In Praise of KCL WP

Throughout my university career at King’s College London, I was incredibly fortunate to work as a student ambassador for the Widening Participation Department and as my undergraduate experience finally draws to a close, I can say, without any form of hesitation, that it has been one of the most valuable, rewarding, enjoyable and heartening experiences of my life.

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I have always cared about education, people and politics. I was heart sore when tuition fees were raised to £9,000 per year, when maintenance grants were changed to loans; not because that system made life harder for me(although of course it did), not because I would have to think twice about applying to university but for the people who might see those barriers and give up. The people for whom a maintenance grant might be the difference between thinking of applying to university and not, to pursuing their ambitions and dreams or not. However, working with KCL WP allowed me not just to feel impotently heart sore at the decisions made in the corridors of power (those decisions that impact the disenfranchised and most in need in our society most powerfully) but to be part of the solution, to encourage aspiration, to offer opportunity and to allow people to thrive and strive to achieve the things they are capable of.

Being a student ambassador has taught me so much about the young people of today. It has taught me how determined and talented they are, how kind they are, how vital, invigorating, inspiring, special, respectful, resourceful, thoughtful, right, righteous, defiant and vibrant they are. If a member of the cabinet could only spend a day at a K+ or Sutton Trust Summer School I think they’d struggle not to agree that all young people deserve to be given equal opportunities and access to education, or that by making education a matter of economics we are potentially depriving ourselves of some of brightest and brilliant young minds, or that studying Arts and Humanities subjects creates students who are as well-rounded and remarkable as those who study STEM subjects.

Look no further than this bunch of fab, fierce feminists studying languages below if you still need proof of that Nicky Morgan:

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As well as teaching me a lot about the infinite capabilities of the students I have been lucky enough to work with, KCL WP has also taught me a lot about myself. When I joined to become an ambassador, I was shy, introverted and depressed. I found talking one on one very daunting, giving campus tours anxiety inducing and many elements of the job quite scary. But the reason I signed up to become an ambassador was because I wanted to make a difference, and after two years of working, much recovery, confidence-building and lots of effort, I hope that,in some small way, I have. Whilst studying at King’s, as a performance poet I have had a book published, made a film with BBC iPlayer, performed at the BBC Proms in the Royal Albert Hall but the thing I am most proud of BY FAR during my undergraduate degree has been the work I have done with the KCL WP team, the personal demons I have been able to tackle to do so and the infinite rewards that it has offered me.

As a WP ambassador I have worked 4 Summer Schools, sat in finance talks, lectures, language seminars, been on a treasure hunt where the clues are written in German, cruised the Thames on a boat twice, visited the Guardian, the Courtauld and Pizza Express(a lot!), been on the London Eye  an unfathomable amount of times, worn many a blue tshirt, worked with hundreds of erudite, insightful, feminist and fun students and had many a life changing experience.

However, the true privilege of my job has been working with the KCL WP team and my fellow ambassadors. So here’s the cheesy thank you segment of this blog!

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My blue t-shirt brethren have been the definition of #squadgoals, fostering a real sense of community through a united purpose to ensure students coming in to King’s have the best possible experience.

And this united front, this shared cause and ethos filters down from the very top, the KCL WP team itself.

AMC- Anne-Marie Canning, Head of Widening Participation is a bit of a legend, a force of nature, who throws herself hell-for-leather into everything she does with an infectious energy- from politics to participation she really is a force to be reckoned with, one of my feminist heroes and she has most definitely definitively proven she can give a Killer Presentation.

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Francesca Slattery- K+ Officer- I have seen few people ever, in all my life, more thoroughly immersed and impassioned by the work that they do. KCL WP’s flagship program, K+, is a tight operation, overseen by Francesca it runs like a well-oiled slick machine, but one full of warmth and fun and knowledge and life-altering opportunities for young people. I have learnt an awful lot about leadership and sheer enthusiasm from working alongside her.

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Billy Reed- he does look a bit like Matt Cardle, but he’s full of enthusiasm and commitment to his job that makes the Sutton Trust such a vibrant and fulfilling Summer School to be part of.

Patrice Buddington & Effy Alexandrou hold a special place in my KCL WP memories for offering me the opportunity to perform poems during their year 6 secondary school transition days- or as I have dubbed it my South London Schools Tour. When you are surrounded by incredible and enthusiastic people and an 11 year old boy in a Brixton school asks you for your autograph, you know you are very lucky to be doing the job you are doing.

Thanks to the rest of the team who have also made my KCL WP experience so memorable: Naomi- Electric Slide Queen, Syreeta, Ruth, Anne-Marie,Catherine, Jack, Beth in the SU and the brilliant Sophie(gone but not forgotten) for making my experience as an ambassador not only an opportunity to aid and change others lives, but also my own.

Find out more about KCL WP here(and if you can get involved, you won’t regret it):

http://www.kcl.ac.uk/study/ug/wp/WPHome.aspx

Twitter:  @kclwp

Facebook: www.facebook/kclwp

Tumblr: kclwp.tumblr.com

Flickr: Flickr/photos/kclwp

Vimeo: www.vimeo.com/kclwp

There isn’t a much better way to end this blog post than with the poem I was asked to write for the launch of the KCL WP Yearbook Launch, it basically says all I’ve just said but it’s more succinct and it rhymes:

King’s + Us

King’s plus me, wasn’t always easy.
Didn’t seem to be the place for me.

Loved my degree, but didn’t talk to anyone else, felt empty.

Until eventually I decided I needed to strive, to try, not to sink but succeed.

So I applied to be an ambassador on a scheme, about widening dreams,

about expanding horizons ‘til we find them as high and as wide as Waterloo Imax screens.

A scheme about opportunity giving, offering high definition visions of future ambitions,

to kids who have been conditioned. Stuck in critical, cyclical systems that convince them that their futures are plans that won’t come to fruition.

But I have seen what happens when you listen, when you give them opportunities.

I have seen the introverts, the extroverts, the exceptionally nervous, the furtively fearful, the extremely hardworking, the ones who feel worthless transform into public speakers in the space of a week, find academic pursuits that ignite their minds and set them free.

I have seen confidence blossom from the seeds of self-doubt,

I have found out that the wider we strive the louder we shout.

I have discovered that this is what university should be about.

And I am proud to go to one that sings for the unsung,

One that allows all potential to blaze like young summer suns,

one that has begun to let all futures unfurl into promise

and that knowledge revived me from the sickness of solace.

I honestly love this place in King’s I trust, because King’s plus us equals K+.

She sang once more – In praise of brave and brilliant Connie Fisher

baftaI got to meet Connie Fisher at BAFTA the other day. I was far too excited. I mean bar ‘brown paper packages tied up with string’ she’s always been one of my favourite things. I too had wanted to grow up to be Maria Von Trapp as a child (so much so I broke the VHS copy of the Sound of Music from overuse) and I shared in Connie’s joy after she, a sparky, short haired 23 year old with an outrageously perfect soprano voice triumphed and won the role in the Andrew Lloyd Webber TV show ‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria’? She was so nice (despite my lame attempts at conversation,spanning from Carrie Grant’s hair to being a properly Welsh Megan) she even gave me her card which I was foolish enough to lose (along with my whole bag!!!) on the way home- I was gutted! All in all my inner 11 year old self was overwhelmed, it was thrilling to meet someone I have admired so much and for them to be so friendly in person

However, had I seen her documentary Connie Fisher: I’ll Sing Once More prior to meeting her I would have had even greater admiration for her talent, dedication and perseverance. The documentary chronicles her struggle with voice problems as a popped blood vessel during her run in the Sound of Music, led her doctors to discover an underlying condition called congenital sulcus vocalis, meaning she had holes in her vocal chords. After extensive vocal surgery she was told she would never sing again.

I cannot even begin to imagine how it feels to be told the one thing that comes as naturally to you as breathing, that has been such a gigantic part of your life, your career, that you are incredible at and successful in has suddenly become potentially impossible. Connie’s openness and honesty in recounting the experience, the pressures of trying to please the public who had voted for her and the toll of learning that her voice was permanently damaged is very admirable. Connie is frank about her struggles with depression during this period, her dependence on anti-inflammatory drugs to keep her voice able to hit the high notes and the ensuing bodily and mental changes that occurred as a result of this.

In my comparatively meager career as a performance poet (and as a depressive) I have often had to perform in the throes of depression and anxiety. It can be terrifying to have to maintain the performance, to please the audience, to talk to them afterwards. However, for Connie with all the public expectation and pressure and in conjunction with coming to terms with the developments with her voice, I can only imagine how exhausting and strenuous the experience must have been. Emma Thompson has said of her 15 month West End run in Me and My Girl ‘I became clinically depressed…Maybe it was because I had to be so cheerful every night!’ and similarly singing that glorious, yet relentlessly positive Rodgers and Hammerstein score day and night when one is hurting inside and making it look like you are not, is a thankless and difficult task.

Connie’s documentary not only recounts the ordeal of discovering and dealing with her vocal condition but also follows her as she starts vocal therapy with LA ‘voice builder’ Gary Catona. She approaches him with a probably sensible level of cynicism to begin with, his glitzy YouTube video featuring soundbites from the likes of Liza Minnelli and Lionel Richie casts him as a Messiah-like fixer of voices- it all sounds a bit too good to be true.

The struggle to accept his unconventional methods, to deal with the fact that there may not be a fairytale positive result is evident and displayed in Connie’s tears, in both her triumphs and moments of defeat. And until medical science advances and exciting new surgical technology,such as an amazing sounding injectable gel which may be able to literally fill in the gaps of  the vocal chords, that voice may never fully recover. However, what Connie achieves throughout the course of the documentary is pretty miraculous.

She is triumphant, as she sings the gorgeous ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me’ to an enthralled and delighted Shirley MacLaine, who endured similar difficulties herself and also sought the help of Gary Catona.Connie emotionally sings ‘Happy Birthday’ down the phone to her jubilant nan. Her beautiful mid-lesson rendition of ‘Natural Woman’ has a quiet gorgeous power which surpasses her full-voice phenomenal performance during the first week of ‘How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria’ (a performance which made me back her from the beginning), due to what a moment it is for Connie: a beautiful, brave and bold breakthrough.

The conclusion of the programme is an emotional return to perform at the Palladium, the site of the 2006 Sound of Music production. She sings the musical’s title track beautifully and leaving the stage she looks happy to me (to me, to me) and deservedly so. To even get on stage and sing Connie shines courageous and burns as bright as her glorious (Carrie Grant Red) hair!

The documentary airs on BBC 4 on Sunday 12th July at 8pm and I firmly command all to watch, whether you are interested in musical theatre or not, it’s an amazing story of perseverance and struggle from a phenomenal talent. Thanks to Connie for so generously sharing her talent and her difficulties, it is refreshing to see someone open up on such a personal and emotional condition- she inspired me all that time ago and now even more so.

In honour of Connie and her incredible journey, here’s my poem on my childhood ambition to play Maria Von Trapp, entitled Vontrapped:

Vontrapped
When I was young I wanted to be a nun,
to run through a meadow
and bellow from the top of my lungs:
‘the hills are alive with the sound of’ fruitless
attempts to represent the endless eloquence of Julie Andrews,
the soprano singer heaven sent.
And I went too far, or so it seems,
I climbed every mountain in pursuit of my dreams.
It was my ultimate goal to solve a problem like Maria.
Couldn’t stand to be Liesl or Brigitta,
it simply had to be her,
no matter how.
I couldn’t kick the habit
having made one to wear out of a tea towel.
I’d howl and yodel the same old words,
like a lonely goatherd
in the high hills of Salzburg,
in an empty living room,
all afternoon,
believing every word was true.
So consumed I presumed that
brown paper packages tied up with string
had the potential to be one of my favourite things.
And that if you can sing it brings lightness to even the
gloomiest of occasions,
like escaping the incoming Nazi invasion.
This film was the persuasion
that an ex-naval officer makes the best kind of lover
and there was no man on Earth as dashing
as Christopher Plummer.
I wanted to have a Reverend Mother
and seven Austrian children whose singing talent I’d uncover.
But my plans were scuppered.
I was Vontrapped by the fact that
there wasn’t a Nazi or nunnery in sight.
I didn’t actually even believe in Jesus Christ.
And I was only seven years old,
couldn’t sew and thus wouldn’t know
how to use a needle pulling thread
to turn my curtains into clothes.
And I played that video so much it eventually broke
but as Maria said herself
‘when God closes a door, he opens a window’

‘Amy Amy Amy’

I left Asif Kapadia’s new documentary on Amy Winehouse as the electric storm hit on Friday. The sky thundered and bellowed, I got soaked to skin as the fresh salty tears flooding my face mingled with the downpour whilst I ran home from Brixton Ritzy getting drenched. I couldn’t help but think that this was Amy. A gorgeous storm, the small North London Jewish girl with a voice like an elemental force, an earth shattering, soul changing sound within her.

Many have written on the film’s depiction of the  ‘culprits’ at the heart of Amy’s downfall, her father Mitch has questioned its negative portrayal of his hand in the sickeningly sad loss of Amy and her immeasurable talent. Of course, there are heartbreaking moments drawn from these dynamics. Particularly saddening is her husband Blake Fielder-Civil carelessly and cruelly coaxing her to sing an updated hook of ‘yes,yes,yes’ to ‘Rehab’ during a stay in rehab to which Amy replies ‘I don’t mind it here’. The other heart-wrenching moment comes when Amy’s father, much-loved by his daughter, as the film repeatedly states ‘Amy worshipped the ground he walked on’, arrives to see her during a sojourn in St Lucia, camera crew in tow for a mawkishly titled TV show.

The hellish paparazzi footage of her constant hounding is horrifying to watch and acts as a potent reminder that anyone who even thinks about scrolling through the Daily Fail’s ‘Sidebar of Shame’ is responsible for contributing to a toxic, exploitative tabloid culture which harasses and commodifies women. As Billy Bragg states: ‘You who love that kiss and tell, you must bear some guilt as well. Scousers never buy the Sun’.

Beyond the heartbreaking way that events unfurled in Amy’s life, I took away from the film most of all, not only the incomparable talent Amy possessed, but the graft, the grit and determination that went into it. She was a true original, true to her instincts and utterly justified in sniggering at comparisons to Justin Timberlake and Dido, for someone who wrote and sang so honestly and effortlessly, for an artist who was the true inheritor of the gifts of jazz goddess forebears like Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday and Mahalia Jackson, the constant mention of Katie Melua and an interviewer attempting to emote to her about how profound ‘Life for Rent’ by Dido is, is understandably tedious.

It is Amy’s wry and dry wit, along with her staggering talent, that are the true centrepieces of the film and Kapadia’s greatest achievement in ‘Amy’ is telling her story through her songs, as she did herself. The lyrics are the narrator of this tale, weaving their way across the screen as that inimitable voice creates magic.

I run home with ‘What is About Men’ from Frank blaring in my ears, the rain beating down around me, awed once more by Amy’s phenomenal talent. Rest in poetry and peace Ms Winehouse, you gorgeous storm.

‘I fell on my ass at Glastonbury because I’m a fucking animal’ – Glastonbury 2015 review

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So it’s taken me almost a full week to even attempt to unfurl in sentences just how wondrous this year’s festival was for me. I’ve been a full time resident in the grotty,  vacuum-like, Depressionville for the entirety  of this academic year. It has been rotten and rancid . And so this year I was truly ready to shed my skin in a Somerset field; bare my bones and to shake out the cobwebs in my soul. Gosh Glastonbury, you beautiful creature, you did no let me down. I was beyond honoured, thrilled and jubilant to be asked to perform on the Poetry and Words stage. It was my fifth year at the festival, my fourth time performing and the first time I’d been on the Poetry and Words stage, it was a really big deal for me to be given such a big opportunity in a place so close to my heart. A poet’s dream. Massive thanks to Benita and Helen Johnson (new baby Jake in tow as well!) and the whole Poetry and Words crew for doing such a stellar with the stage. I got to host a fantastic open mic, perform in front of musician, Grace Petrie (an absolute idol of mine) and shout feminist things at people. Perfection!

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Another highlight was catching up with poetry friends old and new: the sumptuous Vanessa Kisuule, Charlotte Higgins, Erin Bolens and Sara Hirsch.

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These two amazing drawings of me (one in human and one in owl form) are by the incomparable Scott Tyrrell, who should probably win an award for his kindness and enviable polymath capabilities. I got given a copy of his wonderful poetry collection, Grown Up- which you can (and should) buy here!

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There were also many festival highlights to be found away from the Poetry and Words tent and here are a few that warmed my soul:

For many, Friday’s highlight came from Florence Welch (her machine firmly in tow). I hear she royally SMASHED it and it is heartening that such a unique, self-styled female performer is headlining Glastonbury (especially considering Florence is only the fifth female to do so in the festival’s 45 year history. A pretty unfortunate statistic for a festival that in many ways has always been at the  forefront of progressive politics and music in its bookings!)

However, I had other business to attend to.  It’d been a busy day from performing my own set, relishing the explosive, almost Aretha-esque sound of Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard in the ensuing downpour. Being pleasantly surprised by Jungle and their accompanying breakdance prodigy and appreciating some socially conscious hiphop courtesy of New York duo, Run The Jewels(‘RTJ!RTJ!RTJ!’).  So I ditched the not-so-secret act, The Libs, in favour of being in the front row for two of the happiest and hippest electronic acts around- Caribou and Hot Chip.

The man behind Caribou, Dan Snaith, radiates an air of pure enjoyment and genuine humility throughout the set. He is HAPPY to be here and he is making it known: waving to fans, thanking us after songs and smiling his way through a dizzying and dazzling run through the gorgeous soundscape of his latest record, ‘Our Love’. From the first muted utterance of ‘Our Love’ to the inevitable finale, the crowd-pleasingly joyous, ‘SUN’ (sun,sun,sun,sun), Caribou are both fun and thrilling to watch live!

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As were West Holts headliners, Hot Chip, who offered hit after hit after hit, in what can only be described as one of the most joyous moments of my life (as you can see from this slightly ridiculous grin on my face and the appalling dance moves during an embarrassing amount of BBC footage!) My set highlight comes as Caribou return to the stage for a big electro super-group rendition of the Springsteen classic ‘Dancing in the Dark’ – we are most certainly doing so!

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Saturday’s highlights come from the aforementioned encounter with Grace Petrie, Rhythm and Blues legend- Mavis Staples and a feral, furious and farcical Father John Misty.

At 75 years old, Staples still has the pipes and her band make a gorgeous soulful riot, drawing from a long back catalogue of civil rights anthems and gospel-infused soul. She stops mid-set to tell us ‘I’m gonna take you back down memory lane’ before shouting ‘1971’, pointing at a rather small child in the audience, with a wry smile and quick wit adds, ‘she wasn’t even born, but she’s there screaming along with everybody else’. The set ends triumphantly with a singalong to The Staples Singers classic ‘I’ll Take You There’ that extends the whole length of the Park field. We may not have been born in 1971, but Mavis definitely took us there!

Father John Misty is a different matter.  His is a world populated by honey bears, lunatics, motel rooms, women, virgins and Jesus. He is a thrilling performer. A loose-limbed showman; Jarvis Cocker meets Josh T Pearson with a hint of the menace of a feral, ferocious Nick Cave. Unpredictable in the extreme, one moment he is thrashing in the crowd, the next he has taken an iPhone and is staring straight into the lens charmingly proclaiming ‘HELLO YOUTUBE’, the next he is sincerely and gorgeously singing, eyes closed,’I’m just a little bored in the USA, Save me President Jesus’. All of which results in a stonking good show.

I applaud Kanye’s set. I enjoyed the strength of its opening -Stronger and POWER. The man in front of me applauded me for knowing every word as I rap along. Unfortunately, I did feel the set lagged after such an electrifying opening. Some songs felt like shortened radio-edit versions, ending abruptly. The set, however, delivers enough. I love the guest appearance of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and the spectacle of the crane for ‘Touch the Sky’ (despite the confusing and awkward pause that prefaces it). Kanye came and did Worthy Farm on his own terms, so props to him. All music belongs at Glastonbury. Pure and simple.

The real highlight of my Saturday night was watching the 1925 silent film version of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ accompanied by the Minima Orchestra. Dark, graphic and gothic, it was a world away from the glossy Lloyd-Webber musical fodder and the beautiful and menacing score created a genuinely terrifying experience (I mean look!)

Sunday starts with the incredible dance rhythms of Ibibio Sound Machine, fronted by a gorgeous and sparkling Eno Williams, the eight piece create updated afrobeat sounds which bring West Africa to the West Holts stage to glorious effect. This is the dancing that ensued:

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My highlight of the weekend comes courtesy of a raucous and right-on set from punk poet goddess: Patti Smith. She gorgeously howls her way through Horses, she rips all the strings off her guitar, she falls on her ass and screams ‘I fell on my ass at Glastonbury because I am a FUCKING animal’. The whole thing is a masterclass in being an empowered and inspirational woman. I wish being Patti Smith was a valid career option. Her performance sinks into all of my sinews, she makes me cry and yell and feel righteous anger. Midway through the anthemic ‘People Have the Power’ she commands me and the tens of thousands of others in the Pyramid Field to “Raise your arms! Feel who you are without technology, without governments. Feel your freedom!” With Patti I do! I feel my freedom and it is gorgeous.

All this is before she even brings out the Dalai Lama – she reads him a beautiful birthday poem (something as a poet I find particularly moving, a poem stuns and hushes the whole of the Pyramid field- Patti the poet holds centre stage). Then the Dalai Lama is brought out by Emily Eavis and presents Patti Smith with a white Khata ( a Tibetan Buddhist prayer scarf) and it’s all a bit beautiful and surreal. He speaks inspiringly on the environment, on the need for peace and (hilariously) how the white haired rockers of Patti’s band encourage him to keep going. We sing ‘Happy Birthday’, he cuts a cake and leaves. Pure Glastonbury magic.11667412_10153098741474527_8955727030662807245_nI’m front and centre on the Other Stage for another highlight of Sunday which came courtesy of the definitive Glaswegian soft indie pop band, Belle and Sebastian. The set is a win for all gorgeously soft-souled and nimble soled dancing indie outsiders. They sing about front man Stuart Murdoch’s struggles with ME, about being bullied (‘you won, you’re HERRRREE’ cries Murdoch to all the former bullied members of the audience) and the annoying kind of couples who we all love to hate( ‘Thank you for the invite tonight/Perfect snacklets, perfect drinks/I’m getting ideas from your interiors/Perfect apartments, perfect kids’). They get members of the audience up onstage for the glorious offbeat anthem ‘Boy with the Arab Strap’. They are a band of and for the people and we bloody love them!

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A Facebook message informs me that the BBC camera once again has felt the need to record my ridiculous dance moves in the front row as I watch Goat.The mask-clad experimental fusion band certainly earn my dance moves. Their show is even better than when I saw them at Glastonbury in 2013. At one point I rip off my head band and start having a ‘ribbon off’ with one of the singers whipping a tambourine and ribbons round her head ferociously. It’s astounding, bizarre and brilliant. For me, they outdo the bit of The Who that I saw.

The festival ends with a wild night out in the company of my family: sisters,Emily and Grace, and Grace’s boyfriend Isak. The evening is full of flavoured cider, wobbly walking and bellowed singing. It’s lush. We end up singing ‘I Need a Hero’ on a Shangri-La karaoke stage (accidently accompanied by a random man stripping!)

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The evening ends in NYC Downlow, a Drag Queen club, as we applaud the gorgeous performers and get covered in golden ribbons. I create an alter-ego ‘GOLDBEARD’ (see below) and we head to the top of the Stone Circle, as the misty sun whispers into view: souls satiated and hearts full to the brim for another year.goldbeard

Thank you to the poets and people who made this year so special: it was my favourite year ever!  See you in 2016!

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60 Days to Love and Leave your London #1: MTV Breaks: 400 Seconds of Doing Things My Way

So I’ve spent lots of time doing and not enough writing so here is where my 60 day quest to bid farewell to London in glorious fashion began…

Last week I got to go and speak about being a poet and a feminist at MTV as part of MTV Breaks – just one of the initiatives that make up the wing of the charitable, not for profit work that Viacom do (including the amazing Staying Alive Foundation which fights HIV in many ways including through youth initiatives! http://stayingalivefoundation.org/).

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I don’t tend to get nervous nowadays when performing, as whilst I’m always learning new things, I’ve kinda got the whole ‘shouting poems at a room full of people and hoping they like it’ act down. However, I had to actually talk using non-rhyming sentences to a room full of Viacom employees from the likes of Nickelodeon, Channel 5, MTV and thus an anxiety fuelled 5 minutes of babbling about Mary Beard and poetry and feminism ensued, followed by a loud and fast rendition of my poem ’99 Problems’.I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to talk to some amazing,innovative professionals in media on a topic which I feel so passionately about.

I was also thrilled to hear all the other speakers, young people consistently proving themselves and succeeding in many different fields by being resourceful, creative and inspiring.

First up was Fraser Doherty- Jam entrepreneur and general good egg. He started making jam from his Grandma’s recipes as a 14 year old boy and took it all the way to creating the delicious tasting SuperJam brand made from 100% Fruit. My mum loves his cookbook and he was an excellent role model and creative speaker. Buy his yummy, yummy jam and follow him on Twitter: @fraserdoherty

cookbook

After me was Grace Victory aka Gracie Francesca:an awesome, vivacious, feminist, body-positive fashion and beauty Youtuber. She’s an internet sensation and a lovely, lovely human to boot. Her openness in sharing her experiences of depression and self-harm were so powerful and a reminder of how important the work she does is, as through her blogging and vlogging, in reaching out to people, she enables taboo subjects to be discussed openly. Grace, I salute you! Her Youtube channel, Ugly Face of Beauty, is a must-watch: https://www.youtube.com/user/UglyFaceOfBeauty

Follow her on Twitter :@GracieFrancesca

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Now to a group I’ve long admired for their DIY activist spirit, their rebellious heart and their amazing skate skills, it was two reps from the Long Live Southbank Campaign. They, along with other skaters at the Southbank, fought and won their campaign to keep the Undercroft public skate space from being taken over by redevelopment plans to the Southbank Centre. The boys spoke with great insight and passion on the pleasures, pressures, pitfalls and positives of building and maintaining a long term grass roots campaign. They used their networks of creative friends, acquaintances and supporters to create an artistic and activist set-up which won them the support of 30,000 petitioning signing members of the public, prominent figures such as Boris Johnson and members of local, national and international communities. Skate on folks! Follow their new developments on their website: http://www.llsb.com

Twitter: @Long_Live_SB

Finally, was the enterprising and inspiring Bejay Mulenga who,like Fraser, took a childhood entrepreneurial idea (setting up a tuck shop in his school) and turned it into a successful business model. He founded Supa Tuck, a enterprise programme which teaches kids in schools how to run their own tuck shops, whilst still in his teens. He has now founded Supa Academy and he’s running  a huge event in which 500 young people are given the chance to take part and have a stake in the UK’s first ever pop-up supermarket! It’s a great way to build skills and work with industry experts from the likes of River Island, Pepsi Max and Facebook…I wish I could’ve done it when I was younger. More info on Supa Academy is available here : http://supa-academy.com/      Twitter: @SupaAcademy

I felt so inspired by all the fiery grit and determination displayed in my fellow panellists that I HAD to write about and share their amazing work. I think it’s always important to remember work outside your own, to take heart and be influenced and motivated by the capabilities of other people and their talents. It was great to hear other people’s stories. As a poet I am used to shouting into dark rooms and asking people to listen to me, but to get the opportunity to listen to the presentations of other people (and such talented other people at that) was a joy. An utter joy. Thanks to MTV for promoting the innovative work of young people and letting me play a small part in it too!

60 Days to Love and Leave your London: The Explanation

1897677_10206969906710743_7429068815302019731_nI’ve just finished my degree at King’s College London in about 60 days I’m leaving London for pastures and ventures new. London is a city that sings in me (and sometimes sinks me). My soul tingles and gets tangled around Southbank sunsets and Hampstead Heath hikes, jaunts down Bermondsey Street and hilarious evenings in the ‘Blue Eyed Maid’,SE1’s very own 7 days a week karaoke pub/cheap cocktail haunt/scene of many of my most debauched evenings (belting out Take That’s ‘Never Forget’ on my 21st birthday at 1am a particular highlight -sorry, not sorry!)

As a Londoner (by choice, not by birth) I tend to take this city for granted. I spend many of my days rolling eyes at tourists gazing in wonder at St Paul’s, staring at my shoes on the tube commute home, tutting at people who dawdle.

As a depressive, I tend to take this city for granted too. When you don’t want to get out of bed, the world becomes your bedroom, you feel like you will never want to have fun, to be outside, to explore the gorgeous sprawling mass of city that lies at your feet.

And that’s why I want to make the most of my last days in London. I will miss this city massively. I could sing its praises from the bottom of my smog smothered lungs forever. I know there will be many adventures to come when I move to Cambridge in October yet I feel that London and I have some unfinished business. So I am making a concerted effort to see more of it, to do new things, old things, all things in it before I leave it.  Call it my London bucket list, I am going to try to do something new (nearly) every day in my last 60 days in London and write about it here.

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LONDON

megan beech

Totally honoured to be the subject of this blog post full of very kind, courageous and amazing words on a very powerful blog which shares perspectives in the aftermath of sexual violence to contribute to the validation of survivors feelings.