Author Archives: Generation Plymouth

Life in Lockdown: Tobias Chalcraft

Following a conveniently timed, weekend-long birthday celebration and having spent the day on placement in the city centre, I finished early in order to go to my Monday afternoon university lecture. It’s as if my subconscious knew this would be my last, or at least final class outside of Zoom. By 6pm I was on the phone to family and planning a premature parting from Plymouth.

In comparison to others, my new normal seems reasonably better than life at uni. With significantly less hangovers, a day of working on assessments seems to last from 10am to 5pm every day. However, as a handy way of avoiding awareness of the hamster wheel that isolation has provided for many, I have work-free Saturdays to look forward to. 

Although this is a major first-world problem, that winds up many non-subscribers, I have failed to transition from gym sessions to home workouts. With bored family members readily available to laugh at any failed attempts of headstand challenges you’ve seen on Instagram, I have found it easier to limit myself to a handful of simple stretches before embarking on 20-30 minutes of outdoor exercise. But this is no alternative to a sweaty 2-hour outing at my former Plymouth gym.

On a more brighter side, my dogs are part of the thousands of their species who are ecstatic that their owners are now readily available to cater to every ball-throwing session or belly rub 24/7 (however our 13-year old is increasingly drained from the multiple daily walks we take him in order to get some time away from one another).

Plus, if a blog post about this isn’t cliché enough, I have taken up writing a daily diary, but this will mainly serve as a time capsule of politics-based headlines dictating the gradual deterioration of international relations. Still, I also try to write some ‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ (a phrase used to title a podcast hosted by Ed Miliband), but repetitive responses of “It’s still sunny today!” just counterproductively forms deeply upsetting nostalgia for Cans on the Hoe with the boys.

More positively, I have bowed down to pressure to play Animal Crossing and watch Friends. The latter has a depthless quantity of heart-warming episodes (I’m only 20% through after a month of watching) that are perfect for an often lonely and gloomy occasion such as now. Meanwhile, Animal Crossing has completely defied my expectations of a childish and mindless game. Instead, my notifications of received boomer memes are overpowered by a group chat of friends trying to exchange pictures of what their ‘Nook’s Cranny’ store is selling, as we seek to defeat Tom Nook’s imperial capitalism in a far from ‘mindless’ manner.

While these forms of entertainment offer a welcome distraction, COVID-19 still offers personal reasons not to be so cheerful. You and I don’t need reminding that this coronavirus has impacted millions of lives a lot more dramatically than a 20-something who can’t attend mindless 2am drinking seshes with his friends, but there still remains an understandable upset. This exile means that this writer, and his many right honourable friends, have been deprived of their precious conclusion to university life – including a graduation ceremony (hopefully temporarily) and countless interpersonal-developing experiences with friends that may not live in the same city as you ever again. Plus, pre-existing anxieties of entering the job market are now increasing as much as Piers Morgan’s ego when his buddy Trump used to have the spare time to retweet him.

Anyway, time to save the NHS by convincing my unwanted new villager ‘Velma’ to move out of my island…

Life in Lockdown: Amber Weeks

By Amber Weeks

What is life in lockdown to me? You would think that was a simple enough question to answer, wouldn’t you? But it’s not. Lockdown has been weird – there have been days where I have completely forgotten about it and then there have been days that I can’t seem to get it off my mind. I have been spending lockdown alone, as my flat mate went home to be with her family. So, it has been a little hard to not go crazy and start talking to my bedside lamp like it’s a person.

Lockdown has been strange; I don’t know what to do with myself now, but to be honest not much about my daily life has changed. I suffer badly from mental health and can go days, even weeks without leaving my house, but as I started to get better and forcing myself to leave my house regularly, this lockdown came into place. I feel all the work I’ve done has been wiped away and I am back to being trapped within these same walls and inside my head again.

But instead of allowing this time to let me go completely insane, and to avoid talking to the appliances in my house, I have been keeping myself occupied. I have been having regular dance parties around my room for exercise and, unfortunately for my new neighbours, have dug out the Wii and the Sing It games again. I have been singing as loudly as I can, again unfortunately for next door! I am very bad, but it helps to get out my frustrations. I even tried singing High School Musical duets on my own – I would say it didn’t end well.

I binged watched Netflix, played video games into the early hours of the morning and just wasted each day for the first two weeks of the lockdown. But after being trapped inside for twenty days I decided I needed to get some sort of order to my life. I started going to bed early and waking up early, getting dressed, doing housework and started to do my assignments for uni. I even decided to start a blog and be constructive with my days. Even deciding to get out of my pyjamas and get dressed is a debate everyday as it seems pointless, but I can now see the value in such a simple task.

These days are scary and confusing, but it is hard to really grasp the serenity of it all until someone you know is affected by it. When this first began my grandmother was rushed into hospital for a few days, but thankfully she was given the all clear and sent home. But it wasn’t long afterwards that I got a message from my dad – he had tested positive and wasn’t well. I felt my whole world stop and panic wash over me. At first, I just thought that the media was doing what it does best and making this sound more dramatic than it is. It wasn’t until it affected my family that I understood. Thankfully my dad is getting better and beating corona. With him living in Scotland I wouldn’t have been able to see him regardless of the lockdown or not. However, it’s been horrible to know that if any of my local friends and family got sick, I wouldn’t be able to visit them.

I understand these times are hard for everyone for different reasons, but I feel this is also a time that people can join together with support for eachother, and grow. I personally am using this time to expand and grow with my creative writing and focus on uni, without the normal distractions. These times are hard, so to answer, ‘What is lockdown to me?’, isn’t simple. It’s a struggle every day to not allow loneliness to overtake me and let my depression set in but I also am using this time to be positive and work on myself as a person. I believe everyone should be grateful to each other for accepting and following the lockdown to keep each other’s families safe.

Life in Lockdown: ‘Life as a Quaran’teen’

By Affinity May

The dramatic change that the recent lockdown has brought to the UK is undoubtedly an incredibly hard situation to get our heads around. It has affected the lives of every individual – through the standstill of industries, manufacturing, businesses, job losses and the legal rules and requirements of every citizen. However one topic that the media are not focusing on is the effect it is having on teenagers.

As quoted in the World Economic Forum, a psychologist dwelled on the idea that this lockdown may actually allow opportunities for young people to get more creative whilst under such strict rules. Kayleigh Smith, a seventeen year old student, has started to develop a small business called ‘Smith Accessories’ where she sells keyrings and lanyards, mainly in Disney designs. Creating her own logo, planning the small business and how to get publicity, she successfully started up her small innovative idea. (Her business can be viewed on Instagram via @smith.accessories). There are countless other examples like this, but without doubt the younger generation are shown to be using technology creatively to stay connected, motivated and to keep their spirits high.

Teenagers, who in this age are profoundly technological and are coming into their identity, are regularly asserting themselves against social pressures. The lockdown coming into action has created a trending hashtag among teenagers – #findyourself – convincing teens to start working on bettering themselves now that they have time, and motivating them to focus on becoming their own individual. Teenagers have been posting body transformations where they show their small journey of becoming healthier through exercise. Scarlett Anderson, sixteen years of age, shared, “Since this lockdown started I began working out to start on my ‘summer body’ but as time went by I realised that I was feeling so refreshed that I developed a small structured timetable and jotted down my progressions of working out, I then got motivated to learn how to cook nutritional meals – both something that I would never have done if this lockdown didn’t happen” Scarlett is not alone in the idea of ‘body transformations’ – teenagers all across the internet share their ideas, plans and progressions. In reference to this there are lockdown exercise challenges which teenagers can do in the comfort of their own home while supporting each other. 

However, the social distancing measures that have been implemented have caused disruptions of future plans as well as daily routines. As of the 20th March, UK schools were closed to most pupils (remaining open to vulnerable children only, such as those whose parents are key workers). Over 90% of enrolled learners worldwide are now out of education. For teenagers with mental health issues these closures cause an inadequacy of connections to services that they may need to keep well. These could be facilities such as councillors, distractions, mediators etc. The charity YoungMinds surveyed young people in the UK on these issues. 83% of the students who took part said that the pandemic had made their conditions worse and 26% said they were unable to access mental health support. It should also be considered that an important coping mechanism for teenagers is their daily routine – including their school time tables and structures. Now there are no organisations in teenagers’ lives. Teenagers with special educational needs, for example autism, are particularly likely to become uncomfortable when their daily routines are disrupted and changed.

One big uncertainty in the majority of teenagers’ lives at the moment is the cancellation of the summer GCSE and A-level exams. Years of studying and working hard, but ending with no final exams as expected, can cause great discomfort to students. The unknown of the future is causing large amounts of stress and worry. Rebecca Hill, age 17, said, “Knowing that I may not be able to move forward with my future plans because I cannot sit my exams have caused so much stress on my mental health. I was reliant on my A-levels to allow me to move forward.”

On the other hand the impact that this lockdown has had on some teenagers’ lives has been positive. Now that they have more time to spend with families, relationships can be developed and strengthened. Many teenagers have found themselves venturing outside their room and interacting with their loved ones more than usual during the lockdown, most probably due to boredom – but maybe it’s allowing them to realise the importance of family. Saby Lenard, age 15, said, “I’ve started spending more time with my parents, especially my mum who has been encouraging me to create music, just like we used to when I was younger. I forgot just how much I loved spending time with them and I am thankful that this lockdown has opened my eyes to it and allowed me to realise the importance of family”. The majority of teenagers I spoke to admitted that they have found a new sense of happiness and comfort from being able to spend more time with their family. Some even regretted the amount of time that they spent on their phone or outside of the house, and away from their families, before the lockdown was announced.

In Conversation: With Rebecca Smith: Reflections on #GE2019

By Tobias Chalcraft

Exactly two months after the General Election that gave the Conservatives a large majority, we reunited with Rebecca Smith, a Plymouth City Councillor and former Conservative Candidate in the snap election, to look back on an outcome that delivered her some mixed feelings.

When asked about the election result, Rebecca initially provides a positive response by turning her attention to the national level. She started by saying “it was obviously better than we imagined or predicted”, before going on to add that the government is now in a position to deliver its manifesto without any parliamentary obstruction. 

Reflecting on the constituency result, Rebecca said it was “disappointing [and a] real shame” before highlighting that, although Labour were re-elected, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport saw a general swing towards her party. She claimed the result was “quite an exciting opportunity for the [Conservative] party”, as they now face the task of changing face in order to appease new voters that gave them their majority of MPs. Following this result, Rebecca sees the seat as now “all to play for” and hopes that Boris Johnson has Plymouth voters in mind when he speaks of ambitions to solidify support amongst his new voters.

Humbled by the turnout of activists from across the UK who came to support her, the councillor said, “In terms of what we got on the doors; it was probably the most positive campaign I’ve ever been involved in” while reflecting on invitations into homes to meet constituents, and seek their vote, alongside volunteers from the around the UK. However, there were some downsides of the campaign too, especially one bad experience in which a constituent swore at her, whilst holding their toddler. 

Looking back, she described her campaign as “strong” because of her ability to continue with TV interviews, hustings and door knocking alongside suffering from a severe headache for three weeks.

One moment that she found to be surreal took place on Christmas Eve in a Plymouth shopping centre, when Rebecca’s Dad pointed out that numerous shoppers probably voted for her.

Looking at why her campaign was not successful, Rebecca started by looking at Plymouth’s large student population. “It’s nothing new that young people vote Labour and older people vote Conservative”, she said, pointing out that her seat houses students from three universities. She added that Conservatives would only be able to win over students once they persuade them to “drill down into everything [the Conservatives] are saying and realise that it is going to benefit them”. 

Moving on, considerations turned to the opposition as she thinks Labour’s ability to adopt an attractive agenda of promoting “free stuff” for students provides a big hurdle for the Conservatives to win here. Her response concludes with claims that it is “trendy” to vote twice and that she believes the government should highlight the illegality of casting votes in university and home constituencies.

Once pushed on whether she believes voter fraud is being committed by students, Rebecca mentioned that “credible sources” have witnessed voter fraud from local students before saying “our system is open to fraud”.

Losing an election has a hard-hitting impact on the wellbeing of politicians with Ed Balls once likening the experience to dying. To help cope with the emotional, mental and physical impact of the campaign, Rebecca booked a holiday to California. After candidly saying that she was briefly “peopled out”, she underlined efforts of being kind to herself over Christmas, including time on the sofa with Netflix. It was also important for her to take time to process the multiple emotions of electoral defeat and she expressed gratitude towards friends, with similar experiences, that it takes time to reconcile.

The interview turned to the future, as we discussed what our former candidate will be doing to keep busy before the next election, due to take place in four years. “If I could fight a seat again, I’d love to”, but she pointed out that “ultimately, it’s a massive waiting game”. Nevertheless, instead of waiting around, Rebecca will be re-doubling her efforts as a local councillor for the Plymstock Radford ward.

In terms of running in Plymouth again, Rebecca said she would “definitely like to run locally” but suggested Plymouth Sutton & Devonport could only be won if Labour’s strong grip over students began to loosen.

It is safe to say that election defeat has not ended this political career, as proven at a point in this interview in which Rebecca stated “I like to think I’m not a one hit wonder with election campaigns” which certainly reflects the more driven and ambitious figure she has become.

‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’: Review

By Megan Potterton

Girls just wanna have fun! ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ arrives at the Theatre Royal Plymouth this week. An explosion of colour, comedy, dance and disco tunes; this production is guaranteed to have audiences dancing and singing along in their seats from the moment the curtain opens.

‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ follows the story of Tick (Joe McFadden), Bernadette (Miles Western) and Adam (Nick Hayes), a trio of performers who embark on an epic road trip from Sydney to Alice Springs (in the Australian outback) to perform in a drag show. Unbeknown to Bernadette and Adam, Tick has ulterior motives for accepting the job at the casino in Alice Springs: to visit the wife he left behind and to meet his son for the first time. In a tale of friendship, self-discovery and self-expression, the three performers make the journey of a life time on board ‘Priscilla’, their battered old bus that transports them to the remote resort town. Featuring disco hits including ‘I Will Survive’, ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ and ‘Boogie Wonderland’, this musical truly has fun at its heart.

The costumes are fabulous, the singing breathtaking and the choreography simply extraordinary. This production is, thanks to the talented cast and production team, a feel-good, laugh-out-loud masterpiece that will have you dancing and singing along in no time.

Nick Hayes stands out for his energetic and flamboyant performance as Adam and delivers his lines with fantastic comedic timing. Joe McFadden also creates some heart warming moments as Tick, particularly alongside the young actor playing his son. Although a medley of ‘Always On My Mind’ and ‘I Say A Little Prayer’ upon their meeting may sound peculiar, in the context of this show it fits absolutely perfectly.

Miles Western also does a fantastic job of portraying the complex character of Bernadette, a transgender woman who has more life experience than the other characters. Although a highly confident performer, Western also successfully hints at the more delicate and sensitive side of Bernadette’s personality throughout the show.

If you’re looking for a fun, cheesy night out full of laughs, glitter and disco hits, tickets are still available for ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert’ at the Theatre Royal Plymouth this week. The show runs until Saturday 25th January and you can purchase tickets here: https://theatreroyal.com/whats-on/priscilla/

Cinderella is back? Oh yes it is!

By Keiran Potter

It’s that time of the year again – when the magic of panto well and truly kicks off the festive season. When it comes to Cinderella, you’d think you’d seen it all. By now the story is pretty engrained in our brains to say the least. Pumpkins and magic and glass slippers. But the thing with panto is how it so swiftly breathes new life into such old and worn out tales. Making for a hybrid of something familiar yet something fresh and engaging. The original story amended with comedic sketches of magic tricks and talent shows, recognisable songs and an abundance of costume changes. The Ugly Step Sisters were two of my favourite characters – even if their ‘Janner’ accents came off a bit more Bristol than Plymouthian. I’ll let them off though, seeming as they’re so gorgeous and all.

I haven’t been to a panto in quite sometime, so I am probably a bit out of practice with the hissing and boos. But I didn’t realise how much the production value of our Plymouth panto had sky rocketed. Flying carriages and beautifully crafted sets really invite the audience to be immersed in the magic taking place on stage.

Panto wouldn’t be panto without good old audience participation. Brian ‘Buttons’ Connelly goes above and beyond to evoke laughter, then ensuring to milk it for all its worth. I have to say I can’t blame him. It’s clear he is the star of the show when it comes to comedy. He plays with the audience and seems to be playing two parts simultaneously – one for the kids and one for the adults.

One thing I love most about panto is how you can never tell what is scripted and what is just an actor messing around or forgetting their lines on stage. It makes for an even more exciting watch, when even the actors can’t seem to contain their laughter. You can’t help but smile when all of the people on stage seem to be having the best time. Every single cast member and member of the ensemble plays their part in igniting the magic of panto and ensuring to utilise it to full effect. This leaves every person in the audience, no matter their age, with a smile on their face and feeling just that little bit younger.

Cinderella is glowing and bright, a show for all the family, that Plymouth can and should be proud of. You can catch it at the Theatre Royal Plymouth throughout the rest of January, so get your tickets now!

General Election 2019: In Conversation With: Luke Pollard

By Tobias Chalcraft

As part of Generation Plymouth’s ongoing election coverage, we asked Luke Pollard some important questions on various topics from climate change to decommissioned nuclear submarines. There’s even a discussion on Jaffa Cakes.

Luke is Labour’s PPC (Prospective Parliamentary Candidate) for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport, fighting to retain the seat that he only won from the Conservatives in the 2017 election.

“How do you feel you would best represent Plymouth’s young people as the MP for Plymouth Sutton & Devonport?”

Luke starts by arguing that “the best way to represent any group is to take time to listen and engage” before highlighting his regular meetings with Plymouth’s MYPs (Members of Youth Parliament), with one MYP even contributing articles to his white papers regarding Plymouth’s future on his website. He also mentions his young people’s Brexit summit, which he hosted soon after his election in 2017, and his frequent Q&As in schools and colleges as good ways for him to share his opinions and to learn from Plymouth’s young people. He finishes his point by advocating a lowered voting age, in order for younger people to have a louder voice.

“Do you feel Labour has done enough to promote the fight against Climate Change?”

Luke lists his credentials as a member of Labour’s Environment Team and Shadow Environmental Minister, which ensures that he frequently speaks about climate change. He adds that the parliamentary declaration of a climate emergency was a Labour motion, which was put forward by its leader Jeremy Corbyn. He then says he is proud to support the de-escalation of the use of diesel & petrol engines and hydro-generated power. He concludes his answer by saying “Climate change is the biggest challenge facing our planet and more of the same won’t cut it, we need transformative change and fast too”.

“Do you believe the vote should be extended to those aged 16 and 17? If so, what do you believe this expanding of the electorate will achieve?”

His answer has a straightforward start: “Yes. I am the only Plymouth MP to have voted for lowering the voting age and I am proud to continue to make the case for young people to be heard”. He then outlines the cuts in public services, including mental health support and education, which have had an impact on young people, before arguing that “If young people had the right to vote I don’t think those in power would be able to ignore them”. He finishes by committing to further support for votes at 16.

“What is the progress of your campaign to have the decommissioned nuclear submarines in Devonport recycled?”

Luke says this is one of his “passions and key campaigns” before divulging into how Plymouth has accepted a “poor deal” through its undisputed acceptance of old nuclear submarines.

“My old man served on many of the submarines that are now retired in Devonport when he was in the Royal Navy. The submarine service is a really important part of the Royal Navy, but we cannot simply tie up and forget about these subs”. Due to previously being an MP outside of government, Luke explains that he used his position in order to spread awareness and propose solutions to the recycling of these submarines. 

He concludes by saying “I’m proud to be the first MP to do this and I am now leading a cross-party campaign to properly fund the recycling of these old submarines. It may take some time, but the first challenge is to let people know they exist – once you know Devonport has 13 old nuclear submarines tied up – then you are forced to think about how to recycle them. I won’t stop until a properly funded recycling programme has begun.”

“As a ‘big fan of cake’ yourself, are ‘Jaffa Cakes’ biscuits or cakes?”

Starting off with the neutral response of “I love Jaffa Cakes”, Luke then moves his response towards taxation:

“Personally, I don’t mind what type of food they’re labelled as long as people can afford them but at the moment Jaffa Cakes are a luxury not every family in Plymouth can afford”. He points out speeches in Westminster and his experience with the soup run as some of his personal efforts to combat food poverty. He completes his response by saying “we need to get real and address the fundamental problem here: people cannot afford food for themselves and their families. That’s shameful in 2019 and something I will not accept”.

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