All posts by melissa johnson

Journalist, PR & Project Manager, currently working for Scale Films Productions and The Elephant in the Classroom Podcast. For any collaborations or general enquiries please feel free to contact me.

The Netflix Effect: chess rising to popularity

Since it first screened on Netflix, the miniseries The Queen’s Gambit has been a huge hit. The show is based on Walter Tevis’s 1983 novel, which shares the same name. An American period, coming-of-age drama directed and written by Scott Frank.

The series was released on the 23rd of October 2020. However, only just after four weeks it became Netflix’s most watched miniseries. Although, a few outlets declared the show to be an ‘unlikely success,’ only a month later in November 2020, Netflix proudly announced that 62 million households were stuck to their screens to watch the series, which made it ‘Netflix’s biggest scripted limited series to date.’ The director Scott Frank then stated that, “delighted and dazed by the response.”

In the series we follow the character Elizabeth Harmon – played by Anya Taylor-Joy – a young orphan genius who waltz her way into a world dominated by men and rises up the ranks by defeating her opposite sex with her brilliant chess playing skills, genius mind and competitive personality.

Elizabeth, who goes by the name Beth, ends up in an orphanage at the age of eight, Beth finds two ways to escape her reality; first chess which is taught to her by a creepy janitor in a dark basement, and second, taking the little green pills given to her and also the other orphans, which helps keep the children tranquillised. It doesn’t take long before her genius mind is discovered while playing a game of chess. She wins her way up the rankings, earning money, beating grandmasters. Her fashion sense is to die for and her big brown eyes captivate the hearts of millions across the globe.

However, there is one more thing that has grown in popularity – some may even argue that it has surpassed Taylor-Joy herself – it’s the board game itself. Chess.

As well as Taylor-Joy’s phenomenal performance and Netflix’s depiction of the competitive game, chess is once again popular. It’s trendy and it’s the perfect way to show your braininess to your friends.

During the same week The Queen’s Gambit was released on Netflix, there was a significant rise in chess on the worldwide search engine in the United Kingdom as well as many other countries.

Google Tends clearly reveals the rise in popularity right after Netflix shows release date 23rd October 2020.

It’s an important time for chess. This unexpected and instant rise in popularity tracks back to Netflix’s successful series. The UK Metro Newspaper reported that the search for chess sets have increased by 273 percent on eBay only after ten days the show was launched. Chess.com the most popular chess website and app with over 50 million members has had several million new members join since the release of the show, and the downloads of the app on the iPhone has leaped to number three in the United States and number two in the United Kingdom. Covid-19 also has a role in this rise in popularity, having more free time and boredom, it is the perfect time to give your attention to a new sport.

“Since the release of The Queen’s Gambit we have seen roughly 2.5 million new members join,” the director of business development of chess.com, Nick Barton told AFP.

Netflix does not rely on advertisement – according to them nor do they intent to – however, many marketing companies visualise a massive opportunity. Netflix, already loosely work with advertisers via brand partnerships. An example is the deal between Coca-Cola and the Netflix show Stranger things. Therefore, the question rises to minds: Could Netflix become a potential advertising powerhouse?

There is no doubt about the fact that Netflix is officially a definitive modern media company, almost a symbol for the 21st century technologies. It has changed the way we consume films and television shows in society, and it is now one of the most crucial providers of digitally delivered media content. The number of subscribers on Netflix is growing each year by ten percent. There are 12.4 million subscribers in the United Kingdom according to the latest figures and 59 million in the United States. It is safe to say that Netflix is the new media and its influence is undoubtedly recognisable in a variety of industries.

Experts call it the Netflix Effect. According to Forbes, this phrase is referred to ‘when a new series catapults and unknown actor to fame – overnight – as a result of millions of people binge watching a show.’ However, the term has grown to refer to a number of factors: the curation of the content, the content itself and its social and economic influence, and different representation. Due to lockdown and everyone being stuck indoors, the Netflix Effect has reached a new high.

An important theme the series tackles is sexism, and with a female protagonist it challenges the rarity of female players in the competitive world of chess. International Chess Federation’s (FIDE) chief marketing officer, David Llada, reveals that only 16 percent of the country’s licensed players are in fact female in the United Kingdom. The effect of The Queen’s Gambit has created a shift for women in chess.

Chess is a cool game, now thanks to the Netflix Effect, more and more people are coming to realise that and have decided to be a part of the chess community.  Nona Gaprindashvili, a Georgian grandmaster said regarding the Netflix series that, “You have to be psychologically and physically strong, and have a drive for excellence.”

Book review: Normal People by Sally Rooney

Book: Normal People
Author: Sally Rooney
Genre: Fiction, psychological fiction
Rating: 5/5 
Published: 2018

Sally Rooney has a way with her straight-to-the-point style of words captivated by steadiness, but it still does not fail to draw you in. The book Normal People concentrates on the lives of two ordinary individuals (Connell and Marianne) who are discovering love, lust, loneliness, depression, trauma and overall, their path in transitioning into adulthood. Something we all can relate to. 

The story follows Connell and Marianne from their school days where they begin a secret affair. At school they pretend to not know of each other. Connell is popular at school, well liked, and an athlete who plays for the soccer team but as for Marianne she’s quiet, private, lonely, vulnerable and proud. Connell’s mother works as a cleaner at Marianne’s house. The two’s connection starts when Connell comes to pick his mother up. Their social and socio-economic backgrounds could not be further apart, but that does not stop the sparks happening between them. Events of betrayal happen and the two drift apart only to be brought back together at Trinity College in Dublin, where they both attend.

This is a story about two characters who are desperately in love and find their way back to each other, each time they drift apart. This is a story that goes well beyond lust and sexual awakening, two normal people who have a sense of innocence to them. Something we rarely see nowadays, where there are no drugs involved nor are, they criminals, which makes this book ever more interesting.

Sally Rooney, a young Irish author born in 1991. Her previous work consists of Conversation with Friendswhich was published in 2017, only a year before her book Normal People, which also gave a name for her. The book, Normal People, has won the 2018 Costa Novel Award, the Novel of the Year Award at the Irish Book Awards, and was Waterstones Fiction Book of the Year 2018. The book has also been adapted into a series on Hulu. 

Rooney’s writing style is simple but sharp like a knife, which leaves words bleeding inside of your head for days. While reading this novel myself I felt that I reached a level of epiphany in my young adult life, things became clearer almost. How miscommunication and misunderstandings can lead to failure in relationships and how subtle these miscommunications can be at times.

The book makes you not only think but also feel the realities of ordinary people. Rooney’s coming of age tale tackles why and how people interact in a unique way. Connell wonders, “Is the world such an evil place, that love should be indistinguishable from the basest and most abusive forms of violence?” Connell grows and slowly adjusts to the world around him, whereas Marianne relapses, often finding herself in abusive relationships, yet they still seem to be rooted to each other even though they drift apart. It’s almost frustrating that Rooney keeps these two characters apart. 

Rooney is a young and original writer, and she is only just getting started.

The reality that we don’t know anyone at all

Has it occurred to you that, you may not exactly know the people you hold the dearest to yourself as well as you thought you did? I remember my ex-boyfriend telling me during our third date, “You will never know anyone, not fully.” At the time I got defensive, and took complete offensive to his statement. It made me think, surely if you’ve known someone for all your life or even a long period of time, you must know them inside out? It will be embarrassing not to? Right? Well, wrong. It took me a long time to realise, and I cannot argue this enough, fully realise we do not know anyone at all, not even our dearest ones. The most heart-breaking part of it is that we never really will. 

The Japanese have a proverb which will tell you that people have three masks they wear within their life, sometimes the mask is translated to faces. We have three masks or faces we put on throughout our lives. The first one is the one we show the world, and everyone around us, almost a face in our most perfect form. The second is the face we show to the people closest to us, our loved ones, family, friends. Finally, the third face we dare not show anyone. A face where no one is worthy of seeing and knowing. It is us in our rawest form.

Following this line of thought, these faces or masks are all us, different versions, but still us. The first as I mentioned before is the most perfect, likeable face we portray to the world. We can almost argue that it is also the fakest version. When you think about it, if everyone in the world was to portray only their first face to the world, does that not mean no one has had the courage to show their real face to the world? We can sometimes be conditioned to impress, be likeable, and be forced to be somebody they are simply not. 

With the second face, we believe and trust, thus show a small glimpse of us to our close ones. We like to think they care about us and therefore allow them to stick by us when we have fallen. 

However, these faces the Japanese talk about, for the third mask, is in fact the voice in our head. It is that voice which no one will ever have the privilege to hear, only us. It is us, authentic and Real. This alone, tell us that we never really know what that voice in someone else’s head is saying. They could be plotting a murder for all we know. Unless you possess the power to read minds, you, as much as you wish otherwise, do not know the people around, not fully. 

We are all guilty of putting on a mask every day. Pretending to be that perfect person the world expects us to be. Sometimes, living with the consequences of being authentic can be heavy. Contrary to popular opinion I believe it is an emotional labour to be yourself, showing who you really are to the world. It’s tiring more so than pretending to be someone you’re not. The fear of not being liked once you open yourself, feeling exposed and vulnerable. That is why the first and fakest mask we put on every morning when we stare into our bathroom mirrors with a smile is not an option, but rather a must. We trip, fall, rise, get stuck in limbo every single day. We pass obstacles, we fail them. We are human, yes, but we are also a warrior, a soldier, a fighter. Just like a warrior puts on their armour to face a battle, we put on our masks to face the world.

Book review: The Runaway by Martina Cole

Book: The Runaway
Author: Martina Cole
Genre: Fiction, crime, thriller
Rating: 4/5

Published: 1997

The Runaway is a novel by The Sunday Times number one bestselling author Martina Cole. If you have read any of Cole’s crime novels, then you are well aware it is not suitable for the faint-hearted, as it can be hard to stomach the brutality of it. A book which is gritty and graphic, it portrays the merciless gangs and harsh lives of Londoners between the years 1960 to 1980, in its rawest form. Where the characters such as Eamonn Docherty play god and decides who should live or die, making a name for himself an heartless villain in London and New York. 

The story follows Cathy Connor and Eamonn Docherty living together as children: Cathy’s mother, Madge, is a prostitute and her husband Eamonn’s father, Eamonn senior lives off his wife’s wages. They all live in poverty in the slums of the East End of London, but this does not stop the two kids from dreaming about a better life with each other. These dreams however, are shattered following a series of events which push Eamonn to move to New York leaving Cathy behind and fighting for herself. After ending up in care, Cathy has no choice but to become a runaway and finds herself at the doors of Soho, where she makes herself a friend, a transvestite by the name Desrae. However, It’s only a matter of time before, the two sweet childhood lovers’ paths crosses again. This time Cathy is not a weak little girl anymore, she’s grown, strong, beautiful and clever.

If you have read Cole’s other books, you will realise that the drill is pretty much similar in terms of the characters and theme of the plot; men who are hungry for power, money and women who are either used and abused or break the traditional norms of the ideology that women are inferior, are powerful in their own way. Don’t let the thickness of the book intimidate you, because it’s a real page turner. It’s highly gripping, and throws you into a rollercoaster of emotions with love, betrayal, loss and gang violence. The brutality of the book can be frightening, and the love between Cathy and Eamonn shows us how deep love can run even if you spend years apart, and even when they are not deserving of that love. With gang violence follows death and as Cole accurately describes in the book, “no matter what happened to you personally, life went on for everyone.”

A fiction book which allows you to reflect on your own life nonetheless, with quotes such as, “Oscar Wilde said that youth was wasted on the young, and he was right. When you were young you wasted not only your own life, but usually someone else’s as well.” Although, as amazing the book may be, I can’t ignore the book’s repetitiveness. A well written, engaging story, yet, a story filled with prostitutes, women who are used, abused and who believe they need a powerful, handsome, rich man to survive the harsh world of their reality. If you are getting tired of this theme, then I must say that this book is not for you.  However, if it’s your first time reading from this author, it will not disappoint. 

You can buy your own copy from Amazon here.

Book review: The queen’s gambit by Walter Tevis

Book: The Queen's Gambit
Author: Walter Tevis
Genre: Fiction, psychological thriller
Rating: 5/5 
Published: 1983

From the moment I picked up Walter Tevis’ amazing novel The Queen’s Gambit, I struggled to put it back down, and ended up finishing the book in just two days, 243 pages of it. The Queen’s Gambit is a novel first published in 1983 following the life of a chess prodigy. As boring as that may sound, the words that tell the story between the front and back cover begs to differ. The novel takes place in 1950 where women are still considered to be intellectually inferior to men. Elizabeth Harmon, is both young and also female, challenging the traditional norms of society. We are first introduced to Beth at the age of eight as an orphan with the first sentence, “Beth learned of her mother’s death from a woman with a clipboard.”

But for a moment, let’s put chess aside, and look at the story through Beth’s eyes, an eight-year-old orphan girl from Kentucky. The chaotic battlefield here, in this story is her mind. Ending up in an orphanage at the age of eight, Beth finds two ways to escape her reality; first chess which is taught to her by a creepy janitor in a dark basement, and second, taking the little green pills given to her and also the other orphans, which helps keep the children tranquilized. It doesn’t take long before her genius mind is discovered while playing a game of chess. She wins her way up the rankings, earning money, beating grandmasters. Beth is smart, maybe even too smart for her own good. In a society where women are considered inferior, she doesn’t see gender, and is often frustrated about articles written about her, focusing more on her being a young woman rather than her successful chess wins. But all that aside something is missing in her life, which leaves her mind in a state of loneliness. Leading her to swallow more green pills and drink more alcohol.

There are many quotes in this book I enjoyed and choosing a favourite is difficult, however, if I was forced to choose it would be the quote where Beth said, “It’s an entire world of just 64 squares. I feel safe in it. I can control it; I can dominate it. And it’s predictable. So, if I get hurt, I only have myself to blame.”

To those who are thinking, “do I need to be a chess fan to read this book?” The answer is no. Although, the plot takes place with a girl rising up the ranks playing chess, it is also much more than that. It is also about loss, death, rejection, addiction, and even sexism. Ergo, if you believe you can relate to even one of those emotions listed, this book is for you. That’s not to say that chess is boring. It may be for some, however Tevis brings out the excitement and dramatics of chess into this book.

The book is engaging and easy to follow with the author’s straight to the point writing, “it was six days until Thursday.” It’s a book I read once and will happily go back and read again. I enjoyed The Queen’s Gambit to the point where I turned a blind eye to Beth’s gloomy future at the end of the novel. The little orphan grew up to outgrow the one thing that made her name. We may not be a prodigy but we can still understand and relate to Beth Harmon in more ways than one, which is the core of what makes this book engaging. 

You can buy your own copy on Amazon.

The odd things you remember when you’re watching someone die.

Photo credit: manyfires 

‘It’s odd, the things you remember when you’re watching someone die.’ I thought to myself, as I looked at his grey face in sorrow. His expression was confused, and his face was thin. There was no trace left from his once red cheeks. It almost felt like I was staring at a zombie with the eyes of a dead fish. Cancer is a dreadful disease. It robs you of your beauty, energy, youth, time, and your life.

I was so lost in my chain of thoughts, that his rough husky voice had to bring me back to reality. I apologised. “I remembered the time you taught me how to make a swing for my toys as a kid.” I said as an explanation to where my mind had drifted off to.

We sat together side by side in peaceful silence, both reminiscing my childhood mainly. The room was bright and white, just like any other ordinary hospital room. It was a bitter sweet moment. As we knew the sense of defeat was knocking on his door. There’s no cure for death, so we should in reality just accept it and welcome it.

Death is a part of life. Often, we are taught that it’s the opposite of life, but they could not be further from the truth. I always wondered why we are never taught to get ready for something which every soul will taste at one point. Then, it occurred to me that humans have a tendency to avoid what they do not understand and what they fear. As if avoiding something and merely pretending the lack of its existence will lead it to go away. It’s a hard reality to get used to, that the world does not wait for anyone. That it will simply continue to turn with or without you and no pain nor yearn will stop it. 

We fear death for its unknown future, it’s such a complex topic to be able to comprehend. Thinking about it can even alter your reality. Ergo, its understandable why we choose to avoid the subject instead. However, acceptance of a matter or event which you do not possess the power to change, can and will reduce suffering. As it allows you to look fear itself in the eyes without flinching.

I believe once you are face to face with death, all your worries, ego and petty dramas are dropped into the depths of the ocean. It humbles you almost, and stops you to end up with piles of regrets of things that needed to be said and people to be loved, things to be done. 

We all know who alexander the great is, what you may not know is after conquering many kingdoms, he was finally returning home. On his journey he became unwell and this illness dragged him to his death bed. With death staring him in the face, he realised how his conquests, his great army, his sword and all his wealth were of no consequence. He now longed to reach home to see his mother’s face and bid her his last adieu. But he had to accept the fact that his sinking health would not permit him to reach his homeland. So, the mighty conqueror lay prostrate and pale, helplessly waiting to breathe his last. 

He called his generals and said, “I will depart from this world soon, I have three wishes, please carry them without fail.” With tears flowing down their cheeks, the generals agreed to abide by their king’s last wishes. 

“my first desire is that, my physicians alone must carry my coffin. Secondly, I desire that when my coffin is being carried to the grave the path leading to the graveyard be strewn with gold, silver and precious stones which I have collected in my treasury.” After a moment of pause due to exhaustion he continued. “My third and last wish is that both my hand be kept dangling out of my coffin.”

The people who had gathered there wondered at the king’s strong wishes. But no one dared bring the question to their lips.  Alexander’s favourite general kissed his hand and pressed it to his heart. “Oh king, we assure you that all your wishes will be fulfilled. But tell us why do you make such strange wishes?”

At this alexander took a deep breath and said, “I would like the world to know the three lessons I have just learnt. I want my physicians to carry my coffin because people should realise no doctor on this earth can cure death. They are powerless when it comes to saving someone from the clutches of death. The second wish of strewing riches on the path to the graveyard is to tell people that no amount of wealth will save me nor come with mw. I spent my life with the greed of power earning fortune but I cannot take it with me. Let people realise it is a waste of time to chase wealth. About my third wish of having my hands dangling out of the coffin, I wish people to know that I came to this world empty handed and empty handed I shall go.” With these words the king closed his eyes, soon he let death conquer him and breathed his last.

With this story I want to add that there is birth which is the beginning and there is death, the end but we often forget there is also everything that happens in between, and that is life. Time is precious and death is inevitable. Yet, death is easy and, in some cases, pretty rapid, the main challenge is to live. To live life without fear and accepting death as a part of life.  

As a society we need to stop sweeping the topic of death under a rug. No one wants to think about it now. Why? I would even go as far as to argue it’s one of the most important things to think about.

The talk of religion has been a debate for centuries and probably will be for centuries to come. However, there is no real evidence of an afterlife realistically. There is however, only faith. I sure am one of them who believes in an afterlife. The idea of imaging yourself to never exist and simply rotting six feet underground is scary. But, rather the idea of never existing is difficult for me to fully comprehend. 

One day, you too will close your eyes to this world. All your belongings, possessions and even your last pennies in your bank will no longer matter. It will not exist. It may pass down to your next of kin, you will no longer own them nor will you really be needing them.

Yet, the scariest aspect of death for me is all your memories and knowledge fading. The thought of this truly breaks my heart. It makes you ask the oldest question known to humanity, “what is the meaning of life.”

From the beginning of time, every event that happened, every moment that occurred from the speed of the wind to the rain falling from the sky, happened and it brought you into existence. The butterfly effect. Did it all happen by chance or on purpose? Will you ever be able to find the answer to these questions? Probably not, but the journey to finding these answers will be a hell of an adventure.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” – Mark Twain.

Vegan romance: how the vegan dating scene has evolved

Photograph credit: Ian Howorth

Dating a vegan may come with negative stereotypes and a bad rap. From being ‘too annoying’, to having a ‘dull diet’. Veganism can be a restrictive diet, not only in the sense of meat but also dairy, eggs etc., as all animal products are off limits. However, veganism has been on the rise and within the last decade is has grown 360 per cent in the UK alone.

Joshua, 24, decided to become a vegan for moral and health reasons after watching a lecture by Gary Yourofsky called the most important speech you will ever hear. “I decided to be vegan in 2015, my family from Brazil they showed me the lecture and by the end of it I was like why am I eating meat?” says Joshua. The lecture covers ‘everything’ and gives an insight on the benefits of being vegan not only environmentally but also for personal health.

“It’s now common knowledge that there’s a certain amount of pus and blood allowed in milk.”, he then adds. According to the Animal Aid, a litre of milk can have up to 400,000,000 somatic cells (pus cells) before it is considered unfit for people to drink.

However, it is not necessarily easy to just switch to veganism overnight. It can for some be a challenge. Especially for someone like Joshua, whose family is Brazilian, where their food culture is heavily meat based. “I grew up in south London and chicken is a massive part of that culture, so my diet was chicken and chips for my whole up until to that point, and then one day I was okay I’m not going to eat meat anymore.”

If Joshua was more ‘introverted’, he would have struggled in the dating scene as a vegan but he was verbal about his dietary and his views. “When I first became vegan, I was vocal but I was also vocal about a lot of my views, whereas now I’ve just hit the point where I’m aware that people can be stubborn and really set in their ways.”, he says.

A vegan chicken restaurant’s Instagram page; Temple of Seitan.

With the rise of vegans in the UK, meeting people who are vegan or even vegetarian has become more common compared to 2015 when Joshua first became vegan. “A lot more people in our generation are becoming vegetarian and vegan, so the people I’m meeting tend to be vegetarians.” However, for someone who’s more of a shy vegan would be the ‘altercations’ or the ‘backlash’ they would face. “It’s a fun talking point for some people. It can get tiring.”

According to a study done by EliteSingles vegans are more likely to go on a date with a meat-eater with the figures showing 82% and with 72% would begin a serious relationship with a meat-eater. Whereas, when the tables are turned only 69% of meat-eaters would be willing to go on a first date with a vegan and 61% will be open to a serious relationship.

Although Joshua’s girlfriend is a vegetarian, he is a part of the 72% who will still be happy to be in a relationship if she were to be a meat-eater. “The main issue with dating a meat-eater would be to do with morals. The big thing for veganism is you have certain morals with how people are treating animals and the whole industry. Where a meat-eater may not be aware of those things or doesn’t care so then it becomes a whole thing of having severely different morals and that could become and issue.” Joshua says.

From the old ages to our modern-day society, the dating scene has revolved around eating out; dinner dates, chocolates, coffee in the morning or even brunch. Finding a partner who has similar values or even finding a place to eat together can be a challenge for vegan couples.  “Before we go and sit down anywhere, we have to look at the menu and make sure there are vegan options”, says Joshua.

Compared to when Joshua first became a vegan, restaurants and eating out places have evolved in regards to having vegan options on their menus. In those five years alone, veganism has impacted the food industry. “There are now places which are specifically catering to veganism, or restaurants are at least adding a few vegan options on their menus.”

However, dinner dates are not the only thing that change after you become vegan, chocolate is also a massive part of the dating culture. “Now there is an alternative to chocolate, there is a bar called Vego Bar and it tastes like Nutella in a chocolate bar, but it’s completely vegan and it’s incredible.” Dark chocolates are also an option where it’s just naturally vegan.

London in general has a massive chicken culture, however, the impact veganism had on the food industry speaks volume as now there are multiple chicken shops which are primarily aimed for vegans. Some of the restaurants are: Temple of Seitan which known to be one of London’s vegan fast food restaurant, and another popular restaurant is the Chick’nrestaurant on Baker Street.

There aren’t drastic changes to the dating scene regardless if you’re a meat-eater or a vegan. However, with food playing a big role within the dating scene it can still be an obstacle. “Only thing that has changed is food really. Going to restaurant, just making sure there are vegan options. I wouldn’t say being a vegan has a massive impact on your dating life any more than it does on your personal life.”

Creatives reacting to the government telling them to ‘reskill’

Photo credit: Dazed Magazine

“People participate in arts by going to galleries, listening to music, watching movies but refuse to recognise the extent of the importance of the arts sector. They want to consume it; however, they don’t want to fund it because they believe it’s not really needed.” Says Amy, 21, a fine arts student from London. 

Earlier this month Rishi Sunak appeared on ITV New saying “I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis”, showing no regard to UK night life and arts. A government-backed advert was trending on social media, where it was encouraging creatives to ‘rethink and reskill’ and take a new career path in cybersecurity. The ad has since been removed after the arts world was shaken with backlash by many creatives and criticism by the culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, who labelled it as ‘crass’ and distanced his department from the campaign. 

The CyberFirst campaign ad which promotes cyber security jobs for young people around the ages 11 to 17. The ad illustrates a ballet dancer named ‘Fatima’ with the text reading; “Fatima’s next job could be in cyber (she just doesn’t know it yet),” Followed with the slogan “Rethink. Reskill. Reboot.” However, it instead set off a series of backlash by creatives. Many who felt ‘angry’ and ‘frustrated’ with the governments’ stance on the arts industry. 

‘#Fatima’ was trending on twitter, with people defending the arts and suggesting the government should instead support the art industry and creatives to follow their talent and dreams. 

Night time economy adviser for greater Manchester also portrayed his criticism on twitter reading; “Today, the Chancellor has said musicians and others in the arts industry should look for another job. That includes your favourite DJ… If you like to go to nightclubs/events/festivals, just remember this when we are through it. They are killing off our scene.”

Kema, 26, a youth worker from oxford, “it just shows how detached they [the government] are if they can’t recognise the importance of arts. Not only as an industry but also for people’s mental health. I work with kids and teach them rap, and I can say to them ‘hey look you’re not doing well in school but we can put you on this rap programme, with an alternative education’ because the education system doesn’t fit and work for everyone. This is a way for the kids to express themselves, be heard and earn money.”

“It’s horrible, you work so hard towards something and it’s not like it’s a hobby where you just stop playing video games.” Says Harvey, 25, a musician from Brighton. “Working in the arts and putting on events is so much more than just a livelihood, this is what you want to do, you work hard for it and being told to rethink your whole life is absurd.”

“I spelt FUDGE with my GCSE’s, I got F in English, U in another exam, D in science, G in drama and E in PE, so my parents were well proud.” He said jokingly. “But my parents were proud when I was playing on stages at festivals in Croatia. I do something I love.” 

Dowden tweeted; “I want to save jobs in the arts which is why we are investing £1.57bn” This will include theatres, museums, orchestras and music venues to help reopen. However, the UK’s music industry is worth £5.2 billion a year and the nightlife bring £66 billion for the country.  The art industry contributes to the country’s economy more than automotive, aerospace, life sciences and oil and gas industries combined. 

Freelancers and independent creatives struggled to sustain themselves even before Covid-19, and post lockdown their livelihood has not been ‘taken seriously’ by the government. Freelancers and independent creatives feel like they’ve been ‘thrown under the bus’, where in some cases, had to move out due to being unable to pay for rent. 

Matt, 34, music producer from Brighton says, “With sports nothing has happened to it, people can’t go and watch football, but it’s still carrying on and they are still playing in the premiership but no one has asked them to retrain.”

“I’ve always worked and balanced myself as an artist, and it can become extremely demanding.”  

“Artists who do commissions have a fixed hourly rate and then there are people who beg them to do it for a lower price. It’s actually humiliating to artists, no one sees the time, effort and amount of work that actually goes into what we do. It shows ignorance towards the art sector.” Says Amy.

“Other people whose jobs are in jeopardy are not being told to rethink, they can treat it as an important job as anyone else’s job, show some respect. It is mainly focused on people who are in the arts.” Says Harvey.

Poem 26: OBLIVION

A knot so tight,
Stuck in my throat,
Words of delight?
I laugh out of spite.

What do you want?
A familiar face now foreign,
Lost for meaning, judged often
By eyes that see sound, softened.

Mind so clouded,
Thoughts rushing, crowded
A parade of vivid dreams,
Strangely cheerful it seems.

Even maybe strangely sad,
Most considered it tacenda,
Broken sky leaking into meridian,
It fills us, the infinity of oblivion.

Poem 25: PEACE

It’s the little moments that matter,
The sun setting with quiet chatter,
House full of kids running, vases shatter,
Grace and golden sun rays fill,
The room until
Darkness hits again, watching it disappear, still
Behind a pointy hill,
Full of memories stolen by loneliness,
Crushed under heaviness
Of unwanted burdens.
Were you aware of,
Your ethereal kindness,
A moira swimming in a state of ataraxia
Free your heart, and the birds into the air.
You are allowed to declare,
A treaty for all hostilities to cease,
Finally, your tortured soul is at ease,
Open your chest and sing to the moon,
Your are the child of peace.