PALESTINE +100: CAN OUR PASTS WRITE OUR FUTURE?
REVIEW BY REENA BAKIR
February 26, 2021
‘The past is everything to a Palestinian writer; it is the only thing that makes their current existence and their identity meaningful.’ In her introduction to Palestine +100, editor Basma Ghalayini sets the stage for the importance of historical writing in the scope of modern Palestinian literature. Using the past as a springboard, the collection asks a single question to twelve Palestinian writers: what might your country look like in 2048? The anthology of short stories features the subsequent predictions, fears, and projections of these writers into the future of their homeland, one hundred years after the 1948 Nakba – which translates to “the catastrophe” in Arabic.
In a preservation and validation for the existence of their land before its occupation, Palestinian writers have often felt an obligation to write deeply into the past of their country. Writers such as Ghassan Kanafani, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, among many others use the present as a looking glass into history. Considering this, the anthology thus poses the question of how stories set in the future are also writing through the scope of the past and present.
Fact and fiction often overlap in contemporary literature emerging from Palestinian writers; many displaced refugees and exiles have never visited their homeland, only savouring its memories through recitals and tales which are passed down generations. Fictional narratives can be written on the backs of real, lived experiences. In Palestine +100, this notion of an interweaving of what is true and what is imagined is palpable. The short stories use realities of the present and the past – including exile, displacement, imprisonment, and occupation – to reimagine a future. This allows for an infiniteness of genre: the limitless imagination for what has not yet occurred.
Science fiction brings to life the new realities of Palestinians in 2048. Familiar cases of family displacement, loss of loved ones and control of movement are reshaped in world of VR universes, digital uprisings, interdimensional teleportation, drone swarms and alien invasions. In Majd Kayyal’s N, a scientific apartheid keeps a mother from her son in two virtual lands of Palestine. A Song of Birds by Saleem Haddad was inspired by a real teen suicide in the city of Gaza in 2017 and transforms the story through a girl consolidating the death of her brother in a simulated 2048 Gaza.
The multi-layered narratives of these short stories touch on the importance of the past in creating new futures. Samir El Youseff’s The Asssociation showcases a world where the study of the past is forbidden, historians are considered deceitful and branded as extremists, and the country is pushed into a collective state of amnesia for the sake of peace. The protagonist, a journalist investigating the suspicious death of a historian, finds himself on the path to uncover the people’s ‘right to remember’. Such a tale offers a deeply personable critique of the socio-political restraints felt by the author, offering a relatable reality to non-Palestinian readers as well.
Truths of pasts and presents trickle into these fantastical futures. In the midst of these twelve-imaginary tales, the essence of remembrance is simply tangible: the Palestinian story lives on.
LETTER ON AMERICA NO.2: THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE GAMESTOP SHORT SQUEEZE
BY EMMETT SULLIVAN
You knew that Boden and Fleck’s 2019 movie Captain Marvel was set in the 1990s: Brie Larson’s character is seen crashing through the roof of a Blockbuster. From a position of once ubiquity, Blockbuster is now a metaphor for business models of the past, outmoded by taste and technology. If you want to rent a film on physical media at Blockbuster, you will have a journey: the one remaining store in the franchise is in the town of Bend, right in the middle of Oregon. It is a knowing joke in Captain Marvel for a cynical generation – you know this is the past immediately. In a downloading world, who needs a shop for your videos?
There are many around the world, twelve months into a global pandemic, who would like the liberty to pop down to the local shops to buy or rent a video. The face of retail may be forever altered by Covid-19, including in that post-Second World War cultural staple of North America, ‘the mall’. Deloitte in Canada have published a report speculating how ‘the mall’ would have to adapt to a ‘post-pandemic world’. Sourcing and buying online, becoming the norm in any case, has accelerated over the past year, with more of us turning to ‘The FAANGs’ – Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Netflix and Google – and their like. These are the Standard Oil, U.S. Steel and Bell Telephone of the twenty-first century. In contrast, Business Insider highlighted that more traditional retail firms were likely to go under in the ‘retail apocalypse’, and named U.S. chains with 8,300 stores likely to go under in August 2020. Amongst those marked for closure in the article was the 450 stores of GameStop, the Blockbuster of the U.S. gaming world, and a business name few in Britain would have heard of before January 2021. At which point, the financial pages around the world were full of the share trading involving GameStop.
RUGGED INDIVIDUALISM FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY
GameStop had its origins in the 1980s, and had evolved over the years to a greater degree than Blockbuster was able to. By concentrating on high-end retail – Xbox, PlayStation and the like – they kept a niche in the market when the games themselves became available online. However, as the impact of the current health crisis deepened, and footfall began to decrease on Main Street, U.S.A., Wall Street analysts couldn’t see a future for this retail outlet, and a number of investment houses started ‘shorting’ the stock.
Shorting is a fairly common speculative practice: investors borrow shares from their owners, for a fee; and then frequently sell these borrowed shares on the stock market. They are speculating that at the time they have to return the shares to the actual owners, the stock price would have fallen, allowing investors to buy at the lower price, and returning a tidy profit. If this seems to be a form of gambling, you would be correct. Long-run stock market investment can be profitable and promote growth. Not profitable enough, or quickly enough for some: it may be better to consider day-to-day trading on the world’s financial markets as a form of ‘advance gambling’, where a U.S.$1B is considered to be ‘small change’. As with all betting, there are risks. However, with shorting, there is a contractual obligation to return the shares: if the price of the shares rise, and are higher at the time of the return, you are out of pocket.
Melvin Capital Management retired its GameStop position at the end of January 2021, with suggestions that the company had lost around 30% of its hedge fund value over the year, a figure over $4B. GameStop losses contributed to this, with Melvin Capital Management having had to raise $2.75B to refinance their fund. In April 2020 GameStop shares were trading at $3.25; on 27 January 2021, those stocks were worth $347.51 each, giving the company a net value of $22B. Wall Street traders used to style themselves as ‘Masters of the Universe’. Four years ago, CNN claimed that they had reclaimed that status. Perhaps not, if they could misjudge the market for GameShop so badly. How did this come about?
It is not a surprise to see a wave of memes based on Leonardo Di Caprio’s portrayal of Jordon Belfour in The Wolf of Wall Street being posted to social media at the hight of the press coverage on GameStop. The idea of ‘rugged individualism’ as a means to success – and achieving the ‘American Dream’ – is still revered. For the small investors who put their money in GamesStop shares over months around the turn of 2021, they hoped that they might just achieve it. If not, they had a second motive: they wanted to ‘stick it to “The Man”’, and at least give some of corporate America a bloody nose.
TAKING ON THE FAANGS
The Reddit group WallStreetBets forum had other ideas about how the balance between corporate America and the public should be redressed: they started trading in the GameStop share, deliberately increasing the price, knowing that at some point Wall Street traders were going to have to buy GameStop shares back. What the press were covering with GameStop was something close to a ‘disordered market’; but how that is defined is debatable. What status does a social media discussion board have? We are likely to find out in the coming months: the U.S. Department of Justice is reported as investigating the nature of trading in the shares, and to question the actions on both sides of the equation, including Robinhood, the trading app through which most of the price rallies took place.
At which point ‘it is alleged’ might preference any further discussions. The small traders were enraged when Robinhood stopped GameStop trading; that was reinstated after Robinhood secured an additional $1B of financial backing. The co-founder of Robinhood denied that the previous suspension was due to pressure from Wall Street hedge funds. Most likely the pause in trading was due to warnings from financial regulators; but the small investors are suspicious, and on a number of counts. Their questions are best summed up by asking if this was a game on a level playing field to begin with? When Ryan Cohen bought 13% of GameStop in September 2020, and wanted to convert the company to a digital challenger to Amazon, some of the GameShop investors might have hoped to have gotten on at the basement stop of a challenger to the FAANGs, a long-term bet. In the meantime, the temptation to make a short-term killing at the expense of Wall Street may have just been too great.
Not that any of this is new, of course. During the Great Recession Reuters’ noted that German car manufacturer Volkswagen had become – briefly – the most valuable company in the world based on its share price, as a result of shorting, with the total value of the company reaching €298B, and the share price reached €1,005 (from €34), making Volkswagen bigger than Exxon Mobile, the U.S. based oil company.
Porsche has shorted its own shares, and then effectively bought them back, squeezing the market for them down to 5% of the total – leading to a scramble by investors to buy shares - to return to Porsche. As The New York Times put it ‘Porsche reinvents the short squeeze’. Though legal, this rebounded on Porsche ... who are now owned by Volkswagen.
Joe Kennedy liquidated his Wall Street holdings in September 1929, saying famously ‘only a fool holds out for top dollar’. Given what happened on Wall Street in October 1929, and in the U.S. in the ‘Devil’s Decade’ which followed, this seems sensible advice. At the time of writing, the GameStop shares are trading at U.S.$52.40. That is 250% of the price at the beginning of January 2021, but only 25% of the peak price at the end of that month. The standoff between the small investors and the Wall Street shorters couldn’t have gone on for much longer in any case. Hopefully some smaller investors took their gains at the end of January, and walked away – leaving them a little closer to achieving the ‘American Dream’, and with the funds to fight another day.
WHY WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING IS A MUST-READ NOVEL FOR LOCKDOWN NO.3
BY HARRIET DIPPER
February 26, 2021
As we find ourselves in another lockdown period, it is undoubtedly the small victories that get us through each day. Whether that be a walk, or simply completing daily tasks, it is certain that for so many of us, the parameters of life are much smaller than before. Delia Owens’ debut novel Where the Crawdads Sing tells a much-needed tale of liberating isolation, bravery and self-reliance. It reminds its readers to take pleasure in the small things around us and to treat people with kindness – a particularly apt message for this moment in time.
Where the Crawdads Sing follows the maturation of Kya, the novel’s fascinating protagonist, from a young age into adulthood. This elusive ‘Marsh Girl’ grows up with her family in a shack-like home, located on the isolated marshes of North Carolina. One by one, first her Mother then each of her siblings, desert this young girl until she is left only with her abusive, alcoholic Father. Devastatingly, when Kya is ten, her Father too abandons her. She is marooned without friends or a caring family unit, only being left a little motorboat, which she must learn to use in order to explore the marsh around her. Her isolated existence tells a tale of self-reliance and upmost bravery. Without any formal education, she gleans an expansive knowledge of the natural world from her home in the marshes and finds companionship in the gulls of the sky. In a society that has shut her out, she finds calm and security in the natural world around her.
As Kya grows into a beautiful and wild young woman, she attracts the attention, good and ugly, of the local townspeople. She is dismissed as ‘Swamp Trash’ by the local town and is unkindly treated as such. After her family leaves, Kya befriends a local storeowner (or as local as anyone can be on the marsh, as the only mode of transport is by boat) known as Jumpin’ and his wife Mabel. They are a kind black couple who experience much of the same social exclusion as Kya, highlighting the terrible social and racial divisions of 1960s Southern America. The humanity of this couple displays to the reader how goodness prevails, Owens reminding us of the power of simple, unselfish kindness towards others.
When Kya’s beauty catches the eye of two local boys, a whole host of unknown feelings and situations arise for our beloved heroine. For the first time, Kya encounters friendship and more. She navigates through adolescence and relationships with no Mother to guide her, equipped only with her knowledge of the natural world. Owens is an American wildlife scientist by profession, combining in her narrative her extensive biological knowledge with hauntingly beautiful imagery of the natural world. This is seen as Kya manoeuvres through the unchartered territory of relationships, using objects such as rare feathers to communicate her feelings poignantly.
When the much-adored jock of the local town, Chase Andrews, is found dead at the bottom of the old fire tower on the marsh, rumours circulate wildly with many eyes pointing towards the ‘Marsh Girl’. Despite the turmoil this causes, one thing that never leaves Kya throughout these accusations, is her love for her natural environment.
In Where the Crawdads Sing, Owens effortlessly combines this thrilling crime narrative, love story and coming of age novel, in a beautifully executed synergy that is in an ode to the natural world. Owens’ novel is undoubtedly as compelling as it is beautiful to read. Where the Crawdads Sing teaches lessons of resilience and kindness to others in the most unique ways, prevalent themes which are unendingly important when amidst this pandemic. Kya clings to what she knows she can rely on in nature, reminding us to take pleasure in all that we see. So, when on your next lockdown walk, I entreat you to take a leaf out of Kya’s life and absorb the beauty of the small things, and your day may just be made that little bit brighter.
Ghetts – Conflict of Interest (Album)
East London MC Legend Ghetts returns with his seventh commercial project named Conflict of Interest.
The project sees the MC team up with an array of collaborators including Skepta, Stormzy, Giggs and Ed Sheeran among others. The album sees Ghetts continue to use his impressive skill of elite storytelling through spitting on well-crafted production. There is a good balance between the high impact beats and introspective moments on the record. Ghetts has got to be one of the best MCs to ever do it right?
Did I mention that the production on this album is insane?
Crud ft Giggs
Mozambique ft Jaykae, Moonchild Sanelly
Kartell – Daybreak EP
French producer Kartell returns with an EP after a four year absence that consisted of taking a break to focus on his family and growing the co-founded French Label Roche Musique, which has found recent success and continues to impress music fans outside the French isles, with their stacked roster of talented producers including Darius, Crayon and Dune making bangers left, right and centre.
Described as a journey through an everlasting sunset, a pause on its lights and colours, Daybreak EP is a 6-track time capsule that impresses in its approach to make it the project feel like you’re living in the 70s and 80s yet brings it alive and modernised through the use of currently relevant features .
The instrumentation used in the EP, especially the synths, explores a nostalgic pallet that has been resurrected by a plethora of artists in the electronic production sphere of recent times.
Songs such as ‘Time’ and ‘All In’ experiment using British Rappers Coops and Che Lingo respectively to complement upbeat funky tunes to dance to while isolating yourself during, hopefully the last national lockdown the UK finds itself in.
‘AWAKEN’ is the instrumental that requires attention. Sublime funkiness
Whatever Kartell decides to delve himself into next, the electronic community will be listening. I highly recommend his back catalogue of songs and collaborations.
SG Lewis – times (Album)
The long awaited debut album of British production prodigy SG Lewis has been released in the form of ‘times’. The 10 track album finds the producer stepping out front and centre, as he takes listeners on a voyage through soaring electronic dance and kaleidoscopic future disco, with the help of a few friends along the way.
The concept behind the album in his words are:
“After reading about 70’s New York and the birth of Disco, I became infatuated with the euphoria and escapism that the music from that period created, and the safe spaces the clubs at the time provided for people to express themselves,” said Lewis. “I aimed to create a world musically that captured those same feelings, and to imagine the music that would be playing in those rooms if they were to exist today.”
As well as reading into the birth of Disco and the emotions that came with the genre, Lewis decided to speak to Alex Rosner, a Holocaust survivor and the creator of the first ever DJ mixers. Those mixers were introduced around the era of disco when clubbing as we know it today first appeared using sound systems and PAs as ammunition for sound to blast out of speakers, rumbling the floor ravers used to shuffle on. His words about his time living the disco era are sprinkled all over the album.
Chad Hugo (The Neptunes and N.E.R.D) assisted lead single ‘Chemicals’ was first released in April 2020 during the beginning of the first lockdown in the UK. The song gained traction throughout the year amassing more than 25 million streams on Spotify. The following singles ‘Impact’ with Robyn and Channel Tres, ‘Feed The Fire’ featuring Lucky Daye and ‘Time’ featuring Rhye all took us along the journey of being on the dancefloor metaphorically while we are locked in our rooms.
The purpose of this album has changed now that we don’t find ourselves on the dancefloor these days. ‘times’ connotes the feeling that we don’t have a lot of time on this earth and one thing the current situation is reminding us, is to cherish every moment celebrating music in a live context because those days are not always guaranteed. Highly recommend.
Time ft Rhye
Feed The Fire ft Lucky Daye
One More ft Nile Rodgers
All We Have ft Lastlings
Arlo Parks – Collapsed In Sunbeams (Album)
Arlo Parks was previously featured in the ‘Up and Coming’ section of this magazine in the August 2020 issue. She has since had numerous plays on Radio 1 and has even had the privilege of performing on national television, in the form of the Graham Norton show quite recently.
‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’ is the name of her debut album which features ‘Black Dog’ one of my favourite pieces of music from 2020. The song was a hit in the UK due to the hidden meanings about Mental Health which resonated with many due to numerous lockdowns and increase in loneliness for some. ‘Black Dog’ is wrapped in a musical blanket with 11 other songs that evoke similar emotions. Each song takes the listener at a time in her life where her beliefs and feelings were questions, be it her sexuality for example.
Collapsed in Sunbeams was written and recorded in various apartments, with the finishing stages being held in an Airbnb as Parks and her producer present focused on fleshing out demos and crafting sketches to full-fledged songs. A fascinating process that involved.. Pasta and watching Netflix in between writing and recording sessions to come up with a lyrically superb collection of work.
The album blends indie/alternative music with moments of soul sourced from the vocals and keys instruments used throughout the project. Lyrically, the album is a work of genius with poems written by the singer inspiring the lyrics for each of the 12 songs.
The London singer songwriter has a bright future ahead of her, with music award gongs such as the Brit Award or Ivor Novello prize potentially heading her way next year.
AJ Tracey x Digga D – Bringing it Back (Single)
West London rappers AJ Tracey and Digga D have come together for the lead single of the latter’s upcoming Mixtape named ‘Made in the Pyrex’. The drill track pays homage to the styles and flows both artists used during their come up in the UK scene.
The music video is one for those that enjoyed their early work.
The video ‘brings it back’ to AJ Tracey’s Packages Freestyle, while Digga D’s pays homage to the infamous ‘Next Up’’ freestyle with the River Thames in the background. The way both artists bounce of each other so seamlessly accelerates the idea that these two could make a collaborative project together that would please listeners of both camps and beyond. UK Drill fans, this is for you.
'I go by medium mushroom, it's my brand name and how I publish illustration and paintings. I'm based in the coutryside of georgia, united states. I work digitally, with traditional media, and design and produce things like bags and accessories. I want to explore cuteness in popular media and how it relates to our daily lives and struggles.'
ENTERTAINMENT SNIPPET: 5 FILMS & SHOWS TO WATCH IN MARCH
Now that February is ending, lockdown seems to be coming to a steady end with it. But sadly, we’ll have to wait until 12th April for even a drive-in cinema experience and then 17th May at the earliest for cinemas themselves. We’re getting further and further into 2021 and it already feels like an endless number of films have failed to open on time and it isn’t stopping anytime soon. But thanks to streaming, we’ve still had loads of great movie releases so far and endless TV shows to enjoy with them.
Netflix has given us Pieces of a Woman, The Dig, News of the World, Malcolm & Marie and The Disappearance at Cecil Hotel to name but a few. Disney+ has been drip-feeding WandaVision throughout the course of lockdown having recently released a whole new roster of over 300 movies and shows in the form of ‘STAR’. Amazon Prime Video has released the brilliant I Care A Lot starring Rosamund Pike and even freeview has kept morale high with All4’s It’s A Sin, ITV’s Unforgettable and the Small Axe film series on iPlayer.
2021 hasn’t been all doom and gloom in terms of where we can access our entertainment and there’s loads of stuff releasing in March that you can see wherever and however you want. Here’s 5 that are worth getting excited about but bear in mind even more will probably be made available as HBO Max looks to shift releases like Zack Snyder’s Justice League and Godzilla v Kong into UK streaming channels.
COMING 2 AMERICA - PRIME VIDEO - MARCH 5TH
Thirty-three years after the beloved original, Eddie Murphy is back in the role of Prince Akeem from the fictional African kingdom of Zamunda. In this sequel, Murphy’s newly crowned King Akeem must return to America in search of a male heir to the throne (previously held by James Earl Jones). In his search he goes back to where it all began, Queens.
The original 1988 movie is widely held as one of the 80s’ 24-carat comedies, a classic from the time period that injected a lot of new ideas into Hollywood. Murphy and his co-star Arsenio Hall will return to taking on multiple rib-tickling roles under heaps of prosthetics and there’s a slew of returning characters as well as plenty of new ones to get you laughing. Will it do justice to the original? Who’s to say? But it’s not a bad way to kick off the month at all.
CHERRY - APPLETV+ - MARCH 12TH
Teaming up for the first time since the most commercially successful film of all time (Avengers: Endgame), The Russo brothers have re-joined Tom Holland for their new AppleTV movie - Cherry. Based on the novel of the same name by Nico Walker, Cherry’s about an Army medic who suffers from PTSD and becomes a serial bank robber after an addiction to opioids puts him in debt. It looks fun, but it also looks tragic.
It’s going to be a big year for Tom Holland. He’s starring in this, Uncharted, Chaos Walking and Spider-Man 3 all in 2021 (probably). It all starts here, and he doesn’t look bad at all in Cherry. The Russo brothers have attested that their latest film is very much in the spirit of the French New Wave of filmmaking. They’ll mix comedy heavily with tragedy and interchange a variety of filmmaking tools to convey the character’s tumultuous state.
THE FALCON AND THE WINTER SOLDIER - DISNEY+ - MARCH 19TH
Even with cinemas closed, The Marvel ‘Cinematic’ Universe has found a way to ensure it’s at centre stage, growing and prospering amongst audiences. WandaVision has been a huge hit with fans of the Marvel franchise and their next entry will come basically straight after it.
Following the finale of Avengers: Endgame Captain America bequeathed his seemingly unbreakable shield to his friends, Sam and Bucky (Falcon & Winter Soldier). It seems, however, that without their mutual friend to guide them they’re a completely mismatched duo. But they’ll team up nonetheless to stop the villains on a seemingly epic buddy-cop mission across the globe, testing their ability to trust each other and do right by their friend’s legacy.
SKY ROJO - NETFLIX - MARCH 19TH
Coming to Netflix in March is Sky Rojo, a fast-paced Spanish crime series about three prostitutes who flee from their pimp. The women embark on a journey facing dangers of every kind but discover the meaning of true kinship along the way. It looks like fast, sexy, chaotic, frenzied fun with the potential to have a lot of heart but definitely a lot of great action sequences.
It’s been developed by the creators of Netflix’s ground-breaking Money Heist so it’s a fair bet that our central characters will wear their hearts on their sleeves and incite action wherever they can. It’ll be a perfect binge watch too. With two seasons confirmed at eight 25-minute episodes per season, it’s not an overwhelming length making it perfect to keep dipping your toes into.
INVINCIBLE - AMAZON PRIME VIDEO - MARCH 26TH
Robert Kirkman, the creator of The Walking Dead franchise, has brought together a star-studded cast featuring the likes of J.K. Simmons, Mark Hamill, Steven Yeun, Seth Rogen, Sandra Oh, Mahershala Ali, Justin Roiland and many more. They make up the cast of Invincible, an animated superhero drama based on Kirkman’s esteemed comic book of the same name.
At first it appears to be quite an ordinary superhero series with a unique animation style and all the usual cliches. A young boy learns about his powers and has to learn to use them under the supervision of his superhero father. It’s a tried and tested routine. But then you realise it’s far more violent than anything you’ll see from Marvel or DC and features a whole universe of its very own heroes and villains with a free-spoken sense of humour.
Make your eyelids kiss each other
Sitting there with a hand in your hair;
No one thinks about the other,
And we are all going to hell.
It might happen like tomorrow
What a cruel, dirty, sorrow;
Thrilled that you are on my side
I wish we had a place
From which we could watch
Turning mould into gold
19 years old;
With a smirk on my face
And your hand to hold
We’ve been singing our song
For God knows how long
I was never so right
I was never so wrong
BY KATHY BALDOCK
WASHINGTON BLACK - ESI EDUGYAN
February 26, 2021
Washington Black is an eleven-year-old field slave who knows no other life than the Barbados sugar plantation where he was born.
When his master's eccentric brother chooses him to be his manservant, Wash is terrified of the cruelties he is certain await him. But Christopher Wilde, or "Titch," is a naturalist, explorer, scientist, inventor, and abolitionist.
He initiates Wash into a world where a flying machine can carry a man across the sky; where two people, separated by an impossible divide, might begin to see each other as human; and where a boy born in chains can embrace a life of dignity and meaning. But when a man is killed and a bounty is placed on Wash's head, Titch abandons everything to save him.
What follows is their flight along the eastern coast of America, and, finally, to a remote outpost in the Arctic, where Wash, left on his own, must invent another new life, one which will propel him further across the globe.
This is a book that I just had to re-read. I loved this the first time around and I just had the urge to read it again. I initially read this during Black history month a few years ago. This was not something I would have normally read and was way out of my comfort zone.
I simply adored Wash, he is incredibly endearing and a character that very much leaves a mark on your heart long after you have finished the novel. His innocence and naivety pulled on my heart strings. That coupled with Titch treating Wash with the very basics of human decency, something that Wash had not experienced due to living on the plantation. As a result, it was heart-warming to see Wash grow in confidence and strength throughout the novel.
Esi Edugyan takes you on a very real and raw journey, she describes Wash and Titch’s adventures in so much detail you see it unwind in front of your eyes like a movie. I highly recommend this to anyone.
"I will only say that if I have acquired any wisdom from Big Kit, it is to live always with your eyes cast forward, to seek what will be, for the path behind can never be retaken."
Neve Clarke is a visual Fine Artist currently based in Falmouth, UK where she is studying Fine Art in her Third year at Falmouth University.
Clarke’s work explores relationships between the human and the non-human. She does this by forming collaborations with the land and non-human entities that exist within it; exploring the consciousness of plants and giving the non-human a narrative in her work. She aims to form visual conversations with these living, organic forms, and uses printmaking, drawing and painting to visualise these encounters. Her work has a sensitivity present within it, exploring the quiet and untouchable essence present when forming these visual encounters. Each of her prints represents a unique ‘conversation’, with the marks on her work acting as a visual lettering within the language she has created. Clarke acts as the translator between herself and these non-human entities.
Her series ‘In the silence I hear you’ is about a more tactile and physical understanding, and was created as a further development upon forming these non-verbal conversations. Clarke gathered rubbings from the non-human forms within the landscape, and then responded to these marks using intuitive, varied drawing techniques. These were then turned into embossings. With the absence of form, each print creates a space for the viewer to interpret the abstract visual language of the non-human in a contemplative and intimate way. This allows for the viewer to connect and engage with the land through her work. She keeps the work reductive here, attempting to say the most with the least.
Clarke is currently unable to produce any prints due to the current lockdown prohibiting her from having access to her University Facilities, however is currently still developing her work and these themes with painting and drawing.
PIMPING ALL OVER (THE WORLD TOUR): LIVING VICARIOUSLY THROUGH THE LYRICS OF LUDACRIS
BY ELIOT K. RAMAN JONES
February 26, 2021
One of, if not the, most notable consequence of the worldwide safety measures brought in as a result of the coronavirus pandemic is – obviously - the policy of lockdown. While the benefits of being locked down help to counteract virus transmission, being unable to exit set “bubbles” of human interaction exerts great pressure on the human psyche.
During the pandemic, 4 in 10 adults in the United States have reported symptoms of anxiety or depression, and many adults are reporting negative impacts on their mental health such as difficulty sleeping, eating and an increase in substance use. One of the first major consequences of lockdown was that it effectively nixed the tourist industry, and while each country’s travel restrictions have differed, it has generally been considered best practice to minimise travel in order to help stop the spread of the virus.
I have a tendency to use music as a coping mechanism, to deal with anything from minor inconveniences through to actual issues, and the coronavirus pandemic has greatly exacerbated this habit. You only need to look at my listening numbers from Spotify to work out how much music impacts my daily life. In 2020, I listened to over 95,271 minutes of music, which is equal to around 66 days, meaning I spent just over 2 months of the whole year just listening to music nonstop.
Music can make you calm or excited, and help you deal cathartically with mental health issues or just make you feel nostalgic about a time before the current reality - it is this last point which I’d like to focus on now. Anyone who knows me, or indeed has read any of my articles on here before, knows that I adore rap music. I like the poetry of the rhymes, the production methods of the beats, and the whole hip-hop culture sphere, and it’s been interesting to see how hip-hop’s traditional focuses of braggadocio, flouting displays of wealth and power, and cultivating fanbases all over the world have dealt with the global pandemic.
Obviously, massive parties, concerts, and global tours have been off the table too for some time. However, I feel that by being physically unable to travel, I’ve been travelling more through the music genres I’ve been listening to. Instead of just chart R&B and rap music, I became more interested in rap music from other countries, from European acts like German group CRO, to Nigerian megastar Burna Boy, and I reasoned that by expanding my musical tastes across the world I was essentially travelling around it too. I’ve never been on a world tour myself, but I figure that until the pandemic is over, the closest I’ll get to making one would be listening to a song about a world tour. This, dear reader, is where Ludacris comes in.
He may be better known nowadays for his contribution to the Fast and the Furious franchise, but back in 2004, Christopher Brian Bridger - AKA Ludacris - was at the peak of his powers dominating the rap scene. As one of the first rappers from the ‘Dirty South’ to enjoy mainstream success, Ludacris was in many respects a pioneer, and he was successful too. In-between 2001 and 2004, Ludacris released three albums, 2001’s Word of Mouf, 2003’s Chicken-n-Beer, and 2004’s The Red Light District, all of which were certified multi-platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America.
The Red Light District, which debuted at the top of the Billboard 200 on its release on December 7th 2004, sold 322,000 copies in its first week and marked a more mature approach to rapping and album-making from Ludacris – an approach that was received fondly by both the critics and the public. One of Luda’s singles from The Red Light District, Pimpin’ All Over The World, became an instant hit. While it doesn’t possess the lyrical standards of a hip-hop titan such as The Notorious B.I.G or Tupac Shakur, nor the aptitude for storytelling displayed by a Raekwon or a Will Smith, neither of those aspects of rap music have ever really been Luda’s main asset.
The reception of his albums and of his public persona was, and possibly still is, based on his comedy - the light-hearted globe-trotting romancing described in Pimpin’ All Over The World, for example, typifies the part of his style that made him so popular in the early years of the 21st century. It was one of the first rap songs I ever heard - though I’m not sure how or from where - so it has a special significance to me also. Now more than ever, the song about sampling the delights of the Caribbean and the speed of Germany’s Autobahn seem like a more wistful description of wanderlust, so I thought many times of how fun it would be to plan out a trip based on the song – if anything, just as an excuse to beat COVID-boredom. This is the best first draft of my efforts.
The chorus of the song is also its opener, sung by former Mista bandmember Bobby V. It’s a sickly sweet depiction of opulence, using three of the most common forms of braggadocio in modern rap music (Women, expensive food, and expensive cars) to exemplify Ludacris and Bobby’s status as megastars. Luda’s verses deal with the dispute over which location has the best women, so it’s easier to quantify the other parts of Bobby’s verse first. Caviar can, depending on quality, cost anything from £68 to £142 an ounce, and in order to eat it as frequently as Bobby V and Luda, it would involve multiple servings – let’s say at least seven days of two meals each, of which a meal is a serving, and a serving is two ounces. Still with me? The average price of caviar using the two numbers above is £105 for an ounce, so £210 for a serving, and a costly £1470 spent on caviar alone for the week.
To break down the “fancy cars” lyric requires a bit more research. The most-sold car in 2004 was the affordable Toyota Camry, but we can imagine Bobby V does not intend to be Pimpin’ in an affordable family car. The most-sold luxury car of 2004 was the BMW 3-Series Coupe, and a new model in good condition would set you back up to £35,575. Luckily, we won’t be using one of these twice a day for a week like the caviar, but the financial purse strings will still need to be loosened again in order to satiate the fact that Bobby V uses the plural of ‘car’ here. So both the cars for this world tour will set us back £71,150, and the food will be just under £1500. We haven’t even started world tour-ing yet.
Ludacris does a great job in this song of accurately signposting where he is at any given time, and starts off his verse with the lines “Cause I've been places you'll never imagine /
But I'mma start it at home”. Ludacris is technically from Illinois, but he moved to Atlanta, Georgia when he was nine, which is also when he began rapping, so I will reason that he considers himself an Atlanta native. The first travel reference doesn’t come until well into the second verse, after Ludacris finishes his opening flirtation with the woman the song is addressed to.
Luda raps: “How many guys you know can bring the travel channel to life/One day we on the Autobahn, swervin drivin/Next day we in the sun on the Virgin Islands”. The Autobahn, the federal highway system of Germany, does not have a specific point to join up from, so we can reason Luda is travelling to a German city more famous for its cosmopolitan tourism, with the added bonus of the nearby Autobahn, such as Berlin. With a small layover in France, the cost of a one-way flight from Atlanta to Berlin is around £990, which despite being a trip halfway across the world, is the cheapest price so far.
Analysing the total costs of this song is an essay all in of itself, so I’ll spare you the more complex side of maths that, briefly threatened to overwhelm my actual degree. The main issues are that, because of the pandemic and the closure of flights, I was unable to find suitable data for Luda’s bizarre trip around the world, and it also highlighted several pieces of unintentional comedy within the lyrics. For example, in the first verse alone, he leaves Atlanta for Germany, then immediately makes the “according to Google Maps this trip is impossible”-departure for the British Virgin Islands, then on to Miami, before going back to Atlanta. After that, he travels far north to Washington DC’s Howard University, before travelling all the way down to Hawaii. I invite anyone to attempt to draw this flight path and make any sense of it, but then again, this trip wasn’t made for me. It was made for a rap superstar at the top of his game.
INTERVIEW WITH ‘BY YOUR LITTLE SISTER’
BY ELIZABETH AJAO
BY YOUR LITTLE SISTER’S SHINE LOU TALKS FREEING CREATIVITY, BUSINESS GROWTH AND SLAYING WITH AUTISM.
February 26, 2021
Around four months ago and slap bang in the middle of a global pandemic, Shine Lou posted a snap of a giant knit rainbow cardigan on her personal Instagram story. Joking about the excessive colours and chunky texture, she was surprised by the influx of messages from friends who wanted their own. Just a month later, Shine set up a new Instagram profile and her first small business, By your little sister, was born.
Shine’s earliest memories are of making things. A talented artist, she spent her childhood finding out what different materials could do, covering the kitchen table with pens and pencils, and making all sorts of things to figure out what her imagination could make. Her parents, although being a bit miffed at the loss of their table, were always fully supportive of Shine’s creative endeavours. Clearly, nothing has changed because now 23-year-old Shine’s heart still lies firmly with the arts.
During her late teens, Shine spent a lot of time unwell, and taught herself how to knit as a means of passing the time and as a form of creative therapy. At this time, it was just little bits and bobs, a hat and scarf would manifest themselves here and there, but nothing was made to be sold. She didn’t continue with knitting, replacing it with other forms of arts and crafts for four or five years. It wasn’t until her sister begged for a cardigan at Christmas that Shine remembered how much she loved it.
Taking inspiration from Hope MacCaulay, luxury designer and favourite of Vogue, Shine wanted to make garments as marvellous as hers but with her own twist. Using similarly bold colours but much thicker wool, Shine incorporates felting, beading and embroidery into her pieces (just take a look at the magnificent kingfisher cardigan and you’ll get the idea). Although Hope’s cardigans are made using sustainable merino wool, this isn’t an appealing choice of yarn to Shine; a passionate vegan and protector of the environment, incredible alternatives such as bamboo and vegan yarn are much more her thing. One of her missions is to slow down fashion, and make sure people know where their clothes are really coming from.
“When making something, if I don’t have that freedom to use my imagination and experiment with colours and textures, I lose interest very quickly…”
Shine’s thick knits are totally unique, and each unit is made with the client in mind, making for completely one-of-a-kind, bespoke garments. Every cardigan takes approximately four 16-hour days of work to create, so they aren’t quick and easy. However, as Shine herself has said, it’s a real labour of love. When she first created her Instagram page, traffic was (as expected) pretty standard. Having a few hundred followers was quite a feat for a brand new small business, but when she began to approach 1,000 followers in January 2021, she decided to host a giveaway to celebrate. As with most Instagram giveaways, the rules were simple: “Like, tag a friend, follow and share”, but unlike other giveaways, her following count tripled within just a couple of weeks. With 3,026 comments on the original post and every single comment giving nothing but positive vibes, she couldn’t quite believe the reaction. Compared to her usual 100+ likes, the 1000+ likes she was getting seemed unreal!
However, the sudden growth came at a price. During my chat with Shine, she told me that it really isn’t easy having a small business grow so much so quickly:
“It often feels like I’m like, seven people at once because there are so many elements to having a small business, you know… I’m a marketer, a photographer, a designer, a model, a salesperson, an accountant, an artist, a postman, a customer service agent… It’s quite intense!”
One thing that customers never get to see, though, is the person behind the garments. Shine was open with me about being diagnosed with autism, something which presents itself in women, quite differently to how it does in men. It isn’t as widely recognised, for a start, and it also gives Shine a particular attention to detail that’s in equal parts a blessing and curse. Whilst it gives her an unparalleled focus, working for sixteen hours at a time can be emotionally and physically draining. Her high level of focus also means that she doesn’t stop until she has reached perfection, and whilst this makes for some of the most beautiful embellishments you’ll ever find, it becomes extremely taxing when she feels she hasn’t quite got there yet.
By your little sister is right at the beginning of its life as a small business, and to avoid pushing herself too much, Shine is determined to just see what happens. Her current follower count on Instagram is 3,365 and constantly growing, so for now, she just wants to focus on building her following. Well, we can safely say that we absolutely love Shine’s work, and will be keeping our eyes peeled for her SS21 collection which will be dropping soon. Oh, and let’s not forget those gorgeous new emerald shoulder bags…
INTERVIEW WITH BELLA NEERGAARD
BY DEVON HARVEY
In your Instagram bio it says you’re a ‘advocate of self-love’, what does self-love mean to you?
‘Self-love’ is showing up for myself. Self-love doesn’t necessarily mean you have to love yourself completely every moment of the day, that would be unrealistic! But for me, it’s the idea that my body is intrinsically worthy of care, even when I’m not being productive.
What is your favourite part of your job?
This job allows me to meet so many creative people. I’ve spent hours on buses, in the make-up chair, walking to shoots just talking to inspiring individuals who exhibit so much passion for their craft. It is very fulfilling; I learn a lot by just listening.
What is one thing you think is not often spoken about in the modelling industry, that you think is important for our followers to know?
Just because someone is a model, it does not mean they are not insecure. I can’t speak for all models, but I feel the job really homes in on your personal insecurities and forces you to work with them. If there is one phrase that sums up modelling for me, it would be “fake it until you make it!” That is something that I take with me in all aspects of life, imposter syndrome is so real.
What are you tips for those of us struggling to concentrate, feel motivated and also be kind to ourselves during the pandemic?
Be patient and kind to yourself, don’t expect to be your best- self every day. Doing uni work is not the only way to be productive, self-care is just as important during these times.
Finally, if there was one piece of advice you could give a younger Bella what would it be?
You are golden, baby. Stay true to yourself and you will find gorgeous people who are like you, soon.
The origin story of Clouds Craft
Hi, I’m Klaudia Debska and the origin story of Clouds Craft seems simple to me now but really it took months of emotional roller-coaster rides, because how else does one ride out a pandemic?
I know everyone remembers the mental, emotional and physical stages they went through with every lockdown. For me it went something like this…
Lockdown 1 – YES!
All the free time to search for my first graduate job, naps, sunbathing and having the time to finally try everything I’ve ever wanted! (clay play initiation)
Lockdown 2 – OH NO :(
Complete breakdown, low self-esteem and zero luck finding a job. Ending with a massive growth spurt in gratitude for my support system which is my family and friends.
Lockdown 3 – HMM
7 months into pandemic job search and I no longer punish myself for all the times I made it so far in the interview stages and fell on the last hurdle. I’ve learnt a lot and know that it’s not me, it’s the pandemic (and many job-desperate people with a lot more experience in finance than me haha)
So eventually when I couldn’t find a job, I invented one!
I have always been super creative, from as far back as I can remember my passion was always torn between art and maths. And now my heart sings every morning eager to get down and dirty with some clay. It might just be the beginning but I’m having so much fun handmaking custom candleholders for wonderful people.
I am very lucky, and I could not have done it without my support system.
WITH EVERY STROKE
BY SARAH LORRAINE
Her nose was almost touching his beak as she leant in closer. Her shoulders were hunched and her eyes squinted at the paper in front of her. The glow of the melting candle reflected off her creased forehead like a sunset on water. She tapped her brush on the edge of it, flicked away the unwanted water, and dipped it into the puddle of brown.
With the brush and paper reunited, the wings were formed with just a few fragile strokes. The bristles danced over the paper as she finished her final few details. Two beady, dark eyes stared at her. She smiled, leaned back in her chair and waited. The chorus of the wind warbled in the silent room, as it pushed open the window. The thin glass swung wide open leaving the room cold and vulnerable to the city. Yet it wasn’t the bite of the December air that caused goosebumps to prickle on the back of her neck. A robin was whisked into the room, along with a whirlwind of snow which scattered and settled on the floorboards. She watched with fierce fascination as he flew over, perched on top of the grandfather clock in the corner of the room, and watched her with equal fascination. Crooked and stiff from hours of sitting, she got up from her chair and walked over to the robin. He shook wings to release the dustings of snow, those wings the very same russet brown as the paint. His eyes, dark and beady stared into hers, blue and bright with amazement. She wanted to touch him, to know that he was real and living, but stopped herself from doing so. If she touched him, he might take flight, she thought, and the illusion would melt in front of her, just like the snow he had shook from his feathers.
The next evening she settled into her leather chair. The feet of the chair scraped across the floorboards as she pulled herself closer to her desk and resumed her usual hunchback posture that she reserved for painting only. She gently ran her thumb across the bristles of each brush, checking they’d dried, before pulling out a fresh canvas from beneath her desk.
Birds, yes, birds were easy. But what about balloons, she thought? Would balloons burst through the window just as the robin did? Was it a silly coincidence? Had she spent far too much time locked in her study, painting the hours away with every complete canvas? Her study had become a treasure for her art. A hidden treasure with no map leading to it, making it far more precious than anything marked by an X.
She set to work mixing blue and red to make purple. The separate colours blurred into one on her palette. As she stirred a fingerprint of black to the mix, a dark, aubergine emerged. Paintbrush to paper, she began to transfer the image in her head into something that would last longer than an idea, something that wouldn’t melt away.
After hours of painting, her canvas was covered in a blooming bouquet of balloons in every shade of purple imaginable. She waited again. She glanced at the clock. Eleven o’clock. The wind grew louder and stronger. The window flew open and bubbles of balloons pushed themselves in, before rising to the ceiling. Lilac, mauve, plum, heather, violet every shade of purple she’d created with delicate precision bobbed in front of her. She rushed to the window and pushed it shut to keep the draught out, and then pulled the curtains tight across. Shutting the worlds eyes out, and keeping her treasure hidden.
INTERVIEW WITH JAKUB ZABROSKI
BY DEVON HARVEY
February 26, 2021
How did you get into makeup? And what type of look do you prefer to do?
I don't really remember WHY I got into makeup, I can only presume it was just another creative way to express myself, do something fun, and stand out a little. I do know exactly WHAT ALLOWED me to get into makeup though. It's not something you're going to be exposed to through your high school extracurriculars or through your friends and family! I was lucky to study in the US (Asheville, North Carolina), where I went to an extremely liberal college (Warren Wilson College) and lived on campus surrounded by people of all backgrounds who were accepting of anyone and anything.
The atmosphere was that of a complete no-judgment-zone; you could do anything. We had spiritual and religious student clubs, clubs that offered healing with stones, clubs that worked in herbology, blacksmithing, clubs for politically oriented people, for Black students… I mean anything! There wasn’t a makeup club, but the atmosphere really allowed me to experiment, goof around, look however I wanted, and trust me – I did NOT look cute in the beginning. The fact that I looked how I did, went to classes, went out for lunch with people, hung out, etc., is really a testimony to how accepting those around me were. I think I was so fragile at that point that any scornful look or comment would’ve crushed me and made me never touch makeup again. But the college allowed me the space, the time, and the courage to grow more into myself.
As for what type of look – over the years it’s been many things. I started off following trends, and what I thought was “makeup theory”, to quickly realise that theory is nice, but creativity is nicer. I experimented with shapes, colours, various textures and products, and arrived at a point now, where I know what type of look and what type of product compliments my face, and I go with that. Most often, if I go to a nice lunch or a hang-out with friends, I’ll just want to present a better version of my face – more dewy, more seamless, livelier. If I go to a club, I might go for an inspired concept look, where I want to look or feel a certain way – seductive, innocent, grungy, whatever. It has really become such a versatile skill under my belt that it enhances my life in so many different ways, and I couldn’t be any happier with it.
How did you get into doing your more drag inspired looks?
I don’t know if I would call it drag, though I know that’s the word I used when we spoke before – to me it’s just… another side of me at this juncture in my life, I guess? I mean, doesn’t it sound absolutely amazing to feel so comfortable in your own skin that you feel comfortable exploring various personas that you are able to exhibit? I’m not boasting, at all, it has taken me YEARS to arrive where I am now (I went to the US college in 2016), and I’m nowhere near done yet. I don’t think I will ever be done.
So, for now, I don’t know what to call it – drag, crossdressing, me-time. I don’t know and I don’t care to term it, for fear of putting in a box, something that is still so young and fresh, and evolving.
Just like putting on a red lipstick, a tuxedo, or a leather jacket might make you feel a certain way, putting a wig on, or an item of clothing that has not been traditionally assigned to your birth-sex, makes you feel a certain way, too. And it allows you to explore yourself at an even deeper level.
What would you say to young people looking to get into makeup? Any products you’d recommend that are must haves?
As for young people thinking about experimenting with makeup, I have to say the biggest cliché that’s been said on TV and social media over and over – it’s JUST makeup. It comes off. If it doesn’t serve its purpose (make you feel a certain way, ideally a good way), take it off and try again, or trash it. I understand that makeup STILL, to this day, carries many stigmas with it – whether you’re the wrong sex, gender, age, or whatever. But to me, it’s like asking “what would you say to people who are thinking about trying chocolate for the first time?” – for god’s sake, DO IT, and if you like it, DO IT MORE, and if you don’t like it, DON’T DO IT! But above everything else – try it.
As for the process, or the products, I think if you aren’t used to the idea of wearing makeup, it can be overwhelming. And don’t be fooled by articles that pretend to tell you it’s affordable – yeah, you can buy foundation for £10, but you’re going to need a little bit more than that, and the chance of you picking the correct shade for yourself on first try is also quite slim. I would say, don’t be scared to splurge a little bit. Buy a few products, spend, I don’t know, £30-50… For the price of a really good night out, you can really start to get somewhere interesting with makeup.
For actual products I’d recommend:
L’Oreal True Match foundation is an affordable “holy grail”;
Catrice Cosmetics Liquid Camouflage Concealer as well as the Wet’n’Wild Photofocus Concealer are both great and affordable concealer options;
MOST of NYX eyeshadow palettes and other eye products, like pencils, are fantastic. The household makeup names like L’Oreal and Maybelline do, in my opinion, quite a poor job at more colourful eyeshadows, so if you’re looking to paint your eyelids blue, maybe look a different way (towards NYX.)
We have also noticed your YouTube channel on your instagram, what was the inspiration behind starting your channel?
My YouTube channel also started as a makeup fad, I would say, but it evolved across the years, as this inseparable part of my life that has done SO MUCH for me. I started it off, let’s be honest, for the same reason many others did at the time when makeup tutorials were really a thing – FOR FAME, MONEY, AND FREE PRODUCTS. None of those things really came to life for me, but I did gain some other great skills instead, such as learning how to edit videos and sound, how to be confident in front of a camera, and how to channel my creativity in a more of a structured way, with which the audience can connect.
I have kept my channel active over the years while studying in Belfast, working in Hong Kong, and now also working in London. I sometimes go back and watch my videos about my experience of living as a visibly queer person in Hong Kong and a strong wave of nostalgia hits me. It’s like being dedicated to a really high-quality personal journal. It does great things for the spirit, I tell you.
I found this producer through a live stream during the first lockdown, playing his tunes to one of his presumptive production inspirations in SG Lewis. After listening to his debut single ‘Echoes’, I wanted to hear more from the 19 year old producer from London. The sidechained sample in the track, accompanied by rich keys and simplistic yet ever present snaps make the track suitable for chill moments during the day.
Months later, Indigo Eyes has rolled out his ‘Close To You – EP’ which features guest vocals from LissA, De Rien and Georgie O’Brien. A 4-track Extended play that builds on the style ‘Echoes’ presented to listeners of his.
For me, ‘Close To You’ is the standout track on the EP, with the variance in production within the song keeping things interesting while De Rien does their thing with the vocals. The integration of percussion definitely elevates the track.
It’s fantastic to see the growth of artists, just months ago he had around 1k monthly listeners on Spotify when I listened to his first single and as of writing, this has grown to 60k. Definitely worth checking out if you like chill electronic music and are looking for something new in that milieu.
Not About Love (Remix by Indigo Eyes)
Close To Love
East London has produced some great musical talent in the last few years. KwolleM is no different.
The rapper compiled a project named C2C (city to coast) named after the London to Essex rail line. Each song is named after a train stop on the C2C line, which is a nostalgic touch that resonates personally, due to residing nearby. The standouts for me are ‘sss’ which showcases the impressive flow KwolleM has to offer, while ‘Basildon’ begins with a playful and relatable take on the trials and tribulations East London/Essex boys go through on their quest for courtship in the town of Basildon (laugh with me on that last line).
For anyone who lives or has been in the area the rapper frequently speaks about, pay particular attention to the subtle cultural and local references this project provides.
A Rapper I’m watching closely and hope you do too.
What was your inspiration behind Grad Support?
Graduating. I remember thinking to myself one evening in my final year that once I graduate, that’s my university life over. As I went to a university quite far from where I lived, I made a lot of friends who lived equally as far away, thus meeting up during the holidays proved to be quite difficult. This started to play on my mind, then it spiralled into thoughts about moving back home, not having a job lined up, feeling isolated and so forth. I tried to think about the things I had to look forward to, the next chapters, the future. The more I thought about it, the more daunting life seemed to become.
During my final year I thought I was my “best self”, regularly exercising, doing well in my studies, with a strong group of friends and in a long-term relationship. Yet once graduation was over, I started to worry about what the future had in store and how I would cope with such uncertainty when I was surrounded by so many “positives” the years prior. I was not prepared to deal with these situations because I was not made aware of them beforehand. I started to feel isolated from my friends, my relationship ended, and I was getting job rejections every week. No one and nothing had prepared me or made me aware of the feelings of anxiousness and uncertainty I had gone through.
Whilst trying to navigate my way through these issues, I thought to myself, how many other students are and will be in a similar situation to me? And how many are looking for support and empathy from those who can understand what they are going through. Thus, the idea of Grad Support was born!
University students are often forgotten about outside the university bubble and I aim for Grad Support to bridge that gap between university life and the future.
If you could use three words to summarise Grad Support, what would they be?
Inclusive, informative and empathetic.
Grad Support is for anyone who needs the support, whilst it is aimed at final years and recent graduates, anyone can benefit from the page. In addition to that, all concerns and issues are accepted, the aim is to aid mental health support and provide a safe space for those who need it.
I strongly believe in using trusted sources to aid any posts on the page. A lot of what we come across on the internet can be seen as misinformation and it is hard to trust what is accurate. Whilst I am not a licensed therapist or mental health worker, I do my best to source information from academic papers and trusted websites.
We are all going through something, and we all struggle. That does not mean one’s struggle is less than any other. Being empathetic is a key aspect of accepting those in need and their struggles, whilst providing support that is non-judgmental.
Do you wish you had something like Grad Support to turn to in your undergraduate years?
100%, but the only issue is I realised very late on in my final year that I might need the support that Grad Support aims to deliver. University life can be a bubble from reality, and you might not realise you need certain support until you are out of that bubble.
That is why I believe in making students aware of the situations or feelings they might encounter in their graduation year before it is too late. There is a long-term plan with Grad Support to support students in their undergraduate years as well as providing accessible and welcoming support after graduation also. So that, even if a student did not get the opportunity to access Grad Support during their university years, they are still able to access the service to deal with those post-graduation worries they may encounter.
Whilst universities have their dedicated student services, I do not feel the support that is given by them is enough to help students for post university life. There needs to be services that focus on these issues and I hope Grad Support can grow to be a part of said services.
How do you think the current situation is affecting students in general?
The pandemic is a tough situation for everyone, but I don’t know if any other societal group has been pushed aside as much as university students. University students are often used as scapegoats and misrepresented in mainstream media.
From personal experience I know university life is tough and isolating in normal times, but I think in the current situation, we are seeing students suffer more than ever. That coupled with the lack of support and certainty from universities and the government just adds to any of the stress's students go through with their general university lives.
We are currently back in a lockdown in the U.K., and I am at home again. Over a year on from the idea of Grad Support being conceived, I still find myself struggling with certain issues that I did a couple years prior but now with the pandemic to consider too. I also know from talking to other students they are struggling in their own ways but are still pushing through with little support. It is tough to see that we as a cohort are going through, we deserve better.
What can we expect from Grad Support in the future?
Long term there is a goal of it becoming an initiative that is rolled out across universities across the U.K., with dedicated volunteers and trained professionals to support students. For now, I am working on producing content each month that people can relate to, aiming to grow a following who are interact with the posts and each other. We can learn a lot from each other, and by uplifting one another there is the potential to create a community feel amongst recent graduates to help support those in need.
I am a big believer in using academic sources and trusted techniques to support any advice or tips that are suggested, and that is something I want to build on going forward. There is an important aim to build an online presence through different mediums. A website, a potential podcast to discuss topics more in-depth and to become present on other social media platforms. Grad Support also looks to collaborate with other creators and services to spread its own message whilst wanting to support others who are passionate for raising awareness too.
If you could give just one piece of advice to anyone in their final year, what would it be?
It can be overwhelming to think about the future, especially during the uncertain times we are in now. But I advise preparing yourself mentally for the change from university living to whatever you are returning to or whatever your new journey is. By preparing I mean to understand what you need for yourself to cope with that change. Not enough is done to support student mental health, and a lot of services can be seen as more reactive help than proactive.
Take the time to figure out who you are, what works for you and what will work best for you to cope with entering the world post university.
My name is Steph, I’m a London based artist and designer mainly creating oil paintings and messing around with biro and watercolours.
I graduated from Loughborough University with a degree in Graphic Communication, but it took a while for me to decide what to do with it. I knew I didn’t want an office job and ideally wanted to work for myself but hadn’t thought that deep into it at that point. The pandemic gave me the kick up the butt I needed to actually go for it! I started making my art a full time thing back in the first lockdown in 2020; I’d just returned from a (much shorter than intended) gap year travelling around South East Asia, and was really needing something to keep me occupied.
In the couple of weeks before I got my flight home, I was locked down in a hotel in Vietnam with just a small notebook and a single biro to work with. Out of sheer boredom I started to draw from some of the photos I’d taken while travelling and posted them online asking for others to send me their travel photos for me to draw too. It turned out people really liked my work, and since then I’ve been creating all sorts from pet portraits and still life paintings, to landscapes and people portraits. It’s really helped me stay sane during such a weird and uncertain year, and I’m so grateful for all the wonderful creatives I’ve met online in the process.
I’m hoping I can continue to grow my page, and eventually start making prints from my original art as well as taking on commissions. There’s endless opportunities for things I can create and I’m excited for what the future holds!
5 WAYS TO KEEP ON TOP OF YOUR MENTAL HEALTH DURING THE LOCKDOWN
BY KIMBERLEY JOHNSON
February 26, 2021
The last year has been a source of unprecedented upheaval and stress for everyone, no matter who you are, or what you do. For many, one of the biggest side-effects of the national lockdowns and government-enforced restrictions has been a negative impact on mental health. Feelings of loss, loneliness, grief and mental exhaustion are not uncommon, but there are some relatively simple things that we can all do to try and beat the lockdown blues.
Take Vitamins - Regular vitamins can really help to give you a boost. While everyone knows that Vitamin C helps to boost your immune system and fend off colds, you might not realise that Vitamin D is important for maintaining good mental health. Most commonly found in sunlight, Vitamin D has been linked to healthy brain function, and people who are deficient in Vitamin D are more likely to develop depression. Although it is hard to get the required amount of sunlight in Northern Europe during the winter months, supplements can be bought relatively cheaply from chemists or supermarkets and will help to boost your levels.
Go for a Walk - If you are feeling low, going for a walk is probably the last thing you feel like doing. It would be much more tempting to just hide under the duvet with a family-sized bar of chocolate and a pizza. But, getting some fresh air, even for a short time, really can help. Walking helps to boost the levels of ‘feel-good’ endorphins as well as helping to improve your fitness levels. I promise, if you go for a walk you will be glad that you did.
Ditch the News - Over the last 12 months, the habit of constantly scrolling through the news has become known as ‘doom-scrolling’. If you are finding the constant barrage of negative information is affecting your mood then it is really important to try and break this habit. If you feel as though you need to keep up to date with any new announcements, you can subscribe to a daily update from many of the news broadcasters which will give you a brief overview of anything new while also making sure that you are not overwhelmed. There are also lots of websites which specialise in good news stories which can help to give you a daily dose of positivity.
Eat Well - Again, this is a challenging one when you are struggling with your mental health, but it is incredibly important to try and make sure that you are still eating properly. If it is difficult to find the motivation to stand and cook a meal from scratch, instead, stocking up on healthy snack options can be an easy alternative. Many supermarkets also stock really good ranges of healthy ready meals now too which are brilliant when you are lacking time or inclination to cook.
Talk to Someone - You may worry that you are bothering people or that nobody is really interested in your problems when they have their own lives to worry about, but it really is important to talk. In an ideal world, you will have a friend or family member who you can talk to no matter what time of the day or night, but this is not always the case for everyone. If you are really struggling and don’t have anyone you could call or text, there are many mental health helplines now which are manned 24 hours a day. These people are professionally trained to help, and they will never judge you. If you are unsure of where to start looking for support, a few helpful links have been listed below:
I study Textile Design for Fashion and Interiors at Bath Spa University and I specialise in screen printing. However, I also experiment with ceramics, crochet, knit, illustration and have recently found a love for rug making! I created my Etsy account in the first lockdown last year and my work has evolved from there. My style is colourful with a combination of abstract and illustrative imagery. The addition of embellishments and texture then adds the element of fun to my work which I love. Each collection I make is cohesive and holds a theme. My recent collection titled ‘Potted’ is inspired by the artefacts in the Holburne Museum in Bath. These two images are part of my collection and I have been busy making the makeup bags for my lovely customers!