aAh! Magazine Issue #5

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Featured Artist: Leyao Xia


02 Leyao Xia is currently studying for her MFA in Graphic Design at Manchester Metropolitan University. She is from Chongqing, China, and cites influences of the “Chinese cyberpunk” feel of the city. Her work often features contemporary visuals enmeshed with folkloric tradition. Leyao refers to her own art style as “retro-futurism”. In her latest project, Leyao found freedom of expression in the digital world. Falling into the rabbit hole of 3D modeling and rendering, Leyao discovered a limitless world of CGI, which allows her daydream to develop freely. Heavily inspired by traditional Chinese poetry and tales, she built digital and oriental dreamscapes without worrying about logic - from the lotus thriving in the corridor, to a city floating above the water. Leyao conducted this project with a desire to escape into a free and dreamlike world, and the highly imaginative architectural constructions she created also invite all the viewers to dream with her. Follow Leyao’s work at @leyaoxia.

Cover Artist: Lisa Silva


Top 15 (Mostly) Free Things to do in Manchester


The Rising Counterculture of Alternative Lifestyles

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Erasing a Cultural Landscape

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Natasha March: “I was born in protest”



Finding Freedom from Stigma and Shame


Leeds Festival

DMA’S on Finding Freedom in Music

OCD: Disorder, Not Description

Grey Pride: Growing It Out and Not Giving a Shit


Opinion: The Free Marketplace of Ideas is Shutting Up Shop


Q&A: Charlotte Curran


Booktok and the Lockdown Book Boom


Freelancing in the Creative Sector


Book Reviews


Opinion: Britney Spears’ Conservatorship


aAh! Call for Submissions


Freedom: Creative Writing


Heads Hp: Listings


Natalie Carragher


Ryann Overbay


Alka Tiwari Camilla Whitfield Debbie Alty Eddie Toomer McAlpine Ellie Croston Georgina Hurdsfield Helena Heaton Jack Taylor Jenny Li Kerry Power Nathan Eckersley Robbie Drepaul Sam Rye Tom Collinson


Aaron Lembo Alice Stevens Jane Ashworth

Website: www.aah-magazine.co.uk Email: aAh.editor@gmail.com Social: @aAh_mag Telephone: 0161 247 1951 Address: aAh! Magazine, Manchester Metropolitan University, Geoffrey Manton Building, M15 6LL

Kiah-Azriel Freer Leyao Xia Linda Cosgriff Paul Fahey Sarah Lane CREATIVE DIRECTOR

Tanisha Rout


Daniela Lupton-Páez Laufey Gudnadottir Lisa Silva

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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

Nicola Broadbent

expressed within this publication do not necessarily

Sophie Wisedale

represent the views or opinions of Manchester

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, spotlights, interviews, previews, reviews, poetry, flash fiction, art, and photography. Welcome to The FREEDOM Issue.

There is an assumption among much of the Western world that freedom is an inherent aspect of life. For many, growing up with the freedom to say, do, and act as we like is a privilege often overlooked.


It is because of that privilege that we may not notice the internal struggles

that others face or the ways that the trappings - often invisible - of race, religion, gender, or sexuality inhibit the freedom of others. We may not notice the silencing of marginalised voices or pay attention to the lack of freedom that exists outside of our own experiences.

The truth is, freedom comes in many forms and in varying degrees, so does oppression, marginalisation, and disempowerment. There isn’t a single person I know who is entirely free. Everyone feels fettered by something. Whether it is internal, external, personal, emotional, societal, or political, we each have our own battles. Given the political and societal landscape of the last few years, and especially now, as lockdown restrictions ease and we are beginning to regain what freedoms we lost during the pandemic, we at aAh! Magazine felt it was time to examine what the word ‘Freedom’ means, collectively and individually. From personal stories of creative freedom to political stories that highlight the lack of freedom among communities, The FREEDOM Issue aims to shine a light on the experiences of others to help construct a bridge of commonality. We hope that this issue will give you something to think about, we hope that it will connect with you. But we also hope that hearing the stories of others will help break the bonds that are keeping you from finding your own version of freedom. Sincerely, Ryann Overbay On Behalf of the aAh! Editorial Team 7 | The Freedom Issue



Manchester made a name for itself in the 19th century with its forward thinking industrialisation and textile trade. Now the city is well known as a cultural hub, with a rich sports history and nightlife. Named a UNESCO City of Literature, credited with founding the world’s first professional football league, and home to the UK’s first public library, Manchester has a plethora of attractions and activities to see and do whatever your interests. Whether you are skint, frugal, or just trying to save some pennies, there is plenty going on in and around Manchester that won’t break the bank. We’ve compiled a list of some of the best things to do on a budget whatever your personality or preference may be.





The Portico Library

Established in 1806, the Portico Library houses a collection of over 25,000 books spanning more than 450 years. The library is free to enter and offers a wealth of events, exhibitions and workshops open to all. The historical Mancunian institution founded the Portico Prize, which celebrates written work that best evokes the spirit of Northern England. With its fascinating history and beautifully arranged collection and exhibitions, the Portico Library is well worth a visit.


Central Library


Manchester’s Central Library just edged out the John Rylands Research Library to become the second-largest public library in the UK. It offers a host of events and cultural programmes including: gigs, film nights, performances, and open-mic sessions. But even if you don’t manage to make it to a live event, the individual reading spaces are just as entertaining. MCL boasts a media lounge, the British Film Institute Archive, the Henry Watson Music Library, and a children’s library, as well as a thousand nooks, crannies and bookshelves to get lost in.

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John Rylands Research Library

The John Rylands Research Institute and Library is home to several special collections from the University of Manchester Library. After opening its doors in 1900, it is now the third largest academic library in the UK, and regularly hosts exhibits, lectures, and conferences. The building itself has been dubbed a prime example of neo-Gothic architecture and is a must-see attraction in its own right.

Design: Laufey G




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The Lowry

The Lowry is located in MediaCityUK near Salford Quays and offers a range of free and paid for activities. Home to one of the largest LS Lowry collections in the country, theatre performances, creative activities and workshops, it is a great place to spend the day. The Lowry offers a wealth of digital art exhibitions including the Quays Culture programme featuring temporary virtual displays around Manchester.



Irwell Sculpture Trail at Salford Quays

While you are visiting the Lowry, why not pop over and see some of the sculptures that make up part of the Irwell Sculpture Trail? The trail runs from Salford to Bacup and features over 70 pieces of sculpture art by local, national, and internationally renowned artists. The artwork at the Salford Quays was created as part of a community engagement project meant to explore the history and heritage of the Salford Docks, making it both educational and eye-catching.

Manchester Art Gallery

Located in the city centre, Manchester Art Gallery houses a public collection of over 46,000 pieces of fine art, craft and design and costume which span more than six centuries. What’s more, the gallery has introduced several new and exciting exhibitions to explore post-lockdown. These include Constellations: Care and Resistance, exploring Jade Montserrat’s previous works on race, language, and the body, and Suzanne Lacey: Uncertain Futures and Cleaning Conditions, exploring themes of labour, gender and migration status. 9 | The Freedom Issue




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Imperial War Museum North

The Imperial War Museum North is an award-winning, immersive museum experience designed by Daniel Libeskind. The layout is intentionally unsettling and unusual, forcing viewers to take an active part in their experience. The two exhibition halls, one of which is permanent while the other houses temporary exhibitions, offer a timeline from 1914 to the present day, and include digital shows projected on the walls to bring the museum to life.

The Museum of Science and Industry The Museum of Science and Industry offers an in-depth look at the way the industrial revolution has shaped Greater Manchester and the North. Explore one of the largest collections of working steam mill engines and learn about the booming 19th century Manchester textile industry. The museum is built within Liverpool Street Station, which is the Manchester terminus for the very first passenger train. Head upstairs to try your hand at the various games and challenges the museum has to offer, and take a walk through the ever-changing special exhibitions on display.


The People’s History Museum

The People’s History Museum is an interactive and well-designed space which examines the 200-year-old story of British democracy. Wander through winding exhibition rooms which showcase important snippets from British history including memorabilia from the Trade Unions, the suffragette movements, and the Labour and Communist parties in Great Britain. Enticing activities along the way offer ways to directly engage in the history, and the changing exhibition rooms on the lower floors house unique social contemporary artwork and photography.


10 11 Manchester Donkey Sanctuary

Manchester Donkey Sanctuary is the perfect day out for animal and nature lovers alike. Located just 35 minutes outside of the city centre, the sanctuary offers visits and donkey assisted learning services. You can visit, meet and even adopt the donkeys to help with the sanctuary’s conservation efforts and upkeep. The sanctuary is open every Saturday and will be opening its doors on the first Sunday of each month from November, 2021.

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Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens

Located in Didsbury, Fletcher Moss Botanical Gardens were donated to the people of Manchester in 1919 by philanthropist Alderman Moss. If you’re interested in getting away from the city and into nature, the gardens are a great option, offering stunning rock features, views of the River Mersey, and beautiful foliage and charming flower arrangements. Take a walk through the gardens to uncover mini waterfalls, giant palm trees, and picturesque ponds just a stone’s throw away from central Manchester.

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Northern Quarter Graffiti Tour


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Heaton Park

Covering over 600 acres of land, Heaton Park is the largest municipal park in Europe. Take a stroll through the park to see the 18th century country house Heaton Hall, or rent a boat to take out on the lake. The park is packed with events all year long, including concerts, operas, and plays, making it a haven for arts and culture fans. You’ll quickly discover there’s more to Heaton Park than picnics and Parklife Festival. It sports an animal centre, a tram museum, golf course, and much, much more.

It’s well known that the Northern Quarter is home to some of the most vibrant and upbeat shops, cafes, and pubs in central Manchester; if you’ve walked through it, you may have already spotted a mural or painted advertisement along the way. Many of the most spectacular and large-scale murals in the city were painted as part of the Cities of Hope festival, which aimed to highlight social injustices and raise money for local charities. Why not take an afternoon to search out some of the more impressive pieces of art in the city, and treat yourself to a coffee or pint after?

The Frog and Bucket (£3 for Students)

This award-winning comedy club offers a range of big names and small names alike as part of their ongoing line-up. But for those looking to save some money, The Frog and Bucket hosts Beat the Frog, a Monday night open mic night, which sees the audience participating in the show, making it both brutal and hilarious. At only £3 for students, the show is a great way to spend the evening. Who knows, you might even help discover the next big name in comedy.


Matt and Phreds

(Free Entry, Happy Hour Discounts)

Located in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, Matt and Phreds has been hosting live shows for nearly 30 years. Starting out as a jazz venue, the atmospheric basement club has expanded to embrace a variety of genres, and has hosted the likes of Adele, Jamie Cullum, and the Dagda Quartet. Matt and Phreds offers live shows with free entry on Mondays and Thursdays. Showing up during happy hour and buying two drinks will also get you a free pizza!

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By Ryann Overbay Design: Daniela Lupton-Páez

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Victoria Pit Mooring sits in an idyllic spot along the Macclesfield Canal in Stockport, Greater Manchester. Hemmed in by fields of livestock, and the bustle of dog walkers and cyclists, it’s hard not to be charmed by the scenery and the rustle of water against the hulls of the docked boats. The atmosphere is easy-going, almost tranquil, and the feeling seems to extend to the liveaboards and boat owners who have made this place their home. Former liveaboard Chris Maddon, 31, transformed his narrowboat into what is now a full time business space for his holistic treatment centre, ‘Take a Breather with Chris’, in 2017. He says the calming experience of living on a houseboat affected many aspects of his life. “When I moved onto the boat it was like a big weight was lifted because I had to get rid of loads of stuff. Even from a spiritual perspective, I was offloading, and it made me slow down. Boats go slow so if you want to go anywhere, you can’t rush it. It made me stop and reevaluate other aspects of my life,” says Chris. Moving onto his narrowboat, Carpe Diem, was a uniquely freeing experience for Chris. But his decision to make the shift from a traditional to an alternative lifestyle is not unusual. Alternative ways of living have featured in Oscar-winning film Nomadland and Netflix series Tiny House Nation, and photos of small space houses, remodelled buses, and off-grid sustainable lifestyles regularly trend on our social feeds. So, what is the draw? Why are so many young people turning away from traditional lifestyles to test the waters of alternative living? For Chris, it was initially an economic choice. “I was renting, and I got to the end of each month and there wasn’t much left. I wanted to get out of the renting cycle. Why should I be paying all this rent money and paying off someone else’s mortgage for them when I can’t get my own?” says Chris. Housing prices have risen a staggering 173% since 1997, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies. And it’s becoming nearly impossible for adults aged between 24 and 34 years-old to raise a deposit, with the proportion of young adults who would need to spend six months or more of income on a 10% deposit having increased from 33% to 78%.

essentially excluded from owning their own home. The types of properties that they can get tend to be of lower quality, and in general, young people tend to be more insecure in housing,” says Anton. Even those who choose to live transient or alternative lifestyles, often face insecurities in relation to where they can live, and for how long. Bryan Rust, Executive Director of the Community Boating Centre in Washington, USA, has had his share of experiences that have left him with nowhere to go in a very short period of time. “It’s pretty jarring. You feel like you’ve got it all figured out and it’s working and then you’re back to not having access to a toilet, or a shower, or a fridge,” says Bryan. Despite these difficulties, Bryan has never had a property lease. From the age of sixteen he moved onto a houseboat with his parents and has shifted through different forms of alternative housing since then. In university, Bryan lived in a van, depending on friends for access to hot water, cooking equipment, and communal spaces. And after graduating he moved onto a boat in Seattle where he lived for over seven years. Most recently, he has purchased his first tiny home. “I hate the concept of taking a large portion of your budget and giving it to someone else for a resource that I don’t value very much. A bedroom in a house is not very inspiring to me. I’m always trying to sniff out the unconventional option,” says Bryan. Still, he recognises that it’s not for everyone. “It takes a certain character to look at that rule book and say, well it seems like I can bend this. Anyone who is in a small space that is somewhat mobile or not entirely in line with the law, I think that character type will inherently be more comfortable with instability. There is a huge subset of the population that would never feel comfortable with that looming over their head,” says Bryan. Anton notes the difficulties that laws and regulations create for those living nomadic, traveller or mobile lifestyles, and the problematic aspects of how public space is treated in the UK, specifically regarding Public Space Protection Orders.

Anton Roberts, a PhD student and researcher for the Policy Evaluation and Research Unit (PERU) at Manchester Metropolitan University, is studying homeless communities in Manchester. Anton acknowledges the difficulties that young people face when seeking out home ownership.

“PSPOs give any local authority or council the ability to exclude people from public areas based on very debatable criteria. Any behavior that is deemed improper or anti-social, which is very subjective, is grounds to forcibly remove people from a given public area. It’s so wide and so problematic,” says Anton.

“Any young person in their 20s and 30s is

Because of his age, and his lack of

ties with Victoria Pit Moorings, Chris faced his own challenges when he first decided to live aboard his boat. “To get on a marina like this can be tough because it’s such a close-knit community. They want to know who you are. And, if you are living on it, there’s also some ambiguity of ‘should’ you be living on it. It depends on the mooring license you have. When I lived on the boat, I couldn’t get a residential mooring so I had to get a linear mooring. I hoped that someone wasn’t camping out watching me seven days a week,” says Chris. The good news is that for many young people, the draw of alternative living is not always a complete and permanent change, but often more of a stepping stone, a way of sidling into the traditional life through nontraditional means. Chris originally intended to sell his boat to help secure a deposit on a house but was able to keep the boat as a business. He has recently purchased his first home with his partner, largely because of the money he saved while living on the boat. “I finally got onto the property ladder, but I never would have made it without the boat,” says Chris. Bryan estimates that while living on his boat in Seattle he saved five to six thousand dollars in rent and could have sold the boat for more than he had paid for it. He plans to purchase a plot of land and upgrade his tiny home to a small home when he is able to. “These individuals, they are becoming critical of the status quo norms of what a good life is supposed to be,” reflects Anton. “Those social expectations can be quite stifling for a lot of people, far too constrictive. It’s a bit of a counterculture. I can see why you would be attracted to that lifestyle, it has improvements on the way that we live now.” Certainly, the ability to pack up your house and move is an intoxicating idea for many, while the draw for others may be the community ties in smaller alternative living spaces, the escape to nature, or the financial freedom that these lifestyles offer. Chris believes that everyone wants to eventually own the traditional home, but it’s just not realistic through traditional means. “My view on it is if society didn’t cost so much, you wouldn’t be forced to try these different ways of living,” he says. “If you could get a house nice and easy, with your comfortable central heating and your big garden, people would do it. You can’t penalise someone for having to find another way to live.” 13 | The Freedom Issue


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Design: Laufey G


here are so many ways to define the New Traveller community. It’s larger than having wheels on your house, and it’s certainly larger than just moving a lot. I don’t feel defined by my nomadism, but I definitely identify as a New Traveller now,” says Amy*, who has been living out of her van since the 1990s. Amy was in university when she and a few friends bought a Ford A series bus and drove to Ireland to join the road protests that were taking place across the country at the time. What was meant to be a short experience, turned into a way of life. “I found myself in a van because it just made more sense in many ways. A big part of my identity as a traveller is living on occupied land. Living on land that’s unused and helping to take care of those spaces. I realised that it’s really a positive way of life for me,” says Amy.

“This Bill is directly targeting Gypsy and Roma communities and attempting to wipe their culture out of the British landscape. But there are also other bills going forward at the moment that are equally as shocking as this one. It all dovetails. It’s about clamping down on Gypsy Travellers and their culture, but it is also about clamping down on anyone who is living outside of the social norms,” says Amy. Amy has started her podcast, I Choose the Road, in an attempt to raise awareness about the effects the proposed bill will have on travelling communities, but also to help educate the public about the wider issues that these communities face. She adds: “They wouldn’t take our homes if we left when they told us to leave, we still have the chance to go, but the question becomes where do we go?” Friends of the Earth campaigner, Danny Gross says: “The harm that will be inflicted on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities by the government’s policing bill is one of its most worrying aspects. Through a new trespass offence, nomadic lifestyles will be criminalised because police will have the power to confiscate vehicles deemed to be residing illegally.

Amy is one of many who identify as a New Traveller, a community of nomadic people, distinct from the ethnic Roma and Gypsy communities, but with many of the same shared experiences and concerns. One of the latest issues that these communities have been attempting to raise awareness about is the proposed Police Crime and Sentencing Bill, which has gained some backlash due to its proposed regulations on protests. What hasn’t garnered much attention among the public is the new regulations which will affect travelling communities across the UK.

“When there are already so few places to legally and safely stop, it’s likely this will have a devastating impact on the lives of Gypsies and Travellers, whose entire homes and belongings could be seized.”

“They have always had the power to evict us, ever since the 1993 Criminal Justice Act, which gave the police a lot of power to deal with people occupying land that wasn’t theirs. The difference now is that the terms they can use to tell us to leave are much broader and more vague. In a way your home could have been at risk before, but it feels much more stark now,” says Amy.

“There are permanent sites and transit pitches, but the amount is woefully inadequate for those looking for authorised sites, and each year, the number of authorised pitches gets smaller. They are in the most horrible places as well. Really industrial spaces, next to motorways. It’s like the council is saying, ‘Oh, they [travellers] can go there because no one else wants to be there,’” says Amy.

The Bill had its third reading in Parliament on July 5, 2021. According to the Policy Paper provided by the UK Government, Section 4 of the proposed Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill will give police the power to ‘seize property (including vehicles) where individuals reside or intend to reside on land with a vehicle.’ The bill goes on to state that even those who are ‘likely to cause significant damage, disruption, or distress (including anti-social behaviour),’ will be participating in a criminal offence.

She adds: “People don’t realise how much positive stuff comes out of our community. In terms of the arts, music, poetry. People from our culture contribute to society in ways that no one sees. So many people I know work in social care and volunteer. So many people from our world are out there working with refugees on the front line. We are using our skills of being able to set something up anywhere.”

It is the use of words like ‘likely’ and ‘intend’, as well as the extension of control from government bodies to regular citizens, which has caused an outcry among travelling communities. “There is entrenched mistrust for travelling communities, and the vagueness of the language in this bill means that all of the biases against traveller communities can be played out very easily. It doesn’t even have to come from the police. The landowner could say ‘I believe you have the intent to reside here and damage something.’ So, a civilian has the power to criminalise our actions, that is a big deal,” says Amy. Amy, and many others in UK nomadic communities, feel that the proposed bill is directly targeting underrepresented communities across the UK.

Data compiled by The Guardian indicates there are 4999 authorised traveller pitches in England, but according to 2020 data provided by the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government, there are 22,710 caravans currently in the UK.

Amy hopes that her podcast can help illuminate the contributions that travelling communities make to society, as well as the issues that this policing bill raises, and she is not alone. “What’s been happening now is that the travelling communities have been trying to engage in positive cultural representation. We’re saying, ‘Hang on a minute. We’re here.’ There are so many negative stereotypes and assumptions such as rubbish and flytipping, that just aren’t true. It’s just people trying to live their lives with less and less space to do it in,” says Amy. “The more that people can start to understand that… The more that they see Travellers as people, and stop complaining about them, the less impact this bill will have.” *Interviewees have requested to be referred to by first name only to protect their privacy. 15 | The Freedom Issue

by KiAh-AzriE Photography: Caleb Nelson Design: Lisa Silva 16 | The Freedom Issue

l FrEEr

Human rights activist, Natasha March, shares her experiences of racism in the UK, activism post-Kill The Bill and what freedom means to her.


ollowing months inside due to the pandemic; the summer of 2020 saw an unprecedented number of people take to the streets to march for Black Lives Matter. Since then, protesting has become more accruent and youth activism is on the rise, as our generation calls for a more fair and equal society. Natasha March, a human rights activist based in Manchester, is no stranger to adding her voice to the fight for a better world. Throughout her career, March has worked closely with marginalised groups to tackle issues of racism, refugee housing, and displacement of aboriginal groups. Most recently, she has been involved in the Black Lives Matter movement, Free Palestine and Kill the Bill protests. A PhD student and former teacher, Natasha has also worked in education with youth offenders and continues to be an educator on racial conflict and decolonisation, as well as hosting her podcast, Decolonise Your Mind. “I think the minute I was born I was in protest,” says March. “I was born in very adverse circumstances; being a brown baby born into a white family and then being adopted out because of racism.” She continues, “I wrote poetry at a young age about the racism I had experienced. I really found my calling at university, where I began to be critical of what was around me.”

BRITAIN'S PAST As an educator and a mother, March feels very strongly about how young people are educated about Britain’s colonial past. Discussions on whether or not this topic should be taught to children has been widely debated since the Black Lives Matter protests which saw a statue of Edward Colston toppled. Many British Black and Asian individuals have been calling on Britain to acknowledge the historical atrocities they have committed and to confront the impact this still holds within the UK today. “Why are we not taught the history of the West?” asks March. In February 2021, the Minister for Schools Nick Gibb rejected calls for compulsory lessons to teach children about empire and British involvement in the slave trade. The petition, titled ‘Teach Britain’s colonial past as part of the curriculum’ received more than 268,000 signatures, was dismissed with claims it would risk “lowering standards” by taking away from teacher’s “professional autonomy” to choose what they teach. Launched by students Esmie Jikiemi-Pearson and Nell Bevan, the petition stated: ‘Now, more than ever, we must turn to education and history to guide us. But vital information has been withheld from the people by institutions meant to educate them. By educating on the events of the past, we can forge a better future.’ “The new generation has come up and they’ve really helped to spearhead the message I’ve been talking about for the past 20 years,” says March. “This older generation are so angry trying to cling onto upholding the patriarchy that they don’t want to let go of... but times are changing.”

KILL THE BILL Times are changing but recently we’re seeing the power of public protest come under threat. In March 2021, the Kill the Bill movement began in response to The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill, which proposes the introduction of new policing powers on protests and protestors. This includes a sentence of up to 10 years in prison for damages to statues and memorials. The Bill will give police powers to implement restrictions on protests and even decide whether protests can go ahead. The PCSC Bill has also added new provisions on trespassing, concerning both the Traveller community and homeless community. March, like many, feels the bill is harmful to the democratic right to protest and is being used against marginalised groups.

people to go out even more. I hope that we carry on until a new enlightened political party comes in which will actually represent people of colour and the LGBTQ+ community. That’s who I’d like to see leading this country, not old white Christian men.” Activist groups championing change have faced increased scrutiny over the past year from both the government and the media. Global environmental group Extinction Rebellion was branded “extremist” and “criminal” by home office secretary, Priti Patel. Her words sparked an outcry among other groups who fear being branded the same. March is not afraid to challenge Patel’s views. “I’ve got a message for Priti Patel: ‘You cannot eat money. When there’s hurricanes and fires gushing through this world. We want equality, diversity and true racial change and we want to stop killing the planet. There’s nothing terrorist about that.’” March reflects on how damning words of politicians can have a real-world effect. “Priti Patel said that her heroine is Margaret Thatcher. [Thatcher’s views] were the cause of a lot of racism growing up that I experienced.” She adds, “[Priti] is only a few years older than I am and she will remember how horrific it was growing up in Britain if you were brown. For her to say that Margret Thatcher is her hero, she needs to take a long walk back to freedom, reconnect with her ancestors and find out who she is. Her whole career has been built off white man politics.”

TRAUMA ACROSS THE AGES Generational trauma and the stigma around mental health in the black community is another key issue that March has been speaking on since her time as a teacher. To know where you come from is a fundamental human right: “If you don’t know where you come from, you lose your sense of navigation, you lose your sense of self.” She continues: “I would like to see more accountability from the British government and that’s why I talk about slave reparations. I want to see more mental health services amongst the African diaspora and the Black British in this country.” For March, the lack of empathy the government has for Black British communities is astounding. “Having white oppressors deny our trauma [is] traumatising in itself. These groups of removed people have all suffered lateral violence, unemployment and low literacy levels. That’s not a coincidence, it’s called being removed and oppressed.” She adds, “I’m very interested in [finding ways to] restore that generational trauma so that we can feel equal. The recent government report shows the lack of empathy in principle.” The report in question is the widely debated Education Select Committee Race and Ethnic Disparities report, which saw MPs conclude earlier this year that Britain is no longer a racially-biased country. It suggested words such as ‘white privilege’ are ‘divisive’ and have a negative impact on white working class individuals. In the same week, the Guardian concluded from their own investigation that 60,000 race related incidents have been reported in schools in the past five years. The United Nations called the report “an attempt to normalise white supremacy”. “The word ‘white privilege’ can be confusing. I think for white working class people, they associate privilege with finances and money,” says March. White privilege offers a level of freedom to move through society: “It’s the privilege of not experiencing micro-aggressions such as being refused a bottle of wine in a restaurant, not having to live next [to] a racist neighbour who makes your life hell [and knowing that] the council will do nothing about it. White privilege is not having a constant resistance in white society that’s against you.” The value of freedom is not something that can be easily measured or defined, explains March: “Freedom doesn’t mean physical freedom, it means mental freedom. There is a physical freedom we have in Britain, but is freedom really free? I think for marginalised people freedom means to feel safe in your own skin, and content in your society and not be judged or persecuted against and if that’s the case, we are not free.”

“It’s not going to stop me from protesting,” says March. “I hope this pushes 17 | The Freedom Issue


by KErry PowEr

18 | The Freedom Issue


was heartbroken and, for a long time, I felt so ashamed,” says Rose*, who, seven years earlier, faced the toughest day of her life. Few of us can imagine what it is like to deal with an unplanned pregnancy after being raped as a young teen. But this was Rose’s reality. After using the abortive suppositories, her body began to expel the pregnancy as she lay alone on a hospital bathroom floor.


Rose, now a 22-year-old student studying in Manchester, reflects on the painful experience she endured seven years earlier: “I was just young, naïve and frightened. I didn’t tell anyone, I went alone. It was really painful, which I hadn’t expected and the whole experience was extremely traumatic. I don’t think people know that.”

Both Rose and April’s experiences demonstrate some of the complex and varied reasons why women may seek abortions and, regardless of the circumstances, how the burden and stigma tends to fall on their shoulders. “There is so much stigma around these issues [sexual assault, underage sex and abortion] and it’s all directed at women,” says Rose.

Frightened by the potential reactions from those close to her, Rose felt like she couldn’t confide in anyone. And she’s not alone. 67% of women in the UK wouldn’t tell family and friends that they had undergone an abortion according to a survey by Marie Stopes International. And just one in three people would tell their family if they were considering terminating a pregnancy.


This stigma is intensified by anti-abortion rhetoric and campaigning groups. In April 2021 the American campaign ‘40 days for Life’ claimed to have ‘saved’ more than ‘500 preborn babies,’ according to their website. The campaign ran from February to March earlier this year and saw ‘Pro-life’ protestors attend clinics in 1,000 cities across 63 countries. The Evening Standard reported how health professionals in the UK branded these protests ‘unthinkably cruel’ and questioned the group’s motives, while calling for legislation to protect those seeking reproductive health services.

UK government statistics also show between January and June 2020, 109,836 abortions were carried out in England and Wales, over 4,000 more than the same period in 2019. Despite more free contraceptive choices available to men and women in the UK than ever, the number of abortions taking place is rising.

There are innumerable situations that lead thousands of women to make ‘that appointment’ each year. These might include poverty, education, fear, the influences of others, responsibility to other children, age, social standing, religion, adultery, health, genetic illness, homelessness, an absence of a want of motherhood, their career or just not being ready.

April Jeffery was 19-years-old when she fell pregnant, despite being on the pill. Citing trauma in her childhood, she had made the decision in her teens not to have children. When the sexual health clinic April received her pill from informed her that she was pregnant she was alarmed by their response.

Despite research by YouGov and Marie Stopes International revealing over 90% of adults in the UK now identify as ‘pro-choice’, many women are still carrying the burden of making this decision alone. Dr Lesley Hoggart, Associate Head of Health, Wellbeing and Social Care at the Open University, specialises in research on this topic and her work focusses on how ways to ‘lift the veil of silence around abortion in the UK’. She advocates for non-judgemental social support and challenging secrecy to reject abortion stigma. Dr Hoggart writes: ‘I’ve seen how attitudes towards abortion, which suggest it is morally questionable or socially unacceptable, can lead women to internalise a sense of stigma and shame rather than accept abortion as a reproductive health issue.’

“They asked me questions like ‘Don’t you want to discuss it with the ‘baby’s’ father?’ and ‘Have you thought about having children?’ I couldn’t understand why they were asking me this,” says April. “I was on the pill so I clearly didn’t want any children, I just wanted to know the next steps. Their response made me feel very isolated; it was like they hadn’t even considered that I may not want a child.”

ISOLATION AND JUDGMENT April underwent a termination at a local hospital and was able to return to work soon after. While April has never regretted the decision to terminate this pregnancy, she shared the memory of feeling judged by hospital staff. “It was as if they wanted me to be crying and hysterical,” says April. “They looked at me like I was cold and cruel. I knew this was the right decision for me, I wasn’t in the right position emotionally or financially to have a baby and I was an adult, so why couldn’t they trust that I’d made the right decision for me?” Immediately after this experience, April decided to go onto the contraceptive injection to avoid the risk of any future pregnancies. Then, at 22, April became ill and was hospitalised, where she was informed that she was 30 weeks pregnant. “Everybody around me was excited, even my partner,” says April. “Nobody mentioned any alternative other than me keeping and raising this child. I was initially devastated, and then just frightened and really lonely. I couldn’t even look at the scan. It was like everyone was on this train moving forward and I was just watching them.” April had taken what she believed to be the necessary precautions to avoid a pregnancy, having decided not to be a mother she found

herself facing motherhood regardless. No one discussed adoption as an alternative with April and, feeling the pressure of societal expectations placed on women, she felt unable to bring this up herself.

ACCESSING SUPPORT Accessing post-abortive support can also be challenging, particularly at the moment due to the increased need for mental health support as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Consultant-led mental health support is covered under the NHS 18-week maximum wait time, however there are also some charities offering free counselling which could be accessed sooner (depending upon area and need). Rose managed to access counselling to help her to deal with the trauma of the experience which continues to help her. She felt a drive to continue studying and pursue her goal of a university education and career. While she doesn’t regret her decision, Rose still thinks about the child that she could have had, particularly when she sees children of the age that ‘her child’ would have been. The circumstances surrounding a decision to terminate a pregnancy are often complex and therefore legislation should reflect this complexity. Rose explains, “Unless you’ve been through it, nobody can know how traumatic the experience can be. Whether you’re 15 like I was, or much older, it’s difficult enough without having to live with the judgement of others, too.” *Names have been changed at the request of interviewees. Design: Lisa Silva

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Interviews Camilla Whitfield Photography Georgina Hurdsfield / Festival Republic Design Sophie Wisedale


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“It’s exciting! You can feel the vibe from when you’re queuing up to get inside. Everyone’s faces are looking a lot brighter than a few months ago.” KWAME AMOAH MENSAH, ITV JOURNALIST

“Everyone’s having the best time. Whatever you do in your normal day-to-day life, you can just leave it behind. Here you can be whoever you want to be for three days of partying.” SUNTA TEMPLETON, JOURNALIST, DJ AND RADIO PRESENTER

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“Every time we come back up North a little bit, we absolutely love the rock scene.” SAM THOMPSON, DRUMMER - BAD NERVES

“You find yourself stumbling across new artists that you wouldn’t check out otherwise and I think that’s the best thing about festivals.” MARK FORRER, FREELANCE VIDEOGRAPHER ROCKSOUND

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“It’s nice to be back. We’ve missed it a lot.” MATTHEW WILLFORD, TOUR MANAGER - THE HUNNA

“I just love the togetherness and seeing people coming together over their love of music.” KATIE OWEN, DJ AND RADIO PRESENTER

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By Camilla Whitfield Design: Daniela Lupton-Páez Photography: Mclean Stephenson

A band that has managed to cultivate a bigger audience in the UK thousands of miles away from their hometown, DMA’S have certainly felt the restrictions on the freedom to travel this year. Formed in Sydney, they’ve successfully built a fanbase on the premise of always staying true to themselves, away from the limits of genre or other people’s misconceptions. The freedom to create music without boundaries and travel the world are both clearly integral to the DNA of DMA’S. Speaking to co-songwriter and guitarist, Johnny Took over Zoom, he is aptly surrounded by an array of musical equipment at his studio in Melbourne. Sporting a black puffer jacket and bleached blonde hair for our chat, DMA’S are no strangers to misjudgements concerning how they dress.

“There’s been times when people thought we were rappers but we just dress how we want to dress and write the music we want to write. We like writing noisy, poppy love songs. I think people appreciate when there’s a certain candidness to the lyrics,” says Took. Commonly referred to as ‘adopted Brits,’ Took believes their connection with the British is largely down to their influences: “You really get the history of music and why it’s so important to the people in the UK. We’re just happy that they have jumped on board.” For Took, finding freedom in music is everything. He says, “If I can wake up and go to the studio, I get back to that feeling that I had when I was a teenager when I first started writing songs. When you start getting lost

in a song that you almost forget yourself; and that’s freedom to me.” Being able to lose yourself on stage and tour the world is a big part of who DMA’S are. One aspect Took has missed the most about touring the UK is meeting new people, especially because he feels that the UK has become such a large part of their identity as a band: “Probably the majority of our fans now are in the UK, even over Australia. We miss meeting new people. I miss playing the songs in front of crowds that are so incredibly passionate about the music.” Took enjoys the freedom multiple shows in one city gives him and his bandmates: “Because all the gear has already been loaded in and you’ve already sound checked you get to just roam and discover. That’s really nice.” Being a tourist in a city is undoubtedly one of the perks of the job. Their Brixton show in London is a clear highlight for the band and they always enjoy exploring Glasgow and Manchester. It’s been over a year since the band released their third studio album, The Glow. On their forthcoming autumn tour, they will perform to a combined audience of 65,000 people. The venue Took is most excited about is The Corn Exchange in Edinburgh: “I’ve never been there. We’ve just released a surprise EP, which is really cool. I’m looking forward to playing some of those tracks on it.” Their latest EP, I Love You Unconditionally, Sure Am Going to Miss You is focused on the close relationship the band has with their fans. “The engineer who was helping us with it was Dylan Adams. He did the first album and EP. It was funny because it was pretty much all of the same musicians, but just seven years down the track,” says Took. The EP offered the band the freedom to go back to their roots, as Took’s love for bands such as Jesus and

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Mary Chain, Oasis, Blur, My Bloody Valentine, and The Verve are broadly known. It contained their first electric guitar ballad in the form of ‘Junk Truck Head F***’ and ‘One Way’ was louder than anything on The Glow. They intentionally wanted to push these boundaries without any pressure. In ‘Viol’, Took can be heard singing and on ‘Junk Truck’, frontman Tommy O’Dell’s voice can be heard for the first time with an electric guitar. Always keeping the old fans in mind, they didn’t want to copy their old work but simply hark back to it. Took says, “It was fun working on this record because we weren’t putting any limitations on ourselves. We wanted to make it really noisy and not just like a traditional pop mix on it, where the vocals and drums are really loud but everything else is foggy. We want the guitars to be really loud again like our old stuff. I think with the response people get that. They understand that’s what we wanted to do.” Luckily though, Took has never felt creatively constricted in his craft, which is partly due to his selfconfessed love of pop music, his producer Stuart Price, and adoration of music equipment: “I record. I like buying gear, and I like having my hands on stuff and pushing my limits.” After already stating that he’d love to help produce other bands, although he may not currently have his eye on any musicians to produce, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen in the near future.

He’s currently planning a potential move to the UK next year to be able to do writing sessions with artists, especially after the success of I Love You Unconditionally, Sure Am Going to Miss You, which was wholly selfproduced. As DMA’S grow, so do their goals and creative boundaries. Although at their core, as Took explains “[DMA’S] are just getting back to that magical youthful feeling of when you were a teenager”. He adds, “We had a naivety to the world when music wasn’t your job then. You could just be completely free. That’s one of my goals, just to stay focused on that and to keep my values in check.”

“I think there’s a lot of good stuff happening out there but there’s a lot more work to be done. I think you should be treating anyone like you’d [want] to be treated, and you never know what people are going to do in the future. That’s why you should always treat people with respect.”

Being in a band is something Took has found difficult at times, with pressure to think about what’s getting played on the radio. While this is important, it’s also something which he’s taken on board as if you write in a certain way, then you can pick the best aspects of different genres. His writing process also takes some inspiration from one of his favourite songwriters, Jeff Tweedy, who writes music between 1am and 3am. Songwriting isn’t Took’s only passion. If he had a day where he could do anything he wanted, he’d like to play a DJ set of his own hardcore dance music: “Just me and a festival with like 50,000 people at midnight. That would be amazing. Just everyone dancing and having a great time.” Looking towards the future, being part of a music industry that provides equal opportunities is the goal: 25 | The Freedom Issue



aybe you’ve said it before in passing, but only once or twice. You might use it to describe a new-found interest in sanitising your hands, or perhaps your friend is emphasising their preference for an impeccably spotless bedroom. Personally, I’ve lost count of the times I’ve heard it from my favourite sitcom characters, positioned as the seemingly perfect punchline. After all, “I’m so OCD!” is not an uncommon turn of phrase. Over recent decades, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) has become synonymous with ‘liking things to be clean and tidy’ - a stereotype facilitated through popular culture and a lack of education. In 2014, The Harleth Journal noted how iconic Friends (1994-2004) character Monica Geller displays a number of OCD-like symptoms, such as buying cleaning products to wash strangers’ dirty cars parked outside her apartment and having 11 different categories for her household towels, all of which are played on for lighthearted, comedic effect. Despite excessive cleanliness being a legitimate symptom of OCD, the misunderstanding surrounding other

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By Alice Stevens Design Sophie Wisedale

obsessions (and how detrimentally they can all impact an individual’s quality of life) has been hugely regressive. Not to mention how it presents further challenges for those living with the potentially debilitating condition. According to OCD Action, OCD impacts 1-2% of the UK’s population, which is approximately 750,000 people. Individuals are subject to distressing thoughts and ‘obsessions’ in which they feel compelled to repeat an action (such as tapping or ‘checking’) until a sense of relief is achieved. Compulsions can also include mental rituals, such as recalling a set of events over and over again or counting until anxious thoughts are ‘neutralised,’ according to OCD UK. Ironically, the more times rituals are carried out, temporarily relieving anxiety, the more the obsessive behaviour is fuelled, according to NHS England. Often this can leave individuals reliant on their compulsions in a progressively dependent and aggressive cycle. Mental health charity Rethink Mental Illness acknowledges obsessions can include (but are not limited to):

contamination, losing control, harm, perfectionism, unwanted sexual thoughts, and religion. Although many of us experience intrusive thoughts during our lifetime, OCD is when these responsive ‘rituals’ begin to interfere with daily life, and encroach on completing everyday activities. The arrival of Coronavirus in 2020 not only exacerbated anxiety for those with contamination-related OCD, but it stunted the education around the condition’s adverse realities. The pandemic provided an uncensored and unforgiving arena for OCD stereotypes to thrive, all within circumstances that made gaining access to genuine support seem more unattainable than ever. Secondary school student Isabel lived with OCD long before her diagnosis in 2020, when her physical compulsions became too obvious to hide. Her obsessions around cleanliness have come to control many aspects of her everyday life, and she finds language and actions surrounding germs, illness and vomiting extremely triggering. Some of Isabel’s compulsions include counting, excessive hand washing and shaking her head repeatedly, causing simple tasks to take significantly longer. She’s one of many whose contamination-related OCD has been impacted by the pandemic. OCD began to have such an opposing impact on Isabel’s life that she found it too anxiety-inducing to attend school. In an attempt to relieve her obsessions and compulsions before they posed a risk to her GCSEs, it was advised that she temporarily attended a school specialising in rehabilitation. She has also recently been prescribed antidepressants, of which her dosage has gradually increased. “I never knew my rituals were linked to a mental health disorder. All I knew was that I had to do certain things a number of times, but I just put it down to anxiety,” she explains. Being all-too-familiar with just how restricting OCD can be, Isabel finds it frustrating that many people aren’t educated around what the mental health problem actually entails. “If I’d been taught about OCD in school, I would’ve spotted the symptoms earlier,” she says. “If so, it may not have affected my life quite as much as it does now.” Retired Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist, Ian Moore, feels that although the stigma surrounding OCD has reduced over time, there is more education and support to be carried out – especially during a particularly triggering time such as the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. “For those people with anxiety about germs, illness or contamination, I’m sure that Covid-19 and the constant messages about cleaning, hand washing, sanitising and wearing face masks must have increased people’s anxiety levels and the severity of compulsive behaviours,” he explains. “A lot of the therapy involves helping them to achieve realistic and reasonable levels of cleaning. It must have been quite a challenge to do that in the face of an ever-changing, yet pervasive, media campaign designed to use anxiety to reinforce sanitising and social distancing behaviours.” Like Isabel, Manchester-based graduate Eleanor has experienced OCD since childhood. Her mental health problems were initially recognised as Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) while she was a teenager, until a particularly influential therapist helped her to achieve the clarity she’d long sought after. Eleanor’s obsessive patterns would frequently evolve

or shift focus, with one ritual involving not being able to leave the house if the passing cars weren’t red, otherwise “something bad might happen”. Other compulsions centred around ‘checking things’, with strict routines including making sure doors were locked, alarms were set and phones were on charge before going to sleep each night. Often finding that these routines didn’t satisfy her anxious thoughts, some nights Eleanor would wake up and feel compelled to check again, to the frustration of both herself and her partner. “I think OCD is often misunderstood in the same way that other mental health issues are. They’re seen as moods that many people experience, rather than a clinical problem that makes everyday life harder,” she says. “In the same way that feeling nervous for an exam isn’t the same as having an anxiety disorder, wanting your room tidy and clean isn’t the same as having OCD.” Eleanor observes how the lack of awareness around OCD is harmful in a multitude of ways. In particular, how the distressing nature of intrusive thoughts (which often manifest around particularly taboo subjects) can hinder people from opening up a conversation for fear of judgement or social ostracisation. Especially as these can be far removed from society’s perceptions of what OCD involves. She recalls a friend, ‘Charlotte’, who experienced intrusive thoughts related to paedophilia. In therapy, Charlotte learnt how obsessions such as this originate and escalate out of fear. Experts, such as Psychotherapist Alegra Kastens have observed that intrusive thoughts are ‘ego-dystonic’ and contrast the individual’s actual ‘desires, values, and self-concept.’ “Sometimes I feel isolated because I understand that – in a sense – I’m being ridiculous,” Eleanor continues. “I don’t know why sometimes things around me don’t feel right, but the obsessive thoughts mean that I can’t rest until things feel ‘normal’ again.” However harmless it may seem to use ‘OCD’ as an adjective, its exploitation can be hugely isolating for those living with the deeply-misconceived mental illness. This concept is frequently discussed by Kastens, who uses Instagram (@obsessivelyeverafter) to advocate for OCD awareness. She recently used her platform to raise awareness of severe OCD’s stark truths in conjunction with September’s Suicide Prevention month, stating: “Education about real OCD is suicide prevention.” This comment follows a 2016 study, published in Molecular Psychiatry, concluding that people with OCD are ten times more likely to commit suicide than the general population. As the UK emerges from solitary confinement into a new dawn - one liberated of legal restrictions - the alleviating of long-standing OCD isolation should be deemed equally as important. In a post-pandemic world: education, awareness and reflection are imperative for deciding what we carry forward into a brighter, more inclusive future, and what is long overdue in being left behind.

“I never knew my rituals were linked to a mental health disorder. All I knew was that I had to do certain things a number of times, but I just put it down to anxiety.” 27 | The Freedom Issue


E by JAN rth Ashwo

Design: Lisa Silva 28 | The Freedom Issue


fter moaning about the time and cost of getting my roots done every two to three weeks, along came lockdown providing the perfect pause from normal life, a cloak to hide under while the grey stain spread across my crown. As it turned out, I wasn’t alone. Walking the dog during the first lockdown, I nodded in recognition at other women who were developing the same tell-tale badger’s parting of shame. At least with a national lockdown we were all in the same boat. All of us unkempt, the playing field had been levelled. Yet, if I passed comment, there was embarrassment that I’d dared acknowledge the Great White Stripe, with some bemoaning how their husbands were attractive silver foxes, while they desperately hunted down at-home hair dye kits. Throughout my thirties I refused to let the glimmers of grey take hold, paying frequent visits to the hairdressers for a semipermanent solution before moving onto the harder permanent stuff once I hit my forties. When a hairdresser advises you to make the most of yourself, it’s hard to resist professional flattery. They make you feel so shiny and new, not as ‘washed out’ as when you first walk through the door. And so, inevitably, when the lockdown lifted and the hairdressers reopened, I had my roots coloured. Initially it gave me that feeling of being on top of things, like when you’ve mowed the lawn, or the bin men have taken your rubbish away. But of course, the rubbish piles up, the grass grows back, and my roots need doing again all too soon. As another lockdown loomed, I found myself back at square one. Round two kicked off after a trip to Cornwall. For the first week, I was Titian. By the second, the stripe was back. This time I was bumping into women who’d stuck to their guns. One such was a dog walker in her late forties. I admired the swathe of grey hair around her face, and she reciprocated, even though my whitish halo was only a centimetre or so. Encouraged, I decided to stop dyeing my hair. Fuck what other people said or thought. I would save time and money and become a silver vixen. I bought Silver Hair: A Handbook, a guide for making the transition to

authenticity. I loved the photos of everyone’s hair at different stages of the journey, culminating in amazing before and after pictures. In the book, colourist Evan Minney proclaims: ‘I’ve never had a client go silver and then turn back to colour. Silver hair has nothing to do with age and everything to do with being confident and loving yourself.’ Knowing I was not alone gave me the confidence to ignore the hair and beauty industries who exhort us to chase eternal youth, and with them the implicit social judgements in language used to describe grey hair. They will try to tell you that distinguished silver foxes like George Clooney or Matt LeBlanc trump the crone every time. That is, until you delve into the meaning of the word ‘crone.’ As a woman enters the age of the crone (once the ageing process has eradicated the years that saw the ‘girl’ become pregnant at twenty-eight heralding in the dawn of ‘motherhood’ for a further eighteen years), a certain liberation from periods and oestrogendriven mothering loosens us up to such a degree that it becomes easier not to give a shit. Why should the natural process of ageing be seen as ‘letting yourself go’ or ‘giving up?’ The age of the crone is nothing less than middle-age, the stage where one becomes the wise woman, powerful and free to do as she chooses, a cause to celebrate silver hair and a second chance to bloom. Without young children to tether us, we can do whatever we like: write, travel, go back to university. We can reinvent ourselves as we see fit, becoming the person we were too busy changing nappies to be twenty, thirty years ago. It seems the tide is turning on this subject. A summer copy of Vogue accompanied a photo of Andie MacDowell at Cannes with these words: ‘Not so long ago, women were taught to dread going grey, […] but it’s now unequivocally the shade du jour. And judging by how good she looked, you’d be a fool not to embrace it.’ Three months in, I am embracing it. By accepting my authentic hair colour and wearing it with pride, I’ve taken another step to being proud of my whole self. The grey hair is a good two inches long, I’m free from the three weekly visits to the hairdresser. All I need now is a pixie cut to unearth my silver treasure. 29 | The Freedom Issue


By Jenny Li Design: Nicola Broadbent 30 | The Freedom Issue


ashion is saturated with fledgling designers trying to make a name for themselves. It has become notoriously difficult for Gen Z creatives to find success in the industry. One designer who has managed to break this trend is Charlotte Curran, 23, CEO of accessories brand ARTEMIS and philosophy masters student. The Great British Entrepreneur Awards 2021 has named Charlotte as a finalist for the Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. She now shares her experience by offering advice and coaching to new potential entrepreneurs and business owners. The talented brand owner talks to aAh! about her experience starting up her business and finding a niche in fashion jewellery. She shares what it’s been like to build a team of like-minded people to help fuel her journey to financial independence, while staying true to her creativity.

Tell us how you got started with ARTEMIS? “I first started ARTEMIS when I was 16. I had just come out of high school and I was working a minimum wage job that I felt was going nowhere. After being fired from that job, I was inspired by a package of jewellery from a small business and thought it would be so cool to do it myself. I started getting it set up that evening. During college and university I had to put everything on the backburner and ARTEMIS became a hobby. I revisited it around last September during lockdown. It hasn’t been very long, but it’s been an absolute whirlwind putting myself full-time into ARTEMIS.”

What has it been like building your business, can you share some of trials and tribulations you’ve encountered in the creation of your brand? “Building from the ground up has been great as I got to learn everything about business. I learnt everything I could about marketing and product development from textbooks. I’m an academic, so I love learning and starting a business gave me that fulfilment of knowledge. Money was holding me back a bit in the beginning. I was anxious to invest because there was no indicator whether it would’ve been worth it. Even looking at my profit now, obviously some months are more lucrative than others like last month, I didn’t even take home a minimum wage. Yet, money wasn’t the main reason I started and money isn’t the thing that will keep me in it - it’s the love for it and the pride of knowing what I’ve built.”

Has the pandemic affected business in any way? “The worst part of lockdown was when I needed help packaging orders. I was starting to build a team, hiring people, but there was no easy way of doing that because you couldn’t have other people you didn’t live with, in your house. I didn’t have an office space at that time and was handpackaging the products for orders on my kitchen table for about nine hours a day. I decided to look into getting an office for my team to come and help out once restrictions eased. This was such a transformative decision! Since then it has been amazing, I still help out but it’s not the nine-hour days for me or the girls and there is an automatic system in place now.”

What has been the main inspiration for ARTEMIS and your products? “Artemis is a Greek goddess. In my undergrad, I had studied philosophy and Greek language and I developed a passion for Greek mythology. Our products are very much based on my love of experimenting with different styles, from gothic to bohemian and wanting to cater to all genders. I wanted it to be all-inclusive.”

Financial independence is a popular topic and goal for our generation, did you think about this when starting your business? “I’m good at saving so I didn’t care so much about getting money because I felt stable in my financial situation. Just getting £25 in revenue a day, I’d be happy. But within two months, we were at over £100 a day. I never really intended for it to be a big money-thing, I just wanted to be my own boss and be creative. That was my intention but now, it sounds kind of cliché. I’m in a position where I do have financial freedom and realised that wasn’t the motivator, but the lifestyle it gives me. That is the best part, the perks of having that freedom, the ability to say, ‘I’m not going into the office today’ or setting my own time to go in, just a flexible lifestyle.”

To read our extended interview with Charlotte Curran visit aah-magazine.co.uk. For more from ARTEMIS follow @artemis. accessories and visit artemisaccessories.co.uk

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THRIVING THROUGH THE END TIMES By Sarah Lane Design Sophie Wisedale

32 | The Freedom Issue

How to succeed as a freelance artist in the post-pandemic landscape: Knit sausages, make zines, and email the people


slim cardboard box opens, revealing six strange shapes. A mix of white and bright rainbow colours made from PLA, a plastic both biodegradable and recyclable. The shapes can be connected in a kaleidoscopic range of ways, possibilities multiplicitous as the minds perceiving them. Jamie-Lee Wainman is unequivocal about the impact of the pandemic on her design for ToBes, a selection of twelve playful tools made to facilitate learning: “The idea for ToBes came from the constraints of the pandemic. If the pandemic hadn’t hit, I wouldn’t have been able to do this design, which I now love.” ToBes began as Jamie-Lee’s final year degree project and evolved into a product she is developing as a freelancer. Following the Manchester School of Art (MSoA) Degree Show and the public’s overwhelmingly positive response to ToBes, Jamie-Lee felt compelled to work her design into a salable product. Parents, teachers and counsellors wanted to buy ToBes to use with the young people they work with. Finding it a challenge to meet the priority of sustainability as well as affordability, she took time to research and source a suitable material that is fully recyclable. The restrictions of the pandemic also unearthed unique considerations for Jamie-Lee’s design. It was important that ToBes could be delivered through a letterbox and not need to be signed for. “Normally, you wouldn’t have to think about

stuff like that,” says Jamie-Lee. With the UK government cutting arts funding for art and design courses across Higher Education by 50% during the pandemic, this drive for creative thinking and innovation is as strong as ever. While the damage of funding cuts has been done, there are pockets of potential to come out of a post-pandemic world. It is these pockets that MSoA project coordinator, Elle Simms, sees successful graduates digging into to expand their profile and portfolio of work. ”Some of the creative practitioners who have found a market throughout pandemic, who will be coming out of the pandemic space on top, are the people who are seeing the potential their creative practice offers them,” says Elle. “Practitioners who understand the value of creative activity on health and wellbeing have been able to work to build connections while we have been unconnected physically through workshops to occupy and support wellbeing.” Elle explains the creatives finding success are those capitalising on side-hustle ideas, and tapping into international markets and audiences. “Practitioners have found ways to expand their audiences, by delivering online they are no longer restricted to who can access the space you run a session in. Now, audiences are diversified, workshops more accessible to a range of people and can be international.” 33 | The Freedom Issue

Jamie-Lee is one of those graduates tapping into this notion of opportunity. During lockdown, without access to university resources, she couldn’t work. Tempted to use her 3D printer at home, tutors advised her not to, encouraging her to use multiple materials instead. But the pull of the 3D printer was too great. She remembers deciding “I’m gonna scrap it, I’m gonna start again”. After a weekend spent brainstorming, Jamie-Lee came up with the shapes and how they would connect. Worried how her tutors would respond, she presented her new design. Their response was positive. “They told me: ‘This is great. This is adapting to the world. This is what we need people to be able to do.’ I’d been so worried they were going to say I’d wasted three months.” 42nd Street, a Manchester charity supporting young people’s mental health, became interested in ToBes and went on to collaborate with Jamie-Lee. Jamie-Lee designed a series of wellbeing workshops centred around her tools for learning to be delivered online with the charity. Packs were sent out to the young people taking part in the pilot project, meaning they could get involved from the comfort of home, yet have a physical object to engage and interact with. Leading this pilot-run as a graduate freelancer, Jamie-Lee was able to see how people interacted with her design and get valuable feedback from the participants. “When you finish uni, it doesn’t stop there,” says musician and teacher Rhona MacFarlane, who graduated from The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland last year and started freelancing during the pandemic. “I thought, ‘I’ve learnt everything now, I’m equipped,’ but then I realised ‘I know nothing. I need to learn more!’” She adds, “You have an idea, but don’t know how to do it. Maybe you don’t know how to get your music more out there, or how to get a label. You might be limited by that mindset. I didn’t expect the answers I got back when I started asking questions.” At Wide Days, a Scottish music industry event for musicians, publicists, and journalists, Rhona met a manager who told her, “You just need to email the people.” Rhona’s surprise is evident, “Really? Am I allowed? Is that the etiquette?” Turns out she is allowed and that very much is the etiquette. “So if you want to be in a quartet and travel, look at other quartets, find who writes about them, where they play, who works with them. Make sure you have all the things you need, your music and maybe some photos. But it’s as simple as that.” Email the people. “Don’t gig for free. Playing a wedding, teaching, providing a service, performing, don’t do that for free. It’s got to be beneficial in another way. Sometimes unpaid things are useful for meeting people. If I want to learn, maybe by going to a conference, I will invest my time,” says Rhona. “As a musician, or an artist of any sort, it’s a good idea to take opportunities while still at uni. You need to keep things growing slowly because it takes a while for freelance work to

build up. It’s hard to go from 0 to 100 in a year.” One of Rhona’s current students is based in Germany. When she was starting out last year, a harp teacher inspired Rhona to think more expansively about her audience: “You have a huge market now, don’t limit yourself to where you are. You have technology and you can teach anywhere.” For Dr Anne Caldwell, freelance writer, poet, and associate lecturer at the Open University, community is crucial. She ventured into the unfamiliar world of online self-promotion at the end of last year, launching her new book Alice and the North. Usually she’d have toured the book across libraries and bookshops but this time it was completely online, a prospect she found daunting. She cites links to the writing community as vital to her success. “Luckily, I teamed up with a fellow freelance writer and we planned a mini online tour together. That was one of the moments I realised the writing community needed to stay in touch and keep the links going, even if it was all virtual,” says Anne. “You can’t do all this on your own. Belonging to various communities is essential. Join NAWE, the National Association of Writers in Education. Find your tribe. Finding your tribe can help with confidence, particularly for young women but also for anyone experiencing barriers of race or class. It’s not just a gender-based issue.” As part of her freelancing journey, Jamie-Lee joined the creative collective at 42nd Street and found it an inspiring experience: “A group of creatives is an exciting place to be. We’re a group of designers, artists, usually around my age, early 20s, usually in higher education, or have graduated. We’ll get together and share projects or residencies we’ve heard about.” One of the residencies Jamie-Lee is currently doing was suggested to her by a fellow member of the collective. Jamie-Lee sings the praises of 42nd Street enthusiastically, crediting her success to their support: “It’s amazing what they do.” She adds, “I used to be an oil painter and created realistic paintings of people, but I didn’t enjoy it. It took away the fun of art. At 42nd Street, the manager rolled out a massive sheet of paper on the floor and told us to get some paints and do whatever. It blew my mind.” MSoA graduate Martha Harris, was also keen to launch her freelance career and start her own collective but found many of her course peers content to work in solitude. Taking part in the interdisciplinary Sketchbook Prize, she connected with other students and formed the Shared Desk collective. Anne remembers the struggle of first branching out, to be able to say who you are and what you do, observing that young women have tended to feel “a lack of confidence and assertiveness in describing themselves as a writer [or artist] and then having the guts to ask upfront for a reasonable wage”.

“Practitioners who understand the value of creative activity on health and wellbeing have been able to work to build connections while we have been unconnected physically through workshops to occupy and support wellbeing.” 34 | The Freedom Issue

Anne reflects, “It’s easier when you’ve got years of experience behind you and experience teaching within an institution to realise actually, to make a living wage, rates need to be equal. It’s something I struggled with earlier in my writing career, and it’s taken quite a long time to get to the point of managing that negotiation and being clear about what I’m worth, as a freelance writer.” Elle thinks this is an essential element to training and education. “The narrative of what it means to go to Art School, and how your salary will be so low when you leave, this needs to change. Graduates should leave knowing what they are capable of doing, knowing their worth in the industry, and feeling prepared to talk about their value.” Jamie-Lee cites conversations with mentors and tutorials with a supportive lecturer as instrumental in leading her to recognise her worth. “I do deserve this money. I do deserve that much an hour. I respect myself a lot more now,” she says. Surprised by the income she’s generating, she adds: “No-one tells you how much money you can earn either!” Demand for resources at 42nd Street rocketed during the pandemic. “Creativity helps you get through,” explains Jamie-Lee. “Fifty percent cuts within higher education? That doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t know how that translates.”

Jamie-Lee is raising awareness of 3D printing as a process, making it more accessible to young people. “It’s stereotyped as such a serious engineering process. I’m doing a festival where I’m getting people to knit massive sausages full of stuffing, then layer them up like a 3D printer. It’s more playful and engaging than just printing.” Martha recently moved her work across to digital, realising the opportunities to work as a traditional printmaker had dwindled from slim to none. “I loved being in the room and physically making with a press, and inks. During the pandemic I tried to find an apprenticeship in a workshop but they don’t exist anymore. All the print-needs in the world are done by machines.” Sharing how she feels about the future and working in the creative sector, Martha believes human connection is key. Being able to talk to customers again and meet people is not only re-invigorating but an important part of Martha’s approach to business: “I deliver work myself, rather than posting it. People enjoy human contact and interaction. Knowing [something] has been made by a person is appealing. There’s always going to be people who want art made by hand, or work that’s come from a human brain.” There’s a rush of optimism from Martha. Good things seem possible. So, the future belongs to the artists? “Yeah, yeah it does.”


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By Tom Collin


he world watched on as Britney Spears testified to a Los Angeles courtroom the details of her conservatorship and her father, Jaime Spears’ alleged “abusive” role in it. On 23rd June, in a 24-minute plea to the judge (which has since been leaked to the public), Britney dove deep into its unsavoury powers, laying bare the allegations of the “trauma” she has endured over the last 13 years at the hands of her father and various lawyers and executives in charge of her legal and financial affairs. Reports of draconian measures implemented by her conservatorship, such as her being “put on lithium” by a therapist after she asked for a break from performances, and being prevented from having children, caused public outrage. Prior to this testimony, the public were already waking up to the situation thanks in part to the Framing Britney Spears (2021) documentary, which revealed to the masses that Britney’s father had been in control of her estate for over a decade. The backlash from the documentary and court proceedings caused a flooding of support from fans and celebrities using ‘#FreeBritney’ to voice their concern and support for the pop star. What is a conservatorship and why does Britney Spears have one? Put most simply, a conservatorship is a measure granted by a court for individuals who are deemed unable or unfit to make their own decisions, for example those suffering with dementia, serious mental health issues or an elderly person who is no longer able to care for themselves. Conservatorships allow another party, usually a close relative, to take control over a person’s personal affairs, finances and in some cases, their body. Britney’s high-profile divorce from Kevin Federline in 2006 and the resulting custody battle that ensued, led to highly intrusive hounding from the press. She had a number of personal struggles over the next few years with these incidents being laid bare to the public leading to stints in rehabilitation facilities and hospital stays. Worried about his daughter, or perhaps more so her brand, Britney’s father placed her under a temporary conservatorship in 2008, which was later made permanent. Some 13 years later Britney is in court, fighting for her freedom. Her father was suspended from her conservatorship in September and replaced with attorney John Zabel, who was granted temporary co-conservator. The public fallout from the revelations of the Spears vs Spears conservatorship case made me come to two conclusions: The first being that American showbiz culture has not really progressed further from the days of the so called ‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ in which stars, predominantly young female stars, were controlled, restricted and mistreated by studio executives, management and family. The second conclusion being that this case, and the worrying revelations involving Spears’ right to marry and have children, are representative of America’s current socio-political landscape and the encroachment of women’s personal freedoms concerning their own bodies.

36 | The Freedom Issue


The details recounted by Britney Spears in court regarding her conservatorship draw striking parallels to the stories of stars from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Take probably the most famous case for example, Judy Garland. Garland, groomed into show business from a young age, would find her short life plagued with abuse and tragedy largely due to the studios she worked for and her parents and partners, the people who should have been looking out for her. Given drugs to control her energy levels and belittled, bullied and governed by studio executives and her management. Does any of this sound uncomfortably familiar? Spears, like Garland, is a victim of America’s cruel showbiz culture. Even in 2021, 82 years after Garland starred in The Wizard of Oz, nothing has changed. Britney Spears is still calling for an end to her “abusive” conservatorship, after losing her financial and personal independence years ago. It is clear that America has a real problem with the calculated abuse of women’s freedoms through the guise of career development or brand protection in the show business industry. A significant amount of the controversy generated by Britney’s conservatorship case comes at the end of her testimony in which she claims her ‘so-called team’ refused to allow her to have her intrauterine contraceptive device (IUD) removed: “[My team] doesn’t want me to have any more children.” Britney alleges her conservatorship team will not let her remove the device preventing her from having any more children, something she has expressed desires to do. Why should her father or anyone other than her have a say on whether or not she should have children? This case is endemic of the growing conservatism in the US regarding the repression of women’s freedoms to decide what they do with their bodies. According to a report by pro-choice groups, Planned Parenthood and the Guttmacher Institute, over 500 abortion law restrictions in the US have been introduced so far in 2021, the most of any time period since abortion being legalised in the 1970s. States like Arkansas and Oklahoma have nearly outright banned abortions where others have implemented various restrictions and limits regarding various circumstances. In Texas the law now states that anyone who aids a woman getting an abortion can now be sued, in an attempt to isolate women. Whatever way you look at it, it is clear that American politicians, lawmakers and lobbyists are trying to make it harder for women to be able to choose. Britney Spears’ conservatorship has put America’s issues with women and freedom under a microscope. There may not be a pleasant conclusion for Spears regarding her conservatorship, such is the gravity of the situation in one of the most ‘developed’ countries in the world. What there will be however, is a rise in support and awareness for similar cases or generally the situation regarding women’s freedoms to live and choose.




Design: Lisa Silva



he renowned Irish playwright and polemicist George Bernard Shaw once said that ‘progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything’. A very sage piece of advice but it must be ignored because Bernard Shaw was an anti-vaxxer, antiSemite and advocate of eugenics. He held highly unpalatable views so he and his works should be ‘cancelled’. His acclaimed screenplay for a film version of Pygmalion, which earned him an Academy Award, and his many other gifts to the English language should be cast into the darkness and never again see the light of day because he holds opinions which starkly differ from our own. You may think I am being flippant or reductive however this is just one facet of the assault on free speech today. Cancel culture is an insidious aspect of the ‘woke’ culture that is sweeping the globe. The United States appears all but lost to this toxic ideology and we are seeing more and more of it seeping into mainstream discourse here in the UK. I was disheartened to see the results of a poll conducted by Redfield & Wilton Strategies which asked: ‘Would the British public support or oppose the UK Government censoring books with content that it deems sexist, homophobic, or racist?’ The poll found that 40% of people support censorship whilst 30% oppose it and 24% neither support or oppose. The poll also found that when this is split down party lines based on how respondents voted at the 2019 General Election, 41% of Conservative voters and 46% of Labour voters favour the State censoring books. This makes for pretty grim reading but perhaps the most depressing part of this poll is that 53% of 18-24 year olds support censorship. The fact that 24% of respondents had no opinion either way should definitely ring alarm bells. It is easy to shrug this off and say that young people are ‘snowflakes’ and ‘lefties’ but there has to be a reason why so many people, not just the young, are in favour of censorship. Whether we like it or not, we are fighting the battle of ideas in a culture war, with the combatants being the liberty lovers versus the woke warriors. This idea of ‘decolonising the curriculum’ is one part of this trend as it seeks to emphasise teaching the negatives around the UK’s imperial past rather than take a more holistic and balanced view of history. Nobody is questioning that Britain committed some truly heinous and monstrous crimes during the times of the Empire. That doesn’t mean those appalling actions should supersede the good which the Empire brought to the world, such as spreading democracy to all continents of the world, connecting India with the railways and leading the world in abolishing the slave trade. History is regularly reinterpreted as times change but history must never be rewritten. This is why cancel culture isn’t just a challenge to free speech but a challenge to our past. The greatest Liberal Prime Minister this country has ever had, William Ewart Gladstone, has been cancelled by the University of

Liverpool after the University removed his name from one of its halls of residence because of his links to the slave trade. Gladstone is one of Liverpool’s most famous sons and served as Prime Minister four times for a collective twelve years, during which time he founded the concept of devolution, sought to abolish income tax and, most importantly, worked for the abolition of slavery and never owned slaves himself. The reason this learned institution has decided Gladstone should be ‘no platformed’ is because his father, Sir John Gladstone, was a prolific slave owner and owned a plantation in Jamaica. To quote Launcelot from William Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, ‘the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children’. The toppling statues campaign is another notable example of this. Those who are involved in the Rhodes Must Fall campaign at Oriel College, Oxford, and want the scholarship which bears Cecil Rhodes’ name to be replaced with something which gives international students the opportunity to study at one of the world’s most prestigious institutions, seem to forget that the Rhodes Scholarship already does that. Since 1902 the scheme has awarded places to people from around the world who would have otherwise been unable to attend Oxford University. Rhodes Scholars have gone on to become world leaders, Nobel laureates and leading academics. Cancelling Rhodes and his legacy because he engaged in practices which were accepted and widespread when he was alive, but which we now believe, with our 21st century values are wrong, will damage the prospects for future generations who would benefit from the scholarship he founded all because the culture warriors take offence today. The free marketplace of ideas requires strong and robust debate where we are challenged by those thoughts which differ to our own and which we dislike. Over 500 million copies of Harry Potter have been sold around the world and hundreds of millions of people have read the books or watched the films and fallen in love with the characters and story. J.K. Rowling inspired countless numbers of children to read more and become writers but because she is a gender critical feminist who has shown concern about trans ideology, she is being made into a pariah. People who disagree with her view that sex is determined by biology should engage and have that discussion rather than label her as a transphobe or a TERF (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist). It is far easier to be outraged than to conduct constructive and informed debate about very sensitive issues. Only through disagreement can we grow ourselves and our minds. Ronald Reagan famously said ‘freedom is a fragile thing and it’s never more than one generation away from extinction’ and, unless we heed his words, the current generation will be the one to place free speech on the altar for sacrifice.

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Design: Lisa Silva 37 | The Freedom Issue

How BookTok Contributed to the Lockdown Book Boom


he past year has been troubling for many. Life as we knew it froze in time. The simple things that made us happy were now deemed unsafe and non-essential. Contact with our loved ones was prohibited. Our much loved nightlife and theatre industries saw some of the worst consequences of lockdown. As long as the ‘rule of six’ was in place we wouldn’t dance again, or even socialise the way we used to. Lack of funding contributed to a huge loss of jobs and businesses. Our generation had never experienced anything like this. But for some, lockdown allowed them to thrive. So, in these times of pure turmoil, how could we escape without leaving our houses? Reading. The majority of those in the publishing industry have seen a happy ending to this nightmare. Bloomsbury’s revenue grew by 14% to £185.1 million and they recorded their highest sales ever, as well as profit before tax, since 2006. Chief Executive of Bloomsbury, Nigel Newton, reflects on their triumphant year with pride: “The habit of reading re-formed during lockdown.” He adds, “Many re-discovered the joy of reading.”

We had more free time on our hands than we knew what to do with, and books became a new-found or re-discovered escapism. This extra ‘me time’ meant we were finally able to read the book we got for Christmas years ago, or some of us began re-reading old favourites. Key Account Executive at Bloomsbury, Josh Moorby, says, “Classics did well in this initial period as they were likely titles that people felt they should read if they ever had the time.” This excessive amount of free time wasn’t the only contributing factor,

38 | The Freedom Issue

Moorby points out: “The addition of no commuting cost and the disruption of usual spending patterns, like going out for lunch, meant those who could work remotely have also benefited from a higher level of disposable income.” Trusted industry professional and founder of the Spare Room Project, James Spackman, senses the “pandemic may have boosted book sales because books are a relatively affordable treat you can get easily online”. Both Spackman and Moorby hint the influx of book sales relates to what could be defined as the ‘positives’ to lockdown for some - free time and extra money. They also recognise that reading is a luxury. Despite shops being shut, we were still able to gift ourselves books. As Spackman describes it, “a tiny bit of book theatre”. Numerous lockdowns meant that everyone was stuck inside looking for an outlet. Bloomsbury’s revenue growth shows that reading was favoured by the masses. Nielsen’s Book Research Newsletter reveals: ‘In total, 26.6m more books were bought in the 12 months to March compared to the previous rolling year.’ Besides reading, many of us found a new favourite pastime - TikTok. But just like any other social media app, it has its niche corners, like #BookTok. #BookTok has produced 15.7 billion views and counting.

By Debbie Alty Design: Nicola Broadbent Guardian piece on an upcoming publication”. To understand how BookTok contributed to the ‘Book Boom’, firstly you need to understand why Booktok is so well-received. The popularity of BookTok can be pinned down to several key elements. Moorby believes “the format of TikTok allows a lot of personality and emotion to come across in book reviews”. Meanwhile, BookToker Rachel Adams (@readingwithrachel) thinks “creativity and good books make the best content”. Both opinions go hand in hand; you cannot have one without the other. The information provided is more thought-provoking and personal than a formal review. “By linking good books with creative videos it allows you to be yourself, and it encourages more people to buy these books,” adds Adams. BookToks are proving to be reliable to book lovers everywhere due to the fact that they are honest and trustworthy. Adams admits, “The BookTok trend has most definitely contributed to the rise in sales.” She gives the example of Sarah J. Mass’ books which “are still trending on booktok after six months”, adding that this has “encouraged her to write more books, and even helped her sign a deal to make A Court of Thorns and Roses into a TV series”.

These videos have found a way to entice even the most reluctant readers. “It has worked remarkably well as a tool to engage new readers organically, with publishers only recently catching up and seeing the marketing potential of the app,” says Moorby.

But it doesn’t end there. Author of #VampireProblems, India Watson, contacted Adams via her Bookstagram account asking if she would be kind enough to review the book on her BookTok and Bookstagram. The #VampireProblems TikToks posted by Adams have a combined total of 675 views.

Some publishers even view a BookTok video as more useful than a formal review, and Moorby highlights that it is “a great way to engage people that might not necessarily read a whole

Opportunities like this are rare. You could even argue that BookTokers have unearthed a marketing strategy which publishers have been attempting to discover for years.

BookToker Adams confirms this: “Young adult books are the highlight of the BookTok community.” This year has been all about survival for us,” says Briggs. Since indie publishers usually thrive at events and festivals, they were unable to see any positives to life being moved online. Despite the difficult year, Briggs expresses her excitement for “bookshops and retailers to be back open.” As books have proven their reliability and relevance, it forces us to re-examine the age-old debate ‘Is the book dead?’ As digital devices like Kindles and audiobooks rose to the surface, it seemed likely that the funeral for printed books was growing closer. But what critics often forget is the power of literature. It has an ability to reinvent itself without even trying. When Penguin Publishers released the first paperback in 1935, many believed it would destroy publishing. Instead it revolutionised printed books by making them affordable. Our generation is paving a new path for the future of books with BookTok. Every single BookTok features a printed book; there isn’t a Kindle in sight. In fact, some BookTokers politely brag about how much their collection has grown in a year. And while the pandemic may not have benefited indie publishers to the extent it has ‘The Big Five,’ there is no denying how the nation impressively responded to boredom. We dived into therapeutic activities like reading, cooking, and gardening (gardening and cookery books shot up the charts during lockdown).

therapeutic activities like reading, cooking, and gardening (gardening and cookery books shot up the charts during lockdown).


Larger companies often manage to survive turbulent times, but smaller independent businesses tend to get lost among the rubble. Senior Editor and Rights Manager at Saqi Books, Elizabeth Briggs, explains: “The ‘Book Boom’ was a myth for indie publishers during the pandemic. Our non-commercial titles, and fiction in translation in particular, are not the kinds of books that typically take off on BookTok.”

The results of lockdown and BookTok confirms books are not only thriving more than ever, but are proving to be a reliable escapism in difficult times. Newton realises “it is up to publishers to capture the zeitgeist of the nation”. Publishing is an industry that relies heavily on catching trends before they’re gone. So, judging the way we as a nation responded - publishers are capturing both our zeitgeist and attention. We live in a digital age, and would definitely struggle without technology. But at the end of the day when we’re done with MS Teams, finished work and cuppa in hand, we need to detox ourselves from screens. This is why we began reading more. The story between those pages provide an escape from the digital. It is one of the ways we can (literally) disconnect. The result of discovering or re-discovering the love for reading continues to prove the resilience of the publishing industry.




39 | The Freedom Issue


By Andrew Doyle Like a modern day Don Quixote, Andrew Doyle is on a mission to civilise. This short polemic packs in so many ideas that it moves away from being a passionate case for free speech to becoming almost a rallying cry for people to fight for its survival. Doyle is the errant knight who wishes to restore politeness in our public discourse and slay the beast of ‘cancel culture’ but I cannot help but feel that, like the ‘Man of La Mancha’, the author has a tendency to be led by a sense of naivety that things will get better. He disappointingly suggests: ‘Even if we fail, at least we can say we tried.’ For such a fiercely argued book, this feels as if surrender is on the table in the Culture Wars. The crux of Doyle’s thesis is that the threats to free speech are now so sinister that a person will self-censor to avoid potentially life-changing ramifications, from losing their career to having a ‘noncrime hate incident’ on their criminal record because of a potentially offensive remark-turned-investigation. One idea very early in the book which really resonated with me is the Ancient Greek concept of parrhesia which the author says ‘is often translated as ‘freedom of speech’ but is better understood as ‘speaking truth with candour’, something desperately lacking in today’s general conversation. He describes free speech as ‘the marrow of democracy’ and ‘without it, no other liberties exist’. If Andrew Doyle’s warnings are true then society is in bigger trouble than we thought. [Nathan Eckersley]

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‘With a GDP of $568.5 billion, Nigeria is the richest country in Africa. Sadly, over 100 million Nigerians live in poverty, surviving on less than $1 a day.’ This harrowing statistic, as powerful as it is true, immediately sets the tone of Abi Dare’s debut novel. From the outset, The Girl with the Louding Voice forces you to contemplate how lucky we are because as westerners, we have freedom to choose self-autonomy. 14-year-old Adunni is bright and inquisitive despite her misfortunes. She aspires to become a teacher so she can educate young girls like herself. Adunni’s mother tells her: ‘Your schooling is your voice, child. It will be speaking for you even if you didn’t open your mouth to talk.’ Adunni’s mother knows that an education will free her daughter from a life of domestic obedience, unfortunately the teenager’s fate changes when she becomes the third wife to an older man. This book highlights the mistreatment of women in Nigeria. Even wealth and an education cannot gain a woman respect, only a marriage and sons will prove a woman’s worth. Throughout the book, Dare implies that the more educated a woman is, the greater her chance is of escaping the misogyny she faces. Dare’s enticing story never allows you to rest. The most important element you will take away of The Girl with the Louding Voice, is that an education is freedom, no matter what part of the world you are in, and that knowledge will always set you free. [Debbie Alty]


By Margaret Atwood

Opening with a thought-provoking analogy, Atwood’s Freedom speaks honestly about our fundamental needs as humans and our inherent desire for ‘comfort, inertia and boredom,’ while also retaining ‘activity, risk and peril.’ Atwood should be applauded for her blunt yet poetic way of exploring the different meanings of freedom. She examines the things we take for granted, like freedom to publish - which is still censored in many countries. And freedom throughout history, such as women’s freedom from patriarchal systems. Atwood believes power is abused due to the lack of accountability in these absolutist systems; she’s not wrong either, let me remind you of the recent events in 2019 where Anne Sacoolas claimed diplomatic immunity after Harry Dunn died in a collision with her car. It is these notions of freedom that as a society we can relate to on some level. It isn’t a secret how outstanding Margaret Atwood is as an author, so it’s unfortunate that pages 14-108 are extracts from The Handmaid’s Tale. The 1985 bestseller is a perfect read for anyone wanting to understand what defines freedom. But I believe the rest of this book is a wasted opportunity to examine freedom on a greater level. I appreciate and understand why Atwood added these extracts, but if there were more new, fresh input and less clippings from her old work, I might have given Freedom a higher rating. [Debbie Alty]

Design: Laufey G

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EMANCIPATION 30 42||The TheFreedom FreedomIssue Issue

By Paul Fahey From the Trenchfoot Lane Chronicles

She strode down the corridor, the heels of her boots clicking on the black and white marble effect tiling. Amazon-like, as though delivering a weighty tome on management procedures in the workplace, she carried her helmet under one arm and advanced with steely determination to the gateway that led to the heart of her foe’s inner sanctum. She was a warrior of the free nation of Proletaria. Not for her enslavement in Argos, picking cut-price Christmas presents for undeserving distant relations. Not for her the ignominy of spearing burgers to feed the greed of the never-ending hordes who assailed the drive-through window. She removed her gloves, tucked them inside her helmet. She clenched a pale fist and rapped sharply on the wooden door. Politeness was a virtue after all. A stylised scroll proclaimed that this was the lair of A. Wittingly-Smythe, Manager\Slave Master and told her what she already knew; he was an Ikean of some description. The high-pitched, nasal voice of the foe sounded thinly from within. ‘Enter.’ The door was already half-open before the second syllable sounded. She swept inside, broomless. ‘Miss O’Brien. Late again I see.’ He lacked only the Persian on his lap. ‘Shut up.’ (She interrupted). ‘I’ve left the bike running, so I don’t have time to listen to your bullshit. This job’s crap, so I’m done. Consider this my weeks’ notice, in writing. Back-dated by a week if you like. Got it? Good. Bye.’ The door did not hit her on the armoured arse on the way out. Presently, drowning out the inarticulate spluttering of helpless rage, came the roar of a one-thousand-cc steed, carrying its rider into that glorious sunset wherein all new tales begin.

Design: Nicola Broadbent

MUKTI “Cover your head with the red odhani1 and pull it down until it touches your chin.” The domineering voice made the new bride Mukti shudder. She looked up, but was late. All she could 2 now see was something like a red watercolour-washed view. A pair of mehndi painted hands wearing green and gold bangles had pulled the embroidered edge of her odhani down, hiding her face behind the ghoonghat3. “The Ghoonghat will feel repulsive initially, but you’ll get used to it, Bhabhi4.” Mukti’s sister-in-law Nisha whispered. Mukti could see Nisha’s rosy face through her veil, as if seen through a red cellophane film. “Bring the new bride out for the muh-dikhai5 ceremony. The ladies are here to see her.” Mukti’s mother-in-law demanded as she passed, carrying some mats for the guests still arriving. Mukti got up. Her sight confined, she was hesitant to step forward. Two unfamiliar women held her arms on both sides and guided her towards the other room across the courtyard. A living parcel being moved and made to sit on the chawki in the centre of the room, she felt bound and static. She could just see a hazy ocean of coloured heads – all under their ghoonghats. One by one, these heads moved closer to her, lifted their own veils and then held Mukti’s veil up. Seeing a clear view of their faces, Mukti saw herself in them. She was one of them, to be hidden behind her veil for life. Dropping her ghoonghat down, they slipped gift of cash inside her hands, only for it to be seized by her vigilant mother-in-law. Meanwhile, her ears were time-travelling to the past. She was hearing her mother say – “You are my free bird – Mukti. You will fly unfettered in the clear skies of your wishes!” She knew she would always miss the free spirit of her mother, whose soul had broken free from her body long ago. She realised she had lost something precious and remembered – Mukti meant Liberation.

1. Odhani – A piece of cloth, like a stole, generally decorated with embroidery etc. Women wear it to cover their heads and upper bodies. 2. Mehndi – Henna design. 3. Ghoonghat – Veil. 4. Bhabhi – Sister-in-Law or Brother’s wife. 5. Muh-Dikhai – A ceremony performed after the wedding at the groom’s place. All the ladies come to see the bride. 6. Chawki – A low wooden stool.

By Alka Tiwari 3143|| The The Freedom Issue

This poem is censored. I cannot mention ____ _______, a banned person; ______ _____ Their organisation, ___ ___, may not be discussed under the current State of Emergency. I cannot include a photo, share details, describe actions. I give you blank space:

in protest.


By Linda Cosgriff

MILLENNIAL I attend therapy in the hope of becoming a kinder, patient bloke who tells fewer lies, who enjoys kale, who meditates cross-legged – happy to fail or fall short of the idea of myself surrounded by a harem, boasting wealth comparable to gregarious celebrities – microwaveable, unsustainable entities pumped up and promoted by mass media… the conveyor-belt powered by hysteria… I learned to idolise in my adolescence. A feeling of emptiness is now my penance for failing to walk outside and talk to trees. Let me unlearn my attitude; help, please?

By Aaron Lembo 30 44| |The TheFreedom FreedomIssue Issue

Paul Fahey

Alka Tiwari is a postgraduate in English Literature and an MFA Creative Writing student at the Manchester Metropolitan University. An ex-auditor with the Government of Rajasthan, India, she is an unusual blend of words and numbers. Her poems have featured in literary magazine Willard and Maple and anthologies Lost and Found in the Digital Era and Colours of Life. If and when she is not running around her bouncy eight-yearold twins and busy surgeon husband, she runs a literary blog at alkatiwaari@blogspot.com, gets creative on her Instagram account @alkatewari_ and tweets @alka_tewari

Linda Cosgriff

Aaron Lembo’s debut poetry pamphlet It’s All Gone Don Juan was published by erbacce-press in 2020. His short poetry film Birdcage was a finalist at the Brighton Rocks International Film Festival 2021 and his poetry has appeared in The Spectator, Magma and aAh! Aaron’s poetry podcast can be found on YouTube under the title Verse Amor.

Paul Fahey is a writer, poet and musician who sometimes goes by the nom-de-plume Fraser. Having committed crimes against employment in various settings - landscape gardening, tax collection and vending machine logistics to name but a few - Paul currently earns a living advising clients to turn things off then back on again. He’s also studying for a Masters degree in Creative Writing as well as participating in LARP and TTRPG’s (if you know, you know). His latest publication is a chapter in the Reprobate Road poetry anthology. He sometimes wonders where he finds the time.

Alka Tiwari

Linda Cosgriff lived in South Africa for fourteen years. Her work has appeared in magazines, anthologies, textbooks, shops, galleries, ezines, and BBC Radio. It has been set to music, turned into art, and sent to Mars. Linda has an MA in Creative Writing: Poetry from Manchester Met. Her collection, Hormoanal, was published in 2019 by Matthew James. A founder member of Stockport Writers and an active member of Write Out Loud, she delivers readings and workshops to community groups and charities and is writer-in-residence for two of those groups. Her mission to bring poetry to the terrified sees her blog at poetryfluff.wordpress.com

Aaron Lembo

3145||The The Freedom Issue


MediaCityUK - vangoghaliveuk.com 22/10/21-23/01/22 Created by Grande Experiences, Van Gogh Alive gives visitors the unique opportunity to immerse themselves into Van Gogh’s artistry and truly venture into his world. Van Gogh’s masterpieces come to life, giving visitors the sensation of walking right into his paintings, a feeling that is simultaneously enchanting, entertaining and educational.


Albert Square 12/11/21-22/12/21


HOME - homemcr.org/event/orbit-festival-2021 25/11/21-04/12/21

After a long year the much-loved Christmas markets return to Manchester. Find stalls selling handcrafted Christmas gifts and treats from European and local producers. The markets also offer great food and drink experiences with classic Bavarian style bars serving bratwurst and beer among a host of other food and drink stalls.

Orbit is HOME’s annual festival of “extraordinary, awardwinning, international artists.” Part of the Autumn/Winter 2021 theatre season, Orbit Festival will showcase live and digital performances exploring a range of themes and experiences.


The Deaf Institute - thedeafinstitute.co.uk/whats-on 06/12/21 It all began when Nathan uploaded songs to TikTok after completing his morning duties as a postman. Something about this music and his charismatic delivery connected with his followers in a big way, with his rendition of ‘The Wellerman’ amassing over 56 million views. Headlining his first UK tour this December, expect a night of foot stomping singalongs.


Palace Theatre - atgtickets.com/shows 08/12/21-01/01/22 Billed by The New York Times as ‘The best musical of this century.’ This outrageous musical comedy from the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, and Bobby Lopez, co-writer of Avenue Q and Frozen, follows the misadventures of a mismatched pair of missionaries.

46 46 || The The Freedom Freedom Issue Issue

By Tom Collinson Design: Daniela Lupton-Páez


Science & Industry Museum scienceandindustrymuseum.org.uk 09/12/21


Gorilla - thisisgorilla.com 10/12/21

This free virtual event will featue a panel of experts from the European Space Agency talking about their decision to open recruitment for the first astronauts with physical disabilities. They will discuss the recruitment and training programmes required for its new parastronauts, the benefits and challenges of creating a more diverse workforce in space research.

Initially scheduled for July, The Magic Garden Rave returns in December transforming Gorilla into a secret garden rave. Expect glow sticks, paint and an abundance of light and colour to compliment techno DJs throughout the night.

WHP21 - NYD Closing Party

Mayfield Depot - thewarehouseproject.com 01/01/22 Start the new year off with a party at The Warehouse Project’s last event of the 2021/22 season. Running from 4pm-2am with a yet to be announced lineup, WHP never misses so their last party of the year is sure to be a banger.

The House and Garage Orchestra presents ‘Garage Classics’

Albert Hall - alberthallmanchester.com 04/02/22

James Martin Live

Bridgewater Hall - bridgewater-hall.co.uk 20/03/22

A live celebration of UK house and garage music. Featuring a live band with horns and string sections performing a unique take on your favourite classics from the UK music scene at the turn of the century. The live band will also be joined by an ensemble of artists performing their hit songs.

This is one for all the foodies out there, celebrity chef James Martin’s tour arrives in Manchester in March. Expect live cooking demonstrations, tasks and conversation including special guests.

47 | The Freedom Issue


48 | The Freedom Issue

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