Understanding Oslo

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We stood open mouthed in amazement as they went past us, legs pumping, arms waving and neon lights flashing. At first, it was only a few, we assumed they had come out for an evening jog in the crisp Oslo air yet suddenly as if a switch had been flicked the numbers thickened. We were surrounded on all sides as an endless stream of runners crossed the illuminated bridges while a line of unguarded small lanterns burned merrily on the pavement. Marshalls held blazing torches aloft, carrying more unlit sticks in their backpacks, as they shouted encouragement to the passing athletes who were oblivious to the curious stares directed at them. It didn’t matter that a million health and safety rules were ignored, or that the runners had to dodge late night shoppers, confused tourists and elderly dog walkers. It didn’t even matter that they looked like electric Christmas trees because it was so quintessentially Norwegian.

There is an innate sense of community and compassion, of looking after yourself both mentally and physically so that you can do your best for others. It runs, as do its icy waters, throughout the whole country, even onto the bustling city streets. At the palace, carnival goers dressed in dramatic costumes and colorful eye masks pose happily for photos and strangers help each other down the slippery pathways. In Norway, if you leave something in a bar, in this case, my glasses, you return for them only to see that the owner has carefully placed them in a box behind the counter and gently smiles when you ask hesitantly if she has seen them.

Local pubs are lit only by candlelight, delicious homemade cakes are on display, and ornate wooden chairs are covered in soft, rich velvet. Introductions are made quickly, tables are easily moved, and extra chairs appear as if by magic. Handshakes, not hugs lend a sense of formality to the occasion as people eagerly share their own experiences of London or talk wistfully of English television.

Oslo is a city of contrasts- a rich fusion of traditional Nordic values and European style and sophistication. It captures the imagination and intrigues the heart, as well as being home to the Nobel Peace Prize and the celebrated Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen.

The long, dark days of winter and dull grey skies are repelled by ‘Koselig’, an innately Nordic concept of trying to retain a feeling of cosiness at all times- both inside and out. February in Norway means open fires, warm blankets, endless candles and twinkling golden lights threaded through tree branches that give a festive feel to the pathways. Groups of friends gather in coffee shops, and families around the kitchen table to share in the warmth, laughter and love that sweeps away sadness in the colder months.

Out in the quiet harbour, the boats rock gently from side to side, the hillside fortress across the water stands guard and the sky gradually turned to a midnight blue. Ahead, expensive riverside apartments tower majestically above the street, exuding a luxurious warmth and elegance as their lights are reflected in the frozen Oslo Fjord below.

 

Breaking Into Journalism With Bauer Media

By Kirsty Liddle

It was a cold, wet day when I discovered that I’d been chosen for Bauer Media’s week long digital content course. This course is dedicated to helping young journalists find their feet within the complex creature known as the media industry.  Despite digital communication being at an all-time high, it’s not always that easy to get your foot in the door. Thankfully, this is where Bauer Media Academy comes in, an organisation that is dedicated to helping ambitious young people get ahead.

What’s strange is that I’d almost overlooked the advert, ended up applying on impulse and hastily fired off a copy of my CV. The first thing I want to say to anyone who dreams of glossy magazines and endless bylines is that you just never know. Are you wondering on whether to send in a pitch or not? Debating on how to ask for all-important work experience? Take a chance because you have no idea where it’ll lead you.

There I was, stood with my phone in my hand and wiping away raindrops as I read, somewhat disbelievingly, the words that would change my life. I’m not being dramatic here. I firmly believe that the week I spent at Bauer Media, learning from industry professionals, seeing inside the magazines I’ve been reading since I was a teenager, and practicing my practical journalism skills will have a massive impact.

I arrived early, always arrive early because like I said you never know, feeling excited, anxious and ever so slightly out of my depth as I waited with my four fellow course mates. Once the introductions were out of the way, participants were graduates and students alike, it was time to get down to business of ideas. Ideas are basically the bread and butter of journalism, you can’t have a feature, interview, profile, news story or even a Buzzfeed listicle without an idea. It may sound pretty obvious but how many of us really consider where ideas come from? The answer is everywhere, no one is boring and anything, if explained right, can be interesting. We were assured that sculpting ideas into workable pitches takes time and practice, you have to hone and refine in until it can be summarised in a few basic bullet points.

We weren’t just there to learn creative skills but also to have the chance to expand our professional network. During the first afternoon Jane Johnson, Creative Director of Bauer Media, sat down with the group for a Q&A, giving us a critical overview of the corporate structure, desirable attributes that Bauer Media looked for in new talent as well as taking notes on our individual areas of interest-something which later would lead to further networking opportunities. We also toured the building with Jane, visiting all the magazines individually as she arranged for someone to chat to us about each publication. I can’t stress enough how important just this one act of generosity was as we were able to get various contact details, ask key questions and get immediate feedback while feeling welcomed by friendly, hardworking teams. I have gained at least eight contact details of different journalists, including direct emails which have a much better chance of being seen than, for example, a department email.

Our days were split into a mixture of lecture style presentations, creative tasks, pitching practice and sit down talks from someone from a different magazine, giving us ample time to really delve deep into the magazine production process as well as hearing honest, candid experiences of working in the industry.
Over the week the group really bonded, getting to know each other as people not just as aspiring journalists. We traded experiences, some positive and others negative as we began to understand just how lucky we were to get this chance.

We discussed hooks and angles, turning real life experience into feature ideas as well as rewriting news stories, brushing up on interview techniques and learning tips and tricks of the trade from those who have walked this path before us. Our lecturers Lucy and Andy were both accomplished freelance journalists with a wealth of experience and knowledge who responded warmly to us, no question was off the table and the subject of rates, celebrity interviews and last minute hiccups were discussed openly.

Another really great positive to the week was hearing that everyone gets rejected and it happens a lot, even to established journalists. You just keep going until you find the one that says yes. Remember the tour we went on? Jane introduced me to Vicky, the features editor of The Debrief, Bauer Media’s excellent digital publication for 20 something women. Having plucked up the courage to ask her for coffee, we met after the course finished and she really opened my eyes to the business of freelancing. If you are serious about carving out a career in journalism then you need to take it seriously, pitching is key and so’s pitching often as well as that you need to spend one day a week researching for possible pitch ideas.

In fact, during the week, I found myself casually writing reader profile’s, i.e. who’s your target reader? Would they like this? More importantly, would they read this? I scanned the newspapers looking for ways to expand news stories like we’d been taught. By midweek I was more inspired, excited and enthused than I ever thought possible as I couldn’t wait for each day to begin. As the week progressed the skills mounted up, some were refreshers from information I had learnt at university, others were brand new to me and I listened diligently. All of the journalists invited to speak to us were informative, passionate, and hard working.

I listened with rapt attention as one told us about her experience of interviewing survivors of the Boxing Day Tsunami, hearing first-hand accounts that really brought home the devastation of the event. With others, we discussed the changing nature of women’s magazines, ethical dilemma’s and how to get the best quotes from a reluctant celebrity. Never underestimate the importance of body language, eye contact and the ability to listen because as a journalist you are often processing a variety of different information at once. How is your interviewee feeling? Looking? Any background knowledge that will add colour to a piece? Have they said anything interesting or controversial on social media recently?

Digital content is bigger than ever before but with that comes a new set of challenges; increasing competition, tighter deadlines and keeping the readers attention. It’s undoubtedly clear that journalism has changed but there are so many opportunities out there for young journalists. Thanks to Bauer Media and, in turn, Bauer Academy I now have the confidence, self-belief, industry knowledge and networking skills to go out there and find them.

Don’t Follow The Wind Exhibition

 

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Members of the project Photo Credit: Don’t Follow The Wind

 

 

A new, somewhat controversial, art project has opened within the nuclear exclusion zone inside Fukushima Prefecture, the birthplace of the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, Ukraine. The unique project has been titled Don’t Follow The Wind, after the thousands of residents, that during the evacuation, checked the direction of the wind to avoid the radiation leaking from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. In March 2011, the nuclear reactor became unstable due to an Earthquake, with the cooling system becoming irrevocably damaged in the Tsunami that followed.

Don’t Follow The Wind is entirely unique to any other project in that it remains totally inaccessible. This is because it is located inside the radiation zone, where levels remain at a dangerously high figure. In March 2015, four years after the Fukushima disaster, twelve artists, including Ai Weiwei, Trevor Paglen, and Eva and Franco Mattes as well as members of the Chim-Pom Japanese art collective travelled to Fukushima, despite being at substantial personal risk from entering the contaminated area. Video footage of the project shows the artists wearing comprehensive safety gear, as well as being issued with a Geiger counter. All visits to the site were carefully planned, short and levels were regularly monitored.

The exhibition consists of photographs, illustrations, and light installations that are on display inside three buildings. The exhibits, according to the artists, are designed to act not just as a memorial but perhaps, more crucially, as a permanent reminder of the destructive element of nuclear energy and the need to address wider environmental concerns.

Critics of the project are calling it a tasteless publicity stunt and a waste of money that focuses on the ‘stereotypical, cliched imagery of nuclear disaster’. Indeed, comparisons have been made with Chernobyl that has, in the decades since, appeared on everything from T-shirts to postcards. It has also been labelled as offensive to those people who were forced to flee their homes and business without knowing if it will ever be safe for them to return. In fact, one journalist suggested that an event on environmental issues, nuclear safety and global warming might have been more appropriate. However, supporters of the artists firmly believe that they are drawing critical attention to the further understanding of the nature of radiation, a colourless substance that is extremely hard to quantify.

To date, there is no official timeline for the project and one artist involved suggests that it could be ‘three years, ten years or even decades’ before it is seen again by human eyes. Currently, only core data and impressions can be seen at the Watari Museum in Tokyo; there are no media-led previews or even a glossy catalogue available.There are no social media updates and the website consists of a simple white screen that plays one, multiple language audio file on a loop. Anything of importance, much like the project itself, remains, for now, completely invisible.
Could it be possible that the answer to scientific discovery and environmental understanding lies in art?

Manga Madness-Full Metal Panic!

It’s your typical teenage student love story right? Boy meets girl, girl likes boy but, somehow, it’s complicated. The boy is working for a secret government organisation known as Mithril; that is trying to protect said girl from multiple terrorists, so its not exactly love’s young dream. 

Welcome to the world of Full Metal Panic! Created by Japanese writer Shoji Gatoh, the immensely popular series has been adapted into Anime, Manga and even full-length novels. It is a story that is both hilariously funny and poignantly sad at the same time. The Manga shows blue-haired beauty Kaname Chidori kicking government operative Sagara Souske’s butt far more than kissing him, although secretly she wants to do that just as much. 

The series sees Military Specialist Souske try to fit in with Chidori and her friends at Jindai high school, when he is more used to secret missions and the bloodshed of battle. Consequently, his military training combined with his naturally suspicious and protective nature means that a lot of things get blown up. At the same time as figuring out how to act like a regular student, he must protect 16-year-old Chidori, from the numerous shadowy terrorist organisations lurking around every corner waiting to snatch her away. 

This is one Manga series where you feel like you get to know all the characters. When Souske gets’s whacked with Chidori’s school fan for the billionth time you actually feel his pain. You see Chidori’s jealousy when she meets Souske’s beautiful, blonde female Captain, and you just know that her pride will stop her from saying anything. Not only that but there are enough high-octane explosions, enemy showdowns and Mecha or Arm Slave action to satisfy even the most obsessive military fan. 

Gradually, throughout the nine-volume series, you learn more about Souske’s past, how he came to be in Mithril and why Chidori is constantly being hunted. The Manga is well written with smart, snappy dialogue and beautifully illustrated by the talented Retsuo Tateo, who captures the characters personalities perfectly. 

The meaty main story is beautifully interwoven with more light-hearted tales of student hijinks, beach vacations and festival fun so that you don’t end up feeling too bogged down. There is not a doubt in my mind that if you like guns, girls and great stories you will love the Full Metal Panic! Manga series.

13 Novembre

I watched, like many of you will have done, the appalling terrorist attacks taking place in multiple locations around Paris on Friday evening. The City Of Lights was suddenly transformed from a beautiful place of life, love and laughter into a war zone. The horrific atrocities that were committed left, at the last count, 129 people dead and countless injured, this attack on freedom and democracy should have brought Paris to its knees as its citizens scurried indoors.

Instead, people opened their hearts and homes to those who were seeking refuge from the violence sweeping the streets. Strangers cooked meals, made up beds and offered consolation to those who had witnessed the impossible, as busy restaurants, bars and concert venues were brutally turned into killing fields.

The hashtag #PortesOuvertes quickly appeared on Twitter as residents poignantly announced an open door policy into their homes, businesses and religious buildings. They swallowed their fear and panic to give physical and emotional support to anyone affected by the devastation. They lined up around the block, hundreds coming to give blood without a second thought when the urgent call for supplies came. Finally, they stood shoulder to shoulder with friends, family and strangers as they grieved for those whose lives came to such an abrupt end on Friday.

When the sun rose again on a bloodied but unbowed Capital, they once again took to the streets, frequenting their neighbourhood patisserie, walking their dogs and, in the face of tragedy, keeping to the usual routine. The message was clear as Parisians showed the rest of the world just how dignified, kind and upstanding the French people really are. We may be terribly afraid but we won’t give you the satisfaction of seeing our fear.

Of course there were angry calls for action, as well-meaning foreign heads of state issued one statement after another. They paused to offer their own thoughts and prayers and then came the assurances of retribution. Social media was completely flooded with various comments in favour of, and against immigration ahead of the first flight of refugees into the UK next week.

The Middle East was, yet again, hauled over the coals and Muslims persecuted as the tenants of Islam remain, for the most part, misunderstood. Similar attacks occurred in Beirut, Lebanon this week, but there was no mass outpouring of grief or Lebanese light show on national monuments. For most people it was the case of ‘same shit, different day’ because we have come to expect violence in places like Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.

We do not expect to be gunned down in the streets of Paris, a first world European country who by large remains a peaceful, quiet nation. Paris is a lot closer than say Iraq; there is a high chance you have been there yourself and if you have not, it is more than likely you will have friends or family who have visited. The culture and customs are much easier to understand while its physical location is far more accessible.

Critically, it is so important to remember that Terrorism seeks to divide instead of unite, sewing seeds of discord instead of bracelets of friendship. It doesn’t matter where you are, your ethnicity or religion as long as you stand firm against hate, suffering and death. IS are not Islamic; they have rejected the core values of Islam as well as all other religions or humanitarian beliefs. They wish to control, enslave and torment for their own pleasure as they rip families apart and torture innocent people.

There are billions of human beings on this planet that still believe in the milk of human kindness and nowhere was that more evident than in Paris Friday evening. As long as we promote a society that honours love, compassion and understanding then IS will never achieve its goal. It goes without saying that I offer my sympathies, love and support to all those affected in Paris and beyond by the dark stain on humanity that is Terrorism.