Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Feel the fear... and do it anyway

This morning shit got real. I woke up and realised I needed to stop denying the inevitable year ahead. It's exactly one month until the start of my year abroad, so I finally booked my flight to Holland, my new home for the next year. I can't pretend that I’m not incredibly nervous because that would be a lie; I'm moving to a new country, to spend a year at a music college with no other people I know... It's going to be intense.

I have never been particularly good with change, in fact, I tend to freak out a bit when things go a little differently. And despite having experienced a fair few changes, the biggest one to date being moving to Dorset in 2012, (which if we're judging from evidence, turned out pretty darn well) it's still something that tends to leave me feeling a little unsettled. That said, over the last few months I have moved out of my home in Dorset and Leeds, lived in Manchester for 7 weeks and now I am in my family's new home in Bristol with a month to go before my next chapter in The Netherlands. I felt a little uprooted, but in reality my roots will always be there, they're just spreading a little, and isn't that part of what life's about? (EPIPHANY)

What I'm starting to realise is that there isn't a right or wrong way to do things. Yes, there is a legal system we have to take into account, but when it comes to our jobs, education, emotions... the spectrum is almost infinite. We take life at our own pace, in our own way and we have to be patient with ourselves if sometimes we feel we are responding to a situation differently from others. It's neither bad nor good, it's just as it is, but it can be so hard to maintain that perspective of objectivity because we are almost conditioned to judge ourselves nowadays. This will definitely be a thought that I try and bring with me into the next year, especially when it comes to studying music as it can often feel so brutally personal.

There was a period just before Christmas when I so nearly pulled out of applying for my year abroad, but boy am I glad I didn’t. The prospect of that year became a reality and it scared the bejesus out of me. It would have been an all too easy option to finish my degree in the usual three years, opting out of the year abroad that had originally persuaded me to study at Leeds.

Just over a year ago, I wrote the post Art Changes, We Change, a post I am really proud of. Reading over it again, it reminded me that it's OK to do things a bit differently; embrace the individuality! Mum once said to me 'feel the fear and do it anyway', the perfect mantra if you're ever doubting your own ability, because now I find myself probably just as scared as I was before Christmas, but with a little more excitement thrown in. I'll be living in a beautiful city, in a culturally-thriving country with the rest of Europe on my doorstep. I'd be a fool not to make the most of that while I can (and while we're still in the EU...).

Catch you in The Netherlands friends.


Zwolle - my new city!

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

The Courage of Love

An ominous grey cloud landed on the UK today, leaving in its wake despair and devastation. The heart-breaking news of what happened in Manchester yesterday evening came as such shock to us all, wishing that it might not be true. It actually took me a couple of hours to really register and reflect on what had happened. So, naturally I turned to the only way I really know how to process and express my feelings.

To feel afraid in your home city or country is an unsettling thought. The place we might have grown up or called home, now held hostage by an attack that took the lives of the most vulnerable and innocent in our society. An attack by people who cannot comprehend, nor understand the infinite boundaries of the human soul and spirit, which in the most desperate of times the Mancunian people demonstrated that they have that spirit in abundance. They opened their homes and offered their help on the night of one of the worst acts of terror Manchester has seen. They showed that despite these attacks, kindness will still prevail. And it must.

Those who conduct these attacks aim to break up our society, they seek to rip us apart through sowing seeds of fear into our minds and divide us. What we all have to remember now is that they will not succeed by throwing violence and hatred at us, because we will always respond with compassion. Compassion for those who are suffering and for those who are vulnerable. We must act with love to everyone around us, understand that it is people with a warped view of the world, acting in a selfless way that is not true to the values they claim to be guiding them.

It is almost a year since the day Labour MP and humanitarian activist Jo Cox was murdered and I feel it is quite fitting to be reminded of part of her maiden speech in parliament.

                ‘We are far more united and have more in common than things that divide us’

I really think this is so important to remember as we move forward from this day. It takes courage to overcome our fears, to trust in people and to show solidarity, but it was shown last night and I hope it will continue to be shown in the future. When we act with love and courage, we can stand up to the adversity that we see before us and this, now more than ever, is how we must respond to last nights attack.
the words of Rupi Kaur. My thoughts go out to all those affected by the attacks last night, may they find peace and hope.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Being a Boomerang

So after saying in my last post that I hoped my blogging might blossom a bit more in 2017, it’s taken me until 1st April to actually get my act together and write something. This has been borne out of having an incredibly busy term and realising that I’m not as independent as I might have thought and that it’s also not bad to come to that realisation!

I, like so many other Music students, struggle to say no to things and this term I think I reached my breaking point. I have always thought I could just manage anything, but it turns out I actually can’t… I feel like there’s this expectation at university to appear as though you are having the best time of your life and when you aren’t there must be something wrong with you. Errrr hello? Everyone’s different and will experience university life very differently. For me, I have experienced some of the most stressful times and I know I am not alone in feeling like university isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be. And that’s not to say it’s not great, because it is great. I’ve met great people and experienced great things. However, sometimes the nights out, the workload and business of uni life doesn’t leave you feeling as fulfilled and happy as you might have thought. (This could segue into how I feel student support should be easier to access, but I might leave that for another day.)

What I’m trying to get at, is that it’s ok to admit that you’re not ok and that returning home makes me feel better because you get that TLC and safety of home comforts. Throughout first year, I was determined to feel as though I didn’t need to go home and I didn’t need my parents because I was moving out and then I would be an adult and my parents couldn’t tell me what to do anymore, right??? However, even though now I’m 21, I still like nothing more than a hug from Mum and Dad and a coffee with my school friends. It’s perfectly 100% acceptable to admit that you need a break and to reset. I am terrible at self-love - acknowledging where my strengths lie, giving myself time and space just for me - but I feel like I’ve reached a point where I’d like to feel more positive, so I think I need to take a bit more time to practice self-love. If I don’t feel like going out that’s fine! If I’m not getting the grades I want, there are ways to change that and I don’t need to beat myself up about it because actually, it’s not the end of the world. I think I continually forget that university is not just about academia, but also self-discovery. By which I mean, working out who are the best people to live with, understanding budgeting…. (thank goodness for my overdraft) and becoming the fully fledged adult my parents hoped that I could become.

There is a piece of writing by Khalil Gibran about children and their relationship with parents and life. It makes the analogy of a bow and arrow as the parent and child; that the bow must line up the arrow to the best of its ability in order to release it into the world and allow it to flourish on its own. As we start to leave home, we realise we are the arrow in full flight, not really sure where we will land and that can be really scary! I do understand and love this analogy, but right now I feel more like a boomerang and coming home reminds me that although I want to be out in the world discovering things, it’s definitely healthy to return home for rest and recuperation before venturing out again. I have numerous worries and doubts about what I am going to do with my life, whether I am doing the right degree and why I don’t feel like I’m having the best time ever but, I believe it’s better to ask all these questions than to do what I feel is expected of me. There are 80+ years that don’t involve university, so if there’s 1 week, 1 term or 1 year that isn’t enjoyable, I will accept that, try and make the necessary changes and hope that the good times will roll in. 


Dad has always been my fashion icon x

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Things I'm thankful for in 2016

‘Three blog posts in 6 months?!’ I hear you cry. Yes, it’s true and I hope these posts might blossom a little more in 2017 too. I’ve never really done one of the more ‘all about me’ posts, so far they’ve either been about art or politics, which can be a little heavy. However, I feel that this is an important one to write about. So, here you have it, a few things I'm grateful for this year.

My Leeds Family

I’m not ashamed to say that I probably didn’t have the best first year ever. I met some incredible people and had some of the best times, but it was all very new and different. However, my housemates in second year have allowed me to lean on them when I thought I didn’t need them, they’ve opened my eyes to the important things in life and helped me to live in the moment. Noizy May forever. To RPA, I love you all, Planet Earth 2 would not have been the same without you. And lastly Mhairi and Liv. You’re amazing. That is all.


An odd one… but because it has been monumentally shit and hopefully, it can now only get better. (Please, please, please!) Thanks to Brexit and Trump for I have been reminded how important it is to try and do good for the world. No matter how big or small it is, if you stand up for your values, you are true to yourself. And there is nothing worse than not being true to yourself.

Its obvious and it’s cliché but, they're pretty great.

I hate to admit it but…. NYCGB

And not just for the singing! I’ve loved being challenged by this choir, but the thing I love more are
the people who I met while doing it. In particular, Anya, Maisie, Rachel, Georgia, Pippa and Zoe are without doubt some of the most supportive, talented and modest people I know. We see each other far too little, but they are my go-to’s with all things feminism, a reliable source for some of the most hilarious stories and the reason I do NYC. 2017 will be my last year with the choir, and as much as I moan, I really have had a great time and met some even better people.


Moving to Dorset in 2012 changed my life in so many weird and wonderful ways. First of all, I met some of the most amazing friends I could ever have imagined. They have supported me through thick and thin and I could not be more grateful to them for everything they have taught me, whether they realise it or not. (Now they might…) I would never be studying Music had it not been for Dorset, and although my job prospects might not be as high as when I wanted to do Law, I have fallen in love with the arts and challenged myself in ways I didn’t think I could.

I’m sensing a theme but, 2017 will also see an end to my family living in Dorset, but I could not be more happy that we moved there in the first place.


Time to get soppy!!!!! Before 2015 I hadn’t seen Ella for 9 years, and we re-met at a time when I really needed an Ella-type in my life. This year she came over to England for the first time since she moved to Australia, and we spent most of the summer together gallivanting round the South West and London and finishing up, as you do, on a boat in Greece. We were reunited last week after 3 months and to my JOY, she ended up staying with us for Christmas. She has seen me on my grumpiest days and still made me laugh, provided endless fun and met my entire extended family and turns out, she is just as mad as they all are. I am SO glad to have you in my life, Tina, you fat lard. Can’t wait for the next adventures.

So that’s that!! Thanks everyone who made 2016 so memorable. Happy New Year, hope it’s a good‘un. Here’s to 2017!


Sunday, 13 November 2016


It's been a turbulent week, let alone year, for global politics and it's taken me a while to gather my thoughts after the presidential election result on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. I don't think I felt the shock that many people had felt, as after the Brexit vote won in June, it seemed anything was possible. So on Tuesday evening, to me it didn't seem inconceivable that Trump might win. However, I think for this reason, I didn't fully digest the impact of what many people in America voted for.

I sat on the train on Sunday afternoon on the way to York, and stumbled upon this picture on twitter.
It hit me then that, yes, Donald Trump, this cartoon caricature-esque man will be president of one of the most powerful nations in the world. This picture really sums up politics in 2016 and for me, what is the culmination of an anti-establishment movement and hopefully it won't go much further... I felt angry, but also desperately sad that the president-elect, whose campaign was essentially centred around negativity, would be succeeding our beloved Obama. He and his family represented equality and determination; it's an extraordinarily complex and confusing reality to accept, not least because he didn't even win the popular vote. 

The vote for Trump was a vote to regress and it makes me worry for what lies ahead, but we who believe in liberty, equality and justice must now stand together and defend our basic human rights.* In the past century, mankind have done so much to raise the standard of equality. By no means is it perfect, but let's not forget that not even 100 years ago, did women have the right to vote. 
  • 1920 - Women in the USA obtain the right to vote
  • 1964 - Civil Rights Act
  • 1967 - Sexual Offences Act - decriminalised homosexual acts in private 
  • 1990 - Americans Disabilities Act - prohibits unjustified discrimination based on disability
These are just some of the notable advances made in the past century, and more notably that same-sex marriage in the UK and USA was only made legal in this decade. Trump has openly made comments that contradict the purpose of these acts. But, we are not about to forget all the progress that has been made and this is why we must show solidarity with anyone at risk in America. 

The pledges that Trump has made are worrying, repealing Obamacare, because why make healthcare affordable for more people anyway??? Equality - Trump has no respect for women. 'Locker room talk' is not excusable, As a president, you set the precedent for the people of your country and this does not bode well. Allegations of sexual harassment and rape are unquestionably serious. He is also viewing the world with this archaic belief that homosexuals do not have the same rights as heterosexuals.

We may be far from the USA geographically but, they are our neighbours across the pond. We now have to show strength as humans. We are so much stronger together, than we are divided and it is so important that we don't allow prejudice to overcome compassion and freedom.

After what became a rather enraged Sunday, luckily, it finished off with some light relief whilst watching Planet Earth 2. So, I will leave you with one of my favourite moments from tonight's episode, to welcome in the new week. 


* - Articles 13-15

Tuesday, 12 July 2016


These are the words that I found staring at me as I walked across Millennium Bridge towards Tate Modern, en route to The Globe theatre having spontaneously decided to see Caroline Byrne and Emma Rice’s production of The Taming of the Shrew.  As a strong believer in the accessibility of art forms, no matter what your background, these words seemed to resonate with me and this theme continued throughout the afternoon.

Shakespeare’s original script for The Taming of the Shrew, can be seen as dated when it comes to addressing patriarchal conformity. This interpretation of the renowned Shakespeare comedy, distances itself from hierarchical gender roles.  Set in Ireland, Easter 1916, it is a firmly feminist, poignant and refreshing production.  A prime example of how art (and attitudes) change as the world changes.
After the performance there was a Q & A with the actors in which, to my surprise an elderly gentleman queried ‘Was it your intention to drown out the original Shakespeare text with all that physical theatre?’ After a collective gasp from the audience at The Globe and some Cameron-inspired question avoidance, the query got me thinking. On one hand, the man was right. There was a lot of physicality involved in the staging – ‘vulgar’ gestures, the well-known lame cool guy handshake, (Joey and Chandler inspired, I’m sure…) physical comedy, breaking of character, I could go on… But not for one minute did it drown out the Shakespearian text, nor the extremely relevant and important message proclaimed by the directors about how far women’s rights have (or haven’t) come in the past 100 years.  It was accessible for young and old, for the Shakespearian connoisseur or the fresh-faced newbie and that was its beauty.  Honestly, I could talk about this wonderful play for hours on end, but the real reason for my writing this is change.

Art changes, we change. And we do change. I know I certainly have, for one thing I used to find Shakespeare utterly tiresome and yet, on that warm, sunny Saturday afternoon on the Southbank I found myself moved to tears in the final scene. (Thank you Mum for dragging me to so much Shakespeare as a child!) To the surprise of many of my friends, 12-year-old me, when asked if I wanted to go to the opera, replied; ‘Why would I even?!’ and yet here I am, eight years later, studying music at university as a classical soprano. On a more current basis, we in the European Union and the United Kingdom are experiencing many changes as we prepare for a new Prime Minister and a potential life outside of the EU. Ironically, many of the Vote Leave supporters, just like the disdainful theatre man, didn’t like change. They didn’t like that England isn’t ‘English’ anymore, just like he didn’t like that the play wasn’t quite true to the script.

Change and diversity are not something to be feared, it is something that we should embrace, be it socially, culturally or artistically. Unfortunately, we cannot change what has happened, (if you were one of the many 18-25 year olds who did not vote, boo, shame on you) but we can keep an open mind. Art changes, society changes, politics changes, the world changes and we change too. To get stuck in your own outlook is a curse – we should allow the beauty of culture to envelop us because it champions diversity and unity. As T.S Eliot stated, ‘Culture may even be described simply as that which makes life worth living’.

I doubt I will see another production that moved me so much for a while and I want to thank that old man for epitomising so seamlessly my dislike towards the superiority complex surrounding art and politics. The importance that lies in straying from the script is not necessarily an aspiration to improve, but one to develop and understand; something that society should appreciate.


Friday, 30 May 2014

Could Islamophobia be the 21st Century anti-Semitism?

Discrimination against ethnic minorities in a time of economic austerity. Sound familiar? It is an alarmingly similar situation to that which accompanied the rise of Hitler during the 1930s.

As I was walking home from a choir rehearsal this evening, I overheard a conversation between two men. “We’ve got enough of them already” said one, to which the other replied: “Yeah, fuck the foreigners.”

Currently, in the UK and in Europe, we are experiencing a rise of far-right political parties. After the recent results of the European Elections, seeing the successes of parties such as UKIP, Front Nationale in France and NPD in Germany, many people have been shocked into a sense of disarray at the situation that is facing European politics. Sadly, these parties have one extreme view in common, Islamophobia.

Nigel Farage stated he was “getting a bit tired” of his kids coming home from school “being taught about every other religion in the world” and that he would teach people the Judeo-Christian culture and “the good that it has done”. To me, this seems ignorant. I have been lucky enough to attend a school which has allowed me become a more rounded person and pursue my interests. To be confined to learning about our so-called Judeo-Christian culture would feel like an indoctrination, ringing alarm bells after having learnt about the indoctrination of youth through education in dictatorships such as Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia.

Farage also stated that if a country is not prepared to “stand up for your cultures and your values, then those cultures and values will be threatened”. Given the fact that Farage supports a banning of the Burka, it seems contradictory to infringe the cultures and values of a minority religion in England. Now, some might say that they should not have come here in the first place, but the fact is people have fled a war-torn country seeking asylum in to a democratic and just society, to now find ourselves in a state where UKIP representatives are saying that Islam “has no place in the UK [and] needs banning” is bigoted and disrespectful. To put it plainly, I am ashamed to live in a country where people vote for parties supporting these values.

It is not only the politicians who play a part in the growing Islamophobia of our nation. Whenever there are attacks by a Muslim person, the media are far too swift to label them as Muslim. Why do they need a religious identity in this situation? To put it in context, when there are attacks by white people, the media never make a point about their religion, possibly because religion is as not as strong in our society nowadays, so perhaps they should mention something a bit more relevant. The football club they support? Their favourite filter on Instagram? Seems silly doesn’t it… Furthermore, the British public jump far too quickly to blame an entire race and not the individual. Just as not all Christians are prudes and not all Germans were Nazis, funnily enough, not all Muslims are violent extremists who are threatening the culture of our society.

After reading an article on the killing spree of Elliot Rodger in California revealing excerpts from the 140 page manifesto of his ‘Day of Retribution’ in which he states he wanted to put women who are “vicious, evil and barbaric animals” into concentration camps and wipe them out for all the pain and suffering they have caused him. Rodger clearly has a vendetta against women, but this incident was named as an act of “mental illness” and no mention of his religious beliefs. People will say that his ideas would have never been allowed to catch on as they were sadistic thoughts of only one person. Allow me to refer once again back to Adolf Hitler. An individual, with extremist views who wiped out two thirds of European Jews. Of course, I am not likening Nigel Farage or any of the right-wing party leaders to Adolf Hitler, but the situation we are facing has some similarities.

We live in a globalised world where the influence of different cultures may be overwhelming for some people and there is a sense of lost identity. It seems that people are finding this identity by reverting to a fundamentalist attitude, through the media and popular opinions, such as UKIP and Islamophobia. However, people seem so wrapped up in this attitude that they have forgotten the good that immigrants have brought to our country. Since 2000, immigrants have made a net contribution to the economy of £20 billion and recent immigrants are 45% LESS likely to seek state benefits and tax credits to those native to the UK. We can’t forget the sporting contribution too! The beauty of our society was that it was diverse, accepting and compassionate. Sadly, now I don’t feel like I can say that.

It doesn’t help that the media is full of headlines that highlight comment after comment of UKIP MPs. Of course, not all of their policies are based on Islam but nor do they become more liberal. Many of UKIP’s intentions remain ambiguous, but the rumours that they will reduce maternity pay, increasing tax for the poorest 88% Britons and removing the UK from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. Our human rights are what define our society and our liberties, showing the advances we have made since the days of slavery in the days of the East India Company. We haven’t heard nearly as much from the Green Party as their campaign has been overlooked by the dominance of UKIP, be it good or bad. There is no such thing as bad publicity and as Oscar Wilde once said “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.”

Everyone is capable of having their prejudices and it is a sad fact of life that we judge someone before we hear them out. Have you ever heard someone speak and want to hit them in the face? For many, the answer will be a resounding ‘yes’ but, the majority of us don’t act on these feelings as we know our reasoning behind our dislike is based on a superficial and personal judgment about that person. However, politicians have ignored the growing aversion towards Muslims and European immigrants until now, when there is a very pressing issue of racism in our society that is sadly reminiscent of a certain war which changed the face of the modern world.

Europe has faced some difficult times during recent years. But I beg of you, no matter what your beliefs we cannot justify or condone voting for a party that breaches civil liberties and persecutes the minorities.

Stay Cultured.