February 28, 2009
Harrow councillor Bill Stephenson has protested against the threatened closure of the University of Westminster’s BA ceramics degree.
Speaking at a council meeting held on 19th February, Councillor Stephenson described how the current degree course grew out of a pottery course established at Harrow School of Art in the 1960s.
He said: “Harrow has a great tradition of art of all sorts… the University of Westminster is the guardian of this precious part of Harrow’s heritage. It is one of the jewels in its crown which it ought to do everything in its power to save.”
The council moved a motion urging Westminster to reconsider its proposal to close the BA Ceramics course. It requested the Leader of the Council and the Chief Executive to write to the University of Westminster’s Vice Chancellor, Harrow’s two MPs, and the Minister for Higher Education David Lammy.
Support for Harrow ceramics continues to flow in from many quarters. The editor’s letter in the current issue of Crafts Magazine states that there is a growing interest in unique and hand-made artifacts and describes the idea of closing Harrow’s course as “crazy”.
Whilst Westminster is considering axing its ceramics degree, the Victoria and Albert Museum will soon be opening the first phase of its redeveloped ceramics gallery. This gallery aims to promote the “enjoyment, understanding and study of ceramics”.
Phase two of the gallery, due to open in 2010, will include a study centre where students will be able to handle parts of the collection and examine items in detail.
But what is the point of encouraging students to appreciate skill and beauty whilst closing off opportunities for them to develop similar talents? Ceramics is a happy marriage of the practical and the intellectual. As Professor Richard Sennett wrote in his latest, acclaimed book, ‘The Craftsmen’, “making is thinking”.
A spokesperson for the university was not available for an immediate comment.
For more information about the world of ceramics visit Ceramic Art London which will run from 27 February to 1 March at the Royal College of Art.
Story by Brigitte Istim
February 28, 2009
An anonymous gorilla is running for the presidency of the student union at the University of Westminster this year because he believes the voting is based on the candidates’ race, name, popularity and religion rather than ideas to improve student welfare.
Calling himself Gus, who takes banana studies, he refuses to reveal his true identity and dresses head to toe in a gorilla costume. He is one of four students standing for office, writes Laura James.
He says: “Often sports teams will vote for their sporty friends and media students will vote for the media student they know for VP communications officer. By being Gus you don’t know what I am. The gorilla represents a party animal and is fun.”
Gus says he would like to campaign for condom vending machines and a “naturist zone”. He admits that his image is jokey and people might not take him seriously but added: “I don’t feel the SU [student union] has done anything for students anyway. Often those that run at the student elections are doing it for their CVs, not for the productivity of the university.
“I want to build more of a community spirit at the university. I’d like to encourage people to join more sports teams and societies because they are more social.”
James Robins, campaigns and representation manager of the SU, told Westminster News Online that he thinks the SU has done a huge amount for the university but suspects they are not so good at telling students about it.
He said: “We make sure that student messages are heard, for example we introduced the 24-hour library and the anonymous marking system. It involved a large study where we found 84% of students were in favour of electronic submission of their work.
“Maybe we’re not so good at feeding back to students what we have done for the university.”
The three others campaigning for president include Stuart Marriner, Amar Sangherra and Omar Hussein.
Amar Sangherra was Vice President of Communication last year. He would like to work on anonymous marking, feedback on work and coursework tracking at the university.
Ashley Taylor, a third-year TV broadcast student at the university says: “I’d like to see the SU encourage more of a social aspect, like at Brighton or Leeds university.”
In response to the idea of an anonymous campaigner she says: “That’s a really good idea. Although I don’t really think there are issues of racism at this university. It’s a multicultural institution.”
The results will be made final on Friday 13 March. For more information on voting visit: http://www.uwsu.com/elections
By Laura James
What do you think of the campaign? Are there issues you would like to explore with the candidates? Let us know what you think.
February 27, 2009
The 21 year-old mother of three was awarded National Mum of the Year 2009 by Netmums.com for her voluntary work teaching sex education to teenagers.
“There is so much stereotyping of teen mums and Aimee blasts through all that with her wonderful, positive activism,” said Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard.
“I’m not only a mum and a volunteer, but I’m a full-time college student too,” Aimee said. “It is my aim in life to prove the stereotypes of young parents wrong.”
At 17, Aimee gave birth to twins, Lauren and Megan, having consciously made the decision that she wanted a child. She had left school at 16 with eight good GCSEs and went to college to study childcare. It was here that Aimee decided she wanted a baby.
“I had little knowledge of what having a child entailed – the financial, emotional and moral side of it,” she said. “I had the basics of how to look after a child after studying childcare for GCSE, but it wasn’t enough information.”
The twins she was carrying were diagnosed with Twin to Twin Transfusion Syndrome (TTTS) at 24 weeks, a disease that causes an imbalance in the flow of blood from one twin to another while in the womb.
Due to their condition, Aimee’s twins were on the verge of heart failure and had to be delivered at just 28 weeks. At birth, they were given a 20% chance of survival and the stress caused Aimee to suffer from post-natal depression.
When the twins were nine months old, Aimee became pregnant with Sophie, her youngest daughter.
It was during this time that Aimee joined a young parents group. It was here that the link between sex education and becoming a teenage mother made Aimee realise she wanted to make a difference:
“The teen pregnancy rate is high because of the type of sex education received,” she said.
“At the moment I feel there is too much emphasis on how to have sex and linking contraception to preventing STIs [sexually transmitted infections] as opposed to the true meaning of contraception – preventing pregnancy.”
In order to get young people to engage with sex education, the group created activities to make it more memorable.
One is a condom race – where teenagers are given different instruments such as beer goggles, a blindfold and lots of rings and instructed to correctly put a condom on a plastic penis. The aim of the game is to demonstrate the importance of awareness when using contraception and how easily they can be worn incorrectly or damaged by excessive jewellery.
Another game involves a ‘pass the parcel’, but the parcel is a blown up condom. When the music stops, the teenager must rub the condom with baby oil until the music starts again. This will continue until the baby oil causes the condom to pop and demonstrates why baby oil is not a suitable lubricant.
Aimee started holding workshops, teaching trainee professional health visitors, midwives, doctors and youth and social workers how to teach sex education more effectively.
The success of these classes lead her to being name a spokesperson for Fable and Fact, a project run by UK Youth which challenges the stereotype of young parents.
“The media stereotypes young mums as lazy, uneducated, irresponsible, stupid little tarts who have children to get houses and benefits,” Aimee said.
She wants the media to report on young parents who achieve goals, rather than focusing on controversial cases such as baby-faced 13-year-old father Alfie Patten.
“To the stereotypes I say don’t judge a book by its cover, don’t tar us all with the same brush and young parents can be good parents too.”
Her own ambitions include graduating from university in 2010 and continuing her crusade for better sex education and a greater emphasis on life skills in school.
Aimee lives with her boyfriend, Rob Parry, 22, an electrician who has been with Aimee for over three years.
He is not the biological father of Aimee’s children but was at the birth of her youngest daughter and has taken on the role after their real father lost contact.
“Our children are definitely well cared for, all it takes is a glance to see it.”
Story by Helen Varley
February 27, 2009
By Helen Varley
In the last year there has been a rise in the number of teenage pregnancies, national statistics have shown.
Despite the Government’s plans to reduce numbers by 2010, new data shows that there were 42,918 conceptions in under 18s in 2007 – a rise of more than a thousand on the previous year.
The statistics also show that girls under 16 account for one of every 100 pregnancies in the UK.
Following newspaper coverage of Alfie Patten, the 13 year old ‘baby-faced’ father, the government has started a campaign to teach parents how to talk openly to their children about sex.
Sex education for adults
Talking to Your Teenager About Sex and Relationships will be available in 3,000 pharmacies across England from March 5. The brochure is part of an initiative by the Children’s Minister Beverley Hughes and will offer guidance on how to approach the subject of sex.
Mum of three Sarah Monteith, 35, confesses that when it comes to speaking frankly to her children about sex, she does not know where to begin.
“I am pretty scared about the whole process.” She said on trying to educate her nine year old daughter about sex. “I want her to be fully informed of what is about to happen but children of this age do have a tendency to shut off if information gets too uncomfortable.”
Siobhan Freegard, Netmums founder says: “Teenagers don’t want to listen to ‘fuddy duddy’ tell-you-what-to-do oldies, they will be much more receptive to a young mum who has been where they are and made a success of it.”
Netmums recently made Aimee Holme, 21, National Mum of the Year 2009 for her voluntary work teaching sex education workshops.
Aimee, who gave birth to twins at 17, thinks that sex education is in need of an “overhaul”:
“Young people need life skills. This would include sex - how a child is conceived, contraception in relation to preventing pregnancy as well as STIs, pregnancy and birth, how to care for a baby/child, rights and responsibilities,” she said.
Aimee thinks that Personal Health and Social Education (PHSE) should include teaching about money management, household maintenance and healthy eating.
To read Aimee’s story, click here.
February 27, 2009
Victims of the World War II Bethnal Green tube disaster will be remembered at a memorial service this Sunday.
The Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust is holding the special service at Bethnal Green Church. Both survivors and relatives of the victims are expected to attend the public event.
The disaster, which has been billed by the BBC as the single “deadliest civilian incident of the Second World War”, happened on 3 March 1943. People seeking shelter from the Blitz panicked after hearing what was suspected to be a German air raid.
Residents attempted to flee to the tube station but the small stairwell could not accommodate the mass of people, resulting in a terrible crush.
Some 173 people were killed, 62 of them children and many others injured.
No bombs were actually dropped on the station. The air raid sirens sounded but it was the testing of an aircraft gun in the nearby Victoria Park which frightened people and led to the mass panic.
The trust, which was started by survivor Alf Morris, has proposed building a new memorial to everyone involved in the disaster. Currently, there is a plaque outside the tube station to commemorate the lives lost.
Permission to build a memorial has been granted by the Tower Hamlets council but the charity is still seeking funding for the project.
Story by Sam Gournay
February 25, 2009
To a bunch of journalism students, Ariel Leve embodies success. She writes for iconic titles like The Sunday Times, The Guardian and Vogue and has interviewed big names and big egos from Arthur Miller to Simon Cowell and Joan Rivers. Her book The Cassandra Chronicles, a collection of the humorous weekly columns she writes for The Sunday Times, is due for release later this year in Britain, Canada and the US.
Yet when Leve spoke to students at the University of Westminster, if she mentioned the r-word once – rejection not recession – she mentioned it 20 times. Amongst the debris on the road to where she is now is a novel, years in the making and “massively rejected” by a whole raft of publishers. This dismissal left Leve “devastated”.
So why, after such sombre news about life as a writer, did a fellow student turn to me the moment Leve finished speaking and say: “Isn’t she fantastic? She really makes you feel like writing.”
Despite the warnings about rejection and the frustration of seeing that crucial sentence cut by an editor, Leve obviously loves being a journalist. For her this is not just a job but a vocation which allows her to express the most basic elements of her personality. “I’ve always written,” she said. “I’ve always been an observer, interested in asking questions. Why? That’s the most important question.”
It is this curiosity, along with the tenacity to stick at a story, which has produced some of Leve’s most remarkable writing - like the story of Andrew Smith. Smith was one of the many people who died alone in Britain, apparently without friends or family. His body lay undiscovered in his flat ‘at the end of the row’ for two months.
From the very first sentence Leve pulls the reader into Smith’s life, showing how an engaging boy who “looked on the bright side” became a withdrawn man with no apparent connections to another human being. It is a compelling story which took Leve six months and a lot of detective work to complete.
This desire to tell stories which might otherwise remain unknown was what propelled Leve into the world of British journalism. A friend mentioned that, as a New Yorker blessed with a sense of irony, Leve might do rather well on the other side of the Atlantic. It was not long after 9/11 that Leve became aware of the difficulties faced by New York’s Muslim community. So she got on a bus and went to places she would never normally go, speaking to people she had never met before.
“I was ready for this story,” she said. “I do really believe that when you are ready to do the work there will be someone there to accept it. I wanted to tell this story about New York’s Muslims and The Sunday Times had a hole for it.”
Talking to people, preferably in the flesh, in real time, not via phone or email, is essential to Leve. She sees these encounters as one of the privileges of journalism, the chance to enter into “different worlds”.
Leve also gave a fascinating insight into the way she writes, drawing on an analogy made by the author E.L. Doctorow. “I actually can’t plan an article too much. Writing is like a night journey where you can’t see the end of the road, only as far as the next street light. And you develop a hunch for when you’ve reached the end of a story.”
Perhaps it is this ability to live - even thrive - with the unknown that helped Leve to keep going through her toughest years as a freelance, those times when she was always “a writer who was waitressing”, not “a waitress who did a bit of writing”. That, and a steely core of self-belief which told her she had talent and one day would know exactly how to express it.
According to Leve writers need to feel they are, or at least can be, good because “writing isn’t like athletics, you don’t know you’ve won”. However, this statement is not really true of Leve, who was nominated Feature Writer of the Year in 2008 by the British Magazine Design & Journalism Awards. But when she sets out on her next story she won’t be motivated by the thought of awards. Instead, driving her on will be the return of that old ‘why’ question.
Story by Brigitte Istim
Sunday Times writer on campus
February 25, 2009
By Ijeoma Igbokwe
An East London GP is warning people not to panic following revelations that thousands received tainted blood in the 70s and 80s.
The independent and privately funded Archer inquiry estimates that more than 4600 haemophiliacs became infected with Hepatitis C and that at least 1200 contracted HIV.
The GP, wish to stay anonymous, said: “Since Monday I have had numerous patients enquire at the surgery about contracting a disease from contaminated blood, but I can assure everybody and can’t stress enough that the chances of receiving infected blood today are very very slim.”
She advised the public to see the report for what it is - a revelation on mistakes that were made in the past.
“Everybody who wants to give blood, or who wants to join the blood donor registrar has to have a full blood screening done, she said.
“Moreover certain ‘high risk’ groups are exempt from donating.”
The two-year inquiry also says that around 1800 people have died as a direct result of receiving contaminated blood.
Haemophiliacs suffer from a rare bleeding disorder in which their blood is unable to clot. The only way to treat this condition is by receiving regular blood transfusions.
The report also draws on the government for failing to react to what Lord Archer of Sandwell describes as a “horrific human tragedy”.
Victoria Iwenofu, 53 from South East London, said: “My child was supposed to receive a blood transfusion in ’85 and I didn’t know what to do, because stories about HIV were everywhere and no one really understood the disease in those days.
“So I decided against it and I believe that was the right thing to do.”
Due to a blood shortage in England most of the blood that was used during the transfusion in the 1970s and 80s was bought from American prison inmates, who were classed as a high risk group.
The government has introduced special blood heat-treatments during the late 1980s to ensure all viruses are exterminated before being used as transfusion.
Mark Hughes, 27 from West London, said: “I know some of my friends have been concerned by the findings despite the fact they have never received a blood transfusion, but I think that science is so advanced at this day and age that we have nothing to fear.”
February 25, 2009
Slumdog Video Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
By Sarah Nicholas
After winning eight oscars ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ has cemented its place as one of the best British indie films this year.
The story of love and poverty set mostly in the slums of Mumbai, follows Jamal, a boy raised in the slums and his success at the Indian version of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’.
But despite the success of the film many have argued that it does not depict a true sense of what life in India is really like. In other words, life that the Western world is not aware of.
Many have questioned whether it is a real representation of Mumbai. University of Westminster student Sunil Kumar who comes from Mumbai, says: “I believe it would be a factual representation of the truth in Mumbai if it wasn’t slightly overdone for a Western audience.”
“All of the things shown in the movie actually happen in Mumbai and India but are somewhat exaggerated, kind of selling an exotic India to Western audiences.
“I also think it is a partially accurate representation of Mumbai since everything is not all hunky dory. There is grinding poverty and squalor apart from plush apartments, a more balanced view would have been good. I do think it will bring India more into the Western conscience for some time.”
Bollywood films do not always show the poverty stricken world beneath the glamorous version of India.
Filming children running through piles of rubbish and human waste, washing in dirty water and scrounging for food showed a side of life that many tourists or Bollywood film enthuiast rarely see.
Director Danny Boyle did justice to the film by shooting in the slums as well as casting its actors directly from them.
The child stars of the film Rubina Ali and Azhraruddin Mohammed Ismail found a place in audience’s hearts for their innocent portrayal of what their lives are really like.
So much so that there was a public outcry as pictures emerged of the children still living in squalor even though the film grossed £70 million.
This applied pressure on the film bosses to make sure that the stars of the film would be cared for. Leading to them pledging to buy the families apartments close to their communities.
As well as setting up trust funds to secure their future, getting them back into school and even paying a ricksaw to take them to school.
Even though the film company has made much effort to secure the futures of its young stars, there are still rumors that the children have been exploited by not being paid enough.
It has even been suggested that for some their lives are worse off since the film.
The family of Azhraruddin are now homeless because their illegally built home, made out of tarpaulins and blankets, has been demolished by the local council.
Despite the negative press, the one thing the film has been able to do is to bring India into the western consciousness.
Seeing India with all its good and bad points means that maybe things are ready for change and improvement.
February 25, 2009
Screening women for cervical cancer before the age of 25 can cause more harm than good according to a leading cancer charity.
Cancer Research UK says that unnecessary screening could lead to “possible resulting side effects”, writes Sade Laja.
In England all women aged between 25 and 65 are invited for a smear test, but protocol differs in other parts of the UK as women in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are screened from 20.
Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer information, Dr Lesley Walker says: “While it is vital to consider any new scientific study that might offer information to the contrary, the evidence available suggests that, looking at the population as a whole, the negative effects of screening all women under 25 in England outweigh the benefits.”
Dr Walker admits that running a national screening programme is a complex task and that there are “always hard decisions to make,” but believes England has got it right.
The discrepancy has led to some health charities in the UK campaigning for the age limit to be lowered. The recent high-profile case of Jade Goody, who is terminally ill from cervical cancer, has brought about fierce debate.
Cancer research UK still encourages women to visit their doctor if they have cause for concern or if they are experiencing abnormalities.
Charlotte Kahn, 23, from North-West London asked for a smear test at a clinic last September but was told by a nurse “you won’t be able to get one until you’re 25.”
“A friend of mine who is under 25 told me after I had been refused that she had a smear test at her GP’s. I was quite surprised by that, it sends out a confusing message,” says Kahn.
She believes smear tests should be readily available to women under 25 if they want them.
Until 2003, women were invited for a smear test at 20 but the age was raised to 25 after research suggested negative effects.
Research shows that women are less likely to develop cervical cancer before the age of 25. Any detectable changes in cells below this age are usually normal, and clear up by themselves.
It is estimated that the NHS cervical screening programme saves up to 6,000 lives a year. The rate of women diagnosed with the disease has halved from 16 per 100,000 in 1988 when the NHS first introduced screening to 8 per 100,000.
Story by Sade Laja
February 25, 2009
Residents of Tower Hamlets are concerned they will face further financial hardship in 2009 as the UK faces an increase in council tax
The Local Government Association (LGA) reported that council tax would be rising by 3% this year, though this was below the expected 3.5% increase.
Simon Lorgeaux, 26, a waiter who lives in Spitalfields, is worried that the lower increase is indicative of a less prosperous Britain in 2009.
“I think this is a sign of just how much poorer everyone is becoming,” he said. “We don’t have as much money as before and the councils won’t be getting as much money in the near future.
“I’m not certain how much this will affect me directly but it seems I may be a few pounds poorer than usual because of this increase - which concerns me.”
As previously announced by the LGA, the lesser increase will cause council income to fall by £2.5 billion, meaning smaller budgets for local areas.
Paul Osbourne from Whitechapel only graduated from university last year and now has to pay council tax at what he feels isn’t the best time to start.
“I think especially for me, this isn’t great news, as I’ve only just started paying.
“In this current climate, jobs are less common, and it’s simply a more difficult time to live in. I’m worried about the tax rising, but at least it’s rising less than it could have.”
But the 22 year old admits that he is unclear about what this increase means for the UK as a whole.
“To be honest, some of these figures are beyond me, and I’m not quite sure what this all means in the long run. The future seems uncertain.”
The increase will see the average UK household bill rise by £34 a month.
The LGA states that the aim of the lower-than-expected tax increase is to ease the blow of the recession.
Story by Sam Gournay