The Big V

After being vegetarian on and off for years, a couple of months ago I decided to try out veganism. This is something that many people don’t understand, my mother included, so I will try my best to explain my reasons.

It all started when I was aimlessly browsing through Netflix and stumbled upon a documentary called Food Matters. I avoid  watching endless scenes of animal cruelty because it just upsets me and leaves me questioning life. I know it happens and just knowing it is bad enough. I don’t feel any desire to repeatedly be sad and angry. Anyway, this documentary looked different. It’s main focus is on the health benefits of cutting out animal products from your diet. Having read some reviews, I’m not sure if every part of the film is medically proven and accurate, but it’s definitely true that eating a plant based diet reduces the risk of getting heart disease and cancer. I was on a Netflix binge at this point, and decided to also watch Vegucated where some Americans try out veganism. I’ve been told I should watch Earthlings, but I hear it is very horrific so I think I will avoid it for now.

After watching these films, I did a lot of my own research into vegan nutrition to see if I felt it was something I could actually do. I became obsessed with this for weeks and decided that once I’d eaten all the animal based food I already had, I would not buy any more. The first month was really exciting and interesting. Who knew that a few seeds could replace an egg? And who knew you could milk almonds? It was all very new and fun. You can make almost any meal vegan. The greatest moment was when I made vegan brownies that tasted better than any brownie I had ever had. I made a lot of pesto and hummous to fight my cheese cravings, and these turned out to be great replacements. I put them on pizza and everything. I also discovered nutritional yeast flakes which are a great cheesy tasting topping for pasta.

I soon realised that being vegan is easy. You just have to be keen to cook which I am. The only time it is difficult is when i’m eating out or go over to a friend’s house or even to my parents’. It just involves a bit more planning. If I know i’m going to a certain restaurant, I’ll scan the menu in advance and email the place asking if any of their dishes are vegan. Usually there are one or two things I can eat. If I go to someone’s house, I will usually bring along some food to share, and offer to help with cooking. I recommend reading How To Be Vegan by Elizabeth Castoria if you’re interested in the vegan lifestyle. She explains everything in a very accessible and entertaining way.

Vegan pros: better for your health, better for the environment, better for the animals, tasty food

Vegan cons: having to constantly answer foolish questions “but where do you get your protein?!” “if we didn’t eat them, wouldn’t the world be overpopulated by cows?!” “where would all the milk go?!”

All in all there are many reasons to try a vegan diet. I genuinely feel much healthier and happier than I ever have in my life, and I feel like I owe that to my diet. Thank you veganism! And as for the silly questions, they’re pretty easy to laugh off.


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Happy International Women’s Day!

There is always much debate over whether feminism is still relevant today. I recently read an interview with Lily Allen who said that “The word feminism shouldn’t even be a thing anymore” – she claims that she had been misquoted by Shortlist Magazine, and a Twitter argument ensued, but whether she said it or not, there are many people who hold this opinion.

Frankly, they are wrong. Perhaps in some pockets of first world modern society, there is no need for feminism, but what about those women who are sold to men by men as sex slaves? What about those women who are forced by their husbands, and leaders to conceal their identities in public? What about those women who are raped and abused every day?

A common misconception is that feminists are women who hate men, and don’t shave their legs, but that’s not what it’s about, it’s about equal rights for not only women, but also men. I recently sat in a student council meeting where there was a debate about the need for a male liberation rep. If there was any need for males to be liberated, as a feminist, I would be all for this. However, there is not. Males do not face gender inequality. If they did, this would be a feminist issue, feminism deals with equality both ways.

Personally, as a music student, I have been in male dominated classrooms throughout my further and higher education. This is a microcosm of the music industry itself. I recently did some work experience at a major record label, and I noticed that the majority of the high power positions were held by men. Not only this, but the female artists and musicians are perceived differently to male artists and musicians. I just read an interview with London Grammar about how Hannah Reid is treated differently to the rest of the band, as interviewers always look to her fellow male band mates for answers to any questions about songwriting, and the actual music, when in fact Hannah has just as much to do with it as they do.

It is often assumed that female singer songwriters write “pretty” music, and this is something that Laura Marling strongly objects to in an interview with the Guardian. “Take another look. My songs are not pretty. They’re what I call optimistic realism… Some are depressing, and I have depressive sides to my character”. I think Laura Marling’s songs are beautiful, but they’re also deep and often dark in their subject matter. They’re lyrically poetic, and their forms are interesting and often daring. Not to mention her guitar playing which is proficient, precise, and full of character. Excellent craftsmanship and years of hard work goes into every one of her singles and albums. It’s understandable therefore, that she doesn’t want the only thing that people take away from her songs to be that they are “pretty”.

Lily Allen’s “Hard Out Here” video takes a satirical look at sexism in the music industry. Whilst I don’t think all women artists are forced to have liposuction, there are still some inequalities in the way female artists are presented in the media, and therefore there is still a definite need for feminism.

I’ll end with a wonderful quote by the wonderful Kate Nash…

“I think you just have to think about the reality of what it means and not get intimidated by it. Some people see it as a negative word that means you hate men and girls with nice legs and a tan. But all it means is that you think women’s rights are important; that you think women should have the right to make their own choices and to be empowered; and that you oppose sexism, rape, domestic violence, sexual assault, pressure on women to look perfect, and being disrespected in the workplace. If you think that sexism is no big deal and that ‘we’ve come a long way,’ it’s important to educate yourself about serious issues that women worldwide are struggling with.”



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Posted in feminism, International Women's Day, Music

Barney Hoskyns’ History of Music Journalism & Reflections on Information Consumption Today

I attended a lecture by Barney Hoskyns today about the history of music journalism and it inspired me to write this piece. I hope it will be one of many. Barney is undoubtedly one of the top music journalists in the country, and is responsible for the greatest online music journalism archive in the world – Rock’s Backpages. His lecture made me really think about the way that I consume information, and as a result I have made a decision to make a conscious effort to concentrate on the things that really interest me rather than binging on the mindless and pointless.

We live in a “grazing” culture. There are so many distractions in our busy lives that we simply don’t have time to sit down and read a book, or magazine cover to cover, instead we skim through the pages until we find what we are looking for. We don’t just listen to an album, we have to be doing something else, and simply play music in the background. Barney told us how his children always snack on food, and likened this to the way they consume information, always flitting from screen to screen. He said that just watching them made him feel stressed! He is hungry for bigger meals.

When pop music first arrived, it was a counter culture. The older generation feared it, and the younger generation loved it because it pissed their parents off. The word ‘pop’ however, suggests a balloon, something that is not made to last. Pop was superficial and artists’ fame never lasted long. ‘Rock’ suggests something more solid and lasting. This was when music journalism really began to get serious. William Mann, who was a classical music writer, wrote a famous article about the Beatles, praising them as true composers. Norman Jopling was another one of the first pop writers.  In 1966, Paul Williams created Crawdaddy! – the first serious popular music magazine. The writing was intelligent and the ‘rock critic’ was born. Barney describes The Rolling Stone as the best music magazine of all time because of its in-depth engagement and serious writing style. NME was also extremely important selling around 300,000 copies per week. Sadly these figures have declined a great deal, and in 2014 NME is down to selling just 17,000 copies per week.

The 1980s changed music writing. Instead of in-depth reviews, they became straightforward and star ratings were introduced. The purpose became solely to get people to buy music. This tamed the NME greatly. The music magazines were mostly funded by advertising, so if a bad review was written of a band on a funding label, that label would sometimes threaten to pull their advertising. Smash Hits magazine signifies the death of NME and saw the return of pop.

Nowadays, the value and impact of music is very different. It is more diffused, and is ‘just there’ like it’s part of the furniture. NME is no longer the bible, and gets lost in a cacophony of music blogs of all genres, and which vary in intellect. The true music critic is dead. There’s not time to read a long, in-depth review, people just want to know if it’s something worth buying or not. We can’t concentrate on one thing for very long without looking at our phones or mindlessly browsing Youtube. Barney made an insightful statement that art does not exist without the art critic. The art critic gives the art context and culture, without that, it is meaningless. Is this how it will be from now on? Will people just snack on culture? Information is endlessly flowing to our many screens, and it is sometimes hard to just block it out and appreciate the more organic things in life. The fear is that new generations won’t know any different. This mindless method of consumption will be accepted as the norm. However the vinyl revival suggests that there may still be an appetite for a more substantial cultural diet, and I, for one, really hope that there is.

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Girl with Guitar

A painting of me by David Cobley is going to be displayed at the Mall Galleries from 17th to 22nd March, as part of the Lynn Painter-Stainers Prize exhibition. More info here.


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2014 Gig Dates!

20th January 8pm @ The Exchange, Bristol. £5adv (contact me to buy a ticket)

28th February @ Hydra Bookshop, Bristol. 6.30pm. FREE

23rd March @ Moles, Bath. Time tbc. FREE

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