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

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Festival in a Day

What do fairies, Vikings, a Rocket Dog and Ursula Le Guin have in common?

No, this isn't Only Connect so you won't lose points when I give you more clues:
The Federation of Masked Booksellers; Dahlia Press; Demon Crew - DMU Creative Writing Students.

Yes, I knew that would do it - you're right! It's the 9th Annual States of Independence Day at Leicester's De Montfort University and those are just some of the organisations providing stalls and panels.

This incredible FREE event on Saturday 10th March 2018, organised and sponsored by Five Leaves Bookshop, Nottingham  and the Creative Writing Team at the University, is not to be missed. 

With something for everyone, this Book Festival in a Day is a wonderful opportunity to meet and listen to established authors and new talent, to take part in workshops and seminars as well as show your support for 'independent thinking, independent writing and independent presses'. 

There will be ample opportunity to purchase new and pre-loved books and - if you're lucky - you may even have the opportunity to share some 'Big Birthday' cake with Dr Simon Perril as he launches In the Final Year of My Forties on the day. 

The event runs from 10.30am - 4.30pm at Clephan Building, De Montfort University, Leicester. For directions please click here  

Helen Abbot

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

"Learning to write is learning to work" - an hour with Vinay Patel

Vinay's cats
An whole entire hour with the acclaimed screenwriter and playwright Vinay Patel involves a lot of witty humour, personal anecdotes, stories about his BAFTA experience as well as advice and info on how he got to be where he is today. His was a riveting talk with DMU lecturer, Kathleen Bell followed  by questions from a keen audience who were eager for answers.

Patel gave us an insight into his work and how he got to be the successful playwright we know him as today. I have to say that I thought that Patel would be one of those unrelateable, snobby writers who seem near enough 'untouchable'. In actuality he is very down to earth. He admitted struggling with multiple deadlines, joking that "all procrastination is good procrastination" and also told us how, quite unintentionally, he came to be "running a retirement home for cats."

His humour certainly made me certainly feel happy to be at the event, which was also incredibly interesting. He told us about his up and coming ventures which include a touring production for Paines Plough as well as an epic drama, An Adventure, being produced at The Bush Theatre in Shepherds Bush, London. The adventure in question is based on the life of his grandparents who travelled over three continents (from India, to Kenya then England).

Patel also expressed his interest and passion for wanting to create pieces that highlight the talent of minority actors, as well as meaningful stories, like his critically acclaimed drama, Murdered By My Father (BBC, 2016) which tells the story of an honour killing. He also stated that he would love to write something in the sci-fi genre of which he's an immense fan.

Throughout his whole entire talk, Vinay Patel made me think about my own writing and the different ways in which I might write. "Pick things that are important to you," he said. I've always wanted to write a script or play and this made me even more inspired. It made me think about not writing about what I think other people may want to see, but instead starting from the issues and subjects that interest me.

Overall, this Cultural Exchanges event has a very powerful effect on me. It was a conversation not to be missed.

Tara N. Lawal

"Theatre is the purest form of expression"

Vinay Patel's appearance at the Cultural Exchanges festival yesterday seemed humble, in contrast to the festival brochure’s picture of him decked out in a polka shirt and blue suit. And that's just what he was, during the talk with Kathleen Bell (a lecturer at DMU): humble. 

Despite making a "meteoric rise" in his career through the BAFTA-nominated drama film Murdered By My Father (2016) he said, "I'm not confident enough in what I do to be more involved" when asked about the process of producing films from his scripts. 

However, he remained confident in his idea of what theatre is and what film is. 

"Writing for theatre is changing in terms of what you can do with it ... when writing for theatre, the main unit of meaning is in a line. But in film, it’s in the juxtaposition of two images." Despite his own comment that this statement was "wanky," I found it refreshingly introspective.

Coming from someone who claims that writing was "the only thing [he] could do" at school, I'd say Patel is certainly meteoric. 

“Theatre is the purest form of expression,” he said in response to one question from the audience. 

His one complaint about the theatre industry is that “it’s dominated by people with lots of money.” He suggested that if this wasn’t so, presentation of characters and topics addressed in plays would be more diverse, and in turn audiences would be more diverse. 

Interested in Vinay Patel’s next play? Coming this September is his ‘An Adventure.’

Book your tickets now for its run at London's Bush Theatre.t the Bush Theatre now!

G.E. Knight
G.E. Knight

Vinay Patel and his rise through writing

“Writing a script at home in your pants with your two cats is what success looks like!” - To all those aspiring writers out there…well you heard it here first.
De Montfort University was treated to a conversation by the very entertaining writer that is Vinay Patel. Vinay talked to Kathleen Bell and the audience about the ten years that led to his meteoric rise in screen and play-writing, as well as telling us briefly about his two beloved cats!
From a young age, Vinay wrote short stories, whilst watching Star Trek at the end of his father’s bed. This is where his love for writing began. 
Murdered by My Father was his big break, but if it wasn’t for his Agent seeing the potential, he would have turned it down. The television drama ended up being nominated for three BAFTAS, which was a surreal moment in his life - even if his Grandma thought he looked like a waiter!
Some advice that everyone took away with them was that the audience is an important factor when it comes to writing. Vinay stated himself with his witty humour - “If you don’t care about your audience, write a diary!”
Most of Vinay’s upcoming work is under wraps. However he did let us know that one of his current TV projects is in the crime and detective genre. This year’s plans also include going back into directing. 
If anyone is interested in seeing more of Vinay Patel’s inspiring work, then get down to London to watch his new play, An Adventure, which opens at The Bush Theatre in autumn 2018.

Lauren Irish

Writers are human too ...

Vinay Patel provided hope to any would-be writer that success is attainable with the right amount of determination and flexibility. He provided an insight into the world of the playwright, explaining the differences between the stage and the screen.

His discussion with DMU's Kathleen Bell served as a reminder that writing scripts, for either medium, is a process which extends far beyond putting words on the page, with involvement in casting and deliverance also coming into play. To hear that the writer for TV is often the most overlooked member of a production team was truly fascinating. 

Furthermore, Vinay proved to be incredibly personable, with a love of cats, proving that writers, for all their talents, are human like the rest of us - and that's a thought which makes the gulf between dreaming of a script and having it produced seem much less daunting.  

L Robertson

Visible Bits, Audible Bites - year 9

For the ninth year in a row, Phoenix Cinema held the Cultural Exchanges event Visible Bits, Audible Bytes.
As a joint honours film studies and writing student, I spend a lot of time in the Phoenix, and know that, as an independent cinema, it usually holds interesting and stimulating events. 

This event was hosted by De Montfort University's very own Professor Bret Battey and consisted of seven pieces of work: Cyclic from Numbercult and Max Cooper, Nuées by Myriam Boucher, Virtual Actors in Chinese Opera by Tobias Gremmler and the GuoGuang Opera Company, Estuaries 3 by Bret Battey, Scan_0.1 by Giorgio Bertinelli, Vacuum by Francesco Martí, and finally, Jean Piché's thirty minute long piece Threshing in the Palace of Light. 

I found every single piece extremely captivating and emotive, and I really don't think that I could say that I have ever experienced any piece of art that is in any way similar to any of the works I saw at this event.
The most emotive for me would have to be Nuées by Myriam Boucher, as I found it genuinely scary and anxiety inducing, due to its loud, jarring, repetitive sounds and the disturbing crossing over of images of birds flying. 

My favourites out of all of the clips, however, were definitely Virtual Actors in Chinese Opera by Tobias Gremmler and the GuoGuang Opera Company and Estuaries 3 by Bret Battey.
Battey's piece was rather soothing, and visually reminded me of what one would envision the feeling of a sneeze to look like: fuzzy and lingering. 
Virtual Actors in Chinese Opera was really interesting to me, as I love dance and it was so captivating to see such wonderful colours and shapes moving alongside one another so gracefully to create a sense of a character.

I would definitely recommend anyone who is interested in the arts and forms of creativity in any way to attend the tenth event in this series next year, as I think everyone could take something from it.

Paige Nicole

Woman with bombs

'Why should a woman not use the same weapons as men. It is not only war we have declared. We are fighting a revolution.' (Kitty Marion)

I was already tired when I walked to Fern Riddell's talk and was worried that I'd fall asleep in the warmth. Luckily, that didn't happen. Instead, for the entire time I was completely intrigued by what was being said. I’ve always been interested in the suffragettes and women’s rights. Hearing Riddell discuss it in such a passionate way kept me listening and wide awake.
  I'd never heard of Kitty Marion before but she played a huge part in the Women’s Social and Political Union in the UK and led a fascinating life. After her cmapaigns with the suffragettes she became involved in another important campaign for women's rights - the campaign for birth control in the United States.
Fern Riddell's passion for this topic, and the way she spoke about it and answered questions from the audience was what kept my attention throughout and I look forward to the plublication of her book, Death in ten minutes (due in April) so that I can learn more about Kitty Marion and her appealing life story.

L A Parkins

Death in ten minutes

What impressed me most about Fern Riddell's account of the Suffrage movement was how honest it was. She didn't shy away from the harsh truths of what happened. If anything she embraced it. She's clearly fighting against the glamorization that is typically done when people recount these kinds of historical events.

Her talk was framed around her book on the life of Kitty Marion a determined and violent member of the suffragettes who lived an incredible life - "the original "me too'" as Fern called her. Kitty Marion wouldn't put up with sex being used as a commodity and decided to devote their life to activism. She fought for women's rights by any means necessary. Vandalism, arson, and bombings were a part of daily life.

"Are our memories so short?" Fern asked the audience, indeed it does seem much of the grit has been stripped from many accounts of the time period. But Fern is keen neither to vilify those who took part nor to justify their actions. She simply explores them truthfully then trusts the readers to come to their own conclusion from the facts. In today's political climate that's admirable. I'm eager to give her new book Death In Ten Minutes a read when it debuts in April.

The other impressive thing was how Fern dealt with pointed questions from the audience. They didn't ask her the easy stuff; one chap challenged Fern about how it wasn’t just some groups of women who got the vote but working men too - a fact that's often forgotten. Fern agreed though with stipulations. The fella became quite heated over the issue but Fern remained collected and responded about how divisive the topic can be. Someone else asked about what the bigger cause of women getting the vote was, the war or suffrage. Fern admitted that she rocks from one view to the other. A student asked about the involvement of men in helping to get the vote. Fern was eager to cite numerous cases of men who helped the suffragettes. Sadly time was running short. I could have listened for another half hour. 

Sam Davies

Kente, the new khaki

This year marks sixty years of Ghana independence. 

Last Friday Dr Malika Kraamer enlightened me by sharing some fascinating facts about Ghanaian heritage and how it is expressed through the intriguing and wide world of Kente cloth.

From its influence on the African fashion industry to it's political use it is safe to say the world of Kente cloth is a wide and complex one. 

Thank you, Dr Kraamer for opening my eyes to this culture at such an important time as this. Sixty years of Ghana independence is something to be celebrated and what better way than through a textile business that has so much history and heritage?

Now, where can I buy some Kente cloth?

Bethany Shirtcliffe

Germans in India: for converts and trade

Panikos Panayi's talk about the 'Germans in India' taught me something I never knew before. His focus was on German influence during the 18th and 19th centuries - and this really interested me.

Germans travelled for many reasons: some were missionaries while others were merchants or businessmen. The good relations businesses established have helped shape gloablisation today.
However Panikos Panayi also emphasised the role of missionaries who spread the teachings of Luther and the Lutheran church through the Basel Mission. Missionaries described their journeys throughout India as they sailed on boats to secure converts. Herman Gundert was an important figure during this time and he went back and forth to India. To do his mission he learnt the local languages such as Hindustani and Bengali.
Herman Gundert
Prof. Panayi's talk made it clear that the German presence in India was very different from the British presence. His talk has made me keen to find out more about this history and explore the different ways in which India as been affected by different European countries - and how those effects are still evident today.
E. Hussain

Beast Mode - have you found it?

How can we build our creative confidence?

This was the sole question of the hour-long discussion led by Amrit Singh - a graphic designer and creative director who you can follow on Twitter as @MrASingh.

He welcomed us into his world and gave attendees an insight on the struggles of coming from a traditional Indian background yet wanting to pursue a career in the Arts. Needless to say, his dreams were not fully supported and were seen as unorthodox by his parents. 

"Your family can be your rock, but also your mountain and barrier," he told us.

Still, a very optimistic Amrit explained that the answer is quite simple. He encouraged everyone to embrace their culture and the diversity around them in order to influence creativity. That is how he found his Beast Mode.
Sweeney Emanuel

Friday, 2 March 2018

The quiet genius of Kei Miller

In his poetry as in his reading, Kei Miller takes us on a journey through Jamaica and Britain.

  At the beginning of the evening, Kei Miller asked the audience what we would like him to read. We followed his suggestion of poems from two earlier collections followed by a longer reading from his most recent, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, which takes us through a conversation between a Rasta man and cartographer of the title.

Miller's poems and his reading of them brought such life and pathos to the characters in his poems that the listeners were swept up into his world. Sometimes it was hard to remember that we were simply listening to a poem and sitting in a lecture theatre.
Introducing his poem 'The Longest Song' from A Light Song of Light, Miller said that, as in piece of music by John Cage he cites at the start, "The first sound you hear in the poem is silence." This spoke volumes to me about poetry and about when a poem begins and ends on a page.
From 'How We Became the Pirates' to his final poem from Cartographer, Kei Miller delivered euphoric highs and the derelict lows without stopping for such a thing as applause.
When he wrapped up his performance, the audience were understandably lost for words when he opened up the floor for questions. At last someone asked about his processes and he told us all "I don't really have any processes."
That is when I realized. All poets have the freedom to express themselves through the medium of words in any way they like. The genius of Kei Miller is that he allows himself to just that.


Tom Stewart

Place Names and Processes: an hour with Kei Miller

‘The interesting thing about a map is always what’s not on it.’
So said poet, novelist, and essayist, Kei Miller, at his Words and Poetry event at the Cultural Exchanges Festival.

Maps, place names, and languages were the focal point of much of the discussion that followed his reading. His inspirations, and anecdotes from his travels punctuated readings from his latest poetry collection, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion.

The sequence of poems follows a conversation between a cartographer and a Rastaman, as they deliberate the nature of mapmaking, and how a person can know a place – two very eclectic characters brought to life through Miller’s animated readings.

Miller touched on his fascination with etymology – particularly in place names – and how language, dialects and history can affect them. A particular favourite of his was Shotover, Jamaica; while locals prefer the story of slaves being shot at, the most likely origin was the French Chateau Vert.

Miller explained how he finds it hard to write individual poems, preferring to create sequences in which he can get the most out of one idea. An academic as well as a poet, his enthusiasm for research and reading usually culminates in one furious writing period, as he aims to show the spectrum of different ways you can see one thing.

As the evening drew to a close, one question was surely on everyone’s mind: How would you map a place?

A. L. Whitaker

Braving the snow to see Kei Miller

Kingston-born poet Kei Miller had the audience hanging on to his every word as he performed at this year’s Cultural Exchanges Festival, charming the audience with a combination of subtle humour and political discourse.

Miller read poems from three of his collections, but primarily focussed on his most recent, The Cartographer Tries to Map a Way to Zion, which charts the conversations had between a struggling cartographer and a Rastafarian who tries to show him that what’s not on the map is bigger and more important. The sequence slips between standard English and Jamaican patois as the two converse, which distinguishes the two distinct voices of the characters in an often humorous but profound manner.

Miller also performed a touching poem titled 'A Prayer for the Unflummoxed Beaver,' which was written for a friend of his who was very ill and was inspired by an encounter with an unfazed beaver in America.

There was an impressive turnout to see Miller, as spectators braved the bitter weather to see him perform, and he certainly warmed our hearts. The lecture hall was full of Kei Miller fanatics, clutching copies of his work and in awe of his presence. He has definitely gained another fan in me.

Ryan Blacklaws

Four legs badass in Revolution Farm

George Orwell is a big hitter in literature so when I heard James Kenworth was coming to Cultural Exchanges to talk about his adaptation of Animal Farm, I knew I had to attend. 

Kenworth gave an awe-inspiring on how he turned Animal Farm into Revolution Farm, a modern-day dramatic adaptation set and staged on Newham Farm in East London - and how he got permission to do it.  
In Kenworth's adaptation the animals wear hoodies and that makes them seem more dangerous since so many older people feel threatened by hoodie-wearing teens. It makes it seem "badass".

And that word "badass" is the right one since Kenworth changed Orwell's famous line "Four legs good, two legs bad," from Animal Farm, to "Four legs badass, two legs waste man." And that's just one example of how Revolution Farm uses modern slang. He also changes the names of the characters so that Napoleon, for instance, becomes Daddy Love.

Most of the presentation was about the creation of this adaptation and how James Kenworth didn't wanted to make it his own, but to make it modern. But to me it seemed, from this brilliant presentation, that by taking Orwell's work and turning it into a contemporary play, he also succeeded in making it very much his own.

Josh Harwood

Stories without words

DISCLAIMER: I am not and have never been a dancer myself (excluding the odd reluctant school performance), and so I am in no position to comment on the technical aspects of Kizuna Dance's Cultural Exchanges performance. But anyone in that audience will have recognised the amount of time, effort, and love that went into their choreography.

Through three dances, Kizuna brought fluidity and creativity to a range of subjects, from Buddhist sins to the struggles of 21st century life. Using only their bodies and expressions they told story upon story with no words.

Most interesting to me were the choices in music and sound. House music flowed into Japanese folk songs, then transformed into sections of monologues and stand-up comedy routines. Though these choices were worlds apart, they seemed to culminate in a whole new world of Kizuna's own creation; a world that, in that hour and a half, made complete sense.

The complexity of the choreography was overwhelming, with many instances in which each dancer was delivering a different performance to those around them. However it became clear that every single step was calculated, with the smallest of touches, balances and moments of eye contact keeping the dancers together as one moving organism.

But above all this, seeing the dancers' sweat and bandages, hearing their breathlessness, and watching the unwavering concentration on their faces was perhaps more moving to me than the dances themselves.

Check out Kizuna's website here

Araminta Jürgen-Romrig

A Businessman, Buddhism and Break-Dancing

Kizuna Dance offered three unique and absolutely mesmerising pieces of exciting choreography on Wednesday 28th February.

The male dancers in the first piece 'Koibito' were on point. Their timing and energy never dropped and the emotion was believable the whole way through. The narrative of "a businessman struggling to balance his drive to succeed with a desperate desire to rediscover intimacy" was powerfully depicted through the blend of contemporary, hip-hop and house. 

I don't know how the company was able to feel so personal and understandable while they explored the three sins of Buddhism through their piece 'Three Poisons'.

As a dancer I was blown away by their levels of energy and strength through all three dances! I particularly loved the way they slipped into the breaking and house dance.

Kizuna are a company to watch out for. Don't miss out when they next come back to DMU! Come back soon, Kizuna

Bethany Shirtcliffe

Stone-skipping with Gregory Woods

Gregory Woods is a very intriguing poet. 

I was not only intrigued by his refreshingly blunt sense of humour, but also by the topics he addresses. The poems he read at Cultural Exchanges responded to war, homosexuality, and parenthood. 

What I liked about the poems he read was the range of people featured. While many concerned the subject of oppression, the poems could be about or in the voice of anyone: a jury-member, a son, a teacher - even a god!

Towards the end of his talk he acknowledged many people might not like his work. Even he didn't like some of his work! But on the other hand, many people buying his books might love a poem of his that he dislikes. 
This was very inspiring, as it taught me you shouldn't be afraid of people hating your work. In fact, you should be glad they feel anything at all for it.

Greg noted, "Sometimes the best poems are the ones we hate!" 

Inducing emotions in a reader is like stone-skipping. It takes skill and feels great when you've done it.

If you're interested in Gregory Woods' poems, his collections An Ordinary Dog is a great start.
Or check out his website: 

G.E. Knight

"Come hungry Muses ..."

Professor, poet and critic Gregory Woods delivered an inspiring and thought-provoking poetry reading at Wednesday's Cultural Exchanges event.
Woods began the event by reading poems from several of his collections of poems, including An Ordinary Dog.
He also talked about the range of people who have prompted and inspired his poems, briefly referring to Homintern, his major work of cultural history and criticism, which is about the internationalism of gay culture in the twentieth century.
As a creative writing student my first reaction when he said "I use traditional metres and rhymes... because I think they're beautiful" was a stifled groan - but when Woods stated during the Q and A that he often treats form as "a wind-up toy, to see where it goes " I found myself beginning to understand how poets balance the craft and enjoyment of writing.
Woods also admitted some nervousness in reading the poem 'Mothers of Sons,' as he worried it would offend mothers even though many mothers have told him they love it.
He explained that throughout his career he has learned the valuable lesson of your most beloved and well received poems may not be one you particularly like.
The diversity of poetry forms and themes within the poems and the voices drew well-deserved applause as the reading drew to an end. However when later asked whether he would have preferred applause after every single poem, Woods responded, “I’m grateful people don’t throw things!”

E. Towers

Apricot kisses, mimosa and well-dressed queer men - a reading by Gregory Woods

I’ve always thought of the muses as this gang of lesbian avengers.” When Gregory Woods said this at the beginning of his reading, a roar of laughter rumbled through the audience.
Poet and literary critic Professor Woods talked about the importance of the beauty and enjoyment of creation while writing. He celebrated the frivolity of writing something that amuses you. The ironic wit with which he approaches writing and the charming personality that shines through his work entertained all of us who attended his reading of selected poems at De Montfort University’s Cultural Exchanges Week
I appreciated his words about the craft of writing and the ideas and inspirations behind certain poems. I also took reassurance from the way he looks at feedback: with respect but a fair amount of distance. For me as a first-year creative writing student these aspects of his reading were very helpful. .
As an influential voice in LGBT literature, Woods’ poems mainly revolve around the theme of homosexuality and gay relationships. However, listening to him deliver them in an informal way that reached out to the instinctive, human side of the audience members, I realised that his words touch everyone.

Regina Toth

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Poetry, Diversity - served with a slice of Pinggg...K

“Expect a cosy wordy huddle.” That's how the event was advertised and that 's exactly what I got. The Criterion (a cosy, wordy pub) hosts Pinggg…K! monthly, and I met a welcoming group of people who had some of the most clever and amusing stories to share.

The evening began with a Poetry Circle around the long table. It felt like a pitch perfect rap battle without the competition – poems bounced off each other with ease, and the words flew from the page rather than the stage.

After some (much appreciated) snacks, the event did move to the stage. The penny dropped when they served us PINK CAKE (say pinggg...K! out loud) before the open mic. It was eye-opening. (And mouth-watering too. The cake was great, and I had seconds. No shame.)

There was: poetry in Mandarin; the eternal confusion of what a businessman actually does; a fable about genderless sea pickles; one man’s struggle to order a cheese and tomato pizza; conversations about prostitutes, colours, and the universe in our veins. This was a rainbow of ideas with a pot of validation on the other side. Everyone who performed was brilliant, but the star of the show was the guy who played this:

Image result for erhu
That wonderful instrument is an Erhu, or a Chinese two-stringed violin. I felt as if I were in a Narnian castle, instead of a cold pub in the middle of Leicester.

The feature for the night was Ishi Khan Jackson’s I’mMigrant sketch. Her stand up had the whole room in stitches as she spoke about being a Zambian-born Indian woman living in the UK (try saying that ten times fast), and her confusion towards her identity during Brexit. Follow her on Twitter (@ishi2funny) or check out for updates about her tour.

So, if you live in Leicester, and want an encouraging and inclusive atmosphere to share prose and poetry, Pinggg…K! is definitely the place for you!

J Barboza


All the Demon Crew writers were successful and highly motivating in the way they showcased students' hard work. However the poet whose work resonated most with me was Alicja Walendziak. 

Alicja's poetry pamphlet focused on life in both Britain and Poland. She didn’t just read her poetry aloud but performed it - and this enticed the reader to live it with her. 

What I liked the most was how much I felt represented by someone who was “bullied for life over frizzy hair and conservative parents.” I was also intrigued by the simple yet surprising word choice in her poetry, as in “my eyeballs swam in their sockets.” 

These poems put across a rarely shown perspective on that hyphenated 'British-' column on any official form. I felt almost mind-mirrored and full-hearted when she spoke the words "Her names were more poetry than you'd ever read."

Anisha Mansuri

Honey, lemon and gun violence

Journalist Gary Younge's Cultural Exchanges audience were a mix of nodding heads, contemplative “hmm”s and, to my pleasant surprise, laughter.

Whilst casually sipping hot honey and lemon, Younge delivered a talk based on his book, Another Day in the Death of America, in which he researched into the deaths of children and teenagers who had been killed by guns on one randomly selected day: Saturday, 23rd November 2013.

I was drawn to Younge's talk due to its current relevance and my own desire to learn more about the issue of gun control in America. But Younge addressed this “timeliness” that had been attributed to his book very early on in his speech.

This is never not timely.”

These words struck me in particular. There were many other instances in which I felt appalled by my own ignorance. But as a speaker, Younge did not just deliver his haunting statistics and leave it at that.

He – while still handling the subject sensitively – brought a dry humour to the event that I had not expected. His anecdotes about NRA rallies and dinners with Republicans were in equal parts funny and alarming, and he engaged readily with the audience's questions towards the end.

At the end of the talk, people were eagerly lining up for book signings. The impact was clear; Younge had offered us an insight into a world so foreign to our own, and yet one so important for us to learn about.

Interested? Purchase his book here

Araminta Jürgen-Romrig

An American myth of freedom

7 children in America are killed by guns every day. Fact.
This is the ‘white noise’ in American news left unreported, and Gary Younge’s book, Another day in the death of America, takes just one of these many days, 23rd November 2013.On that day ten children and teenagers were shot dead.
Younge makes it very clear - and does so especially to American audiences - that this book is not about gun control; it’s about what happens when there is no gun control in place. And in no other country would this book be possible.
When speaking to the families of these kids Gary Younge began by asking them “What is this about?”.  An open-ended question. And nobody mentioned guns. The notion of not having a gun within American society, to them, was unfathomable.
Younge then spoke on how every country has its own personal myths, and America’s is their view on freedom. Younge revealed he had once been told that, “You do not understand it because you are not free.” In the eyes of pro-gun Americans not having a gun not being free.
Younge’s analogy for how he believes that guns are not the initial problem was intriguing. The gun is only the spark residing on top of a huge pile of tinder. Beneath it lies poverty, racism and inequality. You add the gun on top and you finally see what happens.
The problem of firearms is therefore much deeper than Americans and the rest of the world would like to believe.
L.A. Smith

Every day in America ...

“Every day in America, on average, seven children and teens are shot dead.” This was one of many notable statements by award-wining journalist Gary Younge, who gave us an insightful view into the shooting culture in America.
His book, Another day in the death of America is not, as he says, about “gun control” but about a country where there is no gun control. Gary picked a random day (23/11/2013) and researched the deaths by shootings on that day. He discovered there had been 10 people aged between 9 and 19 shot dead on that day.
Gary’s research into the gun-related mentality of some American people provided captivating points, as when he quoted a victim’s parent saying “You aren’t doing your job as a black father in this city if you don’t think your child is going to be shot.”
Gary’s view on guns not being the whole picture is something I had not previously thought about. “The gun is the spark on top of a big pile of tinder" said Gary, pointing to "the racism, the inequality”. This was very thought-provoking; it hadn't occurred to me that the actual issue is the social divide in American society and that this needs to change for there to be real progress.
During questions at the end Gary made his feelings regarding armed guard and teachers at school known, “the answer to people getting shot is not more guns," he told us.

Mothers of Feminism

Philosophy? A guilty pleasure of mine.

Feminism? Fresh from Imogen Sutton, who has studied a major figure in the Feminist movement.

How could I resist this event?

If I had known Simone de Beauvoir had never conceived children - or known anything at all about her - I might have understood beforehand the endearing irony of the event's title: "Imogen Sutton: Daughters of de Beauvoir."

After a short introduction to the film and a fumble with the light switch, darkness fell, and the screen brightened. Although there were no subtitles – forgivable since the film was produced nearly thirty years ago - it was an enjoyable and enlightening watch.

Faces of writers like Kate Millett (an old friend of the French writer) and Ann Oakley spread across the screen as they shared their discoveries of feminism through de Beauvoir's ground-shaking work.

Feminism has always been a concrete thing for me, as I was born on the eve of the 21st century. Not for these women, though. They pulled the cloth from their eyes and perceived their passive position in society: they were living through their husbands.

And this was all realised because the deeply introspective Simone de Beauvoir shouted into the void so effectively with The Second Sex, first published in 1949. 

Sutton admitted, with disappointment, that de Beauvoir and her work are still relevant today. Women continue to be oppressed "in all departments."

I left feeling unexpectedly wised-up and quite 'feminist-ed.'

G. E. Knight

Anne Davies: "Perseverance is the key"

If I were to sum up Anne Davies in three words they would have to be inspiration, aspiration and motivation. Oh and determination. She's very determined!

Anne Davies’ talk to a large audience at De Montfort University's Cultural Exchanges Festival produced laughs, groans and many a nod of recognition as we were treated to a nostalgic, but by no means rose-tinted, journey through her career so far.  

Anne's early days were spent making tea and opening post at London’s Lime Grove studios where a well-known TV presenter regularly climbed over her desk to get out of the window - because that was the quickest way to the wine bar.  

From there her career has taken her through local radio in Leicester and Derby and the very first airing of GMTV, to the present and BBC East Midlands Today, Anne’s journey has exemplified the mind-set that no opportunity should be ignored, and that if you really want something, you should go out and get it.

With refreshing honesty, Anne Davies recounted the highs and the lows of an extremely varied and successful career. She returned again and again to the excellent advice that if you don’t try, you’ll never know. 'Grab every opportunity' but, quoting Jimmy Durante, Anne asserted ‘Be nice to people on your way up because you meet them on your way down’. 

Another excellent piece of advice was to remember that it takes ‘7 seconds to make 11 assumptions’ when meeting someone, so not only should we be ready to make a positive first impression when we know we need to, but we should always make that first impression a good one, because we never know when it might matter.

Anne’s talk concluded with an insight into her latest project ‘Fashanne’, Awards recognising excellence in the East Midlands' Fashion students. Determined to showcase the very best of regional achievement, and to ensure that the ceremonies are truly inclusive, this year’s show in June 2018, will feature both able-bodied and disabled models.This is the third year of the Awards, and while they have been a challenge to stage, the forward-thinking and influential Anne Davies continues to inspire with the final piece of advice, ‘Nothing worthwhile doing is easy but if you believe enough, you can persuade other people too’.

You can find more details about the Fashanne Awards 2018 and book your tickets here.

Helen Abbot

Anne Davies - headstrong and heartfelt

If you were looking for a confident, determined and approachable female role-model in the world of journalism, stop now! Anne Davies has it covered.

The award-winning journalist radiated a gallon-load of enthusiasm as she took us through a forest of anecdotes to outline her colourful career. From 'crying by the photocopier' as a secretary at London's Lime Grove Studios, to co-host of the first airing of GMTV, and her current position as co-presenter of BBC's East Midlands Today, Davies detailed how she fashioned her flourishing career path. 

  It was Davies' headstrong attitudes that kept her in control: asking questions and making active decisions whilst always remaining courteous and positive. 

She is an advocate for a motivated, amiable and inclusive mindset. Her FASHANNE awards project encapsulates this, as the first East Midlands Fashion Awards showcasing student designers of tomorrow, where this year's campaign for the 'Not 100% Perfect Body' will feature both abled and disabled models.

It was inspiring to hear from an industry professional who is still working hard to achieve and advance in her career, with unwavering passion and warmth. 

Davies concluded by assuring her audience that even if you're not working on your 'dream job', that can be exactly what you need to kick start your journey, to take control and shape it for yourself. 

For more details about Anne, you can check out her website or follow her on twitter @AnneDaviesTV.

Hollie Godwin