Thoughts on a column-writing masterclass with Owen Jones

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll know that I write regular opinion pieces on Friday called The Friday Article. What started off as a way to talk about myself in the third person became a platform for me to comment on politics, current affairs, deafness and other social issues which interested me. It’s finally become something of which I’m proud, and fits perfectly into this blog’s theme of it being ‘online journalism portfolio’.

Owen Jones is a writer and columnist at The Guardian. Photo: Marc Lozano on Flickr.

However, ideas at the moment have been running low, and as a student journalist, pitching comment and opinion pieces to editors to be published and commissioned is something I haven’t yet considered in depth. A recent talk by columnist Mary Dejevsky at university first got me interested, and so this brings me on the column-writing masterclass with Owen Jones at The Guardian.

With a stuffed rucksack on my back and folder paper ticket in my hand, I approached the newspaper’s headquarters with excitement. I had entered the building on two previous occasions and so the cosy interior – complete with eccentric armchairs – felt all too familiar.

It wasn’t long before we were signed in and offered refreshments ahead of the main event. After the first session, I had the opportunity to meet Owen himself. After introducing myself, he was happy to sign my copies of his books, chat further about his tips for pitching columns, and wish me a belated happy birthday. Thanks, Owen!

After the final two sessions, both my notepad and brain were filled with ideas for comment pieces and pitches. As I write this two days on, I’m working on one particular article to submit to editors in the near future. I went to the event looking for inspiration, thoughts and a greater understanding of this particular writing form, and that’s certainly what I got from the masterclass as I left the building three hours later. Thank you both to The Guardian and Owen for a great event.

It’s also worth mentioning that after an amazing evening at The Guardian, I hopped on the tube to meet-up with my blogger friend Emily, from Emily Underworld. Within Five Guys, we chatted away – albeit briefly. Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before I had to dash to make the long train home. It was wonderful to meet Emily, and I hope to meet her again soon for a proper chat.

In terms of future comment pieces, though, I left the event with some re-energised enthusiasm. As always, whenever I surround myself with fellow writers, the creativity and imagination spreads around. I left York Way with a smile on my face, determined to publish more Friday Articles on this blog, and pitch some ideas to national newspapers, too.

Exciting times lie ahead, I’m sure.

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Review: ‘Chavs: The demonization of the working class’ by Owen Jones

Politics is one giant, complex beast which is hard to pin down and comprehend – let alone write a book about. An article focussing on one aspect of UK politics could soon become outdated within days. However, Owen Jones’ books always manage to paint a complete and honest picture of key political issues which are still relevant five years after the book was originally published in 2011.

At the heart of Jones’ publications is a political commentary which doesn’t surprise us. Most of the points that the Guardian columnist makes are things we hear all the time and the evidence is already out there. But, what is impressive is how all of these points connect to form a cohesive summary of the state our politics is in.

In Chavs, Owen Jones explores the otherness and demonisation which is placed on Britain’s working class, and their struggle over the years. Throughout the book, topics such as the housing crisis, Thatcherism and the media portrayals are discussed in a way which is so seamless and connected that it forms a very persuasive argument and a fitting call for action.

Admittedly, I didn’t find this book as engaging as The Establishment, but that is not to say that I do not care about the issues mentioned in the book. Much like Jones’ second book, there are moments of enlightenment, shock and anger as government policies are explained by Owen in a clear and easy-to-understand manner.

However, once again, I must talk about how relevant the book is in our current political climate. In particular, the final chapters rung true with the dilemma that the Labour Party faces at the moment. As the party is accused of being out of touch with the working class, we’re once again seeing a rise in far-right politics (in the book, it was the BNP and now it’s UKIP). Finally, in the conclusion, I noticed similar points made in The Establishment which encapsulates the present argument of the left. Both Chavs and The Establishment are different in the issues they cover, but they are united in their calls for left-wing changes.

On the whole, Chavs is a book which explores an otherness which is yet to be properly exposed and is still going unnoticed. As Labour continues to undergo an identity crisis, now may just be the time that we see a new type of class politics that Owen Jones calls for.

Have you read Chavs? Or have you read The Establishment? What are your thoughts on the demonisation of the working class? Comment below!

Liam

Thoughts on Glastonbury 2015

So last week I was lucky enough to get tickets to this year’s Glastonbury festival! With one of my resolutions this year being to experience more, it’s fair to say that I’ve definitely experienced a lot when I went to Glastonbury this year.

Tuesday 23rd (late evening) and Wednesday 24th June (early morning):

Part of the queue to get in on the Tuesday evening – it was huge!

It was in the late hours of Tuesday and the early hours of Wednesday that we completed our journey to Glastonbury. Once in the queue, we then had to wait for 6 hours until the Glastonbury gates finally opened…

Wednesday 24th June:

As the first day of the festival, not that many things were on. However, this meant that I could explore the large area that is Worthy Farm. Whilst it was easy to get lost (at first, since the Glastonbury app had a handy GPS map), the sculptures and stage designs were interesting to look at.


      

Thursday 25th June:

Similar to that of Wednesday’s plans, Thursday was another day for me to explore the festival. This time, more stalls were open so I had a plan for the day: including visiting the Guardian stall to buy a copy and a free rucksack, getting a festival T-shirt (of course) and collecting freebies such as a copy of The Glastonbury Free Press (their on-site newspaper) and a free phone pouch.


As well as this, after seeing my first Glastonbury performance (Wilko Johnson – see below), I noticed that the DeafZone stall was nearby! Of course, as a deaf person myself I had to have a look and say hello! After having a look, I was thrilled to see that they offer free BSL taster sessions!

After seeing Wilko Johnson perform, I attended the workshop. It was great to meet other people who were interesting in learning sign language. It was great as I learnt a lot of new signs (as well as the one for Glastonbury – haha!). Thanks to everyone at DeafZone for a great BSL lesson!



Wilko Johnson:

 

Aside from that, I decided to go with the rest of the people I was camping with to go and see Wilko Johnson perform. Despite not having heard of him, the style of music is a definite crowd-pleaser and Wilko’s enthusiasm on-stage, as well the bassist and drummer, were to be admired.


Friday 26th June:

Friday was the start of the main three days of music. To start with, the 11:00am act on The Other Stage has always had a traditional air of mystery…

Special Guests (The Charlatans):

It was revealed to be that of The Charlatans! Although they were not my style of music, the vocalist’s style (similar to that of Noel Gallagher’s), along with the occasional, vibrant song were interesting to listen to.

Chronixx:

I was fortunate to see their set in the wait for James Bay’s performance. Promising laid-back, relaxed reggae, Chronixx was a chilled act to listen to on a sunny Friday afternoon.

James Bay:

I have heard of Bay through his tracks: Hold Back the River and Scars. However, I was reluctant to buy his album. But now, after a promising set featuring different styles and a few covers, I am now buying his album as soon as I get the chance.

Wilkinson:

I decided to give Wilkinson’s set only a brief listen, and that is for a variety of reasons. One, was because my phone was nearing 20% battery (not good when I wanted to take more photos). Two, was that his act involved a person who’s main purpose is to pump up the crowd (I personally prefer the DJ on his own, but there are exceptions). Lastly, although his well-known tracks are good, his set wasn’t enough to get the crowd moving, in my opinion.

Phil Jupitus:


This happened by chance after charging my phone at EE as it was running low. Conveniently Phil’s act was just about to start in a stage opposite. Overall, his set was a humorous moan about recent occurrences in his life that made an interesting comedy act to watch during the festival.

Circa Waves:

I decided to listen to this band after their incredibly catchy song, T-Shirt Weather (which, after being played at the end of their set, changed the heavy downpour of rain into ‘T-Shirt weather’). With powerful drum beats and vibrant guitar riffs, Curca Waves’ music has a certain nostalgic and summer feel that is perfect for Glastonbury Festival.

Annie Mac (Live Broadcast):

With time to kill between Circa Waves and SIGMA, I decided to search desperately through the programme in an attempt to find an act I could watch to pass the time. First off was Annie Mac’s live broadcast, which, although Mac’s tastes as a DJ were impressive, it did get a tad tedious after a while…

Ben Isaac:

For that reason, I decided to look elsewhere, and discovered Ben Isaac was performing. Intrigued to discover new music, I gave most of his set a listen. A talented soul musician who interacts well with his audience, Ben Isaac is worth a listen.

Sigma:

With massive hits such as Changing (feat. Paloma Faith) and Nobody to Love, it was easy to be impressed by Sigma’s performance on the Sonic stage.

As well as talented male and female supporting singers, Sigma’s covers of My Love (Route 99 feat. Jess Glynne), Hideaway (Kiesza) and Show Me Love (Robin S) created a commendable performance for the Drum and Bass duo.

However, with my dislike towards DJ ‘supporters’, the ‘supporter’s’ regular promotion of Sigma’s debut album did start to get annoying near the last half of their set.

Mark Ronson:

Most of Mark Ronson’s set was running at the same time as SIGMA’s. However, whilst waiting for Rudimental to start I was able to catch the last of his set. Do You Really Want to Hurt Me? (with an appearance by Boy George), an original version of Valerie, and Uptown Funk were definite crowd-pleasers, with Uptown Funk being the perfect conclusion to his set.

Rudimental:

The last act of the day was drum-and-bass act Rudimental. Back in 2014, I have Rudimental a miss at V Festival to see another act instead. Shortly after, however, I was gutted to miss a performance others said was unmissable.

With a large line-up featuring a talented drummer, funky jazz section and emotive vocalists, Rudimental already looked promising as they marched on with bright red flares in their hands.

Aside from this, the ‘supporter’ for Rudimental was unlike the others I saw that day, with the ‘crow pleaser’ knowing ho to entertain the crowd for such a long period of time. So well, in fact, that brutal mosh pits occurred near me where I feared for my life (OK, I may be exaggerating that part).

Anyway, with tracks such as Free, Waiting All Night, Bloodstream, Feel the Love and Not Giving In, Rudimental are one of those few musicians that promise a live performance as great as the tracks themselves (with Dizee Rascal’s appearance a pleasant surprise during their performance).

Saturday 27th June:

Frank Turner:

I had originally heard of Frank Turner through personal recommendations. For that reason, I decided to see his performance on the Other Stage on Saturday.

Aside from his humorous conversations between songs, Turner’s style of music is one to dance along to. With a soulful voice, Frank Turner was a great start to Saturday’s music.

George Ezra:

At V Festival last year, George Ezra was on the line-up, but I was unable to see him. However, now I was able to see his performance on the Pyramid stage in full.

With Ezra playing popular songs such as Budapest, Blame it on Me and Listen to the Man, the musician’s set promised upbeat pop in sections, but lacked the same emotion near the end of his set, where most of his well-known songs had been played at the start.

Soil & Pimp Sessions:

I was fortunate to see a bit of Soil & Pimp Sessions before Gregory Porter’s performance. With their style of ‘death jazz’, the creative freedom of their music was refreshing to listen to.

Gregory Porter:

It was Porter’s emotive soul on tracks such as Hey Laura and Liquid Spirit which drew me to watch his set. After watching his performance, it was fair to say that Gregory is an incredible act to see live.

With a relaxed, soulful voice that sounds like a mixture of Cee Lo Green and Aloe Blacc, Porter’s talented vocals, combined with upbeat jazz, compelled me to buy his latest album.

Paloma Faith:

After a quick dash from Gregory Porter’s performance to watch Paloma, I was a tad late to her opening. However, Paloma’s set boasted recognisable songs which fans could sing along to. But at the same time, her performance lacked songs which fans could dance to. Instead, it was only when Paloma invited dance duo Sigma on-stage for their track, Changing, that fans began dancing to Faith’s soulful music.

Gorgon City:

Upon listening to Gorgon City’s set, I was surprised to see that I already knew a couple of their songs. Whilst their deep house style present throughout their set could be seen as repetitive, the vocal talents of their two supporting singers was impressive.

Deadmau5:

Despite being gutted that the track, Professional Griefers didn’t make an appearance, and that most of his set was performed from inside a ‘cage’ (preventing the audience from seeing him), Deadmau5’s performance was definitely unique. Throughout his set there were cinematic light shows, as well as a bizarre interlude where the DJ removed his famous mouse head, sat on a couch and started drinking and smoking. Overall, the DJ’s set promised gripping and exciting electronica which listeners could easily dance along to.

Public Service Broadcasting:

After Deadmau5 had finished his performance, it was a quick dash to the Glade stage (which was, conveniently, next to the Other stage) to see Public Service Broadcasting.

A band which fuses vintage footage with backing instrumentals, Public Service Broadcasting promise a weird but unique style of music which was intriguing to listen to.

Sunday 28th June:

Hozier:

Rae Morris:

Unfortunately, after seeing Rae perform, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that the balance between Morris’ harrowing vocals and backing instruments wasn’t complementary. In a sense, the set felt too laid-back, and relaxed, and lacked the emotion it needed to better captivate an attentive audience.

Lionel Ritchie:

 

With the legend that is Lionel Ritchie being on Glastonbury’s bill this year, I had to see his performance. With hits such as Dancing on the Ceiling, All Night Long and Hello, along with his friendly conversations with the audience, Lionel’s set was definitely a memorable one.

Alt-J:

Alt-J was one of those bands who I had heard of, and was curious to find out more. Surprisingly, I didn’t know that they were the singers of Matilda and Something Good. However, after a few songs into their performance (when most of their well-known songs had been played), I deemed their style of rock a tad repetitive and went in search of another act to watch.

Belle and Sebastian:

With some time on my hands before The Who’s performance, I was a bit confused as to who to see next (unlike the last two days, Sunday boasted less choice). However, with Belle and Sebastian’s set, their performance promised colourful and vibrant pop that created easy listening.

Jamie T:

Desperate to fill the gap until The Who’s headline slot, I decided to stay at The Other Stage to watch Jamie T. However, aside from his music not really appealing to my tastes, the gig wasn’t one of my favourites.

During his act, security had to enter the crowd to remove a flare, I got crushed numerous times when Jamie decided to get close to the audience. Lastly, I was kicked in the side of a head by a crowd-surfer, who was later ejected. Basically, it was eventful, and I decided I would give the rest of his performance a miss.

The Who:

Whenever I tell someone that I haven’t heard of The Who, I always get surprised looks. However, I had heard of Who Are You? As for the rest of the set, their humour and exaggerated stage performance made their set a must-see during the festival.

So that was my time at Glastonbury! If you went, let me know who your favourite act was in the comments below!

Or perhaps you didn’t go but watched the BBC coverage? If so, who was your favourite act to watch on TV?

Liam