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» Multiple campaign posters were vandalised overnight telling people to ‘Vote RON’ photo: Tash Clark Continued from front page expressed that Elections Group were unable to comment on specific issues and individual candidates. Luck and Elections Group confirmed that no candidate had gone beyond the £20 limit and no candidates were, or should have been, disqualified in accordance with Union rules during elections, thus debunking accusations against certain candidates. Luck stated: “No one was disqualified. Some fines were handed out, as is usual in any elections period.” Luck also outlined the complaints process and highlighted the aims of Elections Group: to keep the process of elections free and fair. “Regulations specify what can and can’t be done, but not the punishment for a rule breach. If we make public what the fine will be for breaking a rule, it becomes worth taking the risk, so we don’t make it public... Elections Group set out how much fines will be and they stick to it.”
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Part-time Officer Undergraduate Science Faculty Representative John Lapage stated in last week’s Union Council meeting: “This year, I think we saw instances where it was cheaper to pay a fine than comply with the regulations and, subsequent to fining, no action [was] being taken to prevent the infracting behaviour. That’s plainly not a sensible application of the rules, which are there to promote a ‘free and fair’ election.” However, some student sentiments suggest that the issue of candidate rule adherence is an issue of which many students are not actively aware.
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“Some candidates and their teams were unprofessional and disrespectful ” Benita Mehta
One second-year Maths and Physics student, Ashwin Chopra, said: “I have literally no idea how most of the candidates behaved in the elections. I didn’t follow it at all.” Some students who were more actively involved in the elections shared reservations about other candidates’ behaviour. “Some candidates and their teams were unprofessional and disrespectful towards one another,” commented second-year PPE student Benita Mehta. With regards to the Students’ Union’s conduct, she added that “they did enforce some fines, which was good, and they did listen to what other candidates offered with regards to evidence.” Furthermore, Luck defended the work of Elections Group. “[They] are student volunteers who work extraordinarily hard and are the unsung heroes of each elections period. They follow the rules... [to make sure] everything is done properly,” he commented.
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Online crime map shows Leam worst in area Town centre is the hub of offences while low crime reporting on campus raises concerns about awareness Grace Massey A recent Government crime map placed crime levels in Leamington town centre at the top of figures for surrounding areas. The Home Office online map shows that last December, 468 crimes were reported in Leamington. This high rate is in stark comparison with other areas of Warwickshire and Warwick University campus, where incidences of even minor crimes are low and an incidence rate of almost zero crime was reported in December. Royal Leamington Spa, home to a large proportion of the student body who live off campus, suffers crime associated with the late-night pub, bar and club industry, which flourishes in the town centre. The ‘night-time economy’ may be indirectly responsible for much of the crime. With a particular focus on Regent Street, the crime map shows that incidences of shoplifting, drug offences and criminal damage were also reported. 180 reports of anti-social behaviour are shown, with at least 24 of these centring on the Parade. In comparison, crime on-campus is reported to be much lower. Welfare Officer Leo Bøe pointed out that the campus is mostly free of relatively minor offences and, due to logistical reasons, certain crimes such as burglary and direct theft are unlikely to occur. Figures show that 2 percent of students have been physically harassed on campus, 10 percent verbally harassed or assaulted and 5 percent sexually harassed or assaulted. Sta-
tistics on in-hall crime are harder to ascertain, as minor incidents of stealing from kitchens are unlikely to be reported as thefts, if students feel inclined to report such offences at all. Despite a vast increase in crime awareness in the past decade, hate, faith-based and discrimination crimes still take place, although such offences occur much more frequently off-campus in surrounding ar-
Number of crimes reported in Leamington in December 2010
» Government crime map shows Leamington crime statistics police.uk for disabled students, especially with mental health issues and learning difficulties.” Bøe suggested that reasons for the low reporting of crime on campus are due to factors such as limited student knowledge and awareness of how to report the relevant offence, and a low inclination to do this generally. However, he also stressed the importance for students to report crime to the authorities. Warwick campus has a Security Gatehouse which is staffed at all times year round, providing a means for students to report serious incidents and facilitates the implementation of emergency procedures. Recently, members of the Warwick Improvised Theatre Society brought a travelling crime-prevention road show to campus, with stops around the various halls of residence. They
worked in conjunction with local police, with the premise of the event to remind students of simple crime prevention tactics. In an initiative to enforce tougher crime-prevention methods to deter criminals on-campus, Coventry City Council has worked with Warwick Security. Resident wardens will soon be issuing etching pens, available to any student who wishes to ensure the security of their property. The pens work electronically to invisibly imprint postcodes onto items such as laptops and hi-fis. The consensus of student opinion appears to be that Warwick campus is a safe place. Second-year historian Emilia Halton Hernandez stated: “Warwick campus is welcoming and peaceful and feels much safer than many other places.”
Under-pressure Porter to step aside as NUS president Derek Hatley Aaron Porter, the beleaguered President of the National Union of Students (NUS), has said that he will not be seeking re-election to the post after his term ends this summer. Porter has faced harsh criticism during his time as the leader of the NUS, particularly from leftwing student protest groups, who accuse him of being too weak in his opposition to higher tuition fees. Porter was widely expected to seek re-election and is only the second NUS President in the history of the organisation to not run again. His decision is effectively a resignation in all but name. He explained his reasons for standing down in a Guardian editorial: “Unfortunately, attempts to discredit the [anti-fees] movement by those who stand to gain by splitting us have threatened to do just that, and the politics of personal attacks threaten to turn the campaign inward at a time when our resilience must be at its highest. “The new politics and the new landscape, which will see support for students across the board slashed,
mean it is more vital than ever that we are united and reinvigorated. That is why I have decided there needs to be a new president to take us forward.” Porter has been accused of being slow to react to the wave of marches and occupations that occurred on campuses across the country late last year and rapidly lost favour with much of the student protest movement. After the first NUS-organised national demonstration in London, where 50,000 students marched on Whitehall, the protest movement’s organisation splintered and largely abandoned the NUS. The news that he will not be running again has been welcomed by his critics. Student protest organisers have written in national media that Porter had lost touch with students and become ineffective as a leader. Megan Fortune, a member of Warwick Against the Cuts, said Porter was “a disgrace to students across the country. He has no position other than to not re-run after his disastrous moves in the fees debate. He didn’t follow what students wanted – he’s a careerist and he decided to disassociate himself from the student-led movement [against fees].” Others, however, were more sympathetic.
Postponed SU election to be held in Week 9 James Owen
468 eas such as Coventry city centre and Leamington. There have been a low number of off-campus incidents relating to faith and ethnic background reported so far this year. In relation to hate crimes, Bøe stated that “the University and Students’ Union have to work harder to inform students about what constitutes a hate crime and to increase awareness on the reporting of such issues. I am currently carrying out further research through consultation with minority groups.” With regards to prejudice against students from minority groups, Warwick University has one of the most progressive reasonable adjustment programmes for students with disabilities, compared to other universities. Campaigns Forum co-ordinator Megan Fortune said: “They are satisfactory, but every uni should be striving to promote greater access
Baris Yerli, a second-year Sociology student said: “I think he was a victim of both people on the right and by people in his own number on the left and far left. I agree that he had his inadequacies, but what was going to be the replacement?” “He’s stuck between a rock and a hard place; it’s not his fault that fees tripled,” said one fourth-year student. Current Warwick SU sabbatical officers, who have worked with Porter and the NUS on the campaign against fees and higher education cuts, agreed. “I think he did really well overall; I think the personal attacks are unfounded and simply ridiculous,” said Leo Bøe, the SU’s Welfare Officer. “The fact that the Liberal Democrats had such a massive divide on the vote can be attributed to the work the NUS did. [Porter] also put the NUS very much back into the centre stage of politics in general. It’s become a much more relevant organisation.” Bøe also argued that Porter could not have done much more in the face of the Government’s plans. “I think it’s difficult. He could have been more explicit on where he stood with students’ unions, but on the other hand there’s the fact that the expectation
was very, very high on his position. A lot of people see him as a failure because the vote went through, but people ignore a lot of the successes that came out of his work. “The fact that he’s not re-running is evidence that he’s not a career politician, which is something he’s been criticised of,” Bøe added. Education Officer Sean Ruston echoed Bøe’s sentiments: “He had to deal with a coalition hell-bent on a radical marketisation of higher education. He was attacked viciously by the right for being too left-wing and by the left for being too right-wing. It’s a credit to him that he managed to walk that difficult tightrope.” Three candidates have put themselves forward to be Porter’s successor. Two are current NUS officers – Liam Burns, head of NUS Scotland, and Shane Chowen, NUS vicepresident. The third, Mark Bergfeld, is a member of the Socialist Workers’ Party and has previously been critical of the NUS’ response to the Government’s plans. He told the Guardian last December: “Because the NUS has been slow in taking action, it doesn’t stand with students; we need to mobilise to build a movement that stands with student protesters and fights and wins.”
The election for the Education Officer position at the Students’ Union will be run during Week 9 after being postponed due to the hospitalisation of one of the candidates, Sean Ruston. The vote will now take place alongside the annual referenda in Week 9. Democracy and Communications Officer Chris Luck commented: “The crucial thing is that it’s not a by-election,” so nominations will not be re-opened, with the same two candidates – Sean Ruston and Darren Maynard – running for the position. The format for the election will be the same as the previous Officer elections except for the “crucial difference” of the voting period, which will run from 9am on Monday to 9pm on Friday instead of the usual voting period from Wednesday to Friday. This decision has been made in the hope that by extending the voting period, “more people will vote in the time available”. The elections will be without hustings, so as not to detract from the referendum debates that will be occurring alongside the election. Instead, the candidates will give recorded speeches which will be posted on the Students’ Union website. This is different from this year’s Officer Elections, but has been done in previous years. It has also been stressed that a quorum (minimum number of votes) of 2,624 would be required for the election result to be valid. Ruston, the incumbent Education Officer, was hospitalised during elections in Week 5. The hustings for the post were initially postponed due to his illness, but when he was taken into hospital the decision was taken to postpone the election. Ruston has left hospital and has since returned to work at the SU. Some have questioned whether the election will get a large enough voter turnout to reach quorum. One firstyear Law student pointed out that “people are getting a bit tired of the elections”, and that he didn’t think there would be “as large a turnout” as for the main elections, citing that “referenda week is for policies, but this is a candidate election.” This feeling seems to be echoed among many, with Laveen Ladharam, former Presidential candidate, pointing out that people are “frustrated with the sheer amount of campaigning”. Others disagree, with Bariş Yerli, President of Warwick Labour saying that the turnout hopefully will be higher than quorum as the “Education Officer is the most important position”. Democracy and Communications Officer Chris Luck also pointed out that by placing the election in referenda week, hopefully “people who would have voted in one of the two would vote in both”, even though this time of year is “traditionally quite apathetic”.
Four-figure prize RaW turn it up with charitable tour Festival offers Fresh perspective for business win Anna Simmons society for theatre students, despite Davies, Leo Truscott, was diagnosed the heavy emphasis on theatre. with leukaemia last year. The group Tash Clark Lisa Petzal Warwick Entrepreneurs brought Dragons’ Den to campus on Wednesday with the final of ‘Be Your Own Boss’ (BYOB), a competition awarding £1,500 to a budding entrepreneur to invest in their business idea. Masters students Asad Aftab Iqbal and Sebastian Schindler were awarded the prize money ahead of 17 other applicants for their new business “Help Buddy”, a website exclusive to students where they can barter for services and items. The runner-up team “Warwick Rent-a-Bed”, which tied with “Help Buddy” until the judges cast the deciding vote, received a £500 prize to invest in their project, which aims to provide air-beds for guests visiting Warwick campus. The five finalist teams presented their business plan to the audience and a panel of judges consisting of Robert Pocknell, a lawyer for TomTom, web-developer Joel Gascoigne and business analyst Katie Wales. Apprentice candidate Raef Bjayou was purported to be on the judging panel, but was curiously absent, despite his appearance being mentioned in the Bubble and advertised by the BYOB coordinators. This competition was not only about assisting the business ambitions of potential entrepreneurs. Saraj Datoo, a coordinator of BYOB, was keen to make clear that the event was an attempt to “showcase all home-grown talent, not just the entrepreneurial”. The evening featured performances from the acclaimed poet Joshua Bennett, who has performed for Barack Obama in the White House, and a piece from an amateur comedian, Mohamed Jawad Gulamhusein, self-styled as ‘MJ.’ BYOB is Warwick Entrepreneurs’ (WE) flagship event. The society is focused on the promotion of young business through events such as BYOB and Warwick Apprentice, providing a social background in which business skill and interest can be developed. The organisers, Saraj Datoo and Abdul Afridi are successful internet businessmen. Afridi, an entrepreneur for over three years, mentioned that WE is open to all Warwick students, regardless of academic interest, a policy demonstrated by Datoo, a French and International Studies student who is the founder of the opinion website Student Journals. Other alumni of WE include the “UniExpress” as well as the 2008 BYOB winners “E-resistible”, whose online takeaway website incorporates over 450 websites and has full-time employees. Afridi emphasised that it was generally the lack of capital which prevents many business ideas from taking off in a similar successful fashion. However, he also mentioned that this year’s winner Asad Iqbal claims that “the message that should be delivered is that entrepreneurship is about hard work, and with hard work, success can come without having won any competitions”.
Four members of RaW, Warwick University’s student radio station, have travelled 1,820 miles and visited 52 other student radio stations across the country to raise money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research. Phil Atkins, Tom Davies, Tasha Jones and Sam Stopp beat their initial target amount of £1,000 and, according to the RaW on Tour website, will have reached nearly £1,500 when all the promised donations are received. The group began the tour by travelling to northern England, spending the next six days working their way across the country, broadcasting at stations as far north as Durham and as close to the south coast as Portsmouth. Jones, who drove the group throughout the campaign, said that the “scariest and longest” stretch of driving was from Durham to Lancaster, which “felt like a lifetime”. The team remained together throughout the tour except when they reached London, where Atkins, Davies and Stopp had to use public transport to make their way around the capital to broadcast whilst Jones waited for them in Greenwich. At each station the group spoke on air to raise awareness and encourage people to donate to Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research, a charity which aims to find treatments and cures for all blood cancers. The charity was chosen because a friend of
spoke of Truscott on the RaW on Tour website as “a shining example of positivity” and said that he “was keen to stress how he wants to give something back to all the people who have helped set him on the road to overcoming leukaemia”. The group found their way to each station with the help of a satellite navigation system they named Debbie. A ‘co-pilot’, however, was always sat next to Jones in the passenger seat in order to ensure that Debbie was actually giving the correct directions. When not broadcasting or travelling, the group edited blog entries, video diaries and clips of their experiences at the different university radio stations and uploaded them online to keep people updated on their progress across England. This left little time for the group to sleep, and food options were limited as all meals had to be acquired along the way. Jones said: “I ended up eating so much yoghurt,” and Stopp commented of the whole experience being “like a slow descent into madness”. The group arrived back on campus on Sunday 20 February after a highly successful six days. For Jones, the most challenging part of the trip was when the other members fell asleep as she drove between Brighton and Canterbury. Jones told the Boar: “Looking back on it now, I can’t believe I actually did it. Looking at a map of England, it seems like some crazy nightmare but also wonderful at the same time.”
Last week saw the launch of FreshBlood’s first FreshFest, a free, student-run theatre festival held at Warwick. Run by a team of 18 student writers and directors, FreshFest featured an underground jazz bar party, comedy and writing workshops, dance and music performances and multiple student-written plays. The festival was hosted by FreshBlood, a society which promotes student-written drama through frequent written productions, plays, cabarets and other performances. Despite what its name suggests, FreshFest was not just aimed at Freshers; it was targeted at all theatre and performance lovers to give them an opportunity to observe and work with other literary and performing talents across the University. The entire week was co-ordinated by Theatre students Judith Durkin and Ben Borowiecki, who judged the week to be a great success, with a good attendance. Borowiecki expressed that the remit of FreshBlood is to support student writing in all forms, not simply traditional theatre performances, with which the society is generally associated. “It’s been restricted to theatre in the past few years. What FreshFest has tried to do is to open people up and encourage people of all kinds of writing to get involved.” Furthermore, Borowiecki emphasised that FreshBlood was not just a
“We want FreshBlood to be not a theatre society but a creative society. I really want people to come and feel included, it’s not an elite thing. People aren’t high pressured, we want it to be a place for fun.” When questioned on the purpose of the creation of the five-day festival, Borowiecki commented: “Fresh Blood has been floundering a bit in recent years. ... Plays haven’t been unified [under] any one banner. ... We want[ed] to get them under one big event.” He expressed the problems that the society faced when multiple plays were being performed at the same time, which divided audiences. FreshFest was an “attempt to get more publicity shared between the plays”, rather than scrapping for the same audiences. Previously, FreshBlood’s main presence has been based in Leamington. However, all of this week’s events took place on campus, and even the Dirty Duck Snug was the stage to one of the featured plays, ‘To Will’, which exhibits two colleagues toasting to the life, work and world of the recently deceased Shakespeare. Third-year Philosophy student Megan Fortune spoke highly of ‘To Will’, one of eight student-written plays performed this week. “[It] was definitely the best play I’ve seen so far this year … The audience and I were laughing from start to finish.” The organisers were extremely pleased at the success of FreshFest, and hope to make it an annual event.
It’s not easy being green – but we’re doing our best Jasper Pearce Warwick campus was inspired by environmentalism last week, as Warwick People and Planet collaborated with the Students’ Union and societies to produce Go Green 2011, a week-long campaign to raise awareness of and inspire interest in environmental and ecological issues. The week featured a number of lectures, discussions and activities focused around environmental causes, with each of the five themed days addressing a different aspect of modern environmentalism, including issues ranging from climate change to recycling projects. Prominent among the events were talks by writer and campaigner Mark Lynas, and a session of ‘Eco Poetry’ involving the poet Danny Chivers, who has long been associated with green causes. Other highlights included the presence of the Rinky-Dink on Monday, an Age-of-Aquarius inspired bicycle capable of powering a sound system. The inventor of the machine, Dan Smythies, told the Boar that he hoped the popularity of environmental causes could “turn the Rinky-Dink into a commercial application, for hire and purchase by schools and universities for educational purposes”. Another society involved in the proceeds was the Greens Food CoOp that have since last year oper-
ated a vegetable plot in the fields behind Arthur Vick accomodation. Morwenna McDonald, the President of the society, presented the Co-Op as an example of how environmentalism can mix “fun activities with healthy eating and a better lifestyle”. According to poet Danny Chivers, Go Green Week arrives at a time where much of the general public are becoming more sceptical of environmental causes, with a lack of press attention on the topic giving rise to doubts surrounding the validity of claims about climate change. Chivers bemoaned the media’s neglect of green causes, and performed a variety of pieces that highlighted his frustration that “climate change has become an unfashionable thing to talk about”. The Students’ Union’s Environmental Campaigns Officer, Sam Tovey, was less concerned about the problem, claiming that globally the year has been spent “laying down solid groundwork for next year’s campaigning, making it much more likely that we’ll achieve a good result in South Africa [at the 2011 Climate Change Summit]”. The team behind Go Green Week are satisfied with attendance at the majority of the events, but there are still concerns about student involvement in national campaigns. Richard Preece, an undergraduate who attended a number of the events, argued that “there is a significant difference between high attendance at
» The ‘Rinky Dink’ – a bike powered sound system photo: Go Green Week events involving celebrity guests and the creation of a movement that will have any effect on the global debate about environmentalism, let alone the problems facing the planet”. One first-year People and Planet member commented: “I’m happy with the work we’ve done so far... although much more is going to have to happen to effect change, turnouts have been promising.” In light of these concerns, Sam Tovey argued that for the next year’s Environmental Campaigns Officer, it will be important to focus on lobbying the University to produce wide, systematic changes “that will complement the changes that [Tovey and
People and Planet] have been making within the student body”. One campaigner, who did not wish to be named, told the Boar of the difficulties of raising awareness of environmental issues at Warwick University specifically, claiming that “it’s almost impossible to make anyone care about anything here. [Warwick is] a terrible university for campaigning in general.” The campaigner cited the campus’ isolation from other civilisation as the main reason for the problem, and argued that ‘issue weeks’ such as Go Green Week are necessary to provide the impetus for activism and protest within the University.
Students’ Union reaches out with ‘vital’ annual survey Griffin O’Rourke Grace Massey Warwick SU will carry out a survey this week to find out what students really think about their Union, focusing on reaching a wider demographic. The student survey is a feedback procedure carried out by all multiple Students’ Unions across the country, the purpose of which is to gauge student opinion on the services that their Union offers. 2,086 respondents took part last year, answering questions related to the ‘Big 5’ – Service, Involvement, Engagement, Representation and the Future (of the SU). Democracy and Communications Officer Chris Luck commented that: “We want to get a better, more balanced picture of the student body. We want to make sure that we get responses from every single demographic group in the University.” This follows low levels of participation from these groups in last year’s survey. 80 percent of respondents surveyed were undergraduates. Encouragingly for the SU, 84 percent of respondents in last year’s survey reported that it had had a positive impact on their student experience as a whole. However, several critical points were raised including dissatisfaction with the entertainment programme, feelings that the SU is not as responsive as possible to student concerns and annoyance at the perceived high prices of food and beverages on campus. 70 percent of participants in the survey were unable to recall any
» Students fill in the Big 5 Survey in the Atrium last year photo: Sarah Clayton campaigns by the SU. Second-year Politics and French student Jim Tindill commented: “The events programme was a big problem last year. There was poor attendance and the Union was not running events students wanted.” Adjustment of the ents programme has since taken place with Tindill adding: “They re-did the programme last term and it has been resolved this year.” Action to address other issues such as student concern over prices has also been taken, although the fact that many food and drink outlets on campus are not Union-run contributes to student grievances over in-
flated prices. Luck promised “mythbusting” over which services were Union-related and what the Union could realistically influence. Confusion surrounding this issue could perhaps explain why only 34 percent of participating students said that the Union listened to their feedback and 45 percent said that Warwick SU communicated feedback. The assurance this year is of a rapid response system with the first information available possibly by the start of the summer term. The prevailing issue associated with last year’s low, turnout was how well publicised the ‘Big 5’ survey was. Third-year PPE student Andrew
Watters cited what many students felt about previous surveys, that he was not aware of its presence. “I didn’t take any notice of it. There was nothing to distinguish it from all the other online surveys issued – I didn’t even know it was a student survey,” he said. As part of an effort to improve on last year’s response figures, more initiatives have been taken. The SU will be trying to get a wider campus presence by targeting students at bus stops and outside the library, and more posters and advertising will be employed. Luck said: “There will also be better prizes, such as champagne and free meals at the Dirty Duck,
awarded as reward for completing the survey.” Such incentivisation, it is hoped, will encourage a wide range of students to fill in and return the feedback. Generally, student reaction to this year’s survey has not been apathetic. Tindall added that he believed student feedback was “vitally important” to the way the SU functioned, whilst second-year Management undergraduate Jyothsna commented: “It is important for the students to do [such surveys] because the Students’ Union is there for the students.” In a preview of this year’s suggestions, the Boar found the biggest area for complaint was the lack of “private study space” with the library, deemed too busy by many of those questioned. As well as creating more seating areas, proposals included a “takeaway open in the evening”, a greater variety to the usage of the Copper Rooms rather than purely as a night-time venue, and relaxed health and safety concerning the sale of fresh food outdoors on campus. Some appeared apprehensive that any suggestions put in the ‘Future’ section would not be implemented due to a perceived lack of influence the Union has on the University. Anticipating the usual pricing debate, Luck took a firm approach. “There will be no kneejerk responses to students saying [Union-run outlets] are expensive,” he said. “The emphasis will be on showing how we compare, for example Curiositea against Costa Coffee.” The Big 5 Student Survey will be available in paper or online format throughout Week 8.
Vote system debate stirs student passion Festival a ‘victim of own success’ Tim Maloney Independent student-run organisation Just Vote hosted a debate on the UK’s voting system last Tuesday as part of an awareness drive for the national referendum on May 5. The event took place to raise awareness of the upcoming plebiscite, where voters will have the chance to choose between the current First Past The Post system or a new system known as the Alternative Vote. Organised by third-year PPE student Joseph O’Leary, the event featured four passionate speeches by panellists from campaigns in favour of and against alternative vote before opening a general debate. Among the panellists were John Strafford, from the Conservative Campaign For Democracy, and Mark Wallace, a political campaigner and blogger. The subject engendered passion in both the panellists and the audience. “It was a great debate with some very interesting and important points raised,” said Just Vote campaign coordinator and debate organiser Jim Tindill. “The audience could have been a bit less partial, especially at the end when a few of the audience started heckling the NOtoAV speakers, but that’s not something we can control. Both sides put forward very
compelling cases; it’s now up to the individual voter to decide.” David Morrow, chair of the debate and member of Warwick Debating Society, said: “There is a lot to know about AV, particularly as it seems technical to many, so events such as these are valuable. Hopefully this passionate, entertaining debate will have helped to promote the issue.” Matt Hartley, a former Warwick student and former Conservative Party agent, was a panellist for the anti-AV argument, and said: “students will have a vital say in the referendum, and I don’t think anyone else has more of a stake in the issue.” James Plaskitt, former MP for Warwick and Leamington and in favour of AV, similarly emphasised the importance of the student vote in the referendum. “If this event is anything to go by, then the passion of the debate should hopefully result in a high student turnout. They have a fantastic opportunity to change democracy for good.” Despite the fact that the referendum is still months away, it seems there is already considerable debate surrounding the issue amongst students. “The AV debates are definitely worthwhile, if not just for encouraging young people to come together for political reasons,” said first-year History and Politics student Tom
Hatton. He added: “The debates allow for a more sophisticated and in depth analysis of an issue which can seem very technical to some students.” However, he also commented that “spending millions of pounds on a referendum to change to a voting system which nobody wants (even advocates of PR) is unfortunate considering the deep budget cuts, which will directly affect students in ways such as the withdrawn funding for Arts and Humanities subjects.” Voting reform has yet to generate the passion amongst some students that such campaigns as these are trying to create. First-year Computer Science student Toby Ross said: “I don’t think the issue is of particular importance; I think it would be more significant if the vote was between FPTP and a proportional electoral system. I’ll still vote, but it won’t mean too much to me.” According to Tindill, the campaigning is only just beginning. “We’ll be holding another, bigger debate in the actual week of the referendum in the atrium, so hopefully we’ll attract a bigger audience then when the issue is much more pressing.” “We knew it would be hard to enthuse a great number of students on electoral reform this far in advance of the vote, but for the time and location, we were very pleased to see so many people show up.”
Continued from front page wasn’t on for a third day and would certainly have no objection to several Real Ale Festivals being held each year.” The festival began in 1979 and is both the longest-running annual oncampus society event and the largest student-run beer festival in the UK. Thursday night featured Britain’s last traditional Victorian pub pianist, Dr Busker, and a pirate fancy dress competition, whilst Warwick University Wind Orchestra performed on
“[I] would certainly have no objection to several Real Ale Festivals being held each year” Alex Houghton the Friday. Warwick Folk and Tom Lane’s Red Hot Chillies were set to perform on the Saturday, but were unable to do so due to the closure. “It is perhaps a little annoying,” said David Garman, Secretary of Warwick Folk Society, “[but] we do not blame the Real Ale Society for the cancellation. They have been planning it for almost a year so you can’t really accuse them of lack of planning, and there is no way they could have known that they would get more people in two nights this year than they did last year in three. They have treated us well and we en-
joyed performing last year, so we will definitely play again ... if asked.” Two alterations to this year’s festival were the dates of the festival and the addition of the hog roast. However, the point was raised that no vegetarian option was offered despite Students’ Union regulations which state that one should be available. When asked about this issue, Dennis replied that “[we] were not aware of the Union regulations regarding vegetarian options, nor were we made aware of them by the Union.” He mentioned that, although there has never been a vegetarian option at a Real Ale Festival, it would be something they would look into next year. “The general consensus so far has been that the event was a complete success, a victim of its own success,” Dennis continued. “Past society members and Union staff have deemed it the most successful and profitable festival ever. The event selling out in such a manner is not something we could have predicted, nor something we have ever had to plan for in the 32 years of it running.” The Real Ale Society offered “sincere apologies to those that had made special plans to come on the Saturday night”, adding that the profits from this year’s festival will go towards covering venue hire fees next year and investing in equipment to run an even larger festival next year.
Wisconsin protesters gate-crash Tea Party Derek Hatley
LEONARD O GOI
A virtual march of millions Nadiya Takolia
n Friday 11 February 2011, history was made. On this day, Egypt danced, sang and cried with the fall of dictator Hosni Mubarak after 30 years in power. The meaning of his fall went beyond this, as it symbolised the end of a system which was reliant on brutal oppression in existence since 1952. The social network was fundamental to this moment in history. I’m not just talking about Facebook, but a wider phenomenon of a collective consciousness created and supported by a powerful communication tool – the internet. We cannot deny what had been bubbling up in the Egyptian hotpot, ready to spill over – unemployment, profound inequality and state oppression. The catalyst given by their Tunisian brothers and sisters was also imperative. However, the revolutions taking hold of the Middle East would not have come about so contagiously without the power of online networks. Wael Ghonim, a 30-year-old
Google marketing executive, was one of the people behind the Facebook page which prompted the 25 January Revolution. Ghonim joined the protests, which he anonymously organised before disappearing on the third day of demonstration, re-emerging from a prison cell 12 days later. His actions have transformed Egypt, and indeed, as we will come to know, will fundamentally shape the Middle East and potentially global politics. He is just one member of a generation living in the age of the internet, youths who have come to know and utilise its power. As one witty tweeter put it: “Behind every Arab revolution is a Facebook page and a hashtag”. Ghonim’s own close associate, in referring to his decision to put Ghonim’s life at risk said: “The page is more important than any individual”. Online social networks remained significant and dynamic forces throughout the gruelling 18 days of protest. They were used for communication, organisation and journalism amongst other things. One thing which was noticeable about the BBC coverage was its use of tweets to get a picture of events as they unfolded, particularly as working as a foreign
journalist became very dangerous. Tweets came in from Egyptians on the ground as well as celebrities and heads of state including Barack Obama. But social networks were most imperative as tools of motivation. One thing that is evident in the 25 January Revolution is that it never lost momentum. The people never allowed the stubbornness of Mubarak to overcome their determination. “People power can’t be crushed” and “they call us kids…but look what the kids have done” are just two examples of the many tweeting voices of the revolution. This determined and unified spirit was not only evident in their words on Twitter, but crucially in the Egyptians’ actions – even when the government shut down the internet. For example, for those 18 days of protest, Tahrir, or Liberation Square, became many people’s home. Anti-Mubarak protestors slept in front of tanks to prevent their advances. The striking images of Copts forming a protective barrier around their Muslim brethren during Friday prayers were moving and certainly inspirational in their message which they were sending
out to the world: ‘Eid wahda’ – one hand. Despite being 3,644 kilometres away in Coventry, as I watched events unfold in Egypt, I was personally moved, as were many others. Many displayed Facebook statuses and Tweets of support. A ‘virtual march of millions’ took place on Facebook, attracting over 800,000 attendants. Ceaseless tweeting of events as they happened, and live video streams and photos meant that over the duration of the revolution, in spite of distance, it was possible for one to feel their purpose, their pain, and finally their overwhelming joy. Facebook and Twitter are more than just social networks. The revolution proved their potential to amplify previously unheard voices. They created solidarity both within a nation and between peoples of different nations, providing compelling evidence that human freedom and dignity is universal. This is the first time a revolution has happened in this way. All over the world, one heart beats for Egyptian blood. And the beat goes on. email@example.com
isconsin is a largely agricultural middle-American state more known for dairy products than for political turmoil. This state, however, has become the unlikely first battleground in a fight between the far-right Tea Party and the working and middle classes. The new Republican governor, Scott Walker, is forcing through a budget bill that will scrap unions’ rights to bargain on their members’ behalf. This plan has brought tens of thousands of protesters into the streets of the state capitol, Madison. Walker, however, is refusing to budge, despite the Democrats and the unions signalling their willingness to work with him. The manner in which Walker is behaving is a frightening harbinger of what Tea Party America would look like. Indeed, a recent prank call to Walker from a blogger posing as a wealthy supporter revealed the extent of his tyrannical ambitions. Walker let slip that he had considered deliberately disrupting the otherwise peaceful protests, and that the antiunion plans have nothing to do with the budget but instead are designed to consolidate his own power. The implications of this fight also go beyond Wisconsin’s borders. Other Republican governors are ready to implement similar anti-union measures. And on a national level, a Walker-esque future President would radically reshape the nature of the American state, stripping power from the middle classes and channelling it to wealthy businesses through a much stronger executive branch. This issue also has personal implications for me. My mother is a unionised state employee in Wisconsin, and my father works for local government. Both are set to be affected by Walker’s plans, particularly if redundancy notices start landing in letterboxes. While the restructuring of the relationship between government and citizens is frightening enough on its own, Walker’s plans are also an intensely personal attack on the hard work done by the hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin public sector employees like my parents. Keep an eye on Wisconsin. If the bill goes through, it is likely to be the first domino to fall in a long chain of radical changes to the way the American state functions. Long live King Walker. Derek Hatley is the Boar’s deputy editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Who said Facebook was useless? Social networks might just have become the proletariat’s new weapon for modern revolutions Has it ever occurred to you that your grandchildren might just ‘stumble upon’ your abandoned Facebook page if you forget to delete it? And that they might as well just find pictures of you partying hard (while you still could) when you were a young and sexy student? These pictures don’t get old. They don’t get yellow and dusty like your grandparents or parents’ pictures. Our generation, one of botox-filled cheekbones and unaccepted consequences of ageing, is also the victim of a new technology which immortalises your life, regardless of spatial and temporal circumstances. Virtual immortality. Now that’s a scary thought. Your life is owned by that strange thing called the internet. Or at least the memory of it. How cool is it to be able to see pictures of last night’s bar crawl or your cousin’s birthday a 1,000 miles away? But that’s in the short term. Think long-term. Think about how these pictures just won’t disappear. Perhaps the web is not a suitable place for personal information. What if death falls upon you with no one capable of deleting your accounts and personal information because your
password is now with you in your tomb? Haunting thought. This presents an image of the internet that would constitute a valuable justification to quit using it. But there is still so much that we would miss out on. Of course browsing through search engines for information does sound way cooler than the weariness of skimming pages of a dusty encyclopaedia in your granny’s study. But this is, thankfully, not the only thing the internet should be praised for. Whatever the reasons for what is happening in the Arab world, no doubt the web – and Facebook in particular – has a fair share of responsibility for it. The ‘2.0 revolution’ just gave the internet more credit than it had accumulated throughout the years since its invention. Facebook and virtual communications, if they will timelessly keep your toothy smile of your 20s, are also the delicate finger tip that knocked over the first domino (i.e. Tunisia) of the Arab domino chain. Who would have thought that history could be written on the web? There is an interesting prospect with that: instead of having authors producing pieces of work in which
they offer a unique perspective on a past historical event, the primary sources of history can now be found on the web itself, accessible to all. The revolutionary groups and protests organised by these means are to stay on the web for us all to remember this specific moment, and that won’t get old either. But that still doesn’t make the internet the cleanest tool in the shed. After all, this ‘place’ which still seems like something we do not control, is a dump where anyone can toss anything and it will stay there, just floating around. Although it does look more encouraging, the result of browsing for information on search engines will never be as reliable as your beloved granny’s dusty books. Despite all this, we should think of what is happening today as truly revolutionary: not only for the populations toppling deep-seated regimes, but also for the simple fact that history can now be written through new means. And that’s something that’ll decorate the history textbooks of your grandchildren. Or their iPads, or whatever comes next. Read more on the role of Facebook in the Arab revolutions on page 7.
Willetts is the real silly billy The minister’s comments that universities charging top fees will ‘look silly’ would be laughable if not so serious In criticising universities that were planning to charge the new maximum tuition fees of £9,000 per year, Universities Minister David Willetts said: “It would be a great pity if we had this idea that you have to charge a very high price in order to establish prestige.” But this is inevitable. Cambridge and Oxford, along with Imperial, have already announced that they plan to charge the maximum amount, and all of the smart money says that Warwick will be among those following suit. When the very best charge the most, prestige and price become automatically linked, and in order to keep up the universities will have to charge this amount. Willetts’ quite ingenious way of dissuading universities from these fees was to scathingly inform them
that they will “look silly” – a statement sure to have Nigel Thrift and his buddies losing sleep. His reasoning behind this is of course simple: he knows it will be he who looks silly. He opened the door to sky-high fees, apparently with some misguided impression that universities would unilaterally decide to gradually increase their fees without regulations preventing a jump to the top boundary. He has, as every single student marching on Millbank last year would tell you, been proven wrong, and that he could not predict this demonstrates his incompetence. The coalition has now delayed its white paper on higher education in panic at how this price-setting will go. What Willetts does not seem to acknowledge in encourag-
ing a ‘range of fees’, however, is that this brings its own issues. Price and prestige do go hand in hand, and as such student who have the potential to go to a top university will see the lower fees of other universities – and if they are from a less well-off family then this is of course going to seem more tempting. The misguidedness of the fees plans can be clearly seen as the loose ends which need tying up in the white paper show just how problematic they will be. Universities are mostly independent, so there’s not much ministers can do to further restrict how much they charge once the higher education bill passes. The Government has forced itself into a lose-lose situation except, of course, they are not the ones who will be losing out.
T ê t e - à - t ê t e The issue Alternate Vote or FPTP?
Should the Alternative Vote be implemented? Yes: We should not surrender our integrity to those who refuse to recognise us as thinking individuals Timothy Woodham
Late on Wednesday 16 February 2011, the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill received Royal Assent from the Queen thus confirming that the proposed referendum shall face the public vote. Britons will go to the polls to decide which method of voting should be employed in order to best determine those elected to represent individual constituencies in the House of Commons. The choice facing voters is whether the Alternate Vote (AV) system should be implemented in favour of the current First Past The Post (FPTP) set-up. As part of the proposed switch, rather than the present process of marking one solitary ‘X’ on the ballot paper, voters would have the chance to rank the candidates on offer in order of preference. Under our FPTP voting system the highest polling candidate for any given seat is elected, regardless of whether they have a majority share of the vote. The effect of this is that larger parties can gain a disproportionately large share of the seats in Parliament. Comparatively, AV requires voters to list options by preference until their potential options are exhausted or they chose to discontinue. In some AV elections, such as most Australian elections, electors are required to rank all candidates. If a candidate receives over 50 percent of first-preference votes then they are elected. If no such position is reached following the first round, then the second-preference votes of the last placed candidate are redistributed. This process is repeated until a majority is determined. On 5 May Britain will decide whether AV should be adopted to replace FPTP.
Have something to say on this week’s issue? Drop us an email. Better than that, send us a letter. We like post. The Boar Students’ Union HQ University of Warwick CV4 7 AL email@example.com
he obvious points must come first in any argument, and this argument is no different: parties have agendas. Of course the Lib Dems want this to be passed because they’ll get more seats. Of course Labour will support ‘Yes’ because they are the opposition. Of course Tories don’t want to loosen their grip on what, I assume, they speak of in private as total control. In the past year I have heard politicians speak of ‘Big Societies’ and ‘Lower University Education fees’, but I take Mr. Cameron’s recent speech on the ‘No’ vote as a personal insult. You’ll see what I mean later. But first, let’s consider some wellestablished facts, agreed upon by most credible sources. Two out of three MPs after the 2010 elections didn’t get a majority vote. This is because the current system basically takes a set of inadequate numbers and says: ‘That’s more or less fair, isn’t it?’
Of course it’s not perfect, but with AV we are getting closer to proper representation of our own, multi-dimensional voice Alright, I’m being flippant, but the fact remains that Alternative Vote will make it so that parties will actually have to reach out for a majority. It makes sense not only on ethical levels of fairness, but also on a political level as well: prospective MPs will have to work harder if they want to get anywhere; they will have to pull out all the stops, instead of just stopping when they think they’ve done enough. Thus, more information goes to the people with more room for debate. Thinking about more televised debates is making me feel ill, but I’m sure it would be a good thing. In any case, AV would make debates have more purpose. What’s the point of listening to what a politician has got to say, and agreeing with it, if you know you’re going to vote for the other guy just because the system’s fucked? Going into the voting booth for Gordon Brown, purely because you hate David Cameron, to me, is like a slap in the face, coupled with: ‘Yeah, democracy’s great and all that, but your voice doesn’t actually count.’ It’s disgusting to say that First Past The Post represents your voice because it doesn’t – it represents the voice of the two political parties we’ve grown so accustomed to hating.
But I want to move this away from information you can find yourself on the internet and in books. Don’t get me wrong, there are some advantages to FPTP, but, from what I gather, they all seem to be advantageous for the Tories – not for the people it’s supposed to represent. To exemplify this, here’s Mr. Cameron: “There is … a brilliant simplicity to the First Past The Post system: you walk into the polling booth, you put a cross against someone’s name, you drop the paper in the ballot box, and the person who gets the most votes wins. That is so simple to explain – less than a sentence.” Let me tell you why I think this is presumptuous. Firstly, he is assuming that we, as a nation, admire things that are brilliantly simple. This may be true to some extent: tea, for example, has a pretentious stigma when it is filled with many different aromas and flavours, whilst most consider a simple Ceylon and milk mix as one of the perfect ways to relax after a hard day. I refuse to equate the fate of our country with tea. And besides, anything that uses technicality to put non-majority parties in parliament sounds like an incredibly complex set-up. Finding the majority of opinion sounds concretely simple, and I think Mr. Cameron’s whole argument stems from the belief that we can’t count past the number two. This isn’t doing much for the Conservative image. Secondly, I don’t think it’s a massive stretch to suggest that human beings aren’t walking Conservatives, Labourites, or Liberal Democrats. Only tragic people put their whole mind in a single party and I argue that ‘one person, one vote’ not only implies that we are simple-minded, but that our whole mind, body and soul is either Party A or Party B. Of course it isn’t a perfect system, but at least with AV (despite not being as simple as Ceylon and milk in a mug) we are getting closer to proper representation of our own, multidimensional voice, instead of the voice of a solitary party. There is more to the referendum than just logical politics. We will always find a way to blame our government, be it Cameron, Blair, Thatcher or Chamberlain. Governments will always fail to some degree, be they voted in by FPTP, AV or AV+. The referendum will not change the face of politics as we know it. In fact, this is not even a political matter – rather, it is one of individual integrity: with AV we have some hope of keeping our dignity as living, breathing, thinking human beings. firstname.lastname@example.org
No: As the PM says, when it comes to democracy, Britain shouldn’t settle for anyone’s second choice Kimberley Simpson
t the beginning of September 2010 a bill introducing a referendum on whether or not to implement the Alternative Vote system was passed in the House of Commons by 328 votes to 269. On 5 May, the people of Britain will go to the polls to decide if they want to change the historic tried and tested First Past the Post system to one used by only three countries in the world: Fiji, Australia and Papua New Guinea. With the AV, instead of placing an ‘X’ in the box of the chosen candidate, voters rank the candidates in order of preference. If one candidate receives the majority of first preference votes, they are elected. This is very unlikely. If no candidate achieves more than 50 percent of the vote, the candidate with the least preference votes has the second preference votes on their ballots redistributed. This tiresome process then continues until one candidate finally gains a majority of the vote. The controversy of this topic means that for the first time our two political leaders have made public speeches outlining their stark disagreement on a major political issue
The one person, one vote system that we have used for centuries is fair and proportional, all votes equal since the formation of the coalition. So the referendum is already off to a cracking start, highlighting the fractures in our two-party government. On this one, I agree with David. In his speech on Friday, Cameron established his firmly anti-AV stance whilst making some very valid points. He discussed how the AV system can lead to unfair results, as second choice candidates of a constituency could potentially gain power, which also means there is a constant underlying risk of the outcome of a second choice government. In Cameron’s words: “When it comes to democracy, Britain shouldn’t have to settle for anyone’s second choice.” FPTP ensures that the public has the power to oust unpopular governments, as under the AV system Gordon Brown could still be Prime Minister (the horror). This new system would be incredibly complicated to explain to the nation’s voters, and frighteningly expensive to run, potentially costing the UK up to an additional £250 million next year.
As we are already trapped in this dire recession, we simply cannot afford this expensive complex change to the way our society is. If voters choose to vote for fringe party candidates rather than those that are more mainstream, these people’s votes will be counted more than others, as their second preference votes are redistributed. The AV system could also encourage negative party campaigning, with party promoters standing outside polling stations dictating to voters how to rank candidates. Probably the most depressing part of the AV system is its tendency to create hung parliaments and create an atmosphere of ‘horse-trading’ and governments being decided by secretive behind-the-scenes deals between politicians, the kind of politics we daily try to avoid. I think I’ll let David sum this up: “So no to AV. It means a voting system that is unfair, processes that are unclear, and a political system that is unaccountable.” The one person, one vote strategy that we have used for centuries is fair and proportional, with all votes considered equally and the candidate with the most elected. It generally delivers clear outcomes which result in stable governments, one of the many reasons it is used by 2.4 billion people across the globe. I’ve considered a conservative point of view here, so let’s briefly consider the Lib Dems. The lack of accountability created by AV would inevitably lead to more broken campaign promises, like the Lib Dems drastic U-turn on tuition fees and education spending cuts. Only two weeks before the last general election, Nick Clegg was moaning that the AV was merely a “miserable little compromise”, yet in the last two weeks his speeches have shown a remarkably sudden conversion to pro-AV. Who says politicians don’t stick to their guns? Some may argue that Cameron’s points about AV leading to hung parliaments and secretive deals basically reflects how the coalition was formed, though as he rightly says, it was the necessary solution to the economic crisis and the election result at the time. Though God forbid we ever get a hung parliament like this one again. FPTP may have produced a divided parliament in the last election, but this is a rare outcome for a typically conclusive voting system. Let’s not forget, it may not have elected a winner, but it definitely kicked out the loser, getting rid of Labour before they had any more chances to screw up our country. email@example.com
Joshua Funnell’s Two Penn’orth
Prisoner votes mean loss of sovereignty
CU takes the biscuit I stumble out of Top B, engine fueled with cheap vodka, I’m happy, energetic, discursive…but what’s this? Biscuits, tea, coffee, even water! I’m engulfed by an army of Christian crusaders seeking and destroying the alcoholic blood content of pissed Maths and Physics students. Someone’s drunk, on the deck like a marine on a WWII Normandy beach wailing for a medic…but... a Christian Samaritan is on hand: “This man needs 50ml of Nescafe and an injection of Jesus STAT!” My beef with Warwick Christian Union isn’t that they judge, but that they pretend not to. If I stand outside an abortion clinic, dressed as a foetus with “God’s shame” across my chest, it’s a judgment; I can’t claim, “I’m not judging, I’m spreading the word of the Lord”. God’s “divine words” are also judgments and become yours by association, don’t escape responsibility deferring to your deity; you are his child after all. Judge and tell me you’re doing so. Then we debate the validity of your judgment. Many disagree with me (a crowd at Top B did). “You don’t believe in selfless acts?” – “Yes” I said, “I believe in them, I just don’t see one”. The CU claim in their mission statement: “the hot chocolate project is all about serving students on campus” . However, “the best way ... we serve others is by sharing with them the good news – that Jesus is alive and that he loves them and ... wants them to know him!” It’s not the act of giving a biscuit, but the fact that the biscuit is full of Jesus-y dogma. Yes we drink, fornicate, dance to blasphemous music: if you disprove of this behaviour don’t give me a biscuit, tell me directly why. Instead it’s like moral bribery. One of our newly elected Sabbs attributed his victory to “giving out free tea and coffee”. I couldn’t help but see a striking similarity. Maybe they should join forces and spread a fusion espresso, of political/religious doctrine, but there could be a legal dispute over who pioneered the tactic first. To the apologists: don’t be naïve, there’s an agenda here beyond refreshment and sustenance. I’m not advocating a response like an atheist group in America, that traded in bibles for Hustler. In a world where big time Atheist Dawkins rocks the No.1 spot of Tesco’s book chart, it’s too easy to mock Christianity. There’s nothing more irritating than recycled, regurgitated atheistic sanctimony, dragged out like a dodgy old coat to exhibit an individual’s intellectual superiority. However, let’s challenge this patronising religious imposition dressed up as benevolent selflessness. Or, as my friend Lucy said to the above argument: “I don’t care about that, I just love biscuits.” firstname.lastname@example.org
f a pilot felt the need to boldly declare over the intercom every 10 minutes that the engine wasn’t on fire and that there was enough fuel, his passengers would begin to suspect something was amiss. That too was surely the reaction among political onlookers when William Hague inserted into his European Union Bill a clause asserting that Parliament had full sovereignty over the United Kingdom. Surely Parliamentary ink need not be wasted writing something so self-evident, you would have been forgiven for thinking. The recent furore over the granting of votes to prisoners, much to Mr Hague’s chagrin I’m sure, suggests this sovereignty exists on paper only. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg ruled that denying prisoners the vote is a breach of their human rights and, unless Britain complies with this ruling, we are liable to pay £100 million in
compensation claims that the ECHR will uphold. The argument in favour of denying the vote to prisoners, in this country at least, is generally accepted and uncontroversial. No political party apart from the Liberal Democrats is in favour of granting prisoners the vote and 69 percent of people support the current ban. Indeed, until the interjection of the ECHR, the issue hadn’t been discussed in Parliament since 1870. It is not so much the issue of prisoners voting that is really alarming. Rather, how this new enfranchisement came about and the implications it has for democracy in this country is. Despite Parliament voting overwhelmingly in favour of the status quo, it seems likely that at least some prisoners will be given the vote. Despite what Mr. Hague may claim, it seems the will of an unaccountable body of appointed judges from 47 countries trumps the will of our democratically elected Parliament. This is, however, a self-inflicted wound.
Our democratically elected representatives freely signed this country up to the European Convention of Human Rights in 1950. The signatories of that Convention had the noblest intentions: to enshrine the basic rights of every human being, in order to ensure the horrors inflicted during the Second World War were never repeated. It’s safe to say the fundamental and universal human rights those signatories had in mind were the right to liberty, a fair trial and the prohibition of torture, as opposed to the enfranchisement of prisoners. Since it was signed, the concept of human rights has been steadily expanded by judges appointed to the court, to the extent the ECHR is encroaching beyond the remit granted to it in 1950. Human rights are best guaranteed by elected representatives in a free democracy and the cause of human rights is only damaged by the interference of unaccountable, foreign courts in the affairs of parliaments. If the European Court is compromising our representative’s
decision-making on such matters, then a thorough reassessment of our relationship with the European Court of Human Rights ought to be undertaken. It seems likely however, that there will be a compromise. In probability, only prisoners serving short sentences will be given the vote to demonstrate that MPs still have limited control. I hope the absurdity of granting the vote to soft criminals does not extend to hardened drug dealers or attempted murderers on the grounds of human rights. This is a compromise not just on giving the vote to prisoners, but, more importantly, a compromise on the sovereignty of Parliament. As protesters across North Africa and the Middle East bravely risk their lives in the name of democracy, it is shameful that the Prime Minister of the oldest parliamentary democracy in the world shows such disregard for our sovereignty and cowardice in the face of European judicial tyranny. email@example.com
Has Ed Miliband finally grown some Balls? Jordan Bishop
oor old Ed Miliband. I won’t have to appear in libel court pleading ‘fair comment’ for that statement. It is a fact of life: with his baleful expression and droopy eyes you would be forgiven for believing he is actually a bloodhound. One with a penchant for politics and mediocrity. But then you remember that animals evoke more sympathy than people and reach for your wallet to make a donation to the RSPCA, which in turn makes you start picturing more politicians as their animal counterparts. Before you know it you’ve bought two tigers from WWF, have invested enough to keep all dogs in homes until 2058 and feel empty, incapable of remembering where this all began in the first place. In many ways then, his existence has been on a comparable level to a relatively harmless STI: you know he’s there, but if you shut your eyes and wait long enough all noticeable symptoms will disappear. Even when Miliband unveiled his U-turn on Labour’s economic record, acknowledging that the last government made a mistake in not talking about the need for cuts in order to reduce the deficit, the vast majority of people would have been far more interested by how, on a recent trip to Afghanistan, he looked incredibly silly in a helmet and flak jacket. Like a half melted Smartie which has been trodden on, or a toucan in a fez, it just didn’t go. But in an exciting twist, not five days later – following the discovery that Alan Johnson’s wife completely misconstrued the definition of bodyguard – Miliband appointed Ed Balls as his new Shadow Chancellor: the
only senior Labour politician who has so far maintained that the spending cuts are completely unnecessary. In proverbial economic plumbing, Labour’s leader appears to have combined two U-bends in order to fashion himself a helpful S-turn. Picture that image to realise the full scope of his directional ineptitude. At the very least he seems to have been using the same satnav employed by the US military circa 2001-2010. And why is this relevant? Because, quite simply, Miliband has grown some Balls. If we can carry on the sexual infection metaphor just a lit-
In proverbial economic plumbing, Labour’s leader has combined two U-bends to fashion a helpful S-turn flickr : edmiliband
tle longer, then it is possible to consider this decision to introduce Balls in similar terms to discovering that your presumed case of pesky lice is in fact full blown syphilis. Together, the two men clearly mean business. The downward cycle of Milibandian pity which we all experience may even be in recession. Such is their seriousness that they have recently imposed a ‘policy statement sign-off ’ form upon Shadow Ministers, requiring them to detail any public comments which they intend to make. Ministers are banned from mentioning money without permission from the Shadow Chancellor and require specific approval concerning their precise choice of words to be used within speeches, articles, press statements or in any contribution to Parliament. Nor can they back nonparliamentary campaigns without clearing it with the two men, a move
which has led some to accusations of MPs being treated “like children”. Not content with governing every minute aspect of human life then, politicians now appear to have reached the conclusion that they require government for government. One wonders how they came to such a decision, given the bafflingly difficult Catch-22-esque process it must have involved – anyone able to determine the need to govern the governed would have to be part of the system, but to be part of the system would imply a need to be controlled. Maybe Mr Miliband simply wants to avoid any more confusing policy 360s. Alternatively, this could just be a sign that our elected representatives are a diverse collection of blithering imbeciles incapable of following party doctrine or keeping uncooperative comments to themselves. Personally, I believe it to be a combination of all three. What more can
you expect from politicians? I have long held the belief that many who enter politics were clearly bullied at school – the result of which is that their actions are now negatively influenced by a latent desire to impose their feeble will upon those who teased them for being fat, having a bad haircut or being named after male genitalia. Given the evidence, it is very tempting to suggest replacing the parliamentary system with a smaller council of elected members, with potential candidates being invited rather than volunteering themselves. Democracy combined with talent and intelligence. Men and women not driven by their side-partings. Having said this though, maybe there is a reason we currently have so many MPs. Maybe it is a clever ploy to keep the madness all in the same place. firstname.lastname@example.org
The Rootes of students’ discontent
Warwick Accommodation’s unfair treatment of tenants stirs anger through Rootes’ corridors Melissa Morgan
reshers’ fortnight: A time of fun, new friends, partying and a lot of drinking. When this carefree fortnight ends you might not be certain if you picked the right course, but you are guaranteed to believe you picked the best accommodation – or have you? Rootes is home to 924 Freshers each year and has a reputation of being one of the wildest places to live. Although shared bathrooms, shared showers and no communal space can be hell some of the time, we are all prepared to put up with it in order to keep our belongings in our space all year long. So what if we are obliged to pay through the holidays? At least we can keep our belongings safely in our rooms and come back to them when we want. However, this term students in Rootes L block woke up to find a very impersonal letter shoved under their doors, stating that during the Easter vacation they were required to clear their rooms of any personal possessions and remove all food and cooking equipment from kitchens. This short, impersonal and unapologetic letter sparked outrage. There was no mention of a refund or compensation, simply a short message stating that ‘essential maintenance’ had to take place and students had two options if they wished to leave their belongings at Warwick University. The first option was to place all belongings inside a container, which would be placed in Car Park 6. The
second option was to move into Cryfield for the Easter holiday, before having to move back again at the end of the holiday. These options were extremely unsatisfactory. The first sounds more like an advert for students to have their possessions stolen, while the latter is, in essence, simply a reflection of the hassle one will have to go through if they’ve got to take their belongings home. After contacting Warwick Accommodation I was given further details on why students had to leave their accommodation. The email first stated students aren’t being removed from their accommodation because of maintenance as they had previously stated, but instead for a building survey. The e-mail explained Warwick Accommodation had also come to the con-
clusion refunding students would be fair, but only the total of £36. This is just over 10 percent of the £332 students paid for four weeks accommodation in the Easter Vacation. This small refund is particularly frustrating for many students who feel they are virtually throwing £332 down the drain. If we are prepared to pay for accommodation over the holidays in order to keep our possessions there, how can it be justifiable to take away that facility and still charge us? It’s rather like a hotel tossing you out for a few days but still charging you and saying “but you can always use the garage or go next door!” Unsurprisingly, there is a lot of anger throughout the inhabitants of Rootes. As some students argue, the reason many chose Rootes was for the convenience of leaving their be-
longings over the holidays. How long have Warwick Accommodation known the building was in need of maintenance? Why were students not warned when applying for accommodation or before they paid £1,245? It is my belief that Warwick Accommodation have breached their side of the accommodation contract. It states that the University can only terminate the tenancy agreement if the Student has not paid for their accommodation, has breached their obligations, are not a legal student of the University, or if the Student is a risk to themselves or other people. Any other change to the contract has to be agreed by both the University and the Student. Furthermore, the Civil Rights Bureau states that students living in University accommodation are considered ‘occupiers with basic protection’. Therefore the University cannot unjustly evict students if they have already paid rent for a certain time period. Students feel betrayed and let down by the University. Their only hope is that if enough students continue to complain to Warwick accommodation, they will be forced to carry out their survey in the summer, but at the moment the future does not seem promising. Perhaps taking the matter up with the small claims court would make these cavalier decision-makers think again. Those of us who have solicitors in the family can definitely consider this option. Forget sit-ins – they want a grown-up game: bring it on. email@example.com
Charging for healthcare: a deadly prescription Derek Hatley
hat’ll be £22,451 for that heart bypass surgery then, please.” A phrase like this has no place in our National Health Service. Yet this is the spectre raised in Jordan Bishop’s comment piece in the last issue of this paper, where he argued for a service charged rather than provided according to an individual’s need. He claimed his plan was “literally flawless”, but I’d like to take some of Bishop’s “flawless” points and explain where the flaws are. The first point in his article I take issue with is the assertion that we should automatically resent paying tax if we have not (yet) had to use the NHS. “Make the sick people pay instead,” he seems to argue. Aside from the obvious selfishness and questionable morality here, there are a number of other issues as well. First of all, the cost of £2,000 per year per person cited by Bishop is relatively small. The UK spends slightly less than the European average for healthcare, and yet health outcomes in this country are as good or better on many indicators than other similar countries. The
NHS is, according to a major longitudinal study comparing the health systems of industrialised nations, one of the most efficient health systems in the Western world – £2,000 a year is actually not a lot, considering the quality and effectiveness of the NHS. Bishop argues that those who live a healthy lifestyle should contribute less to the NHS. However, it is ridiculous to assume that simply because people make healthy lifestyle choices they will never have need for the health service, or to assume, as Bishop says, that the majority of people go their entire lives without needing healthcare. It makes perfect sense for everyone to contribute what they are able to for the health service regardless of current need, because there is no way of predicting future need. And if we are going to go down the route of charging more for certain lifestyle choices, where will the line be drawn? Charging someone who has had too much to drink might be relatively acceptable, but what about someone who drives for a living and is thus more likely to be in car accident? Also, people are already charged more for unhealthy lifestyle choices – ever
heard of cigarette or alcohol tax? And finally, the bureaucracy associated with determining each individual’s rate of contribution would be enormous and costly and likely negate any potential savings. The final flaw in the flawless plan is the fact that unhealthy lifestyle choices – smoking, heavy drinking, etc. – are far more prevalent amongst lower income groups. This would mean that those who are most likely to be charged under his plan would be those least able to afford it. Bishop’s plan sounds very similar to American healthcare, where payments are linked to lifestyle, medical conditions and ability to pay. The more money you have, the better your healthcare. Although Bishop argues his plan would help solve the financial crisis and help the government spend less money, data shows this would not be the case. America spends more on its healthcare (around 17 percent of GDP compared to the UK’s 9 percent) than any other industrialised nation, has appalling levels of inequality and has one of the most inefficient systems in the world. Making people in the UK pay when they get sick would do nothing other than to send millions of people into
bankruptcy and shatter the very bedrock of the British health system. The NHS’s founding principles are that it meet the needs of everyone, is free at the point of delivery and that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay. These principles form the basis of everything that is good about our health service, and altering them risks demolishing an organisation relied upon by tens of millions of people and that serves as a shining example of how nationalised medicine should operate. The current government’s proposals to reform the NHS do, in fact, go some way towards achieving Bishop’s horrifying vision for healthcare in the UK – indeed, he argues the reforms are a step in the right direction. I get the feeling Bishop wrote his article more to be controversial than to propose a serious plan for the NHS. Whatever the rationale, though, his plan doesn’t deserve the light of day. It would leave the poor dying on the streets while the wealthy pay for whatever world-class treatments they choose. This is no vision for the future of healthcare in Britain. Derek Hatley is the Boar’s deputy editor firstname.lastname@example.org
Thus spoke Jamie Oliver Rose Stuart
t’s okay. Everyone relax. We’re not just a mob of hoodie-wearing, knife-weilding, drug-snorting delinquents after all. No, no. Far from being menacing and violent misanthropes, we are in fact merely apathetic drips, indulged by our doting mummies. Jamie Oliver has spoken. And when Jamie speaks, Jamie speaks sense. Yes, in an interview with the Observer earlier this month, Oliver said: “I’ve never experienced such a wet generation. I’m embarrassed to look at British kids. You get their mummies phoning up and saying: ‘He’s too tired, you’re working him too hard’ – even the butch ones.” To a certain extent I agree with Oliver. His description of foreigners who come to work in Britain is definitely a valid one. There’s a certain robustness and dogged rigour to mainland Europeans. Theirs is a steadfast resolve which they apply to all aspects of life. It’s why Europeans seem to be able to speak four languages by the time we’ve got to grips with our mother tongue. It’s why French people as diverse as Arsenal’s manager Arsène Wenger and France’s current Minister of Economic Affairs, Finances and Industry Christine Lagarde, say, speak English more eloquently than someone like, well, Jamie Oliver. As a languages student, I lament the fact that I’m still bumbling around in the French language even at degree level. Why didn’t I learn to speak it when I was six, when my Swedish and Dutch contemporaries were reciting Chaucer by heart? Instead I’ll be 23 by the time I acquire a proficiency in French equal to the proficiency my European counterparts had in English at the age of twelve. That said, the extent of Oliver’s generalising is derisory. Only a few months ago, thousands of articulate, engaged students took to the streets to protest against the rise in tuition fees. These students exhibited a passion and drive far removed from the ‘generational wetness’ of today’s youth by which Oliver claims to be so embarrassed. Sure, these protesters were among the academic elite of the supposed “wet generation”, but nevertheless, they are an example to challenge outright Oliver’s sweeping generalisation. With the classiness we’ve come to expect from our multimillionaire chef, Jamie ruminates: “You need to be able to knock out seven 18-hour days in a row – you need to know what real fucking work is… I had that experience. By 13, I’d done 15-hour days in my dad’s pub.” Sure, Jamie. But the difference between your situation with that of young people today is that you were working “15-hour days” in your dad’s pub, doing a job you absolutely adored. Today you can count yourself lucky if you manage to secure a work experience placement in your local Spar. Unpaid. Obviously. email@example.com
Osborne the Magnificent
Although the Government has made moves towards increasing regulations on banks, critics say their plans are not enough
hancellor George Osborne’s recent embellishment of ‘Project Merlin’, an agreement between the Government and the UK’s four largest retail banks – Barclays, HSBC, RBS and Lloyds – has been met with lukewarm reception. Presented as the long overdue holding to account of the protagonists behind the recession, it seeks to redress banking practices relating to bonuses, salaries and the freeing up of capital to small medium enterprises (SMEs). Excoriated, on the one hand, as an excessively punitive stunt to defuse public anger with the financial community, and on the other as simply not enough, reform of this nature has not failed to draw controversy. So what is Project Merlin and is it any good? Since fulfilling an early pledge to raise the levy on banks by £800m to £2.5bn, the coalition has demonstrated a degree of backbone in overhauling elements of the sector, including outlining its plans for a ‘Big Society Bank’. In this vein, the proposals of Project Merlin relate to increasing liquidity in the economy through making credit readily avail-
able to those who have struggled to receive it previously. The four banks, as well as Santander, will commit to providing £190bn of credit to firms, a 6 percent increase on the £179bn lent in 2010. Crucially, £76bn of this sum will be made available to SMEs, an increase of 15 percent on last year; and with 4.3m of these firms in the UK accounting for almost 50 percent of employment, their unobstructed
Whilst Project Merlin poses as the perfect remedy for the UK’s economic quandary, it is an exercise in restraint operation is vital to recovery. An extra £1bn of equity capital will be further pledged over three years to the Business Growth Fund, which provides finance to firms in economically depressed areas of the UK and £200m to Cameron’s fledgling Big Society Bank that finances community projects, in line with his vision of rejuvenated localism. All proposals make for great rhetoric, though many reservations remain. Stipulating none of the collaborators experience a competitive disadvantage from Project Merlin, mar-
ket forces will dictate the terms of lending, sparing no concessions for SMEs. Many speculate that rates of interest will still remain too high to be effective and such commitments to relaxing granting of equity are largely symbolic. A resolute third party in this arrangement could work against this, though the government’s minor influence is exemplified in Goldman Sachs’ hard-hitting rebuke to any call for involvement in the project. Moreover, threats, no matter how empty, of relocation to other global financial hubs reduce the government’s leverage. The city undeniably remains a lifeline due to vast taxation receipts and with US contemporaries such as Lloyd Blankfein, head of Goldman Sachs, and James Gorman, CEO of Morgan Stanley, enjoying bonuses of $12.6m and $7.4m respectively, any scope for bonus curtailment could be wrong-footed. Whilst Project Merlin poses as the perfect remedy for the UK’s present economic quandary, being both redistributive and forcing bank acknowledgment of previous wrongdoing, it is an exercise in restraint. The City, as divorced as it is from government control today, has little scope for social conscience. But don’t expect public ire to quieten down anytime soon.
» Banks agreed to lend more to small firms photo: Diliff (Wikipedia)
UK inflation reaches four percent
High inflation has opened up divisions in the Monetary Policy Committee and drawn criticism on it from all quarters
t’s that time of year again. Everyone’s suffering from colds, or worse, man flu. Even the economy has come down with something: a serious case of inflation. Many of us will still be cringing at the state of our bank accounts after a merry Christmas, but it is not looking much better for the future with inflation for January running at 4 percent, meaning prices are 4 percent higher now than this time last year. This figure has missed its target consistently since 2009 and, whilst it might look small on paper, it is double the target rate set by the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC). The picture looks more interesting when comparing our level of inflation with the equivalent of our main trading
partners; eurozone inflation is at 2.4 percent and it is at just 1 percent in the US. With such a striking contrast, it has to be asked why the UK is suffering from a terrible case of inflation. One cause of higher prices for consumers is the rise in VAT. Many of us will recall the Labour government’s temporary reduction in VAT in 2008 to try to stimulate the economy. The coalition has since brought this up to 20 percent, which came into effect in January of this year, but high street retailers have been tactical and stealthily raised prices prior to the hike in the tax and claimed to keep prices constant when the tax was introduced, gradually pushing inflation up to current levels. With a hefty austerity package already in place, commentators have started to question the likely implications that this combination will have on an economic
recovery. For those who regularly fill up their car at the pumps, they will not be able to hide from the rising cost of petrol, which peaked at £1.27 a litre this January. This is caused by the rising price of oil. This has been surging
Commentators appear to be in agreement that we will see a rise in interest rates before the end of the year as of late, caused by tensions in the Middle East leading to a great uncertainty over oil and also rising demand from Chinese manufacturers. A global over-dependence on oil means, in times like these, inflation on a global scale is rising. Finally, on a trade-weighted aver-
age, the pound has fallen in value (roughly 25 percent) against its main competitors. This means that it now costs us more of our pounds to purchase goods from overseas, leading to imported inflation. So, how can we tackle inflation? The main tool used to manage the rate of inflation is the manipulation of interest rates, currently at a record low of 0.5 percent. The MPC will raise interest rates (typically changes in interest rates are by 0.25 percent) when it wants consumers to curb their consumption and save more of their income and vice versa. But interest rates have not been raised for the moment. With economic recovery in such a delicate position, Britain actually saw a fall in output in December. Many fear that an interest rate rise now will dampen growth prospects as the UK looks to
recover from one of the biggest economic disasters in recent times. This is not the opinion of all; one member of the MPC, Andrew Sentance, also a part-time professor here at Warwick, has been one of the most prominent individuals to have pushed for a rates rise. Commentators appear to be in agreement that we will see a rise in interest rates before the end of the year; the big question is when we will see this. But with recent downward revisions of UK growth data to 1.8 percent this year, it remains to be seen whether this will be enough to combat dangerous levels of inflation.
If you were Mervyn King, what would you advise? Should rates rise?
Spring Awakening Head into Spring/Summer with Rock Chic, Popping Prints, Seventies Long Lengths and Bursting Brights Photographs by Jack Davison Fashion by Josh Smith
do leather in new ways, from the really daring to subtle detailing. From Left to Right: Jessica wears Coat, £49.99, H&M. Shoes, £6, Primark. Alex wears Top, £22, Trousers, £40, both Topman. Boots, model’s own. Charlotte wears Shirt, £14.99, H&M. Necklace, £12.50, Freedom at Topshop.
popping prints tackle prints in a seventies fashion, clash them for extra attention or team with directional accessories.
From Left to Right: Jessica wears Sunglasses, £2, Primark. Hat, £25, Topshop. Dress, £44.99, River Island. Shoes, £85, Topshop. Charlotte wears Shirt, £30, Topshop. Trousers, £34.99, River Island. Shoes, £6, Primark. Sophie wears Dress, £15, Primark. Belt, £5, Dorothy Perkins. Shoes, £65, Topshop. Cat wears Dress, £17, Primark. Shoes, £65, Topshop. Tom wears Shirt, £28, Jumper, £28, Shorts, £26, all Topman. Shoes, £15, Primark.
seventies long lengths skim the floor with trousers, dresses andjumpsuits.
From left to right Cat wears Top, £18, Trousers, £45, Shoes, £65, all Topshop. Charlotte wears Dress, £85, ASOS. Shoes, £65, Topshop. Jessica wears Jumpsuit, £39.99, River Island. Shoes, £85, Topshop.
bursting brights fill your wardrobe with ladylike tones, head to toe hues, block colours or bright accessories.
Catherine wears Jacket, £55, Tophsop. Necklace, model’s own. Dress, £59.99, Aspire (www.aspirestyle. co.uk). Bag, £32.99, River Island. Shoes, £85, Topshop. Sophie wears Dress, £74, Warehouse. Shoes, £65, Topshop. Charlotte wears Top, £19.99, H&M. Shorts, £29.99, River Island. Bag, £8, Shoes, £8, both Primark. Jessica wears Dress, £40, ASOS. Belt, £5, Dorothy Perkins. Bag, £8, Primark. Shoes, £52, ASOS. Tom wears Shirt, £26, Belt, £12, Trousers, £28, all Topman. Shoes, £15, Primark. Modelled by: Charlotte Jayaseelan, Catherine Parrott, Jessica Cressy, Sophie Musgrave, Tom Newton and Alex Pashley. Assisted by: Charlotte Haycraft. www.jackdavison.co.uk
flickr : marc vera art
How the television viewer got his skin
Pui-Guan Man finds unexpected depths in the BBC’s sensitive and engaging human nature documentary Human Planet
p until now, nature documentaries have neglected to showcase one of the most adaptable, resilient species of the animal kingdom: humans. The BBC’s latest offering, Human Planet, seeks to rectify this oversight. Each episode of this beautifully filmed eight-part series, narrated by the inimitable John Hurt, hones in on specific environments all over the world, “far from the city lights”, and the ways in which its human inhabitants use their ingenuity to adapt to them, “face to face with raw nature” (according to the blurb). Every hour-long instalment reveals how people are able to live in hostile and seemingly uninhabitable climates, allowing the average sofa-dweller a privileged look into otherwise inaccessible societies. Being caught in an age of rapidly advancing technology, industrial expansion and in a Western society which is growing increasingly concerned with the ethics of environmental degradation, we are all too aware of our uneasy
relationship with nature. Whether it means to or not, Human Planet plays on this, showing its technology-addled audience the lifestyles of those who have to rely on navigating and exploiting extreme conditions in alien territories in order to survive. To these extraordinary people, the simple things that we would take for granted hold an extraordinary value. For example, Pa-aling divers in the Philippines, diving 40m deep, rely on garden hose-style breathing tubes to lay huge fishing nets on the sea-bed, leaving themselves vulnerable to decompression sickness and in danger of death. The program also shows us West Papua’s Korowai tribes who are able to build tree houses in the rainforest’s ceiling out of sticks, twine, bark and palm leaves using Stone Age-type tools. The complex relationship between nature and humans, a deep connection apparently forsaken by modernity, is explored at length. We see people surviving by means of interspecies collaboration, as bottlenose dolphins herd hefty
amounts of mullet to fishermen in Laguna and locals in the Altai Mountains domesticate golden eagles to hunt with in barren landscapes. Hunting is an unavoidable subject in a documentary that looks at human survival. Some accounts capture the hunter-prey relationship so indiscriminately that it would make any animal lover wince. The Awa-Guajá tribe tuck into a bucket of skinned monkeys; rather enchantingly unicorn-like narwhals are speared and baby auks are ripped apart by Inuits, all in front of the unflinching camera lens. This is human survival in TV’s most brutally honest portrayal. Just watching the struggle for power and control between man and nature take place can prove draining. There are many representations of man and beast having a relationship not dissimilar to David and Goliath, for instance in a scene where Dorobo hunters attempt to steal prey from a pack of hungry lions and further in a showdown between a Malian teenager and a herd of angry African elephants. Such is the
intensity of Mali’s drought that he faces them armed only with sticks in order to drink from a rare watering hole. Human Planet thus invites you to partake in its resolute celebration of the human spirit in what it believes is its purest form, challenging the viewer with its demonstration of humanity in such a raw state that places it as an obscene abstraction from our world of convenient, disposible food and easily accessible water. It almost feels as if Human Planet is more a history of how humans used to live than a program depicting how people live in disparate environments. There is still one more episode to be broadcast and, if you haven’t already got round to it, past episodes are still on BBC iPlayer. Catch them before they’re wiped off the face of the internet. It is a program which is in equal parts visually stunning and emotionally engaging, and one which establishes a precedent for decent programming about the human condition. Bravo.
Even Toby Steinberg finds himself reaching boiling point watching yet another series of Masterchef
he events of the last fortnight – massacres, earthquakes – have been something of a low point for humanity. In times like these, as the world reels from one crisis to another like a drunk stumbling precariously down a cluttered hallway, the natural response is, of course, to quietly draw the curtains and reach to the television for an efficiently diverting sedative. TV may well be the opiate of the masses but, in fairness, we’re all probably much happier on the odd dose of audiovisual morphine. It was therefore doubly upsetting to note the baffling and quite frankly disturbing changes wrought of Masterchef, formerly the most enjoyable piece of pacifying froth widely available without prescription or digibox.
Perhaps it’s some kind of Murdoch-sponsored plot. After all, there’s a degree of almost suicidal lunacy in the BBC deciding to overhaul what is debatably their most entertaining show, especially when the exact reasons for its appeal were unquantifiable, even to its ardent fans. The early knockout challenges, arguably the most compelling portion of the show, have been replaced by a turgid audition process, in which 100 contestants have one hour to prepare one dish and finish it in front of the judges, Gregg Wallace and John Torode. Instead of increasingly stressed cooks trying to simultaneously complete the challenge and endure an interrogation without burning themselves or lopping off a finger, they’re now only exposed to the pair when their most pressing remaining task is
not dropping the plates. An even more disappointing side effect of the new format is the marked decrease in humiliating failure, especially as it’s a well-established TV fact that the entertainment value of reality programming is directly proportional to its cruelty quotient. The tone and staging of the program has also been tweaked unsuccessfully, dialing up the battle scene music to eleven and introducing epileptic camera angles. Although the kaleidoscopic swerve between high melodrama and soaring triumph has always been a winning aspect of Masterchef, the production team has subtly misread this quality. The most enjoyable aspect of the show’s unreasonably epic tone was the contrast between the grandiloquent as-
sertions of the hosts and their pleasantly mundane surroundings. There’s a vast charm differential between two men loudly insisting on the importance of every minute in a small, homely set, and the same occurring in a vast Masterchef bunker that looks like the kitchen deck of the Deathstar. There’s still a scant shred of hope left, I suppose. Once the early rounds are over and the ridiculous critics turn up, perhaps there’ll be a soupcon of its former glory remaining. These are wistful dreams, though. Essentially the world’s most comforting programme, an ideal of elegant simplicity, has been transformed into a brash, awkward monster. If this goes on, we’re barely going to be dulled to the world around us at all. And I, for one, will not stand for that.
The Vaccines: What did you expect? The biggest band you’ve never heard: Caitlin Allen catches up with The Vaccines on the 2011 NME tour
» The Vaccines live in Cluny, Newcastle photo: Daniel Robson, Flickr
eaturing Crystal Castles, Magnetic Man, Everything Everything and The Vaccines on the bill, this year’s NME tour was something to look forward to. The Boar sent Caitlin Allen along to talk to new darlings of the indie pop scene, The Vaccines, at the Birmingham date of the NME Awards Show Tour 2011. Consisting of vocalist Justin Young, bassist Árni Hjörvar, guitarist Freddie Cowan (younger brother of Justin Cowan, The Horrors) and Pete Robertson on drums, the Vaccines have been everyone’s hotly tipped for 2011, so much so that even members of Kaiser Chiefs weren’t cool enough to get on the guestlist for their first London show. The Boar: I noticed on my way over that there were already an awful lot of youngsters queuing outside. Did you ever do that – wait for hours to see your favourite band? Pete: I can’t say I remember queuing to see a band, but once when I was younger my parents took me into London for the day, and it was the day after Blur had played the Astoria. I listened to the gig on the radio, so when we were there that next day I asked if we could go in, thinking there would still be some kind of aftermath going on. The Boar: It would have been great if there had been. I’m guessing you guys are a little bored of discussing ‘the hype’... Pete: What hype? The Boar: ...but I just really wanted to ask whether you had a devious hand in constructing it at all? Freddie: Yes. What we did was we phoned up every newspaper and every magazine and said “Don’t talk about us, but almost talk about us”. Pete: No, it was Zane Lowe... Freddie: He called the magazines. Zane Lowe was handing out Vaccines flyers on the streets of London. Pete: What actually happened was that we made a couple of rough demos, one of them made it on to YouTube – I don’t even know how – and a few days later it ended up being played on Zane Lowe’s show. Freddie: We were just making songs and having fun, and all that just happened around us. I don’t think it’s really possible for a band to ar-
tificially create their own hype, because people would see straight through it. To be honest, we didn’t even have the resources to pull off something like that anyway. Pete: And ultimately, this is going to sound quite arrogant, but if it’s not of sufficient quality then people won’t buy into it. The Boar: Do you think the situation worked for you as a band? Did it spur you on to live up to it? Freddie: I don’t think that’s how it works. People come to see us because they like us. That hype stuff happens on a media level. The magazines need stuff to talk about so they have to create things. Pete: I think that in the very early days there were a small number of people who came to our shows or who had read about us and who wanted us to fail because of the fact that we’d been ‘hyped’. Freddie: Really? I think people came out to hear us because there was so much coverage and media attention that they got curious. People want to make up their own minds about music –they don’t just swallow what they read. The Boar: It’s got to be difficult for publications; they get criticised for creating these kinds of situations, but then on the other hand if they weren’t covering every new band out there, that would be wrong too. Freddie: I honestly think that the journalists just write about bands they like. That’s not creating hype. Sometimes the writing style is obsequious, but really it has to be that way. Otherwise it’d be dull. At the end of the day all publications are business and I don’t think you can criticise them for it; it’s all music. The Boar: The lyrics of your songs are pretty teenage-angsty - in a good, honest way. Is that where a lot of the inspiration comes from? Freddie: Yeah, they’re very much about being young and also very much inspired by Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys vibes. Most people’s teenage years are a period of recklessness and discovery. Pete: Discovering girls and all sorts of things. That plays a big part in it, although I’ve never thought of our music as being about the teenage years in particular. It’s youthful, about the
kind of issues that all young people have. The Boar: I think most people have worked out that the Beach Boys must be a big influence for you, but you’ve been compared to all sorts. I read an online forum on which someone was insisting that you sound like The Who. Who would you like people to be saying you sound like? Freddie: No one, ideally. If people take particular elements and say his guitar sounds like whoever, then that’s fine and you can’t really avoid that. But we’d like people to be seeing and understanding our music as something different, not directly comparable to anyone else. Pete: People often hear one thing in your music and then simply declare that you’re just copying that other person. I’ve read someone saying that we just copy Joy Division. I like Joy Division and if someone can hear a bit of that in there somewhere then that’s great, but there’s no way that I would say it myself, and it’s certainly not something that we’re aiming for. The Boar: One of the other ideas that’s been banded around is that you guys are going to save British guitar music. The three other acts on this tour make predominantly electronic music; do you think that’s a reflection on the current British scene? Do you think it’s true that we’re missing a great guitar band? Pete: Well it’s certainly true that it doesn’t have a presence in the charts. It’s not commercial. There are a lot of guitar bands out there, but they’re just not given coverage. Go out any night of the week in any city in the UK and there are venues where kids are playing guitars. You just don’t hear it on the radio. We don’t have these kind of ideas about ourselves, you know – it’s other people who want to make these statements about us. If people think that we have a poppy enough sound and good enough songs to achieve commercial success then that’s definitely a compliment. The Boar: What do you think of the other bands on this tour? Freddie: Crystal Castles can be quite intimidating at first but they’re lovely really. Just like puppies. The Vaccines’ debut album, provocatively titled What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? is due out on March 14th, and they will be playing in Birmingham at the HMV Institute on April 9th.
What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? The Vaccines
★ ★ ★ ★★
s you’ve probably heard, ‘those in the know’ think quite a lot of The Vaccines. They have been ‘spotlighted’, ‘introduced’ and picked for us as ‘the thing we need to listen to this year’. So is it wise to believe the hype about the Vaccines? If album opener ‘Ra Ra Ra Wreckin’ Bar’ is anything to go by then the answer is a definite yes. The Vaccines hyper-literate lyrics, bringing references from Scott F Fitzgerald’s self destructive landscapes to a Ramones-esque punk squall, suggest that the Vaccines are a band very much in control of a thoughtful and thoroughly exciting approach to guitar music. The Vaccines, however, are stylists. After throbbing album openers ‘Wreckin Bar’ and ‘If You Wanna’, they lay down the thoughtful and affecting cut, ‘A Lack of Understanding’ which covers similar territory to ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ in a Jesus and Mary Chain guitar haze, that really betrays a beautiful and Spektor-esque girl band heartbreak melody. What really impresses about What Did You Expect From The Vaccines? is just when you feel you’ve pinned them down as modern day Ramones or JAMC avantgardists, they veer off seamlessly in a new direction. It’s refreshing to hear such a young band in control of well executed and inventive experimentation. With hit singles such as ‘Post Break-Up Sex’ preceding the album’s release, What Did You Expect... provides the unexpected for the internet hype generation; something that really lives up to all the speculation and rumour-mills. This is an album full of brilliant singles waiting to happen; take hyperactive bubblegum popper ‘Norgaard’, or ruminative echo-chamber ‘Family Friend’ for example. What did you expect... is definitely worth a listen – at the very least it’s made a considerable mark in a short period of time. The Vaccines really are one of a kind. Nick Mosley
Talent or tabloids?
A popularity contest? Fionna McLauchlan questions the credibility of awards ceremonies
Battle of the Bands continues to cries of ‘We want Coc!’ Heat 3
» Bottoms up: Cee Lo Green’s collaboration with Paloma Faith at 2011’s Brit Awards photo: Beacon Radio, Flickr
his year’s BRIT awards were billed to be an innovative reworking of the formerly tired and frankly dull format. The ground-breaking ‘twist’ formulated by the organisers was to base the ceremony around ‘quality’ music. (You may rightly ask yourself, “Shouldn’t music awards be based around this concept in the first place?”) Still the organisers’ new approach desired to restore some much needed credibility to the sometimes cynically viewed awards ceremonies. As the organisers handed over to the experts, for the first time music artists were invited to join in the voting, and they represented the single largest group on the panel. So, armed with a revolutionary new concept – that of quality – a new statuette designed by Vivienne Westwood and a new venue (in the shape of the O2 academy), the image was right, but were the reworked BRIT awards really an improvement on former years? The new judging panel had certainly placed more emphasis on the music that the organisers had appeared to be hoping for, as many young and talented British artists took away the big awards. Plan B deservedly walked away with Best British Male after the success of his recent album The Defamation of Strickland Banks. Tinnie Tempah won two awards: Best Breakthrough Act, and Best Single for the ludicrously
catchy ‘Pass out’. Best British Album went to Mumford and Sons for their hugely successful Sigh No More. Surprisingly, the Best British Female Award went to the talented young folkster Laura Marling. Overlooked by the Mercurys, Marling’s win was a refreshing and unexpected triumph over Cheryl Cole, the typical recipient of recent similar awards suggesting that celebrity trumped talent; this was not the case tonight. Marling’s beautifully written I Speak Because I Can peaked at No 4 in the charts, and her win at the awards demonstrated that perhaps the BRITS had turned over a new leaf. Perhaps the biggest award of the evening, Best British Group, went to Take That. 21 years after their first ever televised performance, the ‘manband’ gave a performance – that can be described as nothing but theatrical – surrounded by riot police-like soldiers, who had stripped down to their underwear by the end of the performance. There’s no doubt of their success - Progress became the fastest-selling album of the decade with first-day sales of more 235,000, and its accompanying tour sold out in minutes. But when watching their performance of new single ‘Kidz’, with lyrics such as “hey hey hey what you lookin’ at/ hey hey hey you want a bit of that” we should perhaps question whether the award ceremony is really looking
to celebrate quality; should Take That really be celebrated as the best British group around? It makes me, no doubt like many, wonder whether the BRIT awards really have turned a corner from their celebrity-worshipping past. Taking a look at the International Awards, the truly funky Cee Lo Green won Best International Male, and cerebral Canadians Arcade Fire won Best International Album for their runaway success The Suburbs. Touchingly, Arcade Fire appeared to catch the jist of the evening, thanking the British bands that had changed their lives, from The Clash to The Smiths. However, Rihanna unsurprisingly went away with the Best International Female Award, and the fact that the unadultered and inordinately annoying teen-bopper Justin Bieber won the Best International Breakthrough Act over bands such as The National and the Temper Trap showed that the BRITS may not quite be over their celebrity obsessed past just yet. On the whole however, the BRIT awards 2011 suggest that the state of the nation’s music is refreshingly promising. On the other hand, despite the organisers new approach, Channel 4’s ‘Big Fat Gypsy Weddings’ got higher ratings that evening, and despite encouraging progress, the BRIT awards seem to have a long way to go to be taken seriously by real music fans. Fionna McLauchlan
We’re New Here Gil Scott Heron & Jamie xx
The People’s Key Bright Eyes
Albums The King of Limbs Radiohead
★ ★ ★ ★★
Named after an old oak tree, Radiohead’s eighth studio album The King of Limbs is aptly naturalistic. Openers ‘Bloom’ and ‘Morning Mr Magpie’ introduce the theme of the natural world - surprisingly present throughout the album - along with a certain mechanical precision which has defined the band in recent years. Single ‘Lotus Flower’ is arguably the most powerful song on the album, propelled by falsetto vocals and subtle bass lines. Limbs may lack the crowd-pleasing songwriting associated with O.K. Computer, however The King of Limbs is still a record to be admired for experimentation. Beth Ward
Whilst much was made of the The xx’s dual harmonies, it was Jamie Smith who lay behind the band’s ‘midnight inimacy’ sound. Much of this remix is simply a springboard for the skills of the 21year-old, taking the reverberations of Brixton’s dubstep across the water and in to the bones of the New Yorkers album. ‘Running’ is the undisputed apogee of the album with Gil Scott Heron’s Beckett-like tear-wracked vocals welded to turned-down samples and woozy tribal beats. Keep an ear out for it across all radio stations and watch this boy go. John Sheil
On The People’s Key, the first full-length album from Bright Eyes for nearly four years (and rumoured their last) Bright Eyes have adopted an electric sound as they ruminate over the nature of time and humanity’s progression. Certain tracks on the album, such as ‘Shell Games’ and ‘Jejune Stars’ are very catchy, whilst ‘Ladder Songs’ and ‘One For You, One For Me’ are undoubtedly beautiful tracks. However, the vague mysticism in the lyrics which dominate The People’s Key mean the album doesn’t pack the same punch as some of Bright Eyes earlier, more relatable cuts. Fionna McLauchlan
Heat three commenced with an energetic performance from Bandsoc residents Don’t Feed The Robot. With their eclectic indie pop sound, DFTR delivered a tight performance of melodic guitar solos and funky breakdowns. Following up were Classic Rockers, Wall Street Crash who kept the crowd entertained with a reggae version of ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’. Although somewhat lacking in originality they created a sea of smiling faces amongst the crowd, before being followed by band of the night and heat winners Scored for Style Points. SfSP ruthlessly took control, their songwriting skill shone through as their slick, infectious pop-punk hooks won over an already avid crowd. Against a thrilling performance the crowd were able to let loose, as SfSP proved they were deserved winners. Given a tough act to follow, A Devious Mind held their own, and though they lacked a definitive stage presence., their set proved to the crowd they have the potential for greater things. Penultimate act, Heroes Go South, were unfortunate to have been drawn in such a tough heat. They made efforts to put forth their upbeat pop-punk, however with SfSP already nailing this genre, HGS paled in comparison. The night ended with prog band Clockwork Heart. Perhaps the most intelligent and musically aware band to grace the bandsoc stage in a while, CH produced an atmospheric, enchanting and haunting set, winning them second place in a very tough heat.
Heat 4 The night exploded with a raucous set from ska band Fourth Wave who deservedly earned second place. The group have an array of intelligently crafted ska anthems which were carried out flawlessly. Next, resident joke-band Mr. Coc took to the stage with seven members dressed as a more flamboyant version of the Village People. This band was, simply, comedy genius. Though their pop-punk sound didn’t quite match their comic wit they quickly became crowd favourites for their unique approach in an oh-so-serious competition. By the time their set ended they were met with chants of “We want coc!” Last year’s second place Ackbar, however, failed to shine. Whilst they cannot be faulted for their first class musicianship, original edgypop sound and professional stage presence, they lacked much of the drive, energy and innovation which enabled them to soar through to the final last year. Passing Strangers managed to hold their own as their synth-infused, melodic, punk music got the crowd moving, but their lack of experience onstage held them back from what they could have achieved. It was then the turn of the stand out band of the night, 3=car, to put forth their musical offering and run away with first place. The judges described them as the best performance of the competition, with their slick indie sound. The night was concluded by classic rock band Stone Mirage with their melodic rock being held together well by a competent rhythm section and skilled guitarists. The night paved the way to the fast-approaching final, which promises to be an unforgettable night. Anishka Sharama
A rich and deep quest for colour
Binti Shah finds much to engage with and enjoy in Michael Taussig’s ‘Warwick Prize for Writing’ short-listed novel What Color is the Sacred? Michael Taussig
n reviewing What Color is the Sacred? by Michael Taussig, I must first confess that the visual perceptive property that is colour signified little to me beyond its aesthetic appeal. Thus, it was with surprise that I found myself engaging conscientiously with Taussig’s exhaustive contemplations on the profoundness of colour, its place in history and its impacts on the world today. Taussig skilfully utilises the philosophies of the writer Goethe as a basis for his novel, commencing with Goethe’s notion that “uncivilised nations and children, have a great fondness for colours in their utmost brightness.” This premise of mixing the concept of colour with the complex world of politics, science, colonialism and history are encompassed in the four sections of the book, dealing with the connections of colour with image, the colony, Proust and coal. With the idea that there are two ‘presences’, one being “people of refinement” and the other “vivid colour”, prevailing from the start, we are at once drawn into an exploration of people and their response to colours, with Taussig’s assessment being that “color is fundamentally involved in the making of culture from the human body”. We are thus led to negative, but nevertheless interesting topics of chromophobia and crime, with epiphanies, for instance, that chromophobia and chromophilia are factors in the issue of colonialism. From the ongoing question of what colour can be – “Yet does not the ... phrase ‘he showed us his true
colours’ also suggest ... that color is both true and untrue precisely because of its claims to authenticity?” – to the links between colour and slavery whereby it is decreed “color achieved greater conquests than the European-instigated violence during the preceding four centuries of the slave trade”, we are treated to the countless, varied facets related to colour, as Taussig leaves no areas unexplored. In particular, Taussig’s writing along with the structuring of this novel should definitely be commended, whereby each chapter commences with a notable case study, question about or reference to the human world as we know it, with the intention of easing us smoothly into the full argument of the chapter. The in-depth exploration of colour and its connections are offered in accessible ways, thus heightening the appeal of this novel. The novel’s credibility is furthermore aided with it being densely packed with insights from the likes of Goethe, Proust and Burroughs, thus adding to the richness of the knowledge that is to be acquired from reading this novel, while simultaneously encouraging the reader to engage in further research. Importantly, the lasting impression we have of this novel is left by Taussig’s last thought, whereby he regards his work as “the song of the body, which we now see as a color-walking body,” offering us the notion that this is very much about the experience of colour, and about we, as human beings, being able to embrace and be altered, for better or worse, by a life rich in colour. Taussig’s final elucidation of the “color-walking body, following ... the same places where we find the color of history” opens up future contemplations of “that not-yet-evenbegun project”, ultimately leaving it up to the reader to ponder on what history looks like and fundamentally proving that, at this time, Taussig has successfully accomplished the task of giving colour the history it deserves.
The portrait of the family in a time of grief
Whilst Sara Shilo’s novel is set during a time of war, Bethany White sees that it is primarily a tale of a family trying desperately to cope The Falafel King is Dead Sara Shilo
he first thing we are told by Israeli writer Sara Shilo when we pick up her first novel is that Masud Dadon, the so-called Falafel King, is dead. His death perpetuates the entire novel, anchoring itself in the centre of the story as the gravity that holds each individual together. We follow the lives of Masud’s widow, Simona, and her six children as they struggle to survive daily life in a remote northern Israeli village which is under constant threat from terrorist attacks and Katyushas. The narrative is shared by Simona, her three sons, and her daughter, who each bring startlingly differing perspectives to a single day in the life of a grieving family. Conflict and politics lurk constantly around the edges of the novel and occasionally emerge in the midst of the storyline, most notably in the form of the terrorist attacks and the US Rabbi Kahane. However, this novel is not primarily a story about Israel, or the Lebanon war.
It is first and foremost a portrait of a suffering family, and the methods that they use to cope with their grief and daily struggles living in a war zone. By using five separate viewpoints Shilo effectively portrays the fragments of a family lost in their grief. Each character is relatable in their own way. Simona’s narrative begins clumsily as she switches between first and third person, and the long conversations between the sons Itzik and Dudi in their narrative are sometimes tedious, but as the novel progresses, it becomes easier to follow. The final narrative, of the daughter Etti, is the most mesmerising. Her attempt to rectify a family lie to the two youngest sons in the form of a bedtime story is a fitting end to the novel, as it somehow manages to leave the loose ends satisfyingly untied. Reminiscent of her title, Shilo states the facts bluntly. As one of the sons says of their father, “What is there to talk about? Dead is dead.” But Shilo writes in such a compelling way that this doesn’t make the novel tedious. By the end of the novel it’s hard not to care about the fate of the fractured Dadon family. The Falafel King is Dead is unique in that it covers such a small amount of time, includes so few characters, and is centred around such a loose storyline, yet manages to be thought-provoking, relevant and, most importantly, readable.
Nintendo 3DS: the future in the palm of your hand Impressive gadgets or simple gimmicks? Dean Simons casts a critical eye over Nintendo’s latest handheld offering
he battle over the next generation of handheld gaming is about to truly begin. Whilst mobile gaming has gained some momentum, the real heavy hitters of Nintendo and Sony have yet to make their mark in the next evolution of the arena in which they have become dominant: gaming on the go. The wait is almost over, and the battle almost decided. Nintendo’s latest innovation, the 3DS, is barely a month away from release while Sony’s ‘NPG’ is still without a release date nor concrete information beyond bluster and a few promo images. If Nintendo plays its cards right, the 3DS could win as decisively as the original DS system. Nintendo have learnt a number of lessons from the DS years. The original Nintendo DS, released in 2004, was an ugly and heavy grey brick compared to Sony’s sleek black PSP console. Picking a few ideas from the book of its rival, not to mention almighty Apple, Nintendo redesigned its console (with the DS Lite and DSi models) into a rounded, smaller, and lighter version, with plenty of colours to choose from. A bigger shift from Nintendo came in its PR. The Wii is not the only console from Nintendo to experience a move from a ‘GamerOnly’ market to the wider, potential goldmine of the general market. By making games more accessible and providing more features that could attract wider interest, the company has experienced astonishing rewards from its new market strategy. As of December 2010, Nintendo has sold around 144.59 million units worldwide, compared to Sony’s meagre 53.9 million. While later models of the console have added newer incremental hardware and software features – with the DSi giving gamers the chance to browse the internet and take photos on their console – the next big leap is yet to come. The Nintendo 3DS is not just another version of the DS. While the dual screen format remains (hence the “DS”) the console is another leap further away from the simple chunky pixels of the old-school handheld consoles of the early 1990s. Both hardware and software have
made the 3DS the harbinger of something new and fresh that will make gaming a grander experience than was achieved previously. The biggest feature of the device is its ability to present actual three-dimensional picture from the topscreen without those ridiculous glasses that we’ve had to endure at the cinema. The nice guys at Nintendo even give a slide control on the side of the device to adjust between 2D and 3D effects to whichever the user feels comfortable with (so even if you’re a 3D hater you can still enjoy the games). Meanwhile, the lowerscreen retains the same touch capabilities as prior DS models. Beyond the much-lauded 3D, there are a lot of interesting features that build on those already established in the Nintendo DS. While the DSi had two cameras, the 3DS console has three – two on the outside and one on the inside – which enable both photo and video capture; the two cameras on the outside give users the chance to capture their own 3D photographs. The console has an extra control pad: a round nub that can finally grant frustrated DS users a little more accuracy to their gaming experience. There is also an inbuilt gyroscope and accelerometer to increase the interactive experience. The operating system enables internet browsing (like the DSi) but there is also a 3DS messenger service, akin to the Blackberry Messenger, which replaces the tedious and pointless doodle-swapper PictoChat. Backward compatibility remains with respect to DS and DSi cartridges, but there will also be an online Nintendo store, called the Virtual Console, which promises the opportunity to purchase old-school Game Boy games (and short 3D games) to download onto the removable SD-card, which is great for those looking for old-school kicks. The most impressive software feature is the use of background connectivity, which not only allows the console to hop onto the nearest wifi hotspot, but most importantly enables content swaps and special features to be achieved between other 3DS consoles. These features enhance the gaming experience whilst you are
commuting, so that when you sit down to continue a gaming session you’ll have some pleasant surprises to enjoy. Nintendo also promise ‘Augmented Reality’ features on the console but details are still unclear with regards to their true potential. The console is not without its flaws. The biggest issue with the 3DS is battery life. Current models of the Nintendo DSi can run up to 17 hours on the lowest volume and brightness settings, but the 3DS can only last up to five hours with the 3D games, and can only creak up to eight hours on regular DS games – and this is on the lowest settings. The biggest source of uncertainty lies in the games likely to be on offer following release. Currently, there appears to be a multitude of games in development for the console; however the ones that stand out are ports or updates of classic games released on previous consoles, such as Starfox 64, Metal Gear Solid: Snake Eater and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. It seems that top-notch fresh content for the device that moves beyond simple gimmickry (which can be expected on initial release) – notably the hotly-anticipated third-person shooter Kid Icarus: Uprising – will take a while to hit shelves. Potentially the weakest aspect of the 3DS lies in the launch line up. Nintendo has persistently been trying to boost its widespread appeal through short, ‘pick up and play’, people-friendly software (like Brain Training) and that is obvious in what we’ll be fed on the day of the console’s release. A ridiculous example is the fact that not one, but three versions of Nintendogs (in puppy-friendly 3D) will be available from 25th March 2011. That’s great for nongamers, but horrifically disappointing for the rest of us looking for a meaty game fix. It also feels a little cynical, and acts as a bit of a downer to a hugely promising new format, especially for those of us salivating over the prospects of the classic Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or a Resident Evil game in lush 3D. Could this be a sign that Nintendo will be denying investment in hardcore gaming even more with this new
» Promo shots of the new 3DS generation? Time will tell. The Nintendo 3DS will be released on 25th March 2011, priced at £229.99, and will be available in two colours: Aqua Blue and Cosmos Black. Why Nintendo have decided to take their console colours from a Dulux paint chart we don’t know, but we have higher hopes for the originality of their new console and the games we expect to come along with it. Dean Simons
So you want to be a game designer? Jordan Erica Webber interviews Alistair Aitcheson, a recent Warwick graduate already getting ahead in the world of game design So, just quickly, tell us who you are and what exactly it is that you do. I graduated this summer with an MMath from Warwick, and am now running my own business as an independent game developer. I’m currently developing games for iPhone and iPad, and my first commercial release, Greedy Bankers, is available in the App Store now. I do all the programming for my games, as well as the artwork and animation. What is Greedy Bankers about? Greedy Bankers is a fast and frantic arcade-style puzzle game. Gems fall from the roof into your bank vault, and you need to arrange similar gems into squares and turn them into cash – bigger squares are worth more money! As the game goes on, robbers try to steal your gems, rubble drops in to block your path and your bank manager demands higher and higher amounts. It can get quite tense and addictive as it goes on, requiring quick thinking and strategy. The idea behind the game was to come up with something “simplex” – that is, based around a simple mechanic but which naturally generates complex strategies as you get into it.
It’s casual and intuitive to start, but once you discover the strategic side to gameplay, planning ahead and finding ways to build bigger gems, beating your score becomes compelling and addictive. What was your favourite part of making the game? Uploading it onto an iPhone for the first time. I prototyped the game for PC before working on the iOS version, but it was obviously better suited to a touch-screen than a mouse. Running it on the real device and seeing how fluid the controls were was very exciting. I take great joy in demonstrating the game to new players and seeing how they approach it. I also did a lot of digital artwork for the game, including designing and animating the banker and robber characters. This was a refreshing change from coding, but I was surprised at just how challenging it was. I’ve been doing game artwork as a hobby for years, but artwork for a commercial product needs to be consistent and highly polished, which takes considerable concentration and effort. But it’s definitely worth it, especially once it’s all been polished and put together and you think “wow – I made that!”
What made you want to go into games? I began programming games back in 2001, using a language called Blitz Basic. I’ve worked on all kinds of projects since then, in varying styles and genres. I joined the Warwick Game Design society when I started my degree, which is where I started working with other coders and artists. The society runs group game projects, competitions and 48-hour prototyping challenges, and I learnt a lot from collaborating with the other members. This gave me a taste of what working on complete game projects was like, and through society events and trips, careers fairs, and websites such as Gamasutra I learned how commercial studios operated. After graduating I decided to become a full-time indie developer, as it would allow me full creative control of my own projects, and allow me to pursue my own ideas in the games medium. I have a lot of big ideas for games I want to develop and gameplay styles I want to explore. What would you tell somebody who wanted to make games when they’re finished at Warwick? My first piece of advice would be to join War-
wick Game Design. Their competitions and events are a fantastic way to learn how to make games and to work with other aspiring developers. They regularly get in guest speakers from the industry, happy to tell you all about the realities of commercial game development. Secondly, if you haven’t tried making a game before, why not start learning now? If you’ve never tried programming before, try Game Maker, which offers an intuitive click-and-drag approach to development. If you’re already familiar with programming, I’d recommend learning ActionScript 3.0 and the FlashPunk library, for making Flash games. Both products have extensive online tutorials. Finally, make lots of games! If you want a job in a studio then having a diverse portfolio will give you a significant edge in front of employers. If you decide to go indie then you’ll have a wealth of prototypes which will make it much easier to start a successful project. And, most importantly, the more games you make the more you learn, and the better you’ll get at it. Greedy Bankers is out now for iPad and iPhone with a discounted release price of £1.19. Find out more at greedy-bankers.com. More on Warwick Game Design at warwicksu.com/societies.
Carved, Cast and Modelled, I’m yours
The Boar sends Rachel Eliza Guthrie to find out about another major event in sculpture, the new Barber Institute of Fine Art’s exhibition in Birmingham, encompassing everything from classical marbles to bronzes by Degas and Rodin
» The bust of celebrity rhinoceros Miss Clara photo: The Barber Institute of Fine Art
arved, cast and modelled’ could be described as an antipode to the capacious sculpture exhibition currently held at the Royal Academy of Arts in London - ‘Modern British Sculpture,’ reviewed in the last issue. That is, if the Royal Academy show questions what sculpture is and should be in the future, the Barber Institute efficiently envisages a definition of the tradition of western sculpture in its 2000 years of established existence, in a manner that its curator rightly described as balanced. This is a triumph; that a collection of this size can boast such a wide selection. The staff admitted that they had in the past struggled to change misconceptions that locals had; that there is little of wonder inside this one-brick-to-shape-all-bricks building found at the University of Birmingham. The Barber’s collection of three-dimensional works encompasses a huge range of styles, subjects and media, including classical marble heads and busts, Renaissance and Baroque mythological subjects in bronze, northern European wooden statuary, dancers and horses by Degas, bronzes and a marble bust by Rodin and the very curious celebrity rhino ‘Miss Clara.’ Brought from India to the Netherlands in 1741, ‘Miss Clara’ was the first rhinoceros to be seen on mainland Europe since 1579 and caused a sensation as images of her were painted, printed, modelled in ceramics and sculpted in marble. There are only two other known bronze versions of Miss Clara like the Barber’s – in the Louvre and the Victoria and Albert Museum. The speakers at the opening were keen to labour these points – that the success of the gallery has come out of Sir Thomas Bodkin’s bold directorship in purchasing so bravely many sculptures at a time of war, or worse even, just after the war, when buying art was a major financial risk. This did, of course, give one key advantage – the relative cost of works was cheap, and the Barber could afford (more or less) that which the national galleries could. In other words, this is a rather delightful collection, and it is duly deserved that these sculptures be set aside, to be distinguished and made
holy as a unique collection in it’s own right, and within the wider context. Speaking of making holy, it is right to begin with ‘Christ as the Man of Sorrows’, a stirring marble relief from the Baroque period, that is far from the expected austerity, and instead has the rough expressionism of the International Gothic period. The sculptor, Orazio Marinali (1643-1720) has carved Jesus’ face with assertion of humility and sacrificial suffering. The tears and the crown of thorns, which are both far from subtle, remind us of the emotional and physical torture endured by Christ. In complete juxtaposition, the nose and cheek have porcelain-like perfection, thus representing divinity. For me, the finest details are undoubtedly the taut skin of the gaunt face, and the deep nostrils that propel the sculpture’s nature to that further than mere relief. On quite a seperate theme, ‘The Bust of Juliette Recanier’ by Joseph Chinard, c.1800, is perhaps the most beautiful of them all. If ‘Christ as the Man of Sorrows’ touches us, then this calls us to touch. The model’s limphands attempt to hold on the shawl to cover her. Between her fingers she gathers the fine, patterned fabric – just compliant enough to remain hooked over her sloping left shoulder, and then to be indecisively stretched from her arm to breast. Although she is half exposed, from a three-quarter view, her lowered glance hides all knowledge of it. In subject matter and handling she couldn’t be more sensitively rendered. This is only furthered by the poetic play on the heroic marble goddess – Juliette is serene like her classical counterpart, but unlike a goddess, her beauty is tainted. She is not untouchable. One of the key beauties of the sculpture resonates: it is a tangible subject, which is so engaging because it allows us to explore, to move about the object, and to find surprises in the revision of each view. Sculpture is, as this exhibition proves, an interactive discipline. It provokes a perceptive response and to know this, you must only go and stand before it. This exhibition is open until 2nd May. http://www.barber.org.uk/carved.html
‘Is this a broadcast I see before me?’
Catherine Waite discusses the live broadcast of Donmar Warehouse’s King Lear and what it means for the stage
he Donmar Warehouse’s critically acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s King Lear was broadcast live on February 3rd to over three hundred cinemas worldwide, including our very own Warwick University Arts Centre. Sir Derek Jacobi gave an outstanding performance in the title role of the king who foolishly tried to divide his kingdom between his three daughters and finally descends into madness. The concept of live-broadcast theatre is a fairly recent phenomenon. The Metropolitan Opera of New York was the first to broadcast live via satellite in December 2006 with its production of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte. This was shown at selected venues and cinemas across the United States and around the globe. Since then, the Metropolitan Opera has performed live transmissions of approximately ten operas per year to a worldwide audience. In June 2009, and throughout the month of July, London’s National Theatre broadcasted its production of Phèdre, starring Helen Mirren, live to 50,000
people. The National Theatre has also continued with these live productions, with performances including All’s Well That Ends Well, The Habit of Art and London Assurance. For the Donmar Warehouse, this live production is particularly significant. This small theatre in London’s Covent Garden can only seat 250 people, which means that such dazzling performances are only reaching a small audience. Indeed Michael Grandage, the artistic director of King Lear, said he was “made regularly very aware” of this problem and has often attempted to become accessible to more people. For example, Grandage always made sure that tickets were made available on the night of every performance when Jude Law starred in Hamlet in 2009. Although sceptical at first, Grandage was impressed with the National Theatre’s live productions and said that a live showing of King Lear “seemed a very obvious thing to do.” The National Theatre became involved with this Donmar production and organised and over-
saw the technological side of the show. This combination of stage and screen ultimately creates a very unique viewing experience. “It has
The production broadcast reached an estimated 30,000 people taken me years to come round to the idea of having a crossover in the two mediums, theatre and film. The crucial thing that makes it work is that it is live. Theatre is of the now, the day we are living,” he said. However, Grandage is strong in his opinion that this viewing experience should remain solely in the cinema-theatre venue, “This is not going to go on to DVD. When you do see recorded theatre it always looks dated and it
seems in some way a museum piece, you look at it and think, ‘How weird,’ and ‘Why did they do that?’” Therefore, viewing King Lear on the 3rd of February was a very privileged experience. The small and claustrophobic set was the perfect backdrop to the play’s darker themes of madness, despair and death. Gina McKee and Justine Mitchell gave powerful performances as the scheming sisters Goneril and Regan whilst Ron Cook added an ideal blend of melancholy and humour to the mix as the Fool. This production of King Lear reached an estimated 30,000 people and the National Theatre is planning to continue broadcasting live performances. In March, Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller will be screened and later in June, Zoë Wanamaker will be starring in Anton Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard. Don’t miss them: both productions will be available to view at the Arts Centre. http://www.warwickartscentre.co.uk/events/
Cycling shorts, waffles and Assebroek
Jonathan Hew undertakes a monstrous challenge: biking from Brussels to London in three days with only one week of training
» Cyclists in Brussels photo: Polanri, Flickr
hree days after the trip’s conclusion, I can still see the tan line that my cycling tights gave me, I am still consuming water like it’s going out of fashion, and the aches in my back/arse/thighs have just started to subside. It was all worth it. DAY 1: Cycling tights are cool. I showed up at St. Pancras on Sunday morning with one week of training under my belt, having only borrowed a bike from a friend the week before. The maximum distance I had covered in one day was 47 miles. The minimum that we were to cover was 85 miles. This was, of course, quite worrying, but nothing that spotting a few beginner bike-riders at registration wouldn’t solve. The way I saw it there had to be people at least as clueless as I and knowing that I was not alone in helplessness would take some of the stress away. You can imagine my dismay then when I was greeted by swathes of people who looked like they slept in cycling gear. At this point the little people in my brain sounded the alarm bells, which rang loud and clear as I took my seat on the Eurostar. A few hours later we arrived in Brussels where 200 of us checked into a hostel on the edge of the city. That afternoon about 199 of the group went to Heysel to check out the tail end of one of the Tour de France stages. Being a total rebel and having not visited Brussels before, I spent the afternoon wandering about the lovely city and saw some pretty cool sites like the Mannequin-Pis, the Grand Place, the Royal Palace and a museum devoted to Tintin (an acquired taste I concede). Also, owing to the resonance of the alarm bells in my head, I refrained from testing the standard of Belgian chocolates or beer. Regretful, I know, but I instead made do with a massive Belgian waffle with everything on top...
just one though. DAY 2: Cycling short padding saved my life. Having not really managed the best night’s sleep (snoring cyclists, heat, no windows, no air conditioning) I headed down to the assembly point bleary-eyed and anxious. Here I realised that I was one of about 10-15 people who had hybrid bikes. Most of the others had proper road bikes, which were probably lighter than the bike lock that I had brought: a great start to the day. To make matters worse, the chain had come off my bike, something that I didn’t realise until
and was literally the last person into the beautiful city of Bruges at about 9:30pm. My position at the back of everything was confirmed when, after I parked my bike at the hostel, I waltzed into the restaurant in my cycling tights/diapers to a stunned silence and stares from people who had changed and finished their dinners. This silence was only broken when someone blurted out, “Oh my God! I thought everyone had come in.” Dinner was spaghetti bolognese, I think. They’d run out of ice cream by the time I
I passed a town called ‘Assebroek’ on the way. This was an apt description of my condition. a Scotsman came up to me and uttered, “Did ye know yer chains cam ooof yar bike?” “What?” “Yer chain mate, ye’ll no go far wi-out tha on yer bike”. “Oh. What do I do?” “Ye may want tae put it back on.” “How?” Yes, I was the ultimate beginner. Notwithstanding this gap in experience, we all set off on bike from Brussels at about 9:30am. It was a pretty spectacular site, looking back and seeing a cascade of cycles/cyclists flooding the streets of the city. Of course, I was soon looking forward at them as bike after bike went past me. That day, we rode about 100 miles. The first 30 or so were hilly, before the terrain kindly gave way to a flatter variety. Of course it is not as if I Lance Armstronged myself to the front of the pack. Rather, I remained pretty far behind
reached them. I didn’t care. Or maybe I did but it didn’t matter, as I was out like a light within moments of sitting on my bed. DAY 3: Cobblestone roads are not helpful. We pulled out of Bruges at about 9:30am. Getting on the bike the next day was difficult; to put it succinctly, I passed by a town called Assebroek on the way. This was (and still is) an apt description of my condition. This day of cycling was pretty good compared to the one previous and I pulled into Calais at about 6pm having covered 85 miles. Indeed, I did not finish dead last again, as a combination of flat terrain and the main group getting massively lost allowed me to finish with most of the other cyclists. We then left our bikes to grab some dinner and watch a football match. I just about managed to stay awake to see the game end before passing out on the bed. DAY 4: The day things added up.
We caught the ferry over to Dover in the morning and hit the ‘Downs’ straight after disembarking near the white cliffs. For anyone who plans to attack the ‘Downs’ anytime in the future, please remember that it has a bit of British humour about it, for the down part of the ‘Downs’ only follow the lethal up parts. A whole lot of up parts. Ultimately, I managed to conquer these ‘Downs’ but this took a heavy toll on my left knee, so much so that whenever I pulled it up or pushed it down on the pedal, I felt a sharp pain shoot through it. As a result I could not ride on my highest speed, making the flats a torturous, tortoise-like experience. To make matters worse there was something wrong with the gear changing on my bike. I was thus unable to climb hills on my lowest speed. The fallout was that 50-odd miles short of London, and with reaching the checkpoint in time no longer a reality, I retired near Lewisham. Needless to say, I was and still am greatly disappointed. It would have been nice to ride into Greenwich Park, but the lack of training, knee and heavier bike all added up and I can only blame myself for failing to complete the stage. I’ll be looking to make up the miles one way or another (London to Brighton cycle anyone?). Covering 230 miles in three days is no simple feat. On top of this, I met some great people and really enjoyed the sights and scenery provided by the cities, villages and countryside of Belgium, France and England. On another level, I managed to hit my fundraising target of £1,000 and the group as a whole raised a total of £200,000, which will go towards Right to Play’s endeavours in Africa. It was, without a doubt, a fantastic experience. Notwithstanding the fail moment, it was still one hell of a ride.
» Overlooking San Giorgio Maggiore at dawn from St. Mark’s square photo: Sussie Moran
Vivendo a Venezia: Ten Weeks in the Serenissima
Sussie Moran shares precious tips on how to live like a local in Venice, as well as revealing some of the city’s hidden gems
rior to my 10-week jaunt to Venice I had hidden all things travel-feature related from my sight, so that the delights of la serenissima would be a complete surprise to me. What I hadn’t vouched for was the fact that this was a foreign city, with a foreign language, and I had to arrive there by myself with only vague directions to my new lodgings in hand. “Good plan,” I thought begrudgingly, as I haphazardly tried to navigate my 23kg suitcase onto an over-crowded Vaporetto. “San Marco… that’s the one with the huge tower, right?” I felt so stupidly naive, Venice being one of the most famous cities on earth, and here I was rocking up late at night with no phone signal, and a bunch of dismayed flatmates looking for me in St. Mark’s square. Squeals of “Oh my gosh, you’re alive!” greeted me as I finally dragged my now one-wheeled suitcase across Piazza San Marco, and stumbled into my housemates by pure chance. The nightmare navigation of my journey into the city had somewhat robbed the instant impression of its beauty. It was only when I had found my flatmates and confirmed that no, I wasn’t going to be sleeping on the street, that the sheer beauty of the place hit me. And hit me full force it did. Standing in Piazza San Marco, I couldn’t believe my luck. The atmosphere was buzzing; three quartets were staged in the periphery, with crowds of people huddled around them, some sitting, some dancing, some being harassed by the rose sellers, and some just appreciating the beauty of this Renaissance piazza’s delight. Did I really live here? Was this re-
ally university life? I think I can speak for all the Art Historians when I say that the first three weeks were spent ignoring all work, as we ran around exploring the city, visiting each other’s apartments, and getting lost as many times as we found some of Venice’s hidden gems. I’m reluctant to give them all up; I guess that’s one of the benefits of living in a tourist haunt for ten weeks: you feel like you have become a local. I loved the fact that by the end of the term, I knew the names of the waitresses in my favourite bar, and the local supermarket staff knew the back story of why I was around for so long (all conveyed in Italian; apparently learning the language for two years did pay off. Result!) But for every hidden gem known to the locals and those with time on their hands, there is an equally overpriced tourist trap, waiting to suck your euros off of you faster than you can say, “Un momento, per favore.” So I do feel somewhat duty-bound to pass on some helpful advice to those wishing to pay a visit to this watery cityscape. Tips for staying in Venice: If you visit Venice during winter, take Wellington boots if you have them. There will be flooding, sometimes twice a day. You definitely don’t want to end up walking around barefooted in the acqua alta. Sure, they’ll put up walk boards, but if you’re hit with over a metre of water then even they won’t be forgiving to your best ballet pumps/loafers! (Oh, and watch your back on these things, there can be nasty pile-ups as people stop to photograph the rising water. I’d hate for you to be impaled by an umbrella.)
Vaporetto passes are expensive, so this depends on the length of time you have to spend in Venice. You can buy one journey for 6 euros, or buy 36/48/72 hour passes, but for almost the same price you can buy an Imob card (think of it as Venice’s oyster card equivalent) for 40 euros, and then either buy a monthly pass, or a ten-journey ticket. Alternatively, if you just need to cross the Grand Canal, then you could catch a traghetto; a sort of giant gondola that ferries people between stops for 50 cents a go. Walking is the best way to explore and get off the beaten track, so if you don’t have a schedule, then I’d definitely recommend exploring the back streets. Word of warning though: if you find a shop/bar you want to go into, do it immediately. These back streets seem to have an amazing ability to change in a very Narniaesque fashion, and chances are if you pass by that beautiful mask/book/paper shop, you will never find it again! (I’m speaking from experience here.) Eating out can be expensive. Avoid anywhere within a five minute walk from St Mark’s Square. Definitely avoid anywhere with photographs of the food stuck to the windows, usually with a very neon “Tourist Menu” sign plastered above it in five different languages. It’s not that these places will give you food poisoning or something equally heinous, it’s just that for walking a little further afield you will get much better value for money, and better service too. Try areas near to the Strada Nova in the north of the city; Osteria Obbligatoria is a great lunch bar, and Vini da Gigio boasts some of the best Venetian fish around.
Venice isn’t known for it’s nightlife, and has only a handful of questionable “clubs”, including the absolutely infamous Picolo Mondo, and Billa Bar on the Strada Nova. Campo Santa Margherita in Dorsoduro is the well-known student hang out, but even this can get a bit dull. I’d recommend Campo San Giacometto, which has lively bars, cheap prices, and is located just off the Rialto Bridge. This is home to Naranzaria, my all-time favourite bar in Venice. It has amazing wine and seating on the Grand Canal, but luckily it doesn’t have tourist prices. I know I recommended getting off the beaten track, but this is probably the one exception to the rule! For live music and a rowdy atmosphere, make for Paradiso Peraduto near Fondamenta della Misericordia, which serves cicchetti (Venetian bar tapas) along with its drinks. Other than that, just explore. Venice has hundreds of churches; most are free to enter and contain incredible artworks. You never know when you’ll stumble into another Titian painting. Or, just take a leisurely stroll down the back waterways, and stop off for a Spritz (a potent orange drink that you will become addicted to). But my biggest tip? Relax. Don’t rush around the place trying to cram in every last nook and cranny. When you live somewhere as beautiful as this, you often end up storm trooping down the tiny alleyways, cursing the tourists as you go about your daily business, forgetting to take in the serene beauty of this miraculous city. So take some time, don’t feel too bad about walking at the tourist pace. But while you’re doing so, please, please walk to the right. And look out for my damned suitcase wheel!