I’m a student and no, the NUS does not speak for me:

The NUS has had a variety of conferences lately, including the NUS Women’s conference this week and the NUG LGBT conference the week before. It is quite clear that the NUS stands not for the rights of students or for the support of academics and intellectuals, it aims to stifle debate, prevent learning and silence dissent. The NUS could be and should be a wonderful institution, one that stands by all students, Male, Female or Transsexual, and treat each as valuable human beings (as each are). Instead we see this backwards attempt at being as inclusive as possible, which ends up making it exclusive of all but those who are willing to promote the appropriate narrative.

Women are regularly told to be seen but not heard, attractive and quiet and not to take up space, this is a part of the socialisation into the subjugated position as a Woman in society, NUS Women’s conference decided to ban the attendee’s from clapping, under the banner of preventing triggering anxious speakers. This is clearly some kind of attempt to be inclusive and you cannot deny that the NUS had good intentions in doing this, but in reality it does nothing but continue to tell Women to be quiet, this is not something I can stand for, along with overall making a mockery of the whole conference. These conferences have continued on this line by continuing to suggest that dissenting voices, or any voices which go against the prescribed narrative, must be silenced, this is evidenced by the renewal of the motion to no platform Julie Bindle, all because of some comments she made in the past, and has even since apologised for! This is a clear attempt to slowly strangle women until they relent and refuse to speak up, every time the NUS or associated Student Union’s on campuses across the country no platform women’s voices, they are perpetrating the idea that women should not speak up against things they disagree with, instead silently go along with what everyone else wants, because women are caring and quiet individuals who are more than happy to bend their own morals to make others happy.

There are various aspects of these motions that I can pick up, the silencing of Kate Smurthwaite for refusing to believe prostitution and sex work should be legalised is one of many examples where dissenting women’s voices are being refused a platform. There are clearly cases where no platforms are important, places where inciting violence or inciting racial hatred are clear results of a talk being given, but if these same rules are being used to consistently silence non-threatening people who simply hold opposing views it becomes clear that we have to stand up to and question the validity of the no-platform process as a whole, as is the case with sweeping anti-terrorism laws where laws are brought in with good intentions and end up being used to chip away at the livelihoods and rights of non-threatening people. This is what I see happening every week within the NUS, there is an accepted narrative and those who disagree with constantly have to watch their mouths and be careful to not step too far out of the lines drawn up by a small but vocal minority for fear of pile-on’s and call outs. I dared to suggest on twitter that “NUS LGBT 15” does not speak for me, and that the support of decriminalisation of prostitution puts women at risk, within minutes I had various very vocal members of the “social justice” community calling me out, telling me I should have been there if I want to have an opinion, and that if I’d have been there I’d know why no-platforming Bindle is vital the safety of the LGBT community (etc etc). It’s relentless and even though what I experienced was very minor, it bothered me so much I felt I had to shut up and lock down my twitter. This is a cult like attitude used to silence others, mob-like actions just culminate in a culture of fear, and I worry, as a student, that it is not long before the NUS will act not as a movement for all students and more a political tool to manipulate people into espousing and promoting a specific narrative, one that is nothing short of misogynist.

We need to talk about mental health:

Mental health is serious business and it’s very real, depression and anxiety seem to be becoming more and more common in this modern world and children are experiencing these symptoms at a rapidly decreasing age. I have and do, as many of you will know, suffer from batches of depression, these can strike without warning often leaving me bed bound and unable to concentrate long enough to do anything productive, I’ve been dealing with these feelings seriously ever since I was a young teenager. We’re dealing with a world where one in ten young people experience mental health problems [1] yet children’s mental health funding is being cut by £50 million [2], mental health problems such as depression can seriously hamper a young persons education effecting their lack of ability to concentrate in class and issues with social interactions [3], by not publicly aligning ourselves against these cuts we are showing these people that their education is not important, that their future is not important, that they are not important. There has been a 68% increase in the number of young people being admitted to hospital for self harm in the last 10 years and the number of young people between the ages 15 and 16 with depression has nearly doubled since the 1980’s [4]. These are not small numbers and it is not a minute minority, this is a sizeable number of children and youths. 9.6% of children and young people have a mental disorder, 1.4% of 11 to 16 year olds are “Seriously depressed” [4], that is a monstrous number of people we are failing.

Mental health issues left untreated cause future problems into adulthood and mental health in adults is an equally important issue. We live in a world where 40% of women with severe mental illnesses are victims of rape or attempted rape [5], this is not something that should be allowed to happen and shows the gravity of the problem we are facing, 40% of the most vulnerable women in society have been gravely failed by the world around them, I implore you to let that sink in. Mental health causes issues within employment, with seven percent of all people with a common mental health disorder being unemployed seeking work and having been so for over a year [6] it becomes clear that by not properly helping people deal with these issues and by continue to propagate a society where discussions in mental health are caked in stigma we harm not only those suffering, but also the economy of the country as a whole.

By slashing funding we’re further endangering vulnerable people, the number of suicides committed in 2013 rose by 4% on the previous year with the rates of suicide amongst men being the highest since 2001 [7]. By continuing to slash spending in the name of austerity we show the world we do not care about the vulnerable populations of our society, a stark contrast from the Britain we know and love which looks after those who need looking after. It’s not a case of balancing books, the question we see being answered for us by those in Westminster is “people, or profits?”. Loud and clear we see that the answer is profits, profits over people, as we continue down the apocalyptic path of privatisation it is a situation that will become only more real as our health and livelihoods are sold to the highest bidder.

[1] http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/youngpeople

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-30735370

[3] http://www2.massgeneral.org/schoolpsychiatry/info_depression.asp

[4] http://www.youngminds.org.uk/training_services/policy/mental_health_statistics

[5] http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0914/040914-Mental-health-sexual-assault

[6] https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/212266/hwwb-mental-health-and-work.pdf

[7] http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2015/feb/19/rise-in-middle-aged-men-committing-suicide-all-the-uk-data

Turn Up And See: The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Turn up and see is a new project where at least once a fortnight I turn up at a cinema and ask for “a ticket to the next film being shown”, and then write up my experience of the movie and also the general experience of the cinema itself as a whole.

It was a bright yet crisp March day as I wandered down to the Reel Cinema in Plymouth, from the outside you can tell this cinema is somewhat stuck in a time warp, this is not helped by the fog of cigarette smoke you have to go through as you walk outside the bingo hall next door. Once inside the cinema is much like any other dated cinema which has not had much in the way of renovation since the sixties, dilapidated and musty. Queuing for the desk to buy a ticket I noticed the line of old people before me, and solely judging on the clientele I came to the conclusion I was in for a treat, and my golly wasn’t I right, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was “The next film being shown”. Following a kerfuffle with £5 minimum spend rules, I began the climb up the steps towards to screen, being old and lacking in accessibility features, the climb was incredibly slow and painful, as I was behind a small herd of old people. It’s worth noting here that the toilets at this cinema are fantastic, they have pink porcelain sinks and have clearly had no work done to them in years, it is like something from an Inspector George Gently movie!

We were in screen 1, it was a large room, not dissimilar to the auditorium of an old theatre, I decided to climb up to the rear section of the seats so as to have space to myself, and picked out one of the incredibly dated and marginally uncomfortable seats. Sitting high up I took in my surroundings, a sea of blue rinse sat before me like a congregation and with incredible irony the pre-show music that began playing was “Gangsters Paradise”, it was at this point I realised I was the youngest person in the room, by about 40 years. We then sat through a small selection of trailers before settling down for the movie, an air of anticipation washed over the waiting crowd, and as the curtain came up the room went silent.

In two words I would sum the film up as “heart-warming”, it was a relatively feel good film overall, but there was an undercurrent of older people who’re very aware of their mortality and at times it was a bit sad. I had not seen “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (the film before this one) so I really had no clue as to what was going on half the time, I also had no clue to the fact that, I’ve since found out, they are a group of old Brits who moved to India to live out their old lives in a place more affordable than England, and that they all have burgeoning sex lives that are mildly intertwined. I feel having not-seen the first film makes it hard to get into the story as the first half an hour is as much a catch-up with the characters as it is setting up for the story in this film, and that would explain why I was so fidgety at first (either that or the mildly uncomfortable very old seats that were falling apart). The cast was full of friendly faces including Dev Patel, Bill Nighy, Judy Dench and Maggie Smith there was also the amusing involvement of Tamsin Greig, most loved by me for her role in Black Books, and as such seeing her sober and without a cigarette hanging out of her mouth took a little while to get over! The cast worked well together, and it was nice to see the connections and friendships they clearly had off-set work together within the film too.

The film had a very loose plot revolving around two different events, firstly a hotel inspector visiting to decide if a large American firm would invest in the “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” to enable expansion, and the preparations for Sonny and Sunaina’s upcoming wedding and the frictions between running a business and being a good partner. This worked alongside the various sub-plots between each of the characters, for a film with so many different yet intertwined very loose-plots it was remarkably easy to keep track of what was going on with each person at each time which is a credit to the production company. There are also various windings throughout the film that lead to the progression of the movie, the expected ups and downs of businesses and relationships,making up most of them. My main criticism is just the lack of real direction, the film is bright and colourful with a brilliant cast, but the actual overall plot is very loose and the focus is more on being happy and overwhelmingly cute than on actually ensuring there is a focused and well created plot. The Bollywood wedding sequence at the end pushed me over the edge, it was 30 minutes of: happy events, bright colours and dancing, for me it was a little too much.

On the whole to movie is very watch-able, and if you would like to go and see old people frolic and dance and a frantic hotel owner run around freaking out about hotel inspectors and the arrival of an old once-friend whom he has some unexplained history with, then I recommend it! It’s a very colourful film with various things going for it, predominantly including the cast and smiles, just do not go in expected to be amazed. Overall I would categorise it as a nice film rather than a good film.


Cinema 4/10 (gains points for awesome retro-ness, loses points for being a bit grim and under looked-after, also £5 minimum spend? Serious?)

Film 5/10