Bristol University’s Independent Student Newspaper Issue 244
Monday 5th December 2011
Bristol to take on 20% extra students • Some departments to expand by over 60% • Proposed plans for new halls anger current
Lecturers join public sector protests
e2 meets Amber Atherton
See page 3
students (see page 3) Josephine McConville News Reporter
Emmy the Great The virtues of her Christmas album Music 23
The University of Bristol has announced its plans to increase undergraduate intake by 20% next year, leaving some Arts and Social Sciences students fearing they will be ‘disproportionately affected’ compared to those from the Science schools. The expansion, which will commence for 2012/13 entry, comes in response to the Government’s new white paper reform. The paper outlines how universities will no longer be restricted in the number of places given to students achieving grades AAA or AAB. Heavily oversubscribed courses including English, History and Politics are facing a significant increase in the number of places allocated. However, many students fear that the increase of 600 students will place additional strain on these departments. Joe Snape, 2nd year Politics and Philosophy student said ‘There are wider issues the University has to answer for. The Arts and Social Sciences library is already too small, and where are they planning to house these students? ‘In a course with only five contact hours a week and minimal teacher interaction, the course and department already feels massively overstretched.’ Conversely, the departments known to be directly affected by the University’s decision have responded positively to the expansion. Dr Genevieve Liveley, Head of Teaching and Learning in the School of Humanities, told Epigram ‘It’s very good news indeed that we are expanding our intake in the School of Humanities. It has long been our ambition to grow our
Departments. This new investment in the Faculty of Arts and in the School sends a strong signal nationally and internationally about our many and significant strengths - including the excellence of both our academics and our current students. ‘As part of the planned expansion, we will be recruiting more academic and administrative staff at the same time as we recruit new students. This means we will be able to ensure that we maintain the high quality of our teaching and our current staff-student ratios.’ The School of Sociology, Politics and International Relations is also facing expansion. Professor Tom Osborne, Head of School, and Dr Timothy Edmunds, Director of Teaching and Learning, told Epigram the department is expecting an increase of 25 places for the Single Honours Politics course, and five for the Politics and Sociology Joint Honours course. ‘In most years there are 12 applicants for every place, a large proportion of which are AAA. Being able to take more students is positive, there will still be competition but it provides us more scope to give places’ Dr Edmunds said. Professor Osborne said he was pleased with the number of allocated spaces and ‘delighted to receive genuine support in terms of staffing and infrastructure from the University for these changes. ‘It represents an investment in the confidence in social sciences in Bristol University, which is heartening for us.’ He believes it demonstrates the courses are ‘financially worthwhile’ and the University is ‘committed to the Arts and Social Sciences’. David Alder, Director of Marketing and Communications for Bristol University also stressed that it was ‘absolutely fundamental’ that ‘we do not want to change the character of the University’. Continued on page 2
Chemistry in the sky Investigating the secrets behind fireworks Science 31
Editor: Alice Young
Deputy Editor: Jenny Awford
Deputy Editor: Abigail Van-West
11 Outsmart your landlord
Knowing your rights and your landlord’s responsibilities can make a difference
Comment 13 An ‘easy’ nation?
As the UK is revealed as the most promiscuous western country, Mike Jones argues that we should be concerned
Letters and Editorial 16 Growing pains
Why concerns over plans to significantly increase the student body are justified
Politics, English and History will take on more students Continued from page 1 Alder continued, ‘Just to reassure people, the Senior management team meet at 8 in the morning each week to discuss these important issues - accommodation, space, and resources. ‘We are working to ensure these very important issues, which are at the top of our agenda, are addressed. The accommodation offer in Bristol is an important part of the student experience and we are looking at a long term perspective to continually improve this.’ Alder said the potential to offer additional places was ‘not limited to any one faculty’ but confirmed that both the Arts and Social Sciences would be offering more places in some subjects. ‘For Bristol to be investing in these areas it is really important and a testament to the excellent students and staff’.
He also said that ‘certain subjects within Sciences as well as Engineering could be included in offering a small number of additional places.’ Some courses are not planning to increase allocated places due to current full capacity. Professor Timothy Gallagher, Head of the School of Chemistry said ‘at this stage, I doubt that Chemistry will be directly involved because we currently aim to recruit some 200 students a year and our rate limiting step is capacity in labs’ Some students remain unconvinced that the intake will be balanced across the University. Jess Bancroft, 2nd year English Literature student said ‘I think this increased intake of students could disproportionately affect students in the schools of Arts and Social Sciences, and if so, could be part of a money-making scheme by the
University. ‘Arts subjects are cheaper to fund having no labs to upkeep, and less contact hours in which to pay tutors. I can understand the necessities for the intake, but I suppose I’m sceptical about whether, with more places, Arts subjects will remain as highly regarded.’ Dominic May, a 2nd year Engineering Design student said ‘I feel that it is somewhat unclear what impact this will have on current students. There has been no mention in my faculty [Faculty of Engineering] of which courses are being affected. And obviously having 600 more students paying £9000 a year is a benefit to the university but does it do anything for those of us already here?’ Josh Alford, Student Union Officer for Education said, ‘UBU is opposed to the Government’s attempt to force the creation
of a market within the Higher Education sector, creating rival businesses out of universities. ‘However, within the undesirable situation that Bristol has been put it in, we welcome their attempts at measured growth in order to keep up with other Universities and to remain the world class institution that it currently is. ‘We are working closely with the University to ensure that the rapid growth does not harm students’ experiences. We are concerned that the increase of 600 students next year will mean that the University struggles to provide adequate services over the first few years. ‘We are especially concerned about library provision, study space and accommodation. Bristol must respond quickly to ensure that students are not left feeling short-changed by their increasingly expensive degrees.’
20 Culture 20 Popular culture in peril Oliver Arnoldi despairs at the abundance of ‘reality soaps’ and celebrity autobiographies Flickr: James F Clay
Film & TV 27 Encounters
Three writers find a melting-pot of culture at Bristol’s biggest and best film festival
28 A new dimension?
Jessica Wingrad and Alexander Murphy debate whether 3D makes entertainment
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27 Sport 35 Joe Simpson The England rugby player shares his thoughts on the recent World Cup debacle and his career in general
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New hall for 460 students in Stoke Bishop Hannah Stubbs Deputy Editor
The expected increase in undergraduate numbers could mean a shortfall of 1200 bedrooms by 2015
be largely supportive. However, the proposals have not been well-received in all quarters. Johnny Barton, Hiatt Baker JCR President, said building the new hall as planned would compromise the student experience. ‘The main concern for the University has been about the number of rooms they can provide but they haven’t
The University has announced planning proposals that will dramatically change the landscape of Stoke Bishop. Plans released by the University Estates Office propose building accommodation for 460 more students and a ‘transport hub’ alongside existing Hiatt Baker buildings. The plans are a response to the need to accommodate more students in halls of residence in light of the expected increase in undergraduate numbers which could mean a shortfall of 1200 bedrooms by 2015. Four-storey ‘town houses’ and ‘cluster flats’ will occupy space that is currently the car park and Wardens’ Houses, and a road will be paved through the hall leading from a new entrance off Parry’s Lane. The accommodation office is yet to decide whether or not the new buildings will be part of Hiatt Baker or become a new hall entirely. Neil Sapsworth, Director of Residential and Hospitality Services, said that they hope to be guided by the people who live in Stoke Bishop on how the new buildings become part of
the hall structure. ‘We prefer halls as a model for residential accommodation. The plans are currently in their very early days and as to whether we’ve got the number and the plans right, we need to consult the users.’ Consultation on the plans started at the beginning of November with a public display of proposals and presentations to members of the Junior Common Rooms at Hiatt Baker and University Hall. The reaction from the local community has been judged to
Hiatt Baker Hall’s grounds will be the site of the proposed new buildings
thought about the community aspect at all.’ There are no plans to build new facilities as Residential Services hope to refurbish existing amenities. Students concerns have so far centred on how facilities and staff at existing halls will cope with the increased demand once 460 more students arrive. They also fear for the ability
of the halls to maintain their individual character and community. ‘Halls should offer a really close atmosphere where people can get to know each other on a personal level. If 460 more students are added to an existing hall it would inhibit this part of the student experience and make it lower than what Bristol should offer,’ said Barton.
Georgia Brookes, Environment Rep on the Hiatt Baker JCR, said that, ‘We appreciate that people in Unite House and other student accommodation are not having the best student experience and that’s wrong, but the solution is not to bring down the experience at other halls by cramming too many students into such a small space’. Sapsworth responded
by adding he hadn’t had any feedback to suggest that facilities at Hiatt Baker would be swamped, but that the buildings would be subject to ongoing consultation over their first year of operation. He also emphasised the need to see Hiatt Baker and University Hall, not as individual halls, but as part of the whole Stoke Bishop complex.
Students join lecturers on picket lines
Strikers listen to a speech by the UBU president whilst picketing outside Senate House
Zaki Dogliani News Reporter An estimated twenty thousand public sector workers went on strike and took to the streets of Bristol on 30 November to protest against government reforms to public sector pensions. A significant number of Bristol University students showed up on picket lines alongside
lecturers and university staff before joining the general public by College Green and marching around the city. After walking through the centre, past Broadmead and Cabot Circus,the demonstration ended in Castle Park, where several representatives of the main public service unions addressed the crowds. A committed few students joined the picket lines at 7.30am, with others arriving
later on at more studentfriendly times. Over one hundred students and lecturers were outside Senate House by 10.30am to hear speeches from two trade union representatives. The number of lecturers on strike varied significantly by department, with Social Sciences – particularly Sociology and Politics – leading the way. School and university staff are angered at
government plans to raise the state pension age to 67 while making public sector workers pay more into their pensions, which unions feel will leave them working longer for less. While there was a police presence, officers were left with little to do as the protest was peaceful. Politics lecturer Ryerson Christie told Epigram he felt it was ‘incredibly important that students saw the connection
between quality of life and education. ‘[Today] is about us trying to protect public education in the face of privatisation. We see you as colleagues; we don’t see you as customers. David Willets (Government Minister for Universities) does.’ Politics lecturer Adrian Flint added that ‘The idea that the private sector could provide public goods is untrue.’ Sympathy and support from passers-by - even from drivers whose roads were disrupted – seemed to reflect the public mood on the issue with an opinion poll for the BBC finding 61% of people in favour of the strike action. Over two million public sector workers across the country, including teachers, doctors, nurses, care workers and airport security staff, went on strike in protest against pensions and job cuts. However the strike has met a more hostile reception with some students and public figures. James McAllen, a taught postgraduate student, said ‘These strikes have been incredibly disruptive to the university. Public sector
workers need to accept that the country is in a tough financial situation and nobody’s going to have it easy.’ The row escalated when Jeremy Clarkson, BBC TV presenter, argued that he would like to see all the strikers ‘shot’, saying ‘I would take them outside and execute them in front of their families.’ Protestors have condemned the comments, with unions reportedly seeking advice on legal action. While David Cameron called the strike ‘something of a damp squib’, Education Secretary Michael Gove admitted it had a ‘significant impact’ on schools. All of Bristol’s secondary schools and eighty of its primary schools were partially or entirely closed, with thousands of teachers marching and many workers bringing their children with them. 1500 of 1776 schools in Wales were closed, while only 33 of 2700 state schools in Scotland remained open. It was the first time in their history that several unions, including the National Association of Head Teachers, had been on strike.
Students lose name on Union building Stephanie Linning News Reporter
The name of the Students’ Union is set to change as part of the ongoing refurbishment
This sense of ownership and belonging is something he fears will deteriorate with the proposed name-change for the building, that until recently was set to become the Queen’s Road Building, a name that Ruff dismissed as ‘sterile.’ However Ruff, who represents the Union on the Development Board, has been outspoken with his views against the proposal and has successfully won a concession that, although it can no longer be known as
the Students’ Union building, ‘perhaps Queens Road Building isn’t the best alternative.’ He has hopes that a new consultation process with students may lead to a more suitable name that will reflect the important presence of students within the building, whilst still respecting the large number of University staff that will now be located on-site. This is a position that appears to be entirely supported by the University with Finch stating
In doing so he hopes to better utilize the 1,200 square metres in the centre part of the building. However, it is unclear as to whether or not this significant space will be classified as Union or University occupied, meaning that the University could technically take up even more space within the Union than Finch suggests. Justifying the reallocation of the space, Finch explains, ‘It was agreed that the building needed to be used more intensively’ and that the new spaces needed to be made ‘as flexible as possible.’ This is something that Activities VP Chris Ruff is in complete support of. Speaking to Epigram, Ruff acknowledged that although ‘losing comparative Union space’ was a potential issue, he admitted that the ‘space created would probably be more efficient’ and better suited to the needs of students. However, Ruff is more concerned with ‘the small but significant change’ that the renaming of the building represents. He fears it will be indicative of ‘a loss of identity’ for the student body. He explains, ‘Even if the University have space within the building, at the end of the day, it still belongs to the students. It is a place where they can feel safe and where they can express themselves. It is their space.’
Students at the University of Bristol will soon be faced with the loss of their Students’ Union Building, with the name of the site set to change as part of the multimillion pound refurbishment currently taking place. Moreover, the area available to Union activities and societies is set to be reduced by 1,500 square metres. Activities VP, Chris Ruff fears the name change represents ‘a loss of student identity’, as ‘the University of Bristol will no longer officially have a Students’ Union.’ According to the University’s Bursar and Head of Estates, Patrick Finch, the building will be renamed in order to ‘Better reflect the multiple uses’ that it will provide following the completion of the major renovation works in 2015. The project, which began in earnest in 2009, has this year entered into its construction phase, following extensive planning and consultation. Funded entirely by the University, the total cost of the Union refurbishments is currently set at £25.3m, with the money being spent on significant work to both the interior
and exterior of the building. Notably, extensive improvements are to take place to existing Union facilities including the Winston Theatre, the Anson Rooms and the swimming pool. In addition, comments Finch, ‘A range of new or replacement student club and society space will be created, together with new offices and meeting spaces for UBU.’ The plans also include a significant reallocation of space within the building, reducing the area available to Union activities and societies by 14%, or 1,500 square metres. The University is set to occupy the remainder of the space. Under the current plans, the University will be given approximately four floors in the North Wing and two in the South. This says Finch, ‘Includes the swimming pool, the International Office and the International Foundation Programme.’ These all currently occupy space in the Union. Additionally, renovations are being made to the central link space. According to Finch, the under-used space will be transformed into a space suitable for a number of student activities, ‘from foyer space on the lower floors to social learning and meeting spaces higher up.’
that, ‘The door is open to an alternative, and any relevant ideas coming forward from the student body will be considered.’ He goes onto add that, the external signage will clearly denote the fact that it is the location of the Union, regardless of any potential name change. This, however, is not enough for Ruff. ‘It is difficult to explain, but it is a symbolic change. ‘The University of Bristol will no longer officially have a Students’ Union’
Police seize £1.25m of University applicants M-cat from Bristol car from UK fall by 15% Sarah Lawson News Reporter
A man has been arrested in Bristol after 50 kilos of mephedrone was found in his car. The drugs were arranged into 50 packages weighing 1kg each and have been estimated at a street value of up to £1.25m. The 41 year-old was stopped near Cribbs Causeway on the evening of the 24th November while driving a silver BMW. Acting Detective Inspector Tina Harland said:‘This operation reinforces our commitment to taking illegal drugs and those who supply them off our streets. ‘It also shows the importance of the community working with us to beat this type of crime.Every piece of intelligence received is taken seriously and acted upon.’ Mephedrone is a Class B substance known commonly as ‘Drone’ or ‘M-Cat’. It was prohibited last year under the
The number of UK university applicants for 2012 has decreased by 15% since last year, according to the latest statistics. UCAS (The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) have released new figures for November, which show even more shocking data than the October figures predicted. The statistics, released on Monday 28th November show that the total number of applicants has dropped from 181,814 to 158,387 within the space of a year, and the number of UK applicants total 133,357, down from 157,116 in 2010. Mature students are still put off by the tuition fee rise: there is a decrease of 25.2% of applicants aged 40 or over in comparison with this time last year. Worryingly, there has also
Flickr: E lad R
Joe Kavanagh News Reporter
Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and its possession, importation and distribution are all now illegal. The drug achieved relative popularity in the UK after being sold legally in shops and online as plant food. Estimates classed it as the fourth most popular illegal drug in Britain. Avon and Somerset Police called for the drug to be banned in 2010, following its widespread use in Bristol. In the same year it was linked to a death in the city. At the time the Bristol Drugs Project warned against the health risks of the drug, particularly when mixed
with alcohol or other substances. Paul Bunt, Avon and Somerset’s drug strategy manager, said that the seizure proved there was ‘still demand’ for the drug. He also warned against the dangers of similar substances. ‘There are also a range of very similar products being sold under the guise of legal highs. These are not legal and can cause hallucinations, blood circulation problems, rashes, anxiety and paranoia. ‘One of the most dangerous things with mephedrone is that we don’t know many of the long-term effects.’
been a 20.1% fall in 20-year-old applicants. Josh Alford, the University UBU Vice-President for Education, said, ‘The Government’s policies are acting as a deterrent to those that we really want to engage, especially mature and lower income students. ‘The new fee regime is confusing and off-putting for prospective students with a whole host of differing funding packages, fee waivers versus bursaries and the fact that the benefits of such an expensive university education may have been called into doubt.’ NUS President, Liam Burns, added, ‘Ministers need to take responsibility for their disastrous education reforms and admit that regardless of the final application numbers, the behaviour of prospective students will be affected by the huge rise in fees. ‘The significant reduction in applications from mature students continues to be
very concerning and the government needs to respond quickly to ensure older learners are not put off for good.’ The number of male and female applications has fallen by 13.2% and 12.7% respectively. Applicants aged 17 and under have seen the smallest decrease of any age group, dropping by 0.9%. As in October, the subject area of Mass Communications and Documentation has suffered the most, with a 30.1% decrease in applicants. UCAS said that universities and courses with a deadline of the 15th October (Oxbridge, medicine, dentistry, veterinary science and related courses) saw a reduction of 0.8%. Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said, ‘We still have to hold back before coming to conclusions about these figures. There are still seven weeks left for people to get their applications in before the 15 January UCAS deadline.’
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Bristol gang jailed after Youtube video Eliza Dolbey News Reporter Five members of the notorious St Paul’s Bristol Blood gang have been jailed after posting a ‘gangsta rap’ video of themselves brandishing guns on YouTube. O’Shane Finlayson, 20, Linus Campbell, 22, Narwayne Parchment, 22, Noah Ntuve,
Gun crime in our force area is thankfully very rare but its consequences can be devastating
The area of St Paul’s in central Bristol has a turbulent history peppered with riots and confrontations with the police. Although much has improved, violence still persists in parts of the community. Last year two serious arrests were made, one involving a man carrying an axe and a second man was detained after a man fatally stabbed a local he mistook for someone else. St Paul’s also featured in the press last year following a number of shootings at the popular July summer carnival when many firearms were found to have been smuggled into the venue causing chaos for local police. The Avon and Somerset police force are confident that, unlike their American equivalents, these gangs do not pose a dominant threat to the community and their recent jail terms should act as a serious deterrent to the remaining few but disruptive gangs located in the area. Hilary Banks, from the community project ‘Signpost & Rite Direkshon’, said she did not believe there was ‘a deep-rooted gang culture in Bristol’.
25 and Kamari Lee were all sentenced to a total of 26 years earlier this month. The five-minute clip includes a large number of the gang inciting violence and hatred towards their rival gang in Easton. One member in particular is filmed holding a .22 handgun over his shoulder. Behind their
trademark red handkerchiefs many are heard threatening to injure their blue-wearing opponents: the High Street gang, with ‘bare guns, drugs and whips’. The video posted two years ago includes references to making others swim in pools of their own blood and checkering their rival’s shirts with bullets. Local police raided the ring leader Narwayne Parchment’s house and found the featured .22 handgun hidden loaded with rounds behind a panel in the ground floor bathroom. In the 1st floor bathroom a Desert Eagle-style handgun was also found. Inspector Gary Haskins, of Avon and Somerset Police added, ‘Gun crime in our force area is thankfully very rare but its consequences can be devastating.’ Avon and Somerset police said the inquiry hade been complex and stated that, ‘The sentencing of these men will have a significant impact on the community and should reassure residents that we take these types of offences extremely seriously.’
Bristol Barracuda represented in parliament
On the 19th of October, Sam Bellman, from the University of Bristol American Football Team, the Bristol Barracuda, was in London representing the student league at the launch of an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for American Football. Pictured above are the Barracuda Team Community Officer, Sam Bellman, (middle) with Super Bowl winning Quarterback Brad Johnson (left) and four-time Pro Bowl Tight End Jimmie Giles (right).
Platform 1 fined £30,000 for hazards Tom Powell News Reporter
Platform 1 on Whiteladies road has been fined £30,000
Platform 1, a nightclub next to Clifton Down Train station and shopping centre, has been fined £30,000 by Bristol city council for putting hundreds of clubbers in danger. On November 18th, Platform 1 owner, Andrew Calvey, pleaded guilty to all three offences he had been charged with under the licensing act. The club had been warned by licensers last March to improve the lighting on their emergency exit, but these warnings were ignored. Emergency lighting in nightclubs is essential because of the large volume of people in such an enclosed area. In the case of a fire, people must be able to quickly locate fire fighting equipment and identify exit routes from the premises. Platform 1 nighclub did not conform to the prescribed regulations and therefore put hundreds of clubbers at risk. The Bristol City Council cabinet minister for neighbourhoods, Guy Poultner, said ‘this club has shown absolute contempt for its
customers’. He continued saying ‘they knew there was a problem, they knew people were being put in danger, and they did nothing about it’. In light of recent tragedies in Northampton, the need to stop premises putting profits above customer safety is as clear as ever. Platform 1 Owner, Calvey, told Epigram that the issue has been addressed and was keen to point out they have passed at least 5 safety tests since then. ‘Platform 1 is a safe venue to come to’ he said. Despite this huge financial setback, Calvey is also adamant the club will be keeping its doors open. The club has announced they will be counter-suing, as they feel the charges are completely unwarranted. The magistrate’s court heard that inspectors actually needed torches to see their way through the emergency exit, which lead out onto a 25ft landing area, then down a steep stairway to the outside of the building. This could have been incredibly dangerous in the case of a fire or sudden evacuation. The club’s incident report register was also found to have been scarcely maintained.
In a statement on their website, Platform 1 ascertain that they had ‘alternative safety procedures in place’. They argue that the lack of lighting during the inspection was due the power being shut off in the adjacent building, through which the emergency exit led. ‘Our solicitors will be counter suing the relevant parties as we feel this is a huge miscarriage of justice’ declares the statement. Poultner commented that ‘Bristol has an international reputation for its vibrant nightlife, and we need to make sure that people know they are safe in our bars and clubs’. Platform 1 nightclub was also found to have not properly maintained its register of incident reports throughout the investigatioon. Platform 1 is interestingly not a club favoured by most University of Bristol students, but it is still a popular venue with the public and the University of West England students, bringing in hundreds of customers every weekend. Magistrates ordered for costs of £1,250, a victim surcharge of £15 and gave Calvey a community order with unpaid work.
BBC move sparks protest in Birmingham Katie Briefel News Reporter
where we have the strongest base.’ A report on the changes said, ‘Substantial network television drama (Doctors, Land Girls) and radio drama (The Archers) would continue in Birmingham alongside the BBC’s local and regional services. ‘ Councillor Mark Whitby said Birmingham and the Midlands are being ‘marginalized’. ‘We literally have a formidable population, we’re growing the media sector, it’s already 10% of our economic output, we have the skills, we have the professionalism’, he said. Whitby continued saying ‘I think it is only right that the great population centers have great media centers and that is being eroded.’ The proposals also have an impact on five local radio stations in the West Midlands. Michelle Dawes, the National Union of Journalists’ representative for the local
station in Birmingham, BBC WM, said ‘This would mean that local radio as we know it is going to be hugely diluted.’ David Holdsworth, controller of English Regions for the BBC, who is himself based in Birmingham, said ‘Of course today’s news is sad for staff in Birmingham’. He added ‘we have taken these steps to ensure that we can continue to deliver high quality programmes for our audiences in Birmingham and elsewhere in the country.’ Holdsworth went on to say, ‘The BBC currently employs over 600 people in Birmingham; after these changes we will still employ over 450 staff here.’ This leaves a vast number of staff with the decision to quit or move. David Lloyd, BRMB programme and marketing director, said ‘I think the review overall is sensible owing to the current economic climate.’
Protests in Birmingham are over plans to move factual programming to BBC Bristol (pictured here)
More than 100 people have protested in Birmingham over plans to move BBC national factual programme making from the city to Bristol. The Chamberlain Square event was held over plans which the BBC has said would affect more than 100 Birmingham posts. One protest organiser and series producer, Oliver Clark, said they wanted to ‘take the story into the centre as it is important for the area that ‘the BBC stays here.’ About 60% of staff affected will be offered jobs in Bristol, says the BBC. Programmes such as the Hairy Bikers and Countryfile and coverage of RHS flower shows will move from BBC Birmingham’s base at The Mailbox from August
2011 following last month’s announcement. When asked about the proposals, Clark, commented that the protest was not just about jobs. He said, ‘the big issue is that they want to close the factual television and radio department at BBC Birmingham.’ Clark continued saying that the protest is about ‘the fact that the Midlands is one of the largest regions in the country, and will have no BBC factual presence at all.’ Following the announcement last month, the BBC’s controller of factual production, Tom Archer, said ‘Bristol is the largest centre of documentary and factual in-house television production outside London.’ Archer continued saying that ‘It simply makes sense to combine the strengths of Bristol’s factual television programme-making with Birmingham, and to locate it
Occupy Bristol’s bid to build ‘slum city’ Nicholas Jones News Reporter
Flickr: Adam Gasson
Billy Bragg (pictured here) performs at Occupy Bristol camp
As the worldwide protests against the power and influence of the banks continue, Bristol’s own ‘Occupy’ movement, the largest in the UK outside of London, has served to dominate local headlines over the past few weeks. With protestors wishing to expand their already 60 tent-strong camp on College Green, the initiative’s enduring presence has led to resentment amongst the community being expressed in a variety of ways. Earlier this month the anticapitalist protesters expressed their desire to construct a ‘slum city’ in which all tents currently in place would be replaced with
shacks with more sophisticated fittings such as doors and some furniture. Having already negotiated with the council over the use of uninhabited council buildings nearby, construction of this ‘city’ had been well under way before the new settlements were vandalised, allegedly by members of the English Defence League and drunken students. The council, agreed to consider this construction project, but many are opposed. Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, commented after his visit to Yate this month that the new neighbours of his Liberal Democrat-run council in Bristol were not helping the movement. ‘You don’t make [the protestors’ point] best by building a permanent
encampment on College Green. It doesn’t help the cause.’ This week protestors on the College Green site created a list on Amazon of objects which they would like the public to donate to them as they continue their occupation. Sympathetic local residents have already fulfilled some of the protestors’ requests, sending money and food. One protestor highlighted this as an example of how Bristolians appear to be more in favour of the camp than against it, ‘He [Bristol West MP Stephen Williams], said we didn’t have much support and he wanted us to leave College Green. We opened a vote, and the results were 400-1 in favour of what we are doing.’ Although some protestors have claimed the wooden shacks
RAG Jailbreak raises £5000 for charity Jodie White News Reporter Jailbreak, one of the plethora of RAG (Raising and Giving) events that occur throughout the year, took place over the 19th and 20th of November. Students have 36 hours, no money, and one goal: to get as far away from Bristol as possible. The challenge managed to raise over £5000 for Practical Action, an international aid charity working to use technology in development.
Almost 60 students took part in the bi-annual challenge, with the winners making it over 1800 kilometres away to Florence, Italy. The team, “An Englishman, A Scotsman and a ...” consisted of Scott Caddick and Paul Rogers who travelled with Royal Scots on their way to a ski trip in Austria, refusing the offer of a bed and potential ski up the glacier in favour of catching trains to Verona, Bologna, Prato and finally Florence! Additionally, Laura Cavacuiti and Saoirse Linder managed to make it to Bagong Silland in the Phillipines to work on a
volunteering project with the Air France KLM-Gawad Kalinga Partnership. They were not eligible to win the competition however, as set off earlier than the official start time. They said ‘Everything about the Jailbreak experience was absolutely incredible. Every moment was so new and exciting, and everything we saw was so culturally rich and different to what we’ve ever seen before’. Planning for the challenge began in early October, with advertising of the event, raising of the minimal £50 per team in
sponsorship, and ensuring all participants were fully aware of the requirements. Teams are monitored throughout the event via SMS messaging and an online tracking system, organised by the company ‘Choose a Challenge.’ Ben Collins, who is in charge of the co-ordination of all RAG Challenges and Sponsored Events, spoke to Epigram following the challenge, ‘I’m pleased to see so many people going out and having a great time whilst raising as much as possible for charity’.
The winners, pictured here in Florence, Italy
were actually just a joke, several of these structures remain. In reaction to comments such as those of Clegg, the movement has invited the people of Bristol to a public consultation through their website, regarding their presence on such an important piece of land in the city. ‘Occupy Bristol’ has invited representatives from all major political parties as well as anarchists and trade unionists, the group has significantly declared its openness to ‘bold, fresh ideas on how we can continue to build our movement and advance our arguments without continuing to camp on College Green.’ This could have an interesting effect on the level of local support the initiative enjoys, and ultimately on the duration of the occupation in Bristol.
Hitler’s bed sheets at Bristol auction Jessica Wingrad News Reporter
Prinzregentenstrasse, Munich where the bed linen is thought to have come from
Bristol to host world-class environmental festival Amina Makele News Reporter
Sometimes it is necessary to remind residents and politicians we are an asset to Bristol, not a nuisance
a student presence to be felt at the event. ‘Although BUST has no direct involvement in the festival, it is a huge opportunity for students to get inspired by the amazing speaker line-up, engage with local people and check out the careers fair for
green environmental and sustainability jobs.’ The University of Bristol will be officially involved as a key contributor to the Festival of Nature, Europe’s largest free natural history festival. The University will host two exhibition tents called ‘Biodiversity is Life’ and ‘Technologies for the Future’. Each activity will be manned by University researchers and students, keen to discuss their work and hear the public’s thoughts on their research. Head of Sustainable Bristol City-Region Project, Paul Rainger, told Epigram that he is hopeful that students will come to the event or join part of the volunteer stewarding team. The Students’ Union Environmental Officer, Georgina Bavetta, commented ‘Integrating student-led campaigns into the community is so important. The little bubble we live in as students often makes us forget that we are part of the city of Bristol. Sometimes it is necessary to remind residents and politicians we are an asset to Bristol, not a nuisance.’
A rare first edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets has been discovered Oxfam Books on Park Street. The manager of the store, Michael O’Grady, was searching through boxes of donated books when he came across the edition, which was valued at £750. The book was almost sold twice, but the buyers backed out at the last minute, deciding the price was too high to justify. On Friday 18th November the store finally received a call from an interested party. The book was found in an excellent condition and Michael O’Grady stated that it is standard practice to check hardback Harry Potter books to see if they are first editions, as their worth is so great. He said, ‘The price was assessed by our rare book pricer. We didn’t just pluck a price out of the air – we look at auction
Oxfam Books, where the rare edition was discovered
sites to get a price.’ He added that a dealer might aim to sell the book for as much as twice the £750 it went for. However a dealer would be willing to wait for many months to sell a book and the lower end of the price scale was more appropriate for Oxfam. It is not known who brought the book in to the shop. Michael O’Grady described
the copy of the second book in the series as ‘a gem’ and says the store is very grateful to the donor. The world of Harry Potter first edition collecting is a complicated and lucrative one. Whole websites are dedicated to the identification of the books, with complicated specifications defining their value, which can be as much as £17,500.
Thousands turn up to watch Olly Murs switch on Bristol’s Christmas lights
Next summer the city of Bristol is to host a world-class festival of sustainability. The event will provide opportunities for students to work with the local community and prove that they are ‘not just a nuisance.’ Bristol’s Big Green Week will bring together leading global experts and thinkers to share ideas and inspiration on developing a green future. Bristol is one of the UK’s leading cities for sustainable development and the festival, from 9th – 17th of June, will tap into the city’s rich resource of green expertise and practical experience. There will also be a careers fair for environmental and sustainable jobs. Students are encouraged to take part as the Union will be working with the co-ordinator on the Students’ Union Ethical Careers fair in February 2012. The festival will also include a strong cultural element with
music, theatre and comedy performances, a film festival, and new art all reflecting an environmental theme. Bristol’s Big Green Week is also creating a buzz amongst students, who are keen to demonstrate how students can work with the community to promote environmental issues. Lauren Hoskin-Parr, President of BUST (Bristol University Sustainability Team) is keen for
Katharine Barney News Reporter
bed sheets at auction there have been mixed reviews from students at the university. Two history students who wish to remain anonymous said that they believe history stays alive in the artefacts which it leaves behind; auctioning off Hitler’s bed sheets is a way of remembering the horrors committed by this man. However, other students, when speaking to Epigram, described the sale as ‘perverse.’
Bed linen belonging to Adolf Hitler has been given an estimated price of £3,000 at a Bristol auction house. The white, single bed sheet and pillowcase are extensively embroidered with the dictators own stylised Third Reich eagle standing atop an encircled swastika which is flanked by his ‘AH’ monogram. They will be auctioned off at the Bristol Auction Rooms in Clifton along with an assortment of other military goods of varying historical importance. The items are said to have come from Hitler’s Prinzregentenstrasse apartment in Munich. His housekeeper, Anny Winter, took many of his personal items from the apartment in the fear that looters would steal them following the suicide of Hitler and his wife Eva Braun in 1945. A private collector bought the items in Germany a few years ago. Dreweatts will be auctioning the items in their militaria sale.
Specialist, Malcolm Claridge said ‘In recent years, a lot of Hitler’s personal possessions have begun to surface on the auction market – particularly in Germany.’ ‘It is extremely rare to find pieces of Hitler’s bed linen embroidered with his personal motif and monogram coming to the market’ he added. Despite a great deal of interest which has been sparked by the sale of the
Harry Potter book worth £750 found in Bristol charity shop
Coming from all over the South West 7,000 fans turned out to watch Olly Murs at The Mall at Cribbs Causeway’s Christmas Lights Switch On and Concert. The X Factor star treated the thousands of screaming fans to a special live performance after switching on the Christmas lights at The Mall’s exclusive event. It was the first time that Olly Murs had performed his new single ‘Dance With Me Tonight’.
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Epigram is holding an open evening on Thursday 8th December, so please come down and meet the team. Whether you want to criticise, compliment, or just ask some questions, weâ€™ll be in the White Bear on St. Michaelâ€™s Hill from 5pm until 7pm Somebody from every section as well as our Editor and Deputy Editors will be around to talk. For any further details, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor: Tristan Martin
Deputy Editor: Andrew White
Uncertainty as white paper implemented With student numbers at Bristol set to rise next year, Epigram questions the government’s changes to higher education policy Ellie Groves Features Reporter
In the last few weeks students around the university will have been receiving emails from academic departments detailing their plans for expansion. The university is putting into effect the new rules for higher education as laid out in the white paper, Students at the Heart of the System. This article explores the potential impact of the white paper on students and institutions around the country. We all know, or have at least read of a person who, despite being predicted As at A-level, did not get into their first choice of university. Around September every year this story is repeatedly in the news; government regulations cause universities to have to turn down able students so as to not surpass their quotas. This is an issue the government white paper on higher education addresses. In chapter four it states that, ‘We propose to allow unrestrained recruitment of high achieving students, scoring the equivalent of AAB or above at A-level’. This means that universities are able to accept any number of high
achieving students, creating a free market model. This proposal seems to be what we as a country have been pushing for; that students who achieve As are now able to go to their desired university. However, the proposal has not been welcomed by academics. There are fears raised by Cambridge University that the white paper will cause higher education in England to be looked on in an unfavourable light on the international stage, particularly as the language in the white paper insinuates that students are purely consumers and so higher education will become a commodity. Members of the Russell Group have issued statements addressing the issue as these universities have a large intake of higher level students. The government proposal means a significant increase in the number of students they are able to admit. This could have an adverse impact on the level of teaching given by these universities, especially for seminar based degrees, as there is the potential for larger seminar groups and less ability for one-on-one teaching. The tone of statements from Russell Group universities has therefore been that of restraint
Universities like Bristol are set to expand, others may suffer from the changes.
and reassurance, claiming that although they will now be able to give more students places, they will be self-regulating. Departments at the University of Bristol, for instance, have been reassuring students that staff numbers will rise alongside undergraduate intake. A related issue is that by
focusing on higher level students this proposal has the potential to consolidate an already elite higher education system in the UK. Universities like Bristol will be dissuaded from making ABB offers due to the increased competition between the elite institutions. The focus is not
on higher education creating social mobility but on the continuation of an elite society. The government is allowing universities to favour those in privileged positions and neglect students who do not achieve AAB grades because the quality of their education was not good enough, not because they
do not have the ability to do so. Ultimately the universities that will lose out will be the ones who can’t attract enough high achieving students, resulting in an increasingly stratified education landscape. A further issue that is affecting all English universities is that the white paper was delayed and published after the 2012 fees had been set by universities. As such, it has seemingly stayed detached from those working in the higher education sector. The push for a no confidence vote in David Willetts as the Universities and Science Minister shows that there is disengagement between the government and the university sector. The white paper sets out to cut government spending on higher education, yet those working in higher education fear that the long term ramifications of the proposals have not been fully thought through. The potential for lower quality teaching and for the continuation of an elite class leaves major questions as to the ultimate impact of the changes, only made more uncertain by the clear lack of communication between government and the universities.
The public sector strikes back at Osborne’s pension package Andrew White Deputy Features Editor
the plethora of extensive cuts and the generally declining situation for public sector workers. UWE is also currently hosting a sit-in at Frenchay Campus over the raising of the cap on tuition fees. University of Bristol employees, who were on strike in March against proposed pension reform, joined the national strike and took part in protest with the rest of the city on College Green who then marched to Castle Park. It was the largest in Bristol for a very long time, estimates of between 10,000 and 20,000 people took part. With the continuing controversy about scrapping bursaries, combined with strike action Bristol seems set for a tumultuous time while decisions from central government are discussed and implemented. Christine Blower of the NUT says ministers cannot expect to weather the storm without reconsidering pension changes, with many worried that expecting public sector workers to contribute more, whilst prices are rising and they are under a pay freeze
Last Wednesday one of the biggest public sector strikes in years took place across the country with two million strikers providing a litmus test for the current government. The government’s proposed shake up of public sector pay includes teachers’ pension contributions rising by 50% - from 6.4% to 9.6% by 2014 which increases to 64% if they are earning £40,000, and the retirement age rising from 60 to the state pension age of 65 (set to rise to 66 in 2020 and then to 68). David Cameron has called Wednesday’s strikes the ‘height of irresponsibility’ however his Cabinet Minister Francis Maude has made a U-turn on plans to introduce new strike laws in what had been regarded as a legislative last resort. Wednesday’s strikes were discussed at an emergency Cobra meeting last Monday with many claiming they will damage the economy. However
the disruption to public services nationally was less than expected with only 58% of schools closed compared to the estimated 90%, however 140 of 180 Bristol schools were shut. The government’s position that public sector workers should contribute more to their ‘gold-plated’ pensions, which average £6,500 a year for men, and £4,000 for women, starkly contrasts to the unions’ position that workers are being forced to ‘plug a hole’ in the deficit, predominantly caused by bailing out the banks. In all, at least 668,000 teachers and lecturers from at least six unions from across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were balloted over whether to strike on Wednesday. The turnout was varied – from 23% to 53.6% – but the proportion who voted in favour of striking was decisive. In the case of the National Union of Teachers, 92% voted in favour. UWE staff joined the strikers on Wednesday against forced redundancies but also against
is too much to ask. On top of this, many see the proposed changes as discouraging high quality graduates from considering teaching as a
profession and doing untold damage for future generations. Public service workers feel daunted by the scale of official hostility to their exercise of
the basic democratic right to withdraw their labour while unions have been given until the end of the year to accept the pensions deal on the table.
How not to get ripped off by landlords
As Bristol students start to think about next year’s living arrangements, we look into how to avoid the worst housing problems Frank Clarke Features Reporter
Many students aren’t aware of their rights, and the responsibilities of their landlords.
but filled with bills for all the previous tenants’ consumption. The contract provided that this mess was entirely for the students to resolve. This was avoidable; tenancy agreements can be altered. We spoke to one clever student, who, after noticing that partial re-plastering was required, demanded the estate agent add a clause to their contract guaranteeing that the work would be done before moving in. There are advantages to examining the contract carefully. Help is available from
the University Accommodation Office which offers to read through tenancy agreements, explain their meaning, and answer any questions. Of particular concern in the agreement will be details of what the property comes equipped with. Once moved in, it is important to take photographs documenting the condition of these items, as well as of obvious fixtures like the carpet and walls. This can be a source of much extra income for landlords. One landlord we heard of had entered a student
Photo: Tristan Martin
property during the holidays and soiled the carpet, in order to charge the tenants for the damage. Unfortunately for this ingenious businessman, someone was making dinner in the kitchen and watched, puzzled, as the landlord poured liquid on the carpet. Deposits are perhaps the greatest bonanza for landlords. Students’ cash is often retained superficially, and ultimately, possibly unlawfully. Many do not realise, but landlords are now required by law to place all deposits in a Tenancy Deposit
Photo: Jonathan Taphouse
Everybody knows someone who has a rogue landlord. Everybody is horrified. And everybody passes on news of the drama to their friends. Yet, we all secretly sense a generous amount of hyperbole in such tales. The landlord who sneaks in to urinate on his tenant’s bed? Surely not! ...in Clifton?! Investigating the antics of some of Bristol’s most outrageous landlords, this article explores possible sources of redress available to the unlawfully treated tenant. It is not every landlord who goes rogue, and most offer a great service, but there are lots of horror stories that you hear. The simple message is to be aware of your rights and obligations. The start of all renting arrangements is the tenancy agreement. We all sign one. Few read them. This can be fatal, as landlords can use the contract to avail themselves of potential tenant liability, and to limit their duties. We heard of a group of students who did not check what they signed and later discovered that they had agreed to take all responsibility for arranging the provision of utilities. They moved in to a property with no power or water,
Protection scheme, in which the money is held by a third party, who is charged with resolving any disputes regarding the deposit. Since 2007, landlords can no longer help themselves to students’ money or retain the deposit, subject to a small claim. The tenancy deposit scheme is enforced by the courts, and non-compliance may result in the landlord being forced to repay the deposit plus three times the total deposit value. Hold your landlord to this obligation as tenancy deposits cause much heartache after the tenancy has ended and the former tenant seems to have no leverage to have the deposit returned. The law does give you that leverage and the landlord must usually comply. The mediation schemes run by the deposit protection organisations are a better and cheaper way of resolving disputes than court hearings, but this requires the landlord to have protected the deposit properly in the first place. You will know if your landlord has done so because they are required to provide you with a statement to that effect within a certain period. When it comes to terminating the tenancy, the landlord does have powers to evict. But these are strictly regulated. Sufficient notice of the eviction must be given in advance, and it must
be done in a specific way to be valid. It may be ‘their’ property, but the landlord cannot throw you out easily and, if you refuse to move, they must usually obtain a court order. Such matters are poorly understood by the public, and this often allows unlawful eviction and harassment to take place. These are criminal offences and potentially also give rise to civil liability. In one case, which eventually went to court, the landlord was accused of entering the property illegally and placing faeces in the fridge. This particular tenant was represented in court by the University of Bristol Law Clinic. The Law Clinic is a free service run by Law students which provides information on legal matters to the community. This year, they are focusing on Street Law, a series of free presentations which offer guidance on specific legal issues, including landlord and tenant law. The first of many presentations will soon be held in Hiatt Baker on Thursday 8th December at 7pm, with a free drinks reception afterward, to inform students of the potential problems they may face when renting a property, and, of course, how to avoid landlords urinating in their beds. For more information visit www.bristollawclinic.co.uk
Community sentences: an effective alternative to prison? Amy Hodgson Features Reporter
as a serious alternative, with Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke pledging to reduce the prison population through various reforms, including extending community sentencing measures. There are clear practical advantages to community sentences over prison, with the likelihood of reoffending reduced to 37% of those on a Community Payback scheme, almost half that of those serving custodial sentences. To keep an offender on a community scheme for one year costs the taxpayer on average £7000. This is in stark contrast to the £42,000 required to detain one adult male in prison for the same amount of time. Critics may argue that community sentences are ‘soft’ on prisoners, however the No Winners report found that some prisoners in fact find community sentences harder to complete than a short prison term. This may be due to the strict conditions of the schemes, the visibility within the community, and the lengthy time they take to complete.
Young offenders taking part in the community payback scheme.
The success of community sentencing is well demonstrated in Bristol and the surrounding area. The UBU Howard League for Penal Reform Society recently invited Jeremy Britton, manager of Community Payback for the Avon and Somerset Probation Trust, to talk to students about the scheme he runs and the award he received from the
Hull City Council
No Winners: The reality of short term prison sentences is the title of a report published this year by prison reform charity The Howard League for Penal Reform. This report investigated the views and experiences of male prisoners serving custodial sentences of 12 months and under, as well as the views of prison staff. Findings revealed that for many of these prisoners, a short prison sentence provides little opportunity to address their needs and the various issues that may influence their behaviour and likelihood of reoffending. This report comes in the same year that the prison population of England and Wales reached a new record high of 88,115, with over half of these prisoners serving a sentence of less than one year in jail, many for non-violent offences. This record figure was greatly inflated by the summer riots, which led to the incarceration of over 2,000 extra prisoners,
many of whom are below the age of 21. It is predicted that over 60% of those serving a short sentence will reoffend within two years of release. With prisons overcrowded and budgets being increasingly stretched, there is a movement towards finding alternatives to short custodial sentences which would better address the needs of prisoners, cost less to the taxpayer, and reduce the chance of reoffending. Prison reform charities such as the Howard League and the Prison Reform Trust argue that an effective alternative to prison is community sentencing. Community Payback schemes may be a better way to address problems which lead to criminal behaviour, and a way for the offender to make amends to the community for their crime. It is not just reformist organisations which support an end to short prison sentences; in 2009 the Prison Governors’ Association passed a motion to abolish prison sentences of twelve months and less on the basis that they do not work. The government has also begun to consider Community Payback
Howard League for his work. Through the scheme, offenders work on local projects such as upkeep at Ashton Court and the Broadmead underpass, and there is a successful partnership with Severnside Rail. Britton explained how Community Payback schemes can be more effective than prison for some offenders because they can be tailor-made
to the individual, and provide a strict routine. This may involve compulsory drug and alcohol treatment, counselling and vocational training, as well as the unpaid work within the community. If the offender has a job, they may be able to do their community work at the weekend in order to stay in their employment. If courses and counselling are available in prison, they are not compulsory, and they are often extremely over-subscribed. Community sentences may reduce the chance of reoffending if offenders are forced to address their problems and take responsibility for their crimes. While community sentencing is not an option for many violent offenders, opinions about the current practice of giving short prison sentences are changing. The new perspective is that it is not sustainable for the justice system and is not reducing crime. Community Payback schemes are a real alternative which address the issues that lead to criminal behaviour and help to break the cycle, as well as allowing the offender to make amends.
Making a killing: the global arms trade exposed Ex South African MP Andrew Feinstein tells Epigram why British arms manufacturer BAE are one of the most corrupt in the world. Tristan Martin Features Editor
“ Tristan Martin
In 1999 South Africa suffered a terrible blow to its fledgling democracy. In a country still reeling from the socio-economic damage inflicted by over 30 years of legalized racism, an arms deal was struck that would damage it for years to come. Andrew Feinstein was an MP at the time, and was forced out of government when he protested against the huge levels of corruption he was witnessing. ‘South Africa decided to spend about £6 billion on weapons that the country didn’t need, and has barely used. Almost £300 million of bribes were paid on those deals. This happened at a time when the then president Thabo Mbeki was claiming that the government could not afford to provide the antiretroviral medication needed for the 5.5 million South Africans who were HIV positive at the time. It gives some sense of the impact this deal had.’ The then defence minister Joe Modisa turned down 9 offers of defense contracts, opting instead for the most expensive - a joint deal with Saab and BAE Systems, Britain’s largest arms manufacturer. This offer was accompanied by millions of pounds of ‘economic offsets’ – ostensibly promises of wider economic investment – but what Feinstein describes as ‘an incredibly good conduit for bribes to key decision makers’.
A Bristol student protesting against BAE Systems at a careers fair in 2010.
Not only was the deal completely oversized (12 of the 26 jets purchased have never been flown), but it also transpired that Joe Modisa left government a few weeks after it was struck and became chairman of a new defence company set up with ‘offset’ money from the deal. The School of Public Health at Harvard University estimated that in the 5 years after the deal was signed, due to the state’s refusal to provide antiretrovirals to those who couldn’t afford them privately, up to 355,000 South Africans died avoidable deaths. Feinstein now lives in the UK, and has spent the last 11 years researching the murky world of the global arms trade. Time
and time again, his research paints a picture of a complicit partnership between the British government and BAE Systems as one of the most corrupt in the world. ‘It is BAE, with the support of the UK government, which outside of China and Russia, are probably the most deviant and devious of operators, anywhere in the world… It was engaged in the biggest ever arms deal, with Saudi Arabia – a deal worth £48billion – in which £6billion of commissions were paid. The vast majority of that would have been what you or I would understand as bribes.’ It was this deal in particular that has caught the attention of the press and international
investigators. But in 2006, Tony Blair stepped in to halt the investigation in to BAE’s foul play. And in what many commentators saw as a completely unfounded move, the serious fraud office agreed not to allege corruption against BAE for a further 10 years. Feinstein is in no doubt about the kind of relationship that holds between the government and their favourite manufacturer: ‘It was Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary, that said that BAE has the keys to the back door of 10 Downing street. This company is above the law.’ So if the internationally regulated arms trade is thoroughly corrupt, what constitutes an illegal market?
It is BAE, with the support of the UK Government, which outside of China and Russia, are probably the most deviant of operators anywhere in the world
Well, that turns out to be rather more complex than it might at first appear. Take the case of Victor Bout for instance, a notorious weapons dealer who was recntly found guilty by an American court for trying to sell weapons to Colombian militant group FARC. ‘While there was an Interpol warrant out for his arrest, between 2003 and 2005 he made tens of millions of dollars ferrying equipment, weapons and ammunition into Baghdad for the United States department of defence. The so-called clean weapons trade – which is nothing of the sort – is quite literally in bed with the illicit trade. And together they make a killing, both literally and metaphorically,
Climate conference questioned Nahéma Marchal Features Reporter
size inevitably leads to deadlock in the negotiations or to unmeaningful commitments, ill-suited to solve environmental issues in specific localities or sectors. The truth probably lies between these two extremes. There are some undeniable key functions performed by parties in such conferences. Above all, by promoting social inclusiveness climate summits are an essential part of making global governance legitimate in the eyes of individual governments, business and civil society. Insofar as the world has become a community of fate with regard to climate change, conferences are not simply the arena in which rich and poor countries fight over their interests: they are also necessary platforms of expression for vulnerable countries that cannot set their sustainability agenda alone, but feel that they also have legitimate rights to progress and development. A
Durban is this year’s venue for the worldwide conference on climate change.
case in point is the Cartagena Dialogue: a coalition of 30 middle-sized powers (such as Costa Rica, Indonesia and South Africa) formed to draw on the voices of compromise in the negotiations. On the other hand, voluntary
Last Monday saw the launch of the 17th Conference of Parties in Durban, South Africa: the annual meeting of the Kyoto Protocol signatories. During two weeks, this conference will bring together representatives of the world’s governments and international organisations, to discuss and assess progress made in dealing with climate change. This year, the stakes could not be higher. The Kyoto Protocol provisions, binding the world’s most industrialised nations to reduce their greenhouse emissions by 5% of their 1990 levels, expire in December 2012. A worrisome deadline knowing that despite the global recession, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions still increased by 6% between 2009 and 2010. All the more so as governments, primarily big emitters such as the United States, Japan or Canada, seem
reluctant to engage in a second legally-binding treaty, preferably opting for for a weak commitment. So, are climate summits nothing more than high profile talks that give the illusion that politicians are making progress when in reality they are not? Considering the relative failure of both the Copenhagen and Cancun summits in leading to a comprehensive climate deal with legal status, one could ask: are climate mega-conferences still purposeful? On the one hand, advocates of large-scale diplomacy would claim that conferences have to be megasized in order to adequately capture the myriad of competing viewpoints and the complexity of the issues under discussion. Besides, environmental concerns such as transboundary pollution (e.g. acid rains) cannot be tackled effectively at a lower level of governance, and require decision making at an international level. Conversely, critics feel their
national commitments to reduce gas emissions in accordance with their citizens’ interests – the ‘bottom-up’ approach - have proved effective in recent years. Following COP 15 in Copenhagen, the UK announced that it would
around the world.’ This is just one of the many bloody ironies that seem to stem from the questionable policies of Western governments. Current events in the Middle East are a perfect example of this kind of duplicity: ‘In terms of the Arab Spring, we need to bear in mind that while Cameron was talking about how proud he was of Britain’s role in the overthrow of Gaddafi, he failed to mention the £120 million of weapons the UK has sold to Gaddafi since 2004.’ The irony of this story is not merely that the first thing NATO had to do in their ‘intervention’ was to destroy the weapons its own states had been selling Gaddafi. It is also the issue of what happened to the weapons after the dictator was deposed. ‘Gaddafi didn’t have the military personnel to use everything he bought, and a lot of it was stockpiled. Surprise surprise, during the transition, that stuff was unguarded, and a whole lot of it has turned up on the world’s black weapons markets already. So, if you’ve got a spare $50,000, you can buy yourself a surface to air missile system on the periphery of Libya, or Egypt, which can take down a commercial jet airliner.’ As the UN sits down to finalize a new international arms trade treaty next year, one hopes that efforts will be made to enforce both transparency and accountability on governments that have let a deadly industry run riot.
reduce voluntarily its carbon emission by 60% by 2050. So did Brazil and China, along with the European Union (30% reduction target) and even Kazhakstan (15%)! In total, 85 countries have announced voluntary actions since 2009. Yet, isolated and uncoordinated national efforts are unlikely to resolve the carbon emissions problem alone. Moreover, they might even result in countries deciding whether to act on emissions or not, solely according to the competitive advantage rationale. Thus, the necessity to reach a global legally-binding treaty which would act as a catalyst and a focus point for all voluntary actions is more important than ever. Chris Huhn, Energy Secretary says that keeping the temperature rise under 2°C, ‘is not a luxury but an absolute necessity’, and Achim Steiner, executive director of the UN environment program emphasises that ‘postponing an agreement, which was meant to be signed in 2013 – to the end of the decade would be a political choice, rather than one based on science’.
Editor: Patrick Baker email@example.com
Sex, drugs... and dire consequences Should we be concerned that Britain is the most promiscuous Western nation? Mike Jones
flatmate for the rest of the year or trying to remember to leave your beer goggles behind before a night out. A lack of proper sex education also plays a part. This is not exclusively the responsibility of our schools; the burden also falls upon parents to equip their children with sufficient knowledge so that they make their own sensible and informed judgements. This is evidently not happening. In a recent survey conducted by Cosmopolitan, 42% of students see Freshers’ Week as an opportunity to sleep around rather than as an induction to life at University. Freshers’ is obviously a perfect time for
promiscuity and to partake in harmless fun. But to what extent is it harmless? Our ‘shoot and score’ mentality means the people of today’s Britain are riddled with STI’s and other gruesome repercussions - you only need to switch over to The Jeremy Kyle Show to see the countless pregnant women with the infinite array of potential fathers that goes with them. However, young people aren’t the only age bracket contributing to our high rates of promiscuity. For instance, take the recent surge in ‘Hooking-Up’ websites such as ‘Onlinebootycall.com.’ This is a domain predominately used
by the middle-aged with the sole purpose of meeting others for ‘no-strings attached’ sex. It is plain to see the whole of the UK is keen to get around. The nation’s relaxed attitude towards sex can often be deemed irresponsible. But surely recreational sex is only dangerous and reckless when the correct precautions aren’t being taken? In many circumstances, there is nothing wrong with having a veritable buffet of sexual partners; as long as protection is being used and there are two consenting parties, no one is being harmed. This is where the onus falls once again to education
and also to the accessibility of contraception. Further to this, we need to regain a fear of consequences; so many people, when engaging in casual sex - whether drunk or sober, lose sight of the risks of not using contraception. Perhaps our ‘easy’ nation is unchangeable. Perhaps this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But it is blindly obvious that a vast number of people are taking uneducated and impulsive risks. If a bit of thought was given before scoring then maybe we could be liberated as a sexual nation without all the disease and unplanned pregnancy that comes with it.
It is blindly obvious that a vast number of people are taking uneducated and impulsive risks
Whether it’s The Inbetweeners in their clumsy quest for ‘clunge’ or an intimate insight into teenage frolicking in The Joy of Teen Sex, every time we turn on the TV we are bombarded with sex. But is the media falsely depicting a generation of rampant animals or are we actually the consequence of an overly sexualised society? Whichever is the case, it is clear that we have become obsessed with sex. Recent statistics, show that out of alll the countries in the west, Britain is the most promiscuous: we have the most one night stands and the most sexual partners. A third of UK teenagers claim to have lost their virginity before 16. Teenage pregnancies are the highest in Europe. These facts sum up our attitudes towards sex. The relaxed approach towards sexual intercourse is making its mark at such an early age – casual sex has become commonplace. But what’s behind this outlook? It is all too easy for the government, parents and other authority figures alike to blame the media: this cannot be the sole cause. Another factor is alcohol. Our binge-drinking culture, which is more prevalent than ever in this country is arguably the main reason why the UK is so ‘loose.’ Drink distorts our decisionmaking skills. Sleeping with someone under the influence can often lead to feelings of regret; possible consequences include having to avoid your
Taser quest: concerns over plans for police weapon
Joe Kavanagh these proposals (which are admittedly still in their early stages) Tasers might be made available for use by regular officers, as opposed to those especially trained in firearms. This distinction is an important one. Training in firearms doesn’t only teach officers how to aim a gun: it helps them to distinguish which situations require shots to be fired as a resolution, and which do not. If we put officers without such training in highpressure situations, it is likely that in many cases Tasers would be used unnecessarily in scenarios, which did not
require them. Perhaps your view on this matter is shaped by what you consider the role of a police officer to be. Soldiers carry lethal weapons because their job is to eliminate the threat posed by an enemy in what is often a life or death situation for all parties. Only rarely are they employed for their skills in negotiation or mediation. Police officers, on the other hand, act as the physical representatives of the state’s judicial system: this role has more to do with soothing hostile situations and maintaining the public’s confidence in the law. The doctrine of ‘minimal force’ is central to this idea, and has been a guiding principle of the Met since it was established in 1829. We should be very cautious of straying too far from this doctrine. Police officers are routinely
exposed to risk, which leads many to request greater protection. We should question, however, just how much protection is afforded to the police by Tasers. The FBI has estimated, for example, that half of all police officers murdered in the USA have insufficient time to draw their gun in self-defence. Peter Waddinton, a leading expert in the police force’s relationship with the society it serves, said that, ‘Genuine protection is not offered by weaponry, but by the conditions in which the police carry out their task. Instead of arming the police, we should attend to how order and justice can be maintained and enhanced.’ The stabbing of four Met Police officers is a tragedy that cannot be accepted, yet we should resist attempts to enact rash policy changes on the back of such stories.
The Commissioner of the Met Police, Bernard Hogan-Howe, recently stated that he wants Tasers to be more available to London police officers, possibly with one in ‘every police car.’ His remarks follow the hospitalization of four policemen after a stabbing in North West London. Tasers do have a useful role to play in modern policing; this much is undeniable. Their use means that armed or dangerous suspects can be incapacitated without the need for lethal force. It is selfevidently better to resolve such situations with electric shocks than live ammunition. But this argument for the use of Tasers holds water if – and only if – the Taser is put to use as a substitute for a lethal weapon. It does not make a convincing case for its widespread introduction. The problem is that under
Watch out, mind the gap year
Thousands are missing out on a 2011 gap year as university fees rocket
Picselect: Museum ofFlickr: Natural History NInaBrown
Hey kids. Let’s talk about gap years. The marmite of most popular university conversations is back. It’s woken up, stretched out two freshly tattooed arms and reared its bleary head again from beneath the battered poncho it picked up backpacking through South America. You may well be sick of it. If you are, you’re not the only one. The last several years have seen a sharp decline in the number of teenagers taking a year out. The latest figures from UCAS show that just 6,000 students deferred applications to their university of choice in 2011 – down from 20,000 the year before. There are two main drivers behind the drop. Number one is cash flow. The big, bad recession has sunk its teeth deep into the economy and refused to let go. The real disposable income of the average household contracted by 0.8% in 2010 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), and supposed luxuries like a year saving the whale/ drinking its body weight are the first slashed on the budget. University fees will have tripled by the time the next wave of students rolls into higher education, with student debt set to soar. Many simply feel they cannot afford to waste time on a gap year in the current financial climate. It is this concept of wasted time that underlines problem two. The reputation of the year abroad is in the mud. Matt Lacey did his bit with the hit YouTube video ‘Gap Yah’ in 2010. If you were on a ‘spiritual/cultural/political exchange thing’ in Burma at the time and missed it, it’s worth a look. It was funny. People liked it. Ian Hislop liked it. Most importantly, the worst suspicions of the wider public were seemingly confirmed – the gap year had become the Bullingdon Club abroad. In the eyes of many, soaring costs and perceived dwindling returns has rendered a year out valueless. And this is where they went wrong. Gap Years are an easy target, and most would be forgiven for not pulling any punches given the very real concerns that are frequently raised regarding them. An almost inexhaustible series
of horror stories from foreign climates are returned each year. Many of them are fictitious. Too many are not. However, flogging a dead horse this ain’t. Without treading too heavily on the toes of cliché, a gap year often has very real and positive consequence for those who take them. The extra year is often an excellent opportunity to re-evaluate the academic and professional options available, whilst at the same time affording a welcome respite from the rigours of the education system. Taking a year out to get your head straight may sound soft, but the Times Good University Guide continues to hold student satisfaction as one of the most important factors in choosing a university. And the benefits are obvious for employers. In a survey published in August, Real Gap Experience revealed that 64% of the UK’s largest employers place work-experience over academic performance, whilst 85% of those surveyed suggested that much of a prospective employee’s potential was reflected by their
non-academic experience. Mary Curnock Cook, chief executive of UCAS, suggested that the gap year should be rebranded as a ‘bridging year’ – a year to be ‘used in a focused way to support an application to the course or university you are targeting.’ The message coming in is that the golden age of the gap year is over. Boardwalks and Bermuda shorts have given way to the coffee run and two piece suits as students turn their attention to tightening up their applications in the face of sterner competition for places. The silver lining here is that any money made can go toward the traditional gap year experience many thought they’d miss out on. Leaner times may call for a meaner, more focused year out. But a brief spell in reputation rehabilitation is likely to do it more than a few favours. If a functional, real world reward can be ground out of the gap year, the voice of austerity should be satisfied. And if you’ve earned enough excess cash for a few months island-hopping while you’re at it, so much the better.
A year out is often an excellent opportunity to revaluate, whilst at the same time affording a welcome respite from the rigours of the education system
For students, job problems are about acquiring, not retiring, and pensions seem like a far distant complication. Yet as a cursory glance over protest signs will show, the N30 public sector strikes are not just about pensions, but spending cuts, jobs and financial security: issues that will worry even the most optimistic student. Sadly last week’s Bristol march from College Green to Castle Park, campaigning against Government pension reform, is a difficult issue in which most will find little to be optimistic about. The unspoken problem is that whether we approve or not, Government policy is rarely judged by the scale of protester outrage, but by the public reaction to protests. The real evaluation of the striker’s arguments will be the response of private sector workers, who historically feel generally worse off with their private pension plans than their now striking public sector counterparts. Why is this the ‘biggest strike of the generation?’ Put simply, the unions feel that too many of their members will work longer, pay more and get less. The proposed changes will see both contribution payments and annual pension payments rising, with pensions now linked to CPI and higher retiring ages. However, there will be a potential exemption for those within ten years of retiring, presumably an attempt by the Government to silence to most vocal group of all: near retirees. It was of course unfair for the Government to smear the unions as ‘irresponsibly’ costing the economy £500 million by striking. Recording a union cover single of ‘Let’s Work Together’ may well have been an inappropriate flamboyance, yet failing to represent their members would not just be a dereliction of some higher moral duty, but also of job description. Nevertheless, while the unions have the right to strike, parents who must now make arrangements for their children to be outside school, may not see it this way. However much the TUC protests against unfair treatment over pensions, it will be hard to square its
actions with the ‘non-public sector’ majority. Supported by votes from a dubious turnout of less than 40%, this general strike of 3 million public sector workers is not like a straightforward private sector walkout; it affects everyone, everywhere; children are not taught, nurses leave hospitals and replacement staff have to cover unfamiliar public services.
The unspoken problem is that whether we approve or not, government policy is rarely judged by the scale of protester outrage, but by the public reaction to protests
It therefore seems unlikely that the strikes will succeed. Even to the most ardent protester, pension reform is not an entertaining issue. Urgent steps are needed to ensure the solvency of social security under a rapidly ageing population, but the dry statistical world of long term financial planning is not well suited to scandalous headlines or public outrage congratulations if you’ve read this far by the way. More importantly public sympathy will be limited. An outpouring of anger against these pension reforms seems impossible whilst the majority of private sector workers feel the protesters already have ‘better’ pensions. This is painfully evident from the N30’s desperate appeals to get young people and other antispending cuts protesters to assist them. Yet the young and unemployed, already at 1.02 million, will surely be hostile to the employed protesting whilst jobs are scarce. As students then perhaps we should show a little more empathy. Our own protests against the tuition fees rise were essentially ignored because many working people felt that we already receive a ‘cushy’ financial deal from the state. In the same way, will struggling private sector workers, students and the unemployed help demand better pension terms for civil servants? It seems unlikely.
The Big Debate: Should animal rights be taken seriously? Yes
Animal rights should set a benchmark. It is our responsibility as humans to stop the needless suffering of animals. In particular, we need to stop cosmetic testing on animals. If ever there were a more profound example of humanity’s departure from its humble origins, than caking an innocent monkey in foundation or applying lipstick to a poor mouse: it is an icon of our vanity and superficiality, which has damaged the world in more ways than we can imagine. It is fair that we use certain animals for medical testing, as indeed like any other species, we must protect ourselves. It is the gratuitous and excessive pain that animals are caused which I so strongly object to. This is not just because I find animals ‘cute’, and I must admit that I often do, but because I feel our treatment of them provides a benchmark of moral and cultural sensitivity which must be respected. This is the next stage of man’s moral development. We had black civil rights, women’s civil rights, gay people’s civil rights: now it is time to embrace the twenty-first century and put in place strong animal rights legislation.
Flickr: BossMeyers Flickr: Zutufarms
The recent proposals by the government to put CCTV cameras in Britain’s abattoirs, to make sure that animals are treated more humanely, filled me with pride. Despite a global economic crisis, various wars across the Middle East and the constant threats of global warming, there are no reasons for us to forget our humanity. If we start to think that we can treat animals the way we want, then we may as well all give up everything now. We are in a privileged position: we have the ability to take care of our planet. Without trying to sound like a creationist, we should value the natural beauty of our environment – rather than crudely exploiting it for our own financial benefits. Morality should not be relative – we can’t argue that just because of the obstacles that humanity faces, it is suddenly okay to shove pipes down the mouths of geese or to keep chickens so closely together that they can’t breathe. If we do this, we’re going down a very dangerous road. It sends out a message that only the ‘big things’ count. What about niche charities? Just because they address smaller issues, it doesn’t mean they are not worthwhile.
The smallest minority of people think cruelty to animals is permissible. A slightly bigger minority think it is appropriate to write up some extravagant manifesto recording all their rights. Both minorities need the perspective of the majority. With issues like these, common sense must surely prevail. The living conditions of animals is an important issue to many, whether it is in a zoo or within the food production industry. The massive increase in free-range products seen on the shelves is ample evidence of the latter. People have learnt to refuse the guilt of eating well - and cheaply - at the expense of a helpless creature. So let’s just employ some sense and move on. Is this horrific oversimplification? Of course I concede some degree of legislation must be enforced so that animals aren’t subject to abject living conditions, horrific fattening methods and all sorts of other cruel things. But my point remains, isn’t this mad obsession with parity all going too far? It wasn’t that long ago, only the 70s, when ‘animal rights’ was treated as an oxymoron. Don’t get me wrong, the legislation
increasing the cage size of a chicken in 2012 is evidently a positive one. So is it just Europe with the obsession? It appears not, animal rights looks to be going global. Thirteen states in America now have limits on the chaining of dogs outside, such as to a tree or metal pole. More look set to follow: Foie Gras looks like it will be banned across America after facing the cut in California already, a sad loss I am assured for the food connoisseur. It sounds extreme, but Europe is way ahead of the States in this field. A couple of years ago Spain passed a resolution calling for legal rights to be extended to nonhuman primates effectively granting animals the right not to be used in medical experiments. A bleak summation with no particular profundity is all I feel able to provide. Whilst the whole concept of human rights may be an ennobling thought for humanity, I cannot help but think that in a financially perilous era, where unemployment is continually reaching new highs and the war in Afghanistan rages on, mankind has bigger things to worry about. Then again, how big is that chicken cage?
Tabloid turmoil is a national disgrace
Ailsa Cameron argues that the problems in the British media go far deeper than the recent phone-hacking scandal
Ailsa Cameron The A-list cast of the Leveson Inquiry strangely failed to inspire the tabloids into a media frenzy last week. Indeed, in what we can only presume is a freakish coincidence, the red tops collectively failed to pay due heed to what would normally have been a blatant opportunity to revisit Hugh Grant’s salacious personal life.
From the hoards of celebrities reeling off their various run-ins with the press, not one made it onto a tabloid front page. In fact, the press has been nowhere near as puerile as you might expect. Hugh Grant, Steve Coogan and Elle Macpherson’s stories haven’t swamped the newspaper columns to any great extent. This time precedence has been given to those for whom the hacking scandal is a much graver issue. These are the worn out, drained parents of Milly Dowler for example – parents of a girl abducted and murdered in 2002. This couple has witnessed their daily agonies dragged publically
through the papers: it is a gruesome disregard for privacy and highly exploitative. Though the inquiry is investigating what it broadly terms ‘media ethics,’ there is a danger of the focus remaining steadfastly on the hacking scandal. What is becoming increasingly worrying, is how the media treats bereavement and grief - especially when provoked by a murder. The media commoditize this hardship. The sad tale of a murder victim’s parents is unfortunately a great selling point. Particularly striking in the evidence given at the inquiry was that of Margaret Watson,
whose daughter, Diane, was stabbed to death at school in 1991. In the months following, the Glasgow Herald published an article portraying Diane as a class-obsessed bully. Subsequently, her brother was severely distressed by the media coverage: he killed himself. It is upsetting to note that it has taken two decades for our society to pay adequate attention to practices, which are so psychologically damaging. Why is it that we, as consumers of our newspapers, have taken so long to find the compassion to react against journalism that has clearly
betrayed the normal standards of human decency? Why will callous reporting only provoke outrage if a journalist has tapped a phone? Do we not condemn shameless dishonesty in whatever form? Sadly enough, if a story is sufficiently outrageous and fulfills our personal prejudices, we are usually willing to accept it. Or, at the very least, we are unlikely to question its integrity. This was encapsulated at the inquiry by the McCanns’ evidence of the media’s barefaced lying. The couple spoke of brutal press conduct, and journalists’ lack of humanity. In particular, they referred to
a Daily Mirror headline that simply stated: ‘She’s dead.’ As horrifying as that now sounds, it undoubtedly did the job in shifting a few thousand more papers into our eager hands. Because we’d all been thinking it, right? And, hey, it’s only a story. The freedom of the press is not a defence for this kind of vicious practice. In fact, the freedom of the press is being exploited. Reporting in the ‘public interest’ now appears to mean doing whatever it takes to satisfy our perverse curiosities. Information and entertainment have become so inseparably twisted – they are now almost indistinguishable.
Letters & Editorial Caution is needed as student numbers grow
Freedom of speech
There are a few distinct issues being conflated in Viv Barrow and Tamizin Simmons’ letters in issue 243: firstly there are medical matters. These are the purview of physicians, who are duty bound to inform their charges of the facts as they are best understood from evidence-based primary research. Secondly, there are ethical questions, which deserve debate in the public sphere; and finally there is the vexing question of free speech. Freedom of speech is a right of great value and importance, but it cannot be entirely untrammelled by other considerations. We must recognise that speech can cause harm, as is reflected in the legal restrictions on hate speech. Arguers for the pro-life position should acknowledge these three categories, and try to avoid eliding them. For example, in Viv Barrow’s letter she talks about the Union having an obligation
I was delighted to receive some feedback on my article in issue 242, ‘Cameron’s Major Problem’. Unfortunately, Mr Ayers’ letter is, to use his own phrase, ‘appallingly erroneous’ in that he believes the European Union Act 2011 ‘ensures a referendum in the case of massive changes in the EU’. Section 3.1 of the Bill makes it clear that ministers can bypass the requirement for a referendum if they do not believe the measures are ‘significant’. Last year, David Cameron announced that the revision to the EU treaty he had agreed at the European
to provide ‘materials compiled by pro-life charities… about the facts of foetal development and risks associated [with abortion]’. This is clearly a medical matter which should be addressed through the relationship between doctor and patient. Whether the Union should be obliged to present all the ethical arguments is a different question - should all of moral philosophy be presented to us whenever any of us are faced with any choice? If not, why is abortion and the prolife position a special case? Finally, and most importantly, we come to the free speech issue. The Union is a democratic body, and the motion was passed under its procedures. If anybody feels that the Union’s constitution should place more weight on freedom of speech, or just that the motion should be reversed, the mechanism exists to make that change. Tom Hinton
Council, which established the European Financial Stability Facility (a form of fiscal union) was a ‘limited change’. If the government does not consider fiscal union to be a ‘significant’ change, then it is very difficult to think of a measure that would trigger a referendum under the new law. As for Mr Ayers’ assertion that the article was ‘bland’ and not ‘intellectually stimulating’, I would argue that the fact he has taken the time to write to Epigram about it indicates otherwise. Michael Hindmarsh
Women must not be intimidated by pro-life campaigns I was shocked when I turned to the letters page of issue 243 to see, not one, but two letters from members of Bristol’s prolife society, claiming oppression in the face of a pro-choice union motion. On this face of it, this is all perfectly reasonable. However, framing the conflict in this way is a massive category error. Pro-life isn’t the opposite of pro-choice. Viv Barrow tried to present the argument in this way, claiming that only prolife organisations can describe the negatives of abortion. A cursory internet search brings up the NHS page on abortion which lists the risks of abortion as haemorrhage, damage to the cervix and damage to the womb along with the statistical likelihood of each occurring. Indeed, it would be a breach of
Epigram website launches As some of you may have already seen, Epigram finally made its way online last week. Though we heralded its arrival in the first issue of term (perhaps optimistically), various setbacks meant that it took us well over a month to get the site ready for unveiling. This is of course not the first time that Epigram has had an online presence; finalyear undergraduates will no doubt be aware that ‘Wills Hall speaks out on lack of CRB checks’ was our breaking news online for over two years. And, as one ex-Bristol student tweeted to mark the occasion, it’s a website that has witnessed ‘more relaunches than a rocket on a piece of elastic.’ But this latest incarnation offers something a little bit different. Though very much a work in progress, we will be aiming not just to upload articles from the paper itself, but a regular stream of web-only content which you can comment on through Facebook and Twitter. From the latest university news to theatre reviews and match reports, we hope this new platform will satisfy your Epigram fix more than just once a fortnight. It’s a very exciting time for us, not least because our lead story from last week was picked up by the BBC and the Guardian. We hope you can join in at www.epigram.org.uk
medical ethics not to inform people of the medical risks associated with abortion. By contrast, pro-life campaigners offer images of foetuses exclaiming ‘Look! If you squint a bit and turn your head it kinda looks like a baby’. That isn’t serious neurological science. Bristol pro-life campaigners, particularly those from religious backgrounds, are, like the ‘Intelligent Design’ advocates before them, using a respectable secular veneer for their decrepit dogma. Bristol’s pro-life movement is a symptom of a new nationally co-ordinated effort under the euphemistically titled ‘SRE Council’ which is sending speakers into schools to advocate against abortion and for abstinence, chastity and
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society can encourage a happy and healthy environment in which children may grow up’. Not coincidentally, Bristol pro-life share some membership with anti-abortion religious groups, primarily the Catholic Church. This belies their claim that the society does not ‘seek to intimidate women or remove their rights’; if the society does not, but its members do, we might reasonably ask why this should be the case. Vulnerable women should not be victimised in their campaign for cultural change. Michael Paynter
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heterosexual-only marriage. Indeed, Bristol’s pro-life society recently had a speaker from the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child, an anti-abortion group with a side-line in homophobic innuendo, stating in their ‘safe at school’ campaign that, ‘In the past fifteen years the breakup of the traditional family unit has escalated in Britain and with it we are witnessing an increasing number of child tragedies. Whereas it is not the aim of the writers of this paper to comment on the lifestyles of homosexuals one does have to consider the best ways in which
Questions must asked over Union refurbishment News of the Students’ Union losing space to the University is not necessarily negative. The current Union building is a little neglected and hidden away, and a greater number of people going through its doors can only help matters. But questions remain to be asked, not least surrounding the amount of space the University is to take up, and the precise arrangements that prevent them selling the building from beneath the Students’ Union. We hope to bring you the answers in our next issue.
News that Bristol will increase its student numbers by 20% seems at first only to be a good thing. It will mean more students get to benefit from studying at a world class university like Bristol and more people who are able to enrich the student experience. Struggling departments who have always wanted to take on more students but were unable to due to the caps on numbers will finally be able to accept more applicants and benefit from the money that they bring in. But expansion without caution is as fraught with problems as the decline that smaller and less wellestablished universities are currently facing. With more undergraduates will come more students to provide halls for, assign personal tutors to and fit into the gym and/or library. If the increase in student numbers is a response to the University’s belief that it can offer its current high standard of education to a greater number of well-qualified applicants, and not simply an attempt to profit from the fees of less costly arts and social sciences students, then they will need to prove it. Increased investment in student support, university facilities and accommodation should parallel, if not overtake, the increase in student numbers so that when more first year undergraduates than ever before arrive in Bristol, there is no shortfall in places in halls, and other student services aren’t overwhelmed by the numbers they must now cater for.
Editor: Emma Corfield
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17 Scribble by Jen Springall
Eurozone debt web Who owes what to whom? BBC News recently made an interactive graphic showing the scale of foreign debt owed by ten of the largest economies in the world, and to whom this debt is owed. Clicking on one of the countries surrounding the circular graphic allows you to see the extent of that country’s debt, what they owe to banks in other nations via arrows, and statistics such as GDP. Colours are used to depict the severity of the risk each economy is in, and the size of the arrows is in proportion to the amount of money owed. The Eurozone crisis is the biggest danger facing the global economy today. As the BBC site explains, ‘While lending between nations presents little problem during boom years, when a country can no longer handle its debts, those overseas banks and financial institutions that lent it money are exposed to losses. This could not only unsettle the home country of those banks, but could, in turn, spread the troubles across the world.’ With the world’s financial organisations so intertwined it is difficult to comprehend the scale of the problem and just how dependent each national economy is on one another. The infographic helps with this by displaying the data in a comprehendible and engaging way while highlighting the severity of the crisis and the need for a swift resolution to it. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/ business-15748696
Best of the web
Tweets of the fortnight @jimmycarr You’ve got to love Bristol. Where else would have a kebab van called “Jason Donervan”? Jimmy Carr, comedian, 39
@BorowitzReport Twitter has done an amazing job of making my thoughts smaller. Andy Borowitz, comedian and author, 53
@lucymanning Osborne & Boris on visit to building site, big hole being dug in ground. “George come & stand near the edge” says Boris with big grin. Lucy Manning, ITV News political correspondent
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Let’s ban Christmas. I hate Christmas. Christmas in this country is like sex with five condoms on - a drawn out, overlong annoyance where the final gleeful splurge only drives home further the futility of the experience in its entirety. Don’t get me wrong, Christmas day is alright. The telly is marginally less awful, no-one expects you to go anywhere, and for a couple of glorious days otherwise criminal levels of gluttony aren’t just acceptable, but encouraged. It’s the three months of full-scale corporate Chinese water torture beforehand that makes everything so absolutely unbearable. From the end of September onwards, all manner of festive fripperies begin appearing on supermarket shelves, though seeing these whilst still clinging to the pretence that summer is yet to end actually summons up all the festiveness of an emergency Christmas Eve stomach pump. Scientific studies have shown that catching sight of a latex-faced Zac Efron looming out at you from an advent calendar on the bread aisle in Sainbury’s during the first week of October is roughly as traumatic as watching a video of your own birth. Meanwhile, a kindly bunch of diversified multinational conglomerates are keen to make sure we remember that Christmas will still happen this December. Don’t panic! That loving, expensively shot advertising campaign will make sure that not only will you remember, but that anyone who doesn’t end up hugely personally indebted in order to give their family a ton of chintzy crap and/or shit vol-au-vents (depending on your soulless chain of choice) will feel guilty enough to end up spending a delightful Christmas sat in their car in a locked garage as it slowly fills with fumes. The slow, inexorable annexation of Christmas by commercial interests has been discussed so much it’s a cliché, but it’s not the fact that Christmas has been commercialised that rankles. I’m sure if I were a religious person it’d be at least mildly irritating, but for me it’s not particularly a problem on its own. It’s the almost militaristic planning and build-up that’s the problem. If John Lewis had been in charge of invading Afghanistan, we’d have been out of there years ago. Christmas has been so extensively fetishised by the time we finally get there that it’s difficult not to feel short-changed when it comes and goes and is merely nice, rather than magical. Whilst on any other day I’m perfectly happy to get mildly tipsy during the daytime with a few relatives and then watch some telly, on Christmas Day (CHRISTMAS DAY!!!!!!!) it’s incredibly underwhelming when you don’t wake up to a light dusting of snow, presents that answer some primal urge that you could never before articulate, and a raucous family tousling each others hair like characters from some long forgotten Enid Blyton novel. If Christmas could just be Christmas, without the months of anticipation, noise pollution, and open warfare by retailers, it’d be just lovely. But in the absence of any kind of sense or proportion, it’s consistently a disappointment. So let’s do what we can. Let’s lower our expectations. Let’s try to enjoy an average Christmas. And if your loved ones can’t do that, why not just make this Christmas so thoroughly awful for everyone that anything from now on is an improvement? It’s the best gift you could possibly give. Tom Flynn
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High fashion makes the lowest culture? With an abundance of ‘reality soaps’ and celebrity autobiographies, Oliver Arnoldi looks at the perilous state of popular culture probably triggered a spawn of budding lifestyle writers. Worse, the vocabulary of the King’s Road has slowly trickled down to the masses. What a normal person would describe as ‘good’ or ‘nice’ is in Spencer Matthew’s eyes ‘beaut’. If you wanted to use the word ‘totally’ within a conventional sentence only ‘totes’ would do, and of course, what a sane person would call a ‘party’ could only be described by everyone down in Chelsea as a ‘pardy’. ‘Man, that pardy on Friday was totes beaut!’ No, unfortunately
grammatically or socially this just doesn’t work. But then again, it seems as if in the 21st century popular culture has evolved. With Made in Chelsea joining the influx
of ‘reality dramas’ such as The Only Way is Essex and Geordie Shore, common entertainment does not seem to be dictated by quality anymore, but by…well I’m not really sure by what. Perhaps simply by the wish for production companies to expand upon what has already been done; first there was scripted drama, then there was Big Brother, and now there is a hybrid of the two. From a return to seeing ‘actors’ on our screens to the not so likely but still possible scenario of caged giraffes in studios shouting incomprehensible catch phrases at us, it is difficult to predict what will come next. However, it is clear that it has not only been television that has been cursed by a shift in value, but also the likes of music and books. Walk into any WHSmith’s and what will you find lining the ‘Bestseller Charts’? Perhaps a Stephen King murder mystery, undoubtedly some sort of Jamie Oliver culinary spinoff enlightening you on 50 ways to chop your organic red pepper, but in between and surrounding these will be the autobiography of every and any celebrity that has ever had anything (or even nothing) to say. Who needs to know so much about Jordan’s life up to the age of 32 that it requires four volumes of reading, the insightful books in question being: Being Jordan, Jordan: A Whole New World, Jordan: Pushed to the Limit and
‘Here’s to friendship,’ uttered Camilla Mackintosh, an ironic prod at the revelation of exboyfriend Hugo Taylor’s onenight stand with best-friend Rosie Fortescue, words that concluded Season 2 of ‘reality drama’ Made In Chelsea. A profound statement from an equally profound woman, eh? Such was the force of this line that it took me a moment to realise what I was watching: something resembling the worst television I have sat through in years. What is scary about Made in Chelsea (MIC being the abbreviation used by supporters who like to take fanaticism to the next level) is the way it has managed to attain cult status in a relatively short amount of time, reflected in it being Channel 4’s most-tweeted show of 2011. For a considerable portion of the last two months, followers of the programme have led a twisted double life: the highs and lows of Caggie’s fledgling music career (apparently she’s a ‘rising star’) and volatile lovelife have been synonymous with viewers’ emotional ups and downs, the joy of cast members seeing Spencer return for Season 2 with considerably less stomach (and hair) was matched by an increase in fan empathy, and Ollie Locke’s impulsive wish to be a best-selling author has
You Only Live Once (apparently volume three is a cracker)? And who truly wants to see Wayne Rooney’s career mapped over a planned five-book deal in which he probably won’t even write a single line? Maybe some people, but others would prefer to cry or gauge out their own eyes than trawl through Wayne Rooney: My Story So Far (RRP £16.99). To be fair, not all celebrity autobiographies are lapped up by an audience; Alec Baldwin’s 2008 A Promise to Ourselves: A Journey Through Fatherhood only sold 12 copies in its first month of publication, but then that’s probably because it’s Alec Baldwin. Essentially,
it is not that autobiography is a bad thing at all, but it is the way it has been turned into an artless form of self-indulgence that needs close attention. The same can be said for the current state of popular music, with the superlatives of “classic” or “pure, unadulterated indiepop magic” being plastered over three- or four-star album reviews. This should not turn into a lecture against pop music, because there is a lot of genuine talent that can be seen and heard around the country, but I will leave you with the words of Justin Bieber from his hit single ‘One Love’: ‘My money is yours, give you a little
more because I love ya, love ya.’ I, for one, think his words ring true. So what does the future of popular culture hold? Is it doom and gloom for all those holding out for ‘quality’ television, pure music, and an autobiography actually written by the stated author? Or maybe this article is far too cynical for it’s own good. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but one thing is for sure: the second instalment of Desperate Scousewives (a pretty self-explanatory title) is on tonight (Channel 4, 10pm). It’s set to be a great episode, so tune in! Actually, probably best not.
MTB tackle Sondheim’s tale of passion and pointillism Bristol’s young actors and actresses are making the final preparations to this term’s Christmas musical, Sunday in the Park With George, set to be performed this week. Turning up to rehearsals as the finishing touches of the impressive period costumes are being made, the cast pay me little attention as they soon lock their concentration into a runthrough of the production’s challenging harmonies and quick-witted dialogue. Written by Stephen Sondheim (of West Side Story and Sweeney Todd fame), the show follows the problems faced by latenineteenth century French impressionist painter, Georges Seurat, as he struggles to balance the relationship between the two loves in his life: that of his art and that of his mistress and model, Dot. The chemistry of the latter connection is immediately
clear, with the humorous opening exchange seeing Sarah Brown’s Dot only halfgently mocking George as he paints. Brown’s tongue-incheek humour is well matched by the grave seriousness given to George’s character by Fred Ward, who shot to prominence last year as the character of Collins in MTB’s previous sellout showstopper, Rent. But how the relationship with art is explored by the cast and production team is a challenge I will relish in seeing when allowed to view the performance in its full guise on Wednesday’s opening night. There is of course the spectre of cliché, and there are potential difficulties for young performers to explore the deep emotional dedication to an entire life’s work. Similarly, although heartfelt and subtle, Sunday is well known to be incredibly technically
challenging, even for the notoriously difficult Sondheim. But thanks to maturity and hard-work, neither have been insurmountable issues for her cast, co-director, Christina Tedders, assures me. Instead, the challenges faced have tended to be more logistical ones. ‘Having only really been a performer before,’ Tedders tells me, ‘it’s often hard to think of everyone’s perspective at one time, what all the different characters on stage are meant to be doing, and what it looks like for the audience, at any one point.’ Mentioning her background, I bring up that she’s a final-year law student and ask how she manages her own dual relationship between long rehearsals everyday and her degree. She smiles, ‘It requires a lot of organisation, but I’d say the most important thing is that you’ve got to love the show. You’ve got to love the
cast. If you’re passionate, you’re fine.’ Passion is something that neither her nor the cast appear to be short on. MTB productions are often seamless spectacles of highquality entertainment, and next term’s Anything Goes is already being touted as year’s spectacular bonanza of jawdropping production value, but Sunday may offer something different and a little more subtle this time around. The thought-provoking exploration of human relationships and analysis of people’s creative prowess make it a must-see for anyone interested in art or the curious ways of the homo sapien race. ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ is performed Wednesday 7th – Saturday 10th December, Lady Windsor Theatre, UBU. Adam Ludlow
Curious creatures at the National Theatre Epigram traded the West Country for the West End to see if this year’s rave reviews for Frankenstein and War Horse were justified FRANKENSTEIN National Theatre
perspective of the Creature, rather than the doctor. In doing so, whilst maintaining a chillingly Gothic atmosphere through some pretty aweinspiring sound, and staging effects, Boyle managed to steer clear entirely of the high camp Hammer horror genre. Imbued with a sense of beauty, a thirst for knowledge (and ability to articulate) and a desire for companionship, the Creature was drawn sympathetically as a product of circumstance, despite his bloodthirsty intentions. Miles away from Boris Karloff’s grunting beast, Boyle’s overall sensitivity to theme raised a Creature into performance that felt far truer to Shelley’s original work. Rachel Schraer
WAR HORSE New London Theatre
War Horse is a phenomenon. Running in London since 2007 and in Broadway since this year, the play is being turned into a film directed by none other than Steven Spielberg. Though a National Theatre production, I went down to the New London Theatre where it has recently been moved. Upon arrival, I was pleased to see that the layout of the stalls auditorium ensured that from whatever seat you have managed to bag, you’re going to get a good view. Then again, at £52 a ticket you really should. If you can stomach the price tag though, it’s definitely worth it because, despite my cynicism, I had a brilliant time. Of course,the thing everybody talks about is the puppets and I’m not going to buck the trend now. They’re striking works of art in themselves, expertly manipulated by the puppeteers who also appear as minor characters in the play. It’s rather a cliché to say that I forgot that I was watching puppets, but I honestly did. Of particular note are the extraordinary animal noises the puppeteers manage to mimic and it is clear that an awful lot of preparation as gone into making the performances as believable as possible, for these are no pantomime horses. They truly are the stars of the show. That’s not to say that the actors were substandard, however. In particular, Jack Holden as Albert Narracott
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was re-animated once again this year in the National Theatre’s sell-out production, scripted by Nick Dear and directed by Danny Boyle. As anticipated, Boyle’s revision of the now-mythic novel was gritty, eloquent and slightly hyperbolic at times (a rape scene of Frankenstein’s fiancée, Elizabeth seemed a little heavy handed in driving home the message). However, this was mitigated by the majestic production values that I have come to expect from the National’s Olivier Theatre, as well as some sparkling performances from its lead actors, Johnny Lee Miller (Trainspotting, Hackers) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement, Sherlock). Cumberbatch and Miller alternated nightly as Frankenstein and the Creature, in a heroic feat of range that served to underline the message of the original text. Shot through with undertones of the burgeoning feminist thought of the 19th century, Frankenstein explores the masculine usurpation of the creative role. Victor’s creation of his Creature, which having been spurned and neglected, becomes bent on destroying its maker, leaves us by the end to question which of them is truly the monster. This merging of creator and creation, prefigured in the interchangeable actors’ roles, is fully realised in the final scene, as Frankenstein
and his Creature together disappear into the obscurity of an arctic wasteland. The night I saw, Cumberbatch played the monster with frenetic, animal energy as well as real emotional depth, whilst Miller’s Frankenstein was stern and stoically dispassionate to the point of being nearly inhuman. The play opened on a spot lit circle of gauze, through which the writhing silhouette of the monster could be seen. Cumberbatch upheld the visceral quality of this foetal image powerfully as the Creature was ‘birthed’ into the world, tearing through the gauze and then attempting to find his feet. From the off, the play was skewed to the
held the show together well, as the audience joined him on a journey through WWI in the search for his beloved horse ‘Joey’. Steve Nicholson and Rachel Sanders, playing his parents, are also worth mentioning for their performances. Nicholson brought the flawed complexity of his character out well and Sanders was believable as the flustered matriarch trying to hold the family together. And so we come to my only gripe and, surprisingly, it’s not actually about the play at all. It’s about the audience. Behind
me sat a middle-aged couple who decided that the best thing to do when watching a theatre performance is to give a live commentary on it. A few rows in front of me sat a girl who kept checking her phone – the light from the screen distracting me momentarily from the play. Ushers should have been on hand to pick up on both of these. So, how to sum up my War Horse experience? Well, I cried. I cried over a bloody horse. There can be no greater compliment to this gem of a play. Matthew Rose
LEONARDO DA VINCI Painter at the Court of Milan National Gallery, London Until 05 February 2012 Cost: £16 (£8 conc.)
Billed not only as the exhibition of the year, but indeed as the show of a lifetime, the official line is that this is ‘the most complete display of Leonardo’s rare paintings ever held.’ All the advance-booking tickets are now sold out, with reports of internet re-sales of £16 tickets for up to £250. Already the show has accumulated a similar mystique to the artist himself. Less enthusiastic critics have grumbled that there are ‘only nine Leonardo works’ on
display, the rest being the works of his close contemporaries and students. Here though, they are wrong, for although there are indeed only nine paintings on display, they are accompanied by a rich array of astonishing small sketches, a medium offering the viewer a degree of intimacy with the artist. T h e ticketing s y s t e m limited to 180 every 30 minutes appears to be working well. It is worth explaining that you are not actually shepherded out after your 30
minute window closes, but the movement of the crowd keeps a natural rhythm of people arriving and departing. On the whole, the crowd was no denser than on a busy Saturday morning at The Royal Academy’s superb Degas and the Ballet exhibition. The secret, of course, is that art crowds tend to be rather polite and if you adopt a vague air of imp or tance and carry a notepad (even one that came free with Elle) it’s really no trouble to cut a path t h r o u g h the more congested areas.
The exhibition is not an example of great curatorial innovation, but then it really needn’t be. Both the paintings and the – often minute – sketches confound expectations gathered from reproductions with their haunting human fleshiness. We feel the warmth of these 15th century ghosts who are more marvels of oddity than exemplars of beauty to the modern eye. Looking at these apparitions, I found myself reminded of Edgar Allan Poe’s gothic consumptives or the greenery-yallery androgynes of Burne-Jones’s dreams. Ghosts are a good theme for this exhibition, for echoing around the rooms is the continual murmur of the missing lady. Whisper it: Mona Lisa. Eavesdropping on fellow viewers, it seemed more people were talking of what,
Have the National Gallery got the ‘greatest show on earth’?
A sell-out success?
or whom, was missing than what was present. Concisely – more fool them, because whilst she resides in France what is represented here is a magnificent collection of shiver-invoking spectres, both entrancing and beguiling. Although perhaps not worth
£250 in these tight-budget times - one could always stand in a grave yard for free and experience similar sensations – I must send away my inherent cynicism and side with the party line: there is just something about Leonardo. Rosemary Wagg
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Deputy Editor: Pippa Shawley
Emmy continues on her path to greatness After a period of romantic turmoil, folk singer Emmy the Great talks to Pippa Shawley about the sad case of Mrs Claus Whilst trapped in Sussex last Christmas, Emma-Lee Moss and her boyfriend Tim Wheeler, lead singer of Ash, decided they should make their own Christmas album. ‘I just sent him a text one day saying “But what about Mrs Claus?”, because people always talk about Santa Claus and ignore his wife. Then we talked about writing a song, and when we got snowed-in over Christmas, we started working on a whole album.’ The result is a true Christmas cracker. From the Weezer-inspired ‘Christmas Day (I Wish I Was Surfing)’ to the War of the Worlds style ‘Zombie Christmas’, This is Christmas is the perfect blend of Moss’s humour and Wheeler’s alt-rock background, with plenty of sleigh bells thrown in for good measure. Rather than avoiding the cheese element found in many Christmas favourites, Moss and Wheeler have embraced it, injecting puns and irony into their songs to avoid sounding too twee.
Singing about what happened acted as a sort of therapy
What could so easily have been an album of indie covers of tunes of Christmas past in fact only features one cover, ‘Marshmallow World’, the most famous version by Darlene Love and Phil Spector, which sets the tone for an album which could well become a Christmas classic itself in years to come. The pair, recently named ‘the indie Posh’n’Becks’ by the Independent, originally called their project ‘Sleigher’, but worried it wouldn’t look as good on paper as it sounded, ‘so we’re saying it’s by Emmy the Great and Tim Wheeler. If it was the other way round, everyone would read it as Tim Wheeler featuring Emmy the Great, whereas in reality, it’s all about me,’ Moss jokes. This is Christmas comes just a few months after the release of Emmy the Great’s second album, Virtue. Moss has not shied away from the fact that much of this album was written in the aftermath of her fiancé leaving her after finding Jesus, shortly before they were about to marry. ‘I wasn’t worried about the personal questions the album would provoke, in fact singing about what happened acted as a sort of therapy. Straight after, I moved back in with my parents,
Sweet Valley House: Emmy the Great
and within a few days I was back to normal, as if it hadn’t happened. It wasn’t until I was writing the second half of the album that it all came out.’ Much has been made of the fact that Virtue is tinged with Christian and biblical imagery, however listening back to Emmy the Great’s debut First Love, you find that it, too, is littered with mentions of god, angels and other religious imagery. ‘I think that’s why he tracked me down, you know. I think he heard all these
questions about God on my first album and thought that I must be going through the same existential crisis as him.’ I wonder what Moss means when she says he ‘tracked her down’ and it transpires that her ex pretended to be filming a documentary to meet her. Just nine months later, the couple were engaged. ‘I could tell it was coming. Guys always think it’s going to be this great, romantic surprise, but I’d been expecting it for a while’. Was it going to be a church wedding?
Moss rolls her eyes, clearly still frustrated by the situation, ‘eurgh, yes. And then he said he wanted hymns, so I was like “yes, okay, hymns. I want songs by Weezer, The Pixies, Lemonheads, Ash” but he said “no, proper hymns.”’ Moss was raised in an atheist household, but was curious about religion, and Christianity in particular, which was a curiosity she shared with her former beau; ‘I never actually turned to religion though,’ she says dismissively. I tentatively enquire whether
he’s now working in a far-flung missionary, ‘who knows,’ sighs Moss again, ‘I hear different things from different people. Besides, he’s done this before. God is like his get-out clause.’ Moss could never be accused of singing about conventional subjects. Topics covered on First Love include a pregnancy scare and a car crash, while Virtue contains references to dinosaur sex and Trellick Tower, one of London’s ugliest tower blocks. Her hobbies are equally unusual. As well as
writing science fiction stories for her own amusement, Moss teams up with Elizabeth Sankey of pop duo Summer Camp to resuscitate teenfiction legends Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, the infamous twins of Francine Pascal’s cult American series Sweet Valley High. ‘We were asked to perform at a word festival, so got brainstorming about teen fiction. Elizabeth mentioned Sweet Valley High so we started to list all the things we knew about the books. Two hours into the conversation, we realised we were basically academics on the subject.’ The pair keep a blog chronicling the escapades of the twins. Recent entries include an audition tape to be the new singer of Bloc Party, which features Moss and Sankey dancing around in animal onesies, and a trip to the Guardian offices. Moss was able to use her quirky talents to fund the recording of Virtue, ‘our record company wasn’t sure if they’d be able to put another one of our albums out, so we decided to use PledgeMusic to finance it.’ Fans could donate as much as they liked, or pledge a specific amount of money for an exclusive experience. Experiences ranged from a signed copy of the album right up to touring with the band for the day and a guitar lesson with Moss and Emmy the Great collaborator Euan Hinshelwood. On stage, Moss has transformed from the slightly awkward, plaid-wearing singersongwriter that she was in the lead up to the release of her debut album, and become a more polished performer, no longer staring at the floor and mumbling between songs. ‘I think I felt that I had to look that way to be taken seriously, that if I didn’t look like some grungey musician, then I wouldn’t gain people’s respect. Then I realised that I was in my mid-20s and I was still dressing like a teenager, I had an album out so I didn’t need to prove myself anymore.’
‘Virtue’ is available on Close Harbour, and ‘This is Christmas’ on Infectious now
Investing your time in Real Estate
Martin Courtney, singer of critics’ favourites Real Estate, tells Phil Gwyn why they have no intention of slowing down remained a band that music journalists loved to spill words on, yet very few people actually heard. With the recent release of their second full-length, Days, much has changed. As I meet lead singer Martin Courtney before the band’s Bristol leg of a tour that will take them to 10 different countries in just over a month, he seems completely aware of this fact, telling me with an almost pathological excitement that he’s just heard that Days has entered the Billboard Album Chart at that much-coveted #50 spot. It might not be the kind of success that Lady Gaga dreamed of, but for three slightly-nerdy middleclass indie kids, it’s not too bad at all. In context, this change doesn’t seem so surprising at all. After returning from promoting their debut album, the band received offers from Sub Pop and Domino, home to bands as successful as The Strokes and, as Courtney subtly puts it, ‘the fucking Arctic Monkeys’. When probed on why they chose Domino, Martin suddenly becomes passionate and animated rather than awkwardly wide-eyed, as he rants about the genius of Cass McCombs and Animal Collective, fellow Domino artists. He seems almost overwhelmed at the patronage of the label, bringing them up immediately and without prompting, as if he is aware of their importance in Days’ success, and at the very least in awe of the label’s history and importance to independent music. As Courtney freely admits, though, it’s hard to overstate the importance of music
L-R: Alex Bleeker, Matt Mondanile and Martin Courtney
Real Estate are a very rare type of band; one whose early cultlike support from the type of people whose entire life is a walking patronage to Urban Outfitters has been transformed into something dangerously close to that elusive paradox: mainstream-indie approval. And even more impressively, they’ve managed to pull this off without alienating the hipster-elite who will tell you that they ‘liked them first’ with infuriating smugness, and without even changing their sound dramatically. Or at all. For this completely contradictory and illogical state of affairs they have two phenomena to thank - the rise of unprofessional, unfiltered, and largely untrue digital media and the increasingly un-independent ethic of independent labels as they grow into the area of the market left by shrinking major labels. All of this would seem quite at odds with the unassuming, slightly-less-than-half-awake character of the band’s members. Having lazily ambled into view back in 2009 with the support of cooler-than-thou music blog Gorilla vs Bear, the New Jersey based band were subsequently picked up by the ridiculously influential hipster music bible, Pitchfork, and championed at every possible juncture with a shamelessness that was unsurprising given the band’s fashionable lo-fi production. Their self-titled debut album, a hazy collection of nostalgic, sun-drenched, simplistic indie rock, cemented their place as critics’ favourite. But even the ‘Best New Music’ accolade from Pitchfork couldn’t propel them to into the public’s consciousness, and so they
websites on the band, and he even goes as far as saying that they ‘got big based on blog hype’. A decade ago it would have been inconceivable that an ambitious geek could exert such an influence on the music industry; today, Courtney says that ‘seeing your name on Pitchfork is actually cooler than seeing it in established newspapers’ and, with almost bleary eyes, recounts being ‘in a van, in the desert somewhere, on an iPhone, trying to download our first Pitchfork review, getting super excited and also really scared, I remember that moment very clearly in my mind’. Undoubtedly,
this importance of big music websites is simply the state of today’s music media, whether a positive thing or not. But as one of the first in the generation of bands seriously influenced by this phenomenon, Real Estate’s timeless blur of subtlety and accessibility seems to suggest that it can only be a good thing. Yet with the freedom of this digital media comes an enormous mass of music that is simply skimmed through and the most instantaneous highs filtered out. For a band like Real Estate, Courtney argues, this can be really negative. ‘I hope that people give our album more
than one listen, because it’s quite soft and straightforward, so it takes some time to hear what gives us our identity.’ As the rapturous response to Days proves, though, this passive consumption of music seems not to be affecting Real Estate too much, but possibly only because of the reach that a ‘major’ indie label like Domino gives them. Courtney coolly recounts being coerced by the label into ‘doing the album stream, because they were telling us that it makes sense’, and it’s exactly this increased professionalism of the larger indie labels that is helping to avoid bands like Real Estate
being passed up. Of course, with these new platforms comes a huge degree of unpredictability. And so it’s understandable that when I ask Courtney where he sees this album ending up, he can’t give a straight answer; instead, he says that he’d love to get an EP out there ‘before next summer’ before concluding, ‘I have no idea’. And nobody does. Yet Days is a record with such a complete identity and such a beautifully nuanced sound that it really has the quality to end up anywhere. Maybe even higher than #50 in the Billboard Albums Chart. That would really blow his mind.
Early Bird Tickets and The End of the Road for festivals As the days are drawing in and even drunken foolish men consider wearing a coat when they go out, it seems the last thing on anyone’s mind would be a music festival. However, many people have already cast their minds six months into the future, and it is likely that festival tickets will fill a few stockings this year. Ticket prices are likely to rise to around £180 or over next year, which is already a lot of money before the inevitable booking fees are considered. One way around this is the Early Bird ticket, which is sold at last year’s prices, before any acts on the line-up have been announced. For many, this does not seem like an attractive option - buying a ticket and trusting that the line-up will be decent requires more faith in the
organisers than many possess. But these tickets are meant to stimulate poor ticket sales. With prices going up and attendees dropping, one must wonder for how much longer festivals can maintain themselves. There is certainly a plethora of them nowadays. With over 40 festivals taking place in the UK alone, it’s impressive that any of them manage to sell out. Moreover, as the festival market is spread ever thinner, genuinely superb line-ups are few and far between. Of course there were some wondrous weekends in 2011 - The Cure’s behemoth of a set at Bestival was a talking point for many at the end of the summer, and thousands marvelled at Beyoncé’s Glastonbury performance. But even Michael
Eavis, organiser of Glastonbury, has expressed doubt over the future of festivals, saying that Glastonbury had only ‘three or four years’ left (although his daughter, Emily Eavis, conceded that there was an element of hyperbole to his statement).
One curious alternative to this ‘national summer tradition’ is All Tomorrow’s Parties, taking place at Butlins in Minehead, which are curated by the headliners, and this weekend Battles, Caribou and Les Savy Fav curate and headline the bill. The popularity of these events is surely no coincidence: as festivals continue to draw broader crowds, rather than just the chin-stroking music elite, it has become the ultimate indie statement to declare festivals passé and go and get drunk in Butlins instead. Whether this is the case or not, it wouldn’t be crazy to assume that more of these sort of out-of-season, indoor events will start cropping up. The upcoming year could provide the ultimate test for
the British festival season. The Olympics will be a major attraction for many casual music festival attendees, especially since their recent announcement of the Cultural Olympiad, which not only includes more traditional events such as the Proms and the National’s Shakespeare season, but also the BBC Radio 1 Hackney Weekend, which is being billed as the ‘biggestever free live music event’. While I’m sure a complete performance of Beethoven’s Symphony cycle is unlikely to draw many punters from T in the Park, the inoffensive pop line-up for Hackney (Florence + the Machine, Plan B and Leona Lewis have been confirmed to play) will certainly motivate a few to take part in the Olympic
spirit. Perhaps this could mean something of a return to festivals being for those who are devoted to the line-up rather than to the campsite and a crate of Carling. Importantly Glastonbury’s regular year off coincides with the Olympics, meaning that the aforementioned devoted music fans will be even more spread out. What this means for festivals is yet to be seen. It is probable that the British festival will undergo a few crucible years, with more and more closing down or combining their efforts with partner events, until we’re left with a more level, and ultimately more pleasant playing field. In the meantime, be prepared for more extortionate pints from festival bars. Nathan Comer
Songs of Christmas Christmas Shoppers of the World, Unite yet to come The spread of X Factor-related hysteria can only mean one thing: Christmas is looming round the corner. To spare you from the onslaught of typical seasonal releases, Epigram have been given a preview of seasonal classics yet to see the light of day Flickr: Beacon Radio
Three French Hens...
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds It was back in ‘32 when times were austere, He had a long white beard and twelve reindeer, Santa Claus He wore a red and white coat and a fur-lined hat, Had a magical sled and presents on that, Santa Claus
As he slid down the chimney, he saw a young child, The boy’s eyes lit up, flickerin’ ‘n’ wild, Santa Claus He said ‘Mr Muthafucker you know who I am?’ And the child looked blank as though he didn’t give a good goddamn, Santa Claus ‘I’m a generous muthafucker don’t you know, and I’ll crawl over fifty good roofs just to get to one fat stocking hole’, said Santa Claus’ Just then the boy says ‘its startin’ to click, ‘You’re that bad muthafucker, old Saint Nick’, Santa Claus ...and a Partridge in a pear tree
Set off from the land of ice and snow, Ain’t goin’ back till them presents were no more, Santa Claus So he flew through the snow and flew through the sleet, Till he reached a roof and jumped to his feet, Santa Claus
Eminem Dear Mister-I-Make-MidgetsWork-Unfairly-Hard I woke up on Christmas day to not one single present or card I’m 8 years old and mostly good - I don’t deserve it I know I set my Gran on fire But she forgot my birthday, so no one’s perfect I’ve had enough, I had to leave, I simply couldn’t take it I’m on a bike right now, I’m doing 7 on the freeway And all I wanted was a lousy present, not some coal I hope you know, I stole my Jesus posters from the mall See Nick (“Stanley, no, please, just stop it!’) Yo Clause, that’s my mother screaming in the basket Of her own bike, which I tied her up in, then shaved her head too So now she looks like Buddha, Britney Spears or Dr. Evil Question: What kind of guy gives random children free dolls? Answer: It’s simple...the kind of guy who’s a paedo.
Eliciting emotional reactions everywhere, John Lewis’ latest campaign designed to prise the pennies from your pockets in the name of Christmas has been particularly effective this year. Social networks are flooded with reports of tears streaming down the collective face of the British public in response to supposedly the sweetest surprise in advertising history. The advert, soundtracked by a cover of The Smiths’ ‘Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want’, has caused the band to have been the victim of a vicious backlash. The use of one of their songs in a campaign tacitly supporting materialism constitutes ‘selling out’ and panders towards a culture of superficiality, which appears contrary to The Smiths’ historic counter-cultural stance. However, is this level of scorn shown towards The Smiths justified as a result of their actions? It’s strange to think that this is the first time a supposed misuse of a song by The Smiths has attracted such controversy from a rabid fanbase; as it’s certainly not the first time one of their songs has been used in advertising campaign. Since featuring ‘How Soon Is Now?’ in an advert for Pepe Jeans in the late ‘80s without plunging Morrissey and Marr into the mire of a heated ethical debate, The Smiths’ songs have featured in various places, albeit infrequently. In fact, ‘This Charming Man’ appeared in a John Lewis advert earlier this year. Crucially, none of these
instances of songs appearing in adverts have attracted any controversy. It is clearly a weak line of argument that attacks the use of ‘Please, Please, Please…’ without considering previous usage of their catalogue that did little to sully their antiestablishment image. If they have ‘sold out’ in this manner, then they did it quite some time ago. However, there appears to be something distinctively inappropriate about the use of this particular song that has riled the up-in-arms minority, rather than the mere act of The Smiths selling a song. The original sentiment of ‘Please, Please, Please…’ is disjoint from the message projected onto the song by backroom marketing bods. There’s no possible world in which the expression of the agony and loneliness inspired by unrequited love can be likened to the mild frustration of wanting to gift practical household items, courtesy of John Lewis, but having to wait until the specific day upon which it is the cultural norm to do so. This certainly wasn’t the message that the miserable tortured voice of Morrissey conveyed; allowing the meaning of ‘Please, Please, Please...’ to be appropriated and bastardised in one foul move clearly signifies a betrayal of values from Morrissey and Marr. It’s easy to see why some fans believe this, but the version of ‘Please, Please, Please’ used in the advert isn’t the original recording. A disgustingly twee-sounding cover from Slow Moving Millie,
which eagerly disposed with many of the sonic characteristics which the original used in order to portray its excruciating sentiment, has instead been used. Such is the extent to which the initial aesthetic impression of the song has been changed, that the sentiment of advert and soundtrack don’t appear to violently clash in quite the way described above. The fault doesn’t lie with The Smiths then, it is clear to see that the emotional integrity of the song has been preserved, as the cover used is so far removed from the original in intent. If they are at fault, it’s for allowing covers that have a different take on the original song; it would be particularly harsh to incriminate The Smiths under these charges. The last stand for the outraged fans consists in the claim that the lasting memories induced by listening to ‘Please, Please, Please...’ are tarnished by association with the materialistic message projected onto the song by John Lewis. It is a reasonable claim; when
one is emotionally attached to a song that anything that may alter this experience for you becomes debilitating. However, if these original impressions and memories were strong enough to forge a sufficient emotional connection to be roused by the advert, they’re surely able to withstand six weeks of seasonal bombardment, with little to no lasting effect upon the listener’s continued experiences of the original song? To claim otherwise is practically admitting that the supposed emotional connection they hold is as superficial as the emotions experienced by those bawling tears over the offending advert. The lack of justified basis from which The Smiths’ critics attempt to launch an attack serves as a paradigm example of how certain musical circles’ obsessions with authenticity can be reduced to mere superficiality. So, The Smiths have allowed a cover of one of their songs to be used in an advert – what difference does it make? Rishi Modha
...two Turtle Doves...
Limp Bizkit Now I know y’all have left it late again this year Surely it’s too early for that Christmas cheer? Heading down to Waitrose for them turkey meals It’s the only place to shop for those festive deals One two three times two to the sixth I drove all the way to Asda for the Bombay mix So have you got the crackers, punk? I got the mulled wine! Bitches bring the stuffing We show dem muthas lovin’ Keep wrappin’ wrappin’ wrappin’ wrappin’ (x4)
Uncovered from the artists’ notebooks by Seb Jones, Luke Swann and Eric Arnold
Reviews UNDER THE MISTLETOE DELICACIES Justin Bieber Simian Mobile Disco Island November 29 2010 Delicatessen
Canadian music maverick Justin Bieber has once again decided to experiment in order to keep his immense fan-base on their toes. No, he has not released an album of Slipknot covers, but has elected instead to make only his second studio album a Christmas one. Festive Beliebers will be thrilled to know that Under the Mistletoe is a hybrid of Bieberfied family favourites and fresh new tunes, as Justin collaborates with music giants Usher, Busta Rhymes, Mariah Carey and even Boyz II Men, as well as successful writers and producers including American Idol’s Randy Jackson, the notorious Chris Brown and the fantastically named Adonis Shropshire. The first single ‘Mistletoe’ seems to be a saccharine cash-in on the success of Bruno Mars’ offbeat acoustic guitar sound, fused neatly with Bieber’s distinctive pop style. The album opener, ‘Only Thing I Ever Get for Christmas’, has more of an R&B feel, showing at least a semblance of diversity in Bieber’s work. Justin then tries his hand at some universally loved classics, the first of which is a duet with Usher of ‘The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)’. While the pair do not approach
CHRISTMAS Michael Bublé Reprise
The prospect of another Christmas album featuring children’s choirs and a Mariah Carey cover is nearly enough to make anybody run for the door, however, this latest seasonal offering, ‘Christmas’, from the typically smooth Michael Bublé is a surefire hit thanks to his legions of adoring female fans in all demographics. Bublé’s first full-length holiday release wisely doesn’t stray far from his winning formula of Big Band and impeccable, quasi-Sinatra style charm, most obviously and brilliantly done in the tracks ‘Blue Christmas’ and ‘Jingle Bells’ in which we see the best of both Buble and his session musicians. Even the cover of ‘All I Want for Christmas is You’ is immacutely done and will have his fans sobbing into tissues. Bublé does however stray into Christmas album style cheesiness on several occasions seen particularly in the track ‘Silent Night’ in which the combined effects of a children’s choir and overuse of strings make the song cringy instead of cute. The Shania Twain duet, ‘White Christmas’ also makes the fatal mistake of letting Twain sing on her own, however, considering the many other awful Christmas ‘surprises’ we’ve had, this is one of the better. Advised for Bublé fans only. Charliotte Woodley
A VERY SHE & HIM CHRISTMAS She & Him Merge
the success of Nat King Cole’s original, they can’t be criticised for trying; the song has been covered by everyone from Christina Aguilera to Frank Sinatra to Bob Dylan, without ever achieving widespread acclaim. While his renditions of the classics are far from interesting, the real oddity of the album is his ‘collaboration’ with Mariah Carey on her much loved version of ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’. The problem is, it is her version; Bieber seems to have added an introduction and sung the second verse himself, without Mariah even entering the studio. Its cringe factor even exceeds Justin’s feisty hip-hop reimagining of ‘Drummer Boy’ featuring Busta Rhymes, a song ill-suited to both clubs and living rooms. Mr Rhymes is neither cool nor festive, aggressively rapping about his penchant for ‘eggnog, with a little sprinkle of vanilla’. It would be close-minded to dismiss Bieber’s album out of hand: it is simply not aimed at those with taste. If you are a self-confessed Belieber, I am sure Under the Mistletoe will get you in the Christmas spirit. If not, I’d stick with the classics. Thomas Moore
CLASSIC CHRISTMAS Joe McElderry Decca
Joe McElderry’s unimaginatively titled Classic Christmas is, you guessed it, a collection of classic Christmas songs. Seemingly pitching himself at a more ‘mature’ audience after his management realised he was completely unmarketable, he has picked an ambitious collection. Titles like ‘White Christmas’, ‘I Believe In Father Christmas’ and ‘Silent Night’ should evoke nostalgic images of roaring fires, knitted jumpers and Bing Crosby at a piano. Unfortunately, the only image that he conjures up here is that of a rotting turkey dinner and McElderry at a synthesizer. While no-one expects much from an album of Christmas song covers, let alone an X Factor contestant, the same excessive bells, power ballad tempos and overdone vibrato repeated to the point of severe irritation has the effect of tormenting the listener. In a bizarre decision, tinny bagpipes are included on ‘In The Bleak Midwinter’, as if a climax of annoying noises was needed. ‘Last Christmas’, with its strange ‘80s demo-style keyboard, is just another bad variation on the original. The best McElderry can hope for is to be played over the PA of a shopping centre, which is probably exactly the kind of market his management is aiming to crack. Imogen Ivors
Any self-respecting review of She & Him has to start off with a few choice remarks about Zooey Deschanel. What’s there to say? A successful actress, winsome and every indie-geek’s fantasy, Zooey Deschanel’s foray into music as one half of She & Him defied all expectations (set, unfortunately, by the likes of Eddie Murphy and Lindsay Lohan) and churned out some toothsome results. In A Very She & Him Christmas, she and the unassuming but excellent M. Ward add their couply, folk touches to Christmas classics, but with mixed results. While you can definitely rely on She & Him to eschew Christmas campiness, their stripped-down, economical approach can and does occasionally step over the line into tiredness and a bit of vapidity. Indeed, She & Him are as charming as ever on this seasonal effort. ‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ excises the smut of previous interpretations of the standard (Tom Jones gave me nightmares), replacing it with an innocence reminiscent of Phil Spector-produced classics. This isn’t surprising at all, considering the indie twee queen status of Deschanel.
FUNNY LOOKING ANGELS Smith & Burrows B-Unique
Smith & Burrows are Tom Smith of Editors and Andy Burrows of Razorlight. That may well sound like The Most Despicable Landfill Indie Supergroup In The World…Ever!, but Funny Looking Angels is actually good. Since many would rather find a nail bomb in their stocking on Christmas morn than a CD by any of Smith & Burrows’ previous bands, this is a very pleasant surprise. Funny Looking Angels mixes original compositions with Christmas standards in the vein of classic festive albums from Low and Nat King Cole. Like Cole, they manage to translate the feelings of warmth and goodwill of Christmas to record adeptly, and bring back memories of bad knitwear, cosy fireplaces and slight drunkenness that define the season. Admittedly the best songs are the covers – their versions of Tormé’s ‘The Christmas Song’ and the Longpigs’ ‘On and On’ are great – but the Boss-influenced ‘This Ain’t New Jersey’ is also noteworthy. Some of the other originals aren’t so good. ‘When The Thames Froze’ shoehorns terribly clumsy politics into its lyrics, ‘Wonderful Life’ is forgettable tedium, but overall Funny Looking Angels delivers a lot in a short time (just 35 minutes), like a weary, reverbed St Nick. David Biddle
This old-fashioned aesthetic is very purposefully done throughout, and it’s an appropriate decision considering the implicit nostalgia of Christmastime. One can only dream of a Christmas as sepia-tinged as the atmosphere of this album, and one would be hard-pressed to not feel as warm as chestnuts roasting on an open fire when listening to the lilting, intimate rendition of ‘The Christmas Waltz’. However, as is often the case with many works that very consciously try to recreate the past, it can often seem a tad overwrought, and, at it’s worst points, tiresome. ‘Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree’ is a bit too Home Alone to be enjoyable. Moreover, there isn’t enough variation here for it to sustain interest. Zooey’s idiosyncratic breezy, pristine vocals are still there, and are mostly supported by M. Ward’s skeletal music arrangements, with lots of palm-muted guitar and soft percussion. The ukulele, unsurprisingly, features on several songs. M. Ward’s vocals on ‘Christmas Wish’ are a welcome deviation, but other than that, She & Him have probably been a bit too careful for their own good on this one. Zishen Chong
THIS IS CHRISTMAS Emmy the Great & Tim Wheeler Infectious Having collaborated frequently in the past few years, sweet-voiced Emmy the Great and Ash frontman Tim Wheeler have concocted a suitably twee Christmas record. Rather than sounding like a cross between Ash and Emmy the Great throughout, there is enough variation on this record between their musical styles. This leads to rather mixed results though, as the first half of the album borders on excessively nauseating, with the synth-laden ‘Snowflakes’ sounding far too ‘80s-centric to be on a respectable holiday album. A couple of the later tracks also miss the mark, including ‘Jesus the Reindeer’, bizarrely referencing Sarah Palin in the lyrics. However, the cheese level drops significantly just a few songs in; ‘Christmas Day (I Wish I Was Surfing)’ has the air of a 1977-era Ash track, while ‘(Don’t Call Me) Mrs Christmas’ sees Emmy take lead vocals for an atmospheric relationship breakdown song. Another highlight is album closer ‘See You Next Year’, an acoustic track more along the lines of Emmy’s solo work. It’s a shame that the cheese wasn’t toned down in favour of songs more like the aforementioned final track, yet this is a decent Christmas album that offers a good alternative to standard pop fare. Rajitha Ratnam
Film & TV
Editor: William Ellis
Deputy Editor: Ant Adeane
Close Encounters in the heart of Bristol
Sophie Wall uncovers a melting-pot of culture and creativity from across the globe at the city’s biggest and best film festival Scissor Sisters musical director John (JJ) Garden providing live accompaniments to experimental film, amongst many more events; pretty impressive for the average £6 price tag. The penultimate
Cartoon D’Or. In terms of winners; the UWE European New Talent Award went to To All My Friends directed by Behrouz Bigdeli, the South West Award to I’ll Tell You directed by Rachel Tillotson,
and the Encounters Grand Prix to Unter Null (Below Zero) directed by Ulrike Vahl. In the Animated category the UWE European New Talent Award went to The Back Water Gospel animated by Bo Mathorne, Best
night saw the festival’s award ceremony, which not only celebrated local talent and promising filmmakers but also provided a platform for bigger competitions, such as the European Film Awards or the
the Best of British Jury Award to Jam Today directed by Simon Ellis, the Bristol Short Film Nominee for the European Film Awards 2012 to Miten Marjoja Poimitaan (How To Pick Berries) directed by Elina Talvensaari
South West Award to On The Bus animated by Naomi Zahl & Matt Morris, the Best of British Award to A Morning Stroll directed by Grant Orchard, the Encounters Grand Prix Award to Slow Derek animated by Dan Ojari,
For those that missed it, the Bristol Encounters 17th International Film Festival saw an abundance of short films and animations flickering away in the cultural hub of Bristol’s harbour side.From the 16th- 20th of November, screenings took place in some of Bristol’s most creative spaces, surprisingly tucked away amongst the homogenous city centre. These included No.1 Harbourside (a sister establishment of the cool restaurant-come-music venue The Canteen in Stokes Croft) and the contemporary art gallery the Arnolfini, along with the more obvious venues such as Watershed and Cube Cinemas. The festival’s four days saw special guest speakers such as Bruce Robinson (director of Withnail & I, The Rum Diary), a cinematography master class with Brian Tufano (Trainspotting, anyone?) and
and Children’s Animation Jury Award to Worlds Apart directed by Michael Zachary Huber. These were accompanied by the DepicT! Awards, which had a more local focus, in which the winning films were Wake directed by Nick Fogg, The Launderette directed by Tim Bassford and Above as Below, animated by Michelle Arbon. In a city full of creativelyminded students lacking the £6 needed for a screening, a slim yet intriguing range of free events were on offer over the festival. The pop up cinema hosted by The Showroom (another site for arty types to keep an eye on) opposite College Green boasted a velvet adorned intimate space reminiscent of 1920s picture houses. The Vintage Cinema Bus, next to the freshly opened M Shed, provided a similarly novel viewing experience, as one might expect from a cinema on wheels. Both venues screened
old and new short films in the spirit of Bristol, either created by local filmmakers or inspired by the history of the area. This provided a mixed bag in terms of quality, but lent a distinctly home-grown feel to the events. In addition, an array of free music could be found at No.1 Harbourside, from Afro Cuban Jazz to 30s and 40s swing, seeing revellers into the night with a pint of Bristol Beer as standard. More than anything this year’s festival displayed just how exciting Bristol is with new filmic talent, existing cultural and creative initiatives and great venues, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. Although not yet able to compete with culture capital London in its breadth of cinematic offerings, Bristol’s growing scene arguably shows a great deal of local pride along with the energy and staying power needed to rival that of other cities.
Illuminating cartoon display A new cinematic perspective Polly Brock visits The Watershed for a showcase of animation
Georgina Butler profiles New Look’s innovative film selection
Bristol Encounters International Film Festival offers an experience unique to the city. A celebration of international short film and animators’ works, the festival draws together an extraordinarily varied set of some of the best short film talent in the world. The sixth and final animation showing of the festival was Light & Dark. Watching short films is a strange experience for those of us more used to sitting through a solid two hours or so in which a scene is set, characters are introduced and developed and a story unfolds. With shorts you are continually startled to find yourself wrenched back into reality and onto the next one. But the skill of the filmmakers was not in question here and I was continually amazed by the diversity and scope of the films on display. It’s true to say that some of the films in the show were more successful at absorbing the viewer for their few minutes than others. Indeed it’s inevitable that such a diverse range of films is quite a mixed bag. One short veered into crude teenage-angst territory whilst in another I could feel the audience getting bored after only a minute or so. Having said that, in general the standard was incredibly high and it was the film-makers that used their condensed time to their advantage that really
From creative differences to Nigerian women’s rights and thoughts on reincarnation, this inspired selection of diverse films for the Best of British programme sought to illustrate stories of those in need of a new direction from an unusual angle. Each short encouraged, and in the case of Billy Lumby’s God View, forced their audiences to view the stories told from a different perspective. Previously shown on Channel 4, God View was the most visually striking. For its duration the camera was unusually suspended directly above the head of the mentally unstable and lonely protagonist as he walked around his estate. The audience’s attention was truly arrested as every action seemed to take on a greater significance, especially as the camera moved with each step. It was reminiscent of a video game, and through this association, a real tension was created by the ever-present threat of violence. However, the showpiece would have to be Daniel Mulloy’s Baby which gained much critical acclaim and also proved controversial on the international festival circuit. Mulloy’s unsettling story of a woman who is unable to shake off the unwanted attentions of a petty thief, delicately played on the central dynamic of control between the two characters. Beautifully and
came out on top. Light and Dark proved to be a very fitting title; the films veered from the borderline terrifying to extremely comic with some very touching moments. The highlights included Ben Wheele’s Decorations ; a horribly visceral animation of a vase that lives inside a girl also inhabited by a small theatre continually recreating the death of her pet hamster until eventually she dies of cervical cancer. Whilst on the literally lighter end of the spectrum Luminaris told a romantic story about a world revolving around light bulbs. Formally it was a great mixture too with animation in
the form of graphics, to stopmotion such as in Seven Days in the Wood where matchsticks built themselves into eerie shapes in the forest, to the surreal felt-tip scribblings of Hogan (a short film about Hulk Hogan which you won’t understand any the better for having watched it.). Light and Dark showcased some extremely interesting films and it was a surprising and novel experience to go to a show where after each film the entire audience clapped. Bristol is clearly an environment in which short film and animation is allowed to flourish and we should take full advantage.
skilfully communicated, largely through body language, the initial sense of irritation and fear slowly developed into a very disturbing and tragic codependence. This ‘New Look’ was chilling, lingering and carefully ambiguous. A true must see. Of a similarly high standard was the hilarious A Gun for George. This film gradually steered the audience towards a surprising empathy for its protagonist. It saw the return of Matthew Holness as a director and an excellent character-actor. Holness played a frustrated trash novel writer whose book, The Reprizalizer, is proving too edgy for his publisher and local
library, and so goes out looking for ‘brutal revenge on the mean streets of Kent’. Also screened were Orlando von Einsiedel’s insightful, energetic and elegant documentaries, Radio Amina and Aisha’s Song, that focused on the experiences of two different young women dreaming of female emancipation in Nigeria. Alex Goddard’s Yellow Wall: a witty modern spin on the tenets of reincarnation that was shot in a day with ‘whatever kit was to hand’, was equally as impressive. This was a typically inventive display of filmmaking amidst what was an engrossing and inspiring selection of shorts.
Does 3D give cinema a new dimension? Jessica Wingrad embraces the evolution
Alexander Murphy prefers the old days
The birth of motion pictures began in the 1800s with silent, black and white films which required a piano to hide the noisy projector. Cinema has come a long way since then. Viewers can now enjoy widescreen, special effects, surround sound and now, the latest craze, 3D. This innovation used to be confined to Disneyland screens as a special treat but it has become the marketable way of producing films following the exceptional success of the 2009 film Avatar. For most film buffs a 162 minute epic following the lives of some blue people in the future is perhaps a tad juvenile, yet Avatar grossed more than $2 billion and was nominated for nine Academy Awards. I truly believe that the excitement and innovation of the use of 3D with this film aided greatly in its road to success. Sitting in the cinema with an (admittedly unflattering) pair of 3D glasses on the world before you is brought to life in the most enchanting way. The audience becomes engulfed in the action. This has the effect of enhancing, rather than hindering a film because every single person in that cinema is experiencing it, not simply watching it.
The economy in crisis. Soaring living costs. Never fear, 3D is here… to pick your pocket and screw up your eyes. This column covers the real reasons why the ticket to see a 3D film should cost half rather than twice the price of a 2D film. Are you one of those people who starts getting a headache and strained eyes about 20 minutes into a 3D film? You are not alone. In fact, all of us feel a certain amount of discomfort due to the ‘focus-convergence’ issue. Walter Murch, a multiple Oscar-winner and one of the most respected figures in film editing and sound design in modern cinema, describes 3D film as ‘brain-confusing’ and explains the issue as follows, ‘The audience must focus their eyes at the plane of the screen at perhaps 80 feet away but their eyes must converge at perhaps 10, then 60, then 120 feet away, and so on, depending on what the illusion is. 600 million years of evolution has never presented this problem before.’ In real life, if an object is lying six feet away, then our eyes will converge at six feet and focus, too, at six feet. The lack of correlation between focus and convergence means that we have to work extra hard to
Many argue that 3D cinema is gimmicky and is overly ‘Disney-ish’; I would argue that it is not a gimmick, nor was it ever intended to be so. Rather, 3D in cinema is an attempt by film-makers to modernise the 21st century film industry. In an age when iPhones and iPads have brought the world to our fingertips why should cinematography not follow suit and revitalise itself ? When it came out in 2009, I went to see The Final Destination in 3D and having seen the other three films in 2D I certainly consider the 3D aspect to have added something new. Aside from blood and guts flying at my face I found that it felt (perhaps ironically) more real, more frightening. For films of a more light-hearted nature, such as Despicable Me and Shrek Forever After, 3D only adds to the fun. It was difficult at first to accept the avant-garde nature of 3D cinema; it was an alien concept very rarely experienced by normal audiences. Filmmakers have chosen to adopt this new technique and the fact that so many new films embrace it shows that it must appeal to someone out there. Cinema has become an experience; not just a night out.
see the 3D picture clearly. Talk about turning a relaxing night out into a mind-melting chore. The true magic of cinema lies in the complete immersion of the audience. The screen is so big it engulfs you and the music and story draw you into another world. In true Brechtian style – Brecht being known for alienating his audiences by reminding them that they are watching a fictional construct – 3D films make you aware of your perspective in relation to the elements on the screen. This completely detracts from the emotional engagement with the story and dismantles the suspension of disbelief. The director is constantly guiding your eye to focus on a particular part of the image, an effect which is most unsubtle in 3D. So, should your eye ever wander from the focal point to inspect the background, the objects you see are less distinct than they would be in 2D. The fullness of the picture and our free will as spectators are reduced. For all those doubters who are bound to retort, ‘What about Avatar? That epic was made for 3D’, I recommend you check out the Blu-ray version. It’s in humble 2D and is just as glorious.
This saga must Twi harder 50/50 strikes a good balance TWILIGHT: BREAKING DAWN Director: Bill Condon Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson
50/50 Director: Jonathon Levine Starring: Joseph GordonLevitt, Seth Rogen
Cancer is by no means a conventional choice of topic for a comedy film, but this is a production unafraid of treading an unconventional path. When Adam (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) discovers he has contracted a rare strain of cancer, he must deal with his own personal devastation as well as the wildly differing reactions of friends, family and his girlfriend. His best friend Kyle (Seth Rogen) exploits the situation for his own gains by smoking copious quantities of medical marijuana; his mother (Anjelica Huston) is unhelpful in her over-protective hysteria; and to top it all off his girlfriend (Bryce Dallas Howard) is cheating on him. As the disease tightens its grip, Adam’s life is given a new focus as he realises that what previously had seemed so important now takes on entirely new significance. With such delicate subject matter to work with, Jonathon Levine skilfully ensures that the film never strays into the
distasteful. This is no mean feat considering that the numerous gross-out moments are intertwined with necessarily heartfelt and poignant scenes. It would be tempting to allow the film to lapse into deliberately provocative shock tactics, but this young director handles his material with a mature and steady hand. The effective balance between comedy and tragedy surely springs from the screenwriter, Will Reiser’s, own struggle with cancer. The personal foundations on which the film is built lends it a conspicuous credibility and earnestness which may otherwise have been lacking. Reiser’s cause is bolstered by two impressively nuanced performances from two actors straying out of their comfortzones. On the surface Rogen appears to be very much playing to type – a stoner layabout with a wisecrack always at hand. But this is belied by the vulnerability and sensitivity which occasionally show themselves through his usually jocular demeanour. Similarly, GordonLevitt continues his strong run of recent performances. Having shown his indie credentials with the well-received 500 Days of Summer (2009), and displayed a capability to hold his own in big
The nature of the books mean that any adaptation was always going to be tricky to pitch - there is no escaping the overblown romantic plot and clichéd sentimentality - however, Breaking Dawn falls way short of the mark. There is no attempt to tackle any of the narrative’s more ridiculous aspects with any kind of subtlety and scenes such as the moment when Bella’s body is contorted with pain as she goes into labour are not helped by presenting them in embarrassingly cheesy slow motion. Bill Condon’s film was thoroughly entertaining for all the wrong reasons, although I suspect that for the legions of twihards out there it won’t matter. If this isn’t you and yet you still find yourself watching Twilight’s latest offering, sit back, relax and enjoy the accidental comedic genius that is Breaking Dawn. Cesca Clayton
The penultimate instalment of the Twilight saga offers bizarrely incongruous dream sequences, excruciating dialogue and one of the most hotly anticipated and unbearably awkward sex scenes in film history. Breaking Dawn picks up from the last film on the eve of starcrossed lovers Bella (Kristen Stewart) and Edward’s (Robert Pattinson) wedding, and follows them from ceremony to honeymoon and the resulting freakishly masochistic pregnancy during which Bella is almost killed by the halfvampire growing inside her. The tone of the evening was set by the topless men sporting werewolf tattoos on their biceps queuing for popcorn, and the gangs of near-hysterical girls screaming whenever the relentlessly brooding Taylor Lautner appeared on screen. Similarly entertaining were the scenes in which CGI wolves had sinister conversations about killing babies in ominously echoing voiceovers, and the
moment when Bella’s realisation of her pregnancy is evoked through a lingering close-up on a box of tampons. There were moments of intended humour amongst the accidental hilarity; the montage of wedding speeches brought some welcome light relief to a film saturated in emotional intensity and fleeting appearances from Billy Burke as Bella’s father were beautifully understated within the context of general melodrama. Even Lautner displayed an impressive knack for delivering sarcastic one-liners with just the right amount of pathos. Most of the cast struggle on admirably with a heavy-handed script - even Pattinson makes a decent attempt at wresting some complexity from what is essentially just a stock romantic role. Only Stewart remains stubbornly uncharismatic throughout, failing to evoke any sympathy even when it looks as though her character might die.
film such as Inception (2010), this young actor appears to have all the ingredients to become a mainstay of the Hollywood acting fraternity. His heartrending breakdown towards the end is all the more affecting for its gradual progression throughout the film. Not so successful are the woodenly portrayed and weakly imagined female characters who offer nothing new, in particular the two-dimensional love-interest which comes in the form of Adam’s therapist (Anna Kendrick). In truth the ‘breaking-down-the-barrier’ concept which has been the film’s selling-point does not quite come to fruition, with the storyline eventually adhering to a fairly conventional formula. But this is a fresh and insightful film nevertheless, with a brilliant blend of hilarity and emotional clout.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
In the season finale of our five-part odyssey through America’s televisual landscape, Luke Cridland offers his two cents’ worth It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia is not a sitcom afraid to take risks. Where most mainstream shows merely dip their toes, It’s Always Sunny jumps in head first in its birthday suit, and then takes a leak just for good measure. The show’s pilot is a prime example. In what was essentially the writers’ pitch, one of the main characters pretends he has cancer so he can get closer to the coffee shop waitress he obsesses over. The Big Bang Theory this is not. However, that’s not to say the show can’t pull off this dark material. On the contrary, it’s one of the few comedies out there that’s taking real risks and yet reaping the hilarious rewards tenfold. From racism to necrophilia, it’s hard to think of a decrepit base they’ve yet to tick off. The show revolves around the exploits of five degenerate, egotistic individuals who make up ‘The Gang’ – Dennis, Mac, Charlie, Sweet Dee and Frank. These five borderline alcoholics run a relatively unsuccessful Irish bar in Philadelphia and the show essentially revolves around their inability to be decent members of society. Their lives consist of concocting harebrained schemes, lying and
cheating to people, and to each other, purely for personal gain – in essence, they’re a horrible bunch. But even though their tornado of social ineptitude may destroy all relationships outside of “The Gang”, it leaves acres of comedic gold in its wake. Despite the show’s rude health, currently delving into some of its most hilarious and darkest material yet with season seven, it had a modest start. Actor Rob McElhenney, who plays Mac and is also the show’s brainchild, was unable to get any work and
was living off waiting tables in Los Angeles. Sick of this rut, McElhenney decided that if he wasn’t able to get any work,
Its dark ray of comedy light doesn’t look likely to be fading any time soon
he’d just have to write the roles himself, and, as of that moment, It’s Always Sunny was born. With his two actor friends Glenn Howerton and Charlie Day, incidentally the actors
who play Dennis and Charlie respectively, McElhenney went on to shoot the pilot for a nominal $200 using a digital camera, though it was later claimed to actually be as little as $85. The show got picked up by FX, who commissioned seven episodes for the first season, and, when the three found comedic actress Kaitlin Olson to play Sweet Dee, ‘The Gang’ was formed and filming begun. Even though the show was on air, McElhenney and ‘The Gang’ were far from set. The series was almost cancelled
during the filming of the first season but incidentally it was the president of FX who not only gave the show the lifeline it needed, but unknowingly opened up a wealth of comedic opportunity for the wayward writers – he approached Danny DeVito. The two were friends and as the president of FX believed introducing a new character would help boost ratings, he proposed the idea to DeVito. Coincidentally DeVito’s children were huge fans of the series, so he signed up for ten episodes but was only available for 20 days of filming.
He enjoyed the experience so much that he signed on to stay indefinitely to play the depravity that is Frank. What is surprising about the show, however, is that its rays have yet to truly cross the Atlantic. Although not huge in America, It’s Always Sunny is still relatively successful, recently being named the longest running basic cable sitcom in existence. But for some reason, the United Kingdom is yet to see the light. It may be the fact that FX are withholding their rights to share the show with any other network, and as the show’s writers and stars are still trying to truly make it big in the U.S., the push for international success has been shelved for now. However, that does not prevent the persistent and quite frankly sensible comedy lover from going out there and seeing the show. This is recommended to all; with season seven thus far ranging from proposing to prostitutes and disastrous child pageants, It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s dark ray of comedy light doesn’t look likely to be fading any time soon.
Big on celebs, but very short on laughs
Josh Gabbatiss casts his eye over Life’s Too Short and how Gervais and Merchant’s latest offering matches up to other creations they play. The problem with this show is that the other main criticism of Gervais is summed up by Johnny Depp in episode two, ‘I hear Ricky Gervais quit Twitter recently because it only has 140 characters, well that’s 139 more characters than he’s ever come up with’. It’s true that the show does rely heavily on a parade of past Gervais and Merchant characters. Davis often lapses into Brent impressions or bemused glances at the camera, reminiscent of Tim from The Office. We also have Davis’s accountant (Steve Brody) and his PA (Rosamund Hanson) playing the roles of useless sidekicks familiar to viewers from Extras. This, combined with the celebrity cameos and talking-head interviews, give the impression of a mash up of past Gervais glories, with dwarves. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The reason these stock comedy characters are being imitated is because they were so funny to begin with, and because those are the characters that Gervais and Merchant know how to write well for. The problem is that Ricky Gervais was, of course,
Expectations were riding high for Life’s Too Short, Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant’s latest sitcom, not least for me since my speech patterns and mannerisms have been irritatingly moulded by the duo ever since David Brent first Flashdanced into my life in the early ’00s. The show, which is based around the fictionalised day-to-day life of dwarf actor Warwick Davis, had a lot to live up to after the enormous success of both The Office and Extras. One of the criticisms often thrown at Gervais is that he is a one-trick pony, relying on the so-called ‘comedy of embarrassment’ to get cheap laughs. Gervais-haters would therefore say that basing a sitcom around a central character with a disability is a blatant attempt to be controversial and make viewers feel awkward. But I would argue that the real comedy in his work comes from the characters, their little vocal and physical idiosyncrasies and the way they play up to the cameras. This means that what the success of the show should ride on is the actors and the characters
better at playing David Brent than Warwick Davis is, so it grates slightly when we get a Brent line delivered directly to the camera in Davis’ voice. Davis does give a funny performance, however, mixing in just the right amount of slapstick without making us feel like we’re just laughing at him for being small. Most of these moments just serve to reveal and make us think about the little annoyances that he has to put up with, such as not being able to reach an intercom and having to accost unsympathetic passers-by for help. The supporting cast aren’t bad either, but ultimately there aren’t enough funny lines for them. Instead the show is far too reliant on its celebrity appearances to generate the laughs. Obviously this has now become a bit of a ‘thing’ for Alisters with a sense of humour to do, and the first two episodes certainly delivered both in terms of celebrity quality and celebrity laughs. Liam Neeson’s AIDS-obsessed take on standup comedy was particularly funny, but its inclusion in the episode felt a bit forced. Extras provided a great format to give
high-profile actors a chance to poke fun at themselves as they revealed their ‘real’ selves to us while they thought the cameras were turned off. Now the writers are searching frantically for ways to get themselves, Warwick Davis and Liam Neeson in a room together, all at the same time, so they can write jokes about it. Actually it’s painfully reminiscent of the Extras episode where the ratingshungry producers of Gervais’s sitcom-within-a-sitcom rope in Coldplay singer Chris Martin for a pointless cameo. That was Gervais and Merchant parodying the tendency of the BBC to churn out generic, formulaic sitcoms and trying to achieve mass appeal by resorting to ever more desperate measures. Surely this hasn’t become a self-fulfilling prophecy? Ultimately the reason the show is disappointing is that it does follow a formula, combining bits from The Office and Extras to make a standard Gervais/Merchant style sitcom. This may still be hugely superior to a lot of comedy on TV, but it doesn’t yet reach the dizzying heights of their past work.
Editor: Nick Cork
Deputy Editor: Emma Sackville
Who are the ‘Children of the Nineties’? Suzi Gage Science Reporter
objectives were to ‘understand the ways in which the physical and social environments interact over time with genetic inheritance to affect health, behaviour and development in infancy, childhood and then into adulthood’. No meagre ambition then. Aside from the time scale of the project, what makes ALSPAC so unique and important? It’s partly the sheer amount of data that’s been collected. From bodily fluids to questionnaires, interviews with psychologists to full body scans, these children and their mothers have been measured in most ways imaginable. Nothing’s been thrown away; even the placentas are rumoured to have been stored in a freezer somewhere in the bowels of the building! The great thing about this hoarding is that when new techniques become available, the original samples are there to analyse. Take genetics: in 1991 the Human Genome Project had barely begun, but Golding still wanted genetic data to be collected even though it couldn’t then be analysed. ALSPAC now has genome-wide data for a huge number of the mums and children in the study, and the equipment in-house to sample yet more. Technology has somewhat caught up with Golding’s vision, but there’s always further to go. The new science of Epigenetics is being investigated using ALSPAC data. Epigenetics investigates whether lifestyle information can be genetically inherited in
If you were down on the Harbourside this weekend you may have noticed an event at MShed, or heard mention of ‘Children of the 90s’. Who are these children, and what were they doing at the museum? The answer involves travelling 20 years back in time, and the vision and foresight of Bristol Professor Jean Golding. Children of the 90s, also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, or ALSPAC, is a birth cohort – a
resource used by epidemiologists to study patterns in public health. A sample of people is selected and then followed over time, and the data collected can be used to answer all sorts of questions. In the case of ALSPAC the sample was recruited from every woman with a pregnancy due date in 1991 and 1992 in the area, which was at the time called Avon. About 14,000 women signed up, and they and their children have been monitored ever since. Golding, however, conceived the project that would eventually become ALSPAC five years before then. Writing about the methodology of the study, she states that its
ways other than through DNA code - for example, whether the behaviours of boys during early puberty, when sperm is being created, could affect those boys’ sons or even grandsons. The study is truly on the cutting edge of research. And it’s global too: across the world there are around 1000 research projects registered to use the data, with hundreds of these active at any one time. So far, so science, but why then is ALSPAC such an important part of Bristol? What comes across in the exhibition is the pride that participants feel through their inclusion in the study; they are providing data that might help others in the future. And by all accounts
it’s fun - ‘who else would we allow to draw on our children and encourage them to stare endlessly at a poster stuck on a ceiling’, wrote one mum when asked what the study meant to her. The children also seem
initially signed up to ALSPAC to really value the research, despite having been prodded and poked since before they can remember. ‘Keep working hard & discovering more wonderful things. I’m proud to be a child of the 90s’, were the words of one
participant. The mutual respect and gratitude the participants and researchers have for each other has allowed the study to run for 20 years, and there’s no reason it can’t run for at least 20 more. What does the future hold for the children of the 90s? Some of the children are now having children of their own - soon there could be a ‘children of children of the 90s’ data set to add a further layer to the mix. More data is being collected from fathers and siblings too, making even more detailed study possible. The MShed exhibition is being digitised and will appear on the ALSPAC website very soon. Keep your eyes peeled.
Perfecting perfume is a pain in the a*** Olivia Honigsbaum Science Reporter
The most recent Chanel No. 5 advert, in which Audrey Tautou seduces a hunky stranger, could not be more sensual. From the moment of their meeting the subject of Tautou’s desires is drawn irresistibly in her wake, tracing the scent of her perfume, until their eventual reunion. But is he aware that her alluring smell is stabilised by secretions from a civet cat’s anus? More specifically, the secretions are scraped from the civet’s perineal glands, which are located next to the anus. Why? At very low concentrations these have a wonderfully musky aroma. The civet is technically not a cat – it’s more closely related to the mongoose – but, like true cats which produce
similar scents, still uses these distinct pheromones to mark their territory. When the civet secretion is first removed it has a viscous, yellowish-brown appearance and hardens in air with the same consistency as fat. The original odour, untreated, is not pleasant. But when it is diluted and mixed with alcohol, the musky smell adds additional texture to a perfume’s fragrance. You’ll find it listed in the ingredients as ‘Civetone.’ Animal lovers should not merely shed a tear for the civet; perfumeries have drawn on a range of animal secretions for years. The popular scent white musk was originally obtained by killing and removing a similar gland from the Moschidae Deer. Ambergris - used as a fixative to slow the evaporation rate of perfume, thereby preserving its smell for longer – was originally
sourced from whale intestines. Before you’re put off wearing perfume again, it’s more than likely that your scent now contains a synthetic version of the chemical. The WSPA - the World Society for the Protection of Animals - monitored civets in captivity in Ethiopia and documented the traumatic process of having their perineal glands scraped every few days. As a result Chanel claims to have used an artificial substitute since 1998 - the use of civet secretions, as with most other animal products, has all but died out in modern perfumes. Personally though, I’m intrigued by how the scent industry first discovered this ingredient. Did a Parisian perfumer have too close an encounter with a territorial civet? Maybe all the rose water and essential oils had just lost their ‘je ne sais quoi’.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year Edith Penty Geraets Science Reporter
Flickr: Camera Slayer
We have now entered the quiet period between the two loudest nights of the year - Guy Fawkes Night and New Years Eve. On both occasions the sky comes alight with colours as the smell of smoke and gunpowder lingers in your nostrils. There are few other opportunities to experiment with large volumes of explosives without risking police investigation. Fireworks have changed considerably since their debut in China nearly 2,000 years ago, but still captivate huge audiences of children and adults today. What is it inside those rockets, blazing wheels and flaming fountains? How do they work? The display is not entertaining merely by accident; it’s a special blend of chemical reactions, meticulously constructed to create impressive arrangements of colours, patterns and sounds. The chemical basis of colour is a not an easy concept to grapple with, but it underpins all firework design. Atoms consist of a central nucleus surrounded by one or more electrons. Energy is absorbed as the associated electrons jump to increasingly excited states. Such states, though, are not the most stable for atoms to remain in; conditions are favourable for the electrons to return to
their original ‘ground state’ energy levels. In doing so the energy difference is emitted in a wave of radiation - if this wave falls within the visible range of light on the electromagnetic spectrum then our eyes detect the emission as colour. Particular chemical compounds, dependent on their composition, will absorb and emit fixed energy values which are directly related to certain colours. When energy - such as that produced by a
flame - is applied to Strontium and Lithium salts, the resultant emitted wave is red. Barium Chloride, on the other hand, emits green light. When these compounds are packed into fireworks in small clay-like lumps, the light emitted by the eventual explosion is the corresponding colour. Different packaging arrangements, using specially chosen combinations of metals, can be used to create intricate multi-colour effects. From the point of ignition to
the release of colour and sound, the sequence of reactions is carefully choreographed. For rockets in particular, height is an important consideration - the creation needs to be seen by as many people as possible! The propellant used to drive rockets upwards is commonly described as ‘gunpowder’. This is a mixture of 15% carbon, 10% sulphur and 75% potassium nitrate which has changed little since the early days of Chinese fireworks. Its explosion releases
vast amounts of heat and gas at a speed of three metres per second; when this is tightly packed at the bottom of a rocket the huge build-up of pressure is directed downwards. As a result the firework is carried far into the sky. Meanwhile a carefully measured time-delay fuse continues to burn - after a period of time, when the rocket is predicted to have reached its peak height, the colour and sound releasing powders are ignited.
The sounds created by fireworks are similarly designed, tailored towards either impact or intrigue. These familiar whizzes and bangs - drawing children to the window as the dog simultaneously races behind the sofa - are again the responsibility of gunpowder. The powerful blast on ignition adds punch to the colourful rocket display whilst dispersing the flaming contents evenly in all directions - creating the characteristic exploding globe appearance. Further texture is added in the form of a recognisable whistling as the rocket shoots skyward. This is achieved by pressing special oxidisers into the fuel mixture - compounds which increase the already rapid rate at which the gunpowder combusts. Those tempted to dismantle and dabble with these mixtures of powders should be aware that they are the most dangerous parts of a firework. So volatile, in fact, that they are on the verge of explosion even as they are packed inside the cardboard tube. So when marvelling at your next fireworks display, spare a thought for what has occurred behind the scenes. Each explosion is a carefully thoughtout recipe in innocent-looking cardboard packaging, designed to provide a multisensory spectacle. All thanks to the creative flair of pyrotechnical chemists.
Commenting on the evidence objectively Pete Etchells Science Reporter
It is inappropriate for Baroness Susan Greenfield to make such scaremongering statements
someone who makes a mistake while playing a computer game will continue to make errors. A review of the literature using Web of Knowledge, a scientific journal article search engine, yields no results for the search terms ‘technology’ and ‘reckless behaviour’, or ‘video games’ and ‘dementia’. Single case studies on video game addiction have suggested that it may occur in response to life problems such
as inadequate interpersonal relationships, physical appearance, and so on. In other research the negative effects of video game addiction are argued to be relatively minor, and can be reversed relatively quickly with reduced game-play. Taking a step back though, it’s difficult to make judgements about these claims when the nature of such addictions is itself in doubt. The American Psychiatric Association reviewed the literature to determine whether video game addiction should be included in the next edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 2012. They concluded that there was currently not enough convincing evidence that such an addiction existed to warrant its inclusion as a disorder. What we do know is that playing games can have effects on the brain – although not necessarily negative ones. A recent Nature article on ‘brain training’ type games suggested that repeated use of these games can result in improvements in memory, attention, reasoning, and planning skills. These improvements are extremely domain-specific however, and
do not cross over to situations in which similar skills are needed but gaming is not involved. Studies using fMRI – functional magnetic resonance imaging, which identifies activity in different parts of the brain by monitoring blood flow to these areas - have detected changes in prefrontal cortex activation in hardcore gamers. This is as a result of the improved handeye coordination and spatial attention needed for gaming. It’s not all good news – there is evidence to suggest that excessive video game use can affect reward centres in the brain in a way that resembles the effects of substance dependence. It has also been suggested that excessive use of the internet is associated with deficits in social communication. A number of these studies though - particularly imaging studies - simply show that correlations have to be treated with scepticism. Does internet use cause deficits in social interactions, or do those with a lack of social abilities gravitate towards increased time online? Moreover, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence to support the suggestion that mistakes made
Baroness Susan Greenfield
during gaming cause some sort of frontal cortex problem that might result in an inability to correct mistakes. So are the overall effects of technology negative? Well, as you can hopefully see, it’s too simplistic to reduce this to a clear-cut yes or no argument. We just don’t know the effects that sustained and heavy use of different technologies may have on children or adults. Until
Flickr: Andy Miah
‘Social websites harm children’s brains: chilling warning to parents from top neuroscientist.’ One of many headlines attributed to Baroness Susan Greenfield, Professor of Synaptic Pharmacology at Oxford University, and recent scientific pariah because of her well-publicised views on how the use of modern technology is apparently having disastrous effects on the human brain. Many of her claims have been selectively quoted from lectures and speeches and, when challenged about them, Baroness Greenfield has been quick to point out either that they are speculation at this stage or, more worryingly, that ‘you can’t just go into a lab and get the evidence overnight.’ Well no, not overnight, but you can investigate these views objectively. Let’s look a bit more closely at one in particular her more recent declarations that computer gaming causes neurological disorders in children.
Baroness Greenfield has suggested that ‘addiction to technology could leave children with dementia, shortened attention spans, or tendencies towards reckless behaviour’, and that ‘while certain technologies can encourage creativity, the overall effects are negative.’ Moreover, she has suggested that while mistakes made during real-life play result in learning to avoid errors,
we have more solid evidence one way or another, it is inappropriate for public figures like Baroness Greenfield to stand on such a vocal platform and make such scaremongering statements. If indeed it is simply the case that she is being constantly misrepresented by the media, there is a simple solution to all of this; stop talking to them, and go and do some solid science.
We’ve not kicked racism out of football but this has now disappeared in recent years and now black players are an integral part of football in this country. The internet and particularly the rise of social media has meant that abuse now takes place more so off the field; BBC pundit and ex-player Mark Bright says that ‘twitter is proof that racism has only been suppressed…so called fans sat behind a keyboard still
David Stone Deputy Sport Editor
Those who say racism is not a problem are living in denial
Despite the outcry over Blatter’s comments, what are we actually doing about racism?
another fan who explained they were Jewish. On hearing this he sheepishly went quiet for the rest of the game. This season I was at a game in the Championship when a man sitting next to me, angry at an opposing black player shouted out something about the colour of his skin. This time, however, the man chuckled to himself and said ‘ooops’. No on around him seemed to take
any issue or offence with it. The use of the word ‘yid’ in football is a difficult issue to tackle; it depends on how you interpret it. As Tottenham’s supporters regularly sing that they are the ‘yid army’ and adopt the word as their nickname, you can see why other teams use it abusively towards them as they would to any other opposing side. But outside of a footballing context
The issue of racism in football is one which has gained a lot of attention in recent weeks. Both the footballers John Terry and Luis Suarez are currently under investigation for comments made during games. Sepp Blatter, the president of football’s governing body FIFA, recently remarked that there was no problem with racism in football and that those targeted should shake hands with their abusers. His comments attracted widespread vilification both from both players and fans across Britain, and calls for him to stand down grew louder, but of course he claimed he had been misinterpreted and refused to go. The problem I have, however, is that it took events such as these for the issue of racism to appear back in the media and the public eye, and now has dropped out of the limelight. Those who say that it’s not particularly a problem are living in denial, in the past year I’ve seen it several times on the terraces at matches. Whilst at a north London derby between Arsenal and Spurs, a boy sitting behind me started belting out some anti-Semitic abuse due to Tottenham ‘yid’ connection. He was quickly confronted by
it’s a racist term for a Jewish person, just like saying ‘Paki’ to someone with a south-Asian background. You wouldn’t have any football supporters now chanting ‘Paki army’; if they did they would be arrested. The use of word ‘yid’ also leads to more obvious racist chanting, such as how about Spurs fans should go to Auschwitz. Songs about black players which use the ‘N-word’ again used to happen,
think they can say things like to anyone in the public eye and feel safe’. Places like football forums mean that hateful rumours and comments can quickly spread. There are however several campaigns in effect which has been highly successful in helping to eradicate racism in football. Both Kick It Out and Let’s Show Racism The Red Card have tried to tackle the issue both by educating young people in schools across the country and also helping identify racism when it takes place. Getting managers and players to wear anti-racism shirts it helps raise awareness. I think that education is the key, a lot of racism steps from a lack of knowledge about other races
and cultures. By educating and informing youngsters in schools than it can be tackled. One way which will not work however are the attempts to impose certain rules on how football is run. The Rooney Rule in America requires that NFL teams interview at least one person who is black or from another minority for head coaching and senior football operation positions. There are suggestions that we use should this in English football, but we should not have this further social discrimination, and like all other forms of work football should be an equal opportunities employer. If a law was passed saying that when interviewing for any job you had to interview a certain number of people from different religions there would be outcry. You should pick someone on their ability, regardless on anything else. As was rightly pointed out to me the other day, the first large group of black players in English football are only now getting old enough to become managers. I expect in further years the number will dramatically increase. So whilst English football has come a long way, there is still much to be done, and I imagine that as we become more integrated as a society, then racism will hopefully decline.
Obscure Olympics: synchronised swimming You’re an avid sports fan and you trusted your parents with your family’s ticket application for London 2012; you’re eagerly awaiting news of your allocation of tickets, thinking perhaps you’ll see Usain Bolt or Tom Daley; the day arrives and the only tickets you have got are for synchronised swimming - you’d be forgiven for being somewhat disappointed! When asked to describe synchronised swimming, a few images you might conjure up are of swimming hats with flowers on, nose clips and old ladies doing handstands at the same time. However, having watched some video footage from the World Aquatics Championships held in Shanghai this year, it is clear that the only remotely accurate part of those descriptions is the nose clips (which are worn to aid breathing control in the extremely complex routines) and it truly is a fascinating and exciting sport. A key part of synchronised swimming is that it is for
women only. The sport was only officially introduced into the Summer Olympic Games schedule in 1984, becoming the fourth aquatic sport (alongside diving, swimming and water polo) at the Games. Only the duet and team competitions feature in the Olympics, with the solo events only practised up to World Championship level. The precision of each movement, both in the ‘deckwork’ (on the side of the pool before entering the water) and in the water, is incredible and although it seems obvious to say, the synchronicity of teams makes the sport unique and captivating to watch. Some have referred to synchronised swimming as ‘water ballet’, though in addition to the grace and flexibility of ballet, the sport also requires the strength and power of gymnastics. The basic skills are ‘skulling’ (hand movement to propel and support the body so that the swimmer’s legs can be held above the surface) and the ‘eggbeater’ kick (a form of treading water to leave arms free for movement). Swimmers are not allowed to touch the
bottom of the pool at any moment during the routine, which seems impossible when considering that lifts are a key part of the team event. Marks are awarded for an array of different aspects in the routine, such as the musical interpretation, the choreography and presentation, though the scoring system varies between the different disciplines of synchronised swimming. Natalia Ischenko is 16-time World Champion and is far and away the best in the sport at present. The 25-year-old Russian won 6 gold medals at the World Aquatics Championships this year, helping Russia to take a clean sweep of the gold medals on offer. Natalia and the rest of the Russian team are hot favourites to feature on the podium in London 2012, as are the normally formidable Chinese and Spanish teams. The British Gas Synchronised Swimming Team has improved hugely in recent years and despite having demonstrated marked improvement in Shanghai (with Jenna Randall and Olivia Allison showing promise when finishing 8th
Laura Lambert Sports Reporter
in the Duet Free Final), in comparison to past results, any hope of podium appearances in London 2012 from the British women seems over-optimistic. However, that is not to rule out success in the future as with 800 people in the UK regularly doing synchronised swimming, British talent is being harnessed all the time.
One of the most intriguing parts of synchronised swimming is the names of the movements; some of the most obscure are ‘the Eiffel tower’, ‘the dolphin’, the ‘albatross’ and ‘the barracuda’, all of which sound bizarre but are in fact very complex contortions of the body. The power and flexibility required to execute these moves
will have taken years to perfect - most athletes appearing in the Olympics for synchronised swimming will have trained for at least 10 years, all boiling down to a 4 minute performance in the final they hopefully reach. So, if you have got tickets for synchronised swimming at London 2012, you are in fact in for a treat!
The sky’s the limit for Ultimate Frisbee Matt Dathan Sports Reporter The University of Bristol Ultimate Frisbee club (nicknamed Mythago) have had an exciting and bright start to the university Ultimate season. Over 100 beginners joined the club at the start of term and have learnt quickly about a sport that is developing at a fast pace in the UK and around the world. Many of those new players had the chance to test themselves against their counterparts at rival universities at a couple of beginner tournaments in Plymouth. It was the same venue that hosted the indoor university open regional championships, where Bristol Firsts were seeded fifth and hoping to finish in the top three to qualify for the National Division One Championships. Having battered Bath to secure a semi-final against Southampton, Bristol were confident of beating the top seeds in the region, but despite taking a 4-2 lead, they lost in sudden death 5-4 which meant a victory against Cardiff was needed to qualify for BUCS indoor nationals. Bristol knew that they had to play to their maximum potential against a team that boasted a wealth of GB talent. And with a couple of minutes
The Open Team Squad from left to right, top row: Phil Smith, Sam Jones, Fred Neville-Jones, Seb Shapland, Joe Brown Bottom row: Matt Pickering, Tom Burchess, Josh Kyme, Matt Dathan.
remaining, they took a 5-4 lead to set up a nail-biting finale. Bristol’s defence held strong and therefore qualified by one point for the National Division One Championships, the first time Bristol have qualified for the top division in a couple of years. BUCS Indoor Nationals took place in Coventry last weekend (26-27th November) with the top eight teams earning BUCS
points. Despite being seeded 15th out of 16, Bristol were confident of breaking into the top 8. Bristol took nine players to the tournament. In their pool games, Bristol beat Leeds and Loughborough in sudden death games but lost to Edinburgh 7-5 which left them in a three-way tie, where they were bitterly unlucky to finish 3rd by a one point-difference. Bristol battled hard in
the bottom half of the draw, however, beating Birmingham and Newcastle to set up a knockout game against Manchester to get into the quarter finals. Bristol started the Sunday morning game well, leading 6-4 half-way through the 25 minute game. But a few poor decisions by the offense line allowed Manchester back into the game and disappointingly, Bristol eventually lost the
game 9-6. Bristol finished the weekend 12th, beating their seeds by three, yet were left feeling disappointed as it was felt that the team deserved more. Nevertheless, a first appearance for Bristol in the top sixteen for a few years is something to be proud of. It was good to see the tough training schedule the players have committed to over the past six weeks being
rewarded some weeks the team was training six days a week. The mixed team have looked incredible this term, having convincingly won the mixed university regional championships early in November. The five best guys from the Open team join four girls (Miranda Cole, Jess Griffiths, Amy Samson and Claire Desbottes) to make up the mixed team heading to the University Mixed Division One Championships in Wolverhampton next weekend. With another week of intense training scheduled for the coming week, Bristol believe they will be among the best teams at the tournament and are confident of winning the first piece of silverware for the club for years. All in all, the University of Bristol Ultimate Frisbee club have had a successful first term and continue to welcome newcomers to trainings on Wednesday and Sunday at 2pm next to the water tower on the Downs. Some players pick up the sport remarkably quickly, such as Joe Brown, who only started playing Ultimate in October but was selected for the first team last weekend. To be part of a new and upcoming sport is extremely exciting and with ever-increasing funding within the sport the sky’s the limit for Frisbee in the UK!
Sports Club Quick Fire: Epigram meets Women’s Hockey Michael Hindmarsh Sports Reporter In this week’s Sports Club Quick Fire feature, Epigram catches up with Poppy de CourcyWheeler, press secretary and player for the Bristol women’s hockey club. How many people are involved in the women’s hockey club? Where and how often do you train? We have around eighty members, the large majority of whom are involved in our four hockey teams. The first and second teams train twice a week at Coombe Dingle, whilst the third and fourth sides train once a week (although sometimes the third team have an extra session on a Tuesday). Those who are not involved in the hockey sides are welcome to join training for the third and fourth teams. What other activities do you run for those not in the teams?
Those who are not in the teams can participate in the University of Bristol’s intramural tournaments. These are always really exciting because the competition is fierce to say the least! Matches between Wills and Badock Halls are often lively encounters because there always seems to be a strong rivalry between the two sides.
rivalry with UWE and the atmosphere is always electric in these matches. Bristol came out on top last year in the Varsity competition and the second team recently emerged victorious against our local rivals in the first round of the cup.
What have results been like?
Charlotte Evans is the first team captain and she really is an exceptional player, having recently represented Wales. She possesses fantastic leadership qualities and has been influential this year. Charlotte Carter, the women’s hockey club captain, is a very strong defender and is currently the league’s top scorer, which is incredibly impressive given her position on the pitch.
Last year, I would say that all four teams achieved some very solid results. This season, they are all performing well, particularly the first team, who currently occupy 4th position in their league table, and the second team, who are in 3rd place. The first team recently drew with Oxford, who, along with Exeter, are widely regarded as one of the top sides in women’s University hockey. That result showed that we are more than capable of challenging the very best. What about the against UWE?
There is, of course, a massive
Who are your star players?
Tell me about the first team’s best performance so far this year… I think it’s got to be the match against Oxford on 23rd November. Despite being the underdogs, we managed to gain a 1-1 draw against an excellent
side thanks to an equalising goal from Amy Algergreen in the closing minutes of the match. It really was a battling display and it was incredibly exciting to watch. What do you enjoy most about playing hockey for
Bristol? It’s great to play at Coombe Dingle, especially when there is a huge amount of support on the sidelines like there was against Oxford. I really look forward to training – although it can be very intense, it’s
actually a lot of fun. I have made a lot of friends through being a member of the hockey club - every week we all meet up at Bar 100 and then head down to Bunker. We have a fantastic team spirit and I think that’s what makes being part of the club so enjoyable.
Buoyant Bristol bounce towards success executed. In addition to this form score a difficulty score (known as tariff) is allocated to the routine. This rewards more difficult moves (so a double somersault receives more tariff than a single somersault) and encourages the competitors to have original and challenging routines! This weekend Bristol managed a haul of five gold medals, two silver medals and five bronze medals in individual categories, and a gold medal in the team event. Of particular note were Eilidh Grassick, who achieved 1st place in her very first competition, Steve Lane, who achieved 2nd place in his first competition and Rosie Leech, who achieved the best form score on the day. The Trampoline Club holds training up to three times a week, and potential members are encouraged to come down to the Sports Centre on Tyndalls Avenue and give it a try first.
James Fothergill Sports Reporter When advertising the Trampoline Club at Fresher’s Fair, I was frequently asked ‘why would I want to learn how to jump?’ The governing body for Trampoline describes the discipline as a reflection of man’s desire to defy gravity. I believe this sport challenges participants and spectators in a way that very few sports manage to achieve. At a grass roots level, almost everybody will have tried a garden trampoline and will hold memories of either themselves, or their friends having fun. From the very youngest children to an 82 yearold man, (unofficial world record?) everybody that tries trampolining leaves with a smile. At a Trampoline club the trampolines are completely different to garden trampolines, they are far bouncier and when used correctly have incredible lift. High performers can bounce 10 metres into the air while performing a full arsenal of twisting triple somersaults. While spectating the sport is breath taking, participating is where the real rewards come. Trampoline is a gymnastic discipline, but it is not just a sport for gymnasts; it is also used as a training tool for many other disciplines such as diving, freestyle skiing and parkour. It has been an Olympic discipline since the Sydney games in 2000, and the current female world number one is Kat Driscoll from Tyne and Wear in the northeast of England. There is a thriving university competition circuit, with 25 open events that can be entered, including BUCS
Simon Baxter performs a crash dive in his set routine for the elite category
regionals & finals and the Irish Student Trampoline Open (ISTO) that sees more than 900 students from all over the UK descend on Belfast or Dublin. November 26th saw the Bristol open, with over 130 competitors from 11 different universities. Competitions are broken down into different classes depending upon ability, and there is a difficulty for everybody, from novice to elite. Some of our new members were able to enter the novice and intermediate categories after only training with us for a couple of months. Each competitor undertakes two routines of ten consecutive skills and they are judged on how well the skills are
Podium Finishes Novice Eilidh Grassick 1st Ladies Intermediate Simon Hamlin 3rd Men Inter-Advanced Rosie Leech: 1st Ladies Lizzi Webb: 2nd Ladies Beth Shingfield: 3rd Ladies Oliver O’Neill: 1st Men Steve Lane: 2nd Men James Fothergill: 3rd Men Advanced Frances McKinley 3rd Ladies Elite Charlie Plummer: 1st Ladies Simon Baxter: 1st Men Lee Meakin: 3rd Men
That’s the way it should be: Bristol with their gold medals, while UWE settle for silver
Bristol Tennis fighting to survive in Premier League Tom Mordey Sports Reporter For those of you who recently watched the ATP World Tour Finals and enjoyed the superb displays of tennis on show from the world’s best, spare a moment for Bristol’s 1st VI. It has been a tough start to the season for the University’s top tennis players. Wednesday’s fixture against Bath provided a cruel lesson on the harsh realities of competing in the BUCS Premier South League, the division that features the most talented tennis-playing students this country has to offer. To the side’s credit, they battled heroically before falling to a 10-2 defeat. Bristol were
unfortunate not to pick up more from the singles and doubles clashes, demonstrating a level of commitment and skill that the side can be proud of. Coach Martyn Bray was full of praise for his players afterwards, saying that the game was ‘competitive but tough...the fact that Bristol even picked up one win can be viewed as a bonus, given the strength of the opposition.’
Despite all the matches going the distance though, only Stuart Pugh ran out victorious. Still, consolation can be taken from the fact that traditionally strong Bath are favourites to pick up the title in the division. Added to this, their number 1 player used to be ranked in the world’s top 700. Given that Britain’s second best player, James Ward, is only ranked at 160, this is a fairly impressive statistic. It has been a similar story in all the matches this year; something that was only to be expected given the club has lost six of the twelve players that made up the squad last season. This included the charismatic motley duo of Greg ‘Nikolai Valuev’ Tarn and Mike ‘He Stole a 2:1’ Briggs, as well as Andrew
Hurwitz, Josh Tingle, Tom Twigden and perhaps most importantly number one seed, Will Allen. With such a large influx of new blood in the side, the club has struggled to adapt to the demands of Premier League tennis.
It has been a tough start to the season for the University’s top tennis players
Thus far Bristol have drawn one match and lost four. However, this does not tell the full story. Many players have been punching above their weight, ensuring that games are tight and even producing some tough
wins against all expectations. With former number two seed Tarn and crucial squad players returning from their year abroad next season, the main aim is to stay in the top division in order to compete upon their return. This goal appears to be attainable if the team produces performances comparable to the one against Bath. The tennis club as a whole is one of Bristol’s most successfully run clubs. Both the men’s and women’s first teams play in the Premier Division, whilst the men’s seconds compete in Division One. This level of success is a deserved reward for committing to the demanding training schedule undertaken by all members of the team, which features three practice sessions a
week (one at 7am!), with matches taking place on Wednesdays. Members also often feature for Bristol Coombe Dingle Tennis Club in the National Club Leagues on Sunday afternoons, alongside coach Martyn Bray, where they face opposition of a high standard. A lot of the club’s recent achievements can be attributed to Bray. This larger than life character has been involved with the setup for over 10 years and his efforts were recognised with the Bob Reeve’s Coach of the Year Award last season. With only five matches left this season, Bristol will be desperately hoping to claw themselves away from the lower reaches of the BUCS Premier South Division.
An interview with England’s Joe Simpson In light of the recent ‘Cash and Caps’ scandal, Epigram met Joe Simpson to hear his thoughts on life in the England camp I think anyone who has ever met him would say he is an interesting character to say the least, but when you get to know him you find he’s a very passionate, very emotional and sensitive guy actually. He absolutely lives for rugby 24/7, so no matter where you are he always wants to watch rugby, always wants to learn and no matter how much success you’ve had he knows there are always improvements to be made. He’s won premiership titles and Six Nations grand slams and yet he’s still hungry and desperate for success.
Will Hammond Sports Reporter The World Cup was obviously both frustrating and disappointing from the fans’ viewpoint, how was it as a player? Personally the experience was a case of mixed emotions. Obviously I was delighted to be selected for the World Cup squad and travel out to New Zealand but I knew I was going to have my work cut out to gain a spot in the match 22. We were unfortunately not able to replicate some of our Six Nations performances and it was very frustrating watching that and not being involved and unable to influence the outcome. Who were your mates in the squad? I roomed with Delon Armitage at Pennyhill Park for the 12week training camps and me and D-Lo got on pretty well. I’ve known some of the guys like Courtney [Lawes], [Ben] Youngsy and Corbs [Alex Corbisiero] from England age groups as well so it was nice to have those guys around. All the guys were very hospitable and friendly though, and I’d go out with the likes of Lee Mears and David Wilson who were often on the bench too, and play a fair amount of golf together and stuff to keep us mentally active.
In terms of the England squad, who are the strongest and fastest guys around? There’d be a few candidates wanting to throw their names into the ring with the stand out one being Manu [Tuilagi] who is just a freak, and lifts just ridiculous weights. Others would be [James] Haskell and [Tom] Woody who is deceptively strong. Speed-wise, I think myself and Delon Armitage tested up there. We had a couple of races in the last couple of weeks and I managed to skin him a couple of times so I guess I’d pushing most. And who spends the longest and shortest time in the showers? Erm, I don’t want to stitch anyone up to be honest, but
Courtney is I guess an obvious one... What was Johnson like to play for as a coach? One of the greatest things about Johno is the loyalty he shows to his players. He’d stick up for you no matter what you’d done and I think that is something that all the boys really respected. All the boys will be very sad to see him go because he is someone who takes care of you and makes sure you’re always feeling ok. He’s a great man manager in that respect and it’s sad to see him go. Another major managerial change has seen Shaun Edwards leaving Wasps after 10 years at the helm. What makes him such a great coach?
What would be the stand out moment of your career? My premiership debut was great. We lost but it was a great feeling to know that I was good enough to have an impact on that stage and had the ability to score some good tries at that level. Probably the highlight would be selection for the World Cup and being capped. It was a disappointing tournament but for me personally representing my country is always going to be really special.
get what he wanted from the club but fingers crossed we have a new owner that comes in with as much desire and drive for the club to succeed as Steve had and hopefully we can replicate past glories and start winning some silverware again. For at least the next few seasons I’ll be playing in a Wasps shirt, and I’ll have to evaluate what’s best for me after that. And finally, how much of a wasted talent was your younger brother (UBRFC 1st XV player Michael Simpson)?
All the boys will be very sad to see Johno go because he is someone who takes care of you and makes sure you’re always feeling OK
He couldn’t be bothered to get his lazy arse out of bed to go to training and if he’d stuck to one position rather than dotting around I have no doubt that Michael could’ve been a professional rugby player. He is more talented than most pros that I know but it was a question not of talent but how much he wanted it.
Having spent your entire career at Wasps, could you ever see yourself tempted by the riches of France? For the time being I’m firmly rooted in High Wycombe and Ealing and I absolutely love Wasps as a club. Unfortunately Steve (Hayes, ex-owner) couldn’t
Whatever happened to skating sensation, Tony Hawk? Will Jackson Sports Reporter There is a picture of me in our family archive on Christmas Day 2002, wearing a short sleeved t-shirt over a long sleeved one, extremely baggy jeans and a brand new pair of DC’s, clutching Pro Skater 4 with a massive smile on my face. It was only the absence of a Darth Vader skateboard that I’d spotted in the Argos calendar that prevented that from being the best Christmas ever. Looking back, I’m thankful that my parents steered me away from the skater boy look, but the fact that almost every now20 year old boy went through that phase (I hope) is almost entirely down to Tony Hawk. Anthony Frank Hawk was born in 1968 in San Diego and was just nine years old when his brother gave him his first skateboard. Just five years later he turned pro, and by
the time he was twenty five, he had competed in 103 contests, winning 73 of them and coming second in 19 – a record that is yet to be matched. In 1991 the popularity of
woAlthough he continues to skate at exhibitions and demos, he is now far more involved in organising events, rather than competing in them, and has become an entrepreneur in his own right
skateboarding plummeted and Hawk found that, whereas in school he had been earning far more than his teachers, he now had to survive on a $5-aday allowance from fast food outlet Taco Bell. But Hawk stuck with his passion, launching his own skateboard company and
winning the first of 14 X Games medals, and 9 consecutive golds, at the inaugural event in 1995. From there the sport, with Hawk at the forefront, found its market again. At the 1999 X Games, in front of a national television audience, Hawk became the first skateboarder in history to land a ‘900’ (two and a half airborne revolutions). It conveniently coincided with the launce of the first of his Tony Hawk Pro Skater video games, and the exposure helped to establish him as the dominant figure in skateboarding and a celebrity in his own right. Soon after the 1999 X games, Hawk retired from competition, having changed the face of skateboarding and invented more than 80 new tricks. Although he continues to skate at exhibitions and demos, he is now far more involved in organising events, rather than competing in them, and has become an entrepreneur in his
own right. His ‘BoomBoom Huck Jam’ tour in 2009 featured some of the top skateboarders, BMXers and freestyle motocross riders in a giant tour that played in large arenas and theme parks across the United States, on a ramp that Hawk spent more
than $1 million of his own money creating. The Pro Skater series now numbers 14 different variations, all of which Hawk has been heavily involved in (I’m sad to say I didn’t buy any of the subsequent instalments after that Christmas), and his children’s clothing line is still
going strong. It is Hawk’s philanthropic contributions which are perhaps most impressive though - his Foundation has donated more than £3.2 million to skateparks in low income areas, which serve more than 3 million young people every year.
Editor: Tom Burrows
Deputy Editor: David Stone
Bristol Judo Club fights for medals in the National Open Simon Bates Sports Reporter Sunday 20th October marked UBJC’s annual pilgrimage to Hereford to compete in the British Judo Council National Open. Although discipline is high and the fighters are tough, UBJC have a tendency to add to their trophy cabinet there year after year. The club was looking to improve on 2011’s record of 50% players in the medals so two female and four male competitors donned their GIs, the Judo ‘term’ for their attire, and set out to bring home some silverware. The club’s first fighter of the day was third year Biology student Rosie Heller; a previous BUCS medallist and sub-48kg fighter with speed and resilience in her arsenal. Rarely does she get the chance to compete against women of her stature, often stepping up into higher weight categories in order to fuel her need to compete. This competition was no exception and Rosie put in a top performance, using all her feel for her opponent in her final nail biting fight; pinning her for the required 25 seconds which earned her the bronze in her category. Brown belt William Jarvis, who tips the scales at a mere 60kg was next to take to the mat with opposition of matching stature. Despite his previous success and years of experience, it just didn’t come together on the day. William fought well and took small scores in his fights but in the
end succumbed to worthy opponents. In the under 73kg category, Bristol found themselves pushed to the limit. Fourth year Simon Bates and third year Elliot Mocharrafie were to fight each other four times before the day was out. This was due to a three way tie with another fighter from Warwick University for the silver medal. This repeated itself three times over on rematches. Such a battle brought the competition to standstill and sadly the eventual victor was the Warwick
student. The Bristol boys went on to share bronzes for their marathon efforts.
Rebecca Telfer was last to fight and provided a treat for all who had filled the stands
Ilya Gladenko, UBJC’s captain was another player to put in a goliath effort on the day. After
a series of stylish wins by Ippon, Ilya was only defeated in his last bout by his nemesis; an opponent who last year had strangled him unconscious. This led to him winning the bronze medal in his Dan grade under 90kg category. Rebecca Telfer, 2nd year medic and UBJC women’s team captain was the last to fight that day and provided a treat for all who had filled the stands in the open weight Dan grade group. At this level, bouts are 5 minutes and decided by
either full score of “Ippon” or a combination of smaller scores. Wins are achieved by pins, chokes, arm locks or the most impressive, throwing the player from a standing position, controlling them onto their back. Rebecca, who in past had a silver medal from the youth Olympics, took to the warm up area with a look that gave away high levels of nerves. This was after all, her first competition back after a long recovery from injury; she had a lot to prove. The Bristol fans needn’t have worried as what followed was a display of serious power and precision. The sum total of all her 4 fights barely broke one minute in total, a time extended only by the fact that the third fight required Rebecca to pin the player for 25 seconds. Fights 1, 2 and 4 were crowd favourites with clinical hip throws terminating the bouts with full Ippon and plenty of time to spare. It was commented by onlookers that opponents appeared to be to be ‘actually running away’ from Rebecca during these bouts! Needless to say, these performances led to Rebecca being awarded the gold and title of BJC National Champion. A fantastic achievement and one that was thoroughly deserved. The UK Judo scene can expect big things from Rebecca this year and with many top players in reserve and yet to fight, this should also be a big year for UBJC. Watch this space!
Amid the recent scandal that has rocked the RFU, Epigram’s Will Hammond caught up with England and London Wasps scrum half, Joe Simpson, to discuss what really happened at the ill-fated World Cup campaign, the departure of coach Martin Johnson and his thoughts on younger brother, Mike, member of UBRFC’s XV.
James Fothergill reports from the Bristol Trampoline Open, which saw over 130 competitors from 11 different universities. Bristol performed admirably, with Charlotte Plummer and Simon Baxter winning gold in their respective elite sections.
Reporter Matt Dathan provides a termly update into the fortunes of one of Bristol University’s fastest developing sports, ultimate frisbee. He looks at the Indoor University Open Regional Championships in Plymouth and the BUCS Indoor Nationals from Coventry.
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Fifth issue of the 2011-12 academic year.