WINNERS!

The King’s Speech has won a “Rising Stars” award from the Shine School Media Awards! We will be invited to a gala lunch in London in September.

About the Shine School Media Awards:

The Shine School Media Awards is a national competition that rewards a diversity of talent from secondary schools across the UK who work on the writing, editing, design and fund-raising for a school newspaper, magazine, podcast or website. The culmination of each year’s Shine Awards is a spectacular summertime gala awards ceremony held in the City of London. The significant benefits of starting a Shine project include an enrichment of the school curriculum, an incentive to creativity and the chance for pupils to win national recognition and in the process enrich their CV and applications for university or college. The Shine Awards is an endeavour of The Stationers’ Foundation, the charitable arm of The Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, one of the UK’s ancient livery companies.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Boundaries of Theatre

Many of you may have heard of the anger towards Sia and her new movie, or James Corden and his stereotypical acting in The Prom. Due to this, I am going to be discussing the boundaries of theatre and how far people should go when portraying other people or characters, whether that character or actor be part of the LGBTQ+ community or have some form of disability.

When asked ‘should straight people be able to play people/characters who are part of the LGBTQ+ community?’, 72.1% of people asked suggested that they should be able to. One opinion on this was “a straight actor playing a gay person is ok with me, but I am not the main voice which should be heard as I am not gay, and others should be heard before me.”

I personally feel that it is a different case when you are looking at people who are physically disabled versus people who are mentally disabled. It is quite a difficult decision to make and I feel it is situational. Say the character becomes a wheelchair user throughout the course of the play or film, it becomes much more difficult to cast a disabled person as you need someone who is able bodied for part of the play. However, I do not feel that it is right for someone who isn’t mentally disabled to play someone who is if there is someone who is mentally disabled who is capable of playing the role as you do not understand what someone with that condition experiences. If there is not someone who is capable of playing the role, then I feel it is ok to have someone play the character as long as they have thoroughly researched the role and none of their acting is stereotypical or offensive.

When asked about the above, someone said, “I think if people have done the research and understand what it’s like to live with all of the above, then maybe it’s ok, but when there’s so many able people from the categories to play the parts, it’s ridiculous and pretty offensive to choose someone else.”

 

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Bluestones of Stonehenge

Stonehenge, one of the ancient wonders of the world, is known for its mystery and impressive prehistoric architecture. It’s easy to pay attention to the giant Salisbury sarsen stones which dominate the structure with their iconic appearance, however whilst they are impressive in size and weight their origins fall short of interesting in comparison to the smaller bluestones placed in the inner rim of the circle.

The purpose of Stonehenge is still shrouded in mystery. Many believe it was a burial site for the dead or at least a memorial site. The monument’s entrance is exactly inline with the rising sun of the summer solstice, which is celebrated on the pagan holiday of Litha. This suggests that ancient astronomers were possibly using Stonehenge as a solar calendar, tracking the moon and sun throughout the changing seasons.

Legend states how the stones where moved from a giants’ monument in Ireland to Salisbury by the wizard Merlin, a story with no evidence other than its story proves to contain a grain of truth. Whilst the stones where not taken from Ireland by magic, they were however moved from Wales 137 miles by sledges and human strength. Initially it was believed the bluestones were brought across by boat as it would saved many miles, however experimental archaeologists found that prehistoric boats were simply not strong enough. This boat theory was proven completely wrong by an experiment in 2014 where the stones sank only a few yards off shore.

Recently discovered 50 stone circle in comparison to the current Stonehenge

Evidence found in the Preseli Hills of Pembrokeshire (where the Salisbury bluestones are from) led to the discovery of an even larger original stone circle of bluestones at Waun Mawn. Cross sections of some of the bluestones at Stonehenge have been identified to fit in their place; indentations at the site suggest that up to 50 stones were removed and taken by sledge to Salisbury.

The drastic measures that these people went through to bring the stones with them shows how important the stones must have been to Neolithic people, given that they went to the effort of dragging their history and ancestry along with them when they migrated south and east.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

My Journalism Virtual Work Experience

During the February half term, I completed  Springpod’s Journalism Virtual Work Experience programme. Springpod is a platform that provides a wide range of virtual work experience opportunities for those who are keen to find out about potential career options.

Over the course of the programme, I had the chance to take an in-depth look at print,  broadcast and photojournalism as well as a variety of roles within the industry. For me, meeting professionals at the live webinars was undoubtedly one of the highlights because I was able to gain a real insight into what life as a journalist is like. Among these professionals was BBC News Presenter Martine Croxall, who shared that she started out in this challenging industry by interviewing a man dressed as a rubber tree!

One of the most memorable things that I will take away from this experience is the awareness that words have the potential to shape the way a topic is viewed by an audience. The importance of impartiality is key in quality journalism and it is essential for a journalist to report the truth as accurately as possible. Although a journalist cannot always guarantee the ‘truth’ of their sources, ensuring that the report of expressed opinions and information is accurate plays a huge role in producing work fit for publications. Whilst journalists produce articles that enable the public to understand and talk about complex, relevant issues, a journalist can also generate negative impacts if failing to stick to accepted ethical principles. This may consequently cause widespread mistrust in the media.

When choosing subject matter as a photojournalist, it is important to tell a story which closely relates and appeals to human emotion surrounding the issues at the heart of the media. Freelance MMA reporter for The Daily Mail Sports Team, Natasha Hooper, highlighted both the benefits and drawbacks to working as a freelance journalist instead of in a full time, contracted position. Despite the lack of security, there are endless opportunities for a freelance writer. You are not tied to one political stance or writing style which a publication relies on you to deliver and you have the ability to work anywhere, on a different job everyday. She also underlined the importance of discovering your niche early and carefully considering why this is exactly what publications should be publishing.

I was required to complete a variety of quizzes and activities including; creating my dream portfolio, writing a climate change article, planning a news schedule/live broadcast, writing a cover letter and action plan as well as choosing my photo of the decade. I learnt that knocking on doors, building contacts, finding work experience and staying curious are invaluable approaches to taking the first steps towards a career in journalism.

My chosen photo of the decade

 

Although I am still unsure about a future career, I would definitely recommend experiences like this and keeping an open mind by getting involved with anything that interests you, should you find yourself in a similar position to myself.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The US and Syria: Disappointing, yet not Surprising

While the current pandemic has put on hold concerts, holidays and even the Olympic Games there’s a perverse sense of normality to be seen in the realm of military action. As we’ve seen in the past week even a virus claiming thousands of lives each day will not stand in the way of US drone strikes on nations in the Middle East.

Scenes of devastation like this are commonplace in the cities of Syria

The strikes in question were carried out on the 15th of February, with specific details on locations and deaths having only been released in the last week. Commander-in-Chief Joe Biden approved the strikes, following in the footsteps of his personal friend and ex-running mate Barack Obama who launched strikes on 7 countries during his 2 terms in office (including Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq). With Biden being less than 2 months into his presidency, it sends a very clear and concerning message to the international community concerning his foreign policy and his willingness to engage in questionable military action, with little regard for its consequences. Of course this is far from abnormal for an American president; the Oval Office has a well-established history of interventionism dating back to McCarthy’s Red Scare and the Korean War in the 1950s.

This particular vein of American interventionism is now known to be targeted towards Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias in Syria, a nation ravaged by civil war since the Arab Spring in 2011. The strikes have been described by Mr. Biden’s government as “effective” and a UK-based Syrian Human Rights watchdog attested to there having been at least 22 casualties. The strikes send a clear message to the world: that a more progressive US President is no guarantee of more progressive foreign policy, and that we certainly shouldn’t expect an end to the American tradition of bombing, invading and drone-striking countries to whom it is ideologically opposed.

Regardless of said tradition, some Democrat voters and liberal political commentators are surprised by the swiftness with which Biden has acted, especially after pushing such a progressive narrative during his campaign and stating his intentions to focus on home affairs rather than international matters. In fact it seems only logical to question why Mr. Biden is not turning his attention to the looming economic devastation that exists due to an incompetent handling of COVID-19, or perhaps to the issue of institutional racism that has sparked such uproar over the past 12 months? Even discounting the two aforementioned issues, we still observe America as being a nation with an immigration crisis, allegations of human rights abuses within detention facilities and to top it off, a prison population larger than that of China and Russia combined.

Despite these strikingly obvious problems on home soil, Mr. Biden still chooses to define the start of his presidency with military action abroad, a move that is sure to polarise his supporters and the international community alike, spelling a disappointing and potentially dangerous message for the next 4 years.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The new normal!

With locked-down cities worldwide, deer, peacocks, ducks and many other creatures have made their way into urban settings which they might normally avoid. Deserted cities across the globe have invited animals to explore their desolate streets, where the bustling normality of urban life has been forgotten over the past few months.

Sika deer are not an uncommon sight in the woodlands of Eastern Asia or in Nara Park, Japan where they have grown accustomed to tourists lining up to feed them rice crackers, however reported sightings of herds of these furrowed-browed, Bambi-like creatures in the city streets and subway stations of Nara are far from expected. Now with no visitors, the deer have started to wander into the city searching for food.

A deer walks on a pedestrian crossing in Japan

 

On a similar hunt for food, wild boars were seen foraging in the city of Haifa in Israel. This issue became so serious that local officials held a Zoom meeting to discuss the expanding population of boars in the area! Coyotes, normally apprehensive of traffic, were spotted on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and grazing deer near houses in Washington DC, only a few miles from the White House, attracted many confused passersby. In Wales, peacocks were seen strutting through Bangor and mountain goats climbing down from the cliffs of Great Orme explored the Welsh town of Llandudno.

Mountain goats in Llandudno

 

Cougars have been found lurking in the streets of Santiago, Chile and one of these big cats was even found inside an apartment complex! South of Buenos Aires in Mar del Plata harbour, a sea lion was seen on a sidewalk and another unusual sight were the cows that rested on Mare e Sole beach near Porticcio in Corsica.

During the first lockdown, a seabird swam across the clearest waters of Venice in years and Place Colette in Paris held a parade of mallard ducks, while donkeys gathered at an ATM booth in India. In New Delhi, a herd of buffalo walked along an empty highway and a lonesome cow was seen walking along an empty road in Bhaktapur, Nepal. There have also been amazing reports of people in India being able to see the Himalayas for the first time in their lives due to increased air quality.

Ducks waddle through the streets of Paris

 

Buffalo on the highway in India

 

Cow walks on empty road in Nepal

 

My family and I even spotted a horse trotting through the quiet streets of Portugal, early in the morning during the summer holidays!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Touring Woes for Musicians

In the UK-EU Brexit deal, there is a gaping hole where the promised free movement of musicians should be. According to research from the Association of British Orchestras (ABO), British musicians will only be able to perform in EU countries for up to 90 days within 180 days. They may also need a work permit to do so, rules for which are set by each member state. This means musicians could be required to have multiple visas or work permits to be able to perform in different countries across the EU. This will become too expensive and potentially prohibitive, especially for musicians at the start of their careers.

Some of the UK’s biggest music stars have written to the government demanding action to ensure visa-free touring in the European Union. Sir Elton John and Liam Gallagher are among 110 artists who have signed an open letter.

The Musicians’ Union has been lobbying for the creation of a “musicians’ passport” that would last at least two years, cost nothing or very little, encompass all EU member states, prevent any requirement for carnets or other permits, and cover road crew, technicians, and other necessary staff to facilitate touring. A change.org petition supporting this idea has reached 113,500 signatures.

I believe it is unacceptable that musicians are expected to potentially have to pay for multiple visas just to tour Europe. This will make it impossible for some to tour and will put off others from starting their careers in the first place.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Story Behind The School Gardens

The King’s School gardens are dedicated to Margaret Creighton, the wife of Cuthbert Creighton, who was the  Headmaster of King’s from 1919-1936 and 1940-2.

Cuthbert Creighton was born on 26th July 1876 in Worcester, which was where he passed most of his childhood as his father was a Canon of Worcester Cathedral between 1885 and 1891. He married Margaret Bruce on 15th April 1913, when he was thirty-seven. Margaret Bruce had been born in Ravello, Italy, on 23rd August 1881, but was living in London by the time she married Cuthbert.

Margaret gave birth to a son, Tom, in 1916 and another son, Hugh, in 1919. Tom was born in Kensington, London, whereas Hugh was born in Worcester, presumably in their home. For four years the family lived happily in Worcester as Cuthbert was Headmaster of King’s, however tragedy struck on 2nd February 1923 when Margaret died in childbirth along with their third child. She was forty-one years old. Their unfortunate deaths shocked the entire King’s community.

Cuthbert Creighton responded to the shockingly premature death of his wife by buying the remainder of the King’s site (the allotments lying between King’s and the river) from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners and laid it out as gardens which he gave to the school. He named them “The Creighton Memorial Gardens” in memory of Margaret Creighton and they were unveiled in 1931.

The gardens remain at King’s to this day in their original location at the side of the River Severn. The main focal point of the gardens is a fountain topped with a small statue of Sabrina, the Goddess of the River Severn.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Emerging Mental Health Crisis

Mental health and the help that people with mental health problems receive is an important topic in the UK. However, this problem has become much more prominent over the course of the coronavirus crisis. There is increasingly deteriorating mental health in this country with a significant lack of support. This needs changing.

Coronavirus lockdowns have led to worsening mental health and many people are struggling to cope. In the last lockdown a study found that suicidal thoughts have increased from 8% to 10% and they were highest among young adults (18-29 years), rising from 12.5% to 14%. One in four respondents experienced at least moderate levels of depressive symptoms. Young people, women, individuals from more socially-disadvantaged backgrounds and those with pre-existing mental health problems reported the worst mental health problems in the initial phase of the national lockdown. You can find out more information about this here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-54616688

Coronavirus is affecting student mental health in so many different ways. Mind’s coronavirus survey results revealed the following: people aged 18-24 reported worse mental health and wellbeing during the 2020 UK lockdown with nearly three quarters (73%) of students saying that their mental health declined during the lockdown. This number is only going to increase during the lockdown the UK is now facing this January and beyond. You can find out more at https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/coronavirus/student-mental-health-during-coronavirus/

Despite the NHS website stating that, “We aim to transform mental health services by 2020, with an ambition of putting mental health on an equal footing to physical health,” this has not happened and mental health is still not equal to physical health, with there being long waiting lists and not enough beds, meaning people are not getting the help that they require soon enough and this can sometimes be too late.

We need to solve this mental health crisis and allow people to be able to access the help they need.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

An Iliad of Ill-Advised Decisions – The Government and Free School Meals

What is the job of government? This is a question that has troubled political thinkers for centuries and many different politicians and philosophers have offered different answers. The Founding Fathers who wrote the US Constitution sought to label the function of government as being to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity and promote the general welfare [of its people],” whereas more libertarian thinkers such as Ayn Rand would argue that the purpose of government should be only to “uphold the values of individual rights.” This being said, almost all thinkers, regardless of political position, will argue that if government is to exist it should do so in a way that benefits the people.

Perhaps that is why the recent actions of our government have shocked and appalled so many in the manner in which they have.

The COVID-19 pandemic has been disastrous for all segments of society, but poor families who struggle to support themselves in regular conditions let alone in the midst of a global pandemic are arguably the worst affected group. Children of poor families are often recipients of free school meals and to a family on minimum wage income it can be a vital piece of financial aid. Given the current situation of uncertainty and high government spending however, the government passed a motion before Christmas to cut funding to the free school meals programme. The Manchester United footballer Marcus Rashford (once himself reliant on free school meals) was outraged by this and intervened to help feed poorer families across the nation, something that the government initially refused to do.

With the UK re-entering a national lockdown last week and schools being forced to close, we once again turned to online learning to receive our education. There was doubt as to whether the government would change its tune over the provision of free school meals but, clearly keen to not be eclipsed by a footballer again, Mr Johnson decided that schools should indeed provide food for their most vulnerable pupils just as they would in normal times.

While initially a cause for celebration, the true nature of the government scheme was soon brought to light. Schools were given extra funding of £3.50 per week per eligible child (on top of funding for the existing free school meals programme) to provide their pupils with lunches. Alternatively schools could offer their pupils vouchers for supermarkets worth £15 per week, for which the schools would be reimbursed. The majority of schools do not make their own food in house, instead paying catering companies such as Chartwells to prepare food for their students, with the expectation that this food is nutritious and up to standard.

These catering companies, now armed with increased funding, should therefore aim to make sure that some of the most vulnerable children in British society are given lunch parcels that contain nutritious food in sufficient quantities, should they not? The Department for Education certainly thinks so (see below). One would be hard pressed to find someone who would be happy for these companies to take taxpayers’ money, spend a small portion of it on feeding those in need, and then simply pocket the rest. Unfortunately, this appears to be exactly what has happened.

 Lunch parcels should contain items which parents can use to prepare healthy lunches for their child/children across the week – Department for Education on the GOV.uk website

On the 11th of January, an unnamed mother who uses the Twitter handle @RoadsideMum, posted the following photograph of the lunch parcel she was sent by Chartwells on behalf on her childrens’ school. Needless to say the parcel is certainly lacking both in nutritional value and in quantity:

10 days’ worth of lunches: funded by the taxpayer and delivered by Chartwells – @RoadsideMum via Twitter

 

The contents of this meagre food parcel are meant to be able to feed several children for lunch over 10 days and are also supposedly an adequate substitute for a £30 supermarket voucher. With that in mind, I decided to find the total cost of all the food pictured myself, with some prices obviously adjusted for the quantity shown. My total cost (as of January 13th on the Asda website) came to just £5.40. This sum of money is a mere 18% of the equivalent £30 supermarket voucher, and it brings to light at best incredibly poor value for taxpayer’s money and at worst a scheme of profiteering by the private companies offering free school meals.

For now however, all eyes are on the government and whether they will seek to fix this situation and ensure that the system of free school meals exists to benefit the people who need it, and allow poorer British children to participate in online learning effectively with the benefit of being well-fed.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email