A Thousand Words: A Collection of Exciting Occurrences

As the title of this blog post – a discreet reference to A Series of Unfortunate Events – suggests, this week has seen me plan a few concerts and performances for me to look forward to later this year.

The Hoosiers’ debut album, ‘The Trick to Life’ and their second release, ‘The Illusion of Safety’, both have pride of place at my home.

It started with The Hoosiers on Wednesday. The band, famous for their hits Goodbye Mr A and Worried About Ray, are stopping off in Lincoln as part of their Trick to Life 10th Anniversary Tour. Whilst I was fortunate enough to see them live before, their aforementioned debut album lies signed in a CD rack at home, with memories from a decade ago flooding back to me whenever I listen to it now. So, naturally, nostalgia compelled me to buy a ticket.

Yet, with tickets going on sale at 10am on Wednesday, I had feared that they would sell out whilst I was working. Thankfully for me, they didn’t, but anyone who has bought a gig ticket before knows just how urgent and stressful the buying process can be.

Look no further than later that evening, where a surprise notification on my phone warned me that more tickets were going on sale for a popular freshers event at 6pm. Out of the house, with a recently recharged phone, I remember hitting refresh straight after the clock hit 18:00 to tap on the new ticket link. The tickets were bought, and there was no greater feeling.

Finally, with just under three weeks to go until the big day, my tickets arrived for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. However, anxious about the view from the balcony and whether I may be unable to hear and see the performance, I asked about exchanging my tickets for a closer seat, which a wonderful employee at the ticket company was happy to do for me. I now look forward to sitting in the stalls for the show next month.

As Lib Dem leader, Cable’s coalition past is in the spotlight – he must tackle it head on | The Friday Article

As Labour and the Tories veered off to the far edges of the political spectrum, the Liberal Democrats were the middle ground for the electorate. Led by a young politician with no coalition backstory, simply a vision of an ‘open, tolerant and united’ Britain, those wary of Corbynism but frustrated with austerity backed Tim Farron’s movement. Whilst the growth in the party’s number of MPs was minimal, faith was slowly but surely returning to the Lib Dems. Yet now, the election of Vince Cable as Farron’s replacement could undo the so-called ‘Lib Dem fightback’.

Tim Farron slowly won back faith in the Liberal Democrats. The election of Vince Cable (pictured) threatens to undo that process. Photo: Liberal Democrats/Flickr.

It seems as though the Liberal Democrats could learn a few things from Corbyn when it comes to vanquishing your party’s haunted past. The allotment fanatic was able to drive out Blairism in a Labour that was stuck to the right of the political spectrum. Granted, a public apology was given by Nick Clegg for the mistakes of the coalition, but the fact that the video is remembered more for its catchy parody than the original, shows just how seriously everybody took the message.

So, aside from the fact Cable was elected with no opposition (we can save the debate about how democratic this is for another day), the electorate – and certainly young people – have not forgotten the tuition fee u-turn and countless other controversial decisions made between 2010 and 2015. In the recent election, the Liberal Democrats had the added bonus of ‘the progressive alliance’ on their side. Now, the subsequent assumption that the party will return to flirting with right-wing policies could not come at a worse time, when there is a need for centrist politics.

It would be wrong to assume that all young people were swept under the wave of socialism brought about by Jeremy Corbyn. However, Farron’s Liberal Democrats allowed some of them to back the party when tactical voting allowed that to happen. With promises of a second Brexit referendum on the final deal and the 1p income tax plan for the NHS, the appealing policies meant the party was a back-up plan for young people unable to back Labour. However indirect, the ‘progressive alliance’ or ‘anything but the Tories’ operation led to young adults putting their cross in the box for the Liberal Democrats. A realist would argue that it was a ‘last resort’ option, but an optimist would have  you believe that a sense of trust or faith was starting to develop in the minds of young people, despite the calamitous decision to break their promise on student fees.

However much it shouldn’t be, emotion-led politics means personality has a big part to play in today’s votes. As the coalition minister responsible for the privatisation of Royal Mail, the haunted past of the Liberal Democrats has been shoved back into the spotlight following Cable’s election. If the Lib Dems are to continue the laborious process of winning back young people’s trust in the Lib Dems (led by Farron), then a leader who is willing to adapt and tackle the issue head on could be the answer.

 

 

Review: ‘All That She Can See’ by Carrie Hope Fletcher

Note: This review contains spoilers.

As a devout fan of Disney, music and the theatre, it’s no surprise that YouTuber and actress Carrie Hope Fletcher’s genre of choice is magic realism. After the phenomenal success of her previous novel, On the Other Side, Fletcher writes with increased confidence and enthusiasm in her second work of fiction, All That She Can See. Set in Plymouth, the plot focusses on the loveable Cherry Redgrave and a very special gift she possesses…

'All That She Can See' book

In their review of the book, the Mail on Sunday said: “Think Chocolat with a heaped tablespoon of Bake Off “, and it’s a fair comparison to make. Add elements of Nanny McPheeThe Golden Compass and Divergent to the mix (pun not intended) and you start to get a better idea of the imaginative story at the heart of this novel. There’s something for everyone.

As mentioned previously, All That She Can See centres on a tight-knit community in Plymouth and a positive tone is set (all of the character’s eagerness to agree with one another at first was something which I was a bit sceptical of to start with), that is, before the main source of conflict is introduced – Mr Chase Masters.

Naturally, any reader would be quick to assume that Cherry and Chase would go on to develop a romantic relationship, as with most books in this genre. Whilst that is the case, the important thing is that a valid reason is given, and it is not simply a cliché. What makes it works is that the bond taps into the bigger picture Fletcher was trying to paint with the novel. Underneath the metaphors for human feelings, there were a few comments about happiness and emotions which Carrie was trying to make. Consider it a fictional extension of sorts to All I Know Now, as it were.

However, it isn’t long before the bubbly Nanny McPhee style of the story fades away into darker territory akin to that of Divergent. Unlike On the Other Side, there were some shocking, haunting scenes in this book, which only shows development on Carrie’s part as a Sunday Times bestselling author.

It pays off, too, being one of those books which can invoke specific images in one’s head when reading (sadly a select few can do that for me these days). It was halfway through the book, when Cherry’s dilemma got worse, that I truly got engrossed in the story. Even now, I remember certain parts of the book having me shout out loud in shock. At some points in the novel, I was so sure of what was going to happen, but Fletcher continued to surprise and intrigue with exciting twists and turns. What’s even better is that it ends in a way which suggests there’s more to come, and a trilogy of books from Carrie Hope Fletcher would be a very exciting thing indeed.

Disclaimer: A huge thank you to the wonderful team at Little Brown for sending me an advance readers’ copy of All That She Can See! Whilst I did receive this for free, all opinions stated in the above review are honest and my own.

Musical Discovery: ‘Rich Love’ by One Republic with Seeb

It was only a matter of time before OneRepublic returned with another summer smash. Before the rise of trap and tropical house, the pop-rock five-piece joined forces with Alesso to create the club track, If I Lose Myself. Now, the band hook up with hit remixers Seeb for the upbeat and exotic bop, Rich Love.

Two years since their number one remix of Mike Posner’s I Took a Pill in Ibiza, the trio (formed of Simen Matre Eriksrud, Espen Berg and Niklas Strandbråten) have secured what can be described as their most high profile collaboration yet. By working with the group behind Counting Stars, Rich Love is more than likely to be the next single to propel the DJs into the spotlight once more.

It’s a combination of catchy lyrics and a fluid melody which really sells the track. Lines such as broke as a bottle of a wine stand out amongst fast-flowing vocals. Then comes a tune typical of Seeb (bouncy, trickling and with some hazy synth in the background) which offers a new style of anthemic pop for OneRepublic to play across their summer tour.
Rich Love is available now on iTunes and Spotify.

A Thousand Words: Persistence and an attention to detail

It’s been a fun week of journalism this week, as I went to the for work experience whilst also receiving some exciting news about an application I submitted last month. Both situations reminded me of the two skills mentioned in the title of this blog post – skills that are essential for a career in journalism.

Thank you to the team at the i for a great week of work experience. Here’s yesterday’s issue of the paper, which featured a couple of pieces from yours truly.

One thing I have always admired about the is its focus on concise, to-the-point news stories. Page two of their paper sees a ‘matrix’ of short, 50-word articles summarising news from a variety of different areas – be it foreign affairs, politics or something else.

The short pieces, known as nibs or ‘news in briefs’ present a fun challenge to the typical journalist. With the right story, reporters have quotes, statistics (of sorts), backstory and facts to hand, which they then need to squeeze into such a tight word count. It’s a case of prioritisation and they have to ask themselves: what is the most important information which needs to be included?

It was a craft I was able to hone throughout my week at the i. Alongside an exciting visit to the Saatchi Gallery to help out a press photographer, writing some business nibs and writing a short piece for the arts section, most of my week was spent assisting the Foreign Editor with articles. Every day I had the opportunity to write up about five or six stories to go in the aforementioned ‘matrix’. Some could quite easily be summarised in such a limit, but others proved more of a challenge. Nevertheless, it helped build upon my love of the news form and my attention to detail. It was great to get some editorial insight into the style of the i too.

Then there’s persistence – that came during one particular lunch break. After spotting a message from Sky’s Early Careers department in my voicemail, I was quick to return the call when I had a minute spare. It was about my application for a placement at Sky News under their Diversity Scheme, and it was third time lucky. I had been offered a place!

I fell in love with Sky HQ – based in Osterley – last year, when I was offered two weeks’ work experience at the firm’s Product and Brand PR team. A vibrant atmosphere complete with a just as positive work ethic meant I had to get a placement at Sky News, and return to Sky Central once more. Now, that day has come. Well, in November, to be exact.

I can’t wait. Bring it on!

A UK debate on net neutrality could happen post-Brexit – we must be ready | The Friday Article

Pizzas, memes and American talk show hosts have all tried their hand at explaining one of the most complicated issues facing the world of technology today. On Wednesday, organisations staged a ‘day of action’ for Net Neutrality Day, showing the world what it would be like if Internet Service Providers (ISPs) had the power to prioritise certain traffic or websites over others.

Finger browsing app icons
It’s time we started talking about net neutrality across the pond.

Watching the debate from across the pond, UK citizens breathed a sigh of relief knowing that net neutrality has been enshrined into EU law. That is, until the moment they realised that we voted to leave the bloc just over a year ago. Now, just like other EU laws, the regulation that allows us to enjoy online content regardless of whom our ISP is hangs in the balance.

Cue another piece of political news which did the rounds yesterday which could put all of this at risk: the government’s not-so-great Repeal Bill. If it passes in the state that it’s in now (somewhat unlikely), then ministers will be granted the power to pass secondary legislation. Whilst it’s nice that the Conservatives want to cut Parliament’s workload (dealing with over 50,000 pieces of legislation sounds like quite the hassle), doing so in a way which avoids the scrutiny of MPs has opposition parties raising their eyebrows – and rightly so.
Even if the Tories decide not to amend the regulation without scrutiny, a ‘confidence and supply’ agreement, however flawed it may be, could see the net neutrality law scrapped. Regardless of the fact there was a ‘voluntary system’ prior to this law, given Theresa May’s calls ‘to regulate cyberspace’ and the passing of the so-called ‘Snooper’s Charter’, any opportunity to degrade internet freedoms will most likely be taken by the Tories.
We need to act now. With the latest data from the Office for National Statistics revealing that 99% of 16 to 34 year olds are recent internet users (compared to just 41% of adults aged 75 or over), a British debate on net neutrality could very well be led by the younger generation.

It would certainly be a powerful campaign from our young people, too. The Conservative Party has been left battered and bruised after the youth vote crushed her arrogance (not to mention her majority) after last month’s general election. Tory MPs scrapping net neutrality – threatening young people’s Netflix subscriptions, social media access and main campaigning platform – would be a very, very bad idea.
One must not fall into stereotypes when discussing the internet, but as much as the youth campaign should challenge any decision to allow ISP’s to control the viewing of online content, it must also ensure that older people understand the issues associated with this. Net neutrality is an issue which affects all of us. Even if an individual is offline, they will be indirectly affected by an unfair Internet.

The possibility of a second general election has left everyone in a political limbo, with a degree of uncertainty about what’s coming next. Depending on what side of the political spectrum people identify, it either fills them with hope or dread. Either way, for the sake of our online society, the surge of young people being interested in politics must never fade.

Review: ‘Swimming Pool Summer’ by Capital Cities

It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Capital Cities. Late last year they returned with their track, Vowels, but it was all the way back in 2013 that the duo released a collection of songs – that was their debut album, In A Tidal Wave of History.

Now, the band reveal their new EP, Swimming Pool Summer. For those who hoped that Vowels was the build-up to their second album, it looks like that isn’t coming just yet.

Swimming Pool Summer Album Cover
‘Swimming Pool Summer’ follows on from Capital Cities’ 2013 debut album, ‘In A Tidal Wave of Mystery’.

The EP’s title track is a welcome return to Capital Cities’ original style (following a little funk detour with Vowels). Much like Safe and Sound‘s standout trumpet melody, this song has a repeated synth tune which makes this track memorable. Add that to the odd trumpet flourish, traditional harmonised vocals and a bouncy drum beat, and you have the groovy sound we know and love. At the end of the EP, we hear THCSRS remix the track, which is a fair re-version, but it’s the original which is the best of the two, with its nostalgia hit making it a stand-out track on the record.

The band’s signature tone is distorted in the second track on the four-song EP. Drop Everything still maintains the bouncy tempo apparent in a traditional Capital Cities bop, but now, the main melody is an electronic-heavy tune that feels somewhat out of place when listening to the band’s previous work. In the past, the group have always flirted with synths and electronica, though it has always been tame, calm and euphoric. With Drop Everything, much like how Vowels tapped into the increasingly popular funk scene, the track tries to chip in to the current electro scene (with a sound reminiscent of the DJ, Marshmello) – to mediocre success.

By the third track on the EP, one starts to assume that the record will be ‘old, new, old, new’ in terms of structure. A mix of Love Again and Farah Fawcett HairGirl Friday sees singers Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian repeat vocals in the hope that this will deliver a hit for them. Whilst the chorus and first verse set a chill tone, this vibe is quickly destroyed by the rapper Rick Ross. Regardless of the smooth flow, Rick’s interruption of the chorus just ends up being obnoxious, ruining the 50/50 balance that a collaboration should convey.

With a laid-back rhythm, the penultimate track, Drifting, has a fitting name. It’s a different style of electronica to the three other songs. Gone are the slightly auto-tuned vocals and bouncy drums, instead we hear a more pure, chilled sound which brings the EP to a relaxed finish (if we exclude the aforementioned remix).

However, with Girl Friday containing a flawed collaboration, Drop Everything drifting too far away from Capital Cities’ original style, THCSRS’ remix not adding much to the song, and Drifting being a chill track, it’s Swimming Pool Summer which is the only memorable song of note from the EP. At which point, you have to ask: would it have been better to have released the aforementioned track as a single in order to build up excitement for the second album, whenever that may be?

Although the EP does showcase further experimentation from Capital Cities, we are still left in the dark about what’s next for Simonian and Merchant.

Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing, you decide.