Give me your tired, your poor and your huddled masses…” If ever a place in England could speak these lines as that famous symbol of immigrant opportunity west of the Atlantic does, it would be a stretch of road smack–bang in the middle of London’s East End. For fleeing Huguenots in the 18th century, escaping Jews in the 19th and Bangladeshis in the 20th it was a place of economic and social refuge; that place was Brick Lane. Monica Ali’s debut novel immortalises the idiosyncrasies of the immigrant experience, focusing on a Bangladeshi woman and her trials and tribulations as a daughter, wife and mother. The narrative journeys from rural Bangladesh to Tower Hamlets with Nazneen its protagonist. In London she experiences a fettered lifestyle, firmly under the thumb of her husband’s “advice” despite her own embryonic attempts to forge an independent existence. Far from being illiberal, her husband, Chanu, is neither religiously inclined nor particularly adherent to native custom. He revels in his self-implied superior status, a man “always learning” in comparison to other Bangladeshis who “miss the pull of the land”. Meanwhile, Nazneen listens with serene confidence to her husband’s platitudes on everything and anything, and her children’s difficulty with their culture. Interwoven are glimpses of Hasina’s life through letters she sends to her sister, Nazneen. Later, young Karim enters Nazneen’s life, sparking hidden desires and catalysing Nazneen’s path to self–discovery as a woman. Unfortunately the Booker–Prize– nominated Brick Lanefails to live up to its press blurb. Euphemistically called “epic” and “Dickensian”, some may claim the lack of dramatic momentum is necessary in order to correspond realistically with the minutiae of Nazneen’s slow life, but it still doesn’t adequately justify the plodding pace. Like Dickens, Ali creates cartoonish characters instantly recognisable through what they look like and say; there’s Chanu’s fat self and pseudo–intellectual ruminations, Mrs Islam’s arthritic body and tiresome advice and Islamic groups with fundamentalist leanings, animations that become clichéd and painfully skewed. But Ali must be commended on her poetic and practical vision of the immigrant experience. She gives us haunting aperçus wrought with pathos into death and illuminating observations on the tantalising memory of the motherland, the immigrant’s disillusionment with the host-culture and the question of a multicultural identity. Ali implies in many ways that an immigrant’s old-school thinking has no place in a modern world where free will spells out happiness for the individual, a world where choice not convention must determine human action, after all says a character, “This is England, you can do whatever you like.”ARCHIVE: 0th Week MT2003
There’s no doubt about it; John Holmes was big. He made over 2,000 films during his career and, aided in no small way by his prodigious appendage (the exact stature of which, Cherwell cannot divulge) became porn’s first superstar during the industry’s seventies heyday. Not bad for a skinny guy from Ohio, with a crap moustache and a dodgy lung. Predictably, though, this fame was fleeting, and the beginning of the eighties found him washed up. An impressive pharmaceutical intake took its toll and, as past, present and future disappeared up his nose, Holmes became increasingly reliant on the wrong kind of people. James Cox’s film takes up the story of his life here, in 1981, eschewing the dubious past glories to focus instead on the one-time king of the adult movie world’s involvement in the brutal murders of four people at a house on Wonderland Avenue. His precise role in the slayings never came to light; whether an active participant or an unlucky dupe, Holmes was acquitted, and never revealed the truth. As such, Wonderland employs a Rashomon-esque approach, exploring the various possibilities by taking separate looks at conflicting versions of the story, all with the flashy editing and grungy hues seemingly obligatory for any film depicting drug-fuelled depravity. It’s not so much gritty as soiled, the world inhabited by the burntout skin flick star revealed in all its scuzzy glory, and though we do occasionally see a more human side to the man – the strange triangle formed by him, his wife and his much younger girlfriend is one of the most interesting, if underdeveloped, parts of the story – this comes second to his portrayal as a cowardly, desperate fuck-up. Wonderland relies to a great extent on Val Kilmer’s performance, imbuing his seemingly worthless character with enough faded charm to suggest that there may be varying levels of truth. The real John Holmes was a mass of contradictions – a vociferous campaigner for mandatory AIDS testing in his industry, he nevertheless continued to make films despite learning he had the disease – so perhaps it’s only right that here we are left with questions rather than answers, both about events on Wonderland Avenue and the nature of the man himself. Naïve victim or craven manipulator, it’s difficult to know, and though this lack of conclusion does leave an empty feeling, it seems in keeping with the subject that all should remain largely mysterious.ARCHIVE: 2nd week TT 2004
Continuing the theatrical trend for all things al fresco this term, Creation Theatre Company have returned to Headington Hill Park with the chaotic comedy Much Ado About Nothing. Director Charlotte Conquest has played up Shakespeare’s Mediterranean setting with sizzling flamenco dances and vibrant costumes, making it the perfect play for a balmy summer evening. The most striking aspect of this production is its use of space. The stage is a simple red square but the action is projected on different levels by means of a treehouse nestled in a magnificent oak. The expanse of parkland behind the stage proper is used to full effect to create extra comic gems, supposedly taking place off-stage. This heightens the dramatic irony which lies at the core of Shakespeare’s comedy, as we see characters approaching long before those on stage do. The scenes in which Benedick and Beatrice ‘accidentally’ overhear gossip about their tempestuous relationship make particularly good use of the versatile stage set. The pace is relentless with characters entering from unexpected directions, (and occasionally on bicycles) having performed lightning-fast costume changes. The cast have a rollicking good time evoking a real sense of girlish mischief and laddish japing. The mood becomes briefly more sombre at Hero’s ‘funeral’ with an atmospheric torch-lit procession, but the production really excels at the slapstick consequences of mistaken identity. The watch scenes are, as always, a little tedious and silly but they are redeemed by Tom Peters’ wonderful turn as the arthritic Verges with his cumbersome walking frame. Peters makes use of the same physical gags in his main role as Benedick; rubber-faced and dynamic, he plays up to the audience as a swaggering confirmed bachelor. His only match in the strutting stakes is the razortongued Beatrice, played by Elizabeth Hopley. She sensitively tracks the change in Benedick’s sparring partner from cross-dressing livewire into a more emotional, softer character. Dudley Hinton’s lovelorn Claudio is the archetypal callow youth with puppy dog eyes and a boy bandesque white suit. Julien Ball is also consummately smooth as Don Pedro, from his Godfather-inspired entrance complete with mirror shades, trimmed goatee and medallion, to his swift wooing of Hero for his lovestruck friend Claudio. Conquest’s production is full of light comic touches seasoned with splashes of Sicilian colour. As long as the British weather holds out, there is no better way to round off the Oxford term.ARCHIVE: 6th week TT 2004
BILDBlog catches Bild out… It draws up from the vault nine bits of speculation about the future of Jürgen Klinsmann, all from the pages of the German tabloid.Apparently he was going to go to one of:ChelseaLiverpool TottenhamLA Galaxy England national teamUSA national teamMexico national teamGermany national teamAustralia national teamHe went to Bayern Munich. Hmm. Cherwell 24 is not responsible for the content of external links
A St Catz student is recovering from meningitis, having been hospitalised over the weekend.Sarah Hartley, a fresher reading English, was rushed to John Radcliffe hospital on Sunday morning after complaining of feeling unwell and developing a rash.Fellow student Janek Seevaratnam, who took Hartley to hospital, has been praised for his handling of the situation and his response as her condition worsened. Seevaratnam, who is JCR welfare Rep and a friend of Hartley’s, said he had looked after her as her condition deteriorated on Saturday. “I visited her on Saturday as she had been in bed all day with flu-like symptoms. I gave her ibuprofen to see her through the evening but when I came back at eleven she was really feverish.”Seevaratnam took Hartley to hospital in the early hours of Sunday morning following advice from the NHS helpline after noticing the rash. “The NHS helpline advised she see a doctor in the next two hours, so we went to A&E. It took three hours to see a doctor by which time she had a high fever and meningitis symptoms.”Seevaratnam said Hartley had been visited by friends while her family remained by her bedside as she continues to make a full recovery. “People have been visiting her daily and hopefully she’ll be sent home next week.”JCR President Femi Fadugba said the College had acted swiftly to ensure her close friends were given precautionary treatment and to raise awareness among all College members about the risks and symptoms of meningitis. “Meningitis isn’t easily transferable, but as a precaution, all close friends of the student were put on an appropriate course of antibiotics. The emphasis however, has not been on trying to avoid interaction with the illness, but on being aware of the signs and symptoms.”Fadugba praised the rapid reaction of Seevaratnam, saying, “We were very fortunate that the Male Welfare Rep, Janek Seevaratnam, is both very good at his job and a good friend of the student so she was taken to hospital as soon as the [the] symptoms worsened.”Meningitis is caused by the Meningoccal bacteria that are carried in the back of the throat by one in ten people. Bacterial meningitis the most dangerous variant of the infection and kills about ten per cent of those who contract it. It was responsible for the death last Michaelmas Term of Exeter fresher Sundeep Watts.
Deflation means that students may be given rebates on student loans unless interest rate calculations are changed.Interest on student loans is calculated with reference to the Retail Prices Index (RPI), which in March showed inflation to have dropped to -0.4%. It is the first time Britain has experienced deflation since 1960.Interest is calculated in March but applied in September, meaning that current economic changes would not impact on loans until later this year. The fall in inflation effectively means that students would start to earn interest on their loans, rather than pay it, and could result in rebates for some graduates.However, this will only be the case if the way that interest is calculated is not changed.A spokeswoman for the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, which is in charge of policy making for the Student Loans Company, said that they are in discussions with the Treasury and will ‘consider the options available’.She added that the department hopes to ‘make an announcement shortly’. The DIUS has indicated that the situation will have been clarified well in advance of the annual change to interest rates in September.Interest on ‘mortgage-style’ fixed rate loans taken out before 1998 must track RPI rates, even if they go into deflation. Post-1998 rates, in contrast, are based on the annual March RPI or the highest bank base rate, whichever is the smaller, plus 1%.The Student Loans Company has also recently announced a new loan recovery system for outstanding loans.In a news release on its website, the company said that it will be contacting graduates who have consistently defaulted on loan payments. It threatened that those whose salary exceeds the maximum for deferment will be registered with UK Credit Reference Agencies. The changes only apply to those on post-1998 loans which are tied to RPI.The company emphasised that options are available for those who need to defer or work out a new repayment plan.Before the fall into deflation last month, students had been paying the highest rate of interest on loans since the early nineties, at 4.8% throughout 2007/08. The SLC has said that interest in 2009/10 will not exceed this year’s rate of 3.8%.
Cherwell can reveal that nearly one in six Oxbridge applicants register for the services of Oxbridge Applications, an independent profit driven company which sells university admission advice.On average, between 5,000 and 6,000 students contact Oxbridge Applications each year, while the overall number applying to Oxbridge is around 34,000 and growing each year.Founded in 1999, Oxbridge Applications is fast growing. The profits of the parent company, Application Research Limited, have increased by over 150% in the last year, from £67, 115 in 2010 to £110, 552 in 2011.The company offer Admissions Tests Seminars for £185, Private Consultations for £240, Interview Preparation Days from £220, and an Interview & Admissions Test Weekend for £1500.Oxbridge Applications claim that an average of 53% of those accepted for the Premier Service, which costs up to several thousand pounds, gain offers to Oxford or Cambridge, compared with an average of just 21% for Oxbridge applicants overall.Oxford University was quick to distance itself from the company. A University spokesperson said, “We do not endorse any commercial operations or publications offering advice or training on our admissions process.”Academic staff were also sceptical. Dr Peter Bull, Tutor for Admissions at Hertford, said, “Colleges will be happy to give advice free of charge. Why be charged by a consultant when you can ask the person who selects the candidates, at no cost?”Rachel Spedding, Executive Director of Oxbridge Applications and a former student at Worcester College, told Cherwell that the company work with current and former students.Dr Lucinda Rumsey, Admissions Tutor at Mansfield, said, “Students are not necessarily clearly informed about what tutors are looking for in the interview and other parts of the process. I am really disappointed that students get involved in this.”Alex Bulfin, OUSU VP for Access and Academic Affairs, said, “This sends a message to prospective students that there is a ‘secret’ to winning a place here and that if you haven’t been coached in ‘the right way’ then you won’t stand a chance.”However, not all students were as damning of the company. Thomas O’Brien, a first-year PPE student who attended an Oxbridge Applications preparation day said, “It would probably have been useful to people who, unlike me, didn’t get much help from their schools.”A third year History student who used the company’s Access Scheme said, “My school did not have a history of sending people to Oxbridge, so it was really good to meet people who’d been through the admissions process and could tell me what it was like.”Spedding highlighted the access schemes which the company runs. She said, “We are not helping people get in ‘through the back door’. It’s people’s choice if they want to use our services.”The University urged that, “The best advice is to work hard, and make full use of the many free and authoritative sources of guidance and information the University itself provides.”
A new report has found “a definite underlying subtext of racism” in British universities, according to its author, Dr Kalwant Bhopal, reader in education at the University of Southampton.The paper, due to be published June, found that an overwhelming number of academics considered race to be the biggest barrier to career progression.She said, “Speaking 20 years since the murder of Stephen Lawrence I am surprised at how little progress has been made. There are signs of improvement, but we are progressing in small steps.”She continued: “The statistics show that most ethnic minority academics are concentrated in post-1992 universities. But the problem of racism is widespread; it is not only confined to Russell Group or elite universities”.Of the 65 individuals surveyed, only two had reported that they considered gender a greater barrier than race to career progression, both of whom were from a mixed race background. It is thought that only one university in Britain – Liverpool Hope – has a Chancellor from an ethnic minority group.However, Bhopal said that her research had found that ethnic minority academics not only felt excluded from career progression, but discriminated against through more subtle means. She said that many of those surveyed reported that the body language or lack of eye contact of their colleagues had left them feeling excluded.“One of the individuals I interviewed recounted that some people were surprised to find that she was black after speaking over the phone”, she said. “Such forms of racism are very hard to prove”.A spokesperson for Oxford university told Cherwell, “We do recognize that black and other minority groups are under-represented at most academic levels. However, this is also true across most leading universities, higher education in general and in many other sectors“The overall proportion of Oxford University academic staff declaring themselves as black and minority ethnic is 6.3%, which compares with national figures for academic staff of 6.7%. 7% of the UK labour force identify themselves as BME”.In 2005, an internal Oxford report found serious failings in attracting minority candidates to administrative positions at Oxford, and recommended immediate action.However, Dapo Akande, a lecturer at St Peter’s College of African ethnicity, told Cherwell “I have worked in several universities in the UK and the US and have found each of them to be pleasant environments to work in. I would not say that race or racial discrimination has been a barrier to career progression in my case.”In recent months the university has undertaken a comprehensive audit of ethnic minority staff. The university also said that it reviews its Race Equality Policy on an annual basis, and has sufficient measures in place to ensure the wellbeing of its staff.Ibaad Aleem, a British-Pakistani student studying at Hertford College commented: “I wouldn’t think anyone would find race a deterrent from academia in the modern world”. He added: “Personally I don’t really think about the race of the people around me”.
The ambassador replied: “That is exactly what we’ve discussed with Elton John. He had a conversation with President Putin about this before. And later on, there were a lot of publications in Britain about the gay rights, and all this. By the way I have a lot of friends who are gays [sic]. I have no problem with that.”He added: “If you live in Russia and you are gay, or in the so-called minority communities, you have all the rights the same as the others.”Another student asked Yakovenko if he agreed with claims made by Chechnya’s leader that the region does not have any gay people.“Well, I don’t know,” Yakovenko said. “It’s difficult to say if there are any gay people in Chechnya.”He added: “Probably the numbers of gays, [sic] they are not as high as in Europe. That’s why it’s a different issue”, before claiming nobody had complained about the treatment of gay minorities.The Union President, Gui Cavalcanti, asked him if people were too afraid to speak out.“No, no, no. Nobody’s afraid. We have so many gays [sic] for example if you go to Moscow. You have the gay sport, it’s just a normal way of life.“It’s not something that’s a real problem in my country.”After the event, Mather wrote on Facebook: “Just had the chance to take the Russian Ambassador to the UK to task over the purge of gay people in Chechnya, asking him why no one who perpetrated or condoned these actions has been held responsible and when the LGBT+ community in Russia will have equal rights as citizens and human beings. His response was beyond appalling. I’m still sat in the chamber and am fucking shook.”He added: “The lies, obfuscation, and complete lack of moral dignity displayed here tonight is appalling, but not surprising. The fact he’s been hosted during the same week as Oxford Pride is ridiculous.”A Union spokesperson told Cherwell: “Regarding the timings and dates for our speaker events, we are usually restricted by our guest speakers’ availability in trying to find a mutually suitable date, given their incredibly busy schedule. It is unfortunate that many have found the invitation of the Russian Ambassador ‘hugely insensitive’.” Angered students confronted the Russian ambassador to the UK on Tuesday, as the Oxford Union faced criticism for hosting him during Oxford Pride week.Alexander Yakovenko was forced to defend Russia’s record on LGBTQ+ rights, as students questioned him on the Russian state’s reported torture of gay men in Chechnya.The ambassador provoked widespread criticism when he denied there it was an issue, claiming: “It’s difficult to say if there are any gay people in Chechnya”.During his speech, Yakovenko spoke of his national pride, showing a four minute film displaying some of the highlights of the country – complete with orchestral soundtrack and English voiceover – and ending with a Russia-themed quiz.Russia goodie bags were awarded to the winners, and to Union president Gui Cavalcanti.However, when the question and answer session began, he was confronted by several members over Russia’s treatment of LGBTQ+ communities in Chechnya, where authorities have reportedly round up and tortured more than 100 gay men. The Kremlin has denied the allegations.Keir Mather, a History and Politics student at Wadham, said: “Ambassador, I’m a gay man. And if I lived in Chechnya over the last year I would have run the risk of being imprisoned, and tortured, and possibly killed by either my family or the state.“On behalf of all the LGBT Chechnyan people who will not have an opportunity to ask a question because they’re voiceless, I’d like ask you why nobody who’s perpetrated these crimes or has condoned them has been brought to justice, or faced any sort of criminal action, and also I’d like to ask you when the LGBTQ+ community in Russian will have their rights not only has citizens but as human beings.”His speech was met with an extended round of applause.
The Aim for Access programme was initiated in September, and a statement from Christ Church said at the time: “The North East of Eng- land is the most under-represented region at Oxford, and we believe deeply that diversity is essential to the flourishing of a lively academic community and to Oxford’s future as a hub of social mobility and intellectual exchange. Geographical The North East has traditionally been one of the most poorly represented areas at Oxford – according to the University’s own statistics, the region contributed only 2.1% of the 7,470 students admitted between 2016 and 2018. The launch took place at New- castle Sixth Form College, a coeducational college in the middle of the city. diversity is something Oxford needsto continue to work on and we areexcited to be part of that throughAim for Oxford”. St Anne’s launched its “new sustained outreach program” Aim for Oxford alongside Christ Church on Saturday. Up to 40 students will be assistedfrom the beginning of sixth form,throughout the application processand up to their arrival at Oxford.The College has specified that theinitiative is aimed at economicallydisadvantaged students and thosefrom underrepresented groups,alongside strong academic results atGCSE. Meanwhile, Christ Church’s outreach team visited schools south of the River Tyne, talking to Year 12s at Hetton School in Sunderland as well as younger students at Jarrow School, near South Shields, before heading north to King’s Priory School in Tynemouth, displaying the College’s ambition to forge concrete links across the region. In her opening address, St Anne’sprincipal Helen King explained that“you’re only the best if you attractthe brightest talent [and] the hard-est working people to you.” Theprogram aims to forge stronger tiesbetween the University and areato establish a clearer pathway forapplicants who may otherwise nothave applied. The scheme is aimed at emboldening students attending North East state schools to apply to Oxford, bridging what has typically been a large divide between one of England’s most economically disadvantaged areas and one of its most vaunted academic institutions. Beyond this, Christ Church has also advertised a History Competition open specifically to North-Eastern state school students. The competition is focused upon oral history, asking applicants to “conduct an interview with a member of their local community about their experiences of migration. They should then submit a short essay, summarising their findings.” A number of applicants will then be chosen to discuss their project with an Oxford historian.