Bicycle Matters do Matter

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Lorna Ramm, CineShrub Coordinator. (Credit: Linnéa Lind)


It’s Thursday evening and a small group of people have gathered on Guthrie Street for a film screening, but they don’t know exactly what they will see. The theme is bicycles. 

As bags of popcorn are handed out and blankets are offered, one of the viewers asks if it is okay if she takes her shoes off.

“Of course! This is meant to be like friends coming to a screening,” Lorna Ramm says, CineShrub Coordinator.

The Shrub is a charitable organisation that works towards a world without waste. The film screening tonight is part of the Bicycle Matters programme, which runs until the beginning of May.

“We do repair workshops and screenings. It is all about maintaining bikes and making sure we don’t throw them away. We focus on bicycles for environmental reasons, as there are lots of times when people might take the bus or the car instead,” Lorna says.

She says that the best thing about cycling is speed and freedom:
“Cycling gives me the feeling of being unstoppable and being in my own space, to move forward and be in my zone rather than thinking about what’s going on around me.”

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“Cycling gives me the feeling of being unstoppable and being in my own space,” Lorna Ramm says. (Credit: Linnéa Lind)


The surprise film tonight turns out to be The Flying Scotsman from 2008. The beautiful cinematic piece is based on the true story about cyclist Graeme Obree, who becomes the world champion twice whilst battling mental health issues. He’s also famous for his innovative bicycle designs as he used parts of a washing machine to build a bicycle.

Two of the visitors tonight are India Lumai Fiorentino and Max Johnson, who both cycle in their free time.

“I really loved the film, it was inspirational. True stories are always the best; they give you true motivation, as it is a real story and not made up. There were a lot of messages in the film, like never giving up on your dreams,’’ India says.

When India was young, she often cycled but then stopped because she did not have the opportunity to continue. Two years ago, she took up cycling again when she moved to Amsterdam and bought a new bike.

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India Lumai Fiorentino and Max Johnson came to watch the film on Thursday evening. They both cycle in their free time. (Credit: Linnéa Lind)


“I pushed myself so I could cycle with no hands. I fell a few times and had a few accidents too, but that didn’t discourage me. I can literally search through my bag and look for things and put it back on. In fact, I feel really safe on a bike. Sometimes, I feel unsafe if I go out and it is dark but when I’m on a bike, I am never scared. And you can go fast,” she says.

Max agrees and says that he has cycled ever since he was a child.

“It gives me the ability to engage with the city in a completely different way. It makes Edinburgh even smaller, but in a nice way.”

“I don’t have any plans for building a bicycle with parts of a washing machine, but it might be great,” he says, laughing.

 

The Bicycle Matters programme is part of the Zero Waste Edinburgh project, which aim is to establish long-lasting strategies to reduce waste in the south side of Edinburgh’s Old Town. It is supported by a grant of £300,000 in funding by Zero Waste Scotland and the European Regional Development Fund until March 2020.

For further information about The Shrub, see their webpage here.

Review: Can You Ever Forgive Me?

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Melissa McCarthy & Richard E. Grant. (Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures)

As the snow falls heavily on the skyscrapers and streets of New York City, writer Lee Israel suddenly finds herself without any financial security when she is fired from her job. Israel has talent but finds it impossible to make money from it, which pushes her towards the criminal activity of fabricating celebrity letters. The film is based on Israel’s 2008 memoir with the same name, in which she explained more about her path towards literary forgery.

Israel’s arrogance is palpable from the very start of the film, something actress Melissa McCarthy portrays genuinely. She doesn’t like anyone except her cat, who she seems to have great affection for. The love of her life. Although she appears in almost every scene of the film, it never gets boring. Her character is fascinating, even more so as it is based on a real writer. Israel doesn’t care about what others think of her, not in the slightest. She is fully herself. As she meets her extravagant drinking partner Jack Hock, played by Richard E. Grant, they explore the world of fabrication together. Grant is very convincing and entertaining and I specifically like their growing friendship that seems to make Israel find a little bit of joy in a world that she normally despises.

The director, Marielle Heller, managed to demonstrate Israel’s journey well – from the moment the downward spiral began with her money issues, all the way to her criminal career’s downfall. Despite its sadness, the film has many humorous moments. I found myself laughing out loud together with other viewers at the cinema at several parts. It was a very enjoyable watch and made me interested in reading the book. I think I will.

Watch the trailer below.

A book launch celebrating all things queer

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Michael Lee Richardson and Ryan Vance. (Photo Credit: Sebastian Faugstad)

“I tuck myself under the spathe
as if it were my mother’s pleated skirt.
Corpse-flower. Corpse-stiff and sweet,
the rotted grunt of its scent
enfolding me like a red womb,
holding me tight, safe against the spadix”

Poet Rachel Plummer reads one of her poems in front of eager listeners, Titan Arum. She is one of the contributing writers who have come to St Andrews Brewing Company in Edinburgh for the book launch of We Were Always Here. The world outside the windows is dark and frightening but in here, in this room warmed up by candlelight, diversity is fully accepted and there is no fear.

It is crowded. Glasses filled with beer and wine rest on the wooden tables that match the walls in the bar. On one of the tables there are stacks with the pink anthology, in which the words across the pages are written by people who identify themselves as queer. Other than Rachel Plummer, the contributors Andrés Ordorica, Jay G Ying and Christina Neuwirth are also here tonight.

“I’m going to finish with a poem about the Loch Ness Monster,” Rachel says, as she stands closer to the microphone. She explains that she thinks the monster is non-binary. On the top of her head, a leopard hat can be seen as part of the evening’s animal print theme. She lets go of the microphone and leaves the stage, but the hat stays on for the rest of the night.

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Poet Rachel Plummer. (Photo credit: Linnéa Lind)

“When I was in primary school, I had a fantastic teacher. I really loved poetry and he gave me a poem to read and to memorise. I just loved him so much that I started to write my own versions and my own poems. I haven’t stopped since,” she says while adjusting the leopard on her head.

Rachel has received a commission from LGBT Youth Scotland to write children’s poems based on traditional Scottish folk stories. She says that her sexual orientation often comes through in her poetry.

“I have two children. When I used to tell stories to my daughter I would swap the genders as I read them. Then I thought that maybe other people would be interested in these versions of these stories. That’s how I got into writing children’s poetry.”

When Rachel was young, she did not have many friends and would read many books.
“I felt really different to everybody else and that’s partly because of the queerness and the difference. I read a lot to escape from that. The whole thing made me feel kind of monstrous and I thought that maybe I was the only one in the world who felt like that,” she reveals, “I would really like to put my poetry in the hands of children who feel like that and show them that they are allowed to exist.”

The editors of the anthology, Ryan Vance and Michael Lee Richardson, share their excitement and often laugh with the listeners. Together, they run Queer Words Project Scotland for emerging queer writers. The anthology We Were Always Here is the result of queer literary pieces that were chosen among many submissions.

“A part of the project is to widen the margins a bit and creating a space for people that don’t always get an opportunity and a space,” says Michael Lee Richardson.

The book cover may be delightful and cheery in its pink shade, but the content deals with serious issues such as homophobia and sexual abuse.

“There is a lot of work in the book that reflects on how difficult it is to just get by sometimes. If you read it from cover to cover, there are a few shifts in tone. The pieces go from sweet heart-warming narratives about people finding their place in the world, to shocking moments of thinking that this is horrific, and it’s really refreshing to see queer people allowed to be monsters. We can’t be the best at everything and good all the time, we’re human,” says Ryan Vince.

Today is the first day of the LGBT History Month, which occurs in February each year in Scotland. Read more about it here.

Film Review: Bohemian Rhapsody

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Bohemian Rhapsody’s popularity has kept it in cinemas since October.

Actor Rami Malek brings the confident and charismatic Freddie Mercury back to life.

A solitary man moves confidently towards the stage at Wembley Stadium in London, wearing a white tank top and tight dark jeans. The viewer can only see the back of the singer, and once he’s up on the stage it almost feels like you are there with him. It is the 13th of July, 1985, and about 72,000 people have gathered at the Live Aid concert to be a part of Queen’s performance.

Viewers of this film are transported into the most fascinating and defining parts of Mercury’s life,  and get a look at the heart of timeless British rock band Queen. Despite the film having lots of music (well, duh?) and humorous bits, there is a palpable sadness and melancholy all the way through it. The director, Bryan Singer, has managed quite well to demonstrate the low points of Freddy’s life as well as the highs. Mercury often struggled with loneliness, love and identity as he entered the world of fame and it is noticeable.

Malek, the 37-year-old lead, looks very much like the real Freddie Mercury, but it’s his deft imitations of Mercury’s personality traits and characteristic movements that really elevate the performance. The other band members are portrayed impressively as well: Gwilym Lee as Brian May, Ben Hardy as Roger Taylor and Joseph Mazzello as John Deacon.

When I was young, I went to music school for six years and we used to sing Queen songs in the choir. So for me, the movie was strangely personal. I feel like many other viewers will share this feeling.

One of these song was the iconic six minute long anthem that the film was named after, written by Mercury for their album “A Night at the Opera”. As I sang their tunes at an early age, I made an emotional connection to the band – and I must say that the Queen cinema experience was a pleasant nostalgic journey.

Click here to see the trailer.

Boris Johnson held anticipated speech at the Conservative Conference

(Photo credit: Arno Mikkor)

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson held a speech at the Conservative Conference in Birmingham, in which he shared his thoughts on Brexit, saying that the idea of a second referendum is ‘infamous’.

The former foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, began his speech by expressing worry about the Tories losing their basic belief in freedom.

He then continued to address what happens if the UK leaves the EU on wrong terms.

“Do not believe that we can somehow get it wrong now and fix it later – get out properly next year, or the year after. Total fantasy,” he said.

Johnson also expressed critique against Chequers claiming that, if it is agreed, it will support those people who are calling for a second referendum.

“These are the same people, incidentally, who explicitly told the electorate that there was no going back, that voting leave meant leaving the customs union and the single market, and that there was no way they would be asked again.”

Johnson finished his speech at the press conference by urging ‘our friends’ to support the Prime Minister, Theresa May.

“I urge our friends in government to deliver what the people voted for, to back Theresa May in the best way possible, by softly, quietly, and sensibly backing her original plan. And in so doing to believe in conservatism and to believe in Britain.

“Because if we get it wrong we will be punished. And if we get it right we can have a glorious future,” he continued.

 

‘Jeremy Corbyn is a threat to our national security’ – Home Secretary Sajid Javid holds speech at the Conservative Conference

(Photo credit: Richter Frank-Jurgen)

During the third day of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham on Tuesday, Home Secretary Sajid Javid held a speech addressing immigration and security.

During the press conference, Javid said:

“Home is where you feel safe, comfortable and in control. That is exactly what we want the UK to be.”

He also mentioned the Labour Party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, saying that he is a ‘threat to our national security’ and that it is ‘our duty to stop him.’

During the press conference, he spoke about the safety of the country, saying that ‘we will fight fear with optimism.’ He announced a new £200 million endowment fund, which will target young people who may risk starting a life of violence and crime.

“We know that one of the causes of the rise of serious violence is changes in the market for illegal drugs. We need a much better understanding of who drug users are, what they take, how often they take it, and so much more. So I will launch a major review of the market for illegal drugs.”

Javid also expressed his thoughts on Brexit: “If Brexit feels like a dividing line in our country now… just imagine what it would feel like if we didn’t follow-through with the result of the referendum.”

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