comfort in culture #2 : musicals

Quite a while back I wrote a post about finding comfort in culture, notably The Gilmore Girls which you can find here. 

Today I wanted to talk a little bit about musical theatre, looking specifically at a couple of shows that I  find particular comfort in.

CATS

A lot of people don’t ‘get’ CATS and I will admit that on the second time seeing it I did realise there isn’t much of a story line. However, that isn’t really the point of it, at least not for me anyway. It is more about the world that Lloyd Webber creates, ruled by cats, all with their own characters. This musical is particularly important to me because it was the first I ever saw when I was only about 4 or 5. My mum, my dad and I travelled up to London and met my mum’s friend who also happened to be working on the show so I got to have an exclusive look backstage. I watched the actors put on their make up, I tried on the costumes and even got to stand on the stage and see all the details of the set. We then went for dinner in Covent Garden and I drank so much orange juice and was so excitable that I spent a lot of the show getting up to go to the toilet. However, I still remember being amazed by the whole thing and my parents made the silly mistake of buying me the video of the show (YES THE VIDEO! AS IN A VHS!) and for the next year I watched it every morning and danced around and sung to it. I probably drove my family mad but it really was the start of a love affair for me so the show really does hold a special place in my heart.

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photo of the London Palladium 2014/2015 from here

JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAM COAT

I’m pretty sure I watched the video of this show, the one with Jason Donovan as Joseph, before I saw it in the theatre. Myself and my friend, Emily, would watch it every time I was at her house and soon my parents realised they would probably have to take me to go and see it as I was ALWAYS singing the songs.

We saw one show at the Milton Keynes theatre where the Pharaoh came onto the stage on a motorbike and they had a real donkey – not sure why I remember these two random facts and nothing else about the show! A couple of years later, Andrew Lloyd Webber held a TV talent show to find his next Joseph, which ended up being Lee Mead. After being gripped by the show I begged my parents to take me to see his rendition of Close Every Door, my favourite song from the show. Lee Mead is also definitely on my list of weird childhood crushes I used to have, alongside Skandar Keynes who played Edmund in the Narnia Chronicles and Lloyd Daniels from the X Factor. (Side note: I had no idea Lloyd played Joseph in the 2014 UK Tour until I began my hunt for a picture to use for this post – WEIRD!)

This show features on my list because not only do I have wonderful memories attached to it that make it comforting but I also love the huge range of different genres the songs reflect. From disco to french laments, there’s a song for everyone.

 

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photo from the 2014 UK Tour from here

GREASE

Whilst writing this post I am beginning to realise that my favourite musicals were all introduced to me by friends. I first saw the movie of Grease at a friend’s house and quickly fell in love with the music, the characters and the story. I have since seen the show three times in the theatre and I still stand by my childhood wish to play Sandy one day. To me it perfectly encapsulates one of my favourite eras in American social history and no one can deny that Grease Lightning makes you want to dance!

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photo from the UK tour from here

I will restrain myself from writing anymore about musical theatre because honestly the list of musicals I love is longer than my arm. So maybe there will be a part two to this post. Nevertheless, I hope I managed to convey the point that to me, musicals are incredibly comforting. Their soundtracks have often accompanied a shower singalong, living room concert or long car journey. The films have often been watched curled up on a Sunday afternoon. The theatre will always be a safe space and a home for me and most importantly, they never fail to comfort me.

 

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Coming off my meds

In November 2016 I went on sertraline, a medication that helps to combat depression and anxiety. I won’t go into my history with these as I have written a fair few posts on them, but I will link them below if you want to catch up.

Accepting your bad days

A reminder

I am strong.

depression sucks but it’s cool cos i am badass.

I also did a mini-series where people shared their stories with the blog to show just how many people suffer & just how many different ways mental health manifests itself. You can find them all here

In April of 2017 I met with my doctor to discuss my plans going forward. I knew I wanted to come off my medication but also knew that I was just hitting the point in my degree when things would get stressful. My dissertation was due in, I had final exams, I was looking for a graduate job and desperately hunting for somewhere to rent. However, I had also been on the medication for a long time and I felt ready to start to the process of coming off them. Since starting that medication I had been to therapy as well as working on my mental health personally. With all that in mind I decided that once those exams were done, I wanted to stop.

 

Naively  I thought it was as easy as waking up one morning and not taking the tiny white tablet I had been taking for well over a year. That’s actually not quite how it works. To deprive my body so suddenly of the thing that is keeping my chemical imbalances in check is actually the worst thing you can do. So it’s more of a gradual decrease. A few weeks taking half a tablet, a few weeks taking half a tablet every two days and then eventually not taking them at all. I am lucky to have a very lovely doctor who called me regularly to monitor how I felt with these lower doses and who emphasised that if I suddenly did start to feel worse that this was not a defeat, because recovery isn’t linear.

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I cried after my last phone call with my doctor. I cried with such an overwhelming happiness because for me, coming off medication is such a huge step in the right direction. It’s another star on the chart that shows me ‘hey, you got this’ and that I’m in a much better place than I was a couple of years ago.

However, as I said earlier. Recovery is not linear. Those meds helped reduce my anxiety and now that it knows it doesn’t have those restraints anymore there are definitely moments it really flares up. Now, I am more equipped to deal with these moments, I have more in my arsenal than my anxiety does. It doesn’t make it easy but it makes it easier than it once was.

With all this said,  I don’t want anyone reading this who is on medication to feel lesser. I had friends start and come off medication way faster than me and that is because everything is so reliant on what works for YOU. It doesn’t matter how it works for anyone else, it is what works for you. Without the medication, I wouldn’t have made it here today. It was the crutch I needed to help me learn to walk again (or some other silly metaphor like that).

So all this to say, I’m off my meds & feeling great. It’s not without its challenges but I am excited to be welcoming 2018 as a whole new chapter of my mental health journey.

 

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the rest is drag

One of the best things about life is that there are always new things to discover and new things to fall in love with. Recently, I have discovered a new found appreciation & love for the art form of drag.

Like many young, straight women I began watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race about a year ago because it kept showing up on my Netflix recommendations & it looked like another trash reality show I could get hooked on. I was right in one respect – I got completely hooked. However, it wasn’t trash at all. Yes, it is still a reality TV show to an extent and there are mountain out of molehill moments BUT what really hooked me wasn’t the drama but the ART of drag. Take a second to look at a drag queen’s make up and tell me that isn’t art. Take a minute to watch a drag queen perform and tell me that isn’t art. Look at the outfits, the wigs, the persona and TELL ME THAT ISN’T ART.

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photo from Jinkx’s instagram account

As a musical theatre kid, a makeup enthusiast, fan of comedy and lover of things that challenge society’s rules I can honestly say that never before has something been more my cup of tea than drag.

Now at first, I watched the show, followed the queens online and then went about my life as I always had. Then one day I saw a poster for Jinkx Monsoon’s show in my local theatre and I booked a ticket almost immediately because she was one of my favourite queens from the show. As it would be my first drag show and I would be going alone I began Youtubing videos of Jinkx’s performances to try and get a taste of what I was going to be seeing and this led me into the YouTube hole that is World of Wonder’s channel. From here I discovered UNHhhh, the web series hosted by Trixie Mattel & Katya. This is where it went from a moderate interest to a full blown love of drag. Trixie & Katya showed me how drag can be comedy, music, beauty, fashion & a whole lot of silliness in the space of a 10 minute video. I dare you to watch one episode of UNHhhh and not be in tears of laughter by the end. I hit peak obsession just as the All Stars 3 cast was announced so I picked a great time to get into the drag world.

trixie & katya

photo from Trixie’s instagram account

If you have made it through all the gushing in this post then CONGRATULATIONS you have waded through the waffle to the good bit … How drag has totally changed my way of thinking. Jinkx Monsoon inspired me to get back into theatre and performing and I just finished a week long run in a pantomime. Trixie Mattel inspired me to get back to practicing guitar and writing songs, something I haven’t done in years. She also turned me onto Dolly Parton (I’m very late to the party don’t @ me). Katya inspired me to be myself more and not worry if people think I’m weird because they’re probably not the people I want to hang out with anyway. The confidence and creativity drag queens have has inspired me to be more experimental with my makeup and my clothes – I’m finally starting to wear what I have always wanted to wear but not had the confidence to. One of my best friends came to be in my life partly through drag as we sparked up a conversation about Ru Paul one time that has led to endless meme sending, drunken requests for Britney Spears to play in a club so we can dance like Derrick Barry and even led to discovering a local queen (Jade Justine if you wanted to know) by heading to a bar ** spontaneously on a Sunday night.

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photo from Jade Justine’s instagram account

It may sound a little far fetched to say that a TV show sparked a whole new chapter in my life but … It kind of did! Moral of the story: find something that inspires you and let it do just that!

 

** on a side note, if you want to help us save this amazing local bar please sign the petition linked here

 

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Brook Farm Animal Sanctuary

On 17th September, my friend Ally and I went to the BFAS open day to cuddle some animals, eat some vegan food and cuddle more animals. We were not disappointed.

99% of the food served was vegan (there were only a few cakes that weren’t) and there were so many options. In the two and a bit hours we spent there I ate baklava, a hot dog & a scone with homemade jam & coconut cream – and that was with some restraint! I could have happily sampled every cake there.

HeartCure Clothing were also there selling amazing vegan activist t-shirts, hoodies and more. They were so friendly and we also got to meet their little pup Chico. In fact we got to meet a lot of lovely people and a lot of lovely pups that had come along to join in the fun.


However, the best part was meeting all the animals at the sanctuary and hearing their stories. They broke my heart but the work BFAS helped to fix it. All the animals have these brilliant personalities from the sweet-natured horses who want to be stroked to the cheeky piggies rolling around in the mud and playing up to the crowd.


I know I shouldn’t have favourites but Charlotte the piglet who was running around chasing a ball was a highlight. That being said, Wendy the sheep stole the show for me. She is a Cow-Sheep, because she has been raised and accepted into the herd of cows at the sanctuary. Not only is this the cutest thing ever because all the cows look out for her and treat her as one of their own, she was also the fluffiest and friendliest sheep. We stood and gave her lots of love and attention for a good long while because we were just so taken in by her personality.


The work BFAS is doing is incredibly inspiring. They are run completely by volunteers and all are vegan (although you don’t have to be vegan to volunteer!). They rescue around 2,500 animals a year, many are rehomed, others released back into the wild after some recuperation and others live out their lives there, safe from the slaughter houses. These animals have had a rough start to life so it is truly heart-warming to see how there are people who care enough to save them from slaughter, mistreatment, a life as a fashion accessory (cough cough people who buy micro pigs) and so on.

Thank you BFAS for all the work you do, I cannot wait to come back and volunteer.

 

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the new taylor?

Last week saw the long awaited new single from Taylor Swift who hasn’t released anything for 3 years. It came after she had deleted everything from her social media platforms and posted some mysterious clips of an animated snake.

Then came ‘Look What You Made Me Do’.

Full disclosure, I have been a long time Swifty. I discovered her music when I was 13 and it quickly became the soundtrack to my teenage years. It was played on an iPod on family trips in the car, blasted in my room when I was angry at the world for not understanding me, played quietly as I cried over silly boys and acted as a point of common ground that began a lot of friendships over the years. So it is safe to say that I am ever so slightly emotionally invested in Taylor’s music and career.

Speak-Now

So when I heard the new single for the first time you can imagine I had a LOT of thoughts. 99% of them weren’t positive.

  1. We listen to Taylor’s music because it is so relatable, in fact, that’s why we love it so much. I can’t relate to her various public arguments with other celebrities. The blatant references to these ‘enemies’ were kind of uncomfortable.
  2. THE CHORUS SOUNDS LIKE ‘I’M TOO SEXY FOR MY SHIRT’ AND I HATE IT
  3. “The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now..why? oh…because she’s dead”. This is the line I had the most trouble with. She has built up a fanbase from the ‘old Taylor’, people have so many memories that ‘old Taylor’s’ songs accompanied. I understand that people grow and change and I don’t have a problem with that. However, you can’t disregard your past as it is what has built the person you are today.

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My main problem with this song is that it promotes revenge and ‘getting even’ rather than being the bigger person and saying, no I won’t be a part of the name calling and the public dragging. If there is one thing I have learned in my short years it is that if someone wrongs you or hurts you, the best thing you can do is use the experience to learn and grow. People who have hurt me in the past have become the templates for the people I don’t hang out with now. I have learned from them and surround myself with people unlike them. I do not spout nasty words for all the world to see.
Don’t just take it from me though. I asked a couple of dedicated swifties how they feel about this new Taylor:

Tazz

Well I didn’t like the song, couldn’t even listen to it all. It sounded so petty and immature. The video is not at all what I expected, it made the song sound better, I found it funny but also once again quite immature. However when you think of it from her perspective people are always judging her and saying things about it, so I guess it was her chance to say just let out and say a big FU. I’m really hoping her album is her good, 1989 was one of the best albums I’ve ever heard and she’s a great songwriter so I just hope that doesn’t go away.

Taylor_Swift_-_1989

Shama

I feel like it’s such a combo of her personality and what she’s been through al the judgement she’s faced just for being herself Taylor has never done anything to hurt anyone she’s only ever just stood up for herself. People even complained about her court case complaining that it didn’t do anything properly for being sexually assaulted.But it set a precedent…

Her music video and the song itself is such an inspiration ballad for people who have been unfairly treated and humiliated in public. Why should someone’s reputation suffer because of other people’s minds and jealousy? I like how she is owning what people tried to defeat her with ie. the snake.

QUEEN TAY FOR EVER

Molly

Taylor Swift’s song writing career has been based in part upon that she has captured the hearts of her listeners through heartfelt, intense emotional lyrics, but most of the time this includes the finger being pointed at the other person involved in her story. Rarely do we see her blaming herself or seeing her own faults for the issues she faces/relationships gone south. I think, oftentimes, life experiences (like the heart break of the public shame of her reputation,) need to have someone to blame, but sometimes that means taking hard look in the mirror and realizing that you have to take full responsibility. This means more than poking fun of your self in a music video ( referencing the end scene of taylor calling out taylor for playing victim). Taylor, I’ve loved you since I was 14, and you need to know that as a fan for almost 10 years, I am really not supportive of the work you’ve put out. It continues to know others as your rise to claim your kingdom keys again. There is room for everyone, and there is no throne to compete for. There are so many more pressing things in the world and so many good lyricists who take crappy life circumstances and make them beautiful and poignant and worth celebrating. Look what you made me do, is sadly not one of them. I’m interested to see the rest of the tone on the album but it’s not what I expected.

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So there we go. It’s definitely a mixed bag of opinions but we will have to wait and see what the album holds.

*obviously all photos are not mine, from google images*

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my first demo

Eek! I know, I have been away for some time. It has been down to (in equal parts), lack of time, lack of inspiration and lack of energy. Nevertheless, I am back on the blog and ready to tell you all about my first animal rights demonstration.

Warning: in this post there is a disturbing image of dead animals. This is the suffering that takes place every day.

A few weeks ago, Viva!, an amazing animal rights charity, encouraged groups to hold demonstrations outside Tescos all over the country. This call to action was due to Tesco using a supplier which was discovered to have, to be frank, VILE conditions. I urge you to take a look at Viva’s findings  but to give you an idea – the pigs are so squashed together they are lying in their own excrement and disease spreads quickly. The pigs are forced to lie next to their brothers and sisters, who have died in these awful conditions, for days, and due to the mentally unstable environment they are in, they often turn to cannibalism.

Warning: disturbing image below.

 

 

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I am part of an animal rights group and one of the members (and my dear friend), organised a demo outside of local Tesco shops. I was a little nervous because it was my first demo but the people in my group are all so lovely and because we are all like minded when it comes to animals it makes for easy conversation and vegan tip swapping!


signs covered so as not to disclose location

Despite a few ignorant people oinking at me or saying “mm bacon” (insert eye roll here) we actually had a very positive response. We got about 50 signatures on our petition calling for Tesco’s to drop Hogwood as a supplier and the staff were actually very reasonable with us, which isn’t always the case.


We also met more vegans in the wild (by this we mean, not in our animal rights  group haha!) than ever before, including kids! It shows how much there is a significant shift in people’s thinking about where their food comes from and the suffering there is in order to produce it. We also had a lovely guy from Bamboo Street Food bring us all vegan smoothies to keep us going. It really was a very positive day for activism.

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Being part of an animal rights group and doing demonstrations isn’t a requirement of being vegan and vice versa. However, it is worth thinking about the level of suffering and the lack of care these animals get before they arrive on your plate. This happens in farms across the country, not just Hogwood. Pigs are as intelligent and emotionally aware as dogs. You wouldn’t eat your dog. Make the connection.

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a big week

It is not often you get two big events in your life taking place in the same week but that is the situation I found myself in when my graduation fell just a few days before my birthday.

Graduation is a weird day because you’ve been gearing up for it pretty much since the beginning of university. Every year that passes you see your Facebook feed flooded with cap and gown photographs as older friends graduate & you can’t help but think “that will be me soon”. So when that day finally arrives it feels a little bizarre.

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Despite the big build up & expectations, the ceremony wasn’t really what I expected. You don’t wear your mortar board during the actual ceremony (which makes me question why they cost so damn much to rent) & you are only on stage for a few short seconds before you find yourself descending the stairs back to your seat. However, the speeches given & the general atmosphere does fill you with a deep sense of pride of all that you have accomplished and what those around you have too. It is also really sweet watching all the parents as they get misty-eyed watching their little babies all grown up.

 

My best advice is take pictures BEFORE the ceremony if you can, especially if you’re going to be crammed into a stuffy hall in your heavy gown for two hours. Take as many pictures as possible because it’s your day and you deserve to have a full blown photoshoot. Especially as this will probably be the only time you graduate unless you go on to do more academic study. And, finally – let your professors know if you’re staying in your university city because chances are you’ll be invited to be on the alumni pub quiz team & that is the biggest honour they can bestow on you!

 

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As I said at the beginning of this post – it was also my birthday this week. I’m not gonna dwell on it too much because as a general rule people don’t really care about your birthday as much as you do. However, considering this was the first birthday I was spending away from my hometown, it was pretty fab. Despite a false start when the bowling alley was FULL, I had a great time eating vegan cake, shopping for books & having drinks in the many funky bars that Leicester has to offer with some fab pals.

 

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Sorry for the intermittent posting – just figuring out this work/life/blog balance thang. 

 

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