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Forge Press ISSUE 146 | WEDNESDAY 2 SEPTEMBER 2020
THE UNIVERSITY OF SHEFFIELD’S INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER
University cuts SU grant, leaving student societies and SU staff in limbo
University halts plans
Student societies and committees have had their budgets cut by up to 97%, after the University reduced Students’ Union funding as part of Covid-19 enforced cuts.
rehire’ staff Kate Procter
Alex Brotherton Committees and societies will have to drastically alter their operations this year, meaning that students could miss out on opportunities previously available to them. The SU made the difficult decision to reduce budgets after the University confirmed a 15% cut to the SU’s grant, a reduction implemented across all University faculties. The cut, which came despite the SU projecting a fall in turnover from £12 million to £4 million for 2020/21 due to the closure of SU outlets over lockdown, follows two years of budget freezes by the University. Esme Constanti, President of SUTCo (Sheffield University Theatre Company) that lost 97% of its annual budget, said: “SUTCo are left unable to do anything - we can’t even afford our insurance and have had to cancel all of our shows. The rest of our funding usually comes from sponsored socials, but if we are unable to do them because of coronavirus then we’ll be left with no income at all. “With funding we could massively improve our online activities, like recording radio plays professionally and holding online events.” Working committees, described by the SU as “a core part of the Students’ Union”, will also struggle. As a result of receiving 8.7% of its
usual annual budget, Forge Press will become an online-only publication for the foreseeable future. SU Activities Officer Joel Kirk, said: “Finance and budgeting in an organisation of our scale is never as straightforward as diverting money savings in one area to the spending of another. Earlier in the summer the SU was in a dire financial position, and since then a significant reduction in staff costs has resulted in a saving of £2.3 million to help
balance the budgets. “Overall, budget cuts have been made across all areas of the SU, including societies’ budget which has reduced from approximately £46,000 to £21,000 this year. We’ll be working closely with the Societies Committee on managing the reduction, which recognises that some activity will be limited given the current circumstances for example, much activity will be moved online and won’t incur the
same cost as in-person events.” He added: “The savings made in student-led activity have played a vital part in keeping the SU’s doors open, and through initiatives such as the opt-in scheme for A account grants (where more financially stable societies can choose not to accept £50), we’re finding ways to support the SU and student activity. The Student Executive Committee are going to be constantly reviewing budgets... (continued on page 5)
Sheffield University has announced a U-turn on proposals to cut salaries and promotions for staff due to financial concerns related to coronavirus. The move comes after weeks of campaigning from trade unions representing staff angered by the issuing of a Section 188 notice that could have seen workers being dismissed and re-engaged on lower salary contracts. The proposal, termed ‘fire and rehire’, was halted after the university found that more students planned to attend than expected, and the government’s decision to lift its cap on intake numbers. In an email to staff, the human resources department said that a recently launched consultation on cost reductions would be closed. They said the pandemic had not “put students off going” and the government lifting the cap on how many people they could accept meant their intake could be higher. They noted that other cost-saving measures had also helped, including voluntary redundancies resulting in “£12m in staff salary savings for 2020-21”. The university had entered into consultation with unions in July with a view to reducing contractual terms and conditions in an attempt to save £100 million. The proposals included... (continued on page 5)
Letter from the Editor FORGE PRESS EDITORIAL TEAM Editor-in-Chief
Managing Editor Becky Sliwa Webb Head of Design George Tuli Head of Photography Rebekah Lowri Head of Online Rahul Warrier Head of Marketing Harry Daniels Inclusions & Welfare Ofﬁcer Bethan Davis Production Assistant Sraddha Sabu Production Assistant George Litchﬁeld News Editor Pippa Coleshill Features Editor Anastasia Koutsounia Features Editor Dana Raer Opinion Editor Ella Craig Opinion Editor Taylor Ogle Science & Tech Editor Louise Elliott Science & Tech Editor Sarah Laptain Lifestyle Editor Claire Gelhaus Lifestyle Editor Eve Thomas Break Editor John Gilding Break Editor Betty Wilson Arts & Theatre Editor Jack Redfern Arts & Theatre Editor Lucy Bytheway Music Editor Tom Hirst Music Editor Nicholas Dacre Screen Editor Annabel Goldsmith Screen Editor Kerry Violet Games Editor Catherine Lewis Games Editor Joe Warner Head of Sport Harry Harrison Sport Editor Patrick Burke Sport Editor Tom Coates
Get involved Do you want to get involved with Forge Press for the 2020/21 academic year? We’d love to hear from you! Check out the ‘Forge Press Contributors’ group on Facebook to ﬁnd out more. Contact email@example.com or message us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
roducing this summer edition of Forge Press has been nothing short of a challenge. I knew producing my ﬁrst edition as Editor-in-Chief would be difﬁcult, but despite having worked on 15 issues previously, I underestimated just how demanding it would be to remotely coordinate this bumper special. And while the ﬁnal product is incredibly rewarding, I can’t help but feel this is a sign of what the coming semester will come to resemble. Most departments are yet to explain to their students what “blended learning” will actually entail, and there will undoubtedly be ongoing challenges with this new style of learning for students and staff alike. Not least as rounds of voluntary redundancies will expand exponentially the workload for remaining staff, particularly with the new longer teaching days and increased intake of students following the A-level debacle. Still, I feel fortunate to know that my education will be continuing. Many other young people have been left in limbo about their future. There are A-level students still waiting on universities to tell them whether they have a space. One such student is Connor Bragger, whom I spoke to for our piece on Page 4 about the government’s U-turn decision on A-level grading, and who is waiting to ﬁnd out whether he can start on my own course in a few weeks time. Then there are the graduates, including members of our own committee, who had planned to extend their stay in higher education only to ﬁnd out their courses had been cancelled two months before they were due to start. At the same time we are calculating the reality of what can be achieved with cuts faced across the university. As our lead story tells, at Forge Press we have been dealt a particularly hard blow with the loss of over 90% of our normal annual budget. While the university talks about their commitment to providing a “fantastic student experience” on campus, speaking to the students who actually run societies and committees they feel not only unsure but burdened with maintaining such a high standard. While the university has
repeatedly promised it is prioritising our student experience in response to cuts, it is also using this as a defence for questionable spending. In recent weeks it sparked outrage with the news that it is spending £472,000 on 17 Steinway pianos for the music department. Staff members have criticised the purchase as a “display of elitism” and an “obtuse gesture”. But the university’s defence is that the pianos will “enhance the student experience”.
ooming above all of this is the pressing matter of safety. It might be easy to laugh at the insights already available from abroad, such as in the US where recently returned students have made TikTok videos, joking about the ridiculous masks they have been given by their colleges. But this is our near future. We know there will be one-way systems, hand sanitiser stations and mandatory face masks, but this is not enough as the University and College Union have made clear (Page 6). Even if Covid-19 tests were made compulsory for students, as the Independent Sage committee have advised, it seems inevitable that cases will rise when thousands of students travel to Shefﬁeld from across not just the country, but the world, with many international students rightly concerned about their own safety coming here (Page 26). Staying optimistic isn’t easy, but in spite of all these challenges Forge Press isn’t going anywhere. We will continue to give the students at our University the voice they deserve, in these times when they need it the most.
Kate Procter Editor-in-Chief
Wednesday 2 September 2020
NEWS Social Sciences building will be entirely demolished Page 6 ▶
Credit: Harry Harrison
NEWS Opening university campuses risks second wave of virus, union warns Page 6 ▶
FEATURES Why are students breaking social distancing rules? Page 15 ▶
Credit: Rebekah Lowri
The big picture Legally required to live in a tent - an isolation story. Rebekah Lowri photographed and interviewed her friend who returned to the UK from Austria during lockdown. Part of a photo series continued on our website.
Having been stranded in the Austrian city of Salzburg since March, Alissa Mann, 22, was legally required to self isolate for 14 days on arrival in the UK in mid-June, in accordance with the Covid-19 safety guidelines. Instead of being holed up in her small room at her parents house in the thatched-roof Cotswolds village of Hook Norton, Alissa, a languages student at the University of Shefﬁeld, decided to pitch a tent in the front garden, and spend two weeks enjoying her isolation outdoors. “Before I came back, I’d discussed with my parents what to do about the quarantine. My bedroom at their house is tiny, about 4 metres by 4 metres. The thought of staying in there for two weeks made me feel a bit sick. So the day before I landed back on British soil, my parents set up the family tent in our front garden, much preferable all round. Although I was exhausted when I ﬁnally got back to our village in Oxfordshire, I was touched at how much care my family had put into setting up my
camp for me, with colourful lights and little lavender plants outside.” Affectionately called “Camp Austria” by her family, with the country’s ﬂag ﬂying above, Alissa slept and cooked in her 3-pod tent, which was equipped with working electric lights, phone chargers, a wiﬁ extender as well as a full size gas camping stove, sneaking into the house only to use the bathroom. “I love camping and I had all of the modern conveniences, so I’m a little surprised at how relieved I am to be back living in a house. It was almost impossible to have a routine or feel motivated to work in the tent, so that’s deﬁnitely a bonus of coming back inside. It’s just nice to feel a part of the real world again. But at the same time, that feeling of separation from reality was a huge part of what made quarantining in a tent feel more like a holiday or rest. It’s strange how living only a few metres outside of your home can completely shift your mindset – at times I felt like I was living on my own little planet.”
SCIENCE & TECH Is there life on Mars? NASA’s latest mission could ﬁnd signs of ancient life Page 16 ▶
LIFESTYLE Lakes staycationers bringing the virus and leaving their litter Page 24 ▶
SPORT Shefﬁeld graduate George Taplin on conquering 13 lakes in three days Page 42 ▶
A-level results U-turn: students relieved and frustrated By Emily Evans and Kate Procter
-level students in England have had their results reassessed by their teachers after many saw that they were downgraded by Ofqual’s algorithm. This comes after the government’s U-turn decision following several student protests that have taken place across the UK. Students have been left feeling confused and deflated over their downgraded results and Forge Press has spoken with those who have experienced difficulties during this time.
‘It was such an emotional and heartbreaking day… all three subjects were downgraded’ 18-year-old Joe Rees-Jones from Bristol, an incoming Politics and Economics student at Sheffield University, had a similar experience to countless others upon opening his A-level exam results, “to find that all three subjects had been downgraded.” He said that he was certain he would attain a grade A in Economics based on Ofqual’s algorithm, since he was consistently achieving over 80 per cent in his practice exams throughout the year. Joe also discussed his views regarding the debate of whether the algorithm favours those at private schools more so than those from public schools. He said: “The algorithm punished those who were defying the odds of their local area to gain offers at prestigious universities, while simultaneously giving the majority of those more fortunate a pat on the back.” Nevertheless, after being on hold for over an hour to be told he had been denied acceptance of his first choice at Exeter University, Joe is now overjoyed to instead have been offered a place at Sheffield University. He said: “It was such an emotional and heartbreaking day, it was amazing to have Sheffield Clearing and Adjustment call me up to tell me I had successfully gained a place for Politics and Economics.”
Top: Joe Bottom left: Connor Bottom right: Sheila
'It is an utter shambles and annoying to have no idea where my future lies' However, Connor Bragger, an aspiring Journalism Studies student
at Sheffield University, is holding off from celebrating his results so soon. He said that the algorithm is “awful” and the government’s efforts to provide students with fair grading has been “handled poorly as they
don’t seem to trust the teachers that they trained.” Joe attained BBC in his mocks but this was marked down to BCD, leaving him confused as to where he stands with his university offers.
“I have no idea whether my place is for this year or next year,” he said. “It is an utter shambles and annoying to have no idea where my future lies.” It is especially difficult for Connor
Wednesday 2 September 2020
News at the moment since his chosen course is already filling up while he is waiting on his centre assessment grades. “They accepted people below the offer on results day meaning they’ve almost filled the course making mine and other people’s chances of getting in this year even harder. They told me that it is because they are from a disadvantaged background or have had family
The statement said: “We’re pleased to be able to accept all applicants who now meet the terms of their original offer by 7 September (31 August for Dentistry) on all programmes that do not have strict limitations on the number of people who can study on the course each year. “For those students who now meet the requirements of their offer but are applying to courses with capacity constraints like an externally-determined cap (such as medicine), we’ll do all we can to offer a place this year and we’ll guarantee deferred entry to September 2021. “For applicants who receive higher results from the teacher predicted grades, but still don’t quite meet their original offer terms, we will also consider these applications on a case-by-case basis.”
‘The algorithm fortunately did not affect my uni offer…’
bereavements but I know this to not be true for some of the students as I’ve gotten to know them during lockdown.” While grades seem to be the only thing on other students minds, Connor is also finding it difficult to plan ahead should he get a spot at Sheffield. “The process has been stressful with the loss of my accommodation even though I was appealing and it took 3 hours of phone calls to be able to get it back.” He is now left to hope that the government decision to allow teachers to grade their students will grant him a place to study at Sheffield University. He said: “My backup plan is to go to my insurance which is the University of Gloucestershire who have been very kind and patient during the process and they’d love to know if I am going or not but I have no answers for them. “I can’t sort accommodation or check my student finance until I know where I am going which is creating more stress. I could take time out but personally I want to get into the field as quickly as possible and taking a year out will be wasting a year for me personally, so if Sheffield offered me a place for next year I will be rejecting it.” Sheffield University have issued a statement to comfort students regarding their A-level grades and how this may affect their university offers. They said that they have been working hard to ensure that all students are treated fairly regardless of their background.
Meanwhile, there are other A-level students who haven’t experienced the same level of stress as Joe and Connor. Sheila Medland, a confirmed Korean Studies student at Sheffield University said that “the algorithm fortunately did not affect my uni offer as I did get an offer from my first choice, Sheffield.” She is “extremely happy” to be moving to Yorkshire this academic year as she has dreamed of studying there for many years. Yet while Sheila’s attained grades didn’t affect her university offers, she still empathises with those who haven’t yet been offered a firm place. “There have been cases where students have been marked down 3 grades… it is frankly unfair and not an accurate representation as to what students from more deprived areas are capable of.”
‘I did feel disheartened to see a lowered version of my grade.’ Antaliya is due to study at Sheffield this September after being apprehensive as to whether she would get accepted into any of her choices. “I thought I wouldn’t even get into my insurance so accessing track and seeing that I had been accepted into Sheffield, which was my first choice, was extremely unexpected.” Yet being accepted doesn’t take away the fact that Antalyia’s A-level grade C in History seemed harsh as she took intensive history courses to ensure she attained high grades. She said: “we are all working as hard as each other so I did feel disheartened to see a lowered version of my grade.”
University cuts SU grant, leaving student societies and SU staff in limbo Alex Brotherton (continued from cover) ...throughout the year, and the quality of opportunities for students will be maintained.” To save further costs the SU was forced to reduce staff costs by 25% as part of a core staff restructure, with many workers at formal risk of redundancy. In July the SU was awarded the WhatUni Student Choice Award for
Best Students’ Union in the UK for a fourth consecutive year. A spokesperson from the university said: “As part of our efforts to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the University following the impact of Covid-19, all University departments were asked to reduce their forecast expenditure for next year, while maintaining excellent education for our students and safeguarding vital research.
“This decision was also applied to the Students Union subvention the annual grant which it provides to the Union - but with the same expectations around prioritising supporting students. “It’s important students know that their needs are our first priority and we are committed to providing them with a fantastic student experience, facilities and education as we welcome back onto campus in the Autumn.”
of Fire and Rehire was unjustified. We said from day one that we needed to wait until the financial position is known before making drastic decisions.” In its email, the university said since launching the consultation it had reduced spending on many non-staff areas, improving its financial position. “Over the past few months, colleagues have worked tirelessly to put us in the best possible position for this coming academic year and beyond. “As a result of these collective efforts and changes, it is now
our view that such an extreme adverse financial situation is less likely to arise. We have also put in place additional steps to mitigate significant reductions in our income.” Leonie Sharp, Regional Organiser at UNISON said: “As the recession starts to take hold, we have seen a number of high profile employers use the threat of ‘fire and rehire’ in an attempt to reduce workers’ terms and conditions. This victory at the University of Sheffield shows what can be done when workers stick together and campaign for the outcome they want.”
rehire’ staff Kate Procter (continued from cover) ...voluntary redundancies, pay freezes, cancellation of promotions and a reduction in hours and salary. On hearing news of the end of the consultation, UNISON, who represent non-academic staff on campus, tweeted: “This is a relief for many staff who’ve been working hard to recruit students and keep the university going: in our survey, 80% of us couldn’t afford a pay cut. “Staff came together in all the campus unions and said the threat
Laid-off teaching assistants support Kate Procter Postgraduate researchers at the University, who have lost their jobs as Graduate Teaching Assistants, have voiced their disgust at the “invasive” and “humiliating” application process for hardship funds. Many GTAs, Postgraduate researchers that teach on zerohours contracts in order to fund their studies and living costs, have been left financially vulnerable due to Covid-19 enforced staff cuts at the University. When applying for the support fund, applicants must provide personal details including the income of partners or spouse, and are asked to fill out a money planner, to “help you understand the shortfall in your income.”
Will Hornett, Postgraduate Researcher Officer at the Sheffield branch of the University and College Union (UCU), said: “Many of our members understand perfectly well that the shortfall in their income is a result of the University taking away their work, rather than their own poor financial planning. “Especially concerning is the need to disclose financial information about applicants’ partners, which our PGR members have found invasive and unnecessary.” The support funds could be crucial to PGRs, as due to their status as full-time students many are ineligible for Universal Credit. Steffan Blayney, Sheffield UCU Anti-Casualisation Officer, said: “While we are pleased that the University has set up a fund to support PGRs, we are concerned that these application criteria will deter many of those most in need
from applying.” Mr Hornett added: “We hope that in considering applications the University will take a more understanding and sympathetic view of the range of situations that people might find themselves in at this moment.” Forge Press understands that staff in a number of faculties, including the Faculty of Social Sciences, have been informed of a blanket ban on hiring GTAs this academic year. GTAs make up a significant part of the University’s teaching body, so their absence could result in larger class sizes, a reduction in the number of modules offered and less opportunity for one-to-one support. When contacted for comment, a University spokesperson said: “Applications for the fund are assessed fairly and consistently. We are using the same tools as we do for the University's general hardship fund, but we absolutely acknowledge that we are in uncharted waters and the team has undertaken to consider requests sympathetically.”
Social Sciences building will be entirely demolished after reviewed plans Harry Harrison Sheffield University’s new £65million Social Sciences building is going to be completely torn down after further reviews have decided the whole structure should be demolished. The Social Sciences hub, which will be situated on the corner of Northumberland Road and Whitham Road, was intended to offer a new learning space for students and staff to work, but movement in the ground meant problems arose with the foundations of the project. In a statement to Forge Press, a University spokesperson said: “Everyone involved in the project is extremely disappointed with the piling failure. We are very sorry for the disruption that local residents close to the site are experiencing and remain committed to working
with BAM to try to mitigate this as much as possible.” The decision to bring down the entire structure, rather than the original plan to demolish only “part” of the building, was announced on the 24 August. The project was originally planned to be completed in 2021 but departments and students will now have to wait longer. Demolition originally began on 20 July after the foundations were found to have been compromised earlier in the year. In response to the disappointment surrounding the delay of the building, a University spokesperson said: “We are very sorry about the disruption to local residents. We are working closely with the contractor BAM to look at ways that they can minimise this as much as possible. “We will keep local residents informed about all the next stages
of this development, including ideas around reducing further disruption." BAM Construction, the company behind the work on the site, also acknowledged that the delay could add further disruption to students and local residents. A spokesperson said: “We completely understand and appreciate that a construction site can create noise and dust. “We will keep doing whatever we can to minimise noise and dust, work within the time and noise limits set out in the University’s planning permission.” In an attempt to bring locals around, nearby residents have been invited to meet with representatives from both BAM and the University of Sheffield to discuss the project. The building’s completion is now expected to be in summer 2022. Complete demolition of the building has commenced. Credit: Harry Harrison
Coronavirus: Opening university campuses Rise in students aiming to risks second wave of virus, union warns study medicine prompts fears of increase in dropouts Kate Procter Kate Procter Accepting medical students on the basis of teacher A-level predictions could lead to more students flunking exams and dropping out, a medical organisation has warned. Following the Government's U-turn on A-level grading, the Medical Schools Council (MSC) pointed out that nearly half of predicted grades were over-estimates of what students normally achieve in exams. In a statement, the organisation said: “As a result of the change to teacher assessed grades there are now more successful offer holders in the system than there are places. “There is also a worry that this could result in a higher likelihood of a greater than usual failure rates as students progress through their very demanding studies.” The government announced it was temporarily lifting the cap on the number of medical school places in England, and promised all students who achieved the grades to get into their first choice of uni-
versity will be offered a place either this year or in 2021. Universities will receive extra funding to help increase capacity on specialist subjects after warning they had limited space for students who saw their A-level results increase. Normally there are roughly 7,5000 medical school places available in England each year. The MSC said it wanted to see any increase in places fully funded rather than in response to what it said was "a crisis in A-level assessment" Speaking to The Telegraph, professor John Atherton, the co-chair of the MSC, said: "Because we have more students and their grades are less certain, we are going to have, on average, students with lower grades than in previous years. It's going to be difficult for them." He added that many medical schools will still struggle to accept more students this year and will have to offer them deferred places instead, potentially leaving those applying to university this academic year with fewer places.
Universities should scrap plans to reopen this month to prevent travelling students from fuelling the country's coronavirus pandemic, a union said. The University and College Union (UCU), which represents over 120,000 university employees, said the government risked “overwhelming some institutions and turning universities into the care homes of a second wave”. Around one million students are expected to move around the UK as they head back to universities in September. Most will be operating a “blended learning” approach of online lectures and face-to-face tutorials and labs, at least until Christmas. However, the union has called the plans “a recipe for disaster” and is urging vice-chancellors to move all teaching online until January and to keep students at home. UCU general secretary, Jo Grady said: “Refusing to act now will only store up problems further down the line as courses are forced to move online and students forced
into lockdown. It is no good blaming students later on for a problem that could have been avoided by government action.” The union said it backed recommendations in the recent report from the Independent Sage committee that called for online learning to become universities' default position. The union said that although recorded cases were on the rise, the government has not provided systems for testing and tracing that could cope with campuses reopening and universities have failed to step into the breach. They said the push to get students back on campus was being driven by a dangerous desire to get back to business as usual, and that the government needs to underwrite any lost funding for the sector. “The limited, piecemeal funding measures announced by the government so far are nothing compared with the security and the stimulus that would be provided by a comprehensive funding guarantee,” said Ms Grady. “Students will also need financial support to ensure that they can participate fully in online learning.”
The comments will increase uncertainty among students, parents and university staff hoping to return to something close to normal university life this month. Undergraduates have already suffered disruption to their studies, with two strikes by university workers in the last academic year meaning that most students missed several weeks of face-to-face teaching, even before lockdown started. A Department for Education spokesman said that the government was “confident that universities are well prepared for the return of students”. “We support face-to-face teaching only where possible and if safety guidelines are followed, but know that high-quality online teaching can also be delivered if necessary,” the spokesman said. “We are keeping our guidance under constant review, and are currently updating our advice on reopening higher education buildings and campuses to reflect the latest public health advice, including on face coverings, local lockdowns and test and trace.”
Wednesday 2 September 2020
Concerns over security practices after universities lose personal data to hack Lucas Mentken Hackers have stolen personal information of current students, staff and alumni from dozens of universities in the UK. The data breach targeted Blackbaud, an American cloud computing provider, which states that it delivers higher education portal software for 75% of UK universities. While the University of Sheffield has not been affected, the BBC confirmed the names of at least 20 UK universities which fell victim to the attack. The list of institutions affected includes The University of Leeds, The University of London, The University of York, Loughborough University and Oxford Brookes University. In a statement on its website, Blackbaud said that it discovered the ransomware attack in May 2020. The company says that it then prevented the cybercriminal from blocking the system access and fully encrypting files. According to the statement, the cybercriminal did not access credit card information, bank account information, or social security numbers.
Blackbaud also confirmed that it paid the ransom to the hacker “with confirmation that the copy they removed had been destroyed”. The ransomware hack comes as new research by cyber security company, Redscan, revealed that more than half of UK universities reported a data breach to the Information Commissioner's Office in the last year. The report also shows that universities employ three qualified cyber security professionals on average, with 46% of all university staff in the UK not having received security training in the last year. Redscan CTO Mark Nicholls said: “UK universities are among the most well-respected learning and research centres globally, yet our analysis highlights inconsistencies in the approach institutions are taking to protect their staff, students and intellectual property against the latest cyber threats. “The fact that such a large number of universities don't deliver cyber security training to staff and students, nor commission independent penetration testing, is concerning. These are foundational elements of every security program and key to helping prevent data breaches.“ A spokesperson for the University
of Sheffield said that while it was not affected by the Blackbaud hack, data protection at the institution is “paramount”. The spokesperson said: “The University takes the protection of staff and student personal data very seriously. All of our staff have a responsibility for protecting personal data under their care and this is backed up by robust policies, processes and mandatory training. “Any new activities that require the processing of sensitive personal data must be assessed using a Data Protection Impact Assessment and these are reviewed by the University's Data Protection Officer. “If that activity includes a third party such as Blackbaud then the third party is also assessed by the University's Information Security Team.” The University of Sheffield also invested in a cyber security programme last year to ensure that it has the ability to defend itself from cyber attacks and the capability to securely use its data, information and systems. The two-year programme will be used to improve baseline security, address any critical risks identified and implement a long-term plan to ensure on-going cyber security.
Online programme launched to provide more people a step up into healthcare careers Kate Procter A research project which aims to increase the number of successful applications for healthcare degrees, has launched at the University of Sheffield. The research focuses on the development of a programme to help young people from underrepresented groups progress into health related higher education courses. Funded by a grant from Health Education England, the programme will not only assist current A-level or college students, but also mature applicants who may not have had the opportunity earlier in their school life to consider university. Last year the pilot programme, called NOWPAS (the Network of Online Widening Participation Access Schemes), supported 26 people through their applications to university, with 56% of those who provided feedback being awarded offers to their chosen university course. This year 80 people will be supported in their applications for courses such as medicine, nursing and midwifery, and other health related degrees. The programme was developed by young dentist, Adam Holder, an
Academic Clinical Fellow from the University of Sheffield’s School of Clinical Dentistry, who was inspired to help others achieve. He said: “I wanted to find a way to increase accessibility to universities Adam Holder, Academic Clinical Fellow, School of Clinical Dentistry.
such as Sheffield for those even harder to reach applicants. These could be individuals who are highly motivated and academically able, but they may experience barriers which other university applicants might not.” Holder benefited himself from a different widening participation programme run by the university. “I was the first person in my family to attend university, and not many people from where I lived considered university an option. “I understand how programmes like these can provide valuable opportunities for university applicants of all ages. I’m therefore keen to do my bit and give back, particularly for those applicants who might find universities harder to access.”
Universities urged to reduce reliance on Chinese students amid growing tensions between UK and China Kate Procter A cap on foreign students at British universities should be implemented to stop them becoming reliant on Chinese students, a report has said. Chinese students now make up more than a fifth of total fee income at 16 universities, an analysis by the right-wing think tank Onward has found. The University of Sheffield is estimated to earn £85 million a year from Chinese students, who pay 26% of the total tuition fee income and make up 16% of the student demographic. While the fees of UK and EU students are capped at £9,250 per year, universities can charge overseas students far higher fees. Mr Tanner, author of the report, said: “While overseas students generate valuable income
and international focus on UK campuses, universities have become worryingly dependent on them for their finances, undermining their independence, credibility and longterm sustainability. “Britain has never had a serious debate about the growth of overseas students. Yet the viability of the UK’s most prestigious universities – to say nothing of billions of pounds of science funding – is now decided not in Parliament but in countries thousands of miles away. “Even more worrying is that a third of overseas funding comes from China, a country whose government has shown itself unafraid of threatening to cut student flows in response to criticism and whose commercial partnerships with UK universities are increasingly under scrutiny.” In July the former universities minister Jo Johnson said it was
“unfortunate” that Chinese students had become “caught up” in tensions between the two countries relating to the future of Hong Kong and the role of Huawei in Britain’s 5G network. Mr Johnson said: “We should welcome the fact that there is a large number of Chinese students wanting to come to the UK for a high quality education. “They enrich the learning environment for domestic students… they make viable through the money they bring in, courses that wouldn’t otherwise be offered.” One of the report’s complaints is that the rapid growth in international student numbers has “crowded out” domestic students at prestigious institutions. Instead, Onward recommends that universities’ ability to recruit overseas students should be connected to their growth in UK
Credit: Professorsolo2015 via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) students. But the Russell Group, which represents 24 universities in the UK, rejected the claim that domestic students were being overlooked. “Russell Group universities have grown UK student numbers alongside international numbers, and home students continue to make up over three-quarters of our undergraduates, who will be equipped with the skills to go on
to success in whatever path they choose,” said Tim Bradshaw, the group’s chief executive. “Students from around the world choose to study at British universities because of the highquality education and experience they provide – this is a testament to our quality and should be seen as a success story.”
Teacher training applications surge during lockdown Kate Procter More people are applying to train as teachers as they reconsider careers in lockdown, figures have revealed. Figures released by UCAS show more than 21,000 graduates had applied to teacher training programmes since the start of the coronavirus lockdown, a rise of 65% on the last five years. From mid-June until mid-July alone, the rate of applications raced up by 91% compared with 2019, with most of the growth coming from female applicants. It also appears the rise includes shortage subjects, too. The Education Policy Institute (EPI) forecasts that applications will continue to rise until course deadlines close in September, with an extra 11,000 trainee teachers likely to sign up. This could close the teacher training recruitment gap entirely for the first time since 2012, the EPI said. Commenting on the analysis,
Joshua Fullard, author and senior researcher at the Education Policy Institute, said: “The pandemic has caused unparalleled disruption to every area of education. However, there appears to be a silver lining in the form of a big boost to the teaching profession in England. These trends are welcome, given the government has fallen short of its recruitment targets for a number of years." However, if Covid-19 has driven more graduates towards teacher training degrees, it has also reduced teacher turnover, leading to many training providers struggling to find teaching placements for their applicants. Nansi Ellis, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union, said: “Losing these teachers will be a significant cost to the taxpayer, which is why the NEU is calling on government to follow the example of Scotland by centrally employing newly qualified teachers from this September, so that the needs of schools are met and talent is not wasted.”
experts warn Kate Procter Graduates who take pictures with their new degrees are being urged not to share the images on social media, to avoid fuelling fraud in fake degrees. Higher Education Degree Datacheck (Hedd), the UK's official service for verifying degrees, said that more than two-thirds of students plan to take "graduation selfies" this year amid cancelled inperson celebrations. But the organisation warns that such photos give fraudsters access to the latest logos, crests, signatories, stamps, holograms and wording, fuelling the booming business of selling fake certificates. The latest designs can be easily copied on to forgeries and passed off as genuine to unwitting employers. Research conducted by Hedd shows that 69% of students preparing to graduate this year planned to document their
achievement by sharing a photo with their followers on social media. Their research also found that up to 74% of students were unaware that images of their degree certificates could be used to produce fakes. Chris Rea, who manages Hedd, said: “This period marks the end of years of hard work so we understand the urge to share certificates will be strong, but the risks of fraud are high. “Coronavirus has created ripe pickings for counterfeiters waiting to take advantage of graduates whose desire to connect with family and friends online is higher than normal. When students post pictures of their degree certificates, everything is visible to make a forgery and they are easily found through graduation hashtags. "Covid-19 has led to a challenging graduate jobs market. Graduates should have the best chance they can and not have to compete with people faking their qualifications.”
Credit: Adityamanutd via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0) Other data released by the Department for Education showed that the diversity of teachers had improved in secondary schools, where 16% of all teachers are from minority ethnic backgrounds, in line with the overall population, for the first time. “This is a positive development, but these trends could be affected
by the oncoming recession. The previous financial crisis resulted in a decrease in the diversity of the teaching profession, and there are early indications that this is transpiring again,” said Fullard. However, the proportion of teachers not employed in state schools 16 months after qualifying has risen above one in five, new
provisional figures show. Department for Education Initial Teacher Training Profile statistics estimate that 79% of postgraduate trainees will be employed in a statefunded school in England within 16 months, the first time the figure has dropped below 80%.
Wednesday 2 September 2020
Food (and money) makes the world go round - but what’s the best strategy to keep the country thriving? Oliver Morgan
n July 27, England’s new ‘obesity strategy’ was unveiled, and it acted as a stark reminder of just how easy it is to sail through the aisles and find that you’ve accidentally put a bar of chocolate in your shopping basket when you get to the tills. With a lot of unhealthy foods hailed under ‘BOGOF’ banners in supermarkets, the government seems to have finally recognised the economic disparity around the country and just how inﬂuential wealth is on good health. The sad fact is that value for money has risen to the top of the list of many families’ shopping lists, especially for lower income families, which have only been rising since the start of the pandemic due
to job losses and workers being furloughed. Under the new strategy, adverts for junk food now have a 9PM watershed across the UK, whilst ‘buy one get one free’ deals are to be scrapped and restaurants have to display calorie counts for the meals that they sell in England. Initially, this sounds like a sensible step, especially since the majority of the UK population are ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ and according to the NHS, one fifth of Year 6 children are classed as being ‘obese’– so any action to take control of this issue must be positive, right? There is no doubt that being overweight or obese correlates with a poor general state of health, and the Coronavirus crisis has exacerbated this, with growing scientific evidence suggesting that the risk of being admitted into an intensive care unit with COVID-19 increases if you have excess weight.
Alongside many social issues surrounding housing and wealth, the Coronavirus pandemic has created a perfect storm of deteriorating public health – monetary belts have been tightened, people have been exercising less and more food has been eaten at home. When lockdown restrictions began to ease in June, the lure of the ‘golden arches’ was tempting for many, even those on tight budgets, and this is partly where the government’s new strategy plays a part, as restaurants employing over 250 staff in England now have to provide calorie information on their menus. In theory, this hands more power to the people, though this new strategy of calorie counting could further hinder the lives of people suffering from food-related mental health issues, such as anorexia, and force them to not eat out at all. Alongside all of this, the ‘Eat Out
to Help Out’ scheme, which sees meal prices slashed to half their bill total from Monday to Wednesday throughout August, was launched to encourage more people to support their favourite local eateries. This is where the launch of the new healthy lifestyle strategy contradicts the government’s recent messaging to splash the cash and eat out – its premise has the potential to serve as a lifeline to thousands of struggling restaurants and takeaways around the country, but a lot of these places don’t usually offer many ‘healthy’ dishes to conscientious consumers. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer, but what is clear is that any steps to make the country a healthier place must be a good thing. However, the government needs to be acutely aware of just how much damage their mixed messages could be inadvertently making. For some, this new strategy
is going to act as the much-needed motivation to get healthier; the question is just how receptive the public will be to this new messaging. It is easy to say that balance and moderation is key when managing your weight but with real lives at stake, having healthy citizens has surely got to be more important than short-term economic incentives promoted by the government’s eating out scheme. What the healthy eating strategy does is certainly going to benefit the population, but swathes of people still can’t afford to eat a healthy diet, and will struggle even more if they are tempted to ‘eat out to help out’ in August. For those who can afford to eat out, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t need support either, and this new strategy could prove to be just as dangerous as taking no action at all.
Does ‘Cancel Culture’ work as a regulatory power on social media? Hannah Ahmed ‘Cancel culture’ has risen from social media in recent years as a way for audiences or consumers to criticise public figures. It usually involves withdrawing support from the person who has done something offensive or discriminatory. And has became more mainstream alongside the #MeToo movement, as people called for sexual abusers in Hollywood to be ‘cancelled’, encouraging people to withdraw their support. It is unique to social media, encouraging its users to actively regulate content to some extent. This has created an environment where audiences and consumers are not afraid to call out public figures and hold them accountable for their actions, but it has also developed an environment that in some cases has become overly accusatory, judgemental and critical for the sake of a scandal. This then means
that some people play the victim when being called out, blaming ‘cancel culture’ for attacking them or limiting their free speech. It can turn into an endless, ineffective cycle. In recent weeks the most prevalent case of a public figure being ‘cancelled’ is Grime artist Wiley, for his anti-semetic tweets, likening Jewish people to the Klu Klux Klan and repeating antisemetic tropes about Jewish people controlling wealth. Within a matter of days he was permanently banned from Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, dropped from his record label and was subject to a police investigation. He has since apologised in an interview with Sky News. While Twitter fell under criticism for acting too slowly in deleting Wiley’s tweets and account, this incident makes us question similar situations involving public figures such as Katie Hopkins and Tommy Robinson. Both have consistently
expressed equally offensive and discriminatory views for years before having their platforms removed, despite constant criticism from social media users. Katie Hopkins, former reality star and social critic, made islamophobic comments referring to Palestinians as ‘filthy rodents’ and that it was ‘time to restart the bombing campaign’ after a stabbing incident in Tel Aviv carried out by an Arab man against two Isreali men in 2014. Over the years she has consistently come under fire on social media for her constant racism and inciting discrimination. However it wasn’t until June 2020 that her Twitter account was finally permanently suspended, after mocking the Black Lives Matter movement, tweeting ‘Today is #whiteoutwednesday. I will shortly be posting a picture of my arse. Thank you.’, and criticising Marcus Rashford’s summer free school meals initiative. Similarly, Tommy Robinson, a
far-right former co-founder of the English Defence League, who has also been convicted of multiple crimes relating to abuse and violent behaviour, had used his social media platforms to incite hatred and racism since 2013. Robinson has referred to Somalia as a country of ‘backward barbarians’ when talking about Mo Farah and also accused Sadiq Khan of being ‘part of an invasion into our country’. He was removed from Twitter in 2018 and deleted from Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat in 2019 for hate speech. Just looking at these three cases makes us question why Hopkins and Robinson have been able to keep their platforms for years, consistently spreading far-right hatred and racism instead of facing permanent consequences within a matter of days similar to Wiley. The white privilege here is glaringly obvious as Hopkins and Robinson are both referred to as having ‘controversial opinions’ and been
given screen time on national TV to debate their views. Referring to them an ‘controversial’ instead of racist or islamophobic downplays the seriousness of their harmful views and gives them a free pass to incite hatred against minorities. This leads to the issue of whether ‘cancel culture’ can be an effective way to regulate social media. The power users have can be effective in bringing attention to hateful and discriminatory content, but that power ends there. It is up to the regulatory authorities of the social media platform to take official action, and that’s where the disparity lies. ‘Cancel culture’ is a double edged sword, it encourages people to hold public figures accountable in spite of their celebrity status, however there is an overarching issue of the toxicity of seeking out or taking things out of context to ‘cancel’ people.
Working class students are worst off in coronavirus-led higher education Ryan Smith It’s a common occurrence to find myself worrying about money again. For fellow working class students, this will be as nostalgic as a strawberry Jubbly on a hot day. This anxiety becomes a prison within itself; you never had money before uni, so you can’t risk anything to get money (save from the lottery, ‘stocks and bonds’ and ‘investment’ are as foreign a word as ‘responsibility’ is to Boris Johnson). It limits our opportunities and confidence to an extent that those better off will barely recognise this ability at all, until one day it’s acknowledged by a fellow middle-class Labour student fresh from the fires of their recently purchased Communist Manifesto. We will have a triple crisis within the education industry in the coming years, and it’s working class students who will come off worse again. The Covid-19 pandemic, and the disastrous response to it in this country, will only exacerbate another recently devastating hit to the student world – last year’s student strikes. In addition, students
found themselves paying for a semester they barely received the full benefit of and will face another year of full fees despite the fact that the upcoming Autumn semester will incorporate online learning, and not all services will be as available. While this may seem to blanket all students, one needs to look further; online learning vastly benefits middle class students due to generally having better equipment to do so; those deemed key workers will overwhelmingly be working class (supermarket staff, baristas, cleaners, postmen, etc); the upcoming job losses and hit in wages will certainly affect those who need to work to live; those who must work, visit student libraries and use student facilities once they open are at higher risk of contracting Covid-19 than those who can afford to work at home without distraction. The list goes on. Without becoming trite, it’s difficult to see how anybody other than working class students have the right to complain when, generally, middle class families will have a support system in place to help them during this difficult time.
Due to inevitable cuts in the future and a no-deal Brexit nobody asked for, the lack of international students applying for the next few years will cripple the university’s income. Call me alarmist, but I can only see fees rising in the future. Given the historically nuanced idea of blaming the poor for being poor, there will be far fewer working class students who will want to come to university, try as they might. Writing in The Guardian, Laura McInerney rightly says, “in order to preserve social mobility a large portion should be reserved for those from low-income families or areas”. Soon the need for a university education will make little sense if financial difficulties at home become too pressing. I have just been accepted on an MA course here. Despite asking for the maximum amount via student financial help, it is still absolute pittance for what is practical. Naturally, getting a job would be the standard course. However, how does this work during a global pandemic if one is concerned about their health? As I write this, the
number of new cases in the UK is already beginning to rise again after a summer dip. It is a small figure in British terms, yet should still be enough to cause concern. It is suggested that postgraduate students seek funding via charitable donations, grants and scholarships. Disregarding the many hoops to jump over to actually get the grants, the fundamental feeling becomes one of embarrassment. It’s not enough to feel like you’ve borrowed above your means for your undergraduate degree and to be constantly told it’s a privilege to get that far. Now, to extend my education, I am reduced to feeling like I have to get my ﬂat cap out and beg people to give me money. Furthermore, I’d have to justify how I’d use the money, which is nothing fresh; for those who receive a university scholarship fund, they will know the same questions are asked. ‘How has the money helped you? What will you use the money on? How has the money made your student experience better?’ Please, ma’am, just a scrap o’ food for a down-and-out pauper. Ah just loves begging for me monies.
Firth Court at the University of
My fundamental point is this: unless universities can continue to offer substantial financial help for working class students that surmount to real-world benefits (bursaries, scholarships and the resources to survive an upcoming constraint on finances post-Covid), the need for higher education will fall on deaf ears for all those who have every right to be here. And the university will be a poor place to be indeed.
Wednesday 2 September 2020
Campaign banner. Credit: Our Bodies Our Streets
“Nice arse”: The rise of sexual harassment on our locked down streets After experiencing catcalling while training Evie Hairsine
onday: “Nice legs”, “Why don’t you smile?”, “You’d be sexy if you didn’t have
a bitch face”. These words reverberate in my ears as I run faster along the main road, my “bitch face” progressively hardening after each catcall. Turning up my earphones to the highest volume, I try to block out the voices of the leering and aggressive men. But I feel dizzied and disoriented when, without hearing his words, I see a man’s mouth moving fast, addressing me and approaching me on his bike. Startled, I increase my pace and run past him, looking away - only to ﬁnd him waiting for me, trying to speak to me as I run back along the same path later. I can sense his anger when I look away and don’t respond. This happens every time. I begin to question whether these streets are mine to use. Wednesday: “You have no selfrespect!” a middle-aged man calls to me from a car as I run through
the heatwave in shorts and a sports bra. It appears that using my body to move in clothes that are comfortable signals to these men that I am worthy of abuse. Saturday: “Nice arse”, “Come on, smile for me”….young men shout at me from shops on West Street. I’m not surprised to have been verbally harassed upwards of ten times between 9am and 10am walking through the city centre. I am trying to move between places, to get to work, to exist. I feel as if my body is not my own. This was just a typical week, but my experience is far from rare. A survey by End Violence Against Women found that 85% of women aged 18 to 24 in the UK have experienced unwanted sexual attention in public places, with most girls’ ﬁrst experience below the age of 18. Sexual harassment prevents women and non-binary people from using their bodies without shame, fear and selfobjectiﬁcation. Over the past few weeks I’ve spoken to many other people about their experiences. The details may vary but the general experiences are chillingly similar. Jess Taylor, a 19-year-old student at the University of Shefﬁeld, told me “I’ve never been that into exercise because of feeling self-conscious, and I really feel like these issues are compounded by street harassment”. Constant reminding that our bodies are seen primarily as sex objects, we begin to feel that we cannot move
them, we cannot use them and we cannot take ownership of them. But this is not my story to tell. I am an able-bodied, white, cisgender, straight woman. Therefore my experience of the male gaze is tempered by privilege. Catcalling and harassment are inherently violent and they damage everyone they touch. But, by largely conforming to the stereotypical patriarchal standards around appearance, I am protected from some of the most vile, hateful and physically threatening abuse. The very worst of it is directed towards groups whose experience of sexism is compounded by other structures of societal oppression. Street harassment is as intersectional as any other feminist issue. Many people seem to see this as a problem of the past – arguing that we’ve moved away from the cruder sexism of previous decades. But the evidence tells a different story. Recent months have seen a huge rise in street harassment in the UK. A survey by London activist Farah Benis has recorded a 36% rise in catcalling since the start of lockdown. Quieter streets have made men more sexually uninhibited, leaving some victims scared to leave the house at all. This comes at a time where our ability to nurture our physical and mental health through exercise is more vital than ever. Harassment is particularly bad in Shefﬁeld. Madeline Jackson, a
Evie Hairsine, founder of Our Bodies Our Streets. Credit: herself 19-year-old student at Shefﬁeld Hallam University, says that she ﬁnds catcalling “much worse in Shefﬁeld” than at home in Wakeﬁeld and Ellie Taylor, 16, noticed that catcalling was “especially bad” when she visited the city for a day. And it’s not just coming from older men. From surveys I’ve carried out via Instagram I’ve seen worrying reports of harassment from younger men. Nell Attwood, 19, describes being “spat at by young boys”, and Rebekah Dimmock, 19, says she mainly experiences catcalling from people her age or slightly older. We must not let narrow stereotypes about the middle aged ‘white van man’ prevent us from tackling the toxic attitudes within our own social circles. This includes men at our university who need to realise that not only do they personally know the victims of street harassment, but they probably know the perpetrators, and it is their responsibility to intervene. Last November I joined the ‘Reclaim the Night’ Protest against
Sexual Harassment in Shefﬁeld. Despite the unsurprising abuse we faced, I went home inspired and empowered. As a result of this, and my recent experiences, I have set up a new campaign called ‘Our Bodies Our Streets’ to focus on engaging women and LGBTQ+ people with body positive exercise. We aim to tackle the daytime harassment which is most common in the summer months. We’re going to support each other to exercise conﬁdently and without fear of abuse. We’ll learn about safe bystander intervention and build towards a 5k protest day, where victims and allies move through Shefﬁeld in solidarity, wearing clothes decorated with their messages to perpetrators. Please join our movement and our conversation. From a position of relative privilege, I want to make this movement as equitable, inclusive and a safe space for all marginalised groups and undertake to put intersectionality at the forefront of our campaign.
Interview by Anastasia Koutsounia
Shadé Zharai: Her journey to success empowerment coach-
he 31-year-old Australian’s TikTok is brimming with advice on how to battle self-doubt and achieve professional and personal success,as her positive attitude asks viewers to self-evaluate and peak at their strengths instead of embracing the on-trend culture of comparisons and toxicity. “I just want to help people realise they have more control over their life than they realise, and that starts with their thoughts,” she tells me over the phone. “Because their thoughts are what shapes their beliefs and how they show up.” Yet control seems more elusive than ever before during a year that shook the world with a pandemic and a global economic crisis. Young adults are now walking down a path saturated with suffocating uncertainty, with no sense of direction and no handy map to consult. For some, it may feel like success is a far-away dream exchanged for survival. Yet Shadé’s list of accomplishments is long and hers is a success story that took a while to come to fruition; she is Harvard-educated, a women’s empowerment coach and speaker, a member of Forbes magazine’s esteemed Coaches Council, an author and a businesswoman who is consulted by many companies. “There’s no way that I could have gone straight out of university and moved into the space I’m in now where I do career coaching and consulting for women,” she says. She instead chooses to look back at her journey as a necessity in not only developing the necessary skills to achieve her goal but in also
shaping her as a person. Like many, she was a university student following the mapped out path of a grade-A student; in her case, studying a dual degree in Psychology and Law. But when she proceeded to enter the industry of commercial law, anxiety and selfdoubt slowly ate at her mental and physical health. “I started feeling nauseous at the thought of going to work,” she admits. “It wasn’t until one weekend when I was in the city with friends and started getting that same sick feeling that I looked around and realized I was walking across my building. “I thought, wow, my body is giving me signs that I should not be here.” And so she left. Following her father’s footsteps she went into banking and ﬁnance, the industry seemingly as alien as law had been unﬁt, until a meeting with a mentor altered her perspective on how she viewed herself in the workplace. “She looked at me and said ‘Why are you focusing on everything you can’t do and not on the fact that you’re here and they recognize potential in you? Why don’t you leverage your strengths?’ “It was a game changer. Instead of comparing myself to others, I started framing up my mindset on what do I have and what do I want to improve.” Now solely working on her strengths, it wasn’t long until she started moving up the professional ranks and gaining recognition. Soon enough, she started being sought out by other female coworkers for advice. It took ten years of trial and error for Shadé to realise that her calling was consulting and empowering others, but she afﬁrms that this was the only way she could have gotten to the point she is now. And that’s her biggest tip of advice to students today; build a career around what they love and don’t be afraid of the inevitable deviations that might arise. Instead, learn what you can from them. “The world is full of so much
opportunity and possibility,” she tells me. “It’s about being resourceful, knowing that the future is uncertain and it may not pan out how we want it to and, if it doesn’t, how can we prepare for that?” Students are indeed treading in murky waters as internships are cancelled left and right, with more and more companies that used to actively seek new talent now facing large redundancies. Job hunting or even planning ahead has become a daunting task even to those whose planners are usually ﬁlled to the minute, and the future has come to resemble an ocean too dark and deep to dive in and explore, instead of the land of possibilities it used to be. While Shadé seems as though she’s the kind of person that always has ﬁtting re-assurances and guidance handy for any occasion, she’s also not afraid to offer a reality check. “You may not get the job or your dream job. In fact, you probably won’t,” she tells me in a matter-offact way that startles me. It had been only optimistic statements up until now. “I would say very few people get that dream job straight out of university. It takes time to get the developed skills in order for that dream job to want you so you might need to ﬁrst work for someone else, change your strategy and be more ﬂexible. “But that’s not to say you’re not achieving your goals. You’re just taking a slight deviation.” Yet students are wired to believe that if you work hard enough, get the right grades, that dream job will be at the end of our stint at university. It is what the world has taught us to believe and any other scenario feels like a blatant failure not to mention a reality where, even after working hard for years, you still need to start again and build your way up. “It’s very easy to feel scared about what if I fail because, at university, if you fail that’s it. We use that experience as our benchmark for what we think the world is going to be like.” There’s truth in that. Since
entering the world of education, our success, worth and skills are measured in grades; failure means re-taking an exam or failing the year altogether and facing the stigma that comes with it. In reality, Shadé tells me, you could have “someone who doesn’t get particularly good grades in university but thrives in the workplace simply because their learning style is not one that is supported by that educational system”. While university plays a major role in our journey as individuals, it does not deﬁne our career – in fact, a 2018 report by Universities UK showed that one in three UK graduates are ‘mismatched’ to the jobs they ﬁnd after university because they failed to pinpoint their skills and commercial strengths while in university. Probably because they were also too busy chasing after grades. This is where universities’ careers advice centers usually come in handy, but many times it’s also a journey graduates have to take on their own while venturing into the world of work. Shadé was one of these cases. It’s easy to wonder if she feels like she has now reached that success we all seek coming out of university. Yet it appears her deﬁnition of success is different from the conventional one. “What I’m always encouraging people to do is make happiness mean success,” she tells me. A very controversial statement in a consumerism-led world where usually it’s the other way around. Still, Shadé seems to live by this statement and is adamant that there is more to success than money and more to happiness than being happy and optimistic. She’s even written a book about it! “It’s breaking down the understanding that we have in this society around
what success means and redeﬁning it for yourself. When happiness is your goal, it changes how you approach your life, your work, your relationships and even the legacy that you want to leave.” It has been a relatively long journey for Shadé and yet she’s barely started. Like many graduates before her, she found herself in jobs that did not suit her and it was due to blindly following other people’s opinion of what she should do. It is her biggest lesson to date; listen to yourself. “Every single person will have an opinion about what you should be doing, where you should be with your life, how you should be applying yourself. “But they’re giving you guidance based on what they would do if they were you in your circumstances. They’re not in your circumstances, only you are you.” As a soon-to-be graduate afraid of what awaits me at the end of my university career, her story inspires me. Here’s a woman whose journey was not all plain sailing, who is ready to tell us that the road ahead is not easy but it is attainable if only we make the most of each experience and job opportunity, take from it that which will propel us closer to our goal. It might take a while, but we’ll get there. “My entire journey was full of deviations,” Shadé tells me. “But I learned so much and now I’ve ﬁnally reached the point where I can do what I know I was born to do. “Took me 10 years. That’s okay.”
Wednesday 2 September 2020
Credit: Rwendland via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0), edited by George Tuli; Garry Knight via Flickr (CC BY 2.0), edited by George Tuli
Would Corbyn’s young supporters still vote Labour? Orla Katz Webb-Lamb
eir Starmer’s election as leader of the Labour Party on 4 April was hailed by many across the country as a new dawn for the party. It was seen to bring with it the possibility of power for Labour for the ﬁrst time in 10 years. However, this almost universal response is not shared amongst many young people - especially those who were previously strong supporters of Jeremy Corbyn. Corbynmania, the obsession with Jeremy Corbyn, inspired a whole new generation of politically active citizens. Evie, a 19-yearold student at the University of Shefﬁeld felt that “Jeremy Corbyn did make me excited about Labour, I am very ideologically aligned with [him] and his supporters in most ways.” Support for Corbyn among young people was clear after a number of nicknames began to enter mainstream media culture, including ‘Jezza’ and ‘JC’, hashtags like ‘#jezwecan’, and that infamous chant. A politician who became a celebrity amongst the youth: he was met at Glastonbury by cheers of support; many artists at festivals across the country would end their
Corbynmania inspired a whole new generation of politically active citizens sets with ‘oh Jeremy Corbyn’; and, to top it all off, he even had a bitmoji. But what impact did this have politically, and can Keir Starmer expect to be met with the same response from the country’s youth? Sueleen, a 19-year-old Shefﬁeld student expressed how before seeing Jeremy Corbyn speak at a rally in 2016, she had been proLabour but “never thought of signing up ofﬁcially until that day”. Politically, Corbyn’s leadership saw the largest jump in Labour membership in recent history: in January 2018 there were 552,000 members, compared with 198,000 in 2015 before the general election and Miliband’s resignation. Corbyn managed to reach young people in a way that Labour never had before, both because the party became more tech savvy - the Guardian cited its 2017 campaign as using digital and
online techniques that “ﬂoored the Labour establishment” - but also because he offered a political ‘choice’ to those who since Blairism had felt that voting wouldn’t change anything. Even though as leader his electability was, well, non-existent, Corbyn can certainly be given credit for the number of people who took to their screens or their dinner table, and for the ﬁrst time in at least a decade, engaged in politics. Aleysha, 19, who is from London but studying at Oxford, was encouraged by the “direction of the party” under Corbyn, and his wish to reintroduce the left back into the Labour party. And although Labour lost the election in both 2017 and 2019, the shock number of seats won in 2017 seems evidence that the party could resurrect itself, and that the fad, it turns out, in some degree at least, was real. Currently, however, those who supported the Labour Party speciﬁcally since Corbyn are conﬂicted under its new leadership. “Whilst [Keir Starmer] may be more ‘electable’, I think the dilution of left wing policy is an unfortunate price to pay” said a 19-year-old from Northumberland, when asked about the change of leadership from Corbyn to Starmer. It is clear that, amongst many, Starmer just does not inspire the
same political excitement. With Corbyn, words such as ‘ideology’, ‘want’ and ‘hope’ are often used, whereas with Starmer, these appear to have been exchanged for ‘sensible’ and ‘realistic’. Not necessarily negative words, but less exciting and enthusiastic nonetheless. Evie’s reason for not voting Starmer in the leadership election is a clear reﬂection of this; his “vision for the party didn’t excite [her]”, unlike that of his predecessor. Sueleen believes that now the party is more a “lesser of two evils’’ rather than “exactly what [she wants] for the country” - highlighting the very reason why Corbyn was seen to be so inﬂuential: he gave voters a real choice. Sueleen suggests that this choice is now much less. Criticisms of Starmer increased with his recent response to the Black Lives Matter movement. His description of it, derogatively, as a “moment”, and his dismissal of any ideas of defunding the police
Amongst many, Starmer just does not inspire the same political excitement
as “nonsense”, were not received well amongst the youth; as Evie expressed: “he has not done a good job at representing minorities”. This growing unease amongst previously committed young Labour supporters is a worry for the party. However, it is not the case that all young people dislike Starmer, and were previously motivated by Corbyn. Those who took more of a single-issue based view of the Labour Party seemed keener on Starmer. He represented to many a better approach to issues such as antisemitism and Brexit, and also had “the potential to enter ofﬁce”. Jess, 20, from Cheshire, acknowledged that it had been difﬁcult for her to vote Labour because “Corbyn made [her] feel like Labour was more antisemitic, without him it is less of a battle for [her]”. Josie, 20, from London, had done some leaﬂeting for Remain with Starmer in 2016 and he seemed “trustworthy and sensible”. Interestingly, for some young people in Corbyn’s own constituency of Islington North, there seems to be more enthusiasm for the current Labour leader. Ruth, 18, stated that she was now more interested in Labour given that they might actually win, whilst others described Starmer as “educated and sensible”, “ready for the job”, and commended him for his work against antisemitism.
Wednesday 2 September 2020
Why are students breaking social distancing rules? Orla Katz Webb-Lamb
ecent outbreaks of coronavirus in the UK have been met with local lockdowns in certain areas, notably Aberdeen, Leicester, and Greater Manchester. These three areas, amongst others which have been forced into tighter measures, all have large student populations, notoriously the age group worst at social distancing. Hence, to many it comes as no surprise that these areas in particular have become Covid-19 hotspots. The abundance of parties and gatherings amongst those in university accommodation is arguably an impediment to the UK’s eradication of the virus. Many students are aware of this, and yet continue to disobey social distancing guidelines, so what will it take for students to obey the rules? Compliance with social distancing guidelines is lowest amongst the youngest age group - only 20-30% of 18-30 year olds in comparison to 50% of older generations - and so it is no doubt that authorities across the country are conscious about the behaviour of their young people. It has been suggested that young people battle self-interest with social (in particular familial) responsibility when it comes to whether or not they adhere strictly to social distancing. Preston council’s lockdown slogan “Don’t kill granny” appeals directly to this social responsibility expected among young people. In interviews with students across the UK, it appears that many adhere better to social distancing rules when they are in their hometown rather than when they are at their university home. Reasons given for this trend centre around protecting family and elder relatives. Students seem to be conﬂicted about their
behaviour, as is suggested by the fact that no one interviewed for this article wanted to be named, whilst many dodged the question of social distancing at university residences altogether. Catherine Foot, Center for Ageing Better, in conversation with The Guardian, characterised this as a contrast between “people desperate to help their neighbours” but also wanting, “on the other hand, illegal raves”. Lucy, 20, a student at the University of Shefﬁeld, for example, said she “social distances when [she] comes into contact with older generations and people who aren’t students”, but admits that “among other students at the university there seems to be a consensus that everyone made a choice to meet up and see each other”. This switch from the personal to the general was very common amongst interviewees. All of this suggests that students are not oblivious to the risks of Covid-19, but are reluctant to follow the rules nonetheless, and uncomfortable admitting this fact. “No one respects the government [...] their strategy is so shit [...] I’m the sort of person who is inclined to follow [the law] so I’ve gotten way more loose with it”, states Katie, 19, also a student at Shefﬁeld. Dave, 16, a sixth form student, believes that the government’s handling of the crisis has inﬂuenced students’ response, citing Dominic Cummings’ trip to Durham. His view is that if the government “doesn’t follow their own rules, why should anyone else?” This is not the only reason, however. Another common answer explaining students’ lack of adherence to the rules is that there is “lots of social pressure. If you do social distance perfectly you won’t meet people”, according to Jessie,
Young people battle self-interest with social responsibility
19, a student at the University of the Arts London. The desire in young people to have fun and not miss out, and its impact on social distancing, is widespread across the UK and manifests itself in different ways; drinking is cited a lot as limiting how well people follow the rules. Missing friends, as mentioned by Ben, 19, a Shefﬁeld student, is another justiﬁcation: “I haven’t seen my home friends for ages and I didn’t wanna miss out on that”. However, there is also a larger number of students up and down the country who are paying close attention to the rules. Clare, 20, at Keele University is distancing from her friends, in fact everyone that she has seen “has also wanted to social distance”. Again this brings to the fore the concept of social pressure, however, in Clare’s situation, it is pressure to comply. Delilah, 20, at Shefﬁeld University, says that at home she social distances, and deﬁnitely “plans on social distancing” when back at university. All the students interviewed who did not fully adhere to social distancing expressed that a local lockdown would probably change their behaviour, and that stricter and clearer rules directly impact their behaviour. Those who already follow the rules, would, as expected, continue. Maya, 20, studying at Manchester, whose housemates are all in lockdown at the moment stated that the local measures altered “all of their behaviour[s]; they’re [now] all following the rules”. However, several people also pointed out that even in the event of a local lockdown, if their friends and others in their local community were not adhering to government regulations, they too would ﬁnd it hard to abide by them. Another common factor interviewees gave that they believed could possibly force a change in behaviour was close family or friends with a severe case of Covid-19. Jessie said that “before, I knew people who had it and now I know no one with it. The risk seems less”.
20-30% of 18-30 year olds comply with guidelines, compared with 50% of people in older age categories
Credit: Rebekah Lowri
Science & Tech
Is there life on Mars? Mars is our nearest candidate in the search for extraterrestrial life. George Tuli explains the latest mission to the Red Planet
ars 2020 is NASA’s latest mission to the Red Planet. It launched on 30 July this year, carrying the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, the most advanced rover ever sent to Mars. Perseverance will help NASA to determine whether Mars was once habitable, and will carry out demonstrations and collect useful data to help NASA prepare for future human missions to the planet. The mission will also test the ﬁrst powered ﬂight on Mars, using the Mars Helicopter, Ingenuity, which is currently strapped to the underside of Perseverance for the voyage to Mars. What are Perseverance’s main objectives?
an improved navigation system mean the rover can cover more distance on its own. One of the most signiﬁcant upgrades over Curiosity is Perseverance’s ability to self-drive for a distance of up to 200m per day. As it drives along, it uses on-board sensors to build a map of the terrain ahead, meaning it is less reliant on instructions sent up from engineers on Earth. How will Perseverance look for signs of ancient microbial life? A new set of science instruments have been added to help Perseverance search for biosignatures — the traces left behind by life. A subsurface radar
NASA’s Perseverance rover uses its Planetary Instrument for X-ray Lithochemistry (PIXL) instrument to analyse a rock on the surface of Mars. Credit: NASA/JPLCaltech.
will scan the ground beneath the rover to reveal geologic features, such as water ice. This will be the ﬁrst time the subsurface of Mars has been studied in high resolution. A laser microimager in the head of the rover will use a camera, laser, and spectrometers to scan for organic compounds in Martian rocks and soils, which may be evidence of past microbial life. On Perseverance’s robotic arm is an ultraviolet spectrometer, used to search for minerals, organic molecules, and potential biosignatures. And next to it, an X-ray spectrometer, which measures the chemical composition of rocks at a very high resolution. Perseverance also carries its
Perseverance’s voyage to Mars will take about seven months, covering 300 million miles Illustration of the route Mars 2020 takes to the Red Planet, including several trajectory correction manoeuvres (TCMs) to adjust
The Perseverance rover has four main scientiﬁc objectives which will answer questions in Astrobiology, looking at the potential of Mars as a place where life could exist. These are:
Credit: NASA/ JPL-Caltech.
1. Searching for past environments which were capable of supporting microbial life 2. Looking in those environments for signs of past microbial life 3. Collecting core Martian rock and soil samples and storing them on Mars’s surface 4. Testing a method for producing oxygen from Mars’s atmosphere What’s new with this rover? With a design based on the previous Curiosity rover, which launched in November 2011, NASA’s new Perseverance rover will be able to travel long distances across the Martian surface. But improvements such as more capable wheels and
Jezero Crater on Mars, the landing site for NASA’s Mars 2020 mission. This image was taken by instruments on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), which regularly takes images of sites for future missions. Credit: NASA/JPLCaltech/MSSS/ JHU-APL.
Wednesday 2 September 2020
Science & Tech
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with NASA’s Mars Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky. own weather station to measure wind speed and direction, temperature, humidity, and the size and amount of dust particles in Mars’s atmosphere. Measuring environmental conditions is an important step in planning a future human mission to the planet. As well as these instruments, NASA is, for the ﬁrst time, equipping its rover with microphones to listen to the surface of Mars. How long will the mission take? The Mars 2020 Perseverance rover launched on an Atlas V-541 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on 30 July this year. Its voyage to Mars will take about seven months, covering 300 million miles. During this cruise phase of the mission, engineers on Earth monitor the spacecraft to ensure the correct functioning of its instruments. They will make corrections to its trajectory and attitude (the orientation of a spacecraft relative to its direction of travel) to keep its antenna pointed towards Earth for communications, and its solar panels angled towards the Sun. To minimise the power required for the spacecraft to travel to Mars, the mission is timed for when the planets are in optimal positions relative to each other. Earth and Mars have different orbits around the Sun, and only once every 26 months do they align for the most energy-efﬁcient trip. Perseverance is due to land on Mars on 18 February 2021. A combination of parachutes and retrorockets will slow the lander down in its descent, before the rover is lowered to the surface by the descent stage Sky Crane. As the descent stage approaches the surface, it will take photos, compare them to a map, and make
adjustments to the landing location as necessary to avoid uneven terrain. The mission is set to last at least one Mars year (about 687 Earth days). Where will Perseverance land? Perseverance will land at Jezero Crater, a crater which once held an ancient lake. Jezero Crater was chosen because it preserves evidence that it was completely ﬁlled with water: an inﬂow channel and an outﬂow channel show that water ﬂowed into the crater, ﬁlled it up, and ﬂowed out. It is likely that any microorganisms that may have lived in the lake were preserved, making Jezero Crater a unique target on Mars to look for signs of ancient microbial life. How will the mission help pave the way for future human missions? The rover is equipped with a scientiﬁc instrument called the Mars Oxygen In-Situ Resource Utilization Experiment (MOXIE) which will demonstrate a method for the production of oxygen from the Martian atmosphere, which is about 96% carbon dioxide. Oxygen will be used in human expeditions to Mars for breathing and for making the propellant needed to return humans to Earth. Where is Perseverance now? The spacecraft carrying Perseverance departed Earth at a speed of about 24,600 mph, on a trajectory for Mars. At the time of writing the spacecraft is 56,000,000 miles from Earth, in the cruise phase of the mission, during which engineers can make adjustments to its ﬂightpath, ensuring it will arrive at Jezero Crater on 18 February 2021.
Science & Tech
Godspeed! The world isn’t ready for a predicted drop in fertility rate
this could boost the future of research
access to education, this leads to an unpredicted problem Sarah Laptain
With women in many countries having fewer children, the population is predicted to crash at the end of the century. A study published in The Lancet, expects the population to peak at 9.7 billion in 2064 before dramatically falling to 8.8 billion in 2100. Currently, the global fertility rate is about 2.4 but if this falls below 2.1 the population size starts to decrease. This rate of 2.1 is known as the replacement fertility rate – the number of children women need to have, considering birth mortality, to maintain the population size. Researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, have predicted that by 2100 this will fall to 1.7, resulting in a fall in population that we aren’t prepared for. So, what is the cause of this predicted fall? Women globally have increasingly greater access to education and contraception. More countries are improving the reproductive rights of women which gives them more autonomy over their sexual health and when they want to have children. Moving from an expected role as mothers, caring for children at home, to pursuing their education and careers; women are putting off having children or choosing not to have them at all. We already see in Singapore a fertility rate of 1.3, with other countries’ rates falling too. But isn’t a drop in fertility rate good for climate change? We would
expect the decreasing population to help reduce our carbon emissions and cause less strain on food systems. However, this doesn’t remove the need for drastic action to combat climate change now – waiting for population decrease is not enough. On top of this, the impact on our social structure will require huge change. With researchers predicting the number of people over the age of 80 will grow from 141 million in 2017 to 866 million in 2100, we will have to prepare societies to deal with an aging population. Professor Stein Emil Vollset, the author of the Lancet paper, explained: “With more old people and fewer young people, economic challenges will arise as societies struggle to grow with fewer workers and taxpayers, and countries’ abilities to generate the wealth needed to fund social support and health care for the elderly are reduced.” Dealing with this will require countries whose birth rates are drastically falling to increase migration. The study predicts that in some countries, including Japan and Spain, their population will fall to half of what it is now. However, subSaharan countries like Nigeria, are predicted to increase in population: half of babies being born in 2100 are expected to be in Africa. This will allow for some migration to countries with lower fertility rates but Professor Murray of the IHME warns that “global recognition of the
This doesn’t remove the need for drastic action to combat climate change now challenges around racism are going to be all the more critical if there are large numbers of people of African descent in many countries.” However, migration is only a solution while the population of some countries are still increasing. If a point is reached where every country has a falling population, we will have to think of more creative solutions, while making sure we aren’t undermining the progress of women’s education and reproductive rights. Countries like France and Sweden, where fertility rates are already low, have tried to combat it with increased parental leave (that can be shared between parents as they wish, rather than set maternity/paternity leave), subsidised childcare, and greater beneﬁts for families with more children. Professor Murray agrees that part of the solution is “social policies supportive of families having their desired number of children”, but stresses that governments should not step backwards on women’s rights as a solution.
Louise Elliott In March of this year, it dawned on health professionals and government ministers alike that the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across Europe had real potential to overwhelm the NHS. By 16 June the ambitious RECOVERY trial (based at the University of Oxford) announced that dexamethasone, a common steroid, could reduce mortality in people with Covid-19 respiratory complications by one-third. But in a world where clinical trials usually take years to conduct, how was a potential treatment discovered so quickly? Writing for , Nicole Mather, an executive board member at NHS DigiTrials, explained how the RECOVERY trial was conducted so rapidly, and how this may be broadly applied in the future to accelerate subsequent clinical trials. She said: “The RECOVERY trial had ﬁve key features which distinguished it from a standard approach.” The ﬁrst of these features is a ﬂexible protocol which lays out the study’s design, data and regulatory requirements in just 20 short pages. The second is the rapid granting of ethical and regulatory approval. Usually, this process can take 3060 days; the RECOVERY trial did it in nine. The third is the simple recruitment procedure, requiring patients to ﬁll out a consent form of just two pages, and clinicians ﬁlling out a one-page bedside form. Fourthly, the RECOVERY trial utilised the NHS DigiTrial services (set up in 2019 for planning large clinical trials) to collect and process data rapidly. Finally, the results of these analyses were quickly made public, being published within a month. So how can these features be applied to future studies to accelerate their undertaking and
completion? Streamlining the bureaucracy surrounding such trials seems a critical place to start. “We’ve gone so far towards managing risk that we’ve created layers of bureaucracy that absorb time and money, and, paradoxically, increase the risk that beneﬁcial treatments are not tested”, Mather said. Thus, in the future, it would be beneﬁcial to cut down the length of clinical protocol forms, patient information forms and ethical consent forms, all of which can run into thousands of words. The RECOVERY trial also beneﬁted from the work of HNS health-data systems, such as the NHS DigiTrial system. Further investment into such NHS data systems will speed up data collection and analysis, as only minimal bedside data need be collected, which can then be integrated with routine NHS information on treatment, diagnosis and survival. Finally, Mather emphasised the importance of trust and transparency in a successful clinical trial. Working with institutions in which the public have conﬁdence, such as charities or non-government organisations, will help in nurturing trust in the use of health data for research and development of care. As well as this, transparency is vital to help garner trust but also to ensure that results are clearly understood and conﬁdently acted upon. RECOVERY was successful in “ [balancing] rapid sharing and expert review”, she said. While the clinical protocol and core documents are all available on a public website, key results of the study were made rapidly available through public announcements before journal publication. This clear communication is vital, as, within hours of this announcement, NHS hospitals were aided to adopt dexamethasone in treating Covid-19 patients. It seems clear that a more straightforward and pared-down approach to clinical trials can greatly accelerate the rate of completion and treatment discovery, without sacriﬁcing peer review or bypassing regulatory processes. Now all that remains to do is to apply the lessons learned from the successes of RECOVERY to future clinical trials.
Wednesday 2 September 2020
Science & Tech
Forget Fitbit – drawn-on-skin devices could be the future of wearable monitors Annabel Lever To an average person, the human body is a massive multicellular uncertainty. Every second of every day, right under your nose, the trillions of cells comprising your giant meat suit of a body go about the business of keeping you alive, without so much as checking in. A fundamental part of owning a human body is knowing this: everything is happening, and you can only assume that it’s going to plan. If something is suddenly not going to plan, you will eventually be made aware of it. More often than not, this will be a huge and deeply stressful inconvenience. But what if we could see disaster coming? What if we could keep track of these seemingly unsupervised bodily processes, and catch malfunction early? For hundreds of years, the best we could come up with in the way of
measurement was pedometers. The earliest emerged in the 15th century, but no one took much notice until the 1960s, when the popularity and accessibility of cars led to a sudden removal of Nature’s simplest keepﬁt tactic: walking. Fast forward to 10,000 step targets and hundreds of years of health developments, and you’ll reach today’s pedometer-ﬁlled reality. But there’s more! The recent revolution in wearable technology has allowed for not just stepcounting, but sleep-tracking, and even heart rate monitoring, all available at the ﬂick of a wrist. So, what comes next? Enter “drawn-on-skin” (DoS) electronics, the brainchild of Professor Cunjiang Yu and his team at the University of Houston, published last month in Communications. These tattoolike devices stand to revolutionise wearable technology for one simple reason: they won’t budge.
AI breakthrough for Alzheimer’s diagnosis Amy Heels According to the Medical Research Council somebody is diagnosed with a form of dementia every three seconds around the world. Dementia, and conditions like it, are known as neurodegenerative diseases which cause parts of the brain to die, with truly devastating impacts on the patient and their loved ones. Although there is no cure as of yet, early diagnosis means patients could receive care to improve and prolong their quality of life. This is where artiﬁcial intelligence (AI) comes in. AI is deﬁned as “a type of computer technology which is concerned with making machines work in an intelligent way, similar to the way a human mind works.” In the case of Alzheimer’s diagnosis, a team led by Dr Laura Ferraiuolo of The University of Shefﬁeld have found that AI could be used to assess and monitor potential patients. Speciﬁcally, machines could be programmed to recognise Alzheimer’s by looking at an image of
a patient’s brain, as well as assessing their movements and speech to determine if they are likely to be suffering from the condition before symptoms progress. This will not only help to improve the quality of life of the patient, but also save the NHS a great deal of time and therefore money. This is because it would allow clinicians to focus on helping patients as some of the diagnostic work would be taken care of using this pioneering technology. It would also mean that patients would not necessarily need to attend an appointment in order to be assessed, they could undergo the required tests from the comfort of their own home, both reducing stress for the patient and allowing greater efﬁciency within the clinic. At a time when the average age of the world’s population is increasing, it has never been more important to put in place measures to diagnose and help treat agerelated conditions. Recent evidence suggests AI is a promising method of helping both clinicians and patients in the battle against crippling neurodegenerative conditions.
A Fitbit is great, but it’ll move when you move. You take it off to shower, and forget to put it back on, or move in such a way that it doesn’t record the change. This doesn’t matter much when you’re only keeping track of steps, but the resulting imprecision of data like heart rate can have signiﬁcant impacts if used for diagnostics and health monitoring. The current alternative is “wearable bioelectronics”, technological patches which can be attached to the skin. These devices produce more accurate information than smartwatches, and are used for monitoring, preventing, and treating illness or injury. However, they can still be disrupted when their sensors don’t move precisely with the skin. Drawn-on-skin devices, on the other hand, are applied “like you would use a pen to write on a piece of paper”, Yu says. Comprising three “electronic inks”, DoS devices are applied to the body “on-demand in a
freeform manner”, to create critical sensors. These drawn-on sensors can collect data on temperature, muscle signals, and skin hydration, as well as other electrophysiological factors like heart rate. They can be adapted to collect different types of information, and even demonstrate an ability to accelerate wound healing. Such seamless data collection is expected to be particularly useful in technologically-starved situations
like battlegrounds, especially since the “simplicity of the drawing process” means that anyone and everyone can create DoS devices on demand. Yu’s team have even produced stencils for their designs, ensuring that neither artistic or scientiﬁc skill is required to apply them. Pedometers one day, Fitbit the next – and perhaps, Yu’s smaller and smarter devices on the horizon.
Mathematical patterns help researchers understand bird George Tuli Scientists at the University of Shefﬁeld have used mathematical modelling to understand longtailed tit behaviour. The research, published in the Ecology, was carried out in Rivelin Valley, Shefﬁeld, and aimed to understand why ﬂocks of longtailed tits live in different parts of the valley, despite having no nest or roost and rarely displaying territorial behaviour. Natasha Ellison, the PhD student who led the study, said: “Long-tailed tits are too small to be ﬁtted with GPS trackers like larger animals, so researchers follow these tiny birds on foot, listening for bird calls and identifying birds with binoculars.” Field ecologists recorded the birds’ locations over several months, allowing the team to identify their home range patterns. Each ﬂock of long-tailed tits used an area of the valley exclusively, so the
team hypothesised that ﬂocks could be avoiding each other after interacting. However, this was too difﬁcult to test experimentally because every ﬂock would have to be observed all the time. Instead, Ellison and her team created a mathematical model of each ﬂock’s memory of past interactions. The model revealed that ﬂocks of long-tailed tits do avoid each other, and that they are more likely to avoid places with less related ﬂocks. They also found that the birds prefer the centre of woodland. The equations used to model the probability density of the interacting long-tailed tit ﬂocks were similar to Alan Turing’s equations which he used to model the density of reacting chemicals, which determine patterning (spots and stripes) in animals. Here, the team used Turing’s theory to understand when home range patterns form in long-tailed tits. Ellison said: “Mathematical
models help us understand nature in an extraordinary amount of ways and our study is a fantastic example of this.”
Long-tailed tits. Credit: George Tuli
Science & Tech
“Zoom fatigue”: how online learning is affecting students’ mental health undertaking remote online learning during the pandemic. Ella Craig support.
ideo call apps have deﬁned the postCorona world. From keeping in touch with friends and family as we self-isolate to joining work meetings when we can’t go into the ofﬁce. Even university students have continued their studies by watching their classes live over Zoom meetings. This new form of learning extends into the
Associate Professor Gianpiero Petriglieri said that video calls require more attention than in person gatherings and this added effort to engage in the conversation causes what became to be known during lockdown as Zoom fatigue. During face to face interactions we can read body language and facial expressions to better engage and understand the conversation taking place, but during video calls this
next academic year as the University of Shefﬁeld moves all lectures online and is limiting face-to-face teaching to small groups. But how will this increase in online learning affect students? Speaking to BBC Worklife,
personal aspect is taken away. Zoom fatigue can leave you feeling drained for the rest of the day, reducing your ability to study or focus under the new, online, delivery method. As well as this, video calls and online lectures can impact mental
health, says Professor Petriglieri. Contributing to a class can be daunting for those who suffer with mental health issues, such as anxiety, due to pressure to answer questions combined with the feeling that everyone is watching you through your camera. However, the negative impacts of online learning don’t stop at just Zoom meetings. In an interview with CBS news, New York Ophthalmology Professor, Dr Christopher Starr, described our eyes as muscles that can be strained with overuse. In the next academic year, it is likely that we will see more students suffering with migraines (a consequence of eye strain) because the more classes that are online, the longer the time we spend staring at our devices. Although some students may ﬁnd watching their classes from home easier than walking all the way to university, staying indoors more could lead to a vitamin D deﬁciency. Our bodies need vitamin D to
strengthen our bones, teeth and immune system and it is produced as our bodies response to UVB exposure in sunlight. Those with mental health issues could also be affected by staying inside more. The charity, YoungMinds, found that young people with existing mental health issues felt worse during lockdown when they had to remain indoors. Despite the gradual return to normality, online learning could see more students studying from home still, with knock-on effects for mental health. While online learning can pose many challenges it can also bring some positives, such as the ability to have a more ﬂexible working day which is not conﬁned to regular 9-5 working hours. As well as this, online learning can allow students to go through material at their own pace without having to keep up with the pace of a live lecturer. This is particularly useful for those that struggle with note-taking and
focussing for extended periods of time.
Regardless of how the transition to online learning is affecting you, do keep in mind the services available to you as students: such as the 301 Academic Skills Centre and SAMHS, which exist to support students in study and in mental yourself struggling with any of the issues that stem from online learning.
Wednesday 2 September 2020
Loving yourself in and out of quarantine
Written by Amber Coates with illustrations by Robin Ireland
elf-love. Two simple words, which have become increasingly popular in recent years. From brands selling expensive candles in the name of self-care, to Instagram accounts of thin women informing us we should ‘love our bodies’, self-love has become something marketed to us - an arm of capitalism. When loving yourself becomes something inaccessible, something has gone very wrong. Whatever body you exist in, I am sure you have seen the foundations of your love and care for yourself challenged or called into question over the past few months. During the pandemic, we have been conﬁned in a way that many of us have never before. Not only has social contact been limited, movement has also. Movement is integral to many of our mental health routines, and it is understandable if you felt scared and stiﬂed about what this may mean for your body. I thought throughout lockdown about the situation within the world, and how we would explain it to an alien or someone from the past. An unseen presence threatens the lives of us and our loved ones, and many respond with 7am workout
classes, extensive lists of how to ‘make the most of quarantine’, whilst anxiously baking more banana bread than any of us really need. There is nothing wrong with these approaches, but if ‘comparison is the thief of joy’, then existing within four walls, with only the highlights of social media to keep you company, is sure to leave you feeling disheartened. Firstly, it is important that we understand why we feel this pull toward panic over our bodies. What is it about the world we live that instead of reacting to a pandemic by thinking ‘I am going to protect and care for myself as best I can under the circumstances’, instead we think: ‘I am going to leave this having learnt to play an instrument, speak a new language and completely changed my body’? The answer is nuanced, but capitalism is at its core. I won’t attempt to educate on capitalism, as many reading this will be aware of the pressure of productivity. However, it is important to acknowledge that this drive for productivity has collided during this time with pressure for our bodies to look a certain way. This pressure for our bodies to change or maintain a state they held when the world looked different, was compounded for some when memes began surfacing early lockdown. Usually, these would depict someone of a larger body eating or looking sad, with the caption, ‘me coming out of lockdown’. The people in these images are
never depicted as freely living or liberated, are they? Imagine the pressure of not only existing in a marginalised body, but then having to face a pandemic where
bodies of a smaller size are using your appearance as a joke and a motivation. It is an unfortunate sign of the world we live in that, in a global pandemic, we cannot simply exist. I decided early on in lockdown to begin interrogating this pressure, through conversations with others, and investigating my relationship with my body. Whilst it is important to acknowledge that I shop in mainstream sizing, I lost a lot of weight in my early teens. Many young people, particularly young women, struggle with dysmorphia, and the world we live in capitalises on that. Just think, what would selling a product, that of bodily ‘perfection’ to an often-unattainable goal, mean for a company? Customers for life, and customers who come to the brand younger and younger due to social media. So when these memes began to surface, I looked at my body once more, ten years on from when things got bad. I had recovered, I felt somewhat larger and softer, but had come to a place where these words didn’t scare me anymore. I looked around me at the people I love and the way they so often try to shrink themselves, and I realised once more that taking up space may not be a bad thing. It may even be a statement I and others could make, simply by virtue of existing within a world which tries to contort us. So, if you have felt this pressure during lockdown and are nervous about now facing a future with a body you feel unsure of, regardless of
what body you have, I have compiled a list of tips which may help you
feel more accepting of yourself. 1. Surround yourself with healthy discussion around food and bodies. Expose yourself to discussion, if you feel able. I like to do this whilst eating dinner or on a walk. Some I have loved are the books Happy Fat by Soﬁe Hagen and Eat Up! By Ruby Tandoh. Podcasts are also great, and I am currently enjoying ‘Hoovering’ by Jessica Fosteskew, in which Jess and a guest discuss their relationship with food, exercise and bodies, whilst eating together. 2. Expose yourself to different body types. I have come to love the YouTube channel ‘Stylelikeu’, on which participants speak on different questions whilst removing layers of clothing. It’s a beautiful exploration of how style is more than the clothes we wear, but that those clothes can be a powerful tool in expressing who we are. Naomi Shimada and Lizzo both have wonderful episodes. 3. Diversity your social media feeds. It is easy to forget that our social media belongs to us. You do not owe a difﬁcult or triggering person your time or your follow, and anyone who will not understand this is not someone to follow anyway. I also recommend having a second Instagram where you follow only accounts that make you happy-
whether that is books, baking, tiny animals, afﬁrming quotes and poems, or the world of ASMR. 4. Be kind to yourself. None of us are separate from the world around us, a world which, to differing extents relative to privilege, aims to squash us into a narrow and often impossible mould. Once we realise this, we can begin asking ourselves the important questions of what we actually want. A good starting point in your relationship with your body is to tell yourself that however you feel, you are allowed to feel this way. There is no right way to do a pandemicthere is not really any means of doing, only being and surviving, through and beyond this. 5. Hold your body. It may sound strange, but in Happy Fat, Soﬁe Hagen periodically invites the reader to hold their stomach, as a way of comforting themselves. Depending on where you are with your relationship to your body, this can be difﬁcult to do. But soothing yourself, whether through comforting food or holding yourself, whilst often demonised can actually be very comforting. If there were ever a time to be kind to yourself, it is now.
I hope that, wherever you are in your relationship with your body, you thank it for getting you through this time. We expect so much from ourselves, yet fail to see how much our bodies truly do for us. Now that the world is opening up again, and the sun is shining, your body deserves to feel the sun, to be loved, and fed. This is a fact that will never not be true, and has never been truer, than at this moment in time.
Lifestyle Screenshots from Depop’s iOS app and website. Credit: Claire Gelhaus / George Tuli
“Shopping sustainably is really important”: How Depop is shaking up the fashion industry As fashion brands rethink their product lines to meet sustainability targets, the demand for vintage clothing on Depop soars, writes Katie Wheatley Many people are attempting to make their wardrobes more sustainable and while some fashion brands are trying to keep up with these demands, Depop, vintage and charity shops are taking over. Although people may want to shop sustainably, it isn’t always manageable. There are fashion brands who pride themselves on the sustainability of their planning, production and selling processes, however, their items tend to come with a hefty price tag. People may treat themselves to one or two sustainable pieces, but completely replacing their wardrobe with garments from these brands is often ﬁnancially impossible. Despite this, having one or two sustainably-made items is better than none and making small changes now will amount to big differences in the future. It’s understandable that most wardrobes are still full of clothing sold by fast fashion brands: fast fashion is undoubtedly more
prevalent and more affordable. However their cheaper prices are achieved through the exploitation of their workers. Matilda Haymes, a 23-year-old avid Depop user who no longer buys new clothes, said: “Shopping sustainably is really important to me. As the textiles industry is one of the biggest polluters in the world, and fast fashion is responsible for mass exploitation of predominantly female workers, I don’t want to fund it.” There are many reasons why people use Depop; many prefer the aesthetic of older clothing, the pricing is more affordable, it’s good for those not wanting to purchase new items and you tend to discover
Fast fashion is responsible for mass exploitation of predominantly female workers, I don’t want to fund it - Matilda Haymes, 23-year-old Depop user
pieces you wouldn’t ﬁnd on the high street or online. The rise in popularity of Y2K fashion this summer caused a rise in the demand for vintage items on Depop. In turn, there’s been an increase in the number of users attempting to build a following and run their own vintage Depop shops. 20-year-old Depop user Tererai Maenzanise thinks it’ll become more common for Depop sellers to sell items on for an expensive price to make a proﬁt, as people need the money more than ever due to the Covid-19 and job uncertainty. She says she can see more and more people using it as a new source of income. Depop sellers visit charity shops or source vintage items, mark up the price and sell them to their customers. Items which ﬁt a current trend or aesthetic come with the most expensive price tags. This expense has not only made it more difﬁcult to dress in line with the latest trends, but it has made buying secondhand clothing less ﬁnancially advantageous too. Some people are concerned that charity shop-shoppers won’t have much luck because Depop sellers are always quick to ﬁnd and purchase the best items to sell themselves. They are proﬁting from
I personally treat Depop as my job and I think any Depop too - Otti Dick, 18-year-old owner of Resurrection Vintage on Depop the affordability of charity shops. Otti Dick, the 18-year-old owner of Resurrection Vintage on Depop, said: “I personally treat Depop as my job and I think any Depop veriﬁed seller does too.” She added: “All of us buy items and sell them on for a proﬁt, but most of the time the item that we’re selling is still a lot cheaper than it would be brand new. It also takes a lot of time to source items and make them, which is why I think it’s ﬁne for sellers to make a proﬁt.” Classism exists within the fashion industry: those with a higher disposable income are able to invest more money into shopping on Depop and shopping sustainably, especially if it allows them to dress
according to the latest trends. Those with less money are left with little alternative but to shop with fast fashion brands, as they are far more economically accessible. During the pandemic, some individuals with a passion to shop sustainably have limited how many new items they’ve bought. Haymes says that normally she’d have bought things for festivals and holidays, but she didn’t see the point in buying loads of new clothes when she couldn’t leave the house. However, Dick says her sales have signiﬁcantly increased since lockdown began and she’s sold around 850 items since March. As she hasn’t been at school, she’s had time to look for new stock and be active on her account, which has grown to over 21,000 followers. Alternatively, some people may have been encouraged to shop on Depop because shops were closed. Lockdown has also been a time for people to learn and evaluate their choices, which has driven many to learn about sustainability in the fashion industry. 18-year-old Rachel Gibson, an avid Depop user from Troon, Scotland, said: “I aim to be sustainable in all aspects of my life and have recently become vegetarian and [am] en route to becom[ing] vegan. I have swapped out so many of my everyday products to either reusable ones or ones with zero waste or no plastic, so to also do the same with my clothes is a must for me.” She added: “I don’t see why I shouldn’t be sustainable when the options are there, as I believe it’s so important that we look after the planet.”
Wednesday 2 September 2020
“Complete disregard for health and safety”: The unsafe working conditions in fast fashion warehouses Keziah Spaine On 23 March the UK went into lockdown as Covid-19 rapidly spread throughout the country. Many businesses were told to close-up shop, workers were told to work from home and the economy essentially shut down for the following four months. However, it has recently been reported that in factories supplying clothes for Boohoo in Shefﬁeld, workers were forced to continue going to work, social distancing rules were breached and hygiene measures were never put in place. An investigation into working practices at the Boohoo factory was launched after 28 workers tested positive for Covid-19. It was reported in the Daily Mail that workers shared cars on their way to work, employees went in despite feeling ill and many claimed that they felt their lives were put at risk. The Boohoo factory in Shefﬁeld wasn’t the only factory in the UK to be exposed for appalling and illegal workplace practices. In Leicester, which went into their own secondary lockdown, there are 1,000 garment manufacturers. Most of Boohoo’s UK suppliers are in Leicester and the sweatshoplike conditions in these factories have often made headlines. Despite lockdown, the factories remained open and working at 100% capacity, with reports claiming that there were no hygiene or social distancing measures in place. It has also been
reported that workers were being paid less than half the minimum wage and often in cash. Dangerous workplace conditions, exploitation and the complete disregard for health and safety in their factories are what makes fast fashion brands proﬁtable. Lowpaid, disposable workers under constant pressure to hit often unachievable targets mean that popular fast fashion brands can release clothes quickly and sell them cheaply. Supply chains in large fashion companies are incredibly opaque; fashion brands don’t own the factories and so often don’t know who is making the clothes and what conditions the clothes are being made in. Fashion brands like Boohoo could claim that because of this, they aren’t complicit in the exploitation of garment workers. However, as the industry demands large amounts of clothes are made quickly, factories are forced to underpay workers and make jobs precarious to ensure employees don’t slack. Boohoo reported a 45% increase in sales during lockdown, whilst their workers were paid as little as £3 an hour. The UK government is also complicit in allowing this modern slavery to take place. Despite its acknowledgement that the Modern Slavery Act is ineffective at tackling poverty pay and sweatshop conditions, the government has refused to implement alternative recommendations put forward by an Environmental Audit Committee. Only when these exploitative
work practices threaten public health, and take place in the UK rather than in the Global South, does mainstream media pay attention and demand answers. But there are more similarities between sweatshops in Bangladesh and garment factories in the UK than there are differences. Worldwide, most garment workers are women of colour and are often forced to stay silent about their working conditions due to issues of immigration, which has only been exacerbated by the UK’s Hostile Environment policy. In UK factories, women of colour are forced to work in cramped, harsh, demeaning conditions on poverty pay, unable to leave and unable to speak out. This explains why Leicester has gone into a second lockdown, as well as why people of colour have been disproportionately affected by Coronavirus. Similarly, garment workers in poorer countries such as Bangladesh, India and Cambodia are disproportionately women, working in conditions that are akin to slavery, subject to poverty pay, long hours and dangerous working environments. These women work for the same fast fashion companies as UK workers, with business models that rely on workers’ subjection to these harsh conditions. This isn’t a new, shocking discovery for fashion companies, the media or governments. Many shoppers know that their favourite high street shops rely on underpaid
How face masks became the accessory of 2020 Emily Pollock Face masks worn for the safety of ourselves and those around us have become a fashion trend of 2020, with many people styling their outﬁts to match the pattern or colour of their face masks. They are now, along with our house keys, phones and hand sanitiser, one of the most essential items we reach for when going out. Not only are face masks a piece of protective equipment used in the ﬁght against the spread of coronavirus but they are also this year’s staple accessory. Mandatory masks on public transport, in supermarkets and all shops and enclosed spaces, have led
many luxury and high street brands, as well as individuals at home, to start producing their own to sell in stores or online. There is now a wide variety of masks available to the public and more people are opting for the environmentally friendly option of reusable face masks instead of disposable ones that are required for use in hospitals. Many people have bought masks through Etsy, a website that sells handmade items. Through Etsy, both independent sellers can make an income, as well as some shops that have started making masks due to a loss in sales, so some small businesses that may have faced ﬁnancial problems since the UK’s lockdown measures are
now being supported. One business that has started making eco-friendly face masks and has been successfully selling them on a daily basis is Little Rose Design Millinery, a bespoke bridal and occasion headwear store based in Louth, Ireland. The proprietor of the online store and a milliner by trade, Sinead Gormley, said: “As the large gathering aspect of weddings was put to a stop, this saw a lot of my clients postponing their bespoke headwear orders. I had clients asking me regularly if I made face masks and after listening to them I decided to make exactly what they needed and wanted. They were still my fabulous loyal clients but they
workers to mass produce clothing. We can also see that throughout history, garment workers have persistently had to ﬁght for better working conditions, pay and rights. In 1911, 145 people died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, where female workers faced sexual harassment and assault, and all employees were subject to long hours. When the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union called for major reforms after the ﬁre, the Factory Investigating Commission and The American Society of Safety Professionals were set up. In 2013 over 1,100 people were killed in the Rana Plaza Factory in Dhaka when it collapsed, after the owner dismissed safety concerns. Then, last year, 50,000 Bangladeshi garment workers went on strike, demanding better pay and safety regulations. Now, in 2020, coronavirus has affected garment workers around the world. Yet these
workers have consistently been ignored and treated as dispensable. Organisations such as Labour Behind the Label pressure companies to make sure they adhere to employment laws: they organise garment workers in trade unions and raise public awareness to create change in the fashion industry. They have also set up Fashionchecker. org alongside the Clean Clothes Campaign which allows consumers to see how different companies adhere to labour, sustainability and human rights laws. Many activists, researchers and those in the industry have demanded that radical change be implemented by both governments and the companies themselves. Thulsi Narayanasamy, a Senior Labour Rights Researcher at the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre is demanding mandatory labour laws and a living wage for garment workers. Emily Kenway, a Senior Policy Adviser at Focus on Labour Exploitation is demanding governments to step in and fund labour inspectors, ensuring they are not working alongside or in support of immigration enforcement. Whilst fast fashion companies rely on exploitative and harsh labour to make a proﬁt, consumers, politicians and garment workers must collectively act to protect and improve the living conditions of garment workers by raising awareness of human and workers’ rights violations and consistently pressuring fashion companies to act humanely and legally.
now needed a different product from me, so I made friends with my sewing machine and got going!” Now making over 30 designs of the product, Gormley has found that men tend to purchase plain, darker coloured masks while the most popular style bought by women are classic ﬂoral or polka dot prints. She added: “Any clothing we wear on our bodies ends up becoming a style statement. At ﬁrst we were all happy just to have a face covering. Now we are looking for great patterns, shapes and colours, and emerging are trends of bespoke one-offs for those occasions that are a bit more special than the weekly shop.” Gormley is currently working on a collection of masks made of luxury fabrics including silk, lace and velvet for special occasions that may
require people to wear one. Popular online stores such as ASOS and Boohoo are also selling packs of reusable face masks, and ASOS in particular are donating £1 to Oxfam’s Coronavirus Emergency Response Appeal with every sale of the product. Some face masks have also been designed speciﬁcally for activities such as sports. The premium brand Under Armour can provide purchasers with a triple layered mask suitable for use when taking part in sports where you are required to wear a mask. In these uncertain times face masks have become a part of everyday life and will be for the foreseeable future. This may not be to everyone’s liking but it is a necessary precaution to reduce the spread of coronavirus in society.
Workers were forced to continue going to work, social distancing rules were breached and hygeine measures were never put in place
Lakes staycationers bringing the virus and leaving their litter With holidays abroad cancelled this summer, to our National Parks and made a mess, writes Amber Birchill ‘Staycation’ has become the word of 2020. Love it or hate it, it’s not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Throngs of people with their fresh as-yet-unused camping gear have swarmed to National Parks like the Lake District, embracing the great old British holiday. However, although Covid-19 has provided an excellent opportunity to explore more of our own country, staycations are not guilt or damage free, and in fact have had a serious impact on the more picturesque parts of the country and the people who live there. The Lake District saw a more than 300% increase in bookings for holidays from the 4th of July compared to last year and, according to a survey carried out by the National Park Authority,
68% of those polled had not visited the Lake District before. This is even more troubling given the North West’s rate of infection of 1.1 and the fact that Cumbria is experiencing a small second peak. There has been a daily increase of seven cases in Carlisle, putting it at 677.2 cases per 100,000 people, with even the most remote areas of the Lake District experiencing a high number of coronavirus cases. Thus, living in a “fantastic, fantastic … peerless, wonderful, superlative place in the UK to go on holiday” as Johnson stated, may not be the bonus you’d think it would be, with people ﬂocking to ‘beauty spots’ and potentially bringing the virus with them. For those who live in more remote areas, who would otherwise be reasonably safe, tourism is not always worth the risk even if it does bring a boost to the economy. The rate of people staycationing also has a negative impact on the environment. The police and ofﬁcials in Cumbria have been dealing incessantly with wild campers and people disrespecting the natural land. The new wave of
tourists has been having barbecues which pose a ﬁre risk, leaving litter, and even cutting down trees on protected land. Towards the end of June, ofﬁcials dealt with more than 200 people who were caught wild camping in Lake District, who were not only risking others’ safety by potentially spreading Covid-19 but also risking their own safety by camping dangerously and with no experience. The litter problem has been so bad that the charity Friends of the Lake District are organising a Great Cumbrian Litter Pick to tackle the problem, stating that ‘the aftermath pictures’ of people ﬂocking to the Lake District for a holiday, ‘have been truly shocking
Even the most remote areas of the Lake District are experiencing a high number of cases
and we are bewildered as to the reasons why people would do this.’ Another organisation, The Lakes Plastic Collective, uses Instagram as a platform to raise awareness of the litter problem. Anyone can help out by collecting litter in their chosen area (local or otherwise), and sending in a photo or tagging the organisation. The more people that know about the problem, the more will help to ﬁx it. However, assistant chief constable of Cumbria Police, Andrew Slattery, suggests that the tourists are not necessarily entirely to blame, with newspaper headlines “giving the impression lockdown was over.” Thus, are the great British public really to blame in this era of constant conﬂicting advice from their own government, in a time where people are damned if they do and damned if they don’t? The public must stay safe and social distance yet are also responsible for protecting the economy. It is these mixed messages that have led people to believe that going on a staycation is not only guilt free, but morally encouraged. It
is a catch-22 situation, with job losses and the economy crumbling, and yet the coronavirus cases still rife. Tourism is the main source of income for the Lake District’s economy, bringing £1.48 million into the area in 2018. However, coronavirus in the Lake District
Wednesday 2 September 2020
Pulling pints post-lockdown Eve Thomas writes about working as a waitress and barmaid following the reopening of pubs across the UK With the worst of the pandemic supposedly over, much of the UK is trying to return to some form of normality. Social distancing, face coverings and hand sanitiser are very much necessary, but we can ﬁnally welcome the return of shopping, eating out and seeing friends inside our own homes. Whilst we’ve all had our patience tested by the unforeseen pausing of this normality, its return brings a muddle of relief and uncertainty. The virus hasn’t gone away and the vulnerable in society are still at risk. This is something I feel acutely aware of when returning to my job as a waitress and barmaid. It has never been the most rewarding or stimulating of jobs, but it hasn’t ever felt particularly dangerous before now. Clearing cutlery and glasses which I know have been in contact with customers’ mouths is an intimacy which risks my health and, more importantly, the vulnerable people around me. Some of these vulnerable people are in my own extended family, whom I deeply missed during lockdown. By the time I saw my grandparents it had been six months since my last visit, making it the longest I had ever gone without hearing about the drama of the retirement village and the progress of the vegetable patch. When I ﬁnally did see them again, I was coming straight in from my ﬁrst shift back at the pub and I couldn’t help but feel the irony of the fact that now I was allowed to see them. I was a far bigger risk then than I had been during the whole of lockdown. I wanted a hug from my grandma more than anything in the world, but my job means that I
Litter collected by volunteers in the Lake District. Credit: The Lakes Plastic Collective is very much not over and the inﬂux of people could pose a real, signiﬁcant threat to the people who call the Lake District their home. The area needs tourism, but it needs safe tourism, it needs people who respect the environment, who camp
safely and understand the need for social distancing and the severity of the situation, and if it continues to be the go-to destination for ‘party animal’ stay-cationers it could cause monumental and permanent damage to the national park.
I wanted a hug from my grandma more than anything in the world, but my job means that I would risk her life by doing that
The virus hasn’t gone away and the vulnerable in society are still at risk
would risk her life by doing that. Perhaps it would be safer if my job looked anything like the pictures on the news, where staff wear visors, masks and gloves and have strict social distancing measures in place. I have some hand gel and we no longer offer bar service, but other than that, my job looks exactly the same as it did previously for me as a staff member. I may anti-bac everything the customers will touch but I have no personal protection whatsoever. It raises questions for me about company priorities: the pub would have to close whether it was a staff member or customer who got sick, and when I walk out of the door at the end of the shift, I become a part of the same general public that my customers are a part of. If I get ill, it will have exactly the same effect as if one of my customers did. On the plus side, the structure of having a job after so much empty time during lockdown feels wonderful. Eight hours wiping tables feels so much better now than it did in March. Like many over recent months, I learnt how to manage my productivity and mental health through the challenges of long days and indeﬁnite periods of restrictions, but – also like many – I’m impossibly glad that at least partial normality has returned. I’m
also incredibly fortunate to have a job in the current economic climate and I don’t want to take my blessings for granted; the pay packet at the end of the week is certainly worth appreciating. Balance seems to be becoming a keyword post-lockdown. We are balancing risks with economic need, visiting much-missed family and friends with social distancing, and the need for normality with the need for caution. Pubs are no exception to this precarious balance. Plenty of customers walk in and sit down beside regulars as if there was no pandemic, and plenty walk in wanting reassurance that everything is sanitised before they even sit down. In returning to the job, I accept this balance; I accept that I am risking the health of those I come into contact with, but that it is a necessary risk which I will minimise through hand-washing, social distancing and wearing a mask in public places. It is certainly a strange time to be working in a sector that is under as much duress as hospitality. Staff are nervous about their ﬁnancial situations: some have just started after losing employment during lockdown. If something goes wrong and Covid-19 is found to have entered the pub, we will close immediately and I won’t earn a penny until it opens up again. I’m fortunate enough to have the support of my family in this worstcase scenario, but not everybody is. Ultimately, the pressure to stay safe is immense, both from the business’ perspective who don’t want to close, and from a personal perspective: I can’t risk making my grandparents unwell. The ‘new normal’ is uncomfortable and risk-exposing, but it is also here to stay.
China Jinqian Li Whether to return to the UK this autumn is the question which Chinese students, including myself, have felt hesitant about recently. Instead of barriers like political tensions or fee levels, my main anxiety is over whether it is safe to travel to the UK, which is also the ﬁrst consideration of most Chinese parents since Covid-19 hit. The journey from China to Shefﬁeld is now full of uncertainties for me. The potential infection risk is always present when in an airport or on a long-ﬂight aircraft as it’s impossible to tell who might be asymptomatic. The truth is that most international aeroplane travel is indirect, which would make the situation worse if I had to transfer in a country that was struggling with the pandemic. My fears have escalated since the research ﬁgures started to show the prevalence of the virus in England; it’s been rising
for the ﬁrst time since May, so I began to consider if the adventure is worth buying tickets (which have increased several times in price). I’m glad that UK universities, including Shefﬁeld University, have come together to plan ﬂights for Chinese students. I would be more persuaded to return if this can be done, as I know most passengers on the plane would have had similar experiences to my own amid this coronavirus period. Somehow this would make me less worried about the infection risk and I would feel a sense of belonging which I would not feel sitting with random strangers from across the world. The political tensions on Huawei, Hong Kong, and the racist attacks on Chinese international students are not ignorable and have some impact on my desire to return. However, I would rather treat them more positively, as Tucker Elliot said: “There are more good people than bad people, and overall there’s more that’s good in the world than
The journey from is now full of uncertainties for me... it’s impossible to tell who might be asymptomatic there is that’s bad. We just need to hear about it, we just need to see it.” These confrontations have been continuing for years, so none of them could be changed in a moment. I believe that all of the affairs will be ﬁnally resolved in a just and peaceful way. After all, as an international student, my primary wish is always to return to the UK to ﬁnish my three-year course successfully and normally.
Jinqian leaving Heathrow Airport. Credit: herself
Singapore Rahul Warrier Within a week in March, I went from socially distancing from my friends and ﬂatmates, to packing up my ﬂat and ﬂying back from Shefﬁeld. At the start of the month, ﬂying back wasn’t even a thought. Yet by the second week, it felt a possibility until I woke up on March 17 to my father’s call asking me to pack up. My ﬂight home to Singapore was booked for the following morning. I spent the entire day in a manic rush to pack all my belongings. Before I knew it, that was the end of my ﬁrst year at university. Five months on and my return still isn’t guaranteed. I am ever grateful to have spent the lockdown period in Singapore. Despite cases rocketing weeks after I arrived (albeit not community cases), it has been extremely safe to be here. Lockdown here was only eased in mid-June, contact tracing apps have been in place since April and the government has handed masks to all every month. While a densely
populated city, Singapore did well to keep community cases controlled, and so remains a unique bubble. With that in mind, is it wise to step out of this bubble and travel to Shefﬁeld? It’s tough to say. My initial worries revolve around quarantine. How and where will I be able to spend the 14 days in isolation upon landing? How do I travel to Shefﬁeld? Will my future, unknown ﬂatmates maintain as much social distancing as I do? Is it worth it to travel all the way if the majority of classes will be online? There’s a lot of uncertainty and questions to which the university and accommodation might not have answers yet. The time is ticking. Personally, I’m itching to get back to the university routine. Studying from home isn’t as motivating, especially with a seven (or eight) hour time difference to the UK. The last ﬁve months have taught me a lot about social responsibility. It’s easy to come back to university and want to dive back to the old lifestyle, but while that’s not possible, fun can still be had. Singapore has had a ﬁve-
We all have to be responsible, maintain perspective where possible. If cautious, I think life will be quite manageable
person limit on social gatherings since mid-June, and largely, that has been enough. We all have to be responsible, maintain perspective and be selﬂess where possible. If my ﬂatmates are cautious, I think life will be quite manageable. Lastly: please, please wear masks everywhere.
Rahul. Credit: himself
Wednesday 2 September 2020
Moments of the Month
Written by John Gilding
1. New social sciences building had a wobble
2. I'm a Celebrity moved to Wales
3. Sainsbury's revamped queuing
4. World's last Blockbuster turned into an Airbnb
I’m no expert in multi-million pound building projects, but I’m pretty sure that on a list of ‘Things You Don’t Want to Happen’, unstable foundations ranks pretty close to the top. Which is exactly why half of the £65 million Social Sciences building had to be torn down in July, and now probably won’t be ﬁnished until 2022. Now I do feel sorry for everyone who was looking forward to using the building, and the builders who now have to go through six months of deja vu, but it was hard not to laugh when this was announced. Just imagine the scale of the sigh when they measured the movement and realised they had to do it all again. You could probably hear it in Leeds. It feels like when you make a Lego set (other brick-based construction toys are available), and halfway through you realise two of the instructions pages were stuck together and you have to unbuild everything to put it right.
This year’s Monarch of the Jungle will actually be the Monarch of the Castle, as ITV announced that I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! will take place in a Welsh castle this year instead of the usual Australian jungle. Obviously this is a sensible precaution because of the pandemic, but it will take some of the magic out of the show. The location is Gwrych Castle near Llandudno and while looking at pictures of it, I wish I was on I’m a Celeb this year; it looks lovely. I was worried that it would seem really odd and the camp would just end up looking like a damp DofE weekend, but I think it will just be different. The castle is also apparently haunted, which adds a pleasingly supernatural element to the series. I’m imagining Alexander Armstrong doing his dishes and a Victorian Count coming up behind him to recreate that scene from Ghost, and I would deﬁnitely pay my TV licence to see that.
Quietly, at the beginning of August, a pillar of British identity showed the ﬁrst signs of rot. Sainsbury’s trialled a queueing app which let you log in to a virtual queue from your car, or at home, to wait for your shopping slot. This avoids the socially-distanced lines snaking around the car park, yes, but this could be the beginning of the end for the queue. Queueing has always seemed to be a strength of Britain, allowing us to go to warmer, nicer places on holiday but still tut at the shambles of a line for the bus to the hotel. I like queueing. It’s become a strange escape over the last few months as you get out of the house without having to pretend that you want to do exercise. Also, at a ticket counter or checkout, you can rehearse what you’re going to say when you get to the front, so that you don’t blurt out some kind of socially-awkward “ﬂeurgh” instead of words. It should really be taught in schools as part of a heritage thing, if anything. The “British Values” they teach now seem a bit pointless anyway. It’s all about respecting other people’s cultures and giving everyone a voice. That’s not British Values, that’s just being a reasonable, nice person. British Values should be queueing, bus seat etiquette and that little nod and smile everyone does when they pass someone on a slightly narrow path.
In Bend, Oregon, one of the last bastions of 90’s culture stands proudly against the tide of the internet. The last Blockbuster store in the world has just opened its doors to overnight guests on Airbnb for around £3 a night. You stay in a makeshift living room in a corner of the shop with a sofa, a huge TV, and the entire Blockbuster stock to choose from. It looks glorious, but sadly for all fans of late-night classic Disney marathons, it’s only open to bookings for local residents. But it did get me thinking, and naturally I’ve drawn up my top three list of the Shefﬁeld shops I would most like to spend the night in. 3. Blacks A surprise entry at three is Blacks which can be found in the Moor. The outdoors shop has a top-ﬂoor ‘show-ﬁeld’ with a range of tents which can be your accommodation, and you can ﬁnd everything you need to have a full camping holiday in there, without being battered by the weather. Although the same can be said for Go Outdoors and Decathlon, Blacks beats both of them simply on proximity to Nando’s. 2. Debenhams Debenhams takes the silver medal position because I remembered that it has a bed somewhere in its depths, and a selection of bedding to suit all tastes. Obviously, a bed is inﬁnitely better to sleep in than a sleeping bag, and Debenhams as a whole has a lot more to do and explore during your stay, therefore it walks into the second spot. 1. IKEA No surprises at the top and no real explanation needed either. Fully-furnished rooms, endless hide-and-seek possibilities and a downstairs garden means I wouldn’t just spend the night there, I would happily live in IKEA.
Gwyrch Castle, home of I’m a Celebrity 2020. Credit: Ognyan Petrov via Wikimedia Commons (CC BYSA 4.0)
Social distancing chat up lines Written by Betty Wilson Dating in 2020 hasn’t been easy. Whether you’ve redownloaded every dating app out there, gone on virtual Zoom dates, or tried to have a socially distanced picnic, we’ve all been racking our brains for topical chat up lines to make people swipe right. Here’s a handy list to help you out with your next match:
4. “It doesn’t matter if the guy is perfect or the girl is perfect, as long as they are six feet away from each other.”
1. “You can’t spell quarantine without U R A Q T!”
7. “Will you be my quaren-tine?”
2. “I’m just a girl, standing two metres away from a boy, asking him to wear a face mask!”
5. “You had me at “I’ll be wearing a face mask!” 6. “Three words. Eight Letters. Don a mask!”
8. “But for now, let me say, without hope or agenda, to me, you are perfect when you are two metres away.”
3. “Zoom call and chill?”
Wordsearch B L F H U E W L T F D E M E
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Wednesday 2 September 2020
Arts & Theatre
Arts degrees are as valuable as STEM Jade Burnett defends the arts, arguing that degrees often regarded as ‘soft’ are just as important as STEM degrees Recent turmoil within the Higher Education sector has raised a longstanding debate regarding the value of university degrees, with a particular focus on arts and humanities. There has long been a narrative that these latter subjects are ‘soft’, focusing on art and academia for their own sakes whilst having little bearing beyond university. There has been much debate on policy initiatives to discourage students from pursuing these degrees, particularly in light of the Australian government’s plans to increase tuition fees for arts and humanities degrees in comparison to STEM subjects. In the UK academics have hit back against long-term efforts to devalue such degrees, launching SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts for People and the Economy) as a competitor to STEM. When combating the bias against arts and humanities subjects, we must ﬁrst note that it is untrue that these subjects do not present career opportunities. The signiﬁcance of the UK’s ‘creative economy’ can not be ignored, with creative industries bringing £13 million to the economy hourly in 2018. The study of arts and humanities provides the foundation for much of the culture that we consume, particularly in the cases of literature, theatre and art. Arts and humanities degrees also encourage the development of empathetic, creative and communicative skills that have clear beneﬁts for those seeking work in the current market. Discouraging students from studying such degrees will further increase the inequality and inaccessibility which is often prominent within the creative industry.
Creative industries brought £13 million to the economy hourly in 2018
It is also clear to see the ways in which a positive vision of the future holds a place for the arts and humanities. In times of political and environmental turmoil, much of the future will be shaped by humanity’s scientiﬁc understanding, and we will naturally look towards those with such skills as leaders and innovators. However, in doing so we must not forget the role which the arts and humanities play in shaping our understanding of ourselves and of our world. We can consider the unease regarding the value of these courses as representative of the modern problem of the university as a business, rather than the primarily educational spaces that they would ideally be. As students and as consumers, we have begun to think of university degrees as a crucial step towards a lucrative career, rather than as tools with which to create a more informed, rounded and empathetic society, and this is reﬂected in our apprehension towards subjects that are not linked to a clear career path. In uncertain times, it is natural for students to be concerned about career prospects, and this presents an opportunity to reshape our relationship with education. We should now consider the way in which we can build an economy which suits our needs. We must recognise the positive impact that these subjects have on our society, through furthering our understanding of our history and culture, and producing the creative mediums we consume. As we look towards building a sustainable future, we must challenge the notion that the only valuable pursuits are those which are ﬁnancially lucrative.
Theatre performances have been yet another thing left cancelled or by the pandemic, writes Taylor Ogle
hile many industries have struggled over the course of the pandemic, few have felt such a sting as the arts industry and its now-darkened theatres. March’s national lockdown ordered any theatre which had not yet drawn their curtains to do so immediately. Now, almost ﬁve months on, the future of theatre in Britain remains as uncertain as ever. As growing fears of the coronavirus pandemic spread in the weeks preceding the lockdown, many in the arts industry began to feel the toll. Even before the announcement of a national lockdown, advanced ticket sales at UK theatres saw a decrease of 92%. A 2019 study conducted by the Centre for Economics and Business calculated that the arts industry contributed roughly £11 billion per year to the UK economy. But with venues shut, arts industry employees have been hit hard. The Telegraph reported that approximately 45% of the industry’s workforce has been placed on furlough. Recent trade union ﬁgures show job losses, including redundancies of permanent employees and layoffs of casual staff, at theatres across the UK have jumped from 3,000 to 5,000 in less than a month. There has also been reported that vacancies have fallen by 87% compared to the same time last year, more than any other industry in the UK. While some theatre companies
and performers across the UK, such as the National Theatre, have adapted to lockdown by making ﬁlmed or completely new virtual performances available to view online, this does not solve many of the problems plaguing the industry. Venues in London’s West End and regional theatres across the country will have to develop new and innovative ways to welcome back inperson audiences. Here in Shefﬁeld, Shefﬁeld Theatres, the group which runs both The Crucible and The Lyceum, announced in July that their theatres will not fully reopen until at least Spring 2021. While many of their staff were already placed on furlough, this extended closure brings with it increased concern that staff redundancies will only increase. Shefﬁeld Theatres reported that almost one-third of their staff were at risk of being made redundant by the closures. The news of the cancellation of the 2020/21 pantomime season brings with it renewed concerns for the survival of many venues across the country. Shefﬁeld Theatres is one of the several production companies to have already made the decision to cancel their annual productions for the season. While most pantomimes are primarily performed during the holiday season, the pantomime season’s cancellation will have long lasting effects. These productions take months to prepare for and their cancellation will mean that many actors, among other creative professionals, will be out of work. It has been predicted that the cancellation of the pantomime season will result in over £90 million in losses . This will make a dent in many theatres budgets as many rely heavily on these performances to boost their yearly revenue. However, all hope is not lost, and
the sector that is deﬁned by its creativity and resourcefulness is exploring new options that embody the rallying cry ‘The show must go on!’. In June almost 100 creative ﬁgures signed an open letter urging Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, and Secretary of State for Culture Oliver Dowden to intervene to offer support to the struggling arts industry. Arts Council England has opened several emergency relief funds including The Cultural Recovery Fund, which may make grants of up to £500 million or £270 million in long-term loans available for struggling arts organizations. As lockdown measures are eased across the country, there is also a dim light at the end of the tunnel. Outdoor performances have been able to take place since July, and as of August 15th, Covid-19 government guidelines have allowed sociallydistanced indoor performances to resume (excluding venues in areas still under local lockdowns). However, even with the hope that socially distanced performances may gradually resume, smaller theatres will continue to struggle without substantial aid. Many small performance spaces will not have the space or ﬁnancial capacity to make socially-distanced performances viable. On average, a performance needs to sell at least 50% of their tickets to break even, but it has estimated that in order to socially distance effectively there will be an average of an 80% reduction in seats. For now, performers and theatrelovers alike will have to continue to seek out new ways to experience shows and hope that government schemes like the Cultural Renewal Taskforce will adequately protect and support struggling creative organizations.
Arts & Theatre Betty Tiffany McDonald
Amber Coates, like many, was missing art during lockdown. Here she describes her socially distanced visit to the Tate Modern in London. I recently read Olivia Laing’s newest book, Funny Weather: Art in an Emergency. The ‘funny weather’ the title refers to is the political climate, amalgamating Laing’s column pieces and essays dating from 2015, concerning art as relief when the world feels like it is falling apart. As art lovers, the current Covid-19 crisis has exempliﬁed this need for relief, as we have been unable to access places we would normally visit to make sense of feelings and events. As she wrote her book, published in April of this year, Laing would have not known how relevant her work would become. Deprived of art in person for so many months now, art lovers are ﬂocking to galleries as they begin to open again during August. Art postemergency, or during, is
An intricate and haunting coming of age tale of a young woman who, growing up amidst racism and poverty, discovers the power of storytelling.
proving itself necessary. I decided to make my ﬁrst gallery visit post-lockdown to the Tate Modern in London. The Tate is currently employing a slot booking system, free of charge, which allows entrance to the building for three hours. The general exhibitions are free, along with two paid exhibits, displaying the work of Steve McQueen (until 6 September) and Andy Warhol (until 15 November). We booked the 12:30 slot,
“ it was never too busy or but clearly staggered with a focus on
Love stories from myth and folklore across continents and genres are vibrantly reimagined in this debut collection.
Teeming with unforgettable characters, this captivating story of a Nigerian childhood explores the struggle between freedom and love.
and began walking around for our allotted three hours. Our arrival was a somewhat surreal experience, given that much of the outside looked closed off, almost abandoned. At the usual entrance, there were three clearly marked and separate lines, the ﬁrst for general exhibitions, the others for the McQueen and Warhol. Upon initial entry into the building, and subsequently each exhibit, hand sanitiser was provided and often mandatory to use. The toilets also had sanitiser upon entering, to minimise infection there. The whole building seemed cleaner than I had previously noticed. Masks were mandatory throughout the building, along with current social distancing guidelines. There were employees scanning tickets into each exhibit,
and in many rooms, keeping an eye on distancing. In the case of video exhibits, held in their own rooms, a ‘one in one out’ system was in operation, so that a small group could enjoy the piece whilst observing distancing. Overall, the visit felt incredibly safe. Considering the amount of people present, it was never too busy or overwhelming, but clearly staggered with a focus on minimising risk. Water fountains were off limits, however the staff at the café on the third ﬂoor were happy to ﬁll up bottles, so it was easy to hydrate in the summer heat. The sunshine and the presence of art was a soothing experience that I would recommend to all, provided you feel safe and take precautions. In Laing’s book, she discusses the work of Agnes Martin, which we saw displayed in the Tate. Martin lived a fascinating life, living for a while in the desert. She also experienced mental health problems, due to schizophrenia. Despite her difﬁcult experiences, her art took on a consistent appearance; lines on canvas, often of a pale pastel hue, conjuring images of faded seaside deck chairs and soft, whipped ice cream. It seemed to remind us that, no matter what we have experienced, art both within its creation and its observation has a consistent presence. Art does
not waver in the face of extreme circumstance or change; art created pre-pandemic will remain the same, physically, post-pandemic. I was reminded when viewing Martin’s work that things may look the same, but feel abundantly different, after certain events. It is an experience which, provided you are safe and pack your mask, arrive in time, and do not rush around, will no doubt soothe the difﬁcult withdrawal many of us have felt from art this year. Enjoy the art we have all been missing. It might just look different, now, during and after an emergency.
Wednesday 2 September 2020
Arts & Theatre
The Importance of Being Somewhat Earnest Eve Thomas The Importance of Being Earnest has been loved by generations. Full of witty, ﬂamboyant and outrageously immoral characters, the farce describes itself (ironically) as ‘A Trivial Comedy for Serious People’. For those who know the play, this description alongside the apparent solemnity of the title creates an image of Oscar Wilde chuckling behind his pen and paper. They are purposely so completely misleading. Jamal Simon is currently directing SUTCo’s radio production of this melodramatic and characterful play. With theatres around the globe closed for the pandemic, Shefﬁeld students are forging a new path
Ofqual’s ruling comes at a time when poetry is more important than ever to young people, writes Flo Cornall It all started with a line by line analysis of Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Havisham’. Overly highlighted, barely readable annotations and lots of wiggly lines scribbled on an A4 sheet that was entirely blank a few moments prior. “Don’t think it’s only the heart that b-b-b-breaks” - It was at that exact moment, in an eclectic Year 11 English class that poetry clicked, questions bounced around my mind and the answers laid in playful language and an unexpected classroom discussion that followed. However, next year some students might be deprived of that magical moment because schools will be able to drop poetry completely
in the shape of auditory theatre. Speaking on the new medium, Simon mused that “one thing that radio provides that other theatres don’t is the ability for anybody to be engaged and involved without fear of judgement based on look, shape or size” and as a result the production team have “had a lot of people apply for this who’ve never done a SUTCo and SUPAS show before”. The inclusive nature of radio extends to offering opportunity to listen to a wider audience: there are no restrictions on how many can sit in an audience and no ﬁnancial means to enjoy the recordings. The play itself, according to Simon, is “an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s original play about identity and our identity as the society that we live in.” It examines “whether we
from their classrooms. Poems from Simon Armitage to Kae Tempest will lay unread in their themed anthologies, deprived of the fresh minds unpicking what the intention of enjambment is and students left unaware of the solace they might ﬁnd in the array of themes that poetry covers. The novel, the play and the poetry - three key essential components for GCSE English Literature made seemingly redundant. Instead, exam authority Ofqual has announced that whilst students must study Shakespeare, teachers will be faced
It will still exist screenshot of Rupi feed
are allowed to be the people that we desire to be or whether we have to be how the world wants us to be” and it explores “the relationships that the world deems acceptable or not.” Successfully presenting this message will be challenging in a medium without visual expression. Simon spoke about the obstacles facing the cast and production team as they try to understand how “the journeys of the characters, how they [the actors] will voice that.” Fortunately, “the rehearsals are generally going well but the room for experimentation does not exist on the same plane as it does in person; in person you are physically moving around the space, connecting with actors physically”. Signiﬁcant also is the shift in the type of rehearsal: on stage “there is more time; in two minutes so much can happen in a real theatre space, whereas here you spend two minutes trying to connect to the internet.” Other challenges have presented themselves in the form of “trying to ﬁnd ways to advertise the show… because we can only do it online; there is no chance of ﬂyering or telling people outside of social media or Facebook”. However producer and publicist Mia Young noted the unforeseen silver linings and lessons of the pandemic as SUTCo works to “move towards
a sustainable way of organising events”. In fact, editor Molly Clarke hoped that “even if it was postpandemic, [radio] could be done in real life; it’s still a different experience for actors and everyone else involved”. Despite these challenges, the production team has developed innovative ways for artistic expression and a transferral of ideas to the audience: “We’ve adapted the radio play to a modern setting and changed some of the genders of the
characters” in order to “push the message that a lot of the themes and issues that are being discussed in the late 19th century are still valid today in the early 21st century… We have to really reconcile ourselves to that if we are to progress and become good people.” ‘The Importance of Being Somewhat Earnest’ has been released in three parts, with all recordings available via Soundcloud and posted on the SUTCo Facebook page.
with a decision of choosing two out of three from: the 19th-century novel, a modern drama or novel, and poetry. The move aligns with making exams easier for students in the midst of the pandemic. Even if teachers stuck at a crossroads do decide to stick to the poems, the status of poetry has become questionable in itself. For the ﬁrst time, poetry has become an option rather than a compulsory pillar of English literature education. This new-found status does not fare well for poetry today, even when more than ever young people are consuming and writing poems. In an education system that seems to narrow in on the objective, factual and certain - there is going to be little room for ambiguity, debate and subjectivity. Whilst many students may be cheering at the potential disappearance of poetry from their exams, it seems as if this is more of a reﬂection of how poetry is
delivered in an exam setting rather than poetry itself. The government’s reform of GCSE English Literature in 2015 left students without copies of their poems in exams. English literature was once again conﬁned to stock responses instead of prompting meaningful and thoughtful discussions that many know the subject to be. Poetry should not be a pressure pot like the government intends it to be. Poetry is not going anywhere, it’s ink is still pulsing and living.
It will still exist in a 16 year-old’s screenshot of Rupi Kaur’s Instagram feed, or in a simple click to share one of Rudy Francisco’s spoken word videos - anything that sings to the issues that affect them today. Perhaps, what is the most disappointing of Ofqual’s decision is the fact that somewhere there is a budding wordsmith, who has something important to say and might never take pen to paper if they are not given a formal introduction to poetry.
Has the Mercury Prize lost its way? This year's list of nominees fails to offer much in the way of surprises, writes Amber Birchill
he Mercury Prize was created in 1992 as a defiant antithesis to the mainstream BRIT Awards. But almost 30 years on, has it grown out of its rebellious teenage phase and been thrust firmly back into the centre that it originally tried to stray from? This year’s nominations for the coveted Mercury Prize ‘Album of the Year’ includes UK giants like Stormzy and Dua Lipa who, although talented, cannot be categorised as underdogs. This is especially significant when considering that the Mercury Prize, unlike other music awards, offers a cheque for £25,000 to its overall winner. This monetary prize could make a significant difference for those smaller, fringe artists it traditionally tries to uplift, but for an artist like Stormzy, allegedly worth £20 million, this would be but a drop in the ocean. The prize also offers notoriety to underappreciated artists, like James Blake, who saw a 2,500% sales increase on Amazon after being announced winner in 2013. It doesn’t feel exactly in line with the prize’s ethos to give what could be a life changing award for a smaller artist to someone already very well established. Dua Lipa won three BRIT awards in 2018 and Stormzy won best British male solo artist at the BRIT awards in 2020. Thus,
This year’s nominations are cookie-cutter artists, better suited for the BRIT awards
the Mercury Prize appears to have abandoned the more fringe artists it built its brand through supporting, in favour of chart albums. Moreover, the controversy this year over the exclusion of BritishJapanese Artist Rina Sawayama leaves a bad taste. Sawayama was refused submission for the prize due to her lack of citizenship, despite holding an Indefinite Leave to Remain visa and having lived in the UK longer than Dua Lipa has been alive. How can an awards show that stands for diversity and the underdog define ‘Britishness’ in such a homogeneous way? The Mercury Prize judges themselves state that ‘the albums on the 2020 shortlist showcase a great diversity of sounds, styles, ambitions and experience’, but how can that be true whilst simultaneously excluding Sawayama, whose experience is just as wholly British as anybody else’s and whose lyrics directly reference the British experience? The problems that the Mercury Prize currently faces are not unfixable, and the ceremony itself not irredeemable. Yet, the 2020 nominations feel safe within the industry’s comfort zone. In comparison with last year’s nominations which included the more anarchistic, if controversial, Slowthai and IDLES, this year’s nominations are cookie-cutter artists, better suited for the BRIT awards. The Mercury Prize should embrace its anti-establishment roots and celebrate smaller, radical artists who exist on the periphery. For example, this year’s nomination Porridge Radio stated: ‘this is the first time we’ve felt acknowledged by the wider music industry’, and it is this which should remain the essence of the Mercury Prize moving forward. They should be highlighting artists and creators who would otherwise go unnoticed or unrecognised in their talent, while dedicating themselves to spotlighting the true diversity of the British music scene. The Mercury Prize may have lost its way, but with a bit of guidance, it could easily find its way back.
Wednesday 2 September 2020
hy, in the age of streaming, where we have access to decades of music at the touch of a button, would anyone choose such an obsolete format as vinyl? Contrary to what avid audiophiles or your hipster friends may tell you, vinyl is inconvenient, outdated and temperamental, requiring a considerably greater amount of effort to play in comparison to the ease, accessibility and convenience of streaming. And that’s why I love it. Driven by the 21st century’s obsession with delivering efficiency and convenience, the digitisation of music has created a rift between listener and artist, a rift devoid of physical and emotional attachment. To fill this rift, vinyl has risen from the grave of the 1990s, enabling us to slow down our hectic lives and truly appreciate the music we love in its sheer beauty. But how? In what can only be described as a beautiful inconvenience, vinyl engages you in a labour of love when playing your records, grabbing you by the shoulders and making you present in the music, an experience alien to that created when streaming. Picture buying a record and excitedly running home to play it. You admire the artwork, choose a side, eagerly remove the record from its sleeve, carefully place the record on the turntable, and await the soft crackle of the needle. The whole experience is ritualistic and creates connection. Alternatively, you can open Spotify, search for an artist, choose the track you want and bang, music. Through
Phantom of the WAPera Andrew Lloyd Webber
Why choose vinyl in the age of streaming? Ethan Commons
Midnight Sky Miley Cyrus
playing vinyl, you are present in the listening experience, allowing you to appreciate an album in its entirety, not just its singles. Of course, it requires much more effort, but trust me, once you try vinyl, there’s no turning back. Not convinced yet? Record collecting not only empowers you to enhance your listening experience, but it enriches you with the ability to physically own your favourite music, rather than just paying a fee to lend it from a streaming service. Furthermore, records are not only pieces of music, but pieces of artwork, you can immerse yourself in the world the artist has cultivated, leading to a much greater admiration for the record as a whole. As well as this, by buying records, you are supporting artists to a much greater extent than streaming ever will achieve. Streaming fetches very little when compared to vinyl, creating a much needed revenue stream for artists increasingly reliant on relentless touring. It also helps preserve record stores, central to the music community. There is nothing more fun to a music enthusiast than the joy of crate digging through decades worth of music at a record store, providing an alternative and completely magical way to find new music, as it isn’t curated to your taste. Today, vinyl and streaming go hand in hand, the ease and simplicity of access to thousands of artists through streaming though much more efficient has become impersonal. But when combined with the physical experience of sifting through and playing records, it can create an entirely new encounter. If you love music and seek to create a different type of listening experience, then vinyl is most definitely for you. Happy spinning.
A Celebration of Endings
For an album so heavily littered with optimism and strong doses of hope, Biffy Clyro’s latest, A Celebration of Endings, still encapsulates the frustrations of today perfectly. “Don’t give me that bullshit catchphrase ‘it was better in my day’.” This statement is delivered defiantly in ‘The Champ’, a track that builds gently before exposing itself as a bona fide Biffy rock anthem. Frontman Simon Neil’s melodic vocals wash over gritty guitar in classic Clyro fashion, in a song designed to be an audio attack on detractors. Elsewhere on the album, the crescendos are put aside as intense rock riffs kick in instantly. ‘Weird Leisure’ begins with guitar and then winds with pace changes aplenty, telling the story of a friend who went down the wrong path. Harsh words and tough love (“You’re bursting into pieces, you’ve polished off your cocaine, your face is fucking numb”) paint a picture of intense struggle but the track eventually gives way to a brighter image (“You picked up all the pieces and started your life again, you’re my number one”). There is an optimism behind the grit of the album, even on the infectious ‘Tiny Indoor Fireworks’, where the lyrics provide a further insight into struggle. The track was penned before Covid-19 gripped Britain, but its prayers for better days resonate in times of such difficulty. The longing for something better is also echoed on ‘Worst Type of Possible’, where Neil insists that he is “holding out for change”. Everyone is doing so in the current climate, and it is bizarre how an album produced before people used Zoom is such a crutch and source of relatability. A slab of punk-rock is offered with
the rousing ‘End Of’, a fierce blast of energy that is tailor-made to be played in front of a crowd. A proper crowd of course, not one of those socially distanced ones where people are put in pens. One day soon, maybe. Throughout the band’s career, they have always had a penchant for slower, emotive numbers and their latest LP provides yet another generous serving. Thunderous guitar is absent on ‘Space’, a beautiful ballad where Neil pours his heart out with mesmeric candour as he has so many times before. Acoustic effort ‘Opaque’ is also slow but carries an entirely different sentiment. The band were rocked by the breakdown of two working relationships before the release of the record, with Neil insisting someone should “take the fucking money and run”. The Scottish trio have been headliner calibre for years, and A Celebration of Endings suggests that they will not be slipping down the pecking order any time soon.
Glass Animals Dreamland
After what has been a tumultuous period for Glass Animals following drummer Joe Seaward’s horrific road accident, their long-awaited third album was finally released following his miraculous recovery. They are back with style, finding themselves sounding stronger and more confident than ever. The new album, Dreamland, originally set to debut on 10 July, was rightfully delayed in support of Black Lives Matter as a mark of respect to the injustices faced by Black communities worldwide, with the band releasing a statement on Instagram, saying: “it couldn’t have felt more like the wrong time to release music.”
Now, one month later, it certainly feels like the right time for the band to unleash what is an audible masterpiece and emotional experience to the world. When any band releases their third album, audiences may have predetermined expectations – what Dreamland does, in that respect, is undoubtedly clever. It continues the experimental trademark of what the Glass Animals sound has become since their first album, by taking another left turn from said people’s expectations. Throughout 2020, Glass Animals have been slowly teasing fans by prereleasing tracks, notably ‘Your Love (Déjà Vu)’ and ‘Heat Waves’, but it’s the clever structure of the album’s track list, peppering it with a series of ‘home movies’ which sets you on an audible journey into the Dreamland. Somewhat still a relatively unknown and underappreciated band, they have embraced their alternative sound. Using their highly-skilled musical ability to write an album which doesn’t just touch on the emotional rollercoaster of life - something the band have been thrust into recently - but takes these emotions and their interpretations of difficult subjects and manifests them in a raw yet sensitive manner, easily making Dreamland their best album to-date. Unlike their previous work, Dreamland hones-in on the lead singer and songwriter, Dave Bayley, and his personal experience. The result of which touches this collection of music with a mix of emotional trauma, estrangement and loss – making it more of a challenging listen, yet undeniably personal and strangely addictive. The ingenious combination of intertwining the songs with a series of self-recorded ‘Home Movies’ is what cements the album as a deep-cut expression of emotion and forces the listener to reflect on their own life. The evocative nature of Bayley’s lyrics in tandem with the psychedelia of their musical compositions will excite age-old fans and be sure to catch the attention of those new to the party. All that needs to be said is, ‘welcome to Dreamland’ - from the title track right to the end, it’s a place that you’ll find difficult to leave, but you certainly won’t want to.
rally cry to save the foundations of the crumbling music industry has been seen on social media with the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign. Artists from across the spectrum have called for a clear date for when music venues can open without social distancing, receive financial support packages and have VAT exemption on future ticket sales from the Government. Dua Lipa, Ed Sheeran and Paul McCartney are the most notable figures pushing the campaign, originally set up by members of the UK Live Music Group. A plethora
of venues, festivals and production companies have also shown solidarity. Covid-19 has proven to be an enemy to everything we know and sadly, with no crowds able to watch live music over summer, the pandemic has tormented the industry and its earnings, forcing many small venues to close. Many more will require the return of concerts immediately if they are going to survive, making the number of venues that may suffer further unthinkable. Katie Macbeth, music journalist and founder of ‘The Big Plan’, a campaign focused on saving small music venues, said: “The Government needs to offer more
funding for the entertainment industry. They also need to provide more clarity right now as there is no clarity on when concerts can go ahead. “It’s hard for upcoming bands to make money through streaming as they get paid so little. Many artists rely on playing live to provide some sort of income and without those venues, artists, tour managers, roadies and the lot won’t have a job.” After the campaign launched, the Government announced a £1.57bn support package for the arts industry. The Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport also announced open-air performances could resume in a limited way, which we have seen successful in
Newcastle. This is only the first step in ensuring the industry’s survival. But it stands to lose at least £900 million if restrictions continue, while 60% of people in the sector are forecast to lose their jobs, contributing heavily to unemployment throughout the country. In an industry that contributes £5.2bn to the economy, campaigns such as ‘Let The Music Play’ are evidently so important to recovery in these trying times. Not only is the economic survival of the industry a point of concern. It is also so important to those who attend gigs and have developed an intimacy with the venues they frequent.
Helena Sutcliffe, an avid music lover and gig-goer, said: “The larger the venue, and to a certain extent the larger the band, the more the atmosphere is diluted. “Small music venues generate an atmosphere and intimacy unrivalled by arenas, there’s simply no comparison and these small venues have to survive in order to keep audiences engaged.” UK Music has asked people to write to their local MP to ask for their support towards the campaign, along with using the hashtag #LetTheMusicPlay on social media platforms. By spreading the word about the campaign, we can show solidarity and support for an industry so close to so many hearts.
Wednesday 2 September 2020
How the “Eat the Rich” phenomenon Annabel Goldsmith “Eat the Rich” has been a phrase frequently thrown around in film journalism for the past year; the catalyst presumably being the release of Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. Bong remarked on the worldwide success of his film, and its resonance in western society, by the nature of us all essentially living “in the same country called capitalism.” The critique of capitalism and the class based system in Parasite seems to have sparked interest in more films that reach this sociological calibre. Marxist film theory would suggest today’s audience have become disillusioned with the fantasy of film and are tempted by Bong’s use of détournement; making the radical concept of dismantling capitalism now wedged into the mainstream consciousness. A Marxist screen perspective would look at how the medium of film is frequently used in détournement; critiquing the capitalist system of global society and the filmmaking industry, in a fictionalised reflection on the silver screen. Despite what can be considered a phrase that has remained firmly in pop culture since the early 21st century, the colloquial saying is rarely defined: “Eat the Rich” can be defined as a summated desire for reckoning to be brought upon the capitalist system and individuals of elite socioeconomic status. It’s increased popularity in 2020 can be perceived as having occurred, simultaneously, with the anger ignited over the elite in the current pandemic. The public adorning a more critical eye upon the behaviour of celebrities; such as the subsequent outrage of the ‘Imagine’ video and celebrities complaining about being stuck inside their vast estates. Opening their mouths rather than their wallets, despite being in the economic position to help support vulnerable working-class people suffering because of Covid-19. This cathartic pleasure for the economically marginalised to see justice in film has resulted in
numerous ‘Top 10 Eat the Rich film’ articles spurting out over the past year – to feed this newfound desire for Marxist thematic films. Yet, the phrase’s popularity has rapidly resulted in hollowness. Now
to happen. “Eat the Rich” films are not always cathartic revenge narratives. There is satisfaction in empathising with the characters and their lack of power in the face of capitalism.
kill the residents and score ‘points’ from their killings. In the confusion of what such a film is, feminist discourse on films that focus on women enacting revenge on the elite and then taking their place has been interpreted as “Eat the Rich” however, this shows that there are blurred lines between an “Eat the Rich” film and a “Girl Boss” film. In short, the term “Girl Boss” is disguised as empowerment for women but women in elite positions are, which is perfectly explained in Haaniyah Angus’ piece, ‘How to Be or Not to be a Girl Boss’, “blinded by their whiteness and see no other issues in the world than their financial success”. They may say “fucking rich people” as Ready or Not’s Grace says, but any
devoid of meaning, by reducing the capitalist critique in these films to a buzzword, one would expect to see “Eat the Rich” embroidered on an Urban Outfitters t-shirt in the
criticisms of the capitalist system are less than skin deep in favour of a mirage of female empowerment. Of course there is nothing wrong with a film being “Girl Boss,” but the mislabelling of a film as being
coming months. The phrase’s popularity to describe films works at its detriment too, with a majority being unable to clearly define what exactly an “Eat the Rich” film is, or what makes a film fit into such a category. In an attempt to define the frameworks of an “Eat the Rich ” film; they are thematically concerned with the injustices of the class system and how the governing of society maintains white imperialist values and perpetuates oppression for low income and ethnic minorities. Jordan Peele’s Us is an example by portraying individuals low in socioeconomic status, the ‘tethered’ in the scenario, enacting revenge on the very capitalist system that allows this disparity between people
From top: Us; Parasite; Bacurau; Knives Out. All credit to TheMovieDB This is found with the recent films of Parasite and Bacurau. Brazil’s Bacurau goes under the radar in “Eat the Rich” list-making as it’s not just critiquing capitalism, but the specific components of it. Symbolising the impacts of colonisation and war by focusing on the people of Bacurau, as they face a group of Europeans and Americans; who have been sent to the village to
a critique of the elite by stating a woman in power would change the system perpetuates the false notion that capitalism can be an ethical system. Knives Out is another 2019 film that is repeatedly found in aforementioned lists; where a woman achieves justice by subverting the hierarchy of the bourgeoisie and inheriting their
wealth. In the final sequence of Knives Out, Marta (Ana deArmas); inherits the wealth of the Thrombey family and looks down upon the family from the balcony of the million-dollar home, drinking from a ‘My house, My rules’ coffee cup. In another “Girl Boss” scenario, Marta becoming a wealthy woman is not a feminist or anti-capitalist take. As Angus put, becoming “as successful as a capitalist doesn’t dismantle the system that has caused decades of wealth disparity. It simply reinforces the hegemonic belief that being rich is the only way we can survive.” The belief that being rich is a reward reflects in the character of Marta being framed in the film’s narrative as “deserving”, under the myth of the “ethical billionaire”, in comparison to the Thrombey family. Marta is now on the inside of a system that oppressed her, she is simply replacing the elite and the capitalist system that enabled the Thrombey family to hold this wealth – remains intact. This is not a feminist overthrow of patriarchy, she becomes the very rich that you claim to eat. If one were to subjugate recent films to this labelling categorisation – or you simply want to make an adequate letterboxd film list without receiving hate comments – Parasite, Bacurau and Us clearly fit the framework in both their criticisms of government and Capitalism; not merely elite individuals, but the system that perpetuates the dog-eat-dog mentality in society. Films are not a meaningless medium, they can initiate change with bringing a large audience to the realisation of systemic injustices in society outside the silver screen fictionalised world. This recent labelling phenomena for these 2019 and 2020 films shows public interest in films that are thematically concerned with the working class overthrowing the bourgeoisie. Yet, this constant misconception on what justice looks like in Capitalism in film, perpetuates the audience to not read too deeply into the capitalist systems in place in real life society. So when you next have a socially distanced movie night and want to feel camaraderie in seeing the rich overthrown, recommend “Eat the Rich” films, not “Eat specific rich people” films.
The Umbrella Academy: Season 2 Thomas Hirst Netflix’s dysfunctional band of super-powered siblings have returned for another season and again, the apocalypse is afoot. Since their failed attempt to stop Vanya at the end of the previous season, Five has sent the crew back to 1960s Dallas and, rather unfortunately, the apocalypse has followed them. On paper these story beats seem to be a rehashing of the first season, yet in season two the show has realised its strengths. Instead of focusing on the mystery surrounding the end of the world (arguably the worst part of the first season), it hones in on the squabbles and familial kinship of the siblings.
It’s within these interactions where the show shines, the dry wit and sly digs amongst the characters is all too relatable to anyone with a sibling, providing the backbone of the show’s humour. The environmental reset also allows the siblings - who get split up over the space of a year - to become engrossed in the societal tensions of 60s America. Emmy Raver-Lampman’s Allison becomes an activist against the Jim-Crow laws, Ellen Page’s Vanya (having lost her memory in the time jump) gets entwined in the Red Scare anxiety of Cold War, and, in his typical hilarious fashion, Robert Sheehan’s Klaus has become the Leader of a religious hippie cult. It provides a nice grounding in reality to the absurdity the show thrives off of and allows an exploration of sensitive
Project Power Miette Dsouza At a time where there seems to be a dearth of superhero movies, Netflix’s Project Power, directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, rises to the occasion proving to be thoroughly engaging but unfortunately not as memorable. The superhero crime drama is carried on the backs of an unlikely trio, an ex-soldier named Art (Jamie Foxx), NOPD Detective Frank Shaver (Joseph GordonLevitt) and wannabe teen rapper Robbin (Dominique Fishback) who eventually band together to fight a deadly drug for their respective reasons. However, the film doesn’t have any formidable antagonist, just a bunch of henchmen on the opposing side. Project Power has nuances of older superhero movies such as X-men and Fantastic Four but puts a fresh twist on the duration and derivation of the superpowers. A narcotic called ‘Power’ has been flooding the streets of New Orleans giving individuals the ability to spontaneously combust, camouflage
and even become bulletproof. The super power, derived from defense and attack mechanisms of animals, lasts for five minutes from the point of consumption. If, however, the drug is rejected by an individual’s body or a user overdoses, it could be lethal, causing them to explode. While the movie has an interesting plot that explores the themes of corruption and drug abuse it fails to pay attention to detail. It merely highlights aspects of the film that would have otherwise been crucial to keeping an audience at the edge of their seats. The cinematography was exceptional with action-packed scenes and CGI that was neither cringey nor boring. The use of slowmotion fight scenes to acknowledge the magnitude of the situation was a great way to illustrate the characters superhuman strength. Since the screenplay for the movie was written by Mattson Tomlin it gives us an insight into what to expect of the upcoming Batman film also written by him. This fast-paced movie is a good watch if you have two hours to kill and don’t want to spend time understanding a complex narrative.
themes absent from the first season. But, it’s Aidan Gallagher’s incredible performance that, yet again, steals every scene he’s in and I’m sure viewers can’t wait for more of his grouchy old-man-trapped-in-achild’s-body character next season. Nevertheless, it’s not perfect and many of the new characters are quite hit or miss. Rita Arya’s Lila, whilst good, is one dimensional and is mainly there as a way of exploring David Castañeda’s Diego more. Also, the three swedes are no replacement for Hazel and Cha-Cha, but are used in a quite comically terminator-esque way that does save them from becoming boring. Furthermore, the show could benefit from slowing down a little from time to time as, although incredibly choreographed, some of the action sequences can become tedious. That being said, season two does live up to the hype; it’s absurd sensibility, incredible soundtrack (that uses the needle drop better than any show I can think of), mesmeric action set pieces and familial heart beat make it more than worth your time.
Wednesday 2 September 2020
Console Wars: Xbox Series X vs. PlayStation 5 Image credit: Top: Sony Bottom: Microsoft
amers all over the world are eagerly awaiting the next generation of consoles. We have already seen and heard a lot about Microsoft’s Xbox Series X and Sony’s PlayStation 5, including some early gameplay footage, but let’s break down each console side by side to determine which will be worthy of an upgrade for you.
Design While Microsoft choses to implement a more conservative design, Sony embraces its own distinctive and more adventurous look. The Xbox Series X will look like a black tower which can be oriented horizontally or vertically, following its predecessors with a symmetrical and boxy build. Sony on the other hand came up with a fresh and attention seeking design for the PS5. This console is going to be noticed in any room, with a sleek curved design that features a black segment encased in a white shell. While the Xbox Series X will come with a disc drive, PlayStation
users can choose between two otherwise nearly identical models: one with and one without a disc drive.
Controller Looking purely at the number of new features, Sony seems to have the upper hand in this section. While both controllers feature new haptic feedback technology for better immersion and USB-C charging for more continuity, they both offer differing approaches to gaming. The new controller for the Xbox Series X looks very similar to its predecessor, with the classic Xbox buttons and stick layout, and only slight alterations to size and shape. Microsoft also introduces a dedicated ‘Share’ button which will sit in between the ‘Menu’ and ‘View’ buttons. Additionally, gamers can look forward to Dynamic Latency Input which should reduce input delay. In an interview with GameSpot, Xbox boss Phil Spencer explained the lack of changes: “We think we have a good controller in the market today, so we didn’t really feel like we needed to go back to square one to build [a new controller].” Sony on the other hand shakes things up a bit more with their new DualSense controller. It sticks to the classic PlayStation layout, but with the lightbar sitting on the edges of the touchpad unlike the previous DualShock 4 controller. The DualSense comes in a black and white design, with colourless face buttons, and ditches its ‘Share’ button in favour of a ‘Create’ button. The DualSense includes new adaptive triggers, which will enable developers to customize the triggers’ resistance at different parts of their games, allowing for more immersive gameplay. Additionally, the DualSense now has a built-in microphone array, allowing players to chat online without a headset, arguably giving it an edge in
terms of player experience over the Xbox Series X controller, which is lacking this feature.
Specs While both consoles will feature powerful new hardware, the Xbox Series X seems to be more powerful, at least on paper. Both systems are outfitted with custom processors (CPUs) from AMD, packing in 8 processing cores and running on the Zen 2 architecture. While the CPU of the PS5 will run at a variable speed of 3.5GHz, the CPU of the Xbox will have a slightly higher base speed of 3.6GHz, with the ability to boost up to 3.8GHz. Both the Xbox Series X and PS5 will have custom graphics processors (GPUs), both running on the RDNA2 architecture. The PS5’s GPU can handle 10.28 teraflops of computing performance with 36 CUs (compute units) at a speed of 2.23GHz, while the Xbox boasts to be capable of 12 teraflops with 52 CUs, at a speed of 1.825GHz. The number of teraflops is an indicator of the maximum performance capabilities of a system. However, the real-world performance of a GPU can deviate considerably from these theoretical numbers, and is affected by how well game developers can take advantage of the hardware in each console when making their games. So while the Xbox’s numbers may look more impressive, they aren’t necessarily a good way to measure how ‘good’ the games we’ll be seeing next-gen will actually look. Both consoles are built with future televisions in mind, capable of running games at a native resolution of 4K, but also providing support for 8K screen resolutions. Both systems will be able to output a refresh rate of up to 120Hz, meaning that supported games will be able to run at 120 FPS, a first for console
gaming. When it comes to data transfer speed, the PS5 has the edge with a raw speed of 5.5GB/s compared to a raw speed of 2.4GB/s in the Xbox. Those speeds increase to 8-9GB/s in the PS5 when data is compressed, and to 4.8GB in the Xbox. If you are looking for more storage, the Xbox has a 1TB SSD Storage Drive while the PS5’s SSD has a capacity of 825GB. Regardless of the difference in speeds though, these SSD drives will both provide much faster loading times for games. The storage of both systems is also expandable.
Games and exclusives This generation, the two competitors are taking slightly different approaches to game exclusives. For Microsoft, the release of the Series X is all about continuity by evolving the Xbox brand; instead of marketing this console around exclusive games, it is the console’s performance that will be exclusive. The Xbox Series X will be able to run all Xbox One games, select Xbox 360 games (which are added to an ever-growing library of backwards compatible games), and even some original Xbox games. Players can also purchase the Xbox Game Pass which provides access to hundreds of games for a monthly fee. Some games to get excited for which are coming to the Xbox family are ,
Sony envisions big changes. Microsoft on the other hand focuses on improving its existing design while upgrading its console with powerful new hardware
, and to mention just a few. If you are looking to experience Virtual Reality gaming, you will want to invest in a PS5 as the console will be fully compatible with the PlayStation VR headset. In terms of backwards compatibility, the PS5 will run all PS4 games, so you don’t necessarily need to worry about having a limited next-gen games library at launch. Sony also has a game-streaming service called PS Now where players can stream PS2, PS3 and PS4 hits for a monthly fee. Just a few games coming exclusively to the PS5 include , and Gran , with many more to come.
Conclusion In summary, Sony envisions big changes with its release of the PlayStation 5. The company is ahead in introducing new controller features, has given its console a major design overhaul, and offers a VR gaming experience. Microsoft on the other hand focuses on improving its existing design while upgrading its console with powerful new hardware. The sophisticated Xbox ecosystem will also make it intuitive for current Xbox owners to stick with what is familiar. Despite everything we do know though, one key thing we currently still don’t know is the price tag of each system. Make sure you keep an eye out for future announcements!
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
Raji: An Ancient Epic
The latest party game hit; get ready to one standing.
indie management game.
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is available for Nintendo Switch. Credit: Catherine Lewis
Is Animal Crossing: New Horizons as good as we thought? Catherine Lewis
took the world by storm when it came out in March, and with its godlike release timing, served as the perfect game to get millions of people through lockdown. Its massive popularity sent the game rocketing up the charts, even becoming the best selling Switch game of all time in Japan. However, it didn’t take too long for the hype to die down and for most players to stop visiting their virtual island, with many claiming that the newest instalment was a letdown compared to previous entries in the series. So what went wrong, and why did these complaints only arise in the weeks and months after the game’s release? A lot of the issue boils down to what could have been a fantastic addition to the series-free content updates. When Nintendo originally
announced that the game would be consistently supplemented with additional free content after its release, most fans responded positively; it’s an undeniable fact that previous entries in the series, such as on the 3DS, became boring after several months of play. In contrast, the promise of more content being injected into , which would help to keep the game fresh (and continue to give fans something to look forward to), seemed like an incredible idea. Unfortunately, what was a game changer (literally) on paper was implemented at the cost of the quality of the base game, with many features that had been present and popular in the older games being completely missing from . Things such as the art section of the museum, diving for sea creatures, and the dream suite, which were all available from the get go in , were sorely absent from , only to be added via updates in later months. While some completely new things, such as Gullivarrr the pirate, have been added too, most of the updates have simply consisted of reintroducing things that, honestly, should have
just been there from the start. So, if they’re in the game now, then what’s the problem? Simply put, a major case of burnout. The loyal fans who had been counting down the days to ’ release were desperate to enjoy as much of the game as they could, as soon as they could. With so many features missing though, they were stuck bingeing the same options over and over: fishing, bug catching, designing, and decorating for months on end. After growing tired of repeating those things, fans flocked to newly added (or returning) features and exhausted those too, and the cycle repeats still. Rather than having an abundance of things to do from the start, and being able to spread out how much time they spent on each activity, players simply exhausted the limited activities faster than the updates could compensate for a lack of things to do. Updates aside, there is also a noticeable lack of unlockable content in in comparison to the previous games in the series. For example, the Nooklings’ shop only has one upgrade available in , in comparison to a whopping four
in , which took literal months to unlock without changing the date on your console. Even your house has far fewer expansion projects available; in , your extra rooms (excluding the second floor and basement) are stuck at being half the size of your main room, and for no apparent reason. Why these couldn’t have been expanded to be bigger like in , which had a staggering 17 expansions available in comparison to ’ five, I have no idea. Paying off your home loan in full is no longer something that could take potentially years, and as a result there’s less incentive for players to keep coming back each day to sell their fruit and fossils. So, is actually a bad game? Absolutely not. However, is it the most barebones mainline game so far? In its base form, very arguably yes. I have no doubt in my mind that a year from now, the game will have more than enough content to make up for the lack of it at release, but sadly, the damage is already done to the players who began their island getaway early on in the game’s life. The updates are, in the long run, a lot more beneficial to those who
pick up at a later date, so they can have a fuller, more complete Animal Crossing experience, more reminiscent of the titles gone by. Personally, I think free content updates are a fantastic idea for the series going forward, but they should not have been included at the expense of the base content. Life simulation games inevitably get repetitive after a while, and so even adding things as basic as new furniture sets, or dialogue for the villagers would have been an excellent way to make additions to an already complete game; something which simply isn’t. Updates should not serve as a means to gradually finish what is essentially an unfinished game, and I sincerely hope that by the time the next instalment of the series is upon us, that Nintendo learns from the complaints of their fans. I still adore the game, but after watching numerous friends stop playing due to boredom, I can’t help but feel a bit sad that its potential was essentially thwarted from the start. Now, here’s hoping that Tortimer’s Island will make a return soon; I miss those minigames...
Wednesday 2 September 2020
SUFC season review
Sport thoughts: Musings on post-pandemic football
Wembley Stadium. Credit: Jbmg40 via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Rahul Warrier As the 2019-20 football season draws to a close, plenty of coverage will be devoted to transfers and tactics. However, in what has been an extraordinary year, we must also think about how the fan experience has drastically altered. The landscape of empty grounds swathed with club flags is a dystopian look, but it’s one born out of necessity. When the Bundesliga returned in May, there was uncertainty about whether it was too soon. The Premier League followed suit in mid-June, with a strict and comprehensive structure in place to handle and mitigate the effects of Covid-19. There have been few hiccups. Football has been entertaining, but the sight of empty stands has also forced us to consider what the football experience comprises. The absence of fans removes the soul from the game. Organic crowd sound enhances the game in ways that we all know about. The addition of canned crowd noise on TV broadcasts was
Football has been entertaining, but the sight of empty stands has also forced us to consider what the football experience comprises
helpful, but delayed sounds also provided a stark reminder of the times we live in. Largely, the return of football has been for the better. It’s a return to debating the usual narratives in the game, instead of daily updates on Project Restart. Football is a business, whether we like it or not, and jobs are at stake. Considering the sport is an escape mechanism for so many, the games have certainly been a welcome sight. It has come at a breakneck speed too, with a game almost every day. That leads into the more pertinent question: at what point does football become oversaturated? Of course, the pandemic forced games to be squeezed in – and after months of no football, fans couldn’t complain. But looking at next season there’s plenty of football, even in midweek. Throw in international football, and you have a packed season. With the Euros next summer, you’re looking at nonstop football until summer 2022, the year in which a winter World Cup will cause a further fixture log-jam. During the lockdown, some claimed they’d rather watch an inconsequential mid-table game than nothing. But this simply isn’t true: absence makes the heart fonder, but eventually, things fall back in place. Is this too much? Is this already too much? And does anybody care enough? I don’t think so. But it offers some food for thought. For now, we can only hope fans slowly return back to stadiums once safe, so that the football experience can gain some semblance of normality.
Ronnie O’Sullivan. Credit: DerHexer via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-4.0)
Sport thoughts: O’Sullivan’s sixth world title ever Jordan Sollof Ronnie O’Sullivan stands on top of the world of snooker for a sixth time after defeating Kyren Wilson 18-8 at the legendary Crucible Theatre in Sheffield. ‘The Rocket’ blasted past Thailand’s Thepchaiya Un-Nooh in his opening match - in a World Championship-record time of 108 minutes - and overturned large deficits to knock out three-time winners Mark Williams and Mark Selby. His thrilling 17-16 semi-final win over Selby was arguably his most impressive match, coming from 16-14 down to beat the ‘Jester from Leicester’ at the Crucible for the very first time. Ronnie was far from his best in several sessions throughout the tournament, including the final, but his sheer natural ability shone through when it mattered most. He played down his chances after every win, giving us controversial interviews – something we have all come to expect – where he repeatedly told us that he needs to find a ‘cue action’ that works. It’s fair to say that he has always had the perfect ‘cue action’, hence his glittering career. O’Sullivan has now won a record 37 ranking titles and 20 Triple Crown Titles, more than anyone
else. His sixth triumph at the Crucible puts him level with Ray Reardon and boyhood hero Steve Davis, and just one behind Stephen Hendry’s record of seven. ‘The Rocket’ is more than capable of winning at least another world title to tie the record, and he could even add to that to have the record all to himself. At 44 years of age, Ronnie is heading towards the home straight in his career, but with his incredible snooker ability, he could play well into his 50s if he wanted to. Six world championships spanning across three different decades just proves he has the longevity to be considered as the greatest snooker player in history. As for the tournament itself, it did not disappoint. A reduced crowd was allowed in for the very first day, before Prime Minister Boris Johnson banned spectators from sporting test events as Covid-19 cases grew once more. Thankfully, a crowd of around 300 were allowed in to the final, in turn making redundant the man whose job it was to press the faux applause button whenever a good shot was played. It was a different World Snooker Championship, taking place later than usual with no fans for the most part, but what remained was 17 days of drama and ‘The Rocket’ Ronnie O’Sullivan confirming to us all that he belongs on another planet.
The season for Sheffield United began in Bournemouth in August 2019 and finished down on the South Coast at Southampton almost a year later. It was a season which will go down in history at Bramall Lane as the Blades delivered their first ever top-half Premier League finish and their highest ranking in the top flight since 1974/75. The comeback kid returned to English football’s elite after 13 years as if it had never been away, and delivered one of the most sensational stories in recent Premier League history. Odds on favourites for relegation. Tipped by a very long list of pundits for an immediate return to the Championship. Told to expect annihilation if they persisted with their ground-breaking system of overlapping centre-backs. United were underestimated. And during the tenure of Chris Wilder, every single question that’s been asked of his team has been answered emphatically. After all, in a highly pressurised and intense promotion race in the second tier in 2018/19, the Blades won 15 of their final 23 games by an aggregate scoreline of 31-1 and lost only twice. United maintained that resilient streak this season in the Premier League, finishing with the best defensive record outside the top three having conceded only 39 goals. Manchester United loanee Dean Henderson, centre-backs Jack O’Connell, John Egan and Chris Basham, and wing-backs Enda Stevens and George Baldock all excelled after stepping up from the Championship. In midfield, Wilder adapted to life in the Premier League with a smart tweak: out went the number 10 role, and in came a third central midfielder alongside John Fleck and Ollie Norwood. That meant greater responsibility on the shoulders of John Lundstram, a player on the fringes of the team the season prior but integral to it this year, chipping in with five goals from 25 starts. Sander Berge signed in January to add further strength in that department and began to justify the Blades spending a club-record Continued on next page...
The Blades delivered half Premier League highest ranking in 1974/75 fee on him. Wilder also continued to deploy two strikers, with summer arrivals Oli McBurnie and Lys Mousset both netting six goals. David McGoldrick’s output was far greater than his two league goals would suggest as he proved difficult for opposing defences to pick up and added valuable creativity and work rate, whilst there was still space for club legend Billy Sharp. The manager himself finished as runner-up in the LMA Manager of the Year to Liverpool’s Jurgen Klopp, an award that Wilder won last season, and his achievements thoroughly deserve to rank him as one of the very best in the business.
Season summary It was Sharp who kicked off the Premier League journey for the Blades, the captain’s late equaliser at Bournemouth on the opening day sparking wild celebrations in the away end. A week later and Lundstram’s finish ensured a winning start as top-flight football returned to the Lane against Crystal Palace. An early comeback 2-2 draw at Chelsea and 2-0 victory at Everton gave the travelling Blades plenty to cheer about, although Wilder’s honest approach to press conferences was apparent as he called for more of a cutting edge as decent performances at home to Leicester City, Southampton and Liverpool all ended in defeats by the odd goal. October kicked off the start of a seven-game unbeaten run. Mousset’s close-range winner made the Monday night visit of Arsenal one to remember and saw United put down a marker. The next home game saw the Blades at their brilliant best as Mousset laid on assists for Lundstram twice and Fleck once in a 3-0 blitz of Burnley, and the visit of Manchester United saw them showcase their fearless approach. They deservedly led 2-0 before the visitors produced a comeback few had foreseen as three goals in the space of ten minutes gave them the lead, yet there was still time for McBurnie to pounce
in injury time and earn a share of the spoils. The run also featured impressive displays and useful 1-1 draws from trips to West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur and Wolverhampton Wanderers. The trip to Spurs was notable for being Mauricio Pochettino’s last in charge of the hosts, and it could have been even better for United but for an infamous VAR decision which saw an equaliser from McGoldrick ruled out after a check of almost four minutes as Lundstram was deemed offside by the barest of margins in the build-up. Wilder’s side bounced back from a surprise defeat to Newcastle United at Bramall Lane with consecutive wins over Norwich City, Aston Villa and Brighton & Hove Albion which had them a remarkable fifth in the table at Christmas. An unbeaten start on the road came to an end in the final outing of 2019 with a controversial 2-0 defeat at Manchester City, and a loss by the same scoreline followed two days later at Liverpool. But a 1-0 win over West Ham United on a Friday night in South Yorkshire had United back on track, with VAR for once shining favourably on Wilder’s side as Robert Snodgrass’ late equaliser was ruled out for an earlier handball by Declan Rice. Fleck’s late leveller at Arsenal earned another point against one of the “big six”, and they pushed City all the way at the Lane three days later – the contest only settled by a magical Kevin De Bruyne pass converted by Sergio Aguero. A hard-earned 1-0 victory at Crystal Palace in February ensured United would finish the season unbeaten in London, and a 1-1 draw at home to Brighton was sandwiched between wins against Bournemouth and Norwich at Bramall Lane. Good progress was also made in the FA Cup as a rotated side came through ties with AFC Fylde, Millwall and Reading to reach the quarter-finals. When Sharp’s diving header
The connection between the United players and supporters is as strong as it is anywhere across the country, but for the Blades would have to adapt to the circumstances
Player of the season to seven or eight Blades regulars, but Chris Basham would be a very worthy winner proved enough for three points against the Canaries on 7 March, a sell-out crowd was present at the Lane to watch their side with reportedly the lowest wage bill in the league move up to joint fifth and unbelievably stay in touch with the top four and the Champions League qualification spots – with just ten games to go. Yet at the same time the world as we knew it was changing. The Covid-19 pandemic sent most of the planet into lockdown, and the inevitable suspension of the Premier League came on 13 March. After weeks of uncertainty, its return was announced for 17 June – and the eyes of the world would be on the Blades as restart began with their game in hand, a visit to Aston Villa. But this was not the Premier League as we knew it, with the strict protocols in place for players and coaching staff and all games being played behind closed doors a reflection of the world we now live in. The connection between the United players and supporters is as strong as it is anywhere across the country, but for the final ten games, the Blades would have to adapt to the circumstances. That process might have been made easier but for more technology woes at Villa Park, an unprecedented goal-line technology error failing to award a clear goal for Norwood and VAR failing to overturn the mistake as the game finished goalless. Uncharacteristic Blades performances followed in 3-0 defeats at Newcastle and Manchester United, and the FA Cup run ended with an agonising stoppage time defeat at home to eventual winners Arsenal. United were now playing catchup in their battle for European football, but under Wilder, they answered any questions asked of them. An impressive 3-1 dismantling of Tottenham was followed by a respectable 1-1 draw at Burnley, and Egan’s 93rd minute winner at home to Wolves meant the dream was very much alive. Chelsea were the next visitors to the Steel City, and were humbled 3-0 in one of
the performances of the season. McGoldrick finally grabbed his richly deserved first Premier League goal in that one, and added a second later in the game, which helped lift the Blades into sixth with just three games remaining. But for the first time during the campaign, injuries were beginning to take their toll, and cramming the final ten fixtures into the space of five and a half weeks caught up with the Blades in the end as they lost their final three matches 2-0 at Leicester City, 1-0 at home to Everton and 3-1 at Southampton. Had Wilder’s team brought European football to Bramall Lane for the first time, it would have had to go down as one of the biggest achievements in Premier League history. And they were so close to pulling it off. But if there is one disappointment from an extraordinary campaign, that can’t be it.. These players, Wilder and assistant manager Alan Knill will go down in Blades folklore for what they have achieved. The disappointment would be that 30,000 plus Unitedites couldn’t be on the final leg of the journey with them. A full house would have raised the roof when Egan headed home against Wolves and Wilder sprinted down the touchline, and the atmosphere against Spurs and Chelsea would have been one to savour. The ovation after the final game of the season at the Lane would have been one of pure appreciation of everyone’s efforts. Player of the season could justifiably go to seven or eight Blades regulars, but Chris Basham would be a very worthy winner. One of the few players in the squad with Premier League experience (although that consisted of 21 games for Bolton Wanderers and Blackpool and last came back in 2010/11), Basham started all 38 matches and showed his defensive worth with his aerial dominance and strength in the tackle which helped his side to 13 clean sheets. He also proved he had the mobility and fitness necessary to play as an overlapping/ underlapping centre-back, ghosting into the opposing penalty area on many an occasion. Recently extending his contract to 2022 is great news for the Blades. Dean Henderson would be richly deserving of young player of the season. His 13 clean sheets was bettered only by Ederson and Nick Pope, and his excellent shot-stopping and command of his area has pushed him into England contention. He has returned to Old Trafford and could challenge David de Gea or attract interest from elsewhere, and although the Blades
Game of the season should go to the 3-3 draw at home to Manchester United. 90+ minutes of pure entertainment at a raucous Bramall Lane in November are reportedly seeking to bring Bournemouth shot-stopper Aaron Ramsdale back to the club, his loan spells at the Lane have served both parties very well and they would love to have him back for another. Goal of the season is reserved for Enda Stevens at home to Brighton. After a corner was partially dealt with by the visitors, Stevens’ first touch to set himself was excellent and he then thrashed a stunning volley into the roof of the net. Honourable mentions could go to the 23-pass move at Tottenham which paved the way for George Baldock to equalise, Lys Mousset’s precise long ranger at home to Manchester United and John Egan’s terrific half volley to equalise at Burnley. Game of the season should go to the 3-3 draw at home to Manchester United. 90+ minutes of pure entertainment at a raucous Bramall Lane in November. The Blades caught their opponents cold, Mousset giving them a torrid time as he was instrumental in John Fleck’s opener, then doubled the lead just after half-time with a fine finish. The hosts looked in control, but three goals in the space of seven minutes from Brandon Williams, Mason Greenwood and Marcus Rashford incredibly turned the game on its head. The points looked to be heading back across the Pennines, but substitute Oli McBurnie’s injurytime equaliser sent the Lane into raptures – and again for a second time after a nervy VAR check for handball. Performance of the season goes to the 3-0 win over Burnley in November. The triumphs over Tottenham and Chelsea might rank as bigger victories, but the first half especially against the Clarets was the Blades at their absolute best. O’Connell and Stevens bombed forward into high positions down the left and Basham and Baldock likewise down the right, Mousset laid on three assists with him and McGoldrick too hot to handle, and a brace from Lundstram and a clever finish from Fleck blew away a side notorious for their solidity.
Wednesday 2 September 2020
The 2020/21 campaign will be a struggle for many clubs. The Covid-19 pandemic has changed football as we know it, and its financial impact has been felt across the country, especially in the lower divisions. Before the pandemic wreaked havoc throughout the footballing pyramid, Sheffield Wednesday supporters knew they had an uphill battle ahead. An ageing squad, a strained relationship between the team and supporters, and extended runs of poor form left the
Hillsborough faithful in no doubt that the summer of 2020 would be crucial in kickstarting a rebuild. Then, on 31 July, Sheffield Wednesday were handed a 12-point deduction that will take effect when the new season begins. The punishment was handed to the Owls for a breach of the EFL’s profitability and sustainability rules. The EFL declared that Wednesday had “included the profits from the sale of Hillsborough Stadium in the club’s financial statements for the period ending July 2018.” The sale of the stadium, which was to a company owned by Wednesday owner Dejphon Chansiri, was included in the 2017/18 accounts in order to display a pre-tax profit of £2.5m. Had the money generated from the sale not featured, the club would have recorded a pre-tax loss of £35.4m. Rules state that Championship clubs can only lose £39m over a threeyear period, and Wednesday had already recorded a deficit in excess
of £30m over the previous two campaigns. The saga has rumbled on for a long time, as the club were charged and referred to an independent disciplinary commission back in November 2019. A conclusion would undoubtedly have been reached quicker had the pandemic not struck, but regardless, Wednesday have been left to stew. Although the blow is a considerable one, it could have been much worse. Fortunately for the Owls, they were not found guilty of breaching a duty of utmost good faith, preventing the loss of further points. Even more fortunately, the deduction was not applied for the 2019/20 campaign. Garry Monk’s side finished 16th on a tally of 56 points, meaning that a 12-point deduction would have plunged them into the depths of the relegation zone and into League One. The underwhelming finish was in spite of the Owls being firmly in the promotion hunt at Christmas. As Wednesday plummeted down the division in 2020, they found themselves short of options, confidence, and fight. Eventually, they found themselves without the vocal support of the Hillsborough faithful.
Although the pre-determined deficit somewhat dampens excitement for the new season, there is certainly a blend of anticipation and relief at the prospect of a new era. Monk has finally got some of his most trusted lieutenants on board, as James Beattie and Darryl Flahavan have joined the coaching staff. The pair have worked with Monk at several clubs during his managerial career but did not immediately move to Hillsborough following Monk’s appointment. Former Leeds United cult hero Andrew Hughes has also been added to Wednesday’s ranks, joining as First Team Coach. On the pitch, following a mass exodus, work has begun on bolstering the ranks with fresh faces. Many players who were, and still are, synonymous with playoff reaching squads of 2016 and 2017 have moved on. They have not moved on because they lacked talent, but because they also became synonymous with the painful mediocrity that followed. Young midfielder Fisayo Dele-Bashiru was the first to arrive, joining from Manchester City, and was followed into S6 by defender Chey Dunkley. The latter completed a switch to Wednesday from Wigan Athletic,
who the Owls would have joined in the third tier had their deduction been enforced last season. Their arrivals have proven that despite the precarious position they find themselves in already, players still want to pull on the blue and white shirt at Hillsborough. Despite initial uncertainty, Monk now seems certain to be at the helm when the 2020/21 season kicks off on 12 September. Despite a summer of trials and tribulations, Wednesday have a newly assembled coaching team of experienced figures, and a new-look squad is being moulded. They have been dealt a bitter blow, but after a period of stagnation and decline, there is reason for optimism at Hillsborough. A new, hungry and committed squad will give Wednesday the best chance of escaping a relegation dogfight and although it is early in pre-season, the signs are promising. Wednesday’s Steel City neighbours continue to represent Sheffield in the limelight, and Owls supporters would admit they are far from being able to match them. However, Rome was not built in a day, and a new era is being readied in S6.
our clubs can be proud of their work during the coronavirus pandemic.
time, Sam Moorhouse said: “It’s so important that we as a university
Club were planning to complete a challenging channel swim this
ease the financial burden placed on us as full-time students.”
Back in April, the UoS Athletics Club kick-started the summer of fundraisers with their UKinaDay challenge. In a 24-hour period that started on 17 April, 500 participants covered nearly 5,800 miles and raised over £4,374 for the NHS as a thank you for their hard work during the worst of the UK’s first coronavirus spike. Less than a week later, the Hockey Club raised over £2,000 for Sheffield-based charities, by running the distance from Bar One to Porec, Croatia in just three days. The men’s club secretary at the
society give back to the city of Sheffield because the people here have given so much to us.” In late April, the famous Mi Amigo memorial in Endcliffe Park was vandalised, leaving Tony Foulds, the man who looks after it, devastated. The UoS Men’s football club completed a 1,944km run, walk or cycle fundraiser to help cover the restoration costs of the memorial to the Mi Amigo crew that died after their aircraft crashed at the site in 1944. The team raised over £1,300 in total. The Swimming and Water Polo
summer but, due to COVID-19, their plans have been postponed until next year. Their challenge isn’t cheap though, the pilot boat needed to assist the crossing costing £4,300. The club decided to fundraise for the boat by completing a channel swim from home.They raised over £700 and managed to cover the distance from Dover to Calais over 70 times. Rosie Rudin, the club’s charity officer, told Forge Press: “We’re incredibly grateful for all those who donated and participated as this will
In the last few weeks, Sheffield graduate and ex Triathlon Club athlete George Taplin set a new record for the time it takes to swim all 13 lakes in the Lake Districts. It only took Taplin three days as he fundraised for Just a Drop, a charity that provides clean water and sanitation for poor countries around the globe. In a recent statement, SU Sports Officer Matt Graves raved about UoS sports clubs’ ethos to help others during these trying times. He said: “The world stopped, but sport didn’t.”
Amit Portney said: “Quidditch is a sport that anyone, regardless of gender or previous experience can take part in. “This is genuinely the most fun I’ve ever had playing sports.” The best part of the whole thing though was the snitch, a great big man dressed all in yellow with a sock, containing a ball, hanging from his shorts. He would literally push the “seekers” to the ground before running off again. Mental.
Based in the George Porter Building on the northern side of campus, Sheffield Formula Racing compete every year at Silverstone against over 100 other universities across Europe. This isn’t like other clubs though, where you have beginner level leagues as well as the top tier players in higher leagues, this is only the best of the best. A rigorous six-week application process picks out 10-12 of the very best first-year candidates to join the team.
players, four women and four men, who try and throw a ball into a netless hoop about 11 and a half feet off the ground. The University of Sheffield Korf ball club were the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) national champions in 2019 and the BUCS national plate winners in 2020, impressive stuff of course, but we expect nothing less from the sports stars at the University of Sheffield. Korf ball Social Sec, Chloe Christodoulou, said: “Korf ball is such a different and unique sport to play because it is like a combination of two sports and that is why I enjoy it so much.”
Points deduction, upheaval and a fresh start Since our last issue, it has been anything
here is your opportunity to catch up on all things Tom Coates
recap sports clubs have been
With tons of fundraisers and charity events that have raised over £20,000 for good causes across the country,
UoS lesser known sports clubs Harry Harrison
The sports community here at the University of Sheffield is huge and isn’t just confined to big favourites like football, rugby and ice hockey. There are so many sports clubs that achieve great things and many of them you may not even know, so here are some of the best that you might not have heard of...
Quidditch If you read Harry Potter as a child you will know of quidditch, the flying broomsticks, three hoops and the golden snitch. However, real quidditch, which Sheffield Quidditch (or SQuidS) clarifies, is a sport in its own right, separate to Harry Potter. It is quite intense; we did our research on the sport and the videos online are crazy. It looks physically draining. All the running and throwing and pushing, whilst simultaneously holding a stick between your legs. President of the Quidditch team,
Formula Student The University of Sheffield has a formula racing team that makes its own single-seater car, right here at the University.
Korfball Korf ball is most similar to netball or basketball. It consists of eight
Interview by Tom Coates
George Taplin on conquering 13 lakes For most people, the last four months have provided an opportunity to catch up on Netflix shows and enter the world of Zoom quizzes. For University of Sheffield graduate George Taplin, it provided an opportunity to set a stunning new record. George, 20, recently swam the lengths of 13 lakes in just three days. An avid swimmer since his youth, he was a student athlete at University and Goodwin Sports Centre was the venue of much of his training. Speaking to Forge Press, he said: “In second year I joined the triathlon team, which was fantastic. That is where I started to pick up triathlon. “That opened me up to the world of open water swimming because most of the races involve swimming in a lake or river.” The feat, which saw him swim a total of 43 miles, was completed in order to raise money for his charity of choice, ‘Just a Drop’. They seek to provide safe water and sanitation to communities and will benefit from George’s conquering of 13 Lake
District lakes. He said: “I was studying Ecology and Conservation Biology at the University of Sheffield, they’ve got a fantastic department there, with some great conservationists. One of the main problems we looked at was water scarcity and the pressures on our planet as it becomes warmer and more populated. “I saw Just a Drop, they were set up about ten years ago and they’re doing some fantastic work, not just focusing on water but improving sanitation as well, which is obviously so important at the moment due to Covid-19. It just seemed a very relevant charity for a swimming event, a water charity. Water is
George Taplin raised money for Just a Drop. Credit: himself something we almost take for granted and I swam in 43 miles of it, so it just seemed highly relevant.” Adventurer Matt Williams provided the inspiration for taking on the challenge, having spent ten days walking between and swimming the Lake District lakes himself. George’s initial plan was simply to conquer Windermere, but some research and a helpful phone call quickly put him on the path towards planning a record-breaking
George’s initial plan was simply to conquer Windermere, but some research and a helpful phone call quickly put him on the path towards planning a record-breaking achievement
achievement. George said: “I was thinking of doing Windermere and then I saw that Coniston was very nearby, so rather than swimming Windermere twice I decided to try and do Coniston on the same day. Then I realised that Wastwater actually wasn’t too far away, and then I quickly sussed that there was a fairly logical route around the lakes. I had a look at what the mileage was, and it was about 70km. That’s where the idea was born. “As I was doing a bit more research for it, it turned out that an adventurer had swam there beforehand in 2019 and completed it with the same idea. Matt Williams hiked between them as well, so in February I gave him a call and he was really helpful. He gave me a lot of information about the algae and invasive species, he even warned me
of a vicious swan in one of the lakes.” Having taken advice on board and planned his route, George was all set for the challenge. However, he admitted that before consulting Matt Williams he had only considered the distance of the swim: “These were all things I never really anticipated, you just think about the raw mileage, which you think is going to be the biggest problem. “There are a lot of logistics involved, so it was great that Matt helped me with that phone call, it prepared me for things I never would have expected. “I’m more than happy to help anyone who is thinking of doing it.” With a record in the Lake District under his belt, George now has his sights set on an international swim which will take him across the Strait of Gibraltar, between Europe and Africa.