A moment to remember John Berger

I write this with full awareness that I am not the most knowledgable of all Berger’s work. But I do study him. In fact, he is the most discussed cultural theorist in my university course. His book, Ways of Seeing, is referenced in almost all of my academic writing. His work is relevant to so many areas I have interest in within my university course. I also believe his work is interesting, and relevant to the mainstream, and worth reading from many perspectives.

Involved in the movement of redefining our understandings of ‘culture’, and other concepts not seen as important in society before him, Berger was a radical thinker. He rejected culture as ‘high brow’. He drew attention to things no one else had the confidence to think. The female nude is used as a sales technique. Ownership of oil paintings was to demonstrate wealth and any waffle about wisdom behind them was used to cover up this fact. The reproduction and accessibility of paintings changes their meaning; they are no longer wondrous and unobtainable when they are sitting on your television screen in the comfort of your living room.

He brought new arguments to art, modern arguments, questioning what no one else had, making ordinary what no one had dared do before.

What I have studied most in Berger’s work is his thoughts on seeing, gaze, reading our surroundings. An artists perception can be seen in his work, “every image embodies a way of seeing”, and this is altered further by our own perception, our own way of seeing. These thoughts on seeing in different contexts, how what we see is influenced by assumptions have somehow crept their way into many of my essays. But for good reason.

Feminism, photography and art are among topics Berger opened up debate to. His inspiring new ideas, however radical, will continue to influence many. For as long as these topics are studied, his work will continue to have a place. I have only been studying cultural studies for just over a year, and Berger has already influenced my thoughts greatly. I hope to continue to learn from him, and I hope others get to do the same.

A great mind was sadly lost today. Rest in peace John Berger.


Why should we care about the Lynx

On Boxing Day this year I met the only two lynx cats living in the UK, at Woodside Wildlife Park in Lincolnshire. Not much information was given about the animals aside from this quite shocking fact apart from a mention of the desire by some groups to see their reintroduction into Scotland. If only two lynx live in the UK, I assumed they must be quite severely endangered. The lynx were majestic looking creatures with clean fluffy fur. The way they carefully padded around the enclosure made them appear non-threatening, though I doubt considering a big cat as ‘cuddly’ would be a good idea, and their nature of carnivorous hunters would probably mean that would not be taken as a compliment.


Recognisable by their tufty ears, the lynx is undeniably regal looking. I found out some information about their population, and through this discovered that it is not unique to the UK that people want to see these cats reintroduced to the wild; many countries are now creating reintroduction programs, along with the UK. This species is protected by groups which have aided hopeful recovery from population lows, but supporting the regrowth of a species almost hunted to extinction in Europe entirely is not cheap. So why is this big cat so important?

Originally the cat was found from the UK through to China, their population now estimated at 50,000 worldwide – mainly inhabiting China and Russia. It is assumed its presence in the UK was eradicated way back between 500 and 700 AD. This makes its reintroduction seem slightly more unnatural, given how much the environment will have changed since these times. Lynx populations in Europe reached a low in the 1950s, with only 700 cats remaining. The reason the lynx disappeared from the wild in the UK was, of course, like many other endangered animals, because of us. They were hunted to extinction for their fur, their habitats were destroyed, in a cycle of mistreatment for monetary gain. Humans ey.

The ‘advantage’ of having these animals present in the wild is to “return a vital natural function to our ecology helping control numbers of deer and a variety of agricultural pest species whilst protecting forestry from deer damage caused by overpopulation”. As far as big cats go, I was right in thinking the lynx is non-threatening. They do not naturally present threat to humans, as they have a “solitary and secretive nature”, and like to spend their time undisturbed in the forest, making them the best lot for the job.

It is sad to think that the effort made to conserve and protect the species and spread the area in which lynx inhabit is essentially for human benefit, but the idea that we could see big cats like these wild in the UK again is kind of wonderful. I love the idea of going on a trip somewhere with the aim of seeing lynx in their own wild habitat. These big cats are native UK dwellers. They should be living their natural existence. We disturbed them in the first place, it’s only fair we make the effort to put this right.

Despite it having been over 2000 years since wild lynx inhabited the UK, reintroduction programs look hopeful, as they have succeeded in other European countries. these environments are perhaps easier to integrate new lynx into because the populations were not entirely forced out, but understanding the way the cats adapt to their surroundings, and where they will be able to act in their normal ‘wild’ way, will help conservationists and specialists identify successful methods of reintroduction to the UK.

Another important consequence could come about from the lynx being reintroduced, conserving and helping potentially disadvantaged small-scale rural and agricultural communities. Some successful and well managed programs in other European countries have constructed “whole new eco-friendly industries such as wildlife tourism around their presence, breathing new economic life into remote rural communities”. I studied geography at A level and I know how important it can be to support communities like these, who in turn support local rural areas, animals and the environment. Another cycle, but this time a really positive one.

In years to come I don’t just want the word lynx to bring to mind only mens aftershave… Known by ancient cultures around the world as the mysterious and elusive ‘Keeper of Secrets’, I believe this gentle creature is worth protecting. If we are the ones exerting our power over animals, harming species and destroying their habitats, we should also right our wrongs, and use our many tools to help endangered creatures and to bring new wild populations to the environments they never should have been forced out of; for the benefit of human communities, the environment and the animals themselves.


The Lynx UK Trust site gave me lots of new knowledge on these animals, they also have detailed information on plans for reintroduction into the UK, if anyone is interested:



Tattershall Castle

My parents and family in general, in typical country-dweller fashion, are members and lovers of the National Trust. When I turned 18 my parents asked me if I wanted to get my own membership. I immediately thought what a waste of money, I was never into that kind of stuff… but then they had me at free car parking.

To be honest, it was never that I wouldn’t enjoy a membership. Its just that I thought I didn’t have the time, or know anyone else who would be interested in coming. Without a membership however I could miss out on family days out, and opportunities to learn about some potentially very cultural and historical stuff, which is always a priority for a Cultural Studies student.

Today, on Easter Sunday, the family headed to Lincolnshire, to a National Trust site – Tattershall Castle.

Expectations were low. Tattershall had been built up to have ‘not much going on’, and ‘just a lot of stairs to climb up’.

My experience however countered these ridiculous claims. Tattershall Castle was right up my street. It was true, there was a lot of stairs, and not too much else, but the sights really were worth the trip. There was also a lot more to the history of the Castle than simply a lot of stairs. Through reading I found out some very interesting things about the fireplaces and the infamous Lord Curzon, who restored the castle and after Oliver Cromwell started a process of destruction and left it uncared for.

The Castle was built in the 15th Century by Ralph Cromwell. The red bricks that make up Tattershall Castle are an unusual material for the time because there was an abundance of stone around, and red brick had not quite come into fashion in England. Clearly Ralph had an eye for design, he was ahead of the times in his use of materials, and what he built up using those bricks is pretty easy on the eye.


Because of it being Easter Sunday, there was more than usual going on. Of course there was an Easter egg hunt for children, but there was also people dressed in medieval clothes doing demonstrations. Most of which conversed and explained what was going on so everyone understood, but there was one man on a spinning wheel that looked so into his task of turning wool into yarn I was starting to believe he had forgotten he lived in 2016.

The fireplaces were the treasures of the castle, but they were torn out of their homes in the red brick castle walls and sold to The Americans. Lord Curzon was determined to return the fireplaces to their original positions in the castle so he had them transported all the way back from London in horse drawn carriages. This is one of the medieval fireplaces back in its home today.


The highlight of the castle was of course the experience of being at the top. The wind was so bracing it was almost like being in a wind tunnel, but this did not detract from how beautiful the perfectly flat landscape of Lincolnshire looked from that high up, especially when the sun poked through the clouds to light up the castle and grounds.



The red bricks look pretty in the sun I think. Is this called a turret? I hope so. Turret is a cool sounding word.

I’ve never been in a castle with a real moat before, it reminded me of primary school history lessons. I can understand why Ralph Cromwell chose that spot as a lookout. You can see for up to 20 miles across the land on a clear day. We could see Lincoln Cathedral from one side (with the help of the poster guide).


If you zoom in to a certain higher part of the horizon in this picture you might be able to work out the extremely tiny 18 mile away Lincoln Cathedral. It’s on the slightly higher bit of ground to the right of the foreground castle wall if anyone is actually considering doing this.

I found it humorous that one side of the castle had the perfect view of a lake… designated for jet skiing. They were at it in full force today as well I kid you not. I thought it was funny that the owners of the castle in the time of its use would never have known that many years later people would be looking out of the very same windows to see people going crazy on jet skis around a lake. I wonder if they ever consider jet skiing in the moat. Now that would be a contradiction of time periods.


The jet skiers are on the left lake. Can’t really spot them but they’re somewhere in the midst of the white water trails they made.

I will leave any wandering eyes with these wonderful views and my mums words while standing on the top of Tattershall Castle; ‘It’s like the Arch de Triomph of Lincoln’.


The Revenant Immedate Responses

I’m not going to write a review because it would never compare to the hundreds of others which actually have insightful things to say. But I wanted to contribute something after seeing this film. Because Leo might actually win an Oscar this time.

I often find the best film commentary occurs in the first words, or even just the looks, straight after the credits roll. Or the most honest, or funny. These are some valuable comments my group of attendees made. I believe they are opinions worth sharing.

“They weren’t wrong when they said Leonardo De Caprio gets mauled by a bear, and not much else happens.”

“Do you ever just, get naked and sleep inside a horse.”

“The way he put his clothes on after that and touched him, it was exactly like a one night stand. He should have said thank you. Or I’ll call you. And you could have called it a comedy.”

“There should be a Revenant 2. I want to know more about the baby bears. What’s their story. What famous actors could they maul.”

“None of these characters care about getting their feet wet. Like at all. They just walk straight through.”

“It’s cold. But no one really talks about that.”

“My favourite scene was when they got really giggly eating snowflakes with their tongues. It’s the little things in life.”

“I wish I could get my fingers chopped off and just go about my day. They really didn’t seem fussed about that.”

“No one really knows why the bear really did maul Leo. It didn’t seem like much was achieved since he didn’t didn’t get eaten.”

“It’s definitely not a film for a pissed dyslexic.”

I’d say all in all those are the most important aspects of the film, summarised in the best way – spontaneous commentary just saying what’s on your mind.



As far as UK cities go, Newcastle is pretty great.

Despite messing up every train I had to get yesterday, and being fined £49 in the process, my day out to Newcastle was very much enjoyable. Having visited a couple of times before, I knew vaguely what to expect, including extremely cold weather. However I find that every time I visit the Quayside, I feel pleasantly perplexed.

This probably sounds ridiculous to residents or regular visitors, but even from the greeting you receive from the train station, you cannot deny Newcastle’s charm.

Now I am no photographer, but I made some effort to capture some of the sights I enjoyed the most while walking the Quayside, and because I enjoyed my experience there, even just being a day, I felt it necessary to document in some shape or form.


Apparently Baltic is a center for contemporary art. The buildings old use was an industrial flour mill and it was converted and opened in 2002. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to go but in the future that would be something I’d quite like to do.


The lights were nice.


Crossing the river means you are no longer in Newcastle, you’re in Gateshead. The blobby building with the lights is called the Gateshead Sage. They have music events and things there.


This boat looks kind of like a boat you’d find on the sea. That’s because it probably is. Newcastle is really near the coast. I think that’s why the river is so wide.


The roads leading up from the river are really hilly which means that you get quite out of breath if you’re running late for a meal you’ve booked. Just a warning.


This is the Gateshead Millennium Bridge. It opens sometimes. My mum didn’t believe me when I told her that so one day I’m going to go back when it is open and take a picture. Or I could just google it. Only time will tell.


The River Tyne by night.


The millennium bridge has colour changing lights. Who doesn’t love that.

I believe I have most likely brought you no new knowledge of this British city through reading this post, but if there was a chance you have never been to Newcastle before, or knew anything about it, I’m happy to impart my extensive wisdom to you. (Joking).

I would recommend Newcastle, just walking around is worth the visit.


Free New Musical Express

I used to think that NME would be a cool magazine to be subscribed to. Getting one delivered every week and getting excited about an insight into new music they help readers discover. I even ordered one online once as a one off to test the waters. It was always the price that put me off, as the magazine comes in at a, what I consider whopping, £2.50 per issue.

So when waiting at the NME tent at Leeds Festival 2015 for the next act to grace our presence, our eyes mindlessly gazed upon the screens either side of the stage as they flickered with different messages about where to dispose of rubbish, how to keep possessions safe and other general unengaging chat. Until one message appeared on the screen that made me do a double take. Free NME magazine coming soon. I was shocked. I vigorously poked my friend to get his attention on what I was witnessing. We both were doubtful for a good few seconds. But we were standing under the cover of the NME tent itself, and August bank holiday is far from April Fools. The idea which seemed quite a preposterous business decision at the time, had to be true.

Of course my mind went into a train of thought almost immediately as to why the successful company had chosen to follow this bold, and potentially extremely damaging venture. Of course it is common knowledge really, that we can witness in day to day life that the age of print media is entering its demise. Less newspapers and magazines are seen in the household, as more and more regularly, media is transmitted to us via the Internet. The ultimate extinction of print media has already been predicted in the next 10 to 15 years, but given the pace at which the Internet takes over, it could potentially be even sooner.

The conclusion I therefore reached regarding the matter was that less and less readers were choosing to purchase the physical NME magazine, as they could access most of the content they wanted online, on nme.com, which is popular and reaches an extremely large number. Thus NME decided to quit while they were ahead, and print cheaper quality magazines on a larger scale, to be given out at outlets around the country, following successful similar distribution strategies from Shortlist, Sport and Time Out. This would enable them to reach a larger audience to gain maximum interest, while keeping their brand respectable because they have not yet died out. NME seemed to be adapting to a new media age, where print is less relevant, and if NME magazine is free, much more people, especially young people, are likely to choose to pick it up.

NME actually went through a major brand transformation as well as transitioning to a free magazine, including a revamp of nme.com in the hope that this could be the new gold mine for the brand. The new free mag would be redesigned to include more content on film, games and fashion as well as music. Editor Mike Williams discussed this transformation, calling it the new phase of the magazine. “We’ve been working in secret here at NME on the next phase of our evolution. The goal, throughout all of our research and development, has been to find new and inventive ways to connect with you, our audience, better than ever. In the 63 years since NME launched we have evolved and transformed plenty of times. The evolution of 2015 is our boldest ever move”.

As positive as this picture is painted by the editor, we would be naive to assume that a ‘new phase’ was not a hopeful and necessary strategy in a struggling situation. A Guardian article states that NME magaizine had been struggling for the past decade. Paid circulation has dropped to just 15,000 as weekly sales have fallen by 20% annually. Mike Williams believe this will make NME “bigger stronger and more influential than ever before”, and it is true that adaptation is necessary in the age of new media. But will the 64 year old print magazine fail in its new life, or will it stay as strong as a “major player and massive influencer in the music space”.

The free NME magazine is to be distributed weekly at train stations, on university campus’s by students and through retail partners HMV and Topman. Prominent music, fashion and commuting areas where a younger and larger audience can be in targeted to come into contact with the magazine, now available through 300,000 copies distributed across the UK.

NME has throughout its years brought new music to our awareness and helped smaller bands gain a wider following. However, the magazine has faced challenges through he technological age such as the ease of access to free music through streaming services such as Spotify, hindering the need for third party promotion from the critic, as listeners can make up their own minds. The changing themes in popular music also outdate the genre NME holds dear – Britpop and indie rock bands. These modern factors are clear obstacles to the potential sucess of print NME, and the goal to revert to the circulation success it achieved back in its golden years, the 60s and 70s, and to remain on the map of the digital music mass market. The Guardian identifies however, that aside from how challenged NME apparently is, the emtotion and strong response to the announcement of a free magazine shows that it is not yet dying, it still has a place in the hearts of the British public, and the choice to go free may have come at the perfect time for success.

“Through NME’s digital platforms, social media channels and weekly magazine the brand reaches 3.9 million people every week”. The hugely extended circulation through the removal of the off-putting price tag and availability in many common locations will hoepefully increase interest and widen reception into the near future, thus NME will become more attractive to advertisers and will reap more funds in these areas.

“Every media brand is on a journey into a digital future. That doesn’t mean leaving print behind, but it does mean that print has to change, so I’m incredibly excited by the role it will now play as part of the new NME.” – Mike Williams 


A Certain Type of Tourist

After returning from a weekend city break in petit Paris with ma famille and having time to reflect on my experience I would like to briefly discuss (and maybe rant a little) about my experience of the culture surrounding art galleries in Frances stylish capital.

Art galleries in Paris are known worldwide and the city is home to the most famous work of Monet, Van Gogh and Picasso and more. These works attract many tourists. Some who appreciate art in it’s most intracate detail and some who, to be completely frank, couldn’t care less.

The first Sunday of every month allows free entry to all Parisian art galleries thus making it prime time for these knobheads (if you pardon my French). I experienced the wrath of them in the home of Van Gogh’s arguably most famous self portrait and Monet’s ‘Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies’, the Musee d’Orsay.

Despite the beauty of not only the art in this gallery but the attraction of the building itself – a converted train station with undeniably good looking architecture, my visit to the Musee d’Orsay was definitely made a little worse by the sheer number of a certain type of tourist. Let me elaborate.

These people would wander aimlessly with no emotion or care on their faces, perhaps in complete awe, or concentration? But more likely disinterest, in the variety of art around them. The hopeless tourists, consumed with the absolute necessity to photograph every possible sight, would saunter up to a great work of art, of which the artist put sheer hours of talent, focus and love into and not even look at the painting. They all, like sheep, performed the same action over and over of holding up their iPhone 6 or some such like to the artwork, taking a quick snap then ambling off to repeat the labourious task again, with almost every other painting in the room.

It amazes me to think how these people continued this bad habit with approximately 80% of the gallery without becoming completely and utterly brain numbingly bored, I almost admire their commitment to the task.

It also makes one wonder, what happens to all these carefully shot photographs? Will they be shown to grandchildren in years to come? Will they be printed and framed all over the house, as if they themselves are living within the Musee d’Orsay? Or will they meaninglessly be dragged and dropped, cut and pasted into a hard drive on some computerised device, never to be seen or spoken of again. I predict for most of these tourists, the latter will be the case, with inevitable impending death in the recycle bin.

Nevertheless, as annoying as it may be, I expect no less. It’s understandable why you’d want to photograph Paris – it’s a charming city, and by all means should be remembered. It just seems that sometimes people lose touch of the importance of seeing with the eyes, not an iPhone camera, and enjoying a moment when it’s actually happening. But if people really believe all those pictures are necessary and they will aid their quality of life then hey, who am I to judge. All they need now is a visit to Italy to take a picture holding the Leaning Tower of Pisa up and they’ll be golden. Bucket list complete. (I joke I joke)…

On the whole, Paris was totally splendid. Great cheese, great wine, great times… However, as with any major city tourist destination, it was a little too busy, and full of characters who define the word ‘tourist’ in all it’s stereotypical glory.