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Ella Eyre’s energy sets The Institute alight

As Ella swaggers onto the stage, its no wonder her album emblem is a lion. Its not just the mane of golden curls, nor the skin-tight catsuit which hints at a feline persona, (feline is the name of her next album, by the way), but the manner in which she bounds across the stage with both elegance and power.

Her vocals are husky enough to feel the raw emotion of the song, but silky smooth enough to keep the crowd purring for more. She’s been described as both a British Beyonce, and the love-child of Paloma Faith and Amy Winehouse, and although I can see the links with her sassy personality and raspy voice, I think we need to focus on Ella’s individuality.

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First of all, Ella’s lyrics avoid the meaningless category. Initially, I was nodding my head because of the infectious beats, but later on in the song, I was nodding along because of the lyrics. She ingeniously capitalises on experiences we’ve all been in (wanting the comforts of home, unrequited love, being treated badly) and fuses it with an independent-lady-esque fury.

Despite this, it’s clear that she’s surprised at the raving audience support she’s getting. And it’s quite endearing.

At one point, she hesitated between songs because the fans were chanting Ella, Ella Ella’ and you could see she was genuinely touched. Perhaps, being the debut of her October solo tour, she was unsure of what to expect.

Well, the former Brit School graduate needn’t have worried.

The endless energy she invests in the crowd feeds them further. If she’s not head-banging, she’s jumping, fuelling every word with emotion or interacting with the equally exuberant crowd.

And one thing I’m sure of. Her performance means  (just as her lyrics predicted) that her “Eyreheads” will “always comeback”.

- Comeback available on iTunes.

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Why are women so afraid of labelling themselves feminists?

A woman walks into the bar and declares herself, a feminist.

© The Equal Rights Ammendment

© Sharon Brogan‘s interpretation of The Equal Rights Ammendment

Do you:

A) Abort conversation… for fear of extremity

B) Vacate the building, taking all your male friends with you

C) Continue the conversation (only out of politeness) whilst secretly scanning her body for ANY sign of femininity

D)  Admire her bravery for admitting something that many women would not dare to do

I’ll wager that most of you did not answer D.

In 2011, Yahoo CEO Marissa Myer explained that while she believes in “equal rights” and that “women are just as capable,” she believes feminism itself is a “more negative word.”

She refused to box herself into the category of a feminist, for fears of its connotations.

Unfortunately, although feminism’s only true definition is the advocacy of equal rights for the sexes, the word automatically invokes images of bra-burning, unfeminine women who both refuse to marry and refuse to have children.

The word ‘feminism’ also sends a lot of men… running for the hills.

You could say it has a slight image problem.

I remember once in an English class, our teacher asked us to raise our hands if we would associate ourself as a feminist. The eight girls (including myself) did not raise our hands, yet the only boy did. When we, the girls, were asked to define feminism, we included tid-bits of over-emotional and extreme women, and women who were simply ‘too sensitive’.

Where we’d heard such things I couldn’t tell you. We had never had a formal education of feminism, but no doubt we were aware of the stigma; and we feared it.

To add a little context, we were all sixteen and seventeen, at an age where our image and reputations far surpassed anything else.

When the male in our class was asked to define feminism, he replied simply with feminism’s true definition: equal rights.

We were a little ashamed.

I guess the stigma clouded our vision; we were so scared of being coined with those negative connotations, that we automatically wrote it off as something we weren’t interested in. But after a few lessons, we soon changed our tune.

We realised just how much we take our lives now for granted, and just how much feminism had impacted our lives. (And I’m not just talking about voting rights). It seems harder to understand in our home countries because we know nothing different, it seems the norm, but when we look to the Middle-East, it becomes more overt as to why feminism should not be viewed as a negative term.

Caitlin Dewey, in this article for The Washington Post, catalogues just some of the most shocking restrictions on women in the Middle East. And the issue is not just of what the women can’t do, but what the rules are saying about these women.

A quick example. In Yemen, women cannot leave the house without their husband’s permission.

Are these women infants? Why is this acceptable in the 21st century? For a law to actually permit this sort of inequality and lack of choice is staggering.

Safe to say, that at the end of our education, we were all proud to call ourselves feminists.

So is this the problem with feminism? Is it simply misunderstood?

Separating the original aim of feminism, (equal rights) away from the lifestyle choices, the completely separate subject of femininity I feel is the key to rebranding feminism into a more positive term.

Women can still want to look their best, hope for marriage and children whilst still wanting to live in a world where there are equal rights between the genders.

It is not contradictory at all. And I think this is where feminism gets its bad reputation. The political notion of feminism is completely separate to the lifestyle choices feminists make. If a feminist decides to not get married, it doesn’t make that obligatory for all feminists, that’s just her individual choice. And that is the very essence of feminism. Choice.

Feminists have given us the right to vote, the right to not be ‘owned’ by marriage and the starting point to equal pay.

Feminists have also given us JEANS. (I’m not giving up my jeans for nobody).

They’ve stopped women from being viewed as incapable of making their own decisions and showed that there is more to a woman than getting the affection and adoring gaze of the male species.

Because, we feminists know that there is more to us women than that.

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Gabrielle Gillespie and A Father’s Betrayal

Gabrielle Gillespie’s past is unfortunately an all too common story. However for Gabrielle she is arguably one of the lucky ones. 

Screen Shot 2014-08-20 at 18.06.35As a young girl, Gabrielle’s Welsh mother went missing.  After one short year, Yemeni Mr. Gillespie was charged with the murder of Mrs. Gillespe and so Gabrielle and her two sisters were sent into foster care. Defying all logic – when Gabrielle’s father was released after only four years – she was sent to live with the murderer of her own mother

As Mr. Gillespie had always denied the charges against him, understandably his children innocently believed their fathers claim. And so, the story continues to Gabrielle’s thirteenth birthday, where she was seemingly sent to paradise. Their father described Yemen as a place ‘where fruits fall from the trees’ and Gabrielle and her sisters were excited to go to their fathers birth-place. 

Soon ‘Paradise’ turned into a living Hell – as she was to be sold into two marriages, as a child bride. Unable to escape from her new life, Gabrielle was forced to live in conditions unlike the Western world that she was brought up in. 

Fortunately for Gabrielle, after many years of what western nationalities would register as abuse, she managed to flee from her situation. As she is a British National, she had somewhere to escape to. For those born into countries that have such minimal rights for women, this is not the case. 

A recent study by the Thomson Reuters foundation named the worst countries for Women’s rights in the Arab world. ‘The survey looked at women’s place in the family and their integration into society. It explored their political participation and economic inclusion. It assessed reproductive rights and various forms of gender violence. Taken together, Egypt ranks last.’ 

Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen follow closely behind. Sadly, these are all countries involved in the Arab Springs. Where situations should have improved for women, since the uprisings started in 2010, it seems that old practices and patriarchal attitudes still continue. 

Part of this patriarchal attitude is enforced by religious code. Sharia Law allows a male guardian to give consent for the marriage of a closely related [female] minor. A decision that will affect the rest of that female minor’s life and where in most of these countries, divorce for a woman is pretty much unobtainable.

And it is not just marriage that women have very little say in. Domestic violence is not against the law in Arab countries and instead seen as as justifiable action by a husband to punish his wife. Surveys in Egypt, Palestine, Israel and Tunisia show that at least one out of three women is beaten by her husband. 

For many Arab women, the story of Gabrielle’s life is a parallel to their own. Fortunately for women who aren’t living in such patriarchal countries, this story is unusual and therefore novel worthy. And yet I wonder what would happen to a woman who tried to write such a novel of her abuse (by her father and husband) in an Arab Country? 

To pre-order Gabrielle’s novel, A Fathers betrayal click here.

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Why there can never be ‘truth’ in a war report

I’m sure by now you’ve all seen that video of Russell Brand challenging Fox News’ very biased debate of the conflict in Gaza. (If not, click here).

As you can see for yourselves, Brand is showing that this news report is not at all a debate, rather a narrative construction that is presented as fact.

Hannity (the news presenter) uses strong, emotional terms such as ‘terrorists’, ‘murder’ and ‘kidnapping children’ as a means of creating a media scare and separating opinion rather than just simply presenting the facts. He takes the war out of it’s millennia long context, instead using the background of 9/11 and terror as a means of justifying the Israeli stance.

Hannity knows this will get him the most views. News is a commodity. And when people are scared, they will watch.

Hannity doesn’t even let Yousef Munayyer (the Palestinian voice) speak. It seems exceptional that such a one-sided report was allowed to air.

And although we could argue that Fox News is well known for it’s biased and scaremongering tactics, this lack of impartiality is an all too common occurrence in war reporting.

Even reputable news channels may have no choice but to reject impartiality, as journalists have to teeter along a thin line, both subscribing to their papers’ or country’s ideology whilst still obtaining the truth. And that is no easy tightrope to walk along.

There is no clearer example of this than the first and second Gulf Wars.

Prior to the Iraq War, Hussein was using chemical weapons against Iranians, but this was not included in British or American media, as Hussein at this point was an ally (Exoo 2010: 26). It was only when Hussein ordered his troops into Kuwait that Hussein transformed from friend of the West to foe, as this move threatened oil stability (Exoo 2010: 27).

Cue the terror rhetoric which embodied the Iraq war.

The papers only passed on this information to us (the public) because it furthered the Government’s political wishes. As you can see, the journalists were handcuffed to the ideology of the Government.

This rhetoric in turn became newsworthy, because once again, there was a media scare in the form of weapons of mass destruction.

There can be no doubt that creating terror through emotional and rhetorical reporting is wrong. Perhaps if the public had known about this side of the story prior to the wars, then people may not have been so susceptible to the grand narrative that the media was feeding them.

At the same time, is impartiality and emotional detachment ever ethical in a news report? When human suffering is involved, how can a journalist not be affected by what they see? Jon Snow’s heartfelt plea for the children of Gaza shows this difficulty, as it is clear that his words are genuine; his report a consequence of what he has seen.

‘I can’t get those images out of my mind’ – Jon Snow.

Time constraints are also an issue. How can journalists possibly constrain decades and decades of political build-up into one twenty minute news bulletin?

What to include? What should be cut out?

Journalists are only human. They do their research and battle the many constraints that they are faced with in order to present their truth. But sometimes, things are just too complex to accurately report on.

Israeli Artillery Corps operating near the Gaza border © to Israel Defence Forces

Israeli Artillery Corps operating near the Gaza border © to Israel Defence Forces

References:

Exoo, C. F. (2010) The Pen and the Sword: Press, War and Terror in the 21st Century. California: Sage Publications

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Why it isn’t boring to go to the same holiday destination every year…

As a Turkish Cypriot girl, booking my holiday involves no decision making factors. The destination of choice is always Cyprus. (If my ethnicity causes confusion please see this article). 

At home, conversation with friends often turns to whether we will be having a summer holiday as naturally as discussing the weather. Most of my friends who have the same heritage as myself don’t even need to ask of the destination, instead asking this question;

‘Are you going to Cyprus this year?’

To those friends I enthusiastically answer yes and together, we try to discover how many hours or days we will be spending in each others vicinity on the island; whether we will have the same flight and comparing travel notes on our favourite places to visit.

My best friends that aren’t of the same heritage have grown to know that my visit to Cyprus is almost a yearly tradition, of course to see family as well as for the faultless weather.

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Yet some people I have encountered think it is boring to go to the same place every year.

While I appreciate some people want to discover the world (which I admire – and would also like to do) I would not want to give up my annual trip to Cyprus. While family is one of the obvious reasons, there are many other factors that make me miss the island as much as I miss home whilst I’m away. The beaches are beautiful and clear. It is always above thirty degrees and I can eat lots of Turkish food. – which most of us Brummies will travel all the way to London to indulge in authentic Turkish dining.

If that isn’t reason enough to revisit the same place each year then there are many other factors as well…

One reason I love visiting the island so much is that I know the streets like the back of my hand. I know exactly which street will take me to the market and which alleyway will take me to the harbour. This also brings the advantage of already knowing where you can get a fantastic meal (often Niyazi’s) or find a fun tourist destination (like Escape Beach). Because the island is quite small, I have tried almost all of the hotels which has led us to a firm favourite.

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While some may again think that staying at the same hotel is boring, it actually feels like a second home. The hotel and rooms are often renovated so it often has new features when I visit each year and yet we still have the familiarities of knowing exactly where to go for our breakfast and where the numerous restaurants on the resort are. One of my favourite reasons for going to the same hotel is that you become friendly with the staff, who in turn give you excellent personalised service.

Another benefit is that we can talk freely with the islanders or pretend to be tourists, which can be used to our benefit in many different situations. For example, on the Harbour if we don’t want to be pestered with calls to try a restaurant, we are definitely Turkish Cypriots. If we are dining in a restaurant and want exceptional service, we suddenly become British tourists. If buying jewellery we are Turkish Cypriots once again, so that we can  tell them with clarity to stop being ridiculous and drop their price!

And most of my reasons for wanting a holiday is to sit on a beach with no clouds in the sky and just relax –  maybe reading until my eyes go square. In my twenty years of visiting Cyprus, I can truly say that it has never rained on my summer holiday EVER.

I totally understand that people want to travel the world, see new sights and cultures. But if you find a firm favourite, why risk wasting a months plus salary on a rubbish holiday in an exaggerated hotel? In fact I quite think it is a *Kevin Bacon voice* no-brainer.

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The struggle of being an ethnic minority

If the UN doesn’t even recognise your ethnicity, you know you’re in trouble.

Turkish Ceramics © and created by Sammsky

Turkish Ceramics © and created by Sammsky

Application forms fill me with confusion. Where do I put my measly little tick? Would I be White Other? Or perhaps Asian Other? What does White even entail? I would say my skin colour is nearer a green colour so that is not at all helpful.

Then there is the geographical region issue. North Cyprus is owned by Turkey and Turkey lies in two continents, Europe and Asia. Unfortunately, this does not narrow down my White Other/Asian Other dilemma. Why is this so complicated? I simply tick Other. Safer ground.

Then pronouncing my name. I have to constantly gaze upon the look of fear when people glance at the deemed impossible letter combinations. I have two options. I can either wait for them to incorrectly pronounce my name, both embarrassing me and themselves, or simply get up knowing that the fearful look must be in tandem with my name.

The first option usually follows with this question: ‘Was I close?’

I reply simply, with ‘Almost!’ whilst thinking the opposite in my head.

I’ve even had this response: ‘That’s a strange name?’

I had to restrain from replying with: ‘You’re an ignorant person!’.

Instead, I went with the less controversial: ‘My name is fairly common in my culture, actually.’ *Note, there was a heavy, heavy sarcastic tone on the last word… Had to get my barbed thoughts in somewhere!

‘So where are you from?’. I love this question. I can finally justify my slightly frizzy hair and impossible to say name. Looking down at my scribble next to ‘Other’ they see the words – Turkish-Cypriot.

‘Oh, so you’re mixed race?’. No, my parents are both from Cyprus. ‘Oh, so you’re Greek?’. No! I’m Turkish Cypriot. Then we are back to square one, because many immediately assume that I do not understand the premise of mixed race. I feel like shouting: ‘It’s one ethnicity!’ but I don’t because I know that I will have to repeat this conversation many, many times.

Yet there are some amazing consequences of being an ethnic minority and despite the challenges, I wouldn’t be any other way.

One of the benefits is that I do not have to contend with ethnic stereotypes! I can become anyone I want to be, effectively free from any prejudice and stereotypical labelling.

I am not the polite-at-all-times tea drinker.

I am not the elegant Parisian with innate style aptitude.

Nor am I the pasta loving Mediterranean.

Although it is sometimes nice to bask in what you think is someone else’s culture by eating their national foods and celebrating their holidays, stereotypes are regressive and unhelpful. Surely it is better to ask the individual what they like doing? The mystery is a brilliant conversation starter, as the lack of understanding surrounding my ethnicity invokes many, many questions. And who doesn’t love talking about their roots?

In effect, you can also miss out all the bad bits. Very, very handy.

Association with a beautiful island is also of great benefit, because people can immediately connect with you. Most of the time it’s because they’ve been on holiday there perhaps, or because they share a similar Mediterranean root. Some have even described their holidays to me, asking over and over: ‘Do you know this place?’

I always know ‘that place’.

I guess the moral of the story is to appreciate what you are born with. You may be different, I get it, but you have a lot to say. Nobody has any preconceptions of what you are like as a person, of what you celebrate, eat or do with your free time. Mystery surrounds you. You are your own expert and this freedom allows you to become anyone you want to be. And being different my friends, is interesting.

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Vintage Car and Motorcycle Show

There is always reason  to visit the Walsall Arboretum, especially during  a heatwave. The Victorian setting hosts a large lake with a variety of wildlife to see, fishing areas, a Treasure Island play area as well as areas for tennis, football, basketball and skateboarding.

However this Sunday, there was an extra attraction drawing crowds to the park.

In the early morning, any motorist would have suspected that in the vicinity there was some homage to vintage mechanics with Morris Minors, Ford Mustangs and Cadillacs following one another in tandem and turning into the same junctions. They would have suspected correctly – as this weekend the Arboretum hosted its annual Vintage Car and Motorcycle Show.

HarryPotterCar

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Entry costs were minimal, (4.50 for Adults, 2.50 for children) for the vast array of things to see. The cars were arranged into classes depending on age with the earliest specimens on show pre-dating WWII. As well as Vintage cars and motorcycles, there were also rare sports cars on display much to the delight of young boys and girls who were climbing all over them.

Most cars had been restored with care taken to mimic the original state of the car. There were even a couple of examples which were still as the creators made them (and still looked better than most things we own)! Though it was wonderful to see the cars restored to perfect condition – it was more heart warming to see the proud owners of the vehicles, who had invested their finances into restoring what is a piece of history. Some even had scrapbooks on display to show how uncared for the vehicles once were.

rosette

For example this Land Rover was once was so badly cared for that it was covered in rust, with missing pieces and large dents in the vehicle. The current owner who had brought it to the show, has restored the vehicle so well that it would be impossible for anyone but an expert to realise that any work had been done at all.

The Vintage Car and Motorcyclists Show also boasted bouncy castles, a vintage bus ride, food stalls and car boot sales. And if that wasn’t enough to tempt a family, there was also a motorcycle stunts show -performed by children!

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For any motor enthusiast, the show is a must. But for anyone else simply interested in history, drawing or even a fun day out, the Vintage Car and Motorcycle Show is certainly going to appeal to all of these interests. There was even an ice cream van!