Artefact #24 – December 2021

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Contributors Magazine Neelam Ahmed, Lillie Butler, Carlotta Cerruti, Charlotte Griffin, Aman Hafiz, Wiktor Karkocha, Annika Loebig, J A Neto, Atiyyah Ntiamoah-Addo, Robert Wallace, Zain Yasin Website Sylphia Basak, Jasper Conway, Lucy Crayton, Ana Drula, Will Drysdale, Isis Flack, Trinity Francis, Isabella Kaps Jaramillo, Jamie O’Brien-Hartigan, Ginebra Rocha, Zeina Saleh Audio & Podcasting Samuel George Baugh, Olivia Egan, Nour Ghanem, Emma Ireland, Anchita Khanna, Ellen Lund Petersen, Anmy Pazos Martinez, Parvaan Singh, Wiktoria Wisniewska Video & Artefact TV Charlie Cunniffe, Chantice Ebanks-Clarke Chelsie Edwards, Lauren Gordon, Hanna Mödder, Rosie Paldi Edwards, Stella Anni Schmieder, Safa Sharif, Lina Sleptsova, Alexandra Stegerean Tutors Simon Hinde (magazine) Russell Merryman (website) Vivienne Francis (audio & podcasting) Lynda Smith (video & Artefact TV) Design Oswin Tickler Website Facebook artefactmagazine Twitter @artefactlcc Instagram @artefactmag Feedback

EDITOR’S LETTER Long-time readers of Artefact may notice some changes to this issue. In the wake of the pandemic, and the changes it brought to all our lives, it served as a rare opportunity for Artefact to reflect, reassess and transform our magazine in ways for the better. This issue marks a statement of intent towards that change. In the physical redesign, Artefact has made a concerted move towards printing more sustainably. Among the notable changes, the magazine you’re now holding is made cover-to-cover of paper approved by the Forestry Stewardship Council, the overall page count is reduced, and we’ve limited the numbers we print to minimise waste. As recent and future events show us, we all have a part to play in tackling the climate emergency, and print media is no exception. Thinking about sustainability also made us assess our inclusivity, and made us consider ways in which we can make the magazine accessible for all readers. At the foot of the page is a QR code, which takes you to a digital version of this magazine on Issuu, where this and all previous issues of Artefact are available for all readers to enjoy. Speaking of inclusivity, we hope that there’s something here for everyone. This issue takes you through a wide-range of diverse and intriguing stories told by this year’s cohort of third-year Journalism students at London College of Communication. Among the highlights of this issue: Annika Loebig explores the mystical role of psychedelic death doulas; Will Drysdale investigates what it’s like living in Auroville, an experimental society in India; Lucy Crayton looks into the pandemic phenomenon of cold water swimming; and Isis Flack interrogates the toxic culture of restaurant kitchens. Elsewhere, Robert Wallace celebrates the 90th anniversary of the charity Guide Dogs; Ana Drula considers how we can improve climate reporting; and in music, Charlotte Griffin interviews R&B singer James Vickery, while Wiktor Karkocha profiles up-andcoming queer rapper, James Indigo. This edition’s cover features Frankie Sparrowhawk, member of the spiritual rock band Marthagunn, profiled by Carlotta Cerruti. As you see on the cover image, Sparrowhawk is waving a flag that reads “I FELT LIKE I WAS PART OF SOMETHING.” As final year students, we are nearing the end of this chapter of our lives and we feel very proud to share our range of diverse stories, which hopefully represent something different and special at the same time. We hope this issue serves as a hymn to our youth and our future goals, and perhaps even reminds you of your own.


Feeling the heat in the kitchen Behind the scenes in restaurants, sexual harassment, bullying and racism are rife Words: Isis Flack Image: Elle Hughes/pexels


he hospitality industry—as a whole, especially in London—is currently going through a complete overhaul after losing the mass of its workforce due to a toxic concoction of coronavirus and Brexit. In a sector that solely relies on people to run, sadly there’s no ability to buy your cappuccino online just yet; the field as a whole is struggling to cope with skeleton staff crews left underpaid and overworked. Ironically, it’s pushing even more people to leave the industry. A report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) detailed that between April and June 2021, hospitality had the largest number of vacancies of any industry in Britain, the largest level of vacant roles in the sector since records began, underlining the employment crisis that the field is going through. Subsequently, this has allowed the industry to run rife with accusations of sexual harassment, racism, bullying, misogyny and general misconduct, 4

with little to no repercussions for the perpetrators; feeding into a culture of mistreatment that has been left relatively unchecked. With very few replaceable candidates in sight, the power imbalance of the industry has shifted in favour of offenders, who appear to be retaining their positions despite their misconduct, due to the sheer desperation of establishments to carry on operating. At the helm of this issue, left most unbridled, are the chefs— often the most relied upon person in any restaurant, the profession has received backlash for a while now for its glorification of bullying through shows such as Hell’s Kitchen. “It was a lot to do with them [the chefs] thinking they own the place, that they’re somehow superior in that environment, I think that’s the base of everything, that and patriarchy,” one young woman recalled, having asked to remain anonymous. “It adds up to the fact they feel free to do whatever they want, them taking advantage of their power, I believe is just general kitchen behaviour.” Considering the hierarchal positions of senior kitchen staff, it can be hard to speak out against harassment or bullying if the victim takes a more replaceable role within the establishment—a waitress or barista, for example. “I just didn’t feel comfortable as a victim of it to even reply, it took me six months to be able to say anything as I was so intimidated,” another hospitality employee told us, “it took me getting to my limit for me to be able to say anything back to them.” Those smaller roles are more expendable when compared to the critical-

“I have been the butt of many sexist jokes, along with unwanted advances and unsolicited sexual remarks from the male kitchen staff.”

ly-trained roles that chefs take, which means, quite frankly, if you’re bringing a problem to the table and you’re not as valuable to the team, it’s easier for management to make you redundant, or ignore the issue until you resign in protest. Trained chefs are incredibly hard to come by right now; most chefs from Europe aren’t qualifying for “Skilled Worker” status under new immigration laws post-Brexit. This poses a huge issue, especially in London, a culturally diverse city. So, even though it breeds a toxic workplace, chefs accused of bullying or harassment aren’t facing many repercussions. However, the restaurants they work at would cease to open without them, as opposed to the relatively uncomplicated and trainable job of most front of house staff. Like a large number of other young women in the industry, I have been the butt of many sexist jokes, along with unwanted advances and unsolicited sexual remarks from the male kitchen staff. But I’ve also been bullied by chefs, sometimes so badly it’s driven me to leave my job even though I’ve been reliant on it to pay my rent; the risk of not finding another income has been easier to comprehend at times than staying and continuing to be subjected to anxiety-inducing aggression every time you walk in to work. Most of the same places I’ve left have preserved the jobs of the chefs I brought complaints forward about, highlighting just who was more replaceable. Sadly, my experiences in the industry aren’t rare; it seems they are endemic within the hospitality sector that now seems to be fostering misconduct. One of my interviewees described the escalation of bullying and abuse from one of the chefs they worked with: “It slowly transformed into sexual things, because of how intimidated by them we were, because of that dynamic, they would come in and start asking things like ‘Are you dating? Are you seeing someone? What do you look for in a man?’ “It got progressively worse. It then became things asking like ‘how do you like sex?’ Very, very personal things, I was so scared of them.” She then went on to say something that was hard to digest but didn’t surprise me: “I think some other girls had it even worse, underage girls.” Another woman went on to tell me about an experience with a chef that left her shocked: “He said to me ‘look, when I tell you to wait, you wait, maybe they should send you back to Turkey so they can teach you to act like a real woman and listen to men all the time.’” There are so many more stories like these, with so many more victims. An

Instagram page called Hospitality Bullshit (@hospitalitybullshit) has grown a cult following online for naming and shaming perpetrators within the sector, along with the establishments that protect and foster their growth. The page regularly shares testimonials from staff who’ve been subjected to the poorest treatment, even ‘tagging’ the chefs or management responsible. While I believe we should hold people accountable for their actions, there’s been backlash against the account for their involvement in promoting and facilitating ‘cancel culture’. Accountability is something that the industry is lacking, and pages like Hospitality Bullshit are making a difference, giving this systemic issue real faces and names. At the very least it is raising awareness, so other potential employees aren’t put in stressful or precarious positions. The issue is systemic, inherently the majority of chefs in the UK and London

come from a predominantly white background, with the bulk of the field also being male. Diversifying the field and advertising training to include more women and people of colour—making the kitchen more diverse and as representative of the front of house staff too— could be a good first step in addressing these issues. Along with this, professionalising the industry could lead to higher standards, better regulation and implementing steeper repercussions and consequences for those abusing their power. We’ve seen this make a difference in countries like Australia, where the Fair Work Ombudsman in tandem with the Australian Human Rights Commission take accusations of bullying in hospitality seriously, supplying the right information and resources to anyone who wants to go ahead filing a report, and investigating each claim. This was brought into law in Australia through an amendment to the

Victorian Crimes Act of 1958 called Brodie’s Law; named after 19-year-old Brodie Panlock, who sadly took her own life after suffering intense bullying at work. The offence is punishable with up to 10 years’ imprisonment if found guilty. Similarly, there’s been a call in the UK for restaurants found guilty of sexual harassment or bullying to be stripped of Michelin stars or Rosettas, although this will only solve the issue in a limited number of establishments. It’s clear that the sector needs an image overhaul. The negative stereotypes that have been associated with the industry for too long are resurfacing, as exponentially more people have found their voice and courage to speak up against the things they’ve had to put up with to make a (usually minimum wage) living. The industry is undoubtedly in desperate need of reform, or it’ll end up losing the very people it cannot function without. b 5

From ration to rampage How has the public reaction to food shortages changed since the Second World War? Words: Lillie Butler Image: John Cameron/unsplash


hen any kind of apocalyptic situation is presented in film or television, we are shown herds of people storming to supermarkets and stores, depleting the shelves, rioting and building up their supplies before taking to their cars or hiding in an underground bunker. This mass hysteria is often shown to be a response to a zombie attack or an alien invasion. However, in real life, it seems 6

that a couple of news stories and people preaching on social media about how toilet paper might be in low supply and Quavers might stop being imported, is enough for a large quantity of so-called civilised people to behave in such an extreme manner. In the last two years, during the multiple waves of the Covid pandemic and since life post-Brexit has started to evolve, the news has been awash with a particular product or brand that is predicted to be low in stock or run out. These news stories, and the herd mentality of society, causes panic buying and expedites the issues of dwindling stock that might or might not have happened in the first place. You would have thought that we would have learnt after Toilet Paper-gate in the first lockdown, when it disappeared off supermarket shelves and into the bulging trollies of desperate shoppers only for it to come back into stock 24 hours later. But sure enough, following one story about the potential of petrol stocks dwindling, yet again everyone grabbed every container they could find to hoard their supplies of petrol, whether they needed it or not, causing mayhem fuelled by a media frenzy. Consequently, UK firms hiked up their prices at an unprecedented rate, causing petrol to inflate to its highest price in eight years. It’s not just the panic buying that is the problem, it is the hoarding, the scuffles and the self-preservation that looks to have overwhelmed us all. It seems nearly impossible to think that no less than 70 years ago, rationing was still in place in this country. People would queue in an orderly fashion for hours on end to receive only 50 grams of butter for the week. Supermarkets were non-existent. Many people didn’t drive. Practically everyone shopped locally. Local stores were friendly places where customers and shopkeepers knew each other by name. This rarely happens nowadays, and even less so in urban areas. Speaking to 88-year-old Pamela Roberts, who was born into pre-war Britain and lived through a war, rationing and seen first-hand the growing amount of consumerism in our country, she explains: “We had much more limited options and variety when I was growing up. We didn’t even have a supermarket to go to, we shopped from individual shops. I went daily with my mother to the baker and the greengrocer or butcher to buy what we needed for that day. We couldn’t carry more as we didn’t have a car, let alone stock pile anything.” It makes you question what’s changed in our society and how consumerism and demand has increased by such a vast amount in such a short period of time. Are we now used to being able to

buy everything ‘on tap’? In essence, we can have whatever we want whenever we want, so has this made us greedy and expectant? Pamela went on further to talk about the comparison of that bygone era to the present day: “There is so much choice today in the shops. Maybe that is why everyone feels worried when it is threatened to be taken away?” I asked her about whether the news stories and premature warnings have had an impact. “Yes, I think mostly it’s the news updates. When I was younger, we wouldn’t know what was on the shelves or out of stock before we got to the shops and it was already gone, it was an accepted part of life. We didn’t stress about it

like people seem to do now. During the war there was nothing much available, we grew some food and we shared with our family and neighbours. I can’t imagine people in a supermarket nowadays sharing their haul of loo paper with anyone,” she told me. Have we been weaned on such a vast choice of consumer goods that we can’t see how we can live without tortilla chips or tonic water for a few weeks? Is it just the media that fuels the hoarding mentality and the panic buying? By alerting us to the fact that petrol will run low, does it send us scuttling to the pumps to get as much selfish booty as we can? If we didn’t have the immediate news or social media, we wouldn’t know to rush out

“These news stories and the herd mentality of society causes panic buying.”

and panic buy, word would travel slower and potentially aid the re-stock of produce. When faced with the choice of living with mass consumerism that has taken hold of society and the panicked frenzy when our plentiful stock is threatened, or to live amidst a more civilised society but with limited choice and most definitely less on the dinner table, Roberts had this to say: “I really do miss the simplicity of life we once had in this country, but like everyone else, I have got used to the big supermarkets and the huge choice. I don’t really think I could be bothered to go back to queuing up outside small shops for half the day anymore just for half a pound of butter and a banana.” b



ikTok is the new top dog in the social media game. This September, the short-form video app hit 1 billion users and has been praised as the number one platform for audience engagement thanks to its short-form videos and unlimited space for creativity. In its early days, TikTok merged with, a Chinese social network built around lip-syncing and dancing that was already popular with younger audiences. TikTok kept elements of whilst also building spaces for more subgenres and communities to thrive in the app, including its smartphone-only usage and fast-paced nature, keeping users engaged for an average of 52 minutes a day. From the moment you open the app, TikTok’s intelligent algorithm is learning from you in order to build a perfect feed. The more you use the app, the more freakishly accurate and relatable your ‘For You Page’ becomes. TikTok advises the use of hashtags, sounds and effects that can help boost your video to virality, a lottery that is applicable to all users, giving everyone an equal opportunity to make it big on the app, regardless of likes and follower counts. It’s because of this that collaborations are more likely to happen through the app. For brands, the app is a refreshingly playful landscape that can boost their credibility and easily connect them with creators and vice versa, resulting in paid partnerships, bookings and so on.

‘If you can make it on TikTok you can make it anywhere’ The viral social media app can catapult people into life-changing stardom Words: Lauren Gordon 8

“I genuinely think that if certain brands or even artists [such as] Griff, Central Cee, Young T and Bugsey and Ryanair did not go viral on the TikTok platform they would not be where they are today. The platform has marketed itself to be more personable and real in comparison to Instagram, which responds highly to the younger generation due to the fact that usual marketing tactics are now common to them,” says Hazi Adamu, a TikTok specialist at hair colour specialists Bleach London. TikTok offers a brilliant opportunity for marketers to reach younger audiences around the globe and its success in doing so has resulted in companies hiring TikTok specialists to specifically tap into this side of social media. Hazi gave me an insight into the demands of her role as a specialist: “I think it starts the conversation that you can’t expect one person to run all these social platforms and it’s very much a team effort. From my experience, TikTok is such a demanding app that if you are not constantly giving the platform the attention it needs you can get lost in the algorithm. “On the plus side, TikTok is now the starter of most trends, the buzz around them goes faster making the platform one of the best places to advertise your brands and services, especially to the Gen Z market.” There’s no restriction of creativity on the app, whether you want to use a filter, a green screen background or upload screenshots to voice over, TikTok has made creating content easy for everyone. Unlike other social media platforms, TikTok’s algorithm encourages users to show off their talent and push content out, rather than obsessing over centralising an audience and prioritising growth. When it comes to music, virality can depend on how a song is received. If it’s catchy enough, dance challenges are often

created, which have previously led to the track racing up the charts. Doja Cat’s Say So dance challenge, created by Haley Sharpe, racked up over 20 million video creations, helping the solo version of the song peak at number 4 on the charts. Since then, at least 8 more of Doja Cat’s songs have created enough buzz to go viral on the app, including snippets of unreleased tracks, thanks to their magical hooks and repetitive lyrics. Today, Doja Cat’s TikTok reign continues to have an impact on her music career and has led to her dethroning Drake as the rapper with the most monthly listeners on Spotify, with 63.69 million streams a month compared to Drake’s 63.3 million streams. It’s a similar story for the mysterious Pink Pantheress, a new starlet from TikTok who creates ‘new nostalgic’ music inspired by British DnB and garage and is laced with hypnotic, love-drunk lyrics. She started off posting short, snippy tracks that are well suited to the app’s short-video format. She has since been dubbed an overnight celebrity, going from 15 or so likes on Soundcloud to over 7 million likes on TikTok and 10 million Spotify streams from her recent single Just For Me. In an interview with BBC News, Pink Pantheress acknowledges the power of TikTok in boosting the reach of her tracks: “The algorithm is crazy on TikTok, you can post a video and you can have zero followers and it can do well.” Doja Cat and Pink Pantheress are among many artists who have used TikTok as a promotional tool and have massively reaped the benefits of doing so. I spoke to Alberto from DoggoSounds, a TikTok account that demystifies the dynamics of TikTok and focuses on artists emerging thanks to the platform, about what this means for the future of music: “Now, it’s the best platform for being discovered out of nowhere, in my opinion. Of course, understanding the platform, using it and creating relevant content takes up a lot of time but there are countless examples of collaborations between TikTok artists and record labels or established music companies. If you’re an emerging artist, I think that being on TikTok really helps in finding an audience. In addition, more and more legacy artists are getting on TikTok—the most recent ones being The Beatles and ABBA. For many, TikTok was just the right match that kickstarted their careers. We are used to seeing just the tip of the iceberg.” TikTok is still in its prime and thanks to Alberto and Hazi’s expertise, it’s clear to see the app still has much longer in the prime spot. As the trends and songs continue, it’s exciting to see how things will play out. b

Back on stage with James Vickery The R&B singer chats about being back on the road to promote his new album ‘Songs That Made Me Feel’ Words: Charlotte Griffin Image: Daniel Oluwatobi


electric atmosphere for James to perform to, there was also a sense of excitement, as for most, including the musician, this was their first gig back after the countless months spent inside. “Performing again felt great! I was super nervous for the first few songs, but I warmed into it as time went on. When I picked up the guitar, I felt like I had something to settle the nerves,” James told us. The show was not the stereotype that everyone thinks a live show will be, with the audience screaming over the artist and not appreciating the music. This live show was the complete opposite, with everyone soaking up the sounds coming from the stage, applauding, appreciating and truly feeling the music and lyrics filling the room. James’s latest album Songs That Made Me Feel was born during lockdown. While it was mostly complete, it was still an ongoing project to find a focus on during those difficult times. “The lack of live music hit hard; I felt a sense of a missing piece in my life for quite some time,” James said. As for most creatives, lockdown was a mixture of challenges and inspiration. For Vickery, his songwriting acted as a light at the end of the tunnel: “My favourite song from the album is probably You Comfort Me, featuring Earthgang, because I wrote it at a time when I needed a song to lift me out of a dark place. It really made my days feel a lot brighter at that time.” As with every artist, Vickery has his

own way of making and recording music. “It’s certainly a lot tougher than people make it out to be. It’s emotionally draining and intense; trying to gather all of your feelings onto a page with strangers in a room is a weird concept when you think about it.” James spoke very highly of his parents and their support: “They taught me the value of always working hard and never giving up from a very young age.” He also credits them for nurturing the soul and R&B sound that he is so well known for: “My parents’ music taste was eclectic, and I think a large part of why my music sounds the way it does.” James had not always written and produced R&B music and it took him a long time to find his sound. Whilst figuring out the style of music that he wanted to be recognised for, he collaborated with YouTube channel, COLORS, performing Until Morning, which hit 26 million views. This led to James taking “the initiative and making the music I wanted to make.” James has his whole career ahead of him, with countless songs waiting to be released. The idea of taking his music around the world, stands at the top of his bucket list—“I need to show the USA and Europe and Australia/New Zealand my music too.” It is easy to see with the music that James continues to gift to the world, he has a passion and an enthusiasm towards his work: “I love the thought of creating something absolutely beautiful from complete scratch.” b

ames Vickery is a UK R&B artist from South London with South African heritage, creating music that is heard all over the world. Vickery released his first Spotify single Epiphany in 2016 and has since then collaborated with artists such as Earthgang and SG Lewis. With live shows starting to make a comeback, the R&B singer has finally been able to grace the stage with his newest album Songs That Made Me Feel. I ask him if he could only listen to three songs for the rest of time, what would they be? He replies: A Case of You, James Blake; Blessed, Daniel Caesar; Just Friends, Musiq Soulchild. They are a small peek into the world of James Vickery. Music, for many, is a window into the soul as it is the most vulnerable someone can be. Why do you think people used to make mixtapes for each other? When I was first introduced to James’ discography, I was blown away by his voice and have come to learn the passion with which he performs. I was lucky enough to be able to go along to his recent show at Lafayette in London’s King’s Cross. While the audience created an 9

Words: Carlotta Cerruti Images: Bree Hart

MARTHAGUNN: THE NEW SPIRITUAL HEALERS OF INDIE ROCK The band’s latest album is a perfect mix of melancholy and honesty 10


arthaGunn are the new healers from the United Kingdom, ready to cure your deepest feelings with their music. The band create soul-bearing songs, inspired by love stories and interpersonal relationships in our beloved twenties. Their tunes are a perfect marriage of honesty and depth with a touch of melancholy, but also a lot of fun. They’re the perfect mix of unbridled emotions and alternative indie. The band is made up of five best friends: Abi Woodman, the lead singer; Humphrey Luck and Max Hunter on guitar; Ali Mackay on bass; and Frankie Sparrowhawk on drums. They’re known for providing eclectic performances in the UK and across Europe. Their last album Something Good Will Happen gave the band the possibility to explore love in all of its form, giving us an album rich in deep emotions but also a great desire to dance. They’ve just completed their tour around the UK, and they’re ready to start a new chapter. The name came from Martha Gunn, an 18th century heroin in Brighton. She used to be a spiritual healer, popular for dipping the royal family in the sea as a spiritual healing tradition. The idea came from Abi’s dad, as she’s an ancestor of their family, but also because the band met there so it felt as if was meant to be. Abi says: “If a song I’ve written can impact somebody’s life in a positive way, my job is done”. Abi moved to Brighton during her twenties for university and before the course started, she met Max

together was Honey, Let Me Know. It was the first time the band had played with Frankie, the drummer. While they were playing and improvising during a rehearsal, Alley had bought the bass line, Abi was improvising a melody and lyric over it and they realised the piece was great, but it was missing a strong chorus. “A few moments later I’d been bitten by a dog. I remember lying in my bed and I had this idea in my head for the chorus and I recorded into my phone and fell back asleep. And that’s how it was finished. I was recording the chorus into my phone while probably quite high on medication”. In 2017, the band signed with Communion Music, a British independent record label. Founded in 2006, the company partners with artists such as Sam Fender, Lewis Capaldi, Daughter, Ben Howard and many others. “They wanted to sign us in 2016 and we didn’t have a manager, so we decided to hold off on this for a bit. And then a year went by and we were like, ‘right, we’re still no closer to finding the right manager for us. Let’s just sign it.’” After a while they found the perfect manager to help them with their careers. Abi explains, “It’s not quick being a musician. People always think it just comes out of nowhere, but it doesn’t, it is years and years of hard work.” In 2019, the band released their first EP, Love And Emotion. The album included three fantastic tracks titled Love and Emotion, Saint Cecilia and Honey, Let me Know.

“If a song I've written can impact somebody's life in a positive way, my job is done.” Hunter, one of the guitarists. And then one by one, they found each other. “When I was 20, that’s when I started this band. It’s always been really clear to me, since the age of 15, it’s just taken me time to figure out what route I’m meant to be on. I’m still figuring that out. And I think growing through your twenties is learning to be okay with who you are. Making your own decisions, liking who you are. And yeah, it is like a roller coaster,” she said. Bands such as Mystery Jets and Fleetwood Mac had a great influence on her career as a writer as well as on the band. The first song that the band brought

The track Love and Emotion combines the voice of Abi with the crafted melodies of the instruments in a sweet but also rowdy way. “This song was written a long time ago in a rehearsal studio, the same one that we wrote, Honey, Let Me Know. “Ollie, the bass player and I just had a free evening, we thought, let’s just go to the studio and try some stuff out. And they started playing this little bass thing. And I just improvise the whole song in about five minutes”. The pioneering track is about someone not showing you the love that you deserved, representing sadness from an 11

unfulfilled relationship. It’s a realisation that someone may be different to how and who you want them to be. “But also, you know, I shouldn’t have stayed in that. Now, I look back and I’m like, Oh, you know, he was doing his best I should have left earlier. That’s on me.” After the EP, the band announced their first headline tour followed by another tour with Palace, an alternative blues/rock band from London combining back guitars with brooding vocals. “We’d supported other people before. But yeah, our first tour was great, it’s a different feeling, having your own tour, people are coming to you, you don’t have to win people over as much. Whereas when you support a band, no one there is there to see you. And you have to win people over.” In their career they supported a lot of different artists such as Black Honey. “We had a couple of really special shows around that tour where we played a sold-out great escape show, which was really magical. One of my favourite

moments was when we played a very acoustic off mic stripped back song called Ohio There at a Black Honey gig in Tunbridge Wells, which was sold out. And the room was silent. And it’s those kinds of things that I remember around that time of that tour”. After their first tour and the much-desired success, the pandemic arrived. This left the band nostalgic but also willing to start a new chapter. The Covid-19 situation had a huge impact on the music industry, which was one of the sectors that was more left behind during the last year. Abi said, “I think about where we would be now. And I’m sure we wouldn’t be where we are, we’d have toured for a year and a half, and gained a lot of fans in that time. It is hard to think about that. But, you know, I’m still very happy with all that we have achieved in that time.” In 2020, MarthaGunn released their second EP, Caught Up & Confused, which include It’s Over, Say When, We Don’t Need Each Other and, Caught Up & Confused. The EP is full of hymns dedi-

“When you sign a record deal, you get a lot of pressure put on you whether that's externally or your own pressure put on yourself.”


cated to the catharsis of moving forward. Everyone in their twenties felt “caught up and confused” and I personally believe all of us can see ourselves in the lyrics of all the tracks. The band is used to going to a house in Wales three or four times a year to work on their music and there is one trip that Abi remembers really well because it is where she unlocked something in her that was an important reminder to have fun whilst making music. “When you sign a record deal, you get a lot of pressure put on you whether that’s externally or your own pressure put on yourself. And you overthink things and you forget what you’re doing, you know, you forget why you’re doing this”.

She remembered to have fun with the music itself. “You can have one relationship fail, but you can write from it from so many perspectives, because as the years go on, you can see it differently”. So, with It’s Over, it’s about the same person that I wrote last year’s Love and Emotion about and it’s a completely different song.” She continued by saying that the songs have different meaning, because they were created in different stages of her life. It is about taking power in finishing it with someone. There is a line in the track that says, ‘I guess I’ll add your name to the record, baby of lovers I can’t keep’. Abi explained, “Because from an outside perspective, maybe people think 13


I’m thick? Well, I don’t stay with people for long enough or whatever. But it’s taking power in that situation, it’s empowering. Leaving a situation isn’t my view, take strength to do that. And, you know, I just want to have fun with it. I think that comes out in the song; I have fun with it. Every time I sing it live, I love it”. Caught Up & Confused is about being honest with yourself. This is the reason why it connects to people. It represented a really special moment in her writing because it is not easy to open yourself up and be honest about your emotions and your fears. This is why MarthaGunn have all the cards to be a successful band around the world, they touch the souls of the people with a combination of soul-bearing melodies that are able to express how any twenty-year-old feels inside their rooms waiting for something good to happen. “Once you’ve actually released your song into the world, it’s no longer yours. You’re done with that, it’s cathartic. You’ve released whatever that was holding you back, and even if it’s quite scary, to be really honest with yourself, it’s no longer just you in your bedroom. This is when you realize you have released something from yourself in a good way”. Following the similar feelings of that track, the first song released this year was Honest. The tune it’s about a new beginning, a new reborn almost connected to an ending. I strongly believe it fits perfectly in our times, as the beginning of 2021 has represented a “new reborn” for most of us. A part of the lyrics says, ‘The shell it longs to break, as it ripples through this placid lake, but choosing not to grow, exhaustion starts to take its toll’. Abi explained that the analogy is that when a lobster grows, it grows out of his shell. And when that shell breaks, it has to grow a new shell. “I always feel like when you’re going through something, it’s really painful. But you have to go through it to be able to grow and to learn from it. And if you don’t, if you choose to stay stagnant, and you don’t go through it, you actually end up becoming either ill physically and mentally you know, all these things. So yeah, it does really relate to this last year, but it wasn’t intentional”. The most famous album Something Good Will Happen came out on the 17th of September of this year. The album it is

a mixture of disruptive melodies that capture the feeling of emotions in relationship in our twenties. It is pure love in all forms, it is about failure and success. Abi explains: “It really just does sum up all of these relationships that we’ve been through in our twenties. And what we’ve learned, and it’s the most honest I’ve ever been with myself. I feel like I can close that chapter now and I can move forward with my life. We’re all extremely proud of what we’ve made”. The album is full of upbeat songs that are fun and light-hearted but at the same time others are deeper and it perfectly shows how strong the band is now and who they are and who they want to be in the music scene. With the release of their album, MarthaGunn also announced the dates of their UK tour. It started on the 30th of September in Oxford and it concluded the 13th of October in Norwich. The tour was a success. I had the pleasure to see them live in London, there were about 250 people and I can say the energy on stage is addictive. They work so good together and the melodies are all one with the voice of Abi. It is almost impossible staring at them without dancing and closing your eyes to feel the vibes on your skin. “The craziest thing is when people are singing the songs with you. I just find that so bizarre that these people that I don’t know, [they] know the words, the songs I’ve written, and it means something to them, if a song I’ve written can impact somebody’s life in a positive way, my job done”. She continues, “I can’t control the success in terms of how many people hear this album. But what I can do is just write honest music. And if it connects to one person, and I’ve made a difference in somebody’s life”. Their “moment of good luck” before concerts is to sing When the Saints Go Marching In. They changed the words to ‘when the guns go into gear’. They usually huddle and sing it together before going to the stage. “That’s like our little thing”. She said. Abi’s plans are to continue writing as much as she can and see where the world is going to take them. “Five years from now, I just hope that we’re all being true to ourselves. Yeah, that we’re making [music] that we love and flowing effortlessly with life”. b 15

Ai Weiwei: artist and activist The Chinese artist’s work highlights humanitarian catastrophes and injustice Words and images: J A Neto


he Rapture exhibition in Portugal is one of Ai Weiwei’s many exhibitions around the world at the moment, curated by Marcello Dantas, who has previously curated one of Ai Weiwei’s most extensive exhibitions ‘Raiz’ in Sao Paulo-Brazil, in 2019. Although he is better known as the dissident Chinese contemporary artist, Ai Weiwei has always worked as a political activist, architect and filmmaker, demonstrating his versatility in the creative fields over many years. Throughout the last decade, his artworks have portrayed many of his personal struggles with the Chinese state. From being abducted, incarcerated and having his passport confiscated to witness the demolition of his studio after having already search for refuge, first in Germany then in the UK for a short period. Weiwei’s work has also been influenced by the adversities he faced since he was born and throughout his early childhood during and after his father exile, in which his only crime was to be a poet, in the wrong place and at the wrong time. A period when China entered a particularly turbulent moment in history with the Great Tangshan earthquake of 1976. Since then, Ai Weiwei’s unique work has been internationally acclaimed, and the artist shows no signs of slowing down, continuing to amaze his audiences. 16

This latest exhibition explores the multiple meanings of “rapture” in English. It is designed to present two creative dimensions of Ai Weiwei’s artworks, with more than 85 small and medium installations, sculptures, documentaries, and photographs. In contrast, one side displays a fantasy narrative, whilst the other explores socio-political and environmental themes. Through creativity and an immersive experience, Rapture highlights a dark reality that still exists worldwide. As he often did during his career, through his writings, movies, designs and architectural collaborations, Ai Weiwei aims to tell us his story and bring attention to humanitarian catastrophes and injustice — with the aim of helping people on a global scale. Everywhere he goes with his exhibitions is like a new opportunity to him. He shares his knowledge and life story while simultaneously embracing each new country. Learning about its art, practices, struggles, injustices, deforestation, animal welfare, refugees needs, and the list goes on and on. It is like he must do something to help, and immediately a new collaborative project emerges — which is soon exposed to his legion of followers and media outlets that continue to show interest in whatever he does. As said on his website: “Expressing

“Expressing oneself is a part of being human. To be deprived of a voice is to be told you are not a participant in society; ultimately, it is a denial of humanity." oneself is a part of being human. To be deprived of a voice is to be told you are not a participant in society; ultimately, it is a denial of humanity.” Rapture is, once again, another sizeable example of him expressing his voice. From the moment we arrive on site, we are welcomed by a massive installation: Forever Bicycles (2015)—crafted out of 960 stainless steel bicycles — in which

the artist references Marcel Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel. Weiwei revisits the object’s symbolism throughout time, from luxury good, to fitness device, and nowadays a sustainable means of transportation. Instinctively or perhaps because of the grandiose figures lining the floor and ceiling, I first turned to the right side of the exhibition that leads us into the exhibition’s fantasy side. My eyes were immediately attracted by Refraction, a large-scale installation, made out of solar cookers, kettles and chunks of steel, moulded in the shape of a wing. It was first presented within @Large on Alcatraz in San Francisco (2014). Next up are the imposing yet fragile figures from the Life Cycle series, made from bamboo using an ancient Chinese technique, produced at Weifang in Shandong Province (works from 2014, 2016 and 2018). Many of these figures are hung over a 45 metre-long wool carpet, Tank Print (2014); it was woven using the photographed pattern of the marks left by the tanks used to suppress the Tiananmen Square protests in Beijing in 1989. Followed by the shining gold shapes displayed on wood stands carefully aligned, the Zodiac Heads (2010) are a series of bronze and gold-plated headings re-envisioning the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac in contrast with the smaller series Works from Juazeiro do Norte, a collection of wood carvings from a specific region in Brazil, made in collaboration with local artisans (2018). We can then see a few pieces from the Brands set (2018), crafted from branded leather — representing just how many farmers still mark their herd, as

was done with human slaves in the past. The works are imprinted with quotes from Brazilian’s intellectuals and songwriters using the Armorial Alphabet. On the left side of the exhibition, there is again a vast range of artworks that continue to fascinate, all of them impressive in their own ways. Like Law of the Journey (Prototype B) (2016), a 16-metre-long inflatable boat with human-like figures crafted in reinforced PVC, inspired by his visit at the Greek Isle of Lesvos — which later took him to a new journey to retract the refugee’s problems, shown on his documentary Human Flow (2017) after he travelled to 23 countries visiting 40 refugee camps. Another impressive one was S.A.C.R.E.D. (2011-2013), a series of six boxes made of fibreglass, encased in iron, named Supper, Accusers, Cleansing, Ritual, Entropy, and Doubt recreate moments and emotions endured during his 81 days of imprisonment. A period

in which he was constantly interrogated under twenty-four hour surveillance followed by two officers, including during his sleep, toilet breaks and meal times We then encounter one of my favourite artworks, Brainless Figure in Cork (2021), a self-portrait sculpture, which was produced by Corticeira Amorim, using a CNC machine, and finished by a cork-experienced sculptor. There are still many other multimedia and photography works such as his famous series Study of Perspective (19952011), Sunflower Seeds (2013), Dumbas (2013), Bicycle Basket with Flowers in Porcelain (2014), World Map (2016), Odyssey Tile (2021), his new face mask collection, and many others. It is not by chance that Ai Weiwei receives such attention. Throughout his long and productive trajectory in the art world, he is always open to new opportunities and willing to talk about his experience with people from many fields. He can quickly be talking to Edward Snowden about dissidence, exile, and how to fight for truth from afar, or discussing freedom of expression at the English Pen 100 festival, or yet talking about art at one of several Frieze Art Fairs talks. He seems never to refuse any invitation. Currently living in Portugal, Weiwei has embraced the boom of Zoom interviews, but one must always check where he is talking from because he can be anywhere in the world working on a new idea. As he said recently in a Wallpaper interview: “With every opportunity that comes, I say to myself, ‘this will be my last show’. So, I always make maximum effort because, who knows, I could be locked up in jail for the next ten years. Whether it’s a large project, or a small project, it’s the same feeling. Life is short.” With his artworks, no matter in which medium, he challenges and confronts the viewers to think about social justice issues and the inhuman conditions occurring in many places around the world. Conditions which we often overlook, too busy to see it or consciously deciding not to act. Weiwei’s work makes us ask ourselves: Could we do anything to improve these situations? Ai Weiwei has made the most of the pandemic period, as we can see from the results of many different projects in the past two years. At the time of writing, he is currently launching a memoir called 1,000 Years of Joys and Sorrows, participating in a project launched by CIRCA in the UK, in collaboration with Marina Abramović and many other international artists, preparing a new show for Vienna in 2022, and possibly some another secret project. We only need to wait for his next headline to find out more. b 17

How blockchain helps business Companies are finding ways to simplify supply changes, track their products and combat counterfeiting Writer: Zain Yasin image: Chuttersnap


lockchain technology was created as a response to the problems with trust created by the 2008 financial crisis. Blockchain-based systems such as Bitcoin were presented as an alternative to existing financial institutions and a potential solution to the erosion of trust in online intermediaries as the technology eradicates the need for trust between parties. Not only that, there is general mistrust among organisations, this includes fear of confidential information being passed on to competitors which in return has led to organisations refusing to share data. Even if the information is shared it is not completely trusted. Using blockchain to improve supply chain efficiency and speed will allow companies to only share limited data such as inventory and shipment data. Blockchains were originally created for cryptocurrency networks creating permanent records of every transaction that is associated with an asset which results in an unbroken chain of trust. However, if we take this technology and apply it to 18

the supply chain, this can enable faster and more cost-efficient delivery of products. Yves Richard, 29 from London who has been working with blockchain for three years told us: “Blockchain technology is making huge progress in general but when it comes to supply chain management we are seeing some promising results that make me excited for the future”. Walmart in Canada has started using blockchain with trucking companies that transport the company’s inventory. In addition, IBM and Maersk joined forces in 2017 and have used blockchain to transform the cross-border supply chain. This trade solution will help track and manage the paper trail of millions of shipping containers across the world by digitalising the supply chain process from end-to-end transparency and the secure sharing of information among trading partners. This will potentially save the industry billions of dollars. For example, bulk shipment of products such as flowers requires a lot of certified paper documents, sometimes in the hundreds, to make sure the product is hygienic and has not been tampered with. This has to be signed and stamped by various different agencies which then has to be transported separately by air to the import destination as custom agents require original documents to prevent fraud. The smallest error on these paper documents can result in delays that can hold up payments and spoil a shipment. Mistakes such as missing shipments, duplicate payments and inventory discrepancies are near impossible to detect in real-time, so when the problem is discovered it is expensive and difficult to pinpoint the source and trying to fix it by the sequence of activities that have been recorded. This is particularly the case with large organisations that are engaged in thousands of transactions every day across a large network of supply chain partners. Blockchain technology can remove such complexities from this process. When documents need to be shared with multiple institutions, putting these records on blockchain initiates real-time updates that are visible and can never be altered or tampered with, creating substantial savings when it comes to time and cost while ensuring a strong level of trust. Emma Davidson, 32, who owns her own start-up told us: “We’ve been discussing how we can use blockchain to support our business needs. When it comes to supply chain, blockchain technology is still relatively new, which is why seeing big corporations take on blockchain for supply chain gives me great

confidence with regards to switching to blockchain technology as opposed to the traditional method.” The technology not only provides visibility with regards to where goods are but it also provides traceability and shows where things have been in the past. Let’s use a T-shirt as an example. The cotton used to create that garment can be traced from the farm to the shipment containers to the factory floor to the finished product on the shelves of a retail store. But it doesn’t stop there. If you decide to buy that T-shirt and resell it to another consumer it will automatically leave a stamp in the blockchain. This can give the purchaser peace of mind that the product you are selling is authentic, as it will all be visible in blockchain. This tool is particularly useful when it comes to tackling counterfeit products as we live in an age of constant buying and reselling, for example selling sneakers on the online marketplace Stockx. If there is any concern about the authenticity of a product, blockchain will be able to detect them as counterfeit goods as they would lack a traceable history. The technology provides a tracking system that is trusted and respected, and goes from the beginning of the supply chain right down to the very end. Consumers can shop with confidence and are assured that the product they are buying is authentic. One industry that blockchain is really helping is healthcare, where service providers are now using the technology to control and track healthcare products from production to delivery and it is enabling pharmaceutical companies to reduce the level of illegal activities such as counterfeit drugs and unlawful production of medicines. Blockchain technology naturally supports environmentally-friendly and eco-conscious globalisation. It is not always possible for consumers or companies to know where exactly the product is coming from and how it is transported. With the help of blockchain, it will now be easier for organisations and individuals alike to implement ethical procurement practices. Josh Anderson, a lead business developer at a major corporation, told us: “Blockchain brings trust, accountability and transparency. When it comes to supply chains, blockchain can help improve the quality of a product and save businesses a lot of headaches. It can help businesses understand where the products come from. “Blockchain acts as a validator for truth, it can provide proof that the information that is given to the consumer

about a specific product is accurate and not fraudulent, which we are seeing a lot of in the age of buying and reselling products on the internet.” Tracking goods on the blockchain reduces risk and helps improve quality in production and distribution by producing real-time synchronisation of decisions with various supply chain partners. With access to a continuous real-time chain of events a supply chain can operate iteratively, and by being aware ahead of time that a supplier’s shipment is a partial order, organisations can come up with a plan to reorganise internal inventory and even adjust pricing. It can

on the shared blockchain with each participant, approves the loan and records the digital token for the loan on the same blockchain. So on and so forth. Each block is encrypted and given to all participants involved who keep their own copies of the blockchain. Because of this, blockchain provides complete transparency, trustworthiness and a tamper-proof trail within the supply chain. Since each participant has their own copy of the blockchain, they can all identify any errors, review the status of the transactions and hold other participants responsible for any mistakes or delays made at any stage. The benefits we are

also re-route containers to a different warehouse in order to optimise efficiency. When you use blockchain for record-keeping, assets such as orders, loans and inventory are assigned unique identifiers which serve as digital tokens. In addition, participants receive digital signatures which they use to sign the blocks that they add to the chain itself. From there, every single step of the transaction is recorded on the blockchain as a transfer of the token from one participant to another. To put it in simple terms: A retailer creates an order and then sends it to its supplier. At this point there has been no exchange of goods or services, and there would be no entries in the financial ledger, also known as the ‘blind spot’. However, with blockchain, the retailer would record a digital token for the order. In return, the supplier logs the order and confirms with the retailer that the order has been received—the confirmation itself is then recorded on the blockchain without creating an entry in the financial ledger. Next, the supplier requests a loan from a bank to finance the production of goods. The bank then verifies the order

seeing are quite clear. If a company finds out that a product is faulty, blockchain would enable the firm and its partners in the supply chain to trace the product, identify production including all the suppliers associated with the product and efficiently recall it. As soon as the supplier receives an order, the bank that is within the supply chain will have access to the blockchain and be able to immediately provide the supplier with the working capital that is needed. When merchandise is received by the buyer, the bank can obtain payments. Since things like audit trails are readily available, conflicts between the banks and borrowing firms can be eradicated. Smart contracts can also be used to verify when these contractual obligations have been met and, in return, payments can be released. These contracts or ‘computer codes’ can be programmed to check the status of a transaction and take action accordingly, such as automatically releasing a payment, recording entries and flagging up any errors that might require manual handling. According to analysist CapGemini, 87% of organisations are at early stages of using blockchain for supply chain;

10% are at advanced stages and 3% are already using the technology. Unilever, Nestlé and Dole are among the companies that have integrated it, while Lynx has successfully incorporated it for their cross-border logistics operations. Unlike blockchains that are used for bitcoin, which is open to anonymous users, supply chains require private blockchains among known parties. Only they will be able to join the blockchain meaning they would need permission to join the system. This makes blockchain for supply chain a much safer space to operate in. Participants need to be vetted and approved in a selective process, because of the ‘open’ nature of blockchains which can be a risk to data privacy breaches. Companies that post transactions on a blockchain can be accessed by any of the participants, and as the volume of data increases within a blockchain it can potentially be misused to trade stocks, gather intelligence and predict market movements. Last year, the UK government’s Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPPS) published a report on using ledger technology for supply chains. The report clearly highlights how blockchain can be a useful tool for overcoming supply chain management challenges. Furthermore, when you look at the potential market size on a global scale, it was valued at $93.16 million in 2017; it’s projected to reach $98.53 million by 2025. David Anderson, 33, lead manager at a tech firm in London, told us: “Businesses need to get comfortable with blockchain and all it has to offer as it will be great for both the business and the consumers in the long run. “If we shy away from new technologies instead of embracing them we will never achieve all the things that technology has to offer. Supply chain management has been struggling for a while now. I believe introducing blockchains will help make things less complicated,” he continued. Supply chain managers need to make an effort to develop new rules, build ecosystems with other firms and experiment with technologies available to them. The transition may not be easy at first but it will be worth it as the investment promises to generate a significant return. As with every new up and coming technology, there is considerable room for improvement when it comes to supply chains operating for end-to-end traceability, coordination, financing and speed of product delivery. However, blockchain has become a powerful tool with regard to addressing deficiencies that businesses are facing within the supply chain. b 19




Ninety years since it was founded, Guide Dogs’ work continues to change the lives of the visually impaired

t was 1931, in a humble lock-up garage in Wallasey on Merseyside, when two pioneering women, Muriel Crooke and Rosamund Bond, arguably changed the lives of those living with visual impairment in Britain forever. In the wake of the First World War, thousands of soldiers across Europe came home blinded as a result of the intense conflict, and became the catalysts for what is the modern guide dog movement. Fascinated and inspired by success stories from America, Germany and Switzerland, Crooke and Bond organised the training of four adult German Shepherd dogs to help improve the mobility of visually impaired soldiers. On October 6th, 1931, the dogs were handed over to four blind British veterans, thus establishing the first ever guide dog partnerships in the UK. Within six months of meeting the dogs, the former servicemen reported feeling a freedom and independence they had not experienced since before the war and by 1934, the Guide Dogs for the Blind Association was established. Ninety years on, Guide Dogs’ work continues to change the lives of the visually impaired. Things have changed of course: from buying and raising puppies in the 1950s, to establishing a breeding programme in the 1960s that remains in place today, the process of taking a newborn puppy and transforming them into a well-adjusted, functional working guide-dog has become a fine art for the organisation But almost a century on, the primary focus of the charity hasn’t changed: “Everyone deserves to lead the life that they want to lead. Living with sight loss is one of those disabilities which affects every part of your life, but we believe with the right intervention, with the right support, possibly with the right guide dog even, there should be no barriers to people doing what it is that they want and need to do” said Tim Stafford, the director of canine affairs at Guide Dogs. Scott Bailey is just one example of the impact that having a guide dog can have on the lives of those with visual impairment. I met up with Scott, 32, at a cafe in Nantwich, Cheshire. He was there early, waiting in line accompanied by his guide dog, a striking golden retriever named Milo.

A former dairy farmer from nearby Crewe, Scott is an easy-going, salt-of-the-earth type—a husband and a father to two girls, his warm and funny demeanour feels capable of putting anyone immediately at ease. What stands out most to me seeing Scott for the first time is how, despite his disability, in this busy lunchtime cafe, with Milo by his side, he seems completely at ease. I point out an empty table and lead as Scott passes a simple command to Milo: “Follow.” The dog assists as he leads Scott to the chair opposite me before lying down at his feet as we ramble gently into the interview. Milo remains relaxed but completely observant throughout our chat. Scott was 30 when he first lost sight in one of his eyes: “I was just at work, milking the cows, when all of a sudden I had this massive bleed in one of my eyes. It happened within seconds. It was like a light turned off.” A diabetic since childhood, Scott had received some simple intervening treatment such as laser eye surgery on his eyes in the few years prior to his vision loss. “I was warned that this might happen. But I didn’t think it was going to happen. I thought I was bulletproof. I couldn’t tell anything was wrong. I was still driving, working, doing everything. Until it actually happened, I was going about life as normal.” Scott was picked up from work by his wife Amanda, and taken straight to his local A&E, where he was referred immediately to specialist care at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital. It was there that Scott was diagnosed with diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that causes damage to the blood vessels in the back of the eye, and the leading cause of blindness in British adults. Surgery on the eye is notoriously complex, particularly when performed on younger patients such as Scott. Over the course of nine operations, further complications also meant Scott later developed glaucoma and cataracts, two similarly debilitating conditions. By the May of 2019, Scott had been registered as blind, and his life was changed forever. The Royal National Institute of Blind People, one of the UK’s leading sight loss charities, compares the emotional experience of losing vision to the pain of grieving. Scott recounts in

Words: Robert Wallace Images: Guide Dogs 21

harrowing honesty the true emotions he felt following his sight loss. “I really could not do anything at all. I remember I used to sit there in the kitchen, my wife would put the TV on for me. For some reason there was a timer, so that would turn off after a few hours. I would literally sit there while my family was at school and work. I’d sit there waiting for them to come home. “I’d gone from being outside, working, going about life, to literally being stuck inside four walls. Not being able to make a brew, not being able to make dinner, not being able to be independent and do things for myself. I grieved for my sight. At the time it feels like you’ve lost everything. You can’t see anyone. Of course they are there, but you can’t see them,” he explained. “I was sad. I couldn’t see my girls’ faces at all. Things were going through my head that were really horrible. I had no mobility skills, no adaptations, no support, no help. I didn’t even know one blind person.” That was until Scott met his rehabilitation officer, Jim Cummings, who guided Scott through the first steps of adapting to his vision loss by training him in how to use a cane. Scott cracks a wry smile as he now jokes that “it was literally the blind leading the blind!” The impact that Jim had on Scott’s life cannot be understated, and proved important in reshaping Scott’s outlook on life: “I wasn’t used to asking people for help. I wasn’t really a people person. I mean I’d grown up on a farm, I was a cow person! I felt embarrassed asking for help. But that changed. He taught me how to live a new way of life.” While learning to use a cane was key for Scott’s independence, it wasn’t a perfect solution: “Me and my wife were walking down the street, I had my cane, going along as I do: left, right, left, right, when I hit a bump. My cane poked me in the stomach—as it should.” Then came Scott’s lightbulb moment: “I said to Amanda, ‘do you think I should look into a guide dog?’” Getting home, Amanda immediately emailed the charity and got the ball rolling with Guide Dogs. A couple of weeks went by before Scott got a phone call offering the first assessment: “They asked me what I could do. I told them I couldn’t make a brew, I couldn’t go out, I couldn’t do anything. I think they were quite shocked by that.” Scott passed the first stage of assessment, which was then followed by an in-person visit by the charity’s mobility specialists to observe Scott out on a walk: “They [were] assessing how fast I was walking; what my vision was like; why I needed a guide dog. That day I walked square into a lamp post, which funnily enough was good—it showed them I actually needed a guide dog!” It was the beginning of 2020 when Scott received a call from the charity: “They said they noticed from their records that I’d never actually walked with a guide dog. They told me that they had this dog in training and that they wanted to see how he walked. I’d never actually even met a guide dog at this point.” What followed was the day that Scott’s life changed once again. “This guy pulls up in a car, a lovely German guy called Maik. He gets out, I walk over, and suddenly this yellow dog jumps out the back.” Maik tells him: “This is Milo.” Scott recounts how a month earlier, he “remembered liking and sharing this post from Guide Dogs on Facebook. I remember saying to my wife Amanda, ‘I want this dog, he’s amazing!’” In a bizarre and beautiful turn of fate, that dog in the post was Milo. “It was the same dog!” Tim Stafford at Guide Dogs jokingly compared the process of forming the relationship between dog and person as something akin to an “arranged marriage”, because one dog doesn’t always suit that person but might suit a number of others.” But in Scott and Milo’s case, the pair seemed a natural fit from the start. Walking with Milo for the first time was game-changing for Scott; for the first time since losing his sight, Milo enabled 22


him to walk with true independence: “I just felt free.” After their first meeting, Maik took Milo back to the centre in Liverpool and assured Scott that they’d be in touch shortly to ask for feedback. Scott was out walking a couple of days later when Guide Dogs called: “They asked me if I showed my girls any pictures of me walking Milo. I told them I didn’t want to get their hopes up.” Scott looks a little wistful as he recounts what he heard next: “They told me to not worry about that, because we want Milo to be your guide dog. “I broke down in tears. I couldn’t believe that it was actually happening. They said because I have another dog and family that they’d fetch him round for a sleepover. That was amazing. But I didn’t know that would be the last time that I saw him for six months.” Scott was due to check-in to a hotel in Liverpool to begin his and Milo’s training the day that Boris Johnson announced the country would be going into national lockdown. Scott recounts the understandable heartbreak he felt that day: “It felt like someone had given me my sight and independence back and taken it away from me again.” No one knew how long lockdown would last. Whilst the pandemic obviously proved tough for everyone, it would also present new challenges for visually impaired people like Scott: “All the way through the pandemic I was worried. There were new barriers everywhere. One-way systems. I was bumping into everything. I wouldn’t go out anywhere because I was just embarrassed. I think the only thing that kept me going through that pandemic was the promise of Milo.” In September 2020, that promise was finally fulfilled and Milo entered Scott’s life. The charity went above and beyond to ensure Scott and his family wouldn’t have to wait any longer. “Normally, you get one guide dog instructor, but three of them teamed together so they could train me and Milo up. We couldn’t go to the hotel because of restrictions, so Guide Dogs travelled from Liverpool to Crewe and trained us every day.” By November, Scott and Milo’s training was complete, and in the twelve months that have followed, the impact that Milo has had on Scott’s life goes beyond words: “He’s given me so much confidence to get out and about. He’s made me and my kids a so much happier—he has allowed me to be a dad again. That’s the main thing. He’s made me a happy dad again.” With Milo’s help, Scott is now able to attend college, where he is currently training as a counsellor. He now has aspirations to attend university and specialise in sight loss counselling, where, with his experience and empathy, he has the potential to change lives. 24

“The confidence that Guide Dogs as a charity have given me by giving me Milo is just ridiculous. I can’t explain it,” says Scott. “It’s because of Milo that I’m going to college. If it wasn’t for Milo I couldn’t go. I’d be stuck at home.” Scott now acts as an advocate for Guide Dogs and the wider visually-impaired community, sharing updates on his and Milo’s life through his Facebook page Guide Dog Team Milo. He’s also recently featured on ITV, and this winter you will see Scott and Milo as the subject of Guide Dogs’ TV Christmas fundraising campaign. The story of course isn’t over for Scott. On the day I met him he was just a few weeks on from surgery, and was preparing for yet another operation within a month. But Scott doesn’t seem like a man who is mournful. Meeting him with Milo, the reason is clear: “This dog has allowed me to be independent. He’s allowed me to be happy. Since having Milo I’ve not had one bit of anxiety. He’s given me a sense of purpose.”

Supported by the work of more than 1,500 staff and at least 14,000 volunteers, Guide Dogs has established more than 4,800 working guide dog partnerships like Scott and Milo’s in the UK, and the charity further supports roughly 200,000 visually impaired people through advice, advocacy, training and support. In a June 1933 edition of the Tail-Wagger Magazine, Alfred Morgan, one of the UK’s first guide dog owners, was quoted saying: “No blind man, no matter how clever he is, can cover the ground with the ease and speed that I can with Bella’s help. Now do you see what I mean by saying that I have regained my freedom? The fact is I have another pair of eyes.” “I still hear words like these today, 90 years later,” Tim Stafford tells us. “It’s not just about the dogs and it’s not just about the people, it’s about that relationship between the two, that they can both really help each other. “Dogs love people and people can love dogs. And if you get that partnership right, that’s where the magic really happens.” b


Words: Lucy Crayton Images: Ella Taylor, Francesca Kopanycia-Reynold

COLD WATER SWIMMING: A PANDEMIC ESCAPE While lidos, indoor pools and gyms had to shut up shop, people took to the sea, lakes and rivers 26


ecent statistics from Sport England, a public body dedicated to getting more people active across England, indicate that a staggering 3.7 million people partook in cold water swimming in the year to November 2020. An Instagram search of the hashtag #coldwaterswimming shows a hefty 224,000 posts, while the hashtag #coldwatertherapy reveals an impressive 112,000 posts. This is hardly surprising because not only does the popular activity have physical benefits—increased muscle strength, increased cardiovascular fitness, increased immunity and low impact on joints—it has myriad mental health benefits too. Dr Mark Harper, an anaesthetist consultant at Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals and advisor for The Outdoor Swimming Society (OSS), who is well-versed in the mental health benefits of cold water swimming, gave us the low-down on them. His first research career was in perioperative hypothermia—how getting cold during surgery is bad for you—and his PhD was all about how to prevent this from happening. Mark read that depression is associated with inflammation and knew that cold water adaptation reduces inflammation, so he began wondering how cold water swimming could be used to treat depression. Alongside Chris van Tulleken, Michael Tipton and Heather Massey, he rose to the challenge. Together, in 2015, they conducted a study on a 24-year-old woman who suffered from anxiety and depression. She’d been on antidepressants since she was 16-years-old, and was quite withdrawn at the beginning of the study. But after a series of weekly cold water swims, she transformed into a happy, bubbly person. After four months of outdoor swimming, she no longer needed her medication. Six years later, she remains medication free. “I’ve just written a book about this, so I contacted our research participant

and she told me how she’s still medication free six years later,” Mark told us. Looking at the physiological side of it all, stress affects a whole host of bodily functions: from our blood pressure to our immune system, nervous system, metabolism, digestive system, cardiovascular system, energy levels, and fertility. To overcome this, we need active methods of inhibiting the sympathetic nervous system (our fight or flight response) and stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (our rest and digest system). And cold water swimming is particularly good for this. Mark explained that immersing yourself in cold water stimulates the vagus nerve (the tenth cranial nerve that carries signals from the digestive system and organs to the brain and vice versa) and parasympathetic nervous system. After around six immersions, you’re pretty much adapted to the stress of cold water. This then transpires into everyday life, thanks to cross-adaptation, meaning your baseline level of stress and reaction to stress in everyday life is reduced. He went on to explain that it comes with several other benefits too: the community aspect, the challenge involved and immersion in nature, which all add up to improving your mental health. Francesca Kopanycia-Reynold, a 22-year-old former photography student from Bournemouth, can vouch for the benefits. With little to do during the pandemic, she decided to start going for morning dips with a friend at their local beach and they’ve continued their love affair with it ever since. “You just feel so good after. If you’re feeling a bit groggy, it’s always so worth it. It’s great being able to do it with someone. It’s a different experience being able to do it with other people. “And you genuinely forget about the world; when you’re swimming, you’re thinking about swimming, or staying warm, or not wanting to touch the floor, so you’re in the present moment,” Francesca enthused. “Sometimes, you just need to throw yourself into things. Sometimes, you’ve just got to try something out before you 27

realise whether you do or don’t like it. People are quick to say they’re scared of water, but it’s about adapting, overcoming and achieving.” However, cold water swimming can also be dangerous. Between July 14 and 24, 2021 when temperatures skyrocketed in the UK, the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), a drowning prevention charity, learned of 28 people who’d died in water—both inland and at the coast. In response to this, RLSS UK launched a Summer Water Safety campaign. It can be dangerous for a number of reasons. Mark filled us in on them, although he admitted that he isn’t as knowledgeable on the dangers as he is on the mental health benefits: “I don’t know all of them, but I do know a lot about it because there’s a lot going around about it on OSS. “One big factor is inflatables—people being blown out too far. Another is alcohol. Also, if you put your head under water when you’re not used to it and can’t control your breathing, you can

“People are quick to say they’re scared of water, but it’s about adapting, overcoming and achieving”


start hyperventilating. This is how people drown, because they inhale water. It isn’t through heart attacks. “The other problem is getting out; you should always know how you’re going to get out before going in. There’s a rule called Agnes Allan’s rule which is that almost anything is easier to get in to than out of. It applies to anything in life, but it’s especially true of cold water swimming.” But as long as you’re cautious, there’s no reason to not get into cold water swimming. It’s a low-cost activity with numerous benefits. Granted, you’ll find people donning dry robes, wetsuits, swimming socks and swimming gloves during the chillier months, but these aren’t necessities—they just make for a more pleasant experience. A micro fibre towel and warm clothes also does the trick. If it sounds like something that you’d like to give a go, Mark shared his top tips: “Check out OSS’s survival section on their website. Start in summer. Wear a swimming hat to stop the ice cream headache and so that you are easily spottable. “Know how you’re going to get out. Don’t stay in too long—three minutes is long enough and putting your face in three times is plenty—otherwise you run the risk of becoming hypothermic. And do it with someone else.” If you don’t have anyone to go with, there are lots of swimming groups that you can join such as Bluetits, Chilly Dippers, OSS and Chill UK. And there’s also plenty of literature on cold water swimming: Wild Swim by Kate Rew, founder of OSS, pays tribute to Britain’s best swimming spots; At the Pond: Swimming at the Hampstead Ladies’ Pond by Margaret Drabble, Esther Freud and Sophie Mackintosh, sheds light on the perspectives of those who’ve swum at the pond as well as its history. There’s also Outdoor Swimmer Magazine, the world’s only outdoor swimming publication, which boasts an eclectic mix of inspiring stories, safety and technique advice, swimming spots and gear reviews. b


Music, creativity and lots of beer The musician turned London pub owner on a mission to support young talent Words: Sylphia Basak Image: Emma Rose Connolly


he Old Dispensary is a pub tucked in a corner right between Camberwell and Peckham in south-east London. In the evenings the pub is bathed in a cosy red light and Andy Allan greeted me like an old friend; walking in there feels like being invited in to someone’s living room for dinner. For a Monday evening it was relatively busy: “Monday is our jam night. We get young people, young musicians everywhere and just let them play,” Andy explains. Your first impression of Andy might be that he had just stepped out of an old western film; with his long, silver hair and beard, complete with cowboy boots and a hat, a plaid shirt and several rings, the only thing missing is a toothpick in between his teeth. When he sat on the couch adjacent to me and started playing an old bluegrass tune, in that moment you could easily mistake this old English pub for a


mid-western saloon. Seeing Andy’s guitar in his hands, it looked at home in them, as an instrument always does when the artist is so intimately familiar with their art. “You know, there was never an ‘A-ha’ moment for me when it came to music,” he said when I asked him when he knew he wanted to pursue it. “I think a part of me just always knew.” His father worked for the Associated-Rediffusion TV company, one of the ITV companies which served London from 1955-68. This meant Andy was lucky enough to grow up immersed in the world of performing arts, and even sat at Sunday dinners across from the most famous musicians of all time. “The music world was a small one. I got to see these people and their progression into fame in real time, there was a point before I knew John, Paul, George and Ringo as The Beatles.” “They were just John, Paul, George and Ringo, who came over for breakfast every now and then.” Being surrounded by the pillars of the music industry for his entire childhood, it seemed only natural that Andy should pursue the art himself. And so, it was in the living room of a stately home in Seven Oaks, where Andy taught himself to play on the living room piano, starting at the age of ten. As more guests entered the pub, the couch space became filled up with spectators and musicians alike. One of the bartenders, Patrick, took the role of drummer, an old friend of Andy’s, Rufus, walked in and picked up an old acoustic. We were then joined by another guitarist whose day job is an accountant, accompanied by his sister who likes to sing. A young bassist and his girlfriend then sat across from me, and finally, a man who walked into the bar joined in on a number while playing his own guitar. With just a simple nod of the head as a cue, Andy and Rufus began to play an old song of Andy’s as a duet, both of them on acoustic guitar. They hadn’t yet spoken to each other, listening to them play almost felt being invited into a conversation in which they were catching up with each other, and once they started, it was clear that neither time nor distance could have put a dent on the kind of musical chemistry that some are just lucky enough to find. Once they had paused for a break, snapping all of us who were there out of the trance their playing had put us in, Andy turned to me and said, “it actually took a while for me to get into songwriting though, to be honest at first I actually thought it was a bit of a cop out.” Of course, whatever Andy’s initial thoughts on songwriting may have been, that did not prevent a long and rather

illustrious career in music. He bought his first guitar in Barcelona in 1965 at 14 years old and hasn’t put it down since. Growing up a musician in the 60s and 70s of course meant that Andy was never short on inspiration when it came to art. A self-proclaimed former hippie, he, like many artists, often used the social and political landscape of London in that era as the creative backdrop for much of his work. Besides being “chased by skinheads in Camden”, back when Camden still lived up to its dangerous reputation, Andy and his friends would spend their teenage years playing at various gigs in various pubs, looking to spread the message of their music — fuelled by the spirit of the cultural renaissance that we now know as the “Swinging Sixties”. London at that time encompassed an energy that many people of my generation look back on and wish to emulate. As someone who grew up in that era, Andy continues to view it with the same sense of longing and romanticism, stating that it was a time where “people used to really care about art, and it being accessible.” But while the mid 60s may have acted as a catalyst for social reform, encouraged by the establishment, by the time Andy saw the 70s, the idea of “cultural reform” was essentially synonymous with “anti-establishment.” “I remember this one time I went to see Bowie at a concert in his early days, a bunch of us snuck backstage and Bowie, you know, decent bloke, he let us in. We chatted and I introduced my mate Ian to Bowie. And well, that’s how he and Ian Hunter first met,” Andy recalls. “Well you know the hippie movement really ended in August 1969, once Manson’s cult started with Helter Skelter and that race war bullshit. I think people used that as an excuse to shut everything down because of what Manson pretended to preach.” Throughout the 70s, Andy continued to be on the forefront of the social and creative scenes of London. The city could be compared to a house the morning after a rager. The pavements were littered with garbage, empty bottles and used needles created a layer that covered most sidewalks. But through that rubble would emerge the punk era, and Andy would go on to play and produce for various groups at the time, including The Lightning Raiders and a group called The Professionals (formerly known as The Sex Pistols). The rise of the “Thatcherism” era in the 80s meant the demise of the era Andy had spent his teens and twenties. But the growing discontent with Parliament also resulted in the continued rise of punk.

During this time, Andy worked as a jewellery maker while also continuing to pursue music. The tail-end of the decade saw him start to work with Joe Boyd, who produced Nick Drake. And in 1992, Andy, his ex-wife Piano Pace, and his daughter Lily Ramona formed an English folk band known as The Hank Dogs. Andy let out a sigh of nostalgia as he remembered his touring days: “You should ask him about touring and music if anything” he says, pointing to Rufus, his duet partner. “He’s due to leave Saturday, is it?” Rufus nodded humbly. It was then when I realised where I recognised Rufus from. He’s Dominic Miller’s son, and Sting’s current guitarist. We stepped out for a smoke and I asked Rufus how long he’s been a regular at the Old Dispensary: “Oh well before I started touring again. “Sure I missed concerts and stuff, but going to places like this, you know jamming in small crowds with all these

talented strangers. There’s something special about that and I love the space Andy creates for young artists.” We went back in and Andy had just finished singing It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue. He told me that he and The Hank Dogs toured all around the States, and found a sort of home in the folk music scene at a time, where, as he puts it “[the end of the 20th century] seemed to lack direction…it was unsure of itself.” As we (I ended up singing along with them) wrapped up the last of the tunes, I asked Andy what his goal was when he initially took over the Old Dispensary. ”I wanted to create a kind of space that was similar to the ones I had growing up. You know I was lucky enough to have all these places where I could create art and meet other musicians. I want young musicians today to have that.” Andy hosts jam nights on Mondays and Wednesdays at the Old Dispensary, where young and up-and-coming musi-

cians will take to the stage to perform. The crowds come from different walks of life, but the common thread between this bar and all its patrons is the desire to find spaces that fuel creativity: that value young creatives outside of their monetary value. Walking into that pub I can feel the love for music, for creativity, seeping out of every corner, and it’s not just because the space is littered with various equipment and instruments on the walls. Even as a student journalist having multiple veterans of the music industry to take time out of their day to speak to me, I could tell that these were people who genuinely value young creativity in all its forms. The Old Dispensary, according to Rufus “feels like coming home. After all the touring sometimes you just want a place to go back to your roots, to be reminded of why you chose [to pursue] this. For me, the Old Dispensary is that place.” b



Words: Annika Loebig Images: Diya Sengupta

An end-of-life guide uses mind-altering drugs to help people transition to the other side



wo years ago, a series of events unfolded for death doula Leanne which changed her life forever. “For me, personally, it all kicked off just before the pandemic because of my grandmother’s death,” she tells me. “She died in the most perfect scenario that you can imagine: She died with my mother and her son. She was a Catholic woman praying in her home, in her chair. She did plan it, you know, she knew she was reaching the end of her life.” At 94, Leanne’s grandmother still got the chance to witness Leanne’s wedding three weeks prior to her death. She tells me that inviting everyone to her wedding for a round of final goodbyes, and even sewing her own clothes to be buried in, were all part of her preparations. But despite being a woman of faith and preparing to die despite no signs of illness, completing her last confessions every second day, Leanne was surprised to find out that her grandmother was still terrified of what was to come. “She wasn’t actually sick. There was nothing wrong with her. She was still very healthy, but she just knew that things were just not doing what they needed to do. She wasn’t diagnosed with anything other than she was just old and wanted to die.” “Even though she had spent her whole life praying, redeeming her sins, she really struggled in the last hour or two to actually die. So, although she had this beautiful death, it got my mind going: what was she really afraid of? We couldn’t have had it any better. What was the fear, if it was so well planned?” Leanne’s grandmother was buried on the same day that her green card interview took place, which would allow her to move to the US with her husband. Being unable to be at her funeral in Ireland triggered a lot of guilt in her, but everything changed when Leanne returned to the yoga practice she had been devoted to for four years at that point.

“I was into my yoga philosophy and not just doing the asanas but wanting to understand. I had always been reading the text and the scriptures and stuff, but at that point, I had joined a yoga studio in Chicago. I just remember my yoga teacher was talking about the eight limbs of Ashtanga yoga and Samadhi being the final limb, which is this pure bliss. I literally was like, ‘alright, so you’re dead, then. That must mean you’re dead. Because in life, life can’t be that great, right? It can’t always just be that blissful.’” “This was my internal dialogue and she didn’t shut me down, she was just like ‘no, not necessarily’.” Leanne tells me this took place at the same time that her grandmother and Ram Dass died. Dass was an American spiritual teacher and author of Be Here Now. Reading one of his books gave her a first positive introduction into LSD and other psychedelics and, still guilt-ridden after her grandmother’s death, Leanne decided to give psychedelics a go. On the 1st February 2020, she had her first experience with LSD. “I didn’t pray to anybody; I gave up on my own Catholic faith after my dad died when I was 12. At that point, heaven, hell and purgatory just weren’t cutting it for me. I just couldn’t understand it. And in Ireland at the time, who are you going to question? There was no dialogue, it was just the way it was.” “Like I said, I wasn’t praying to anybody. So, I didn’t even know where I was putting this intention. But I was like: okay, well, help me with this guilt. This guilt is really affecting me. I know my grandmother wouldn’t care anyway so, what is this? Why am I feeling this way?’ That was my intention.” Leanne’s husband offered to trip-sit for her—a practice where you hold space for the person embarking on a psychedelic trip to help them stay grounded—taking half a tab of LSD himself. “They completely shifted my whole perspective on everything. I didn’t have 33

any strong visuals or experience, but my granny was, like, in my mind: why are you guilty? There’s nothing to be guilty about. And after having read that book Be Here Now, and having this experience of ‘oh, my God, really, all I have to do is be present’. I realised I have to take this more seriously. It’s not just words in a book, it’s literally possible.” Shortly after her grandmother’s passing, the Covid-19 pandemic was in full effect. After watching The Midnight Gospel on Netflix, Leanne and her husband reflected on the last two episodes of the animated show, which comment on the capitalisation and industrialisation of death and our persistent denial of it. Her husband then made a suggestion that would mark the beginning of Leanne’s psychedelic journey and newfound passion to guide the dying. “He was like, ‘did you know that you can be a death doula?’ Because literally all I’ve been doing has been talking about death and how we’re not doing death right. And then that was it.” Originally from a Catholic town in Ireland, Leanne completed her training as a death doula last June and now lives in the US with her husband. While the term ‘doula’ might be more familiar to people, as they are known to support parents throughout pregnancy and through the process of giving birth, death doulas are there to support people as they reach the end of their lives. They’re sometimes called end-of-life guides or death midwives for that reason. Unlike nurses, they hold non-medical roles and are there to serve the dying and their families by cooperating with hospice staff, physicians, pharmacists and caregivers to take care of the dying during their transition—in a way that serves them and their spiritual, legal and personal interests best. Although psychedelics weren’t part of the course, many of her fellow death doulas tried weaving their healing potential into the conversation. Leanne learned that when we die, DMT, short for N,N-dimethyltryptamine which is found in the South American psychoactive brew ayahuasca, is released in our brains, which could be why some people who have had near-death experiences (NDE) report having seen visuals and even their dead relatives. Leanne tells me that while people might be afraid that they are “going insane”, it’s important for doulas to honour their visuals as it becomes part of their dying process. It’s worth pointing out the ancestral and spiritual connotations of DMT in ayahuasca, aya meaning ‘dead person, spirit, soul, or ancestor’, and waska meaning ‘rope or vine’ in the Quechuan language. Shamans who conduct ayahuasca ceremonies and offer spiritual guidance before, during, and after, tell participants 34

to drink the psychoactive brew, made out of hallucinogenic Psychotria viridis plants and the rainforest’s  Banisteriopsis caapi vine. This is done to connect people to the spirit of their ancestors, which is why sometimes people walk away from the experience having communicated with their deceased loved ones or found closure over their death. Studies have shown that the effects of DMT mirror NDE. There are strong associations between NDE scores and what is called the ‘mystical factor’, which is what gives people a sense of unity or continuity between the self and the world around them when they’ve taken psychedelics, also known as ‘dissolved ego-boundaries’. We’ve recently witnessed the launch of the UK’s first ketamine assisted therapy clinic, biotechnology company AWAKN acquiring exclusive rights to MDMA research, and a study led by psychedelic researcher Robin Carhart-Harris suggesting that we might one day be able to replace antidepressants with psilocybin. Four years after news outlets started declaring the beginning of a new psychedelic renaissance in the US, it seems like it has finally travelled overseas. But while death anxiety is recognised by the fifth version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM- 5) as a potential phobia, also called thanatophobia, we don’t usually consider the ability to extend mental health support to help us cope with death. Last year, the American Psychiatric Association even approved a new diagnosis of Prolonged Grief Disorder to be added to the  DSM, recognising the death of a loved one or reaching the end of our own lives as an inevitable threat to our mental wellbeing. As public opinion on the positive effects of plant medicines and psychedelics on our lives is changing, could psychedelic therapy be extended to help us deal with death anxiety and grief? Psychonaut and death doula, Leanne, thinks so. One person Leanne works with once ‘flatlined’ for four to six minutes, meaning he was virtually dead for that period of time. But he’s also had psychedelic experiences, and they don’t seem to be all that far away from each other, Leanne tells me. “If we can die before we die, that’s the catalyst to living life. We don’t have to die physically in order for that to happen.” “I believe that death in itself is such a liminal space anyway, even without psychedelics present. I think trip-sitting for people going through a really hard trip, for example, is a great preparation to sit with people as they’re dying. That’s where I think the parallels come in. And



I really wish that we could maybe bring that more to the forefront of all of the training that people are doing. Can’t we transfer this into allowing people to gain the skills to sit with their loved ones, so that they can die at home and it’s not this medical event? Because death isn’t a medical event. It’s a natural event, just like birth, that’s also medicalised, but they’re both natural.” Recently, Leanne has had the chance to trip-sit for her mother, with the help of some psychedelic mushrooms she was growing herself in her small town in Ireland. Although her mother is not afraid of death as such, but rather the suffering that could happen around it, Leanne’s intention during the trip was to offer her an opportunity to face the pain she was worried about. “It was amazing, because for me, having already lost a parent, my biggest fear is losing her. So it was almost like having a preview of it.” “I gave her a higher dose, and I took a little bit just to be in there with her. We had the room set up beautifully, no music playing, it was just peaceful. And it was so funny because I was massaging her, and she was convinced that I knew exactly where her pain was. Obviously, I didn’t know that. But you know, that’s the way the medicine works, right?” “At one point, in her mind’s eye, she was dead. I was talking to her afterwards. She was like, ‘if you hadn’t reminded me to breathe, I would have quite happily stayed where I was’. It was beautiful. It was heaven, right? It was her mind’s eye of heaven.” The integration after the experience is an important part of the self-care process afterwards, during which the person who had the psychedelic experience, and the one who guided them, reflect on the visuals, thoughts, and feelings that came up. “You can’t just go and have this huge trip and then not understand what to do with it.” Sometimes people are left with a so-called ‘afterglow’, which can leave an inner peace within them and often includes a stronger connection to the world around them. Carhart-Harris has suggested that because psychedelics often remind us of one’s closeness with nature, the afterglow serves as an epistemic reminder of that feeling or fact. In some instances, it obliterates the feeling of being ontologically distinct from others and the world, which can take away the part of death anxiety which is most concerned with the fact that we cease to exist as individuals. “The society that fears death fears life,” Leanne tells me. When her dad died, she was convinced that he was gone forever,

nowhere to be found. Since her experience with psychedelics and as a death doula, however, she’s started cultivating a relationship with those who have died rather than seeing it merely as something you lose that is gone forever. “We really need to start to honour the dead, and the dying, and the living. Especially for people who have maybe had a diagnosis and who know that the time is coming, allowing them the time to prepare for how they would like to go: creating some kind of visual plan so that they are in some sort of sovereignty over that end of their life. It creates an environment where there’s peace, whatever that means for them.” Many might already be familiar with the story of Aldous Huxley’s wife injecting him with LSD on his death bed, and we’ve even started offering some people with a terminal illness the option to decrease their depression and death anxiety with the help of a single dose of psilocybin. Our mortality has been painfully put under the microscope in the age of Covid-19, and yet we are still surprisingly bad at coping with it. Leanne believes that with the help of psychedelics there is hope for us to catch up on the wisdom which ancient parts of the world knew all along: that death is not a medical failure, but rather a biological fate which will catch up with us all. “We have to remember how to be communities, again, how to honour both ends of the spectrum again and give people sovereignty over their life. And I think that’s such a root cause of where we are in society. In yoga philosophy,  Abhinivesha is the root of our suffering. It’s the fear of death, the fear of change. So, if we know this, why are we still not doing anything about it?” Death doulas are often asked to stay with the body after their death. It reminds Leanne of the Irish wake: a tradition during which the deceased body is left out of sight for a short period of time. When her grandmother died, her mum and uncle decided against calling the doctor and just leaving her be for a while. Shortly after, one of her family members entered the room, looked around, and asked: “have you let the dog say goodbye?” “Why should I do that?” her mother asked. “You should.” So Leanne’s mother let her sniff her body for a few minutes, trying to pull the dog away after which she would only try to go back in. “It was as if she was really sniffing every last bit of her. She did it another time a couple hours later and it was as though she was trying to say ‘no, she’s gone’, you know? It’s all good now.” b 37

WELCOME TO AUROVILLE, THE ‘CITY OF DAWN’ An experimental community in southern India is trying to create a society based on human unity


uroville is an experimental city in Tamil Nadu, southern India, close to the small town of Pondicherry. For those who aren’t familiar with it, the ‘City of Dawn’ has existed since February 28, 1968 and was curated by Mirra Alfassa, also known as “The Mother”. In 1965, Alfassa outlined her vision for the experiment: “Auroville wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries can live in peace and progressive harmony, above all creeds, all politics and nationalities. The purpose of Auroville is to realise human unity.” Some would consider this a paradisiacal dream, whilst for others, it’s no more than something to test their curiosity. However, the concept would stand out to individuals that wanted to shy away from a ‘normal society’, whatever that is, almost sixty years on from the formation of Auroville. “The Auroville international township is an outcome of a dream Mother had about a place that would become a symbol of human unity and progress,” said Abha from Auroville’s media team. “The original vision saw a unique city on Earth that would bring together 50,000 people from all over the world,” However, today, the number of residents is still far below this figure. The inspiration behind the concept was formed from Sri Aurobindo Ghosh’s views on life. He was a man known for many interests, such as philosophy, poetry and journalism. But, above all, he was most passionate about yoga, and has been quoted as saying that “all life is yoga”. His name has lived on since his passing in 1950 because of the work of Alfassa, who named her vision after


Words by: Will Drysdale Images: Lord Inchcape/flickr, Sonira Agarwal/unsplash, Rishi/unsplash, Mirinal Rai /unsplash


Aurobindo. Auroville, and all ‘Aurovilians’, as they are known, would be educated on the community’s origins and inspirations. The experimental city currently has people of 58 different nationalities residing there, which is significantly lower than the 124 nations and 23 Indian states that came together in 1968. The first ceremony involved these nations and Indian states sharing soil from each of their regions. This was filled into an urn in the shape of a lotus bud. Along with this soil. the Mother’s original handwritten charter is also immortalised inside the urn. The centre of Auroville is called the Matrimandir or ‘soul of the city’, a nickname it’s retained since Alfassa herself named it that. Alfassa had a vision for this too, and said: “The Matrimandir will be the soul of Auroville. The sooner the soul is there, the better it will be for everybody, especially for the Aurovillians.” It represents a new consciousness, a gold-plated orb protruding from the Earth for all Aurovillians to meditate in and around. ‘Matrimandir’ translates to ‘Temple of the Mother’ and is a place of reflection where no images are permitted to be captured.


One previous resident, Chana Corrine Devor, described it as, “more of a religious thing than anything else, a place to meditate. You go in, and there is a picture of ‘The Mother’, Sri Aurobindo and flowers. There is a big chamber at the top and a crystal at the bottom to reflect the light.” The Mother was quoted as saying, “let it not become a religion”, which to Corrine’s eyes, has become just that. Auroville’s website explains the Matramandir is there “to find one’s consciousness. The Matrimandir is there for ‘those who want to learn to concentrate”. No fixed meditations, none of all that, but they should stay there in silence, silence and concentration. A place for trying to find one’s consciousness.” From an outsider’s perspective, the idea of Auroville on paper sounds idyllic and peaceful. That’s precisely what Corrine thought of this community the first time she heard about it. Having spent time travelling around India with her son and enjoying it, she began to wonder, “where was a good place in India to raise a child,” which she was informed of through an Israeli friend of hers, when they met in Kashmir. The decision to explore this community came a few years later after living in French Polynesia and Hawaii. Details of Auroville had been etched into a notebook for later, but they had not been forgotten. Today, over 50 years after it was founded, the society is well known through the nomadic community. In the years leading up to her own visit, Corrine was repeatedy told “you have a lot of people selling it to you all over the world because it is really just a very special place in the world, so unique.” For one looking to experience the town for themselves, Corrine describes the process as “pretty easy”, but to be accepted as a citizen, it can take a little longer. “First of all, you can come as a tourist, as a visitor, which is what I did.” The website is well organised, and Corrine was able to “set everything up from Israel.” The community host their own tourist sessions continuously throughout the year; all sorts of shows are available to explore during your visit, such as art exhibitions and practicing meditation. Corrine wanted her son to gain an education whilst in Auroville, which is entirely possible, given that there are ten schools there. However, this meant going beyond being just a tourist; she would have to find a role in the community. She admits that she struggled with this initially, telling us: “I didn’t know what the hell I was going to do there. I mean, what was I going to do?” Luckily for Corrine, Auroville is a very accommodating community, and the skills you have, whether laborious or academic, will be appreciated. She informed an acquaintance that she’d met there that she was a skilled writer: “I do magazines, travelling, religion, and she put me in touch with one of the magazines in our field which deals with art.” She described the new role as “great. It was just great. I ended up working there the whole time interviewing the painters and the artists.” Having done this for two years and become an ‘Aurovillian’, Corrine built a name for herself as an art columnist: “I discovered my style there. You know a lot [of people] would tell me: ‘I’m waiting for your column every week’, and artists would invite me to the opening of their exhibitions.” As a result, her son could attend one of the schools in the community, and the education was, according to Corrine, “way better” than the schooling system of other countries. However, because his mother was a new resident, Vito had to attend a school for “newcomers”, as Corrine put it. Once they were more established, they had a greater choice between schools; some institutions are more contemporary than others, and can be strict as well. There’s also a school here where the students decide indi-

vidually what they want to learn about. The education gained here is valid enough for students to eventually go to university abroad, but as Corrine told us: “Most of them go to Holland. I don’t know what the deal was in Holland.” Like many of their contemporaries in other parts of the world, the teenage inhabitants of Auroville are not exempt from the temptations of adult life. “The only thing for teenagers around the age of 15, well, you know, drug problems. As a matter of fact, where I am now is the same thing everywhere in the world, except that it’s very cheap.”

But, for a society that has prohibited drugs and where the use of alcohol is discouraged, it seems like there’s always a way, just like in most places. It just depends on how daring one is. Auroville also claims to have a zero percent crime rate. This would be an impressive feat if so, but as it is human nature to be evil, how true can it be? In Corrine’s opinion, there was crime, but not from Aurovillians. “No, that is not true. There is a little violent crime, but no murders, and rapes are very few. People will stop your motorcycle in the middle of the night and just try to get money, so it’s not free of it.” Although Corrine explains that crime does exist, minimal as it may be, she didn’t experience it from fellow settlers of Auroville: “we never travelled around late at night alone, always a few people together,” she explained. For one to thrive in a place like Auroville it seems a lot of baggage needs to be left at the entrance. Or, if not, discarded slowly as a process. Realities of the ‘real world’ are still apparent in a place that’s attempting to be the opposite. Corrine claimed that “It’s all about money if you don’t have any money. You can’t put your foot in the door. In order to get to that, you need to be very evolved, and that’s what was so disappointing about Auroville.” Living in perfect unity with the whole community may seem very good on paper, but it’s a lot easier said than done by the sounds of things. With no intention of closing soon, it will be fascinating to see where the next 50 years will take this community. Will it ever reach that target of 50,000 ‘Aurovillians’? As Abha from Auroville’s media team explained: “Like all dreams, Auroville has an evolutionary character in terms of its development rather than a fixed identity, although it’s mostly based in the Mother’s blueprint.” Nothing is perfect, especially not the human race, but experimental societies such as Auroville are scattered across the globe for curious participants to discover. The fact that this one has now been running for over half a century proves they work to an extent. But how different are they from living in modern society in a Westernised world? b



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Words and styling: Wiktor Karkocha Images: Abhinav Bhandari

how the texture of latex feels and how it makes you feel while wearing it. I never knew it was a thing but I started using it in my music videos and people were, like, ooh. I even have a track called Latex’” James’ style is all about combining masculinity and femininity, mixing and matching pieces. In a music video to Daddy’s Coming Home, he is having a beer and wearing a grey tracksuit, while in Van Gogh—he can be seen posing in a wedding dress covered in spray paint and graffiti, a piece created by Oli Hull. “The pandemic really made me forget how fun dressing up was. As soon as I put the clothes on, it’s showtime. I become James Indigo. When I start rapping, sometimes it’s so funny, people think that just because I’m gay I don’t have that in me. Recently I was recording in a studio and, you know, I would say I’m quite loud and camp in person but once I started rapping, I could see the producer’s surprised face, like he must have not been expecting this gay boy to deliver the lines like that.”



ames Indigo has a busy schedule. When I meet him on the day of the shoot for Artefact, he had just come back from the recording studio. Trying to cross the Elephant & Castle roundabout with an enormous suitcase and a cup of coffee in his hands, he ends up almost getting hit by a bus When we enter the studio, much calmer but still chaotic, the first thing that he asks for is to put some music on. “I just don’t understand people who do things in silence. Give me something, it’s like in a morgue in here!” Later on, we get a chance to discuss James’ taste. Birmingham-born and raised, he grew up surrounded by various influences, whether it be fashion or music. “I remember when I was little and every day I would wake up to either my mum listening to reggae or my brother listening to drum and bass. Of course, pop girls played a big part in my upbringing as well so I would definitely say that musically I’m a blend of different genres”. His biggest influences? Madonna and Nicki Minaj. “Ever since I heard Nicki I’ve been obsessed, you know, all the weird, dramatic sounds she makes. I love how she’s just not afraid to be weird, how she doesn’t give a fuck. Same with Madonna, she was so ahead of her time, it wasn’t just about the music, it was her performances, her music videos, the clothes, the wittiness of her interviews.” Similarly to his idols, James pays a lot of attention to keep everything he creates as extraordinary as possible and it is of course being reflected in his choice of attire. Fashion has always been a significant part of every musician’s professional journey. Madonna had her Jean Paul Gaultier Cone Bra, Run-DMC had their Adidas Superstars, while Kylie Minogue—a 50p golden shorts she wore in the music video to Spinning Around, shorts so special that they have even earned their space at the exhibition at The Arts Centre in Melbourne. When it comes to James, what seems to be apparent straight away is his love for latex: “I’m a sexual person, I’m just obsessed with Oversiz ed and gold jewellery cors et b Silver c angle: Selina Y rystal b ang; ra rings, la tex glov celet and e trouser s: Vinta s and leather ge

One of James’ biggest gigs this year was undoubtedly Birmingham Pride. Every time I mention it, he talks about it with excitement. “It was just great to be able to perform there, I was home and I was surrounded by friends”. James has also been collaborating with a lot of fashion brands on social media, creating short promotional clips. That enabled him to invest more into his art, for example, being able to get more studio time. “It’s also great for queer kids to see that a Black gay rapper like me can make noise in the scene, collab with big brands and be taken seriously as an artist. I definitely think that the representation is important and it’s something that I wish I would have had as a kid.” What can we expect from James Indigo in 2022? (Citing Courtney Love) “Nice clothes, good money (James laughs). No, but seriously, in 2022 I really want to push myself as an artist, I want to make amazing visuals and collaborate with even more amazing people. b n jacket d firema dog Studios le c y c p U un users: G lane; and tro r fa c M ter by Hun sneaker bag: d Upcycle ; z z Bibi Ba w Rock e N : s Boot

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e’s known only by his alias: “Vincent van Dope”. While this sounds like the tag line for a movie, Vincent is a real person, an aspiring journalist who came from a low-income family. If you met him, you’d find a charming character, but that charm led him to become well-known among many involved in the underground party scene. His journey started with him becoming a small-time drug dealer, rapidly becoming the most recognised name in the game. Vincent had a difficult upbringing, with his family emigrating from the Netherlands to find a home in a town just north of London. Even this was complicated because his father had to bring him and his mother to the UK illegally with his dad not being on his birth certificate. After moving they fought for basic necessities that many take for granted while living in a hotel for several years. “For two years, I had to share a room with my brothers until we were given a home.” He was also bullied in school because of his poor English, which he says “helped develop the person I am today.”

How I escaped a life of crime Can a young drug dealer leave his past behind him? Words: Aman Hafiz Images: Gras Grun, Benjamin Elliott 46

From a young age, his relationship with his father made it difficult for him to focus on his studies. He recounts how his father used to beat him as a child and how he got expelled from school which led to his dad kicking him out of his home. “I called the police on my dad, the police did nothing and just had a go at me.” Vincent also explains how he used to get abused by his dad for doing the littlest of things. Despite that their relationship grew stronger, as the years went by—he had a little brother as well as a sister and his father toned down: “I felt my dad realised what he was back then, it’s not the same with my siblings.” A report by the local government association found that: “There is substantial evidence for a link between adverse childhood experiences (ACE) and involvement in youth offending.” Because of Vincent’s background and traumatic past, he was expelled from a number of colleges, forcing him to drop out and find jobs at the age of 18, which spanned work from retail to restaurants and bars. During this period Vincent was a reckless teen, he was taking drugs and partying non-stop: “I was out on a night out and a group of boys were calling my girl names so me being dumb I pulled out my belt and started hitting them, a couple minutes later I got arrested.” This wasn’t the first time he got caught in a fight, and he recalls multiple engagements, but this time was different, as it led to him being placed on home detention for six months and a probation period for two years. With no college

background and a troubled past, Vincent was struggling with getting to grips with life. An opportunity raised from one of his raver friends, a chance at a job for an estate agency, which was big for him, maybe the “fresh start” he was hoping for. “I had little to no chance to get where I wanted, I was able to make friends at parties who grew very fond of me, the only reason I was able to get a decent job.” It worked and by October 2019 Vincent moved into his new home. But his “fresh start” didn’t last long. Vincent had a well-paid job but wasn’t able to afford everything he wanted, so he fell back into drugs. He started off small, “I was selling weed and very few ecstasy pills, as a side hustle,” to help him buy those luxury items a man wants. It didn’t go well. He now calls his early drug dealing life “baby Vincent” and explains how he was naive: “I was moving like some dumb kid, I just got greedy and wanted money, and I learnt that the hard way.” Vincent recalls the story that gave him trauma and a new mindset of dealing. During his time at his new flat, selling as a small-time dealer, Vincent was set up and robbed at knife point for an ounce of marijuana. This was bad not only because it was a relatively large amount of weed, but because it belonged to someone else. “I got confined the weed from one of my elders to sell it and give him what I owed, now I was in debt and a huge one too.” This was just the start of his troubles—fast forward a couple months,

Vincent had his home raided by a gang who held him at gun point and stole all his cash and drugs. The gang didn’t leave it at that but caught up with him a couple weeks later to see if he was still selling. Vincent was taken hostage by the gang for no apparent reason: “They held me hostage for fun, they didn’t do anything, but we drove around till we got to someone’s home”. They caught up to him at his home and decided to take him along with him threatening him with a knife if he didn’t come. Vincent was kept hostage for a day where he says, “they smoked my weed and gave it cynical compliments.” He was only released when the group were driving him around and noticed a number of police cars, where they then threw out their machetes or “zombie knives” and ditched the car. Vincent got lucky and made a run hiding from them in a bush and calling an Uber to get home. This was the end to his drug dealing career. “A fresh start” as he calls it. “Bro I went through too much, just wanted to live a normal life.” The fresh start consisted of a new home and a better paying job. By March 2020 he was able to get a new home, and a new job at a recruitment agency. His fresh start did not live up to his expectations for long. Covid-19 hit the UK, a

month after moving in and a new job, Vincent became one of the 14,000 people made redundant that year. This meant Vincent had no source of income. His roommate was forced to go into his savings to pay for rent, now Vincent was thinking of how to make money and make it fast. He fell into the idea of officially starting Vincent van Dope, an official brand and labelling for his new, illicit business. The official birth of Vincent van Dope saw a more mature and smart man. He thought of doing things slow rather than being a “greedy kid”. Vincent thought this out and was careful to pick who to sell to and what to sell. His brand grew not just because of the quality of his product but his sociable wellbeing. He was a very outgoing person who would make friends with no trouble. The treatment and service he gave to his customers is what brought them back. We spoke with some of his friends who told us: “He was known by a lot of people. When we used to go rave everyone would be calling his name, I feel like that’s a reason why he is able to sell so much”. This has been corroborated by others who went to raves and told us how they knew Vincent. This Vincent was smart, he picked a niche market to sell

and evidently led to him gaining more clients: “The drugs I sold were very hard to come across in town, so when word would go around everyone would come to me.” During this journey he was able to meet many new people from drug dealers to drug users, all from different backgrounds. A lot of people helped gain him success: “I felt my life was changing, I was making a good money and getting the grades I needed.” Vincent saw his income grow rapidly, making minimum “£150 a day” to “£500 on weekends”. His income became even larger once he was introduced to crypto. The crypto world became a place where anyone can become rich overnight and Vincent was one of those people. From April to July 2021 the crypto market was at its peak. Vincent joined and was quickly rewarded for his investments. “I felt God turned everything around for me that day,” he said after staying up all night to buy this one coin—within half an hour of the drop, he flipped his £60 investment into £10,000. So what does Vincent want to do with his future? Does he want to stay as a dealer or move on further? “I didn’t want to be a drug dealer my whole life. I want to someday film documentaries and stories”. He told us about becoming a journalist and study at university but with no college qualifications he had to join another college and study on a foundation year. In June 2021 Vincent finished his year at college and was accepted into his chosen university. He won a £3,000 scholarship and had made £25,000 from drug dealing and a further £15,000 off crypto. He was more than ready for university, and said with excitement: “My life changed so much from me being dead broke to having money, and now I get to move out of this town—a real fresh start for once.” September 2021 Vincent entered a new world one much different to his grimy home town. Starting a new life at a university in the north of England and finally reaching his goal to study journalism: “Life over here is so much better, the city and people are much friendlier.” And does he still deal drugs? “Not really, I do still have ket and occasionally sell to flat mates and those living around me, but it helped me make new friends and meet different people. A week into uni everyone knows my name, I wake up the next day to people shouting my name and me not even remembering who they are.” For many, a career in drugs and dealing can have much more serious consequences, but Vincent is one of the lucky ones and is now reaching for the goal that he was seeking. b 47

Six ways to improve climate reporting The climate emergency has an overwhelming presence in the news, but how can we make sure these important stories are being told in the right way? Words: Ana Drula Images: Callum Shaw/unsplash, Terry Callaghan/flcikr

2. Climate crisis, intersectional crisis The case has been made that climate change disproportionally affects women rather than men, because of working conditions, adversity based domestic violence and many other reasons. But this is only the tip of the iceberg within the intersectional environmentalism conversation. As journalists we can start by citing more female scientists and looking out for climate injustice cases that often go overlooked — highlighting the chasm of inequality which the current climate crisis only accentuates.


or most of us, climate anxiety and news burn-out can make it exhausting and discouraging to read stories about the environment; doomsday clickbait titles and bad news bias aren’t helping either. But as COP26 comes to an underwhelming end there is more climate-talk than ever, which means we have the opportunity to tell this story the right way. We attended the Women in Journalism “Our role in reporting the climate crisis” panel to find out the latest tips for effective writing from those in the field. From solutions-based journalism to new angles and standards for transparency, here are six ways in which we can improve climate reporting. 48

1. Human centred stories If the climate crisis is a difficult topic to begin with, how do we compete with entertainment news and glamorous, feel-good stories? Journalist Ugochi Oluigbo found the right balance with Green Angle, her popular series of climate reporting in Nigeria. She says her secret was to get involved in the scenes she was documenting. “I made it interesting for people because I was right there with them. I wasn’t too pretty to be inside it, wasn’t too pretty to just say the story from afar. I was there living their realities with them. So, people saw that and loved it so much, they’d never seen anything like that before. “Environmental issues weren’t popular. People care more about finding food to eat,” Oluigbo explains. “They care more about killing those animals you’re talking about protecting. But then they listen, and they learn. They tell me ‘Because of you I change this, because of you I now understand this’. I think it’s because I tell the stories, find the characters, those who are most affected and vulnerable and amplify their voices.” She says many tried to bribe her into remaining silent, but she chose to tell the truth. “I told the reality; this is who is doing it, and this is how it’s affecting these people. I think that’s really what attracted people to the program.”

3. Eliminate the western bias On day 5 of COP26, Greta Thunberg was met with applause when she called the event a “global-north greenwash festival”. The plain truth is that the west-centred view on climate change is not good enough anymore and never was. We have to be critical of promoting “sustainable” solutions that don’t benefit anyone but the world’s richest countries, such as electric vehicles which require cobalt and lithium mined through child labour. Writing from an exclusively western point of view also portrays climate change as an isolated issue. Making it seem like climate catastrophes only occur somewhere far away, either at the north pole or in so called “developing countries”, which only underlines the racist and colonising foundations of western bias. The solution, according to freelance journalist Fatima Arkin, is to give more depth to the lived experiences of those most affected by climate change, and not stick to one-dimensional portrayals of harmful stereotypes. “If we do want to tell human stories, can we dig deeper, talk about more diverse experiences? Because there are other people living here that are also affected by climate change, beyond just farmers.” she explains. Superficial narratives such as these victimise citizens of the global south. “I think [it’s about] telling more diverse experiences, telling more human-interest stories of the diverse lived experiences of people who are affected by climate change. And also talking about solutions, because there are people here who are doing things — they’re not just sitting here waiting for a solution.” 4. The “reward and punishment” angle Simply put, we are emotion-driven beings. In Vox’s video essay Why humans are so bad at thinking about climate change, psychologist and economist Per

Espen Stoknes explains why doom and gloom reporting is ineffective. “This fear, this guilt, we know from psychology, is not conducive towards engagement. It’s rather the opposite. It makes people passive. Because when I feel fearful or guilty, I will withdraw from the issue, and I’ll try to think about something else that makes me feel better.” This means that readers will react according to the framing they’re faced with. So, while the punishment angle will inspire denial and inaction, a reward angle can create a more hopeful and relaxed environment to have much needed climate conversations. This is precisely why in the past decade we’ve seen a development of positive news or “happy news” and solution driven journalism. However, research done on climate policy advancements has shown that negative incentives are still “instrumental to maintain cooperation”. And because the reward angle, though pleasant for the reader, might not always acknowledge the severity of the situation, academics suggest that “the best results are obtained when both rewards and sanctions are synergistically combined”.

Harvey considers it best to just be transparent and mindful of your position. If you want to avoid sounding like an activist, just be a reporter. “Try to write objectively, cover all sides,” Harvey advises, “but that does not include talking to climate deniers, because that’s a view that’s completely contrary to established science.” “[However] it does involve talking to people who are affected by climate change. People who might be affected by the transition away from fossil fuels. You can be an activist if you want. But you should declare yourself as such.” If we are to borrow anything from the work of climate activists, we should remember to monitor the powers that be. Our media has rightfully received backlash for the inaccurate portrayal of climate change, but Harvey reminds us, journalists are not the only ones to blame. “That was the fault of fossil fuel lobbies mainly. They were creating doubt around climate science, trying to give the impression that it was a matter of opinion, rather than a matter of scientific fact. And unfortunately, many news people colluded with them in that.”

5. Activism is ok, bothsideism is not Indeed, the lines between journalism and activism can and often do blur, especially when it comes to pressing, intersectional subjects such as the environmental crisis. The Guardian’s climate reporter Fiona

6. Finance is still a huge conversation It’s no secret that the world’s richest countries are also the biggest polluters. During COP26 state leaders made positive statements and grand promises about investments and donations to

low-income countries but, as Vox reports, from behind the scenes, “it’s more business as usual, so rhetoric and deed are far apart”. Delaying reparations only stalls other points on the agenda. Meanwhile, countries who don’t consume nearly as many resources suffer the most severe effects of climate change. “Finance is very important for African countries,” Ugochi Oluigbo explains. “To be able to adapt to these changes, to be able to move away — you know they easily say ‘stop gas flaring, stop and move to renewables’, but how do we finance it? For many Africans and many NGOs from Africa finance is going to be a problem. “How do we leave no one behind? Let’s carry everyone along, wherever you come from, wherever you are, we should carry them along the same way we’ve been able to get vaccines to the rural communities. Companies are always there to try to mess everything up and and delay the discussions, but I hope we take it seriously this time.” We need to make the finance discussion fair, and accessible to everyone, demystifying policies and breaking down budgets, to truly allow everyone a seat at the table. b

Follow the panellists on Twitter: @FatimaA8 @fionaharvey @ugochigreenangle 49

Words: Robert Wallace Images: Michaela Bodlovic, Matt Crockett, courtesy of Amanda Malpass

Isabel McArthur, writer, director and star of Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of), discusses her anarchic reimagining of Jane Austen’s novel


t is a truth universally acknowledged that the West End can sometimes feel a bit pretentious, but one new adaptation in London’s theatreland is looking to change that. Tron Theatre Company and Blood of the Young’s irreverent production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of ) has now opened at the Criterion Theatre in Piccadilly Circus. Starring an all-female cast of five, multi-rolling, music and laugh-out-loud comedy combine in Scottish playwright Isobel McArthur’s anarchic but affectionate reimagining of Austen—“told by the servants and with karaoke.” Originally premiering at Glasgow’s tiny Tron Theatre in the summer of 2018, a subsequent tour through the UK followed the next year where the show became a word-of-mouth hit among theatre audiences, delighting both Austen aficionados and English literature phobics alike. More than three years since its premiere, the piece has now arrived in the heart of the West End, where it’s playing for an extended run. We got to speak with the show’s writer, co-director and performer, Isobel McArthur, on the show’s remarkable journey to the West End, breaking down the intellectual barriers of classic literature, and representing Scottish theatre on the London stage. It was around four years ago when Andy Arnold, artistic director at the Tron Theatre in Glasgow, approached McArthur with a broad interest in adapting a classic literary novel for the stage that summer.


McArthur recalls journeying to “the wee second-hand bookshop” below her flat and buying some 50p Penguin Classics, “one of which was Pride and Prejudice.” McArthur had never read the novel before, admitting to a perceived kind of intellectual exclusivity around Austen and her novels. “I love literature—I have a degree in Scottish literature—but I understood from the little sniffs of different adaptations that I got on telly and film over the years that this was something relatively kind of po-faced and really about romance for its own sake. So, imagine my surprise when I opened the novel and discovered that it’s a total riot.” Of course, even for those like McArthur who haven’t read Austen’s novel, the story is so deeply ingrained into British culture through the countless film, TV, stage, and radio adaptations that you’d be forgiven for immediately thinking of “plummy voiced dukes, drawing rooms and people complaining about things that aren’t at all relevant to us. “For whatever reason, so many people have done away with a lot of the comedy. Maybe we feel that things that are romantic can’t also be funny? Or that if you embody that spirit, you’ve made a rom-com and that’s somehow not the same high art or has that sort of degree of cultural capital that we afford Austen?” Having suggested she might adapt Pride and Prejudice for the Tron, McArthur recalls “a bit of reaction from staff and others who had caught wind of that and said: ‘Well, if you do Austen for


E D I R P AND E C I D U J E R P 51

Glaswegians, you can do anything.’ And I thought ‘Okay, ha. There’s something we’re going to need to break down here.’ “I needed to bring somehow the clever, witty, incisive satire and, actually to my mind, the farcical comedy of the novel to the audience and make it accessible and enjoyable.” McArthur then went to work on the adaptation, writing with a specific focus breaking down the barriers of the novel’s perhaps unfairly perceived snobbery. It was the summer of 2018 when Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of ) received its awaited premiere at the Tron: “When we gave the first performance it was the hottest summer on record in Glasgow, which never happens. Everybody was sat outside the pubs drinking and I remember thinking who’s going to come and sit in a dark, hot theatre, it just doesn’t make any sense.” But come they did, and at the end of the first performance “there was this huge, overwhelming standing ovation,


and we were all affronted and I thought, ‘okay, hold on.’” McArthur and the creative team had realised Austen’s Regency English world as something completely relatable, recognisable and perhaps most importantly to its understandably suspicious Scottish audience, genuinely hilarious. Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of ) makes its intent clear from the curtain rising, with the five servants starting the show by breaking out into a brilliantly unexpected rendition of Elvis Costello’s 1983 hit Everyday I Write The Book. For McArthur, “it was clear from the start that the piece was going to need music.” “Reading the novel, I was so struck by how preoccupied all the characters were with where the next party was coming from. And they’ve got every right to be because that’s where the matchmaking happens. I had the notion of therefore having karaoke.” Using karaoke as the musical language of the show was a genius move on

McArthur’s part—not only is karaoke so deeply ingrained into Scotland’s late-night pub culture and therefore totally recognisable for the show’s Glasgow audience, but it also opened up a wonderful world in which characters could start to express themselves. Whether its Elizabeth singing a spiky rendition of Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain to Mr Darcy on their first unfortunate meeting; or a meta-joke of Lady Catherine de Burgh referencing her eligible young nephew ‘Chris de Burgh’ through the contemporary singer’s song Lady In Red, it’s a form that offers surprising and fascinating relatability and insight to the characters. “You can have comedy, heartbreak, nervousness, exuberance, you can peacock, you can weep. I think anytime you see that going on in a pub, humanity is on display in so many different ways.” Ticket sales at the Tron were enough to convince the theatre to extend the run

by an extra week, meaning that more audiences, and also potential producers, could see the show. The success of the run in Scotland was enough to convince higher-ups in the theatre world that this tiny fringe venue in Glasgow had something special on its hands and deserved to be seen by more. The piece engaged the interest of some of the UK’s most prominent and respected regional theatres, allowing the show a future life. “We ended up with a sort of eightway co-production between all these different regional theatres because no one’s got enough money to send a show like this on tour. Not because it’s particularly opulent and expensive—it’s only five actors, it should be relatively cheap—but anything is just so hard without any commercial or external investment.” Through the winter of 2019 into the following spring, the show, in the grand traditions of regional theatre, toured the 53


UK, visiting everywhere from Bristol to Birmingham, Edinburgh to Oxford and various towns in between. On its tour, Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of ) became something of a sleeper hit, garnering standing ovations from audiences and love letters from critics, and began to catch the interest of some powerful producers from London’s West End. McArthur admitted the prospect of her creation heading to the West End felt surreal: “The thing is, shows don’t transfer from the Tron to the West End. They just don’t. There’s even a bit of a joke in Glasgow theatre when you’re dealing with whatever problem you’ve got—the props are not quite right or the costumes look wrong and people go: ‘Oh, save it for the West End transfer.’ Of course, there’ll be no such thing.” McArthur met with producer David Pugh during the show’s tour about making this seeming impossibility a reality. Pugh has famously been one of the West End’s most daring producers, placing fantastically inventive small scale shows from the regions into London’s West End. These have included Cornish theatre company Kneehigh’s adaptation of Brief Encounter, the Sheffield Crucible production of The Full Monty, and perhaps most famously, the Olivier Award-winning comedy The Play What I Wrote, which subsequently transferred to Broadway. “Some other people wanted to stick some famous people in the cast or get rid of the creative team and bring their own people in or whatever. It’s par for the course sometimes. It was very clear to me that David Pugh was the man to do it because he believed in keeping the integrity of the Scottish company, which is an expensive and difficult thing to do. He was a very committed and sincere individual when I met him and I could tell that he cared.” Moreover, Pugh and the show’s investors shared the Scottish company’s intent for accessibility by removing premium seats, something which is almost unheard of now in the West End, as well as capping all tickets in the theatre during the show’s previews at £25. What did it mean to McArthur to bring the show, almost completely and creatively intact from its original run at the tiny 230-seat Tron to the West End? “I feel really quite emotional about

it. Representing not only Glasgow and Scotland, but a lot of our values. Work that is unpretentious. Glaswegians can’t stand pretension and snobbery, and I think Jane Austen was quite similar. So I feel extremely proud to be able to do that.” The show has now officially opened in the heart of the West End, and once more has been hailed something of a critic’s darling, but speaking to McArthur on the day the reviews for the show came in, it’s clear the audience response is what personally drives her creatively. “You know on stage how the 600 people in front of you are feeling, and as long as they’re on the side, that’s what really matters. You know, good reviews are nice, and a few of them are coming out today, which is a lovely thing. But when real, normal people come and talk to you about the show, that’s what’s precious I feel.” McArthur notes how the show has also resonated with young people who identify as LGBTQ+ in particular: “We’re an all-female cast playing all the male and female parts and the romantic climax of this show is essentially two women kissing on stage. If you are a heteronormative person living that sort of life, it’s Darcy and Elizabeth kissing and that’s what it will always be, but if you’re not, it can mean more.” “There are moments where, I have had, even this week, screens and screens of messages from some teenagers who’ve come to see it and have said that they identify with Pride and Prejudice for the first time, or that they feel represented on stage. That’s about as incredible a compliment as I could possibly hope to get.” So why should you come and see Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of )? “It’s just a joyous, entertaining night if we’ve done our job right,” says McArthur. “You can bring people who are unconvinced, unconverted or those who absolutely adore Austen and have done forever. There is nothing to be scared of with this adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. You don’t need to know a thing.” b

Pride and Prejudice* (*sort of ) is currently booking at the West End’s Criterion Theatre to April 17, 2022. Tickets are on sale now. 55

Leaving island life for a football dream A young Tobagonian footballer has been given a once in a lifetime opportunity: a sports scholarship in Portugal. He tells us how he feels ahead of the trip. Words: Atiyyah Ntiamoah-Addo Images: Zachary Thompson , Nidia Piza


eaving behind your family, friends, and everything you’ve ever known in the midst of a pandemic can be daunting, but not for 19-year-old Jaheim Harry who is ready to embark on this new chapter in his life in Portugal. The sunny islands of Trinidad and Tobago, known for the sweet sounds of steelpans, calypso as well as the vivacious carnivals, is home for Jaheim. Ever since he was young, he remembers, “waking up early in the mornings to go Mount Irvine beach to play football with my dad—it’s a memory that I’ll never forget”. And with his father realising he has a potential Dwight Yorke in his grasp, he enrolled Jaheim into the island’s local football club.


Jaheim recalls being inspired by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham as child, as he was fondly describing his childhood bedroom where it was decorated with posters of footballers that he aspired to be like. His parents always believed that he could make a name for himself on the football field, whereas Jaheim doubted himself and believed that he would remain on the island stuck doing something painfully mundane. Until, at one of his trials, Jaheim noticed he was receiving a lot of praise from his teammates and coach. He considered that to be a defining moment that being a footballer was no longer a dream but instead a reality that was within his reach. Jaheim said: “I realised I could play football seriously as a career when a lot of positive comments were coming towards me from everyone about my game, and that I must continue to trust the process that many opportunities will come towards me so that I’ll be able to showcase my talent”. Every weekend he had to travel to Trinidad to play for the national team where all the promising athletes would go and train, ranging from cricketers, sprinters, cyclists and more. With the sudden realisation of support from his teammates, coach, friends, family and even random strangers, Jaheim promised himself that he will do whatever it takes to make a name for himself in the football world. “The most memorable football tournaments I’ve played in is the Republic Bank Cup u18 and Moriah League Village Tournament, because when my teammates and I win it feels like a win for Tobago, like we’re putting our tiny island on the map—it’s a great feeling”, reveals Jaheim. There’s a plethora of talented people who emerged from Trinidad and Tobago, from the likes of Nicki Minaj, Winston Duke, Trevor McDonald, Machel Montano and Claudia Jones, the latter of whom has been described as the mother of Notting Hill carnival as she founded the wellloved event. Jaheim would also love to be known for his talents as he said: “There’s so many talented people in Tobago that come from all walks [of ] life that aren’t given the opportunities to show the world what they can do”, he continues, “there’s only a handful of Tobagonian athletes that are known and it would be awesome if the world can get to know me and a couple more!” When Jaheim found out about the opportunity to play football and study abroad in Portugal, he felt that God had answered his prayers and that if he was selected out of all his teammates to travel overseas, then being a footballer was truly meant to be. When Jaheim and his teammate

were selected to play by the Tobago House of Assembly (local governing body of Tobago Affairs) for a fully funded scholarship to play football and study in Portugal, he finally felt like he could live his dreams. He says, “it felt like a dream come true! It made me feel accomplished because I’ve been one of the top players around and so I felt like all this hard work has paid off and the professional journey is just getting started”, he continues “sometimes I still can’t believe it. Like little me from Bon Accord is going to Portugal! Like from kicking this beaten-up football with my dad on the beach, in my backyard and kicking ball in the schoolyard to going to Portugal to play with other professionals is so crazy to me”. When Tobagonians decide to leave their island, it’s not uncommon for them to move to the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and even other Caribbean islands, but to go to Portugal and live there for a few months is something that is quite unusual. Jaheim remembers telling his grandma about the good news. “She just started crying, happy tears and sad tears of course, but she just kept repeating like ‘wow a Tobago boy in Portugal, my grandson will be in Portugal!’, like all my friends and family are very happy for me but it’s going to be tough to leave everyone.” “You know it’s not unusual for us to leave this island, some people leave and never want to see Trinidad and Tobago ever again and some people leave for what they think is a better life but plenty of us will leave and move abroad but never too far away because without a doubt we’re all gonna be itching to come back to this island life!”. When a life-changing opportunity this big enters your life, it would be

impossible to say no but add an ongoing pandemic into the mix it and adds an unpredictable element into your experience. Jaheim shares his apprehensiveness of being abroad during the pandemic, “of course travelling during a pandemic makes everything ten times more different, but I’m more worried about what if the Covid cases start to rise in Trinidad and Tobago and the government will lock up the borders for months like last time, so I’m just worried about being stuck in a country far away from home because Trinbagonians that were abroad found [it difficult] to come back”. Every scorned English football fan will remember the painful memory of ‘it’ never coming home over the past summer, but unfortunately because of that footballers Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Sako and Jadon Sancho were on the receiving end of a racial abuse after they missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final. With Tobago being a predominantly Black country and racism being a rarity, moving to a country where you are a minority makes it likely you will be a victim of racism - something a Jaheim is painfully aware of. He shares, “Surprisingly, when I went to Florida [for] soccer camp, I didn’t experience any racism, but from the videos that went viral of racists hurling abuse towards Black people in European countries definitely put a light on things that I didn’t really consider before, because I never had to before! I’ve always been surrounded by people who look like me”.

“I’m always disturbed to hear and see the racial abuse against the Black football players, because we are all humans and just because we have different skin colours doesn’t mean we should be treated differently or be abused because of it”. Jaheim continues, “I have thought about many scenarios, like if I were to face a racist encounter how would I handle it? Would I be supported? If I reacted badly, would I lose my scholarship? It’s really scary to think about, which is why I keep thinking about the positives of this experience”. Moving to another country, especially so far away from Tobago will be a culture shock for Jaheim and it may take a while for him to adjust to meeting new people, eating new foods, adapting to a foreign language as well as being separated from all the loved ones in his life. Tobago is home to over 60,000 people, whereas over 10 million people reside in Portugal. This is another huge culture shock: being born and raised in a small island your entire life and then being somewhat catapulted into a country whose population is bigger than Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica combined is something that Jaheim says he is still processing. He shares: “I am really excited and grateful for this opportunity because it’ll allow me to progress in my career and I’ll be making my family proud, but I am feeling a bit overwhelmed about like not having my mom’s home-cooked food for

ages, like no roti, no bake and shark! It’s those little things that I’m going to miss a lot because I’ve never been away from home for that long, but I have to remain positive! I am looking forward to learning about the Portuguese culture, meeting different people and trying new foods ”. He continues, “also I’m not going to be completely alone as my teammate and I were selected to go to Portugal together, so I don’t think I’ll be missing home that much because we’ll remind each other of Tobago, so it’ll be two ‘Bago boys in Portugal!”. Tobagonians tend to joke with each other about how everyone knows everyone because of how small the island is, but that is one thing that Jaheim says that he will miss the most, “what I love about Tobago is the sense of unity because you’ll always feel supported by your community, and you know, sometimes we may have our differences but being uplifted by those in your village is something that I’ll never take for granted and will take with me everywhere I go”. With Jaheim embarking on this new adventure in his life, it shows how important these types of opportunities are to those who don’t live in western countries. Tobago is filled to the brim with talented and creative people, from seamstresses, hairdressers, nail technicians, chefs, athletes and more. If more Tobagonians were presented with these life-changing opportunities, how many of their lives would change? b



s one of the most competitive areas of study, medicine has always been an important and strenuous field, and its university application process is no different. Most medical courses accept fewer than 20% of their applicants, and the competition to get onto them is high, with a laundry list of requirements including top grades, entry exams and hospital experience to push your application to the top of the pile. To work through this list is a herculean task, one that often requires a great deal of help, but while assistance is readily available, from private tutoring to interview coaching and personal statement advice, it can come at a hefty price. For example, one online tutoring directory, First Tutors UK, charges an average price of £62.74 per hour. Because of this, underprivileged students are often priced out of the medical school process.

Making medical studies accessible A charity aims to diversify the medical industry by helping students of different backgrounds Words: Jamie O’Brien Hartigan Image: Artem Podrez/unsplash 58

That’s where PathwaytoMed Mentoring comes in—it’s an organisation dedicated to helping state school students with their applications to medical school. Like many other medical school support programmes, the mentoring scheme provides tutoring, personal statement assistance and coaching for BMAT/UCAT exams, which are the aptitude tests that universities require for entry to a UK medical degree, and which are completely free to students from non-grammar state schools. The charity was founded by Azita Ahmadi, a fourth-year medical student at Imperial College London. While tutoring students online in the A-level subjects required for medicine as a way of making money at university, one of Azita’s students could no longer afford to continue the private tutoring, despite the fact that it is very often essential to securing a place in the competitive field. “They were so keen, so I tutored them for free,” Azita told us, “and it occurred to me that there are so many other students like them who are keen to learn but don’t have the money.” After realising how complicated the application process can be and that “a lot of these [skills] aren’t taught in state schools and are often costly to access privately,” Azita began formulating the initial idea that would eventually become PathwaytoMed. The charity was formed in an effort to “have a range of doctors that come from different backgrounds, much like our patient population,” with the only requirement for accessing PathwaytoMed assistance being that students had to attend a non-grammar state school. This diversity in UK doctors has never been more pertinent. Countless reports have been published on how ethnic minorities receive worse medical care in the NHS than their white counterparts. This is due to both explicit racial abuse, which has been linked to a wide range of health issues and an overall lower life satisfaction, and implicit racial bias that can lead to the mistreatment of patients of colour. For example, Black women are often misdiagnosed and mistreated for endometriosis, as it has traditionally been seen as a “white woman’s disease”. Patients in poorer areas also reportedly receive worse treatment than those in wealthier areas in almost every area of the UK, with longer wait times in A&E departments and lower satisfaction with GP appointments. This results in an increasing life expectancy for those who are better off, but in areas that are predominantly working class there is no increase, and in some places life spans have begun to decrease. The charity started out as an Instagram page, publicising their resources

through social media and organising tutoring and coaching sessions, with Azita finding fellow medical students that “were also passionate about making medicine accessible.” They eventually included students from other universities and built a team of more than thirty tutors, but their sights were always set on becoming a registered charity. “It was always the plan to become a charity as we can’t provide everything without donations, such as exam preparation materials and websites.” Members of the PathwaytoMed team had, up until they were granted charity status, been paying for materials out of their own pockets, “and as much as we wanted to help, this wasn’t feasible in the long run as our list of sign-ups grew,” Azita told us. Since expanding as a charity, the group has been able to provide help to more students, “from simple improvement of their grades to helping [them] to get interviews and secure offers.” They also increased the production of online resources for their Instagram, YouTube and website for students to access at any time of day. Britain’s wealth gap swelled massively during the pandemic. The richest 10% of the population gained an average of £50,000, and increased wealth during lockdowns benefited the rich “by a ratio of over 500 to 1,” says Azita. Given this class disparity, combined with a growing percentage of people of colour and immigrant patients, Azita believes medical provision needs to change to reflect this. “It’s important that our population of doctors can relate to and understand their patients. This applies both in terms of class and cultural background—the matter is intersectional. There are various cultural nuances that may seem small but actually make a big difference to patient-doctor interactions.” Getting more state school students into medical courses and diversifying medicine isn’t just “for patients to see themselves in the people from whom they are receiving care,” it’s also about the doctors themselves. While Black and minority ethnic staff make up 42% of the UK’s NHS workforce, they still “remain under-represented in senior positions, including consultant roles and in academic positions,” according to a 2021 NHS report. This is why it is so important for PathwaytoMed to support students from state school backgrounds, so that they can access the same opportunities as those who have had private tutoring and interview coaching. Azita tells us, “if a student wants to become a doctor, they shouldn’t be disadvantaged in any way. and they deserve that right.” b 59


Words: Annika Loebig Images: Tim Douglas/pexels

Baristas working the morning rush can be our saviours. But what’s it like on the receiving end of grumpy commuters?


t’s 8:45 on a Tuesday morning—the notoriously more evil cousin of Mondays—and people are already huddling into one of the small cafés at East Croydon train station. Some are nervously shuffling back and forth, others are passive-aggressively exclaiming that they have a train to catch so “could you please hurry up a little?” Two have already left the queue in realisation that the latter part of that sentence would be an impossible demand to throw at someone who is limited to having four limbs and who is probably on a wage that wouldn’t adequately compensate them for their efforts anyway. “You get used to picking up on the physical cues like shuffling and looking at the people ahead in the line with frustration,” says Jack*, a barista who has worked in the hospitality industry for a few years. “I don’t really baby these people or try to go any faster but I also don’t ask [them] extra questions or make recommendations. We have people angrily leave the line sometimes and to be honest I prefer that. If you don’t have time you’re just going to have to get your coffee later or be late.” The one redeeming factor about being on the receiving end of a group of caffeine addicts asking for this morning’s first or second hit is that they don’t have to deal with them for the rest of the day. As Sarah*, a barista of ten years tells me: “Getting there at 6:00am was the worst part, but the best part is leaving at 3:00pm! Other than that, the morning customers are very regular. “When people have a routine of coming to your shop you know to anticipate the rush, which is easier than afternoon shifts where you can get intermittent rushes of business that are less predictable.” 60

The ability to pick up on certain behaviours and respond to the tides of customers throughout the day is an added responsibility of a barista that most people might not think about when entering a coffee shop. All baristas, no matter the workplace, unanimously agreed that part of the job involves prioritising the experience of the customer over their own— with varying degrees of boundaries employees are allowed to set for their own wellbeing. As one particularly nihilistic barista explained: “People are bitches and nothing I do can make them be nicer so best to just let it go.” But the common trope in hospitality which says that ‘the customer is always right’ can take an emotional toll on employees. With the added pressure of the pandemic, low pay, irregular time off, staff shortages and therefore often longer shifts, the emotional labour of having to coddle angry customers is rarely considered for people working in hospitality. Emotional labour goes far beyond being polite to rude costumers: being expected to hide and swallow your feelings in exchange for a customer’s money can, at worst, contribute to burnout in a work environment that already comes with huge pressures from the start. But with managers and 24-hour CCTV cameras watching your every move, it comes as no surprise that most people choose to fall in line so as to not risk their source of income. “If you don’t take anything personally and you refuse to let someone else’s problems rush you, then there’s really no emotional toll at all, to be frank,” one barista tells me. Jack confesses that the speed at which he’s expected to work at can actu-

ally take away some of the emotional labour that’s involved in entertaining customers. “You kind of get used to the regulars who don’t want to talk and want fast service so that suits me as well, like that’s one less person to make small-talk with.” Josh* worked as a bartender before working at a cafe. He will soon finish his training to become a qualified barista who can then train others. In the meantime, he works for one of the big coffee chains near East Croydon train station. “There are these golden rules when it comes to service in [the] coffee [industry],” he tells me. “What we do is we greet the customer, we take the orders, and one of the rules is basically to think of the time. “Obviously, we have to feel calm, even when doing an order of four coffees, which can be quite challenging.

“People are bitches and nothing I do can make them be nicer so best to just let it go.”

“If you want a coffee before getting on the train, then you need to allow five minutes more for that. If you only have a minute to catch the train, you catch the train.” “But we understand that, so especially in the morning, we need to try to be faster. And there are so many tricks. So for example, we have some basic drinks: Cappuccino, Latté, Black Americano. If you’re working the same queue with me and both our orders need cappuccinos, I’ll make two cappuccinos. Easy.” When Josh talks about the ways in which he and his colleagues perform a perfectly coordinated dance of greeting customers and preparing coffees at the most efficient speed, it almost seems like they’re preparing to go into battle. It’s unclear against whom, whether the enemy is time ticking away, CCTV cameras watching them, or simply their own expectations. At one point he says that he’d jump in for his colleagues to help his ‘brothers and sisters’ when feeling stuck with a difficult customer so that they can learn how to deal with challenging situations. “It doesn’t matter how difficult it is. Customers are customers. You have a bad day, I have a bad day, it doesn’t matter because they give you money. That’s the point. I want to make them happy, that’s the point of business. It’s down to the employee, because if there are no customers, then you don’t get your wages.” “It’s not just about money. Well, money is on top, every single business where you work is about money. But at the same time, I will try to find a way for you to enjoy the coffee once you come in. “You place an order, I will do my best to serve the right drink for you to enjoy, fast as well. I don’t like waiting up to 10 minutes for a coffee, anything longer than five minutes is too much,” Josh tells me. “Obviously we’ve had bad moments, everyone has bad days. But the customer doesn’t know that. They come here, they want a nice experience.” As Michael Pollan writes in his recent book This Is Your Mind on Plants, the majority of us ingest caffeine regularly, be that through coffee or soft drinks, which makes caffeine the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world. Mirroring the ways in which Sufi Muslims in Yemen drank coffee to help them concentrate during their religious observances, today coffee offers a baseline consciousness for workers across the world. “Coffee and tea ushered in a shift in the mental weather, sharpening minds that had been fogged by alcohol, freeing people from the natural rhythms of the body and the sun, thus making possible whole new kinds of work and, argua61

bly, new kinds of thought, too,” Pollan explains. But is there more to our caffeine culture than letting a molecule deprive us of sleep in exchange for being able to work faster and longer hours? “I’ve only worked for independent shops and thank God for that,” Dan* tells me; he’s worked as a barista for two years and has been at his current workplace for a couple of months. “I honestly would rather work in [a] coffee [shop] than work for a corporation. Regulars are nice, most people are pretty great, and if anyone isn’t, we have full capacity to kick them out or put them in their place. I’ve always felt safe working at my shops and I have encountered very few awful customers.” Crushed Bean in East Croydon resembles the kind of small-town coffee shop where the request “the usual, please” actually works outside of the movies. Its founder Pam tells me they decided to open it over four years ago, after pivoting away from being a civil servant to chase a different, more enjoyable way of life. “We know most of our customers’ orders, as they get the same thing every time. We can just shout a name, so it’d be like, ‘I’ll have a Ben,’ and then Molly will know how to make a flat white with no sugar, or the temperature might be different, so that makes it really nice,” Pam said. “And also, it’s much faster, because you can see people down the line, so you can see Emma or Tony’s there. So I can start making coffees without even having taken their order, because they always get the same thing. And you can just give them a nod or a wave to make ‘the usual’. And it speeds up service a lot.” Pam tells me it’s very rare that they encounter difficult customers and the nature of the place’s small team makes it easier to build good relationships with each other, although this shouldn’t stop big chains from being able to treat staff with respect, they point out. Independent coffee shops have suffered since the pandemic, and Brexit hasn’t helped, they tell me. The price of coffee has gone up and with beans arriving from overseas, travel restrictions have naturally made business trickier. Crushed Bean currently gets its espresso from a small farm in El Salvador, which directly trades with a roaster called Clifton Coffee based in Bristol. “This means we know exactly what the origin of our coffee is. Therefore to make it worthwhile for the farmer, it has to be a certain price, and we have to be able to cover our costs as well,” says Pam. “So, I don’t think we’re cheaper than the chains because we’re kind of forced to be. But people don’t mind paying, because 62

it’s nice coffee, and it’s made with love.” Another independent cafe that recently celebrated its two-year anniversary in South Croydon is Bob’s Your Uncle—its owner, who chooses to remain unnamed, has worked in the industry for over a decade. Having started his career as a barista in a Costa in Birmingham, he’s all too familiar with the differences between independent coffee shops and chains. “You have to be very much of a ‘yes-person’. Just do what you’re told,” to work in a chain, he tells me over an oat milk flat white that his colleague kindly prepared for me. “You can’t really fend for yourself, because everything’s on paper, whatever you say, whatever you do, was included in training. So from how you phrase your questions, to how you phrase sentences when you’re trying to up-sell certain things. The one thing you have to worry about is making money and reaching certain goals that are given to you by the manager.” One of the reasons he left ‘corporate coffee’ was because of his disdain for the unequal customer-employee power dynamic and the lack of freedom to stand up for what he thought was right—be that decisions related to the coffee shop’s offers or the way staff were treated. “People have this mentality that when they come into a chain, it doesn’t matter where you work, what you do, it can be for a steakhouse, Nando’s, Pizza Hut, any chain. “The general public’s got the mentality of ‘I’m here to get served. And because I’m paying five pounds for a pizza, you owe me. For the next hour-and-a-half, you have to do anything I ask.’ Which isn’t great, but it is what it is.”

Although he’s the owner of Bob’s Your Uncle and therefore liable if anything goes wrong, he takes pride in the trust he’s developed with his staff and the fact that he sees himself as an equal part of the team. “I still work on my coffee, clean the toilets, sweep and mop the floor, just like anyone else. I’m proud of the staff. Just because I transfer the money at the end of the month, it doesn’t really make much of a difference at the end of the day. For them to have the money, they have to do their best and I have to do my best as well.” When asked what their top tips would be when ordering a coffee in a rush, Dan tells me: “Know your order size, temperature, milk. I don’t care if people are chatty or grumpy, just make my job easy and you’re my favourite customer.” “Give your barista time to make a complicated drink,” Sarah advises me. “If you are short on time, settle for something short and sweet. Or call ahead to have the drink ready when you get there.” Pam’s suggestion, particularly if you’re planning on becoming one of their regulars, would be to bring a reusable cup. “Also, get a slice of cake because that helps independents especially. The profit margins for coffee are so low now because of the price of the coffee. So if you get a coffee, maybe get a pastry or something as well. That really helps us out,” they suggest. “I don’t have an ideal customer in mind because they don’t exist,” the owner of Bob’s Your Uncle tells me. “Like I said, after doing that for so many years, I’m realistic. You will serve 100 people in a day. You will get five people who come back and be like: ‘That was pretty good’. And you’re here for those five people. You don’t have to worry about the other 95 because there will be people who appreciate what you do, and in some places that’s worth more than money.” After a few seconds of deliberation and greeting his regulars coming in for their daily caffeine fix, he did find some words of wisdom to share with me after all: “Just keep it simple. If you give coffee orders bigger than three words, you’re part of the problem.” Ironically, Josh misunderstood my question and perhaps quite tellingly gave me advice for how to be a better barista rather than a customer: “Eye contact. A warm welcome. Get the order. Make the order. Make sure you do it right. Focus and make the customer feel happy so they come back again.” b *some names have been changed to protect the anonymity of interviewees

CONTENTS 4 Feeling the heat in the kitchen Isis Flack


6 From ration to rampage Lillie Butler

38 Welcome to Auroville, the ‘city of dawn’ Will Drysdale

8 If you can make it on TikTok, you can make it anywhere Lauren Gordon 9 Back on stage with James Vickery Charlotte Griffin 10

Marthagunn: the new spiritual healers of indie rock Carlotta Cerruti

16 Ai Weiwei: artist and activist J A Neto 18 How blockchain helps business Zain Yasin 20 Guide Dogs at 90: I have another pair of eyes Robert Wallace 26

Cold water swimming: a pandemic escape Lucy Crayton


Dying well: meet the psychedelic death doula Annika Loebig

‘As soon as I put the clothes on it’s showtime’ Wiktor Karkocha

46 How I escaped a life of crime Aman Hafiz 48 Six ways to improve climate reporting Ana Drula 50

Taking the pretence out of Pride and Prejudice Robert Wallace

Frank Sparrowhawk, member of the band MarthaGunn, photographed by Bree Hart

56 Leaving island life for a football dream Atiyyah Ntiamoah-Addo 58 Making medical studies accessible Jamie O’Brien Hartigan 60 One Americano, so little time Annika Loebig

30 Music, creativity — and lots of beer Sylphia Basak

ISSN 2056-919X