Reviews and comment from the Demon Crew - creative writers at De Montfort University, Leicester.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The home of witty banter

Of all the things I saw this week I found Steve North the most interesting, possibly because he was talking about something that I and most people are interested in: TV.

The session was crowded and we were all eager to hear what North had to say about Dave TV and if he would answer the age-old question, why Dave and who is he? I am pleased to say he answered this question and I now feel at peace with the world knowing why Dave TV is called Dave TV. One man wasn't so pleased with North's answer and shocked most of the audience with his outrage at Dave being called Dave, calling it sexist, and then as North politely answered his question, he fiddled on his phone.

FYI Dave doesn't exist, which is a bit disappointing. I was hoping for them to bring him out - you know, so that I could put a face to the name.

There was a question/answer interview style to the talk which I found amusing but I'm not sure why. It was being recorded too which felt a bit too professional for the lecture theatre where I'm usually half-asleep on Monday mornings.

The co-ordinator of Dave's Leicester Comedy Festival was there too and gave an interesting talk. I thoroughly enjoyed the Festival this year and am looking forward to its return in 2013.

Now as I sit down to watch numerous re-runs of Never Mind The Buzzcocks and Gavin and Stacey on Dave I will also think about how much I now know about the home of witty banter.


C.Mackie

Big up #Jamal - that went very well indeed

"Was nervous but I think that went very well.. I love doing talks like that. Big up everyone at #DMU." That was Jamal Edwards' tweet as he left the lecture hall with the crowd in awe after his inspiring Q&A session.

His post was followed by countless tweets saying how 'humble' and 'passionate' the young entrepreneur was right up to climbing into the taxi outside the Clephan building of De Montfort - waving his goodbyes to the passing audience along the way

During the hour long Q&A, Jamal answered many questions about his background, his acheivements, his struggles and of future ventures for himself and his leading UK online youth broadcasting site - SBTV. He answered all questions put to concerning his celebrity saying "it's nuts" and "it's just crazy", showing genuine modesty surrounding his achievements.

Jamal promoted self-belief and hard work acting, also telling how he uses his expertise to help others wanting to get into the music/entertainment business. Quoting Robert R. Kennedy's words, "Some people see things as they are and ask why? I dream things that never were and ask, why not?" Jamal said this was a quote he often refers to in life. He also revealed an exclusive of a new artist he had filmed just the day before, allowing us a glimpse of his world.

A perfect representative of the strength and creativity of the younger generation, Jamal Edwards - CEO age twenty-one, was simply real and inspirational.


Celia Wilding

"Chase your dreams, not the competition"

Jamal Edwards' talk had the highest percentage of youths in the audience. As a "youth" myself, I shouldn't have noticed. But I love that as a young, accessible entrepreneur, Edwards has managed to interest so many of my generation in pushing their potential. He didn't audition for a show like Britain's Got Talent or The X-Factor but, as a normal guy from a normal background, he made himself a business out of nothing but his own passion and a camera he received for Christmas. His business that has led to the success of other artists, one of the more famous ones being Ed Sheeran.

Listening to Edwards talk made me realise what a natural businessman he was, which was lucky as he doesn't appear to have been taught any business at school. He spoke of new ventures which he's undertaking as he doesn't want to exclude or alienate anyone from SBTV. He wants to continue letting it grow and change. He mentioned expanding overseas as well as posting videos of poetry.

He's a businessman without the greed. Though he likes the money, he claims that if you're only doing it for the money then it will not go well. He puts his success down mainly to being his own target audience. Shrewd.

He clearly wants to be an inspiration and a role model, but at the moment he humbly believes that he has yet to reach that stage - and that he hasn't reached his fullest potential yet. But when you knock out quotes like "chase your dreams, not the competition" and already own a very successful business at the age of 21, it's obvious that you're going to be an inspiration.


Maz Haynes and Elise Cook

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Tick box - which box?

Sonia Sabri first engaged the audience by showing off her skills as an acclaimed dancer with a short video. After it had finished she asked the simple question of "What box did that tick?" vocalising in one question all of what she stands for as an individual, a dancer and a choreographer.

Growing up in an Asian family in Birmingham, Sonia's Father wanted her to complete the dream he himself did not succeed at - becoming a famous Bollywood face. This, she said, was the main influence that got her into dance. Having been rejected from a Kathak dance group and told to come back a year later, she returned as asked. She was eight years old. Although she appeared confident, combating shyness was a struggle. Once it was conquered, Kathak became her life.

Wanting to break the perceptions of 'Exotic dance' as a heading covering every type of Indian dance we see, Sonia has gone as far as exploring links between Kathak and Hip-Hop, uniting dance forms and broadening scopes as she goes in her latest tour KathakBox.

Sonia's one big aim is not to abolish 'tick boxes.' While she admits that sometimes ticking the right box can open the door to new opportunities, she's determined to show that dance is not something that can be put into a certain box or category. Sometimes in life it is "safer to just choose 'other'" as an option to avoid confining yourself.




Celia Wilding

Snapshots of a career

Thursday afternoon saw the arrival of accomplished photographer Eamonn McCabe to Cultural eXchanges week - and this was one of the highlights of the festival.

This hour of anecdotes and illustrated by examples of some of McCabe's greatest photographs was lapped up by all, and not just aspiring photographers.
McCabe's career has included sports and music photography, portraits and a spell as picture editor of The Guardian. His recollections ranged from three Olympics and the 1981 Royal Wedding to the more sombre subject of the Heysel Stadium Disaster in Brussels.

While I've never considered photography as a career option, McCabe's enthusiasm and passion for the subject made me believe that it really is the best occupation imaginable. It's not the standard 9 to 5 job - and he's spent time with James Brown, Bono, Morgan Freeman, John Hurt and Robert Harris.

A single hour just wasn't enough to fit in all that McCabe wanted to share, and I don't think any of us would have objected to a second hour. Here's hoping that he may return soon for yet another captivating talk.


Jack Arkell

Srtipping away excess


A short film written and directed by Adrian Lester (Mickey from BBC One's Hustle) brought tears to my eyes. A moving tale of a family having to make life-changing decisions, Adrian's new venture into directing went down a storm with all who came to his Thursday night screening.

Described as a perfect "marriage of experience and talent", Adrian, along with the two producers of Of Mary, wife Lolita Chakrabarti (established writer and actress) and Rosa Maggiora (acclaimed Theatre Designer) shared with the audience the highs and lows of working on this piece.

When asked why he had taken the leap from acting to directing, Adrian cracked a smile towards the audience and stated "One day I was combing my hair - and found a grey one..." He showed the audience that not trying everything wasn't an option for him as he delved into his range of past achievements from Hollywood film to Shakespeare on stage.

Concentrating mainly on the hidden detail associated with the short film, he compared the editing process to that of a sculptor saying you must "take away the excess until all you have left his the bare essence". He also went on to say that his biggest fear as a director was knowing that an audience "might not get it".

All three went on to share advice and future plans with the audience showing themselves to be experienced (as well as humorous) individuals which made an already amazing evening an even greater success.


Celia Wilding

Lester in Leicester

The star of the hit TV show Hustle entered the lecture theatre to excited whispers, and I'm sure quotes such as "you can't cheat an honest man" were running through many a person's head. Yes, Mickey Stone himself, aka actor Adrian Lester was in Leicester today, to show a short film both written and directed by himself for the Cultural eXchanges week.

I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the audience had turned up as fans just wanting to see Adrian rather than being interested his short film, but the same couldn't be said by the time they left. Adrian has left his mark on British television already as an accomplished actor, starring in shows such as Hustle and Merlin, and has also done stage shows playing parts like Hamlet. The short film Of Mary is his time to prove he is more than an actor; he's a talented writer and director too.

Well, he certainly proved that during this showing of Of Mary. The lights went down and the film started, simple yet serious the entire way through to make it seem incredibly realistic even down to the last detail. Twenty minutes later the credits rolled. It was only after the credits were done that the audience seemed to shake itself from silent awe and break into rapturous applause. Clever script-writing and subtle visual hints lead to a twist in the plot right at the end, leaving the viewer thinking "ah yes, I should have spotted that. It's all so obvious now."

Not only was the film cleverly written and presented, it was focused on a soldier returning home to his wife and child, a subject that should be handled with great care. Of Mary dealt with this expertly, creating a film that was so moving, it's amazing it was as short as it was. Being able to toy with the audience's emotions so intensely is a rare gift. A gift that Adrian Lester and the rest of the Lesata Productions team clearly have.


Sarah Kate Beckett

Of darkness and tissues


"It's hard to move an audience in twenty minutes." Adrian Lester was as humble as pie in the Q&A session he gave after the screening of what he described as his "first effort at directing." The film Of Mary takes its name from a poem by John Eclair.

As the credits rolled the silent theatre audience rubbed its eyes and drew out tissues. I shan't be describing the plot in this review - it has to be experienced, and requires darkness, peace and concentration. What I shall say is that it's not anything you'll be expecting - it's better.

Adrian Lester, Lolita Chakrabarti and Rosa Maggiora working together as Lesata Productions have this year carved a deep and artistic notch in the tree of British film. They say they plan to go on and make feature lengths - personally, I can't wait.


Raegan Sealy

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

A poetry first

On Thursday I went to a poetry evening which consisted of two lovely poets, Geraldine Monk and Alan Halsey. It had been a beautiful summery day. I was in high spirits. I sat down and prepared myself to be inspired. Needless to say, I was. In our first term at DMU we spent it looking at and writing poetry. To be completely honest, poetry has never been my favourite subject but hearing these two read out their work so passionately and proudly inspired me to take more of an interest.

First reading was Alan Halsey. He started off quietly, setting the atmosphere. I enjoyed the poetry but at times I felt quite young -there were definitely more than a few jokes I didn't understand, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Following Halsey came Geraldine Monk. Her writing style was distinctive and fun and so was her reading. She read a few poems from the Lost and Found series she's written and I really enjoyed them. The readings were dramatic and she engaged with the audience.

Overall I really enjoyed my first experience of a poetry evening. In some ways it reminded me of being read to when I was a child, relaxing.


C.Mackie

Surprised by poetry

On Thursday evening I attended a poetry evening with Geraldine Monk and Alan Halsey. I must admit I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it. I’m not a big fan of poetry but we were encouraged to book Cultural eXchanges events we wouldn’t normally attend so I decided to pick this as one of mine.
I was pleasantly surprised when the poets started reading their work. First up was Alan Halsey and although I didn’t understand some of the references and some of the humour went straight over my head, I still found his work enjoyable. Even better was Geraldine’s work. I liked the way in which she read it out; the sounds and rhythm of her work was emphasised by her expression.
I have never attended a poetry evening before and I think that having the actual poet read work out to you makes it much more entertaining than sitting reading it from a book. I would recommend anyone who isn’t a massive fan of poetry to attend an event like this, maybe one at next year’s Cultural eXchanges. I'd certainly love to be there.

Bonjour, Good Morning, Guten Morgen

They sound from every corner of the studio: announcements, news reports, weather forecasts, entertainment programmes, advertising slogans. Snippets from radio shows are repeated, cut apart, newly composed.

The presenter and composer is Leigh Landy, who holds a Research Chair at De Montfort University.

Although he points out that the listening experience is the most important, he has provided subtitles to follow the content. The BBC's characteristic voice is only present in one out of three series. The other two sources are “la radio” in France and “Deutschlandfunk” in Germany. It is the first time all three of them can be heard in one performance.

The effect is astonishing. Weird noises, absurd contexts, different layers of the word “Good morning”: More than once, ringing laughter mingles with the electronic sounds. Familiar logos and styles make this artwork especially enjoyable (although I was the only one laughing during the German slot).

Between the radio collages, Dutch flautist Jos Zwaanenburg proves his finger dexterity on five different types of flutes. He also experiments with sounds. Using corks and other tools, he produces surprising notes, which fit with the recording in the background.

A cultural mix of electronic and acoustic music - I've never heard anything comparable to it before. While I'm not a huge fan, I definitely enjoyed this tonal collage.


Katharina Maria Kalinowski

Greening festivals

With the festival sector becoming one of the most talked about topics in recent years, it was fitting that De Montfort University's Cultural eXchanges Festival was host to a talk on the sustainability of such events.

With the economy at fault for many smaller festivals lacking the resources to keep running, a large amount are forced to close down. Paradoxically, the larger festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds are booming, with a price rise of roughly 15% each year, yet selling out all the same.

The focus of this talk was Green and environmental issues with regards to outdoor festivals, and whether or not such problems could be putting these events at risk.

Included on the panel of speakers was Ben Challis, a founding member of the Greener Festival Awards. His scheme to recognise the efforts of festivals around Europe towards the goal of increasing efficiency has proved very successful so far, with much improvement by the majority of festivals that have joined in with the campaign. Still, Challis conceded that the uphill battle has only just begun.

He also claimed that the most recent objective has been to work with festival attendees as much as organisers through schemes such as Love Your Tent. A common misconception is that tents left on festival sites at the end of a weekend are recycled or given to charities. The truth is that it is often impossible to do either, especially when the tents in question are damaged.

Chris Johnson of Shambala Festival chose to focus on power and CO2. He claimed that the cost of power is one of the main reasons that smaller festivals are struggling.


A question and answers session brought up more issues of efficiency. One audience member asked whether we can really be efficient at festivals, as they are a time of celebration and having a good time rather than cutting back. Challis answered that whereas there is a minority of festival goers who are almost anti-environmental in their actions, most people at festivals are either conscious of such matters or open to persuasion.

In a debate way too expansive for so short a space of time, the panel could be forgiven for only scratching the surface of the topic, yet their knowledge was more than enough to make for an intriguing hour.


Jack Arkell

Excitement - and nerves as well

If I had some disappointments at Cultural eXchanges, the Demon Crew Launch very much made up for it.

A wide variety of written forms were on display. There weren't just books; prose and poetry appeared on t-shirts, plates, posters and websites. There were something that appealed to pretty much everyone. The audience were allowed to look around the room before, after and during the break in the presentation.

The presentation served as in introduction. Students explained what inspired them as well as their decisions and choices they made in producing pieces. What was even more inspiring was that some of the writiers have been offered publishing deals for their work. That could be me in three years' time! - there's a thought to make me excited and nervous at once.

The amount of material on offer to look at, read and even buy was vast and very, very interesting. An inspiring afternoon!


Matthew Goostrey.

Talent to break down walls

Today, I looked into the future. About 2 years into the future to be more precise. What did I feel? Fear? Awe? Anticipation? All of the above.

The Demon Crew showed publications of the 3rd year Creative Writers, and after seeing them on display, I can honestly say I feel safe in the knowledge that this generation of writing is in good hands. Ranging from poetic plates to fairy-tales turned on their head, multi-vocal poetry performances to a guide of "How to be an Award Winning Boyfriend", the event was a success. If talent was a tangible thing, the walls of Clephan 2.29 would be breaking open due to the sheer amount within it.

Beforehand, I must admit, I was afraid that all the pieces would be pretty much the same thing. Thankfully I was proved wrong. There were vast differences between the pieces of work, and each one was uniquely important to the writer. Clearly a lot of effort (and money) had been put into them. There were also so many angles to the different pieces of work, some of them purely humorous or entertaining, others tackling serious issues, like discrimination against homosexuals.

I feel I can speak for all the first year Creative Writers when I say "Oh god, I hope I can live up to that."


Sarah Kate Beckett

Looking to the future

The publication launch by Demon Crew undergraduates was a ‘last but not the least’ occasion in my week at Cultural eXchanges.

I was amazed at the amount of talent these third year Creative Writing students had, especially since I'm a first year on the same course.

The wide range of mediums students used to showcase their publications was intriguing. They ranged from short story and poetry pamphlets, mix and match playing cards, and whole websites, to mugs as witnesses, poem bags and podcasts as virtual tours from the past. I was always left wondering what the next person to read would present to us.

It was a very enriching experience for me as it really got me thinking of the many possible publication ideas I may wish to use in my final year. I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion and it was a great end to my Cultural eXchanges week.


Maryam Sameja

Demon Crew launch spectacular

The Demon Crew Launch was a smorgasbord of Creative Writing delights to tickle and tantalise your literary taste buds. Honestly, if you missed it, you really did miss out.

Will Buckingham’s warm welcome and the audience’s rapturous applause throughout gave the event an amazing vibe. The range of work displayed by the Third Year CREW students was awesome and inspiring. We were actively encouraged to read, look, touch, feel and talk so that the whole experience was fun and informative.

Creations ranged from traditionally printed pamphlets, to more unusual writing forms: a deck of playing cards, in which each card contained a 52-word story, a fun Poetry Generator with 10,000 possible poetic combinations and a series of posters that packed a powerful message. Nimble-fingered students created poetry on bags and clothing. Stories adorned plates, napkins and even mugs. Podcasts, websites, ebooks and an EP of original songs were offered by the more technologically and musically intelligent students. A wide range of media were employed to great effect and it was obvious from the high quality of writing, that it had been crafted with much love, enthusiasm and passion, which is a credit to both the Creative Writing staff and their students.


Sparkles

Demon Crew and proud of it

The room was bustling as excited students with proud tutors and organisers greeted us for the Demon Crew Creative Writing Launch.

The Demon Crew Launch is a chance for DMU's own third year students to exhibit and read their own work, which today was full of inspiring ideas.

Will Buckingham (Senior Creative Writing Lecturer at DMU) introduced each writer in turn and they had two minutes to introduce their piece and offer some background if they wished.

Pieces ranged from poetry on plates, clothing, bags, a deck of cards, to already successful e-books, and from crime fiction to music websites.

Although the whole the Launch lasted two hours my concentration and enthusiasm never faltered as the creativity of all of the pieces and the humility of their creators kept me listening.


Celia Wilding

Monday, 5 March 2012

Harry Potter and the "difficult teen phase"

Since the first Harry Potter film (The Philosopher’s Stone) came out in 2001, families everywhere have been to see every installment up until the final one (The Deathy Hallows Part 2), a decade after they began.

On Wednesday James Russell's lecture on Harry Potter was a sold out. He's a comical and enthusiastic speaker. He set out to show how and why the Harry Potter films have changed over the years, as well as their development from early ideas to the cinema.

The crowd was treated to a few clips and images from the early and latter films to show the distinct differences between them. Russell, openly not a fan of the early films as he felt they were 'an advert for not having children', explained how he preferred the later ones as they become increasingly darker - an effect achieved by a 'silverscreen' colour scheme and art-film like visual suggestion.

James Russell went on to give details about the mechanics of the film process, and how they came into being, starting with production manager David Heyman's acquisition to the final finished cut. As well as this, we were shown that the freedom given to the four directors was largely responsible for changes in the films.

As the crowd left their seats, many will, I’m certain, watch the films with new awareness thanks to the insights of James Russell.


Grant Cole

Drafts worth millions of galleons

How to fill a lecture room? Put on an image from the Harry Potter film, show a few clips and call your talk "Harry Potter ... something". The visitors are going to beat a path to your door.

Including me, I should say, as I am a devoted Harry Potter fan. In contrast to the talker, James Russell, at least according to his own statement. And I'm not going to discuss to what extent buying the books the day they are released qualifies you as being a fan...

Nevertheless, it was interesting to get some information about the film industry behind the wizarding world. I didn't know how less influence WarnerBros actually took in this massive project. They provided loads of money, but then stepped back and trusted the producer David Heyman with the creative control.

Unfortunately, the details about the four different directors of Harry Potter were nothing new to me – I belong to those freaks, who even know each of them by name. For normal people, it must have been enjoyable to get to know how the directors' personal styles shaped the films.

However, the talk was strongly coloured by Russell's often controversial point of view. It's rather bold to claim that the books are more preliminary versions, while the films present the finished drafts.

And by the way, Mr. Russell, the "K" in Rowling's artist's name doesn't stand "for nothing", it's the initial of her grandmother's first name "Kathleen".


Katharina Maria Kalinowski

Never tell a bookworm the film is better

So, went and saw James Russell's talk on Harry Potter. Sold out. Understandably, he is a rather engaging speaker. You can actually understand what he's talking about and he just generally gives off the vibe of a good guy. So the talk had James himself going for it.

Next point, Harry Potter. I have to admit that I am a Potter nerd. I'm in love with the franchise. Granted, the books needed more editing and the acting was rather under-developed here and there; but the world Rowling made and the characters and the lessons they taught us... I'm a sucker for it all. So, Potter was another thing this talk had going for it.

I did learn a lot about the films I never knew before. I never realised that there were four different directors, although it seems pretty obvious now. I didn't realise that it wasn't purely Warner Bros that had exclusive rights to it - that actually it was through a smaller company owned by Heyman. These little facts were interesting for me, as any Potter info tends to be. Hey, I'm biased.

However, the warning at the start by Russell should have made me realise straight away that I would disagree with some of his views. He does not like the books as much as the films. Blasphemy in the house of Potterheads.

But I listened, I was fair and I gave the talk a chance.

The first two films were most definitely more products than films. That I agreed with. However, that just supported the books which were also over-edited and really just exposition for the rest of the series itself. Russell made sarcastic comments at the wonder and joy and random magic of the first film, which made me laugh but really they were the point. Harry was new to this world of magic and he was young; the cinematography and Hollywood style enhance Harry's own wonder and joy at this new fantastical world as any magic at that age must be wonderful. It worked well for these films.

The books themselves became less edited, with longer descriptions and expositions (that I quite honestly skipped over - I'm a bad fan) So it makes sense for the films to reflect that. The characters are growing up, becoming adults, so obviously the films would do the same in style to reflect the content. Yes, the changing directors cause the change but the books also contribute hugely to these changes. Making the first book a dark art film would have been an idiotic move just as much as making the final book into a happy Hollywood. You cannot disregard the material being used when it effected the films so greatly.

So, I am sorry, James. You had good points, but the books' influence can't really be ignored in the case of Mr Potter.


Elise Cook

Enterprise for all

The talk on social enterprise was full of information and ideas.

Social enterprise is a business where by, surplus value does not benefit one or a small group of individuals, such as in private enterprise. In social enterprise a community of the people involved in the business, all have say - like a direct democracy - on the business running, and all profits are split among those involved in the business and to developing the business even further without a single individual becoming a millionaire.

Why is a social enterprise business better than other forms of businesses? Of course all forms of businesses strive to argue that they are the best form of enterprises. Social enterprise benefits everybody, it is not a simple share holding where you get your investment income every month: it is where everybody involved hold as much power as the next person in the business regardless of how much money they invested into the business. But of course most of this is theoretical; in truth no businesses is quite as fair and even, charity organisations are supposed to be social enterprises but there is no denying that somewhere there someone hitting the jack pot from it.

Most common social enterprises are found within communities, where the people come together and raise funds to build a youth centre and whatever the youth centre may earn though organised events such as talents shows, fundraising, art shows etc. The money goes towards the sustenance of the youth centre.

Sharon Simon

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Poietic leakages

The Cultural eXchanges event on electroacoustic music, the MTI Symposium, explained a lot for those unfamiliar with what the twenty-first century term ‘electroacoustic’ could refer to. It’s an umbrella term for all genres of music produced through electronic means: musique concrète and EDM (Electronic Dance Music) are just two examples.

The talk focused on more general issues to begin with, such as the relationship between the artist and the listener. This introduced the aforementioned idea of ‘poietic leakage’ - basically what the artist envisioned in the piece of music in comparison to the listener’s interpretation. This led to a discussion on the upcoming website – OREMA (the Online Repository for Electroacoustic Music Analysis), which plans to act as a Wikipedia of sorts for people who wish to upload their analyses of electronica compositions.

The most inspirational part of the discussion followed as several speakers presented their own analyses of a variety of electronic compositions. Though I felt the idea of using so many demonstrations did begin to drag, what stood out was the diversity of genres covered. Hugh Le Caine’s “Dripsody” came from as far back as 1955, was explored - a piece created simply from tape reels and a recording of a drop of water! Alongside this was IDM music in Monolake’s “Internal Clock”, and noise music in Merzbow’s “Meattrapezoid” (which, when blasted across the room, shocked just about everyone).

Overall, the event created the impression that electronic music is beginning to be observed as a whole. There’s a sense of unity, respect and pride in the subject that would not have even been there even as little as twenty years ago, and a desire to build on that. Above all, I strongly recommend keeping an eye on OREMA for anyone who’s interested in exploring electroacoustic music as a whole, inclusive category.


George Forster

An impossible objective

Although I knew little about the subject, I found myself enthralled by Professor Richard Evans' talk on Germany losing the Second World War.

Over the hour, Professor Evans detailed Hitler's plans for the world, including the transformation of Berlin into the "World Capital", and the complete domination of Europe and the East. He explained that it was all too evident that Germany's aims were overreaching; the very fact that its plans were limitless ensured that they would never be fulfilled. At the same time this one country was facing insurmountable odds from the combined forces of the British Empire, America and Russia. This led to a fascinating dissection of how it was near impossible for the Germans to have won.

The talk was intelligent, concise and - speaking as someone who doesn'tt know a great deal about the details of this particular aspect of the War- utterly absorbing.


Edward Spence

Why Germany lost

Richard Evans, author of the Third Reich trilogy, begins his talk on World War II in front of a completely packed-out lecture hall. Right from the off, the room is silent with everyone entirely attentive, laughing at every joke and paying attention to every word. We look too, as the lecture accompanied by pictures from the period.

Evans splits the loss into different reasons including the economy. Germany found it impossible to keep up with the production of the British Empire, the USSR and the USA.

As well as this, Evans claims that the aims of Germany were so large they could never be achieved. Hitler was said never to be rational and this came across throughout the talk. As Richard finished there was a large round of applause from the interested crowd.

I'd been looking forward to Richard Evans' talk and I appreciated his raconteur style. It reminded me why I loved history back in my A-Level days.


Grant Cole

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Hiraeth/Saudade

The spotlights switch on. It is perfectly still in Studio 1.

A group of young people enter the space. People, whose hometowns are spread over two continents. Only one of them speaks English as a first language. But there is something that unites them.

A harp starts playing and they start to dance. Slowly, beautifully; quicker as the harp sounds get enriched by singing and samba beats; energetic, as it changes into a clogging.

But all the time powerful, moving and in entire harmony.

Showing a melting of different cultures. Showing a story of time and distance, question and answer, Welsh tradition and Brazilian capoeira, contact and togetherness.

We wanted to explore the collaboration of music and dance”, explains Angharad Harrop, the leader of this international project. Rehearsing across a distance over 8000 km was anything but easy - even the internet has its limits: “We tried to work via Skype, but there is always a delay of two or three seconds, so it was nearly impossible to put the piece together.”

Angharad Harrop is a Dance Artist born in a small fishing village in the North of Wales. She left her home to study at De Montfort University and to do research in Brazil, but she has always returned. And that, finally, is what the Welsh-Portuguese title of their performance means: a feeling of homesickness, nostalgia, wistfulness and longing, something that's in your blood, something that always draws you back home:

Hiraeth/Saudade.


Katharina Maria Kalinowski

A need that is wordless

As the performers broke into the dance which I later learnt is called Capoeira, I was amazed by the use of their bodies as they entwined using graceful 'martial art' moves - always with eye contact, and always with a visible, natural enjoyment. Both male and female performers combined beautiful balance with heroic muscle strength to conjure a vision of graceful gymnastics.

As the performers sat to sing, the music that surrounded me took me to a different place. I was no longer in a dark studio but in a hot and serene setting that brought a genuine smile to my face. I let their voices drift over me.

There was time for questions and answers at the end of the performance and this was equally enjoyable. We met each performer in turn (including Angharad Harrop - formerly of DMU). Some spoke through a translator but all were filled with talent and love for the project they have embarked on. They described the ideas behind the project which expresses the sense being physically apart from somewhere or someone while a wordless need keeps drawing you back. And that is exactly what the performance conveyed to me.


Celia Wilding

An evening with Murray Melvin

I find myself at something of a loss for words. An hour ago, I had the honour of being able to sit and listen to acclaimed actor Murray Melvin speak about his craft, his experiences and his work with the company, Theatre Workshop.

All grace and elegance, Murray was a pleasure to listen to. There were no words wasted as he covered a wide range of stories, from a humorous recollection of his very first audition with Joan Littlewood, to an emotional encounter at a Doctor Who convention. He also spoke at great length regarding his role as archivist at Theatre Royal Stratford East, along with the history of the building and his many memories of the theatre. His recollections of making the tea for the company, his first role as a messenger in Macbeth and his defining role as Geoffrey Ingham in A Taste of Honey were told with great fondness, as were his many other stories.

He explained his acting techniques originating in Laban, picked out moments of his life and shared his thoughts on the importance of works such as Oh, What A Lovely War!, Murray remained fascinating throughout, regaling us with stories both amusing and upsetting. It was a wonderful evening, and I feel honoured to have been able to be in the presence of such an inspirational, influential and exceptional man.


Edward Spence

Melissa's battle for Britain's education

Melissa Benn is a woman who has devoted a great deal of time to acting against the current school system, which she deems ‘unequal’ and a means of maintaining class divisions.

Melissa set out five main aims to improve British education:

1. providing all children with general education until the age of 16, and not splitting them into tier groups until late adolescence;
2. mixing academic and cultural studies to discourage social divisions;
3. encouraging children of different social classes, races and religions to attend school together;
4. having schools invest on necessities;
5. making the government a key contributor in education.

The starting point of School Wars is the tripartite system set in place by the 1944 Education Act. Pupils were selected, on the basis of the 11-plus exam, for admission to grammar schools, technical schools, or secondary moderns.

Melissa explained that grammar schools were intended to provide a ladder for the poor to climb. In fact they also produced numerous failing students, and parents revolted against a test which branded their children as ‘failures’ at the age of 11.

Now Education minister Michael Gove claims that the introduction of academies and free schools will diversify education but, according to Melissa, he supports the old methods of dividing schools by social class.

In a nutshell, Melissa emphasised her desire to create a non-selective education system run by the government, with professional and experienced staff teaching broadened syllabi nationwide.


Maryam Sameja

"We're all doomed"

These were the words with which The Daily Mail greeted the release of controversial film Victim in 1961. John Coldstream gave a fascinating insight into the film and its context in this Cultural eXchanges event. The film tells the story of Melville Farr, a man who finds himself in trouble he couldn't have imagined after being involved in a homosexual affair with the younger "Boy Barrett", who commits suicide after blackmailers begin to intrude on their secret relationship. in the era when the film was made, homosexual relationships were illegal.

Even more shocking than the film itself, however, is the story behind it. Coldstream presented us with an opening clip of Dirk Bogarde who discussed the trouble agreeing to the role of a homosexual man at that time caused him, even with his own family - but he admitted that he had no regrets as he chose his parts on the basis of excitement and challenge. In the real world, the homophobic society surrounding Victim's release couldn't believe it, having never seen the topic covered in a serious light before. The Daily Mail weren't the only ones to cite its potential influence as dangerous either. Others named it an "irresponsible melodrama".

But ultimately, the struggle to sell the concept paid off, and as stated by Coldstream Victim was hugely influential in the passing of the Sexual Offences Act of 1967, which was an enormous step in accepting homosexuality. Furthermore, it made the topic acceptable to treat the subject seriously.

However, the discussion left us to consider the question of whether, though society's views have become more enlightened, the UK. still suffers from homophobia. The release of Victim has certainly played its part in the battle.


George Forster

A movie that mattered

Directed by Basil Dearden in the early sixties, Victim was a pivotal movie in the campaign to repeal the laws against 'homosexual acts'. I would say it was the most courageous movie within Britain. Everyone involved with the film made sacrifices to gain rights for others.Truly remarkable.

The talk was given by John Coldstream. The event was only one hour long, but I am positive he manged to fit hours' worth of information into the allotted time. He gave a strong and thought-provoking talk on the film's treatment of homosexuality.The audience were fully engaged with him and eager to hear more.

Towards the end of his speech, he asked if members of the audience had any questions. One gentleman raised the argument that Britain has not changed a great deal since the time of Victim. He shared the sad fact of his partner passing away, and how he is continually treated in a shocking way by our society.

This event was more than just part of Cultural eXchanges. It was a discussion involving real people's emotions. It was everyone talking as one: Being Equal. It raised the continually avoided question: Has Britain really changed?

Debbie Tinsley

Did you miss out?

Dr Ming Turner's talk was exactly what it said on the tin: contemporary Chinese and Taiwanese art. No confusing theories, no in-depth lecture into the history of either country. Just art. Art with a relevant explanation.

Ming showed a lot of different examples of Chinese art, such as more western-influenced artists like Wang Guangyi. There were also Chinese artists who have to work outside China because their work deals with subjects which the Chinese government do not want out in the open. For example one piece by Yue Minjun is inspired by the events in Tiananmen Square in 1989.

Dr Ming Turner went on to describe Taiwanese art, explaining that, because of Chinese rule over Taiwan in the 1940s, Taiwanese art was more traditionally Chinese than actual Chinese art has become. She showed examples of Chinese artists who are becoming quirkier and less traditional all the time, like Danniel Lee with his project on "hybridity", and Yu Youhan's take on Andy Warhol's famous Marilyn Monroe painting, merging it with Chairman Mao Zedong to create a pop-art Mao/Marilyn.

It was a shame this talk wasn't packed, because anyone with the slightest interest in art or China, or both, would have thought this talk was something to sit up and listen to. Dr Ming Turner did a brilliant job of conveying the motivations behind most Chinese and Taiwanese art, like the cultural revolution. I only wish more people could have been there. If you missed it, you missed out.


Sarah Kate Beckett

Six talents

On Tuesday 29th February, De Montfort was treated to a reading by six highly-talented creative writers.

First was Daniel O'Donnell-Smith, who completed his MA in Contemporay Poetry at DMU in 2010. The language of O'Donnell-Smith's poems, with successions of evocative words such as 'shot, sparrow, shiver' suggested he placed even more importance on sound than on meaning.

Next came Claire Baldwin, a DMU graduate with an MA in Creative Writing by Independent Study. Her short story 'Frank' uses repetition and surprising shifts in content. She read only the first half, leaving the audience more than a little anxious about the speaker's actions and state of mind.

After this there was Richard Byrt, a postgraduate student of Creative Writing by Independent Study. The three poems he read included the comical 'Dear Professor Auden' and 'Typical Bloke in a Woolly Hat,' which ended with Byrt pulling woolly hats from his own bag.

Bhagwant Kaur, who has moved from her 1st class degree to M.A. studies, amused the audience, which included many students of creative writing, with her short story 'Reasons For Divorce.' The narrator's second reason was summed up in the sentence, 'He's a writer'.

Penultimately, Pam Thompson, one of the organizers of Word!, read a collection of short poems taking a fim about Leicester as their inspiration. All were dark in theme.

Finally, Alexandros Plasatis, a co-editor of the third volume of literacy magazine, Hearing Voices, gave us a story about a young Greek man seeking friendship with Egyptians working in Greece. His Greek accent provided a short cut to the heart of the story.

The six writers set a high standard which many of us in the audience plan to attain.


Grant Cole

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

By the People, for the People

Social enterprise: I’d heard of the concept before before but never took the time to try and understand. So, in search of enlightenment, I joined the interactive talk on whether social enterprise could be the best alternative to capitalism.

This talk was led by a Dr Andrew Reeves, as part of the Green Light Festival, someone who showed great enthusiasm in bringing about social change to the UK.

For those of you who don’t know, a social enterprise is a business which trades for a social purpose. As clearly illustrated in the session, these businesses don’t follow the scheme of having all the profits go to the boss and the shareholders. Instead it goes to everyone who has a stake within the business, all the workers who managed it equally, and is used to sustain the enterprise indefinitely.

Dr Reeves even provided some examples of social enterprises such as AFC Wimbledon, a football team created and managed by the fans when their original team moved to Milton Keynes. Local shops and community centres have increasingly become controlled by the locals and by the community.

A good question which was presented was when social enterprise is appropriate and when is it not. It doesn’t solve every problem but at least it does solve problems.

The session was enough to plant the idea within me that perhaps social enterprise is the way forward. I wonder if you’ll think the same.


S.M. Knight

Art by numbers - the art auction preview


Item 92, you have psychedelic shades of green. Do you represent the curves of a woman or the creation of life? Precise shapes flow effortlessly on the canvas.

Item 35, it's so impressive how you fit a redheaded woman in a cardboard box - and more impressive that her nudity is displayed with an air of grace. Much more classy than the painting of the man’s chode.

Item 72, you are exceptionally hypnotic, creating shapes from tricks of the eye. I would have put a bid on you if I had a penny to spare. Your glass mould with intricate patterns is the definition of working man’s art, whatever that means.

Item 73, I thought you were the bee’s knees. The perfect example of abstract art. A reflection of life’s duality and imperfections. How disappointed I was to realise that part of you was accidentally created through a shining light.

Item 106, are you the script of a person’s mind? A woman’s mind perhaps? You are entirely nonsensical and I find you intriguing to examine.

I never thought I would be able to appreciate art in any way. Now I hope there will be another art auction preview at next year’s Cultural eXchanges.


John Marr

A passion for writing

There were six readings at the postgraduate showcase, and each explored a different approach to writing. Among the range of styles, two stood out for me: Richard Byrt and Bhagwant Kaur. I found the way they engaged in their work showed true passion for the art of writing.

Richard Byrt had a wonderful presence as a person andalso conveyed it through his words. His last reading in particular, the poem 'Typical bloke in a woolly hat,' drew the audience in.

Bhagwant Kaur seemed utterly at home within the showcase. She was confident and composed. Her work, 'Reasons for Divorce' was brilliant. Her comedic timing was first class. She performed her work with such passion that it was clear how much enjoyment Bhagwant finds in creative writing.

I hope this is an annual event should be shown every year, as it gives fellow students a rare glimpse of what to expect from their creative writing course.

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole showcase and hope to be part of the postgraduate event in the future.


Debbie Tinsley

An exploration of creativity

This presentation gave postgraduate students at DMU and opportunity to showcase some of their latest work. The prose and poetry performed were excellent pieces, displaying the talent that was cultivated in the Creative Writing course.

The speakers were Daniel O’Donnell-Smith (poet/musician), Claire Baldwin (writer/poetry blogger), Richard Byrt (retired lecturer/mental health nurse), Bhagwant Kaur (writer), Pam Thompson (poet/performer) and Alexandros Plasatis (editor/writer/performer).

The presentation displayed a wide array of compositions to appeal to all tastes. This ranged from unusual and vivid poetry, a short fiction which imaginatively used repetition and explores identity, an amusing poem assisted with crowd-pleasing props, an elaborate joke narrated in fictional form, a powerful description of city nightlife and a deep insight into the conversations between hashish smokers.

Each reader's work demonstrated that time spent in creative writing at DMU was far from wasted.


S. M. Knight

A look to the future

I was given a look into the future today as I attended a reading postgraduate creative writers at De Montfort. Three of the six readers were previously members of the undergraduate Demon Crew, who decided to pursue their writing further at M.A. and Ph.D. level.

The six speakers shared work which was varied stylistically, yet all pieces were of a high standard. I particularly enjoyed the poetry of Richard Byrt, who combined humour with linguistic vibrancy, and fiction from both Bhagwant Kaur and Claire Baldwin, with the latter creating a narrative voice which was strikingly fresh and unique.

As well as inspiring the undergraduates in attendance, there was plenty of entertainment for the rest of the audience.

I hope to be in the position of those writers in just a couple of years' time, and also hope that their work will be visible on a much wider scale in the very near future.


Jack Arkell

Woolly hats - and Reasons for Divorce

This was my first event for Cultural eXchanges at De Montfort University, and I went in thinking it would be a boring lecture-type talk. I was prepared to zone out in the first 10 minutes.

However, as a first-year student studying Creative Writing, I was taken aback by the confidence with which these postgraduates read from their unique pieces of work.

I particularly appreciated two writers. When Richard Byrt read his poem ‘Typical Bloke in a Woolly Hat', he actually pulled out a bunch of woolly hats towards the end, claiming that if we bought one we would resemble the character in his poem. This made me see that when reading out poetry, a poet can actually ‘perform’ it, making it a more emotional or humorous experience for the audience.

I also enjoyed Bhagwant Kaur’s short story ‘Reasons for Divorce’. I heard her read a short ghost-story at the Demon Crew launch at the beginning of the year and liked her writing style. In this story I enjoyed the way she structured and unveiled the narrative, as well as the way she incorporated birds. She read in a lively and confident tone, which is something I aspire to develop.

Each readers had an individual style of writing and reading aloud - I was never the least bored or in danger of zoning out.
.


Maryam Sameja

The real Heather Peace

Heather Peace is in an actor/musician known for her parts in London’s Burning and Lip Service. As soon as she entered the room it was obvious that there was a massive amount of respect. We sat in silence as she was interviewed by Beverly Hancock-Smith of Leicester College.

Within the first five minutes of seeing Heather, it became very difficult to not become enamoured by her demeanour. Heather smiles a lot and is so down-to-earth that when she laughs you can’t help but laugh along with her. You imagine taking her down to your local and having a few pints like it’s nothing out of the ordinary.

Obviously the subject of Heather’s sexuality came into focus a quite a bit. I was surprised at her responses: that sexuality shouldn’t matter, that she has “never been in the closet” and questioning a person’s sexual preference is crass.

Tonight I felt we saw the real Heather Peace through her history, ambitions and honesty. We were treated to three of the songs from her upcoming album Fairy Tales.

And strike me down if Heather Peace can’t belt out a note or two.


John Marr

A fairytale event

This evening, room 3.03 in De Montfort's Clephan Building filled with excited chatter at the anticipation of Heather Peace's arrival. We were not disappointed.

As soon as she set foot into the room the audience was hanging onto her every word. She oozed confidence and gave the room a relaxed atmosphere. The sound of laughter frequently echoed through the roomin repsonse to her talk.

Heather was honest about her passion for performing, the choices she made regarding her career and comments about her sexuality. I thought the way she addressed the talk about her sexuality was fantastic. She asked 'Why should anyone care?' and I completely agree. Why should her personal life be treated as the focal point of her career? She's a wonderful actress, a superb singer and an inspirational woman.

Heather sang three songs from her new album Fairytale: 'Better than you', 'Thank god for you' and 'Fairytales'. They were all sung beautifully. The album comes out this spring, so watch the shelves.

Cultural eXchanges has blown me away by offering such a genuine talk from a well-loved celebrity and all for the cost of ... nothing.

Please listen to Heather Peace; she's remarkable.


Debbie Tinsley

Peace of Mind

I'll be honest and say that I wasn't massively aware of Heather Peace. But then with shows like Lip Service and The 'L' Word under her belt, I doubt I'm really her target demographic. However I was genuinely excited to welcome her into the lecture hall and hear what she had to say (and sing).

I was utterly smitten by just how lovely a person she is. She's probably the most genuine celebrity I've ever seen. She was extremely welcoming and friendly, had plenty of jokes and stories to tell and was an absolute delight to watch. It was a very real, heart-felt interview and Q&A.

Aside from the conversation, Heather also treated us to some of her musical talent. In a word: outstanding. I'm always in awe of people who can both play the piano and sing; with her power and vocal range Heather was simply fantastic. An utterly breath-taking and intimate live performance of three songs from her upcoming album Fairy Tales. The title track is particularly worthy of praise.

It's hard to believe that the event didn't cost a penny - a real treat for hard-pressed students. An excellent event on all accounts.




Shane Curiel

A gift for Kerry's father

Kerry Young reminds me of a really charming amalgamation of my Filipino Great Aunt Lilia and my Jamaican Grandfather George. If I were forced to drink a shot for every time Kerry stood from her chair to dramatize her responses I’d be looking at complete liver failure.

When we first went into the lecture room we were greeted by rows of what I might call a more “mature" audience - we felt like children tagging along to a grown-ups' tea party. Nevertheless the atmosphere was extremely relaxed and respectful; it was refreshing to learn about the history of Jamaica and Kerry Young herself.

Kerry Young took seven years to finish her novel Pao and, from what she said, I feel that it is a project she needed to complete to solidify her identity as a Chinese-Jamaican woman. I asked Kerry if she ever thought of giving up during those seven years. She said she had been tempted but that the novel was a gift for her father - and what a special gift it was. During the discussion it was glaringly obvious that Kerry is passionate about her writing. It was truly inspiring to listen to her tonight.

This was easily my favourite event of Cultural eXchanges so far.


John Marr

Art in prison - is it worth it?

From what we hear in the media, art in the criminal justice system is just a waste of time, space and the tax-payers' money. I'll put my hand up now - I'm guilty of thinking this (as are many other people in today's world) but we couldn't be more wrong. I'm a big fan of the arts - always have been - but for some reason I could never get my head round how doing something creative would help people in prisons.

The chairman of Arts Alliance (the company that brings art workshops to offenders) spoke passionately, pointing out that when any of us goes through a strong emotion, be it love, loss or hurt, we use creativity as an outlet for the feelings. It's therapeutic and helps us to vent the emotion without hurting anyone else.

When its put like that, arts in prisons seems like a very good idea. He went on to explain how re-offending rates are significantly reduced when the offender is involved in a creative project and how much people benefit from being involved in such work.

The talk definitely opened my eyes to a whole new world of career possibilities too. Although most of the speakers said how hard the job is to get into, they all seemed so enthused and excited about the work they were doing, it made the effort they had to put in seem completely worthwhile.

My views on the prison system were completely changed by this talk. It's so easy to get caught up in the world of the media and put down anything that uses tax-payers' money as a waste of time, but this really isn't. If you think how small the arts' side of education is in prisons (estimated at less that 5%) it's not worth all the aggravation the people that run the company get from the public. We're always led to think that an offender is a stereotype and can forget that they're real people. Everyone deserves the opportunity to express themselves, and I can't stress enough how glad I am that there are organisations out there that are fighting to give people that chance.


Sophie Moyse

Not so twisted



Iexpected the twisted art of serial killer John Wayne Gacy or the beauty of a back piece done with a sharpened bed spring. I was pleasantly surprised when a member of the Arts Alliance simply said that prisoners are humans too.

I was further surprised at how vocational the programs were for the Arts Alliance. I did not know that prisoners must fulfil specific educational requirements to take part in the program, nor that they must demonstrate that they are developing within their work.

By the end of the one hour session my scepticism was turned to optimism as I realised that the Art Alliance was a serious organisation for prisoners who seriously want to rehabilitate through hours of work (more than 20 a week) and who show consistent dedication.


John Marr

Mending social connections

It's Cultural eXchanges week at University. I headed to a talk on the use of arts in prisons. It was hosted by Arts Alliance, for whom art doesn't just mean painting, but drama, dance, music and writing as forms of art too. They believe that if crime is a broken social connection, and art is a largely social thing, the arts can help to rebuild that connection.


Many people believe that prisons are too luxurious for convicted criminals, to which Arts Alliance respond it's "not just a holiday camp". They explained that in every prison, education is contracted from outside the prison to teach the offenders. They then explained that classes in the arts probably take up less than 5% of the courses on offer, which they think is not enough at all.

Why are they so persistent about the need for classes in the arts? Because it has been proven that not only does it save public money on other forms of rehabilitation, but it also reduces the likelihood of a prisoner re-offending. Arts Alliance helps by training people to continue giving support to prisoners after their release.


There are also groups such as the Shannon Trust which work within prisons, encouraging more-able prisoners to mentor the less-able prisoners, in reading and writing etc. This can help prisoners who need to reach level 1 in Mathematics and Literacy before taking Arts classes. This is largely so that they can pick out those who will most likely excel on the course. (This may seem unfair but it was also made clear that exceptions are made for prisoners without level 1 in mathematics and literacy if they show show a great deal of enthusiasm and passion for art.) Arts Alliance insist that these classes not only teach a form of art, but also how to express ideas, responding to feedback, and working in a team, all vital skills.


My vote? The arts should be taught in prisons, because surely, if an offender has an interest in one of the arts, it would be easier to rehabilitate them and reduce the risk of re-offending.



Sarah Kate Beckett

Not just a break-time game

admit, my first thoughts when hearing the words 'art' and 'prison' put together weren't all that constructive: more something along the lines of 'they're there to be punished, not to paint pretty pictures,' but Art Alliance (the national body for the promotion of arts in the criminal justice system) proved otherwise.

Prisoners can't just wonder in and out of the system, they have to have a certain level of education, they have to prove they won't drop out after a few weeks, and most importantly, they have to really want to do it. Art in prison can involve up to 6 hours a day (when taking graphic design) and involves prisoners showcasing their work and giving constructive criticism. This helps offenders to communicate better, as well as teaching them other vital skills such as team work and presentation skills.

Throughout the UK there are currently on average 93,000 prisoners, and that's costing the government £42,000 a year. Suffice to say, I came out of that discussion thinking that maybe it's time to drop the law-abiding citizen act and start prioritizing rehabilitation over hard punishment. The three speakers addressed all sorts of opposing views; 'isn't that making prison life easier?', 'why should prisoners have these unnecessary benefits?' Yeah, I was thinking that too, but Art Alliance were adamant that art in prisons isn't simply a break time game, it's a form of therapeutic rehabilitation.


Shelby Paddison

Art in Prison? Certainly

Prisoners are often presented as either wastrels or monsters in the media. But giving them the opportunity to produce their own art enables them to demonstrate that they are just as human as the rest of us.

Three speakers from the Arts Alliance were adamant that serious involvement in art, theatre, dance and creative writing provides offenders with a form of education and allows them to build up self-esteem, despite any lack of literacy and numerical skills.


They explained in detail how limiting the creativity and expression of prisoners would simply exacerbate the problem. This makes it far more likely that offenders return to prison soon after their release.

The idea of art in prison was something I’ve never considered before. This lecture certainly gave me food for thought.


S. M. Knight

Friday, 24 February 2012

Getting me some culture, innit?

When I tell people I'm going to the Cultural eXchanges festival, those unacquainted with it often respond with a bemused look and a comment like, "Cultural what? What liiiiiiike... art and s**t?"

Well. Sort of. When I explain that actually, it's a whole week of dance, literature, poetry, films, with appearances from celebrities like Jamal Edwards, Murray Melvin, Gwyneth Lewis and Hustle's Adrian Lester for little or no money, people's expressions change.

Being a newcomer myself, I'm excited for next week. I've never been to a festival quite like this one, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens when lots of creative types are thrown into one place at one time.

In a world where students are constantly told it's near impossible to get a job in media, art, writing, and so on, it will be interesting to see a group of successful people in these fields who have got these jobs, and to figure out how they did it.

To book for the events running Monday 27th Feb - Friday 4th March click here.


Natalie Beech