Tuesday, 21 October 2014

I'm doing Leornardo in Seville

Figaro's Balcony, next to the park where they're filming Games of Throne is Sevilla

After a year of twiddling my thumbs and complaining about the rain in Manchester/Wolverhampton I've made a break for it. Now I'm in Sevillaaaa so I thought I'd write about it. Do you like my new blog banner? Well you're not the only one, only this afternoon I was complimented on my handiwork by and actual, professional GrApHic DeSignEr!!!  He thought it was made on Photoshop. #justsaying

I'm excited to be in Seville as after university I basically moved straight back home. This obviously has advantages like a dishwasher, a really relaxed attitude to central heating and my parents own an almost obscene amount of cutlery. But after a couple of months at home, me and the cat were skating on thin ice. He's a skinny little animal now, ageing ungracefully and breaking all house rules in an almost obnoxious manner. I do like him really but he has a CATTITUDE problem and its a nightmare.

Anyway, I'm now like 1500 miles away from all that so I can take a deep breath and move on! I'm here doing a cheeky internship. It was a bit awkward before I left because people kept asking me what the internship was, but I didn't actually know what it was so I had to say 'I don't really know', and then they furrowed their brows with concern. The truth is we arrived on Sunday night and didn't find out the full details until yesterday afternoon. HOWEVER, I can now declareee that apparently I'll be working for a company that does something like manage educational cultural events and tours. Its all a bit confusing because I was told all the info in Spanish. Anyway I don't start til next week so I guess I'll know more then. The best thing about finding out where we were working is that the woman pronounced the 'p' in receipts, and she said receipts a LOT.

View from my window. Nice, innit?
There's six of us here from the UK but we're all living separately. We've been meeting in the days though and exploring the city, as well as sharing stories about our accommodation. Regular fans will remember my interesting places I've stayed when I've tried to escape Wolverhampton before (Little Old Landlady's 80's micro-flat in Austria, glass and metal war bunker in Cuba....). Well, things have taken a turn for the GREAT. I'm living in the historic centre of Seville in a totally traditional Spanish building, in a top floor room that looks out onto the tiled courtyard. From what I can tell, my (SINGLE) bed is made of ROCKS. It is firmer than J Lo's abs. But you know what, its all about the vista, and the VISTA is BUENA. My street is so narrow there are no cars, its all cobbled stone and iron gated doors. Without exaggerating, I think I've got lost maybe 1 million times so far? I've all unpacked now so the next step is to find a good supermarket nearby, as we've been eating out since we got here at all these tapas bars and stuff...basically the point I'm making is that I'm living the Sevillian dream!

Right I'm gonna toddle off now to buy a Spanish phone and eat some tapas. cya innit xxx

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Top Ten Things to do in Wolverhampton

I'm moving away from Manchester next week, and have been making a 'bucket list' to do all those things I never got round to doing in the city. This led me to think about my own hometown and what at the Must DO activities there. Wolverhampton can get a really bad wrap, but I love it! Of course its close to places like Birmingham, Walsall, Coventry and Stratford Upon Avon which all have great arts and cultural hubs and things to do, but I thought I'd restrict this list to the 10 best things to do in Wolverhampton itself. Perhaps you have somebody visiting you, or maybe you're coming to university in Wolverhampton. These are the things not to be missed....

1.Go to an event at West Park

West Park in the Winter (taken by Mummy Blollings)
West Park is massive, beautiful and central. It comes first as one of my absolute favourite places in the city. On a normal day you can go into the authentic Victorian greenhouse and look at tropical plants and fish, or take a boat onto the lake and row around for a bit. Its resplendent on a summer's day, and full of families and groups of people playing football on its large-ish fields. Even on cold winter days, when its usually quite empty, the park has an enchanting feel to it that makes you feel you're somewhere very different from the city. The park puts on large-scale, outdoor family events, I highly recommend Bonfire Night in November and the City Show in Summer (ALWAYS includes a car show and a horse and carriage race).

2. Explore vintage and retro finds at Wolverhampton Market

If you've never been inside Wolverhampton Market you might be surprised to discover the antiques section, round the corner from the fish stalls , where you can buy vintage clothes, toys, antique furniture and all sorts of weird and wonderful memorabilia. It's a fun place to go for presents or unusual objects. The market is great for any international foods and much cheaper fruit and veg than the supermarkets. If you are looking for fancy dress outfits or theatre costumes try Actor's Wardrobe, also based at the market, where I used to work. It has an amazingly extensive range of professional quality theatre costumes. For good quality, second-hand furniture I love to browse the Compton Hospice shop, round the corner from the market and opposite Beatties car park.

3. Go to an event or join a class at The Newhampton Arts Centre

The Newhampton Arts Centra puts on top quality music shows and performances for really accessible prices. Its a hidden gem in Wolverhampton and was one of the first venues to host revival 'Northern Soul' nights that are now spreading around the Midlands and Manchester. There are also regular band nights and burlesque events and vintage markets. It also runs weekly classes, clubs, has a café and displays local artwork.

4. Watch a blockbuster film with only five other people at The Lighthouse Cinema

Built in the old Chubbs Lock factory, the Lighthouse is famous for its tiny audiences! This is a unique experience of cinema-going. The prices are cheaper than nearby cineworld, and like many independent cinemas you can take a glass of wine into the auditorium. For something truly unique the Lighthouse also offers events such as themed days, classic black-and-white movies with a live soundtrack and they also show performances from the West End. If you've never seen a silent movie its such a great experience to watch one with live music, my dad's dragged me along before and I loved it. This is a fantastic venue in Wolverhampton anda great place to try something new. They also have art exhibitions, cafés, open mic nights and all sorts. (Review of the cinema here)

5. Sneak behind the railway station for one of the best pies in the city at The Great Western Pub.

The old railway station in Wolverhampton is beautiful, and was designed by Brunel. Next door is The Great Western, a top pub in Wolverhampton with delicious food and lots of Wolverhampton Wanderers and Sunbeam memorabilia. Other good traditional pubs are the Newhampton in Whitmore Reans (think bowling green in the summer and open fires in the winter) and the Posada in town (a small pub with beautiful tiles and stain glass). There are loads more, just ask around! If you've come from anywhere in the country be prepare to be astounded at the prices: great value. And, of course, they all serve Banks'.

Other good places to eat that I've been to recently are The Crown on the Wergs Road (gastropub), The Hamilton Restaurant overlooking West Park (fancy restuarant) and Latuske's in Finchfield (yummy mummys). Also you can try the perpetually empty Made in Thai which has incredible decor and really nice fish.

6. Explore Wolverhampton's history at Bantock House and the surrounding gardens (this is good for kids)

Bantock House, Wolverhampton

I have so many happy memories of wandering around Bantock House and colouring in art sheets they provide. Its a restored museum that tells of some of the city's heritage. Wolverhampton is a city with a wealth of history and its definitely worth finding out more. The small gardens and café at Bantock are also nice when its sunny, and they do some fun family events like 1940's days. Bantock House is at risk at the moment from cuts and it needs local support to continue.

7. Discover one of the countries largest pop art collections at the Wolverhampton Art Gallery.

One of the Pop Art Rooms at Wolverhampton Art Gallery

The Pop Art gallery is a great place to take people visiting Wolverhampton. Its central and its pretty impressive. They also sometimes have some great touring exhibitions, like the recent much acclaimed Ron Mueck exhibition. Perhaps more importantly, the Wolverhampton Art Gallery Café does some really exceptional cakes. Its a nice place to meet for coffee, with pretty views of St Peter's Church. The gallery runs classes and events too.

8. Enjoy the sun and walk along the canals, the disused railway or through the bluebell wood

Bluebell wood, Wolverhampton

Another one of my absolute favourite parts of Wolverhampton is how close it is to the country side. When you get on the canal, you walk underneath the city into a world full of nature! Not everywhere has such nice canals, nor a bluebell wood. If you're feeling adventurous you can hire a barge which is an absolute HOOT, you can also just have a chilled stroll and try to find some blackberries in the bushes. The bluebell wood is fantastic and almost always empty, head there in late spring to see a carpet of bluebells as far as the eye can see.

EDIT: we're not sure what the real name for the bluebell wood we visit is. Its not called 'bluebell wood'! Its by Colton Hills School and from google maps might be 'Park Coppice' which is near there. The bluebells come out in spring.

9. Enjoy top-name comedians and musicians at the Civic Hall or up-and-coming artists at other venues around the city.

The Civic Hall always gets good names and big music acts. If that's beyond your budget try the Slade Rooms for smaller, more intimate events. The Civic Hall is big and connected to the Wulfrun Hall by some confusing passages. They get a good variety of shows that attract audiences from across the black country. Also look at the Grand Theatre which puts often has big musicals (Joseph, Blood Brothers, Sister Act, Fame etc and even some RSC productions).

10. Get involved in local spirit and watch a football match at the Molineux.

This is one thing on my bucket list I've never done but I want to. Wolves have a strong fan base and the stadium is massive, you should probs go there.

BONUS I know I've already done 10 things, but the god honest truth is when somebody asks me "What is the best thing about Wolverhampton?" my answer is always immedately 'PORK JOINT!!!'. The best Pork Baps I've ever tasted - gravy, apple stuffing, salt and pepper and tender pork. The best £2.50 you'll ever spend.

All of these places only survive by the support of the locals, and many of them are at dire risk of being lost because the council is cutting funding dramatically. I love Wolverhampton but it'll be a bit shit if everything gets shut down to make sure to support your local venues and events! If you value the arts in Wolverhampton you can contact your MPs and councillors to let them know they need to really protect funding for these great places - but perhaps the best way to protect the future of Wolverhampton's assets is to go to them, attend the events and be a part of its cultural scene.

There are loads of things I missed off the list because I wanted to keep it to ten! What are you top tips for Wolverhampton?

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

The Veet 'Don't Risk Dudeness' ad, body hair and sexism

Is the Veet 'don't risk dudeness' ad sexist?

(I don't like jumping on bandwagons, but I guess I just really like thinking about body hair???)

Everybody knows that hair-removal ads usually place themselves in luscious tropical waterfalls with hairless, bronzed models dragging sharp razors over their hairless, bronzed legs and armpits. They're silky, pink, feminine and gorgeous and they are the epitome of the feminine ideal.

Veet: Don't risk dudeness

Veet has decided to take a different approach. They are excited because 'this is the first time the brand has taken a comedic approach to address women's hair removal'I like comedy and I know you shouldn't take it too seriously, but I think this ad is awful. I suppose Veet decided most women don't spend that long at tropical waterfalls, and so instead of showing the product in an aspirational, dream-like location they instead have focused on women's normal life. And in doing so attempted to persuade us to buy Veet products by encouraging us to feel shame and disgrace in our everyday lives.

The situations are absurd: lying in bed trying to cuddle your boyfriend, absent-mindedly hailing and taxi and going to to the pedicurists. That's what women spend their days doing, right?! Unable to drive, we catch a cabs to get between the bedroom and the beauty parlour. And with all the extra time that leaves us in the day, while our menfolk are out working and being productive, its no wonder they greet us with complete repulsion because we haven't managed to at least shave today, I mean for god's sake.

The stupid problem with the ad is that this brand, that is aimed at women (that presumably employs women? Right?), is so wholly and completely out of touch with women's reality. The most startling reality check for them might be that if you don't shave for a day, literally nobody cares. Literally nobody notices. Your boyfriend, your housemates, your taxi-driver, your pedicurist....they don't care.

The problem with hair removal ads in general is that they perpetuate the cruel and damaging myth that women's bodies (especially women's natural bodies) are repulsive. It shouldn't be okay for people to say they are disgusted by female body hair. But it is okay for people to say that, because in our society female body hair is such an abomination that it incites repulsion and shame. If we're shameful of the very nature of our bodies, how will we react in relationships with others - especially with men, whose bodies (we are taught) are more important than our own?

I don't care if people shave or not, I quite like it when they don't because its nice to see somebody valuing their own desires about how to spend their time and treat their body above the ridiculous expectations imposed on them by society. I understand some people find a hairless leg sexier than a hairy one, maybe for most people it does look better. But hairless leg doesn't look that much better. Its the same body. And hopefully the purpose of existence is more than just looking sexy to everyone all the time.

All that anger and I haven't even mentioned the homophobic and transphobic problems with this campaign!

I like this article about body hair:
Vagenda: Hair

cya later gonna go shave

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Submissions for a translation Zine

I'm looking for submissions for a new translation-based Zine.
Brief: a translation of a text of up to approx. 200 words from any language into English. We are looking for texts in other languages that are exceptional - that you find particularly enticing, interesting, funny, meaningful or beautiful. It can be just one word, a whole poem, song, an extract from a novel/speech/play.
We then ask you to submit your own translation/interpretation of this text (into English). We encourage freedom in the translation, whether you think a word-for-word translation submitted through Google translate is how you want to present it, or whether you want to do a very free and loose translation to end up with your final product.
Our aim is to make a Zine which is interesting for people who speak English but will have a different reading experience for different people who may speak more than one language.
Deadline for submissions: Monday 10th March
Deadline for final translations: Wednesday 12th March (Friday 14th at the very latest)

If you would like to submit a translation for Zine, fill in this info and email it to sarah-collings@hotmail.co.uk

Your name:
Title of original text and brief summary:
Any info you'd like you give about your proposed translation:

And we'll get back to you quickly!



Wednesday, 5 March 2014

The Sun "Page 3 vs. Breast Cancer" makes me feel weird

I signed the No More Page 3 petition a year and a half a go. To be honest, I kind of expected Page 3 to have become extinct by now, but its still there, and this week - in a surprise move - its trying to encourage women to check their breasts for lumps.

I've had a look at the campaign. It leaves a funny taste in my mouth. It makes me feel uncomfortable and weird. I actually find that the idea of the The Sun trying to give me medical advice and encourage me to cop a feel of my own breasts left me feeling a bit invaded. I agree with the New Statesmen - they focus on breast cancer because they're obsessed with breasts. Of course breast cancer worries them - you can't be a page 3 model if you've had a mastectomy! I feel like they're telling me to make sure I keep my breasts nice and healthy, so they're still nice and healthy to be oggled at by men. That's how shallow this campaign appears to me. 

I do think in the cover photo of Rosie Jones saluting, she looks beautiful. It does reflect what they've claimed is to be celebrating natural beauty, youth and freshness. But it shouldn't be in the newspaper. That shouldn't be were you find pictures of beautiful, naked women. What's more, the cheeky photos sexualise the activity of checking breasts for lumps...its not a sexy activity. Its like trying to sexualise breast feeding. It just feels inappropriate to me, and I don't want to associate The Sun and David Dinsmore with checking my breasts for lumps!

In the Guardian, Gaby Hinsliff seems to think the ends justifies the means, but I find her opinions patronising when she says the cheeky tone of the campaign "is probably a good match for the mood of young women who still feel too immortal to heed conventional public health campaigns" . I'm a young woman and I can tell you - it's not a good match. In fact, I find it patronising that the Sun thinks it can use a sexist feature to try and educate me about my breasts. I know about my breasts, and I know about the Sun, and I don't like page 3.

It is a bit of a tricky conundrum, as in the end, page 3 doing this has reminded me about checking my breasts for lumps. Which is a good thing. But the Page 3 vs. Breast Cancer campaign doesn't make me feel empowered or enlightened or helped out by the friendly newspaper, it makes me feel queezy. 

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Sarah and Benz GOING GLOBAL! Fuse FM Radio Show

Regular fans will be more than excited to hear that, on the basis of our continued popularity, Bajan Housemate and I have launched our very own radio show! The show is called "Sarah and Benz: Going Global!" and I made a logo for it on my favourite editing software, Microsoft Paint:

I know, I know, it's brilliant. The premise that each week we choose a different part of the world, and take the listeners on an aural adventure to that destination. The show is on at 1pm ever Monday on Manchester's student radio station, Fuse FM at http://studio.fusefm.co.uk:8000/

You have to send an application off to get a show, which we did just after exams. We planned to start with an introduction show where we played music from Wolverhampton and Barbados (our homelands!), but things didn't quite go to plan. Due to some kind of organisational malfunction that may or may not have anything to do with the fact that we weren't members of the radio society when we applied (....) we were given VERY short notice of our first show... about an hour and a half's notice to be precise! And we had no music, no preparation and really (and I'm not being excessive here) no comprehension of the technical processes required to broadcast. One thing led to another, and we ended up in a rather unexpected situation where the system would suddenly start playing completely random songs and - once they'd started - we had literally no way of stopping them! Imagine our consternation when Mercedes cheerfully told our large audience "now we're going to play some Bob Marley!" and when we clicked 'play', what actually came out was Beethoven. Imagine our confusion when we couldn't make Beethoven stop! Imagine our further exasperation when we inadvertently caused an 8 minute Lana del Rey remix to play. And couldn't stop it! madness.

Anyway we had another show this week and, believe you me, it was much much more successful and we think we had almost 3 listeners! We whole-heartedly recommend you start tuning in now because when we become global superstars just contemplate the kudos you have from becoming fans early doors!!

Our next show is based around Australia and Oceania!

If anyone wants to make us a snappy jingle, leave a comment below :)

Sarah and Benz GOING GLOBAL is on Fuse FM every Monday at 1pm>>> click here

Thursday, 6 February 2014

DIY Mermaid Rave Bra

To celebrate the end of exams in Manchester, the union organises a massive 'festival' that we bought tickets for in NOVEMBER and were then incredibly excited for the next three months. Its called Pangaea and, like me, its pretty much a BIG deal. I was so excited that by the time I started sorting out my costume I'd forgotten what the theme was! I thought it was "Under the Sea", it was actually "The Lost City", but the results were basically the same. They fill the union building with lots of house music and decorations and everyone (who is worth their sea salt) dresses up.

I started my costume with an amazing blue, velvet maxi skirt me and my mate RACH found in COW Vintage in Manchester. Its the perfect shade of blue to be the sea and I decided to be a mermaid. Usually I look nothing like what I want to look like but this costume I reckon was okay. The main focal point was a mermaid bra I made myself, after seeing some amazing examples online for 'rave bras'.

Mermaid Rave Bra Tutorial


Bra: the bra was perfect, I got it from H&M in the sale (£7). I saw a few other people in this bra on the night but nobody else had decorated it!
Shells and flowers: ebay
Pearls: necklaces from Primark
anndddd you need a glue gun! I got mine for £6 from Amazon.

The process is easy and really fun. I didn't really plan what I wanted to do, but just kept adding more and more stuff until I liked how it looked. I tried to make the shells focal points, then surrounded them with flowers, and added pearls for highlights. Try it on a few times as you make it to make sure it looks balanced!

I was going to use fabric glue until I saw this video by Andrea Garcia. The glue gun is the best way to stick stuff on, its very secure and gives the bra a lot of structure. Barely anything fell off, apart from a few pearls.

I wore it withe the blue skirt, a flower garland I pinned into my hair and purple lipstick. Originally I was going to wear the bra without anything underneath it but it turned out to be a bit big, so I borrowed my housmate's bandeau to protect my modesty. It was really really fun to wear something so sparkly.

omg i look great.
 if you have any questions or feedback on the bra please comment and I'll answer them :)