. She gets it now. A win for her cousin. She sees the struggle differently today.” Addiction, contrary to what most think, is a chronic brain disease driven and influenced by three main components. The first one is the environment, where you grow up and how you grow up. The second one is genetics. And the third one is the exposure, meaning whether or not you are exposed to those medications and drugs. “Take the best orgasm you have ever had and then multiply it by a thousand, and still it doesn’t even come close.” says Max, a former heroin user, who asked that his name be changed to protect his identity. He first came into
contact with heroin when he was 14, he has now been in remission for fourand-a-half years after using for five. Max explained that it feels as if the body thinks that it will die without the chemicals: “It would be like if you had gone without eating for four or five days. Your body is going to be like, no you need to eat right now. I don’t care what it takes; I don’t care if you have to steal something to eat, then you steal something to eat. Because if you don’t eat you won’t survive.” Opioid addicts see the drug they are dependant on as a primary necessity of life. Their brain is retrained to do so, once they start using, explains Dr Ryan. Every human has a normal reward cycle, for things such as food, sex, shelter, in their brain, that is protective of them as a human. Opioids activate the same brain power waves as that reward cycle and thus make addicts seek those chemicals even more so than those vital necessities. The opioid epidemic is a complex problem that needs solving on many fronts, and even though much work is being done to fight it, it is still a major problem. Drug-related deaths in the U.S. continue to rise, and even though prescribing is on the decline, it is still three times as high as it was in 1999. However, there might be light at the end of the tunnel. Baden says “addiction and mental health are becoming more accepted as diseases that must be treated, rather than being seen as ‘moral failure’, even in relapse. We have a long way to go, but the language around this is changing.” b
Oh, Theresa May! Can the Tories match Corbyn’s appeal to students?
Words: James Underdown Images: Gary Knight and EU2017EE via Flickr
In Great Britain and Northern Ireland, we are lucky enough to enjoy the political freedom of living in a democracy, albeit an apparent bipartisan one. This means that, although there are other parties, the leader of either the Conservative and Unionist Party or Labour Party will be asked by Her Majesty to form a government. The parties represent a right or left-wing approach and have always appealed to juxtaposing socio-economic groups within our increasingly divided country. The Tories have historically relied on middle and upper-class white voters. While Labour’s grass root support comes from the working class, young people and students. Both parties had enjoyed lengthy stays in power since 1979, when Thatcher welcomed in 18 years of Tory rule, only to be followed by 13 years of Labour. One thing that has remained constant during this time is the support for Labour from full-time students. No more so than in the most recent snap general election called by Theresa May. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, with the promise of abolishing tuition fees and creating a socialist paradise, became adorned with respect from members of academia. His rallies were often drowned out by a cacophony of noise from his supporters all chanting one mantra: “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn”. A poll carried out by YouGov after the election revealed 64 per cent of students supported the major left-wing party. However, what about the other 36? Perhaps shocking to some, this is broken down into 19 per cent for the Tories; almost 1 in 5. So where are the student Tories? Why wasn’t a manifesto designed to appeal to the underrepresented, good enough for them? And why isn’t this number higher? So, why is it that Labour has such an affiliation with students? After all, it was a Labour government that introduced tuition fees by passing the Teaching and Higher Education Act of 1998. I spoke to one Tory voter about this symbiotic political association. Maxim Cook is a 19-year-old student at Chelsea College of Arts. He lives in a modestly sized three bedrooms flat with a garden in Clapham, an affluent part of south-west London, that he shares with two peers from his course. He believes that age is at the heart of the problem. “It’s mainly because they are all old, there are people like Jacob Rees-Mogg, who I don’t agree with at all, I am ashamed he is in the party, with all
at universities or colleges. There’s been no effort to try and cultivate that and to educate them about conservatism, which has given Labour free rein.” He continues, echoing the common conception that Labour understands what policies attract younger voters, “It’s very hard to make conservative policy sound sexy. ‘Fiscal economic responsibility’ is not a sexy sounding slogan, whereas free tuition fees sound really appealing.” The subject of tuition fees was at the forefront of this election; the Tories planned to further increase tuition by £250, bringing the total to £9,250, while Corbyn promised to abolish the whole scheme altogether. One would be forgiven if they were to draw similarities between this abolition, and the failed proposal by the Liberal Democrats to prevent any increase, during the coalition with David Cameron of 2010. Maxim Cook says the issue didn’t interest him and he wasn’t perturbed about the increase. “That won’t affect me, that £250, so I’m not really bothered about that. Everyone else who is younger can worry about that. I don’t think he would’ve gone through with it; I think it’s all these false promises. He can’t learn to lead his own party. I don’t see why it was such a main point of his campaign.” On this point, Ancliff disagrees somewhat, believing the policy would have been passed, adding, “I don’t think it would’ve been as seamless as they hoped. The estimated costs of doing it were £42 billion yet when I went through the Labour manifesto they only allocated about £8 billion. That money was going to have to come from somewhere; it’s come out recently Labour was looking at cutting the income-tax free threshold down to £6,000 again. That would cost everyday people £1,200 more a year. I think they would’ve done it; I don’t think people would’ve been happy with how they did it.” Cook was born and raised in the Somerset constituency of Wells, a seat that has been Tory all but three times since 1885. I asked as to whether environment as a child truly plays a role in people’s political ideologies in adulthood, “I think it’s tradition, my family does, it’s what I was brought up on. But I also think there is something about personal image. If you say you voted Tory, it gives you some sort of power over people, but only in your mind and not theirs.”
the stuff about abortion and being gay. That’s why they have such a problem appealing, because they are all old and all male and all white. I think if they had more young people in the party, then it could help.” He continues to reference Labour, whose leader is 68, and would be over the age of receiving his state pension. “Labour doesn’t necessarily have young people, and Corbyn isn’t getting any younger. But, some of the MPs are young, and I think it’s the whole thing about looking towards the future. Some of their policies that I
don’t agree with are very anti-young people; I think they forget there is a younger generation.” Sam Ancliff, the campaigns director at the independent centre-right youth organisation ‘Activate’, is not your stereotypical Tory. He was raised in council housing and currently resides in Nottinghamshire. He has lived through a brief spell of homelessness and also currently claims job seekers allowance. Ancliff argues that the Conservatives are suffering from a failure of communication. “We have done a lot of good things for young people, but we never talk to anyone about it. As a party, there hasn’t been any real effort to change our communication methods. We put a ridiculous amount of money into leaflets and newspaper adverts in The Sun, but those aren’t going to reach younger people. Until recently, there hasn’t been any effort by the party to use social media or to try and make presentations or speeches
I raised this sense of secretive grandeur with Ancliff, who believes this isn’t just an individual principle, but a party-wide one, however fruitless it may be. “Each side always feels superior to the other, and it’s not the case, we are all the bloody same. There’s no need for people to feel superior to each other because we all want the same thing, we just want a different way of getting it.” However, Tory pride was a topic frequently brought up by Ancliff who sees it as one way they will gain more votes from young people. “One of the things I’ve been doing is contacting universities and colleges, to get me in to speak to the politics class. So we can actually have people standing up and saying, ‘I’m a Conservative, and I’m proud of it’, the more people do that, the less that stigma will apply. There are a lot of young conservatives out there, but they are hiding right now. It’s not a case of breaking the stigma, we just need to encourage people to be proud about being a Conservative. To make it something cool again.” This attempt might be met with resistance however as, from his studies at UAL, Cook’s own experiences have reiterated the statistic that a majority of students swing to the left. “At Chelsea, besides one, they all voted Labour. I got really belittled by it. They were quite horrible; always asking ‘why, why, why?’ I don’t have to justify myself to anyone. I’ll obviously stand up for why and say what stuff I agreed with them on. People who admit they voted Tory, it’s almost social suicide.” Removing this negative image within the education system is one of Activate’s objectives. “The message isn’t going to be ‘vote Conservative because I’m telling you to’. It’s going to be a this is why it’s important to go out and vote, and you never know it might backfire completely. I think the important message is why your right to vote is so important and why you need to make an educated vote.” In April of this year, Theresa May defied her own words and called a snap general election. At this point, some pollsters had the Tories at a 20-point lead over Labour. A party that was trying to recover from a fresh leadership contest after post-Brexit infighting caused a vote of no confidence against Corbyn. What’s more, the party was rife with claims of deep rooted antisemitism. It was predict-
“It’s very hard to make Conservative policy sound sexy”
ed to be the biggest Tory majority since the Thatcher landslide of 1983. In the six weeks that followed, May’s lead in the polls diminished. Failures to appear at televised debates, awkward interviews and a manifesto that included the socalled ‘dementia tax’, an apparent blow to the mature Tory supporter, meant for an erratic campaign. What was supposed to be strong and stable was replaced by weak and wobbly. On the left, however, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was running an exemplary socialist campaign, one that appealed to the exact minorities and demographics the Tories had neglected over the decades—students, renters and the worker’s unions. Ancliff attributes the failings of the Tories among students simply down to, “we had nothing to offer them, it was Labour’s monopoly.” The Conservative Party Press Office was contacted with an inquiry into party membership among young people; they did not respond to the request. b 13
Not just a country of drug-runners A journey into the contrasts of poverty and insecurity, hospitality and kindness in Colombia
Words: Alba Regidor Diaz Images: Michael McCullough via Flickr
“You always have to be alert”, “do not go out at night alone, no woman does” and “do not take out your mobile in the street under any circumstances.” These are some of the essential tips local people gave me before I started my trip. I did not know who was going to pick me up at the airport. A co-ordinator from work just sent me two pieces of information: Andres is the chauffeur who will pick you up and here is a photo of him. The term ‘chauffeur’ sounded disproportionate to the occasion. Although I did not think twice, at least I felt protected. Someone was coming to pick me up at midnight in a country more than eight thousand kilometres from home. For me the word ‘chauffeur’ carried echoes of a political elite or person of importance. However, over the next few days, I realised Andres would prove very useful during my stay in one of the most Catholic countries in the world. The atmosphere in the city was very rowdy. Car horns blaring, different kinds of buses everywhere, trucks that expelled too much pollution into the atmosphere. I observed all these details from the car that Andres drove. Through the windows I witnessed the chaos of a capital of more than eight million inhabitants going about their daily lives. I remember how Andres giggled when I was nervous as someone approached and hit the windowpane. That is something we experienced regularly at the traffic lights, where street vendors plied their trade and other people begged for a piece of bread. My visit came about after I had the opportunity to get a five-week work placement. I have to admit that at the beginning I was a bit scared. But I knew I would learn a lot and get new experiences, so I accepted. It is always a challenge to leave one’s comfort zone. So which country am I talking about? It’s one whose international reputation has been defined by the criminal operations of Pablo Escobar, the drug baron in the 1980s and the battles of law enforcement officers to counter him. So powerful is this profile that Netflix recently launched The Narcos series; it follows Escobar’s rise to power and has gained millions of viewers around the world. What were my impressions of Colombia? Coming from a developed country, the apparent lack of a middle class was alarming to me. As I walked through Bogota’s
met. They had an assistant who lived with us, and 61 year-old Lupita was available to me 24/7. Every time I got downstairs to the living room, when I was hungry or even just wanting a glass of water, she was ready to serve me. At the entrance to the building where I lived there was an old man who looked after the block. He was very kind, and always attentive to opening or closing the door. I was not comfortable in that bubble, with those relations between master and servant. I felt out of place, I found it shocking that the family who were extremely hospitable and lovely to me, seemed to be taking advantage of such vulnerable people. I felt as if I had stepped back a few centuries to a society of rich people and slaves, of haves and have nots. This is a fundamental feature of an unequal country. The colonial legacy, dominance of the political class, lack of opportunities, wage gap, and lack of access for all to education, make Colombia one of the most unequal countries in the world. I did meet millennials with open-minded opinions who did not believe in any religion, and who were critics
streets I witnessed so much poverty: people begging or just vendors selling basic groceries. However, this reality was very far from my daily routine in Colombia’s capital. For job-related issues I could see another ‘reality’, and it was completely different. The opposite side of the coin reminded me of an elitist society; a privileged class who enjoyed the benefits of cheap labour, such as drivers, cleaning assistants, carers, security guards, private security, home surveillance. Classism was in the language and day-to-day life of society. People made judgements related to a surname or the area where someone lived. It was usually one of the first questions that people asked. Cities across the entire country are divided by ‘stratus’; stratus six is the richest area, and stratus one is the poorest. Any random person might ask which stratus you live in, asking, in other words, “what social class do you belong to?” During my internship I stayed in an attractive residential area (stratus six) with a charming family who treated me as their daughter even though we had just
“The incredible thing about this land is that all conversations end with a joke and a smile”
of their own society. They lamented the situation, but they did not seem to be doing something to change it, other than complaining and talking to friends about the issue. Certainly, the main protagonists for change are the younger generation, who have the responsibility of promoting alternatives to make their country fairer and more accessible for all Colombians. However, 24 years after Pablo Escobar’s death, this country has seen some truly positive and remarkable changes. In the last few years, Colombia has become an essential tourist destination within Latin America. The progress it’s made tackling violence, the ceasefire with the FARC, and the affection that the Colombians have for their own country, are all inducements to visit. As might be expected in a tropical country, the people of Colombia are warm, welcoming, and very pleasant. During my stay I was not homesick, having discovered a new home country there. It was such a strange
feeling. I felt that “strangers” looked after me as if I were a member of their family. Looking back, I can honestly say Colombians are the most hospitable people I have ever met. Colombia is one of the countries with the greatest biodiversity on the planet, because it has a great variety of species of plants and animals. When I explored remote corners of this country, I saw what felt like thousands of butterflies of different colours, which I had never seen before. And indeed, Colombia has about 3,500 different types of butterflies. It should never be forgotten that this nation is one of the main producers of coffee in the world. It is something they are very proud of and I can confirm that it is exquisite. There are no seasons in this climate. Paradoxically, you are able to discover all the different climates inside the country. Therefore, every city has a lot to offer you. That is one of Colombia’s magical
features. Another distinctive feature of the Colombians is that, as a folk, they remain positive despite many misfortunes. During the many years of war, there were beautiful parts of the Colombian territory that were inaccessible to the inhabitants of this country. Nowadays there is a wide range of places to rediscover and explore, which have not yet been affected through mass tourism. Colombia is a country of amazing contradictions. Its people have seen the worst of the human condition as well as witnessed the goodness and total surrender of humanity. Having been immersed in Colombian culture, I believe the wounds are beginning to heal. As a Colombian journalist friend told me: “It is enough to cross two words with a decent and humble farmer to understand it”. The incredible thing about this land is that all conversations end with a joke and a smile, because Colombians see the funny side to their own misfortunes. b 15
Words: Charlotte Layton Images: Tae Park
WHAT ITâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;S LIKE TO BE SECTIONED The experience of being detained under the Mental Health Act reveals an NHS that is struggling to cope
I was standing, in the middle of Blackhorse Road, one of the busiest main roads in Walthamstow, shouting at drivers to divert the traffic. The voices in my head warned me of a black void that was going to engulf this part of east London, which would be the start of the apocalypse. I couldn’t let them drive into the void, so there I was desperately trying to divert traffic in order to save the innocent. The void seemed to close in around me. I started to panic and the suicidal thoughts quickly seeped in. Desperately looking around, I clocked on to the bus coming towards me and I wholeheartedly threw myself in front of it. There was a great lapse of time where there was nothing. When I was aware of what was happening I was in the back of an ambulance, strapped down to the bed with officers standing over the top of me, forcibly pinning down my arms and handcuffing them to the ambulance bed. A string of verbal abuse escaped, amongst streams of tears and screams, in a desperate attempt to convince the horde of officers and paramedics that I was completely fine.
Hurled out of the ambulance like an angry bull without the rest of its herd, I was still handcuffed and profusely sore. A flurry of people in nurse’s uniforms, came to their aid through a cold, steel door. Panic finally set in, and as I stood to vomit, the staff circled like vultures, forcing me to sit back down. Vomit now sat uncomfortably in my lap. I was then dragged through a piercingly bright, clinical corridor and forcibly thrown into an empty room with nothing more than a bed made out of blue matting. Forced over to the bed, faced down and forcibly detained, the officers began stripping me of everything that I had. A tall male nurse came into the room. Through the nurse’s deep Irish accent, all I was able to understand was that I was being detained under the Mental Health Act. The nurses and officers left the room and I was all alone. This was my first few hours of being sectioned. As embarrassed as I already felt, the next three days were completely degrading. For the first 24 hours, the bright clinical light was left buzzing, so sleep was non-existent. 72 hours later, 17
“ All of your rights are taken from you as soon as you’re admitted to hospital”
I still hadn’t eaten, and I found myself drinking water from the tap in the bathroom. I was still in my sick-drenched jeans, which by then were bone dry. This experience was the turning point of my relationship with bipolar disorder. Up until this moment, I had celebrated the fact that I had never been sectioned nor deemed a risk to myself and others. Whilst there is still plenty of work to be done, there is now an openness when talking about most mental health problems. Yet, for the more complex mental health illnesses, like bipolar disorder or schizophrenia, there remains stigmatism and silence, especially when they lead to patients being detained and forcibly treated against their will. It is the feeling of shame about the fact that through a period of time, we were generally not well enough to function outside of hospital walls. After being formally sectioned, I had lost all sense of self and sense of dignity. A 2017 report looking into the Mental Health Act by the Mental Health Alliance (MHA), shows that over 63,622 people in England alone, were detained under the Act between 2015 and 2016. According to MHA this was a 10% increase from the previous year, while being at an increase of 47% over the last decade. The survey also highlighted that there is a deep concern for people’s human rights, autonomy and basic dignity when the Act is enforced to detain and section those already in a vulnerable state. Twenty-two year old Kai, who has a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder, was sectioned after attempting to take his own life for a second time. He found the trauma of being sectioned worsened his condition. “I actually tried killing myself for a third time while I was actually in hospital, because I just could not deal with my own thoughts and feelings, let alone everyone else’s. I spent most of my time curled up in my bed sobbing.” Yet, what got to Kai most of all, was
not having any say in his treatment, and as an adult, he wasn’t given any information about the treatment he was receiving, nor why he was receiving that treatment. Instead, the staff informed his family, rather than asked his permission. “All of your rights are taken from you as soon as you’re admitted to hospital. You don’t belong to yourself anymore. You are 100% their property, and all your basic human rights are gone.” “This affected my relationship with my family quite badly and I became distant, quiet and distrusting. It was almost as though I was a completely different person. I knew they weren’t telling me the truth about my treatment—it seemed as though I wasn’t allowed to know. I ended up requesting not to see my family on visiting days, and I lost all faith in the staff’s ability to look after me or help me in any way shape or form.” After a while, Kai started spending most of his time in the garden, where he would sing and generally just take in the outside world, despite still being on hospital grounds and under the watch of the staff. “I finally began to start thinking clearly again. After a while, I started seeing my family again and I started to cooperated with my therapist. They never managed to gain all of my trust, but I trusted them enough to finally feel better within myself.” Like Kai, 28-year-old Dean also felt he had no say about his treatment. When he was 21, a close bereavement triggered a psychotic episode. “I was constantly hearing voices who were angrily vengeful. They would often try to get me to hurt myself or hurt other people because of their ‘sins’. I was seeing angels and demons, who were showing me the fringes of three different worlds—heaven, hell and purgatory, and what held the worlds together. I was also experiencing great lapses of time that was more frustrating than anything else. After a while, suicidal thoughts and self-harm crept in. I would burn myself with cigarettes and I would cut myself on a daily basis,” he explains. 19
“One day I got into the shower with all of my clothes on. The voices in my head were telling me that I was better off dead. I just curled up in the bathtub, with my clothes still on, and just allowed the water to soak through and sobbed. My dad came in and had no idea how to react, so he called an ambulance, and they came with the police.” For Dean, this was the most traumatic part: “I’ve never known the police to be so aggressive towards mental health patients. Their understanding of mental health is very limited, but this was completely degrading. They picked me up and carried me down the stairs like a hunk of rotten meat, with my whole estate watching. I could feel their eyes burning into me—nothing stays quiet when you live on an estate. I’ve never felt so embarrassed and ashamed of myself in my entire life. 20
I was screaming and crying for them not to do anything because I hadn’t done anything wrong. I was pinned down on the ambulance bed and strapped down, until the screaming turned into begging to be left alone. They made me feel as though I was a criminal, not someone who needed or deserved to be helped.” However, Dean found himself fighting to be heard, especially when it came to being medicated. “I didn’t want to be medicated for the rest of my life. Medication often made me feel as though I had no feelings at all. Every day is the same mundane routine when you are on medication, it’s as though you’re a robot.” “But if you missed even one dosage of your medication, they would literally force their way into your room, even if you were naked. They would wake you up then physically force you to take your
“ They made me feel as though I was a criminal”
medication. At the beginning, I used to fight back. I honestly just wanted to get back to how I used to be. Happy and free. But what got to me the most was the complete lack of respect and privacy.” But it is not just the problem of not being heard when it comes to medical treatment, during her time in hospital on a mixed gender ward, 32-year old Lisa felt powerless when she tried to make a complaint about a sexual assault by a male orderly. “I tried to report the incident but I was accused of lying,” Lisa explained. The staff at the hospital went to the extent of taunting her—referring to her as ‘the drama queen’. “I guess it’s like trying to make a complaint against an officer. Without the means to actually do something, you are left to deal with the consequences by 21
“ It’s so traumatising that over the years I’ve taught myself how to suffer in silence ”
yourself. You are completely voiceless.” In Lisa’s case, it seemed as though any complaints were assumed by the staff to be nothing more than a manic hallucination. Lisa explained: “Any confidentiality that you try to confide in all goes out of the window because they think that you’re too sick to give a damn, or feel as though you’re too sick to be aware of what is going on or even aware of your own thoughts and feelings.” Despite her ordeal with a male nurse, Lisa still has some appreciation for mental health staff, but this is limited. “Mental health nurses can be amazing, don’t get me wrong,” she says “but in hospital, the staff don’t really have any time or resources for you at all, and you hardly have the chance to meet with your occupational therapist.” “Since the incident though, I have had such a hard time trusting men in general, especial male nurses and doctors.” There have been times since then that Lisa believes that she should have gone to the hospital for help with suicidal thoughts, but was too horrified by the thought of being sectioned again. “I couldn’t bear to be sectioned again because it is the most traumatic experience I’ve ever had to endure. It is so traumatising that over the years I’ve taught myself how to suffer in silence.” Many of us who have been sectioned once, never want to be sectioned again. It’s almost a pit stop, that refreshes us and straightens us out. It is because we do not want to feel degraded or ashamed again, so taking our medication and seeking out out-patient treatment seems to be the better option. But for many of us, getting the right out-patient treatment and medication is difficult. Some wait almost 18 months for their first specialist appointment. This leads to an unfortunate increase of patients being detained for their own safety or sectioned, when out-patient treatment could have been of a great benefit. 22
Those I have spoken to about being sectioned believe that the lack of funding into mental health support is partly to blame for how they were treated. This is view is shared by Kirsty, who used to work as a mental health nurse: “The mental health sector is really lacking in funding. There isn’t enough funding to help staff the hospitals, which is affecting how patients are treated. They simply do not have the time to deal with the amount of patients who are detained or sectioned, because funding cuts means staff cuts too. Being under staffed and under pressure can affect the work nurses and psychiatrists do, and of course, there are cases where it almost sounds like something you’d see in a screen play.” Kirsty raises an important issue when talking about mental health, and the care that professionals are supposed to provide for those in need of protecting, yet failing in many places. Mental health services are facing daily cuts to its funding, which is affecting the way that professionals are able to work. The services have been under pressure for many, many years now, but since 2010, they have dramatically declined in its efficiency to care for patients. As a result, staff are under pressure and morale is low. According to recent research, in the last seven years alone, 4,000 psychiatrists and 30,000 mental health nurses have come to the hard decision to leave, what now seems to be more of an industry than a fundamental part of the health sector. Although recent government initiatives are now seeing the recruitment of newly trained staff, the number of already trained nurses leaving the profession, by far, out numbers those joining. Reform within the mental health sector needs to take place, but not at the expense of both the NHS staff and the patients. The staff need to have the necessary management support, to help encourage and support them, so that they can achieve their goals in helping patients and meeting individual patient needs. As well as a healthy management system, this would help to promote a healthy frame of mind for the staff to be able to deal with more complex patients. Training schemes for the staff need to be modernized too, to reflect on the ways in which patients feel they are being treated, with more time for monitoring
how individual trusts operate, to ensure the best quality of care the patients. More investment in staffing would help to relieve the already overloaded staff, while allowing them to be able to properly care for us as inpatients, who feel as though their needs are being neglected. This could also give patients more time with nurses and psychiatrists too. Investments also need to be put into the hospital environment, therapeutic and recreational resources. This would also give patients not only time have access to sports and leisure, but to things that could allow them to feel connect to the outside world. Ultimately, the mental health sector is in dire need of financial support from government bodies, to make the changes
needed to be able to properly care for patients. A healthy reform and appropriate government funding into the sector could benefit the working standards for the staff and patients alike. Luckily for me, my time in hospital was less than five weeks, and I am as well as I have been for quite some time. I am back at university, have taken up karate again after months of neglecting my beloved sport, and back on medication. I am meeting up with friends without the need to over indulge in alcohol, and I have the capability to deal with stress without needing to worry whether it would trigger a manic episode. Of course, nothing runs smoothly, but at least I am lucky enough to have been able to go back to the world I know. b
The art of the wheel Truck art is a unique form of expression that highlights Pakistani heritage
Words by: Natalia Faisal Images: Zain Zahid Fazal
There it stood, my eyes shifting from side to side unable to decide what part of the piece to focus on. The composition of the painting is curious, bold and chaotic, mirroring the thought process of the artist. Every colour, every line painted with such precision it almost looks like a picture. In the middle of Karachi’s gridlocked traffic, emerging from two rows of steel and tires stood a truck. Not just any ordinary truck but one decorated from bumper to bumper with all types of artistic mediums. This truck is a canvas enriched with expression, culture, and history. This is Pakistan’s South Asian Truck Art and it has developed into a global phenomenon over the years. Some see this as mere decoration but for the truck driver, their attention is fully devoted to the make-up of his ‘bride’. As the truck goes through the stages of transformation, the body parts of the vehicle take on human aspects. Starting from the top of the truck, above the cabin sits the ‘crown’ or more traditionally known as the ‘Taj’ which lies along the lining of a silver, metallic decoration. Then comes the windscreen which replicates a ‘forehead’, also known as a ‘matha’, and to complete the face there is the bonnet which are the ‘lips’ or ‘hont’. Typically, truck art consists of two forms: murals and painting to decorative pieces. The heavily-detailed decorations are made up of multicoloured reflective stickers, various sizes of mirrors and different styles of studs, which adorn the side of the vehicle and are overlaid on a mural or painting giving it its distinctive flashy appearance. What adds onto the fascination of this art form is the work that is put into it from ordinary working class people who have never had any professional artistic training, and create these masterpieces from pure raw talent in-spite of the negatives. Despite barely receiving any recognition and only been given 600 rupees (£4.3) for each bus, the passion is what motivates them to pull through. It can be risky, due to there being minimal-none protection gear whilst working on these trucks, the heavily infused chemicals from the paints, thinners and petrol fuels has resulted to a number of truck drivers damaging their lungs. Pakistanis value their colour, it is a nation that prides in self in colour
easily identifiable. One of the towns that has truly celebrated the origins of this beautiful art form is Luton, 35 miles north of Central London. Here artists and artisans came together to work with professionals from the UK and Pakistan, to traditionally decorate their own Bedford Vauxhall Truck for an exhibition at Luton Culture Centre. The mastermind behind the event, Fahim Qureshi, was able to give Artefact an insight into his inspiration and tell us more about his work. The event took place during the 2012 Olympics which Qureshi says was a perfect time: “The theme for the Olym-
schemes from textiles to how the brides are adorned. Albeit being a truck artist isn’t seen as a reputable job in Pakistan, it doesn’t stop the artists from doing what they love. It has been known that some artists fall so deeply in love with their work that they can’t resist getting married to their trucks! However truck art receives the recognition it deserves. as it has been recognised worldwide since the 1970s when European and American tourists photographed the art; since then it’s reached London, Milan, Paris, and Melbourne (among others) where vehicles and even exhibitions inspired by this tradition are
“Being a truck artist isn’t seen as a reputable job in Pakistan but it doesn’t stop the artists from doing what they love.” pics was ‘Cultural Olympiad’ which was a great opportunity to bring this exhibition to Luton and share the Pakistani culture with the community”. Without doubt, the art is breathtaking, but the most extraordinary part of this phenomenon is its history. During post-colonial times third world countries were sent Vauxhall Bedford Trucks to transport heavy goods and materials, which were originally made in Luton. Qureshi told us: “There is a huge Pakistani population in Luton that all derive from working-class ancestry, it is important for them to recognise their heritage and be able to have elements such as art to engage in.” A few years after Pakistan gained its independence, the art evolved into a political movement. Plastered on the rear
of every truck were portraits of the country’s first military dictator Ayub Khan, painted by the supporters of his province. It’s only since the 1970s that the whole truck would be utilised, covered in art and calligraphy. Inevitably, the art was soon exploited by promoters, becoming stylised billboards for Pakistani films which were found in workshops on roadside cafés. Qureshi explained the process of how he put the exhibit together: “This was a very heavily researched project which took around two-and-a-half years to put together, with the first two years dedicated to making bank (funding). Once that was done it was another six to seven months spent on research/collecting the necessary resources and then six weeks to prepare the whole thing.”
So was this exhibition something that segregated South-Asian and white communities even further? “On the contrary, it brought everyone together!” says Qureshi. “We had students from the Museum’s Youth Team (of all races) work with two professionals from two different countries to transform the truck. The artists were Pakistani truck artist Haidar Ali Khan and traditional gypsy British artist Rory Coxhill. To make sure they do the folk-art justice, six members of the team went on a trip to two main cities: Karachi and Lahore to gain firsthand experience and inspiration for their own truck.” Haidar Ali is a Karachi-based truck artist whose work is internationally renowned. His art has been exhibited at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington and he was the leading artist during this Luton project. The truck was a multi-colour vision and resonated with all its viewers. It sent a message of pride and multiculturalism, which is what Truck Art is all about. Qureshi told us that he is planning to expand the exhibitions throughout the UK, to include cities like Manchester and Birmingham which have a large South Asian Population. The practice of truck art is still expanding and with new exhibition could find new international admirers. b 25
Cocaine in the Kitchen Is cocaine really the restaurant trade’s dirty little secret?
American celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain is often credited with exposing the intense and drug-fuelled world of chefs working in the hospitality trade in his 2000 book Kitchen Confidential. Bourdain doesn’t hold back in his graphic insight to the professional culinary underworld: “You might get the impression from the specifics of my less than stellar career that all line cooks are wacked-out moral degenerates, dope fiends, a thuggish assortment of drunks, sneak thieves, sluts, and psychopaths. You wouldn’t be too far off-base.” The idea of substance abuse in the kitchen has clearly never been considered classified information, but nearly 20 years later, British chef Gordon Ramsay is trying to blow the lid on what he calls “the hospitality industry’s dirty little secret”. Speaking to The Guardian in advance of an ITV-produced show Gordon Ramsay on Cocaine, he states that cocaine use “is rife in kitchens” and while testing the toilets in his 31 restaurants worldwide, he found traces of cocaine in all but one. Ramsay even offers an anecdote of a time he was asked to mix icing sugar with the class-A substance and sprinkle it on top of a soufflé. But are these stories and reports of wild cocaine use confined to the extremely high-pressure Michelin-star kitchens, the kind that Bourdain and Ramsay are accustomed to, or is the use of cocaine in the kitchen truly a profession-wide problem? Kane McLean*, 21, is formerly an apprentice chef, who worked in high-class restaurants and hotels in London from the age of 16. He says the first time he became aware of drug use in the culinary industry was before he even stepped into a kitchen: “I was warned while still at my cooking course at college that there were high amounts of drug use [in the industry].” But it wasn’t until he started working at a five-star hotel in central London that he had first-hand experience of cocaine use in the kitchen: “The first thing I noticed was the unusually high energy levels of chefs that were working 12-or-more hour shifts every day – then I learned about prep.” The term ‘prep’ is common kitchen jargon for the preparation of various ingredients for efficiency during the peak times of food service. However, McLean reveals that ‘prep’ had a different meaning in his kitchen. 26
“I didn’t understand at first when a few of the chefs in the morning used to say to each other ‘let’s go and do a bit of prep’ and disappear for 20 minutes and return with no food actually being prepared.” Despite only being 16 at the time, it didn’t take long until McLean was invited to ‘prep’ himself. He politely declined each time but feels had he been older he may have felt pressured into using cocaine on the job like his colleagues. McLean says that the use of cocaine in the kitchen was essentially common knowledge amongst all of the culinary staff, including the head chef, who McLean is certain was also using cocaine daily: “He barely even did any cooking.” Cocaine use was a daily occurrence. However McLean believes the amount being used coincided with the amount of pressure on certain shifts; for example, if there was a big event with hundreds of guests, the chefs would disappear to the toilets more frequently. “I think that’s when I understood the ‘prep’ joke. Just like you prepare for service with food, they were preparing themselves for their shift with cocaine.” Ultimately, McLean understands why certain chefs choose to use cocaine on a daily basis. “Some of the chefs in the kitchen were working 80-100 hour weeks. I think they were using cocaine just to get by, just to stay awake. You have to stay alert, and I guess the cocaine helped them stay on the ball.” McLean’s experience of a professional kitchen provides some shocking revelations about the lack of secrecy surrounding drug use and his exposure to the activity at such a young age. Darren Felton’s story, however, offers a first-hand account of the reasons why chefs use cocaine on the job. “I’ve worked in about ten professional kitchens across London and the surrounding area, ranging from gastropubs to hotels and professional event spaces. My current job is the first where neither myself nor any of the other kitchen staff use cocaine.” Felton*, 28, explains that in the 12 years he used cocaine while working as a chef, he and others around him used it as a “fuel” as opposed to recreationally. “I used cocaine to allow me to do 17, 18-hour days, seven days a week. The majority of chefs who use coke, sniff it just like office workers drink a cup of coffee.” Felton described the frequency and quantity of his drug usage. “It was every day for
Words: Dan Marino Image: Carl via Flickr
“It was so expensive, I was basically working to feed my habit, but at the same time I had to feed my habit in order to work”
months and months on end. I could have done between half a gram to three or four [grams] in a single day.” He admits that for long periods he had an addiction: “If I’m honest, I mostly enjoyed taking cocaine daily because I thought it made me a better chef. I was faster, more efficient, and it allowed my mind to stay focused on the job I was doing.” It was when working in the kitchen of a leisure centre that Felton says his drug use reached its peak: “We’d be on the pass (a heated metal structure used to keep food hot before it is delivered to guests) and just rack up on there. It was ridiculous.” Felton confirms there was a risk of cross-contaminating people’s food with cocaine, but there was no punishment for it because, just like Kane McLean’s experience, the head chef was
also a cocaine user. It wasn’t just cocaine he used in the kitchen either. “I’ve smoked weed, taken [ecstasy] pills, and speed whilst on shift. I’ve even known other chefs to use seriously hard drugs like meth, heroin, and crack.” Felton adds that in the majority of kitchens he has worked in, it was the English members of staff who used cocaine. “The Eastern Europeans were never interested in coke; they just wanted to drink [alcohol].” Felton hasn’t used cocaine whilst at work for over six months now. “It was so expensive, I was basically working to feed my habit, but at the same time I had to feed my habit in order to work.” He does explain, however, that not all chefs turn to drugs or drink to get through the week. “I’ve known chefs who are completely anti-drugs, and they’re still great at their
jobs—so it is possible.” The insights into life as a chef given by both McLean and Felton not only confirm Gordon Ramsay’s claim but paint a vividly dark picture of an industry that is driving itself to addiction to some of the hardest drugs available, especially cocaine. Both chefs, regardless whether they have used whilst on the job, both clearly understand and almost sympathise with the use of stimulants due to the literal pressure cooker of an environment they work in, plus the long and unsociable hours. Ramsay’s new TV show is sure to shed more light on the situation, but as long as the job description of a chef continues to require such physically and mentally demanding tasks, the harsh reality is whether anything is really being done to save the culinary world from itself. b 27
Instagram, anorexia and anxiety Do mental health memes help sufferers cope or are they just making problems worse?
We all know the dangers of the endless scroll. “I’ll just look at a few more posts then go to sleep,” I tell myself as I am laying in bed at night, the stark white glow of the Instagram explore page lighting up my bedroom. Then, before I know it, it’s 2AM and my eyes hurt from scrolling through memes on my phone for the past few hours. As of late, the memes that feature most prominently on my timeline deal with the issue of mental health. According to a survey of 1,500 adolescents, conducted by RSPH and the Young Health Movement, Instagram is the social network deemed the most detrimental to the mental health and well-being of young adults. There is even an online community dedicated to posting memes centred around mental health as either a personal coping mechanism or in a bid to normalise the conversation surrounding the topic. Content from Instagram user @ memeassbitch, who has almost 12,000 followers, includes “destructive behaviour bingo,” a game where followers are to tick off the boxes that they identify with. The image is made up of statements such as “taking drugs at school,” “casual sex” and “stealing.” This list of activities could be viewed as an instruction manual for young and impressionable Instagram users. A physical checklist that emphasises behaviours that people with mental health are already self-conscious and anxious about. The meme has over 1,000 likes and the owner of the account posts material on mental illness’, receiving validation from their followers who respond with their bingo scores and comments asking, “why am I like this?” A popular meme format is the starter pack, which is comprised of stock photos and captions that describe a certain type of person or characteristic. Eating disorder starter packs produced by smaller accounts, such as @depressionjarmemes, have fewer interactions than destructive behaviour bingo, averaging at under 100 likes. One of their starter packs discusses the symptoms of relapsing back into disordered eating after recovery, such as “refusing to eat,” “endless body checks,” and “obsessive thoughts and conspiracies.” Despite their reach being smaller, they still receive responses from teens comparing their own symptoms to the ones in the post. 28
Words: Luisa Rossi
TRIGGER WARNING Their content also describes what the maker deems ‘positive’ aspects of eating disorders, including “guaranteed praises and admiration from society for aligning to the social demand to lose weight.”The bio for @edgypixie’s page explicitly states that they are only sharing their experiences and are not trying to promote eating disorders. The caption on a post about their eating disorder habits emphasises this, stating that their intent was not to create a how-to guide. “If someone were to see a meme and decided to starve themselves, there were already much deeper underlying issues,” it reads. These are just a few examples of how these behaviours and actions can easily garner attention and generate ‘noise’ within social media platforms. Emboldened by ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and ‘comments’ these individuals and groups are steadily growing community trickling out of their niche space and onto Instagram explore pages. The owners of the accounts appear to be young, some of their bios state that they are of school age. It seems that they are not making memes
to intentionally promote eating disorders and romanticise depressive tendencies but as a means of dealing with their own mental health struggles. @meme.queen.satan includes a pink trigger warning image for their memes, which reads “trigger warning, I guess: eating disorders,” where followers need to swipe left in order to view the content. When scrolling down their page, these pink images are scattered throughout their posts. Whilst eating disorders are not the accounts main focus, they have a much larger audience of 17,000 followers and the warnings are an addition that could help their followers avoid sensitive content. However, are sensitive content warnings something that Instagram should include as part of the app so that it is not down to individual users to incorporate them into their posts? Whilst Instagram hasn’t currently addressed the issue of harmful meme content, it has introduced features to further safeguard its users. In a statement released in September, Instagram co-founder and CEO, Kevin Systrom, de-
scribed the apps new settings, including a new way of anonymously reporting users who appear to be experiencing mental health issues during live broadcasts. When reported, the user will receive a message offering help, which includes options to talk to a loved one or a professional helpline. A new setting that may help prevent the encouragement of eating disorders and depressive behaviours in comment sections is Instagram’s new comment controls. These allow users to pick the accounts that can comment on their public posts from pre-existing groups, such as only people they follow or their own followers. “We feel as strongly about creating a safe and welcoming environment today as we did when our community was just getting started,” Systrom concludes. “If in doubt, don’t post,” says Rachel Melville-Thomas, who is a child and adolescent psychotherapist. “The trouble with expressing things through images is that the meaning is often not clear.” She questions if the memes mentioned express pain or if they are simply celebrating eating disorders. “Humans will always try to manage difficult situations through humour, but the memes we see are really bleak and painful, rather than funny.” “It’s as if there is trouble in finding an “emotional vocabulary” that would properly express how a young person might be feeling. I think that’s why the dark memes get produced,” she adds. Whilst they appear to be funny or witty on the surface, she believes that they simply display how helpless the sufferer is feeling without any real benefit to themselves or other people. “Research shows that excessive social media activity encourages states of mind that are the opposite of good mental health practices – like escapism, comparing and defining oneself simply in physical terms, lack of honesty in anonymous messages and the addictive aspects,” explains Rachel. She adds that the 2013 study “Facebook use predicts declines in subjective well-being in young adults,” explored the idea that the more time that is spent on social media, then the more sadness is reported by young people. There has been a significant rise in mental health issues for young people in the UK in recent years, which has coincided with the rise in social media use. UK
Hospital statistics for 2014 saw almost 42,000 hospitalisations for self-harm for people aged between 10-24, which means that for people under the age of 25, it is estimated at 367 per 100,000. This is an increase from 330 per 100,000, found in statistics from 2007-2008. In addition, eating disorders in people under the age of 25 are recorded as double that of any other age demographic in Britain according to mentalhealth.org’s Fundamental Facts about Mental Health, which was published in 2016. “As a young teenage girl, I’m not super confident, which is normal at my age,” explains 14-year-old Ciara Louise. “Seeing these memes about starving and bingeing brought thoughts to my head.” She adds that occasionally she would catch herself thinking that perhaps she should adopt these kinds of dangerous behaviours too, so she decided to block the accounts. “Those girls look so skinny and I would like to look like that,” she says. “I would have all those thoughts whirl in my head all because of a so-called meme talking about how ‘relatable’ disorders are.” She believes that if every time she saw an account post a ‘relatable eating disorder meme’ posted about how to get help instead then there might be less of a mental health epidemic for young people. If these accounts “focused on recovery, not the negative aspects, I think it would be a lot more beneficial,” she says. This is not an entirely new phenomenon. Social media has a dark history of romanticising mental illness’ due to its content being primarily user-generated. The micro-blogging site Tumblr, for example, was popular among teenagers between 2011-2014 and was particularly notorious for pro-anorexia/bulimia blogs. These pages would promote eating disorders to their followers and include tips on calorie counting, diet and exercise plans and ‘thinspo,’ which would be images of underweight celebrities. Favourites were the Olsen twins and Nicole Richie, all of whom suffered from eating disorders themselves. Rhys, 22, was a frequent Tumblr user when he was at school and describes the new wave of mental health memes as a subtler form of the old pro-anorexia and bulimia blogs, despite the creators of the memes stating that they are not promoting eating disorders. He has struggled with his mental health in the
past and believes that the glamorisation of mental illnesses was counterproductive for him when he was a teenager. “Both my self-confidence and idea of what was normal were warped,” he says. “Tumblr’s constant feed of imagery confuses you enough but if you are struggling with your mental health issues then it quickly takes over your life.” “It became ‘cool’ to be depressed,” says Rhys, “It seemed like you didn’t need help.” Rhys agrees with Ciara Louise that if the new wave of memes is made with respect then they could have a positive impact. “People have whole conversations via memes now so it only feels right,” he adds. “Memes could normalise mental health in a way that Tumblr could not; by making it normal and less of a trend” Mental Health Awareness Day on October 10th, which aims to raise awareness and break the social stigma surrounding mental health disorders, brought with it an influx of mental health memes, both to the dismay and appreciation of Twitter users. Using mental health for meme content divides opinion. On one hand, the memes encourage a form of relaxed discourse, which will help break down the taboo surrounding the topic. Artists that have received praise include Celeste Mountjoy, also known as @ filthyratbag, whose raw illustrations allow her to discuss her mental health in a way that millennials can relate to; by using dark humour. In addition, @scariest_bug_ ever’s healthy coping mechanisms bingo outlines ways in which you can improve your mental state by simply completing basic tasks, such as showering, making your bed or calling your mum. “It’s incredibly refreshing to see,” says Ciara Louise. “There is room for using the internet to support young people’s mental health – through support from friends, or joining in on regulated online chat groups,” says Rachel Melville-Thomas. But it seems, however, that the best way to improve the mental health of adolescents is to simply log off. “There is research too, showing that sympathy from someone face to face works better, than sympathy in a text. So, we need to be helping parents, teachers, family members to learn how to listen for teenager’s mental health difficulties, not brush them aside, and take them really seriously. Talking beats texting,” she concludes. b 29
I WAS BORN
BAD How Stephen Paddock’s life made him a mass murderer
“October 1st will always be the day I can never forget, it will always be the day that took a part of me”, 18-year-old Erika Yeargan, who was at the scene of the Las Vegas shooting, tells me. “That day I lost the part of me that I loved about myself, my cheery, bubbly side. If I can say that he took something from me, if it wasn’t my life, then it is that. Because it will be 30
a while until I will ever be like that. Or I might not ever be like that or closer to it again.” ‘He’ is Stephen Paddock, a 64-yearold multi-millionaire property developer, the ‘biggest video poker player in the world’ as he had described himself, and the perpetrator of the biggest mass shooting in modern America. On the night of
Words: Andra-Maria Ciupitu Images: Robert Riley via Flickr (remixed)
October 1st, he shot 59 people dead and injured 489 others during the country music festival called Route 91, which was attended by 22,000 people. He did it from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, where police found 23 guns surrounding his dead body after he shot himself. Additionally, 50lb of explosives, ammonium nitrate and 1,600 rounds of ammunition were later found in his car. Now, maybe the most frequently asked question in the States since the attack is: “Why?” With not a single word left to explain his actions, Stephen Paddock has taken this answer with him. However, looking into his family histo-
ry, medical records and psychological facts, there may be an explanation for his actions. “Research looking across generations in families has shown that children of parents who engage in ‘antisocial’ behaviours (such as rule-breaking, aggressive, or violent behaviour) are at greater risk for various negative outcomes including criminality, psychiatric disorders, substance use and low academic achievement. And research has also shown that individuals who engage in antisocial behaviours tend to have poorer cognitive abilities than those without antisocial tendencies”, according to Science Daily. That given, a closer look at Stephen Paddock’s family background, especially to his father’s life, leads to a possible match. Benjamin Hoskins Paddock, Stephen’s father, was an avid gambler who was always on the move. He spent ten years of his life as a fugitive after he escaped from a Texas prison in 1968 while serving time for a series of bank robberies. On the FBI’s wanted poster, it is stated that he had been diagnosed as “psychopathic” as well as suffering from
“suicidal tendencies” and “should be considered armed and very dangerous.” He was arrested in 1960 at a Las Vegas petrol station, a few miles from where the Mandalay Bay was later built, when his son, Stephen, was seven years old. Benjamin was a numbers guy, always focused on gambling—which may be the reason why he had been running a bingo parlour in Oregon while on the run. He also started the Holy Life Congregation in Oregon to exploit a loophole in state law, which allowed him to pocket the proceeds of his bingo parlour, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reports. He couldn’t be found because he was using a fake name—Bruce Ericksen. He was eventualy arrested in 1978, but was paroled a year later when he moved back to Springfield and restarted his bingo business. Benjamin started representing himself as a self-ordained minister in Las Vegas and married couples in the late 1980s. He died in 1998, in Texas. Considering the statistics and going back to Stephen Paddock and his life, there is a series of similarities between him and his father. Stephen grew up in a lower-middle-class family in Southern California, with his mother and three brothers; Bruce, Patrick and Eric, with whom he used to fight over the milk. ‘’My brother was the most boring one in the family,’’ Patrick Paddock has described him. ‘’He was the least violent one in the family.” Richard Alarcon, who lived near the Paddocks and once had a science class with Stephen, remembers him as a smart kid but with “a kind of irreverence”, who once cheated in a competition to build a bridge of balsa wood. “Everybody could see that he had cheated, but he just sort of laughed it off. He had that funny, quirky smile on his face like he didn’t care. He wanted to have the strongest bridge, and he didn’t care what it took.” Young Stephen started seeking financial independence at an early age, in order to gain complete control over his life. “He cycled through a series of jobs he thought would make him rich,” his brother, Eric Paddock has said. “He went to work for the I.R.S. because he thought that’s where the money was, but it turned out the money wasn’t there. He went to the aerospace industry, but the money wasn’t there either. He went to real estate, and that’s where the money was.’’ Eric had given him his life savings, and by the 32
late 1980s “we had cash flow.” In 2012, Stephen sold a property in Mesquite for $8,3 mil (£6,2 mil). By that time, in 2003, he got his pilot license, eventually buying houses in towns with small airports in Nevada and Texas, where he kept his planes. “He flew planes for a while until he got tired of it and started taking cruises,” Eric said. After two failed and childless marriages, Stephen Paddock got into gambling, and his favourite place to be was now Las Vegas, where he could gamble enormous amounts of money. “I would liken him to a chess player: very analytical and a numbers’ guy” said John Weinreich, 48, a former executive casino host at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, according to the New York Times. “He seemed to be working at a higher level mentally than most people I run into in gambling.’’ Going back to 2011, when Paddock sued Cosmopolitan Hotels & Resorts over slipping on a puddle inside their casino, some of his testimony focuses on his gambling based on the 97-page court statement deposed on October 29, 2013. “I know some of the video poker players that play big. Nobody played as much and as long as I did.” Accordingly, in 2006 he averaged on “14 hours a day, 365 days a year”, and according to a gaming industry analyst, “his game, video poker, requires some skill. Players have to know the history of a particular machine. They can do that by reading a pay table, which tells them what each possible winning hand pays out.” The most he had ever played on a game was $1 mil. Therefore, it is clear Stephen Paddock was a smart guy, very good with numbers, and that he loved gambling, just like his late father. Also, in the same deposition, Stephen declared that he split his time between Nevada, Texas, California and Florida, travelling “maybe upwards of three weeks out of a month.” Both of them living their lives on the move is another similarity between the father and son. Although, his resemblance to his father was not something unknown by him. In a series of text messages sent to an anonymous call-girl, he talked about his father, saying: “I didn’t have anything really to do with him but the bad streak is in my blood. I was born bad.” He used to pay her $6,000 a weekend to take part in brutal sexual intercourse. She claims that
Paddock was into roleplaying, especially tying her up and asking her to act out rape fantasies. “When he would have a winning streak, we would go back and have really aggressive and violent sex.” She described him as “obsessive” and “paranoid”, always talking about conspiracy theories, including claiming 9/11 was an inside job. “He had a dark and twisted side. But even so, I could never have imagined he would do something like this.” The two met around nine times between November 2015 and June 2016, according to her. Now, going back to the study covered by the Science Daily, there is a series of facts worthy to consider. According to it, “sons whose fathers have criminal records tend to have lower cognitive abilities than sons whose fathers have no criminal history, data from over 1 million Swedish men show. The research, conducted by scientists in Sweden and Finland, indicates that the link is not directly caused by fathers’ behaviour but is instead explained by genetic factors that are shared by father and son.” For a better understanding of the subject “Cognitive skills are the core skills your brain uses to think, read, learn, remember, reason, and pay attention. Working together, they take incoming information and move it into the bank of knowledge you use every day at school, at work, and in life,” according to Learning Rx. This means that the similarities between Stephen Paddock and his father such as sharing a passion for gambling, high-level intelligence and a constant need of changing locations, may be a genetic factor. Moreover, one of Stephen’s brothers, Bruce, has a vast criminal record just like his father. He has been arrested in the past for commercialising narcotics, theft, arson, vandalism, burglary, driving on a suspended licence, contempt and criminal threats. Also, Professor John White, a leading forensic psychologist and former Texas police officer who was quoted by Africa News, said this might be possible. “There’s no mass murder gene, but there are heritable traits, meaning that he inherits some part of the brain that, given the right circumstances, may bring out these behaviours. If he started having feelings of anger, being out of control at an early age but was able to suppress it, there could have been a lot of tension, a build-up, until a precipitating event,
“ I could never have imagined he would do something like this”
something that happened to push him over the edge.” Therefore, the outcome of the study carried out by the Swedish and Finnish scientists might apply in this case. Although, there is another aspect of the situation to look into. A closer look at Paddock’s testimony on October 29, 2013, reveals that a Nevada internist, Dr Steven P. Winker, had prescribed him Valium one year and a half before the incident which took place in 2011, which means he had been taking diazepam since late 2009. The treatment was prescribed for anxiousness. According to his testimony, he had 10-15 pills left in a bottle of 60 which had been prescribed a year and a half earlier. Also, the Las Vegas Review-Journal has reported that Dr Winkler last prescribed Paddock diazepam in June this year, according to Nevada’s prescription drug monitoring database. Therefore, it remains unclear how much or how regularly he took Valium, but a simple math exercise shows eight years of following the treatment. “Diazepam is a sedative-hypnotic drug in the class of drugs known as benzodiazepines, which studies have shown can trigger aggressive behaviour. Chronic use or abuse of sedatives such as diazepam can also trigger psychotic experiences,” according to drugabuse.com. A 2015 study published in World Psychiatry of 960 Finnish adults and teens convicted of homicide showed that their odds of killing were 45 per cent higher during time periods when they were on benzodiazepines.
A year earlier, the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry published a study titled “Benzodiazepine Use and Aggressive Behavior.” The authors wrote: “It appears that benzodiazepine use is moderately associated with subsequent aggressive behaviour.” Moreover, Dr Mel Pohl, chief medical officer of the Las Vegas Recovery Center, states: “If somebody has an underlying aggression problem and you sedate them with that drug, they can become aggressive. It can disinhibit an underlying emotional state. It is much like what happens when you give alcohol to some people; they become aggressive instead of going to sleep.” On the other hand, it is worth having a look at the effect benzodiazepines have on cognitive abilities, which might have already been affected in Stephen Paddock’s case. ‘Cognitive Effects of Long-Term Benzodiazepine Use’, a study published on Springer Link (which implied neuropsychological tests to evaluate performance after long-term use of benzodiazepines) showed that “moderate-to-large weighted effect sizes were found for all cognitive domains suggesting that long-term benzodiazepine users were significantly impaired, compared with controls, in all of the areas that were assessed.” Therefore, it is highly possible for Stephen Paddock’s actions on October 1st to be linked to his genetic inherences and diazepam consumption. On the table next to Stephen Paddock’s dead body, police found a note containing a series of numbers. The FBI later claimed that it was a list of phone numbers. If there was one thing that had never left Stephen’s side, that is numbers—sharing the same interest in gambling as his father, which may be an actual obsession with numbers. In the end, Stephen chose to call off his existence with his own hands, in the same way, he took 59 lives, shooting himself. For the survivors, many questions remain. “I can’t sleep at night because I get nightmares and cry in my sleep. I will never understand why someone could be so heartless and just kill people. I will never get my question answered and will never understand how someone could do that. I won’t be the same, and I won’t ever be ‘okay,’ but I hope I make it through it,” 18-year-old Erika Yeargan, Route 91 Festival survivor, concluded. b 33
Words: Defne Saricetin Images: Save the Children
NO LOST GENERATION 34
Can computer games like Minecraft help to educate and treat Syrian refugee children and give them hope for a world they can feel they belong in?
Designing a neighbourhood in Minecraft might seem like a pleasant yet insignificant pastime to most young people, but for Syrian refugee children, creating the home and school of their dreams in a virtual environment can be therapeutic and give them a sense of control and hope. “Children love to play games, especially video games,” was the thought that Dr Selcuk Sirin had as he was watching his own two children play video games at home. As a result, the New York University (NYU) Professor in Applied Psychology, was inspired to leverage technology and use gaming technologies to help refugee children to cope with language barriers as well as improving their mental health. Dr Sirin and his team are the first in the world to use gaming as an educational tool to innovate the ways we can help refugee children. These are children who have experienced highly traumatic events; witnessing deaths in their families and barbarous violence such as beheadings and shootings. NYU’s research demonstrates that as a result, refugee children are at risk for a range of mental health issues. The Project Hope researchers create tasks to encourage children to imagine a better future for themselves, using Minecraft, which is the second best-selling video game of all time as of 2017. These
tasks consist of encouraging the children to create their dream house, their dream neighbourhood, and their dream school. Through Minecraft and Alien, as well as game-based coding and language lessons, they are aiming to address the challenges both mentally and educationally faced by these kids. “We are talking about 5.5 million Syrian refugees in the world. About half of them are children, and a lot of these children are not in school right now. The question is how are we going to reach them? Making sure they all attend school would be ideal, but that’s not practical, we don’t have the resources,” says Dr Sirin explaining that this research, and intervention as he calls it, came out of that dilemma. “We know what is right for them, but what is right is expensive. Then we start thinking what else can we do? So this is the start.” The pilot study ‘Project Hope’ took place in Urfa, a Turkish city by the border of Syria, which is home to the largest population of refugees in Turkey – the country which hosts the most Syrian refugees in the world. Project Hope intends to give the children basic skills such as Turkish, mental management, coding and a sense of hope for the future. As there are not many Arabic-speaking professionals, or even citizens, in Turkey, learning the Turkish
language is a vital necessity for the children who are now settled there. “The children are getting better, it’s safe here, even though we all struggle with not being able to understand Turkish,” says Khalid, a Syrian refugee who fled to Turkey with his wife and five children. With a game-based approach, the participants were presented with 200 Turkish words through Cerego, “an adaptive learning technology platform based on principles of neuroscience and cognitive science.” The website selects what content you need to review and when, helping kids learn more effectively and remember more of the chosen educational subjects. Playing Alien, where children are praised for fast reactions and short-time memory, serves as an executive functions training for them. While the players distinguish between diverse elements, their abilities to plan, monitor and alter behaviour are improved. The children also learn to code as a relevant 21st-century skill via code.org which is a non-profit website where they can learn about computer science. It’s highly practical as coding is a skill they can learn on their own by writing lines of code to skip levels in the game. Lastly, the intervention group plays Minecraft to increase children’s hopefulness levels by putting them in a world where they are in complete control, and can design their imagined scenarios by building constructions “of textured cubes in a 3D generated world.” 147 Syrian children between the ages of nine and fourteen participated in the study, two hours per day, five days a week, a total of 80 hours in four weeks. “About 90 per cent of the children that attended our project wanted to come back,” says Dr Sirin. There were positive results from the surveys completed every week by the children, reporting they were learning from the games and that they would recommend them. According to the results, children were not only satisfied, but their Turkish language skills were significantly higher, and there were fundamental improvements in their cognitive skills following the month-long intervention. On average, they wrote more than 1,800 lines of code and completed 182 levels on the platform which demonstrates great competence.
Accompanying the improvements in their skills, the hopelessness rate went down by half in just a month. The refugee crisis is an issue of childhood as more than half of them are under the age of 18 and about 30 to 40 per cent of them are under the age of 12. While half of them are not in elementary school, 78 per cent of the adolescents are not in high school. The picture gets strikingly worse when it comes to higher education as only less than 1 per cent of refugee children are in college. Before the war, Syria was considered an education success story, with a rate of 51 per cent enrolment which is particularly high in the Middle East. At the moment, 90 per cent of the refugees settled in Turkey are not going to school. These vulnerable children have just witnessed a war, 79 per cent had experienced someone die in their family, 60 per cent had seen someone get kicked, shot at, or physically hurt, 45 per cent experienced PTSD symptoms and 20 per cent are clinically depressed, which means if they were in a Western country, they would be considered to need immediate help. They cannot sleep or eat like a regular person and have suicidal thoughts. The ethical norm in a conventional scenario would be to reach out. “He saw people being beheaded, and their heads hung in the streets. He is always afraid now,” says the mother of nine-year-old Ahmed who is now settled in Turkey. “After those incidents, he became aggressive. But he doesn’t know what he is doing.” Save the Children’s report notes that Ahmed has seen “dead bodies, heads on spikes, lashing and several other violent incidents. After almost one year living in a residential centre for mothers and children in Turkey near the Syrian border, his mental health has improved.” “I am afraid of blood, and I am afraid to see a dead body and someone with his head chopped off. When I feel sad now, I go to my mum and sit next to her. She comforts me, and she rubs my hair, and I feel happy,” says Ahmed. Some of these traumatised children have never sat at a school desk or received any kind of education. There is a “lost generation” problem as Dr Sirin calls it. And this generation of traumatised kids who never had a chance to go to school might become even more lost if they are
not treated in the right way. Sirin stresses that providing food and shelter is not enough. To give them hope, educational opportunities and the opportunities to engage in the society need to be provided. “Anti-refugee sentiments and making them feel different, or like they don’t belong causes a lot of young people to look for other alternative ways of engagement rather than civic engagement,” Sirin points out. “If we fail to provide that, we don’t need to look more beyond than parts of the world that had refugee crisis. “For example, the Pakistan-Afghanistan refugee crisis in the 1980s where nobody paid attention to the needs of the refugees. Similarly, Taliban and ISIS came out of refugee camps, from internally and internationally displaced people in the Middle East and they exploited those circumstances,” Sirin says. “We cannot afford to have another crisis that leads young men and women to take actions that are not the best for their own sake, but that are even worse for our sake.” One thing Dr Sirin is certain about is that even though it takes time and effort, trauma can be treated. When people who were faced with severe traumas are provided for, they have the capacity to imagine peace and recover. For this recovery to be in a traditional and non-technological way, however, he explains, there would have to be millions of professionals who speak Arabic. And that is where technology and Skype and online therapy can help. The transformative power of technology is something Dr Sirin, and his fellow researchers are profoundly hopeful about, as there seems to be a crisis of traditional schooling anyway where children don’t want to go to school and don’t seem to learn as much as they used to. “I believe that online schooling is one option,” Sirin states. The 19th century, industrial revolution idea of a school building where kids have to stay for an extended time appears outdated as he believes we have to think anew in the 21st century. Their work with the refugees reflects that search, and can maybe even be expanded to other kids in the future. Whether game-based learning is the new revolution in education or not, at the moment it just might be the most practical, cost-effective and efficient solution at hand for reaching and helping refugee children who are in great need. b 37
Words: Danyang Zheng
THE VOGUE FOR FACE-LIFTING IN ASIA Face-lifting is becoming a growing trend in Asia with the attitude towards plastic surgery and body modifications changing
“China now has the largest number of Cosmetic Surgical Procedures being performed each year” according to a survey conducted by the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS). As stated in, a recent publication from the American National Institutes of Health (NIH), “59.8% of Asian people have single fold eyelids, implying their upper eyelid crease is not as apparent as the crease of a Caucasian eye; the upper lid looks puffier and has more fullness, this leads to narrowing and gives arise to a slit-like eye”. A quick glimpse at Chinese celebrities reveals that very few, naturally or not, have these features. As a result of this one of the most popular treatments in China has become turning single eyelids to double eyelids. Zhao, a 20-year-old student from China, made a common pilgrimage to the mecca of plastic surgery in Seoul, South Korea. She describes that “There were hundreds of cosmetic surgery clinics on the street in the Gangnam district, the glamour and lights of the heavy advertising gave me comfort”. “I don’t see anything wrong in looking after my appearance. I really hate my single eyelids, and I had used plastic stick-ons for years to mimic the double fold, however, when I saw the surgical result of my friend who had tried the double eyelid operation, I too jumped at the chance”, she explains. Alarmingly, Zhao does not intend on telling her parents about the plastic surgery, “I don’t know if they’d approve, so why should I worry them?”, She explains. The surgery costs 3,600 yuan (£412), and it took about two hours to complete the procedure. “The plastic surgeon asked me to keep my eyes open during the surgery. I could not feel any pain after the anaesthesia was injected, and I was awake throughout.”, Zhao recalls. “The swelling has reduced nearly two months after my operation and I’m ecstatic with the results.” Revere Clinics is a boutique chain which offers beauty treatments. It was set up in 2011 by Dr Sach Mohan, who is one of Europe’s eminent cosmetic physicians. Revere has two branches in London, including one on the famous Harley Street. Revere Clinics specialises in minimally invasive procedures. It has become a European leader in the field of minimally invasive cosmetics and dermatology, and they perform thousands of procedures
“There are hundreds of cosmetic surgery clinics on the street”
every year for patients from all over the world. Dr Mohan is regarded as the ‘go-to person’ in the Asian community, with a loyal following in China, India and the Far East. Customers from Asia usually have different desires in comparison to the Europeans. However, the overall impression seems to be that: “Everyone thinks the grass is greener on the other side.” The Europeans want to be tanned, have slightly fuller faces and a more Mediterranean look. On the contrary, Asians don’t want to be tanned, and they want to have slimmer faces and a more western look. According to Dr Mohan, Revere Clinics is now providing a better service for their Asian clients. “We have Chinese speaking staff, Elycia, and even I am learning Mandarin now”. Moreover, he has received numerous invitations to go to China to speak at events, medical conferences and to teach other Chinese doctors. Elycia Tang is the only Chinese consultant based at the Harley Street branch. She mentions that 40% of the patients there are from China. Typically, the clinic receives at least four appointments per day. Not only women but also men are getting facelifts as well as nose jobs and chin fillers with Hyaluronic Acid Injections, these chin fillers are the most popular treatments amongst Chinese patients. In order to maintain the results one has to come back every six to nine months. The reputation of the clinic is based on 39
the transparency, education, the honesty of the doctor, and the trust and communication between him and his patients. Dr Mohan also gives suggestions upon patients’ requests and spends a lot of time communicating with them. “If patients say they are unhappy with something on their faces but I disagree, I would say no. A doctor’s first responsibility is not to harm their patient.” Dr Mohan says, “It is about making an honest diagnoses which is just as important as a medical diagnosis, and based on that we have to create a treatment plan. If they disagree with the diagnoses, then they cannot go ahead with the treatment”. ‘Beauty’ seems to occupy a significant position in many females’ lives: most have a strong awareness of aesthetics from an early age. Attractiveness can easily get another person’s attention, and that is important to many women. Several social experiments have revealed that girls with more than average looks are judged less harshly than those with plain looks, despite the social taboo that it is wrong to judge people based on their appearances. Many young girls are programmed to look like Barbie dolls, with things such as floral dresses or the colour pink. When they get 40
older, however, many of them begin to pay more attention to fashion both subconsciously and consciously, emulating their favourite icons and celebrities. During their formative years, most teenage girls adopt an individual style. They spend hours watching makeup videos, buying beauty products, following fashion trends and consuming dietary supplements. Some try almost every method to achieve their goals of beauty. Meanwhile, the multi-billion-dollar beauty industry uses every marketing and advertising tool to satiate their thirst for a perfect look. The rise of the cosmetic treatment industry helps the girls, with no patience, to have the appearance they long for, offering instant gratification as long as they can afford it. A burgeoning industry of back-alley providers has emerged, for those of them that can’t afford it, however, this can pose risks to their health. Many Asians aim to replicate westerners’ sharp noses, deep and big eyes, as well as slender cheek and jaw bone structure People realise that those sorts of features are impossible to achieve as they are traits of a different ethnic group. Losing weight is not an effective method,
as the bone structure cannot be changed by fat reduction. Hence, face-lifting offers an easier way to achieve these beauty standards. However, plastic surgery is always a controversial topic. Some people are firmly against cosmetic surgery as they think it is extravagant to spend so much money on beauty. They are also concerned that reshaping features is setting new beauty standards. Many girls who have had plastic surgery refuse to admit it, as they care about other peoples’ opinions. Some people do not like this kind of physical ideal as they deem that those faces are “artificial” and “manmade” and this is something that they will never support. The situation seems to be reversing in recent years. Cosmetic surgeries are gradually becoming accepted by the public and becoming a trend. There are more and more medical establishments and the pharmaceutical industries that are now vigorously promoting plastic surgery. People are getting rid of old concepts and reconsidering those beauty services. Some celebrities no longer hide the truth that they had have hyaluronic acid injections on their faces or micro-plastic surgery to help themselves look younger and prettier. But it is not only women that are willing, men are also undergoing these surgeries. In China, there is a group of people known as ‘Wang Hong’ (similar to YouTube influencers) in Mandarin. They are internet celebrities who earn money by doing live streaming on several platforms such as YouTube or Twitch, some also run clothing stores online. They all have one thing in common: the stereotypical perfect look, which is often called the “Wang Hong Face” by the public. Almost all of them have had medical procedures to reshape their faces to a certain look, known as the ‘internet celebrity face’, which consists of “the combination of doe eyes, a pointy chin, a high nose and fair skin, a commonly used shorthand in China,” reported by BBC NEWS. In the report published by iiMedia Research, about ten per cent of those internet celebrities admitted that they had undergone plastic surgery. People find it hard to distinguish them because of their appearance, “I will never deny that they are beautiful, however, it should not be the standard of aesthetics. People should appreciate differences and everyone should be unique,” says Lynn,
a third-year student at Peking University, China. Lynn describes her first impression of cosmetic surgery: “The first time I heard about plastic surgery was at the age of 12. My idol, a Chinese pop singer suddenly changed his look. He trained in Korea for six months, and then when he came back to China, his facial features became more outstanding and his chin was obviously thinner than before. He claimed that the training in Korea was tough, so he had a lot of weight loss. However, there was entertainment gossip disclosed that he had had the plastic surgery in Korea. Most of his fans were not willing to believe that. It sounds painful and horrible to have surgery on your face. It is not acceptable to me.” Lynn continues, “I don’t think I will have plastic surgery because, on the one hand, I cannot afford the expensive treatment fee, on the other hand, I am quite confident with my face. I am not ugly at least”. In general, people need to see the face-lifting technology in a dialectical way and choose the reliable cosmetic clinics. Most of the patients who have tried face-lifting are regular customers, and when they see the positive effect of the treatment, they will get addicted to self-improvement. It might be a vicious circle which can have a negative impact on people’s mental health. Expert suggests that, pursuing beauty appropriately is a good intention, however, excessively chasing the perfect appearance can cause various degrees of mental illness. b
Words: Ginny Pettitt Images: Taffy Msipa, Ginny Pettitt, Keza Mbodje
FREEDOM OF THE FRO Are black women now exploring their identity through cutting off their hair?
Defining blackness through hair has always been a way of expressing the culture and individuality and a way of creating a safe space for people to embrace the way their hair kinks and curls. Hair has been a political statement to emphasize the strength, power and solidarity of black men and women; whether it is through wearing weave and sleeking baby hairs in spirals or wearing a big afro that reflects the history of civil rights through the Black Panther movement. In the last ten years, the shift of attitudes towards black women and hair has evolved as women of colour are spending £5.7 billion ($7.5 billion) annually on beauty products, with companies such as L’Oreal investing their money into brands such as Carol’s Daughter to push sales and marketing. The natural hair movement has led women to create platforms advocating their love of natural hair by filming tuto-
rials educating each other to rock their fros, hosting events around cities bringing women together and even having brand endorsements with companies such as L’Oreal, Dove or Shea Moisture. However, this obsession with hair has more recently turned unhealthy and has seen women becoming dependent on their hair as a way to feel confident and accepted. What was once a community which celebrates the versatility of women collectively has now become a competition to see who has the biggest curls, the longest hair or the brightest colours. Women are now rebelling by cutting their hair to remove the idea of having to fit the standards of natural hair. Artefact spoke to three brave and unique women who recently shaved their hair with the intentions of letting go of the beauty standard that has now been created amongst black women. 43
ANTOINETTE WENTWORTH-SMITH Meet Antoinette. After years of experimenting with wigs, hair dyes and even relaxing, she realised by cutting her hair off she’d soon discover her freedom of true beauty was always within her. How has cutting your hair changed your life? I just feel free. When I was having it cut whilst she was shaving it, I was freaking out questioning what I was doing but when it was over I just felt free. Some people say there is a moment of vulnerability when a woman cuts her hair, do you think this is true? Actually, I felt empowered because I did it and everyone loved it except my Dad, so I definitely made the right choice and I was really happy with it. I actually felt quite strong. What other aspects of yourself did you focus on when you cut your hair? When I cut it I noticed I could see everything but I just kind of feel like everything has opened up and my thoughts are clear. I feel like I can do anything. It’s like an injection, it’s a scary thing but once you do it you wonder what you were actually scared of.
KEZA MBODJE Keza, a Senegalese student of the African Leadership University who is currently exploring Mauritius, cut her hair due to the high maintenance that came with it. Her love for being a care-free black girl was hindered when every time she would go swimming, she would need to re-straighten her hair—causing it to break. Who cut your hair? I went to a barber-shop in Senegal where my brothers usually go and told the barber that I wanted to cut all my hair. He didn’t think I was being serious and started laughing. After a few minutes of trying to convince him, I sat on the chair and next thing I know, I had no hair. What other aspects of yourself did you focus on when you cut your hair? I finally understood that beauty comes from within and that society’s standards are not my standards. I now focus on my individuality, confidence and strength which all contribute to my identity. I’m creating my own definition of beauty and I have no doubt that I possess other unique characteristics that are yet to be discovered. The process of cutting hair can be the most empowering moment for a woman—so when Phalinda had her hair cut in a barbers surrounded by men, she discovered her bravery and strength. “I went to the barbers but he refused at first because he thought I was joking so he made me sit down until I was certain and then he did it. “I can’t lie, it was daunting being around so much masculine energy. When I was going there I saw someone I knew so I went home and came back later. “He said I should be very proud of myself and I shouldn’t feel that it would take away my beauty. I didn’t expect him to say that because we didn’t have a conversation before so maybe he could read my body language.”
TAFFY MSIPA Another inspiring woman who cut her hair was Taffy. Having grown up in a traditional Zimbabwean community, hair had always been associated with beauty. So when she decided to remove all the relaxed hair, she herself became relaxed. How has cutting your hair changed your life? It’s changed how I see myself and how I feel about myself in such a positive way, there is no hair do or hairstyle to hide behind. Why did you cut your hair? I wanted change, I wanted to challenge myself and I wanted to learn how I would feel with a naked head and a naked face. I also wanted to have healthier hair and I wanted a better relationship with myself. When I say a better relationship with myself, I don’t mean ‘finding myself’. I mean I wanted to measure my worth and cutting my hair did just that. I’ve realized you don’t need hair to feel good about yourself. If you could have any hairstyle, what would it be? Braids! I love my braids—they are so versatile and fun. I always relate my braids to Island vibes and sun and happiness so when I’m not actually traveling to any sunny destinations, I have braids for the vibe and on the plus side, my baby curls are protected at the same time! If you could say anything to our readers about cutting their hair what would it be? Don’t overthink it. Just go with it and make sure you surround yourself with positive people to encourage you and keep you going once you do it. b
Words: Valentina Bulava Images: Jeff Meyer via Flickr
SHOULD MODELS WORK FOR FREE?
Is TFP—Time for Photos—good for newcomers to the fashion industry, or simply exploitation?
TFP is a modern fashion industry term, which many models face quite often in their career. It specifically refers to those who are just stepping in to the industry, because apparently these three letters are supposed to open up the modelling world for them. TFP stands for Time for Photos (or Pictures) and means that a model and a photographer will collaborate to get equal use from their work – images for one’s portfolio. There are benefits to both sides of this arrangement. The model can build a portfolio of prints to show to prospective clients at little or no cost, whilst the photographer gets a model for a test project and also some pictures for their portfolio. However in reality, this definition is no longer completely accurate: when some established models hear the word ‘TFP’ or ‘test shoot’ they run away, close the Facebook page or hang up the phone. Because it can literally mean work the whole day for someone, for free. Recently, TFP and its effect on the fashion industry has started to be raise questions more frequently. To understand if it really does influence the fashion world negatively, we spoke to a number of individuals within the industry. Firstly, why there is a concern that TFP is killing the fashion industry? The answer is that more and more designers prefer to shoot inexperienced models, just because they agree to work for free. As a re-
sult, photographers get bad photos, designer clothes are represented in a wrong way, and editorial shoots’ quality goes down rapidly. But the worst side effect of TFP is that people are being exploited. Charlotte Brooke, Miss Earth England, believes that people abuse the term Time for Photos and many people do not even know what it really is. She says that it should be an exchange of services, particularly, the model’s time for a copy of the photographer’s pictures: “Yes, there could be a makeup artist, hair stylist, and clothes stylist and it can still be TFP. There could even be a designer, and it can still count as TFP, [but] as soon as that picture is used for more than portfolio then it becomes working for free, and that is wrong. “It is not “good exposure” to do TFP. It is taking advantage of often young and inexperienced or naive models. ” She is also sceptical about how employers boast about having spent £20k on equipment and say the photos will be up in Harrods and Harvey Nichols, but then go on to say “but there is no budget to pay a model. You will get exposure.” She adds that exposure doesn’t pay the bills and all it gets the model is more people requesting free work. “Don’t fall into the trap of people calling work ‘TFP’ because there is a difference. Time for photos is only acceptable if it’s for portfolio use.” As a new
model myself, I have done a lot of unpaid work. In most of the cases, people promise you exposure and get all the profits after that. But, as Charlotte said, it is actually ‘bad exposure.’ People expect you to work for free further and further. It leads to a huge problem of exploitation. Now established in the fashion industry, I rarely agree to do any unpaid work, unless it won’t affect my other businesses, or if it is a charity. On the other side, I still have a lot to learn, so I can use TFP to improve my skills. It is a personal choice for everybody, but some models get fooled into thinking that this is absolutely normal. Not only do models suffer from the unfair use of free work, it exploits photographers, fashion assistants, stylists and many others. People are being used, and it is awful. An example of photographers being exploited is the case in which one creates beautiful pictures for models for free, spend their resources, and then models use them without crediting the photographer, getting all the benefits. Some people would agree that there are two sides to this issue. Pete Fallan, a talented photographer, says he has benefitted from TFP but also lost out too. He has been in situations where people used his work for their own good—“My latest issue is when people are asking photographers to work TFP to snap their kids!”, he says “but, as long as it is 47
win-win all round, then I can’t see any harm.” I can say from personal experience, that sometimes there is no time to eat, drink or even sit to rest on the day of the shoot or runway. During one of the September weekends, I had a few shows in a row. I was exhausted by the end of the last one. It is proper work, which requires time, energy and money to do. If you are lucky enough, you get your expenses paid. And traveling itself is tiring too, especially if you are based in another city. You can either benefit from it or lose a lot. Continuing on the topic of exploitation, some designers generally use models for unpaid work, justifying it as TFP. But the difference between a collaboration and unpaid work is quite huge—for example, I worked for afew designers for free, doing full day photoshoots and catwalks. I didn’t get any money, but I have got fabulous pictures for my portfolio, and I have also seen my photos published in one of the world’s most known fashion magazines. Personally, I am happy with that for now. But this doesn’t mean I will work for free all my life just because I am getting published somewhere. I have been published in one of the leading Asian magazines, and been paid for working as a model. As a result, I am willing to work more with the person who brought me there, and I would say no to other offers over this one. On the other hand, Rosemary Lloyd, a multi-award winning model and current Miss Earth Air, says a firm ‘no’ to TFP. She has worked in the fashion industry for 13 years: “Some people pretend to be your friend and loyal to you so you can work for TFP for them and exploit you,” she says. Unfortunately, this is the truth. As soon as they know you won’t work for free, she admits that their loyalty stops, and so does their friendship. She also adds that some people say the classic ‘I don’t have money to pay’, but then somehow they have a car, a mortgage, Apple products, designer stuff and so on. 48
“ TFP is the most abused term in the fashion industry”
Lloyd claims that highly professional models do not work for TFP as there is always going to be more paid opportunities. She advises not to sell yourself short and not to let any companies use you. However, the model admits that government registered charities are the only time she wouldn’t charge as it’s for a good cause. “TFP is the most abused term in the fashion
industry, TFP was invented for those who are new to the industry and don’t have a portfolio and needed to build one. But once you have a representative professional portfolio to offer clients, then paid work should only be appropriate! “Stop asking professional models with years of experience to work for TFP, not only does it devalue your standards as a company but the models also.” Lloyd believes that professionals should not be approached unless an employer has a budget in place. She compares it to doing grocery shopping – “Do you go to a store and walk out with the company’s bag full of food without paying and say to them ‘I am walking with your bag of food, so it’s good exposure’?” Otherwise, it is taking advantage and exploiting them. She calls for professional models with a representative portfolio to not work for TFP and undersell themselves. And don’t go for “you get great exposure, we pay you next time” or worse “we will feed you.” “Please, models, photographers, designers, hairstylists, makeup artists know your worth! TFP is taking advantage and exploiting you!” Lloyd also adds that if you have been approached by a charity fashion show, you should
require the registration number, which every charity has, so make sure it is official. I will be working with Rosemary Lloyd in the future. Despite the fact, that her cosmetics company is very new and we are friends, she will be paying me because she believes that work must be paid. But once again, nobody forces anyone to do TFP; it is a personal choice. But the fact that these artists are being chosen for professional work just because they are free of charge might be a reason why the quality of fashion projects go down. TFP is a chance for models to become better, to get into the industry and be paid there. Mirza Miah, designer and founder of Iman Boutique, says he doesn’t like the term TFP as it has negative connotations, so he tries to use the term “collaborating models”. Once again, I worked with him for free when I met him. I don’t regret it for a second, as I got nice pictures, wonderful friends and lots of fun. Because of those pictures I could add to a portfolio I am now getting paid. “As a designer in the Asian wear industry, I’ve found that with models trying to break into the industry it’s very hard to get work – thus leading to a lack of portfolio pictures to showcase what they can achieve in a shoot which would be worth a designer’s money,” Miah says. He finds it a bit harder to work with collaborative models, as there is a need to get them to know their poses and angles to best showcase the garment. It can take time, not to mention overcoming their nerves when they see bright lights and a camera aimed at them. Miah tends to work with them and direct them as much as possible to get the best shots possible which he shares with the model for them to build their portfolio. His suggestion for aspiring models is to sit in front of a mirror, know your angles, overcome your nerves, use collaborative work to showcase your talent, build your portfolio and then start your search for paid work after building a good professional reputation.
“Also, remember that not everyone’s budget is the same, but their creative thinking can even help the ‘established’ models,” he adds. “There are always opportunities to grow and develop your portfolio, even if that means lowering your rate. It may just help you in the long run.” Truly, you can experiment with your rates and work, just don’t believe that you have to work for free constantly to get somewhere. Despite being a personal choice for everybody, TFP doesn’t seem like a viable option. I have refused to do five jobs because I was not getting paid and I just sat at home for a whole month without any invitation because they don’t want to work with me anymore. Why? Because I request money for doing work for them. It happens in any other industry with internships too. You want to be paid, but as a result, you just stay without any work experience. Naeem Yasin, an established model, adds that TFP is a major point of discussion in the industry and it is good to see many people challenging it. Yasin says everyone has done TFP, whether as models or photographers or any other creatives, especially when first starting in the industry. He remembers one of his first ever agencies warned him that he needs to make sure people do not take advantage of him by saying it’s ‘TFP’ or a ‘test shoot’ and then use the images to advertise their stuff in magazines/online or otherwise.” At the time I stupidly ignored that advice as I just wanted images for my portfolio. And work I essentially did for nothing, was used to advertise (and therefore to make money) for the client,” Yasin says. If a model wants to build a portfolio they should be doing test shoots or collaborations where both parties get something out of the work,” he adds. He thinks that if the models are not getting paid than the photographer or designer should not be making any profit except portfolio building. As most new models are willing to work for nothing, everyone else suffers
as these clients know they can get work for free anytime – but as a result, they get what they pay (or don’t pay) for. “Finally, if as a model you choose to do TFP make sure it’s to your advantage. For example, if Vogue approached me for TFP would I accept? Hell yeah! Because that is major exposure! “But unfortunately… most clients use the ‘exposure’ line to get models on board but most of the time there is none!” It is very sad to see how some people in the industry have turned a normal understanding of Time for Photos concept into the shameless use of free model work for their own benefit. Fair use applies on both sides of the camera. Diane Jordan, a model, says she was working for free at first, as it helped her to create a beautiful feed on her Instagram page. “The work I was doing for free, later on, helped me to get noticed. Back in 2013, I helped a designer duo for nothing and then, I saw my face in Daily Mail. I also had paid jobs as I established good connections while working for free,” Jordan shares. Jay Kristoffer, a photographer, questions how can a model or photographer that is starting out, become professional without TFP. He believes that if you love photography or modelling, you won’t mind doing it for free. He adds that many top photographers and models would not be where they are today without TFP. Some continue to do personal work to this day – although they probably don’t need to. Countless full-time, professional photographers and models do the same, for the similar reasons. The conclusion is that TFP should not be mistaken for free work. It is an essential part of beginning a career in this industry, but there is a difference between giving a volunteering opportunity and deceiving a model – saying it is a test shoot and then using their work for own benefits. People’s work should be paid. For all the photographers, models, designers and other members of the fashion industry. b 49
WHAT’S THE FUTURE FOR RADIO 1? The BBC’s youth radio station is struggling to maintain relevance in the online world
Words: Pavel Troughton Images: Radio 1 Live Lounge BBC 50
Radio 1 has now been ‘‘entertaining and engaging a broad range of young listeners with a distinctive mix of contemporary music and speech’’ for 50 years. To celebrate this birthday the station has launched Radio 1 Vintage, essentially playing hour long reruns of former shows —an idea that doesn’t exactly follow their contemporary vision. This isn’t a new issue, even at its birth the station has been playing catch up to London’s underground of ‘pirates’. Now a more eclectic online radio network attracts the interest of young listeners just as the outlaws did before them. The question is not whether Radio 1 is mimicking the underground: this is the basis on which the station was built around. The real news here is that 50 years on Radio 1 is still behind in diversifying and educating the youth with the same range of worldwide culture that the online stations are exposing so well. Due to the station’s long established reach, it has a moral obligation to perform its self-imposed remit. Three of the major online stations are: Balamii, a new station from Peckham whose founder James Browning says, ‘‘Traditional FM radio is no longer relevant.’’ Second Radar, whose management team agree, instilling that ‘‘The beauty of the internet is that we can say or do what we want’’. Finally, NTS Radio, hailed overall best online radio station by streaming platform Mixcloud, has the tag line ‘‘Don’t Assume’’. It is this forward thinking approach to broadcasting which has attracted the ears of a diverse audience of over 700,000 listeners. I spoke to Ross Allen, a veteran in his field, who won a Sony Award for his work for Radio London between 1995 to 2004. He also presented shows on Radio 1 and 6. Ross has also broadcast on pirate and more recently online stations like NTS radio, always playing his varied style
of niche and obscure records. “To me the online stuff seems to echo the pirate stations of old”. What online stations like NTS Radio offer is highly curated content, made by a roster of DJs who cater for an audience which craves more than your average listener. They are able to do this due to the power of the internet and their wide connection of local as well as internationally recognised DJs. It’s truly spectacular when looking at the schedule. At one end you may have guest appearances from techno giants such as Nina Kraviz, while at the other you can be tuning into the bi-weekly Gaza Strip show broadcasting the finest r’n’b, dancehall with a Middle Eastern flavour. Commercial stations like Radio 1 cannot compete with the eclecticism of stations like NTS. ‘‘It’s like any corporation, it’s like a massive boat that takes you ages to turn, but if you’re in a little speed boat you can play whatever you want.’’ says Ross. ‘‘It’s interesting in the way NTS works, as it seems like a real success story and yet it is so liberal in its ethos.” Perhaps this is what attracts the younger demographic to this community of online radio: ‘‘it’s all about niches now’’, and it is the niche that this younger, musically orientated demographic crave. “The future of radio is online”. The power of the internet allows these stations to become more than radio. With countless shows recorded on the site, a vast collection of varied music remains free for the user’s enjoyment. This model mimics the structure of streaming services like Spotify or Tidal, their playlists allow the user to listen to shows on demand. Shows have track lists attached to them to give the user the ability to identify and purchase new music. The point here is that with so much choice of varied music online it’s easy to see how Radio 1 is struggling to keep up. ‘‘I think possibly the reason that Ra-
Left to right: Bob Harris, Mike Read, Zoe Ball, Bobby & Nihal, Mike Smith, Janice Long, Kenny Everett, Pete Tong, Alan Freeman Fabio & Grooverider, Colin & Edith, John Peel, Zane Lowe, Chris Moyles, Noel Edmonds, Annie Nightingale.
“ People are turning to the more obscure niche of music. ”
dio 1 is suffering so much now is because everyone can get what they want instantaneously. There was only an x amount of radio stations in the 70s and 80s and that was why that content was sort of watered down and that’s why the pirates came along’’, recalls Ross. Today the same story applies, because so much content is available at the touch of a button: it’s easy to tell why younger audiences look to online stations to access that niche. ‘‘This whole online thing is great because you just go to your computer, before it was hard work to access that underground music.’’ This is where streaming services come into play, it’s where younger listeners and major labels find new artists… ‘‘I’m at a major record label at least once a week and every time you go in there the talk is of Spotify not of Radio 1 whereas before the talk was of Radio 1.’’ As Ross explained Radio 1 is at the top of a whole process of music streaming, ‘‘70% of the music we play on this station isn’t on Spotify, and that also gives NTS another reason for its existence to a certain extent. Whereas probably 99% of most music played on Radio 1 and all those other stations is on Spotify. What you’ve really kind of got are commercial radio stations, what NTS do and stations akin to that and then you’ve got Spotify. The reality of it is Spotify and the commercial stations almost cancel each other out so you’re left with NTS’’. ‘‘Spotify is way ahead of commercial radio musically in terms of being on it, and the NTS like stations are going in on an even deeper level than Spotify. If you get into enough specialist music (from stations like NTS) and the Spotify team gets hold of that and if it bubbles up through that it will go into a Spotify playlist then potentially someone at Radio 1 will recognise this music, but a year has gone by after it was played on NTS.’’ Radio 1 isn’t keeping up with advances made in new music, so listeners who want truly new releases in certain niches are tuning in to online radio. This is to be expected from commercial stations but is it something that needs to be changed? What sets online radio apart from commercial stations is mostly down to advertising restrictions. In order to
raise the money needed for its operating budget commercial stations rely on ratings to attract advertisers, the bigger the audience the wider the reach commercials will have and the more the stations can charge advertisers for a commercial spot. This translates to musical freedom. In order to keep ratings up they are forced to play those musicians’ works that match the station’s market and have nation-wide name recognition, or are simply backed by big budget promotional campaigns. Even if commercial radio diversifies in content they seem to water things down. Ross recalls Radio 1’s obscure presentation of Glamma Kid: ‘‘Back in the day someone like Glamma Kid who was hot on the underground got signed up. When he made his record that they wanted to get on Radio 1, they had him signing over a Chic record but he was originally doing pure bashmore. The reason they got him to do that was because they wanted to get him on Radio 1. That’s just an example of that sort of bleached out, ‘middle of the roadness’’ that they would play on radio. He did get played there but it didn’t benefit his career because the streets said we don’t want to hear any of that we want to hear the stuff he was doing originally.” This is the fundamental reason for Radio 1’s decline in the younger demography. Due to the station trying to cater for everyone’s taste they fail in providing the youth (the intended audience for the station) with what they want to hear. As already stated and Ross reiterates, ‘‘It’s exactly because of that pirate radio started because Radio 1 in particular are trying to attract the broadest reach of people but everything starts in a niche.’’ It can definitely be said that commercial radio’s big budget allows for their presenters to invite celebrity guests to play games on air, have scoops on exclusive big-name interviews and curate Live Lounge performances. However, there still seems to be an absence of audience involvement unlike that of online stations. There seems to be a gap between artist and audience, unlike that of Boiler Room. Boiler Room is a multimedia streaming service broadcasting a live video feed of shows, a live comments section as well as a background community of listeners circling the DJ performing.
The problem for commercial station lies in a lack of fresh talent to present the shows. “I’m always looking for fresh new talent, for the next set of presenters, but I think it’s really weird how it’s getting harder.” says Ben Cooper, controller of Radio 1. Perhaps Radio 1 is focusing too much on quirky presenters to attract their listening base. Is it possible to adopt an online radio platform which puts its focus on shows rather than presenters? Ross elaborates on the distinction between the two stations, ‘‘Radio 1 is going back to that sort of presenter led thing, characterful individuals and music that’s cream of the crop if you’re into the world of pop and it lives or dies by being that, whereas NTS and pirate stations before that said we don’t put too much emphasis on what people that are presenting it are like, we’re just going to play the music and if people like it this is where we are, it’s about the music.’’ Therefore, the question is: does the music influence young listeners or do the presenters? It’s also important to note that Ross’s own opinion stretches to genuine presenters being a good thing. ‘‘It comes down to that cult of personality or great tunes… I think it’s best to have a little bit of both. That’s what I’ve always tried to do.’’ A focus on presenters or music is an age-old question but it’s something that Radio 1 can think about to increase its youthful listenership. Essentially, the idea to put forward from this comparison of various radio platforms is that the future of radio is really online, with NTS leading the charge. As for Radio 1, Ross summarises the platform beautifully: ‘‘At it’s heart and it’s a national cultural body that reflects, albeit slightly delayed, what is going on in this country, because this country is such a mad meltdown of everything.’’ At the same time, he goes on to argue that this broad approach of giving listeners only a taste of various genres could ultimately be Radio 1’s downfall. ‘‘I’ve just sat here saying that that’s one of the reasons why it’s not doing so well, but I think that it really is because now you’ve got so much choice whereas before you didn’t have.’’ In an age where everything is so easily accessible due to the internet people are turning to the more obscure niche of music to fulfil their appetite for new music. Perhaps this is what is needed to attract a younger audience to the station, but is Radio 1 willing to broaden their roster to suit this demography and progress into the future or are they stuck too deep in an archaic model that is speedily becoming outdated? What we know is that for younger audiences ‘‘everything is about the niches at the moment and NTS is perfectly placed to serve that.’’ b 53
Words: Jesus Barrera Rodriguez Images: Elentir and fotomovimien via Flickr
THE PAIN IN SPAIN What does Catalonia’s bid for independence mean for Spanish national unity?
The riot police were the main characters of Catalonia’s polemic independence referendum. The main European media have shown the brutality of the riot that led to more than 800 people being injured. The population of the North-East region of Spain was asked to go to vote in the independence referendum on October 1. It was a controversial vote because the Spanish Government did not allow the Generalitat (Catalonia´s Government) to convoke the vote because it was at odds with the Spanish Constitution. The EU confirmed that under the Spanish Constitution it was illegal to hold the referendum. Political issues were quickly forgotten after police officers were seen beating voters with batons and dragging them away from polling stations. Riot police used pepper spray and fired rubber bullets, something which has been forbidden since 2014. The Government of Catalonia called people for a formal referendum disregarding the fact that the Constitutional Court judged it to be illegal. In the days before the vote, the police officers requisitioned ballots and polls. There were power cuts and some of the station polls were shut. On referendum day, the Spanish government sent police forces from all over the country to try and frustrate the voters. Catalonia is one of the Spanish regions that enjoys a level of autonomy alongside Andalusia, the Basque Country and Galicia. Catalonia is a historical community that dates from the beginning of the 12th century. As the famous violoncellist Pau Casals said: “Catalonia is today a region of Spain. But Catalonia was one of the greatest nations of the world, and I tell you why: Catalonia had the first democratic Parliament, even before England.” Casals explained this to the United Nations dignitaries when he received his United Nations Peace Medal in 1971 for his antifascist compromise during the Spanish Civil War and World War II. Catalonia is still trying to re-adjust its national reality with the Spanish state in what is considered as a never-ending battle. In 2005, a new Statute was approved in both the Catalan and the Spanish Parliaments, as well as in the Spanish Senate. It came into law in 2006. The Popular Party, in opposition at that time, immediately contested it in the Constitutional Court. After a long juridical process, the Court abolished some of the key articles of the text including the right to organise a referendum without the consent of the Spanish Parliament. This is what led to the current conflict between democratic legitimacy and legality. The referendum, which was organised and supported by the Catalan authorities, is considered illegal and invalid. Organising an illegal vote is very risky and even irresponsible. However, the brutality shown by the Spanish police forces was considered unsuitable for a democratic state. “This is a sad day for Spain and for the whole of
Europe, the feelings of so many Catalans that took to the streets must also be heard” The United Nations called on the Spanish authorities to respect the Catalan people´s right to freedom of expression, assembly and participation in the vote. European leaders called on the Spanish Government to control a situation that has been seen as non-democratic and totally out of proportion. Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “We should all condemn the scenes being witnessed and call on Spain to change course before someone is seriously hurt.” Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgium Prime Minister and leader of the Alliance of Liberal Democrats in Europe, said: “I don’t want to interfere in the domestic issues of Spain but I absolutely condemn what happened in Catalonia.” The leader of the Socialists and Democrats group Gianna Pittella also condemned the brutal police intervention: “This is a sad day for Spain and for the whole of Europe, the feelings of so many Catalans that took to the streets must also be heard. The solution can only be a political response, not a police one.” The region of Catalonia has a very long history and some historians place the roots of Catalonia in the ninth century when Wilfredo the Hairy, Count of Barcelona, broke the links between the Pyrenees regions with the Carolingian Empire and the Frankish kings who reigned over those areas at that time. The words of Casals refer to the first centuries of the Catalan nation when the “Peace and Truce Assembly” (first dating from 1027) were made to protect the rights of the farmers from the abuse of the feudal Nobles and it made the base for the First Royal Catalan Courts created in 1283. King James I reconquered Majorca and Valencia from the Moors in the 13th century and Catalonia became one of the greatest Kingdoms of the western Mediterranean. They had a great military power as well as an extensive maritime trade empire. It came to an end when King Ferdinand II of Aragon and Count of Barcelona married Queen Isabella I of Castile in 1469, creating with this marriage the birth of the Spanish Kingdom. The Catholic Monarchs were the most influential and powerful monarchies on the continent when they, through Cristobal Colon (often Anglicises as Christopher Columbus), ‘discovered’ America. The point of trade and commerce moved from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, a move which also began to undermine the relationship between Castile and Aragon. Since the Aragon Kingdom, Catalonia has not been an independent state and it has belonged to and shaped what Spain is today. Catalan people have always been famous for their spirit of mobilisation and political organisation. Currently, Barcelona is a model of multiculturalism. Arts and culture flow all around Gaudi’s city. 55
Barcelona has also been the most cited example for people fighting for their rights on the streets. After the brutal journey of Catalonia, the result was that 90% of people who went to vote (43% of the electorate) said yes to independence. It was a massive response from the Catalan society who had been waiting for many years for the referendum. Media all over the world witnessed through hundreds of videos and pictures the aggression of the Spanish police. It is likely that the cruelty used by the Government as well as their lack of dialogue in recent years had an influence on the majority shown in the polls. After the results of the referendum, the Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont said: “The citizens of Catalonia, we have won the right to have an independent state constituted in the form of a republic.” The Parliament President added: “In the next few days, my government will send the results of today’s vote to the Catalan Parliament, where the sovereignty of our people lies, so that it can act in accordance with the law of the referendum.” This declaration has provoked a political crisis in the country. The Spanish prime minister Mariano Rajoy called on the Catalan leader to respect the law or assume the consequences. Puigdemont became the absolute protagonist in the Spanish media. He took the result of this referendum as an unconditional power to unilaterally declare the independence of Catalonia. The Spanish government is now facing the country´s biggest constitutional crisis. Over the next few days, there were huge mobilisations in the main cities of the country, some in favour of the Catalan independence and others supporting the unity of the country. Some of those strikes descended into aggression and injured people. One week later, the president of the Generalitat declared the unilateral independence only to, fortunately, suspend it straight away, and open a “dialogue with Spanish executive”. This has been criticised by opponents and even supporters of the independent party. “As the president of Catalonia I want to follow the 56
people´s will for Catalonia to become an independent state.” To the applause of the parliament, Puigdemont said: “I ask for the mandate to make Catalonia an independent republic”. But the mandatary immediately asked the parliament to “suspend it for a few weeks to open a period of dialogue.” The response of Rajoy´s executive was to stick to their no-dialogue policy. “Neither Mr Puigdemont nor anybody else can impose mediation. Any dialogue between democrats has to take place within the law”, replied Soraya Sánez de Sanataria, Spain´s deputy Prime Minister. THE HISTORIC ROOTS OF THE CURRENT PROBLEM There is an event in the history of Spain that changed the future of both Spain and Catalonia. The point of no return arrived with the war of Spanish succession at the start of the 18th century. Castile opted for Philip V, of the House of Bourbon (the current royal house), while Catalonia seconded the Archduke Charles VI of Austria. Catalonia was defeated in the resulting war which eventually ended in 1715. In revenge for their opposition to his claim, the new King, Philip V, abolished Catalonia’s public institutions, banned the speaking of Catalan in public, and imposed the Castilian rule of law under the “Right of Military Conquest”. Catalonian politics and culture recovered from this in the 19th century coinciding with the industrial revolution, and it became the main driver of the Spanish economy. At the same time, a new generation of irreverent artists emerged, shaping a revolution within the society of the time, such as Santiago Rusiñol and Ramon Casas. They drove the artistic movement known as Catalan Modernism (equivalent of Art Nouveau). Antonio Gaudí emerged as the architect in vogue amongst the Catalan society. La Pedrera, Casa Batlló, Parc Guell and the Sagrada Familia cathedral have become international icons of that artistic revolution. With the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931, Catalonia´s right to self-government was recognized after 200 years. It was a short-lived situation because in the summer of 1936, General Francisco Franco led a military coup which sparked the Spanish Civil War. Franco eventually defeated
“ The feelings of so many Catalans who took to the streets must also be heard. ”
the Republicans in 1939. This led to a fascist dictatorship which abolished the democratic public bodies, prohibited the freedom of expression and political parties and imposed the Catholic religion as well as persecuted any expression of Catalan identity over the following thirty-six years. Around 150.000 Catalans were imprisoned under Franco´s regime and almost 4,000 people were executed for political reasons. After Franco died in 1978, Spain and Catalonia returned to democracy. Spain voted in favour of a new constitution which divided the state into seventeen autonomous regions and a new Statute of Autonomy was passed to regulate the relationship between Catalonia and the Spanish State. The transition from Franco´s dictatorship to the monarchy parliamentary democracy is a controversial topic in current Spanish society. The new generations do not feel represented by politicians and the quality of the Spanish democracy is criticised by the citizens who have lived through a decade of economic and social crisis. Another taboo topic from the “Transition” is Franco’s decision to delegate to the former King Juan Carlos II who consolidated the current Spanish democracy. The most polarising fact in Spanish society is that not one of the dictator´s men, neither politicians nor high ranking militaries were jailed or were condemned for any of the multiple crimes of the fascist dictatorship. The party that currently forms the Spanish Government, funded by Manuel Fraga (Franco’s minister), has shown difficulties in accepting and dealing intelligently with the national, cultural and linguistic diversity in Spain, mainly with the Catalan region. This situation has only increased the support for the independence parties. The Popular party is affected by more than 900 alleged cases of corruption cases, involving up to 45 billion euros taken from public money, where even the Prime Minister was called to declare in an investigation commission. This has now being overshadowed by public opinion due to the independence problem, which had not been treated as a real issue in recent years and as a result, it has now exploded in Rajoy´s hands. The Government of Spain has treated the Catalan problem as a strictly legal problem and they have not tried to maintain a dialogue regarding what Catalan society wants. Despite facing many critics, this has been the only strategy that the Spanish right party had in order to stop suffering its biggest polling losses in the history of its existence, creating a public debate about conduct in the public office. The Spanish Government is calling upon the population to defend the Spanish unity and flag, threatening Catalan representatives to respect the law to avoid ending up like the Catalan politician Lluis Companys, condemned to death and shot by Franco’s Regime in the 1940s. The worst possible reminder of the old and tragic times that Spain has experienced in the last century. b 57
THE MYSTERIES OF ALBANIA A secretive country starts to open itself to the wider world It is the 14th of July, and the seafront in Borsh is mostly deserted. I imagine it being in any of the other countries with a privileged view on the Mediterranean, this 7-kilometers beach— apparently the largest on the Ionian Sea— crammed with bars and an unnecessary amount of sun-beds per square metre. Here, instead, despite being a stone’s throw from the vibrant village, the strip of sand and gravel is surrounded by wildlife and undermined by the minimum human intervention. A few hours into the afternoon, the two rows of straw parasols are left unoccupied by the tourists. A tiring hike on the mountainous shores of the Albanian Riviera is necessary in order to get there, although it might make you want to enjoy the beach for a bit longer. Then, what is left, as the sun starts its descent towards the horizon, are a couple of uncertain construction sites and the round shapes of the bunkers that stud the seaside. You see them from the road above, the pillboxes, either because they peek out from the sand, with their mousey grey colours defacing the otherwise dreamy panoramas, or because they have been decorated and covered in bright paint. In forty years of dictatorship, the Marxist-Leninist Enver Hoxha forced more than 500,000 of them on to the beaches and the mountains of Albania. And now they remain, a bequest left by a paranoid fear for invasions that, in any case, brings to mind crystallised moments from darker times. They became, I learn, material manifestation of Albania’s closure towards the world, of the stiffening relations with foreign countries and the old ally Yugoslavia, of which Albania was 58
still, up to its disintegration, a satellite. They are a product of nationalism, of Hoxha’s Stalinist approach and strict anti-revisionism, often outnumbering the soldiers themselves—a synecdoche, you could say, of a step back from the rest of communist Europe. Today, many of the pillboxes have been transformed into cafés, granaries, covered in street art and turned into tiny apartments, ready to be rented by tourists. We’re told by a local that sleeping in one costs no more than 10 euros per night. It evidently clashes with what was their original purpose, that they now host when they were meant to push away. And it is a metaphor, as well, for how Albania is changing and starting to cater to tourism. Today, at least in Borsh, there’s a disconcerting lack of buildings. While other centres like Saranda, Tirana and Durrës concentrate on tourism. This has led them to become internationally renowned, making Albania a new hotspot for holidaying in the Mediterranean— fuelling competition with Greece— here the landscape is quasi-uncontaminated. Borsh is still part of that face of Albania made of wild beauty and virgin views, free from over-concreting, still in need of discovering. The only trace of a building in one kilometre of beautifully paved seafront is a two-storey hotel, façade covered in stones and door and window jambs made of dark wood, reminding me of the medieval architecture of a more Italian origin. And I suppose, considering all the fascist invading and occupying, the influence is not surprising. The establishment has the polished and haughty air of a luxurious location,
Words: Valentina Curci Images: Godo Godaj via Flickr,
with the secreted pool and white-clad staff bustling about. A man, busy cleaning the water in the pool, gives us a radiant smile. He gesticulates to get closer, then runs to the reception. When he comes back, he hands us the hotel’s brochure. “If you ever want to stay here. We opened just a month ago,” he says, before rushing back to resume his task. Immediately, he reminds me of promotional methods that belong to a different time. It was in the late nineties that I would go on holiday with my parents in the south of Italy and find, along the roads that take to the main beaches, men waving a cardboard sign with a big arrow drawn on, signalling that they were renting rooms. It was the cheeky yet romantic approach from when the Internet was a thing for few and it was common leaving for the holidays without having booked anything and improvise on the way. You can find these men even in the incredibly tourist-y Saranda, maze of hotels, restaurants and beach resorts, stationing in ambush at the city’s main junctions, ready to bewitch tourists arriving in town by offering rooms, a taxi ride that for a few euros can take you to the other side of the town, a boat trip to some Greek island. It is brazen tourism, I think. It took the modern leftist government of Prime Minister Edi Rama and a new wave of both unrestrained liberalism and collectivisation to prompt a change of pace, leaving behind years of autarky and unhinged protectionism. It was like unleashing lions out of the cage. It is not a negative occurrence, but it means you certainly notice the attempts at keeping pace with realities that suggest many more years of experience in the sector. You notice it in buildings rushed to be completed, in parts of towns that are newly paved as the rest is left to decay. You notice it in the hotel upon hotel built in Saranda because it is a popular destination, and in the neglect saved for other localities with unexploited potential. The only restaurant on the beach in Borsh is a small establishment with floating linen curtains, a gazebo and a few white wrought iron tables. Waiting staff wears white shirts and black apron despite the 38° degrees, and still manages to shower you with smiles. It is one of those seaside restaurants. The barbecue, the open kitchen in the outside, the paper 60
tablecloths, and the premise that you’ll be eating local fresh fish. Only not. “Our speciality is meat,” announces one waiter, the only one speaking Italian, then proceeding to explain the different kinds of gjellë, a stew typical dish. The other waiters step back. They do not speak English either, save for a few words, and I admire them as they manage to make themselves understood by some German and Austrian tourists, dispensing enthusiastic smiles and a mixture of broken German, English and what I suppose is Albanian. The reason Pieter speaks Italian is because he migrated there three years ago, looking for a job. He waited his way through the biggest tourist traps— Rimini, Verona, Rome— and then came back. “Wages there are higher, it’s true,” he tells me, “but life is expensive, and you can’t live off a waiter wage in your country. Here, I do.” Pieter speaks the truth, but he still went against the flow. He has left in a moment of flourishing economy to realise it was not worth it, rather than during the major migration that continued throughout the nineties, with Albania stuck in economic depression. The moment Hoxha’s dictatorship was over, Albania fell into political and economic chaos. Hordes of Albanian citizens turned towards migration, towards other European countries and the US. Italy was a given, due to its closeness. Among illegal boat captains smuggling people into other countries for exorbitant amounts of money, and the inhuman conditions these people were subject to, it is impossible not to have images from the Vlora disembarkation in Bari in mind, which spread by many documentaries and printed on school history books. On August the 7th 1991, the merchant ship Vlora, coming back from Cuba to Durrës with a cargo of brown sugar, was boarded by 20.000 people, who forced the captain Halim Milaqi to take them to Italy. In an interview with the Italian newspaper Gazzetta del Mezzogiorno, Anna Dalfino, wife of the former major of Bari, recounted those moments of despair. “He went to the port, before the Vlora arrived,” she said, “He did not know what was going to happen. After a few hours he called, saying that there were thousands of desperate people, thirsty, dehydrated, and he was so moved he could not finish
his sentences. They’re people, he kept saying. Desperate people. We cannot send them back, we are their last hope.” Albania’s relationship with Italy had already been strong, although one of subordination, since before the Second World War. Albania’s fiscal dependence from Italy kept growing as Italian dictator Mussolini expanded his influence on the Balkans and gained control of Albanian finances and army. Not every migratory wave was as dramatic as the Vlora disembarkation, but the leitmotif was the same. Fleeing to escape misery, cruelty, to find jobs, better life conditions. A report from 1984 by Amnesty International, states that human rights had reached a critical low under Hoxha’s government. Due to isolationism, fundamental rights such as freedom of speech, press, religion and organisation were negated, in an attempt to bring order and stability to the country and give the governor power to condemn opponents. Hoxha’s was a terror regime. His repression made many victims—the Washington Times reported around 5.000 political executions. Not even after Hoxha’s death was Albania able to restore a more tranquil climate, struggling to reopen to the other Balkan countries where, meanwhile, communist regimes were tumbling down. The decisive collapse of the Albanian financial system in 1996 led to popular uprising, which implemented the chaos the country was already experiencing and caused a number of casualties. The state of emergency was proclaimed, and the biggest migration in the history of the country began. I have spoken to Renata, originally from Vlore, north of the country, who moved to Italy in the late 90s and now permanently lives in Lazio. “I was seven when we moved to Italy. It was mainly because of the healthcare system. Healthcare in Albania is not the best. I am glad we left, in the end,” she says, telling me that although she moved, she regularly goes back to Albania for the holidays. “There are improvements now, though. I notice them. In the infrastructures, in the checks, in the safety programmes, especially during the tourist season. Obviously there’s still a lot to do, but we are confident,” she says. I wonder how the situation might have been back then. Although wandering around the coast’s little towns and
“ Hoxha’s was a terrror regime. His repression made many victims” villages, or walking among the streets of the bigger cities, you can spot the— sometimes overexcited—improvement, multiple signs of underdevelopment are still there to be noticed, too. Gjirokastër, for example, the town that gave birth to Hoxha himself, is a place of traditional character. There is an astounding lack of directions to reach it, which hardly creates confidence in modern GPS systems. In a quest to taste local flavours, we stop at a small shop run by a young lady with red cheeks, to try frozen goat yogurt. When we question whether it is made from organic milk, the lady informs us that indeed it is, but because of necessity rather than virtue, since farmers in the area don’t have the means and the money to do otherwise. The trip from Gjirokastër to Saranda is interesting. Large deserted routes made of reinforced concrete, surrounded by nothing but dry meadows leave space to better roads, billboards and factories. Saranda is one of the cities that give a face to Albania’s growth. Houses and hotels built on every available surface, a construction site every step you take. It’s got the youngish vibe, the clubs, the beaches, but if you rent in the outskirts you will be able to catch the more traditional aspect of it, see the women in typical costumes, black against the scorching sun, eyeing with scepticism the girls walking to the beach in their shorts. The AirBnb-induced obsession to completely bypass hotels during the booking process and opt for cheaper
rooms instead, brings us to a small apartment in the periphery of town, close to the port. Once there, a little research— with the help of the cardboard-men— makes me realise that you can rent an all-inclusive hotel room for a fortnight for the price of a week’s rent in London anyway. The position of the room has the perk, however, of being a substantial walk—or alternatively a ride in a dusty Ford Sierra that operates as a taxi— away from the lively centre, which allows you to see the side of the town mostly lived by the locals, who are still enjoying their daily life while escaping the tourists. It is the most interesting and true part of Saranda. You walk, and you see the old Albanian architecture, local tiny shops that sell you anything and everything, and what we believe being a café and reveals it to be a meeting place for communism nostalgics. Four men are sitting around a table, playing cards. They lift their gaze, and one of them stands up, goes behind the counter, stares expectantly, while his peers eye us with suspicion ‘Coffee,’ we mime, somehow. He has coffee. He has the tiniest Nespresso coffee machine and the tiniest plastic cups. He proceeds to brew us the drinks while the other three men just stare, hung on the walls are historical pictures of partisans during the war, and I start to wonder if bursting into an impromptu version of ‘Bella Ciao’ might serve the purpose of befriending them. We opt for a change of location for breakfast, finding along the way a small 61
â&#x20AC;&#x153; Twenty years ago, we left to improve our condition. Now things have changed entirely.â&#x20AC;?
place selling traditional baking goods. I pay in lek, the local currency, choosing the coins in my hand with little or no awareness. As I go on with my walk and make mental count, taking a first bite of sugary baklava, I realise I paid 18 cents of aeuro for it. Life here can be incredibly cheap, indeed, as Pietrit told me. Wages are around 250-300 euros per month (£250) and it is enough to live comfortably. It is one of the reasons Albania is earning popularity not only in terms of tourism but also for foreign investments. “It is great that lately many European and overseas countries have discovered the beautiful places this country has to offer, going beyond the many prejudices. It’s a country full of resources. It is a sign of how far Albania is going. Starting a business here is easy, and the life costs are low,” tells me Renata. “This has allowed many young people to invest in start-ups. It is great for who has dreams, like me. I dream of owning my own business. Living in Albania is not hard anymore, you easily feel at ease. Albanians are always been incredibly hospitable people, and we have the same mentality as other European countries. We have been hosted by Italy and many other countries for years, now it is our turn,” she says. It means that the many Albanian people who migrated through the years are also spurred to go back to their roots and make a return to their native country. “I moved to Italy in 1996 with my parents and my sister, who was just a few months old. Mainly because my parents wanted to give us a brighter future than what we could have had there,” tells me Anisa, who has, however, moved back to Tirana two years ago. “It was a difficult period, at the time, and you couldn’t feel safe, you even feared walking in the streets.” Now, she feels as if the situation is different. “We are still far from reaching other countries development, but I think we can make it. If other countries started from zero, we started from -100,” she says. “When I moved back, I found so many differences. Italians, French, Americans, Arabs moved here, in this wonderful city, to work and to have a life. I don’t think I would have believed this if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes. Twenty years ago, we left to improve our condition. Now things have changed entirely. There are so many companies, fashion establish-
ments, cars factories, good universities, everything. Many come here because taxes are low. The salaries are very low too, so it’s convenient to employ,” she says. Foreign investment has indeed found in Albania a fertile ground, thanks to the rapid economic growth and newfound institutional stability. Freedom of trade and the relatively cheap and transparent bureaucracy have made Albania’s economy flexible and interesting for business owners all around Europe, bringing advantages to the Albanian people as well, in terms of jobs, legal assurance, leave, healthcare and maternity insurance. Mr. Pellegrino, an Italian investor who represents an organisation for the release of certificates on management systems, first started his business endeavours in Albania in 2003, with a project for the certification of 20 companies in the food and fishing industry. “Besides this project, thanks to the relationship we managed to create with businesses and institutions in Albania, I also started branching out into other sectors, I am currently, together with other Italian investors, drafting projects for the urban requalification of the cities of Tirana, Durrës and Valona,” he says. Albania, door to many other Balkan nations, has now reached the status of candidate to enter the European Union, which adds considerably to the advantages of investing here. “You can easily set up a company in 24 hours, with almost non-existent solicitor expenses and registration costs. They make no difference between Albanian or foreign investors; the advantages are free to be taken by anyone. This is why it is a country in constant growth,” says Pellegrino. It is no shock, then, that every other sector is following the positive curve of the country’s economy. The gracious host of our bed and breakfast is quick to make her excuses for the state of the building. “We’re expanding,” she says, while I cannot possibly understand how, given the lack of space. But she shows us a staircase crossing the yard and climbing on to another building in the making, that somehow is allowed to exist on such steep ground. And you understand that development often goes together with disregard for the rules of good building and urban planning, that result in non-optimal driveability and hotels on the coast, yes, but with no access to the beach.
It seems like there is an urge to renovate and forget the past. It is understandable, though. And you can still find traces of the old Albania, when you are walking through the more unknown parts of town and still see the sparse signs of communism and of the old heritage. It surprises me, mostly because it is rare to still find such obvious reminders of a past political engagement in other countries, because of the damnatio memoriae towards pieces of history. However tragic they may be, they are something that should be used to remember and think, not to be forgotten in this frenzy for redevelopment. Albania still manages that, with parties’ flags free to hang from the windows, old buildings dedicated to political meetings, men and women in typical clothes ensembles, and the stuffed animals and dolls that you see hung on the door jamb of many houses. These become a recurrent mystery for the whole length of the trip, until finally we ask a woman who is watering the garden of a house with a stuffed bear on the door. “It’s against evil. Against the curses,” she says with a shrug. Returning from Borsh, taking in the roads that in hairpin turns run along the seaboard, offering impressive views, we’re suddenly on a track covered in rocks that the mountain side leaves behind, and we’re forced to slow down to forestall any danger. After a particularly narrow turn, we are suddenly in the middle of a flock of goats, which climbing from the mountains are trying to cross the road. There are three or four dozen of them. We stop and turn the engine off. It is at least fifteen minutes in the car, in the darkness of nine o’clock in the evening, stuck in the middle of an Albanian road, before the shepherd, an elderly man with a traditional felt hat, makes his appearance. He scrambles to the side of the road and rushes to guide his goats on to the border. He knocks on the car window twice, a surprised expression probably aimed at us not beeping at his goats. He seems, for a moment, frustrated at something, then resolves to take out of his pocket three figs. He gives them to us, humming in expectation. He knocks on the window again, and he follows his goats, disappearing after the headlights. He doesn’t say anything. He doesn’t need to. We understood. b
Words and images: Elsa Barbera
SMALL TOWN, BIG HEROES
Brave Aiguaviva residents defied the police to exercise their right to vote in the Catalan referendum
Joaquim Mateu, Mayor of Aiguaviva, holding the hidden voting ballot
We listened to the locals exchange stories from their day, with each account painting a more detailed and emotive picture than the last. There were so many voices, too many to isolate. All we could do was listen. We heard one of the locals describe how, “eighteen police vans surrounded the town. The situation could have perfectly been part of a Star Wars movie. Fifty policemen came out of the vans, with batons in their hands and shields bigger than their hate for democracy.” Another described how confused children reacted to the arrival of the authorities; “Our kids began to scream from the park. We knew they were coming. We looked at one another and knew what to do. We hid the kids and locked them in a room across the city hall, hoping they wouldn’t see what was about to happen.” All we could think was how strong the sense of unity was, there was nothing that was going to stop them from exercising their right to vote. “We waited for them, protecting the voting ballot, with our arms raised and our hearts chanting ‘we will vote’,” said one protestor, explaining the community’s brave acts of solidarity. Aiguaviva is a small town of 770 people in north-eastern Catalonia that was brutally attacked by the Spanish Police during the Catalan Referendum on October 1, 2017. That day, eighteen people were injured—nine needing an ambulance—and many others suffered from the pepper gasses that were sprayed, which have been illegal to use in closed spaces since 2013.
One of the victims, Josep Maria Nadal, a professor from University of Girona who’s over seventy, told the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia: “I didn’t feel the pain while they were hitting me with their batons, dragging me for metres, or stepping over me with their military boots while chanting ‘long live Spain’. There was no physical pain. My pain was purely moral.” During the attacks, the town stood as one and protected the voting ballots by forming a human shield, with their arms raised as a symbol of peaceful resistance and screaming “we will vote,” with both hope and fear in their eyes. These are the stories of six of the people who fought to give the small Catalan town of Aiguaviva the right to democracy that day. JOAQUIM MATEU I BOSCH, MAYOR OF AIGUAVIVA “Aiguaviva is mourning,” reads the Mayor’s statement published three days after the protest; a week later, his rage has turned into disappointment: “Although I wasn’t expecting much from the Spanish Government, I was confident that the system was going to be democratic and was going to intervene.” He told Artefact: “I was at home having dinner with my family when I received the call. The person on the other side of the line was hysterical and couldn’t say a word. I imagined the Spanish police would come and confiscate our ballot boxes, but her voice of distress meant more than that. ‘We are being 65
attacked’, she cried. “I got there as fast as I could but when I arrived the police were already heading back to their vans. I felt rage. I looked at one of them in the eyes and said: how will you be able to look at your mother’s and daughter’s eyes after what you’ve done today? How?” He thinks there was a simple reason why the Spanish Police chose such a small town for their attacks: “This was a clear act of terror. The attacks were supposed to end by 1:00 p.m. It was 4:00 p.m. when they came to Aiguaviva. They came to vent out. It’s a town of easy access and low population. We could have blocked the entrance with trucks or cars, but we didn’t want to make it difficult for the elders to vote. Besides, we weren’t expecting an attack,” he told us. “The days after we felt helpless. The town was empty and there were still pieces of clothing left on the floor, symbolising the brutality of the previous day. But now we feel strong. They wanted to spread fear, but we are not scared.” JAUME MAS “I lost consciousness of time, of fear. I could not feel, talk or hear.” Jaume remembers when he got the first news that the Spanish Police were coming. “We all looked at each other and knew what to do. We emptied the voting ballots in a plastic bag and replaced it with empty envelopes, ran through the back door and placed the real votes on the trunk of a car,” he said. “The police crossed us as we closed the trunk. They were so focused on the attack that they didn’t even see us.” “The day began early, at 6.30 in the morning. We had planned a ‘Botifarrada’ (communal food party of typical Catalan products such as sausages, pà amb tomàquet [bread with tomato] and paella, that lasts a whole day) that would start
at 9 a.m. It was a day of celebrations, of getting together and honouring our culture and people; of celebrating our right to have a voice in this Referendum. A day to vote.” “I was standing right by the door when the Spanish Police began to attack,” Jaume says as he shows me the still visible marks of the batons. “It was a sea of people, and I ended up inside the town hall with all the pushing. I tried closing the door to protect the ballot box, but they threw pepper gas directly to my eyes. I couldn’t breathe. When I tried to breathe again, they threw more gas inside the town hall so that we would get out. We had no force to stop them. I ran and one of the neighbours took me to their house and threw water on my eyes.” “When I got out of my neighbour’s house, the police had gone and everyone was in silence, in awe. There were cries and disbelief. I could not see my town, my neighbours, my family this way. We were broken. I shouted: ‘Let’s have dessert!’ We weren’t even hungry. But we needed it. We cooked chestnuts, and I couldn’t even finish my first one.” “But you know what? We are Catalans. We stand together, we fall together, and we get up together. It is acts like this one that unite us and make us stronger. We have to keep going, we have to keep fighting. I am terrified of a Catalonia that is not independent.” ENRIC VALLDEPERAS “I was having some paella when the cook told me he still hadn’t voted. So, we cleaned up and I went to queue with him. It was right then when everything started. I ended up on the first row. I didn’t feel anything, I lost consciousness,” Valldeperas told Artefact. “Re-watching the videos of the attacks, I realise I was Left: Enric Valldeperas with his friend and neighbour, Jaume Mas Right: Joan Pau Ferrer in his hiding place
Aiguaviva celebrates the Referendum with paella
hit over and over again. We protected the ballot box as much as we could, but we weren’t going to fight back. It was when they used the gasses that everything ended.” “When I got back home, my nineyear-old daughter was crying of impotence. She couldn’t understand what had happened. She couldn’t wrap her head around how the police, who is supposed to protect us, were the ones attacking us.” “I showed her a video of what had happened, cutting the pieces I appeared so that she wouldn’t feel as impacted. I tried to explain the situation to her and, after that, she understood and could sleep again.” “The children who were locked in the room during the police brutality have received basic therapy at school. They were taught that violence is never the answer in any situation in life. They had a drawing session to express their feelings and burned them after, symbolising the bad thoughts being burned away.” CARLES JOVÉ* When we speak to him, his blue t-shirt reads ‘TRUTH’. It is hard for him to talk, but after the declarations stating that the aggression videos were fake, he decided to speak out against police brutality on October 1st. “When they started throwing gasses, I ran inside the town hall and tried closing the door. They had sprayed inside, trying to get us out. We couldn’t breathe, our eyes were burning,” he told us. “I was filming everything with my phone, when I caught something the police didn’t want the public to see: four policemen dressed without their uniform pretending to be from our town, ‘fighting’ for the ballot 68
box. They were filming it to later pretend we used resistance. But when they sighted me filming them while doing so, they came for me.” I ran upstairs but they got my phone and threw it on the floor. I picked it up and kept filming. They ran after me and hit me while trying to hide. I locked the door of the room and hid my phone. Three other people were hiding there.” “It was like a horror movie. We sat down with our hands up waiting for them to break in. We were hearing screams downstairs so we were expecting the worst. They broke in screaming ‘give us that phone or we’ll do it our way’. I said I didn’t have it.” “They raised me from my neck and pushed me against the wall, pulling and pressing on my neck. They were taking pictures of me with their phones. I don’t remember what happened next, but the other witnesses say my legs didn’t touch the floor for the next minutes. Between two of them they threw me out the doors to the main square. I must have flown five or six metres.” JOAN PAU FERRE “I was hiding between the trees on the roof when they came in. I’m a photographer so I had my camera with me to document the festivity earlier that day, so I have pictures of the attacks. When one of the police men saw me taking pictures, he came up to get me, but I managed to hide.” “I wasn’t scared of being attacked, but I didn’t wanted them to erase the evidence of the attacks. They came up looking for me twice more. The third time there were six of them, so I threw my camera to the cemetery and ran away to a
Police used tear gas at one point
“They had sprayed inside, trying to get us out. We couldn’t breath, our eyes were burning”
safer spot. They tried breaking and taking all the phones that were filming them.” MIRIAM OTALORA* “I was selected as a volunteer for the electoral table. We were busy the whole day. There were times when the voting system stopped working as the Spanish Government kept trying to cut it.” “Everyone was proud to vote, to give their voice. We had been given instructions in case the police came to take the ballot boxes. We would have to ask these three questions: ‘Can we see your identification? Who are you following orders from? Could you show us your court order?’” “But when they came, they didn’t say a word. We tried asking the first question and they laughed. It was then when they started to attack. I was inside the town hall when they began to throw gas. Me and 4 other people hid in a small room where we keep all our cleaning products, and called the Mayor.” “We were hearing screams, cries for help, ambulances. We were terrified. Not being able to see what is going on is even worse for one’s mind. One of the people in the room got a panic attack.” “We tried peeking out but police were blocking the door, without them 70
knowing we were inside. I can’t imagine what the kids had gone through, listening to the screams and not being able to understand the situation.” “Deep in my heart, I really hope some policemen are nice. I refuse to lose hope in humanity, but after that day, it has been a challenge. After all, we just wanted to vote. That’s the essence of the democracy we’re supposed to be living in.” The main square of the town remained the same the morning after. There were still pieces of clothing on the floor, broken dishes and a walking stick. There was only one difference: the name of the square had changed. What used to say, “Constitutional Square” was now crossed and changed to “October 1st Square.” Despite the difficulties, Aiguaviva voted. The results were 96.8 per cent in favour of Independence. In Catalonia, there was a participation of 43.03%, of which 89,4 per cent (over two million people) voted in favour of Independence, according to La Vanguardia. b
* Because of the fear of retaliation from the Spanish Police, this person’s name has been altered.
Is there a gun culture in the UK? Gun crime impacts people all over the world. So, what happens when you have the toughest gun control laws, but gun crime is still an issue?
It is an incredibly rational and natural feeling—the desire to protect. A mother’s instinct, a father’s instinct, a human instinct. It is one of the most significant arguments used in the ongoing debates against gun control. The United States is known for having one of the deadliest gun crime rates in the world, with mass shootings occurring on such a frequent level, continuous media coverage would be almost entirely impossible. Often, we use America as a ‘worst case scenario’ and an ‘avoid at all costs’ when discussing gun crime. However, looking at gun crime on a ‘‘smaller scale’’, in the UK for example, allows us to make note of the similarities and differences between the two cultures. ‘‘The right to bear arms’’, is one of the fundamental purposes for allowing the distribution of guns and active gun ownership in the United States. The right to be able to defend yourself, your family, your home, your possessions and everybody you love. Licensed guns are legal in the USA; you have gone through all the correct security procedural routes to ‘‘safely’’ and rightfully own a gun. In the US, when purchasing a gun in stores, all you need is your name, your age, your date of birth, your social security number (optional), citizenship and race. The form will also ask you questions relating to your past; are you a criminal? Have you been admitted to a mental institute? Are you a previous drug abuser? And finally, the store runs an FBI background check, (only takes a few minutes) and the process is complete. You can make your way home, gun in hand. Guns can also be purchased at gun shows which take place almost every weekend in the US. At gun shows, you do not need to undergo a background check to buy a gun. Time and time again studies have shown that even legal guns can end up in the wrong hands, so it would be exceptionally naïve to ignore the harsh realities that are a product of a complex and diverse gun culture. The heated gun debate in America is never-ending and sadly the laws remain the same despite the constant string of horrific events which are a result of gun violence. America is known for having a bloody history surrounding gun violence, with catastrophic events such as the shootings in Columbine, Colorado, Orlando, and more recently Las 72
Vegas. These are moments that always cause an emotional response around the world. Gun crime in the US has become disturbingly frequent, and sadly guns have become the third leading cause of death for children in the US; a statistic that is rather chilling. Gun laws in the UK are entirely different. The Firearms Amendment (No.2) Act 1997 is the second act which restricted and prohibited the legal possession of guns in the UK. It is illegal to have possession of hand guns, semi-automatics, pump-action and non-rim-fire rifle guns. A law which was set in place after horrific massacres took place. Although the laws against guns in the UK have had an arguably positive long-term impact, gun crime is unfortunately still prominent within the UK. So, what can be considered the next logical step? The psychology behind guns, the motivation, influence and drive that forces individuals to possess guns and eventually pull the trigger? Gun crime in the UK has been evident for many years despite the tough laws set in place to prevent this. Fire arms are creeping on to our streets and there are several different reasons why these guns are being distributed illegally, and legally. Although the extent of American gun culture is on an entirely different calibre compared to the gun culture within the UK, we cannot deny its existence. The gun laws set in the UK do not stop gun culture from polluting our society. Gun culture is an incredibly complicated
Words: Edena Klimenti
topic, from competitive gun sports, to the gun crime that is a consequence of gang culture. The intricacies are endless. The fact that the laws are tighter in the UK certainly maintains a certain degree of control, however this can only be exercised to a certain extent. Most of these disastrous and horrific crimes continue to take place, which is proof that gun crime is also very prominent in the UK, despite the effort to adjust the laws. Our stringent laws have reduced crime rates over time, but it just isn’t enough. Crimes involving firearms are continuously being reported, despite the notion that tight laws are keeping this prominent gun issue under control. After the Dunblane massacre in 1996 which took place in the UK, one of the deadliest and most tragic mass shootings to date, gun control debates were overwhelming; this lead to two new laws being passed to ban the right of gun ownership. Thomas Hamilton made his way to Dunblane Primary School, Scotland, carrying four legal and licensed hand guns, 700 rounds of ammunition and a violent terrorist state of mind. After firing 105 shots, he killed 16 school children, including their teacher, wounded 15 children and eventually shot and killed himself. The emotional impact of the shooting was overwhelming; the innocence and vulnerability of the victims was too much to comprehend. There was overpowering debate and the impact it had on Great Britain as a society could not be ignored.
Change was demanded, fast. The direct link between violence and gun control was identified, and the laws needed to be changed. Sadly, the ban on gun ownership in the UK did not have an initial widespread impact and the positive impact of the laws was only identified on a longterm basis. According to the UK FireArm Crime Statistics, gun crime in the UK rose at a in the late 1990’s and was at its peak in 2003/04 with 24,094 offences recorded. Since then, the figures have dropped drastically, although there is still a significant number of crimes reported involving firearms each year. Crimes like this, which occur despite our rigorous laws, are still happening on a much too frequent level. Almost 15 years since the Dunblane massacre, it was reported that 52-year-old Derick Bird went on a four-hour shooting rampage in rural West Cumbria, Greater England in 2010. Twelve people were confirmed dead and others were seriously injured, left fighting for their lives. Cumbria was on an official lockdown as police forces aimed to track down the killer. It was a vicious attack that shocked the entire nation, and we cant help but wonder how these attacks still take place? The Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, promised to care for and assist for those involved and affected by the attack. ‘‘The government will do everything it possibly can to help the local community and those affected.’’ Regardless of the horrific attack, Cameron pointed out that the laws in the UK were already some of the toughest in the world, and that ‘‘we shouldn’t make any kneejerk reaction to think that there is some instant legislative or regulatory answer.’’ The laws set in place were considered fair and reasonable, and over time had reduced the amount of crime related to firearms, although these figures continue to change. Cameron pointed out that the psychology behind guns is what desperately needed to be considered, as the laws are in place, the only rational solution is to look at why people are still producing their own guns, and obtaining guns illegally. Why do they need them? Cameron referred to the motives behind a killer and then added, ‘‘You can’t legislate to stop a switch flicking in someone’s head and for this dreadful sort of action to take place.’’ Legislation can only do so much to prevent crime, our efforts
“Crimes involving firearms are continously being reported, despite the notion that tight laws are keeping this prominent gun issue under control.” need to desperately shift to understand why these crimes are still taking place. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that illegal and legal guns remain in circulation, whilst some of these guns are used ‘‘appropriately’’ and abide by the strict laws, others are obtained illegally and are a direct threat to our society. Sadly, these heart-breaking attacks are still a worrying and dangerous problem for our communities. It was recently reported that a man in his 40s or 50’s was shot and killed in Enfield, August 23rd, 2017, and not even a month later it was reported that two boys were shot in broad daylight in East London; both were left with life changing and possibly life-threatening injuries. The strict laws that are in place inevitably makes it harder, but clearly not impossible, for an untrustworthy individual to get their hands on these deadly weapons. These crimes are commonly associated with gang culture, an unfortunate product of growing up around violence. Licensed guns in the UK still trickle their way through the grapevine, ending up in the hands of a potentially violent individual. Peter Squires, Professor of Criminology and Public Policy at the University of Brighton comments on the harsh realities of gun distribution in the UK, ‘‘The vast majority of guns start out legally produced, the trick is working out when, why and how they slip into illegality. If
there were no legal guns, a source of criminal supply would be stocked up, but ingenious criminals find a way. A few years back, it looked like thefts of guns, from their legal owners, were running at around 800 a year in the UK.’’ Despite the progress that we have made over the years, a significant amount of crime involving firearms is sadly still being reported. Laws within the UK have had a positive impact in minimizing gun culture and gun crime by preventing it from spiralling out of control, but the problems rest with the motives behind gun crime and the way in which our culture desensitizes this enormous issue. Professor Peter Squires also comments on the fact that the most common reason for owning a gun is protection, ‘‘Young people are constantly presented with a view of how dangerous life in the city is. Survey after survey has found young people to explain their weapon carriage in terms of ‘protection’—but it is also likely to get them arrested/convicted. The phrase—“better to be judged by 12 than carried by 6’’—makes the point.’’ Individuals who carry guns illegally and for protection are very much aware of the consequences they may face, however for many it is a life or death situation. There are many theories which suggest why people are thrown into violent gang cultures and many theories which suggest why people commit crimes as horrific as Dunblane, but the underlining issue is always brought back to violence. Violent upbringings and the desensitising of violence in our daily consumption is an incredibly common factor which leads individuals to think violently and act in violent ways. The issue is preventing this, and aiding those who feel threatene and are essentially at risk of being exposed to violence. The unfortunate reality is that laws do not stop bad things from happening, they can only minimize their frequency. Criminals may always find a way to obtain these deadly weapons; and an effort needs to focus on the psychology behind guns, the purposes, motives and influences that lead an individual down a dark road; forcing our society into a never-ending cycle of violence. It is evident that the UK have a certain level of sensible control over guns, but how can we begin to understand what goes on in the mind of a killer? b 73
Faith and Football Is there room for for religion in the beautiful game?
Both have reached every corner of the globe, gather crowds in their thousands every weekend and are followed by millions. The line between football and religion can be easily blurred, with the dedication and investment shown by religious believers often paralleled by fans of the ‘beautiful game’. But what happens when the two directly collide? George Moncur, 24, is a professional footballer for Barnsley FC in the second tier of English football—he is also a devout and practising Christian. Having such strong commitments to both his career and his faith has not always been easy for Moncur; he grew up in a Christian family, including his father John, who played for a number of top-flight teams; most famously at West Ham. He believes regular attendance at church is an important part of his faith: “Church is great, you spend time in God’s presence and connect with other people of faith, but my commitments to football often meant I couldn’t go to church.” Football matches, at all levels and for all ages, have traditionally and are still often played on Sundays—the Sabbath day for Christians, but Moncur found a way to compensate for missing church so often. “As I grew in my faith, I understood that you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian, you can have just as good a time on your own reading the Bible and having a quiet time with God.” Moncur has a number of passages from the Bible that he draws from in his everyday life, but his favourite is Psalm 91, an excerpt from which reads: I f you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. (NIV) Psalm 91 promises protection from harm for those who are of true faith; words that rang true for Moncur when he was faced with online abuse because of his faith. “I’ve always tried to use my platform to spread the message of the Lord, and if anyone ever asks me about my faith, I tell them straight how it is. I would post on Instagram and Twitter, quotes from the Bible and things like that—and then get people accusing me of doing it all for a show,” he told us. 74
“Some even went as far to ask me to justify my faith with all of the bad things that happen in the world—of course, I haven’t got the answers.” Public figures on social media are often easy targets for online ‘trolls’, and Moncur came under extra fire due to his honesty about his faith and results on the pitch. He recalls one specific occasion early in his career: “My first ever game for West Ham was televised on BBC One, and I had a shocker. “When you come off the pitch, you’ve lost 5-0, and you give away a penalty. A lot of people were getting on to me on Twitter about my faith, which had nothing to do with the game—you just don’t need to hear it.” A testament to his faith, Moncur is forgiving to his tormentors: “In hindsight, I will hold my hands out to those people and thank them, because they made me a better person and a stronger man.” Moncur eventually decided to stop using social media over a year ago, deleting his Instagram account and leaving his Twitter account dormant. “At the end of the day I know myself.
Words: Dan Marino Image: Richard Ellis via Flickr
I have faith and my faith is great, so I don’t feel the need to show that any more.” Despite issues with abuse from fans, Moncur says that he has never been treated differently for his faith by the teams he has played for. “I’ve always felt supported in my faith by my clubs and colleagues. At West Ham, there was a chaplain who took communion for a few of us if we missed it on a Sunday. My teammates don’t look at me any differently for my faith.” Such is the importance of Moncur’s religious belief, he questions whether he would even still be a professional footballer without it—after a number of loan spells away from West Ham and failing to break into the first team, Moncur left to join League One side Colchester. In June 2016, he moved to Barnsley in a half-amillion pound deal but went out on loan soon after. “When things aren’t going well on the pitch, I just feel so lucky to have my faith off the pitch, because I know how different it would be if I didn’t have Jesus in my life. If I didn’t have my faith, I honestly don’t know if I would still be
“At the end of the day I know myself, I have faith and my faith is great so I don’t feel the need to show that any more” playing, because it is tough in football. People think it’s all great all the time, but there’s a lot of stuff that goes on that people don’t see.” Moncur explains that his faith is instrumental in his life away from football too: “My faith is the only thing that has kept me going strong; when you have a knock-back, and you don’t have anything to fall back on, it makes it so much harder. My trust in God has helped me a lot recently too, moving up north [to play for Barnsley] and having to leave all my
family behind.” Ultimately, Moncur places his faith above all, including football, and he is not afraid to admit it either: “I’d honestly say my faith is the best thing in my life, that even football comes second to it. I’d tell you that every day of the week. Football is just a talent that the Lord has given me, and I look to display my faith and desire through the way I play the game.” He also has some advice for young people of faith who want to pursue a career in football: “Never be shy or move
away from what you believe in because God has chosen everyone for a reason— he chooses some to play football and others to do other jobs,” he told Artefact. “Football is a very hard game—it’s a great game when it’s going well for you, but you find out a lot about yourself and your faith when things aren’t going so well for you. If you really wanna play football, you’ve gotta get your head down, work hard and play for Jesus every single day. Never go into games or other situations nervous because God is on your side.” Moncur’s honesty and passion for his faith are quite incredible; his bravery to discuss such personal matters while in the public eye in a high-pressure profession, prove him to be an exemplification of his beliefs. His journey in the football world is far from over as he hopes to follow in the footsteps of his father and play in the top flight of English football. However, he will not be daunted by the task, as he reminds himself: “You’ve always got the Lord to turn to, he’s bigger than any problem. If he is for you, who can be against you?” b 75
The rise of the milking robots A look inside a British dairy farm where automation is replacing traditional techniques
Words: Sara Silvenoinnen Image: Oregon Department of Agriculture via Flickr
Driving through rural parts of England, you will notice cows grazing freely on large areas of pasture—an idyllic scene commonly seen in adverts for dairy. Cows are grazing animals, which means they need access to pasture with opportunity to graze to maintain their physical and mental well-being. This picture-perfect idea of happy cows roaming around in lush, green grass might have been a true portrayal of the dairy industry 50 years ago, at a time when milkmen were commonplace. But today? Not so much. In the UK, most dairy cows still have access to the outdoors in summer. However, as desperate dairy farmers are in search of more efficient ways to increase their profits, a growing number of cows are being kept indoors for longer periods, or even all year around. As part of the shift from traditional dairy farming to intensive indoor farming, a small, but growing number of farmers are also investing in milking robots—automated machines that milk the cows. The move is most often a positive change for farmers, but it isn’t necessarily what’s best for cows. Farmers in the UK are having a tough time whether it be related to, economy, labour, or consumer and animal welfare pressure. The numbers of dairy farmers in the UK has been going down as small and average size farms have been financially affected by price cuts. However, the amount of milk produced has stayed the same because the remaining dairy farmers have bigger farms, and are able to cope with the changing prices. About 10 years ago, there were approximately 21,000 dairy farms in the UK, and by 2025 that number is predicted to go down to fewer than 5,000. Between 2013 and 2016, a staggering number of 1,002 farms closed for business. There are various reasons why dairy farmers go out of business, but the price of milk determines a great deal in the dairy industry. The cost of producing milk includes rent for the farm, food for the cows as well as labour. If the cost isn’t equivalent to what the farmer is being paid, the farmer may go in debt, and ultimately face bankruptcy. The past two years have been especially hard on farmers. In 2016, the price of milk fell to 25 pence per litre (ppl), a 14pc drop from the year before—the lowest figure in a generation. The dairy industry also expe-
also raised concerns about plant based drinks being called “milks”. EU rules state that certain names are solely for dairy products, including “yoghurt”, “milk”, and “butter”, meaning vegan dairy alternatives cannot be sold in the EU under “dairystyle” names. For small and average sized dairy farms to survive, farmers will have to improve their efficiency. This is often achieved by changing business models, which can mean investing in new equipment and technology to boost milk production. Traditionally, British dairy cows spend most of their time outdoors, and are only brought indoors when it’s too cold, wet or muddy. And of course, twice daily throughout the year for milking purposes. A typical period for cows to be out grazing is April to October. This type of dairy farming is called a grass-based system, which means that cows feed on grass instead of silage during dry months. The cows are also milked by machines which have to be attached to the cow’s teats manually. With the ongoing instability in labour, some farmers have decided to invest in so called milking robots. Milking robots require indoor farming with zero-grazing possibility. This is because the work of the robot would be interrupted if cows were to walk in and out of the barn. Milking robots allow for a more flexible grazing platform, meaning farmers don’t need as much land since the cows will not be grazing. The risk of disease, such as TB found in badger excrement, is also minimised. Organisations representing farmers argue that milking robots are more environmentally friendly as zero grazing promotes grass growth and utilisation by 30%. More importantly, milking robots require less staff, as people milking the cows are no longer needed. These elements are what made an average sized family farm invest £ 400,000 in a 300-cow milking unit. Clive Gurney, a dairy farmer based in Hereford, produces around 2.7 million litres of milk per year. After struggling with labour he decided to purchase four milking robots, and was able to dispose of three staff. “We’re really considering whether we should keep on dairying” he says. “Me and my son were tied up milking the cows nine hours a day, as well as managing everything else at the farm- it just wasn’t
rienced an all-time high number of farms being sold for debt-related reasons. Today, however, a pint of milk will pay farmers more than 30ppl. Although milk prices are increasing again, farmers are still facing other issues such as labour. UK dairy farms rely greatly on workforce from abroad which means that when free movement of people will end in March 2019 in light of Brexit, finding labour will be a challenge for dairy farmers. According to a survey carried out by YouGov in June, British citizens are not to keen to fill the empty positions in dairy farming. The survey found that out of 2,000 UK adults, only 4% of them would consider working in the dairy industry.
“The pasturebased system to an indoor system happened very fast in Denmark, over a period of about 10 years”
In addition to economical and labour difficulties, the dairy industry is also being pressured by animal activists, environmental activists and consumers. The vegan movement has been growing in the past years, and is only likely to become bigger. There is also growing competition from companies inventing dairy alternatives, such as soya and almond drinks. Milk is also less popular with younger people. A recent Kantar Worldpanel study found that people over the age of 65 drink milk 875 times a year compared with five to 24-year-olds who drink milk only 275 times a year. Farmers have
sustainable”. Before, a cow at Clive’s farm would have been able to produce around 7,000 litres of milk it its lifetime. Now, a cow will produce around 12,000 litres of milk. The idea is to keep cows in intensive units where they feed on a high-protein diet consisting of high levels of cereals and soya. Their feed allows for a more efficient production of milk. Clive’s cows are kept in barns throughout the year, where they are milked at least three times a day by a robot. When a cow enters the robot, it’s scanned for its identification tag that has information about the cow’s shape of body and udders as well as the last time she was milked along with knowledge about the quality of her milk. If the cow has been milked too recently, the gates open and send the cow back out. Cows are creatures of habit, which means they
learn the routine of stepping into the robot in just a couple of days. The cow keeps coming back thanks to the pellets it’s given during each milking. Clive strongly believes milking robots, and indoor farming are a good solution for farmers and their cows. “The cows are much more quiet these days, which I think means they are happy. They can be milked whenever they want.” He also emphasises the environmental benefits of milking robots. “Today, it’s all about greenhouse gasses, and we need to think about the future”. With innovations similar to robots, that aid farmers make their living, it’s safe to assume that automated technology is the future of the dairy industry. However, the phenomenon has received criticism from various animal welfare organisations. According to a study conducted
in 2016 by World Animal Protection UK, there are about 100 confirmed indoor farming units, as well as 43 suspected ones. The organisation sees the increase in intensive indoor farming severely harmful for cows. “We do not believe intensive indoor milk production should be the future of UK dairy farming because of the welfare impacts on cows, including evidence of higher incidences of udder infections and lameness, and because cows cannot express natural behaviours when they are permanently housed all year round.” says Ian Woodhurst, World Animal Protection UK Farming Campaigns Manager. The National Farmers union has however hit back, saying WAP’s report is “misleading” and that the organisation “no evidence to prove that the health and welfare of the dairy cow is compromised due to the scale or the system of the farm”. Since the Government doesn’t collect statistics on the matter, something the organisation has been asking them to do for a number of years, the group has no way of telling how many intensive units actually exists today. Woodhurst doesn’t believe there’s any way of stopping all milk in the UK being produced intensively. “The pasture-based system to an indoor system happened very fast in Denmark, over a period of about 10 years.” As an increasing number of dairy cows spend nearly their entire lives in giant barns, campaigners believe supermarkets ought to inform shoppers where their milk comes from. For consumers, it may be reassuring to think the milk they drink comes from animals who can do what comes naturally to them. A YouGov study in 2015 found that 86% of adults agreed dairy cows should have access to grazing outdoors. The same study showed that 72% of adults were concerned about the welfare of cows staying indoors all year round. With the help of campaigning, labels have been introduced and information about the amount of time cows have spent outdoors made public. So far only some supermarkets, such as Asda and Co-op, have adapted The Pasture Promise label, which guarantees that cows have grazed on grass for 160 days. “We would like to see all milk labelled so consumers can tell if it has come from cows that have grazed outside for the majority of the year or if it has come from a factory-farmed cow.” says Woodhurst. b 77
Is cash becoming obsolete? The pounds and pence in our pockets are under threat from a range of high-tech alternatives
Words: Jamie Hilferty
As the present marches relentlessly into the future, cash is at risk of being eclipsed by advances in digital alternatives, and so could be on the path to becoming obsolete. “Over the next decade, the number of cash payments is forecast to fall by 34 per cent to 11.3 billion,” according to a forecast by UK Finance. This is partially a result of mobile banking and contactless payments, but also apps such as Ping and Paym, which link bank accounts to mobile phone numbers. All of this technology further adds to the ease and convenience of digital payments. A company called Cash Management Solutions published a report in 2015 looking into this, titled The War on Cash which stated: “The early signs from the UK – a mature payments market where contactless has had significant uptake – don’t look good. In 2014, for the first time, non-cash payments overtook cash in the share of UK transactions. ” With all these developments, it’s not hard to imagine a time in the future where a £20 note will be about as much use as an abacus, having given way to the superior digital alternatives. UK Finance’s 2017 report stated that paper money still accounted for forty per cent of payments in the UK in 2016, although said this was expected to drop to twenty-one per cent by 2026, reporting that the “recent increase in the use of contactless cards has had a significant negative impact on cash payment volumes.” Contactless payments were what really changed the tide in favour of the digital revolution, introduced in the UK by Barclays in 2007. In the last ten years, “cash payment volumes have reduced by 33 per cent”, according to the report, which makes you wonder what impact the next years will have. The ‘ground zero’ of this cashless revolution, was a trendy café in South London called Browns of Brockley, which has since inspired other establishments to follow the trend. One of the establishments to follow the cashless trend was the London Bridge branch of Tossed, which is a chain of modern salad bars. It’s very popular with busy people, who are looking for a fast and nutritious lunch. The manager of the branch, Paulo said, “It’s the future, man,” in reference to the fact the place was totally digital. “We started doing this about six months ago, but we have branches in a few shopping centres that have not fully
hundred pounds, but two days later same coins were worth nothing. Money is only worth what the banks decide it’s worth, this can change and fluctuate, but most importantly it can be rendered entirely valueless in an instant, as it has no true value, it just represents a value. If it’s possible nowadays to operate an entire day without the use of anything more than a smartphone, surely it won’t be long until we have superior technology to replace things like passports and driving licences as well? Digital banking has come a long way in the last ten years and will continue to streamline and merge until digital financial consumer technology is only limited in its application by the laws and rulings of governments. While BitCoin presents an alternative to the way that we bank, partially born out of distrust of the current system, it seems that believe that the demise of cash itself will be born out of the pure convenience that the digital alternatives offer. BitCoin isn’t the only futuristic advancement that we can see in today’s world; A Costcutter on a Brunel University campus is the UK’s first shop to accept payment via fingerprint. An online statement made by the university said: “FingoPay, the new payment technology, takes a 3D scan of the customer’s finger at the till and links this biometric map to their bank account.” Sthaler, the company behind the technology, says that they “are aiming for 3,000 [users] by November”. Linking your bank account to your fingerprint is of course not something that we will be seeing much of in the short term, but it does show us that the future is upon us.. We are on the very brink of the next era of financial spending methods, and if things progress as they are, cash could well become totally obsolete in the not too distant future. In the average day, a student might attend lectures, order an Uber to go and get a coffee and pay online for that; they won’t use cash once, but do it all digitally. With the first use of a biometric fingerprint payment system being introduced, it looks like soon we won’t even need a debit card. Forget cashless; we’re on the way to cardless as well. It does however make one worry for all the buskers, cocaine users, low-level criminals and gangster rappers who rely so dearly on cash for varying reasons. b
“In 2014, for the first time, non-cash payments overtook cash in the share of UK transactions.” transitioned yet”. Ordering is done on one of the many tablets that populated the shop. The digital ordering process means that the staff do not take the customers order directly, which could leave customers confused as to how to operate the tablet, and possibly incidents of customers reacting negatively when they find out that they can’t use cash. “We sometimes get customers who don’t understand why they can’t pay in cash,” he said, “we always have a member of staff at lunch, there to make sure everyone knows how to order. ” Paulo explained. There are many advantages for retail outlets no longer accepting cash, for one it saves the owner from having to take the day’s takings to the bank; it also reduces the risk of not only ‘over the counter’ style robberies, but light-fingered members of staff. The recent replacement of the pound coin is a perfect example of this. It illustrates just how fickle the value of money really is. On October 14, one hundred old-style one pound coins were worth one
The wrong time to come out Kevin Spacey’s declaration of his sexuality risked reinforcing damaging untruths about gay men
Words: James Underdown Image: Paul Hudson via Flickr CC
October 30th will forever mark the date that Kevin Spacey came out as a gay man, but at the same time he became someone who was accused of attempting to molest a 14-year-old. In a bizarre PR spin, he stated that “I now choose to live as a gay man,” in the same statement that addressed allegations of assault by actor Anthony Rapp from 30 years ago; when Spacey was an adult of 26. In what is turning out to be just another sting in the tail of the Hollywood sexual assault scandals, Spacey was accused of making drunken sexual advances towards Rapp, which included inviting him to a party at his apartment. In his interview with BuzzFeed News, Rapp describes the incident as Spacey “trying to seduce me ... I was aware that he was trying to get with me sexually.” After allegedly lifting him up “like a groom picks up the bride over the threshold,” and ended up laying on a bed with him. In his statement Spacey admits he does not remember the incident, but offers his apologies and expresses his appreciation for the actor. Spacey, who is now 58, began his acting career on the stage and screen during the 1980s. He has appeared in acclaimed films such as The Usual Suspects and American Beauty. The latter of which led to an Academy Award for Best Actor at the 2000 Oscars. More recently, he played the lead role in the Netflix original, House of Cards. That series has now been cancelled due to the allegations made against the actor. However, throughout his career there have been consistent rumours circulating and press interest about his sexuality. The recent sexual harassment scandal engrossing Hollywood currently is far worst than just Spacey. Recently over 50 women have accused producer Harvey Weinstein of unwanted sexual advances over numerous decades; including seven in the UK that Scotland Yard are investigating. Actress Rose McGowan is one of those who has spoken out, saying she was offered $1 million to remain silent. As hard as it may have been for Spacey to admit and announce his sexuality publicly, doing it in the same statement that apologises for not just assault but attempted child molestation, is fundamentally wrong. Too many times LGBTQ+ people have been used as scapegoats for other wrongdoings. The LGBT community is finally making headway in terms of
Any correlation between gay men being more likely to be paedophiles has been scientifically disproven multiple times. Spacey’s actions will only serve to reignite a stigma that gay people have desperately been trying to shake off. Coming out is usually a celebration of oneself, but for him, it should be the antithesis of this. b
civil rights, this news is just another blow to the people who have been fighting the hardest to change perceptions and gain respect. What is the most troubling part of this saga is not just the act itself, but the fact that it places the historical myth that gay men were proven child molesters firmly back in the public consciousness.
Interviewers: Apai-Ketuya Marchant, Zoe Mundell, Zaynah Butt Images: Zaynah Butt
If you could make one difference in the world what would it be? We asked UAL students what they would like to see changed
Michael, Illustration and Visual Media I would make it legal to paint on walls. It is a form of freedom of speech, you can’t compete with advertisements so people should be allowed to have freedom of speech via that method.
Kyrin, Sound Art and Design I would pay more to the people in the Art sector. It is really hard to find jobs and we probably should earn more!
Rory, Animation I guess that a difference I would like to make is to get everyone to appreciate the insignificant small details, maybe it’s just something I’m really interested in. Like the other day I was walking and you’re kicking all the leaves and it’s just so nice.
Enna, Illustration I would make peace and not war, just because i think war brings to much sadness to this world.
Elliot, Journalism If I could make one change in the world, I would change education and I would teach yoga to everyone because it teaches mindfulness and a pace that we lack in the western world. Everyone needs to slow down and bit and teach the children to take time to build a better world.
Gabrielle I would get people to read up on history more and use museums as their starting point.
Daniel, Design Management and Cultures If I could make one change. I would not want Cancer to exist. So that people should live as long as they should.
Rachel, Fashion Styling and Production I would like everyone to have empathy because, people are not empathetic and only think of themselves.
Kumbirai, Design for Art Direction Get people to be more understanding of other people and other people’s perspectives. I feel like a lot of stuff is going on and people don’t understand other people’s actions. I feel that will kind of help with equality and a lot of issues in the world. Just Understanding
Narentuoya, Art I would like to make everyone younger because i do not want to get old.
Is the fox becoming a hunter? Londoners claim that the once-shy creatures are turning dangerously bold
Words: Apai-Ketuya Marchant Image: Alf Melin via Flickr
Type “are foxes dangerous” into an internet search engine and the answers you get are likely to include the terms “highly adaptable, timid and generally not aggressive”. The RSPCA, the BBC and various fox websites all tend to describe foxes as animals that pose no threat to humans. However, after observing them roaming around Tottenham I can confirm that urban foxes seem to be getting very brave. I’m not the only one. This is what other residents told me: “I was walking towards them, I thought they would run off but instead like five of them ran towards me so, I ran back into my car,” Dee-Dee, a gap year student told me. Another witness was Niyi, a music video and film director who said: “I was trying to get into my car and the fox would not move I had to nudge it with my foot.” John, a 27-year-old entrepreneur agrees: “This isn’t funny anymore, they see me and start running after me.” “Listen, I parked up my car and two of them came running over, it’s like they were expecting me to feed them, they’re too comfortable,” said Andrew, a rail engineer from Finsbury Park. My own investigations have been focused on a group of foxes who live around Downhills, an area in Tottenham, North London, and how their characters seem to be changing as they become more and more used to human behaviour. Over the past six years of observing them I never once was scared. The truth is I seemed to scare them, they always ran off whenever I walked towards them. But those days have gone, and a new era of fox behaviour has put me on guard. Rather than skirt off, they would just stand and stare at me while I spoke on the phone to my mother after a long day at work. I never cared but I did start questioning how familiar they would become with me. I’d read reports of a fox that bit off a child’s finger in 2013 and the story of the young lady who was jogging to her house when a fox clenched onto her leggings and refused to let go. But as the months passed and the seasons changed I began to see these cider coloured creatures sitting on top of people’s cars and brushing past my neighbour’s shopping as she struggled to manage the weight of the items she bought. I even watched the Downhill gang try to rush another neighbour’s cat, and now that poor cat seems to be on guard
mad woman and it ran off. But when I left John to come back home, it re-appeared with other foxes. They did not chase me but they did cluster together so I just threw the Guinness bottle at them and they ran under that rusty fence. But this time I was actually shaken. On another occasion, I was stranded outside my house for 45 minutes because a fox was sitting hapily outside my door. I was exhausted, it was about 2:00am and all I wanted to do was get home.. I went to the recycling bins and picked up an empty gallon container and threw it at the fox but it refused to move. I phoned the police because I didn’t want to risk getting bitten. The police refused to come but gave me the RSPCA helpline number. They suggested that the fox may be injured or dying and told me that they were going to call a team out to help me. It was raining and cold – my neighbour even came out and asked me if I was locked out. Even she was amazed that the fox would not move when she was poking it with an umbrella. Luckily her brother came to save the day. He protected himself by wearing several pairs of trousers and coats and forcefully nudged the fox down the stairs. It did not grunt or fight back. It walked down the stairs very comfortably to meet its friend that was chilling on the grass. It seems urban foxes are becoming very familiar and in some cases even chasing humans. The idea that foxes are timid is changing. They could potentially be dangerous. b
too. I always am having to watch that cat defend itself from the foxes from my kitchen window. My friend Dee-Dee visited me about six weeks ago and nearly knocked down my door in the process. He claimed that as got out his car, one of the local foxes approached himt, made some sort of noise and in less than a second about five foxes lined up in front of him. He said he went forward thinking the foxes would move but instead they growled at him which attracted more foxes from under the rusty fence. In a state of panic, he ran as fast as he could to the right of the foxes and they began to chase him but stopped at the bottom of the stairs that lead to my front door and sat there staring at him. Another friend John, who’s from Ghana and came to the UK when he was 11 years old, always complains about rodents and creatures.. Just five days after the Dee-Dee incident John phoned me. He was running down the cul-de-sac screaming “Open the fucking door” because foxes were chasing him down the road. Again, the foxes didn’t chase John up the stairs:they stopped at the bottom. After that encounter, I was slightly scared but still brave enough to go back out there with John, however I took a pink broom and an empty Nigerian Guinness bottle and told John to walk with some Woly shoe spray and a lighter so that if the foxes approached him he could make a big flame and hopefully scare them off. As we walked along, the first fox appeared and I just chased it like a