aAh! Magazine Issue #4

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Featured Artists Brogan Devlin Brogan Devlin is a graphic design student with a particular interest in design for social change. This collage forms part of her publication Welcome to Northern Ireland. After moving to Manchester from Northern Ireland, Brogan noticed the lack of understanding from her peers due to the absence of education of this topic. At present, the National Curriculum for History in England paints a heroic and courageous picture of the British Empire. Brogan believes this must change and her work focuses on Britain’s role in dividing Ireland and how its effects remain visible today. Britain and Ireland have a long and complicated history. In its quest to achieve the ‘Great’ British Empire, Britain has failed to take responsibility for its brutal legacy of cultural annihilation. @brogandesignedit

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Victoria Mironesko Victoria Mironenko is an illustrator, stage designer and visual artist. Based in Manchester, Victoria is originally from Russian town Voronezh. She is currently working on a book of illustrations and posters for theatrical plays. Victoria is a member of the Life Drawing Artist community in Manchester. She also practices dance meditation and pantomime dance which helps her to relax in the studio throughout the drawing. @mironenko.victoria

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Issue 04 The Disruption Issue Student Media Coordinator Natalie Carragher Head Editorial Ryann Overbay Editorial Camilla Whitfield Darcy Gillham Holly Mckay Georgina Hurdsfield Jack Taylor Jenny Li Kerry Power Nathan Eckersley Nina Schaarschmidt Meera Jacob Sara Fisher Tom Collinson

Creative Directors Daniel Peter Weekes Jody Mcdowell-Barnes Sara Merkaj Design Brogan Devlin Christopher David Goggs Di Pajarillaga Ember Kirsch-Pinfold Esme Greaves Jessica Wise Lauren Bourne Rebecca Dyson Social Milly Harrison

Contributors Alice Stevens Brogan Devlin Gabriel Awuah Julie Chang Leyao Xia Maria Lykke Salling Victoria Mironenko Victoria Thiele

Email: aAh.editor@gmail.com Telephone: 0161 247 1951 Address: aAh! Magazine, Manchester Metropolitan University, Geoffrey Manton Building, M15 6LL aAh! is distributing copies on Manchester Metropolitan University campus and across Manchester. A wide range of advertising packages and affordable ways to promote your business are available. Get in touch to find out more. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in whole or in part without the explicit permission of the publisher. The views and opinions expressed within this publication do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of Manchester Metropolitan University.

Listen Up! Our lovely liberal generation is unfocused and vague. We think we know everything, which we kind of do, but mostly we don’t. aAh! presents the opportunity for readers and writers to question their own ideas about the world we’ve fallen into. Each issue will interrogate one important contemporary notion as a theme running through our regular features, opinion pieces, spotlights, interviews, previews, reviews, poetry, flash fiction, art, and photography.

The Dis-ruption issue What does it mean to disrupt? The Latin prefix ‘dis’ meaning apart, combined with the Latin root ‘rupt’, meaning to break, brings to mind full stops, pauses, and disturbance. Disruption. Can. Come. In. Many. Forms. It can bring the unexpected arrival of something novel, whether welcome or not. Disruption breaks the rituals and boxes we squeeze our lives into. It can interrupt moments of peace and calm, and it can spur periods of unrest and turbulence. Yet, it is in those interludes, after disruption has had its say, and when the status quo is challenged, that we carve out space for the greatest change. In aAh!’s latest issue, we interrogate the word Disruption. We look at how disruption has manifested recently in the form of protests, pandemics, and politics. We delve into the way disruption has affected us collectively and how we have collectively adapted. From the point of view of our community, protesters, and activists, we shine a light on disruption in its varied forms. We look at the way disruption has created channels for conversation, movements, art, and enterprise and how it has broken barriers. Disruption can be negative, yes, but it can also be positive. It may carry implications of interjection and conclusions, but it also carries change, opens doors, and shines a light toward new beginnings. The Disruption Issue was created entirely remotely due to lockdown restrictions placed on our university and community. Our writers, editors and designers have accomplished so much despite communication barriers, time constraints, and virtual meetings. We have had to adapt, as a team, to online spaces in order to design, edit, and create the magazine you are holding. Most of us have never met in person. This issue is a testament to what can be achieved despite life’s disruptions. We hope it reminds you of what is possible. We hope it enlightens you. We hope it speaks to you. But, most importantly, we hope it disrupts your expectations. Sincerely, Ryann Overbay on Behalf of the aAh! Editorial Team




“MORE EXTREME ACTION IS NEEDED TO FORCE THOSE IN POWER TO LISTEN.” TELL THE TRUTH “Creative writing is a form of activism,” says Monique Roffey. “Imagination is a form of activism. I don’t see political activism as too different to creative activism, it’s all being engaged with the world.” Costa Book of the Year awardwinning author and Manchester Metropolitan University lecturer, Monique Roffey, co-founded the Writers Rebel arm of Extinction Rebellion (XR). A community made up of authors, poets, actors and journalists, Writers Rebel uses the ‘power of words to claim a safer, fairer future for all of the planet’s inhabitants, human and non-human.’ Founded by Gail Bradbrook and Roger Hallam in 2018, the original XR movement has become globally recognised, garnering hundreds of thousands of supporters and capturing the voices of a generation. XR describes itself as, ‘an international movement that uses non-violent civil disobedience in an attempt to halt mass extinction and minimise the risk of social collapse.’ XR’s methods contrast sharply with the ways that climate change activists have traditionally made a stand through lobbying politicians or mass petitions. They believe that more extreme action is needed to force those in power to listen. Very few would argue with their goal of preventing the extinction of the planet and all those who live on it. What is controversial though, is the urgency they claim and the methods used by the group to get their messages across. XR activists have brought London traffic to a stop, glued their hands

Environmental activist and award-winning author Monique Roffey on the power of creative writing and why we must act now to avoid the mass extinction of life on earth.

to doors of a building so that oil tycoons could not enter, planted trees in Parliament Square and dug a hole to bury a coffin, which they say represented the future. Though completely non-violent, the group aims to create disruption and engage the attention of those who can make the biggest difference. After joining one of XR’s London marches, Roffey tweeted an invite to other writers to join the cause. “I met with Liz Jenson, who was already working with Extinction Rebellion,” says Roffey. “We said: ‘Why don’t we get together as many writers as we can?’ So we did.” Writer’s Rebel held their first event in October 2019, in conjunction with other XR actions planned to take place in the capital. Roffey says: “We asked a continuous stream of writers to just get up and read, for five minutes or so, which attracted huge crowds. We had some really big names like Simon Schama, Allie Smith, and AL Kennedy. And they were all just turning up, patiently waiting their turn. There were thousands of audience members who then became part of the protest, too.” The global pandemic hasn’t stopped the environmental activists. In November 2020, Writers Rebel held an evening of activist-centric speeches, bringing together 20 writers from around the globe including Margaret Atwood, Amitav Ghosh, Elizabeth Kolbert, Ben Okri and others. The event was held in a secret location in central London. It followed the introduction of the new ‘Money Rebellion’ campaign led by XR co-founder, Gail Bradbrook.

5 CROOKS CONTROL OUR NEWS The XR movement is currently estimated to have 650 groups across 45 countries, with many high profile members including young environmental activist Greta Thunberg and actors such as Emma Thompson, Jude Law, Benedict Cumberbatch and Sir Mark Rylance. Reflecting on the wider XR movement, Roffey says: “It is nonviolent disruption, which is a really, really powerful combination. And it’s working. It’s a people-driven power. We have solar panels in places like Morocco which could power Europe. The Chinese have renewable energy. Fuel giants, they’re even changing, adapting to green energy as well.” In the past year alone, while the world battled with Covid-19, XR continued its mission with a number of targeted campaigns. In September 2020, the group blocked the roads outside the printing press of five major newspapers, holding signs stating: ‘Tell the truth’ and ‘5 Crooks control our news’. XR believes that the British press has been compliant in playing down the climate emergency. This caused the government to condemn their actions, however making friends in high places has never been on XR’s list of priorities. In May 2019 the UK Government finally declared a ‘Climate Emergency,’ which was one of XR’s key demands. Roffey says: “Extinction Rebellion is one of the most exciting things to come out of environmental activism in a long time. I do think we can make enough of a difference in time. This is the most important thing we have to think about currently. Act now.”



Words - Kerry Power and Ryann Overbay Photography: Damon Simms and Caleb Nelson Design - Ember Kirsch-Pinfold

11 SOCIAL JUSTICE: BLACK LIVES MATTER Katie Unnithan, 20, and Tyrek Morris, 21, share their experiences of anti-racism activism, the Black Lives Matter movement, and how they got their start organising protests in the name of social change. When Tyrek Morris was a child, the boy who sat next to him at school leaned over, grabbed his hand and cut it open. When asked why, the boy replied: ‘I just want to see a black man bleed.’ This is only one of many experiences Tyrek has faced relating to the color of his skin. He’s been locked in a shop and accused of stealing, pulled over for being black in the wrong neighbourhood, and had his reports of online hate speech ignored by the police. Despite these incidents, and the countless others he chose not to share, Tyrek, a 21-year-old journalism student at Manchester Metropolitan University and the founder of All Black Lives UK, is proud to be Black British. “Being black in Britain is unique,” says Tyrek. “It has its trials and tribulations, more than I can count. I could talk about how terrible it can be, but it’s also liberating being the black sheep of the country, being different.” For many people of colour, being different is synonymous with danger. As the violence directed towards young black men and women, and other people of colour, has become increasingly publicised, more individuals are stepping up to raise their voices against discrimination. Following 25th May, 2020, footage of the arrest and murder of George Floyd went viral. For eight minutes and forty-six seconds, the world watched as arresting officer, Derek Chauvin, held his knee against George Floyd’s neck. They heard Floyd cry out, telling officers countless times that he could not breathe. In the months that followed, Floyd’s death sparked Black Lives Matter protests and antiracist movements across the world. Tyrek’s move into activism came out of a fear of apathy in this moment. “I was numb,” he says. “It’s just the same thing over and over again. When it happened [Floyd’s death], I was like, it’s sad, but it’s just another black guy being killed. That’s when I said, ‘Okay, I need to do something.’ If I have a lack of emotion, if I’ve been so desensitized, I have to do something to combat that.” Tyrek organized his first protest the following month. On Sunday 8th June, thousands of people gathered at St Peter’s Square, Manchester, in response to Tyrek’s call for action on social media. “It just got to a point, where I was standing on this platform, just standing there and looking around. I remember someone was sitting on top of a bus stop, others were on top of cars. it was a sea of people. I remember feeling so overwhelmed. The gravity of what was going on just hit me,” says Tyrek.

“It was quite dramatic over the last summer. I don’t think that people realized how crazy the behaviour online was. People in positions of responsibility were posting things about me online. Grown people, business owners in Sandbach, a town councillor, people’s parents and grandparents. It definitely wasn’t a situation where the power balance was equal,” says Katie. Both Tyrek and Katie spoke about the value of free speech and public gatherings for spreading awareness on issues of race. Organising protests gave them the opportunity to see, first hand, how much weight the public voice carries. But the future of protest remains uncertain due to the proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. According to the UK Parliament House of Commons Library, the bill would give police the power to ‘impose conditions on protests that are noisy enough to cause “intimidation or harassment” or “serious unease, alarm or distress” to bystanders,’ among other serious modifications to current laws surrounding protesting on public grounds in the UK. “There are a lot of other ways to spread awareness without protesting. Although [the bill] has pissed us off, because it’s where we got our start, there’s a lot more we can do,” says Tyrek. Both Katie and Tyrek have gone on to start their own organizations to further support the BLM movement and spread awareness about racism and inequality throughout the UK. Katie co-founded Cheshire Voices for Equality, a group aiming to actively promote diversity through education. “We just want to prevent racism and stop it. We want to get educational resources out there, make it really accessible and involve as many marginalised groups in Sandbach as we can,” says Katie. “When it comes to BLM, it’s so important to have a really good grasp on intersectional issues because black lives include all of the lives of black people. Our aim is to be a community orientated towards positive change.” Cheshire Voices for Equality have already achieved success in their endeavor. Katie adds: “The council did start working on their inclusion and diversity policy after we were in the meetings and that’s great. But we are completely education focused. We want to reach people who don’t have social media or have never thought about racism before. I really think we’re doing that.” All Black Lives UK has also gained significant attention. Co-founded by Tyrek, the organisation recently received a grant from Black Lives Matter UK. “There are so many projects that we want to do. After the ‘GoFundMe’ dried up, a lot of the projects that we did came out of our own pockets. Everything costs money and it costs a whole damn lot. When we got the funding, it felt like we could breathe easier,” says Tyrek.

Over 10,000 people attended the BLM protest in Manchester. “People were just looking at me and expecting me, a 21-year-old student to know what to do. I was given the mic, and I thought, ‘You know what? These people have come out here to hear me talk.’

He adds: “We’ve had politicians like David Lammy and Prince Harry mention the issues we are raising. Things that we have campaigned for are getting more recognition. Black protesters and activists as a whole are making these things happen. It’s not just ABL UK.”

“I started off with eight minutes of silence to represent the amount of time it took to kill George Floyd. Then I spoke about my experiences with racism and said, ‘If anyone wants to come up and talk you can do’. So many people came up and spoke. It was the most surreal experience,” says Tyrek.

As ABL UK moves forward, they hope to also help spread awareness and educate people about black culture through events. Tyrek says he’s got big plans for the future of ABL UK. He says: “One of the projects that I’ve been pushing for is a black culture festival. I want to celebrate black culture, things like art, food, music, black businesses. I want to highlight everything that’s great within the black community.”

Katie Unnithan, a 20-year-old student at the University of Birmingham, organized her own protest a month later in Sandbach, Cheshire on 4th July, 2020. She was inspired by BLM groups in America and their plans for a day of mourning and protest in honour of those who have died as a result of police brutality and been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Katie says: “I was frustrated. [BLM in America] were saying: ‘Don’t celebrate, protest, wear black.’ I just thought, ‘I’ve got a board in the house, I’ve got some markers. I’ll make a placard and just sit with it.’” Katie’s protests caused a stir in rural Sandbach, garnering unwanted attention and a backlash against the movement. Sandbach is a small market town with a population of approximately 18,000 people, who, according to the latest data released by Cheshire East Council, are 96% white. Coming from a mixed-race family in a town that is predominantly white, Katie was no stranger to racism, but following the protests she saw new levels of bigotry directed her way. “Neo-Nazi groups were putting flyers through people’s doors in the area around where I lived saying, ‘White Lives Matter’. A racist Facebook page actually published my home address, and then there was the thing with the KKK...” explains Katie. A meme featuring Katie was posted to Facebook following the protests, and an image of a Ku Klux Klan member was posted in response.

Since 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained global coverage. With Premiership footballers taking a knee, and the dance group, Diversity, paying homage to BLM in their Britain’s Got Talent performance, more people than ever are beginning to educate themselves and actively take a role in spreading awareness about inequality and descrimination. Although both Tyrek and Katie have faced challenges in both their activism and their personal lives, they remain optimistic about the future of social equality, diversity, and inclusion. Tyrek says that in order to help the black community it’s important to think about your actions. He asks: “Are you buying from black owned businesses? Are you actively being anti-racist? Are you sticking up for others? Are you educating others? What are you doing? That’s how you build up good allyship. You have to ask yourself what you are doing to be a good ally, because I could tell you to do a million and one things to help us, but part of it is how you help yourself.” Katie believes that change is possible. “I have to believe it,” she says. “In order to make a difference, challenge things, be critical, educate yourself, read black authors, be more sustainable. Whatever your thing is, do it, do it well and do it towards helping marginalised groups.”


Words - Alice Stevens Photography - Tamar Levy Design - Lauren Bourne


13 FASHION: FASHION MEETS ACTIVISM As spring dawns on her final year studying fashion design, Tamar Levy has never been busier in her entire life. Specializing in menswear at the Manchester School of Art, Tamar has recently been shortlisted for the prestigious Hempel Award – the 29th China International Young Fashion Designers Contest and selected to showcase her work at Beijing Fashion Week, all while creating her final collection at university.

or knew about the movements,” she adds. “There were only three or four people of colour on the whole course, so I immediately felt out of my depth.”

“When I was younger and struggling to read and write, I’d always get complimented on my artwork. Even after I was diagnosed with dyslexia and improved in all my other subjects, art was the one thing that I really wanted to pursue, because I found comfort in drawing and painting,” says Tamar.

Between 1948 and 1973, nearly half a million people came to the UK from the Caribbean on the HMT Empire Windrush to work as nurses or labourers in Post-War Britain. However, 70 years later, a government policy of Theresa May’s cabinet resulted in the wrongful detainment and deportation of commonwealth citizens.

“I’m interested in the relationship we have with clothing and why we choose to wear what we do. I want to comment on what black people are having to do in this country to feel accepted.” Tamar frequently discusses racism within her work, drawing on her own experiences and that of her friends and family to highlight the systemic problems within society, such as police brutality and the lack of awareness surrounding key anti-racism movements. “Every black man I know has either been assaulted, wrongfully stopped and searched, or has experienced some form of racism based on the way that they look. If you’re a white man, you can probably walk down the street with your hood up, whereas it’s not the same for a black man. My work asks the questions: What should a black man wear? What can a black man wear?” Originally planning to pursue costume design, Tamar enrolled on a foundation degree at Leeds College of Art in 2017, where she began scrutinizing Britain’s longstanding systemic racism through textilebased artwork. She sourced her inspiration from the Black Panther movement of the 1960s and Beyonce’s 2016 Superbowl performance, although her projects often lacked interest or acknowledgement from her predominantly non-black classmates. “After seeing Beyoncé perform, I was in awe. She was wearing a tight leotard with her hair really big and curly, and she was proud of it. There was a togetherness between these women; the outfits were so flattering to their bodies, not only showing their beauty but also their strength after being so oppressed. “It made me feel really empowered and I wanted to reflect on that feeling. I wanted to make a statement about how my own clothing is used to protect me, like how all of my coats have to have hoods so that my hair doesn’t frizz, because then it’ll be straighter and I’ll fit in more. Or, that I always wear shoes that haven’t got too big of a sole because I don’t want to be any taller than I already am. “My work didn’t really get much of a response because, although people thought it was quite cool, nobody was that interested

During her first year at university, Tamar continued to draw attention to social issues through the creation of her ‘Not a Native’ campaign, which aimed to raise awareness of the 2017 Windrush Scandal.

“This campaign focused on how the country is trying to remove people’s sense of belonging. It was that realisation that if it could happen to my dad or to my auntie - it could happen to me. They could take everything away.” Tamar has also worked on projects inspired by the Central Park Five and Colin Capernick’s Nike campaign after he took the knee. The former was a narrative project on Korey Wise, who in 1989 - a then 16-year-old boy - was wrongfully convicted of the assault and rape of a female jogger in Central Park, after being coerced into false confessions alongside innocent teenagers Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray and Raymond Santana. “I made a jumpsuit that I pictured Korey Wise might have worn when he was in prison. It’s got graffiti all over it because I imagined that he would write on his clothing as he had no other means to express himself.”

“I WANTED TO MAKE A STATEMENT ABOUT HOW MY OWN CLOTHING IS USED TO PROTECT ME” However, after working tirelessly to produce garments which shed light on the UK’s deep-rooted racism, Tamar now feels slightly restricted as a designer. “When I’ve done various projects before, people haven’t known about the issues behind them, but now people expect me to stick to that - they just see me as the girl who does protest work,” Tamar explains. In reality, Tamar aspires to create work in a world where racism isn’t an issue. Her exasperation continues online, as she expresses frustration at the wave of performative allyship which bred across social media following the Black Lives Matter protests last summer. “Although I’m really happy that the movement is getting the attention it needs and so desperately deserves, I’ve just experienced racism for so long that there’s always been a conversation about it. “It’s sad that we had to repost a video of George Floyd being murdered for people to care about this problem. I know some black and mixed-race men that have experienced really violent stop and searches who are suffering from PTSD, so to keep seeing that video only brings back the horrible things that happened to them.” Tamar adds: “It’s important to post content, but it’s also important to check in on people in your community and see what you can actually do for them. That small act of kindness makes a big difference, because you’re acknowledging there is a problem.”












International Students Prove Tenacious and (Mostly) Optimistic During Lockdowns, Isolation and Online Learning Words - Ryann Overbay and Holly Mckay Design - Jody McDowell


Meera Jacob answered our Microsoft Teams call from her hometown in Kerala, India. The gravel path obscured her voice at times as she walked down an empty alleyway, explaining her experience of being an international student, stuck in her home country, yet still doggedly pursuing her studies in the UK. “I had two months of in-person classes, and then the whole system shifted online,” Meera said during our call. “I had hoped there would be more opportunities, I wanted to complete an internship, but none of that was possible because of Covid-19.” Meera, a postgraduate student studying creative writing at Manchester Metropolitan University, is one of many students who started the 2020/21 academic year with high hopes that her course would find some sort of normalcy despite the ongoing pandemic. Unfortunately, as the weather grew colder, and restrictions tightened in parts of the UK, that was not the case. Soon after the 20/21 academic year began, courses were once again shifted online, and shortly after the holidays, a new national lockdown was announced, leaving many international students stranded in their home countries. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, the 2019/20 academic year saw over 127,000 international students studying

on a distance learning course through universities in the UK. This data does not reflect those students, like Meera, who began their studies in the UK, yet found themselves unexpectedly studying from their home country as the pandemic caused flight delays, new waves of lockdowns, and tighter restrictions across the globe Luckily, by the time Meera had flown back to India for the holidays, she had completed her taught modules and was focusing on the independent study aspect of her course. “My classes would have been difficult to attend while in India. They start at 6pm and finish at 8pm, which in India would be midnight until 2am,” said Meera. Despite early concerns that the pandemic would lower international student enrolment rates, statistics show that numbers had gone up by the end of 2020, especially among non-EU international students. UCAS data shows that by September of 2020, non-EU international students accepted into higher education in the UK rose significantly from previous years, from 40,720 in 2019 to 44,300 in 2020.

“I had hoped there would be more opportunities, I wanted to complete an internship, but none of that was possible because of Covid-19.”

Pictured: Meera (Above)



“Zoom and Team Replace In-Perso Conversation” x


Many students applied to their courses before the pandemic became a global issue. Lili Grosserova, a third year English student at Manchester Met, didn’t feel that deferral of her studies was a realistic option because she was so close to completing her course. Despite the shift to online learning and opportunity to return home and continue her studies from the Czech Republic, Lili chose to remain in Manchester. Lili explained: “I stayed in Manchester with the hope that in-person classes would return and the second block of teaching would be better, but everything is more stressful. If I were home, I wouldn’t have to worry about paying rent or buying food.” Lili, like many international students, has struggled financially throughout the 19/20 and 20/21 academic year. Under normal circumstances, students would easily be able to secure part or full time employment to help support themselves financially, but, in the current situation, job opportunities have been severely limited. In turn, this affects some international students’ ability to secure financial assistance from the UK government. Unlike many domestic students though, international students cannot easily return home or rely on their families for assistance. “I needed to be working to get a maintenance loan, but this was hard as there were no jobs,” said Lili. A lack of jobs and a lack of opportunities for work experience has many upcoming graduates concerned. According to a survey conducted by


Prospects, 64% of final year students felt discouraged by job prospects following graduation, with over 83% of final year students having either lost current employment or internships or having had offers for positions rescinded during the pandemic. This becomes doubly worrisome for international students, who have to consider their visa status, funds to support their stay until they find work, family expectations and relationships. Universities, for their part, are doing their best to accommodate the additional need for financial assistance. New programs, like the Student Hardship Fund at Manchester Met, offer international and domestic students alike much needed financial support during the pandemic. However, the Manchester Metropolitan website clearly states these funds are limited. Another major issue the international student community faces, especially those from non English speaking countries, is the lack of peer-to-peer interaction needed for language acquisition and basic assimilation into university life.


ms Can’t on LOCKDOWN

Like Meera, Nina is also currently studying from her home country after returning to Germany for the holidays. Enrolled on a practical based course, she found the reduced access to university equipment and resources due to government restrictions to be doubly challenging. “I think there are international and practical students who are suffering a lot more. Design students, like me, are deprived access to industrial sewing machines and other vital equipment,” Nina added. Despite all of the difficulties they are facing, international students still remain optimistic, focusing on the positives that have come out of the current situation. Nina said: “Learning remotely has encouraged students to be more innovative and creative. We have had to become more self-motivated in regard to work.”

In addition to financial support, universities are offering extra programs for socialisation and mental wellbeing, which are aimed at better integrating international students into university life. Manchester Met has been hosting online drop in sessions, offering students a chance to engage and socialise in an informal setting. Though staff responsible for overseeing and supporting the international community understand that this alone does not alleviate the frustrations these students face.

Richard Silburn echoed this sentiment by suggesting although students “may not be developing their informal communicative competency in the same way, their digital literacy is becoming stronger” as a result of online interaction. Meera, too, has found positives amid the challenges. She said: “This year has given me more time to think and regroup, allowing me to discover what I’m best at, academically and creatively.”

Richard Silburn, Director of the Language Centre and International Lead for the Department of Languages, Information and Communications, says he worries “that international students are missing out on that casual interaction, as a result of online classes”. He added: “There is a recognition that things are not what they were, so we [the university] are trying to compensate for that.” The university is working to provide more opportunities and support for international students. “We have a course called Conversation Club, where students are able to practice every day English, and the Faculty try to build in a level of informality before each online class to help make up for the socialisation international students are lacking,” said Silburn. Nina Schaarschmidt, a German student studying fashion and promotion, said: “Zoom and Teams can’t replace in-person conversation. What I really struggle with is not seeing my friends.”

Pictured: Lili (Left) Nina (Above)



Coronavirus & The Sustainability Movement It’s a crisp autumn morning as I walk down Thomas Street, and part of me quietly relishes in the steady warmth of my face mask against the unsolicited chill. I speculate whether any of the passing strangers find a similar comfort, especially compared to the the heat of mid-July when face coverings were made mandatory in 2020. They’re not always confined to our faces, though, as I catch sight of one clinging to a gully grate in the road, then another caught in a rustling torrent of leaves. One lies trampled over the grooves and troughs of the traffic crossing, a boot mark emblazoned on the front as clearly as the leopard print on mine. It’s not an uncommon sight to see a solitary blue mask wading in a nearby puddle amongst the discarded cigarette butts. According to a report in the Environment Journal, since face-coverings were made mandatory, 1.6 billion single-use masks are sent to landfill every month in the UK alone, and Waste Free Oceans found that each mask takes approximately 450 years to decompose. Meanwhile The Guardian reported that Laurent Lombard, of Opération Mer Propre, suggested there will soon be more masks in the Mediterranean ocean than jellyfish. This exacerbates an already colossal marine plastic pollution problem. Project lead of Plastic: Redefining Single-Use at The University of Sheffield, Tony Ryan, believes that plastics aren’t innately the problem, but the volume which are unnecessarily single-use. “There are some pieces of single-use plastic that have to be and should never be anything else, but there’s also a lot due to low cost and convenience. This applies just as much to medical plastics as it does to plastic packaging,” Ryan explains.

Environmental caused by Words - Alice Stevens Design - Di Pajarillaga

1.6 billion single-use masks are sent to landfill every month in the UK alone. “Where there’s no need for something to be single-use, we should be keeping the pressure on to move towards things that are reusable. It should still be a priority even during the pandemic.” A distinct increase in single-use plastic is found in food and drink packaging such as disposable coffee cups, which had largely been relinquished before coronavirus. Despite this shift, Ryan refutes the notion that reusables are more unsafe than single-use. “During the pandemic, people think they don’t have to worry about washing their reusable cup or buying prepackaged vegetables, because they’re doing what’s considered ‘safer’. But I think we need to go back to making evidence-based decisions rather than riskaverse decisions. “Environmental problems are caused by economic growth, and if an economic recovery means going back to the consumption patterns that we had before, then these are the things we need to change our views on,” Ryan says. Although many cafes now offer a ‘solution’ by using non-plastic cup alternatives, Recycle for Greater Manchester has noted a significant – yet confusing – difference between biodegradable and compostable products. While compostable products decay and pass nutrients into the surrounding soil, biodegradable products take decades to decompose and cause harm to the environment.

problems economic

are growth.


Can We Return To The Progress Made Pre-Pandemic? The problem unnecessary


in the single-use

Alternatively, some businesses have attempted to negate the rise of single-use plastics that has arisen during the pandemic, as seen with the launch of the #ContactlessCoffee campaign by City to Sea, with even the coffee-giant Starbucks implementing a similar operation. Despite the seemingly bleak statistics in terms of single-use plastics and recycle culture, Ryan is certain that reusable cups will make a strong recovery in the long-run as retailers suss the market for eco-friendly consumerism. Almost every high-street coffee chain now stocks their own range of branded cups and have implemented discounted incentives for reusable cup users. Ryan suggests that the concern lies with accountability, and although no one advocates for single-use plastic pollution, this doesn’t stop its use. Since the technologies to reduce packaging waste are available, Ryan believes it’s up to the government to enforce legislation. “We should really get the environmental laws much higher on the agenda and recognize that they’re actually not just environmental sustainability schemes but they’re also job creation schemes and equality enhancing schemes too,” he says. Despite the coronavirus’ impact on the passing of legislation essential in the fight against climate change (such as the significantly delayed Environmental Bill), there is still progress being made closer to home. Greater Manchester, for example, has committed to developing new technologies to meet the demands of greener energy, aiming to become carbon-zero by 2038, The Northern Quota reports.

volume of plastics.

In association with Greater Manchester’s Green Summit, and funded by a £3 million grant from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the project strives to provide energy to the city solely in the form of electricity, hydrogen and heat networks. This follows a pivotal moment in the UK’s quest for sustainability, when the levels of carbon-free electricity outweighed that provided by fossil fuels for the first time in 2019 according to the National Grid. Meanwhile, in terms of transport, temporary pedestrianization schemes have been implemented across the city to create space for social distancing, with some believing the reduction in carbon emissions and increased demand in sustainable travel is reason enough to make the changes permanent. Manchester’s Green Party endorsed the initiatives, with Alison Hawdale claiming this is one way in which the country must rebuild postcoronavirus “with the environment in mind”. She said: “The pandemic must not be an excuse for the government evading its responsibility for fighting against climate change. There is growing evidence that respiratory problems caused by Covid-19 are made worse by air pollution.” Arguably, after its impromptu and untimely hiatus, it’s never been so important to get the sustainability movement back on track. Education, clearer messaging and legislation seem to be the key to discouraging complacency; otherwise, the risk of more serious repercussions will only be waiting for us on the other side of the pandemic.



he start of 2021 saw one of the most seismic and disruptive financial events in years take place on Wall Street.

A large group of gamers saved the US high street relic GameStop, amongst other declining companies, from going under by shorting stock on them, and managed to give the Establishment the middle finger in the process. The enormity of what took place won’t be completely felt or understood for some time but, in the short-term, billions of dollars have been lost by hedge funds and stockbrokers. To begin to examine what happened, we must first understand what ‘shorting’ is. Shorting, or short selling as it is officially known, is placing a very risky bet that a company’s stock, or share price, is going to go down and eventually the company will go out of business. The earlier someone invests in a short, the bigger the reward because you earn more the longer the price decreases. Shorting is the reason for the 2008-2009 Financial Crash, where hedge fund managers were shorting on the value of subprime mortgages. To best understand the causes of the Financial Crash and how shorting works, I recommend watching the film The Big Short. In the case of GameStop, there was a ‘short squeeze’ which is when share prices

rapidly rise because so many people are buying stock in a shorted company, forcing the investors who placed the short to also buy that stock to limit their losses. This happens when there is more demand for shares than there is supply. A channel called r/WallStreetBets, on the cult social media platform Reddit, has been operating under the radar for years. It gives people, with no background in finance, advice on stock trading and buying shares. Users were able to call on the gaming community, who were upset at GameStop closing down, to save the company by downloading trading apps like Robinhood in the US and Trading 212 in the UK so they could buy shares in the company. The GameStop short squeeze took place early January and they managed to increase the share price by 92.7% in a day. Investors were so successful that Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted the link to r/WallStreetBets which encouraged his 46 million Twitter followers to join in. Immediately after Musk’s tweet, the GameStop share price rose to over $200. The day after, they saw how much of a disruption they had caused to the global stock markets and they branched out to save other declining companies, including AMC Cinemas, BlackBerry and Nokia. The more the share price rose, the more money

21 ECONOMY: GAMESTOP Wall Street bankers and hedge fund managers were haemorrhaging because they had bet so much on GameStop and the other companies tanking. Data analysis company Ortex estimates that Wall Street made losses of around $19 billion in one day. On January 28th, Robinhood and Trading 212 put a ban on purchasing shares in GameStop, AMC Cinemas, BlackBerry and Nokia because they had become so volatile and they blocked new customers from joining in. This posed three very serious questions about how free the market really is. The first is about market access and who is actually allowed to trade. Wall Street traders were allowed to continue trading these stocks whilst ordinary people were banned. The second is about whether we are likely to see more events like this in the future. These events brought about

The success of the GameStop short squeeze is very fragile as the prices won’t hold forever and when they drop, those who still haven’t sold could be faced with heavy losses and potentially end up in debt due to the high amounts they invested. Some people even took out loans and invested life savings to participate in the short squeeze.

some major success stories for ordinary people who took huge gambles by investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into shares and have walked away with enough to pay off loans and mortgages. Just as there was tremendous success, there were also people who experienced heavy losses with some investors losing hundreds of thousands of dollars in a matter of hours. The third, and perhaps most important question is what happens when the market regulates. The real ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ Jordan Belfort, encouraged the sofa investors to ‘hold the line’ by not selling, thus increasing the price. But Belfort has warned that people could quite easily ‘lose it all’ if they hold for too long.

The tale of GameStop is the ultimate rejection of the Establishment’s stranglehold on the stock market and it enabled ordinary, working class people to have an opportunity to make money in a way they wouldn’t normally be able to. Based on current trends, the future of investment is heading in a direction of armchair investors becoming main players in the stock market. GameStop needs to be treated as a warning to the Wall Street elites who think investment is an exclusive club and this event should become a parable for the next generation of traders because the legacy of this will be felt for some time.

Words - Nathan Eckersley Design - Christopher Goggs


Student Experience:

“Hear me when I am asking for help because I’m breaking the law by speaking out”

The world watches as Myanmar protestors fight back against ongoing disruption to their democracy.

“When I was young, my mother always told me, ‘Don’t get on the bad side of the military guys, even when they’re wrong, you need to talk to them nicely,’” said Lilly during a Microsoft Teams meeting on 10th February. Following the coup on 1st February, protests continue to rage across Myanmar’s most notable cities, and Burmese nationals have taken to social media to speak up against the actions of the military. Images of the violence that has spread in Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw, and elsewhere are gaining an audience alongside the hashtag #WhatsHappeninginMyanmar and #HearTheVoiceofMyanmar.

Lilly’s mother participated in some of these protests, calling for an end to the military regime and a pro-democracy state. “During the 1988 Uprising, my mom saw people killed in front of her eyes; some of her friends died,” said Lilly. She continued: “In 2007, during the Saffron Revolution, I saw tanks coming in and saw monks taken away. That’s why we were all panicking when we saw the tank on 3rd February in Yangon. It felt like history was repeating itself. I don’t want to see my loved ones die.” Lilly is an international student studying fashion art direction at Manchester Metropolitan University. She has been keeping in touch with her family and friends as best she can, but the military, after initial widespread internet disruption, has continued to limit internet services in several places across the country and block popular social media sites.

“Gen Z especially have been coming up with creative ways to protest. We know that we don’t have any weapons. They are the ones who can harm us, so we have been coming up with creative ways to push civil resistance,” said Lilly.

“I’m really worried right now. The internet is unstable, and people don’t feel safe. We don’t know when we will lose contact entirely,” said Lilly. Many protesters are still using VPN services to continue to speak out on social media, but there are concerns that these too will be targeted and blocked.

Myanmar has a tumultuous history, and this is not the first notable protest that has occurred against the military junta. In fact, nearly every decade during the 50 years of military rule between 1962 and 2010 saw its share of antiregime protests in urban areas across the country, some of the most notable being the 1988 Uprising, and the Saffron Revolution in 2007.

The military seized control with claims of voter fraud following the November 2020 elections, which saw Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party win by a landslide general vote. According to the Myanmar election commission, this claim is not substantiated. Ms Suu Kyi has been placed under house arrest, along with a number of NLD officials. Power has


Growing up, Lilly Oo never felt safe in her own country. Although she grew up in Myanmar’s largest city, Yangon, and was able to attend an international school, her mother repeatedly warned her to keep her head low, avoid confrontation with military personnel and stay away from conflict.

been handed over to military commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing. Large scale protests, which began 6th February, called for the release of Ms Suu Kyi and other officials. Initially, these protests remained peaceful. Burmese citizens took to holding three fingers in the air as a symbol of resistance against authoritarianism. Demonstrators have also begun banging pots and pans every evening at 8pm. “It goes back to our culture. We evict evil spirits by banging pots and pans. It fits the context because we see [the military] as evil,” Lilly explained. Protests took a violent turn three days later when police attempted to disperse the crowds with water cannons, rubber bullets, and tear gas, and in the instance of 19-year-old Mya Thwe Thwe Khaing, live ammunition. According to Reuters reports, a bullet penetrated Ms Khaing’s motorcycle helmet, and doctors stated that the wound looked consistent with live ammunition.


“It goes back to our culture. We evict evil spirits by banging pots and pans. It fits the context because we see [the military] as evil,”

#WhatsHappeninginMyanmar Ms Khaing died from her injury at Nay Pyi Taw Hospital ten days later on February 19th. “I think it’s going to continue to escalate. Right now, the military hasn’t backed down at all, and it’s gotten worse and worse. They haven’t taken a step back and we’re trying to spread awareness through social media, but the military has shut down media and television channels. They are only allowing the military broadcast to be seen by people. It’s scary,” said Lilly.

“Raise social awareness. Don’t let the news die down. They must know that even if we are shut off from the rest of the world, it doesn’t mean the problem has stopped. It’s ongoing. I want people to keep that in mind.”

Ola Almgren, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar, said: “The use of disproportionate force against demonstrators is unacceptable,” in an official statement released on 9th February, the same day Khiang was taken to hospital for her injuries. US President Joe Biden has issued an executive order to impose sanctions on leaders of the Myanmar coup. In a statement released on 12th February, he said: “The people of Burma are making their voices heard and the world is watching.” Lilly says the most important thing people can do right now is spread awareness. She said: “There are many countries around the world who are still suffering like we are. Human rights are being threatened every day. We want the international community to help us. We want them to know that things like this exist all over the world. “Raise social awareness. Don’t let the news die down. They must know that even if we are shut off from the rest of the world, it doesn’t mean the problem has stopped. It’s ongoing. I want people to keep that in mind.”

Words - Ryann Overbay Design - Brogan Devlin

I’ V E S Y A W L A D E T N A W TO BE Nathan Evans on TikTok viral success and why sea shanties are having a moment during the pandemic. After swapping posting letters for posting chart-topping hits online, ex-Postman Nathan Evans has quickly tackled the notoriously fickle waters of TikTok and succeeded with his hit cover of a classic sea shanty, the ‘Wellerman’. The Airdrie-based artist has big plans to be anything but a one-hit-wonder. With his drive to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Ed Sheeran, paired with his impressive vocal skills - the world is his oyster. Off-the-bat, Evan’s dream may be sky-high but his feet are firmly planted on the ground. Discussing how he’s been managing the newfound success, he says: “I’m just taking each day as it comes, and really that’s how I’ve lived my life up until this point. I’m not going to change that.”


The effect of starting a new trend and becoming the face of a new cultural sensation still hasn’t sunk in. “It’s surreal. When I’m having these conversations, it feels like I’m talking about somebody else. It’s crazy,” says Evans. Crazy indeed, nobody could have predicted that the pandemic would have reawoken the nation’s adoration of sea shanties. It was only right to get the reasoning behind it from the source himself. “I think it’s because everybody’s stuck at home,” says Evans. “They’re all feeling a bit lonely, feeling just a bit fed up and down. These songs have come along and put a smile on your face. And, I think that’s exactly what everybody needs at the minute.”

It would make sense, as traditional sea shanties first became popular for boosting morale while merchant seamen carried out their work, often in tough conditions. Due to his part in starting this unforeseen TikTok trend with ‘The Wellerman’, he swiftly became increasingly recognised on his rounds at work. “It was off the back of the ‘Wellerman’ song. There were a couple of people who recognised me from TikTok. I uploaded the song, say on Thursday and then by the time Monday came, emails started coming in, people were recognising me on the street and stuff like that.” The following Friday saw Evans leave his job to pursue the wealth of opportunities landing in his inbox. “I thought ‘I’m going to go and I’m going to see if I can make the most of this,’” he says. It’s clearly caused quite a stir in the music industry, with even Andrew Lloyd Webber posting his own rendition. There have also been other unexpected fans of his music which surprised him. “Brian May knows who I am and that’s absolutely insane. He uploaded a video, and he was talking about me. And then, he played a solo on his electric guitar of the ‘Wellerman’. I feel as if I’m dreaming at this point.” Evans went on to release ‘Wellerman’ as a remix with 220 Kid and Billen Ted, which has thirty million streams on Spotify alone. Naturally, the cause of this collaboration was TikTok. “220 Kid was on TikTok scrolling and he saw my video. He was like, ‘That’d be really cool and fun to do a remix’ so he just took the TikTok video and remixed the sound from that. Then he sent it over and he asked, ‘What do you think of this?’ And, I said, ‘That’s hilarious.’” It was not only the first time that Evans had spoken to him but also one of the first times he’d become starstruck, exclaiming, “Oh my god, someone very

THAT GUY ON S TAGE famous has mailed me.” After 220 Kid uploaded the song on his social media accounts, it quickly became a hit with multiple radio stations, earning praise from the likes of tastemakers Chris Stark, Scott Mills and MistaJam. They enlisted the help of Billen Ted and quickly created a full version, while Evans was in the process of record labels and managers. The one downside to the timing of the collaboration is that others can’t join in just yet. “The only upsetting thing is that everybody is stuck in the house and you can’t experience that song in a club because I think that would be amazing. It’s just such a fun song. It’ll be good once we can go out and listen to that.” Evan’s interest in music goes back much further than the pandemic and it’s clear music has been a lifetime passion of his. “I’ve been singing since I was six, and I’ve been playing the guitar since I was eight. When I was younger my mum and dad were entertainers and used to host karaoke. I’d go along and at the end of the night, so I could whip the guitar out and play a couple of songs.” His usual karaoke track, ‘Hallelujah’, may not have been his personal favourite but it was always requested by his family. He grew up seeing a range of artists live, including Bowling For Soup, Newton Faulkner and one of his longtime inspirations, Ed Sheeran. “I saw Ed Sheeran back in 2012 and that was absolutely insane. It was absolutely incredible.” He adds: “Growing up, I think I’ve always wanted to be the guy that’s on the stage. Whether that be the main act or the support act, that wouldn’t make any difference to me, just so long as I was on the stage.” He already has some venues in mind. “I would like to play the Barrowlands in Glasgow because that is absolutely amazing. But if we think bigger than that, I’d like to play arenas, like Wembley or O2. That would be insane.” In addition to putting his own ingenious spin on covers, he’s always working on original songs too. If you’re wondering what you can expect, he’s influenced by a range of his favourite artists. “For the songs that I write myself, I take my inspirations and my influences from the likes of Ed Sheeran, Dermot Kennedy, Lewis Capaldi, Jess Glynne, Anne-Marie, all these kinds of artists.” “That’s kind of the music that I like to write and listen to. I like to make a song that people can connect with. And, whether they’re going to be smiling at this song, are going to be dancing or they’re going to be sad - if the listener feels something and enjoys it, then that’s what I try and go for.” If you’ve already heard ‘The Wellerman’ on repeat and are looking for your next musical fix from Evans, rest assured he has plenty of ideas in the works. “I’ve got a couple of singles, hopefully, coming out soon and then you will possibly hear an album from me by the end of the year. That’s the plan.” With great success comes great responsibility, but Evans has been on the receiving end of support from an array of people, with some offering some wise advice. “At the very start, there was a YouTuber

Words - Camilla Whitfield Design - Ember Kirsch-Pinfold

called Peter Hollens”. He reached out to Evans, asking to interview him, however, soon everything started quickly taking off. Hollens said: “Listen, if you ever need anything I’m here and just take it easy. Take it day by day, everything will be fine. I know it’s a bit of a whirlwind but you’ll be alright. Just take it step by step.” They did the interview and Evans noted: “He was really nice and he gave me some great pointers.” Only able to connect with others over Zoom in his bedroom, his recent rise to fame still hasn’t sunk in. Although, he is safe in the knowledge that with or without his newfound success, he’ll always have his love of music. “I don’t think anything would have changed as maybe that’s not the kind of person I am. I was doing this, regardless of whether I was a postman, I was already uploading music to the internet. I was singing, playing the guitar, playing the piano, writing music. All of these things would still be happening, whether anybody was watching or not. It’s just now I can say that this is my job. I’m grateful.”

BRIAN MAY KNOWS WHO I AM AND THAT’S ABSOLUTELY INSANE.” Drawing inspiration from the pandemic, the singing Scotsman left us with motivational words before the interview could draw to a close. “If you’re in this pandemic, don’t give up. This is the perfect time to be practising and to be learning. This will all come to an end and you will eventually be able to go out and show your art or your music. It’s also the perfect time to make the most of social media and get your work out there to as many people as possible. Just keep going, that’s the main thing.” From average Joe to certified chart-topper and possible TED Talk guru - if we’ve learned anything from Evans, it’s that you’re the master of your own destiny. Nathan’s path of viral success will be sure to lead him to sell-out arena shows soon, but until then, look out for his forthcoming releases, and the opportunity to dance to the ‘Wellerman’ at a club near you soon.

Nathan Evans plays Manchester’s Deaf Institute, 6 December.








































Fashion and Lifestyle Editor Jenny Li reflects on the current climate of contraception and women’s health.


emale contraception has become a staple in the lives of modern women. But whether it’s used for health reasons or to maintain an active sex life, women continue to be subjected to a variety of side-effects. While some are mild, others can be detrimental and debilitating. The most concerning side-effects are those that carry on after discontinuing contraceptives. Having experienced side-effects myself, during and after contraceptive use, it’s important to create open discourse on

contraceptive and post-contraceptive effects, while also shining a light on alternative options. I first started using the Evra contraceptive patch at 18-years-old for personal menstrual issues. I soon took issue with the mood swings and heightened anxiety and depression I experienced, which began to affect my everyday life. I also developed hormonal acne and experienced large amounts of hair shedding. I stopped using the patch after a year and a half. The initial couple

27 EXPERIENCE: CONTRACEPTION of months coming off the patch seemed normal, but then I missed around five months of my period. Around the third or fourth month, I consulted my GP, who concluded my symptoms were part of withdrawal from contraception. I was troubled by this. I hadn’t been on the patch for long, yet discontinuing its use had caused such a delay to my cycle, and even now, I’m still dealing with hair loss and hormonal acne related to my time on the patch.

THE POSITIVES didn’t outweigh

THE NEGATIVES My experience wasn’t completely negative. The patch was useful in dealing with menstrual irregularities, shortening the length of my periods and reducing the pain of cramps. It also allowed me to control my periods which provided stability. I didn’t have to worry about it daily as the patch is changed weekly and applied externally. However, the positives didn’t outweigh the negatives and I found information on contraceptive options lacking. Popular websites including NHS UK and Planned Parenthood, don’t note possible patchrelated symptoms such as hair loss. Instead, most information and discussions tend to instinctively refer to the pill when discussing contraceptive side-effects. This is unsurprising as across Europe, the UK has the seventh highest share of women in the country using the pill as their main method of contraception, according to research by Statista.

have raised eyebrows, the higher risk of blood clots while using birth control is easily dismissed. It’s clear that women’s reproductive health is low on the list of concerns among the general public. In February 2021, a petition began circulating online calling for improving the safety of contraceptive options. It made a point of saying: “action is needed to make

contraception safer for everyone who uses it, as well as increase options for people without having to compromise other aspects of their health”. The petition only gained around a tenth of its signature goal. The lack of acknowledgement from the public surrounding these issues creates a passivity regarding women’s reproductive health. Despite this disinterest, it’s clear contraception is a key part in reproductive rights and allows women to engage in the sex-positive movement. When referring to contraception, we largely comment on the options available for women. The array of contraceptives for women often means we bear the responsibility to be ‘prepared’. This creates an unfair dynamic, as women become culpable for pregnancies and the idea of male contraceptives has been made redundant. Men should be held just as accountable in the bedroom as women with the same fervent research being undertaken with male contraceptives.

It’s important not to be complacent about menstrual health.

During my initial GP consultation, the doctor was expressive about trying the pill, injection or the coil as opposed to the patch. I asked if there were additional side-effects as she seemed more prepared to prescribe the pill, but she said there weren’t. Instead, I was told they don’t prescribe patches often compared to the pill, despite it having more documented side effects than the patch. One example of the pill’s side effects are blood clots. Open Access Government recently published a report stating the FDA estimates ‘the risk of birth control users developing a serious blood clot is three to nine women out of 10,000, every year.’ This means that of the roughly 842 million who use hormonal methods across the world, a potential 252,600 to 757,800 people are at risk of blood clots while using birth control. The risks of blood clots have become topical lately amid discussions of Covid-19 vaccine efficacy and countries putting a halt to vaccine distribution due to concerns of vaccine related side effects. But clearly, there are higher risks of blood clots for women on the pill, compared to the 37 people out of 17 million who developed blood clots inoculated on the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine. It is worrisome that while vaccine related blood clots

It’s important not to be complacent about menstrual health. We shouldn’t be passive on the matter and instead create channels for further discourse. It’s empowering to know that we have control of our reproductive organs. But, there needs to be a focus on other methods of contraception; ones that have milder effects. More effort needs to be taken to improve existing methods of contraception and in further researching male contraceptives.

Words - Jenny Li Design - Rebecca Dyson


A good night’s sleep is something that should come naturally. That being said, many people struggle to stick to an adequate sleep routine that allows them to get a restful night’s sleep. The typical working week is dependent on a strict structure of eight hours of work, eight hours of leisure, and eight hours of sleep for five days of the week. But what happens when this traditional schedule is broken? Whether by choice or by extenuating circumstances, does the conventional working week work for everyone?

“I adjust my schedule flexibly according to my clients and tutors, rather than a typical working week. If I need to meet my tutors and clients on Monday, I work on weekends to prepare my work, then have a rest on Tuesday and Wednesday instead,” says Leyao. With our professional, leisure and academic lives moving to online spaces, maintaining a schedule of any kind makes life difficult and disrupts the typical routines that we have become accustomed to. Although this has caused issues with eating, sleeping and working harmoniously for some, others have found this break in the system to be beneficial. Dr Dimitri Gavriloff, a senior clinical psychologist who specialises in sleep medicine, focuses on how important day and night routine is to sleep. Gavriloff comments on the disruption caused to sleep and work schedules by COVID-19. “This is often talked about in very negative terms for obvious reasons, but there are some positives to having flexibility around when and how you work. “As humans, we are dependent on sleep to be able to function efficiently throughout the day and when this rest is staggered or changed, we feel the repercussions. Being able to work on our ‘natural chronotype’ means that we are getting the sleep we need, when we need it, and working efficiently throughout the day,” says Dr Gavriloff.

Leyao Xia, an artist and student at Manchester Metropolitan University, has struggled with her sleep routine since lockdown measures forced her inside. Leyao says: “I’ve been going to bed at 4am or 5am and sleeping until 3pm. I don’t know how to change it. When I get up at 3pm, especially in winter, I never see the sun. It’s difficult.” Leyao’s digital work has focused on the anxiety surrounding deadlines and routine, a sentiment that reflects the often chaotic lifestyle of an artist, since the typical traditional working week often excludes those in the more creative vocations.

“Chronotypes refer to your natural body block preference,” he adds. “Particularly for those who like to go to sleep very late, they have traditionally suffered because they have to fit in with a very Victorian routine. That is not their fault, that’s their biological preference. These people benefit from the relaxation of the scheduling.” Changing and reorganising your routine can lead to sleep disruption, says Dr Gavriloff. “The body and brain enjoy routine and healthy sleep, so it’s best to make a schedule as predictable as possible.” This often becomes difficult for students and artists, such as Leyao, who suffer from the societal scheduling imposed upon them. Due to the nature of their work and the scheduling that goes along with it, artists and students tend to alter and reorganise their schedules depending on when work is due. This often means working extremely late, staying awake longer, and attempting to rectify this mistake by sleeping in the next day. “When a piece of work needs to be done immediately, I choose to sacrifice my sleep,” says Leyao. Of course, there are other factors that may hinder the ability to sleep easily, such as stress and anxiety, but tackling those that we can control will promote better overall wellbeing. A realistic schedule gives you the freedom to find a routine that works for your chronotype, especially when the overarching societal schedule has been disrupted. Dr Gavriloff suggests that in order to develop a healthy sleep routine it’s important to be in tune with your body and it’s needs. Many ignore the ques from our mind and body that signal when we are tired, hungry, or stressed. This can cause mood fluctuations, unhealthy habits, and our routine to be affected. “It’s important to be relatively regular when you eat your meals, wind down, and go to bed when you feel sleepy, rather than going because the clock says it’s time. Try and make things as predictable as possible for the brain and body.”

Words - Sara Fisher Illustrations - Leyao Xia Design - Christopher Goggs



Tracking the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic one year on.


The film industry has endured cataclysmic disruption as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Cinemas were forced to close due to lockdowns, commercial giants lost their edge, and blockbuster films saw release dates postponed time and time again. “Initially I think no one foresaw the depth and length of this crisis to cinema,” says Rebekah Fozard, manager of Hebden Bridge Picture House, reflecting on her experience of managing a cinema during the pandemic. “We announced our closure on the 17th of March because the previous day we only had four people in the audience when usually our average attendance for March is well over 80. We could see people were feeling the fear and we wanted to be responsible. We closed a week before lockdown.” Whether by choice or not, come the end of March, all cinemas in the UK were forced to close under lockdown restrictions. From the first UK lockdown back in March 2020 to the present, cinemas across the country have been in a state of limbo. Last year saw UK cinema admissions fall to a staggeringly low 44 million down from 176.1 million in 2019, according to the UK Cinema Association. The financial ramifications of the pandemic have severely damaged the UK film industry. Box office revenue also fell from £1,251.8 million to a mere £296.7 million in 2020, totalling a loss of 76.3%. There was much more at stake than financial losses affecting UK cinemas. Rebekah Fozard explains: “The whole way through, our audience has been sad and worried for us, not angry. They’ve missed us. I put tickets on sale for October, November, and December. We sold out our Christmas Eve show of It’s a Wonderful Life and people were like ‘Oh thank god for some normality, we always saw that at your cinema.’” This normality was short-lived. When the second lockdown was announced, the cinema had to refund everyone and close its doors. “This was when we realised we had to find a way to do virtual screenings, because it’s not just about income, it’s also about having something to engage with your community with. [For us] that medium is film,” said Rebekah. According to the BFI, an estimated 19,297 people worked in UK cinemas before the pandemic. The closure of workplaces due to the pandemic left thousands furloughed and many out of work and without financial security. The decisions made by cinemas during this unprecedented period, to ensure their survival and the survival of the British film industry, was difficult but necessary. The financial statistics make for grim reading and you would be right to assume that many UK cinemas are struggling to cope, big or small. In October, Cineworld announced that due to financial instability their cinemas would close temporarily, leading to 5,500 UK employees having to take ‘temporary redundancies’. Commercial cinemas such as Cineworld, rely heavily on the release of blockbuster films to entice customers. These films never came and the cinema had to close. After the financial crisis caused by the closure of cinemas, film production companies were left with a dilemma - release their upcoming blockbusters to cinemas and gamble on hitting their financial targets or delay their releases until they felt the industry was secure enough.

Unfortunately, most of the planned big blockbuster films were delayed. Most infamously was the highly anticipated James Bond film, No Time to Die . Originally due to hit scre ens in April 2020, it was delayed until November 2020. This left a huge dent in the industry with cinemas having to let staff go and, in some cases, close their doors. The film’s release was then postponed a further two time s and is now set for release in October 2021, the effects of this, as well as the other films that have had their releases dela yed, have been unequivocally dam aging to the industry. Cinema s are hemorrhaging money due to the postponement of bloc kbusters, and naturally, those emp loyed at cinemas are left feeling the burden. Charlie Smith was employe d at Everyman Cinema, a chain of luxury cinemas in the UK, during the time No Time to Die was initially postponed. “It was really quiet in the cinema and we were nerv ous about whether the films were goin g to be released or not bec ause we were struggling with hou rs already,” says Charlie. “[When the films] were cancelled it led to me not getting any more hours and eventually I was let go.” On July 5th, 2020, the Gov ernment announced a £1.5 7 billion Culture Recovery Fund resc ue package for cultural orga nisations to help the sector survive. Alongside a series of mea sures announced earlier in Mar ch 2020, the Culture Rec overy Fund was implemented to help save these sectors, maintai n jobs and keep businesses afloat. Tony Mundin is the owner of four family-run independen t cinemas, including The Savoy Cinema in Heaton Moor, Stockport and The Rex in Wilmslow. Mundin says this funding enabled cinemas like his to ensure they mee t a break-even point until the end of summer. “Essentially the government has provided a mechanism whereby independent cinemas will break even till the end of June,” said Mundin. “I can’t really com plain about that. There’s a lot of restaurants and hairdressers that will lose a lot of mon ey from now and until then. Our bus iness has been protected so I am astonishingly grateful for that .” Despite what has been a terr ible year for the industry ther e have been positives and there is hope for the film industry ’s future. Independent cinemas hav e been attracting new aud iences with more people watching inde pendent and UK made film s. With sell-out screenings, indi es have accumulated waves of new customers. An example of the success of independen t cinema is Rose Glass’s British feature, Saint Maud, released Octobe r 23rd, which topped the UK box office following its release .

Pre-pandemic saw the pas t decade averaging higher box office admissions than the prev ious, showing there is still a growing desire for the magic of the big screen. Tony Mundin and others like him are hopeful for the future of cinema: “We’ve got to think about the future of the indu stry and sustaining it. Loo k, I’m procinema, it’s what I do. I love it, I genuinely love it and I don ’t think it’s ever going to be replace d and we’ve got a future.”

Words - Tom Collinson Design - Esme Greaves


Words - Victoria Thiele Design - Daniel Weekes


TEARING THE WORLD TO SHREDS Manchester collage artist Clementine Lawrence reflects on her artform in the age of disruption.

Football matches in empty stadiums are being broadcasted with recycled cheers from happier times. Lancashire goats are making a small fortune with cameo appearances in video conferences. What doesn’t belong together grows together in this pandemic. As the world is torn to shreds, our attempts to patch it back together sometimes yield results of a surreal beauty. This disruption of reality as we know it is reflected in the collages of Manchester artist, Clementine Lawrence. Clementine, 21, is a photographer, collagist and social anthropology student based in Manchester. aAh! speaks to Clementine about surreal children’s books, political art, and creativity as a last resort to stay sane when nothing makes sense.

Originally you were a photographer. How did you get into collages? Some of the first art I did when I was younger was collage. My dad is an art teacher. He had books around the house and I had seen some cubist things, so I used to cut up magazines and make weird distorted faces. I like how accessible and easy it is. I like cutting things up that haven’t previously gone together and sort of mushing them all together in a surrealist way. I still do photography. But because I like photographing people I used to just go out and there were loads of people around and I photographed them. Obviously that is not the case anymore, so I kind of moved into other things.

What does it mean to you to be creative in a pandemic? To me being creative in a pandemic is the time I find a space where I can sit and create whatever it is I want to, without any pressure of ‘I have to produce something’. I find being creative very grounding. I often feel quite anxious or stressed, so being creative pulls me back to earth a little bit where I can take time to clear my head and just do something that brings me a lot of joy.

Would you say it’s a way to keep some sanity in these crazy times? Yeah, exactly!

What inspires you to create your collages?

I like a lot of children’s books and illustrations. There is an illustrator called Shaun Tan. He does these really weird surrealist illustrations where things in the landscape don’t look like they should be there. And then I just look at surrealist art. I scroll through the Internet, I look in books and then I play around in Photoshop and piece things together until I get something that I like.

Your images are surrealist – with one exception. Can you tell us more about your school meal collage? Oh, yeah! I was thinking of that image of Ed Miliband where he is eating that sandwich. And then I started thinking about that in relation to the school meals.

I remember reading about how taxpayer money actually goes into funding meals at Parliament. I was thinking that is so ironic and I just wanted to make a collage about it. I made that one very quickly because I was very annoyed about it and it sort of came out through that. I would like to create more work about current issues.

Do you have a vision of where you want to go with your art? I’ve been selling my prints and I was actually surprised how many people like them. I would send them to people I didn’t know as well which was really exciting. I’m not sure where I want to go. I do it as a sort of refuge at the moment because I can’t really do a lot of other things. I feel like just making things creative makes me feel productive and it keeps me going a little bit. Follow Clementine Lawrence on Instagram @clementinesphotos


Clementine Lawrence


Clementine Lawrence



A literary magazine born in disruption - creating throughout the pandemic

“No one stops creating things just because we can’t go outside.”

- Brandon Bennett, BRAG editor-in-chief

Since January 2020, Manchester-based literary magazine BRAG have found success after the publication of their first issue Where Has It Gone, featuring poetry, short stories, interviews, and ‘smoke-long’ horror. It would be erroneous to assume the success of BRAG stops there. They went on to release their second issue Anything Human, a process which went a lot smoother than the first issue and worked “like a well-oiled machine”, as editor-in-chief Brandon Bennett phrased it. Late on a bleak Wednesday evening, aAh! sat down for a casual, virtual chat with Brandon to find out how the pandemic had disrupted the publishing process of BRAG.

While sipping on a citrusy IPA, Brandon told us: “Within the first issue, we were faced with a lot of communication barriers.” These barriers were the result of online communication with industry professionals, which delayed the issue by three weeks. Like many independent businesses trying to establish themselves, the marketing of BRAG was increasingly difficult with the shift to online spaces. “We would have loved to have done launch events, and gone to literary festivals to show off what we’ve done,” said Brandon. Instead of physically launching and promoting BRAG, Brandon revealed social media, particularly Twitter, was a huge help. Through Twitter, editors were able to communicate with writers who they admire and have managed to expand their readership to both America and India. The BRAG editors say they have ‘stepped it up a gear’ for issue II and indeed, they have. This latest instalment features poetry from Canadian poet, Karen Solie, Welsh poet, Lowri Williams, and art by Luby Cunningham, as well as a new ‘smoke-long paranoia’ section. The full-colour artwork on the front cover is by the mysterious artist Miles Lounsbach.

Words - Holly McKay Design - Jessica Wise

37 LITERATURE: BRAG MAGAZINE The idea to create a literary magazine emerged after Brandon and BRAG’s poetry editor Will S Barnard started a poetry society independent from university. Brandon recalled: “We came to the conclusion, through doing this we could create a magazine and nothing happened for two years.” Brandon recognised the magazine came to fruition by surrounding himself with the right people who he could rely on to develop and finish the project.

“BRAG is a tangible work of art and has been enjoyed all over the world, it’s the work of people who love what they do,” said Brandon.

For those of you who who have a burning desire to know what BRAG stands for, Brandon simply replied: “Ask me next time.” When asked if Brandon thought the disruption of the pandemic and lockdown had actually pushed the team to crack on with the production of BRAG, he said: “It probably would have happened anyway, but not in the same way. I’m glad it’s happened the way it has.”

In our digital world, BRAG is unique, the magazine does not have an online publication. It is refreshing to have a magazine which is, as Brandon puts it “of the highest quality”. Works of art are all bound perfectly together on high-quality paper. Brandon added: “Printing something of such value, honours the work that’s inside. Despite the difficulties, the pandemic, Brandon told us, was a force for good. “We suddenly found ourselves with no distractions, we could force ourselves to sit down and write which helped the process.” He added, “No one stops creating things just because we can’t go outside.” For those of you who still have a burning desire to know what BRAG stands for, Brandon simply replied: “Ask me next time.”

The future looks very promising for BRAG, as Brandon revealed his long-term goals for the literary magazine. “In the long term we would like to branch out into pamphlets, conduct workshops, and become sort of an institution,” he said.

Buy your copy of BRAG at bragwriters.com




would you stay still & breathe as peaceful as a skull… for these are the days you’ll only find yourself through the thin thread of sunlight gently darting into the idle boughs there is you storm, water, gossamer lights, striving to make their rainbows, for the winter months of blackouts, the spinning of icicles in your spleen you are learning to survive/remember the meaning of each hue/cramp inside your glass cubbyhole you carry a stone, swing from the past & let yourself out of the bolts crashing into the lobe of a sister returning from the crumbles of Troy turning a blunt blade on her sunken shoulder she pierces you with a big laugh. GRACE! that is all you get. Have the machete now take the leech down from the cross.

Design - Esme Greaves

Gabriel Awuah


Wings Maria Lykke Salling

We’re building a fence now, to Germany. To keep the wolves out they say. This is not a metaphor they say. Why are people afraid here? A plane can take you anywhere it took me away from white picket fences, white fingers, white rabbits, white crosses We have washed the streets clean wiped the slate clean Here’s our country. Have it. Did you know it’s still legal to kill a Swede if he walks on the frozen sea towards you Where is your home? How many countries have you lived in? How many floors did your feet scuff? How many walls desperately covered in quotes? Is this but another pavement broken by a people that isn’t yours? A plane can take you anywhere Men mit hjerte (But my heart tænker kun på only dreams of vinger wings)


Ghazal locked down

By Bethan Roberts

The path ahea d is fogged b ut we’ll begin if we must be together locked down, let’s be locked in together. Money’s low. We’ll work at finding work. We bind our ho pes up – shin ing, cobweb-t hin – togethe r. I aim for streng th and yet un peel my flesh displaying dem ons, massing under skin to gether. Alone I’d let m yself get lost in doubt, but our lives are fa stened by a sa fety pin toget her. New neural p athways burst . I’ll heal for us shuffle Spotif y, let’s sway an d spin togethe r. This year, this house again m ust be our city things break – and fall apart, but we’re with in: together.

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Design - Rebecca Dyson



Growing West By Ryann Overbay

uns dogs. G ig b e th r head. run with er wicke anted to h w n g trails o ly n d o . Blazin She erche s p le t o a s h Straw orcelain on the roaring. ith her p choking w r, t e s u th d a le up ting in cracked Kicking dies rus d o n b a l r ta e e t rubb tons, m of burn ut skele o d ie r d of smoke eteries. ee cem tr w o ll ark. the ye trailer p e th n w o rds. shake d ing boa to tt d ro te e n th wa e ry apart She only out th leum. P o n li e body th r e n d tt a a te ir d as Sh s salty a her w rd a w e z to e nd st Sque d hats a a fist we te it it p n s k o s T toward cracks. in, north k s d e n ins. darke mounta d e p p ti st and cocaine anity, lo m u h t s inate pa scream . To illum le to p d o e te p wan arking usks of She only ated sp nt-out h e r h u b t, n e s e here sc tho somew w slow losing, g lo n e li a th ir h p s ld wit ing and the wor er spinn h g in d n pine, se p. r doorste e sweet. h to s er scales, t the riv istorted to direc d : d th te a n e a w en ek at lons. Pe d peer b She only n ta a e s d r la te e wa uty and d razorb Lift up th r of bea iscarde d te s , s lu n b fi e ted e and th fragmen the shin d n a n the moo . as hers se asp clo wish it w ard to g h lk ta u to es ntil die low t escap s to la t e u s o e er th ket and To sputt hite pic through w ip f k o s s ip am reen. ing fl e and g r old dre it and sw fo h g w t in e h k her ac ket. pic they left hite pic w d n a toes reen minnow f green. g O . g n the feeli til the out. Un to cradle e d id te s n in a wing w m and gro g her fro She only g in in h th tc a e ers str and bre ld could and fing g, living the wor in in th g a n ti s n wa f the wa wanting nd all o a g in h g is. and lau are to th p m o c r neve

We are always looking for student writers, editors, social media marketers, illustrators, designers, filmmakers and photographers on an ongoing basis to help make aAh! an informed, inspiring, witty and opinionated collection of student voices and talent that make our city brilliant. Get in touch.

RUPAUL’S DRAG RACE WERQ THE WORLD TOUR Manchester AO Arena 14/05/21 The official RuPaul’s Drag Race World Tour returns to Manchester. This unmissable show includes stars from the latest US, UK, and Canadian seasons who journey their way through some iconic periods of time to find their way back to 2021.

THE KITE RUNNER The Lowry 18-22/05/21

WHATS ON @ MMU STUDENT UNION theunionmmu.native.fm

The Lowry presents Matthew Spangler’s theatrical adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s novel, The Kite Runner. Based on Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel of the same name, this haunting tale of friendship spans cultures and continents and follows one man’s journey to confront his past and find redemption.

MMU Student Union has a packed programme of activities to keep you busy as the term draws to a close and beyond. This spring/summer they’re hosting a range of events including a virtual celebration of an iconic Manchester grassroots music venue, told by upcoming artists through new and reimagined music, a Q&A with women at Manchester Met, and a CSI themed online virtual escape room.

THE MANCHESTER FLOWER SHOW City Centre 26/05 - 06/06/21

ART SCHOOL LIVE artschoollive.co.uk 06/2021

The Manchester Flower Show will be the city’s first major event after re-opening in mid-May and will see Manchester’s street, balconies, lamp posts, bus stops, shop windows and parking bays transformed by the region’s best floristry, produce and gardening talent, alongside a market of gardening products, outdoor accessories and flowers.

Art School Live returns in June with a special two day event. The series of performances and events will be live-streamed from around the Manchester School of Art. Art School Live is a collaboration between students and the technical team at Manchester Met and each show promotes a local band or artist, with production duties carried out by students. Dates coming soon.

NICOLA ELLIS AND RUTH RITHERDON & CO LTD: NO GAPS IN THE LINE Castlefield Gallery 13/06 - 01/08/21 For her first major solo-exhibition, Nicola Ellis presents a new body of work created over the course of a two-year artist placement at Ritherdon & Co Ltd, a family-run manufacturer of specialist steel enclosures in Lancashire. Titled ‘No Gaps in the line’, the Castlefield Gallery show will feature a site-responsive installation, sculpture, painting, drawing, video and photography, all of which harness the rhythms, sounds and materials of the factory floor.

MANCHESTER FESTIVAL OF NATURE lancswt.org.uk/events/ Manchester-festival-of-nature 27/06/21 The much-loved Manchester Festival of Nature is back, but this year they’re going virtual! The Manchester Festival of Nature is a celebration of the wild plants and creatures that inhabit the city and its surroundings. Organised by the Manchester Nature Consortium, it features everyone involved in conservation in the North West. The online event will be streamed live from Heaton Park, Manchester.

SOUNDS OF THE CITY Castlefield Bowl 1-11/07/21 Sounds of the City returns to Castlefield Bowl this summer with a stellar line-up of headliners including Foals, Lewis Capaldi, Kaiser Chiefs, The Streets, Crowded House, Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott, DMA’s and Hacienda Classical.

DON’T TOUCH MY HAIR homemcr.org/production/dont-touch-my-hair Online until 01/08/21 At only five minutes long, Don’t Touch My Hair is a short film which presents a montage of the best performances from the incredible stage show, Hot Brown Honey. HOME have ensured their events provide the option of both caption subtitles and audio description.

THINGS TO DO MANCHESTER PRIDE FESTIVAL manchesterpride.com/festival 27-30/08/21 Manchester Pride Festival is one of the world’s leading celebrations of LGBTQ+ life. The programme of events includes: The Gay Village Party, MCR Pride Live, Manchester Pride Parade, The Candle Lit Vigil, Superbia Weekend, Human Rights Forum, Youth Pride MCR and Family Pride.





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