New Year, New You?

As another year passes, it is with a fond farewell we wave goodbye to 2013. I feel it’s only right to have a cursory backward glance at some highlights of ‘yesteryear’. In January we had the horsemeat scandal, to be fair I didn’t really notice the change in the Tesco burgers, then again I normally prefer my Lidl pony (sorry I had to). Then in February the Pope resigned and as 2013 gained momentum, we saw a real-life, low budget Russian remake of Armageddon, complete with shattered windows and hysterical drunk members of the public – it was then that the meteor hit. As well as this, America broke for a little while, with millions of employees put on leave until Obama turned the economy off, then on again (which obviously fixed everything). But I do think that for me, the defining cultural pinnacle of 2013 has to be Miley Cyrus coming in like a ‘wrecking ball’, whilst having some kind of psychotic break. Yet alas the weird and wonderful year of 2013 is done, and with 2014 in its infancy it is time to finish looking back at what was, and look forward to a fresh New Year ahead.

For many of us, this includes forging our entire year’s aims into “New Year’s Resolutions” which personally, seem more and more contrived each year. Part of me wants to be a pioneer and make exciting new resolutions like: read instructions on microwave food packaging before throwing it away. Year after year though, I fall into the repetitive and vicious cycle of the generic resolution: to diet + get fit = lose weight. But this year I definitely mean it, my own New Year’s Resolutions being to: get fit, lose weight and complain more about things that are slowly contributing to my own Miley Cyrus style psychotic episode later in life. So bringing these aims together I felt it prudent to discuss that place that all us ‘Resolution Makers’ flock to after a holiday of excess – the gym.

Now, I like to consider myself as someone who is not in bad shape, especially considering I have spent the past month eating EVERYTHING, under the mantra: “Why not it’s Christmas!” Despite this self-assurance, I do feel that mantra has come back to bite me on the arse a little and since being left feeling rather doughy and rough around the edges, I took a leap of faith and re-entered the gym. I spotted a few of my fellow “Resolutioners” as soon as I walked in and immediately thought, “Brilliant – I have allies here”. I was wrong. We were infinitely outnumbered by a variety of gym-goers that I immediately hated and that I shall henceforth refer to as “them”. Allow me to elaborate.

I began my workout, as many do, by warming up. Naturally I chose the X-trainer or elliptical machine as some call it, mainly because if I build up enough momentum the machine can push my stubby limbs for me with minimal personal effort – clearly the perfect warm-up. I chose the end most of the machines, in an entirely empty row. After 5 minutes or so I encountered the first of “them” – “the peeker”. Of all the machines this fit, healthy girl could have chosen, she picked the one directly alongside mine. Initially I thought nothing of it…but then the peeking began, as if to say “is that honestly all you’ve done?” I felt judged. These are the type of “them” that would happily have the treadmill at a 90 degree incline, simply to make the rest of the runners feel inadequate for not being able to run vertically, whilst listening to LMFAO on full blast.

Needless to say my warm-up had been ruined, so I dismounted my machine and after a final judgemental peek, glumly realised that my calorie count was equal to about half a Jaffa cake. I soldiered on however, inspired by my fellow “Resolutioners” in the first stages of a cardiac arrest on the rowing machines. As I approached the rowers, I again picked a machine with the statutory one machine gap between all other human beings, to avoid both breaking gym protocol and to avoid further peeking. However to my horror, I had inadvertently encountered evidence of another one of “them” – “the dripper”.

As I gripped the handle of the rower, I slid off and propelled backwards. After recovering from the shock I re-examined my choice, which to my utter disdain looked like it had been slimed by a creature from Ghost-Busters. The situation was not ideal, I couldn’t just leave the machine or it would look like I just wanted to sit down. Nor could I clean it now or people would think I sweated simply by walking across the gym. So, with all my British resolve I lightly re-gripped the handle and battled through 5 minutes of “rowing” complete with all too realistic water sound effects. This baptism into my New Year of gym-going was quickly becoming a nightmare. I sought refuge in the only other place I could go, the free-weights.

As I tentatively ventured to the weight area, like a gazelle crossing the Serengeti, there was an eerie sense of calm…but all too soon this was fractured by an “ARGGH! BANG” that echoed across the gym. That’s right, I had found the leader of “them” – “the grunter”. Not satisfied with their physical presence already dominating the majority of usable space and breathable air, these fridge-shaped guys would not shut up! I get that you are pretty much lifting me in each of your arms whilst chewing on a small dumbbell, but really? I mean you’re done, literally you’ve beaten us all and you win, just look at you! So as I reached for a 10kg dumbbell (that I was perfectly contented with) and as I observed one such specimen just pick up the weight rack itself – I truly felt I had worked out enough for one day and that if I wanted to feel inadequate and judged, I could just eat a tub of Cheeselets at home whilst watching Jeremy Kyle.
I guess the far off and distant moral here could be, even the best laid plans go awry, 2014 will have its up and downs like the incline setting of a treadmill, the key will be to just keep running. So this is me wishing you a very Happy New Year, just don’t be one of…“them”.

Article: Alex Cosham

Photographs: David Murray, flickr.com (Featured); commons.wikimedia.org (Main)

Year Abroad: Vacation or Education?

It is only sometimes when I stop and glance at the majestic, snow-capped mountains outside my bedroom window that I remember how lucky I am to be living abroad. Caught between the French Pyrenees and the Mediterranean beaches, my home away from home is a French-Catalan town in the South of France, called Perpignan. Not many people can just pack their bags and jet off to another country to live for a year. But as a modern languages student, this opportunity is actually compulsory. Forced to go abroad to meet new people, explore new cultures and enjoy weather that is evidently going to beat the gloomy UK any time of the year? Go on then.

But is the year abroad as easy and fun-filled as jumping on a plane and living a life of luxury for a whole year? If someone asked me this question about two months ago whilst I was lying on the beach in 28 degree heat, a Mojito in my hand and a Nutella crêpe on my lap trying to defeat the hideous hangover from the night before, I would’ve impetuously answered ‘of course it is’. However, I am currently writing this on my way back to the South of France with the dark cloud of revision looming over me, because I have 5 exams lined up for the next week. As you might have guessed, I chose to study on my year abroad rather than do a work placement or become a British Council teaching assistant. All three options, however, are cunningly devised so that the Year Abroad can never be a smooth and easy, work-free vacation, as there is always a lesson to be prepared, a task to be completed or an exam to be studied for. Without these obligations it would literally be one year long holiday, but as a compulsory part of a 4 year bachelor degree, some physical or mental effort clearly has to kick-in at some point.

One thing is certain about the Year Abroad; it’s not all about funding the local discothèque with your Erasmus grant and wasting your days lying in bed stressing over the awful internet connection. There are so many things to do and see, you just have to search and motivate yourself to do them. If you’re not going to bother with lectures, going to see the sights and knowing a few facts about the history of the country will make an impact. Isn’t this education in itself? Learning about new cultures through one’s own exploration of the country and landmarks, in my opinion, is much more beneficial than sitting in a classroom with coloured chairs, drifting in and out of consciousness whilst the teacher hopelessly tries to teach you ‘different types of reported speech’. Yes, University here is completely different to the UK. As a 22 year old, third year French and English student, I felt like those unmotivated teenage days of sitting in a school classroom, daydreaming and doodling until that obnoxious student at the back of the class starts an argument with the teacher were truly over, but not quite yet. This is one of the reasons the Year Abroad is depicted as a vacation, because there is no hard academic work or challenges. In general, there is no particular interest or passion in what you study, you simply just do it and pass (if you’re lucky). One good thing however, about dragging yourself to classes every day, is that you are swamped by the you chosen language, even if you are not fully conscious of it.

Is the year abroad a time for you to relax and renounce the world for a year, or a time to work hard and strive towards academic excellence? In all honesty, for me, it’s neither of these things. The year abroad, I have concluded, is a ‘Vaducation’; An enlightening vacation, where you will only be educated by your own willingness and motivation to try new things and embrace new cultures. It is only yourself that can determine how much you learn on your year abroad. Put yourself out there; the only way to beat those awkward, banter-free, ‘what did you last weekend?’ conversations, is to keep having them until you break that barrier and find yourself dreaming and cracking tremendous jokes in French. As paradoxical as it may sound, speaking French to an old man selling hot dogs outside a club at 3am may be more beneficial to your education than a 3 hour lecture on the French linguistics of the Middle Ages, will ever be.

Article: Ffion Enlli

Photographs: Ffion Enlli

‘Drunk in Love’ or Mild Indifference?

For Beyoncé:

Beyoncé, in the simplest terms, is the epitome of the modern feminist. With songs
that speak to women across the world and voice feminist issues, she has slowly
become somewhat an idol to many. Whilst building her career she has managed
to maintain a successful marriage and given birth to a child; a feat admired by
me personally and I am sure by many others. Though, she hasn’t always had the
support of some women through singing (on some albums) solely about men and
sex. According to some this means that she isn’t a true feminist- but not in my

In modern society the media creates our understanding of the world and how we
see it, this means that artists must now go further than creating music, they must
become a role model, sex icon or both- why is that a bad thing when her music is
still amazing?

More recently on the releasing of her curious fifth album where she by-passed all
publicity, Beyoncé confirms her role model status by singing: why we shouldn’t
obsess over our image, about the trials of motherhood and female sexual
gratification. Most prominently on her new album in the song ‘***Flawless’ she
includes a spoken word interlude from the TED Talk on feminism by the brilliant,
Nigerian born writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie inspires us as listeners,
by making valid points regarding societal pressures and expectations. These
pressures and expectations are ones that teach women to aspire to be married
but not successful, encourage us to compete with other women and inform us
how we are not permitted by society to enjoy sex.

Beyoncé tries to change these expectations and pressures as she shows us
through her music that we can take on many roles like her – as independent,
sexy, married feminists. Rather ironically for some, she is a sex icon and I don’t
think that is a bad thing. There is nothing wrong with being proud of whom you
are and confident, when your music so clearly speaks for itself.
The way she communicates these things is exactly the reason why she is
loved, she breaks down the polar boundaries that sadly exist between a
famous person and fan by showing us that she experiences society as we do.
To add to that, we need her because she shows people that feminism isn’t
something to be afraid of, and isn’t something that is believed in by ‘men
hating’, ‘unhygienic’, ‘hysterical’, ‘unfuckable’ women.

It is okay that some people do not see her as an icon and I can appreciate that,
but what we should all recognize is the importance of gender issues in her songs
– and anyone who doesn’t is extremely old fashioned or uneducated. Regardless
of whether or not the releasing of her album and claiming to be a feminist is
a publicity stunt, she makes us feel as if we can ‘run the world’- is that not the
point? Do her intentions really matter when she speaks to so many? I think it
would be hard for her to disagree with what she sings about and if she did she
wouldn’t sing about it…

Against Beyoncé:

I can’t get my head around the Beyoncé hype. I’ve tried, honestly. I’ve watched the Glasto set, listened to the albums (including the new one) and watched a lot of interviews, and considering that people bandy around the word ‘perfect’ about her, I just can’t see it.

First of all, I’d strongly assert that the huge entourage of stylists, PR people and production designers create much of the ‘perfection’ people seem to see in her. Would she be as perfect without the thousands and thousands of dollars of production money behind her? Now I can’t argue she doesn’t make good pop music but the iconic people of the past (The Beatles, Elvis etc.) didn’t depend so heavily on what are essentially peripheral elements to a real artist. The truly brilliant popular musicians of our time have been those who embed themselves into popular culture seamlessly: you can go to any covers-night in any pub in Britain and someone playing a Beatles song with just a guitar can sound great. But you’d be harder pressed to find a Beyoncé song that anyone can just get up and do a song that resonates to those on all levels.

Obviously that’s just an example and many people cover Beyoncé on YouTube and so on every day, but the example highlights a key difference of the icons of the past and those we hail as perfection now; they just needed the music. The Beatles were great because they started something, musically; all the other hype was spun around it. Sam Phillips said of Elvis that he needed to “find a white man who had the Negro sound and Negro feel, [then] I could make a billion dollars” which while not a politically great sentiment, illustrates the way he changed a segregated nations view of music and the surrounding culture, that’s why those people were revered. All the corporate nonsense, the flashy videos, the great image and the aspirational desirability aside: what is it about her music that makes Beyoncé perfect?
Having already received a barrage of bile from some of my peers for asking this question, perhaps I am truly missing out. Perhaps some neurone in my brain truly doesn’t work, or if I were perhaps a better person, maybe I would agree with everyone else that Beyoncé is the world’s most perfect human being.

Or maybe she’s just got a fucking amazing
marketing team, something to think about…

Article: Karen White (For); Raoul Duke (Against)

Photographs: commons.wikimedia.org (Featured); en.wikipedia.org (Main)

Summer Ball 2013: Exposed

The thing at the forefront of everyone’s minds right now is the Summer Ball and we will be covering a lot of what’s going on. Through exclusive content from the SU, these are the facts.

The Summer Ball is an exclusively SU event, organised by the Commercial Services Management Team, and exclusively RoHo, sponsored only from within the University. A relationship has been built up with Luke from LFXEvents, who knows exactly how to put on a Uni Ball, just the way we like it.

The staff are pretty much all students too, although 3rd years are given the day off to enjoy. Yet, some partake in any case because it’s such a great event to be a part of. The students that you have been seeing all year around campus, serving you in all SU buildings, will be the ones at the Summer Ball.

Outside caterers are employed for the stands and there is a professional photographer inside Founders. There is also a crew involved who are part of a specialist team who can fit the Dodgems into Founders – quite a feat!

The Summer Ball takes months to organise, becoming full time in the weeks leading up to the event. On the actual day, managers work for 15 hours or more. As well as this, all other SU venues are open as normal, even the SU Blowout.

A problem students sometimes overlook is the extreme health and safety and insurance requirements that having such a beautiful building entails. The safety plan for the Ball is 200 pages long and the whole thing is considered a building site until RHUL H&S sign it off at 3pm on the day of the event. The event takes 9 days to build and is effectively a construction site with numerous regulations & legislations to deal with.

How are musicians and acts approached and asked to play?

LFX Events deal with this, because they know how to navigate the minefield for agents, managers and PR. Again, our contact Luke knows exactly what value the act has and if their price corresponds to it.

“A DJ we had last year was asking nearly double this year!”

The whole budget of the Summer Ball is only funded by student ticket sales. There are no outside sponsors. The budget for entertainment is 30% of ticket sales, and that’s all entertainment: disco’s, fairgrounds and the main stage. Every penny of ticket sales goes into the Ball. While most University Balls push them into heavy debt, ours always breaks even, and any money made goes back into the SU.

We have one of the only Balls in the country to run for 10 hours, with a location in the heart of campus. A true Royal Holloway celebration, in the beautiful Founders building.

We hope you have a great night!

Want to know where your money goes? Well… Main Stage, Marquees, Bar Hire, Artist Cabins & Toilets, Fencing (lots!), Ground Protection (RHUL are very protective of their walkways and grass) Plant Equipment, Forklift Hire, Fuel, Event Safety Barriers, Main Stage Sound & Lights, Main Stage Electrics, Video Mixing, Audio Visuals, Decor, Lights & Cable Hire, Customer Food, Stock Cost, Welcome Drink, Artist Catering, Staff Catering, Bar Stock , SU Bar Staff, Flair Bar Tenders, Glassware, Fruit, Ice, Ticket Printing, Wristbands, PDQ Charges, Postage & Printing Charges, Merchandise, SU Vehicles and Insurance, Cancellation & Equipment Insurance, Radio Hire, Bar Tills, Bar Furniture – Sofas & Picnic Tables, Refrigerated Trailers, Trestle Table Hire (x17), Artist Hotels, PPE, First Aid Equipment, Banners & Branding, Clean-up Costs, SU Security, External Security, SU Tech Crew, Pro ARC Tech Crew, Pro Crew, Headphone Disco Staff, Artist Liaison, Noise monitoring, First Aid Cover, Management Costs, Staff & LFX Accommodation, Event Management, Event & Production Managers SB13, Expenses.

Article: Corinna Taylor and Rachel Ivens

Photography: SURHUL


I’ll make myself a mask of your face.
I’ve been training a long time for this
Complete with puppet stick in hand
I’ll dance your name across the land
Until we hit the floor,
Exhaust sets in
And I’m to cradle you once more.

I’ll take your mask and place it over my brittle skin
That waits for yours.
I’ll press our masks together.
Nobody can tell us apart
Like this.
I remember looking up at you from my bed
Your lips shaping the words from a storybook as you read
And I watch you
Barely listening
Barely hearing anything.

It’s been 15 years
And still I cannot make your mask quite right
The dreams are fading
Details collapse each time I have to recreate
In the shaping of this mask…
The task is near impossible some days
I awake as puppeteer and still you are not operational
I am unprofessional – I apologise.
Your arms are floppy and your forehead frowns in shyness
Your brow has no direction.
You cannot cry but I do weep
I know the wood won’t rot
But I still fear it could…

Today I made your mask the same
As every other day
And flattened in your picture frame
A lifeless mask you must remain.

Daisy Thurston-Gent

The Caryl Churchill Theatre Opening

The Caryl Churchill Theatre – named in tribute to the feminist playwright – has been broken in this summer with a series of plays from the Drama and Theatre department.

But who is Caryl Churchill? Considered by many to be one of the foremost British playwrights alive today, Churchill’s work spans six decades with influences of Brecht and Artaud’s ‘Theatre of Cruelty’. Her most recent play, Love and Information, was held at the Royal Court theatre last autumn.

Churchill was born in London in 1938, though moved to Montreal, Canada for much of her childhood. She returned to England in 1960 to study English literature at Oxford University where she began writing for student theatre. Churchill later moved into radio dramas and television plays at the BBC before dedicating herself to stage plays and gaining popular acclaim for Cloud Nine in 1979.

While exploring gender, sexuality, and power politics, Churchill’s arguably most famous play Top Girls (1982) charts the loss of a woman’s humanity in her single-minded pursuit of power. The playwright herself refuses to discuss her works, claiming that ‘the plays speak for themselves’. However, she has been known to hold often controversial views, with her pro-Palestine play Seven Jewish Children (2009) being accused of anti-Semitism, a claim denied by the Royal Court. Her 2006 play Drunk Enough To Say I Love You attacked the power-play of British and American foreign policy in a sexualised depiction of modern politics that gained mixed but impassioned reviews.

As a key female playwright in an often male-dominated sphere, Caryl Churchill seems a fitting choice for the Royal Holloway, with its long history of women’s education. Professor Dan Rebellato, Head of the Drama and Theatre Department, said that naming the theatre after Caryl Churchill is “a great honour for the College and just recognition of her restless theatrical creativity”.

The £3m building, designed by architects Foster Wilson, connects to Sutherland House in the university’s drama department and replaces a smaller studio built in 1981. The theatre seats 175 audience members with a welcome foyer, rehearsal and dressing rooms, workshop areas, and separate teaching spaces. Its long windows and warm brickwork interior create a bright, versatile space.

Article: Rachel Ivens

Photography: forumtheatre.files.wordpress.com, thestage.co.uk