Friday, 23 June 2017

Why was King Alfred the Great ‘Great’?

by Libby Young

There have been many laudable monarchs throughout the history of England, but only one English king has ever been dubbed “the Great”. King Alfred the Great, perhaps the most famous of the Anglo-Saxon rulers, has held a prominent place in history due to his many achievements. Not only a great military leader, Alfred also implemented many social reforms that helped lead England on its path to unification and power.

Alfred was born in 849 AD and was fourth in line to the throne of Wessex. At this time, England was divided into three kingdoms: Northumbria, Mercia, and Wessex, and these kingdoms fought not only amongst themselves, but against the continual Danish (Viking) raids that had been common ever since 793 AD, when Vikings attacked St Cuthbert’s church in Lindisfarne, Northumbria. The height of the terror came after a ‘Great Army’ of Vikings landed in East Anglia in 865, and began to conquer vast swathes of Anglo-Saxon territory. In April 871, following the deaths of his father and three older brothers, the 22 year old Alfred ascended to the Wessex throne, and he quickly set about removing the Danish threat. By 875, only Wessex remained independent of Viking rule.

It was through his struggles with the Danes that Alfred earned his military renown. In January 871 the Danish army was defeated at the Battle of Ashdown, and although Alfred did not become king until after the battle, it was him rather than his brother who received the most acclaim. Despite the Wessex victory, King Aethlred (Alfred’s older brother) died, and the now crowned Alfred was forced to withdraw to the Somerset marshes. However, Alfred continued to fight against the Danes, using guerrilla warfare until the Battle of Edington in 878, when he once again defeated the Danish invaders. After fighting for 14 days and a forced retreat, the Danes sued for peace, and with the realisation that he would be unable to completely drive the Vikings from the rest of England, Alfred accepted. Under the Treaty of Wedmore, Alfred gained control of West Mercia and Kent, areas previously outside of the borders of Wessex. Although the time that followed was merely a lull in the onslaught of the Viking attacks, it provided a brief period of peace that England had not known for many decades and allowed Alfred to start work on his fortifications.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Art of the Body: The Intersection of Art and Medicine

by Imogen Ashby

These pieces (see images below) have arisen through my exploration of a theme spurring from the idea of an Intersection between Art and Medicine, where the knowledge of two totally different fields combine. I have become fascinated by how the body works and wanted to find a way to incorporate them both in one.

Recently, My brother George, was diagnosed with a serious heart condition and I guess that the need to express my emotions through the art took over. I want the audience of my painting to see my confusion of how to react to this news through the winding and frantic paths of the blood capillaries. I want to show my journey through all of the outcomes I make from expressive pieces when my knowledge was sparse to now when my knowledge and curiosity have grown more than I ever thought they would in detailed pieces.

I never thought that any of this would happen to me, I always just assumed It would happen to everyone else. I want my paintings to show how naive I was to how much more mature I am now; how I feel ready to cope with difficult situations than ever before.

What I want out of this project is a final piece that shows sympathy, understanding, confusion and love all within one. Finally, what I want most of all after having started the journey with George is to finish it and I felt that there wasn't a better way to continue it and bring it all to a close than through a sketch book and exhibition.

Why To Kill a Mocking Bird is One Of the Most Influential American Novels Ever Published

by Lily Godkin

During her life, Harper Lee only wrote two novels. The one for which she is most famous is To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960, for which she was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her contribution to literature; she also received numerous honorary degrees. To Kill a Mockingbird explores the dynamics of 1930s America and the racism that consumes it. The novel considers the social and racial hierarchy within the community and also looks at the expectations of a woman in the early 20th century. 

The second of her novels was a sequel to To Kill a Mocking Bird, Go Set a Watchman, which was published in 2015, over half a century after Mockingbird. And yet, despite having only ever released two actual novels and some articles, Lee is still considered one of the most successful novelists of twentieth and twenty-first century American literature.

I think that one reason for her success is that she explores a theme central to American experience: race. In 1960, Martin King's movement was beginning to bring civil rights into the national debate. In Mockingbird, Harper Lee portrayed racism in its raw, naked form, exposing people's ignorance and revealing that although not everyone practiced racism, the majority condoned it. 

I believe To Kill a Mockingbird’s success was not only due to its thematic relevance but also to Lee’s portrayal of characters. Each figure is presented as complex and ambiguous. Even the antagonist, Bob Ewell, is portrayed at some point in a sympathetic light. Lee describes the lower class white males in a derogatory manner; by clearly explaining that both women and black people are lower in terms of social hierarchy than such white males she makes us question the unjust nature of American society because their lives are valued by the community as worth less than Ewell. This shows their social inferiority, emphasised by the insignificance of a black man, Tom Robinson's, death from the perspective of society, in prison for a crime Lee encourages us to believe he didn’t commit.

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Review: Sweet Bird of Youth.

by Daniel Hill

Chichester Festival Theatre’s previous Artistic Director Johnathan Kent returns to direct the Tennessee Williams play. It certainly wasn’t as amazing as his previous productions but it was a good production to return to.

I found that “Sweet Bird of Youth” was a play of two halves quite literally. This can be viewed in many aspects.  I personally found that the play itself had very little going on in the first act which began to drag. This was especially clear in the first scene set in a bedroom between the two main characters; an actress (Alexandro del Lago played by Marcia Gay Harden) who has arguably run from her previous fame and a young man (Chance played by Brian J Smith) who was using the actress to try to break into fame himself. I understand that it was important to introduce the characters in this first act written by Tennessee Williams although I also believe that this was dawned on for far too long. I found it very hard to find connections with the characters on stage during the first act which I do not believe was down to the acting.

The second act had much more substance. Although mainly set in one setting similar to the first act we saw much more action between the characters that had been introduced. In the second act we the characters who all have their own selfish goals. We are introduced to the person that Chance was once when he was younger and lived in the town of St Cloud that the play is set in. It is made clear that Chance has ended up far from his younger self who he has left behind him.

Monday, 19 June 2017

How Successful Was Tim Farron as Leader of the Lib Dems?

by Mark Docherty

Last week Tim Farron announced his resignation as leader of the Liberal Democrats because he was finding it difficult to balance his life as a practising Christian with his role as party leader.  His resignation came just under two years after he was elected Nick Clegg’s successor and he contested just one election campaign, in which the party made modest gains.  Some would argue that he took important steps in rebuilding the party after their dismal performance in 2015, while others say that he compromised the Lib Dems’ core values as party leader.

Nick Clegg’s party were held to account in 2015 for breaking their promise to vote against rises in tuition fees during their time in coalition between 2010 and 2015, leading to them winning just eight seats. The ensuing leadership election saw Farron elected as leader with the task of restoring them to a position in which they could have a significant influence in Parliament. In this task, it could be argued that Farron succeeded as the party improved its share of the seats from eight to twelve under his stewardship. Although the Lib Dems remain only fourth largest party after the 2017 General Election, Farron has at least given them stability and steadied their fortunes after they fell so far two years ago. On the day of Farron’s resignation, Nick Clegg paid tribute to the stabilising role he had in his two years in charge.  Although the election result did not show as much progress as the party would have hoped, they have taken the first steps along the path to recovery.

However, when one considers the circumstances surrounding the 2017 General Election it becomes hard to see how the Lib Dems increased their total of seats by just four.  The vote was contested between an increasingly unpopular Prime Minister in Theresa May and a leader of the opposition who was unable to control his own MPs in Jeremy Corbyn; circumstances which would normally be seen as ideal for a ‘third party’.  Add the fact that the Lib Dems were the only party to oppose Brexit, meaning they should have been representing 48% of the electorate, and the election starts to look as if it was the perfect opportunity for the Lib Dems to become at least as popular as they were in 2010.

However, a combination of the youth vote siding with Labour rather than the Lib Dems and Farron being at the heart of controversy surrounding alleged homophobic views led to the Lib Dems led to the party gaining just four seats and saw their vote share decrease from 7.9% in 2015 to 7.3%.  The Lib Dem manifesto was clearly targeting young remain voters, with a second referendum on EU membership their main policy, but the young voters tended to side with Jeremy Corbyn’s promise of phasing out tuition fees rather than a possible reversal of Brexit.  For this reason, it is difficult to look at Farron’s electoral performance and see anything but a failure.

Faith and Football Social Enterprise Challenge 2017

by Thomas Locke

Create a business and turn it into a practical way of generating income. That was the task set by Portsmouth-based educational charity, Faith and Football in the 2017 Business and Enterprise Challenge. The idea of the competition is for students across the south in Year 9 to form a group, start a company and practise vital communication, marketing and sales skills in the process. All of the profits made during the competition is paid to the charity and spent on their work overseas.The winning team is given tickets to an all-inclusive trip to Goa, India to see first-hand where the money generated by the charity is going and who is benefiting. The challenge is in its 12th year and I followed The Portsmouth Grammar School’s entry, The Cookie Co to establish what the competition entails and to explore some of the challenges that they faced.

Faith and Football is a Christian charity operating in Portsmouth, Plymouth and Cambridge, their goal is to run a variety of educational programmes across different year groups in an attempt to provide opportunities to young people. One of their flagship programmes is the Social Enterprise and Business Challenge for Year 9 students to set up their own company and run it for four months. At the end of this time, business plans, storyboards and all financial accounts need to be submitted to the charity's Head Office in Portsmouth for review. The aim of the challenge is to try and increase the students employability and providing crucial skills in leadership, coordination and team participation.
There were numerous entries from The Portsmouth Grammar School, however, due to the nature of this style of competition, unfortunately some had to drop out. From the outset, I followed one of the schools entries, The Cookie Co. The business, operated by Arya Gowda, Jevon Hannah, Sarnaz Hussain, George Davis-Marks and Rohin Kachroo, specialises in selling premium, handmade cookies with flavours inspired by oriental foods across the world. The team created an impressive website with an online store, integrating PayPal as a payment method and they also explored the possibilities of social media channels, interacting with customers via Twitter and Instagram.

They had created a very successful brand and unique product in a very busy market. To sell their handmade goods, they organised a variety of sales at the school as well as taking on high street favourites, setting up temporary outlet shops in Cascades and the Meridian Centre in Portsmouth and Southampton respectively. The process was monitored by Paul and Wynelle Cowdery, independent business mentors from the US, it was their job to provide guidance and offer assistance to the five as they completed the competition. Paul and Wynelle have worked as mentors for businesses such as Mondelez International, the umbrella company responsible for household food brands Cadbury, Oreo, Sour Patch and more. PGS pupil, Daniel Hill, also oversaw the group, offering skills that he gained from completing the challenge last year.

When Every Answer Is Wrong (Part One)

by Tom Fairman

When Tim Farron announced his resignation as leader of the Liberal Democrats, he stated the main reason as the conflict between his faith and politics. His inability to provide satisfactory responses to questions regarding his views on homosexuality dogged him throughout the election campaign, overshadowing the policies he was actually campaigning for. On the face of it he seemed to be unable to hold his faith and lead his party at the same time. The severe criticism and vilification of the DUP that has happened since their talks with the Conservative party began cover a number of issues, but one of them is also along the same argument that their faith and the policies that stem from it particularly in regards to abortion and gay marriage are incompatible with power in Westminster.
Therefore is it right to assume that there is some change happening where holding a personal faith and holding a position of authority have become incompatible? It would a bit daft to run an election campaign without offering your interpretation to the problems the country faces and usually these solutions are guided by the principles and opinions you hold. As faith can be defined as a set of opinions that are held about what is right and true in the world, then it would be foolish to argue that this will have no impact on the decisions you make if you are in power or to try to distinguish them from less religious sounding principles. Therefore to question whether a personal faith affects your ability to do a job in government seems to depend upon whether you agree with the faith that is held by those in power.
The natural next step then is to conclude that it is Christian values that appear to be the issue in the UK; Christian values that are often characterised as conservative, outdated, regressive and discriminatory. It saddens me to hear my faith portrayed in these terms. The Christianity that I know is one built upon some simple foundations which can be summed up in three words; God is love. The whole purpose of Jesus’ earthly ministry was to bring us back into a knowledge and understanding that God’s love is for every single person on this earth. It is a completely unconditional, unending love that is borne out of the fact that each person is uniquely created as a child of God, in His image and that love is displayed in the ultimate sacrificial act of Easter. It is an infinite love that bears itself out in wanting the best for us, for us to have life and have it to the full, to be free and to know how special we are. When you are teaching a child, meeting survivors of a disaster or planning a new benefit system, you are serving God himself in that person and if that does not affect the decisions you make, then there lies the real problem. This love is also accompanied by a mercy and grace, given as undeserved forgiveness and if you are looking for scandal in Christianity, you will find it in this amazing grace.

Friday, 16 June 2017

On Being Lord Lieutenant’s Cadet 2016-17

by James Ross

One of the highlights of my time at PGS has been the Combined Cadet Force, this has given me opportunities ranging from parachuting, conducting an exercise with the Royal Marines and meeting HRH the Princess Royal. I started my journey in year 9, inquisitive to try something different; I joined the CCF and have never looked back, I’m sure not many eighteen-year-olds can say they have done what I’ve just mentioned, and that has all been down to this invaluable experience the school offers.

After working my way up the ranks, I was privileged enough to be put forward as a candidate for the Lord Lieutenant’s Cadet, and selected, perhaps the rarest and most prestigious appointment a cadet could hope for. The position entails acting as a personal aide to the Lord Lieutenant (the Queen’s personal representative of which there is one in each county) and to assist him in his ceremonial duty. My duties have mainly been in parades, laying wreaths in ceremonies, but more recently, in March, my job was to open Princess Anne’s car door and escort her to an exhibition she opened in the dockyard. I have also recently attended a ceremony opening a memorial to the recipient of the Victoria Cross, and was humbled by the story of extreme courage in the face of death shown by LCpl. James Welch. On behalf of the Lord Lieutenant I laid a wreath to commemorate the bravery shown and took part in a parade with the Rifles regiment.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

Another Election - Another Surprise

by Georgia McKirgan

Just like in 2015 and the EU Referendum, the result of last week's General Election took all the 'experts' by surprise. Even on the day of the votes, most people thought Cameron would fail to win a majority in 2015, Remain would win the EU Referendum and the only doubt this time was whether Theresa May would win a majority of 50 or 100. All of these predictions were wrong. There is a good piece to be written about why journalists, politicians and polling companies have proved so useless at doing something they should be good at - predicting electoral outcomes - but that is not what I am trying to do here.

Some of the most common questions in British politics are: Why is participation in General Elections falling? Why do older people vote more than young people and Why is the share of the vote taken by the two major parties falling? I spent a lot of time preparing my answers to these questions, so I'm really glad the exam was last week and not next week as all the conventional wisdom about these issues has been turned upside down.

Let's take Participation first. Disillusionment with political parties and problems with the First Past the Post voting system (safe seats, wasted votes etc) are usually blamed for falling turnouts in elections but recently this had been ticking back up. Turnout in the Scottish Independence and EU Referendums showed that people were very engaged in politics, even if they were less interested in General Elections. This disillusionment with politics was seen to be most acute amongst the young. There is no official data for turnout by age group in the EU referendum but Sky News came up with the following turnout numbers:

18-24: 36%
25-34: 58%
35-44: 72%
45-54: 75%
55-64: 81%
65+: 83%

The fact that the turnout was so low amongst younger voters (who were largely in favour of Remain) was held up as one of the reasons for the Leave vote. So how did young voters turn out for this election?

The graph shows that there was a massive increase in the turnout of 18-24 voters in this election (66.4%) over the 2015 election (44%). The youth turnout was the highest since 1992 and the third highest since 1974. This increase drove the overall turnout up to a very respectable 68.7% compared to 59.4 in 2001 and 85% of seats saw an increase in turnout. This jump in youth turnout may also have affected the overall result. Everyone would have expected left-wing parties to do a bit better with younger voters but the extent of this was surprising:

The 49 point advantage for Labour over the Conservatives amongst young people more than outweighs the 36 point advantage for the Conservatives amongst older voters (65+). In previous elections, the fact that older people voted in greater numbers than young people has been used to explain why most parties' policies tend to favour older over younger voters (pensions triple-lock etc). The view was that parties were merely developing policies that would give them the biggest return amongst likely voters. Something started to change in 2015 but didn't really have a big effect until last week. When Jeremy Corbyn shocked the 'experts' (see the trend here?) by winning the Labour Party Leadership elections in 2015 and 2016 many people commented that a large part of his success was the way his message resonated with young people. During the campaign Corbyn's public meetings were large, energetic and filled with young people. Compare this to the staged, scripted appearances by the "Maybot" where she could barely get beyond the phrase "Strong and Stable" and refused to take part in the Leaders Debate.