AN OPEN LETTER TO NICKY MORGAN – A GUEST POST

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Dear Nicky,

I hear you have warned young people that choosing to study arts subjects could “hold them back for the rest of their lives.”

Just for clarity, ‘art’ is defined as: “expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, producing works to be appreciated for their beauty or emotional power.”

The Education Secretary is telling children to shut down their imaginations- well isn’t that just dandy. Apparently “those who study maths to A-level will earn 10% more over their lifetime.” Realistically, people who study maths to A-level will probably earn more like 90% more than I will in my lifetime. And you know what? I honestly could not care less.

Now don’t get me wrong, I have a full appreciation for scientific and mathematical subjects- they have an incredibly high value within society. Each day, groundbreaking medical and technological advances are made that change people’s lives. Which is brilliant. But the arts are just as important.

People escape the pressure of their working life by losing themselves in creativity on a daily basis. They allow the literary meanderings of Faulks or McEwan or E L James, to transcend the cramped isolation of the underground. They place their headphones on and have the inane murmurings of Taylor Swift blare away their troubles. Millions upon millions of people escape in to the world of Westeros or Litchfield prison; they immerse themselves in stories of meth producers or singing high school kids, or even simply six chums, relaxing in their local coffeehouse. They see pieces of art and design, which are at the foundation of our cultural identity and make them feel something. The most famous Briton isn’t a mathematician or a scientist; sorry to burst that bubble, but the poor sod just wrote a few plays and some poems. Thankfully you weren’t around back then to try and stick a pin in his creative balloon.

And you’re not sticking one in mine, either.

So I have cobbled together the words of those who made the decision to pursue a passion that would “hold them back for the rest of their lives”, to present my point far more aptly than I can:

 

It is a truth universally acknowledged that

nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.

We are told that one must be careful of books, and what’s inside them, for words have the power to change us.

History is a nightmare from which we are trying to awake.

Do I dare disturb the universe?

But I remember one thing: it wasn’t me that started acting deaf; it was people that first started acting like I was too dumb to hear or see or say anything at all.

Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.

Nicky, my dear,

You cast a shadow on something wherever you stand, so choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth.

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.

We will not be led into the heart of an immense darkness;

Afterall, we are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams.

The curves of our lips rewrite history.

 We owe it to the young people of the future. Young people like

Matilda, whose strong young mind continued to grow, nurtured by the voices of all those authors who had sent their books out into the world like ships on the sea. These books gave Matilda a hopeful and comforting message: You are not alone.

They are not alone. You will not suppress the imaginations of future generations of Matildas and Harrys everywhere, because you view arts and humanities as ‘soft subjects’. So here I am setting up an artistic version of Dumbledore’s Army (couldn’t help myself), to ensure that the fire of creativity will continue to burn long in the imaginations of our young people and not be snuffed out by these dementorish measures.

I’m an actor, pursuing my creative ambition. So no, I am not going to go out and get a ‘real job’. I already have one.

Yours creatively,

Liam

Written by Liam Steward-George.

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Actor, writer, bold pant wearer.

SAATCHI IN SUMMER TIME

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I woke up on Saturday, hangover-free. I know right.

So, feeling uncharacteristically fresh, I took a trip to The Saatchi in Sloane Square to make the most of the day. Situated right next to Duke of York Square (which has a great food market on at the moment), the gallery is set against a backdrop of hard-to-find greenery and old houses worth an absolute fortune. Inside is a completely different story. You’ll find Modern Art that is fresh, frequently a little bit naughty and you’ll end up spending hours in there despite its humble stature.

With no entrance fee, it’s worth checking out if you’re stuck for something to do on a rainy day in London.

Aside from The Met in New York, it’s my favourite gallery. I hope you like the shots from their most recent exhibitions.
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WOMEN FASHION POWER

The Design Museum. Never been before, never actually heard of it.

Boyfriend suggested it. I googled it.

Women + Fashion + Power ? I got dressed immediately.

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Well worth a browse, the exhibition spans over one hundred years and celebrates the empowerment of women through the ages- from Victorian corsets and dropped waists to the shoulder pads of the glamorous 80s. The exhibition features designs worn by Lady GaGa and pieces by Vivienne Westwood. I was mesmerised; genuinely one of the top 5 exhibitions I’ve ever been to.

Don’t miss out. It’s only on until the 26th of this month.

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This is only a sneak peak. I didn’t want to ruin it.

But go. Just go.

The Music

large (12)There’s nothing worse than a music snob.

You know the types I’m talking about. Those who believe Frank Ocean to be a waste of time without having listened to one of his tracks and those who berate Ed Sheeran for being too mainstream. Basically, I’m talking about those who make unfounded statements for no other reason except for the fact that it’s cool to say that you have a distaste for modern, or even just popular, music.

I tend to just put it down to ignorance and a lack of dedication to the cause on your part. Dig a little deeper into today’s music and you’ll find some hidden treasures. And correct me if I’m wrong but it takes time to tick by for things to be deemed timeless, much like denim or the LBD. You laugh now but Ben Howard or Paolo Nutini, men capable of a lot more than some of your favourite golden oldies, could too be timeless, if you give them time, of course. And if you really do feel that way about modern music, then why are you dancing to the Arctic Monkeys on a night out? They released their first album in 2006. I don’t care if you’re drunk. Don’t be a hypocrite.

I wholeheartedly agree that it’s infuriating when an artist makes millions from generic dance tunes pumped out of what seems to be their arse holes, but don’t generalise and say that there’s no musical talent at the moment when you fail to do your research. Right now, sadly yes, the mainstream is all about mega bucks and fame and I would love to find a way to bring a wider variation of talent to the fore. But when you tell me that it’s impossible to boast about the talent of today compared with musicians from the 1970s, I can do nothing but laugh.

I’m not saying I’m a musical genius and I probably don’t know as much, technically, as some of you reading this, but I do listen to all kinds of music, all the time. My dad had me listening to Suede at ten years old and I was completely unaware of how political I was being when I introduced my best friend to Morrissey back in primary school. But it wasn’t all deep lyrics and men dressed as vicars. Dad also stood by my side as I sang along to B*Witched at Wembley in my pedal pushers with a light up wand and an oversized Fanta, and he whole-heartedly backed me through my Spice Girl phase. I believe that creative taste not only comes from the media, society or current trends, I think it’s also something that’s inherited, which makes it okay to appreciate older music, but we must be tolerable of all types.

I’ve been trained, by my wonderful – but completely barking – parents, to reserve no space in my life for pretentiousness, but I get when it when people are frustrated that a lack of talent becomes a sensation for reasons such as a leaked sex tape or a handsome face. But sadly, that’s been the way of the world for a long time now, and as epic as Elvis was, he too was predominantly a pretty face and a pair of snake hips. Unwarranted success is not a thing of today; in fact, it was something that was born a long time ago.

Compare Primark, for instance, to higher quality labels made with more craft, skill and a higher thread count; yes there’s an obvious difference in quality, but they each have a value.  Imagine you’d spent a shed load of cash on that one off trend last year? These fads are what clothing for a fiver was made for. I mean, thank GOD I bought a trouser skirt for a quid. That’s one piece I’m glad to see the back of, but I enjoyed it while it lasted. And the same goes for music. I was at a party this weekend where I watched a little girl ‘Shake It Off’ with more style and grace than Taylor Swift herself. Alongside her was my mother of 53 years, a granny of 85 years and two 16 year old males. I doubt that we’ll still be singing it in 2045, but a song that brings a range of people together and can provide that much happiness for three minutes, is worthy of something in my opinion and shouldn’t be mocked.

Do more of what makes you happy and less of what you think should make you happy. If you want to compose classical music by day and watch Miley Cyrus in concert by night, then do it. Life is too short to panic about who might be judging you or what is cool. And if you genuinely want to listen to Chopin all day errrday, then okay, but don’t condemn Joe Bloggs for listening to Usher on repeat – particularly if he’s going through a bad break up.

I’m not wholly exempt from this snobbery and have to check myself when I judge the footwear of tube hoppers across the capital or wince at men in jewellery, but if they’re happy, then I should be too. My brother thinks that some of the clothes I wear are outrageous and I do have a somewhat eclectic music taste but that’s what headphones were made for, as well as an inherent lack of giving a shit.

Being able to accept people for who they are and allowing them to love what they love in peace, whilst having your own opinion? You can’t get classier than that.

So just accept that some people prefer One Direction to The Beatles and get on with your life. I’m sure they probably think Dylan is garbage. And that’s fine too, kind of.

Each to their own.

The Bits

“It’s not vulgar, it’s vulva”

This is the slogan used at Jamie McCartney’s current “Skin Deep” exhibition that I visited recently. The artist’s intentions are to desexualise female genitalia by forcing casts of them onto a commercial platform entitled, “The Great Wall of Vagina”.

As I walked into the gallery, I immediately burst into a fit of laughter: totally unexpected and somewhat embarrassing for someone who is far from conservative. As I stared (scrutinised) the various vaginas on display, I couldn’t believe the variety. Old ones, young ones, pierced ones and even half and half ones. They were each so different they started to look like ageing faces to me, which was unnerving to say the least.

Although a fascinating sight, something I didn’t buy into was the artist’s intentions to desexualise the wall of wiggly bits. All I could think about was what men/women would think if they came up against each and every one in a moment of passion. The artist himself even addressed some of the intimidating penis moulds as ‘beasts’ which made me question whether his dedication to normalising these sculptures was fool-proof.

On the whole though, it got me thinking. Much like my thoughts on hair removal, is it a big deal what the vagina looks like in the throes of passion? Female sex organs, although essentially an object of lust, are admittedly one of the ugliest body parts we are lumbered with, which I guess is why we cover them up with expensive pants.  And the same goes for men. Call it a trouser snake all you like, I’d much rather cross paths with a riled up cobra at times.

But when are you going to stop obsessing over penis size boys? And how long are we girls going to strive for the perfect vagina? With the prevalence of labiaplasty as one of the most popular procedures of our time, shouldn’t we remind ourselves how ridiculous we are becoming and how lucky we are to have these weird and wonderful crevices and shafts? And functioning ones at that?

I’m hoping that once we’ve all had a good old laugh at each other’s dangly bits we’d all agree that yes they’re pretty gross looking, sometimes do unexpected things and will never be a welcome guest at the dinner table…

But they make babies. And that’s pretty cool, right?

Go and have a look at the great wall. I promise, you’ll never feel more normal.