Morals from Monsters

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Hello, lovely reader!  How are you?  

As I said in this post, day trips are brilliant, and yesterday’s was no exception.  I had a very successful meeting, went for some delicious food with my friends, and then we went all touristy and messed around on Brighton pier.  The last ride we went on was the ghost train, which is what I’d like to to use as a slightly odd starting point today.

The ghost train was my favourite part of yesterday’s trip.  D’you know what’s weird about that?  I didn’t even want to go on it at first.  One of my friends was very keen, but I was pretty reluctant because I hate everything horror-related.  But the train ride was a brilliant combination of quite jumpy (lots of stuff made us scream, even though it was mostly in surprise) and gloriously awful (lots of terrible, clunky puppets that made us laugh hysterically as soon as we’d finished screaming).

I think a lot of people find life scary, particularly those who are still working out their post-uni plan or a specific career path.  We don’t know what we’re doing, where we’re going to live or what to pursue.  As children we were led along the SATs-GCSEs-A Levels pathway with very carefully worked out stops for coursework, Duke of Edinburgh Awards and the always-awkward sex education lessons.  In other words, we always knew exactly what we were doing, even if it made us roll our eyes and start doodling on our notebooks.  

When you get out of education you have to start planning things based on your own timings, not end of term exams or essay deadlines.  Some people take to this like a duck to pancakes, but for some of us it’s more difficult to establish our own way of working.  How do we know how well we’re doing when there are no parents’ evenings?  How can we tell if our careers are progressing at a good pace unless we are graded?  When does it become unacceptable to own (and use) a Thunderbirds lunch box?

I’m not suggesting that adult life should be run like a school – no more navy and yellow uniforms for me, thank you so very much Watford Grammar School for Girls – but I think that the lack of objective structure to real life is a bit of a shock to the system after education.  Not knowing exactly what to do is pretty scary. 

A lot of the big things about adult life are like getting on a rubbish ghost train: you’re not sure what to expect, it could be pretty scary, and there’s no real way of knowing which direction you’re going in.  On a brighter note, the scary bits can be funny afterwards, and it’s all a lot easier to cope with if you’ve got a good friend with you.  I cannot believe that I learned a life lesson from a rubbish ghost train.

Have a gorgeous Thursday.  I hope you have the mother of all lunches today.

Brighton Rocks

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Well, hello there!  You’re looking very well, if I may say so.  

This morning I am off on a road trip with two of my favourite friends, and in honour of this I would like to list a few reasons why road trips are an excellent way to spend your day. 

1) They can come from unlikely situations – I have to go to Brighton today for a meeting, which is exciting but a bit nerve-racking at the same time.  I absolutely love my friends for showing their support by accompanying me, and for turning this experience into something that is now definitely more exciting than scary.  

2) They are real eye-openers – the last time I went on a road trip (which was also to Brighton, now that I think about it), we decided to take the scenic route from Canterbury down to Sussex, which turned out to be a very good call.  We got to drive through some very cute little villages and see more of the countryside than we would have done on the boring old motorway.  We may have had to give my friend Mario a fashion magazine to keep him quiet for the trip, but it was worth it for the views.

3) They are a chance to reconnect – all of us have friends whom we adore but don’t get to see often enough, and a road trip is a brilliant way to get some quality friend time in.  This is particularly true when you’re going on the road trip to visit someone far away (which I guess happens more often when you’re at uni, but actually it turns out that not all of my friends ended up settling in London.  Weird, right?)  Whether they’re in the car with you or waiting at your destination, road trips are all about the people you spend them with.  

4) They are great escapes – I’m moving house right now, and I don’t like it.  I don’t like change, I detest goodbyes and I loathe having to put my books into storage.  I think this is the perfect time to forget about my London-based concerns and escape down to the seaside, even if it’s just for a day.  Whatever we’re worried about, a fun day out can be just the boost we need.  There’s no shame in escaping your own life for a day, especially when there are bumper cars and beaches involved.  

5) They make for the best anecdotes – in case the picture at the top of this post has confused you, those are two of the guys I went to Brighton with on our last road trip.  I’ll tell you the story behind that picture sometime (although to be honest it’s fairly self-explanatory)… Anyway, great days make for great stories, and everyone loves an anecdote.

6) They are a great excuse to make a mixed CD – that’s just common sense.  What’s a road trip without a rocking soundtrack?

Wherever you are, have a brilliant day.

Moving Mountains (of Books)

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Hello, dear reader!  How are things?

Just in case I haven’t complained about this loudly or frequently enough yet, I absolutely loathe and detest moving house, mainly because of the packing.  Packing for a holiday is great, and even packing for the Edinburgh Fringe is ok (as long as someone remembers the props), but packing up an entire house is just ridiculous.  Here are some modern moving woes which I think we can all relate to (and some nice bits as well):

  • “Whose is this?”
    It doesn’t matter whether you only live with one other person, or you put your name in all of your books, or you have an excellent memory: there is always at least one household item which has disputed ownership.  For example, I cannot remember for the life of me who owns the cheese grater, and that’s a very serious concern in our house.
  • “No, seriously, whose is this?”
    Ash and I reconciled ourselves a long time ago to the fact that our friends see us as an elderly married couple, despite (or potentially because of) our best efforts to behave like normal girls in their mid twenties.  However, it has resulted in the other ownership issue that arises when you move house: what do you do with presents that were given to you jointly? Is it fair to call dibs on something that you both have an attachment to?  Ash has already said that I can have the beautiful cheese board our friend gave us for Christmas, so that’s ok.  And yes, everything in this household really does come down to cheese.  It would be sort-of funny if it weren’t so very true.
  • Furniture Tetris
    During the last twelve months, Ash and I have both tried to move the furniture in our bedrooms.  I say “tried”, because one of us got stuck between a wardrobe and a bed, and the other got halfway through before realising that it was past midnight and the neighbours might complain.  Trying to move furniture around and have somewhere to keep your clothes, books etc. and clean as you go is like playing four different levels of Tetris at the same flipping time.  I’m genuinely worried about how we’re going to get all of our furniture out of the front door and into the van.
  • Boxing Days
    You can never have enough boxes.  Every time we’ve left the house in the past week, we’ve stopped at our local Asda to ask the lovely produce staff for cardboard boxes that used to house melons and cabbages.  We now have approximately seven crates of books each and no floor space to move around in.  My main regret about this is that we didn’t even make a fort before we filled them.
  • Sweet Charity
    Moving house is a great time to have a bit of a clear out, whether you swap possessions or do a massive charity shop run.  This aspect of moving is characterised by questions like “Do you want these shoes?”  “This belt doesn’t fit me, do you want to take it?” and even “Do you know you look like one of the seven dwarves with that bin bag over your shoulder?” (Answer: yes.  Yes I do.  And I’m ok with it.  Cue singing “Hi ho” all the way down to the Cancer Research shop.)
  • Hostesses with the Mostest
    By the time we have our house cooling party tomorrow night, the flat will basically be empty apart from emergency coffee-making equipment and the magic internet box (which I think proper grown-ups refer to as a modem).  This is going to make hosting a party a bit of a challenge, but with a bit of luck and a lot of plastic cups, I think we’ll be ok.  

Right.  I’m going to go and tackle the kitchen.  Wish me luck, and have an exceedingly joyful Tuesday.

Palm Reading and Face Writing

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Hello, and a very merry Bank Holiday Monday to you!  How’s it going?

Our lives are composed of a bizarre mixture: routine tasks and brand new experiences.  We spend our time carrying out the same objectives day after day, adding a twist of new faces, places and events at the same time.  For example, this weekend I spent a delightful afternoon with two of my favourite friends (standard), and had a palm reading (new one).  I indulged in a spontaneous night out that included drunk dialling (standard but no longer acceptable at my age), and did the ALS challenge this afternoon (for the first and categorically last time).  I hope that your weekend has been a similar combination of old and new, although perhaps not with quite the same ingredients as mine…

So.  Palm reading.  Bit of a weird one for someone like me, who is very much with Dara O’Briain when it comes to this stuff like this.  I was brought up Catholic, so I’ve never really been exposed to much astrology and suchlike.  I also have an automatic mistrust of anyone who claims that payment is necessary for a spiritual experience.  I’m looking at you, Scientologists.  

The reason that I decided to go for a palm reading was because my friends were going, and I thought it might be fun.  I may not believe in psychics, but I was intrigued about what the palm reader would say (or what my hands would say, I guess).  It was a bit hit and miss: apparently when I get married it will be forever, I will have two children and I’m going to go to New Zealand at some point.  So far so funky.  There was a bit of a sticky moment when the woman tried to tell me that I was a designer and I had to gently explain that I can barely draw stick figures, and her ideas about my current love life were frankly baffling, but other than that a lot of what she said made sense.

When I say “made sense”, I don’t mean that I will now become a fully signed-up psychic fan; I mean that the observations she made about me as a person were fairly accurate.  Obviously she picked up a lot from my body language, demeanour, facial expressions etc. rather than just the lines on my palm, but there is something quite interesting about a complete stranger being able to identify certain things about you based on one meeting.  It may not be psychic, but it is a bit spooky.

As I said, life is a mixture of old and new, but while we’re running around living our lives we sometimes forget that our past and present (but probably not future) can be extremely evident to other people, even if they don’t know us personally.  In No Country for Old Men, one of the characters is convinced that our past is all we really are: “You think when you wake up in the mornin yesterday don’t count. But yesterday is all that does count. What else is there? Your life is made out of the days it’s made out of. Nothin else.”

Our lives are written in our faces and actions, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  If we keep pushing ourselves to experience new things as well as getting on with our usual routines, we can always make our future selves look different to the way we look now.  

I’m off to finish packing up my books (5 crates down and I’m still only halfway through.  This is not going to end well).  You have yourself a truly magical Monday.

Bye Bye, Bag End

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Hello, you lovely thing.  Are you excited about your weekend?

This post is one that I’ve been avoiding for a while, because I think it’s going to be pretty difficult to write.  The subject matter makes me want to cry and stamp my feet, so do bear with me.  If I start getting hysterical just throw a biscuit at me or something.

At the end of this month, Ash and I will be vacating our beloved flat.  We’ve been living in Bag End for a year, and we’ve had an amazing time here.  We have had lots of lovely friends round to visit, hosted parties that defy the (minuscule) proportions of the floor space, danced around the kitchen to cheesy music, spilled coffee everywhere , had heart to hearts in the middle of the night and eaten unholy amounts of cheese.  It’s been bloody brilliant.

When we leave Bag End Ash will be moving home to save up for her trip to New York, and I will be moving to South London with one of my sisters.  Both of these are excellent and exciting things, but they are big changes.  I freaking hate changes.

Change is difficult for a lot of people to cope with because it involves uncertainty, which is something that humans are not wired to cope with very well.  We fear things like death and the dark because they represent obscurity: we have no way of knowing what they contain.  It’s the same with big changes.  How on earth can we be happy about them when we don’t know what they’ll entail?

It also comes down to a control and participation issue.  When we voluntarily make decisions that affect change, we can be happy because we’ve elected them.  Booking trips abroad, starting a new job and getting into relationships all fall into this category.  Being forced into change by other people’s decisions or circumstances beyond our control creates the opposite feeling: why should we have to participate in changes that we never wanted?  Why should we be forced into changing jobs, moving house or changing our relationship status?  If I may paraphrase William Ernest Henley’s poem slightly: “I am the master of my Facebook profile; I am the captain of my post code.”

I have realised that the trick to dealing with unwanted change is to look at it as an adventure rather than a crisis.  Bilbo Baggins didn’t want to leave Bag End any more than I do, but he went on to have a very jolly time.  (You know, except for the orcs and the massive spiders and stealing treasure from a dragon and everything.)  If we are never forced out of our comfort zones we never get to explore who we are or challenge ourselves, and both of those are very important things to do.

The other thing is that if we choose to look at enforced life changes in a negative way, it won’t affect any of the outcomes.  When we choose resentment over optimism we are only hurting ourselves.  Universal justice, fate, God or whatever life-affecting force you believe in probably doesn’t respond to sulking.

With that in mind, I’m going to start packing up my stuff.  I am choosing to look at this as an opportunity to re-alphabetise my books (which may sound like a pretty tremulous silver lining, but that kind of thing genuinely matters to me, because I’m a nerd).  Have a glorious weekend.

Talk Is From Poundland

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Hello, dear reader.  We’ve reached Thursday!  Hooray!  How are you doing?

We are all familiar with the phrase “actions speak louder than words”, but how much do we really believe the idea?  We get hung up on words all the time.  We re-read text messages and emails, we hold on to hurtful things that people say and let them get to us, and some of us even make a living out of using words (ahem).  Obviously, this doesn’t apply to everyone.  Some people are very good at letting words go.  But for a lot of people, even those who are good at ignoring the things that people say, we don’t really pay enough attention to actions.

The problem with words is that they’re so easy to use, and if you’ve been given them in a written format you can quite literally keep them with you forever.  Having said that, I got a bit upset a few months ago because I couldn’t find a load of emails that were exchanged between me and friend over ten years ago.  It was quite sweet, really: we used to email each other every day before school.  It was like having a pen pal, but with emoticons.

Now that I think about it, it really doesn’t matter about the emails.  I am still friends with the guy who I was sending them to, and I got to see him quite a lot while we were both in Edinburgh earlier this month.  It would be nice to see what we were writing to each other all those years ago, but the action of having kept in touch for a decade means so much more than knowing exactly what we’ve said to each other in the past.

Don’t get me wrong: I love words.  Obviously.  But I prefer phone calls to text messages and coffee dates to instant messaging, because in the months and years to come I will not remember anything that was said.  I will remember laughing and feeling connected to another person, but I won’t be able to tell you which words we used.

I couldn’t tell you what we talked about at my birthday party, but I remember my friends Katie and Mell making me an amazing Bag End birthday cake.  (That’s what’s in the photo at the top of this post.  Isn’t it amazing?)  I have no idea what our first words to each other were, but I know that my oldest friend and I had a fight when we were six when I threw my ballet shoes at her, and that we made up immediately afterwards.  My friend Jon and I have horrendous arguments sometimes (especially when Mr. Jack Daniels has been invited to the party), but we don’t care because we know that the other person will always drop everything if one of us has a crisis.

Words are good, but they’re cheap and easy.  Actions can be challenging, but they mean a lot and they have staying power.  If words are from Poundland, actions are from Argos.  (Seriously, have you tried shopping in Argos?  If that’s not a challenge then I don’t know what is.)

Have a gorgeous Thursday.

The End of Summer Lovin’

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Hello and how on earth are you, dear reader?

Back in February I wrote this blog post about how to beat the winter blues, and it occurred to me the other day that the end of summer needs some similar attention.  Like Sandy and Danny at the beginning of Grease (excuse me, but even if they hadn’t seen each other, they would definitely have heard each other singing about their summer of love), we can all get a bit blue about the end of summer.  I don’t know whether it’s the weird weather or extracting ourselves from the Edinburgh Fringe bubble, but there’s a definite back-to-school, oh-God-do-we-have-to, I-hate-my-alarm-clock-why-is-it-such-a-bastard sort of mood going on in my social circle at the moment.

So, in the spirit of cheering you up at the end of what I hope has been a spectacular summer, here are a few little things we can all do to put ourselves back in a sunshiney mood:

1) Dance around your living room 
Stick on a song that makes you happy and just have a boogie.  Look like an idiot.  Throw your back out if you have to.  You ARE the dancing queen (or king).  My personal recommendations for feel-good tunes include Classic and When Can I See You Again.  And Dancing Queen, obviously.

2) Book something
Organise a coffee date with a friend, or a real date with someone you fancy.  Book that trip you and your mates keep talking about.  Splash out on theatre tickets.  Basically, pick something that would make you happy and make it happen soon.

3) Challenge yourself
Get cracking on something that’s been lingering on your “I could probably do that” list.  For example, my next challenge is going to be writing a radio play.  I have no idea how to do that, but I’m going to find out.  Whether it’s something a bit grown-up liking saving up for a house deposit, or something a bit crazy like climbing a mountain, use this time to rise to a challenge.

4) Find the funny
Look up silly jokes, or go and see a comedian you’ve never heard of.  Watch a classic comedy film.  Let your friends drag you to an open mic night.  As the late, great Charlie Chaplin once said, “a day without laughter is a day wasted”.

5) Spruce up
Look your best.  Not because you’re not perfect the way you are, but because it will make you feel more confident.  Dress up for your next night out.  Wear your favourite pair of shoes tomorrow.  The world deserves to see you looking happy and brim full of self-esteem because, after all, whose day would not be brightened by seeing you looking fabulous?

“Are You Going To Do It Like That?”

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My favourite moment in Shakespeare In Love is when the players are rehearsing Romeo and Juliet, and one of them says a line in a silly, melodramatic voice.  Ben Affleck’s character Ned stops acting, turns to his colleague and asks “Are you going to do it like that?” in a voice dripping with disbelief and disdain.  Thinking about that moment always makes me laugh, except when it occurs to me just before I’m about to do something stupid.  At that point it makes me laugh, but also rethink my actions.

It would be wonderful to go through life doing everything graciously and well, but unfortunately we are humans and therefore unlikely to be able to maintain that sort of thing indefinitely.  The best we can aim for is being gracious and grown-up when it matters most, and even though I’m not sure how many of these I manage to do myself, here are a few key moments when I think Ben Affleck’s disdain might come in handy to prevent disaster.

  • Breaking up with someone: hard to do, but important to get right.  Breaking up with someone is about being respectful and considerate, not patronising or vindictive.
  • Being broken up with: equally difficult, and still about respect.  In this case, self-respect.  Your job as the broken-up-with party in a relationship is to occupy yourself with being a brilliant human being, not reducing yourself to a rejected mess.
  • Pursuing your passion: go for what you want in life, but do it well.  Work hard, don’t be bitter about other people’s success, and accept that you probably won’t be an overnight success story.
  • Losing: don’t be grumpy.
  • Winning: don’t be smug.
  • Talking about your parents: in most cases, our parents did the best job they knew how to do.  Even if they didn’t quite succeed, there’s no point dwelling on it.  You’re a grown-up now, and you can make yourself happy.
  • Watching television: don’t talk over the dialogue, don’t commandeer the remote and for heaven’s sake don’t force anyone to watch a reality television show.

Like I said, I’m not sure how many of these I actually manage to do myself.  The other thing about being gracious is that it’s a habit we have to learn over time, and hopefully knowing where to start – with life’s key moments – will help us to get there.  In the meantime, I’m going to put the kettle on.  Does anyone want a tea or coffee?

No More Drama

Hooray, it’s Monday!  A brand new week!  A fresh start!  Potentially the beginning of the best week of your life!  Joy and fuzzy feelings for all!!

Bit too cheerful?  Sorry, I’ll tone it down a bit.

Today I would like to show you the most upsetting and infuriating thing I’ve clapped eyes on since my house mate made me watch Jingle All the Way.

Here it is:

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My university is discontinuing my degree course.  What the actual hell.

Perhaps this shouldn’t bother me so much.  After all, I graduated three years ago.  I spent four years doing spinal rolls and writing essays (and drinking cider and other extracurricular activities that we don’t need to go into here).  At the end of it all I got to spend a day wearing a fancy gown and throwing my hat in the air.  In short, I got my degree.  So why do I have a problem with this?

First of all, it seems to be symptomatic of the degeneration of higher education in general.  People not being able to afford university fees means fewer applicants to previously popular courses, and eventually the courses become too expensive to justify running.  Due to the screw up with student fees (thanks a lot Clegg, you asshat), university education has gone from being something that anyone could pursue to something that requires re-mortgaging your kidneys.  This is unfair and elitist, and it can only lead to an increased class division between those who can afford university and those who cannot.  Why on earth should something as arbitrary as wealth decide your academic path?  

Secondly and more specifically, my drama degree is the bee’s knees.  I realise that I’m pretty biased about this point, but for people like me that course was the making of us.  The fourth year of the course is the main selling point of the degree, because it’s that final push in the right direction that gave us all the impetus to pursue our careers.  My Masters in Directing got me to start up Empty Photo Theatre.  A lot of the guys who took Stand-Up Comedy are still gigging now (and doing insanely well, in many cases).  My friends Laura and Jess set up the arts charity Ingeenium because of their year specialising in Applied Performance Practice, and Little Cauliflower would not exist if those guys hadn’t specialised in Contemporary Performance Practice.  

At £9,000 a year in fees, who is going to opt for a four-year course when they can just do a BA?  It’s such a shame that fear of lifelong debt is going to deprive future students of a lifelong creative passion.  Essentially, the most important thing about that four-year course is that it taught us to make our own work.  You will never find a Kent graduate sitting around waiting for the phone to ring – we get out there and we do stuff.  Dozens of excellent professional theatre companies, performers, writers, directors and producers have come out of my university.  And they are not happy about this situation:

“It’s a terrible shame that the Conservative ideal of economic viability being the presiding factor in academia has forced such a unique course that has value beyond the career it may or may not instantly provide for you.  The fourth year of specialised study at the University of Kent trained, inspired and invigorated me in ways that the previous three years of undergraduate study never did, and I know that I’m not alone in that.  My greatest fear is that great traditions within the university, such as the Monkeyshine comedy club and the week of directors’ plays, may fall casualty to this horrid decision and be lost forever.”

“It seems a shame that UKC has discontinued one of the only university courses that actually gave students an idea of the working practice of the theatre. I understand that as a qualification on a piece of paper the MDrama is next to useless and causes an endless need to explain exactly what on earth an MDrama is, however that extra year gave us the focus and work skills we needed to succeed that the general study in the other three years didn’t. The drama department at UKC however seems to have gone down hill in recent years with budget cuts, unexplained course changes and staff losses and losing the fourth year as an undergraduate seems another cut that only lessens the experience for the students.”

“I think it’s really sad, I found it to be such a fun and interesting year to specialise in one subject for a year, in something I never thought I’d even get the chance to do. It really got you to grips with a specific area and focussing on a particular topic, rather than just kind of glancing over a few areas. It’s a shame more people won’t experience that amazing and eye-opening year!

“It’s a complete shame and I feel very sorry for prospective students who will miss out on the invaluable fourth year that myself and many others benefited from immensely. It’s a year in which you are able to fully explore, deepen, and develop your specialist skills in either directing, producing, dramaturgy etc. that will make you stand out amongst fellow students from other theatre courses when you graduate.”

“I am saddened to learn that the course I gave four years of my life and many thousands of pounds to is being stopped. I don’t know if it saddens me because of the experience I had there – if only for the fourth year specialism, which is the one year I really felt as if I learnt a great deal and was given the opportunity to develop and grow, creatively and intellectually. It was also the year which I felt genuinely benefited me in terms of career progression, particularly for the contacts – and friends – I made along the way. But I fear that, selfishly, one of the main reasons it saddens me is that it may diminish the value of my degree. I fear it will go from “oh you went to Kent, that’s quite good for drama isn’t it?” to “Kent? I never even knew they did a drama degree” in a matter of short years. I know, realistically, that this will not hamper my future job prospects; no one will probably even ask where I went to uni, nor have an opinion of it if I tell them. But I’d like to think that those four years of hard work has a lasting value outside of my own development at that time. After all, it cost me enough.”

“It seems we’re seeing the repercussions of our government’s attitude towards the arts. The sad thing is, at the current extortionate prices, even I’d think twice about taking the course, and that’s coming from someone who has benefited immensely from it. Remember when we voted in that guy who swore he’d not raise the fees and then he stabbed us all in the back? At least Cameron and Clegg listened to us we turned out in huge numbers to march on the capital to voice our disapproval. Oh well, so long as the government gets its way, what does it matter if the arts get swept to the side and young people lose faith in democracy.”

“It’s a crying shame. UKC offered a unique course that appealed to such a wide range of potential Drama Students. The chance to choose a specialism in the last year makes the course feel focused and personal. UKC will now join the countless other universities offering a generic Drama and Theatre Studies MA. How is it going to stand out from the crowd? And how are its future students going to stand out from the crowd?  The four year course also offered another unique opportunity to it’s students. It kept then together for longer! I don’t think it’s a coincidence that so many strong theatre companies are formed at UKC. Would The Noise Next Door have started if we’d only had three years? Would Little Bulb? Would Spun Glass Theatre? Would Accidental Collective? Would Wide Eyed Theatre? Would we have all developed into the varied theatre makers we are without our final specialisms?  What’s happening to Dr. Oliver Double? He’s the only Doctor of Comedy and a superb lecturer and inspiration. If UKC stop doing the final year stand-up specialism aren’t they wasting this unique asset? Ollie’s course has produced so many excellent comedians: Jimmy McGhie, Tiernan Douieb, Laura Lexx, two of Pappy’s, two of The Noise Next Door and many more besides. All these people are working in the industry that their final year trained them for! And for a drama degree that’s rare! It seems to me that in dropping the four year MDrama UKC are throwing away the thing that has made them and their students special.”

“As a graduate of the reputable MDrama & theatre studies degree at UKC, I’m really disappointed to hear of its discontinuation. Having the opportunity to gain further experience and to specialise in your area of choice is something that a BA simply doesn’t offer you. The specialism was, for myself and many of my peers, the stand out reason for applying to Kent, and it really set itself apart from competitor institutions. Admittedly, higher education faces more pressure than ever with the rise of fees and cuts in funding, but I feel giving into this pressure is a real disappointment for students, lecturers, alumni and of course prospective students.” 

“It’s sad to learn of the end of pre-professional practice at UKC. As someone who partook in the programme, studying stand-up, I found the resources and almost one on one tuition astounding. To be able to specialise practically at a high level with accomplished tutors in arts is something of an enigma amongst many theory-heavy courses on offer today. In terms of employment, university allows you to present the best version of yourself. It’s not to say that specialist skills can’t be learnt on the job, but being able to do so in a safe and progressive learning environment was well worth the time, money and fun!”

“In a nutshell I think losing the MDrama would be losing a big part of why a lot of people choose Kent to do drama. The ability to specialise for a whole year in something you find genuinely interesting without incurring the costs and lack of funding for a full masters was a huge draw. Also it sent Kent apart, showed that for however long a time the department really cared about taking a standard drama course in a new individual direction, one personal to the student. Now it will fall into the category of ‘another uni that does a 3 year BA in drama’. It’s reflective that for whatever reason, drama at Kent is changing, it’s falling into line with everywhere else and perhaps may indicate that people involved in the course don’t care about it as much as others that preceded them did. Or maybe they just got less funding. What do I know? I’m just a drama graduate.”

I realise at this stage that there’s nothing we can do about the discontinuation of the MDrama course at Kent.  Having said that, can we all agree that enough’s enough now?  This has to stop.  We cannot keep accepting the funding cuts and political decisions that are ruining our education system, particularly in the arts.  I hate to think of future drama students missing out on the life-changing year of education that inspired me and so many others to work in the arts.  Who knows what kind of side-splitting comedy or eye-opening theatre we will miss out on in future because the students who would have made it never discovered their passion?

I’m calling you out, David Cameron.  You’ve got to stop spoiling stuff.  If I were feeling particularly immature and petty, I might even tell you to do this.

Thanks for reading what turned out to be a pretty hefty piece.  Have a beautiful Monday, and I promise that tomorrow’s blog will be much more cheerful (and shorter).

Villains and Heroes

batman-robin

Good morning, you marvellous creature.  How’s your Friday going?  

Our society is obsessed with the concepts of heroism and villainy.  Specifically in terms of celebrity culture, we like to be told who to admire and who to abhor.  I have a massive problem with celebrity culture in general, because I think that it’s pointless at best and incredibly offensive at worst to speculate on the lives of people we’ll never know.  It makes far more sense to look closer to home to find things that we can aspire to or avoid, and to surround ourselves with people who make our heroes list.  Here are a few examples of the goodies and baddies we are most likely to come across in life:

Villains

  • The git who doesn’t give up their seat for a pregnant woman on public transport.  How is that even a thing that happens?  It’s ludicrous.
  • The person who doesn’t care who they hurt.  I’ve known a guy to cheat on one of my closest friends with one of my other closest friends, and the audacity of that still makes me livid, even years later.  Seriously, don’t poo where you eat.  Or where you socialise, I guess.  In fact, pooing anywhere other than the traditionally designated facilities is just not cool.
  • The person who never says please or thank you.  That drives me up the flipping wall.  Someone bring me a stepladder, please; my rage is preventing me from getting back down to the floor.
  • The person who just doesn’t give a flying fig about you.  Why do we put up with people who never listen to what we say, ask us questions about ourselves or show any concern for our welfare?  This covers a whole spectrum of asshats from story-toppers to emotionally abusive partners.  People who only want you around as an audience do not deserve you.  You are not just a spectator.
  • The moron who likes to shit-stir.  Why would anyone get a kick out of inventing harmful computer viruses, upsetting their friends or creating vicious rumours?  I don’t understand.  Incidental Schadenfreude is one thing, but intentionally creating distress for absolutely no reason is just evil.  Villainous, you might say.

Heroes

  • Single parents.  Those guys are hands down the bravest, most hard-working and incredible people we will ever meet.  Whenever I get depressed about my responsibilities and worries I think about how much my single parent friends have to deal with, and feel a bit ashamed of myself.
  • People who fight their fears.  Like lots of people, my way of dealing with stuff that I’m afraid of is to simply run away from it and refuse to fix the issue.  When I climbed Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh I went with a friend who, as far as I knew, simply loved climbing and always had.  However, I found out that he only took up climbing to confront his fear of heights, which is pretty incredible to me.  People who can challenge themselves like that are definitely to be respected.
  • People who always care.  One of my friends is the loveliest, gentlest and most compassionate person I know.  She also has absolutely no luck when it comes to health and family problems, but that never stops her from caring about what’s going on with me.  Isn’t it amazing to have someone in your life who doesn’t let their problems prevent them from loving you?
  • People who pursue their passion.  A lot of my friends are creative types, and I am bowled over every day by how hard they work and how much they sacrifice in order to achieve their dreams.
  • People who can get over a heartbreak.  If you’ve ever had your heart broken and have recovered from it, you are an undisputed hero.  Go get yourself a cape.

Have a brilliant weekend.