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MUSE. 01/05/12

Baroque ‘n’ Roll Castle Howard is 300 years old, and is getting eco-friendly

Browsing for Freedom The truth about social media censorship in China

Armchair Revolutionary Comedian Andy Zaltzman can’t help but be funny about politics









M14. Louis Boyd explains Cuban liberation

M20. Elle Hoppe gets hot under the collar

art’s journey to York, and Mary O’Connor finds out why La Commedia is being censored.

about women’s role in film, and James Tyas gives us the current film buzz.

censored, but Lam, Tsz Ying finds out why people are apathetic about it.


Food & Drink.

M8. Castle Howard is 300 years old this year,

M16. Designer Florian Jayet speaks about

Features. M4. Comedian Andy Zaltzman speaks to Jake Farrell about politics and B&Bs.

M6. Social media in China is heavily

M21. The Experiment is 24/7 flapjacks:

biology and Grace Jones. Celebrity fashion icons, our own style icon, and ugly ducklings.

superfood for exam revision, with Hana TeraieWood. Plus a review of Oshibi.

Poppy Dinsey’s blog tracks what she wears, everyday. Bella Foxwell finds why it’s such a success.


Image Credits.


M18. Indie folk quintet Admiral Fallow talk to

Cover: Castle Howard by Bruce Adams M6: Flickr- shinayi/Wootang001/le mim chien/tula tuplia/jui.femke.le567

and is getting eco-friendly finds Sophie Rose Walker.


Laura Hughes exposes the truth about life for refugees in Palestine.

Rory Foster about ‘frabbit’, plus Record Stores.

Mario Balotelli likes wearing make up and my dad likes eating penis pasta. And what?


his year, the year of the ‘Jubilympics’, to quote Twenty Twelve, is branded as the year of making the old, new; both in the UK and worldwide, people see this potentially apocalyptic year as the one where we spice up legacy, and punch a kick of ‘je ne sais quoi’ into tradition. But this deliberate pursuit of ‘a twist on the classic’ – the most overused phrase of 2012 thus far – is already a boring overemphasised formula that has so far churned out the same kind of live’n’kickin, down-with-the-kidz ‘originality’ that sexual health adverts written in ‘txt spk’ do. As yet there seem to be two kinds of originality being churned out for this year of ‘newness’: the slightly spruced up, but essentially unchanged, old formulas, and the ‘Heston Blumenthal’ effect. The ‘Heston Blumenthal’ – best exemplified by The Great British Menu (where chefs conjure up unmeltable jelly and a whole wedge of ice cold pork cheek to “reach unreachable

heights”): a laborious attempt at mashing together the old with the psychotically newer than new. To follow the lead of a scarringly bald and nasal man, with what looks like a kid’s wire experiment wrapped around his face, is nuts. In the other camp we have The Voice – X Factor with swivel chairs, one of which is controlled by a petulant wannabe rude girl – and Tim Burton’s new vampire film starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (the new spin is lost on me but apparently it’s there). Both old and exhausted, at least the producers can blame the recession. Also in this category is the belligerent attempt at making the royal family hip. The obvious route to sustained ‘cool’ is to put Hazza on top for real, rather than hype up his occassional moments of glory and, in the longrun, push The Telegraph’s tact in branding Kate as “the next Jackie O”. But no. Surely, then, since we really are hell-bent on originality, we should

embrace those who consistently do throw us off-course. I speak here of the media’s favourite headlinemaker, Mario Balotelli. For those of you unaware of the Manchester City striker’s colourful reputation, Mario is the bulwark of unpredictability (having, among other things, attempted to spontaneously pay off all Manchester Uni library fines, put thousands of pounds behind the bar at his local, and set his house on fire in a firework evening gone astray). Consequently he’s become a figure of ridicule for the media and football fans alike. On a serious level, this is a 21-year-old guy, in a country that is just a lot more prudeish than his own Berlusconi-run nation, on £100,000 a week at one of the top clubs in the world, and, despite maybe not reaching his full potential as a football player, has yet to miss a penalty in his whole career. Now, to lay my cards on the table: I love him, and I’m a City fan. So, my argument, though I believe strong,

Mia de Graaf may hinge upon some pure, smitten bias. Nonetheless, I don’t think it’s outlandish to suggest that pluck most average guys our age out of their mama’s pen and throw them into the big leagues and you’d be faced with some similarly bonkers specimen. Such humility should be lauded, but at a time when things are all pretty stale, Mario is the free spirit we need to embrace. It has emerged that Mario, or, “Marilyn Balotelli,” likes wearing make up; something the media have grabbed onto with sharpened teeth and thrown back at him in tatters, laughing. Sure, it was during a liaison last year, while he was at least four months into his relationship with Italian model Raphaella Fico that this came out, which I’m not, despite my best efforts, going to promote. But disregard the awkward setting: why not? Chloé, 21, gave a sparkling retelling of Mario donning eyeliner, mascara, lipstick and a wig, and prancing around in front of a mirror, tell-

ing her (in what I imagine as more of an aggressive Mr T tone than a playful Marilyn Monroe one): “I look prettier than you”. Indeed, it’s not unheard of (my housemate Lev nonchalantly admitted “I do too”), and with androgyny the name of the game in fashion these days, he’s actually bang on trend. Why not do as my other housemate did in a game of charades when he donned a glittery top in portraying Rick Santorum. Illogical? Infinitely. But why not? Why not give your Rick a sparkle and a spank? Why not do as my family did last week and substitute your average penne with a bag of Ann Summers’ finest Penis Pasta. After teaming it with the recommended ‘Steamy Balls’ sauce recipe, my father jubilantly announced: “well I haven’t had that many penises in my mouth for a long time”, and the whole family chortled into the night. Surely this is the kind of spontaneous sparkle of spruce we’re gunning for this year?




Thinking Inside the Box

Daily Blogs

Poppy blogs about what she wears everyday. Here’s what other strange bloggers are up to

Camilla Apcar

S Sex at Oxbridge, the ins and outs o f w h o’s s l e e p i n g w i t h w h o

BarbieStick, puts Barbies in different positions, everyday

T h e D a i l y We i r d , s h o w s f o o d i n w e i r d g u i s e s . He r e’s s o m e p o ke mon moulded pears

Te x t f r o m D o g , q u i t e l i t e r a l l y, i m a g i n a r y texts from dogs.

B i l l ’s M a h i n d r a Tr a c t o r b l o g . Spare time.

D u c k o f t h e D a y. Yo r k ’s v e r y o w n .

Royal Weddings by numbers. 1) 368. Days since the Royal Wedding in Westminster Abbey.

2) 18,400. Quid for the most

expensive piece of cake, bought at Sotheby’s, from the Duke of Windsor’s wedding.

3) 120. Miles of bunting sold by Tesco’s for the Royal wedding.

4) 8. The number of years that Wills

and Kate dated after meeting at St Andrews.

5) 3,358. The longest veil worn by Sandra Mechleb in Lebanon in 2009.

6) 45. Percentage of the British public who want Will to be the next King.

ome things are just surreal. For instance, I am a fan of both Dolly Parton and hip hop. So never did I expect to discover a mashup of Jolene and Jay-Z’s ‘The City Is Mine’. It was a genuine YouTube dream come true, my own Happily Ever After just in time for a party I’m throwing where I intend to subject guests (dressed as either Nicki Minaj, the Kardashians, an obscure Harry Potter character or Dolly herself ) to a homemade meglomaniac’s playlist featuring both Verbalicious and Will Smith. In fairness, they were warned when I invited them. Entering the side of surreal that is just plain clever rather than self-deluded is the American series Once Upon A Time, now being broadcast on Channel Five. A disclaimer is that it was created by the makers of Lost, so I won’t try to go into the complex overlapping storylines that draw you straight in without your full consent. When you see a pregnant Cinderella or discover that Little Red Riding Hood and Snow White were friends, you simply know that you’re watching something special. Finding out that my Dad enjoys listening to Eminem. Spending the last moments of revision before my final university exam trying to perfect an illustration of Shakira on Draw Something. Travelling from London to Bournemouth to Plymouth for a hen party and back to London within thirtysix hours for an Armenian engagement party on four hours sleep, however, tops my list of ‘surreal’ encounters. Sitting on the bride and groom’s table at the familyfriendly engagement party did, naturally, include obligatory vodka shot toasts followed swiftly by traditional Armenian dancing (think My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but less… Greek). I am usually the first to hit the dancefloor at clubs with unnecessary vigour – in fact I think empty dancefloors send some sort of siren call to me – so I was not prepared to let a

little ‘family dancing’ defeat me. But don’t ever let anyone try to convince you that a 20 year old automatically makes better dancer than a 60 year old. I got owned. Surreal, I tell you. Once Upon A Time sees your favourite fairytale characters stuck in the modern day world with no idea who they are, their Happily Ever Afters stripped cruelly away by a curse. Cue finding yourself frantically trying to figure out how all of the characters are interlinked during flashbacks to their fairytale lives. Disney have given the programme full license to embellish their classic characters: Mary Margaret Blanchard (aka. Snow White) is estranged from Prince Charming. Jiminy Cricket is a shrink. Little Red, ‘Ruby’, is walking around in little hotpants and red stilettos. If you’re a fan of Robert Carlyle – yes, the same Full Monty and Trainspotting guy – then you’re in for even more of a shock than when he played Hitler. He’s the evil Rumplestiltskin and surpasses Natalie Portman’s Black Swan in terms of creepiness. Loitering in the entrance of a Calvin Klein outlet is not usually how I spend my time. But upon seeing my friend sneaking to the counter with a slinky little red ‘bedtime’ number in hand, I could barely suppress the desire to give her a wink. A big, dramatic, mouth half open, head tilting kind of wink. Unfortunately, she didn’t see me. Moments later, with a close-by Calvin Klein employee quite abruptly asking me whether I needed assistance, I was confused. I wasn’t even looking at anything, why would her giving me evils persuade me to do so? I would imagine that when the Once Upon A Time characters do eventually break the curse and remember who they are, it will feel similar to this sort of dawning moment of realisation. The assistant had thought I’d aimed my wink at her. Mortification? No. Incredulity at what had just happened? Plenty.



The Armchair Revolutionary From hosting The Bugle podcast, to being sacked from News International, Jake Farrell finds why Andy Zaltzman is very much the political comedian.


t must be a hectic time in the career of Andy Zaltzman. Since the start of the Tunisian revolution in December 2010 there has been little time to stop and take stock for the political comedian and co-host of The Bugle podcast. Whether it has been the lack of western involvement in Syria, the unfailing bravado of Colonel Gaddafi, or Silvio Berlusconi being hit in the face with a ceramic chapel, there has not exactly been a shortage of topics to brilliantly, ruthlessly satirise. With co-host John Oliver, he has now spent four years casting his eye over the news, once a week in podcast form, firstly in an incarnation hosted by The Times Online and now supported by social music site Soundcloud. Their abrupt departure from the News International family was first thought to have come as a result of their less than deferential examination of the phone hacking scandal. The New York Times published an article on 15th August 2011 which called their handling of the affair “blistering” and stated that they had “gone straight for the jugular”. In the following episode, Oliver started by saying “Welcome to any first-time Buglers who are here because they might have read The New York Times’ story on us earlier this week… but now that the story’s in a newspaper that I’m guessing [Murdoch] reads cover to cover every day, I’m thinking there’s an even smaller chance of us managing to not get fired now. So thanks very much, New York Times.” It took until 14th December of the same year for it to be announced that The Bugle and The Times were to part ways. “I don’t think it was much of an influence” says Zaltzman, with regard to the jokes made at the expense of their parent company. “They didn’t get rid of us until several months after we had been getting stuck into them for phone hacking. The thing is with phone hacking, it’s not like you can present the other side and say it was entirely fine to hack into the voice mails of war heroes and murder victims. There’s no light and shade with that.” His assessment of the situation is pragmatic and totally untainted by bitterness: “I guess we were hosted by Times Online so they hadn’t really done [phone hacking] themselves. It was a slightly awkward situation but at the end I think it was a purely financial thing. They had been paying money for this podcast whilst sacking journalists, so it had to go. They kept us going for four years to be fair”. This explanation perhaps does not do justice to the strength of the line that he and Oliver took regarding phone hacking. Whilst it seems that the decision was motivated, at least in part, by the financial side of things, their stinging attacks certainly made the choice a little easier. In terms of success there was no question that The Bugle was viable; its’ weekly downloaders number in the hundreds of thousands and they have flocked to stay with the show in its’ new incarnation. They have even made it possible for Zaltzman, a man whose material means he is not quite the fit for panel show populism, to play sold out shows in New York. “It was great”, he says of the experience, “I went out to record a couple of slots on John [Oliver’s] New York stand up show but then I did a few live gigs, both sets in clubs and a couple of solo shows, which were just packed with Bugle fans. It was quite easy and quite pleasant as comedy goes. I’ve had enough gigs where I’ve had to fight a crowd, so I’d love to go back.” It seems then that he has come a long way from the early days of sparse, inhospitable audiences that befall even the most talented of comics. Touring though is still a somewhat monastic existence: “I tend not to do that much live stand up particularly since having children and doing The Bugle; I spend more time writing than touring and telling jokes. It’s also fairly solitary – I drove up this evening and I’ll be staying in a B & B and then heading home – it’s not the most glamorous kind of touring.” “What I do is not everyone’s cup of tea”, he continues, “And I’ve had gigs where it has been no one’s cup of tea. I guess that is the nature of political comedy, not everyone wants to hear it. It doesn’t happen too often now, thankfully enough.”




“Some stories are just too funny, with George Bush, you can’t really add anything comedically”

Zaltzman is extremely likeable in person: self-effacing and funny, whilst being scarily sharp. It’s something that comes across both on stage and when he is recording, a silliness that it’s impossible not to be charmed by. His relationship both professionally and personally is a close one with Oliver; the two have performed together for many years, honing and then plying their trade in numerous comedy clubs and together at the Edinburgh Fringe. Oliver emigrated to America many years ago and is now an award-winning writer for The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, a programme which changed the game in the context of mainstream political comedy. In general does Zaltzman feel it’s an area which is experiencing a rise in popularity? “Maybe a little. It’s not really a boom in political comedy, certainly not here. Obviously The Daily Show in America increased in popularity significantly during the Bush years and has sustained that since. There hasn’t been a similar thing here, in fact there is probably less proper political comedy on British television than there ever has been.” There are though some plus sides for a man whose art is rooted in the actions of the powerful: “At the same time, you know, people are politically aware of kind of fairly broad global issues. It was true during the war on terror; there were global movements, in the shape of the Fair Trade movement and the Make Poverty History movement. There are issues that people are interested in, the environment is another, where you can do political issues and you don’t have to provide much background, which is good as you don’t have to waste valuable joke time establishing the facts”. Something which is far more accessible is the continued, unfathomable idiocy that colours much public life. Bashar alAssad, for instance, was recently shown, through the leaking

of his private emails, to have downloaded ‘Party Rock Anthem’ by LMFAO at the height of civil unrest in Syria. Recently a number of highly trained American secret service agents took the monumentally stupid move of procuring Columbian prostitutes when they arrived at a summit to prepare security for Barack Obama. I wonder if for Zaltzman are there ever any issues which are simply too ludicrous to touch on? “As a comedian there are some stories that are almost a bit too funny”, he grins, “The nature of a weekly podcast is that you can cover them anyway, even if there isn’t really a lot of added value in it. More interesting comedy is the stuff you have to make funny yourself.” “The problem when George Bush was President of America was that there were a lot of things that he said that you couldn’t really add anything to comedically. The more interesting comedy was about what he represented and the issues underlying it; but you could still get easier laughs out of idiotic things that he had said. It’s a slight trap comedically.” Comedy can also be as infuriating as it is giving a stand up set. It was a lesson that Zaltzman learned the hard way when writing his Edinburgh show Armchair Revolutionary. The main crux of the show, directed by fellow comedian Daniel Kitson, was that we in this country were lazy and apathetic; we would never get off our sofas to mount a campaign in the streets. Then, the London riots happened. “I had to kind of re-write the first chunk of the show about three times in Edinburgh. I suppose comedy should be a medium that reflects what’s going on in the moment.” he says, but is quick to point out that the riots were not instances of the kind of revolutionary zeal which he thought was absent from his personality and British culture. “The interesting thing is that there were all these revolutions all over the world

and here people were looting for our fundamental right not to have to pay for electrical goods. There was this kind of bizarre juxtaposition with the noble pursuit of freedom.” In the end he reshaped his show and, seeing it recently, if he hadn’t spoken publically of the difficulties of it’s inception you would never know the difference. It is a beautifully structured hour of comedy ranging from discussions of Aung San Suu Kyi to Graham Gooch, strings of increasingly desperate dog puns to withering examinations of the coalition government. It avoids the portentous quality often found in self acknowledged “satire” and is witty and bracing enough to sustain its hour and a bit running time. It seems a shame that a comic like Andy Zaltzman can’t find a niche in the world of mainstream TV comedy in this country. It’s a rare alchemy to perform in a way that is intelligent without being arrogant, and his persona is one that would be perfectly suited to engaging and entertaining viewers. We are beginning to take strides in this country to address serious issues in a funny way; the weak Ten O’Clock Live was laudable in its intentions but hampered by the fact that it was always going to appear cringeworthy against the brilliance of the shows from which it took its inspiration, such as The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Maybe we can find a happy medium between the high budget super group feel of Ten O’Clock Live and the DIY, lightning fast format of The Bugle podcast. For now though it is not something that overly concerns Zaltzman: “I just do what I like doing, other comedians do what they like doing, people watch what they like watching. There are so many different types of comedy and obviously some are more popular than others. Maybe Graham Gooch is the last great taboo and TV is just not ready to take it on.” M



Browsing for Freedom Social media in China is heavily censored. Lam, Tsz Ying finds out whether users on the mainland really care


acebook and YouTube were censored early enough to be well-known among the mainland Chinese people. We’re quite used to it.” How many times do you go on Facebook per day? What would life be like if there was no Youtube, no Facebook? Many forms of social media are censored in mainland China, and not only whatever people write on the internet will be censored but they are also prohibited from going on Facebook and Youtube. We all understand that Facebook is now one of, if not the, major tool with which we connect with others. This is especially true at universities, the original target market of the website, where Facebook plays an important role in advertising different events and societies. In China, a democratic country, some think this censorship actually goes against the human rights of accessing information and having freedom of speech. Andy Shu Xin, the Social Media Manager and Website Editor of the Co-China Forum, thinks so. Although he was born in mainland China, he left for Hong Kong to study Communication. He is very clear on his ideological background, saying that he volunteers with the CoChina forum, an organisation championing the broadcasting of independent opinion. In 1979, Xiaoping Deng, then first Vice Premier of the People’s Republic, innovated a policy of ‘reform and opening up’. The Chinese began to have more opportunities to connect with the world as more people moved West to study and international trade took off. This has brought immense changes to Chinese society and its economy. However, as Deng said: “If you open the window for fresh air, you have to expect some flies to blow in.” The government knew the risks and instituted a vast monitoring network to protect the regime through the process of opening up. In 1994, the Internet reached China. The government

understood that the window would have to be opened yet further to allow China to stay competitive. In the People’s Daily, Wu takes a militant line saying, “If we increase our use of the Internet, we can use it for our purposes and turn it around on them. Just as we weren’t defeated by a well-armed American military in the Korean war, we won’t be defeated in this Internet war by reactionary intra-national and international ideologies.” In China censorship is conducted in two ways, through input and output. The former is mostly based on a ‘banned keywords list’, these keywords are usually about sensitive political issues or obscenities. With regard to input, there are a range of websites that cannot be freely accessed, such as social media (Facebook, Youtube), online news; web pages of some Hong Kong and Taiwanese political parties; controversial religious websites (Falun Gong); and pornography. For output, what people deliver on the accessible platforms will be examined: if there are words from ‘the banned list’, the message cannot be sent off, or it will be blocked afterwards. Recent research conducted by the Carnegie Mellon University illustrates that terms such as ‘to blockade’, ‘Dafa’ (Falun) and ‘Jiang Zemin’ (the former Secretary General of the Communist Party of China) are amongst those most commonly deleted from Twitter. The research also shows there is a great contrast in the deletion rate in the outer regions such as Guangdong, Beijing and Shanghai and the relatively stable areas, such as Qinghai. Censorship in restive areas is clearly much tighter. “The censorship is implemented by what is usually called Great Firewall (GFW), a Government-run Internet censorship and surveillance system. The system is said by some to be the most advanced and effective of its kind, reportedly supported by several Internet device providers, including Oracle



Above: Internet cafe in Guangdong and Cisco.” Andy Shu Xin, the Social Media Manager and Website Editor of the Co-China Forum, was born in mainland China, leaving for Hong Kong to study Communication. He explains that “from my personal experience, without special efforts to circumvent the system, access to Facebook and YouTube is impossible in mainland China after the ban.” His background with the Co-China forum, an organisation championing the broadcasting of independent opinion, may go part of the way to explain Andy’s strong views. Jamie, a first year maths student at York from Beijing is more ambivalent: “We don’t think it’s a problem because it’s the norm to us. We have a Facebook account, but we seldom use it, it is only for group discussion with non-Chinese students.” Here Andy agrees: “Facebook and YouTube were banned early enough to be well-known among the Mainland Chinese people. For most people, the ban on Facebook and YouTube is not a serious issue because they do not use them anyway and their needs are well satisfied by the local websites of similar nature such as Renren (like Facebook), Youku (like Youtube).” “It is true that it causes inconvenience since we can’t access or share some bits of information.” Andy does, to an extent, see it as a justifiable piece of state intervention: “There are always two sides of the coin. Internet censorship in China is good for us in that it prevents us from planting incorrect messages.” After my time in England, I am amazed that a man of liberal persuasion could say this. But even this doesn’t prepare me for the comments of my fellow students. Peter, a second year ABFM student, believes censorship to be important as it allows political stability to be maintained: “If a wrong message is spread on the Internet, triggering public protest, it only risks destroying social stability, and yet the protest itself is meaningless.” Andy demonstrates that this view isn’t homogenous across China: “[It is easy to be] resentful, but you get quite used to it. When I was younger and less technically skilled, I used to be very frustrated by the fact that there are a lot of good things out there that I simply cannot see.” But for the more rebellious there is a solution for people wanting to access banned information: “I have many friends whom I can only find on Facebook. When I go back to mainland China, I will use my proxy software to keep myself connected. I often don’t really feel the barrier,” Andy explains. Jamie adds, “China is a communist country, which cannot be compared with Britain. The Chinese need a different system to manage the country. If people are given too many human rights, some beneficial policies will be prevented be-

“If an incorrect message is spread on the internet, triggering public protest, it only risks destroying social stability”

cause humans are selfish and we cannot always see the bigger picture or real needs.” Andy vehemently opposes this view: “Freedom of speech is one of the key components of human rights, granted under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the Chinese Government signed. The right to access information is very important as well as the fact that, without it, citizens would have few ways of ensuring that their government is acting in their interest.” But Andy acknowledges that western concepts of freedom may not be applicable to many Chinese citizens: “My impression is that the majority of mainland Chinese people are unfamiliar with the very idea of ‘freedom’ or ‘rights’. Maybe for many of them, freedom is ‘I do whatever I want’, and freedom of speech is ‘I say whatever I want to say’. Most of them do not have the awareness to monitor what the Government is doing, either out of fear or blind trust, or both.” Despite contrasting opinions, they can both see the situation improving. Andy believes that “the government is becoming more and more incapable of hiding things and the people are becoming more and more aware of what they deserve and more able to connect and associate with each other.” Therefore, openness may indeed be on the rise in the future. Although students at York say they don’t think they are able to change anything, Andy believes that those from abroad who have experienced a lack of censorship can help to inspire other Chinese people to question freedom of speech and access the rights he believes they are entitled to. “If you look at the past hundred years of Chinese history you will see that most key changes occurred under the influences of foreign ideologies, either from the west, or from the north. People who have visited western countries have also played an important role in spreading the ideas of human rights.” Andy is optimistic, seeing this process as almost a duty that Chinese citizens abroad must propagate: “Individuals must help to spread these ideas by talking about their experiences abroad with their friends and relatives in China, the effect of which could be amplified by social media.” Andy is cautious in talking about the speed of time, but strongly optimistic: “The government is becoming more and more incapable of hiding things and the people are becoming more and more aware of what they deserve and more able to connect and associate with each other.” It seems Chinese people may get web freedom in the not too distant future. Whether they want it or not. M *Names of York students have been changed



Baroque ‘n’ Roll Eco-lakes and film sets: as Castle Howard celebrates 300 years with an exhibition, Sophie Rose Walker discovers where the future lies for this Yorkshire gem.


or a house that very nearly burnt down entirely in 1940, they’re doing pretty well for their 300th anniversary this year. It’s a typically rainy afternoon on the Yorkshire Dales, and the Honourable Simon Howard emerges from a hidden staircase behind a large painting of, surprisingly, himself. “Welcome to Howard’s”, he says with a honeyed smile. He is welcoming you to his home and workplace, yet portrays none of the distinguishable features of a man attempting to separate his work from his home. Perhaps no other family home has endured quite what Castle Howard has over the last 300 years, with family tragedy, financial disputes and, most devastatingly, the catastrophic fire which consumed the central dome and 20 rooms of the South Wing, during a period when the main house was used as a school. Much less a seamless story about aristocracy, but more a tale of pain and strife to maintain one of Britain’s greatest stately homes in the face of adversity. Simon’s father, George, was the man who returned from Burma, his two brothers having perished in the War, to find the burnt out ruins of his family home. But, instead of conforming to the general consensus that the house’s heyday was over and beyond a chance of salvation, he fought to reform

Above: the grounds. Opposite: Christopher Ridgway and Simon Howard at Castle Howard.

it to its former glory. Many of the rooms still remain barebricked and covered in plasterboard, not having been refurbished for financial reasons, but Simon is thinking about the future of the house in quite a different way. Amongst the rare-breed of stately home owners, he is a pioneer leading the way of those who are modernising their residences with eco-friendly ventures. To the average homeowner, light bulbs and hot water are given luxuries, but heating a house with 145 rooms used to cost Mr Howard £80,000 a year so naturally it’s a priority. “First of all, we changed to another type of oil, and that took us down to £65,000, but churning up the lake, that was the real chestnut.” Howard used the lake for the use of Ground Source Heat, which is where the natural heat from the water is taken up from the lake floor by piping. The system consists of 56 coils of tubing which have Glycol liquid running, through them taking the heat from the water and flowing straight into the house’s radiators. “Effectively, it’s anti-freeze,” says Simon. For the first 180 years of its ­existence, Castle Howard was heated by scores of servants filling countless fireplaces with logs and coal. In the late Victorian era, the 9th Earl and his



“Jaw droppingly vulgar, and yet a home.”

formidable Countess installed coal-fired boilers and central heating arrived, its’ legacy is the smoke-stained stonework of the laundry wing. The ingenious venture will pay for itself in five years, and is entirely invisible to the naked eye; saving polar bears doesn’t have to involve huge metal constructions churning up the wind and the view. There’s nothing particularly new about Ground Source Heat and large homes in France have been using it for many years, but Prince Charles is helping the movement in England by heating Highgrove with the system. “We were the guinea pigs really, being the first of houses like ours to make the move to Ground Source Heat, and it’s definitely paid off ”, which is somewhat of an understatement considering the Castle’s heating bill is now £15,000. When I ask whether the move was made out of guilt, or from a sense of social responsibility to make the running of the house sustainable, he says matter-of-factly, “no, really we just wanted to think of a solution to a problem because it’s not just about being eco, at the end of the day I’m running a business, so we need to be making money, rather than loosing it through light bulbs”. Simon energetically gives a walking tour of his light bulb store, much to my delight. “We’ve changed all our light bulbs to LED so they use considerably less energy, and the difference in brightness doesn’t matter as they’re under a lampshade”, he says rifling through a selection of powersaving bulbs. Clearly the upheaval to the house doesn’t bother him though, “Well, actually everyone thought I was mad digging up the lake but it was all funded with grants from the Carbon Trust, and it worked, so people let me do what I want now”. More or less I mutter, and he smiles. Castle life is certainly bustling, as we weave through the corridors lined with Roman sculptures and walls groaning under the weight of Howard family portraits, a barrage of tourists clutter in from the rain, undeterred in their quest to visit what is now known as ‘Brideshead’ after both the 1981 TV series and 2008 film of Brideshead Revisited were shot here. Rebecca, Simon’s remarkable wife, and mother of his twins, Octavia and Merlin, has endured the upheaval of their family home playing host to an entire film crew for the on location shoots. “Yes, no one wants to use us any more because the image of Castle Howard as Brideshead is so firmly stuck in people’s minds.” Not that that’s a bad thing though, considering over 40 per cent of the tourists they receive are film-lovers searching for a whimsical day on the estate. Why weren’t

you an extra, I ask, and Simon gives a knowing, cheeky smile, “I could have been an extra. Anyhow, filming is so boring, it’s just a lot of waiting around,” he adds as though a seasoned screen star. You’d think with 200 people working on the estate in season, and with thousands of visitors every week, that Simon would want some peace and quiet. Why do you let people into your home? “Because I love it. Quite simply, I grew up here and out of my brothers I chose to take it on, I want to share it with people.” He stops, “but yes, it is a full time job keeping everything up and running”, he says whilst fumbling to find a key for another corridor. Which is why it’s so important that his team is as committed as they are. Christopher Ridgway, the Curator of the special exhibition of ‘Capturing the Castle: 300 hundred years of revealing the castle’ is one of those members of the team who is more fabric of the house itself. Having worked with the Howard family for 30 years in curating the extraordinary collections of painting, sculpture and artefacts, he felt it was high time to put on this particular exhibition, “I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time now, and it’s been fascinating to see the project develop. People haven’t always liked the Castle because it was designed quite controversial by Sir John Vanbrugh in 1912, and has since been added to by many designers over the years making it architecturally very eclectic.” It seems such an on-hand owner would hugely compromise the job of the curator, but Chris says, “It’s a help rather than a hindrance to work with Simon, because he knows the castle so well, and he does have an art background. You can’t help but grow up here and drink in the art around you.” I ask what sort of a challenge the aftermath of the fire and the filming made to the job of the curator. “The choices for restoration are different to curating; you don’t want to restore something back to its original state from 1750, but instead you want to take it forward and sustain that change.” “There was some restoring done when the Brideshead team paid their visit. The upheaval depends on the crew and we just accommodate for it, but no, we couldn’t have fireworks on the lawn every night” he says faintly amused. The journey of this exhibition was to present a view of how the castle has been perceived over the last 300 years by artists and visitors’ colourful accounts. My favourite quote has to be that Castle Howard is “quixotic and fantastical” by Felix Kelly, who painted the Castle as this completely fairytale experience with brightly coloured hot air balloons and

the Kelly cars with circus tent roofs. Chris is confident in the appeal of the impressions themselves, and has only incorporated digital media into one piece: “We wanted to show how the Castle was without the East Wing, so we photo-shopped it out”. It’s simple, is the point. No audio guides or gimmicks for the sake of it. No formaldehyde or diamond studded skulls, the only embellishments being quotes about the Castle around the walls, Chris’ favourite being “jaw droppingly vulgar, and yet a home”. The ‘treasure house’ as its often referred is remarkably lucky that in spite of grievous loss over the years, that much of the archives still remain and the Howard family’s stories. There is still an extensive collection of Canalettos and Gainsboroughs, plus all the tapestries, harpsichords, murals, ancient books. Chris is adamant that the exhibition has to tell the story of the estate in context as the entity that it is, and showing all of that art is a way of drawing a conjunction between the stories. “The health of the beef herd is just as important as the restoration of the art.” The Howard family are an interesting bunch, especially the women. This year also sees an exhibition about the women of the family, who even in the 18th century were instigators of the Suffragette movement’s beginning. Mary Howard, locked herself in her room for a week, because the bell ringers stopped ringing as soon they found out she’d had a girl, not a boy. Simon is affably sceptical that the increasing numbers of tourists is anything to do with his Ground Source Heat innovation, and recognises that essentially people want to visit a nice stately home, but it will probably rain, so they just want a cup of tea, and a slice of homemade cake. “But you can’t underestimate how important all the other aspects of the estate are such as the Kew garden centre, the shops, bookshop, cafes, butchers and grocery store and the caravan park across the lake. They all constitute Castle Howard just as much as the house, and ever since the castle was built, they’ve provided thriving employment in the local area.” With the Jubilee this year, the country is in full enthusiasm for celebrating our rich British history; stately homes are part of that traditional heritage and with owners like Simon they are being brought into a new era. Perhaps Buckingham Palace will be the next residence to put solar panels on the roof, but as Chris said, whatever moves and changes may seem “draw droppingly vulgar now”, may be seen to be positively iconic in another 300 years. M


What Poppy did next Poppy Dinsey, founder of What I Wore Today, talks to Bella Foxwell about what it takes to make an impact on the blogosphere





ne of the key differences between an Olympic swimmer and any other swimmer is that the Olympic swimmer is in the pool at 5am every morning 365 days of the year. My general advice to anyone wanting to succeed in anything is to work hard, then work harder. And ideally don’t have a mental breakdown along the way.” These are some words of wisdom from What I Wore Today founder and blogger-extraordinaire Poppy Dinsey, and probably a motto Pete Cashmore lives by. Cashmore took the media by storm recently when it was reported that his blog, which he started from his bedroom in Scotland in 2005 at the age of just 19, had blossomed into a world-wide phenomenon. Dubbed ‘Brad Pitt of the blogosphere’ (supposedly he is an amalgamation of beauty and brains), Cashmore’s blog Mashable, a destination for digital, social media and technology news, is now one of the most profitable blogs in the world and has led to talks with CNN for a deal to purchase the blog for hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s a dream come true. We all fantasize about sitting in our beds at home, a cup of tea on the bedside table and a packet of hobnobs not far from reach, all the while raking in money without lifting a finger or dealing with rude, fussy customers. Cashmore said himself that setting up Mashable was appealing: “it’s partly because it was something I could do in bed and feel like I was achieving something. I’m just not good at obeying authority figures.” Poppy Dinsey is another British success story. She started her blog as a small-scale project at home. With a new year underway – 2010 - Poppy pondered whether she could create a photo diary of herself in a different combination of clothes for the next 365 days. The simple ideas are always the best. She stuck to it. What I Wore Today grew in popularity, with around 90,000 monthly visitors, and Poppy decided to take the website from a hobby through to a money-making business. University degrees aren’t enough any more; blogging can be a great way to show off writing skills. Another string to a writer’s bow, in the tireless trudge through the job market. I scour the internet and find hundreds upon hundreds of blogs, many of which whose last post was in 2008 or 2009. Not very promising. I feel a little bit like I am looking in on a pond full of fish of all different strengths – it really is survival of the fittest. Thousands won’t make it, and then every now and again a sparkly, dogged blog rises to the surface and gets noticed. It doesn’t look as if a ‘proper’ blog can be born on a whim – it looks like a thorough business plan is what is needed. I ask Poppy if this was the case for WIWT: “I’ve blogged since 1999. So it’s kind of normal for me to start blogs whenever I have a vaguely interesting idea, I’ve had so many I’ve lost count. Any project I did growing up usually involved a blog - or an ‘online diary’ as we called it then. WIWT was by no means my first blog, I’d been blogging for nearly a decade when WIWT started. My life was certainly made a lot easier by the fact I already had a relatively large readership from the property blogs that I wrote professionally. I was supposedly the fifth most influential person in the world of online property in 2008, so I’d be cheating if I said I started WIWT from scratch. But the original WIWT blog really was started on a whim, it was literally just a New Year’s resolution/challenge to get me to wear more of my old clothes.” So, WIWT was indeed born on a whim. However, Poppy’s background in, and dedication to, blogging ensured her success. While working as a Marketing Executive at Zoomf, a UK property search engine, Poppy’s passion for blogging was inflamed, and there she got the opportunity to write about one of her other interests, property. Although Poppy was a successful property blogger, that didn’t give WIWT a fast track to overnight success. Like Cashmore, who worked on Mashable for six years before virtually anyone had heard of him, Dinsey’s blogging didn’t spawn real success until last year. So other than self-satisfaction and some potentially hefty profits, what else is there to be gained? “The best perk is probably the people I’ve met, whether they’re celebs, designers, entrepreneurs, WIWT users… it’s amazing really. The travel isn’t half-bad either, next week I’m in Cannes and then I’ve got to go to Milan for a party. That’s not a bad perk.” But Poppy does give a word of warning: “I do always feel the need to point out though that the good stuff comes with plenty of bad. The blood and sweat and tears that have gone into WIWT would be measured in bucket loads. Running your own company is somehow the most rewarding and horrific experience all at once. I suppose the good does weigh out the bad really though, or no entrepreneurs would bother!” The question is, how does one keep from becoming disheartened when you’re not getting the hits you want after two months of tapping away at your keyboard every evening. Why did Poppy’s blog do well when there are so many that flop because of little, or no, hits? “I’m lucky to have a good business brain and a creative brain, a lot of people only really have one or the other. You really do have to be a good writer with original ideas to stick out in the ever-exploding world of blogging, but my success in a commercial sense comes from being able to see and exploit opportunities. There are plenty of people

Paid to dress in the morning: Poppy takes a cut of every sale clicked through from her site who can write but can’t see how to turn that talent into something they make a living from, and similarly there are lots of business minded people who lack any real creativity or imagination. I’m very persistent though and that certainly helps. And I can’t deny for a second that I had a huge head start by getting into this crazy world of blogging early on.” It all seems very overwhelming, but Poppy is optimistic that there is still space in the blogosphere for new, original blogs: “There are zillions of blogs, the majority of which have very few readers. Does it matter? I don’t think it does. Everyone goes into blogging for different reasons, if you started a blog because you’d just had a baby and you want your extended family to be able to see your latest baby news – then it would be ‘a success’ if your cousins in Australia could see a YouTube video of his first steps. That’s not going to be interesting to anyone outside of friends and family, but it’s still successful in terms of what it set out to be. The people that


cation – it’s in addition to.” I ask Poppy’s best advice for budding bloggers out there, and those who need a little nudge in the right direction: “Write about something you care about, write consistently (that refers to tone, style, length, frequency of posts etc) and just keep going with it. Even if nobody ever reads it you’ll hopefully be improving your writing skills and picking up some HTML knowledge along the way. But if you don’t enjoy it, don’t bloody do it! The love has to be there as blogging really is a labour of love with, generally, very little reward in a commercial sense. Blogging isn’t a get rich quick scheme, but sometimes the media portrays it as that. The only people I know who have made a commercial success of their blogs are people that have worked at them all around the clock, every day of the week for YEARS. That shouldn’t put you off, but it should help put into perspective that if you haven’t been able to jack in the day job by your third post- you’re in the same

“The people who have made a commercial success of their blogs are those who have worked around the clock, every day of the week for YEARS” will come unstuck are the people who think blogging is going to make them a millionaire. It’s not.” It may not make you a millionaire, but it might just give you an advantage over the next Joe Bloggs with a first-class university degree. “It’s normal for employers to ask for blog and Twitter links now and if you want to work in something to do with social media, yet aren’t actively using social media personally, then you’re unlikely to get very far. That’s fair though. For many people their blog has become their CV or portfolio: it proves you have the skills you say you have. An employer can see what you can do rather than just take your word for it, so it’s very important. I still look at what degrees people have though and where they got them from and what grade they achieved, a blog won’t replace experience and edu-

boat as everyone else.” You wouldn’t expect to get a promotion at work after a matter of months without a exceptional dose of luck, and the same can be said of blogs. However, if you can take everything with a pinch of salt and appreciate that all good things come to those who wait, you may end up writing for more than just your mother and the pet dog. Like Poppy, you might one day write for nationals – Poppy has since been asked to write for the Financial Times and the Sunday Times Style section. Poppy and Pete Cashmore are intelligent people but their success took time and hard-graft. And the most inspiring nugget us university students can take from that is that it all started from a teeny-tiny blog. Something we all have the ability to do. M



Helping Hebron Carol Pearson tells Laura Hughes how a charity from York, ‘Welcome to Palestine’, is exposing Israel’s treatment of foreign nationals



very Friday Palestinians give voice to their demands to be allowed the same human rights as other human beings. Every Friday, some are punished for this. The world continues to ignore them.” On 15th April Carol Pearman, a mother and grandmother from York, had her boarding pass ripped apart before her eyes and was told she was deemed a ‘potential terrorist’ by Israeli intelligence. Carol was one of 20 intending to board a a Jet2 plane from Manchester to Tel Aviv, part of the Welcome to Palestine Campaign: an initiative set out to shed light on Israel’s attempts to deny visits by internationals for humanitarian work and the peaceful support of millions of Palestinians living under occupation. The group was told their reservations were cancelled and that there would be no refund. “Had Jet2 flown us there, they would have been fined and told to take us back, so they acceded to Israel’s demands and cancelled our bookings. Having already checked in and printed our boarding passes, we all decided to go to the airport and try to fly anyway.” The group protested to no avail. Carol was home later that same day feeling disorientated and deflated. For 11 of Carol’s fellow passengers the journey had only just begun. “One was apprehended at the gate as he boarded, but the rest made it to Ben Gurion. They stated the purpose of their visit (visiting Palestinians in Bethlehem) and were all arrested. One was taken off on his own, questioned and put back on the returning flight.” The other nine were taken to Givon Prison where they refused to sign deportation orders – intent on getting to Bethlehem. The group shared the day of solidarity with Palestinian prisoners in Israel by joining in the hunger strike to highlight the number of prisoners in administrative detention, held indefinitely with neither charge nor trial. Carol was in Tunis in 1968, visiting relatives, and happened to read an article in a magazine about the plight of Palestinian refugees which captured her concern. After visiting Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories as a Christian Aid volunteer in 1993, the indelible impression made on Carol has meant she has devoted her courage and efforts to the

region ever since. Fighting Israel’s policy of isolating the West Bank, whilst settler paramilitaries commit brutal crimes against the Palestinian civilian population. Organisers of the Welcome to Palestine protest set out to publicise Israel’s control of movement into and out of Palestinian territory and to challenge the Israeli siege of the occupied territories. Noam Chomsky, Nawal Al Sadaawi and Desmond Tutu all endorsed the initiative. For Carol the purpose of the project was twofold: “Firstly we were invited by organisations in Bethlehem to join them for a week of cultural activities and discussions. A highlight of the week would be the laying of the foundation stone and commencement of the building of a new international school. “Secondly, we wanted to raise awareness of the occupation’s effective blockade of the West Bank. Israel controls all points of entry to Palestine. We knew that by stating openly that we were visiting Palestine, the Israeli authorities were likely to try and prevent us reaching there. We were prepared to take this risk. We could have traveled to Palestine, as is the normal procedure, by simply lying about our destination and purpose and pretending we were ordinary tourists or Christian pilgrims. Our hosts preferred us to be honest. We planned nothing out of the ordinary. Why shouldn’t Palestinians have visitors? If the Israelis were to prevent us going then this would highlight the fact that Israel has imprisoned the Palestinians. Prisoners are entitled to visitors.” Carol is a voluntary representative for Hadeel Palestinian Crafts, a fair trade business, owned by the Scottish charity, Palcrafts, who work with the Idna Ladies Co-operative in Palestine, amongst others. Idna is in the Hebron area and is one of the villages cut off from its agricultural land by the building of the Apartheid Wall. Carol, who has visited the project described the economic situation as desperate, as the restrictions on movement in the West Bank mean it is near impossible to either import the materials or access the goods. “On one of my visits, they had recently been invaded by the Israeli Occupation Force, who had broken into the workshops, emptied cupboards, trodden on the embroideries, stolen the computer and broken down the wall to get to the

neighbouring flat. Of course, there was no compensation for any of this and no obvious reason for the attack. The soldiers had been ‘looking for someone’. This sort of experience is routine for the Palestinians.” Carol has also volunteered at the Tent of Nations – a farm near Bethlehem owned by one of the last remaining Christian families in the area. Despite papers proving their ownership of the land from the days of the Ottoman Empire, the Nasser family has fought a costly court battle with the Israelis, for over more than two decades, defending attempts to confiscate their land. The farm is surrounded by Israeli settlements. The main road to the farm is blocked. They can’t access mains electricity or water. “Indeed they have to buy drinking water from the Israelis, while their own springs have been confiscated to serve the settlements. The farm is threatened by several demolition orders. Even the roof extensions built to catch rain water to fill their cisterns are threatened with demolition because they have been built without permits from the Israelis, but such a permit would never be given.” The family runs the farm as a centre of international reconciliation. They run youth and holiday camps for the children of the neighbouring villages and the refugee camps in Bethlehem. They also have projects teaching English and computer skills to the women in the nearby village of Nahalin. Carol herself has worked on the farm: picking olives, clearing land, large-scale weeding and laying the paved flooring in the large visitors’ tents: “I have also been involved with the project in Nahalin, spending a morning sharing experiences of pre-school education with a group of mothers and taking some children’s books in English which they could share to practise their English along with their children. I was invited to visit the local school and spend a morning singing songs and telling stories to the children.” Carol spent a day with one of the families picking their olives. “It seemed idyllic, the children climbing the trees, a fabulous picnic. Until I learned that this happened to be the only day in the year when they had safe access to their olive grove, the reason being that there was a group of



Carol working on the farm at the Tent of Nations

internationals working on a neighbouring hill. Any other time, they told me it was not safe even to let the children play outside because settlers could target them. Not only do the settlers throw stones at them, they allow their sewage to run down the hillside and contaminate the villagers’ farmland. “Last year, I spent some time observing life in Hebron. Here there are 2000 soldiers protecting 500 extreme settlers. There are checkpoints to walk through for everyone as they go about their daily routine. People, particularly the young men, are regularly stopped by the soldiers at the checkpoint, often being detained for some time, and on occasions, for no apparent reason, being arrested. I watched a 12 year old being detained and saw how IOF soldiers tormented him by playing with handcuffs and a commando knife in front of him.” Every Friday the Popular Struggle Co-ordination Committee mobilises between 1000 and 10,000 people, in 10 active Palestinian villages. Carol has shared in some of the regular non-violent demonstrations: “The focus of the demonstrations is usually the confiscation of their land for settlements or the building of the Apartheid Wall, or perhaps the confiscation of water resources. With men, women and children, many carrying flags and banners, chanting and singing - it all felt very familiar – except that we would come up against a wall of soldiers each time.” “Facing them, you can take the opportunity to voice your concerns, but the soldiers are not allowed to reply. The soldiers would soon produce an order declaring the area to be a closed military zone. This gave ‘legitimacy’ for those persisting to be arrested, though we observed that this had already happened in at least two cases. Tear gas is used quite frequently by the IOF against these demonstrations and rubber

“I watched a 12 year old being detained and saw how IOF soldiers tormented him by playing with handcuffs and a commando knife in front of him.”

Aida refugee Camp in Bethlehem, complete with bullet holes


Al Masare demonstration

bullets and live ammunition may also be used. Settlers may also attack them.” One head teacher told Carol her teachers had gone without being paid: “Israel collects taxes and passes the money to the Palestinian Authorities to give essential services, but when the money does not come through the teachers and nurses cannot be paid. She told me that they all just continued working with the children without being paid. I found it hard to believe that they could survive, but she told me that friends and families just helped each other. This woman had eight children herself.” Is it fair to call the Palestinians prisoners living in this apartheid system more cruel than that imposed on South Africa? “Yes. Desmond Tutu, who should know, says the situation for the Palestinians is worse than what they suffered under South African apartheid. He expanded on this by saying that the white South Africans wanted them as labour, but the Israelis want rid of the Palestinians altogether. Prisoners – yes, the wall and checkpoints make that very evident.” Carol despairs of the economic, political and diplomatic support given to the Netanyahu government by both North America and Europe. Advocating we employ the use of both boycotts and sanctions, as was done in South Africa. “We could start by Europe suspending the EU – Israel Trade Agreement, which gives Israel preferential trade terms with EU countries. Article Two of the Agreement states that these relations shall be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles, which must guide internal and international policy.” One young woman in particular inspires Carol. That is Shahd Abusalama, a dancer, artist, singer and writer whose own father was a prisoner of the Israelis for 18 years. Shahd’s blog and illustrations reveal the realities of life in Gaza. “She writes movingly, particularly about the families involved in the campaign to free the Palestinian prisoners. With references to power cuts, lack of medicine, fuel shortages etc, she helps us all to feel a little of what they face each day.” M



Arts. Painting Liberty in Cuba The ‘Miami Five’ produce a series of artworks to highlight injustice, so says Louis Boyd


icture an unrelenting cell, 7ft by 13ft, in a high security facility in Victorville, California. The cell is occupied by Gerardo Hernández. These four walls contain the story of 13 years of injustice and the struggle for vindication. 2000 miles away, in Florida, his friend and erstwhile colleague, Antonio Guerrero occupies a similar cell. They are linked by their plight, and the manner in which they have chosen to cope with their incarceration, the manner in which they are making this injustice known. In a new exhibition opening at The Norman Rea Gallery on the 1st May, the liberating power of the visual arts is to be explored in relation to this one, very current, political event. In 1998, Hernández and Guerrero, Cuban intelligence officers attempting to disrupt terrorist attacks targeting their country, were arrested in Miami along with three other colleagues. Their subsequent trial and imprisonment was controversial, and has been condemned as unjust by authorities from across the world, including Amnesty International, eight Nobel Prize winners, and 110 Members of Parliament from the UK, who wrote an open letter to the U.S. Attorney General in support of the group, known as the ‘Miami Five’. ‘Beyond the Frame’, the provocatively-named exhibition showcasing Hernández and Guerrero’s work, that opened in London prior to its touring to York, Glasgow and Manchester this month, aims to draw attention to the case of the Miami Five, as well as to the wider culture of the visual arts in Cuba. “We called the exhibition ‘Beyond the Frame’ because it ruptured the traditional role of the frame as a boundary and acknowledged the Five have been ‘framed’ by the US government”, says Dodie Weppler, the expert on Cuban art overseeing the project. The history of political campaigning through art is long and (it would seem almost necessarily) fraught with contention. We think of Ai Weiwei’s Sunflower Seeds or Picasso’s Guernica, and can easily see the creative influence of controversial political agendas on provocative or boundary-breaking art. Often, it would seem, visual art provides an international language, enabling people to articulate suffering and

“Visual art provides an international language, enabling people to articulate suffering and oppression.” oppression. When successful, this can be done in a genuinely affecting way. So how does the art featured in Beyond the Frame approach this tradition? How does it provoke and convey the story of the Miami Five? Pieces produced by a collection of renowned, international artists are being exhibited alongside the work of Hernández and Guerrero. It is an eclectic collection, including a print piece by Susan Hiller entitled Small Homage to Marcel Duchamp, a photographic

work by René de Jesús Peña González, Wardrobe, and a mixed media collage by Juan Roberto Diago Durruthy called Dia. The titles of the works betray little in the way of an underlying thematic connection, and (frankly) the styles of their execution do even less to clarify the situation. However, within this collection of works there is evidence of a very specific form of boundary breaking, of exceeding the frame, one that is exemplified by Eduardo Roca (Choco) Salazar’s contri-

bution, Caribbean Dream. According to his biography, Choco’s work, “focuses on the faces of peasants and Afro Cuban women”. However, in Caribbean Dream the accusing gaze of an androgynous figure confronts us, desexualized despite its apparent nudity. The work is vibrant and aggressive, jumping from the canvas in scratches and areas of oil build-up. This is a craftsman exploiting his medium to its most passionate extent. The figure’s gaze is questioning, potentially accusatory, but at the same time, confounding. No one interpretation of the prone figure holds fast. Choco confronts us with a mash of cultural allusions (Picasso and Ofili being difficult comparisons to avoid), and yet none quite accounts for the power of the piece, nor quite indicates what perspectives and presumptions we should bring to the work in order to decode it. It seems therefore at once traditional speaking of the peasant lifestyle and native culture - and modern - tapping into the popular post-colonialism of Ofili’s bold colours and anti-conventional forms. The movement beyond the frame that we have made in viewing Caribbean Dream is a movement beyond the single and fleeting moment in which we view the piece. The work’s significance extends beyond the moment in which one stands in front of it – its ambiguity is in fact a deliberate removal of time, place and sex. The artist takes us beyond the frame in a nod towards the universality of art. In many ways Beyond the Frame is a celebration of that simple fact. The exhibition celebrates the idea of two men, locked away with seemingly no promise of a fair re-trial, separately discovering the power of art (in whichever form, be it for escapism or the articulation of their suffering). “The long imprisonment has been defeated by love and art”, says Guerrero. Beyond their “framing” by the US government, beyond the confines of their situation, the two Cubans have found an irrepressible means of drawing attention to their situation in the form of art. In this way the diversity (and potential disparity) of the works featured in the exhibition come to signify the enabling process of personal expression through art, regardless of situation.

In Pictures: Globe to Globe: World Shakespeare Festival 2012, April 21- June 9

Henry V to be performed in French

Venus and Adonis to be performed in South African

Romeo and Juliet to be performed in Arabic

Macbeth to be performed in Polish


M15 Best Book

Censoring La Commedia A racial awareness group in Italy have called for the banning of Dante Aligheri’s Divine Comedy, Mary O’Connor investigates.


arly in March, a racial awarenes and adviser group to the UN, ‘Gherush92’, led by its President Valentina Sereni, called for the ban of the Commedia in Italian classrooms and universities; raising concerns about the danger of it being read and taught “without filter” in these environments, Sereni said, when speaking to the Adnkronos news agency. The group find the references to homosexuals being “banished from human nature” and the Prophet Mohammed’s entrails being torn from his body in hell-fires, among half a dozen other references, deeply offensive. The classic work, thought to have been originally composed between 1308 and Dante’s death in 1321, charts the poet’s progress through hell, purgatory and heaven, and is written in the form of 100 cantos. Known reverently in his native Italy as ‘il Sommo Poeta’ or ‘The Supreme Poet’, Dante’s work is a central pillar of the culture and language. This is a view shared by Dr. Michele Campopiano, a lecturer in medieval Italian Literature at the University of York, “The Divine Commedia is a great work of Art. Besides being a poet, Dante was also a great philosopher and forerunner of what we would call linguistics.” Dante bequeaths a rich literary heritage not merely to his country of origin, influencing poets like Giovanni Boccaccio with his earlier works, but also other notable Western writers that


daily life would be utterly impossible. It begs the question why then, Dante, a father of the Italian language is being shunned by the minority for attitudes that characterised the 13th century, and do not continue to shape the thoughts of the Italian people today. It seems truly erraneous to blame Dante for the attitudes that he merely regurgitates in literary form. Certainly “no Art is above criticism” as Gherush92 claim, but if we are to move towards banning or amending Dante as a literary work, then there is an equally weighty case for

ing in Italian universities recalls “In my experiences, [Dante’s work] was never used to support discriminatory views.” This comment, from an academic who has taught within such an environment serves to underline the unfounded nature of Gherush92’s claims, and equally show the concerns of other campaigning groups, that this is “political correctness gone wrong.” In fact Dr. Campopiano turns the tables on the group, accusing them of being the anachronistic ones, “Dante is a man of his times (as we all are), and some tones concerning

“It is simply not feasible to apply the instruments of modern culture to Dante’s work” came after him, including Byron’s Don Juan, with significant Italian echoes, or more similarly, Ezra Pound’s later Cantos. The Commedia also marked a new departure for the Italian master poet, as he became one of the leading exponents of a crucial 13th century literary movement, coining the term, ‘Dolce Stil Novo’ which translates to “Sweet New Style” exploring themes of love, and idealised portraits of beauty. This following found voice in the transhumanisation of his childhood love, Beatrice, who appears in the narrative several times, an ever-present muse in the mind of the poet. What needs to be emphasised here however, is that Dante is not the first to deem homosexuals as ‘unnatural.’ This came almost 3000 years previously in the Bible, specifically, in the book of Leviticus, which states “Do not lie with a man as you would lie with a woman, that is detestable.” The Catholic faith underpins Italian culture, and divorcing the Church’s dogmatic principles from the very orthodox traditions of Italian

censoring certain sections of the bible which discriminate against a whole host of individual groups. Dr Matthew Treherne, the co-director of the Leeds Centre for Dante Studies at the University of Leeds, explains this is in more depth, “I should also say that it’s too simple to describe Dante as homophobic and racist… In Purgatory he shows the purification of lust taking place for both homosexuals and heterosexuals – there’s no sense that one is worse than the other. He tells us that ultimately many of those who were not Christian would have a better chance of ending up in heaven than those who are most vocal about their Christianity. And some of his harshest criticism is reserved for the leaders of his own religion – the popes. So it’s really quite inaccurate to describe him as homophobic or racist.” Moreover, it is necessary that we consider the Commedia within its proper context, namely its reception within Italian education. Dr. Campopiano, who spent a period of time teach-

different religions should be understood within the frame of the 13th and 14th century culture.” Indeed, if one thinks about the infinite volumes of Literature throughout the ages that contain offensive imagery or ideologies, we would be party to a book burning on an international scale, consider the literary feats achieved by Shakespeare for example, being cruelly burned to dust. It is simply not feasible to apply the instruments of modern culture when considering views which characterised the society of a much earlier period, and then call for their erasure. The whole objective in the study of Literature is to look through the lens of language, and the imagery it conjures, in order to gain that invaluable insight into a time very different from our own. One hopes that the voices of sense within this debate will prevail, and Dante’s Divine Comedy will continue to exert its profound influence over the Italian consciousness and as a beacon of excellence for western literature as a whole.

Editor’s Picks.

Mary O’Connor

4 May Grand York Opera House Paul Merton ‘Out of My head’

26 April-2 May York Theatre Royal Blue/Orange

For one night only, Paul Merton comes to the York Opera House, performing some of his best stand-up material, giving you unprecedented access to the mind of a comic master. Having been a member of the panel on Have I Got News For You and hosted other TV shows such as Paul Merton in China, Merton’s return to his comic roots is not to be missed.

Achieving dazzling reviews from both The Guardian and The Independent, this production should without doubt be at the top of your cultural calendar. Focusing on a patient in a psychiatric hospital who believes he is the son of an African despot: this play toys with issues of race, insanity and many more problematic issues.

Ciaran Rafferty

Escape From Camp 14 Blaine Harden *****

Whether they are promoting inexperienced and slightly overweight individuals to the position of Supreme Leader, telling the world that their nuclear missiles are only to help them with weather reports, or reporting that their last leader’s funeral made wild bears cry and magpies ‘hover mournfully’, it seems like North Korea has been unable to stay out of recent news. However, apart from the mad propaganda, airbrushed photos, and that song in the middle of Team America, we outsiders don’t get much of an idea of what it’s like in the Hermit Nation, which is why the literary world always pays attention when a book like Escape from Camp 14 hits the shelves. And so it should. Blaine Harden’s Biography of Shin Dong-Hyuk is ground-breaking. Shin is the only known person in history to have escaped from a North Korean gulag having been born there too. It takes a few chapters to even begin to understand what this means. The only parents he knew were complete strangers randomly partnered together as a reward for hard work. The only book he ever saw was in the hands of a teacher who wore a gun in class every day. The only jobs he was expected to complete were intended to work him to death across 15 hour working days to repent for his only crime, which was being related to his grandfather. Kim Jong Il’s policy to eliminate treasonous activities by punishing three generations of the criminal’s family meant that Shin was supposedly destined to live in Camp 14 from cradle to grave (not that he would be given either). It was a life that, for the first 22 years of his life, he accepted, even embraced. His brainwashing of an education taught him to snitch on his camp mates with pride, give every ounce of his strength willingly to serve the country that imprisoned him and, most incredibly, to genuinely agree to his role as sub-human; all of which he did, never knowing any better. When his eyes were opened, he risked his life and crawled under an electric fence not knowing a single person beyond it.

Harden’s biography is the result of years of interviews with Shin. His writing style is both informative and poignant, mixing Shin’s memoirs with historic detail, comparing his experiences with testimonies not only from other North Korean defectors but from survivors of Hitler’s death camps and Stalin’s gulags, as well as findings from peace organisations like Amnesty International. Shin’s story by no means ends at the Camp fence, and Harden gives incredible insights into the entirety of Shin’s journey, from stealing clothes to hide his prison uniform to breaking into houses scavenging for food across the poverty stricken nation, navigating the make-shift rail network to bribing the Chinese border patrol, earning his first pitiful wage as a farm hand in China to his inability to adjust to the fast paced life of South Korea. Approaching the end of this inspiring work, I was terrified it would end in an ‘and-then-he-came-to America-and-lived-happilyever-after’ sort of way. Instead, Harden continues to give us the truth, however unsatisfying it may be. His job he doesn’t like, his hobbies are limited if even existent, his relationships are patchwork at best. He knows his memoirs will not topple the dictatorial regime, he knows thousands continue to suffer inside the camps and out, and knows that he may never forgive himself for the things he had to do to stay alive. None of which are shied away from in what I now consider my favourite work of non-fiction. The Book World is currently hooked in the world of The Hunger Games, a sobering vision of the future where class is everything, where the poor starve to serve the elite, where any sign of rebellion is met with severe consequences… I’d love to know if Shin has read them…




An Organic Talent. Designer Florian Jayet speaks to Jess Holland about biology and his ideal woman


ollowing the showcase of his extraordinary F/W ’12 collection at London Fashion Week, Florian Jayet, the man behind the up-and-coming womenswear brand, talks to Muse Fashion about his love of Grace Jones, major life lessons he’s learnt and his desire to conquer the fashion world. On top of his extensive fashion achievements, which include a first class honours degree in Fashion Design, Jayet also has a degree in Biology under his belt, proving that you can be master of more than one trade. He admits that Biology and nature are hugely influential on his designs, as he describes how the veins of leaves, for example, can be used as drawings for prints on garments. Originally from France, Jayet now identifies that his very first designs were saturated in French style. He still loves the very structured, tailored silhouette of French clothing, but now equally appreciates other sources of inspiration. So is London a stimulus for his fashion designs too? “I like the energy of London; it has energy that you can’t find anywhere else.” Since graduation, the designer has secured work experience with major fashion houses such as Alexander McQueen and Eymeric Francois Haute Couture. Curious of his time at each, we asked him about the most valuable lesson that he had learnt from his experiences, to which he replied, “I definitely learnt that without hard work you will get nowhere”.


“I like the energy of London; it has energy that you can’t find anywhere else.”

And this hard work radiates from his A/W ’12 show, which, in three words, he summarises as ‘tribal, futuristic and dramatic’. Distinctly tribal and featuring show pieces from the nomadic jewellery line, Bjorg, Jayet not only found inspiration from Himalayan tribes, but also from areas in South America and Egypt. His main aim was to implement the different techniques that these particular tribes use to make garments, but in a more contemporary way - ideal, he believes, for the ultimate ‘Florian Jayet Woman’ – a woman who feels confident about herself. Grace Jones, the Jamaican singer and model, renowned for her towering height and severe androgynous look, is Jayet’s ultimate muse: strong, independent and striking. Readers should also note the amazing shoes that Jayet chose to feature in his recent catwalk show. The shoe designer, Kermit Tesoro, who was born in the Philippines and has recently worked with Lady Gaga, is the man to thank. Jayet first found his shoes on the internet – “I loved them straight away.” As a man of many accomplishments, it is clear that Florian Jayet has big dreams, and we can only wonder as to how far the brand will have flourished in ten years time. “Hopefully, I’ll be on schedule at LFW and be selling my brand all over the world”, Jayet says frankly. No doubt those dreams will lead to great success.

Couples in Fashion.

American City Slick Vs. Bold Britannia. Socialite and former cast member of The City, Olivia Palermo, and model Johannes Huebl alone are both sophisticated style icons, but together are dubbed the ultimate ‘All-American’ fashion couple, due to their good looks and chic fashion sense. Palermo’s personal style is one coveted by designers and fashion followers alike, as she never fails to look classy, understated and bang on trend, whether in couture or high street favourites such as Zara. Her fashion statements are complimented perfectly by Huebl, who usually opts for classic menswear, such as casual chinos, Ray-bans and sharp suits. Their personal styles have also been translated into modelling, as the pair have done campaigns for Mango and were recently on a shoot in Paris, reinforcing their status as the most elegant couples of the moment.


Olivia Palermo and Johannes Huebl

Eccentric singer and Brit pop girl of the moment, Jessie J, has recently been linked to rapper Tinie Tempah. Together, the pair would not only be one of the freshest couples in the music industry, but be renounced for their quirky and original fashion choices. Jessie J is known for her statement choices, such as mixing bold print, usually in all in one pieces and leggings, chunky jewellery and more recently, purple dip-dye hair. Tempah also does not shy away from unconventional fashion, reflected in frequently sporting bow ties, silk scarfs and his trademark geek-style glasses. His sharp individual look won him the accolade of GQ’s most fashionable man of the year and not only does he have his own line of menswear, but is creating a Nike Blazer trainer that comes out for the Olympics. Together, the couple are proving it works to not be shy with fashion choices, and are making headlines not only for their music, but for statements on the red carpet too. Charli Rose Lees


Jessie J and Tinie Tempah



Campus Style Icon

The Hot List Despite the heavy showers, one cannot be oblivious to the fact that the Summer season is fast approaching. Therefore I feel obliged to make a recommendation for the ladies in non-other than Runwaydreamz exquisite custom-made denim shorts. For those of you who are not in the know about this trendy & eccentric brand check out and have a glimpse online at their wonderful collection. Just as Runwaydreamz states on their website “the best part is that each piece is made by hand, upholding the highest standards in quality for remarkably special, one-of-a-kind designs”. Andrew Adenmosun


Becca Schubert 3rd Year English & Linguistics student How would you describe your look? Casual feminine Name your three favourite high street fashion stores? Topshop, Zara & Banana Republic What is your favourite item of clothing? Shoes What are your favourite shoes for the following occasions? Casual day: boat shoes Casual evening : heeled boots Night out: platforms What is your favourite designer label? Dolce & Gabanna Do you have any celebrity inspiration for your dress sense? I like many celebrities for different reasons. In terms of fashion though I would say the celebrities that inspire me most are Rachel Bilson, Rosie HuntingtonWhiteley, Miranda Kerr and Mila Kunis. What are your favourite colours of this season? Burgundy, wine, & tan - I love them. Do you believe that a great look can be achieved whilst shopping on a budget? Yes definitely, I believe in shopping around and checking out many different stores before I make purchases. That way I can compare and contrast my outfits, unless I already had something in mind that I was going to buy. Also it is all about accessorising, if you mix and match your clothes then you can pull off a great outfit from the same set of clothes endlessly. However I always try to not wear the same dress on a night out. Remember, I said I try.


In this day and age when the term ‘stylish celebrity children’ comes up the first names that spring to mind are the likes of Suri Cruise, Kingston Rossdale, Brooklyn Beckham and Willow Smith to say the least. However, a less predictable choice as my favourite child fashionista, is none other than Tavi Gevinson. At the age of 15 she is the creator of the world renowned fashion blog ‘style rookie’ which has been recognised by magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Love. Already an expert in the world of fashion, by the looks of things it seems like success is the only way forward for this young star. Andrew Adenmosun Sweeping across the foreheads of upand-coming actresses and experienced catwalk models alike is the ‘Baby Fringe’, first seen on the head of Rooney Mara, of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo fame. Created by hairstylist Danilo Dixon, with the idea that Mara’s character ‘Lisbeth Salander’ would need to keep her hair out of her eyes during all-night hacking sessions, Mara decided to keep the statement haircut. Soon after the blunt, short fringe, which stops just above the eyebrows, cropped up on the Autumn/ Winter Calvin Klein, Marni and Versace catwalks, and now takes centre-stage in YSL’s latest add campaign. Men? Think the Gallagher Brothers. Classy Birds? Think Holly Golightly. Boho Babes? Think Zoe Kravitz. The Not-So-Bold? Get down to Topshop’s Hersheson Blow Dry Bars and get yourself a Winge, a stick-on version, £30. Rachel McIver

The experts at Kanon Organic Vodka and Apothéke have recently combined their love of food with high fashion and concocted cocktails inspired by the New York Spring/Summer ‘12 catwalk collections. The team at Kanon asked five different designers about their runway collections and the answers were then transformed into glamorous drinks, mingling flavours like cactus pear and cherry with fresh lime purée. The cocktail that really caught our eye was the aptly named “Red Savage”, inspired by Katie Gallagher’s S/S ‘12 collection. Her catwalk flaunted fierce, blood red garments coupled with stern topknots, and these were perfectly reflected in the drink, which boasts a fusion of agave nectar, ginger and snow peas. It’s high time to ditch your now distinctly average Cosmos and Woo Woo’s. Jess Holland

The most beautiful of ugly ducklings Paris Bennett FASHION EDITOR


ast Thursday was the opening night of one of this year’s biggest blockbusters. As I sank into my seat, surrounded by other slightly damp but eager action movie fans, with the gender division pretty 50/50, fashion is a distant memory in my mind. The movie I am literally bursting to see is The Avengers. To further explain my thought stream of great expectations, I am fully aware that this movie contains the fittest of the fit in the shape of eye candy ‘Iron Man’ (Robert Downey Jr.), clean cut handsome ‘Captain America’ (Chris Evans) and the raw sex being ‘Thor’ (Chris Hemsworth). But my hopes are dashed within 60 seconds when I am faced with what was once a fashion ugly duckling, who is now the central female hottie, dressed in a knockout of a little black dress. I present to you ‘Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff ’. Okay, so there had to be some sort of female superhero, as even I would have complained, but for Scarlett Johansson to be cast in the role makes me realise the true power of the fashion industry. The real super power bestowed onto the now slim line shoulders of Ms. Johansson is how fashion can wave a magic wand and turn you into statistically one of FHM’s sexiest women of all time. But boys and girls, things were not always like this. As Hans Christian Andersen once explained in his fairy tale The Ugly Duckling, even though you may be born not looking conventionally attractive, do not fear as you might blossom into the most stunning member of your pond life. There is hope for all of us, yes indeed children. And this fairy tale lesson is a reality for so many of our best loved clothes horses and sex symbols. There was a time, roughly before 2002, in which Scarlett Johansson was pretty average. She did not stand out from the crowd, was dull, lacked any sparkle but always had an ample bosom mixed in with some baby fat. No one was aware of her existence in the fashion world, fact. But now in one of the most eagerly anticipated films of the last few years, she is in the opening scene, dressed to kill, oozing more sex appeal than any of her fellow superheroes. Her morph into the now campaign girl of Dolce and Gabbana is something close to the transformation witnessed of social outcast Peter Parker into the amazing Spider-Man. The typical Hollywood makeover, using the tools of designer clothing and immaculate make up can work wonders for failing natural beauty and be the ultimate career Viagra. However, we must applaud Johansson for not reaching for the surgeon’s knife as so many others have. Before we begin to list the many young starlets who have been heavily hinted at being ‘plastic fantastic’, when you take a peak at a few before and after images, it truly is shocking how our icons have changed. Megan Fox’s alleged new cheekbones and new boobs, Sandra Bullock’s alleged new nose, Angelina Jolie’s confirmed new nose and Brad Pitt’s ears being pinned; the list is endless. Another huge shocker, with many similarities to Johansson, is the apparent surgery free but once seriously iffy-looking Zooey Deschanel. The star of popular films including Elf, is also the face of Rimmel London cosmetics. When you flick through a relatively short timeline of five years of painful pictures, it is utterly bonkers to witness her evolution from one of the most epic of ugly ducklings to now boys and girls’ no.1 poster girl. Although we have all grown up to understand that fairy tales are just make believe, this evidence speaks for itself. Make a wish upon a star?



Music. Scotland’s Finest. Indie-folk quintet Admiral Fallow talk to Rory Foster about accents and “Frabbit” but not haggis.


dmiral Fallow are an interesting band for several reasons. The Glasgow quintet’s first album, Boots Met My Face, showed off front man Louis Abbott’s emotive lyrical ability, the band’s diverse instrumentation and their raw song writing talent, making them stick out in the throng of vaguely interesting indie rock/folk acts mulling around the blogosphere. Their other standout feature is female vocalist Sarah Hayes, who although rarely in the forefront, brings an incredible presence to many of their songs, in a similar vein to how The Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne adds so much when she’s brought in to the mix on their albums. Currently rolling round Scotland in promotion of their upcoming second LP, ‘Tree Bursts In Snow’, the band are soon to head down south. Associated with indie darlings Frightened Rabbit, since touring with them last year, the band have a similar sound; not just because they share a nationality, but because they both can have a crowd dancing in one minute, and crying the next. I now have the privilege of speaking to them just before their tour really gets going and their latest album meets our ears. The band are still best known in Scotland where I’m told they have “played a quite bit more than down south.” I ask them whether they think being Scottish actually helps them stand out down here (and further afield), considering there are--as the band duly note--“an awful lot of great bands in the UK right now”. They reply that “being set apart by something like an accent is positive... having said that, there are plenty Scottish artists who are no longer embarrassed to sing in their own voice so it’s not such a big thing up here.” A fairly cautious answer, which seems somewhat synonymous with the band’s personality as a whole. Both from on-stage chat and in the interview the band are fairly reserved, modest and friendly - perhaps lacking some of the confidence that may come if the second album takes off, as it did for Frightened Rabbit. Fuelled by a break-up, their sophomore album brought Scott Hutchison’s powerfully poignant indie-rock to the masses, and went down a storm. When asked about their relationship with Frightened Rabbit, I’m told that they still keep in touch with “The Frabbit boys”: Louis and Scott performed together quite recently “where [they] played each other’s songs as a duo”. Aww. But rather than past events, the band is keen to push on with their second LP and to greater things. Due for release late May, a few songs have been released so far, notably new single

‘The Paper Trench’ a bouncy little ditty packed with a pounding rhythm and rich vocal harmonies to boot. It’s been “going down well” live, which for a band of Admiral Fallow’s size, is key to them finding a bigger audience. The band

“Maybe get the Kleenex ready when you get to track five...” played the Green Man Festival in Wales (along with several others) last year, to which they confessed their love of the rolling landscape of the Brecon Beacons, not that many punters could take their eyes off the band at the time. “We love doing all types of shows whether that’s acoustic/stripped back gigs in smaller spaces or bigger stages at festivals.” Last year at Leeds Cockpit, Louis was able to command the audience to silence as he unplugged for a chilling rendition of ‘Four Bulbs’. Not bad for the support act. But Admiral Fallow are the band that just keep on giving: another recurring highlight of the band is the lyrical

content, something which the first album explored with childhood memories of the good and the bad (the LP title ‘Boots Met my Face’ referring to a young Abbott being beaten up). On the content of the new album, I’m told “It’s a little more thematically fragmented but it’s definitely less self involved than the first one. More unifying themes that everyone can relate to. Lack of money for those who need it. Drinking songs. Exploring the beliefs of others. Stuff like that.” So perhaps finally an album those recession-fuelled alcoholics can relate to. But what of the actual sound of the album? “It’s a little more direct and, I’m told, more mature sounding as a whole. Like with the first album, however, there is a decent balance in styles… there’s perhaps a curveball or two on there but I don’t want to give much away.” The teasers! So will there still be any heartbreakers? “That all depends what makes you cry… I think ‘Old Fools’ is probably one of the more emotional songs, so maybe get the Kleenex ready when you get to track five… the final song on the album, ‘Oh, Oscar’ isn’t necessarily a heartbreaker but it perhaps has a cosier sound and feel to the others – we recorded it live all together in the room late one evening, in one take.” It’s easy to think that the band is brand new, rather than the six and a half years that I’m told they’ve

Above: The Glaswegian quintet hitting the roof.

been going for. Originally named The Brother Louis Collective ‘till 2010, they didn’t end up releasing their first album properly until 2011, despite many of the songs being “four or five years old”. They seem to have gone to the Elbow school of success: a slow start, with a bigger fanbase perhaps looming in the distance. But whilst the Manchester boys rarely play their older material, Fallow are “still keeping the oldies in… they still feel good to play”. It seems equally hard to pinpoint their influences. With “Frank Sinatra, Animal Collective, Feist and Whitney Houston.” Playing in the tour bus, there’s definitely a mix of tastes, and what I’m sure is a bloody fight to the CD player. But in terms of direct album influences, The Low Anthem are mentioned (the band toured with them in Europe), and there’s an audible similarity there. But much like the comparisons with Frightened Rabbit, Fallow’s set apart by its more diverse sound; I’m not saying the Whitney influence plays a prominent part, but there’s a lot of sounds that creep through their music. As for future plans, it seems like promotion overseas and keeping the ball rolling are the only things on their mind. “The short time we’ve spent in both places have given us a taste for more.” Here’s hoping the crowd are thinking along the same lines.

REVERB. “Fuck I wish I was on stage with Rocky and them to beat shit out of some lame hipsters.” UK producer Zomby commenting on the A$AP Rocky SXSW brawl and getting excited over the prospect of bloody chinos.



A Record is for Life Attic Records hosts Martin Waugh for Record Store Day ‘12


aunching this year’s Record Store Day, John Lydon said: “A record is for life. A download is a lack of life. A poor substitute for a real wife.” Our relationship with music is becoming increasingly casual, detached and fleeting. When Lydon speaks of vinyl records he does so with a passion that has been lost by most people to a world of quick, cheap downloads and obstinate music piracy. The appeal of vinyl though, remains. And thanks to events like Record Store Day its sales rose by 39% last year, the highest since 2005. First celebrated in 2007, Record Store Day aims to promote independent record shops. 700 shops came together in the US to start, with the UK following suit a year later. This year, more than 200 shops in the UK will be celebrating vinyl culture with over 400 exclusive releases. Lydon also talks of “the destruction of the music industry”, saying that “people can’t buy records easily.” Although downloads undeniably occupy the engine room of the industry, artists are increasingly being drawn to the different attractions of vinyl releases, whilst acknowledging the place of mp3s. Indeed, many releases include a download code as part of the record. Attic Records, York, appreciates that there is room for all formats of music: “You listen to mp3 on your iPod. Then when you get home listen to some vinyl. Digital music is not going away, there’s a use for all formats.” Today’s instant access to music may have had benefits for both record labels and independent artists but it has turned the experience of buying music into an online process. Attic says record shops are “the centre of the music community” and that as part of the buying experience “people like to talk about music and look at what they buy.” For this year’s Record Store Day, Attic had local artists Mark Wynn, Littlemores and Valmores playing in their shop, providing the soundtrack as the exclusive releases flew off the shelves of


the small upstairs shop. The day brings “a push for vinyl, people want it,” Attic said. Rough Trade’s Spencer Hickman argues: “people still want something tangible, vinyl’s not going away anytime soon.” Exclusive releases this year included a digitally re-mastered version of The Clash’s ‘London Calling’, 5 previously unreleased singles by The Cure, 12 remixes of Arcade Fire’s ‘Sprawl II’ and ‘Ready To Start’ and the highly anticipated single ‘R U Mine?’ by Arctic Monkeys. With extremely limited numbers and extremely long queues, releases such as the above are highly sought after. Does this represent an active backlash against the mainstream pop factory, or a return to the roots of home audio? Vinyl does offer superior sound quality in comparison to the tinny sound of a low quality MP3 through laptop speakers. And perhaps people are seeking more of an attachment, or a sense of ownership than the fleeting relationship with the Led Zeppelin catalogue they illegally downloaded after a night out. CD sales fell 13% last year, following the industry trend of declining music sales. People wanting a quality music experience are turning away from CDs towards vinyl, with its sense of physicality and permanence. How well does that first CD you bought ten years ago play? There’s many a dad who

will happily force you through two hours of pristine sounding Genesis to prove the point. Vinyl sales may have declined with the rise of digital music, but they have never disappeared. Sales were stolen by mp3 downloads and its accessibility has been reduced, but the appeal of vinyl remains. The vinyl revolution represents a growing rejection of mass produced popular music, and an appreciation of the artwork and story behind the music that comes with the listening experience, restoring the music buying public’s attachment with their record collection. Independent record shops such as Attic are thriving in an environment where even the likes of HMV are struggling. It is important for the industry that such shops stay open, and it is the consumer who will ultimately benefit from the better music experience. Record Store Day has gone some way in restoring the connection between music and listener. The appeal of vinyl can be explained by this connection: when you download a song there’s detachment; but buying a record requires more choice, risk and commitment. But it is the most complete and rewarding way to listen to music. As Lydon said, other formats are “a poor substitute for a real wife.”

Local Spotlight.


er voice is bloody lovely. Seductively innocent yet as distinctive as music idol Cyndi Lauper - 20 year old student Alice Ostapjuk, is so deliciously listenable. A witty cynic, her lyrics are clever and clash perfectly with the sweetness of her voice, making her a pretty unforgettable and unique artist. And Alice is an artist – she’s worked hard to make such delectable musical produce. Taking an incredibly brave step, Alice broke away from failed bands, learnt the guitar in the space of six months, played her first gig at The Basement in York back in 2009, shortly after was whisked away into the recording studios of ‘BBC Introducing…’ and has continued on a skyward trajecto-

ry. With her single ‘Hush…It’s No Secret’ available on iTunes, Alice has also played alongside folky success story Benjamin Francis Leftwich, and has headlined her own shows with the new addition of her live band to help propel her into the next phase of vocal takeover. In fact, her manifesto would be fantastic. With songs like ‘Rage Against the Tangerine’ and ‘The RnB Song’, the observational Alice displays her penchant for people (and their bullshit), which make her songs not just musically pleasurable but also personal and funny. Despite falling into the “folksy girl” category, Alice manages to counteract the danger of being both very likeable and listenable (the usual tick boxes of the ‘New Boring’) by be-

ing memorable. Alice will be playing at York Carnival on 16th June. Alex Swadling.

Reviews. Artist: Odd Future Date: 29th March Venue: Brixton Academy Review: Alex Edgerton Nowadays, Odd Future are a group that really need no introduction. However, the incendiary gun-clocking sounds of Waka Flocka Flame’s ‘Karma’ are a fitting one, starting a full on mosh-pit before any of Odd Future have even performed. Introducing its members slowly song-bysong, the setlist is populated mainly by cuts from their latest album, The OF Tape Vol. 2 (their first as a collective since their startlingly sudden rise to fame). In particular, the Mellowhype song ‘50’ causes such a fury it almost made me regret clambering to the front of the crowd at the start. However, with the album having been out for barely a week, it’s predictably the group’s older material that gets the best reaction from the audience (although to call any of their songs ‘old’ seems a bit of an anachronism). The tracks off Tyler the Creator’s sophomore LP Goblin form the highlights of the show; the brilliantly

moronic ‘Bitch Suck Dick’ and ‘Radicals’ packing far more of an impact live than their tinned studio counterparts do, and when it comes to a chorus as ferocious as ‘Sandwitches’, there’s no way it can’t be anything but amazing. There did seem something slightly restrained though in their performance, especially in comparison to the last time I saw them just under a year ago in Norway. Back then, they had more to prove, which they certainly did when Hodgy Beats and Left Brian nearly caused a riot by leaping from 15 ft high speakers into the crowd as security hopelessly tried to wade their way through hundreds of feral Scandinavians. Although this time, we got to see Tyler perform a show-stopping two minute robot dance, so swings and roundabouts I guess.

Artist: Bastille Date: 24th April Venue: The Harley, Sheffield Review: Emma Whitwam, Sarah Hayes

“A little bit Owl City” is never the most comforting prior information to be given before heading to a gig. However, on arriving at Sheffield’s notoriously “cool” Harley to throngs of eager fans happy to shell out £6 to see South London based pop band Bastille, I was intrigued to see what all the fuss was about. Bastille aim to please, with frontman Dan Smith sporting an amusingly crafted coiffure and cheeky stage presence that was well reciprocated by those supporting his performance. Smith’s move from a solo artist, making records alone in his room, to bolstering his sound with a group immediately pays off, with the keyboards and drum parts creating memorable and undeniably infectious melodies. Their use of electronic loops and samples added a glimmering synthesized layer to the band’s sound. The band may not be the most origi-

nal synth pop group, but their mix tapes demonstrate an expertise and creative inclination that helps to distinguish them from their similar music counterparts. Be it bringing back Year Six school discos with their nostalgic cover of 90’s band City High’s ‘What would you do’, or reinterpreting classic dance anthems like ‘Rhythm of the Night,’ they seem to be having a lot of fun experimenting musically. The band might have benefitted from a larger venue in more ways than one, as the Harley’s capacity felt slightly restrictive, and as Smith amusingly got himself stuck on a speaker during ‘Flaws’. Despite this, things moved smoothly for a first night of a tour. I can highly recommend downloading their free mix tape, or their new Radio 1 played single ‘Overjoyed’, which the tour takes its name from.

Nouse Playlist. Procrastination. Alex Swadling

created out of procrastination. Keep at it.

Facebook must be consulted every five minutes. The kitchen must be scrubbed clean. Tennis is suddenly very interesting and Rasta Mouse is educational viewing. Fuck revision and embrace procrastination!

‘Where Is My Mind?’ - Pixies Everywhere but here? Atmospheic and awesome, lull your mind elsewhere.

‘I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish’ - The Smiths Morrissey hates revising. He also hates fast food and meat, but mostly revision. Whine along. ‘You Can’t Stop It’ - Skindred Ragga-metal may just have been

‘The Internet Is For Porn’ - Avenue Q A successful Broadway show for a reason - Avenue Q puppets offer their insights on the primary use of the internet. (Spoiler: not the VLE) ‘Moving Further Away’ - The Horrors ...and further and further away...



Film. Give girls ‘the active gaze’.

The Buzz

Elle Hoppe questions the portrayal of women on the big screen


ilm and television are arguably the biggest influence on young people. Girls are likely to validate themselves and judge against their on screen counterparts. Laura Mulvey, whose psychoanalytic theory is essential to film politics, categorises the audience’s gaze in to the active males’ and the passive females’. Essentially saying that as a woman watching you are identifying with the objectified female on screen. Filmmakers have made attempts to subvert our viewing experience and change the way sexes are viewed but due to their avant-garde style they don’t usually attract the mainstream audience. Feminism is supposed to no longer be scary (we love men just so long as they think we should be paid the same amount as them and don’t say things like ‘make me a sandwich’). However, unfortunately many women still criticise others for not being ‘feminist’ enough and for making films that don’t address female issues. Women are therefore damned if they don’t contribute to the feminist movement and damned if they do by the mainstream. We should surely celebrate film in its own right and women becoming successful directors, producers and writers. We shouldn’t ask a filmmaker to deal with every gender issue on the planet but help rid stereotypes. Instead of always making women secondary characters have them run the show or at the very least, as an equal. Where are the Thelma and Louise’s of today? In 1991 the world was given kick-ass women running away from the patriarchy and freeing themselves of their shackles. The film ends with a shot of the women in midair flying over the Grand Canyon, suspended in the sky where their old married life, rapists and the male dominated police force can’t touch them. This escape seems to be a happier ending than the drivel we’re offered more often than not. Marriage is somehow always a woman’s required ending (a reigning-in by society. What larks). Isn’t it also patronising that a man directed Thelma and Louise? It seems women are allowed to fight the patriarchy so long as a man is in charge. Film and television have taught girls that you have to be pretty and skinny to be happy. If you’re not you will

“Hollywood, please stop giving us objectified women” never get married and that is the only thing you have to live for. Women seem to think it is more important to wax their genitals to impress a guy rather than trying to cure cancer, and still in 2012 the media is doing close to nothing to curb this. Women are still objectified, boyfriend obsessed, crazies. There may be an assumption that females do not notice their objectification when watching simply because they have become so used to accepting the dominant order. This is still a worry however, that such alignment is happening without con-

scious thought. Is it acceptable for a woman to be objectified in this way, or indeed demonised by anyone? Regardless of whether their sexual preference leads such objectification to be something that they desire in the bedroom? Now lets turn to the celebration of recent subversion in film that has pushed women into the spotlight and is by no means a creation of feminist utopia but does at least show that women can be funny and smart too. One example is Lena Dunham who wrote, directed and starred in her film Tiny Furniture that is released on DVD in the UK this May. The film focuses on the recent graduate’s return to her mother’s home in New York. There’s nudity and it’s the good kind. The real kind not the over sexualised, fetishized type we’re force-fed. Dunham’s new show Girls (her latest creation) is showing on HBO (the channel where people are allowed to swear and have sex) and a viewer is finally allowed to watch as a woman and take control of Mulvey’s ‘active gaze’. Scandinavia’s women in The Killing, Borgen and The Bridge show women allowed into board meetings, solving murders and having sex without commitment. We need to see more like this – strong independent women who want to achieve their dreams. Surely that’s more attractive than someone who is desperate to fold towels and only ever orders a green salad? We’re held up in a vicious circle, where the media wont reflect an equal society until there is one but society won’t change until the media stops brainwashing women young and old. Hollywood please stop giving us objectified women and feminists and let’s be more welcoming. We want women who are funny and earn their own money rather than someone panicking about her arm fat and bagging a rich man. If you’re a girl at university then you’re a feminist who probably doesn’t even know it. If you’re a girl that owns a TV then you’re probably someone who is influenced by the media. What we need is to reconcile the two, and continue to push for a realistic, not a manufactured, presentation of women in the film industry.

Reviews. Film: Jeff, Who Lives at Home Director: Mark and Jay Duplass Starring: Jason Segal Runtime: 83 mins Review: Sophie Rose Walker Essentially this is an awkward film, that’s not awkward to watch. The Duplass brothers’ signature style of capturing the painful humour that saturates domestic, suburban boredom is genuinely simple, yet emotionally powerful. Although their films typically don’t contain much substance, they’re undoubtedly carried by the characters, and Jeff is no exception. We follow him on his optimistic quest

to be open to the chance happenings of the universe, and which luckily have heartwarming, surprising consequences at the end when the plot threads (affair and materialist guilt) are tied together on a bridge. Unfortunately, this is the worst bit of the film. Ed Helms and Susan Sarandon are magnificent in capturing the naivety of Jeff ’s faith in destiny, whilst he smokes weed and sits on the toilet. With genuinely funny dialogue, they all trip their way through the proceedings. What should be an indie movie doing the usual eccentric profile of a loser slowly changing his life, is shot too much like a mainstream film for my liking. But, it does work, and the Duplass brothers art is capitalised by the excellent cast and soundtrack.

Film: Avengers Assemble Director: Joss Whedon Starring: Robert Downey Jr. Runtime: 142 mins Review: James Tyas

With Marvel’s cinematic output ranging from the very good (Iron Man) to the mediocre (Captain America), Avengers Assemble had the potential to be disastrous: tying together the multiple plot threads from the previous films could have led to an awkward mash of action pieces intercut with complex plot exposition. Apart from a slightly baggy second act, the film breezes along thanks to Whedon’s script: full of zingy lines redolent of



e n e d i c t Cumberbatch revealed this week that he has “very sensitive follicles.” This revelation came out when he was asked about his role in the upcoming Star Trek sequel. Cumberbatch said: “You could stick a knife in my thigh, and I wouldn’t tell you,” but said his achilles heel was his hair. “Pull the hair on my head the wrong way, and I would be on my knees begging for mercy.” Cumberbatch also made better use of his iPhone than playing angry birds, using it to film his pitch for the role in the Sci-fi epic. Director JJ Abrams called it “one of the most compelling audition readings I’d ever seen.” Volatile Australian actor Russell Crowe has been cast as Noah in the film of the same name. The adaption of the infamous biblical story will be directed by Darren Aronofsky, whose previous film was the divisive Black Swan, and is set for release in 2014. Aronofsky said that he looks “forward to being wowed by him every day.” Noah seems to signal a renewed interest in biblical stories, with Steven Spielberg set to direct an adaption of the

Moses story. Eyebrows were raised when it was revealed that Sam Mendes, better known for directing cerebral dramas such as American Beauty, would direct the forthcoming Bond film Skyfall. After the creative failure of the previous Bond film Quantum Of Solace you’d think Mendes would feel the pressure but this week the director revealed that “There’s an enormous amount of pleasure in making a movie where I don’t feel like I’m having to walk a knife-edge between genres or work in shades of grey.” Lindsay Lohan has been cast to play Elizabeth Taylor in the new biopic Liz and Dick. Lohan said: “I am very honoured to have been asked to play this role.” This is Lohan’s first role since her turn in the critically reviled comedy Labor Pains in 2009. With knowledge of her turbulent personal life, it is likely that she would be honoured to be offered to play any role at all.

Aaron Sorkin, it injects the comic book genre with a humour that it has sadly lacked. As you would expect in a film involving so many characters, it is difficult for them to be all kept on an equal footing and Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man and James Franco’s languorous turn as the Hulk steal the show. It is difficult to have the same emotional investment in the less developed characters such as Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), whose only distinguishing feature seems to be that he has a bow and arrow. Scarlett Johansson isn’t given much to do apart from sashay around in a rubber suit, which may excite the core fan-boy audience, but is somewhat disappointing. It is difficult to be hard on Avengers Asemble: The all-important action is handled expertly and has set a high watermark for blockbusters in 2012.



Food & Drink.

To see the full How To video for these Experiments, go to

The Experiment. 24/7 Apple Flapjacks Hana Teraie-Wood


o celebrate the opening of the 24 hour library, here is a recipe for a 24 hour snack that is good to eat during any point in the day. Being on campus for any extended period of time leads to countless vending machine and canteen buys of chocolate bars, muffins and cookies. Not only do they cost a lot, but they also are full of refined sugars and fats that can have a ‘groggying’ effect on your concentration. Making your own sweet things is cheaper and healthier because you can control what ingredients go in to make what you eat. Flapjacks are better than chocolate bars because they’re more carb heavy and so will give you energy rather than infinite amounts of refined fat. They’re better than muffins because they don’t fall out of your mouth as you eat them, and unlike cookies, their soft texture means that nobody can hear you eat. This means that you can eat them at your library desk without drawing attention to yourself. This recipe contains no refined sugar, although you can add a little sugar to the honey to give the flapjacks a sweeter kick. Although a healthier sweetener, honey can lose its sugary potency when used in cooking. Porridge oats have a low GI so they release their energy slowly unlike the flour used in cakes. This means that you’re more likely to keep studying for longer. At the end of last term I was on two batches of these per week. Make them before you go to bed, take a couple wrapped in foil to the library with you the next day and eat them during a break. The texture is soft, and the addition of the apple flavour lightens the stodgy flavour of the oats. The sugar in the raisins at the top of the flapjack can caramelise giving a lovely burnt flavour. These are a real win.

Ingredients: Porridge oats Clear honey Sugar (optional) Salted butter A large apple – preferably a braeburn A handful of mixed nuts and raisins Other options: a handful of desiccated coconut, sultanas, or walnuts

The Experiment. Beetroot and Peach Power Smoothies Hana Teraie-Wood


his experiment wasn’t a particularly successful one. The idea was to replace expensive berries with cheaper ingredients in order to create student-budget smoothies. Having experimented with two new recipes, I have decided that the formula of berries, bananas and yoghurt should not be tampered with. Do try at your peril.

The method: 1. Pre-heat the oven to 180/200 degrees, depending on how powerful your oven is. 2. Melt half a pack of butter on a low heat in a medium sized pan. 3. Stir in five tablespoons of clear honey, or however much you like to your taste. Substitute some of the honey with a tablespoon or so of sugar if you want your flapjacks to have a sweeter hit. 4. Take the pan off the heat and pour in the oats. 5. Grate ¾ of the apple with its skin into the pan. Chop the remaining quarter into little chunks and add to the pan, along with your choice of little extras. I suggest adding mixed nuts and raisins. Mix. 6. Pour the mixture into a baking tin and even out with a fork. 7. Cook in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown. 8. Leave to cool for an hour or overnight, then cut into squares and store in a Tupperware. They should last a week.

Peach and banana smoothie: A few slices of tinned peach (in fruit juice) Half a banana 4/5 tbsp natural yoghurt Dessert spoon of desiccated coconut About 200ml apple and mango juice/any fruit juice


The Review. Oshibi


he independent restaurant scene in York is a thriving body of fantastic eateries that the city should be proud of, and every student should make an effort to sample their offerings. The one thing it has been missing is good Asian cuisine and in particular: sushi. This is what I thought until the staff at Oshibi catered a ‘Taste of Korea’ event at James College. Oshibi serve up fantastic Korean food from their tiny bistro countered restaurant on Goodramgate ( just inside Monkbar, blink and you’ll miss it). The star attraction is probably Korean sushi, made fresh each day and great value for money. We ordered a small selection platter and enjoyed fresh scallop, salmon, tuna and mackerel mouthfuls, perfectly seasoned and presented. Because you’re ordering from the chefs, you can tailor your platter to whatever your tastes are, and they’re perfectly happy to put a selection together for you. Don’t limit your trip to sushi though, the hot food is wholesome, healthy and clearly prepared with time and care. We tucked into a ramen style noodle soup and beef bulgogi (tender strips spiced and marinated). Not only is the flavour outstanding, but the dishes are served with vegetables and sides as standard – the bulgogi featured rice, broccoli, car-

Richard Rhodes


Address: 5a Goodramgate Price Range: £5- £10

rot, kimchee and soy beans. All this: a small sushi platter, ramen and bulgogi (plus a couple of cokes) all came to about £16, which is incredible value given that you get a whole balanced meal and extras. The restaurant itself is tiny, with only a few tables, but has a casual, relaxing feel, with

minimal furniture and some minimalist artwork adorning the white walls. You’d struggle to get a couple of big groups in though. What’s more, it closes at 6pm, so is ruled out of the dinner market. You do, however, get excellent friendly service and advice on your choices from the people who made the menu, plus seasonal goodies (we were offered a wild garlic special from stock they’d just brought in). They also do external catering and sushi demonstrations, and are willing to talk about evening bookings in advance with large enough groups. While the 2-for-1 voucher can be tempting, the only way to prevent a monopoly of corner-cutting doppelganger establishments is to support your local independents. Unfortunately with businesses this size, they need a local word-of-mouth/tweet/blog buzz to survive against increasing numbers of chains popping up. Oshibi is not only better value than Wagamama or Yo Sushi! (opening soon in York), but the food is more authentic and prepared daily, on site, with fresh and seasonal ingredients. The choice is a no-brainer, so take that extra five minute walk down Goodramgate to experience real Asian cuisine.

1. Put the ingredients in a blender. 2. Blend. 3. Drink.

Beetroot Smoothie: 4/5 tbsp natural yoghurt Ready cooked beetroot Tsp clear honey About 200ml apple and mango juice/ any fruit juice




The Final Say. Americans Anonymous.

“The trouble with modern education is you never know how ignorant people are.”

Hannah Ellis-Petersen


y name is Hannah and I am an American. Well, 50 per cent of me is anyway. Up till now it’s not something I’ve ever been keen to open up about - admit you’re American and the atmosphere inevitably turns glacial; think Chris Huhne and Vicky Pryce stuck in a lift and you get the general gist. After all, it is a nation where 45 per cent of people believe in ghosts and seven per cent would commit murder for $10 million dollars. When a man meets a cow in Minnesota, he is required by law to remove his hat, and in Chicago, it is illegal to go fishing whilst wearing pyjamas - who am I to defend the indefensible? But as I sit here, drenched under the weight of more rain than you could throw a mile of hosepipe, several sprinklers and an ornamental fountain at, and with nothing but endless footage of a damp, jogging Jeremy Hunt filling the television screen, I have instead turned to my American heritage in search of a glimmer of optimism not yet marred by Murdoch. Forget novelty tumblrs (Drake with no eyebrows/ Michael Buble being stalked by a Velociraptor/ Benedict Cumberbatch as an Otter have all had their moments in the sun), it is videos of Barack Obama that are now filling those long, empty days in the library. The fact is, after all these years of shame, Obama has finally made it acceptable to be American again. No longer burdened solely with the shame of inflicting morbid obesity upon the world and electing Arnold Shwarznegger to a position of power, us closet Americans can finally come out from the shadows to show there is more to US politics than terrorism and cheeseburgers. Watching Barack slow jam the news with American chat show host Jimmy Fallon this week (a clip, by the way, you should all look up) literally gave me heart palpitations, and his rendition of an Al Green song last year rivalled the Gettysburg address in terms of rousing political spirit. Yes, politically he may be flawed, but as my hours of watching prove, there’s nothing like a little soul and sex appeal

The Nouse Crossword

to get people interested in deficit reduction. What is it about British politicians that makes them inherently so uncool in comparison? Maybe it’s a case of the grass always being greener, but put Ed Miliband next to Barack Obama and I think you will all agree that it would take more than a few pairs of rose-tinted glasses for the two to compare on any level, political or otherwise. I’m hardly suggesting we adopt the American perma-tan route, all holding hands and balloons with little substance in-between, but the fact remains that British politics is lacking in any personality at all. Simply compare Obama at the Correspondent’s Dinner to George Osborne at the GQ awards and you really have case in point. Last year, Obama, with a smile that would melt even Nadine Dorris’s icy heart, played the Lion King opening credits as his ‘birthing video’- it was smart and it was funny and it annihilated his opponents’ scaremongering in one fell swoop. On the other side of the Atlantic, George “less charisma than a tomato” Osborne made what has to go down in history as the most inappropriate joke about wanking. Never has an event room witnessed such a collective cringe. I have little advice to offer our seemingly stale politicians. I am not about to condone David Cameron confessing a similar enjoyment of Lil’Wayne post-PMQs, and Nick Clegg wouldn’t know cool if it took the form of Ed Balls and danced naked in front of him. But, as Barack has demonstrated, a little soul goes a long way. And yes, this may simply read as an ode to Obama - well, to be quite frank it is. Fuck it. He’s amazing.



1 Deliberately uncooperative (6-6) 9 Supermarket feature (5) 10 Kenyan port (7) 11 Shame (4) 12 Admonition (8) 14 Bamboozling delivery? (6) 15 Small sofa (6) 18 366 days (4,4) 20 Coloured black (4) 22 Native American — wind — helicopter (7) 23 Brother of Moses (5) 24 Polite response to thanks (5,7)

2 Southern African country, capital Maseru (7) 3 Follow the instructions (4) 4 Loud and repetitive noise (6) 5 Steeped (in) (8) 6 Play — big emotional scene (5) 7 (Of a stunt) very dangerous (5-7) 8 Carefree (5-2-5) 13 Scottish highlander’s sword (8) 16 Display of temper (7) 17 New Englander — type of bet (6) 19 I’m off! (5) 21 Brandy made from wine press residue (4)

Answers will be online at

Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

The Nouse Sudoku


1st May 2012


1st May 2012