Artefact #25 – March 2022

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Contributors Website Neelam Ahmed, Lillie Butler, Carlotta Cerruti, Charlotte Griffin, Aman Hafiz, Wiktor Karkocha, Annika Loebig, J A Neto, Atiyyah Ntiamoah-Addo, Robert Wallace, Zain Yasin Magazine 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 Video & Artefact TV Samuel George Baugh, Olivia Egan, Nour Ghanem, Emma Ireland, Anchita Khanna, Ellen Lund Petersen, Anmy Pazos Martinez, Parvaan Singh, Wiktoria Wisniewska Audio & Podcasting 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 When we started planning the second issue of Artefact earlier this year, we initially decided to not centre it around a specific theme. But then, our writers started to publish their articles. From the invasion of Ukraine to the world of virtual brothels, it seemed that without planning it, our writers found themselves collectively looking ahead to what happens next. The last two years have been an amalgamation of major historical events, a trend which doesn’t seem to be slowing down at any point soon. At such an integral transitional period in our lives — not just politically, but as graduating students — it’s no wonder that many of our minds wandered to the idea of the future when it came to writing the pieces in this magazine. In this issue, Artefact writers tried to encapsulate many of the different subsections that have been explored within this issue. The topics reflect a broad range of interests, capturing the excitement of a return to ‘the new normal’, and exploring what this ‘new normal’ means as our present continues to evolve. We cover the future of fashion with Ozwald Boateng’s return to London Fashion Week after a 12-year hiatus, deep dives into the future of sustainability and an analysis of toxic fashion culture. Sustainability is also explored via other industries, such as the future of electric cars and the climate crisis protests. While in the process of creating issue 25, the news broke of the invasion of Ukraine. As it began to occupy the forefront of both our minds and our news, we felt it was vital to include coverage of the war in this addition of Artefact. While it is an ongoing situation, as journalists it is our responsibility to cover major global events. Particularly with many of our writers being impacted by the war and its political implications, we felt it was important to include perspective regarding the evolving crisis. The return of fashion and aesthetics of decades past combined with the theme of exploring the future drew us to the concept of retro-futurism as a way of linking the past and the present together. The cover for issue 25 draws inspiration from the retro-futurism aesthetic. We used anti-war posters from the 60’s and 70’s, movie advertisements and art pieces from the mid-20th century depicting the future, referencing the amount of historical parallels we are seeing in current global events. Right now, the future is a blank canvas. While we didn’t start the making of issue 25 with any theme in mind, let alone this one, it does not come as a shock that the Artefact team this year was looking ahead. We have made major changes to the production of the magazine itself, and in our exploration of the future, one could see it as a way for our writers to fill in this canvas as we continue to grow and adjust to an ever-evolving world.


The scary reality behind face morphing apps We investigate the software that some say promotes unrealistic beauty standards through its filters Words and images: Lauren Gordon


aceApp has been trending on social media in recent weeks, as users of both TikTok and Instagram have used their respective platforms to discuss and break down the increased use of filters, editing apps and software to enhance images, often to a scarily realistic degree.


TikTokers are now using their three minutes of video time to show how fake social media is by participating in the ‘Instagram vs reality’ challenge. The app, which is ‘powered by AI’ first came into popular use in 2019, with its main point of interest being the ability to show users what they’d look like when they were old, by using FaceApp’s ageing filter. The craze was so popular that FaceApp skyrocketed to number one on Apple’s UK App Store charts, and celebrities from Lil Nas X to The Jonas Brothers took part in the fun. By July 2019, FaceApp and other photo editing apps faced privacy controversy, with FaceApp users worried about the app’s policy of sending photos that have been uploaded to remote servers and retaining them for possible ‘commercial use’. These concerns raised a debate around people’s fear, arguably tinged with xenophobia, about looking the way the app predicted, and downloads began to slide leaving FaceApp another lockdown fad that everyone soon forgot. But since late 2021, FaceApp has yet again become a trending topic, but not for the light-hearted reason it did back in 2019: Instagram and TikTok users have now been using the app to reveal the truth behind these manipulating tools that are often the culprits behind commercial or influencer pictures posted on social media, which are often heavily edited. FaceApp has multiple filters that can be added to pictures to completely change the look of the user’s face. Hair can be volumised and coloured, noses made smaller, lips made bigger and eyes are given the ‘cat/fox eye look’. One filter in particular even adds a realistic layer of makeup to a picture. So I tried it out to see how it would change my face. I used a picture of me with no make up on whatsoever and another of me with makeup on, to see what FaceApp thinks I could’ve done better. In this first picture, I have nothing on my face and my hair isn’t even done. I look an absolute mess, but after pushing the picture through FaceApp’s filters, I have long luscious locks, a brighter face, and full coverage make-up on. My neck has been made slightly smaller by the addition of my fake hair and my face has been smoothed out — it’s a shame they couldn’t get that pimple scar off my cheek though! I then tried some of the pre-made sets in FaceApp’s showcase and the results, which I would have to pay £29 for, were more poignant. In the original picture, I was already wearing makeup, but FaceApp instead gave me a full makeover and cosmet-

ic surgery to reveal what they think I should be posting on the ‘gram’. To start, the ‘Star’ filter has made my eyes bigger and has given them the cat-eye look and they appear to be a lighter brown. My eyebrows are fuller and have been filled in. I have been given another layer of eyeshadow and even some highlights in the inner corner of my eye and my lashes are longer and fuller. Physically, my face is smoother and brighter, my nose is smaller and slimmer and my lips have been hugely plumped, while my chin and jaw have been slightly resized to have more poise and look more structured. In an article for The Guardian, cosmetic doctor Tijion Esho, founder of the Esho clinics in London and Newcastle, acknowledges the large eyes and pixel-perfect skin that airbrushing filters provide as “an unrealistic, unattainable thing”. One commenter on the same article gave a photographer’s point of view on the matter, stating that, “a head shot needs to use a minimum of an 85mm, 105mm or 135mm lens to achieve a natural perspective on a face. Most smartphone cameras have an equivalent lens of about 25mm, which accentuate the nose, and push the ears away, making the most photogenic look distorted.” When discussing the issues filters and editing apps, there’s a lot to breakdown. A striking difference presented by the application of the filters is how they distort my face to make me appear more Caucasian, e.g. by straightening my nose. These reveal deep-rooted issues within the creators, who have reflected their interpretations of what is considered ‘perfect’ and implemented unconscious racial bias to totally disregard its

users of different races and cultural backgrounds. To go further, the skin lightening aspect of the edits teaches anyone with darker skin that their skin is an imperfection that needs to be fixed, should they wish to fit in with Instagram beauty standards. There’s also a deeper social movement being presented via the app and reveals what the future potentially holds. Through editing and filters, we are quite literally immersing ourselves into a new world where the line between reality and fantasy is seriously blurred. With so much of our lives centred around our mobile phones, social media and the digital world, our digital self is quickly becoming the version that we prefer to show to the world. This has been prominent in our society from as early as 2017, when the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) found that 55% of facial plastic surgeons say patients have requested cosmetic procedures to look better on social media. Dr Byrne, who is on the board of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, found that patients would point out flaws from a picture or selfie and not a mirror. This development can be identified under the trend of Snapchat Dysmorphia, a phenomenon that suggests Snapchat users who use filters are getting cosmetic surgery based on how their face looks when edited. Holly Cockerill is one of the TikTok and Instagram users using her platform to expose the truth behind social media, and how photo editing apps like FaceApp are more commonly used online than we think. “I used to post about my skin problems, a lot of people back then were not as honest as they are nowadays so it felt good to show people it’s okay to have flaws. I was so sick and tired of seeing airbrushed pictures all over Instagram which puts pressure on people to try to be ‘perfect’ all the time. It’s so damaging, I used to cry because I didn’t look like these ‘Instagram models’ but I soon realised, they don’t even look like themselves.” “I got lots of messages from women and even men thanking me for showing my acne and how they feel normal. I realised my content was relatable so I started posting more real images of myself. When I found that more and more Instagram users were using FaceApp I started posting pictures of the real me next to pictures I’d made with the app and the difference is ridiculous. The amount of people that said they see the same ‘edited’ face on Instagram is scary.” Holly’s genuine approach to an app,

“And don’t believe everything you see on Instagram!”

which often blurs the line between illusion and reality, garnered a lot of positive attention from like-minded people. Her TikTok video gained 6.2 million views, more than 730k likes and more than 5,000 comments from users, many of whom were flabbergasted by the drastic changes FaceApp allows people to make. Although the ‘Instagram vs Reality’ challenge acts as an eye-opener to the illusion of social media, that doesn’t mean people aren’t still heavily editing their images to post to social media networks. The issue of posting images that have been edited by third-party apps is a

tricky one to resolve, but Instagram has found a way to increase transparency for their filter users. When posting filtered images to the profile grid, a tagline states which Instagram filter or effect was used on the posted picture. Holly’s advice to those starting out on Instagram who feel overwhelmed by the sea of edited images is simple to grasp: “Never ever compare yourself to anybody! It’s easier said than done, but if people spent as much time as they do comparing, and instead use that time to love themselves the world would be a happier place. And don’t believe everything you see on Instagram!” As Holly says, it’s easier said than done, and my only concern is, as an avid social media user myself who has fallen into the lure of using filters countless times, any barriers Instagram or other social media platforms put in place are often easier to break down than they seem to put up. I’ve seen many users now point the finger to the creators of their caucasian-ifying filters and question the intensity of them, and since then filters have had less dramatic effects. However there’s still years of irreparable damage to self-esteem and confidence that filters and face editing apps such as FaceApp have wreaked on our generation and it should be our responsibility to ensure it doesn’t happen to the next. b 5


ince the beginning of the first lockdown, the rise of fashion influencers has catapulted and many fashion brands have gained success; after some forceful stay-at-home mandates due to Covid restrictions, purchases from fast fashion clothing brands have skyrocketed. But can we blame this excessive shopping on just our boredom? The recent COP26 summit amplified online discussions about the damaging nature of fast fashion, as the industry is now the second largest polluter in the world. Fast fashion is one of the leading dangers to the environment, and according to the UN Environment Programme, the industry is the second biggest consumer of water and is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions — more than all international flights and maritime shipping combined. “Before being a fashion student, I was so unaware about the bad impact the fashion industry had on the environment.

Does fashion have to be toxic? Students examine ways of making the clothing industry more sustainable Words: Atiyyah Ntiamoah-Addo Image: Rio Lecatompessy/Unsplash 6

But during my degree, and when I’m designing my clothes, I’ve had to do continuous research about where I get my materials from, whether I’m wasting my products or not, and how I’m gonna get rid of my unused materials sustainably,” said 21-year-old Renz. “I shop sustainably by asking myself each time before buying something if this is a want or a need. It’s a long debate with myself because fashion is always changing, and as a fashion student it’s expected a bit to have the right garms, but after educating myself on the impact of fast fashion, I’ve changed my outlook. Now, I usually shop at charity shops and car boot sales to find cheap alternatives beforehand to see what I need,” Renz explained. Like Renz, many of us are changing our lifestyles and trying to be more sustainable. Whether it’s using oat milk in our iced coffees instead of cow’s milk, eating less meat, investing in vintage clothing, or buying our clothes from charity shops — we’re all consciously making an effort to reduce our carbon footprints. There are companies like Too Good To Go, who are dedicated to ending unnecessary food waste in the UK. The app lets people buy food that would usually go to waste because it hasn’t been sold in time, and at a really cheap price. Similarly, there are plenty of ways to be fashionably sustainable from the comfort of our own home. Platforms like Depop and Vinted allow us to buy and sell our pre-loved clothes for an affordable price without having to worry about breaking the bank. Additionally, fashion rental sites have become a phenomenon over the past year, which is extremely beneficial as it minimises our contribution to fast fashion’s carbon footprint. However, the sustainability movement has its flaws and has received backlash for its classism, fat-phobia, and greenwashing. Companies such as H&M and Zara have rebranded themselves as eco-friendly and sustainable. In terms of advertising, both brands hold a striking resemblance to environmental activism campaigns like that of Extinction Rebellion, and they use bold eye-catching phrases — but they fail to actually be eco-centric. Fast fashion brands like Asos, Zara and H&M have been promoting social and progressive issues without enacting meaningful change — which makes their brand activism redundant, as they fail to align their actions with their new image. For instance it’s quite hypocritical if a fast fashion brand posts feminism infographics on their social media, but at the same time fails to protect women and continues to profit from their female garment workers.

“Sustainability is becoming somewhat mainstream, and now people are being educated on how the harmful effects of fast fashion are impacting our planet. It creates a conversation where people actually want to better and improve their lifestyle as they now realise how urgent our planet needs help,” environmental management student Katie told us.

‘The fashion industry is responsible for 8-10% of global carbon emissions.’

“It’s great that there are many sustainable fashion brands out there, but unfortunately most of them exclude plus sizes, which forces plus-sized people who are interested in slow fashion to buy from fast fashion brands, which is completely unfair.” Katie explained her views on the future for fast fashion: “I think that it is possible to eradicate fast fashion completely, or at least reduce fast fashion consumption in the future. Personally, I support small local businesses, buy my clothes from charity shops and Depop — but I only buy clothes when necessary,” she said. “Although the popular sustainable brands are expensive, you don’t need to be mega rich to buy clothes sustainably. But on the other hand, because of how monetised the sustainability movement has become, it does make it harder for those who come from low-income backgrounds to truly participate in slow fashion and then they get condemned for

not being the ‘best’ sustainable person out there.” On top of this, the rise of influencers on social media, specifically on Instagram and TikTok, means that not only has media consumption doubled but the increase of fast fashion has too. Today, influencers have the power to sway the minds of their audiences, especially their younger ones; when an influencer posts pictures of themselves wearing various outfits daily and makes an item of clothing accessible via an affiliate link, it will only increase the consumption of fast fashion, as they are promoting these clothes to their millions of followers. This increase in visibility also means that trends are going in and out of style faster than ever, which causes people to quickly buy new clothes and discard old items at an increasing rate. Fashion hauls are another influential trend that increases the ravenous buying habits of consumers.

Normally, these videos are featured on YouTube, TikTok and Instagram Reels, where creators share their honest reviews, try the clothes on and show off a huge quantity of clothing all at the same time. While this can be insightful, fashion hauls can promote over-consumption and poor buying habits. “There was this TikTok trend about fashion hauls where people would spend over five thousand dollars on Shein clothes, and fashion hauls trends on YouTube, where people can spend more than £1,000 on Pretty Little Thing. And I think it’s especially those types of people, who can afford to spend that money, who should be buying from slow fashion brands instead of attacking those who come from marginalised communities [and are] unable to buy sustainably,” said Katie. Perhaps completely eradicating this toxic fashion system could only happen in a utopian society, but for now we should all strive to be more sustainable. b


Why are the majority of therapists white? People need counsellors who understand their lives Words: Neelam Ahmed Image: cottonbro/pexels


assan Patel, a 22-year-old Muslim student from Brighton, has been in and out of therapy for a few years trying to process the repressed trauma of his abusive father. He saw a white male therapist for the first time when he was in college: “He would try to teach me ‘how to act’ instead of finding the source of my emotions and understanding me,” he tells me. “He would also make Islamophobic comments like how I was sexist because I was raised in a Muslim household. I’ve had better therapists since then, but it’s safe to say I didn’t return to see him.” 8

Hassan decided it was time to move on and find a therapist who was a better match for him and who was also culturally competent. “I realised I needed to work through the more deep-rooted trauma that had built up over the years. I also learnt that these came from intergenerational trauma and my specific multicultural upbringing.” After working with his current therapist, who is also Muslim, Hassan says he feels like he can finally get the most out of therapy: “I don’t have to keep on articulating a cultural context to the things I would bring to sessions, as my therapist already understood me to a certain degree.” In 2015, The British Psychological Society found that “around 88.2% of the clinical psychology workforce in England are of white ethnic origin.” This statistic does not match up with the fact that BAME groups had higher rates of mental health problems compared to white people. For example, black men are more likely to have experienced a psychotic disorder than white men in recent years, and black people are four times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act than white people. This disparity can be explained by institutional racism, and socioeconomic factors disproportionately experienced by BAME groups, with poverty a detrimental effect on one’s mental health. Derrick Hoard, a licensed marriage and family therapist says in a YouTube video: “The counselling and therapy profession is completely inundated with one type of person.” But why is this an issue? For many people of colour, seeing a white therapist may be an unsatisfactory experience because of their lack of cultural competency. Having a white therapist is not necessarily a barrier to effective therapy, although someone’s culture can “profoundly affect people’s ways of being, their behaviour, and their interpersonal relationships.” However, as a trained mental health professional who is empathetic and provides a safe space for clients, it is another matter to be understanding and aware of the inequalities that affect the lives of people of colour, as well as having your own lived experiences of these inequalities. The effects of racism can also have a profound impact on mental health as race-based discrimination can make you question your identity and affect your self-confidence. A 2015 meta-analysis found that “racism is twice as likely to affect mental health than physical health”. In the same study, BIPOC who reported experiences of racism also experienced mental health

symptoms such as “depression, anxiety, PTSD and suicidal thoughts”. Black people also face some of the highest levels of systemic racism whether that be individual, systematic or historical racism. “I am constantly being stopped and searched by police just because I’m a young black man, I guess it’s just normal at this point,” says student William Abbasi. The different levels of racism can also lead to racial trauma. Racial trauma refers to the race-based traumatic stress and trauma caused by “ethnic discrimination, racism and hate crimes”, Wizdom Powell, director of the University of Connecticut’s Health Disparities Institute, tells CNBC’s Make It. Trauma responses to racism may present themselves as “hyper vigilance, increased depressive symptoms, prolonged anger and outbursts, recurring thoughts of the events, as well as physical reactions like headaches, chest pains and insomnia,” Powell says. Treatment of racial trauma in therapy may also be a hard topic for white therapists as they do not have that builtin understanding or full lived experiences of racism to be able to empathise and relate with others. This means that therapy sessions cannot reach maximum results for both the therapist and client. Therapy clients tend to feel more comfortable around someone in the same ethnic group as them as they can empathise with you culturally and you don’t have to re-explain the ethnic lens you may lived through to them, as there is already a level of mutual understanding for trust to be built on. They are someone that can grasp certain cultural sensitivities and be aware of intergenerational trauma that a white therapist cannot entirely grasp. Another factor is the issue of racial identity which is unique to people of colour. The ethnic identity a person has refers to a complex and multifaceted part

“The counselling and therapy profession is completely inundated with one type of person.”

of the development of an individual of colour, where they learn to identify with their values and culture and ultimately how they identify with their ethnic group. A racial identity is another thing a white therapist cannot completely help clients with, however another therapist from an ethnic background can. Illustrator Jamal Umair, who has a black therapist says: “As a black person myself, it just means I can fully be myself and don’t have to worry about being misunderstood because he is culturally competent,” he says. There is also often stigma in many BAME ethnic groups where therapy and mental health is still a taboo, or a general consensus of saying “just pray it away”.

Some cultures believe that you are “possessed” if you experience any mental health issue. This just adds to the many reasons why therapy isn’t as accessible to many minority groups and why there are even more barriers to effective treatment. Sravya Attaluri, a mental health activist who has a South Asian therapist shares her experience: “I was very nervous at first and scared that they would also try to put me in a box or I would be faced with all those qualities in South Asian culture that often trigger me. However, it was very pleasant, I felt understood, validated and like I had found a safe space!” The Black African and Asian Therapy Network (BAATN) is the UK’s largest

independent organisation that is encouraging psychology to make the shift to become a more diverse field. Its primary aims are to address the “inequality of access to appropriate psychological services for Black, African, South Asian and Caribbean people, which is a well-recognised reality”. The BAATN is also a useful organisation for helping match people of colour to therapists with their psychological therapist directory. Therapy can help with a wide range of racial trauma and cultural issues that may threaten one’s identity. Cultural counseling can help you realise the impacts of these issues and may help you cope with them. b



s Russian troops invaded Ukraine and waged war against Kyiv and cities all across the country, refugees — mainly women, children and displaced families — rushed for asylum. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) reported that around 520,000 people fled towards neighbouring nations like Poland, Moldova, Romania and Slovakia following Russia’s invasion. Donation links and vital information were shared through social media. As Russia’s attack continues, it is predicted that the number of refugees will increase. Days after the initial invasion, we take a look at the solidarity and difficulties present at Ukraine’s borders. Poland and Slovakia Journalist Manny Marotta walked alongside thousands of refugees from Lviv to the Polish-Ukrainian border. He shared his journey on Twitter: “Vehicles were backed for 25 kilometres, many out of gas. Several were abandoned. UA soldiers were stopping cars and buses and yanking out any man aged 18-60 to conscript into the Ukrainian army. In one place, a commissar was shouting ‘say goodbye to your daughters, mothers, and girlfriends; you must turn back and fight the Russian invader!’” In Poland, people quickly organised the gathering of food and essential supplies. Donation centres were quickly overflowing with hygiene products, non-perishable goods and toys for children. At the border, locals offered Ukrainians free transport and accommodation to strategic destinations. The University of Silesia declared they will offer “all possible help”, making all of its staff and students available for emergency refugee needs. “Our community consists of students, PhD students and employees from many former Soviet republics. We assure you that everyone who respects the rights of our community will find peaceful shelter, and good conditions for studying, research and work here,” they said. Ukrainian pets were not left behind. Krakow animal protection associations stepped in to collect supplies and food for displaced pets. As transporting animals outside of Ukraine became increasingly difficult, volunteers shipped out pet carriers, working together with Ukrainian shelters. The DIOZ organisation vouched to rescue and relocate Ukrainian pets who were separated from their owners. Slovakia prepared for refugees as well. In late January, before the invasion officially began, the Ministry of Defence acknowledged even a limited conflict would cause many to flee Ukraine. We spoke to Slovakian student 10

Barbora Zatkova, as her family arranged accommodation for Ukrainians seeking shelter. “We are ready to help Ukrainians, there are a lot of volunteers who help at the border and everyone is welcome. We have united as a country in the past days, and accept Ukrainians as our brothers and sisters. We have a similar culture, similar language and the same hate for Russian dictatorship,” Barbora told us. “The older generations remember what it is like to be dictated by the Soviet Union, to be under Putin’s agenda. Lots of people who used to harbour pro-Russian sentiments are now turning against it and trying to help. Our country is sad, and people know the war won’t put an end to this conflict. It is heartbreaking,” Barbora and her sister reflected. Lithuania and Belarus Lithuania, whose rich history is tightly intertwined with that of Ukraine, stepped in as well. Eglė (@velociraptorjr), a Lithuanian artist based in the United States, used her platform to inform others, urging them to help in any way they can. She told us that many at home don’t think of Ukrainians as strangers, but rather brothers, with a shared history and culture, whom they root for in liberation. “Lithuania has started mobilising in a number of different ways over the past few days. There’s been armoured vehicles moving across the country, people have been attending mass demonstrations and signing up for volunteer work. “Loads of Lithuanians have been making runs to all border crossing points to pick up Ukrainian refugees. They’ve been bringing them to safety, offering up their homes, collecting money and resources,” Eglé said. “Men, some without any combat training, have been organising to go join the Ukrainian forces. People are sharing so much information and fact checking everything against the black hole that is the Soviet empire, making sure none of Putin’s propaganda has any time to spread.” Lithuanian institutions showed their solidarity as well. Vilnius University organised a donation campaign in support of Ukraine’s academic community, while Vilnius city council vouched to allocate €500,000 (£415,710) to Ukraine’s capital, along with additional donations from civilians towards the Ukrainian army. The Lithuanian Red Cross was also overwhelmed by donations. “Ukraine does not exist in a vacuum. This is happening everywhere, all over Europe. Belarus, by the way, is and has been for a while, a Russian controlled territory. Lukashenko is absolutely Putin’s puppet. Being a Lithuanian, just like being a Ukrainian, means that none of this is new. All of this feels like an old fever

Words: Ana Drula Images: Jakub Ivanov and Karollyne Hubert


Neighbouring states work together to assist and shelter refugees fleeing the war zone 11

dream coming to life,” Eglė added when asked about the regional tensions. On the fourth day of war, negotiations between Ukraine and Russia’s representatives took place at the Belarusian border. The country’s leadership unsurprisingly followed Putin’s orders, taking a definite pro-Russian stance against Ukraine. The Constitution was amended in order to allow the use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine. Soon after, troops from Belarus joined Russia’s war, crossing the border into northern Ukraine. Updates from Ukraine Those who remained in Kyiv were promptly evacuated and sheltered in the capital’s metro stations. As the Russian army began to target civilians, hospitals and even nurseries, Ukrainians fought back with great resilience. A fraction of the pain and tragedy inflicted by Putin’s


attack was broadcast through social media. While the Ukrainian army deterred Russian forces, a collective effort ensued to keep morale high. “It is incredible how the people of Kyiv are able to adapt to wartime. In the bomb shelter last night and this morning, they sang happy birthday, children played, quite a few listened to the Ukrainian national anthem and watched Zelensky’s updates on their smartphones,” writes Nolan Peterson (@nolanwpeterson), a war reporter based in Ukraine. “There is already a rhythm to life, especially at night. All semblance of privacy is gone — they share one space for sleeping, stand in line for food, distribute blankets and pillows and water to share. No one says to do these things, it’s just an automatic communal decision,” Peterson added. Civilians learned how to make Molotov cocktails. A group of Roma Ukrainians

“The older generations remember what it is like to be dictated to by the Soviet Union”

defeated a Russian tank. Reports claimed that locals used Tinder and Grindr to trick young Russian soldiers into divulging information. Journalists from The Kyiv Independent and Euromaidan Press held down the fort, continuing war coverage even after the Television Tower in Kyiv was bombed. Meanwhile, racism at Ukraine’s borders also made news. Foreign nationals who tried to escape the country shared disturbing accounts of segregation and racism, as white Ukrainians reportedly received priority on transport and at customs. According to several sources in transit towards Poland, customs officers showed signs of aggression, turning people of colour away and refusing to provide safe transportation. A place for nuance Other news outlets were criticised for their biased and orientalist coverage of the invasion. “This isn’t a place, with all due respect, like Iraq or Afghanistan, that has seen conflict raging for decades. This is a relatively civilised, relatively European city where you wouldn’t expect this to happen,” said one CBS foreign correspondent. “This is how media dehumanises BIPOC & normalises white supremacy,” remarked human rights lawyer Quasim Rashid in response to the viral clip. Others pointed out how Ukrainian civilians arming themselves is framed as empowering and righteous, but when the same happens in a state like Palestine, it is portrayed as dangerous and lawless. “This is a common tactic used by oppressive states and their allies to distract people from the brutal violence inflicted on the oppressed. Working class poor marginalised people taking arms to defend their land and people against colonialism is always justified — from Ukraine to Palestine,” wrote Dr Ayesha Khan (@wokescientist). “Hypocrisy on Palestine doesn’t

determine my support for other struggles. The goal isn’t to diminish the plight of others in our quest for liberation, but rather uplift them in solidarity. The road to Palestinian freedom will never come through the White House or international law,” shared Palestinian poet Remi Kanazi in response to the invasion of Ukraine. Russian troops from Crimea refused to take part in the invasion. The Kyiv Independent reported that marine troops were in a “demoralised state”. Other sources suggested that many Russian soldiers were lied to about the real purpose of their military exercises. Ukraine set up a system to help Russian mothers pick up their young sons captured in combat. Ukrainian anarchists created a ‘zine with interviews and stories providing background on the Russian invasion: “How do we oppose Russian state aggression without playing into the NATO agenda? How do we continue to oppose Ukrainian capitalists and fascists without helping Russia justify the invasion? Please print these out and distribute them!” Romania At the Romanian border with Ukraine, volunteers gathered to welcome Ukrainians and distribute essentials. Since an overwhelming quantity of food was prepared by civilians, non-profits like the Romanian Red Cross stepped in to strategise resources. We spoke to community activist Sologiuc Gheorghe, who joined volunteers at the Siret border crossing point. “We almost risked overcrowding the border, so many people eager to help showed up to welcome Ukrainians as we know best: food, drinks and tea. Our people organised in an impressive way, but the country’s officials haven’t done much.” Indeed, when Prime Minister Ciuca visited the refugee welcoming operations he was met with complaints from locals. Gheorghe told us volunteers and customs officers have been trying to work as a team. “Our first line is made up of translators who guide those arriving at the border. We’ve welcomed so many ethnicities, especially with lots of international students coming from Kyiv and Chernivtsi universities.” Afterwards, refugees are offered food and care packages with sanitary products. Such supplies have been donated and collected from all over the country, mostly by local non-profits. In Bucharest, the Accept Association led donation efforts, encouraging people to send overlooked essentials like medication, sleeping bags, baby products and winter coats. For the next step, Facebook groups like United for Ukraine coordinated people’s offers for free housing and free transport. Feminism Romania urged author-

ities to ensure the safety of women seeking asylum, by staying in touch with those housed in private accommodation and by providing special medical attention for pregnant women, minorities and those who might have suffered assaults or aggression while escaping. They also highlighted the importance of placing women in strategic roles and listening to their expertise on refugee necessities. Ukrainian students were offered free admission into Romanian universities. More than 500 Indian students from Ukrainian universities were temporarily housed in the local gymnasium of a small town called Milisauti. “It’s what we were able to provide so shortly. We made a fire this morning and locals brought blankets and food. They’re in transit, on the way to Bucharest and we’re doing our best,” the town’s mayor declared. When shops in Ukrainian southern city Chernivtsi started running out of products, Romanian volunteers crossed over to bring them supplies, but returning back into Romania became close to impossible. The atmosphere became bleak and tense as Chernivtsi issued a bombardment alert for its citizens. The region was previously considered safe and exempt from Russian attacks. “There are obstacles on the other side, at the Ukrainian customs. Sources say that their officers are taking bribes to let people cross the border towards us, which is very sad; their own people are doing this. There’s also horrible traffic. A friend spent almost three days in the car queue right at the border,” Gheorghe explained. We asked Gheorghe what impressed him the most during his time at the border. “In the first few days, before we had translators, Ukrainians who arrived here were almost scared by the large number of people who came to welcome them. I was very moved by a woman who arrived with her small dog. When she saw us handing her food and water, she started crying. She came from Kyiv, on the road for fifteen hours. Her dog hadn’t had any water since they left. She couldn’t believe that such a warm welcome was provided by regular people. “The majority of those arriving here are women with children. Often, the father is still in Ukraine, because men aged 18 to 60 are not allowed out. Some women have to part with their children,” Gheorghe told us. “They leave them in the custody of friends and quickly return back into Ukraine. I don’t know if they’re going back to fight in the war, or to rescue others, but it was quite shocking to witness it. They manage to escape, they are so happy to be here but they have to return, even if it’s not safe.” b 13

INSIDE THE VIRTUAL BROTHEL While OnlyFans has become synonymous with sex work, have you heard about virtual escorts? Step inside the world of sex work in Final Fantasy XIV

Words: Annika Loebig Images: Yuhao Lai 14


aked table, private dance, or cuddle sesh, anyone? These are only some of the options available to you upon entering the Biscuits ‘n’ Milfs brothel in the popular online role-playing game Final Fantasy XIV. While they might sound like distant cousins of drinks whose names are based on sexual innuendos like the Pornstar Martini or Sex on the Beach, these are in fact virtual sex service packages provided by online escorts in exchange for in-game currency. “It’s kind of like an OnlyFans for World of Warcraft,” a player tells Zack, a successful American Twitch streamer and YouTuber who goes by the alias ‘Asmongold’ and has produced a series of interviews with virtual escorts and club owners. It’s not too dissimilar from the real world of sex work which has increasingly moved to online platforms during the pandemic, with the rise of sex workers

and amateurs using OnlyFans as a relatively safe platform for their work, and even sex clubs like Killing Kittens hosting their orgy on Zoom but in-game brothels like Biscuits ‘n’ Milfs offer an array of sex services that go beyond straightforward pornography. While the brothel also hosts traditional sex services such as Private ERP (erotic role playing), during which a character pays for the option to ‘play out their wildest fantasies’, their more peculiar service packages are Naked Table, which includes the option for your character to eat food off of another character’s body for ten minutes, and Cuddle Sesh, for those looking for 30 minutes of “cosy snuggling and calm conversation”. “I think people mostly look for our escorts to give them an entertaining time and be able to just relax and enjoy themselves,” gamer and owner of Biscuits ‘n’ Milfs, who goes by the name Milf Mommy, tells me. “It’s always an escape from

real life when we game and I think that heavily carries over into the ERP world.” The practice of erotic role playing and virtual brothels is said to have taken off in the online game World of Warcraft (WoW), but erotic role players and online escorts soon found a new home for their services in Final Fantasy XIV. There are several reasons for this: ‘Mods’, who are part of the online sex work ecosystem, modify the game and create add-ons for other players to download, one example being nipples, because characters lack those in the basic game. While not acting as escorts themselves, they are able to situate clients’ characters in erotic scenarios which they take screenshots of and sell for Gil, the in-game currency. Some even put characters into Blender, a free and open-source software, to create animations rather than static, erotic images for clients. They tell me the preference for Final Fantasy XIV might be based on the wider 15

availability of add-ons compared to WoW, allowing people more creativity in their costumes and overall appearance, also called ‘skins’. Another aspect of the game which makes sex work so appealing for online escorts, is that many don’t feel the need to complete or even participate in the storyline of the game. Milf Mommy tells me that they originally played WoW but turned to Final Fantasy XIV for the fun of designing an online venue and providing a space for others to come together to play just for the sake of ERP. “I personally do not ERP. I just don’t like it for myself. It’s awkward for me and I just can’t get into it, but I love how passionate other people are about it and how much they enjoy it, so I was like, why not a brothel? I can manage it and fill in roles that aren’t ERP.” It was their friend of nine years, called Biscuits ‘n’ Slooty, who told them about ‘the other side’ of Final Fantasy XIV, alluding to the nightlife of the game and range of venues for social outings. At the time, only a small number of brothels existed in the game, most of the social spaces being limited to clubs and cafes. Shortly after, their friend introduced Milf Mommy to other venues to get an overview of pricing for services and what ERP services were already being offered. “He’s the game knowledge and ERP knowledge behind it and I’m the everything else. It took me a few weeks to come up with everything, write it all, make the Discord channel, make the Carrd website, and decorate the venue. I literally got on the game to make this brothel.” As one of the first strictly 18+ ERP brothels on the server, theirs is an allERP, sex and nudity venue, also offering food and drinks each of which have their own sexually explicit descriptions including ‘Cummies’, ‘Love Potion’ and ‘The Orgasm’. All the food items were designed to be aphrodisiacs, Milf Mommy tells me. “I think a lot of people live out their fantasies in the ERP game world because it’s nowhere near as judgemental as in real life. And it’s sometimes a lot harder to find people to live those fantasies out with in real life than it is in-game, so for some it’s kind of their only release I guess. Most gamers would much rather spend their weekends in game worlds than the real one,” they explain. Milf Mommy tells me that most places are LGBTQ+ friendly and welcome people from all walks of life. The anonymity of online gaming naturally turns the question of the player’s gender redundant, as a player tells Asmongold in another interview, the gender of the online character isn’t expected to match 16

that of the person playing it. Speaking to a male player who sports a female character, they tell Asmongold: “It’s a prominent part of the community and the social aspect of the game. It’s what makes the game, in my opinion, super special.” It comes as no surprise then that all genders make use of escorting services in the game. Particularly as the common norm to respect the gender performance of the character rather than the player is a kind of freedom not always afforded to people in real life, with reported anti-trans hate crimes increasing by 16% between 2019 and 2020 alone. One obvious advantage that virtual brothels have over real life (RL) clubs and bars is the issue of safety. With the recent rise in spiking incidents, participating in social and erotic events online adds a layer of protection not granted to people who expose themselves to risks in real life. But besides being built into the anonymity and physical distance embedded in virtual worlds, owners and staff of brothels take safety issues seriously in numerous ways. Scanning through the Discord channel and the rules stated on Biscuits ‘n’ Milfs’ website, the extent of their safety measures quickly becomes apparent. For example, people must be a legal adult and the server also prohibits jokes or implications of suicide and self-harm. They also have strict guidelines against non-consensual role play, child pornography, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia and unsolicited nudes, to name just a few. The safety infrastructure is incredibly complex and goes far beyond a list of rules stated in the server. Escorts include ‘Not Safe for Work’ descriptions in their profiles and different tags tell others whether you’re, for example, free to direct message (DM) another person without permission, and what role you’re playing. This easily communicates to others whether you’re employed as a bouncer for the brothel, a dancer, escort, bar staff or other type of employee. “We put up rules which clients are supposed to read, and we also do our best to screen people and make sure they’re 18+,” Milf Mommy tells me. “I think people get nervous if you ask for proof so I just ask their age and save a screenshot of it just in case they try to ‘call wolf’ on any of my escorts and other staff and say they were abused and not 18+. “And then, as far as stuff like paedophilia and rape fantasies go, the staff know what’s allowed and if anyone tries to sneak that in or ask that they do it, that client is immediately asked to leave and blacklisted from the venue which usually means blacklisted from any venue around because of the seriousness of those issues.”

“I think a lot of people live out their fantasies in the erotic role play game world because it’s nowhere near as judgemental as in real life.”

Blacklists are frequently shared with other venues to ensure others are aware of players that could cause harm. Due to the inherently fringe nature of sex services, which also cater to a wide range of subjective preferences and desires, escorts and dancers are able to set boundaries before accepting clients by stating what kinks they’re either into themselves or willing to perform for others. If those boundaries are overstepped, it’s usually the responsibility of guards or bouncers to kick people out, while mods take note of who’s not welcome at the venue anymore. “My vision for the brothel is just for everyone to enjoy themselves in a safe, judgement-free space. “I would love to be able to upgrade my brothel to a large venue because right now it is small and it was really tricky to design it to still feel like a very open space that’s not too crowded,” they tell me. “Once I can upgrade to a large venue, I really would love to design it in more of a luxurious look with multiple different types of rooms and lounges including a naked maid cafe. That’s the dream for now.” b


Words: Ana Drula Images: Cottonbro/Pexels and Sydney Rae/Unsplash

HEMP: THE FUTURE OF SUSTAINABLE FASHION The world’s most misunderstood plant has many practical uses. We take a closer look at hemp’s potential within the fashion industry 18


s we continue to look for sustainable solutions for fighting the climate crisis, hemp is gaining momentum as one of the most versatile yet underrated crops, with a market that is projected to grow steadily over the next few years, more than doubling in size by 2027. While the plant has many practical uses, one of the most significant at the moment is its potential for use within the fashion industry, which raises the question: Can “the most misunderstood plant in the world” revolutionise the way we think about our clothes? A zero-waste process The words sustainable and zero-waste are used a lot to describe anything that is merely less damaging to our planet. But hemp is one of those ‘miracle’ plants that comes closest to a perfect zero waste process, because every part of the plant can be used. From its roots to the seeds, nothing goes to waste. Hemp can be turned into paper, hempcrete for building, food, fabric, and even renewable energy. What’s more, hemp also gives back to the Earth: one acre of hemp can produce more oxygen than the same area of apple trees; once planted, its deep roots can purify and regenerate the soil by absorbing hard metals. As a crop, hemp requires little or no pesticides and smaller amounts of water — up to four times less water than cotton. Can hemp also address any immediate climate concerns? According to a recent Hemp Grower survey, industry experts think so. For 2022, hemp predictions are fairly positive, and thanks to growing awareness and a recent boom in the Cannabidiol (CBD) industry, the industrial hemp sector is getting more attention, too. Scientists are developing new varieties of hemp, optimised for fibre and seeds, and with little or no Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which is the psychoactive chemical associated with cannabis. This means we can expect more hemp-based foods and fabrics to appear on the market. Hemp seeds also hold great potential in terms of improving food and nutritional security — 100 grams of its seeds contain more protein, more iron, and less cholesterol than the equivalent in meat. Another benefit hemp has over other crops is its accelerated growth rate. From planting to harvesting, it only takes between 90 and 120 days for the plant to fully develop. For comparison, cotton is ready to harvest in approximately 160 days. Hemp fabric is also significantly sturdier than synthetics and even cotton. There’s a reason why one of the oldest clothing items ever discovered is a hemp baby wrap from approximately 9,000 years ago — a Neolithic treasure. So, if hemp clothing becomes a mainstream thing, it might challenge capitalism’s current design of planned obsolescence. A hemp garment once manufactured is definitely here to stay. What’s holding us back? Though hemp activists and industry insiders have been preaching about its benefits for decades, the general public has not been able to discover the benefits of hemp for many years. It’s quite clear that hemp seems great on paper — it checks all the boxes: green, sustainable, good for the environment, with infinite potential uses. So why don’t we grow it more? And why aren’t we wearing it? “Hemp continues to be associated with marijuana and thus for many places associated with the stigma of illegality”, explains Ian King, a professor of Aesthetics and Management at the London College of Fashion. Indeed, even from inside the field and in many academic papers, the terms “hemp” and “marijuana” are often used interchangeably. But how did hemp lose its cultural value and why does the market face so many obstacles even beyond farming and manufacturing? The United States has a long history of anti-hemp propa-

ganda, which started in the 1930s. Deeply rooted in racism and lobbying interests, the action against hemp proved effective and soon the crop was also banned in Japan, China and all across Europe. This, coupled with the success of DuPont’s newly-patented nylon and the rapidly-growing cotton industry virtually wiped hemp off the market. But movements to promote the crop have been going on since the 1960s. A New York Times archived article from 1995, which talks about hemp’s many benefits, is not much different to the ones being written nowadays. If the information is out there, why isn’t hemp further embraced by designers and manufacturers? “Questions remain about the ultimate contribution of hemp. For example, hemp is often not worn against the skin because it can become itchy for some wearers (so it cannot be underwear) but it also seems to crease easier and possess less variety of colour — so limited in terms of outer wear — especially when smart appearance is important,” Professor King explains. “The result of these limitations suggests less flexibility and variety of use. This together with greater cost makes hemp presently less attractive and therefore designers are less likely to experiment.” Hemp for future fashion Despite the stigma and decades of anti-hemp propaganda, in recent years the hype surrounding hemp has been slowly building. Bigger brands and independent designers have patented all sorts of hemp goodies, from underwear to athleisure and wardrobe basics. But what about trends and high fashion? According to trend-analyst Agus Panzoni (@thealgorythm), “Clothes for life” might play a huge role in our future, and this is where hemp might finally get to shine, as it is, by design, more sustainable and made to last. “[The concept of ] clothes for life is focused on mending and durability, with designers having fit and timelessness top of mind, moving away from seasonality and trends,” Agus explains.

“The danger of marijuana was always front page news. Readers were taught that this plant was responsible for all evils, from car accidents to low natality rates.” — Paul Vasile 19

Designers who adopt this path focus on “removing the stigma around wearing mended garments”, while producing pieces which are timeless and durable. This would mean having a wardrobe which consists of high quality basics which can be layered, embroidered, repaired and adjusted, and live in your wardrobe for much longer. Levi’s and Patagonia are two of the bigger brands that have recently come out with sustainable hemp lines. Jeans made out of cottonised hemp, outerwear and workwear made out of hemp blends and fortified with cotton or Tencel lyocell. Both brands have also implemented repair services for their products. Hemp’s links to 1960s counter-culture and eclecticism could also make it a great fit in the recent end-of-trends wave, which prioritises personal style and comfort over micro-trends. “2022 and 2023 fashion will be all about rebellion. Changed priorities towards personal time, mental health and flexibility has 40% of people swapping jobs in what is known as ‘The Great Resignation’. Though a change of scenery can help us cope, there’s no escaping the fact that our survival depends on changing the systems in place,” Agus says. The notion of work from home outfits has also been forever changed by the pandemic — but it’s not hard to imagine future hemp wardrobes, since the fabric naturally creates a fluid, breathable and comfortable fit. Current state of the industry What does hemp feel like? To get a better look at the fabric, we reached out to Prodin, a hemp and linen manufacturer located in southern Romania. We spoke to Paul Vasile, the company’s 87 year-old owner and visionary, who shared some of their patented hemp samples with us. The fabric feels textured yet soft at the same time. At a closer look, you can see parts of the actual plant woven into the sturdy fibre. The finer blend can be used for blouses and the denser one is actually hemp denim. All three samples also have a delicate scent that is earthy and soothing. This is due to the natural hemp oil, which, thanks


to gentle processing, makes its way through to the end product. Pure and unbleached fabrics such as these are a rare find in Europe, Paul tells us. Prodin, which was founded in 1955, is one of the few remaining centres which still operate with the old technology and know-how of hemp processing. Paul, a hemp veteran, has led the factory through several regime changes, before and after the anti-hemp legislation was enacted. Despite his age, he continues to come in to work every day. His back aches now and then, but he blames it on the “wicked work” he did in his youth — years of manual labour handling heavy rolls of fabric. He has dedicated his life to the making of hemp and linen and knows everything about the detailed processes. He also remembers the ripples of the initial ban on hemp, which are now part of history: “The destruction of hemp production in Europe originates from the US, as a consequence of the consumption of a petrochemical corporation called DuPont,” he confirms. “DuPont patented the fabrication of synthetic fabrics from petrol and coal, and shareholders were advised to invest in this new division. Synthetic products, plastic, cellophane, celluloid, nylon, etc. could all be manufactured from petrol. Then, hemp had to be declared illegal, as it was a threat to a million dollar business. The Mexican word marijuana was introduced and forced into the American collective consciousness as propaganda,” he told us. “The danger of marijuana was always front page news. Readers were taught that this plant was responsible for all evils, from car accidents to low natality rates. On April 14th, 1937, the tax on cannabis was approved by US Congress. European countries gradually restricted it as well during the 1950s. Eastern Europe was the last to join this ban, but during the 1990s, hemp entered a dark period.” Today hemp is making a comeback, and Paul and his team would be grateful to return to the high volume of work they are equipped for. But for manufacturers like Prodin, inconsistencies

Would things change if we replace the crop but don’t fix the underlying inequalities of our economic system?

in the production chain can make work unpredictable. From hemp farmers, the crops usually make their way to a foundry, where they’re selected and processed into raw fibre. The fibre is then spun into thread at a filature, and sent off to different producers. But during this last winter, when energy costs sky rocketed, the facilities that supplied Paul’s factory with these services were forced to go on indefinite hiatus. Without a steady supply of threads and little demand from clients, it’s difficult to sustain a hemp business. This situation is not unique across Europe. In fact, even though long-term market predictions are encouraging, surveys indicate that 2022 won’t be an easy year for small hemp farmers. Without demand, there cannot be production. Hemp economics 101 So, why isn’t there a bigger demand for hemp clothing? What about the “greater cost” that Professor King described? Simply put, hemp is more expensive because it is a rare commodity. If the supply and variety of hemp garments were to increase, the prices would eventually balance out. Another factor is the general misinformation surrounding hemp, which makes it less popular, feeding back into the loop of low demand. Hemp also requires a lot of manual labour during harvesting and processing. Can hemp be farmed anywhere? In short, yes. Hemp is resilient and adaptable, and it can be grown in almost every climate, but it still needs water and a lot of sunlight to grow to its full potential. The plants which grow taller are more sought after. That’s because a longer stem means more raw fibre for textiles. In Europe, the leading producers of hemp are France, Estonia, Lithuania, Italy, The Netherlands and Romania. In a global context however, China is the largest producer, responsible for approximately 70% of the world’s hemp crops. But in an ideal world, could hemp replace other harmful crops and become a central part of our economy? Would things change if we replace the crop but don’t fix the underlying inequalities of our economic system? “We used to grow our own clothes. I’d like to see a future where our tribes are part of an integrated hemp economy. Whether it is for bioremediation, whether it is for fabric and

clothing, whether it is for hempcrete, whether it is for hemp based insulation,” said activist, farmer and author Winona LaDuke . “Whether it is about food products or CBD, I’m interested in the full spectrum of hemp. I want to see the whole plant utilised and I want to see hemp as a part of an integrated farming economy,” LaDuke, founder of the White Earth Land Recovery Project and co-founder of the non-profit group Honor the Earth, envisions a post-petroleum economy centred around hemp and led by native voices. She has her own hemp farm for harvesting fibre and seeds, working towards a local economy: “local food, local energy, local hemp”. In his 1973 book Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered, E. F. Schumacher argues that civilisations decline in direct relation to the rate at which they “despoil” their land. Industry and nature, he writes, are fundamentally opposed. The solution is not to seize creation, but to change the way we view our resources. “There is no escape from this confusion as long as the land and the creatures upon it are looked upon as nothing but ‘factors of production’,” he wrote. Perhaps hemp can be the crop that teaches us to create growth without exploitation. What do we want from our clothes? Another challenge has to do with our role as consumers within the fashion industry. The climate crisis is forcing us to fundamentally change the way we think about our clothes. In a recent lecture hosted by the London Colleges of Fashion and Communication, fashion writer Bel Jacobs reiterated what activists have been saying for years. Fashion as we know it is a luxury, and a Western construct. The skills she recommends journalism students should exercise are the same that any informed consumer should put into practice: “Ground yourself in knowledge about planetary challenges. Keep up-to-date with new systems of thinking. Discover the intersection between fashion and other areas of culture and industry.” Though it might seem idealistic, an alternative to our current wasteful cycle is Janine Benyus’ biomimicry theory. In her book Biomimicry, Benyus proposes a set of criteria that might help us distinguish whether a design is good and useful for us, by integrating it in nature. “Will it fit in? Will it last? Is there a precedent for this in nature? Does it run on sunlight? Does it use only the energy it needs? Does it fit form to function? Does it recycle everything? Does it reward cooperation? Does it bank on diversity? Does it utilise local expertise? Does it curb excess from within? Does it tap the power of limits? Is it beautiful?” But before we reach a fashion utopia, how do actual customers feel about hemp? We asked Ioana Corduneanu, the owner of Semne Cusute, an online store that supplies creators with organic fabrics and traditional embroidery supplies. The store’s online community is designed by and for women who want to reclaim their heritage and history, by creating their own traditional Romanian blouses. “We first introduced hemp in 2018,” Ioana recalls, “in an attempt to recover the traditional wisdom and solutions offered by nature to our ancestors. At first, clients were sceptical, but most were curious and willing to try it out. Now, there’s pretty much no way of going back, wearing a living, breathing fabric makes you feel like your creation and your embroidery are alive.” The store used to offer cotton fabric as well, but it’s been discontinued due to a clear customer preference: “The comfort hemp fabric offers, protection from heat and sweat, the silky sensation, the natural look. Everyone’s excitement convinced me more and more that hemp is the future.” b 21


ajor new proposals in the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSCB) have been defeated by the House of Lords, after nationwide protests called for Parliament to “Kill the Bill”. The most controversial parts of the bill, which sparked a coalition of protests all over the country, were measures to effectively ban protests. These proposals were drafted in response to last year’s demonstrations by Extinction Rebellion and Insulate Britain during which activists blocked or glued themselves to roads. Some ways in which the bill planned to restrict protests was to threaten organisers with up to one year in jail if they caused “serious disruption”, and up

Kill the Bill: Plans to curb protest rejected by peers Government plans to restrict protest were defeated by the House of Lords after a weekend of demonstrations. Artefact was in the thick of it Words: Annika Loebig Image: Annika Loebig 22

to 10 years in prison for those damaging memorials. Boris Johnson’s cabinet also planned to increase police powers by giving them the authority to stop protests if they caused a “public nuisance”, which included being too noisy and allowing them to stop and search anyone at protests without reasonable suspicion. Previously, the police were required to prove that a public assembly resulted in “serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community” to restrict it. “This Bill, in my view, represents the biggest threat to the right to dissent and non-violent protest in my lifetime. It’s deeply reactionary,” said former Labour cabinet minister Lord Hainsaid in the debate on Monday, January 17. “It’s an authoritarian attack on the fundamental liberties of our citizens.” Members of the House of Lords also supported a proposal to repeal a 19th-century law criminalising rough sleeping. The government suffered a total of 14 defeats in a series of votes by peers, which went on late into Monday night, while the drumming by protesters outside Parliament could be clearly heard inside the chamber. The protests on Monday were the continuation of around 27 #KillTheBill protests held across the UK on Saturday, January 15. London’s #KillTheBill demonstration was organised with Global Justice UK, Another Europe Is Possible, Extinction Rebellion, Sisters Uncut to create a joint march against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the Nationality and Borders Bill. While protests against the latter have been organised since its introduction in July last year, this was the first visible national day of action opposing it through activist coalitions. London protesters were joined by an array of organisations including Socialist Worker, Hackney Green Party, and various migrants’ and refugees’ rights groups; some of the marchers also nodded towards the history of protests by dressing up as suffragettes. Other protesters arrived on site with placards showcasing photography of Gypsy, Romany and Traveller (GRT) communities, as the Nationality and Borders Bill seeks to criminalise individuals living in vehicles on land in England and Wales without the consent of the occupier. This threatens GRT communities with homelessness as they could have their vehicles seized, and face a fine of nearly £3,000 or a prison sentence of up to three months. Activists marching for the rights of refugees and migrants also protested against the Bill’s proposals to criminalise entry into the UK using “illegal methods”, such as refugees seeking entry by crossing the English Channel by boat, which

could be penalised by up to four years in prison. Black Lives Matter co-founder Marvina Newton spoke to the crowd gathered at Lincoln’s Inn Fields on Saturday, starting one of the protest’s leading chants of “Boris Johnson’s a wasteman”. The following speaker Matt Thomas made references to the “public nuisance” phrasing in the policing bill, saying that “without annoying something, we don’t upset authority, we don’t get change done,” before taking out his harmonica because “it’s the most annoying thing” he owns. Those unable to attend the march in person joined the demonstration’s ongoing digital action of letter-writing to ask crossbench members of the Lords

“It’s an authoritarian attack on the fundamental liberties of our citizens.”

the swing votes on the Bills. As the march culminated on Parliament Square, the crowd heard from the event’s final speakers, leading up to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who was met with football-like chants of his name when stepping on the podium: “Thank you all for being here today, and thank you to all those who have organised not just this event but so many others all around the country. And thank you to those who have organised events this morning in solidarity with those refugees who were stuck on the border between Belarus and Poland, dying in plain sight of the media, in plain sight of food and water they can’t get. Isn’t that the most disgusting view of how the world treats so many refugees with

such inhumanity?” He continued: “Don’t run away with the idea that just because you don’t agree with or don’t like somebody, that they’re actually stupid or doing something through ignorance. No they’re not — there is a whole agenda here and it’s an agenda about disempowering people, empowering authority and the state, and at the same time a massive redistribution of wealth and power in favour of the powerful and the wealthiest.” The Bill will now bounce between the Commons and Lords until both agree on the final amendments, also known as “Parliamentary ping-pong”, a process that will have to be completed before late March or early April when the current parliamentary session is set to end. b


Words: Neelam Ahmed Images: Lin Cheng



How the gender imbalance in Pakistan is making the country increasingly unsafe for women


n the 20th of July, every television screen in Pakistan showed breaking news of an innocent woman’s beheading. Noor Mukaddam’s mutilated body was discovered in Islamabad’s wealthy Sector F-7/4 neighbourhood, after having been tortured with knuckledusters, her throat slit open with a sharp-edged weapon and her head severed. Her murderer, Zahir Jaffer, son of a wealthy businessman, confessed to the crime during an indictment hearing recently. While in court he said, “My life is in your hands, you can save it, you can give me a death sentence, but I don’t deserve such a miserable life in jail.” The killer had tortured, raped and beheaded Noor after refusing his marriage proposal. Pakistan, ranked the sixth most dangerous place in the world for women, has had a spotlight placed on its society and Noor’s beheading has also sparked protests across the country to bring about justice for her with #JusticeforNoor trending on Twitter. However, Noor’s death is not an isolated incident. On the 9th of September 2020, a woman’s car had run out of fuel on a motorway near Lahore. As she waited for help with her two children, her car was broken into by two men who stole money from her and then proceeded to rape her in a nearby field in front of her two children. On the 14th of August 2021, Pakistan’s Independence Day, Ayesha Akram, a TikTok star, was mugged, groped and sexually assaulted by a mass crowd of 400 men at Greater Iqbal Park in Lahore. Shocking videos went viral of the assault that happened in broad daylight; men flung the woman in the air, tore her clothes off, slapped and groped her. Not one man among the hundreds of men came to the woman’s rescue. On the 9th of January 2018, the body of 7-year-old Zainab Kasur was found near a garbage disposal near the city of Lahore. Her autopsy report found that she was extensively raped and tortured before being strangled to death. White Ribbon Pakistan, an NGO working for women’s rights, found that “4,734 woman faced sexual violence between 2004 and 2016. Over 15,000 cases

of honour crimes were registered. There were more than 1,800 cases of domestic violence and over 5,500 kidnappings of women during this period.” While the Government of Pakistan has passed various laws to prevent violence and support those affected by it, the conviction rate for violence against women sits at only 1-2.5%. 11 rape cases are registered every day in Pakistan, with over 22,000 rape cases reported to police across the country in the last six years. Why is gender-based violence a cultural norm in Pakistan? The country suffers from an epidemic of patriarchy, misogyny and sexism. The deeply patriarchal society means that women are subordinate and second-class citizens. These patriarchal values seem to be embedded in tradition, religion and culture. Women are often treated as property; a woman is only a man’s daughter until she becomes another man’s wife. Pakistani society limits women’s mobility and limits their behaviour and activities. The society in Pakistan enforces an extreme separation of men and women and permits them only limited contact with the opposite sex. Public spaces are taken up by men and women rarely travel outside of their homes without a male family member. Women are expected to live under the constraints of the purdah system, usually for their protection, which mostly happens with the enforcement of veiling but also by separating women from the activities of men. The “purdah creates differentiated male and female spheres”. Hayley Dasovich, an American travel blogger who visited Islamabad’s F-11 sector as a solo traveller, says, “my first impressions [of the country] is that there is predominantly men in public” and that “it is a little bit strange for me to feel like I am the only woman out here, I’ve never experienced that before.” Women in Pakistan spend the majority of their lives confined and trapped to the courtyards of their homes and only leave for serious or approved reasons. There are no recreational spaces in public for women (outside of the home), and it is rare to see a public space that is accommodating to women. 25

It is also uncommon, even a taboo, for women to be seen driving. “It is estimated that less than 5% of women own a driver’s license here.” Even in wealthier parts of cities like Karachi and Islamabad, it is still rare for women to face no restrictions on their mobility. Cultural stereotypes of masculinity can be defined as various qualities and attributes associated with or expected of men. Women embodying the family honour and men being made responsible for it means that their need for control and dominance stems from their masculinity. This can also lead to violent, gender-based crimes. “This whole issue of so-called honour where a woman’s body embodies the family honour and the men are made responsible, results in their need to control every aspect of a woman’s body and life,” says Fatimah, an Aurat March protester. Men are therefore pushed to prove their manliness to society and their social circles and preserve their families’ honour when women disobey them. Pakistani activists estimate that there are about 1,000 “honour” killings (the murder of a person accused of bringing shame upon a family) every year. Honour killings are a frightening reality for women in Pakistan. The United Nations estimates that 5,000 women are victims of honour killings every year. They are most common in cultures that see women as property “whose value lies in their virginity or sexual modesty”. These killings are often carried out on women who violate social norms around things like “choice of clothing, education, employment, a romantic partner, engaging in premarital or extramarital sex, or behaving in sexually provocative manners”. This has been the case for Qandeel Baloch who, in 2016, was murdered by her brother because he felt that “the videos and photographs she had been posting online brought disrespect to their family.” Qandeel was strangled to death while she slept, so how safe are women in their own homes? Studies reveal that 60- 70% of women suffer some form of abuse in Pakistan, and about 5,000 women are killed annually from domestic violence, with thousands of other women made disabled. Pakistani culture also teaches us that there is a level of shame around the reporting of a gender-based violent crime, even if it’s sexual in nature. Maryam Azidi, an Aurat March protester says, “a huge majority of women in Pakistan face violence but only a small number actually report it.” There is a shame around the reporting of a crime against a woman, especially if it is sexual in nature. The culture can also be to blame as it teaches 26

us not to interfere when witnessing abuse and even normalising domestic abuse. So, what is Pakistan doing to protect its women? It seems as if men are getting away with their crimes due to the absence of a functioning legal system in the country. Perpetrators are usually not held accountable as there is a lack of implementation of the legislation around women’s rights. “90% of women in Pakistan face violence but only 0.4% actually report it,” says Maryam. How do you tackle sexual violence in a country that doesn’t enforce laws to protect women? The low status of women, the lack of women in public spaces and the cultural and religious norms of Pakistani society do not support the discussion of such a taboo topic as sex . The Aurat March is a socio-political demonstration held annually in cities such as Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad to celebrate International Women’s Day on the 8th of March. Aurat March, which translates to women’s march in Urdu, has been held in many different cities in Pakistan for the last three years. The idea for the march began when a group of women decided to protest to ask for an end to violence and harassment. It has now evolved into a wider movement, including trans people and demanding an end to the country’s patriarchal established order and its constraints to the basic rights of women. The march brings attention to the lack of basic rights women in South Asian countries face as well as their inability to protect their women. “I feel the most empowered when I see a collective sisterhood getting together, reclaiming public spaces and coming out to say this is our country and we refuse to stay at home”, says Maryam. However, the march has been receiving backlash since it started, with religious clerics wanting to stop it, claiming that it is anti-Islamic and is spreading vulgarity and hatred. Many men have also been threatened by it saying that the march was “rejecting of the South Asian woman’s identity,” says Aliza (another demonstrator of the Aurat March). Despite all the reprisal, protestors “will not back down, we know how to fight for our rights, and we will keep fighting until our rights are given to us,” says Aliza. The gender imbalance in Pakistan makes the country unsafe for women; its society’s inability to change its deeply toxic and patriarchal structures, the lack of a functioning legal system, its deeply entrenched gender/societal norms and its unwillingness to protect its women tells us that no amount of Noors, Ayeshas and Zainabs have been enough to change a society that tolerates and justifies its violence against women. b


Former Metro fashion editor Bel Jacobs is aiming to bring the worlds of fashion, activism and sustainability together


Words: Atiyyah Ntiamoah-Addo Images: Vuk Valcic / Alamy Stock Photo, Gareth Morris courtesy of Bel Jacobs


an the worlds of fashion, activism and sustainability co-exist within the same society? Meet former fashion editor turned animal rights and climate change campaigner, Bel Jacobs, who strives to make it happen. The acclaimed writer joined Metro newspaper at its start in 1999: “I kind of fell into fashion really, I joined Metro newspaper quite close to the beginning and they actually made me shopping editor,” she told us. “I had to write about everything that was to do with consumption. As the newspaper got bigger, they realised that they can split my page; instead of implementing tech on my page they could have a separate page for tech. However, it became very obvious as time went on that my interest was fashion. So, even though I hadn’t studied fashion, I loved everything about it. It was so fun and exciting and beautiful! It had such amazing people in it. When I was given a page of my own in Metro, it was quite obvious that I was going to be editing that.” Jacobs loved the creativity and the expressionistic ways of fashion, but there was a pivotal moment in her career when she realised that her beliefs no longer aligned with her career. “I joined Metro in 1999, and it still felt very innocent, fashion felt very, very innocent. During my 13 years there, it started to feel much less innocent and much more aggressive, and I think I was pretty uncomfortable and as time went on, I was getting more and more uncomfortable with different aspects of the fashion world.” It is inevitable that all fashion media will share what should and should not be the trend of seasonal fashion, hoping that dedicated readers will eagerly agree to updating their wardrobe or adopting a new fashion persona for the upcoming season. This is one of the moments when Jaobs felt like her job was becoming overwhelmingly repetitive: “In my 13 years [at Metro], it went from not many things to cover, you know, quite a controlled amount of fashion stories to write. However, by the time I left, there were so many products! It was really, really overwhelming.” “You know when you get so much of something you start to question its necessity and you think ‘why is there so much of everything?’ and it’s not because people need more clothing. I also got very bored of writing trending pieces. If you’re in a particular position for long enough, you start to write the words ‘florals are back in’ or ‘safari is back’ or ‘tailoring is back’ and you start to wonder ‘why is it back if there’s no freshness to it?’ It’s just this constant artificial cycle of production.” With the rise of overproduction in the fashion industry and its heavy involvement in fast fashion and animal cruelty, it started to make Jacobs think about the significance of these familiar never-ending fashion trends. “PRs would phone me excitedly and go ‘Oh my gosh you featured the product and loads of sales took place, thank you so much!’, and then you go ‘great’ and you just think everyone bought this product, but what is it really for?” The popularity and validity of consumption didn’t particularly satisfy Jacobs as it all felt quite meaningless. From 1999 to the early 2010s, there were different types of fashion styles that were trending throughout the years and when you add social media into the mix, the evolution of fashion began changing faster than usual. “It was such an interesting time to be a fashion editor because we really went into that massive peak coming out of the 90s into the 2000s, the peak of consumption, which I did feel really greedy by the time I left.” The Rana Plaza collapse in 2013 caused Jacobs to re-evaluate her role in fashion and gave her the final push to leave Metro. “I left because of Rana Plaza and that was one of the biggest things in the flow of things”, she continued. “If you remotely cared about people, you couldn’t look away from these images and start asking difficult questions, so I would say that was the 29

big turning point on why I left.” What amplified Jacobs’ animal rights activism was when she was abroad in Cuba and witnessed something horrific. “Dogs were in very pitiful situations and I started to get involved in dog charities. When I came back to Britain that opened another can of worms, which is not in just how dogs are treated but the way animals are being treated in industrial agriculture and the way animals are being eliminated through hunting and the way they’re used in experimentation. “And then suddenly, in a way, it was an incredibly painful entry into this horrific world, and it really did make me question humanity, like ‘how could humans let this happen? How could they perpetuate this? How could they value their own needs so much more over the suffering of another creature?’” The increase of animal adoption had skyrocketed during the first lockdown, with 3.2 million households in the UK adopting pets. Unfortunately, as soon as lockdown restrictions were lifted, many people returned their pets, most of which were dogs. “It’s still happening now! Dogs being returned, puppies being left on the streets — it’s madness,” Jacobs exclaims. “As we are the dominant species it’s not just our role to use and exploit and chuck away, we really have a role to take care. You know if you’re the dominant species, you protect and nurture. We’re not doing that at the moment, and it really infuriates me,” she says passionately. The response that society has towards animal cruelty, climate change and sustainability should make you wonder, what will our lives be like in the future? Jacobs thinks that “within the next five to 10 years people are going to be asking some serious questions and whether you can base a civilised society on this degree of suffering and loss.” Swiftly after leaving Metro, Jacobs created beljacobs. com, allowing her full autonomy over the work she produces and contributes to: “I just came out of Metro, and I really wanted to create a platform for all the great sustainable initiatives that were happening in fashion. “It’s changing now though. If you run your own website, the culture of the website changes. In the beginning it was like I have to tell people about all these ethical labels and then you start to get more and more into human rights. You know, all the human rights issues and then it became sort of about labour and that kind of thing.” Fashion and social media are quickly evolving together, and with the help of influential celebrities it causes fast fashion to be produced at an alarming rate. “Fashion culture can be really challenging; the entire system makes people in rich countries feel they deserve more clothes at the expense of people in poor countries.” The overproduction of fashion affects many creators: “I’m not alone in this shift, every website and if you create a website of your own it will evolve, and things are changing so much and so fast now because of the climate.” Bel Jacobs is also the founder of HowNow magazine, which is about fashion sustainability and environmentalism: “HowNow came about because I write about fashion, I write about human rights in fashion. Human rights is an issue through every industry and every intervention.” The sleek website is currently under reconstruction and redirecting its focus onto the wellbeing of animals: “HowNow is actually in the process of being transformed into something else, because the whole issues of animals is becoming so prevalent for me. So, I think I’m going to switch HowNow to focusing on how we change the way we perceive animals,” Jacobs tells us. Alongside her journalistic achievements, Jacobs has combined her love for fashion and the environment as she was the coordinator of Extinction Rebellion Fashion Action. She has been a part of numerous Extinction Rebellion protests. In 2019, Jacobs organised the Funeral March during London Fashion Week. Its purpose was to spread awareness of the 30

toxicity that the fashion industry is responsible for and how the fashion industry detrimentally impacts the environment. “I’ve never organised a march before! And it was the time when Extinction Rebellion was holding quite a few funeral marches, it was a very impactful way to make a point about everything we’re losing.” Jacobs recounts the day of the march: “I remember in the morning, having this absolute fear of thinking I was going to turn up there to Extinction Rebellion Fashion Action with only five of us and it wasn’t like that at all! “Everyone was onboard and a lot of the fashion crowd came up really dressed up in a fashionista way, but essentially they were all there to support. I think that was the first time I realised that we weren’t the only ones thinking about how damaging the fashion industry was, and there were lots and lots of

The situation with the climate is so urgent, we all need to be engaged with an activity that is in some way regenerative, challenging, and adaptive.

people within the industry itself who were really concerned.” Jacobs didn’t realise that the protest would cause quite a stir within the fashion industry: “You know when you do something, but you don’t really recognise the impact of it a year later? I remember a few people say to me that’s the moment when the British Fashion Council got frightened, but we weren’t really there to scare people, but they realised the way they were doing things was going to be challenged in a dramatic way.” Even today, Jacobs’ activism and work is still being recognised for her monumental efforts with spreading awareness of the harmful relationship between the fashion industry and the environment: “I remember recently, someone said to me like two weeks ago that the fashion industry started to think really hard about what it was doing, and it started the conversation. It was jarring, but you need to be a bit jarring for people to wake up a bit. “I joined Extinction Rebellion because I was so concerned about the climate, and no one seemed to be talking about it in any way that seemed to match what I was reading! And just the horrific reports from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) but no one in my immediate circle, definitely within the fashion circles I was in at the time, were that concerned.” Nowadays, Extinction Rebellion’s portrayal in the media isn’t always positive; the international climate change movement are often condemned because of their disruptive protests. “Extinction Rebellion was a group that I finally went, ‘oh my God finally there’s a group of people who get it!’” says Jacobs. However, it was the sense of unity that caught Jacobs’ attention: “The sense of community in Extinction Rebellion was sort of nourishing back then, it really is a different beast now but then the relief of it was incredible when I heard that fashion was being targeted within Extinction Rebellion. It was completely, you know, it was inevitable for me using what I knew about the industry and to join that group so we ran some really challenging campaigns in the first year, which was 2019. “Extinction Rebellion holds less funeral marches now, because we probably overdid it a bit. But when we did the funeral march it was literally the sense of community that I longed for,” she explained. “I could just reach out to different parts of Extinction Rebellion and go ‘I need some help planning the route’ and someone was there to walk the route with me, or ‘I need some help calling on the Red Brigade’ and they were there in an instant and were really supportive, we had the Extinction Rebellion band who were really happy to get involved.” The action of protesting and activism has significantly changed, not all activists plan to evoke anger from the public they just want to be heard, Jacobs highlights what it means to be an activist today; “We need to look at what an activist is now, because I know what people thought what an activist was before as someone who goes out on the streets shouting. I think you can be an activist in many ways now as what was amply shown during lockdown by a number of really power online campaigners who showed us how much you can achieve working in a virtual space.” Virtual activism and social media activism heightened from March 2020 during lockdown, the hashtags #BlackLivesMatter and #StopAsianHate are prime examples of movements that were propelled globally with virtual and social media activism. Protests were happening on the streets of London but also in the comfort of our own homes; activism isn’t solely confined to robust chants to reach those who are unaware of the cause, but it can also appear on our social media feeds with just one simple hashtag. “Even people who don’t even go out on the streets, I think they’re activists as well. It’s just how you spend your time, I think one defining thing about activism is that you are trying to

communicate with others, it’s very, very difficult to be a private activist,” Jacobs explained. “You are communicating, you are reaching out, you’re trying to inform, change minds and tear down myths. I’m much happier now and I also think this is how we should be working, the situation with the climate is so urgent, we all need to be engaged with an activity that is in some way regenerative, challenging, and adaptive — it’s everything. We all need to be working on this in some ways.” As well as being a member of Extinction Rebellion Fashion Action, Jacobs has other endeavours within fashion and environmentalism. “I’m part of Extinction Rebellion Fashion Action, but my main focus is Fashion Act Now, so we’ve sort of grown out of Extinction Rebellion and we are working in slightly different ways. “Fashion sustainability is in the mainstream media and what we find intriguing in Fashion Act Now is that sustainable fashion initiatives tend to take place within the structure as before, by which I mean it is still more or less to make a profit and to perhaps use new resources that maybe aren’t as bad as the old new resources, maybe more organic cotton and less synthetics,” she told us. “In Fashion Act Now, we’re saying time is over for that. It’s now too urgent to try and tweak around the edges, we have to rapidly shrink the industry and so, sustainable fashion brands no matter how wonderful and well intentioned they are they’re still growing in the industry and they’re still producing new items.” With 120 billion pieces of clothing produced a year, that presents a challenge: “There’s no planet in the universe that needs that needs 120 billion pieces of items of new clothing a year and 90% of that is being thrown into landfills. So, we’re taking all these resources, all these animal skins, human labour to make all these items of clothing which is thrown into landfills. “It’s a crazy way to act in a climate emergency when we’re currently on 2.7° temperature rise by the end of the century! We have to stop and reconsider everything,” Jacobs says. “Fashion Act Now is very much about de-growth in the fashion industry and we have a new campaign called De-Fashion Now and that’s what its aiming for. And it could be a 60% or 70% reduction, it just needs to shrink. If all synthetics were reduced by 60% or 70%, isn’t that incredible!” It it well known that politicians and big corporations are directly responsible for the decline of the environment, so are they going to help prevent climate change? “They’re not going to because it’s too challenging for the current cultural environment to accept but, for example, taxing new resources would be a great start. Particularly, taxing the use of synthetics really heavily would be a great start,” Jacobs suggests. “The more radical end of that would be creating some kind of quotas, saying to people ‘you can only buy 10 pieces of clothing a year’,” she says while laughing. “That’s not going to happen any time soon but that would be amazing! I think if politicians were a little bit more open about the extent of the emergency that we face, it would be a great start. They need to be a little bit more honest, they know we’re heading into a disaster and they’re not alerting their own citizens and they’re not taking action.” So what’s next for Jacobs? The work is already underway with the upcoming changes that she’ll be making for her websites: “So, HowNow is going to change into the Empathy Project, and so I’m looking for writers and people who are happy to talk through some of these issues with me because it’s not just about animal agriculture, it’s just awful for the planet. “It’s also about finding our own humanity in relation to vulnerable creatures but also just how much they contribute to wellbeing and happiness. I’m still thinking through this but within the next 12 months I’ll be in more of this work!” b 31

Cars: The future is electric Motor manufacturers claim emerging technology will make driving more sustainable Words: Trinity Francis Images: Volkswagen Press, Fering Press, ProDrice Press


lectric cars have a history that stretches much further back than you might think. The first production electric car was made in London in 1884, complete with a rechargeable battery and a top speed of 10mph. By the 1890s, electric cars could reach 20mph and had a range of 50 miles on a single charge. With a heritage that predates petrol and diesel cars, we’re now going back (to the future) as electric cars propel us towards greener travel. While there’s no beating the purr of a V8, the environment bears the brunt of these polluters. In 2030, the UK government will enforce a ban on the production of any new petrol or diesel cars and hybrids will be phased out in 2035. Because of this deadline, manufacturers have been exploring how to make electric cars more appealing and a practical power source to supersede 32

fossil fuels. We’ve already seen models like the BMW i8 and the Tesla Model X grace the roads, but electric cars need to be attractive, practical and affordable for most people to enable this ban to truly affect the environment. In order to attract a younger generation, Volkswagen has announced its next electric model. The concept ID.Life was revealed at the Munich Motor Show and exhibits Volkswagen’s green future. The ID.Life is likely to reach market in 2025 with the ID.2 badge, being VW’s smallest all-electric vehicle. It is a similar size to the VW Polo but has a lot more storage space under the bonnet and boot floor, making the battery-powered, small car more practical than a comparable petrol or diesel vehicle. There’s even an air-filled section of the roof that can be removed by just unzipping it. One issue with this emerging battery technology is often price. However, the compact family car will start with a (slightly) more affordable price tag of £17,000. The ID.Life concept redefines Volkswagen’s direction for the future of its innovation in fuel types and greener solutions. Eco-friendly materials are used throughout, the tyres made from bio-oil, natural rubber and rice husks; it’s not clear whether your local garage will be expected to have a replacement that’s quite so environmentally conscious. The eco features even include a paint finish made from woodchips and an organic hardener. It may sound a little out there, but details like this fuel the drive for more sustainable alternatives to traditional production materials. There will also be a bundle of tech as standard, including wireless charging in door pockets and side mirrors that are camera screens. The ID.Life has an official range of 248 miles, but this is likely lower in real-world driving. So, Volkswagen’s future is a range of battery electric vehicles that will eventually replace its current range with futuristic green machines. Other automotive companies are taking a different approach to helping the environment by developing new fuels. Hydrogen is often discussed as an alternative to battery power. However, with only 11 refuelling stations in the UK, the practicality of this as a viable option for 2030 diminishes each day. ProDrive is bringing its green thumbs to motorsports; it’s teamed up with Coryton Advanced Fuels to create a new fuel called ProDrive EcoPower. It’s made from biofuel and e-fuels that are created through manufacturing agricultural waste and capturing carbon from the atmosphere. ProDrive claim this fuel “reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 80% compared to equivalent petrol.” This new fuel will be used in ProDrive vehicles for competitions, and they

hope to make small changes to the fuel that will make it usable in standard road cars. The advantages of a new eco fuel means no alternations have to be made to existing vehicles for the fuel to work. This decreases costs associated with creating new production lines and processes for electric vehicles, which have different requirements due to the weight of the batteries. However, a new fuel runs in to the same problem as hydrogen: thousands of stations all over the country need to have a supply for it to be a realistic alternative. UK-based manufacturer Fering is looking to shake up the eco-friendly market with a new truck, the Fering Pioneer. True to its name, the Pioneer has been designed with adventure in mind, with a claimed range of 4,350 miles. Fering explained that the Pioneer has been “designed to take on the toughest of terrains while treading lightly on the planet.” The Pioneer has a 50-mile electric only range and a biodiesel range extender that charges the battery on the go. With no juice left in the battery, the engine should return 50 miles per gallon — impressive for an economical everyday car, never mind a pick-up truck. Unlike almost every consumer product on the market today, the Fering Pioneer has, in theory at least, been designed to have an indefinite lifespan. The truck itself is made from a lightweight aluminium frame to minimise unnecessary weight, and so comes in at 1,500kg, a similar weight to a family hatchback.

The exterior panels help to keep the weight down too; they’re made from a canvas material similar to the fabric used on hiking boots, so it will be durable but easy to replace if it’s damaged. Fering claim they also provide superior insulation to traditional metal panels. Practicality is applied at every level including the 22½ inch wheels; these take standard truck tyres that should be readily available anywhere in the world. The Pioneer can also act as a generator, so if you find yourself in a remote place with no access to electricity, the truck will never leave you without. Fering has emphasised the adaptability of the truck, with aspects of the vehicle being interchangeable to suit each journey. For example, if you plan to traverse the Siberian Wilderness, the Pioneer can be equipped with lithium titanate-oxide batteries, which Fering claims are better able to withstand extreme weather conditions, unlike lithium-ion batteries found in standard electric vehicles. The truck can be adapted for different fuel types; the engine can run on alcohol-based biofuel, fuel tanks can be sized up and batteries can be bigger or swapped for a fuel cell depending on which fuel type best suits the location of your adventure. If you don’t plan on covering 4,350 miles before returning to civilisation then fuel tanks can be replaced with water tanks. The future of sustainable vehicles will only involve more innovation that is beyond the imaginable right now. The immediate challenge is making these futuristic ideas a reality and getting enough people to believe it’s part of the necessary steps to help address the climate crisis. The possibilities are endless. Will your next car be electric? b 33


n 2015, scientists discovered the collision of two black holes 30 times the mass of our sun by observing their gravitational waves. Not only did this collision create ripples in space-time three billion years ago, its discovery changing astronomy as we know it, but it also enabled us to listen to a second of one of the most powerful, cosmic events for the very first time. “It's a really funny sounding noise,” Cory, a musician and psychedelic enthusiast tells us. “It literally just goes ‘whoop!’,” he says excitedly as he imitates the cartoonish sound. This has also been described as “chirping” by scientists, which they were able to create by playing it at a higher frequency more easily detectable to the human ear. While astronomers wonder how they could use future observations of cosmic sounds to further explore the uni-

The soundtrack of the psychedelic therapy revolution Healing through drugs and music Words: Annika Loebig Image: (Remixed) ESA/Hubble & NASA, A. Evans, R. Chandar and Skyler Ewing/Pexels 34

verse, Cory had another idea: “I took that noise, and each time you hear the chime in the track, I have that noise buried underneath it. But then I also took it and stretched out the sample throughout the song, so then it becomes this really slow build-up throughout the whole track. Right near the end of the track, it starts to get more wobbly.” Cory’s cosmic Easter egg in his song “Attunement” serves as an homage to his love for the universe. But perhaps more importantly, it sends a subliminal message out to listeners who are using the track to guide them through a psychedelic or otherwise therapeutic ceremony in the hopes that it activates “something primal, alien even”. Cory has been playing the drums since the age of 12 with the aspiration to pursue a career as a professional musician. Fast forward to his age of 36 today, 18 years after his first profound, psychedelic experience, he’s finally decided to merge the healing effects of music and plant medicines together. “There wasn't really a direct moment when I thought I wanted to make music specifically for the psychedelic experience. I think it was just a combination of things over time,” he tells me as we meet virtually across different time zones. “So a lot of my music career was focused on just being a drummer in a rock band, and I kind of took that as far as I wanted to. We ended up moving to Nashville, Tennessee to pursue that as a career and had a decent time with that. But then I started to see the dark side of the industry, and I started also really getting interested in electronic music. There's just certain soundscapes and noises nobody has ever heard in electronic music.” Shortly after, Cory became more interested in music production. A few software downloads and synthesisers later, he started to dive into learning about the healing effects of sound therapy and sound baths, with or without the influence of psychedelics. “I really started to get obsessed with the nature of sound in general and what inside of us moves us emotionally and energetically, medically, even. I think what really started to kickstart things for me in that direction as well is probably combining mushrooms with different electronic artists that put a lot more intention into their music.” During a solo trip, Cory started seeing structures forming behind the walls of his eyelids as he listened to some electronic, orchestral compositions of one of his favourite artists. Each song transformed the structures into a different sculpture with parts that were slowly rotating and morphing into each other. “Something clicked that day for me

because I started to understand that music and sound can create these structures in our mind, and somehow, some form of healing can come about through that too,” he told us. “It just allows you to dive in a little deeper into thought patterns and emotions and be able to trace that stuff back to its root, like if you have some kind of trauma from your past, even if you've forgotten about it. Sometimes in those states, those things will come up, and then all of a sudden, you're able to analyse it from all these different, objective perspectives.” The healing effects of music during therapeutic sessions are not a new phenomenon to scientists, especially not to Indigenous healers who have been using music as a vehicle to connect with the spirit of ancestors or deities for centuries. But while classical music used to be the preferred choice in psychedelic therapy studies for almost 80 years, researchers are increasingly more interested in the impact of electronic, ambient soundscapes to invoke mystical experiences and help patients process their emotions. Anyone who’s ever been on a dance floor has an intuitive understanding of the spiritual synergy between DJs and their audience. But today, scientists can quite literally measure the impact through, for example, MRI scans. As explained by Wavepaths, the brainchild of Imperial College London neuroscientist and psychedelic researcher Mendel Kaelen, research has shown that there are overlaps in the areas of the brain that are activated by listening to music or taking psychedelics, particularly the parts of the brain that involve emotion processing. Music under psychedelics can also help patients recollect autobiographical memories and trauma that was previously buried in their subconscious. A 2018 study by Kaelen and others revealed that patients with treatment-resistant depression, meaning those who have tried traditional treatment methods such as taking SSRIs, also known as antidepressants, described that music had a “substantial influence” on their therapeutic experience. Interestingly, it was the experience of the music rather than drug intensity, which the researchers found was more predictive of reductions in depression one week later. This suggests that music can be an important mediator in psychedelic sessions, supporting patients during the onset, ascent and return phase of a psychedelic experience. “You take your medicine, you play the track, and then it builds up perfectly,” Cory tells us as he describes listening to artist East Forest when he was performing live streams in lockdown, during

which he combined the practice of sound baths while live looping. “When I released [my track], I kind of made a disclaimer on my social media, mentioning it’s specifically for psychedelic therapy. But I also wanted it to be just a general meditation track. So I was like, this is for meditation, this is to help you focus and become aware and align your chakras. So, start from the root chakra and work up to your crown each time the note changes. That's when you move on to the next step. But then I added that it also pairs well with plant medicines.” When Cory first shared the track with his friends, they all got together to put it to the test. Among the group, one friend of his told him that listening to the composition before going to bed at night helped her with her insomnia, while his brother, a massage therapist, listens to it between clients to allow himself a moment of emotional reset and calm. “He said each time he listens to it he has his eyes closed and headphones on,

and he's like, ‘I'm starting to see visuals with it now’. He was completely sober while in that state of mind.” He attributes parts of this effect to what is called binaural beats, although it’s worth noting that scientists are still sceptical whether they can in fact have relaxing properties. Binaural beats are a kind of sound illusion, created by your brain when listening to two tones with different sound frequencies. “Binaural beats can basically manually hack your brain into a different wave state. So, they can bring you out of your alpha and beta mind states and put you into the delta and the theta, which emulates deep meditation, relaxation and sleep,” Cory explains. “So I kind of had that intention when I made the track, but I didn't follow it down to the exact science. There are actually five different tones going on at once. But when they combine, they create that same kind of wobbling effect, like in the middle of your head if you have

headphones on.” The connection between sound, the universe and our own bodies’ sonic vibrations is part of ancient wisdom which goes back to, among other, teachings in Buddhism. The gong, for example, is often referred to as the sound of the universe, or rather the echo of its creation. It’s therefore no surprise that mystical experiences often reported by people undertaking psychedelic ceremonies can serve as a reminder of their belonging to the universe, and the origin of everything known to us, including ourselves. “What these instruments are sending out vibrationally goes back to just waking something that’s primal inside of us. To me, it's not all woo-woo stuff with what sound does to our bodies and our minds, because they're just sending out pressure in the air, and it moves through water. We know we partly consist of water and our emotions, our hormones are fat combined with water. It's like everything vibrates and shakes up.” After techno producer and DJ Jon Hopkins released his album ‘Music for Psychedelic Therapy’ in November last year, it feels as though attitudes around the healing effects of music-assisted psychedelic therapy are changing. After all, AWAKN Life Sciences has managed to bring the country's first ketamine therapy clinic to the UK when they opened their practice in Bristol last year, and various digital resources including Wavepaths and the Trip app are all bringing psychedelic therapy into the mainstream, inspiring musicians like Cory to create music to support people’s healing practices. But while we’re still walking between the legal and practical lines of psychedelic therapy, Cory tells us he’s working on releasing some more tracks meant for journeys spanning over longer durations, including a combination of live looping, sound therapy, the didgeridoo and percussion instruments. At one point, he also wants to bring his music and healing practices back to their spiritual, ancestral roots by incorporating a gong. “I think everything around us is making noise all the time, like the sun and the orbits of the planets and everything. I think there's something very subtle; maybe it's even in just the electromagnetic realm of frequencies, but every cell in our body, every atom is vibrating and connecting to everything around us. I mean, the Earth is vibrating: it has a Schumann Resonance. Earth’s frequency is 7.83 hertz or something crazy like that." Everything is making noise, he assures us. From the microscopic cells in our bodies, to the sound of two black holes smashing against each other in just one titanic, cosmic embrace. b 35

OZWALD BOATENG RETURNS TO LONDON FASHION WEEK The famed designer came back after a twelve-year absence and Artefact was there 36

Words: Sylphia Basak Images: Jack Ferguson Ray


he first thing I thought when I stepped inside the Savoy Hotel was that I felt out of place. By the river entrance, two golden staircases spiralled upstairs and I was led to a hall with crown moulding and ceiling frescos of cherubs. The golden chandeliers cast a warm light on the rows of designer garments. The perfect backdrop for what would be Ozwald Boateng’s explosive return to London Fashion Week. The first (and so far only) Black tailor on Savile Row, Ozwald Boateng first opened his boutique in 1994, fully moving to Savile Row in 2002. He uses a modern iteration of classic bespoke tailoring, fabrics and patterns which pay tribute to his Ghanaian background as well as various African cultures — something he once received “criticism” for. Boateng’s incorporation of African and Black culture into his designs — whether it be through his use of kente or the patterns* with which he adorns his pieces — have cemented him as a titan of the fashion industry. Despite a long and illustrious career, designing for numerous productions and celebrities alike, his 12-year absence from LFW was felt, and many waited in excited anticipation for his return. A 16-year-old who would be making his first runway debut expressed his nerves as I showed him the way to the backstage area. The words of encouragement I tried to give him were, I confess, partially words I needed to tell myself as well. We could only hope that in the end they would work for both of us. The models rotated in hair and volunteers sat excitedly discussing our day and speculating about the alleged celebrity guests. “It doesn’t feel real being here. Like, I don’t think I’m gonna process this until tomorrow.” Many of the volunteers came from a similar vein of creative and educational background as myself. They are young creatives, hopeful designers, creative directors, producers and



stylists. Like many marginalised people in the arts, we had all previously felt the sharp sting of trying to get ourselves into spaces that weren’t designed with us in mind. And to look around and see not just volunteers or models, but nearly everyone involved in the creative process of the show being of a marginalised community, being a part of something that celebrates Black culture on that scale, was something hardly any of us had seen before. Since its fruition, the fashion industry has been notoriously exclusive. Ozwald Boateng has been no stranger to fighting his way through an industry he was told he couldn’t belong in unless he fit a certain mould of what a designer should be. By doubling down on the pride for his culture, Boateng managed to open the door and knock the wall down. He, and others like him, paved the way for a younger generation of creatives to make our own way in spaces which we once were not allowed in. “Calling it diversity feels like an understatement,” one of my fellow volunteers observes. We joke with one of the models, “the white people are the tokens this time,” in reference to the almost reversal of roles which seemed to be occurring in the room. The models started to take their places in the line-up and here we could see the artistry of Boateng’s new collection. Rich colours and flared silhouettes called back to retro fashion, with the structure of the garments reflecting a futuristic quality. Boateng’s experience as a tailor really shines, one volunteer, a design major, points out as she shows me the admirable handiwork of the stitching. Intricate traditional patterns with oversized sunglasses, velvet durags and pearl necklaces, this Afrocentric take on retro futurism was something very unique to the runway for many of us in the room. However much we had anticipated the show, it managed to exceed our expectations in every way. The Savoy Theatre was the picture of opulence, and Boateng did not fail to put on an impressive show. Beginning with a spectacular drum solo, the garments and choreography came together wonderfully and the models did a spectacular job of showcasing them; the runway brought alive the live brass band.

The show from beginning to end was a love letter to Black culture. The runway was closed by Idris Elba as a surprise guest and the show culminated in all the models gathered in a mosaic of a wonderfully told colour story with a gospel choir’s heavenly rendition of Soul II Soul’s “Back to Life”. The audience was on their feet, and by the time the volunteers made it back to the dressing room we could still hear the cheering. We scrambled around the dressing room, weaving our way through models and crew members crying and hugging each other, celebrating this monumental achievement. It was all we could do to try and soak in our pride while still doing our jobs. Although that next hour is a blur, I remember spotting faces I’d grown up seeing on silver screens and shaking their hands. The likes of Ncuti Gatwa, Unknown T (who walked in the show), Dizzie Rascal, Andy Serkis and Akon were only some of the familiar faces. I remember expressing what I hope was a not-tooover-eager gratitude. I remember congratulating the models while simultaneously trying to get them back into their street clothes. And of course, in the centre of it all was Mr. Boateng himself who despite all he had achieved, not just in those last few hours but in 30 years, still carried himself with excitement and humility and treated everyone he spoke to with reverence and kindness. While it was a shame to see such beautiful garments be zipped up into black clothing bags, I couldn’t help but feel excited about how this collection might seep its way into influencing fashion in the future. We exist in a very polarising time with a lot of tension between different people, and to have space, even for a few hours, where people not only acknowledge but celebrate a culture alongside those who are born into it, offers respite and hope for the future. I could not be more grateful to have helped work on something like that. We all waited outside the entrance for our Ubers and transit methods in a starstruck daze, and while my brain would still be reeling from the events of the day, my entire bus ride home consisted of mostly one thought: “If this is the future of fashion, I’m excited to see where it’s headed.” b 39

Words: Isis Flack Images: Giulia Renzi

BEING VANILLA IS NOTHING TO BE ASHAMED OF The term ’vanilla’ has been used as a negative way of describing intimacy. But what’s wrong with enjoying something classic?


anilla. Everyone’s favourite ice cream flavour: reliable, enjoyable, easy. Somehow, the positive characteristics we associate with ice cream don’t translate when describing someone’s sex life. Increasingly, the term ‘vanilla’ has been used as a negative way of describing intimacy. But what’s wrong with enjoying something classic? ‘Vanilla-shaming’, typically associated with missionary positions and endeavours limited to the bedroom, has been linked to increased viewership and demand of kink-filled porn and the male gaze. It’s been argued that this has led to a shift in the status quo when discussing sexual escapades. As most schools in the UK still teach, what many consider, inadequate sexual education for pupils, many young people’s first exposure of intercourse comes from what they see in pornography. The majority of the time, this is catered specifically towards the male gaze; leaving women as mere objects to conquer rather than people who deserve to enjoy their sexuality as much as their male counterparts or co-stars. London based psychotherapist and sex councillor Jakub P. Potorski, who runs his own therapy services in west London, reinforces the importance of sexed in schools to create a safe space for discussion and inclusion. “The lack of proper sexual education, which isn’t [a] compulsory subject 40

at schools across the UK, is a major problem. Teenagers should be taught how to define, communicate, and protect their own boundaries when it comes to sexual relationships and consensual sex,” he said. “Very often, I see people in my practice who are unaware of how to talk about sex to their partners and don’t understand the importance of being clear and honest about their own needs. Certainly, sex should not be treated as a competition or comparison.” Grammy award-winner Billie Eilish, who recently turned 20, spoke out about her experience coming across pornography at a very young age and how it affected her own early sexual education and encounters. “I think porn is a disgrace. I used to watch a lot of porn, to be honest. I started watching porn when I was, like, 11,” she told the Howard Stern Show on Sirius XM Radio. “I think it really destroyed my

brain and I feel incredibly devastated that I was exposed to so much porn.” Eilish went on to detail how “the first few times I, you know, had sex, I was not saying ‘no’ to things that were not good. It was because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be attracted to,” emphasising the impact pornography had on her standard for consent and female enjoyment. The singer even detailed her experiences coping with nightmares and sleep paralysis due to her exposure to graphic pornography. Increasingly, much of the pornography catered towards a male audience involves hyper-sexualisation and glorification of violence against women; in addition to the use of micro-aggressions, such as choking, slapping, or degrading remarks. Couple this with the overuse of performance in porn, too, and actresses make it seem as if they enjoy and even relish this type of behaviour towards them, something that doesn’t necessarily

“‘Vanilla shaming’, typically associated with missionary positions and endeavours limited to the bedroom, has been linked to increased viewership and demand of kink-filled porn and the male gaze.”


translate to the average woman going about her sex life. A recent BBC study of women in the UK between the ages of 18 and 39 revealed that 38% had experienced unwanted choking, slapping, or spitting during consensual sex; additionally, the use of “rough sex defence” in murder cases has risen by 90% in the last decade, The Guardian reported. Both of those statistics are staggering, and should prompt important conversations within the progression of sexual education, as well as sourcing better avenues for adolescents and those in their formative years to learn from. In the modern era of social media, children and teenagers are even turning to social media apps for education on the subject — this includes apps like TikTok. With little to no censorship, videos and pictures glorifying sexual violence can trend, leading young people to associate intimacy with a level of violence, predominantly against women. KinkTok, as it’s been named, is the side of TikTok that shares content relating to more unconventional sexual experiences. This specific ‘side’ of TikTok has consistently come under fire for glorifying acts of violence against women in the bedroom, with videos and challenges such as the #365 challenge. Coined from the Netflix film which depicts a woman getting sex-trafficked and falling in love with her captor, the #365 challenge is aestheticising excessive bruises on women after intercourse. In her video titled Normalising Rough Sex & Kink, YouTuber Jordan Theresa, a self-proclaimed member of the ‘kink community’, said of the term ‘vanilla’: “It’s been used by the kinky community for years, and it isn’t an insult, as much as it’s been twisted to be an insult now. I’ve been seeing it a lot on social media, especially on TikTok. “The immediate response from people in the comments is calling someone boring or using vanilla as an insult, rather than partaking in a healthy conversation about kink. This has spiralled into a load of people throwing vanilla around as an insult and calling people who don’t want to be smacked in bed boring.” ‘Vanilla’, traditionally, wasn’t used as a derogatory term; it was merely a term for describing someone’s sexual preference. In recent years, however, it’s morphed into a negative connotation, mainly due to the way and the context in which it’s been used. There’s an important conversation to be had on how sexual liberation shouldn’t be exclusively linked to ‘kinkiness’. Jakub noted how pornography could be influencing recent trends: “Susceptibility to vanilla shaming is a complex phenomenon and higher consumption of 42

“A decade since Fifty Shades of Grey, I see more people who admit that they’ve been pressured or ashamed for not consenting to unconventional sex.”

aggressive porn, as well as over-sexualisation in mass media, certainly triggers those feelings of social exclusion.” He went on to explain how other factors could also be a cause: “The true origins of such problems are often rooted in a person’s childhood, family environment, upbringing and relationship they have had with their parents or other important individuals. “Predispositions to experience shame can be determined when caregivers themselves are struggling with sense of belonging, low self-esteem and inability to enjoy intimate relationships. Those people, unfortunately, weren’t taught or had no opportunity to define a sense of core self and practice self-expression within a family environment.” One Twitter user, aged 27 now, who has been outspoken on the issue of vanilla shaming on the app, told us that “It’s genuinely a thing I’ve experienced for years, multiple times, with many different people. It’s mainly been with the 18 — to 23-year-old crowd lately. Above that [age], people seem to be more chill and to understand good sex is dependent on many factors other than something they read in Fifty Shades of Grey once.” And the idea of Fifty Shades of Grey being interlaced with vanilla shaming was shared by Jakub: “There are a growing number of clients in my therapeutic practice, who are convinced that there’s something wrong with them because they do not find a pleasure in any form of kinks, rough sex, or fetish. “Moreover, a decade since publication of Fifty Shades of Grey, I see more

people who admit that they’ve been pressured or ashamed for not consenting to unconventional sex.” When recalling his own experiences being vanilla shamed by an ex-partner, the Twitter user I spoke to shared how he addressed the issue with his partner’s preferences: “I voiced my feelings regarding the situation and told her I wasn’t feeling too comfortable with this stuff. That’s when she started belittling me and insulting me.” When asked if he had an inkling as to what he believed was the root of the issue as whole, he said: “I would assume normal media is more of a source for the problem [as opposed to porn]. People watch porn to observe sex, but they use movies, TV shows, books and songs as a platform to observe human interaction. If every exchange they see in media is overtly kinky, even if it was originally intended to be an exaggeration or irony, the younger generations actually develop a perhaps unsalvageable disconnect between sexuality and emotional interest.” When acts of sexual violence become desensitised, you’re led into a conversation on blurring lines within consent. Glorification of ‘kink trends’ filters into the social pressure to not be labelled as ‘vanilla’, which, in turn, can lead to young people, especially women, leaning into sexual violence so as to not be shunned, even if it’s something they don’t necessarily want to participate in. This can also lead to a space where people don’t feel comfortable discussing any sexual experiences they didn’t enjoy, from fear of being labelled as boring in the bedroom. Jakub shared this fear: “[A] devastating impact of any kind of shaming is the wish to hide, and if vanilla shaming became more prevalent, it would mean fewer people feeling free to express their sexuality in their preferred way. That could mean more isolation and less expression of healthy intimacy. It is important to educate and raise awareness that conventional sex is not boring at all.” There are companies aiming to transform the porn sphere, such as Bellesa, Lust Cinema or Cheex. Many of them are female-led and all of them create and promote ethical porn, paving the way to normalise more realistic sexual standards within what is essentially an educational platform. Evolution within the industry, specifically producing content more in-line with the female gaze, as well as normalising ‘regular’ and ‘vanilla’ sex, can lead to less hyper-sexualisation and violence being filtered down into impressionable ages. This will lead to more realistic expectations of intercourse, and just general physicality, as well as vital acceptance. b


Climate justice: Bringing all voices to the crisis The consequences of climate change differ for everyone, which is why diverse voices deserve a seat at the table Words: Lucy Crayton Images: Eddie Howell


e've now reached the critical period to act on the climate crisis. At the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris in December 2015, an agreement was made to limit global temperatures to 1.5°C. But six years later, we're still not on course to meet the Paris Agreement. As outlined in an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, global warming is likely to reach this figure between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at its current rate. This calls for urgent, drastic reductions in emissions, otherwise we face an ongoing slew of issues: wildfires, heat waves, deforestation, flooding, biodiversity loss, hurricanes, droughts, tropical storms, limited water resources, food scarcity, forced migration and deaths. These issues affect everyone differently, though. An intersectional analysis of climate change reveals that the consequences of climate change vary depending on class, gender, geography, race, religion and sexual orientation. However, diverse voices aren't being heard. Those who are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis are both underrepresented and marginalised from the conversation — even at COP26. 44

But by spotlighting these vulnerable communities through storytelling and holding our leaders to account, we can fight for the protection of everyone. Earthrise champions exactly this. Founded in July 2020 by filmmakers Jack and Finn Harries and Alice Aedy, the digital platform and creative studio aims to communicate the climate crisis through design, film and storytelling, amplifying the voices of BIPOC communities. The team drew inspiration for the name from the well-known picture of Earth rising above the moon taken by William Anders aboard Apollo 8 in 1968, as it’s what propelled the environmental movement. On Tuesday 26th October 2021, Earthrise held a morning panel on climate justice at The Conduit in Covent Garden, London. The morning saw Alice interviewing Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate and environmental lawyer Farhana Yamin to talk all things climate justice and celebrate the launch of Vanessa’s new book, A Bigger Picture: My Fight to Bring a New African Voice to the Climate Crisis, in front of an audience of 120 like-minded individuals. Vanessa first learned about the impact of climate change on Uganda back in 2018. Inspired by Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement, she started striking every Friday. She also spoke to schools and communities and set up Rise Up, a movement dedicated to amplifying the voices of African activists. Her activism soon gained traction, leading her to be invited to Davos, Switzerland in 2020 to represent the Global South at the World Economic Forum.

However, when Associated Press (AP) released photos from the press conference, they’d cropped Vanessa out of a photo that included four other white activists (Greta Thunberg, Isabelle Axelsson, Loukina Tille and Luisa Neubauer). Not understanding why, Vanessa went to Twitter to question AP about this. She received an outpour of support from Twitter users who shared their anger and eventually received an apology from AP’s executive editor, Sally Buzbee. “You didn’t just erase a photo, you erased a continent,” Vanessa tweeted. At the press conference, she’d addressed the importance of listening to activists from different parts of the world, so this only perpetuated the problem she was trying to highlight and fix. In light of this, Vanessa addressed the importance of listening to communities like hers at Earthrise’s event. “Africa is responsible for 3% of global emissions, yet Africans are already suffering some of the most real impacts of climate change,” she said. “No one is paying attention to the experiences of what people are going through in countries like mine." Farhana added to this: “Our economic frameworks don’t put people or the planet at the centre. It’s this unfairness which is at the heart of the justice agenda, and that’s what we’re working on right now with COP26.” Vanessa went on to explain how climate change is more than statistics and weather: “It’s about the people. It doesn’t just end on a report on how many thousands [of people] have been affected. It goes beyond that. What happens to an individual, a family and a community

when these disasters come?” In a bid to highlight how deep climate injustice runs, she shared a few harrowing examples. First up, she spoke about how some families are forced to give up their daughters for marriage, because they can't afford to feed as many mouths after losing their business to flooding. She then touched on tree planting campaigns, saying that while many of us believe we’re helping out by supporting these campaigns, they can sometimes lead to communities — espe-

cially Indigenous communities — losing their land. The manufacturing of electric vehicles was also brought up, highlighting how there's no climate justice if it involves child exploitation. Lastly, she addressed the impact of Covid, mentioning how many activists struggled to attend COP26 because of vaccine inequity, which resulted in some of the most affected areas not being represented. “It’s been a journey learning how all these things are connected,” Vanessa explained. But when Farhana was asked

whether we can build a better, fairer and greener world, she remains positive: “I think we’re already at that point where the system has collapsed. We’re living in the collapse, and now it’s time to spend as much energy as possible searching, experimenting and pioneering. We’re all, including myself, fixated a bit on what there is as opposed to what there could be. We need to share stories and have the courage to accept that we can live in a different world. We can achieve a lot more by demanding more, being consistent and supporting each other.” Jack's recently launched 11-part YouTube series, Seat At The Table (SATB), also highlights the work of many other activists fighting climate change. The series documents his 100-day trip across the UK, speaking with activists, world leaders and, most importantly, people across the world who're most affected by the climate crisis but don't have a seat at the political table. Two months and 2,000 miles by boat, train, bicycle, kayak and tidal power generator later, he presented the series at COP26. Giving a voice to the most vulnerable, his aim was to remind world leaders of all the human lives at stake. All of the carbon emissions created in the making of each episode were offset in two ways: on an industry-recognised carbon offset scheme and by supporting projects that tackle the challenges of climate change. And the series is raising funds for Count Us In, an organisation building the world's largest community of people and organisations taking practical action on climate change. So far, it's raised $341,521. b

Watch SATB’s trailer here.

“You didn’t just erase a photo, you erased a continent.” 45

Film remakes: For better or for worse? Are new versions of old favourites stifling creativity in Hollywood? Words: Rosie Paldi Edwards Image: Jakob Owens/Unsplash


n a world of content overload, consumers often turn to familiarity. There has always been a comfort in watching the same characters and stories, such as the classic spy films of James Bond or more child-friendly remakes of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It’s clear that the industry shows no sign of stopping the remake tap, but is it accelerating more than usual? The acquisition of Roald Dahl’s whole catalogue comes at the same time as Amazon Prime bought the rights to Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, after founder Jeff Bezos said he wanted a Game of Thrones-style series for the streaming platform. Disney+, another major streaming platform, has grown quickly in its initial two years, with its viewership gaining younger traction, with under-17s making up 44% of its overall viewership. This could suggest why Netflix bought the rights to Roald Dahl’s stories — so the platform could gain a younger audience to consolidate their number one spot with an already hefty 200 million subscribers. 46

Netflix has already started working on an animated TV series based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as well as an origin story for Willy Wonka, to be played by Timothée Chalamet and produced by Warner Brothers. In addition, they also have a collaboration with Sony and Working Title for an adaptation of the musical Matilda, and production of a film version of The Twits is underway, Netflix has been busy. “The obsession with origin stories does get a bit tiring after a while, you never needed an origin story for Willy Wonka, he really didn’t. I just watched Death on the Nile recently, and that’s got an origin story for Poirot’s moustache, which again, quite amusing but it certainly did not need it,” film journalist Dan Jolin from Empire magazine explained. Some of Dahl’s books are already family favourites, with the likes of Fantastic Mr Fox (2009), which was made into a stop motion comedy directed by Wes Anderson and Matilda (1996), an American comedy film that was co-produced and directed by Danny DeVito.

There are almost too many to mention as other cult classics include; The Witches (1990), James and the Giant Peach (1996) and The BFG (1989). However, these oldies are now up for grabs with Netflix’s new acquisition, leaving no previous Roald Dahl material safe from a remake. “If you actually look at it, what makes a great remake? It can be something that is just a great idea that someone then realised could be done better, like Oceans Eleven for example.” Jolin points out. He has a point, with Netflix having top spot as the biggest streaming giant, they will have more money than ever to facilitate these new projects, hopefully to a high standard. While streaming originals are normally welcomed and received well from the public, the streaming platforms are still spending millions on old material. Jolin explained the reason behind this: “With streaming you would have hoped they would be a bit bolder because they’ve got the space for so much content, like you’ve got Netflix Originals and Amazon Originals, but they are actually

getting less and less so it seems. In a way, I get the old big studios, the old machine, that’s how that works, I get that. But you would have hoped the new machine would be a bit bolder.” Yet, with under-17s making up nearly half of the Disney+ audience, it’s not surprising that Netflix is trying to reach a younger audience with a fresh take on classic childhood stories. It will be interesting to see what Netflix’s twist on Roald Dahl’s classics will look like. So far the most recent remake was The Witches (2020), which only scored a rating of 5.3 on IMDb and has been criticised for its inept writing and bad effects. For example, the grand witch has a limb disability to supposedly reflect the cat-like claws the grand witch was described as having in the book. This movie trope, by creating a physical disability or difference to reflect a character’s evilness, is not only hurtful to the disabled community, but also unnecessary. Somehow, it still grossed $26.9 million overall. This is not a bad outcome

for a film that was generally disliked by the public and critics, showing just what nostalgia can do. The increase in budgets for sequels still doesn’t reflect the public’s general distaste for remakes. According to researcher James Barnes from Vere Search, who conducted a study called Remake My Day to compare ratings for recent remakes. The survey found that most audiences compared the remake unflatteringly to the original, more than 90 percent of the time. This data could be a result of confirmation bias, as the nature of nostalgia brings in viewers, but cannot compete with the audience’s love for the originals. This in turn has created something called ‘hate watching’, described by Oxford Language as an “activity of watching a television show with the intention of acquiring amusement from the mockery of its content or subject.” It’s funny that in this day and age people, even if they don’t like the look of the film, will still take their wallets out and laugh at the show’s failures and silly absurdities. The online reaction to the productions underway of Roald Dahl’s stories highlight the fact that we’ve become confused about how we describe movies that are getting rebranded and recreated from old content. “You could look at something like Peter Jackson’s King Kong that is 100% a remake and it has every reason to exist, it’s great, but then I would not say Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings is a remake because there was a 1970s animated version of Lord of the Rings,” Jolin tells us adding that both films are very stylised and so it could be seen as more of an inspiration from one to the other, rather than just a flat out copy. Jolin also explained the industry advantages of doing a remake with benefits like a built-in audience, a fanbase and guaranteed ‘bums on seats’ regardless of the actual material. “There are these new generations and so they go, well we own this property let’s do it again, it makes sense. If they’ve already got the rights, it’s relatively cheap and also you have that reassurance of an audience because if it worked before, it’ll work again.” These patterns can also be seen with Disney’s live action remakes, even though they are disliked by critics, they give their old films a new lease of life as they introduce them to a new, younger generation. Such as reboot, reimagine, revival and remake are really just a part of the marketing pre-hype cycle, and don’t actually have any bearing on whether or not the film will be any good,” Jolin added. Which raises the question: do business practices hold creativity back in the industry? While industry techniques continually evolve their technologies, but without

huge funds to support its development, it can be difficult to introduce new processes or technologies as they become extremely costly to use in the already existing market. This means that stakeholders do not often favour risk-taking or creative and innovative ideas over short-term profits. Seth Rogen has had this problem countless times as he explained on Corridor Crew’s YouTube channel, about the different roles he’s played from producing, directing and acting in Hollywood. He noted that while he loves miniatures and always pushes to use them on set he has lost on “many, many, many, occasions because it’s just too expensive, too hard, and you need a whole unit to do it.” This suggests that the film industry will prioritise profit over creativity, as Seth also spoke about the double standards given to filmmakers when they are then compared to the likes of directors such as Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarintino. “I think what Chris Nolan does is really amazing, but actually a luxury and when you hear people like: why don’t you just do what Chris Nolan or Quentin Tarintino do? And I’m like they don’t let everyone do that,” Rogen said. He also elaborated on the industry-wide mindset he has experienced: “The studios have this mentality that if it’s old, it just looks bad and they don’t like you to use what would be considered antiquated technology to do things that are supposed to look good. Their fears are that it will look too kitschy or something like that, and then your like well Chris Nolan uses it, and they’re like yeah cause it’s his film.” Rogen illustrated the issues directors and producers are up against due to ‘financial security’ over creative integrity. This could suggest the reasoning for certain outcomes for films, as Jolin added on his experience with production: “You get that a lot with remakes, they just end up using too much CGI to pull things off.” The overuse of CGI and the strong profit-obsessed executives shows where Hollywood’s motivations usually are. Contemporary culture is obsessed with labels, cancel culture and online activism, and sometimes we seem to forget that films can be art for art’s sake and an expression of human creativity. In essence, art inspires art and everyone takes inspiration from something. Therefore, familiar stories can be told from a plethora of different perspectives and creative visions. Jolin summed this up perfectly: “While people can get sniffy about remakes, they are often absolutely brilliant movies and some of the best movies out there.” So, next time you judge a remake before you see it, give it a try. Who knows? You might actually enjoy it. b 47


he pandemic has seen people taking up wholesome activities and new hobbies like nobody’s business — pottery being one of them. Air-dry pottery kits were highly sought-after during lockdowns. Channel 4 brought back The Great Pottery Throw Down — a pottery contest similar in nature to The Great British Bake Off and The Great British Sewing Bee — providing heart-warming, therapeutic content for Sunday evenings. As a result, pottery studios have seen people flocking to them for taster sessions and memberships. Studio Pottery London (SPL), a Belgravia-based ceramic studio, knows this all too well, and I met their artistic director, Gregory Tingay, to find out more about the meditative craft. After kindly booking off one of his teaching slots, we arranged to meet up at the studio, although having rocked up with half-an-hour to spare before our interview, and not wanting to complete a third lap of the area, a trip to the bakery next door was in order. A short while later, Gregory messaged me asking if we could meet after he’d grabbed lunch. It turned out he was also in Ole & Steen, so we got chatting all things writing over a berry tea before heading to the studio. After parking ourselves by his potter’s wheel, we dived into what SPL is all about: “As the name suggests, it’s a combination of the studio pottery history

Pottery and the art of surviving lockdown The pandemic has seen the revival of this meditative craft Words: Lucy Crayton Images: Studio Pottery London 48

and ‘London’ gives its location. We’re sort of harking back to our heritage. “When we came to found SPL — myself and Lucy Attwood who’d been my pupil — we decided the name was a good description because it anchored us in tradition, but the addition of ‘London’ to it gave us a modern, urban twist.” British studio pottery actually dates back to the early 20th century, a specific incarnation of the craft which has been around for millennia. In 1920, Bernard Leach, an English potter, and Shōji Hamada, a Japanese potter, founded Leach Pottery in St Ives, Cornwall. Shaping the studio pottery movement, the place went on to become one of the most respected potteries in the world. Back then, studio potteries were rustic and primarily based in the countryside; they housed wood-fired and oil-fired kilns, fused British and Japanese traditions and focused on producing functional wares. Nowadays, they’re also based in cities, home to electric kilns, offer more than just wheel-thrown pottery and produce functional as well as artistic pieces. SPL pride themselves in combining both the past and modern way of the craft, making it the first studio of this type in central London. The two-year-old studio — designed by another one of Gregory’s former pupils, Vesna Aksent, who is an interior architect — has an assortment of offerings. It offers memberships which include access to wheels, glazes, kilns, assistance from technicians, the opportunity to do hand-sculpting and showcase work at markets as well as tri-monthly mentoring from Gregory. It also offers group taster sessions, private lessons, advanced classes, talks to lift the culture of ceramics, demonstrations and retreats. Thanks to Grosvenor’s Retail Concierge Service, the studio was up and running in just four weeks. The service helps time-poor small retailers and start-ups avoid common mistakes and accidental overspends by fitting out the store; setting up utilities; and providing facilities management, marketing, access to PR services, discounted training and innovation workshops. With all that SPL has to offer, there’s a real sense of community. “It’s not an anonymous group of people; we try to create a community. We’re very much there to cultivate our members, to assist them as far as possible in their varying journeys,” Gregory told us. Gregory’s pottery journey began when he was just 15-years-old, living in Zimbabwe. His classmate’s mother — who was one of the leading potters in the area — offered to set up a pottery club, which is where he got the bug for throwing and making pots. Recalling his childhood, he told us

how fortunate he feels to have had this experience, given the fact that pottery isn’t something schools tend to offer nowadays. Between then and going to study English and art history at Cambridge, he decided to take a break from it. He toyed with the idea of joining the university’s ceramics society — run by Edmund de Vaal, one of the leading lights in the pottery world who opened SPL — but was put off by the number of people involved. After graduating, he went back to Zimbabwe to teach art history and work on films. Here, he met a woman who was familiar with one of the monks — a famous stained glassmaker — at Buckfast Abbey. Being interested in all things monastic since attending a monastic school, Gregory joined the Abbey in 1990, working in the stained-glass department. To his surprise, it also had a pottery. So, he plucked up the courage to speak to the people who ran it, Mary Gibson-Horrocks, a pupil of Bernard Leach’s in the 1940s, who took him on as an apprentice with the Abbot’s permission. This meant having to put stained glass making to one side, as there wasn’t the time with all the other commitments that come with being a monk: learning Latin, climbing up the tower to ring the bell, cleaning toilets and raking leaves. “She grounded me in the technique of repetitive throwing of the same pieces, the ethos of attention to the beauty of

“You go into a different zone and mindset.”

form and the holistic approach to using the heart, the mind, the hands whereby when you were making the pots, the end result speaks somewhat of the maker,” he told us. Mary also got Gregory into sgraffito — scratched decoration produced by applying coloured slips to leather-hard pottery and scratching off parts of the layer to reveal another colour underneath. She also educated him on the 20th century luminaries of pottery such as Lucy Rie, a Viennese potter who often did sgraffito pottery. Inspired by Lucy’s work, one of Mary’s carved wooden vases and his love for patterns since the age of 15, Gregory started doing sgraffito pottery

and has continued to do so. His exquisite pots can be purchased from SPL‘s window display and website. Pottery is for novices and experts alike, though. Gregory briefed us on why people got into it during the pandemic. “A lot of people have been stuck at home and desperate to do something creative with their hands and be in a place where there’s a community where they can do things together,” he said. “I think people were discovering the therapeutic value of it. A great element of throwing on the wheel requires patience, slowing down and repetition. You go into a different zone and mindset. You can escape from your worries to a degree.

“Also, it’s a craft that connects us way back to what it means to be human. Humans have always made pots. When we date archaeological sites, it’s usually through fragments of pottery vessels. Pottery vessels — we use them to drink from, eat from, contain things in. Gregory concluded: “It’s very much to do with our everyday life, so it’s that element of someone being able to make something they can use or enjoy. And because it’s very much skill-based, most people can muster up some skills at the wheel. “It’s a different business from someone wanting to become a painter or artist.” b 49

Felukah is Egypt’s very own rap goddess Her work combines Arabic and English lyricism Words: Zeina Saleh Image: Courtesy of Felukah


ith her ever-so-suave demeanor, Sara Elmessiry is sailing her way through Egypt’s rap scene. Drawing comparisons to Leonard Cohen and Patti Smith, Sara paints her music with effortless poetic nuances. Apart from her eclectic beats, Sara’s lyrics seem to delve through your very being, through her raw and honest diction, making every word relatable. Her Arabic and English lyrical fusion sets forth the exploration of the immense beauty of both languages while never straying away from her Egyptian identity. Your name is extremely distinctive. Could you tell us where it came from? Thank you! My mother thought of it originally. We were sitting on our balcony back in Cairo, bouncing stage names back and forth when she thought up Felukah. We were looking for a word in Arabic that would be easily pronounced in the West—the philosophy around the name unfolded organically after that. Just like a felucca (sailboat) that’s sailing along the river, I want to embody an ebb and flow in my verse. How did you first get into making music and why? I’ve been a dedicated poet and a lover of verse for quite some time now. I self-published a few poetry chapbooks in the past years, before discovering my love for music, and the poetry flowed effortlessly onto the beat. My passion for writing met my passion for dance/rhythm—and that’s where hip hop came in. I also was lucky to grow up in a musical household; my 50

brother plays the piano and taught me how to record myself on ProTools. Could you tell us about the ideas, philosophies, and message derived from your most recent album Dream 23? Dream 23 differs both musically and lyrically from anything I’ve put out before. The music is vibrational, energetic and calm at the same time — a quality I’ve always admired about timeless hip hop and R&B records. We’re serving old school flows on new school beats, lo-fi energy on heated topics like women’s empowerment, self-discovery and cultural pride. The album lyrically and sonically explores space in the first half and Earth in the other, validating the dream world and the real world equally. It is split in so many ways: sonically, culturally and spiritually. In this project I’m really trying to pay homage to both Egyptian roots and New York culture with each turn around the sun. Since I’ve spun 22 times already, this album encompasses my own Dream 23. In another sense, the title can symbolise the sheer multiplicity of being; I could’ve chosen to chase one dream like rap, but instead it’s something more like 23 dreams — my interests multiply and deepen over time. What’s your favourite song on the album? Probably “Apocalypse” at the moment. It changes a lot, I’m always reflecting on my work. It’s been about six months since Dream 23 dropped and I can feel the music evolving and changing. “Apocalypse” stays hard, though. As a creative writing student in New York, how do you merge the skills you acquire as a writer into your music? Who is your favourite female writer? Those skills definitely overlap. Exploring the underpinnings of writing has really shaped my view of the artistic process. Writers like Radwa Ashour, Haruki Murakami and poets like Nayyirah Waheed and Ocean Vuong inspire me deeply. The prose or poetry speaks volumes to me. The hip-hop industry in Egypt is male dominated. Do you find yourself running into any challenges as a female rapper? Without a doubt there’s limitations—but these limitations are there to be pushed. I’ve had to deal with my own limitations and insecurities as a majorly underrepresented Arab woman in America, and as a Westernised Egyptian in Cairo. Creating my own blueprint for this music flex has been and continues to be difficult, but it is incredibly rewarding and motivating at the same time. I rise to the occasion of setting my own scene for this in between.

Are there certain topics you wish to highlight in your music? All that speaks to me, always. But when I think impact, I think of inspiring a generation of people who strive to push love beyond all else. I want to encourage a closeness to the soul, an understanding of the spirit as it relates to music, narrative, craft. Topically, I want to empower women to break the silence and voice their thoughts and opinions on matters that have made men (and other women) uncomfortable in the past. I want to explore spaces and topics of real truth, whether that comes with pain or power is besides the point. Art will always give to you what you pour into it. I want to inspire people to create and to question, while bopping like a G. How do you merge your Egyptian identity in your music? I try to stay open to the influence of both and all cultures. I feel the underpinning and ancestral history of Egypt in my soul and I try to make it come through in my music. Delivery and aesthetic may be heavily Western influenced—I like icy trap beats and a crazy flow. That could be found on the corner of 118th and Frederick Douglass. But the content of the verse, the essence of it all comes from Cairo. Who are your musical idols? I gravitate towards old school flows and bar spitters like Nas and Andre 3000. I also like to employ honey melodies like Erykah Badu and Fairuz. Moving forward from this album I want to explore more soul. Jazz also calls. At the root of anything I’ve ever created is a freestyle; I can only define my sound in the moment. I also admire artists like Solange, Noname, and Tyler, the Creator who toy with genre just enough to keep their sounds fresh while maintaining the same essence. b


he’s escaped the greyness of Leeds. Finding herself painting in Capão, surrounded by nature, her family, and the beauty of Brazil. Mona is a creator who is continuously exploring and challenging her artistic talent. She is no stranger to this creative world, wherever she may be, you will always find her in a studio with a glass of wine in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. As we spoke through a computer screen, she said she felt as though she didn’t yet have a concrete style. For her, it was almost dangerous to put herself in a box, doing so would limit her abilities. She’s a young artist, like many of us, a little inexperienced in the field of art, but she’s aware of the long path of finding what her mark as an artist is. Mona’s “fuck it” mentality allows her to dance around different concepts, moulding her work however she wants it. Mona creates things that matter to her, her worth and the worth of her art isn’t based on people’s judgments of her. “Success for me is being proud of everything you do.” One word to describe her is: passionate. “If I’m not giving 100% it’s just not worth my time”. She spoke of the people around her, all of whom are creative, especially creative women. She reminisces her childhood surrounded by strong, talented matriarchal figures. She was bound to be creative when all the people around her allowed her to feel so comfortable in this field. “If there’s one thing I knew [it] was that I was going to be a creator.”

Finding her way The creative journey of a young Brazilian artist Words: Isabella Kaps Jaramillo Images: Mona De Luccas

She navigated so freely around all the options that make one an artist. It manifested into her life in so many different forms, either in writing, music, or acting. She eventually stopped pondering around all the possibilities and realised that her real passion lay in fine art. There’s a certain love between her craft and herself. I could see it in every painting she showed me. With each work of art, you could see the challenge she has with her inner self to get better. It’s constant competition with herself. There was a screen separating us, I sat in my room and she was in her back garden, surrounded by the mesmerising beauty of Chapada Diamantina. The sun was beaming on her face, but here the sun was hiding behind the melancholic London clouds. I asked her what inspires her, I asked her if it was her Brazilian blood or just the experiences that she had, she answered with “I’m submerged in the process I do, playing an active role in the creative development of my work is my love language, it’s intimate, it’s romantic and that’s where my incentive derives from.” She kept on telling me how stimulated she is by various people and different experiences in her life. Mona considered herself truly lucky because the people around her are probably the most talented people she’s ever come across and for her, that was a challenge, a challenge to not be constantly inspired.

She’s never truly realised how influential travelling has been in her life, encountering so many cultures, colours and foods that many people haven’t even dreamt of. It was a given that her view on art was less Eurocentric than it could’ve ended up being. But now she’s back in a place that exhilarates her the most, a place where all she can do is paint, almost like she doesn’t need to do anything else, just be present and exist. An artist who refuses to be deterministic and short-minded, all the work she does is honest to her and it’s something she always tries to get across. Her life right now feels like a lucid dream. She couldn’t tell me if it was reality or part of a dystopian novel. She ran away from England, not remembering it well or the feeling it evoked. Yet, she manages to remember the frustrations and anger that lingered her mind daily. Everything for her stopped, being confined was a fight as she simply thrives of ideas and conversations. “Art became digital and as much as I support that, there’s a type of familiarity when you go to a gallery or exhibition and look at a piece of art that you cannot replicate. There’s a connection there. It’s real.” Mona is many things, she’s a fervent lover of her surroundings, she’s eager to feel this intense relationship between herself and the art she creates and she’s a woman who adores what she does. b 51


n an effort to make high culture accessible — and profitable — for a younger generation, museums, theatres and companies have taken it upon themselves to democratise what was once solely entrusted to grand rooms and temperature-controlled frames. Be it the American Ballet Theatre offering a scholarship after seeing a viral video of a young dancer, Rupi Kaur’s made-for-Instagram Milk and Honey, thereby ushering in the advent of Instapoets, or any number of TikTokers using the platform to give mini art history lessons. One such TikToker is Mary McGilliviray (@_theiconoclass), an art history graduate who’s accumulated more than nine million likes on the platform. Another particularly popular attempt to make art Instagrammable is that of Van Gogh Alive. Or Immersive Van Gogh. Or Beyond Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience. Or any of the myriad exhibitions taking advantage of the public domain work of the iconic painter. The exhibitions feature dozens of projectors emblazoning pop-up warehouse walls with animations of the painter’s most recognisable works. “All of these companies are working from the same source material — the same Starry Night, the same Sunflowers — Van Gogh’s instantly recognisable, incredibly valuable and, above all, freely available intellectual property,” writes Kriston Capps for Bloomberg CityLab. Selling millions of tickets and having record breaking runs for TicketMaster, the exhibitions have highlighted the desire for interactive, digital-age art shows and inspired many similar efforts to adapt art to the age of social media.

Van Gogh Alive: Making art Instagrammable Immersive art exhibitions are taking over social media, but can they help democratise the art world? Words and image: Jamie O’Brien Hartigan 52

Ellie Makin, a London artist, told us: “I think any form of cultural event or showcase that is photogenic is going to continue popping up by different institutions, we now live in a world where new exhibitions and up-and-coming artists get shared through social media.” After the success of the Van Gogh exhibitions, countless other immersive exhibitons are scheduled. Even restaurants have expanded into Instagrammable art, with the Hotel Café Royal offering a Van Gogh-themed afternoon tea. While the exhibitions are breathing new life into the work of artists and bringing them to millions more people, many of these experiences that seem to be tailored for social media have drawn criticism for being reductive. One London fine art student, Emma Turpin, says that although “social media helps to bring a sense of accessibility to include more people in the art world, it’s hard to understand the true form of the work through a screen.” While immersive exhibitions and online content is bringing art to more people, it’s diluting the work for commercialisation, a common criticism for the upcoming Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera exhibition. Their work, known for its emotional and violent themes, has been reduced to a photo opportunity. While there are many criticisms towards this online approach to art, there are also many benefits. “There is something about social media’s effect on the arts that breaks down the elitism of high art… although nothing that is meant to be seen physically will transfer to anything online or on a screen,” says Makin. “I don’t think [on the whole] social

media is a valid communication of fine art as you need to experience the work in person. However, social media can offer a glimpse of what you could experience in a gallery, and sometimes explain it,” says Turpin, recommending many users who package art history into small, understandable segments on social media’s new favourite platform, TikTok. Mary McGillivray, who contextualises art to today, argues “art history is just old memes”, while Evan Hart (@evan. hart) uses their account to frame historical art through a feminist, LGBTQ+ lens. Dane Nakama (@umeboi) approaches understanding art as “visual literacy”, which they say “is the way in which we read images. The only way I can explain it is that we learn how to read poems, we don’t just give someone a play by Shakespeare and expect them to understand it completely. The same goes with art.” For these users, social media is about bringing art history to a younger, online audience and giving them an ‘in’ to art that they “may not have had access to because of class or education stereotypes of fine art, and also just not knowing where to look for understandable information,” says Emma. While exhibitions like the Van Gogh experience could be considered a simplistic effort to “profit from the on-trend ‘Instagrammable’ experiences”, to artists like Emma, it is bringing art to a wider audience and increasing interest in users like McGillivray, Nakama and Hart. They bridge the gap between a social media post and the deeper meaning behind it, opening the high-culture topic of art history to a wider, more egalitarian audience. b

Dating apps: Are we all just becoming options? Endless choice, rejection, ghosting — finding love online can dent young people’s self-esteem Words: Ginebra Rocha


magine: It’s Friday night and your best friend asks you to go to a party with her. You’re not really in the mood, but she really wants you to go out, so you decide to go, because you are a good friend, and staying at home watching a movie is a plan you can make any other day of the week. So, you go, get a drink, loosen up a little, start talking to people and suddenly… there he is. ‘The love of your life’ just entered the scene. You both can’t stop staring at each other. He approaches you. From all the other 20 girls at that party, he can’t stop looking at you. He chooses you. You are also choosing him from any other guy at the party. Everything else just starts falling into place from there. A love story, based on romance and love at first sight, which today remains far from the reality of many young adults living in a cosmopolitan city such as London. Let me introduce you to dating apps — or what my friends like to call: “Dating in London is pretty hard, you know?” As a 22-year-old who started dating at the age of 14, dating apps have never been my thing. Coming from a smaller city such as Barcelona, exposing yourself

on a dating app was deemed as embarrassing or even desperate. I remember when I was told a ”friend of a friend” had seen my brother on Tinder, as if I should feel second-hand embarrassment for whatever my brother was trying to get from dating apps. When I was 19, I moved to London and suddenly everyone was using it. The explanation was simple. How are you going to meet the love of your life, someone who attracts you, in a big city like London? The odds are against you: 18% of people in inner London are aged between 20 to 29, according to a 2020 study by Trust for London. I remember downloading Tinder for the first time and all of a sudden I was exposed to thousands of guys’ profiles. As I started matching quickly, my self-esteem started to boost. I felt liked and desired. Like I had a thousand guys who wanted to go on a date with me. Later that day, I talked to my guy friends, happy about the success I was having on that platform. Honest as always, they hit me with the truth. They were not surprised I was matching with so many guys. They told me they swiped right to any girl who they thought was cute. “You are not special. You’re just a good option,” they told me. But don’t take it from me. Let me introduce you to Ellie:, the hopeless romantic in her 20s who resorted to dating apps just a couple of months ago. Ellie went on a date on Friday night, with this guy she met through Hinge. We’ll call him Ben. Ben invited Ellie to a bar close to his neighbourhood to get to know each other after talking through Hinge for a few days. Although it was a little awkward at first, after a couple drinks they started hitting it off: they talked, they laughed, and they kissed. It was a great date. Keep this detail in mind: Ellie felt a little sick throughout the night, so while she was in the bathroom, a female bartender approached her, and ended up exchanging numbers with her to check if she was feeling better the next morning. Saturday morning, Ben texted Ellie, telling her he had had such a great time with her. He could not wait to see her again. But Ellie could not meet up that evening, because she had a birthday party, so she kindly asked for a rain check to meet up any other day. Ben did not text her back. Later in the evening, the bartender from the night before texted her: ”You won’t believe who’s here… with another date.” The bartender went on to inform Ellie that Ben was on another date with another woman, and how they were talk-

ing, laughing and kissing, just as Ellie had done the previous night with him. How are we supposed to feel special when we are all participating and competing against each other in what seems like a twisted bachelor game? An article published by Counselling Directory called “How dating apps fuel low self-esteem” states: ”The seemingly limitless choices available from dating app platforms make the possibility of rejection more likely as users search for a more perfect match. Greater time can be spent looking for love on these platforms than on deepening a potential individual connection.” And don’t get me started with the feeling that you “might find someone better”. Manuel is a good-looking, 21-year-old guy who frequently uses dating apps, and is used to seeing about five girls at the same time. When he finally chooses who he likes best, he breaks up with her, because “there’s probably someone better and I have gotten bored already”. Last but not least, there’s Isabella who met a guy through Hinge and started meeting up every week for the past three months. But when Christmas break came, he disappeared into thin air. He did not text her or reply to her for the whole holiday. I told her to ask him once he got back to the city what he was looking for, just so that she would be aware of what his intentions were towards her. A friend of mine intervened: ”Don’t tell her that, she will scare him away.” What’s frightening was she was probably right, but when did we become so scared of feelings and commitment? In a world where love has become a mechanism, and we’re just a swipe away from moving on from heartbreak, are we really allowing ourselves to feel? Wasn’t love supposed to make us feel special? Where’s the genuine love of your life who believes you are the most special person in the world? Perhaps you’ve already met, but both of you believed there could be someone better — and swiped them away. b


Theatre is back, but digital access is in danger Theatres moving online was a lockdown revolution, but as they reopen, are marginalised audiences being left behind? Words: Robert Wallace Images: Anthony Robling; Jake Murray; Claire Wood


ichèle Taylor is a disabled artist and the Director for Change at Ramps on the Moon, a consortium company of some of the UK’s most prolific regional theatres that, since its inception in 2016, has championed the presence of deaf and disabled artists and their stories on our nation’s stages. Like many access restricted audience members, Taylor is shut out of the community that she’s a part of. The end of February 2022 saw the British government relax the last remaining Covid restrictions. Whilst many were keen to celebrate a long-last return to ‘normal’ life, for many in our society “what that means is that the world out there is a much more risky place for people who are medically vulnerable,” Taylor says. It’s been almost two years since the global spread of Covid-19 practically paralysed the theatre industry. In a sector that has historically existed on the mass gathering of live audiences, the impact of the pandemic couldn’t be understated or quickly forgotten — and theatres around the country found themselves, and remain, in their most perilous position in modern history. 54

But when the gathering of large groups of people into confined spaces was unthinkable, British theatre took a leap of faith into digital space. For a time, the digital space became the only medium that allowed venues to actively engage with their audiences. From the hasty release of archival recordings in the first weeks of quarantine to the advent of theatre produced over Zoom, the majority of 2020 and 2021 saw the arts embrace online in a way never been seen before, accelerating the creation of a new format for theatre that exists outside our physical stages. Almost unknowingly, digital also led to a vital revolution in accessibility. “It just seemed to me like something really significant was changing,” says Richard Misek, an academic at the University of Kent who is currently undertaking research into digital access to arts and culture. “I think my initial feeling was that just by going online, there’s going to be automatic access and inclusion wins.” In many ways, digital democratised the theatre-going process, and as Misek observes, online has the potential to “overcome all sorts of barriers to access — physical barriers, social cultural barriers, psychological barriers.” Taking theatre out of the confines of its physical spaces and into homes on a wide scale for the first time in history, the arts had the ability to lift constraints that previously marginalised a large proportion of society from physical theatre. In particular, digital theatre brought significant benefits for d/Deaf, disabled and vulnerable audiences, something that sited theatre venues have often been notoriously restrictive. Fast-forward to the end of 2021 and a bleaker picture began to emerge. Following the reopening of physical venues in the summer, research carried out by Misek for the project revealed that 50% of UK theatres who offered streaming shows during lockdown reverted to in-person only in the autumn and winter. Although the benefits of online theatre were clearly shown during the pandemic, the sudden move back to physically-sited and often restricted venues left many audience members feeling

left behind once more. “For many people, digital is the only way that we’re going to engage with theatre. That we have been able to engage with theatre, and that we’re going to be able to engage with theatre for the foreseeable,” says Taylor. Moreover, the digital downfall feels almost wasteful in terms of the development that’s been seen in the format over the past year. The pandemic forced accelerated innovation and creativity into the possibilities of theatre for all, and was making waves on its own terms. Jake Murray, artistic director of the North-East based theatre company Elysium described the move online as “transformative.” The company found success through their award-winning series The Covid-19 Monologues, two volumes of new, short, digital native plays released throughout the pandemic on the company’s YouTube channel. The pieces amassed nearly 10,000 views for the small theatre company, raising their profile in the theatre sphere. “The strength of stage work, that it is live, real, direct and experienced in the moment is also its weakness,” says Murray. “It’s only ever going to reach a limited audience unless you are large scale and on tour or performing in a high-profile venue. A small company like Elysium just doesn’t have that reach. But it does now.” Claire Wood, founder of the Scottish theatre company Production Lines, also made the transition to digital as a result

“The world out there is a much more risky place for people who are medically vulnerable.”

of the pandemic. Her first online production, Shrapnel, which Wood wrote and co-directed, live-streamed to YouTube in November 2020, and explored loneliness through the lens of lockdown. “[Shrapnel] proved to be a bit of a revelation for me as I realised that even though we were all stranded at home, we could still make theatre,” Wood says. “I stumbled into digital theatre, initially assuming it was a poor cousin of the real thing. But our first audience was so appreciative, and having done a live show over multiple nights, it was very clearly live theatre and not some sort of weird wannabe film, that I was keen to see how much you could push it.” Most would agree that exclusivity remains physical theatre’s fatal flaw, and the democratising nature of online work like Shrapnel undoubtedly works in removing these barriers. Wood recounts how “various friends messaged me over the course of the shows telling me about how much they’d enjoyed being able to watch with a glass of wine in hand and their baby asleep in their lap.” As Michèle Taylor states, digital theatre succeeds when it exists on its own merits. “Designers and directors can look at digital as an opportunity to think — not necessarily differently — but more broadly, in new ways, in risky ways, in innovative ways, in ways that are actually a creative invitation rather than an access bolt on, then I think that’s really exciting.” Production Lines’ next productions, Roulette and Prism, were interactive shows performed live over Zoom, and to Wood, endeavoured to be “as close to a ‘choose your own adventure’ book as you can get in the on-screen theatre.” The productions, through shared interaction and experience, attempted to “create that sense of a shared experience that is so fundamental to live theatre. I’m really keen to do more to explore how digital theatre can serve as a bridge.” The success of companies like Elysium and Production Lines brilliantly captures the scope of what digital theatre can be when it’s properly embraced, and not, as Taylor says, “a second hand experience of the live show.” This was the core belief that also shaped Ramps on the Moon’s production

of Oliver Twist. Physically shut down by the first lockdown in March 2020, the company remounted the production in an online version at the end of 2020. As with all their productions, Ramps on the Moon put together a company made up largely of d/Deaf and disabled actors, with accessibility tools such as BSL (British Sign Language), captions and audio descriptions woven into the di-

offerings. When lockdown facilitated the acceleration of digital theatre, companies have. As Taylor points out, “clearly shown that they’ve got the tools,” so now it’s a question of how and whether they can be implemented. Misek is confident for the future of digital: “The plus side is exactly what the minus side is: half of all theatres have dropped digital programming, but half of all theatres have kept doing it. I mean, before March 2020, this was such a niche activity. It was like the National Theatre, and maybe ten of us in the country were doing it. And now there’s scores doing it.” Misek’s research has him confident that the performing arts world see this as an area of exploration, but that “these things take time. Building digital infrastructure is about a ten to fifteen-year project to figure out what works; to build

rection and design aesthetics of the show. “That’s the only way in which they’re going to work as a genuine experience,” says Taylor. “Most of the time, what is offered is an accessible journey into a non-accessible show. And that’s not what Ramps on the Moon is about. The filmed version of Oliver Twist does exactly the same thing. It’s not a filmed version of the show. We’re making a film. A digital Oliver Twist.” Although many argue that digital cannot truly replace the medium of live theatre, it’s undoubtedly provided a significant and worthwhile option. And option is really the key word here. Of course, the digital offer is not a blanket fix for solving theatre’s access problems, as Taylor tells us, “not all disabled people find accessing the digital offer easy.” But just as theatres regularly offer things like relaxed performances, live BSL interpretations, audio description and captioned performances, digital implemented properly can work as yet another tool in enhancing their accessibility

loyal audiences; to increase audiences in cultural sectors that haven’t traditionally engaged with art; to make it economically sustainable. It’s an iterative process.” As evidenced in a 2011 report by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, there is “significant association between cultural engagement and subjective happiness”, and the access benefits of digital work cannot and should not be ignored. Ramps on the Moon, Production Lines and Elysium have all, for various reasons, made a commitment to embracing digital theatre. On their commitment to digital theatre’s future, Taylor says: “Digital will be a part of the palette of creative tools that directors and designers and writers and theatre makers have at their disposal. It has to be. Otherwise we’re going backwards and we’re ignoring all the lessons that we’ve learned over the last two years. That would be a dreadful shame.” Ramps on the Moon’s filmed version of Oliver Twist is now streaming on National Theatre at Home. Elysium Theatre’s The Covid Monologues Vol. 3 will be released this summer. b 55

The Egyptian photographer making the world clearer Farida Al Bustani shares the journey of her art and her life Words: Zeina Saleh Images: Courtesy of Farida Al Bustani


aneuvering her lens all around Egypt, Farida Al Bustani’s photography holds a visual integrity that will consistently take your breath away with her satisfyingly minimalistic approach, yet striking manipulation of her lens. The 22-year-old Egyptian’s pictures never fail to instil utmost tranquillity in you while making you question how and why you are attracted to a peach or a pomegranate. 56

Her viewfinder paves the way for unique forms and colours; from beachy blues to sandy hues to transport you to the time and place the photograph was taken. Bustani’s drive to capture beautiful things was all thanks to a cabinet in her house that had an untouched DSLR in it, that was patiently waiting for Farida to come and pick it up. “I remember, it was a Saturday morning, and I was free, so why not just take it out. I was curious. So, I called a friend and asked them to model for me. I just remember the feeling I got when I saw the results. Did I really do that? From there I knew I found my passion and I haven’t stopped since.” Born and raised in Gouna, Farida’s style was heavily influenced by her surroundings. Her visual identity combines her love for the work of photojournalist Steve McCurry, and National Geographic photographer John Stanmeyer and Gouna’s scenic architectural silhouettes. “Living in Gouna helped me find my style. In Gouna you’ll find a very specific kind of architecture, and colours. I saw the same architecture all around this small town, and eventually I found this visual identity that I really did not search for, but just developed through where I lived and what I see everyday. “What my eyes got used to, you know. My criteria would be pastel colours, architecture, minimalism. My brain would automatically create art that revolves around what I know.” Through her ongoing adventurous excursions around Egypt, her lens captures hidden gems and images that will leave Farida with a frequently asked question when it comes to the reality of her images: is this real? As she continues to explore the endless possibilities of what a camera can do, Farida wishes to always provide the

viewer with a new perspective; she wants to show you that beauty belongs everywhere, you just have to look close enough. So, her response to that question is: “When people ask me if my photos are real, I just take them there and say: here you go. This is the building I took a picture of. You may see a huge building but I see a window, I see the stairs on the roof. “People often see the bigger picture, but if you look closely and zoom in, that’s what I’m here for. To show you these little things that make you wonder, look closely and you’ll find something that’s so beautiful that could possibly change your day for the better. Once you focus on the little things, you’ll start to feel more grateful and that’s what I’m trying to get people to see.” In 2021, Farida showcased her work in a dream-like solo exhibition in Gouna. The exhibition titled Khayal (which translates as Imagination), puts you in a meditative state, telling you to “sit back, relax, and dream”, says Farida. “Dreams are very close to my heart. They are more real than the reality itself. After this really hard year, I just wanted people to take a break from a harsh world and make them feel like they’re walking on clouds,” she said. “Being a photographer makes me really proud. I’m just so excited to show [my art to] my kids and my grandkids. You take a photograph and you keep it safe, and you’ll have it for the rest of your life, that’s what’s so beautiful about what I do,” Farida passionately explains. Her photographic pursuits are derived from a place filled with love for everything around her. Farida’s artistic intention goes beyond her aesthetically pleasing images, she wants to remind you to adjust your viewfinder and focus on the beauty surrounding you. Nonetheless, here’s a thank you to the cabinet that held a DSLR that ignited Farida’s photographic journey. b

Selling The Big Issue How have the magazine’s vendors fared during lockdown? Words Lillie Butler Image: Alan Jamieson/flickr


ow many people can hold their hands up and say they haven’t walked past a The Big Issue vendor and made a distinct effort not to make eye contact? Maybe you haven’t had any cash in your pocket, perhaps you view the sellers as beggars, or maybe it just seems too much hassle to buy something you may never read and would only buy to salvage some personal guilt. The Big Issue was originally founded by two friends, John Bird and Gordon Roddick, in 1991. They were concerned by the increase in homeless people and were set up to fight rough sleeping and poverty. Roddick was the husband of the founder of The Body Shop, Anita Roddick, who provided the initial $50,000 (£38,030) of start-up capital. Initially, the magazine was published monthly, but in 1993 it started to be rolled out weekly. To qualify as a The Big Issue vendor, you must fall under one of several categories: homeless, almost homeless, in vulnerable housing, or socially disadvantaged in some way, such as not speaking English or struggling with addiction. To sell the magazine, you do not have to have ID, a bank account, or proof of address. Vendors pay £1.50 per copy and sell for £3; the profit is theirs to keep. This initiative aims to create the opportunity for each vendor to be self-employed and become entrepreneurial in their own right. The magazine’s circulation is currently around 83,000 copies per week. Despite this, most people don’t even know what the publication’s content is. There is a wide range of material which tries to appeal to a diverse number of people: from celebrity interviews, reviews, latest news and the real stories behind some of the The Big Issue sellers themselves. When the magazine was first launched in 1991, almost 90% of all sellers were homeless; six years later, most of the vendors were in some sort of housing,

albeit temporary. But what is the demographic of The Big Issue vendors? Since 2004 many European countries joined the EU and were allowed to come and work in the UK as self-employed migrants. Many people came over from Romania and Bulgaria and made up a vast proportion of vendors. Sadly a vast proportion of rough sleepers. Artefact spoke to mother and daughter Carol and Sam Carter, who were visiting London for the day, and asked if they had ever purchased a copy of The Big Issue. “I have bought a few copies over the years,” said Carol. “Mainly as I feel guilty if I just walk past, and to be honest, I found the contents a lot more interesting than I assumed it would be.” Sam admitted to feeling very slightly guilty at never having bought a copy and sometimes “doing the avoiding eye contact trick.” But, what of The Big Issue vendors during the pandemic? Where did they go? What support did they receive? For the first time in its history, Big Issue could not be sold in 2020 due to UK lockdown regulations as they were non-essential retailers. Everyone was forced off the streets, and footfall dropped to zero in towns and cities. The average weekly sale of The Big Issue totalled £78,000 pre-pandemic; this was all but wiped out from March 2020. Of the 1,700 regular The Big Issue vendors, over 1,000 of the most vulnerable were supported by The Big Issue Foundation, both financially and in the form of supermarket vouchers. Many people are unaware that there is a The Big Issue Foundation. This is an independently funded charity that works with vendors, exclusively enabling them the support to rebuild their lives. During the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, thousands of phone calls were made to vendors to discuss varying needs and methods of support and to offer advice. Of the phone calls made,

over half of the vendors shared concerns about their mental health and lack of finances, and instability. Loneliness was a particular concern. The Big Issue charity has a significant focus on boosting self-esteem, and this was of paramount importance during the pandemic. The foundation gains funding via corporate sponsorship, fundraising events, and through individual gifts. Alina, originally from Romania, is a The Big Issue vendor based in semi-rural Buckinghamshire who has sold her magazine on the same spot for several years. “I could say I was lucky during the lockdown. I received support and help with my bills and food. But when I came back to the streets, there were very few people, and I felt very isolated.” Alina says she missed the familiar faces that often stopped just for a chat, but this is now getting back to a bit more normality. However, sales have not recovered to pre-pandemic levels due to continued government restrictions. One of her main problems has been that people had stopped carrying cash. Many vendors have requested card readers, but Alina says she is still waiting for hers. As the lockdown slowly lifted, sellers were equipped with PPE, masks, wipes, and, very importantly, the introduction of many card readers, enabling many vendors to go cashless and thus eliminating the need for handling cash. The sellers were again back on the streets selling their magazines, albeit to a depleted audience. With this in mind, The Big Issue launched an appeal to try and increase funding to cover reduced sales. So, next time you walk past a vendor, even if you don’t buy, make eye contact, say hello — it will always be welcome. b You can find out more about the magazine and the foundation at the Big Issue website. 57


he climate crisis is continuing to worsen with little to no prospect of change from global brands or those in positions to implement the changes the world needs to see. Many fashion retail companies have sustainability programmes in place that every employee should follow, and the company is responsible for implementing. However, this is not always the case, as from the outside, companies such as Urban Outfitters, H&M, Jack Wills, ASOS and Pretty Little Thing (PLT), may look as though they are contributing to the efforts in saving the planet, but in reality, they are not acting upon their promises. “The amount of plastic packaging and cardboard even used in deliveries is appalling,” one high street retail employee, Li-Na Vincent, told Artefact. “For example, one small product is often shipped in an unnecessarily large box or items are individually wrapped in bubble wrap and then in another plastic pouch. It’s excessive and wasteful. Companies should change this, and globally this could save so many materials and make an impact on the climate crisis.” From my personal fashion retail experience, there are many policies that are not upheld when it comes to sustainability and environmental aid. For example, plastic packagings are labelled as recyclable, but, they are often just thrown into the normal waste bins, and therefore cannot be recycled into new packaging. There is also the factor of carbon emissions from the deliveries themselves. The list is endless and starts from the

Fashion retail: Is it really sustainable? We investigate the inner workings of the fashion retail industry and the impact it’s having on the climate crisis Words: Charlotte Griffin Images: Becca McHaffie/Unsplash 58

very moment the first piece of material is picked, right up until the customer decides they no longer want the product and throws it away rather than up-cycling or donating it to a charity shop. Fast fashion has taken over the fashion industry in recent years. Especially during the pandemic, it became so easy to click a couple of buttons and have new clothes at your door within hours. ASOS, PLT and Boohoo are global companies that claim to have programmes in place to help reuse and recycle clothing. While Boohoo has started to label its products as “Ready For The Future”, only a small selection of clothing can have this tagline as not all products are made in a sustainable way. PLT and Boohoo are using the reGAIN app to encourage their consumers to recycle old clothes and in return get discounts off their next shop. While this initiative is getting the everyday shopper to think about what happens to their clothes, it is encouraging them to buy more, which takes the issue full circle. As these fast fashion companies make their 2030 pledges of what they want to achieve over the next decade, global brands like Levi’s have already taken that leap into better sourcing of materials and more efficient ways of creating, producing, and distributing products. Levi’s is a household name and one that will stick around for a while to come. “There’s no hiding it: The apparel industry has a tremendous impact on the environment. As a brand that plays a role in this, it’s on us to do everything we can to create the styles you love but do so in a way that still respects our planet,” says the brand’s website. “It’s an approach best summed by our mantra: Buy better. Wear longer. We’ll make products that are sourced in better ways, from better materials, crafted at the highest quality and made to be extremely durable. And you? Just keep

wearing the products you love for as long as possible.” The Fashion Industry Charter for Climate Action was created in 2018 to help fashion retail “reach climate neutrality by 2050.” At the most recent COP26 Convention, this charter was presented in a discussion of how to get the fashion retail industry to a net zero future. 166 brands, manufacturers, retailers, tech companies and supporting organisations are members: “The charter’s overall goal and mission is to drive the fashion industry to net zero greenhouse gas emissions no later than 2050 in line with keeping global warming below 1.5°C.” Fashion trends are constantly changing and while most fashion companies are reliving the 1990s and noughties, the vintage and charity shops are thriving as teens are shopping Y2K fashion. Even though purchasing second-hand clothing is seen as a step in the right direction towards making clothing more sustainable, it is yet another trend, meaning when the next best thing comes along, everyone will likely return to buying new and the cycle will continue. “Vintage wear is just the latest trend and sooner or later people will want new clothes again,” Chris Abad, stock room manager for a high street retailer, told us. However, they are not always as successful as they hope to be. For example, Urban Outfitters include the recycling properties of the plastics used on all items as well as creating 100% recyclable, non-woven polypropylene shopping bags for their customers to use and reuse. Most high street retailers also either offer their customers paper bags to be recycled later or charge for plastic bags. All aspects of everyday life have some sort of bearing on the climate crisis, but when industries as large and impactful as fashion retail can make small changes to help keep the crisis under control, why shouldn’t they? b

Analogue appeal Film photography remains popular in the digital age Author: Lillie Butler Images: Jakob Owens/Unsplash


n the past five years, there has been a sudden influx of analogue cameras and film photography. This old-school kind of photography was predicted to slowly die-out since the introduction of digital technology, just like other analogue devices such as cassette tapes, VHS and typewriters. It would make sense for it to follow the same path, mainly because digital photography is a format that provides more reliable results, clearer pictures and a faster turnover time. However, much like the reintroduction of vinyl and record players, film photography is making a comeback. Why? Olivia Rose, a film photographer and London College of Fashion graduate, explains why she’s drawn to film photography. “Initially it was about yearning for a point of difference from my peers at university. I’m 35, so 15 or so years ago, when I attended LCF to do Fashion Photography, it

was at the peak of the digital revolution.” “All I saw around me were people shooting thin white models on fancy (and expensive) digital cameras, in front of studio backdrops. And I was so bored of the retouched aesthetic.” Ironically, second-hand film cameras from a bygone era now sell for more than brand new digital cameras, making the art form an expensive venture. So why has Olivia stuck to it? “Well, partly because it’s the only way I know how to shoot and partly because I am in love with the romance of it — the waiting, the alchemy of the processes and the fact that going to a lab is now an invaluable part of my personal practice.” Whilst the art of film photography is mainly used recreationally as a hobby; there are more and more professional photographers like Olivia Rose, who solely use film or offer a film photography option to their clients, the price, dedication, and effort involved making it appear an exclusive venture. So what are the significant differences between film and digital photography? “The very obvious one which is the biggest turn-off for me, is PIXELS. Did you know that if you overexpose in a digital shot, you literally start to lose information in the pixels? They are tricky, finickety things, and I have spent a lot of years with the motto ‘I am allergic to pixels,’ and I’m sticking to it,” says Olivia. “When you shoot on film, you are innately aware of a cost per shutter release, which inherently makes you more specific when it comes to your framing. So you have fewer images with which to create the final image. I find this stops film photographers from overshooting in a way it’s so, so easy to get snap-happy on a digital camera.”

Even those who opt for cheaper disposable versions and take their chances have to ensure their set up is exactly how they want to not waste any photos. Whilst the extra effort and unreliability of film photography may make it seem like a pointless exercise to some, maybe that is the attraction in itself. To be able to feel like there is a part of yourself going into a project, to be able to learn from mistakes and try again: the satisfaction that comes with a good end result and the anticipation of waiting for that said result. The photographer has to be present and work to ensure that the end result is fruitful; they have to control all aspects of creating the images. Passionate hobbyist Jack Andrews explained this concept further: “Film photography is my escape from a hectic life. You’ve got to be fully present to get the best results. There is no room to think about anything else.” When asked about why he was drawn to photography, he replied: “It just felt easy, I didn’t have to learn before, I just picked up the camera and learned by trying it out.” To some, film photography may seem like an indie trend, something that will fade into the background once more when the hype dies down. However, photography purist Olivia Rose disagrees: “SACRILEGE! Film photography is NOT the trend; digital is. Film photography is the birth of photography as a medium, the purest art form. Digital is a trend that has taken hold.” So what does this mean? Should we all put down our iPhone cameras and throw out our digital cameras? Probably not — but for the purists who crave an authentic experience film photography is definitely the way to go. b


Breaking down barriers Should sign language be taught in schools? Words: Charlotte Griffin Image: Rodnae Productions/Pexels


e, as a society, communicate in a multitude of forms on a daily basis: face-to-face interaction, texts, phone calls. Yet these forms of communication are easy and second nature. For those with hearing difficulties, non-verbal speakers and those in the deaf community, faceto-face communication with the hearing community becomes a daily challenge. From the age of five, I remember being introduced to the French language and continually throughout my primary and secondary education, modern foreign languages were a strong part of the curriculum. This begs the question, why was British Sign Language (BSL) not incorporated into the curriculum as it is a native tongue to 11 million people in the UK. When this question was posed in Parliament in 2018, the response it was met with was that “BSL was recognised as a language in its own right by the UK government in 2003. While it is not a mandatory part of the curriculum, schools are free to teach it if they choose to do so”. Even though the language has been recognised since 2003, it does not hold any legal status and therefore a whole community is being alienated, as the lan60

guage does not have to be facilitated for within everyday life, in workplaces, in the media or in schools. “Being deaf is a joy, not something to pity. It comes with its own culture, language, and community — one which is full of talent and experiences — so it’s time to stop applying a negative lens to the fact we can’t hear, and work with us,” says Liam O’Dell. “Work with us in the employment sense, but also to break down barriers and attitudes in society, as it’s there where a lot of the inaccessibility lies.” Most people we spoke to agreed that if the wider population had a basic understanding of sign language it would help overall communication and that BSL should become a compulsory part of education. “Sign language should be compulsory, at least the basics. We should create a society where we are able to cater for everyone’s needs and if we can afford to learn a foreign language, I do not think it’s too much to ask to learn BSL,” Faiza Hossain, a customer service employee told us. Lately, there have been many technological advancements to make communication slightly more accessible for everyone, such as apps that can be used as an aid alongside sign language lessons. With the technical world we now live in, these learning tools in your pocket can be seen as a step in the right direction. Liam O’Dell, deaf and disabled journalist, spoke to Artefact about his experiences as a member of the deaf community. What is your story? I was about 13 or 15 when I was told I might benefit from hearing aids, which came as a bit of a shock. I didn’t have many friends in the deaf community at the time, but I was fortunate enough to be invited onto the Youth Advisory Board of the National Deaf Children’s Society, which introduced me to 17 other deaf young people, all with different experiences and communication methods — who have now become friends for life. I also ended up meeting up with people from Access Bedford, a deaf club local to me. I believe it was through National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) that I heard about The Limping Chicken, which is a deaf news website. I wrote a couple of articles with them to begin with, before I was offered more regular freelance work writing content for the site. In 2020, this freelance work snowballed and two years later, I am now at the point where — having previously been in full-time employment — I am working as a fulltime freelancer for multiple organisations. These are The Limping Chicken, Metro, Indy100 and The Independent.

Do you find that your communication with hearing people is limited due to the lack of teaching other forms of communication such as BSL? How does this affect your day-to-day life? While I communicate orally and only know a limited amount of BSL, I know that for those who do use sign language, hearing people knowing a few basic signs to communicate in noisy and inaccessible environments can help massively. This has been highlighted a lot during the current pandemic with the use of face masks, with deaf people pointing out other communication methods like gestures, BSL and writing things down. In my case, however, it’s really an issue around patience which poses a problem for me. We’re in such a fast-moving world that after asking someone to repeat something a few times, we’re still met with the throwaway responses of ‘never mind’ or ‘it doesn’t matter’, dismissing us from the conversation. If it’s not that, then it’s people asking us if we can lipread in lieu of other measures being put in place, forgetting that only 30-40% of speech can be accurately read on the lips, it’s guesswork and it’s incredibly exhausting. Understanding and learning the many different communication needs of deaf people can help hearing people adapt their conversations to include us. Do you think that BSL should be compulsory in primary and secondary education and why? I think everyone should be encouraged to learn some British Sign Language (BSL), and it could certainly be made compulsory at primary school level, but I feel there should be an element of choice in later years. It’s why I’m a big supporter of the campaign by deaf teenager Daniel Jillings to introduce a BSL GCSE into schools for those who wish to take it. Subject content is set to go out to consultation later this year. How do you think the Hearing community should tackle the stigma they have created surrounding the deaf community? What do you recommend can be done to initiate change? Listen to us and properly uplift our voices. We’re still being dismissed as a community by hearing people who think they know our lives better than those with actual, lived experiences. When the UK Government was taken to court for not providing a BSL interpreter for their Covid data briefings — a case they ended up losing — their lawyer decided to question a deaf woman’s ability to read subtitles, which are not an adequate replacement for BSL interpretation. When I’ve pointed out to hearing Instagram creators why teaching sign language and deaf awareness when they

are not qualified to do so and lack the relevant experience, I’ve been blocked and ignored. We live in an impatient world these days, and some hearing people are not taking the time to repeat themselves when asked to by deaf people, or listen to us when there are things they can do to better accommodate us. The proposed BSL GCSE that Liam mentions above is currently in the works and has been championed by 13 year old, Daniel Jillings, as he would not be able to complete a GCSE in his first language. This would be the case for thousands of children and thanks to Daniel’s resilience on this issue, the BSL GCSE should begin to be rolled out in 2022, allowing for a multitude of the younger generation to become well-versed in BSL and for many to finally have a qualification in their first language. b

Find out more about BSL Learning Apps on the NDCS website 61

And breathe… Could meditation change your life? Words: Lillie Butler Image: S Migaj/Unsplash


ot long ago, when someone mentioned meditation, thoughts of middle-aged hippies or Buddhist monks may have sprung to mind. Fast forward, and it is now an integral part of a daily routine for many people. But what exactly is meditation? Maybe you view it as sitting cross-legged on the floor, lighting an incense stick, while keeping your eyes tightly shut for hours on end whilst chanting? Meditation is calming your mind using techniques that lead to more focused attention and an increased state of awareness. As well as instilling a sense of calmness, meditation is used to develop positivity and concentration along with a feeling of mental clarity. This ancient practice was originally used in Buddhism and other religions to reach spiritual enlightenment. But now, it is used mainly to promote a sense of wellbeing and calmness. You may be familiar with the phrase “just be” — that is indeed what meditation is; ‘just being’ or ‘being in the present moment’. One of the main misconceptions of meditation is that you have to sit and actively not think about anything, clear your mind of all thoughts, and not let anything invade that space. In fact, meditation is more about allowing thoughts to enter your mind without getting too hung up on them. A good analogy is that the thought could be written on a cloud. You can see it is there, but it passes way overhead without bothering you. There are seven different types of meditation. These include mindfulness, meditation which is just about being in the moment. Many people practice this form of meditation as it can be quick and done pretty much anywhere. Many new apps allow you to be mindful for even a free minute a day. You can be mindful at any point — it may be brushing your 62

teeth or even doing the washing up or on the daily commute. Transcendental meditation involves a mantra — maybe a word or a sound that is repeated over and over. This practice lasts a little longer and can take 15 minutes daily. Then there's guided meditation: this is exactly as it sounds, and is typically led by a teacher or via an app and may include imagery and mental pictures that bring a sense of relaxation. Vipassana meditation is slightly more intense and is a practice that is customarily learned via an experienced teacher. It involves being very aware of the physical sensations in the body and making a connection with these and your mind. There are several strict rules involved in learning this practice, so it is not for the faint-hearted! Another type of meditation is metta meditation. This can also be known as loving meditation. This involves directing positive thoughts, love, and kindness towards others. It can start with affirmations of love towards yourself and then move on to the thoughts being focused on others, e.g., a family member. Chakra meditation is centred on the chakras within the body. There are seven chakras that are a source of energy and power. This practice involves focussing on each chakra and relaxing and balancing each one. Many practitioners advocate using a colour for each chakra to really focus on each one in turn. Lastly, there is yoga meditation which many people are familiar with. This involves moving the body into different postures while maintaining a regulated breathing pattern. Meditation is very individual, and one style will not suit all. There has been an enormous uptick in the number of people using mindfulness during the pandemic and lockdowns to combat stress and anxiety. There is a long history of

using meditation to improve health as it works on your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates blood pressure, breathing, and heart rate. Research has shown that meditation has a positive impact on cardiovascular health. It decreases stress and anxiety and subsequently reduces the risk of stroke or heart attack. As well as being good for your physical health, there have also been some initial findings that when practiced regularly over a continued time frame, mindfulness meditation may benefit cognitive function and quite possibly increase grey matter within the brain. Meditation is also used to ease anxiety or depression and has been recommended by the NHS as a way to naturally combat these issues. This has also become increasingly popular with men. Janice Gill, a yoga teacher in Watford, says she has seen a vast increase in the number of men attending her classes. “Years ago, a man would have been a very rare sight in my classes. Now they are beginning to appreciate the benefits of whole body and mind exercise, and I get loads of men in every class. Many could quite possibly have been guilty of pounding away on a treadmill for hours to improve their physical fitness, but I think now they are realising the huge benefits of a healthy mind as well.” Janice advocates doing any type of mindfulness on a regular basis: “As with exercise, the more you do it, the more benefits you will see. I get a lot of people who try one or two classes and expect dramatic results, but I try to explain that done regularly, it will give you a whole new level of fitness.” Whether you grab two minutes on the train or attend a weekend workshop, there seems to be a type of meditation for all that will enhance and improve your wellbeing. b


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