Wolverhampton cuts to voluntary sector (Save Central Youth Theatre!!!)

In Girona in Spain at an International Theatre Festival

Wolverhampton City Council have got in a big old mess, partly because of cuts from central government and partly because there was some kind of major flaw in the budgetting plans. They’ve made a bit of a booboo though and decided, as part of major cuts, to reduce their contribution to the voluntary sector from £2.5 million to just £900,000 which includes cuts to the Newhampton Arts Centre and Central Youth Theatre, two charities that don’t deserve this!

Classic Austria

To save CYT you can sign a petition now! The petition asks simply for more time, because the council wants to cut all funding in March, but with more time CYT would have the chance to work out a new way of funding itself 🙂

With CYT me and my mates travelled to Austria, Italy and Spain to represent Wolverhampton (and the country) at theatre festivals, going on my first one when I was only 13 and it was SICK! Going to the festivals gave me an interest in languages and that’s why I study them now. Its where I made some of my best, best friends and grew in confidence and its actually a bit scary to imagine how different I’d be without it.  For a city that suffers from a depressing national reputation, the voluntary sector in Wolverhampton sparkles in its commitment to do good, and is something we really deserve to be proud of. But the council is set to completely destroy this tradition in our city. 

CYT is different to other youth theatres, not least because it doesn’t charge as much as other places. It also does things very differently: 

Besides our weekly sessions on a Sunday we deliver work experience placements for school children, colleges and universities – in office admin, technical theatre and costume design.  

The kind of artistic work we deliver is very different – we regularly take members to international festivals. We concentrate on the type of productions that young people wouldn’t do in school. We try to expand their knowledge of literature, playwrights, different styles of performance work and bring in specialist tutors to develop specific skills. We also incorporate making short films into our work and projects that celebrate the heritage and history of Wolverhampton.

We regularly invite former members who now work in the theatre, film and TV industry to work with us and share their skills.  This is very inspiring for young people to realise that these professionals also started as members of CYT.” [Jane Ward MBE, the director]

They also have a store of over 10,000 professional quality costumes. You’d never believe this gem exists in Wolverhampton and you’d never believe it exists and survives because of one woman who has dedicated her life to it.

Me as a sheep xox
The council is adamant on blaming these decisions on central government, and claiming that there is simply no other way. However there is always another way. CYT was only informed of the total cut of its funding this week, and the funding will stop in March. It is absurd and unfair for the council to do this to a youth theatre that has been in Wolverhampton for 30 years, and it reflects their complete incomprehension of how small charities like CYT work, because CYT could survive if it just had more time. Its also another example of them completely undervaluing the youth theatre. I have completed so many incredible projects with CYT where hundreds of people from the city (and all over the world) have come, but not one councillor. Its hard to believe so much is achieved on such a tiny budget, and that cutting this small amount of money would completely devastate the youth theatre and take away all the opportunities it provides for young people across Wolverhampton! 
Just because its the arts doesn’t mean its expendable. It’s like Michael Sheen says: ““the arts are at the very heart of how we perceive ourselves. How we find a sense of who we are and the stories we tell and how we share and connect with each other.” They make places better to live in.
CYT is just a small speck in the vast cuts the council are making, it will become a ghost town, which is so upsetting for me because its somewhere that, because of CYT, I have been proud to call my home. So please sign the petition folksss thank u

My fave sexist pop songs of 2014 (SO FAR!)

Blurred Lines was criticised a lot last year. Its lyrics “I know you want it” earned it the reputation of being a ‘rape anthem’. It also has a catchy little hook, and although it’s banned in many universities and condemned by modern, forward-thinking people, it’s still played on Radio 1 with reasonable regularity.

So now we’re in 2014 I thought I’d have a look at the some of the chart music available for the enjoyment of men, women and children, and see if those cheeky pop stars have learned from Thicke’s mistakes. ASK YOURSELVES: are pop songs on radio 1 sexist?
Is Jason Derulo: Talk Dirty to Me (ft. Chainz) sexist?
Current position in the chart: 38 (17th week in the top 40)
There’s a little known rule when it comes to identifying pop music sexism: the catchiest songs are usually the most offensive. Jason, bless him, manages to undermine my entire languages degree by reassuring me that it doesn’t matter whether or not he understands what I’m saying as “our conversations ain’t long … but you know what is ;)” [winky face my own]. It’s a high tempo romp around the world that disregards women’s need to talk, express themselves, be appreciated for anything other than their bodies, or even have names (“Chainz” has got his lucky girl “saved in my phone under “Big Booty”), but at least he manages to show an admirable lack of xenophobia.
Verdict: I love this song, but it’s so sexist, I have tell myself that I like it ironically.
Is Lady Gaga: Do What U Want (ft. R Kelly) sexist?
Current position: no. 12
Lady Gaga, sometimes described as a feminist icon and generally an advocate of liberation and gay rights, has incomprehensibly united with R Kelly on her latest single. The title sounds awful, but it is possible to argue that her lyrics aren’t quite as bizarrely sexist as they seem: “do what you want with my body” she says, because “you can’t have my heart and you won’t use my mind”… she could be being a bit defiant in the face of the objectification of celebrities in print…? She could be! But then R Kelly steps on the stage, somebody we’re all confused how we feel about since the court case, and tells Gaga he will “do what I want, do what I want with your body! Do what I want, do what I want with your body!” What about what she wants, Kelly? 
Verdict: No, R Kelly, no.

Is Pitbul: Timber (ft. Ke$ha) sexist?
Current position: 2
Ke$ha and Pitbull. Excellent.
Incredibly catchy chorus: check.
Instructions to do dance moves that are inappropriate in public places: check (“Face down, booty up! Timberrrrr!”)
Assuming a woman wants to sleep with you when she tells you she doesn’t: check (“I’m slicker than an oil spill. She say she won’t, but I bet she will.”)
Verdict: creepy as hell.

Is Kid Ink: Show Me (ft Chris Brown) sexist?
Current position: 32
Well alarm bells are already ringing because Chris Brown is out and about. Actually this song just seems like some straight forward hip hop where Chris promises to give me (the listener) “what you need”, clearly expecting whichever female he’s ogling at to bow down to him with reverence as soon as she hears what he’s saying. It includes a nice touch of objectification: “Go on the floor like a doormat”. Great.
Verdict: reasonably creepy

Is Katie Perry: Roar sexist?
Current position: 19
Katie Perry, what a babe. Apparently, people tried to shut her up but now she’s broken free and transformed into a series of empowering animals. I like this song because she describes herself as a lot of things that could traditionally be seen as ‘masculine’: “I got the eye of a tiger, a fighter, dancing through the fire, cause I am a champion and you’re gonna hear me roar.” She tells us a harrowing tale of being downtrodden (“I guess that I forgot that I had a choice, I let you push me past the breaking point”) but she came out fighting.
Verdict: excellent jungle sound effects and empowering lyrics make for a top anthem for boys and girls.

Is Beyonce: Drunk in love (ft. Jay Z) sexist?
Current position: no. 10
Beyonce has recently ‘come out’ as a feminist and says one of her main aims is to empower women. Everybody has to admire her, if simply for her ability to dance for so long like a machine. Unfortunately she let Jay Z spit some verse on her new release, and he claims he might have to serve some time once he’s had sex with his wife because he will “beat the box” like Mike Tyson did. Mike Tyson is a convicted rapist, but the facy Jay Z then says “In ’97 I bite” suggests he’s referring to whenTyson bit off Evandey Holyfield’s ear. Then he quotes a scene from Tina Turner’s biographical film, where her abusive husband forced her to eat cake then beating her. This article talks about the song quite well.
Verdict: get Jay outta there. 
Conclusion: I have obviously chosen a range of offensive songs for this summary, but these are also the songs chosen to be given ample airtime by publicly funded BBC Radio 1. In many ways a publicly funded radio station probably shouldn’t be promoting songs by sexists, nor should it be normalising sexist attitudes that trivialise the gravity of domestic violence and the importance of sexual consent. I suppose for Radio 1, catchy chourses and high production values actually are able to polish a turd (the turd being the sexist slurs).

Any other sexist songs I should add to the list? Comment below! 🙂

Related posts: Sexist Songs: Christmas Edition

Want to help fight sexism in the media? Read my blog on Page 3 in The Sun and sign the No More Page 3 petition

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Travelling Alone in Mexico as a Woman

If you have the chance to go to Mexico, go! If you have nobody to go with you, GO ALONE! Before I went to Mexico I talked about it to my friends, who supportively told me more horror stories than you could shake a badger at, and also some advice that ranged from “you do realise Mexico is THE most dangerous country in the WORLD?” to simply “DON’T GO!” Being a deductive kind of gal, I soon realised everyone who was telling me not to go, had never actually been themselves. I did an on-line search and these articles by Vagenda and Sarah Hepola convinced me that not only was travelling alone an option, but in the struggle for female emancipation, I basically had a duty towards womankind to get myself out there and see some Mayan ruins!

Chilling with feminist golden gal Frida at the Frida Kahlo museum

It’s not silly to be nervous, and a lot of people might wonder if it is safe for a woman to travel through Mexico alone. But there are so many advantages. Travelling alone is like living the single girl’s dream: you can do what you want, where you want and when you want. You can tailor everything to your tastes and budgets. Sometimes this is actually quite a challenge, at first I found it stressful making decisions and getting the impetus to keep packing up and moving. But in Mexico there was always something new to see, and once I got into the swing of things, wild horses couldn’t keep me in my hostel room!

Without friends to encourage you to get out of your comfort zone, you have to do it for yourself. When I was in Valladolid, I went to a cenote, and I decided I didn’t feel like swimming in the water. I told myself it was because I don’t like swimming. BUT after a moment of deep self-reflection, gazing wistfully at a couple floating in the middle of the pool, I realised I was actually just too nervous to go in on my own. I knew if my friends were with me, I would go in. Which was ridiculous. So I forced myself to change into my bikini and get in the water to splash around a bit. As I was swimming (well, hanging onto the rope. I can’t swim), it began to rain, water filtering through the rocks and vines above onto my head. I had overcome my nerves!!!!! Suck on that!

I was travelling alone for the first time, which can be a bit intimidating, especially as the other people in the hostels might have fancy backpacks and money belts and earthy jewellery. I naturally assumed that all backpackers were probably dickheads (which admittedly makes no sense because I was backpacking too…). This is a Negative Attitude and I warn against it! After talking to like three people I realised that perhaps I was being a bit judgemental, and I began forcing myself to approach people. If you don’t, you might get lonely. I found people were so friendly, and the Mexicans were friendliest of all. 

If you want to go to Mexico alone, and are nervous, before I went I made a clear plan of where I was going to go and when, what hostels I could stay at and what I could do. I followed a popular route and stayed in busy hostels (that were full of other travellers, like me). I tried to follow all the safety advice you can find about travelling alone, but sometimes you have to relax a bit and enjoy yourself, and I think as long as you’re using common sense then you have to be unlucky to get into trouble. I met a lot of people who I never would have spoken to if I hadn’t been alone, my Spanish improved more in that month that it did in five months in Cuba, and I’m really proud of myself for doing something even though I was scared, and doing it all on my own.