Salford University To Lead The Way In Transgender Inclusivity

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The University of Salford has pledged to become England’s first fully trans-friendly university after a recent surge in transgender or non-binary people approaching staff for advice.

The university’s specialist support service, askUS, has seen an increase from just three people in 2013 to over 20 already this year.

This has prompted staff to assemble a small group of students to develop an action plan and help work towards trans-inclusivity.

These eight students meet regularly to discuss ideas to make the university more inclusive.

Their first motion was the installation of gender-neutral toilets across the campus, with the intention of having at least one in every university building.

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Jon-Connor Lyons is a student at Salford and also the driving force behind the installation of these toilets.

Mr Lyons, 19, said: “It’s really good to have good services there, and good staff there to support you, and I think that the trans community don’t have that across this country right now.”

Mr Lyons thinks that Salford can do more for the trans community – for example, they have not lived up to their promise to have a gender-neutral toilet available in every building.

However, he still believes they are doing a good job and taking an important step toward social equality.

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) are following the university as a case study for best practice in transgender support.

University staff hope that that this will inspire other institutions across the country.

Arron Pile, Student Diversity Officer at Salford University, thinks it is important for trans people in particular to have access to this kind of service. He said:

“[Transgender people] are a group of students that need particular support that most universities don’t offer.

“It was very focused on the LGB- communities, and trans students were often forgotten.”

Salford University is working with the diversity team on projects such as modernising the gender fields in the university computer system, updating the Nursing curriculum to include transgenderism, and providing mentors or buddies for people who are in need of one-to-one support.

The aim to provide at least one gender-neutral bathroom in every university campus building is also well underway, with only the MediaCityUK and New Adelphi buildings without.

Mr Pile has worked on diversity and awareness projects such as Sparkle, Twilight People, and Rainbow Pilgrims, and he works closely with Salford University’s askUS service.

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askUS is a university-wide support service which offers advice for any student issues, including money, religion, and employability.

They have a specialist page and team for anybody questioning or struggling with their gender identity or sexuality.

To read through a brief timeline on transgender history, please follow the below link:

https://cdn.knightlab.com/libs/timeline3/latest/embed/index.html?source=1KWl00jhriK060vhbhRQ5-GmVOvuTgOizBvHwiPMMi2I&font=Default&lang=en&initial_zoom=2&height=650

The Monthly Gift: The Northern Quarter-Based Campaign Fighting For Homeless Women’s Rights In Manchester

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People and businesses across Manchester are campaigning to make sanitary products more accessible to homeless women and people in need.

The Monthly Gift, the volunteer-led group who spearheaded this campaign, are dedicated to providing items like tampons and sanitary towels to people who would otherwise struggle to access them.

Its main donation point is at Oklahoma in the Northern Quarter, but the movement has been getting increasing support from businesses such as COW, Nexus Art Café, and The Mustard Tree.

They are also campaigning in Leeds and Nottingham, and are looking to expand into more cities.

The Monthly Gift was conceived by Christina Ward, 24, who thinks the stigma around menstruation needs to be broken so that the bigger issue of homelessness and poverty can be resolved. She told Mancunian Matters:

“If you don’t try and break the taboo of talking about it [menstruation] and you don’t bring it up then you’re never going to solve the issue.”

Ms Ward was partly inspired by The Homeless Period, a national charity also centred on the issue of menstruation for homeless women.

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The campaign’s main donation point was initially at COW Manchester, but moved to Oklahoma earlier this year.

Iona Wills, marketing consultant at Oklahoma, said that they got involved with The Monthly Gift on International Women’s Day.

She and Ms Ward were chatting at a workshop, and mutually decided to move their main base there.

Oklahoma now has its own in-house Monthly Gift specialist who takes all donations to their associated charities to be distributed.

The Monthly Gift and Oklahoma are striving to destigmatise menstruation, and to help people realise it to be a fact of life. Ms Ward, 23, said:

“[The Monthly Gift is trying to] dispel taboos around periods, and to get people to talk about it.

“Basically, it’s really expensive to buy sanitary products, and women have their periods, and we need to be more engaged in it.”

This is a particularly contentious point as people can get free condoms from the government, even though they are not considered to be as much of a necessity as sanitary products.

I find it interesting how the BBC and The New York Times portrays the shootings of Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu using terms such as “slain” and “assassinated”, with implication that the perpetrators acted in the coldest of blood and with malice aforethought, whereas all coverage of the racial murders committed by US police officers recently stay vague and impersonal. One of the BBC’s online articles regarding the murder of Eric Garner states; “After a confrontation with police he was wrestled to the ground and restrained by force. He became unresponsive and later died.” This is suggestive that Officer Pantaleo was simply doing his job – though Mr. Garner’s panicked yells that he “can’t breathe” suggest otherwise.
NY Times stated that Officers Ramos and Liu were murdered “for their choice of occupation,” and I feel that a parallel can be drawn here against the ongoing murders of people by police officers because of the colour of their skin. Obviously, murder is murder and it’s a horrendous thing regardless of who it is, but recently light has been shed on just how differently two instances can be portrayed in the media.

Daniel Blumberg: A Brief Tale of Reinvention

Yuck are hailed as one of the greatest lo-fi fuzz bands of our generation. They succeed in blending firm ‘90s roots, reminiscent of Pavement and Sonic Youth, with memorable hooks and melodies that fill the listener with a sense of warmth and bliss. Their self-titled debut was given stirling reviews, including four stars from Q and Mojo. One particular review in The Guardian can be quoted; ‘all hail Yuck’. Undoubtedly, Daniel Blumberg was an invaluable member of the four-piece, writing most of their songs and sighing his poetry above them. Something of the way every track’s vocals felt almost as though they were recorded on Blumberg’s phone felt enticing; the questionable recording quality has always been part of Yuck’s allure. Blumberg, however, has recently decided to call it a day and has parted ways with his bandmates to “focus on other things”. No doubt these “other things” will involve music; he’s been in bands since the tender age of 15, fronting noisy indie five-piece Cajun Dance Party with soon-to-be Yuck bandmate Max Bloom. Hormonal, adolescent, and sporting a curly mop that could challenge Yuck drummer Jonny Rogoff’s impressive ‘fro, Blumberg was the voice of Cajun Dance Party. Arguably the most quintessentially indie indie band ever to exist, CDP only released one album in their five-year term of togetherness. The Colourful Life generally received positive reviews upon its release in 2008, with audiences feeling drawn to Blumberg’s whisper-to-cry vocal style and the jittery dynamic of the music. Before long, however, Blumberg tired of teen angst and wailing, and left CDP and his adolescence behind in 2009. He discussed with us the moment when he realised that CDP wasn’t for him: “When I was 17, I got really depressed and my friend introduced me to lots of amazing things. I heard Bill Callahan and I got into Neil Young and then I got into Lambchop and Smog. I thought, fuck, what have I done? [Cajun Dance Party] is so shit! That was the strongest feeling of embarrassment that I’ve ever had in my life. It’s only just started to wear off.” Thus he quit, and the rest of the members disbanded the following year. He and Bloom stuck together to form Yuck…though not before Blumberg released a Japan-exclusive album as Daniel in the Lion’s Den. Can we possibly detect a pattern forming?

Yuck was a huge step forward for the pair. They scooped up Jonny Rogoff and Mariko Doi to complete the line-up, and dived straight into the pool of noisy, ‘90s-esque garage indie that had previously been dominated by My Bloody Valentine and Yo La Tengo. Not only did they dive, they all but blew the others out of the water. Self-titled was a hit, and Yuck were starting to become recognised for their nostalgic sound. Fickle Blumberg, however, pulled another CDP and left in early 2013. Max Bloom sidled into the vocalist position, and the band carried on to release their second album, Glow & Behold, in September 2013. Alongside Yuck, Blumberg dabbled with a couple of side projects, most notably Oupa (also known as Y u (c) k). Oupa took a more laid-back, airy and acoustic approach to music; a place to pleasantly unwind in a bubble of reverb and echo. Sadly, we’re somewhat given the impression that Oupa has been lost and forgotten; its SoundCloud last being updated over two years ago. However, worry not, dear readers, for Oupa is not Blumberg’s only side project. Not long after leaving Yuck behind him, Blumberg reinvented himself as Hebronix. Hebronix sounds like essentially what it is; an established artist taking uneasy steps in an entirely new direction. This new direction most certainly paid off, though; it might be critics’ favourite of Blumberg’s ventures so far. Slant Magazine described it as “a kind of weightless beauty above and beyond anything else in the Londoner’s repertoire”. You may have noticed something of a pattern forming; Blumberg’s seeming obsession with reinvention. Aged 24 and he’s already released 5 debut albums, and he won’t stop there. He said to The Guardian about life after going solo: “I was so sick of everything after Yuck. We made this record, and the other guys did interviews towards the end, but I felt like it was just sapping my soul away. When you’re just sitting in a van for the whole day and you speak to someone on the phone about an album you made eight months ago that you have no connection with, it feels ridiculous and horrible,” Daniel begins. “It’s a privilege for someone to be interested in your music and to have this opportunity, but it became the opposite of that.” We can only speculate as to where Blumberg will end up in the future, but it looks like Hebronix is an excellent move for him, and critics certainly agree. One thing is for sure; we won’t be seeing a repeat of Cajun Dance Party.

Save Hare Hill House

Hare Hill House is a historic part of Littleborough’s past and is a magnificent building which should be preserved. It has recently been jeopardised by developers, after Rochdale Council declared it surplus to requirements after serving for many years as the neighbourhood office.

Since 2008, Moor End Trust has been searching for another use for this beautiful building. After five years of endeavouring, the Trust were finally bestowed the keys in November of last year. From here, they had to put together a business plan – they had to get the community on their side, and needed volunteers to make their whole idea work.

The plan was to create an Arts, Community and Enterprise Centre from the historic building. A haven for the Littleborough community, available for use for events activities, meetings, workshops, theatre, music, and training – a true community centre. This could potentially be the first community or civic centre that Littleborough has seen, and its community of 13,000 feel that they’re in need of one.

The centre will go by the name spACE@Hare Hill House, and will also house a community café which, in addition to serving the centre, will also cater for Hare Hill Park. The upper floors of the building will provide office or studio space for small, enterprising businesses and artists.

spACE@Hare Hill House could potentially be a big boost for Littleborough, and has the ability to help enterprising or creative minds get off the ground.

In May of this year, the Trust submitted their plan, after having gathered an Interim Management Committee and a team of kindred spirits who had volunteered to clean, clear, and run events at the House over the six months since claiming the keys.

The Trust has been granted a further 12 months to allow time to demonstrate to the council that it can undertake all necessary repair works on the house and raise the money needed.

The Trust is seeking an initial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which uses money raised from the National Lottery to give grants, allowing councils and organisations to sustain their heritage. In addition to this, there are hopes that the Trust will be short-listed for the Yorkshire Building Society Legacy Fund and the Engage Mutual Foundation Community Awards – both of which being decided by public vote.If the Trust’s applications are successful it would enable the transformation of a wonderful building and give Littleborough the community centre that it needs.

Vote online to help spACE@Hare Hill House win £5,000:

https://www.engagemutual.com/foundation/projects/hare-hill-house/

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia pilot

If you’re easily offended, I’m gonna go right ahead and say that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is likely not the sitcom for you. As a series, it is basically four people (later five, following the curious addition of Danny DeVito) arguing, disagreeing, and ultimately shouting at each other for twenty-or-so minutes. They manage to get themselves into absurd situations, and their inherent ineptitude and obnoxious self-importance only makes everything worse. I love it, myself, and this is an opinion shared by millions.

In the first minute of the pilot alone we catch a glimpse of Mac’s racism, which follows throughout the episode, interspersed with a smidge of homophobia for good measure. It’s a decidedly bold move in a pilot episode, tackling subjects like these straight off the bat, though I’m pleased to report that the Always Sunny team pull it off wondrously. Something about the group’s dynamic is instantly appealing, and the stark opening of the series without any sort of formal introduction to the characters agrees with me as a viewer. I like the sense that we’ve just been thrown into a day in the life of these four people as an onlooker, a voyeur who has yet to get to know the quirks and traits of the people that we’re watching. Three of these mystery personas are immediately branded “weird” by Sweet Dee (Kaitlin Olson), though, which does set the tone somewhat for the rest of the series. These are some rather weird people.

Also agreeable is the distinct and often intentionally obvious lack of laugh-track; awkward moments made awkwarder by the palpable silences that arise. All it takes is a slip of Mac’s slightly bigoted tongue and we’re left cringing silently in our seats for a few seconds. It’s inspired.

Then, suddenly, the title sequence. Essentially just a bunch of shots of Philadelphia, cobbled together and then coupled with a queer and rather jazzy little number. Not quite what you’d expect from an FX sitcom, and I like that too. It’s different, and it’s refreshing. I also like the juxtaposition between the night-time shots of Philly and the title of the programme itself; maybe it’s not always sunny in Philadelphia after all.

After this rather cute title sequence, we’re faced with our four friends, along with Dee’s new friend Terrell, talking amicably around a table. All of the awkwardness seems to have dissipated, until suddenly Mac puts his foot in his mouth again and yes, all the awkwardness is back like a tide. Does it ever really leave?

The pilot also introduces us to Charlie’s love interest, The Waitress – somebody who could not reciprocate his affections less, but he doesn’t allow himself to be disheartened. Indeed, any interest that he shows in Janell is merely to prove to The Waitress that he isn’t racist, would that she might change her mind and finally decide she likes him (as if). My personal favourite development, though, has to be Dennis. He’s a straight male, and he knows to be so, but his ego is so inflated, so overstated, that he allows a stream of homosexual men to flirt with him. This even gets to the point where he dresses and acts differently, to make himself most aesthetically pleasing to them. His ego is relishing this…right up to the point where he’s hilariously duped into believing that he’s “spent the night” with two gay men.

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a true riot – it crosses lines that other sitcoms wouldn’t dare breach, and it absolutely makes it work. Each character has their own charm, if you could call it that, and they bounce off each other in hysterical ways each week. This is definitely a programme that I would recommend to someone who doesn’t take their life too seriously.

FKA twigs – LP1 (2014)

This album is one that has had the most effect on me this year; not least because it’s so radically different from the music that I enjoyed prior. I feel as though twigs has opened a door for me with LP1, broadening my musical spectrum and making me just that little bit more receptive of music that isn’t messy fuzzy guitar indie. It’s quite masterful, if I’m honest – a true pleasure to soak in from start to finish. Twigs manages to quite intriguingly combine R&B, trip-hop, and electronica, and yet keep a very true and very present sense of musical identity. Some will label her “PBR&B” (or “Hipster R&B”; the “PBR” bit is derived from Pabst Blue Ribbon, the preferred lager of American hipsters, apparently), but I doubt one could ever devise a label that truly fits twigs’ style.

The music is busy, and yet somehow strikingly minimalist at the same time. Each layer has its own duty, but each duty is carried out with a subtlety that leaves you with a gelled and carefully sculpted final product. It has a breathless, weightless sort of beauty about it that I have simply never encountered before in an album. Every track astounds, from the Portishead-esque Lights On, to the ever-swelling climacticism of Two Weeks, to the haunting, almost hymn-like Closer.  Her voice coos, whispers, gently kisses your ear, quivers slightly but remains ever so dexterous and agile, never coming down flat, never missing a beat. LP1 has been written through nothing but sheer intelligence and the purest musical talent, painstakingly thought-out tracks, and a level of production that makes the ears all but sigh with pleasure.

Speaking of which – I’ve also encountered few albums that feature as many songs that seem as baldly about sex as this one. Take, “When I trust you we can do it with the lights on,” from Lights On. Strikes you as a simple line about sexuality, no? Well, twigs herself said in an interview with Pitchfork that that lyric is actually “a metaphor for letting certain people see the different, ugly sides of you that others won’t be able to see,” and that the lyric in truth is about vulnerability and self-image – so apparently thinking that it’s a lyric about aesthetics and sex is a misconception (is there a pun in there somewhere? Ouch). See – everything is thought through, everything has a meaning, and let there be not a shadow of a doubt when I say that FKA twigs is going to be enormous.

Beginnings

…And so here I am, welcomed by the warm embrace of WordPress; my wonderment mirroring that of a small boy entering the seemingly infinite realm of Toys R’ Us, or a hesitant alien scout taking its first slimy and betentacled slitherings on the surface of a forbidding new world. You may find that to be an exaggeration, and admittedly you’d be right, but I am to some degree tentatively baby-stepping my way around this new website. That said, I should probably have taken up something like this a long time ago. I love to write, and I love to read, and these are two things that I can do to my heart’s content on WordPress, yet here I am, beginning. But anyway.

Should this page attract any readers at all, they can expect to find all kinds of inane ramblings; basically whatever’s on my mind. I do love music, and doubtless will cover new album releases and live show experiences, along with whatever’s happening in my local community at the time. For example, the annual Walsden bonfire took place a stone’s throw from my abode, which I could have written about if I had been there. However, I wasn’t, so you’re going to have to look elsewhere if you really wanna know how that went down. Alternately, if that seems too much like effort, I can give you the lowdown right here, as my mother tells it; there were swarms of Todmorden High schoolchildren and a few fireworks. I promise my proper posts will be a little more in-depth than that, though, dear conjectured reader. You’ll just have to bear with me for the time being. I’ll be back before too long with something similarly inane to ramble about.