This year’s Last Word Festival at The Roundhouse has been a mixture of online and in-person events. Although I had hoped to be able to attend more events, and accessing the festival hasn’t been easy, it was a pleasure to listen to poets Cecilia Knapp and Alexandra Huỳnh in conversation as I tucked into my dinner at home.
by Micha Horgan
In this era of jaw-dropping politics and marionette-style blunders, Boris Johnson has done it again. This time, though he may not have landed any more mums in Persian clinks, it seems he’s just landed Britain in a little more shit.
‘Is anyone else seeing this?’ I thought (admittedly with some relish) as I read that 600,000 Hong Kong citizens are, on Boris’s invitation, seeking permanent residency in the UK within the next two years.
I recently moved to Forest Hill, and amongst the shops, pubs and restaurants, I found a pop-up gallery displaying the work of local artist Maria Luisa Azzini. Normally found in Greenwich Market, Azzini is originally from Florence, Italy, though she has been based in London for nearly twenty years now.
In the present times, the visual arts is just one of the many industries that needs support, with arguably very few industries not heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s possible to buy Azzini’s work from as little as £45 for a print (£55 framed), to a few hundred pounds for an original painting. Each print is unique as Azzini touches them up with small strokes of silver and gold.
In my earliest years, my great-grandmother used to sit with me in her bungalow, a low-roofed gloomy building with carpets like moss, to tell me I was the ‘best boy in the wewd’. I believed her, of course – she made fantastic cheese on toast and gave me ice pops (‘lolly ices’ to her) out of love. She was family. I took her words as law; I would recite everything I heard her say back to my mother when I was dropped off at our flat. But, rather than approval, I was met with correction – not of the message, but the delivery.
By Olivia Hanks
Between 2013 and 2019, an era of ‘austerity’, most of us noticed a marked deterioration in the quality of our public spaces and infrastructure – existing roads and pavements not maintained, school buildings getting shabbier, public facilities closing. During that period, Norfolk County Council oversaw at least £725m of funded infrastructure projects. Incredibly, more than £650m of this was for building or widening roads.
After the government’s U-turn on GCSE and A-level moderation, widespread celebration has broken out among student and teaching communities alike. But, drowned out by the cheering, a yet unsolved problem remains: the injustice and uncertainty for those taking BTECs, who have been left behind in the race to secure places at chosen further and higher education institutions.
Last week, young people across Scotland reached the end of years of schooling and were presented with their final grades. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, these results were based not on a summer exam series, but on predicted grades from teachers and subsequent moderation by examining bodies. As many as a quarter of grades were lowered, hitting working-class pupils in poorer regions and schools the hardest. Further south, A level and GCSE students are still awaiting similarly-calculated results, due for release on the 13th and 20th of August respectively. But, with individual pupils’ futures at the mercy of wildly varying school averages, the most disadvantaged students are facing even more barriers to higher education.
CW: mental health
Long predating the lockdown, members of the LGBTQIA+ community have reported feelings of isolation and loneliness at alarmingly high levels. This reached a point where ‘queer loneliness’ was dubbed an epidemic, and the mental health of the community overall was recognised as dire. With many now separated from their support networks during lockdown, queer people are experiencing new lows in their mental health. Additionally, much of the previously mentally healthy population is also struggling, and NHS services are suffocating from cuts, meaning that many queer people will miss out on vital mental health services as a complacent wider world focuses on going ‘back to normal’.
At the moment, we are led to believe that Covid-19 is a marauder snatching away our media, our minds and our vulnerable population and that the only way to defeat such a pernicious beast is to sing hollow cries of “we are all in this together.” Yes, this should be a time for us to unify in communal admonishment of the situation; a time where we should realise our shared will to thrive alongside our neighbours; a time to join mutual aid groups to help those more vulnerable in a true display of fraternité; but, in doing this, we should not be blind to the fact that we do not share an equal burden.
Content warning: mentions Islamophobia, racism, paedophilia, sexual abuse, fascism
The sentencing in May this year of Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon (stage name ‘Tommy Robinson’) to 13 months for contempt of court has caused quite a reaction from his fellows on the far right. On Saturday 9th June, an estimated 15,000 people turned out for a mass rally in London in support of Yaxley-Lennon, Trump and ‘free speech’. The sinister focal point of the rally was to link rape and child sexual exploitation with migration and Islam.