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Welcome to the latest and final volume of Artefact from the class of 2018-2019 — the Legacy issue. Legacy has many meanings. It is what you leave behind, what helps others move forward, hard work, human connections, memories and history. This edition explores stories that have inspired us, as well as changes that will carry meaning for future generations. We feel honoured to be part of Artefact’s legacy and we thank those who have established it for us. We hope you enjoy reading the articles included, as much as we enjoyed writing them. In our News and Current Affairs section, Lucy St John’s ‘The farright’s new appeal to the everyman’ explores the rise of young right-wing supporters in the UK. It points to the notion that legacies are not always positive. Rachel Hagan’s ‘Aboriginal Art: Australia’s Hidden Legacy’ in the Culture portion, focuses on the importance of art in the representation of indigenous Australians. Her article dives into the colonial history of the country to remind us to learn from the past, in order to work together to build a better future. ‘How do we keep British pubs alive’ by Lydia Tsiouva delves into the death of tradition as the UK faces an increase in the number of pubs closing down. She poses the question of whether traditions should remain unchanged in a time where pubs are taking new measures to keep people coming through their doors. In the Lifestyle segment, Daisy Dalgliesh’s travel piece ‘Santa Fe: The other side of Mexico’ sheds light on the development of a city which is challenging the stereotypical views of Mexico’s crime and poverty . As for the Entertainment part, we remember the legendary Queen frontman in ‘How Freddie Mercury redefined masculinity. This piece by Tayla Kruger looks at how Mercury impacted society’s perceptions as he went on to become a queer icon and one of the greatest voices of Rock and Roll. Staying within the field of music, Sinead Carroll’s ‘Jazz: No sell-by date’ poses the question, “Is Jazz dying as an art form?”. With pop dominating the charts in recent years, does this mean that older genres like jazz and swing are being rendered obsolete? We find out by speaking to passionate jazz enthusiasts about the impact it has had on music today. Being the final issue of Artefact that our class will produce, nothing seemed a more fitting theme than ‘Legacy’. With this publication, we leave our mark, one that signifies our time at UAL

Front cover: Oswin Tickler with thanks to Klara Vith and Andrew Long in the LCC Letterpress studio.

Website artefactmagazine.com Facebook artefactmagazine Twitter @artefactlcc Instagram @artefactmag Feedback artefactlcc@gmail.com


CONTENTS CURRENT AFFAIRS 05 CULTURE 41 LIFESTYLE 75 ENTERTAINMENT 101

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THE

LEGACY

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Contributors Magazine Kyle Arthur, Nour HassaĂŻne, Richard Bari, Izzy Blatry, Sinead Carroll, Rheia Chand, Daisy Dalgliesh, Rachel Hagan, Sophie Hall, Dominika Kostialikova, Tayla Kruger, Issy Maclennan, Beatriz Martins Reina Romao, Natalie Munro, Elliott Nielson, Brittany O'Neill, Eloise Reader, Jennifer Revell, Lucy St John, Lydia Tsiouva, Beatriz Vasques Social media Recka Begum, Marcus Brown, Elle Burnett, Georgia Casey, Hannah Dardis, Jordan Griffith , Jimmy Ioannou, Laura Kaspar, Aymen Nadeem, Tania Nana, Zillah Rauter, Nina Schmidt de Andrade, Stephanie Soteriades, Anastasia Turkina Website Gigi Alhegelan, Lucy Arup, Fatima Batool, Asher-Nicole Bourke, Tayla-Eunice Brade, Irene Chirita, Rebecca de Souza, Kezia Farnham, Neve Fear-Smith, Arri Grewal, Mariana Jaureguilorda-Beltran, Maha Khan, Gabriella Laporte-Virot, Aimee Luton, Sophia Mallett, Dwayne Maxwell, Poppy Power, Harry Reynolds, Xavier-Guillaume Singh, Connor Taylor-Parton, Beth Thomas, Katie Webb Tutors Simon Hide (magazine) Sophie Morris (social media) Russell Merryman (website) Art Direction & Design Oswin Tickler, Smallfury


Minors, not miners 06 "I just kept running and didn't look back" 08 The Great Game: what's Britain's next move? 12 The addiction taking two lives a day 14 In conversation with Maisie Williams: breaking into tech 16 Brain injury survivors: failed by the system 20 The far-right's new appeal to the every-man 22 Spotters: a graduate film with naked ambition 26 Justice for the cleaners: the fight against outsourcing 28 A murder that changed a nation 30 Womanslaughter: Sierra Leone's mothers 32 are bleeding to death 'A call to garms' to tackle homelessness 36 Patient: NHS mental health services. State: serious. 38


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Minors not miners Civil war, Ebola and extreme poverty forces parents in Sierra Leone to use the labour of their young children to survive

Words: Eloise Reader Image: Daniel Wheeler

Sharp shards of stone fly into the air above a busy road-stone quarry on the outskirts of Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown. There are endless mounds of gravel piled up on the steep terrain of the hillside quarry. This would be a challenging working environment for even the strongest and most experienced quarry men. But I witness children as young as three years old navigating the dangerous quarry tracks as they carry heavy boulders and then attempt to break the stones up with their infant hands. Sierra Leone, devastated by civil war and the Ebola epidemic is one of the ten poorest countries in the world, and these families are being forced to use the labour of their young children in an attempt to make enough money to eat. Artefact met a family who relies on the labour of their four children who are just three, five, six and seven years-old. The mother, Mamoso and her husband and children spend their days at the quarry relentlessly gathering and breaking stones. The young family of six work tirelessly, 10 hours a day, seven days a week. Perching on a boulder, Mamoso looks to her small family and tells me, no matter what the weather is, they will be working. If they don’t work, they don’t eat. I watch, anxiously, as Ibrahim, the eldest child, navigates the rocky path with a boulder, heavier than I could lift, bal-

education seems to be a luxury so out of reach it’s not even worth comprehending. “I had planned to send them to school at the start of term, but I’m still trying,” Mamoso tells me. “For now they have to break stones to make money, and the children aren’t in school.” I can’t help but feel there is little hope for these children to have a better life without intervention and access to an education. “It’s so heartbreaking to see children this young involved in breaking stones, we believe education is the answer to breaking the cycle of poverty we are in,” says Sanitigie Dumbuya, founder of ‘We Yone Child Foundation’, a small Freetown-based NGO working to improve access to education across the city. In August 2018, the government of Sierra Leone announced that they would be launching a free quality education initiative. Despite this welcome news, people in Sierra Leone are apprehensive, fearing this will be another empty promise. Jinnah Kampbell, a Freetown social worker, told me: “Personally I don’t think a free and quality education is achievable at the moment. The economic situation of our country is deplorable. Life is very difficult for the ordinary citizen.” Indeed, the government’s offer of ‘free education’ could be misleading. Only government schools will have access to this support. Schools that don’t meet the government ‘standard’ and ‘mushroom

“I had planned to send them to school at the start of term, but I'm still trying,” Mamoso tells me. ”For now they have to break stones to make money, and the children aren't in school.” 6

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anced on his head. I look down and see that the only thing protecting his small feet are a pair of flip-flops, so worn and broken that he basically walks the track barefoot. Turning back I see his younger siblings following him, walking along the same stony track, with only ripped clothes and worn-out sandals protecting their fragile bodies. The daily routine of these young children is physically draining and is representative of the cycle of poverty, so many families across Sierra Leone find themselves in. Mamoso and her husband can only watch as their toddler follows the path her older siblings take, carrying a stone above her head, ready to be broken and sold. “The children get wounded, when they don’t break the stones properly they get cut, and they bleed,” says Mamoso. But if the family does not work together to break up and sell the stones, they will have nothing. Mamoso tells me that they can wait up to a month for a gravel buyer. When there’s no money left, they have to turn to the local community to beg and borrow. “I don’t want to do this forever, I’m hoping for the better,” says Mamoso with tears in her eyes. The parents dream that one day they will be able to send their children to school. It’s evident that this family, like so many across Sierra Leone, are struggling to survive from day to day and affording to put their children through


Current Affairs

schools’, which are small institutions that have been set up by locals or small charitable organisations to cater for a community where there has previously been no access to education, will not be supported to provide free schooling. Many of the poorest children across Sierra Leone may not benefit from this scheme, meaning access to education could to continue to be a distant hope for the country’s children. The United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) provides around £15 million annually to support children in Sierra Leone, to help them gain an education, and when I raised the question of child labour in Freetown, the DFID said in a statement: “The UK is working with the government of Sierra Leone to help keep children off the streets and get them back in school and learning. UK aid has helped over 400,000 children to receive a decent education and improved the school safety for girls in over 900 secondary schools across the country. “Alongside this, we are targeting support for over 6,000 marginalised children, including those with disabilities, to attend secondary school. We’re also working with every secondary school in

Sierra Leone to support girls being in education.” However, without access to education, families across Sierra Leone stand little chance of breaking the cycle of child labour and extreme poverty. ●

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“I JUST KEPT RUNNING AND DIDN’T LOOK BACK” How charity workers are trying to help victims of people trafficking 8

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Words: Rachel Hagan Images: Pexels, Halimot, Ella’s Home

Is airport security doing enough to address human trafficking?

Halimot was nine years old when she left her home in Nigeria and was trafficked to Italy. Now, aged 31 it has only been a year since she regained contact with any of her family. “I was trafficked to Italy, then Spain and finally London. I was child trafficked.” Halimot begins to tell me her story calmly, amongst the lunchtime cacophony of Kahaila Cafe, where she has just finished a seven-hour shift. When I arrive at Kahaila, Halimot greets me like an old friend, enveloping me in a big hug with a huge smile and offering me a tea or coffee. As we find a quiet corner to sit down in, she begins to tell me her thoughts on Nigeria, the oil-producing region approximately 3000 miles away with tropical marshland and labyrinths of water. “It is not a good place, it is a lawless country, some people enjoy it, but the only way you can enjoy it is if you’re super, super rich.” And, even if you are affluent it is still perilous, Halimot continues, “because if they find out that you’re rich, they can kidnap you and ask for ransom. There is a lot going on there.” It was only a couple of weeks ago that the behemoth Islamic State group, Boko Haram, displaced more than 9,000 people, in the North-Eastern Nigerian town of Rann, following a violent attack, looting and destroying the town. “I was not born into poverty, I was born into a middle-class family. My Dad was a businessman, he did very well,” Halimot details her background, “however the problems started when I lost my Dad, so, they had to share my siblings and me for all of my Dad’s family. And, the person that they shared me with, she is the one that trafficked me.” Her trafficker moved her to Italy, where she worked “in the road, which was very long and popular, with over 300 girls on it”. She was subjected to physical violence and sexual abuse. A recent article in The Guardian, stated that about 16,000 Nigerian women arrived in Italy from Libya between 20162017. And, according to the UN’s International Office for Migration more than 80% of them were victims of trafficking, destined for a life of forced prostitution on street corners and in brothels across Italy and Europe. Halimot can remember coming back from work one day and hearing her boss talking on the phone, “they were talking about the value of money, and that was

the first time I had heard about pounds. Because, when I was in Italy they used lira.” Halimot recalls to me, over-hearing the conversation and how her boss was detailing that if they changed pounds into Nigerian money, it would have a higher worth. “I told my friend, who then told her mum — her Mum called me and said if you go to London I think you have a better chance of escape. She told me she had a friend in the UK, so she could help me to escape. She asked me to promise her never to tell anyone that she helped me so that no one would come for her.” Halimot was given a phone number which she then placed inside a freezer bag and put inside her body so that the paper would not disintegrate. “I came here on a British passport, and it was fake. It was not under my name”. Arriving at Luton airport, the only part of Halimot’s passport that was legitimate was her photograph, so she thought they would pick up on that, and deport her. “I was so mad because they didn’t notice. She just looked at my passport and said ‘welcome back home’. I was so upset and scared. Because I was told that it is not like the rest of Europe, there are laws here. But coming with a fake British passport and they didn’t even catch me.” From Luton airport, they got a train to Kings Cross. When they arrived her trafficker called someone to tell them they had arrived; and that’s when Halimot decided she had to escape, “if I didn’t do it then I would never have been able to do it. So, I dropped my bag, and I only had my backpack. I just ran and kept on running; I didn’t look back. It was December, so it was very cold.” I asked Halimot if she was not scared that her trafficker would run after her, she responded, “I knew she wouldn’t be able to follow me, she is tall and really huge.” After running for what felt like forever, eventually Halimot stopped and “I put my hand inside me and broke the paper in the bag, I begged for coins and called her.” The woman could not understand why Halimot did not have a coat in London, in December. Halimot presumed her friend's Mum would have told the lady her situation, but she had not, and so when Halimot told her, she was furious and worried that the trafficker would track her down. Halimot was allowed to stay with her for a couple of days and then had to leave — she was just 16. Since then she has never 9


Current Affairs

told anyone her situation, sleeping where she could — in churches and mosques. Worrying that people may judge or blame her for what happened if they knew — and living in fear that her trafficker will find her. A year or so later, Halimot became pregnant and registered with a GP. The doctor’s were concerned with her as she had a number of scars on her body, but she never revealed anything due to living in fear of what her trafficker had previously told her. However, in 2015, Halimot tells me she had a particularly bad breakdown. She attempted suicide a number of times and the GP’s concerns were growing. “He said to me, ‘you know we are here to help’, and I just started crying. I got really angry at myself because I wanted to control my tears, I couldn’t do that because it was my eyes and not my body, I should be able to control it but I couldn’t. I was trying to fight the tears, but I think I just needed to let it out.” For the first time, Halimot’s stoicism waivers as she reminisces of this particularly hard time in her life. At this point, Halimot now had three boys, she eventually told the doctor how she was sleeping from one place to another with her children. She was no longer with their dad, following being with him since 2003, “my three boys are not meant to share my problems. I was so tired of life, but I didn’t want to die because my boys give me life.” “My therapist told me I have to talk about it because if I don’t talk, I will have a headache and body pain”. Telling the GP her story, lead to her receiving out-reach help from Ella’s Home. Ella’s Home is a charity which opened in 2016, with the support from The Kahaila charity family. They provide independent long-term aftercare for women who have experienced abuse through trafficking and sexual exploitation. Artefact met up with Emily Chalke, the founder of Ella’s Home. Following graduation, Emily moved to Bangkok and worked for an organisation called NightLight. “I can remember my first night out so clearly; I was only 23. I loved living there, but the work was very intense, it [prostitution] is everywhere in Thailand. I lived in a red light district for the whole time I was there in the end, so I began not even to notice it. I remember family visiting, and my Mum just couldn’t handle it.” Speaking of her time in Bangkok, Emily explains how witnessing prostitution became so normalised, that often she could not process it. Emily was working mostly with women who weren’t Thai by the end of her time. And mainly with women from Uzbekistan, who were trafficked through Bangkok. She got to know one Russian-Uzbek girl over the years, Ella (whose name has been changed), who was working in a brothel, and was 10

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always very isolated because she looked different to everyone else. Upon returning to London, five and a half years later, Emily received an email from Ella saying she was in London working in a brothel, “I met her, and she was really really not well, she felt like she needed to see a psychiatrist, so she knew that something was not right with her”, Emily begins to explain the story behind Ella’s Home. Emily took Ella to a convent in central London and stayed with her the night, where she thought she would be able to get support from the NRM, “but, she wouldn’t say anything so; therefore, she wasn’t entitled to any support, because they have to be able to prove that she had been trafficked.” The NRM, The National Referral Mechanism, is the flagship policy of Theresa May when she was Home Secretary. It is the government’s framework for identifying and referring potential victims of modern slavery to ensure they receive the appropriate support. Emily continues to explain, “they took her in with the hope that she would speak, but after four days they sent her back to me.” Shortly after, Emily started working with the Sophie-Hayes Foundation, “we did a research project into after-care for people who have survived trafficking, and that is when all my experience with Ella and this research project made me think — I was just hearing the same things. Most organisations were saying: okay we have this system in place with the NRM, but it is only going so far, we are giving people emergency care but what happens after ” The NRM gives suspected victims 45 days to recover (up until last year this was just 14 days), while the Home Office investigates their case, they are given a limited period of care on a non-statutory basis while authorities decide if the person is a victim, and then the support ends. This often leads to victims being extremely vulnerable, at risk of homelessness and of being re-trafficked. Emily tells me she thinks this system is, “just crazy. There are endless stories of women who have come to us, who have just been passed from pillar to post and are so vulnerable — they have just been left.” In 2017 there were 5,145 people referred as potential victims of trafficking to the NRM in the UK. It is the highest number recorded by the UK authorities since the figures were first compiled in 2009 — and a 35% rise from the previous year. A third of these cases are suspected to be people exploited for sexual purposes. The campaign ‘free for good’, is pushing for The Modern Slavery Bill to give victims a guaranteed right for support in their initial period and then a further 12 months afterwards. While Emily wholeheartedly stresses that, “all of the safehouses who we work very closely with are incredible

Halimot on the Luminary Bakery course [Halimot].

Emily Chalke in Ella's Home [Brianna Rouse].


Current Affairs

and do amazing work, it is not like they aren’t doing their jobs” — more resources and aftercare is needed to keep up with the demand and continue the recovery process. The figures only represent a margin of the trafficking issue in the UK, and there are many more who have been exploited and trafficked but go undocumented. Often victims of trafficking are seen first and foremost as migrants, battling the hostile environment, and instead of seeing them as the victim that they are, they seem to be criminalised. The government’s system is failing to help this cycle. Arguably the most pertinent issue from is the lack of understanding — “people see it as a very black and white issue — ‘someone has been trafficked let’s help them out of it, okay problem solved’. But it is more complex and all of the issues surrounding it which are poverty and abuse, to name a few.” The passion for understanding becomes hugely evident in the way Emily begins to talk to me, “women who end up in prostitution are really no different to women who end up getting trafficked. But for some reason, there is not much empathy or sympathy for women who may end up in prostitution.” The UN’s Global Report on Trafficking 2018, was published at the start of January and highlighted that 72% of trafficking victims worldwide are female, with almost three-quarters of them sexually exploited. Stressing Emily’s point, foreign correspondent, Corinne Redfern, who specialises in gender, trafficking and sex work across Asia — tweeted that, culturally, we tend to view forced prostitution as separate to forced labour. Instead, it’s sexual exploitation. And, forced prostitution doesn’t also fall under the category of forced labour. For those sex workers who choose to work in the sex industry, prostitution is a job. Maybe a dangerous one, but a job nevertheless. Corinne highlight’s that to give sex workers the rights and respect afforded to every other kind of worker in the world; we need to view prostitution accordingly. Emily continues, “all the root causes are — vulnerability, and that is often because of where they grew up.” She tells me about a woman she was dealing with this morning, who wants justice to those who trafficked her. She was held for ten years, and she is adamant that she will get justice, she put two traffickers in prison, but they have now been let out. What it all comes back to, “her real deep pain is the way her parents treated her. And that is what we sadly see with so many women.” Ella’s Home started small, responding to urgent needs. But Emily tells me how they are, “now looking to how to re-grow and become sustainable.” They are not government funded and so solely rely on donations and grants. They have four women at a time, which Emily explains

“may change at some point. This is our third year, and it is really quite intense when you have four highly traumatised women in the house together.” I ask Emily what the hardest part of her job is, she takes a deep breath and says, “some days you feel like you have enough material to write a book, it is really intense.” Emily worked with Halimot for three years in their outreach support. She first came to them, she was high-risk and had monthly meetings. She was their priority. Halimot explains that she didn’t realise people wanted to help, as she was always told by her trafficker that if she told anyone her story, that there would be consequences. Halimot went through the Luminary Bakery course, which is part of the Kahaila family. The course takes cohorts

“She was held for ten years, and she is adament that she will get justice. She put two traffickers in prison, but they have now been let out.” of seven women, all of whom will have experienced homelessness, domestic abuse, sexual exploitation or criminal activity and have been referred by their social worker. They complete a six-month course where they learn professional baking skills along skills to develop their confidence and employability skills. Halimot completed the course while receiving the out-reach support from Ella’s Home. In December 2016 Halimot started her business, Haliberry Cakes and Catering, where she makes iced cakes for birthday’s, christenings, Christmas and other occasions. In 2017, Halimot’s asylum got granted, and that is when she started working in Kahaila cafe. The cafe is on Brick Lane, and with stripped back wooden floors and people beavering away at their laptops, it may seem like any other cafe in London, but it is a non-profit charity running local community projects helping vulnerable women. Halimot tells me how much of a fantastic woman Emily is. And will be forever grateful for the support from the Kahaila family. She does not want her story to die with her and has got to a stage in her life where she realises she could never die without her. Mum knowing what happened — who she has not seen since 1998. She hope’s that with working in Kahaila and with her business, one day she be able to afford to bring her Mum to England, so her children can meet their Grandma. Her proclivity for hard work is evident — our conversation concludes with Halimot defiantly telling me that she never gives up easily, on anything. ●

If you suspect someone is a victim of human trafficking, contact the police — call 999 if it’s an emergency, or 101 if it’s not urgent. If you’d prefer to stay anonymous, call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. If you want confidential advice about trafficking before calling the police, there are a number of specialist organisations you can talk to: The Modern Slavery helpline 0800 0121 700, is open 24 hours a day, The NSPCC’s helpline on 0808 8005 000, if you think a child is in danger of trafficking, and The Salvation Army’s 24-hour confidential helpline for reporting modern slavery on 0300 3038 151. 11


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The Great Game: what’s Britain’s next move? As the Brexit deadline approaches, the country remains uncertain of its political future

The UK voted to leave the European Union and is expected to do so on March 29th 2019. An event with unpredictable economic and political consequences. Meanwhile, October 2018, in the Chinese South Sea, the Chinese warship Lanzhou warned US destroyer Decatur that they are on a “dangerous course.” If the Americans do not change course they will “suffer the consequences.” The Americans responded with “we are conducting innocent passage” and still the Lanzhou prepared for collision. When only 40 metres apart the Decatur moved to the right and avoided the collision — just in time. In David Cameron’s EU speech at Bloomberg, he talked about how the EU’s original main purpose was securing peace. He continued by saying that this had changed: “Today the main, over-riding purpose of the European Union is different: not to guarantee peace, but to secure prosperity,” that nowadays the main challenges would come from outside the continent and that “we should be in no doubt that a new global race of nations is underway today.” Germany’s ambassador and diplomat, Peter Wittig, expresses this point of a future different world order more specifically. According to him in 20 to 30 years “it will be China and the US” as both countries perceive the future world as a “bipolar world, a world with only two powers that matter. Russia will be a sideshow in their [China’s and the United States’] view. It will be China and the US. Now, where is Europe on that map?” Wittig went on to say: “We are 511 million European citizens. We matter as an economic factor. We matter less as a military and political power. I cannot see how the UK can be relevant in 30 years, in 40 years as a stand-alone power in this configuration. Russia is, in many ways fighting to stay relevant after the fall of the Soviet Union. They’re fighting today’s fight, China is fighting tomorrow’s fight, and the day after tomorrow and the day after that,” FBI director Christopher Wray told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in October 2018. Even though Russia is still considered as a threat that cannot be underestimated, “what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country,” said the vice president of the United States, Mike 12

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Pence, in a speech early in October 2018. In Robert D. Kaplan’s view, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and advisor at the Eurasia Group, there is a cold war already going on between the two superpowers identified by Wittig; he also regards Russia as secondary. So where will the UK stand after leaving the EU? On the one hand, Britain is obviously connected to the Commonwealth States. However the leading states of the Commonwealth, Australia and New Zealand, Canada and South Africa, have already moved on from the nostalgia of the great British Empire and are increasingly aligning themselves to either the United States or China. South Africa’s biggest import and export destination is China, “Australia and New Zealand have refocused their foreign and security policy on the Asia-Pacific region, in which China is the dominant player. Canada has defined itself as an independent-minded US neighbour with increasingly strong Asia links to balance its traditional European ties,” states Quentin Peel, an associate fellow with the Europe Programme at Chatham House, in an article for the Financial Times. Robert Saunders, senior lecturer at Queen Mary University of London and author of “Yes to Europe! The 1975 Referendum and Seventies Britain” has a similar perspective. He describes Brexiters as naive, saying they would “reduce geopolitics to a form of faith-healing, in which anything is possible so long as we believe.” Saunders also refers to Britain’s history of “losing its empire, its military preeminence, and its economic supremacy” and says that Britain could not build a better future on fantasies about the past. This might imply that one of the more profound questions of the Brexit event is, whether the UK, without the EU, will be able to integrate itself into the new world to come. What will the UK do, politically and economically and how will this affect the EU’s and the UK’s common interest of securing prosperity? Will London be able to restore its elements of sovereignty which were lost during the process of European integration? Respect for human dignity and human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and the rule of law. These are the values of the European Union. Some Brexiters argued that they want more freedom, democracy and better economic growth.

Words: Laura Kaspar Image: Martin Hearn

“The real challenge of the Brexit vote is that the British say, we want to stick to these goals but we think we can achieve it better if we are not a part of this union.”


Current Affairs

If Remainers and Brexiters alike aim for the same values and the same goal, what is the Brexit debate really about? Jochen Buchsteiner, Political Correspondent for the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in London and author of the recently published book Die Flucht der Briten aus der europäsichen Utopie (Britain’s escape from European utopia) says that we should not only question the European Union but the West as a whole. “No one would say that the UK is not in favour of the main goals the European Union pursues which is prosperity, rule of law, freedom, competitiveness. The real challenge of the Brexit vote is that the British say, we want to stick to these goals but we think we can achieve it better if we are not part of this Union. Furthermore, there are so many centrifugal forces now in place that, what more Europeans tend to ask is: Is this [the EU] really the way forward?

“I think the main reason why no one is really debating this question is that most people are saying we have peace on the continent because we have the Union. But the question we actually have to ask is, would we have peace even without the European Union in this form,” Buchsteiner said at a book presentation in London. The European Union has brought us 70 years of peace after almost half a century of war, conflict and economic crises. “The leaders in the post-war generation perceived this as an essential peace project which was a guarantor for avoiding war on this conflict-willing continent. This is what it brought us: 70 years absence of war, absence of conflict, and speaking, stability, prosperity on a continent that has been torn apart for centuries,” states Germany’s ambassador in London, Peter Wittig, after Buchsteiner’s presentation. Even though one of the founding fathers of the European Union,

Winston Churchill, spoke about the “United States of Europe” in his famous 1946 speech in Zurich, he wrote, “We are with Europe, but not of it” and “We are linked but not comprised.” Whether or not Churchill would have voted “remain” or “leave” has, in some way, become part of the Brexit debate, yet, it is impossible to prove with certainty if he would have eventually voted in favour of Brexit or the EU and can only be speculated. However, it is a fact that today we live in a different time, with a completely different set of circumstances. We have not, like Churchill, just experienced two world wars within 31 years and have not just witnessed the genocide of about six million Jews. There are many discrepancies with efficacy of the European Union itself. Was it really this Union which has brought us more than half a century of peace and prosperity or was the Union just happening at the same time? “Our only chance for Europe to remain on the map is to stay as united as we can be. With Brexit this will be more difficult,” says Wittig. Brendan Simms, Historian and Professor of the History of International Relations in the Department of Politics and International Studies at Cambridge University offers a different opinion. He told the German magazine Der Spiegel that this nostalgic thinking of lost imperial greatness ascribed to the British was without reason. He says if any country within the EU could stand alone it would be the UK. Simms justifies this by arguing that the UK is the fifth largest economic power worldwide, the fourth largest military power and has a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. However, to the question if Britain could not only leave the EU but also Europe, Simms responds that this depends on whether or not the UK is able to find an independent role within this Europe as Britain’s history was in fact shaped by Europe, and today’s Britain will continue to be shaped by Europe in the future. According to Simms, the question whether London can restore its elements of sovereignty which were lost during the process of European integration. And yet, even if somehow Britain were to decide to remain in the EU, Simms questions whether this would really be the end of the story. ● 13


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The addiction taking two lives a day How lack of regulation is turning gambling into a deadly game

Words: Lucy St John Image: Alan Stanton/flickr

Two years ago, Terry White, 54, returned home after spending the day in the bookmakers in his hometown of Barry, Wales. He had been playing on the fixed odds betting terminals, known as FOBTs, and had lost £41,000 in a single day. “That was the night I decided to stop, I sat down and realised I had lost of a quarter of a million pounds, lost my home, and I only had thirteen pence to my name,” he said, “and it was all because of the FOBTs.” Terry was not a naïve gambler. He was fairly wealthy as a professional poker player. His problem with FOBTs went beyond control when his daughter died in a tragic accident. “When you can lose £300 per minute, and £41,000 in a day on these machines, you can see how you can lose your house,” he said, “but it’s not just the financial implication, it’s a complete life breaker.” FOBTs have been under scrutiny and in May the maximum stake was cut from £100 to £2. Whilst it was expected there would be a transition period for the bookmakers until these regulations would come into place, the budget announcement left a blow to campaigners. The date was pushed back, until October 2019. The statistics around gambling in the UK are stark, with Lord Chadlington, a key donor to the Tories and a high profile campaigner in recent months, revealing that there are two gambling-related suicides a day. A report by The Gambling Commission revealed that there are more than two million people that are either problem gamblers, or at high risk of becoming one, and the number of young people with a gambling problem has grown by a third in the past three years. In May 2014, John Myers found out the devastating effects of gambling problems, when his 27-year-old son Ryan took his own life. “He was a lovely lad, he was very happy-go-lucky, very self-effacing, the life and soul of the party, always in a good mood, had loads of friends, he held down a good job,” John said. “Just your ordinary lad.” Ryan had been gambling across multiple platforms, including FOBTs, however, his parents are still unsure about the full extent of it. “We know there was a number of times where he gambled all his wages within a matter of hours,” John said. “We know he had payday loans, he had an account with the pawnbroker too, but I don’t think we’ll ever know the full amount of it.” Whilst it

designed to hook you in, everything about them is destructive,” he said. The speed you can lose money on an FOBT can reach up to £300 a minute. The Association of British Bookmakers told Artefact: “Bookmakers will continue to provide a safe place to gamble, with staff interaction and industry-leading responsible gambling measures.” However, none of the former addicts believe there is any kind of responsibility in the services offered in the shops. James’ addiction started whilst working at a betting shop, when asked about what measures they had to protect customers he rolled his eyes: “I knew what it was like to be in their position, I’d ask if they were sure, because I wished someone would have done that for me,” he said, “but people go into a zombie-like state, unless someone refuses to serve them they won’t stop.” With the rise in addiction and gambling-related suicides, it’s startling that so little training is offered to staff, “we weren’t given any training with how to deal with potential addicts unless they self-excluded we couldn’t try and stop them,” James said. Self-exclusion raises its own set of problems, Callum said he self-excluded multiple times and it would not be enforced, and James said they often were not sent photographs so did not have any way of knowing if someone had self-excluded. A recurring issue when speaking to those afflicted by gambling addictions, is the marketing used by the gambling companies. Watch any prime-time football match and the number of advertisements for bookmakers, online casinos and promotional bet offers is unabashedly frequent. John has been campaigning for the regulation of this advertising: “It is a big, big problem, when I was looking on Ryan’s Facebook he was talking to another gambler,” he said, “and one of the things he said was that he was trying to give up, but he just couldn’t get away from it, it was everywhere he looked, billboards, TV, radio, they were even sending him texts.” Terry also believes that the marketing is a serious problem: “It’s just too much, it bombards people, it gets them to bet, your spam box is full,” he said. “It’s a bit overwhelming for people who are trying to break out in the recovery and they find themselves lured back.” It often takes reaching absolute breaking point before they will stop. With Terry, it was the loss

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may seem hard to believe that someone could keep an all-consuming addiction a secret from those they are closest to, the secretive nature of problem gambling is a distinctive feature of the illness. James* developed a gambling problem at university whilst working parttime in Ladbrokes. “If someone has an alcohol or drug problem, you can see it, from the physical signs, the smell on their breath; no one had any idea for a long time,” he said. “I felt I had to keep up this front that everything was fine when actually things had spiralled out of control and I couldn’t stop.” James was forced to come clean to family when debts became unmanageable. He is now seeing a counsellor once a week to deal with his problem. “It’s hard knowing that once the addiction is within you, it will never be completely gone, there’s always a worry it is going to happen again,” he explained. Unfortunately, Ryan never had the chance to come clean to his parents. “If our Ryan had spoken to me, I believe I could have sorted it out,” John said. “It is a very hidden thing. If you are in the pub, you can spot drunk, the guy on drugs, but the guy sat in the corner on his phone being nice and quiet, could be gambling his life away and you wouldn't know.” Terry White, now in recovery from his addiction, spends his life campaigning to make gambling fairer and mentoring others. “When you get people at the age of 20 to 30 who haven’t really lived, and it’s got so much for them that they have taken their own lives, I think we’ve got a due obligation to see what we can do to help people,” he said. However, even though he is outspoken about his addiction and recovery, Terry still struggles: “You are always in recovery, and you’re always worried that you are going to relapse,” he said. “The fact that the accessibility is there on your phone, on your laptop, on the high street, and then how easy it is to get into financial problems and then hardship, it is really quite a scary addiction to be afflicted with.” Callum, now 41, from London, also suffered from a serious gambling addiction, which peaked when he discovered the FOBTs. At his worst he was “struggling to go an hour without betting on something, playing machines or going to the casino,” but he believes the FOBTs to the most toxic form of gambling. “The algorithms and the pretty pictures are


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of his home, for James it was crippling debt before reaching his 24th birthday and for Callum, it was the breakdown of his relationship. Jane Fahy, an expert in gambling addiction treatment, working for the Gordon Moody Association, who provide some of the few residential rehabs in the UK for problem gambling, delivering oneto-one therapy as well as for groups. “It is really quite shocking how it affects all backgrounds, every age, it really doesn’t seem to have a preference at all,” she told us. The organisation has been around for forty years and was founded by the Rev. Gordon Moody, who brought Gamblers Anonymous to the UK from America. “He found that for some people weekly GA sessions just didn’t seem to be enough, which is why he established the residential setting,” she explained. The program has moved away from the twelve-step format of GA and is predominantly CBT based (cognitive behavioural therapy). With a two-week assessment process, twelve weeks in the residential setting and an option to stay in a half-way house for up to three months, the association is the most intensive of its kind. Jane believes it is necessary, “due to the nature of the addiction I believe you need that length of time to be taken out of your real life,” she said. “If you are addicted to something like alcohol or drugs you can continue to exist without the need, whereas if you are a problem gambler you can not get away from money.” The clinic

aims to re-boot the patient’s mindset around money: “They are in a protected bubble,” as Jane describes it, “We have to focus on the feeling of the individual, gambling will have taken them to some very low and very dark places,” she said. “We have to help them come to terms with that.” But whilst problem gambling continues to grow in the UK, she believes there is always a trigger, beyond just the desire to gamble, for it to lead to an addiction. “No one who is emotionally stable and happy wakes up one morning and thinks it would be a good idea to gamble like that,” Jane said. “It devastates them and their families. It is not something that they would do out of choice.” The Gordon Moody Association is “gambling neutral”, however as a professional Jane acknowledges the challenges of overcoming the problem in our society. Whilst the regulations that will eventually come in on the FOBTs will undoubtedly prevent these colossal losses happening, there is certainly further reform to be made “The industry constantly refers to responsible gambling, but to me that has to be mutual, it has to be the operator and the client,” says Terry. Like Callum and James, he has taken responsibility for his own mistakes, but with them reaching dizzying levels of debt and despair, it’s hard for anyone to describe the companies offering these services responsible. James believes that whilst the FOBTs introduced him to high stake gambling, when he started using online casino

games his problems worsened. “I was only a student, and I did not once have to declare any form of income status or provide evidence of where the money was coming from, when I’d gamble online,” he said. “I would be using payday loans to chase my losses, money that I could not afford to borrow, let alone lose on the roulette wheel.” John’s son was also gambling online before commiting suicide: “With online, there’s no real money, just numbers on a screen,” he said. Ryan had always been careful with money until he developed the problem. “That was one of the really big shocks, this thing had completely taken over him.". Whilst there is a unanimous feeling among addicts and experts that the new FOBT regulations will help, once they come into action, there is still a long way to come for the gambling industry if they wish to be responsible providers. With accessibility of online gambling proving a serious problem, regulations applied to the high street ought to be applied there too. Hearing the stories of addicts, bookmakers staff and John brought home the heartbreaking realities of gambling. As John said, “the FOBTs are getting gambling addiction in the media, but we have got to remember there is a lot more going on than meets the eye.” ●

* Names have been changed at the request of the interviewees. 15


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Words: Eloise Reader Images: Daniella Chukwuezi

IN CONVERSATION WITH

MAISIE WILLIAMS: BREAKING INTO TECH The Game of Thrones star says it’s time to ditch the likes and follows as she creates her ideal social media platform 16

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The eighth and final season of Game of Thrones has finished filming and screens in April with fans waiting on tenterhooks to see who’s next on Arya Stark’s hit list. Maisie Williams, the 21-year-old actress who plays Arya Stark, is in the midst of a new adventure, taking the tech world by storm by creating her own social media app. The Game of Thrones star was launched into her acting career at just 12 years old and having spent the last decade in a role redefining the status of young women in a patriarchal society, Williams is now mirroring the determination of her character in the very different world of tech. The HQ of Williams’ new venture is located in none other than London’s artistic capital, the painfully cool borough of Shoreditch. Inside the minimalist office, a sea of oversized Apple Mac desktops mask the faces of the sixteen employees that now work for Williams’ company, Daisie. Typing rigorously, a head of pastel pink hair turns around to greet me, it’s evident from the get-go that Williams is right at the heart of her new venture. “I’ve been in a contract since I was 12,” Williams tells me, “I’m now reliving my youth through my hair,” she laughs. Born in Bristol, the young actress was cast as Arya Stark in HBO's Game Of Thrones and began filming in 2011. Williams has had an extremely busy decade, also featuring in Doctor Who, The Falling (2014) and a number of independent films, and it doesn't look like it's about to slow down anytime soon. "We just got back from Paris Fashion week", Maisie tells me casually. Adhering to the smart-casual dress code of the office, Williams wears black striped trousers with a high neck top, hands clasped in her lap, it's obvious the ten years worth of experience means she's well versed in interview protocol. Boasting an impressive 8 million Instagram followers, Williams has decided to create her own social media platform but she’s ditching the ‘damaging’ likes and follower count. “We’ve all grown up with social media, so in terms of building your own its quite exciting being like, well, what do I hate about everything else and what do I want mine to have”. Despite her most recent Instagram upload racking in an impressive 650,000 likes, Williams thinks this form of validation is damaging the creative industry. "If someone like Picasso was around today, they wouldn’t have a ton of likes and follows because what he did was so bizarre and so strange,” she tells me. The new platform is called ‘Daisie’. A combination of Maisie and Dom — the clue is that Dom Santry, a film producer from West Sussex, approached Maisie with the original idea when he was working as a camera operator on the set of one of Williams' projects. Williams explains the concept: “We wanted to create a social media that was for artists to be able to find one another and collaborate on work. When we started out we thought it would just be a list of contacts, kind of

like LinkedIn,” Instead, the idea quickly gathered momentum and the team decided to make the platform portfolio based, enabling creatives to connect, collaborate and share projects. The app now boasts a number of features, including 'Question Time' where industry professionals share their experience, and 'Shared Projects' enabling collaboration across different industries. Tired of the clone-like content that plagues so many of our social media feeds, Williams’ passion for her new venture comes across loud and clear. “I think it's a really good time for Daisie to breathe new life into the social platforms that we already see,” she says. “We’re trying to come away from this airbrushed perfect picture that we're all kind of obsessed with and take it more to the artist, and really be able to highlight people creating interesting stuff rather than just this content that people like to thrive on.” The home screen of my phone serves as a constant reminder of all the social media apps that have gone before… who remembers Kik? It takes something special for a platform to rival the screen time of our App Store favourites. Clarifying Daisie’s place in a saturated market, Williams claims, “In terms of trying to come away from something like Instagram that already exists, we thought we could facilitate more of the actual collaboration, going from one idea and taking it all the way through to an actual project and inviting people in as you go,” Celebrity app development is no new trend, but for a 21-year-old actress in the midst of success, it seems like quite a leap into the unknown. “It was Dom's vision and he came to me,” says Williams. “I would never have had the confidence to do something like this on my own. It's really exciting and I'm loving being part of it but in terms of running a company, it's not a skillset that I had.” “I’ve always understood that I've got a lot of opportunities, but actually taking that leap and having the confidence to embark on my own adventures, I've never really had the confidence to do that.” The tech industry is notoriously male-dominated but Williams is adamant that she wants people to buy into her idea, not her gender. “People say things in investor meetings like, ‘we are really interested in investing in women’, and it’s just kind of bizarre like they want to get their metrics up or something!” “Women are still sort of seen like people want to include them, but it's now become about a figure thing, like how many women do we have in our company — it feels very forced and very strange.” No wonder Williams is confused by the archaic approach to women in the industry. After all she has spent the last decade portraying a standout forceful female character on our screens, Maisie launched Daisie last summer. Like any successful millennial endeavour, an element of exclusivity was required, so pre-launch Maisie and her team 17


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reached out and asked artists to submit work to apply to become one of the founding Daisie100 members. The team at Daisie are currently working behind the scenes to build a bigger and better version of the app due to relaunch in April 2019. “I mean we really see Daisie being global, and being hugely successful. I think art is so important and at a time where the funding for art is being cut at the really basic levels.” I ask how creatives get recognised on Daisie. “It’s the amount of work you put into networking, that’s what’s really going to push you far,” Williams explains. “So why can’t we translate that on to the online world, because really if you take that sort of metric and you take that use of life, that’s really what’s going to push you further.” It’s no secret that sharing elements of your life on social media allows for it to be put under the microscope by thousands of onlookers and the concept behind the app is completely reliant on the creatives sharing their work openly. Might people be apprehensive of posting their content online, I ask. “I think Daisie is a really safe space, we really have grown the community with fellow artists,” asserts Williams. “You know, as nerve-racking as it is if you never share your light and you never share how wonderful your creativity is, no ones ever going to know, there really is a place for everyone.” “There’s been times where I've felt awful about who I am and what I look like and all of these different insecurities,” admits Williams, who starred in the 2015 movie ‘Cyberbully’ which highlighted issues surrounding online abuse. “But there really is a place for everyone. It is so important for people to understand that and nourish and love the parts within them that they are insecure about because ultimately that’s what sets them apart and that’s what’s going to make you successful.” Passionate about providing a platform for people that might not otherwise get noticed, Williams reflects on her big break. “I’ve been given a voice from a really young age,” Williams says. “I could have never have afforded drama school and there’s a whole demographic of people that just get missed out because they just aren’t recognised and they can’t get a platform. “It’s just always been so bizarre for me because that could have been me! It is such luck and timing that I got to where I am. To be creating something that could be really beneficial to those people feels really liberating.” The small company have grown by ten in the past few months, “it feels so good to now have a team of people because you can be embarking on this mission and you can see your vision but if you can't get anyone else on board it's normally a good sign that it's not a good idea,” Williams tells me. Daisie does appear to have caught wind, “We get emails all the time from people who just want to intern, want to see what its like here, and that sort of thing is really exciting because it empowers you to keep going.”

Williams is determined that Daisie will shake up the process of collaboration at a time where ownership of online content is being continually questioned and sharing work can open the door to plagiarism. “The internet is the internet and we all own everything and we all own nothing and it's kind of this strange battle,” she says. “As an actor, I read all of the credit for Game Of Thrones and I didn’t write it, I didn’t create it, I didn't do the costumes, I literally just turned up and said my lines — and I'm the one that gets celebrated for it! I’ve always found that really, really bizarre, and I think that sort of status in the industry is really toxic.” Daisie boasts the aforementioned feature Question Time, an innovative feature that allows industry experts to answer questions and share expertise says Williams, “I think people really letting down the barrier and speaking candidly about their careers is the most beneficial thing, more so than an interview.” Williams has endured constant media attention from a young age. “There are so many scary journalists out there,” Williams says, “so many people do have a guard up when they do interviews because you just don’t know if people are going to trip you up...” “I think doing something like a Question Time when it’s really collaborative with the person who we're interviewing, where they really get to just tell their story and show what the industry is like from the inside and teach people who are so impressionable and are taking their first steps into the fickle world. That’s how you learn.” Despite her extensive experience of being directed, Williams is new to calling the shots. Managing a business is no walk in the park, she reflects. “There’s never enough time, there are never enough people and there is never enough money.” However, changing face is no new concept for Williams’, much like her Game Of Thrones character Arya Stark. So what does the future hold for this ambitious 21-year-old? "Honestly I’m still trying to figure this out. I think both the Daisie team and my personal team were all trying not to tread on each other's toes, and for me, in the last six months, now that the show has ended and I've finished shooting, it's just been really strange. People have been saying so what are your priorities, and I'm like, I don’t know yet!” “I'm still just trying to figure it out and for the first time since I was 12 I'm not in a contract with anyone,” Maisie admits. But no worry, TV enthusiasts won’t have to wait long until William’s work is back on their screens. As well as working on Daisie, she will be producing a television series shortly, she tells me, clearly very excited at the opportunity. “It is really strange because as a 21-year old I've been working in this industry for a decade! Even though I’m still so young, it’s really nice that people now respect my opinion and respect that I have learnt a lot.” The word that resonates throughout Williams’ many projects seems to be ‘creativity’, when asked for her definition, she quickly confirmed, “For creative people, it’s when you feel most alive”. ● 19


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Brain injury survivors: failed by the system How a charity is helping sufferers to get help

There is a hidden epidemic happening in the UK, with one person every 90 seconds brought into hospital with an acquired brain injury. Of those who survive, the effects are life-changing. The challenges that faced can include paralysis, memory loss, incontinence, mobility issues, inability to make decisions, fatigue, and problems with cognition, making many individuals unfit for work. The benefits for people that are ill and unable to work are the Personal Independence Payment (PIP) and Employment Support Allowance (ESA), but as no two brain injuries are ever the same, the one-size-fits-all benefits assessment fails brain injury survivors. “Even the initial form that claimants have to fill out does not seem to take into consideration the fluctuations that a lot of brain injuries can present,” says Natalie Clapshaw, casework manager for brain injury charity, Headway East London, “The options on the tick box form are ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘it varies’, with many brain injury sufferers ticking ‘it varies’ the most.” Headway UK’s campaign ‘Right First Time’ aims to change the way disabilities are assessed. They aim to stop claimants from going through the lengthy appeal process by making sure assessors get it right the first time. Part of Natalie’s job includes supporting people through the complicated process of applying for benefits. A decision can take six-to-nine months from the initial application: “In the meantime, survivors often have no source of money and rely on payday loans and food banks to get by,” she explains. She also says that people with brain injuries can end up homeless, and one very extreme outcome is suicide. “There was a case when a teacher was deemed fit for work and accepted this, she went back to work at the university and couldn’t cope and committed suicide.” Brain injury survivors are vulnerable adults and need to be protected. Without money for rent, food and stability, they often get into serious debt, borrowing money from loan sharks, and, if they can’t pay their rent, they get evicted. I’ve experienced these challenges at first hand — I was a carer for my partner after his brain injury in 2015. Neither of us could work; Peter, because of his severe head injury, and myself, because I was his full-time carer. We didn’t receive 20

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anything from the benefits system for six months, and our family and friends helped us out. We relied heavily on food banks, pawned all our valuables and took loans out to pay rent. Peter was attacked on the night of October 25, 2015, after he had been out with friends. The blow to his head caused a bleed on the brain. He was admitted to Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham where he had a six-hour, life-saving operation, including a craniotomy, the removal of a part of the skull to relieve pressure. After surgery, he was in a coma for two weeks. He finally woke up, but because of his injuries, he suffered from memory loss, delirium, confusion and he was paralysed on one side of his body. After two months, the swelling on his brain went down, and he could move his right side again. He then had rigorous rehabilitation where he re-learned how to walk and finally was well enough to return home, where I became his carer. Peter returning from the hospital was supposed to be good, but struggling to pay our rent nearly left us homeless. We moved into a council flat and waited for Peter’s assessment. Doctors had prohibited him from working as we were waiting

Words: Asher-Nicole Bourke Image: Patrick Hales, UCL

for him to have another operation, to have a titanium plate fitted into his skull. Peter faced challenges, one being the large hole in his skull, the size of his hand, meant that the slightest bang to his head could be fatal. After five months, his assessment date came through, although the appointment was located on the third floor of a building with no lift. I declined, Peter would not have been able to get up the stairs. He struggled with balance, trembled and had nerve pains. At first, the DWP said refusal of the appointment would mean our claim would be denied, but they changed their mind and sent a letter for a home visit. Was this his first test? Other than the scar across Peter’s head, the true effects of his brain injury were not visible. He couldn’t go out alone because of memory loss and the risk of him having a repeat injury. He would frequently lay in bed, because of his severe fatigue. He wasn’t in a wheelchair, but he was hardly mobile. “I could walk, but not very far, I couldn’t get back up from sitting down and I’d get exhausted really quickly,” says Peter. “It was hard explaining this to the assessor as it was complicated enough for me to understand.”


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In a parliamentary debate on brain injuries, June 2018, Dr Lisa Cameron MP of the Scottish National Party raised the issue of mobility. She described mobility as not just how far someone can walk, but being able to plan a journey and many other day-to-day living skills. These are the complex symptoms that assessors struggled to determine in the short space of time that they see the claimants. “Can you spell ‘world’ backwards? Take seven away from a hundred three times.” These are some of the questions asked to someone with a brain injury during their assessment. The process is called a mini-mental assessment, and it developed in the 1970s for people with dementia, a completely different illness. The test checks for mobility and the ability to carry out daily tasks, such as raising your arms, standing up from your chair, making a cup of tea or using a microwave. This doesn’t take into consideration the fluctuations in brain injuries and doesn’t measure the less obvious incapacities. My partner would have involuntary shakes causing him to spill his tea, and needed to be reminded repeatedly that metal cannot go in the microwave. “The assessments are rushed and can sometimes feel incriminating as the assessors have lack of eye contact because of typing,” says Natalie. “It feels like a formal interview.” Despite assessors supposedly being given training in all areas of disability, many were lacking in specialist knowledge. They are a mixture of GPs, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and paramedics, so it is not surprising that 71% and 60% of respondents felt that their assessor for ESA and PIP, respectively, did not have an understanding of brain injuries. Another thing is that sufferers lack insight into how their condition affects them, they still may be in denial about their limits. The fluctuation in the symptoms may mean some days they aren’t able to do those things, but on the day of the assessment, they can. This issue was highlighted in the House of Commons parliamentary debate; Scottish Conservative MP Bill Grant said, “I call on them [the Government] to ensure that those assessing claimants on behalf on the DWP understand that, given the nature of their injury, they suffer may lack personal awareness and may be under misconception as to their own capabilities.” This is what happened

to David Parkin, who was denied benefits for his brain injury after his assessment because, he said: “I was convinced I was fine,” he recounts. The children’s story writer was found in a coma in Eastbourne, with a severe head injury, and was taken to the hospital, where he had a lengthy stay on the Timber Ward. He, like Peter, had post-traumatic amnesia and had intensive rehabilitation to learn to walk again. He also woke up with euphoria, which meant that his understanding of how bad things were distorted, impairing his judgement on how his injury had affected him. David has also written a memoir about his brain injury called Tea Bags, Soap, Be normal. “The benefits system decided I was fine when I wasn’t,” he concludes, “The brain injury would certainly hinder me getting jobs that otherwise I might be qualified for.” It is not however, always those with a hidden disability associated with brain injuries that are getting let down by the system. Rebecca Armstrong, features editor of the national newspaper The I Paper, shares her own experience after a car accident left her husband Nick needing 24-hour care in a residential home. Nick was unable to walk or feed himself and yet Rebecca wasn’t even made aware of Personal Independence Payment (PIP) — the benefit paid for people who have difficulty moving around. “It took months for me to find out about it. Every time I contacted the DWP I spoke to someone different who gave me different information,” she says, “It was exhausting, and I nearly gave up.” Nick was barely able to sit in a wheelchair when Rebecca applied for a PIP, yet he was offered an appointment to bring him in for assessment. “I went mad,” she says. “I didn’t have a wheelchair accessible vehicle or access to one.” She couldn’t believe that they had suggested that someone who had been in a coma for five months should come to an office miles away from the neurological care home where he lived. This shows how the one-size-fits-all way of assessing people is failing a vast variety of individuals with brain injuries, an injury that cannot be explained in a tick box form. If a claim is rejected, the first step is a mandatory re-consideration which is another form and takes another three months. “80% of mandatory re-considerations are rejected,” says Natalie. If rejected, an appeal can then be made to

a tribunal court, which Natalie said, on a recent case that she was working on, took 33 weeks to get a date. “The good news,” continues Natalie, “is that the Casework Team has a 100% success rate when taken to tribunal.” The expertise within a tribunal seems to have a better understanding of the conditions of brain injury and how this can affect survivors on a day-to-day basis. It may also be because the decision makers within the DWP who read the medical evidence from the specialists and the assessment level report have no medical background. Headway’s campaign, ‘Right First Time’ focuses on three changes to the assessment process. The first is that assessors are people with expert knowledge of brain injuries. The second is that audio or visual recording of the face-toface assessment should be provided to improve fairness. Lastly, for other medical evidence from doctors and consultants to be taken into consideration. Headway East London has been proactive in the fight to change the benefits system by forging links with Atos, one of the three major companies that the DWP use to assess applicants. They have created a Condition Insight Report, that Atos now use across the UK. “The report highlights sensitivities to noise and lighting and sets out guidelines such as not cutting them up as they are talking and to give them time to answer questions,” explains Natalie. “Overall the feedback from Atos has been positive.” This is one step towards making the benefit system fairer and assessments more comfortable and accurate. But Atos is just one assessing company, there are still more changes that need to be made, as consequences of an unfair assessment is another vulnerable adult being failed by the benefits system. Peter finally got his benefits, had his second operation to have a titanium plate fitted, I felt like I could finally stop worrying. His hair started to grow over his scar and he returned to university. Despite this, he still has a lot of hidden issues from his assault, such as epilepsy and chronic fatigue that are constant reminders. For me, his girlfriend and once his carer, I am reminded daily by threatening court letters from debtors and phone calls from bailiffs asking to pay back the high interest payday loans I took out whilst waiting for six months to receive an assessment from the DWP. ● 21


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THE S ’ T H G I R R FA L A E P P A W E N E H T O T N A M EVERY

Tommy Robinson's worrying appeal extends far beyond the extremist fringe 22

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Words: Lucy St John Images: Kristoffer Trolle/flickr, Garry Knight/flickr

While there has been a history of far-right activity in the United Kingdom, there are very few names in the movement that are as well-known as Tommy Robinson. Real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, Robinson operates under the football hooligan associated pseudonym and has identified himself as one of the most prominent and controversial far-right activists in UK politics. Robinson’s influence was limited to his own political sphere at first, but the rise of social media meant he started to attract fans beyond the football hooligan stereotype. The assumption of what a far-right supporter looks like is blurred by these new approaches Robinson and his colleagues have adopted, with their content both believed and shared by those that society consider to be ordinary working people, not traditional members of the far-right. Among Tommy Robinson’s controversial statements are remarks such as “Islam in a man is like rabies in a dog,” “the Islamic community will feel the force of the English,” and “Islam is not a religion of peace.” The comments on Robinson’s social media follow in the same vein. One user writes, “Third world countries bringing third world behaviour to this country,” another adding, “Vigilante justice is the only thing necessary for these people,” “Refugees welcome here! We also welcome rape, crime, acid attacks and female genital mutilation,” adds a third. Among the racist, xenophobic and sexist slurs there are also hundreds of calls for ‘Tommy for PM’ and ‘Tommy for Mayor of London’, an illustration of the vast numbers of social media users convinced by Robinson’s content. While his following has rapidly grown, Robinson remains a political outsider. His rejection by mainstream politicians only encourages his supporters, and may even be increasing his popularity beyond the committed far-right fringe. Liam* is a 27-year-old from Leigh in Essex and hard-working electrician. With a stylish haircut and skinny jeans, he can be found DJing at local bars on Saturday nights and watching the Spurs at White Hart Lane. He lives at home with his family and appears to be your regular Essex bloke. He is also a Tommy Robinson supporter. He is reluctant to be defined as a follower of Robinson, but often shares his online posts that strike him as convincing, “I am more interested and supportive to the factual views he has, he clearly has a strong point of view, but he does back it up with evidence like news stories,” he says. Liam says that in his work he regularly encounters people who share his admiration for Robinson. He explains, “I think he just says what the people I know are thinking, when he is in certain situations he handles himself well, he just says it how it is,” continuing, “I think a lot of people respect him for that, if you agree with what he is doing.” While Robinson’s delivery and attitude can be convincing, it seems that on some level he is trying to justify the level of support he has for him. “I don’t hear as much of the ‘they’re taking our jobs’ talk as I did when I first started working in the building indus-

try, but there is definitely a huge immigration problem,” he says. Although surrounded by people with these kind of views at work, he believes the omnipresent posts from Robinson and similar activists on his social media feeds are what has kept him interested. But how much of an impact does Robinson already have? His Facebook page has 1.3 million followers, his YouTube channel has almost 300,000 subscribers, and many of his videos have an excess of a million views. Daniel Trilling, author of Bloody Nasty People, a book which has chronicled the growth of the far-right in the UK, looks at the importance the internet has had in Tommy Robinson’s case. “The development of the internet allowed people with farright views to be active without being part of political parties,” Trilling explains, “it has become a lot easier in the past decade for far-right activists to gather online, campaign and to build support for particular issues.” Trilling has researched into the far-right in the UK for over a decade and acknowledges Robinson as one of the most skilful campaigners in navigating social media for his personal and political gain. “If you look at the content that he puts out, most of it is not his own,” most of Robinson’s Facebook posts will be news stories, which he will then radicalise, “stitching it together with his own narrative of anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant or betrayal by the elite message,” as Trilling describes it. If you look at the way social media has changed the way the far-right operate, it has become a lot easier for people to engage in some far-right activity, without much commitment. In the past people like Liam, whose views may not be as extreme as some of Robinson’s more dedicated followers, would not have necessarily come into contact with far-right content, now it is easily accessible without pledging his support more formally. “Before the days of the internet, you would have to write off and find obscure, extremist magazines to find this kind of material,” says Trilling, “you would be part of a political party, and be actively going out and canvassing, you had to put a face to your politics.” Now with social media, you can remain as anonymous as you wish to while engaging with these more extreme views. Understanding Robinson’s rise to fame is instrumental in grasping his complex network of followers. In 2009 Robinson founded the English Defence League (EDL), a group he continually defended against claims it was a racist and anti-Islamic group, insisting they were only fighting the “rise of radical Islam”. However, it was soon revealed that many of its members were football hooligans whom would classify themselves as ‘anti-Muslim’, and protests would often turn violent and aggressive. Much of his early political activism remained relatively under the radar, and with a string of arrests due to violent behaviour at EDL protests, it was easy for the political elite to dismiss him as nothing but a hooligan and a thug. But while the rise of social media 23


Current Affairs

has made it easier in recent years for activists like Tommy Robinson to spread his beliefs, his appointment as advisor to the Leader of the UK Independence Party in November 2018 caused great concern for many, and lead to the resignation of two ex-UKIP leaders and six of the party’s MEPs. However, it is not just the vast number of followers that give an impression of the people that support Robinson. The controversial posts lead to an onslaught of offensive comments, his carefully curated timeline of posts illustrate his ability to manipulate his audience to encourage mass outrage and encourage the racist and Islamophobic discourse. From the comment threads on any of Robinson’s posts or the videos taken at EDL marches, it is easy to assume what a Tommy Robinson supporter is. Thuggish, aggressive and uneducated are the expectations held by the political elite and the media. For those with more liberal and left-leaning views, it can be impossible to understand the appeal. Another of Robinson’s followers that found his online presence convincing enough to become an engaged supporter is twentyfive-year-old plumber Andy*, from Camden in northwest London. Having always voted Conservative, three years ago he had found himself leaning towards the right, after feeling let down by the government. “I was frustrated with how this country was being run, I’d lost two jobs in a year, and was seeing a lot more eastern European workers taking the work that has been given to English workers before,” he explains, “I’d seen it happening to friends in the building industry too, and it felt like we had been forgotten about.” Whilst Andy was out of work he found Robinson’s YouTube videos and Tweets appealed to the emotions he was experiencing. “The people in parliament do not care about people like me and do not know what it is like to be in a situation like I was. Tommy can see them for who they are and actually wants to help working people like me and my family, and to make our streets safer,” Andy argues. However, in March 2018 Robinson was barred from Twitter, after he broke the social network’s rules by governing

“He never has told his supporters to stop using racist language, in real life or social media.” ‘hateful conduct’, following a string of anti-Islamic tweets. “I think that it is unfair he was banned,” said Andy, “The point of social media is for people to have a voice, and what is the point if they are going to just de-activate accounts for anyone they don’t agree with.” Robinson often plays on this anti-establishment rhetoric, and the term “free speech” is frequently addressed in his content, speaking with supporters like Andy, you can see that it has worked. In a YouTube video he made titled ‘Goodbye Twitter’ Robinson says, “Twitter, police, courts, our prime minister, our entire government and media, they raise one hand to support freedom of speech, while they try and rip it out from underneath us with the other. You are being lied to, we all are, there is a consorted effort to compress free speech in the UK, and they are all in on it.” With slick production, Robinson’s stern look into the camera, the tension building music and his direct address, you can see how people could be convinced. Combine 24

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that with the selective news stories he chooses to share, could be convincing to someone who is already feeling at a loss with the establishment. However, it is clear that neither Liam nor Andy wish to discuss the criticisms of Robinson, and much of both conversations seem to be focussed around them justifying their support. They consider Robinson a “relatable” figure, with the grievances he raises about immigration relating to the issues they have faced in their working lives. Liam had described the “huge immigration problem,” in the UK during our discussion, and Andy believes that his lack of work has been due to the influx of migrant workers who are willing to do the same job for less money. When asked about the accused Islamophobia and racism, Andy shifts uncomfortably, “I’d say those people should do their research, because the stuff he shares is true,” he says. When Andy first started sharing his support online, he said he would often be met with angry responses, but felt it was from people that had not suffered the financial hardship and stress that he had. Liam says, “that is just an opinion, I think it is wrong, but I am not going to argue with it.” Both Liam and Andy use the argument that Robinson has made genuine efforts to help with the safety of UK citizens when justifying their support, in particular, the campaigning he has done around grooming gangs, which they believe to a fundamental part of his activism. Asim Hussain, 23, an administrator and self-professed “typical working class lad” from Birmingham had also been drawn in by Robinson’s campaigns that concerned the grooming scandals. “When Tommy left EDL and worked with Quilliam, I thought he was a legitimate journalist who wanted to tackle grooming gangs and terrorism,” he explains, “however I have come to realise he is far from a legitimate source of information, he just wants to cause havoc and con his supporters out of their money.” One of the most wellknown of these scandals is the Rotherham Grooming Scandal, which occurred in Yorkshire from the 1980s through to the 2010s, the accounts and stories that followed it’s un-cover are truly harrowing, and it was described as, “the biggest child protection scandal in UK history,” by researcher Angie Heal. The perpetrators, in this case, were of British-Pakistani heritage, and the fact that several councillors had wished for the case to not be opened up as it could provide ammunition to racist perspectives, meant it played perfectly into the anti-establishment and ‘betrayal of the people’ rhetoric Robinson and the EDL had been crafting. Asim, like Andy and Liam, was shocked that the issue had been covered up in part due to this reason. “People were frustrated because authorities had not taken action against these gangs, those girls were let down by the system and brushed under the carpet,” he explains. He, like Liam and Andy still do, believed Robinson was trying to shed light on the scandal for genuine reasons. However, Asim started to see a different side to Robinson as he continued to follow his movements, “I started to realise he was using the victims for his own political gain, there was never any outrage from him when it came to white paedophiles or similar cases that did not concern immigrants,” he continued, “he never has told his supporters to stop using racist language, in real life or social media.” “People can convince themselves that they believe all sorts of things, and it may well be that some far-right supporters genuinely believe that they are


Current Affairs

doing it for the cause of women’s rights,” says Trilling, “but if you look at the pattern of how they behave and the things they say about the people they’re dealing with, it’s just demonstrating that is not the case.” The grooming scandal has been pivotal in Robinson’s ascent to fame as it was an amalgamation of issues that the far-right consider important, as Trilling explains, “Firstly it’s the perceived betrayal by the elites, and this idea that the people that speak out about it are being silenced, it also plays into the role of ethnicity and Englishness belonging to one racial group and not others,” continuing, “Although the way the Far Right talk about the scandal as if they are there to protect women’s rights, what it is really about is claiming ownership of a certain kind of woman, and saying ‘they belong to us’.” In fact, Robinson’s efforts to ‘expose’ these scandals have put the trials and convictions of the perpetrators at risk. In May last year, Robinson hit the headlines when he was arrested for breaching the peace as he conducted a live stream outside Leeds Crown Court during the trial of the Huddersfield Crown Court. While Robinson argued that he was giving the case the publicity it needed, the judge of the trial said that Robinson’s actions could have resulted in the trial collapsing. The arrest of Robinson drew condemnation from right-wing circles and his supporters, in the weekends following the arrests there were rallies across the country, where Nazi salutes, violence like throwing glass bottles and scaffolding poles and acts of hatred against Muslim members of the public became commonplace. The Free Tommy Robinson movement that emerged from his arrest also drew in support from far-right groups in Europe and Australia, as Trilling explains, “Lots of his support comes from outside the UK and he is able to use social media accounts to link what he is doing, trying to whip up hate against Muslims with stories like the grooming scandal, to things happening in other countries, creating the narrative that it’s everywhere, and that Muslims and immigration is the root of these problems, it is a threat to Western society, and all our political elite have let down and betrayed us.” Robinson’s efforts to appeal to the everyman

clearly are effective, and Trilling believes the superficial way our media handles class has worked to his advantage, “I feel like Tommy Robinson has really been able to exploit the media,” he explains, “by Robinson saying ‘I am an authentic, working-class person’ and then our media being so dominated by people from very elite backgrounds, they react to that by assuming he must be working class and an authentic voice.” Liam, Andy and Asim all challenge the existing perceptions of Tommy Robinson supporters in the UK or at least undermine the stereotype propositioned in the media and by the political elite. While Asim has turned his back on it, Liam and Andy, who come across as your average English young men, engage in the far-right daily and seem to be able to rationalise, even normalise, the views of an extremist, which is essentially what Robinson is. The far-right has always played on the public’s resentments, using emotional appeals to recruit followers and blaming issues on certain groups of people. Be it a lack of work or opportunity, or a threat to security and safety, Robinson’s appeal now stretches beyond the thuggish football hooligans.“It could be there is a feeling of lack of opportunity for you when you’re young, or feeling like your town has been totally screwed over and left to rot, which could affect people of all ages,” says Trilling, but it goes beyond these examples that concern deprivation. “It is actually also a problem of abundance, we have access to all this stuff and tools for communication, and we do not know how to negotiate it, it’s a whole different world.” “Fundamentally what far-right politics has done historically, and Robinson does today, is take all sorts of resentments and anxieties and package them up together,” says Tilling. Directing your anger at easy targets, as the world becomes more complicated and confusing and technology evolves, it gives way to a very simple, but very destructive explanation from these activists. Whether his supporters are naïve, vulnerable or simply evil — there is no clear-cut answer on how to tackle these attitudes in today’s society. ● *Names have been changed at the request of the interviewee. 25


Lifestyle

Spotters: a graduate film with naked ambition Student filmmaker Oliver Willcox is using a crowdfunding platform to bring a story to life

Graduate films come in all manners of genre and style. Their purpose is to show the techniques and understanding of Film Studies that one has acquired over the three-year course. How these films are made varies from person to person, often relying upon kind gestures and the goodwill of volunteers. One way of getting a film made is to crowdfund it, and one NUA (Norwich University of the Arts) student, Oliver Willcox, has taken this approach to his experimental final project, Spotters film about a trainspotter in his eighties who, Willcox says, “has become jaded, disconnected and tired of his lifelong pursuit of trainspotting as well as the community of trainspotters he has known for over 60 years.” Desperate to try and find one last great pursuit in his life, Tim joins a naturist society that he feels will provide him with the sense of purpose he seeks. However, when he comes to leave his community of friends behind, he discovers that naturism is not quite the answer he was looking for. Spotters is presented as an ambitious insight into a person struggling with the sensation that they may have ended up wasting 60 years of their life on a hobby that now, at the end of their life, just feels so hollow to them. The topic of naturism was an unexpected addition to the plot, says Oliver, “For him, naturism is this new pursuit or an escape from the mundanity of his life of trains. He sees these naked people being comfortable, happy and excited and just thinks ‘fuck, why wasn’t I into that when I was 25? The film examines the ideas around wasted time and we see this guy searching for something new to let him live out his final golden years in happiness. Naturism, of course, turns out to not be the miracle cure he thought it would be.” Willcox began musing on the origins of Spotters, as inspired by the frequent commutes between Norwich and Leeds when visiting his girlfriend Kelsey, “I remember I was feeling really uninspired and totally lacking in creativity at the time , I was at Peterborough train station and I saw this group of about six blokes all standing around together on the platform silently watching trains," "It was a real assortment of guys who all looked very different from one another but there was this mutual, calm 26

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Author: HW Reynolds Image: Oliver Willcox

“I try not to rely too much on just visuals when coming up with a story but sometimes a striking image is a great starting point for something.” silence to it all that really attracted me to it. I liked the look of a very silently together and comfortable group of people being this very esoteric mix of characters.” He was amused by how the trainspotters stood out amongst the hustle and bustle of commuters. “I thought they looked really interesting and very separate and out of place from what was happening around them and I thought they also just looked genuinely very interesting. “I try not to rely too much on just visuals when coming up with a story but sometimes a striking image is a great starting point for something,” “All these people rushing through this station, not really having to take the time to reflect on where they are, and then you’ve just got this group of people who, in a very intense and internal way, are completely separate from everyone

around them.” Willcox admits he didn’t have a story idea straight away, just the image and the idea. “From about December 2017 till June 2018 I worked on it, on and off, just developing basic sort of narrative concepts and looking at what the possible conflict could be for this group of very mannered and very loyal group of people.” Willcox was keen to discuss the more character-driven elements of the narrative, “From what I’ve read and what I’ve seen, trainspotting and train enthusiasm seemed like a very habitual and very ingrained thing for these spotters and so I had the idea to do a story about a pair of lifelong friends who, at the very ends of their lives, succumb to a really bad and very final falling out that would kind of rip their little routines apart. Narratively speaking, I think the idea of having


Lifestyle

a bond like that for life must be really wonderful and comforting and the idea of losing that connection after so long is quite a bleak prospect. I then created two characters, Tim and Paul, who would be the friends going through this falling out. It’s now gone through various stages of development and about three different iterations before the current script and I still think small things will change for a little while longer. Details and lighting are still being worked out.” Willcox will be working alongside a film crew that will comprise of fellow film studies students Andrius Zukas as a cinematographer, Adam Martin on production design and David Cisay Rule as sound recordist. “We’ll be shooting in and around Norwich as I think the general feeling of the city and the locations, we’ll be able to find will fit very well with the tone of the film that we want to achieve. The longest it can be, because of submission, is just over seven minutes and I reckon I’ll end up filling that whole time frame. This film is going to be a slow burn, so I don’t want to rush anything on it,”he says. Willcox is still in the process of finalising a cast for the project, something that hinges on the amount of funds Spotters can raise. Thinking on how he is looking to obtain the right actors for the roles, he says: “I think a genuine engagement and enthusiasm for the story is probably the main thing. If they don’t care that much about the role it really comes through on screen.” The people who take roles in student films or independent projects may do so in between bigger jobs, so Willcox hopes to find actors who are excited about their character and role. “I think for an actor to be of real use to a director they either have to be completely naive with what they’re doing because then you can imprint all this stuff onto them, or they’re really in it and really talented at what they do. My film is going to have scenes with nudity too, so I'll need actors that are willing to take that step beyond the expected." Discussing funding, Willcox said, “from the beginning of every project you kind of know that crowdfunding will be necessary unless you’ve got a job with decent income or money in the bank. The costs of a film rack up really quickly as soon as you start buying props and booking locations. Things like on set catering

and transport are expensive too.” Crowdfunding websites are plentiful, so it was perhaps understandable that Crowdfunder could be a name that people would be less familiar with, compared with the likes of Kickstarter, Fivver and GoFundMe. Willcox agreed, but explained, “I basically chose Crowdfunder because they were the site that took the least amount of money for themselves of what you earn. There are some crowdfunding sites that will take a set percentage of your total amount and then on each donation, they charge you again per bank transfer. Its nuts and makes the whole thing feel so hollow,” “People are donating out of goodwill and generosity and the platform making money off those people I always thought was pretty dodgy. I also think Crowdfunder seems like the least ‘beggy’ of the options too. I hate having to ask people for money.” The effect of crowdfunding on a potential audience is also a factor. “Crowdfunding is also great because it gets the word out too. The money is obviously really nice and it's wonderful when people feel the need to donate, but just getting publicity and a bit of a buzz around a film is a great feeling,” “Knowing that people want to see what you’re making and are genuinely interested is such a powerful motivator. Even at this stage when it’s like ten people donating to you, that feels like a whole load of support for a tiny film,” he said. The Crowdfunder page offers different reward tiers from £1 to £100 and aims to raise around £1,000, but Willcox expects to raise around £300. Willcox says it is hard to make films on a low budget, “Everything is a pain. Getting locations, decent actors and making everything look proper on screen just is very difficult. The real risks are of it just looking like total shit because you haven’t been able to buy the stuff you need to dress your set, or you can’t afford to pay for an appropriate location and you just end up in some shit location that doesn’t even look like it should be in the film.” Wilcox says the Film Studies course has been important his development as a filmmaker, “I’d say it’s been massively beneficial. So many of the key lessons can only be learnt by doing and being in an environment where you regularly make films.” Naturally, filmmaking isn’t always

a process wherein the outcome is 100% what you’d expect, it’s a learning curve, and a useful lesson we were divulged in was that, “Even if the outcome isn’t quite how you hoped, you feel like you learn so much each time, even if it’s a total disaster, there are just so many new experiences and situations each time.” “I also think that if I hadn’t come to study film I wouldn’t have made as much if I was still living at home for example. The kit we have at uni and the like-minded people we are surrounded with are such great incentives to learn and get better. I feel like everyone on my course has progressed with each other and it’s so clear to see that progress in our final year. Everyone’s films sound so great and I can’t wait to see them all at our degree show in June," he says. Finally, we looked beyond that point, to what the future could bring, and Willcox’ aspirations in the film industry, “After graduation, I’m hoping to move to Manchester with my girlfriend. The industry there is strong, and I hope to be running and working on as many productions as possible. I feel a change of scenery is always a good stimulant and whilst living there I’m planning on expanding Spotters into a feature-length film," he says. A filmmaker usually has more ideas than they can manage, Willcox is no exception. “I’ve got a lot of ideas that had to be cut for the short that I’d really love to bring back and fully flesh out the story of this group of people.” Taking the interview towards a retrospective narrative, the old favourite of ‘where do you see yourself in ten years time’ came up. “Well to be honest” Willcox deliberated, “Ten years from now I have no idea where I’ll be. I try not to think that far ahead, though I’d love to be living somewhere in Europe, working and just making things.” Willcox concluded our interview by sharing his current priority, “At the moment I’m just worried about our final deadline for this film, which is 15th May I believe.” We also learned of plans for a mini film festival at Willcox’ university that is taking place on the 29th and 30th June wherein graduate films will be showcased on the big screen. There is also the hope that industry representatives will be in attendance, which is, in Willcox’ words, “a very exciting prospect!” ● 27


Current Affairs

Justice for the cleaners: the fight against outsourcing UAL students and faculty unite in an attempt to put an end to injustice

Words: Hannah Dardis Image: UAL: End Outsourcing campaign

The entrance of Central Saint Martins is crowded with students eagerly exiting to go home for the weekend. It is three in the afternoon, and the cold air around the Kings Cross University of The Arts London campus is crisp. Amber is a firstyear Ceramics student at Central Saint Martins. She has been participating in the UAL End Outsourcing campaign since it started at the beginning of the 2018/2019 school year. She explains how she got into contact with this cause through working with people on the Elephant and Castle anti-gentrification campaign, “I connected with the group through Facebook, and I thought this is something students definitely need to be involved in, and I thought I could help out.” The campaign is run by student and staff members at the university, and it is targeted at ending outsourcing of some of the universities lowest paid staff, in this case being the cleaners that work at the university. Some might feel reluctant to not acknowledge this as a big cause, but Amber attributes this to timing. She says, “Part of the issue is the separation between students and other cleaners and staff. You just show up to class, and it's easy to forget about who cleans and maintains areas that you're working in." Without these workers that clean and maintain our university environment, it would be a lot more stressful to go about our day. Amber says, “part of being at UAL is about making a change and making a difference in the world. If we're not fighting for the rights of our own staff, then it is pointless.” The campaign began to make some noise, with one of the first events have taken place on November 19th. Cleaners from different UAL campuses protested outside of London College of Fashion, where governors from the university were holding a meeting. The cleaners proudly held up a sign reading ‘UAL: end outsourcing’, and stood in solidarity that they will not be silenced. “The university management isn't taking responsibility for their actions", Amber explains. "If you look at the UAL website, the aims of the university include social justice.” What makes the situation more concerning is that the workers being outsourced are majority migrant and BAME community (black, asian, minority, ethnic). Another aspect of this campaign

of this is that Bouygues has restricted the cleaners right to take continuous leave, as the petition statement from the UAL: End Outsourcing campaign on Change. org put it, “this disproportionately affects migrant workers, many of whom are now unable to visit family abroad as a result of these changes.” I wanted to get a deeper understanding of the cause so I spoke to Toby, a Unison union representative who is currently employed at UAL. Speaking about how he got involved in the cause Toby says, “Initially, from what I'm aware, both Matt (a GMB Branch Secretary) and I were locally negotiating issues on behalf of the cleaning teams that are employed by Bouygues.” He says that neither of them were aware of each-others involvement until an Estates Department meeting with 2 of the recognised unions (Unison & GMB). He says, “I was there alongside other Unison reps and our Branch secretary. Where we raised the concerns of our members within the cleaning teams.” He explains how they collectively went on to discuss the formation of a campaign that would push for the cleaners to be brought back in-house across UAL. “I think this all took place over the course of a month, and the actual campaign launch was probably when we all turned up to the UAL Governors meeting in October.” The objectives of the campaign are simple, they are pushing for fixed hours, and more contractual parity with UAL employers, and the overall aim of in-housing the cleaners. He highlights his reluctance to speak about some of the issues they are negotiating on a local level, as he would not want to hinder any potential progress in that area. However, he says that “The cleaning teams across all sites have cited a need for fixed hours and better quality contracts as their reasons for wanting to start the campaign. "Alongside these issues, there's also the ethical question about outsourcing which a lot of people, including myself are particularly concerned about", he explains. Perhaps one of the most inspirational aspects of this on-going campaign is the fact that it is so heavily orientated and supported by the UAL student body. Toby says “I think the majority of the campaign members (aside from the cleaners) have been students at different campuses. Their activism and work in the campaign have been an amazing show of

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that is also particularly unfortunate is these staff members already must work external jobs, which can hinder their fight for change. Amber speaks about this challenging factor, saying that these people must work other jobs and do not have time to raise awareness of the campaign. If the cleaners did try to participate in the campaign they may risk repercussions. She talks about the power that we as students have, “We are in a really good position to support them, without having any negative impact on us. Even if you don't actively support it, I think it's important to know what's going on within your university.” More than anything, this cause desperately needs more student involvement to further ignite the movement. Amber talks about the need for this in the campaign, she says, "Now the cleaners work these awful night shifts, so we as students are separated from them." She speaks about this perhaps being the reason that students are not getting involved, simply because they are not aware. Students need to be getting involved or at least being made aware of where their money is going. The campaigns first major event was a banner drop, where they handed out leaflets on the cause. Amber says, “The thing about UAL being an arts university, we are able to do some fun creative protests.” The campaigners not only strive to raise awareness for this important issue, but they also make efforts to make this a personal experience between all the participants involved. The fine art department had the open studio, so some of the students worked with the cleaners, and they showed a film about cleaners’ rights. She says, “They also have a little meal with the cleaners, so that was a more social way to engage with the cleaners.” From speaking with Amber, it appears that perhaps one of the more challenging elements of the campaign is the publicity the university will face. She says, “part of the problem I think is that the management only seems to care about the outside worlds point of view.” She adds, “The reason we have such a good reputation is the students, not because of them." It is clear from speaking to Amber that this issue is something that her, along with the other campaigners are going to not stop fighting for. Outsourcing is an issue that can deeply affect people's lives. An example


Current Affairs

support for the cleaners.” As Toby explains it, "There has not been much of a response regarding the campaign from the university itself, “They have tried to distance themselves from the campaign citing it as a Bouygues-centric dispute.” All things considered, he continues to remain hopeful about the future outcomes, saying the issue of outsourcing has been raised at the UAL Board of Governors and as a campaign are trying to raise awareness via forums and overall campaigning. These campaign goals are not exclusively subject to the University of the Arts London. Kings College London and Goldsmiths, as the University of London have also experienced similar challenges with ending outsourcing. On September 24th, campaigners at Goldsmiths at the University of London were victorious against outsourcing, as it was announced that their cleaning staff would be brought

back in-house. This success is a result of students and other university faculty campaigning for the Goldsmiths Justice for Cleaners group. Although campaigns such as these can be very conflicting, Toby says, “My personal experience of the campaign has been amazing. It's been great to see the overall support for the campaign from the staff and students at UAL, as well as seeing both Unison and GMB mobilize their membership in support of the cleaners.” When asked to comment, UAL management said, “UAL aims to be the best in the world in teaching, research and knowledge exchange, but we cannot do everything for ourselves. Working with external partners is often the most effective way to provide high-quality services for our staff and students — better than we could achieve in-house. Staff employed by our external partners provide us with crucial expertise, quality and

value for money. We, therefore have no plans to bring cleaning services in-house, because we value and respect the professional service provided by Bouygues.” They also said, “Alongside cleaning services, UAL works with many hundreds of people through other external service providers. We believe that our partners’ pay, terms and conditions should compare favourably with the wider market and include, at least, payment of the London Living Wage.” The UAL management team also said that, “We look to our external partners, including Bouygues, to listen to their staff and to manage them well. Our trades’ unions GMB and Unison have asked for the terms and conditions of Bouygues cleaning staff working at UAL to be reviewed. Bouygues is therefore in discussion with GMB and Unison to understand and respond appropriately to the issues raised.” ●

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Current Affairs

The murder that changed a nation How the death of a Slovakian journalist shook the whole country

Words: Dominika Koštialiková Images: Peter Tkáč

Veľká Mača is a small village only about 50 km northeast from Bratislava, the capital city of Slovakia, with a population of a little over 2600. On the evening of 21st of February 2018, when this sleepy village was covered in dark, three shots were fired from a modified gas gun. For four days, bodies of an engaged couple, a journalist and an archaeologist, laid on the floor of their house, unnoticed. Martina Kušnírová was making coffee in the kitchen, for herself and her soon-to-be husband, Ján Kuciak, who was working as an investigative reporter for a portal Aktuality.sk, when she heard noise coming from inside the house, as if someone just opened the door. A few seconds later she looked straight into a barrel of a 9mm firearm, held by Tomáš Szabó. Martina wasn’t supposed to be at home at this time, but these change of plans cost her, her life. Szabó shot her in the head. When Ján went back into the house from the basement, where he was at the time of Martina’s killing, he saw his fiancé lying face down, blood pouring from her head. He locked eyes with Szabó, who then shot two bullets through his chest. The two cups of coffee, never to be drunk, were getting cold in the kitchen, as Szabó left the house to drive away with Miroslav Marček, the getaway driver.

the resignation, PM Fico appeared on TV offering one million euro to anyone who would help solve the crime. Next to him was a table with five hundred-euro notes stacked neatly and a guard standing with a firearm. This populistic move only hurt his desperate effort to save himself. After handing his resignation to the president Andrej Kiska, Róbert Fico grinned at him and said:” Mister president, stay calm, I’m not going anywhere, I’ll be an active head of the party.” Continuing fears appear that although Fico is no longer the PM, his presence remains strong and he acts as a puppeteer controlling the ruling party and the new PM. Seven months after, the police arrested four suspects, Tomáš Szabó, Miroslav Marček, Zoltán Andruskó and Alena Zsuzsová. of the double murder. The last one acted as the head of this group and had been paid seventy thousand euro for Kuciak’s head by an unknown order party. “I’m in shock,” Zlatica Kušnírová, Martina's mother, told the New York Times, after the arrests. “I know it will never bring our children back to us, but I hope justice will be done. I hope that the police will manage to arrest not only the killers, but also the person or people who ordered the murder.” The

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The response of the general public was dominated by a wave of disgust and defiance in otherwise very conformable people of Slovakia. This resulted in long-lasting public protests and numerous personnel changes in the government and state institutions. Protest were held across the globe by Slovak expats — in London, Stockholm, Vancouver, Peking, Madrid, Paris, Prague and others, and in many towns in Slovakia, including Bratislava, were ten-thousands of people gathered, at the biggest protest since 1989’ Velvet revolution. Represented by the For a Decent Slovakia Initiative, protesters demanded “a thorough and independent investigation of the murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová with international investigators participating and a new trustworthy government excluding anyone who is suspicious from corruption and in connection to the organised crime,” organisers of the protests said. Due to the scale of backlash from the public, who demanded to cut off the poisonous part of the government, with connections to the organized crime, the interior minister Róbert Kaliňák resigned in March, followed by the prime minister Róbert Fico and later in May police president Tibor Gašpar as well. Before


Current Affairs

alleged shooter started cooperating with the police. Andruskó gave testimony in which he pointed at the controversial Slovak businessman, Marián Kočner, as the buyer of the murder. Kočner denied the allegations, but has been since arrested and sent to prison in connection to tax-related crimes. Kuciak also published several pieces that exposed Kočner’s unscrupulous actions, one of which helped to send him to jail. Kočner has been known to harass journalists who wrote unfavourably about him. One of such actions was a phone call in September 2017. Kočner accused Kuciak of accepting payments to write articles that discredited him and threatened the journalist: “Mr. Kuciak, I’ll tell you one thing. I’ll pay attention to yourself, your mother, your father, your siblings, I’ll be interested in everyone and will publish everything I’ll find on you, Mr. Kuciak”. He later took it to the police, who dismissed the case. Kočner also had connections to Alena Zsuzsová, the head of the murder operation. There is photographic evidence of him and Zsuzsová meeting a month before the murder. Kočner is now a prime suspect in the murder of Ján Kuciak. But even though all signs point at him, it is questionable whether Kočner would resort to a murder, as this doesn’t seem to be his kind of ‘modus operandi’. Before the murder, Kuciak was also working on a story that exposed links between the Italian organized crime group 'Ndrangheta, and the Slovak government. Italian mafia has invaded Eastern block after the fall of the Berlin wall, thanks to the good terms between the Italian mafia and communist governments. Kuciak exposed four Italian families connected to 'Ndrangheta, Vadala, Cinnanteo, Rodo and Catroppo, all of which own agricultural businesses and use them to claim EU farm subsidies, the legitimacy of which is often questionable. Vadala, who is known to have a collection of luxury cars, had a two-year relationship with Mária Trošková, the assistant to the former PM Róbert Fico. The investigation into the murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová has uncovered wrongdoings of a number of powerful people in high places. Tibor Gašpar, who at the time of the murder was the Police Corps president, has supposedly given orders to the head of

“The response was a wave of disgust and defiance from the otherwise very conformable people of Slovakia.” The Financial Intelligence Unit at the National Criminal Agency (NAKA), Pavol Vorobjov, to screen Kuciak. A few months before the killing. The role of the unit lies in exposing illegal income from criminal activities and money laundering, and it remans unclear why would this department had to screen a journalist. Vorobjov personally testified that the order was given from Gašpar, yet he denies the accusation. The interior minister Denisa Saková confirmed in a televised political talk show O 5 minút 12 (5 minutes to 12) that the screening of Kuciak was performed by Vorobjov, ordered by his superior, Gašpar, in the official document from The Financial Intelligence Unit. It is not known why the request or a screening was made. “Nezabudneme! Pokračujeme!”, “We won’t forget! We continue!”, is the name of the protest planned on the 21st of February, the first anniversary of the murder, by For a Decent Slovakia Initiative, which stood behind most of the protest held across Slovakia

from March to November last year. “For a year we have been gathering at squares, calling for decency and justice. We create a community demanding new culture of managing public affairs, decency, not arrogance and hate, we call for the truth and justice instead of lies and populism. We have teared down the curtain together and were given an opportunity to see how is corruption being swept under the carpet in our country, how police officers abuse the police and how the innocent and weaker are hurt…We want a decent and rightful Slovakia.” “The atmosphere has definitely changed after the murder. I think investigative journalists are more careful now, but the murder has not stopped them from reporting about the wrongdoings and corruption practices. Conversely, they seem to be even more eager to do it for Ján and help reveal what really happened,” believes Radka Minarechová, journalist at The Slovak Spectator. “A season of change has begun. Despite not knowing Jan in person, I can say that his death brought an emotion in people and a need to change something in our country,” said Simona Ivančáková from The News Agency of the Slovak Republic. Revelations in the murder investigation exposed tentacles of corruption in high places, throttling the government and the police, security services being used by oligarchs and dodgy businessmen, to achieve their selfish goals. Should Ján and Martina had lost their lives for this? Absolutely not. Decency and justice for Slovakia! ● 31


Current Affairs

WOMANSLAUGHTER: SIERRA LEONE’S MOTHERS ARE BLEEDING TO DEATH

Facing the highest maternal mortality ratio in the world, catastrophic bleeding is the leading cause of death during child birth. A medication that costs less than a postage stamp could save thousands of mothers 32

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Words and images: Eloise Reader


Current Affairs

Women are dying for the cost of a first class postage stamp. The shrieking cries of newborn babies echo down the dilapidated corridors of Freetown's largest maternity hospital. Midwives and doctors move hastily around the swamped wards, attending to the constant influx of women in labor. Mothers cradle their fragile babies, perching on the edge of crowded hospital beds. “We don’t want our mothers and babies to die,” Ruby Williams the head nurse of the hospital tells me, “we are greatly concerned." The cry of a newborn is not the sound of relief we welcome so joyfully here in the UK. Although it may symbolise the safe delivery of a baby and the start of a new life, for women in Sierra Leone, the natural process of giving birth can be catastrophic. Sierra Leone is the most dangerous country in the world for a pregnant woman. With the highest maternal mortality ratio on the planet, mothers across the country are forced to recognise how fatal bringing new life into the world can be. Princess Christian Maternity Hospital is the referral hospital for many medical clinics across Sierra Leone, including the medical centres in both slum and rural communities, meaning that if there are complications during labor, mothers are sent here, a hospital which is constantly running at capacity. 99% of maternal deaths occur in the developing world, however 99% of these are also preventable. The leading cause of death in child birth is catastrophic bleeding, known as Postpartum Haemorrhage (PPH). In the UK, after a mother gives birth she is given an injection of Oxytocin, which prompts the uterus to contract, eliminating the risk of catastrophic bleeding. Oxytocin is a drug which must be refrigerated to work effectively. Electricity is a luxury in Sierra Leone, hospitals that are fortunate enough to have it, experience frequent power cuts, which can be disastrous to stocks of medication. Therefore using Oxytocin post child birth is unrealistic for the majority of health care facilities in Sierra Leone, putting women at high risk of catastrophic bleeding. In 2015, the medical community welcomed the news that The World Health Organisation had approved a drug for use to treat and prevent postpartum haemorrhage, a drug originally used to treat stomach ulcers could now save thousands of mothers bleeding to death across the world. This drug is called Misoprostol, which can be used as an alternative to Oxytocin. It is temperature stable and can be easily administered, just three tablets of Misoprostol given under the tongue or rectally can save a haemorrhaging woman's life. The dosage costs less than a first class postage stamp. Women across Sierra Leone are being denied

access to this life saving drug, meaning thousands of mothers are still dying during child birth. The Sierra Leone government does not supply Misoprostol to hospitals across the country, the only supplier of the medication is a small NGO, based in the United Kingdom. Life For African Mothers was founded by Angela Gorman in 2005, Gorman is a retired NHS neonatal nurse, in November 2005 she watched a BBC Panorama documentary which showed devastating scenes inside the maternity hospitals of Chad, Africa. Angla and three others were so moved by the documentary that they contacted the BBC and took action. Gorman visited Chad and later founded her organisation. For the last 14 years, Angela has worked tirelessly to save thousands of women's lives across West Africa through donations of lifesaving medication and the training of midwives. Her organisation is the sole provider of Misoprostol to Sierra Leone. Seirra Leone's government deny women this drug as misoprostol can also be utilised for abortions. “I think it might be the risk of the medication falling into the wrong hands," Angela says. Morlai Kamara, who lives in Kroo Bay, Freetown, has volunteered with Life For African Mothers for over 7 years as their Sierra Leone distributor. He works tirelessly to distribute the medication by hand to each healthcare facility, ensuring the medication gets to the right person, a huge administrative role which bears a lot of responsibility. The government was not supplying it's hospitals with misoprostol because it's "very expensive for the free health care in Sierra Leone, presently the ministry for health is working on rapid posting of Doctors, Matrons and nurses.,” he says. Contrary to the statement claiming that Misoprostol is too expensive for Sierra Leones healthcare programme, Angela explains the costs of losing a mother through childbirth: “It costs the world £15 billion to lose 550,000 women a year, the number of women dying in childbirth when we first started, it’s now 300,000. To save the women would have only cost £5 billion, so if we don’t do this on humanitarian grounds, we should do it on economic grounds.” Postpartum haemorrhage is not a direct result of childbirth. However, for mothers who have experienced prolonged labour, the risk is increased. Mothers in Sierra Leone are at risk of experiencing prolonged labour for numerous reasons. Education plays a key role in women accessing medical care at the right time. Princess, a midwife of a small slum health clinic in Freetown, tells me about the dangers of homebirth: “We face challenges within the community,” she says. When mothers-to-be choose to give birth at home with either relatives or unskilled assistants, they are more likely to experience either postpartum 33


Current Affairs

haemorrhage or sepsis. They don’t have the instruments we use here, at times they even do the delivery bare-handed,” she says abruptly. Scarred by civil war and extreme poverty, Sierra Leone’s infrastructure builds a barrier that prevents access to medical care. This is particulary obvious in Freetown, where traffic and congestion cause turmoil. Women in labour can face many obstacles when trying to reach the hospital via road, resulting in prolonged labour and in turn increasing the risk of catastrophic bleeding. Ruby Williams, the Matron at PCMH, Freetown’s maternity hospital, says “due to the traffic flow within the city, as you can see the roads are jam-packed with people, vehicles, tuctuc, we’re facing a major constraint, the patient could be on her way, and that patient could lose her life due to postpartum haemorrhage,” she tells me. Ebola had a devastating effect on Sierra Leone’s already strained healthcare workforce. Many healthcare providers lost their lives to the relentless disease. Marla Seacrist is co-director of Hawa’s Hope, a small American NGO working to reduce maternal mortality in Sierra Leone. “Just when I think Sierra Leone was beginning to recover from that post war environment, the Ebola. We had friends that died from Ebola because they were health care providers here, serving. It was so complicated and so difficult," she says. Access to medication can be another obstacle. If the hospital does not have sufficient stock, patients cannot treated effectively. Often patients are asked to pay for medication, and then asked to pay the nurse to administer it, as the unfortunate chances are she’s not getting a wage herself. For the majority of women living in extreme poverty, there is just no option, the likelihood is if they can’t pay, they die.

“They don't have the instruments we use here, at times they even do the delivery bare-handed.” In 2005 the United Nations published their Eight Millennium Development Goals, which they define as “eight goals with measurable targets and clear deadlines for improving the lives of the world's poorest people”. The fifth development goal was to reduce maternal mortality by three quarters by 2015, which was not achieved. The reality is that in recent years, maternal mortality in Sierra Leone has been on the rise. In May 2017, Sierra Leone’s latest Maternal Death and Surveillance Report was released, “this latest report reveals an unacceptably high level of maternal deaths in Sierra Leone, which is a true tragedy for our nation,” said H.E. Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, President of the Republic of Sierra Leone. The study confirmed that Sierra Leone has a devastatingly high maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of 1,165 deaths per 100,000 live births. Family Care International and The International Centre For Research On Women published a report on 34

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the cost of maternal mortality in 2014, titled “A price too high to bear.” The study painted a picture of the wider effects of maternal deaths. It explored the high correlation between mothers dying and their babies survival rate, “of the 59 maternal deaths in the study, only 15 babies survived the first 60 days of life.” It also looked into the effects on surviving children, “Surviving children in some cases were withdrawn from or forced to miss school, because economic disruptions made it difficult to afford school fees. When children did continue their schooling, often their grief and new household responsibilities negatively affected their schoolwork”, for a country suffering with the worst maternal mortality ratio in the world, reducing the number of mothers dying in childbirth in Sierra Leone could play a key role in breaking the cycle of extreme poverty. Angela, a retired neonatal nurse from Cardiff, worked at the University Hospital of Wales for 30 years. One evening, after a long shift as the Sister in charge of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, she sat down to watch a BBC Panorama Documentary, which revealed the devastating maternal mortality rate in Chad, Africa. Angela was so shocked by the documentary that she decided to contact the BBC directly, she was not alone. Three other viewers also contacted the BBC and as a group took the bold decision to journey to Chad and see where they could help, the BBC joined them and documented this, “What Happened Next” was aired in the December of 2005. Moved by what she saw in Chad, after her return, Angela decided to set up her own organisation, Life For African Mothers. 14 years on, Angela has visited 13 countries across Africa a staggering 35 times. Life For African Mothers has saved thousands of lives through the supply of life saving medication, such as Misoprostol, and the training of hundreds of midwives. Angela, who has never taken a salary from the charity, now works tirelessly to sustain the supply of this lifesaving medication. She also works to recruit midwife volunteers from the UK, and facilitate their trips to Sierra Leone and Liberia where they conduct four day long workshops to midwives working in the two countries. This training is invaluable to a healthcare workforce that is under extreme pressure. The charity is extremely small, with no full-time employees. Despite this, the work they do has a huge tangible impact across West Africa, I have first-hand experience on how respected the work they do is, especially by the doctors and midwives working in such difficult conditions. Sitting in a small office just off the delivery ward of PCMH, the deputy matron of the hospital tells me, “Two years ago when I joined, we were seeing maternal deaths in double figures per month, for the past two years with Misoprostol and the support from Life For African Mothers, the numbers have decreased to one figure, and sometimes we can go a month without a maternal death. I hope they continue to support us with the Misoprostol. The past month we have struggled with supply, I really hope they continue to support PCMH,” she said desperately. If Sierra Leone is to see a reduction of the high maternal mortality ratio in the near future, significant effort must be taken to improve access to quality healthcare. In the meantime, it’s apparent that efforts should be made to support and sustain the supply of lifesaving Misoprostol, so mothers across Sierra Leone are not bleeding to death at the cost of a postage stamp. ●


Current Affairs

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Lifestyle

A call to garms How a pop-up clothing shop is helping the homeless

“In 21st century Britain, everybody should have a place to live,” said Jon Sparks, Chief Executive for Crisis in their annual report. “When we have a place to call our own, we have the best chance of being healthy, living a fulfilling life and feeling part of a society.” Crisis is one of the leading national charities for homeless people. In addition to offering year-round education, employment, housing and wellbeing services, the charity also provides the ‘Crisis at Christmas’ campaign. Wanting to secure the efforts of Crisis’s volunteers, menswear stylist and writer for the Financial Times, Tom Stubbs, curated the pop-up shop entitled ‘A Call to Garms’. Located at 31 Savile Row from December 10, 2018, the shop nestled for a week in one of London’s most affluent areas, best known for its speciality in traditional bespoke men’s tailoring. The affluence is a far cry from the realities faced by more than 24,000 people who are estimated to be sleeping rough both in the city and nationwide. In their press release, Crisis says that in addition to those living on the streets, half of this statistic will also use cars, public transport and tents as shelters. Artefact spoke to Tom Stubbs’ assistant, Conor Bond, at the pop-up shop. Supported by The Pollen Estate, an area of Mayfair home to major streets covering retail, men’s tailoring and art, Bond told Artefact that ‘A Call to Garms’, was originally going to be in Hackney: “When we spoke to Crisis, the idea grew, and because of the connections that we have in the industry, the support gathered from when we started talking about it went way past what we thought.” After speaking to estate agents in the area, Stubbs and Bond found an empty shop in Savile Row. Their team eagerly pitched the idea nationally and received interest from sponsors, which then brought ‘A Call to Garms’ to life. “What better than to bring a bit of the East London flair to the hotbed of Mayfair,” Bond enthused. It is a candy shop for those who want to splurge at the sartorial hotspot while helping homeless people. “We’re doing it cheap, we’re doing it fun, and we’re doing it for a good cause,” said Bond. The items are solely based on donations from consumers of high fashion brands such as Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, as well as historical 36

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tailors such as Anderson & Sheppard and Richard James. “It’s quite diverse, but everything is from a luxury angle,” said Conor. Shoppers were able to scoop up ties for £10 and trousers for £30. One customer, William, was on his lunch break at work when he spotted the pop-up and made use of it by shopping for clothes for an upcoming wedding. “I didn’t actually know this shop was here. Even though we’re in the capital city things like this (pop-ups) that give their proceeds to charity are quite rare,” William told Artefact. “The concept of buying something knowing that it will help someone else is brilliant, ideas like this should really be more common.” Donations were also made to ‘A Call to Garms’ from established tailors, such as Corneliani who donated ten made-tomeasure blazers that could be bought for just under £300. While that price tag may seem eye-watering, bespoke blazers commonly sell for a recommended retail price of over £3,000. “The Savile Row tailors have been so generous, we have been quite spoilt, really spoilt,” said Bond. Unwanted fashion items are also donated to Crisis at Christmas. Faye shared a heartwarming anecdote from when she volunteered with them at a London shelter last December: “A particular per-

Words and images: Sophie Hall

son I will always remember was the man looking for size 13 shoes, that size is hard to come by, and he had been visiting the shelter every day. The shoes he had on were mismatched, and the soles were falling off,” she said. After using social media to call out for anyone owning unwanted shoes in that size, a friend’s dad found some size 13 leather boots in his loft. Faye said that when presented with the shoes, the man burst into tears with gratitude. “Little stories like that make you want to go back every year.” Faye empathised heavily with the loneliness that homeless people face at Christmas. “My mum passed away when I was small, and it’s more noticeable at Christmas when loved ones aren’t there,” she told Artefact. “But I decided I wanted to spend Christmas helping others rather than feeling sorry for myself, it’s very humbling.” Faye volunteered at Crisis at Christmas alongside doctors, beauty therapists, hairdressers and even pediatrists. Doctors on site helped a man who came to the shelter with his leg in a cast. Not only had his leg been broken for over a year, but it was infected due to a skin graft. One hairdresser, Jade, also spent her day providing ‘haircuts and a natter’ to people at the shelter, sometimes spending up to six hours with one person. “We


Lifestyle

“There seems to be a terrible disconnect from others,” she added. “I always ask ‘Wouldn't you want to be helped in that situation?’ but people say that they would never let themselves become homeless.”

should not, by any means, have anyone in the country sleeping on the street or not having a home,” Jade said. “After volunteering with Crisis, I made it a priority to find more volunteering opportunities.” Faye also raised money with her work colleagues by collecting money from the general public in Central London. “It was an evening that I found very difficult, a passer-by asked us ‘Why would I give you my money when it’s mine?’ People would even avoid eye contact as they walked past while we were smiling at them,” Faye said. The spirit lifted when Faye and her colleagues realised that they had raised more than £900 over the evening, as well as a group of young men donating £30 if Faye told them where the nearest strip club was in return. Faye believes that funds to tackle homelessness, mental health should be prioritised when it comes to government spending. Jade said that drug and alcohol rehabilitation must be focused on, and the public need to have a softer approach to homeless people. “I was concerned with some

of the reactions I received after telling people I was helping out, questions such as ‘Why would you want to do that?’. There seems to be a terrible disconnect from others,” she added. “I always ask ‘Wouldn’t you want to be helped in that situation?’ but people say that they would never let themselves become homeless.” Not only is the concept of the popup shop beneficiary for homelessness, but it is also tackling the wasteful environmental impact of the fashion industry by encouraging consumers, designers and manufacturers to reuse unwanted fashion items. Tom Stubbs, Conor Bond and their team used this to their advantage in pitching the idea of ‘A Call to Garms’. “We were thinking that if we could get the stock that was sitting in a warehouse, we could sell that for a good cause and keep the integrity of the brands. Anything that’s consumed has an output that isn’t desired — no matter how wonderful, so I think this is great for getting stuff that you could normally not find someone to love, so it gives them that opportunity,” Bond told us. So what’s next for ‘A Call to Garms’? “I think the most exciting thing is what we can do with these results, going forward after the pop-up,” Bond said. When Artefact visited on its second day of opening, the shop had already made £20,000. This figure doubled by the fourth day, meaning that even before its final day on December 15, the pop-up had comfortably reached its predicted target for its week-long residency. “We did this blind via e-mail, saying this is what we want, and the sponsors really believed in us,” Bond said. “We were teetering on the question of whether we would be able to do this yearly, but now I think we’ve realised we can do this more regularly — multiple times in the year.” A recent survey found that while an estimated 74% of Brits are ‘generally worried’ about homelessness, 69% of them feel ‘powerless’ in helping. The idea of the pop-up shop is a simple catalyst for other charities to follow suit and for the general public to know that their purchasing powers are a great help. Bigger things seem to be on the horizon; ‘A Call to Garms’ can literalise its play on words by inducing action. “Now we’ve actually got the hard facts, we can multiply it and do it so much bigger and so much better,” Bond concluded. ● 37


Lifestyle

PATIENT:

Words: Beatriz Vasques Image: Rawpixel/Unsplash

NHS MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES. STATE:

SERIOUS. Although one in six people suffer from mental health problems, the NHS fails to provide adequate care

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Lifestyle

It was late at night when Eleanor*, a 20year old university student arrived at the A&E department of Charing Cross Hospital, with suicidal ideations and auditory hallucinations. After calling 111 and being asked to come to the closest hospital, Eleanor and her flatmate, who had been instructed by the 111 call handler to not let Eleanor out of her sight, arrived at the hospital for a visit that would last approximately 4 hours and not yield any results. Eleanor, who has been dealing with mental health issues for more than ten years and is diagnosed with major clinical depression, generalised anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, stoically describes how everything spiralled out of control that night. “I went to the A&E because a series of new symptoms that I had been feeling for quite a while got a lot worse on this particular day. For a few months I had been dealing with auditory hallucinations, which were mainly the sound of birds, and people talking to me, which as you can imagine are quite scary things to happen to you,” Eleanor recounts. “I had also been feeling what I now know is called dissociation. I felt like I wasn’t in my body or like everything was a dream, that things weren’t real, people weren’t real. Then that progressed into me getting really paranoid, and having these really nagging and strange beliefs in my brain that made me very anxious. I was feeling really bad. I was having suicidal thoughts. I looked at myself in the mirror and didn’t recognise my face, couldn’t feel pain, couldn’t feel the water on my skin,” Eleanor continues. For four hours, Eleanor was assessed by four different people. No one could reach a consensus. The team solely included mental health nurses, and she was never seen by a psychiatrist. She stayed in a private room with her flatmate and waited for a verdict from the psychiatric nursing team until she was sent back home, without any further guidance — only a GP referral. This incident wasn’t the first time Eleanor had tried to seek help, which left her feeling quite distrustful of the prospect of receiving further assistance from the NHS Mental Health Services. “I felt so desperate and helpless. I thought that not even in the worse state I had ever been I would get help. I remember describing quite vividly the thoughts I was having and the things I was going to do to myself. They [the psychiatric nursing team] even wrote it down in the letter that they sent to my GP, but that still wasn’t enough for them to get me any help,” she says. “An A&E wouldn’t even have one psychiatrist there if anyone with psychiatric complaints came in asking for help. I just don’t understand how one can

go from ‘yes, we’re going to hospitalise you’ to, ‘no we’re sending you home with hallucinations and suicidal thoughts’ and just let you be.” Eleanor continues. According to the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey, 1 in 6 people suffer from a mental health problem in the UK. However, despite recent advances in the public perception of mental illness, there is still a great stigma, which often prevents people from seeking the help they require. When they finally decide to pursue help, they are often, like Eleanor, confronted with enormous waiting lists and a significant shortage of mental health professionals. The same survey also states that the proportion of people with mental health disorders using mental health treatment in the UK has increased. In 2014, more than one person in three (39,4%), was receiving mental health treatment. A survey conducted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists on the experience of 500 diagnosed mental health patients, “found that some had waited up to 13 years to get the treatment they needed.”

“I felt so desperate and helpless. I thought that not even in the worse state I have ever been I would get help.”

Thomas* is an NHS Mental Health Peer Trainer. Peer trainers usually have experience of living with a mental health problem and aim to support people with similar problems, helping them seek help while also providing guidance to staff. Thomas started dealing with mental health issues in his teens, and the road to recovery wasn’t smooth. Becoming a peer-trainer was a ‘no-brainer’— he wanted to provide people with what had lacked in his journey, “I first started to have mental health problems in my teens so for me I absolutely got into the field to try and better the system,” he says. “There is such a divide between staff and people who use services. There is this toxic ‘them and us’ culture. As a peer I am someone who is trying to break down those barriers; I am a staff member who

also has a mental health diagnosis,” “This is important for two reasons; firstly it gives the staff a sense of hope that people do recover and get better and can be functioning members of society, but it also proves to people who use services that staff are there to listen and support,” Thomas says. Both patients and NHS mental health professionals bring up the underfunding of mental health services and the shortage of mental health specialised staff in various parts of the country. In 2012, the government legislated to initiate a ‘parity of esteem’ between mental and physical health in its Health and Social Care Act. This would signify equal opportunities for access and treatment and the improvement and funding of services. At the time, the government committed to achieving the milestone by 2020. However, it is still some distance away. A report by The King’s Fund shows that, although 84% of mental health trusts did receive an increase in their funding from 2012 to 2017, acute and specialist hospitals have been given more funding in a shorter period of time with an increase of 16.8%. By contrast, mental health services only received an increase of 5.6%. These problems have been escalated by a shortage of staff. Figures from the Department of Health and Social Care, show that, “more than 2000 mental health staff a month are leaving their posts in the NHS in England.” It is not difficult to test these figures empirically. More than 1000 vacancies show up when conducting basic research online for NHS jobs with keywords: ‘mental health practitioner’ and ‘mental health nurse’. Anna Conway Morris is an NHS child and adolescent psychiatrist. For her, the vast number of vacant mental health posts across the country is inextricably linked with the social stigma attached to being mentally ill. “Doctors choose not to specialise in psychiatry, and I think part of it is because of the stigma associated with psychiatry. [...] Even within the medical profession people think that somehow psychiatry, psychiatrists and mental health aren’t a good thing or will somehow be associated with themselves.” “They also think they will, in some way, be tainted by that [mental health stigma]. That feeling is still very strong, and I often see it in medical students: they do come to my psychiatry clinic, but many are reluctant to say they’re interested in psychiatry because they worry that people will judge them,” says Morris. Heads Together, the mental health initiative created by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry, strives to fight the prejudice attached to being mentally ill. Both William and Harry have been open about their own personal struggles with mental health and 39


have engaged in several mental-health related actions, in order to raise awareness of the subject. That hasn’t always been an easy task. In January 2019, Prince William mentioned in a press conference at Davos World Economic Forum how difficult it had been to receive celebrity endorsement for his initiative. According to the Dutch of Cambridge, a lot of stars had been approached over the course of three years, but none had wanted to have their name attached to the cause. “I find it absolutely fascinating that even the future king cannot get celebrities to endorse his mental health charity. It just shows you how strong the stigma still is,” says Anna Conway Morris. Barbara*, 22, a university student, has been dealing with mental health issues since she was 12 years old. Prior to her twenties, she suffered from depression, anxiety and self-harm tendencies. In 2016, she developed bulimia, which prompted her to seek specialised help. Two years later, in 2018, she received it. The waiting time led her to seek help from the private sector which she was unable to afford. She then went back to the care of her GP. “I felt like my GP was extremely, extremely ignorant to eating disorders and the help I needed when I first went to her. When I initially told her I was bulimic, she literally told me to ‘try and stop’ and suggested I ‘tell my mom’. I also initially asked my GP for blood tests, as bulimia is very damaging. I had to push for them, as she ‘didn’t see the point’.” “It was humiliating and frustrating,” Barbara says, “my advice for those going through the NHS for help is to self-advocate. You cannot expect your GP to understand mental health so you need to be blunt and tell them what help you need whether that’s a referral or medication,” she concludes. Morris believes that although waiting times can indeed be exasperating for patients, the root of the issue lies on the general advice that is initially given by GP’s. Especially when younger patients are not used to going to the doctor. “I think sometimes the problem is ‘my complaints are getting ignored’. Many GPs now have much better mental health training than they used to have, but of course, the first port of call for any mental health problems, or any health problem in the UK, is still the GP,” Morris explains. “I think what GPs often do is give some quite general information to start with or maybe say to someone ‘why don’t you try this’, ‘maybe modify your lifestyle’, ‘try to get more sleep and come back if it doesn’t get better’.” “I don’t think that’s an unreasonable approach, I think that for some young people who are not used to being unwell 40

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“You don't tell someone with a broken leg to just ‘unbreak’ it, you don't tell someone with asthma to 'just breathe, you don't tell someone with diabetes to ‘just produce more insulin’ —That's absolutely impossible” and go to the doctor, that can feel like ‘Oh, nobody is doing anything’, but sometimes these things do work,” he says. The conversation around mental health is complex. Mental health patients express their need to be treated like any other patient would and, similarly, practitioners do what they can with the limited amount of funding they are given which is still not enough to meet the increasing amount of people seeking help through the NHS. There is a great necessity to understand that mental illnesses are just ‘illnesses’, after all, and so deserve the same amount of attention and care that a physical malady would. “I would like to get treated as any other patient, we are treated as if our illnesses are not as valid as physical illnesses and as if our complaints are not as valid as complaints about other things. For me, it’s terrifying the fact that health professionals have this mentality of ‘oh well you can just will yourself to be better’ when that's not true,” says Eleanor. “You don’t tell someone with a broken leg to just ‘unbreak it’, you don’t tell someone with asthma to ‘just breathe’, you don’t tell someone with diabetes to ‘just produce more insulin’ — that’s absolutely impossible. So you can’t tell a depressed person, an anxious person, etc.: ‘oh just be happy, just be calm’, that’s never going to happen. There needs to be a bigger sensibility about what they [health professionals] should do in these situations,” Eleanor states. In October 2018, Philip Hammond (UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer) announced that the NHS Mental Health Services would receive a £2bn per year boost as part of the government’s budget. This increase in funding should potenti-

ate better mental health support in every sizable A&E department. Hopefully, a step in the right direction of the NHS that for long has been neglected. For those going through mental hardships, Morris advises not to surrender and look for alternative options, if help isn’t given right away: “The main thing is not to give up and to use the services that are available there’s a lot of charities that work in the area of mental health and it’s really useful to do research online and see what is available locally. There is a lot of support available locally to people, and people are often not aware of it,” she concludes. Eleanor has now been referred and assessed for a third party mental health service, however, she hasn’t heard back from them or been informed if she has been placed on a waiting list. In regards to her complaint, a spokesperson for Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said: “We have a psychiatric liaison team which is available in our emergency department at Charing Cross Hospital 24 hours a day. When a patient is referred to them, the team, which comprises mental health nurses and psychiatric consultants, undertake an assessment and devise a bespoke care plan.” “No changes are planned for mental health services provided in the emergency department though we continue to work in partnership with our mental health provider, West London NHS Trust, to continuously look at how we can improve our care.” “We take any concerns raised by patients very seriously and would advise any patient who is not happy with their care to speak to our patient advice and liaison service in the first instance.” Mental health is a real problem that an ever increasing number of people in the UK are faced with, it is important that the National Health Service is prepared to meet their needs, both in practical and moral terms. It is also important to be aware of one’s needs and not be afraid to fight and speak up for them. ● *Names have been changed for anonymity purposes. If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, please contact/refer to one of these resources: • Mind UK: mind.org.uk • Samaritans: samaritans.org/how-wecan-help-you/contact-us. 116 123 • The Listening Place: listeningplace.org. uk. 020 3906 7676 Or if you feel in immediate danger, please contact 111/999 or go to your local A&E department.


Aboriginal Art: Australia's hidden legacy 42 Boris Johnson's latest cover up 47 Is climate change a feminist issue? 48 The new age of 'blackface' 51 How do we keep British pubs alive? 56 Ministry of Loneliness 58 Britannia rules the roads 60 Are all boys thier father's seed? 64 Preserving the planet and India's craft workers 66 'We refugees paint, play music; we are just like you' 72


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Words: Rachel Hagan Images: Rachel Hagan, Kate Harding, Maria Maraltadj, Magpie Goose.

ABORIGINAL ART: AUSTRALIA’S HIDDEN LEGACY

Artefact explores the importance of art in the representation of indigenous Australians

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A trip to Australia visiting its various exciting cities along the coast and taking in all they have to offer — coffee, fashion, great beaches and great food — you could all too easily return home with feigned ignorance to the history of the country and its indigenous culture of Australian Aboriginals. From the late eighteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, Indigenous Australians were massacred in enormous numbers during colonisation. Citizens have often denied this part of the country’s history, but many others undeniably know it to be true. Australian historian, Lyndall Ryan realised many of her peers were still incredulous about the past, so she began a vast research project to map the site of every Australian colonial frontier massacre. The New York Times reported that five years later and with Ryan’s research grant depleted, the project is still nowhere near finished. Yet, it still shows more than two hundred massacres on the map and, so far, has surprisingly been well received, despite highlighting the shocking history of the country. May 2018 saw the 51st anniversary of the Australian ‘citizenship’ referendum. This was the referendum of 1967, which won a landslide of 90% of votes in favour of including Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia’s census. Dogs, cats and pigs were counted in Australia before Aboriginals; it is unfathomable how this was changed only half a century ago. Following the referendum, there was a level of expectation that the quality of life for indigenous people would see an improvement, but many think it was just

the beginning. There is a lack of policy within Australian politics which aboriginals benefit from, but on the other hand, it is claimed that aboriginals will not seek healthcare due to institutional racism, amongst many other things. Just a month ago the Australian government almost passed a motion, which was defeated by only three votes, supporting the far-right slogan, ‘it’s okay to be white’ — which has been used previously by the Ku Klux Klan and neo-nazis. The motion was put forward by the leader of the Australian anti-immigration One Nation party, Pauline Hanson. It condemned ‘anti-white racism’, highlighting the deplorable resurgence of injustices toward those who are not white citizens and demonstrating racism pervading in parliament. The motion received supporting votes from 23 others, including Nigel Scullion, Aboriginal Affairs minister. To receive benefits from the government now, recipients must participate in compliance activities to obtain money. Sonya Holt works within the Community Development Program and is the Supervisor for women who are receiving benefits, in the Kalkarindji community, a small township in the Northern Territory about 400 miles south of Darwin. “The women must come each day from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm. These women vary greatly in age and ability. A large percentage of participants are illiterate, have poor English comprehension and struggle with simple tasks that are outside of their cultural knowledge base. English is not the first language here,” Sonya tells us. “They have an extensive kinship system and are 43


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very connected to those of their skin group,” Sonya speaks fondly of the women she works with, highlighting the importance of their culture alongside their everyday wellbeing. She and her team also provide breakfast and often lunch, as they are so remote, food is costly, and they are not able to grow anything. “The older women have great stories of the past and share with me a vast knowledge of Bush medicine, Bushtucker and cultural mythology and superstitions.” Sonya highlights the importance of their traditions within their lifestyle, where using plants, fruits, seeds, leaves and flowers — for food and health — Bush medicine and Bushtucker, has been vital to their lifestyle for an estimated 60,000 years. Problems with violence and alcohol are prevalent, and often issues can arise, but they are entrenched in their way of life, Sonya tells Artefact. She says violence is used to solve issues within communities, and while they still operate under Bush law, people are also being held accountable under the modern law, leaving both sides in a difficult middle place. These are in the process of being changed to better support women and children, “many women are happy with the demise of some very brutal bush laws, as they talk with horror at some of the very severe punishments they endured growing up,” Sonya explains. “We are in a dry camp, meaning stringent alcohol laws; however, there is a lot of black market alcohol and drugs floating around the community with often devastating consequences. Their DNA does not tolerate high levels of alcohol or drugs, and as a result, the local safe house is regularly filled with terrified women and children. Violence is just way too prevalent here.” Last year, it was these issues which Reggie Yates was heavily criticised for presenting in his BBC Three documentary. He documented the indigenous residents of Wilcannia, in a bid to explore addiction and institutionalised racism. But there was a heavy focus on their lifestyle habits of drinking. The residents recognised alcohol abuse was a problem within their community but felt as though the production of the documentary also failed to identify positive steps the community were taking to address some of the issues. Communities like these can often struggle with feeling lost in the middle of society and their way of life. No longer practising ceremony, Sonya tells us how her community is a “long way from adapting yet too far forward to go back in some instances. “They still hunt their food when they can out of necessity and also steal a lot of cattle to survive. I get so frustrated about how to help I end up asking them what they want and try to get them to see new ways of being, such as positive thinking because they seem lost.” Speaking with great excitement, Sonya tells me how she recently helped a 52-year-old lady get a job for the first time in her life. She has raised five children and seven grandchildren and is now working in the local crèche while being trained in childcare. “She is just so thrilled to have a real job for the first time, and I love that even though she was scared she went for it anyway and she just feels really good about herself which I love.” With the privilege of travelling around Australia, to the Northern Territory and some of the much more rural towns in Australia, it became all too clear that there is a thin veneer of acceptability within the cities towards indigenous people. “Privilege in life provides a buffer to the kinds of racialised discrimination, prejudice and hate speech that daily infects the lives of people of colour in Australia,”

Guardian writer Jack Latimore wrote in a recent article. The prevalent divide between two groups of people, perhaps came as a shock to us, coming from a country where indigenous communities don’t exist, as we are a hugely culturally diverse nation. Historically speaking this has stemmed all the way from the Norman French invading Anglo-Saxon Britain and in 1948 when the passenger ship, Empire Windrush, made its way to the UK with around 500 emigrants from the West Indies. Just two examples of immigration into a western country. These large waves of migration, are not something which Australia has experienced. Katherine, some 200 miles south-east of Darwin, is the fourth largest settlement in the Northern Territory, but still only has a population of six thousand, in comparison to London’s eight million. There is not the largest choice of places for tourists to stay. So, staying in an Airbnb owned by, Maggie and Laura, co-founders of Magpie Goose was a great discovery, both for the bright and colourful house which they own and the fantastic business which they run. Magpie Goose is a fashion social enterprise, creating clothing with “an opportunity for the world to connect with and celebrate Aboriginal people, stories and culture through fashion; while also creating economic opportunities for Aboriginal people in remote communities.” While Maggie declined to comment on the broader social/political situation regarding aboriginal communities and their link to art, it could be said that it is evident the work they are doing is indeed a positive step forward for many people. They create new business opportunities for Aboriginal people, holding textile design workshops which provide both “skill development and income generation opportunities”, as well as licensing artists designs and giving widespread exposure. Earlier this year, they set up Fashion Futures initiative, an education and training programme aiming to build self-confidence and ambitions for young

“Art centres are a vital source of employment in communities and in remote Australia, where jobs are often scarce.” Aboriginal women, using the platform of art and fashion. They also believe that “the clothes provide an opportunity for people to connect with, learn about and celebrate Aboriginal cultures”, as outlined on their website, and they believe that “Magpie Goose is a powerful platform to showcase and share these designs and stories.” Furthermore, one of the most important things they do is purchase textiles from remote Aboriginal art centres. As outlined on their site, they explain how the centres are places for artists to work, to access supplies and to make money through their art. Art centres are a vital source of employment in communities and in remote Australia, where jobs are often scarce, income earned by one employee or artist usually goes on to support an extended family network. Aboriginal art is now worth vast amounts of money in Australia, thanks to it being sold on street corners in the form of boomerangs, fridge magnets, tea 45


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towels, T-shirts and various other pieces of paraphernalia which appeal to tourists. But this profit is not being shared in a representative manner to its artists and is merely for the capital gain of others. As a result, these art centres are hugely important, as are galleries which showcase and appropriately support the artists. Rebecca Hossack’s gallery in Fitzrovia was the first gallery in Europe to exhibit Australian aboriginal paintings. She continues to do so with this year being its 30th anniversary. As well as running her gallery she also lectures internationally on aboriginal art and works closely with many of the most prominent national museums, such as the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum. Rebecca’s gallery is a welcoming haven just minutes away from the bustle of Tottenham Court Road. With a spiral staircase winding through the gallery and staff who all have energy that seems to reflect the vibrancy of the colours within the paintings on the walls. The interview felt like a conversation with an old friend, and ill of any of the austere connations usually attached to an interview. Rebecca at six feet tall, with extremely long white hair and swathes of colourful loose fitting clothes bounded around the gallery detailing the meanings behind many of the paintings, walking from room to room taking in all the pieces, as well as, often pausing so that she could instruct her assistants on where to place certain woven wall-hangings. “I always make the analogy that the stories of the art are like reading Homer or The Illiyad and The Odessey, off by heart, because I could tell you the story and it would be so simple, but the real story is like an iceberg underneath. A profound story and yet it is distilled into a few lines and dots.” “Since I was nine years old I just had this obsession with it [aboriginal art]. At that time, in the 80s, people in London were hung up with conceptual art, and I thought that works to an audience, a conception, minimalist art. But it’s so much more and it has so much more spirit than the intellects.” Rebecca details her initial reaction as to why she felt opening a gallery in London was necessary to fill the gap in the market which she felt there was. “There is a lot of implication of power, and there is a lot of sanctimoniousness around many people who sell the art, and it makes me sick,” Rebecca explains how often it is a hard realm, and sadly, sometimes, the motivation of people needs to be questioned. “There was an ignorance with the way it was received at the start and a dismissiveness. Richard Cook, from The Times, who was the leading art critic, said, ‘Oh they have stupid names like Cliff Koala,’ it was so patronising and so wrong.” It wasn’t an easy start with the gallery opening, as people often had very narrow minds. Rebecca felt that it wasn’t until the contemporary art movement, that people started to regard indigenous art. “The transposition of eternal femoral things on to permanent portable things like acrylic on canvas, instead of, ochre on bodies; made the wider world sit up and take notice.” This combined with the pictures leading the shores of Australia and quietly leading in galleries and houses all over the world, in turn, sparked an interest. Pausing in between questions to welcome a new member to her team, Rebecca’s positive and colourful lifestyle comes across as extremely important in all aspects of her life. The group of us were engaged in conversation, which was altogether highly important to Rebecca: “What socks were we wearing?” Only for her to be aghast at my 46

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plain white pair; expressing the importance of colour, right down to socks. When I asked Rebecca if she felt there had been a change over the years with people’s awareness regarding the history of indigenous Australians, she explained to me how “the knowledge of the people writing about it has changed a lot, and people are a lot more aware of the context. Most people I know have never met an aboriginal and would never want to; it is so extraordinary because it is such an amazing culture” “And what people also fail to realise is that Aboriginal Australia is like Europe, it is not a homogenous nation”. Rebecca details the different tribes and some of her experiences of the thousands of miles she has travelled across the Northern Territory to go and spend time with all of these people. All of whom are people of different nations. They have different languages, different appearances, and different ways of making art. Rebecca explains, for example, “a Yolngu man from North-East-Arnhem Land, would not be able to talk to a Pitjantjatjara man from central Australia.” Despite this they have an extensive kinship, Rebecca explains how the one thing that unites them all is their love for all the land; and that is often expressed through their art. “Even Germaine Greer, said to me, ‘I like the original art’ and I said, what do you mean the original art? And she goes, ‘the real art, the ochre on the bark. And I said, that is no more real than the acrylic on canvas it just comes from a different country, and that is like saying you like Dutch stilllives as opposed to David Hockney; that’s a different country.” Rebecca explains how the ignorance of many does not only lie in a lack of understanding towards the culture, but also to the art itself. ●


Culture

Boris Johnson’s latest cover up An artist invites the public to deface her portrait of the former Foreign Secretary

For a painter, there are not many accolades that go higher than having your painting exhibited in the National Portrait Gallery. So why then, did artist Helen Masacz, invite the public to deface her portrait of the former Foreign Secretary? “When he was Mayor he seemed like an okay guy, unusual, affable, quite fun. At the time, I felt he had the people’s interests at heart, and I liked the idea that I could paint him with his sort of crazy persona,” Helen tells me at the launch of her collective’s latest exhibition, Face Value. Back in 2010, Masacz was asked to paint the ‘soft on the inside, hard on the outside’ Mayor, as objectified by the mollusc he holds in the original. But since then and like most of the country, the course of events reshaping Britain’s political history have come to change opinions of Brexit-bastion ‘Bojo’. “Brexit was the dark hole. The propaganda, the false promises,” she says. The keyword of the day for the last two years; it’s sent the UK into moral distress, political polarisation and saw 700,000 Remainers walk London’s streets last month in the hope of a second referendum. “Brexit was the dark hole that things slid down after he was Mayor,” said the adoringly-shameless artist, “my respect for him plummeted.” Boris famously championed the Leave campaign, once declaring, “The 23rd of June could be an Independence Day for Britain.” His overzealous, unattainable statements about the NHS, immigration and overall blind national pride were the “selfish, underhanded” remarks that made a once-charmed Masacz, completely perturbed by her painting. “When I got it back from the gallery after it went on tour, I said to my students ‘if you got any paint left over, just use your pallet knife and smear it onto the painting.’” In an age where the public craves their voice heard, Helen said: “it can be a mouthpiece for people, it’s good to just express yourself.” The painting was displayed at the Royal Opera Arcade Gallery for the public to have their hand at giving Boris a Cover Up, as the piece is now called. On opening night, the guests started speaking in colourful explosions of orange, yellow and green brush strokes. These great swooshes of colour backdrops to graffiti in bold white pen: “TORY BASTARD”, “Betrayer of the classics!”, “Eat the Rich!” and “Bad Hairday!” The

initial coat to the Cover Up was a broad coating of pink, from a young lady in a protest for feminism. The event, not far from the original painting’s home, was a launch for the exhibition of Masacz’s art collective, Lot 5, whose aim is to reconcile contradictions by applying traditional techniques to modern themes. A truly talented group of artists’, whose crafts are rightfully deserving of the grand location situated amidst the Ivory Towers of Pall Mall. Johnson resigned from his role as Foreign Secretary in July 2018, followed a few weeks later by his younger brother, Jo, who resigned from his post as Transport Secretary. Considering the contextual relevance of Cover Up, is the Johnson era over? Bookmakers Ladbrokes, Paddy Power and Betfair have odds of 6/1 on the blonde-bombshell to be the next PM, only Corbyn is more favoured, so maybe not? Receiving a lot of hate from tabloid

Words and image: Elliot Nielson

readers via e-mail but adulation at her event, Helen said: “I think most people are on board because they’re also very disappointed but I think there are quite a lot of Daily Mail readers that still think Boris is good for the country, I think he sold them down the river and they still believe in him but I don’t understand that, so I’ve had quite a lot of hate mail, which I don’t care about I’ll just delete it.” Throughout the night there were raffle tickets sold, “All the proceeds from the raffle go to a charity called Shelter for the homeless, and whoever wins this will have a piece of history I suppose,” shrugged Masacz. Boris Johnson couldn’t say much under all the paint but recently asked the DUP conference to “Junk the backstop” and cancel Theresa May’s latest deal with the EU. With Brexit Day (March 29, 2019) approaching, the only thing good about it has been the art. ● 47


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Words: Jennifer Revel

IS CLIMATE CHAN G E A FEMINIST ISSU E?

Placing w omen in th

e forefron t of the ba ttle agains global wa rming t

The IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) special report on global warming was released on October 8, 2018, outlining the need to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celcius. With the average annual carbon emissions per person being 20 metric tons, population growth may cause our planet to be uninhabitable. “Limiting global warming would require rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”, reported the intergovernmental report on climate change. 48

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As the threat of climate change continues to grow, Katherine Wilkinson, Vice President of Communication & Engagement at Project Drawdown, proposes that family planning and the education of girls could be our solution. Project Drawdown accompanies the New York Times bestseller Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. In it, Wilkinson and a team of academics have outlined steps that we can take to prevent this genuine crisis from ending life on planet Earth.

This literature poses the idea that climate change has a decidedly feminist solution. In Katherine’s findings, she states that there are about “74 million unintended pregnancies each year”. This is due to the 214 million women in lower-income countries who say they want the ability to choose whether and when to become pregnant but lack the necessary access to contraception. The need persists in high-income countries as well, including the United States, where 45% of pregnancies are unintended.


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The study finds that “increased adoption of reproductive healthcare and family planning is an essential component to achieve the United Nations’ 2015 medium global population projection of 9.7 billion people by 2050”. If there is not more investment in family planning, particularly in low-income countries, the world’s population could come close to the high projection, adding another one billion people to the planet. The statistics are found by comparing the impact of energy, building space, food, waste, and transportation that would be used in a world with little to no investment in family planning, compared to one in which a projected population of 9.7 billion. The study found that “The resulting emission reductions could be 119.2 gigatons of carbon dioxide, at an average annual cost of $10.77 (£8.24) per user in low-income countries”. “Women with more years of education have fewer, healthier children and actively manage their reproductive health”, explains Wilkinson. Education and family planning are undeniably linked. Artefact spoke with Alisha Graves, President of Venture Strategies for Health and Development (VSHD), a California-based nonprofit organisation. VSHD aims to help stabilise global population by securing women’s freedom to choose their family size by the end of the century. She contributed her knowledge and research to Project Drawdown’s study and conclusions. Graves explained that “every year we add another equivalent of Germany” in terms of population. This resource use has a phenomenal impact on the climate. “We are not trying to tell people what to do, or what size their family should be. We want to give women what they want, give them a choice” Graves urges. The benefits of delaying marriage by educating girls, and therefore access to a career are outlined by Graves, “Delaying marriage by five years results in a 15-20% reduction in population growth rate”. She explains, “Giving options to adolescent girls other than having a family benefits the entire community”. A higher number of women in work leads to a demographic dividend, when there are more people working than dependents, this leads to a more prosperous community. “In some of the world’s poorest countries, women have a very low status, and therefore family size tends to be larger. Niger has the fastest natural population growth in human history”. These are also the areas that are most

affected by climate change. Conversations about family planning are dependant on where you live in the world. “In the U.K. and U.S, most couples have conversations about family size. But in lots of parts of the world, it’s taboo or at least something that is God’s will to determine the family size. In that case, people end up having large families just out of default because if you’re not taking any consistent measures against pregnancy, most people will end up having a really large family.” Being pro-active and speaking about it with our partners and discussing amongst our circle of friends or other platforms is critical. Alisha wants to remind people that the number of children they choose to have will impact society and the environment. This is especially true in wealthy parts of the world where the decision to have one fewer child will have more of an impact than anything else that you can do in terms of reducing emissions. “That’s a really important take away”. Family planning in developed countries is critical; a study at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) showed that the average person living in a developed country produces 20 metric tonnes of CO2 per year, compared to the 0.8 produced by a person living in the sub-Saharan region of Africa. “There are about 74 million unintended pregnancies each year” However, as industries begin to move into these areas, those numbers are set to surge. Alisha explains that countries with the highest populations are among the poorest too. “Bringing down fertility rates would mean a higher economic ratio of infants to people working; therefore there would be a smaller dependent population. This would be a huge economic boost and a boost in quality of life.” However, navigating the conversation in developing countries can prove difficult. Graves focuses most of her work in the Sahel region of Africa where women and girls do not typically have much say about their life. Graves work provides services to give girls the tools of negotiation. “We want to help girls get a more even footing in their lives. For example, when they will marry, who she will marry, will she go to school or stay in the home”. These services include ‘safe spaces’ where girls go and speak about their bodies, their hopes, and dreams. “Enabling those conversations to give girls a chance to consider their options, and think about what they want from their lives, including family size. Making sure that women have the right to make these choices is imperative”.

The areas in which these ‘safe spaces’ have been ongoing have seen significant success. “In Nigeria, before the programmes, the average marriage age was 14 years old. Now it is 16 to 17 years old.” Although this does not seem much, Graves explains that there is a huge difference. “At this age, you are better able to negotiate and deliberate decision making. You have learned key life skills”. In the same area, enrolment in secondary schools went from 2% to 80%. “Making it a social norm is key to the programme’s success”. “Making sure that women have the right to make these choices is imperative” Graves explains that in developed countries, it is easy to take access to family planning for granted. “Most women in the western world intend to have two [children]. She will spend five years of her life trying to get pregnant or breastfeeding and 30 having to actively avoid pregnancy. Avoiding pregnancy is consistent family planning throughout their life”. Without access to contraception or family planning information, it is likely that you will have a large family out of default. In areas where there is no access to family planning, other measures are taken to avoid pregnancy. Alisha explains, “women will wear 'Gris-gris,' these are believed to prevent pregnancy.” Other, more modern approaches include taking note of when you are ovulating. These methods are far less reliable than other birth control options that exist, but not all women have access to them. Around 95% of this growth is happening in developing countries, where people have a relatively low carbon footprint. However, in the U.S, where individual carbon emissions are much higher, one in two pregnancies are unintended. It is clear that more developed countries are failing women with respect to family planning. In January 2012 EFC (Education for Choice) undertook a ten-month project to investigate the current state of abortion education in schools, it found that at least a third of women will have had an abortion by the time they are 45. The report states, “Unplanned pregnancy and abortion are part of our lives, and can affect people of all faiths and cultural backgrounds. It is crucial therefore that young people’s education on pregnancy options is sensitive and relevant to their experiences, as well as medically accurate”. Artefact spoke with teachers across the U.K about access to family planning information in schools. Emily Haworth, a biology teacher in the North 49


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East, says “they massively avoid it in my school because they are Catholic. It is spoken about briefly in PSHE, but they do not tackle it head on”. GCSE science teacher Devon Hegarty explains, “they speak about contraception in biology, mainly discussing the effects of the hormones in birth control pills. We teach it in our Religious Education lessons, looking at different contraceptives”. Jessica Gledhill, a 23-year-old teacher in Birmingham, says, “Our school covers it in science lessons, we give out free condoms.” It appears that family planning both in developing and wealthy countries could be improved. However, religious and social barriers may prove an issue. A Christian organisation, LoveWise, aims to be a relationship advice organisation. However, they refuse to teach contraception methods and family planning to those who are unmarried, labelling it ‘sinful’, and also make medically inaccurate claims about abortion. Artefact spoke to a LoveWise leader who wanted to remain anonymous. “Sex outside marriage is wrong, so contraception outside marriage is wrong. Within marriage, we do not give advice on contraception as we believe it to be too personal.” The lack of education that a religious relationship advice organisation is willing to give grants at least a partial explanation to why 62 million girls who still face a lack of access to education and over 220 million women have an unmet need for family planning. Other barriers to this solution proposed by The Drawdown, include the taboo of fertility control when it comes to the environment. People are hesitant to make the connection between population and the environment. Graves explains, “It used to be front and centre. In the late 60s early 70s. It was popular knowledge that the human population was growing faster than ever before and we could see the effects on resources and on the environment”. “In 90s there were some really bad coercive methods of family planning, such as the one-child policy in China,” Governments were telling couples what to do. Graves explains, “In some parts of the U.S there was forced sterilisation. “62 million girls who still face a lack of access to education and over 220 million women have an unmet need for family planning” Women were being sterilised without knowing about it.” Due to these few but terrible coercive methods, there was a backlash, and it was seen that by linking population trends with the environment and government policy would cause people to take these drastic measures. 50

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“So it became, for some people, not possible to talk about population and instead, there was a real focus on individual reproductive sexual health and rights, and I’m all for that. I want to encourage a dialogue about the population as long as we focus on voluntary family planning.” Wilkinson outlines that according to the Brookings Institution, “the difference between a woman with no years of schooling and with 12 years of schooling is almost four to five children per woman. And it is precisely in those areas of the world where girls are having the hardest time getting educated that population growth is the fastest”. It is surprising to find that just 1% of overseas development assistance is going towards family planning. This would help the economy, climate, mothers' well being, family health, and general quality of life. “This needs to increase to at least 2%” Graves explains. Due to the lack of funding in less developed countries, the schools

do not perform well, and people feel discouraged or disillusioned. “In the poorest parts of the world, the situation is bleak,” says Graves. In Kaduna, in northern Nigeria, women’s literacy is just 21%. “Parents often send their 1st girl to school and see that as a sacrifice as she could be working. But when she finishes school, and she can’t read a basic sentence, they don’t then send their younger daughters to school. Poor quality of primary education is a disincentive for schooling.” Nobel laureate and girls’ education activist Malala Yousafzai has famously said, “one child, one teacher, one book, and one pen, can change the world.” Educating girls as a solution to tackling climate change is down to The Drawdown study that concluded, “educated girls realise higher wages and greater upward mobility, contributing to economic growth”. Girls with secondary education are less likely to marry as children or against their will. When given the life skills that they learn in secondary schools, the Drawdown found that educated women’s agricultural plots are more productive and their families better nourished. They are more empowered at home, at work and in society. “Education lays a foundation for vibrant lives

for girls and women, their families and their communities” Wilkinson explains. The study shows that investment in educating girls is “highly cost-competitive with almost all of the existing options for carbon emissions abatement, perhaps just $10 per ton of carbon dioxide.” Education also equips women to face the most dramatic climatic changes. Graves demonstrates, “A 2013 study found that educating girls is the single most important social and economic factor associated with a reduction in vulnerability to natural disasters”. This conclusion was drawn from examining the experiences of 125 countries since 1980 and echoes other analyses. The current barriers to women earning an education are varied. Economic barriers in the poorest parts of the world see the direct need for girls to contribute to the home's survival, including getting water and firewood, which are prioritised over education. Cultural barriers to the education of girls are prevalent in many parts of the world. There are beliefs that girls should tend to the home rather than learn to read and write, should be married off at a young age. Boys will be sent to school over girls if resources are slim. The higher number of males in a school environment contributes to safety barriers; gender-based violence puts girls at risk when going to school. “Today, 130 million girls are denied the right to attend school” Graves is working towards a policy of free secondary schools in the sub-Saharan regions of Africa. Currently, safe spaces are affordable 200 dollars for two years, and they are lead by a mentor in their community. “Families are willing to sacrifice this fee if they see results”, explains Graves. Within these spaces, the girls say they want to read, write and help their community. The clubs can offer them basic life skills. “They learn nutrition, family planning, social networks, can express themselves”. When implemented, the results of educating girls and family planning are hugely successful. Alisha Graves explains: “Iran put a program into place in the early 1990s that has been praised as among the most successful efforts in history involving religious leaders, educating the public and provided free access to contraception. ertility rates halved in one decade. “Family planning requires social reinforcement — radio and soap operas are now used in many places to shift perceptions,” says Graves, who continues her research at Berkeley University and urges others to keep the conversation open about family planning. ●


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‘BLACKFACE’ The controversy over white Instagrammers accused of pretending to be people of colour

Words: Arri Grewal Images: Kate Bernardi 51


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You’ve probably seen Emma Hallberg pop up once or twice on your Instagram explore page. Her posed selfies captured during sunset, popularly known as ‘golden hour’ accentuating her golden skintone, her glistening highlighter and her glossy pouty lips have made the 19-year old a catch on Instagram. The Swedish social-influencer has previously been featured on Teen Vogue for her beauty hacks and has since amassed a large following on social media. A first glance at Emma’s Instagram may have you believe she was either bi-racial, Latina or a lightskinned black girl living in Sweden — due to her tanned skin, her black, curly, textured hair and ethnically ambiguous features. However, contrary to her selfies, Emma is fully white and fully Swedish. Her racial identity drove Twitter into a frenzy as some had wrongly believed that the social-influencer was bi-racial (half black and half white) and she was deceptively masking herself as a woman of colour. The controversy began when an image of Emma resurfaced in 2018 of her with straight hair, lighter-skin and distinguished Caucasian features. The before and after images caught the attention of many online users who felt that the 19-year old’s dark skin-tone, despite living in a mild-climate country, was a form of new-age ‘blackface’ and her style mimicking the aesthetic of black women as cultural appropriation. The phrase ‘n***fishing’/blackfishing’ was coined by online users to illustrate how white-social influencers like Emma have allegedly fabricated their appearance to pass as bi-racial on their social media accounts. The term ‘n***fishing’ is an amalgam of the word ‘catfish’, an expression given to someone pretending to be someone else, and the derogatory racist word ‘nigg*r’. Despite the allegations made against her, Emma maintains her innocence on her Instagram and explained she’s never claimed to be bi-racial, and the image that sparked the controversy was taken in a different season, hence the lighter-skin tone. Through a series of photos and images posted on her story, Emma demonstrated that herself and her family naturally tan dark, that both her and her mother have genetically curly hair, and she’s never used lip-fillers to enhance her features. “I do not get sponsorships, work opportunities and collaborations because of the colour of my skin. I get it because of the way I style my clothes and create my make-up looks.” Nonetheless, her explanation wasn’t enough for an overwhelming majority on social media. In the effort to gain more spotlight and brand deals on Instagram, some white social influencers are alleged to have consciously changed their appearance to present themselves as a different race; a tactic that has been noticed by wom52

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en of colour. “This is a strategic way to boost themselves on social media. They [social-influencers] have seen that it’s worked for the Kardashian’s. So, they’re just following the formula that the [Kardashian] family left for them,” freelance writer, Wanna Thompson, told Artefact. In two of her Instagram posts, Emma is seen promoting a deep, curly-textured wig on herself, endorsed by wig business Ywigs. The business has only featured black women on their Instagram feed and may have misidentified Hallberg as a woman of colour. Wanna and other vocal Twitter users found that Hallberg had intentionally used her racially ambiguous persona to take advantage of black businesses that are intended for black customers, and black social influencers. “I believe Emma and the other white women are very aware. White women are often afforded the privilege of innocence and victimhood, but I’m not buying it.” Wanna, with over 20,000 followers on Twitter, continued the dialogue of white social-influencers impersonating as black/biracial women. She tweeted “Can we start a thread and post all of the white girls cosplaying as black women on Instagram…”, and further exposed several known social-influencers for their adaptation of new-age ‘blackface’ and cultural appropriation. White social-influencer


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has often been condemned for playing a heavy role in the recent phenomenon as society obsesses with the perfect pout for their Instagram photos. Whilst many women from all ethnic backgrounds are born with these desirable and on-trend features, there is a causal issue of white women, in particular, transforming their European appearance in the hope of passing as biracial or, at-least, racially ambiguous. For Youtuber and presenter Fourens, the critical issue of Emma and other white social influencers playing as biracial women is entrenched from Eurocentric beauty standards. “We were told we weren’t beautiful enough, and our skin colour wasn’t nice, our features that make us so distinct, our nose, lips aren’t nice. They’re never nice on black women,” Fourens told Artefact. “But then you have people that come in and steal those parts of your culture and our genetic makeup and use it to their advantage.” New age ‘blackface’ has different intentions but still has the same problematic undertones. In May 2018, Vogue Italia was met with criticism over their magazine cover featuring model Gigi Hadid in apparent ‘blackface’. The detrimental images showed the blonde, blueeyed and fair-skinned model as a bi-racial woman as her skin was tanned, and she wore an afro-textured wig. Vogue Italia hasn’t been the only fashion publication to notoriously depict new-age ‘blackface’. In a 2013 edition of French glossy, Numero, Caucasian model Ondria Hardin posed as an African Queen, despite patently not being African. The model’s skin-tone was excessively darkened, and she posed in ethnic African clothing to illustrate a black African woman. While the models cannot explicitly be blamed for the outcome of the ‘blackface’ images as they’re following the publication’s directions, they should be consciously aware of the look they’re being asked to portray. Why did neither model stop and think: “Wait for a second, I’m not black so why am I Mika Francis was also put in the firing line for her culturally appropriative style as she pictured herself in dreadlocks and braided hairstyles, associated with black culture. The Instagram-influencer with over 130,000 followers was mistaken as a woman of colour by her followers until images surfaced of Mika looking distinctively Caucasian a few years ago. Online users accusing Mika of ‘blackfishing’ also alleging that Mika had injected her lips, and excessively tanned herself to look the part of a bi-racial woman. “Black culture is influential. People think they can participate because a lot of people, mainly celebrities have made it welcoming for all to participate,” Wanna said. “While people want to participate in the ‘culture’, they never want the responsibility and

suffering that comes with being black. To put it simply, "they want our rhythm but not our blues.” For decades, black women have been objectified for their voluptuous curves, their distinct features and most importantly their coarse hair texture. In the 19th Century, Sarah Baartman was infamously caged and exhibited as a freakshow attraction for having large buttocks. In 2017, there were an estimated 335,600 buttock augmentations through fat transfer, and an estimated 43,000 buttock lifts were performed globally, in accordance with the International Society of Aesthetic and Cosmetic Surgery. Lip-fillers have also become the most popular-non-surgical form of cosmetic treatment, with an increase of 50% for 18-55-year-olds between 2000 and 2016. Social media 53


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posing as one? Brands will rather have racially ambiguous looking women on their covers than black women. These women will continue to work with these big brands and continue to get work because they are the women they’d rather see,” Fourens told us. Black hairstyles and black identity have hit a mainstream nerve and has evoked an uncomfortable response from black individuals that are invalidated for having the same style. Fourens gave an example of how Marc Jacobs exhibited dreadlocks on his Caucasian models for his 2016 runway show and did not cast a single black model although he showcased a hairstyle associated with black culture. In professional workplaces and in every-day life, black men and women are viewed in a condemnatory manner for wearing hair-styles like dreadlocks, although they are constituted as fashionable when whitewashed by the industry. Let’s also not forget when Kim Kardashian-West called her Fulani braids ‘Bo Derek Braids’ in reference to the white actress seen wearing them in her 70s film. Kim’s disregard for the history of black women’s hair isn’t surprising as her culturally appropriative behaviour is frequently picked up by the media, and it’s influenced an attitude in which people think it’s fine to adopt black attributes with no cultural understanding. “I want people to turn their actual attention to black women and make an effort to

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connect with influencers and content creators who are producing amazing work,” Wanna concludes. “It’s clear that a lot of black women are being overlooked for these white women, so that narrative needs to change.” Jada Rice has devoted a vast majority of her career in the betterment of the black community as she specialised in African American studies. The 22-year-old came to Emma’s defence online by suggesting that the social-influencer wasn’t calculatedly posing as a black woman on her Instagram, and the approach towards her from online users should have been different. In the aftermath of Emma’s images circulating the web, she was forced to close the comments on her Instagram pictures and YouTube video, due to the number of hateful comments being received. Jada told Artefact, “Not only is the term (n***fishing) problematic itself, but the series of tweets themselves are problematic. I think when evaluating different social media influencers, it’s very important to pay attention to the intent behind their pictures and posts.” Jada continued by saying that many non-black social influencers do capitalise from black culture to gain popularity and that it is problematic and detrimental to the black community. “When you have several non-black women excessively tanning, wearing black hairstyles, and surgically enhancing themselves to have features that resemble the features that


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black women were once mocked for, it’s damaging.” However, in Emma’s case, Jada judges that her images were taken out of context, and Emma has done nothing wrong. The subject of white influencers appropriating minority cultures took another turn when Twitter user @ rmtracklist outed a white woman for appropriating East-Asian culture. The Instagram influencer, known as ‘Scarebrats’ is shown to have edited the outline of her eyes in various before and after images, in a bid to identify herself as Asian. ‘Sheresponded and confessed to the claims in her Instagram story, “okay fine, and I admit I’m not Korean or Asians. I edit my eyelids into mono-lids. Is what y’all wanted to hear? There you go. Now leave me alone.” Whilst the social-influencer was evidently photoshopping her pictures and admitted to the appropriation, the turmoil of outing a white woman online has led to several women of colour to be wrongly accused. Instagram social influencer and businesswoman, Jacky Oh, was accused of ‘n****fishing’ on Twitter by another user for wearing box braids in a photo she had posted. Jacky was misjudged as a white woman because of her blue eyes, curly blonde-hair and light-skin complexion. Although the mixed-race influencer made no official comment about the allegations, a later tweet by another Twitter user showed the social influencer as an infant with her black father. “There are black women who are very racially ambiguous, and topics like this can be internally damaging to them psychologically,” Jada

told us. “They may turn inward and be afraid to express themselves because they may not feel black enough or they may have different features, hair types, or a lighter complexion.” The conversation surrounding new-age ‘blackface’ triggered a concoction of diverse opinions. Whereas several Twitter users agreed that ‘black-fishing’ is a prejudicial issue with the example of these social influencers, others came online with the attack that the issue is an over-reaction. ‘Generation snowflake’ is a slang term given specifically to millennials that are characterised as over-emotional and easily offended, and users weren’t afraid of dismissing ‘black-fishing’ as a case of this. Morgon Gibson (@gibbyxxxx) tweeted “Why the f*ck am I seeing tweets saying having a tan is racist. Wtf (what the f*ck) is wrong with people these days.” Her tweet attracted over 20,000 likes, and several users in the replies expressed the same thoughts. “Sometimes people become so outraged by a situation that they jump on the bandwagon instead of doing their research first. It’s important that we ask questions before pressing send on a tweet that can ruin someone’s life once it goes viral on a picture that was taken out of context,” Jada said. As society is evolving to become more politically tolerant and aware of individuals lifestyle choices, could transracial become the next thing? The term came to the media’s attention when civil rights activist and leader of NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) Rachel Dolezal deceptively identified as a black woman, despite being racially white. Rachel, who’s legally changed her name to Nkechi, coats herself in fake-tan and regularly perms her hair. “Identities are formed by our families, our church, our school, our geography. For her [Rachel], all of those were white. Her first identity was white,” Chad Goller-Sojourner, a transracial family coach, told NPR. Rachel’s ‘transracial’ identity was met with adverse reactions, predominantly by black individuals who believe Rachel hasn’t experienced the same racial struggles as they have. The fundamental issue with being transracial is that it plays into white privilege. White people can cher-

ry-pick another culture or ethnicity and then chose to relinquish their ‘newfound identity’ when it suits them. But people of colour will be judged by their racial characteristics, and despite making the equivalent choices, a white person will make. “Rachel can have an affiliation, maybe feel more comfortable with the black community, but identifying with the black community does not make her black. It was a lie that got out of hand,” said Goller-Sojourner. The conflict surrounding Emma’s images highlight underlying issues to do with race and misrepresentation, that have subsequently weaved their way into Instagram. Having a tan is not the problem in this matter, and if it were racially insensitive, then we’d all be guilty of a Saturday scrub of Bondi Sands when we’re on holiday. The issue Twitter users and primarily people of colour have raised is that these popular, white, social-influencers, intentionally or not, are only exploiting the aesthetic and on-trend features from ethnic cultures and using them for personal gain. “This is part of a wider issue of appropriation. It is a racist act for these white influencers to have the audacity to pose online as a completely different race, and impose their presence in spaces that could be for black women,” Fourens said. The on-going controversies in the fashion and beauty industry fuel the unceasing discussion of how brands and publications overlook black models and instead appoint Caucasian models to caricature ‘blackface’. The fashion moguls’ favourite line when excusing ‘blackface’, is “I don’t see colour.” However, this approach only marginalises openings for black individuals when the only colour they chose to not see is black. ● 55


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How do we keep British pubs in business? From Italian classes, jazz nights and loyalty cards, our nation's social hubs are fighting to stay alive

The sticky-sweet smell of old ale and jaeger-stained carpet infuses the indoor, log-fire-warmed air. Bodies cram against the soaked, beer-mat-dressed mahogany bar as an old school-like bell is sounded for last orders. Could these qualities be mistaken for anything other than a cosy English pub? As a nation, it’s safe to say that we can raise a glass to the long-standing tradition of British pub culture. Though we can celebrate the departure of indoor smoking areas and the idea that boozers are predominantly male-occupied spaces, gone are the days of loyalty and feeling a sense of community amongst local establishments. We can point fingers at notoriously cheap alcohol in supermarkets and 2-for-1 cocktail pitchers at Wetherspoons, but this is not enough to understand why the beating hearts of many villages, towns and cities are in steep decline. Regardless of the scapegoats, recent industry figures from the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) show that in the first six months of 2018, we lost 476 pubs — which is 13 more than closed in the last six months of the previous year. The North-West and South-East of England appeared to suffer the most with an alarming 60 closures per week, whereas the North-East and Scotland lost between 10 and 15. The desire to binge-drink has decreased, particularly among the crowd aged 18-25. A recently-published study in the journal BMC Public Health found that 25% of young Britons consider themselves non-drinkers. The study, carried out by University College Researchers showed that, in addition, binge-drinking rates also dropped from 27% in 2005 to 18% in 2015. Brigid Simmonds, chief executive of the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) suggests that sales figures are reflective of the increased popularity to drink at home as it’s better value for money. “70% of all alcohol visiting in supermarkets and the off-trade, for beer it’s still just over 50% sold in the off-trade and just under 50% is sold in the pub. Despite this, people will still go to pubs because beer tastes better from a draught than it does from a bottle, also for the social engagement that it provides,” she says. 56

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“When people meet with friends they want good quality food at reasonable prices and entertainment”

As the price of one glass of wine could buy you a bottle in a supermarket, pubs are required to offer unconventional services to attract more clients and make their visit worthwhile. Tina Foster, 49, is landlady of two pubs in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, The Royal William and The Duke of Wellington. She believes that unless there’s a reason other than alcohol, people won’t come out.

Words: Lydia Tsiouva Image: Don Barrett/flickr

“We as a company have to be conscious of pricing, if it’s too expensive people won’t come back. When people meet with friends, they want good quality food at reasonable prices and entertainment,” she says. Although it’s possible to accommodate certain needs, limitations instated by the law have played a significant role in the general hindrance of pub performance, Foster suggests. “The smoking ban has also contributed to pubs being in decline. Working men used to go to the pub for a pint before going home. A cigarette and pint used to go hand in hand. Pre-loading is also a big issue, in the past people would meet at pubs and then move onto clubs. Nowadays people drink before they come out, hence they only have one drink in the pub despite not having spent much,” she says. Colette Downing, a 23-year-old barmaid from Essex now working in Greenwich, explains the impact caused by a lack of attention to trends: “I used to work in a pub in Penge called The Crooked Billet. It had no pull and looked like it had been done up in the 70s and then never refurbished since. Because of


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that, it had virtually no new clients apart from the same few regulars who had been attending for over 30 years,” she says. According to Simmonds, pub culture is now much more food led: “We serve a billion meals a year in pubs throughout the UK. We actually have 50,000 bedrooms in pubs so we’re very much part of the hospitality and tourism industry,” she says. Downing measures the difference that food service and interior can make by comparing her previous employment with the family-run Italian pub she currently works in, The Prince of Greenwich. “What’s unique is that it is hugely personal to the Sicilian couple who own it. The pub is full of art they’ve collected from around the world so it has a curated spiel to it. In addition to serving food and putting on jazz nights throughout the week, they’ve also held Italian classes in the past. It’s always buzzing because the owners are so widely respected in the community and make people feel like they’re at home,” she says. Whilst food is still the most common approach to luring more clients in, providing accommodation can also strengthen the name of the establishment whilst ensuring it survives especially in challenging market condition, for example, when alcohol revenue is affected by a spike in tax. “My friends in Yorkshire converted some outbuildings into toilets and showers, cleared a field to make it the only campsite for miles around and have never looked back. Their pub and their income are now thriving,” says Simon Mills, an Essex based pub-goer of over 45 years. When there’s competition around, however, a pub has to be welcoming for different audiences simultaneously, especially in an area popular with tourists. “Our Bourton-On-the-Water site has locals and lots of tourists. We have to tempt both sides in. For the tourists, it’s the garden by the river and location and meal deal offers. For the locals, Sky Sports and locality cards which can be used on both sites. In the summer, we have beer festivals with live music to encourage new customers to come and try us. We have to keep trying to find a unique selling point. Which isn’t always easy,” Foster tells us. The issue pegged to undergoing a gastro-makeover is its potential to

rupture the relationship between the long-standing pub-goer and the venue itself. Surging prices in a low-income area limit local residents’ access; only permitting a specific, and usually, a middle-class audience to afford it. “Because of the makeovers they’re becoming more expensive and they’re becoming more gentrified. Penge is not a well-off area, so the prices reflected that. Because The Crooked Billet was the only pub in Penge that didn’t undergo a refurbishment, we experienced a new wave of people that other locals had pushed away, so I think this separation is a big part to blame for pub closures.” Locations in South-East London such as Deptford and Penge have also faced challenges from the arrival of trendy, new, gentrified bars catering to a wealthier demographic who don’t inhabit the area. “Places are wanting to cater to the nouveau riche. It’s this kind of weird sect of tourism where people think it’s cool to go out in places that aren’t economically stable and I find that problematic. I don’t think it’s bad to open these sorts of places as long as they’re catering to the clients they already have,” Downing says. With more rivalry and less potential to turn over high profits, Simmonds suggests that being heavily active across all social media platforms must be considered if a pub wants to succeed against its competitors. “It’s absolutely vital for small independent businesses. The days are gone where you can sit in a pub and wait for people to walk through the door. You’ve got to be on social media, you’ve got to have decent websites and good offerings to get people to come to your venue rather than the rest of the competition out there,” she said. Depending on the area, however, places like The Fat Walrus in New Cross, south-east London find that the use of these tools so far hasn’t made a difference to their traffic so they rarely use it at all. “They only use Instagram and even that not so much, it’s more the occasional post but I’m not sure how many people look at it. For example one day when we had a big kitchen turnover we shut the kitchen for one day, posted it on the Instagram to let customers know and it didn’t work, so we don’t push it that much,” said 24 year-old barman Joe Acanfora.

Being less than 100 metres away from Goldsmiths University and comfortably getting by through busy evening periods and serving popular street-food on trendy blue-rimmed tin plates, it’s less of a priority to boost their recognition. “Because the prices here are a bit cheaper than average pubs in London and because we’ve got so many students in the area we’re always guaranteed to have people come in,” Acanfora says. A crowd of students cannot be held responsible for the determination of trends, but in The Fat Walrus’ case, their presence may be enough to drive away older locals, which could demonstrate why demands change. “I think that the older crowd who come here, come here so much more when it’s not a peak time for students. I started working over summer so I saw all the regulars come in every other day. Some of them I haven’t seen since September but I don’t think it’s to say decoration and music makes a difference to who turns up and who doesn’t,” Acanfora says. Whilst it’s a positive that low-income students are keeping UK pub culture alive, this might not be enough to thrive if Brexit’s impact leaves thousands of venues understaffed or without management, Simmonds suggests. “There is a whole range of issues to do with Brexit depending on what outcome we have. First of all, 24% of employees in pubs are from overseas, 17% from the EU. That rises to 80% in certain pubs in certain places, particularly metropolitan areas like London,” she says. As one of the most powerful decision-makers, the internet often leaves us wanting what other people have; whether this is scrolling past a photo of a locally sourced IPA or envying an experience through a mouth-wateringly descriptive review on Trip Advisor. Nowadays its common to explore a breadth of options online, but the evolution of pub culture has been taking place long before the current influence of social media. “Terms such as artisan or craft ale have simply been created by marketing companies, eager to get you to sample their client’s wares. It was happening when I was a teenager and it will continue. Who drinks tequila sunrises or Harvey Wallbangers nowadays? I rest my case,” Mills says. ● 57


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Ministry of Loneliness Battling a social epidemic that has physical and mental impacts on thousands

“Young or old, loneliness doesn’t discriminate,” said Jo Cox, the murdered MP who set up the Loneliness Commission to increase the public’s awareness and to address the need for change. In 2018 Theresa May appointed a new minister of loneliness, Tracey Crouch, following the success of the Commission, which brought together 13 organisations to highlight the scale of the issue which affects older and younger people, employers and their employees, children and new parents, people with disabilities, refugees and carers. The report found that more than nine million adults feel usually lonely. That’s almost 14% of the UK population, but the figures could be higher. Labour MP Rachel Reeves, the co-chair of the Commission, said that “loneliness is no longer just a personal misfortune but has grown into a social epidemic.” It is a mental issue that can grow into a physically harmful problem. It can have lasting effects on a person. Weak social connection can become as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness puts stress on individuals and on society “[and] has escalated into a social epidemic,” says Reeves. It costs UK employers £2.5 billion per year and disconnected communities could be costing the UK economy £32 billion every year. Sophia Luu founded On the Mend last year to use “design for good” to promote positive social change. The collective of design students from all backgrounds are committed to healthcare and improving healthcare environments. Their first project together was the ‘Ministry of Loneliness’ in collaboration with the Tate Exchange — a designated space on the fifth floor of the Blavatnik Building at the Tate Modern for “all to play, create, reflect and question what art can mean to our every day.” The project highlighted the fact that young and old people are both vulnerable to the side-effects of loneliness. A third of old people feel isolated, and the second largest group that is affected are 21 to 35-year-olds. Sophia wanted to illustrate that small things can make a difference too. Taking a little time to go out of your way to help someone else can really help someone that is struggling. The idea brought people together to engage in public conversation and combat the issue 58

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in a simple way. 81% of people agreed that there are lots of actions everyone can take in their daily lives to help those feeling lonely. One of the artists from the On the Mend collective, Laura Madeley, came up with the idea to incorporate the concept of a ministry, inspired by the appointment of a Minister for Loneliness. The concept of combining art and healthcare is slightly unusual, especially with institutional setbacks such as cuts, and funding being focused on medicine rather than art. Sophia found that it can be hard to get funding for art in institutional spaces, but the collective believes in the importance of art to make people feel better. The event was based around writing letters to people in long-term healthcare, the elderly in care homes and those likely to be feeling lonely, such as people living cystic-fibrosis (CF). Cystic fibrosis is an isolating disease — people with it are more vulnerable to health complications as they are more likely to pick-up infections and cross-infection from other people with CF, which is why they cannot meet face-to-face. Molly Bonnell is a member of the collective and is also currently completing her Master’s at Central Saint Martins. She also has cystic fibrosis and has allowed her illness to influence her art. She can’t communicate with others in person without risking exposure, so she uses online platforms and groups to engage with the CF community to help

Words: Maha Khan Photo: Lorenza Demata and Maha Khan

combat the isolation it causes. Each letter had a number and a prompt such as “what is your favourite time of day”, the writer could use the number later to track where it ended up.. More than 700 hundred people attended the event, and 300 letters were written. On the Mend hopes to collaborate with schools and bring the Ministry of Loneliness pop-up around the country to spread awareness and demonstrate that it only takes a small gesture to makes someone feel special. The design team have been surprised and encouraged by the response they have had so far. Luu has found the number of conversations, the number of people coming forward to share their experiences and the “generosity of the people who have shared their time” very heart-warming; it’s wonderful to know that they are making progress and laying the foundation for change in society. Luu believes “it’s the little things that boost morale” like hand-writing letters. A lot of people think this issue can’t be helped, but talking about it makes a huge difference. Small things like taking the time visit your grandparents or smiling at a stranger. Organisations such as the Mix and the Uni Bubble are also trying to start conversations online, connecting younger people who feel isolated. The Mix is an online platform that aims to provide essential support on issues such as mental


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health and relationships for under 25s. Their mission statement is that “all young people should be able to make informed choices about their physical and mental wellbeing so that they can live better lives.” The Uni Bubble has a Facebook group for university students called Tackling Youth Loneliness. Taylan Gul founded the initiative in 2016 in his second year at Loughborough University at with the “aim of creating a global community for students to share experiences”. It began as a blog to begin with to offer advice to students and has grown from there. “The Uni Bubble is passionate about creating a better world for students, and youth loneliness is the first of many issues we’re going to tackle through our platform. We realised through our article on loneliness at the university that this is an issue many students and young people are experiencing, so this group is our little way of tackling the issue. Through this group, everyone involved has a safe space to speak on their experience and to support one another.” The Tackling Youth Loneliness group has almost 3,000 members that share their experiences and provide support for each other from all over the world. It offers a space for young people to connect and discuss as well events such as panel discussions held at universities. The Uni Bubble hopes to eventually take the “community a lot further in the future and put on more offline events.” The statistics on loneliness are worrying. More than one-in-three people aged 75 and over say that feelings of loneliness are out of their control. For 3.6 million people aged 65 and over television is the main form of company. More than onein-ten men say they are lonely but would not admit it to anyone. As Jo Cox put it, loneliness doesn’t exclude anyone, it is a “giant evil” of our time. Loneliness is not just a UK epidemic, it is affecting hundreds of thousands of, mainly male, Japanese adolescents, some reports predict figures of a million. Tamaki Saitō is a psychiatrist who specialises in puberty and adolescence and began researching the “hikikomori” phenomenon in the early 1990s when he was overwhelmed by parents asking for help with their unresponsive teenagers. The Hikikomori are generally males varying from 15-30-year-olds, who have

retreated and are traumatised by social withdrawal caused by school or pressures to find work. The effects of being isolated from society are difficult to predict, but often the longer they have been “hiding in their bedrooms”, the harder it is to leave; the symptoms can vary from infantile behaviour to violent outbursts. Perhaps our modern lives are to blame. We spend more of our time alone, working at home more, engaging less with local communities, and more often with our phones. People are always online and connected, but disconnected. “When the culture and the communities that once connected us to one another disappear, we can be left feeling abandoned and cut off from society,” Reeves said after a year-long study into the issue.The most cited agitator of the problem is also the solution for many adolescents. Teenagers and young adults feel isolated by social media but turn to it to maintain friendships and in some cases, make new friends. According to a study on Loneliness and online friendships in emerging adults from Griffith University, the Internet seems to attract individuals who are lonely because it offers them broader social networks than are available offline. These “altered patterns of communication” may help overcome poor social skills. People have the ability to be anonymous, control their physical appearance, and easily find people with similarities, such as mutual interests, to them. In the last year, more than four in five young people have experienced people being kind to them online and 68% said that chatting to their friends online cheers them up. “With this growing prominence, we see that technology is beginning to shift the expectations that young people have around what makes a good friend.” according to Will Gardner, the CEO of Childnet and Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre. He conducted a survey on young people aged 8-17 found that technology is embedded throughout their relationships. This seems to continue into emerging adults as they transition from secondary schools into university and become the most dominant group on social networking site users (SNS). 89% of 1929 year-olds are creating and maintaining a personal and largely public profile. While there have been mixed

findings — some conclusions from other studies suggest that higher internet use was associated with increased loneliness. Due to the fact that time spent online displaced more gratifying face-to-face interactions others found that the internet can stimulate social interaction. Interestingly the results of the study seemed to suggest that romantically lonely adults, who are motivated to meet new people, spend more time communicating with others online, and, through that, have more friends on their SNSs and make more new friends online. There is a growing movement of young adults turning to apps to make friends, especially in large cities such as London. Females tended to have more total of SNS friends. Artefact spoke to several young women who are part of this growing trend of using Tinder to make friends online. Grace, 19, a student at Leeds University has noticed this trend too but isn’t interested in making friends. She would still rather meet people in more natural ways outside of the app. She also finds that males seem to be more hostile towards the idea whereas girls are “generally more open to making friends.” Lucía and Szaga are new to the city and decided to use Tinder to find people with similar interests to hang out with. Lucía has had some success while Szaga feels that “Tinder was a big hit, but now the trend has passed” and she just wants to meet people in real life, as she finds that “people portray each other differently” online. But on the other hand, Emilola, 19, a student at SOAS has made ten friends through Tinder as there is “no obstruction like anxiety or having to go out.” Clara and Lily* decided to meet after matching on the site and chatting for several weeks before meeting up at a night club. Clara hadn’t been using the app intentionally to make friends but came in “open-minded” and has made another friend this way. But is there a difference between making friends online and offline? For this age group, social media seems to blend seamlessly into friendships regardless of their origin and perhaps it is another way to combat the loneliness of a large city. ● * Some names have been changed 59


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BRITANN IA RULE S THE R OADS

Words and images: Marcus Brown

in the s r e v i r d g male all bad? n u o y ulture facing c a r a m c g i t d ative s oy racing an g e n e Th but is b , s t s i s per

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As a young man growing up in the UK, I was exposed to car culture in a variety of ways. You could even say I was overexposed, whether it was Top Gear, Need for Speed, Underground 2 or Hot Wheels — cars managed to seep their way into almost all the popular culture I consumed. These video games stood out for me, being able to customise your car was new and exciting. I still remember countless hours watching my older brother customising paint jobs on a Forza Motorsport 2 (usually flames, half dressed women and ridiculous spoilers). Playing these games opened my eyes to these cars. I soon began pointing out

lifelong driving ban,” didn’t exactly show their best side. In the 1990s to early 2000s boy racers and joy riders were very much in the public consciousness as “enemy number one”, especially among the tabloid newspapers and conservative press. Figures show that almost a quarter of young drivers (23%) crash within two years of passing their driving test, according to the Brake website. How many of these are involved in illegal racing is difficult to tell. Being eight years old in 2005 meant that joining a modified car culture was never really an option. I figured the best way to find out more was by talking to

every Mazda RX8, Subaru Impreza and Golf Mk2 that drove past, much to the annoyance of my dad. But what were people doing with these high-performance cars in a small town like the one I grew up in? In fact all over the UK, people were driving cars built for a race track. I was aware of boy racing through the countless articles in the 2000s, a time when police were really clamping down on dangerous driving. Headlines such as “Kerb crawlers and boy racers face a

the people who were involved. I met barber Jamie Tatlow at his flat in St Albans to talk about his time going to car meet-ups in the early 2000s. Jamie is something of a collector, although he might not say this of himself, but the countless Nike shoe boxes and collection of Noah NYC T-shirts in his wardrobe tell a different story. “I mainly used to drive old Fiestas, late 80s Fiestas, just because at the time I was young and the insurance was cheap,”

said Jamie. “I had a few Mark 2 Fiestas, Fiesta RS Turbo, Fiesta Zetec S, a couple of Mini Cooper ‘S’ supercharged, Fiesta RS1800” — the list went on. As well as owning his fair share of Fiestas, Jamie also managed to crash and write off a few during his youth, racing at the Lakeside shopping centre in Essex. “At night the roads were dead because the shopping centre was closed. It was all dual carriageway and straight roads,” Jamie says. The playground for drivers to show off their custom-built cars. Several high profile crashes in the media mean that modern boy racing as a subculture is less visible than its 90s and 2000s predecessors. “The modified car scene, it’s not died off now, but it’s not as mad as it was back in the 90s and early 2000s. You’d go to Lakeside in Essex on a Saturday, and there would be hundreds of cars there, people racing. In the late 2000s the police locked it down a bit ’cause there was a couple of big crashes at the Lakeside,” said Jamie. It is undeniable that reckless driving can have a devastating effect on those involved. Having left his racing days behind him, Jamie insists there is more to the modified car scene: “Street racing aside, when everyone’s just meeting up in a car park on a Saturday night, everyone’s there, no-one’s causing trouble on the streets. It’s a good environment to be in.” This highlights the underlying problem — for young men growing up in small towns, there isn’t much else to do. Car meet-ups provide a community and give people a sense of belonging: “Where I grew up in Suffolk, it’s a reasonably big town I guess, but there’s not a great deal to do there,” explains Jamie. The one thing car culture can be credited for is its inclusiveness: “You get a lot of people who had just turned 17, with all their mates in their car and then you get blokes who have been involved in cars for 20-30 years,” Jamie tells us. With older drivers moving away from illegal racing, it could be argued they act as role models for the younger drivers. Jamie reminisces on his own time participating in races: “When you’re young and you first pass your test, you go on a bit of a mad one for a couple of years, trying to race everyone and having a fast car. But when you get older, you settle down and move away from that.” After being fined for dangerous driving and witnessing his friends receive a driving ban Jamie realised it was time to stop. Ironically, Jamie blames films for contributing to car culture's bad name. “It’s not like Fast and Furious, and it’s not like in the States where you trash talk each other. Most people in the scene are pretty friendly.” He argues that, unlike in the films, “you’re not racing for pink slips. You’re racing for bragging rights.” 61


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Jamie tells us he’s noticed a change in the community from when he was younger. “For me, I’ve always worked on my own cars, and it’s the pride of looking at that car and saying ‘people think that car looks sick’ and I built that myself.” However, in recent years, he tells us that the scene has become more about outdoing each other. “Now people are buying brand new cars straight off the forecourt and whacking a £2,000 set of wheels and £2,000 air ride on it. Everyone’s trying to flex and outdo each other. The modified car scene isn’t about that. It’s about what you can afford and doing it yourself.” This shift in attitudes could be representative of a more materialistic and social media-obsessed generation as a whole.Despite opportunities to race in controlled environments becoming more accessible, Jamie believes that boy racing will always exist. “People will always seek the thrill of racing on the streets. It’s that thrill of doing something illegal.” We asked Jamie if he still has contact with many people from the car meets he used to attend, to which he replies “I’ve sort of drifted apart from them,” surprisingly, there was no pun intended. After talking to Jamie, I wanted to get the perspective of someone interested in car culture now. We met up with Jake Khodabacus, whose love for cars is rooted in the music that surrounds it. He picked me up in his purple Golf Mk3, finished with purple leather interior. “Highlines were produced in Schwartz Black and Mulberry. They came with colour coded leather,” Jake explains. A USB plugged into his car radio played Croydon-born dubstep producer Benga as we drove around North London . What separates the UK’s car culture from the rest of the world is the intrinsic link to other cultures. Music is a huge part of it.. Being from London, the city that produced grime and dubstep, it is no surprise that Jake’s relationship with cars

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is tied to music. “The rave scene, for instance, you’d get people bombing it down the motorway in Sierra Cosworths, old Bimmers and old Golfs to go to the rave and come back. That was all very part of the experience,” Jake explains. For many people in the UK, their love of cars comes from nostalgia: “That’s what separates the UK car scene, that link between nightlife and young culture.” For many young people living in London, the idea of having a car doesn’t even cross their mind. The traffic, congestion charge and parking do not outweigh the upsides of owning your own car. “I wanted to have something of my own, a lot of people see cars as a means of transportation, they’ve always meant a little bit more to me,” Jake says. With all these downsides, there has to be a more personal motivation for owning a car in the capital. Jake’s love for cars began in his youth: “Growing up, personally, I’ve always been in and out of Volkswagens. Mark 1 GTIs, Mark 2 GTIs, Mark 3 GTIs, VR6s, 1.4 turbos, I’ve been in pretty much every single variant.” One of the biggest reasons young men aren’t buying cars is the extortionate costs to insure their car. A study carried out by Money Supermarket in January 2018 showed that young male drivers aged 17-19 were quoted twice the amount than drivers aged 25-29. It is argued that the boy racer stereotype contributes to these high prices, despite it being made illegal for car insurance companies to factor in gender when pricing insurance. ‘Boy racer’ is not a term that is commonly associated with young men living in central London. That being said, it is interesting that location has little influence on the high amount of insurance they have to pay. “The term ‘boy racer’ in my view came from rural parts of the UK that had very big open roads and country lanes. Living out in the sticks, these people are probably into agriculture or

machinery work, so when they get a car, they want to use their hands. In London, people work jobs where they don’t really have the opportunity to tinker with stuff or take things apart,” says Jake. “It’s a bit shit that I have to pay a lot of insurance, but at the same time, it doesn’t really tarnish the fact that I have the car that I wanted,” says Jake. However, he feels insurance companies’ algorithms are impersonal. “Everyone who drives a modified car would never in their life imagine crashing it. Insurance companies are quick to write off old cars rather than pay out, because of what it’s worth in their eyes. When people don’t declare their modifications, and they have small smack in their car, they could literally lose everything.” At the other end of the spectrum, you have people who lease expensive cars they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford. Lease cars are a growing market “the total number of vehicles on contract is up 10% from the end of 2016,” according to the BVRLA. Jake, who saved up to buy his own car believes that “people that hire purchase cars, it might be nice having that car, but plunging yourself into debt because you want something too early is a little bit short-sighted.” An inevitable consequence of an instant gratification generation, “that’s only due to the demands of social media and people around you,” Jake continues. This goes back to what Jamie told us about the materialistic nature of car meets in 2018. Jake’s own exposure to car culture and street racing came at an early age visiting Southend: “You’d go down the pier, and there’d be everyone in their cars. Flying up and down and just having a good time.” Perhaps this represents what street racing and car modification is all about, feeling a sense of belonging in a community. Often coming from rural parts of the UK that are underrepresented. “The sad thing about it is people


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“A lot of people se e cars as a means o f transportation bu t they've always me ant a little bit more to me”

who do drive recklessly, do crash... It’s very unfortunate the vast majority of media coverage is young drivers.” Jake says. His memories of Southend are positive, but he understands the dangers of street racing. “I feel like people within that scene have matured. Police can take your car, you can lose your license, for those seconds of bliss, it’s not worth it.” The modified car scene is often criticised but rarely celebrated. One thing that goes unmentioned is the engineering and craftsmanship that goes into these cars. Aaron Logan is a 20-year-old mechanic from Ashford, and a believer in modifying cars himself: “I did two years at college doing motorsport engineering, and taught myself through that.” It's these skills that the UK’s custom car scene can be commended for. “It’s a project. It’s fun. You can start from scratch and build it how you want it,” Aaron explains. Pairing young drivers with career paths in mechanics and engineering could be a way to shake the negative stigma. Aaron tells us that people with modified cars are more likely to drive well, because “they have more respect for the car than people who finance a new car and rag it about.” Jamie, Jake and Aaron have all said that drivers who have financed expensive cars are often more likely to drive dangerously than people with modified cars. Having been to car meets, Aaron explains that people are quite sporting, “you do

get a few dickheads, people who rock up in a brand new A45 AMG. They come to be the boss, but they’ve got no interest in cars whatsoever.” Aaron tells me that most car meets are arranged through Facebook groups, however, they are becoming more wary of police joining the groups. “They don’t want to close it off, but I have seen it before, we’ve been at a car meet, you’ve got drivers drifting round roundabouts, and a modified A3 or S3, and he puts his blues and twos on,” Aaron tells us. “I prefer older cars, but to insure them is stupid and less reliable,” he says. It is becoming more apparent that expensive insurance is stopping young people buying their first car or forcing them to finance. “It’s stupid to single out the good people from the bad,” Aaron continues. When driving a fast car, it is natural to be curious about how fast you can take it, “some people want to put their car to the limits, track days are expensive,” says Aaron. He argues that if they were less expensive “people would move towards track, ’cause it’s regulated.” Whilst dangerous driving is a problem that cannot be ignored and young men are the largest perpetrators, it is clear the skills learned in the modified car scene are transferable to jobs. Programmes that encourage young people to pursue careers in mechanics and engineering, put the skills many ‘boy racers’ possess to better use. ● 63


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Are all boys their father’s seed? On a journey to understand his roots, Mim Shaikh shares his experience of meeting his biological father for the first time

As a young boy growing up in Birmingham, Mim Shaikh watched his friends go to football games, play sports, talk about girls, all with their dads, while he would look around and wonder where his own father was. From parents evenings to graduation, the constant reminder that he was fatherless was there, though, like Mim, one in ten 10 children in the UK grows up having no contact with their dad. Now a 27-year-old radio broadcaster and actor, with his career starting to build a strong foundation, he landed a TV role in Informer, and with his radio shows supporting him financially Mim felt the time was right to make a documentary. He explains how he sat back and asked himself questions about what was bothering him right now, what did he need answers for. That is when the topic of his father arose. Mim approached BBC Three with the idea his story — a son, trying to reconnect with his father — it is a story which many young people can relate to. “If I wasn’t ready mentally,” he said, “and if I didn’t have the foundations of my career set in stone, I certainly wouldn’t have done it.” The journey to find his dad started in the attic of his South London flat in January 2018. “I’ve always been curious about my dad, but never enough to go and find out, because I felt like it would be disloyal to my nan, who’d done so much for me.” After the breakup of their marriage, Mim’s mother was too unwell to look after him, so his grandmother brought him up and took the decision to sever all contact with his father. “I was a single-parent kid, but my grandmother was my parent, not my mum,” he says. There are around two million single parents — they make up nearly a quarter of families with dependent children, according to the ONS Families and households report 2017. In that year, there were 1.6 million lone mothers with dependent children in the UK. That is 1.6 million children without a dad. Mim found out his father’s name was Khalid Wralk. He was shocked at the fact his father had been married before he married his mother, but that his previous marriage had been dissolved. What was more, his father was 50 at the time while his mother was only 31. A 19-year age gap 64

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Words: Rehia Chand Images: BBC Documentary

“The struggle of finding out your identity can be seen as a roller coaster of emotions.”

that meant he was now 78. “My heart sank. There was a good chance he had already passed away,” explains Mim. After traveling up and down the country searching for answers about his father, Mim found out his father was alive. His parent's marriage certificate showed that his dad had lived in Dudley in the West Midlands. He searched the electoral roll hoping his father may still be residing there, but there were no current addresses registered to his father’s name. After reaching out to members of the community, he was put in touch with the three leaders of the Cradley Heath mosque who had lived in the area for years. After chasing several dead ends by this stage, the three men were his last hope. He showed them some old photographs of his father which they studied and immediately looked at each other and nodded.

They told Mim that his father lived in Pakistan for the last ten years, one of them knew of his father’s address and gave it to him. He calls them “The three wise men.” A lot of uncertainty was created because even though Mim found out his father now lived in Azad Kashmir, Pakistan, he had to undergo the process of obtaining a visa. That process lasted for three months so you can imagine the journey of emotions during this time where at one moment there would be times where he would be really excited and then times when he was thinking is he actually going to be given permission. Once the visas came through, Mim was ready to go and see his father for the very first time. Before reaching out to his father, Mim, who is also a spoken word artist, had specially written a piece of poetry for the documentary:


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Dear dad, Don’t even know if I should call you that but I don’t want to address you by your first name. And now the time I vent out my pain and let you know that yes, I’ve lived my life thinking you were the person to blame. No man to teach me how to shave. No man to tell me off for when I would misbehave. No man to teach me about girls. No man to tell me how I need protection from the bad energies in this world. Nobody to tell me what it really means to be a man. Different reasons as to why you left or got forced to leave or so I’ve heard. Scared that I am your seed and your personality might be feeding into me. Are all boys their father’s seed? Am I destined to do bad deeds? — Mim Shaikh ‘Are all boys their father’s seed? Am I destined to do bad deeds?’ This line has resonated with many viewers. I asked Mim what this line meant to him: “What I am feeling is coming from a place of fear, a place of not knowing. When you’re unaware of certain things sometimes fear can take over and I was fearful of what my father was like. Because I didn’t have access to this information my subconscious was telling me that I could be just like him, and all I had heard up until that point was very negative stories about the man.”

Mim is well known for his spoken word pieces which he performs on his radio shows and his YouTube channel. Each piece resonates and talks about issues that the youth of today find very hard to talk about such as mental illness. Before going to Pakistan, He called his father twice, and on both occasions, he refused to speak with him. But after everything he had been through, Mim was not willing to give up and instead wrote him a letter. The letter included Mim telling his dad how he was coming to Pakistan in July to meet him. Mim and his film crew embarked on the journey to Pakistan. Once they landed and after several attempts to contact his father and arrange to meet up, his father finally agreed to meet. They drove for two hours from Islamabad to a rural village called Thara, and the car had to stop, his father didn't want to be filmed. “I saw a group of around 20 men, wearing white shalwar kameez (traditional Pakistani outfit),” remembers Mim. “My eyes fixated on one man, that was my father. His eyes locked on to me as well. And as I walked up to him, he embraced me fully and started to cry. I remember feeling really numb and felt as if I just went into full protection mode. Over time, I allowed myself to really feel what had just happened and took it in.” “I felt a real sense of belonging, I didn’t stick out like I always do wherever I go.” The feelings of being an outsider in the playground had quickly vanished, and there was a massive feeling of inclusion.. It just cemented him more into his South Asian identity. The struggle of finding out your identity, can be seen as a rollercoaster of emotions. A lot of individuals lack the empathy and capacity to understand what kind of emotional turmoil an experience like this can create. “My emotion ranged from curiosity to disappointment, to happiness, to disappointment again, to then finally feeling content and peaceful,” explains Mim. While he was in Pakistan, Mim spent a few days with his father and his newly discovered family. He played cricket with his two younger brothers and met his sister. Over the time he was there, he got the opportunity to speak about the breakdown of his parent’s marriage, and the opportunity to get the answers to his

unanswered questions from the last 27 years. His father ran a very strict household, very non-negotiable and adamant.. Mim was very grateful of the upbringing and ‘freedom’ that his grandmother gave him. “I’m going to be honest, there’s nothing in me gearing me to go anytime soon, as I just got back a few months ago, and the images are still vividly clear in my mind. However, if there’s a right time, and I feel the need for my presence to be there then I will happily go over there to see my father and brothers. The fact that I can even say that now in a sentence, is mind-blowing,” explains Mim. Mainstream television has a habit of highlighting Pakistani and South Asian communities in a negative light, focusing on stereotypes like terrorism and domestic violence. . Although it looks at the process of reconnection with a father from the lens of someone who has grown up in a South Asian family, it’s merely a story about a son, going to meet his dad. “You can call it the real-life ‘Lion’,” Mim says, referencing the 2017 film.. “I think we still have a long way to go for people to accept these storylines and these images as normal regarding mainstream television and film. But we’re definitely coming a long way since where we were before, with the work of people like Riz Ahmed, M.I.A, Asim Chaudhry, etc. it’s clear to see that we will never be put in a box, and they will never be able to keep us in there. If we are able to be open and honest about our personal and professional experiences,” says Mim. “I hope that the documentary shows people how they too can go and get in touch with their biological parents, that it can be the best thing they’ve done. I know it’s not for everyone, as people have different situations with their parents that may need resolving before they go on this journey. But the fact that I’ve had so many positive messages from people saying they feel inspired, happy, and motivated after watching the documentary means the main aim that I had was achieved.” ●

Mim Shaikh: Finding Dad is available on BBC iPlayer now. 65


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Words: Rachel Hagan Images: Nishanth Chopra

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PRESERVING THE PLANET AND INDIA’S CRAFT WORKERS


Current Affairs

Meet Oshadi, the label which is changing fashion’s impact on the environment and India’s craft workers

At just 25, Nishanth Chopra has founded Oshadi, the fashion brand which aims to give a new life to and support India’s textile industry. While also using environmentally-friendly ancient Indian techniques and materials. He encompasses this all within a modern and contemporary clothing collection. Oshadi aims to try and mitigate some of the environmental issues, which the planet is subject to, as a result of fashion. Fast-fashion, where clothes are produced quickly and very cheaply, to provide new collections on the high street and mirror the trends of the catwalks, is having extreme and negative environmental impacts on our planet. High street stores such as Primark are releasing new pieces weekly, leading to people buying more and more clothes. This is an unhealthy cycle where demand is increasing, therefore production has to keep going, exacerbating the problem even more. According to Reuters: “More than 400% more clothing is made now than 20 years ago.” Fleur Britten, assistant editor of The Sunday Times Style, and passionate environmentalist spoke to Artefact and explains the catalyst for her sustainably-lead lifestyle, “there’d be trouble if we’d left a light on in a room we weren’t using, my mother would always make her ‘waste-not-want-not’ stews and soups, and we ate off the land to a significant degree." “That said, no one else in my family is particularly into sustainability, and I was mocked for wrapping presents in magazine pages. I guess we were all fed the same messages at school, but they really mattered to me,” she continues. When asked if she finds working for a large fashion magazine infuriating, as it is somewhat an unsustainable industry, Fleur said she believes that, “people conveniently divert themselves away from the issues for the sake, and love, of fashion. Being fashionable is definitely a priority over the environment, with big seasonal wardrobe changeovers.” A large proportion of the industry has, therefore, neglected the social and environmental factors which are increasingly important. With pressure to reduce cost and time, they are adopting an increased use in synthetic fibres and chemical dyes, as well as workers rights

seemingly holding no importance. Fleur urges shoppers to, “read the label and really try to avoid buying anything synthetic — which releases microplastics into the waterways, piles up in a landfill without biodegrading and is chemically intensive to produce. I would urge people to buy vintage, charity, second hand over any other retail options. If you are going to buy new, treat yourself to something that has been made with love for the planet and the people behind it. Buy slow, not fast.” This increased use of fossil fuels in the production cycle has made the textile industry the second largest polluter, second to the oil industry. With dye houses in India being, “notorious for not only exhausting local water supplies but for dumping untreated wastewater into local streams and rivers,” the Guardian reported in an article detailing the risks the textile industry poses to our waters. Cotton production is also having a

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detrimental impact on our seas. Stacey Dooley travelled to Kazakhstan this year in her latest documentary, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets. She visited the former Aral Sea, where camels now live. The sea was a large 68,000 square kilometres, and now more than 60% of it has disappeared and turned to desert. This is a result of cotton production — cotton fields require huge amounts of water to produce to the plant, and millions of gallons of the Aral Sea has been syphoned off for cotton irrigation since the 60s. Artefact spoke to Nishanth via Skype — he was at Oshadi’s weaving shed in a small village outside of Erode, Southern India. It was about 6:00 pm and almost entirely dark, with the wifi being intermittent, Nishanth attempted to show me around the workshop where there were men and women, working on the handloom machines — all of their fabrics are handwoven. “I come from a textiles family, my family have been in textiles for about 50-60 years, my grandfather, my father — are all in textiles”, Nishanth begins to tell me how Oshadi came to be. He told me how his family’s business, “do things with machinery, so everything is made in factories in India, and I was brought up in that textile environment, and when I started working, I always knew I had to do be doing something with textiles, as I found it interesting.” The natural path for Nishanth would be continuing with his family business, but, he did not feel excited by the textile production side of things and was more taken by the craft itself. “India has a very rich craft tradition, there are loads of villages around where I was brought up, so I started visiting those villages and discovering the traditional crafts — hand weaving, tiedye, and loads of others,” he continues, explaining his journey to founding the brand. “I planned I would do something with textiles, maybe producing fabrics. But, coincidentally I met the designer at Central St Martins, and he was super into the project after I told him about some of the potential ideas.” Oshadi is a partnership between Nishanth and a designer, who carries out the design process in London. Nishanth knew the partnership was the right decision, as he tells me, “his work with sustainability made it right.” The designer who also has his own label won the LVMH Grand Prix scholarship and had since been shortlisted for another LVMH prize; all of these achievements perpetuating Oshadi’s strength as a brand. “It was a coincidence, nothing was planned. I found all these crafts and I 68

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have a very good knowledge of textiles because of my family I have always been brought up with the textiles environment around me,” Nishanth details how this is led them to the handwoven project, with the collection of garments solely made with hand-loomed fabrics. Handlooming is engrained in India culture, Prime Minister Narendra Modi acknowledged this in 2015 when he set up National Handloom Day. But, it is argued this recognition only paid a lip-service to the craft, as many workers in the sector are facing threats and do not have desirable living conditions or way of life. A handloom census from 2010 revealed that 54% of handloom households live in kutcha houses, which are made from mud or thatch; that 30% of workers had never attended school, and 47% of workers own ‘Below Poverty Line’ ration cards.


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Neeta Deshpande wrote recently in The Wire that, “some of the problems that plague the sector include exploitation of workers at the hands of master weavers, unrelenting competition from synthetic fabrics such as polyester and the power loom sector which dominates cloth production and undercuts the place of the handloom weaver in the textile sector.” Graduating from Lancaster University with his final project on sustainability, and returning to Erode, Nishanth went back to his Dad’s factory and realised that, “things are not the way they have to be.” He found it quite difficult after speaking to a lot of the workers there. “I was discovering the craft and I realised that the workers there are not satisfied. They really enjoy the work, a hand weaver loves what they do, but they don’t have the right income level. They didn’t have enough work, enough pay, so it was like a very contradicting industry.” Nishanth explains how this sparked his idea for making a platform for them to work more ethically and to get them paid much higher. “Even when we pay them much higher than the usual prices, we still make a good margin in this business. People get greedy with their capacity to accumulate a lot of wealth.” He explains how he realised that the private companies, the co-operative societies; they are the ones taking all of the money and not paying the workers.

“They cut corners by getting orders for the handwoven product, but they produce it on a machine, and no one knows about it so weavers don’t get work.” Nishanth continues to list all of the factors which led him to become more conscious about sustainability, including his mother’s upbringing in a tiny village, where she often witnessed artisan exploitation and later told Nishanth about it. “Handloom was one thing, and then we started looking at tie-dye techniques. We started working with the natural dying, where you get colours from flowers and then dye the fabric with flowers and leaves.” When William Perkin invented the chemical dye, the research that was going into developing natural dyes and colours for fabrics completely got diverted into industrial chemical making. As a result, there has not been a lot of research since. Nishanth explains how they have to meticulously ensure that “the colour fixes properly and that it lasts, as it is a new thing going on, so it a bit tricky working with natural dye but as we work more and more it will improve.” When I asked Nishanth if he felt that these techniques had a lack of recognition or needed more, he explained that, “I think the techniques are already global, everybody knows about it, all the luxury brands like Stella McCartney and so many other brands work with Indian crafts, luxury, and contemporary brands.”

“It was a coincidence, nothing was planned; I found all these crafts and I have a very good knowledge of textiles because of my family.”

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Oshadi worked with Stella McCartney in the Commonwealth Fashion Exchange. Stella made a dress using Oshadi’s fabrics, which was then showcased in Buckingham Palace. Nishanth told us that hand weaving “doesn’t have the recognition it needs because all these brands do one-off projects, and they drift away. I am sure there are many other brands who have been working with Indian crafts for a long, long time, but personally, I feel that the craft people here, have been doing it for hundreds and hundreds of years, and still have a lack of education and lack of basic amenities.” Fleur supports Nishanth’s view, in that she believes, “it’s always given different treatment to real fashion, i.e. in a sustainable themed shoot, the consumer won’t take it as seriously as mainstream fashion.” She continued to tell me how she would like, “to see sustainable brands being featured in main fashion stories, and not only wheeled out once a year in editorial virtue-signalling.” Given all of this, there may be some scepticism towards what the clothes deliver. But the new-age hippy connotations that environmentalists may use to hold can be left behind. Oshadi provides a contemporary, simple collection with clean lines. With structural silhouettes, boxy denim-style jackets, trouser suits and flowing silhouettes on the dresses- the collection is aimed at the modern working woman, for a quotidian wardrobe; synonymous to Phoebe Philo‘s designs at

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(old) Céline. Nishanth knew he wanted to do something with a modern design aspect, but he didn’t have a picture of what a modern design was until his designer was to hand. For him “high fashion was probably Zara because that is even really expensive in India. Kids get pocket money from parents and buy these clothes and even buying a Zara shirt was like ‘woah this is expensive’.” And he was astonished at what could be done with the fabrics. Arguably one of the most significant exposures for Oshadi in England is their showcase alongside around 60 other brands at the newly launched, Maiyet Collective, in Mayfair. The label, which has opened a seven-floor concept store, is hoping to use their established name to help raise awareness of the fashionable brands who are also ethically conscious — with most of the brands having a focus on sustainable materials, and human sustainability in their supply chain. The staff in the store will be wearing Oshadi’s dresses as their uniform. “Maiyet was one of the first brands I discovered when I was looking for other brands who were doing similar things, back in the day Maiyet was moving into a place in India, and I was looking for support and investment, so I contacted them.” Nishanth explains how he knew about Maiyet before they had even established in the way that they are now, “I didn’t know there would be a Maiyet


Current Affairs

“I didn't know there would be a Maiyet collective, and that I would eventually be a part of it. It's very exciting”

collective, and that I would eventually be a part of it. It’s very exciting.” Ending the conversation by asking Nishanth what he believes the future is, he told me: “There are enough talks about sustainability; I think more than talking, people should start acting on this. I see a lot of summits and presentations. I don’t really know what is going to happen, what the future holds, but there will be a change eventually. People should stop being so greedy, do what they say and have respect. It comes from within.” Fleur explained that the fashion industry is held in such high regard that, “it has the power to really move the needle on sustainability in all industries,

if it really got behind the movement.” Furthermore, she believes the importance of keeping, “our foot on the pedal and keep pushing for change.” Nishanth is setting up a handloom shed, which requires a lot of attention. Once that is done, Oshadi will do an Autumn/Winter ’19 collection. He also wants to work on a textile collection, as well as selling garments and clothing. Nishanth feels that fashion has good seasons and bad seasons, the environment is very unpredictable. However, with textiles, we can assure weavers there is constant work, continuing to go back to the roots with artisans being paid well and getting the right work. ● 71


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‘WE REFUGEES PAINT, PLAY MUSIC; WE ARE JUST LIKE YOU’ A journey of a young man who picked up a paintbrush when his life was in limbo. Salam Noh had no idea how far it would take him

Words: Brittany O’Neill Images: Salam Noh 72

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Fearing for his life, the only safe option for Salam was to leave everything behind in Iraq to become, “another refugee”, desperately searching to find a less volatile place to call home. It was through his darker times that Salam Noh, now 30, discovered a talent for painting. Although he had a, “thirst for education” during his college years in Iraq, one skill he had never attempted to master was painting. “The arts were never encouraged in my country, as it is not valued in our culture. So, I had never even thought about becoming an artist,” he said. It was only when he found himself, “bored out of [his] mind,” on a refugee camp in Greece in 2016, that his artistic journey began. Salam has since moved to France and exhibited his work in countries all over Europe; including Switzerland, France and Germany. His canvases sell between €250 and €1,200 (£219-£1,052). His use of bright, bold colours and abstract style on white canvas juxtapose the darkness behind his inspiration; his way of communicating the refugee crisis to the rest of the world.


Culture

During his time living in the camp, memories of the traumatic experiences that he had encountered often replayed in his thoughts. Sometimes, it was at his lowest points in life that Salam produced the most impressive pieces of art. He named one of his paintings Seeking for a Life after his younger brother Sahir Noh, wrote a heartfelt poem to go alongside it. Just Imagine! Children, young, old and innocent families Running from war, bombs and injustice of life Paddling their boat into the sea, hoping to reach new land Where they hope to find peace, justice and a helping hand Just imagine! In the middle of the sea where the boat stops working and people start screaming in the name of humanity The water is pouring onto the passengers and the boat is rocking violently Not knowing who might die And who might live “I decided to start painting how I was feeling when I was thinking back to my family being stuck on a small boat in the middle of the sea. I wanted to express how frightening and hard that was for us all,” said Salam. Sahir, aged 21, lived with Salam in Iraq and they took the risky journey to safety together. They recognised their common flair for creativity and inevitably decided to collaborate as artists. Growing up, Salam lived in a little Yazidi town of Northern Iraq called Ba’adra, along with 14 other family members. He travelled a total of four hours per day to attend university and was “excited” to be two months short of graduating, before his life, “took a turn for the worst." Islamic State (ISIS) moved towards his town, situated between Mosul and Kurdistan; it was too dangerous for Salam to stay. “They would kill me because I am not Muslim,” says Salam. Yazidis are a Kurdish-speaking minority group, mostly living in areas of Northern Iraq. Often, they are recognised for strongly practising their religion through oral traditions, such as singing and spoken word. Muslims and Christians have been known to accuse Yazidis of being devil worshipers, leading to the catastrophic Yazidi genocide in 2014. Less than three weeks before Salam fled his home, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report, highlighting the severe impact and ongoing threat to civilians from the conflict in Iraq. "At least 18,802 civilians killed and another 36,245 wounded between January

1, 2014 and October 31, 2015.” Salam’s voice cracked as he told me about the moment his family planned how they would flee their home. there was no time for hesitation. “I was shocked. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There were tears in my eyes that day I left university because I knew I was about to give up on my dream of graduating.” The colourful, abstract painting named 'Our Dreams' is about fighting against all odds and never giving up on

“I felt so cruel, as i didn't care about drowning people, so I found myself in Fitsrona trying to help.”

your dreams. Salam wanted to shine a positive light on his experience and encourage others in similar situations to, “never let go of hope”. “I thought that if I could make it across the sea to another country, then I could achieve my dreams... I am now one step away from doing that.” Catherina Kahane, co-founder of the charity Echo, emphasised the importance of encouraging people in refuge to express their distress through forms of art, including painting and music: “From the moment that these people set foot on the Greek island, they are given a number and they are treated as numbers. [Most] art-making is opposite of this," she told us. “You regain and recover your subjectivity, your very own voice, you tell your own story, paint your own picture and express your inner and outer self.” Echo100plus, as it's also known, is a registered Austrian charity that was set up by a group of friends who decided to take action when the intensity of the social and economic crisis became apparent in Greece. After his arrival in March 2016, Salam was gutted to find out the government had closed European borders; leaving over 50,000 refugees stranded

in Greece. However, he is grateful for the international volunteers at Echo who worked “tirelessly” on the ground at the Fitsrona refugee camp to improve the poor living conditions, by distributing food, clothes and living supplies on a daily basis. Niko Spiegelfeld, aged 27, volunteered with Echo during the spring of 2016, when he became “fed up” of watching the news and “frustrated” that he was not doing much about it. “I felt so cruel, as if I didn’t care about drowning people, so I found myself in Fitsrona trying to help,” said Niko. “Some refugees were using coffee to make a brown colour to paint with.” This gave Niko and his fellow Echo volunteer, Ryan, the inspiration to buy some art supplies and encourage the refugees to add some colour to the grey walls that surrounded them. “The art they made was great! We had no idea we would make such a big impact. When living in such a shitty situation, [art] is one of the only ways they can escape from the moment.” Since Echo provided paints and brushes, Salam's older brother came up with the idea of painting a mural on one of Echo's warehouse walls. It was a success, Salam has never looked back and has now dedicated his time to mastering his craft. "Every day in the camp felt like a year. There was too much time to think about the bad things happening in Iraq.” He recalls each tent being around one metre long and sometimes it would have to sleep up to eight people: “It was like an army camp. No electricity, no food and no water.” Although Salam would say, “Iraq is not my country, my country is where I feel safe,” he could not help but feel hurt when looking back. "We lived there for 14 years and it was the only thing we had. Now we had to sell it.” Determined to find a reliable smuggler who would take them through the safest route to the next country, Salam recalls his father selling all of their possessions in the family house for dirt-cheap, as they fell increasingly under pressure to flee their hometown. His whole family attempted to scramble as much money together as possible to pay off the smuggler, as well as to save for the long journey ahead. But, his father eventually succumbed to an agreement to hand over their house; so long as the smuggler promised to take them safely to another country in Europe. Salam dealt with these “painful” memories by painting when he felt emotionally vulnerable. “It’s like you have this feeling inside of you, and then you pick it up” said Salam, as he described the raw emotions lets go when he paints. 73


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His painting Give us land portrays a family, young and old, searching for a place to call home; one free from war and terror. ‘Give us land’ Away from bombs, ruins and fires, From hunger, violence and fears. Mom! Dad! Tell them We do not know politics or economics! We need your love! We need your care! Don't build walls, boundaries or borders, help us to build a future that our parents haven't had... Give us freedom, peace, Hope and a new land. Despite giving up their house in the hope that their journey would be as safe as possible, Salam felt himself losing grip of hope when 15 of his family members were told to squeeze onto what he believed was a two-man boat. “My sister was very sick. It was hard as there was no space and it was raining, and if the police caught us, we would all go to jail.” The journey saw them cramming their bodies into tiny boats in the middle of the night, and then breaking down in the middle of the ocean with a baby. “It was black. The only thing you 74

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could hear were waves. We were frustrated because we were back to square one.” They had no choice but to take the riskier route to Greece, if they wanted to stand any chance to make it to safety. “[ISIS] were kidnapping the women and children and killing any man that was not Muslim back in Iraq. There was no going back now.” Salam’s painting Silence is about the innocence of children that are victims of war. “I created this to show people how innocent the eyes of children are. They know nothing about politics or immigration, yet they have to suffer through this tough life,” he said. Gentle but passionate with his words, Salam’s mission as an artist is to not only create powerful pieces of art, but to ensure that refugees stories are heard and to emphasise that “innocent people should never be silenced”. In reaction to his brother’s painting, Sahir Noh wrote: “Silence is the biggest crime against humanity, Be the reason someone feels seen, heard, and supported by the whole universe." Shivering from the cold night in March 2016, Salam finally arrived on dry land in Greece, along with the rest of his family and the one possession that he owned; his mobile phone. “We were all crying and shouting with happiness. Six

days later, we were taken to a refugee camp in Ritsona.” The asylum centre in Greece promised that the refugee camp would be “really good” and told them that after one month of staying in the tents, they would be able to go to whichever country they wished. But, to his disappointment, it didn't provide most of the basic living needs and he ended up living there for over nine months before he was able to leave. Regardless of whatever bad news or challenges were thrown in his path, Salam persevered, staying true to his belief of being optimistic, and focussing on the positives in any given situation. “We would spend all day playing music around a table we built in the middle of the camp. Lots of people would join in. My family was the first family to come to the camp and not run away. It felt good to see the camp grow from just us, to 800 people in less than one year.” Salam continues to portray the pain and suffering that thousands of refugees incur when fleeing their war-torn country. But he is also determined to inspire others that even success can come out of the ugliest situations. If you are interested in working with Salam Noh, or purchasing his art, please visit: www.brotherlyart.net ●


The reality of living with acne 76 Period poverty: the monthly 'burden' 79 Workmen at dawn 80 Modern day witchcraft 86 Young, British and drunk: Women and binge drinking 88 Yoga and the Whale 90 Porn: Hero or villian in a relationship? 92 Rome: The original cosmopolitan city 94 Sante Fe: The other side of Mexico 96 The ultimate cultural experience 100


Lifestyle

THE REALITY OF LIVING WITH ACNE

Why your skin should not determine who you are

Words: Isaine Blatry Images: Gabriella Watts

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“Isaine, if you don’t feel well you can step out of class, only if you need to,” said my French literature teacher. I left the classroom in front of all my classmates, all I could feel was their eyes staring at me, my embarrassment growing as I took a step closer to the door. I couldn’t bear looking at myself in the mirror, I could feel the tears running down my face, washing away the layers of foundation I had on it. I started to panic. Would I have to go back to class and face everyone in the state I was in? The thought of them seeing my face. I could feel them on my face, on my back, and on my arms. They were everywhere. The pimples, the acne that covered my body. It was the cause of my being unwell, something to be ashamed of. I wanted to tear the skin off my face, erase it all, but I was well aware that wasn’t going to happen. I started having acne when I was 13, I was the first one of my friends, but it wasn’t much of a worry at that time. Many would say it’s very common for a young teenage girl to have a bit of acne: a pimple here and there won’t do any harm. However, as I grew up my acne started worsening. I tried everything: the pills, various antibiotics, creams, but nothing would really work, it wasn’t going away. When I came back from Australia at the age of 16, after spending three months by the beach enjoying the sunshine, I went through an emotional shock when I arrived at my hometown on a rainy day in November. The closer I was to ‘home’, the worst my skin became. I was then diagnosed with cystic acne, a severe type in which the pores in the skin become blocked, leading to infection and inflammation. I got to the point where I couldn’t stand to look at my own reflection — I avoided any reflective surface and spent most of my days with my blinds closed, not wanting to face myself or the world. Acne became my personal hell. Fearing the judgment of others, I let it take over my life. I created my own technique to do my make-up so I could avoid seeing the state of my skin — I would cover my bathroom window with a towel and only switch one light, in order to see just enough to do my make-up, but not much. Some mornings, I would re-do my make-up, twice or even three times. I was never happy with the result. I kept applying layers and layers of foundation but was never satisfied with the way my skin looked. A study conducted by The British Skin Foundation, found that 95% of acne sufferers said the condition impacts their daily lives and 63% experience lower self-confidence. More than a third of people self-harm or have considered it because of their acne. It can also be


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a contributing factor to depression and even suicide. This leads me to that fateful day when one of my classmates started commenting my skin: “Why do you wear all that foundation? What do you have to hide?” The rest is blurred emotion and faded memories. All I recall was that the conversation ended with her giving me a ‘little slap’ on the face. She was just “messing around”. However, I sat in class not really sure what exactly happened: there was a great lapse on the timeline of events, a temporal void. Then it hit me: I realised what impact acne had on my mental health and I broke down. Once I came back from the bathroom, I went to the infirmary. All I wanted was to go home but the school wasn’t allowed to send any students home without a ‘valid reason’. I had to face the nurse, then my dad. I was incapable of explaining what had happened, in class or in my head. I was ashamed and wanted to be left alone. I let acne take over my life, I tangled myself into this problem which shouldn’t have had to become one. Incapable of taking my make-up off in front of other people, always making excuses when it came to swimming lessons and escaping situations which involved too much social interaction; this is where it had led me. At this moment I realised how much negativity I was sending my way. A study by the University of Limerick proved a direct link between the perceived negative stigma of having acne and higher levels of psychological distress, anxiety, and depression. That is to say, those who are exposed to traditional western beauty standards have a higher propensity to suffer from high levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. After talking through all the possibilities to cure my acne, my dermatologist put me on the strongest medication available: Roaccutane. It works by reducing the amount of the oily substance (i.e. sebum) produced by the glands in your skin, reducing bacteria and inflammation and opening clogged pores. It took me eight long months of treatment before my skin was clear. Society has always labelled acne as something ‘abnormal’. There is a substantial social stigma attached to not having ‘good’ skin. Society and its consequent beauty standards, often push people to buy tons of cosmetics to ‘solve’ this condition or hide it away, under layers and layers of foundation. Amanda Michelena is a 23 year-old fashion stylist based in London, she suffered from acne since she was a teenager. Her type of acne was never severe but it didn’t stop her from having insecurities. “I have been through a fair amount

of treatments to heal and recover my skin. I will spend long hours reading and researching about my skin type, how the rest of my body relates to it, and any kind of influences that can change the condition of it,” she explained. To her, social media pressure isn’t something new. In the last hundred years, the commercialisation and mass media coverage of beauty is just another part of the western culture. A culture that makes us believe that beauty means happiness and success, “social media just allowed us to see more of what people, in general, feels towards beauty, and yes, most of us feel more attracted to people with healthier skin, but to me, they just happen to win the lottery in genetics, nothing more than that,” Michelena said. Michelena has experienced the toxicity of social media: “It has affected my mental well being by relying almost on it, for almost everything. As much as the filters make me look fabulous on the internet, in real life my skin won’t get any better if I don’t do anything that makes it healthier. So I have come to the conclusion to determined who I am as a person

and make peace with it, rather than to make a way through filters and try to convince everyone I am ‘sort of’ perfect.” Young people are easily influenced by everything they see in magazines, on TV, or social media. I was there, I tried to achieve the impossible. In the UK, 48% of people report having acne at some point in their lives, and 19% have had it over the age of 25. A study by the UK charity Girlguiding, showed that more than a third (35%) of girls aged between 11 and 21 critically compare their lives with others’ — that being the biggest cause of internet-related stress. Em Ford (aka My Pale Skin) is a beauty and make-up Vlogger and YouTuber. From tutorials to short films, she talks about acne and skin positivity. She is determined to shift the stigma around beauty and help to put an end to the unnecessary judgement women have on their appearance. She wrote and produced her first video in 2015 — You Look Disgusting highlights and examines the online abuse she suffered as a result of sharing her acne with her audience. In November 2018, she has launched 77


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her new project, Redefine Pretty — produced and directed by Ford as part of the YouTube Creators for Change, her project looks at women’s relationship with their appearance and what society defines as ‘pretty’. The aim is to give all women the confidence to live their lives without the fear of being judged for their appearance. In the first experiment of its kind, Ford collaborates with Vincent Walsh, professor of Human Brain Research at UCL, to test so the brain’s reaction when faced with images showing models wearing make-up, and not wearing make-up, nor having been retouched. “I set out wanting to discover if today’s ‘beauty standards’ are to blame for the way we see ourselves,” said Ford. “From visible skin conditions such as acne, scarring, and birthmarks, to sharing why representation is so important in the media and society. This is a heartbreakingly real picture of how ‘beauty’ is measured, and if it’s truly ever achievable.” Her project, Redefine Pretty is about real women, real stories and shining a light on the harsh reality, and psychological effects beauty standards place on women. “I want to empower all women with the confidence to live their lives without the feeling of being judged for their appearance. Beyond that, it leaves one question: What effect would change these negative standards of ‘beauty’, have on young women?” she added. Gabriella Watts was featured in the video. She was around ten yearsold when she first started getting spots. Her mum used to tell her: “Since you’ve got them so young, you probably won’t get them when you’re older.” Her acne increased when she was 19 — it was gradual and then it hit like a snowstorm. She is now 22 and still suffers from mild acne on her cheeks, chin, chest, and back. “I haven’t had any treatment for my acne, however, I’ve made a huge conscious effort to clean up my diet,” she explained. “I get easily stressed out which affects my stomach and, in turn, affects my skin,” she added. To her, the image that social media networks facilitate is totally unrealistic. “I’m a digital marketer so I love social media. But just like everything else in the world, there’s good and bad.” She explained that she still falls into a bad habit of comparing her life to others. However, these photographs are merely one second of these people’s lives. “We only see the perfect captured moment that they picked from the other 50 photos they took that day. We are all human, at the end of the day we’re all the same, made of skin and bone,” Watts said. Filming Redefine Pretty took her completely out of her comfort zone: “I’m a huge introvert, so knowing I’ll be meeting new people and being on camera 78

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terrified me. But nothing great happens in comfort zones. Meeting similar women and Em Ford was fantastic,” she added “I learned that you’re never alone. No matter what you’re going through. To be in a room with other barefaced women with acne was oddly reassuring." Acne has gained a lot of attention over the last few years. Propelled by the body and skin positivity movements. Both criticise social media for creating unattainable beauty standards. Those who back the movements are changing the role of social media platforms, using them to fight back and share pictures of their bare face and make-up free selves. With celebrities joining the move-

“The path of selflove is a hard one to navigate, I am learning to see myself in a new light while trying not to escape from seeing myself the way I truly am. Slowly but surely am learning how to not let acne define me.” ment such as Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner, who have embraced their acne ‘publicly’, the movement is only getting bigger, offering people to relate to, and perhaps making those who suffer from the condition feel less alone. The British Journal of Dermatology found that there is a 63% increased risk of depression for someone with acne compared with those with a clear skin. Matt Traube, a psychotherapist in San Luis Obispo, California, who specialises in skin conditions told The New York Times: “Acne is incredibly debilitating, the mind and body are intimately connected. And when you’re already depressed, acne presents an extra challenge to the situation.” “Celebrities have the same insecurities, so for them to give people the opportunity to see their human qualities, it changes everything. We’re social creatures, we want to belong — and when we have that social support, that feeling of

community, that will help reduce the risk of depression,” Traube added. My acne returned six months after my treatment of Roaccutane, it wasn’t as serious as the cystic acne I had before. So I learned to live with it, I would always have one or two pimples on my face but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t live with. However, when I turned 20 my acne worsened. I was once again affected by it mentally. Whether I was at home or on holiday, I still had the need to hide away. Christmas 2017 was a turning point for me. I explained to my parents that I couldn’t deal with this disease anymore. It was sucking the life out of me. I was 21 and I wanted to be done with this burden I had been carrying for almost 10 years. A few months later, after two or three dermatologists, and a long time of waiting, I started my second Roaccutane treatment for another eight months. At the time I am writing this article, I have a month left until my treatment is over. My face and my back are acne free, but I keep fearing that once I finish the treatment my acne will come back. The skin positivity movement did help me — I felt like I wasn’t alone anymore, that I should love myself despite having acne. However, it wasn’t something I was capable of doing fully. I do have self-love and accept that my skin will never be ‘perfect’; however, this experience did hinder my self-acceptance to a certain extent. Michelena explained that she has accepted herself with all her imperfections: “But it doesn’t mean I don’t have bad days, in almost any aspect of our lives we can have insecurities, but it is important to have a good and honest relationship with ourselves to fight mean thoughts, it’s not easy but it feels amazingly good.” She thinks these campaigns and social movements are helpful to start discussions. They make us start a conversation about the common problems we face every day, regardless of any skin condition someone could have. "Tolerance came up when I fully understood that the very first person that I care the most and I have control over, is myself. In that order, nobody but me can change my mind about what is best for me,” she explained. Watts told me that nothing interesting came from being ‘perfect’: “Don’t let something small stop you from enjoying life and support your friends and family. Share your ‘flaws’, your successes, the good, the bad and never let Instagram ‘beauty’ define you.” The path of self-love is a hard one to navigate, I am learning to see myself in a new light while trying not to escape from seeing myself the way I truly am. Slowly but surely I am learning how to not let acne define me. ●


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Period poverty: The monthly ‘burden’ Campaigners discuss the issue of period poverty in the UK

Words: Sophie Hall Images: Elise Evans

As a girl in your early teenage years, some typical worries are your friendships, self-esteem, school, and relationships. Another is one’s period — unavoidable yet still stigmatised. A girl doesn’t have much choice but to have one, and it reminds her of that every month. Another reminder for some girls is that they may have to miss out on school as they cannot access menstrual products, leaving them to use cloth or rags as a substitute. Period poverty is more common than you think, with roughly one in ten young women struggling with the issue. “They (schoolgirls) made makeshift products using socks, tissue paper and sellotape,” explains Elise Evans. ”We were quite shocked.” Elise is a volunteer for The Red Box Project, an initiative that collects donations of sanitary wear and delivers them to schools to try and ensure that no young girl misses out on education because of her period. It was founded in Portsmouth in June 2017, and has spread from UK communities and schools to the US and New Zealand. “The simplicity of it has led to its success,” Evans says. “We collect donations from friends and family and we have donation points in local businesses and supermarkets.” The appearance of the topic of period poverty in mainstream media encouraged Elise, previously a busy London solicitor, and her co-coordinator, Gemma, to join The Red Box Project. The 2016 film I, Daniel Blake which showed a struggling single mother shoplifting sanitary pads saw donations of sanitary products to some UK food banks quadruple. “It is quite ingrained in our culture that it’s a private thing that you deal with at home, it makes projects like this even more important,” Evans says. In April 2017, Amika George launched #FreePeriods, a nationwide campaign urging the government to provide children from low-income households with free menstrual products. As they are most likely to be affected by period poverty, girls from families of a low socio-economic background rely on their schools for the supply of sanitary items. Elise said schools are going ‘above and beyond’ to help schoolgirls, but the lack of government funding increases the difficulty. “When we contact a school we often find out that there’s a member of staff that’s been buying [sanitary] prod-

widely seen as ‘polluting’ and shameful, with girls in Uganda saying they were told periods are a ‘representation of sin’. In India and Nepal, some girls are banned from cooking while on their periods due to ‘fear of contamination’. With their mothers predominantly being their only source of information rather than teachers or health professionals, a popular misconception in Malawi is that men can get hurt if they come into contact with menstrual blood. As the cost of sanitary items is a worldwide concern, this also leads some girls in rural and urban areas left to use just paper, mattress stuffing, cotton, or nothing at all. However, change is coming. In June 2018, the Kenyan government promised to provide every school girl with free sanitary towels and a mechanism for their disposal, as some girls currently have no choice but to burn sanitary products. Non-profit organisations like The Red Box Project are becoming more widespread; others include Bloody Good Period who help asylum seekers and refugees, and Hey Girls, whose profits from their ‘Buy One Give One’ products go to young girls and women in need. Conversation is debunking the taboo surrounding menstruation and encourages those of authority to recognise that this hinders a girl’s education, self-esteem and personal development. ●

ucts out of their own pocket" she said. The Red Box Project aims to reduce the burden for teachers by encouraging students to take as many sanitary pads or tampons as they need for the duration of their period. The initiative also pledges to replenish menstrual products to schools within 48 hours of them running out. A possible solution to the issue is to get rid of ‘tampon tax’ — the 5% VAT added to the price of sanitary towels and tampons. Unfortunately, these products are yet to be considered a basic necessity. However, this alone may not help impoverished families substantially, as this only equates to a few pence. “If you’re in a position where you’re choosing between buying food and buying period products, it’s not enough to make a significant difference,” Evans continues. Despite the severity of the issue, some remain sceptical about period poverty. “We do encounter the odd person who doesn’t believe that it exists or that it’s the girl’s problem, Evans told us. “If we were planning how to finance schools completely, there’s no way that period products wouldn’t be included.” Period poverty in lower-middle-income countries has shown cultural and social obstructions to the issue. A World Health Organisation (WHO) review in less economically-developed areas of the world showed that menstruation was

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Words and images: Irene Chirita

WORKMEN AT DAWN

On the first Northern Line train of the day, Romanian workers share their aspirations for a future in the UK Considered the beginning of morning twilight, the dawn phenomenon begins with the first sight of the light in the morning and continues until the sun breaks the horizon. And as the twilight advances towards sunrise, three phases occur, all distinguishable by the amount of light there is in the sky. It is a combination of astronomy and geometry, or if you’d like, of the fascination of the unknown and certainty of facts. Determined by the angular distance of the centre of the Sun, each beginning of a new day is marked by the following three: astronomical, nautical and civil dawn. As a very small portion of the sun’s rays illuminate the sky, the fainter stars disappear. What might not seem like the start of a new day to the naked eye in a polluted city like London, the Sun’s position of 18 degrees below the horizon marks indeed the stroke of astronomical 80

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dawn. Tick, tock, and time gradually passes. Sailors have now enough illumination to distinguish the horizon at sea, which means, nautical dawn has hit. And last, for the ones on dry land, luckily in bed or unluckily wrapped up in a dirty blanket in a subway passage, the civil dawn is here: when there is enough light for most objects to be distinguishable, so that some outdoor activities, but not all, can commence, the sky’s clouds and haze are hosting bronze, orange and yellow colours. Wake up. Get up. Look up. It’s time for work. Gheorgita, Adrian and Andrei are very similar to these three dawn phases. Obscure and mostly silent, Gheorgita Cazac, just like the astronomical dawn, prefers to be a good listener, rather than

a talker. He also takes the time to adjust to the break of light he’s just been offered. Adrian Angela, the nautical dawn, is shy, but courageous: the spark of light at the end of the tunnel is enough to break him open, while Andrei Rotarita is bold, funny, and has thoughts with no inhibitions. There is enough light for him to speak his mind, breaking in colours, as the sky does at civil dawn. At 5 in the morning, on the Southbound Northern Line platform at Burnt Oak station, the three Romanian men look just like any other person there: layers on layers, wool hats, big rucksacks and heavy jackets. But the reason I am out in the cold staring at them is the lost look on their faces. My eyes were already open when the alarm went off at on that Monday morning in early January. My mind did not give me peace, and as I tossed in


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bed all night. Around 3 am I gave up and realised there was no point in trying to sleep. I’d always feel anxiously excited before a test, a trip, a date with someone I am beginning to like, and now, getting out of my comfort zone. For a few days, I was about to wake up around 4 am, take the first tube train at my station and interview complete strangers about why there is so much sorrow in their eyes. I left my house with my Nikon DSLR and analogue Pentax cameras wrapped around my neck, in a cross, both on each side. I put a notebook in my left pocket and a few pens in the right one. With my phone in hand, ready to record in any second, logistically, I was ready. Now all I needed was the courage. According to research conducted by the Guardian in September of last year, Romanians are “the second biggest immigrant community in the UK,” overtaking

Irish and Indians. Official figures reveal how “the number of Romanian nationals living in the UK in 2017 was estimated to be 411,000 — a jump of 25% on the previous year, and the largest increase for any country”. I live in an area in London where, as soon as I set foot out of the tube station, I do not feel like I am in London anymore. And despite what people I know think, it is not because I live in Zone 4, but because of the atmosphere. The walk distance between the station and my house is of approximately 7 minutes, and sometimes when I am on my way home and I am tired of the turbulence of the city. So I take off my headphones and just listen to the world around me. On the main road, the Burnt Oak Broadway, there are a few independent shops. The one at the top of the street is

a supermarket called Bucovina — named after Romanian’s most prestigious region, known for its numerous monasteries and heartbreaking landscapes — and there is usually traditional folklore music playing. It reminds me of the parties my grandmother used to throw with her family and friends when I was little. Around ten people were dancing the “hora” in her tiny living room after some glasses of rachiu — our most traditional alcoholic drink. So it makes me smile. A few more steps down the road, there is another, but this one has a Turkish owner. As I enter, he greets me with “buna, ce faci?” [hi, how are you?] and we make small talk in Romanian. “I prefer talking to my customers in Romanian, rather than English,” he even told me once. And I appreciate it. And a bit further, then, there is a Romanian bakery with the smell of my 81


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childhood birthday cakes. So trust me when I say that, stopping there, just for a few seconds, brings me far away from London. This is how I filled up my thoughts that morning, while the broadway was silent, and the shops were closed. As the Southbound Morden — via Bank — Northern Line train was 3 minutes away, I realised I had enough time to pick someone to talk to and hop with them on the carriage. Gheorgita, Adrian and Andrei were already on the platform when I got there. From the jokes they shared with each other, it was obvious that there is a bond between them. I did not approach the men before we all sat on the train. Them in line, and I in front of them. The men did not notice me until Andrei swore in Romanian while we made eye contact. We all laughed. “Here I go,” I thought. 82

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There is no day to pass by and not hear people complain about immigrants coming to the UK just for benefits, but in many Romanians’ cases, they are here to better their lives. Many have left children, families, education and high standard job roles to secure a better living for the future. As the Guardian explains, “although Romania had record growth of 7% last year, communism has cast a long shadow and the country remains ranked as the second poorest EU nation in Europe.” And because many are used to very low salaries, and have no experience with the UK system, they also accept working for much lower than the minimum wage. “I’ve seen many move here recently and work for £40 per day,” confessed Gheorghita. “And I ask them, ‘are you stupid? How are going to pay your rent? Your bills?’ Just to come here and say you work in the UK, that’s not a purpose.”

“I am not ashamed of hard work,” confesses Adrian. “It depends on each one’s mentality. As long as I am getting paid, that is enough reason for me to put in the hard work. I used to work 7 hours a day in Athens and here the standard is 10, excluding the overtime I do almost every day. Despite this, my work ethic has remained the same.” Andrei and Adrian have lived in London for 5 years now, while Gheorghita is here since 2008. The three men all come from the Northern Eastern part of Romania, known as the region of Moldova. In London, they work together as carpenters for an Irish constructions company, where Adrian is actually one of the supervisors. When I asked them what they do in their free time, with the same empty look in their eyes, they said they don’t have any. The usually work seven days a week. “If we refuse to come one


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day, they won’t call us back. We always have to available to be considered.” Andrei has left his wife with their eight months and two-years-old children behind. He visits them on Christmas and Easter, and sometimes in summer. His dream is to make enough money to open a business growing apples back home and leave the UK in less than five years. “To be honest, I want this Brexit to come quicker so I am forced to go home, otherwise I’ll never feel like it’s enough,” says Andrei, laughing nervously. Adrian has worked in Athens for fifteen years before moving to the UK. With two kids in secondary school, he has come here to provide them with a better future, and for that, financial stability is key. As I asked him where he’d like to be that morning, without hesitation, he said, “next to them back home.” Gheorghita has three children and

he managed to bring all his family here. However, he doesn’t see them much, since he works a lot. Two of his kids were born in Romania and another here. “I am still here because of [them],” he told me. “They all speak English very well — leaving the house at 8.30 am in the morning and coming back at 4 pm from school, it is obvious. But they don’t know much Romanian anymore, especially the youngest. So I can’t think of having to leave and putting them in difficulty now.” None of them knows what would happen if Brexit will hit, but they have theories. As Andrei sees it, “there is nothing stable here. Today I am on my way to work, and by the end of the day my boss can lay me off. Brexit or not, we live in uncertainty day by day”. On the other hand, Gheorghita said how “many don’t realise it yet, but prices are going up. And as the pound will have no more value,

who is going to work here for no money?” As the train approached Euston station, I shacked their hands. Manly. Raw. Firm. It was a handshake of understanding. And as I looked in each pair of eyes, I did not see that much sorrow anymore. Their looks were now filled with a bit of relief and hope as if I reminded them of what’s important. You’d think that once day one was gone, I wouldn’t be as nervous about approaching and talking to other people anymore. Dressed and equipped exactly the same as the day before, it was again too early to leave. Walking back and forth in my small tight kitchen, I was anxiously biting my bottom lip thinking of want went well or wrong the morning before. Also, you’d wonder why I decided to put myself through the hell of waking up that early to hop on a certain train. My parents have friends, we know people. 83


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I could have approached people in a lighter environment. The idea came to me months before while leaving for a trip. Having to take the first train to go to the airport that morning, I saw them. My carriage was full of men, but there were also a few women here and there. It was still dark outside, and the shadows of the tube’s neon lights would pose on each of these people’s faces. The silence was almost too loud. And by looking at their sad expressions, I could not help but think of how each of them might have families, and money, and houses, and cars back home. And yet, there is no happiness in their eyes. They were on that train, and their hope and dreams were miles away. That second morning it took me a while to find someone willing to have a chat. Getting off any next station to get on another carriage, my attention was 84

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drawn to a guy in a bright yellow jacket. He was talking to the girl next to him. As I hear them speak, I recognise the language. Once again, I thought, “here we go.” They seemed like a couple, but what I got to understand short after presenting myself, was that they are just friends: each has their own partners. In common they only have the same ride to work. Ancuta, 28-years-old and bride-to-be in September this year, is a cleaner on site, while Mihai, 26-years-old, is a handyman, working hard to soon become a carpenter. They have no kids, but their plans are mature and responsible. With help from family and friends, they have moved to the UK with one main goal: secure themselves a future. However, when I ask if they either see it here or back in Romania, their answer was uncertain. “For now, I don’t think I want to

stay here,” says Ancuta. “But maybe I just think this now, who knows later?” “If you had asked me this question a year ago,” follows Mihai, “I would have probably said the same. But after recently spending 6 months in Romania, I kind of changed my mind. I’ve made a comparison between my life here and there, and the difference is huge.” Ancuta told me about her previous jobs and her experiences when I asked her if it is hard for her to work on sites. Surprisingly, she finds it better. “When I came here two years ago, I started working in hotels among other Romanian girls. The job was hard, the entourage was also. And I learned no English. But since I left that job, I have no other option than talking in English and the diversity makes it better.” When I asked them how has Brexit affected their lives here so far, they also


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seemed to feel no impact. However, Mihai thinks it might have a positive outcome. “Think about it. English companies will take over, and maybe there will be no EU deal, but everything we need will be local. And hopefully, the prices will drop.” They left me at Mornington Crescent station, short after Ancuta told me all about her wedding plans and how she was going to travel back home in a week, to start planning. Romanian weddings are elaborated and full of traditions — religious and social — and she wants to make sure her fiancé and she have enough time to organise it all. On my way home that morning, I thought about where they wanted to be rather than on that train and on their way to work: in bed. Not on a holiday by the beach, nor somewhere fancy. What they were craving was just a few more hours of sleep. “I hear many of my colleagues

wish for holidays in Dubai, but we are responsible. Sometimes, we don’t even have the courage to let ourselves dream.” The following day I decided I’d spend my ride just observing and photographing, but before I get to the station, I bump into one of my mother’s friends. Cristina Viorica Puzdrea was working a 14 hours shift that day, at the cafe right next to the station. As she invited me for a coffee in the dark space illuminated by the fridges’ tungsten light, I saw how tired she is. Between work, school and home, she has little to no time to take a break. Curious, but not intrusive, she asked what was doing out and about that early in the morning, and so I told her. I have always seen her as the person who sees the best in people, so when she gave me her opinion, I remained surprised. “I don’t see any of these people sad. I see them nervous and uneducated. I wake up

earlier than them. We ask them politely and all we get is rudeness.” She felt like they would bring sorrow on themselves, starting with the attitude. I was intrigued. I had never thought of it that way. “Many come in here and skip the line,” continued Cristina. “I am in contact with different ethnicities every day and no one behaves as ill-mannered as Romanian people. And I am Romanian!” I thanked her for the coffee and let the caffeine and her words kick in. I would always argue that my country’s beauty resides in its landscapes, while people’s mentality is what brings us down. However, we are always aiming to learn more and do better: we shape ourselves and try to integrate into each country we are migrating to. Will we ever stop aiming for a better tomorrow? Probably not. But if we do, it won’t be because of Brexit, but for letting the sadness in. ● 85


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Modern-day magic Headline Standfirst 21st century witchcraft isn’t just a bunch of hocus pocus

Words: Beth xxxxxx Thomas Image:

Witchcraft has played an important role in history. However, in the 21st century, practising it has become more of an aesthetic to some and continued to be a way of life for others. When researching certain practices, you realise that many cultures in history have always had their fair share of witches and witchcraft, whether they are referred to like that or not. Witches of today don’t all gather around a boiling cauldron and chant in verses of threes. These days the craft is being used for healing and success. Using positive energy and other techniques to dispel negative energies from your life. The depiction of witches throughout history in the media and theatre has often been negative. The three witches in Macbeth being a prime example of the black magic and ugliness that has been the stereotype for most depictions of witches. Banquo described the witches in Shakespeare’s Macbeth: “What are these so withered and so wild in their attire, that look not like th’ inhabitants o’ th’ Earth.” With the help of essential oils, herbs and crystals, cleansing a space or oneself have never been easier. With online and physical stores popping up in and around London, access to the tools needed to practice white magic has never been easier. The craft uses techniques that are used by everyday people like meditation. Centring yourself and opening your mind in order to relax and prepare yourself for certain situations can be a way of healing and bettering your mental state. This is a modern way of doing a spell, by using creative visualisation once mindful meditation has been achieved through practice. These are practices of white magic, which is magic used only for the good of oneself and others. Witchcraft has been a part of history in multiple forms depending on the culture that it is derived from. American scholar, Carole Fontaine, once argued in an interview that witches have been around for as long as there has been diseases and disasters plaguing mankind. Ancient Sumerians are the first recorded reference to using crystals;

With modern day witchcraft, there are examples of celebrities being rumoured or admitting to practising it. One of the most notorious celebrities connected to witchcraft is Stevie Nicks, who appeared on American Horror Story Coven and Apocalypse as a witch. However, the singer has denied many times that she is a witch, which hasn’t stopped more speculation by fans and members of the public reading more into Fleetwood Mac’s songs and Stevie’s actions. Elsewhere, the founder of rock band Led Zeppelin, Jimmy Page, is another high profile name connected with witchcraft and before the band was born he owned an occult bookstore and publishing house. There are many more celebrity links, such as Kate Bush, Grimes and Daryll Hall from the duo Hall & Oates. Christina Buna is a 21-year-old student who practices white magic: “There’s a history of witchcraft in my family, so I’d been around it growing up. I was always interested in astrology and Tarot and nature” she told us. “It was in the last year or so that I learned

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they were used by them in their magic formulas. Even the Ancient Egyptians were known to have used crystals such as Topaz and Peridot to purge any evil spirits and to help them combat nightmares. They also used green stones in burials as they saw it as a symbol of the heart of the deceased. The Ancient Greeks used Amethyst, which means ‘not drunken’, to prevent both drunkenness and hangovers — the crystal was typically worn as an amulet. The beginning of using crystals for healing was in 1609 when court physician Rudolf II of Germany suggested that a gemstones virtue is from the presence of good or bad angels. The belief of crystal healing eventually fell from favour in Europe until the 19th century when a number of experiments were carried out to demonstrate the effects of crystals and gemstones on subjects who classified themselves as a clairvoyant. One subject claimed that when they were touched with the stone could not only feel the physical and emotional charges attached to it but the taste and smells too.


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about ‘modern witchcraft’ and how a lot of young, queer people are taking to the craft.” “I also always loved the ‘witch character’ growing up and recently realised it’s because she’s often to the only character to draw her power from herself and not a man.” She described her way of practising to Artefact: “My personal craft is all linked to astrology.” She does this by using birth charts, the phases of the moon, the signs that the sun and moon are in, and whether planets are in retrograde “I do ‘rituals’ on full or new moons, and the ‘ingredients’ of those are all linked to the signs that the moon is in. If it was a full moon in Pisces, it would be a water-based ‘spell’ linked to emotions or dream work, and I’d use crystals/oils/herbs that correspond to Pisces. I also meditate a lot with candles and have an altar in my bedroom that I work at.” Christina is aware of the stereotypes that those who practice witchcraft are faced with: “We’re not all Satan-worshipping devil women. Witches can be any gender/age, and we all have different ways to practice. No one witch is the same.” The current debate centres on whether modern day witchcraft has become more of a fad and used as an ‘aesthetic’ or trend. “I think Tumblr has a hand in that, and American Horror Story. You only have to look at Sephora’s ‘Witch Kits’ to see how bad it’s got. It’s also been hugely white-washed. People seem to think that witches started with the Christian religion, but that’s not right. The practices of Voodoo and

Hoodoo have been around in Africa forever, the craft was originated by PoC, and that should not be written out of existence,” Christina told us. A quick Google search shows it is easy to find a plethora of information on witchcraft and how to begin practising. Websites posting “Five simple spells for beginners” almost takes away from the true art and passion behind the craft and those who have dedicated themselves to practising it safely. Not to drag down those who do follow posts which water down easy tricks and tips for those are starting out. There is a consistent negative viewpoint of witches in society, from childhood, through fairytales we have been programmed to fear witches without considering white witches. They practice only light magic as opposed to the witches practising black magic. They don’t deal in hexes and all things demonic and satanic; they chose to focus on healing and better themselves and those around them. Tarot and divination is another practice associated with those who identify as witches and those who do

not but have an interest in this particular ritual. Having taken part in a tarot card reading, the experience is intense, but you can choose to take out of it what you want to. For example, the death card does not mean physical it is symbolic of the end of a relationship or interest and implies an increase in your self-awareness. After a Tarot reading, don’t take everything as law and start acting on every little detail that was revealed by the cards, it is best to let changes progress naturally. Mia Weshner, 22, from London, has been practising tarot card readings ever since she was young, and would spend her summers with their friends reading each others Tarot. She professes a love for the practice of Tarot readings. The origin of Tarot cards was thought to have evolved from regular playing cards. However, others claim this is untrue, and that the tarot decks were originally a game. In 1781 French and English occult members discovered Tarot, viewing the symbolic pictures on the cards to have more meaning to them than the usual trump cards being used at the time. And so began the use of the cards as a divination tool and it became a popular part of the occult philosophy. Modern day witchcraft has a clear link to that of the past, but with new technology and information at hand, it is a changing craft. It may be too easy to appropriate cultures when getting involved in certain crafts, but a simple enlightenment using the internet should make those interested aware in what is and isn’t for them to practice. ● 87


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Young, Female and Drunk We explore why British women are some of the heaviest drinkers in Europe

Leaning reluctantly yet impatiently on the familiar bar at the local pub, I am just one of many young women waiting to spend our student loan on a vodka and coke for the bargain price of £2.50. Today marks a whole four days without a drink. Yes. Four days. I’m ashamed to admit that this was my somewhat pathetic attempt at Sober October. The futile attempt to repair my liver from the festival season, and prepare for the alcohol-induced damage awaiting it in the festive months of November and December seemed so enticing. But my inability to pass on a drink somewhat bothered me. I am however not alone in my failure, my friends seem to all struggle with turning down a post-uni vodka-and-lemonade at the student bar. In realising that I could not last four days without a drink, yet not identifying as having a drinking problem; perhaps myself and my friends are apart of a wider issue. In fact, all over the UK, young girls can’t seem to stay sober but not just for October. A new study conducted by The World Health Organisation has found that teenage girls in England, Scotland and Wales occupy three of the top six places for binge drinking among 36 nations in Europe, for the first time ever taking over their male counterparts. For women, binge drinking is defined as consuming more than six units of alcohol, compared to eight for men. Six units translates as three standard (175ml) glasses of wine while eight units is four, assuming that the ABV (Alcohol by Volume) is 12%. Drinking habits among young women are arguably changing because of a shift in marketing strategy. Alcohol companies are creating more women-friendly drinks which are based around fruity and appealing flavours and are calorie controlled. Additionally wine and vodka have declined in price in recent years, again these are drinks preferred by women, Sir Ian Gilmore, chairman of Alcohol Health Alliance UK told The Times. Not only are girls drinking more, so are women. British women now average three drinks a day, for the first time the same as men according to The Lancet. This makes us the eighth highest drinkers on the planet. Although these figures are worrying, it is important to point out that when measured year-on-year, drinking 88

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“Drinking is seen as a normal thing to do but if it was brought out today as a new drug it would be Class A without a doubt. It is lethal and people should be more vigilant with it ”

is actually decreasing; 58% of adults drank the week before a survey in 2016 which represents a fall from 64% in 2006 according to NHS figures. Although these figures may seem surprising, pledging to go alcohol-free for 31 days is possibly a bigger commitment than it seems. Whilst living in a culture where drinking plays such a central role to social interaction, perhaps passing on a drink could create a level of exclusion. How can we break away from the normalised tradition that we perhaps take for granted? And why do we have such a problem here in the UK? Reaching out to young British women seemed to be the best place to start. Millie Postlethwaite is a 19-year old living in Carlisle who has failed sober October for two years in a row, drinking on average two to three nights a week and getting drunk around once a fortnight; she tells me that this is average among girls her age. While working three jobs and studying at college she openly tells me about her struggle staying sober for October: “I was at a party and I didn’t want to be the only one not drinking, this year me and my boyfriend tried again, but, by the second week of October we couldn’t do it anymore, we both needed a drink.” Millie and I unpick the cause of the problem here in the UK, she tells me it is the accessibility of alcohol that is the root of the problem not only for those underage but for people of all ages: “Alcohol is

Words: Daisy Dalgliesh Image: Helena Lopes, Isabella Mendes

everywhere”. This story is a typical illustration of the UK’s damaging drinking culture, a competitive environment where binge drinking is not only normalised but celebrated. Young people are too absorbed with the social benefits that come with drinking, as an outlet to explore their new-found freedom, an adolescent rebellion of sort; drinking is possibly all too much fun to worry about its damaging effects. As such a key element of so many social interactions as a teenager, a time of finding yourself and establishing your identity. Adolescent drinking is almost a rite of passage here in the UK. We can all remember coming of age house parties centred around Blue WKD, fruit cider and your Dad’s can’s stolen out of the fridge. A hormone-fuelled environment, with an underlying competitive atmosphere of who can drink the most alcopops before their teen bodies can’t handle it anymore. Often it is a practice of acceptance, a bid to stay with the in-crowd, a way to not only establish their social circle but also themselves. This is supported by figures from the alcohol education charity Drink-aware which show 67% of 13-17 year-olds who drink alcohol say they drink because it makes social gatherings more fun. “Competitive drinking culture can arise when you’re part of a group of friends that express disapproval if someone doesn’t keep up with rounds or decides not to have a drink. This behaviour can put enormous pressure on people who worry that their friendship or work friendships will be affected; in turn, this can negatively impact their well being and mental health,” Dr John Larsen of Drink-aware tells me. The fear of disapproval and a desire to be accepted by peers can explain in part our problem with binge drinking here in the UK. But what are the effects of binge drinking as a teen? Artefact spoke to Evie, a 24 yearold living in London, who has remained sober for 13 months after taking part in Sober October while at University. To the disbelief of her peers it “totally changed her perspective on drinking”. She opens up about the effects of teen binge drinking and has dedicated a blog to her experiences in the hope of enlightening


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other girls who may have adopted similar drinking habits. Exploring her memories and regrets of binge drinking Evie tells us: “I tend to glamorise those times, but in order to stay sober I have to remember the weeklong hangovers, the broken relationships and the blackouts. I missed out on a lot because I was so obsessed with going out and getting drunk. I loved going out. I found it exciting. It was probably my favourite and only hobby. My mental health was deteriorating and so were my most important relationships.” Evie then goes on to describe the social peer pressure she experienced when staying sober: “There seems to be a stigma attached to being sober, people think you are boring but I’ve never felt more alive. Drinking is seen as a normal thing to do but if it was brought out today as a new drug it would be Class A without a doubt. It is lethal and people should be more vigilant with it.” Evie’s experiences are not unique, the social pressure is a key contributing factor in why young women drink. Although more sober bars are opening up, even they still have a stigma attached, she tells me how she attends fellowship

meetings (Alcoholics Anonymous) and is the youngest person there. This alone possibly illustrates the normalised drinking culture among young people and a general inability to identify a problem with excess alcohol consumption. According to The Lancet, alcohol is thought to be a factor in 2.8 million deaths a year worldwide. Dr Larsen provides an insight into the damaging effects: “Binge drinking harms your health and leaves you vulnerable. Our bodies can only process about one unit of alcohol an hour and less for some people. That’s about half a pint of low strength (4%) lager or ale. If you drink a lot in a short space of time the amount of alcohol in the blood can stop the body from working properly.” The damage is not caused by a single vodka and coke or a glass of wine with dinner, but the big Saturday night binge, a practice most common among younger women. Sober October is a good starting point in controlling drinking habits suggests Dr. Larsen, who thinks it’s “effective when combined with moderate drinking for the rest of the year. Cutting back or taking a break from alcohol can be a good

opportunity to reflect on how much and how often you drink, and the potential impact on your health, your mental wellbeing, family and relationships.” Thinking back to my many nights spent in my local pub, spending my student loan on unnecessary vodka-lemonades and countless mornings ruined by hangovers. I now regret succumbing to social pressure and breaking Sober October. Perhaps I’m just like Millie and Evie, a product of an environment fuelled by alcohol, in which getting drunk is portrayed as an escapism, a way to socialise. Speaking to these young women has opened my eyes and given me a clear scope of the problem here in the UK while inspiring me to put right my failure of sober October. Through Dry January I have perhaps put right my wrongs, stayed sober and above all surprised myself. If you relate to any of the issues discussed, you can get more information from Drink Aware, a charity working to reduce alcohol misuse here in the UK, and Mind who provide details on where you can find support on alcohol addiction and dependency. ●

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YOGA AND THE WHALE Battling stress at the Natural History Museum

With the early breeze chilling spines and the sun cascading down from the tip of the building, the Natural History Museum opens it’s doors a little earlier than usual. Teaming up with East of Eden, a group of yoga instructors based in Walthamstow hosts early morning yoga sessions under the famous blue whale skeleton. A class of nearly 100 people gather on the early Sunday morning. Directly underneath the skeleton, the early birds, who have already rolled out their yoga mats, prepare themselves for a mental and spiritual cleanse. As the hall settles and 8:00 am approaches, a sudden drone of a conch shell fills the room. The sound echoes and with the mixture of the deep sound and cold breeze that fills the room, goosebumps form and you can feel the sound almost hit the pit of your stomach. The class itself begins with a brief introduction of what will happen throughout the session. Starting with deep breathing exercises, the room is now filled with a deep guttural humming sound. “20,000 people walk through these halls. It is also the same number of breaths we take in one day,” says Amy, one of the yoga instructors. The class then can officially begin, and people with different levels of the practice can be distinguished amongst the crowd as some find it more difficult to balance. Despite this, there is a sense of unity and calmness. After the various poses practised in the class, everyone is told to grab their jackets, scarves, hats etc. and lie down comfortably on their mats. A man stands on the top of the Darwin staircase, perfectly aligned between two metal gongs. With a small hit, the sound vibrates across the room and what is called ‘gong meditation’, can now begin. As people remain still, the sound from the gong continues. A cold breeze fills the room, and the request to grab extra layers of clothing becomes justified. The morning sun shines through the windows above, shining on the giant whale skeleton. With one final hit of the gong, the room comes to silence and the class comes to an end. While people start to slowly get up, others remain still, so at peace that they’ve almost fallen asleep. As everyone packs away, I meet with Abby McLachlan, East of Eden co-founder. With a background in the music industry, McLachlan couldn’t imagine doing anything else, but her love for yoga emerged when she had her son. “I was a single mom and I was still consulting in music, but travelling a long way across London to get to my yoga practice. I was aware that working in music wasn’t going to work long term as a single parent, so I thought that setting up a yoga studio was worth a go. It combined a passion — something I loved with potentially flexible working hours,” she told us. In 2015, they opened their first studio. Six months later, with a crowdfunded investment, they have created a large yoga studio in Walthamstow and a smaller pilates studio with bar fit classes which they opened three years ago. When looking at expanding their classes, they came across a National History Museum opening. “They approached a few people about the idea of running yoga classes at the museum and I came back with a proposal based around evolution and the museum’s work. And I think that they liked the fact that my proposal kind of mirrored what they do,” McLachlan explains. “They liked the combination of breath with movement with sound bath and it’s not something that any other museum 90

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has done,” McLachlan tells Artefact. “Like there are lots of yoga in cool places but nothing that combines other elements and I think that part of the amazingness of being in this space is just the being. And so by accessing the breath and by moving onto this kind of higher energy, higher consciousness sound bath, you’re kind of experiencing it in this kind of myriad of different ways. It’s not just the movements.” If you ever stop to think about yoga, you wouldn’t see it as something necessary to do, but with being surrounded by the internet, stress and busy streets, it is important to step away for a bit. “I think anything that involves moving and breathing and taking some time for yourself is crucial,” McLachlan says. She further explains how the there is proof that with the busy world we live in, it is vital to take a step back and calm the nervous system and brain and practising yoga is a simple and accessible way of doing that. As for the health benefits of yoga, it is more than just something for the mind. According to the Minded Institute “In 2017, 151 NHS employees were placed on an eight-week yoga in the workplace programme in order to evaluate staff absence as a result of musculoskeletal conditions.” McLachlan supports the idea of the NHS getting behind the beneficial aspect of yoga and explains how it is not only something that can put yoga in a different light but can remove that level of intimidation when looking to join a class. “Where they don’t think they’re going to come in and think ‘I don’t look right, I’m not wearing the right clothes’, hopefully, that ends and the NHS rectifying that I think is a really important step in creating that accessibility.” With social media platforms, specifically Instagram, the image of what yoga should be was changed to one of a perfectly-toned young woman with expensive leggings. This in itself plays a major role in the number of people who will feel uncomfortable going to a yoga class, in fear of not fitting that ‘image’. “Yoga has been around for centuries. It’s been kind of picked up in the west and there is definitely the misperception of it being for white, well-off women and that’s just not the case; it’s for everybody,” McLachlan explains. “I think moving away from that ‘Instagram’ imagery is important actually just in terms of the way it is perceived. We have women only yoga in the studio and so we’re trying to kind to offer it out to people who potentially don’t feel as comfortable practising with men, but half the battle is trying to get them through the door.” Looking at the number of people attending this class alone does demonstrate that yoga is something that is being more accepted by any age and any gender; the mix of the class is wider than it possibly used to be. With support from the NHS, the numbers will grow as people will be directed to a more natural form of treatment. As for East of Eden, they plan to continue their work with the National History Museum in the following year and plan on growing their own studio in the form of opening in new locations and looking to add more support to the general public aside from yoga classes. While yoga may appear to be a community that some feel that they ‘don’t fit in’, there are many opportunities for anyone to join in. Truthfully, everyone needs a break from the busy city and even their own busy minds and access to that doesn’t have any age, gender or ethnicity limit. ●


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Words: Sinead Carroll Image: National History Museum Press Office

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Words: Lydia Tsiouva Image: Alexander Krivitskiy 92

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PORN: HERO OR VILLAIN IN A RELATIONSHIP? Could the short-term pleasure of pornographic content be a gateway to long-term suffering?

Like most publishers that have enabled electronic accessibility alongside their physical publishing, pornographic content is now as easy and quick to access as funny cat videos, the weather and worldwide news. The internet has not only exposed us to graphic content but has gradually allowed us to develop categories of taste; from anime to foot fetish, ethnic preference to role-play, our choices for prompting arousal are now more limitless than ever before. Whilst some enjoy it alone as a means of releasing sexual tension, others use it as a means of enhancing the chemistry in their relationships. However, it seems that engaging excessively with porn can be damaging to both groups; whether triggering feelings of jealousy or self-doubt in a relationship, or a mental barrier that hinders ability and endurance during sex. Psychosexual therapist Nicola Foster suggests that some people, particularly in couples, consider watching porn whilst in a relationship to be “micro infidelity”, better understood as “micro-cheating”. Foster suggests that communication is key to improving your erotic life, as thoroughly discussing your likes and dislikes can be way more effective than resorting to porn. “There’s a great set of cards from the school of life called pillow talk. I use those with couples sometimes to involve their imagination and creativity. This is more engaging than porn which is artificial and has very little to do with real sex,” she says. Angela, a 21-year-old student from South London who maintains a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend of four years, has discovered that the use of porn strengthens their bond whilst apart from each other. “Porn has been a relatively positive experience for us. Being with someone for a long period of time, as well as being away from each other, we became more open on the subject of porn and we have incorporated it to spice it up when we’re not with each other, and even when we are.” Though sex alone is enough, Angela told us how porn can help to minimise the distance between her and her partner. “It’s not an accurate representation of sex, but it can give ideas.” Angela also believes that it shouldn’t be considered a taboo or something to be ashamed of doing whilst you’re in a relationship: “You learn a lot more about your partner and how you can please them more. You can tell a lot from the category your partner watches.” Unfortunately, however, porn usage does not benefit every couple. For 19-year-old Georgina, the internet phenomenon became an intermittent obstacle in her relationship with her partner of a year. Although their mental connection and feelings for each other remain unaffected, Anderson felt the heavy distraction of porn amplified her inability to provide the same theatrical and exaggerated intimacy her partner saw online. Foster views porn as a concern, in this sense, because it’s a visual stimulation rather than physical, it re-programmes the brain to be turned on in a different way, and one that is unnatural. During real sex, there’s an intense feeling of touch sensitivity that is impossible to replicate artificially. “If you watch a lot of porn, there’s a lot of novelty, it can teach the brain with neuroplasticity to expect more and more novelty. This is what makes it harder for men to get erections,” she says. More so, it disregards the real build up to sex, which of course involves a lot more than the scripted, staged, first-meet

scenarios in porn films. “I think porn desensitises the value of both men and women, and you lose the person behind the naked body performing sex acts,” Georgina says. This is where the interference rooted in her relationship: “He thought that, due to porn, he’d seen ‘the best’, and because of that, he has very high standards and can’t physically ‘get it up’ if he’s not somewhat impressed,” she says. Whilst both Georgina and her partner have worked to tackle this issue, certain aspects have left a permanent mark and, if they don’t take a long time to change, may be irreversible. “It has definitely physically affected him, and although he’s much more able to finish, he still has porn-related expectations or presumptions,” she says. For instance, having explored so many different areas of porn have made her partner curious and, for that reason, longing for something Georgina is unable to compete with. This could be anything from appearance to dark fantasies that “he couldn’t do to someone he loves,” she says. Consequently, the idea that she wasn’t enough for her partner in this sense left her feeling hurt, and unfulfilling. Pornhub’s 2018 online report is solid evidence that the popularity of porn is on the rise; they saw a total of 33.5 billion visits over the course of the year — that’s five billion more visits than 2017. More so, 12 videos were uploaded every minute of the day, whilst 962 searches were entered every second. Foster explained the prevalence of the pressure to conform to ideals of porn: “One of the concerns is that people feel the need to live up to what they see in porn, which is, entertainment. I hear worrying things from young women that they’re expected to do some of the things that they see in porn or look like the women in porn. It’s so false and divorced from reality. It’s important to keep pushing that message home,” she says. In favour of a healthy relationship, Georgina does not consider herself to be jealous because of the societal label that porn carries, but “I get a little jealous sometimes when I know my boyfriend finds anyone else attractive, for example, even a celebrity, but definitely with people that he interacts with often. However, I know he watches porn, and I’m never jealous of the much more explicit women he’ll be watching who will be very sexually attractive,” she says. For others, the jealousy sparked by watching porn has jeopardised a relationship more than the difficulty to perform has. Connor, a 22-year-old from south-east London, suggests that sometimes its easier to pleasure yourself through porn rather than having sex, which is what resulted in disagreements and discussions that led his ex-partner to feel upset. “When we didn’t have sex I would often get blue balls and have to do something about it the next day. So she told me to tell her about it next time because she said she wanted to be the one that I was thinking about, not other girls. She took it as an insult like she wasn’t good enough,” he says. Unless one person in a relationship has reached a point of compulsivity with porn, Foster indicates the best way to keep your partner on their toes is by experimenting with different elements of touch. “Nobody teaches us what our partner likes and doesn’t like, only they can do that. If you are concentrating on what they want and improving the quality of touch with good communication, it can be way better than porn.” ● 93


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Exploring Rome Things to do and see in the Eternal City

Words and images: Elle Burnett

Rome, a city almost three thousand years old, littered with ancient ruins, impressive places of worship and artistic sculptures and architecture — it demands to be seen. But that’s not all it has to offer. Along with its impressive history, Rome is also the city of theatre, music, art, fine wine. The list goes on. As it is one of Europe’s most popular destinations, let Artefact help you with everything you need to know before visiting the city of secrets.

of three thousand years-worth of secrets and history. Rome is best experienced and explored on foot. Wander along winding streets with a coffee in hand or enjoy a gelato in a cobbled roadside pavement cafe, it all adds to the city’s charm. The pace of life can be slow and sleepy like a Sunday morning, but you can also enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city centre, out and about on the weekends. It has the perfect mix of both relaxation and excitement making Rome your perfect city break destination.

Travel Flights to Rome are frequent and usually inexpensive. Most flights last between one-and-a-half to two hours. As for public

transport once you’re there, Rome is similar to London. There are buses that depart every ten to fifteen minutes and an underground system that runs every five. An all-day travel ticket costs roughly three euros (£2.63) and can be bought from the airport and all underground stations. It covers the entire zone of the city, so it’s super easy and cheap to get around. Where to go and what to do Like any other city, it is bursting with tourist attractions, but there’s something more mysterious and magical about the city of Rome. The city leaks this dolce vita chicness even though it carries the weight

The Trevi Fountain If you haven’t already guessed, at the top of our tourist attraction list is, of course, the famous Trevi Fountain. A historic landmark, architecturally remarkable and stunningly beautiful, the fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi in 1732. The Trevi shows the sea god Oceanus with his seahorses. As the sunbeams and the all-day crowds of tourists watch the fountain, crystal blue, sparkling water trickles down the sandy coloured stone sculptures. People from all walks of life gather around taking pictures and flipping old coins into the fountain as, legend has it, a coin thrown into the fountain ensures your return to Rome, two coins are thrown to help in love, and three for wedding bells. To appreciate the Trevi in all its glory visit the fountain early in the morning as the sun rises. Pick up a coffee and a pastry on the way. Sit on the edge of the fountain walls and watch as the sun gleams onto each sculpture and as the water ripples and sparkles flowing through the fountain. Not only is this a beautiful time to see the fountain but you will have beaten the crowds for the day. The Spanish Steps Just a short walk from the Trevi you can find the Spanish Steps. An elegantly constructed stairway made of gorgeous white marble, connecting the Piazza di Spagna at the bottom to the Piazza Trinita Dei Monti at the top. Built by Francesco de Sanctis in 1723-25, the steps are another popular tourist location. The bottom of the steps is littered with high-end designer stores such as Tiffany’s, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. The

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street also consists of lavish Italian restaurants and cafes, making it the most cosmopolitan area of Rome. Perfect for a shopping day or maybe a luxurious evening meal in the evening. Take a stroll through the area and perch on one of the 135 white marble steps. It’s a great place to wind down with friends or a loved one before your evening begins and watch the sunset over the rooftops of the city. The Vatican and the Sistine Chapel To follow on from such beauty at the Trevi and the Spanish Steps, the perfect place to visit next was the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. Home to the Roman Catholic Pope and Bishop of Rome and know for the art that hangs on its walls, as well as the precious jewels and sculptures it magnificently exhibits. The Vatican is simply a must see, and let’s face it, staying in Rome and not visiting the Vatican is like staying in Rome and not eating pizza. Simply a must. Opened in 1929, the Vatican’s astonishing interior is simply breathtaking. You can wander through long stretching halls, illustrated with colourful murals and hall coated in gold. We often found ourselves admiring the ceiling or the floor tiles rather than the sculptures or paintings displayed. First revealed in 1512, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is a painted mural by Michelangelo and arguably one of the most influential artworks of all time. The mural depicts scenes from the Book of Genesis and the most famously the scene showing The Creation of Adam. More than 5,000 square feet is covered by this mural and it continues to amaze thousands of tourists (including myself ) and pilgrims every day. To avoid disappointment visit the Vatican during the week and in the morning, if possible. Queues and crowds tend to be busiest after 12:00pm on weekends and the Vatican closes early on Sundays. The Colosseum For a change of pace and scenery, the Colosseum should be next on your list. Learning about a history of gladiators battling to the death on stage as well as extravagant shows of exotic animals, live music and props, is most fascinating. Built from mostly glossy white marble, stone and concrete, the Colosseum

“The pace of life can be slow and sleepy like a Sunday morning, but you can also enjoy the hustle and bustle of the city centre, out and about on the weekends.” was truly outstanding. It stands proudly in the centre of Rome, 48 meters tall and 156 meters wide, with a base area of six acres. Built between 72AD and 80AD, by the manpower of over tens of thousands of slaves, the Colosseum is the largest amphitheatre in the world. Much like the Vatican, this is a hugely popular tourist attraction, aim to visit early to mid-morning to avoid the queues. On the grounds outside the Colosseum, there will be walking tours advertised for no more than fifteen euros. Try out a walking tour that includes the stage of the Colosseum, this is a sight worth seeing and the Colosseum only allow access to a few walking tours each day. Go to the Opera For the romantics out there, much like myself, why not book an Opera during your stay? It’s a real treat to get dressed up in your finest wear and visit the opera. After all when in Rome, as they say. If you are lucky enough to find an

opera in the Planetario, an ancient Roman planetarium, most definitely book to go. They only open it once a year and it’s such a magical experience to watch the performers and listen to the opera band play under the stars. However, if the Planetario isn’t open, the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma have operas and ballets on all year round and to watch the performance in the pretty red cushioned seats and gold trimmed curtains really makes for a special evening. Take a walking tour Walking tours are a great way to explore a new city, especially Rome. As well as seeing the tourist attractions you learn all about the city’s history and myths from professionals. They usually take place throughout the week and are often free (except for the tour guide’s tip at the end). You can easily find walking tours online and most hotels store lots of tour pamphlets. ● 95


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SANTA FE: THE OTHER SIDE OF MEXICO

Exploring Mexico’s skyscraper district

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Words and images: Daisy Dalgliesh

Glass structures 50-floors high topped with helicopter pads, immaculate concrete pavements lined with Porsche 911’s and G-wagons, set against an equally immaculate sky-blue backdrop. Sounds like a scene from Manhattan, but this Santa Fe, Mexico City. Often a country associated with the crime, cartel, and violence. Figures show that Latin America remains the most dangerous place in the world with Mexican Cities appearing twelve times in a list of the most dangerous cities worldwide, according to a 2017 study conducted by Mexico's Citizens' Council for Public Security. But here in this South-Western suburb, life seems almost untouched by these dangers. As I’m sat within the westernised bubble of Santa Fe beneath the 4pm sun, a sharp whistle of a distant traffic warden and regular skyward rumble

of an aeroplane passing punctuate the otherwise still air. A tone of sunburnt green spreads as far as the eye can see, interrupted by mirrored million dollar structures which grow skyward like trees from an avant-garde universe, reflecting the blinding sunlight beautifully across Mexicana park. The name seems quite ill-fitting as this park feels more likely to be San Diego than Santa Fe. A maze of walkways meanders through the park, and circle around artificial aqua blue water features. Each lined with high-end restaurants and perused by designer dogs wearing similarly designer jackets, in 25-degree heat. I question if these jackets are a practicality or some strange form of further asserting status. A man dressed in double denim and scuffed black cowboy boots adjusts his age-old TV as he waits to polish shoes, 97


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a pristine looking business-man takes a seat on the raised chair and points to his brogues while a Spanish mutter escapes from beneath his thick moustache and a cigarette hangs from his mouth. The scene illustrates Santa Fe perfectly, the binary opposition of the traditional roots against sleek business futuristic architecture. Mexican culture seems to escape through the cracks no matter how many skyscrapers and malls and built. It is these little glints that give away the un-concealable colour of Mexican culture. That being said the vivid colours that seem to find themselves painted over each and every inch of surface in all other areas of Mexico City are few and far between in Santa Fe. Small concrete painted structures adorned with Saint Guadalupe and various Coca Cola signs are swapped for iridescent blue modern glass and clean white concrete. It’s easy to see how Santa Fe has earned the name of the skyscraper district. The district sits on an old sand mine which supplied Mexico City with materials for its development in the 20th century, these humble roots seem a far cry from the areas cutting edge architecture, home to some of the most influential developments in the city. The largest mall in Latin America is situated in the centre named, Centro Santa Fe with more than 500 stores and spreading across six floors. As well as one of the most iconic 98

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buildings in the city, Torre Arcos Bosques, often referred to as 'the pants' because it resembles a pair of legs, it was at one point was one of the tallest buildings in Mexico and the first intelligent building in Latin America. Food is maybe what Mexico is best known for. But here the flavours are is incomparably distant from the distinct spiced Aztec dishes that are more typical of the centro-historico. In that the pallete here is perhaps more international, highend sushi restaurants are in abundance as are fine Mexican restaurants an evolution of the typical 'taquerilla' which re-create the typical greasy road-side snacks. But the colour and spice of Mexican culture stand firmly adorning every street corner in the form of papas stands. Selling almost-aluminous looking corn-based fried snacks, loaded in every assortment of salsa imaginable. These are often topped with gummy bears, peanuts, jicama and cureitos (pickled pork rinds) to create 'dorilocos' which translates to crazy Doritos, these are something of speciality here and can be considered as Mexico's addition to street food. Supplied with dorilocos, I step into the elevator of my apartment building, 60-stories high the temptation to press each button is somewhat overwhelming. From 60-floors skyward the designer dogs are merely specks and Mexicana

park looks miniature in comparison to the hills that spread southward of Mexico City. Collections of concrete houses cover the entirety of the mountains with a blanket of colour, the mountain tops that protude are Sierra de las Cruces. A collection of mountains which separate Mexico City from the state of Mexico and are a popular walking destination among locals. Thinking back to my plane’s decent into this urban sprawl, it confirmed everything I had expected of once the worlds largest city, a bursting metropolis, overpopulated and vast. A collection of moving streams of warm lights crossed and meandered over the darkness emitted by the 10pm sky. What almost looked like lava moving and flowing through the city, as I got closer I realised that these streams of yellow lights were thousands and thousands of cars, some at a standstill, others moving slowly. Living within this urban sprawl for two-weeks has enabled me to see that within these masses and crowds, is a city vivid in colour and equally saturated in culture. Santa Fe represents another shade within this colourful culture, it is a futuristic self-contained city, high in the mountains, with more swimming pools and helicopter pads than imaginable. It showcases the best of Mexican business, innovation, and architecture, it alters the rhetoric and presents Mexico as more than a violent cartel-land. � 99


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Wedding tourism Now you can attend a marriage ceremony on a trip to India

The Golden temple, Wagha border, the pink city tour, and Bollywood are all major stops on the agenda for travelling to India. But have you ever thought about adding a wedding to this list? Now you can. For a small fee, tourists can experience a big, fat Indian wedding. A new website gives you the chance, and for some, it is the opportunity of a lifetime. JoinMyWedding.com is a two-sided online global marketplace where couples (“hosts”) can register their weddings as events, and travellers (“guests”) can book their place to attend these traditional, authentic weddings, as a cultural experience while traveling. The cost is roughly around £120 for attending only one day, and £200 for two or three days of the wedding. This includes entry to the marriage, all food, and drinks, mendhi also, a dedicated person (“ceremony guide”) nominated by the couple who welcomes the guests, and explains the customs, traditions and what is happening. Transport, accommodation and costume hire are not included in this. “Our business model is that travellers pay a contribution before the wedding, we hold on to this money, and release it to the couple after the wedding is over. This is how we ensure there’s no misuse of the site by anyone. We take a cut from all transactions that happen through our website,” says Orsi Parkanyi the CEO of the company. It’s a new trend which is picking up via social media and word of mouth and is becoming a very popular experience with tourists. “If you think about it, at a wedding, which is a happy occasion and a joyful event, you get to experience all the different cultural elements in one go: meet with local people, taste the local cuisine, dress in Indian attire, music, ambiance, entertainment, learn about the local customs, even architecture depending on the venue. Our tagline ‘You have not been to India until you have been to an Indian wedding’ captures this greatly. ‘Become an Indian for a day’, or a few days in the case of the big fat Indian shaadi (wedding),” says Parkanyi. Orsi was born and brought up in Hungary, but lived in Australia for most of her adult life. Three years ago, whilst she was visiting her family in Hungary and she got a chance to talk with a girl who told her all about the amazing 100

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“Become an Indian for a day, or a few days in the case of the big fat Indian wedding” weddings she was about to attend that summer. She also told us that, a few years ago, she attended a traditional Indian wedding in India and that it was the most amazing experience of her life. That’s when the idea was conceived: what if there was a way for people to join authentic weddings around the world? By opening up their wedding celebrations, couples are forming new, meaningful and lasting connections with people from different cultures, sharing this special day with people who are super keen to be involved, and saving a little on the wedding costs by also giving others the chance to make their dreams of attending an Indian wedding come true. Being proud of their culture, couples are sharing and showcasing their love with others. Couples willing to participate in such an exchange are usually found via word-of-mouth or even seek the com-

Words: Rheia Chand Image: Orsi Pakanyi

pany themselves through social media platforms. Dan and Laura went to a wedding in Rajasthan: “It was the best and the most memorable experience I had in India. We learnt so much about Indian culture, we were not treated like guests,but were treated like family. We would recommend anyone going to India to do this.” Some argue that this type of experience tarnishes everything a wedding stands for: “I feel conceptions like this ruin the intimacy of what a wedding should be, it is turning the wedding into some form of a concert, selling tour wedding away,” says Aruna Sohal, a wedding planner based in London. We asked Parkanyi if she feels joinmywedding.com takes away the personal emotions of a wedding, she argues: “I do not think JoinMyWedding is for everyone. I do not believe it ruins intimacy; I do think that it brings people and cultures closer. A wedding is an experience. It is a fact, it is the ultimate cultural experience, and JoinMyWedding is not about making money, it would not even be enough.” “It is a small contribution people are willing to pay, that ensures it runs smoothly, and people have a good experience, and also that couples at least do not lose money; their costs associated with additional people are covered,” Parkanyi concludes. ●


Jazz: no sell-by date 102 Netflix breaks the screen 105 Separating art from the artist 106 The Glitterbox Revolution 108 Digital to physical: the evolution of indie gaming 110 How Freddie Mercury redefined masculinity 112 Science not sorcery! 114 Venus Raven: pain for pleasure 118 Independent artists in the music industry 120 Inside the Sentaku 122 House of Daze 124 Photographers photographed 126 Rock the Kremlin 128


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J A Z Z :

Words: Sinead Carroll Image: Sinead Carroll and Ross Dines

NO SELL-BY DATE Is Jazz dying as an art form? We look at the people who disagree with this idea, as they continue to keep the genre alive 102

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As people’s tastes change over the years, so does music. With genres such as Latin American and K-Pop having their time in the spotlight, other genres are not as lucky. While pop mainly dominates the charts, it leads people to believe that other genres are ‘dying’. Particularly jazz. Jazz was introduced 100 years ago in New Orleans. Since then, it went through sub-genres including soft jazz, blues jazz, swing jazz, among others. In the 21st century with much more competition, has it seen the end of its popularity, is it making a comeback or has it never left? Artefact spoke to Ross Dines, Music Manager of Pizza Express Jazz Club. While it’s a brand that is widely known for its “irresistible Italian pizzas”, it has, since the late 60’s, also been hosting live jazz nights every night, presenting more than 2,000 shows every year across different venues. “Peter Boizot is the founder of this place, and he started Pizza Express in 1965,” Dines explains. “He was the first man really to bring pizza to the UK, so that’s where pizza started. In the beginning, they opened up the first restaurant in Wardour Street, Soho, and he put on live jazz there.” “The third or fourth restaurant he opened up in Dean Street in Soho was in 1969 and in 1976 it turned into a full-time jazz club, known as the Pizza Express Jazz Club. Since then it’s been averaging ten live jazz shows a week, every day of the year. It was a big part of his passion.”They get around 200 emails a day from jazz musicians wanting to perform. “It’s more about getting the right balance for the programming strategy in the short term and long term so that each night we put on world class music and it suits the time of year,” Dines explains. When looking at the number of people attending these gigs in the Pizza Express Jazz Club, it appears that there is a mix of ages and genders. “There’s a lot of new hip, new soul jazz acts which bring a very young crowd, so we’re seeing that come through. Jazz is a small word but it means a lot, and there are so many different sub-genres in there. There’s certainly a buzz, and the national press is saying that it’s having another round in being cool, so it’s certainly in no way doom or gloom,” With a new sound of jazz developing, there is a bigger chance of attracting the younger audience, while still sticking to its traditional roots. Likewise, with the help of social media, attracting a younger audience is becoming more possible now than ever. “I’ve been a music manager for ten years and promoting music has changed a lot. In many ways, it has gotten easier.

You can do much more targeted (work) and (use) a lot more intellectual ways of getting new crowds. The artists have also been empowered in a way with social media and digital marketing.But is jazz dying as an art form? This is a question that has been asked for years, as the genre is not as widely listened to, in comparison to its early ages. “It’s ridiculous really,” Dines states. “There’s going to be highs and lows in the media. But there’s loads of new talent coming through, and there are loads of legends still going at it as well as ever.” With a venue that seats up to 120 people, setting the atmosphere is the most important part of hosting a successful live jazz night. “There are some types of music that just would not suit that intimate environment. It can’t be too deafeningly loud. So, when you walk in the room, you sort of go, ‘wow, yeah, I get it’,” Dines said. The Pizza Express Jazz Club is an extremely popular venue for their food and their jazz nights. With music venues in Soho, Holborn, Birmingham, Maidstone and Chelsea, they are targeting a much bigger audience with different styles of music and events with their country music nights, chat shows and stand up comedy acts. They also have three music venues in the United Arab Emirates, two in Dubai and one in Abu Dhabi, hosting live music every night, so it’s a business that is expanding on a worldwide scale.“It’s good because we’re opening up into new territories and reaching new audiences and that also helps to feed back into what we’re doing in our other venues. So people see what else we’ve got up our sleeves and what the other venues have got to offer,” Dines explains. “So, five ticket venues in the UK, 1,500 ticketed shows a year (between them). Then you’ve got around 20 restaurants around the country doing live music. It is expanding. But for us as a brand, we enjoy what we’re doing. We’ve been doing it since day one, sharing our passions. The customers seem to appreciate it, and we certainly do.” Needing to see this crowd for ourselves, we arranged to meet Rosie Frater-Taylor, 19, jazz singer/songwriter. Set to perform alongside Ella Hohnen and the Ford’s Treeclimbers at the Green Note — a live music venue in Camden Town. With the only light coming from candles on each table. At the front sits a small stage, squeezing in a drum kit, cello, guitars, violin and vibes on the side. Every seat is filled, and the red curtain behind the stage is drawn closed. Ella Hohnen, the lead singer, laughed and spoke comfortably in between songs. We talked to Rosie after her per-

formance. With another band coming to perform, the musicians were squashed in a narrow hallway, packing away their instruments. With everything finally packed away, Rosie had a minute to breathe. Currently studying a Jazz degree at the Royal Academy of Music while managing her studies, Rosie has also recently released her new album, called On My Mind on October 1, 2018. With both of her parents being writers, composers and jazz musicians, Rosie grew up around the genre and found her passion for it at the later age of 13: “I think mainly just the love for so many different types of music. There’s this one artist that I’m particularly inspired by called Becca Stevens when I saw her live it kind of cleared up a lot of things for me in my head,” she told us. “I thought ‘Yeah, I can make a career out of this.’ You don’t really realise it’s any good until you start playing to people and you get a positive response.” With jazz not being as popular as other genres, there would be more difficulty in finding venues that suit the instruments. However, with most new young artists falling under many categories of music, it is something that makes it easier to promote and gain access to different venues. “I’m quite lucky in the sense that the music I write comes under several different genres, so it’s kind of a bit of folk, a bit of pop and a bit of jazz in there, so there are a lot of different venues that I can approach with those angles.” With social media being a very useful tool for new musicians, it has become easier to promote music online for free. With websites and platforms such as Soundcloud, Youtube, Twitter and Facebook, it is much easier for artists to share their music and grow their fan community from home. When we asked Rosie about her opinion on jazz dying as an art form, she laughed and explained how she still sees it being said all the time: “Traditional jazz will always be a thing in itself and to play the kind of music that I play, I had to learn the traditional kinds of music.” “I wouldn’t say it’s dead. I’d say it’s something that is always there in modern kinds of jazz, but it’s completely understandable why people would find it inaccessible. I think there’s always so much you can do with jazz and jazz-inspired music that it can never die.” With the other band starting their set in the back, Rosie focused on their performance as the music consumed the room. Regarding her plans, there are still many in progress including writing new music and finishing her degree. “Right now, it’s the songwriting that’s kind of taking precedent, but 103


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also, I’d love to bring what I have to the table. Accompanying other musicians as well, I’d love to perform with some big names maybe. I’m really into the songwriting thing, and I think there is so much you can do with that. With university, especially in a practical musical degree, you need to really start your career before you leave. So I will continue to grow as an artist and improve as a musician.” With jazz artists often having musical parents and being surrounded by that sound, it is more common that people will be pulled towards music and grow to love it. However, many artists found jazz a lot later. Zara McFarlane is jazz singer/songwriter based in the UK. She started singing at the age of 11, and from there she found her passion for writing songs and performing them in school. Attending competitions from the age of 12, Zara continued to grow as an artist. “I like to try and take people on an emotional journey with music, and I think that’s because of people like Nina Simone, her voice is so distinctive, and you literally can’t get away from going on an emotional journey with her because she has everything in her sound,” Zara says. “That is something that I tend to put into my music, whether it’s through lyrics, writing, the music itself or the vocal delivery.” With Caribbean parents, Zara’s music is a combination of styles and genres, integrating Reggae and Caribbean beats into jazz: “I studied musical theatre in a place called the Brit School, and I went on to do my degree. My teacher was really complimentary of my voice in the style of music. So, he was like ‘we’re going to go and do some gigs together’, so he got me to learn 30 songs for this gig that was a 45-minute set gig,” “After I did my undergraduate degree, I ended up hanging out and singing at a place called the Jazz Café. I got to meet a lot of musicians there, and I got involved with a company called Tomorrow’s Warriors that were about developing young jazz musicians.”Tomorrow’s Warriors are a close-knit team that helps young developing artists start their music careers. “They gave us opportunities to be able to perform and tour. I was probably about 19/20 when I met them. We’d get the opportunity to tour and perform around Europe and around the UK.” Zara says. There is a resurgence in the jazz scene, with new young musicians making their way to the front. While it may not be seen as much as pop music, they are having a good time with it. “I think at the moment in the UK jazz scene, there’s a lot going on,” Zara explains, 104

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“I wouldn't say (jazz) it's dead. I'd say it's something that is always there in modern kinds of jazz. I think there is always so much you can do with jazz and jazz inpired music that it can never die.”

“a lot of young new jazz musicians are doing good stuff in jazz, and I think because they’re younger, they are attracting a younger audience. I think people are having the opportunity to hear the music. Once they hear the music, any style of music, they’ll get the chance to see if they like it or not.” When it comes to any genre of music, it is important for artists to show who they are through their music. With different personal influences and styles, that is something that is becoming more noticeable in the way we listen to music.“We’re not particularly preoccupied with the old traditional way with doing things necessarily. We’re inspired by that, but we’re also bringing ourselves, our personalities and our other influences in and I think that’s how music develops in general,” Zara explains. “We’ve got different styles of jazz anyway over the years, but sometimes people can get preoccupied with a particular sound of jazz. That approach to music, in general, is stifling and not necessary, so it’s exciting right now because we’re approaching it very differently.” Instead of sticking to the traditional ways, they continue to be inspired by it, but they’re adding their own style into the mix, breaking that stereotypical idea around jazz and breaking out as individual artists. When bringing up the dreaded topic about jazz being ‘dead’, Zara laughs: “It’s something that I think has been said about jazz since it was invented to some degree,” she explains. “You don’t think of pop music as something that’s going to die, we actually expect it to evolve, and I think it’s time that people start thinking about jazz that way as well. “When you’ve got the swing feel,

you’ve got dancing, and it’s very much a social thing,” Zara says. “It’s very physical and exciting. But when it became more of an introspective art form, and people were sat down, listening to it in a bar as opposed to dancing to it, I think people might have felt that the art form was dying as they knew it.” Social media is a massive help to upcoming artists who have yet to be in the spotlight. There is a lot more choice of music for listeners, which ultimately increases the competition.“I think music, in general, is just really competitive,” Zara says. “Especially right now, because you can put out your own music. There’s so much music out there. More so than even ten years, 20 years ago. It is competitive, but I think it is a niche market. It’s maybe a slower burn in some ways, but it has been over the years than other styles.“It’s one of those things to me, trying to be true to myself musically and hopefully that connects with people. You can build your audience that way. I think that’s more important than trying to think about competing with other people.” While Rosie was brought up in a jazz background, Zara was not brought up in that environment. Regardless of their different upbringings, they still found their passion for the genre and have both been successful with it. “I’d probably approach things at a more open perspective than perhaps people who were homegrown in jazz, because my parents didn’t listen to jazz when I was growing up. That’s not my background. I came from a popular music background and then discovered jazz later. So I’m pretty open to the styles that I’d like to incorporate into what I want to do and explore,” Zara says. With her ambitions becoming a reality, Zara has been able to do things she only dreamt about before. As she will be singing jazz in an opera with the Nord Pole orchestra in Holland early next year in the prestigious venue Glyndebourne. After recently finishing her tour for her 3rd studio album Arise, 2018 has been a busy year for the musician. With one last gig this year on December 16, at the Jazz Café in London, Zara plans to continue working on her music and hopefully release her next album in the coming future. After getting an insight into the world of jazz, it is clear that it is still something that is very much alive and kicking. While it may not be something seen in the top of the charts anytime soon, the genre itself is still widely celebrated in the UK, and by broadening music tastes and introducing people to this new take on a traditional art form, it is something that will only continue to grow. ●


Entertainment

Netflix breaks the screen Is Netflix trumping television usage for good? We explore the ways in which the streaming service is changing content consumption

Words: Isaine Blatry Image: Freestock/Unsplash

Since it first launched in the UK in 2012, Netflix has become more and more present within our lives. With more than 118 million subscribers, 192 countries, billions of dollars in revenues and here in Britain it has 9.7 million subscribers. All this has been achieved in less than seven years. Netflix has established itself as the leading streaming platform by creating original series’ which draw attention and attract new viewers through mind-blowing advertisement campaigns. Beyond these publicity stunts, the American streaming platform, which currently has 109 million subscribers, has lived up to its self-imposed title. You can be quickly seduced by Netflix, as it allows you to launch a program when you come home late, watch a whole season in one afternoon or continue a show on your smartphone during your morning commute. The expression ‘Netflix and Chill’ first appeared in 2012 and has invaded social media in recent months to designate one of the favourite activities of the young generation: quietly watch a program of the streaming platform ‘chilling’ on their couch. The expression has a hidden meaning in hookup culture for a one-night-stand. A simple evening of “Netflix and chill” can be more hectic than expected! Netflix’s influence in how we are consuming television is inevitable. Our watching habits have changed, and Netflix is starting to replace our TV boxes, as it is accessible anywhere and at any time. There is no constraint. Based on a survey of over 3,000 UK online users, 25% of internet users say that services such as Netflix and YouTube are the first services they turn to when looking for TV or video content, rising to 39% of 16-24 year-olds. Other competitors such as Amazon Prime, NOW TV and Hulu are trying to fight back by creating their own original shows. Amazon, for example, created High Castle and Transparent and are planning to create a £1bn Lord of the Rings franchise in the near future. For classic broadcast TV, things are not looking bright, as Ofcom reported that in 2018 digital streaming overtook traditional television for the first time. 54% of UK pay-TV subscribers now believe that their TV service is overpriced, and 1 in 4 are thinking about cancelling their subscription. There are now more UK subscriptions to Netflix, Amazon and

pressure on the UK’s traditional pay-TV and free-to-air broadcasters, such as BBC, ITV and Channel 4. The number of hours spent watching traditional TV schedules continues to drop; teenagers and young people now watch around 40% less than they did seven years ago. Liza Pill an American art student now living in London explains, “I just pay for Netflix, partly because living in between two countries. I can watch it anywhere I go, instead of just having the availability in only one country. It just feels so easy and it’s really convenient, I have it on my iPhone and my computer, I can have it everywhere I go, as opposed to regular TV. Though, I do find the I also watch shows on Amazon Prime when I can’t find what I want on Netflix.” To her, the only downside would be that she becomes more addicted to watching the show because when something is aired on television it usually plays one episode a week whereas with Netflix it usually comes out as a complete series. The number of Netflix subscribers is forecast to hit 10 million by 2020, and now Netflix is also trying to conquer cinema, with original movies such as Bird Box which had more than 45 million views, making it the best first seven days ever for a Netflix film. Whether it is the cinema or our TV, Netflix is stronger than ever, and with new films and original shows for 2019, they will make sure we are aware of it. ●

Now TV (15.4 million) than to traditional “pay TV” services such as those offered by Sky, Virgin Media, BT and TalkTalk (15.1 million). Sharon White, Ofcom’s Chief Executive, explained: “Today’s research finds that what we watch and how we watch it is changing rapidly, which has profound implications for UK television.” She added: “We have seen a decline in revenues for pay TV, a fall in spending on new programmes by our public service broadcasters, and the growth of global video streaming giants. These challenges cannot be underestimated.” Nonetheless, she thinks that UK broadcasters have a history of adapting to change. By making the best British programmes and working together to reach people who are turning away from television, our broadcasters can compete in the digital age. However, our viewing habits are evolving, so what does this mean for the future of television? In an interview with The Guardian, Richard Broughton, an analyst at Ampere Analysis explained: “It does indicate the growing power of subscription video-on-demand services that Netflix has managed to achieve greater household reach in the UK than one of the most successful satellite TV companies in the world.” The rise of streaming online services and our changing viewing habits-particularly among younger viewers, is putting

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SEPARATING ART FROM THE ARTIST Should we support work produced by racists, homophobes and mysogynists?

Words: Beth Thomas Image: Ahmet Yalçınkaya.

In the wake of ‘Times Up’ and ‘Me Too’ over the past two years, Hollywood should know better than to be hiring abusers by now. At the heart of this debate, however, is the question of how much we can separate art from the artist behind the creation. Is it possible to support work and projects created by someone with homophobic, racist and misogynistic tendencies? Or worse, someone who has abused another person? There is a long list of actors, directors, and musicians who have fallen from grace in the eye of the public due to their actions. So it is possible to see art created by someone problematic without viewing it with the knowledge of their discrepancies. Some people can grow and learn from their mistakes when it comes to instances of tweets being dug up as evidence that a person was racist, homophobic or sexist in the past. Or perhaps more severe cases where the artist has physically harmed someone or done something that has put them beyond the public forgiveness. The lines become blurred when a certain celebrity displays behaviour thought to be or even proven to be problematic, some things can be considered excusable, however, where there is more severe behaviour, the majority of the time it is not excusable. The film Bohemian Rhapsody has come under fire after winning best film at the Golden Globes 2019. The reason behind the backlash is that the original director, Bryan Singer, was fired from his role due to “unreliability and unprofessionalism” regarding his “personal issues”. This happened a few weeks before the filming was completed in December 2017 and he was replaced by Dexter Fletcher after production stopped temporarily. After his departure from the project, Singer was sued for allegedly raping a 17-year-old girl, but no criminal charges were brought against him and he has denied the claims made. It appears that Hollywood is doomed to repeat the same mistakes. Too often do we see a new ‘scandal’ regarding a celebrity in the news on how they have been abusive towards another person. Johnny Depp is one of those celebrities who has not seen the full repercussions of his alleged actions towards ex-wife Amber Heard, still getting a leading role in the latest edition in the Harry Potter

grow, it is rare to stumble across someone who has not had one of their favourite musicians, actors or director disappoint them and be deemed problematic. Emily, a 21-year-old illustration student from Middlesbrough, spoke about the scandal with Mark Salling from Glee that lead to his suicide. “I would watch Glee still because I love it, but watching him acting on it would make me angry. He is disgusting and I hate him.” When asked about separating art from the artist, 22-year-old art student Megan from Leeds mentioned John Lennon, XXXTentacion, and Lost Prophets’ frontman Ian Watkins. “I can’t separate an artist from their work if their work itself hints to or references the problem, like XXXTentacion rapping about raping peoples sisters and smacking people,” she told us. “I could still listen to the Beatles despite John Lennon’s domestic abuse past because of the possibility Lennon maybe changed. Situations like the Lost Prophet singer abusing a one-year-old though, I could never listen to his voice again no

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franchise. Writer J.K. Rowling defended her decision to keep Depp on the project after director David Yates came under fire for his comments on the situation. Publishing a statement on her website giving answers as to why they didn’t recast the role and stating she is “genuinely happy to have Johnny playing a major character in the movies.” But what impact are these decisions having on the next generation of creatives, and what example are today’s artistic leaders setting for those who will be working in the arts in the future. One artist and Law student, Jenny, 26, told us: “Every individual human being goes through this life in a very unique manner, and how circumstances alter their method of adaptation in social and political mannerisms are philosophies that are to be understood and empathised with. In that matter, understanding what they create gives us another dimension to which we are able to appreciate the piece of art. Our relationship to a piece of work is a private experience between us and the observed. In a way, we are observing ourselves for example our thoughts, our feelings when observing the piece, and how it is shifting our thoughts, and where it is leading our thoughts to,” she continued. “Connecting with a piece of work is an experience in which we are given the opportunity to better understand ourselves. Learning about the artist allows us a different glimpse into the piece of work, in which we are given the opportunity to view the work as a creation from which another person has expressed themselves through.” Jenny said she finds it difficult to separate art created by someone problematic, from the artist themselves. “I think both artist and art are two fundamentally very different pieces of stimulant for an observer, to which we can choose to merge into a historical explanation based on judgement of character and result in creation, to separate them both entirely, or to understand that both exist coherently within our experience, which we must therefore find philosophical ways to link every aspect of this issue in a way that fits our ability to understand and empathise the reality of human life most beautifully.” With the list of artists who are disappointing fans by believing they can act without consequences continuing to


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matter what he was singing about.” Joe, who’s 19, and a musician from Camden agreed: “It is difficult to separate art from its creator. There’s always a conflicting feeling if you know that person has done something questionable or immoral, but I don’t think it should stop people from consuming that art,” he said. “There’s an answer in that duality, there are good things about everyone, even if those good things are just the art they create, that I don’t think should stop people from consuming and enjoying something they had previously enjoyed. I think a work’s merit should speak for itself regardless of its creator’s history.” Tanya, a 21-year-old English student from Redcar, said she has decided you can in fact separate an artist from their work “in certain circumstances” and “usually there’s a correlation between personal preference and the time it happened. People don’t really remember people but they remember art, being an English student I study literary greats like Edgar Allan Poe, who was an opposer

of the abolition movement, had a life long alcohol problem and married his 13 yearold cousin when he was 27 but we still study his work today in higher education so as a society I’d definitely say we separate the artist from the art. “You also have to argue does this abnormal mentality contribute to their art when you look at just how frequently it occurs, for example John Lennon, Pete Townsend and even Drake now. However I do feel there are limits and Lost Prophets’ Ian Watkins definitely is one and he’s someone I swear I would never listen to.” In Hollywood term, the most famous rejects in recent years are producer Harvey Weinstein and actor Kevin Spacey. The two men have both felt the consequences of their actions. For Kevin Spacey, there was no separation from the art and the artist. Spacey was kicked off his TV show House of Cards, after his news of his scandal broke in 2017. However, not every problematic film star, singer, director or even YouTube creator have seen consequences to their

actions. With Logan Paul being allowed to come back to YouTube and still create ‘content’ after his highly distasteful and controversial video he posted from his trip to Japan that featured him discovering a dead body in a woodland nicknamed, ‘Suicide Forest’. Today’s notion of celebrity or influencer is almost like tiptoeing around mouse traps. Trying to find someone to support and admire who is without racist tendencies, or sexual assault allegations in their past, or even someone who is not fully aware of their actions, is getting harder and harder to navigate. But why are we still allowing these artists to remain in the spotlight and get money from their work if they have acted so heinously towards others? What is it about the 21st century and the internet are we not grasping? Nothing stays hidden for long. At the end of the day, it is a person’s individual personal opinion of how far somehow can go before they decide they are no longer comfortable with the actions of the artist. ●

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The Glitterbox Revolution Can a party change Ibiza’s clubbing culture?

Words: Lucy St John Images: Defected Records

As Blaze and Barbara Tucker’s Most Precious Love blares from Hï Ibiza’s booming sound system, purple and pink lights flood the dance floor, dancers in bejewelled and sparkling outfits show their best moves as dozens of disco balls spin above them. Welcome to Glitterbox, the party from Defected Records that is attempting to change the landscape of clubland in 2018. “The concept came about because I felt like clubs in Ibiza lacked personality,” said Simon Dunmore, owner of Defected. “Everything polarised between EDM, which was all about pyrotechnics and fireworks, and not about the people, to the opposite of that, which was techno, heavy music, heads down and people just wearing black.” Dunmore is right, the two opposing genres dominate most line-ups on the island, with tech parties like Hyte, Afterlife and Music On all mainstays. By contrast, EDM superstars like David Guetta and Martin Garrix have their faces plastered on billboards across

brand new Hï, where they have remained since. “It gave us the opportunity to host a party at the newest club in Ibiza,” said Dunmore, and with the huge investment from the owners of Ibiza hotel-come-super-club Ushuaïa, Hï became a “state of the art clubbing experience,” as Dunmore described it. Now as we approach the end of 2018, Glitterbox has become far more than just an Ibiza party. This year it reached a landmark, with two international tours that have travelled as far as New York and Australia, and a record label releasing exciting music from new talent and established artists alike. “We initially decided not to tour the brand, because we wanted it to be a party where people had to make a real effort to go,” Dunmore said, but with the eye-catching event turning more than a few heads on social media, it was decided that it was time to take it international. Raven Mandella has worked with the brand since its beginnings. He is an established dancer, drag artist and performer in London. Having danced on

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Ibiza. So where does Glitterbox, Defected’s house and disco extraordinaire, fit in on what appears to be a divided white isle? “There was really nothing for the people who may like to reside and experience their clubbing in a kind of more flamboyant way, or a vocal or euphoric way,” Dunmore discovered. So, with their inaugural season at Space, one of the most iconic venues in clubland history, they set out to change the landscape of Ibiza’s nightlife and deliver something different. “It was important that we resided at a club that had a real history and musical heritage,” Dunmore explained. “People were coming to reminisce about the music they heard at the club 15 years ago, so the association with the music and the space was a very powerful combination.” With two seasons under their belt at Space, when the club shut its doors for the last time in 2016, it was time for Glitterbox to find a new home. Moving from one of Ibiza’s oldest and most established clubs, they took the party to the


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stage with household names like Nile Rogers and Chic, the pairing was a perfect fit for the Glitterbox identity. “I think for a few years music became really soulless and everyone was disconnected,” Raven said, “Glitterbox is a movement, it’s waking everybody up and connecting them, that is what the basics of house music is, unity, togetherness and love.” A huge aspect of Glitterbox is the performers, Raven started as part of a collective but has become a key figure in the party’s personality, featuring on album covers and billboards. Dunmore believes that the performers and dancers built the brand to where it is today: “We found dancers that were really extravagant and larger than life, with extreme personalities and real character,” he said. “That really infected the crowd in a hugely positive way.” Glitterbox has become known for the joyous clubbing experience that it offers, and with its flamboyant performers, confetti moments, and disco-infused soundtrack, it is a far cry from the allblack-wearing techno parties described by Dunmore. “It stands out as a party because everyone is on the same page,” as Raven describes it. “It doesn’t matter what colour you are, your sexuality, your age, you know you’re all on the same wavelength, it’s really special.” In turn, Glitterbox has built a strong identity of being an inclusive and safe space for all clubbers. “It’s such a cliché thing to say, but music always broke down barriers,” says Dunmore. “Acid house when it first started broke the rules when there was a lot of cultural divide in the UK, I think that is what we wanted to replicate.” “It’s the music that’s played, it’s vocal, uplifting, and the message in the music is love, togetherness, standing together and celebrating who you are,” says Raven. The cultural phenomenon of house music is woven together by many threads, and the contribution from the LGBTQ community is fundamental in its foundations. “The gay clubs in America, especially Chicago, and other clubs from the early scene, are very influential in dance music and what it has become today,” said Dunmore. “LGBTQ has a massive part to do with the foundations of house and disco music, so it’s all there in the spirit of the music played at the party,” Raven said.

A part of Glitterbox’s success is a credit to its spirit of openness and acceptance, combined with dynamic line-ups — it has injected the fun back into clubbing for many. “We need these spaces so that we have a place where people can dance everything out,” Raven said. “If you go to Glitterbox everyone is jumping around, it’s colourful, with all types of people and everyone is smiling. That is the point of a night out, to have an adventure.” The idea of creating safe-spaces in nightclubs may appear to be a relatively recent phenomenon, however, if you take a look back at house music’s heritage, the inclusiveness of its parties was a fundamental part of its foundation. Much of the genre, and the nightlife that both inspired and defined it; was created by people of colour, and members of the LGBTQ community. Clubs like Paradise Garage were a place for people to enjoy music without judgement, and to find their own communities when they felt marginalised on their own. Therefore, parties like Glitterbox are replicating that spirit that many feel got lost along the way.

“I just think, that the coming together of people and dancing to a rhythmical beat is something that is just inherent in people,” says Dunmore. “Thousands of years ago cavemen gathered around a fire and would bang a log in a drumming fashion around a fire, which is really not so different to listening to house music with a strobe light all these years later.” If what Glitterbox is doing is exploring this innate need to dance to a beat, and feel togetherness and acceptance, then it would appear to be working. Whilst its early parties had an older crowd that had lived through the music played the first time around, the varied line-ups and exciting production have brought the music to a new generation of fans. “The party attracts a certain type of hedonistic, open-minded, music obsessed clubber,” says Dunmore. It is these clubbers that will begin to shape the future of nightlife. While the techno and EDM parties of Ibiza may reign supreme for now, Glitterbox shows that there is the market for a different kind of party both in Ibiza and across the clubbing spectrum. ● 109


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The future of indie gaming Key figures look into the crystal ball

Surprises, disappointments and triumphs — indie gaming has evolved over the years as technology has transitioned into the modern era, allowing easier access to indie games than ever before. Indie games are becoming more popular every year, since the release of Minecraft in 2009. We are now beginning to see these titles receive physical releases by dedicated distributors. Super Rare Games are a publisher and distributor of indie games for the Nintendo Switch. On November 15, they released a new game with Metanet Software titled N++ Ultimate Edition, one of many indie titles physically distributed by the company. George Perkins, the self-described “head of doing stuff” said that "we are the only people who stock our releases” — any physical release from Super Rare Games is only available through them directly, and not through other retailers. This is a contrast to Dominik Graner and Geraint Evans, the PR Manager and Head of Marketing respectively for PQube, a publisher of indie titles with UK offices in Letchworth, Bawtry and Bristol. “The deciding factors here are the quality of the game and the awareness of press and public about the digital release. If a game is of high quality and a lot of people already cared about the digital release, chances are good partners like the idea. The more channels a game is available through, the better and easier it is to find it, and retail is still one of these channels.” PQube is open to working with other retailers in order to further an indie titles exposure to the public. Physical releases haven’t always been successful in the indie gaming industry, for example Mighty No. 9, which began as a Kickstarter in 2013 and was released in 2016 as a Mega-Man style side-scrolling action platformer. It started as an extremely successful campaign, but soon ended in disappointment. Its developers, Inti Creates and Comcept campaign came under fire from fans who were left frustrated at both the digital and full physical release. They aimed to raise $900,000 but exceeded these expectations due to mass enthusiasm for the title and its homages to a classic style of gameplay that many gamers loved. This resulted in the campaign finishing its 31-day run raising a total of $4 million. This total was built 110

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on them releasing the title on various platforms and also offering physical box releases as bonuses for those who pledged higher amounts. However, many backers expressed disdain and frustration due to the game’s multiple delays, poor reception and a lack of communication from Comcept. Today the game leaves an unfavourable legacy with gamers who either backed the project or watched the various videos on the subject and avoided it like a digital Kickstarted plague. “The main risk of publishing a physical product compared to a digital one is stock control. If you produce too much, you waste money — if you produce too little, you waste potential,” Graner and Evans told us. Graner also said that while releasing to retailers will bring in additional customers, they have to remember that not everyone will be interested in their title, something common among indie games: “In the end, it comes down to finding the balance in distribution, which requires the experience from seeing a lot of games come and go over the years.” Perkins, however, argues, “mass market retail is a terrible idea. The risks is people who have wanted to play it, already have. We cater mainly for a collecting audience. This means we have

Words: Jimmy Ioannou & HW Reynolds Image: Tan Dah

very little risk.” Super Rare Games, in particular, have a focus on releasing games for collectors rather than a general audience, so their stance on retail releases are understandable. Philipp Döschl, the co-founder of FDG Entertainment, a German-based games developer who will soon be releasing a physical/digital release titled Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom, agrees there are risks of physical indie releases. “The biggest risk is producing too many units and not being able to sell them. This might eat up all profit the digital release generated. Worst case is the whole company gets into financial troubles.” Döschl gives an example of this risk using another company: “Some extreme examples are THQ’s uDraw tablet in the early 2010s or E.T. on Atari 2600 in the early 1980s. This is really the worst-case scenario, but they clearly show the risk.” He also discussed the pricing of physical and digital releases and his opinion on the situation, “the digital release should either be cheaper or be the same price as the physical, definitely not more expensive. It’s sort of a disturbing trend that the digital version is more expensive than the physical version. The only explanation I could find up to now is greed.”


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In December Telltale Games seemingly collapsed overnight. Leaving around 250 employees out of work without any sort of compensation. A sad example of an indie developer that grew but subsequently suffered the consequences. They started out successfully with The Walking Dead franchise. Telltale continued to grow, incorporating titles such as The Wolf Among Us and Minecraft: Story Mode to their repertoire. These games were released physically on multiple consoles by Avanquest Software (now Maximum Games Ltd.) In the midst of releasing the final season for The Walking Dead, the gaming world was rocked when Telltale unexpectedly announced a majority studio closure with a statement from CEO Pete Hawley: “We released some of our best content this year and received a tremendous amount of positive feedback, but ultimately, that did not translate to sales.” An example of a larger company having success in publishing indie titles physically is Maximum Games Ltd, who have recently released physical editions for We Happy Few (WHF)and Bendy and the Ink Machine. Head of Product Acquisition Simon Reynolds told us: “I chose titles based on their quality. Their aesthetics had a unique appeal and when I saw the opportunity to acquire them, I pushed for them.” Since this interview, Bendy and the Ink Machine has seen it’s physical release

“I am done. I take the money and I run. This is as much as I can stomach. This isn't the result of any one thing, but the end of a long, bloody campaign”

and has sold well in its first week. “It made the Top 30 all formats chart. Given it was Black Friday week, and all the other AAA releases around, we’re well chuffed,” Reynolds said. “We always expected big things from it and it has continued to be successful, and as for bendy it has re-ordered extremely well and releases soon so we’ll have to see if the pattern continues,” Reynolds concluded. Artefact asked these companies how they chose which games to physically release. George Perkins from Super Rare Games enthusiastically said: “We choose the game that we love!. Listening to fans is very important within the industry, as you are building a product that these consumers need to enjoy and be willing to spend money on, SRG takes this in their stride.” FDG Entertainment’s Philipp Döschl says that the company has had physical releases on their mind since “day one”. “At FDG we’re all (old school) gamers, we love physical releases and being able to do so nowadays is a childhood dream come true. This is something very important to us and is part of our current company strategy. It's also about finding the right way to release a physical game. Not every game is made for brick and mortar stores, some games will do a lot better if they’re sold through the internet. It’s not rocket science, it’s more about careful analysis, curation, etc.” PQube Games focuses more on performance and affordability: “There are multiple factors to this of course, but the most import ones are: was the digital version successful and did it sell enough. As well as how big is the data size of the game. The bigger a game's data, the more expensive it is to port it,” Graner and Evans said. Other games didn’t get a chance to be released physically. One of those games was Fez II, a sequel to popular indie game Fez, which was cancelled before its release. The rise and fall of Phil Fish and the subsequent cancellation of Fez II that followed wasn’t all that unexpected in certain circles. Phil Fish was an indie game developer who published games through his company, Polytron Corporation, and was the Creator of Fez. The first Fez game was an indie puzzle-platformer that back in 2012/2013 took gaming by storm, selling 20,000 copies on its first day and received mass

critical praise for its design and gameplay. It’s sequel Fez II was announced as “one more thing” at the end of the June 2013 Horizon Indie Game Press Conference and enthusiasm seemed high. What followed was a surprise to Fish’s company, as he found himself in a Twitter feud with video game journalist Marcus Beer. Beer had made comments on the GameTrailers show Invisible Walls criticising Fish’s response to questions about Microsoft’s Xbox One self-publishing policy change. During the feud, Fish condemned the industry’s negativity and directed insults and remarks towards Beer, in one of them he declared “Compare your life to mine and then kill yourself.” In a final tweet, he announced both Fez II’s cancellation and his exit from the industry. He subsequently posted a statement on Polytron’s site, his development company, declaring: “Fez II is cancelled. I am done. I take the money and I run. This is as much as I can stomach. This isn’t the result of any one thing, but the end of a long, bloody campaign. You win.” Fish once said in Indie Game: The Movie, a film about the development of Fez that “there’s always a threat of the whole thing just falling apart any day now.” In this context, Fish was talking about Fez and the issues that Microsoft was giving them at the time, but the quote seemed to be a peculiar omen for what followed.Today, Fish is working on different projects, following several more instances of Twitter tirades and being hacked. The fate of Fez II hangs in the air, but how quickly it crashed and burned because of personal attacks against its creator suggests a flaw in the Indie process, one that goes beyond the risk of physical copies selling well.It may be fair to say that indie gaming is rising in popularity, with physical indie games becoming a normal occurrence now. Döschl concludes: “Physical releases can serve as a birthday present for a friend, as a collection item and also it gives the possibility to archive video games. “There are more and more associations, museums and even governmental agencies archiving games since they’re considered a form of art in many countries nowadays, just as music and literature. You have ‘something real’ in your hand, something that’ll be there and won’t be forgotten.” ● 111


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How Freddie Mercury redefined masculinity How the singer left a lasting impact on male attitudes and behaviour

A Zanzibar-born, queer person of colour with African and Indian roots may not be what comes to mind when describing a rock god of the 70s and 80s. A rock star of that time would typically be American, specifically from California (The Beach Boys), New York (Lou Reed), Florida (Jim Morrison) or Washington State (Jimi Hendrix, Freddie’s idol). Liverpool also made the list thanks to the Beatles, while Mick Jagger was another icon, hailing from London. What most of these men had in common was that they were white and heterosexual, exuding raw traditional masculinity that rock encapsulated at that time. Born in Stone Town, Zanzibar as Farrokh Bulsara, first-born son of mother Jer and father Bomi, the chances that Freddie Mercury’s life would go in the direction it did were seemingly microscopic. Cosmo Hallstrom, a consultant psychiatrist is quoted in Mercury's biography saying, “Zanzibar would have been constraining to a personality like Freddie’s, to someone with a restless spirit.” . Having graduated from Ealing Art College in the early 70s and just started dabbling in music, Freddie legally changed his last name to Mercury, creating his own identity and deciding how he wanted to present himself to the world. In the first six years that Queen was established and started to gain notoriety, Freddie was in a long-term relationship with a woman, Mary Austin. It was during his life on the road, doing shows, meeting new people and experiencing what it meant to be a rock frontman when Freddie finally realised what he’d been in denial about his whole life: he was attracted to men. Former Radio 1 presenter and radio personality, Paul Gambaccini said: “The self-realisation process would have been so important to him. Freddie came from a culture in which you are not supposed to love men so you try and conform, even though you are tortured within. It’s not uncommon. Elton did it twice. On the route to self-discovery for a gay man, there is often an interlude of having a girlfriend. This is sometimes about need, and sometimes a case of trying to do what is expected of one.” Although Queen’s music didn’t fall directly into the glam rock genre, they would adopt the style, particularly Freddie, whose memorable stage outfits 112

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remain iconic to this day. Glam rock as a genre had a big role in toppling the solid conventional gender boundaries in pop culture at the time. It’s defined as music "which was performed by singers and musicians who wore outrageous clothes, makeup and hairstyles, particularly tight-fitting, colourful outfits and platform-soled shoes." Glam artists intentionally played around with gender conventions, with the purpose of appearing outlandish and androgynous. It illustrates the progressive nature of pop culture, in a time when people who had very traditional, conservative views might have been outraged at the blatant purposeful rejection of societal and gender norms. One of the pioneers of this movement was David Bowie, another queer man who wasn’t afraid to push the envelope in his music videos, concerts and personal style by donning a gender-ambiguous look that blurred the lines between masculinity and femininity. By creating the alter ego Ziggy Stardust, Bowie presented his sexual identity quite literally outside of human convention. Freddie Mercury greatly admired and related to him, and the feeling was mutual — Bowie really respected and looked up to Mercury as an artist and person. The pair eventually collaborated on one of Queen’s hit singles ‘Under Pressure’. Other notable artists who were a part of the Glam rock scene were Elton

Words: Tayla Kruger Image: Carl Lender/Wikimedia

John, New York Dolls, Iggy Pop and Alice Cooper. This representation of freedom of expression in the 70s no doubt played a pivotal role in inspiring Freddie Mercury to go out and do the same, just as he would go on to inspire countless numbers of people to express themselves free of the gender binary. In a 1973 interview, Mercury said, “we’re confident people will take to us, because although the camp image has already been established by people like Bowie and (Marc) Bolan, we are taking it to another level. The concept of Queen is to be regal and majestic. Glamour is a part of us and we want to be dandy. We want to shock and be outrageous instantly.” His stage wardrobe of skin-tight sequin bodysuits, masks, vinyl trousers and suspenders embody Mercury’s love for theatrics — a concept he always tried to incorporate into Queen’s shows. According to their drummer Roger Taylor in an interview, Freddie’s sole aim with the band was to confuse people, or “make them gasp”. They succeeded in doing just that upon the release of the music video for ‘I want to break free’. I want to break free I want to break free I want to break free from your lies You’re so self-satisfied, I don’t need you I’ve got to break free


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 od knows, God knows I want to G break free This is the opening verse of one of Queen’s most loved hits. The song has gone on to be not only a cult classic, still maintaining its popularity and catchiness decades later, but an anthem for the LGBTQ+ community. The music video features the band dressed in drag, each a caricature of different women from the 60s. It was originally said to be a parody of Coronation Street, meaning audiences in the UK would take it better than those in the US, where it was far from well-received and ulteriorly banned on MTV. This is a testament to how the times were, and how they’ve vastly changed since — but the judgmental social climate wasn’t enough to hold Freddie or Queen back from expressing themselves and using their music to make a statement. Blogger Juliette Rowsell writes, “Freddie Mercury was singing about more than just breaking free from the pain of a failed relationship. Mercury sings about the constraints of 80’s Britain and its rigid social values. He dreams of a world where gender and sexuality are no limitations, where people are ‘free’ to be who they want to be.” A lot of the backlash to the Break Free video was aimed at Mercury exclusively, labelling him as vulgar. Many took it as confirmation that he wasn’t actually a heterosexual man — although Roger, Brian and John were all dressed in women’s clothes, makeup and wigs as well. This might have been because Freddie was the ‘face of the band’, which made people direct their anger towards him rather than his bandmates, or it might have been because he never confirmed or denied his sexuality publicly and it was always sort of a grey area to the media. Freddie Mercury never made an official public statement about who he was or who he was attracted to, perhaps he never saw it as necessary or worth the time. But it might have also been because he felt unsafe to do so in a world that detested anything it didn’t understand. In an interview, when asked about his sexuality, he replied, “I’m as gay as a daffodil, my dear.” Some might say Freddie Mercury played a big part in the Western world taking its first steps towards acknowledging and accepting LGBTQ+ people and

“The self realisation process would have been so imprtant to him. Freddie came from a culture in which you are not supposed to love men, so you try to conform, even

though you are tortured.”

started a conversation that gave visibility to a group of people who’d previously been living in fear. In 1978, sociologists Simon Frith and Angela McRobbie published a theoretical essay titled ‘Rock and Sexuality’. They reject the commonplace idea that “there is some sort of ‘natural sexuality” which rock expresses”, arguing instead that “the most important ideological work done by rock is in [the] construction of sexuality." Knowing that Freddie Mercury had internally struggled with coming to terms with his sexuality for years can make one look at Queen's songs in a different light. If we take a look at Bohemian Rhapsody, at first listen it may seem like a catchy rock belter written solely using artistic license, but when taking a more critical look at the lyrics with the consideration of Freddie’s own journey, it holds a lot more weight. Writer Sergio Perez dissects the first verse saying "He sings of how ‘he killed a man’, this refers to the man he once was, the straight closeted gay man. He now has rid himself of that identity and cries of everything he had when he was that man is now gone, in a sense, everything he believed and what others believed is not true.” He is singing this verse to his mother, he expresses how he knows that she might not accept him for who he is, and goes as far as telling her to carry on without him ‘as if nothing really matters'."

Towards the end of the song, Mercury triumphantly sings about how he won’t let others stone him or leave him to die, this is him becoming comfortable with who he is and standing up for himself, not allowing others to persecute him for his identity and making it clear that he is willing to leave anyone who can’t accept him. This is something that can touch a note with anyone, particularly those in the LGBTQ+ community. Heteronormativity is the invisible constraint over Queer people making them feel that it is socially ‘deviant’ to live outside of what’s considered normal in the patriarchal system. Sociologist Gayle Rubin’s research on the matter looks at how heteronormativity functions in the service of sustaining a patriarchal gender binary. It’s especially important to understand heteronormativity when looking at someone like Freddie Mercury who lived a life that ‘contradicts the expectations of a heteronormative society.’ Considering how people today hesitate to express any part of themselves further illustrates Freddie Mercury’s bravery in rejecting the norms of the 70s and 80s. Freddie Mercury was a man of supernatural showmanship, having a vocal range spanning four full octaves — a group of scientists recently released an analysis proving that he essentially has the ‘best voice’ in rock. While the version of himself he presented to the world may seem larger-than-life, those closest to Freddie say that behind closed doors he was humble, reserved, and happiest when he was at home with his cats. As soon as he set foot on stage he transformed into this untouchable deity that the world looked at in awe. Freddie Mercury could have put on a front of masculinity to fit in with what was acceptable, he could have toned down his flamboyance to avoid scrutiny and controversy, but he chose to express his authentic self wholeheartedly in the face of adversity. This is something that we can all take away from his time on earth: that one doesn’t have to feel ashamed about not fitting into the constraining moulds of what’s considered normal. His life may have been cut short but his unique legacy of self-acceptance and using his differences to his advantage, as well as challenging traditional masculinity will always resound in the hearts of his fans. ● 113


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Words: HW Reybolds and Jimmy Ioannou Images: Paul Venezis, Steve Roberts

SCIENCE, NOT SORCERY! We explore the fascinating work of the restoration team at BBC and the way they’re bringing back classic British programming 114

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The BBC is home to a plethora of classic British programmings such as Doctor Who, Top of the Pops, and numerous other programmes in various genres such as comedies and dramas. In an era where we can easily access our favourite shows, either by streaming services such as Netflix, BBC iPlayer or on demand and on DVD, it is difficult to imagine not being able to watch the shows we grew up with and loved. However, a sad reality lurks behind the BBC’s long broadcasting history, one of misguided practices and a lack of foresight which still has repercussions to this day. Up to the 1970s, the BBC regularly destroyed, or ‘wiped’ the tapes of many of its early programmes from the 1930s to 1970s, and much of its output from that time period is now, seemingly permanently, gone. Amongst this missing content is 97 episodes of Doctor Who and even footage of the BBC’s coverage of the Apollo 11 Moon landings, one of the most important milestones in human technological advancement. Thankfully though, measures have been put into place and since the late 1970s, the BBC has continued to make strides in ensuring the preservation and recovery of vintage British programming and films, through the efforts of the BBC Restoration Team who are still working on restoring many programmes today. In order to understand why the efforts of the restoration team are important, we must look at the turbulent history of the BBC Archives and their practices or lack thereof at the time. The British film industry has been through an era of turmoil. The loss of countless hours of film has left a permanent void in

be re-used, but this offer was rejected. Perhaps the most significant and culturally-enduring BBC series that has episodes still missing from the archives is the long-running science fiction series Doctor Who, which ran from 1963 to 1989 before being revived in 2005. As of the publication of this feature, there are currently 97 missing episodes from the 1963-1974 period. The process of wiping Doctor Who began in 1967, where just two months after its transmission, the story The Highlanders had its master videotapes erased. This continued well into the 1970s and by 1974 every master videotape of the programme’s first 253 episodes was wiped. The last story to be removed was the 1968 serial Fury from the Deepfrom season five. The main reason for the existence of many episodes is due to copies of the stories being sold for transmission abroad, despite the master videotapes being wiped. When the practice of wiping was ended in 1978 thanks to the innovations in home video (i.e. the VCR or video cassette), which led to a shift in philosophy to preserve programming not just for commercial reasons, but for their historical and cultural significance. This resulted in the BBC Film Library being turned into a combined Film & Videotape Library for the preservation of both media. Since this point, various projects have been launched in an effort to preserve older programming for decades to come. One such project came in the form of a small group of individuals with an intriguing proposition. Enter Steve Roberts, a member of the BBC’s res-

“As the Third Doctor might have said, ‘Science, not sorcery!’ but I think most of us would consider that a fine line in this case!” the history of British entertainment. However, thanks to the efforts of numerous collectors and members of the BBC Archives, there has been great progress in plugging the gaps. It wasn’t until 1978 that the BBC established a policy on archiving. Much of the BBC’s output from the 1930s to the late 1970s is seemingly lost because the BBC engineering Department wasn’t provided with a mandate for archivin§g the tapes they had at any given time. At that time, there were no prospects of selling programmes on video directly to the public, so the only reason for keeping the tapes was if the material could be sold to a foreign broadcasted through the corporation’s commercial arm, BBC Enterprises. As a result, tapes would usually be kept in storage until the relevant production department or BBC Enterprises indicated that they had no further purpose or commercial use, and then wiped for re-use. Because of this, many parts of the BBC legacy were lost.There were some attempts to salvage certain programmes from being culled. The BBC page on the now missing comedy series, Not Only… But Also, details how creators and stars Peter Cook and Dudley Moore had offered to pay for the cost of preservation and new videotapes so that the old tapes would not need to

toration team. He explained to us how the team works and the common interests that the members have: “Firstly, it’s important to understand that the Restoration Team has always been a very fluid collection of individuals, mostly people from within the technical areas of TV production, who all share a common interest in Doctor Who and technical quality.” He began by discussing the earliest iteration of the team, detailing the project which led the team to be recognised by the BBC, and what also led to their self-imposed moniker of the ‘Doctor Who Restoration Team’.“We got together to try and restore a Jon Pertwee Doctor Whostory called The Dæmons back to colour by combining the only surviving broadcast quality copy, which was a 16mm monochrome (black and white) film print, with colour from a domestic video recording made during a transmission in the US in the late seventies.” “This worked surprisingly well and was actually transmitted on BBC2 in 1993.” The team then went on to restore two other stories back to colour using the same techniques.Roberts also took us through the current members of the restoration team, “The core team really came together towards the end of the nineties, when we brought together three people who worked 115


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on most of the DVD range from 2000 onwards: • Mark Ayres had composed the music for three Doctor Who stories in the eighties. Mark is also the keeper of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop’s archive and a key member of the Radiophonic Workshop music group. He looks after the audio remastering of all our projects. • Peter Crocker was originally a talented amateur video editor. I brought him in as an economic way to fix some more obscure faults and he quickly became a key member of the team, eventually forming his own company which specialises in film and video restoration. • Jonathan Wood was a senior colourist for BBC Post Production with a keen eye for detail and quality. Jonathan was responsible for taking the raw film and tape assets and putting them through colour correction and noise and grain management to produce a solid base for Peter and Mark to work on. Jonathan’s work can be seen on many other highly acclaimed DVD and Blu-ray releases such as The Professionals, Space:1999 and UFO.” Robert’s role in the team was as a manager or supervisor for each project, “My own input was for the most part overseeing their work and ensuring that the deliveries to BBC Video were complete, audited, documented and technically compliant.” Over the years the team partnered with industry experts, creating and using cutting-edge technologies to solve restoration problems that the team faced. “One of the most amazing is a technique to process the remnants of the colour signal embedded in some monochrome film recordings in order to restore them back to colour.” “As the Third Doctor might have said, ‘Science, not sorcery!’ but I think most of us would consider that a fine line in this case!” Roberts explains the current projects of the unofficial Doctor Who restoration team. “As we’ve moved into the Blu-ray era for classic Doctor Who, it’s really only Mark and Peter that continue to work on the range, building on the team’s previous work in order to present Doctor Who in the highest possible quality.” But it’s not just the Time Lord’s fans that have benefitted: “Doctor Who is obviously our key work,

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but as a team we did take a few weeks out of that schedule in order to restore the three 1950’s Quatermass serials for DVD release in 2005.” “One of these, Quatermass and the Pit has recently been revisited for a Blu-ray release, with Peter providing a brand-new HD master of the story.” The series has also been made available on the BBC iPlayer.Roberts noted that the list of programmes that the members had worked on as individuals outside the team would be too large to itemise but includes many highly regarded restorations. Ayres and Crocker did take a break from Doctor Who in order to restore two previously missing episodes of Morecambe and Wise back to colour for broadcast last Christmas. The restoration team make use of VidFIRE to restore film recordings to their highest possible quality. However, there’s a lot more to it than just that: “Any restoration process should begin by going back to the best possible source materials and that is absolutely key to our ethos. It gives you a solid foundation to build upon. If we can go back to original camera negatives or first-generation video recordings then we can ensure that we’re going to be optimising the quality of

“Most of the work we do from domestic videotapes revolves around things like news items that may not have been recorded by the brodcaster and which we use as part of the extras package on DVD and Blu-ray.”


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the final restoration,” Roberts told us. The process of VidFIRE was itself a result of BBC practices: “When the BBC’s commercial arm, then called BBC Enterprises, sold the show to overseas broadcasters, it was usually in the form of a film recording. In essence, this involves creating a film print by shooting the episode using a film camera pointed at a TV screen,” Roberts explained.“The VidFIRE process returns the live studio look by using advanced motion estimation techniques to invent 25 new pictures every second, slotted in between the 25 already on the film, to recreate the original studio video look. Of course, we don’t apply the process to those sequences which were originally shot on film.” When Artefact asked about how closely members of the Restoration Team works with film historians, collectors and archivists to restore film prints, Roberts told us: “Domestic video recording wasn’t really around until about 1974 and didn’t begin to ramp up until the introduction of Betamax and VHS in the late seventies.”There are unlikely to be any recordings of missing Doctor Who episodes, although there is the faint possibility of domestic colour recordings of some of the handful of Pertwee episodes being out there still, although we have already used a variety of techniques to restore all of these back to colour in any case,” he said. “We do retain the capability to replay just about every historic videotape format though, in case material does surface. Most of the work we do from domestic videotapes revolves around things like news items that may not have been recorded by the broadcaster and which we use as part of the extras package on DVD and Blu-ray.” The importance of film preservation by collectors and their contributions to the BBC archives can’t be understated: “Doctor Who was in a bad state in 1978 when the BBC first established a Film and Videotape Library. By sheer good luck, the BBC’s first television archivist, Sue Malden, chose Doctor Who as a test case and it was through her efforts that the scale of the problem was understood and the BBC were able to reach out to other broadcasters to claw back copies that had been sold overseas,” Roberts said. “Since the mid-eighties it has been the fans and film collectors who have continued to turn up the odd episode here and there, culminating in the return of one complete and one almost complete Patrick Troughton story in 2013 (Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear). We’re always happy to speak to film collectors. If they have something that is missing and wish to return it, we can arrange to borrow the film to scan, returning it promptly along with a video copy.” When looking at the current state of the archive of Doctor Who content, there are still 97 episodes missing, all from the William Hartnell and Patrick Troughton eras, the days of black-and-white. Roberts said they “remain extremely hopeful that this number will continue to decrease.” Most collectors who have returned Doctor Who episodes have elected to let the BBC keep the film so that it can be properly archived for the future, however. So, what is the process involved when a missing episode or print is recovered and returned to the archives? In the case of the most recent finds Roberts told us it was “actually quite straightforward. As soon as the prints were handed over to the BBC by Philip Morris they went to film exam here at the Archive Centre, where Paul Vanezis went through them repairing any splices and physical damage.

“The next day they went to the BBC’s telecine facility at South Ruislip where they were first cleaned in an ultrasonic film cleaner to remove surface debris and then telecined in HD by Jonathan, using the BBC’s Spirit telecine. Sound files went to Mark and pictures went to Peter, finally marrying back together a few weeks later to form the finished master which was then sent off for authoring.” Artefact was keen to ask further questions centred around the BBC science fiction-classic. Firstly, we wanted to know what some of the highlights for the team were. “The Colour Recovery process, which ex-BBC R&D (Research and Development) engineer Richard Russell perfected, can decode the colour signal left embedded in a black and white film recording of a colour programme and has enabled us to return several episodes to colour for which there is no known colour source of any kind.” “It has been used on shows such as Morecambe and Wise, Dad’s Army and Are You Being Served? Mark has worked miracles on the sound side, rebuilding soundtracks with the help of original sound effects tapes and discs and even off-air tape recordings made by fans at the time! He has pioneered techniques to allow even mono soundtracks to be expanded out to immersive 5.1 surround,” Roberts told us. Classic episodes of Doctor Who, from the 1960s to 1980s, are currently being re-released in Season boxsets. So far, Seasons 12 and 19 have been released, with Season 18 on the way in late February. The recent finds, Enemy of the World and The Web of Fear were also released on iTunes. We were intrigued as to how this development had come along, and though Roberts isn’t involved in the new projects, he still offered his insights. “At this point I’ve pretty much stepped away from a hands-on involvement in the Blu-ray range. I no longer have the time and to be honest I feel that I’ve already done this work once for DVD. I’m still involved in an advisory capacity and am the contact point for any archive materials that need to be accessed for the work though.” “Blu-ray was something that we talked about for a few years, but declining physical media seemed to mitigate against it. However, Russell Minton at BBC Studios, who had produced a couple of documentaries for the DVDs in the later years, was keen enough to push it through and I think the sales figures have surprised everyone. There’s life left in the old dog yet!” With many innovations taking place since 1978, film preservation and restoration is in very capable hands. As home-media outgrows its analogue, standard-definition roots, the future of classic BBC programming can be seen in Blu-Ray: a sturdier format that allows for more content and restoration to a better quality. The success of recent Blu-Rays for older BBC programming such as the ‘Red Dwarf Series I-VIII set‘, the restored Quatermass and the Pit and Doctor Who season sets is a sign that lessons were learnt and that the importance of film preservation and restoration will continue to spur on future projects, bringing back older releases to a new generation, and hopefully also seeing further recoveries of what once was lost. “The intention is very much to release every season of the classic series run. Each has its own challenges, some more extreme than others (those 97 missing Hartnell and Troughtons for one!). I think we’ve found ways to get the most out of every season.” ● 117


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Venus Raven: pain for pleasure Venus Raven is a BDSM performer and photographer, who explores the complexities of the mind through needles. We attended her show ‘Haber Mensch’

Inside the womb of a railway arch in Vauxhall, the patrons of Club Antichrist are watching an amateur stripper take off her clothes to Marilyn Manson’s ‘freak show.’ After the removal of her last piece of clothing, the lady ends her act and exits the stage quickly. Applause follows. The crowd tonight all lean towards the exhibitionist and latex wearing side of kink. There is a dungeon where eager participants take part in a voyeuristic whipping and spanking, in front of a quiet but interested group of spectators sipping beverages. There is a middle aged man wearing nothing but heavy steel chains, wrapped around his waist, which meet and join together at a body part. There is a dark room for couples only… One might think all of this would add up to a Dionysian type energy, an overflow of body parts, red velvet and spilled wine, but no. The vibe is polite. Chilled even. Following the amateur strip show, a different sort of show begins. One named: Halber Mensch. It begins with a naked man lying, almost lifeless on a hospital stretcher covered in a white sheet. Loud industrial music sears through eardrums and into the psyche and then she walks out. A woman. In the guise of a twisted doctor, orchestrator…or villain, donned in a full face mask and straight jacket. Slowly and deliberately she starts inspecting her patient, sniffing at him, taking him in; trying to figure out the perfect prescription for this man’s next 15 minutes of existence. Each sniff of her patient seems to leave her intoxicated. All of this is feral. The movements are almost animalistic, like a hyena who’s found a carcass and is working out of it’s still good to eat: he is. The straight jacket is discarded, she twisted and wrestled her way out of it a few seconds ago. Another jacket has taken it’s place, a structured latex number that radiates authority and control. The woman in question is Venus Raven: a performer and photographer who explores every idea and curiosity with commitment. Born in Greece, now living in London, Venus first caught an interest of the life less ordinary through film. “When I was young I wanted to be a filmmaker…I would watch very strange alternative indie films and in those I got my first taste of ‘what the fuck is that?!’ She remembers watching director 118

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Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, based on the writings of the Marquis de Sade. “It's got some intense scenes in it, to this day I think they are masterpieces. The political words behind them have strong fetishes projected so, through film I had my introduction to the world of fetish.” Venus is quick to point out that the umbrella term ‘fetish’ is often confused with being directly linked to sex. “You realise anything can be fetish? Who defines what it is? It’s purely subjective. At the same time when it comes to our society, what we call ‘fetish’ has specific connotations; bordering on the ‘kinky,’ whatever that means. I am part of that, but I’m more attracted to the ritual rather than the ‘lets be kinky and sexy,” she says. “There is very very strong judgement towards people who are openly living a BDSM lifestyle... because there are so many preconceptions about what it means to do this. It’s a sensitive matter. Unless it’s not consensual then I don’t see why it’s anybody's issue what we are doing…do what ever you wish and make sure it’s consensual. Enjoy life, it’s short.”

Words: Lucy Arup Image: Farrukh Hyder

“It begins with a naked man lying motionless on a hospital stretcher covered by a white sheet” What drives Venus in her performances is the idea of the ritual: going through a challenging experience to reach new understandings: walking through the fire. “When you look at different tribes and the history of humanity… we always had rites of passage and rituals and affirm passages in our lives, that you would become a man or a woman or something very crucial — we don’t have those moments anymore. Because of the horror we have towards death — we don’t talk about death, disease, things


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that are truly scary. There’s a strong link to find a healthy way to deal with those things on a personal and communal level: hence the ritual.” Back at Club Antichrist: Venus, or the character she is inhabiting now, has gotten down to business. She inspects the needles placed on her medical tray, focusing with delight at the selection of the perfect tool. She picks up a long needle and pierces her patient’s body. Another needle is selected and pushed through the skin with an air of sadistic brutality, but her patient doesn’t flinch. The body parts chosen are specific and wince inducing: the web of the hand, through the middle of the forehead, awkward parts of the feet, and right through the penis. The latter provoked some audience members to “woohoo.” The momentum of her actions are fast and slightly crazed: an unhinged maestro, quickly picking up and discarding needles, eager to locate one that feels right. Venus preformed her first show “six or seven years ago.” Her first act featured Butoh elements (a form of Japanese contemporary dance which emerged in the late 50’s) “It has a long tradition, but at the same time it’s one of the very few genres of dance that defy a classification, so Butoh is for everybody, fallen from the broken bodied and disturbed soul.” Venus has now evolved into a performer who can explore her more extreme side to interested audiences, and is also able to size up a more commercial audience who do not inhabit the world of BDSM leaning fetish. The commercial shows do, however, challenge her artistic expression. “It’s harder for me to put my soul in it. I’ve had experiences where the audience doesn’t understand. When I performed at some clubs it was filled with drunk people and I had to cut down parts of the show because I realised it needs a respectful, theatrical setting for certain things to happen. Nothing against the audience, but when I’m drunk I wouldn’t be able to watch a long show, which has narration and is subtle in certain ways. They just want somebody to go on stage and be a ‘freak.’” The ‘shock factor’ expected in some of Venus’s performances creates an interesting tension. She doesn’t want to be boxed into being the ‘freak show’ although “I’m happy to be a freak,” she says. It also creates a space for her to ex-

plore the notions of ‘shocking’ entertainment and audience reactions. “It can be frustrating, but I am aware that the stuff I don’t consider shocking most people in this society would. Am I trying to shock people? Or am I just exploring who I am and what I feel? Regardless of people’s perceptions and misconceptions about what it is they are watching? If we could all go back in time and see different forms of entertainment through the years, for example ancient Rome, where people were thrown into the arena and lions devoured them as the crowd cheered on. We have come a long way when it comes to violence and shock. What is shock?” This relationship between the audience and the shock factor, is one that, at times, Venus likes to play with.“It’s entertaining for me to think that something simple would shock somebody, but I respect their boundaries. I have done some shows where I milked the shock factor because the audience was abhorred and I thought: fuck it. I’m having a good time and I became a ‘freak show’.” Back on stage:t her patient is full of needles and it’s time for a cigarette break. Venus, ceremoniously lights one up in the middle of the stage. The image of someone smoking at an indoor venue is possibly more shocking than one of a needle through the privates. She takes full drags, her movements are graceful yet deranged, lifting up her arms as if she is conducting a symphony; there is a sense of completion. Whatever needed to be exorcised or experienced during this endeavour has been realised. She is satisfied. Venus as the maestro, leans down and breathes out smoke on the patient's face and into his mouth. Soon after, he stands, raising himself off the stretcher, careful not to move any of the needles protruding from his body. The audience cheer at his endurance and pain threshold. Venus often has to cultivate a certain frame of mind when preparing for the show. “Maybe I woke up that day feeling lovely and sweet and want to stay in bed and cuddle with somebody I love for instance, and then I have to go to a show where I cut somebody. I might not feel like that at all. It’s like being an actor having a shit day and having to do comedy…I have to remember why I do it, what this act means to me, that my partner trusts me and that we’ve done this before. It is a different heart space and I have to go on

stage and do this ruthlessly.” After stubbing out her cigarette on the man’s chest, Maestro Venus quickly starts removing the needles. She removes them without much deliberation: out of his body and onto the tray. The final image of the night is the removal of the forehead needles. She slowly pulls out one of the needles crisscrossing his face, before pushing it back in. Then out. Then in again. As if she is playing a violin. The audience wince and cheer at the same time. Once all the needles are removed, a scalpel or a razor is picked up from the tray and in quick succession, little cuts are made on her patient's abdomen. She hugs and rubs herself against him, which encourages a few droplets of blood to run down his pale torso. The time has come for the tired, but satisfied maestro to become the lifeless patient. She lies on the stretcher, and her former patient covers her body with a sheet. He stands, in his bloody, naked glory in front of a cheering audience. Scene. Halber Mensch is not the only show where Venus’ uses hypodermic needles. In another performance called Hypodermic Aphrodisia, she, again pierces needles into the body of a woman tied up with ropes. Venus is aware of the risks involved, ranging from correct sterilisation to aftercare. “When it comes to needles I have attended workshops and it is obviously something one has to be very careful about, when it comes to scalpels even more so. So it is something I respect and dread at the same time,” she says. The act of needle play in BDSM is said to release endorphin and adrenaline within the body, with some say they receive a ‘cathartic’ feeling through needle piercing, for Venus it is about connection. “There is something about blood that is very primal. Primitive. So that, by default, in a way bonds everybody on a feral level of ‘we are all human, we are all mortal. The other reason why I do what I do is because I’m mortified of death, but at the same time I’m fixated by death because this was my main drive as an artist. Funnily or ironically through what looks as if we are ‘hacking’ the flesh, which is exactly the opposite of how I feel when I do these things, it’s a celebration. The means of remembering and reinforcing how it’s ending; it’s a paradoxical way of approaching it, but I couldn’t see it any other way.” ● 119


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Independent artists in the music industry The challenges of trying to 'break through the noise'

Words: Anastasia Turkina Image: Giada Lauriola

The music industry has been on a roller-coaster, going through its share of change and adaptation. Gone are the days when you needed to be signed to a label in order to release music. Artists are now claiming full ownership and control over their art as well as their brand and online exposure.The internet and streaming platforms such as Spotify have given life and rise to independent artists who are now, according to labels including Artist Without A Label (AWAL), a billion dollar market. As streaming revenues rise, companies such as AWAL, made to support independent artists, are growing. AWAL has been around since 2003 but could not be more relevant today. They provide "all the services and global expertise an artist needs, plus freedom, control, and a real partner". Their services include distribution, data analysis, artists marketing, playlist & radio as well as funding. However the artist continues to have 100% ownership, full creative freedom and 'the final say'. So what does the future look like for artists in the music industry? Corporate labels or independent? Global fame or small fan base? Twenty-year-old Uros Todorovic is a new independent artist on the scene and goes by the name Sketch. He recently released his debut album Daily Basis which he recorded, produced and mixed almost all by himself. With over 10.9K followers on Instagram, he is reaching a wide fan base with his music. It has only been a month since the album came out and the streams are growing by the day, now having 5,259 monthly listeners. Born in Serbia, raised in Geneva and now based in London, he is bringing together his cultural influence and mixing it with inspiration from music he listens to; Travis Scott, Drake and G-Eazy, London has not affected his musical sound, however, definitely played a large part in the creation of the album by meeting a lot of people in the music scene. Spotify uploads 20,000 new recordings daily, making it a lot of hard work for artists to get recognised through a large amount of so-called 'noise' without the help of a big name behind them. "There are definitely pros and cons to being fully independent. The pros are basically being able to keep 100% of every revenue earned from streams, being able

labels. Hence why he had released his new album at the time HitNRun via Tidal, a streaming service created by Jay-Z four years ago. In a statement, Jay-Z said: "This partnership with Prince represents Tidal’s philosophy in its truest form, a 1 to 1 connection and direct delivery of artistry to the world." In fact, Ke$ha's case is an example of the so-called 'slavery' behaviour. After filling her producer Dr.Luke for rape and asking to get out of her contract with Sony, she was allegedly denied. They allowed her record music without his involvement but apparently would not promote anything that she did on her own. It depends what the artist wants from their journey. They should know what they are signing up for: control is needed from the experts if exposure and fame are what they seek. "A major record label can know exactly what the public want and create an act to satisfy the demands of the public — and make the acts massive stars in the process," said Bohen. It is said that especially with new artists, labels can control the music that gets released, including the artwork and, in some cases, how much profit the artist makes. With more success comes more contractual adjustments in the favour of the artist. That being said, Bohen recalls meeting "several artists signed to record labels who are very happy about the creative control they have retained." Record labels have an incredible amount of people doing big jobs that the indenpendent artist would have to handle themselves, such as marketing and promotion because exposure is one of the most important aspects. That is not to say you can not climb the charts as an independent artist, but a good team that has your best interests will help you balance the workload and allow you to fully focus on the creative aspect. Madison Beer, Bruno Major, and Kim Petras are just some of the many independent successful singers today. Ed Sheeran also started out this way, achieving a lot of attention and fame before signing to Asylum/Atlantic. In an interview, Jeremy Gosling, his manager said: "What Ed and I had done without a record company had proven to the label that we could do it on our own, that all we needed was help and support and finance, getting us to more people and being able to pull the strings when needed

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to do whatever you want — in terms of making a certain song or releasing at a certain time, and being able to collaborate with whoever you want. It's the freedom," said Sketch. "The cons would be having to have your own budget, needing your own studio, own mixing, own producing I guess. Also, promotion and collaborating with other artists is harder when independent." "The struggle for me is to get people to think that I am actually serious about it… and also to maintain the standards of the industry," he continued."Nowadays I meet a lot of people who have talent, but mixing is very important. The mixing of your song has to be industry quality, no one will put it on the radio or take you seriously with stuff that sounds amateur, only your close ones. I have friends that worked with Young Thug and Travis Scott, all the people that have already made it, they helped me in the whole mixing aspect." There have been statements circulating saying that today independent artists are better than signed artists. As they get to keep all of the profit and are able to do the same things alone, they are also leaving all the labels negative attributes behind. But is it really better being independent than signed to a label? "I think being an independent artist today is a sensible choice," said Amy Bohen*, a music journalist for fifteen years. "Ever since physical sales [of CDs and vinyl] started dropping significantly due to the rise of digital music, artists have been making much of their money from touring and merchandise. Traditionally record labels took money from the artists’ physical music sales, but gradually they cottoned on to making 360-degree record deals with artists, cashing in on the artists’ new primary sources of income. If artists go it alone, they can reap all the rewards of their work," she said. Other than reaping the rewards, they are also avoiding a lot of issues. Famous musicians have been publicly speaking out about their dissatisfaction and struggles within the labels. The late artist Prince, back in 2015 said "record contracts are just like — I’m gonna say the word — slavery. I would tell any young artist… don’t sign." He previously stated that artists are being turned into "indentured servitude" by


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to get us on a TV show — those moves are harder to do when you're a bit more independent." Sketch understands the perks that labels offer, however, more and more artists are beginning to claim their creative freedom. "I would sign depending on the contract and depending on if they would give me my space to do what I want in terms of music," said Sketch. "I don’t want [to] stress or neither be pressured. I think it’s good to have a label if they give you your space and they give you a budget for beats and mixing. It definitely opens doors." Freedom of releasing music is definitely an advantage for Sketch. He collaborated with artist Nessly, a twentytwo-year-old from Atlanta on his song 'My Way'. "At first [Nessly] was signed to Atlantic records and therefore to release the song “My Way”, I needed permission from them. By the time the album was scheduled to be released, he dropped out of his contract with Atlantic and we were able to release it with no issues." Nessly is known in the music scene with over a million monthly streams on Spotify. His current most listened to song is 'Moon Love'. "In the future, I feel like you’re gonna have a mix of both the big artists and those with a smaller fan base", said Sketch. "I am not really aiming at any of those...I’m always going to have my job if I don’t make it in music. I am studying business right now, working 100% to get the best grades and to actually succeed in it. With music, it’s my hobby, I am not thinking about succeeding, I am just thinking of having fun and doing my best."Thousands of musicians are producing their music with the hopes of being heard and recognised. How should they make themselves stand out and get people to listen? AWAL say that even though they support independent artists, it does not mean everyone gets accepted. They watch for certain qualities and attributes in them. These include quality of music, fan engagement on social networks, a supportive team by their side and breaking through the noise. "Not so long ago I was excited about a new act, after hearing their record, but when I saw them live it felt so flat and I

was disappointed..." said Bohen. "Passion, self-belief, talent, some originality, a sense of identity and communicating all of that through music and social media fanbase interaction will all help to get a new artist heard."That means a lot of hard work, persistence, belief and confidence. "I do believe I've got a certain unique sound and through time I will be able to further develop it. It’s just a question of not chasing fame or money but rather just keep going. Never quitting," said Sketch. As with anything in life, the music industry will continue to grow and evolve. Being an independent artist is part of the

change. It is a luxury for musicians to have the ability to express their creativity from the comfort of their own homes and to try to turn the music they've created in their heads into a reality. "At the end of the day, you either make it or you don't," concludes Sketch. "I am not doing music to compete with people, I think everyone is unique in their own way. The only way I’ll compete with them since everyone competes in some way, is just by doing my own story, my own thing. But if you’re confident enough, if you believe in yourself, you will succeed one way or another." ● 121


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Inside the Sentaku Diving into the multicultural musical atmosphere of a London record label

A short walk from London’s Old Street Underground station, hidden away in blocks of council houses, is what appears to be your average neighbourhood pub, the Lion and Lamb. Located on the corner of Fanshaw Street, not a single sound can be heard. However, as you open the two waist-high wooden doors and walk the few steps to the pub’s door, then add a few more to enter through a second door, you’ve left London. The small room is filled with a pleasurable atmosphere, tainted with blue and red lights which are accompanied by a ceiling covered with headphone jacks. All around, people are dancing and mingling to a continuous variety of beats. These beats are being performed by a line-up of DJs from the music label, Sentaku. Founders Josh Rawl and Massaï aren’t putting on a party or an event. This is an experience. As you soak in the electric energy brought to you by the range of different music styles, you aren’t just experiencing music, but pure art. Artefact was invited to an event which introduced us to this two year-old universe. Their events take place approximately every couple of months with a thought-out curation. Whether it's in the music, the venue or the artistic experience, you will want to embrace it. The Lion and Lamb became a home for the label which organises events in London and Paris. The line-up included French-American Pablo K and his vibrant, rhythmic tunes, Dandeloo and his expedition in a mix between new wave and old progressive house filled with deep, acid and electro touches. Following that a set from two of the music label’s resident DJs, the evening continued with performance from co-founder, Massaï who describes himself as a “a solar and warm person.” His love for the sun can be heard and felt in his rather colourful sound. Co-founder Josh Rawl closed the evening show with an endless range of house, progressive and deep house from our beloved 90s. His set was filled with light, trance-like vibes and did include sliding Run DMC’s Ghostbusters in his mix. Throughout each of the performances, both the crowd and the DJs were taking part in a live video installation. It was designed and executed by 122

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JXQ, who describes herself as an “ABC who grew up in Hong Kong”. During the event, with a small camera taped near the turntables, the artist was projecting live a somewhat distorted video of the Sentaku experience. The colourful video was still clear enough for you to be able to recognise yourself and the familiar faces around you. With a growing interest in experimenting with live installations and interactive visuals, JXQ told us: “It’s something that I’ve only really started to get into the last year and Sentaku really gave me a total blank slate.” The artist describes that her main source of inspiration comes from music, “concepts to me are defined through a very abstract feeling of a certain ambiance that can only be explained through the use of colours and sounds,” explains JXQ. The artist had already been working with Josh Rawl and Massaï, with whom

Words: Nour Hassaine Image: Amalia Navarro

she established a great working relationship way before the birth of Sentaku. Josh Rawl and Massaï described how essential JXQ was in the creation of the label: “Jane was with us since the beginning, she literally shaped our brand image, she does all the graphics from artworks to flyers. When Sentaku was being created, we insisted that our visual aspect had to be as important as our sound and we couldn’t think of anybody else to work with but her.” As they both stated how impossible it is for them to forget how they met, Massaï started narrating the story. “At the time we were all living [with] our parents and we were all neighbours, I met Josh at a party at our friend Halpern’s place.” While they were exchanging music, a six year-long (to date) friendship was forged. Before there was Sentaku, the two were resident DJs at Hackney Wick’s Number 90 for their own night called Canal Sessions, “our Sentaku project is


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the most serious and meaningful project we’ve ever engaged in. It really reinforced our friendship as we’re always pushing each other to our maximum potential, a bit like the Yin & Yang,” explains Josh Rawl. The symbolic meaning behind the Chinese symbol of opposites attract represents the essence of the label. In its creation, opposites were attracted to each other in London. This idea has also been visually represented through their logo which Josh Rawl described as “an opposition of two forces creating a perfect harmony when meeting each other.” Born and raised in Paris of Brazilian and Togolese descent, Massaï fully relocated for some time to London, in pursuit of a BA in Arts Management. The DJ now lives in Paris for his career as a booker of electronic music artist for entertainment developer, Lola ED. His co-founder, who is half-French, half-Australian of Jewish descent grew up in Hong Kong. His degree in business is what pushed him to relocate as well back in 2012 and he simply stayed much longer than he expected. “Sentaku means selection in Japanese. We used that as a way to show that selection of the very best things in life can amount to perfection,” described Josh Rawl. From the name to the branding of the label, the inspiration has been deeply sourced in the Japanese culture and especially the Edo period. Also known as the Tokugawa period, it lasted from 1603 till 1868. Their graphic designer, JXQ, explained how the founders not only draw inspiration from Japan-based artists but also how they believe that Japanese culture and media is the most recognisable across the globe, “Manga, ninjas, the temples and neon lights of Tokyo are staple visual references that anyone from anywhere can recognise. Japan is also known for being extremely traditional whilst being one of the most technologically advanced societies today,” JXQ told us. The label’s branding is composed of a balance between traditional Japanese imagery and its incorporation with digital manipulation. The visual and musical identity of the label have been represented in their vinyl releases, “it’s not that we’re closed to digital music, on the contrary we dig

tons of it daily, but we are vinyl diggers and collectors and its warmth is definitely incomparable to digital. The satisfaction and feeling of holding and playing a physical object with the sound engraved on it is just so special,” Josh Rawl said. Two records have been released until now, with another in the works, Araki Murashige and Hattori Hanzo. Each pieces of wax have been created by friends or producers within the founders’ circle of friends. The first four-track record was created Dixia Strong, an Asiabased duo exploring minimal and tech house sonorities. Massaï described the first Sentaku release as a “very interesting and solid four tracker, full of pads and melody inspired by Japan, it is an ode to bounciness.” Araki Murashige was considered one of the first samurai in Edo history to represent this devotion. The founders deeply felt that it resembled their passion for music. Their second release was also named after a ninja, Hattori Hanzo, famous for his sword (great for Kill Bill fans out there.) Massaï states how, “the goal of this release was to create something open with different influence within electronic music but also work with friends and talent we believe in and create connections between them”. It was achieved by a group of artists based around the globe. From French producers based in Marseille called DRMC (Def Raw Music Concept), the Swedish DJ, Per Hammar, the Argentinian pair, Bolder and Saenz, and the Paris-based Moroccan, Bassam. If Sentaku and its universe were to be summed up in a few words, these words would be: family, eclectic, welcoming, harmonious, diverse and communal. Sentaku is a community that is a source of inspiration for the founders of the music label to pursue new endeavours. The imprint collaborated with one of Massaï childhood friends who created an Eco-friendly brand called Paradisien. The brand builds different collections based on different continents. So when the Asia collaboration came in fruition, JXQ designed the collection which was then produced usign Japanese inspired visuals. Sentaku is a welcoming, diverse family, with a team from different backgrounds; France, United States, Australia, China, Brazil and Togo. Their values are

at the core of the Sentaku which led to these people coming together and forming a new-found family. Pablo K and Dandeloo, two of the label’s resident DJs expressed how this family came from a place of friendship. With the birth of this Japanese-inspired project, both were invited to join the adventure. “Massaï is a part of a big family of friends here in Paris, that we both know for almost ten years now. We actually played some records together and something felt right,” says Pablo K, explaining how he joined Sentaku a year ago. Dandeloo explains how, “it has never been a doubt for me that I would join the team. As soon as they asked me, I accepted it. I joined Sentaku before it was launched publicly Some of their other resident DJs include the duo behind the first Sentaku vinyl release, Dixia Strong. As for Dandeloo, they were the very first residents. “There’s no necessary criteria apart from being an excellent beat-matcher, an excellent digger and an excellent human,” pronounces Josh Rawl. Sentaku brought together different influences and musical styles. Sentaku is a family in the sense that they all respect and simply love each other and their styles. As the Ying and Yang is a very strong symbol for this family, what attracted all these opposites together is their passion for music. At the end of the day, it all comes down to supporting and working together to create this unique blend of styles where creative strives. Whether it is at Josh Rawl’s set up at home which also known as his spaceship or at the Lion and Lamb, witnessing this overwhelmingly and positive explosiveness of all their different genres colliding in their line-up of sets, is an experience to savour. “Sentaku is a vibe, a family wanting to expand and reach your hearts and ears. Our touch has the incentive to remain sharp and ethereal, variant with life,” pronounces Pablo K. So if curiosity has awakened your heart or your sense of sound, invite the different sounds and allow yourself to be open for this artistic revelation. ● *Each of the people mentioned and/or interviewed in this piece are referred to by their stage name. 123


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House of Daze We explore a collective part of Norwich's thriving drag scene

Words: HW Reynolds Images: Ellie Andrews and House of Daze Collective

Norwich is renowned for its Gothic and atmospheric cathedral, fragrant, serene gardens and its acclaimed universities. However, what people might not be aware of is the thriving drag scene that is developing behind the scenes, gradually leaving a distinct mark on they city’s nightlife. The Norwich drag scene is in capable hands, as a group of performers who call themselves House of Daze are following in the footsteps of collectives like The Rose Bud Club. They operate through their own drag house and have been participating and organising events with a set of shows titled ‘Take The Weight Off Your Mascara.’ House of Daze comprises of five core members (though, they are always open to new members and performers); Sylvia Daze (Josh Javes), who acts as the main host of the nights on the mic, Blazing Rose (Jess Kirby), Bishee Barnabee (Brandon Chaskin), Liv (Oliver Saunders) and Devil Child (George Hellings). As they prepare for an event that celebrates their first birthday as a group, Artefact caught up with them to hear about aspects of drag, their influences, how the scene has grown and even how to get involved in the world of drag.We were curious to learn how the members discovered drag and where House of Daze found its origins. Liv (Oliver Saunders) was happy to give some insights: “On my Fine Art foundation course my friends were talking about RuPaul’s Drag Race, and said I’d love it! I gave it a try as season eight was on at the time and was fascinated by the transformation from in confessional to the queen on the main stage.” We were familiar with the series and its popularity, though Liv also noted that, “despite it being problematic, Drag Race is a great introduction to queer culture and gender expression; it is important queers continue to discover drag beyond the show though. I did by attending parties and performing in shows, meeting ‘real life’ drag performers, especially British performers. British drag is far more punk than American drag.” The natural progression of questions led to us asking the members on how they got into performing the actual shows. “The initial inspiration came on the eve of 2018 when Sylvia, Bishy and Blazing Rose were having a new year kiki,

teenagers too — as ‘Devil Child’ puts it, “Drag is for everyone!”.The members, Liv especially, noted how much the scene had grown: “Since we started Take The Weight Off Your Mascara (TTWOYM) in February 2018, there have been several other shows and events in Norwich, such as Fever, produced by Black Shuck Creative which showcases the London’s hottest names in drag. “There’s also Big Fun giving avant-garde drags, and Dolly’s Whorehouse which features long-term Norwich queen Dolores Deepthroat; as well as Drag in The Gallery where performers take their expression to the white cube space. We’ve also performed a couple of times at the Norwich Arts Centre. With even more on the way, Norwich’s drag scene has been steadily growing and sustaining since we began our shows.” Expanding on this, we asked if members had ever heard local community discuss the shows, “I think a good sign of popularity is when you overhear people talking about ‘the House of Daze‘ or ‘the drag show at the Birdcage’. Last week at Norwich Playhouse, ‘Liv’ and ‘Devil Child’ were tapped on the shoulder by a lady who had been to our shows, she had recognised them out of drag and was glad to see them. Beyond the shows, the collective is often reached out to by local businesses and creatives looking to collaborate.” ‘Devil Child’ took us through the House of Daze’ most recent endeavours: “We had our busiest and most glamorous event yet with our recent takeover of the

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their resolution being to start a drag night in Norwich where everyone was welcome to ‘take the weight off’. From then it has been a snowball effect of themed shows, catwalk competitions and a loyal audience that keeps us coming back for more.” The individual and distinct styles of drag that the House of Daze members have developed gradually. As performers, they all branched off based on their personalities and personal tastes, as is the norm with any form of art.“When we come together on stage to do the group numbers we manage to project a cohesive sense of acceptance, love and positivity with everyone there despite all of us having different performing styles. This has become a staple of the shows and really represents what we are!” The Norwich drag scene was not something we were familiar with before the interview, and when sharing this with the collective, they admitted that they weren’t initially aware of just how many people in Norwich were interested in starting drag either, with ‘Devil Child’ enthusiastically musing, “I had no idea the drag scene was so big, it’s just happening behind the scenes without anyone knowing, but it’s huge!” However, the effect the shows have had on the community was soon made clear to them, as through their regular appearances at the Birdcage, they generated an energy that the queer population of Norwich have gravitated towards; particularly those wanting to do drag. The shows have attracted not just other students but some mature queens and even


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Birdcage on New Year’s Eve for a Studio 54-themed party. This was definitely a milestone for us with an explosion of family, friends and TTWOYM newcomers gathering for one of our most energetic nights yet which had a blitz of a show followed by a party that set 2019 off right! “Even more recently, In January 2019 we took to the stage of the Norwich Arts Centre for NUA Students Union ‘Winterfest’ party. The size of the stage and a fabulous lighting technician made our show even better, some really Beyoncé at Coachella vibes going on.”Artefact was keen to see if there were any problems that came with hosting these shows. The House of Daze members told us: “If anything it’s the influx of people wanting to perform. Although there are more events with drag occurring in Norwich, there is always a large group of artists seeking a performance spot." “With our night being once a month,

and already having five performers in our group, it can be tricky to accommodate other performers — but we try our best to showcase local performers to their audience. That’s it really, besides getting ready on time, glueing nails and fucking up a few wigs in the process.” A thought that might come to the mind of our readers when reading this feature is ‘If I wanted to get into drag, where should I start?’ Luckily ‘Devil Child’ had some great advice, “Your best bet is going to a show. There’s a plethora of drag shows and queer cabaret all over the UK so attending these with a few friends, who may be new to it as well, will allow you to slowly (or quickly) immerse yourself in going out and celebrating your freedom of gender expression the way you wish and however you identify. “In turn, you’ll be supporting your local queens, performers and queer

artists and are likely to meet people who inspire you to break out of your comfort zone and then practice-practice-practice. You might find it isn’t what you wished for when you first get in drag but trying it out in a safe manner in queer-friendly spaces is a perfect place to start.” Concluding the discussion by asking the group what their plans for House of Daze: “Our main goal in the future is to continue a queer revolution in Norwich, providing the spaces for our community to thrive, love and express themselves freely." “In the meantime, we do have our first birthday party, again at the Norwich Arts Centre. It will be a colour pop party to celebrate one whole year of taking the weight off our mascara. It is our biggest show to date, with special guests like Ginny Lemon, brand new group numbers and features the family of drag artists who have joined us since our debut.” ●

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Photographers photographed The symbiotic relationship between artist and art

Words and images: Nour Hassaïne

“I don’t think photographers need to make an effort to stop hiding behind a camera,” pronounces Amalia Navarro. During a scrolling Facebook session, I’ve stumbled upon a post in one of the many Facebook groups for creatives in London. A photographer was looking for people to document. Kate Tereshchenko’s project consisted of exploring the concept of time in Londoners’ everyday lives. Since I’ve slowly started to force myself to be more open-minded about some of my set-in-stone feelings and/or beliefs, the idea of being followed and photographed for a day was appealing. The only photographs you can find of me are usually silly ones or ones where my sunglasses are worn. But with my extensive practise of photography, I was interested in seeing how I’d be perceived and photographed by another photographer. After spending seven hours of an uneventful Friday with a camera pointed at me, I realised how surprisingly at ease I felt. A sunny London, coffee and hot chocolate must’ve helped. But questions flooded my mind after those seven hours. What changed? Why was I somewhat uncomfortable in front of the camera? So I wondered, how do photographers portray themselves in this unsettled era? The camera is the photographers’ creative weapon of choice. Observing and capturing the world around us through a viewfinder might not necessarily give us the opportunity to become the subject of a photograph. But even if they do present themselves, do photographers want to be photographed? In the era of selfies, can photographers share their work and only their work? The warmth of Shoreditch’s Barber and Parlour Cafe, filled with friendly encounters, work meetings and a well-curated selection of music, welcomed three photographers, four if you count me. My first and only encounter with Tereshchenko, before the seven hours shoot, took place here, in the edgy cafe/restaurant which used to have a barber inside, hence the name. Following this meeting, I returned at three different moments, with three different photographers to discuss their relationship with the medium. Art director in an advertising agency is only one aspect of Mélody Battentier’s practice. On a fresh, early Monday morning, over a cup of coffee, the French artist explains how she combines dance and

music in her work. “I just like movements inside a photo. For me, it’s a kind of video through which I just try to tell a story in a very natural way.” On another day, over a fresh orange juice as a desperate attempt to fight the painful winter breeze, this time, documentary photographer, Caro Pak joins the discussion. Originally from Macau, the artist’s journey into photography began when she started her own clothing company, Pivot, in Hong Kong. Even though her freelance practice mainly consists of music photography, it first started with capturing her clothing line. And following a two year long trip of the United States, Pak states how “America made me start to like taking pictures.” The following afternoon, as the daylight escapes into the night, photographer Amalia Navarro recounts her story with photography while sipping her Americano. The half French, half American, moved to London in pursuit of a Photography degree at UAL. Recently graduated, her photography of choice is documentary. But her freelance practice consists mainly of event photography and portraiture. A chaotic background noise from fellow coffee drinkers plays as each of the photographers describe the feeling of being photographed. A mutual understanding stands out which is the reason why they are being photographed influences their feelings. But also describing them is not easy task. Pak states that the sentiment cannot be put into words which was proven right by the other photographers. Practising photography brings Navarro a specific type of joy. “I can’t describe it and because I can’t define it and I can’t tell you why it makes me happy. I think it has its own kind of power to bring happiness,” she shares. When asked how she feels in front of a camera, she busted with nervous laughter as she begins and repeatedly explaining how uncomfortable, targeted, vulnerable and put on the spot she feels. The reason behind this level of anxiety is mainly brought by the use of the camera. “It’s basically just a thing that doesn’t have any emotions that are capturing another thing that does have emotions. I think that really scares me.” “I think it helps to be behind the camera to then be on the front,” explains Mélody Battentier. And Caro Pak’s

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story clearly proves the validity of that statement. When she’s not capturing her surroundings, the documentary photographer finds the time for discreet appearances in video projects, particularly music ones. “You get to meet a lot of different people. Sometimes they’re like 60-yearsold, sometimes they’re kids but it’s a great way to meet people that you wouldn’t normally come across,” she explains. It seems like a great source for storytelling. Before adventuring in the intricacies of describing the deeper meaning of our art within each of us, the conversations began the same way, by sharing current projects and general updates on our work. So after the, somewhat, emotionally charged conversation, each coffee drinking sessions ended by sharing thoughts on the general practices of photographers In many types of photography, where a human being is the subject of the photograph, a connection is established. It is also a connection which needs to be nurtured throughout the duration of the collaboration. It can be achieved through a mutual opening up about each other’s feelings and stories. Photography is a form of visual storytelling. And for feelings to pierce through the stills, they need to be exchanged.“I think I do a much better [job] when the people know me. It’s not math, it’s something deeper and that’s why it’s hard because it’s not only a click,” states Battentier. It has been proven on social media when sharing opinions on Instagram stories, “every time I post something personal, people will message me back and tell me something about them and just start talking about it,” shares Pak. But photographers also decide how their work will be shared. Nowadays, the sharing is mostly done online. A way to present their work could be by establishing a purpose behind each platform used, “I was really trying to start to think about how to present my work and what work I would even want to show for a website. So for me, it was always, what is this platform bringing me as a goal, like photography? Like what do I want to gain from it,” explains Amalia. Her website features the variety of her freelance projects which is mostly used for finding more opportunities. Navarro’s use of social media shows a more casual and personal side to her photography. “I think people are touched by your

“I don't think photographers need to make an effort to stop hiding behind a camera”

work if you share a bit of yourself. And again, it’s an art. It’s like music, I love to see the music video or people on stage because it brings so much more. It’s not only something you listen,” states Battentier. Her work and personal story aren’t separated and adapted for each online platforms simply since they inspire one another. Coined in 1839 from Sir John Herschel, the word photography translated from Greek means to ‘draw with light’. Mélody Battentier, Caro Pak and Amalia Navarro draw with light every day, whether it is natural or artificial. But learning, adapting and discovering new methods to share their passion for the medium is also part of the process of drawing with light. While they are away and capturing life one camera click at a time, a differentiation needs to be acknowledged. The way to do that? Trust your feelings. “People do go towards an amazing image. And they’re kind of taken by it. They’re not confused, they’re just amazed almost. That feeling of amazement, I think makes a good photograph. It’s part of it,” pronounces Amalia Navarro. ● 127


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Words and image : Richard Bari

ROCK THE KREMLIN: MUSIC AND REBELLION IN THE EASTERN BLOC Exploring the rebellious adolescence of the Eastern Bloc's youth

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Enyém az arany, tiéd a réz, Enyém a bilincs, tiéd a kéz, Tiéd a rendszer, enyém a zűr, Enyém az ország, tiéd az űr. Miénk az utca, miénk a ház, Miénk a számla, miénk a gáz, Miénk a lekvár, miénk a vár, Miénk a haszon és miénk a kár! I’ve got the gold, you’ve got the copper, I’ve got the handcuff, you’ve got the hand, You’ve got the system, I’ve got the struggle, I've got the country, you’ve got space, We have the streets, we have the house, We have the bills, we have the gas We have the jam, we have the castle, We have the gain and we have the loss! – Enyém, tied, miénk [Mine, yours, ours] — Hobo Blues Band, 1982 Földes László, a.k.a Hobo, takes centre stage with the word ‘dog’ spray painted on the back of his white shirt. Beside him, the one-legged king of Hungarian blues, Deák Bill Gyula, howls away in harmony. In a dimly lit community hall, the Hobo Blues Band play blues rock to a generation of rebels and outcasts. They sing about the struggles they, and most importantly the youth, face in their homeland. Taking it all back to the gutter, their ethos barks: ‘Be the king of dogs, not the dog of kings’. With their western sound, the use of sexual connotations and political criticism, the Budapest-based blues unit became an anti-establishment symbol in 1980s communist Hungary. However, their music, much to the dismay of the authorities, reached people beyond the country’s boundaries. Bringing it all back home Just eight miles from the Hungarian border, in the south-central region of Slovakia, lies Fiľakovo, a small town of roughly 10,000 residents. The land once belonged to Hungary until new borders were drawn and it fell under Slovakian rule. Ever since then it has been home to a community of Slovaks, Hungarians and Roma settlers. After World War II, The Russians snatched the Eastern Bloc into their grip. Under the new rule, Fiľakovo's private enterprises and lands were nationalised. Where adverts once plastered the walls, propaganda signs were erected. Two large factories, separated by a railroad track, re-opened under government control and social housing tower blocks filled the town. A red star and a portrait of Lenin were put up on the walls of state-owned premises and the ‘power was given to the people’. The nature of the totalitarian government proved to do anything but that. While on the surface it seemed people were content, behind closed doors a feeling of dissatisfaction was brewing amongst the youth. In large cities like Bratislava and Prague, collectives of artists, writers and students led the anti-establishment movements. Through demonstrations and protests they established a nationwide reputation as the fighters of oppression. However, in the small forgotten parts of the countries, where voices where drowned, it was the local heroes that kept the wheel rolling. This is their story.

They left me here to die or grow, in the middle of Tobacco Road Miro grew up in Fiľakovo. His father, a Charter 77 signee, was separated from the family, leaving his wife to raise their two children. What she could offer was far from a silver-spoon upbringing. Due to his father’s political status, at the age of 11 he already had the mark of an outsider. As a result, he was blacklisted and never even approached to join the party. Not that he would have wanted to but, those who had their little red book had it a lot easier. So, from an early age he had to accept his fate. At first, like everyone else around him, he accepted things weren’t going to change. It wasn’t until music came into the picture, that he realised there were people who were ready to challenge the norms. Separating himself from the status quo would come at a cost though. Let me hear some of that Rock 'n' Roll music “The first time I heard the Hobo Blues Band, I was in a bar with some friends. The owner had an old jukebox and he played the band's first single. I thought it was the coolest thing I’ve ever heard. So, I went and bought their cassette tape and I played it over and over on this clunky sound system. My mother would come in the room shaking her head and I was sold. After that, I’d follow the band everywhere they went.” What made the Hobo Blues Band so successful, besides their sound, was the lead singer’s literary ability. For one, his skill of translating English songs and still maintaining a rhyme scheme meant that their listeners could understand the words of their western heroes. However, for years, Földes had been regarded highly amongst the Hungarian beat writers for his own work. One of his idols, Allen Ginsberg appeared as a cameo in the band’s 1981 film, Kopaszkutya [Bald Dog Rock]. Initially, the film was banned. Földes sang about poverty, oppression and the struggle of being a nobody under the system. His words embodied the feeling of their time. You put in the work and you get fuck all. Finally, there was someone to voice the views of the unheard masses. Most major western acts were discouraged from playing behind the Iron Curtain however, the kids wanted to hear live music. This gave European bands the opportunity to fill the void. A plethora of bands emerged including P. Mobil, Beatrice, Edda, Coral and Dinamit. Each act offered their own take on hard rock. By the 80s, the bands would put on all-day festivals at the Budai Ifjúsági Park (Buda Youth Park). Audiences would gather from miles around, crossing the borders to make the shows. “We’d drive down to the festivals in the morning and there were hundreds of people around already. There were bands playing until night-time. We would sleep in the car and do it all again the next day.” Radio Luxembourg became the main source of western music in the Eastern Bloc. Their signal was so strong that it could be even heard in Estonia. “We’d write in, and asking the DJ to play our favourite songs. You’d wait for a couple of weeks and then one night you would hear him announce ‘Now we’re gonna play Zeppelin for the Red Rooster’. We all used nicknames cause the last thing you wanted was the cops to hear your name on an illegal radio broadcast..” The Soviet authorities had heavily invested in interference devices which used noise and fuzz to disrupt forbidden signals. However, they couldn’t stop 129


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people from trying anyway. “You’d sit there turning the dials, battling it out with Kirill on the other side.” He got hair down to his knee, got to be a joker he just do what he please Seeing the clothes and hairstyles of their favourite bands at concerts, and photos of people like Jagger, inspired guys to try new looks. Long hair started becoming more and more popular. As much as it was an aesthetic thing, it also had deeper connotations. It indicated someone’s music taste, their lifestyle and often their political views. Most importantly, long hair formed an understanding and connection between people who were living the same struggle. As it became a flag of rebellion, the Communist authorities saw long hair as a threat to their standards of convention. “During junior school, the headmaster would visit every classroom in the morning. Like a hawk, he’d stalk the room for covered ears and write away in a notepad. A couple of hours later, when he had made his way around the whole school, an announcement would be made on the school speaker boxes. A voice would read out a list of names and then the command would follow. ‘Get a haircut!’. No one dared to resist. The next day, he’d come around again with his list to tick off the names. If someone was found with their hair still too long, the teacher would take a pair of scissors and chop their hair then and there. In the evenings after school, a row of mothers would be sitting outside the headmaster's office. Waiting either to apologise, or for an apology. As the guys older things only got worse. High schools would forbid long haired guys to sit their final exams. This sort of repression exceeded the education system. It seems that people could cut your hair just about anywhere you went. If you were to visit another country and the officers decided you didn’t match your ID, they’d take the scissors to you. Lone star belt buckles and old faded Levi’s “We had it a lot easier being able to speak Hungarian and living so close to the border. Communism didn’t mean the same to us as it did to those living in the middle of the country. If we wanted a taste of the West, we were a half hour drive from it.” Hungarian laws differed under the Communists. Private enterprise was allowed on a small scale so stores and markets were common. Getting a hold of certain things was easier than it was back at home. “By the 80s, in Hungarian record shops you were able to find copies of Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols. Whether you could bring it back home was a different story.” However, it was the clothes at the markets that most people came for. Truck drivers would bring things in from the West which they then sold to the merchants. Leather jackets, Levi’s jeans and other denim. Cowboy boots and gym shoes, Marlboro cigarettes and whiskey. Anything Americana went. So as the music was combined with the hair and clothes, subcultures began forming. Rockers became known as ‘csöves’, meaning 'bum', as their look embraced poverty and a sleazy image. “It started creating this mob mentality, where some guys were part of this music scene, while others belonged to another. They were willing to get in fights over music tastes. They’d curse mothers and spit on each other.” 130

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Though these goods were all technically contraband, they were tolerated by officials. “There was a grey area with clothing, so cops or teachers wouldn’t give you trouble for wearing a pair of jeans. But then some guys started sewing American flags and bald eagle patches on their jackets. They didn’t stay on there for too long.” Police and thieves in the street In larger cities it was harder to control what people were doing but in a tiny town, a bunch of scruffy kids wasn’t hard to miss. A law stated that people couldn’t gather in public places in groups of more than ten, as they were considered a mob. So, whenever the guys would be hanging out somewhere, a cop would come and send them all off in different directions only for them to meet somewhere else. “We knew all the cops in the town, and they knew us, so there was never any hassle. The chief though, this big fella, he really kept the town straight. It was enough for someone to shout that he’s coming and everyone started running.” However, it wasn't the local police they found trouble with, about five or six guys had been transferred from a nearby village to complete their training at the town station. It was New Years Eve of 1980, and they were placed on patrol out in the snow while the old timers were off celebrating. These guys felt they were missing out, so they started swigging a bottle too. In the meantime, Miro was drinking over at a friend’s house. There was a bunch of them and they decided to go to someone else’s place. On the way they ran into the police “We were drinking but we weren’t causing trouble or anything. Anyway, two of these cops grabbed me and a friend and pushed us up against this wall. ‘Hands on the wall’ he says. Next thing you know, I heard him cocking his pistol and this drunk cop was pointing a loaded gun at our backs.” The guy realised he fucked up, so he quickly put the gun away, bashing one of them in the back of the head first. The rest of the trainees broke up the scene and told them to go home. So they walked off leaving a trail of blood in the snow. A few days later the kid’s mother went down to the station to file a report. Though there were witnesses too, a case wasn’t even opened. Hey think the time is right for a palace revolution In 1989, the 41-year rule of the Communists ended. A large group of people amassed in the nearby town of Lučenec, where a Lenin statue was torn down as a new chapter unfolded “There was a great sense of excitement. However, at the same time everyone was anxious and unsure about what was to come.” The Eastern Bloc was liberated and all restrictions were abolished. Four decades worth of music, fashion, media, technology and goods became readily available. Most importantly, the borders opened up and people gained the freedom of movement. Within a year, Miro moved to Greece where he started a new life and settled down with his family for the next twenty years. Looking back at his life, he feels indifferent about his time under the regime. While he could have had a secure job and comfortable life without worries, his freedom was jeopardised. Now in his fifties, as a factory worker in the UK, living in a house he doesn’t own, he can’t help but question what freedom really is. ●


Profile for Artefact magazine

Artefact #19 – March 2019  

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