SUSTAINABLE CHRISTMAS GIFTS WITH OCEAN BOTTLE
BY DEVON HARVEY
As Christmas approaches so does the daunting task of buying gifts for your loved ones, Secret Santa’s, estranged family members and work colleagues. Each year, we spend months thinking of the best gifts, and once the task of sourcing and retrieving the gifts is done, we then hunt for the perfect wrapping paper and assisting decorations. This means that in the UK alone, 83 square km of our wrapping paper ends up in rubbish bins. So, this year, why not have a more sustainable Christmas.
What if the gifts you were giving were sustainable? This December, for our first festive issue, Snippets has teamed up with Ocean Bottle, as they recommend some of their favourite brands which sell the best sustainable products, which you could purchase for your loved ones this Christmas. What says ‘Happy Christmas’ more than sustainability!
Ofcourse, we first present to you Ocean Bottle.
“Ocean Bottle makes reusable bottles that save our oceans. With the sale of every bottle, we fund the collection of 11.4kg of plastic equivalent to 1000 plastic bottles and stop this from ever entering the ocean, whilst developing people-powered recycling infrastructure in coastal communities in Indonesia, Philippines, Brazil and Haiti. With the help of partners Plastic Bank, plastic collectors exchange plastic waste for money or credit via blockchain technology to spend on tuition, tech, goods, health care or access to microfinance.” – Ocean Bottle
Wild Refill is the ‘eco-friendly natural deodorant’ you didn’t know you needed until now. It is not only ‘single-use plastic free and aluminium free’ as it states in their bio on Instagram but is ‘cruelty free and vegan’. Coming in various beautiful colours, it is that little stocking filler you’ve been looking for.
Riley Studio’s Instagram labels their brand as providing you with your ‘gender-neutral wardrobe staples, that are kind to the planet’. If you are based in or around London, they have a pop-up store which is remaining open even with the new Tier 3 announcement. You can find them at 190 Westbourne Grove, and they will be open until the 21st of December- just enough time for you to get your last-minute Christmas gifts!
Ohne provides you with all the products you need whilst suffering with that time of the month. From tampons, to organic pads, to their CBD ‘Holy Cramp Oil’, Ohne have everything you lovely people may need, making period care not only accessible and sustainable.
TEA & TEQUILA
Tea & Tequila is a London and Mexico City based brand, providing you with ‘A Myriad of Mexican Things’ which are ‘Handmade by Indigenous Communities’. On their Instagram you can find Cactus Leather backpacks and trousers, the most beautiful jewellery, as well as some gorgeous dresses. They ship worldwide, and their products make for unique Christmas gifts, you can feel good about buying.
This year Togetherband have created a bracelet which is not only aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but to the planet as well. By purchasing their band this year for your loved ones, the brand state that you would be ‘helping to reduce ocean plastic, helping keep guns off the streets of South America, giving vulnerable women in Nepal secure employment and getting us closer to achieving UN Global Goals by 2030’. What more can be said that could convince you to purchase one of their bands this year?
AN INTERVIEW WITH IZZY CROW
BY HARRIET DIPPER
December 18, 2020
Check out Izzy’s art account: @izzycrowart
Newcastle student artist Izzy Crow talks about the power of Instagram as a platform for young artists and her journey into taking paid commissions.
What initially inspired your portfolio?
Izzy told me about her artistic journey and how her primary fascination “has always been with colour and texture”, her portfolio beginning with her art assignments at school. When chatting about the grading system in these assignments, Izzy told me that she achieved a B grade at GCSE, and yet went on to attain a very competitive A* at A level:
“Often the grading system doesn’t reflect artistic talent. Young artists need freedom to explore and sometimes the assignments can be constraining.”
When did you start taking commissions?
“My first commission was from a friend who had seen my art Instagram page, so I suppose my commission journey started from there. I gained an audience from this platform, as well as from parents of friends who want support young artists.”
Izzy told me of the incredible support she has gained from word of mouth, for she has now now sold all but two of her paintings: “I’ve found it’s all about social media and marketability.”
Did you model you Instagram from anyone in particular? How did you cultivate your own style?
“My Instagram inspiration was actually from my cousin, who paints and takes commissions working in Barcelona. It was from her that I learnt how to do the clean white backgrounds. But I would say I’ve always had an aesthetic eye and love zooming in on the details on each of my pieces”
How much time would you spend on each of your pieces?
“I would say on average about 15/20 hours of work per piece. My recent Frieda Carlo commission took me much longer than my usual landscape pieces, which just goes to show how different and time-consuming portraiture work can be.”
Is there a certain time of day / space that you prefer working in?
“I tend to like to work in the morning as I love to catch the light, as obviously the day light hours are so limited at the moment (especially being in the north!). The evening artificial light I find much harder to work with, especially as I tend to paint in my room at uni which can become quite shadowy”
What is your favourite piece to date?
“The one I’m proudest of is my final piece for A level, as I had never practised it before on the acetate sheets that I used in the exam. This was something I had never done before, especially on the 3-metre scale that I painted on. Recently I really love the Frieda Carlo piece, as well as the Italian pool scene, as the picture I used was quite ordinary and I loved making the image more fun and vibrant.”
What advice would you give to aspiring artists looking to start an art Instagram page?
Izzy again reiterated to me the power of social media, commenting that “Social media is free, so why not use it!”
“Definitely get your friends, not matter how many followers they have, to shout you out on their pages. It may seem simple, but this is such a great way to get started. All publicity is good publicity, as they say!”
What is your plan next, are you taking more commissions?
“I have a few commissions lined up already, but I would love to explore some more. My plan is to paint some more locational pieces, for instance of places around Newcastle, as they are easily marketable and people love seeing places that they know and love. I want to start being clever about where I paint and expand more as my work progresses.”
A huge thank you to Izzy for chatting to us, and go and check out her beautiful page @izzycrowart
The Grammy Awards, formally known as the Gramophone Awards Ceremony is the biggest award ceremony that takes place within the music industry. Presented by the Recording Academy (a panel of recording artists, producers, engineers and other musical professionals), it takes place to recognise the achievements made by some of the top recordings in the last year. Categories such as the Album and Record of the year carry so much prestige, that can help define people’s careers/legacies.
The 63rd annual awards ceremony will be taking place on the 31st of January 2021, to an empty arena as a result of social distancing in the United States due to the global outbreak of COVID-19.
The year has been a rough one for us all and in my opinion, music has been one of the essential components from the entertainment industry in which has helped a lot of us through these times. Instead of plugging your earphones in during a commute, we sat at home working, studying or relaxing while music played through either our headphones or on speakers. Digital streaming platforms such as Spotify, Apple Music and others really came to the forefront during the lockdown in April and have ever since.
Due to the ‘stay at home’ directive placed by Governments all over the world, the growth of social media app ‘TikTok’ began to take place, with people using music as their outlet to perform videos for laughter, education and comfort. Songs like ‘Say So’ by Doja Cat exploded on the platform, opening another avenue for musicians to market their music. As a result, Doja has been able to call herself a Grammy nominee in one of the categories mentioned below.
I will be looking at some of the categories in which artists have been nominated and predict who may win or come close.
Record of the Year
Award to the Artist and to the Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s) and/or Mixer(s) and mastering engineer(s), if other than the artist.
1. BLACK PARADE: Beyoncé
Beyoncé & Derek Dixie, producers; Stuart White, engineer/mixer; Colin Leonard, mastering engineer
2. COLORS: Black Pumas
Adrian Quesada, producer; Adrian Quesada, engineer/mixer; JJ Golden, mastering engineer
3. ROCKSTAR: DaBaby Featuring Roddy Ricch
SethinTheKitchen, producer; Derek "MixedByAli" Ali, Chris Dennis & Liz Robson, engineers/mixers; Susan Tabor, mastering engineer
4. SAY SO: Doja Cat
Tyson Trax, producer; Clint Gibbs, engineer/mixer; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer
5. EVERYTHING I WANTED: Billie Eilish
Finneas O'Connell, producer; Rob Kinelski & Finneas O'Connell, engineers/mixers; John Greenham, mastering engineer
6. DON'T START NOW: Dua Lipa
Caroline Ailin & Ian Kirkpatrick, producers; Josh Gudwin, Drew Jurecka & Ian Kirkpatrick, engineers/mixers; Chris Gehringer, mastering engineer
7. CIRCLES: Post Malone
Louis Bell, Frank Dukes & Post Malone, producers; Louis Bell & Manny Marroquin, engineers/mixers; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer.
Winning this category is always regarded as an honour to whoever receives it. This year has been very strong, with everyone deserving a shot at winning the award. Circles by Post Malone did well off his ‘Hollywood is Bleeding’ album, while Say So by Doja Cat exploded and became an internet sensation alongside the growth of TikTok and other short media outlets (Instagram Reels etc).
The influence of disco has been creeping into the pop world in the last year with many artists deciding to base their records off that feel, whether it’s the funky basslines, guitar riffs or the way the vocals sound on records through the use of old analogue gear in recording studios. Songs like ‘Say So’ and ‘Don’t Start Now’ are evidence of this. For this reason, I feel like the award will go to someone in this lane to reflect the rising trend in pop music. Dua Lipa I think will win left, right and centre this year and this is just the first award she will be picking up.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
PREDICTED WINNER: ‘DON’T START NOW’ BY DUA LIPA
Best Alternative Music Album
Vocal or Instrumental.
FETCH THE BOLT CUTTERS: Fiona Apple
PUNISHER: Phoebe Bridgers
JAIME: Brittany Howard
THE SLOW RUSH: Tame Impala
This is an interesting category. Alternative music seems to be that consistent genre that never seems to underwhelm despite the heavy commercialisation of pop and the rise or resurgence of several genres such as UK/US Drill, Reggaeton and Disco into popular music.
Among the nominees, Phoebe Bridges and Tame Impala probably had the better albums. ‘The Slow Rush’ by Tame Impala was as beautifully crafted as his previous album ‘Currents’ which did some serious number worldwide. The old school feel through the way instruments and vocals were recorded felt like you were going back in time. Songs such as ‘Breathe Deeper’ really captivated the mood of the whole album which deserves its plaudits. Equally, Phoebe Bridges brought out a stunning record in the form of ‘Punisher’ this year, with back to basic rock/alternative songwriting.
Best Alternative Music Album
PREDICTION: THE SLOW RUSH BY TAME IMPALA
Best Rap Performance
For a Rap performance. Singles or Tracks only.
DEEP REVERENCE: Big Sean Featuring Nipsey Hussle
WHAT'S POPPIN: Jack Harlow
THE BIGGER PICTURE: Lil Baby
SAVAGE: Megan Thee Stallion Featuring Beyoncé
DIOR: Pop Smoke
Performance comes as part of rap music, whether it’s in the actual recording of the song or at a live show in front of thousands. Out of the bunch, BOP, Savage and Dior probably have a shot. My personal favourite would have to be ‘Dior’ by Pop Smoke.
Pop Smoke sadly left us in February this year right as he was gaining traction as an artist in the burgeoning US Drill scene. ‘Dior’ followed up ‘Welcome to the Party’, a song that increased his visibility globally as an up and comer. His distinct voice and flow on a drill beat made ‘Dior’ a cultural hit not only in the US but also here in the UK, with the song being played on the radio, in clubs (before they’d shut abruptly) and on streaming platforms.
Megan Thee Stallion had a hit in the form of the song ‘Savage’, another song which reaped the benefits of TikTok as mentioned earlier. The remix with Beyoncé joining the fray only increased the replay value of the catchy song. Basing it off how the Recording Academy votes for the winner, my money is on Savage to win although it would be nice for Pop Smoke to get a post-houmous Grammy.
Best Rap Performance
PREDICTION: SAVAGE(REMIX) BY MEGAN THEE STALLION FT BEYONCÉ
PLAYLIST OF ALL NOMINEES ABOVE
ENTERTAINMENT SNIPPET: WHAT TO ANTICIPATE IN 2021
BY HARRY MEMBREY
December 18, 2020
2020, one of the most influential years for entertainment in recent memory, is finally coming to an end having provided bigger plot twists than any episode of Breaking Bad I can remember.
Imagine you’re sitting in a history lesson in the year 2120. Here and now, we’re undeniably sitting at the precipice of drastic fundamental cultural changes. But how will our roaring twenties be remembered in terms of the way we now enjoy entertainment? Instead of dwelling on the shocking events that no one on New Years’ Eve 2019 could ever have pre-empted, it’s time to look towards a year that may well define the legacy of 2020 as the industry begins to implement radical changes.
With that in mind, I’ve decided to outline 5 things to watch out for within 2021’s entertainment industry. These events or ideas may well dictate how the new year can redefine our conceptions of 2020’s entertainment and clarify this year’s effects on what may be one of the greatest years for cinema and streaming that this generation has ever seen.
2020 won’t end in 2021
This may seem either really contradictory or really obvious but hear me out. All those films 2020 couldn’t deliver and all those productions that were put on hold are about to resume with the rest of 2021’s sleight. Of course, there’s potentially a lot of delays to the films that were supposedly releasing in 2021, but there will definitely be plenty of entertainment to enjoy.
That built up anticipation alongside Warner Bros’ commitment to distribute films both to cinemas and streaming is a good indicator that there will be lots of entertainment in 2021 with far fewer viewing delays.
Here’s 5 of 2020’s biggest films finally coming in the new year:
The King’s Man - 26/02/2021
No Time To Die - 02/04/2021
Last Night In Soho - 23/04/2021
A Quiet Place Part 2 - 23/04/2021
Dune - 21/10/2021
As the easing of lockdowns commences thanks to mass testing and the Pfizer vaccine, an increased confidence in the public may bring about a resurgence to the cinema experience. In China, cinemagoers have learnt to follow new norms of two-seat distancing and mask-wearing at all times and it’s likely that the UK will implement similarly strict regulations indefinitely.
A new-found stability within the industry thanks to an increase in distribution will likely save not only smaller boutique cinemas but the bigger chains and theatres too. With all of the new films scheduled for release in the new year, perhaps 2021 can deliver the lifeline that they need.
While the convergence of media has been apparent for a long time, the pandemic has sent this trend into overdrive. Perhaps most apparent in studios’ decisions to release movies directly to VOD services, other areas have seen changes too. A growth in online watch parties for instance, where groups of people watch movies and video content together through their favourite social media platforms.
This kind of cross-media convergence has presented tremendous difficulties for the industry this year but presents major opportunities for growth in the next. With the vast sleight of Disney+’s cross-media franchising and the build-up to HBO Max, it has become clear that Netflix’s competition is going to seriously up their game as the market continues upon 2020’s 37% growth. If one thing is for certain, 2021 will deliver an entirely flexible and more convergent approach to the distribution of major studios’ films and series as streaming becomes the quintessential way to enjoy entertainment.
With a much bigger film sleight in 2021, imagine the number of films up for contention during the 2022 Oscars ceremony. Now think of 2021’s contenders and compare them with the buzz surrounding Parasite’s triumph. It feels a little lacklustre doesn’t it?
In 2021, Netflix will dominate like never before as a production company in its own right. Never before has Netflix (or any streaming service for that matter) had so many films in contention. Films like The Trial of the Chicago 7, Mank and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom have all been linked to numerous nominations. But because of the April delay to ensure that some of 2020’s late-releases fit regulations and the potential for considerable social distancing measures, it may all be a little overdue.
With the integrity of the Oscars already in constant contention, perhaps 2021 will only lead to more questions? The occasion is still far off, and it may be a little too soon to judge, but it’ll definitely be one of the more insightful ceremonies to say the least.
Finally, it’s safe to say that TV is not what it used to be thanks to the continuing demand for the flexibility that online streaming has provided. Interestingly, Ofcom has come out and said that public service broadcasting (PSB) is unlikely to survive without a radical change. According to Ofcom, two in five viewers of streaming services imagine watching no broadcast TV at all in five years' time. That means that a serious shake up will be required to keep PBS relevant as we progress into the age of increased digital connectivity.
If you looked at Disney+’s extensive plans for 2021 you’d be forgiven for suggesting that there was no pandemic. Perhaps it will be substantially funded services like Disney+, Netflix and Sky that lead the way in digitalising PBS in the new year. In moving digital, we can maintain the exceptional UK content that audiences value and reform the rules to build stronger public broadcasting service.
we shall be who we want
with your hand in mine,
in our ballgowns
muddied and torn,
and the wind ran with us,
a chorus of symphonies
cheering us on
as we left our shoes
in the grass’ bed
and in the morning,
clung to our dresses,
wildflowers kissed our hair
and we tasted the sweet air
if i am wine
won’t you put me to your
sweet chariot lips,
and take a sip
bathe in my red berry juices,
let us become nothing
but each other’s
and when the sun stops falling
and the grapes and berries of this land
have decayed into their muddied coffins
let us become drunk from the fumes
of our love
we will be enough
HIP HO(P) HO(P) HO(P): WHY RAP SONGS AT CHRISTMASTIME ARE FEW AND FAR BETWEEN
BY ELIOT K. RAMAN JONES
December 18, 2020
My favourite Christmas song of all the “Christmas Songs” is Last Christmas by Wham!. It doesn’t saturate every radio around like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You”, it doesn’t numb your brain like Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime”, and because it’s about a Christmas in the past, as well as a Christmas in the future, you can technically play it out of season. I think over the years repeating the same 20 to 25 holiday anthems every year can make someone go insane, and when the calendar ticks over to December 1st, or just after November 20th if you’re a student, Spotify’s home screen becomes full of the “Top Festive Tracks” and you sigh as you contemplate another festive period listening to this exact same musical canon as you’ve heard the other 10+ years in a row. Admittedly I’ve not felt like this all the time, and the nostalgia can be nice sometimes, but it always seems strange how every genre of music you can listen to throughout the year is constantly shifting and changing, evolving new sounds and incorporating new ideas, and then that musical ingenuity grinds to a halt for a whole 25 days as we unpack Michael Bublé from his festive wrappings and listen to him sing a Christmas carol in his languid drawl. It can be so hard to break into this elite “Festive Faves” setlist, that I’d almost given up all hope and resigned myself to countless more years of this unchanging festivity. But then I discovered that hip-hop and R&B had, once again, come to my rescue.
In my favourite Christmas film, Die Hard, one of the few real songs played during the movie is Run-D.M.C.’s 1987 festive hit, “Christmas in Hollis” which main character John McClain’s limo driver, Argyle, plays over the stereo on the drive to the main location of the film, Nakatomi Plaza. Because of its use in the film, which became a perennial favourite, the song notably became one of the earliest hip-hop and R&B songs to break into the predominantly white and traditional Christmas canon. My favourite rap crossover Christmas song is Kanye West’s 2010 attempt at broaching the castle walls of festive carols, “Christmas in Harlem”. While Kanye himself appears to be phoning it in a bit on his verse, the beat is sufficiently “Christmassy” as well as keeping an even and very classically mid-2000’s hip-hop tempo, and it also features a strong guest performance from fellow Chicago native CyHi the Prynce. It did fairly well at the charts, but it’s unfortunate lack of circulation over the following years’ festive radio clearly proved that despite my affection toward it, it failed to crack through the veneer of the Christmas traditional canon. However, later on in the decade, both Justin Bieber’s 2011 hit “Mistletoe” and Ariana Grande’s “Santa Tell Me”, released in 2014, have both managed to enter myriad “Classic Christmas Hits” playlists on Spotify. So, it’s possible to draw a conclusion that Kanye and 2000’s rap may have walked so that 2010’s R&B could run.
Another reason rap’s crossover appeal doesn’t seem to break into the mainstream playlists is the air of nostalgia surrounding the holiday season. It’s a fact that despite the need for annual new music, people don’t necessarily want to add new songs to a festive repertoire that otherwise only contains songs that they already know, especially if there’s some reason, however small, that it could not be completely congruent with the other parts of the playlist. Kanye’s mid-level success in 2010 was possibly due to his association, or lack thereof, with both mainstream pop and the holiday season in general. He had neither covered a multitude of festive hits, a la Bublé, nor crafted, produced and delivered an incredibly catchy and high-grade Christmas song, like Mariah Carey or George Michael. While it could have very well achieved a lasting success, Kanye’s attempt at cashing in by entertaining the Christmas market was unfortunately seen as exactly that.
There have been no more forays into Christmas by other mainstream rapper’s worth noting, possibly again due to how the default tempo of the holiday season is much lower than the fast flows of mainstream rap that dominate the rest of the calendar year. There’s a dry, bizarre and altogether awful collection of rap-themed Christmas albums, the highlight of which is, against all known reason, Snoop Dogg’s 2008 album “Christmas in the Dogghouse”. A digital-only compilation album was not successful and came from a rapper who was around ten years already past his best, which shows just how bad the rest of the genre is. We can only hope, with this smattering of rap hits from the last twenty years that the quality of holiday rap can improve to the point where the classical, elitist and predominantly white Spotify festive playlists can become much more exciting, more diverse, and including a great deal less Michael Bublé.
MY TOP 5 BOOKS OF 2020
BY KATHY BALDOCK
This year, as everyone can relate to, has been one heck of a year. With the global pandemic hitting in March there was a lot to adjust to; having to work from home, not working at all and being furloughed, not working at all having been made redundant and trying to picture what the future holds. That is on top of not being able to see those we are closest to. Our families. Even for me now, I am in a tier where I am unable to see my mum, my sister and brother’s, and cannot see my nieces and nephews grow up. For me reading has got me through, and sometimes I craved wanting to be in someone else’s world and would devour book after book just to drown out the ‘real word’. Other times the idea of being in another world, when what was happening in mine, seemed almost outrageous. Finding myself in slumps, some that lasted for just a few days others that have lasted for weeks. These books got me through, these books brought some joy to my life in what was and continues to be an exceedingly difficult time for me, and us all. I hope these bring you as much joy as they did me.
YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN - LEAH JOHNSON
‘Liz Lighty has always believed she was too black, too poor and too awkward to shine in her small, rich, Prom obsessed midwestern town. But its ok- Liz has a plan to get out of Campbell Indiana to attend the super elite Pennington college and play in their world-famous orchestra.’
This book will draw you in almost immediately. The way Leah writes forces you want to just devour it in one sitting. I loved that it did not just cover the normal high school troupes but explores sexuality and race. Liz and Mack together are just everything, it is time for a different type of Prom Queen!
YOU’LL SEE - JESSE BHAIRD
‘How far would you go to help the ones you love? How far would you go to prevent them from feeling pain? Now, how far would you go to save yourself? Life was supposed to be straightforward for Cass Wilkes. After finishing college and securing the job that most dreamed of but never can close to’.
First thing I want to say about this book is that it is Jesse Bhaird’s debut novel. But boy you would not notice, I want to read everything that Jesse has ever written, and I told her so.
We meet Cass, who has just flown to San Francisco to help her best friend with a project, just in time as Cass is on Sabbatical from her job. Whilst helping Gaby she meets Garrett, and the prospect of a new start arises. But there are some other things that Cass needs to overcome. Jesse does an amazing job of drawing you in, I read this in 2 days… it was that good.
AVALON’S PORTAL - LYNNE BAILEY
‘Avalon’s portal follows Arthur just before then on his 13th birthday, living in Glastonbury with his mum a school trip to Stonehenge went slightly off course. Arthur finds himself in Avalon where he meets Guin and the adventure really starts.’
I loved this book, yes, it is middle grade fantasy, but I don’t think it matters in this case. The world building is beautiful, I feel like I could see every tiny vibrant image as I was reading it. If that is not enough to draw you in there is dragons and an incredibly special dragon called Spike, who I do not think you can help but fall in love with. I love the friendship between Arthur and Guin and how strong willed Guin is portrayed. I do think the unsung hero of this first book is Marcel he may well be my favourite!
RADIO SILENCE - ALICE OSEMAN
‘What if everything you set yourself up to be was wrong? Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside. Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she must confront her past…’
This is my second Alice Oseman book this year, I have to say I have not been disappointed. If anything, the second book makes me want to pick up everything she has written. This book is about many things; friends, sexuality, education, and being who you are. The overwhelming theme of this book is choices. The choice of who you want to be friends with and of the person that they see. The choice of what university they want to go to. But overwhelmingly the choice of even if university is the right thing for you in the first place. We have all been guilty of making decisions with other people’s thoughts and feelings being involved, this book follows what it is like to be a teenager and trying to navigate life and understanding who they want to be and how to let the world know it. I cannot recommend this book enough.
THE COMORAN STRIKE SERIES - ROBERT GALBRAITH
Ok, I know this is 4 books and not one, but I devoured these books over the last few months. I love the character of Comoran, he is an average down on your luck kind of guy that is easy to relate to. His relationship with Robin is not what you want it to be, but you hope and pray it becomes more than just partners. It can be hard to have that kind of relationship and to leave it bubbling under the surface, but Galbraith does it well. The plots of all 4 of the books featured are all consuming, you think you have got it… then there is another twist, another turn until you get to the end and all is becoming clear and it hits you like a freight train… These books leave you with serious book hangovers, but you always must pick up the next one.
Dating in Winter
Long walks by the river
in hats, gloves
it’s good to see you again
and you look good
in that coat.
We sit in parks
coffee and conversation
with one eye
on the bare trees
Hi! I'm Ángela Santolaya and I'm from northern Spain. I really
enjoy taking pictures of people around me, sometimes I capture
complete strangers, sometimes I make do with my friends (love you guys
<3). I try not to interfere with the scene I see so the results are as
natural as possible.
THE MOST IMPORTANT BOOK YOU'LL EVER READ
BY SOPHIE SARNEY
December 18, 2020
I’ve always enjoyed studying history throughout my education, in particular, focusing on modern political movements like the Civil Rights Movement or Women’s Rights. However, it’s a scary realisation that these movements aren’t ‘history’ but ongoing struggles that are still happening today. Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race is the perfect read to introduce somebody to the issue of racism in Britain, using a provocative title to gain people’s attention. The title, first used in Eddo-Lodge’s blog post back in 2014, was paradoxically used to continue the conversation about race issues in Britain, where Eddo-Lodge admits to spending most of her time ‘talking to white people about race’.
With the re-emergence of Black Lives Matter protests after the death of George Floyd, there was a lot of tension against the BLM movement in the UK. Many people were left confused as to why people in Britain were concerned about matters in America and how and why did it affected people in Britain. Especially online, constant remarks stating that “Britain isn’t racist” or that “Britain doesn’t have a race problem” have unfortunately been met with ignorance. Eddo-Lodge explores this in great depth in her book, focusing on the experiences of many young black women in modern Britain as well as a historical overview of black history in Britain too.
Books like Eddo-Lodge’s should be made widely available, as although social media is an amazing source for bringing important issues to people’s attention, false information can be quickly spread too. As well as this, older generations usually find social media inaccessible and so information published in books may be more appropriate. Published books go through great rigour and so the accounts raised in this book cannot simply be ignored, especially as all the information is cited. This book is amazingly informative, with topics like the Windrush scandal and discussions around white privilege being encouraged, which I believe should be taught in schools today. Even being someone who has studied History in higher and further education, I have learnt so much more from this one book about this issue than I did compared to being taught traditionally in a classroom.
The popularity surrounding this book comes at an important time concerning the reaction to the Sainsbury’s Christmas advert; some of these responses alone proving that a race issue remains in Britain. The fact that people can be offended by a black family who are excited about the prospect of spending Christmas together is evident that ignorance is profound in Britain, both by the people who make these comments and those who claim these comments are not a problem. Fortunately, Sainsbury’s and other major supermarkets stood together and formed a #StandAgainstRacism campaign, but that does not mean there is not still a long battle ahead in terms of combatting racism in Britain.
A huge step in the right direction is making oneself aware of the issues that are surrounding us. Eddo-Lodge discusses this too in her added chapter “Aftermath” whereby she explains that ‘if you are deeply touched by what you read in this book, then you are part of that moment too.’ Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race is an approachable read and should be credited for not being patronising in any way, rather it is a real eye-opener into the history and modern consequences of race divisions in Britain.
Despite social media being a powerful tool of communication and education, we need to remember that movements like BLM are not trends. What we read about in books and online don’t end there but continue endlessly across the world. I’d truly recommend this book to anyone who wants to understand the issue of race relations in Britain and learn more about what this entails, and how we can continue to educate and inform others when necessary.
THE STORY BEHIND OUR FESTIVE TRADITIONS
BY MOLLY SAXBY
As we all wait for the arrival of Christmas Day, why not look into the history of some traditions we all know and love at this time of year?
Even if you don’t personally celebrate Christmas, in December, festivities surround us, and I’m sure you believed in Father Christmas at some point!
THE CHRISTMAS TREE
Whilst Ancient Egyptians and Romans held a symbolic place for evergreen trees, believing them to warn off evil spirits, ghosts and illness, it is the Germans who are credited for the advent of the Christmas tree. From the 16th Century, devout Christians placed decorated trees in their homes to celebrate the Christmas season, and it is believed that Protestant reformer, Martin Luther was the first to add lighted candles to this tradition. Until the 19th Century, Christmas trees were uncommon across the rest of the world, especially in America. The first recorded tree found in America was in the 1830s, bought by German settlers to Pennsylvania; however, across the continent, it was not until the 1840s that Christmas trees were widely accepted as anything other than pagan tradition. Christmas trees famously took England by storm in 1846 when Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their children were sketched standing next to their own festive tree. By the 1890s, Christmas trees and ornaments were being bulk bought in both Western Europe and America.
Mistletoe is hung in many venues and homes over the festive period, often encouraging a quick kiss beneath its leaves; however, before the advent of this romantic tradition, mistletoe held connotations of peace. Considered sacred in Ancient Britain, it was believed that those who stood beneath mistletoe were forbidden from fighting, regardless of their relationship. As a result, the plant decorated homes to offer shelter and protection to those who walked beneath it. Whilst traditionally associated with peace, it was the Victorians who gave mistletoe its now romantic meaning; yet, due to its pagan associations, it is still rare to find the plant inside churches even today.
Father Christmas or Santa Claus as he is now commonly known, does in fact descend in meaning from 4th Century archbishop, St Nicholas. The patron saint of girls and boys, in what is now Turkey, was known for his child-saving miracles and present giving. For the last 150 years, St Nicholas has grown into what we know as Father Christmas, or more commonly in America, Santa Claus. As with many of the Christmas traditions we see today, it was the Victorians who gave the figure the fame and the association with gifts that he has today. With increasing commercialisation, Father Christmas has evolved to become, for many, the face of Christmas. Used in adverts worldwide, most famously Coca Cola, Father Christmas represents the very essence of commercial festivity in his direct association with gift-giving.
Many of us hang stockings filled with presents, traditionally above our fireplaces, or elsewhere, as part of the gift-giving rituals of Christmas Day. It is widely believed that the tradition of Christmas stockings comes from St Nicholas. Folklore suggests that St Nicholas had arrived at the home of a penniless widowed nobleman, struggling to provide for his three daughters. It is said that St Nicholas upon arriving at this house, saw the daughter’s stockings hanging above the fireplace to dry; seeing their struggle, he filled their stockings with gold, and there began the Christmas stocking. Now, Christmas stockings are used worldwide to hold small gifts, often given at the start of Christmas morning, and believed by little ones to be left for them by Father Christmas.
A Winter Votive
I will be gift wrapped, and gleaming
from the very First day to the Twelfth
gazing glitteringly upon each festivity
all done up with twinkled bows
and undone by feverish joy
Does it not seem strange
all of this pomp
and certainly no circumstance
for one explosive moment of reception
my adornments ripped wide, discarded
it is a shame
that a gift is little more than a vow
a simple Votive for love
how easy it can be
to be once uttered
and twice Broken
A 10 STEP GUIDE TO A SUSTAINABLE CHRISTMAS
BY ABRA HERITAGE
December 18, 2020
Each Christmas, we produce 30% more waste than we do in the rest of the year.
I know, not the cheery entrance you were expecting for a festive read. But in a time characterised by love, hope, and giving, why are we not continuing to care for the environment? I’ve collated a 10-step guide to help you keep this Christmas more sustainable. In following a few steps, your Christmas will not just be greener, but cheerier too!
1. Ditch the turkey and have a nut roast instead
Around 9 million British turkeys are reared each year for Christmas. This mass meat demand means a soaring increase in water usage, and a huge excess of carbon dioxide (the diets of meat eaters create seven times the greenhouse emissions of the diets of vegans). Nut roasts are readily available to buy pre-prepared and can also be made ahead of Christmas day. You can even throw in some dried cranberries, chestnuts, and sage to make your nut roast taste extra festive. And by not having your roast turkey, you’ll be saving the equivalent in water of 6 months of showers!
2. Rent a Christmas tree
Christmas tree rental programs allow for fir trees to ‘move in’ to households over the festive period, get dressed up for the season, and then be picked up and replanted in January. These programmes are far greener than fake fir trees, which are made from plastic, often PVC, and shipped long distances to arrive in the shop and then your home.
3. Avoid buying another Christmas jumper
It’s easy to think that to look your best, you need something new. Last year, Britons were estimated to spend £2.4bn on new outfits for the Christmas party season. The most sustainable alternative to this? Re-wear an outfit. But if you’re after a piece you know will get its wear, consider buying second-hand, either in charity shops, or online through sites such as eBay, Depop, or Vinted. Try to steer clear of buying new Christmas jumpers, as 95% of these are made using plastic, and sequined or glittered clothing is almost always made from PVC.
4. Introduce Secret Santa into your family and friend gifting
Putting a greater budget into one gift rather than having to buy lots of smaller gifts means less material waste, and greater potential to buy sustainably, locally, and ethically! Having small wish lists for participants also means that gifting can be actively targeted, reducing waste in buying a present that somebody already owns, or maybe won’t use.
5. Gift propagated plants rather than bouquets
Cut flowers produced at high demand require large inputs of energy in growing and transportation, and carbon emissions related with cut-flower production can be as high as 3kg CO2 per flower! The use of pesticides and certain fertilisers also means that cut flower production often pollutes groundwater. For the plant lovers in your life, consider propagating your own plants as gifts. Using decorated tins or used glass jars to pot them adds a personal touch and keeps your gift super eco-friendly.
6. Keep it seasonal
Luckily, the food associated with a British Christmas dinner is largely seasonal already. Potatoes, parsnips, carrots, and sprouts can be brought from local farmers to keep carbon emissions very low. Try to avoid introducing out-of-season food into your Christmas meals, such as having exotic fruits in breakfasts, or snacks such as dates and almonds.
7. Handcraft your decorations
DIY decorations are not only eco-friendly, but fun! Incorporating natural elements into handmade decorations such as pine cones and holly make for beautiful ornaments that are low on cost while staying sustainable. Unwanted cardboard and paper can be upcycled into simple snowflake decorations and hanging ornaments too!
8. Say goodbye to wrapping paper
Every year, Brits use an estimated 227,000 miles of wrapping paper. This wrapping paper then requires sticky tape and tags, adding to the plastic use associated with gifting. Shiny foil, dyed, and glittered wrapping paper cannot be recycled, which means that a huge mass of Christmas wrapping paper has to go to landfill. Using cloth wraps, old newspapers, or recyclable wrapping paper means that your gift-giving can stay sustainable.
9. Buy local as much as possible
Buying local foods preserves small farmland, encourages biodiversity, reduces food miles, preserves genetic diversity, and keeps money in your local community! Farmers’ markets, local grocers, and local food delivery programs are all sustainable alternatives to buying from mass producers.
10. Gift experiences rather than materials
Ditching material gifts in favour of gifted experiences means that unneeded waste can be kept at an all-time low. Weekend getaways, classes, nights away, sight-seeing, meals out, these experiences all benefit local communities, and make for personal, memorable gifts. Particularly this year after extended lockdowns and isolation, the excitement of a planned trip or experience keeps the love and spirit of Christmas alive way past the 25th December!
WEIRD CHRISTMAS TRADITIONS
December 18, 2020
On the 25th of December more than half of the world celebrates the birthday of the son of God, Jesus Christ. People attend masses, sing hymns in praise of god and enjoy food with their loved ones, but is Christmas this simple? The answer is no. Some people and cultures have managed to add fun elements to Christmas, by making their own weird Christmas traditions. Therefore, I have researched and present to you, the top four weirdest Christmas traditions.
NORWEGIANS FEAR THE ATTACK OF WITCHES
Norwegians believe during Christmas time witches visit them to steal their brooms and have free joy rides. So, they always hide their brooms before going to bed on the Christmas Eve.
GOING TO CHURCH ON ROLLER SKATES
This one is unique; Venezuelans attend Misa de Aguinaldo (Early Morning Mass) during the week leading up to Christmas and they don’t walk but roller skate their way to church.
EATING RAW WHALE SKIN
Next time you talk about weird dinner ideas, don’t forget the people of Greenland and their strange Christmas dinner staple. As part of their Christmas tradition, the people of Greenland have to eat decomposed raw whale skin wrapped in seal skin, which has been buried for several months underground.
QUEMA DEL DIABLO, THE 'BURNING OF THE DEVIL
The people of Guatemala believe that devil hides in dark and dirty part of their houses. So, before Christmas they extensively clean their houses, collect all the garbage in front of their houses and burn it. Throwing an effigy of the devil on top, to finish it off.
Christmas festivities can be a time of fun and relaxation, but the incorporation of these weird traditions into some festive celebrations, have made this time of the year more memorable, not only for those who celebrate them, but also for those who observe.
IT'S BEGINNING TO LOOK LIKE CHRISTMAS, OR IS IT?
BY ZAHRA AWAN
December 18, 2020
We planned to do secret Santa, the gift giving was going to be on the twenty-second of December, it would be my first ‘Christmas’ with my friends and away from the family.
Quarantine had already messed up various events, such as my siblings A levels and GCSEs, as well as a friendship. After I found myself being accused of ‘being inconsiderate’ due to not going over to her large household of eleven members, none of whom followed the government guidelines on social distancing. It has also triggered arguments between the aunt and uncle who always have Christmas, and who are now divorced, leaving my cousins stranded in this limbo, where they are both adults but also children. Admittedly, no one wants to have their children to be hovering over them like the cliché ‘grey cloud’. Yet, the question remains outstanding; who’s holding Christmas now?
My university house is made up of two practicing Catholics, three atheists (all of whom are baptised – they say ‘culturally Christian’), an agnostic and me, a Muslim. It’s a large household, and one with very differing opinions. An example of this, was the time my atheist’s friends very superstitious Romanian grandmother sent holy water and a candle, which was meant to warn off robbers and had also decided to bless each room of our house. I must admit, I was rather confused as to whether I had committed a sin and did in fact pray in the rooms where people would let me (you may laugh). But I suppose it just goes to show that yes, I am Muslim, I do believe in the religion, not because of the culture, but because its part of me.
That might be easy to understand as a reader; ‘Why would you chose to be a Muslim for anyone but yourself?’ But once upon a time, I had been Muslim because my parents would’ve disowned me otherwise. This led to me think about my celebration of the festive period, I chose to focus on this instead of my degree. I asked myself, why do I care to celebrate Christmas as a Muslim?
Back to Secret Santa, I was given the task of buying a present for my twin-minded other (although we only met at the beginning of 2020, I can state that 2020 delivered one good thing – a best friend turned sister). The love for my friend, added with existing pressure of Secret Santa, meant finding the perfect present was crucial. With this task of buying her Christmas gift, I continued to think about my questions over religion and Christmas, as my friend was an atheist. When I first met her, I realised that the British religious education was severely lacking, and that a lot of kids use media to learn and form perhaps stereotypical views of people, and their race, culture, religion and class.
My friend had attended a boarding school, where her mother had been that matron who would carry a box for your phones to be taken away at 8pm. Upon the growth of our friendship, she knew I was always open to any questions she wanted to ask me, no matter the context. But then, I was able to ask her where she stood with religion, to which she answered: “Agnostic now. I think”.
I’m not claiming to have played a role in changing her mind, that subject was something she had always had in her mind, whether consciously or unconsciously. The achievement for me, however, was showing someone that there was a world beyond our own opinions over religion. For me, this was Christmas.
The sickening over use of ‘It’s Beginning to Look a lot Like Christmas’ or a new cover of
Jingle Bells Rock, or dare I say Michael Bublé coming from his hiding place, singing yet another shocking cover whilst he’s covered in cobwebs (metaphor inspired by a TikTok) tires me each year. Second-hand embarrassment, I think, must be the most common diagnosis over the Christmas period. Call me Scrooge for I have been diagnosed. However, I found that Christmas this year, has inspired the dormant festive spirit within me.
Like Scrooge, I have had an epiphany. I confess, I unfortunately have begun to enjoy the Christmas spirit. The colours blue green and red still blind me, but I have found myself fantasising over decorating a Christmas tree. I hate the music, but unwrapping gifts to the cheesy lyrics was more entertaining than getting gifts on my birthday. It was only after I was shown that even though it is a religious holiday, it is mostly used as an excuse to be happy, and I want to partake in that (whether it is wrong to celebrate because I’m not doing it for the religious reasons or if it is wrong because perhaps, I am pretending to be happy, is a conversation for another time). Happiness before Christmas had been taken by the coronavirus, so this was me taking it back.
I placed my proudly wrapped three tiered boxes tied with a silver ribbon, with accompanying name tag, underneath our makeshift Christmas tree, which had been cut out of the amazon boxes which all our had gifts come in. I made that tree, wrapped in the offcuts from the paper I had used to wrap her present. For a first tree it really is not that bad.
It is clear by now, that I don’t celebrate Christmas for the celebrations of Catholicism or Christianity, but because my favourite time of year has always been Eid and Christmas (probably due to the food). Both are two huge celebrations where family come together and can just be family. Issues are pushed aside, happiness is prioritised over all other emotions and people are given things they want, need or hate. Just because of my own familial situation, does not mean that I cannot celebrate Christmas with my friends.