THE OF LONDON Secret hideaway
London’s changing skyline
London’s literary spaces
LETTER from the EDITORS B
efore you have recovered from your Freshers’ flu, the final stretch of term is already in sight. The runup to Christmas can be one of the busiest times of the year, so we hope that the latest edition of Pi is a welcome distraction from the coursework essay you’ve left to the last minute, or the reading you told your dissertation supervisor you’d done weeks ago. In the second issue of the year, we’ve shifted our focus to London itself. With our vast array of sections, we examine the changing face of London from a range of perspectives. Whether it’s features on council housing in London (Housing (r) evolution, pp. 12-15) and current café trends (Secret Hideaway, pp. 16-17), or a politics piece on London as the centre of political change (Will the revolution be
televised?, pp. 20-21), our writers and editors have been able to highlight and discuss issues big and small. In Muse, our arts supplement, the London theme is continued with articles on street art in the city (Painted City, pp. 42-43) and London’s grime music scene (Breaking Grime’s Glass Ceiling, pp. 54-55). This issue also includes some recurring favourites, from Overheard (pp. 38) and Campus Style (pp. 34-35), which focuses this time on make-up, to Pi Recommends (pp. 40-41) and Pi Debates (pp. 8), both of which also concentrate on London. We welcome and thank all the new writers who have contributed to Pi for the first time, as well as the writers and editors who continue to help us produce this magazine.
Katherine Riley and Wyndham Hacket Pain Editors-in-Chief Pi Magazine, 2015-16
Editorial: Student protests
Pi Debates: Is London getting better?
Thank god, I’m an atheist
Is your feminism a trend?
America does autumn better
UCL’s romance with the City
Homophobia in sport
Picking a side
The politics of policing
Will the revolution be televised?
How to face a faceless world
Breathing in the big smoke
Girls who code
At Expo 2015
Campus style: Beauty
3 reasons not to lift weights (and why they are wrong)
Overheard/ 5 ways to stay active in London
Painted City: London’s street art
London’s changing skyline
Lost and found
Women in film
In defence of film criticism
The changing nature of publishing
London’s literary spaces
Pi Poetry: Longtime Running by Calvin Law
Breaking grime’s glass ceiling
Musicians vs. the music industry
pi magazne 712 | editorial
Editorial: What’s next for student protests?
hose of us who are now in our final year at UCL have become used to the annual November student protest. It seems as much a part of the university year as Freshers’ Fair, summer exams, and graduation. Whether on the front line or watching from afar, the chants and placards which accompany the protests seem all too familiar. The pinnacle of recent student protests was seen in 2010 following the Conservatives’ increase to the tuition fees cap, with as many as 50,000 students taking part. For those of us now at UCL, most of whom were still at school when the protests took place, it’s easy to look back at these events with a sense of nostalgia, and as a time that students came together as a collective body. Despite this, even the most idealistic of us have to admit they have had limited success. In the years since, participation in the annual free education protest has been much diminished. In November of this year an estimated 10,000 people protested the government’s proposed reforms under the banner “Grants Not Debt”. Even though the protest received backing from many at the top of the Labour party, including Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, it never managed to attract the widespread attention Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership bid had mere months before. Although activists are planning a two-day strike on university campuses for Febru-
ary, it is unclear what has actually been achieved over the last five years, and what will be achieved in the future. As much as protests are romanticised as spontaneous uprisings, in reality they require vast amounts of organisation and planning. For a lot of people, student protests are their first involvement with political activism, and there is often a large degree of naivety to proceedings. Protests alone have been ineffective: they did not stop the tuition fee rise of 2010, and it looks like they will have little impact on this year’s reforms. Currently, England has the most expensive university fees in Europe, a trend that looks set to continue with the government’s current proposals. Free education seems like a dream, something from a halcyon past. With this being the case it seems imperative to ask how other European countries have managed to get a university system without fees. When it comes to opposing tuition fees, German students have perhaps been the most effective. At the end of 2014, all public German universities ceased charging tuition fees, ending a 15-year battle. Organised student action started in 1999 with the founding of the Alliance Against Tuition Fees, which brought together over 200 organisations including students’ unions, trade unions, and political parties. During the 2000s, seven German states introduced tuition fees, and students, like those in the UK, took to the streets in anger. However,
this was not the mainstay of their movement, which was instead built upon organised events within the wider community, such as petitions, debates within schools, and raising the issue within election campaigns. Germany’s free education movement drew grassroots support from across society. The student cause was presented by the media in a manner sympathetic to the general public. With the voting demographic in the UK skewed so heavily against students, it’s necessary for university groups to gain empathy from outside their campuses. Protests are intentionally disruptive and only anger those who don’t understand the message behind them. It’s essential that student movements step outside their campus bubbles and engage with those who are naturally more sceptical to the cause. In the meantime, there seems to be one inevitability – another fees protest will roll on by come November next year. Perhaps this is where the problem lies, that student protest has become predictable and maligned, a shadow of what it once was. This is not to say that students should not protest, but that this should build upon action within the wider movement and local communities. It’s easy to convince students that free education is a good idea, but it’s much harder to convince those who are completely divorced from the system.
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A career that takes you places The digital age is here. It has been for a while. Technology impacts almost every aspect of our lives. From the way schools and universities educate, how we interact socially, how we store information, to how we shop; it’s simply the way the modern world operates. And it’s a world that’s bursting with opportunities. Businesses are pushed to innovate and develop faster, be more agile and creative than ever before. This gives us the chance to show our clients the kind of opportunities that are out there and how technology can give them a competitive edge. If technology excites you and you want to be at the forefront of new IT initiatives and explore emerging technologies and trends, this could be just the career for you. We look for people who are motivated by a sense of achievement, have a unique passion for what they’re doing and the ambition to go above and beyond. The range and variety of career opportunities we have is extensive – from Consulting to Tax; Assurance to Legal; and Technology to Actuarial – and our businesses welcome applications from people who don’t have business or finance-related degrees. In fact, 50% of our graduate intake studied non-business related subjects. Instead, we focus on whether someone can bring the kind of skills that will create value for our clients and lead to success in their career. Our roles aren’t just limited to London – over half of our graduate jobs are regional and just like London, they have high-profile and diverse clients. So whichever sector you’re interested in, and in whichever part of the country you’d like to be, we have a huge number of opportunities on offer.
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We welcome all degree subjects at PwC. In fact last year, almost half our graduate recruits had degrees in arts & humanities, science, law or social sciences. Surprised? Don’t be. We see your degree as just the start. The foundation to providing help to take your career in all sorts of directions – from accounting to consulting and tax to technology. You need to be passionate about business and we’ll provide an environment where you can learn, grow and excel in your career. Join PwC – we’re focused on helping you reach your full potential.
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comment | pi magazine 712
Freshers: what’s the weirdest thing that’s happened to you this term?
ALi Taimur Shabbir Simon Whitaker
My best friend, Kat, was coming down from Birmingham to visit and celebrate with me and we had planned to go to the theatre that night as well. A second friend, Cati, attends UCL as well and was able to come with us to see The Importance of Being Ernest. However, one friend of mine, Fe, as far as I was aware, couldn’t make it down to London.
We reached the Coronet (somehow), saw the length of the line and were immediately dissuaded. Then out of nowhere a six foot six inch behemoth of a man, grunting and jutting his elbows out, barged into me. It was clear that he was pretty drunk. I apologised and tried to leave.
y weirdest moment at UCL so far is possibly something that happened in Gordon’s café on my
I met Kat at Euston station with a gigantic hug, and a KitKat bar, and we went to Gordon’s café to have cake for breakfast. As we were sat with two pieces of delicious chocolate fudge cake, I was told by Kat that my surprise was on its way. I was a little confused. I didn’t know what the surprise was but I had an inkling. Just the fact that Fe had made it to London for me had me a teary-eyed. She received a phone call and after a minute of repeating the word “right” she excused herself from the table, walked out of the café, and across the road. So there I was, sat by myself in a public café, that was pretty full with people at the time, crying into two pieces of half-eaten chocolate cake, with a birthday card on the table because I’ve just seen two of my best friends cross the street.
uring my first night out in London, my friend Parth and I decided to go to The Coronet’s classic F*** Me It’s Freshers’ event to have a good time. Instead, what we got was a baptism of fire.
I went one way. He shimmied and blocked me. Went the other. He did the same thing again, and this time I saw the glint of his knife. At this point Parth tried to reason with him, and his response was to throw two haymakers aimed directly at our faces. We ducked and ran the other way. He chased, and we hid in the same kebab shop we were contemplating visiting earlier, running in through one entrance and exiting through another and repeating the manoeuvre to finally lose him (we heard the shopkeeper telling him to ‘f*** off already’). Probably the first time a kebab shop has saved anyone’s life.
t was a regular night during Freshers’ week. myself and some friends were heading out to Electric Ballroom, where the Libertines were playing. We’d drunk beforehand, so, feeling merry after too many drinks, we headed out, full of the highs of newly being at uni and feeling indestructible. As we approached the queue I saw some friends near the entrance, on the other side of a barrier. Spurned on by alcohol and terrible decision making I decided to try to leap the barrier to join them. Suffice to say I fell. Hard. Splitting my trousers crotch to arse in the process. As my friends (and the strangers in the queue) descended into mirth, a bouncer came over and politely informed be I would not be getting to see the Libertines tonight. This would have been enough for most people, but at this point i was clearly more drunk than anticipated, so I hatched another genius plan. By donning my friend’s coat and facing the wall, I attempted to surreptitiously join the queue. Oddly enough, this did not work either. So, after two failed attempts to see my beloved Libertines, I cut my losses and headed to Proud- where I was promptly kicked out of the queue for being “too drunk and unable to stand”. Moral of the story; you’re not hot shit, don’t do stupid things in queues, and wearing a different coat is not a good disguise.
Naturally people stared.
pi magazine 712 | comment
PI DEBATES: Is London Getting Better? andy gogarty: against
trolling down Tottenham Court Road or Goodge Street on a typically dreary London afternoon, it’s impossible to ignore the abundance of so-called gastro pubs and independent (that is, overpriced) cafes. Their multi-coloured, chalk-scrawled signs blare questionable offers and witty quotes at workers who inevitably live in at least Zone 2. Happy Hour: two cocktails for £10! and a yawn is just a silent scream for gin! In what world does this count as a deal? Or original? But posh nosh and £4.30 craft ales are just local symptoms of a citywide epidemic, one that is getting chronic. The adorable, instagrammable boutiques and eateries that are
making areas across the city so desirable, are also making it unaffordable. Rent levels in London are already double the national average and expected to rise a further 2.3 per cent annually. The consequence of this, coupled with the rising rent rates, is that London is becoming a city disconnected with itself. Every night workers retreat back to their respective zones, leaving Zone 1 as the playground of the at least relatively rich. A city is defined by its people and their cultures. Without them, it’s just a haphazard collection of buildings. The reality for
London in 2015 is that Londoners cannot afford homes in their hometown, or even rent a decent flat, and as a result are slowly being displaced from the inner city. Billionaires buy up Battersea, Londoners leave, and they take their culture with them. This is the legacy of Boris Johnson, and the price-hike plague he allowed to envelop London will scar the city for years to come in the form of hipster, £5 flat whites in areas where the residents were once barely able to afford food.
thomas hollands: for
ur culture can often seem to be based on pessimism, and living in London can exacerbate that – soggy barbeques and inevitably losing at sports are more traditions than disasters. But having been a proud Londoner for the better part of two decades, I think that this realism, just isn’t realistic. London is getting better and we should give it credit. While, personally, I think it’s improving in many different ways, making London an exciting place to live. For example, although you may whinge at bus strikes, snarky cyclists and smelly tube carriages,
no Western city can boast better public transportation. The accessibility and simplicity of the system is unrivalled, and the introduction of the Night Tube may just be the cherry on top. An influx of people from around the world confirms to me that London is becoming a more and more attractive city to live, work and study in. UCL and Imperial have far reaching worldwide influence and import intellect from across the globe – we are London’s Global University after all. The number of international students being enticed here continues to grow, with thou-
sands of London students being accepted to foreign universities. Of course London isn’t perfect. Muddy parks, grey skies and wet Monday’s aren’t going anywhere, and the cost of living does remain high. But there is a lot going right as well, and sometimes it is nice to appreciate the blue skies.
comment | pi magazine 712
THANK GOD, I’m an atheist
Cinzia Leonard looks at the surprising discrimination that atheIsts face
ccording to Census 2011, 14.1 million people in England and Wales have no religion. At around one quarter of the population, atheists are no longer a negligibly small minority. With a 14.8 per cent increase in 10 years, this trend is only likely to continue. However, the 2014 Freedom of Thought Report from the International Humanist and Ethical Union found “systematic discrimination” against atheists in the UK. Although it concluded there are “no restrictions on freedom of expression”, recent events at British universities suggest otherwise.
It’s easy to dismiss this as political extremes of distant cultures Apostates, people who have renounced previous religious beliefs, have played a large part in this huge social shift towards atheism, seen in the noticeable emergence of apostate support groups like Faith to Faithless. Such a decision is still punishable by death in 13 countries globally, non-believers in numerous other countries facing imprisonment. It’s easy to dismiss this as a political extreme of distant cultures (and mistakenly as unique to Islamic countries), but this sentiment reverberates throughout our “liberal” West. Here, too, atheists can suffer complete alienation from their family and community, while facing prejudice in their schooling, employment, and legal experiences. The question lies in the root of this negative reaction: what is so offensive about non-believers? The obvious suggestion would be the absence of metaphysical beliefs. In Nigeria, for instance, alternative beliefs to Islam are
not outlawed, but apostasy is – which, at least in part, supports the social existence of the “any religion is better than no religion” view. Raj, a member of the King’s College London Atheist, Humanist and Secular Society (AHSS), can see why no belief is sometimes seen as the worst option. “At least other religions are analogously similar,” he says, “I have been asked what religion I am. Those asking would be fine with anything but none. That just doesn’t compute. They’re puzzled and ask, ‘Well, what do you believe in then?’” In this case, it’s the lack of similarity, it’s the unknown which is threatening. Personally, I think much of the problem lies with a vocal, militant minority – it explains why even atheists themselves sometimes reject the term. Just as feminism is sometimes mistakenly equated with man-hating, atheism is now synonymous with superiority. Prominent atheists, from Christopher Hitchens to Stephen Hawkins, have publically criticised religion and often comes across as patronising and malicious. Their dialogue is labelled Islamophobic, anti-Semitic, or hate-speech, and I can see why. A sense of superiority is most certainly evident, which unfortunately means any sound argument (of which there are many) is regrettably lost. Studies like that of Professor Gordon Lynch, which concluded that “fewer academics believe in God as a result of higher IQs”, aren’t exactly helping the atheist cause either. From my experience, people tend not to react kindly to being called stupid. With all of this in mind, are universities creating a safe space for atheists? For the president of UCLU’s ASHS (Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society), this is fundamental, saying: “When young apostates come to university, they might have had a horrible time from their families and communities and we should be there so they know they’re not alone”. However, this isn’t without its difficulties.
For universities with a large religious student majority, to set up an atheist society and then for students to feel comfortable enough to participate, is difficult. Once set-up, censorship by the student union is not uncommon. This September, Maryam Namazie, an ex-Muslim and political activist, was temporarily banned from an event organised by Warwick’s ASHS for fears she may “incite hatred”. Two years prior, LSE did a similar u-turn after it asked two ASHS members wearing Jesus and Mo t-shirts to cover them or face removal from the fair as they were creating an “offensive environment”. UCL is no stranger to such hostility. Our ASHS has witnessed it first-hand. “At Freshers’ Fair, we usually get one or two people being abusive,” a representative said, “I think people perceive us as bigoted when we’re actually quite marginalised.” What makes this most saddening is how our secular roots have almost been forgotten. Having been nicknamed the “godless scum of Gower Street” for being the first university open to students of all religions, secular societies should be all the more supported at UCL and celebrated as part of the university’s history. Abuse of a Christian, Jewish, or Islamic fair stall would undoubtedly not be tolerated, so why should atheism be the exception? University is a time of intellectual challenge, and for some, like myself, that may lead many to apostasy. For those who have had to hide that identity, university should be the one opportunity to explore that thinking in a respectful and accepting atmosphere. Many religions believe theirs is the only way, that it is morally superior and that others are lost, and then proceed to use this stance to oppress others. Atheists must be careful not to fall victim to mirroring the exact same behaviour. For me, its strengths lie in striving for an equal, secular society where religious choice and freedom of expression are paramount – it’s this message that we need to get across. Ultimately, some people believe, and some people don’t. It’s time to come to terms with this and realise there is nothing wrong with being an atheist.
pi magazine 712 | comment
is your feminism just a
Nicoleta Enria examines the place of feminism in mainstream culture
round four years ago, I remember sitting in a seminar where the professor asked us if we were feminists. About three people in a class of 20 put their hands up. Tentatively putting my hand up, I reflected on the stigma around feminism and why nobody wanted to openly state that they thought women deserved the same rights as men. Would this classroom have looked differently if that professor had asked that question today, in 2015, after so many high-profile celebrities are now feminists too? It’s undeniable that feminism is more mainstream than ever before. Beyoncé danced in front of it. T-Swift openly advocates it. The Always #LikeaGirl videos are inspired by it. However, calling feminism a trend suggests that its time in the public arena is limited – that it will soon be tossed aside like patchwork denim flares. This most certainly isn’t what feminism is to me.
But feminism isn’t just talking about Beyoncé’s latest album and adoring Taylor Swift Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think feminism getting the exposure it’s getting today is a bad thing. The feminist movement has been craving attention in a desperate attempt to elicit some change for women all
around the world. Beyoncé’s song “Flawless” (apart from being ridiculously catchy) brought a lot of attention to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s wonderful Ted talk about gender equality and created a buzz around the infamous f-word. But feminism isn’t just talking about Beyoncé’s latest album and adoring Taylor Swift. The current focus on celebrities using the feminist “brand” to get more attention promotes very distorted concepts of a fashion-reliant feminism. For me, feminism is part of my life, and not something that can be equated with a particular hair style or designer. Feminism is advocating women’s rights to be politically, socially, and economically equal to men, not hating men for their privilege – two easy concepts to confuse. This distinction will be more difficult to argue if feminism falls out of fashionable favour. Already celebrities have been distancing themselves from the movement, saying that they’re humanists, not feminists. They are the kind of influential women the campaign needs to further its reach. Meryl Streep, previously seen fist pumping at Patricia Arquette’s Oscar acceptance speech about wage equality, Susan Sarandon, Marion Cotillard, and Sarah Jessica Parker are just a few who have been reticent of using the term. Hearing these women, role models for so many, come out against a movement designed to help and empower their gender filled me with disappointment. How can such empowered independent women distance themselves from something that promotes their equality? And if they’re too embarrassed to carry the label, what about people like me? If it’s a trend, are we just meant to pack up and go home until it becomes retro, having achieved so little relatively? I just don’t understand why people feel
the need to separate the two. Both have the eventual aim of gender equality – it’s just that feminism recognises the only way to achieve that aim is to advocate for the rights of the less privileged gender.
For so many women across the world, it’s a life or death issue, which needs generations of activism to resolve Only here, in the West, do we have the apparent privilege of opting in and out of that aim. We think that feminism is about wearing too much or too little make up, heels and maybe, at the very most, the pay of already very well paid actresses. And to be honest, if that’s all it was about then maybe it is just a trend. But for so many women across the world, it’s a life or death issue, which needs generations of activism to resolve. While we should enjoy the fact that, for a couple of years at least, feminism is having a revival, we shouldn’t get too comfortable with it. Feminism is far too important for us to let it merely be a trend.
comment | pi magazine 712
AMERICA DOES AUTUMN BETTER grace segers looks at the differences between American and British celebrations
s an American exchange student studying at UCL for the year, living in London has meant adjusting to a lot of cultural differences. One of the biggest transitions for me has been getting used to the British concept of autumn. October and November are usually my favourite months of the year, but in Britain, they don’t seem to be treated with the same sense of celebration, fun, and quite frankly, reverence.
movies. Kids, as well as a surprising number of adults, go to farms for hayrides or to local haunted houses, and spend an entire month planning their costumes. Several television channels play Halloween-themed movies every night for a week beforehand. Halloween parties are spooky extravaganzas, and if the holiday happens to fall on a Friday or Saturday, it becomes a “Halloweekend” of festivities.
In the United States, there’s a traditional cornucopia of hallmarks bearing the tidings of autumn. Pumpkin flavouring is ubiquitous, with pumpkin-themed items in every café, pastry shop, and supermarket. In London, if I want to buy anything pumpkin-flavoured I have to get a pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks. While I do love this drink – it’s like an overpriced hug in a cup – it’s never quite enough to satisfy my pumpkin cravings. Add to that the lack of pumpkin pie, cranberry sauce, and apple picking, London is losing – at least food wise.
In England, no one seems to be as excited for the creepiest of holidays. The most preparation I’ve seen is a half-hearted decoration sale shoved in the back corner of a Sainsbury’s Local. Some stores seem to ignore Halloween all together and begin preparing for Christmas instead.
This all actually happens and is not just part of cheesy horror movies However, the biggest difference between American fall and British autumn is the celebration of and preparation for holidays. Let’s start with Halloween. In comparison to American Halloween, people in the UK treat the holiday like a non-event. In the US, we decorate our houses with fake cobwebs and skeletons, place jack-o-lanterns on our doorsteps, and place giant balloon pumpkins on our front lawns. Whole neighbourhoods commit to a theme. This all actually happens and isn’t just part of cheesy horror
Even more disconcerting than the lack of Halloween spirit is the absence of a proper holiday in November. This entire month is just an awkward gap in festivities, with nothing to mitigate the clunky transition from Halloween fear to Christmas cheer. There’s no day that clearly delineates the divide between autumn and Christmas season, and so British citizens are stuck preparing for the holiday over a month before it actually occurs. Yes, November does have Guy Fawkes Day, but fireworks and effigy-burning shouldn’t really count as a proper holiday. It’s a day that gives us a reason to watch V for Vendetta, but with its limited feasting options, it’s really just not the same. In America, November isn’t simply a transitional time. In fact, it contains one of the most important holidays of the year. On the fourth Thursday of the month, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving. On this day, we’re supposed to appreciate the Native Americans who taught the early Pilgrims how to farm, while disregarding the fact the settlers then systematically murdered and relocated those indigenous people. But really, Thanksgiving is an excuse to gather with family and try not to fight with them, while gorging on an elaborate and decadent feast. Think: Christmas Dinner, but earlier and better.
The Christmas season shopping insanity is mitigated in November because preparing for the December holiday before Thanksgiving is gauche. Christmas doesn’t officially begin until Black Friday, when the radio stations begin playing carols and stores put on extravagant sales. But because there’s a holiday in late November, people don’t have to immediately begin thinking about Christmas when November starts.
I think the UK should adopt Thanksgiving The UK misses out on the true autumn experience by not taking its October holiday seriously and lacking a November one altogether. Autumn holidays give people a reason to celebrate, a way to battle the shortening days with a bit of cheer before Christmas season starts in earnest. Halloween should not be celebrated reluctantly, but rather with enthusiasm and willingness. I think the UK should adopt Thanksgiving, or at least some form of it. I’m sure that with its history of colonial conquest, it could find one misinterpreted event on which to base a food-centric holiday in November. As there is no Thanksgiving here, the British people are sadly missing out on a holiday which gives people four days off from work and school for the sole purposes of gathering and eating, providing a natural transition to the month-long event of Christmas shopping. Autumn shouldn’t simply exist as an awkward time between summer and Christmas. It should be a season of celebration in itself, as it is in America.The months of October and November could be much improved in the UK with a little injection of holiday cheer and festivities, and perhaps some more pumpkin flavouring too.
UCL’S ROMANCE WITH
Th ec i ty Photo Credit: Helen Dickman
Ellen Sandford O’Neill explores students’ pursuit of financial careers
FEATUREs | pi magazine 712
ince starting at UCL, you may have noticed the loud voices boasting about wanting to get a job in the City. There are, of course, others who are more quiet about their ambitions – the shy wannabe bankers who sheepishly, yet not ashamedly, admit they want to make their fortunes in the City. This climate raises many questions. Is money our sole source of motivation? Are we only going to university to get jobs? And perhaps most importantly, are universities, UCL included, ushering us into these money-rich, passion-poor jobs?
aftertaste of JP Morgan. They aren’t only targeting economics and maths students, but also science students, and even those in the arts and humanities. No one is safe from the advancing claws of Canary Wharf. A second year history student noted the amount of finance events circling around Facebook and how many of her friends, studying things from chemistry to geography, were clicking “going”. She said: “It’s saddening to see people doing such interesting degrees and for them to go on to such limiting professions like finance, it seems like such a misuse of their talents and original passions.”
just a means to an end for some people.” The big question is: does UCL explicitly promote and perhaps usher us into careers in finance? UCL is one of the 10 universities most targeted by the top UK graduate employers, and you can’t help but notice their presence on campus. As an English student, I even get emails trying to tempt me into financial careers, particularly when firms are trying to attract women. The same natural sciences graduate also remarked on the scarcity of support from UCL for those who want to pursue careers in science, in comparison to financial careers.
investment banking tops the These Graduate Careers corporations Survey’s dream offer something jobs more than money, it’s an experience, a luxury lifestyle we define success by the size of our bank accounts and the glamour of our jobs
A top university situated in the heart of London, a short tube ride away from the City, is bound to attract more students interested in finance. It’s also harder for universities to offer support in careers where the way in is not so straightforward and there aren’t as many graduate vacancies. The careers events for non-finance related professions, such as media or publishing, are often panels discussing the profession and how to possibly get a foot in the door. They rarely offer any practical advice or networking opportunities, like that of finance and banking fairs.
Universities hold the most academically intelligent minds in the country. Educated in global issues, science, and history, there was once a time when students would go on to use this knowledge to further human capabilities, whether in scientific or creative outlets. Of course, this still happens to some extent. But increasingly, the best graduates from top universities are attracted by what the City has to offer. With an average starting salary of £45,000, investment banking tops the Graduate Careers Survey’s dream jobs list and attracts more applications from graduates than any other career sector. The high wages are clearly an attraction, with the seemingly glamorous profession closely followed by finance firms and oil companies.
Students are now leaving university with an average of over £30,000 worth of debt. What seems more tempting to someone that far in the hole: an unpaid internship and an evening shift at your local pub, or a comfortable well paid job at Goldman Sachs? Big accounting firms and banks frequently set up on university campuses with the seductive offer of something like free smoothies and leave you walking away with an
But perhaps UCL is just catering to an appetite.
These students may be swayed by the effective marketing strategies of banks and finance companies that use their huge graduate recruitment budgets to entice students early on. With conference events at five star central London hotels, you’ll turn up in a suit and immediately feel like you belong in this world of glamour and entitlement. Free alcoholic beverages, never-ending trays of fancy canapés, and maybe even a silver service dinner to top it all off. A glimpse of the life you could have, you feel important and part of something powerful. These corporations offer something more than money, it’s an experience, a luxury lifestyle. A study carried out by the Institute of Physics found the finance sector is the second most common sector in which physics graduates find employment. A UCL natural sciences graduate said: “I find it pretty depressing because studying science should surely be about gaining new knowledge and enriching the human race, but it seems a science degree nowadays is
These are some depressing trends, suggesting that many people who go to university are simply interested in making money. It seems like a sad, dystopian reality that, as a society, we define success by the size of our bank accounts and the glamour of our jobs. Those of us with passions are lucky to have something to pursue. It’s important for us to follow these interests and not be swallowed up by the sinisterly seductive towers of Canary Wharf and the lifestyle they represent.
pi magazine 712 | Features
Secret Hideaway KATHERINE RILEY looks at one of London’s most bizarre cafés
hey don’t like to use the “c word”, but Ziferblat is a café. You may help and clean up after yourself, and they themselves may call it a “co-working space” (incidentally itself a different “c word”), but Zirferblat is a café. On the afternoon I went to Ziferblat, which charges £3 an hour for unlimited tea and biscuits and is located in Shoreditch (surprise, surprise), a local band was shooting a music video in the main space. As a result, I spent most of my time in a little annex room full of beanbags, blankets, and pillows they call the “Secret Hideaway”. A young woman, with the overly kind disposition of a nursey school teacher, called Rosa “welcomed [me] to the space”. “You should think of this as your home away from home,” she said before she left me alone in the Secret Hideaway. Up until that point, I couldn’t figure out what was so strange about the place. In its conception, the café is part Enlightenment Era Parisian salon, part Soviet Era communal space, part grandmother’s living room. In short: paradise for the Marx-reading, Rousseau-quoting, biscuit-loving, Shoreditch-clubbing hipster inside us all.
free to head off at the exact moment it becomes no longer too early, and therefore rude, to leave”. They know how to act in this situation. They find comfort in discomfort.
And yes, I’m not British. But I’ve lived here long enough to be most comfortable with British social norms, and Zirferblat has placed itself in diametric opposition to almost all of them.
British society puts a lot of stock in boundaries, and Ziferblat instantly rips them away
In the UK, people are familiar with being uncomfortable in someone else’s home. They like to be greeted at the door with a lukewarm, “Come on in”, which conveys the perfect mixture of ,“Please come in for a cup of tea or two because I genuinely want to hear about your life, but it’s raining so I didn’t want to meet at a pub”, and, “Feel
British society puts a lot of stock in boundaries, and Ziferblat’s “home away from home” attitude instantly rips them away. You have no idea what you can and can’t do. Can I take a nap? (Spoiler: Yes, you can. I fell asleep on an orange beanbag while staring at a chalkboard that was “welcom-
But then, lovely, warm, sweet Rosa told me to think of this place as my “home away from home”, and it made sense – this is the least British place ever.
ing home” someone called Sasha.) Can I take off my shoes and walk around in my socks? I would do that at home. Can I bring some wine and get drunk while playing board games? I would most definitely do that at home. What if I brought a date (of the Tinder variety, obviously) back here at the end of the night? Could we make-out in the Secret Hideaway for a while? Is it appropriate to bring my hamster along? If I want to bake a cake but my oven is broken, can I make it there instead? On the same day I visited Ziferblat, I also visited the Cereal Killer Café on Brick Lane and another café, also in Shoreditch (surprise, surprise, surprise), where you play board games while munching on artisanal small plates. And there are others – the cat café, the dog café, the one where you write your feelings on the walls, the one where you can get your bike fixed while enjoying a latte. When I first started writing this article, I thought I would be writing a piece about gentrification – and of course that’s part of the story, but just one part. Ziferblat was weird, but it was also innovative. They’re trying something different, as are the other cafes. In a city like London, where change sometimes seems to be one of the only constants, shouldn’t we be welcoming this kind of creativity?
HOUSING (R)EVOLUTION? Nancy Heath considers the changing face of Londonâ€™s housing market and its effect on students
pi magazine 712 | features
ust to the east of Regent’s Park you find an alternative to ridiculously unaffordable London housing: the only probably unaffordable, ex-social housing council estates of St Pancras, Camden, and North London. Recently, many more students have been choosing this option due to the proximity of the estates to UCL’s Bloomsbury campus. Current student residents of ex-council estates say the price outweighs any lingering worries of crime or safety. Third-year arts and sciences student Isadora Janssen has lived on the Regent’s Park Estate for over a year now and echoes this point. “Personally, it’s great in terms of location,” she says, “And it’s quite safe in terms of violence. I don’t feel especially unsafe walking home at night or anything.”
In London, all land is valuable land, and these estates are in prime locations Beyond safety and financial considerations, the mere fact estates that used to be social housing have fallen to private renting, and ultimately into student hands, is noteworthy. In London, all land is valuable land, and these estates are in prime locations. In many ways, it’s incredible that they’re still standing, because for every remnant of postwar architecture you can bet there are five plans to tear it down and replace it with luxurious flats. Entire blocks of housing estates are being demolished in London and rebuilt as highclass luxury apartments with little empathy for what they’re replacing. An advert from earlier this year for a new set of luxury flats boasted their proximity to the Crossrail and that they were “fully private block with no social housing”. The construction of new housing – something London desperately needs – shouldn’t be completely disastrous to the composition of the city. However, when you consider that many of these new flats are bought as second or third homes simply to accumulate wealth, it suggests more housing doesn’t necessarily mean more places for people, or students, to live.
These development proposals – specifically those which replace social housing with luxury flats –are a crushing blow to students seeking affordable accommodation, as well as those for whom council housing was originally made. People who rely on social housing are watching their options narrowed month by month. With the government’s insistence to continue cutting the budget for social housing, London is evolving into a city whose housing market leaves both students and others in need of council housing with drastically reduced options. According to Professor Richard Dennis of UCL’s Geography Department, housing estates are some of the only viable options in the city for many middle-income families and professionals, not just students and low-income residents. In other words: London’s housing market is pricing out the middle-class, not just the working class. “They may be the kind of moderate-income households – teachers, nurses, health service workAll Photo Credits: Helen Dickman ers, even university lecturers – who cannot At other universities, students will often otherwise afford to live in London,” says find “student villages” or areas in their Dennis of ex-council flat residents, “We city where it’s possible to rent residences have come to think of social housing as bethrough the university. In London, we have ing a ‘safety net’ – only for those in most no such university-provided safety net. desperate need, on benefits – but historiWe’re thrown in at the deep, real end of prically, until the 1970s, council housing was vate renting. for ordinary working families.”
these estates were never meant to be so expensive
A huge proportion of second and third year students at UCL, as I’ve already discussed, live in ex-local authority stock that is now owned by private landlords (like my own accommodation in north Camden). Chances are this is some of the most expensive housing, pound for square foot, you’ll ever rent in your life. But these estates were never meant to be so outrageously, or even moderately,
features | pi magazine 712 move in among the reports of fire, rape, robbery, and vandalism – the rise of “tower block culture” had begun.
barely any new council housing has been built At least council housing was still being built. In the 1980s, under Margaret Thatcher’s government, and in almost every subsequent government, barely any new council housing has been built. Under our current government and their cuts to housing associations, the death of social housing, for the first time, seems like it might be inevitable.
expensive – in fact, just the opposite. Social housing was first built on a large scale in the aftermath of the First World War, as a way to house newly returned veterans. At their inception, housing estates were hailed as “homes for heroes”. The stigmatisation and architectural shortcuts that many people now associate with social housing, and that have grown to define them in a negative way, came far after their initial construction. Then, in the 1970s, social housing was a way to deal with the growing population of London. But, unlike during the previous generation, these buildings often became hotspots for crime with dangerous conditions. Families were still being advised to
Professor Dennis noted: “More people [in London] need social housing than would elsewhere, where they could afford private rents or could raise enough for a deposit and a mortgage. But housing associations cannot afford to build genuinely ‘affordable’ housing and are then forced to sell off part of their stock to finance any new construction, or to borrow at rates that require them to charge rents that are not truly affordable.” It’s a vicious circle. When anyone, students included, moves into privately-rented accommodation, it’s understandable to want to become part of a community. London is large, that’s a fact. Another fact: there are a lot of people living here. It’s easy to feel swallowed up by the area you’re living in. The idea of living in ex-local authority housing actually often creates a sense of closeness with your
neighbours. However, the way these housing estates have been made available to students to privately rent destroys this idea. Blocks are “emptied” for regeneration, and the original tenants are moved to other areas and other housing options, destroying any sense of community that ever existed. Professor Dennis explained another issue with the forcing families who have lived in one spot for years to suddenly move elsewhere: “We don’t question the ‘right’ of an owner-occupier to stay put in the community where they’ve lived for a long time, so why are social housing tenants to be treated differently? If anything, they have more of a need to stay close to family, friends, support groups, churches, community organisations where they are know. And they probably are less mobile – less likely to own a car, less able to afford public transport – than most owner-occupiers.” Many rented flats are also ex-right-to-buy properties from the Thatcher Era (my own flat included). This means a building will often be a mix of private renters and social housing occupants, which can sometimes create an internal, social division, hurting any sense of community.
Ex-right-tobuy properties also reduce the amount of housing options for social housing tenants Ex-right-to-buy properties also reduce the amount of housing options for social housing tenants: there’s simply less housing available now because some of it is privately rented. According to Professor Dennis, our current government’s plans to reemploy right-to-buy would just worsen this issue. “The essential point is that the social housing stock is not diminished,” he said, “That social housing providers are not driven to compensate for the loss of stock by having
to build far more expensive replacements.”
“[Right-to-buy] diminishes the social housing stock.” However, clearly this cannot always be achieved, at least in the current market. In London, housing associations don’t have the option to rebuy land to develop more properties because the land is not there to rebuy. When it is on offer, it’s usually too extortionate for most housing associations to justify the price. “In a context where many of the tenants
taking advantage of the right-to-buy may not expect to stay living in that property for ever and where their reason for buying is the prospect of making a quick profit,” Professor Dennis said, “Then [right-to-buy] is an awful proposal. It diminishes the social housing stock and provides housing associations with an income from sales which is utterly inadequate to invest in an equivalent number of new properties to let at genuinely affordable rents.” This is a process that could be fruitful in other parts of the country if handled carefully, but not in most cities, and certainly not in London. It will only drive up rent prices and make accommodation more unaffordable for everyone, especially students. All these changes to housing in London stem from one basic issue: the city’s housing is overcrowded and its social housing underfunded. The face of the London property market is clearly changing, but the people who are looking to buy or—more
regularly, and more realistically—rent are also changing. London’s population is constantly increasing, with many more people, especially students, temporary workers, and immigrants, living in the city now than there were two decades ago.
“too many people want to live on too little land.” Everything is changing, and, unfortunately, it seems it’s changing for the worse. Professor Dennis put all of this simply, saying: “The problem for social housing in London is that, because of geography, too many people want to live on too little land.”
Photo Credit: Dante Kim
HOMOPHOBIA Henry Hill discusses whether being LGBT+ in sport really matters
very few months or so, another first class sports star will publically come out as gay, and a media storm of debate and praise will ensue. Whether it’s Tom Daley in the prime of his career, or Ian Roberts in his retirement, the impact of and reaction to each separate event is starting to seem very similar. And all of this got me thinking: what’s it like to be gay or come out as a member of a sports team at UCL? My housemate, Ollie Short, was the first person I asked. Openly gay and currently a member of the Snow Sports society, Ollie was fairly blunt about his sexuality and playing sport. “It’s not an issue for me,” he said, “It doesn’t figure.” He went on to say that he has never had problems with his sexuality. Though this isn’t a representative sample it is encouraging. Trent Warmate, a second year involved in the Athletics Society, echoed much of Ollie’s feelings. “In a sport like athletics, I have never really had many issues,” he said. But Trent did bring up the issue of lad culture, saying that in sports where it’s more prevalent – like rugby and hockey – peoples’ experiences might be different. Talking to people who play these more
“laddy” sports, specifically men, proved a more difficult task, with many of them saying they’d be uncomfortable being mentioned in this article. Do these reactions perhaps suggest there’s a “hush-hush” culture, in which someone’s homosexuality is known but not spoken about? I don’t know. What those reactions definitely do suggest, though, is that there is a difference in attitudes towards homosexuality between male and female sports. Recently, former England captain Casey Stoney, the most high-profile gay British female footballer, spoke about how positive coming out has been in a Times article. Perhaps the most reassuring message was that being gay in female football is not taboo. When it comes to sports stars coming out, Ollie and Trent had slightly conflicting opinions. Trent took issue with the public nature of sportspeople coming out. “We need to move away from these grand coming out parties that people are having,” he said. For him, sexuality is just a part of who he is and in no way defines him. He finds it “absurd that any sports personality should make the front page for something that’s so insignificant.” Ollie agreed with much of what to Trent had to say, bemoaning the “stigma” that these coming out events can cause. However, he did recognise the value many of the
stories could have for those unsure about coming out, or not knowing how to. To some degree it seems that the media’s response is rather unhelpful. NFL draft analyst Benjamin Allbright recently stated that he had talked to two NFL veterans who had kept their homosexuality a secret because of the media reaction they expected. With the news of someone coming out often being overblown in the press, it should come as no surprise if many are fearful of the receptions they’ll get. Meanwhile, homophobia is still a serious issue with supporters and fans. A 2014 LGB survey reported that 84 per cent of lesbian, gay, or bisexual sports players and fans had been witness to verbal slurs. It seems that wider sporting communities still have a way to go before homophobia is no longer an issue. It’s testimony to my experience at UCL that being LGBT+ on a sports team seems not to be an issue. It must be remembered that not all environments are as liberal and accepting as those found on campus. There is clearly more work that needs to be done in sport generally to create an environment in which men and women are not defined by their sexuality. It is not enough for sports teams to be accepting LGBT+ players and the wider sporting communities need to be equally accepting.
pi magazine 712 | sport
s my name is Jamal Thomas Rizvi, I should probably point out that if, by some miracle (or catastrophe), I was asked to play for the Pakistani Davis Cup Team, I would accept the offer. I was born in England and have lived here my whole life, but my dad is Pakistani, making me eligible to represent Pakistan in the “World Cup of Tennis”. My point here is that I can understand why people play sport for countries they may not have the strongest ties to. Ultimately, playing any sport on an international stage is a big opportunity, one it would be hard to walk away from. Given my background, it’s relatively easy to figure out, or at least guess, that I supported England in this year’s Rugby World Cup. So yes, while we’re all inclined as England supporters, myself included, to think of the spectacular and unexpected collapse of the home team as the first shock of this year’s tournament, it most certainly was not. Remember when Japan beat South Africa in overtime? (For you rugby novices out there, this was the equivalent of a blind, armless David beating Goliath). After South Africa lost, there was uproar in the press, with many, mostly South Af-
rican, journalists complaining about the amount of non-Japanese players on the Japanese team. And this got me thinking: what kinds of connections to these countries do the players actually have? So I thought I’d do a little digging, beginning with the two teams which had ignited my curiosity.
On the Japanese 31-man squad, there are 11 players who were born outside of Japan On the South African team, there are only two players listed in the 31-man squad who were not born in South Africa. On the Japanese 31-man squad, there are 11 players who were born outside of Japan. In fact, Ja-
pan’s captain is an All Black – one of seven on the squad. Considering this, the South African outrage is almost understandable. After all, they were lucky enough not to draw the Kiwis in their group and yet still had to face seven players from New Zealand? In the same match, they also had to face South African-born Kotaro Matsushima. Then, not long after South Africa lost narrowly to Japan, England lost narrowly to Wales. While England has just three players on its squad who were not born in England, the Welsh team has 12 born outside of Wales – nine of whom were actually born in England. And OK, when it comes to this specific example, I may be a bit bitter, but it still seems odd to have almost a third of Wales’s squad comprised of players born in England. For another example from the other side of the world: the Aussies and Kiwis both have eight players who were not born in Australia and New Zealand respectively. So where do we draw the line with national identity when it comes to sport? One of the main difficulties is that national identity is defined differently in different sports, especially when it comes to the UK. In tennis’s Davis Cup, I’ll be supporting
sport | pi magazine 712
A SIDE Jamal Thomas Rizvi investigates the blurred lines of nationality in international sport Team GB, but the individual I – and most of the UK – will really be rooting for is Andy Murray, a Scotsman. However, if Murray were playing a sport like rugby or football, he would be representing Scotland, not Great Britain (and I’d probably be cursing his name).
there’s the issue of how you personally identify Then there’s the issue of how you personally identify, something that is different for everyone, especially for those who were born one place but grew up or now live in another. Take Owen Hargreaves, the English footballer, for example. He was born in Canada, and is thus eligible to play for Canada. His mother is Welsh, so he’s also eligible to play for Wales. A seven-year residence in Munich makes him eligible to represent Germany, as well. His English eligibility ultimately comes from his father, who is Eng-
lish. The choice that Hargreaves and many other sports players have is not something that I would classify as a burden, but as an opportunity, and an interesting one at that – but where does it come from? Postcolonialism is partly the answer. Many of the countries I have already mentioned – Pakistan, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand – were all once part of the British Empire. When these countries gained independence (or for Pakistan, when it was founded), they still remained linked to Britain and the rest of the empire, both unofficially through family connections and officially through the Commonwealth. Even now, decades after the disintegration of the British Empire, there remain strong ethnic, linguistic, historical, and familial ties between Commonwealth countries and their people. It means that for people like distance runner Mo Farah or cycling champion Chris Froome, who were born in Somalia and Kenya respectively, they both feel comfortable – possibly even most comfortable – representing Britain internationally. Technology is another part of the story. At the most basic level, advances in air travel that allow for anyone to go anywhere in the world mean athletes are not restricted to representing where they happen to live
at any given time. Things like social media and Skype also minimise the former deterrent of missing family and friends.
In many ways, all of this is not a problem for sport, but an asset In many ways, all of this is not a problem for sport, but an asset – it’s what makes it a universal interest, something that transcends national and ethnic borders. Next time you’re watching an international game of sport, be it fencing or football, it might surprise you how many links to their opponent’s country individual players actually have. So yes, you can boo the “opposition”, just remember that you may well be booing someone whose national identity is much closer to your own than you think.
Pi magazine 712 | politics
THE POLITICS The government has overstepped its boundaries, Says ALICE HILLS
cornerstone of the British Police Force is its political impartiality.
The official 2003 police regulations state: “[A] member of a police force shall not take any active part in politics”. In other words: members of the force cannot join political parties or trade unions. Although the Police Federation acts as the representative body for the police, it is not officially a trade union. However, as the police are part of the public sector, there are no limitations on how parliament can shape policy for law enforcement. In recent years, the government has increasingly exercised this power, taking a more active role in determining the force’s role and structure. Recent police controversies (see: “Plebgate”) have lent legitimacy to this new level of government involvement, claiming to be an attempt to provide a more adequate political oversight of the police. The introduction of police and crime commissioners in 2012 and recent budget cuts enacted upon the force have been partly justified in this way. A closer inspection of these policies shows they not only have the potential to negatively affect those who are part of the force, but also the efficacy of it, and thus have repercussions for the wider community. This poses the question: are this government’s policies regarding the police in the public’s best interest, or are they part of an ongoing political attempt to gain more control over them? This struggle for power between parliament and the police is not new. After mass police strikes in 1918, an act was passed making it illegal for officers to strike. In 1996, they were banned from joining ordinary trade unions. Similar limitations don’t apply to other public sector jobs. Why then, does parliament take such a keen interest in the police? The answer can be found in the reason why the London Metropolitan Police Force was formed in 1829. The police’s legitimacy relied on the approval of the public, the peo-
ple it was created to protect. Yet, at the same time, it also relied on the state for funding. The need to keep this uneasy balance between the two institutions – of the police force being reliant upon but not beholden to the government – still exists today.
Professor Gloria Laycock of the UCL Department of Security and Crime Science notes, that under the most recent Labour government, the police “got away unchecked”. But under the new Conservative leadership, Laycock says, Home Secretary Theresa May has played a significant role in “catching up with the police” and more heavily scrutinising how it operates. May’s new policies have focused on improving police accountability and creating cost efficiency, and many have been successful. One particular example Laycock notes is the adoption of “evidence-based policing”, which identifies where resources can be cut without affecting how successfully the force operates. However, some other policies are going beyond this and seem more like an attempt by parliament to play a more calculating role in how the police force operates. The first example of this is the introduction
of police commissioners under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act of 2011. They perform the usual general oversight functions of a police commissioner, but are elected by the public and don’t require previous work experience in law enforcement. There are no political regulations on who can run and, as a result, a disproportionate number of those running for the position are ex-MPs. Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls described the creation of this role as a deliberate “politicisation” of an institution which has spent the last “150 years… keeping politics out of policing”. Successful candidates from parties such as Ukip (who are currently running a candidate in Hampshire) would do the force no favours, as the police already suffers from accusations of institutionalised racism. Although commissioners are required to take an oath of political neutrality, are we really supposed to believe ex-MPs will just abandon their political leanings?
Increased demand on a smaller force could have damaging consequences for the capital In addition to creating newly political roles for the police, the government is also cutting its budget. In London, over the next four years, at least £800 million will be cut from the Metropolitan Police’s current £3.5 billion budget. As a result, it’s predicted the Met will lose between 5,000 and 8,000 officers from its current 31,000-person force. While the prime minister has justified these cuts by saying the Met has shown it “can do more with less”, Keir Starmer, MP for Holborn and St Pancras, says that the proposed cuts to policing “are unsustainable and will have detrimental impacts across our communities”. Although cuts are taking place across the
POLITICS | PI MAGAZINE 712
OF POLICING entirety of the public sector to try to minimise public spending, the Met’s budget is being cut by a disproportionately large amount. This control over the police’s budget combined with the force’s inability to strike or protest illustrates just how much leverage the government has over the Met. What are the repercussions of all this, then? Are government cuts to the police force really a wise idea if the security of citizens is at stake, even if money has to be saved?
there remain specific policies that work to increase government power Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, head of the Met, recently said: “We don’t think our current funding from the Home Office fully recognises the challenges of policing our capital”. The population of London is expected to rise by 1 million in the next 10 to 15 years, and violent crime rose 25 per cent in the last year, but the government is shrinking the capital’s police. Increased demand on a smaller force could have damaging consequences for the capital. New Home Office acts regarding the police have successfully increased accountability and improved political oversight of the force without appearing to have any ulterior political motives. However, it’s clear there remain specific policies, namely elected commissioners and disproportionately large cuts, that work to increase government power more than improve the police and their ability to protect the public. I’ll close with a postscript from a 2012 Home Office memo. The document outlines the Office’s interpretation of the nine original “Peelian Principles” for the role of the police, written in 1829. “Power of the police [should come] from the common consent of the public, as opposed to the power of the state…” Perhaps the government has conveniently forgotten what it said way back in 2012?
Pi magazine 712 | Politics
C WILL THE
REVOLUTION BE TELEVISED? Dana Moss ponders whether Jeremy Corbyn’s election is the beginning of a London-based political revolution
orbyn’s recent rise from underdog to opposition leader in the span of a few short months has been exciting. His manifesto’s break with previous Labour policies, his vocal opposition to drones, and NATO membership, and his unclear position on the European Union have all been contentious within the party – but they’re actually more than that. Corbyn’s policies, as well as he himself, suggest Labour is heading in an entirely new direction. Historically, London, where Corbyn gathered most of his key support and is currently MP of Islington North, has been the national hotspot for revolutionary activity. As the seat of government, Westminster has been the centre of protesting over the years, from marches for and against the English Civil War in the 1640s, to the infamous suffragette “Black Friday” protest of 1910. Despite arguments that London’s political significance has decreased over the years, there is something telling about the fact that even today, protesters will plan their protests around London in spite of their own geographical starting points. It’s unsurprising then, that London is where Corbyn’s base of power lies. Corbyn has been dubbed a “Trotskyist tribute act” by fellow Labour MP Jon Cruddas and likened to the 1790s Jacobin movement in France by writer Hugh Purcell, yet these terms have little to do with his political ideals and more to do with tainting his reputation with unfavourable associations. They’re a weapon used to incite anxiety: likening Corbyn to a Marxist, simply because his ideals swing further left than Labour’s usual inclination, playing into middle class fears of extremism. When the most damning indictment used against Corbyn is to compare his refusal to sing the national anthem with the Jacobians publicly executing the monarch, the link seems tenuous at best. Despite the mostly damning motivations of those comparing Corbyn to other revolutionaries, are they in fact pointing to something legitimate? Upon closer inspection, are some of these comparisons of Corbyn to figures in other revolutions compelling enough to suggest London is gearing up for a revolution of its own? The archetypal revolutionary leader is a figure like George Washington during the American War of Independence or Vladimir Lenin during the Russian Revolution: a visionary offering a distinct divergence from the status quo while possessing the type
Politics | Pi magazine 712
As for Corbyn, with his policies swinging further left in areas such as the economy and nuclear disarmament than Miliband, Brown, and Blair, he does offer a vision for the country that is distinctly different from those of his predecessors, and one which seems to be gaining support. Prior to the General Election , Labour had 187,000 paid members. By August 2015, in the midst of Corbyn’s leadership bid, the party’s numbers had swelled to over 250,000, suggesting his public persona has appealed to the masses in the way previous revolutionary leaders have.
“share a grassroots activism centred upon innovative and creative uses of mass media”. Particularly when considering Corbyn’s use of social media during prime minister’s questions, I think the comparison is a useful one. By taking questions sent to him from regular people, Corbyn is creating a forum for the general public to voice their concerns and have them addressed – he’s showing people their voices matter.
Photo Credit: Jonny Weinberg
of charisma necessary for garnering popular support. At the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, it was Washington’s physical presence that stopped potential deserters from fleeing, as noted by several officers at the time. Lenin’s return to Petrograd in April 1917 encouraged the Bolsheviks to adopt a plan of attack they had been thoroughly disinclined to follow previously.
And in fact, Corbyn spoke at the 400-year commemoration of Lilburne’s birth, suggesting a conscious desire to draw connections between himself and Lilburne as two members with a shared tradition. Wilkes, Lilburne, and Corbyn all also found their strongest support in the same place: London.
Revolutions are Wilkes, Lilburne, very rarely one and Corbyn all significant event also found their strongest support in the same place: London
Revolutions are very rarely one significant event. The French Revolution can be easily split into several different stages of revolutionary triumphs over the course of centuries, and even the Russian Revolution is a term that encompasses two separate overthrows of the ruling government.
Despite Labour’s increase in supporters, though, Corybn’s leadership can’t really be likened to Paris in 1789. On the eve of the French Revolution, there was not one clear leader, but rather a set of ideas and desires uniting the dissatisfied masses. Corbyn’s name alone divides the public. There are, however, revolutionary leaders, though none as famous as Washington and Lenin, to whom Corbyn is even more comparable. Professor Jason Peacey, Head of the UCL History Department, cites both John Wilkes and John Lilburne as examples of characters that resemble Corbyn, saying all three
If London is on the verge of a revolution, this would, in all likeliness, be merely the first stage in a long, continually changing process. Rather than Corbyn’s Labour staying united for the long haul, it seems a safer bet the party will split off into increasingly divergent ideological factions. This though, is arguably a transformation a party must go through before revolution can become a reality. (Think: the Bolshevik-Menshevik split in 1903.) Considering our current political landscape, it seems implausible that a full-scale revolution could occur, with or without Corbyn at its head. Yet, there is definitely something compelling about drawing him as a revolutionary figure akin to Lilburne or Wilkes, who won’t necessarily spell a new or irreversible era for Labour but who will nonetheless champion the masses and, importantly, continue to make London a hotspot of political revolution, just as history has always done.
pi magazine 712 | science & tech
HOW TO FACE A
FACELESS WORLD Sarai Keestra takes a look at the mysterious condition of prosopagnosia – the inability to see faces
ust after the Second World War, the German psychologist, Joachim Bodamer, described odd symptoms in a 24 yearold soldier with a bullet wound to his head. He wasn’t able to recognise his own reflection, and he seemed to have lost the ability to recognise the faces of his friends and family, although he could still identify them by their voices, touch, or other visual cues. Bodamer called this condition “prosopagnosia”, a combination of the
Greek words prosopon (face) and agnosia (ignorance).
are unable to name it.”
The Portuguese neurologist Antonio Damasio described this condition in 1984:
Also known as “face blindness”, prosopagnosia comes in two forms: as an acquired condition and as a congenital disease.
“Patients with prosopagnosia only know that a face is a face and name it as such. Also, they can name parts of the face and point to them. Yet they are unable to recognize a given familiar face; i.e. they do not know to whom it belongs and consequently
Brain scans have shown that acquired prosopagnosia results from injuries to an area at the back of the brain that is important for face recognition, called the fusiform face area (FFA). The FFA is important for the recognition of faces, but also seems to
science & Tech | pi magazine 712 play a role in recognising objects. Damage to this part of the brain can be the result of brain tumours or haemorrhages, but there have also been cases where people have knocked their head, such as in a car accident, and awoken to a faceless world. On the other hand, scans of the brains of patients who have suffered prosopagnosia since birth do not show any differences to the scans of normal brains – their FFA seems completely intact, and thus the cause of their face blindness remains a mystery. Research suggests that the condition is genetically inheritable, with many of the afflicted having family members who also suffer from it. The congenital form of prosopagnosia is particularly problematic to study because many of these people have no idea that they have anything wrong with their perception of faces. They are completely unaware that their view of the world is different from the norm, and rarely know that there is such a thing as face blindness.
the way in which we perceive faces has both conscious and unconscious elements In a 1984 experiment, a male prosopagnosic was shown two different sets of faces: one with famous people and the other one with faces of family and friends. During the experiment, the skin conductance of the man was measured. Although he said he could not recognise any of the faces, when the researchers read him a list of five possible names for a face, a difference in the electrical responses of his skin was detectable upon hearing the right name. This implies that the way in which we perceive faces has both conscious and unconscious elements. Anna Hughes, a UCL teaching fellow in visual perception, suggests: “It could mean that prosopagnosics do not have a problem processing a face, but with making this awareness conscious.” She also explains that prosopagnosia helps us understand whether face perception has a distinct recognition pathway in our brain, or whether faces are just “objects” that we’re highly specialised in recognising.
enough, the recognition of other subjects does not seem to change. Farmers with prosopagnosia, for example, can tell apart their cows but can’t recognise their wife.
some try to recognise people from the way they walk or the colour of their footwear What seems like a bizarre medical anomaly turns out to be a rather common reality, with a recent German study showing as many as one in 50 may suffer from prosopagnosia. Prosopagnosics can be socially restricted, as face recognition is hugely important in picking up social cues and linking information to certain people. It’s hard to make
friends if you can’t recognise the people you were speaking to just a few seconds later. To make up for their condition, prosopagnosics have to be inventive. For example, some try to recognise people from the way they walk or the colour of their footwear. Of course, these techniques can be problematic if someone gets a new haircut or wears different shoes. Jacob Hodes, a 31 year-old with prosopagnosia, describes how a little change in hairstyle can have awkward consequences. In one instance, he recognised a colleague because she always wore a ponytail. One day she felt adventurous and let her hair down, and he was looking for her all day but could not find her until she tied her hair up. “She put her hair into the ponytail,” Hodes says, “And once it was in place that was Sylvia. It clicked. Then she took her hair back out of that ponytail. She disappeared again.” So take a minute to look around at your surroundings in the Main Quad. Watch all the familiar and unfamiliar faces rush. Imagine what it must feel like to be adrift in a sea of faceless people every day. Think about how extraordinary a privilege it is that you can distinguish the faces of your family and friends.
“I have had difficulty recognising faces for as long as I can remember. My problem extends not only to my nearest and dearest, but also to myself. I’ve sometimes had the experience of apologizing to someone, and realizing it’s a mirror.”
– oliver sacks, neurologist
So are people with prosopagnosia also less able to recognise certain objects? Weirdly
pi magazine 712 | science & tech
BREATHING IN THE
BIGSMOKE Mizu Nishikawa-Toomey looks at London’s air pollution problems
here are few worse ways to start your day than getting stuck behind a bus on your cycle into university and being sprayed with a tank full of exhaust fumes. These relatively new London buses, nicknamed Borismasters, don’t adhere to Euro VI air quality emission standards. In theory, they should be forbidden in the ultra low emissions zones set to be introduced in 2020. But this will not be the case, despite these buses producing five times as much pollution as the buses authorised to operate in those zones.
scribes two specific nitrogen compounds, NO2 and nitrogen oxide (NO), which can be thought of as the Kray twins in a gang of horrible gases produced as a result of burning fossil fuels.
In 1998, the EU Council set the UK a series of air pollution targets to be met by 2010. We still haven’t met them. Out of London’s 32 boroughs, Bromley and Sutton were the only two that adhered to the annual EU limit for nitrogen oxide (NO2) in 2013. It was only in April of this year that a Supreme Court ruling was passed requiring the government to enact new legislation to meet those targets originally set for 2010 by 2020.
king’s college london estimateS 5,879 premature deaths occured due to no2 in 2010 alone
One of the pollutants these targets are designed to minimise in the atmosphere is nitrogen oxide (NOx). NOx actually de-
Studies show short-term exposure to NO2, ranging from 30 minutes to 24 hours, can cause airway inflammation in healthy peo-
ple and increased respiratory symptoms for people with asthma. A research paper released by King’s College London in 2010 quantified mortality rates due to NO2 exposure for the first time, estimating that that 5,879 premature deaths occurred in that year alone. NO, on the other hand, reacts with oxygen to produce ozone (O3), which is responsible for that fresh scent we can smell when the rain has just stopped. Don’t be fooled by its crisp and dewy scent, though. In the upper atmosphere, ozone saves us from high-energy radiation, but at ground level, it can cause damage to lung tissue and has been proven to reduce lung function in foetuses. With all of this in mind, we should all probably be wondering: how much of this stuff do I breathe in every day? To find out if the streets I cycle along are lined with toxic fumes, I got in touch with a social enterprise ran by UCL called Mapping for Change. Mapping for Change is currently working on a project to record levels of NO2 across London. People are able to record their
science & tech| pi magazine 712 neighbourhood’s levels using a diffusion tube and then plot the results on an online map that already has 1,340 different measurements from all over London. Some of the worst levels are, maybe unsurprisingly, in the areas around UCL.
they produce, but how they perform in a lab controlled environment is not the same to how they perform in congested London traffic.”
“we have [no] banning diesel massive public from London health campaigns would be a good For cleaning the first step air we breathe.”
For example, Marylebone Road has, according to the map, an average monthly NO2 reading of 120 mg per cubic centimetre. The EU limit for NO2 levels is 40 mg per cubic centimetre.
With the hope of finding better results in more suburban areas, I looked up some readings for the side streets in Kentish Town. Brecknock Road, a residential road lined with quaint, red brick houses on either side, to my disappointment, had an NO2 level of 43mg per cubic centimetre – still over the EU limit.
Mapping for Change is currently crowdfunding to make a community library of equipment for air quality monitoring, so that more data can be collected and the online map can extend to show levels of NO2
for the whole of the UK. In Putney, following the community-led air quality monitoring in 2011, the community has successfully campaigned for the earlier implementation of hybrid electric buses on bus routes. Since then, the concentration of particulates along Putney High Street has fallen, giving us hope that levels can be lowered elsewhere in London, as well. Francis stresses the need for more public engagement on this matter. But people are not likely to care about or make informed choices on the subject of air pollution until there’s more data accessible to the public. “We have massive public health campaigns with regards to stopping smoking, reducing your alcohol intake etc.,” she says, “But none for cleaning the air we breathe”. If you would like to get in contact with Mapping for Change, or find out about the levels of pollution where you live, visit their website at: www.Mappingforchange.org.uk
“Diesel produces particulates, black carbon, NO2, it’s just the worst.” Louise Francis, co-founder of Mapping for Change, calls NO2 levels like the ones I found, and air pollution more generally, a “major public health concern”, saying: “It is up there in the top three causes of death in London.” According to Francis, banning diesel from London would be a good first step. “Diesel produces particulates, black carbon, NO2, it’s just the worst,” she says. There’s also a more practical problem with diesel use, says Francis. “The manufacturers of the diesel combustion engines are trying to reduce the amount of pollution
GIRLS WHO CODE pi magazine 712 | science & tech
Liberty Jacklin takes a look at the rising popularity of coding and its female engagement
hen you think of someone who likes coding, who do you imagine? I know what I used to think of: a bespectacled guy in a hoodie, sitting alone in a dark basement with his computer, surrounded by half-empty pizza boxes. Emphasis on “guy”. As an astrophysics student, I am all too aware of the stereotypes surrounding people in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM). But, over the last year, I’ve had to learn to confront my own stereotypical ideas about people in technology, spe-
cifically those who code. You may be surprised to hear that many of the pioneers in the early days of computing were women. Take Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, or Joan Clarke, whose work with famed codebreaker Alan Turing at Bletchley Park helped end the Second World War and save millions of lives. Unfortunately, the story today is quite different. In the 1960s, women made up 50 per cent of all computer programmers. According to UCAS, the number of female students studying computer science at university is
decreasing every year. A whopping 92 per cent of software developers today are male according to Stack Overflow, an online community of 4.7 million programmers. Put simply, coding is speaking the language of computers. A code is a set of rules or instructions that you give your computer to tell it what to do. Coding is done in different “languages”, each designed with a different use in mind. For example, HyperText Markup Language (HTML) is the standard for writing webpages. Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) is the language used to describe how the HTML
more than half of Bentinck and Clifford’s first group of girls are now working in the field With more than half of Bentinck and Clifford’s first group of girls now working in the field, there’s no doubt they’ve seen results. I attended the Code First: Girls summer intensive course knowing that I severely lacked the motivation to learn on my own. Held for two hours in the evening twice a week at Google Campus, the course covered HTML, CSS, jQuery, and Python in four weeks. There was a lot to cover. But it was a breeze with the help from everyone at CF:G. Andreas, our main instructor and a Twitter engineer, was amazing. His passion for technology was infectious. After my experience, I decided to become a UCL Ambassador for CF:G as I felt it was important for more people to know about their work. I also wanted to encourage my friends to join me on my journey into the tech world.
Amali de Alwis, the CEO of CF:G, says: “Code First: Girls is important because tech will be what drives us forward in the future, and CF:G aims to help ensure that female leaders and innovators are included in making the big decisions and creating our future.” My fellow UCL ambassador Clarice Hilton is a textbook success story for the organisation. After quitting her job, she discovered CF:G needed a programmes manager, a position that helped guide her down a different career path, and eventually to UCL for an MSc in computer science. “I realised what I really wanted was to work on the technical side and really wanted to build,” says Hilton, with whom I am helping teach the UCL Autumn/Winter Beginners Course. One of the lead instructors at CF:G, Diana Lee, says it’s vital we get more girls coding. “As women, we have allowed ourselves to merely be consumers of technology for too long,” says Lee, “I chose to teach coding because I think it’s incredibly important for us to understand how computers work and
how to change the world around us with technology.”
there’s a whole movement growing Although technology may seem to be a boys’ club at the moment, there’s a whole movement growing to get more girls into tech, and there are strong female voices within the industry leading the way, from Amali de Alwis of CF:G and Kathryn Parsons of Decoded to supermodel Karlie Kloss. Technology is undoubtedly permeating every aspect of life, from the way we use apps to our Facebook homepage, and it’s crucial young women learn the languages of the industry so they too can have a voice and role in shaping the future.
computer programmers were
y a d o T
of software developers are
Expo 2015 in Milan
e abou r o m s a w n a po in Mil
illiams W o n a r o M Emilia
pon exiting the metro, you’re herded into a crowd shuffling towards a distant entrance. Tickets are being unsheathed, itineraries unfurled, cameras uncapped. This is Expo 2015 in Milan, Italy. Titled “Feeding the Planet: Energy for Life”, Expo 2015 aimed to discuss the issues threatening global food systems by educating visitors and empowering them to protect the world’s food supply. From May to October, Italians and foreigners endured a 33-minute metro journey from central Milan to marvel at this supposed eco-gastronomic prophecy. What they discovered, however, wasn’t always pioneering. They stumbled upon brash architecture, kiosks selling Wall’s ice cream, and shops offering uninspiring, autogrilled paninis. They realised that if they didn’t want to wait for a Moroccan tagine, they could grab a burger from McDonald’s. If they craved chocolate, they could head to the Lindt Chocolate Factory down the road. None of this seemed to bother the crowds, though.
cent w e r t s o m e h t s why
To exhibit their vision for a sustainable future, 54 countries erected pavilions that lined a mile-long promenade dubbed the “Decumano”, on Milan’s Rho Fiera, a site that regularly hosts industry trade shows. When I visited one Saturday in early September, there were throngs of people descending on both the pavilions and ice cream stalls.
it was easy to forget the focus was meant to be sustainability The three most popular pavilions – those of Japan, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates – boasted extravagant architecture and had dominated social media since the expo opened in May.
Brazil’s visitors bounced across a trampoline-like net, learning that sustainability is akin to a fluid structure that adapts to the changing demands of the population. Japan promised attendees seven restaurants tracing the evolution of Japanese cuisine, emphasising the country’s role in shaping and protecting traditional food pathways. Visitors to the UAE pavilion discovered the relationship between the country’s struggle to maintain a sustainable food system and its difficult climate, while wandering through recreations of its cities’ narrow streets. With so much to look at, it was easy to forget the focus was meant to be sustainability. Queue-weary visitors may have skipped these pavilions, though. Barely two hours after opening for the day, the Japanese pavilion already had a four-hour queue. So, instead, I decided to visit a selection of the lesser-photographed pavilions, many of which belonged to countries with little international power. To be fair, I did stop by Russia, but then I paid a visit to Indonesia. I saw Qatar and Turkmenistan. I visited Guatemala and Kenya. In these pavilions, I learned less about the future of food and more about the future of tourism. The more of the expo
travel | pi magazine 712
a problem ’s t a h t y h w ion, and than innovat postcard and photograph-friendly
I saw, the more I saw the muddling of the different identities and ideas it was designed to espouse. Since the first World Exposition — or World’s Fair as it was then called — opened in London in 1851, these events have reflected the shifting dynamics of international relations. Early fairs brought together various nations to exhibit their most recent inventions. The telephone debuted at the World’s Fair in 1876. In addition to introducing technology, the fairs awed visitors with monumental architecture. Icons like Paris’s Eiffel Tower, Melbourne’s Royal Exhibition Building, and London’s Crystal Palace – all of which were originally part of a World’s Fair – altered their respective landscapes and attested to their respective cities’ global importance. In an era when empires and colonialism dominated political discussions, these fairs and their imposing structures crudely reminded the world of their host country’s power. As the focus of international debate shifted after World War II, expos ceased to demonstrate industrial prowess and instead began to explore cultural themes. The theme of New York’s 1964 fair was “Peace through Understanding”, while in 1967 Montreal it was “Man and His World”. With fresh topics came fresh architectural ideas. Rather than construct permanent buildings, countries built singular,
icons, like Osaka’s Landmark Tower (1970) and Brussels’ Atomium (1958). Technological advancements fell by the wayside as exhibitions focused on increasing soft power and drawing in tourists.
Milan Expo 2015 will join a long list of recent expos that have faded into obscurity Nowadays, expos increasingly appear to be designed by Expedia.com. Apart from the memories that visitors bring home (of queuing to drink Polish vodka or eat Dutch chips), Milan Expo 2015 will have no lasting impact, joining a long list of recent expos that have faded into obscurity. Seville’s 1992 expo lacked the funds to repurpose the fair site. Hanover’s 2000 fair was a financial disaster after visitor numbers were half of what was expected. Even the 2012 expo in Yeosu, South Korea, which was praised for tackling environmental issues, has largely faded from public memory.
Yet, city officials will tell you a different story. They’ll cite visitor numbers when they’re eventually released. They’ll detail the improvements to Milan’s infrastructure which enabled the expo to happen, saying they will improve the daily lives of residents and tourists. They’ll remind you it’s because of the expo that Milan maintained and extended shopping hours during Italy’s August holiday, boosting its flagging economy. So, even according to the Milanese officials themselves, the expo was only a glorified temporary tourist destination. Underneath the global rhetoric, all it hoped to do was revitalise brand Italia. In an age where travel is no longer as prohibitively expensive as it once was, modern expos should be treated differently than their historical counterparts. The older model of cultural, architectural, and technological exchange is no longer sufficient to draw the crowds, nor is it as beneficial for an international community that interacts with with the other side of the world every time they turn on their smartphone. While Milan did attempt to divorce the fair from blatant commercialisation at first, low revenue and attendance ultimately persuaded officials to exploit it as a tourist magnet. If it wants to be relevant in any meaningful way, the upcoming 2017 Expo in Astana, Kazakhstan must reconceptualise how nations unite in the 21st century and, in the process, bring back the vitality of world expos. Visitors should take away more than just the memory of a four-hour queue for a pavilion.
ARIEL CHEN Chemistry First Year
EMMA PONTING Biomedical Engineering First Year
EDIE FLOWERS Neuroscience Third Year
ANABEL BENNETT Chemistry Third Year
Pi Magazine 712 | Life & style
REASONS NOT TO LIFT WEIGHTS (AND WHY THEY ARE WRONG)
Bartek Podkowa explains why weightlifting is not as intimidating as you may think
life & style | Pi Magazine 712
’m not a bodybuilder. I’m not a powerlifter. I’m not a fitness professional of any kind, although I have dabbled in coaching – from teaching the basics to random people on a oneoff basis, to training a professional singer, to helping an American football player with his training programs. In other words, I’m a guy who likes lifting weights, enjoys getting fitter, and understands how to do so. There are a lot of people who want to get in shape but aren’t comfortable with the idea of lifting weights – I know because I used to be one of them. But lifting weights is something anyone can do. And whatever your fitness goal – be it getting healthier, leaner, bigger, or stronger – lifting weights really is the key to achieving it. So what are some of the main reasons people are reluctant to lift weights, even though they want to get in shape?
The first couple of gyms I trained at were remarkably short on experienced lifters. Just about everyone was a “weekend warrior”, coming in at best semi-regularly, without a plan and, as a result, showing little progress. It wasn’t until I joined a gym where a small group of trainers actually competed in bodybuilding and powerlifting that I was able to improve at a rate I would now consider normal, but which had previously seemed unattainable. It wasn’t because I started training with them (I didn’t) or took one of them as a “mentor” (although I did learn a lot from talking to them), but rather due to simply seeing what’s possible and what hard work really looks like.
Until you meet They think the true freaks they’re not the of nature who sporty type lift small cars and eat a cow for breakfast, you have no reason to be intimidated there’s something by anyone incredibly at the gym satisfying in knowing I could totally kick my younger self’s butt
You don’t have to be athletic to start lifting weights, but you can get more athletic by doing so. I used to be one of the least fit kids in school, all the way through my teens. I was easily outran, outmaneuvered, and out-lifted by everyone, including the guy who smoked a pack a day. Now, at 29, I’m several times stronger than I was at 19, and, while not in the best shape of my life, I’m probably about two months of hard work away from it at any given point.
Sure, getting into shape is not as big a deal as discovering the cure for cancer, but it feels good – and some days feeling good is all you need. And, at least for me, there’s something incredibly satisfying in knowing I could totally kick my younger self ’s butt.
They get intimidated by experienced lifters
I’ve heard from many people that they avoid the gym, or at least the free weights areas, because they get intimidated by the more experienced lifters. Until you meet the true freaks of nature who lift small cars and eat a cow with a side of rice paddy for breakfast, you have no reason to be intimidated by anyone at the gym. If they’re leaner, stronger, bigger or whatever-er than you, use that as inspiration. Better yet, ask them for advice. Seriously, the majority of advanced lifters I’ve met are also some of the kindest people in the gym. A lot of them started much weaker you would think, so they understand where you’re starting from better than you might imagine. As for those unfortunate few who actually try to intimidate beginners, chances are they’re compensating for one thing or another, so just ignore them.
They’re afraid of getting too big, too muscular, etc.
Many people, especially women, seem concerned that picking up anything heavier than that cute little pink dumbbell will turn them into Arnold Schwarzenegger’s stunt double overnight. But the truth is that building muscle is an extremely slow process. It may seem fast when you are just getting started, but that’s a result of: • • •
“Newbie gains” due to a drastic change of effort required from the muscles. Rapid changes in body composition through mechanisms like improved insulin sensitivity. Neurological changes like improved muscle tone and better posture.
you aren’t getting too big any time soon All of these slow down considerably within weeks, and the last one essentially stalls once your body learns to keep your muscles slightly more tense at rest. In other words: it may seem like you’re on the express train to Muscle Beach after the first two months, but you aren’t at risk of getting too big any time soon. Instead, what you’re likely to get – after putting in tons of work – is what most of us want: tone. So yes, the easiest way to get there is with a barbell, not a treadmill and plastic weights. When I was in the best shape of my life, I was training up to 10 times a week (I had a lot more time on my hands then, okay?) and eating pretty much everything that wasn’t nailed down. And even then, I was in no way too big. In fact, the only times my non-lifting friends (and my mom…) commented that I was getting too big wasn’t when I had a lot of muscle, but when I allowed myself to gain some fat.
I hope I’ve managed to deal with at least some of the concerns you may have about training and encouraged some of you to give it a try. Taking up a new sport can be scary, especially when people of such varying ability participate in it together. But it can also be extremely rewarding and teach you a lot about yourself – at least that has been my experience. And, in spite of the slow start and occasional problems, I’m glad I’ve had it.
Pi Magazine 712 | Life & style
section | Pi Magazine 2015
5 ways to stay active in London
beth flaherty gives you five ways to stay fit that won’t eat up all of your student loan
hile the quest for the perfect summer body may be over for another year, we still need to maintain some sort of exercise routine. But, let’s face it, buying a gym membership more often than not ends up being a waste of money, with our resolution to go every day never being met – at least for most of us. After a long day of lectures, the idea of climbing up all those stairs to Bloomsbury Fitness seems like too much effort, never mind actually working out… So, instead, opt for these cheap, hassle-free ways to keep fit this winter.
“I’d never used stainless steel cutlery before living in ramsay.” “HE’S MORE LIKELY TO SHOOT HER THAN PROPOSE TO HER.” “i was just so used to being productive in tails.”
“it’s so far away - it’s in zone 2 or something.” “because my parents are american, they thought we were going to sue.” >> Heard something funny around campus? Tweet at us @OverheardatUCL or with the hashtag #OverheardatUCL page 38
The App Store is currently bursting with an array of different workout apps aimed at all fitness levels, so you should be able to find one that suits you. Fitness apps like Sworkit combine lots of different moves to create effective workouts, with instructions given throughout so you don’t have to keep stopping and starting. Even better is 7 Minute Workout, an app which is perfect for those of us who are constantly strapped for time.
london parks As students living in London, we really should make use of everything it has to offer, and parks can be a great place to work out if you’re looking for a change of scenery. If you want to branch out, you can even rent rollerskates at Hyde Park! For those who are not that adventurous, parks offer new cycle paths or running routes you may not have tried before.
couch to 5k While we’re on the topic of running, if you’re not already doing the Couch to 5K yourself, then you probably know someone who has joined in on this craze. It’s perfect for newbie runners, as it trains you to run 5K over an eight-week period by scheduling three runs each week and sending you regular notifications to help keep you committed. It gets tough in the later stages, but the results are immediately obvious.
youtube videos Many of us would be lying if we denied spending too much time on YouTube, so why not make that time more productive? If you’d prefer not to leave the cosy confines of your room, consider fitness YouTubers, essentially virtual personal trainers providing instruction and encouragement to keep you going. Try Blogilates, who combines core-strengthening pilates with upbeat music to help you tone up specific areas of the body, and Madeleine Shaw, whose energising routines actually make yoga sort of fun.
fitness classes You might think fitness classes are expensive, but most are free with a gym membership or cost as little as £3.50 per go. The main benefit of doing classes is that you can do them with other people. Try out circuit training and Zumba, which are both high-energy, fun, and always involve upbeat music.
MUSE Pi MAGAZINE’S CULTURE SECTIONS Arts
Film & TV
MUSE | Pi Recommends
MUSIC Hookworms The Hum (2014) With clashing synth sounds and an almost uncomfortably over-reverberated vocalist, The Hum combines punk anger with pretty psychedelic frills. The album opens with The Impasse, the raucously loud finale of which transitions flawlessly into the second song On Leaving. Later in the album, the mystically tender Off Screen harkens back to numinous feedback styles made famous by The Velvet Underground. The final song Retreat is a personal favourite, with Bowie-like vocals screaming a dizzying opening (“Oh good, I’ve got a reason to die”) alongside a clashing guitar and sing-songy organ – the perfect way to round off the album.
Darkstar Foam Island (2015) Inspired by the town of Huddersfield, Foam Island, while still musically traceable to Darkstar’s trademark sound, speaks directly to austerity Britain, featuring the sound of local sixth form students talking of their hopes, dreams, and hometown, as well as a council official detailing the local effect of government cuts. The album’s strength is in its melancholy, its sense of domesticity – sometimes bleak, sometimes comforting. Musically, Foam Island is a subtle and engaging record of electronic music. Yet, taken in its full form, as a platform offering a voice to a chosen muse – a town in northern England – the album really does become something quite special. This is what political music should sound like in 2015.
Kelela Hallucinogen (2015) The DC-born singer and songwriter has released a follow-up EP to her critically acclaimed debut album, Cut 4 Me. Heavily influenced by grime, soul, and funk, coupled with a strong electronic foundation, Hallucinogen firmly cements Kelela as a force to be reckoned with. With songs like Rewind and The Message, Kelela tackles similar themes to that of her debut, but with sexier basslines and more sultry melodies, and is a welcome addition to an electronic genre which often runs the risk of becoming homogenous. Kelela has remained an industry favourite for a reason, and it’s great to see her now getting the attention she’s always deserved. (Sophie Harris, Jonny Chadwick, Chowa Nkonde)
Pi Recommends | Muse
FILM & TV
Withnail and I (1987)
The Night Shift Exhibition
Based on director Bruce Robinson’s own experience as an unemployed actor, Withnail and I is a whiskey-drenched portrayal of London life at the “fag-end” of the 1960s. Richard E. Grant and Paul McGann play two performers, failing to find work, passing the time in their grotty Camden flat by guzzling alcohol, cigarettes, speed, and lighter fluid. The dark subject matter is offset by humour and the leads’ endearing wit. Increasingly desperate, these are characters sure to be left behind by the new decade. Hilarious, melancholic, and endlessly quotable, Withnail and I is a masterpiece.
London Transport Museum (until April 2016)
The Earthsea Quartet Ursula K. Le Guin (1968-2001)
Unearthly Stranger (1963) In this obscure, low-budget sci-fi thriller, a scientist (John Neville) begins to question his wife’s humanity after noticing her strange behaviour. Although the closest this film gets to special effects is the lead actress’s lack of blinking, don’t be put off. The blinking trick and eerie use of sound actually make for a genuinely entertaining sci-fi film. Unearthly Stranger was shot in London, including the first sequence depicting Neville running past the Houses of Parliament, and proves that a big budget isn’t essential to making a good film.
Sherlock Holmes (2009) There’s a peculiar moment in Guy Ritchie’s energetic Sherlock Holmes adaptation when the silver-tongued detective declares, matterof-factly: “What an industrious empire.” Sherlock’s observation of the cityscape is both a reminder of and comment on 19th century London as a rapidly industrialising metropolis. It’s a far cry from Woody Allen’s romantic postcards of other beloved European cities – Sherlock’s view offering a ceaseless mass of half-formed buildings and urban mayhem. But, whether it’s cobblestoned streets twisting into an impossible labyrinth or the many menacing prisons and dungeons, the film embodies the spirit of British industrialism. For Ritchie, London’s changing scenery may not be the most attractive landscape, but it’s one of eternal progress.
With the night tube supposedly starting in the next year or so, the London Transport Museum has decided to tell dark tales from the history of the city’s transport system. More intriguing than you may initially think, the exhibition takes you on a journey from the fear-filled streets of the World Wars, through the cocainefuelled clubbing scene of the 1980s, to London today, as a city that simply refuses to sleep.
Dead Dog In a Suitcase (and other love songs) Shoreditch Town Hall (2-12 December) Based on John Gay’s immensely successful musical satire, The Beggar’s Opera, the Kneehigh theatre company’s return to London is a show about…well, everything. Accompanied by a weird but wonderful score and executed by impossibly skilled performers, Dead Dog is a morality tale for our times. Guaranteed to both shock and charm, this is not a show to miss.
The Crime Museum Uncovered Museum of London (until April 2016) For the first time, never-before-seen objects from the Metropolitan Police’s Crime Museum are on public display. The exhibition serves as a voice for victims and an insight into crimes and their perpetrators. Designed to confront how we, as a society, respond when normality is shattered and lives are torn apart, Uncovered depicts the way several events have shaped the face of our city. (Emma Groome)
The Earthsea Quartet is a hidden gem and by far the most beautifully written work of fantasy of the 20th century. Following soon to be wizard Ged’s entry into the “true” way of magic, what makes Le Guin’s novel superior to its fantasy counterparts – aside from the seamlessly evoked sense of pastoral beauty, terror, and wonder – is its perfect economy of style. You’re never bogged down with unnecessarily complex, Tolkienesque details, genealogies, and whatnot – and the result is a world realised without a word wasted. The use of magic in Earthsea is thoughtful. It isn’t connoted with superfluousness (like the kind of 24/7 wandwielding in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter). It’s all about equilibrium and restraint – we’re told not to look for shortcuts in life, moving us to enjoy and savour every moment without the culture of dependence fostered by magic.
AFredrik ManBackman called Ove (2014) This book tells the story of a curmudgeonly old man called Ove who is perpetually angry about everything and everyone, a character we’re all familiar with. Through the story of Ove, Backman teaches us personality is pliable and we’re all kind-hearted deep down. It’s a tale about the transformations we go through in life and how different events make us who we are today.
Ready Player One Ernest Cline (2011) Ready Player One is a life-changing read. When teenage Wade plugs into the virtual utopia of OASIS, we’re instantaneously transported with him. Whether or not you love video games and understand the esoteric allusions to late 80s pop culture, you will find yourself turning the pages ravenously. It’s a time-machine encapsulated in a book, nostalgia porn for those who grew up in the 80s. Ready Player One, however, isn’t just a book about video games, it’s also a beautiful and haunting reminder of the decadence of 21st century society which invites us to ponder our own choices. (Byron Abad)
(Jonny Weinberg, Tamsin Hilliker, Caine Bird)
muse | arts
arts | muse
Kitty Whittell discusses the value of graffiti to art in London he term “street art” is surprisingly hard to define. Examples range from the government commissioned works that adorn the urban environment, like Piccadilly’s Eros and the Fourth Plinth installations, to the more obvious: graffiti.
In his manifesto, Debord was highly critical of both Dada and Surrealism. In his eyes, their art was restricted because they allowed themselves to be defined as radical. If people expect your work to be radical, there’s no impact when it is, he argued.
plans of the centre intending to literally encase the building in glass. By aligning themselves with museum spaces, the Long Live Southbank group did not undermine the official authorities, but instead themselves.
During recent years, street art has become quite an attraction. People flock to see famous pieces, like the giant hedgehog stalking across a wall on Redchurch Street in Shoreditch and Banksys, which are scattered across various cities in England. There are even walking tours that make the London streets feel like a curated exhibition. However, this in itself poses a clear problem. If graffiti is now so synonymous with the idea of street art, is it still graffiti?
Has graffiti been condemned to this fate as a form of street art?
Yet, this assumes that graffiti and traditional art are diametric opposites. The reality is that nothing is that black and white – especially art. In the case of the Southbank movement, by linking themselves with the V&A, it meant graffiti and that entire space could be seen as art. By attempting to destroy the space, the council was potentially responsible for destroying art. Perhaps integrity is not that important in this circumstance. Perhaps the saviour of the skate park alone should be celebrated.
Graffiti by definition is scribbled, scratched, or sprayed illicitly on a wall or other surfaces in a public place. Generally seen as an act of vandalism, it’s rebellious by nature. We all recognise this from our own childhood creative outbursts, which invariably led to despair from parents concerned with pristine paintwork. It goes without saying that Banksy is much more nuanced in his, or her, subversive designs than an over-enthusiastic toddler with a crayon, but the sentiment is still there.
On the other hand, there’s a sense that Banksy is a bit of a sellout. Michael Jette, a Sotheby’s prints expert, says: “He is literally printing money.” According to Jette, new editions are continuously being published of essentially the same Banksy print, which regularly sell for around £8,000. The authenticity and immediacy of these artists’ – in this case Banksy’s – work is thus undermined by reproduction through photographs and prints.
Graffiti subverts traditional art to create an act of self-expression on the urban environment, allowing it to break previous artistic restrictions. It’s now seen as something more: street art. Calling graffiti “street art” changes the boundaries of the medium. It’s no longer merely an act of rebellious expression. Its subversive power is now in question. This is nothing new, though. In the early 1960s, Guy Debord of Situationist International – a movement that believed by putting things in neat little artistic boxes and genres there’s little ability to break away or express individuality – came onto the art scene.
Thankfully, street art continues to surprise. In Kabul and Teheren, Shamsia Hassani produces ghost-like figures of burqa-clad women who wander the streets, as a haunting reminder of women’s inequality in the Middle East. She seeks to open minds and enlighten people through her works, which are now exhibited across the globe.
Recent street art approaches do seem muddled. This was seen with the Long Live Southbank group, which managed to save the skate park beneath the Beton brut beams of the Southbank Centre. Graffiti-decorated skateboards stood by the park’s entrance for several months in protest, and the movement rallied support from a variety of sources, including the V&A. It seems to be a conflict of interest, though, to have such a grandiose institution supporting a movement to preserve graffiti. It puts the skate park on a par with the relics held in the glass cases of the collection at the V&A itself. Surely this was the same aesthetic the South Bank movement was fighting against with the refurbishment
Maybe graffiti is still subversive, it just functions under a different and far more fickle guise. Each piece of graffiti may be aesthetically similar, but each one has a message that undermines some aspect of current social or political contexts. Copies of Banksy prints hanging in the penthouse flat of a rich white bloke who doesn’t quite get the joke seems to be the ultimate irony. Banksy has effectively scrawled a message on the walls of rich art collectors around the world and made a fortune doing it. It may not be as gritty as Debord had intended, but it spreads the concept as far as it can go. Shamsia Hassani does the same thing: her work gets global recognition, and so does her message. Elevating graffiti to the levels of art, when it was once considered petty vandalism, creates a new platform for debate and discussion. A form of expression once excluded has been included, and is more effective as a result. Graffiti will always be a form of self expression, as it can never be categorised.
muse | arts
ow is London’s skyline changing? There’s more to London’s development than the cluster of tall buildings in the City, the thousands of high-rise apartments in the works, and the already-planned skyscrapers. The answer must be more complex, because the visual changes to the city are masking the social and political changes that many residents are facing. The skyline is not purely visual – it’s also political, social, and civic. It informs our experience of the modern city and the ways we live within it.
what actually is the skyline? It may seem obvious but what actually is the skyline? The word once meant horizon, where sky and earth meet. Over time, where sky and earth meet became blinkered with stacks, smoke in the wind, black on the horizon of
previously pastoral country. The definition was modernised to include the artificial, which is now the only thing it describes. A skyline is the icon of a city – its global brand image. The skyline is now just an image which helps us recognise the city. If a skyline is just a picture we see in a travel brochure, on metro maps and perhaps, soon, as emojis on a forthcoming iOS, what is it that people who explore the city see? Skylines evolve personally as we make our way through the city. They orient us around the city, like compass points and beacons. They form hubs, communities at their intersections, and they form our way of walking through the city. We produce them through the paths we take and the ways we see them, and they reproduce our experience of the urban. Think of the BT Tower and Centre Point, lights that have guided many of us home, especially those of us who have lived in Ramsay. Think of the strange thrill of seeing their austere frames from another postcode and then being able to walk to within touching-distance of them. Think of the dome atop the portico, which helps form the Bloomsbury skyline.
London’s skyline is not changing, really. Can proposed developments really change our personal experiences of the city? There have been major urbanist projects to protect certain lines of sight to Westminster and St Paul’s for over 100 years. The preservation of this cherished historic site is unique to London. Other cities deal with encounters between past and future differently. In Paris, for example, the financial centre is exiled to La Défense so the divide between neoclassical buildings and 90s glass and steel is not felt as sharply. The London policy of protecting certain lines of sight begins to seem more suspect when compared to the lack of attention paid to other historic buildings, areas, and communities. What is preserved is the dominant history and its artefacts (think: churches, museums, war memorials), and minority accounts become marginalised in their repurposing as residential or commercial spaces. The Heygate Estate, the huge housing project in Elephant and Castle which provided around 3,000 affordable homes, was demolished between 2011 and 2014 in a 15 year project to regenerate the local area. The
CHANGING Will Johnson looks at the meaning behind the London skyline page 44
arts| Muse land was sold to the multinational, Sydney-headquartered Lend Lease Group for way short of what it was worth. The residents, 80 per cent of whom did not want to leave the estate, were forcibly rehoused in the suburbs. Anna Minton noted in the Guardian in 2013: “At the Heygate, only 79 of the 2,535 planned new homes on the site will be available to rent as social housing. And while 25% of homes have been earmarked as ‘affordable housing’, since the definition of affordable housing was changed by the coalition to mean up to 80% of market rent, that rules out the vast majority of those on lower incomes.” The Heygate’s case is far from extraordinary. This process is happening all over the city.
London is constantly being built and rebuilt
It’s this poisonous shift from public to private space in London that is one of the main drives of the change in the city. When entry to a space becomes conditioned, a city loses its idiosyncrasy.
Cranes seem to be the only constant feature of skylines It’s important not to be romantic and regressive here – change is good, but a lack of diversity enforced by an elite social order is not. Anti-homeless spikes are one thing, anti-busking laws another, the purchase of city centre property yet another. The control of that space by private enterprise, which is so often incoherent with the public’s best interests, is quite another altogether.
London is constantly being built and rebuilt. Cranes seem to be the only constant feature of skylines. Perpetual construction is a good advert for a city, even if it feels like nothing is ever completed. London will always be ready and adaptable if it’s always being remade with no end in sight. But demographics are changing because of the nature of this ongoing project of construction. Certainly, it’s important that the city has a good reputation – it’s necessary to draw in the kind of investment that is beneficial to locals. Currently though, we’re reducing the number of affordable homes when need is greater than ever. What is being demolished is the worn-out fabric of the 20th century way of life. With the disappearance of the nonwealthy from central London, will we also witness the fading away of a certain kind of built environment and, along with that, a collective way of seeing the city? Imagine a Heygate resident walking past the rubble of their former home. A huge part of their own physical experience of London erased. The passing from sight and mind of a former skyline of London. Is that a vision we want for our city’s future?
G SKYLINE page 45
Muse | Arts
Photo credit: Matt May
lost and found Emma Groome uncovers Londonâ€™s most creative new theatrical venues
hile London appears to have one of the most thriving arts scenes on the planet, many of its theatres routinely face dereliction. Some perish in fires, others with asbestosis, and some simply get bulldozed to make room for another cafe. Hidden behind the view of skyscrapers, beneath new bricks or boarded up windows, lie some of the most beautiful parts of Londonâ€™s cultural history. Though some are only committed to memory, the wreckage and ruin of others still stands. The Alexandra Palace Theatre is one of these places, hidden primarily by the grandeur of a larger, newer venue: the Alexandra Palace. Originally designed by John Johnson, the theatre opened in 1875, and had the ability to seat 2,500 people within its glamorous Victorian setting. Once host to some of the finest theatrical acts of the 19th century, the theatre had a chequered history, closing be-
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Arts | MUSE tween 1914 and 1918 to be used as a centre for Belgian refugees, and later to be used as part of an internment camp for German prisoners. Fast forward to present day, and it’s now set for a £18.8 million renovation, with the intention of using it for its original purpose. Other venues have not been so fortunate. For those of you who live in the King’s Cross area, or have ever been unfortunate enough to battle your way down the Euston Road, you will have walked past the old site of the Euston Palace of Varieties. If you’ve drunkenly stumbled into the Burger King opposite St Pancras, you will have in fact set foot in it – on the grounds of a bygone era. Built in 1900, in the classic Victorian style not dissimilar from the Alexandra Palace Theatre, the Palace of Varieties was an instant success, bringing in hordes of tourists from the nearby station, as well as those crossing through the busy central London thoroughfare. The success didn’t remain however, and after the theatre was transformed into a cinema unitl quickly fell into disrepair, leading to its demolition in the 1960s. Oddly, that’s probably not the only theatre you’ve drunkenly stumbled into since coming to UCL. Now host to some of the biggest club nights in the capital, the Coronet, was also host to some of the finest musical and theatrical variety London had to offer. In 1882, on the site of the short-lived Theatre Royal, which sadly burned down only six years after completion, the Coronet Theatre was born.
London’s theatres face being branded as dens of iniquity It seems somewhat impossible these days to go anywhere without stumbling on where a theatre once was – or secretly still is. Yet, as councils grow harsher and funding grows smaller, London’s theatres face being branded as dens of iniquity, with their destruction oncoming and inevitable. In recent years, this has caused a somewhat fashionable rejection of the use of classic theatres. Shows are now being performed in garages, abandoned postal offices, and on rooftops. London’s theatre-makers certainly can’t be accused of lacking ingenuity. The theatre company SHUNT is a prime example of this pioneering type of theatre. Two summers ago, SHUNT created The Boy Who Climbed Out of His Face, a walk-through performance that takes place inside shipping containers on the Greenwich Jetty on the south bank of the Thames. Because who needs the Bloomsbury when you’ve got an iron shed on the riverside? Thirty people would disappear inside every ten minutes and were spat out 45min-
utes later. Though reviews were somewhat polarised, it’s hard not to praise the innovation behind the idea. Theatre purists may find themselves mildly horrified at this rejection of classic theatrical norms, snorting to themselves: “Whatever next, Shakespeare in a car park?” Actually, yes. In Peckham, theatre company Bold Tendencies and director Pia Furtado decided to take Titus Andronicus out of the Globe and into a multi-storey. When asked about her scandalous decision Furtado said: “Car parks are just extraordinarily evocative spaces; there’s something about it that’s hard to beat in terms of scale. It invites you to match it. There’s no doubt in my mind that as we enter technical rehearsals, more challenges will emerge, but if we weren’t up for a challenge, we wouldn’t choose to do it in a car park!” To be perfectly honest, it’s hard to argue with her. There’s a certain power in bringing theatre to people in such an immediate way, in using the everyday places we inhabit. It’s possible the hallowed halls of theatres like the one at Alexandra Palace do belong in history, not in the modern world, as we can never expect them to evolve in the way that theatre has and continues to do so.
though some theatres have been lost, theatre itself is not contained within four walls As frustrating as it is, theatre, like any art form is not immune to politics, the economy, or even the never-ending wrath of UCL Estates. That’s not to say it’s not important to remember the past – the preservation of theatrical history continues to influence and inspire those who create today – but we also must learn how to adapt. After all, though some theatres have been lost, theatre itself is not contained within four walls, and it’s vital that this does not become lost too.
Photo Credit: Jonny Weinberg
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Muse | Film & tv
i n film Cecile Pin looks at the film industryâ€™s gender divide
Film & tv | muse
’m at the Suffragette press conference and Meryl Streep is telling us what she’s been doing in her spare time. She’s inspected the contributors to the film website Rotten Tomatoes, which brings together the reviews and ratings of critics, bloggers, and writers. Her verdict is clear: 168 of the contributors were women, while 760 were men. A few days later, at the press conference for Carol, Cate Blanchett is asked if she thought it a breakthrough to have a film with two women in the main roles. Slightly annoyed, she answers: “Every time there’s a complex role for women in a film, people say it’s a breakthrough. I just think people need to get on with it.” A few minutes later, her irritation resurfaces when a (male) journalist asks her how she feels about playing a strong woman. “Strong woman?” she asks, ‘‘What does that mean?!” I was intrigued by the actors’ differing reactions to the same topic, that of the lack of women in film. Streep was eager to discuss it, while Blanchett seemed to think doing so diverted us from the film itself. However, taking a closer look, it becomes clear that both actors are on the same team. Both agree the problem’s root does not lie on screen but rather off, in the film industry itself. Blanchett’s frustration in her character being seen as “strong” by journalists just because she’s a main character is totally understandable. Meanwhile, categorising a 2015 film starring two women as a breakthrough does overlook the existing array of women-led films. Even the action genre has plenty of female leads. From Thelma and Louise, to The Hunger Games franchise starring Jennifer Lawrence, to Lucy and Sicario, which star Scarlett Johansson and Emily Blunt. Sadly, the film industry is still afraid of female-led films, although they have proved many times to be just as successful as those led by men. Denis Villeneuve, director of Sicario, admitted that the studio had
pressured screenwriter Taylor Sheridan to rewrite Blunt’s role for a man. “People were afraid that the lead part was a female character, and I know several times [Taylor Sheridan] had been asked to rewrite the role,” he said. This wariness leads to an undeniable dominance of men in films. For example, only three out of eight of this year’s Oscars Best Picture nominees passed the Bechdel Test. (To pass, a film must have at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than men.) Boyhood, Selma, and Birdman were successful, but all three still have a male protagonist.
men dominate the film industry, and women are a minority in it It must be noted that the test originated in a satirical magazine and is not entirely reliable, and shouldn’t be seen as serious film analysis. Films such as Gravity, Run Lola Run, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s all have female protagonists, and yet don’t pass the test. Perhaps the problem runs deeper and is endemic to the industry itself. In the Academy Awards’ 87-year history, only one woman has won the Best Director statuette: Kathryn Bigelow in 2009 for The Hurt Locker. If we look at the CEOs of the “Big Eight”– the eight leading film studios – they are all men. In fact, only 17 per cent of executive producers working in 2012’s top 250 films were women, nine per cent for directors, and 15 per cent for writers.
also present in actors’ pay. Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence were both paid seven per cent of American Hustle’s profit, while their male co-stars Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner were paid nine per cent of it. Although two per cent seems little, it actually results in a gap worth millions of dollars. A few weeks ago, Lawrence penned an essay with the title Why do I make less than my male co-stars? She tells us that she didn’t want to negotiate her contract because she didn’t want to seem “difficult” or “spoiled”. It’s saddening to see that her fear is actually not unfounded, as an email in which Angelina Jolie Pitt was called a “minimally talented spoiled brat” by producer Scott Rudin was also released during the Sony hack. So, it would seem that one of the reasons this pay gap exists is because women, being a minority in this industry, are afraid to stand up for themselves out of fear of being seen as spoiled, pushy, or even bitchy. The problem is, you can’t make it to the top as a successful director or producer if you’re scared of giving your own opinions and ideas. It looks as if we’ve entered a vicious circle: men dominate the film industry, and women are a minority in it. Because of this, holding their own and putting forward their opinion becomes harder for them. However, doing this is necessary in order to become someone who succeeds in the film industry, and so it continues to be unequal. If women are a minority in the industry itself, it becomes clear that this will also be reflected on screen by a lack of female actors and directors. The problem is the public is now used to this lack, which the film industry knows. Why change something that appears to be working and risk losing money? It seems that fear is a big part of the situation, whether it’s the fear of being seen as bossy and bratty, or the fear of making a film slightly out of the box. Maybe it’s time for a change.
Those unequal statistics go on and on, and, as the Sony hack revealed to us last year, it’s
Pi Magazine 712 | Film & TV
In Defence of Film Criticism Wyndham Hacket Pain urges us to see the impact of an ever-changing art form
ike much of the traditional media, criticism and the role of the critic has come under question in recent years. With the advent of the internet and social media, there’s been a democratisation of criticism. The custody of the critical narrative has to some degree been taken back and no longer solely resides in the hands of professionals. The whole system of determining what is good and what isn’t is a mess, but that’s what makes it interesting. It may come as no surprise that I myself dabble in the world of film criticism. It’s obvious that critics rely on filmmakers to give them something to write about, but this relationship works both ways. Artists are often very bad judges of their own work, with Mark Twain famously believing that the Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc was his best book. It’s no wonder that filmmaker Xavier Dolan proudly states that he reads every review.
Great filmaking is itself criticism Positive reviews are often the best kind of advertising for some films. For productions without large advertising budgets and A-list stars, good reviews can widen the release of a film and bring new audiences to it. A few years ago, when I first became interested in cinema, it was reviews and the opinion of critics which helped me discover
films that hadn’t played at the local multiplex. However, it’s not just critics who express their views about cinema. The decisions which take place in the production of a film are informed by previous films. This rejection of one method or style in favour of another is at the heart of criticism, even if it comes from the filmmakers themselves. When people discuss whether a certain filmmaker is great or not, they cite what they brought to film and how they changed it. When Orson Welles made the revolutionary Citizen Kane, he was rejecting traditional notions of plot and style. Welles’s place as one of cinema’s most influential figures is thus based on his ability to criticise the medium itself. In 1950s Paris, young cinephiles and film lovers were unable to make films, so they wrote about them instead. At the heart of this group were two young enthusiasts, Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. Criticism became a medium of serious thought and sophistication in its own right and led Arnold Schoenberg to remark that “there are no more geniuses, only critics”. When Godard finally started making films, he produced some of the most radical departures from the Hollywood formula that have ever been seen. His debut Breathless rewrote the grammar of cinema and showed the world a new way of making movies. It showed how great filmmaking
is itself criticism. Not even the great Godard is exempt from criticism, though. His progressive methods continue to divide reviews and filmmakers alike. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, once inspired by Godard, went on to criticise the sexism and overt politicism of his films. This in many ways is a great tribute to Godard, with his philosophy of bringing criticism to the screen in action.
Criticism must go beyond cinema The true importance of films lies in how they shape the way we see the world– criticism must go beyond cinema. Fassbinder’s importance as a director comes not from his criticism of film but from his criticism of society. He’s remembered because he highlighted the social problems of post-war Germany: from its racism and sexism, to its homophobia and regrets over the past. For legendary film critic Roger Ebert: “Film criticism is important because films are important. If films were not important then criticism wouldn’t matter”. Films are the most serious of all mass art forms and affect the ways in which people think, feel, and behave more than any other cultural product. Criticism means that films can have as big an impact as possible.
literature | muse
THE CHANGING NATURE OF PUBLISHING Mitra Dastbaz explores the impact of the digital revolution on how, which, and what books we read today
ver the last decade, the number of ways in which we can consume books has increased dramatically. We live in an age where sleep-deprived students can access lecture readings from the comfort of their own homes. On the other end of the spectrum, those looking to share their work can self-publish pretty much anything.
Why should we care about this shift? As seen in the case of J.K. Rowling, the industry doesn’t always get it right. The publishers examining Herman Melville’s manuscript of Moby Dick bafflingly asked him: “Does it have to be a whale?” Sylvia Plath, John le Carré, and George Orwell were all initially rejected, as well. The publishing industry quite clearly needed some fixing.
The landscape of the publishing industry is It’s tempting to take an unambiguous changing. stance on this. You either love the feel of real, paper books in your hands and scoff (a We now live in a reality where the likes of touch pretentiously,) at the idea of the KinSteven Gerrard can publish a best-selling dle your aunt bought for Christmas, or you novel (“one of the greatest football stories staunchly defend technological innovation ever told”), while, a mere two decades ago, as necessary for the improvement and evoour childhood idol J.K. Rowling was reject- lution of an old-fashioned industry. ed countless times before a certain bespectacled hero graced the printing press. Either way, the accessibility of the self-publishing industry is admirable. Writers have Over the past 10 years, the distribution and equal access to the same tools and can promotion of manuscripts has been made a wield them as they wish. They can remain lot easier. Gone are the days when authors anonymous, published writers who disapwaited tentatively as their books were sent pear into the internet, or they can fall into by post for reviewers to dissect. Now, pro- the spotlight, like the notorious E. L. James. motional work can begin before the manuscript is finished, with the distrubution of This applies both to the writing process advance copies online. and the actual creation of the manuscript. Websites like Unbound allow authors to pitch their idea to the vast public of the internet, allowing the common people to decide whether or not they like it enough to pledge their support. As a pledger, you get updates on its progress and receive a final copy of the work you have so thoughtfully sponsored.
the accessibility of the self-publishing industry is admirable
It’s not that simple, though. While the novelty of e-books may have led to initial exponential growth, there’s been evidence of a decline in recent years. As a recent Nielsen survey showed, the proportion of people using e-readers fell from 50 per cent in 2012 to just 33 per cent this year. Many of the biggest publishing houses have been reducing their employee numbers and pushing extra charges back onto authors, forcing them to pay for editing, layout, and strategy fees upfront before sales properly take place.
“For the first time,” Unbound sentimentally proclaims, you can now “hold in your hands a book that wouldn’t have existed without you”. It’s a nice thought. It’s also a testament to our generation’s relentless desire to be involved, to be active participants in the stories we read and the books we hold in our hands. Ultimately, it’s hard to judge how successful the internet has been for books. Although there may be unavoidable consequences whenever an industry undergoes a transformation, it’s usually necessary. It’s what allows us to access our overwhelmingly long reading lists online, to keep upto-date with our favourite author’s latest ventures via social media, or to push us towards writing and publishing ourselves.
muse | literature
Katie Pak investigates London’s literary world rom Woolf and Yeats, to Dickens and Doyle, some of the world’s most beloved literary figures hail from London. Many, including these four, lived and worked in Bloomsbury itself. One of the greatest literature capitals of the world, London is the place to be for anyone looking to consume, produce, or appreciate poetry and prose in all their forms.
If smiling Cheshire cats and mad tea parties are not your thing, the library is also running a special exhibition of West African literature. This showcase profiles the region’s historic oral and literary traditions alongside modern works that document the area’s struggles and triumphs in building nations and fighting for social justice. This exhibition will run until 16th February.
If you prefer poetry of the spoken variety, Apples and Snakes – England’s premier society for spoken word – lists on its website many upcoming slams and organisations that host them in London. Likewise, Tongue Fu, “a riotous experiment in live literature, music, film, and improvisation”, hosts many events around London for improvised music, comedy, and slam poetry.
In a city where you can stroll past the home where Mark Twain lived in his final years, thumb through a novel in the square where J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan, then grab a pint at a pub that George Orwell used to frequent, you can bet that there is always something exciting on for the literary-minded. There’s no need to look further than UCL’s own front door.
Don’t think I have forgotten about the poets, either.
For regular readings, the Poetry Café is a popular spot. In Covent Garden and sponsored by the Poetry Society, this café is a great place to go to finish that novel or listen to an intimate reading. They also run a myriad of events, from workshops, to exhibitions, to talks with successful poets.
Just around the corner from campus is the British Library, the largest library in the world in terms of items catalogued, with a copy of every single thing published in the UK and Ireland. Open its treasure trove to find the Magna Carta (this year celebrating its 800th anniversary), a Gutenberg Bible, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook, and Beatles manuscripts, to name only a few – and anyone can drop in to see these priceless works for free any day of the week. On 20th November, the library will debut a special exhibition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland to commemorate the novel’s 150th year of publication. On display will be Carroll’s original manuscript with hand-drawn illustrations, as well as several other notable editions.
For the literary-minded in London, there is always something to do The Southbank Centre, the world’s largest single-run arts centre, has a library dedicated solely to poetry. Founded by the Arts Council in 1953, it houses over 200,000 works available to borrow or reference. They run competitions throughout the year for anyone who wants to try their hand at poetry or short fiction for both cash prizes and recognition.
Those of you who can’t find the book you’re looking for at Waterstones? London is full of charming independent bookshops stocking everything from antique naval records to manga. Marylebone’s Daunt Books is famous for their quaint interior and extensive travel selections. While Berwick Street has become known for selling the best graphic novels, comic books, and manga to be found in London. And for those on a budget, Southbank Book Market sells stacks and stacks of secondhand and antique books underneath Waterloo Bridge every day, rain or shine. For the literary-minded in London, there is always something to do. Whether you are interested in reading, writing, or simply appreciating incredible works, this is the city to do it.
pi poetry | MUSE
Longtime Running Delicious the taste, smells like the past, times Of past times more unlike and unlike now With every passing day. Make haste for rhymes Mean nothing say much, memory tingles. Spirits raised to lips but theyâ€™re ghosts, of a time Long bidden goodbye, goodbye for now Itâ€™s tough to find two things that rhyme In a city where non-stop, never tingle. News of the new I ride, I heave through time Pattering through changing scenes of London now. And need not needlessly grieve through rhyme Nor cling to tingling memories From pendants on our chests, we enter the best of institutes, best of times So new yet so old, strange till now. Cherished. A sweet suited rhyme Always repressed Till time to tingle the memories out. by Calvin Law
grime’s GLASS CEILING “R
uff Sqwad’s not dead, it’s emotional,” said Jammer, a member of the grime crew Boy Better Know (BBK), in his 2015 BBC 1Xtra performance of Functions on the Low. An orchestra made up of a string quintet, bassist, pianist and DJ, took on the grime classic that was first composed on old PCs. This performance is important because it illustrates a shift occurring in mainstream attitudes and awareness towards grime music. This shift hasn’t gone unnoticed by those at the heart of the movement. Wiley, often referred to as the “Godfather of Grime”, has shown support for new artists. Following Stormzy’s Music of Black Origin (MOBO) Award win last October, he tweeted: “The number one grime don in this new era. Please take it where we couldn’t, my brother.” Other pioneers in the genre, such as Dizzee Rascal, Ghetts, and more recently, Skepta, echo this kind of self-awareness of grime’s previous failures to thrive.
Grime became a mode of self-expression for the disenfranchised So what has changed to afford the second wave of grime artists such success?
Chowa Nkonde takes a close look at the rise in recognition of the so-called second generation of grime music
Since the turn of the millennium, grime has been bubbling under the public conscience. The perfect marriage of a DIY-aesthetic with sonic catharsis, grime became an exciting voice for London’s urban youth. As grime MC and NASTY Crew affiliate Ghetts puts it: “After punk rock, this is the truest music Britain has produced.” Grime became a mode of self-expression for the disenfranchised. As gentrification reared its ugly head in post-millennium
music | muse munity. Skepta explains: “You’ve got our voices recording the heart and the aggressiveness of London. It will catch on and not just in America; we want the whole world to hear it, which it will one day.” And it appears that this day has come. Newer grime artists have garnered the attention of high profile rappers and performers from across the pond, as seen with Kanye West’s hugely popular BRITs performance of All Day, a song which turned a jaunty Paul McCartney whistle into a heavily grime-inspired hit. By bringing the biggest and most exciting names of the genre on stage during primetime, he very publicly showed his support for the scene.
Britain, it was the young urbanites bearing the brunt of it who, through their frustration, created this unapologetic genre. It was teenagers who boldly MC’d at 140 beats per minute over raucous melodies. Many early iconic instrumentals sound eerily similar to PlayStation 1 soundbites. Early grime artists continually made reference to the era in which they grew up. Tracks like Functions and I Luv U by Dizzee Rascal share these subtle glimpses of adolescence. This, along with tongue-in-cheek freestyles and clever wordplay juxtaposed with dark and gritty themes, shone a light on the streets of late 90s and early noughties London.
Grime artists never received the levels of respect that rappers did in the US Grime undoubtedly changed the soundscape of turn-of-the-millennium London, so why did it remain underground for so long? Grime artists never received the levels of respect that rappers did in the US. According to Skepta: “They respect rappers
in the US but in England, it’s the Queen’s country. Hip-hop is celebrated in the US; Obama talks about having Ludacris on his iPod. But in the UK, there are a lot of obstacles in our way.” Since its beginnings, grime has been targeted for reasons ranging from its aggressive lyrical content to inciting of riotous behaviour, and breeding anti-authoritarianism. For example, Kim Howells, the former culture secretary, once claimed grime artists were promoting a culture where “killing is almost a fashion accessory”. It was public comments like these from high-profile figures that pushed grime to be policed into submission or non-existence. Not only did grime artists like Wiley, Skepta, and Dizzee Rascal have to fight against the music industry, but also the nationwide press. As such, grime and its culture remained concentrated in its boroughs of origin for the best part of the 2000s. Some have embraced the underdog label, though. Skepta, for instance, has said: “I’m happy that grime remains underground. A lot of people talk like it’s some underrated or ignored genre, but to me that’s the beauty of it.” Preconceptions about the genre can still have negative effects, as seen with the shutdown of a JustJam concert at the Barbican Centre last December. After a consultation with City of London Police, the authorities claimed: “We have intelligence to assume a major incident was planned to take place at the event that was a risk to public safety.” Now the world is more connected, it’s becoming harder to silence the grime com-
Meanwhile, Canadian singer and rapper Drake went one step further and Instagrammed a photo of his new BBK tattoo, showing his adoration for the grime crew headed by Skepta and his brother JME. These high-profile endorsements have been welcomed by the community. Skepta’s commercially successful and critically acclaimed track, Shutdown, begins with Drake’s questionable attempt at patois before launching into a song exposing the levels of ridicule reached by the police in its response to grime.
“Grime doesn’t need a co-sign. It was sick before Kanye West, it’ll be sick after Kanye West.” Kanye and Drake gave the scene an appreciated boost in publicity, no one can deny that. But it’s undoubtedly the talent of the newer artists that is bringing grime increased popularity. As Stormzy puts it: “Grime doesn’t need a co-sign. It was sick before Kanye West, it’ll be sick after Kanye West.” No one person can take the genre forward. A collective effort is needed which harnesses passions and talent. As the stigma has waned and sense prevailed, it seems like this wave of new grime artists are poised to shatter that glass ceiling – once and for all.
Photo credit: Pendulum
muse | music
Musicians VSThe Music Industry Sophie Harris charts the changing relationship between artists and the music industry
oday, with the advent of the internet, YouTube and online streaming services, listening to music is easy, especially in comparison to previous record-spinning generations. This abundance of easy access to new albums and songs has resulted in a mass and constant demand for new musicians, meaning that the income of labels and companies like Spotify are verging on the billions. Yet at the same time, the artists themselves are finding it increasingly hard to be sustained financially by their work, which begs the question: how much do musicians actually profit from their music?
nobody really knows how to measure how much music is worth at all This is a really difficult question to discuss, as nobody actually seems to know the an-
swer. The price of music is dependent on many factors, including the size of the musician’s label, their contract, and which streaming service they are using. Data varies so much that there isn’t really an average pay-out figure. Laura Balance, co-founder of Merge Records, told Pitchfork: “It’s hard to break it down per song or even per album. For each stream is that a unit? What’s a unit? When we first started selling records, it cracked us up to use the word ‘unit.’ You can’t even define a unit anymore.” The creation of online streaming services like Spotify, Rdio, Last.Fm, and Google Play means the availability of music is abundant. But again, there’s no consensus on whether music was worth more before or is worth more after the internet’s takeover of the industry. Damon Krukwski wrote in a Pitchfork article: “[P]ressing 1,000 vinyl singles in 1988 gave the earning potential of more than 13 million streams in 2012.” Meanwhile, producer Steve Albini argued the internet has allowed artists to bypass the inefficiencies and exploitation of the old system, leaving an industry that is smaller and more beneficial for musicians. Seemingly, the debate is ongoing because nobody really knows how to measure how much music is worth at all – never mind
how much the artist gets paid for it. In the same way home taping was killing music in the 1980s, illegal downloads and cheap streaming are often blindly dubbed as the industry’s latest death sentence. Nigel Godrich, Radiohead’s producer, went after Spotify, claiming the new artists on its system were paid “fuck all”, saying most of the money ended up being dished out to various shareholders instead of the artists.
Most musicians simply learn to not expect money from the industry unless they are lucky enough to have a break
music | muse Although this is true, without the internet many of these musicians wouldn’t have been discovered at all. Lead singer of The Whig Whams, Joel Currie (whose band is on Spotify) argues the internet has democratised the music industry. “The industry has never been fair,” he says, “But at least now you can hear bands that would never even have an album out in a shop.” Bands that never used to get recognition can now get heard, simply by uploading a YouTube video, creating a SoundCloud or even a Facebook event, like the viral page that prompted flautist Azeem Ward’s tour around the UK. If the bands are good, this free recognition prompts live shows. This is how most musicians tend to make money today. Consulting firm Midia Research says that playing live makes up 56 per cent of a musician’s income, which explains why the average ticket price has boomed in the last few decades. In the past, the point of touring was to promote a musician’s work, but nowadays it’s the other way around. The music itself has been transformed into a type of middleman that simply sponsors live performances. Of course, this all depends on how well known the musicians are in the first place. The artists making the big bucks are only one percent of the music industry. The other 99 per cent are those on independent labels, who are not selling out vast venues and aren’t documented in Heat magazine every week. This “fame-equals-income factor” seems to be the only way that most musicians can make a living solely on their work.
Less well known bands, usually those who aren’t signed to labels or publishers, can expect to make very little, often not even breaking even. Most musicians simply learn to not expect money from the industry unless they are lucky enough to have a break.
The Internet has given artists new opportunities, as they take their careers into their own hands Musician Andrew Spiteri, in fact, argues that most up-and-coming musicians should not expect to make money from their music unless they have cemented a status in the industry. Because of the internet, the competition is now so ruthless that people will simply not waste their money watching a mediocre band. Most of the horror stories that have occurred regarding record companies manipulating artists happened prior to the development of the internet. In 1996, for
example, Toni Braxton was forced to file for bankruptcy, despite having sold more than 20 million albums, as her label was withholding money from her. If a musician did end up getting signed to a label, most big companies would only offer a royalty of 10 per cent to the artists themselves – the rest would go on promoting and advertising the album. Although seemingly dire, before the internet, this was the only way artists could make themselves heard and get their album into record shops. The internet has given artists new opportunities, allowing them to take their careers into their own hands. Back in 2006, the Arctic Monkeys used the internet to gain popularity outside local Sheffield circles by putting their music up for free on MySpace. This established a huge international fanbase and, before they had even released an album, they were performing in venues that were usually booked for mainstream acts. A huge variety of record companies were literally falling over themselves to sign them, and their popularity meant they could tailor their contracts to make sure they were getting the best deal. This self-promotion undoubtedly worked, as Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not still holds the place of the fastest-selling debut in British chart history. The internet has undoubtedly changed the music industry over the last decade. Record labels have always exploited artists, and this could more than easily continue. It’s time for musicians to harness the opportunities that technological advances have created and reach out to bigger audiences than ever before.
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Released November 30, this issue covers the most important changes to London life in the last few years, charting the evolving housing marke...
Published on Dec 16, 2015
Released November 30, this issue covers the most important changes to London life in the last few years, charting the evolving housing marke...