An Evening With Carol Ann Duffy And Friends At the Royal Exchange Theatre

“Carol Ann Duffy returns to host our hugely successful poetry readings. Joining Carol Ann will be new writers from Manchester Metropolitan University and a variety of established poets offering a medley of Jazz, Poetry and Conversation.”- From the Royal Exchange Theatre website

Poetry is not everyone’s cup of tea, but seeing and hearing poetry read by the poets themselves is a truly amazing experience that no one can come away from unaffected. This is why ‘An Evening With Carol Ann Duffy and Friends’, an event which takes place often at the Royal Exchange Theatre, is such an amazing opportunity for everyone, regardless if you read poetry all the time, occasionally, or not at all.

The studio at the royal exchange theatre is a brilliant atmosphere, perfect for a poetry reading. It is both dynamically contemporary and beautifully traditional, like a 21st century sonnet. Live jazz music sets the scene perfectly, creating a relaxed and delightful setting. The huge marble pillars of the exchange theatre cannot help but make you feel impressed, but the warm lighting and the stage not being raised in the studio means that you won’t feel intimidated.

The event starts just after 7pm, although the doors open beforehand for there to be an opportunity to have a drink at the very stylish bar, and listen to the excellent music. Once the audience have taken their seats, and the jazz band taken a bow, Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy walks on to the stage. Speaking in a soft but powerful voice she modestly introduces herself, the production and the House Poet, Liz Venn. She goes on to read some of her own poetry to kick-start an amazing session of emotive and moving poetry reading. On the 19th of November the audience were treated to the thought-provokingly different perspective of the myth of King Midas in Mrs Midas and an incredibly witty, tongue in cheek view into the origins of The Origins of the Species in Mrs Darwin. Both poems can be found in the 1999 book the World’s Wife, which is being republished by Picador as a classic. Defiantly worth a read.

Following on from Duffy were three poets who are students or ex-students at the Manchester Metropolitan University, where Duffy is Professor and Creative Director of the Writing School. Eloquently introduced by Liz Venn, Justine Chamberlain, Michael Conley and Robert Harper each brought something new and unique to the stage, literally, as some of the works hadn’t even been published yet. Chamberlain read her hilariously clever Christmas Sonnet. Conley also got the audience giggling with his poem Aquarium which was intriguing with a decisively funny streak. Harper read a very powerful poem about a teenager going through a rough spot, which many of us can relate to. Each of the three poets presented their work with passion and confidence, making the poetry seem filled with energy. When a poet preforms their work, it seems to make more sense, as if the tone, pace and pauses annotate and explain the poem for you. This is why those who feel that they ‘don’t get’ poetry ought to give this event a try, as it makes understanding verse accessible to all.

After an interval of more drinks and jazz, Liz Venn delights us with some of her own work. Her charming personality shines through in her seamless introductions into her fervent poem The Spin. Venn then introduced the guest poet for the evening, Ann Grey. What follows is a selection of heartbreakingly honest, beautifully personal and endlessly motivating poems by a charismatic, inspirational and superbly talented poet. Selected from her book At The Gate, each poem evoked a different emotional response that left the audience spellbound. A very enthusiastic applause with a few pairs of tearful eyes from the audience signalled the end of a tremendous night of poetry readings.

Afterwards poets and audience alike reflect on an excellent evening in the bar, giving the opportunity for members of the audience a chance to speak with the poets themselves. Overall I would urge people not to be tricked by society’s misconceptions that poetry readings are pretentious and boring, the reality is the complete opposite! Having had the pleasure of having a quick word with Duffy, I can confirm what anyone else will tell you; Duffy is a wonderfully down to earth and generous person, not pretentious in the slightest. The rest of the people I spoke to on the night (the poets and those in audience) were also lovely. People of all ages from many backgrounds were represented and I believe that everyone would be accepted. It really doesn’t matter if you don’t know the difference between trochaic meter and iambic pentrameter, poetry is for everyone to enjoy.

So for £12 a ticket, I would undoubtedly recommend everyone go to An Evening With Carol Ann Duffy and Friends. A night to remember!

For more information about the event go to-

For more information about the poets mentioned go to- -Carol Ann Duffy -Liz Venn -Robert Harper -Justine Chamberlain – Michael Conley -Ann Gray

Shifty Politics

When the exit poll came out, just after the polling stations closed at 22:00 last night (Thurs 7th May), the nation was in a state of disbelief. Liberal Democrat peer Paddy Ashdown stated he would “eat my hat” if they turned out to be accurate.

This is because they predicted the biggest political ‘shift’ in a UK election since records began. This term describes the change in support for a party from the previous election. For example, in the 2010 general election, Glasgow North East was firmly Labour, yet there was a 39.3% shift in support towards the SNP and they won the seat by a 25% margin.

From the forecast, Conservatives are to be the largest party, with Labour following behind. The Liberal Democrats were set to lose forty-seven seats and the SNP to gain a staggering fifty-eight. This would mean a overwhelming shift towards the SNP in Scotland. Even SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon herself tweeted that it was “unlikely” that the polls would hold true.

Nevertheless, at the time of writing, the SNP are winning Scottish seats at an incredible rate. It’s only 05:00 and they have 50 seats. Most noticeably, 20 year old student Mhairi Black beat Douglas Alexander (poised to become Labours Foreign Secretary) to represent Paisley and Renfrewshire South. Scottish Labour leader also lost his seat to the SNP, as did countless other influential Labour and Lib Dem MPs.

The reason for this dramatic shift can be attributed to a call for the end of so called ‘political class’ in Scotland. The term political class refers to the relatively small group of activists that is highly successful in politics. After all, why should Labour and Lib Dems, who are national parties only out to do the best for themselves, get all the power? Many would argue that Scotland needs a party who, like the SNP, have Scotland’s interests at heart. In addition to this, there has clearly been an increase in support for grassroots movements, that is, smaller parties such as the Greens or UKIP. Could the end be nigh for career politicians representing large parties? The 2015 election in Scotland certainly seems to suggest so.

Furthermore, this pattern of throwing out the career politicians and bringing in the everyday man/woman can be seen in the rest of the UK. More support than ever before has been gained for the Green Party, Plaid Cymru and UKIP, all of which claim to be more in touch with the voting public and can offer a better deal than the two major parties.

This could mean the end of all powerful Conservative or Labour politicians calling all the shots, merely appeasing smaller parties. It could mean that start of Britain as a fairer and more democratic society, as people have more choice of who represents them. Only the following months and years will prove if “The tectonic plates of Scottish [and indeed UK] politics have shifted”, as Nicola Sturgeon claims, but things are certainly going to be very different in Scotland for the next five years.

Lizzy-Jay Lambley

‘Heathcliff as a hero’- a reading of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights with reference to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray

the picture of dorian graywuthering heights

Literary critics have often pondered the themes of heroes in Emily Bronte’s mid-19th century gothic and romantic novel Wuthering Heights. As a result of which, there are several understandings and interpretations over the presentation of Heathcliff, the novel’s main character. He can be seen as a Byronic hero, a Gothic hero and a working-class hero. These different interpretations of heroes can also be seen in Oscar Wilde’s late-19th century novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Heathcliff can be seen as a Byronic hero because of his tall, dark and handsome looks, which are described by Lockwood at the very beginning of the novel and by Nelly when Heathcliff is only a child. Lockwood uses the adjective in the premodified concrete noun phrase “black eyes”, and Nelly goes as far as to call Heathcliff by the adverb and stative verb “rather handsome” and the metaphor “a prince in disguise”. As well as this, Heathcliff has an air of mystery around him, common of the Byronic hero. This can be seen in his return to Thrushcross Grange after disappearing earlier in the novel. Nelly uses no less than 7 interrogatives to inquire as to where Heathcliff has been, and he replies to none of them. Instead, he uses mono-syllabic words such as “are they at home?”, simple sentences, such as “I dared not enter” and “speak!”, and exclamative and imperatives such as “Go, carry my message!”. Heathcliff is also mysterious in his origins, as they are completely unknown. In addition to mysterious, this presents Heathcliff as commandeering, confident and authorative, like a gentleman. These are other characteristics of the Byronic hero. In addition to this evidence, it is probable that Bronte had the poet Lord Byron himself in mind when constructing Heathcliff’s character, as the two men are strikingly similar and Bronte was an admirer of Byron’s work.

In comparison, Dorian Gray, the main character of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, can be seen as a Byronic hero. This is because he also is described as being tall, dark and devastatingly handsome, as this is a major premise of the book. Dorian also has an element of mystery, due to his secret to staying forever young and the infamous portrait in the attic. In addition to this, Wilde was also a fan of Lord Byron’s work.

Heathcliff can be seen as a Gothic hero because he is the main character of a Gothic novel. Wuthering Heights is a gothic novel because of the themes of supernatural, death and revolutionary social theories proposed in it, such as lower classes marrying upper classes. Heathcliff plays a part in all of these themes. He is linked through the supernatural after Cathy’s death. The first episode is imediatly after her death, with the exclamative direct speech “You said I killed you- haunt me then!”. The past participle dynamic verb ‘killed’ links Heathcliff to death and violence. The present participle dynamic verb ‘haunt’ links Heathcliff to the supernatural. He is also connected with the supernatural and death at the end of the novel, when Nelly discovers his body. Nelly exclaims that he was “dead and stark” to emphasise the gothic nature of his death. She also describes his appearance, particularly the premodifed concrete noun phrase “sharp, white teeth” to introduced connotations of vampirism. To further establish Heathcliff’s role as a gothic hero, he is connected with pathetic fallacy. This can be seen in the episode when Heathcliff runs away, as there is a terrible storm. Bronte describes the storm through personification, as the dynamic verb ‘rattling’ is used, as well as the abstract noun phrase ‘full fury’ and the adjective ‘violent’. Another aspect of the gothic hero’s character is immorality and evil. There is no lack of this in Heathcliff’s character, as numerous times throughout the book he is described as being the concrete noun “devil”, as well as being linked with the abstract noun “hell”. His actions are downright immoral, particularly in his behaviour towards Isabella, as from the letter she writes to Nelly she writes the tricolon of interrogatives, “is he a man?…is he mad?…is he a devil?”. The two concrete nouns and the stative verb ‘man’, ‘mad’ and ‘devil’ denote Heathcliff’s gothic hero character.

Dorian Gray can also be seen as a gothic hero, because of his connection with immorality. This is a key theme in the novel, as it proposes the debate over whether Dorian is truly evil or merely outside of society’s morals. This is an aspect of the gothic hero.

Heathcliff can also be seen as a working class hero. This is because of his origins being distinctly un-noble, as he is described by Hindley as the concrete noun ‘cooko’, meaning he is underserving and feeding of the kindness of Mr Earnshaw. He is also called the concrete noun phrase ‘gypsy brat’ by Mrs Earnshaw and by Edgar Linton. Nevertheless, Heathcliff is a hero because of his achievements despite his low-class origins, making him a favoured character in the eyes of Marxist critics. Heathcliff’s achievements include money and property, marriage, and status. His achievements are made apparent early in the novel but at the end of the chronological order of the tale. Lockwood calls him the concrete noun ‘my landlord’ and the adjective and concrete noun ‘capital fellow’. This denotes his status as a gentleman, as well as is ownership of property and money. Despite this, Heathcliff has not forgotten his working class origins, as he is brutish as rude in his behaviour, using simple and minor sentences, as well as monosyllabic words. Later on in the beginning of the novel, Lockwood reads Cathy’s diary, in which Cathy comments on Hindley wanted to “reduce Heathcliff to his place”. The dynamic verb ‘reduced’ and the abstract noun phrase ‘his place’ denote Heathcliff’s position as a working class hero.

In The Picture of Dorian Gray, Dorian is the opposite of a working class hero. Rather, he is the aristocratic villain in many of his actions and characteristics, which are common of gothic, Romantic inspired novels, such as The Picture of Dorian Gray and Bram Stokers Dracula. Nevertheless, the character of Sibyl Vane can be seen as a working class hero because she is bitterly poor and working as the lower-than-working-class career as an actress, she is good-natured and honest, and dies the death of a myter. She is victimised by the upper-class antagonist, just as Heathcliff is.

In conclusion, the presentations of heroes in Wuthering Heights and The Picture of Dorian Gray are similar, as they both include aspects of the Byronic, gothic hero and workings class heroes. Wuthering Heights particularly used these specific types of heroes to communicate different points. Through the use of the Byronic hero, Bronte established the theme of romance, passion and mystery in the novel, which dominates Heathcliff’s relationship with Cathy. They gothic hero aspect introduced a theme of good vs evil and the ethical debate which is the difference between the two. It also introduced the argument between ethics and social morality. The workings class hero creates a theme of social justice and class warfare.

Review of The National Youth Debate at the People’s History Museum

Want to ask your local politicians the questions that matter to you? On Thursday 26 March 2015 UpRising will host a National Youth Debate in cities across the UK. If you are aged 16 to 24, come along for the opportunity to join in the debate and decide who will get your vote in the 2015 general election.-Synopsis from the event

UpRising is a UK-wide youth leadership development organisation whose aim is to get talented young people from all backgrounds involved in politics. They do this through providing opportunities and knowledge to young people, such as the National Youth Debate. The debate was excellently ran and provided exactly what UpRising intended it to- opportunity and knowledge. The opportunity to ask questions and speak to local politicians and the knowledge of what each party stands for on several issues which are important to young people.

What made the event different from other debates was that the subjects and issues talked about where of direct importance to young people, between the ages of 16 and 24. Through this article I’m going to summarise the responses the speakers gave.

The speakers included:

Lucy Powell MP, Labour Party
Laura Bannister, Green Party
Steven Woolfe MEP, UKIP
Robert Manning, Conservative Party
Cllr Jane Brophy, Liberal Democrats
Loz Kaye, Pirate Party

Chair – Andrew Russell, Head of Politics at The University of Manchester

The first question asked was “What will your party do to ensure that high quality and affordable healthcare remains available to everyone?”

Jane Brophy from the Liberal Democrats emphasised that her party is passionate about healthcare, specifically mental healthcare. When I spoke to her after the debate, I asked her to elaborate on this, as today more and more young people of school age are suffering from anxiety and depression. Brophy explained the Liberal Democrat policy of matching spending on mental health to that of physical health. In the debate, Brophy also mentioned that the Liberal Democrats, if elected into power, will match healthcare spending to what the Kings’ fund report recommended- £8 billion per year.

Naturally, Robert Manning from the Conservative Party spoke of how the current Chancellor George Osborne has pledged that £2 billion a year will be invested in the NHS if the Conservatives are re-elected into power. He also commented that a report suggested the NHS has performed ‘well, despite challenges’. He closed his statement with explaining the government plan for devolution of NHS funds to Manchester, which he claims will ensure high quality healthcare for all.

Laura Bannister from the Green Party also spoke about mental health, an issue obviously close to her heart as an employee at the mental health charity Mind. Bannister said that the Green Party plans to increase spending on mental health by 33%. Not unexpectedly of the Green Party, Bannister pledged the most spending on the NHS, £12 billion a year, which would be spend on more doctors and nurses. As a final point, Bannister established that the Green Party would reverse the backdoor privatisation of the NHS.

Stephen Woolfe from UKIP was next, and stated bluntly that ineffective management brought in under consecutive Labour and Conservative governments have placed the NHS in crisis. He went on to say ‘you as young people will have to pick up the bill’. In response to the actual question, Woolfe stated that UKIP would spend £3 billion per year on the NHS, as well as ruthlessly cutting ineffective management.

Loz Kaye from the Pirate Party addressed the question next, and immediately jumped in with a franticly energetic but nevertheless coherent answer that the spending wasn’t the only problem facing the NHS. His argument was that the government simply must spend more than they ought to be doing on the NHS due to gigantic pharmaceutical cooperations driving the cost of healthcare up. The Pirate Party would introduce legislation to combat this problem, ensuring that quality and affordable healthcare remains available to everyone.

Last to answer the question was Lucy Powell, Labour MP for Central Manchester. Powell opened her statement by harking back to the creation of the welfare state, emphasising that it was indeed created under the 1946 Labour government. Powell blamed the Conservative government for causing the NHS to be in crisis due to the reorganisation which didn’t need to happen, but assured that a Labour government would introduce a ‘mansion tax’, meaning that 20000 more nurses would be employed, as well as 8000 more doctors. This, so Powell says, would ensure that everybody receives free and good quality healthcare.

The second question was ‘Should every young person have the chance to study the arts up to the age of 16?

Labour kicked of the answers this time, with a very enthusiastic ‘yes’. Lucy Powell lashed out at the unpopular former Health Secretary Michael Gove for taking the education system backwards. In response to the actual question, Powell first established that she didn’t want the arts to become an ‘elite sport’ only to be enjoyed by those privileged enough to afford lessons. To get more students studying the arts, more teachers would be encouraged to teach them, as well as clearer pathways for students, meaning that the arts would not be seen as a second rate option.

Loz Kaye from the Pirate Party was also enthusiastic that every young person up to the age of 16 be given the chance to study the arts. Highly prepared for the question, Kaye used statistics to back up his argument that the arts are a vital part of our economy. To ensure that the arts are available to all students up to 16, the Pirate Party would allow schools more freedom in what they teach, with a focus on learning and not testing. As a final point, Kaye mentions the radical point of scraping a lot of the copyright laws which he claims limits the creative arts. I should probably mention that I’d hazard to guess the audience felt that his answer was the most relatable, despite his policies being the most radical and arguably farfetched.

UKIP’s Michael Woolfe had little to say on the subject of the arts in schools, or education in general. He did however, state that it is UKIP policy to reintroduce grammar schools.

Laura Bannister from the Green Party expressed her disappointment at the prospect of the reintroduction of grammar schools, and received nods of approval from her fellow panel members as well as from the audience. She then went on to say that at the moment schools are encouraged to become ‘specialist’. For example, Derby High School is a ‘science and arts college’. The Green Party would not encourage this, meaning that schools can offer more to their students. Furthermore, the Green Party would offer places outside from schools, such as youth clubs, as places for young people to study the arts.

Conservative representative Robert Manning began his repose supporting the Green Party (of all things) in terms of more youth clubs being needed to ensure that all under 16s have the opportunity to study the arts. He then went on to defend Michael Gove and his party. He said that the Tories inherited an education system that was overwhelmingly in favour of the arts, resulting in a lack of skilled workers in the country. In reforming the education system in ways such as removing January exams and generally making schools harder, Gove was attempting to fix the system so that it gave opportunities to students wanting to go down the academic root.

The Lib Dems, though their representative Jane Brophy, also admitted that there was an over focus on testing and that there was a need to produce a well-rounded education which includes both arts and other subjects.

The third question was “what will your party do to defend the welfare state”- a nice controversial one. Laura Bannister of the Green Party kicked off the discussion with their plan for basic income. Basically, everybody gets £80 a week regardless of anything. The Lib Dems’ Brophy opened her response with dismissing the Green Party’s basic income policy, saying “sadly, it just doesn’t work”. Instead of basic income, the Lib Dems would make the first £700 a person earns tax free. Lucy Powell, Labour, again dwelled on the past, bringing up the fact that it was they who invented the welfare state. Their specific policy is to build more council houses and raise the minimum wage.

In contrast to the other parties, as per usual, the Pirate Party’s Kaye emphasised that big businesses such as Starbucks do not pay their fair share through tax evasion. Through closing these loopholes, more money would be available for the welfare state. Steven Woolfe, UKIP, declared support of the elderly a key feature in their welfare state policy, as well as stopping welfare tourism. They also blamed Labour for getting the welfare state into such as bad way. Robert Manning of the Conservatives avoided stating any specific policy on the welfare state, instead outlining what they would do to avoid people needing it in the first place, such as employment.

After these questions, the floor was opened for members of the audience to ask questions. Several intriguing questions were asked, but the one that stood out was directed at UKIP. The question was in relation to their manifesto policy to instil ‘British values’ in school, but what exactly are British values? Now, Steven Woolfe, MEP for UKIP, had a difficult crowd. It’s important to remember that all members of the audience were young people between the ages of 16 and 24. It was also a diverse audience, with approximately 50:50 men and women, and many ethnic backgrounds represented. UKIPs main fanbase are middle aged white men. Nevertheless, Mr Woolfe did catastrophically. He mumbled something incoherent for 30 seconds then said something along the lines of British values being not Islamic values. I confess I didn’t catch all of what he said, but the audience was in uproar. People were halfway between amused that Woolfe was living up to the UKIP stereotype of Islamophobia, and genuinely offended.

The question was quickly opened to the rest of the panel, with every other representative commenting on how appalled they were at Woolfe’s comment and reinstating that the parties they represented embraced Britain’s diversity, and that British values were humanist values of respect, democracy and acceptance. Later on, Woolfe apologised for his comment and clarified that he was not, after all, a racist. However, it was too late, the damage was done and all respect was lost for the unfortunate man.

As I said, There were several other excellent questions asked, with each representative present giving an overall flavour of what each political party has to offer. Undoubtedly every representative had strengths, but also weaknesses. Sure, UKIP’s Michael Woolfe made the biggest blunder, but the Pirate and Green Parties both made fantastical claims which sound good, but also unrealistic. Having said that, Loz Kaye (Pirate) and Laura Bannister (Green) came across as the most down to earth and enthusiastic candidates by far. Conservative, Labour and the Lib Dems had the most familiar policies, which made them sound like replicas of each other. Yet, these very policies are tried and tested, and appeal to most voters.
In conclusion, I can’t tell you who ‘won’ the debate, I can only say that at the end of the debate every person in the room went away enlightened about what each party stands for, making the National Youth debate a huge success.