Sunday, 31 March 2013

Easter Sunday Gospel Hour: The Staple Singers

by James Burkinshaw


The Staple Singers
(image source: soundonsound.com)
"There's hardly a dimension in black life in its richest sense that cannot be found in the music of the Staples. Not only the political and overt social message that some of the songs have, but the religiousness of the spirit. It is the embodiment of the struggle of black people in America." Harry Belafonte

  The Staple Singers ("Pops" Staples and his three daughters, Mavis, Cleotha and Yvonne) were not only central to American gospel and its secular twin, soul music, for over half a century, but at the heart of the Civil Rights Movement during the triumphs and tragedies of the 1960s. 
   
Roebuck "Pops" Staple was born in Mississippi and brought from the Delta a blues-inflected guitar style that helped revolutionise gospel in the 1950s, creating a raw, ecstatic sound described by one critic as a kind of "holy blues". Among the Staples' earliest fans was fellow-Mississippian, Elvis Presley, who told Mavis "You know, I like the way your father plays that guitar. He plays it nervous", referring to the way in which the shivering tremolo of Staples' guitar played off the blistering intensity of Mavis' lead contralto and the sinuous harmonies of Cleotha and Yvonne. Here is the group performing the gospel classic "More Than A Hammer And Nails" on The Johnny Cash Show:




While performing on the gospel circuit in Montgomery, Alabama, the Staples heard Martin Luther King preaching at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and, as Mavis later recalled, "from that we joined the movement, made the transition from strictly gospel to protest songs . . . Gospel  music is good news music to strengthen people when they are burdened down. The movement was the same thing, helping us to come together as one." They became close to King and their song "Freedom Highway", which fuses impassioned lyrics about social justice and political freedom with insistent, often hypnotic, gospel rhythms, became one of the emblematic songs of the Civil Rights Movement, still retaining its haunting, intoxicating power fifty years after it was recorded:


  During the late 1960s, like many other gospel singers such as Sam Cooke, the Staple Singers shifted towards a smoother, more secularised soul sound that nonetheless retained the millenarian Christian optimism of their early gospel music. "Respect Yourself", recorded at the iconic Stax Records, was a huge soul hit, with a message of self-empowerment that appealed to African-American audiences demoralised by the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and frustrated by a sense that the promise of the Civil Rights era had not been fulfilled.

It was followed by their first mainstream number one record, "I'll Take You There", criticised by many traditionalists for representing an abandonment of the Staples' gospel roots. Mavis later recalled, " "I'll Take You There" was described as the devil's music, but we were talking about the same thing, about taking you to heaven". However, what critics perhaps objected to was less the spiritual content of the lyrics than the worldly suggestiveness of the music, with its resonant bass line, rich horn arrangement and the sensuous intensity of Mavis Staples' vocals.


Saturday, 30 March 2013

'Be My Baby': A Director's View

Director in Residence John-Paul McCrohon reflects upon the experience of directing 'Be My Baby'

(photograph by Rob Porter)
In the final week of term, a large cast of Year 9 and 10 students took to the stage in a challenging theatrical double bill that was comprised of Amanda Whittington’s ‘Be My Baby’ and David Hare’s ‘South Downs’. Both plays called for a naturalistic style of playing whilst also posing further challenges that were unique to each piece; the thematic link was their setting of the early 1960s and the young outsiders at their core.
As Tim MacBain (our Year 13 ‘Guest Star’!) has already written very eloquently about being part of ‘South Downs’, it has fallen to me to forward some words on the ‘Be My Baby’ experience …
‘Be My Baby’ is widely studied as a GCSE and A Level text and has received several major productions since its 1998 debut. Set in 1964, it follows the stories of four young women who have fallen pregnant out of wedlock and been sent to one of the ‘Mother and Baby’ homes that operated at this time.
(photograph by Rob Porter)
After a very well-attended audition, I was fortunate enough to find the ten superb performers that would make up this all-female cast and go on the considerable journey that working on this play would represent.
From the very beginning of the process, it was clear that this would be a thoroughly rewarding project to work on as all the girls involved committed wholeheartedly to bringing the nuances out in their respective characters, gradually submerging themselves into their roles to the point that the lines between onstage and offstage camaraderie was blurred in the best possible way.
In addition to taking on such a mature piece of work, many practical challenges were met … these included working in a ‘thrust’ stage set-up, operating an authentic 1960s dansette record player and donning prosthetic pregnancies!
The girl-group music of the period is extremely important in the play as it not only provides the escape from reality that the girls sorely require but comments and counterpoints on the action and themes of the piece. For this production, I decided to bring the music even further to the fore by using four female singer/dancers alongside a live band … and I am extremely grateful also to Gemma Williams for her choreography and to Mr Gladstone and his Year 10 musicians who contributed so vitally to the piece.

Photography Club: Self Portraits

Self-portraits by Isaac and Grace



Friday, 29 March 2013

Good Friday or Forgiveness Friday?

by Daniel Rollins

'It should be called Forgiveness Friday, not Good Friday,
there is nothing good about being crucified'  -Eve, aged 8

This profound observation from a young girl appeared on my twitter stream two days ago courtesy of a Churchplanter in Northern Ireland (the sort of person I follow on twitter). It made me think once again about what Christians ‘celebrate’ on this day and how the image of Jesus on the cross can ever be considered ‘good’.

In a controversial article in last Saturdays Guardian, Giles Fraser, liberal priest, former cannon of St. Paul's Cathedral and church polemist, criticised evangelicals who celebrate,  “the cross of Good Friday… as a moment of triumph”, claiming that this view of the events of Good Friday is, “theologically illiterate”.

There certainly are very dark moment in the Easter story, shown dramatically by Miss Meadows’ Year 9 drama group during this year’s PGS Passiontide Service: Judas’ betrayal, Peter’s denial, the disciples’ desertion of Jesus and, finally, the shameful and agonising death of an innocent man by crucifixion. As little Eve reminds us, “there is nothing good about being crucified.” The ugly image of broken man on a cross does not seem like something to celebrate as triumphant.

Yet many Christians, myself included, continue to see the cross as a victory. In his letter to the Church in Colossae, the Apostle Paul wrote this, “And having disarmed the powers and authorities,he [Jesus] made a public spectacle of them,triumphing over them by the cross”. Paul claims that, despite the horrible nature of Jesus’ suffering and death, it was through it that he won a great victory over not only the human powers that nailed him to the cross but all the evil in the world. This is because it is through the cross that God works out his salvation for humanity; through Jesus’ sacrifice on the ugly cross that humanity can have its sins forgiven and be saved from the power of death. This is summarised in what many consider the most translated sentence ever: “For God so loved theworld, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should notperish but have eternal life.

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Translation of Literature: Challenge, Sacrifice and Potential

This extended essay by Fay Davies was awarded the prestigious Ithaka Prize on Tuesday, 19th March, 2013. It was originally published in Portsmouth Point magazine.


Winner of the 2013 Ithaka Prize
(photo: Chris Reed)

One might think of language as a system of signs understood by humans to refer to certain concepts in the mind. Its purpose is communication – rendering thoughts into spoken or written words so that they may be received by other people. This is only one definition of many, but however it may be viewed, one aspect of language is clear: it is far from precise. No word has an absolute, indisputable meaning, and every individual's interpretation is unique.
There is more than one language in the world: more than one system of arbitrary signs which refer to our perception of reality. These can be learnt and understood, and of course translated. But the process of translation is not the same as the act of mere understanding. There is never a corresponding word in one language for every word in another, and languages have different structures: grammars. The process of translation inevitably becomes an act of rewriting, as translator must read and interpret a phrase, then render the thought in another language. Adding another stage into the imprecise process of communication, the translator creates a new piece, and it will always be a distortion of the original. If the subject of this translation is literature, it cannot hope to replace the author's work, but only perhaps provide us an insight into the original.
Of the variety of literary forms, poetry is perhaps the most difficult to translate. To the existing problems of translation, poetry adds the constraints of rhythm, rhyme, tone and form. In his introduction to 'Ezra Pound, Translations', Hugh Kenner writes 'If he doesn't translate the words, the translator remains faithful to the original poet's sequences of images, to his rhythms, or the effect produced by his rhythms and to his tone'[1]. The very mention of some kind of choice suggests a difficulty. The translator, it seems, can choose not to translate 'the words'. He must 'remain faithful' to either the images, or the rhymes, or the tone. He must sacrifice certain elements in favour of what he thinks is most important and most representative of the original work, and this is subject to individual interpretation.
To help illustrate the subtle, elusive and sometimes ineffable difficulties that translation of poetry presents, I will be comparing two translations of Dante Alighieri's 'Inferno', Book One of The Divine Comedy: that of Dorothy Sayers, 1949, and Steve Ellis, 1994. The Divine Comedy has been translated into English by at least thirteen notable translators since 1805, and each translation is wildly different – demonstrating the unavoidable imprecision of the art.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

England: What To Do?

by Tim MacBain

Roy Hodgson: more imagination needed
(source: Wikicommons)
I am, as I am sure many of you will be very aware, not a very sporty person. I love the stuff, but can’t seem to play it properly. However, I do enjoy thinking and talking about sport, and thus I was somewhat incensed by the horrific display the English football team put up against Montenegro on Tuesday evening. How could a team with such ability put in such a depressingly bad display?

When Roy Hodgson became England manager, I think I was with the majority of people in believing that he was one of the best men for the job, and all the better that he was actually English. I am impressed with his new attitude; give young players some time on the field, and change the formation. Now, I have nothing much against the 4-4-2. It’s a very well balanced formation. But it’s SO DULL. It gives no room for imagination; one is always attacking the same way, and as soon as the opposition work out how to repel that attack, you are permanently on the defensive. That was why, when watching the build up to the match on Tuesday, I was ecstatic to see a new formation. I did think the 4-3-3 was a little dubious, for reasons I shall reveal later, but it wasn’t the 4-4-2, so I was more than happy with developments. I was equally happy with the selections.

Almost. I don’t deny that Tom Cleverley has been playing well recently, but why is he starting? Put Frank Lampard on the right of the midfield and you’ve got a simply sublime combination; even better, Lampard and Gerrard aren’t right next to each other, separated by Michael Carrick, so we won’t be faced with the problem we’ve had for so long, will we? If I may also point out the ridiculous inaccuracies of the ITV broadcasting; Milner was OBVIOUSLY playing on the right, NOT the left as their reporting would have us believe. I can understand this incorrectness before the game had started, but after half time? Honestly, this is why I can’t stand watching football on ITV. That and the blooming adverts…

So, the match begins, and England are chugging along rather nicely. A goal in the sixth minute, just what you want, and the whole team, especially Welbeck and Milner, are having a blast. However, the seeds of England’s undoing were sown in the first half. As soon as the goal was scored, as Andy Townsend said might happen, the midfield drops back so their almost having a chat with Joe Hart in goal. With that, they surrender a fair old whack of the pressure they had built up in the opening minutes. I’m afraid to say that this is the problem I have with the 4-3-3 formation; without proper regulation, it becomes more of a 7-3, with an enormous gulf between the defence and strikers/wingers.

This became even more of a problem in the second half, with Gerrard playing more and more long balls; let’s face it, Milner, Rooney, Welbeck and Cleverley aren’t going to win many aerial battles, are they? This meant that England surrendered possession, pressure, and made camp in their own half, relying on last ditch saves to stop a Montenegran goal; which, as the scoreline states, doesn’t work so effectively. It was like the England of old, reverting to the dullest of kinds of football; hoof tackle hoof hoof tackle, block, block, tackle, block, concede. Euro 2004 quarter final all over again, protecting a one goal lead.

So, what can we do?

Theatre Review: South Downs

by Tim MacBain

(image by Rob Porter)
This term, I have been fortunate enough to work with Mr McCrohon and a large group of Year 9s and 10s on the play South Downs by David Hare. Although not mentioned in the play, Hare’s schooling at Lancing College had a large influence on the writing of the piece (both from a pupil and master perspective) and the plot, as well as the title itself. 

South Downs is a play about the trials of maturing in an all-boy boarding school in the 1960s, and the ways in which the central character, Blakemore, deals with being different to the others, with the help of a prefect, Duffield.

Mr McCrohon put it rather well when he first approached me about being in the play: “South Downs is a play where very little actually happens. But what does happen resonates, stays with the audience, and leaves them buoyed at the end.” This sums the entirety of South Downs up nicely; it isn’t some piece of impenetrable Shakespeare, or some utterly baffling Berkoff. It does what it says on the tin, and the audience, quite frankly, enjoys that.

Mr McCrohon’s decision to act the play out promenade (walking around a building, to you and me) around the Upper Junior School was daunting, seeing as we didn’t really know exactly when the audience would see us (until they appeared), but it worked very well,  really giving the impression of the transience of school life, from one fleeting moment to the next.
(image by Rob Porter)

The cast was mainly made up of Year 9 boys, with two Year 10 girls playing the mothers of Blakemore and Duffield. Robert Merriam, as Blakemore, put in a wonderfully subtle performance, conveying how ruthlessly intellectual, but also how socially inept and immature the character was. The Duffield of Jack Shahran was immaculate, oozing confidence; I did feel like I was dealing with a political figure of the future during my scene with him! However, these two are only two of the many performances that shone; the rest of the cast put in so much, developed their characters a great deal, and worked so hard to make the performance a success, that it would be unfair not to give them a mention.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Boris Johnson: The Irresistible Rise

by Daniel Rollins

'a bicycle crash of an interview'
(source: The Guardian)
Yesterday evening the BBC showed Michael Cockerell’s documentary about Boris Johnson, “The Irresistible Rise.” In the hour long program Cockerell looks at one of Britain’s best loved yet controversial politicians through interviews with many of his friends, colleagues and family mixed with some of his famous appearances in the media, both good and bad. The whole film is centered on an interrogation style interview with the man himself as he answered questions about his past and future ambitions, and responded to many of his private and public indiscretions.

I first heard about the film was on Sunday when #Boris began trending on twitter as people reacted to his appearance on the “The Andrew MarrShow (without Andrew Marr)”. What should have been an easy Sunday morning interview for the experience statesman turned into what the Guardian described as a “bicycle crash of an interview.” The replacement presenter, Eddie Mair, ended up calling the Mayor of London, “a nasty piece of work” citing his extramarital affairs, admission to have having “sandpapered” a quote while working as a journalist for The Times and agreeing to help have another journalist beaten up. For the first time “BoJo” appeared lost for words and floundering. Expectations for the documentary were set high.

The program itself began by documenting Boris’ childhood moving around the world with his parents and three siblings and later attending Eton where he had his first taste of power as “School Captain”. This was also when he first met “Cameron minor”, who later became a recurring character in Johnsons’ political life.  On leaving Eton he went to Oxford to study Classics and became the president of the Oxford Union on his second attempt. It was at Oxford that he also became a member of the infamous “Bullingdon Club.” When confronted with the picture of himself with the other members of the club (including Cameron minor) he called it a “truly shameful vignette of almost superhuman undergraduate arrogance, toffishness and twittishness,” admitting that his “biding memory is of deep, deep self-loathing.”

Monday, 25 March 2013

Review: Tegan and Sara – Heartthrob

by Patrick McGuiggan

My epic quest to return back to Northern Ireland included: a 300-mile drive, a 2-hour delay in Liverpool, a boat journey with around 100 loud American tourists, all intent on drinking the boat's entire supply of Guinness, and then, finally, a snow- shovelling session which lasted an hour, all so I had somewhere to abandon the car.

It wasn’t all bad, though. I got to spend a lot of time listening to music, one of the few things I actually like about driving – there is something quite cathartic about singing along whilst in a world of your own.

I was recently interviewed by Sampad Sengupta and Ellie Burr-Lonnan for The Portmuthian. In that interview, I mentioned two things: one was that I would like to write album reviews as an alternative career, but that the thought of using so many words was simply terrifying for a mathematician; the other was Baz Luhrmann’s song, “Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen,” in which he says: “Do one thing each day which scares you.”

So...here goes nothing:
The most notable album I listened to on my travels was the aforementioned 'Heartthrob' by Tegan and Sara. It is nothing short of a triumph. On their seventh attempt, the Quin sisters have released what is, without question, their best album to date and probably a contender for the best pop album of the year. What is more impressive is that the girls have abandoned their guitars and traded them in for keys and synthesisers. With each album, their sound has slowly evolved but here they have jumped feet first in to the world of pop music ... and they are showing everyone else how it is done.
The album opens with the track “Closer”; you may recognise it from the BBC’s coverage of the Six Nations (perhaps my only highlight of the tournament). An extremely uplifting track with a hugely infectious chorus, it is a song about new love and, along with “Love They Say,” is one of few moments the girls spare us from the world of heartbreak.
Instead, the pair choose to tackle broader topics on the love continuum. “How Come You Don’t Want Me” is a deeply depressing song written from the perspective of someone not taking rejection well; “Now I’m All Messed Up”, perhaps my favourite track on the album, details the devastating moments when a relationship falls apart; and “I Couldn’t Be Your Friend” is about how it can seem impossible to remain friends with a lost love.
The girls do take a moment out from the world of love and loss on “I'm Not Your Hero,” a song Sara wrote about her time growing up and coping with her individuality, and, perhaps, how it then felt to become a role model for the LGBT community when she stood up to the homophobic lyrics written by Tyler the Creator (see here).
What the girls have accomplished is an album that sounds like it could have been released 30 years ago yet still somehow manages to sound current. 'Heartthrob' excels at disguising its darker lyrical content with bright, electronica flourishes and it’s consistent up-tempo beat; they manage to harmonise throughout in a way that only twin sisters know how. It is entirely different to anything they’ve ever released, yet still sounds like a Tegan and Sara album. I promise, you will not regret it if you choose to buy 'Heartthrob' (or, more likely, spend time looking for it on Spotify or You Tube), for it is truly exceptional. In fact, it is so close to perfection that I’m left with no choice but to leave my rating as an obscene decimal/fraction combination.
9.5/10

Additional Infomation (including album trailer):

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Formula One: Australia Race Review

by Thomas Penlington

Surprise win by Kimi Raikonnen of Finland
(source: Wikicommons)
The anticipation leading up to the first race of the season was causing the focus to ricochet between Vettel achieving yet another world title or could Fernando Alonso go one step further this season and claim his second world title? Furthermore, could Lewis Hamilton’s surprise switch to Mercedes for the 2013 season prove to be successful at a team that is slowing emerging as a serious contender as finance seems to be no issue?
The 2013 season began in Melbourne Australia at Albert Park on the 17th March and the race weekend began with practice one in which no surprise last year’s winner Sebastian Vettel was top of the time leader but surprisingly closely followed by the two Ferrari drivers Massa and Alonso perhaps reflecting the performance of the cars in the season to come. The other Red Bull driven by Webber was only down in 5 although only 0.457 seconds off the leader Vettel his team mate and fierce rival. But the most impressive performance of the day was by the new Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton who finished fourth whilst his old team McLaren where down in 9 perhaps showing how Hamilton had made an intelligent decision moving from a team he won a world championship at.
Qualifying began on the Sunday in the hours before the race began due to it being delayed because of lack of light in the day before when qualifying was due to be held. The qualifying result didn’t really hold any surprises as Sebastian Vettel found himself at the top of the grid but closely followed by his team mate Mark Webber. Then an impressive qualifying performance for Hamilton placed him third on the grid ahead of the two Ferrari drivers Massa and Alonso and from this position he may be able to seriously challenge for a podium finish on his debut race for Mercedes. Alonso clearly had some work to do down in fifth as did maybe surprise contenders for a podium Nico Rosberg, Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean who had shown average pace all weekend. McLaren showed a disappointing pace over the weekend and this reflected in the qualifying result of the two drivers Button and Perez who finished tenth and fifteenth respectively. Button would have a lot of work to do if he wanted to recreate his win in Australia from last season and new boy Perez failed to impress on his debut for McLaren.
The race proved a rather surprising result as from down in seventh Kimi Raikkonen forced his way through the field and crossed the line in first place to claim the first race of the season and take the lead in the world championship. Raikkonen no doubt snatched the win away from Vettel at the last hurdle and added another dimension to the world championship prospects. In the end Vettel couldn’t even claim second but had to settle for third as the Red Bull failed to show the pace we expected and his team mate Webber after a poor start failed to finish where expected down in sixth.  Fernando Alonso used the poor start from Webber and his excellent ability to be both intelligent and aggressive in his racing to move himself up from fifth to finish second.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

5 Things I Can't Live Without

by Isabel Stark

I have five Achilles heels; they, unfortunately, add huge dents to my already small-punched leather purse and take up precious time. However hard I try to fight the addiction, my will power always gives up. Here is the extensive list of things that are the bane of my life yet bring such joy, comfort and relief:

1.)      Wool jumpers
2.)      Baking
3.)      Elspeth Huxley books
4.)      The Vogue app
5.)      Vintage costume jewellery


1. Wool Jumpers-


Jennifer Lawrence wearing a Christopher Kane 
cable knit jumper- Vogue November 2012 issue

(source:thespicystiletto.com)
To be surrounded by hand-knitted bespoke wool jumpers from the Western Isles of Scotland is the dream. It takes luxury to a new level; it takes it beyond the cool ostentatious sparkle of diamonds, rubies and emeralds from the likes of Adler, Chopard and Bulgari. These jumpers are an affectionate partner to anyone wanting to put practicality and style together. They have been overlooked in the world of fashion for many years, making them an appealing “anti-fashion” item- an item Gabrielle Chanel would thoroughly approve of. Chanel recently purchased a Scottish wool factory just highlighting the return of British wool; this industry has soared to £1.5 billion showing everyone wants to get a cut of this understated, quality indulgence.

However, I do worry that this item will purchased purely for fashion and the season trends instead of for the appreciation of labour and material used.  I also love hand-knitted/woven jumpers because it keeps the small minority of specialised spinners, weavers and knitters in employment and stops these traditional crafts dying. I spend a good chunk of time gazing at these untouchable objects of bliss and I have come to the conclusion the only way to get over this addiction is if I have a readily available collection of jumpers. I shall have to own my own cashmere goats and sheep and try again to learn (more valiantly this time) how to knit or marry someone Swedish.


2. Baking-


It’s an art, a science and an accomplishment all rolled into one. From flicking through the tempting pages of a cookery book then making the chosen recipes to finally eating the final outcome is such a satisfying process. If I could do anything with my life right now I would enrol on a patisserie course in Paris for 8 months learning all the tricks of the trade and indulging my French passion then open a tea room in the charming small market town of Bakewell. Unfortunately I cannot, I cannot even bring myself to bake for another 3 months until my exams are over.  This why it’s the bane of my life, it delights me but it’s currently just out of reach.


3. Elspeth Huxley Books-


She’s unfortunately unheard of and under rated. Her books accounting her wonderful childhood in colonial Kenya are an enchanting light read and I defy anyone not to enjoy them. They are not pioneering for their time or controversial but the childish gay sunny days, the safaris, the coffee plantation, her affectionate parents Tilly and Robin she so beautifully recounts brings a spell of happiness and comfort. I recommend the series of 3 books conveying her childhood:
1.)      The Flame Trees of Thika
2.)      The Mottled Lizard
3.)      Out in Midday Sun
I have read and re-read these books, I long find somewhere like the bliss so describes lovingly however I know it is highly improbable- one can still dream though.


4.The Vogue App-

The world of fashion may be sometimes be called superficial but Vogue is just a bible for many and to be able to see what everyone is wearing and the thoughts of some of the most influential people in the world in just one small touch is incredible. However it being on my phone means I am constantly glancing at it, I think may be it was best for me if to wait for the glossy monthly editions and to be put off by the large price tag instead. I shall have to reconsider having such a glowing distraction so close to me during this important period in my life…

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

The Budget 2013: Another Nail in the Tory Coffin

by Will Wallace

I am not an economist - nor do I fully understand most aspects of economics. I do, however, know that this year’s Budget is nothing more than a red box full of piffle. It might surprise some people that, unlike most Conservatives, I think that Osborne’s Plan A is completely the wrong approach, and that cutting spending will only cause further stagnation and increased unemployment.

Thankfully however, my know-how is politics, not the economy, so I’ll talk about that. In just over a month, the country will be going to the polls to vote in local elections. After last year’s spanking, Cameron really cannot afford another decrease in the share of the vote - which is why all eyes have been on the Budget. Certainly, the price of beer has dropped by a penny, Britain has the lowest corporation tax in the G20, fuel duty has been frozen for another year, personal income has risen - taking more people out of tax - and there has been increased investment in infrastructure projects. This is all good news, in fact, brilliant news.

Sadly though, these morsels of good decisions will be overshadowed by the fact that our growth forecast has been halved, our credit rating has been downgraded and we are heading for a triple-dip recession. If Osborne wanted to rectify the situation, then he should have risen to the dispatch box to admit that Plan A (austerity) has not and will not work, and that we should look toward a Plan B of increased investment and borrowing. Although this appears illogical, it isn’t, as Henry Cunnison explains.

To win the next election, we Conservatives need to attract the centre ground of opinion. Despite all the positive measures that Osborne has announced, the Budget fails to connect with those voters. The Chancellor is maintaining a dogmatic style of policy making, in which he prioritises his ideological commitment to cutting spending over the crystal clear need to go in the other direction.

The Budget 2013: Will It Increase Growth?


by Fergus Houghton-Connell

After announcing the UK Budget on Wednesday, George Osborne made it clear that he wanted to continue with his main objective of reducing borrowing. This usually means more cuts, which there are, however Osborne has included a few measures to try to make it easier to buy homes, to increase the disposable income of the poor, as well as increasing spending on infrastructure. So, will it work or do we face many years ahead of a ‘flat-line’ economy, or even a triple-dip recession?

Most government departments face a 1% cut in their budget for the next two years, with the NHS and schools being exempt from the cuts. Essentially, the chancellor is trying to squeeze every penny out of the government as possible, without having to borrow any more money, which I believe is the right move. Almost all government departments have underspent in their budgets in the last few years, so instead of letting the departments spend more than is necessary, why not use the extra cash on infrastructure projects and other areas that will increase Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Overall, £11.5 billion of cuts are expected in the 2015-2016 Spending Review, a significant amount that can be reinvested in trying to increase Growth in the economy.

On the whole, I see three areas that are likely to increase Growth. Firstly is the Government’s plan to kick-start the housing market. Buyers of homes will only have to pay a 5% deposit, much lower than what some banks demand, and the ‘shared equity’ scheme, which offers people a 20%, of the value of the house, interest free loan on newly built homes. The idea is to try to get more people buying homes, thus increasing Consumption and therefore GDP. It does come at a cost, but this will be mostly covered by the spending cuts in other areas, and there are still questions as to whether it will really increasing the demand in the housing market.

The Budget 2013: No Plan B, No Recovery.

by Henry Cunnison

The effects of austerity on debt:GDP ratio
(source: nytimes)
Since the Emergency Budget of June 2010, the Coalition government has pursued a policy of austerity, believing that it is the only way to help the economy recover from the financial crisis and reduce the budget deficit. Despite the disappointing economic performance since then, David Cameron’s speech on March 7th suggests that the he and George Osborne remain committed to a reduction in government spending; this Budget is no radical change in policy. This is bad news for Britain’s economy.
The Coalition’s policy has not even been effective in reducing the deficit. In the budget he is likely to announce that he further delaying his prediction for the government to be running a surplus, initially 2015-16, to 2017-18. The IMF has recently produced a paper on austerity and its effect on government debt.  Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist, used the results to create the graph below1. What it shows us is that if a country cuts spending by 1% of potential GDP per year; its debt as a percentage of GDP will rise, and only return to the pre austerity levels after 5 and half years, all other things being equal. Although the increase in debt is short term, the IMF concludes that this could cause problems if:
 “country authorities engage in repeated rounds of tightening in an effort to get the debt ratio to converge to the official target.”
George Osborne and Cameron, seeing the failure of austerity to reduce the deficit in the short term, seem to believe more austerity is the only cure.
Nor is the continued austerity even necessary. Before the recession the United Kingdom had the second lowest debt to GDP Ratio of the group of seven economies, at only 38%. The Cyclical adjusted predicted deficit for 2007-8 was a mere 0.7% of GDP and 0.5% of GDP 2008-9. This Budget deficit is not the result of years of overspending by Labour, although Fiscal policy should arguable of been tighter. Instead it was the result of the recession. With a huge increase in unemployment, and reduction in spending, the government naturally operates with a large deficit. So the way to reduce that deficit is not cutting, further increasing unemployment, but spending and introducing temporary cuts in taxes, reducing unemployment, and also, if spent on infrastructure, providing long run growth as well as a short run recovery. In fact in an economics lesson only last week that the standard response to a recession is to increase the budget deficit in the short term. This is not complicated economics, but the coalition is getting it wrong.
Britain's debt: 1922-2011
Why does Osborne think this time is different? Because he believes that Britain’s debt is dangerously high. Yet the country that is embarking on the biggest Keynesian fiscal policy of all, Japan has a debt to GDP ratio double the size of Britain’s. Furthermore Britain’s debt is by no means exceptionally high compared to historical levels. If anything this is the best opportunity for Britain to borrow in living memory, as it is facing a record low interest rates on lending.

A Reason For Running

by Taylor Richardson
One of PGS’ own, Lewis Chalk, is involved in the London Marathon next month, raising money for Epilepsy Bereaved, one of the leading voluntary organisations fighting to prevent death from SUDEP. (Sudden Unexpected Death in Epilepsy).


On the 21st April this year, the 33rd annual London Marathon will be taking place and one of PGS’ own teaching staff will be running. Lewis Chalk, Head of ICT, is a passionate runner who has taken part in around 100 races to date, including six marathons. All marathons are 26.2 miles (rounded) though they do vary in difficulty according to the number of runners, the size of the crowds and the incline of the ground.
Mr Chalk and his brother
Mr Chalk’s main reason for starting to run is a personal reason as it is down to his younger brother. His brother is currently 18, but 5 years ago, when he was 13, he had a terrible football accident in which he tripped and injured his knee joint. The night of the incident, Mr Chalk stayed over at the hospital with him, which is when his brother told him to take part in the London Marathon. Mr Chalk wanted to lose weight and get his football career back so he had begun to do some runs, but the suggestion of the London Marathon was a great motivator and a goal for him to strive to achieve.
In 2008, he took part in his first race, which was a half- marathon. Mr Chalk came thirtieth in this race, which was when somebody told him “You’d be really good if you lost some weight.” This was the first point at which he realised that he was good at running and had the potential to become a brilliant runner. Anyone can see that he has incorporated a huge part of his life into this between that moment and now.
“When running, I feel like I’m making the most of my life”
It is clear now that he is extremely passionate about running, which is shown through his desire to help charities and to become fit enough to try to get back to peak fitness. He says that he does not want to waste his life and, through effort and encouragement, running provides a powerful sense of achievement.
In terms of the charity, Epilepsy Bereaved’s aim is to prevent SUDEP and this has a personal connection to Mr Chalk. His best friend’s younger sister, Rebecca, passed away in June due to an epileptic seizure and he is extremely close to the family. He witnessed the strain of Rebecca’s loss, leading him to realise that running can help others as well as himself through fundraising, awareness and remembrance. This is why he has chosen to raise money for Epilepsy Bereaved.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

A Worthwhile War? The West's Struggle to Secure Iraq

by Andrew Jones


(source: britannica.com)
What are our recollections of the Iraq war? Explosions which lit up the skies around Bagdad as the invasion commenced? Tony Blair announcing that Britain would support America in the conflict? A viral video depicting a scrawny, ragged man being executed? These are just a few of the images which have been used to summarise the Wests effort to secure Iraq.
Beginning an argument in favour of the war should firstly focus upon dispelling many of the common misconceptions that exist with regard to the conflict. Chiefly there exists a misconception that America was motivated solely by the prospect of oil and wealth. Since the original invasion, which caused Iraq’s oil production to crash, the country has slowly made progress. Even today, although it fails to rival its own production rates of the 1970s (when the country produced four million barrels of oil per day).
Furthermore, the country itself is reliant upon external imports to meet its own demands. Only 45% of its fuel production accounts for heavy oils such as petrol or diesel. For American oil companies, this means that whilst oil production is enjoying something of a resurgence, it is still not sufficient to be considered a worthwhile justification for invasion. Furthermore, the contracts which have been granted to oil companies were far from exclusively American. Instead, British, Chinese and Russian companies have also been able to hold lucrative rights over a share of Iraq’s oil production. If America had intentionally invaded Iraq to ensure a means of securing its energy future, it would have been an incredibly risky and short-sighted decision, which went against all military knowledge and advice.
What is more, this misconception has helped to foster an even greater misconception that the Iraq War was carried out to extend American influence in the region. This is based heavily upon the belief that America desired to widen its sphere of influence within Middle Eastern politics. If this had been the case, though, why on earth would America quit the country when its political system was still fraught with difficulties?
Iraqis exercising right to protest, 2013
(source: nytimes.com)
Indeed it was only on Monday that Ban Ki-Moon urged the resuming of talks between the Iraqi Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government. With an unstable political system which is still mired in controversy and corruption, America has hardly succeeded in creating a valuable alliance with a country in the Middle East. Certainly it is undeniable that perhaps America could well have chosen to invade Iraq on just such a basis, however quickly realised the difficulties of implementing such a plan once faced with reality. Again, though, why would this reasoning be employed by the United States Government? Saddam Hussein had been a cause of humanitarian concern for decades. Sanctions had been imposed on the country since 1990, when Saddam had instrumented the invasion of Kuwait that sparked the First Gulf War. This offered America a clear motivation for invasion: namely to rid the world of a monumental headache. Therefore, to say that it was either to do with oil or to do with a desire for power ignores the previous issues which Saddam caused for both the world and his own country.  
Before progressing onto the reasons why the war itself was of a major benefit it is worth acknowledging that the WMD case was grossly exaggerated. Dr David Kelly, the weapons expert who fulfilled inspection roles for both Britain and the United Nations, expressed particular worry at a dossier which claimed that Iraq could use chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes of the order being released. After the war, however, evidence quickly mounted suggesting that Saddam had largely disposed of his weapons arsenal almost a decade before the invasion. Charles Duelfer’s investigation into Iraq’s weapon capabilities concluded that “It is my judgment that retained stocks do not exist. I still do not expect that militarily significant WMD stocks are hidden in Iraq.” Without the stock piling of WMDs, the case for the Iraq war therefore seemingly collapsed. Tony Blair attempted to restore the case by highlighting the report’s conclusion that Saddam Hussein may well have tried to rebuild his weaponry capabilities once the trade embargo was lifted. On balance, when attempting to support the war, it is extremely difficult to use the case of WMDs. Saddam was found to have stopped nuclear research in 1991 and chemical tests in 1995.

Why, then, was the war both justified and entirely necessary?

Why The Iraq War Was Wrong

by Alex Quarrie-Jones
Ten years after the beginning of the Iraq War (on March 19, 2003) and the subsequent ruination of the reputations of many senior politicians (most notably George W.Bush and Tony Blair) and generals, the consequences of the re-ignition of armed conflict and sectarian tension in the Middle East and North Africa still persist and are very visible in the current conflicts in Syria, Mali and Afghanistan. And yet there are still some who dare to call this war just and a noble cause.

US bombing of Baghdad on March 19, 2003
(source: britannica.com)
I will agree that the removal of Saddam Hussein from power was well-intentioned, particularly after diplomatic efforts had failed, aiming to free a people living under the fist of a tyrant who had already attracted massive global attention in the Gulf War in 1990. However, when a war, the most destructive effort any civilisation can commit to, does not have credible reasons for its instigation and then goes on to become simply an occupation of a conquered country, again without credible reason, well that isn’t really a pre-emptive war, it is unjustified violence and imperialism.
I do not want to be associated with the classical view that, because I am writing from an anti-war perspective, that I hate the Armed Forces. On the contrary, I have a huge respect for anyone who is willing to serve and protect, and I am currently horrified by the treatment of the MOD by this government. However, I wish to express that I have no anger towards anyone in the Armed Forces; rather, I blame those who had the executive power, for example George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Tony Blair. Therefore, I hope that you will agree with me in saying that the Iraq War was an unjustifiable wreck.
If any war in the Twentieth Century had to be classed as ‘perfect’, or a near approximation, then I think I would choose the Gulf war of 1991. It had a clear, mostly humanitarian, goal and it caused very little collateral damage compared to the far more destructive wars like World War Two and Vietnam; therefore, it could be seen as one of the most successful wars in modern history. 

However the reasons for the Iraq War begun in 2003 were never clearly explained to the world; therefore, it will now forever be remembered as an unjustified (and unjust) war. As with most global conflicts now raging, it can be traced back to 9/11 and the declaration of the "War on Terror" by George.W.Bush; originally this war only concerned Afghanistan as this was where the terror group responsible for 9/11, Al-Qaeda, had placed themselves along with their leader, Osama Bin Laden. However this war began to drop out of public view and US government attention instead began to focus on how Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11 (he wasn't). Saddam's shunning of UN weapons inspectors fuelled suspicions further, triggering the hype about the possibility of Iraq possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction (or WMDs) (they didn't), which became the pretext for the initial operation.

So the combined governments of the United States and Great Britain acted and invaded Iraq, mainly on the pretext that Iraq was a threat (alledgedly possessing WMD under the control of a violent dictator). However, by the conclusion of the invasion phase (about a month after the initial attack), the UN inspectors found that there were no WMDs and that, in fact, Iraq had halted any WMD production in 1991. Therefore, the invasion force had clearly not succeeded in one of its main aims, but had instead overthrown the dictator who should have been ousted much earlier.

At that point, the Americans and British could have withdrawn their forces, letting Iraq hold its own free elections and find a new leader. But they stayed, for another 7 and 1/2 years in a country where they did not need to be.

Monday, 18 March 2013

PGS Model United Nations Conference 2013

by Ross Watkins

Lobbying within the Politics Committee
(photo: Ben Slader)
The PGS MUN conference took place on the 15th-16th March, 2013. It was an hugely enjoyable experience for all who participated. The Secretary General this year was William Wallace and the event was coordinated by Daniel Rollins and Mr. Burkinshaw.

The event started at five o'clock on the Friday. Over one hundred delegates attended from Portsmouth Grammar and Springfield School. We all assembled in the Memorial Library and we were given the housekeeping notes; keen to get into debating, we all rushed to our various committees.
The Friday is taken up with lobbying, i.e. presenting our resolutions to the rest of the members of the committee (I was in the Politics Committee) in order to decide which ones to debate tomorrow. I started off lobbying on behalf of my resolution and I thought I had done well. But, unlike last year, everybody seemed to have brought a resolution and the competition for the successful resolutions increased. My fear came true when I realised that half the delegates had done a resolution on the same subject as me (abolishing the death penalty). Finally we decided to vote; soon after voting began, I realised my resolution would not get through so I began to think how to support or attack certain other resolutions. Soon, after various votes (some more questionably democratic than others), we had four very good resolutions to debate the next day, on: the re-introduction of the death penalty; worldwide animal rights; supporting new democracies in Northern Africa; and creating a peaceful solution to the civil wars caused by the 'Arab Spring'.
We were quickly rushed off to the Dining Hall, where we enjoyed dinner, continuing to debate the resolutions and make alliances with others in our committee. As the evening drew on, we had a Quiz. A set of five questions were given by the chairs of each committee and, a few questionable answers later, the Quiz drew to a close with a rendition of the Soviet National Anthem by Will Wallace (!)
Politics Committee debating a resolution
(photo: Ben Slader)
We all made our way home contemplating how we were going to debate resolutions tomorrow and most of all wondering what the focus would be of Saturday afternoon's Emergency Debate. Certainly this was on the minds of most of the delegates who had attended in prior years (me included), as the Emergency Debate is always the most anticipated part of the conference.
As I left my car and walked through the rain on Saturday morning, I kept going through various scenarios in my head of what the Emergency Debate would be about. However, as I learned later, I was completely wrong in all of my predictions. We all made our way to the Memorial Library and listened to a very good speech by Will Wallace. Satisfied we made our way to our various committees.
Russia intervenes in the
Emergency Debate
(source: Ben Slader)
The first resolution to be debated in the Politics Committee was reinstating the death penalty, put forward by the delegate from Iran. We had a very good debate and many amendments were passed, but Iran still stayed true to its core values. By the end, the debate was dragging on but, after a well placed "motion to move straight to voting," the resolution narrowly failed. The next resolution was submitted by Sweden and concerned animal rights. This was one which I supported greatly and I made a lengthy speech in support. After a heated debate (and to the delight of Will Wallace), the resolution passed. Our third resolution of the day was submitted by Somalia and concerned the new democracies in North Africa. I supported this but the support was not widespread. I was concerned by the fact that Germany viewed the Northern African democracies as potential "companies" from which to make money. I argued against this but an amendment changing the aid to interest loans passed.  The positive spin on the amendment was that now the resolution passed. At this moment, we were quickly whisked up to the Memorial Library. This was the part I had waited a year to hear, the announcement of the Emergency Debate.
The news report came in and we all listened as we were told that the US nuclear power plants had been attacked by a virus they had previously used themselves against Iranian nuclear sites. The virus had mutated and was traced back to Swedish servers. That was all the information we were given and we were then sent to lunch. Throughout lunch, a massive alliance of western powers was formed. Distressed at the power (im)balance, I asked to defect from my current country and create a new delegation from Russia for the Emergency Debate. My wish was granted and we all went into the Emergency Debate knowing that there were two massive alliances which were ready to attack each other at the smallest of incidents.

My Top Four Embarrassments

by Charlotte Knighton

While pondering upon what my article should be about, I thought about many of my experiences in life, and, after a while, I noticed a thread linking the vast majority of my most vivid memories…they all seemed to involve me being embarrassed. Therefore, I decided to compile a list of the top four things that embarrass me.

So, at Number Four… Blushing.

I’m sure many people can agree with this one. Any situation that is moderately awkward or embarrassing can be made ten times worse by blushing, and what’s more it seems to be impossible to control. Unfortunately, I have an inability to stop blushing when start, so I have to go around for at least ten minutes looking like my head’s about to explode until I forget that I’m blushing; only then does it seem to go away. My charming friends (who I will not mention by name but they know who they are) have the ability to make me blush by saying just a few words that trigger memories that embarrass me.

That leads me on to my next embarrassment, a close third… My friends.

What most people think of when asked to describe their friends are things such as “funny”, “kind” or “they know me so well”. Not so much, with me. While all of that may be true, the things that spring into my mind when I think of my friends are all of the horrendously embarrassing moments that they have helped cause. Among these moments that still have the power to make me cringe and blush are many that seem to take place on my birthdays, which my friends clearly see as a chance to embarrass me as much as possible. When I was still a shy Year 7, it was singing "Happy Birthday" to me loudly in the lunch hall so that everyone joined in; this year, it was putting a truly horrendous photo of me up on the notice board in my tutor room. There are many more I could mention, but (as the title of the article implies) they’re a little too embarrassing!

My friends however look like angels compared to Number Two… My dad.

Yes, I know, everyone’s parents are embarrassing; it’s part of being a parent, etc, etc. My dad, however, takes it to new levels. My esteemed father is a keen cyclist, and so he has all of the proper kit. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Not until he’s in his lycra, waiting outside the front door in the morning as my friends' parents collect them from my house. Or until he turns up to school to collect me, proudly wearing his padded cycling shorts (or, if you’re really lucky, his tights). As if that wasn’t bad enough, he feels no shame whatsoever. On a skiing holiday, as we were walking along a street, I was slightly behind him; suddenly, I saw something fall out of the bottom of his trousers. I looked at the ground to see what it was and it turned out to be a pair of his pants. He just carried on walking and left them in the street.

Unfortunately, I realised that I couldn’t possibly have anything else as Number One other than… Myself.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Images from PGS MUN Conference 2013

Photographs taken by Ben Slader at the 2013 PGS Model United Nations Conference on Friday, 15th and Saturday, 16th March.


Supporting a resolution, in preparation for committee debates.




Negotiating.




Newsreader Mr Elphick-Smith announces
a cyber-attack on US nuclear plants, on MUN HD.




PGS Model United Nations General Assembly convenes
to solve the looming confrontation between the USA and Pakistan.