ON THE FRONT LINE A REPORT FROM A KIEV HOSPITAL VOLUNTEER
DIRTY MONEY OUT OF INK THE MINING MILLIONS IS PRINT JOURNALISM PUMPED INTO UCL DEAD?
LONDONSTUDENT PAGE 8-9 | FEATURE
PAGE 10-11 | FEATURE
PAGE 20-21 | DEBATE
Issue 8 Volume 34
Monday 10th March 2014
Europe’s largest student newspaper
Secret report reveals UoL staff hostile to management plans
“If we wanted •Staff: to be in the private
sector then we would”
employees were •Some afraid to openly voice opinions
DONALD BETHLEHEM Special Reporter University of London (UoL) staff are fiercely opposed to management plans to partner up with businesses, a confidential document reveals. Damning opinions from “overwhelming” numbers of employees from Student Shared Services and the University of London Computer Centre (ULCC) on entering into commercial partnerships are laid bare in a draft report obtained by London Student. Staff were asked in focus groups for their thoughts on Student Shared Services, which supplies students with careers advice and accommodation, and the ULCC, which is currently a not-for-profit IT services provider, being replaced by a “new entity with a commercial partner”. The report, compiled last month, found: “The idea of commercial partnership was unpopular with almost all attendees… Overwhelmingly, both ULCC and Student Shared Services felt there were more disadvantages in joining with a commercial partner”. It also explained how some staff members were afraid to voice their opinions on the managers’ proposals openly because of a “lack of trust” in the university. Responses from the 110 staff who took part in focus groups Continued on page 7 »
SOAS cleaners on the picket line on Wenesday afternoon. The strike lasted for two days and was largely supported. Photograph: Oscar Webb
Contractor accused of breaking strike
Extra staff brought in by contractor clashed with students, who accused them of acting “very aggresively” KEUMARS AFIFI-SABET and NICHOLAS WINCHESTER
Contractor ISS was accused of breaking a cleaners’ strike at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) as extra staff it had sent in clashed with students last Monday. Students questioned the presence of ISS staff in the main stairwell at SOAS 30 minutes before midnight on Monday, when the two-day strike, which cleaners launched in protest
over “systematic discrimination” by managers, was due to begin. Students claim the staff were still in the building after the strike began. They claim the altercation became aggressive, with ISS staff making homophobic slurs and grabbing mobile phones being used to film the incident. A video released by Justice for Cleaners (J4C) shows an ISS line
manager physically intimidating a student who repeatedly says “don’t touch me.” SOAS student Maham HashmiKhan told London Student: “They [ISS staff] acted very aggressively. One went on a homophobic rant, saying ‘gay boy’ and asking ‘are you gay?’” Continued on page 2 »
2 • News
Monday 10th March 2014
Birmingham agree to pay living wage to all staff following student pressure
EDITORIAL BOARD Editor Oscar Webb email@example.com (020) 7664 2054 Deputy Editor Adam Gillett firstname.lastname@example.org Assistant Editor Annie Cohen email@example.com Chief Sub Editor Jon Wright firstname.lastname@example.org News Editor James Burley email@example.com Assistant News Editors Adrian Polglase firstname.lastname@example.org Keumars Afifi-Sabet email@example.com Photo Editor Hubert Libiszewski firstname.lastname@example.org Features Editors Charlotte England & Lauren Van Schaik Smith email@example.com Comment Editor Harry Stopes firstname.lastname@example.org Science Editor VACANT Sport Editor George Jackson email@example.com
ABOUT LONDON STUDENT London Student is the newspaper of the University of London Union (ULU). It was founded in 1954 as Sennet. It is editorially independent of ULU and its operation is overseen by a full-time elected editor. The views expressed in this publication are those of each article's writer and not necessarily those of the editor or of ULU. Publication, especially of comment pieces, does not represent endorsement of the views expressed. All correspondence relating to editorial matters arising from articles published in this newspaper should be directed to Oscar Webb, Editor at editor@ london-student.net; London Student newspaper ULU Malet Street London WC1E 7HY Tel: (020) 7664 2054 All news should be directed to James Burley, News Editor at firstname.lastname@example.org All advertising should be directed to Adam Gillett, Deputy Editor at email@example.com www.london-student.net @londonstudent /londonstudentnewspaper
Protests in January for the living wage saw thirteen arrested NICHOLAS WINCHESTER Staff Reporter
AN EX-STUDENT RECOUNTS THE MINERS STRIKE: P. 14-15
The University of Birmingham has agreed to pay the current living wage rate to all its staff following a campaign by students. The announcement was made on 5 March in an email to staff and was reached jointly between unions Unison and Unite and the university. The commitment means that from the 1 August 2014 the university will match the current Living Wage, which is set at £7.65 outside London. Defend Education protests in January resulted in the arrest of 13 people, including six students, and saw scuffles with security and police. The university suspended the
six students, but has since reinstated three. Hattie Craig, a Birmingham Guild of Students officer, posted on Facebook: “It's been a long battle but it’s days like this that make it worth it. The mounting pressure from strikes, direct action and constant public condemnation have finally forced the university’s hand.” “This shows the power that students and staff can have over management and demonstrates why we must not be deterred and that we can, and will, win. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.” In an email to staff, provost Adam Tickell said: “The university and the branch executives of Unison and Unite are pleased to report that the current dispute over the 2013 pay settlement has been resolved. The branch executives of Unison and Unite will recommend to their members that no further industrial action be taken in relation to the 2013 pay settlement.”
Marking boycott to go ahead in ‘increasingly Vast majority vote bitter’ pay dispute for ULU to remain in student hands Boycott will involve lecturers not marking students’ work or giving feedback
KEUMARS AFIFI-SABET Assistant News Editor The University and College Union (UCU) will enforce a marking boycott from April 28 unless its “increasingly bitter” pay dispute with the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA) is resolved. The boycott will involve lecturers not marking students’ work, not communicating marks to anybody, not giving feedback on students’ work in a way from which a mark could be deducted, and not attending examination boards or preparation meetings. UCU says the marking boycott, the first in eight years, could be avoided if employers UCEA agree to partake in “serious negotiations”. They are not willing to accept the UCEA’s offer of a 1% pay increase to lecturers and other university staff, which amounts to a 13% real-terms decrease over the course of the last five years.
According to the union, UCEA have so far refused to engage in any meaningful talks over pay, despite six strikes since October 2013, and complaints from students about cancelled classes and missed seminars. Sally Hunt, UCU general secretary, said: “A marking boycott is the ultimate sanction, but an avoidable one if the employers would negotiate with us over pay.” “No member I have spoken to wishes to see this dispute escalate, but in the continued absence of meaningful negotiations from the employers, we are left with no alternative.” “The employers cannot plead “A marking poverty when it comes to staff boycott is the ultimate pay and then sanction, but award enormous an avoidable rises to a handful at the top.” one if the A UCEA employers spokesperson would said: “Higher negotiate” -Sally Hunt, education instiUCU Gen Sec tutions will certainly be disappointed that the UCU is still threatening a marking boycott, as this is action that is once again aimed directly at students’ education.”
ADRIAN POLGLASE Assistant News Editor The majority of participants in a referendum held by the University of London Union (ULU) have voted against university management plans to scrap the union. 86% of the 4,545 students who took part in the referendum, which closed on 7 February, voted ‘yes’ to the question “Should ULU’s building, activities and campaigns continue to be run democratically by students?” University of London’s (UoL) current plans involve closing the democratic representation functions of the union with management taking over its current facilities in order to create a ‘New Student Centre’. Heythrop College and Goldsmiths have yet to contribute their results due to “political” and logistical issues, but both are expected to do so at a later date. Adrian Smith, UoL’s vicechancellor, was principal at Queen Mary in 2005 when the the possibility of absorbing the students’ union into the college as a
department was considered. Michael Chessum, president of ULU, said the result proved that proposals to abolish the union have “no legitimacy”. “Any notion that the university’s plans had any sort of public support are now out the window,” he said. Shelly Asquith, chair of National Union of Students London said: “It is clear that students are rejecting the university’s proposals, and the University of London must respect that.” But UoL said they were standing by the conclusions of their own review and criticised the referendum on the grounds that those who voted were “only a tiny minority, just 3.75% of our total student population.” However, just 826 students – 0.6% of the student body – responded to the university’s own survey on the student centre plans late last year. A university spokesperson insisted the survey and referendum were “two completely different things” and said the survey was to see students’ opinions and would not “be used directly to create policy.”
News • 3
Monday 10th March 2014
Chalking trial: student cleared of police assaults but found guilty of criminal damage Konstancja Duff ordered to pay £1,010 toward repair and prosecution costs JAMES BURLEY News Editor A student protester arrested for chalking on University of London (UoL) property was last month cleared of assaulting two police officers but found guilty of criminal damage. Konstancja Duff, 25, was found not guilty of assaulting special sergeant Liam Suter by kneeing him in the cheek as he and another officer attempted to handcuff her on 16 July last year inside the University of London Union (ULU). She was also cleared of assaulting police constable Siobhan O’Grady by kicking her in the leg as officers tried to lift her into a police van on Malet St. However, Duff was convicted of criminal damage by judge Nina Tempia for writing “sick pay, holidays, pensions now” and “support the cleaners struggle” in chalk on UoL’s foundation stone as part of the 3Cosas campaign which supports outsourced university workers. Judge Tempia sentenced Duff to three months conditional discharge and ordered her to pay £810 to cover the cost of repairs to the stone and £200 towards prosecution costs by the end of
June. The judgement, which was delivered on 25 February at Highbury Magistrates’ Court, followed a two-day trial earlier in the month which saw video footage contradict the testimony of two police officers. PC O’Grady had told the court Duff kicked her leg so hard she fell into a van door, but backtracked after the defence played footage showing she had made no contact with it. Judge Tempia said PC O’Grady had “exaggerated her evidence” and added: “I do not accept Ms Duff ’s leg movement was anything other than involuntary.” Special constable David Inwood also had his testimony disputed by video. He claimed to have seen Duff assault PC O’Grady, but in footage he is seen positioned behind a van door that completely obstructs his view. Judge Tempia stated she could not accept his evidence. Explaining why she cleared Duff of assaulting sergeant Suter, Tempia said the student had been “acting in a passive and nonaggressive way”. Delivering her guilty verdict for Duff ’s criminal damage charge, judge Tempia said it had been “right and proper to prosecute”. She rejected Duff ’s claim that she had chalked on the stone to advertise a 3Cosas protest the next day because no details of time or location were included. Paul Nicholson-Lewis, then UoL’s deputy director of property, had called police after consulting
Konstancja Duff is held by police outside ULU after being arrested. Photo: Hubert Libiszweski
with UoL managers, having been informed by a receptionist that someone was writing in chalk on the stone. No effort was made to deal with the matter internally, and Sergeant Suter said NicholsonLewis was “very keen to press charges”. Dan Cooper, ULU vice president, commented: “Shame on the management of the University of London! They instructed the arrest, and have carried through with this prosecution for one
SOAS students clash with ‘aggressive’ manager in lead up to cleaners’ strike »Continued from front page Hashmi-Kahn claimed: “They left at 12.15” – after the strike had begun. Ezequiel Kramer, a SOAS Unison rep and J4C activist, said: “[ISS staff] took my phone and hid it, they were elbowing people, being very aggressive and used abusive language.” He added that “the very fact that SOAS management requested ISS to bring cleaners was a deliberate act to undermine the right of the cleaners to go on strike.” In January, SOAS cleaning staff claimed they were intimidated over the planned strike in an early morning meeting called by ISS managers.
In an email to students sent the morning after last week’s confrontation, SOAS said: “To ensure there was minimum disruption during these two days the School arranged for the premises to be cleaned by ISS yesterday evening before the industrial action began at midnight.” SOAS claims it is investigating the incident, insists it did not call in additional cleaners during the strike, and said in a statement: “The school respects the legal right to strike”. The industrial action on Tuesday and Wednesday, which had the unanimous backing of Unison members balloted, “went excellently” according to Kramer.
He said: “Seeing all the cleaners on the picket line with students and SOAS staff showed that we are acting as a community.” “This does not only show that the cleaners are not alone, but that the SOAS community is part of this struggle and it’s fighting alongside the cleaners.” SOAS cleaner Luis Armando said: “We, the SOAS cleaners, have demonstrated that we are united. Every cleaner stood together on the picket line as no one crossed it. The SOAS community stood with us which made the strike days a festival of resistance”. ISS declined to comment, citing it would be inappropriate to do so while investigations are taking place.
reason: to ward off and silence any effective opposition to the university’s discredited plans for staff and students. It shows that the university have lost the argument.” Asked about Duff being found not guilty of the police assaults, Cooper said: “As I knew the police were lying it comes as no great shock for me.” “I witnessed, as was caught on camera, that no assault was committed against the police. This act of violent police intrusion on
to our campus – involving 20 or so officers violently arresting a student in their students’ union – despoils the spirit of dissent and critical thinking which ought to characterise any university.” “ULU will be contributing towards the costs of the repairs and prosecution costs, and we encourage other campaigns and supporters to do the same,” he said. A university spokesperson said it would not be appropriate to comment.
US college pledges not to invest in assault weapon manufacturers DANIEL HAYEEM A US college pledged last month not to invest its endowment in companies that manufacture military-style assault weapons, according to the LA Times. Occidental College in Los Angeles is the first American higher education institution to take such a stance, gun control activists claim. The move followed pressure by faculty members who cited their horror at the 2012 massacre of 26 students and staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School as well as other school attacks involving assault weapons. Peter Dreier, an Occidental
politics professor and key advocate of the move, said: “It's a statement of principle about the mission of higher education to be a voice of reason in a world of a lot of violence.” He added that colleges and other schools should “be held to a higher standard in their investment portfolios.” According to the chair of the college’s board of trustees Christopher Calkins, while the college does not currently have any such weapons investments, the vote to divest was to ensure that it stays away from such stocks in the future. He explained trustees had successfully overcome the reluctance by most colleges to restrict investments in ways that could potentially damage their finances.
4 • News
Monday 10th March 2014
Students fight closure of school at Kingston University ADRIAN POLGLASE Angry students and staff have protested against the closure of Kingston University’s School of Surveying and Planning. Last Tuesday around 60 people rallied against proposals which would involve six of the school’s courses being scrapped, with seven others being moved to various faculties. A petition opposing the closure with over 1,000 signatures was handed to the university’s board during the 4 March protest. Dr Sarah Sayce, the head of the school, was suspended after emailing students information about a consultation process on the plans, which could mean students having to complete their studies at other universities. Denza Gonsalves, president of Kingston University Students’ Union (KUSU), said: “Over 500 students will be directly affected in terms of their course moving faculty or closing down completely, and of
course that’s of massive concern.” Will Franden, KUSU vice president, highlighted concerns about the movement of faculties, telling River Online: “Students are worried about whether those faculties and lecturers will be fully qualified to teach them to the same standard as staff within the [existing] school.” Julius Weinberg, the university’s vice-chancellor, said that the plans were motivated by low National Student Survey scores and poor recruitment figures. However, building surveying student Nick Beers told River Online the school was not to blame for low recruitment numbers: “The independent report commissioned by the vice chancellor highlights the fact that no money has been spent on recruitment on the school as a whole, so to blame recruitment figures… is ridiculous.” An open meeting with the dean of the university’s Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture is due to take place on Wednesday 12 March.
Six courses will cease to be run in the School of Surveying and Planning
Man sentenced for sexual assault of UCLU officer Sabbatical officer was sexually assualted on tube NICHOLAS WINCHESTER A man found guilty of sexually assaulting a University College London Union (UCLU) sabbatical officer has been given a suspended prison sentence, will be added to the sexual offenders register and must attend sexual offender classes. Mohammad Islam, 23, was sentenced at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on 20 February for sexually assaulting Doris Chen, UCLU’s activities and events officer, having been found guilty at the end of last year. He was given a 12 week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, ordered to 60 days of sexual offender classes, with 12 months of supervision, which includes seeing a probationer once per week, as well as being put on the Sexual Offender Notice for 7 years. Commenting on the sentence, Chen said: “This punishment is
a good mixture of retribution, deterrence and reform. This punishment is justice.” The court heard that Islam was caught masturbating near Chen on a London tube train last November. Chen described the incident on her blog, writing: “As the tube left the platform, I felt someone behind me fidgeting around my bum… Suddenly, I felt a stream of wetness across the back of my leg.” She decided to confront the man after getting off the train and with the help of members of the public he was held until British Transport Police officers arrived. Detective Constable Claire Sheals, from British Transport Police’s sexual offences unit, said: “Our message is clear – this kind of behaviour is completely unacceptable and we take all reports seriously.” She also suggested: “If someone has made you feel uncomfortable on your tube journey – however minor it may seem to you – reporting it to police can help us target the person responsible, hold them to account, and prevent it happening to another passenger.”
Students occupy UoL vice-chancellor’s office Around a dozen students entered Adrian Smith’s office calling for his resignation TARA SIDDIQUI and NICHOLAS WINCHESTER
This punishment is a good mixture of retribution, deterrence and reform
Students briefly occupied the office of the University of London’s (UoL) vice-chancellor at the end of last month as part of a protest calling on him to resign. A group of around a dozen protesters entered professor Adrian Smith’s office on Friday 28 February via an exterior balcony and left a letter on his desk demanding he “resign immediately”, stop the planned closure of the university’s student
Confidential documents were taken by protestors
union and end police presence on campus. The occupation, in which doors were barricaded and confidential documents taken, was part of a larger demonstration which attracted over seventy protesters and lasted around two hours. Demonstrators were able to force their way inside Senate House despite attempts by university security to keep them out, resulting in some minor clashes. Once inside, protesters chanted slogans in support of the university’s outsourced workers and also shouted: “Adrian Smith,
News • 5
Monday 10th March 2014
Universities warned over preventing graduation because of debt
Academics angry over immigration rules ELSA GRACE
shame on you!” Paint bombs were thrown at the windows of the senior managers’ offices; chalk was put up on walls and on the Foundation Stone; and posters calling for the resignations of managers were stuck up. Although the university did not call in police, university security were clearly angry at the demonstration, with one staff member telling a protester: “You couldn’t sink any lower. You’re the lowest of the low.” At least one fire escape in Senate House had been locked during the protest, resulting in some demonstrators criticising the university for ignoring fire safety. Beth Davis, a student taking part in the protest, said: “I’m really angry at the privatisation of universities and the fact they’re starting to be run like businesses.” “I’m also angry at the university’s response to this [protests]. They don’t want to engage in dialogue with the students; they want to be very forceful about it and arrest students unlawfully for protesting. It’s not fair.” Another protester told London Student: “I’m here to fight for the
right to protest and I want Adrian Smith to resign.” Protests last December, including a previous occupation of Senate House, resulted in 43 arrests and accusations of police brutality. A university spokesperson said: “The vice-chancellor’s office and the mezzanine floor in Crush Hall were occupied by a small number of protesters for an hour this afternoon. No significant damage was done, although some confidential files were thrown into the street below.” The spokesperson added there were “no files of massive confidentiality” in the office and it is “highly unlikely” legal action will be taken in response to the occupation. They also insisted it was protocol to ensure fire escapes are “never unmanned and unlocked”. London Student understands the documents which were taken have been returned, but a university spokesperson said they could not confirm if all of them had. Additional reporting by James Burley and Adam Gillett
Protestors push their way past security into the lobby of Senate House. Photo: Oscar Webb
A report by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) warned universities last month that terms and conditions that prevent students who owe non-tuition fee debts from graduating could breach consumer protection law. The report, published on 18 February, showed that approximately three quarters of the 115 UK universities surveyed by the OFT enforce such conditions, which could also prevent students from enrolling into their next academic year or using certain university facilities. Non-tuition fee debts can include library fines, university accommodation and childcare services. In a letter sent to 170 universities and higher education institutions, the OFT has asked for a review of such rules and practices, urging the revision of them where required. The regulator has also expressed further concern that some of these existing terms can allow institutions to impose sanctions on students who owe only small amounts or are disputing their debt. The investigation was opened in July 2013 following a complaint from the National Union of Students (NUS), who welcomed the report. Colum McGuire, NUS vice president (welfare) commented, “It’s almost laughable that students who are in thousands of pounds of tuition fee debt were having academic sanctions placed on them for money owned for nonacademic debt”. Queen Mary University of London, which currently withholds official graduate certificates and transcripts if a student has an unpaid ‘academic debt’, defended its position by stating that these students are still entitled to receive informal notifications of their results. “The recent OFT report has been discussed within the Academic Registry and Council Secretariat at Queen Mary, and will be discussed by other departments, as a priority, over the coming weeks.” The OFT has stated that the results of this investigation will be fed into its call for information into the provision of undergraduate higher education in England.
Students should be judged on the basis of academic merit, not on the basis of their visa status
Over 160 academics have spoken out against being used as proxy border police, citing the increased pressure they are under to check students’ immigration details. In a letter published in the Guardian, academics from universities such as Birkbeck, Goldsmiths and the London School of Economics accuse UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) of “undermining the autonomy and academic freedom of UK universities and trust between academics and their students”. The letter, published on 2 March, follows months of complaints from academics, who claim to have come under more pressure to prove the “supposed legitimacy of non-EU students” through monitoring attendance and even occasionally sharing emails with UKVI. Nicola Pratt, a reader at Warwick University, voiced concerns that checks were becoming heavy-handed as vice-chancellors feared losing their ability to take foreign students. She said “students should be judged on the basis of academic merit, not on the basis of their visa status.” The Home Office insisted foreign students were welcomed and said: “It is only right that universities adhere to the guidance and immigration rules of sponsorship”.
Four Senate House protestors charged OSCAR WEBB
The arrests were made following an occupation by students of Senate House
Four people arrested in connection with a demonstration at the University of London (UoL) last December have been charged with highway offences. Three UoL students – from the School of Oriental Studies, Queen Mary, and King’s College London – have been charged with “placing objects in the highway to the potential danger of other road users” on 4 December following the eviction of students occupying Senate House. A recent graduate of University College London has been charged with obstruction of a highway. All four have been bailed to appear at Highbury Corner Magistrates’ Court on 18 March.
News • 7
Monday 10th March 2014
Police taking no further action against arrested LS journalists Editor and features editor arrested in December when reporting on a protest JAMES BURLEY Two London Student journalists arrested while covering a protest last year have been told by their solicitors that police are taking no further action against them. Oscar Webb, the paper’s editor, and Charlotte England, one of its features editors, were arrested on 5 December while reporting on a demonstration in Bloomsbury against police presence on university campuses which saw 34 others arrested. Webb and England were kettled in the rain for over an hour along with dozens of protesters by Euston Square tube station. They were then handcuffed and taken into police vans despite explaining they were journalists, with Webb showing officers his National Union of Journalists (NUJ) full membership card. Officers told the pair they were being arrested to prevent a breach
of the peace. Later while riding in police vans towards south London they were re-arrested on suspicion of affray. England claims her arresting officer implied it was stupid she was being arrested. They were both taken to Berin Underwood House custody centre in Croydon, where they spent around seven hours alone in cells and were never formally questioned. The pair were released at around 5.30 in the morning. Webb had his mobile phone confiscated and had to wait nearly two months after his arrest before being allowed to collect it. England’s camera was also taken by police. They waited until 21 January before authorising her to collect it, and when she did she found it was damaged. Both Webb and England were initially given bail conditions which forbade them from being at Senate House, preventing them from reporting on any protests there. Webb commented: “If you’re covering situations like that, which press should be, it’s worrying that you can be arrested as a journalist for just being there.” England said her experience “was really horrible”, but insisted
her treatment was more favourable than others who were arrested because officers deemed she “didn’t look like a criminal”. She said police “were inefficient and unhelpful,” adding: “In the van they were completely unprofessional. You could tell they were a gang of bullies who back themselves up all the time.” “My faith in their competence and intention to bring about justice has fallen. I don’t think they care about that at all,” she said. “I know for a fact they didn’t have reasonable suspicion because all I did was take photos the whole time.” England also stressed her anger at having her camera confiscated for so long: “I needed it as a journalist and couldn’t afford to replace it.” England is currently considering taking civil action against the police. Roy Mincoff, legal adviser at the NUJ, condemned the arrests, saying: “There should be some form of sanctions against the officers involved.” “It’s always scary when the authorities ignore the rights of the media. It’s a vital tenet of democracy.” A Metropolitan Police spokesperson declined to comment.
Above: Charlotte England, LS features editor, in police van after her arrest on 5 December 2013 whilst reporting on a protest; Below: Oscar Webb holding up press card during arrest at same protest.
UoL staff critical of commercialisation with some employees afraid to speak out »Continued from front page included: “If we wanted to be in the private sector then we would” and “If money from our services goes into private pockets then I’m not sure this is right”. Staff spoke about how they “work for the university because we believe what we do benefits society” and “don’t like working to produce profits to line shareholders’ pockets”. Those consulted suggested management proposals could lead to a “loss of staff ” because they “wouldn’t want to work for a commercial organisation,” with one employee saying: “I have come from a commercial environment – it’s not nice, it’s more cut-throat.” One staff member warned of the “need to be careful who UoL gets into bed with”, while another said companies “would use UoL to their own means”. The report also noted that staff felt like management’s plans were “a done deal” and “only meant one
thing – being outsourced”. Staff said disadvantages of partnering up with businesses included profits not being reinvested into services and a “loss of quality because of “If money prioritisation to from our services goes deliver a profit”. into private Employees from pockets then Student Shared I’m not sure Services said this is right” joining with -Anonymous a commercial staff member partner meant it would become “money-focused, not studentfocused”. According to the report, some employees had been afraid to air their views on managers’ proposals openly. It stated that “a number of anonymous comments were received from members of staff who did not want to attend focus groups due to a ‘lack of trust’ after they had ‘been through similar situations before whilst working at
the university’”. The report also suggests managers want to replace existing staff in a bid to make the university’s culture more commercial. It claims a “senior stakeholder within the university” thinks the culture among staff is “20 years behind” and that “the best way” to change it “would be to employ new people to the organisation in order to ‘dilute the old culture’ and create a more entrepreneurial university that would do more than ‘chug along’”. In an internal email discussing the report, Noreen Kitchner, UoL’s shared services project manager, brushed off the staff ’s overwhelming opposition to management plans, writing: “There is nothing unusual about resistance to change.” A UoL spokesperson would only comment: “The university is exploring a number of possible options for its shared services. It is very early days and no decisions as to which routes it might pursue have been taken.”
ANALYSIS This report exposes a vast divide between staff and managers at the University of London. As its findings make clear, while staff want to work for an institution which promotes the public interest, managers are pushing for a university run to line shareholders’ pockets. The focus group results show staff are deeply apprehensive about what bringing in commercial partners could mean for them. If university management go ahead with their plans, there is a real possibility staff members will quit and take their years of expertise with them. Also worrying is the unhealthy trust issue detailed in the report which has resulted in staff being afraid to openly voice their opinions on the direction the university should take.
LS will no longer be funded, says university BENJAMINE LAURINE From July, London Student will no longer recieve funding as it currently does, UoL has confirmed. While the university claims it has “no policy on the future of London Student,” it said in a statement: “The post of editor will no longer be funded from the college subscriptions which have now been redirected to support student union activity within each individual college in the federal university.” The statement goes on: “In future, if the student body wants to run a university-wide student newspaper it can of course do so... but this is up to the students.” The university’s comments make it likely that London Student, founded in 1954 as Sennet, will cease to exist along with the University of London Union in August 2014.
8 • Features
Monday 10th March 2014
THE NEW UNIVERSITY: BUSINESS, SECRECY AND PUBLIC RELATIONS Professor Jane Rendell speaks out against a £6m deal between UCL and the world’s largest mining company Oscar Webb
n June 2011 UCL announced that it was going into partnership with the world’s largest mining company, BHP Billiton. The mining giant agreed to invest more than £6 million over five years to set up two new institutes with the university: the first was in Adelaide, Australia, and is now known as UCL Australia; the second was to be the Institute for Sustainable Resources (ISR), located at the Bartlett School of Architecture. BHP Billiton mines metal ores, oil, gas and uranium and has, as of 2012, an annual income of over £14 billion. Through its charitable company, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities, the mining giant pumps 1 per cent of its pre-tax profits – about £140 million – into a range of projects, which, according to the company, “help to foster sustainable development”. The UCL institutes are one such project. Presumably a large chunk of the remaining 99 per cent of their profits is used to further ore and fossil fuel extraction. UCL has claimed that the research done at both institutes is completely independent of their sponsor. However, as this newspaper revealed in November 2013, UCL Australia has, since its inception, come out with research very much in line with the business interests of BHP Billiton and its other sponsors. The director of UCL Australia’s International Energy Policy Institute, Professor Stefaan Simons, authored a green paper in 2013 that said nuclear-powered submarines were “do-able” for Australia; he told a conference in November that Australia “cannot afford” to have only diesel-powered submarines. In October 2013, UCL Australia released a paper asking “If Australia wants its own shale gas revolution, what needs to happen?” The answer in the paper was Australia “clearly” needed more gas and that “the role of shale gas is potentially huge”; one of the Institute’s other main partners was, unsurprisingly,
Santos Limited, who are Australia’s first commercial shale gas producer. Back in London, eyebrows were being raised at the prospect of a mining company setting up an Institute for Sustainable Resources at UCL. Professor Jane Rendell, of the Bartlett, where the Billiton-sponsored institute was placed, eventually resigned from her position as vicedean of research, after she was unable to find out specific details about the deal. “For about six months I’d been trying to gain access to information around UCL’s decision to accept the £6m donation from BHP Billiton’s sustainable communities”, she told me when I met her in her office at the Bartlett. “In order to endorse the decision, I had to understand how the decision had been made.” When the Institute of Sustainable Resources was being integrated into the Bartlett from late 2012, Professor Rendell was writing the Bartlett Faculty’s ‘REF narrative’, a summary of the research conducted at the Bartlett from 2008-13, for The Research Excellence Framework – the system for assessing the quality of research in UK high education institutions. “I had to outline how standards of research quality are maintained, for example ethics procedures. So I felt that the work I was doing there had to be ethical and evidence-based.” Without proper access to the new Institute’s regulations and documents explaining its relationship to BHP Billiton, Rendell was unsure of its independence and academic integrity. “It was difficult for me to be absolutely sure if the research was actually independent – it may well be independent but I wasn’t able to reassure myself that the governance structures in place protected academic independence.” Rendell resigned from her position as vice-dean of research at the Bartlett in July 2013. So, like UCL Australia, is sponsorship at the ISR in London influencing what is researched and perhaps even the research outcomes? I put the question to Jane Rendell. She argued that it was just a little too
convenient for a mining company to be sponsoring an institute of sustainability to put it beyond question. “I mean would it be different if BHP were funding a French department, for example? Why don’t we call a spade a spade and talk about an institute of mining?” However, she also comments: “actually a lot of the work in the ISR does deal with different aspects of sustainability.” She continues: “The issue here is that by getting involved closely with a university, BHP can then be involved potentially in defining the very term sustainability.” BHP Billiton with other companies has over the last year been looking at cutting a channel through the Great Barrier Reef in order to get container ships in and out of remote areas more easily. Research at UCL Australia has been looking into dredging and its potential effects on coral reefs in the region. The research seems less about sustainability and more about managing and limiting ecological disasters caused by current industry practices.
n air of secrecy surrounds the documents at the core of how UCL’s ISR operates. For six months Rendell attempted to gain access to the governance documents, “I felt like a private investigator within my own university – I’ve never had to feel that way before”. Eventually she was invited to read them in the presence of the Bartlett’s dean, Professor Alan Penn. “I felt that wasn’t a conducive reading environment and I would have liked to have been given a copy of the document but I never was. I didn’t have the chance to look at that document in sufficient detail so I don’t actually know how the governance structure works,” she said. “I became so frustrated with not being able to find out that I stood down.” I decided to try to get my hands on these elusive documents which might explain how the ISR worked. I emailed Dr Anna Clark of UCL Corporate Partnerships, who told me that I should speak to the vice-provosts for enterprise and re-
It was difficult for me to be absolutely sure if the research was actually independent
search, Professor Stephen Caddick and Professor David Price; she also suggested that such a request might have to be obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. Professor Caddick’s assistant directed me to the dean of the Bartlett, Professor Alan Penn. Professor Penn directed me back to corporate partnerships. I was back where I started. I emailed Jane Rendell; she replied “the bounce factor!... This sounds very familiar, if not frustrating.” Without access to the paperwork that would explain the relationship between the mining company and the Institute, I decided I’d have to speak to the people who made the deal themselves to understand more.
Professor Jane Rendell, who stepped down as the Bartlett’s vice-dean for research in 2013 over the BHP deal, in her office in the Bartlett Photo: Oscar Webb
Features • 9
Monday 10th March 2014
partnership was agreed: the UCL Institute would have “absolutely no interest in mining research [and] they [BHP Billiton] said ‘fine’”. I asked her about Professor Rendell’s resignation. “Professor Rendell wasn’t aware of most of the background… she made some assumptions.” Dr Clarke added “she [Rendell] wasn’t at the university at the time”, meaning in the early stages of the negotiations back 2005 and 2006. However, Professor Rendell has been a full-time academic at UCL since 2000. I asked Dr Clark whether the institute was just a PR exercise for Billiton: “Definitely not,” she replied. Between “acknowledging them” and “promoting them…there’s a big difference” she explained. Was UCL looking for further partnerships with industry of this kind? “I think it’s a really helpful way to look at big problems… government, academia and industry are where top minds get together to solves problems.” What about the reputational damage UCL might suffer from accepting money from a mining company? Dr Clark shook this off: “[They’re] less of a risk than other partners”.
The deal between BHP Billiton and UCL was set up by ex-UCL provost, Sir Malcolm Grant, and the small group of managers around him: his vice-provosts of enterprise, research and international, Professors Stephen Caddick, David Price and Michael Worton respectively, and the director of corporate partnerships, Dr Anna Clark. When I spoke to Anna Clark, director of corporate partnerships, on the phone she was adamant that the UCL institute’s research remained entirely independent despite being bankrolled by a mining company. “The company gets no benefit from the actual funding, it’s a strict rule”, she said. She explained how the
owever, acting on her concerns, Rendell in May 2013 commissioned an independent report from RepRisk, a financial and risk analysis company based in Switzerland. RepRisk provide businesses with intelligence on potential partners; they essentially search for skeletons in the closets of big businesses. The report obtained by Rendell showed how BHP Billiton, along with other companies in the sector, was at maximum possible risk in terms of environmental principles. Compared to other companies in the sector, BHP Billiton reach the highest level of risk in areas of anti-corruption, human rights and labour. BHP Billiton come in at number 4 in RepRisk’s report of 2011, Top 10 Most Controversial Mining Companies, and today, according to RepRisk’s website, BHP Billiton are still classified as ‘high’ in terms of exposure to risk. BHP’s public relations company, Blue Rubicon, state on their website that “our narrative development training helps our clients build powerful and compelling stories which will shape positive sentiment and protect their reputation in difficult times”. And what’s a better story than a mining company setting up an institute researching sustainability? UCL is clearly part of a corporate rebrand by BHP Billiton. Shell had ‘beyond petroleum’, BHP Billiton has the UCL Institute of Sustainable Resources. UCL’s academic independence has been sold down the river by a small group of senior managers suggests Rendell: “Think about the work that’s been done on climate change over the past thirty years. If all that work had been funded by fossil fuel companies we would not be hearing so clearly the results that we do today. There’s still the assumption that the public have that if it comes from a university academic then it’s independent” – but all the evidence suggests that this may no longer be true.
walking LO N D O N with The Blondoner
Arriving in London; leaving London
he process of “coming to London,” so ably explored by Craig Taylor in his book Londoners, could easily be seen as a promise to be fulfilled, or a pact with the devil, depending on which side of the bed you get out of on a given morning. Can the provincial boy really become Lord Mayor? Or will he end up like the protagonists of so many Shane MacGowan songs, achieving nothing but the heartbreak caused by an intimate relationship with the metropolis? There are many alighting points for each traveller to London. My earliest was Hyde Park Corner, on the coach trip days out my mum’s work used to do every year in the run-up to Christmas. We would, scandalously, skip the Oxford Street sales to visit a museum or historical site. It’s good to get them out of your system early. In later years Victoria Coach Station was a more common dropping off point. VCS, arguably the most profoundly depressing place in London, is nonetheless also the one in which you are most likely to witness a random act of kindness between strangers: a replacement sandwich bought for the one ruined by the bowel movements of one of the ubiquitous pigeons, or a couple of quid for an Oyster journey to the
Victoria Coach Station is arguably the most profoundly depressing place in London first safe house in the Great Wen for a traveller with no cash. In 2005, as a visiting teenager and, I’m ashamed to say, too frightened by the bombs a week before to use the tube, I missed my coach home after enduring a snails-pace bus ride to Victoria. In one of Westminster’s surprisingly grotty pubs we met a Czech migrant trying to find his way back to Prague with no money; he had come for a job and found none. Later still, and King’s Cross became the bridgehead during days and weekends spent visiting from what they still try to tell me is the best university in the world. These were my first real encounters with London’s bourgeoisie. I broke into abandoned urban gardens
just off Oxford Street and stayed on a Bloomsbury Square sofa I was reluctant to sleep on for fear of scratching the upholstery. With houses like these, I thought, who needs museums? I first moved to London in late summer 2010, taking a room in a Mile End flat at the exact time when, unknown to me, the relationship between east London and the Russell Group’s uncertain but tunnelvisioned graduates was at its height. The rents were going up everywhere except our flat, which was the hostage of black mould and an almost certainly illegal construction project. Once, on the way to a job interview at the Museum of London, I had to climb through some scaffolding which left my suit and hands with a thick layer of grease, which was probably only one of the reasons I didn’t get the job.
went to Clarks on East Ham High Street to buy some shoes for a job in “the last pub before the Olympic Park.” Clarks was, of course, the only shoe shop not to have been done in because kids didn’t want those shoes even for free. When the guy serving me told me he’d never been into a pub I just felt more clueless than ever about the place in which I was existing. Living was another matter. Money was hard to come by. For a short spell I worked for the most major of major pub chains, in theatreland, where an old thesp who lived on Cable Street
y first weekend in east London, I went on a walking tour of the radical history of the area, and was hooked. Walking was easy in a time of unemployment, with the vast construction site that would become the Olympic Park a favourite venue. Now the place is just as empty as it was when it arose from the old Stratford rail yard, proving that there’s nothing quite as transient as the grand project. In the autumn of 2012, when the main road through Newham was still decorated with the flags of competitor nations, we put on a play about radical history and gentrification in, yes, an exindustrial site which was, yes, run by Oxbridge graduates. Get the bus as far as the flag of Ba’athist Syria and turn right into the cobbled yard. I had, a few months earlier, been on a Syrian revolutionary demo down Edgware Road on which the Ba’athist flag was still being flown by the opposition, although it was slowly being supplanted by the older green, white and black flag of independence. Other, somewhat more inexplicable, symbols of insurrection have been encountered over the years. I’ve seen anarchists commemorate Thomas Venner’s uprising in the City of London with a huge flag depicting the Lion of Judah, Wessex Regionalist flags at Occupy St. Paul’s, a man on Mare Street during the 2011 riots wearing a full Star Trek uniform complete with a ray gun made from toilet rolls (although he was firmly on the side of reaction). Days after the riots I
came to drink every lunchtime, a ray of sunshine in an otherwise tourist pub, cheerful despite the steady disappearance of the things he knew. The occasional northern customers who recognised my accent asked what I was doing there with a mix of respect and disgust: “So you’re just working to live, then?”
I’ve lived in London’s richest and poorest areas and walked through many others, still no closer to anything
hat’s about the size of it, as it’s always been. Recently the illusion that we’re all struggling artists facing the same problems of everyday life in the unforgiving city has begun to crack, as others find success, move into parent-bought flats, or tire of the city and “go travelling” for a few weeks. I’ve lived in London’s richest and poorest areas and walked through many others, still no closer to anything, whether a community or a career. I’ve performed to standup comedians in Shaftesbury Avenue cellar bars, been arrested on days of pomp and ceremony, been to the deathbed of a terminally ill friend in a raging thunderstorm, seen the insides of hospitals and libraries, worked for minimum wage and living wage, stood on picket lines in front of listed buildings, met people who were at the same time union reps and entrepreneurs, cockneys and foreigners. I’ve been up Highgate Hill and strained to listen for the City’s bells calling my name. Even here I can’t unpick any of it. The road out of town is long and steep, but I’m not sure what’s left to pull me back. Which way should I go?
10 • Features
Monday 10th March 2014
WAITING IN THE SHADOWS: THE UNTOLD STORY OF UKRAINE’S HOSPITAL VOLUNTEERS An inside account of a University of London alumnus who found herself on the front lines of the Ukranian revolution in Kiev Beth Jellicoe
s Kiev descended into violence last month, and protestors faced off against police in the city centre, Anna* found five minutes to email me. She was busy coordinating her friends in the protest area. “We are renewing the guard at the hospitals,” she told me. “There are dozens of injured men and women”. We agreed to talk later, but that evening I received an ominous message from Anna’s friend: “It is impossible to plan something, as Kiev has been drowned in blood today. I’ve just returned after a hospital watch. Many dead people, lots injured.” When I spoke to Anna on 18 February, protestors were clinging to their encampment in Independence Square while riot police burned barricades. Now, ninety people have died in the conflict and many more have been injured in confrontations with the police. As anyone who follows the news knows, the last two months have been catastrophic for Ukraine. Four days after I spoke to Anna, on 22 February, President Yanukovich fled to Russia, creating a dangerous power vacuum as Ukraine’s interim government attempted to establish control. In the last week Russia has entered the fast-moving situation by taking de facto military control of Crimea. President Putin claims Russia must protect Russian speakers in Ukraine until the situation stabilises. Putin’s actions have been seen as aggressive and have been condemned by the EU, the US and the Ukrainian interim government. Although Crimean MPs voted on the 6 March to include Crimea in the Russian Federation, Ukraine’s territorial integrity is perceived as having been violated. So far, there has been no violence between the Russian and Ukrainian forces, although tensions run high. Online, many Ukrainians are calling for peace in their country, and condemnation of
They had been severely beaten by the police, who brought them to the hospital, and by thugs
The last two months have been catastrophic for Ukraine: a dangerous power vacuum followed the revolution and now worries of civil war loom
*Name has been changed
Putin’s aggression is widespread. Meanwhile, sensationalist Western media commentary has consistently treated events in Ukraine like an international spectator sport, speculating on the worst possible outcomes and making hyperbolic analogies. Many outside Ukraine have been confused by the swift and shocking turn of events, and photos have fuelled rumours of a civil war – or a revival of the Soviet Union. Understandably, many Westerners, both in and outside the media, are struggling to understand Ukraine’s complicated geopolitical situation. Ukraine is a country divided by language and culture. The population is roughly split between Russian speakers and Ukrainian speakers, with loyalties divided between its neighbours, Russia and the EU. It’s a common misconception that these linguistic and cultural divisions have caused Ukraine’s current problems – and that the country will ultimately rupture into civil war. The truth is more complicated. Ukraine is in a geopolitically important position, and is consequently subject to power plays between Europe and Russia over trade and resources. But the internal conflict between a corrupt government and its citizens has been arguably even more destabilising and dangerous. Volodymyr Yermolenko, lecturer at Kiev Mohyla Academy, outlined the situation: many Ukrainians in eastern and southern Ukraine feel nostalgia for the days when Ukraine was in the Soviet Union, benefiting from being part of an industrial and military superpower. Some of these people are apathetic towards government corruption and willing to believe propaganda. “The battle is not between pro-Western and pro-Russian,” he said. “The battle is between those who support democratic values and human rights, and those who value a more Soviet society.” nna and her friend were not among the protesters in Independence Square in the central Maidan area.
Instead, their work takes place at Kiev’s hospitals, where they have been standing guard over injured protestors being held under police watch. The demand for hospital volunteers has been unrelenting since they supported the protests in January. Anna spends most of her time at various hospitals around the city. Night vigils in corridors, hours of waiting: it is slow, painful work. When I first contacted Anna, she told me not to believe everything I read about Ukraine. “In fact,” she wrote, “the apocalyptic images of burning tyres and black smoke, which the media readily embrace, relate to a very small district of the city. The rest of the city lives almost as it used to live. The infrastructure functions, except for occasional strikes and protests. A surprising amount of people find it possible to pretend that the events at Maidan are no business of theirs.” On 30 November police dispersed a peaceful student protest opposing the corruption in Ukrainian society and the disproportionate amount of power held by President Yanukovych. The police response, largely seen as disproportionate, triggered a massive anti-government protest in Kiev. A series of further protests and strikes followed during the next two months. After completing her MA at the University of London last year, Anna returned to her native Ukraine and joined the struggle against the government. She explained that “on January 16, [an] outraging packet of laws passed through the government,” suspending all independent media. Soon after, parliament rolled back the laws, although it did not specify how long this freedom would last. Tensions began to build, and more protests and strikes were held, opening the door to the revolution On 21 January, a Maidan activist, Yuri Lutsenko, drove an injured protestor, Yuri Verbitskii, to hospital. Both were kidnapped by unknown persons from a reception
The bodies of protestors shot dead by government forces line the streets of Kiev on 20 February Photo: Henry Langston
The first days were simply chaos
room there. Lutsenko managed to crawl to safety; Verbitskii was found dead in a forest. After the event, a group of volunteers decided to watch the hospitals and “safeguard” the people. “The first days were simply chaos,” Anna wrote in early February. “The volunteers tried to film those who came to the hospitals, write down their names, call their relatives, call lawyers and sound the alarm in case any thugs appeared at the horizon.” But by 5 February, the volunteers were only required at one hospital – to hold a slow, steady vigil. “There are seventeen people kept in a box behind an iron door. They lie there and policemen watch them. The youngest is 20, the oldest is 71,” Anna said. The protestors had teeth knocked out, internal brain injuries,
Features • 11
Monday 10th March 2014
fractures, concussions and spinal injuries. “They had been severely beaten by the police, who brought them to the hospital, and by thugs.” The seventeen patients were not allowed visits, so “we [sat] in the corridor and watch the door in case there are attempts to drive them away.” Some of the volunteers, like Anna, also have full time jobs; others are students. “An amazing thing about Maidan,” Anna said, “is that you are very much scared when you stay at home and read the news, and that’s really depressing. However, you feel much more safe and calm when you come to the place and start doing something. Or just stay at Maidan with other people. All the activists agree in this.” “There’s a certain feeling of
Many of the seriously injured have had to be transported to Poland and the Czech Republic for treatment
having no choice,” she added. “If we allow the legitimation of the repressions, the most active people will surely go to prison for ten to fifteen years as they are very well known to the police.” Plainclothes police had been at the hospital the day before this conversation, noting down everything they saw. “Although I am not among the most active protestors [at the barricades daily] – I did not throw Molotov cocktails, I am not a public speaker – despite all this, I have to be ready to answer the consequences,” Anna said. She was recorded at a protest, and friends saw her on television. “People get into trouble for less significant acts of defiance, these days.” Anna wrote on 5 February that the situation had calmed
and the guard at the hospital was temporarily suspended. Two days later, the government took action. “There was a certain feeling of relief here during last week,” said Anna. “The repressive laws which provoked violence at Hrushevskoho were abolished... But today the government has shown that they are ready to use terrorist methods.” A parcel was given to activists by a man at Maidan who said it was a “gift”. When the volunteers tried to open it, it exploded. A young man lost several fingers on his right arm, and his left arm was amputated. A fifteen-year old boy’s eyes were heat-burned. Despite the evidence, Yanukovych labelled the injured activists as terrorists. Since the revolution, Anna has not been able to write very much.
Everything will be OK in the end, and if it’s not OK, it’s not the end
The volunteers continue to work: it distracts them from worrying about the threat of war, and remembering the distress of the revolution. And there is a lot of work to do: they have to organise the transport of patients to Poland and the Czech Republic for treatment, collect charity aid, and sit with the families of those who have been injured or killed. The pain for those who died, Anna says, is “almost unbearable.” Although Ukraine is in some ways a divided nation, many Ukrainians are united in grief for the lives that have been lost. “Everything will be OK in the end, and if it’s not OK, it’s not the end,” Anna said back in February. Her last message began, “We are preparing for the war”. We have no idea what will happen next.
12 • Features
Monday 10th March 2014
SATELLITE TOWNS: THE FAILED UTOPIAS WE WON’T STOP BUILDING Suburban living is unsustainable and increasingly unpopular. So why is a new generation of distant dormitory towns the go-to solution for London’s housing crunch? Lauren Van Shaik Smith
60 years ago there was nothing old in Harlow
arlow was sparkling and cosily utopian when it was first built from scratch in west Essex fields. A newfangled town was just what the public wanted in 1947 – a futurism that rooted itself in the English countryside and bridled all the machinery of war to give everyone a new kitchen and their own car. The new town boasted Britain’s first pedestrianised shopping district; its first residential tower block; the comfortable, familial abstraction of a dozen Henry Moore sculptures; and a system of burrowed subways that could have appeased a colony of rodents. Panorama caught a group of London transplants and visitors blinking in the main square in 1956: a father from Peckham blinked like he’d never seen daylight so bright before. He didn’t live there, but he wished he did because Harlow was so “modern and clean with plenty of amenities for children”. Harlow was “pram town” then, so named for its superfecundity (its birthrate was three times the national average in the middle of the century) and for the crowds of mothers and children who, before the arrival of spiralling roundabouts and carriageways, could walk from their neighbourhoods to the town centre. The only problem was the lack of older people to babysit those children, the mothers complained to the BBC. Sixty years ago there was nothing old in Harlow. Today, things that are slightly fusty in Harlow are turned over for quick cash in the twin pawnbrokers that dominate the main square. You can find vestiges of Harlow’s upward mobility in their shelves, jammed between forfeited televisions. There are old people here now. During the day, pensioners and pram-pushers
Harlow’s failed futurism should be a warning for politicians who want to solve the city’s housing crisis with a new generation of blank slate developments
are the only visible inhabitants in Harlow, seen mostly struggling through underpasses and searching for their cars in oversized carparks; everyone in between and not minding children decamps to London for twelve hours a day. Harlow has become a dormitory suburb in the way its original planners could not have imagined when they lovingly plunked the best of British post-war sculpture in its squares and parks. The gravitational pull of the city transformed Harlow, and many other towns in orbit of the M25, from semi-rural refuges into places for London’s working droves to stash their families and afford a home. The car did the rest of the work. Pram town became SUV crossover city as Harlow sprawled to the south, and easy walks to the shops became long, circuitous drives. On the walk into town from the train station, the route melts from wide pedestrian and cyclist path into a mess of roundabouts and tangled roads that people not in cars were never meant to cross. In terms of public transport, the most accessible part of Harlow is the tanning salon tucked beneath the station. Change is coming to Harlow again, as more and more London workers are squeezed from the city into its adjacent towns. The mincer of south east property development is already chewing into Harlow’s supply of office space, converting a few corporate blocks into new footholds for commuters and London transplants. There’s clearly an appetite for dense living in Harlow – or at least a need for quick exits – even if it comes at the expense of the town’s last remnants of economic independence.
t’s easy to be a smug urbanite about Harlow, but the town’s failed futurism should be a warning for Londoners being priced into farther-flung boroughs each year, and for the policymakers
who want to solve the city’s housing crisis with a new generation of blank slate developments. Labour has pledged to build five new towns by 2020; the housing industry expects most will be London overspill settlements. Shadow housing minister Emma Reynolds announced the plans in November, invoking the postwar building flurry that constructed Harlow as a model. Ed Miliband cited another new town from that era, Stevenage in neighbouring Hertfordshire, in a February article in the Evening Standard outlining his plans for London’s housing crunch. His other example, Milton Keynes, part of the 1960s wave of town construction, is the archetype of failed car-driven planning. “Labour will kick-start the next generation of new towns and garden cities around the capital to ease the pressure on London,” he wrote. And it’s not just Labour proposing to plant ‘garden cities’ throughout the region. Last year prime minister David Cameron announced government plans to build towns modeled on Letchworth and Welwyn to tackle a mounting housing deficit. Although he’s allegedly quietly withdrawing his support for the new towns out of fear of a nimby backlash, communities secretary Eric Pickles doubled down on the proposals for two ‘garden cities’ as recently as January and coalition partner Nick Clegg has targeted Buckinghamshire, Warwickshire and Oxfordshire for new town development. The term garden cities and the invocations of Letchworth and Welwyn are deliberate, crafted to evoke images of the Arts & Crafts idealism of Ebenezer Howard, or for those less informed about the cranky, prescriptive do-gooding of the Victorians, a vague, floral ecofriendliness. Howard’s garden cities were designed to be economically independent, with specified districts for industry, schools, farms, and residential neighbourhoods,
‘Garden city’ is often just a resonant name used to greenwash urban sprawl
and to preserve the surrounding countryside. The later garden suburbs that twisted the garden label were, in many ways, a direct revocation of Howard’s ideals. ‘Garden’ is often just a resonant name used to greenwash urban sprawl. The proposed garden cities of today are explicitly planned be sleepy London satellites and motor cities, gardens only in the planned greens between their roundabouts and, in the case of Gordon Brown’s floundered eco-towns, their Tescosponsored sustainability.
oliticians who promise garden cities are responding to a very real need for affordable housing in the UK, particularly in the home counties. Years of slow house building, hampered by land-banking property developers and stubborn locals, have plunged the national housing supply so far below what’s needed that, according to census data, we’ll have to build an extra
ISSUE 8 10 MARCH 2014
LONDON’S BEST ARTS AND CULTURE: CURATED
LONDON’S ALTERNATIVE HOUSING / BEST SOHO RECORD STORES / AN INSIDE LOOK AT MEADHAM KIRCHHOFF / LONDON FASHION WEEK / A CHAT WITH LOVEPARK / ZOE PILGER ON HER DEBUT NOVEL / UNSEEN ARCHIVE IMAGES
READ FULL ISSUES ONLINE: WWW.LONDON-STUDENT.NET/THE-SMOKE COVER: PHOTOGRAPHY NIGEL PACQUETTE, DESIGN EMMA ALLWOOD
the smoke FROM THE EDITORS How do we have seven issues behind us? And how is this, the eighth issue, our last? Here’s how: spending up to 16 hours a day in the office. Proofreading six times each issue. Chasing people up through email, text and Facebook. And amidst the stress of it all, remembering the wonderful people who keep us sane and running. We owe a lot to our section editors, contributors and the London Student team. In this last issue, we gave thought to the phenomena so unique to this city: the increasingly difficult housing market making people choose to live in alternative spaces rather than traditional houses and flats; the musical sanctuary of old and well-loved record shops in a small corner of Soho; art industry insiders, though each occupying very different roles, responding to the present and future of the London art scene. We hope we’ve amassed content fit for the final issue. Neither of us fully expected the sheer amount of time, effort and energy this would take – after all, we both only applied to be section editors, not editors-in-chief. But we’re incredibly glad to have had this opportunity. We learned more about London in the last half a year than we ever
did in the previous years we’ve lived here. We found out how incredibly talented and creative University of London students were; gave up Tesco almost entirely after finding the cheapest and freshest fruit stalls; had great moments of recuperation and indulgence after finding the best upcoming techno events. Now that we’re done with The Smoke, we look forward to actually doing many the things we’ve been writing about. We don’t know what’s going to happen to ULU, given the UoL management’s proposal to close it – amongst the many indispensable things about a student union, student media is of great importance, and we hope the London Student can continue. It is a precious source of information for both sides: what we learned in the process of founding and running this magazine is immeasurable. We sincerely thank you for your support, and wish all the best to future London Student staff, and look forward to seeing their new Arts & Culture section, unless we are all rubbed out under the boot of UoL senior managerial staff.
EMMA & RENA
WHAT’S INSIDE 4-5 – FEATURES London’s alternative housing: warehouse living, life on a boat and squatting 6-7 – FEATURES Sounds of Soho: our best loved record stores off the high street 8 – MUSIC A chat with Lovepark on band names and evil promotors 9 – MUSIC Live & album reviews, feat. Katy B, Bombay Bicycle Club, Jandek & more 10-11 – ARTS Six art industry insiders answer six questions 12 – FASHION Highlights from London Fashion Week 13 – FASHION Behind the veil: Meadham Kirchhoff tell us about their AW14 show
EDITORS-IN-CHIEF Emma Hope Allwood Rena Minegishi firstname.lastname@example.org
14 – FILM An interview with Luke Blackett, head of UCL Film Society, on the importance of supporting student filmmakers
SUB EDITOR Anna Tomlinson
DESIGNER / FASHION EDITOR Emma Hope Allwood email@example.com
ARCHIVE EDITOR Gaby Laing firstname.lastname@example.org
16 – BOOKS Zoe Pilger discusses her debut novel Eat Your Heart Out
ARTS EDITORS Costanza Beltrami Liza Weber email@example.com
BOOKS EDITOR Elizabeth Metcalfe firstname.lastname@example.org
FOOD EDITOR Bryony Bowie email@example.com
19 – FOOD Italian baked goodness from Princi / going gourmet with GBK
MUSIC EDITOR George McVicar firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Fortescue email@example.com
TRAVEL EDITOR James Hodge firstname.lastname@example.org
17 – BOOKS Five lesser known dystopian novels / Independent bookshops: Claire de Rouen, London’s only specialist fashion and photography bookshop 18 – THEATRE Diane ‘Philomena Cunk’ Morgan on comedic treasures of misery and shit jobs / Royal Ballet’s Sleeping Beauty in Covent garden cinemas
Kit Harwood email@example.com
15 – FILM Short Sighted Cinema, a magazine and regular night dedicated to short films / the cult cinema night at The Good, Bad and Unseen
20 – TRAVEL Alternative guide to Northern Ireland 21 – DAYS & NIGHTS We present London’s best events, 10 March to beyond 22-23 – FROM THE ARCHIVES Unseen images found in the archive
As students, many of us have probably had similar living experiences: we’ve stayed in halls and shared flats or houses with friends. Our pockets have probably been emptied by vampiric estate agents, our roofs left leaking by absent landlords. We probably don’t know our neighbours’ names. Despite London’s diversity, its rental market is surprisingly homogenous and universally despised. In the face of soaring rents and rising disillusionment, Londoners are looking for alternatives, for ways of living on their own terms. But what lies beyond the normal rental market?
ALTERNATIVE LIVING IN LONDON
T E H O U S E R E S ID E N R A W : EN N PA IS PI OSSI Ossi is a photographer originally hailing from Finland. Since graduating from Swansea Metropolitan University, he has been living in north London’s warehouse communities for two and a half years. A few months ago he started the blog Manor House Project, which contains images he has taken since first moving into the community, documenting the life there and the people that occupy them. Completely legal, the communities are housed in converted ex-industrial buildings, where residents live in groups, paying rent to the owner of the warehouse. Although thousands of people live in these communities across the city, it’s a relatively unknown lifestyle, one that is subject to stereotyping and misrepresentation. “A lot of people assume that we’re squatting,” he tells me when we meet for a coffee. “They have no idea. It might look rough outside, but they’ve never been indoors. They are completely unaware that there might be a family living there, living a completely normal life.” Despite the large numbers that can occupy the warehouses, people do just that: lead normal lives. “We have
internet, all the normal facilities… heating, gas, showers, all of that.” Although the residences are relatively safe, with gates, CCTV and industrial lighting, he admits it’s “not for everyone.” Some tenants leave after a month or so. A common misconception concerns the cost – living in the warehouses is not cheap. “I’m sure I could find a cheaper room in a normal shared house,” Ossi says, “but having the community, the people around you – that’s the whole point. When you come home for work there’ll be eight people around eating dinner, and they’ve cooked for you already, and you talk… it instantly makes my day better.” Although the warehouse scene often draws people involved with the arts like Ossi, it’s mainly because the communities provide space to set up a studio or have a workshop, rather than any particular artistic pretensions. He makes it clear that living in a warehouse just because it’s regarded as cool or artistic is the antithesis of the communities’ ethos, and those that think this end up getting “completely ripped off. They pay high rent but live in a small shitty room.” Some developers are capitalising on the
communities’ growing popularity, and a lot of the warehouses are having their precious workshop space replaced with rooms. Some Ossi has visited are “like student halls, with long corridors and as many rooms as possible, to get as much money out of people as they can.” But the best warehouses are focused on developing a community and sharing your space with those you live with. “It’s a lifestyle. In London, most people live in shared houses, and they might not even know the name of the person that lives next door. That’s what I find strange.” In fact, he’s lived with “everyone, from DJs to businessmen and doctors of science.” It’s this diversity that makes warehouse living so special, because everyone helps each other out: “If you get a broken laptop, there’s always someone to fix it for you. If you need a bike, there’s someone that builds bikes.” However, the warehouses are under threat, under the guise of concern for the welfare of the residents – Harringey’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Enforcement Joseph Ejiofor has been quoted as saying that offering industrial units as places to live is “unacceptable”, and the council is developing a £600,000 task force “to fully investigate and address the problem through a combination of regulation, improvement, enforcement and, where necessary, prosecution.” There is little coincidence in the fact that the warehouses reside on land which is key to the council’s new redevelopment plans, and the residents are rightfully concerned.
Although Ossi has been photographing the warehouses since he arrived in London, the council’s warnings have caused him to kick his project up a gear, as he hopes it could serve as evidence to show people the value of the communities. “It’s been quite intense the last few months,” he admits. “It’s becoming more of a social documentary now.” Undeniably, the integrity of the project stems from the fact that Ossi is a member of the communities himself, rather than an outsider. “It’s quite difficult, and quite a careful subject,” he admits, for whilst his position allows him access to the residents, he does not wish in any way to speak for them. “I’m speaking for myself, and my experience. I wouldn’t speak for anyone else.” He believes that the council’s £600,000 should be used to strengthen their homes, not dismantle them: ”It could make the warehouses better, whether it’s giving us more bins or building a local shop or community centre, instead of kicking everyone out and just having empty units.” Those in the scene are taking action in response to the threat to their homes, writing to the council and campaigning. Despite the condemnation of the warehouses as a “problem”, the goal of preserving these unique communities is of paramount importance. “It isn’t rats that live in these places,” Ossi says emphatically. “We are not doing any damage. We grow vegetables in old parking lots. How can that possibly be wrong?” www.manorhouseproject.tumblr.com
IMAGES: OSSI PIISPANEN
I COULD FIND A CHEAPER ROOM IN A NORMAL
SHARED HOUSE, BUT HAVING THE COMMUNITY, THE PEOPLE AROUND YOU – THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT
feature EN: FRANCESCA ALL T L IV E S O N A B O A I first spot Francesca as I emerge from a path on the edge of an east London river, waving at me from about a hundred metres away. I’m here to chat about life on the boat she’s been living on alone for the past six weeks. It is small, blue, and engine-less, and, after we say our hellos, she scrambles onto the roof to fix a tarpaulin that has dislodged during the night. She tells me that she was waiting for me to arrive before attempting it, so I could make sure she doesn’t fall in the water. After securing it with bricks, we duck through a doorway and head inside. I’m immediately surprised by the boat’s warmth – a small coal-fired stove with a chimney keeps it toasty, though it requires a nearby carbon monoxide alarm (which I’m told has sounded a few times). As she puts the kettle on for tea, I ask whether it gets damp. “Not really”, she tells me. “It was a little when I moved in. I think the girl who lived here before wasn’t using it much. She mostly stayed with her boyfriend. As long as you keep it warm and well ventilated, it’s fine.” Looking around, the boat is cosy and home-like, with blankets, cushions, photos and flowers both real and fake, everywhere – and not a nautical stripe in sight.
After a recent Guardian article which detailed one person’s hellish experiences in a damp, cramped cabin aboard a freezing houseboat “slum”, I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised. Now in her final year at LCC in Elephant and Castle – where she cycles to attend classes to avoid the cost of a travelcard – Francesca started living on the boat after returning from travelling in California and Mexico last summer. “I didn’t have anywhere to live for a while,” she says. “I was just staying with friends. I lived with my friend’s parents for a while... This was just the first thing that popped up that was affordable, and seemed a little bit appealing.” She admits it started as something of a romantic fantasy, but despite the wonderfully kitsch interior, Francesca assures me it’s far from perfect: there’s no shower (“I just shower at friends’ places...people don’t need to shower as often as they think!”), no internet, no fridge, and the power is always going off. How was it during the recent bout of storms? “Horrible! It just meant that I didn’t sleep that well because the boat was banging against the side. I’m moored in the river rather than the canal, so it can have quite a current.” It all costs her £390 a month, which she argues is too much. “It’s cheaper than rent could be, but it’s not as cheap as I would want it to be.” I think back to the Guardian article, where people paid around £230, which perhaps explains why Francesca’s situation is rather less stark.
IMAGES: EMMA ALLWOOD
emailing you!” Aside from this, living alone is the biggest change from her last home, a large house in Manor House, which she rented for two years. “I lived with five people, and there would always be about eight people in the house at any one time. I just had so much space before, and I live alone here... it’s smaller.”
Due to an unfortunate iPhone-related accident on board, she’s been adjusting to being relatively removed from everything. Though being without the internet is somewhat refreshing, it comes with its downside: “It’s weird now I have no smartphone. I’m completely cut off. No one remembers that they have to call you instead of
Does she like living alone? “Um. Maybe...” she laughs, “I don’t know. I like it because you can choose when to socialise, rather than constantly living in a really noisy house, being woken up by other people. But it’s been a weird adjustment for me.” Despite this, she’s getting used to life on the boat, and is even thinking of taking out a loan to buy her own (“with a shower!”) to live on and rent out when she travels. That way, she’ll be paying off something she owns, rather than paying rent and having nothing to show for it. “I think it has proven to be a good stepping stone to figuring out what I want to do over the next few years. It’s opened up a lot of new ideas in my head and a lot of new opportunities for me to think about.”
making enough money with projects that I do.” (Sara estimates she spends under £100 a year, a somewhat mind-boggling concept when that’s barely enough to cover a monthly travelcard). Like warehouse living, there’s also a community aspect, which means “lots of social dinners and helping people out... [It’s] really rewarding.” However, she admits that safety is a “constant concern”, whether the threat is coming from “police, bailiffs or angry residents”. Although she feels safe legally (there are strict laws about the police entering a squat without a warrant), she says that “nearly everyone I know has some form of PTSD from heavy banging on doors when the bailiffs come knocking or the police make contact... Worrying
about whether the person at your door is friendly, and if you have a place to live next month are quite stressful too”. Squatters are easily stereotyped due to their alternative way of living, but Sara says that many she meets are studying for master’s degrees and are politically active. Perhaps the most valuable part of her experience has been that squatting has allowed her to “learn on [her] own terms” – she’s gone from having to call a plumber at 2:30am to being confident with plumbing, electrics and carpentry. “In a mostly money-free environment,” she says, “nearly everything we have has been repaired in some way. It’s been a real eye-opener of how easy and rewarding it is to repair things.”
UATT ER SA RA M A RCO : SQ One other well-known alternative is of course, squatting. Since new regulations were introduced in 2012, squatters are only permitted to occupy commercial buildings. It’s certainly a cheap way to live, but presents more practical problems than warehouse or boat living. After our interview leads ran dry, we tracked a squatter down online to fill us in on what it’s like. Sara Marco has been squatting in London for a year and a half, living in a church (complete with electricity and WiFi) that was previously sitting empty for four years. There are positives and negatives to the experience, she says. “On the plus side, I have the freedom to do what I want with my time and don’t have to worry about whether I’m going to be
/ EMMA ALLWOOD / KCL / CO-EDITOR
OFF THE CACOPHONOUS OXFORD STREET, THIS CORNER OF LONDON PROVIDES A SANCTUARY FOR MUSIC LOVERS
Black Market Records on D’Arblay Street is arguably London’s best-curated dance music emporium, with walls of vinyl and substantial variety, despite the shop’s small size. With plenty of listening decks as well as stacks of new releases each week, it’s easy to while away hours at BM. Friendly and knowledgeable staff, including owner Nicky Blackmarket, a well-respected drum ‘n’ bass DJ, are always keen to offer recommendations.
Something of a cultural centre for dance music, Phonica (opposite, bottom right) recently celebrated its tenth anniversary with a three-CD/LP compilation and a flurry of parties, hosting some of the biggest and best including Levon Vincent, Trevor Jackson and Skudge.
The shop is split over two floors: the upstairs offers internationally oriented house and techno, as well as various strands of UK-centric dance music – drum ‘n’ bass, garage, and dubstep. The downstairs is home to every accessory a DJ could need: headphones, slipmats, needles, controllers, you name it. The shop also hosts in-store gigs from some of the world’s top DJs, with house music legends such as Derrick Carter, Moodyman, and Kerri Chandler having all played on the BM sound system. BM is a proper record shop, offering a rich social experience that can’t be had when shopping online; it has long been a key place in London’s dance music community, having opened its doors nearly a quarter of a century ago in 1990, and always employing as staff DJs, promoters, and producers who are active members of the community. 25 D’Arblay St, W1F 8EJ / ROB HEATH / UCL / CONTRIBUTOR
Indeed, Phonica is no stranger to rubbing shoulders with pioneers; the shop itself has hosted a number of free and extremely crowded in-stores, including sets from Richie Hawtin, Joy O, Boddika and Four Tet. Nevertheless, the shop’s selection is not exclusively floor fillers and party tracks – on the contrary, with a long line of listening decks, Phonica is a great place to pick up a stack and just listen, although it is advised you bring your own headphones, as the shop seem to have run out of decent pairs. Unlike most of the stores on this list, Phonica’s speciality is hot-off-the-press releases, and is the most likely place to stock a record on the day of its release. For this reason, a dig around the shop is pretty much essential for anyone wishing to dip their toes in the dance music zeitgeist, even if that isn’t usually their thing. They also have a fantastic collection of disco re-presses and edits, which is surely enough to lure any true music fan. 51 Poland St, W1F 7LZ / GEORGE MCVICAR / QMUL / MUSIC EDITOR
HAROLD MOORES When I was miserably wasting away as a sales assistant in a nightmarish Oxford Street store, I’d run over to Harold Moores to spend my 15-minute breaks in its dusty, well-loved wooden interior, lush strings pouring out of the speakers. This cosy independent shop is staffed by classical and jazz musicians, and the atmosphere is that of a true music shop: music fanatics on a little pilgrimage to find that golden recording. The ground floor is filled with an impressive amount of classical music CDs, while the downstairs offer second-hand CDs and vinyl, both classical and jazz. There’s none of the snobbery or air of exclusion that is so often associated with classical music – the staff are simply people passionate about their field, and far beyond – and will talk with you for ages, should you ask them for any help. It still amazes me that they’re generous enough to play any CD/vinyl you want to listen to on the shop’s sound system, even if they’re brand new and sealed. They also regularly do a 50% off deal on all secondhand stocks. Whether you’re a lover of classical music or just curious, Harold Moores is worth getting lost in for a few hours. 2 Great Marlborough St, W1F 7HQ / RENA MINEGISHI / KCL / CO-EDITOR
SISTER RAY Sister Ray Records (above), named after the Velvet Underground song, caters to a wider variety of tastes than the other dance and electronic music oriented record shops in the area. Sister Ray stocks both new and second-hand CDs as well as vinyl, all across a wide variety of genres – from punk to krautrock, from techno to noise. They also offer a smaller selection of books, posters, DVDs and t-shirts. Sister Ray is Soho’s best option for indie music, and has a solid, though sometimes expensive, selection of rare records (usually first pressings of classic albums). Despite not being as electronic-music-centric as some of Soho’s other record shops, Sister Ray does still stock a reasonable selection of dance music vinyl, often being a good place to pick up new UK releases which tend not to sell out as quickly as they do in neighbouring shops such as Phonica and BM Records. Like these other shops, Sister Ray also has listening decks. A personal recommendation is the incredibly cheap posters. Album promo posters that have previously been plastered over the front window and walls of the shop are sold in good condition and at knockdown prices, usually for less than a pound. 34-35 Berwick St, W1F 8RP / ROB HEATH / UCL / CONTRIBUTOR
features SOUNDS OF THE UNIVERSE To me, walking into Sounds of the Universe (right; opposite bottom left) is entering a cave full of treasures, if the cave was full of DJs and had new stock every week. Filled to the ceiling in vinyl and CDs, the shop has a close association with the brilliant Soul Jazz Records label, stocking the largest selection of reggae, dubstep, jazz, house, disco, funk + soul, Brazilian, Latin, African and world beats in the UK. With such an impressive collection, it may be downright confusing; but I’ve always found that whenever I’m in there, they’re playing something amazing on the speakers, and you can start by asking “what’s playing?” to the friendly and knowledgeable folks behind the counter. They’ve been incredibly helpful whenever I’ve asked for help: I’ve been recommended a Tropicalia compilation, voodoo drum recordings and a Vakula LP, all of which were excellent. If you’d rather go solo, there are several listening decks and a CD player. The downstairs is a dizzyingly wonderful collection of books and DVDs, ranging from a history of black music in 1980s New York to an in-depth analysis of the No Wave era. Sounds of the Universe also hosts in-store gigs. This is, without a doubt, one of my favourite spaces on earth. 7 Broadwick St, W1F 0DA / RENA MINEGISHI / KCL / CO-EDITOR
RECKLESS RECORDS The first shop I ever bought a record in was Reckless Records. In a somewhat inauthentic, contrived way, I had already planned to start my collection with one of the best records of all time, Trans Europe Express. However, any good record shop is going to stock that LP; that’s not what makes Reckless stand out. It’s what I also happened to buy there that does. Without a smartphone or listening deck in the shop, I sought to pick 5 or 6 random records under the “German Techno” selection and hoped for the best. Reckless is known for their bargain gems, and I picked those 6 for under £20 - a crate digger’s dream! To this day I still DJ and listen to all 6 of those records, which should be statistically impossible. Nevertheless, Reckless’ sublime selection policy ensures you’re in safe hands even when you’re whimsically buying records, as I was that day. Selling everything from funk to grime to noise, Reckless is one of the most diverse shops in Soho in terms of style. Perhaps not best for those who have a very clear idea of what they want, but perfect for anyone who fancies a leap of faith and a little adventure. 30 Berwick St, W1F 8RH / GEORGE MCVICAR / QMUL / MUSIC EDITOR
IMAGES: EMMA ALLWOOD
LOVEPARK WE CHAT WITH THE FRONTMAN OF THE UP-AND-COMING INDIE BAND
Hailing from Burgess Hill, Lovepark’s sweet and entrancing indie sound has been steadily gaining them recognition. Managed by 13 Artists – the respected booking agency that also manages Radiohead, Arctic Monkeys, Portishead and many others – the band has extensively played gigs in London and Brighton, as well as Berlin and Paris. We had tea with the frontman and co-songwriter Kamran Khan, a third year philosophy student at Heythrop, to discuss band names, bad promoters and our shared love for Björk (“Hunter” is one of the best opening tracks ever). How did Lovepark get started? It actually started around 9 years ago, in its earliest form. I started playing guitar at 10, and my best friend started playing bass around 12, who’s still the bass player in the band. So it started when my best friend and I started playing together, along with our old drummer. Our other guitarist and songwriter Hass, who’s still in the band now, he joined when I was about 14. We got a new drummer about two and a half years ago, and since then the line-up has been the same. It wasn’t always called Lovepark – we were called The Puritans when we first started, I think we had one other name called Neo… which is weird, it sounds like The Matrix or something, I don’t know why we thought that was good. [As for The Puritans] I was in a history lesson when I was about 13, and I liked the sound of “the Puritans”, thought they had a band-y sounding name. We were The Puritans until about 2010. I remember at that time, These New Puritans came out and I was like, “what are we gonna do about this?” I actually mailed them on MySpace: “I noticed we almost have the same name; is this a problem?” As if we were on their level or something. They didn’t reply... Do you have EPs? We did release a vinyl in the summer of 2012. Double A side, two tracks: “How Do I See?” and “Shudder”. I don’t really know why we did vinyl – that was our manager’s decision. It was supposed to be more of a promo vinyl. We sold them at our gigs. Recently we’ve recorded a four track EP, which is all finished, and it should be out in May. We’re still not sure what format yet; we just got a new manager, and he’s showing us around to different labels and he’s in talks with various people. So the format hasn’t been decided, but we know it’s going to come out, one way or another. You guys should definitely be signed. You sound great. You also play a lot of gigs! Yeah, we’re getting quite a lot of good gigs. Hopefully more of that will come along soon. To be honest, when we released the vinyl in 2012, we sounded quite different to how we do now – we had a period of stopping, rethinking a load of stuff, and improving. Two days ago we started recording for the release that’s coming
after this upcoming one, so we’re building up. It must be hard to balance all the things you’re doing – you and George (the bassist) are both at uni, and you also have solo projects, right? Yeah, I have a different band called Fake Laugh, which kind of started off as my solo project then turned into a band, but I write all the songs and it’s a lot more basic and less ambitious. It’s more about just writing guitar pop songs. Which is really fun! That’s only been going on for a year, but I think it’s quite good to be in the two bands, because Hass is also in Fake Laugh – we don’t do anything without each other – although it’s tough to balance them, they contrast well and make you realise what’s good about each band. Our drummer produces electronic music, he hasn’t put stuff out yet – he’s only been at it for a year or something like that, but he’s really committed to doing it well and his music is sounding really great. Hass makes music on his own as well, as does George. We all kind of do our own thing. Does everyone write together in Lovepark then? The writing process varies; sometimes Hass will come up with a basic guitar part, sometimes he’ll come with an almost finished demo: two guitars, drums, bass, then I’ll write vocals over it and we’ll work on it in the practice room. I had a bit of a break from doing that, but more recently I’ve been doing that as well: I’ll write something at home and post it in our Facebook group, and it changes in the practice room. Recently we had an occasion where – this happened for the first time – we wrote a song in one practice, all together. It’s completely different each time, really. It makes it less formulaic, more fun. Sometimes Aramis, our drummer, would be playing something on the drums and that’s where it’d start. Sometimes it’s a bassline. I heard you have connections with Dutch Uncles and Bombay Bicycle Club. Yeah, we’ve played with them. We’ve played with Dutch Uncles a couple of times, and that was through a gig with Bombay Bicycle Club. This was years ago – probably our last gigs as The Puritans. It was in Hastings on my 18th birthday. So Bombay Bicycle Club approached you guys to open for them? No! We actually kind of stalked them. Actually, I definitely stalked them. In the end, we just turned into weird fanboys. We saw them at Reading, and gave them a CD of our tracks. We then saw them at a show in Brighton; we hung around and played them our music. They were like, “you should support us sometime”. We looked out for when they were playing, and they told us we could come and play. That must be a great feeling, to share a stage with artists you respect. Definitely, and we got to do it quite a lot, actually. There are a lot of bands that we’ve
IMAGE: MATT HASS
played with that I really like – more recently, Outfit. Outfit’s not very big yet, they’ve actually had an album out. They’re really cool, they’re from Liverpool and they incorporate a lot of electronic elements, kind of like what Bombay Bicycle Club are doing, but in a different way. It’s really cool when you get to play with bands you like. We’re trying to do that a lot more at the moment – we’re only trying to play gigs where we feel it’s appropriate and with bands we really like. We’ve played gigs on bills where it’s like ,“why are we playing this?” Not because the other bands are bad, but it just doesn’t fit. That’s the nature of playing gigs and working out what’s good, I guess. There’s this whole phenomenon of young, aspiring musicians and bands getting ripped off by London promoters. It was actually kind of fun when we did it, because we managed to pull it off OK. They suggested that they book a bus full of your friends to come see your band, and we did that. The gig was a Bloc Party DJ set, which consisted of the guitarist of Bloc Party just playing an iPod. It happens a lot, and the promoter just absolutely rakes in the money because he just puts seven bands on the bill. We booked 50 people to come up on a coach. We lost a little bit of money, probably. Luckily we were good at selling tickets, but a lot of the other bands couldn’t
sell enough tickets and the promoters would expect them to give them money regardless. It’s really messed up. At the same time, there is a lot of good stuff in London. Recently there are a couple of bands we’ve been playing with, who are at similar stages with us, who are really nice – same as any type of industry I suppose, where you meet good and bad people. Often they are very nice. But the idea of people putting everything in their dream of making it in London can be dangerous. That wasn’t ever really a thing for Lovepark; we just happened to come here for university. It’s good to have things outside the band. A year or so ago, we were putting too much weight into the band. Instead of actually just having fun and playing music, like we are now, we were thinking about what was gonna happen next, when are we gonna be famous, when are we gonna get signed? Now we’re having a lot of fun, and because of that we’re more productive than ever, and things are happening. It’s really cool.
Lovepark’s upcoming LP, 21 12, will be released in May. / INTERVIEWED BY RENA MINEGISHI / KCL / CO-EDITOR
John Newman, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, 07.02.14
John Newman erupted onto the music scene in 2012, discovered by Rudimental and going onto provide vocals for them, then rising to fame with his debut solo single “Love Me Again”. Best known for his spectacular voice, he impresses all the more with his creative talent, from producing and writing all his music to designing video scripts and even his own clothes. Having expected a crowd filled with teenagers, I was surprised to enter Shepherd’s Bush Empire and be
sitting amongst people even older than my parents. As the lights dimmed, Newman’s face appeared; his musical inspirations were announced on the overhead speakers, all the way from his mother’s Motown influence to Rock’n’Roll legends The Rolling Stones. Suddenly he burst onto the stage, accompanied by his band and an array of flashing lights. All at once, his powerful voice filled the room, immediately drawing the audience into the dynamic atmosphere he so effortlessly generates. The bouncy rhythms and infectious grooves rocked on throughout the whole show, and the band’s energy never once dwindled. Newman’s visceral energy kept everyone on their feet, lulled by the flurry of classics from his album Tribute like “Day One”, “Running” and “Gold Dust”, ending in an explosive burst of gold confetti over the crowd.
/ NATASCHA HEDEGAARD / UCL / ROYAL VETERINARY COLLEGE
Jandek, Café OTO, 15.02.14
Whilst I was sat on the floor enjoying the manic noise-jazz jams of the supporting act at Café OTO, I glanced up to the steamy windows and saw the chilling silhouette of Jandek peeping in, with his hand pressed against the glass. With his signature black hat, leather gloves and doctor’s handbag, he looked like a cross between the Demon Headmaster and Gunther von Hagens – completely unstuck from place and time, like an alien who had just landed on Earth decided to visit the café that evening. Of course, that’s not the case, as this was the second of Jandek’s three-day residency at the venue. However, little changed about his outsider mystique as the set began, opening with a song about abandonment and desperation as he groaned out the words “give up alcohol, then you’ll know what true loneliness is” over the backdrop of a detuned, glassy guitar tone. The act followed on into a 25-minute poem about the chorus of
whacked-out bursts of energy from a set of “non-musicians”, completely devoid of any of the cogence or structure of a conventional rock group. The set ended with a flurry of unexpected Trout Mask Replica-style spazzpunk improvisations, culminating with Jandek on the floor by the feet of the audience, with a single white rose between the strings of his guitar.
/ GEORGE MCVICAR / QMUL / MUSIC EDITOR
bombay bicycle club
Little Red is an engaging display of musical maturity. From the chilled club track “5am” to the 80s-influenced “Crying for No Reason”, followed by appearances by Jessie Ware and Sampha, the album offers a diverse exploration of electronic dance music. This 80s throwback sound, coupled with the pristine, glossy production, creates a sound that’s altogether intriguing: the singles themselves are powerhouses, but songs such as “Sapphire Blue” and “Tumbling Down” offer a hypnotic, minimalistic atmosphere that compliments the anthem-like quality of “Next Thing”. There is a kinetic allure to the beats and the melodies here, but unfortunately it often stays within its comfort zone, sometimes resulting in a sense of repetition and safety around it. However, the album is nonetheless a successful manifesto for club culture, and an apt portrayal of a night on the town. Katy B has developed from her debut; she was On a Mission but now she has flowered into Little Red, becoming more melodic and accessible, and although the change may be subtle when comparing albums, a sense of sophistication is displayed which was not seen before.
Known for their deafening performances, these Glaswegians have made it big across the globe and now charge £25 per person for a live performance in their hometown. With the release of their eighth studio album, Rave Tapes, Mogwai shows they haven’t stopped moving forwards, sideways and diagonally in sound and instrumentation since their first musical union in 1995. Defying – almost resenting – pre-mediated boundaries of sound, their music has been slotted into genres such as shoegaze, math rock, art rock and even instrumental metal. Indeed, most of the tracks on this album are devoid of lyrics with the exception of “Repelish”, a personal highlight on the album. Rhythmically complex with odd time signatures, dissonant chords and often highly extended and angular melodies, these guys are producing a sound of individual maturity fit for their 20-year-long career. Without them, it’s difficult to envision what the Scottish music scene would look like today. If you are lucky enough to catch them in Europe before they cross the water, I would highly recommend making the effort. For those of you who caught them at Rough Trade signing or the Royal Festival Hall – I’m certain you weren’t disappointed.
Released earlier this month, So Long, See You Tomorrow hit number one in the UK charts in a matter of days. From the opener, “Overdone”, it’s easy to see why: the songs are catchy throughout with vocal lines where you can’t help but sing along. The album creates immeasurable walls of sound that are ambient and energetic in equal measure, particularly evident in the layered vocal tracks that interlock over thick synths and beats on “It’s Alright Now”. As always, Bombay Bicycle Club experiment with a range of instruments: the album lists additional musicians providing flute, horns, piano, and even a cor anglais. This experimental nature has taken Bombay Bicycle Club in an increasingly electronic direction. But they’ve kept their favourite world music elements that always resounded through their discography: the African and Indian rhythms are still present, and the opening of “Feel” begins with a Bollywood sample. Hypnotic, infectious music like this can at times be a challenge to perform live; however, over the last few years, Bombay Bicycle Club have proven themselves to be an excellent live act, and the exuberance of this album would be even more palpable on stage.
Earlier this month, American doom metal duo Sunn O))) released their first proper LP in five years, following 2009’s Monoliths & Dimensions, in this collaboration with Norwegian group Ulver. Terrestrials largely picks up where Monoliths left off, with brass arrangements and sinister vocals accompanying the deafening drones produced by Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson. Such reappearances are far from being redundant; I’ve found this is an album with a malleable quality, one that can be what you want it to be. When listened to at high volumes, it is classic Sunn O))), with the crushing hum of the guitars epic in scale – but when the volumes are turned down, it takes on a warmer quality, being not so much “dark ambient” as ambient in its typical airy, weightless sense. The title of the opening track “Let There Be Light” accords with this warmth, not seen in the duo’s work since another of their collaborations, 2006’s Altar, on which they were joined by Japanese sludge act Boris. Terrestrials combines a panoply of moods, ranging from the ecstatic to the morbid, and yet at all stages avoids sliding into sickliness or inescapable murkiness. This is a beautiful, atmospheric record.
/ KIERAN JONES / QMUL / CONTRIBUTOR
/ ISLA DUPORGE / SOAS / CONTRIBUTOR
/ RUBY CLYDE / UCL / CONTRIBUTOR
/ ROBERT HEATH / UCL / CONTRIBUTOR
SO LONG, SEE YOU TOMORROW
sunn o))) and ulver TERRESTRIALS
the smoke ELEANOR NAIRNE Eleanor Nairne is the Curator of Collection and Public Programmes at Artangel. Commissioning exceptional projects by visionary contemporary artists such as Jeremy Deller, Steve McQueen, Brian Eno and Rachel Whiteread, Artangel is a platform for art that changes the way we view the world. If you could own one artwork, which would you choose? One of Lousie Bourgeois’ Femme Maison drawings or perhaps a whole wall stenciled in Nancy Spero’s goddesses. What was the defining moment in your life as an artist? I tend not to think in terms of “defining moments”, but delivering a lecture on the Self Portrait at the Louisiana Museum in Denmark was certainly a special occasion. A modernist building perched on the edge of the sea with windows looking out across the sound to Sweden; I couldn’t help but think, “Carlsberg don’t do art galleries,
but if they did, it would probably be the Louisiana.” How do you think art should be written about? With honesty, clarity and humour. If you could occupy a building in London, which building? I love the former Central Saint Martins building and cycle past it regularly. I can’t help but imagine what projects might take up residence in the space where Gilbert met George and Jarvis Cocker met the girl with “a thirst for knowledge” (as in the song “Common People” by Pulp).
DIG, DANIEL SILVER / COMMISSIONED BY ARTANGEL
Does art have limits? Ethically, yes; imaginatively, no. In 6 words imagine a manifesto for the art of the future. One question: does it move me?
POPPY JACKSON Poppy Jackson is a performance artist and painter, who has presented internationally. Her work explores the female body as an autonomous zone. She is an Associate Artist of ]performance s p a c e [ in London.
How do you think art should be written about? Unpretentiously.
If you could own one artwork, which would you choose? The Eiffel Tower.
Does art have limits? No!
What was the defining moment in your life as an artist? Performing in front of Tehching Hsieh in New York, 2012.
In 6 words imagine a manifesto for the art of the future. Radical, inclusive, performic, spiritual, living, unhouseable.
If you could occupy a building in London, which building? The Shard.
SIX ART INDUSTRY INSID
INTERVIEWED BY ARTS
PING ZHENG Ping Zheng is a painter, soon to graduate with a bachelor’s degree from the Slade. Born and raised in Shanxi province, she first studied in Beijing where she was introduced to Western art. At the age of 18, Ping left China for London to complete a foundation course at Camberwell College. If you could own one artwork, which would you choose? I think at moment that would have to be Georges Seurat’s Bathers at Asnières. What was the defining moment in your life as an artist? My journey from the impossible to the possible. After I was expelled from secondary school (I spent my time in the art studio instead of in school classes) there was no place in such a
small city as Shanxi in which to study art. It was when I got the chance to study abroad that my family’s attitude towards me turned from disappointment to support. How do you think art should be written about? I think art should be written about with regard to the past and the future. If you could occupy a building in London, which building? The Gherkin. Does art have limits? No, certainly not. The human brain is infinite. In 6 words imagine a manifesto for the art of the future. Creating art from humanity and technology.
UNTITLED, PING ZHENG
GRIMM CITY, FLEAFOLLYA
ART THOMAS DICKERSON CHARCOAL AND INK ON WAX PAPER, LUKE MCLEAN / ONE OF THE FEATURED ARTISTS ON THE GALLERY’S PRODUCTS
Thom Dickerson is the co-founder & managing director of The Gallery Clothing Company Ltd. Founded in Belfast, the company integrates art and fashion in business, promoting the best young creative in the UK and Ireland. If you could own one artwork, which would you choose? I am not a materialistic person, so there is no one piece that I aspire to own. Art is to be enjoyed; I would feel guilty keeping that enjoyment to myself. That said, if forced to choose, it would have to be a piece by Andy Goldsworthy, whose concept has long influenced my work. What was the defining moment in your life as an artist? There was no single defining moment, but the support and encouragement of my parents set me on the path I’m currently walking today. I particularly remember my mother always encouraging the artist inside me, despite not being creative herself.
How do you think art should be written about? Truthfully, and with stated opinions. One of my favourite quotations is: “she never looked nice, she looked like Art, and Art wasn’t supposed to look nice; it was supposed to make you feel something” (from the book Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell). Art is emotive and this is what reviews should focus on. If you could occupy a building in London, which building? Having never lived in London I would say that the dream would be just to occupy any building and be part of it all. One day soon, hopefully... Does art have limits? Yes and no. Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror explores the extremes to which art can attempt to justify anything. Creativity has no limits. Art, as the manifestation of creativity, perhaps should. In 6 words imagine a manifesto for the art of the future. Dream, Explore, Challenge, Refine, Imagine, Create
DERS, SIX QUESTIONS
S EDITORS LIZA WEBER
DAVID BECK, MVSEVM, 2006, MIXED MEDIA CONSTRUCTION, SMITHSONIAN AMERICAN ART MUSEUM, GIFT OF THELMA AND MELVIN LENKIN © 2006, DAVID BECK, 2006.8
THOMAS HILLIER FleaFollyArchitects was established by Pascal Bronner and Thomas Hillier in 2012. They are spatial storytellers who use narrative to explore, discover and invent unique architectural propositions translating them into fantastical spaces that surround us. Operating across the fields of architecture, design, fashion, contemporary art and installation, they aim to enhance and blur the thresholds of spatial design, regarding “making” and “crafting” by hand as a key component of their work.
If you could own one artwork, which would you choose? Anything by Chuck Close, he was the first artist I saw in a gallery and it has stuck with me ever since! What was the defining moment in
your life as an artist? I don’t think we have had it yet, and maybe never will! Understanding that architecture is so much more than just bricks and mortar was a big moment for me. How do you think art should be written about? Art can’t be understood through words alone, but through experiencing it! If you could occupy a building in London, which building? The whispering gallery at St Paul’s. Does art have limits? No. In 6 words imagine a manifesto for the art of the future. In a constant state of flux.
Ellery Foutch is a visiting lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She researches oil paintings on canvas, natural history models, advertising images, and other carefully constructed artifacts. Although her work is not always about “capital-A Art,” the methods and questions that Art History uses are central to her research: visual analysis, reception studies, and analytical comparisons inform Foutch’s work. If you could own one artwork, which would you choose? I really love David Beck’s MVSEVM, commissioned by the Smithsonian upon the reopening of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2006. This amazing little “cabinet of curiosities” contains small galleries, almost like a dollhouse, with miniature versions of works of art – a sculpture gallery contains tiny versions of Man Ray’s Cadeau, Jasper Johns’s Ballantine Beer Cans, and Elie Nadelman’s dancers, for example. There’s also an amazing Wunderkammer, with miniature starfish and reptiles hanging from the ceiling, as well as optical instruments and even a miniscule Feejee mermaid! So I’d be cheating by claiming this “one” artwork that’s really an entire museum in itself, full of drawers to open and cabinets to explore! What was the defining moment in
your life as an artist? An internship with Nancy Mowll Mathews at the Williams College Museum of Art gave me the chance to work with an excellent mentor and to re-think what kind of objects could be taken seriously; we were working on the exhibition Moving Pictures: American Art and Early Film, 1880-1910, which included mass culture images and artifacts like early films, comics, and movement studies alongside Ashcan School paintings, and I was hooked. How do you think art should be written about? Clearly and engagingly! If you could occupy a building in London, which building? Sir John Soane’s Museum! Does art have limits? Sometimes I think everything that seems cutting edge or new was in fact done in the 18th or 19th centuries. But there are new ways to imagine them and make them even more relevant and exciting to people today. In 6 words imagine a manifesto for the art of the future. Asking good questions trumps having answers. (I want to substitute “thinking you have all the answers,” but that’s too many words!)
TEXT: EMMA ALLWOOD/ KCL / FASHION EDITOR & CHLOE FIROUZIAN / KCL / CONTRIBUTOR IMAGES: NIGEL PACQUETTE
A man after my own heart: black reigned over the collection in
Gold accents illuminated the monochrome collection for
Showing for the first time at Fashion East was Louise Alsop,
the colour stakes, with the occasional shock of rich purple (a nod
a second season running, accumulating in a full-gilt metal
who delivered a promising collection united by graphic
to Pantone’s colour of the year, Radiant Orchid?) silver, cream
armour dress to close the show. Mirrors stitched into the fabric
elements, colour, and a sense of rebellious youthfulness. Edgy
and royal blue. Koma is known for his mastery of silhouette,
emulated a winterscape with snowflake geometry, the warrior-
without being pretentious (hems were left raw, pop socks
and this season’s pieces were enhanced by corsetry, weaving,
tribe theme implicit in the mirror-shields complimenting this
laddered), and managing to reference the 1990s without being
strong – often diagonal – lines and cage-like elements. Despite
season’s uncompromising power silhouette: oversized parkas
obvious and trite, the show showed a remarkable coherence.
such eclecticism, the collection felt incredibly put together, and
and full volume skirts upon spear-legs wrapped in leggings of
Alsop only graduated from her BA at Westminster in July last
less chaotic than his Spring show. / EA
black lacquer and pewter. / CF
year, but it’s clear her future is bright. / EA
Rocha’s collection offered Elizabethan shapes and silhouettes,
Helen Lawrence’s collection for Fashion East boasted
You know how sometimes “Ready-to-Wear” is actually
with models’ foreheads daubed regally with gold foil. Patent
cosy knitwear, fingerless gloves and dark denim. Colours
completely unwearable (unless you’re Daphne Guinness)?
fabric was prominent, from the yellow and khaki snakeskin
were neutral, with pastel lilac, apple green and camel
Well, not in Topshop Unique’s case. Thanks to Topshop’s
that covered accessories and garments alike, to the dresses
complementing the usual black, navy and white. The
position as one of Britain’s forefront brands, the show
which flounced at the hips; beading adorning necklines and
comfortable colour palette and fabric choices stood out in
delivered an AW collection that will go from runway to rack
hipbones. Fur, ponyskin and gilt-threaded lace were just some
comparison to Alsop’s sharp and monochrome designs, but
seamlessly. Warm knits, fur, slouchy coats and layering make
of the materials used by Rocha, but despite the elements of
Lawrence’s tendency to stay in the familiar – her silouettes
this collection one of comfortable glamour, whilst prints,
luxury, her collection had a definite punk aesthetic, tartan and
perhaps a little too reminiscent of Kenzo’s SS14 collection –
embroidered mesh pieces and silk bomber jackets brought an
sheer dresses adding a rebellious note. / EA
left something to be desired. / EA
element of the chic streetwear they do so well. / EA
meadham kirchhoff behind the veil: chloe firouzian reflects on lfw’s show stealers
Prior to the show, a precedent of era-defining girl power echoed through the Tate’s Turbine Hall. The Spice Girls’ “Wannabe”, Stevie Nicks’s “Edge of Seventeen”, and Sally Oldfield’s “Mirrors” played over a drift of Penhaligon’s Tralala perfume, with which the giant space was sensually transformed into something homely. With such references to the 70s, 80s, and 90s also present in the designs, Meadham Kirchhoff is all-encompassing magical realism. On a runway scattered with giant hearts filled with tresses of gold tinsel, the models – one half street-cast treasures discovered by Melissa Thompson, and the other half agency girls chosen by Rosie Vogel at Condé Nast – emerged out of the constructions with the threads of glitter stroking their natural, crimp-ended hair. Gliding out of those magical hearts, each look felt as though it had been born into a hyperreal realm of teenage girls, through a very lucky dip into an heirloom fancy dress box: lamé rainbow disco boots, sequined snap purses adorned with Alice in Wonderland-esque cats in hats, Chanel-inspired suits playfully de-frumped with volume, line, and colour. A conversation with Rosa Burgess, the label’s production assistant, gave a snapshot into the kaleidoscopic world of Ed Meadham and Ben Kirchhoff of the eponymous label, a world where reality appears conceived of through a veil – a motif that “Ed has used in collections for many, many seasons” – at once ethereal and bold. This reality’s lens is polarised: holographic lamé python skin is paired with powder-blue chiffon, and three-dimensional vermillion rosebuds are spread toward the heart from where the fabric meets with the hands and neck. Meadham Kirchhoff reads like punk for girls; traditions and
IMAGE: NIGEL PACQUETTE
expectations of womanhood, in both style and sentiment, are pulled apart and reassembled into a beautiful bedlam. The looks are eclectic and the dressmaking traditional. Ed himself tells me that he has “spent a lifetime looking at garment construction, collecting old dresses, in particular, antique dresses from the 20s and 30s”, but the outcome is always original. He has never, “except for one occasion, the Jovan Slip, copied or taken the pattern from old dresses”; yet it’s apparently, and sadly, “what most people think [he] does”. The outcome of this combination of tradition and innovation is that Meadham and Kirchhoff ’s creations are refined with technical mastery. In sourcing fabrics from English fabric mills and using “a lot of embroidery to recreate older techniques”, the imaginative idiosyncrasies of the duo are rendered a tradition in their own right. Reassembling long-established female signifiers of veils, bows, and lace into a carnivalesque frame, Meadham Kirchhoff reclaim them from the limited conventions they once signified, revealing the flexibility and selfdetermination that is implicit in innovative fashion. The label puts the cultural significance of clothing into question. “Why should you only be able to wear [a veil] when you are getting married or when someone has died? If something is beautiful, do you really need justification to wear it?” Rosa asks. Do you have to be a 1980s power mum to wear a two-piece suit, or a woman to wear pastels or a skirt? The verdict can be seen on the catwalk of this collection in the Chanel-inspired suits, and in the label’s SS13 and SS14 menswear collections: it’s a triumphant “no”. The list goes on. As does a challenge to politically loaded clothing – its role and authority – in secular culture. The
1920s and 30s too, a period of particular inspiration to the designers, saw gender-subversive flappers in veiled hats. Depending on the collection, the veils are, according to Rosa, “interpreted by the reviewers as a lot more virginal, and in some a lot darker”. Looking at the AW14 collection, which, Rosa tells me, Ed wanted to “be a bit more fun in comparison to the last couple of seasons”, it certainly feels too playful to have the veils shoehorned into either of these categories. Although “bridal dreams” or “sacrificial virgin” might spring to mind with the all-white look, for instance, a quick glance at the shoes are a giveaway; the girl beneath the veil is a heroine straight out of Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber. What is interesting about the veil – the explicit concealing of the face – is that it puts identity in flux, and, as Rosa puts it, ties the idea of the clothing in with the “mystery of the person behind [the veil]”. Meadham Kirchhoff is decidedly playful, which for me, encapsulates the spirit of youth. Rosa’s experience of the studio during show time, where “the research covers the walls in the studio” like posters and pin-ups in a teenager’s bedroom, has an existential resonance: “I am still noticing lovely things on the walls that I never saw before”. This is the spirit that’s always evolving, always learning and discovering, irrespective of actual age. This spirit embraces flux, as with the veil, as with the label. In fact, as with the work studio, which Rosa informs me is full “of tinsel, teacups!” and has “a taxidermy cat wearing a crown”. Might this creature have inspired its way into the aforementioned accessory, I wonder...
/ CHLOE FIROUZIAN / KCL / CONTRIBUTOR
SCHOOL / STUDIO / screen Luke Blackett is the current head of UCLU Film Society, a society that’s over half a century old and counts Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas, the director/producer duo behind some of this decade’s biggest films, amongst their alumni. As head of filmmakers at King’s (FYI, that’s not Made In King’s/Heart Healers – that’s KingsTV), I’ve always been curious about how things were done over at UCL.
IMAGE: UCL FILM SOCIETY
Have things changed in the society since those glory days? Luke was frank, admitting that Nolan and Thomas’s legacy had had some negative effects: “It does create an atmosphere of complacency. We’ve had a fantastic period of our history and produced some fantastic people. It’s great that happened, but the truth is he’s not in the society any more!” That said, the ghost of Nolan’s past can be given some credit for inspiring the Film Society’s recent changes. “It hangs over you,” Luke says, “it’s like, oh my God, this happened. We need to get back there.” The society’s decline was compounded by ongoing technological changes: “since about a decade ago, with the transition from celluloid filmmaking to digital filmmaking, the society itself hasn’t really created the structures, or had the equipment, to go out and make films as a society.” Luke has strived to change this, kicking off last term with The Door At The End, (left; above left) a psychological thriller about gambling addiction, with touches of the surreal. “We wanted to prove to ourselves and to everybody else that as a society, we could do this”, Luke said. “There’s still a need for film societies.”
IMAGE: UCL FILM SOCIETY
IMAGE: KIT HARWOOD
This chimed with my feelings. The digital switchover hasn’t just played havoc with the large institutions in media – it’s also radically changed the purposes behind running a film society. In the past, film societies were enormously influential since film equipment was inordinately expensive and technically intimidating. Flashing forward to today, my favourite film to come out of our society this year was shot on a phone (the wonderful I, Phone by Masha Androsova). Luke agreed with me to an extent. “You have to ask, what can you add, what’s the next step? There’s still this jump between making a film with your mates with a DSLR and running a crew, running a production, thinking about actors, post-production and the rest of the production process, which can be mystifying.” The society’s new goal is to make ambitious films that reach beyond what people are capable of doing on their own – “the real role, I think, for film societies is to bring people together and to create opportunities.” For Luke, part of this comes down to gear. Looking at the success of university drama societies, he realised: “they all have theatres, we don’t have any kit! That’s possibly the biggest challenge facing the society right now. It’s very hard to convince unions that
FILM EDITOR & HEAD OF FILMMAKERS AT KING’S, KIT HARWOOD, TALKS TO LUKE BLACKETT, UCLU FILM SOCIETY PRESIDENT this is a necessary investment, but it’s essentially as valid as buying a theatre. It’s the same type of investment for a lot less”. For a society that lost half of its studio space to the nanotechnology department, this lack of support must sting. But if this is bad, the rest of us have it worse: they’re the only film society in the country that has any studio facilities at all. This all essentially comes down to funding. UCLU Film Society receives a very small grant from UCL union, one Luke feels shows a bias against not only film societies but arts societies in general. “I feel like there’s a lot of emphasis placed on sports societies and sports funding. As much as Varsity and sports events are fantastic, it doesn’t compare to the shared experience of going to see a film or a play together. People in the unions need to sit up and pay attention – they need to recognise that there is a bias against art societies; they need to say, how can we properly support them? We as arts societies also need to do more to help ourselves. I’ve seen encouraging signs of this starting to happen but we are still a long way off.” Luke is confident they’ll get the kit they’re fighting for, and looks forward to a future when “there could be a production every week.” In an encouragingly bipartisan manner, he doesn’t even see this being restricted to UCL students. The society continues to run screenings, socials and workshops, along with the occasional talk by professionals working in the industry. They’re moving onwards with their production slate, working on a tense family drama and a more light-hearted musical comedy. The opportunity to have people from different disciplines work on films together obviously excites Luke. “At the moment I’m working on one film from an English student that’s inspired by a novel, last term’s production was a philosophy student’s and incorporated elements of philosophy.” Variety of inspiration is key: “if all you’ve seen is film, then that’s your main source of inspiration, and it can be very stale. I think for a university student to be able to say ‘I’ve read this bit of philosophy’ or ‘I’m interested in this period of history’, that’s a breath of fresh air into the medium.” I’ll take the implied diss against Film students in my stride (Luke didn’t know I study Film). I’m interested to see where the UCLU film society goes, and look forward to the release of last term’s film. Despite all the changes, Luke seems confident that the society will stay strong: “It’s simply this: what have we done in the past, what are other societies doing currently, and a bit of ‘are we still relevant, how do we stay relevant in the current age’, updating that model. But the underlying skeleton is the same old film society doing the same old things that were done when Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas were at university.”
/ INTERVIEWED BY KIT HARWOOD / KCL / FILM EDITOR
SHORT SIGHTED CINEMA THE ONLINE MAGAZINE HOSTS THEIR SHORT FILM NIGHT AT THE RITZY IN BRIXTON Short Sighted Cinema is an online magazine devoted to spreading love for the short film format. Their website showcases and reviews shorts from emerging British filmmakers, and hosting short film nights at The Ritzy in Brixton, which I was especially interested in. The curated monthly night exhibits a program of short films on a chosen topic each month. When I arrived, the venue was packed to the rafters with cinephiles spilling onto every surface, so arriving early for a seat is advised. This month’s theme was “London Lives”, and the program featured six films: Journey (Hardy D. Saleh), The Pub (Joseph Pierce), Money Waster (Fred Rowson), The Way of the Dodo (Liam Saint Pierre), The Ellington Kid (Dan Sully) and The Hungry Corpse (James Pout and Gergely Wootsch). The films showed an enormous amount of variety in tone and medium, from poetic documentary to highly stylised animation. The highlight of the program for me was The Pub, a hallucinatory animation/live-action hybrid that transformed the residents of a North London pub into nightmarish caricatures of themselves.
IMAGE: KIT HARWOOD
The night concluded with a Q&A with the host Gem Carmella, where audience members put their questions to the filmmakers in order to more fully understand their intentions and the production process. It was exciting to see Kino (another popular film open mic event) regular Hardy D. Saleh grilled on the potential privacy ramifications of his work, in which he covertly filmed the passengers on his local bus, even if it did feel slightly bureaucratic. I also enjoyed Dan Sully’s revelation that The Ellington Kid (a darkly funny film
involving a stabbed teenager and a kebab shop) was based on a “true” story he was told while directing a music video. Whilst heading to the event I felt a slight trepidation: when some films try to “capture the energy” of London, it can be to a chorus of mockney accents plonked in a cheaply Guy Ritchie-ised boozer. It was refreshing to see a variety of interpretations of London that veered away from the stereotypical. It was also a reminder that no one vision of London will ever be enough to capture it. When I had a chat with Gem Carmella after the show, she agreed, saying that the curation of the night aimed to combat the poor representation of London in many films. I had a couple of gripes with the night. The majority of the films shown on the night are easily found on the Internet. This makes the screening feel slightly less special than it could have, though the Q&A is an experience that obviously you couldn’t get anywhere else. Additionally, a large number of the films seemed to be several years old. This is a necessary consequence of choosing such specific themes, but it seemed to impact the Q&A for the worse. The filmmakers tended to discuss their films as if they were ancient relics rather than something fresh in their minds. That said, it’s great to see such a carefully selected bunch of short films in a cinematic context. I’m looking forward to next month’s program, in which the Short Sighted team will tackle the theme “Drugs”.
/ KIT HARWOOD / KCL / FILM EDITOR
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UNSEEN CULT CINEMA AT WHITECHAPEL’S GENESIS CINEMA A cult ﬁlm night named as such could have turned into anything. I found the shrouded Genesis cinema in Whitechapel by chance, despite the front of the building being devoid of any lighting. I was pleasantly surprised to ﬁnd an elegant and spacious foyer, equipped with smartly dressed attendants to stand watch over a couple of two-storey murals. To my right there was Steve McQueen, leering worryingly out of an opentop, and to my left, a giant action shot from The Matrix Reloaded. I got that slightly queasy feeling of being in a cult cinema, without the necessary credentials.
more comfortable and assured that it was actually going to be a fun experience; if there’s something cult cinemas know how to do, it’s trash, gore, horror and the like. The main screening of that night was, at least for the ﬁrst hour, what you’d call a torture porn – Bamboo House of Dolls directed by the acclaimed Shaw Brothers, which was being shown to mark the death of the 106-year-old Run Run Shaw this year. I was at times mortiﬁed by the aggressive and constant sexualisation of a group of scantily clad women forced to undergo gruelling manual labour and torture at a Japanese concentration camp.
But onwards and up the stairs, I was directed into a fancy open-plan bar with comfy seats, with a pie and mash restaurant overlooking a projector alive with the trailers of some awesome looking 70s and 80s trash ﬁlms. Immediately I felt
At one point, a blind girl is chased around by a sadistic guard who has thrown broken glass around her feet. This scene can described as rather challenging to watch. I’m glad to have ridden my way to the end of the ﬁlm past the porno, past
the rather elongated escape scene in the middle, and on to the brilliant battle scene where the protagonists race for the gold stashed in a cave on a Japanese mountain (that’s why they were getting tortured!). The Shaw Brothers somehow preemptively took a leaf out of Terence Malick’s book for the ﬁnal sword/ gun ﬁght where, atop a hill, a good guy and a good girl ﬁght a bad guy and a bad girl respectively, bathed heroically in the light of the golden hour. The hosts’ bawdy banter about all the boobs we’d witnessed really emphasised the fact that, as far as cinema audiences go, we mainly consisted of horny middle-aged men who were all too eager to join in the fun. And that, for me, was a ﬁrst.
/ ALFRED CLARKE / GOLDSMITHS / CONTRIBUTOR
Feminism, Sex, and the City: ZOE PILGER ON HER DEBUT NOVEL, EAT MY HEART OUT “I really had no idea what to expect,” says Zoe Pilger, on the reception of her debut novel Eat My Heart Out, published in January, “because it has the conventions of a chick-lit novel, but darker.” This is an astute definition of the book. Eat My Heart Out is Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging meets The Bell Jar meets A Clockwork Orange. Its heroine – or anti-heroine, depending on how you view her – is twenty-three-year-old Ann-Marie, who rattles from one implosively destructive relationship to the next. Pilger wanted to use the “what-if function of literature” in order to depict “familiar scenarios that you might see in Sex and the City in a more surreal way.” She certainly achieves this, with her own unique brand of manic, volcanic wit. You probably would not find Carrie Bradshaw in Tesco masturbating with a raw heart whilst attired in her mother’s bridal dress, but Ann-Marie ends her date with Dave in a supermarket with animal blood running down her legs, dressed “like Princess Diana on her wedding day”. Pilger describes her protagonist as being less autobiographical, more her “wild, anarchic ID,” an “alter-ego”.
IMAGE: EMMA ALLWOOD
HUMAN BEINGS ARE FOREVER FRAUGHT
WITH POWER STRUGGLES, BUT WE CAN STILL FIGHT HARD TO FIND EQUALITY
One thing that is refreshing about Eat My Heart Out is its immediacy; Ann-Marie is most certainly a girl of the 21st century. As well as making references to the popular culture of our times, such as Fifty Shades of Grey and Nigella Lawson, Pilger also lightly satirises the notion of the hipster. If you are under the age of thirty and a Londoner, you probably know at least one person you can imagine would do DJ sets at a peanut factory in Hackney, and who wears a onesie that bears a headline stolen from a Vice article, similar to Samuel in the novel. “London has influenced me hugely, it’s like another character,” says Pilger, a native of the city herself. She wanted to illustrate a “Dickensian idea of London, a huge collision of different people and experiences.” Ann-Marie’s home city is very recognisable, from the “God squad man” outside Oxford Circus station right down to the Londis on Clapham High Street. As well as the book’s urban setting, a huge aspect of Eat My Heart Out is feminism. Ann-Marie encounters the enormously successful feminist writer Stephanie Haight, who attempts to act as her feminine guru, enlightening her to the gendered oppression she is under. However, Stephanie becomes increasingly unhinged, almost to the point of despotism. The episode in which she locks Ann-Marie in a glass box and forces her to sing her favourite love songs is reminiscent of a kind of reverse Room 101 scene from Nineteen Eighty-Four. Pilger recognises that the publication of her novel “coincides with a new wave of feminism, which more women are starting to engage with.” Stephanie makes reference to a “post-feminist whirly-pool”, which Pilger defines as a “regressive, consumer-driven idea of what it means to be a woman today… second-wave feminism made such huge steps, and though things have improved,
things have also regressed.” Pilger identifies this retrograde movement in attitudes towards women, demonstrated in cultural exports such as Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and pornography. The relationship between culture and the treatment of women is evident in Eat My Heart Out, with, for example, references to the concept of the “bunnyboiler”. Pilger sees the expression as “a term used to put down assertive women… we’re conditioned to believe that men will only be attracted to us if we’re infantile, weaker and less than them.” However, the author is aware of the negative effects of gender stereotypes on both sexes: “There’s an equal amount of pressure on men. The stereotype is that men are sex-mad beasts who want to fuck as many girls as possible, and that’s as harmful to men as it is to women.” In fact, despite being female-oriented, Eat My Heart Out also has a male following: “Men seem to like it as well, which I’m pleased about because I didn’t want to alienate them.” And is Pilger optimistic that a power balance between the sexes can ever be achieved? “I think men and women can be equal… it’s an ideal, human beings are forever fraught with power struggles, but we can still fight hard to find equality.” In terms of future plans, Pilger is already crafting her second novel, about “a romance writer who gets put in a mental asylum for going against the boundaries of the genre.” This new work is influenced by her PhD research on romantic subjection which she is completing at Goldsmiths, University of London. Will we ever hear about Ann-Marie and her luridly violent romantic antics again? Pilger says that she has “thought about writing a novel about her every ten years…” Whatever her next literary venture is, let’s hope that it is as striking as her first offbeat effort.
/ INTERVIEWED BY STEPHANIE GORMAN / GOLDSMITHS / CONTRIBUTOR
dystopias We all know about 1984 and Brave New World, but in this article Abigail Draycott takes a look at five other lesser-known twentieth century dystopian novels. One thing’s for sure, these choices put our essay-related stresses into rather harsh perspective...
THE HANDMAID’S TALE MARGARET ATWOOD, 1985 “A rat in a maze is free to go anywhere, as long as it stays inside the maze.” In the oppressive theocracy of the Republic of Gilead, the status of women has fallen to an alltime low as they are reduced to commodities. The world is run by a military dictatorship, with the Christian faith being of both paramount importance and the method by which the state gains such unprecedented control of its people. The Handmaid’s Tale is vital in furthering our understanding of the power that religion can have when it falls into the wrong hands. Considered to be controversial by many, it would be foolish not to give this novel a read. THE RUNNING MAN STEPHEN KING, 1982 “Say your name over two hundred times and discover you are no one.” The Running Man is set in the year 2025 in an authoritarian America. It tracks the financial difficulties of one man whose desperation leads him to take part in a game show in order to win a vast sum of money. In the style of the now well-known Battle Royale and The Hunger Games, the televised reality programme results in the violent hunting of the novel’s protagonist, and his eventual death. The Running Man, much like the films and books to which it bears a resemblance, forces us to question the lengths to which we will go to for the sake of entertainment – an especially important message in today’s media-obsessed society. WE YEVGENY ZAMYATIN, 1924 “Those two, in paradise, were given a choice: happiness without freedom, or freedom without happiness. There was no third alternative.” Considered to have had a major influence on George Orwell before he wrote 1984, Zamyatin’s We is set in a world made entirely of glass, enabling the state police to monitor the occurrences of its citizens. The population has become utterly dehumanised, with each human’s name being simply
composed of a letter and a series of numbers. The novel, although innovative for its time, seems to lack the type of captivating storyline present in other dystopian fictions, which perhaps explains its comparative unpopularity when we look at other similar novels of the 20th century. THE CHILDREN OF MEN P. D. JAMES, 1992 “A regime which combines perpetual surveillance with total indulgence is hardly conducive to healthy development.” Perhaps better known from its 2006 film adaptation, James’ The Children of Men is set in the nottoo-distant future where males have been rendered infertile and extinction is inevitable. As well as having a tyrannical leader, the United Kingdom’s society has reached new levels of inequality, with the youngest generation treated like royalty due to their rarity. The novel follows a group of rebels who vow to restore the country to a state of democracy, but, understandably, they meet numerous obstacles in their path. The Children of Men, however, ends on a hopeful note, suggesting that all is most definitely not lost. A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ WALTER MILLER, 1960 “Nature imposes nothing on you that Nature doesn’t prepare you to bear.” Reminiscent of Fahrenheit 451, Walter Miller’s only novel A Canticle for Leibowitz is based upon the world’s wish to rid itself of knowledge and intelligence, as these are believed to have led to the recent nuclear war that plagued earth. Needless to say, many years later, this process is reversed and nuclear power returns, demonstrating the cyclical nature of civilisation. The novel is paradoxical in the sense that religion is a driving feature of society, despite our common association of secularism in the future. A Canticle for Leibowitz reminds us of the risks posed by nuclear energy, but highlights the inevitability of its existence.
/ ABIGAIL DRAYCOTT / KCL / CONTRIBUTOR
be independent Books Editor Elizabeth visits Claire de Rouen, London’s only specialist fashion and photography bookshop, part owned by Lily Cole
Reached by a short flight of stairs, Claire de Rouen is something of a haven, at odds with the traffic-ridden Charing Cross Road that it sits on. It’s the only specialist fashion and photography bookshop in London, and about 3500 photobooks, out of print and rare titles, fashion monographs and contemporary magazines are crammed into its distinctive L shape. “The bookshop is not very organised really, even though I am a relatively organised person; I like that quality”, Lucy Moore, the director, tells me. “You give up on the instantaneous gratification that is more usual of the shopping experience now, and spend 20 minutes in here, seeing what you can find.” Lucy bought the bookshop in 2011, with the help of her good friend, model Lily Cole, when the eponymous owner sadly passed away and the bookshop’s future became uncertain. “It was a very unusual opportunity to begin working with something that was already established as an incredible archive of books, and a place where people come for in-depth conversation.” Had she always thought about owning a bookshop? “I did always think that it would be nice, but only in the way that you have these sort of abstract dreams”, Lucy tells me, laughing. Of course any independent bookshop knows the threat that online giants like Amazon pose, but Claire de Rouen is lucky to have a strong loyal customer base, counting David Bailey and Bruce Weber as regulars and tempting in many others who are in search of something intriguing and unique. Lucy organises book signings and small presentations, and commissions window displays in order to offer something that Amazon never could. Her Chance Claire project sees an industry expert pick their favourite books, which are then displayed at the front of the shop. “It gives a different feeling to the shop for a couple of weeks”, she explains. A place that excites the mind and is a constant source of fascinating conversation, Claire de Rouen is the epitome of a thriving bookshop. For Lucy it is being in this community that is the real joy: “I love being part of something much bigger – being part of the independent bookshop culture. I meet a lot of the most exciting, younger people who are doing creative work in the city. At the same time, I meet the older generation of brilliant, wellestablished people. I like that feeling of being part of a shifting culture that changes with each generation.”
/ INTERVIEWED BY ELIZABETH METCALFE / KCL / BOOKS EDITOR IMAGES © CLAIRE DE ROUEN BOOKS
IMAGE: TRENT MCMINN
DIANE MORGAN, AKA PHILOMENA CUNK, SPOKE TO US ABOUT VACANT LOOKS, SHIT JOBS, AND TROLLING BRIAN COX.
To many, Philomena Cunk, the vacant-stared, dim-witted interviewer from Charlie Brooker’s Weekly Wipe will be one of the highlights of the satirical BBC show. This is certainly the case for certain members of the London Student team – and we’ve made no secret of our fandom. When we told her of our excitement about securing an interview, she oh-so-humbly exclaimed in her unmistakable Bolton accent: “I’m not Madonna!” – and there it was: confirmation that Ms Diane Morgan has no idea how brilliant she undeniably is. From her debut on the show in 2013 as a mock-commentator on weekly events, her popularity has risen – and she now has her own feature, Moments of Wonder. So how does one come to be the only female comic on the show? “I had to audition for Charlie [Brooker] – he wanted a female version of Barry Shitpeas [the male counterpart of Cunk], so I have early contracts for ‘Mrs Shitpeas’”. A sure sign of making it, then. “It was fairly terrifying. He’s quite scary. He’s genuinely grumpy – in a nice way. I was always a massive fan before I saw the show – a massive fan. I was like an X Factor contestant, I was like ‘I’ve got to do this!’” It’s good to know we’re not the only over-enthusiastic fans of the self-proclaimed “underwhelmist.” So what of her relationship with Brooker? Is he really as grumpy as he makes out? “That’s just his face. He’s brilliant – but I hardly ever see him. He’s always writing. Well, that’s what he says he’s doing. He’s like Walter White… I’m like the Jesse to his Walter White.” Fellow Weekly Wipe fans will notice there’s an obvious inspiration for the format of the latest series’ new Cunk feature: “For the first session, I’d watched loads of Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe – I think you can see from the first episode that I actually became him. Apparently he’s seen it – he’s a friend of Charlie’s. Do you know, though, I’ve been tweeting Brian Cox. For months, I’ve just been
IMAGE: ANDY DEVONSHIRE
asking him really stupid questions, like ‘will things catch on fire if I leave them plugged in?’ – he never replied. I think ‘oh, God! Am I really pissing him off?’ then the other day… he replied. I said to him “I love how you’re always smiling, even though there’s absolutely no point to life?” and he replied “it’s the pointlessness that amuses me” – it made my bloody day. I think Cunk’s moved on a bit now though – they’re less Cox and more… thick.” For those who observe Philomena Cunk as closely as we do, her trademark vacant stare, furrowed brow and inquisitive bobbed head will be instantly recognisable. For most actors, typecasting can become a problem – so surely this is more likely to be the case when your character is as vacuous as Cunk? “It’s weird because… people do spot me now, and when they spot me they seem genuinely amazed that I actually exist. I often get spotted when I’m just staring into space. I try not to do that anymore. I make an effort to not look stupid; I’m just always trying to look really intelligent. To be honest though, I’m not a million miles away from the character.” Anyone who admires comedians as much as we do will know this is just not true. To be successful, it helps to be particularly quickwitted and observational. This is certainly true of Morgan, who chose to trade university for drama school – East 15, which she is quick to assure me is not a boy band. “I just wanted to
just do comedy. I constantly watched comedy and that was all I wanted to do, but I just didn’t know how to go about it. I presumed that drama school would be thething to do. So I went and I immediately told my tutors that I wasn’t interested in Shakespeare – I asked if they could help me with the comedy. They just cast me as Lady Macbeth as punishment. They gave me all the big dramatic parts that everyone really wanted, and I just wanted to play the comedy maid. I still got laughs, in Shakespeare – ‘Oh, Diane’s doing Lady Macbeth! Haha!’” As many theatre graduates will realise, if getting into drama school seems like the tricky part (it took Morgan 3 years), then graduating will really test them. “When I left, I didn’t do much – bits and bobs. I thought ‘shit! I really need to do something with my life. Maybe I should try stand-up.’ And everything changed after that – suddenly casting directors became interested in me – I should have just skipped drama school and just done stand up. It went well, I just kept getting gigs – for 9 years.” She was also keen to offer some refreshingly honest advice for budding comedians: prepare to be miserable. “It helps to have loads of awful dead-end jobs. You need to have had quite a lot of misery in your life before you’ve got anything interesting to talk about. You need to have been heartbroken, sacked, in jail… So have lots of really awful jobs, to get started. I
packed worming tablets in a factory in Bolton from 8 o’clock in the morning to 6 o’clock at night, just counting and packing over and over again – you weren’t allowed to sit down and you weren’t allowed to talk, in case it slowed you down. It was awful! It was actual torture. You see, when you’ve experienced things like that, and the people who do these jobs for years and years… it’s like ‘Christ’. For a start, it makes you think ‘shit, I really need to pull my socks up. I need to get some chuffing qualifications – fast’. But really, the shit job is going to be feeding what you’re going to be doing later and the characters you meet in awful jobs are something else.” Luckily for us, Morgan is a long way from factories, shit jobs, and Bolton. She noted some observations about her current home in the capital with her trademark humour, “The convenience of London is amazing – just look at the amount of cashpoints. There’s Pret a Manger everywhere. It’s so good. The bad thing, of course, is that you’re never more than 6 feet away from a rat.” So, London’s gain is Bolton’s loss – and it seems as though as long as we can continue to entice her with a multitude of cashpoints and Prets, we’ll be able to continue to enjoy the work of one of the most talented young female comedians around.
/ INTERVIEWED BY SARAH FORTESCUE / CSSD / THEATRE EDITOR
SLEEPING BEAUTY, ROYAL OPERA HOUSE As scores of little faces accompanied proud parents to the Royal Opera House’s matinee showing of one of the most well-loved fairy tales, it amazed me that the concentration of notoriously fidgety young things would be held for over 3 hours with no words – or indeed phones, games, or other distractions. Their parents, of course, would have been aware that the visual feast accompanying Tchaikovsky’s music would be enough to hold their gaze as perfectly as Princess Aurora’s arabesque itself. This revival of the 1946 Royal Opera House production worked its magic on the young attendees – clearly, the feast of colours that successfully lifted the spirits the audience of post-war Britain was enough to enchant those lucky enough to be treated to the Royal Ballet’s 75th anniversary production. The regally tinged pastels of the prologue, the autumnal assortment of Prince Florimund’s fellow
hunters, and the vibrant feast of bold hues that accompanied the final celebration created a festival of visually stunning grandeur. Of course Tchaikovsky’s ballet is not just aimed at children. Although it is based on Charles Perrault’s La belle au bois dormant, rather than the 1634 original of the fairy tale, Giambattista Basile’s Sole, Luna, e Talia - which tells a more macabre account – it is still a dramatic tale with its fair share of darkness, and will entice audiences of all ages. The Sleeping Beauty is showing at the Royal Opera House until 9th April 2014. There will be a live screening of the performance in cinemas on 19th March.
/ SARAH FORTESCUE / CSSD / THEATRE EDITOR
- PRINCI milanese bakery in the heart of london Tucked away behind a modest fronting on Soho’s Wardour Street is arguably one of the best Italian bakeries in London. Named Princi, the bakery chain is massive in Milan but a well-kept secret over here. Divided into two halves, there is a takeaway bakery with seating to the right, and a proper Neapolitan pizzeria to the left, with a picturesque fired stone oven at its heart. You can see the chefs tossing the pizza dough, adding to the atmosphere; the emphasis on quality pizza is tangible.
IMAGE: GOURMET BURGER KITCHEN
go gourmet at gbk Everyone loves a good burger, but the pleasure they bring is often marred by feelings of guilt and bloating afterwards. Luckily, recent years have seen the introduction of more burger restaurants that angle towards a fresher, less instant and overall less greasy meal. GBK is one of these – a New Zealand-based restaurant that has become a successful chain in the UK (with over 30 in London alone), whilst managing to avoid feeling generic. As a vegetarian, it’s common to be offered only a couple of token options on some menus – particularly in a burger restaurant – but the choices GBK present are fantastic. There are currently three, though they’re each so delicious
having it coated in breadcrumbs and fried – my friend opted for char-grilled, and was certainly not disappointed. Their beef burgers are proudly proclaimed to be 100% West Country beef, and options range from The Kiwiburger (beetroot, egg, pineapple and cheddar, plus relish and mayo) to The Don (American cheese, gorgonzola, bacon aioli, rocket, onion jam, pickled onion and house mayo, all encased in a brioche bun), so you certainly won’t suffer from a lack of choice. My choice for sides will always be the skin-on chunky fries (with a healthy portion of garlic
To make up for the disappointing value, the bakery offers many little delights that can’t be replicated in a small home oven: try the rustici, mini puff pastry slices full of cheeses and vegetables. The desserts are also brilliant, with gelato and panna cotta available, but the highlight is the baked tarts: peach and pistachio, ricotta and cherry, and my ultimate favourite, the cannoli Siciliano. These are executed perfectly, and always freshly baked. If you don’t have the time to sit down at their table, don’t fret: you can buy breads or cheeses to take home, or have a foccacia sandwich made to go. Try the parma ham, tomato and mozzarella for £4.60. Prices on this side are quite modest – an olive foccacia (ideal as an alternative to a lunchtime Pret sandwich) is only £2.50.
/ EMILY MONTFORD / KCL / CONTRIBUTOR
The non-vegetarian burgers are also, I’ve been assured, fantastic – I introduced a friend to GBK a few weeks ago, and the look on her face when presented with the Chicken, Camembert & Cranberry was brilliant to behold. With chicken burgers you are presented with the option of char-grilling or
The focaccia pizza slices present a great chance to try different flavours, such as pesto, French bean & pine nut, or the ham & crescenza. There are alternatives to the pizza, for example some wonderful lasagne, and pasta dishes including calamari with chilli and chickpeas – but it is clear that, despite these, pizza is the star. Salads are a bit steeper in price, and though delicious, their simplicity can leave you dissatisfied. While the French bean salad with olive tapenade is tasty, it costs £7.80, which is significantly pricier than if you’d tossed together the ingredients at home.
It’s not only the aesthetic of the bakery or the atmosphere that is appealing to the customers, but the obvious quality of the ingredients, and the authenticity of the recipes. As students, maybe we’ll only be able to visit occasionally due to budgetary constraints, but it does break the monotony of a lunchtime sandwich, and is perfect for an evening meal out in central London.
Even the burger bun is something special – the lightly toasted sourdough bread gives it that extra hint of luxury
in their own right that I couldn’t complain even if that was cut down. My personal favourite is the falafel: crisp on the outside with a soft, spicy interior, surrounded by a mix of warm chilli salsa, fresh cucumber raita and a glorious amount of garlic mayonnaise. Even the burger bun is something special – the lightly toasted sourdough bread gives it that extra hint of luxury, and creates a lovely flavour rather than just being something to hold the filling together.
At lunchtime Princi is relaxed, full of friends or business meetings, with customers mostly choosing to buy casual baked goods instead of a full-scale dining experience, but in the evening the place is buzzing. It is always packed: you can hear the noise from the street, and smell the food as you step through the door. The menu is designed around the premise of quality ingredients in simple, delicious recipes. While the menu offers a vast amount of choice, the food itself is far from overwhelming, unlike the usual greasy “Italian” that high streets throw at us.
mayonnaise on the side) – they’re crisp, fluffy and cooked to perfection. On trying the skinny fries I found them just that bit too skinny for my liking (though improved by the addition of Hei Hei salt, regular salt with added spice and flavours), but each to their own. At an average of £9 per burger it’s perhaps not the cheapest choice – but they frequently offer deals, and downloading their app gives you a 30% student discount and allows you to gain more expensive freebies the more you visit: beginning with a free dipping sauce and culminating in a free burger. For me it’s a firm favourite, and I guarantee that after your first visit, it will be yours too.
/ ZOSIA EDWARDS / RHUL / CONTRIBUTOR
OUR ALTERNATIVE GUIDE TO NORTHERN IRELAND In honour of St Patrick’s Day, we asked our very own patron saint of Northern Ireland, Dean Courtney, to take us on a scenic tour of his homeland. If you’re expecting a pint of Guinness and a handful of lucky charms, you’d be wrong. Here’s Dean’s guide to Northern ireland...
BELFAST STROKE CITY OTHERWISE KNOWN AS DERRY Not a place renowned for its high standards of public health, or indeed life expectancy, Stroke City is merely a local colloquialism born out of the ever-present dispute into the correct name for Derry/ Londonderry. Politics are hard to avoid in a city whose very name assumes deep political allegiance, but mercifully anaesthetisation of this heavily divided area has arrived in the form of its award as the UK City of Culture for 2013. This citywide arts and culture plan was aimed at transforming the city’s ailing fortunes through the creation of a reinvigorated tourism agenda, selling a new image of Derry as depoliticised, artsy, and really rather middle class to a city which is truly anything but. However, whilst Derry was named one of the top ten cities in the world to visit by Lonely Planet, it would be a shame if this attracted a standardissue, community-wrecking regeneration. For within its famous walls, Derry epitomises its people’s division, betrayal and resilience in a way that the asinine, pictureperfect “Peace Bridge” could never achieve. Before heading off, do nip briefly across the border to nearby Muff. The border village merits special mention for the Muff Diving Club, should plunging yourself into the ice-cold depths of the Atlantic Ocean to inevitably hit rock bottom is of any interest to you. €15 buys lifetime membership at the Muff Diving Club, including an official “Muff Diver” certificate, a must for any small bathroom wall.
CASTLEROCK An essential treat, but often neglected by the traditional tourist rabbles, is the train trip from Bellerena to Castlerock. Described by Michael Palin as one of the best in the world, this short trip passes the foot of Binevenagh Mountain, which towers spectacularly over the North Coast, its views extending out to County Donegal and on the rare clear day, across to Scotland, through sandy beaches, towards Ireland’s longest railway tunnel, dramatically carved through a cliff. It took 3,600 pounds of gunpowder to blow out the tunnel in 1853. Castlerock is not very notable in itself, being a small and rather artsy seaside town with a couple of cafes and bars. However, it’s the surrounding area that brings people here. Miles of white beaches on one side, and coastal cliff edge walking on the other. Make your way through the rather ominously titled Black Glen, and be sure to check out Mussenden Temple, a historic library perched perilously close to a 120ft cliff top. This area falls under the remit of the National Trust, and while mostly free except car parking, you can spend the rather arbitrary £4.27 to go inside Hewlett House – Ireland’s oldest thatched cottage. Or skip it and have a pint, and admire the outside for free.Thatch is an external feature, after all.
BALLYCASTLE/ RATHLIN ISLAND
GIANT’S CAUSEWAY & CARRICK-A-REDE The Giant’s Causeway (background) is one of the natural world’s most captivating phenomena, and rightly protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Recently opened on the site is the Stirling Prize-nominated visitors’ centre, to explain the science and mythology behind the endless basalt Blockbusters board. The building is sensitive, and doesn’t undermine the sensational views leading up to the site. Its erection does come with a cost though – although previously free, there’s now a rather steep entrance fee. Just down the road is Carrick-aRede, a traditional fisherman’s rope bridge connecting the coast to a small, rocky island famed as an ideal spot for salmon fishing. Whilst the traditional use is long gone, what remains is a stomachchurning walk, with only some rope and a plank saving you from a most spectacular death. Less death-defying once the spoilsport attendants stop people from bouncing across the bridge, but you’ll still want a pint afterwards. Giant’s Causeway £8.50; Carrick-aRede £5.60. Discounts available.
Ballycastle, hometown of dried salty seaweed – the alleged delicacy dulse (inexplicably pronounced “dul-lis”), contains a Kebab-A-Rama, a caravan park and a petrol station. One local secret is just outside the town, the Vanishing Lake Loughareema. Why or not it cares to grace you with its presence nobody can quite work out, so it remains an unanswered, bolshy, natural phenomenon. Ballycastle is also a short ferry ride away from the 6-mile-long Rathlin Island. The island now boasts a rising population of 100, and is the only inhabited island off the Northern Irish coast. It is essentially a geologist’s wet dream, but do take in a blissfully quiet pint before the arrival of broadband turns the islanders to pornography. Ballycastle to Rathlin Island Ferry £6.
Full disclosure before I go on, I’m a Belfast man. I’ve always been disturbed by travel guides that portray Belfast solely with a narrative of the The Troubles or the bloody Titanic. Aside from telling you to avoid the expensive, hideous tourist dice that is the Titanic Centre like the plague, I wish to talk about neither. Belfast is slowly becoming a venue in its own right, no longer the poor man’s Dublin, no longer its own worst enemy. In recent years, the regeneration of the Cathedral Quarter has established Belfast as a cultural hub. Traditional cobbled streets filled with restaurants and pubs – streets that tell their own story of the city’s industrial heritage. Also too good to miss is the MAC, an architecturally fascinating contemporary art gallery opened last year and proving a real hit with the locals. Just ignore the faux-Mediterranean square on which it resides, you can file that under Neoliberal Urban Regeneration Guff (NURG). Also worth a visit is the Botanic Gardens, a public park containing, oddly enough, Victorian botanical gardens. Avoid the Ulster Museum, and head instead for the Lyric Theatre, which has recently been redeveloped to much fanfare among architects. Belfast certainly has enough to keep you going for a pleasant evening or two. Rather sadly, though, and not unlike other UK urban centres, the city is slipping towards NURG, but I urge you to visit and make your own mind up: sadly not a lot of people do. The Lyric Theatre: Tickets from around £10. MAC: Galleries are free, shows and events may charge a fee. Black Box: from free.
/ DEAN COURTNEY / GOLDSMITHS / CONTRIBUTOR
days and nights WILLIAM BASINSKI & MICHAEL GIRA (SWANS)
VERONESE: MAGNIFICENCE IN RENAISSANCE VENICE
12 March, 7pm St John-at-Hackney Church £18
19 March - 15 June National Gallery £8
FASHION WORLD OF JEAN PAUL GAULTIER
Showcasing 190 garments and ditigal archives, and featuring a talk from the enfant terrible himself 9 April – 25 August Barbican Centre Prices vary, from free
An exhibition, screening and discussion on queer presenting brown bodies and how they are perceived 16-29 April Rich Mix Free
PETER FRÖBERG IDLING IN CONVERSATION WITH DAVID PILLING
OSGUT TON WITH BEN KLOCK AND MARCEL FENGLER
Fröberg discusses his debut novel Song for an Approaching Storm, a political thriller set in 1950s Cambodia. 10 March, 7pm Daunt Books £5
16 March, 12pm The Village Underground £17.50
IN THE WOLF’S MOUTH: ADAM FOULDS WITH ANDREW MOTION Foulds discusses his latest novel, which explores themes of violence, distorted history and war. 12 March, 7pm London Review Bookshop £10
CABIN PRESENTS: APPLEBLIM, ASUSU 14 March, 10pm Rhythm Factory £5
EXPLODING CINEMA A night of short film, performances, music and mayhem 14 March, 7pm Peckham Liberal Club £5
CAMBERWELL FREE FILM FESTIVAL Showing Wadjda, Blue is the Warmest Colour and many others 20-30 March Various locations
PAUL DURCAN: LIFE IS A DREAM
VOICES OF WOMANHOOD FESTIVAL DAY
A celebration of works by the Irish poet on St. Patrick’s Day 17 March, 6.30pm Southbank Centre Free, RSVP required
23 March, 11am – 9pm Roxy Bar and Screen From £7.30
SHORT SIGHTED CINEMA PRESENTS... DRUGS
Performances of contemporary and traditional poetry 23 March, 2pm Keats House Free
18 March, 7:30pm Upstairs at The Ritzy £5
THE SLEEPING BEAUTY Royal Ballet production live in cinemas across London, filmed from the Royal Opera House 19 March, 7.15pm From £15
ANIMATING THE WORD: PLAYING POETRY
20 March, 7pm Shepherd’s Bush Empire £19
14 March, 11pm Egg London £18.50
SCRATCH MIXER Regular showcase of London’s most exciting new spoken word 20 March, 7pm Southbank Centre £2.50
Six key post-war artists that redefined Germany Until 31 August British Museum Free
RE:VAULT FILM DEN
31 March, 7pm Bar Kick, Shoreditch £2.50
Until 19 April Drawing Room Free on Mon & Tues
A pop-up restaurant puts a seafood spin on gourmet fast food Tue-Sat, until 31 March Kensington Palace
Until 27 April Hayward Gallery £9
LONDON COFFEE FESTIVAL
Written by Shelagh Delaney when she was nineteen, one of the great defining and taboo-breaking plays of the 1950s Until 11 May National Theatre From £15
A TASTE OF HONEY
3-6 April The Old Truman Brewery £11.50 in advance
MEET THE BREWER
BARBICAN YOUNG POETS SHOWCASE 26 March, 7pm Barbican Centre Free, RSVP required
WE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT…
26 March, 8pm Café OTO £14
NINA CANELL: NEAR HERE YOUSEF, LAURENT GARNIER & STEVE LAWLER
GERMANY DIVIDED: BASELITZ AND HIS GENERATION
Ale samples and a BBQ, featuring The Five Points Brewing Company 10 April, 7pm Climpsons Arch Free admission
HAUSCHKA WE ARE SCIENTISTS
BRICK LANE, BY PHIL MAXWELL B&W photographs of Brick Lane, from 1982 4-28 April Rich Mix Free
The Swedish sculptor turns electrical currents, stray socks or chewing gum into sculptures Until 30 March Camden Arts Centre Free
The little-known story of the first genocide of the 20th century Until 12 April Bush Theatre £12
DAVID HOCKNEY, PRINTMAKER Until 11 May Dulwich Picture Gallery £5 for students
FILM WORLD OF JEAN PAUL GAULTIER
HERA MASTER COME DOWN
Complementing The Fashion World Of Jean Paul Gaultier, Barbican presents film season curated by the iconic French designer. 22-29 May Barbican Centre £8.50
An exhibition to celebrate Ntiense Eno Amooquaye’s new writing Until 13 April Southbank Centre Free
Until 14 June Noel Coward Theatre From £9.50
THE FULL MONTY
from the archives
The London Student photographic archives consist of two drawers in an ancient filing cabinet, sitting stoutly in the corner of the editorâ€™s office. Images vary from press shots of late 80s TV stars and 90s fashion campaigns to gritty social documentary. Unfortunately, our predecessors were somewhat lax in their archiving skills, and a huge amount of images are without names, dates, or any identifying information.
For our final issue, we wanted to showcase just a few of these hidden gems: photos which caught our eye, but which we have so far been unable to publish due to their anonymity. From a Soho strip clubâ€™s smiling porter (top left) to these mystery musicians playing a slightly bizarre, yet very impressive array of instruments (bottom right), we hope you enjoy these random glimpses into the past.
FIND US ON FACEBOOK BY SCANNING THE QR CODE WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/THESMOKELS TWITTER: @THESMOKELS
Features • 13
Monday 10th March 2014
already sold off-plan to foreign investors who may never see them. An Evening Standard investigation found there are more than 700 empty mansions, worth more than £3 billion, in London, most purchased by foreign investors and left to rot. And yet developers are building so many lavish homes in London – a projected 20,000 in the next ten years – that they’re risking saturating the market, even as construction on affordable homes stalls.
145,000 homes each year to meet demand – and that’s a conservative estimate. In London the situation is even more urgent: according to estimates from London Councils, which represents the city’s local authorities, the capital alone will need 800,000 new homes by 2021. A lean housing supply is one of the reasons the average house price in London is expected to rise to £600,000 by 2018, while private rents currently eat up more than half of families’ income in 23 out of 33 boroughs. The government desperately needs to intervene to accelerate home building. Their proposals, however, replicate the mistakes of postwar construction and towns like Harlow, potentially creating a ring of underserviced and unsustainable dormitory towns for the working classes beyond the green belt – a set of distant banlieues on the Parisian model for London. They’re a plan to rescue London by safely transporting its poorer residents
and workers to the countryside and leaving the city as a playground for investors and the rich. There’s been a cultural shift in London in the last decade, as affluent, and often white, residents reverse their parents and grandparents’ mid-century flight to suburbs and distant towns and set about reclaiming – gentrifying – the neighbourhoods, like Brixton and Peckham, they abandoned generations ago. They’re reaping the benefits of a safer, cleaner London, one where almost every area is now furnished with Starbucks and minor penthouses, and they’re driving everyone else out. In September the Economist called this shift the ‘great inversion’ and published data from luxury estate agent Savills showing that, between the 2001 and 2011 censuses, much of central London went ‘upmarket.’ As areas from Dalston to Peckham experienced an influx of residents of a higher socioeconomic class, the Metroland suburbs, the ideal destination for
Above: Envisioned as space-age walkways filled with busy citizens, Harlow’s precincts and pedestrian flyovers now speak of neglect and disuse. Photo: Sean Spurr
the first urban refugees in the 1920s and 1930s, went significantly ‘downmarket.’ Their house prices stagnated, and their residents became less wealthy and less white. Clearly, the dream of suburban splendor has rusted for those with a choice, both in Harrow and all along the Metropolitan line and in Cold War new towns like Harlow. It will decay even more as costs of fuel make car ownership and autobased towns unsupportable. However, London’s housing ‘crunch’ has been represented as unfixable within the bounds of the M25. There isn’t enough space to build the needed 800,000 homes and house everyone, we’re told, at least without disrupting protected views and overriding nimby influences in planning applications. Meanwhile, new luxury high-rise residential builds rise higher every day in Vauxhall, Stratford, and Canary Wharf, their flats
Below: Henry Moore’s notable ‘Harlow Family Group’ sculpture now sits on some blue carpeting in the Civic Centre Photo: Henry Moore Foundation
here are alternatives to 21st century Harlows. Governments could intervene to force the building of dense, affordable high-rise development in areas where people want to live. Located close to cultural assets and jobs, these developments are not only more inherently sustainable than new towns, but also lead to more culturally nourished and socially enriched lives for their inhabitants. Jobs could be moved to major cities less affected by the housing crisis. Policies to relocate industry and commerce from London were in place shortly after World War II and could be re-implemented. Other people could be encouraged to move for cultural and educational reasons: funding for both is currently concentrated in London. Rather than moving Londoners to bleak new towns, sustainable living could be encouraged in brownfield plots in the centres of cities like Leeds and Birmingham. These solutions make more economic and ecological sense than conjuring up entirely new towns in faraway countryside, or would if politicians’ housing policies weren’t explicitly designed to preserve London, and its inflated property prices, for a certain type of person. Insistence on developing new stop valves for London overspill, rather than building within the city or fostering economic and cultural centres elsewhere evidences both a London bias, a jealous guarding of its culture and resources, and a creeping trend of social cleansing of its splendour. The Heygate estate is razed to make way for expensive developments and its residents pushed into outer boroughs or out of London entirely. Newham council tries to lease properties in Stoke-on-Trent for 500 families on its council house waiting list. And London builds new banlieues to keep crucial workers within commuting distance, but nowhere near its precious property values. Two years ago Henry Moore’s Family Group sculpture, a landmark in Harlow, was packed up and carted away to the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. It returned six months later, but the symbolism was thick: Harlow, however utopian its plans, has become a dim satellite of London, drained of culture and wealth and left to those who can’t afford any better. Additional reporting by Sean Spurr
14 • Features
Monday 10th March 2014
THE YEAR GOLDSMITHS SUPPORTED THE MINERS’ STRIKE Colin Fancy was at Goldsmiths in 1984 when students joined the miners’ pickets: on the 30th anniversiry of the strike, this is his account Colin Fancy Spring term 1984 A group of activists are chatting in the Students’ Union (SU) bar when we hear that the National Union of Miners (NUM) have come out on strike. It’s bad timing for the miners, and me. For the miners it’s the beginning of spring so coal is less in demand. For me the end of year exams are looming and I was about to ease up on being so active politically. Oh well... Talk in the bar turns into a heated discussion about the miners’ strikes of the 1970’s, the power cuts which plunged us all into darkness and eventually brought down the Tory government. We would love to see history repeated and an end to the Thatcher regime... “Maggie, Maggie Maggie... OUT! OUT! OUT!” There’s something in the air, something is beginning. So far being at Goldsmiths’ College has felt like living on an island as south east London roars past, but the outside world is about to make an impact on all of us – and in my case affect the rest of my life. Summer term 1984 When we return after Easter the miners’ strike has spread across the country – except to Nottinghamshire coalfields where most miners are refusing to join the strike. A call goes out for a mass picket and march in the heart of Nottinghamshire, so a coach full of students and other strike supporters heads north from London. The sun is shining, there’s a great turn out but a number of incidents mean the day is depressing. “Here we go, here we go, here we go,” everyone sings as we parade down Mansfield High Street holding high our SU banner. A National
We would love to see history repeated and an end to the Thatcher regime
Coal Board (NCB) train trundles across a bridge above us piled high with coal – the NCB are boasting that the strike isn’t biting and power cuts are a long way off. Some of the young miners near us chant at young women standing on the pavement, “get your tits out for the lads!” and a couple of the women do. Later we hear a chant from the back of the march: “I’d rather be a Paki than a scab!” We return to the coach downhearted and confused and it takes Lindsey Roth, a third year nursing student and experienced trade unionist, to offer another perspective: “Who supported the Asian women on the Grunwicks picket lines in 1976? It wasn’t the Labour Government. It wasn’t the TUC. It was miners who stood in solidarity with them.” The miners need money – for petrol so they can travel the country as flying pickets and to feed their families. Lindsey calls the first meeting of the Goldsmiths Miners Support Group. We rattle buckets all around college crying, “Dig deep for the miners!” We propose a solidarity motion which is debated and passed at a packed SU meeting and we paste up posters saying VICTORY TO THE MINERS all along Lewisham Way and down Deptford High Street. Even more than money, the miners need solidarity action – they need the other trades unions to open up a second front. My department, Media and Communications, announces that lecturers are to be cut from the small staff team. The SU launch a campaign against the job cuts; some people suggest letters to the College Dean whilst we call for an occupation. The anti-cuts campaign begins with petitions and lobbying the governors but soon picks up speed,
Features • 15
Monday 10th March 2014
drawn by the little taste of power that we have achieved through disrupting the college machine. The end of year exams are approaching like a ten ton truck hurtling down Lewisham Way. These exams are the most important I will face at college as they are the gateway to two more years of free education, and a grant to live on. The piece of paper I may receive at the end of the degree will enable me to... what? Return to the uncertainty of unemployment and depression of the early 80’s? Miners have spoken at most meetings I’ve been at in college and around south east London. They usually spend 5-10 minutes explaining the miners’ case, updating us on the action and making an appeal for support. The miner who arrives at the occupation introduces himself as Norman Strike and it’s his real name. Norman has so many stories to tell and tells them so well that he keeps everyone in the occupation entranced for the best part of an hour. Richard Hoggart, the college Dean, is reaching retirement and plays a waiting game rather than calling the police to evict us. With summer holidays approaching we end the occupation after eight days and sit our exams. The cuts to staff are postponed and we cautiously celebrate. Lindsey graduates and it takes time for me to recognise that she lead our group of socialists with such a sophisticated and unassuming manner that it was easy not to realise she was doing so. I’m the first to admit that when it’s left to me to co-ordinate the group, I fail to do so without annoying several supporters.
We rise before dawn to join the other miners and students marching down the dark country lanes to the pit
Spring term 1985
Autumn term 1984
Above: students including those from Goldsmiths march down Whitehall in 1985 – visible in the foreground is the Goldsmiths’ student union banner held up by the author. The photo was given to given to the author anonymously; left: a pro-miner protest marches through London’s West End in 1984. Photos: CC
and busy with the strike, we have to run to catch up. Before we know it a hundred students are occupying the Administration block. The Head of Department making the cuts is known for his book Power Without Responsibility – and with the addition of a kind question mark the phrase is emblazoned on a huge banner hung across the occupied building. Passions of all kinds are running high during the occupation, there’s a constant fear of eviction by the police, days of debate, visits from students, miners and other trade unionists and sleeping on the hard office floors. For over a week the experience is exhilarating but also exhausting. The mood is fairly serious and as socialist activists we are always looking to make the occupation as effective as possible. Having reached the ripe old age of 23 avoiding responsibility of any kind, I definitely find the collective responsibility of running the occupation a challenge and, being a local boy, sneak off to my family home for Sunday dinner and a bath. I’m soon back in the throng,
Amazingly, I pass my first year exams and the miners’ strike is still going strong when we return to college. But a shortage of funds and food means things are now more desperate for the miners’ families. Women from the mining communities are playing a more and more crucial role as the strike fights to sustain itself. Two women from the Shirebrook Colliery in Derbyshire come to our union meeting. The women describe breaking out of their former lives of kids, kitchen and mundane jobs and how they’re “never going back.” I raise my hand and the SU president reminds me, “No speeches, only questions...” “Here’s my question,” I say to the Derbyshire women, “We’ve collected £347 this term... Do you want it?” “Yes please,” they smile appreciatively. One Sunday afternoon in December a coach load of students head down to Betteshanger Colliery in Kent with some Christmas presents. We have an evening in the Miners’ Social Club and are put up in miners’ family homes. We rise before dawn to join the other miners and students marching down the dark country lanes to the pit singing “I’d rather be a picket than a scab.” I haven’t heard the racist or sexist
chants since the march in Mansfield near the beginning of the strike. Not a single miner has crossed their picket line, but neither have they persuaded the foremen at the pit to join the strike, so the picket is a dignified but frustrating affair and we’re soon back at the social club for sausage sandwiches. Our host, Alan, laments, “We’ve been left to fight Thatcher alone – Labour and TUC leaders have abandoned us.” As well as marches, meetings, and pickets of power stations, there are many benefit gigs, comedy and social events organised to support the miners. There’s an eruption of gigs and benefits for the miners – with the likes of Paul Weller, newcomers the Pogues, Redskins and the Smiths. At one gig a friend is so incensed that the miners aren’t being acknowledged that he harangues the band who shout back that they had done many benefits for the miners but that they also have to earn something for themselves. I grab a beer mug and stand at the door collecting cash as people leave.
The author wished to dedicate this article to the memory of Lindsey Roth (later Lindsey Brewerton), 1953-2011 – a warm, determined and hopeful person. “She had a kind word to say for everyone – except the Tories.”
Fatigue is affecting everyone involved in the strike, but rattling buckets back in the college bar still raises some money and some debate. “What about the violence on picket lines?” asks one student. “When the police aren’t around there is no violence,” I answer. The student attends the Miners Support Group the following week to pursue the debate further. She introduces herself as Kirsti and a month later joins the final Victory to the Miners march across London. Almost a year into the dispute I’m grateful to have someone else to help carry the SU banner. “Here we go, here we go, here we go...” The most militant miners lead part of the march down Whitehall towards No. 10 Downing Street (Thatcher hasn’t erected those metal gates at the time). The police stand in the way and push turns to shove. “The workers united will never be defeated,” everyone chants and we link arms. Fighting breaks out with the police, a reflection of the bitterness, determination and frustration of the miners and their supporters. In the photo from Whitehall, Kirsti and I are holding up the SU banner. From these beginnings our friendship grows, we become comrades in arms and end up today living together with our teenage children. The strike ends in defeat, the effects of which impact on the country for decades. The women and men of the mining communities fought an astonishing battle and were made to pay a bitter price by the government. Those of us across the country who fought alongside the miners gave something of ourselves to support the strike but received so much more in return. In sometimes small, but always significant, ways we have continued to do so down the decades... VICTORY TO THE MINERS!
16 • Features
Monday 10th March 2014
NOTEBOOK ANNIE COHEN
nother column featuring multiple trips to the Southbank – beginning with a 3 hour stand up marathon by Stewart Lee. He’s a difficult man to review, as it would basically just be me saying stuff about a man who says a lot of stuff about stuff. He spent a large part of his routine commenting on his own commentary, and was far better at it than I could be. I lolled a lot, a sure sign of good comedy, and like most of my favourite comedians a lot of his jokes were metalayered truisms about the ridiculousness of the world. The night was further improved by the discovery that mulled wine was still being served several weeks after New Year. I have never understood why mulled wine is a seasonal thing – February is the coldest, most depressing month, and therefore the most in need of mulled wine, and LOLs. After the performance we spotted Rhod Gilbert and Greg Davies eating dim sum. I reluctantly refrained from Facebook statusing because of Stewart Lee’s lingering hatred of Twitter, which he referred to as ‘the Stasi of the Ocado generation’. Further down the river, Audrey Hepburn’s Funny Face is once again appearing at the BFI. I still react to everything she says with incredulous disbelief, an irritating quality in an actress, but I bore my irritation for the sake of her co-star Fred Astaire, who I love. He seems reliably genial for such a brilliant tapdancer.
have recently been on a Roman Holiday of my own, except I didn’t go to Rome this time but to visit my aunt in Tuscany. I was only there for a few days, so sightseeing opportunities were limited, but I have been numerous times before and no doubt will go again, and mostly went for the promise of wine, a comfy bed and TLC. It’s an odd thing about having family abroad, that you will fly on a plane just to sit in a familiar kitchen and drink tea. I climbed a hill each day to look at a beautiful view, walked round Cortona, the hill town of ‘under the Tuscan sun’ fame. I saw some frescos and some small statues of Pinocchio, ate pizza, and watched a film with Geoffrey Rush dubbed into Italian. This trip was also the first time I had been on a plane since 2010, and I completely forgot to be scared until we started boarding. I did something similar with the Eurostar – forgetting that it would be going under the sea and then suddenly getting horrible images of the bit with the pike in The Sword in the Stone. I’m not terrified of flying, and managed it without taking up my sister’s offer of ‘disco valium’, but the concept of getting a winged bus
into the air, combined with the slightly plasticy feel of most airlines, makes it seem like a rather bad idea. I always end up at the window next to the engine, and spend the minutes before take-off eyeing it with suspicion, thinking how it looks like the end of the BFG’s hairdryer and is also the thing that is going to keep us aloft for the next few hours. If I am ever blessed with lots of money and time, I will become like Graham Greene’s Aunt Augusta, and travel everywhere by boat and train. Aside from the risk of plummeting to one’s death, I agree with her that part of the travelling is in the journey, and you don’t get to see where you are going on a plane. I began to reconsider this position when I landed in Florence at sunset, and saw the stunning view of the Duomo appearing through the clouds. Until the awful low-budget airline theme music came on the overhead and ruined my moment. I have added the question ‘why are smoking signs still lit up on planes?’ to my list of observational comedy questions, along with ‘why don’t more places serve mulled wine in February?’
n returning to London, I started a new job. Luckily spending a week in Italy prior to this means I have efficiently maximised my drinking on non-work night opportunities. I began my first column ranting about how much I hate roads, and now I find myself working in a reclaimed space underneath a motorway. The Westway Development Trust is a nonprofit social enterprise, founded in the seventies to manage and regenerate the land left derelict when the giant concrete Westway was erected, bulldozing its way through Kensington and Chelsea. The Trust was born out of local protest at the building of the road, and has the expressed and realised aim of using the land for the good of the community, particularly those from more deprived areas. The offices under the Westway itself host a number of charities, social services and learning centres for adults and children, and the money generated by the Trust’s properties is used in part to fund resources for those on lower incomes, as well as the work of the Trust itself. All this is happening alongside a pop-up cinema ‘Films under the Flyover’, Portobello market, an extremely colourful climbing wall and, apparently, at Christmas time an ‘eco’ open-air ice rink. All my favourite things about London, right underneath my most hated thing. I have discovered that when you are underneath it, a motorway sort of sounds like the sea. Oddly, more so than the sea does when experienced from inside the channel.
The way we live now
Not funny any more: value baked beans on toast Photo: CC As I sit at my desk, and Cupid sits at his desk, and the whole London Student editorial team contemplates our untimely demise, I wonder on what topic I should finish my final column. I thought about writing a comparison of my first student experience at 19, following a private girls school and a gap yah, and with unquestioned financial support from my father, and recently as a 27-yearold mature student with no money and more extenuating circumstances than qualifications. But, as is self evident, there are too many variables for an accurate comparison. No methodology is necessary to guess which life was easier. However, with a wider sample – referencing others’ experiences as well as my own, I have come to the conclusion that being a student has got a lot more difficult in just 8 years. Not only have our fees tripled, but we struggle to live off the money that we are going to have to pay back anyway. In London in particular the maintenance loan just covers the cost of halls. It’s not impossible; jokes about students living off value baked beans are like a 50-year-old meme. But I think when our parents generation make that joke, it’s with the implication that money has been blown on books and beer. It’s less funny when you are trying to live off 50 quid a week or less in London. Doable, but increasingly less so when you have other problems to deal with beyond studying and surviving. And it’s not just the financial hardships, but what they represent – in 8 years universities seem to have become increasingly geared in attitude as well as process to the person I was at 19.
For friends of mine who graduated 10 or 15 years ago, university was an opportunity to gain some independence without being completely chucked in the grown up world of making ends meet. It is that generation who I have heard express more upset and outrage at the closure of ULU. University is still an opportunity, but it is also a struggle, and the more you have to struggle the more you see your opportunities decrease. Many universities are behaving less and less like educational communities, and increasingly like businesses, selling education to the easiest and most lucrative customers. The difficulty of ‘starting up’ as a young person in London, and how this has got harder in the last few decades, was one of Stewart Lee’s topics that he grudgingly observed got more nods than laughs. He made it funny, but then he also referred to his performance as a long suicide note. I, too, am struggling to end lightheartedly. I suppose the fact is, pissed off that I might be saying goodbye to London Student, and to ULU, and to the context in which this is happening, I’m also optimistic. I know people will go on fighting, and writing. Not only universities but other public sector institutions seem to be going the same way. My experiences of the decline in the NHS’s services, both physical and mental health, could fill at least another newspaper. Healthcare and education are things that people need. They cannot function as businesses, and when they try it’s devastating, but also just testament to the ridiculous world best described by misanthropic comedians.
Monday 10th March 2014
EXPAND OR DIE
Debate | Page 20-21
Andrew Dolan | Page 19
What’s the future of the British newspaper?
The university is being turned into a business
The terrifying trade treaty between the EU and US you’ve probably never heard of The deal will strengthen multinational corporations at the expense of governments and citizens
omewhere in the recesses of the European Commission headquarters, delegations from the EU and the USA are negotiating a new free trade agreement, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Together, the signatories to this treaty will account for 46% of the world economy. Packaged in the usual acronym-laden, eye-popping tedium of EU regulations, ‘free trade’ is a rather benign name for the regulations that ‘TTIP’ promises to roll out across Europe and North America. Regional trade tariffs between the EU and the USA are already minimal. TTIP, however, takes the idea of capitalist free trade to its logical conclusion, putting in place measures to ensure that the free flow of capital goes unhampered by the demands of state legislators or the needs of the people they represent. Perhaps the most worrying part of this agreement is the provision known as InvestorState Dispute Settlements. It enshrines in international law the right of transnational companies to sue individual governments for loss of profit resulting from government
activity at any level in the categories of [deep breath] Business, Communication, Construction and Engineering, Distribution, Education, Environment, Financial, Health, Tourism and Travel, Recreation, Cultural, and Sporting, Transport and ‘Other’. These cases are heard in secretive courts by a handful of judges. There is no procedure to appeal their decision. In short, ISDS encodes a business’ legal right to profit. Though it was quietly paper-clipped onto the trade treaty with surprisingly little media attention, the power of ISDS should not be underestimated. Progressive labour legislation – such as safety regulations, parental leave, or protections for unions – are consciously intended to claw back profit from corporations for the benefit of the workers who create it. Thanks to ISDS, minimal concessions like these could theoretically be in violation of international law. Indeed, any nation state attempting to restrict the ways in which companies can profit from its resources and its citizens must potentially first face down transnational companies reaching deep into their pockets for armies of lawyers and lengthy legal processes. No wonder, then, that many critics fear a ‘chill effect’, in which governments are deterred from legislating in the first place. No need to adjust your television screens. Indeed, ISDS-like provisions are already becoming common, often rolled in with the
bilateral free trade agreements that have begun to supplant the World Trade Organisation as the go-to method for creating and enforcing international trade law. The combination of secretive courts and the ‘chill effect’ mean that the true human cost of these provisions is incalculable. But it’s painfully clear that the possibility of even token social-democratic concessions is already buckling under the pressure of such legislation. In 1997 Canada passed a law banning the use of fuel additive MMT in petrol, after it was discovered that the chemical is dangerously neurotoxic. Newly burdened by the irksome responsibility of not lacing their products with brain-poison, the fuel additive producer Ethyl Co used North American free trade legislation to file a suit against the Canadian government for loss of trade. Fearing a prolonged and costly legal battle, the government withdrew the law and Ethyl quietly settled out of court for a figure of $13 million. The people of Argentina can tell a similar story about when international fuel companies sued the government over a hardwon freeze on energy prices. Transnational corporations have been steadily gifted the ability to punish nations for legislating in the interests of their citizens. So it’s understandable that the treaty is sometimes bemoaned as a violation of state sovereignty. Strange, then, that it is the heads of these states apparently negotiating away their own
power. It rather raises the question of what we talk about when we talk about national sovereignty. TTIP does not confiscate water cannon. It doesn’t disband the police, and it opens no prison gates. The apparatus of state power remains intact – it just so happens that it can only be used to enforce laws of which big business approves. It’s not damaging because it impinges upon the power that states wield over their citizens. It’s damaging because it impinges on the rights and power of those citizens. When elected representatives are at least nominally accountable and nominally responsible for the legislation they create, it gives us a soft spot in the earth in which to hammer a sign: the buck stops here. But when the government is legally required to protect profit, from whom can we demand a constitutional living wage or environmental protections? The diffusion of responsibility through treaties like TTIP ensures that legislators the world over can shrug their shoulders in blithe apology. They cement a situation in which transnationals police the boundaries of the politically possible, and people are left with fewer and fewer mechanisms to call them to account. This is the ‘open and rules-based world’ promised by the European Commission at the opening of TTIP negotiations. No word yet on for whom this world is open.
How the media misrepresents and demonises the impoverished Ryan Browne
aturday 22nd February, a few weeks ago, was a normal day for the British media. The broadsheets led with Victor Yanukovych’s flight from Kiev, while the Sun’s front page featured the story of an overweight woman, under the headline “Benefits Made Me 23 Stone”. The language of sin, greed and gluttony abounds: according to the Sun reporter the woman – a sufferer of a dangerous medical condition linked to early death – “gorges at least three times a week on feasts from the local Chinese, McDonald’s or kebab van.” The writer notes that the 44-year-old sees herself as a product of the welfare state and blames “lavish benefits” for her consumption of fast food. This link is never
substantiated, simply asserted, and no other possible explanations are sought. Once again, an isolated example is sensationalised by the press and used to attack the whole notion of welfare. A starker, but fundamentally similar, example was that of the convicted murderer Mick Philpott, who the Daily Mail labelled a “product of Welfare UK”, as if a meaner benefits regime would have made him a nicer person. Such coverage of welfare is not limited to the printed press. Increasingly, television stations – both the BBC and its private counterparts – have taken the same tack. Channel 4 was accused of exploitative “poverty porn” over its show Benefits Street, many of whose participants complained that the editing of the show was selective and designed to make them look bad. Those who require sickness benefits have also been targeted. In January, the Daily Mail published a news article based on Department for Work and Pensions statistics showing that
“almost a million” of people who applied for sickness benefit had instead been found to be fit for work. Such statistics – coming from the department run by Iain Duncan Smith, who has been described by the Guardian journalist Nick Cohen as a liar – are unreliable. They also rely on assessments made through the programme run by Atos, the private firm that repeatedly found seriously ill people to be fit for work. Many such assessments are overturned on appeal. Such coverage feeds in to a dangerous narrative in which the weakest and most vulnerable in this society become its biggest villains. Tracey Freeman, 50, from Cumbria, despairs at people’s unwillingness to recognise the fact that she suffers from Multiple Sclerosis (MS): “I was a high functioning person, well educated, with a good future and prospects, and disability has robbed me of so much, which isn’t my fault.” People like Ms Freeman, who must claim benefits due to illness or other genuine misfortune, have
been completely underrepresented by the media. People such as her rarely enter into the public’s consciousness as the agenda has been set by coverage of a tiny number of cheats, or bad people who just happened to be claiming benefits. In reality, benefits cannot directly cause people to do harmful things, or to become greedy. If we want to talk about greed, we need look no further than the expenses scandal. Greed and dishonesty are endemic in the political class – indeed, a greater proportion of MPs were fiddling their expenses than claimants are fiddling their benefits. From tax evasion to owning multiple homes at the expense of the taxpayer, politicians have surely proven to be a far worse group of people than the unemployed or the sick. Society must learn to not always accept what is shown to them by the media as a true representation of the way people live in this country. The demonization of the poor couldn’t be more backward in the 21st century.
18 • Editorial
Monday 10th March 2014
Established as Sennet in 1954 Volume 34 Issue 8 University of London Union, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HY. Telephone: 020 7664 2054 firstname.lastname@example.org
We cannot trust the police to tell the truth in court In July last year London Student filmed as 17 Metropolitan Police officers arrested Konstancja Duff, a graduate and part time teacher at the University of London, dragging her from the ULU cafe and into a waiting van. The arrest and video footage prompted outcry. Eight hours after her arrest, our reporters watched as Ms. Duff emerged exhausted and shaken from Holborn police station, charged not only with criminal damage for slogans in support of outsourced university cleaners, but with two additonal counts of assaulting police officers. Last month those charges of assault were exposed as fiction. Special Constable David Inwood claimed on the first day of her trial to have witnessed Ms. Duff assaulting another officer, but when cross-examined with video footage it became clear that he had no possible line of sight
to witness an assault: he was behind a van door at the time. Speaking in court, defence barrister Benjamin Newton said Inwood’s account ‘bordered on perjury’. On day two of the trial, Police Constable Siobhan O’Grady took the stand, claiming Ms. Duff kicked her with such force she fell backwards into a van door. Again, video evidence revealed this as untrue: she never touched the door. O’Grady had, as the judge said herself, “exaggerated”. At the trial’s conclusion on the 25 February, Ms. Duff was found guilty of criminal damage and ordered to pay £1,020 towards cleaning of the chalk slogans and prosecution costs. She was, rightly, cleared of both assault charges. Without video evidence from London Student, it is possible that Ms. Duff would instead have been wrongfully convicted of two assaults that never happened.
False accusations such as these are, frankly, unsurprising from a police force whose anti-protest powers have, for over a decade, grown quasi-judicial and whose abuse of them has beecome increasingly normalised. This academic year alone has seen students arrested en masse, punched and beaten with batons, and handed stringent police bail conditions designed to scare them from further protest. Universities, as places of free thought and expression, used to be a harbour against such excessive and misused police powers. Now universities have become a manager’s world – and the managers are calling the cops. We (doubtless optimistically) urge the Met to make reparations to Konstancja Duff for its officers’ wrongful accusations. But above all, we urge our readers not to be silenced: to continue speaking out against injustices and to remain vigilant against police foul play.
There are seven slots for writers in London Student’s comment section and in the last issue I was very disappointed to find that you could only manage to fill one of them with a woman writer. This is one less woman in the comment section than the issue before, where five out of seven of the writers were men. This lack of women contributors has been a common theme with your newspaper throughout the year. The news section seemed to have no women contributors at all in some issues. This is unacceptable. A Guardian report found in 2011 that 74% of news journalists on the nationals are men and that men also still dominate political journalism. London Student is surely doing even worse than this. I’d like to think that student media has the power to do better in terms of representation than mainstream media industry, rather than sticking to the status quo and being dominated by white men time and time again. Try harder. Susuana Antubam, ULU Women’s Officer
Who cares about SU elections?
The previous few weeks have seen university campuses gear up for the students’ union elections. Banners, fliers, posters – it’s inescapable. But the disconnect between students and student politicians is there for all to see. It’s easy to say student politics attracts the wrong sort of person, but that’s because it does. False promises are rife, and these popularity contests often see self-indulgent hacks, for the most part, fighting between themselves to plant
a foot onto the NUS career ladder. The entire ordeal is so unforgivably bland that the London Student did not deem it worth reporting. But what’s the alternative? Without a democratically-elected body of peers in place, students’ welfare concerns would be taken up by university managers, who have shown in recent months just how out-of-touch they can be. As irrelevant as students’ unions and their elected officers may seem at any given time, we’d miss them if they weren’t there.
FROM THE ARCHIVE | ‘NEWS HOUND’ COLUMN, OCTOBER 1982
The Globe Theatre Illustration: Christian Inkpen
An interesting story came our way from the National Union of Students headquarters in Endsleigh Street this week. Unfortunately, we are not allowed to mention the name of the person involved, but believe us he’s up
there at the top. A member of the NUS exectuive, who shall remain nameless, was taking a party of comrades from the Swedish national union of students around number 3 Endsleigh Street and wanted to give them a nice cup of traditional English instant coffee. Unfortunately he couldn’t find any mugs (not the sort you drink out of anyway). So he purloined a few best china tea cups and saucers from the office of the afformentioned un-nameable. When this mystery-being returned from lunch and found its best-china cups missing, it went out seeking them. Enraged at seeing them being pawed by a bunch of Swedes, it wrested them from their puzzled grasp and carried the cups back off to its lair. Perhaps NUS should spend a little of the reported huge profit of National Student newspaper on buying a few paper cups, at least, for its thirsty visitors.
Comment • 19
Monday 10th March 2014
We’re told universities must expand or die But financial competition is destroying the university’s purpose: the expansion of knowledge
he transformations wrought in British universities over the last decade – and the decade to come – are about more than the size of student fees or the arrangements for their repayment. As universities attempt to manage the transition from largely public to private funding, their governance dynamics and strategy are being re-calibrated to suit a neoliberal outlook on education. The whole structure and purpose of the university as an institution is changing. Such changes are visible at my own university, Royal Holloway. In its most recent strategy document, ‘Our Future’, RH management emphasized financial concerns above all. The university, they wrote, is a private institution and therefore bears ‘responsibility for managing its affairs in a financially sustainable manner’. The notion of financial sustainability is not new, however, nor is it neutral. Speaking in March 2011, prior to attempting to close down the Classics and Italian departments on the grounds that neither were financially sustainable, Principal Paul Layzell called for ‘financial stability. . . so that we can think about developing staff, introducing new courses, and the normal business of running a university without going from one financial crisis to the next’. The ‘financial crisis’ Layzell cited was largely manufactured; it was management fees rather than direct departmental costs that pushed the Classics and Italian departments into deficit. Management later conceded that they had attempted to create an economic case for specific cuts where there was none. Nor, it must be noted, was there any academic justification for closure, especially in Classics, which now has the
highest student satisfaction rate of any course at the university. According to well-placed sources, management is now predicting that the university will post an annual deficit from 2016-2017 onwards. Little is known about the assumptions underlying this forecast, but what is known is that both the college council and Royal Holloway UCU have in recent years raised concerns over management’s pessimistic budgeting and forecasting. As the former pointed out in March 2012, ‘there was a history of significant variations between the budget and the outturn’. Such variations have in the last five years almost always been positive and so too have income-expenditure balances: for the 2012/2013 financial year the university’s annual surplus was £6,279 million. In other words, it appears that this latest warning is designed to evoke another imagined economic emergency, within which certain ideological pretensions and strategic aims receive economic justification. One
As universities attempt to manage the transition from largely public to private funding their governance dynamics and strategy are being re-calibrated to suit a neoliberal outlook on education such strategy, outlined in the aforementioned ‘Our Future’, is to “embed effective cost control processes”. In light of the coercive laws of competition unleashed by the coalition’s programme of marketisation, ‘effective cost control’ will likely translate into further wage cuts and attacks on working conditions, a familiar weapon in the arsenal of neoliberal education reformers. They tell us economic crises require efficiency –
minimising input and maximising output – and flexibility, and who better to spearhead this charge at RH than recently appointed internal auditor, Deloitte, one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms. Yet Royal Holloway is already a university that does more with less. Analysed against the thirteen universities chosen by management as ‘appropriate comparators’ based on size, degree of research focus and their status as direct competitors for students, RH has the second worst academic services spend (£995 per student per year, 60th in the UK) and a staff-student ratio of 16.2 students per staff member, compared to an average of 15.45 for the group. As regards flexibility, or more accurately precarity, the future is already here: according to figures released by UCU in September 2013, RH employs a staggering 599 of its full and part-time academic staff on zero-hour contracts. Despite talk of deficits, academic services underspend and zero-hour contracts, Royal Holloway is actually comparatively rich, with reserves and endowments of over £170 million. Amongst UK universities, RH is in the second highest quintile for annual surplus as a percentage of income, and out of the Russell Group universities only six place higher. Where, then, is the money going? Of course, the principal’s salary recently rose by £8,000, to £265,000 p.a., and the number of staff earning over £100,000 almost doubled to twenty. But, gross as they are, such numbers are only part of the story. One cannot predict beyond doubt future spending patterns, but it is reasonable to suppose that funds have been allocated for capital investment to fuel the institutional growth perceived as necessary in a competitive market. As higher education expert Andrew McGettigan explains, “the general trend is that those larger institutions, with turnovers three times higher than the mean for the rest (and so better able to monopolize other resources), are pulling away.” For smaller
institutions this message seems to have been interpreted as grow or get left behind. Accordingly, last year RH announced plans to increase student numbers from 9,000 to 10,500 by 2021, which will require substantial infrastructural development. Various forms of international expansion are also being seriously considered. In either case, with cautious lending markets Royal Holloway will probably have to fund such expansion from its own reserves. The picture here painted is one of surpluses and reserves being used to fund institutional expansion, which in turn will be used to stimulate further economic growth in a projected spiral of ever-increasing output. Growth begets growth and so on, yet bigger is not always better and this logic is potentially cancerous, likely to consume more than it creates. Such a future, ever more familiar, is neither sustainable nor desirable, especially if it neglects investment in the only ‘product’ universities are supposed to produce, knowledge, and those that produce it, academics and students. Worryingly for a leading research university, Royal Holloway employs 43% of its full and part-time academic staff on teaching-only contracts, which the UCU have rightly criticised as undermining the link between research and teaching, to the detriment of academics, students and of course, Royal Holloway’s reputation. There is no doubt that the coalition’s reforms have created pressures to prioritise economic growth at the expense of academic research and development, yet this transformation is being driven by ideologically motivated and over-paid bands of bureaucrats incapable of looking beyond permanent crisis and financial gain. We now, more than ever, need a competing vision of our own, one that seeks to reinvigorate the university as a site of knowledge production and transmission free from the stifling control of management, who take far more than they ever put in.
Newspapers: forget the medium, what about the message Harry Stopes
t seems likely that the London Student will cease to exist after this academic year. At any rate, this issue is certainly our last in our current form. For personal reasons related to my need to finish my PhD thesis I largely welcome our demise, but it has got me thinking, tangentially, about the media more generally (a subject covered at greater length in our ‘Talking Point’ overleaf). All forms of publishing – newspapers, magazines, books, television, cinema, recorded music – have been transformed by digitisation in general and the internet
in particular. Though these changes have had profound effects in all areas, it is the newspaper, a business model based on high-volume daily sales of a low-cost product, that has suffered most from the penetration of the internet into our homes, our offices and now into our pockets. If we want to think clearly about the implications of this shift (which will be complete and permanent sooner rather than later), we have to go back to some basic principles. Although there’s been a lot of lamenting about the death of the newspaper (more from its producers than its consumers), it hasn’t always been clear what it is we’re supposed to be mourning. Britain may have a dynamic, boisterous and competitive newspaper market, but what is it really worth? Despite their proclamations to the contrary, our most
popular newspapers, which account for the biggest share of total circulation, are not the authentic voice of a downtrodden, ignored working class but the product of editors, executives and advertisers. As Richard Hoggart observed as long ago as 1957, modern mass literacy in a capitalist society engendered not a ‘popular culture’ from below, but a manufactured ‘mass culture’ sold to its consumers from above. Even our ‘serious’ newspapers have enormous lacunae in the breadth and expertise of their coverage, and have for many years prioritised comment, features and lifestyle content over newsgathering and the cultivation of specialist journalists. Even a relatively nearby, relatively comprehensible national culture like that of Ukraine seems to be beyond the understanding of our commentators, most of whom have narrated the
present crisis only through the prism of international geopolitics. One must only assume that conflicts in, say, sub-Saharan Africa (for which the Guardian has one correspondent, based in Johannesburg) are even more misunderstood, or simply ignored. There will certainly continue to be an appetite in this country for information and comment on national and international events, and it’s reasonable to assume that existing news organisations will be at the forefront of the transformation of the industry, particularly those such as the Guardian and the Daily Mail which already have a strong presence online. It would, however, be wrong to think that the only subject worthy of discussion is how they will deliver their ‘content’. It’s not just about the medium – it’s about the message too.
20 • Comment
Monday 10th March 2014
Editor, i newspaper
The traditional newspaper is dead, we’re told
The media is in a period of rapid transition Most readers will be aware that this is the last issue of London Student of this year, and possibly forever. This is largely explicable with reference to the ongoing threat to the future of ULU, as the student union is ultimately the publisher of this newspaper. However, it may perhaps be the case that the rationale for a physical newspaper produced every few weeks has been eroded by changes in students’ reading habits in the last decade. News stories – in practice a mixture of the serious and the trivial – tend to be read from many sources, often accessed via a social network such as Facebook or Twitter. These shifting cultural practices around the act of reading have had profound effects on student media, and have given rise to at least one online-only, social media driven student publication, The Tab. Changes within the student media mirror those within the national media as a whole, an observation made by both Hannah Sketchley, editor of a student magazine at UCL, and Tom Houghton, an editor at The Tab. Although no large national newspaper has gone out of business in the last few years (with the exception of the News of the World, for very particular reasons), almost all of them have now accepted that there is an expectation on the part of readers that they will be able to access content for free
online. With the exception of i, whose editor Oliver Duff is our third contributor, new media launches in recent years in the Anglo-American media market have all been online-only. Even enormously well-resourced outfits such as First Look Media, newly launched by the billionaire E-Bay founder Pierre Omidyar, staffed by high profile journalists such as Glenn Greenwald, show no interest in publishing offline. Meanwhile, London’s Evening Standard has only managed to survive thanks to its shift to free distribution, paid for out of advertising. In the future, the Standard will surely die if or when the tube has reliable wifi coverage throughout the network. Nevertheless, according to Duff, pessimism would be largely misplaced. In Britain, at least, there are still several million people who buy a daily newspaper. Crucial stories such as NSA spying and the MPs’ expenses scandal have all been released by longstanding newspaper organisations. However, a point made by Duff in passing is worth considering. In smaller markets, local newspapers have been forced out by freesheets written by local councils, removing an important check on political power at the local level, equivalent to that of our national press. In so far as this newspaper has attempted to be critical of the University of London in a period of great change, its disappearance is surely to be lamented.
Far from being on their deathbed, newspapers are seeing a resurgence I remember my first day of staff employment on Fleet Street. Pints in hand, we sat in plastic garden chairs on the deck of The Barge, a floating pub in the Docklands moored next to the Independent’s (then) headquarters. A sign by the gangplank boasted that the vessel had survived Dunkirk and the 1996 attack by the IRA, but within months she would expire in unexplained circumstances, her mast breaking the surface at 50 degrees when we arrived for work one Monday. “Why are you joining a sunset industry?” my new colleagues asked. That was 11 years ago. Now, I edit Britain’s youngest national newspaper, i – a crazed venture, our surprised rivals thought, when we launched back in October 2010. This week, i posted a daily circulation of 300,000 and was shortlisted for Newspaper of the Year. It would be lazy and inaccurate to simply tell a story of a British newspaper industry beset by rising costs, wavering ad sales, digital competitors (not least the publicly-funded BBC) and a collective loss of nerve in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry. For sure, a few journalists will never recover from Rupert Murdoch’s closure of the UK’s best-selling paper, the News of the World. And for the thousands who still work on Fleet Street, journalism is tougher: faster, longer hours, more deadlines, more platforms. But I don’t see many racing to leave the profession, and you only have to flick through the news pages every morning to spot the exclusives that distinguish the world’s most competitive newspaper market. Our journalism sets the agenda domestically and is revered around the globe: look at the shockwaves from the
The trend in the British paid-for media will be towards quality MPs’ expenses scandal, our war and human rights reporting, or the Edward Snowden revelations. There is a counter-narrative about the future of the media here: the British love of print. Every morning, 8 million people leave their homes and buy a national paper. On top of that there are the big regionals and myriad weekly locals (albeit ailing in
some cases, at the cost of local democracy), the magazine industry and free daily titles like the Evening Standard. People like newsprint. It will not exist in its exact current form in 10 years, but then what does? Although we at i have nabbed readers from every other title – from the Sun right through to the FT – most cheering are the readers who have never before taken a daily paper. I received an email this week from Thomas Beer, who just celebrated his 12th birthday, drawing attention to a production error in our football coverage. Just contemplate that for a second: Britain’s national titles can still find new readers in print, let alone digital. (The interest is even more spectacular in countries like India and China.) The trend in the British paid-for media will be towards quality. We see that from the print circulation figures over the past decade, with the ‘quality’ titles faring well against the ‘popular’ end of the market, and we see it in readers’ willingness to commit to subscriptions for serious journalism (print, digital and mixed). Once-precipitous balance sheets are being brought under control. Ad sales are recovering. Readers like quality journalism and are willing to pay for it. British reporting is now read by hundreds of millions of people around the English-speaking world every month. Commercially, then, our national media are challenged but also innovative, resourceful and leaner. So what are the challenges to our future journalism? Two stand out. First, resources: making sure that enough journalists avoid becoming battery hens, so they can spend time out in the world. Our plurality of media voices helps to check this, and news editors are increasingly vigilant. Second, journalism will face open hostility from its enemies, where there were once whispered threats: the targeting of reporters in Syria, the smashing of Snowden hard drives, the closure of local papers muscled out of advertising revenues by rival council-funded Pravdas, and so on. The public will ultimately decide whether a lively media is worth paying for and protecting. It is a cause in which many of us in the profession take great pride, and to which we hope to dedicate our working lives.
Comment • 21
Monday 10th March 2014
With few constraints, student media should thrive, so why does it often fail?
The immediacy of news is key, so the only way forward is online publication
Editor, The Cheese Grater magazine
I am not optimistic about the future of student media. I currently edit The Cheese Grater, a relatively small magazine which focuses on investigative journalism and satire: much like Private Eye but without the budget and focused only on UCL. We celebrated our tenth birthday this February, and as ever, thoughts turned not just towards the past but to the future: is there any room in the age of click-bait journalism for lovinglyproduced long reads about the various and continuing inadequacies of UCL management, or is traditional student media going to be sidelined in favour of online-only, social media driven vehicles like The Tab? Will our minds be filled with “The five types of bags you see at UCL”? Student media across the board currently reflects its national equivalent: there is a lot of lifestyle content, relatively little hard news, and an overwhelming number of articles designed merely to generate passing interest from online traffic. Quite apart from being full of
Student newspapers must stop being scared of questioning both their unions and their colleges, and must criticise the world around them lazy journalism founded on what can be found on Facebook, the problem with such outifts is not that they act as trawlers of social media sites, but that they feel no responsibility to their readership and to those they write about. In addition, they are run commercially, while their competitors are regulated. Outfits like The Tab bring the market into student journalism and, consciously or not, attempt to force the world of student media to operate in a different way. When student journalists were previously afforded luxuries like researching longer investigative pieces and writing thought-out opinion columns, they now feel the need to compete in terms of speed of release,
Deputy Editor, The London Tab
and begin too to mistake the quantity of stories released for their quality. This false need to compete for readers lowers standards across the board. When we think about the future of student media, we must think about what the media is there to do. Its job is to educate and provide a critical stance on the world around us, not to reinforce existing poor stereotypes and regurgitate the views of those who already have the most power in society. A university is a place for critical thought and engagement with the world; it is obscene that the future media we appear to be set for does not reflect this, choosing rather to work on reactionary stories instead of investigating and questioning those who maintain power around them. The future for student media that I want to see is simple: student newspapers must stop being scared of questioning both their unions and their colleges, and must criticise the world around them. The temptation to give into click-baitstyle stories must be quashed. Despite the constant deadline fear and stress, student journalists occupy a remarkably fortunate position in comparison to those at other newspapers. How many other media outlets in the ‘real world’ have their funding assured by a body which almost certainly isn’t going to run out of money (well, in most cases...) and relatively infrequent deadlines, allowing them to really work on important stories? By this I mean not just things which will get attention but those which reflect the voices which are not heard elsewhere. The coverage of the 3Cosas campaign, where workers demanded better working conditions, of UCL’s plans to build on the Carpenter’s Estate, and of the police violence witnessed in Bloomsbury last year were all things which were initially covered by student media before being picked up by the mainstream press. London Student has done an incredible job of revealing unpleasant truths about our own university management and should serve as an example to other colleges: use your position in the media to talk about what matters, do not get dragged into the phoney war for website hits from those procrastinating.
It’s no secret that the media is evolving. With the print industry a decade and a half in to a fight for its life to maintain interest in hard copies of newspapers and magazines, it is regretful to see how the format, so easily romanticised, is slowly disintegrating. While there are still many that cherish their Sunday morning doorstop-thick papers (myself included), such demand has been decreasing for years. However, where romance declines, practicality has excelled, and many of the institutions suffering from the demise of the printed press are the same ones who
The Tab is very much a part of this digital media revolution are beginning to prosper from the digitized revolution in media. This is certainly the case when it comes to student media, where one cannot look past the impressive success story that is The Tab. The brain-child of Cambridge students George Marangos-Gilks and Jack Rivlin back in 2009, The Tab is an online student tabloid-style newspaper which runs a network of websites extending across 34 UK universities, drawing in approximately 1.3 million unique readers per month. Having personally been involved in the website’s London branch (at first called The Buzz) since its inception in January 2012, I will look back upon it with extreme fondness when I graduate this summer. As well as having provided me with invaluable writing experience and amazing people I may not otherwise have met, the website has brought endless discussion and debate to university students up and down the country. It is no exaggeration to say the institution has revolutionized student media. The Tab is more accessible and certainly more instant than its traditional university newspaper counterparts. What’s more, its non-affiliation with the main institutions means that pressing and controversial issues can be openly discussed without the censorship possibly invoked by the fear of losing funding. What’s more, with these newspapers usually being published weekly, fortnightly or monthly, most of the news stories covered in the legacy student media are
read days or even weeks after they have actually happened, when they are often no longer relevant. This is perhaps The Tab’s principal feature: articles can almost immediately be written up, put online and discussed by all, even those away from campus. Unlike the more traditional newspapers, which have stood as the pillars of university media since the great expansion of higher education in the middle of the twentieth century, The Tab capitalizes upon the heavy reliance of students on social media: the source of most traffic to the site. Critics of online news sites, both in the world beyond university, and right here in Bloomsbury, often claim that they represent low quality or ‘trash’ journalism. In the case of The Tab, it is certainly true that the site profits from the modern students’ longing for procrastination, producing Buzzfeedlike ‘Top 10’ articles, or stories on which university’s students do the most drugs. But this, after all, is what students want to read during breaks from comparing Chaucer texts or writing extensive scientific papers. On the other hand, the criticism appears to be somewhat misdirected, when the website also often publishes stories which are then seized upon by national and international media outlets, from the Huffington Post to the Guardian. With national news sources like the Guardian foreseeing a not-too distant paperless future, The Tab is very much a part of this digital media revolution. For a growing majority of urban (and perhaps rural) dwellers, the only printed news source viewed daily is that which can be picked up at no cost (Metro or the Evening Standard, for example), with many people using their tablets or phones to read the latest reports. This usually comes in the form of surfing free news sites such as the BBC, or the increasing number of digitalized newspapers, whose subscription plans are becoming more competitive and affordable, particularly for students. The days of newspapers’ dominance have given way to a society where news is universally accessible, and The Tab is just one of the many organisation that has taken advantage of this. Clearly, the trends that have been visible for some years in the media more generally are also taking hold here in the university. It would be wrong, not to mention futile, to decry this process.
22 • Features
LONDON LO♥ES YOU CAN SHUT DOWN LONDON STUDENT, BUT LOVE WILL NEVER BE SILENCED
It’s getting to the end of the term, and as every student knows money is tight, you grab free food wherever you can. So when a friend of mine at the London Student went to me “Oh Nathan! We need your rugged good looks and roguish charm for London Loves” (those were her words. Promise) I jumped on the opportunity. A free meal at Pizza Express and all I have to do is entertain a lovely French journalist? Challenge accepted. After making sure my stubble was at the correct level of dishevelment and my hair was in its usual ‘Mad Scientist’ style I departed, brooding over the few things I knew about her: Marie, French, journalist, black striped coat and messy hair. At last, something we had in common: my knowledge of the French and journalism was surprisingly lacking, and the coats I own are charcoal grey, but messy hair? Something I can relate to. She arrived and seemed absolutely lovely: cigarette in hand, classic bob, fashionably late, apparently more than happy to play to the typical French stereotype, and after she wasted no time in mocking my apple juice I knew it was
going to be an interesting night. We immediately fell into the rather awkward getting-to-know-you phase, the shared looks of “are we really doing this?” and the spontaneous laughter at those inevitable silences. However a boon was sent in the form of popular T.V. show, Doctor Who. Fantastic! I can shed this façade of suave drama student and relish being allowed to engage in my natural state. Über-geek. And that didn’t scare her off! In fact Marie kept up, challenging me, questioning, engaging; all over a bottle of red. Definitely winning points in my book. And how did we leave it? Well, for what may be the last ever London Loves our Cupid may have wanted something heated: plates smashed, violent arguments or something sordid happening in private, but no. After a pint with Cupid at The Fitzroy across the road we meandered over to Tottenham Court Road station, talking about the intricacies of internet journalism and left each other with the vague promise of doing this again sometime. I may have to take her up on that offer.
As I sit in my office contemplating the end of the London Student era – no more London Loves, no more Cupid Comment, and worst of all no more office in which to sit – I try to focus on the positives. I can’t think of many. London Loves has made many friendships, assuming the participants haven’t been lying to me all along, but precious few passionate romances. I’d pinned my hopes on one last throw of the dice, but like the eternal out-of-
admitted that he was one of them, and I happily replied that, actually, so was I. Our temporary geekfest brought us to debate the comparative qualities of Russell T. Davies and Stephen Moffat, our favourite companions... you get the idea. By then our pizzas had arrived, and I was glad to realise that the sight of my face essentially getting attacked by rocket because I despise cutlery had not scared him away. Our conversation topics after that are quite blurry – we did, after all, share a bottle of red. I do remember him being a community theatre student, which was genuinely interesting as it’s something I know very little about. The evening was overall very pleasant, but at the end of the day, we simply weren’t quite a match for each other. I’m not entirely sure why; let’s just say that even after several glasses of wine, I felt no immediate need to remove his clothes or mine. All in all, I had a sincerely pleasurable evening, and I hope Nathan did too, but the universe did kind of screw that one up. No offence, universe.
There is no point in trying to play it cool: ever since I started reading London Loves, I decided that I had to be on it. I messaged the editor telling him that I’d happily turn up to the blind date naked and/or dressed as a bat if I had to, but he told me that I could join in just as I am. On the actual evening, I received a text saying that my date was wearing a bright blue shirt and had messy hair, which sounded potentially worrying. My fears did however turn out to be entirely unfounded, as I arrived at the pizza place and found a perfectly charming human being waiting for me. He was drinking apple juice, which I disagreed with, on the grounds that non-alcoholic beverages should never be consumed after 6pm, but his shirt actually had a lovely pattern and his hair was closer to “pleasantly messy”. The beginning was slightly awkward, because these things generally are, but our mutual hatred of west London quickly brought us together. The evening properly picked up shortly afterwards when I made a joke about Doctor Who fans; he sheepishly
luck gambler in the Last Chance Saloon of editorially-inspired love, I’ve risked everything and lost. As the snake eyes of loneliness stare up at me from the craps table of Pizza Express, a solitary tear tracks down my cheek. The removers pay me no heed as they carry out what’s left of the furniture. On their next trip they’ll take my desk and my computer. The lamps are going out all over ULU. We shall not see them lit again in our time.
Science • 23
Monday 10th March 2014
Sexy science: the chemistry behind love BELLE TAYLOR Spring is finally here; that time when couples the world over feel that strange social pressure to express their love in the form of dinner, flowers and chocolates (and let’s be honest, a bit of hanky-panky). But in the throes of that crazy little thing called love, people have much more on their mind than which novelty card to get on Moonpig; for their heads are quite literally spinning with a complex mixture of hormones responsible for all that lovey-dovey-ness (technical term). Let’s get down to business. You know when you’re in the company of someone you really fancy and you can’t think about anything else? All you can concentrate on is how they are moving, what they are saying, how beautiful their eyes are, how soft their lips look… Well that, dear readers, is testosterone at
play. It’s probably one of two hormones you remember from sex education:, and it’s responsible for physical attraction, libido and sexual arousal. Although typified as a male hormone, testosterone levels in both genders spike when experiencing feelings of lust. Interestingly, males contain trace levels in their saliva, explaining why kissing is such a good warm up to the main act. After the initial “getting to know each other”, a new hormonal phase starts as a group of neurotransmitters known as monoamines start to kick in. First up, phenylethylamine (PEA): a stimulant responsible for the head-over-heels giddiness at the beginning of a relationship and responsible for the release of the following “love drugs”: Norepinephrine (adrenalin) works to get your heart beating, your palms sweaty, your stomach
lurching (it also pumps extra blood to your muscles, just in case). Couple that with dopamine, associated with mate selection (and worryingly, activated by cocaine and nicotine… so don’t smoke and mate, I guess) and serotonin, the “happy” chemical: no wonder couples experience that well known “first-flush” of romance. Although as a point of note, when serotonin levels get too high, it’s possible to go temporarily insane – literally crazy in love. Dopamine triggers the release of oxytocin, a bond-making hormone. It is, for example, released by the hypothalamus during childbirth and in breast milk to cement the mother-child bond. For our purposes, it is also released by both sexes during orgasm, so sex actually does work beyond the obvious to make a couple feel closer. Beyond the honeymoon period, vasopressin is a chemical
thought to be responsible for longterm commitment. Research into prairie voles, the only voles to form mainly monogamous relationships, has shown that a gene linked to vasopressin receptors could be responsible for this. It was found that inserting a similar gene into other species of voles saw them develop monogamous behaviour. And when you’ve had too much of the love drugs? Endorphins, familiar terminology to most of us, are produced to counteract a tolerance to these cupid chemicals over time. Natural pain-relievers, they lower stress, boost confidence and give that warm fuzzy feeling of being happy and truly in love. So is love a question of the heart or of the brain? It seems that we’ve rather romanticised the notion; with your brain going into hormonal overdrive at the slightest hint of amour, it’d be hard to argue the former.
Review: A Night at the Museum NIC RAE The Natural History Museum has opened its doors to a new crowd for its adults-only late nights. On the last Friday of every month, 18.00-22.30. ‘Lates’ offer a rare opportunity to enjoy the exhibitions free from flocks of school children, and with a glass of wine in hand. London is seeing an increasing number of museums following suit with this popular trend, with both the Science Museum and the V&A hosting their own late nights. The idea is wonderfully simple: come and enjoy a drink and a bite to eat before wandering around the exhibitions in a relaxed, childfree environment. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, entry is free. Perfectly timed, just before payday. The bar is open from 18.00, although you might want to arrive earlier in order to snag a table. The Central Hall menu is fairly limited but surprisingly tasty. I had a lamb tagine served with pitta and a Seville orange side salad, which was reasonably priced and promptly served. One drawback is the length of each queue at the pop-up bars, although being entertained by the up-and-coming musicians whose live performances echo around the cavernous main hall certainly
Latest stories ANNA PLOSZAJSKI
A hearty dish Scientists have been able to recreate beating clumps of patients’ heart cells in the laboratory. Skin cells from the patient are transformed into stem cells in a nutrient bath, which are in turn made into heart cells which can be seen to pulse in Petri dishes. It is hoped that such cells from a patient suffering from genetic heart problems will be suitable for testing different drugs on outside the body, in order to find a personalised cure.
World cancer surge predicted The World Health Organisaion (WHO) has predicted a global cancer surge related to alcohol, smoking and obesity, stating that the number of new cases could increase by 70% to nearly 25 million a year by 2032. The UN’s World Cancer Report states that half of these cases are preventable since they are due to lifestyle. Cancer treatments will be an enormous burden on already stretched healthcare budgets, particularly for poorer countries. Suggested solutions include taxation of sugary drinks and government incentives akin to the WHO global tobacco control treaty which encourages the passing of smoking ban laws.
Stem cell advances
Central Hall at the Natural History Museum Photograph: Natural History Museum
makes the wait more bearable. A variety of galleries are open including the popular Dinosaurs, the Whale Hall and Treasures. The Wildlife Photographer of the Year award is one of the few exhibitions that require pre-booking. If you can plan in advance, I would definitively recommend this option.
The exhibition is brilliant and the set timings provide structure to the evening. As you meander around, there is plenty to see and a variety of activities on offer. The ‘Crazy Artistes’ were delightful. Two charming French artists encourage guests to take part in their drawing
competition. 10 minutes to sketch a stuffed fox. There are even prizes to be won – my group scooped up fourth and first prizes even with our limited creative skills! Overall, perhaps, ‘Lates’ isn’t something you would attend every month, but it is certainly something you must try at least once.
A rapid technique of creating stem cells has been discovered and hailed as a great discovery by experts in the field. Blood cells dipped into weak citric acid for just half an hour are “shock triggered” to reprogram into stem cells, or “stimulus-triggered acquisition of pluripotency” (STAP) cells. Stem cells can be transformed into any tissue, promising huge medical advances in tissue regeneration. Other external stimuli such as applying stress have similar effects but are not as efficient. This technique could make stem cell research cheaper, faster and safer, avoiding ethically controversial methods involving the cloning and destruction of embryos.
IN THE NET
For more sports news and content, visit our site: london-student.net/sport
KCL and UCL prepare to battle it out for Varsity
Baseball: American pastime or international sport? MATT WALLER
University College London and King’s College London will compete with each other in seven sports, including fencing, rugby and water polo
GEORGE JACKSON Sport Editor The London Varsity season is upon us. Boots are being scrubbed, hockey sticks re-varnished and fencing foils sharpened. Students, it’s time to discover your rivalry with those up on Gower Street or down on the Strand. This year there are more opportunities to get behind your university than ever before. Traditionally, the varsity consisted of a rugby match between members of University and King’s College London Unions. This year, however, the contest has been expanded to seven sports over eight days. The series began with hockey, on Friday 7th March, at Honor Oak Park in South East London. UCL and KCL teams are scheduled to compete in netball,
Muay Thai kickboxing, water polo, taekwondo and fencing before the finale: men’s and women’s rugby matches at the home of Premiership rugby side Saracens on Friday 14th March. A medics’ hockey game will take place on Monday 10th March. The fencing will be staged in UCL’s North Cloisters on Thursday 13th March, and will be the sole free event of the varsity series. With the exception of netball, each of the sports will be participated in by men and women. The Varsity sports were selected by UCLU and KCLU on the basis of the competitiveness of the fixture, alumni support as well as in a belief that the club will embody the ‘Varsity Values.’ These include discipline, enjoyment and excellence. Organisers will be encouraged by the success of the London Ice Varsity on 28th February.
A lively crowd of approximately 1000 students witnessed a pulsating ice hockey encounter at the Streatham Ice Arena. After a hat-trick from Imperial Devils player Ryan Heaton, and starring performances from UCL Yetis Guido de Boer and Mark Ongemakh, the game was tied 4-4 at the end of normal time. After 5 minutes of overtime failed to separate the teams, it was penalties. The atmosphere had threatened to boil over earlier in the game when punches were thrown in the second period, resulting in a player from each side being sent to the penalty box. However, as the players prepared for their penalties, the noise from the crowd was deafening. With the scores level after 3 penalties, it was sudden death. A UCL miss and a successful strike
from Imperial’s Max Fink meant the London Ice Varsity title was staying in South Kensington. There was no Varsity rugby match between UCL and KCL in 2013 due to incidents in the crowd at the 2012 event, at which both UCL men’s and women’s teams recorded strong victories. The new format aims to reinvigorate the London Varsity formula, but ultimately there will still only be one winner. There are 13 points on offer throughout the week, and whoever wins the most will be named London Varsity Champion. A win for the women’s hockey team, for example, will be worth one point, as will a win for the men’s rugby team. A massive new trophy has been ordered. This week’s competition will decide if it will be carried back to King’s College or University College London.
Baseball is a sport that has struggled to establish itself within British universities. While there are a number of teams in London that compete within British Baseball Federation (BFF) leagues – notably those of the London Mets and Richmond Baseball & Softball Club – there has never been a sustained, widespread outlet within universities for baseball. Although there are teams affiliated with universities, such as Oxford Kings, such instances are localised and these teams do not operate within a universityexclusive league. 2008 saw the first ever baseball championship composed of British university teams. But this effort to promote the sport has proved ephemeral, the university game remaining limited in scope. Perhaps it is that baseball suffers from its perceived closeness to cricket, much in the way that American football is seen in relation to rugby. In reality, however, baseball is a vastly different sport to cricket. And it is already played extensively outside America – in Japan, for example (where it is the national sport), and throughout Latin America. The World Baseball Classic (WBC) tournament is a testament to this. The sport shows occasional signs of progression in the UK. Most recently, the organisation Baseball Softball UK (BSUK) opened Farnham Park Sports Ground as a measure to improve the standard of baseball facilities and encourage its growth. But just in the way that university-based American football has gathered momentum from the NFL games in London, the MLB will have to seek expansion in the European market to truly ignite the sport’s popularity here in the UK. For baseball to ever convincingly launch itself within UK universities, it is a necessity that the professional sport receives greater exposure.