Monday, 29 May 2017

Rowetta

After crowds flooded to the streets of Manchester to sing Don't Look Back in Anger and Peers Morgan was chastising Ariana Grande into a benefit concert.

Rowetta appeared on the BBC to sing a tribute to the victims, choosing instead a song fitting to her end of the music scene You've Got the Love.

Rowetta was part of the Happy Mondays many years ago.

A band associated with heavy partying.

When she appeared to play in a cheap club gig in London in the early noughties and was slow to perform, many accused her of excess.

She insisted instead that she was ill and put in a great performance.

It was clear she was ill and sober and judging from her voice it was amazing she had put in a singing performance at all.

Hopefully Manchester appreciates her.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Mourning in Manchester

A suicide bombing attack in Manchester has killed men, women and children.

The attack focussed on a Ariana Grande concert where many teens would have been expected to be in attendance.

This senseless attack is more barbaric as the attacker intentionally takes some of the youngest with them.

Suicide when you feel you have lost faith with the world is tragic, but to take the hope of the world with you is maliciously wrong.

Bombs see no race or religion.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

The road to La Llorona

This play has come from a series of one day festivals and week long festivals that started in 2012. Both Amy Solis and Sainte Marine Hernandez wanted to do something to celebrate their shared Mexican heritage.

They had been involved with the back community and black history month, but there wasn’t much happening. With a grand of funding from the council for the writing our legacy umbrella, a community organisation promoting diverse story telling and literature, they went onto create a platform for celebrating Latin culture.

They stopped doing festivals as they didn’t just want to create parties for the Latin community, she said people say: “all Mexican people do is party”, asserting “and it’s not true.”

Having a Mexican family she grew up with the Myth of La Llorona, she says: “It was sort of our version of the boogie man, where if you stayed playing outside too late Llorona would come to get you and snatch you away in the dark.”

The myth has different meanings: “So for instance when I was growing up La Llorona was kind of a spirit that lived in the rivers, but also she was kind of could be found in like the old ladies or the people who were just a bit weird or you kind of stayed away from their houses, so there was a sense of kind of witches, magic and you know stories really.”

"I got some arts council funding to do a very small kind of R&D in 2014 I think. Where are we now 2015... And I pulled together a very small team of collaborators and I wanted to work with, including Rikki Tarascas as the director, Hannah Baker and Billy Mather as artists. And Linda White as education person who involved with Latin Voices live from the beginning an we spent four days working together all day long in the studio, creating and sharing and kind of trying to come up with ideas around this, you know the Myth that we could explore as a new production."

"La Llorona puppet made kind of a structure of her by Hannah and Billy did a whole bunch of really cool visuals, artistic visuals with strong iconography. He was the one that designed our poster and then for the second R&D we wanted to make it into an actual Theatre production."

“We really want people to think about the theme of the play, which is about migration, economic migration and kind of what happens also when people go to America looking for the American dream and trying to make a better life and sometimes people are really abused by the system, by the capitalist system and not treated well and chasing after false dreams, which is all very relevant.”

"I wasn’t conscious of wanting to tell this story, but I was conscious for a long time of wanting to share my experiences of growing up in Texas in the kind of the Mexican experience, both the Mexican and the Mexican American experience is sort of a spectrum really. I feel like I had a really unique upbringing, because my family are third or fourth generation."

Rikki, dealt with picking actors, "he’s a very, very experienced Theatre director he was looking for Mexican actors, there were none, so he found people who were Spanish people who were kind of different Latin backgrounds."

“The ambition of the of the artists who we’ve been involved with in making huge kind of gigantic puppets, really detailed costumes, just kind of incredibly you know time consuming kind of making. Everybody’s sort of thrown so much of their personal time and energy into everything with the making of this and it’s kind of gone from something that was meant to be a very short production and kind of it’s truly grown into this epic kind of thing you know on a very small budget, so I’m just really proud of the achievement that they’ve made.

"They’ve created something really big and there’s a real sense of strong community everybody feels very invested in this show and you know I know everybody does in Theatre, but this is something that when you see it you’ll understand it’s something that’s visually quite stunning."

She credits the interest by saying: "I think it’s mainly because I find that people who are interested in the culture are maybe not even from it, it really, really inspires them and also the main motivation is that I’ve in Brighton huge, huge talent… people really wanna make this vision happen."

“Yeah I think there will be more interest in kind of more Mexican experience… I’m really looking forward to taking this show on a bit of tour. People want to take this tour up north and Manchester and regionally and we’re really up for doing all that.”

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

La Lorona The Myth of the Weeping Woman Brighton

Showing in Brighton Preston Manor for the first time at 7pm tonight is La Llorona a Mexican Ghost story, an ACGB development project that began with a group of artists throwing ideas around in a room.

The production has grown way beyond what was expected with the limited budget as has the size of La Llorona herself and this is due to the time, commitment and energy of all of the artists involved in the process – some of whom were volunteers.

Salvador Dali said that he considered Mexico to be the home of surrealism and in devising and directing this piece as the design team led by Hannah Barker began to create epic mythical beasts, part of Amy Solis's job was to facilitate these ideas and to integrate them into the existing story.

What has emerged is the fusion of the surreal landscape and mythical beasts of the ancient Aztec stories and the modern story of Rosita set in the 1980’s on the boarder towns of Mexico and Texas. 

Mexican history

This myth is said to have been inspired by the Spanish invasion of Mexico. 

In 1519, Cortés' ships reached the Mexican coast at Yucatan. Cortés had set sail with 11 ships and more than 500 men. 

He burned his ships to make retreat impossible. 

Natives were quickly overpowered and surrendered. Cortés set out to rule them. During the march through Mexico, he encountered a group of natives called the Tlaxcalans, who were enemies of the Aztecs. 

They became an important ally for Cortés during his siege of Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital city. 

A myth in creation

Unbeknownst to Cortés, his arrival coincided with an important Aztec prophecy. 

The Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, whom they credited with the creation of humans, was set to return to Earth. 

Thinking that Cortés could be Quetzalcoatl, Montezuma greeted the party with great honour.

They provided the Spanish with food, supplies and 20 women, including an interpreter known as La Malinche or Doña Marina. La Llorona (The weeping woman) is sometimes identified with La Malinche the Nahua woman who served as Cortés' interpreter and who some say was betrayed by the Spanish conquistadors.

In one folk story of La Malinche, she became Hernán Cortés' mistress and bore him a child. 

Only to be abandoned so that he could marry a Spanish Woman. 

Aztec pride drove La Malinche to acts of vengeance. 

A shrouded message

Did she drown her children and herself as an act of rebellion against the Spanish invasion of her indigenous culture? 

Part of Cortez's master plan has been said to have been to create a biological alliance created of the Conquerers and the conquered. 

The great power of the meaning of these stories, to the culture in which they developed, is a major reason why they survive as long as they do. 

Such is the power of La Llorona the myth of the weeping woman.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

A three man job

Everyone's used to ticket inspectors, there have even been fights about ticket inspection cuts.

What I'm not so used to is seeing a police escort.

Two policeman, one ticket inspector.

Your address please sir

I have paid for my ticket, the guy behind me hasn't though.

Apparently it is also ok to ask for his personal details to chase down what is currently less than £2.

It is not uncommon for a ticket inspector to ask for details like this on a train, not so much on a bus.

But a police escort, I swear this is the first ever time I have seen them accompanied like this.

Policy, move along

Yet I call TfL and they assure me it's been happening for years, though they can't tell me exactly when it started.

There have been reported physical attacks on ticket inspectors, but largely I've seen them deal with it themselves, even really tricky people.

This was even after riots and terrorist attacks in the London area.

Only the guy they're taking details from hasn't even been aggressive, he's just sticking up for himself, as he claims he's paid anyway and as far as I can tell gives said details.

Wise resourcing?

Just to remind you, he is handing these details over for allegedly failing to pay less than £2.

And there are not a lack of seats on the bus either, so he isn't taking up someone else's seat on the bus.

So that is the man hours of three people, to chase down under £2.

I understand ticket inspection isn't the cushiest of jobs, but I largely see them go about their business unscathed.

I did enquire from TfL if it was a response to something, but they claim this, which I have never seen before, is common practice.

I apologize this has become so Gonzo.


Thursday, 23 March 2017

A sombre day in Trafalgar Square

I decided to join the vigil in Trafalgar Square this evening, to commemorate three deaths at the hands of a violent extremist.

Around a thousand were in attendance at the short vigil in the square.

Amber Rudd and Sadiq Khan were among those of a selection of elected representatives, police officers and those of different faiths and ethnicities at the event.

The mood was sombre and quiet as the speakers painted a picture of London as brave and united in the face of terror.

I hope this peaceful unity against horrific events represents more than just those standing in the square, but many, many hard working and quietly heroic Londoners who have in total been a reason for joy in my life.

I hope coming days bring more joy to those people than they do pain, as truly many of the kind acts and courtesies I see replayed every day deserve to be rewarded.

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Keeping students bright

Amid promises of a mental health overhaul Student Minds outlines the challenges of student mental health.

Theresa May promised a mental health overhaul. 

However, these measures largely do not cater to students, who are a high-risk group. 

The measures mainly focus on secondary school students, by improving teacher’s education in the area and increasing focus on community care among other initiatives.

Student Minds, the UK student mental health charity, has welcomed these changes with caution. 

Rachel Piper a spokesman for the organisation said: 

“We would agree mental health currently does not have parity of esteem with physical health, and we hope funding is put in place alongside the promises to rectify this.”

Future measures

When asked what government could do to further improve student welfare Student Minds pointed us to the University Challenge report, which picks out issues affecting student mental health.

The report recognises because of their age students find themselves at a transition between services and this is further complicated by the fact they are often moving to new areas of the country, Rachel said: “transitions can disrupt a student’s care at a time when they are already particularly vulnerable”. 

She continues: “moving between home and university creates a unique set of challenges for maintaining continuity of care”.

The University Challenge report also points to accessibility as an issue. 

“Waiting times often mean students’ appointments are at inaccessible times during the holidays and treatment is disrupted by vacations.”

High risk group

Students are at high risk of mental health problems, with 29% of students experiencing clinical levels of psychological distress. 

With anxiety and depression being the main problems.

Between 2007 and 2011 the number of students taking their own lives rose by 50%. It is estimated as many as one in eight students feel suicidal while at university. 

A further two in three will feel down at some point in their studies.

Why so down?

Possible reasons for this distress could be: “For many young people these are the first years they will spend away from established networks of family support.”

Adjusting to student lifestyle also brings challenges, with an associated poor diet, work pressures, lack of exercise and alcohol consumption often being a factor. 

The years spent at university often coincide with the peak age of onset for a range of mental health conditions.

These days a tough job market also adds pressure for high attainment, while many who suffer with mental health problems conversely at ‘considerable risk’ of academic failure and dropping out.

Seek support

Despite these worrying statistics it is estimated 50% of students don’t feel comfortable admitting they are not coping. 

So don’t feel alone, you aren’t, seek support, it is there for you. 

Take the advice; everyone wants you healthy and happy.

You can seek a referral to a counselor through your GP, or contact a mental health charity such as Mind or The Samaritans for support. 

And Student Minds are also a great portal of support if you go to http://www.studentminds.org.uk/find-support.html

Stay happy.