By Ciéra Cree – Tuesday the 16th of June was when I first heard about the ‘My Language’ project and it really got me thinking. I was instantly intrigued and so many ideas raced…
By Ciéra Cree
Tuesday the 16th of June was when I first heard about the ‘My Language’ project and it really got me thinking. I was instantly intrigued and so many ideas raced into my mind; so many so that I thought that the best way for me to (ironically) use my language to convey them to you would be through the means of just writing things down.
‘We’re inviting young artists aged 5-25 to respond to the question; what does my language mean to you? This could be your own language, or that of your family, friends and community. You can respond as part of your school group, individually or with members of your household.’
Participants are able to submit their responses to this in whichever medium that they wish. From photography or a short film to poetry or artwork, this opportunity really allows people to get creative!
I have always been a creative, quote-unquote “articulate” person, so in that more singular sense language appears everywhere. It appears in the books that I read, in my ears after hearing the speech of the people and wildlife around me, and in the poems and songs that I write. It radiates from me in the ways that it radiates from all of us – both overtly as well as silently.
My language is more than just what I say or what you see. It comes in many forms, from the ways in which I choose to visually present myself and the things that I choose to say, to the ways that my mind begins its processes of internalising and perceiving the world.
A language, in my view, is constructed of many layers, meaning that although people may share a language of speech, our own personal languages still stand as being unique. Body language, boundaries and how we choose to self express. What we dislike, what we like, what media we consume with its influences and how we act. These are all aspects that, collectively, serve to assemble pieces of who we are.
My language is my identity. Well, at least a part of it. It’s my way of communicating myself as well as my thoughts and ideas to the world. Or even just the way that I have to communicate thoughts and ideas to myself, internally.
My language is as much referring to what I don’t say as to what it is that’s being said, and it also refers to the filtering that I go through to decide what will be said or left to remain as unsaid. What can be read between the lines of who I am? Does the world know who I am? Are the languages we communicate within the internal world largely different to that of the external world? To the latter question here I would say yes, although answering that is relatively subjective.
What are your thoughts on these matters? What does “your language” mean to you?
By Ciéra Cree – After recent discussions with our lovely new Vice President of AHSS, Fatima Lakhani, I discovered that the redesigned weekly newsletter includes two sections…
By Ciéra Cree
After recent discussions with our lovely new Vice President of AHSS, Fatima Lakhani, I discovered that the redesigned weekly newsletter (released on Mondays) includes two sections for students and ex-students to discuss their experiences as well as to potentially share their work.
Since this opportunity is new, it isn’t particularly well known, so it would be amazing to see word of its existence shared around the faculty, and to have some submissions for the sections come in via the relevant email contacts (see end of article).
To follow below are details about the two sections, as well as examples and information regarding how you could get involved.
The first section that students can contribute to is the ‘Spotlight’ segment. The intention for this is for it to be a weekly feature starring someone within the AHSS Faculty alongside either a blog post detailing a bit about the person, their ARU experience and why they chose to be on the course which they are on or, alternatively, it can be used to showcase some of their creative work.
If writing a blog post sounds appealing to you, the newsletter is seeking text of around half a page in length which shall be accompanied by a head shot and details of what course you are taking (as well as your year of study).
However, if you would prefer to contribute an open studio/stage concept to showcase your work, the length that the newsletter organisers are looking for is a video with the duration of 5-8 minutes. The video would be hyperlinked in the segment, accompanying your head shot and a short written bio.
The second section available for AHSS students to submit to is the ‘Inspire’ segment. Unlike the ‘Spotlight’ segment, this feature won’t necessarily make an appearance every week.
This is a space for ex-students of the faculty to blog their experience about life after graduating, opportunities that have come their way beyond studies and to talk about how they got to be where they are now. Current students are also welcome to provide content for this segment too which could mention topics such as obstacles that they have overcome and if they have gained awards or commissioned work while studying.
For this section, the newsletter is seeking 3-4 short paragraphs of text to be published with your course information and a head shot.
I would personally encourage anyone to contribute to these sections. As part of AHSS myself (Media (BA Hons), Year 2), I know that we work hard and that hard work and talent more than deserves to be recognised! These are two great opportunities to do just that; they are quick, simple, easy to share and would make a great addition to your CV.
By Ciéra Cree – The Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care (FHEMS) Arts and Well-Being Research Interest Group are seeking to learn more about how staff and students…
By Ciéra Cree
The Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care (FHEMS) Arts and Well-Being Research Interest Group are seeking to learn more about how staff and students have been engaging with arts, cultural and creative activities during the lockdown period caused by COVID-19. The idea stemmed from the creative approach of the public displaying rainbows for the NHS in their windows, but in terms of this research the umbrella of “creativity” reaches far further out.
By “engaging” in these areas the research is not only referring to actively creating, for example, by drawing, writing, painting and playing instruments, but also engaging with the arts virtually through the likes of Zoom groups, watching gigs online and by taking digital gallery tours.
In regards to becoming involved, if you so wish, it is simple. There is a three-part survey available for staff and students to fill out which takes only around ten minutes to complete in total. The first part of the survey asks participants via multiple choice to select which creative activities, from a list, that they have engaged with over the lockdown period both within their households as well as online. The second part asks for some details about you such as which faculty, age group ect that you fall under as well as whether any specific COVID-19 circumstances applied to you (e.g – shielding, assisting a vulnerable person ect). And lastly there is a short set of multiple choice questions about your wellbeing.
Participants are additionally offered the opportunity to write a haiku about their lockdown experiences or feelings, and to provide an email address for contact in relation to sharing some of the projects that they have been working on in an online exhibition space.
‘We aim to capture the range of activities [that] staff and students have engaged in, the motivations behind this engagement, and the perceived impact it has had. We are also inviting photos of your artwork/creations to be put into a virtual exhibition as well as an exhibition on campus when it is safe to do so.’
– ARU Researchers
The research group intends to send out a follow-up survey in six months time in order to track shifts in the creative engagement of people after this time has (hopefully) passed or, at least, progressed. If participants would like to elaborate on their responses to anything within the survey via an interview, or if you have any further questions about the project in general, please get in touch with Dr Ceri Wilson at email@example.com for more information.
*Deadline for survey responses is August 16th, 2020*
Who are the researchers? : Dr Hilary Bungay, Dr Ceri Wilson, Professor Carol Munn-Giddings, Anna Dadswell and Dr Sally-Anne Francis. The wider FHEMS Arts and Well-Being Research Interest group are also advertising on the project.
By Ciéra Cree – People from across society are being invited by a group of researchers at Anglia Ruskin University to share their stories from the lockdown period caused by COVID-19…
By Ciéra Cree
People from across society are being invited by a group of researchers at Anglia Ruskin University to share their stories from the lockdown period caused by COVID-19.
The digital archive, which shall be known as ‘Life During Covid’, is being compiled by Dr Ceri Wilson, alongside Dr Pauline Lane, Rebecca Chandler and Dr Julie Teatheredge. This project has been funded by the Anglia Ruskin University Research and Innovation Support Fund and is operating as an extension of StoryLab’s initiative ‘The Frontline’, where stories of frontline workers during the pandemic have additionally been collected. Both of these archives will result in the production of insightful historical compilations that can be looked back on in the years to come.
“We are living in unprecedented times and everyone is trying to overcome their own challenges during this global pandemic.It is a time of reduced social contact, of isolation and concern, but there will also be positive stories that have come out of lockdown too.”
– ARU Researchers
The appeal is specifically seeking to hear stories from certain groups of people to remain in line with work paralleling the efforts of ARU’s Positive Ageing Research Institute (PARI) and academics from the School of Nursing and Midwifery. Thus, the stories being sought after are namely concerning those who are shielding and over the age of 65, those who are 18+ and have been identified as ‘extremely clinically vulnerable’, parents of children identified as vulnerable, and unpaid family carers of people who are living with dementia.
If you know anyone who falls into these categories that wishes to become involved they can upload their stories, photos, artwork or videos to https://lifeduringcovid.org/. The tales uploaded there will then be published online for public viewing, and will potentially become a part of the formation of a longer audio-visual documentary reflecting on the COVID-19 period. Although the uploads shall be public and also go on to inform future research publications and presentations, none of the participants will be identified by name in any reporting of the findings.
‘We hope [that] this initiative will give vulnerable communities a voice, empowering them to share their own unique perspectives during the outbreak.’
By Ciéra Cree – In May, BBC Radio Norfolk, together with Taryn Everdeen, launched an Instagram project on the theme of ‘identity’. The project entailed taking a photo of…
By Ciéra Cree
In May, BBC Radio Norfolk, together with Taryn Everdeen, launched an Instagram project on the theme of ‘identity’. The project entailed taking a photo of yourself surrounded by items that link to who you are. This photo would then be posted onto their social media along with a one minute voice over discussing the photo.
As soon as I heard about this project I was keen to get involved. I enjoy participating in projects anyway but there was something particularly intriguing about trying to capture an identity within a single image. It was also interesting to see a project like this taking to Instagram and I really liked how the one minute length would perfectly suit the platform.
Quite a few ideas raced around my head initially before taking any photographs. I wanted to make my photo visually appealing and clever but at the same time I didn’t want to make it seem overly constructed to the point that it would detract from the main point of the task itself. This project isn’t about taking a perfect photo, it’s about taking one that captures your identity, and as humans we are all flawed.
Eventually I decided to take my photo laying down to reflect my “grounded” nature as well as the fact that I often dream. I surrounded myself with a number of items including some of my favourite novels, an anthology of love poetry that I’ve been published in, some philosophy books, a camera, a pair of binoculars, a scented candle, and some handwritten letters.
When shooting photos for this it took a little while to figure out the best way to go about it and the right way to space the items within the frame. At first I placed objects around my entire body but this proved to work less effectively than placing them closer together. In my final version the image is more zoomed in and I decided to add in a thought bubble which says the word ‘dreams’ to more fluently connect to the fact that my eyes are shut as I’m laying there dreaming.
After the photoshoot was over I went home to record the one minute audio accompaniment for the image. I scripted up what I planned to say before taking the photos as writing it prior to the shoot helped me to visualise how I wanted my identity portrayal to look. In a way a minute is a long time in regards to how many words you can script but, when undertaking this project, I quickly realised that I had to be somewhat concise as there’s so much that can be said about ‘identity’. My final dialogue came out as follows:
‘Hi, I’m Ciéra. I’m 20 years old and live in a quiet little village called Beeston. I’m a person with unapologetic passion and an unending trail of ideas. From poetry and photography to singing, songwriting and writing articles, the desire to create within me will never die. I think a lot, especially philosophically, and I feel a lot too. At times these depths are my enemy but as I’ve grown older I have started to learn how to embrace them as my own. I have an affinity for old fashioned things such as handwritten letters and vintage dresses, and an incredible sense of adoration for the sky. I do my best to be a grateful person and appreciate each moment as much as possible, although it isn’t always easy. My heart is soft, I love hugs and giggle way too much, and I dream nearly every night. Who knows, maybe you will appear in one someday.’
I did my best to think about small details within the piece. For example, the blue book next to me called ‘The Sky Is Everywhere’ is not only a favourite book of mine, but it also linked well to where my audio accompaniment mentioned that I have ‘an incredible sense of adoration for the sky’.
My advice to anyone who is potentially interested in a project like this is to think about what you’re going to do but to simultaneously try not to overthink it. When you ponder your identity what are the first thoughts and ideas that come to mind? What resonates with you?
For more details on the project and to view people’s submissions visit @norfolkthesocial
By Ciéra Cree – Shortly after returning home on the 29th of March, I came up with an idea to create a zine. At first, I reached out for submissions on the ARU Together…
By Ciéra Cree
Shortly after returning home on the 29th of March, I came up with an idea to create a zine.
At first, I reached out for submissions on the ARU Together Facebook group without thinking too much about it. The intention was to gauge the interest of students who would like to see their poetry, photographs, and artwork, published in a small, one-time community zine, and then to proceed to gather the content.
A few months later, I launched the #ARUnity hashtag asking students and staff members to share their memorable moments from university this year. And while I thought that these would both prove to be positive initiatives, the idea of incorporating the hashtag into the zine fell into place shortly thereafter.
“This year at ARU, I loved The Ruskin Journal and the Creative Writing Society’s Open Mic Night. It was so lovely to see everyone come together and we all had so much fun! #ARUnity”
Gabs Bennington (2019/20 Treasurer – The Ruskin Journal)
You may have seen the #ARUnity hashtag floating around on the Journal’s social media, or you may have messaged me a moment yourself – many of you did! I’ve included some examples at the end of this post.
The ARU Unity Zine contains a wide assortment of creative pieces from a variety of talented people, as well as all of the hashtag moments from the #ARUnity campaign. From poetry and photography to paintings and more, the zine features little bursts of thought-provoking material that I feel privileged to have chosen for this project.
I have never made a zine before, I am not a graphic designer, and due to the pandemic, I had limited resources. It was tricky at times, and I don’t recommend that you use Google Docs for things like this, but in a way, the difficulties I encountered made doing this feel all the more rewarding to me.
One of my favourite parts about this project, aside from seeing everything come together, was the fact that it wasn’t just students from ARU that got involved. Among its many contributors we have friends, friends-of-friends, people from other universities including Fine Art student Loti Armstrong from London’s Central Saint Martins, and even writers living in other countries such as Anushka Dey from India, and Tiago Ramos from Portugal! I am proud to have done my bit to further encapsulate the theme of unity in this way.
So here it is, the ARU Unity Zine! Thanks to everybody who took part and I hope that those who pick it up will enjoy it too.
By Ciéra Cree – Ashley Potter is a 29-year-old art teacher of two years living in Rhode Island, USA. She teaches Kindergarten through to the fifth grade…
By Ciéra Cree
Ashley Potter is a 29-year-old art teacher living in Rhode Island, USA. She teaches students from Kindergarten through to the fifth grade, which would equate to teaching children between the ages of five and eleven in the UK.
She and I have been friends for many years; initially conversing as pen pals, and then as friends through social media as it meant we could talk on a more frequent basis. Recently, I decided to hold a conversation with her about her teaching career so far, including some of the highs, the lows, and the funniest moments along the way.
Today, I will be sharing some of that conversation with you.
Was becoming an art teacher always something you planned or wanted to do?
“Eight-year-old Ashley wanted desperately to be an art teacher, and somewhere along the line, I decided to get my bachelor’s degree in just Studio Art, rather than Art Education.”
“When I realized I actually wanted to be an art teacher in 2013, after graduating with my Bachelor’s, I started to see that decision as a mistake, because I felt like I wasted time working at a big box retail store, doing work I hated. I was living in this apartment far away from home, working 40-hour weeks in a management position, doing inventory and stocking shelves.”
“In my mind at the time, I was wasting time, but after I went back to school to pursue my Master’s in Teaching in Art Education, I realized that a lot of the skills I learned as a manager translated into skills I needed in the classroom that needed developing.”
“I think it’s interesting how we end up on these journeys that we don’t think are helping us, that end up connecting in the end. I had major problems with classroom management at first, because teaching is a lot harder than it looks, and in my second year of pursuing my Master’s, I had so much doubt about what I was doing that I didn’t even know if I should continue. There was a moment right after that, where things started to click, and I realized this was a job I was built for, I just needed to press on.”
What are the best parts of your job?
“What’s cool about doing what you love is every day when I wake up, I am able to go to do something that I love. It doesn’t feel like work at all. I get to make jokes and be silly, and still help kids think critically about the world around them and help them build skills I know they’ll use as adults. It’s not just about building art skills, it’s about helping small people grow and learn social skills they need to be successful.”
“It is almost impossible for me to have a bad day at work, and if I do, it’s always counteracted by a student doing something that warms my heart. I remember one day I went into school and my anxiety was through the roof for whatever reason. I sat at my desk and took out my computer to check my plans for the day and a first grader cautiously knocked on my door because I think they could tell I wasn’t in a great mood from my body language. I tried to grin, and I asked the student if they needed anything, and they came up to me and told me they made me something over the weekend. They handed me a plastic bag with a paper snowflake in it. After expressing my enthusiasm, I thanked them, and they left the art room beaming. I remembered thinking ‘okay, universe, I got the message.’ And I was able to let my anxiety go by breathing through it.”
What are your least favourite parts about your job?
“I hate learning that a child is suffering or doesn’t have things they need. It genuinely bothers me, but I have no control over the situation as their art teacher. I have to just be there for them however I can.”
Any particularly funny memorable moments? Any disasters?
“There was a moment I mentioned to someone recently, about meeting a new student from another country who was an English Language Learner. I have never seen a child look more terrified and confused because this child literally knew no English.”
“I remember I took note of it, and I practised a bit to learn some Spanish so I could help. The next class, I was able to tell the student to get more water on their paintbrush in the language they knew best, and their face lit up. It was one of my favourite moments.”
“I had a bit of a disaster once while letting kids use drawing chalk. The art room looked horrific. I had warned students against blowing chalk dust at others, and I had to tell one student to get in line and end their art class early because they kept doing it anyway. What is funny about teaching situations like that is that sometimes certain lessons work with certain groups of students and not with others.”
What would you say to anyone out there wanting to work with kids?
“All children really need is patience. I think it’s best to remember that sometimes children’s problems seem small to an adult, but they may be the largest problem a child has had to deal with in their life so far.”
“I’ve had students get anxiety about things I thought were silly, or argued about crayons, but they need to be able to work through these small problems so they can deal with larger problems when they’re older.”
Any final comments, thoughts or messages?
“Teaching is a very rewarding job and I highly recommend it to anyone looking into it.”
By Grace Martin – Has Brexit left a bitter taste for the coffee shop industry? At long last, the government has come together to create a new immigration system…
By Grace Martin
At last, the government has come together to propose a new post-Brexit immigration system long-touted by Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. After the country officially ‘left’ the EU on the 31st of January, the effects of Brexit have, so far, been rather muted thanks to the transition period within which we currently stand. And while the government continues to propose legislation to prop-up their vision of the future for the country, there are those in the hospitality industry – such as myself – that believe that Brexit poses an imminent threat to the humble coffee shop.
A Brief History
The historical relevance of coffee consumption can be tracked alongside the history of foreign influence within our society. From it’s Turkish origins, the ‘coffee house’ has become an essential component of British life. Historically, it’s created spaces for both the middle- and upper-classes to gather and discuss literature, hold intellectual debates, talk politics, and consume the finest liquor imported from the Middle East.
The first documented coffee-house – the ‘Pasqua Rosee’ – opened in London, 1652. King Charles II (b. 1630, r. 1660 – 1685) once banned the coffee-house, believing it to be a place of political gossip and rebelliousness after the Restoration. However, this decree was practically unenforceable, so by the late 1600s and early 1700s, there were as many as 3,000 coffee houses in London alone.
This growth of ‘coffee-house culture’ contributes to our understanding of Britain’s larger ethnic, social and commercial history. ‘Coffee-house culture’ led to the emergence of new political philosophers, and provided a space for those more socially-inclined to reflect on the world around them – as did Samuel Pephys, famous for his memoirs (1659 – 1669).
The coffee-house quickly became ingrained within our society, and while present-day coffee shops may not resemble those of history, I believe that they do maintain many of the elements historically associated with them. Even today, people gather to discuss their bright ideas, the important issues of the day, or just what’s been happening in their own lives. Though we live in an age of democracy, so we’re allowed to.
Why is ‘Coffee-House Culture’ Relevant to Brexit?
In a word – immigration.
On the 19th of February, the government proposed a new points-based immigration system that’s similar to those used by the likes of Australia, Canada and the United States. It’s expected to come into operation from January 2021, though the reforms will sweep away some of the existing rights that EU nationals currently have when working in the UK. Some date back to January 1973, the month when the UK joined the European Economic Community.
While there will be a number of different processes to go through depending on where the person might be emigrating from, the nine main requirements for skilled workers, under this new system, will require every applicant to score a total of 70 points to be able to successfully emigrate to the UK.
The British Coffee Association (the BCA) estimates that 95 million cups of coffee are consumed per-day in the UK, which is a huge increase from their 2008 calculations that estimated a figure of around 70 million cups. Additionally, the BCA estimates that the coffee industry ‘creates approximately 210,000‘ jobs, 160,000 of which are known as ‘registered baristas’. As a result, the BCA will work with the government to ‘ensure a smooth transition [for] all its members on behalf of the industry’.
However, experts believe that the so-called ‘Barista-Visa‘ will hit hardest for the three major coffee chains in the UK, those being: Starbucks, Cafe Nero and Costa Coffee. This is because the Barista-Visa would only help those deemed to be a ‘very low-skilled worker’, despite the fact that many hospitality-related positions require relatively high-skilled workers to fill them. That, and all three of these companies rely on a workforce that KPMG believes consists of 12.3 to 23.7% EU nationals. Costa Coffee themselves believe that approximately 20% of their workforce are not ethnically British.
And that’s to say nothing of the potential impact on the price of the coffee bean with the proposed import taxes, or of the current shortfall of more than 40,000 baristas that, experts claim, will be exasperated by Brexit going forward.
And what about the smaller chains like Signorelli’s Deli here in Cambridge? Could they be impacted by the new immigration system or the proposed Barista-Visa? Colloquially, I believe so.
Why Does This Matter?
In my opinion, the concern should be focused on smaller, independent businesses and chains that are most at risk from the additional import taxes brought on by Brexit. We should also be concerned with how this newly-minted immigration system might impact the barista workforce, whether that be new applicants or members of the existing workforce.
I’m also concerned about whether we’re relying too heavily on large multinational chains from whom we purchase our coffee. I’m concerned about the local coffee shops who are having to compete with these businesses who can afford to undercut them. And I’m concerned that, with this reliance, comes a dampening of the slightly bohemian image cultivated by the coffee-house over the last 368 years.
And I’m also concerned about what the future holds for coffee shops in general. With the advent of personal coffee machines that boast about their café-quality coffee, what room will there be for the humble coffee shop in the future? I personally believe that coffee is best enjoyed socially, although this is an issue that could be its own article.
With the potential for disruption ever-present, it would be beneficial to see more students filling in the gaps by taking on part-time roles alongside their studies. As an MA student, and a part-time barista myself, I want to open the minds of students reading this to look into the possibility of joining the trade. Coffee shops are an important staple of the high-street, and an important pillar of the wider economy. So despite the trials that might lie ahead for the industry, I would encourage students to try to fill-in that 40,000 worker shortfall, as previously mentioned.
In my experience, most coffee shops offer flexible working hours, respectable wages, and provide a means of socialising, whether it be with other team members, or regular customers. So, when this COVID-19 crisis has abated, why not give it some thought?
By Ciéra Cree & Joshua Dowding – On Friday 21st February, both The Ruskin Journal and the Creative Writing Society co-hosted an open mic event as part of LGBTQ+ History Month…
By Ciéra Cree & Joshua Dowding
On Friday 21st February, both The Ruskin Journal and the Creative Writing Society co-hosted an open mic event as part of LGBTQ+ History Month. For those of you that couldn’t attend, the event took place between 7 o’clock and 10 o’clock in The Academy hall on Cambridge campus.
The theme for this year’s LGBTQ+ History Month was ‘poetry, prose and playwrights’ – something that both of our societies know something about and saw as an opportunity to work together to bring an event to life.
“The open mic was open to all, it felt really inclusive to the diverse students that were able to showcase their talent in a safe space with safe people.”
Gabs Bennington, The Ruskin Journal & Attendee
Creating a space where people could share their passions, and feel accepted for who they are, was very important to us. The Students’ Union had decorated The Academy with various flags and accoutrements baring the symbols of the movement we sought to represent. And all throughout the planning stages of the event, something about this night felt special to us.
Each table a copy of The Ruskin Journal’s latest annual, as well as an assortment of snacks, and a variety of sexual health packs put together by Amanda Campbell, AHSS Vice President, as part of her ‘Best Night Out’ campaign. We’re told at least a few of them went!
“It’s a safe space, a small nook in Cambridge which attracted vibrant diverse people and reminded them that they have a place in the world.”
Shania Perera, Performer
At 7 o’clock, people started to fill the room. While some mingled, others took their seats. It was exciting to watch the event slowly come to life as more and more people turned up at the doors, poking their heads in first before their bodies joined them shortly after. And before too long, The Academy was nearly full – incredible, we thought. If only we’d started on time!
It took until around quarter to 8 before the flow of people began to ease and the audience took their seats. But eventually, Merika and Ciera took to the stage to kick off the night in earnest with a short speech that went like this:
Thank you for coming along to our event, since planning for this started, we’ve all been very excited to see it unfold. We’re proud to be showing a unity not only between our two societies tonight but also one between us here together, supporting and accepting each other.
We hope that you leave this room feeling happy, comfortable and most importantly like you belong. No one should be made to feel that they aren’t accepted or allowed to be who they are.
We, first before anything, would like to thank you for taking the time to be here in support of your fellow friends and students. Our university holds such a beautiful diversity of cultures, ideas and beliefs, some of which we’re here to celebrate right now.
The night saw a total of 19 performances take place ranging from beautiful spoken word to poetry, from music to rap, and even some acapella performances to boot. Pieces like Shania Perera’s ‘A Distracted Physicist’, to Freddy’s infamous bars that got everyone joining in, to a glorious rendition of ‘Hallelujah’ by Ronnie to cap off the evening in style.
For the record, we have included a complete list of the night’s performances below:
(we’re sorry, we didn’t catch your name!) – 21:45 PM – Poem
Ronnie – 21:54 PM – Music (‘Hallelujah’ – Jeff Buckley)
After all was said and done, Merika Tencati took to the stage once again to thank everyone for making the event a night to remember. Sentiment was expressed, events were plugged, and the night drew neatly to a close – and what an incredible night it was.
“It was a great collaboration between Creative Writing, Ruskin Journal and the Students Union. I had a lot of fun and was happy to see so many students and staff supporting the LGBTQ+ community.”
Merika Tencati, Creative Writing Society & Co-Host
We would like to thank everyone who came to this, our inaugural open mic event, and thank you to the people who helped us make it all possible. We’ll see you at the next one!
By Maria Cristina-Ionita – What if I told you that Valentine’s Day is a commemoration of a martyr? According to history, the Catholic Church celebrates three martyrs with…
By Maria Cristina-Ionita
What if I told you that Valentine’s Day is a commemoration of a martyr?
According to history, the Catholic Church celebrates three martyrs with the name ‘Valentine’. One of them was a priest who defied Emperor Claudius II by performing marriages in secret since the Emperor had decided that single men were better soldiers and banned his men from marrying their lovers. When Claudius found out, he had the priest killed. Others believe that the celebration is reserved for yet another man named ‘Valentine’, a bishop beheaded by the same Emperor at a different time. Not so much of a romance story so far, but certainly one of bravery and kindness.
Another story states that ‘Valentine’ was helping the Christians to escape Roman jails as the prisoners were tortured and killed for their beliefs. He ended up being jailed himself, though he fell in love with a lady – believed to be the jailor’s daughter (a bit of a cliché if you ask me) – but before he was executed, he offered her a letter (a card, if you will) signed ‘From your Valentine’ and this is where the phrase supposedly comes from.
Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike romance or the idea of love, but I do believe that Valentine’s Day has lost its meaning. Today, when we talk about relationships, we all have our own values and experiences, but somehow with all this love, we forget to love the most important person – us. Some people feel like they should constantly be in a relationship to feel appreciated, or to enjoy life. We associate being single with loneliness – they’re not the same thing. Let’s change this perspective and remind ourselves that we are already whole as a person. We don’t need to be with someone, we choose to be! As Chiddera Eggerue – my favourite boss lady – once said ‘we are sold romance and relationships as though they are the ‘ultimate goal’. But your own company, with yourself, is just as valuable.’
As Valentine’s Day approaches, I feel this tension in the air as I am expected to celebrate it with somebody else – and I will: with myself. I am going to buy myself a huge bouquet of flowers and go out with my other single ladies. We are going to praise all sorts of love: self-love, friendships, kindness and devotion.
By Ciéra Cree – On Wednesday 4th of December, first-year students taking the Media Studies course were invited on their first university field trip – a day that played out to be both exciting and memorable for many reasons…
By Ciéra Cree
On Wednesday 4th of December, first-year students taking the Media Studies course were invited on their first university field trip – a day that played out to be both exciting and memorable for many reasons.
During class when the trip was announced, we were told where to collect our train tickets and what the trip would entail. The plan was to visit two exhibitions in London – one by Nam June Paik held at the Tate Modern, and the other being a ‘multimedia show’ taking place at the Store in Temple. We agreed to meet-up by the train station’s Christmas Tree before setting off on our journey.
The fact that it was the festive season made this little adventure all the more enticing to me – who wouldn’t want to see the pretty lights adorning London streets? I was excited to see the exhibitions too! ‘Media’ covers such a wide spectrum of topics, so it’s difficult to gauge what to expect from an exhibition about a subject so broad. Because of this, I was very interested to see what was yet to unfold.
At 10:15 AM, our train started up and we were on our way to London. Our journey there was relatively quiet and the train itself wasn’t too busy, at least not around where I was sitting. There was a low hum of chatter, some people reading, others on their laptops working, and the occasional person addictively looking down at their phone. Coming from a small village without public transport meant I hadn’t actually been on that many trains before. This was something rather amusing to think about while looking out of the window. I don’t mind trains, not particularly, but the ones that go really fast can be a bit…disconcerting.
Our first stop was Kings Cross to meet with Neil, Deputy Head for Film and Media, so he could join us on the final leg of the ride. After that, we all boarded another train bound for central London. The journey from Cambridge wasn’t excessively long – it’s a doable trip that’s definitely worth taking for students who want to go exploring in the city.
Nam June Paik Exhibition
At 12:30 PM, we arrived in London and made our way over to the Tate together to have a look around. It was exciting to see the doorway into the exhibition without knowing what was next. We could see a bit through the entrance while we waited, but there was so much more to follow.
The walls of the exhibition space were both a pale cream and white partnered with wooden flooring. It really helped to enhance the space of the room – the minimalistic choice ensured that the pieces remained a viewer’s undistracted focus throughout their stay.
Something I quickly noticed and appreciated, was the range of exhibits on show – evident due to Media’s broad nature. There were metaphorical pieces, symbolic pieces and literal pieces. Pieces that worked on their own and others that worked collectively. Pieces which were physically there in front of us and others that were both digital and interactive. Some rooms had screens with the lights out, while others were standing out in the open. There was something here to cater to everyone’s tastes.
One of the more popular exhibits in the Nam June Paik exhibition was the silhouette screen which projected coloured images of the subject in front of it onto the adjacent wall. It was fun to move around, experiment with the projection, layer colours on top of one another, and to see how the projections changed depending on the proximity of the screen to the subject.
In the same room, there were some other thought-provoking exhibits: the first of which being two life-sized humanoid figures made out of old radios and TVs. Visually they were appealing regardless of further inferences, they were well-produced and very innovative, but it’s always interesting to delve into the thoughts of what something could symbolise beyond the surface. Could they be representative of how television or the media, in general, infiltrate people’s minds and become an inescapable part of them? Could they be a way of showing how people’s thoughts and lives, similarly to that of a TV or radio show, are something that others can “tune into” at their leisure? Or perhaps it may be a metaphorical way of showing how we broadcast certain aspects of ourselves – only the aspects that we want others to see.
When I looked closer at the expressions of the two characters, on the female figure I noticed some marks that looked like tears under their eye, and that the mouth is notably sadder than that of it’s smug, male looking counterpart. Perhaps this signifies something deeper about gender disparity within the media industry?
A few paces away from the figures was a rather peculiar table. On the table was an egg sat under a lamp and by this egg were two projections of the egg. What could this be saying to us about life? How could this be applied to Media? My initial interpretation of it was that it could be displaying the simplicity of life in its beginning. The world is stagnant when nothing has occurred. We aren’t aware of others or our surroundings, and for all that we know, we could be alone. That feeling, in relation to the projected eggs, is illusionary.
As for my thoughts on this in regards to Media, the lamp was the key to deciphering my meaning. Media so often puts people under the spotlight, presenting them to us as being “real” and “perfect” (what Richard Dyer would deem as “stars”). We idolise them and put them under our own spotlights, causing ourselves to feel faded and unable to shine as bright, like the projections, in comparison. We forget that these people aren’t real, they themselves may forget that the persona they show isn’t who they are, so the projected illusionary eggs around them could also be interpreted as versions of their former selves, to whom they have grown detached.
My favourite piece from Nam June Paik, however, had to be the Television Garden which, as the title suggests, was a garden filled with TVs. The television screens were synchronised, sat in a dark room, showing the same images simultaneously in a loop among the leaves. It was one of the first things I approached when walking into the exhibition as it immediately intrigued me and appealed to my love of metaphors.
‘The Nam June Paik exhibition was an interesting walk through another person’s view on TV, audio and Media. His artwork maybe didn’t make sense at times, but it was more about our interpretation of his thoughts, work and presentation. My favourite was the TV garden.’ – Elizabete Sipko
What could a garden filled with televisions mean? Well, it can mean a number of things, whatever your heart desires in fact. Off the bat it serves as a great juxtaposition between nature and technology – it could be showing how the natural world today has become less appealing to people, and how instead of being surrounded by greenery that people would rather be immersed in a TV show. Or perhaps it could be illustrating how media sources demand our attention regardless of where we are, making it difficult to disconnect and be present in the real world. Or maybe there’s a more ecological message being pushed, and it’s a cry out for the environment. Some food for thought – does the garden have to mean a literal garden, or could it be representative of something else?
Nam June Paik, as I’ve mentioned, was presented to us in a minimal style. Artefacts were well spaced out under their natural lighting for us to see or from within their darkroom. The second exhibition we attended however carried an entirely different, more modernised vibe.
‘I thought the trip was really fun and I liked that we were shown different exhibitions. I was able to learn about different artists that I’ll definitely look more into. The Nam June Paik exhibition especially made me think about the ways you can mix different mediums as an artist, and I think this is something that could inspire my work in the future.’ – Sara Roberto
Store in Temple Exhibition
After a lunch break on the South Bank, we made our way to the multimedia show at the Store in Temple. This exhibition was divided by corridors and curtains which not only helped to build up a sort of anticipation for each exhibit, but to also give our minds a moment to clear before heading on to see what was next.
Each room seemed to have a predominant colour theme that starkly contrasted with the ones immediately before it. There were lots of coloured lights and screens flickering through montages of images. My favourite place inside this exhibition was in a room where the walls were made up entirely of mirrors and screens playing videos. These videos varied: some were just patterns whereas others had narrators speaking profound messages. One of these profound messages was spoken while a man was shown on a beach looking out to the sea, which, to me, really stood out among the rest of the exhibition.
The multimedia show was a colourful and fun experience, but to me, it wasn’t as impactful or thought-provoking as Nam June Paik. The artwork was appealing and trendy, which I appreciated, but as someone who likes to think, the first exhibition was preferred. However, I would still definitely go back to this exhibition again given the chance – it was visually spectacular.
‘I really enjoyed the trip and thought that the artwork was really interesting and unique. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting! I liked the second exhibition especially as it seemed the most experimental and abstract.’ – Lorenzo Barba
Marian Goodwin Gallery
To our surprise, we ended up going to a third exhibition – Nan Goldin at the Marian Goodwin Gallery – which was free and not too far away. This third one seemed to be very ‘people focused’ and often over-sexualising, though I feel it was trying to communicate something about femininity or the concept of beauty itself. Wall displays showed photos of people in drag attire, people attending pageants, and others that were entirely naked. There were also some rooms showing videos, one of which I remember was rather vivacious, and another where a woman was shown celebrating her birthday and reflecting on her younger years. The link between age and beauty can be made here, as well as the fact that women are often sexualised within the media.
Among all this upstairs was a room made up of pastel landscape paintings which I thought were beautiful despite seeming out of place. The room was so calm and spacious, and the paintings held an enormity of depth to them. They were by far my favourite part of the exhibition.
As we made our way out of the building, down Oxford Street and back to the packed train station where we struggled back on board our train, I sat and thought about the day gone by. It had been lovely, not just as an experience, but as an opportunity to spend time with people from the course without being in a classroom environment.
‘The trip to London was not only great fun but also a great insight into different types of art that is shown within multiple galleries. Also, who could forget about the guy on the tannoy in the underground during rush hour – that man deserves his own sold-out show.’ – Johnny Knoll
Overall it was fun, interesting, and a day that I am grateful for.
By Elle Haywood – The 27th of January each year marks Holocaust Memorial Day across the world, which is the liberation of notorious concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Institutions across the UK recognise this memorial and pay tribute through…
By Elle Haywood
My experience as an ambassador for the Holocaust Education Trust, and the importance of Holocaust Memorial Day.
The 27th of January each year marks Holocaust Memorial Day across the world, which is the liberation of notorious concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Institutions across the UK recognise this memorial and pay tribute through events, activities and talks in remembrance of those who lost their lives during the holocaust from the period of 1933 – 1945. It is also a time to talk about the atrocities that occurred during this time in history, and to ensure that genocide of this scale never happens again. The holocaust, also known as Sho’ah and Huban, was the systematic extermination by Nazi Germany and its collaborators of over 6 million Jewish people by cremation, firing squad and gas chambers. This religious and political anti-Semitism is rooted in the ideology that the Jewish race was evil and trying to take over the world, which was fuelled by Adolf Hitler and his belief in total annihilation. This barbaric act of state-supported genocide continued beyond the end of World War Two until the liberation of camps by the allies in the mid 20th century. A detailed history of the event can be read here: https://www.britannica.com/event/Holocaust
In 2014, I was elected by my sixth form to be an ambassador for the Holocaust Education Trust as part of the Lessons from Auschwitz programme. The aims of HET are to educate young people across the UK about the holocaust and how the lessons learnt from it are relevant in today’s society. The foundation was formed in 1988 and it trains teachers and students within various programmes, whilst also providing a platform for Holocaust survivors to work with UK media and parliament in continuing the discussion of their experiences. On the LFA programme, I attended a training day in central London with many other students to be fully educated on the subject and trained in how to bring these messages back to the school to teach other students. We were also able to meet with one of the survivors, Susan Pollack, who was sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944. She spoke to us about her time in the camps and why she works with the trust.
Susan was one of the most inspiring individuals I have ever encountered. Her ability to carry on after all that she had endured and her determination to help others who had survived the camps left me in awe. She faced severe antisemitism during her life in Hungary before the camps, and lost over 50 relatives during WWII to antisemitism laws. Her bravery in telling us her story allowed us to pass on her messages of hope and to keep a promise of making sure that the memories of her and her family pass on to future generations. We must do all that we can to continue informing others in order to best assist the prevention of history repeating itself.
The next stage was a visit to the old Jewish village of Krakow, Auschwitz One, Auschwitz-Birkenau. My experience there will haunt me for the rest of my life. Both of the camps were an endless barren wasteland of barbed wire, crumbling shacks and the remains of the incineration chambers. Walking around reminded me of a prison, but one that would have been filled with people who had committed no crimes but of their religion, ethnicity and heritage; who had suffered at the hands of hatred and evil. The camps held rooms filled with pictures of those who had lived there, as well as all of their possessions. From a mountain of hair still tied up with the ribbons of young girls, to the piles of glasses and watches of the elderly who knew that this was the end of the road. To this day I still think about the room filled purely with the shoes of every person who walked those very halls, but unlike myself, did not get to walk out again. It is something that we as a society should think about every now and again, how simple it is to take off our shoes when we get home before then being warmly greeted by our friends and family. We get to put back on those shoes and continue with our lives, whereas so many people would never get to put theirs on again.
The concentration camps epitomise a literal hell on Earth. The empty gas chamber sent me into a cold sweat, being in the confined stone room of which those four walls were the final sight that millions of people saw before their last breath. There is no comprehension of the fear that they felt, and that this damnation was due to no fault of their own. In threadbare pyjamas, starving and with certain death staring them in the face, it’s a situation no human should ever have to endure. The incineration pits held the ashes of so many individuals who had a background and a story; a family and a life. Yet within a few short moments, they were reduced to dust in the air. Their stories deserve to be told, their lives deserve to be remembered and it is our responsibility to honour their memories.
As the evening drew to a close, we lit candles on the train tracks at the end of the camps near the mass burial sites. Each candle represented a life lost and the light of their memory living on. This simple light repelled the darkness of this cruel place and was a message of renewed hope that everyone there shared.
The holocaust was over 70 years ago, and unfortunately, there are still so many traces of antisemitism, homophobia, xenophobia and racism in our world. It is down to us and our leaders to fight against these acts of hatred. We are not born into this world hating others, and there is no place for isolation, fascism and ignorance in the 21st century. It is important to read about the genocide that took place, to feel anger at the horrors so many innocent people faced and to protect others in our lives from facing persecution such as this. We can teach others the lessons we have learnt, open our lives to inclusivity and promise to not let history repeat itself. This can be from small acts of speaking out against bullying and hate speech, to protests supporting equality and talking about history. Acceptance, tolerance and freedom are obtainable if we ensure that hope trumps hate and that we can forgive, but never forget.
By Ciéra Cree & Adam Clarke – Artists are breaking conventions more than ever before, so it’s no wonder that alternative art forms such as ‘Dada’ have risen in popularity in recent years. Prizing itself on its nonsense and irrationality…
By Ciéra Cree & Adam Clarke
Artists are breaking conventions more than ever before, so it’s no wonder that alternative art forms such as ‘Dada’ have risen in popularity in recent years. Prizing itself on its nonsense and irrationality, the art movement that’s said to have risen from the ashes of the First World War is as sporadic in its appearance as it is in its methods.
Extending across various artistic mediums, this form of self-expression seems to have no boundaries. So I’m here today to see whether I can derive any sense or logic from this eccentric art form, and I want to try to form my own artistic opinion of the movement overall by creating my own example of a ‘Dada’ art piece.
This piece was created using words and images cut out of an old newspaper. These words you see were picked out of a bag at random, hence it’s nonsensical appearance. I, alongside Adam Clarke – an art student, and the person who first introduced me to ‘Dada’ – are going to attempt to analyse the piece and provide a general overview of what we think about the art form as a whole.
Upon initial introduction to ‘Dada’, what did you think of the movement?
C: To be honest I wasn’t entirely sure what to think of it. It just seemed confusing, chaotic and generally all over the place. I could see how as an art form it may appeal to some people though since there are no rules, meaning anyone can participate. At the time I was first shown it I wasn’t aware that it was something which extended past visuals and into the world of writing. Before researching deeper into its poetic elements, I really wasn’t sure what to expect as words jumbled on a page with no sense to me didn’t seem appealing.
A: Upon first introductions it seemed an understandable concept, to create art based solely on authority in the field, much like some fields of modern artistry. However, I felt as if it should be kept just like that; a concept and experiment. To find it had such a torrential response by the public shocked me as I believe all art should be respected, despite how void of talent it may seem at first. It did not seem to be a genre that applied to me or one that I’d want to pursue.
What can you interpret from this piece?
C: It almost felt wrong in a way when I was putting this piece together. As a person who writes frequently, I’m so used to placing words in an order which is designed to flow well, which is the complete opposite to how this was. Upon looking closer at this piece I feel it could possibly be negotiated as one stressing the fast-paced nature of society and consumerism within it. Words such as ‘tomorrow’, ‘today’, ‘what’ and ‘news’ communicate this desire people seem to hold where they want to instantaneously know the goings-on of the likes of celebrities all the time. ‘Want’, ‘more’ and ‘catastrophic’ could be further communicating this in the way that people are greedy and always wanting more and more, in terms of materialistic possessions as well as media information. This greed people hold could possibly be linked back to animalistic traits, illustrated by the dog covered by articles of news.
A: At first glance, the simple collage is consistent with the movement but is nothing personally noteworthy style-wise. The segments used however do show a world where headlines are full of pessimism and greed-based profit. Also, the only section that mentions ‘family’ being upside down is paramount to our society, however, only the artist would know whether it was designed to be that way or followed Dadaist logic and sheer luck.
As a premise, it seems admirable to me but only for the selection of words used. I feel it would have had an equal or more impactful effect in the style of one of many other movements.
Have your feelings changed towards the movement?
C: Yes, I feel they definitely have. After further research and involvement in the movement I’ve come to realise that although what’s created may not necessarily be made with any intention, each and every person looking at a piece can draw some form of interpretation from it. It may not be “rational” per se, but it’s multidimensional, defying the rules of what society deems are the right ways to self-express.
However, it’s not a style I’m particularly fond of in regards to poetry. As a lover of metaphors, I do enjoy the interpretation aspects and the visuals can look quirky and abstract, but as a whole, I prefer poetry with a more structured relatable feel to it.
A: Well first I didn’t hold it in such a light, it was just another movement in a style I wasn’t keen on. However, more research done into the originator’s direction and then Dadaist pieces of my own made me quickly feel as if what artistic talent I possess is being wasted on it. I felt as if any shred of creativity, that wasn’t held in contempt of the art scene, drew my pieces and my method out of Dada territory and into something more surreal.
To invent Dada art is to forget and to go against years of practice and knowledge, and to me, it feels disingenuous for artists to abandon talent many wish they had and deliberately create a piece with zero deeper meaning or skills needed. I can’t lie, some of the pieces look attractive in their minimalism and contrast. However, say you’re given an option; two artists create their own art in their own styles. The first is a self-taught artist who has been painting for years and, even though they aren’t as good as they one day could be, they have put much effort into their piece. The second is a Dadaist who has exclusively created pieces in line with the movement for years. His piece resembles that which you showed me earlier, much like the rest of his work. To me, there’s no denying that they are both artists in their own right but it would feel wrong to what I understand about art to not hold the first to a slightly higher standard than the latter.
Art is something you can’t do if you don’t enjoy it so I can’t exclude Dada artists and poets from the mantle that I hold other successful artists and wordsmiths. However, their creations will not be in my mind when I look for inspiration and reassurance on my path to becoming a better artist.
I’m glad to have taken the time to research this as it has really shown how there is no linear method to writing or art. Although I’m not sure whether the likes of Dada poetry is particularly poetic, from this experience I can still take away many handy things as a writer such as:
Learning that I can afford to play with language a bit. In terms of development, the randomness may be useful for creating unique descriptions and metaphors
Gaining interest in and learning that such movements exist! I hadn’t heard of Dada before and initially, I wasn’t keen on the idea at all but upon researching further I began to admire the freedom it holds as well as how people created artwork from tragedy. This can be related to how in writing people often create pieces based on feelings. I often write from feeling but from this, in terms of development I think it may be beneficial to have a go at writing something based on opinion for a change
Overall, I’ve learnt that there really isn’t a limit when it comes to self-expression and creativity. This has opened my eyes to alternative art forms and encouraged me to experiment with my own work.
By Ciéra Cree – Christmas is fast approaching, and as we all know, this can only mean one thing – shopping, shopping, shopping. Perhaps some of you have already been shopping in preparation for the big day – it’s not uncommon…
By Ciéra Cree
Christmas is fast approaching, and as we all know, that can only mean one thing – shopping, shopping, shopping. Perhaps some of you have already been shopping in preparation for the big day – it’s not uncommon. Presents prettily piled under a Christmas tree laced with lovely lights, this is for sure a festive sight. But I’m here today to introduce you to a ‘new’ idea which might help you bring the idea of ‘the season of giving’ closer into your heart. Introducing: ‘The Reverse Advent Calendar’.
For those who are unaware, an advent calendar is a tray of festive chocolate shapes hidden behind little doors. There are twenty-four or twenty-five of these doors and for each day of December, you get to open one and see what’s behind it.
The idea of ‘The Reverse Advent Calendar’ could be applied to those twenty-five or twenty-four doors, the “twelve days of Christmas” or in whichever way best suits you. It’s a simple and easy thing to do either by yourself or with a group of friends or flatmates.
You take a box and for each day of December you put in an item(s) to donate to charity – and that’s it. At first, it may not seem like much, but it builds up! Going to a charity shop or donation bin around Christmas Eve or New Year with a box full of things to give away feels so refreshing, and doing this is also a great way to help declutter your life a bit before 2020.
For us here at Anglia Ruskin there’s a British Heart Foundation donation bin around the corner of Peter Taylor House (and a few others around in different places too!) which not only accepts clothing, as many donation points exclusively do, but also brick-a-brack and other items from books to scarves and old shoes. The donation point here will not accept blankets, carpets, cushions, glass, metal, pillows, quilts, rags, rugs or videos. But imagine the impact we could make as a university if each of us even just found one thing to pass on! Giving back this Christmas is for sure a great way to warm the hearts of those in need.
There are plenty of beautiful things about the holiday season to be grateful for, and numerous don’t come in the form of a physical item. Spending time with people you care about, the memories you make with those people, and the atmosphere of the period itself carries something indescribable for many, but to some this time of year is their hardest.
To those reading this I ask you to take a moment to reflect on all the things and people in your life that you have to be grateful for. Hold them close and appreciate them as not everyone is as fortunate.
By Joshua Dowding – As I’m sure you know by now, another general election is upon us. Though it seems like an eternity since we last went to the polls, on December 12th the country will be asked once again to decide it’s future…
By Joshua Dowding
As I’m sure you know by now, another general election is upon us. Though it seems like an eternity since we last went to the polls, on December 12th the country will be asked once again to decide it’s future. Some pundits have already branded it as the ‘Brexit Election’, but I feel it’s important to consider some of the wider issues facing the country now, and in the near future. There’s a whole lot more going on in the world right now: climate change, the ongoing refugee crisis, and the rise of the political fringes just to name a few. Of course you should consider Brexit, of course some of these issues bleed into the Brexit debate, but try not to make this election all about one issue. Cast your vote based on a whole range of issues that are important to you, and don’t follow the pack. This is your opportunity to make your voice heard.
What’s at stake?
Every constituency in the country is up for grabs in the upcoming general election. There are 650 constituencies in the United Kingdom, each representing between 56,000 and 72,000 constituency members (depending on where you live), and a single seat in the House of Commons.
How does an election work?
The name of the game is to get a majority, and for any one party to gain a majority, 326 members of that party must first be elected to the House of Commons. Each party tries to field a candidate for each constituency, though sometimes a party may not field a candidate for a particular constituency due to a pact they’ve made with another party, or because they just don’t have enough candidates.
With the first-past-the-post voting system we have in the United Kingdom, the candidate with the most votes wins the constituency, and thus a seat in parliament. However, that candidate may only secure 39% of the total votes cast with the other candidates securing the remaining 61% of votes. What counts is that each of those remaining candidates did not secure more votes than the victor despite amassing more votes than they did in total. For better or worse, the current system favours the person with the 39% mandate, over the people with the 61% lead. To combat this system, you might want to research into ‘tactical voting’. I’ll leave that up to you.
At a national level, the party with the most elected members, or MPs, wins the election. However, since the name of the game is to get a majority, the party with the most elected MPs may still lose out on a commanding position in parliament by failing to gain that majority. This is referred to as a ‘hung parliament’ where no one party has a majority in the House of Commons. At this point, the party with the most elected MPs must try to form a government by either partnering with another party or by forming a ‘minority government’. The former may (I stress ‘may’) prove beneficial if the winning party can find another with similar political views, whereas the latter would mean that the government might find it difficult to pass their legislation due to a lack of a majority in the House.
In advance of the election, each party will release its manifesto outlining what they intend to do should they win the majority – at least in theory. And while it’s easy to dismiss them, they do provide some insight into the party’s priorities and leanings. So they might be worth a skim at least.
It’s important to remember that voters do not elect the Prime Minister themselves. The person that’ll become the PM is either the current leader of the party that wins, or the leaders of the parties that enter into a coalition, or they’re elected by the parties themselves (sometimes after-the-fact).
How do I know if I’m eligible to vote?
It’s not enough to be 18 and over to vote in UK general elections. Voters will also need to be a registered British citizen with a residential address somewhere in the United Kingdom, or – for those living abroad – must have previously registered to vote within the past 15 years. Qualifying citizens of the Commonwealth, the Republic of Ireland (especially if they were born in Northern Ireland), Cyprus, or Malta, may also be eligible to vote as well. However, EU citizens living in the UK on a permit will not be allowed to vote in the upcoming election at all. Again, make of that what you will.
Prospective voters aged between 16 and 17 may also register to vote, though they will not be able to participate in this upcoming election unless parliament decides to extend the franchise to those people. EU citizens are in a similar situation here.
How do I get involved?
You can vote in one of three ways: in-person, by post, or by proxy. Regardless of which you choose, you will first need to register to vote.
To register to vote, follow this link. The deadline is midnight on Tuesday, November 26th. It takes a few minutes at most, but don’t leave it until the last minute! It will take some time for your name to be added to the electoral register once you’ve registered.
To apply to vote by post, follow this link. The deadline date is the same as registration, but the time is slightly earlier at 5 PM. Voters in Northern Ireland can also apply to vote by post, though you’ll need to provide a reason as to why you cannot vote in person in your case.
To apply to vote by proxy, follow this link. The deadline for applications is the same as voting by post.
If you intend to vote by post, or by proxy, you will need to make a separate application in addition to your electoral registration. These applications must be made in-time – any applications received after the deadline will be rejected even if it was the fault of the postal service that it wasn’t received in time.
How does ‘in-person’ voting work?
Voting takes place at designated polling stations. Before the election, voters will receive a polling card telling you which station you are registered to vote at. These stations open at 7 AM on the day (December 12th), and remain open until 10 PM. After that, the station will close to the public.
When you arrive at a polling station, the ballot officer will ask you for your name and address so that they can find you on the electoral register. Be sure to have some form of identification on you just in case you’re asked for it. Then you will be given a ballot paper and shown to a polling booth. You are expected to put a cross in the box next to the name of the candidate you wish to vote for. Putting a tick, a circle, or anything else in that box will spoil your vote. Once you’ve finished, fold the ballot paper in half, exit the polling booth and drop the paper into the ballot box. That’s it, you’re done.
The results are declared through the night as each constituency office counts its votes. The count might spill into the following morning depending on how quickly each constituency declares it’s results, and whether there are any recounts.
How does voting by post or proxy work?
If you intend to vote by post, providing that you’ve registered to do so, you will receive your ballot paper in the mail close to the date of the general election. You must fill in the ballot paper as you would at a polling station, and return it in the envelope provided. If you think your postal vote won’t make it in time, you can take the sealed letter to your local polling station instead.
Voting by proxy means that you’d like someone else to vote on your behalf in your absence. Your proxy would vote as normal, though they would receive two ballot papers instead of one. Your proxy of choice must be trustworthy and registered to vote themselves.
Should I get involved?
Yes, absolutely. Every vote counts, literally. It’s a numbers game after all. One vote could make all the difference – that could be your vote. After all, voting is anonymous, so as long as you don’t tell anyone, no one will find out which way you voted. Nobody needs to know.
Lastly, there’s been a lot of talk about the ‘two-party system’ as of late. According to the BBC, every election since 1922 has been won by either the Labour party or the Conservative party. But in the years since the infamous 2016 EU referendum, a number of alternative parties have sprung up in an attempt to disrupt this system. Together with some of the smaller established parties, a credible force could be brewing here to take on the two-party system for the first time in nearly a century. Could be worth a look? I’ll leave it to you.
For more information on how to vote – especially if you’re voting from abroad – follow this link to the official government website. Register to vote; make your voice heard!