Tag Archives: Natalie Proctor

As We Are Away: 20th-30th November

Natalie Proctor previews the nous magazine/As We Are Away festival, taking place around the city 20-30 November

How lucky we are here in Manchester to have so much creativity on our doorstep! No matter what the artistic genre, there is always something going on in this vibrant northern city. This diversity of talent is something that self-established Nous Magazine champions. The magazine is a relatively new enterprise, which has a unique focus on ‘contemporary mind culture’. In collaboration with As We Are Away, the magazine has created a mini-festival for all things arty. AWAA is an art project with a difference, focused on overcoming the cultural stigma around mental health. The festival hopes to inspire us to think differently about mental illness, and learn to become more open and understanding about something that affects thousands of people across the UK.

The event, which goes on until the 30th November, will host a variety of acts throughout the creative sphere. Each night focuses on a different collection of some of Manchester’s finest artists, poets, musicians and directors. Whatever you may have an interest in, the AWAA mini-Festival will surely have something to spark your creative interest.

What makes this event even greater is that it’s free! Although donations are extremely appreciated, and do go on to ensure that these kind of fantastic events may continue. You can even buy an 11- day ticket that gives you access to all the events running for just £5.50. That seems like a bargain to me! We here at M20 would also strongly encourage you to make this donation, as we fully believe it is vital to support the arts to the best of our ability. Without such contributions we would find it hard to maintain the wealth of opportunities on offer for Manchester creatives.

So what’s on? Well, if you’re interested in poetry, there is Tea Hour Poetry on 25th November, which is sure to offer a plethora of new and old talent; including established writers like David Hartley, who we interviewed in October. This will be taking place at the trendy Northern Quarter café The Koffee Pot. Certainly not one to miss!

There is also a lot to offer in terms of music. On Thursday the 27th, the night As We Are Here will host some of Manchester’s most exciting up and coming bands and artists. The live music will continue into the evening at the Eagle Inn, and there will be a variety of sounds from the likes of Second Shepherds, POST and Locean.

If you fancy a little slice of the Cannes Film Festival in Manchester, then why not head over to the concluding night of the festival, curated by Cultivate Film Art. This evening will present some critically acclaimed foreign films, which may perhaps may a nice change from the outlandish Hollywood blockbuster. The documentary film ‘Black Sun’ (2005) by Gary Tarn tells the dramatic story of French artist Hugues de Montalembert who finds himself blinded after a violent attack in New York. It is a moving piece of cinema that is sure to strike a nerve. Also showing is the 1970 film adaptation of the novel ‘Valerie and Her Week of Wonders’. This erotic horror is somewhat otherworldly, and definitely different to what’s out there in the box office!

The festival has plenty more to offer so check out the website for a full list of the events coming up. And remember, the festival ends on the 30th November so don’t miss out. Keep supporting the arts.

Natalie Proctor

Email: hej@nous-magazine.de
Website: www.nous-magazine.de
Facebook: www.facebook.com/nousmagazinemanchester

An Interview with… Zara Khalique

Natalie Proctor chats to founder of positivity-focussed fashion label Keep It Bright! about Manchester, motivation and mind-set


Living in one of the rainiest cities in the UK, alongside all the other struggles life can throw at you; it can be hard to stay optimistic. How do you remain a sunny person when you only see the sun a few times a year?! Well, Zara Khalique is pioneering a new creative philosophy that inspires us all to Keep it Bright! The fashion line, created by Zara some years ago, has gone from strength to strength, encouraging us all to express ourselves through bold and vibrant fashion.

“I really love Manchester and I love the way everyone feels free to express themselves! I know I always wear whatever I want, and know that I’ll see all kinds of style everywhere I go in the city and I love the variety!”

Zara, who has always been interested in the arts, began the label with relatively little experience. However, Zara candidly admits that she began the business not so much for her love of fashion, but for her want to spread the positive mantra after overcoming her own personal troubles.

“I realised your mind-set changes everything and that one person can help another so much, so that’s what I feel like I have to do!”

It’s certainly an admirable thing to have begun such an endeavour, not only from nothing, but also from a place of difficult circumstance. But, as Zara states, “challenges are a chance to grow”.

The importance of the message behind the movement is one that follows through to other aspects of Zara’s life. She also champions anti-violence/abuse/bullying campaigns (Someone’s Everything), which further underlines the ethical importance of Zara’s work.

Ethics aside, Keep It Bright is full of fabulous fashion. Even without the obvious positive message behind the clothes, they speak for themselves. Zara’s personal favourites, are her “heavily embellished one-off bras and hoodies” which are painstakingly handmade – but definitely worth the effort! Some of Zara’s more casual items also have that individual edge, but are perhaps a little more accessible for everyday wear. Even fashionista Zara admits; “I love a good sweatshirt!”.

One of my personal favourites from Zara’s collection is the simple but gorgeous white cropped sweatshirt, with the trademark inspirational quotation around the collar “choose happiness”. This sort of simple detailing is typical in Zara’s line.

zara khalique 1

I also took a look at one of Zara’s stalls which was up in Fallowfield in September, and fell in love with this pink crochet halter. I loved the simplicity of the shape and the muted pink colour, which makes the piece slightly less seasonal specific. Though I must confess, I may be perhaps a little biased on this one, as I own this lovely item now!

zara khalique 2

Zara’s work doesn’t stop at clothing. The beautifully crafted accessories are also a great feature of the collection. These detailed make up and clutch bags are stunning, but also extremely good value for money.

zara khalique 3

So what does the future have in store for this movement? Despite not being one for planning too far ahead, Zara confesses she would love to see Keep it Bright flourish even more, and become “the place everyone knows to go when they need positivity and a mind-set millions live by!”. Certainly, there is something to be said for the uniqueness of Zara’s movement, given the often harsh and – let’s face it – judgemental world of fashion. From the size 0 models to the undying practice of airbrushing in every image published for public viewing; it is refreshing to see such a positive spin on fashion. Frankly, it seems strange to me that more fashion labels don’t see the problem with this form of negative advertising. Additionally, the connotations of designing for models rather than real women, can mean that fashion becomes less and less accessible to the majority.

This is something Keep It Bright avoids. The collection is forward thinking in that it harnesses the power of expression that fashion can have, and uses it in a positive way. Zara’s clothes are designed with both art and practicality in mind. Fabulous clothes that flatter and carry a strong message should be at the forefront of the industry.

Until, I’m sure, the inevitable day when Keep it Bright is a household name worldwide, it will continue, as Zara always intended, as a source of “positivity, light and motivation when [people] need it most”.

Natalie Proctor

Catch Zara and keep it bright! at the Remake Remodel Vintage & Art Fair at Ruby Lounge on 29 November

Visit the keep it bright! website

Follow keep it bright! on Twitter

Feminism: A Man’s Problem?

Recent tech developments have contributed to a third wave of feminism – noticeable this time for including the voices of young, switched on and pissed off women, who are carving new social space for themselves via the internet. But where are the men’s voices in the debate? And what does their relative absence tell us? Natalie Proctor looks at contemporary attitudes towards women and the confusing state of gender politics today…

I found myself drawn to the recent BBC documentary ‘Blurred Lines: The New Battle of the Sexes’, because it was set to address issues that plague modern society. I wanted to see what it made of the state of feminism and sexism today. The documentary discussed some very important questions, but gave very few answers. We are asked to consider whether sexism is in fact just as bad as it was some ninety years ago when women in the UK were still struggling for the right to vote, or whether we have developed into a more equal society. Perhaps what is more easily suggested, is that sexism towards women is in fact not better or worse, simply different.

The documentary looks at several areas that evoke ideas of the objectification of women on a daily basis – the internet being a primary culprit. Cases of women being harassed online, with the word ‘rape’ thrown around like it was no more than an emoticon, are sadly increasingly common. Equally, the use of derogatory images of women throughout the media enhances this idea of the woman as a body, and not a mind.

It is at this point however that I must make something clear. Women are used to sell things. Men are used to sell things. Women are presented as half naked to sexualise a product. Men are presented as half naked to sexualise a product. The point being that we cannot overlook the obvious fact that this form of advertising – whether in magazines or on billboards – is not selective when it comes to gender. A particular version of sexy really is what sells. Gender equality is a balancing act. Both women and men must learn to accept the fact that sex does not define who we are. Furthermore, this image presented by the media highlights an important issue for everyone, in that our society is fast becoming, if not already, one based on looks and not merit.

Posh and Becks: equally sexed up to sell pants, or perfume, not sure which
Posh and Becks: equally sexed up to sell pants, or perfume, not sure which

In the case of the documentary, this form of sexualisation is suggested to be only problematic for women. This is, as I have stated, not the case. However, it is clear that the female form is more present in the media than the male. At the same time, sexism towards women is also more common. I found myself infuriated by the suggestion that women need to “Man Up”, as the ever so sensitive editor of ‘Loaded’ magazine states in the documentary. Martin Daubney argued that the magazine celebrated women, and suggested that the images were far from sexist – no surprises there! Of course, who would think that a woman with her legs spread, pouting at the camera, wearing nothing but some see-through pants could ever be deemed overly-sexualised? This woman is on the cover for her “great personality” right?

The Loaded magazine 'Girls' section...
The Loaded magazine ‘Girls’ section…

Hypersexualised images of women are promoted by a laddish culture created by outlets like men’s mags that associate the ‘perfect’ man with the hairless, oily, breasty woman. We need to break down both our preconceptions of the ideal man and woman: they feed each other, and neither exist. Dangerously, whole industries are built on the foundations of these false principles.

There is an important point to be made here however about the women who take up jobs in these industries. Are they really slaves to a man’s world, or are they profiting from the inherent nature of base male desire? This was something brought into question by the Channel 4 documentary ‘Strippers’. The girls interviewed all seemed to project the idea that they were far from being exploited, but in fact exploiting the men who pay for their services. However, it was certainly apparent that some of the girls argued this more convincingly than others. On the other end of the spectrum, the men interviewed who frequented these clubs told the cameras they went for ‘company’ not for sexual pleasure. This was argued unconvincingly in all cases. The fact that even the men who pay for these services feel the need to dress them up as something else, proves lack of moral certainty. Obviously, as I have mentioned before, if women are freely choosing to take up such occupations, then I see no real issue. However, this is hard to guarantee. In the same way, as a woman, it is difficult for me to understand the attraction men have to paying for false affections. Don’t they know these women are only thinking about their wallets? But to each his own I suppose.

18 year old Charley, who drops dreams of being a police officer to strip full-time after getting kicked out of uni for missing lectures - because she was stripping all night for cash...
18 year old Charley, who drops dreams of being a police officer to strip full-time after getting kicked out of uni for missing lectures – because she was stripping all night for cash – which she needed to pay her way through uni…the cycle continues…

Is there gender equality in modern society? In many ways; yes, but it is not yet fully won. Aside from aspects of the media, everyday sexism occurs all the time. A woman knows that if she walks down the street next to a group of male builders, she will be shouted at. At a club, having your arse grabbed is old news. And let’s not forget the old chestnut of double standards when it comes to male and female promiscuity. Personally, I think that the only way we can move forward into a world where women are treated as women and not simply objects lies in two key steps. First, men should remember that women are their sisters, mothers, aunts and friends, not just pieces of meat. Second, women should continue to strive to break the stereotypes engrained in modern society. Human beings have come a long way in achieving status as a person beyond our gender, but we still have a way to go. Rather than a battle of sexes, we should be focusing on battling our own perceptions of what gender means. The problem is one for both men and women to address.

Ultimately then, equality relies on the strength of both men and women, to avoid stereotypes, victimisation, and discrimination. Currently, it looks as if women are generally further on this road of progress. Sadly, I think it will be some time before men are willing to let go of the macho image they have become so accustomed to. But, once they are ready to rid themselves of misogynistic tendencies, equality will truly be in sight. For now though, if men want to play video games with female characters that have breasts the size of space-hoppers then let them! Have faith in the fact that they will probably never experience the real thing.


–       Natalie Proctor