Monday, 25 September 2017

Review: Wings (at the Young Vic)

by Daniel Hill

Wings was written originally as a radio play by Arthur Kopit - it is about a stroke victim who is nursed backed to health with the memory of her hobby of wing-walking. 

Emily Stilson was played by Juliet Stevenson (who has recently impressed as Gertrude in Hamlet as well as playing both Elizabeth and Mary in Mary Stuart). She succeeded in giving us an even better performance as Mrs Stilson.

The play is set in America and gives us an insight into what a stroke victim feels like as she is going through her therapy. This journey that we are given makes an audience member realise the true struggles that victims go through daily and this is added to by some breathtaking acting and interesting use of lighting, sound and set. The initial lack of understanding that we have of Emily gives us little knowledge of her past but, as the play progresses alongside her health, we begin to feel a human connection and sympathy is supplied by the audience. The memoirs that are portrayed through our main actress go deep into her flying past during monologues which bring tears to the audience’s eyes.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Photography: PGS at Twilight

by Tony Hicks

Are We As Democratic As We Truly Believe?

by Alex Gibson

You may be surprised by this statement – it’s the 21st century! Of course we are a democratic state; we are free to vote for who we please. However, I would make the argument that this is not really the case.

As I have just mentioned, we have free and fair elections in the UK – there are currently eight parties representing the British people in Westminster. This means that a wide range of viewpoints and opinions of the electorate are conveyed in parliament. However, I disagree with this.

Firstly, Britain adopts the First Past the Post system whereby all a candidate must do to win a constituency in a general election is gain more votes than any of their competitors – they do not need to win by a majority. Therefore, (and this was the case in the Portsmouth South constituency in the election earlier this year) a large percentage of the electorate did not want the candidate who eventually won to do so (Stephen Morgan only had a percentage of 41%). The effect of such a procedure means that the majority of certain constituencies in Britain are inaccurately represented.
Moreover, as much as we have the illusion of voting for whoever we please, the party we vote for may not necessarily have any real power and thus, to ensure your vote is not considered ‘wasted’, you are better off for voting for one of the major parties. Again, one may feel pressured into voting for a party that only partially resembles their views instead of choosing the candidates you would prefer but, because of their lack of influence, wealth and chance of winning, you feel obliged not to vote for them. This clearly is undemocratic as it deters the electorate for voting for who they so wish.

Perhaps through no fault of our own, the low turnout in the UK is a clear indicator of an ineffective democracy – how can our views be represented if not all our views are expressed? The turnout has been steadily increased since the disastrous 2001 election where only 59% of the electorate voted.  Significantly, the turnout has been highest in recent years when it comes to both the Scottish and EU referendums – 84.6% and 72.2% respectively. This is a clear message from the eligible voters that they feel more engaged and interested in the world of politics when they truly believe that their vote will count and the outcome is not already foregone: during both of these referendum campaigns, the vote was always going to be close, perhaps unlike in general elections where the electorate choose not to vote due the concept of ‘safe seats’ as, if they vote for one candidate, it is incredibly unlikely they will win due to the strong-rooted backing of another party. During the 2015 general election, the BBC reported that 225 constituencies had not changed party representation since before 1950, also saying that over 25 million people lived in ‘safe seats.’ This once again discourages the electorate from voting and shows an undemocratic system as their views are not conveyed.

How Important was Dunkirk in Shaping the Second World War?

by Oliver Wright

Dunkirk: The History

On 10th May 1940, the Luftwaffe (Nazi Air Force) and Wehrmacht (Unified Nazi Armed Forces) launched an offensive against France, Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. In response to this, British and French forces on the Belgium border quickly reacted in the effort to break the German momentum and keep the invaders from reaching any French industrial strongholds. However, another German effort came further south, through the Ardennes, where Hitler’s forces swept aside shallow French units. After this it became apparent that hundreds of thousands of British and French troops had been entrapped by the superior tactics and strength of the German military.

By the 19th May, the British Commander, Viscount Gort, was considering the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force (the BEF) by sea to be the best option, and consequently planned the withdrawal of troops to Dunkirk beach, which was the closest location with good port facilities and enough space for large groups of soldiers to assemble. The Allied pocket around Dunkirk steadily shrunk until the 24th May, with a failed attempt to breakthrough the German lines being the only major attempt to escape the coastline of Northern France and Belgium. However, this German advance ceased for 3 days, for reasons still debated today by historians today. This gave the surrounded Allied forces time to recuperate, plan and begin the evacuation. Churchill ordered Operation Dynamo (the codename of the evacuation) to start at 19:00 on the 26th May, by which time 28,000 men had already been rescued.

Initial plans were to use destroyers and transport ships to evacuate the troops, but these only expected to have time to save 30,000 soldiers. However, before long the harbour at Dunkirk became blocked by ships sunk by the constant Luftwaffe attacks, this meaning troops had to be taken off the beaches, a nearly impossible task given the shallow water preventing large ships from reaching the shore. Small ships were needed to ferry the troops from the beaches to the larger ships, thus a vast number of commercial ships were requisitioned to help, some with naval crews, and some with civilian. It wasn’t long before the British command realised this was a sluggish and time-consuming method, re-routing the evacuation to two long concrete breakwaters; the East Mole and West Mole. Almost 200,000 troops embarked upon ships from the East Mole in the following week, contributing hugely to the overall evacuation. In total, 338,226 Allied troops were rescued from the beaches at Dunkirk by the hastily assembled fleet comprised of around 800 boats.

The Propaganda

It was dubbed a ‘miracle’ by Prime Minister Winston Churchill in its aftermath, and the British press predominantly followed the line that Dunkirk was a ‘disaster turned into triumph’. The incredibly positive publicity the evacuation received was so widespread that Churchill even had to remind the country that "Wars are not won by evacuations." Newspapers ran headlines such as ‘Tired, Dirty, Hungry they came back - unbeatable’ and ‘Dunkirk defence defies 300,000’, allowing the inference that Britain had won some sort of victory over Germany. This firstly demonstrates the huge impact Dunkirk had on the British public, as the battle wasn’t seen as the crushing loss that it effectively was (with Britain being pushed out of mainland Europe, potentially being forced to fight the remainder of the war from a home front), meaning the British public were still in support of the war, determined to fight another day rather than accepting defeat that seemed all too inevitable at the time. The Dunkirk spirit had taken hold of Britain, and the government encouraged it to flourish, preventing any material being published that might damage morale. The snowstorm of positive propaganda that the aftermath of Dunkirk received I would argue was vital in the war continuing, and in turn, the final outcome of the war. This is because with more realistic and honest propaganda circulating, highlighting how the Allies were pushed out of mainland Europe so easily, the public would have ceased to back the war and forced the government to look for potential peace negotiations. The spirit of Dunkirk would have not existed if the crushing nature of the defeat wasn’t publicised in a way that gave the public hope, as it would have left Britain no motivation to ‘never surrender’ (as stated in Churchill’s famous ‘We shall fight on the beaches’ speech). The importance of Dunkirk is epitomised by the phrase ‘Dunkirk was a military defeat but a propaganda victory’, as although the Allies lost valuable ground, they managed to maintain their war effort long enough to see the war through until help came in the form of the Americans and Russians.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Bat Walk

by Jackie Tyldesley

On Friday, 15th September, some Wildlife Club members and staff went on a Bat Walk led by Nik Knight (former Head of Biology) up at Hilsea Sports ground. We were also lucky that Lynne, another member of the Hampshire bat group, brought with her two rescue bats, called Brenda and Penelope, which she is looking after as they both have damaged wings.

Has the Boris Bubble Burst?

by Mark Docherty

Boris Johnson has seldom been far from the headlines since he was elected as Mayor of London in 2012, but the past months have been ridiculous, even by his standards. At last, it seems, public opinion has well and truly soured on the Foreign Secretary and he is danger of being cut adrift by the government. Recent comments made in an article in The Telegraph seem to have been the final straw for many within the Conservative Party and it now seems that he has forsaken any chance of leading the party in future.

In the end, Johnson’s downfall looks as if it will be caused by the very same thing which drew voters to him at the beginning of his political career. He became popular as he reminded people of an uncle who had had a little too much to drink at a wedding: always unkempt, the occasional borderline-racist comment, but always good value entertainment. In the fairly redundant office of Mayor of London this was not too harmful, even if there was the occasional gaffe - the odd dangle from a zip wire was some light hearted fun rather than a national embarrassment. 

However, as Johnson has risen up the pecking order within both the Conservative Party and the government, his persona has become more problematic. Now that he is Britain’s ambassador to the world it is less appropriate to have him playing his own game and deviating from the official government agenda, yet he has been unable to curb his tendencies to cause mischief. Just last year he was given a slap on the wrist by Theresa May for accusing Saudi Arabia, one of the UK’s biggest trading partners, of ‘playing proxy wars’.

In a strange way there are similarities between Johnson and Donald Trump, and I am not talking about hairstyles. With Johnson being Eton educated he is hardly an anti-establishment figure, but he is also a world apart from the average tight-lipped diplomat who we are used to seeing in and around the Houses of Parliament. Nobody can deny that Johnson is prepared to speak his mind and, while it has resulted in several amusing interviews, it is questionable how much good it does from a political standpoint. The same goes with Trump: he commences to take to the battleground of his Twitter account and says whatever comes into his head. While this is viewed by some as refreshing to see politicians being so open with the public, others wonder whether their respective powers might warrant more self control, especially when thinking about foreign policy.

Photography: Waverley arrives in Portsmouth

by Tony Hicks

These images of the Waverley arriving in Portsmouth Harbour were taken on Saturday morning.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Why the Tabloids' Presentation of Women is So Harmful

by Ellie Williams-Brown

A few weeks ago, Premier League footballer Wayne Rooney was caught driving while three times over the alcohol limit. To make matters worse, when he was arrested in the early hours, he was driving the car of a woman who was not his wife. It emerged that he had claimed they had decided to “romp”. Infidelity in marriages is not new, and neither is sexism in tabloids, but there is a specific kind that becomes increasingly apparent since the Rooneys became the centre of the media.

Since the incident occurred, the media have been placing pressure upon pressure on the Everton player’s heavily pregnant wife Coleen to stay with him. Social media users have reminded her that “millions of men” have done this and urgently pressed her to help her husband be “better”: it’s her duty.

Headlines of Wayne’s “week of turmoil [taking] a turn for the worse when his wife was spotted out and about without her wedding ring” seem a little ironic. Shouldn’t it be Coleen’s week of turmoil? It was her who had the father of her unborn child nearly cheat on her and “humiliate” her so that she feels, according to media reports, that “the whole world is laughing at her”.

It’s ironic how lightheartedly Rooney’s indiscretions against his pregnant wife are treated, especially by The Sun, which created a ‘hall of shame’ where women who had cheated on their partners could be called out and publicly humiliated.

What’s even worse than this casual brushing away of Rooney’s cheating is how the blame is shifted onto Coleen. Why hadn’t she taken fewer holidays? If she had been at home with the kids, not off with them in Majorca, this never would have happened! Why hadn’t she placed stricter rules on him or offered stronger ultimatums after previous transgressions? Doesn’t she know that Wayne is a “manchild” whose every need and want must be met by her, as he is so reliant and incompetent? Despite how outlandish many of these questions sound, a lot of them have been asked with a serious expectancy that Coleen should answer them.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Experiencing a Hurricane: A Personal Story

by Millie Braund

Last week, Hurricane Irma, a category 4 storm, raged across the Caribbean and the east coast state of Florida, U.S.A. The event was covered by news stations all over the world, and led me to think back to a similar storm named Hurricane Charley in 2004. Although only four years old, I vaguely remember experiencing the hurricane, but ultimately remember being told an abundance of stories when growing up, by my parents and older siblings, due to the fact that we were caught in the very middle of it. During August of 2004, my family visited our holiday home in Florida for what was thought to be a relaxing break. This is a story they shared with me.

When news of the storm heading our way first came, we were staying in a hotel for a few days on the beautiful, sun-kissed coast of Longboat Key, which lies on the west-side, commonly known as the ‘Gulf-side’ of Florida as it sits on warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Charley was predicted to hit landfall near Tampa, which is just north of where we were staying. As the storm came closer, the state authorities used television, radio and SMS broadcasts to order the evacuation of all people along the west coast affected by this prediction; This included us and about 1.9 million other citizens. At this point, we set off on a relatively long journey back to our holiday home near Orlando, dealing with the inevitable queues of traffic created by the evacuation; what would normally be a two and a half hour journey took us about eight hours.

When we finally settled back at our home, we tracked the storm on television. When it eventually made landfall in the early hours of the morning, it actually hit much further south than predicted. Shocking Floridians with its sudden change of course, the hurricane hit shore at a coastal town called Punta Gorda. The damage was devastating, due to the strong winds and the storm surge, which is where the sea level gets ‘kicked’ up due to the offshore wind. With the area being quite low lying and flat, the local impact was catastrophic. Sadly, several people lost their lives in Punta Gorda, amongst them some elderly people from a retirement community near the coast. The irony of our story is that, having been evacuated from Longboat Key, which did not feel the full force of the storm, the hurricane changed path, tracking diagonally across Florida, and right over where we had evacuated to in Orlando. So, we had to prepare the house for the oncoming storm - a direct hit; we brought all the pool furniture in and put sofas and beds up against the windows.

Photography: Lanner Falcons

by Tony Hicks