Friday 25th June 2021
Redbrick Issue 1518, Vol. 86
UoB Students Put at Risk due to COVID-19 Home Test Mix Up page 5
The Official University of Birmingham Student Newspaper, est. 1936 Twitter/ @unibirmingham
Vaccine Programme Entices Music: Reviews Taylor International Students to UK Universities Swift's new album, Study shows that international students are more interested in UK univesities due to vaccine rollout Reputation Dan Hunt
Originally published 10th May 2021 The success of the UK’s vaccine programme has meant UK universities are more attractive to international students compared to institutions in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Germany, a survey finds. The study carried out by educational researchers QS found that out of over 105,000 prospective international students asked, 48,000 were interested in studying in the UK. Of those interested, 47% said the UK was a more attractive destination because of the vaccine rollout, with 17% of all participants claiming the UK has best distributed the vaccine – a higher percentage than any other country. In the UK more than 33 million people have had their first vaccine dose, following a spell where around half a million doses were given out every day in mid-March. Despite this, prospective students are more critical of the UK’s overall response to the pandemic, with less than half (48%) saying the handling has gone ‘Very well’ or ‘Fairly well’. This puts the UK second from bottom, with Germany, Australia, Canada and New Zealand perceived to have responded better. Alongside COVID, participants were also asked about their attitudes to online learning, which has become increasingly
Britain's Best Institutions
Pixabay/ @ torstensimon
prominent over the last year during the pandemic. Although 52% of current international students said the quality of the education had been ‘extremely’ or ‘very’ effective, 44% of prospective international students said asking lecturers questions online would be more difficult than face-to-face. Furthermore 55% would prefer for lectures to be livestreamed rather than pre-recorded. Beyond content, online learning creates barriers against social life at university, with 57% of respondents claiming talking to other students would be more difficult, although 65% admitted that online learning (and therefore a much more flexible timetable) would
make working while studying easier. When asked about feeling welcomed by UK universities, 58% said the UK is becoming more welcoming to international students, higher than any other country on the list. The report claimed, ‘The UK is also known for being a vibrant, modern and exciting destination which can offer a high standard of living for international students.’ However, as a result of Brexit, students based in the EU were more likely to say the UK is becoming less welcoming. A prospective student from Poland who participated in the study said ‘as a European I feel unwanted and currently have to overcome many new
Bridgerton: Progressive or Performative?
Crafty Cocktail Recipes
INSIDE: Redbrick reviews Olivia Rodrigo's debut single
Unsplash/ @ clo_shooting
obstacles like a new visa or student fees which became way more expensive and almost unaffordable for many international students. I am also aware of countless stereotypes.’ While all students have faced unique challenges during the pandemic, the daunting prospect of moving to another country to study has become harder still. While the UK to most students is a more appealing destination as a result of the successful vaccine rollout, problems still remain with regards to online learning, attitudes towards international students and the wider government response to the pandemic.
The Science Behind Swearing Parrots
Sci&Tech 25 www.redbrick.me
Friday 25th June 2021
Letter from Committee Aneesa Ahmed Editor-in-Chief
What a year it has been. Needless to say, this has been a tough time for everyone, I am so proud of the whole Redbrick family for making it through this. It was only through the collective effort from everyone - committee members, to section editors, to writers and reporters that we managed such a successful run in these bleak times. I felt inspired by the fresh, new ideas that were generated by such a talented cohort of people. In a world so different to the one we are familiar with, it was reassuring to see that imagination, creativity, and skill were not lost. We continued to put out fresh new content on a daily basis by having published hundreds of new articles and accumulating up to 84,000 monthly views on the website. We have launched a Youtube channel, a Careers Hub, hosted events, and have welcomed new members from across the globe. I am proud to have led such a resilient team this year, a team that has adapted to the many challenges that the pandemic has brought. The past year has shown the importance of teamwork, integrity and collaboration; values that are at the heart of our newspaper. Through endless zoom meetings, hundreds of messenger messages, and countless emails, we have managed to sustain a productive working environment for all of our editors and writers. The adaptability proven by our members will make them highly valuable members of a post-pandemic society.
This year, our teams and writers have been nominated for and won several national SPANC awards; we were nominated for Guild awards; and we had one of our news stories published by national press. All of our members should be proud of the effort and contributions that went towards these fantastic achievements. This year, we would have been absolutely lost without the hundreds of hours of work put in by Rhiannon and Dylan, our hardworking Digital Editors. Without them, Redbrick would be nothing but a name; they have gone above and beyond to put out articles and make sure all 350+ of our members get their work published. This year, we have also seen the change in title of ‘Deputy Digital Editor’ to ‘Digital Editor’, an accomplishment which was necessary in my opinion to honour the hard work put in by our Digital Editors. We hope future committees can reap the benefits of this. On a personal note, Redbrick has undoubtedly been the highlight of my university life and I could not have dreamed of a higher honour than to serve as Editor-in-Chief. Whilst I wish I captained the ship under better circumstances, it has been a real learning experience trying to keep the ship afloat. Redbrick is one of the reasons I chose to come to UoB at 17; 17 year old me would be so proud of the person I have become today. I think all of our members should be proud of how far they have come since they started university and how well they have coped in such uncertain times.
Can’t sign off this letter from the dungeons, this was written in my bedroom! Big love, and all the best. Chief x
Catrin Osborne Deputy Editor
Sitting in the Guild Council Chambers in September 2018 and watching Kat and Issy introduce themselves as Redbrick's Deputy Editors, I did not expect I would ever have the opportunity to do the same. Even more so, I did not think that I would be doing this via Zoom or that I would be editing the paper wearing a mask and staying 2 metres away from my brilliant co-Deputy Editor Daisy. Needless to say, this has not been the year any of us expected with Redbrick but I hope that, like me, you have all gained happy memories from it - whether that is a friendship that blossomed from the society or seeing your article published online. I am eternally grateful for all the writers and editors who have helped keep such a special society alive in this tricky year. Like Aneesa and Daisy, I will look back at my time in Redbrick with the fondest of feelings. At the start of university, I was admittedly feeling somewhat lost. Joining this society helped me to form bonds and encouraged me to find my own voice from writing articles each week. Being a TV editor enabled me to become even more involved in Redbrick and experience countless cherishable moments at Pub and Papers or when editing the print. Although we were unable to
create any more this year, finishing this final print has been a wonderful experience. Our editorial team has worked immensely hard this year, despite the circumstances, and all provided their favourite articles and a design for their pages. I would like to take this opportunity to say a massive thank you to Kit Shepard and Bethany-Jo O'Neill for going above and beyond in their commitment to Redbrick. Without their hard work, this print edition would not have been completed as they came into the Redbrick Office day after day to make the editors' designs a reality. It is impossible to summarise what Redbrick means to me in this brief letter, so I hope that this print edition showcases the many strengths of the society. Once again, thank you to every single member of the Redbrick team including last year's committee for all their advice. I can't wait to see how next year's committee continue to adapt and improve Redbrick for the years to come.
Daisy Kirkaldy Deputy Editor
Where do I start? I can say with absolute certainty that Redbrick has been the best part of my university experience, which I suppose says it all. Having experienced the paper as a writer, editor and member of committee, my passion for the paper has only increased as my time at Birmingham went on. I can't express enough gratitude to all the fantastic students in positions above me during my time at Redbrick, for teaching me end-
Redbrick Editorial Team Editor-in-Chief Aneesa Ahmed
Deputy Editors Daisy Kirkaldy Catrin Osborne
Print&Features Editor Alex Boscott firstname.lastname@example.org
Digital Editors Rhiannon Wood Dylan Rhys Lucas
Lead Developer Joseph Chotard
News Editors Cerys Gardner Becky Gelder Ella Kipling Amy Lakin Joseph Meakin
Comment Editors Chelsie Henshaw Esther Purves Abby Spreadborough Freya Wainstein
Culture Editors Emily Gulbis Nadia Sommella
Marketing Secretary Rosie Cossins
Music Editors email@example.com Gemma Elgar David Evans Social Secretary Robbie Hawken Charlie Young Bethany-Jo O'Neill firstname.lastname@example.org
less Photoshop and InDesign tricks, article tips and for just generally increasing my mood every time I entered the Redbrick Office. Being part of Redbrick means being part of decades and decades of history, which should be daunting but instead provides such a lovely community feeling around this lovely paper. The solidarity felt during post-Souljam EA sessions and distributing the paper in pouring rain makes every task done for the paper seem meaningful; contributing to any part of Redbrick means contributing to the decades and decades of history. I can't express how honoured I feel to be a part of Redbrick, especially during my time as Deputy Editor. I can't wait to see what the next committee achieve during their time, in what should be one of the most exciting years at Redbrick yet: The Year of the Comeback. Redbrick, I miss you already.
Film Editors Sam Denyer Rhys Lloyd-Jones Jade Matlock Sam Zucca
Redbrick Guild of Students Edgbaston Park Road Birmingham Life&Style Editors B15 2TT Romana Essop 0121 251 2462 Issy Griffiths email@example.com
Frankie Rhodes Emma Stephenson
TV Editors Sian Allen Molly Schoenfeld Sam Wait
Sci&Tech Editors Daniel Bray Joseph McGrory Daniella Southin
Gaming Editors Tom Martin Kyle Moffat
Food&Drink Editors Izzy Frost Max Kelly Beth Sadler
Sport Editors Lauren Coffman Rachel Higgins Kit Shepard Jack Wooldridge
Designed and typeset by Redbrick Copyright (C) Redbrick 2021
The views expressed in Redbrick do not necessarily reflect those of the editors, the Guild or the publishers. Travel Editors If you find an error or fact in our pages, please write to Aimee Calvert the editor. Our policy is to correct mistakes promptly in Ellie Cannon print and to apologise where appropritate. We reserve Catrin Jackson the right to edit any article, letter or email submitted firstname.lastname@example.org for publication. email@example.com
Friday 25th June 2021
Redbrick x Writers' Bloc
Writers' Bloc paired up with Redbrick to showcase a collection of students' poems Majo Sanguino
Writers' Bloc Member
Writers' Bloc Member
'The Summer of Sitting Ducks'
Why do we call it surf the web? I guess we do flow from website to website, Learning about quantum physics or what type of scone I am, the beginning of the universe, where we are headed, where we’ve been. I can even purchase a human spleen!
Go fly a paper plane across the streakless sky – It’s gone over the bloody fence again! Drift back to the living room, Lonely as a cloud.
I do tend to drown on the web, I scroll through post after post, everything attuned to my liking. The shoes I thought about last week, that one shop I can’t afford, I think I saw my friend there, but I never seem to catch her ... instead I see that girl who bullied me, (she now runs a body positivity blog) though I hear she still discusses how much weight everyone we know has gained or lost. There is, however, shallow end to it. An endless stream of dog videos, cooking shows, and the hour-long Harry Styles ASMR goodnight story I did not pay for. I remember to thank the universe for @Directioner5everrxx for sharing it and thank every person who is behind @IRateDogs on Twitter, lastly thank for every piece of knowledge I’ve learnt on Tiktok. (I now know how to measure pasta, and pay my taxes)
Go teach your little fish that even without a school, It remains multiple, the plural of itself, No, it’s definitely not ‘fishes.' Yes, I’m sure. Go recreate the Battle of Amiens in a bowl of beans, Wonder why they compare this with war – But, of course, Nothing happens. Go lick the iPad screen just to taste nearness, The sweet saltiness of long-distance longing – I wish you wouldn’t lie and say you were alright – The bye-bye bitter aftertaste of the hang up. Go read Angelou to your latest pigeon friend, Statue-still on the fence, in need of a wordsmith wonder woman To break the spell – like that – watch her Rise and rise and rise.
So, I suppose we do surf the web after all. We paddle on the shallow end till we reach the big wave, try to find our balance between what serves us or doesn’t. When the ads, trolls, boomers and such wash over us, we fall of the board and sit by the shore.
Go write a poem about your day, Fill it with little fish, baked beans, loved ones, Fleeting flickers when you feel most alive. In your newfound homebound existence, you look around and ask: What next? What about tomorrow?
Burn FM Grace Lea
Deputy Station Manager
As with many other societies this year, Burn had a very rocky start to the year but that has not stopped us! Despite being unable to access our studio, our amazing network of members have been endlessly producing content to flood your (virtual) airwaves. Our News Team have been creating daily news bulletins; the Arts Team have been recording weekly podcasts; our Production Team have been busy editing radio plays in collaboration with Infinity Stage Company; the Music Team have been curating weekly playlists and the Sports Team have been covering matches from Birmingham City, Walsall and Coventry football clubs. Our resident radio presenters and podcast hosts have also been very busy learning the art of broadcasting from their respective bedrooms, kitchens and hallways. We have produced over 20 different podcasts that examine topics from feminism, football and even a new spin on fine art, along with 40 shows that discuss everything from jazz to KPOP, or musical theatre to rock. Each and every one has been excellent and has produced such wide,
varying content for our listeners. Our members are doing an amazing job in such a strange situation. It is not all work and no play at Burn either! We have hosted our own Burn Bingo and Lockdown Scavenger Hunt, which has been a great way to get everyone involved and to have a bit of fun- as much as is possible from your living room.
But tomorrow comes as it always does, a snail crawl Towards ‘it’s finally over,' and you, that ever-persistent fly Flinging against an invisible force field, Will find yourself Suddenly free.
Rosie Carron Writers' Bloc Member
Content Warning: This poem contains imagery of body horror.
'Andromeda' They dress me in white, Bride-like, pure, virginal, Braid my hair with lilies. I kiss my mother’s cheek, Taste salt. Soon, I will be devoured, Swallowed whole by the king of the sea, My blood will stain the foam Like bedsheets. He will pick my bones from his teeth. There will be nothing left. He rises from the water like a fish, Peels back scaled eyelids, Smiles. His teeth are endless, Mouths within mouths. A flash of steel. Head rolls from his neck, Still smiling, Lands at my feet, Trailing a ribbon of red. A man stands drenched, Licks the blood from his lips, Lifts the king’s head by the hair, Turns to my father, says, “for her.” My dowry. A head for my hand To hang from his belt, Severed at the wrist.
Friday 25th June 2021
Birmingham in Local Lockdown Ellen Knight News Reporter
Originally published September 2020
Birmingham is back in a local lockdown, as rising figures of COVID-19 cases sweep the city. On Friday 11th September, Birmingham City Council announced that from Tuesday 15th September Birmingham residents ‘will not be able to mix with any other households, indoors or in private gardens, except for those in a support bubble.’ The Council went on to clarify that these restrictions ‘will not affect the hospitality sector,’ so
bars, cafes, and restaurants will remain open. This means that different households will be able to mix in these environments, providing the six person rule is not exceeded. These restrictions will be assessed next week to determine how efficiently they have driven down or stabilised the infection rate. When these extra measures were implemented, the infection rate had leapt from 30.1 cases per 100,000 people over the 8th – 14th August, to 75 per 100,000 as of 11th August. According to the BBC, as of today, 12th August, there are currently 90 cases per 100,000 people in Birmingham. The national average is 18. Despite the fact that the new
restrictions on the Birmingham, Sandwell, and Solihull areas are due to be enforced from Tuesday, the council has been encouraging residents of these areas to follow them immediately. There are, however, exemptions to the rules. Residents are able to enter another household in order to facilitate a house move a relief to many students as Birmingham’s five universities prepare to welcome students back for the start of term. The University of Birmingham (UoB) has announced its intentions to continue to prepare for the start of term, including in-person teaching. The University stated that ‘campus can continue to operate in a Covid-safe way and most of our activities will go ahead as
planned.’ Furthermore, the University has made clear its expectations of students to follow current guidance on: • Social distancing; • Social gatherings (including halls and private sector accommodation); • Following Covid safety guidance on campus (including directional routes within buildings; maximum room capacities; and behaviour); • Hygiene, particularly in public or communal areas; • Wearing of face coverings. • Test and trace (understanding the symptoms, getting tested immediately and working with the University and PHE to identify any close contacts). The impact on students, however, will still be keenly felt. Now unable to socialise at home with groups outside their own housemates or flatmates, both freshers and returning students will experience a vastly different Freshers’ Week. The University has made plans for its ‘Welcome Week’ to run ‘a range of online and on-campus activities,’ and groups such as the Music Society have been making arrangements to continue offering performance opportunities, whilst keeping up musician-specific risk assessments.
Whilst many people have voiced frustration with the complicated messages, Ian Ward, leader of the city council, said that he understood how ‘frustrating’ it was for people to be free to go to the pub but unable to see family. However, he reinforced that ‘the data we have shows that the infection rate has risen mainly due to social interactions, particularly private household gatherings.’
“Both freshers and returning students will experience a vastly different Freshers’ Week” As shops and hospitality venues are more strictly enforcing social distancing and hygiene measures, Birmingham City Council considers them safe enough to remain open, whilst private gatherings are deemed more likely to spread the virus, as people are ‘more relaxed and less vigilant.’ The official advice remains: ‘continue to wash your hands regularly and wear a face-covering in enclosed spaces and if you feel unwell, get a test.’
Cabinet Reshuffle: Could Gavin Williamson Lose the Job? Dan Hunt News Reporter
Originally published 25th March 2021 The Education Secretary has come under intense scrutiny over the past few months, and rumours suggest Gavin Williamson could be among the most vulnerable ministers should the Prime Minister reshuffle his cabinet, as expected in May or June. Williamson, the MP for South Staffordshire, first took the role in 2019, on the same day Boris Johnson became Prime Minister. His first months in office were uneventful and uncontroversial – until the COVID-19 pandemic reached the UK in March of last year. Schools were forced to close, giving rise to the question of what to do about exams.
“The Education Secretary has come under intense scrutiny over the past few months” Working with Ofqual, William’s Department for Education (DfE) settled on an algorithm that intended to distribute fairly grades to students, based on coursework, mock exam
results, and teachers' judgement. Thousands of A level students across the country received grades several levels lower than teachers predicted, with one student on target to receive the grades A*A*A prior to the pandemic being given BBC by the algorithm. Quickly the DfE backtracked, and opted to give students their Centre Assessed Grades, assigned by their teachers and moderated internally by schools and colleges. There have also been several controversies regarding free school meal rollouts, with the government forced to U-turn on its decision not to provide the meals for children during school holidays. This preceded several viral tweets showcasing the poor value for money of food parcels outsourced to and provided by a private company in January, to feed pupils eligible for free school meals during the third lockdown. The Prime Minister described the photos as ‘disgraceful.’ In the new year, children returned to school on 4th January after Boris Johnson said on The Andrew Marr Show the day before that he had ‘no doubt’ schools were safe. However, by the evening of the 4th the situation had changed, and after reopening for a single day, schools were closed until 8th March. In the run-up to schools reopening, campaigns to vaccinate teachers were rejected. Second year English student, Luke, said Williamson has ‘utterly failed’ to
protect teachers, saying they deserve priority vaccination because ‘Teachers are in the public sector. They work on a front line which exposes them to hundreds of households a day.’ A poll found that 92% of teachers thought Williamson should resign.
“A poll found that 92% of teachers thought Williamson should resign” In February, Williamson announced his ambition to appoint a ‘free-speech champion’ for universities, while failing to act on student campaigns for reduced tuition fees during another academic year significantly disrupted by COVID-19. Redbrick polled University of Birmingham students on whether they believe Williamson should remain in post following a reshuffle. At the time of this article’s writing, the Fab N Fresh survey showed that 148 believed he deserved to lose his job, zero students said he should stay. An additional 19 seemed unsure of who the Education Secretary was, asking ‘Who’s Gavin Williamson?’ Ellie, a second year Education student criticised Williamson’s ‘catch-up narrative’, arguing that instead of focusing on the ‘need to meet these grades and guidelines
[...] we should be prioritising their wellbeing.’ She also criticised the ‘unfair’ and ‘unstandardised’ assessment this year, which means schools assign grades instead of students sitting exams. It is ‘practically impossible for students to be assessed fairly.’ After talking about teachers not receiving priority vaccination, Luke went on to criticise Williamson’s ‘inability to answer a single question.’ He then added that ‘those of us at uni have had no support, been blamed for
spikes, and now we aren’t allowed back most likely until September.’ Third year Physics student, Alex, said ‘DfE has largely failed students with no clear guidelines for months from September.’ Alex also criticised the Universities Minister, Michelle Donelan, who he described as ‘absent’, and concluded by saying ‘The kindest words are they simply forgot about university students whilst ruining the futures of millions of school kids through botched exams.’
Friday 25th June 2021
COVID-19 Home Test Mix-Up Puts Students at Risk Becky Gelder News Editor
Charlie Young Social Secretary
Originally published 13th October 2020 Reports have emerged on the Fab N Fresh Facebook group that a number of students in Selly Oak were today (13th October) delivered COVID-19 testing kits that had already been used by other people. The tests, being distributed by Birmingham City Council, were
being handed out to students today in an effort to increase testing in the local area. Second year student Tasha Ashbridge reported on the community Facebook page that people in hi-vis jackets handed them testing kits that were ‘sealed and snapped’ already, with students in affected houses saying ‘some had people’s names and addresses on the tests bags.’ Sophie Dunne, a second year student at the University of Birmingham reported to Redbrick that several students in Selly Oak emerged from their homes to alert the council workers, who reportedly responded asking them ‘not to put it on social media.’ She also noted her house-
mates’ confusion, as they thought ‘we were just being stupid and obviously didn't expect to be given used [...] tests.’ Dunne stated that the City Council representatives returned after five minutes to collect the completed coronavirus tests, although this was after the test had been opened by her housemates. It remains unclear how many student households have been affected by the error, but the risk it poses to the student population of Selly Oak is potentially immense. Third year biology student Charlotte Andrews said ‘it’s outrageous, students are being blamed for being irresponsible and spread-
ing coronavirus and here’s the council giving us used tests, potentially with coronavirus on them!’
“People in hi-vis jackets handed students testing kits that were ‘sealed and snapped’ already” Other students have also reported receiving these COVID19 home testing kits across the past few weeks, although until today no issues had been reported.
Steph de Clercq, a Law with Criminology student in her final year, said: ‘this is so shocking and confusing, how are we meant to know who and what we can trust?’ This incident comes in the wake of the announcement this week that the Birmingham area was to be allocated the ‘high’ category in the government's new lockdown regulations. All household mixing indoors is forbidden, and mixing outdoors must abide by social distancing guidelines and the ‘rule of six.’ Birmingham City Council and the University of Birmingham Guild of Students have been contacted for comment but are yet to respond.
Sexual Harassment: UoB Students Feel Unsafe Anastasis Mauriac News Reporter
Originally published 23rd March 2021 Following reports of sexual harassment on the Vale that have been circulated on social media, Redbrick reached out to the University of Birmingham (UoB), the Guild of Students and several societies, such as Women in Politics and Reclaimcampus_uob, for comments. Rape kits were distributed at the Vale reception by the university on Tuesday 16th March. The Vale reception states that ‘the university is working hard to ensure our students’ safety.’ The university sent a personal safety message and video to all accommodation residents on 12th March as part of the accommodation newsletter. It has increased security presence overnight seven days a week and there is a police officer who works solely across campus whom students can contact. Moreover, they are working with the Guild to reintroduce the Selly Express bus from Monday 22nd March, a free evening shuttle bus service from campus to Selly Oak. A first-year student told Redbrick: ‘Although I can see that the university is attempting to make some difference, the response is incredibly vague and falls short.’ ‘Instead of focusing on the university itself, they have focused on victims and how they can keep themselves safe. This language re-enforces victim-blaming and ignores the integral role that the University has in keeping its students safe.’ ‘The university should focus on training its staff when responding to sexual violence and safety concerns, competent security guards who prioritise women’s safety, as well as having a strict
policy to support victims in recording the crimes and getting resolutions. Without a concrete plan, these are just words with no legitimate impact, leaving the students on campus to be continually vulnerable and unsupported.’
“The university should focus on training its staff when responding to sexual violence” On Wednesday 17th March a peaceful protest was organized by first years on the Vale, participants had to wear a mask and carry a candle as a form of solidarity. There was a large turnout of all genders and for three hours, women and non-binary students shared their stories of sexual assaults and harassment. Three male students also shared their story, or spoke in order to show their support, including Guild president-elect, Mikey Brown. He told Redbrick: ‘it was inspiring and moving to see so many people [�] The courageous testimony so many people shared demonstrates that the scourge of violence against women and girls is endemic in our society.’ ‘Our university has significant work to do in ensuring our campus is a safe environment for all, and believing and supporting survivors and ensuring decisive action is taken against those perpetrating such despicable acts.’ ‘Furthermore, there are steps the Guild must take as we return to in-person activities to ensure it is a safe place such as allowing anonymous reporting of misconduct and misogyny in societies which are then thoroughly investigated and introducing the "Ask for Angela" or similar safeword scheme to its venues so women can access discreet help during nights out.’
A protestor said: ‘I have never been to this kind of protest before but it was close to where I live so it was a great opportunity. It was harsh to hear all these stories of these girls who live next to me and who always seem happy.’ An Instagram account (@ reclaimcampus_uob) was created for the occasion. The group behind the creation of this account describe themselves as ‘a group of girls who, like every other girl on campus, are so tired of its being normalised to be scared all the time and the harassment that we face on a daily basis to face no consequences. We feel it’s the university responsibility to protect us and create pathways for us to report assaults but they have failed consistently.’ After the death of Sarah Everard, the society Women in Politics wrote an open letter to the Vice Chancellor. The open letter currently has over a thousand signatures. They wrote that ‘the safety of women is paramount considering the recent tragic murder of Sarah Everard. For many students at this university, they may feel unsafe being outside and for many, Birmingham is their home or home away from home. ‘What is particularly troublesome is that the Vale Village has a duty of care to many vulnerable first years and the inaction towards the harassment of women is disgraceful and our open letter to the VC is one of the way we hope can make the university prioritise how they safeguard women on campus, the wider university area and in Selly Oak.’ Charlotte Minter, the Guild’s Welfare and Community Officer, issued the following statement to Redbrick: ‘Myself and my fellow Officers were saddened to learn of the incidents that were reported on social media on Tuesday 16th March. We know that the University have asked any students with information to come forward.
‘The Guild would also urge anyone who has suffered any kind of crime, to report the incident, and also to seek help and support to help them come to terms with what they have been through. Guild Advice can offer support and guidance to any student who needs it on a range of different topics, and can be reached via the Guild’s website.’
“The inaction towards the harassment of women is disgraceful ” ‘The vigil, held on Wednesday 17th March at the Vale, looked to be a really powerful moment and it was reassuring to see our students coming together, while recognising social distancing measures.’ ‘If any students would like to remember the victims of sexual assault and reflect on what has happened previously, but would currently prefer not to be in a place with lots of people around, the Guild are holding an online vigil; Reclaim Birmingham, with students and Officers from
Birmingham City University, on Friday 19th March at 6pm. Full details can be found on our website.’ The university posted the following statement on their website: ‘We understand that there has also been some concerning stories being circulated on social media about safety around campus in recent days, and appreciate the anxiety that this causes. ‘We would like to reassure you that we have received no reports to our Security Services or to West Midlands Police of any incidents at the Vale as described in some social media accounts. We would ask if anyone does have any information that they let us know as soon as possible so we can ensure appropriate support is put in place and an investigation can be started quickly.’ ‘Where we have received reports of student safety concerns we have acted promptly to support individual students and continue to work closely with the West Midlands Police.’ If you need to report harassment or assault on campus you can call security services on 0121 414 3000 or email security firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday 25th June 2021
Explaining the Extreme Racial Injustices in American Healthcare
Comment Writer Miren Sowden discusses the racial inequalities in American healthcare, arguing that they have a disastrous impact on African Americans Miren Sowden Comment Writer
The coronavirus pandemic has had a seismic impact on everyone’s lives over the past 12 months. Here at the University of Birmingham, we have seen staff shortages, the substantial impact on students’ mental health, and an almost empty campus. However, both COVID19 and the subsequent economic downfall has affected black people more than most; in the United States, African Americans represent 13% of the population but 22% of all deaths from the virus. As the pandemic became more prevalent in America, theories circulated across the country that black people were immune to the virus. To understand where this seemingly racist theory originated from, and to discover the wide-reaching impacts of scientific racism such as this, we need to first go back to 1793. A direct parallel can be drawn between this belief surrounding the virus and the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia, where the same
misguided theories about black immunity were rife. This immunity theory was used to justify using African Americans to carry out essential work: caring for and burying the sick. The belief of an innate racial difference between black and white bodies was used to once again emphasise the fundamental scientific differences between black and white bodies. Doctors such as Samuel Cartwright and Thomas Hamilton were fixated with proving myths about physical racial differences. These false theories of thicker skin, higher pain tolerances, and lower lung capacity were all used for the sole purpose of rendering black as ‘other’ and legitimising slavery. Nineteenth-century physician Cartwright insisted that forced labour would increase lung capacity and asserted that runaway slaves were inflicted with a disease called drapetomania which could be prevented by ‘whipping the devil out of them.’ Some of these myths still pervade the US healthcare system today; over half of the medical students involved in a 2016
survey believed that black people had higher pain tolerances and thicker skin. These notions of innate racial difference often seem to lead to misdiagnosis and lower dose prescriptions. The scientific racism used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries to justify the abhorrent treatment against enslaved Africans could therefore still be affecting the level and quality of healthcare received by African Americans today. However, we cannot simply look back to racist theories circulating in the nineteenth century for answers as to why myths of black immunity surrounding coronavirus have been quickly followed by higher death rates among the African American community. The segregationist tactics in the twentieth century have also played a significant role in healthcare inequality as they have bred mistrust in American healthcare. The Tuskegee Syphilis Study conducted over the midtwentieth century denied syphilis treatment to unknowing African American men so scientists could study the natural progression of the disease. This
study has long haunted the African American community and led to mistrust in medical trials and vaccines – including the long-awaited COVID-19 vaccines. We also need to look to the wealth gap and underfunded hospitals in majority-black communities for further explanation of this inequality. 150 years of state-sanctioned segregation, discriminatory housing and education policies, and violence against wealthy African Americans have all led to a sizeable wealth gap between races. This wealth gap creates a cycle of poverty w h e r e access to better education is unavailable, leading to lower highereducation rates, lowerincome jobs, less familial wealth, less housing in underfunded communities, and the cycle continues. The ‘white flight’ of the 1950s-1970s accentuated de-investment in inner cities, which are often
majority-black communities. This deinvestment has led to severe underfunding in hospitals where bed and doctor shortages, Pixabay/janjf93 as well as limited access to quality healthcare, have all contributed to worsening healthcare inequality. Myths of innate racial differences have pervaded healthcare for centuries; the use and abuse of black bodies in the name of science has bred immense mistrust among the African American community, and the severe de-investment into hospitals that serve majority-black communities has led to limited access to quality medicine. Individually, each of these factors would negatively affect the healthcare afforded to and sought by African Americans. Together, they are even more devastating, as they create a nation-wide system of inequality that holds racism at its very core.
The UK’s Transphobia Problem Comment Writer Tom Cohen explores the UK’s uniquely left-wing brand of transphobia, arguing that the trans community needs a platform to challenge it Tom Cohen Comment Writer
Content Warning: This article includes discussion of transphobia. Emancipatory discourse around the world has been increasingly punctuated by the subject of trans rights. As inclusivity increases in media, entertainment and celebrity culture you would not be blamed to think that material conditions for trans and non-binary folk are getting better and not worse. However, the United Kingdom’s press, politics and public seems to be woefully devoid of such emancipatory fervour in the debates that matter most. It is all too common among British left-wingers, when appalled at the state of our government, to take comfort in the sentiment, ‘well, at least we’re not as bad as the Americans.' Not only does this lead to complacency, but in many cases, especially trans rights, it is simply not true. You may have seen the High Court ruling that banned puberty blockers for under-sixteens wrestling with their gender identity. Or seen that the National Lottery’s donation to the transgender youth
support charity Mermaids was met with a tirade of maliciously orchestrated complaints. Who could forget the extreme publicity J.K. Rowling has received after she aired her concerns on her blog? Transphobic hate crimes in the UK have quadrupled in the past five years and critical medical help has been denied to transgender and non-binary individuals in desperate need. What makes this so perplexing is that the UK’s brand of transphobia is uniquely ubiquitous and insidiously left-wing. Where you might expect conservatives to have a monopoly on bigotry, in the UK, the most vocal anti-trans activists seem to be the ones who do not attempt to mask their hate behind dog-whistle and euphemism, but rather themselves identify as feminists. Last year, the trendy, ever woke-presenting cosmetics chain Lush caused a stir when it was found that they had donated £3,000 to the charity Woman’s Place UK, one of a number of trans-exclusionary ‘women’s rights’ charities operating in the UK. Although transexclusionary feminist groups are often guised and cautious in their transphobia, presenting themselves as merely concerned for the objections of cis women, the viciousness they reserve for gender-nonconforming people is vivid in more unmoderated decen-
tralised forums. The parenting website Mumsnet is one such forum: its ‘Women’s rights’ section nowadays contains little more than a litany of posts about ‘the trans debate,' one referring to the ‘trans social contagion.' So much for simply voicing women’s concerns.
UK’s brand of transphobia is uniquely ubiquitous and insidiously leftwing”
But why the UK? And why is there transphobia spreading throughout feminist discourse? While a 2020 YouGov pollshows that the majority of the British public agree that ‘a person should be able to self-identify as a gender different to the one they were born in,' the same poll reveals that this acceptance is highly contingent. Britons said that they were not in favour of easing the process by which trans people could legally change their gender, a process that is needlessly long, over medicalised and downright intrusive to many trans folks. The poll also
seems to suggest that the British public view trans-validity as resting on psychiatry and medical surgery, rather than identity (what some call trans-medicalism). It is not surprising that the poll found that older Brits are far less accepting of gender-nonconformism, since LGBT issues had no hope of being taught in schools from 1988 to 2000 as a result of Thatcher’s infamous ‘Section 28.' I would argue that this lack of education has led to a whole generation whose understanding of trans rights has come from dubious media sources which tend to sensationalise. An Ofcom report into representation in BBC TV found that when representing trans people, often the focus is on the negative, medical side of transitioning – a far cry from representation toward normalisation. ‘Why does it have to be so gloomy? [...] We’re the same as everyone else – show the after life, not the hospital [�] I'm going through that myself – I need to see something positive.’ said one interviewee from London. I also see this as bringing over-attention to trans-bodies and side-lining trans-identity, amplifying the false notion that to be trans is to have undergone surgery, which so many do not have access to, and some do not want. Forgetting that gender rests on identity, transphobes have chosen
the body and the public toilet as their bigoted battlegrounds. This leads to more obvious and direct instances of the hateful British attitude toward trans rights, as is evident in our nation’s tabloids’ obsession with the argument that trans women in women’s spaces endangers cis women, even though studies have shown this to be a myth. The simple fact is trans women are women, so I see any feminist that excludes trans women from the fight for equal rights as not living up to their name. It is the responsibility of those presenting the trans community in the media to be honest, listen and to avoid sensationalising the facts. British actress and YouTuber, Abigail Thorn, who recently came out as a trans woman, said in her public statement that ‘trans people, especially trans people of colour, are hit hardest by unemployment, homelessness and domestic, sexual and police violence, but the conversation always focuses on wealthy white cis women tweeting about toilets.’ This country needs to radically change its discourse by airing the voices of marginalised people to the voting public if we are to move toward becoming an accepting community. We need to tackle our transphobia problem in order to reverse the material damage it has done to trans people.
Friday 25th June 2021
We Are the 97%
In a three-part series, Redbrick writers shared their stories in light of a recent study highlighting that almost all women aged 18 to 24 have endured sexual harassment in public spaces Various Writers Content Warning: This article mentions sexual assault and harassment. When I was ten, my body was growing faster than my brain. I had breasts and hips, yet I was still playing with stuffed animals after primary school hours. This age noted the start of the harassment I faced. While swimming in a public swimming pool, an older boy grabbed my boobs and bruised them significantly. I remember how scared I was, I did not even know what sexuality was yet. During festivals, countless men grab my hand or ass randomly and one female forced me into a position where she could ‘accidentally’ kiss me twice, despite me saying ‘no’ when she asked. At two separate jobs, I faced sexual harassment too. When walking down the streets, I have heard the phrase ‘you should smile more!’ all too often and some men even stop their cars next to me to shout something sexual. I would have stayed in bed for the rest of my life if it were not for the men and women who do recognise the issue and help out by walking with me or telling their friends to stop. Self-defence classes and martial arts have also helped me gain strength and confidence so I now feel safer being in public by myself.
stantly running two trains of thought. On the surface are the banal concerns and nagging questions of any man or woman, but deeper, there lies an undercurrent of policing oneself. Alongside ‘what shall I have for dinner?’ and ‘what’s on telly tonight?’ chimes ‘Don’t make eye contact’, ‘Cross the road’, ’Was this skirt a wise idea?’ and so on. Any woman will attest, this chorus of concern is constant and near deafening. I have no doubt Sarah Everard heard the same chorus when she was abducted on the way home from a friend’s house in London. She, like millions of other women, coached herself in the same behaviours – wearing bright clothes, walking along well-lit streets, and staying on her phone, and it still wasn’t enough. That is why her tragedy has failed to shock the female population. It has only affirmed what we had always feared – our rituals will not protect us. Only razing rape culture from our cities, institutions and social structures will protect us. Such a mission is the only fitting tribute to Sarah Everard and all women like her who simply want to get home safe.
Somehow, when discussing sexual harassment, ‘I’ is synonymous with ‘one of 97%.’ This proves the rife nature - Anonymous of harassment, to which I’ve had more experiences of than I can fit in 200 words. I was in a club ‘Why do you always call when where a man, out-of-the-blue, you’re walking somewhere?’ grabbed me and started kissing asks my Dad as I call him pop- me. I hadn’t spoken to him; I ping to the shops or dodging cars barely saw his face. Then another on Bristol Road. I tend to dis- stranger did the same. I was miss the question and say that tossed to-and-fro between the I’m just catching up during a rare two men, feeling like a rag doll. free moment, or that I have run Flash-forward, I was in out of podcasts to listen to, and Nottingham’s Rock City, visiting of course, this is true. a friend at her university. I But there is also a didn’t know the club. I’d deeper truth that lost my friend. I sat in every woman is a booth, thinking aware of, perI’d be safest there, haps not even and texted her. on a conscious Then a man sat level, but it is next to me, of all women have nevertheless blocking my experienced sexual present and exit out of the dictating her booth. I perharassment in public behaviour. I sistently told phone people him ‘I need to spaces when walking find my friend’ because it and leave the (All-Party Parliamentary means I am less booth, in the Group for UN likely to be harhopes he’d leave assed and assaultme alone, so he’d Women) ed. This is my curmove, so I could rent daily ritual. While escape. Like most still at school my ritual was archetypes of the ‘male savkeys in-between the knuckles, in iour,’ who falsely claim the my first year of university it was repeated phrase of ‘you’re alone, a rape alarm, and after being I’ll protect you,’ he was, in fact, sexually assaulted it escalated to the perpetrator; he began a form even more precautions. I am sure of penetration. There were other I will have many more to come. men in the booth who saw and To exist as a woman in a city yet did nothing, likely unaware or large town means to be con- this constituted assault.
A token term in the patriarchy’s defence of sexual harassment is the trivialising ‘not all men.’ Granted, it may not be ‘all men’ who harass, but is it virtually all women who are harassed. ‘Not all men’ doesn’t negate this. Truthfully, these stories barely scratch the surface of my experiences— let alone my first assault at 15, which caused me to develop PTSD. Four years later, I still can’t stomach speaking about it. If 97% of women have been sexually harassed, and 1 in 3 people who’ve experienced a traumatic event develop PTSD, we have an unprecedented epidemic of female suffering on our hands. These stories, and this trauma, are by no means an anomaly.
97% of women aged 18-24 have been sexually harassed in public spaces (UN Women UK) I can think of many times that I have been harrassed and received unwanted attention, messages and more, but there are two standout instances that I will never recover from. I was assaulted and made to feel very uncomfortable by two men who I trusted very much on two separate occasions. It happened in their beds where I have laid several times before and although a lot of alcohol was involved, they kept telling me they loved me as they continued to violate me. It is only now, years later, that I have realised the severe psychological damage that this has done to me, it has completely warped my perceptions on love and trust and I continue to battle with myself every day to remind myself that not all of my friends and loved ones will hurt me like they did. I wouldn’t wish this type of pain on anyone, yet sadly it is all too common of an experience for women. Assault is painted as something that is done by a strange man in a dark alley which you shouldn’t have been at in the first place, but too many people have experienced it in places they call home and by people that they trust.
I was 10 years old by the time I remembered what had hapmy family started noticing that I pened he apologised profusely was receiving male attention and but laughed about it weeks later. urged me to keep close. I had I am no longer in contact with started puberty young and devel- either of these men, but we still oped quickly, but I was also still have mutual friends who were a child. I was oblivious to the out with us that night. grown men staring at me. A few For women, incidents like experiences stand out: this are tales as old as my family and I were time. If any male-preleaving a train stasenting people are tion when my reading this, mum suddenly please talk to stood incrediyour friends. bly close Male silence behind me. is too loud of all women believe She warned right now and me quickly until men are reporting sexual that two men as passionate behind her about this as harassment would not were discusswomen, nothchange anything ing me inaping will propriately. I, change. (YouGov) only 14, had to be physically shielded from the prying eyes of men. - Anonymous During my early teenage years, I would frequently wonder what would happen if At primary school, I was never something went wrong one the girl that the boys had a crush day. What would or could I on. I was jealous of my friends do if I was taken off the getting all the attention until year street? If I was raped? If I four when I found out one boy became pregnant as a cir- liked me. I was flattered but cumstance? Would I want didn’t reciprocate his feelings, to live – or even be able which he did not take well. to? I was a child, but una- Because I didn’t want to kiss ble to escape the fear that him, he decided to ask one of his this could be my fate. I friends to pin me down to a would pray walking home, bench—which was easy as I was I would be on the phone, I small, even for a nine-year-old would walk quicker, I would girl—so he could kiss me. When monitor what I wore. my friends found out they were Ignorance truly is bliss excited for me because I had because being constantly remind- kissed a boy, which must mean ed of your reality – that you have he was my boyfriend now. I tried to be alert and cautious and brave to tell them I didn’t want to kiss – is distressing. Children are him, that he had forced me, but being robbed of peace of mind. they were too young to underThis world does not protect us stand consent—we all were. the way we need. Though this may seem mild compared to some other stories, this - Anonymous boy felt he was entitled to me from a young age, and this is a belief that follows many boys as Like all women, I have countless they become men. I don’t blame experiences that should not have that boy for feeling that way; I happened. Catcalls, unwanted don’t blame his friend for helptouching, having my drink ing him; I don’t blame my friends spiked, etc. Yet, I still think of for not listening to me when I these experiences (that have hap- told them I didn’t want to kiss pened since starting secondary him; I don’t blame myself for not school) as ‘minor’ because oth- telling any teachers. But I do ers have experienced worse. blame the lunchtime assistants However, I want to highlight who let the boys play ‘kiss that it is not always strangers chase’—a game where boys that harm women. Aged 19 I was would chase girls trying to kiss assaulted by a close friend. In a them—despite the fact it clearly club, surrounded by a lot of other upset us; I do blame parents and friends and people both of us schools for not teaching conknew. Myself and my close sent—even in a non-sexual confriends were powerless to move text—to young children; and him away from me, even though most of all I blame the society I was crying. I text another male that teaches boys that they can friend simply the word ‘help’ do whatever they want and teachwhich, initially he did, but he es girls that they must let them. could not stop the first male friend repeatedly taking my - Anonymous belongings, harassing and assaulting me until the night out ended. The second male friend I asked to help me I now regret If you've been impacted by any asking. He took advantage of my of the themes covered in this vulnerable state, (something that article, visit Victim Support or I did not realise was wrong until Rape Crisis. much later). When I told him that
Friday 25th June 2021
Why I Love My Local [Insert Cultural Institution Here]
Flickr/ Jim Linwood
Why I Love My Local [Theatre] Faith Parker Culture Writer
Nestled in the North Laine area of Brighton, the Theatre Royal is
Why I Love My Local [Art Gallery] Nadia Sommella Culture Editor
Growing up in London, when I thought of the word gallery, I pictured the sprawling halls of the V&A or the old-fashioned grandeur of the National Gallery. Modern art, to me, was housed in vast industrial buildings like the Tate where one could get lost in the gift shop alone. I was unenlightened to the quiet intimacy of a local gallery.
“I was unenlightened to the quiet intimacy of a local gallery” Since my parents moved to Nottingham one of my favourite places to visit is the Nottingham Contemporary, a white cube gallery in the heart of the city showcasing a revolving programme of temporary exhibitions. Unlike the blockbuster surveys of famous artists I had come accustomed to, complete with the crowds and price tag that such big names draw, the
a venue I am very familiar with. The building is striking with regency architecture and red brick and is iconic to Brighton’s heritage, hosting productions since 1807. From a young age, I attended the theatre with my family, seeing musicals such as Oklahoma and Sunny Afternoon and plays like Talking Heads. The interior of the Theatre Royal is grand with rich red carpets and an impressive chandelier. The venue holds memories of when I went there on school trips with my drama department to see Hairspray and Mousetrap. We saw the latter performance sitting up in ‘the gods.’ This offered a very different experience from being in the stalls and had a dizzying effect at first. It did not take away any of the suspense of Mousetrap; I still remember my friend sitting next to me gasping loudly in shock at one point in the play. I also completed a week of work experience at the theatre, which was a wonderful opportunity. Over the week, I had a day in each department at the theatre. After watching performances
there, it was so exciting to see how the theatre operated and this included being taken into the roof of the venue to see where the chandelier was rigged up.
Nottingham Contemporary is a smaller (free) space.
Why I Love My Local [Cathedral]
“One of my favourite places to visit is the Nottingham Contemporary” The gallery has been responsible for introducing me to new artists, by championing their work at an earlier stage in their career or by offering international artists their first UK show. The artistic mediums showcased have varied from the more typical painted canvases, to large-scale installations, video art and virtual reality experiences. I will not pretend I have enjoyed each and every one, but it is refreshing to visit a gallery space where I never know quite what to expect, or when I will discover a new gem.
@ Nadia Sommella
“After watching performances there, it was so exciting to see how the theatre operated” The theatre is important to me because my experiences there opened my eyes to the work that goes on behind the performances and how many people are involved. On the 7th July the venue joined the #lightitinred movement honouring cultural and art institutions temporarily inactive. In the current climate, it is so important to keep this local venue alive because of the prestige and all the people involved in making it run. It provides vital cultural entertainment for the community and is a part of what makes Brighton so rich in its art scene.
Emily Gulbis Culture Editor
Located on the outskirts of the Wiltshire city, the looming spire of Salisbury Cathedral can be seen from whichever direction you approach. Growing up in the South West meant that I was surrounded by many beautiful, historical cities such as Bath and Glastonbury, but Salisbury has always been special to me. The city has recently seen much media attention, following the Salisbury novichok poisonings; aside from this and during the tourist season, the cathedral is a peaceful place to visit.
“During the tourist season, the cathedral is a peaceful place to visit”
Dating back to 1092, the first cathedral of Salisbury was at Old Sarum, an Iron Age fort, on a sizeable hill, a good two miles from where Salisbury later came to be built. The then Bishop of Salisbury, Richard Poore, vowed to build a new cathedral away from Old Sarum to escape the influence of the castle and its owner. It is a popular legend that the bishop fired an arrow into the air saying that wherever it landed he would build his cathedral. The present building in the Avon val-
Why I Love My Local [Museum]
mary site and headquarters, the Museum offers three floors with artefacts ranging from Egyptian, to Anglo-Saxon, with a plethora of information on the cultural hisFrankie Rhodes tory of Birmingham, as well as a Life&Style Editor range of temporary exhibitions. Before the lockdown, visitors could enjoy ‘Dressed to the Nines,' a free exhibition exploring ‘dressing up and going out from around 1850 to the present day.’ A highlight of this collection for me had to be a pair of calf-length, purple velvet Doc Martens, that inspired much envy. Another attraction of BMAG Philip Pankhurst (cc-by-sa/2.0) is its extensive Pre-Raphaelite collection, with an entire room As a nervous Fresher on her first dedicated to paintings and sculpweekend in Birmingham, a trip to tures of the movement, in addition a museum was just what I needed to the many items currently on to calm my nerves and embrace tour. I reviewed this collection for my new city. So when I noticed the Volunteer’s Blog, which is just the Birmingham & Museum Art one of the ways I have been able Gallery proudly standing within to get involved, in addition to Victoria Square, without even assisting with tours and object knowing what it was, I wandered handling sessions. in. Flash forward two years and I The Museum and Art Gallery am now a volunteer for the is a friendly, welcoming environBirmingham Museums Trust, and ment that has introduced me to the regular attender of their beautiful world of heritage and provided a Edwardian Tearooms. beautiful place to unwind. It is so The Museum is just one of important that this venue, and the nine heritage sites that form the Trust in general, is able to survive Birmingham Museums Trust, with beyond the lock-down, as it prolocations including the Jewellery vides vital arts education and celQuarter and Aston. As their pri- ebration for the city. ley was completed in 1258, with the new addition of its famous spire 30 y e a r s later, the second largest spire in Europe. Such a feat of engineering at this time is incredible Wikimedia Commons/ Anthony McCallum for us to imagine now. In fact, it is remarkable that the building still stands at all. The site of the cathedral was once a partially-drained swamp. The foundations are only 28 inches deep and so the building and spire are effectively floating on a gravel bed in the river. The effect of this The enormous size of Salisbury is visible within the cathedral; Cathedral means it is a place that you can see the marble columns should be revisited several times. that hold up the structure gradu- One of the best spots to begin ally bend as the base of the cathe- with is the central water feature, a dral moves over time. large bronze basin placed in the For me, there are many rea- middle of the aisle. Also nicksons to return multiple times to named the ‘funky font,’ the crucithe cathedral, whether it is the fix-shaped water table reflects the café in the cloisters, the Magna details decorating the ceiling and Carta, which is on exhibition even mirrors the large stainedhere, or the incredible stained- glass window on the back wall glass windows. Other enjoyable when viewed from certain angles. features of the cathedral are the The cathedral has already reoregular services and the occa- pened to the public for advanced sional concert rehearsals, which bookings so I would urge those fill the building beautifully with eager to see cultural heritage sites music from the choir and the to make the journey to this ancient, organ. magnificent building.
“There are many reasons to return multiple times to the cathedral”
Friday 25th June 2021
Art of Pandemics Past: What Can We Learn? Culture Writer Rebecca O’Daly looks to the pandemics of the past to see how art has been a mode of expression during times of crisis Rebecca O'Daly Culture Writer
Pandemics of bygone eras have often brought the silver lining of a kind of artistic awakening. The most prominent example of this is how the bubonic plague in Europe prompted the emergence of one of the most pivotal epochs for art, the Renaissance. Any kind of generational upheaval often inspires a seismic shift in cultural mindset, a pandemic especially. There is something about daily life becoming changed beyond recognition that often gives rise to the most profound artistic revelation. When everything around you has become chaotic, losing yourself in the mindless pleasure of creating can be a simple way of restoring some sense of tranquillity. The following artists’ works were born out of various pandemics of the past, and whether they use the medium of visual art or literature they speak to the current moment.
no longer be advisable. With time to pass, each narrator tells a story in the evenings, over the course of ten days, culminating in one hundred stories. The tales range from life lessons to moral musings on the pitfalls of vice and of virtue and happiness and advocate for a kind of ‘narrative prophylaxis’ as described by Martin Marafiot. In escaping towns in favour of retreating to the countryside and entertaining oneself with storytelling, we can now see Boccaccio as advocating for what we understand in modern times as isolation. Importantly, the prologue to the piece notes that his purpose in writing Decameron was primarily to bring comfort and entertainment to his friends, something that is in keeping with the overall optimistic message of the piece.
Prospero and the other nobles are indifferent to the sufferings of the rest of the population beyond the abbey walls. This elite minority passes the time in luxury, having fused the doors shut. However, the celebrations are interrupted by someone disguised as a Red Death victim, who is discovered as the clock strikes midnight. The intruder is pursued through all six of the rooms until Prospero confronts him in the final black room with a dagger. Upon directly facing the intruder Prospero falls dead. When the intruder is stripped of his mask and robe by the enraged nobles, they find to their consternation that nothi n g l i e s
Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death Giovanni Boccaccio’s (1842): The Decameron A similar product of a pandemic is Poe’s famous (1353): short story The Masque of Boccaccio’s Decameron contains 100 individual narratives told as short stories. These are narrated by seven women and three men, with a backdrop of the Black Death, as they take refuge in a deserted village just beyond Florence. The work was devised shortly after the epidemic of 1347 and finally came to fruition in 1353. The title of the work pays homage to Boccaccio’s admiration of Greek philosophy and combines the Greek words for ‘ten’ and ‘day’ to refer to the ten days over which the narrative takes place. The framing narrative focuses on the group who have escaped plague-stricken Florence to the countryside for two weeks. This bears an uncanny resemblance to the fact that in our present pandemic Italy was the first majorly affected European country. However, escaping to one’s country retreat would of course
“The framing narrative focuses on the group who have escaped plague-stricken Florence to the countryside for two weeks”
the Red Death. The narrative has an underlying message of the inevitability of death, prompted by the confrontation with one’s own mortality that a pandemic often causes. In the story, Prince Prospero, the protagonist, is taking refuge from the plague in his abbey. To pass the time, he and some other affluent nobles put on a masquerade ball, with each of the seven rooms in the abbey decorated in various different colours.
“The story ends with the nobles all succumbing to the disease and dying, an ironic end given their attempts to barricade themselves away from it”
Wikimedia Commons/Edgar Alan Poe
The story ends with the nobles all succumbing to the disease and dying, an ironic end given their attempts to barricade themselves away from it. It is far from being a cheery story of perseverance in the face of a pandemic. This macabre tale is especially resonant in our present moment
because of the notion of the rich hiding themselves away, while the poor are left to succumb to the disease. This is redolent of course of many a headline during COVID-19 of the uberrich jetting off to holiday homes to isolate in luxury, whilst others were holed up in a single bedroom flat with no green space. Clearly, Wikimedia Commons/Edvard Munch, Self Portrait the disparity with the Spanish Flu, via Nasjonalmuseet between the have and have-nots has changed little from Edvard Munch, the renowned the 19th century. Norwegian painter most famous for his painting ‘The Scream’ was no stranger to a self-portrait and produced two during his infection with the flu. ‘Self Edvard Munch, Portrait with the Spanish Flu’ and ‘Self Portrait after ‘Self Portrait Influenza’ depict the artist’s suffering and the aftermath it after the Spanish wreaked. Death and sickness were two constants in Munch’s Flu’ (1919): life and were reflected in his work, often characterised by dark surroundings and murky The Spanish flu of 1918 and figures representing the Angel 1919 is perhaps one of the dead- of Death. The symptoms of the liest outbreaks of modern times Spanish flu were akin to that of and an estimated 100 million COVID-19 and the shortness of died, with a total of over 500 breath that was commonplace is million infected. The ramifica- shown in the painting. Both tions upon that generation were portraits are haunting, Munch manifold as so many had been appearing pale and drained. The lost, artist Gustav Klimt painting depicting the aftermath amongst them. However, many highlights the exhaustion survived such as Franklin wrought upon the artist’s body. Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, However, he diverges from his artist Georgia O’Keefe and Walt previous depictions of sickness Disney to name but a few. Like in not featuring the Angel of pandemics of the past, it Death or any similar references, inspired a great deal of creative suggesting perhaps a note of output, however, it was largely optimism. literature with a few exceptions such as Edvard Munch’s Spanish While we might not be on Flu series. the cusp of a second Renaissance, (and the collective urge to bake incessantly, or rediscover discarded hobbies does not translate into the same kind of profound artistic pursuit), it is clear that in times of crisis, people often turn to creativity for solace. The artistic mode of expression may have diverged towards more modern phenomena, such as TikTok dances, but the seeking comfort in creative enterprises remains constant – from one pandemic to the next. When we emerge from our isolation as the pandemic stabilises, there is comfort in having a large body of artwork to immortalise both the hardship endured and the strength of the human spirit.
“Like pandemics of the past, it inspired a great deal of creative output, however, it was largely literature with a few exceptions such as Edvard Munch's Spanish Flu series”
Friday 25th June 2021
A Press Conference for Jon Batiste Lauren Ramsden Music Critic
When Jon Batiste entered the Zoom call, where 75 giddy students – including myself - waited for him, he was out of his familiar Late-Show-suit garb and wearing a comfy, black and yellow tracksuit, a relaxed demeanour, and a smile, clearly comfortable in front of his piano and a camera. The Louisiana native is fresh off of acclaim for his contributions to the Disney-Pixar film Soul (which he has just won a Golden Globe award for Best Soundtrack), both musically and through helping the animators with main character’s piano playing, but he certainly did not show any signs of taking time off to enjoy the impromptu holiday the pandemic has pushed many in his profession into. Instead, he was lively, promoting his new album, We Are, which is one of my most anticipated for this year due to the quality of its singles so far. ‘CRY’ is a beautiful and sombre track, taking the listener on an emotional journey with the oft smiling Batiste, and ‘I Need You’ a contrastingly catchy dance-inducing track, which pays homage to the swinging dance halls of 1920s Harlem in its music video. Jon Batiste began by stating that he was ‘on a vibe,’ followed by a short scale interlude on his piano, which joyfully peppered the whole Q&A, and made Batiste and his music feel almost inseparable. At just 34-years-old, Jon Batiste has released 11 albums and EPs (not including his upand-coming release) and has recorded and performed with icons of the industry such as Stevie Wonder, Prince, Willie Nelson and Mavis Staples. He is also, as the Q&A coordinator informed us, the Music Director of The Atlantic and Artistic Co-Director and Creative Director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem, and a self-proclaimed
activist, something he sees as being deeply rooted in his – and in a more general, wider sense – music: ‘I look at my role as an activist and a musician under the one umbrella of being a human; I think that being a human being creates opportunity for you to tap into your divine nature or your lower nature - so I am just trying to be the best version of myself. This creates opportunities for activism, for music and everything in-between. It is all one.’ Batiste also went on to explain his view on how music can be used in social change: ‘Music changes the way people’s emotions and thoughts happen. It makes it feel communal. You have music at BBQs, worships services, funerals, etc. so I think music has always been a social glue. So, if you get people together, and you make people feel the same emotion at the same time, it is a lot easier to have a nuanced conversation and dialogue. That is why people have been musical ambassadors throughout the centuries. People have used music in the civil rights movement, it is just the oldest trick in the book!’
“Music changes the way people’s emotions and thoughts happen” It was clear to see the passion Jon Batiste has for social change and his belief in his contribution through and with his music. Truly inspirational and thought-provoking words such as these were the bulk of the Q&A. I think his appeal is that, although much of what he said was insightful, it was also effortless and authentic. He was wholly himself, especially when talking about his child-
hood: ‘I think growing up in the South, there is a pace to life which is very slow and allows for you to be reflective. I think growing up in Louisiana in particular, there is so much that is culturally different to many other places in the world. There are the Spanish areas and the French areas, the African influences all over; you have all of these different ways that subconsciously teach you how to appreciate culture and appreciate tradition and appreciate community. Then you start to think about life in a certain way before you can verbalise what that is. I think, ultimately, the South has a lot of negative stereotypes and a lot of negative realities that have influenced me [...] filters to view the world that I had to be wary of. All these things are good too, because it is just real life [...] that is just the long way of saying that the vibe of [The South and] Louisiana is very unique; it creates a unique perspective in a young person.’ Jon Batiste was also very eloquent when speaking about the treatment of Black ingenuity and creativity in the music industry and the power of Black music: ‘Those of us who are musicians cannot avoid being influenced by Black music, it is just a part of the DNA. It is like the air we breathe. We have gone through times where we have been reluctant to acknowledge Black genius, but that is different than being influenced by it. The undeniable quality of the culture is something we will always struggle with if we view it through the prism of race
and racism. I see things ultimately as a spiritual lens over everything. Spiritually, it is a calling for Black culture and the people in our ancestral group to give this to the world. It is a superpower, whether people are ignorant about it or not.’
“Those of us who are musicians cannot avoid being influenced by Black music, it is just a part of the DNA” The acknowledgement of Black culture’s influence is something that we as a society are still to fully achieve. The strength of Batiste’s words clearly and articulately emphasises this, and places him firmly in conversation with a long line of Black, artistic genius;
further exemplified by how he spoke about his new album, We Are: ‘It is like a Black, pop, masterpiece work. It is a novel, and if you close your eyes, it is a movie. You do not skip chapters. It is one piece. If you are open to it, I believe you will feel very full.’ ‘We Are. That is it. A lot of times we wait, and we look around for the answer, and we are. We look around for somebody to save us; we look around for somebody to understand who we are. I look around at the times that we are in and that is the question and that is the answer: We are? We are. That is it. That is why I put it there. It is something for you.’ Despite Batiste’s impressive list of achievements, it feels as if he is only just getting started. At least, that was the impression I got from this Q&A. Everything he said was authentic, inspiring, and in depth; he thought long and hard about all the questions he answered so that they were meaningful. His album, I am sure, will reflect this authentic yet playful personality.
Single Review: Olivia Rodrigo drivers license The Musical: The Series, even writing a song for the show entitled, ‘All I Want,’ which gained a lot of traction on TikTok. Therefore, it goes without saying that Olivia Rodrigo did not fail to amaze fans with her debut single, ‘drivers license.’ In a beautiful, yet simplistic sounding song, Olivia tells a tale of Geffen Records heartbreak and reminiscence. Rodrigo shared a snippet of Georgia Husselbee the song on her Instagram back in Music Critic July 2020, with the caption ‘wrote dis the other day. vv close to my Olivia Rodrigo rose to stardom in heart. gonna call it ‘drivers license’ Disney’s High School Musical, I think lol.’ This song is extremely
personal to Rodrigo as she speaks of feeling confused whilst going through a heartbreak that was so multifaceted to her and this is reflected in her lyrics. Rodrigo begins with simple piano chords and a recurring note acting as a beat. Percussion does not appear until the second verse, which then flows into a build up for the first chorus. The recurring note creates tension, until the last line of the chorus when all music stops, leaving the lyrics; ‘Cause you said forever, now I drive alone past your street’ to ring out. This impacts the listener as it forces them to relate to the painful and confusing emotions Rodrigo felt after her break-up. Rodrigo has often referred to Taylor Swift as being her biggest inspiration when it comes to song writing and this can be seen as she has gotten personal with the lyrics whilst telling
a story of love. It is easy to get wrapped up in the emotion of this song.
“It is easy to get wrapped up in the emotion of this song” The bridge is where the song truly peaks as Rodrigo is almost chant-singing the lyrics. The lyrics refer to her inability to forget and move on; ‘I still see your face in the white cars, front yards / Can’t drive past the places we used to go to.’ The melody of the bridge is repeated with different lyrics and a repetition of the refrain, ‘Cause I still fuckin’ love you, babe.’ The bridge flows
straight into the final chorus where Rodrigo sings, ‘And I just can’t imagine how you could be so okay, now that I’m gone.’ These lyrics embody the true feelings of heartbreak and confusion and is an excellent debut single. ‘drivers license’ is best described as the perfect song to blast whilst driving or dancing in the rain. It exemplifies what everyone goes through at some point in their life, in a gentle pop track. Olivia Rodrigo represents a new generation of artists brought up listening to the song-writings of Taylor Swift, and I expect we will be hearing more of her in the future.
Friday 25th June 2021
Essential Albums: Daft Punk Discovery Music Critic Ben Forsdick revisits Daft Punk’s iconic and revolutionary album, Discovery Ben Forsdick Music Critic
February 22nd 2021 marked the final day of Daft Punk’s 28 year career. There was no fanfare, no farewell tour or live album, no final record or last hurrah, just a YouTube video that told fans all they needed to know, that Daft Punk was over. The group’s final record, Random Access Memories, was released in 2013. Their last tour was in 2007. Despite only fleeting evidence of activity since Random Access Memories, the duo’s farewell provoked a monumental reaction. To not commemorate the end of a career like that of Daft Punk’s would be scandalous. So, it is time for an essential albums review: Daft Punk’s 2001 sophomore record Discovery. They do not come much more essential than this.
“To not commemorate the end of a career like that of Daft Punk’s would be scandalous” In 1997, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de HomemChristo, two seemingly ordinary French producers, released Daft Punk’s debut record Homework. The album was slick, efficient and was responsible for some of the late ‘90s biggest house tracks like ‘Around the World’ and ‘Da Funk.’ It was a hugely rich era for house and electronic music, with the genre branching out from its Detroit and Chicago roots. The
Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim were crafting the sounds of Big Beat, Aphex Twin and Boards of Canada were pioneering IDM, and instrumental hip-hop was beginning to attract main stream attention too. Furthermore, techno and house scenes were fully formed in Berlin and Paris, integrating Europe into the genre’s canon. Electronic dance music of this era can be defined as both prolific and saturated. Coming out of Daft Punk’s debut, the duo needed something definitive to ensure their music was not derivative of the multitude of sounds that were dominating clubs in the late ‘90s. Their solution was 2001’s Discovery, a record with which Daft Punk cultivated the future of dance music by reinventing the sounds of the past. An integration of Disco into their house mixes provided nostalgia, while hugely innovative production and mixing techniques facilitated the need for these reminiscent sounds to be updated. We see these ideas frequently; Dua Lipa, Bruno Mars and Carly Rae Jepsen have all done this in recent years. But Daft Punk were there first and the result was a landmark moment in the history of dance music. Additionally, Discovery was the record that first saw the duo in complete robot gear; and the music was further used as the basis of the animated film Interstella 5555. Discovery was more than the duo’s sophomore record. It was a new direction, a new concept and a complete sonic and visual reinvention. Simultaneously, this album is faithful to its influences and hugely ahead of the curve. The album opens with ‘One More Time,’ an explosive track, heavily utilising sidechain com-
pression in a way that would revolutionise the way producers would mix dance music for years to cone. The disco aesthetic kicks in immediately with these bright synths and jubilant, pitch-shifted vocals. The bell which sounds as the record transitions into ‘Aerodynamic’ feels like a warning, a nostalgic alarm that soon plunges the listener into the second track on this album, with its perfectly structured fluctuations between funk grooves and distorted glissandi. The grooves on this record are gorgeously mixed, ‘Face to Face,’ ‘High Life’ and ‘Superheroes’ all feature grand and dynamic beats that are made for club and dancefloor life.
“The disco aesthetic kicks in immediately with these bright synths and jubilant, pitchshifted vocals” Despite the clear club-oriented sounds of Discovery, one of the record’s most admirable qualities is how intelligent and well formed the songs are. For a dance album, the songwriting on display is beautifully and artfully crafted. It feels almost like each song is an orchestral score. The track ‘Digital Love’ is structured like a pop song, with verses and choruses. It is more than the repetitious hooks that were the building blocks of most dance music of this era. This is what makes Discovery special. The record stands alone as a piece of art that is separate from the clubs that played it. Daft Punk were not simply mixing electronic music, they were writing exceptional ballads too. To this day, ‘Something About Us’ sounds modern, futuristic and sensual in delivery. It is a track whose core elements are apparent in the music of band’s like Gorillaz, Beach House and Tame Impala. No other dance band were audacious enough to write songs like this. The now legendary ‘Harder,
Better, Faster, Stronger’ transcends the band due to its inclusion in the sample-based Kanye West song ‘Stronger.’ Yet the song’s status as a lead single makes it feel no less cohesively situated within Discovery than any other track. The pitch-altered vocals are not only reminiscent of the duo’s robotic visuals but are technically another landmark moment in terms of production. Yet again, this innovation came from the past. Kraftwerk’s vocal sounds are all over Discovery. But it is undeniable that the chopped up and pulled apart vocals on ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ were a spiritual predecessor to Burial’s Untrue, a hugely important electronic record in itself. For all this innovation, Discovery does still play to Daft Punk’s strengths. ‘Crescendolls’ is a typically drawn out dance song and the tonal qualities of the mix are left free to grow for a full three and a half minutes. Following ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ in the track-listing, the duo allows this record to ebb and flow. They transfer between these futuristic ballads and classically written dance tracks. There are moments like ‘Short Circuit’ where the record’s volatility is on show. The funk inspired groove on this track dissipated at the midway point and transforms into a near ambient synth pattern. The variety of sounds and noises on Discovery is vast but it all comes together. This record is one hour in length, yet the abundance of compositional ideas results in virtually no lulls during those 60 minutes. ‘Too Long’ is this record’s 10 minute closer; a song during which a minimal number of ideas are pushed to their limits and extended into an expansive track. It is often criticised for its longevity
but every time that ‘can you feel it’ hook returns, the length feels justified.
“This record is one hour in length, yet the abundance of compositional ideas results in virtually no lulls during those 60 minutes” It is perhaps easiest to leave this review at that. Giving away too much would be unfair to those yet to experience this record’s brilliance. It is largely unlike any other album. After all, there are very few electronic dance music records from the late ‘90s/early 2000’s that have remained culturally relevant. Even now, dance music is a genre driven by singles and superstar producers whose live sets are invested in crowd participation more than the actual mixing of tracks. Little has changed in this regard and focusing on the single can be a smart idea, both commercially and artistically. But it is Discovery that breaks this mould. It is fully formed, rubbing shoulders with some of the greatest albums from any genre of that period. It has been 20 years since Daft Punk released Discovery, but time is meaningless when music is sent from the future. Fair play guys, this really was one for the history books. The robots have departed Earth; whatever planet they now call home will be the galaxy’s eternal envy.
Friday 25th June 2021
What Makes a Good Book Adaptation? With the cinematic release of YA hit Chaos Walking, Film Critic Emily Wallace lays out the successes and failures of past book-to-film adaptations Emily Wallace Film Critic
From countless remakes and retellings of classic novels to the rise of film versions of popular young adult books (Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking being the latest example), the book adaptation has been a popular genre of film since the beginning of cinema. However, creating an adaptation that satisfies fans of the books can be very difficult. One of the most important things to consider when creating a good book adaptation for many people is accuracy to the book itself. After all, a book must have
a certain level of popularity to be adapted to screen in the first place, and fans of the book will want to see that story told in film, rather than anything else. A series that stands out to me as an accurate adaptation is The Hunger Games. These films stayed generally faithful to the plot of the popular Young Adult series, allowing some changes to minor details, and therefore were successful both with long-time fans and the wider population, as it followed a coherent narrative set out by the books with the budget required to pull it off well. By splitting the adaptation of the final Hunger Games book, Mockingjay, into two parts, a popFacebook/EMMA.
ular move when adapting book series, there was more time to go into the details of the plot and ensured that important details were not cut for the sake of time. However, splitting books into multiple parts is not always the best choice if there is not enough source material to fill out multiple films. The number of changes to the story and extra details added to The Hobbit trilogy, for example, to make three films out of one book felt rather unnecessary and dragged out at times, and to me the story falls a little flat in comparison to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which in contrast had much more material that could fit into three films. A lack of accuracy to the book often leads to the downfall for many unsuccessful adaptations, one of the most notable being the Percy Jackson films. The first of these, The Lightning Thief, made substantial changes, such as the ages of the characters and to several plot points of the book, leaving it almost unrecognisable as an adaptation of the popular children’s series. The fact that this film series was cancelled after only adapting two of the five books (much to author Rick Riordan’s relief) reflects how an inaccurate adaptation of the original source material can limit its box office success. This is a stark contrast to the Harry Potter series, which was generally quite faithful to the
books and was a global success, having eight films adapted from seven books (the final film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, being the 13th highest grossing film of all time) as well as a spin-off film series, Fantastic Beasts. There is also nothing quite like the crushing disappointment of seeing a book you love be ruined by a bad movie adaptation. My strongest memory of this feeling is from leaving the cinema after watching the adaptation of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, having had to endure two hours of a movie where half the characters’ ages, personalities and powers had been swapped and changed and a plot that barely resembled that of the book. The recent Artemis Fowl adaptation was another let-down for me, yet again having changed many aspects of a book I read and enjoyed in my childhood. As well as just being bad movies in many cases, bad book adaptations have the added weight of letting down a dedicated fanbase, without whom the film may not have happened in the first place. Films like Miss Peregrine and Artemis Fowl leave you wondering why they even bothered adapting the book in the first place, if they are going to disregard a large portion of the plot. However, when there is a good adaptation of a book you love, it
brings a whole new level of enjoyment to that already treasured story. More recent adaptations of Jane Austen novels, such as Pride and Prejudice (2005) and Emma (2020), succeeded in capturing the spirit of the story, even if they aren’t perfectly accurate adaptations, only increasing my love for these stories. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is another example of an adaptation done right. It is rewarding to see characters or storylines that have had an impact on you brought to life in a way that does justice to it, and adaptations of books can also bring these stories to a wider audience. I can think of several books that I’ve read and loved having learnt about them through a film adaptation. Adapting a book into a film is something that can either be done very well or very poorly, with the power to enhance a beloved novel or create an abomination that fans can barely bring themselves to think about. In my opinion, to avoid the latter, the best move is to keep it faithful to the book its based on, although allowing small changes to make it fit the film format better, and to keep the atmosphere of the novel very much at heart. The book adaptation will always be a prominent part of cinema, so we must hope that future directors will continue to respect the books they choose to adapt.
Review: Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm
Film Critic Emily Faithful reports live on the latest adventure of Kazakhstan’s most infamous journalist on his quest to win over America… again Emily Faithful Film Critic
One would be forgiven for thinking the character of Borat should never have been revived. The waves of 'high five', 'my wife' and neon mankinis brought on by the first Borat film is now almost as tired as TV’s meerkat-centric ad campaign. What more does the PC-oblivious Kazakh journalist have to offer? A seemingly-impossible follow-up would have to overcome this and live up to its predecessor. It’s no surprise then that Sacha Baron Cohen, kept it a secret for so long. Aware of these challenges, the release of a sequel to such a cultural icon may make the more pessimistic groan, but to the even more pessimistic, the return of Borat makes total sense. The first film, a road-trip comedy which revealed racist, hypocritical and xenophobic elements of American society, was released in 2006. 2020 could be a retirement project. Indeed, this time around, politics takes centre stage, but despite the clear criticisms of conservative ideologies, American republicans, and greed, comedy is still a protagonist. And with the introduction of Borat’s neglected daugh-
ter, Tutar, played by Maria Bakalova with the guts of Evel Knievel, the plot is solid enough that the film is much more than a scroll through your Twitter feed. Borat’s life has gone downhill drastically since we last saw him, but he’s given a second chance by his government to make amends with America. This time, Borat is accompanied by his daughter, who is halfway to becoming like her hero, Melania Trump. Her next step: marry a rich man. Bakalova steals the show, taking on more risks than Baron Cohen himself. Her ability not just to keep a straight face whilst performing a Kazakh fertility dance, but convince real people that her character, is a real person, has led to Baron Cohen calling for her Oscar nomination. With Borat at conflict with his toxic beliefs this time around, perhaps it’s Tutar’s journey to independ-
ence which is more compelling. Another road-trip across America, another mankini scene - but something has changed. The previous 'moviefilm' was all in the name of fun. Interviews had some interesting revelations about America, but the main narrative was Borat hijacking his own documentary and moving it to California so that he could marry former Baywatch star Pamela Anderson. There was the sense that Baron Cohen’s main aim was to wreak havoc in any way he could, knowing that his interview format would inevitably lead to some insight about the American people. This time around, a closing title card reads 'now vote'. For light-hearted relief, it’s followed by 'or you will be execute’, but there’s still the sense that the filmmakers are serious. And given the timing, it’s pretty clear who they want Americans to vote for. Agendas often put comedy in the back seat, but here Baron Cohen’s gotten away with it. He gives us the chance to laugh at the serious issues, treating the selfcontradicting opinions of their perpetrators with the Facebook/Amazon Prime Video
same reverence as the next fartjoke made. Those who don’t recognise their own stupidity have already lost the game. The interviews which lack 'the idiot' naturally put Borat in that role instead, so all the interviewees have to do is appear to be more sensible than Borat for us not to laugh at them. They often fail. It seems that the agenda is not to persuade us of something in particular, but to persuade us, through the encouragement of comedy, to think about what we’re hearing. There’s another sort of humour too. It’s a disturbing sort of laughter, at the fact that the backbone of society, the morality and empathy of others that we assume we can rely on does not actually exist. Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm has been referred to as an exposé – can we really call it that in 2020? The famous Rudy Giuliani scene is perhaps the least surprising moment of the film. More poignant was the lack of decency shown by those who appear so tied to their moral values. It’s the decline of moral responsibility which was really exposed (as Baron Cohen said on Entertainment Tonight, 'watch the movie' and 'make your own mind up'). There is doom. There is gloom. But there is also professional
babysitter Jeanise Jones who, admired for being such a beacon of hope in giving Bakalova’s Tutar the courage she needs to become independent, has now had a GoFundMe page started for her. There is also a lot of heart. There is a clear and unashamed avocation for compassion and the loveconquers-all attitude adopted by holocaust-survivor Judith Dim Evans in a scene she should not have taken so well. VERDICT: Human decency and heart aside, Borat: Subsequent Moviefilm will have everyone laughing as much as its predecessor. There is no shortage of shocking moments comparable to the naked-wrestling-at-the-mortgagebrokers-annual-banquet scene of the 2006 film. It's still fun. Despite a premise almost identical to that of the previous film, this sequel has earned its relevance through selection of interviewees, but once again, It’s still fun, and with a great amount of thanks to the introduction of Maria Bakalova, it’s the movie’s heart that makes it a – you saw it coming – 'great success'.
Friday 25th June 2021
Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League Film Critic Jake Davies effusively praises Zack Snyder’s new and improved version of 2017’s Justice League Jake Davies Film Critic
After years of fan campaigns and an online movement calling for DC to #ReleaseTheSnyderCut, director Zack Snyder’s version of Justice League has finally seen the light of day. Despite following a largely similar plot to the 2017 flop Justice League, Snyder’s director’s cut includes almost two hours of new footage which adds depth to the characters, fleshes out the plot and hugely improves upon Joss Whedon’s chopped and changed movie in almost every department. Clocking in at just under four hours and split into six chapters, Zack Snyder’s Justice League is an epic undertaking which deserves a chance on the big screen when cinemas finally reopen this summer. Snyder’s passion for the project is evident in every scene, be it in its sweeping cinematic landscapes or visceral, R-rated action sequences lifted almost straight from the comics. It is clear from these changes that this is much more the product of an artist than the safe and uninspired studio-endorsed 2017 original. At the forefront of these key changes is Cyborg’s (Ray Fisher) backstory, most of which was binned in Whedon’s 2017 reshoots. These cuts were to the detriment of the film's emotional impact, as Victor Stone’s journey, in particu-
lar his turbulent relationship with his father, drives the heart of the story. It highlights one of the flaws of 2017’s edition, which was that the audience simply didn’t care about the characters, who were hastily brought together with little development as DC attempted to copy Marvel’s The Avengers with their own superhero team up. Snyder rectifies this, providing additional depth to the origins of Aquaman (Jason Momoa), Cyborg, and the Flash (Ezra Miller) to help the audience connect with these characters and raise the emotional stakes come the final showdown. It wasn’t just the heroes who received this treatment. Ciaran Hinds’ Steppenwolf gains much more screen time in ZSJL, with deeper motivations elevating him from the two dimensional boring baddie the team took on in 2017. The CGI villain also benefits from a much needed redesign, now a much more imposing figure. The improvement is staggering and makes a world of difference to the story, which this time includes DC big-bad Darkseid (Ray Porter), albeit restricted to just a few scenes. As the old trope goes, any superhero movie is only as good as its villain, and Justice League is no exception. Cinematically, the DCEU heroes have never looked better. Snyder’s distinct colour palette and directorial style remains consistent throughout, and the reworked soundtrack courtesy of Junkie XL is varied and beautiful,
despite a few clunky tracks. Snyder’s interpretation is far more captivating than Whedon’s ever aspired to be. One of the strongest alterations is that of the ending, which differs vastly from the original and is far more engaging than the original's dull and predictable showdown. Utilising the individual strengths of the protagonists, Snyder delivers a well-balanced finale with a few fun twists, brilliant visual action and some brutal beat downs, effectively leaning into DC’s darker side. This brutality allows DC to explore different avenues than those typically examined in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, creating a niche which a future Snyderverse could have exploited further if it had come to fruition.
“Cinematically, the DCEU heroes have never looked better” Speaking of Snyder’s future plans, the director includes numerous flash-forwards in this movie, hinting towards events and themes which would’ve been explored had Snyder been given the green light to complete his planned Justice League trilogy. As it stands, Warner Brothers are making it clear that this film concludes Snyder’s partnership with DC, making it even more rewarding to have a peak at what could have
been. Some will be understandably frustrated that the movie spends so much time setting up a future which probably won’t take place, but nonetheless these sequences are fascinating to consider and strikingly different to the rest of this first entry in the supposed-dead trilogy. All of this is not to say that Zack Snyder’s Justice League is the perfect film. The mammoth four-hour run time naturally suffers from some pacing problems in places, and the plot is still largely predictable. There are plenty who dislike the darker tone and struggle with the length too, but the one thing all can seem to agree on is that this film is far superior to its 2017 predecessor.
The story is more cohesive and the characters arcs are far more satisfying, and thankfully there is not a dodgy CGI moustache in sight. Zack Snyder has finally seen his vision fulfilled and for DC fans across the world, it has been worth the wait. VERDICT: Big, bold, beautiful and better than the original in every way, this is the redemption the Justice League needed. If you’re a fan of the cinematic and superheroic, you owe it to yourself to check this out!
Minari, a story about a Korean family’s experiences in America, is one of the best films of the year according to Film Critic Samantha Hicks Samantha Hicks Film Critic
Set against the backdrop of 1980s rural America, Minari tells the moving story of sixyear-old troublemaker David (Alan Kim) and his KoreanAmerican family as they settle into a new life in Arkansas. Primarily a film about the enduring strength of family
bonds, director Lee Isaac Chung gives an intimate insight into the tension between pressures to assimilate and the need to retain a strong connection to their South Korean heritage. Chung’s semiautobiographical tale of what the vision of the American Dream can mean for immigrant families is nothing short of a masterpiece. After purchasing a plot of land in the middle of nowhere, patriarch Jacob (Steven Yeun) moves his family from California with the dream of setting up his own farm to produce Korean vegetables. Minari does not shy away from the realities of uprooting a family: Jacob’s relationship with his wife Monica (Han Ye-ri) is rocky, and their children David and Anne (Noel Cho) rely on one another for company. These dynamics are further put to the test when Monica’s mother, Soon-ja (Yoon Yuhjung) comes from South Korea to help with the childcare responsibilities. Speaking very limited English, and not conform-
ing to David’s image of a ‘real grandma,’ Soon-ja too has to adjust to a wildly different life alongside her grandchildren. The title of the film is a reference to the plant that Soon-ja grows in the nearby creek with the children. Whilst sowing the seeds, Soon-ja explains to the children that the minari plant (also known as water celery) is resilient, and will grow very well in the creek. In this sense, the minari plant perfectly parallels the journey of the Yi family: despite being placed in an unfamiliar setting, the roots of their family are strong enough to endure adversity and thrive. This is just one of the many messages Chung weaves into his film, but it is clear from this alone how carefully he has crafted this film. He leaves no stone unturned while ensuring his message of overcoming adversity as a strong family unit is present throughout the film. Each scene is an immersive experience: low camera shots paired with views of hazy sunlit landscapes embody a sense of childlike innocence, as though the audience is watching through David or Anne’s eyes. Set to a beautiful, sombre piano score,
Minari is constructed in such a way that the imagery alone evokes the strong sense of hope and optimism felt by the family. Alongside this, the colour palette is gorgeous and perfectly captures the rural summertime setting: warm, deep orange tones and luscious greenery brings the audience truly in touch with Jacob’s dream. Paired with a flawless screenplay and an outstanding cast, this is a tender story that will stick with you for a long time after watching. Being a semi-autobiographical film, getting the cast right was clearly important for Chung. From the audience’s point of view, the casting of the family members is perfect. The strong family dynamic created by the cast feels so natural as a viewer - an impressive feat considering the young ages of the child actors. Yoon Yuh-jung’s performance as Soon-ja was a particular highlight, showing a deeply intimate portrayal of the experiences of old age and navigating a completely different setting to her home in South Korea. The relationship that unfolds between her character and Alan Kim’s character David is pure and authentic and speaks to the talents of both actors. The casting of the film is a huge
strength of the film - each actor gives an astounding performance, even down to the secondary characters. Minari is a beautifully crafted film that gives a heart-wrenching, touching, and thoughtful view on life as an immigrant family in rural America. It does not shy away from difficult issues such as the pressures to assimilate or the alienation that can be felt in rural areas, but it also makes sure to explore the human relationships and experiences fostered in this setting. Above all, it feels real. Minari tells an incredibly important story, one which is seldom told in mainstream media. VERDICT: Minari is a truly special film and a tender portrayal of the strength of family bonds. It will undoubtedly break your heart, but it makes sure to leave you feeling warm and hopeful as you follow the Yi family’s story. There is no denying that it lives up to the praise and critical acclaim it has received thus far. I cannot recommend it enough!
Friday 25th June 2021
BoJack Horseman: A Six-Season Quest to Find the Meaning of Life TV Critic Jasmine Sandhar explains why you should be watching BoJack Horseman this lockdown, on account of the important philosophical questions it raises Television Critic
Content Warning: This article contains content about poor mental health and substance abuse. Whilst Diane contemplates whether or not to follow a self-obsessed philanthropist across the war-torn plains of Cordovia, her Golden Retriever husband attempts to dissuade her through the frighteningly accurate observation: ‘The universe is a cruel, uncaring void. The key to being happy isn’t the search for meaning; it’s just to keep yourself busy with unimportant nonsense, and eventually, you’ll be dead.’ As I sat slumped in swathes of bed sheets dotted with stale popcorn kernels, wearing the same pyjamas I have spent days in, and struggling to stay awake so that I could re-finish the season one finale, Mr Peanutbutter’s words circled around my subconscious until the end of the episode. Despite watching the end of the credits roll, cancelling the precarious Netflix auto-play button, and closing the lid of my Macbook for good, I could not unhear what he had said. I lay on my back studying the vintage celestial chart on my bedroom ceiling, asking myself what is the meaning of life? Even if you have not watched
the show, I am sure that this experience sounds very familiar. An inexorable global pandemic that has resulted in over two million deaths worldwide and three national lockdowns puts a lot of things into perspective for everyone. Perhaps the first lockdown wasn’t so bad with the opportunities to learn new skills such as baking or gardening and we ploughed through the second one, driven by Prime
Minister B o r i s J o h n s o n ’s promise of a COVID-free Christmas, but the third is a lugubrious abyss, which seems to prove M r . P e a n u t b u t t e r ’s theory that ‘the universe is a cruel, uncaring void.’ Therefore, it only makes
sense to keep ourselves ‘busy with unimportant nonsense’, right? After all, television shows like Horsin’ Around exist for a reason. Redolent of series such as Modern Family and Fuller House, the nine-season situational comedy follows a young bachelor horse, who is forced to reevaluate his priorities when he agrees to raise three human children. Full of flat punchlines and formulaic life stories, it comes as no surprise that the show was an immediate hit with American audiences, thus enabling B o J a c k Horseman’s claim to f a m e . Perhaps the perfect life portrayed on screen, where arguments were immediately resolved and any loose ends were tied up at the end of each episode, acted as a form of idyllic escapism for viewers stuck in the monotony of reality. Ironically, this appears to be the case for the show’s lead actor. Consumed by the desire to be the successful celebrity he once was, BoJack incessantly
re-watches his personal VHS tape collection of the show, rewinding and pausing scenes every moment or so to re-enact his lines to nobody but himself.
“You begin to realise that you are looking in a mirror” This is the angle BobWaksberg gives us. Instead of looking through the rose-tinted lens of Horsin’ Around, we are handed a magnifying glass that exposes the tragic realities of every character’s life, whether it is BoJack’s substance abuse that subsequently leads to self-destruction; Diane’s depression, which dismantles her identity and sense of self; Mr Peanutbutter’s naivety that results in the blissful ignorance of the real-life problems surrounding him; Princess Carolyn’s struggle to separate her workaholism and saviour complex from her personal family life; Sarah Lynn’s traumatic childhood as an oversexualised teenage popstar; or Todd’s pushover nature that confines him to an endless cycle of abuse. At first, this dark comedy feels like an alternate universe with its technicolour anthropomorphic charac-
ters and wacky plotlines that were almost definitely created during an acid trip. However, sooner or later, you slowly begin to realise that you are looking in a mirror; it might be a funhouse mirror, but it is an image of reflection nonetheless. BoJack Horseman is not just an animated bildungsroman that is confined to the growth of its characters. You, as an audience member, grow with it along the way. You learn about the inherent structural flaws within society, ranging from institutional racism to systemic sexual abuse, as well as your own personality, depending on which character you relate the most to. In my opinion, that is what lockdown should be about. Instead of pretending that everything is getting better and being indoctrinated by claims that we can ‘beat the virus’ so that everything can go back to “normal”, this should be a time of reflection. We, collectively, should be thinking about how to address and solve the multitude of oppressive issues in our society, but also within ourselves. Perhaps it is time for us to pull out the old VHS tapes of our own lives and watch each episode back with hindsight. But, if you are not quite ready for that, watch someone else do it first. Follow Bojack Horseman on his quest to find the meaning of life – it only takes him six seasons to figure it out.
It’s A Sin and the Legacy of HIV
TV Writer Emily Baldwin delves into the representation of HIV and AIDS in the new drama It’s a Sin, noting how treatment of the virus has changed today Emily Baldwin Television Critic
Content Warning: This article discusses living with HIV and death as a result of AIDS. February 1st – 7th does not only mark the first week of semester two, it also marks national HIV testing week. Promoted by HIV Prevention England in collaboration with the Terrence Higgins Trust (one of the UK’s largest HIV awareness charities), the flagship annual event seeks to promote HIV testing among the wider population. It is significant that Russel T Davies’s new series It’s A Sin, which is set during the AIDS pandemic of the 1980s and 1990s is currently airing. But what does the programme mean for the legacy of AIDS and HIV today? It's A Sin, like the lyrics of its namesake, delves into the effects of shame on those within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community during the AIDS pandemic. Unlike other presentations of AIDS in the media, it does not shy away from acknowledging issues within the queer community during the crisis. We see one character forcibly remove an
elder member from a gay bar after they tried to distribute pamphlets about the risk of AIDS and the character Ritchie (Olly Alexander) repeatedly expresses frustration with the community’s preoccupation with the disease. However, the legacy of the crisis is one of both personal trauma and institutional failure. From Section 28, a piece of legislation imposed in 1988 that banned the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in public institutions, and the moralistic labelling of individuals that contracted AIDS through sex as ‘guilty’ and those that contracted it through blood products as ‘innocent’. To the well-known department for health campaign that warned individuals to not to ‘die of ignorance’ – dealing in chilling metaphors rather than addressing and educating the gay population most at risk. The shame imposed on the community by the outside world seeps through the series without deterring from the lives lost and lived. It feels intentional that Margaret Thatcher is featured in the program for mere seconds, her back to the camera, reminding the audience of the government's role in the crisis without detracting from the celebration of those that experienced
It’s a Sin acknowledges these public failures in the peripheral. We see the confusion of not knowing how it was spread, the grassroots creation of telephone boards due to a lack of national action, and the internal stigma that led to boys blaming themselves for the disease. This is depicted within just one friendship group, yet it was the reality for queer communities across the world. The show resurrects memories of many members of the LGBT community who faced public abuse, stigma and expulsion at the time. These depictions of the personal impact of institutional homophobia in 1980s Britain reminds audiences of the dark reality of the crisis.
“It is humbling to envision the people behind the disease” Yet, ironically one of the most hard-hitting features of It’s A Sin is its focus on life. We watch the friends live vibrant, promising and familiar lives. They aren’t statistics or caricatured portraits
of heterosexual fears – they are normal kids finding their way in the world. It’s a Sin challenges the perceptions of people who lived with AIDS during the crisis, bridging the gap between the trauma of their loss and the celebration of their lives. 30 years on, it is humbling to envision the people behind the disease. For many of us in Generation Z, this is the first time that the impact of AIDS on the queer community in the UK has been presented on television. Netflix’s revival of Tales of the City and BBC iPlayer’s Pose are welcome reminders of the impact of the pandemic on US audiences, but they are also presentations of a reality far from home and are confined to streaming services. It’s A Sin, in contrast, is aired on national television, at prime time. This is a poignant moment for the representation of those living with HIV today. From graphic sex scenes and frustrated protests to mundane friendship drama of 20-something life, It’s a Sin presents the decade of crisis for what it was: real. Davies even cast queer actors throughout the show, a stark contrast from the homophobic discrimination depicted in the programme.
However, HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust has not shied away from acknowledging how presentations of AIDS at the height of the pandemic, as seen in It’s a Sin, are not conducive to the experience of those living with HIV today. Nowadays, HIV is not a death sentence and people on effective treatment cannot pass on HIV. On top of that, in 2020 the UK government announced that PrEP, a life-changing drug taken by HIV-negative individuals before and after sex to reduce the risk of getting HIV, would be made available on the NHS. It is therefore essential to challenge the stigma of what it means to be HIV+ today, and the conversations started by programmes like It’s a Sin are important actors in the process. Such celebratory presentations of the lives lost and lived during the AIDS crisis are important ways to keep the memory, and insistence on justice, alive. After all, we owe the tireless fighting of queer and allied campaigners for resources like free condoms and STD testing to this day. So, like the boys in It’s A Sin, remember to get tested, know your status and remember the lives lost to shame and institutional inaction.
Friday 25th June 2021
The Queen’s Gambit: Romanticisation of a Woman on the Edge
TV Critic Anisha Mansuri critiques the writers of The Queen’s Gambit for presenting Beth as fulfilling the male gaze despite her drug-induced depressive breakdown Anisha Mansuri Television Critic
Content Warning: This article contains mentions of addiction. The Queen’s Gambit came to our screens in late October and was an instant success, becoming Netflix’s ‘most watched limited series’ to date. The show follows the character of Beth Harmon (Anya Taylor-Joy), a child chess prodigy, who we watch grow from being placed in an orphanage following the death of her mother, to becoming a world-renowned chess champion. The 60s nostalgia and a woman thriving at a normally male-dominated sport were just a few of the themes that left fans obsessed. However, one of the bigger plot points integral to the storyline was how Beth remains dependent on Xanzolam, a ‘sedative similar to Xanax that was commonly prescribed in the 60s’, which she was first introduced to at the orphanage.
Many viewers found the show to be irresponsible over how Beth’s drug use was ‘presented as integral to her genius,’ leaving her believing she could not succeed without the drug, and at one point even proclaiming that she needed her ‘mind cloudy to win.’ The show frames Beth’s addiction as a form of escapism and whilst this remains faithful to the original 1983 novel by Walter Tevis, the portrayal of Beth as succeeding despite her addiction, is simply damaging. Her breakdown following this realisation is by no means realistic and instead brings about the detrimental idea that one cannot succeed at their craft without their dependence on harmful substances. The writers of the show are Scott Frank and Alan Scott, two male writers who have chosen to portray Beth to unrealistic standards. She is glamourised whilst struggling, and at points, her appearance is even magnified as more beautiful in the wake of her declining mental health. In later scenes Beth is seen laying on the sofa in her underwear, with her
legs shaved, makeup done and a cigarette in hand. This remains consistent throughout the show, where Beth’s hair is perfectly styled along with her signature 60s eyeliner. One Twitter user sarcastically responds to the scene with ‘Male authors trying to show a woman at rock bottom,’ resulting in over 400,000 retweets. It truly counteracts w h a t
depression and addiction look like for most by creating the illusion of consistent energy and motivation for normal day to day tasks. Whilst it is important to mention how poor mental health looks different for everyone, it is also a question of how much responsibility the writers should have for their portrayal of mental illness, especially in young women. They have chosen to beautify a woman ‘at rock bottom’ and by presenting her this way, they have created a narrative that is as damaging as it is disappointing. The show barely acknowledges the extent of her mental exhaustion and instead pushes the trope of a woman breaking a 1960s glass ceiling and succeeding in a man’s world. A mentally fatigued and drug-dependent woman is beautified in this miniseries. Frank and Scott have created a protagonist who still serves the male gaze, but in allowing her to succeed in a male environment, she can still present well to a feminist
audience. There are multiple moments where other female characters are left staring at Beth in both envy and judgement, over how it must feel to be the sole woman working in an all-male environment. However, as well as gender, age seems to be the other winning factor in how you will be displayed in this adaptation. Beth’s adoptive mother, Alma Wheatley (Marielle Heller) is also shown to be constantly battling depression and drug dependency, yet is shown to be lying in bed, with the covers pulled up high and very rarely showing any skin. Still, her fate is concluded as she falls to her addiction and dies in Mexico, surrounded by pills and bottles. The Queen’s Gambit has presented a female protagonist who even on the edge is portrayed as beautiful and thriving, but this trope remains to be fictional. The show has recreated the damsel for a modern-day audience, only this time glamorised the distress. There is no prince charming, only Xanax.
Bridgerton: Progressive or Performative?
TV Critic Erin Osgood discusses the practice of colour-blind casting in Bridgerton and the musical Hamilton, asking just how historically accurate we want our period dramas to be Erin Osgood Television Critic
Netflix’s Bridgerton has proved itself to be a new sensation, having been streamed in 63 million households in the first four weeks of release – the streaming service’s very own diamond of the season, if you will. A key aspect of the critical response to the series has been its colour-blind casting, which follows in the footsteps of other rejections of historical accuracy in favour of representation of the world today. The official recording of Hamilton, which famously features an almost exclusively nonwhite cast, was an instant hit when it was released last year on Disney+, becoming the secondmost-watched straight-to-streaming title of 2020. But how productive is this when the narratives of period dramas are so out of touch with modern life? One’s initial response to this debate largely hinges on one factor – how important is historical accuracy? This is a lot more complex than saying that certain characters wouldn’t have acted in certain ways, rather it is critiquing the societal structures presented within these stories. Bridgerton, a tale of Regency-era London during the social season of the elite, is hardly representative of life in the 21st century.
But period dramas are often doesn’t exist. designed to offer a sense of escapThe same critiques could be ism, a brief taste of the elegance applied to Hamilton. A story and regalia of Britain’s past. about America’s Founding Fathers Notably, however, without its – notorious advocates of slavery, unsavoury flaws. genocide, and social elitism – If the intention was for starring a mostly black cast singBridgerton to be more entertain- ing about their bravery and gening than challenging, why did the ius. Whereas Hamilton’s 2015 show choose to address race in premiere came at the sunset of the the first place? In episode 4, Lady Obama presidency, often shroudDanbury (portrayed brilliantly by ed in a selective haze of nostalgia, Adjoa Andoh) alludes to life in its 2020 streaming release to the England before King George mar- wider public came at the apex of ried Queen Charlotte, played by global racial tensions in the black actress Golda Rosheuvel – Trump presidency. Needless to ‘two separate societies, divided say, the critical thinking surroundby colour.’ This suggestion, that ing the musical’s casting has institutional racism and segregasomewhat tion were solved through one evolved – marriage, is at best misguidit is ed and at worst utterly less crass. We know that it does not work. If the showrunners wanted to offe critical introspection as to why such a society could exist, it needs to last longer than one seemingly throwaway line. This clumsy explanation was a disservice to the fantasy thus far and suggests a sense of racial Twitter: @Netflix harmony that still
likely to be unquestionably lauded, with more concern granted to the notion that it effaces a racist past. However, colour-blind casting for historical drama is not a new phenomenon – the theatre has been doing this for years, and not just in Hamilton. Ruth Negga’s portrayal of Hamlet in 2018 may have evoked some pearl-clutching, but it was largely a critical success. Conversely, Broadway’s The Great Comet of 1812 closed shortly after white actor Josh Groban was replaced with Hamilton alum Okieriete ‘Oak’ Onaodowan, exposing just how whitewashed creative production teams still are. Moving on from arguing about who appears on stage requires recasting who is behind the curtain as well. This is not to say that nothing good can come from increased diversity in period pieces, far from it. Not only is it an opportunity for up-andcoming young actors to star in roles that are perfect for them (I do not think anyone could object to seeing RegéJean Page on their screen), but it allows young people of colour to see themselves in every context, rather than being typecast or tokenised. Besides, even if these stories are not entirely historically accurate, Britain, in particular,
was far more diverse than purists would have us believe. How can people decry diversity on the sole grounds of accuracy, when period dramas often selectively remove racial exploitation. Fundamentally, ‘colour-blind’ casting is perhaps the wrong term entirely. To suggest such decisions are ‘blind’ evokes the same kind of ignorance as those who proudly proclaim ‘I don’t see colour’ – they most definitely do, they just choose to ignore the consequences of any racial insensitivity. A more suitable term is colour-conscious casting. It denotes the most important factor in such a strategy; a conscious, considered approach to inclusive storytelling. Representation isn’t a catch-all method of freeing oneself from accountability, it is a continuous and ongoing practice. Despite my qualms, I still enjoyed Bridgerton, and Hamilton is an impressive work of art. But we cannot accept diversity at face value. The instances of colourconscious casting are becoming ever more common – but this is more than a tick box exercise. If we are to achieve equal representation on screen, we must look critically at what stories we are telling, and what more we can do to bring diverse voices to the helm. Bridgerton is a start, but there is certainly a long way to prince to go.
Friday 25th June 2021
Secret Santa Gaming Reviews 2020 The Redbrick Gaming Team got together in the festive period, to have a look at the games kindly gifted to them through Secret Santa
Tom Martin Gaming Editor
Review: Hidden Folks In Hidden Folks, the devil is very much in the details. The player is tasked with locating a number of characters or items that are blended into the monochrome world. However, it isn’t always a case of simple hide and seek. The settings of Hidden Folks are interesting in their variation, with each having a new world to explore, through simple controls, zoom in and out, drag to move, click to interact. The levels themselves within these settings are densely populated with near-indistinguishable characters, animals or other miscellaneous partsof-a-whole performing near-indistinguishable activities. Is that person carrying a flower, butterfly net or an axe? These are the kinds of distinctions you’ll be paying attention to. There were a few occasions where I was a little overwhelmed with the size of the levels. It’s a feeling those of you who have ever opened a Where’s Wally book to a random page and immediately closed it again will be familiar with. The game encourages a slow and methodical approach and this feeling of dread usually subsided as I started working my way through. My advice would be to look carefully over what it is you need to find, at a surface level at first, on appearances. Next I would take a look at the level as a whole and trying to separate it into its component environments: within the Forest there may be a collection of rocks, a lake, or a camp. Each titular folk comes with their own oneline descriptor that can clue you in as to where they are as aforementioned, hidden, so you can often use your knowledge of the level to estimate where they’re going to be before you’ve even started looking. My favourite aspect of the game has been its wonderful sound design. Each and every sound effect in the game, from the buzzing of bees to the roar of Monster Mo the Man-Bat and even the little ‘ba-ding’ you get for finding Monster Mo the ManBat behind a collection of reeds seems to be just someone making the noise into a microphone. It’s a nice touch that make progressing through each level less of a slog. Overall, Hidden Folks has been a joy to play thus far. I played it on PC, but it’s also available on the Switch, and I can personally foresee the latter as the best way to play the game. It’s one of those games you can pick up
and put down without having to cordon off a whole section of your day to play it, perfect for unwinding during the winter months. I could also see it being perfect for keeping kids occupied in the car, which I mean less as an accusation of simplicity, but rather a testament to the game’s engrossing nature. Even little devils could get lost in all those details.
Angus Law Gaming Writer
Review: Slime Rancher When I play games, I have a very goal-focused mindset and an obsession with productivity and efficiency. This is especially the case for sandbox games. Someone who doesn’t play games this way (and who, I’m sure, is a lot more fun in general) will likely have a very different experience with Slime Rancher than I did. How cute the game is will probably be the first and second thing anyone will notice playing the game. It cannot be understated how much of Slime Rancher’s design philosophy seems to be focused on maximising its cute factor. To this end it succeeds. All the slimes are incredibly cute and creative (my favourites being the honey and crystal slimes) and whenever I was too busy or forgot to feed the slimes regularly, I did genuinely feel bad when I saw their cutesy faces contort into pure despair. Unfortunately, here is where I ran into my first major issue with Rancher: I wanted to care about the slimes, but there weren’t any systemic or gameplay reasons to care about them. When you don’t feed a slime in a while, they pull the above-mentioned face of utter torment and that’s it. Feeding slimes in Rancher means they produce the game’s main aim which is “Plort”, which I assume is just slime poop, but the system doesn’t go any deeper than that. This means that neglecting your slimes doesn’t have any real consequence for the player other than missing out on valuable “Plort”. I soon found myself feeling apathetic towards the slimes – I’d seen that face a thousand times and it just didn’t cut as deep as it used to. This was a bit of a theme with my time in Slime Rancher; I would expect there to be a system under the surface level cuteness and was surprised to find there isn’t one. You can feed slimes the “Plort” of another type of slime to turn them into “largo” slimes which are a combination of the two slimes but about twice the size- meaning you can’t fit as many in the pens around your ranch. On the pro-
largo side, they are less picky about their diet and will eat foods that either of its composite slimes will eat. When making this discovery my mind immediately began racing thinking of the decisions I would have to make in order to make my ranch efficient. I was disappointed to find that there were no ways to work around the largo slime dilemma of easier feeding vs reduced space. There are a limited number of plots available in the ranch, they can either be used for keeping slimes, storage, or providing food. So, using “largo” slimes reduces the amount of space required for providing food but increases the amount needed to keep slimes and not using “largo” slimes has the opposite effect. The player’s choice here is ultimately pointless. The “largo” dilemma is a microcosm of so many of the game’s decisions: “meat eating slimes or veggie slimes?”; “Spend money on making feeding lots of harmless slimes easier, or spend money on retrieving plort from fewer, more dangerous slimes?” etc. Too many have almost no impact on the player and, as the type of player I am, this turned me off from really experimenting with the systems in the game, I felt like my choices didn’t matter. While I may seem negative here, my thoughts on the game are mostly positive. The level design of the world was very good, there are plenty of secret areas and time saving shortcuts, of which the jetpack unlocks more in areas you previously thought had been fully explored. In fact, I often found myself as interested in exploring as I was in farming slimes. I appreciate the rebranding of the usually violent shooting mechanics of the gun to be used in a nonviolent way- an incredibly clever and kind-hearted way to make what could have been simply clicking or pressing a single button more engaging (even if the shooting mechanics aren’t quite satisfying or varied enough to support the whole game). Visually, the game impresses too, the colours pop, the areas and slimes are all interestingly designed. One of my favourite touches in the game is the facial animations of Beatrix, the player character, which I’m pretty sure are the only thing in the game which is animated in a 2D classic cartoon style. Yet despite all the positives, the game lacked the depth of decision making that I look for in any game, especially a sandbox game. If you’re a fun person, it is very possible that you could get a lot of enjoyment out of running around in a colourful and cute world, experimenting with slimes- I imagine it could be quite relaxing. However, if you think that what you tend to value in a game lie more towards the goal-oriented style, I doubt you would get much out of the experience past the initial cuteness.
Dashiell Wood Gaming Writer
Review: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance When put alongside the rest of the Metal Gear franchise, 2014’s Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance stands apart as a bit of a black sheep. It may mark the return of Raiden, the pretty-boy protagonist of Metal Gear Solid 2 and is set canonically four years after the events of Metal Gear Solid 4 but this whacky hack-and-slash, developed by the melee masters over at PlatinumGames, a studio well-known for creating the supremely sassy Bayonetta series, is otherwise a complete thematic and stylistic departure from the third-person stealth action of the mainline games. Set in an unnamed African nation ravaged by war, Metal Gear Rising sees a cybernetically enhanced Raiden attempt, and fail, to protect the country’s prime minister from an assassination attempt by a mysterious private military company. After being severely wounded, Raiden is left to revenge and avenge his way through the entire military industrial complex on a mission which eventually culminates in the player fist fighting the president of the United States on top of a giant, nuclear warhead loaded mech. The whole plot is a constant tonal rollercoaster, which veers from deep philosophical about the nature of conflict and the role of disinformation to your protagonist strutting around in a sombrero and cyborg high heels. Gameplay is equally frantic, comprised of a mixture of button mashing to dispense heavy and light attacks, coordinating blocks, and entering the slow-motion ‘blade mode’ to slice down oncoming projectiles or try and inflict critical damage to enemies’ weak points. Every encounter is intensely visceral, huge bursts of blood spew from enemies and an excellent physics engine allowing you to lop off your adversary’s limbs at will. You can rip out and crush opponent’s spines to regain your health mid-fight and collecting fallen foe’s right hands allows you to purchase some very useful upgrades. Your performance is graded after every fight, providing a neat little appraisal of how effective you were in combat and there’s even some optional stealth segments thrown in there that allow you to sneak around in cardboard boxes to avoid certain sections of the game entirely. Compared to the rest of the
series, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance is admittedly an incredibly short game, only taking up six or so hours of your time. In spite of its short running time, in the first hour alone I cut a fiftystorey high robot in half with a samurai sword as heavy metal blared in the background, jumped through a barrage of incoming high-speed missiles to propel myself towards an enemy and fought a cyborg ninja on an exploding cargo train. Was it ridiculous? Unapologetically. Did it make any sense? Not in the slightest. Did I have the time of my life? Absolutely.
Dan Jenkins Gaming Writer
Review: XIII Allow to preface this by saying, I really wanted to like XIII. At first, it seemed the kind of game that would end up being more than the sum of its parts but its issues are too glaring, and too great in number that I cannot excuse them – even if hitting someone over the back of the head with a chair is a great feeling. Even writing this, I’m struggling to recollect a lot of what happened in the game, its all blurred together in a mess of reloaded quicksaves and Adam West’s narration. The game is full of moments that should be fun – but, it immediately arrests your movement to the length of your rope in a way that doesn’t feel natural. You snipe people on rooftops but the sniper is awful to use and yet somehow makes the game too easy. A lot of the problems stem from a lack of direction – the game can’t decide whether it wants to be a stealth game or not and this makes the combat mechanics and AI feel poorly matched with the linear level design. More damningly, most of the guns just aren’t fun to use, and many of the fights (boss fights included) ended with me running up to an enemy and dumping a magazine into their head. The art design hasn’t aged well, which is strange for a game that adopts a cel-shaded style, but the flat character models remind me more of the permanent smirk on Max Payne’s face than of the expressive artstyle of Jet Set Radio. This myriad of failings isn’t to say I had no fun with XIII, I enjoyed the first few levels, if only for the comically bad voice acting of Adam West and David Duchovny. If you’re going to play XIII, don’t bother pushing through the more tedious sections, there’s no real payoff, unless you really like bad cliffhangers for stories that don’t make sense.
Friday 25th June 2021
Angus Law comes to terms with The Medium, the newest game from Bloober Team. Is it a breakthrough, or will it leave him divided? Angus Law Gaming Writer
Content Warning: This article contains late-game spoilers and will discuss themes of child sexual assault, suicide, and abuse. The Medium is a bit of a mess. The first thing I wrote in my notes was ‘Dead girl mystery’- the opening line regarding the protagonist Marianne’s recurring dream is given so much gravity, I thought it would be worth keeping track of. I would see ‘Dead girl mystery’ at the top of my page, every time I went to write another note afterwards. A constant reminder that there was still no mention of a potential girl, or murder, to continue the narrative thread that opens the game. It is only at the very end of the game that The Medium’s opening line is revealed to be in reference to the character Lilianne- the protagonist Marianne’s sister. A reveal that I found, to be frank, pretty disgusting. Lilianne, is a victim of child sexual assault, she is involved in a traumatic house fire and she is locked in a vault underground by her father for most of her life. These are all real topics that very much could be explored in a game, especially a game with supernatural embodiments of people’s inner demons. Yet, The Medium never explores any of Lilianne’s trauma past the very surface level. Even worse is the fact that a significant part of the game involves an indepth exploration of Lilianne’s childhood abuser’s backstory and demons. Lilianne’s struggle with this trauma is almost never mentioned- it feels like the game brushes the abuse under the rug as soon as it no longer serves the character of Lilianne’s abuser. The answer to the ‘Dead girl mystery’ is that Marianne’s recurring dream of a girl being shot, is actually a result of Lilianne beaming her prophetic desire to be shot, into Marianne’s head. Lilianne’s wish for death, isn’t ever explicitly related to her trauma. Instead, Lilianne wants to die because she thinks she is too dangerous to be kept alive. She is haunted by a demon that caused a bloody massacre; a demon that I interpreted to have been created as a result of her many traumatic experiences. The conclusion of The Medium, is not to convince Lilianne that she was wrong to wish for death, to comfort her and tell her she is a victim, that the massacre was not her fault. Things you might expect from a story about a medium who can interact with, and save people from, their inner-demons. No, the conclusion of The Medium and of the ‘Dead girl mystery’ is that maybe, it would just be safer and easier if Lilianne was killed- by no less than her own sister. Lilianne was finally offered a way out of her torment in Marianne’s powers, a chance to live outside of her vault and to be free of the guilt and trauma that has followed her
almost her entire life, and the writers at Bloober Team decided that she did not deserve that. The final moments of the game show that Lilianne was destined to be shot by her own sister, and that this was the right thing to do. That is enough for me not to recommend The Medium. T h e Medium is a fixed-camera 3rd Person horror game from Bloober Team. It cites an art style inspired by painter Zdzisaw Beksiski and features music from ‘legendary composer Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill fame’. The game is centered around the protagonist Marianne: a medium with the ability to exist in both the real world and the spirit world concurrently. Marianne’s abilities manifest in the game’s ‘dualreality’ system. What this means practically is that the screen is split in two, with one side displaying the real world and the other side showing the same area in the spirit world. It is certainly impressive that the artists at Bloober Team managed to design each room during the ‘dual reality’ segments twice, and to succeed in making both versions of each room cohesive and gorgeous in their own ways. The influence of Zdzisaw Beksiski can definitely be seen in the design of the spirit world. Especially his pieces featuring buildings or architecture. The spirit world is incredibly hostile, alien but still traversable. There are implications of humanity too, echoes of buildings and paths: spaces for
living. Perhaps the best use of the ‘dual reality’ gimmick is in drawing out these comparisons by placing the two worlds side by side. The Medium presents you with a tangled bundle of potential trypophobia and tells you ‘this is a desk’- yet somehow, this makes
sense. These spaces that seem totally lived in (if a bit spooky) but at the same time empty and alien, really does mimic the feeling of the hostility in the familiarlooking buildings seen in many of Beksiski’s works. One particularly impressive example being a chase scene during which Marianne constantly
flips between the two worlds. Trees flicker and turn to eerie, twisted towers; broken wooden bridges become architecturally impossible stretches over the abyss. The art team were really given the chance to show off during this scene, and the results are stunning. However, Beksiski’s influence feels somewhat lacking Premier when it comes to the creature and monster designs. The main antagonist of The Medium is The Maw, an inner demon who has a very classic demon look. I was rarely afraid of The Maw as its design felt so familiar. Excluding a few minor touches, The Maw lacks any of the body horror that can be seen in many of Beksiski’s works. Being the main antagonist and source of fear throughout the game, this strikes me as a sorely missed opportunity. The art direction really is an incredible feat, it successfully uses its influences to support the narrative and themes of the entire game, and I wanted to give appropriate Premier praise to the art team for what really is an incredible achievement. This is because, unfortunately, the art is let down by almost everything else The Medium has to offer. If I had to put a pin in exactly what kind of game The Medium is based purely on gameplay, I would describe it as a walking simulator. This isn’t meant in a negative way; it’s based only on the large proportion of the game that is spent walking and examining the environment. The comparatively barebones gameplay systems of walking simulators put more focus on the other aspects of the game. Namely, the environment and art design; the narrative; and the way the narrative is told. The Medium’s narrative failed on Premier almost every front
for me, to the point that the gorgeous environments weren’t enough for the game to leave me with an overall positive feeling. The Medium is thoroughly overwritten and cliché, with attempts at deep or poetic lines that only made me cringe. This isn’t helped by voice performances that I had to force myself to be persuaded by. In particular, I struggled to believe Marianne’s reactions to almost all of the events of the game. The delivery of her lines often made her sound bored and unphased by the gruesome history she uncovers and the outright nightmarish sights. Often, when I was at my most immersed and engaged with the game, walking through a particularly welldesigned environment, Marianne would chime in and pull me right out. Powerful moments created by particularly dramatic visuals are completely and totally undercut by poorly written and strangely delivered lines. On top of this, many of the clues or assumptions that the player could make from the environment alone are said outright by Marianne as if to say: ‘Hey, look at this! This is what this means!’. Rarely is the player given an opportunity to put pieces of the story together themselves in The Medium. There are gameplay systems other than walking in The Medium. In fact, I’d say there are too many for what is around an 8 hour game with heavy cutscene use. There are so many actions a player could take at any given time, and not one of these actions is ever explored in depth, through puzzle solving or stealth. Instead, whenever a particular gimmick or skill has been used for one or two puzzles, the game adds another. There were still new elements being introduced when I was nearing the conclusion of the game, most memorably being a telekinetic spirit blast only ever used in about 3 instances. The result was that while the narrative of the game was obviously nearing its conclusion, the puzzles and gameplay still felt like they were in the ‘teaching you everything you have at your disposal’ level of the tutorial. I didn’t necessarily want there to be more content in The Medium as the narrative overstayed its welcome, if anything, but I was still surprised when the credits rolled as in some ways, it felt like the game was just getting started. Overall, I will remember The Medium as a bit of a mess. A game with an identity crisis, unsure whether it wants to be a story heavy walking simulator, a stealth horror game or a fixed-camera horror puzzler (like classic Resident Evil). For the relatively short game that it is, its scope is much too wide and whenever one element shines, the others quickly rush in to muddy the waters. As much as the concept of a medium, straddled on the border of multiple worlds, is novel; I wish they had just stuck to the one.
Friday 25th June 2021
Recipe: Cocktail Club Zoe Bush
With the temporary closing of bars across England, the weekends are looking a little bleak. Planning a cocktail night at home is the perfect solution to brighten up a dreary evening and is a great opportunity to ditch the basic beers and vodka mixers in favour of trying out some more original options. These simple methods can be used to make some great and inventive drinks. Trying something out of the ordinary does not need to be expensive either, all of these ingredients can be found in the supermarket and will cost you no more than your usual tipple. These recipes are all alcoholic but of course for those who do not drink or just are not feeling it, they can be made as a mocktail by simply removing any alcoholic ingredients. In addition, the quantities for singular drinks can by all means be multiplied to suit more people.
“These simple methods can be used to make some some great and inventive drinks”
Gummy Bear Sangria
This popular Cuban drink mixes sweetness with citrus flavours, creating a feeling of tropical escapism. The recipe is great for those who love a classic, but it is also perfect for people who want to change things up: add your own twist using raspberries, strawberries or even passionfruit.
This cocktail should be made as a punch for all of your housemates to enjoy together. It is a revitalised and modern interpretation of the traditional sangria, made by infusing wine with fruits and sweets for a delectably juicy flavour.
Ingredients: 60 ml white rum Limes Fresh mint leaves One litre soda water Two teaspoons granulated sugar Crushed ice Fruit of your choice (if making a mojito variation) Method: 1. In a jug, muddle your mint leaves, sugar and the juice of two limes with a fork or the end of a rolling pin (if making a mojito variation, add in your desired fruit to this mixture and muddle). 2. Decant the mixture into a glass and cover with a handful of crushed ice. 3. Pour over desired quantity of white rum. I recommend 60ml as a standard. 4. Top up with soda water and serve.
Ingredients: A selection of fruits (apples, oranges, lemons and limes work nicely) One bottle of wine (red or white) Fruit juice (orange or apple) Soda water Gummy bears Method: 1. Chop up your fruit into slices and place all of the fruit and gummy bears into a large bowl. 2. Pour a bottle of wine into the bowl. 3. Pour over a carton of fruit juice (I recommend orange to go with red wine and apple if you are using white) 4. Cover punch and leave to chill in the fridge for 15 minutes until the flavours have set. 5. Add soda water and serve Cinnamon Whisky Sour Although Christmas is not quite
Review: That Viral TikTok Pasta Dish Ella Kipling News Editor
Over the past year, TikTok has been flooded with new recipes, including the whipped coffee trend, cloud bread, and most recently, feta pasta.
“TikTok has been flooded with new recipes, including the whipped coffee trend, cloud bread, and most recently, feta pasta” The ingredients for feta pasta were simple enough to find: one block of feta cheese, pasta, olive oil, oregano, cherry tomatoes, salt and pepper- most of which I already had at home. To make the sauce, you have to cook a whole block of feta and two handfuls of cherry tomatoes in an oven-safe dish along with olive oil, oregano and salt and pepper for forty minutes. You will know when it is done as the feta will be golden brown and the tomatoes will be soft and easily broken apart. While the feta is in the oven, cook your pasta, and make sure to reserve half a cup of pasta water to add
into the sauce later on. To make the feta and tomatoes into a sauce you have to break up the feta and the tomatoes and mix them together. The texture is somewhat lumpy, but if you prefer a smoother sauce you can put the cooked feta and tomatoes into a blender which will not alter the taste but will make it look more palatable. The pasta will mix into the sauce much more easily if you stir it in with a slash of pasta water, but I would recommend that you do not add too much otherwise it will become very watery. Overall, it is easy to understand why the dish gained popularity so quickly, as it requires very little effort but you are rewarded with a tasty pasta dish at the end. Although it takes forty minutes to bake, it only takes about five minutes to prepare, so you can get things done whilst waiting for your feta to brown. In terms of taste, the sauce has a bitter kick to it, and the tomatoes add a definite zing to the sauce, but I would say that if you are not a big fan of cheese, then this recipe is not for you as the taste
of cheese is overwhelming.
“If you are not a big fan of cheese then this recipe is not for you as the taste of cheese is overwhelming”
I found that the sauce dries out quite quickly once mixed with the pasta, giving it a sticky feel. To combat this, do not be stingy with the sauce to pasta ratio, as so far it has been proven that the more sauce the better with this recipe! If you enjoyed the recipe, you could step outside of the box and spice the pasta up, by adding chilli flakes or honey to the feta block while it is cooking.
here yet, this cocktail is ideal for those who cannot wait to get into the festive spirit. This is a merry adaptation of the timeless Whisky Sour, with a mixture of sweet and sour favours complimented by notes of wintery spice. Ingredients: 50ml bourbon 25ml lemon juice 15ml sugar syrup (golden or maple works well) Ice Ground cinnamon Cherry and orange slice (optional garnish) Method: 1. Fill your cocktail shaker with ice.
2. Pour the bourbon, lemon juice and syrup into the cocktail shaker, add a pinch of ground cinnamon and shake hard. If you don’t own a cocktail shaker, get creative with what you do have! Perhaps try a protein shaker or a reusable coffee cup. 3. Strain the mixture into a glass. 4. Garnish with a cherry and orange slice and serve. These cocktails offer inspiration to suit a variety of tastes. They are just three examples from the endless list of simple cocktails you can make to enthuse your evening with originality and enjoyment.
Are PlantBased Diets Here to Stay? Cerys Gordon
foods including fruits, vegetables and nuts. My attempted week of Veganuary involved eating mostly The world is definitely moving to plant-based, which was extremely a more plant-based diet. People challenging. However, there are are becoming aware of the advan- now more options than ever for tages of eating green and the this diet. For example, there are disadvantages of eating highly helpful cook books to try. I recentprocessed foods. Alan Jope, ly purchased ‘The Complete Plant Unilever’s chief executive, Based Cook Book for Beginners,’ described the rise of plant-based which had a number of helpful foods as an 'inexorable' trend. and nutritious recipes for new'We are seeing in every bies attempting a plantsingle country in the based diet. There is also a world a shift towards huge amount online more plant-based when it comes to recidiets, even in emergpes which makes the ing markets,' he said. process a lot easier. This shows that Whilst we were in Unsplash/ more countries are lockdown when I did Chantal Garnier attempting to cut out Veganuary, I know there meat and eat primarily are vegan options in plant-based products, nearly every restaurant. and as a result plant-based However, I think that restaubusinesses are becoming increas- rants need to improve on offering ingly popular. I recently com- plant-based meals and not stickpleted Veganuary, something I ing to just being vegan. There are had always wanted to do. Even as many health advantages to a planta vegetarian, it was challenging. based diet including, amongst However, we must distin- others, lower blood pressure and guish veganism and plant-based weight loss. However, a plantdiets. People who eat plant-based based diet is not easy and I defidiets are usually vegan, but not nitely could not have kept it up. all vegans eat plant-based diets. On the bright side, there are more Vegans do not eat animal prod- and more companies and restauucts, whereas plant-based diets rants that are starting to acknowldo not necessarily eliminate ani- edge the recent surge in plantmal products. Instead, there is a based diets, and the options are focus on eating mostly natural continually growing. Food&Drink Writer
Friday 25th June 2021
Brum's Best Outdoor Eateries Food&Drink Writers Jasmine Sandhar and Cara Scott share their favourite places to soak up the sun and enjoy the reopening of outdoor eateries Jasmine Sandhar and Cara Scott Food&Drink Writers
With the recent easing of lockdown measures, most of Birmingham’s best eateries have reopened with new and improved outdoor facilities. Listed below are our top six favourite restaurants, bars and pubs to visit if you are looking for a delicious bite to eat or a cheeky cocktail to drink up:
“Below are our top six favourite restaurants, bars and pubs if you are looking for delicious bite to eat or a cheeky cocktail to drink up” Jasmine’s Top Three Recommendations The High Field (£££ - ££££) Whether you are looking for breakfast, lunch, dinner or a Sunday roast, The High Field has got you covered. With a rustic, farmhouse-inspired decor, this gastropub has opened up a heated stretch tent in its spacious garden for a luxurious alfresco experience. The menus are extensive, ranging from unbeatable British classics, like fish and chips or a steak and ale pie, to more exotic delights, such as the coconut Malay curry or wasabi-cured salmon. Furthermore, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free needs are all well-catered for. The only problem is the price: main dishes begin from £15 upwards, and on top of that, it is impossible to resist treating yourself to a slice of banoffee cheesecake; the booze prices are above average, especially in comparison to a Spoon’s pitcher; and there are no student deals or daily discounts whatsoever. However, first-years can make up for this b y not
Flickr/ Elliott Brown
Cara’s Top Three Recommendations
splashing out on an Uber ride, as the restaurant is a mere tenminute walk away from the Vale. Plus, even though this is quite a swanky place, the staff are super friendly, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere that will take your mind off any pending exams or coursework... A personal stand-out for me is the £12 Full English - the panacea to any strain of hangover after a long night out! Open Monday Sunday / www.highfieldedgbaston.co.uk / @_thehighfield Gusto (££- £££) Situated right in the city centre on the prestigious Colmore Row is one of the most lavish Italian restaurants in Birmingham: Gusto. Whilst the inside is renowned for its swirling olive tree adorned with fairy lights, the outside seating area has always been a staple feature with a front-row view of St. Philip’s Cathedral. All of the traditional dishes are available, including crispy calamari and creamy carbonara, but if you can’t decide between pizza and pasta, the burger is a failsafe option. Unfortunately, the choices for vegetarians and vegans are limited to tomato pizza, tomato pasta or tomato risotto; however, the meat alternatives in the meatballs and burger are decent. The real winner is the drinks list, which has everything from a sweet ‘Passion Fruit Cheesecake’ martini to a fruity ‘Bombay Bramble’ gin and tonic. Despite its prime location and highquality food, the menu prices are fairly reasonable. You can get a main meal and a cocktail for around £20 on a normal day, or two courses for £20 on a Sunday between 12-6pm. Personally, I would recommend the latter, as not only do you get your money’s worth, but a homemade, secret-recipe tiramisu is a great way to finish off any feast. Open Monday - Sunday / www.gustorestaurants.uk.com/ restaurants/birmingham / @ gustorestaurants Luna Springs (£ - ££) Digbeth has always been known as a cultural hotspot with some of the best bars in Brum and the newly added Luna Springs is no exception to this. Sitting on top of the River Rea, the area is supposedly filled with a mythical ‘creative spirit.’ Whilst it is difficult to ascertain whether this
202 Kitchen (£££ - ££££)
backstory is completely true, I can definitively say that there is a unique aura engulfing Luna that cannot be found anywhere else. Every time I have been there, everyone has been absolutely smashed, singing along to indie rock classics and dancing on top of tables or around poles (before being chastised by the bouncers, of course) - the vibes are immaculate! Illuminated by multicoloured neon lights and surrounded by graffiti-plastered walls, it is the perfect Instagram post opportunity. The drinks do fall on the more expensive side with cocktails costing between £9-10 and shots at around £5-6, so I would recommend predrinks if you are not prepared to splash out, and food options are limited to burgers (with a vegetarian and vegan alternative), pizzas and fries. If you fancy some day-drinking, then it would be best to go for one of the bottomless brunches, where you can get a one-course meal and unlimited prosecco or beer for an hour. The only downside is that there are no outdoor heaters and the hard benches are unsympathetic to buttocks; however, both of these issues are slightly mitigated by the complimentary blankets handed out by staff throughout the evening. Be sure to check out the Moonlight Cinema, which is set to open May 19th and is an absolute steal with tickets currently selling for only £5!
“I can definitively say that there is a unique aura engulfing Luna that cannot be found anywhere else” Open Monday - Sunday / www.lunasprings.co.uk / @ luna_springs_digbeth
If you like the colour pink, this is the place for you. Hidden at the end of a road near the cemetery in the Jewellery Quarter, it is not the location you’d imagine for such a picturesque restaurant to be placed. But behold, 202 kitchen. Only launched last summer, this is a fairly new restaurant in Birmingham with an ‘instagrammable backdrop.’ Mostly all of the restaurant is pink, with flowers and neon signs around the restaurant as well. It is the perfect place to go out with your friends. The outside area has a shelter as well, which is perfect for any weather. The food menu is rather limited, this being because it mainly just has trap boxes (food of a meal piled into a box) on the menu. I would recommend the vegan box, which contains mushroom tofu, spicy cauliflower, corn on the cob and chips – the chips were definitely the best part of the meal. The array of cocktails and mocktails on the menu is really good, I would personally recommend the Goody Two Shoes mocktail. The downfall to this beautiful place is the prices and limited food options. Whilst the drinks are your usual cocktail prices, the meal boxes range from £15-£20, which for me felt a bit too expensive for what you get. However, if you are willing to spend a bit more for the experience, and you like the look of one of the trap boxes on the menu, then I would say it is worth it. I would encourage everyone to visit this restaurant at least once whilst living in Birmingham just for the experience. Plus, there is a set-up upstairs of a Barbie box, throne, a sofa and other props to take lots of memorable photos and have fun with some friends whilst you wait for your meal. Just make sure you book a week or two in advance as it is extremely popular. Open Monday - Sunday / https://202kitchen.com / @202kitchen
which you can choose from chicken, pork, chicken and chorizo, lamb kofta and crispy halloumi (all served with fries). They also sell all the classic cocktails. The prices are reasonable for what you get and this is just such a nice place to go to when the sun is shining down, with either friends, family or your partner. Open Monday - Sunday / https://thecanalhouse.uk.com / @thecanalhouseuk Slug and Lettuce (£ - ££) Where do I begin? Slug and Lettuce has to be my favourite restaurant with its delicious cocktails and equally delightful food. It was my first time visiting The Slug and Lettuce in Harborne when things reopened and the outside area was lovely, it was quiet and luckily at the back of the restaurant, so away from the road noise, and there weren’t too many tables so it felt rather intimate with plenty of shelter for bad weather too. The cocktail menu has so much choice – I would recommend the Pina Colada because it comes in a Golden pineapple glass, and all cocktails are 2-for-1! They have expanded their menu from when I last went to a Slug and Lettuce, so there is plenty of choices from burgers, lasagne, wraps, fish, and plenty of veggie options such as Halloumi and fries as well as the veggie Louisiana Chicken burger (both a personal favourite). The food is really affordable; most meals are around £10 or slightly over. I’d recommend Slug and Lettuce (in any location, not just Birmingham) to everyone.
“The food is really affordable” Open Monday - Sunday / https://www.slugandlettuce.co. uk/harborne-birmingham / @ slugharborne Wherever you choose to go, whether it’s one of the above recommendations or not, make sure to book well in advance, because free tables have become needles in haystacks!
The Canal House (££ - £££) Located by the canal, this is the perfect place to enjoy some food and drink with some lovely views of the canal area. The menu is quite small, but there is a range of food options from pie, to burgers and to their famous hanging kebabs
Flickr/ Elliott Brown
Friday 25th June 2021
Is Travel Good for the Soul?
Travel Writer Olivia Platten explores the benfits of travel for our mental health Olivia Platten Travel Writer
Whenever I think about how much I love travelling, which seems to be far more often now that it is restricted, I think of the movie that started it all for me: Eat Pray Love. The film is based on the true story of Elizabeth Gilbert, an author who took a year out of her busy life to travel to Italy, India and Indonesia countries all beginning with the letter ‘I,’ reflecting her journey for personal fulfilment. Watching it, I am always in awe of how much she learns from each place, and the joy she finds in not only exploring other cultures, but in the act of travel itself.
“I am always in awe of how much she learns from each place, and the joy she finds in not only exploring other cultures, but in the act of travel itself” During my first solo trip, to Montreal in Canada, I read Gilbert’s novel of the same name. I was again reminded of why such trips are so beneficial for your wellbeing. I felt a rush of independence and freedom as I explored the city as I had complete control over everything I wanted to do. Travel provides a boost of confidence you will be
hard pressed to find elsewhere. Organisation and preparation are important, but travel also calls for flexibility and a willingness to go with the flow that can often only come with practice nowadays. Being able to make a split decision about where to eat or what to see next is a skill many of us have lost in the rush of deadlines and commitments we are all accustomed to at university. So many of us have become fulltime planners.
“Organisation and preparation are important, but travel also calls for flexibility and a willingness to go with the flow” Alone in Montreal, having to rely on my somewhat shaky French, I realised how reliant on structure I had become. Being able to navigate an unfamiliar environment on my own gave me a massive boost of confidence. Canada is not so far removed from the UK anyway, so imagine how exploring somewhere completely unfamiliar could make you feel! Travel provides freedom from routine or restriction, which can be such a good pick-me-up when you are feeling fed up. I took my trip during a reading week, and having a break from routine was another majorly refreshing benefit to my experience. I had no worries or responsibilities to think about, and I felt so much lighter and happier for it. Travel
gives you the prime opportunity to take a step back. It can make you rethink routine altogether; I find myself questioning the added stress I put on myself after going on holidays to places with a slower pace of life, like Mauritius or Greece. There is a reason Donna’s move to Greece in Mamma Mia! is so appealing! Learning about other cultures can give you insight into your own. Birmingham seems perpetually switched on and never seems to slow down in comparison to many places. A trip is a chance to recharge, so you can return home refreshed, and maybe even with a different approach.
“Birmingham seems perpetually switched on and never seems to slow down in comparison to many places” Travel is good for the soul because it is an act of self-care. It is giving yourself full control over your time. And this does not just apply to relaxing holidays. An action-packed trip can also do wonders for your mental health, as you can fully experience new things and commit to exploring. Travel is a chance to hit the reset button on your stress levels. But, it also provides an opportunity to learn more about the world and yourself. When the world eventually opens back up again, travelling is something many of us are looking forward to the most.
Best Travel Books to Make You Feel Like You Are On Holiday Whilst you cannot travel we thought the best thing we could give you was some escapism. Below are three travel books we recommend if you are missing that holiday feeling, or just want to a good book to read after exhausting Netflix once again.
1. A Year in Provence by Peter Mayle
Zoe Willis Travel Writer
A Year in Provence is the bestselling memoir by novelist Peter Mayle which chronicles him and his wife buying and moving into a house in the Luberon region of Provence. Warm-hearted and witty, Mayle charms the reader with descriptions of Provencal life, from interactions with locals to mouthwatering food. This memoir is structured month by month in order to give a seasonal portrayal of French country life, rather than just focusing on the sunny beaches that southern France is so famous for. Mayle is an expert at character study, depicting the quirks and idiosyncrasies of French culture with dry British humour, while also demonstrating how we could all benefit from taking life at a slower pace – one sip of sunshine at a time. This is the perfect escapist book for whisking you away on that summer holiday feeling. It is at once a guidebook and brochure for this less-frequented corner of the world, ideal for any prospective year abroad student.
2. 1Q84 Murakami
3. Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Aimée Calvert Travel Editor
During the first lockdown, I was looking for something to keep me distracted from everything going on. I desperately missed that holiday feeling so I decided to order myself a couple of popular travel books. My favourite by far was Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert.
“I desperately missed that holiday feeling so I decided to order myself a couple of popular travel books” Published in 2006, this book
Haruki is a memoir of Gilbert’s year of
Ellie Duncan Travel Writer
the story, followed by plot twists and turns which Murakami weaves effortlessly into the narrative. The world completely and utterly draws you in. Some credit also has to go to Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel, who translated 1Q84 into English. The prose flows beautifully while still allowing Murakami’s voice and the Japanese roots of the novel to come through. Each of these elements combine to create a gripping and immersive dive into a different world altogether.
Reading Murakami always makes me want to visit Japan – although I am not entirely sure why. The world of 1Q84 is a disconcerting one, and the two main characters are discontented with their lives, a fact which is reflected in how they describe their surroundings. But something about it is just fascinating. Murakami excels in his description of the small details, such as the food the characters cook and eat, or the locations they pass as they travel, which really draw you in. There is another layer of escapism: it is based in a parallel universe, simultaneously close to our own and otherworldly. Mysterious magical themes run throughout
travelling after the failure of her marriage. She splits her time between Rome (where she eats), India (where she prays) and the final stretch in Bali (the place where she rediscovers love). This book is not just a run-through of her travels but a detailed insight into Gilbert’s mind and her struggles. The novel is deeply personal, and you cannot help but feel sorry for her in parts, and then you remember she spent a year travelling to beautiful locations and you envy her once again. Her descriptions and experiences in Rome encouraged me to add Italy to my bucket list. I started to note down the locations she described in the hopes that one day I could visit them too. If you are looking for some travel inspiration alongside an easy read I would definitely recommend this to you. It has also been adapted into a film starring Julia Roberts so you can have twice the escapism!
Friday 25th June 2021
One For The Bucket List: Everest Base Camp
Travel Writer Miren Sowden tells us about her once in a lifetime experience at Everest Base Camp and how it is much more achievable than we would think Miren Sowden Travel Writer
My gap year was different to many others for a few reasons; I, an 18 year old girl at the time, went alone, my mum flew out and joined me for two weeks in Cambodia, and I trekked to Everest Base Camp. This is a destination that consistently ranks high on many bucket lists but always seems out of reach. I am here to tell you it is not.
“This is a destination that consistently ranks high on many bucket lists but always seems out of reach”
The trek was the most expensive part of my trip sitting at £1500 for the two weeks. It included return flights to Lukla from Kathmandu (the most dangerous flight in the world), all accommodation, trekking passes, guide and porter fees, food and the privilege of standing at Everest Base Camp. Fears of fitness levels probably deter people more than anything else; but, from someone who did practically no training apart from running around a pub every evening, it is not as hard as everyone thinks. I stayed in tea houses every night which were run by a Nepalese or Sherpa family. There were small twin rooms to sleep in which offered very little warmth; but the communal room had a fire, which once set alight would heat the whole room. The food was incredible, traditional Nepalese and Sherpa dishes made by many who have never left the Himalayan moun-
tain range. Although the choice was the same at every tea house, my favourite of Dahl Bhat varied from village to village and hit the spot every time. It was only made better by the second and third portions you could have until the food ran out or you went into a food coma, which very rarely happened after a full day of walking.
“The food was incredible” Over the first few days we ascended over 1000 meters. This ascent was accompanied by breath-taking views that would only improve, our first sight of the top of Mount Everest and an inkling of what was to come. You never grow accustomed to the sight of the Himalayas. I woke up one morning and snapped a photo of the mountains through my
window only to be told Mount Everest was the mountain in the middle. How such a recognisable peak escaped my notice I do not know. Every time I opened my eyes my life seemed surreal. The day I reached Everest Base Camp was the best day of my life - I think this would be the case for most people. Base Camp itself is a large, enclosed, fairly flat area of grey rock dotted with bright orange and yellow tents for those ascending to the top. We had bought a couple of Everest branded beers at the last tea house and had a few sips each. We were careful to not drink too much alcohol at such a high altitude but still determined to drink a beer at base camp! A photo was taken of me and a friend I met on the trip embracing at Base Camp. It is my laptop screen saver and the photo I posted on Instagram after we got back to Kathmandu.
It encapsulates all the emotions we were feeling: joy, relief, pain and the importance of sharing this moment with the people who suffered alongside you for the last nine days.
“A photo was taken of me and a friend I met on the trip embracing at Base Camp ... It is my laptop screen saver” I continued travelling around South East Asia for another four months; I turned 19 in Vietnam and swam with turtles in Thailand. But, I think, Everest Base Camp should be at the top of everyone's bucket list.
Friday 25th June 2021
#EndoTheStigma: The Importance of Endometriosis Awareness
Life&Style’s Phoebe Snedker details her own experience with Endometriosis, and highlights the need to raise awareness for Endometriosis Awareness Month Phoebe Snedker Life&Style Writer
Endometriosis is a chronic and often debilitating condition, where cells similar to the ones in the lining of the womb are found elsewhere in the body. Each month, these cells react similarly to those in the womb, building up and then breaking down and bleeding. Unlike the cells in the womb, which leave the body as a period, this bleeding has no means of escaping the body – often resulting in excruciating pain. This can impact the ovaries, uterus, pelvic area, or other parts of the body – such as the bowels, lungs, spine, and the bladder. There is currently no known cure, only management through hormonal treatments, or surgical laparoscopies. It is acknowledged that Endometriosis is the second most common gynaecological condition in the UK, with 1.5 million women in the UK currently living with the condition. This equates to roughly 1 in 10 women. Why, then, are people so unaware of a condition that is felt so heavily by so many people? I have suffered with symptoms of endometriosis ever since beginning my periods. I did not get an actual diagnosis until my first year of university, when it was made through a laparoscopic
surgery. While this took a long time from my first GP appointment, it is still quicker than the average eight-year diagnosis time. I have been diagnosed with endometriosis on the ovaries and bladder, and a polycystic left ovary. In order to reach this diagnosis, I have encountered a vast range of dismissive doctors offering me laxatives, putting my symptoms down to anxiety, suggesting I was pregnant or testing for STIs, and simply telling me that the pain I was experiencing was part of being a woman. After being diagnosed, I was advised to start considering children as soon as possible due to fertility worries, which is a concern I did not envision myself having as a 19-year-old student. It is no wonder then, that a huge 62% of women put off going to their GP with symptoms of endometriosis. Being repeatedly disregarded and dismissed, and being made to feel as if your pain is all in your head, is quite frankly draining Endometriosis has impacted all areas of my life: my sex life, my confidence, my mental health, and my grades. Painful sex, intense fatigue, lowered libido, and constant bloating is enough to put strain on any relationship, though I have been incredibly lucky to have such a supportive and understanding boyfriend to help me through treatment deci-
sions and hospital appointments. I have at last found doctors who listen to me and my symptoms, and have not had a period in almost three years due to the use of hormonal suppressants. I am now awaiting a further referral which is likely to result in a second surgery to treat my bladder. It is frustrating that so many women are turned away by doctors that are simply unaware of the warning signs of a condition almost as common as diabetes. While periods are natural, pain that impacts your daily life and ability to complete your usual tasks is not. This is why I feel Endometriosis Awareness Month and the work done by organisations such as Endometriosis UK is so important. Before my diagnosis, myself and those around me had never even heard of the condition, and it is likely that many people reading this article may not have either. The importance in raising awareness lies not only in benefitting women who have already received a diagnosis, but also in the hope that women will recognise any symptoms they are displaying and seek further help before any serious harm is caused to their fertility or organ function. For March this year, Endometriosis UK has created the ‘1 in 10’ fundraising challenge, in an attempt to #EndoTheStigma. People can get involved with this
in many ways, whether that is baking 10 recipes, running/walking/cycling 10km, donating £10, hosting 10 virtual quiz nights, and so forth. The online Endometriosis community, for me at least, has been such a motivational community to be a part of, seeing representation of scars, body positivity and experiences that I can relate to being shared and commended. It is so important for self-confidence, and realising that you are not alone in your anxieties regarding the condition. For me, having children is something I have always just assumed would come naturally, so seeing so many women be able to conceive and carry naturally, or sharing their success stories through IVF or surrogacy, has been such a comfort to me. Celebrities such as Halsey and Chrissy Teigen have also been using their platforms to spread awareness of the condition and their experiences. Seeing such positive and understanding reactions is something I have found to be of great consolation. While there is still a long way to go in the understanding and treatment of Endometriosis, I believe spreading awareness about the condition to be of vital importance. Every day is different when you suffer with this illness, one day you can be on top
of your workload and coping well, and the next you can be bedridden with a flare up. It is crucial to recognise that Endometriosis can look different from one woman to the next, and not to disregard a woman’s concerns or symptoms just because it doesn’t fit a certain narrative. Educators, employers, doctors, and even those closer to us – such as family, friends, and partners – still have much to learn in order to adapt to the emotional and physical needs of those who suffer with Endometriosis. But just starting the conversation will prove to be a huge step forwards in improving the lives of women who still remain largely misunderstood, and to help us #EndoTheStigma.
Parenting in Private: Demands Of The Social Media Age Life&Style Writer Deyna Grimshaw discusses the pressure of social media on new and expecting parents, urging celebrities and their followers to prioritise safeguarding Deyna Grimshaw Life&Style Writer
In this new age of technology, where we are constantly bombarded by celebrities and influencers on social media, new parents are forced to make a conscious decision whether or not to share their parenting journey online. Many celebrity couples have welcomed children into the world recently, and several of them have chosen not to share their children on the internet, but what is the impact of this growing need for privacy? The rise of ‘sharenting’ (sharing your parenting online) has risen hugely with the increase of influencers, particularly YouTube personalities, creating family channels. The Ace Family have just over 19 million subscribers on YouTube, and continuously post videos of themselves interacting with their three young children. This has sparked criticism from many, who argue that the
children should not be forced into being filmed consistently. However, the family have rejected this criticism multiple times, claiming that the children enjoy being on camera. In recent years, an important moral debate has gained traction over the question of children and consent. There have been multiple celebrity children born in 2020, including Gigi Hadid and Zayn Malik’s daughter, Sophie Turner and Joe Jonas’ daughter Willa, and most recently Rupert Grint and Georgia Groome’s daughter Wednesday. Hadid and Malik have announced little about their daughter, not even revealing her name to their 96 million combined Instagram followers. Similarly, Turner and Jonas have kept their daughter out of the spotlight whilst they adjust to life as parents, although Sophie has recently posted a selection of photos on Instagram reminiscing over her pregnancy. Taking an alternate, but equally private stance, Rupert Grint joined the social media platform in order to
announce the birth, however he and Groome have again shared very little about Wednesday online. Notably, none of the couples have shared any photographs of their children’s faces online.
“The public have no right to watch a child grow up merely because their parents are celebrities” In contrast to some of these young couples, there are celebrities who share their children online regularly. The KardashianJenner clan have been known to share their various pregnancies and children online, with Kylie Jenner even uploading a pregnancy and birth video ‘To Our Daughter’ after the birth of Stormi
in February 2018. To date, that video has had over 96 million views, showing that there is a huge amount of public interest in celebrity pregnancies and parenting. Jenner’s video was highly popular as she hid her pregnancy entirely from the public, however it can be viewed as being a very personal time to have shared on the internet forever. Whether a celebrity chooses to share their pregnancy or child online or not, they are likely to be criticised by someone. The danger of sharing a pregnancy on social media has never been clearer than in October, when Chrissy Teigen, who had been sharing the pregnancy journey of her third child on Twitter, unfortunately suffered a miscarriage. In order to help her grieve, she took to Twitter to explain the event to her followers and the trauma that it caused her and husband John Legend. Teigen was heavily criticised for sharing what some members deemed to be too private a moment, branding it ‘inappropriate.’ This is a clear example of the fact that celebri-
ties are often forced into situations in which they will be critiqued no matter the outcome; had Teigen hidden her pregnancy, some of her fans would likely have felt betrayed, yet choosing to share it she was therefore forced to share the extremely sad fact of her loss. The idea of celebrities developing a private life away from the public and the media is nothing new, however the entitlement of the public to know everything about their favourite celebrity has definitely risen alongside the growth of social media. The public have no right to watch a child grow up merely because their parents are celebrities, and it is important that no child is forced into the public eye. Perhaps with this decrease in celebrity ‘sharenting’ alongside a new generation of parents, the public will learn that not everything needs to be shared on social media, and that some moments are better kept private.
Friday 25th June 2021
Men as Feminists: Bringing Up Boys Sam Wait TV Editor
Women of the World Festival explores gender equality, sexism, and gender issues which are still prevalent in society today. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, WOW has been forced to go online – and partnered with the BBC to do so. WOW’s deliberation on ‘Bringing Up Boys’ is particularly thoughtprovoking, as Jude Kelly asks if there is a right way to bring up boys in our effort toward gender equality. Unfortunately, for many, feminism is perceived as an outdated issue, one which has long been resolved. Women have fundamental human rights now, do they not? What more could we be asking for? Although most ‘big issues’ facing women in the West may have been resolved, to use an example, in Saudi Arabia women were only given the right to access healthcare without a male guardian three years ago. So, what do we Western women have to moan about in comparison? Unlike in 1910, we can vote, we can work, we are not condemned to becoming housewives or existing solely as a male’s counterpart. In the last century, the progress for most women has been insurmountably great – but there is still much more to be done. Gender equality has not been met and will not be if people ignore the feminist voices calling for further change. Sexism is still integral to our society, and stereotypes of feminists as ‘angry, obnoxious’ and unjustifiably ‘opinionated’ are still rife. Feminism is often seen as a
dirty word, due to the worst stereotype of all, that feminists are in fact anti-men. Founder of WOW, Jude Kelly, addresses this issue in the broadcast ‘Bringing Up Boys’ which details how boys should be raised today. Kelly asks ‘we say that boys and men will benefit from a gender-equal world but are we making it feel as if it is their world to help define? Or are they marginalised from these conversations?’ The rise of feminism seems to have made some men feel as though they are on the periphery of the topic, whereas this could not be further from the truth. Men play an important role in feminism. But the perpetuation of antimale activists labelling themselves as ‘feminists’ on social media is only harming our cause and disrupting their inclusion.
“Feminism is not about pushing men down but elevating women to their level” Rather, feminism is defined as ‘the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.’ Kelly’s guests on the show, Karen Blackett OBE and Nihal Arthanayake are invited to speak about how they teach their sons about sexism. Sexism is socially constructed, and as a 21-year-old I grew up watching countless Disney Princess movies and reading books whose female protago-
nist’s main concern was seemingly always a male love interest (I’m looking at you, Stephenie Meyer). Luckily, in 2020 female empowerment is becoming ubiquitous onscreen, but this is futile if it is not also instated in the home. Blackett, Country Manager for WPP, attempts to dispute these female stereotypes for her young son. One of her methods to achieve this is by ensuring she always employs male nannies. She aims to demystify the concept that there are ‘male’ and ‘female’ occupations and works to ensure she corrects sexism whenever her son questions it. Moreover, Arthanayake, presenter and podcaster details how sexism is rarely seen as an issue to his son. Arthanayake says his son ‘has the attitude towards sexism that all of us should have – it just doesn’t make any sense to him.’ However, Arthanayake outlines that he has had to have conversations with his son about what children from other families with differing values have said about women. As an adult, he is still having to pick up friends on sexist behaviour – so is certain that sexism will still have to be in kept in check for his son’s generation. Despite Gen-Z’s pushing against outdated gender constructs and binaries, Arthanayake argues sexism is still a prevalent issue. His solution is to discuss this with his son to reshape his thinking into showing him the logicality of gender equality. Kelly recounts that many parents have spoken to her saying that ‘not enough is done for boys to stop them from feeling entitled
without them being pushed down.’ This seems to be one of the key issues driving men and women to refuse to identify themselves as feminists. Feminism is not about pushing men down but elevating women to their level, so we are all equal. Therefore, this terminology must be clarified from an early age. Blackett tells how her son was taught about sexism from an early age, so he has learned to talk to his friends when they say something against gender equality and attempts to readjust their thinking. I think this response is essential, not only in bringing up children today, but in re-educating some adults about feminism. Not only should we be calling out misogyny, but attempting to explain its fallacies. Men should
not be excluded from being feminists, or face uncertainty based on whether to label themselves as one due to the damaging ‘anti-male’ stereotypes it has accumulated. Gender equality needs to be taught to boys from a young age so they learn that though it is women who have been oppressed for years, constantly their inferior in the history lessons taught to them at school – this is not their fault. They are not to feel attacked by the feminist movement, as some men may do today. They must recalibrate to identify themselves as part of the recovery; instead, they must view themselves as part of the change to ensure gender equality can become an attainable goal.
Stark, Naked: Lingerie Gone Rogue
Life&Style writer Leah Renz applauds Michaela Stark's revolutionary lingerie line celebrating the artistic realities of the female body Leah Renz
Shock and confusion, if not abject horror, are common initial reactions to Australian designer Michaela Stark’s lingerie sets. Breasts pop out between slits in bras, and ribbons are tied around the stomach to create sumptuous rolls of fat. Stark, modelling her own underwear, intentionally slouches, or contorts herself, so that we can see exactly the ways in which the fabric cuts into and divides her body; her armpits and pubic area are left unshaven. Stark’s lingerie is not, upon immediate appraisal, or even after prolonged viewing, the most easily swallowed of clothing choices. Throwing my hands in the air and chalking it up to the esoteric realm of haute couture feels like a viable option. The lingerie however is more than an inaccessible and bizarre fashion statement; it is a challenge to a society which insists upon the perfection of the female body. Stark’s selfmodelled lingerie aims to celebrate those parts of the body which are typically considered unattractive or best left hidden. In every photo she
stares out with a confident, perhaps even defiant gaze. She looks powerful and proud and unashamed of her body. In an age of social media, and thus endless comparison, this message has never been more relevant. Stark’s selfportraits urge us to redefine what we consider ‘beautif u l ’ , ‘acceptable’ or ‘sexy’; they a r e the
ultimate insecurity repellent. However, not everyone can be convinced by this message of
Twitter u s e r c o m mented: ‘I think we have a very different understanding of the word “celebrates”. What you describe as “celebrates” I describe as “tortures”. My body would not feel celebrated in any of those designs.’ Another sarcastically quipped ‘Looks eminently
wearable and would be lovely under a bodycon dress I’m sure.’ It must be said that Stark’s designs are less than ideal in terms of everyday comfort. Strands of silk are stretched across flesh, and stomachs are encased in rings of fabric or asymmetric corsets. Stark also flung practicality out the window in her outfit for Beyoncé’s latest visual album Black is King in which, amongst m a n y eccentric looks, t h e singe r wows in flared
huge excess of fabric. But, it is precisely this deviation from conventionality that makes Michaela Stark’s designs so powerful. The human body is strange, and asymmetrical and ‘disproportioned’, but it is also unstoppably beautiful. Stark’s self-portraits struggle against the insecurities born in our minds and perpetuated by a patriarchy with a money-making agenda. Seeing another woman confidently display herself in clothes intentionally designed to create rolls and unbalanced breasts is nothing short of inspiring. Even from the most unflattering angle, in the most ill-fitting lingerie and posed in a frankly awkward position, Stark’s self-portraits are works of art in praise of the human form. Stark shows that she, and her body, and our bodies, are always worthy of showing off. Twitter: @i_D
jeans that puddle on the floor in a
Friday 25th June 2021
San Diego Apes Given COVID-19 Vaccine Sci and Tech writer Elliott Haywood discusses the risk of Covid-19 infection to endangered species and animal vaccinations Elliott Haywood
COVID-19 has affected every corner of our lives, with scientists believing the virus to have emerged from another species such as a bat, through humanwildlife contact. However, there have also been incidents of other animals contracting the disease, with the first case being a tiger at Bronx Zoo, and high profile cases such as the culling of Denmark’s mink population following confirmed spillover from humans to mink, then back to humans. Due to our close genetic relationship, concerns arose about the possibility of transmission to endangered Great Apes such as Gorillas. With calls being made back in March 2020, at the very start of the pandemic, measures were suggested such as suspending ‘great-ape tourism’ and ‘reducing field research’ in order to minimise the potential risk to our closest
relatives. At the start of 2021, those fears were realised, as eight gorillas at San Diego Zoo tested positive for
COVID1 9 ,
Flickr: Andy Sloane
including an elderly silverback with underlying health conditions. Although these gorillas are recovering, it has highlighted the impact that human diseases may have on threatened species. A gorilla and two lions at Prague zoo have also contracted the disease. But it may not be all bad news, as San Diego zoo has recently vaccinated ‘four orangutans’ and ‘five bonobos’ using a vaccine developed for the cats and dogs and adapted for minks, by veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis, the animal health division of Pfizer. This vaccine is only for use in animals, so stocks of human vaccines are not being used up and is currently going through the validation process like any other therapeutic. Although designed for mink, it has previously been tested on cats and dogs, although it is not uncommon to use experimental vaccines on different
species. The manufacturing process and composition of the vaccine are safe for administration, however, the vaccine was used experimentally in the apes in San Diego. Whilst this vaccine may protect these individuals, we will not be seeing the rapid delivery of large numbers of animal vaccines like we have for humans. In conversation with Redbrick, Dr Steve Unwin, a wildlife and zoo health specialist, and lecturer at the University of Birmingham, says ‘The risk for human to non-human animal spread must be assessed on a case by case basis.’ ‘No one is (or should) be advocating mass ape vaccination across the board as the need is not there.’, he continues. Similarly, Dr Unwin told Redbrick that the vaccine will not be used in wild ape populations, ‘Again – from a risk point of view, if vaccination is to even be considered, that would be at the human-wildlife interface. Quite apart from ethical issues, it would be logistically impossible to vac-
cinate wild populations to guarantee herd immunity.’ ‘However, there may be particular instances at the humanape interface where targeted vaccination may be useful to reduce the risk of spillover from humans. The only reason mink became an issue was due to the huge numbers (millions) that are farmed in small spaces that led to spillover from human to mink and back to human again. We know apes are likely susceptible, but the likelihood of exposure, and from there, to infection will vary greatly by situation.’ The risk of COVID-19 is clearly not over, and the cases of transmission to other species highlight the need for clear, effective COVID-19 risk communication and biosafety measures. Spread to new species, whether domestic, livestock, or wildlife, must be monitored, and targeted vaccinations, as well as robust biosafety measures, will be vital in preventing this cross-species transmission.
Swearing Parrots: The Science Behind Their Genius
Music Editor Bethany Jo O’Neill explores parrots’ abilities to mimic human speech – the good and the bad Bethany Jo O'Neill
The month is September and you are having a nice relaxing walk through the zoo. Apart from the signs reminding you to social distance, the craziness of 2020 seems a whole world away. Then, over your shoulder you hear some very choice vocabulary. ‘How rude,’ you think to yourself but you carry on as normal. This inflammatory language gets louder and more frequent the closer you get to the aviaries, coupled with many a stifled laugh. Surely not? No sooner are you at the parrot enclosure and your wildest suspicions have been confirmedswearing parrots, welcome to 2020. This exact scenario is one that happened at Lincolnshire Wildlife Park last month where five African Grey parrots had to be put on an extended time out from the public. BBC News interviewed Steve Nichols, the Park Chief Executive, who explained, ‘the parrots “swear to trigger reaction or a response” so if people look shocked or laugh, it just encourages them to do it more.’ This encouragement meant the parrots’ misdemeanours became a bit too frequent and with young ears becoming increasingly present, the Park Chief Executive decided their comedy show needed to take a hiatus. But
what gives parrots the ability to talk in the first place? Parrots talk by mimicking sounds such as human speech through a process of listening a n d repeating. The more a parrot becomes accustomed to h u m a n speech, or any other sound, the more likely they are to repeat it. This being said, there is some evidence that suggests parrots can repeatedly imitate a noise they have only heard once. In the wild, parrots imitate the sounds of other parrots in order to communicate and form ‘vocal dialects’ between pairs and groups, according to Virginia Morell in their paper ‘Why Do Parrots Talk? Venezuelan Site Offers Clues.’ What is interesting to note is that, unlike humans, parrots do not actually have vocal cords. Instead, their vocal tract is composed of a series of very complex muscles combined with a ‘thick, yet flexible, tongue’ which, according to cognitive scientist
Pepperberg, work together to produce human speech-like sounds. Further to this, a parrot’s brain is structured differently to other birds which aides them in learning how to vocalise different sounds. The African Grey in particular is considered the most intelligent of the parrot species, with research suggesting they are able to
match the cognitive ability of a human five-year-old. An example of the extreme levels of intelligence African Greys can possess comes from a Grey called Alex. Alex had, ‘a vocabulary of about 150 words and could add small numbers.’ This is vastly impressive and perhaps puts his Lincolnshire relatives to shame. Although the behaviours and individuality of parrots are incredibly intriguing, these intelligent birds are becoming more and more endangered. The desire to keep parrots as pets fuels illegal capture and trade which is putting many species at risk of extinction. To avoid what would be an extremely disastrous outcome, there is a need for further education about, and protection of, these marvellous birds.
CULTURE SCI&TECH @redbrickculture
Friday 25th June 2021
Creature Feature: Mantis Shrimp Leah Renz
Success! NASA Lands Space Rover Perseverance on Mars! Sci & Tech writer Leah Renz explores the possibilities the freshly landed Perseverance rover poses for life out on the red planet
Mantis shrimps are a group of colourful, dangerous, and surprisingly intelligent crustacean species found mostly in the ocean’s tropical coasts. Their strange bodies and behaviours are a marvel. Mantis shrimps can range in colour from cloudy whites, to dark stripes, to shimmering gradients of greens, blues and pinks. Even the most colourful of these shrimps spend most of their lives burrowing in intricate networks beneath the seabed, obscured from view. Emerging only to feed and relocate, they are unusual among crustaceans for hunting and killing prey. The mantis shrimp hunts with truly remarkable ability. Some species will impale fish with spear-like arms while others smash crabs, snails, and oysters to pieces with large club appendages. The hammer-arms of smashers accelerate at 102,000 m/s2, reaching speeds of 51 miles per hour. The incredible speed of their strikes cause shockwaves in the water which can stun or kill a creature even if the strike misses. Exhibiting complex behaviour, some mantis shrimps use the fluorescent patterns on their bodies to communicate with other shrimps, and maybe even with other species. They engage in ritualised fighting and use their ability to learn and remember well to recognise their neighbours – both by their markings and by their individual smell. Some species form long-term monogamous relationships, remaining with the same partner for up to 20 years and sharing the duties of hunting and caring for their eggs. Thought to have the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom, their 12 to 16 types of photoreceptor cells dwarf the three types in the human eye, allowing them to see light from the deep ultraviolet spectrum through to far-red. Mantis shrimps form part of Cantonese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Mediterranean cuisines, among others. The colourful peacock mantis shrimp is also desired in the aquarium trade, though it is known to be difficult to keep in captivity and is considered by some to be a pest. When rocks from the ocean floor are brought into aquariums, a burrowing mantis shrimp can often be accidentally carried inside. Once it emerges, the mantis shrimp will veraciously hunt other inhabitants of the aquarium and prove very difficult to catch. They are even known to break the glass of tanks with their hammer-like blows if confined to too small an area. Admire their gorgeous colours from a distance – there’s a reason they’re sometimes called ‘thumb splitters’.
On Thursday the 18th February at 20:55 (GMT) 2021 NASA’s space rover ‘Perseverance’ successfully landed on Mars. Launched on the 30th July 2020, the carsized rover has been flying through space for over six and half months before landing in the Jezero crater on Mars, named after a small village in Bosnia: the word ‘Jezero’ also means ‘lake’ in multiple ‘Slavic languages.’ This is wonderfully apt because the aim of this Mars mission is to discover whether there has ever been life on the red planet and whether it could ever support human life in the future. Perseverance -nicknamed Percy – will establish this in four different ways. First, it will trundle over the surface of Mars drilling holes into its surface to collect rock and earth samples, which it will
then ‘poop’ out for another rover to pick up and transport back to earth for analysis. Second, it will take photos of the surface of Mars with an extremely sophisticated camera system called Mastcam-Z, enabling scientists on Earth to study Mars’ mineralogy and landscape. Third, it will analyse the chemical composition of Martian soil using ‘fine-scale imaging and an ultraviolet laser’ to establish the existence of biosignatures, evidence of ancient life on Mars. Finally, it will test out technologies that would be used if humans were ever to inhabit Mars, such as the Mars Oxygen ISRU Experiment (MOXIE) which can convert Mars’ atmospheric carbon dioxide into oxygen. The rover Perseverance also has a companion helicopter called Ingenuity which is due its first flight test in the spring of 2021. If it works, it will become the first controlled
powered flight on another planet. This monumental mission aims to answer some of humanity’s most perplexing questions about space, including whether we are alone in this Universe, and whether we could ever live on Mars. The implications of this mission feel like the dreams of science-fiction, and yet they are becoming reality before our very eyes. Due to planetary alignments however the NASA rover is not the only Mars misNASA
sions this year; the United Arab Emirates Space Agency have launched their satellite Hope, and China’s National Space Administration have completed their first Mars space mission with the three-in-one orbiter, lander, and rover Tiawen-1, which means ‘questioning the heavens.’ These missions may well provide the necessary information for launching humans to Mars, an event which Elon Musk’s aerospace company SpaceX has scheduled for 2026 or 2024 ‘if we get lucky.’ In the meantime, one can listen to audio
recordings of sound on Mars, including what ocean waves would sound like on Mars compared to Earth.
Could Planting Seagrass Solve England’s Environmental Issues? Sci and Tech Editor Daniella Southin discusses the ongoing seagrass planting project and its benefits hessian bags with 16,000 sea- change. It has been suggested life. Baranowski believes damDaniella Southin
Oil spills, plastic pollution and coral bleaching are some of the major issues associated with the decline of the world’s oceans. Little consideration is given to the estimated 7% of seagrass habitat that is lost worldwide, making it the fastest declining habitat on the planet. The Ocean Conservation Trust, however, is bringing seagrass habitats to the forefront of environmental issues through England’s biggest seagrass planting project. Across five locations around Great Britain, the project, led by Natural England, aims to transform barren seabeds with Zoestra Marina – one of two U.K species of eelgrass. With the first batch of planting completed at the Plymouth Sound National Marine Park, the project aims to ‘rewild and regrow this critical habitat’. 80 volunteers spent a week filling
grass seeds and 2,200 seedlings, grown through lab facilitation. Hessian bags used in other seagrass projects have aided the natural recruitment of seedlings and, in Plymouth Sound, are expected to degrade on the ocean floor within five weeks, leaving no waste behind. The seeds themselves, are estimated to germinate within the first three to five weeks of planting and the soon-to-be-established meadows could attract up to five times more wildlife than empty seabeds, providing a ‘nursery habitat for commercial and recreational fishing’. While protecting coastal ecosystems has other humanbased benefits such as ‘storm protection’ and ‘recreational opportunities, it also has other environmental benefits such as storing Blue Carbon. It was defined by the National Ocean Service as ‘carbon captured by the world’s ocean and coastal ecosystems‘, with seagrass habitats being able to ‘store 35 times more carbon than rainforests‘, thus, fighting climate
that if the 92% of seagrass meadows that have been lost across the U.K were restored, they would have the potential of storing 3% of the country’s carbon emissions. While the percentage may sound small, it is equivalent to 11.5 million tonnes of carbon – meaning Blue Carbon could be vital for reaching Net Zero. In conversation with Redbrick Clare Baranowski, from the Ocean Conservation Trust, revealed she believes the government has started prioritising Blue Carbon but encourages them to continue supporting ‘blue carbon recovery projects’. While the seagrass meadows are establishing themselves, they could face threats from local fisheries says Baranowski; ‘anchors dragging through the seabed can cause significant damage’. However, Life Recreation ReMEDIES, one of the project’s partners and supporters, is working to combat this by encouraging sustainable anchoring practices that will cause less harm to aquatic wild-
age to seabeds has significantly decreased due to the reduced human activity in the ocean, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The pandemic has, nonetheless, caused issues for the project in the form of delays and social distancing limiting the number of volunteers allowed on boats for planting. Baranowski warns restrictions may still be in place when work begins at the second site – Solent Maritime Special Area of Conservation, planting the same species of seagrass as used at Plymouth Sound. While restrictions are still in place, Baranowski encourages those wanting to help to donate and support the Ocean Conservation Trust and follow their work on their website and social media. To find out more about their work or donate to the Ocean Conservation Trust follow the link below or search for the Ocean Conservation Trust on Facebook or Instagram.
Friday 25th June 2021
Left Behind: The Pandemic’s Troubling Impact on Women’s Sport Sophie Utteridge
found themselves supdecision to cancel the plied with only the 2019/2020 season for Sport Writer bare minimum or, the Women’s Super worse still, forced League while the COVID-19’s impact across sport to pay for essential Premier League was of sportswomen have has been catastrophic. From the equipment themallowed to restart. struggled to access cancellation of Wimbledon to the selves. Despite the Football equipment for homedelayed Olympic Games, all Speaking to Association’s statebased training durteams, competitions and adminis- The Conversation ment that the caning the pandemic trations have been forced to adjust. last October, one cellation of the (The Conversation) But for women’s sport, the pan- female internationleague was in the demic has been especially detri- al rugby player stat‘best interests’ of mental. While every effort has ed that the pandemic women’s football, there been made to ensure the safe con- merely exposed womseems to be no credible tinuation of male competition, en’s squads’ already woereason as to why only the men women’s sport was postponed, fully limited equipment. For could continue. The FA claimed delayed or even cancelled because sportswomen, who are often not that the cancellation of the season of coronavirus. There is little jus- professionally contracted and earn would give women’s clubs more tification for this, particularly as it money on a match-by-match time to prepare for the following has been proven that sport can basis, paying to continue training season – something that apparindeed continue with the correct was a painful stretch for their lim- ently they needed but the men did safety protocol. It begs the ques- ited finances. Considering that not. So, what was their real motition: has women’s sport been left sportswomen are still expected vation? Surely some women’s behind by the pandemic? to maintain fitness, record football is better than none at all? The inequalities results daily and attend The same could be said for were obvious from the online meetings with cricket. The England men’s team moment coronavirus coaches and boards, returned with a test series against started to signifiit seems unfair that the West Indies last July, while it cantly impact socithese athletes are, would be another two months of sportswomen are ety. With training in many ways, until England women could play full-time athletes facilities closed, working for free. their first match. The women’s many professional To add insult to domestic game was also affected, (The Conversation) clubs were naturally injury, sportswomen with the inaugural season of The concerned about their were forced to watch Hundred pushed back a year to players’ fitness levels. as their male counter- 2021, ruining the chances for Whilst sportsmen had parts returned to compet- many players to receive their first their own equipment proing while their National professional contract. This postvided to them, much of which was Governing Bodies (NGBs) forgot ponement, combined with the lack sent to their homes, sportswomen about them. Case in point: the of women’s international action,
has left women’s cricket in England at risk of losing all the positive momentum it had built up since the 2017 World Cup win.
seems unfair that these athletes are, in many ways, working for free” This summer, England’s men have a packed calendar, featuring
a scheduled 47 days of cricket against New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and India. In contrast, the women will play a maximum of 18 days against India and New Zealand. It is too soon to say for certain how the pandemic will affect women’s sport. Yet, COVID-19 has undoubtedly exacerbated inequalities, highlighted the failings of governing bodies and isolated sportswomen at a time when everyone needs support. If these shortcomings are not addressed, a reduction in elite female sport could become a harsh reality long after the pandemic is over.
At the Summit: Warwickshire Start Championship Campaign Superbly A new coach, epic run-chases and a UoB student have helped Warwickshire to the top of their County Championship group, Matthew Grubb reports Matthew Grubb Sport Writer
Warwickshire have enjoyed a successful County Championship campaign thus far, winning four and losing just one of their eight games. Under new head coach Mark Robinson, a serial winner during his time with Sussex and England women, the Bears have bounced back after a disappointing 2020. Their strong recent form means it is easy to forget that Warwickshire started the season slowly. Wintry weather and a disappointing final day saw them fail
to beat lowly Derbyshire in the opening match, and they were in deep peril two days into their away game at Nottinghamshire the following week. In their second innings, Notts led by 200 with eight wickets left, and it looked highly likely that the Bears would have the crushing honour of being the team to end Notts’ 28-game winless streak. When Warwickshire found themselves 184-6 chasing 333 on what can be safely described as a great wicket for the bowlers, their fate seemed all but certain. Yet, in the epitome of a sliding doors moment, an unbeaten 68 from all-
rounder Tim Bresnan, as well as an unlikely 43 from England’s Olly Stone, saw the Bears seal an unforgettable final-hour win. This would be a springboard for their season, as the Bears sealed another momentous victory against Essex at Edgbaston the following week. They chased down 256 inside 82 overs to hand the champions their first red-ball loss in two years. Since signing star spinner Simon Harmer in 2017, the highest successful chase against Essex was just two. Seamer Craig Miles observed that competing with Essex was a clear sign of ‘how far we’ve come,’ when speaking to Redbrick. ‘We’re all coming of good age and starting to know our games and relish the opportunity to play any side in this country,’ he added. Spearheading this extraordinary victory was the University of Birmingham’s very own Rob Yates. On a day where he was supposed to be writing an essay about why gorillas beat their chests, the English student hit a stunning 120 not out in an innings for the ages. This knock – as well as his century two weeks later against Worcestershire – produced
several mesmerising drives down the ground, but it is the maturity shown in these innings that impressed the most. ‘I feel like I’m getting more settled,’ Yates told Redbrick last month. ‘You’re never going to be perfect, you’ll have ups and downs, so it’s just about making the most of being in good form and trying to do the best I can.’ Robinson’s men appear to possess a newfound grit and maturity. After the win over Essex, an innings defeat in Durham was followed by rain-affected draws against Worcestershire and Essex. But this new character re-emerged when they bowled out Nottinghamshire at Edgbaston with 8.3 overs remaining, sparking jubilant scenes in Edgbaston’s first game with fans.‘We’ve got some guts in the team,’ Robinson told the media at Edgbaston after this victory. ‘We’ve managed to stay in games when we’ve been behind the 8-ball – we were behind the 8-ball a couple of times this game and we’ve managed to stick in there.’ Perhaps the player of the season has been Liam Norwell, whose pace and bounce has seen him take 24 wickets at 19.83.
However, the entire bowling attack deserves enormous credit, while Sam Hain and reliable wicketkeeper Michael Burgess have provided crucial consistency with the bat. A convincing victory away to Derbyshire leaves Warwickshire top of their group with two games left. A top two finish and qualification for division one is in their own hands. This gutsy, talented group will certainly back themselves to get there.
County Championship Group 1 Table Played Won
Friday 25th June 2021
Incoming Sports Officer Discusses Plans for Next Academic Year Dan Hunt Sport Writer
‘I get a lot out of sport at the university and I thought it’s a good opportunity to give back.’ That is the philosophy of George Christian, the incoming Guild Sports Officer. Shortly after his successful election campaign, Christian spoke to Redbrick about his plans to support communities, widen participation for students with disabilities, and his excitement about his new role. Christian certainly has the experience for the job. He cur-
rently serves as president of University of Birmingham Rowing, having previously been the men’s captain. In that time, he worked closely with the Guild and other clubs. Christian praised outgoing Sports Officer, Rob Hegarty, for allowing communication between sports club captains and presidents via a Facebook group: ‘That’s really helped my perception of what clubs do and what clubs need.’ What many clubs need now is support. The disruption caused by the pandemic means many incoming committee members have not
experienced a full year of sport. ‘Within the rowing club we’re going to have people that are going into their third year of university and they’ve had half a year of sport in their first year and two months of sport in their second year,’ explained Christian. ‘Club committees are not going to be as familiar with their sports.’ To rectify this, Christian stressed the importance of communication, especially during club committees’ transition period. Welfare was also a key part of Christian’s manifesto. Christian is highly supportive of the welfare officer role within clubs, as it means members have ‘one person they can go to,’ but also admits the Guild need to go further to help students who are not part of clubs but play sport socially on campus. He believes there is a need to give access to support for the ‘student that goes to the gym regularly,’ because ‘there isn’t actually that kind of familiar welfare position that they can go to.’ Christian added: ‘exercise is such a great part in maintaining mental health [and] I think it’s such a good opportunity to offer a [...] student-elected position where it’s just a familiar face, somebody that people wouldn’t be afraid to message if they had any con-
cerns.’ He stressed, however, that ‘it’s not necessarily reducing or removing [welfare support within] the clubs, because it’s independent from sports clubs and it’s something to do with people that exercise on their own.’ Elsewhere, Christian is eager to increase participation for students with disabilities. He acknowledged how some clubs ‘are really championing this and have done for a while, which is amazing,’ but admitted that the pandemic has disrupted plans by Disabilities Officer, Imogen Mann, to increase para-sport opportunities for students. Christian understands that the process will not be easy. ‘There are 56 sports at the university. Not every single sports club is going to have the time available, the funds available, or even the desire
for disabled students to set it up.’ Nevertheless, he intends to ‘go to the clubs that have a lot of potential in this area’, and ‘working alongside [club] development we can look at National Governing Body guidance and Parasport UK guidance and we can help hold these clubs’ hands and make sure that they can decide for themselves.’ Christian described next academic year as a ‘triple threat’, with the potential unlocking of coronavirus restrictions, a new Director of Sport that ‘makes it easier to implement changes,’ and the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in summer 2022. With Christian at the helm and the easing of all COIVD-19 restrictions in sight, students can be confident that university sport will resume smoothly and be enjoyable to everyone.
What Does George Christian Hope to Deliver? •
Recovery: Many new committees only know university sport within a pandemic, so communcation will be key.
Welfare: Christian wants to help all students, from BUCS players to casual gym-users.
Participation: By working with clubs, Christian hopes to expand opportunities for students with disabilities.
How to be a Sports Club President BUAC Cool Runnings president Timon Burford shares his top tips for success Timon Burford Sport Writer
This past year, I have been lucky enough to serve as president of BUAC Cool Runnings, the university’s participation-orientated athletics club. As I have learned, it is not always plain sailing. Challenges will come your way but with hard work and resilience, these can be met. Here are a few tips that will put sports club presidents on track to succeed.
Use Your Committee As a president, you shape club policy. This gives you significant influence, but remember you are also the chair of a committee, filled with individuals who have their own opinions and ideas. Successfully managing a committee is the most important responsibility; if it is not working effectively then neither is the club. Each committee position is individually elected, so you have no control over who you will be working with. If you are the president of a large club, like Cool Runnings, you may have never spoken to your new colleagues. Building chemistry early on is crucial. To foster some camaraderie, I would recommend organising a committee social or a lowintensity meeting over the sum-
mer. From my own experience, learning how to successfully delegate tasks is the cornerstone of good committee management. You must trust your committee and identify how each member’s talents can be best utilised.
All About the Admin General administration, replying to enquiries, writing emails, filling out paperwork. These are not exactly the most thrilling tasks of being a president, but ones that must be fulfilled with care and due diligence. As the face of the organisation and often the first point of contact, it is a responsibility that you cannot shy away from. My best recommendation would be to prepare a set of prewritten replies to frequently asked questions to save yourself time when responding to club enquiries. Additionally, you could set up a separate social media account specifically for the role of president. This can help negate your personal accounts from being inundated with questions.
Prepare for Freshers’ You can never plan enough for Freshers’ Week. Freshers’ should be a culmination of a whole summer of preparation as you must account for every likelihood. To
best set yourself up for this week of madness, get things such as the club conference and risk assessment complete well before the academic year begins. Have a clear timetable of the sessions and socials you plan to host, but do not overextend yourself. If you are hosting trials or taster sessions, expect high demand and decide how many people you can safely accommodate at a session.
Serve the Members When I took over as Cool Runnings president, my predecessor told me: ‘Remember that the club was here before you and will be here after you. When making decisions always ask yourself the question: how does this benefit the club?’ This advice perfectly encapsulates the role of the president. You are first and foremost the caretaker of the club entrusted with looking after a much-loved organisation, and have a duty to serve the interests of its members.
Learn From Others As a president, you are elected principally because your members believe you are the best candidate to run the club. You must always give your all at training and lead by example. However,
this does not mean that you should feel inadequate if your own ability does not match up with others at the club. Neither should you feel at all afraid in asking for performance advice from your members.
Adaptability is Key During the pandemic, I feel like we have become more adaptable. If my time as a president has taught me anything, it is to focus on the here and now. By all means,
have ambitious plans for your club, but recognise that unforeseen, uncontrollable circumstances will require a far more pragmatic approach. It is during these moments of change and uncertainty that your credentials as a president are put to the test. When facing imminent challenges, never implement drastic decisions alone. Always consult your committee and if possible gauge the opinion of the general membership. I wish all incoming sports club presidents the best of luck!
Meet UoB’s Safe Sport Champions Redbrick Sport and UB Sport celebrate the individuals who not even a pandemic could stop, as they went above and beyond to keep students active and involved Clara Morate
After a year defined by chaos, disruption, and staying at home, it feels only right to celebrate the individuals across campus that have kept sport going in whatever way they can. Fittingly, their dedication and selflessness were recognised through UB Sport’s ‘Safe Sport Champions’ initiative. Here are three of our favourites.
Joanna Seifert of UoB Lacrosse has seen additional responsibilities and commitments emerge during the pandemic. Seifert has not shied away from the challenge, going above and beyond to ensure the safety and wellbeing of her team-mates. This kindness and selflessness to others extends beyond her vigilance to the health and safety guidelines, as she offers a friendly face to anyone in need. Communication relating to the pandemic, such as making sure members can anonymously inform the club if they develop symptoms, allows Seifert to make players feel comfortable.
Considering the close-contact physicality which rugby entails, any efforts in keeping the sport going during the pandemic should be applauded. That is what head coach Tom Drewett has done this year. The community aspect of rugby cannot be underestimated, and Drewett’s dedication has been key to the club flourishing and attracting new players over the term. With BUCS rugby being so important at UoB, the fact that Drewett has entered two women’s sides into the competition this season is a major success. Speaking to Redbrick, he emphasised the work of women’s rugby captain Niamh Frost and her committee, who ‘have been a credit to themselves, the university, and the club.’ Drewett was also keen to praise all club members, adding that ‘the players and coaches have adapted to the ever-changing rules and restrictions outstandingly well.’ Drewett’s humility epitomises why he has been recognised.
The pandemic has created huge obstacles for women’s hockey and Stewart has been determined in her work this year to allow all 12 hockey teams to return to competition, as well as coordinating all six of the ladies’ hockey teams. ‘It’s been a tricky term,’ Stewart told Redbrick, ‘but with support from the Campus League we have managed to offer every member regular hockey.’ As the pandemic stretched finances, Stewart played a key role in attracting new sponsors, giving the club vital stability. Even more impressively, whilst providing this foundation and help for her peers, Stewart has continued to play a part as an integral member of the Ladies 1st XI, competing at the highest level and inspiring others on and off the pitch. ‘It’s great to be nominated as we really have tried to give everyone the best experience despite the difficulties,’ she added.
What students say about Joanna: • ‘Joanna has been working hard since before term started to ensure training is safe and welcoming.’ • ‘[Seifert] continues to act as a point of contact for anyone in the club who has any concerns regarding COVID-19.’
What students say about Tom: • ‘He will stop at nothing to help our club.’ • ‘We would not have had such a successful intake and enjoyable club experience without Tom’s dedication and support.’
What students say about Pip: • ‘Pip has worked tirelessly over the last 6 months to allow all 12 hockey teams to return to competitive leagues.’ • ‘Pip has led by example on the pitch.’ To find out more about all 23 Safe Sport Champions, search https://www.redbrick. me/safe-sport-champions-winners/
INSIDE SPORT THIS WEEK: Flickr/Elliott Brown
Sports Officer Interview
Club President Tips
Geograph/John Sutton UB Sport
Bears’ Fast Start