Thursday, 30 June 2016

BREXIT - 28 Years Later

by Oliver Clark

After the YouGov exit polls suggested a narrow 52-48 victory for Remain on June 23rd, I went to bed in preparation for my open day at Warwick University the next morning. On this night, 'going to bed' consisted of me watching the TV with bated breath as the thing that I had hoped so dearly for slowly became a reality. I 'woke up' to my dad telling me that it was time to get up and that against all odds, Brexit was happening. It was about half way up to Coventry when the news was finally confirmed, and that it was announced that the British Public, with the highest turn out for a national vote since 1992, had voted to Leave the European Union. It is the next chapter of Britain's political and economic landscape, and I could not be happier. However, my feelings were not shared by approximately 48% of the population.

In this article, I could go on about the pure outcry of the vast majority of my peers, angered about the uneducated and antiquated older generation (who had seen the EU for what it was originally designed to be and how different it has subsequently become) for ruining the future of Britain's youth (despite 18-24 year olds amassing a turnout of 36%, less than half of every other age demographic). But I would be forced into talking about the 52% of the population who are rejoicing and democratic vote, where their voices were heard and their vote mattered.

I could go on about the economic worries and uncertainties that we now face, ones that, despite being 100% legitimate and will cause a reduction of investment until new deals are formed, were inevitable after a vote of this magnitude. But I feel that if I talked about this, I would be forced to talk about the resilience and almost immediate recovery of Stirling, the FTSE, and various other post Brexit positives, such as the agreement for a new Jaguar Factory in Wales and the confirmation that Morgan Stanley will not be causing the 2,000 job losses that were talked of in recent months.

I could talk about the political instability that we now face, with the immediate and honestly inevitable resignation of David Cameron (in a speech that I feel will cement his legacy as one of the most respectable Prime Ministers this country has ever seen) and the apparent internal collapse of the Labour Cabinet (one that even the most rickety IKEA bedside table would be proud of). But once again I would hence be inclined to talk about the shock that this has sent through the spines of the unelected and unaccountable commissioners, who now must realise that the current direction of their European Project is not working. And hey, for all the Remainers reading this, Nigel Farage is out of a job and will probably feel inclined to take a step back from main stream politics now that his work is done! What a day to be alive!

What I am trying to say is this. The result of the referendum has had both positive and negative effects for every one of us. But the time for bitterness and anger and frustration must now be over. The public have made their decision, by a majority of 1.3 million people, and as said by both David Cameron and Jean Claude Juncker, this 'must be respected'. So let us move forward together, and make the most of the current situation. After what I feel was a poorly run campaign on both sides, I think we all need learn how to smile and laugh again. Here is how I picture the aftermath of Brexit. I hope you enjoy!

Scotty Moore: The Quiet Revolutionary

by Emma Bell

There from the beginning: Scotty Moore (left) with Elvis and Bill Black
One by one they are going: those unknowing musicians who bought quiet revolutions to the western world with the advent of rock and roll.

Scotty Moore, a sweet, serious session musician who began playing at the age of eight (self taught) and who, by luck and circumstance found himself a player at Sun Studios under the watchful eyes of owner producer Sam Phillips, was one such man.

He had made some records himself which showed off his bluegrass country style of playing; he had some regular bookings in clubs around Memphis. However, he was more ambitious than that. 

Feeling that the world was passing him by, he found a kindred spirit in Phillips: both had a conviction that change was on its way. As Peter Guralnick notes in his excellent biography of Presley, Scotty recalled: "The two of us would just sit there over coffee and say to each other, 'What is it? What should we do? How can we do it?"

Sam had recorded Presley in the summer of 1954, but hadn't been impressed with the sound that emerged. During one such conversation with Scotty months later, he pulled Elvis's name from his file and told Scotty and bassist Bill Black to meet up with the kid and "feel him out".

Scotty recalled with amusement that  the initial meeting at his house for a jam was unsuccessful, given that Elvis was stammering and could barely sing for nerves: "Elvis was as green as a gourd".

Despite this inauspicious start, the trio met again the following night for a session at Sun Studios. Scotty and Bill were gentle, trying to tease the 'something' out of Elvis that they all felt was there, but without success. They ran through standards until everyone was exhausted and out of ideas.

As his fina
l gambit Elvis began singing "That's Alright Mama" by Arthur 'Big Boy' Crudup. Bill and Scotty picked up their instruments and joined in. Scotty recalled the moment here: 

The freshness and exuberance of that performance and the cathartic, joyful release from Elvis galvanised the trio and their producer and they began recording a string of hits that would have a profound influence on all of them:

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

A Look Back at the Contest that Helped to Unite Europe

by Jack Rockett

The winner, 2016
I know it was over a month ago but everyone has to love Eurovision, even though it is awful. As usual we did terribly but what do you expect with such a dull song? We always talk about how we need to do better so most people my age are quite surprised to find that we have won five times. Most British millennials think that we have never won because we have never won in their lifetimes and we keep on sending awful songs. 

What most people don’t know as well is that the creation of Eurovision, along with many other things, helped lead to the formation of the EU. It was one of the first things that came about in trying to unite Europe after the Second World War and does a very good job of it each year. I have decided to publish this now obviously because of the recent vote which mainly says about this country that we apparently do not want to be united with our continent. It says that we don’t need Europe to help us when we do in every way possible and I think that if this is the impression we are giving, we shouldn’t be allowed to enter which I know would make many people very sad. 

So here I give to you my opinions of the songs that absolutely everyone has forgotten from this pretty mediocre contest but have helped to unite our continent a little bit for one week of the year.

Albania: Eneda Tarifa, Fairy tale, didn't qualify, 4/10
I thought the song was quite dull. The lyrics were very uncreative and overall it was pretty forgettable.

Armenia: Iveta Mukuchyan, Love wave, 7th, 4/10
It was a bit repetitive and didn't really have anything going for it. It didn't deserve top 10.

Australia: Dami Im, Sound of silence, 2nd, 8/10
Whether you think they should be in Eurovision or not, they seem to be pretty good at it. Although it was a good song, I didn't get the point of the computer thing in the middle.

Austria: Zoe, Loin d'ici (far from here), 0/10
This song really annoyed me. Apart from it being in French when Austria speaks German, the whole staging was really sickly sweet and she looked like she'd just competed in a beauty pageant. She just really irritated me.

 Azerbaijan: Samra, Miracle, 5/10
I remember when I first heard this song I thought it was really good. Then it got repetitive. Then I heard it live and realised that she can't sing. Azerbaijan sure used a lot of auto tune on her.

Belarus: Ivan, Help You Fly, didn’t qualify, 0/10
This song shows us that when your song is really bad, using all the expensive technology does not work. I also suggest against starting your song with a hologram of you naked.

Belgium: Laura Tesoro, What's the pressure, 10th, 3billion/10
This song may sound cheesy but I fell in love with it. I thought that it is utterly amazing and super fun and the best song this year. You should have too.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Dalal and Deen, Ljubav je (love is), didn’t qualify, 0/10
I found this song just a bit dull. Also I really didn't understand the rap half way through and the barbed wire. It just made the whole song a mess.

Bulgaria: Poli Genova, If love was a crime, 4th, 3billion/10
Again another amazing song and a fab outfit. She definitely deserved coming fourth and I don't even think that was high enough. She looked amazing as a light up traffic sign.

Croatia: Nina kraljic, Lighthouse, 23rd, 9/10
I really liked the song but I didn't understand the cloak thing at the beginning. However that definitely didn't ruin it. She should have come much higher, especially singing that well with bronchitis.

Cyprus: Minus One, Alter ego, 21st, 5/10
It was ok for a rock song at Eurovision and definitely the best out of the other 2. Still not amazing and I found the cages quite creepy.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Adele at Glastonbury???

by Alfie Perry-Ward

I’m on the train back from an open day that lasted way longer than it should have done; while I’m struggling to get 3G, two guys behind me are laying in to the fact that Adele will be headlining Glastonbury. Initially, I assumed they were mistaken as I thought that Muse were headlining the Saturday night slot. After a quick Google, I find that I’m not entirely wrong; Muse were headlining, but on the Friday. Lo and behold: Adele- your Saturday Night headliner (with Coldplay jumping out to conclude on the Sunday).

I was most surprised at how unsurprised I was. She didn't seem that out of place among two huge bands. A solo woman above two colossal, all-male guitar-led groups and I was unsurprised? After considering the rest of the line-up for a good ten minutes, I was pretty impressed. I didn't think it was a special year by any means, but I could definitely see it appealing to the masses while remaining slightly divorced from the charts (something that Glastonbury gets right very year). It was about then that Adele started to look odd at the helm. Surely Muse would have been a safer option? They just seemed more suitable. 

My doubts didn’t lie in the fact that I didn’t reckon she could pull it off. I would argue that she’s right up there as one of the most talented singers to emerge in the last ten years. Whatever she sung at Glastonbury would be sung well, that was a given. Whether or not the songs had the depth to sustain a headline worthy performance was anyone’s guess. I certainly didn’t think so.

I would happily go to a gig for 90 minutes of love ballads at any other non-festival venue. I thought that perhaps she would maybe make a pretty decent Saturday afternoon warm-up act. Adele as a popular, pre-headliner gig would make more sense than the principle act on which the rest of the festival is gauged. The Saturday night headliner of any festival should be a monumental blowout provided by a band on the periphery of the Rock and Roll hall of fame- if not already in it. Adele didn’t fall parallel with this criteria and I remained sceptical right up to the start of Glastonbury.
Watching from the comfortable domain of my front room, I was obviously unable to experience the gig as a punter. It seemed quite stagnant in places, especially between songs where she would do an almost grandmotherly waddle from one part of the stage to the other. At points it was pretty unbearable to watch and I got a little frustrated at how staggered the pace of the show was.
In fairness, she was doing all she could to woo the crowd. Equally, they were lapping up her charm. She put them at such ease. It was like a seated concert rather than a headline act in a weather struck field. In addition to the conversational tone was a huge element of intimacy and crowd connection. This is something that many people at home picked up one. Adele clearly has a strong resonance with her listeners and she is incredibly likeable and endearing.

'Moon River': History of a Song

by Hermione Barrick

'Moon River', the song that led me to Breakfast at Tiffany's, which led me to Audrey Hepburn, and my passion for life's work.

'Moon River' is a song composed by Henry Mancini and lyrics by Johnny Mercer, that was made famous by Audrey Hepburn in the film Breakfast at Tiffany's. Her performance led to the song  receiving an academy award for best original song.Mancini received, in 1962, a Grammy Award for Record of the Year, whilst Mancini and Mercer together won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year.

Hepburn was not a trained singer, so paramount thought that they might have to dub another singer's voice, but Mancini composed a song line that was just right for Audrey's voice. Mercer then wrote three sets of lyrics, his favourite version inspired by the full moon over a river near his childhood home in Savannah, Georgia.

Mancini and Mercer then recorded a demo, which Mancini described as a "slam dunk", but Moon River was almost cut from the final edit because the first screening of Breakfast at Tiffany's was too long. It is said that the head of the studio said, 'We'll just cut the song' at which point Audrey Hepburn herself intervened saying: "over my dead body!" In slightly more colourful language than that, and 'Moon River' remained.

To me, 'Moon River', represents the path of life in the simplest way possible:

Photography: Cloud Formations over PGS

by Tony Hicks

Why You Should Give Blood

by Rebecca Pascoe

At one point in our lives, we will all know someone who needs a blood transfusion, whether it be a friend, family member of co-worker. 

One in three people will need a transfusion during their lifetime. However, this can't happen if the blood isn't available. The NHS blood service needs 200,000 new donors a year, due to older people no longer being able to give blood, but the number of young people who donate has fallen by 60,000 in the past decade. Half the current donors are aged over 45, so, if young people do not start to donate, there will not be enough blood to supply the demand.

I signed up to be a blood donor as soon as I turned 17 and made my first donation a few weeks ago. This cause is something I am passionate about and I think it is extremely rewarding to know that you can save or improve up to three lives with every donation. A survey done by the BBC showed that 37% of young non-donors don't donate because they are scared of needles.

Although this is valid, I believe that ten minutes of slight discomfort is worth it for the benefit the blood can give to someone in need. The NHS staff work extremely hard to make the experience as comfortable as possible and, although I am not the biggest fan of needles, it was not overly painful.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Casting A Spell

by Robert Merriam

On the 17th June Michelle Terry had her opening night in the titular role in Henry V. The show is running until the 9th of July at the Regent’s Park open air theatre. From what I can see there is no outcry about this which is without doubt a good thing. I heard a radio interview with Terry in which she talked about how the creative team had opted not to change any of the dialogue in the play, keeping pronouns and names the same and simply disregard the gender of the lead. This provokes a lot of questions, and now I’m going to try to discuss some of them in a measured and inoffensive manner.

Upon hearing about the production the person I was with at the time asked “Why would you do that?”. My initial knee jerk answer was that it’s a laugh, by which I meant that it’s not something that needs justifying. Terry is a renowned Shakespearean actress so we might as well give her one of the great Shakespearean roles. Besides there are plenty of versions of the play with conventional casting choices the most recent of which only finished at the Barbican in January. This production simply offers an alternative interpretation of the text, which makes it no different from the oodles of re-envisionings that Shakespeare texts undergo every year. Why should we deprive good actors of good roles?

However, it could be argued that casting a woman in a male role requires more thought than we might at first consider. Does this alteration fundamentally change the character of the protagonist in a way that makes it transformative? Is the story of a female military leader who triumphs against a superior power through bravery and leadership different to a man doing the same. Terry has commented saying that they haven’t actually changed any of the text to suit the gender switch: she is playing Henry. She rightly points out that her genitalia are frankly irrelevant.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

A Political Reformation or ‘Notes From a Small Island’: Some Reflections on the EU Referendum

by Simon Lemieux

A Republic, if you can keep it’ Benjamin Franklin 1787

A week is a long time in politics’ Prime Minister Harold Wilson 1964

Never in the field of political conflict was so much debated by so many to such little effect’ Adapted and twisted from Winston Churchill’s wartime tribute to the RAF by the author

Until now I have deliberately stayed out of the Portsmouth Point articles, vlogs and debates over the EU referendum. Partly out of laziness and too many other things to do, partly because pupils were doing such an excellent job on both sides themselves. But now, as the dust is settling, I feel compelled, or at least duty bound as a politics teacher and historian, to contribute some thoughts and reflections of my own on the whole debate and outcome.

Firstly, I found this a truly fascinating if often unedifying campaign. Fascinating for a number of reasons. Firstly it broke most of the traditional political rules not least with strange alliances: George Osborne and Alastair Darling, Ruth Davidson (leader of the Scottish Tories) and SNP First Lady Nicola Sturgeon. We were disappointingly spared the Cameron-Corbyn love-in, though. But on the Leave side, too, we had right-wing Eurosceptics from Tory and UKIP alongside credible Labour figures such as Frank Field and Gisella Stuart, plus a few Old Labour dinosaurs such as Dennis Skinner MP, the "Beast of Bolsover".

Rule number two that was broken was that divided parties (or in this case campaigns) do not win elections. The Leave camp was divided from the start with two principal groups emerging: the official Vote Leave group which encompassed the more ‘establishment’ Eurosceptics such as Gove, Johnson and Stuart, and the more insurgent/UKIP orientated Leave.EU which was more the Farage vehicle. Logic should have dictated some infighting among the two groups. Other than Vote Leave disowning the controversial ‘Breaking Point’ poster put out by Leave EU, they co-operated rather like the Soviets and the British/Americans in WW2. Separate fronts, but willing to pause mutual suspicion for long enough to fight a common enemy. This worked: Farage and Johnson/Gove will have had an appeal to separate constituencies of voters. I don’t see the traditional Labour voters of South Wales, Merseyside or the North East ever voting for a Eurosceptic Tory.

The third rule to be broken was that referendums result in a victory for the status quo, that caution prevails, not least when the bulk of the ‘establishment (big business, economists, trade union leaders etc) attempt to persuade ‘their’ people to fall in behind. If I was to identify one common sentiment the morning after the night before among staff and pupils regardless of how they voted or aligned, it was shock. Deep sadness and anger among some, quiet resolve and grim satisfaction among others. Few, I felt, were in a celebratory mood ready to crack open the bottles of fizz. This was a truly momentous decision, a political tsunami, Unlike a general election or presidential race, we won’t be able to reverse the decision in four or five years. Well, it could happen (in politics anything is possible), but I deem it very unlikely. 

Images from Leavers' Day

by Tony Hicks

The Carnegie Book Awards 2016

by Bryony Hart

This year pupils from Year 7 have been shadowing the Carnegie Book Awards.  The Carnegie Award is an award that is presented to the best YA novel from the shortlist, which is compiled from the long list of 20 titles.  The winner is ultimately chosen by a group of librarians who have been informed by the opinions of young readers.

The PGS Carnegie group particularly enjoyed ‘Five Children on the Western Front’ by Kate Saunders.  This novel was inspired by the original ‘Five Children and It’ by Edith Nesbit.  The reason we liked this novel was because it takes serious themes and issues and makes them entertaining to read.  The audience it is aimed at can relate to the coming-of-age theme, and we believe that it is a novel that will inspire readers to pick-up the novels that it was based on.  We liked the character of the Psammead because he is on the road to repentance, and although he has committed terrible crimes against humanity, he admits his sins and he is eventually redeemed.  

The novel that we found most challenging is ‘The Lie Tree’ because it lost its momentum during the middle part and becomes overwhelmingly descriptive.  ‘Five Ghosts of Heaven’ is interesting because it deals with philosophical themes, but the descriptions read like an itinerary.  It was overly-complicated and rather inaccessible.  

Leavers' Day: Are We Ready To March Through the Arch?

by David Doyle

Saturday, 25 June: Leavers' Day, PGS

Friday, 24 June 2016

Brexit: Living in Interesting Times

by James Burkinshaw

It is fair to say that, for most of us, yesterday’s vote to leave the EU is the most significant political event of our lifetime. As Mrs Worley has already noted in her response to the Brexit decision, “Confucius wished his enemies to live in interesting times . . . I think we certainly will be doing so in the next few decades.” 

In PGS' own referendum yesterday, 75% of pupils and staff voted to remain, in line with the national Remain vote among those under the age of 25. Many pupils today expressed frustration that voters over 50, in particular, voted for Brexit by such large margins, consigning the young to a deeply uncertain future from the consequences of which many of these older voters will be insulated. Furthermore, the closeness of the national vote (52% to 48%) seems a very slim mandate for a political and economic revolution. The last referendum result, in 1975, was 66% to remain: a convincing 2:1 margin. Not surprisingly, there is already a petition for a second referendum. 

There have been plaudits in the press today for the dignity shown by David Cameron in his resignation speech and his profession that “I love this country, and I feel honoured to have served it”. I believe such praise to be misplaced. A man who truly loved his country would not have gambled its future for the sake of saving his own political skin – offering a referendum simply to mollify his backbenchers, prevent Tory voters from deserting to UKIP and discomfit Ed Miliband ahead of the 2015 General Election. In doing so, he unleashed atavistic forces that he could not control, all for short-term, petty political advantage. We live with the results. Cameron will have to live with the fact his political career will forever be defined by this one feckless decision alone. 

It seems very likely that our new Prime Minister will be Boris Johnson and that his chancellor will be Michael Gove. These are men who have demonstrated a cavalier attitude to facts (to put it kindly) during the course of the campaign (Gove himself at one stage noting "that we have had enough of experts" when presented with overwhelming evidence of the speciousness of some of his own claims). First thing this morning, the backtracking was already underway, as the Leave campaign distanced itself from its central campaign claim that, by leaving the EU, Britain would be saving £350 million a week. The savings were apparently going to be spent on the NHS (until it turned out they didn't really exist). It has to be said, however, that neither Johnson nor Gove were ever particularly convincing in the role of guardians of public services and the rights of working people. Indeed, Johnson himself is not even convincing as a Brexiteer; his decision to join the Leave campaign was predicated on his calculation that this was the most promising path to No. 10 (Gove, to be fair, is a true believer with regard to Brexit). Like Mr Cameron, Johnson has put personal political advantage over the interests of the country (just a thought, but should we not be expecting more from Etonians?) This post-modern attitude to the truth (again, to put it kindly) has been a constant feature of his career; as one of his former journalistic colleagues pointed out last week, it was Johnson, working for the Daily Telegraph as their Brussels correspondent in the 1990s, who popularised the completely fictional stories, so beloved by the right-wing press, of the EU banning certain shapes of bananas or certain types of British ale, myths which have profoundly shaped people’s perception of the EU as an absurd and overbearing Orwellian state.    

Reflections on Friday, following Brexit

by Miranda Worley

Sitting in the quad at 8:15am on June 24th, puts me in a reflective mood....the UK sits on the brink of some very interesting times ahead.

My first thought is...PGS is very different to England.   The PGS referendum was very Remain: England is more equally divided, but Leave won. Well we know PGS is special, no one would seriously suggest PGS is reflective of the country as a whole. By and large more affluent and more educated southerners seem more pro Europe than our poorer northern countrymen. Yet this difference is quite stark this morning.  A country with such different outlooks probably due to deep seated inequality can be an uncomfortable society to live in.  It looks like Scotland and Northern Ireland, don't want to join us for this adventure.

Secondly, I see groups of PGS pupils coming together as they make their way across the quad, some are discussing Brexit, but very few are. Most are concerned with what children should really be concerned about: football, puddles, new hair-dos. Yet it is those aged under 30 who will be most affected by this seismic change. It is their futures that have now taken a new course. Opportunities closed, but opportunities opening.  I don't think I'll be emigrating in search of a better job elsewhere, but I wonder how many of my children will?

Thirdly, I'm thinking about my holiday. My pound may go less far today, my tapas and cervesa may be more expensive - will we have to holiday in the UK?  Will there be any space here with all the foreign tourists flocking here to take advantage of our cheap hospitality?

Confucius wished his enemies to live in interesting times...I think we certainly will be doing so in the next few decades. Good luck to us all.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Roses After a Summer Shower

by Tony Hicks

I captured these pictures of my yellow roses with rain drops on, in the back garden during another summer downpour.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Review: 'Richard III'

by Daniel Hill

Vanessa Redgrave and Ralph Fiennes (source: Guardian)
Shakespeare's play that tells the horrific story of Richard the III's reign over England is portrayed as a deadly and ruined stage of British History by the cast at the Almeida.

Directed by the Artistic Director, Rupert Gould, the theatre once again failed to disappoint. Ralph Fiennes as the evil Richard and acting royalty Vanessa Redgrave as dreamy Queen Margaret both, along with the rest of the cast, worked together to make this an unforgettable performance. 

As soon as the house is open, the bones of the historical figure are being dug up, in the now familiar setting of the Leicester Car Park. The pit is dug beneath the stage, and remains there throughout the play, with a glass floor sliding over it. The stage starts to fill up with locals who want to have a glance until suddenly news reports are being played loudly and noise is being broadcast until gracefully the crooked spine of King Richard the III is lifted out of the grave. 

Then suddenly Ralph Fiennes emerges from the back of the black stage, with his back hunched similarly to the Richard III we think of today. The idea of a timeless and placeless piece is created by the cast using mobile phones and medieval weapons.

The first line of the play sent a chill around the audience at the Almeida Theatre. Mr. Fiennes brought many sides of King Richard III to the table, presenting a comedic but utterly terrifying Duke of Gloucester. The particular hatred and loathing also emerged from his performance. And even though, at moments, his performance is very subtle, it remains effective and powerful right until the end.

And then we see Vanessa Redgrave, at the royal age of 79. 

The Zac Goldsmith Campaign (anecdotes and all).

by Sophie Rose

Zac Goldsmith campaigning
for Mayor of London
This year I have been immersed within the ‘political circus’ of the US primaries working on the ‘Hillary for America’ Campaign and also on Zac Goldsmith’s London Mayoral Campaign. Although two very different campaigns, both shared an avid display of politics in action and an insight behind the uncompromising walls of politics and power.

As a London ‘outsider’, I was particularly tantalised to work on the London Mayoral Campaign; a campaign to elect London’s New Mayor but one that has global implications. I have admired Zac since he first became MP for Richmond in the 2010 General Election. Zac is a man with integrity, a strong moral compass and a kind heart and will not shy away from a rebellious vote in order to stand up for his constituents and put them first. My attraction to work for Zac was borne out of his economically sound policies and his innovative ideas for London to be at the epicentre of everything green. A policy I was particularly behind was his idea to make London the first ever ‘garden city’ – truly promoting the green agenda. Having already been a key advocate of Zac, made the experience to work for him even more pleasurable. My hard work was having a direct influence on getting a man I believed in to potentially be elected as the next Mayor of London, the politician holding the largest mandate in the UK.  

It was an enthralling campaign to work within and reflect on the often misconceived opinion portrayed by both the media and the public. The short-term nature of the campaign extenuated the smallest issues, which if whipped up by the media could turn into negative media cycles for days. The Zac campaign faced a handful of issues that had to be carefully dealt with, including the EU referendum and The Chancellor's announcement on cutting disability benefits. There was an unforeseeable nature to every day, which made coming into work one of elation and excitement – an internal policy proposal one day could turn into a media storm tomorrow.

Having worked on both the London Mayoral Campaign for Zac and the Hillary for America campaign, it truly opened my eyes to the complexity that comes with every political campaign. I was involved in the ‘TeamBackZac’ department which was the campaigning organisation that spearheaded all voluntary campaigning activity. I was involved in a varied range of jobs from organising campaign days, preparation for external conferences, writing daily emails to volunteers, using VoteSource and NationBuilder, preparation for rallies and responding to correspondence on behalf of Zac. Of course Zac was the main show, but the finished product that was being sold to the electorate of London was most certainly enhanced by the resolute team of employees and volunteers behind him.

Review: 'Game of Thrones' Series Six, Episode Nine

PGS pupils discuss 'Game of Thrones' Series Six, Episode Nine ("Battle of the Bastards")

Review: Noises Off

by Poppy Goad

The introduction to the comic genius of 'Noises Off' first opened on the eccentric Mrs Clackett, her  unhealthy appetite for the delicacy of sardines serving as constant laugh through the confusion that coats the play. With an out of character twist to a second character adding yet another comic element to the play it develops into a perfect example of slapstick comedy, a fast farce to go down in the history books.

With subplots and raging rants the cast's comic timing remains impeccable, resulting in a circus show that leaves the audience crying with laughter.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

The EU Referendum: How I Have Come To My Decision

by Tom Fairman

There has been so much written and so much said about Thursday’s EU Referendum that I am unsure how much I can add to this.

Economic experts and business leaders have argued either way, with different forecasts and figures being bandied around. This is the beauty of Economics but also its main problem. In the context of an age where uncertainty is deemed to be worse than being wrong, this ambiguity has been replaced by false assertions of unknowns as facts and has led to a distrust of the figures and the figures who make the claims. The economic impacts of Brexit or Bremain are therefore uncertain, but invariably life will go on. There will be recessions and recoveries, growth and crashes. Public services will continue to be underfunded and the gap between rich and poorer will continue to rise, whether we are inside or outside of the EU. The current trend of austerity and de-regulation that is in vogue with Western institutions exists inside and outside the EU. The inevitable conclusion of these factors is that we find ourselves in a position to vote on a subject where we feel we have no solid facts to base our decision upon.

The inability of the majority of politicians to stay away from hyperbole and admit their own uncertainty has only added to the erosion of trust in politicians, whether they be the EU Commissioners or the elite British political class, which has left people in a position of not knowing who to believe. I find this a difficult conundrum on two levels. Firstly, I believe that politicians start off their careers wanting to make a difference to their country, regardless of their own political leanings. Whether they can maintain this in the highly pressurised world of national politics, with the power and the lobbying, is another matter, but for democracy to work that has to be the assumption. Which leads onto the second difficulty I have, which is the assumption that our British political class is in some way superior to its European counterparts. Nothing I have heard or seen supports this view; each organisation has its issues, corruptions and unaccountability (read HS2 for Britain and EU agricultural policy). Therefore whoever has our sovereignty, I can see no change to the systems we are under or the impact on everyday life.

The issue of immigration, therefore, has been at the forefront of the debate as something that is quantifiable and appears to have an impact on our lives through housing, schools and the NHS. When you speak to people about the referendum, it is the final issue in the majority of cases. Again it is surrounded with claims and counter claims, rational concerns and blatant racism. There is another prevailing current in the media and politics which is to scapegoat and blame an “other” for the ills in society, to unite against an enemy on our borders or in our midst. It is unhelpful when attempting to understand an issue and needs to be named before it can be addressed and dealt with to allow us to be able to see clearly.

These three areas are the main ones I have heard debated although other concerns do exist, but, as I have tried to explain, the conclusions I have come to about them have been inclusive for me. This may be strange to those who know where this is going, but it has led me to try to look for a different perspective. If these issues are the practical, but important day to day factors, there must be a bigger picture to consider.

Why We Must Remain: A Letter to the Undecided

by James Stuart-James

This week I wished to take a break from my traditional article scheme on the blog and instead write a practical piece. This is an altered version of a letter I wrote to people in my local area which I posted through their letter boxes in order to state my case to remain in the EU, not as a Liberal Democrat but as a student whose future career may very well be dependent on the outcome of this referendum. If you know anybody who is undecided on the matter of the EU referendum, please show them this letter.

Dear Sir/Madam,

The majority of young people want the UK to REMAIN in the EU.  WHY?  It gives us the best opportunities for our future.

1.   We can all study, work and live in 28 EU countries – including retiring in the sun.
2.   We can travel to those countries without visas.
3.   University courses including a year abroad are part funded by the EU so we receive free tuition and £300/month towards living costs.  If we leave, we lose both.
4.   Universities rely heavily on EU funding and every university wants us to remain.
5.   Scientists and research institutions benefit greatly from EU funding.

Consider some of the many benefits we have gained from EU membership:

-          Workers’ rights + 1 May holiday
-          Maternity pay + Paternity  leave
-          Women’s and LGBT equality rights
-          Price restrictions on medications (unlike the USA)
-          Cheaper European flights

EU migrants bring net taxation benefits to our country of £20 billion i.e. we are financially better off with EU migrants working in our country.  Let us give them respect and thank them for choosing to live and work here.  The NHS relies on EU migrants to function.  They are not “scroungers” and Cameron’s new deal means they will not be able to claim state benefits for the first four years or stay without work. 

Only 7% of our laws come from Brussels and it makes sense to work with our European allies e.g. on international security, counter-terrorism and the environment.

Finally, please don’t listen to the lies:

A Basic Guide To Undermine Feminism

by Philippa Noble

The feminist population at PGS is certainly diverse and constantly growing. Yet minorities found both in our school and in the rest of the world are compromising one of modern day’s most inclusive movements. Whilst many of us use the name of feminism to gain equality, justice, and the end of discrimination in all forms; some choose to use this as a method of getting their way – meaning no one can argue against them without being labelled a misogynist. It’s no longer a matter of what the majority of the feminist campaign believes; a lot of opposition has already begun to hook onto the wrong doings of the few.

As forward as feminists can be (whether through social media or otherwise) a silent, unlawful practice is known, or at least presumed, to be going on. Positive discrimination has become the forefront of many arguments against feminism. Positive discrimination is a policy, favouring individuals who are subject to discrimination. This is, in turn, believed to be the practice that some companies are following by unjustly favouring women over men. In the feminist movement, we fight for equality not a progressive left, leading into misandry. Nevertheless, a minority of entitled over-enthusiasts argue that this is right to compensate women for the centuries of gender roles and oppression in a business sense. The majority of us would agree that, although there needs to be more representation of women on a global scale, discrimination and punishment is not the way to achieve it. They should be hired due to the woman’s own merit and credentials not to do with her gender, race, sexuality, or age.

Following from discrimination found in corporations, some feminists feel that discrimination against those that aren’t seen to be disadvantaged is a fitting way to end the struggle for equality. Predominantly found in social media such as Instagram and Tumblr, a few attempt to show that women, POCs, those in the LGBTQA+ community, and many more are better or hold more credibility than those that aren’t – the perfect target being a straight, white, cis male. Again, these people put our strive for everyone’s right to live without prejudice in danger of being viewed as the product of “over emotional teenage girls”. Many who disagree with the feminist movement believe that they are, in turn, being discriminated against. In certain places, they are. Those feminists who believe that these groups of people are better than others are definitely not quiet about it – once again putting our cause to shame.

Finally, the horrifyingly common view of many middle class western women is that feminism isn’t relevant in this day and time. This only gives more backing to misogynists and people who disagree with feminism for any reason. The way some of them label feminists as any number of slurs only makes it okay for others to do so as well. These women, who are usually fairly respected in their community clearly haven’t realised the effect of rape culture on our society and even their own everyday actions. They also haven’t seen the victims of abuse in not only our own culture but others as well. Child brides, acid attacks, domestic abuse, and FGM are all examples of terrible events happening in many other countries. The continuance of these issues only increases the need for feminism.

EU: Why We Must Leave

This was the speech given by Oliver Clark in favour of leaving the EU during yesterday's EU referendum debate at PGS.

David Cameron likes to use the analogy of 'Little Englanders' to describe people on the Leave side of this campaign. But believe me, the future of this country outside of the EU is far broader and far brighter than our current prospects.

I'd like to start off with a little history. When we joined the Common Market in 1972, the British were told that this was designed to be a tariff free zone, a relationship based purely on free trade between neighbouring countries. If this were still the case, we would not be even having this referendum. If the EU was about co-operation and unity, like organisations such as the UN and NATO, there would be no issue.

So what do we have today, inside the EU? 

We have an unelected EU commission, who have the sole power to propose 60% of the laws in this country. 28 men and women, including 5 male presidents, who we cannot elect, we cannot replace, and none of us can even name!

We have an EU project that is failing, and ruining the lives of millions of people across Europe. One that's austerity policy has resulted in 50% youth unemployment in Greece, 45% in Spain, 39% in Italy and 30% in Portugal. The only solution that these beaurocrats in Brussels see is more integration, more union, and more control taken away from the people who are suffering the most.

And finally, an EU that's overall objective is to create a European Superstate, to rival the likes of China, Russia and the United States, with a single European Currency, an EU army, an anthem, single Tax system, a flag and a pursuit of expansion not for safety or for security, but for power. 

I could go on and on and on about the very apparent problems of the EU, but the question I would like to offer you is this. Would you like the aforementioned 28 unelected commissioners, to run the future of this great country?

Or do you want democracy. Do you want the people that you vote for on the ballot paper every 5 years to have the power to carry out your wishes.

Monday, 20 June 2016

EU: Why We Must Remain

This was the speech given by Charlotte Phillips in favour of remaining within the EU during today's EU referendum debate at PGS.

EU membership allow us to be an open, forward-thinking, outward-looking nation, which can collaborate with other countries and have international influence. Our place in the world stage is solidified, strengthened and enhanced by being a member of the European Union. The benefits are too many to list in just four minutes, but I will outline some of my key arguments:

1. Economics

Around three million jobs are linked to the free trade agreement we have by being a member of the EU. These jobs will be uncertain if we leave. The UK actually pays the least of all the EU countries as a share of GNI; we get so much back in funding, grants, subsidies and of course access to the single market. This single market allows us to trade with 500 million consumers free of tariffs, charges and restrictions. Our membership stimulates competition and trade, improves efficiency, raises quality and cuts prices. 

If we leave the EU, we will not be given full access to the single market. In any deal that provides single market access, the EU would demand the UK accept free movement of people and EU common regulations. We would not have any say in how these rules are written. We would not be given a favourable deal - that would encourage other states to leave. 

2. Science and universities

One of the less-discussed issues is that of science and universities. Eighteen leading UK universities face half of their funding being axed if we Brexit. Across all higher education, the subjects of education, law and legal studies, philosophy, ethics and religion, environmental studies, information and computer sciences are more than a third dependent on EU funding. How are we meant to produce top lawyers and educators and lead the way in science and research without this crucial funding and collaboration? In fact, it is not just about funding but about the quality of research which is enhanced by a continent-wide pool of knowledge leading to a permeability of ideas and people, an openness to exchange and collaboration and an environment that pools intelligence and minimises barriers.

Brexiters will argue that we can have this outside the EU, but we really cannot - Switzerland has an association agreement with the EU for research activities, but to do so it pays a price into the EU budget and has no part in discussions about what sort of research gets funding. And if this is not enough: every single UK minister for universities and science during the past 25 years has said UK science would be damaged by our leaving the EU.

3. Democracy

The EU is far more democratic than its opponents claim with their stories of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. The EU may not be perfect and it is not entirely democratic: however, it is not remotely true that our laws are simply the product of 28 bureaucrats on the European commission. 

There are actually three main bodies that propose and pass laws in the EU: the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament. The Commission is composed of 28 people, including one commissioner from each country; it is headed by the president, nominated by the leaders of the member states. The president allocates jobs to the commissioners who are, in turn, nominated by the governments of their own countries. The commission is then approved by a majority vote in the European parliament.

The commission can only propose laws; it cannot make them or pass them. The Commission's proposals must be passed by a majority through the European Council, made up of government ministers from each state. The proposal is then debated, amended and passed or rejected by the European Parliament. We vote for the members of the parliament (they are our MEPs).

I am not claiming that this system is perfect, but it is a blatant lie to say all of our laws are made by 28 unelected commissioners. We are much better off remaining within the EU and reforming it to improve its level of democracy than leaving and letting our laws be created by the British Parliament alone, which, I would point out, includes the House of Lords, one of the most undemocratic institutions in the developed world, not to mention an undemocratic first-past-the-post system for the Commons that disenfranchises the majority of the population.

Things I Have Learnt Working in a Café

by Florence Willcocks

I am fortunate enough to have had a pretty decent part-time job for the last four years of my life. “The Compton Village Shop and Tea Room” is a small local business which despite its isolated rural location, is popular amongst the village residents, and always crammed with hungry cyclists and walkers. Living literally next door, I found this job practically fell into my lap when I was just 13 and offering to help with the washing up on Sundays. All of a sudden I found myself taking on the full-on responsibility and excitement of paid work, and what I have learnt over the many shifts I have since done is invaluable to me. Here's why…

I believe everyone should get a part time job in their teenage years. Nothing can teach you the value of money, time and responsibility better than throwing yourself into some sort of employment before you leave school. Perhaps this is why interviewers value some degree of work experience so highly when assessing a candidate; it proves that the person has enough initiative and dedication to find and maintain a boring repetitive job. Furthermore, general common sense, people-skills and the ability to do what you're told successfully (or even maturely instruct others) are all key-aspects that anyone with a job must have.

 The money attitude is a big one. It (literally) pays to know the value of what you earn, and as well as having a little more cash to splash, I for one spend what I earn with far more maturity and consideration than I used to with my pocket money. Seeing things you want in “hours of your hard work” really puts a perspective on how much you really need it, and I think this is a vital viewpoint to have before I leave home and become entirely self-reliant.

Finally, the reality check that a job gives you is a necessary one. I have learnt so much about how business is successfully managed, even on a scale as small as this local café I work at. The organisation of records and finance, staffing and safety, and even the politics of staff gossip are all things I feel I learnt a great deal about, and they will apply to any future employment I may take on. Furthermore, you get a lot of different people walking through the door each day. Sure, in my case it's usually some local OAP who orders the usual Earl Grey, which you have to remember to give extra hot water with because she complains if it's too strong. But still, you pick up a lot of life experience in a job like mine, so knowing that I have a grounding in the basics makes me feel a lot more prepared for future life.

That concludes my sensible rant, here's some other important things I have learnt working in a café…

Jo Cox: Something Needs To Change

by Charlotte Phillips

I was half way through writing an article about the childish way the EU referendum has been played out (by both sides) when I heard of the tragic news of Jo Cox's death.

I have not had such anger evoked in me for a long time. This event symbolises for me so much of what is wrong with not just our politics but our society at the moment.

I was already convinced that politics and the media were doing a disservice to the country and its people; this incident has only served to disgust me and deepen my feelings that we need significant change. I can't help but feel that this murder and the EU debate are inextricably linked: when strong political feelings are expressed as infantile shouting across a TV studio, there is an issue. When a strong, inspirational woman is murdered in what is essentially an extreme right-wing, politically-motivated attack, this should be a blatant signal that a change in the very way we conceive of politics is necessary.

The media coverage of this event has also fuelled the fire of the public reaction to this event. I can't help but point out that perhaps if the killer, Thomas Mair, had not been a white man, the media response would have been quite different: I propose that, if he was anything other than white, there would be much less speculation about his mental health and far more claims that he was a politically indoctrinated terrorist. Claims from his neighbours that he was quiet and polite would pale into insignificance if, for example, he was black or Muslim; in that case, the media would focus on how "radical" Islam had caused the death of yet another innocent woman.

To illustrate this point, I call a comparison between the Daily Mail (an alarmingly widely read publication) has presented Jo Cox's murder and how they presented the murder of Lee Rigby in 2013. Both of these horrendously tragic events were committed by terrorists. Both had political motives. One killer was white, the other black.

If "Islamic fanatics" are waging "a war on the West", why isn't the "timid gardener" accused of doing the same? If the religion of Lee Rigby's killers is brought to the forefront of the reasons for their "hatred", why are the "Far-Right causes" of Thomas Mair not outlined with the same severity.

This is not just hypocrisy: this sort of processed bias and Islamophobia fuels a culture of racism and hatred. However, it is this very culture of racism and hatred that is causing these tragic acts of terrorism in the first place. The so-called political party, Britain First, has been associated with this attack, but in my opinion not nearly enough. The party is essentially an extreme Right-Wing Islamophobic hate group well known for its vitriol and its acts of extreme disrespect and (in some cases) violence towards the Islamic communities in Britain. Thomas Mair supposedly shouted something along the lines of "Britain First" or "Put Britain First" as he carried out his attack. Although this claim has been disputed, the fact that Nazi and Far-Right literature has been found in his house really adds leverage to the argument that the influence of extreme parties such as Britain First has a lot to answer for. Furthermore, consider the fact that, when asked his name in court, Thomas Mair answered "My name is death to traitors, freedom for Britain". This is alarmingly similar to a quote from the leader of Britain First recorded a few months ago: "They (the Muslim community) think they can get away with ruining our country . . . we will not rest until every traitor is punished for their crimes against our country . . . good old-fashioned justice at the end of a rope." It is not hard to imagine Thomas Mair taking a step from the "end of a rope" to a gun - and taking the order to punish "traitors" campaigning to remain within the EU.

Photography Club: Swoop

by Seb Algiri

PGS at Portsmouth Pride

by Jo Morgan