Tag Archives: Politics

Local Literature: #HumanityWashedAshore

Inspired by the media outcry regarding the death of Aylan Kurdi and his family, this piece interrogates Britain’s response to the world’s immigration crisis. Specifically it questions why David Cameron only acknowledged the situation after it was too late

 Last night on the shore
harsh realities washed up with their sons,
some say they got lost on the way to Canada,
others say Cameron drove them there.
A Daily Mail poll reads “SHOULD BRITAIN AGREE TO TAKE MORE REFUGEES?”
YES:NO
1:3
ALIVE:DEAD,
three quarters of a family taken whilst
gasping for hope:

1:3
Father: Abdullah, servant of God;
forsaken by a godless nation
forced to suffer by politicians
who’d rather play god than help Him save them.

3:1 Mother: Rehan, a flower;
desperate for a chance to bloom in
safe nations,
safe havens.
Places to take refuge with those who condemn:
modern day colonialists not ready to pay their
overdue overdraft
with added interest.

Son: Galip, the winner;
maybe he was trying to win the race,
someone should have told him
in England, the only race worth winning is White.

And then there lies Aylan,
face down in the sand,
becoming a national symbol for change
because Cameron couldn’t stomach it.

3:1 NO:YES
David, the beloved,
beloved assailant of those who
made his Britain great.
How much more will he take
leaving innocents to pay the price?

He raises Aylan as a promise for change.
The Metro tells us
“as a father,
he felt deeply moved by the sight”
well David,
as a human, I felt disgusted by your Conservative resilience.

When will you let it wear down?

by Alex Webb

Do you have something to share about our current global situation? why not submit a literary piece and share your feelings to: them20press@gmail.com

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Manchester’s Political Youth: An interview with Becky Fox on Sex, health and safety in the city…

This year, the University of Manchester broke the record for the highest turn out for a Student’s Union election in the UK ever. Inspired by how political the University community seems to have become, I sat down with a few of the candidates who were running in the election to ask them what they think about the state of student life and general Manchester politics.

The first candidate I have had the pleasure of sitting down with was Becky Fox, who ran for Wellbeing Officer and came second overall. I asked each of the politicians to describe themselves in a small paragraph and here is Fox’s:

‘I’m a third year pharmacology student from South Manchester with a passion for women’s issues and consent education. I’m a founding member of Manchester Sexual Representation Network  (MSRN)  who do all sorts of wonderful things, with a lot of our focus going on consent education at the moment. I’m currently running workshops at local schools to teach 16-18 year olds about consent and planned to use the platform of Wellbeing Officer to have these workshops for every student. I also love thistle tea, cats, being queer, sewing and singing’.

MSRN

It is clear from this that consent is an issue close to Fox’s heart, and so it should be for everyone. The overall conclusion we made from our time together was that everything, in any kind of relationship, is more fun and rewarding when you have consent. The importance of consent education was a driving force behind Fox running for Wellbeing candidate but she was also inspired by the twice-elected Women’s Officer, Jess Lishak. It is clear that women’s issues and issues with wellbeing are closely linked, especially with the horrendous rise in sexual assault and rape happening in student areas this academic year. When I asked Fox how she would define consent she explained that ‘it isn’t just having permission to have sex, it revolves around having sex, kissing or even holding hands when both people are comfortable’.

The importance of teaching consent was clear when I heard about Fox’s encounter with a 26 year old man, sexually active since 16, who did not know what consent was. That is ten years without knowing what it means to make sure your partner wants what you want. It is ten years too many and it is integral that this changes. Consent is finally being added into the sex education programme but, before this, it was up to society to teach people about consent. Unfortunately, evident from the attacks in Fallowfield this year that is not always going to happen. By not teaching consent we are creating a situation where people see having sex with someone as a right, not a privilege.

ladybarn-1

This need for consent education is the main reason why we are so lucky to have MSRN in our city. They look to teach people about consent, being safe and having a mutual respect for people around you. For MSRN, if we can educate people on safe behaviour the problem will become easier to deal with – knowing about the need for consent and the risk you put someone at by not asking for it is undeniably a major factor in stopping attacks and horrendous, life-changing experiences. When I asked Fox what MSRN thought about Manchester’s safety, specifically their sexual safety, she said that it is not to do with the city, it’s the people in it. If someone decides to sexually assault, attack or harass someone you cannot pin it on the city. This was a refreshing perspective as this year has seen Manchester deemed a threat to females, and understandably so. The way to counter this, as Fox has said, is educating the people as there is nothing we can do to the city to stop this. The closest we could get is demanding more police patrols in Fallowfield. Although, considering some responses when the problem first arose () this may take longer than it should. It is the police’s responsibility to do everything they can to reduce the risk that Fallowfield residents are under. However, it seems that noise pollution (a genuine problem that should be solved) is more of a priority than the mental health and well being of innocent people. You can decide if you agree with the police’s decision, Fox and I do not.It is also important to note that whilst many people see rape as being dragged down an alley at night, 50% of rapes actually happen by someone the victim knows and 60% of women who were raped, were raped inside a building. A third of this figure were raped in their own home – rape is not just anonymous and we need to know how to limit the risk that rapists pose by educating EVERYONE.

Directly related to issues with consent, is the need for accurate, realistic and healthy depictions of sex in the media. Stirred poetry, a fantastic Manchester-based poetry group, and MSRN have taken stands against this, with Fox amongst them, by boycotting Fifty Shades of Grey and offering education on safe BDSM behaviour. It is important to acknowledge that those who enjoy BDSM  (bondage, domination and sadomasochism) safely hold consent and their partner’s wellbeing as their main concern. It is fun having someone’s consent! It isn’t fun making someone feel uncomfortable and trapped – this is why Fifty Shades of Grey is such a poisonous film in our society, Christian Grey does not see consent as a priority and this spreads a dangerous message. It is media like this that MSRN and Stirred Poetry are looking to tackle head on by making their concerns heard.

stirred poetry

                                                               https://www.facebook.com/stirred.poetry

Besides BDSM, sexual wellbeing also comes down to something as simple as contraception, STI testing and education around it. To go and have an STI test you need to know how to get it, why to get it and the risks of not getting one. In my years at school I was never taught about STI testing just the risks that STIs present. The education needed to go one step further and I would not have gone two years of being sexually active without being tested. I felt ridiculous when I found out how important it was and I am sure I am not alone.  Find your local clinic here: http://www.sexualhealthnetwork.co.uk/clinic/. If you need contraception, the Rusholme Children’s Centre on Great Western Street gives free condoms out, you just need to give the gender you identify with, your age and your race. Do not miss out on centres like this! There are also free safe-sex packs in every gay club in Manchester’s Gay Village so it is easy to get hold of, don’t put yourself at risk of contracting an STI as they can cause all kinds of damage. It is also important to let anyone you are sexually active with know your status and to be checked regularly to make sure this is as up to date as possible. I get tested every time I have a different sexual partner and every time I enter into an exclusive relationship with someone. The bottom line is that if you have an STI it is your moral duty to ensure that anyone you have sex with is aware of this to prevent the infections being spread further. There is no shame in having an STI, it happens to most people in their life time! It is just important to deal with them in the most responsible way possible.

On top of consent and sexual wellbeing, ensuring that mental health problems and emotional support are improved and easily available for students was a key policy Fox had. This was one of the main reasons I voted for her in the elections – she is aware of the stigma surrounding mental health, she has experienced it herself as I’m sure many of us have, and she wants to actively try and change how we perceive mental illness. It needs to be treated with respect not scepticism.

At the end of the interview I asked Fox to sum up what she is fighting for in a few words she said ‘better support, consent, happiness and well-being’. I think we can all agree that more of this is never a bad thing and I am hopeful that Becky Fox and the MSRN can help improve Manchester’s wellbeing. In their hands we can hope for a more secure and safe future in the city.

Alex Webb

Call for submissions: Black & BLUE

Black & BLUE is a Manchester-born arts and literary collective that shares writing and hosts exhibitions in Manchester and London. Exploring politics, poetics and all that’s inbetween, it publishes beautiful journals, pamphlets and critical writing.

They are currently open for submissions to Black & Blue #4, a new anthology of creative writing around the theme of REVOLUTION to be published 5th November.

“Revolutionary writing takes place at the limits of life, at the distant and compulsive outer edges of reason, at the painful frontier of experience. It is always at the barricades, at the boundary, playing tricks on established orders, crossing borders.”

Writers of revolutionary words of any kind should send their work to revolution@blackbluewriting.com and Tweet it to @revolution51114 

Deadline: 14th September.

For more information about Black & BLUE

For more information about submitting to Revolution

An Introduction to… Spoken Word

Alex Webb discusses the rise and rise of spoken word as a poetic form, and introduces us to some key figures doing the speaking rounds on the internet…

For me, spoken word is the original way poetry was meant to be presented. Like I’ve said before, reading a love poem makes you understand the poet’s heartbreak, but hearing it brings the love affair into the room. To deprive yourself of this experience is to hide yourself away from the raw and intricate potential of our language.

Having reviewed Rudy Francisco’s Getting Stitches, I was inspired to write a dummy’s guide to spoken word poetry. Before going further I must note that spoken word is different for everyone, there are a huge variety of performers bringing different kinds of poetry and literature to the table. Finding your style in this relatively unknown genre is just an hour’s YouTube-ing away. For the mean time, however, I’ll introduce you to what can be best described as the political and love spoken word.

Some key names to get used to in this area are Sierra DeMulder, Alex Dang and the previously mentioned Rudy Francisco. These three artists are my main sources of inspiration when the proverbial “muse” has gone away for a few days. Alex Dang’s pieces are so powerful as they come directly from his personal experiences. He writes what he lives and this is a powerful tool in a spoken word artist’s kit. I found Dang through his ‘Times I’ve Been Mistaken for a Girl’, a heart-breaking commentary on gender roles and homophobia. Dang effortlessly gets into your head and makes you sympathise with his story, he is baring his life – and demands that you listen.

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On the theme of homophobia, Denice Frohman tackles the same issues from a lesbian’s point of view to much effect in her ‘Dear Straight People’. Whilst I am not a fan of her aggressive tone, Frohman’s powerful voice will make you re-consider your attitudes when she exclaims ‘I don’t like closets, but you made the living room an unshared space/and now I’m feeling like a guest in my own house’. But Frohman is not about telling people off: she speaks in order to discourage people from making ignorant remarks that can upset your gay friends and colleagues without you realising. When you listen to her words you can sense the years of oppression the LGBTQ community has faced and are continuing to make a stand against.

Sierra DeMulder is my personal favourite both in print and on stage, her ‘Paper Dolls’ is one of the most powerful spoken word pieces I have ever heard and offers something similar to Francisco’s ‘Monster’. DeMulder’s works include a variety of political poems that confront the skewed views of a society that does injustice to a lot of communities. In the aforementioned ‘Paper Dolls’, DeMulder evaluates the attitudes we have towards rape victims, noting that “the person who did this to you is broken/not you”. When she states that one in three girls will be sexually harassed in their lifetime, and that she is one of three daughters, you can feel the pain and fear in her voice. Listening to this piece makes clear that rape is something that can happen to anyone, it is everyone’s duty to fight against it. The contrast between DeMulder’s political pieces and her love poetry is shocking, my favourite poem of all time, her ‘Unrequited Love Poem’ will have you ready to cry as she preaches “I dream of you/more often than I don’t/my body is a dead language/and you pronounce/each word perfectly”. Her voice embodies empathy in this piece and, regardless of your relationship status, you become DeMulder in this piece. You wear her experiences as if they are your own and they become realities that most of us do not want to face.

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The final spoken word artist, Rudy Francisco, is by far the most talented of those discussed here. Last a few seconds into his videos and you will fall in love with his voice and be ready to spend hours listening to more. Francisco’s ‘Honest’, mentioned in my review of his collection, comes to life on stage and when he says “Dear hands, I know you like writing poetry/but you can’t bring a metaphor to a gun fight” you can see the weakness in his eyes. Francisco challenges a lot of assumptions, both in regards to politics and love and, even if it is just for a second, you will re-evaluate your opinions. In ‘Scars/To the New Boyfriend’, everyone who has been dumped and quickly replaced will hear this piece as gospel as he crawls into your head and captures your feelings perfectly. If you only listen to one poet mentioned here I beg you, make it Francisco. He’ll make you want more.

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If you are interested in seeing spoken word in the flesh, check out Manchester’s spoken word talent for yourself and head down to M20’s new Free Verse night every other Thursday. This night is focused on showing off the musically influenced side of spoken word and offers a fresh interpretation of spoken word as a whole.

Overall, spoken word is a beautiful art and has been underappreciated in recent years when it is so readily accessible. If you have read poetry and it has not taken your fancy give it one last chance when it is spoken to a crowd with the artists wearing their hearts on their sleeves. It is a phenomenon you will not want to miss.

-Alex Webb

Other brilliant spoken word performances and artists worth checking out:

Mike Rosen: ‘When God Happens’

Rachel Wiley: ’10 Honest Thoughts On Being Loved by a Skinny Boy’

Tonya Ingram & Venessa Marco: ‘Khaleesi’.

VIDEOS:

Alex Dang – ‘Time I’ve Been Mistaken for a Girl’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2i-i8k6AbQ

Sierra DeMulder – ‘Paper Dolls’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kvxQnT9Luqk

Rudy Francisco – ‘Honest’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbgssX-uj4E

Denice Frohman – ‘Dear Straight People’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5frn8TAlew0

Mike Rosen – ‘When God Happens’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S2Ks06Al8c0

Sierra DeMulder – ‘Unrequited Love Poem’:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41rQ8SufgOU