3 Arts Kate Romain 7 Film Willa Hope + Louis Pigeon-owen 10 Fashion Emily Claridge 15 Creative Writing Hugo Douglas-Deane 19 Gaming Kirsty McAlpine 23 Television Denise Koblenz 27 Music Alice Mortimer + Lois Young Art And design assistant: Emily Mildren
This weekâ€™s Cover:
Emily Mildren and Hugo Douglas-Deane
editorial Editors-in-chief Dougie dodds + niamh Jones
deputy editor Melissa Haggar t’s starting to get cold! Talk about Jack Frost knocking at your door, he’s kicked down your door, come inside and taken your family hostage. Other than getting frost bite, a lot has happened this last week. The most exciting being our creative writing supplement. Much like a soppy award night I just wanted to thank Hugo and Niamh for their amazing help in producing what could possibly be the sexiest supplement ever. A lot of work was put in, and we hope you enjoy it. <3
wes, it’s December. As I sit in the media office, listening to Nickleback on full volume, I find myself reflecting on the past few months, like the gurus of old. Glutted on too much power, Dougie and I have produced such masterpieces as the Obama collage of last month, the wonderful Greek statue break dancing on the back of last issue and countless other great works. However, nothing compares to the awesomeness of our VENUE team. I’m so bloody proud of everything we’ve achieved together, so here’s to an epic 2017. Because let’s be honest, aside from VENUE, fuck 2016. Niamh
s we slowly begin our descent into the wintery December month, it would be customary to make some sort of festive pun, but considering we’re reaching the end of term and we’re all exhausted, perhaps just a simple ‘ho ho ho’ will suffice from me. Yes, we’re now so close to Christmas and the good ol’ New Year that you can practically see it in the air – and all over the various shop windows as stores try and frantically sell us their stuff of varying quality. But hey, whilst normally you’d have to buy your cherished festive trinkets, we’ve got a glittery, seasonally appropriate issue of VENUE for you and it’s free. Consider this your first ‘real gift’. No, advent calendar chocolates don’t count, and we know how many you’ve eaten already. Happy Holidays!
‘Don’t shit where you eat.’ As we draw to the end of a rather cruddy year, we at VENUE wanted to share some little nuggets of wisdom with you. Things we’ve learnt over the course of the year, things we wish we’d known sooner. Deep stuff.
‘Vagina. Clitoris. Vulva’ Why is it that the penises in Watch Dogs 2 get to stay, but the vulvas have to go? Is it because they can only be seen whilst looking up the skirt of a dead prostitute in crotchless panties? Find out more about the controversy.
So what did you choose to be the best album of 2016? You’ve voted in droves, and the results are in. With a tight battle from the likes of Frank Ocean and the legendary David Bowie, who gets the crown for VENUE’s album of the year?
another year, another advert why the increasing popularity of christmas commercials isn’t a bad thing
Judith howe With the arrival of the much awaited Christmas advert season, along comes the familiar slew of criticism too. We all know that the Christmas adverts’ genius has a bottom line: profit. Yet, just because they are being created to sell a brand, is it right to suggest these adverts are not art? I’d argue no. Maybe this stems from my own broad approach to the definition of art, or maybe it’s because I love this time of year and all of the over-dramatic, tacky media that comes with it. I’d even argue that Love Actually is a piece of artistic genius (seriously, think about it!). Early Christmas adverts do have strong traits of the ‘tastelessness’ that the art world often attaches to anything new and popular among the general public,
but as time goes on and the Christmas advert genre becomes more refined, this criticism must simply fade away. The main issue many find with Christmas adverts as an art form is the conflict of interest caused by their main aim being to sell Tesco, or Amazon, or whichever company it may be. However, it’s worth considering that these adverts are moving away from even selling the shop itself. Take this year’s Sainsbury’s ‘The Greatest Gift’ advert. With a soundtrack by James Cordon, a stressed father is shown rushing around, struggling to accomplish all of the different tasks required of him in the holiday season. The advert finishes with the message
‘the greatest gift that I can give is me’, without a Sainsbury’s bag in sight. This can be viewed more as a short film than an advert, and although the message may be oversimplified and, to some, sickly sweet, the animation, music and skill in execution deserve proper appreciation. In the age of the internet, the artistic content we know and love is becoming more and more condensed as our attention spans do. You can fight against Christmas ads as a form of entertainment as a symptomatic of this change, or you can accept them in all their glittery christmas glory. For me, the clincher is the message they portray. My favourite this year is Amazon advert, in which
an Imam and a Priest are shown to be friends, and each purchases knee pads for the other in order to be comfortable while praying. 2016 has been a dark year for tolerance and understanding, yet this understated advert allows a glimmer of hope that in normal everyday life, acceptance still reigns. And what better place to look for hope than in art? Christmas adverts may be cheesy and created by by brands, but they have merit; they’re moving away from shifting products, and towards important message about what it means to be human, which is what art means to me. It is a new, ever evolving, unsubtle, for-the-masses kind of art. But art nonetheless.
cecilia ahern: the gift beth papworth Cecelia Ahern’s novel The Gift is a Christmas treat for all. Written by the author of PS I love you, this magical, fable-like novel is set in modern day Ireland, and is a gripping read. Lou Suffern is a successful executive annoyed that he spends too much time working in the office rather than with his doting wife and two children. The novel follows Lou has he struggles with the clock, always needing to be in two places at once.
a festive read for this christmas
The chapters are fast paced and easy to read. Shocking moments are revisited and the emotional scenes are tear jerking. Ahern builds up the suspense rather dramatically and with a high level of intrigue and mystery that keeps you turning those pages. The Gift is about the importance of family; readers should not be derailed by the weird happenings and strange occurrences of Lou’s life. Ahern’s moral message
becomes abundantly clear that Christmas is a time for forgiveness and to be with your family. Ahern accomplishes her mission of writing both a moral novel and a Christmas tale. The intended message is clear: there is nothing more valuable than time. The gift ultimately addresses real life issues and all of the characters are so realistic and believable. It was enough for me to shed a small tear. I’m just a big softie!
Illustration credits to Anthony Simpson’s blog (bottom) and Public Doman Pictures (top)
top tips on staying inspired when life gets hectic dan box
well as some sort of writing your writing and push it into dreaming of, there’s no Sans ink and paper: this as well as in what people Being previously trained a “film”. This medium of Christmas. The most implement, allows you to a new direction. reason whatsoever why is what my sketchbook looks conventionally consider as in filmmaking, I had grown art allowed for the pseudobeautiful time of the year, make fantastic use of those you can’t sketch out your like. The screenshots you “art”. I feel almost like a extremely jaded and instantaneous emotional/ the time where families get odd five minutes you can magnificent idea. A journal see here are a manifestion fraud, someone who frustrated intellectual expression I so together and reconnect. steal. Whether it’s merely dedicated to planning out of mixed media. This has never had real remove yourself by the badly wanted and needed. It But for the creative ones slamming out a haiku, a your art is an excellent way includes homemade gifs, disciplinary training h e a v y might seem coarse to some, among us, this season can quick doodle, or a brief of making sure that you internet gifs, video, audio, as an “artist”. d i s c i p l i n e but I always treasure raw and be hell on earth. Everyone character outline in front of still feel in control of your music, stock images, Furthermore, this that lies in fresh personal expression is competing for your another tedious Christmas Going for quick a walk in creativity. performance and Photoshop is the internet and this is the act of filmmaking. One in art. It also interests me attention and your company special, keeping a pen and the fresh air is a sure-fire designs that, when put what some may call “post- could open their sketchbook that this parallels to the in a manner which can only paper to hand will let you way to find rather random together as individual art net art”. Anybody could and sketch out a internet be described as akin to the capture these little creative inspiration for your art, pieces, are presented on log onto Newhive, extract scenery before pick your times culture Hunger Games. To ensure treasures. especially if you intend to an online platform called some stock images and them. But one of today, you become the victor of go off the beaten track. “Newhive”. pre-packaged icons of cannot simply pick w h e r e the battle royale with your Take your camera-phone “aesthetics”, up their camera, film some everything has been made family this holiday season, with you, and find some Last but by no means least, if Part of my find inspiration mash it up footage according to their convenient, commodified Concrete Arts has compiled quirky landscapes to take you really want to continue insecurity in online c o n v e n i e n t l y intuition and inclinations, and ubiqitous. With respects some awesome tips on how some snaps of, or some being at your creative best calling myself an on their online then call whatever to that, such forms of art to keep your creative juices interesting snippets of over the Christmas period, “artist” lies in my lack of canvas and call it “art”. disconnected shots that are do seem like a legitimate, flowing strong. Browsing www.tvtropes.org conversations to note down. then you’ve got to clear traditional artistic skills, lying in their memory card satirical retrospective. This is my number one method some time to do so. Late for defeating writer’s evenings are generally the notebooks are key block. It’s like Wikipedia best time to set aside, as plan your ideas but for every recurrent us students are rather used literary theme and device to late nights and unnatural Purchasing and carrying used from video games and sleeping patterns, and the around one of those little films to literature and even Even if you don’t have the rest of the family will be pocket sized notebooks real life. It’s an amazing time to actually create the asleep or in front of the TV. like a comfort blanket, as resource to use to kick start painting or poem you’re
plan your ideas
Photograph by Kate Romain
lights, camera, politics
why trump should accept the theatre as a valid form of political expression Bobbi sleafer-nunes Earlier last week, the infamous Donald Trump took to Twitter to use the oh-sopowerful 140 characters to defend Vice-President Mike Pence against the Broadway cast of Hamilton. The cast’s lead spoke up about how they feel inclusivity and equality for all is fundamental, not only in the theatre, but in the wider society too. The Vice President was booed (as well as occasionally applauded). Pence left before the cast began talking, but it is reported he waited in the hallway to listen to the speech. On hearing about this, Trump ordered the cast to ‘apologise’, insinuating that they damaged the status of the theatre acting as a ‘safe and special place’. Trump claimed that the cast’s speech on equality and inclusivity ‘should not have happen’. But it should happen. Indeed, Trump is correct in thinking that the theatre should be a safe environment. And indeed, the cast felt safe enough to speak freely, and it is rare for those groups to exercise that free speech directly to those that make them feel unsafe. In a country that is so bound up with gun crime and political upheaval, why should the theatre
suspend disbelief so far as to ignore what is happening in the current public sphere? Trump uses free speech to effectively steer political narratives, so it is both ironic and unfair to impeach the silence of others, especially when their purpose on stage is to tell a story of life. ‘Hamilton’, winner of 11 Tony Awards, centres around the life of Alexander Hamilton, the first United States Secretary of the Treasury and one of America’s ‘founding fathers’ as re-enacted by a nonCaucasian cast, using rap and hip-hop to tell his story. The fact that the play focuses around political conversation almost forces a comment to be made. If anything, Pence should have expected it in a place where the arts are allowed to express whatever they please. Trump isn’t the only one who has made comments on the dislike of political theatre. Playwright
Ronald Harwood reveals that he has ‘stopped going to the theatre’ because it is ‘too political’. Adding to this, Harwood claims that a woman playing male Shakespeare roles is ‘political casting’. He says: ‘I don’t believe in cross-gender casting. I mean, I don’t want to see Glenda Jackson’s King Lear’. Harwood comments on how he doesn’t want the theatre’s message to be ‘I am going to change the world by telling them they are all doing wrongly’, and it seems that this is what Trump is reiterating. However, they are completely missing the point of the function of theatre. Political or not, the purpose of theatre always makes a comment on what society is as it is a representation of reality. Theatre is one of the few ways that the public congregate and witness something as a unit, and because of this there can be immediate
discourse on it through a shared experience. Politics within this realm is incredibly useful as it also forces people to face it directly, not through a screen or words on a page. These politicians believe apathy and ignorance to be a huge problem, so theatre is one way to get political ideals and oppositions into the minds of people, like Mike Pence, who might otherwise miss it altogether. As director Peter Brook states “the pop tradition in England has such wide appeal: non-political, unaligned” but it is nonetheless “tuned in on a fragmented world in which bombs, drugs, God, parents, sex and private anxieties, are inseparable” and they are always illuminated by a wish “for some sort of change or transformation”. This can be said for any method of art. On a surface level, art is expression, and expression of ideas can be anything from existential to political. We have come so far in theatre; we are not going to silence ourselves just for Mike Pence, who should in his role get used to protests. Sorry, Trump, but you can’t win this one. As an actor, it is important to know about politics. As a member of society, it is crucial to know about politics. Illustration credit to Wikimedia Commons (bottom)
Words Of Wisdom
Some little nuggets of wisdom from those aged and broken by time
“Don’t accidently ask your tutor out. It may have sounded innocent in your head, just a passing comment much like ‘enjoy the rest of your day’ or ‘take care’ but there is a fine line between saying that and saying ‘I’m going to this Christmas fair this evening, you should come. When do you get off?’. A FINE line. In case you do make this monumental fuck-up then the next tip, upon realising your blunder, is to not run away without a word. Make light of the comment, laugh and explain ‘That’s not what I meant’ or ‘aha, that sounded a bit weird’. Play it cool. In the unlikely outcome of said tutor agreeing, and taking you up on your accidental advances, then well done, you’ve officially scored a date with a tutor. Maybe this is what your unconscious mind wanted? An inner desire that sprouted fourth from your mouth before you could stop it. Either that or you really don’t choose your words very carefully. Oh, and another tip? If you do this once then it’s a bit awkward, but you’ll survive. If you do it twice however, with the same tutor, then you may as well drop out and live your life under a rock… either that or avoid the critical theory seminars like they are the plague.”
“Don’t shit where you eat.”
“Don’t stress about what to do after uni. Don’t rush into a masters that you’re not ABSOLUTELY certain about, because you can always come back to it, no matter what. You don’t have to do the education-uni-job thing, just because you had that brainwashed into you at school. If you take a few years out to work, save, travel, experience and learn what you really want to do, you’ll actually look better on paper to a prospective university. There are oodles of jobs out there, how do you think anything gets done in the world? Just stay positive, but true to yourself (however corny that sounds). Now is the time to explore, because it’s virtually the only free time you have, before you retire aged 70. Also, obviously do your best, but grades do not define you. Most employers don’t care if you got a 2:1 or a First for your degree, only that you have experience and that you are passionate about the job. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the grade-bubble, believe me I know it. But your grades mean nothing if you don’t develop yourself as a person. Just enjoy these years while you’re young, surrounded by so many fantastic people and have virtually no responsibility.”
Alice Hutchins Helen Jones
“Life is made up of short moments, live each moment to its fullest.”
“I find work so much easier (and a lot less scary) when I can see exactly what needs to be done. It might feel like you’re being buried under piles of assignments, but just take that time to take stock of everything. Give yourself a to-do list, put those deadlines in your calendar, and write down bullet points of what needs to get done. Then take a deep breath. You can do it! Just START”
Dog Of Wisdom
“If the ball is too big for your mouth, it is not your ball.”
Film 07 Pierre Yves-Bezat Paterson follows the week of a bus driver, Paterson (Adam Driver), in the city of Paterson, New Jersey. The man spends his days listening to his passengers, sharing moments at home with his wife (Golshifteh Farahani), making a stop at his bar while taking their dog out, and, most of all, writing poetry in his notebook. But beyond paying tribute to poetry, the film also deals with the topics of ambition and reliance on others. Once manages
again, Jarmusch to describe the
Paterson situations of everyday life with sufficient distance in order to give them a certain mysticism. Like Paterson trying to turn his pack of matches into a poem at the very beginning of the film, the director is constantly turning nothing into something metaphorical throughout this story. He experiments with different cinema grammar tools than his usual ones, like ambient electronic music instead of his typical old school scores. Yet Paterson also takes up some elements that are characteristic of a Jarmusch film, as the
omnipresence of music in the characters or their discussions, the unexpected humour, and the slow rhythm in his storytelling. Indeed, there is a scene where the main character explains that when you’re a child you learn there are three dimensions (height, width, depth), and then later you hear there’s a fourth one: time. With this film, Jarmusch uses time and repetition to extract beauty out of insignificant details. This process permits the existence of brilliant
supporting roles in addition to Paterson and his wife, both of them cleverly interpreted by Driver and Farahani. This film proves that she is as magnetic and able to deliver remarkable performances in English as in the French and Iranian productions she used to appear in. In the end, Paterson is certainly one of the best releases from the American filmmaker, which is bad news for those who are sceptical of slow paced storytelling.
The Accountant Jack Barton Action film sceptics will likely avoid The Accountant: from the trailer, the posters and all other promotional material, it appears to be a very straightforward, predictable and thoughtless shoot-‘emup flick as Gavin O’Connor desperately tries to reinvent, reinvigorate and breathe life into a dying genre. Instead, what is brought to the screen is an interesting, but ultimately flawed plot. Ben Affleck plays an autistic accountant, Christian Wolff, who handles the finances of the most dangerous and illusive criminals, but is better at dealing with numbers than he is the social interactions. With the FBI close to discovering who is assisting the crime syndicates, Wolff decides to take on a seemingly innocent account lead by John Lithgow
and is paired up with the ditsy, but talented Dana Cummings (Anna Kendrick). As they work through the accounts and discover secrets that should have remained hidden, they become targeted and Wolff’s combative training becomes very useful.
by his representation of a disorder. Anna Kendrick and Joe Bernthal also assist with interesting characters that definitely embellish
The Accountant is enjoyable and the aspects that do work within the film make for entertaining sequences. Action scenes are well executed and scattered throughout. Cleverly, they do not hinder the progression of the plot but are just as enjoyable and are often shockingly brutal. Affleck performs well and where some may find his presentation of autism insensitive, there is enough character within Wolff that the audience doesn’t need to be side-tracked Photo Credits: Flickr
a struggling narrative. While The Accountant doesn't hit the marks it strived to, it is a fun, alternative take on the modern action film. It is a shame that the contrived a n d crowded plot stops a good film from becoming a great one.
fantastic beasts and where to find them
Melissa Haggar In case you’ve been pining for some more Wizarding World in your life, then Yates, Heyman and Rowling have got you covered with their subtly similar but vastly more mature franchise film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. If you’re expecting to see some familiar faces though, this isn’t the film for you, as Fantastic Beasts exists entirely in a world of its own, set in 1920s New York. Here, advancements between NoMajs (muggles) and wizards are still practically in the Dark Ages, and if you so much as sneeze in the direction of a wizard, you’ll likely get obliviated.
Fantastic Beasts is made all that more beguiling by its creatures. From a kleptomaniac Niffler to a particularly randy Erumpent, these are enchanting creations that dazzle and ensnare even the most apathetic audience (tell me you’re not captivated by the serene, glowing Thunderbird and I’ll give you fice Lunascopes). Indeed, spellbinding visuals and a rich mythological environment ensure that the film exists in a world entirely of its own, one where imagination and creativity run wild and you can get lost in all the vast landscapes squeezed inside Newt’s shabby suitcase.
At the centre of the story is our bumbling protagonist, Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne), a wizard who has as many pronunciations for his last name as he does mischievous creatures in his luggage. Naturally, some of Newt’s creatures get loose and it is up to Newt and ex-Auror Tina Goldstein (Katherine Waterston) to retrieve them, with some unlikely help from NoMaj Jacob (Dan Fogler) and Queenie Goldstein (Alison Sudol), before their presence can be used to fuel hatred and war from extremist leader, Mary Lou (Samantha Morton). MACUSA officials such as Percival Graves (Colin Farrell) also feature.
Whilst the beasts sometimes overshadow the characters, there is plenty here to be
In-keeping with its title,
excited about. Newt is lovingly dorky and a little inept, but his passion for his wildlife offsets this, whilst Jacob is fun-spirited and vibrant. The entire cast has that spark and memorability that you’d expect from the beginning of a series. This isn’t a coming-of-age story akin to Harry Potter, instead it is an enthusiastic look into the life of a magizoologist and his antics, one where audiences can glimpse inside another dimension of J.K.’s enviable creation. Overall, Fantastic Beasts is a Rowling good time.
Sicario (2015) From director Denis Villenue, Sicario follows undercover drug raids on the MexicanAmerican border, where no one is the good guy. Don’t ever watch it if you’re feeling stressed or wound up as it is hard to catch a moment to breathe. Yet with star performances from Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin, you cannot miss this film. - Willa Hope
under the skin (2013) Scarlett Johansson stars as an alien in human guise who preys on men in Glasgow. Creepy and beautiful, this film is half psychosexual thriller, half sci fi epic: picture the bastard cinematic offspring of Basic Instinct and Alien. Featuring minimal dialogue, this gritty alien flick is a film largely led by stunning visuals and Johansson’s haunting performance. Not a film for those who like logic or linear storytelling, it’s 2013’s 2001: A Space Odyssey ... but sexier. - Louis Pigeon-Owen
Gone Girl (2014) It’s the most talked about book of recent years, and now it’s on Netflix, there’s no excuse to not have seen this. Be warned, lovers of the book may be disappointed, but David Fincher’s direction still makes this a masterpiece. - Willa Hope Image: Murray Lewis
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Photo Credits: Flickr
What’s your New Years START Resolution? Do you feel ready to make a drastic change?
Do want to be a ‘new year, new you’?
Do you wear the same outfit often? YES
What do you envy more, hair goals or outfit goals?
Would you like to, or are able to stick to a routine? YES
Would you be willing to splash the cash on one big change? NO
You’re going to the LCR, what do you spend the most time on? OUTFIT
Master your Skin
Brave a Trend
Treat yourself to a facemask from lush, get exfoliating once a week. Always take your make-up off after the LCR! No matter how hard it seems in the evening it’s going to feel worse in the morning. 2017 is the year for you to glow.
Is there something you think you can’t pull off? Well turns out you can. 2017 is the time to wear that outfit you’ve been too scared to, I can guarantee people will love it and you’ll make peace with the trend that has been your 2016 sworn enemy.
The Big Chop
Cut or dye your hair. This is the year to do get the haircut you’ve always wanted and been too nervous to get. You’ll be liberated and feel like the new you ready to take on anything 2017 has to offer! Splash out on a good hairdresser and you’ll be feeling great.
Best of 2016 This festive season calls for even more glitter than the last! With this selection of new trends, you’ll be ready for Christmas in no time!
The Bold Lip The blackest blackcurrant lips are in this season, the deeper and darker the better! We’re loving this shade in both matte and glossy finishes. To add to the look, try an icy eye shadow on the inner corners of your eyes. Add a touch of blush and you’re good to go!
The Fresh Face Say goodbye to dramatic contouring; it’s all about soft and fresh looking skin this winter. This can easily be achieved by creating a radiant glow with iridescent powder, particularly on the eye lids, cheekbones, cupids bow and brow bones. Anything that will illuminate your skin is a must have!
Hair Jewels Forget about decorating the Christmas tree, this season brings the trend of bejewelled hair. From brooches and jewels to clips and chains, create extravagant looks perfect for parties. If the minimalist approach is sounds more like you, then you’re in luck! Perhaps the easiest trend to achieve is the ‘real’ hair texture. The runways for this season were filled with effortless, and product free, hair styles.
A magical trend that never dies is glitter! Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without a touch of glitter. Add a bit of sparkle under the brow bone or do it like Burberry and apply shimmer dust from the outer corners of your eyes to the top of your cheek bones. Another magical trend is the silver touch! This can be achieved with silver eyeliner, eyeshadow or even a metallic lipstick. Photos: Flickr
Concrete.firstname.lastname@example.org EMILY CLARIDGE
We have seen embroidered jeans and jackets covered in patches everywhere. Who knew sewing goals was going to become a thing? (Has it, or did I just make that up). Flowers power jeans and patch covered denim jackets have definitely been a high point of 2016.
The chokers this year are bigger and better. From the thin plastic one to the borderline turtle neck, statement chokers have made a revival. Would 2016 be the same without the use a shoelace choker life hack? I don’t think so.
New Look M&S
Think Bruce Willis in Pulp Fiction, I will never get over that brown bomber jacket and apparently neither has 2016. The Bomber jacket has made a come back for both men and women and we’re loving it. Mary Berry, Bruce Willis, who else do you need to convince you?
Brows on fleek Chrome The chrome nail is so fabulous and futuristic and ‘how do they do that’ it’s definitely a keep for 2017. Nails that double as a mirror was never going to be a bad thing.
Benefit The Flare
The flair has finally made a comeback, if someone told you 3/4 length flares would be the must have trouser this year I’m pretty sure we would be sceptical but despite all odds the culotte happened. It’s 2016 anything can happen.
I don’t know how or when it happened but I have seemed to subtly develop a significant obsession with eyebrows. I never thought I’d say that after I preclaimed to my Mum at 13 ‘Why would anyone pluck their eyebrows, it just hurts!’. The constant stream of instagram videos of people drawing on their eyebrows has proven me otherwise. Is it magic? Is it Benefit Brow Zings? Who knows.
C. Writing 15
presents, presence, and the present
In an attempt at making the theme Christmas-y, or at least in some respect festive, I came up withthe above rather abstract abomination and syntactic crime. So come on in, relax in front of the fire, open up a gift or two, and instead of looking on the top of the page focus your attention on the inventive and playful writing of UEA’s finest literary talent. — Hugo Douglas-Deane
the hole in the pocket of my winter coat gives way to loose change and looser thoughts, and I make a note to revisit that particular issue at another time. now the cold coke and cigarettes man is asking about the ‘catastrophe of my personality’ and the clouds are lighter than on the day I played simon’s ‘hearts and bones’ over and over. a stretch of my legs finds the ache of the day shimmering off of the lake and I find myself longing for the kitchen sink.
❄“Something I can
rearrange into a Montage, PapierMache, Into a painting, a golden picture frame”
negotiations and then some — rachel innes
lightmare — alexandra parapadakis In your rays of light, - Halos, halos, hello Your shadow, Your fruitfulness, Your lime of every light… In your company! I look for crevices or cracks In your existence - Holes to make us whole I look for broken bits, Rips, tares, shreds, crumbs, Something I can rearrange Into a Montage, Papier-Mache, Into a painting, a golden picture frame, Unwind the red curtain! I, The Mona Lisa, The Girl with a Pearl Earring, You, The Starry Night, The Scream! Just give me one piece And maybe I’ll feel some peace. So, I can slot in, fit in, In the nooks or in the crannies, For something uncanny That I can fill, fulfil, colour in. Because I cannot be in your presence, I must be with your presence, Part of your presence, Be your presence, Transform, Become One.
presents/presence/the present — areti mitroliou
C. Writing “The greatest gift of them all is acceptance, and love, to all.”
In a world that gives, And in a world that takes, In a world that loves, And in a world that hates, I have lived, And I have aged. Once I think I walk life at my own pace, The world drowns me in a whole new place And I open my eyes, And all I see is this one face: My face! And in my madness, I find peace, And in my peace, I find chaos, And suddenly as rain hits the ground, so did my awakening teared me down, I look around, And I know now, The greatest gift of them all is acceptance, and love, to all. But that little voice wants to say more, And so I kneeled into the madness of this world, And for the first time I listened to this one last call, It was the call of my name. A desperate call, A scared call, A call that I keep reliving every day. After all this time being lost, now I know how to break free from this world, But once one has been lost, how can one be unlost? How can one be found, in the darkness where he drowns? But in the chaos I find peace, And in the sadness clarity exists, And in the darkness I see light, And that is the greatest thing of all time, Because now I see, thank you for my present And now I live. The greatest gift, — ellie reeves The greatest life, At this very moment I’m sat on a bench, Is the one that you are alive, Breathing in the cold, eyes closed, warm smile. The one that you learn how to smile, This is the throne I share with a thousand, And how to cry, So why not stay and write for a while. The one that you learn how to love, And how to say goodbye, I remember in past years craving Christmas spirit The one that you learn how to swim, And its spell of white snow to smother life’s flaws, And how to fly. That come with being young and left me to search Swim in the darkest edges of your restless mind, In the gifts for the missing piece of my jigsaw. Fly in the brightest corners of your own paradise, Because my friend, In years to come Christmas might have a price The greatest gift of them all, is the presence of life, Too heavy for the angel on top of the tree, The presence of your mark in every moment of being alive. I’d fight the dark snowflakes that chase adulthood To stop them melting the spirit even briefly.
But right now, on my wooden throne, I need no gift. The past and future won’t reach my content In completing the puzzle under a cloudless sky. So thank you, Santa, for my present.
C. Writing 17
The Wave — Tom Cascarini
ow am I going to get out of this? Cold from the neck down, nothing beneath my feet,
the edgar sky above is dark. I tread the substance, cycling still. I’m breathing. And I’m one blind, one deaf — gus
alone. Binded by me blinded I fell behind did I, dead eye. Dead eye disclosed this exposed globe to closed, I sigh. What elseclose is there? All I know is now. What happened to the joy? The misery? The On my watch the world watches whirled wishwashes, I wish. unrelenting anger? All is numb, because to feel the fear is to feel doom. There’s only the Wishing days stopped to stop daze and glaze my eyes glazed, pish. cold. The warm seems so far away.it’s Does it even exist? I count as a cunt, can’t canter, see I see my stupid stupor, eyes sear. ‘Help!’ I shout. But the worldmy ignores me. ‘I don’t know what’s going to happen!’ I cry. Sear the lively life I’ve loved and Hear, Hear! At least can hear. Fromlived out here, of nowhere I see the stars.I They form the lines for me, and I trace the shapes, and see: __________________ A drop. A spark. A loving smile. I look ahead, but I see nothing. It’s choking me; strangling me, the sea fills my vision. Deafened I defend dead-ends death, Theofblack anddetest whitethis andtest blueI attest. water. A little red light slowly blinks away above where my Movies move me move out heart of mouths is. licks lips and lapse, into unrest. Silence in islands of white wight noise annoys riot, and again!’ rot. ‘Joey! Don’t get quite lost inquiet yourIthoughts Rot away and weighed down way in doubt grotty ears I forgot. ‘I’mdown just having anfor existential crisis.’ Muffled my muscles ache and Her ate til gone, the gong is knotted not for me. hand is on myshrill shoulder. For me it wavers like waves that I bereave the sea; at you leastever I can see. that.’ ‘Youweave have help, Joey,inokay? Don’t forget A helicopter whirs overhead, blending with the night sky. A beacon of light shines down on me. A ladder descends. I’ve gotten so used to the cold it comforts me. But I want to know what the warm is like. I grab the first rung.
devil in a fur-collared coat — liam heitman-rice ands froze and heads snapped upward, the halogen green eyes within them sharp with horror. None blinked. The conveyor belt had torn itself to a stop, ripped from a passage of easy motion with a shriek of unoiled coils. It was an abrupt dead thing that lay before the elves, a black snake bloated with monstrous creations far from completion: morose teddy bears starved of stuffing, as limp as empty brown socks… crude open-flapped cubes unpainted and uninhabited, boxes barren of their Jacks. All around the litter of halted progress billowed the howling silence of his presence. Killing the fuses with a mittened hand, Santa had bred within the Toy Room a vacuum of wretched inactivity. Fury beckoned that he speak. “Hear me,” he roared, a windy strained voice which blew through the room like a spray of bowling balls. “Know that my time is both rare and better invested elsewhere: be sure this is not a social visit. I bring to you a question. We have but six days until Christmas befalls us, and do I see before me the certainty of a deadline met?” Santa erected himself profoundly. He was stood atop the fifth tier of a wide spiral staircase, overlooking the highway of frozen conveyor belts, lined on either side by forty elves – in all his view commanded eight-hundred elves, and this was one of only four assembly lines under the Toy Room sector of S. Pole, Ltd. As President of The Board, Santa’s presence was not one met with adulation. Even from such a height and distance, the stench of his breath was oppressively intimate, a sour cocktail of brandy, stewed beef and raw carrots. It simmered beneath your eyelids and almost made you sneeze, such was the odour’s violence. “No? No?” The words were horrible, seeming as they did to sing, not from his mouth, but from the gaze of his wandering furious eyes. They were hard, small and black, peering out from leather skin hardened by windburn. “If you are of the belief that we are far from ready, then I congratulate your judgement! Six days remain and my disappointments have in no way lightened. We are failing the expected quota. I read from Accounts that – ”, he extracted from the mouldy interior of his tight coat a small sheet of crumpled paper, “ – we are at 79% productivity rate.” Santa studied the paper speculatively, doubtful of its unhappy existence. His gaze returned to the elves. “How can one appease the demands of so parasitic a Nice List with so little produce? Can anyone here enlighten me? Please?” Like dust on the ocean, the final words burst outward before dissolving in the tempestuous silence. The elves, shivering in their ill-fitting coats of green polyester, torn at the elbows and smeared with oil, paint, their own blood, could only tip forward heavy heads. The weight of wild expectations had in their minds constructed a steel balloon that with each successive Christmas inflated unendurably, inspiring a listless misery worsened by physical labour. Granted only a day’s release and respite each year, suicide was a common exit amongst the elves, found hanging in bathrooms with striped ribbon tight around bulbous purple throats. “Produce!” he yelped manically; despondent; clenching his mittens. “Produce: we are here to produce, to make, create and supply! Supply and demand, do you understand? That is our goal, that is our purpose, and so help me God if we fail to perform.” Santa suspended the threat above the elves with the tremendous circumference of his heaving chest, constricted and trembling within his too-tight red suit. He exhaled and upon the elves fell the death-knell of desperate orders. Dark patches of purple bled into the material across his back and elbows, his poorly shaven face slick with rage. He said nothing else. He turned. He reactivated the fuses, resurrected the assembly lines, and left. The manufacture of Christmasbyhad resumed, and the elves obliged wearily. Illustrations Hugo Douglas-Deane
Dicks out for Watch Dogs 2 Watch Dogs 2 surrounded by genital controversy Helen Jones Vagina. Clitoris. Vulva. What is it about these words that causes unrivalled shame and outrage everywhere they go? This was the question that faced fans of Watch Dogs 2 last week, when a player discovered and was promptly banned for posting a screenshot of a dead prostitute’s fully-modelled vulva. This naturally caused a massive outcry amongst PlayStation users: partly because of the ridiculousness of the ban, and partly because, well, it was a screenshot of a dead prostitute’s vulva. The dev team’s determination to outdo GTA in all its vulgarity is likely responsible for the decision to model prostitutes with crotchless panties (and in hideous textures reminiscent of a bathroom rug, I might add). But it is less the fact that a visible vulva was present in the game and more that the devs ignored that it was obviously going to be only be discovered as a result of, to put it bluntly, murdering women on the street and looking up their skirts.
Was this supposed to be important to a game about hacking your way through urban Chicago? Was this supposed to be entertaining? What kind of tasteless designer decided that murdering prostitutes should be rewarded with a glimpse of the corpse’s vagina?
much more mysterious, and so the contexts in which they are seen become far more important. The trouble is that Watch Dogs 2 also contains nudists: naked men and women, harmlessly hanging around in their back gardens, engaging in flaccidly non-sexual activities that couldn’t possibly offend an onlooker.
Granted, the recently released game (which has seen an 80% decrease in sales, according to Eurogamer, compared to the original Watch Dogs) most likely anticipated the scandal which has caused a mediastorm of attention towards it.
But my indignation that games shouldn’t be able to contain vaginas was even further cock-blocked this week with the release of Genital Jousting: a party game that involves players wriggling around as giant comic penises and attempting to ejaculate into the butts of their friends. Get this: despite being called ‘Genital’ Jousting, it doesn’t contain vaginas.
what is more interesting was the eventual response from the Watch Dogs team: the removal of the vagina from the game, but (and this is a big but) the modelled penises are here to stay. So why is it that the penises can stay when the vaginas have to go? The answer, of course, is that the vagina is simply more taboo. An audience can easily tell the difference between a penis that is ‘ready-to-go’, and one which is intended for comedy. A vagina meanwhile is, sadly,
Photo Credits: Flicker, Wikicommons
Devastating. Perhaps games have not yet reached the maturity required to deploy tasteful vaginas, but I would hope that anyone could tell the difference between
revealing them via crotchless panties to the most voyeuristicallymotivated of players, and simply having them as a model beneath the clothes of female NPCs – no different to the male avatars. It feels like a step backwards to simply remove vaginas from Watch Dogs 2, and a shame that the devs couldn’t make a decision as simple as remodelling the prostitutes with more sensible underwear. Is it wrong to say that I want to have my penis and vagina too? Yes? Well then I guess I’ll just have to wait.
Telltale: Interactive experience or series of quicktime events? So... Is it a game or not? Tom Lacy Recently Telltale announced the next in their barrage of story driven ‘games’. This time they’ll be returning to the series that made their name; you can pre-order The Walking Dead – A New Frontier now. Telltale’s games feel good. They fit well into their chosen universes. They don’t come across as lazy franchised spin-offs like other third party releases. (If you love Game of Thrones,
for example, you’ll get more out of Telltale’s contribution than from Cyanide’s 2012 attempt). But are they actually games? Telltale’s games are more about storytelling than creating an effective interactive experience. They play more like ‘point and click’ adventures than most of what the modern games industry churns out. Yet they lack the complexity of golden oldies like Monkey Island,
instead offering up a series of quicktime events (press the letter ‘W’ before it’s too late) and a small story tree which affects the games outcomes.
Telltale’s story telling has got better since then, but has their game play?
Let us not forget, that one of Telltale’s early attempts at shoving this style down our throats, Jurassic Park: The Game (2011) was accused of being a series of button presses masquerading as a game.
is Christmas Monopoly getting too monotonous? Some alternative stocking fillers this christmas Niamh Jones Secret Hitler This game is free at the moment, available to print online from their website. A secret identity game for five to ten players where you are divided into fascists and liberals, with one player becoming ‘Hitler’ himself. The aim is to find out who ‘Hitler’ is, by passing a series of fascist and liberal policies, with a Chancellor and President being elected every turn. Laws are drawn randomly from the deck, so if the Chancellor and President decide to pass a fascist
law, the other players must decide if they were unlucky in their draw, or simply a giant fascist. It’s absolutely brilliant, but you’ve got to be good at lying. Or alternatively, get suitably tiddly on eggnog and all be terrible together. Either way, accusing your family of being fascists never gets old. Plus the illustrations on the cards are adorable, I love me a little lizard fascist.
“Hi, I’m Hitler”
Machi Koro It’s every man for himself with this dice and card game, with the cutest of pastel illustrations and simple rules. It’s a game you could easily rope your Gran into, only to find out that she’s a raging capitalist at heart and that she’s going to fleece you out of every cardboard penny you own. Not bitter at all. As mayor of a new town, it’s
Illustrations by Kirsty McAlpine.
your job to build a series of landmarks for your citizens. Starting with a humble wheat field and bakery, it’s your job to build up your portfolio of cheese factories, ranches and restaurants. Each business has a number, and when that number is rolled anything can happen, from getting free money to everyone giving you theirs. It’s certainly a rollercoaster, but one that can be played in 25 minutes. The winner is the one who builds all four landmarks with their money, earning themselves the title of Best Mayor Ever.
Image credit: Wikimedia Commons
Batman: The Telltale Series Get your bugs together, Master Wayne Christopher Barkman In a digital space completely dominated by Rocksteady Studios, Telltale has decided to throw their hat into the ring. Albeit with an incredibly different experience, but still one worth enjoying for any Bat-fan. Batman: The Telltale Series is the latest of Telltale’s narrative point-andclick adventure games. From August onwards, an episode has been released once a month, with four of the five episodes for this season currently being available at the time of this review. Episode 5 is likely to drop sometime in late December. Without delving too much into story specifics, this season follows Bruce Wayne/Batman (voiced by Troy Baker) as he lives his secret double life. By day he supports his close friend Harvey Dent’s mayoral campaign to rid corruption from Gotham City. By night he strives for the same goal, just with different methods. However, his double-life is turned on its head when an old friend returns to town, and dark secrets from his family’s past begin to resurface. While it’s difficult to discuss the plot as a whole without the final episode, so far Telltale has proven that
they know how to write a stellar Batman story. While it draws inspiration from the comics, the studio has crafted a brand new Bat-mythos with clever twists on old ideas and fresh faces on familiar characters. All of the changes make it tough for even the most experienced Bat-fan to predict exactly what is going to happen. Telltale’s Batman has more twists and surprises than M. Night Shyamalan fan-fiction, coupled with impressive writing and performances. The story so far has formed a daring Batman narrative that’s likely to end in spectacular fashion. Along with the story comes Telltale’s trademark decisionmaking and light point-andclick adventure elements. Like other Telltale games, many of the decisions don’t have a dramatic influence on proceedings, but are written in such a way that it feels like they do. The biggest boon with this being interactive is that it allows you to develop relationships with characters that other mediums such as film and comics can only dream of. This gives the entire season an emotional wallop, as it’s so much harder to punch a former friend in the face when you’ve spent three episodes by their side, sympathising with them.
As for the rest of Telltale’s typical gameplay, it’s a bit hit and miss. Combat is as simple as a straightforward quick-time event, forcing the players to press specific buttons as the prompts appear on-screen. While the action sequences themselves are well choreographed and exciting, the minimal player input doesn’t give it the same thrill as the Arkham franchise. There’s also a number of moments that ask you to play detective, through investigating crime scenes and piecing together evidence. Unfortunately, however, it never gets more complicated than clicking highlighted items and drawing links between them. It doesn’t make you feel particularly smart, which is not a good thing when you’re supposed to be ‘The World’s Greatest Detective’. Sure, there’s the possibility it will get more complicated in the season finale, but judging on the first four episodes that possibility seems just as likely as Alfred being revealed as the Joker. The biggest issue by far is of the technical kind. It’s clear the one type of problem Batman can’t solve is of the performance variety – everything from the
framerate to broken audio is a culprit throughout the four episodes. The worst thing is, Telltale hasn’t fixed it. Even though each episode was released a month apart, there is almost no improvement over the course of the season. Episode one is just as broken as episode four. Here’s hoping Batman has some bug repellent on that utility belt to use during the season finale, as the bugs heavily undermine what is otherwise a great game. Combining one of the most popular franchises in history with one of the best storytellers in videogames seems like a formula for success. And in many ways, it is. Batman: The Telltale Series represents the peak performance of writing and plot Telltale can offer, and it’s been a joy to see a wholly original and unique Bat-story take shape over four episodes. If it wasn’t for the swarm of bugs and flat detective gameplay, this would be worthy of Batman himself. But otherwise, any Bat-fan worth their batarangs owes it to themselves to check this out. Just wait for the final episode (and a hefty patch) before exploring Gotham.
Illustrations by Kirsty McAlpine.
Venue’s Festive Sherlock
After a less than satisfying Christmas special which saw Sherlock return to his Victorian roots (the big ‘twist’ being that it was a mind palace all along), the super sleuth returns to the silver screen on New Year’s Day. While the Christmas special kept annoyingly schtum on whether Moriarty survived, surely the big reveal in the new series will only be disappointing. If he is dead then it is just a pointless tease but if he survives then it is almost insulting the viewer’s intelligence, implying both Sherlock and Moriarty faked their deaths on the rooftop and we were none the wiser. Moriarty aside, the trailer looks like it is ramping up the stakes: soldiers, assassins and helicopters. Series four looks like it is going for bigger but at its best Sherlock is about the relationship between the two leads and the fantastic deduction scenes, not Hollywood explosions. With the trailer boasting ‘everything they know will be tested’ it seems a little bizarre from the marketing team, making it feel more like an American blockbuster trailer than a smart British TV drama. But with the casting of Toby Jones as the other big bad, the same ensemble and consistently good Sherlock writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss there is every chance it’ll continue to deliver the 1st January, 9 pm, BBC1 same quality we’ve come to expect. Dan Struthers
Outnumbered Christmas Special It has been nearly three years since we last saw the comedy and chaos of life in the Brockman household, but finally on Boxing Day we will be reunited with exasperated parents Pete (Hugh Dennis) and Sue (Claire Skinner) as well as their unforgettable children Jake (Tyger Drew-Honey), Ben (Daniel Roche) and Karen (Ramona Marquez). Since the end of the last series, the children may have all grown up, but it sounds like the family has not changed much other than that. Although the BBC are keeping quiet about the plot of this 40 minute Christmas special, we know that the family have to work together on a special mission for their grandad, no doubt encountering some hilarious family drama along the way. When Outnumbered finished, it felt like the end of an era, so expect to feel a bit old and nostalgic as you sit down with your Christmas dinner leftovers. Hopefully, we can expect plenty of laughs (just beware not to choke on those mince pies!), the humorous wit and charm of the Brockman kids and a reminder of the importance of family and friendships this festive season. This is definitely one to watch with the whole family.
26th December, 10 pm, BBC1
The Great British Christmas Bake Off Have your tissues at the ready folks, because it is with a heavy heart that the nation will come together to watch the final episode of The Great British Bake Off as we know and love it. After suffering through the news that GBBO had been bought out by Channel 4 earlier in the year, and that national treasures Mel, Sue and Mary would not be making the transition along with the show (we do not need to talk about Paul) we have all been dreading the final episode on the BBC, and it is finally upon us. But the good news is that they plan on going out with a bang. Not only is it going to be a two-part special, but rumour has it that they are going to bring back fan-favourites from the previous seasons. There are guaranteed to be cringe-worthy, yet utterly delightful baking puns flying at us from all angles, and if there is anyone we can trust with giving us the goodbye we deserve for this show, it is the ever-consistent, ever-down-right-wonderful Mel and Sue. So do not despair just yet, and tune in to give the show that brought us joy, even through the toughest of times (looking at you, 2016) the send-off that it deserves.
25th December, 4:45 pm, BBC1
TV Highlights Doctor Who
2016 has been a pretty terrible year, not made better by the fact there has been no Doctor Who, but all is not lost as we do have the Christmas special to look forward to! The Return of Doctor Mysterio, a superhero-esque episode based in New York as we return once more to the Twelfth Doctor. The episode features a superhero figure (Justin Chatwin) and a journalist (Charity Wakeford) who work with the Doctor to save New York from an alien invasion. Matt Lucas also returns with the familiar face of Nardole (The Husbands of River Song), whose character seems to fit the role of the temporary companion until Bill (Pearl Mackie) will appear in 2017. Who is the Doctor without a companion anyway? Steven Moffat has said that he loves Clark Kent and Superman, so this could be some influence on the Christmas episode. Whatever happens, it is sure to be exciting. And finally, here is some Doctor Who trivia for you: ‘Doctor Misterio’ is also the name of Doctor Who in Latin America (a name which Peter Capaldi is very fond of – could he have had some input? And will this feature in the episode?). Roll on Christmas!
25th December, 5:45 pm, BBC1
Call the Midwife
Get ready for a change of scenery this Christmas as our favourite sixties midwives are off to South Africa. This year’s Christmas special of Call the Midwife sees the majority of the characters travel to South Africa to help out at a mission hospital in East Cape in the hopes of preventing it from being shut down. It is bound to be a shock to the system for the midwives, nuns and audience alike as the characters find themselves a long way from the overcast East End of London we are all so used to. Patsy, Delia, Sister Monica Joan and Sister Mary Cynthia are left in charge of Nonnatus House, so with the combination of Sister MJ’s unparalleled love of cake, and Patsy and Delia’s bubbling secret romance, there’s sure to be shenanigans galore back in England. So keep an ear out for the BBC to announce their Christmas schedule, and get ready to settle in with an appropriately festive drink (I am planning on a mulled wine, myself), only the finest selection of Christmas chocolates gifted to you by a somewhat estranged relative, and enjoy being sucked back into the world of Call the Midwife. Even better, we only have to wait another month for Series six!
25th December, 8pm, BBC1
Comedy for Christmas After a year like this (Brexit, Trump, changing Toblerones) we all need a good laugh, it is a good thing then that the Christmas season is synonymous with comedy! Big names in comedy are stepping up to give us a good time. Not only do we have classic stand up with the return of Live at the Apollo; Michael McIntyre’s Christmas Show and Alan Carr’s Chatty Man Christmas Special will be sure to put us in the festive spirit! Panel shows such as Would I Lie to You, QI, Mock the Week and 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown come back with christmas specials, not to forget the panel show of all panel shows to end 2016 on a high: The Big Fat Quiz of 2016! With all of that, nothing can stop you from being jolly! As Mrs Brown once said: “If you ever feel lonely or a bit down, turn on the television and flick to comedy. Have yourself a good laugh. From Dad’s Army to Faulty Towers, Only Fools and Horses. We’ll be there, you can depend on that.”
OlDie but goldie: TV Traditions Rebecca Graham
My family are not a very ‘together’ sort of family when it comes to television. We are usually stowed away in separate rooms using different devices to watch it – my parents with the television, my brother with his Xbox, and me with my laptop. Christmas is practically the only day, especially since the demise of Top Gear, that my family all get together in one room in-front of one screen. The TV is on in the background at various points
throughout the day of course, playing Christmas specials of shows that we do not even watch; Outnumbered, Mrs Brown’s Boys, Dr Who. But they are only given half of our attention at the best of times, the day being too busy with preparing, cleaning and the inevitable bickering. But when we have finally finished with all of that, when
we at long last slot ourselves into two sofas and turn on the television, that’s when the real Christmas TV tradition starts. Pink Panther. Not the new 2006 and 2009 atrocities, but the old classics of Peter Sellers. The first Christmas we watched it was a failure. I don’t think I laughed once. My dad kept insisting that the next one was
good, that we should give it another chance and sit down to watch it all together. Of course, a day like that didn’t come around again until the next Christmas. But this time – we laughed. We were, of course, aided by mulled wine and brandysaturated Christmas cake. But we laughed a lot, and ate the last of the mince pies, Christmas cake, and chocolate as we did. It has been a tradition ever since, and it would not feel like Christmas without it.
‘tis the Season To Watch TV Katherine Lyon & Marianne Picton
Strictly Come Dancing
I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!
The nights are getting darker, the weather is miserable and deadlines are fast approaching. Sometimes the only way to pull yourself out of the winter slump is to sit down with a cup of tea and watch a bunch of celebs try to cha-cha-cha. The glitter. The music. The over-enthusiastic gesturing of Bruno Tonioli. Add Ed Balls dressed as The Mask to the mix and it is impossible to keep a straight face. Hard-hitting drama is fine, but with the state of the world as it is now, a little escapism cannot hurt, and there is no better place to escape to than the gaudy glitz and glamour of the ballroom.
It is that time of year again folks. Those three glorious weeks when the population of our proud nation settles down every evening for three weeks to watch a bunch of c-listers battle for survival in an Australian jungle while Ant and Dec watch with glee. Whether it is that bloke from Homes Under the Hammer downing a half pint of blended cockroaches, or some lad from Emmerdale screaming nonsense words in a cabin full of spiders, we just cannot seem to look away. Maybe we are a nation of masochists, or maybe we just enjoy seeing the unlikely friendship between Larry Lamb and Scarlett Moffatt. If you ask me, it is a combination of both the awful trials and the hilarity and drama that ensues when 12 celebrities are stuck in a camp together. All in all – it is just a bit of a laugh.
The X Factor: No more honey g. Please.
The Apprentice: LORD SUGAR FOR PM
It is hard to debate the success of ITV’s The X Factor. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you will have heard of One Direction, Little Mix and Olly Murs, to name a few of The X Factor’s more successful acts. The show has also provided a platform for more niche acts such as the singer-songwriter Lucy Spraggan. But what is so endearing about the show itself? Why does hearing Louis Walsh say ‘You look like a popstar, you sound like a popstar…!’ for the thousandth time always bring a smile to a fan’s face? Is it just nostalgia, or does The X-Factor itself have the X-factor, an indefinable “something” that makes fans return to it year after year? One thing is certain: if Honey G wins the show this year, it will not be the strangest thing to have happened in 2016.
Back-stabbing. Scheming. Brutal downfalls of characters we love to hate. Is this Game of Thrones? No, this is The Apprentice, the BBC’s version of an American TV show mentioned once or twice during a certain election across the pond. Like Mr Trump, Lord Sugar is known for speaking his mind (‘Your best hope for 250 grand is to buy yourself a scratch card!’), but their careers began very differently: one with ‘a small loan of a million dollars’ from his father, the other selling electrical goods (bought with his own savings) out of the back of a van. Hilarity ensues as the candidates attempt to impress the boss, usually with disastrous results. Suddenly your own failures do not seem so bad, which might just be part of the appeal… Illustration: Google Images
The Coral ‘You don’t go to a live show to see something slick’
Beth ramsay Beverly Anne Devakishen ‘I Want A Hippopotamus For Christmas’ A Great Big World Tired of hearing songs about toys all wrapped up under the Christmas tree? This is a song about a more unconventional gift: a hippopotamus. A Great Big World’s cover is truly brilliant, all about putting you into a playful, Christmassy mood. ‘Winter Wonderland/Don’t Worry Be Happy’ Pentatonix (ft. Tori Kelly) A Christmas classic mixed with a song that reminds us to be happy, and it’s perfect. Chill out, smile and be merry with this lovely acapella cover, harmonies aided by the gloriously sweet vocals of Tori Kelly. ‘Grown-up Christmas List’ David Foster Warning: this song will make you emotional, especially considering the year we’ve had. It’s not the happiest of carols, but it’s worth sparing three minutes to think about those who are suffering this Christmas.
CHRIS GROSSET ‘Christmas In The Room’ Sufjan Stevens
If you are someone that loves Christmas but also loves to roll their eyes sarcastically at everyone else that loves Christmas, this one’s the tune for you. Enjoy a beautifully uplifting instrumental merged seamlessly with the winding narratives indicative of Sufjan Stevens electric-acoustic mix.
After a five-year hiatus, earlier this year, Wirral psych-pop band The Coral came storming back with their most haunting album yet, Distance Inbetween. While faithful fans will rejoice at the familiar psychedelic sound harking back to the band’s earlier hits (‘Dreaming of You’, ‘In the Morning’), the band tread new, heavier territory with their latest release. As they prepare to hit the road once again next month – even stopping off at our very own Waterfront venue here in Norwich on December 13th – we spoke to frontman James Skelly about the tour and other musical matters.
how did you know it was finally time to bring back The Coral? It just felt right. All the band were playing with me and The Intenders and I played on Ian (Skelly)’s album. It was natural. We were jamming in the rehearsal room and a few tunes turned up that seemed like Coral tunes.
What would you say makes a Coral tune? On my album, I was taking a break from The Coral so I was writing in a style influenced by blues or country or soul and folk. Quite different. I think the style of writing that we do is just The Coral. When I do something outside of that, there’s no point in doing a Coral tune without everyone on it.
I imagine that you’re wanting to carry on that spontaneity to the stage in your upcoming tour. What do you do to prepare for a show? We usually just walk around and talk a load of crap, have something to eat and then find ourselves on stage. You don’t go to a live show to see something slick, it’s boring! You may as well just listen to the record really loudly! We just go on and see what happens; that’s what a live band is supposed to be. A few of the songs run into each other, there’s different jams, we extend some of the tunes. It’s different every night.
What about when you’re not on stage, give me a glimpse into your touring playlist. What kind of tunes do you play? On the way, we play a lot of heavy blues or rock and roll like ZZ Top or Muddy Waters - or some soul stuff. And then on the way back, we play some Bob Marley or a bit of Frank Sinatra.
You recorded Distance Inbetween live, with most of the tracks done after just one take. Impressive! All our albums are pretty much live, especially the rhythm section. Maybe our attention span is now so low that we can only last one take!
Who are some of your favourite artists around now? I really like King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard; they’re insane. I produced a band called Cabbage but I still haven’t seen them live and I love their stuff. They’re supporting us on one of the tour gigs so I will get a chance, at last.
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Music 27 ‘White Christmas’ Louis Armstrong For those wanting to have a Christmas traditionally full of lots of cheer, lots of food and lots traditional Christmas drinking with your slightly embarrassing family- you can’t meet miss this track. Coming in with a swaying and lilting swing instrumental typical of Louis Armstrong’s type of jazz, there is no better tune for unwinding in the festive period.
Alice mortimer ‘Christmas Thanks For Nothing’
1 Slow Club Beach Boy-style harmonies back lo-fi vocals on this thoroughly cynical number from candycoated indie duo, Slow Club. On Christmas as a time of reflection, and in this case, obsessing over ‘what ifs’, you can forget any musical pressures to be cheerful. If sweet pessimism is your thing, the whole EP’s pretty perfect. ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ She & Him Simply backed by an acoustic guitar and soft snare percussion, this version of Christmas classic ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ owes itself to the sweet-yet-smoky vocals of Zooey Deschanel, as ‘she’ duets with ‘him’, M. Ward. ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’
‘blackstar’ david bowie
David Bowie’s swan song Blackstar is the best album of his career, let alone of 2016! Blackstar sees Bowie facing his own mortality, and the result is a moving forty-minute tribute to his career. ‘Lazarus’ is an example of genius both musically and lyrically. This Starman’s music will live on eternally. Claud Letts
‘A Moon shaped pool’ Radiohead
After a five-year gap, Radiohead released A Moon Shaped Pool to critical acclaim. The album continues Radiohead’s habit of major stylistic progressions, with the band making huge use of string sections and moving toward a more vulnerable and emotional sound. The best way to sum up their latest effort is as a piece of pure artwork.
3 ‘Blond’ Frank Ocean After the breakthrough debut Channel Orange, Frank Ocean continues to deconstruct genre boundaries with a luscious hybrid of R&B, psychedelic pop and avant garde. Tackling variant motifs such as consumerism and the murders of African Americans in ‘Nikes’ and the embrace of the uncontrollable in ‘Pink + White’, Ocean has really produced a first class record.
‘Everything you’ve come to expect’ The last shadow puppets Weezer You can’t beat a Christmas carol, even if it is reimagined with saturated guitar progressions. If pop punk’s your bag then treat your ears to this track by LA’s Weezer, complete with melodic guitar solos and crashing crescendos.
Everything You’ve Come To Expect starts strongly with the gentle yet infectious ‘Miracle Aligner’. ‘Bad Habits’ feels like a bit of a mis-step as a rip-roaring rock number, but tracks such as ‘Sweet Dreams, TN’ and ‘The Dream Synopsis’ prove EYCTE as one of this year’s top records, both beautiful tracks in this largely fantastic comeback from the supergroup.
Venue music writers vote for their favourite album releases of thE year.
‘Untitled Unmastered’ kendrick lamar Kendrick Lamar once told Rick Rubin that his enjoyment of the music-making process relies on “feeling like I’m never stagnant” - and the proof is in the pudding. Untitled Unmastered is totally and utterly perfect, with Lamar’s most raw vocal deliveries to date and countless transcendent moments.
’the dream is over’ pup When PUP vocalist Stephan Babcock blew his voice on the tour last year, his doctor gave the simple prognosis: ‘the dream is over’. Through the 10 tracks on the band’s critically acclaimed second album, however, Stephan and co. showed very clearly that the dream is far from over. hig emotive, Fraites and Schultz’s poetic talents make this album a strong contender.
‘Malibu’ anderson .paak West coast rapper Anderson .Paak was a refreshing take on hip-hop this year, blending funk, soul, trap, and jazz to compliment his gospel-style voice and reflective rhymes. Malibu is a lighthearted celebration all while addressing his most personal experiences, with ‘The Dreamer’ and ‘Put Me Thru’ preaching some inspiration we all desperately needed this year.
‘Trick’ Jamie t After his successful comeback with Carry On the Grudge in 2014, Jamie T didn’t keep fans waiting too long for his fourth album, Trick. Despite experimenting with an arguably more mature sound on this album, T manages to keep older fans happy with witty tracks ‘Tescoland ‘and ‘Robin Hood’. It’s an eclectic mix which somehow seems coherent, a feature of T’s music which should be highly applauded.
’cleopatra’ the lumineers The Lumineers follow-up to their self-titled debut is a truly beautifully written record. In a mere eleven songs the life of unnamed women is chronicled through balled-like imagery and soft instrumentals, with its centrepiece being ‘Ophelia’ and ‘Cleopatra’. Melancholic, bittersweet and highly emotive, Fraites and Schultz’s poetic talents make this album a strong contender.
‘22, A million’ bon iver 22, A Million is worthy of huge praise, and whilst the titles may be difficult to pronounce, they certainly aren’t hard to listen to. The calmness that comes from this experimental album has been the soundtrack to hungover mornings and lengthy library sessions. When indie guitars or deep house is a bit much, just whack on ‘8 (circle)’.
Music 29 tony allen There’s no point in my trying to be cool and pretending otherwise: I love most Christmas songs. Who can fail to crack a smile every year as Mariah Carey, Noddy Holder, and that one from Boney M effuse their seasonal salutations into our homes? For me, tradition makes festive music special. It’s not holiday season in my house until the Motown Christmas compilation comes out. Christmas songs are homely and comforting, a constant in our ever changing world. Regardless of what happens during the year, George Michael and friends will always make their seasonal
Concrete.email@example.com sam whitelaw
skiing trip. And, of course, there have been plenty of Christmas songs of musical merit. ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ by John Lennon and Yoko Ono is one of the most stirring examples. As well as allowing otherwise serious artists to let their hair down (The Darkness and Status Quo among others), Christmas songs can also do some good - think Band Aid. Finally, it’s unpopular opinion time. We can’t avoid discussing ‘Fairytale of New York’. I think it’s terrible, but I can just about tolerate it for December. And if that’s not an example of festive goodwill, then I don’t know what is.
People could easily argue over whether Christmas music either classic or cheesy, loved or overplayed, but I will not propose a balanced response to these questions. To me, Christmas music is the best genre around, and I will defend that claim with my life. Christmas music fully embraces what Christmas is. Every song is filled with such simple joy and wonderment, and it’s completely unapologetic about that fact. While I know that you can over-do the festive spirit - I’m looking at you, people who play it in early
November – I think that Christmas songs should be played to everyone, and played loud. What is there not to love about songs that simply want to make everyone sing about mince pies and reindeer? Christmas music is there to make you feel good. This year more than most, people need a lift in their spirits, to sing with hope to Fairy Tale of New York or Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. Christmas music is both the genre we deserve and the one we need. To help everyone, even the Scrooges of the world, to feel a little bit better.
love it or hate it? louis pulford
Billy kensit 12 days of Christmas my arse, now it’s so extended its virtually an epoch. The steady Americanisation of Britain has resulted in the slow encroachment of the bankdraining, budget-smashing, bloated winter festivities as early as October, ironically symbolised by gluttony himself – Santa (pass up the cookies this year mate.) Marking the beginning of this senseless commercialised cash-grab is Christmas music and adverts: the corny, overly sentimental and transparently cliché assault on the senses - watch out bank balance, Wham! is here. Let’s all rush to the shops, because I’ve seen a binrummaging ginger, bouncing
next to tuberculosis-ridden badger on a now piss-soaked trampoline. Worse still are the premature, ‘Christmas light show-off’, ‘dad didn’t buy you a bike when you were six years old’, regressive fucks who put Christmas lights up early. I don’t hate Christmas, just the material culture. Christmas is a short holiday for a reason, it makes it intense and special – but instead it’s become the symbol of the downfall of society. The promise of 25% off a Morphy Richards Toaster is enough to make supposedly civilised humans turn on each other. So piss off John Lewis, piss off Wham!, let’s wait til December, give each other oranges, and remember the true spirit of the holiday.
A couple of weeks ago I was sitting in a Café Nero in Cambridge where Christmas music was playing. Now, I had no issue with seasonal songs being played a full eight days before the 1st December, I’m not quite that petty. But, it being Cambridge (a place for overaggressive cyclists, centuries of tiresome snobbery, and a surprisingly nice Wetherspoons) their Café Nero plays dirge-like carols sung by what I only imagine were monks who could still remember the Reformation. Now, I have no issue with carols in the right setting, by which I mean in churches, and in the immediate proximity of carol singers. But in a coffee shop one expects to hear
the cheesy, shitty, brilliant music that lightens the heart and emphasises the giddy joy of the Christmas season. Those insipid, prematurely decrepit humbugs who say that the commercialisation of the season has robbed us of the traditional family holiday have obviously never heard mine and my brother’s triumphant rendition of Mudd’s ‘Lonely Christmas’. Yes folks, Santa Claus is coming to town, and we shouldn’t ask him to pass up on the calories, the man can do what he wants, so what if he embodies gluttony, there’s enough body-slamming going on without getting St Nick involved. Piss off Scrooge, Christmas music is great.