Artefact #22 – December 2020

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Cover photograph: Ali Wright @aliwright_photographs


As we come to the end of 2020, a year that has thrown normality as we know it out of the window, Artefact magazine recognises the ‘new normal’ we are all facing and how it has challenged and changed our ways of life. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is the Covid-19 pandemic; it has dominated news media for the last few months and has had an impact on all aspects of life. Both individually and collectively, we have been forced to adapt. ‘Lockdown’ was declared the word of the year by Collins Dictionary, having impacted people on opposite sides of the globe for months at a time. The world was in united uncertainty over when or if life would return to what we once knew. Lia Cowans explores how lockdown and loneliness go together in the article ‘A Lonely Society: Young people and the pandemic.’ Mental health has been massively affected by the pandemic, and there has been a push to recognise the battles people are facing behind closed doors. Lia focuses on how university students have been affected and the coping mechanisms they have adopted. In ‘‘Sugar Dating’ during a global pandemic’ Sophie McCabe delves into the world of a sugar baby, as her livelihood and income adjusts to the everchanging rules of the Covid-19 pandemic. The article points out how the internet has been used to facilitate a new form of sugar dating, but is this just a temporary fix during the wait for ‘normalcy’ to return? Clea Sokhi explores a positive impact of the ‘new normal’ in her article ‘Photography that thrived throughout lockdown’. In a time where unemployment is on the rise, a group of creatives have found new and innovative ways to produce original content. ‘Skinheads: past and present’ documents the evolution of skinhead culture since the rise in 1960. From steel toe-capped work boots to Doc Martens, a racist reputation to Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARPs), the world of skinheads has seen many significant changes over the decades. In a modern society, where sub-cultures are less overt, how important is it to educate ourselves and maintain representation? Ropa Madziva tells a story about race, and its place in our society, politics and everyday lives. Although the Black Lives Matter movement has been around since 2013, recent police brutality towards black citizens in the USA has propelled the movement into mainstream media once again. Despite changes being made and the importance being recognised, the fight for racial equality is nowhere near over. Natalia Zmarzlik and Tom Tyers investigate the conflict following a ruling by the Constitutional Court that states that abortion in case of foetal defects is illegal. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets to protest the new anti-abortion law, yet international media coverage was sparse. Natalia and Tom stress the importance of the demonstrations and provide a voice for the Poles fighting the law. The cover explores how the collective changed experience of intimacy in the pandemic. The ‘New Normal’ as it relates to intimacy presents as a radical shift in society. Currently physical contact outside of our household/bubble is technically illegal, however dating apps are more popular than ever. It seems apparent that many of us crave the intimacy we once took for granted.

Contributors Magazine Nathan Doubleday, Molly Douglas-Fairbrass, Lucy Engstrom, Oriol Escudé, Sebastian George, Emma Gregory, Melissa Johnson, Tatenda Kavendekete, Joe Markson, Alice Marshall, Sophie McCabe, Diane Mendoza, Sarah Henia Nane, Layla Nicholson, Lucy Pemberton, Linnéa Pesonen, Margit Potsepp, Isaac Robinson-Bradley, Clea Sokhi, Alice Stoner, Carmelia Tchoua, Jade Wolsey Website A.L. Ashkenaz, May Baalache, Emil Brierley, Sophie Victoria Brown, Darnell Christie, Lia Cowans, Latifah Dankwa, Rene Dela Cruz, Daniela Ferreira Teixeira, Charlotte Gamage, Giuli Graziano, Jussi Grut, Susu Hagos, Anais Hlukaku, Rashmi Lawati, Ropa Madziva, Vanessa Richter, Martha Stevens, Tom Tyers, Betty Wales-Hulbert, Natalia Zmarzlik Tutors Simon Hinde (magazine) Russell Merryman (website) Art Direction & Design Oswin Tickler, Smallfury

Website Facebook artefactmagazine Twitter @artefactlcc Instagram @artefactmag Feedback


It demonstrates the nature of these new social boundaries by staging a covert hook-up scene. This setup poses questions around our new relationships with personal desire (intimacy, interpretation of guidelines and individualism) and social responsibility (safety, legal restrictions and ethical decision making). Ali Wright, a student on LCC’s postgraduate diploma in photography, shot the scene in the early hours of the morning in a DLR station in Canary Wharf, dressing the genderless figures in 1970s business suits. The setting/styling infers how our previously rigid and entrenched attitudes to work are also suddenly in flux. The photographer wanted to avoid the use of masks, since we have become inundated with images of them, so decided to abstract the mask in this image, using a different material whilst expressing the same feeling of restriction. The image was influenced by Magritte’s The Lovers II (1928), which resonates with our current collective experiences ninety-two years after it was painted. She re-contextualised this image in a contemporary setting, utilising the numerous articles shared recently on social media focusing on DIY face masks spotted across the UK including bags, ski goggles, gas masks and plastic containers. Therefore, the use of the bags gives the image a playful element for viewers to reflect on the peculiarity of life in the coronavirus pandemic.




University on the internet


The rise of micro-influencer

52 Unsung heroes: the battle to save the live events sector

8 Why childhood obesity is not only about food

54 Mental health in the Arab world

9 A lonely society: young people and the pandemic

58 Is fashion fatphobic?

10 Photographers who thrived through lockdown

64 Catwalks, couture and Covid

15 Chauffeur: Driving the image of drill 19 Sugar dating in a pandemic 23 Skinheads past and present 28 Fighting police brutality in Nigeria 30 Algeria: the hidden treasure

56 Only Fans: how secure are your nudes 62 Drama in a crisis 68 Putting Portugal on the musical map 69 This is just a modern rock song 70 Gonged out: sound bathing and holistic healing 72 Creatives in crisis

32 Dance is my therapy

74 Bill Gates: the most hated man in the world?

36 Poles take to the streets over abortion

78 Battling homelessness in lockdown

40 The politics of Polish protest

80 Is Berlin’s nightlife losing its appeal?

44 God, but at a distance

82 “The New Normal”

46 Design adapts to “the new normal”

83 Why are you running?

48 Fighting for freedom in Belarus


University on the Internet What’s it like to do a course at UAL from your home thousands of miles away, when most of your classmates are in London?

After the summer break and an ever-advancing pandemic, both education and student life have been disturbed. Universities and academic staff follow the UK government’s guidelines to rethink classes and public spaces. Meanwhile, some higher-education students from abroad made the bittersweet decision to study remotely. Haowen Zhang, an MA Arts and Lifestyle student at UAL, is currently following her classes from Shenzhen in China. Haowen left London in March 2020 just before UK borders closed. She hopes to return to London as soon as possible but as Europe moved into a second lockdown, it was near impossible. The UK government will also extend the furlough scheme until March 2021, aiming to enforce self-employability and encourage people to stay home. Education unions also claim that keeping schools and universities open in England is a “half-measure” that could lengthen covid consequences . The impact of Covid-19 has led to Haowen making the decision to continue her studies online. It’s a dividing situation: on one side, full-time online classes from home are lacking direct contact between a classroom and teachers, and on the other side, they are also risks as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc. Haowen also mentioned feeling a little bit lonely. She doesn’t know any of her classmates, and Chinese restrictions on the Internet only make matters harder. Stella made the decision to stay in Germany for medical reasons. She feels concerned, raising awareness about safety. Even though measures have been


taken and advised by the UK government, it looks like coronavirus is inevitable and invading our inner-circle. Being safe is the main reason why Haowen and Stella decided to apply to Extenuating circumstances and study remotely. It is also about the daily lifestyle in London just like using public transport to move around the city. It doesn’t feel right to go back to UK, when in Europe the numbers of cases are rising again. Manchester University had a deadly outbreak and for instance in China, infected cases are getting lower. If the virus is inevitable it begs the question: where do you prefer to get the virus? It depends on everyone’s situation, but the question is quickly answered for a student completely isolated in London, especially if it is lockdown and if an individual can even keep rent money afloat. Stella also pointed out, missing void of student life. Starting her course at UAL in October 2019, she only had a small chance to socialise, yet not entirely, when she decided to stay in Germany after Easter break 2020. Apart from classes, one of the most important aspects of the student life experience is about meeting and networking. Social distancing and public places closing make it hard for freshers to fully enjoy their first year at University. Universities and teachers, nevertheless try to do the best they can as corona

Words: Diane Mendoza Images: Stella Schmieder and Haowen Zhang

virus has restricted everyone in many ways. “My teachers care about everyone and especially for people who study remotely” as Stella says. She gives gratitude to her tutor and teachers support and the effort they put in for being present for students no matter what. This situation halted a lot of outcomes for students except the burden of tuition fees. This year has been financially difficult for so many students across the country that they don’t understand why they are still having to pay fees for a full-time course that cannot provide the student life they desired. It raised a lot of debate between students but also on social media. On the Instagram profile of @unknwnartzt 3 printed receipts denounce this situation, showing the full price paid by students for less resources. These receipts been shared and liked by more than 2000 users but UAL still never communicated about the fees. As a reminder, the academic year for UK and EU residents is worth £9,250, while for international students, it goes up to £20,000 and there is a significant amount of international students around the UK. During the 2018/2019 school year, around 20% of the total number of students - 2 383 970 - were international students as declared The Higher Education Statistics Agency. Numbers have risen and this leads us to wonder how next year’s admissions are going to be. X

The rise of the micro-influencer In the time of lockdown, niche figures on social media are much closer to the real lives of their audiences

Words: Charlotte Gamage Image: Serena Nardi

It’s no surprise that social media usage has seen a surge during the pandemic. With so many people working from home and staying indoors, engagement on social posts has skyrocketed, with content creators, sharing everything from beauty tutorials to cleaning hacks. As the UK unemployment rate is rising rapidly due to the pandemic, the influencer industry has been booming. According to the BBC, approximately 1.5 million Brits are unemployed as of June. Audiences are turning to social media to find people they can connect with. As Covid-19 hit and our social lives became restricted, top-tier influencers had to pause their globe-trotting and start facing the same challenges as the rest of the world. Perfectly curated Instagram feeds became perfectly imperfect as realism and authenticity started to show through —helping audiences relate to the content on a deeper level than before. Whilst top influencers have seen vast growth, it’s the micro-influencers who are experiencing the largest growth —as their relatable content is much closer to normality for their audiences’ lives. Since March, micro-influencers’ Instagram insights have skyrocketed as a result of the average time spent on the platform, which has grown by 14%. People want to cling to normality and to escape from the constant COVID-19 news. Serena Nardi, a ‘skinfluencer’ from Italy, also known for her golden hour aesthetic, reached more than ten thousand followers during lockdown. A ‘skinfluencer’, is an influencer obsessed with skin products and accessories. They flood IG stories talking about skincare ingredients you’ve probably never heard of and flaunting their glowing faces. Serena noticed her engagement rising during lockdown. “I started my Instagram at the end of February, so just as lockdown was approaching. I started on zero and noticed daily that my followers would increase by a large amount. I was posting every single day, sometimes twice and the amount of time and effort I was putting in truly paid off. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, I don’t think I would have even had the following I do today,” Serena told us. “I’ve had so many opportunities from my growth, and I’ve been able to quit my day job and focus on my Instagram full-time. I never imagined this

everything in our lives, even things we never thought we’d have to. Although my Instagram was at an all-time high during lockdown, I have noticed the demand for engaging content has increased. Our audiences need something more than just skincare shots. Everyone wants something more, so I started brainstorming what I could give my audience that no one else has done in the community, and that was to provide virtual events.” As well as adapting their content, influencers are branching out to other platforms. TikTok has been the social media sensation of lockdown and has grown at record rates; the number of downloads hit 75.5 million in March alone. Because of this, influencers need to have the ability to create content across multiple platforms to ensure their growth continues, and their existing audiences stick around in a post-Covid world. X

would be my life, but it is, and I’m so grateful I could turn a negative situation into a positive.” Social media marketing is shifting; content creators have had to change their approach to suit their evolving audiences. Valeria Hawit, @itsvaleriahawit on Instagram, has switched up her approach on Instagram since the start of the pandemic. Instead of beauty product reviews and vanity shots, she has been teaching her audience how to grow and monetise their social media accounts. Valeria now posts infographics with all the information needed on how to grow a successful Instagram account in easy steps. As the world is shifting, she is also hosting a series of virtual events called the “Small Biz Lab” on iPhone photography, social media strategies. “The world we live in now is crazy; I have accepted that. We need to adapt


Why childhood obesity is not only about food Fried chicken shops fill the high streets of the most deprived neighbourhoods

Words and image: Oriol Escude

Under the red glare of a neon strip light, a woman and her daughter examine the offers stuck to the condensation-covered glass in a small fried-chicken shop in Stratford. Inside, Yamini and her mother kill time behind the counter. It is the first day after the clocks went back and night falls at 5 pm. No more customers are expected until dinner time and the shelves of fried chicken are practically empty. Yamini’s father, who opened the restaurant eight years ago, looks out from the kitchen every time the door opens. Although the pandemic has been a vast loss to the business, they still attract a lot of customers. The new lockdown opens new possibilities to recover what they lost during the first one. Most of their rivals who remained open received a high volume of orders. Their main clientele before the pandemic were school students and hungry partygoers. Lockdown restrictions mean pupils are the only regular customers for most fast-food businesses. Such is also the case with The Chicken Shop Mile, a bustling fried chicken shop in East London. The bossman affirms that many teenagers visit his space because they can stay in the shop for a ridiculously low price. Across the street, two pupils await the bus eating chicken wings. Patrick, 15, says he prefers not to eat during the day so he can eat out after school. His friend Jeremy feels that eating at the school canteen “is not cool”. They have takeaway food at least three times a week. A 2012 study found that over 50% of children bought food or drinks from a fast-food outlet twice or more a week. Among the reasons why young people consumed this type of food was dissatisfaction with the school meal and the money-value ratio. Most participants did not eat during the day and instead went to a fast-food restaurant after school. The growing consumption of fast food among young people is affected by the close proximity of the outlets, particularly in disadvantaged areas. In Tower Hamlets, for instance, the fourth most deprived borough of London in 2019, there are 42 fast-food restaurants for every secondary school, 627 in total. In the neighbouring borough, Newham, the sixth most deprived in London, there are 411 takeaway venues and 30% of these

go to takeaways. Young people value the physical and social environment of takeaways—they are warm, non-judgemental, friendly, safe places to sit with friends.” After school, the spaces available for young people to meet are limited and the afternoons of free time often end up in fried chicken shops where they can stay as long as they like without spending much money. Medical student Akashi Alam defended the importance of fried chicken shops and the role they played in her childhood in a TED TALK. She says they didn’t go there for the food but as a last resort to the small, crowded houses where they lived. She argues that fried chicken shops are providers of an essential service: space. Venues available for young people to socialise are increasingly limited so they unconsciously seek out places where they can meet in their free time. Consequently, fried chicken shops have become spaces of influence where they develop a false sense of agency in an inadequate environment for the correct development of their personality. Experts suggest that local organisations and schools should have a joint willingness with businesses to improve the attractiveness of healthy food and encourage its consumption. redesign canteens to offer young people more free spaces where they can develop in a safe and non-judgemental environment. X


exclusively sell fried chicken. However, these figures do not include chains such as KFC, so the numbers are likely to be even higher. The rate of childhood obesity in these areas is much higher than the average. Newham is the second borough of London with the highest figures of obesity: almost 28% of 6-year olds are obese and children aged between 10 and 11 years old are more than twice as likely to be obese than the children in the boroughs with the lowest figures. In 2013, Shift Design, a charitable foundation and Trust, developed a pilot test to provide young people with healthier takeaway food at an affordable price. They set up a food truck near several schools in Newham for a month and sold 300g boxes of low saturated fat chicken, vegetables and rice for just £2.5. Pupils said they liked havin0g a cheap alternative to the fried chicken they usually bought. The successful pilot became Box Chicken, a social enterprise operating in South London and providing a healthy alternative to friedchicken. Shift’s Healthy Food Programme Director Chris Holmes has conducted extensive research into the impact of independent takeaways on childhood obesity. One of the main problems he has identified is that the streets are crowded with fast food sites, with unbeatable offers, and attractive advertising. “Food is not the only reason why young people

A Lonely Society: Young people and the pandemic How are the young coping with lockdown 2.0?

Words: Lia Cowans Image: Juan Pablo Serrano Arenas/

Following the UK’s second lockdown, the national discussion regarding how well isolation has worked for us continues. Having looked over social media throughout the months it appears that we have been stuck in limbo; there is an increasing concern for mental health, specifically in young people. A questionnaire conducted via Instagram found that a large percentage of university students had suffered mentally when during the second lockdown. especially when isolating away from home. This correlated with previous unemployment. Oliveeoli says “This is the one thing that has caused me a lot of anxiety, now I’ve been made redundant I don’t have work, and I won’t be back on the scheme. It’s impossible to find a part-time job now, and I don’t really know what to do with myself lately”. He adds, “I think now everyone is going through the same thing it’s hard to adjust, we don’t want to depend on friends and family because we are so used to relying on ourselves, I don’t even want to ask my mum because I know she is also struggling. We’ve grown up in a society where we kinda get embarrassed to ask for financial help or help in general.” People often feel alone, even around people. Feeling as though others do not understand what you are going through or a lacking the ability to express yourself are prime examples. However, since the first lockdown it is clear that loneliness has stemmed from both psychological aspects and lack of social contact. Physically being alone has increased people’s anxiety and depression. Statistics from the Mental Health Foundation show that almost one quarter (24%) of UK adults felt lonely during this lockdown, particularly 18-24 year olds (44% admitted to experiencing loneliness. Concern has gained prominence throughout the pandemic, and a substantial amount of younger people have been affected (compared to adults over the age of 24) as a result. Speaking to University of Essex student, Kirsty Kessie, she explained how she’d recognised the importance of her mental health now more than ever. Kirsty takes us through her emotions during the lockdown and how she is overcoming

couldn’t take it anymore, and I had to come off social media for a while because it was too much for me mentally.” Kirsty decided to take control of her mental health and found ways to cope with her anxiety. “It was at this point I realised that I needed to stop dwelling in bed and do something, I was sick of feeling a negative energy build up. That’s when I thought it was time to see my GP for a referral to seek therapy... I couldn’t physically see a therapist, so it was all online.” “This helped a lot because my therapist made me unpick why I was feeling the way I did and gave tips on how to relieve my feeling of anxiety when I felt alone, like one time we were talking about music and what type I listen to and how listening to music more often could help.” Facing isolation during the second lockdown left many students unsure of whether to stay at their accommodation or go home. The UK guidelines still required students to attend classes. “I know some people have gone home, but I’ve decided to stay here. I’m just lucky I have a few friends that are still here. “Even though I felt lonely in the beginning, I felt more at peace being away from my household and continuing with my therapy here. I live with four other people at home but would feel like I could never speak about my problems coming from an African household”. Speaking on her coping mechanisms, she said: “Usually I’d get very distracted at uni and choose to have fun over my work, but since I’ve been locked up in the room I’ve found a routine that helps me to prioritise my work and my mental...colouring in sounds childish, but it’s such a great way to pass the time when you are bored instead of being on social media.” In contrast, others have adopted unhealthy coping mechanisms during the pandemic. In 2019, The Times showed that two in five university students on campus use drugs regularly. From a previous questionnaire, I’d found that many joked about smoking cannabis, “just smoke weed” or confirmed that they used cannabis when they were alone. “I’ve smoked way more now that I’m just by myself in uni, it’s just more accessible in uni because you’ll always know someone or you can ask around”. X

her battle with loneliness, depression and anxiet “There was never a time before this that I could officially say I had depression; everyone has their low points in life and feels demotivated. Even though my mood would be so low sometimes I couldn’t get out of bed, I wouldn’t pin it to depression; I’d say I’m really sad.”

Kirsty continued: “It wasn’t until lockdown that I started to feel like I’d lost control of my emotions being away from everyone and being confined to one space. My house is a decent size but repeating the same routine every day for months on end made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough for myself”. “I’d wake up, eat, watch Netflix, eat, and go to sleep essentially. I wasn’t doing anything to cope with what was going on. I’d be down most days out of the week”. She added: “There was honestly so much going on at the time, and there was a lot of information everyone was taking in at once, especially because we had nothing to do other than be on our phones”. “What affected me the most was the BLM movement because it hit home. Me being a black girl, I felt that I had to stay strong for the most part because it is what is important to me, and it affected everyone I know”. “I felt like me, and others similar in age to me had to speak out more so because we are the generation who push for change, but, there was a point I just


How young creatives are finding success in difficult times, despite hostility and indifference from society and government



THROUGHOUT LOCKDOWN Hassan Miah @filmbyhassalini

Words: Clea Sokhi Images: Nicole Parkes, Hassan Miah, Gilead Kentoe, Adam Nicolaou 10

The lockdown era has been tough for many creatives, who have faced unemployment, insecurity and suggestions from MPs and others that they should retrain and find new jobs. However some, like London-based photographers Nicole Parkes, Hassan Miah, Gilead Kentoe and Adam Nicolau have managed to thrive despite the uncertainty and progress in their work, and are now looking forward to leaving lockdown in a better place than expected. Nicole, a London based photographer, argues that ‘‘photographers I feel do not get appreciated enough, from not being credited in work we have created, from people constantly trying to underpay, undercut, and extort us for free work.’’ Such disregard in the photography industry “shows that we are not being appreciated for the hard work we put in to make sure people, businesses and brands look good!’’ Nicole stated. Such treatment in the industry affects photographers like Nicole throughout their careers. Including MP Rishi Sunak who was widely reported to have said that those in the art world should find new employment (though he later clarified his comments). Nicole stated, “quite frankly, it just shows that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.” Instead, Nicole believes that lockdown has offered photographers valuable lessons that other jobs couldn’t offer. Including “saving, adapting, knowing when to rest, experimenting and the importance of increasing the level of your skillset’’ Nicole says. In lockdown, Nicole had been using “archived material to practice new skills… FaceTime shoots,’’ and more, allowing a reevaluation of her service rates and

increasing them according to her new skill set. Representing the vast amount of photographers that took lockdown to build themselves, ready to thrive post-lockdown. Lockdown has offered opportunities throughout and post lockdown for many photographers. Especially Hassan, a film photographer and videographer. Hassan had been commissioned and involved in many shoots including Ferrari’s latest launch, HOODRICH, Nine’s Documentary ‘Crabs in a Bucket,’ assisting, directing and capturing photographs for multiple music videos. Artists like Hassan are one of the prime reasons as to why the public was able to find new content throughout and after lockdown. Keeping social media and businesses content exclusive, in a prime time of social media with everyone in the UK at home. Alongside Hassan’s work, he was able to find the time in lockdown to develop his work skill set. Including “sampling on my very own discography film photography book,’’ and “learnt how to develop and scan my own film photos,’’ Hassan says Like Nicole, this represents self-development in lockdown, during a time when the workers in the arts world were expected to crumble and find jobs elsewhere. Hassan says that lockdown “gave me a new focus on making sure I don’t waste a day,” both in and out of work. He found the opportunity to combine his work with his family. Having a shoot aboard he was able to invite his mother. He says “seeing her enjoying herself was amazing, that was one of the things to do on my bucket list.” Many photographers like Hassan

Gilead Kentoe @shiftingcultureltd


Nicole Parkes @parosaroid

were able to work accordingly through and post-lockdown. Gilead Kentoe, creative director of Shifting Culture, a global creative agency, ensured in every way possible he followed Coronavirus restrictions. For example “the use of Zoom allowed me to work remotely,” Gilead says. However, this new way of life was difficult at times. “I felt isolated as a creative. Being stuck in your house is not ideal for someone like me,” Gilead says. 12

However, people like Gilead has expressed that “it forced me to adapt, switch it up and find new revenue streams within my business.” Such lifestyle changes Gilead said, “forced me to rest…I found the experience insightful [and] refreshing.” Adapting for the safety within the pandemic restrictions has continued for Gilead today, conducting online Zoom meetings of more than 6. Gilead says, “as a company we’ve found a new

Hassan Miah @filmbyhassalini

stable rhythm.” Today the UK faces continuing restrictions. By sharing the experiences of other photographers’ in the first lockdown in March 2020 he hopes to advise photographers and others alike who have struggled throughout lockdown. Adam, London based videographer and owner of NXCVISIONS, recommends that “creatives can help each other by finding ways to use each other’s speci-

alities and use them to create something of quality, and promoting each others content to spread more awareness of each other’s crafts.” As a young person in the field, Adam represents the art world’s future. Adam believes his own future to be “very bright.” While the industry is swarmed with young talent, there will always be new and exciting opportunities to experience. X 13

Words: Tatenda Kavendekete Images: Tatenda Kavendekete, Mixtape, Madness and GRM Daily


DRIVING THE IMAGE OF DRILL The London-based videographer on his role in his career in the urban music scene


Divisive and often misunderstood, drill is a sub-genre of hip-hop’s trap music and is famous for its lyrically violent content and videography. Originating in Chicago it soon found its footing in South London in 2012, dividing opinion ever since. Born out of Chicago, notoriously known as the murder capital of America, the genre lyrically illustrates the realities of those from high-crime neighbourhoods and impoverished communities, it was popularised by the likes of Chief Keef and King Louie. It was through Chief Keef’s ‘Love Sosa’ that I first experienced drill at the age of 13, and later his hit ‘I Don’t Like’, which I would join in on whenever it made a rare appearance on the now defunct music programme Channel AKA. The violent lyrics that depicted the realities of living in high-crime neighbourhoods seemed harmless to me, while I spewed them out more comfortably than my three times table. Later many of my friends began listening to British rap acts such as 67, Harlem Spartans and later Moscow17. The musicians rapped about similar topics to my beloved Chief Keef and King Louie. However, unlike the genre’s originators, they rapped about the realities of living in London and the UK rather than the streets of South Side Chicago. Their style of rap would be considered British drill. Both styles of drill received negative attention within the media for “inciting their rivals.” Although British drill was played by those around me, I had no interest in it until I discovered M1llionz. The rapper was being interviewed for an online series that was produced by Capital XTRA, called Classical Kyle. In the show the classical music expert, Kyle Eugene Gann, would sit down with different rappers, listen to their music and question them about the chosen song. This time to ‘HDC’ with M1llionz. Through M1llionz I became hooked on British drill, listening to his back catalogue and branching out to similar British drill artists. Drawing me into this new

style were the visuals for the music videos. As this unique style of music requires unique visuals. In searching for those responsible for them one name stood out, Chauffeur, who is also credited for the visuals to M1llionz ‘HDC’. My journey into this new medium came full circle A well-rounded creative, I spoke withLondon born Chauffeur about his career, drill, and the pandemics impact on creatives while he found himself working in Jamaica. Asked how he would identify his career, Chauffeur referred to himself as “an entertainment aficionado”. Telling me this is because he has dabbled in different roles within the music industry, ranging from artist management to photography, but that his current focus is on creating more “visually engaging work”. The young west Londoner expressed that he was driven by the passion for “arts and music and just wanting to tell stories that are provocative and keep the conversation going and the culture stimulated”. I asked about how he got started on his current career path, and he affirms that he always considered himself a creative person, drawing a lot of inspiration from “exploring the world and what it has to offer in all its nuances.” We also discussed how he was often inspired by: “what we see, what we hear, what we read, and how our minds are stimulated”—Chauffeur referred to this as the “input”. His passion for creating was the driving force; it just happened to come with the bonus of him being able to sustain himself “in this capitalist society” as he described it. Chauffeur not only directs videos but has the ability to convey his vision in whatever way necessary to present a finished product in a variety of mediums. However, what gained my interest was his music videos, specifically those he shot for drill artists. Looking at his catalogue of work from 2016 to date it was undeniable that his abilities had progressed. I asked him what his favourite video from this back catalogue was, to which he replied, “to be honest, my 15

answer is always going to be the one that isn’t out yet.” Informing him of my personal favourite video of his, ‘Happy Hour’ by the rapper Frosty due to the neon lights and dark lighting reminding me of the game Grand Theft Auto, he chuckled telling me that the video shoot for that song was not actually planned, and the song for the video was actually sent the morning of the shoot, stating that it “was a lot of improv honestly!” When asked about the impact of visuals (specifically music videos), by visual artists within the drill genre, Chauffeur described their roles as, being “at the forefront”. He acknowledged that “at the end of the day, it’s all about the music, that’s where it starts and ends. But people replicate what they see, it becomes rehearsed, it sets trends. That’s why there is so much commercialism around it, that’s why so many sponsorships are being handed out.” He expressed that despite the propaganda machine portraying drill music videos and their lyrical content as being “too gory or violent,” he considers them to be “more ‘documentative’ of a certain style of living”. Comparing how this genre’s music videos were consumed in a documentary for Vice “as a kind of escapism, like the madness going on in Libya, but instead made more enjoyable”, he 16

explained that some of the things within these videos are a reality for people. Asked if he, as a creative, who has created visual content within the genre ever felt forgotten, he explained that he did not and instead chose to keep himself away from the limelight because it was simply “not what I wanted to do”, then went on to say “I reserve that for the artist and when I have a story to tell, I will come forward with it myself. I do enjoy writing so that would be cool.” We moved on to the blaring topic of COVID-19 and working during the lockdown. Chauffeur confessed that “lockdown was a surreal feeling” for him. However, he and those around him felt that during that time, they “needed to push harder”. So that was exactly what he did, directing and releasing multiple videos during the period including, ‘Big Risk’ by Teeway and M1llionz and ‘Right or Wrong’ by V9 and KO. Creative to creative I asked what advice he would give to others, he told me “you’re gonna regret what you don’t do because you can learn from mistakes. To feel you didn’t do your best or you didn’t take that risk is a lot worse. You’ll think to yourself, I could’ve, or I should’ve,” he paused and laughed continuing, “I remember, my friend’s Dad telling me, why are you walking like there ain’t money to be made?’ That stuck with me.” X


SUGAR DATING IN A PANDEMIC Young women, often students, who partner with wealthy older men are finding lockdown a financial challenge


Words: Sophie McCabe Images: Marco Riosa

Sugar dating is generally characterised by an older, wealthier person dating a younger person in need of financial assistance. For the most part, sugar dating tends to cater to older men seeking younger companions to support financially with the expectation of varying favours in return. Whilst women do take on the role of ‘sugar mama’, it happens much less frequently. There are specific sites and apps made for facilitating sugar dating. Seeking Arrangements is the largest sugar dating site in the world, with 22 million members worldwide. Their “direct approach to dating fits modern needs and continues to grow our community of like-minded adults who believe happiness is more important than traditional dating milestones.” The average sugar baby is 24 and has a monthly income of £2,145 whilst the average sugar daddy is 42 with an annual salary of £191,525. UK university students make up more than 500,000 of the sugar babies using Seeking Arrangements. According to the 2020 Sugar Baby University (SBU) press release, University of London has the biggest population of sugar babies, with 840 students using Seeking Arrangements. This is followed by the University of Portsmouth with 750 students, and ‘the University of Salford in third with 670 students’. Lauren* is a 22-year-old student sugar baby from West London. She has been sugar dating since she was in her first year of university: “I was 19 and struggling financially after a spontaneous decision to move out. I was looking for a part-time job for months without any luck, and during this time money was becoming an increasingly worrying issue.” In 2020, graduates of English universities face an average of more than £40 thousand of student loan debt. Annual

tuition fees are £9,250, and maintenance loans range from £3,410 to £11,672depending on living circumstances, with the average loan being £6,859 a year. Students living in London are eligible to receive the maximum loan to cover the expenses of living in the capital. However, in a lot of circumstances, the maximum loan does not cover all of the necessary expenses; therefore, a part-time job or additional income is essential. “Student’s understand the importance of a degree, but with the magnitude of debt that may follow them after graduating, they are being forced to find alternative methods to finance their education,” says founder and CEO of Seeking Arrangements Brandon Wade. “Sugar Daddies not only provide financial relief but mentor these students on how to manage their finances and elevate their typical uni lifestyle.” Since her first date in 2018, Lauren has had several sugar daddies who have all approached sugar dating differently. Typically, “the first encounter is online, I have heard stories of people meeting in clubs or bars, but that’s never happened to me personally. I’ve used Instagram and Seeking Arrangements to find potential sugar daddies,” she told us. “On Instagram, it’s always by chance; a guy will message me asking if sugar dating is something I would be interested in, (because it’s not something I advertise publicly). It doesn’t often happen though, most of the time, I use Seeking Arrangements. “A bit like Tinder, you chat over message for however long you need or want to, before agreeing to a date. Not everyone is going to be right for you and vice versa, so [that] it can be quite a time-consuming search. Once you’ve agreed to a date, it’s just a matter of going, getting to know each other and discussing what you both want from the 19

‘arrangement’. It’s good to be clear and upfront at the beginning to avoid wasting your time and his. From there, it’s like any other dating relationship. The only difference is the ‘payment’ or what you get in return for your companionship.” Payments vary wildly depending on the relationship. Some sugar daddies payper-meet, give gifts and pay for meals out, whilst others provide an allowance on a monthly or weekly basis. “Some sugar

“Once you’ve agreed to a date, it’s just a matter of going, getting to know each other and discussing what you both want from the arrangement.” daddies enjoy gift-giving, whilst others prefer providing monetary supplements. I’ve experienced both sides of the coin, and don’t really have a preference. I think the best way to do things is to have a little bit of both.” Typically, Lauren would see three sugar daddies regularly from whom she would collect her payments or allowance during dinner dates and other excursions—this would usually add up to £1,500. However, due to the pandemic, her sugar daddies are facing both financial and medical stresses, so cannot continue their arrangements in the same manner. “During lockdown, it was really difficult. I basically couldn’t work, and sugar dating isn’t exactly a profession you can get a self-employment grant for. It was a huge adjustment for me financially and personally.” Lauren had to adapt and find new ways of dating and making money. Lockdown meant that online dating temporarily became the new norm. In their analysis of dating during the pandemic, YouGovstates that “a fifth of single Brits who had an active love life before lockdown are spending more time on dating apps. As one would expect, this figure is higher among younger people, with a quarter of those aged 18 to 24 now swiping more.” Popular dating apps have seen a rise in traffic throughout the pandemic, for instance, “Tinder reported the highest number of swipes ever on March 29th,” and Hinge even added a new ‘video call’ feature which enables potential couples to have a virtual face-to-face date within the app. “My whole life pretty much moved online. That was the only way I could 20

maintain some income whilst remaining indoors. It was also a massive lifestyle change. I’m an extrovert, it comes with the nature of the job, so pre-lockdown I was used to going out four-to-six days per week. Adapting to not going out at all and spending a lot of time on my own was really hard, as it was for everybody,” Lauren said. “I went on quite a lot of virtual dates. Funnily enough, it actually made a lot of sense. I don’t know why I hadn’t done it before. Sugar dating often happens when people are lonely or don’t have enough time to date, so virtual dating is quite perfect in those situations.” Lauren has been using Zoom and FaceTime to stay in contact with her sugar daddies throughout the pandemic. “Sometimes we have a quick chat to catch up and see how each other is doing; other times it’s a full-on production, and I have my phone set up, a dinner setting and atmospheric music playing in the background. It depends on what the individual is looking for. “The restrictions put a limit on what I can do with my clients. Some are unwilling to meet in person at all, whilst others have very strict rules on what we can and can’t do. It means that during face-to-face dates, I’m just constantly worrying about putting them at risk, which means the dates tend to be much less enjoyable. “This also makes it very difficult to make a living. Not only am I limited datewise, a couple of my sugar daddies have seen a major reduction in their income, so are becoming more and more reluctant to spend their money on a sugar baby. It is a huge concern of mine and might mean that I have to find another parttime job to see me through university.” Generally, with her primary sugar daddy, Lauren would go on one or two dates a week before heading back to his flat. These dates would last anywhere between one hour to a whole night. But, with the outbreak of coronavirus, her older companions are often hesitant to meet in person, so to prevent the potential spread of the virus, Lauren is avoiding contact with all clients. Whilst the internet has become an essential tool for modern dating and relationship. It doesn’t take away from the importance of face-to-face intimacy and in-person connections. In the meantime, Lauren is doing what she can online: “Currently, everything is very uncertain. My income rests solely on virtual encounters that may not be of interest as time goes on. I don’t know when I will next be able to go on dates and return to normality. I guess it’s just a waiting game, and until then, my life will remain in the internet world.” X


SKINHEADS: PAST AND PRESENT The working-class subculture with a controversial past is being redefined by a new generation


Words and images: Molly Douglas-Fairbrass

When we think of sub-cultures, our first thoughts tend to lead us to images of garish, intimidating, anarchist youths; they always tended to have some kind of political background—put simply, for punks it was anti-establishment; for goths, existentialism. Although punks and goths may be the front runners, skinheads also burnt a definitive path in our cultural history. After becoming known for their racism and football hooliganism, the sub-culture started to die, however, they didn’t start off with discriminatory beliefs and actions. Skinheads awoke in the 1960s as a working-class sub-culture. Shaven heads, steel toe-capped work boots, braces, straight-leg jeans and check shirts defined the iconic fashion. It was a movement in response the perceived neglect of the working class, and as a result, people grouped together to spurn austerity and conservatism. Music is probably equal, if not a greater factor, in defining a skinhead than fashion. Ska, 2 Tone and Oi! are the essential genres, with ska and 2 Tone heavily influenced by Jamaican music, and Oi! diverging from punk rock. Their fashion

and music were influenced by mods and rude boys, and as punk came along it was also involved in the style and music. James Lissimore, a 21 year old student says that, for him, it was the music that made him want to be a skinhead: “If you don’t listen to the music you’re just dressing up like a costume really, you don’t have to dress completely right by the book to be classed as skinhead or anything. I mean it helps to have, like, a shaved head or a feather cut but I don’t think you need to be. “And a lot of people say that you do but I think they’re just kind of gatekeeping and the more people in the sub-culture the better because it takes guts to shave your head and get a hard haircut. Especially with the conversations there are today. But yeah, the music is the most important part. Because if they don’t like the music then it’s like what you doing? You’re just kind of hanging around, dressed up all different.” The racist reputation of skinheads is what they are most known for today. It was the second wave of skinheads which gave them this reputation. With the British National Front losing support in the 1970s, they turned to skinheads 23

for support, and so began their decline in notoriety. Of course, many skinheads remained apolitical or left-leaning, which is why Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARPs) was formed. SHARPs appeared in 1986 as a response to the rise of white nationalism in the second wave of skinheads. Having started in America, and soon spreading to Europe, the aim of SHARPs was to not only fight discrimination, but also to show that not all skinheads shared the same political views. Although the music genre Oi! is not inherently racist, it has always attracted skinheads with alt-right leaning views. In 1981, a clash between South Asian youths and skinheads resulted in the destruction of the Hambrough Tavern, 110 people were injured and dozens were arrested in an incident which became known as the Southall Riots. Several Oi! bands were set to play at the Hambrough Tavern in West London when, during the gig, South Asian youths threw petrol bombs and bricks at the venue. It was a response to various racially-motivated attacks their community had faced prior to the gig. When word travelled through Southall that groups of skinheads had been targeting Asian shopkeepers on their way to the venue, the Southall Youth Movement decided to retaliate. Oi! music was subsequently banned by Margaret Thatcher. “I separate my politics from it all because otherwise, it gets all a bit complicated; people think that it’s what it’s all about, but it ain’t. The best way to enjoy the scene is to separate the politics from it. Even being moderate left, you start to find yourself falling into a crowd of the wrong people,” said James. As with many things in society, sub-cultures have been subject to change, whether its political ideology, style or music. For skinheads, the style and ideology were very much tied together. The reason they wore the clothes they did was because of the practicality of it being smart workwear. Since the emergence of skinheads, a lot has changed in the way of societal class. What was once accessible for those with a smaller budget is no longer that way. The tall steel toe boots, a skinhead staple, have increased in price dramatically. Doc Martens was the main brand of boots worn not just by skinheads, but also those in other grunge and/or alternative style circles. They were sold to many factory workers as durable, long-lasting footwear. Coupled with a huge fall in sales in the early 2000s and the cost of manufacturing shoes in England becoming more expensive, they moved production to Asia. Since the 1990s, the 24

reputation of Doc Martens has fallen considerably, many people have said that they are nowhere near the quality they once were. With modern Doc Martins becoming increasingly expensive and unreliable, it’s hard to see them being worn by a group whose style is based on affordable, long-lasting workwear. So, how do skinheads dress now that times have changed? The best way to get skinhead clothes is to buy them second hand, according to James. Brutas, Britac, Fred Perry, Warrior and Ben Sherman are the main brands to look out for, other newer brands like Real Hoxton are cheaper and more accessible. Solovair, the original manufacturers of Doc Martens, still make the traditional boots, but a new pair would set you back £180 now. James describes it as a timeless look: “There’s no point if it’s a competition, some people are complete elitists with it and complain if your laces are the wrong colour, or your hair’s too short, hair’s too long, or whatever, if your braces are too wide. Then it starts getting a bit annoying. I think you should just do what you want to do.” Lace code was another arguably large part of the sub-culture. It was an unspoken language of communicating political affiliations through the colour of laces on shoes and boots started by the alternative scenes. As with many unspoken languages, there’s much confusion around lace code. Different areas of the country and different groups of people associated the colours of laces with different things. For example, some people believed red laces to mean the wearer had Nazi affiliations, while others thought it meant Communist tendancies. Since the 1980s, lace code has pretty much died out, but recently it’s being spoken about again, mainly between alternative communities on the social media platform TikTok. The hashtag lace code has 8.2 million views on TikTok, which demonstrates the reach this revived topic has had on users. It’s possible that we may start seeing more of lace code in popular culture. While it could be argued that this is a good thing as it lets people know who to avoid, it’s already been proven in the past to result in more confusion, rather than a demonstration of political allegiances. The worldwide scene of skinheads is larger than one might anticipate, although there have been significant changes since its first appearance, it still has a lot of representation. With the help of the internet, it’s harder than ever to remain ignorant and uneducated. With this in mind, current and future skinheads may create a less racist world for us to live in. X


Fighting police brutality in Nigeria The popular EndSars movement has much in common with Black Lives Matter

Protests and demonstrations are not anything new, however in recent years advocating and demonstrating has advanced by utilising the internet as a way to spread messages further mostly through the use of hashtags. A recent hashtag that has risen to prominence is the #BlackLivesMatter movement, commonly known as BLM movement that was founded in 2013 following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin shooting, which occupied in Sanford, Florida in 2012. The hashtag was created to draw attention to the importance of black lives as it appears that those in positions of power do not appear to recognise this. The movement has since become a form of advocacy against police brutality towards black people, given the disproportionate killing of black civilians by white police officers in the USA, as well as a strategy for tackling institutional racism. Although Zimmerman was not part of the police force, he was a community watch captain, which placed him in a position of power over Martin. Since then the organisation has transcended national borders to becoming a global movement largely in places such as Canada and the UK. The movement gained further international traction, following the brutal killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin which sparked 2020 global BLM protests. More generally, Black lives matter as a movement provides the opportunity for individuals to document their lived experiences of racial discrimination, victimisation and violence via social media through tools such as Facebook live and Instagram live that allow users to broadcast live from their own personal devices to a wider audience, drawing attention to the frequent occurrence of acts of injustice against black civilians, especially those perpetrated by white police officers. According to the official Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation INC. they “are working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically targeted for demise”. As a global movement, black lives matter protesters largely target and focus on disbanding institutional racism particularly within the western world were black people are often the minority. In this way, #BlackLiveMatter is 26

Words: Ropa Madziva Images: Kirsty Widdoson

“As a global movement, black lives matter protesters largely target and focus on disbanding institutional racism, particularly within the western world where black people are often the minority” often utilised in a racial context which as a result often neglects to pay attention to the Black lives being lost in other parts of the world, as a result of police brutality. A recent movement which has sought to draw attention issues of police brutality in a developing world context is #ENDSARS. This is a movement that demands for the end and deactivation of a specialised unit created by the Nigeria government named the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) created in 1984 in response to a rampant rise of violent crimes such as kidnappings, robberies, car-jacking and murders of civilians in Nigeria. The police officers operating within this unit however have been accused in recent years of being the ones committing the same kinds of crimes, they were originally selected and designated to put to a stop. The unit is accused of specifically targeting younger citizens who appear to be affluent, or carrying particularly valuable items such as iPhones, watches, expensive clothing or new cars. The hashtag was created in 2017 by protesters using the social media platform, Twitter. The protest erupted again in October 2020 following a video from the 3rd of October that showed the unpro-voked killing of a man by a SARS officers in Ughelli, a town in southern Delta state. The video went viral on a number of social media platforms which incited a response from Nigerian officials, who claimed the video was fake and arrested the person who had filmed it, provoking more anger amongst citizens. This then led to mass demonstrations throughout Nigeria and further expanding globally to places such as the USA, the UK and other parts of Europe resulting in the hashtag rising to prominence once again. Following on from this, citizens in Nigeria employed the similarly tactics

as those in the US and the UK relating to #BlackLivesMatter as a tool utilising social media apps to broadcast and showcase the violence and crimes being committed by those in power. On October 20th, 2020 the protests, which had largely been peaceful for many weeks turned dead-ly, after Nigerian police officers and soldiers had fired at protesters, an occurrence which was broadcasted on the global stage through Facebook live, Instagram live, Twitter and the sharing of images from the catastrophic scene. Many people took to social media in order to express their pain and support for the protesters and the reoccurring statement about how those that are in support of the BLM movement should also be advocating for #ENDSARS as those are Black lives as well. One twitter user took to the platform expressing “we all keep shouting black lives matter when will Nigerians live matter. People have been subdued by these evil terrorists in Uniforms” further hash tagging #ENDSARS #EndPoliceBrutality #SarsAlert.

Black-Brit of Nigerian heritage, 29-year-old Fola Adeoye shared his experiences of being targeted by police officers in both the UK and Nigeria. Fola shared his experience of visiting Nigeria at the age of 19, describing how his father had allowed him and his cousin who was “a couple year older than me” to drive at the time, a brand-new Mitsubishi 4x4 around the local town. As Fola recalled: “I remember going back home as a youngster… being in the car with my cousin and being stopped and being asked, Oga anything for me” a request from the officer for money as bribery to allow the car to leave. Sharing further detail Fola remembers the officer “…keeping his hand on the gun in his holster, he clearly wanted us to know he’d draw it out… [the question from the officer] wasn’t a question, we didn’t have a choice but to pay him”. He however reiterated how lucky they were, to have an aunt who is married to a high ranking officer within the Army, and that the mention of that name and his associated to him “… carried weight with that officer and they saluted us and let us pass”. As Fola further noted, that kind of behaviour is not uncommon within the country “that’s how corrupt it is… so imagine what it’s like for those without a name or a connection?” While Fola’s experience was particularly frightening, occurring in a country that was to a degree, foreign to him, the encounter with a police officer in Nigeria was very similar to what he had expienced in the UK. Born and raised in South London, Fola spoke very openly about his regular encounter with police officers and being questioned on a regular basis about his possessions: “I’m a black man and I drive a ‘18 plate Mercedes getting stopped by the police is nothing new to me” Fola recalled that the line of questioning was the same from officers both in Nigeria and in the UK “the first thing they always ask me is, what I do?”. An advocate for the Black Live Matter movement in the UK, Alika Samuels, echoed similar acts of racism and prejudice against Black lives within the UK particularly by the police: “the issue is there’s a presumption that the only way that Black people can afford nice things is through crime and illegal means”. Similarly, Nigerian citizen and

resident Precious Okoro’s description of SARS’ actions shows that they are characterised by similar bias as they often perceive that items which hold value are at-tained: “…by doing yahoo yahoo” the word ‘yahoo’ referring to money made through fraudulent means. She acknowledges that of course people who make money through illegal means also exist, but this doesn’t warrant the degree to which police officers violently attack civilians, as this hap-pens in disproportionate terms. Nigeria as a nation has the largest population in Africa, according to the World Population Review—with a population of over 200 million. Along with this large population, the country has a fairly young population as the average age for

“I’m a black man and I drive a '18 plate Mercedes: getting stopped by the police is nothing new to me”

both men and women are 18.4 years. As a nation, Nigeria has the highest GDP per capita, making it one of the wealthiest countries in Africa. To this end, it is possible to infer that the bias and discriminations that the average Nigerian citizen receives from police is due to institutional prejudice. These two movements have many disparities, ranging from culture and language to economic development but the populations they seek to draw attention to are black people. There are present parallels and similarities in both movements which point to black people suffering violence as perpetuated by the people who are in positions of power, or those who have been appointed to protect and save lives but who, sadly, are doing the opposite of that very act and duty. #ENDSARS is an extension of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, as the issues, experience and the realities of the people that the two movements advocate for are the same. Black Lives Matter as a global movement, is well positioned to promote #ENDSARS and help dismantle the institutions that have made it necessary for these movements to exist. As the official Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation INC states the significance of the “movement [is] needed [for the organisation] to be a contributing voice for Black folks and our allies to support changing the material conditions for Black people”. X


Algeria: The Hidden Treasure Less well-known than its neighbours, the country nonetheless has much to offer

Words: Sarah Nane Images Mohammed Boudali

Delving into the depths of Algeria is something that should be explored by a tourist as it can offer something for everyone who visits the country. It goes without saying that Algeria is huge and is now known as the biggest country in Africa! Traditions in Algeria are vastly different from one place to another. You will also find traces of the French colonial era in the capital, Algiers, and unchanged nomadic Berber culture in the deserts of the south. Algeria has recorded between 2.5 million and 3.5 million annual tourist visits in recent years, although the vast majority were by the Algerians living aboard. This is a distinct comparison to 13 million tourists visiting Morocco and 5 million tourists visiting Tunisia as of last year in 2019. Algeria has a strict visa regime which has long been an obstacle, as all tourists are obliged to apply for a visa in advance. Whereas in the neighbouring countries of Tunisia and Morocco, it is not a requirement to do so. It can be an inconvenient process, and it is among the fundamental reasons behind Algeria’s low ranking in the tourism sector. While Algiers is very modern and relaxed, you will find places in Algeria with radically different customs. These include the M’zabite women of Ghardaia who wear a white burqa covering their whole face expect for an eye. The traditional attire of Algerian women is to wear a dress that is known as a haik which is a veil like

is important to them nowadays and in years to come. Today, Algeria’s business environment is more conducive to tourism growth and the government is finally launching projects to develop tourism. They have decided to launch a strategic plan to boost this sector by 2025. The plans include exporting the port in Algiers for hosting cruise-ships, and to develop at least one resort on its lengthy Mediterranean coastline. Closing the gap between the other two countries is important for Algeria to make a breakthrough. Richards believes that “progress might be gradual, but if the authorities make tourism a priority I can’t see any reason why Algeria wouldn’t succeed”. Most of North Africa has a large tourism infrastructure, which is why it is a tourism hotspot. If history is your thing, Algeria is sure to please you as it has a phenomenal number of well-preserved Roman ruins. The guides are experts at retelling how people were living in these abandoned cities. The sites Djemila and Tiddis, in Algeria, are comparable to Palmyra in Syria, Pompeii in Italy or Leptis Magna in Libya. However, in Algiers you can find churches and administrative buildings left by the French and places like Oran are testimonies of the Ottoman, Spaniards and Arabs influence on the continent. If you really want an ancient encounter then you should visit some of


fabric that covers the woman from head to toe with half their face showing their eyes. The Islamic influence is shown as most of the women wear a head covering. Algiers is full of contrasts waiting for you to discover their charms. Although it is such an appealing country, there is a lack of British holidaymakers that visit Algeria. The two mains reasons being the language barrier and the insufficient promotion of the country itself. The languages spoken are Arabic and Berber, followed along by French but English is not widely spoken. Therefore, French speaking people would be at ease, whereas British holidaymakers would find it difficult to communicate with the people living there as they only speak basic English but can understand the language to a minimum. The Algerian government has disregarded the attractions of Algeria for a decade, as the economy was dependent of the oil and gas sector alone. The country was affected by the Civil War of the 1990’s, resulting in Algeria not developing its tourism industry in the past hence the reason it is overlooked. Mike Richards, 31, a travel blogger from London believes that “most people would be able to locate it on a map, but there is limited knowledge about it in the UK, and a streamlined visa process as well as having a large marketing campaign would put it on the tourism map”. Algerian tourism operators believe that British consumer behaviour

the world’s best preserved cave paintings, dating from 3000 BC in Taghit. Mohammed Boudali, 35, from Algiers who is Secretary General of the Touring Club in Algeria says, “you can speak about Algeria in a thousand words but physically visiting the country does it more justice” and that “it gives holidaymakers an undeniable experience”. Algeria’s tourism is expanding in a positive way with the help of the hospitality industry. Over the last few years, there has been the opening of hotels which have excellent quality services in adapting to the international tourism needs. Examples of these are Four Points by Sheraton, Holidays Inn, Golden Tulip, Radisson Blu, and other various brands. This proves that it holds an importance and can entice people to choose a certain destination, which is how Algeria can gain more exposure. Tourists need to be reassured about their destination for them to envision where they want to travel. Boudali says that “having an aggressive communication strategy can give Algeria the platform it needs, to be shown in a positive light as a top travel destination”. Algerian food is a mixture of a lot of cultures. Since Algeria was a French colony for 132 years, it is no surprise that there is a big French influence when it comes to the food there. You will also discover food from historic influences of Arab, Berber, and Turkish cuisines. It ranges from mild to hot, with many flavours being used. There is a fair share of well-liked restaurants in popular

coastal towns, consisting of French and Italian style food, but there is an undeniable Algerian quality to these classic dishes. The coastline of Algeria is dotted with fishing villages, so seafood is eaten in abundance and are a traditional staple in most parts of the country. The fish dishes are known to be exceptionally good as it is freshly served. Couscous with chicken or lamb are available everywhere as this is a firm favourite. When visiting southern Algeria, the most common meat that you can indulge in is camel meat. The meals are delicious and should be experimented as a new palate. There is also a popular soft drink

brand named Hamoud Boualem which people across the country like to drink. There is a selection of flavours to choose from and holds a secret ingredient just like Coca-Cola therefore having an authentic taste. This destination can interest British holidaymakers because of the opportunities it offers in terms of adventure tourism. It has a fantastic diversity of landscape where you can find the Sahara Desert in the south, pleasant beaches along the Mediterranean Sea to the north and mountains that offer excellent hiking during the summer and skiing in the snow during winter. There is also the chance to try things of a relaxed nature like festivals such as Constantine International Jazz Festival, European Cultural Festival and Sahara International Film Festival, which convey a representation of the cultural identity and values of the country. Since being the largest country in Africa, taking a plane is the apparent choice if travelling from one corner of the country to another, and flying domestically is cheap. The road quality is excellent, and the highways are good and there are regular buses to every destination around Algeria. Algeria is a Muslim country, although a liberal one, so is open to the idea of proudly showing tourists their heritage, prehistoric art of global renown alongside an intriguing modern Arab culture so people can explore the life of an Algerian. X



Words: Emil Brierly Images: URUBU School of Transformational Arts

Y THERAPM Move m a prof ent and self ound effect -expressio nc on me ntal w an have ellbein g


Since I was twelve, my Mum has had bi-polar disorder, I have extremely vivid memories of walking in on her when I was 16 with her head on the kitchen table, having tried to overdose on her medication and paracetamol. That’s an experience which is extremely hard to shake from your memory. This is only one example of a moment in many moments of betrayal pain that I have felt during my upbringing. These include stopping your Mum, who isn’t acting like the Mum you know, without a plan, trying to get on a plane to London from Liverpool to see a concert. Sitting beside your Mum’s bed whilst she is drowning in her pain and her perceived pointlessness of life. I’m not trying to bemoan my childhood and act like a victim, but this is merely to illustrate the extent of the trauma I’ve experienced between the years 12 and 19. I lost contact with her when I was 19, and over the last two years, I’ve had multiple conversations with my Dad at different points about whether or not I should go to counselling. Eventually, this culminated in me attending counselling around June this year. I went to two more sessions and stopped. I didn’t feel like I could express myself in a vulnerable way to my counsellor, and it felt like she didn’t actually care and was just there for a paycheck. Ecstatic dance She is the most elegant being ever to embody human form, and I thank God a thousand times for allowing such an exquisite being to walk the earth. She is the only therapist that has made me cry, jump for joy and show me new insights to who I am as a person. Discovering dance was something I did by accident. After packing up my things into storage over the summer, I felt bored and was looking for a spiritual event to go to. I found an event in Camden that day and when I arrived, I was blown away by what I saw. Walking into my first ever ecstatic dance, there was a great sense of returning home. Like I had found a place where I belong. It was movement and self-expression in its purest form. Ecstatic “whoops” occasionally fill the air when the music picked up pace. Gradually the movement on the dance floor slows down to a stop as DJ Seth tells everyone to move to the edge of the room.

URUBU School of Transformational Arts runs this Ecstatic Dance event. They’re a couple named Seth and D Newman. The company was initially started by Seth in 2009 after the financial crash and was the first of its kind organised in the UK. Before starting URUBU, Seth worked for the Music Service, which was run by London Councils. Seth was employed to run Brazilian and African drumming across London in various schools. Everything was going OK until the financial recession in 2008, when a lot of the funding for the project was cut. Driven to the edge due to being overworked, Seth considered ending it all: “Before attempting suicide, I had a lot of fear about what other people would think of me setting up a band and trying to run Ecstatic Dance events. After it, I didn’t give a shit anymore. I didn’t care what other people thought because I’d been on the edge of life and death. What mattered was stepping wholeheartedly into something that I really wanted to do.” On the edge of the dancefloor, we were offered a small cup of cacao. “We’re now going to hand out the Cacao to anyone who wants some,” Seth says. His voice is airy and relaxed. It wafts gently across the room. When everyone has a cup, he continues: “We’re going to take the cacao in two rounds. The first is something you want to release.” I wanted to release the anger and betrayal I felt towards my Mum. The sweet, rich, chocolaty mixture glides down my throat. We yelled each of our intentions as loud as we could so the other side of Camden could hear us. The second was something that you wanted to bring into your life. I intended to bring in my own space where I felt safe and loved. Satisfied by the brief vocal expression, we began dancing again. I gyrated my shoulders in a backwards circular motion to match a backwards-forwards four-step. Eventually, the cacao kicks in. The room becomes far warmer and joyful. I can slowly feel a smile spreading from the corners of my cheeks to a beaming smile “Awoooo!!” Ecstatic Dance can be especially magical at times because there’s no talking or taking pictures on the dancefloor. You have to embody the dance completely. Seth encouraged people to pair up and dance with each other. I meet this equally ecstatic girl with short brown hair and braces. By this time the movement has changed into a strange criss-cross

walk where we move our palms in such a way that they’re opposite each other, but don’t touch. I felt this gentle, energetic, pulsing feeling where it was like an electric current was jumping between our hands, connecting us. This interaction touched a new part of myself. Something far deeper than the personality and who I was on the surface. I closed my eyes, fully embracing this beautiful interaction with another human being. Natalia, who is now a friend, has been practising Ecstatic Dance for about a year: “I was willing to push through some of my internal barriers. I think by doing an ecstatic dance, I have discovered a lot about myself. I have been able to reconnect with some powerful emotions that I was able to experience during an ecstatic dance. “For example, anger and sadness and all of those emotions that sometimes in real life, I find difficult to really feel and give a voice to. All of the emotions we tend to label as ‘negative’. Also, the positive emotions of being able to connect with other people in a very authentic way in an environment I feel very safe. An environment where I get that strong sense of belonging.” Personally, I can’t pinpoint what I’ve released since I’ve been dancing. I have found; however, that I walk around with a lot less blame and hatred directed at the world. I don’t feel that what happened to me as a teenager was too great an injustice. In fact, now, in many ways, I feel it to be a blessing because it has shown me how bad things can really get for people, developing the way I feel empathy for other people’s struggles. Seth masterfully expresses the process that people go through in the dance. His beautiful description immerses you in waves of pleasurable ecstasy with the soft subtle tones of his voice: “We get to a certain point in our lives where we find the things that worked when we were younger no longer work. We reach a dead end. Some people might call it a midlife crisis. You’re now in this place where you have to shed a skin. “By dancing, you’re shaking it off. There’s only so much you can talk about. You can go to therapy and talk and talk, but a lot of it is a physiological response to life. No amount of talking about is ac-


tually going to release what is held in the body, there’s an instinctive pull towards dance and movement in the body for the body to release what it’s holding on to. It’s so simple, but holds a lot of healing possibilities,” he said. Natalia spoke to me about how ecstatic dance has impacted her life. “Soon after going to ecstatic dance during the summer, I decided I wanted to go back to psychotherapy. I felt as if something opened up in me. A certain readiness to work through some things that I found difficult to work through before.” “I was willing to push through some of my internal barriers. I think by doing an ecstatic dance, I have discovered a lot about myself. I have been able to reconnect with some powerful emotions that I was able to experience during an ecstatic dance. For example, anger and sadness and all of those emotions that sometimes in real life, I find difficult to really feel and give a voice to. All of the emotions we tend to label as ‘negative’. Also, the positive emotions of being able to connect with other people in a very authentic way in an environment I feel very safe. An environment where I get that strong sense of belonging.” Natalia was raised Catholic, and she also has a medical condition that affects her joints: “Something specifically came to mind, which was Jesus Christ on a cross. This image came to mind of the wounds Jesus had. This is also where the pains in my joints are. I was thinking about the idea of sacrifice and suffering, and how in Catholicism it’s been elevated as something to aspire to. “I found it so powerful. I felt anger. Why was I educated that way? That’s not how you should be living your life. I don’t have to suffer. I started doing some movements as if I was peeling that pain


away from my body, especially from my joints. I was doing it in a creative dancing movement,” she said, “By dancing, you’re shaking it off. There’s only so much you can talk about.” “When I was dancing with other people, I was still focused on receiving that healing positive energy from other people. At the end of the night, when everything slows down, and people are almost meditating. I was drained. I lie down on the ground. I’m feeling a lot of emotions: on the one hand, I’ve had a perfect time, and I’ve connected with a lot of people. On the other hand, I’m feeling dissatisfied because I can’t dance as much as I want to and I’m feeling tired and aching. “I lie down and close my eyes. I still wanted to dance, but I couldn’t. I closed my eyes and listened to the music and imagined some dancing energy above me. It was just so beautiful, and the energy changed into a woman. With my eyes closed, I imagined a girl I see a lot at Ecstatic Dance. She dances really beautifully. She always has so much energy. She wears these beautiful, colourful, clothes and she has long hair. She looks adorable when she dances. Suddenly I open my eyes, and she was dancing above me, that was really spooky,” Natalia told me. At another ecstatic dance, I met a woman named Maya, who described a beautiful scene: “So, tonight was very, very, sweet and special because, for me, the touching part was that there was a girl who was having problems with moving. We all carried her through. The energy of it was just beautiful. At one point, she fell, but there are no accidents. Nothing happens, usually. She was so beautifully picked up from the floor and started to dance again. The power of the group and the beauty of people caring.”

The ecstatic dance community is a very open, friendly community. Ecstatic dance could be seen as similar to a night out at a club just without the drugs or alcohol. “On one level, it is simply just a night club experience. At another level, you could see it as a way for people to get in touch with their life energy through dance, community and just having fun. You can feel what’s happening in your body through movement and not have to run away from it. That’s the core addiction,” Seth said. Ecstatic dance involves some level of facilitation too. Seth asks people to split off into groups of six. People dance wildly flailing their heads and arms in many directions. People each take it in turns to dance in the middle of each of these groups. From the circle dancing, the group then moves into something called a chaos circle. Where the dancers spread out into a wide circle and dancers, take it in turns to step into the middle to be showered with positivity by the dancers on the edge of the circle. The music reaches its peak of intensity at this point, and there’s often the most amount of noises expressed by the dancers. Eventually, this slows down, and all the dancers stand on the edge of the circle, holding hands as Seth encourages the group to find a unique way to close the dance. The dancers weave in and out of each other. Hands interlocking until they break the chain, the dancers move back to dancing on their own. This time the music has taken a relaxed tone. No more loud noises are expressed by the dancers. Dreamily, the dancers sway from side to side. Some have chosen to stop moving at all and are lying on the floor with pillows they grabbed from the edge of the dance floor. Relaxed and content, to move or not move, the dance gently ends. Going deeper To grasp the roots of Ecstatic Dance, I went to a Five Rhythms event. I was sceptical since I felt that being only able to move within Five rhythms would restrict my ability to express myself. The venue was St John’s Evangelist Church, near Kensal Green tube station; and was a contrast to the tightly-packed Pirate Castle venue in Camden. The typically, intensely joyous energy that you’d expect from Ecstatic Dance was replaced with a far more relaxed, peaceful environ-

idly in p a r d aine d solar g e m f t an nt o s o r e f h n c i y m orld “The w he density in d” T e clarity. ad evaporat h plexus for what they were made for. The world ment. People weren’t here for a night out; they were here to dance. After easing into the spirit of dance, we stood in a circle. Ajay Rajani described and demonstrated the Five Rhythms to us. They are Flowing, Staccato, Chaos, Lyrical and Stillness. “Just let whatever flows to flow, and we’ll have a really nice time. Now turn around and walk,” he said. I took careful steps away, aware of my balance, and how my feet padded across the church floor. Stopping, I crouched down on the floor with my knees to my chest. Ajay kept asking us to allow in more breath. I did. Feeling the density in my chest. I questioned myself: “How long has that been there for?” I jumped up taking powerful steps forward, jabbing my hands out in front of me, moving to an aggressive Staccato rhythm. I start flicking my left side forwards in the movement then cry out! I collapse to the floor, crying. The pain in my side is so much. It’s like someone has placed tiny needles in my stomach, and is enjoying the pain it gives me as a struggle on the floor. A woman comes over to see if I’m okay. I nod my head. Getting up, I then move into a Chaos Rhythm. Wildly waving my hands and arms about. My shoulders move into it as well as the big wide steps I take with my legs. Finally, I do a whole-body wave with my hands at my sides, collapsing on the floor again, clutching my side in agony. Sitting up, I start moving again, slowly, as not to feel the pain that was now across my solar plexus and had now moved up to my chest too. A tanned Moroccan woman crawled towards me, placing her back against mine. We moved to the music pushing back on each other. Supporting each other. We rose together then span around to face each other pirouetting away. By now, the pain intensity around my body was immense. I kept dancing intensely then stopped, holding myself chest out arms back, breathing, waiting. Then this massive wave hit me, knocking me backwards. I very nearly passed out. After this moment, the sensation was strange. It was like I could see it again! Like I was actually using my eyes

in front of me gained rapidly in clarity. The density in my chest and solar plexus had evaporated. It was this moment that I fell in love with Five Rhythms and became very excited about its possibilities for trauma release. This experience led me to seek out Christian De Sousa who was taught to be a facilitator by Gabrielle Roth, the woman who discovered the universal Five Rhythms. “La Chunga was a shotgun blast through my carefully constructed personality.” “I trained with Gabrielle Roth in 2004/5. I’d been dancing Five Rhythms since 1998. It was a complete accident. I was a photojournalist, visual artist slash documentary photographer. I started dancing the Five Rhythms, and it was amazing. It was a homecoming, really. Gabrielle Roth talks about the Five Rhythms as being the DNA for the creative process and me that really resonated.” In her book Maps of Ecstasy, Gabrielle Roth describes dance as being a “map” to ecstasy, which is “a state of total aliveness and unity, unity of body, heart, mind, soul and spirit.” It’s a way to step out of our “habitual roles and scripts”. In her early career, she taught dance and drama to school children and people with mental illnesses. She found that it was difficult to plan and execute a lesson because the energy of the group was often unpredictable, with children. “One minute I’d be telling stories, the next moment creating a new tag game; then I’d be explaining why two dogs were stuck together; soon I’d be umpiring a baseball game, and then a crying kid would need consoling.” It wasn’t until she went to Europe and saw a dancer named La Chunga that she began to her perspective from rigours practice, prescription and perfection of the professional dance world to a freer form of dance. “La Chunga was a shotgun blast through my carefully constructed personality and let my soul pour out into real-time. The permission to dance with passion and to dance forever jolted me

from unconscious inertia and self-conscious imitation to the intuitive dance of my soul.” In the mid-sixties, she moved back to America to teach. She eventually quit teaching with the idea to become a professional dancer. This was, however, cut short as an old skiing injury on her knee stopped her. At this point, she met the father Gestalt therapy Fritz Perls who invited her to start working at the Esalen Institute. This was the infancy of Five Rhythms. In her book, Gabrielle often refers to an experience named the Silver Desert. I attempted to glean further information about this from Christian: “It’s a expanded state of trance consciousness. That’s healing because it reminds us of who we are at our deepest level. We are much more than who we are on a surface level when we go about our daily lives. We have quite a restricted experience of what we are, and then in the dance, we can expand into the fullness of what we are.” Five Rhythms has further applications beyond purely just dance. Christian says you can track a day through them. “You start your day, and you’re just coming into the flow of things. You wake up, and you’re just kind of receiving your senses and what’s happening. You have a cup of tea, or you go out for a walk. There’s this kind of fluidity. “Then, the day starts. There’s a plan/ agenda. I’ve got a list of things I need to do. You move into a different mode that has more of a Staccato Energy. It’s going from one thing to another and getting things done. At some point, if you’re tracking the natural flow of energy, things will kind of lean into chaos. Things move faster. You get lots of phone calls, or something happens that you didn’t expect or you realise you’ve forgotten something. For me, it’s one o’clock in the day. Then there’s that moment where we question whether or not we just surrender.” We’re now reaching a point where more dance practices are coming into being. These include Soul Motion, Open Floor and Movement Medicine. “Movement medicine has a very strong Shamanic context while Open Floor has a more psychotherapeutic context because the founders were psychotherapists. Soul Motion has an artistic element to it. The founder was an artist choreographer and theatre person,” Christian says. So many more dance practices exist beyond the boundaries on Five Rhythms it seems we’re at an exciting “mushrooming” point where there are now more new dance practices than ever before. It’ll be interesting to see how this kind of dance develops further. X 33



Words: Natalia Zmarzlik Images: Patrycja Cholewa, Zuzanna Kozlowska, Julia Sadowska

Protests are growing over a new ruling that restricts even further a woman’s right to an abortion

On October 22, the Constitutional Court in Poland ruled abortion in case of foetal defects was illegal, supporting the view of right-wing political forces and the Catholic Church; Poland joined Malta and Vatican on the list of countries with the strictest anti-abortion regulations in the world. On November 2, Polish president Andrzej Duda submitted his own proposal regarding the new anti-abortion law that would allow abortion in SOME foetal malformation cases. The government and the president are now debating on which version of the law would be satisfactory for everyone. The court’s near-total ban on abortion started a wave of protest in various cities not only across the country, but all around the world. From October 22, the movement grew steadily, with more cities appearing on the protest’s map. These manifestations took place not only in the biggest cities in Poland but also in small, more conservative towns. For many, these were the first pro-abortion marches in their town’s history. In theory, the new law bans only one of three possible cases of legal abortion, but in practice it reduces the number of abortions in Poland by 98%. In 2019, 1,110 legal abortions were carried out in Poland —more than 98% of them were because of defects in the foetus, while 33 were because the woman’s life was in danger and only three as a consequence of rape. The disagreement with the new regulations was so severe, that people with differing, sometimes opposite, political views united to join the protests. A lot of those who voted for Poland’s Law and Justice party (PiS) in the last parliamentary elections and for Andrzej Duda in the last presidential elections decided to support the strike. Kinga Duda, the president’s daughter, remained silent after the new law had been introduced until she was called out publicly to give an opinion about the strikes taking place in Poland. In a statement published on Twitter on October 28, she said that women should have the right to decide about their own bodies and be able to choose whether to terminate the pregnancy or not, because they are the ones who would have to face the consequences of their decisions and live with it until they die. She also said that the previous abortion regulations, valid for the past 27 years, were a stable compromise between the pro-life and pro-abortion movements and although not ideal, gave women a choice, while the new law leaves them with no choice. Many young women, who plan to become mothers in the future, agreed

with the president’s daughter: “As a young woman and a student I can only say that I’m deeply sad about everything that is happening in Poland right now, especially about the Kaczyński’s proclamation. In terms of pandemic, I’m curious how many people will suffer from mental health issues due to the current situation. And the government couldn’t care less about the protesters,” said Marta, 21. “I am furious and petrified at the same time. I am also very happy to see so many people taking part in the protests and that they rally to the same cause. Taking part in a protest gave me a lot of strength and hope that maybe, soon, something will actually change,” 21 yearold Patrycja told us. “I think that the fundamental rights to decide about our bodies had been taken away from us today. The government is insulting women and with the new regulations that turns women into incubators. I think that living in Poland isn’t safe for us anymore,” said Zuzia, 22. To hide real numbers of protesters, journalists from national TV stations shot their content either at the very beginning or at the very end of the protests, never at its peak. Descriptions of what was happening there were biased towards the conservatives: “Left-wing fanatics are attacking the Church”, “a crowd of crazy feminists wants to destroy churches”, “left-wing extremists are ruining Poland” were only a few lines used by TV Poland (TVP) reporters to describe the peaceful protests.

“The government is insulting women and with the new regulations that turn women into incubators. living in Poland isn’t safe any more”


Photos and videos presented on television were far different from those on various social media platforms.Many people were confused and did not know which side of the conflict to support. “Honestly, I don’t have a clear opinion on that. I can’t even imagine being in a situation of making such a difficult and complex choice. The way media portray the protests makes it impossible for me to support any of the sides. The amount of misinformation, hatred and offensive statements from politicians towards one another only convinces me that the media are here to divide people and make people hate each other even more,” said Paweł, a 22 year-old law student On October 30, when protests were at their peak, more than 100,000 people took part in the main demonstrations in Warsaw, whilst smaller protests took place all over the country. After prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczyński’s proclamation on Wednesday, the general public was even more determined to carry on protesting The leader of PiS political party said that those who take part in the protests are “committing a crime against common safety”, and that “Polish churches and 36

Polish patriotism must be protected no matter the cost”. The picture that the national media paints are that of “angry feminists” —in reality, the people protesting are Catholics, men, mothers, and those who, personally may not choose to have an abortion. What they have in common is that they believe in having the right to make their own decisions “I support the protesters from the bottom of my heart, and I am really sorry that I can’t take part in them because of the baby. I can’t even imagine how I would feel being pregnant and knowing that I will give birth to a disabled or even dead child. I was raised in a catholic family, but in my opinion, everyone should be able to decide for themselves. The Church cannot tell anyone what to do! We, people with free will, should be able to decide what to do in such an extreme case as abortion- because no one actually understands what it means until you get to experience it on your own skin,” said the mother of a new-born baby living in London. Although hundreds of thousands of people are protesting against the new regulations, religious and conservative

groups welcomed the restriction with open arms. “I am pro-life. I’m always on the side of life. Now, the judgement of the Constitutional Court, a tightening of the statue, is still to be enacted into law. By far the best outcome in this matter would be to specify exactly what should be forbidden,” said Kamil, a 20 year-old PiS voter. “For instance, the killing of children is for me a criminal act, and each woman who desires this should be punished, as is typically the case for murder. Otherwise, this means the certain death of a child just like certain illnesses, which lead to the death of a child a few hours after its birth. “I am for the prohibition of abortion in the case of Down’s syndrome and similar circumstances. Regarding other instances, it won’t be banned. I’m also for the prohibition of abortion in the case of rape. For me it is worse than in other circumstances,” Kamil continued. “In what sense are the children guilty, how are they at fault? And even if the mother disagrees. It is worth giving birth to the child and then handing it over. There are thousands of families who would welcome such consolation as they are unable to have their own.” Footage from the protests went viral on Instagram. Unedited, amateur videos and photos were shared thousands of times, including celebrity support. YouTuber and media producer Krzysztof Gonciarz used drone videos that show the real number of people taking part in protests. Polish podcaster Joanna Okuniewska spread awareness about protests taking place in smaller cities and towns, where it takes a lot of courage to voice liberal political views. Model and educator Anja Rubik ran an educational campaign on how to prepare for the  protest in a Covid-19 friendly way, what to do if one gets arrested, and also gathered a group of lawyers from around the country who offered their help pro bono. The protests in Poland caught the attention of various international stars including NikkieTutorials (a beauty guru), Elisabeth Rioux (CEO of Hoaka Swimwear), Dua Lipa, and Miley Cyrus (singers), who expressed their support for the protests on Instagram: Restricting the abortion law is one more factor to consider for Poles living abroad before moving back to their home country. Many Polish people around the world decided to protest in front of their local Polish embassies and consulates. The biggest of these protests took place in London, New York, Chicago, Barcelona, and Berlin. Those who live abroad and cannot attend protests in Poland are concerned

about the future of their country: “Although I don’t live in Poland anymore, I won’t ever accept the infringement of human rights, the visible discrimination, and hatred! We must show our solidarity and inner fury,” said Julia, a fashion management student living in London. Those Poles who live in cities with no protests feel helpless: “Our government is again showing ignorance by changing abortion laws in the middle of the pandemic, with daily Covid-19 cases over 10,000. What the government has done resulted in protests in many cities, and I’m very proud of every person who supports the national strike. No one deserves to live in a country that disrespects its own citizens, ignores global issues and is controlled by white old men and ‘the Church’. Nevertheless, seeing very little international media coverage on that topic is not what I expected, especially when it’s all about

fundamental human rights,” one protestor told us. The most frequently asked questions in Poland now are “what’s going to happen next?” and “who will stop the government from taking Poland back to the Middle Ages?”. No one seems to know how to answer those queries. For the Poles who feel that they cannot count on their own government and who seek help from abroad (from the European Union and the NGOs campaigning for human rights) the protestors feel it is very important that the public knows about what is happening in Poland and should be asked to support the movement. What foreigners can do to support the protesters in Poland: spread the message via social media channels, sign the Amnesty International petition or donate to the pro-abortion organisations, campaigners said. X

Profiles on Instagram which are covering the protests include: @kgonciarz, @anja_rubik, @tu_okuniewska, @kasianski, @strajkkobiet 37


Protests over a near total ban on abortion in Poland have left people questioning their rights

Words: Tom Tyers Images: Piotr Lewandowski/ 38

Poles from across the political divide are united in protest against a Constitutional Tribunal ruling which hastightened restrictions on abortion; the grounds for which were already some of the strictest in Europe. Right-wing supporters of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS) have joined in support of the women strikers. The anger on the ground in Poland could be clearly felt as pro-choice protesters spoke of this as an attack on their autonomy, while others were fearful of the Tribunal’s decision. In response to the widespread anger, Poland’s right-wing government has delayed the implementation of the controversial ban. The Guardian reported that Michał Dworczyk, head of Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s office, said: “There is

a discussion going on, and it would be good to take some time for dialogue and for finding a new position in this situation, which is difficult and stirs high emotions.” This appears to be a vain attempt to calm tempers and stop protestors defying bans on gatherings of more than five people during the coronavirus pandemic where cases in Poland are surging. Protests on this scale have not been seen in Poland since the collapse of communism in 1989, and the anger is part of a growing dissatisfaction with the populist ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS). The roots of this lie within the development of its democracy. In 1990, Poland had its first democratically elected President in Lech Wałęsa, the leader of the trade union, Solidarity, whose activism and

leadership oversaw the end of Soviet-Communist rule. Wałęsa endorsed twins Lech and Jarosław Kaczyński for the Sejm (Polish Parliament) who would accuse Wałęsa of communist indifference, ultimately defecting to found the far-right and incumbent Law and Justice Party (PiS). In 2005, the Justice Party gained power with Lech as President and Jarosław as Prime Minister in 2006. Their campaign sowed lasting divisions in Poland that rested on conspiracy theories, denouncing communists, gay people and liberals as threatening true Catholic values. This appeal to the Church and the majority Catholic country has muddied the water between State Church, which remains heavily invested in public policy and a close ally of PiS. After a time out of power in 2015, the Law and Justice Party successfully ran again, becoming the first party to win a majority since the end of communism. It remains in power with Jarosław Kaczyński now deputy prime minister. Since then, the party has faced growing disapproval within Poland and criticism from outside. This year PiS passed legislation that removes the tripartite division of power, meaning the independent body that questions the appointment of other justices will be dissolved and judges who complicate the functioning of the judiciary can be reprimanded. The European Commission decided that this infringes the rule of law with legislation passed that “undermines the independence of Polish judges and is incompatible with the primacy of EU law.” This opinion is shared by those in Poland, as well as by Wałęsa who penned a letter to the European Commission, co-signed by 13 former Polish politicians to protect democracy and the rule of law in Poland. The anger faced towards both the Law and Justice Party and the Church runs deeper than the standalone decision on abortions. Poland has lived within a status quo, in which the ruling party has steadily tightened its grip on power and is threatening the values of

democracy. This is out of step with its own constitution and that of the European Union, of which Poland is a member. “The rule of this party has been going on for years and has been dividing Poland for a long time. They won the elections with a slight advantage, and since then, they have managed to upset many social groups,” says Aleksandra Sojka, a student at Warsaw School of Economics. “Social tension had been rising for some time as the party’s rule from the beginning was strongly oriented towards traditional values, which at the same time excluded so many social groups. We sat quietly and watched how people close to us were insulted by the government and how different groups of people were treated with less and less respect. Until the decision was made to tighten the abortion law, and a few people had the courage to shout that we’ve had enough,” Sojka told us. “And others, who so far hid these negative emotions, decided that the negative tension that was building up in them finally had an opportunity to be released. And that their voice should be heard. We got pissed.” Though the Prime Minister’s office issued a statement attempting to cool tensions, deputy prime minister Jarosław Kaczyński, did little to achieve this. “Defend Poland, defend patriotism, defend Polish churches, this is the only way we can win this war,” he said to his supporters, using rhetoric akin to a call to arms. The social unrest could not come at a worse time for Poland, with surging coronavirus cases that the government has been accused of handling poorly. Yet for some, the timing seems deliberate: “PiS knew that this decision would not go through the normal road (which is Sejm, then Senate) so they went to the TK (high court) instead. They thought that because of the pandemic we wouldn’t protest, but oh boy how they were wrong,” says Anna, a finance analyst. Aleksandra Sojka agrees but adds that it could also be an attempt to blame protesters for surges in cases, “This party


“Because of PiS the church’s influence on policy is stronger than ever, but people are angrier than ever. I feel big changes coming” is a bunch of terrible people, but unfortunately they are knowledgeable and well organised. It is possible that they deliberately planned to do it now so that there would be no protests. “Or the other way around, they wanted protests to take place, to have something to blame for the pandemic, and not have to admit that they had taken too few steps to counter it. Either way, they do not care about people and our health. It is not our stupidity that made us risk our health; it is theirs.” Though many protestors are young, increasing numbers of young Poles are likely to vote for right-wing parties. In the 2015 election, the incumbent Law and 40

Justice party won 27% of the vote with those aged 18 to 29. But, young Poles tend to be apolitical. The latest regional votes only saw a 37% youth voter turnout. Poland remains a largely Roman Catholic country and of young people aged 16-29, 75% identify as Christian. This, in combination with a young voter base, could be why the PiS government believed this further restriction on abortion would be challenged but passable within this sector of society. “I am a Catholic as well as my parents and my grandparents. Obviously, my views are far more liberal. I believe that young Catholicism is based more on faith rather than godliness. We are not afraid to admit that we believe in God, but if God thinks it is okay to force a woman to give birth to a child that will die in a few days, then we hope he will forgive us because we believe we are doing the right thing and causing more good than evil by fighting for women’s right to make their own decision,” said Aleksandra Sojka. The Church’s influence over policy is clear, and it remains heavily allied to the Law and Justice party with its founda-

tions set in the traditional and religious values of Poland. But young Poles are calling for separation. “In my opinion, there should be a real separation between State and Church, not only on the paper. Not everyone in Poland is Catholic, and The State should be for everyone, not Christians only. I think that with the current government, the Church’s influence will never lessen, but with others, it’s possible. People are tired of priests being in their beds,” says 23-year-old student Julia. Anna agrees but believes it will not happen soon. “Maybe in 50 years, but I hope that it will happen sooner. Because of PiS the Church’s influence on policy is stronger than ever, but people are angrier than ever. I feel big changes coming.” There is hope that the delay announced by the Prime Minister’s office could allow for the ruling to be reversed. However, with tempers high on both sides of the political divide, we won’t know the outcome soon. Talks are being arranged with opponents to discuss a suggested amendment by President Andrzej Duda to allow terminations in cases of life-threatening congenital disabilities, but not in the instance of Down’s syndrome. This isn’t enough to please protestors and is said to be too weak by the policy’s right-wing supporters, suggesting that talks could lead to a stalemate. Those hoping the delay will be effective will not back down easily. “We are stubborn, and I believe that we will fight as long as we have to. If it is not effective, we will figure something else out. It has gone too far to back out now,” Aleksandra Sojka tells me.

Julia is not as optimistic, suggesting change cannot happen under the current government. “It would be possible if we had different laws, but right now, it will not happen. What can happen is government resignation and changing the constitution by a new government. It is, unfortunately, really risky and unlucky.” Though the abortion ruling ignited these protests, divisions existed long before and are more complicated than they first appear. A long-standing democracy such as the United Kingdom would view the situation in Poland from the outside and understand why anger would be so raw and protests so large. From within, you see the dynamics at play: a ruling party who threatens the basic values of democracy, who ally themselves with the Church, who chip away at the rule of law, and strengthen its position as an autocracy in the guise of democracy. Though the situation will not change overnight, the women we spoke to are hopeful for the future of Poland. “It’s amazing to see so many people ready to risk their health or life even to fight for our rights, for a change. I didn’t expect that I would see our country being so united,” Julia says. Anna agrees: “These are the biggest protests I have ever witnessed in Poland. I can feel the anger and pain. I see so many different people in the crowds. There is a saying that Poles hate each other, but when it comes to fighting for what we want, we can come together and overcome our enemies. I think that this is happening now, and I couldn’t be happier that I am part of it.” X


God, but at a distance How do national Lockdowns affect mental wellbeing of religious people, and how are places of worship adapting?

Words: Nathan Doubleday Image: Nick-K/

Even though it may not feel like it sometimes, religion is still a massive aspect of daily life for millions of people around the world, including people in the UK, the Office for National Statistics figures for 2018 shows that while the percentage of people who identify as non-religious has been increasing over the past decade, they also estimate that 57.6 per cent of the UK belong to a religious group. The term ‘religion has been derived from the Latin word ‘Religare’, which means “to bind together”. However, with traditional in-person services being restricted due to the pandemic, these religious institutions have had to adapt to the ‘new normal’ by providing online services, such as live streaming of prayer readings, utilising social media platforms, and even relying on the development of apps that provide interactive features. In this article, we will be looking at the pros and cons of these new methods, how they may affect these institutions and the impact it has had on religious people who are getting to grips with this changing scene. “Spirituality can affect a person’s coping styles or their locus of control perceptions. It can also provide access to a network of social support”, says Dr. Deborah Corner in a scientific report for the Mental Health Foundation. The paper concluded that there were largely positive impacts on mental health amongst religious people, and detailed this may be due to the social network made in religious institutions. “Many factors are proposed to account for these benefits. Spirituality can affect a person’s coping styles or their locus of control perceptions. It can also provide access to a network of social support and increase social capital, both of which are widely acknowledged to promote and sustain emotional and psychological wellbeing.” Moreover, some expressions of spirituality “affect the lifestyle and may encourage individuals to limit illness-related behaviours, such as smoking, drinking excessive alcohol and overeating, or to increase health-related behaviours such as meditation, exercise and helping others. Aspects of religious architecture and the built environment may also serve to mediate the effects of spirituality on mental health.” With this in mind, it may be a wor-

compensating and really working much harder in trying to interact”. While William does acknowledge the benefits of new online tools of reaching out to people, including an uptick in attendance in certain demographics, it is still a learning curve for many of his contacts: “One of the big problems is the older generation still struggles with a lot of the technology, and I don’t think there seems to be any easy way of explaining to an older person how to gdownload Zoom and then getting logged into it... From an intergenerational point of view, the frustrated voices tend to be the older people”. Asking about if the added pressure of lockdown has affected his community and how this has influenced the demand for his services, I was told he had been “Hearing from lots of people who are requesting one to ones; it may be that they are suffering from a bereavement, financial pressures or some illness or loss.” Looking forward William mentioned that on the 16th of December they are planning to substitute the annual UAL Christmas carol service with a partly pre-recorded and partly live carol service that can be watched online, to lift spirits in what William called a “gloomy time”. Similar changes have been made across the board with most churches, synagogues, and mosques developing or leaning more towards streaming their activities online. Some have progressed more easily than others, for example, a U.S church called Churchome has developed an advanced interactive website alongside an app, in addition to things like ‘pastor chat’ where people can contact a pastor from wherever they are globally around the clock. “We’re in uncharted territory, where we have had to close the mosque, and we are giving people advice and sending audio sermons on WhatsaApp but it can never replace the actual service that would be provided on a day to day basis”Amjad, from AHMA Amjad, a representative from the Altrincham and Hale Muslim Association, told me that they had done many things to offer their community with the help they need, from supporting people affected by a local food bank closure, offering one to ones over WhatsApp, and moving the school classes, they hold for young children all online. Amjad says that there are plenty of


rying time for people who rely on support from faith groups, left with a feeling of isolation. Speaking to UAL chaplain William Whitcombe, I was told how all of his usual services are being forced to move online, such as weekly meditation sessions. However, he did say that they have seen an uptick in attendance in online meditation classes and that more men have been joining too: “There is a certain amount of anonymity to it as people don’t have to turn on their camera and I guess it feels less intimidating”. On the subject of how lockdown has affected the standard of help that he can provide to the community he stated: “It’s not all about a physical building, although that is ideal. It feels like a common struggle, we are all trying to make the best of it”. William hinted that one practical limitation is missing out on cues that he uses to help guide his conversations with students and staff at UAL, meaning his job has become harder and more taxing. “When you’re talking or doing something with a group of people on a screen, it can be a bit emotionally and physically draining, and the reason for that is if you and I were sitting together now facing each other, we would be looking out for all sorts of non-verbal cues. You would be looking at my facial expressions, and I would be looking at your body language... and because we don’t really get that so easily on a screen, we find ourselves

“We’re in uncharted territory, where we have had to close the mosque, and we are giving people advice but it can never replace the actual service that would be provided on a day to day basis”

“While William does acknowledge the benefits of new online tools of reaching out to people, it is still a learning curve for many of his contacts”

problems moving services online, with the most difficult part of being unable to pray properly, something he says is required five times a day. “The biggest thing for us is that you can’t pray at home, you can only pray at home by yourself or with your family. Prayer is the oldest tome of Islam and Muslims, so we have to pray together behind the Imam, now we can’t replicate that, there is no such thing as the Imam is on zoom and you pray behind him, you have to be physically there to see the person and hear the person”. “We’re in uncharted territory, where we have had to close the mosque, and we are giving people advice and sending audio sermons on WhatsApp, but it

can never replace the actual service that would be provided on a day to day basis, now other services like our school for the children, while it had a lot of teething problems when it first went online, children got used to it, and the parents got used to it; however, all the children are missing out on making friendships with each other…We try to do our best, we even have parties on zoom for them, but it can never be the same”. The talk with Amjad really highlighted practical limitations to online interaction, and there was an eagerness to get back to tried and tested in-person sermons and face to face counselling. For now, worshippers will have to keep God at a distance. X 43

Design adapts to the ‘new normal’ A new exhibition showcases creative responses to the crisis

One of the current exhibitions at the London Design Museum is the Beazley Designs of the Year 2020, showcasing a selection of the most exciting and significant projects in digital, transport, fashion, architecture, product and graphic design. These ‘best moments in design’ as the Design Museum calls them, were created between January 2019 and January 2020 and the exhibition has captured the shift that was already taking place in early 2020 when the Covid-19 virus was approaching and about to turn into a global crisis. ‘It serves as a recap of where we were when the virus took hold, forcing designers to adapt and change. Now, as we feel our way through a drastically altered world, it feels appropriate to reassess our former direction of travel,” reads the Museum introduction when walking downstairs to the exhibition. “The show will be arranged chronologically, suggesting a countdown from January 2019 to the moment our attention shifted in late January 2020. More than merely an assessment of the past, it will be a frame for exploring the future,” describes Emily King, the curator for Beazley Designs of the Year 2020 on the Design Museum website. While it is fascinating to see the most inspiring designs from 2019 that include for example spectacles that protect your privacy – ‘Reflectacles’ designed by Scott Urban – and a deflating fashion collection ‘Moments of Clarity’ by Norwegian Central Saint Martins graduate Fredrik Tjærandsen, what probably is the most interesting and relevant though are the designs that have been created in the light of the oncoming pandemic. These innovations include products like a ‘Self-Sanitising Door Handle’, a


Words: Linnea Pesonen Images: Design Museum, Ivan Samkov

“Many companies in design have helped by making use of the resources that they already have on their hands and merely changing the products they produce are the ones that support the combat against covid-19” device that reduces the risk of being in contact with detrimental bacteria that can accumulate especially on public doors, designed by Sum Ming Wong and King Pong Li and the 3D rendering of SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus), designed by Alissa Eckert (MSMI) and Dan Higgins (MAMS). The rendering is an image depicting what the virus looks like when it is viewed through a microscope, and it was commissioned by the US health organisation Centers for Disease Control and prevention (CDC). The aim of commissioning the image was to raise awareness of the looming pandemic and since then this image has been applied to more works of graphic design, such as magazine covers. What is important and is also evident in the chosen exhibits, is the fact that design can act as a very powerful

means of expression when the world is experiencing a dire change. The latest designs that are presented at the Beazley show were created before January 2020 and since then the coronavirus has gone from being a possible threat to a fullblown, world-wide pandemic, and the design industry has been shown to have stepped into a crucial role in contributing towards the battle against the virus. While design can greatly help by bringing out new innovative products designed solely with the purpose of fighting the virus, there are other ways that the industry can assist. So far, many companies in design have helped by making use of the resources that they already have on their hands and merely changing the products they produce onto ones that support the combat against Covid-19. An example of this are high end

fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Prada, Armani and Zegna Group who turned their clothing factories into manufacturers of protective clothing, producing thousands of non-surgical gowns a day. Moreover, Bvlgari, a luxury brand famous for their perfumes and accessories switched from cosmetics to hand sanitisers, providing the NHS with 160,000 75ml bottles of hand gel. In additon to the great efforts that many of the acclaimed fashion houses have made during the year, there has been change in the air for the fashion industry for a while now, and more change will be expected as the ‘new normal’ starts to take shape. “I am grateful that the pandemic gave an allowance for brands not to abide by the usual seasonal schedule which is so linked to toxic overproduction cycles and is completely unnecessary, outside of the context of commerce and thus profit.” says Andrea Brocca, a Central Saint Martins class of 2020 fashion graduate. “It is very refreshing to see brands like Yves Saint Laurent take initiative of when they show their collections aside from the industry calendar. This incentivises young designers to be independent from the system. This is the only way we can change the industry, and bring it to the new world. Let’s not be controlled by the old guard,” Brocca told us. Central Saint Martins students also contributed to the efforts to fight the crisis by making medical suits for NHS staff. The fashion industry is not the only area of design that has stepped up and participated in managing the ‘new normal’. With the virus forcing communities and workplaces to find new ways to make life continue under these circumstances, fields like architecture play a critical role in planning the new normal. Wallpaper magazine has published an article on how architecture will seek new designs and shape the post-pandemic world in areas ranging from housing to education. Anna Miettinen, a University of Barcelona class of 2020 architecture graduate is feeling slightly uneasy about the future in her chosen career path. “Having just graduated, I have been thrown into this new chapter of architecture, where ideas and projects have to be created and put in place efficiently and fast. Architecture is known to be a slow-

paced industry where projects can take years before they are finished, but now companies, cities and countries are desperate for fast, pandemic-proof solutions,” Miettinen admits. In a recent article in The New Yorker, architect Deborah Burke loked at the changes the field of architecture will be going through, and concluded that: “People are becoming, if not architects, the craftsmen and makers of safe spaces.”

As the ‘new normal’ keeps finding its form, it will be interesting to see what the future will hold for the design industry. Although the change brought by the virus was apparent in as early as January 2020, as demonstrated in the Beazley Designs of the Year exhibition, it is clear that throughout this year and as we step into 2021, the design industry will keep evolving depending on the demands the pandemic creates. X


Words: Margit Potsepp Images: Tania Naiden, Tatiana Elek, Maria Florjanovich, Cristin Turu


IN BELARUS Thousands of protestors filled the streets to fight for democracy after August’s presidential election 46

After the Soviet Union collapsed, Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed as the ‘Europe’s last dictator’ has been the president of Belarus since 1994. Belarus is a country located in Eastern Europe, neighbouring Lithuania, Poland, Ukraine and Russia. Due to Lukashenko’s strict regime, the country has limited ties with the European Union, as he has a strong association with the Russian president. Outraged by the results, over 200,000 Belarusians of all ages and genders gathered to create a peaceful movement to demand justice and expel Alexander Lukashenko from his presidential title. Alexander Lukashenko is a Soviet-style leader; controlling the media, freedom of speech and restricting political rights. During the election season, new oppositional candidates began to gain support from the public. Notably, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who entered the election on 14 July 2020 after

her husband, Sergei Tikhanovsky was detained for his activism and could no longer run for president. Sergei Tikhanovsky is a Belarusian activist and a YouTuber with a channel called ‘A Country for Life’. After announcing that he would be running for president on 7th May, he was arrested for illegal demonstrations. This prevented him from entering the election due to his ‘criminal’ record. Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was seen as a beacon of hope, a person who would overthrow Lukashenko and end the authoritarian regime. Before that, she was an English teacher. Exit polls portrayed that 80% of votes were won by Lukashenko, and only crediting 10% of the votes to Tikhanovskaya. However, foreign exit polls suggest that Tikhanovskaya gained the majority. According to Exit Poll Abroad- Estonia, the independent exit polls convey that in Estonia 66.6% voted for Tikhanovskaya and 14.6% for Lukashenko. In Lithuania, 80.53% voted for Tikhanovskaya and 6.79% for Lukashenko. UK results indicate that 93.41% of the votes were for Tikhanovskaya, while only 1.72% voted for Lukashenko. Belarusians all over the world have joined the movement, and support rallies have been held in various parts of the world: in the Baltic States, Western Europe and all the way in the USA. Three courageous individuals provided an insight into the current state of Belarus, and how Belarusians around the globe are fighting for a change. Maria has been an activist since 1997, attending marches and rallies to achieve democracy for Belarus. Originally from Minsk, the capital, she was also a teacher who taught Belarusian and changed the lives of many students. Now, she resides in Boston, Massachusetts, with her family. Before Lukashenko was elected, Maria was hoping that Belarusians would be free again from the Soviet regime. However, when he got elected for the first time (in 1994), she was deeply saddened as she knew he was going to be a fraud, even before he became the president. “No one in my family voted for Lukashenko; we didn’t want a president who didn’t have ties to Belarus. We could tell that he didn’t care about our traditions.” Throughout the years of Lukashenko’s rule, life for Belarusians became oppressed. His presence limited the country’s true culture and enabled xenophobia. Maria shared a story about her colleague, this happened at the end of 1990s: “My colleague and her friend were walking down the street, as a man approached them and said- “Are you talking Belarusian? You need to be shot....”

In 1995 after the election, Maria’s acquaintance moved her child to a Russian speaking school, as she was bullied for her Belarusian accent. Devastating stories like this are the reason why people like Maria join movements to make a true change and to stop the oppression. After the 2010 election, Maria attended the annual ‘Freedom Day March’ on 25th March. She noticed that not as many people attended and that the atmosphere was eerie. The security restricted attenders from conversing. “People started being arrested, so me and the students that were there began to run towards a monument. The people that wanted to arrest us, chased us. So, when we reached the monument, there was nowhere else to run. One of them started to approach me, and I was standing there with my bag. I said to him: “Don’t come near me! Move away from me!”. For her bravery, Maria received a ‘Miss Freedom March’ diploma from an institution that she worked at. During her teaching years, she has changed the lives of many students by teaching them Belarusian. Some have said that her teachings have made them realise how much they love the language. The staple symbol of the current protests is the white and red flag; this was the official Belarusian flag before ukashenko intervened and changed it. Maria and many others have never acknowledged the current flag. This movement is significant to Maria and her generation, as they want to see Belarus become independent. Evidently, this has been going on for longer than it seems. “Where can we [be] Belarusians if not in Belarus? You have to be a fighter for your country. We don’t want to be a part of Russia or any other country. People want freedom because it’s awful to be restricted in your own country.” Tatiana, who currently lives in the UK, has attended many rallies in London to support the movement that is happening in her homeland. Using her online platform, she has been spreading the crucial information to inform people about the current events. Originally, she is from Novopolotsk, (located in the north of Belarus), she was only 14 years old when Lukashenko was elected as the president. As years went by, and Lukashenko kept his title by changing the constitution, hers and the public’s outlook on him was tainted, as “it didn’t represent the free democratic post-soviet ethics”. Under Lukashenko’s rule, peculiar events began happening, reflecting the corruption that happens behind the closed doors.


Tatiana shares how after notable individuals such as Viktar Hanchar; businessman Anatol Krasouski; a former interior minister Yury Zakharanka and Dzmitry Zavadaski went missing without a trace, the public started to dislike and fear the government. During this election, Tatiana noted that many more people took part, as they were tired of living in the authoritarian society. “I have never seen such long queues to the voting stations. People wanted to fulfil their constitutional right; they wanted change! I queued for 8 hours at the Belarusian embassy�. Women of all ages played a big role in the election and the movement, using their powerful voices to make a change. Especially, after Lukashenko voiced his misogynistic opinions on state TV, saying that politics is not for women.


Media is state-controlled, Tatiana dubbed it “Lukashenko’s propaganda”, so her friends and family stopped watching it. State TV falsely portrays protesters as “violent, homeless, bandits and prostitutes”. Living in the UK for 15 years, Tatiana has always taken part in Belarusian events, and she has never seen so much unity, until this year. “I protest in London… it’s not hard for me. I don’t have to be afraid of imprisonment or violence. In Belarus, the experience is very different. Every Sunday starts with internet disappearing. Protesters know they are taking risks; my sister tells me about the rubber bullets and smoke grenades that she had to run from.” Tatiana continues to share her sister’s horrific experience: “When she is in the crowd, she does not feel scared, it is leaving the crowd that is terrifying, as that is when the riot police becomes the most dangerous.” The Belarusian public, including Tatiana, were finally enraged, as they felt that their votes were

“Politicians were always the masters of lies, and no one can come to terms with it, and no one ever will”

stolen, and even further enraged when violence was used at the peaceful demonstrations. Vlad, in his twenties, is originally from Brest, a town in the southwest of Belarus. For five years he has been living abroad and now he is residing in Estonia, though he visits his hometown often. “Well, this is my dear home, the people closest to me live there. People that I associate with my warmest and happiest memories. I’ve experienced all my first moments there: my first love, meeting my lifelong friends, and even sentimental things like my first cigarette. I can say one thing, life in Belarus does not resemble life anywhere else”, explains Vlad, when asked about what life was like for him in Belarus. A sense of patriotism is taught to children from an adolescent age, conveying why Belarusians are uniting to fight for their country. Vlad elaborates: “Teachers and parents teach us to love and support our country. With time this begins to be our duty. We are encouraged to do everything to improve life here in Belarus.” The aspect of community is prevalent in Belarusian society, and natives see each other as one. When the protests began, strangers protected and helped one another. “That’s why people become hardcore patriots because they want to use their united power to make Belarus as great as it can be.” he continues. During the end of August, Vlad visited his hometown to spend time with his family and friends. Protests were happening in every part of Belarus, and the special police unit OMOH (OMON in English) were patrolling the streets. “Me and my friends met after months of not seeing each other, and they were telling me their stories. Some were detained on their way home, some on their way to work or just for being on a simple walk with their girlfriend or friends. Many went to the protests, and their experience was not sweet. We were spending the evening far from the central; however, after a few hours, OMOH pulled up to our house...” Most young people of Belarus were born when Lukashenko was already in power, meaning that they have not experienced life in any different way. Though throughout the years, young people began to understand the authoritarian regime. Vlad elaborates on how his perspective has changed: “Younger people are used to and used to want to think like adults, specifically like their parents. At first, some people liked the president and saw hope in him, like in a real man. Everyone knows that politics is manipulative and dirty. “Politicians were always the masters of lies, and no one can come to terms with it, and no one ever will. They lied a little bit, well it happens, we forgot. If we didn’t forget, we were made to.” With this year’s election, citizens like Vlad saw the whole truth and could no longer turn a blind eye. Belarusian young people strive to make a change in their country to better their future, using online resources like Twitter, Instagram and VK, the word of the movement was spread. VK is a social media platform popular amongst Russian speaking individuals; the function is similar to Facebook. Social media platforms and foreign news outlets became inaccessible to prevent information from leaking; this began happening soon after the election. This did not stop people from taking action. Belarusians of all ages and genders are showing real courage every day by making their voices heard all over the world, whether by protesting or spreading the word online. Many have taken life threatening risks for the country they love. In unity, they will soon achieve democracy. X

To support the people of Belarus and their fight for justice, please join the Anglo-Belarusian society on Facebook. 49

Unsung heroes: the battle to save the live events sector The people who make gigs and concerts happen are struggling during lockdown

Words and Images: Layla Nicholson

Queueing up in the drizzle like rain, eagerly waiting for the security staff to open the doors into a night you’ll never forget. Waiting for the lights to go out, sheer excitement would fill the air, and that of the deep-rooted smell of extortionately London priced alcohol. Once a known reality but now just a mere distant memory lingering in the back of our minds and our camera rolls. The music and live events industry have taken a huge hit since Covid-19 found itself upon our shores catapulting us into lockdown in March, with venue doors being firmly shut since then. Music is so intrinsically embedded in our lives. Covid-19 has paused the soundtrack to our lives, and with that, the livelihoods of those in the live events sector have been stopped. Redundancy has struck the nation but mainly in those in the live events sector with a predicted 170,000 skilled workers to lose their jobs. Going to a gig, people worship those who perform on stage but often forget about those who make the performance happen in the first place. From sound techs to the marketing team, the gigs we attend rely on those behind the scenes. I used to work handing out flyers for gigs at the O2 Academies, the rush and vigor of the venue on the event night is something that cannot be encapsulated on a screen but only in person. Although I played a small part in the event, the thrill of being involved is unmatchable. Stuart Dew, Tour manager and Guitar Tech has worked in the industry for 8 years. He has now seen the fast-paced industry come to a halt with having to stop touring, Stuart recalls from when the UK first got placed into lockdown. “I was in rehearsals for a Russian tour with Nothing But Thieves and was due to leave on the Friday when we got locked down on the Wednesday. Soon after that, all my clients started either cancelling shows and/or tours and pushing them back into 2021. Touring is my bread and butter, so when that was cancelled, I had to shift my focus to a more public-facing guitar repairs.” The culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said that ‘A £1.57bn emergency support package to help protect the future of theatres, galleries and museums will not be enough to save every job’. Adding that ‘grants and loans would aim to preserve

supermarkets, which is heartbreaking. We as events crew are “first in, last out” and with this governments response it feels like we are “first out, last in” in terms of support for the crew.” Steve Webster, a live events veteran, having worked 33 years in the industry, has now been hit with redundancy due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Webster, the Marketing Manager for the O2 Academies in London, has seen the industry he loves so dearly been bulldozered by the pandemic and the government’s response to it. “My career has been directly affected by the pandemic; I was recently made redundant. And with the entire industry being hung out to dry by the government, there is no quick fix. I can’t simply find another job within this industry because, at this point, the industry doesn’t exist.” With a lifetime of experience in the industry that undeniably sparks a lot of passion for those who work in it, the fact that it currently ceases to exist should come as a huge blow to society. “I simply do not know or understand why the government has not assisted the live music/entertainment industry. Instead, they seem to be ignoring the plight of hundreds of thousands of people who have had no source of income or help at all. Their answer, our roles are ‘not viable’ and that we should ‘retrain’” Daisy Parker, student and once part of the O2’s street team handing out flyers to those attending gigs has seen how the lack of funding and support from the government has affected those in the live


“crown jewels” in the arts sector’. The government have seemed to breathe a lifeline into well-established theatres and venues, but grittier local venues have been left to suffocate. Stuart adds “the majority of the arts funding went to museums, which usually has public money to support them anyway and the smaller venues were expected to fend for themselves”. With an industry worth £29bn(excluding sport) claimed by British Visits and Events Partnership, so little has been funded for the industry and those who work in it. The government have pushed those who work in the music and live events industry to retrain, as their profession is deemed not ‘viable’. Everyone’s favourite ballerina of 2020, Fatima, confirmed this. “It feels like we are being told we are unviable constantly and to retrain. Some of the best-known techs in the world are currently in jobs like delivery driving for

“People worship those who perform on stage, but often forget about those who make the peformance happen”

“Although, some artists had the privilege of being able to perform online, those behind the scenes do not have this privilege”

events sector. “Everything is rubbish for everyone in the industry right now, but people behind the scenes do not get enough credit and are definitely affected the most. I see how hard these people work before, during and after gigs and if you could see the state that the crowds can be in, you’d see how difficult that job is” Daisy sees the importance of those behind the scenes “They make shows happen, and the fact they’re so painfully neglected is truly telling on how unappreciated these people are on the average working day”.

Still, nearing the end of 2020 the worst year for many, there is a matter of uncertainty for the live events sector and those who work in it. Having worked on the Tour de France in 2014 and All Points East festival in 2018, Steve Reynolds has had his calendar wiped- much alike the majority of those in the live events industry. Reynolds, an Operations Director, created The Survival Tour, a bike ride around the country raising awareness for the lack of support the government has given the live events industry. Also, raising money for BackUp, a charity to help employees, freelancers whose careers have been halted by the pandemic. The team consisting of Harry Ford, Tyler Cole-Holmes, Mark Ward, Steve Reynolds and Mike Trasmundi set out across the country on bikes stopping at 138 venues covering 1700km, roughly following the path that the tour season would follow. “What we wanted to highlight was the number of people this is impacting, as we mutually agreed that the real impact wasn’t clear. By getting into regional theatres, grass root gig venues, arenas and even stadiums, we got the chance to speak to the individuals and hear firsthand the devastating impact this has had across the UK.” Although, some artists had the privilege of being able to perform online, those behind the scenes do not have this privilege. “For all of us, we watched our 2020 touring, festival and live events calendars disappear at the end of March. Since then we’ve not worked on any live shows. And despite some of our artists exploring the world of digital concerts, the year has been extremely damaging for the whole of our industry.” So far the team has not only raised awareness but £30,000 in funds to help people and their families for the charity BackUp. From those like me and Daisy handing out flyers to those who play a pivotal part in the event like Steve, Stuart and those on The Survival Tour- either way watching the industry you breathe for, being snuffed out is difficult to watch. And the final words from Daisy, “I miss my boss; he’s truly lovely, and it’s heartbreaking to know he now has no job, due to our neglectful government... P.S Fuck Boris”. X 51

Mental Health in the Arab world Young people with psychological problems face stigma and a lack of understanding

The conversation around mental health within different cultures is one that’s not generally accepted or spoken of openly. Cultures have their own way of perceiving the sensitive subject of mental health. Is it real, or imagined? Is it an illness of the mind, the body, or both? Some argue, the lack of awareness in these communities, is what makes such an important topic a taboo. Family members and friends play a huge role in supporting individuals going through


emotional and mental distress. But what happens when your main support network completely rejects the idea of mental health and refuses to acknowledge what you’re going through? Families are sacred in many cultures; they’re raised in a way that’s heavily dependant on each other and puts a high value on social status and reputation. Each family member mirrors the family image and reputation, which must be held up to the cultural standards. If we take the Arab culture as an example, you’ll find that stigma around mental health still prevails in a significant way. In a dominant culture that combines strong religious and traditional val-

Words: May Baalache

“In many cultures, they will neglect mental health or go as far as to impose punishments” ues, it can be difficult for an individual to express feeling mentally unwell openly, or to try and seek help. In heavily practised cultures such as the Arab culture, suffering from mental health can mean letting your family down and risk bringing shame to the family name. In many cultures, they will neglect mental health or go as far as to impose punishments. Whilst suicide was only decriminalised in the UK 59 years ago, there are still many countries where it is currently still illegal. Countries such as Cyprus, UAE, Thailand, Oman, Pakistan, Lebanon and Malaysia,

for example . Most of these counties have heavy cultural and religious societies. For instance, in the UAE, those found guilty of attempted suicide have to pay a penalty and could face up to 6 months in jail. That law alone can prevent many from seeking help or speaking freely about their mental issues. Rania, a 19-year-old student living in the UAE, is one of many who feel they cannot seek the help they need. Her personal struggles encouraged her to peruse a degree in psychology, in hopes to one day change how mental health is perceived in her culture. Rania, who struggles with mental health says, “Personally, I don’t like to speak about my mental health to my family, because I know they won’t be very supportive and sensitive to my feelings. They don’t understand mental health, and in our culture if you don’t understand something or if it simply doesn’t fit with the cultural morals, they won’t accept it! If I try to hint at what I’m going through mentally, they will find it very weird and question me a lot, questions like, ‘why? Why do you feel that way?’ And make me feel very weird and uncomfortable, my mental health is just brushed off” Something that doesn’t fit existing cultural morals and beliefs is always hard to go against, but where does that leave the victims of mental health? “I decided to pursue a degree in psychology when I discovered that attempting suicide is actually illegal in many countries, including

“I feel this way, but I’m not even allowed to feel this way, what do I do?”

the UAE, my country. I was shocked and really saddened by it, it just broke my heart”, says Rania. “Back then I remember thinking, now even if I want to try and die, I can’t! Because if for some reason, I’m unsuccessful in my attempt, I would be fined or jailed for up to 6 months. I was pushed to wonder, I feel this way, but I’m not even allowed to feel this way, what do I do? It sent me into a spiral of self-hatred and internal conflict.

Knowing about the attempted suicide law affected me a lot, I personally did not want to talk about it.” Because of the importance of family in culture, when someone has a mental illness, it automatically becomes a family matter. A family problem that needs to be fixed by a family member, and in most cases when a patient seeks professional help, they’re commonly accompanied by a family member. The laws on the patient confidentially are lenient. What initially is meant to be support and help for the patient can result in bringing them further stress and can sometimes even be dangerous. As Rania witnessed “The reason why I’m too afraid to go into therapy here, is because I don’t trust that they would keep the information confidential. I know many of my friends who have spoken to therapists and their therapists passed on very private and sensitive information to their parents- you can understand how that could be extremely dangerous in an environment where culture, religion and family come above all”. As a result of cultural rejection and lack of awareness, professional facilities

become insufficient. Different governments around the world address the importance of mental health individually. In the UAE, the facilities provided can be counted on one hand, and most of the services provided are by private organisations. Therefore it can be costly to get professional help, which further pushes patients away and reduces the chances of them seeking help. When looking for mental help, one tends to lean more towards speaking to someone who understands their cultural background. Muslim Youth Helpline is a charity organisation based in the UK that’s aimed at helping those who come from a Muslim background Understanding the cultural and religious background is essential when treating a patient: it helps to understand the culturally specific struggles that restrict them from getting help. Muslim Youth Helpline fills that gap for those who come from an Arab and Muslim background, and we need to see more of that. According to a 2019 research report conducted by Muslim Youth’s Helpline, results showed that; 32% of respondants had suffered through suicidal thoughts, 63% had suffered from anxiety, 1/4 of respondents have had identity struggles,1/2 of respondents went to friends for help the last time they had an issue, 40% of men said they spoke to nobody about their last issue and 52% have suffered from depression. 37% of younger respondents (16-22year olds) went to nobody for support the last time they had an issue. This was significantly higher than their older counterparts, of whom 29% kept their issue to themselves. When asked ‘do you feel you have enough easy access to help when you need it?’, more than 40% answered ‘no, not really’. Generally speaking, there is a lot more awareness on the topic of mental health than ever before. But there is still a lot to work on, especially in cultural environments. We must fight the stigma that comes with the topic of mental health by raising public awareness and fighting the cultural stereotypical mentality. The lack of support, understanding and awareness on mental health within cultures must be addressed globally to diminish discrimination around mental health. X 53

OnlyFans: how secure are your nudes? Sex workers are discovering that their images are being pirated on other websites

Words: Vanessa Richter Images: Ellie Chains

OnlyFans, a British content subscription service based in London with more than 24 million registered users, has certainly contributed to the change of minds of many when it comes to sex work. Though the platform wasn’t necessarily intended to be for sex work specifically, it is for all kinds of content to which the “Fans” can subscribe to, pornography of any kind is the most popular content on OnlyFans. Due to the high demand for pornography and the high amount of sex workers amongst the users, privacy and security are an important matter when it comes to the world wide web and our most intimate selves. After all, sex work is still a risky profession which could lead to stalkers and privacy breaches. Ellie Chains, as she is known on OnlyFans, is a 22-year-old with a background in film, social media and PR. Ellie knows all about feeling in danger and exposed, which is why she asked not to mention her real name. She started her OnlyFans account in 2019, just when OnlyFans

of their content. “I’ve had lots of people screenshot my stuff on OnlyFans and then pass it on to people that I know. Even though it says in the Terms and Conditions that you can’t see the images if you’re not subscribing, you can still screenshot it when you are subscribed.” Ellie is both right and wrong. You aren’t allowed to take screenshots, but not because you aren’t able to but because OnlyFans asks not to in their Terms of Service: “(Users) authorize your Fans to access and view (without downloading or copying) your User Content on OnlyFans for their own lawful and personal use”. Ellie eventually found her OnlyFans pictures on another website: “First it started off with my pictures and videos being spread around to my friends from my old school in Ireland, which was a big thing. All the people I knew were messaging me and harassing me, that’s why I stopped OnlyFans for a while, but


introduced a new security feature when it comes to the verification process: a creator now had to provide a selfie with their ID in the image to prove that the ID provided belongs to the account holder. Ellie joined the website out of the same reason many young people do, money and body positivity. The feeling of having control over their bodies and feeling good about themselves naked is one of the main reasons people went to the platform. For Ellie and many other users, those motivations would be abused by others due to the lack of security on the website. “When I joined OnlyFans, it wasn’t as popular as it was today, there weren’t a lot of horror stories or leaks. I was a little bit nervous about someone finding my stuff and sending it to my family or my work.”, Ellie explains. Even though reselling content is illegal due to a DMCA law and the users own all of their content, there is no way to protect the user from subscribers taking screenshots and screen recordings

“This is a problem across all platforms, but it’s even scarier for onlyfans users because some people have a strong hatred for sex workers” I started again because I just came to terms that it would happen again. There’s nothing I can do about it.”, Ellie says defeated, but she didn’t know yet back then that the worst of her experience with OnlyFans was yet to come. “In January 2020, I was back on OnlyFans, a girl messaged me on my private Instagram account and said ‘Hey. I think I found you on and I think your photos are there without your consent’ with a link that led to the page she was talking about, with my pictures, my real name, my real address, even some profile pictures from Facebook.” Ellie did contact the police about her information being shared on a porn website. However, she was told that there was nothing they could do about it since OnlyFans is technically still a public website, despite the fact it is a paid service. Ellie has never found out who shared her pictures and information online, and the police have never explained how the information could have been breached. Even though OnlyFans’ Terms of Service states that the creator has all rights to their content and that reselling of content is illegal, OnlyFans might share the creators’ information with Third-Party Companies. Technically, we share our information with third parties almost daily. With logins, bank transfers, online payments, etc., most websites nowadays cooperate with these companies, just because it makes everything easier. OnlyFans works with various Third-Party Companies, which can be found in their Privacy Policies. According to these, verification details, personal

details, financial details and more may be shared with several companies: “We may share information about you with service providers who perform services on our behalf. This includes Zendesk, Aristotle and Sight Engine.” “I think OnlyFans doesn’t make it clear enough that our data gets shared with Third-Party Companies and that there’s a lack in security”, Ellie says, “I think this is a problem across all platforms, but it makes it even scarier for OnlyFans users because some people have a strong hatred for sex workers.” The lack in security for OnlyFans has proven to be real in the beginning of this year, where more than 1.6TB worth of videos and images from OnlyFans has been leaked online, not due to a hack though. Still, because the leaked material has been “ curated from multiple sources, including other social media applications”, as Steve Pym, OnlyFans’ market-

ing chief said. Evidence that OnlyFans has no control over screenshots and screen recordings, putting users like Ellie at risk. All of this has taught Ellie a valuable lesson. Although she has since returned to OnlyFans, she has made some adjustments to the handling of her private information on the internet: “I took all of my information off of social media and put all my accounts on private until I built up the courage again to go public.” But she can’t shake the feeling that the same thing might happen again and that she will be powerless unless security and privacy policies are improved. “Think long and hard before joining OnlyFans”, Ellie urges, “There are a lot of things that can happen from doing this kind of work. It also isn’t just quick money, if you want to earn a lot you need to put in a lot of marketing promoting and content creating. It’s a real job, after all.” X 55



Words: Betty Wales-Hulbert Images: Jovilee Burton

Critics of waste in the clothing industry don’t understand the realities of life for plus-size women 56

My love for vintage clothes started long before ‘fast fashion’ was a common term, when I was 15. It started due to my obsession with 70’s and 80’s music, and having that childish desire to have clothes that no one else does. At the time there was only 3 vintage shops in my local city, and the weekends were spent trawling through the masses of clothes to try find that special item I could show off on the early days of Instagram. It wasn’t until I got a few years older, and my body changed, finding vintage clothes become harder. I’m 22 now, and my body has changed a million times since I was 15 (I wish someone would have told me that would happen, it would have made a lot of things easier) and vintage and secondhand clothes now go hand-in-hand with the fight against fast fashion. The fashion industry is responsible for 10% of annual global carbon emissions and is set to rise to 50% by 2030, so it’s natural that people have began to question the impact of the way we shop. With thousands of items of clothing available to us at all time, which can get to us in under 24 hours, we are all guilty of over-consuming. A lot of us are changing our shopping habits, swapping the high street for eBay and more expensive eco-conscious brands, but that isn’t within everyone’s reach. The conversation around fast fashion has always had tones of classism, as it usually focuses on brands offering cheap clothes like Pretty Little Thing and Primark, but for anyone with a body that doesn’t fit the norm; bigger, shorter, taller, its a problem compounded by the fact that a lot of eco-conscious clothing brands don’t care about you. With the majority of the blame of fast fashion put at the door of brands who also carry the largest size range and are the most reasonably priced, those people who cannot afford to shop anywhere else or simply cannot find their size anywhere else also bare the brunt of the blame. Some brands are facing the problem of exclusive sustainable brands head on. KENNEDY (Instagram: kennedy_design_) is an inclusive and sustainable brand based in Glasgow, Scotland and is owned by Fiona Kennedy. KENNEDY stocks sizes 6-26 and is described by its founder as “a little wild, rock ’n’ roll

inspired brand. KENNEDY is designed to be an empowering and bold fashion brand, we want people to feel bad ass when they wear our clothes” As Kennedy makes everything inhouse and only deals with fabric suppliers, she has full control over the sizing, which arguably makes it easier for her to provide an inclusive size range. “I feel it’s a standard step that any business should make [having an inclusive size range]. I disagree with the sizing that most companies offer and instead wanted to offer a broad range of sizes to accommodate all kinds of body shapes.” I myself struggle with a lot of brands sizes and tend to be a different size on top and bottom and realise the effect misfitting clothes can have on you, as an independent brand that makes everything in-house I wanted to make people feel good about themselves.” When discussing any industry in our capitalist society, the bottom line is money. A lot of brands claim it’s just not cost-effective to include a wide size range. High street retailer New Look has been accused of having a ‘Fat Tax’ as it was noticed that the same item of clothing in a plus size, would cost more thant in the ‘straight’ size section. Brands like KENNEDY are finding ways around this. “I accommodate my full size range within my pricing for any collection so all costs are covered. It was a smart business choice to avoid overspend on materials and improve cash flow but I am also aware of customer interests and felt that i have to make my own steps in improving the state of the planet as fashion tends to have such a bad name”. For 15 year old me, KENNEDY would have been my holy grail. Their biggest fashion icons are “Joan Jett, Debbie Harry, Bowie and Marc Bolan” which at that age was everything I wanted to be. This is a comforting sign of how much has changed in just seven years. A brand with a slightly different aesthetic to KENNEDY, HOURS, NEW YORK, is also leading the way again in inclusive fashion. A sophisticated, high-quality and chic brand which was born “because we were tired of perpetuating a standard of sameness that didn’t reflect the diversity we saw in our lives”. “Having backgrounds in fashion, we saw first hand the lack of care and consideration given to the plus size woman” 57

says co-founder, Harroop “the lack, even total dismissal, of diversity on the runway and fitting room doesn’t reflect what we see in the world. Our lives are filled with people of unique backgrounds and bodies. Frankly, we grew tired of telling friends and family ‘no, I don’t know where you can get this item in your size’ so we decided to do something about it”. The intensely frustrating feeling of wanting to dress in a particular way but brands not catering to your size is a common feeling for a lot of women. Up until recently, it was just accepted. The fashion community made it pretty clear that certain styles of clothes were not meant for you. Shopping for clothes for a plussize women has always been a hostile environment, no matter your personal style. This is slowly changing, but just as high-street retailers have actually started to carry more sizes, society has once again has rejected the plus-size shopper by placing all the blame of fast fashion on those retailers. “Many brands that cater to the plus women occupy the fast fashion space and so historically plus women have been confined to fast fashion. With HOURS we are trying to create high-quality garments that are sustainably made while also being accessible. We feel this is the biggest gap in the plus size market today”. For many brands, it is hard to rethink their business model and culture. Of the brands that try to be inclusive, many to do it in a cost effective way by simply adding a few styles in extended sizing. This is very much an afterthought and it is clear to the customer. I think for brands to really expand their customer base and be truly inclusive, they have to value that customer and invest time and resources to do it in a thoughtful and meaningful way”. One big way we can all fight the devastating affects of fashion fashion is buying second hand clothes. Whether that be from online retailers like Depop or ASOS Marketplace, or the traditional charity shop. Buying secondhand is now a part of everyday society. This means the prices have been driven up, and the community a lot more cliquey. The growing popularity of this again poses problems for the shopper on a budget, or the plus-size shopper. We all know a size 14 from the 70’s is much smaller than a size 14 now, and some brands just don’t feel like the plus-size person fits into the desired aesthetic of brands (We’re looking at you, Victoria Secret and Hollister). “The sustainable fashion industry is much more progressive but it will probably never be completely inclusive. There will always be brands that find plus size 58

people simply not cool enough to wear their fashion” suggests Alissa Steinbach of Plus Babes Vintage. Plus Babes Vintage is based in Germany. It is a shop run through instagram (at and specialises in mid-to-plus-size vintage items. Steinbach has made it her personal mission to provide vintage wear for the plus-size community after struggling herself for years to find vintage clothes in her size. “From my youth until now I have worn all sizes between 16-26 and always had a very limited selection of plus size clothing. When I got more into the topic of sustainability, I became more and more interested in vintage clothing. I’m a UK size 18, and have visited vintage shops all over Europe. I barely ever found anything in my size. This lead me to imagine how excluded people with a bigger size than mine must feel with having an even smaller amount of clothing to choose from. So in April 2020 I decided to take it into my own hands and offer vintage clothing to mid and plus size people”. Our teenage years profoundly shape us, and especially shape our relationship with our bodies. It can take a lifetime to recover from the excruciatingly awkward experience of being a young girl, unsure in her body, trying to buy clothes and literally having no options. More responsibility should be put on the fashion community to consider the way their sizing affects their customers body image—but that’s a conversation for another day. The problem of plus-size shoppers having limited choices isn’t helped by the lack of social awareness some ‘straight

size’ shoppers have. The tireless campaigns against fast-fashion brands only further alienates those who have no choice. This was highlighted in the media when the people queuing outside Primark after its closure during lockdown were ridiculed—Primark is one of the most accessible shops in both price tag and size inclusion. “They [plus-size shoppers] are mocked for consuming fast fashion and how they dare to work with these exploiting brands … it is often forgotten how plus size people have always been ignored by the fashion industry. They simply don’t have alternatives to fast fashion brands. While getting upset that plus size people still heavily consume and advertise fast fashion, people forget that the access to sustainable fashion choices

is very limited for plus size people”. It’s clear that the fight against fast-fashion must go hand in hand with the fight for inclusive and accessible clothing for all. Until we all have more sustainable clothing options that we can also all afford, all of the blaming of fast-fashion brands is pointless, as many of us just can’t do anything else. The campaigning is a facade over a much deeper issue ultimately rooted in the hatred of the lower classes and fat people that sill plagues our society. Thrifting is a privilege. Shopping at expensive sustainable brands is a privilege. Buying designer is a privilege. Once we realise the problem lies with the exploitative corporations, and not with the shopper, then maybe we will see change. X


Drama in a crisis Can the theatre industry survive the scourge of Covid-19?

March 20, 2020 saw the closure of theatres and other entertainment venues across the UK; a national lockdown followed on March 23, while a further, lighter lockdown was introduced at the beginning of November, set to last a month. Being one of the UK’s biggest revenue earners, theatres took one of the worst hits from the Coronavirus Pandemic. Society of London Theatre figures show that nearly 15.3 million people flooded to the stalls to see a show in 2019, generating £799 million, one million more than Broadway. Coronavirus saw the closure of everything, putting daily life on hold: supermarket shelves were empty, there was no work nor play. However, through the darkness communities have harmonised during this time; the Facebook group ‘Musical Theatre West End to Broadway’ has 2,000 members, one of which is Rod Fine, who is also a keen performer, and wants to help: “I watched a number of online staged performances and concerts, either buying tickets or donating if they’re free. It has helped and is the best we can do at the moment.” Online content has really been a saviour for most industries during this time. Musical Theatre ‘God’ Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber has twenty musicals to his name, selling more than 300 million tickets worldwide. Lord Webber has been a keen activist in getting theatres to reopen, he became the ‘Composer In Isolation’ on Instagram, performing songs from his grand piano in his living room. People rejoiced to hear the chords of Memory or Any Dream Will Do, and Lord Webber didn’t stop there. A YouTube channel was created to stream Lord Webber’s shows every Friday, which are only available for 24 hours, bringing the West End worldwide. The channel now has 1.5 million subscribers and 25 million views collectively; it gave people hope and kept the theatre fire burning inside many around the world. Lord Webber has been a campaigner to try and get the doors open again; he even took part in a Covid-19 vaccine trial. In July, he proposed that a new Korean style of personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used in theatres During the height of the pandemic Seoul’s Interpark Hall doors stayed open 60

playing Phantom of the Opera: “If this is green-lit, it would be relatively easy to equip London theatres with this stuff for much less than it would cost to bring it from Korea,” Lord Webber said. “Theatre is so crucial to everyone and to get our industry back on its feet we have to start somewhere,” Nathan Deane, a performing student at Brighton Academy, told us. “Lord Webber is trying as hard as he can to get us back to where we were, and even though there will still be some sceptics about safety, people need the arts and theatre, and if we can sit in pubs with our mates, we should absolutely be able to sit in a theatre!” October brought a glimmer of hope as some theatres temporarily opened their doors again (The National Theatre being one). The month also saw the introduction of the Theatre Channel by the Theatre Café. Situated in Covent Garden, it is a haven for any musical theatre fan, with the walls covered in memorabilia and a honeypot for any West End star or fan. The Theatre Channel is,“A brandnew web series showcasing well-known musical theatre classics. Performed by the cream of British and international musical theatre talent, each episode is staged and filmed with high production values and feature a mix of 5-6 standalone performances.” Each episode costs £12. Les Mis Staged Concert starring Alife Boe, Michael Ball, Carrie Hope Fletcher and Matt Lucas is returning to the stage over the festive period; tickets sold out in minutes. Rod Fine is one of the lucky ones with tickets: “We’re looking forward to it, though with a certain amount of trepidation as well. How will the theatre handle audience movement: getting in and out, toilets, bars. I’m hopeful that individual audience members will be sensible about it all, so it doesn’t feel too stressful.” It is also essential to help local theatres; the West End may have the likes of Lord Webber, but what about Widow Twankey? On October 13, the Government announced it was investing £257 million to help save 1,385 theatres, Colchester’s Mercury Theatre received £250,000, and its executive director Steve Mannix called the fund a “vital lifeline” and said: “It offers a glimmer of hope. For the first time in many months, we all can start to look

Words & Images: Emma Gregory

“If we can sit in pubs with our mates, we should absolutely be able to sit in a theatre”

to the future with a sense of optimism and creativity.” Over this unprecedented time, the Mercury have been doing what they can to add some normality to the local community’s lives: “We have launched Mercury Online, a series of events for freelancers and workshops and readings and performances for the public too, we even held an online festival,” Michelle Emmerson-Grey said. The festival showcased breakthrough talent from the East of England.

For many small local theatres Christmas pantomime is the main source of income each year, and the Mercury in no different. They have recently announced they will be streaming 2019’s panto production of Cinderella online for a small fee (£6). It will be able to be streamed into care homes, hospitals or anywhere that has internet access. Optimistically, every theatre is following The Mercury’s lead and choosing to stream one of their productions to stay buoyant during these testing times.

The rest of 2020 and the foreseeable future will be difficult for theatres —an industry which relies on big crowds is not ideal for social distancing. The smaller theatres are going to rely on donations or government furlough funding whilst the West End tries to open its doors to waiting audiences after the month-long lockdown. There is hope for all arts and entertainment venues in the spring as they are planning to open their doors once again, this time, it’s hoped, for good. X



AND COVID Copenhagen Fashion Week went ahead despite the pandemic, giving pointers to the future of the industry 62

Words and images: Sophie Victoria Brown

Travelling during the pandemic: it’s a bit of a tricky topic, but if you got invited to attend Copenhagen Fashion Week, would you say no? Neither did I. I’d received a number of show and presentation invites, as well as press passes from designers and was faced with a moral dilemma of travelling abroad during the pandemic—a time of uncertainty, mainly due to the British Government’s lax attitude toward handling the virus, in addition to the inability to introduce effective measures in a timely manner. I decided that this was an opportunity that I could not pass up—attending a fashion week has been a lifelong dream of mine, alongside travelling abroad on my own. Arriving at Copenhagen Airport, I already felt much safer than I did in London. There were temperature checks at the airport and you had to prove to the Danish Border Force that you had a viable reason to be travelling to Denmark; already more measures than the British Government had implemented at UK’s airports at that point. I think it’s also necessary to point out that the Government failed to close the UK’s borders, and myself, along with countless others, were not checked or tested for symptoms, nor were we briefed on what we should be doing and where we should be going when we got to the airport. It’s almost as if Boris wants to make life harder than it needs to be. Deaths from Covid-19 in Denmark were strikingly lower than they were in the UK at that point, with 156 new cases on the day of my arrival and 620 deaths in total. Masks weren’t required on public transportation—buses, trains and the metro system—unless you were travelling during peak time, and all the events I attended were either socially distanced or adhering to the Danish Government’s

rules regarding gatherings of no more than 200 people. The Copenhagen Fashion Week team made it crystal clear to show-goers that the necessary Covid-19 precautions would be taken throughout the fashion week, and ensured meticulously that brands were following the guidelines from the Danish Government. On the official CPHFW website, they said: “Copenhagen has opened up to the degree that feels almost normal, but we understand concerns of people who are still living under strict lockdown. Copenhagen Fashion Week naturally follows the authorities’ recommendations concerning reducing the risk of Covid-19 and takes all the necessary precautions when conducting our own activities during Copenhagen Fashion Week. We encourage and expect all brands to do the same, making sure all events are adapted to the applicable Covid-19 rules and recommendations”. Everyone adhered, seemingly with no fuss, no drama, and no anti-mask protests. I attended four presentations during my four days in Copenhagen: Ganni, Mfpen, Rains and Malaikaraiss. All of these took place in different locations across Copenhagen and all brands managed to make their events Covid-19 safe. Ganni’s exhibition was held as a tour of their new collection through a building in groups of ten, and all headphones for the interactive experience were sanitised before every group. The staff at the Rains exhibition handed out disposable masks to every attendee, and the venue was full of leafy green plants to give it that ‘al fresco,“we have super clean air here” vibe’. Very fashion week. One of Rains staff members gave us his thoughts about the social restrictions: “Wearing a mask gets annoying sometimes, when you have a hard time hearing people. I don’t have actual hearing prob-


lems, but I like being able to see people’s faces when they talk to me. You can read them better that way. I am happy to do whatever is necessary to stop the spread of coronavirus so we can get back to a normal life. Our government is doing a good job, but I worry what it will be like in the winter. Danish winters are harsh, and that we [Danes] might find ourselves in a bad situation due to a second peak”. I was invited to two private viewings, known in the industry as “re-sees” for press and buyers who were unable to attend the runway shows. My experience in the Munthe and Bau mund Pferdgarten showrooms were the most relaxed of all my encounters during my time in Copenhagen. It was very much a oneto-one experience, walking around and chatting to the showroom manager, being left alone to take pictures and notes of the collection. What struck me was how Copenhageners were dealing with the virus; during my time in the city Denmark’s coronavirus cases didn’t top more than 171 new positive tests per day, whereas the UK’s daily cases went above 1,000 consistently during the three day period. From the perspective of a Londoner, talking so freely with people—without masks—was like temporarily living in a post-covid-19 world, where everything was normal. In May of this year, Denmark banned all large gatherings, closed down all non-essential shops and venues across the country and actively discouraged people from using public transport unless necessary—something that the UK implemented. Why were Denmark’s cases so low? I met with Dyveke Bahnson Angelo, Munthe’s showroom manager on my third day in Copenhagen, and she discussed the pandemic with me whilst showing me around the SS21 collection. “Covid changed this season in a way that no one could have predicted. The [Dan64

ish] government handled it well because the prime minister locked everything down so early. We are lucky that we can even be here talking together, and the season didn’t get cancelled completely. That would have caused huge issues because most of our fashion houses in Denmark are small, and known only within Scandinavia, it would have taken a huge toll on their finances. We went from planning our huge show, which usually has at least 200 to 300 people in the audience, [depending on the venue] a huge production team and countless models to having a handful of models presenting our collection in front of a camera and not a live audience. It’s been a strange season,” Angelo said. “I think what makes it easier is that we have a culture of cycling, meaning that more people are out in the air, instead of being packed on the metro services and buses. People here seem to be more considerate of others, which is something that I have not seen during trips to other parts of Europe.” I was living a life in Copenhagen that was not comprehensible in London at that time. A temporary life, in fairness, but it raised the issue of why Danes were finding it easier to stick to the rules than us Brits. There were also a handful of digital shows that I watched from the comfort of my Axel Guldsmeden Hotel bed, including Stine Goya, Whyred, Munthe, Baum und Pferdgarten and the iconic Danish fashion house: Samsøe Samsøe. The digital shows provided fashion lovers from around the world the opportunity to attend the shows of their favourite Scandinavian brands in real-time, whilst being sustainable and covid-19 safe. As the pandemic went on and affected more countries putting some into strict lockdowns, the future of fashion photographers around the world sud-

denly became uncertain. Michéla Casey, a London-based fashion photographer, told me about her original plans to go to Copenhagen for the SS21 season. “Covid threw multiple spanners in the works us. We’re [the photographers] used to being in huge groups together, socialising, touching each other’s cameras and other equipment. Most of us usually meet up to go out for dinner and drinks when all the shows are done. I know Denmark handled the virus pretty well, and going out with everyone would have been possible, but I didn’t find myself in a position where I didn’t want to be at risk. I don’t think it was worth it personally, because I knew that fashion week would always return. Missing one season wouldn’t have been the end of the world, it’s just a minor problem in life,” she told us. “The UK government definitely could have done more for London Fashion Week being one of the biggest events in the world. Whenever you hear ‘fashion season’, London is always included in that. It generates so much money and it is just an iconic week for British culture. The government has done little to nothing and should have at least allowed us to do a hybrid fashion week. It is annoying and disappointing, especially when emphasis was put on protecting football. Telling creatives to retrain in other fields to deal with the impact of the lockdown is disgusting, considering how much money we contribute to this country’s economy every year.” Boris Johnson wouldn’t retrain as a bus driver if he lost the election, so why should we have to retrain in something completely irrelevant to us? I didn’t get into an extortionate amount of debt for a degree if I can’t use it, just because the government says so. It’s criminal.” I attended one of the only physical fashion shows at Copenhagen Fashion Week. This was Henrik Vibskov presenting his menswear and womenswear collection for the new season, in a covid aware, picnic-esque set up. The show was executed efficiently, with adequate social distancing, and the chance for a nobody like myself to sit in the front row. Henrik Vibskov’s show operated on a time slot basis, allowing as many people as possible to attend the show in the safest way. The audience was greeted with a note on their “seats”: “TAKE A SEAT! Welcome to the Henrik Vibskov Spring Summer collection—‘The Horse Power Takeaway’. Let’s help each other to stay safe—following the covid-19 guidelines to prevent infections. Keep a distance, and please respect the time slots!”. This was typical of the upbeat and enthusiastic Danish attitude towards handling the pandemic (and rightly so).

It put things into perspective for me—if only British people as a whole had taken coronavirus restrictions more seriously than we did, we would be in a position where our world-famous fashion week is digital—for the first time in London Fashion Week’s history? A country that can allow its Fashion Week to go ahead because it has coronavirus numbers under control is somewhere I want to stay. I found it hard to tear away from the Copenhagen bubble, and almost missed my return flight as I knew I would be coming back to a place where we don’t take a pandemic seriously as we should. Despite the restrictions, high covid-19 cases and deaths compared to other countries I was lucky to be given a

glimpse into what the future of fashion could look like: fashion weeks following hybrid schedules of both physical and digital shows. It showed that we should re-think the way we manage crowds, when the end to social distancing is nowhere in sight. What we as fashion lovers need to remember is that the catwalk is king and it will make its comeback in the future. Coronavirus cases and deaths in the UK continues to climb into a peak for the second time this year, so many smaller brands need to stay afloat and the likelihood of the catwalk returning for the winter is looking bleak. A stab straight in the back of the countless British fashionistas waiting for fashion week to make its return. X 65

Putting Portugal on the musical map The Palmers launched a label during lockdown in a bid to raise awareness of their country’s music

Words: Sebastian George Image: The Palmers

The last year for the music industry has been a troublesome one from Covid-19, lockdowns & the loss of many venues to several scandals (such as Burger Records) that have ended labels & spit-up bands, the future of independent music has been in jeopardy. Despite the multiple setbacks the music world have experienced, musicians are still fighting to keep it alive. The Palmers are one of these bands. Based in Portugal, I talk to them about their experience of the music industry there and starting their own label. The Palmers were founded by friends Cláudia Sofia, Vasco Cavalheiro, and Raquel Custódio after being inspired by seeing Portuguese band The Sunflowers live. In the three years since the band started, they’ve released several singles & eps, toured Europe, and started their own label. With their unique take on punk & grunge rock, they have managed to leave a mark on the European music scene. “In Portugal, we have a good variety of bands, we have a lot of new bands coming, we maybe have never had so much quality as we have now,” Raquel tells me over Skype. She is in The Palmer’s rehearsal & recording studio in Caldas da Rainha, with both of her bandmates. “In every style of music, you can find great artists. This is an amazing thing for a country so small compared to the UK, USA, or Spain, for example.” Yet even with this renaissance of music in the country, Portuguese bands are struggling. While international festivals such as Nos Primavera take place in the country each year, there is little support or encouragement for local bands and events. Vasco explains “it’s kinda strange, people in Portugal don’t like local bands” Rauqual added ” it likes a way of thinking ‘they are Portuguese they’re not as good as the foreign band.’” “I think labels don’t look at the Portuguese music scene, as we’re a small country & we don’t have economic power, so they don’t look at as in the same way they look at UK Bands for example”. Yet Raquel is hopeful for the future “things are changing & people are finally paying attention to Portuguese bands.” Before Covid-19 hit Europe the band had been planning to tour the UK ”We love to live the experience of playing the UK, because our single talks about Glasgow. & we saw people really support new bands, people go to the concert to listen

them here & try to change the mentality in our city, and maybe live session, putting them on Youtube, help people find out more about the Portuguese music scene.” Chinquilho isn’t just an opportunity for the Portuguese music scene to grow but to offer a space for marginalised groups to come and create. Cláudia & Raquel both hoped that the label could give young women the confidence and chance to create music. Having both experienced harassment due to their gender, they understand the need for a safe space for women in the industry. “Lot of girls come to us at the end of gigs saying “I play the drums, I play the guitar, but I don’t have the confidence to release songs, & there is that feeling in Portugal we can change that in a good way. We need more girls to play in Portugal. It’s really important.” Despite the setbacks of covid-19 and geography, the future of The Palmers and Portugal music as a whole is an exciting one. The band has a plan and the drive to help develop the reputation of Portugal’s music scene. X


to what we’re doing”. The band has found that audience in Portugal lacked that appetite. Cláudia explains “sometimes the people are attached to the past and don’t want to look forwards, & sometimes that not very good for new bands”. While Covid-19 meant touring was not possible, the band was able to take advance of the situation. “It was good for us as we could try new things. We could try recording new things in the studio by ourself, with lots of time instead of going to a studio and paying and being like we’re got to two days to make this” Raquel explains. Chinquilho Records (Chinquilho is a traditional Portuguese game) developed during Portugal’s lockdown, from their frustration with the music scene in Portugal. Varso said, “We were kinda tired of asking people to release our songs, and all that process so we thought it was a good idea to start a label & release it ourselves, & to maybe record other bands”. For the Palmers, Chinquilho Records isn’t just a label but a chance to build a community for Portugal musicians. Raquel explains “we want to get bands to come to our city & try and book gigs for

This is just a modern rock song Belle & Sebastian on life as musicians in lockdown

“You go down to Shieldhall, and you can see all the cruise ships dock in the Clyde, it’s really quite surreal”. While this might seem like a sight of the new normal, for Stevie Jackson, it acts as a bitter reminder of how quickly life changed for him & his band members in Belle & Sebastian. The Glasgow’s indie icons spent 2019 hosting a festival cruise “the Boaty Weekender” in the Mediterranean, as well as touring Europe & America. Their globetrotting was meant to continue this year, with the band travelling to America to record a new album in April. ,The pandemic put a stop to it. Instead of mourning the lost opportunity, the band decided to release an album from their tours last year. “We’re not in the same boat, but we are in the same ocean,” Stevie Jackson tells me over the phone from Glasgow. “I’m definitely more privileged then most; it’s been a lot harder some than for others. Not being able to play has definitely affected us as a band, though as it’s our main source of income.” Touring has always been a love of Stevie. “Even when it was sleeping in the back of a transit van back in the 90s, I love it. I don’t get those musicians who act like a chore. I love touring. I’m with my friends, performing, visiting new places, playing music”. As well as planning the new album, they’ve been occupied “I haven’t seen the band since March, but we’ve been in constant contact. We’ve been building a Covid friendly studio. It’s just a waiting game to start recording a new album as Glasgow is going back into lockdown on Friday. I’ve recently become a father, so I’ve been able to spend time with my son, which has been a benefit. I definitely have mix feelings towards lockdown.” Despite making an effort in the last few years to record their gigs, there were no plans to release a live album. “The band are more focused on moving forwards not looking back,” explains Stevie. “We were meant to record a new album in April in American which of course couldn’t happen, so we decided to release the album.” Taking inspiration from classic live albums like Yes’s Yessongs and Thin Lizzy’s Live and Dangerous, What To Look For In Summer offers the listener an idea of what to expect from a night spent with Belle and Sebastian. The album covers songs from the band’s nearly 25-year-long

career, including deeper cuts like “Beyond The Sunrise” to their most popular track “The Boy With The Arab Strap.” I ask Stevie how they chose the track listing “It was mainly Stuart (Murdoch the band’s front man) in charge. Even though it was recorded at many different gigs, we wanted to be like a gig. While we have a different setlist each night, the track listing does reflect a typical gig.” It allowed the band to show off new versions of old favorites “I try to promote certain songs that sounded different from the album. Fox in the Snow is a good example, we play it live, and I think it’s the same as the album & then I listen back to the album and I realise that it doesn’t have a string arrangement only violin and guitars. Beyond the Sunshine is completely different from the album as well.” While Covid-19 is certainly leaving its mark on the industry, Stevie is unsure what that impact could look like. Having been involved in music for over 25 years, the industry he started in is barely recognizable to the one we have now. “When Belle & Sebastian started, it was all about the records. Now no-one is buying them & the only way to make money is touring. It’s not about the money, but you still got to pay the mortgage. Thankfully, when records stopped being important, festivals & touring became more popular. When I was a kid, there were only three festivals, Glastonbury, Leeds, & Reading. Now

Words and images: Sebastian George

there are millions.” We touched on issues musicians have had to face in the last few years. The industry as a whole has become more money-focused, and many grassroots venues have closed, even before this year, independent music was already in crisis. “I do worry about the music industry only for rich kids now though.” While for many musicians and music fans live streams have been a lifeline, Stevie himself has yet to join the trend either as a listener or a musician. “It just seems distant, though I have bought tickets to see the Starry Sky live stream this weekend.” Talking to Stevie, it’s clear while the album could have easily been a filler in their discography it turned into what is clearly a labour of love for the band. While making good out of a terrible situation, they created a tribute to live music. From their early adoption of online forums to access fans (the Sinister mailing list), building their own studios, or creating their own festivals (the Bowlie weekenders) the band has always been able to adapt to a rapidly changing industry. The album acts as further proof of their ability to adapt to the times. While the world might to wait longer for new Belle & Sebastian music, we can find comfort and new ideas in the familiar. Belle & Sebastian’s new album “What To Look For In A Summer” is out on December 11 2020. X 67

Gonged out: Sound bathing and holistic healing A contemporary take on an ancient sound therapy

Hatha yoga, vinyasa yoga, craniosacral therapy, candle lit meditation- you name it, i’ve tried it. Although my experience with holistic treatments is limited, to date, if it doesn’t contain ibuprofen or paracetamol, it hasn’t really worked for me. With a second lockdown confirmed, my psyche is feeling slightly worse for wear, and tired of my natural failed attempts to ease my own anxieties. I want to try something new and extraordinary. So I say no to banana bread, no to yoga and no to embroidery- it is time for my first gong bath. What exactly is a gong bath? You might be picturing yourself in a big tub, totally spaced out, with lotus flowers floating around you, I know I did. Wrong. Tess Agnew, fitness and wellbeing blogger for The FitBits, explains that, “A gong bath is an ancient type of sound therapy that’s been practiced for thousands of years. The term ‘bath’ signifies being bathed in sound waves—there’s no water or touching involved. Fully clothed, you lay on a yoga mat, for 90 minutes.” Gong baths are totally immersive and a total mind and body experience. Tess went on to say, “Sound doesn’t just enter through your ears, the vibrations go through your whole body, massaging and stimulating you inside and out.” The gong itself is a large, thin copper plate, accompanied by a round hammer like drumstick. When skimmed and tapped against the disc, this creates deep earthy tones, descending you into profound relaxation. Gong baths possess a rich history, originating from south east Asia with the main gong-producing centers being Java, Annam, Burma and China. According to Devpreet Kaur, teacher of Kundalini Yoga and Meditation, “The gong has been used throughout history as a ceremonial and healing instrument. History claims its use in 4,000 B.C. to as far back as 16,000 B.C.” The fact that something originating from before christ, is so readily available to us today, made me want to experience a gong bath even more. Devpreet solidified my desire further with, “A gong bath is excellent therapy for depression, fatigue, feelings of separation, loneliness, anger, fear, hostility and many other conditions caused by a lack of balance and harmony in the body and mind.” Unfortunately, a few too many of those 68

boxes are ticked for me. So, last Saturday, instead of heading to the pub, I laid in a room with total strangers and immersed myself in a sound cocoon. My research led me to my local yoga studio, Zen Yoga Camberwell, ironically nestled between a booming bar and some tennis courts. This is where I met Alicia Davies, owner of Earth Song Sound Healing/ practising professional musician/ artist/ writer, who was drawn to sound healing after having suffered major life trauma of her own: “I discovered gong baths back in 2012 because the person I was seeing became terminally ill. It was a recommended healing treatment and I was going through a lot.” Alicia was skeptical prior to her very first gong bath, “I had tried all types of yoga and I just hated moving” (something I am in agreement with.) She thought she was in for another hoax holistic healing experience. Her initial expectations were proven right upon arrival, as the teacher: “Was such a hippy. Long hair and all.” Surprisingly, he had a thick cockney accent which she liked because, “He sort of separated the experience from all the other stereotypical holistic things I had tried.” So with Alicia feeling more at ease and less dubious, she allowed the cockney sound healer to guide her into what would turn into a new found love of hers. Alicia’s first gong bath left her body “ a state of pins and needles. I thought it was because I had been on the ground for so long, but it was much more than

Words & image: Lucy Pemberton

that. I well and truly let go of my body.” Afterwards, Alicia went to talk to the teacher to try and make some sense of what had just happened, “He just laughed at me because I literally couldn’t talk. He told me, ‘You have gong face.’ Some people can’t talk for 10 hours after a gong bath. Totally gonged out.’” “Some people can’t talk for 10 hours after a gong bath. Totally gonged out.”— Alicia Davies She went on to say, “It took me three hours to be able to string a sentence together. I sat in the park with a red bull and a sandwich before getting behind the wheel to drive myself home. I’m a percussionist but I knew I had to learn specifically more about gong baths after that.” Eight years later and Alicia is giving me my very first sound bath. 24 hours before my first gong bath, I tried to put myself in the best possible mindset. Eliminating all predispositions I had subconsciously held on to in regards to holistic healing. Rather fittingly, my gong bath was booked on the eve of Halloween, which just so happened to be a blue moon and the day lockdown 2.0 was announced. My free spirit was charged, and I was ready to try something new before being confined to just four walls again. To try and explain the experience, particularly in these times, is close to impossible. The studio was a wooden, tranquil haven that subtly followed every covid-19 requirement possible. My shoes were removed upon arrival, hands were sanitized and Alicia directed me to my

marked out, socially distanced gong-bed. Alicia was doing her very first gong bath live stream that evening for those at home, “Covid-19 has totally crushed me, just like so many small businesses. I am trying to adapt and it’s still meditation, but it’s not quite the same, you don’t get the vibrations via video call.” I was instructed to bring my own yoga mat, blanket, pillow and hot tea. In true amateur style, I left my pillow on the kitchen table, so resorted to using kitchen roll as my pillow. The class was of course made up of six, including Alicia herself. Two metres away from me was a lady who had a yoga mat that resembled more of a mattress, a blanketed gilet, a duvet and an eye mask. My kitchen roll pillow hardened at the sight of this. I was in a room full of regulars, which triggered my nerves slightly. At this point I questioned, “Why am I nervous?” Was it because I had to sign a declaration that stated I didn’t have a history of psychotic episodes? Or that the £20 I had forked out for this experience would be a total waste? Or maybe that I would be met with suppressed thoughts and feelings that I like to avoid regularly? I knew to be able to truly immerse myself, I had to let go of those nerves. I laid down, blanket, kitchen roll and tea equipped. Alicia started the practice off with a verbal meditation before using the gong, “Close your eyes. Imagine yourself in a forest at dusk, the sun leading you to complete serenity. Feel the damp soil beneath your feet and allow your chakras to flow.” This lasted for what felt like 20-30 minutes. Admittedly, I was peeking around, checking that this wasn’t actually a joke and that the stranger next to me wasn’t standing over me, ready to jump me. Perhaps slightly dramatic of me. It was only when Alicia started using the gong did I actually stop messing about in my head. The gong produced rich and sonorous vibrations that entered through my feet and exited through my head. The sound was almost eerie to begin with but once I let myself really feel it, the weight of my body dropped through the floor. I felt anchored by the core of the Earth. This was the first time I had ever checked out of my thoughts and checked in with my body. A deep whalelike song melted across the room and hugged me internally. It felt as though my

own body was creating the sounds and vibrations. The next thing I remember is the sound became soundless and I became thoughtless. I was happy that I wasn’t met with any kind of hallucinogenic horrors and that I just felt still. 90 minutes felt more like 30 minutes. I was totally gonged out. “A deep whale-like song melted across the room and hugged me internally.” Alicia ended the sound bath with a rainstick, which felt like it released my body from the hook of the gong, almost like breaking a circuit so you didn’t get a shock. I then sipped some peppermint tea which I burnt my tongue on. I didn’t feel it at first, as if my mind was slightly delayed from my body. I didn’t feel lethargic or sedated. I felt refreshed, like I had just had my first night sleep after fighting off jet lag. I got talking to Layla*, a regular gong-bather of Alicias, about how she discovered this healing therapy, “I have been to every single one of Alicia’s baths. I started going because I heard that it can really help with past traumas. I usually cry most sessions but today I actually didn’t. Today I saw lots of colourful, warm energies. It is really hard to explain. I just feel this massive release.” “I have had amazing testimonials. From people who are in so much pain that they can’t even walk due to injuries, to being fully healed after one gong bath. People who have gone through immense trauma and allowed me to help release this pain” Alicia told me. I then learnt that the blanketed gilet lady also attends every bath, “She has been to gong baths all around the world and says mine are the best. That’s really amazing to hear.” You could tell Alicia’s

“I felt refreshed, like i had just had my first night sleep after fighting off jet lag.”

baths were special from the people that attended. They were loyal and unconventionally free-spirited. Hearing the testimonials of her class really put holistic healing into perspective for me. Something as simple as sound can both relieve and cure emotional and physical pain. Holistic practices are often not taken as seriously as traditional medicine. Taylor Mallory Holland, freelance writer specialising in healthcare, explains, “Holistic health is about caring for the whole person — providing for your physical, mental, spiritual, and social needs. It’s rooted in the understanding that all these aspects affect your overall health, and being unwell in one aspect affects you in others.” Unlike some healthcare professionals, “Doctors who take a holistic approach to health don’t just ask you about your symptoms. They ask about you — your overall health and your life — so they can make personalised recommendations to improve your wellness” Taylor continued. As of present day, the NHS offers limited holistic/complementary and alternative medicine (CAMs) resources. The NHS website claims, “When a person uses any health treatment, including a CAM, and experiences an improvement, this may be due to the placebo effect.” The ‘P’ word is not only something that damages Alicia’s whole career, but the reputation holistic treatments have wrongfully acquired. In a poll conducted via Instagram, 90% of 19-21 year olds answered “yes” to, “Do you believe in holistic healing?” along with 83% in agreement with, “Holistic practices should be offered more widely in today’s healthcare system.” With young adults being fed anti-anxiety meds like candy, surely this proves that holistic methods would be well received? I understand the skepticism surrounding holistic treatments. I have found myself questioning its legitimacy. We want quick fixes in a fast-paced world. But if the gong came before most modern day practises and medicines, and was used by your very ancestors, allowing you to be here today, why are we so skeptical of holistic healing? I encourage everyone to get their gong on as soon as they possibly can. X *Name was requested to be changed 69

Creatives in crisis Artists, designers and musicians discuss the future of their industry and the challenges posed by Covid

Words: Rene Dela Cruz Images: Brett Sayles/

The claims made by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, went viral when he said that musicians and others in the art sector “should retrain and find other jobs”. This came from an interview the Chancellor gave to ITV News on the 6 October. ITV News and politics account tweeted after the interview “@RishiSunak suggests musicians and others in the arts should retrain and find other jobs”. This claim became the headline of the story. The original tweet has since then been deleted by ITV, and the article in itself changed to reflect that the Chancellor’s comments were about employment in general and he was not aiming it specifically about the music and art sector. The headline now reads: “Rishi Sunak says people in ‘all walks of life’ are having to adapt for employment”. Chancellor Sunak said on Twitter: “An earlier @itvnewpoltics tweet falsely suggested I thought people in arts should retrain and find other jobs. I’m grateful they have now deleted this tweet.” Cyberfirst launched the campaign in 2019, showing a ballet dancer, barista and retail worker with the caption saying that their “next job could be in cyber”.“Fatima’s next job could be in cyber (she just doesn’t know it yet)” Before the campaign website was deleted, it went from “Rethink. Reskill.Reboot” to “If your career plan’s have been altered this year, you’re not alone.” Each year the Art Council commissions a report to showcase the contribution that the arts and culture industry makes to the UK economy using the data provided by the Office for National Statistics. The report states that in 2019 the arts and culture industry has grown £390 million in a year and now contributes £10.8 billion a year to the UK economy. It also contributes £2.8 billion a year of tax to the Treasury. The industry also provides 363,700 jobs. The Cultural Sector contributed £32.3 billion to the UK economy in 2018. The sub-sector of ‘Film, TV and Music’ made up three-fifths of this sector £21.3 billion. Statistics from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. So why is an industry powerhouse that brings in billions of pounds to the UK economy and employs hundreds of thousands being called into question? Should they need to think about re-

‘Inspired Through Sports’ working with team GB athletes and having worked as a photographer at many London Fashion Week events. “It’s not a job; it’s the love and passion we have as creatives for our talents whatever it may be to keeps us going even during this Covid time. I totally don’t agree with it; I don’t like the way the word retrain was used we shouldn’t stop what we’re doing and go work somewhere else. Find a way to adjust to this time I wouldn’t give up what I’m doing. I don’t believe you have to give up your skill or talent during this pandemic, just learn to be flexible and open.” “I don’t believe they’ve done enough, because even though they claim to have invested certain things in certain places. Many people haven’t felt this so-called investment and support they’ve supposedly given. It shows that they haven’t used an effective method of helping those in this industry especially considering the number of people affected. I’ve had to do it on my own.” Leonardo Soares, 23, singer/songwriter “It lets me express myself; that’s why it’s so important today. Especially during this lockdown, it allows me to for-


training and how important are they to society? Toju Bello, 22, videographer, photographer, artist, author, and musician “We have the impact of being able to inspire people and are able to portray the beauty of so many things that people may not realise or appreciate.” Being self-taught Toju has worked hard overfive years to make it in the industry. Having had the opportunities to work with artists like Lotto Boyzz’, Stormzy, Jacquees and Ama Lou, to name a few. Also working on the project

“If nothing is done, thousands of world-leading creative businesses are set to close their doors.”

get the moment, forget the crazy things happening right now. I hope that goes for everyone too.” “You always have to balance things I’ve performed at many pubs and cafes in Kingston, Wimbledon and Surbiton and busked all over. Of course, I get an income from that, but I’ve always been studying and had a part-time job.” “I think it was demeaning of them to think all of us don’t have other skills. We don’t need to hear that what people need now is support and clarity to know what to do next. They’re not being taken seriously.” Freelancers and independent creatives have often found it a struggle to earn in such a competitive industry even before Covid-19. Not everyone can adapt as quickly as Mr Soares and Mr Bello and those that can’t feel the government hasn’t been supporting them. Many of them have had to rethink their career paths to provide. A “Cultural Catastrophe” a projected £74 billion drop in revenue for the creative industry and a loss of 400,000 jobs as a result of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Oxford Economics was commissioned by the Creative Industries Federation to research the economic impact that Covid-19 will have on industries.

The report gives data for “music, performing and visual arts”. This sector is likely to face a loss of £11 billion in revenue, a fall of 54% resulting in a loss of 178,000 jobs. Other sectors are also projected to face huge losses: 58% for design and designer fashion, 57% for film, TV, video, radio and photography, 53% for craft, 44% for advertising and market research, 40% for publishing and 24% for architecture. In a press release by Caroline Norbury MBE, CEO, Creative Industries Federation, said: “Our creative industries have been one of the UK’s biggest success stories, but what today’s report makes clear is that, without additional government support, we are heading for a cultural catastrophe. If nothing is done, thousands of world-leading creative businesses are set to close their doors.” The effects of Covid-19 alongside the lack of Government support combined with the comments made by Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Cyber first ad campaign has not only caused outrage and discouragement of those already working in the industry but hopeful students who are training and studying hard to one day work in art and creative industry. Mila Dastugue, year 2 costume de-

sign student at UAL, “The arts, whether they are applied or not, are fundamental in our society. I don’t think people who are trying to discourage kids from becoming illustrators, photographers, stylists, etc., realise how our world would look without images. It is even the topic of a dystopian book. We, unfortunately, live in a time where arts are not valued.” “I want them to imagine how bad life would be without the arts... it is outrageous to hear the government telling someone who wants to commit to working in the creative industry to retrain. Choosing to work in this field in our time is an act of bravery that should be encouraged.” “These comments are also extremely elitist...The government making these comments is leading us towards a dark and sad world where the arts are only practised by a selective group of people coming from wealthy backgrounds. Just imagine one second if Alexander McQueen had retrained? If Adele had retrained? If Hitchcock had retrained? We would live in a poor world.” “Culture and arts make us who we are. The music we listen to, the movies we like which clothes we wear. Even what we think is influenced by art. Please don’t kill the creative industry.” X 71



The former Microsoft boss is the target of conspiracy theories and online campaign of vilification. What’s behind it? 72

Words: Alice Marshall Images: Eric Bridiers and World Bank Photo Collection

“Stop playing God. Evil man,” says FalconX79. “This man is crazy and dangerous,” says Toni7. “Software psycho,” “Unscrupulous businessman, false saviour”, “Osama Bin Laden had more fans in 2001 than Bill Gates does today,”—these are just a selected few of the comments found on Bill Gates, as I listen to his distinct voice from a Youtube video in which he discusses the importance of a Covid-19 vaccine. Don’t you think it’s ironic that he created the very platform that people are likely using to attack him? Bill Gates is one of the richest people in the world. It seems likely that we would have at least an inkling of an opinion on him. Whether you put yourself into the category of those who like to spread a Mr Burns-eque archetype (in which he wickedly rubs his hands together as he watches people suffer) or the category who genuinely believes that he is an earnest philanthropist; we all have to agree on one thing… he is probably the most vilified man in the world. But why? “He’s not a sincere philanthropist, let’s put it that way,” said Keri, a 23 year old Neuroscience student from Brighton. Keri had been attending anti 5g rallies for a while when I spoke to her. She wasn’t afraid to exert her passion through a megaphone as she would prowl through the streets of London with a small but strong group of other protesters, all fearful of the same concepts: global human surveillance. “You’ve been indoctrinated,” she shouts, “we need to defend our freedom and save our rights. No more lies, no more lockdowns, no more masks… we need to know the truth.” Other anti-maskers clap and nod approvingly behind her, one of them being a child. The placards all have a similar theme and you’ve got to find humour in the fact that a lot of them are telling Bill

Gates to stick his vaccine up his ass. “I do not consent to being called a conspiracy theorist because I question government policies and decisions,” Keri adds. This is a reasonable request, but some would say that there’s a difference between being a passionate skeptic and believing in conspiracies with no credible source. When asked about which media had been consumed among her group, she’s quick to praise David Icke, a semi-famous Youtuber and former footballer who has openly declared that he believes the world is being run by shape-shifting reptilians. He even gave his own speech at the protest. Sometimes pragmatism can come across as condescending. We all have opinions and without a diplomatic conversation these theories can become somewhat extreme; it creates a division in its finest form. Having been a skeptic on pretty much everything my entire life, I can understand why these theories are making people want to pull the hairs out from their skin. Bill Gates is the face of public health. He is rich and he is famous. He’s got his hands in a lot of pies. It’s hardly surprising that he’s become a target for those who are paranoid about inevitable doses of corruption that poison our society, but it’s a wonder as to whether we’re challenging the right people. We’ve seen it before with the Rothchilds, when anti-Semitic conspiracy theories resurfaced in the 21st century. These suggest that the Jewish family is another example of Jews trying to control the world. Which had been the credible source? There wasn’t one. In fact it all began when a pamphlet spread across Europe, claiming Nathan Rothschild had exclusive involvement in the Battle of Waterloo. The fact that these theories became so

popular suggests that people are prepared to believe anything, so long as it’s politically charged. By taking this into account, we’re able to ponder as to why Gates might be the new Nathan Rothschild. Much of the scrutiny that the BMGF (Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) has faced has usually seemed to have a political agenda. Perhaps the most concerning theory is when Gates was accused of testing vaccines on children in India and Africa without consent, leading to thousands of disabilities. In a 2018 paper it was suggested that 496,000 children were left severely disabled or dead after being administered a “dodgy” polio vaccine. Research suggested that those who suffered NPAFP (non-polio acute flaccid paralysis) had increased since the vaccine’s administration. This is a worrying statistic. Much of the rhetoric surrounding this issue is whether Gates, who is not a licensed doctor, should have such influence in global health policies and the administration of vaccines. We should be wary before we assume the worst. “It is true that the observed incidence of NPAFP had increased in the late 2000’s and has stayed relatively high, but this doesn’t mean that the polio vaccine was necessarily the cause,” said Abbas Panjwani, a writer for independent fact checking charity FullFact. “It’s worth noting that the polio vaccine can itself result in cases of ‘vaccine-associated paralytic polio’ according to the World Health Organisation, but the rate is incredibly low. Approximately 1 in 2.7 million doses of the polio vaccine are associated with paralytic polio.” Articles falsely claiming that Gates had been on trial were widely shared. They stated that BMGF had been “kicked out of India”. The truth is that they continue to collaborate and support their 73

family welfare systems, and the money they invest is largely spent on building healthy and peaceful communities, not just the administration of vaccines. I found someone to talk to about the conspiracies and why they had become so apparent. Micheal (I’ve changed his name, here) is a Labour voting landscaper from Bristol and he believes in a much more sinister version of this theory; he doesn’t just think that Bill Gates has invented a load of dodgy vaccines, he’s convinced that it was done entirely on purpose. “He’s openly stated that he wants to reduce the population by 80%, and he’s vaccinating the poor people so he can get rid of them first. Covid is just the next step,” he types, matter-of-factly. Although Gates has spoken about the correlations between environmentalism and mass population, there is no evidence to suggest he wants to kill anybody. The likely explanation is that somebody has picked up on an opportunity to make him look like a merciless killer. In early May, a doctored image depicting Gates standing in front of “the Center for Global Human Population Reduction” was shared more than 600 times on Facebook. The image garnered the attention of people who believe that Gates is running his work and philanthropy on a theme of mass depopulation through vaccinations and abortion. The very fact that abortion is included in this discourse just suggests that it is followed by those with right-leaning agendas. It doesn’t stop there. People all over the world have succumbed to a belief that Gates is enforcing a law by which people will have to bow down to a mandatory vaccine, and that this will be the “new normal”. Many of those will act as if Gates himself invented the concept of a mandated vaccine, but the truth is that government officials and other private sectors have been pushing for mandatory vaccines for centuries. In fact, the first compulsory vaccination was introduced in the UK in 1853, through the 1853 Vaccination Act. The law required all children to be vaccinated against smallpox, and if parents refused? Hefty fine. It’s not a policy that is exclusive to the UK. In certain US states, children aren’t allowed to enrol into schools without showing proof of vaccinations, and this is the case across Australia. Since 2010, Italy has added ten vaccinations to their mandatory vaccine list. If the concern is over mandatory vaccinations, or the control of people’s liberties in this sense, then it is not Bill Gates who we should be challenging. It is each individual governing body who makes those decisions. Have the liberals been duped? Let’s just imagine for a second that Bill Gates is sincere. “He’s read more books on 74

global poverty, environmentalism and technology than any of us will in our entire lives,” says SafariNorm1 on Reddit. It’s in a thread dedicated to die hard fans of Gates, but he/she’s kind of got a point. Is it far-fetched to assume that a billionaire could also have a dose of integrity? We should consider that he dedicates his waking life to his philanthropy, and whether he has a sinister agenda or not, he has improved the lives of millions. An area that Gates is due praise is his involvement in developing the Tiger Toilet. These toilets require no traditional flushing and they’re not even hooked up to a sewage system. They promote an odourless solution to other compost toilets and they don’t breed mosquitoes, even the most humid of climates. Worms are used as compost and this means that the water and sewage systems are less toxic, thus changing lives. To date, more than 4,000 Tiger Toilets have been installed across third world cities and the BMGF has invested more than $4.8 million into the project. This means that Gates has helped impoverished communities across the globe by developing innovative systems to give them clean water, reducing a horrendous mortality rate caused by diarrhea from lack of safe sewage systems in the developing world. He has quite literally invested hundreds of millions of pounds in attempting to improve the livelihoods of those who haven’t been lucky enough to own a flushing toilet. Perhaps this admirable invention wouldn’t have come around if Gates didn’t have such a passion for innovative technology, and it is his passion in innovative technology that has also made him a target. One of the more recent theories, which is endorsed and spread by David Icke, is that Gates wants to inject us all with biometric chips. “They will introduce an immunity passport in chips. People will receive them after they take the vaccine, and if people don’t have this then it will restrict their movement and travel, some might not be able to return to school or work,” says Robinson. She believes that Covid-19 is a hoax, and that all of it has been made up to cover up the bigger picture. The head of the Russian Communist Party described it as “a covert mass chip implantation which may in time resort to under the pretext of a mandatory vaccine against the coronavirus.” These rumours began to spread when Gates said in an interview that we should eventually get “digital certificates”, but nowhere had microchips been mentioned. In fact, Gates later went on to say that “the reference to ‘digital certificates’ relates to efforts to create an open-source digital platform with the goal of expanding access to safe, home-based testing.

If we look at the facts, it is much more likely that Gates has a passion for his extensive efforts in making the world a better place. HIV, malaria, neglected tropical diseases, pneumonia, tuberculosis, polio, diarrheal diseases; these are just a few of the many obstacles that we as a society have to face, and Gates has pumped billions into all of them. “If he wants to kill everyone, then why has he said on multiple occasions that he wants to completely eliminate malaria?” asks RLDKA, another Gates Reddit fan. RLDKA asks a plausible question. In 2017 it was estimated that 435,000 deaths had been a result of malaria. The seriousness of this disease is unscrupulous, killing children slowly and painfully every minute. To date, BMGF has granted $2.9 billion to combat malaria, with an extra $2 billion to the Global Fund. This is largely why malaria cases have been reduced by a whole half since 2000. “We concentrate our resources in areas where our efforts can make an impact and save lives,” says the BMGF. Source—https://www.gatesfoundation. org/what-we-do/global-health/malaria Even though Gates has always shown a passion for the environment, this side to him has not always worked in his favour, and last year he was accused of spending a whopping £500million on the first green superyacht. It was even reported in The Telegraph, notably a right leaning paper, that “the software tycoon has commissioned the world’s first hydrogen-powered superyacht, in a $500million signal of his belief that investment in new clean technology is the best way to cut carbon emissions”. It was later debunked by Sinot, the superyachts maker. They made it very clear that the project had absolutely no connection to Gates and that the superyacht hadn’t even reached its final stages of design. “To be fair, even if he did buy that hydrogen superyacht, he’d still be buying into something pioneering green technology. Besides that, if I was rich, I’d be rocking a superyacht, let alone a hydrogen powered one… no questions asked.” said Larley Hane, 32, from London in a Facebook comments thread. Okay, we get it. He didn’t buy the yacht. But what has he actually done to help decrease carbon emissions? Quite a fair bit. In 2006 Gates founded TerraPower, a nuclear power reactor. They are remarkably different to anything we use now. They switch off every time there are signs of a spill, so you can throw the chance of another Chernobyl out of the window. They rely on an entirely new source of nuclear energy, it’s called a “travelling wave reactor”. Radioactive wastes, which often sit in wastelands unused, can be a crucial source for this

energy. This renewable energy alone could light up cities for up to eight hundred years. You can learn more about it here: The project was so promising and refined that Gates had entered into a contract with China, they were going to roll out the reactors in numbers. It wasn’t until Trump got into a toxic, vacuous trade war with the president that the contract was pulled beneath their feet. This alone makes one wonder, where was the interest in these issues beforehand? Where was the passion for human trafficking, facial recognition surveillance, social control issues, political incompetence if not corruption all along? Why are we protesting about it now? In 2017 it was estimated that 435,000 deaths had been a result of this disease that takes its power in third world Africa. To date, his foundation has granted $2.9 billion to combat malaria with an additional $2 billion to the Global Fund to work on the disease in other areas. He advocates the importance of the continuation of investments in fighting the disease, and every year he donates millions of bedding nets as mosquitos are most likely to attack in the night when people are asleep. I’ll mention it again: since 2000, deaths from malaria have been reduced by half. This miraculous improvement is not to be coupled with the efforts of any governing body, but the philanthropic work that has been put into it. Gates has also committed more than $3 billion in HIV grants to well established organisations across the world. Since 2000, childhood deaths have decreased by an impressive 43%, along with 29% less of mothers dying at birth. Gates’ philanthropy often seems to be focused on some of the hardest hit third worlds. This is admirable, as it is where our governments have failed. His strategies often involve supporting thriving in the community, in turn optimising

prevention and treatment of serious and acute illnesses. In an internet age, any opinion can gain traction regardless of veracity. It just needs to seem intelligent. There are lots of people who are able to articulate something persuasively without it being true. I’d probably be able to convince someone that the Queen was born a man if I really put my mind to it. Well meaning people from the “left” have been conned, and though they think they’re creating a culture of resistance for the right reasons, they’re just discrediting the movements that address a real global threat. We are experiencing mass extinction, climate change and environmental devastation. We are having to experience poverty and deprivation like never before, wrought by the final stages of a disastrous capitalist system. The theories surrounding Bill Gates often come from alt-right sources, displaying an agenda none other than to push forward the conservative, “Trump-saviour” notion. It is the result of lazy research combined with the utter confusion and chaos that the modern world can instill. Understandable perhaps, but must we be so complacent? “It’s a grotesque, collective delusion. I think so many people are now incapable of critical thinking, they cannot discern reality from wishful thinking or ridiculous conspiracy. We are becoming a species governed by emotion and not intellect,” says Jules, a 47-year-old musician from London. Much conspiracy is created to distract us from real crimes and misdemeanors. They’re like a magician’s sleight of hand trick. Misdirection is a powerful tool,” says Robert, 52 and an avid reader of The Guardian’s posts on Facebook. He’s right. It seems as though the very individuals who become infatuated with conspiracy theories, the ones who tell us to stop living our lives in fear, actually harbour and instil much more fear than the rest of us. X 75

Battling homelessness in lockdown Charities call for more resources to help support London's rough sleepers this winter

Words: Darnell Christie Images: Evstyle/ & Barons Court Project

In recent years, homelessness has consistently been highlighted as an area of rising concern throughout the UK. In a year that has seen unprecedented changes to social interaction, the presence of Covid-19 continues to pose a serious challenge in combating homelessness. After the announcement of a second national lockdown in England, many homeless charities now believe that rough sleepers are even more vulnerable. Cold winter weather coupled with a reduction of homeless support services, due to dwindling budgets and new government restrictions on social gatherings, mean that this winter could be the toughest yet for thousands of rough sleepers. Josh, a young person from southwest London, had been sleeping on the streets for a while before he was eventually linked with New Horizon Youth Centre, a day centre helping to support homeless young people in central London. Due to his inability to be deemed ‘statutory homeless’—a homelessness status in which a rough sleeper is owed a duty of care by a local authority—Josh was unable to get the help he needed from his council and continued to stay rough sleeping as a consequence. Since New Horizon’s youth-specific outreach team found him, Josh has been receiving support from the charity throughout the coronavirus pandemic but is still looking for somewhere to stay due to a lack of available housing. “I was made to leave the place I was staying in sad circumstances”, Josh told Artefact. “During lockdown, I was working as a carer, but I was sleeping on the streets. It’s been a fight to keep that going…at night you wait and wait for someone from outreach who say they come to see you and then they don’t. You’re just stuck and unsafe.” Between July and September this year, homeless outreach teams recorded 1,901 people sleeping rough for the first time in London alone, according to a report by the Greater London Authority released in October. The largest distribution of rough sleepers was noted in key parts of central London, including boroughs such as Westminster, City of London and Camden according to the report. Phil Kerry, who is the CEO of New Horizon told Artefact that hundreds of

New Horizon and Centrepoint— another youth homeless charity—have partnered up and are calling for the government to make age-appropriate provisions for young Londoners sleeping rough. With winter fast-approaching, the charities say that priority to Covid safe emergency accommodation should be given to 18-25-year-olds who are street homeless. Currently, the British government has promised a sum of over £150 million to fund the delivery of more than 3,300 new long-term homes for rough sleepers across England by the end of March 2021. The funding comes in addition to the government’s initial sum of £91.5 million which had been allocated to 274 councils in September, to help fund local plans for rough sleepers over the winter as well as short-term and interim accommodation for vulnerable people. Despite this, charities warn that the measures don’t go far enough, linking a potential rise in the number of rough sleepers this winter to a drastic reduction to homeless services due to social distancing; and late implementation of the government’s new furlough scheme which has seen many lose their jobs. A day centre in west London supporting people facing homelessness is working to reduce the impact. The


young Londoners are already “slipping through the cracks or being put in serious danger” this year, citing the coronavirus pandemic and a lack of youth-specific resources as a contributing factor to an already deteriorating situation for young homeless people across the capital. “Going forward the Mayor must make proportionate budget allocations to match the 11% of rough sleepers who are young people”, Kerry told Artefact. “So far City Hall has not ring-fenced any funds for street homeless people under 25… given the continuing trend, we must make sure that rough sleeping strategies now start to include young people’s experiences and needs. Although less immediately visible, young people are very present amongst rough sleepers and they must be no longer ignored”, Kerry said.

“During lockdown, I was working as a carer, but I was sleeping on the streets.”

Barons Court Project, an award-winning charity based in Hammersmith started a social enterprise during the coronavirus pandemic which is using art to help those experiencing homelessness to create an additional income, whilst raising funds to enable the continuation of the charity’s work. The charity’s initiative, ‘Home(less) Made’ runs weekly art workshops that teach participants how to design, draw and paint; to sell their work on. So far, the project has attracted art buyers from as far as the United States and made over £1,500 since its launch in May, with 50% of the profit going back to the artists themselves. Guan Chow, 57, a Home(less) Made participant who has been couch surfing throughout the pandemic spoke of the ‘mindfulness’ that the initiative had offered him over the past months. “Without this project, I don’t think I’d be able to do [anything] productive… For [a] moment in time…I am able to concentrate…and put all my focus into my painting”, Chow told Artefact.

“One night we had a fundraising event at Hammersmith Town Hall…and my painting raised £140. I never thought people would pay that kind of money for my painting. I was so chuffed and taken by it, and from then on, I thought, oh my God, people really admire and appreciate my work.” Michael Angus, Director of the Barons Court Project, highlighted the success of the project, which he described as a more ‘sustainable’ approach to managing the delivery of homeless care services throughout the pandemic. Starting the group as a way to use the talent of guests at his day centre, Michael didn’t imagine the project would become so successful given the challenging circumstances. “We’ve seen the benefits that this sort of project has on the level of confidence it can give our guests, which helps them prepare for an independent life. When Guan saw his designs being posted around the UK and beyond, he appreciated how much his work was admired”, Angus said in a phone call.

“The key to this project is really to help empower our guests by giving them the chance to express themselves creatively and realise their talent. They can then go back into society with a sense of pride and purpose”, Angus said. The Barons Court project plans to expand its range of products in the coming year with the main goal of keeping the issue of homelessness within the public eye. Given that the national lockdown in England ceases on December 2, the group aims to launch stalls at several public locations in west London, where they will sell artisan Christmas cards to continue raising funds. The locations of the stalls are yet to be confirmed. With government support and continued efforts put in by charities across London, there is anticipation that rates of rough sleeping will decrease—but without a guarantee of vital resources for support services throughout the pandemic, there are still real concerns about what the state of homelessness could look like going into the New Year. X 77

Is Berlin’s nightlife losing its prestige? The German capital's famous club scene faces an uncertain future

Words: Martha Stevens Image: I bi/

Berlin is known for its nightlife, however due to coronavirus the industry suffered. The reputation of Berlin being a place of individualism, liberation and culture is a long-established, and most would say true, description of the German capital. At the forefront of much of Europe’s contemporary art, music and fashion scenes, the city is known on a worldwide scale for its bold, unapologetic and forward-thinking attitudes to life, and most recognisably, leisure. But with Berlin facing its first curfew in seventy years as Covid-19 cases surge, seeing clubs and bars closing down at a rapid rate with little to no government funding—what does the future hold for the prestige the capital is so well known for? For decades, the German capital has claimed the crown of Europe’s coolest city. But Berlin’s status was not cemented overnight. From Bauhaus to Berghain, the East Side Galler yand Watergate, the ‘post-wall era’ helped Berlin thrive, reinvent and make a name for itself. The fall of the Berlin Wallin 1989 saw the capital become a model for the world—if you give young people space to play, anything is possible. Now, a centre for modern art and film with a thriving music and club scene, the city is home to people from all over the globe having flocked to the city for exactly these reasons. The nightlife scene in the capital more than anything else, epitomises the cultural landscape in Berlin. Combining politics, sexual openness and progressive social values: clubs offer safe, participatory and, ultimately, magical nightlife spaces for people to lose themselves in. But in the last two decades, Berlin has seen its untimely demise become more and more of a reality. No longer so nonconforming and individudal, tourism and global popularity, like for many cities, has changed the dynamic of Berlin. “I would say I 100% worry about when the pandemic ends.” Leo, who grew up in Germany and has lived in Berlin for the last five years, tells me. “I don’t know when that’ll be of course, but so many bars are closing now, and a huge number of clubs have already closed permanently.” Berlin’s unique nightlife scene is probably one of the most notorious features of the city, where left-wing politics,

away. Before the pandemic hit, Berlin attracted more than 3 million tourists and €1.5 billion each year for its nightlife alone. The creative industry has always been Berlin’s biggest, and the clubs are one of its most important pillars. Even with it having one of the most progressive and exciting art and music scenes on earth, the city’s cultural landscape is changing. “Lots of huge clubs and venues have been bought by investors and large companies and are instead made into housing or offices. With this already happening, I think the pandemic is speeding it along with clubs not being able to stay open at all anymore.” Leo tells me. “Berlin has always been known as the number 1 clubbing spot or nightlife destination possibly in the world, but the prestige that Berlin has always had is fading already—even before the virus hit.” “There’s other European cities on the scene now that are up-and-coming in techno, a lot of Eastern countries like Georgia, in Tbilisifor example—and Berlin can’t keep up.”  Leo goes on. In Berlin, techno has always been the soundtrack to social change, and its clubs are emblems of tolerance and progressiveness. But the scene in Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, has flourished in recent years, and is fast approaching the German capital’s level of attention when it comes to its music and club scene. “Berlin no longer has that ‘thing’ that no one else has, anymore. If the government doesn’t understand that this reputation is mainly why so many tourists come here, and if they don’t support it, then it just won’t be here anymore.” Sina says. “It feels like Berlin has always been quite relaxed and confident in that it is an interesting and cool and fashionable place, and that everything will alwaysbe interesting and cool and fashionable.” Says Leo. “There are a lot of rumours around—I’ve heard that a lot of the more commercial venues have been given the most support, whereas the independent and smaller businesses have perhaps received very little or no support in terms of money. If the clubs don’t survive this, then Berlin might just become a very normal, very standard city very soon.” Although there has been some state support in the form of grant programs


gender experimentation, nudity and huge-scale brutalist architecture are the backdrop to the pumping techno made in the German capital. “The history of Berlin has been built around doing and being just what you want—breaking the law,” Leo goes on, “the government and the police know, but as long as it keeps bringing people in, they don’t care what goes on. They know that’s what makes Berlin interesting. The fact that Berlin is so well known for its nightlife, with the different varieties of music and clubs, it’s what makes it so different to anywhere else. It’s never ending.” Leo tells me. “It feels like the whole city is built around it.” With a Späti(much like a Londonoff-license, but open 24/7) directly translated in English to ‘late’, dotted at every street corner, it’s the integral parts such as these that lead to, and play a big part in the ‘club scene’ in Berlin. “If you want to go to the club at 4am you can stop and get drinks at a Spätiat every corner on your way.” Says Leo. “For most Berliners to ‘go out’ isn’t really something so special and only for the weekend. Before Coronavirus, we had the possibility to go out whenever we wanted to.” Sina, who was born in the capital and now a student in Berlin, explains. “There’s something going on every night and there’s a very diverse and special society here in Berlin who have all moved here because of this culture. Not only just for the politics and the clubs, but the whole scene that’s here.” Yet in the last two decades, Berlin’s authenticity has found itself wearing

“Berlin isn’t the crazy rebellious place it used to be after the wall came down.”

to some venues during the pandemic, even before Covid-19 hit, clubs and bars grappled with rising rents. Thanks to the inevitable gentrification of the many ‘cool’ Berlin districts, several venues, including the famous fetish club, KitKatClub, already faced possible eviction last winter. The federal government announced a €1 billion cultural packagefor across Germany when Coronavirus meant most venues had to close their doors, but Berlin venues alone need on average €10 million a month to survive. “Berlin will definitely be different when things eventually go back to normal. But there is already a lot to be said about how ‘Berlin is not like it used to be’.” Sina explains. “I think we need to accept that everything is changing already, and Berlin

isn’t the crazy, rebellious place it used to be after the wall came down.” Leo agrees. “It is a legitimate city with economical value. The times are changing, but I don’t think that’s a problem. The music is changing and you will always have that one person who is a bit older who says ‘oh the music used to be better’. But the music just isn’t the same anymore, it’s incomparable.” Leo goes on. “You can accept it or live in the past, but everything is changing and that had already started way before the pandemic.” The city’s nightlife rose with the fall of the Berlin Wall, as a landscape of abandoned warehouses and factories gave birth to a lively world of squats, artistic spaces and clubs. But in a modern world, the once unmatched reputation of being the only city

capable of such bold change, is no longer the reality for Berlin. “I think it will be possible to recover from it,” says Leo, “because there’s always people who have the drive and want to put out artistic, musical, cultural and political content. It’s still here, they are just waiting for the platform again.” Looking back at an era of illegal outdoor raves and subway parties — jumping from train to train, blasting music and keeping ahead of the police, the German capital still represents positive change, experimentation and progression to this day. “Maybe Berlin needs to reinvent itself again.” Leo tells me. “We can’t always rely on the same thing that Berlin has always been, because it just isn’t that any longer.” X


How we shot this issue's cover Students on London College of Communication’s Postgraduate Diploma in Photography were invited to submit images for the cover of Artefact on the theme of ‘The New Normal’. The brief was deliberately left broad and the photographers came up with a range of creative interpretations. The image chosen for the cover was by Ali Wright and on these pages you can see the other submissions. Ali’s image was. Influenced byMagritte’s The Lovers II (1928), reimagined in a contemporary setting. You can read more about it in the editor’s letter on p2.

Alessandra De Costanzo @alessandrasfotos

Vanessa Boeye

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Why are you running? Apart from the physical benefits, it can do wonders for your mental state

Words: Isaac Robinson-Bradley Images: Burst/

A 2016 survey by England Athletics in found 74% of 13,000+ participants agreed running significantly improves their mental health and overall wellbeing. Half the battle occurs in the mind. Whether it’s the rational fear of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) or fearing ‘the wall’, there are a fair few factors to consider before lacing up your trainers. The highest hurdle for me is always getting out the door at all. I’ll make a pact with myself, usually past midnight, to hit the road or trail later that morning – only to still be cocooned in my duvet until midday. Whenever I do manage to commit to a run, my focus shifts toward rhythm. If I can sustain a solid breathing tempo then my legs should take care of themselves. Fartlek, Swedish for ‘speed pacing’, solves potentially boring runs. Lampposts act as markers to alternate speed between. Music is another means of pacing; ‘Don’t slow down on this song’, I tell myself. It’s all good until Kanye’s twelve-minute-long ‘Last Call’ plays. A mishap in the running realm is the desire to have the best tech. It principally detracts from what running’s all about and novices need not stress over expensive gear. Undeniably, a decent pair of

time, in my ears via a Nike Run playlist. Jogging on the spot waiting for the green man, I could feel a pair of scornful eyes. A woman turned to me and asked, “why are you running?” I could sense the look of disrelish on her face, and thought to myself ‘twenty minutes into jog and chill and she gives you that look’. In response to her baffling question, I replied “why aren’t you running?” in my best attempt at a Nigerian accent. I took a chance. Embarrassingly for me, she didn’t catch the gag; a reference to an iconic internet meme, a scene from the Nollywood movie ‘Pretty Liars’. If, like the equally bemused girl, the reference zooms straight over your head, then all I can do is highly recommend digesting Nollywood dramas, they’re sensational. “I get its good for you, but isn’t it a bit lame? At least catch your breath at the lights.” With my BPM already through the roof, I saved myself the bother of rowing with a random. “Grow up. Health is wealth.”, I resumed my marathon mentor and continued on my way. There were three takeaways from this odd encounter. One; if someone thinks running is lame, they’re probably lame themselves. Two; you may look uncool running; you’re blowing out your arse, dripping in sweat and trying to extinguish a burning stitch. But in reality, all you’re doing is drastically improving your fitness for a more prosperous innings. Thirdly; not everyone’s on the same level of meme references. So why should everyone consider running? Obviously, it does wonders for your physical and mental state. It’s also incredibly rewarding for introverts – as a proud hermit I can stand by this. Most runners are socially sound and outgoing and mixing with different personalities proves positive for all. As trite as it may sound, appreciating having the ability to walk at all is worthwhile. One could only imagine what someone with a disability or physical impairment would give to be able to do so. Likewise, being able to run in a safe environment without the fear of being in a war-torn or hostile setting is a blessing often taken for granted by most. Getting over the perception of runners as reckless road-rulers or try-hard fitness freaks is constructive. If you’re somebody who scoffs at the suggestion of running, then all the more reason to leave your comfort zone and give it a go. X


trainers can improve performance and fancy gadgets aid running’s banalities. Even if it’s your preference to look the part on a run, just do it. I spoke with Gwylym, a 31-year-old activity organiser, triathlete and member of the South West Road Runners, about the thrills and spills of running. Born in New Zealand’s, Gwyl took to the athletics track aged seven, following his father’s footsteps as a competitive sprinter. “My mother would drive us around the island. I got a Casio watch which was such a revolution. I’d time how long it’d take my mum to drive us wherever and try to match it.If I go for just half an hour a day, I’m a much nicer person!” Kids run as their bodies are fresh and energised, but what drives someone to rack up the miles into adulthood? Gwyl tells me, “I use my running, as a mental health thing, so if I go for just half an hour a day, I’m a much nicer person! I don’t run either with music either. I really run to clear my head.” On an October evening, I found myself in a strange exchange. Four kilometres into my biweekly run, underdressed for the cold, I had Eliud Kipchoge, the greatest marathoner of all


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