Water Aid and My New Involvement

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This academic year I decided to join the Water Aid Society at my university. This is not actually a part of Water Aid, but a student run society that focuses primarily on fundraising and spreading awareness for the organisation. Upon turning up to the second meeting, there was an option of running for a committee position. I decided to run for the communications role. After a 5-minute speech (made up on the spot), I had convinced them I was right for the role over the other candidate. My role as communications is about making the public (or university students) aware of what exactly Water Aid is and what they do.

I am sure most of you have heard of Water Aid before, but many know very little. So I will do my best to briefly inform you. Water Aid itself, is an NGO (Non-Governmental Organisation), set up in 1981 and works in 37 countries. They focus on three main areas: Safe Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. It is very important to note that they are all interlinked. You cannot have one without the other two. For example, if sanitation is poor, (meaning no toilet facilities etc) then sewage is likely to reach the water supplies. This will contaminate the water (no safe drinking water) and will spread diseases etc, so people cannot clean in it (leading to poor hygiene). Water Aid’s goal is about getting safe water, sanitation and hygiene to everyone, everywhere by 2030.

Water Aid is different to a lot of other non-profit organisations as they do not simply give money and leave. They provide services that will benefit at a local scale. It is all well and good bringing in someone (most likely from abroad) and putting in a well, but what happens if there is a problem with it? These communities are unlikely to have a phone to call for help and will take a while to be fixed. Water Aid in comparison, still bring someone in to do it, but get some of the local people trained so if there is a problem, it can be dealt with. This will give some of the local people skills, better job prospects and safe and clean water. It is a bottom up approach. I must say that Water Aid do not only put wells in – this is just an example.

Water Aid focus a lot on education. It is great to provide safe and clean water supply, but if they do not know how to use it sustainably and safely, then the supply will be only short term. Water Aid goes into schools and local communities to show how it should be used and for things such as hygiene. Water Aid also has a large focus on girls. Women and in particular girls are commonly the ones who collect the water for their families. Some have to travel vast distances. This means that they are unable to go to school and are unlikely to access good jobs in the future. So by improving water in the area, girls are given the same opportunities as boys. Menstrual hygiene education is also provided.

Here at my university society, we have had a couple of fundraisers so far. One being a cake sale and the other selling tickets to a club as well as setting up a barbecue inside. Combined, it estimated that we have made £700. As an added bonus the government, until February 2016, will match any money we make for Water Aid, so in fact we raised around £1400! This was all so much fun and it is going to a worth-while cause. Win win! Recently I attended a Social Impact Conference at my university. I helped run a stall for Water Aid, so people could talk to us and find out more. What became apparent to me was how little people knew about Water Aid. I always thought that Water Aid was one of the most well known International Organisations and hence their work would be known. This was quite a shock to me and means my communications role will be a harder challenge, but something I am willing to work hard on!

Although this is brief and explains only a small aspect of Water Aid, I hope you can see that there is far more to this Organisation than meets the eye. To me it is a very worthwhile investment as water is key to our very survival and I feel it is often overlooked by problems with energy etc. In my eyes, it is the biggest crisis we have on the planet. 650 million people live without safe water and 1 in 3 (2.3 billion) do not have adequate sanitation. Finally, 315,000 children under the age of 5 die due to diarrhoeal diseases caused by dirty drinking water and poor sanitation. That equates to 900 children a day. I know that personally I want to do something about that! Hopefully Water Aid holds the key.

 

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Review: Hairspray (UK Tour) – Mayflower 19/11/15

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I recently went to see Hairspray on its UK tour at the Mayflower Theatre. With its big name and reputation, I had high expectations. I had seen the DVD prior to this and knew roughly what to expect, especially with the songs. This time I sat in stalls, which were really good.

From the moment I started watching the show until the very end, I could not help but feel that there was something missing. There was just not that wow factor. I am not sure if this was down to my prior knowledge or something else. The songs, although well known, were still very uplifting and enjoyable to watch.

Hairspray is about a girl called Tracy Turnblad who has a dream about appearing on her favourite TV show ‘The Corny Collins Show’. She eventually succeeds and becomes a celebrity overnight. Throughout, she pursues a guy named Link Larkin. She fights for racial integration on the show. With this being said, not everyone is happy about her arrival, so some try to do whatever it takes to get her off the show. She ends up winning the crown and her and Link get together whilst also racially integrating the show.

Tracy Turnblad (Freya Sutton) was a very happy and energetic character. The show started with her singing ‘Good Morning Baltimore’. It lightened my mood and showed the audience what she was going to be like throughout! I can only imagine how hard it must be to maintain this amount of energy. Link Larkin (Ashley Gilmour) was a character I did not enjoy. I never felt any emotion from him. I do not want to blame the actor as I felt the character lacked depth in his personality. It must be hard to make you standout. I would like to have seen the character further developed in the script. This meant that the love story between Tracy and Link was one sided to me.

The main love story in my eyes was between Seaweed (Dex Lee) and Penny Pingleton (Monique Young). These two were in my opinion were extremely underrated and were the stars of the show. Seaweed’s acting was on point and his singing and dancing were enough to leave you stunned! Penny was very socially awkward, but we still loved her, as we knew there was far more to her then met the eye as seen in the end.

Velma (Claire Sweeney) and Amber (Lauren Stroud) Von Tussle were the ‘baddies’. This was very noticeable and clear for the audience. Almost too clear if you ask me! Velma started walking through the audience during the show. When she walked past my row, I felt very intimidated and avoided eye contact to not be noticed. This showed me how well she played her role! Amber was a very ‘Barbie Doll’ figure that once again lacked a real personality. One of the only things you noticed was how annoying she was, which I guess suggested she did her job!

The Ensemble were of a very high standard and outclassed some of the main cast at times. I saw that Brenda Edwards was in the show as Motormouth Maybelle. I remembered her from the X Factor and she proved how she got so far in the competition with her vocals. I would definitely say singing was her main strength though. In the background, the pit band was shown at times. This was great because they were noticed when the cast left, not long after the pit band finished, meaning they received a well deserved standing ovation from the audience.

Hairspray was good, but I cannot say it lived up to the big name I was expecting. I felt it was far more about the well-known songs than the story line. With some of the characters lacking depth in their personality (fault of the script), I could not feel the emotion of the show properly. There was only once in the whole show when I was genuinely overwhelmed with excitement. This was when Penny and Seaweed declared their love. I did really enjoy Tracy’s determination to racially integrate into the show! Although for the most part the cast were phenomenal, I just did not feel the script and production gave them the justice they deserved.

 

My Top 5 England International Cricket Players

Source: http://worldcricketwatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/england-cricket-team.jpg
Source: http://worldcricketwatch.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/england-cricket-team.jpg

Cricket is a big passion of mine and I have been playing since 2005. Since then I have continued to follow the sport, in particular my favourite teams (Surrey and England) which has of course lead to favouritism:

Jason Roy

Source: http://www.london24.com/sport/cricket/surrey_star_jason_roy_enjoys_best_bowling_return_but_warwickshire_batsmen_pile_on_the_runs_1_2226396
Source: http://www.london24.com/sport/cricket/surrey_star_jason_roy_enjoys_best_bowling_return_but_warwickshire_batsmen_pile_on_the_runs_1_2226396

He is a limited overs player for England. In addition, he is an opening batsman and has already seen success for England with his consistency even though he joined the squad in May this year. During a T20 game this year, he made an incredible 122* for Surrey against Somerset. I was lucky enough to be spectating and I have to say it was the most incredible batting display I have ever seen. What makes him special is that I saw him develop through County Cricket right up to his England call up. It should be no surprise that a Surrey player made it onto the list!

James Anderson

Source: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01958/james-anderson2_1958017c.jpg
Source: http://i.telegraph.co.uk/multimedia/archive/01958/james-anderson2_1958017c.jpg

I am sure that many people would agree that James Anderson has been a key bowler for England for a while. In fact, he is England’s leading wicket taker in test cricket at 426 wickets which equates to being the 8th highest wicket taker of all time. He has been in the squad since 2003 and is still playing today. His swing bowling is just deadly and with his consistency, batsmen struggle. The best example of this was his 7-43 against New Zealand in 2008 where he ripped apart their top order batsmen. For a player to be at the top of his game for 12 years and to even today to be the 2nd best test bowler in the world (ICC rankings) is quite an achievement. How could someone of this calibre not make it?

Stuart Broad

Source:http://cf.c.ooyala.com/ZuMTVydjqk_hVDEhQA9OoE-vbPVX39Kb/promo263130710
Source: http://cf.c.ooyala.com/ZuMTVydjqk_hVDEhQA9OoE-vbPVX39Kb/promo263130710

I consider Stuart Broad and James Anderson to be a bowling duo. To have these two opening the bowling for England, you can only feel sympathy for what is about to come the batsman’s way. In my eyes they are the best bowling pair England has had since 2005. There is without a doubt no better example of his than during the Ashes Test this year (Fourth Test). He took 8-15. To really hit home just how dominant he was here, Australia were bowled out for only 60! Although many believe he has a baby face, he is a volatile and feisty player that will make your life a nightmare when batting. Furthermore, he is the 4th best bowler in the world (ICC Rankings) and rightly so!

Ian Bell

Photo credit: IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images
Photo credit: IAN KINGTON/AFP/Getty Images

Ian Bell has been my favourite player ever since I first got into cricket. His debut was in 2004 and has been a vital part of the English Batsmen ever since. I think what made me like him so much was his batting technique – it is very unique. I also feel like my batting technique is somewhat similar to his. I rely very much on my drives and my square cuts and I try to be very cautious with my shots. I find him to be extremely sensible with his shot selection. Even when he is not scoring runs, I still see very clear contact with the ball as well as good placement whilst using a full technique. His best performance has to have been during the 2013 Ashes Test, where he was named ‘Man of the Series’ for his three centuries. Even when he was not making centuries, he still put up good numbers. Although many are questioning his place in the squad right now, he brings such experience and when needed – he delivers!

Andrew Strauss

Source: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/files/2012/08/andrew-strauss_1444846c.jpg
Source: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/files/2012/08/andrew-strauss_1444846c.jpg

To me, when I think of Andrew Strauss, I think of the opening pair consisting of himself and Alistair Cook. I feel this was the best opening pair England has had in a long time. He had his debut in 2003. Anyone who knows of Andrew Strauss, will have heard about his struggles and his lack of form time to time, but in the end he only came back stronger than ever. When he took over as captain in 2009, I was very excited as I knew all along that he was perfect for the role. I like the fact he was very intelligent and you could tell he was always analysing his game to improve. He had a very successful captaincy, with numerous wins throughout. Now that he has retired and taken on the role of the Director of Cricket, I know he will continue to do big things!

Should we be using fossils fuels?

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Fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal as they are more commonly known) are formed by organic matter deposits buried in the ground, normally hundreds of millions of years ago, that over time in the Earth’s crust experience different pressures and temperatures that eventually lead to the formation of such fossil fuels. The UK alone has been burning fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution (circa 1760) and has not stopped since. Furthermore, in 2013, over 84% of our energy production came from fossil fuels. This begs the question: should we be using fossil fuels?

If you ask anyone about the use of fossil fuels, one of the first points they are likely to make is about the environmental impacts. Of course it is true that burning these fuels leads to large amounts of greenhouse gases being released into the atmosphere. We know stories of worldwide changes to environments from these increased levels of carbon dioxide etc., such as the melting of the ice caps, destruction of coral reefs and so on, which in the future look to have unimaginably destructive consequences.

Leading on, an easy answer would be to just use another type of energy instead. If only it was that easy. The fact that, in 2013, they accounted for over 84% of the UK’s energy shows just how reliant we truly are on fossil fuels. Although this percentage has decreased since then, it is still a high amount. But is there a new source to replace it? At the moment it appears not, even though renewable usage is increasing every year. Countries such as Iceland use very little fossil fuels (only oil for their cars to my knowledge) so it could be said, why can the UK not do the same? Iceland has a different geological environment, where they have both glaciers and very active tectonics, which allow for mass amounts of geothermal energy, hydroelectric power and so on. The UK does not have the same environment.

There are however ‘bailout solutions’, as I call them, where you continue using fossil fuels but use technology to clean up afterwards. An example of this is Carbon Capture Storage. This is where you take carbon from burning fossil fuels and store it in the ground in the locations where the oil and gas were extracted. This way the carbon is not released into the atmosphere. It is in theory a good idea (provided the carbon never reaches the atmosphere), but it almost justifies using fossil fuels which is not the point we should be getting across.

Fossil fuels are of course a finite resource. Hence they are only a temporary solution to our energy needs. Of the same token, fossil fuels are getting more expensive to extract each year. This is because the reserves that are the easiest to extract have, for the most part, been taken and those that remain are complex and hence costly. These points alone should suggest to us that we need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.

When you look at the geopolitics involved with fossil fuels, you see that a lot of the countries that have large reserves are considered to have lower political stability. This makes trade a lot harder for imports and they could at any point just cut you off. This gives them power. In effect, it is better to create energy within your own resources.

An option that the UK is currently pursuing involves using gas where possible. This is because gas produces around half the emissions of coal. If we have no option at this moment in time but to use fossil fuels, we may as well use the one that will release the least amount of harmful gases into the atmosphere.

Finally, to answer my question: should we be using fossils fuels? I believe in my honest opinion we have no option with our high energy demands but to use fossil fuels. I consider myself to be an environmentalist and it would make me very happy to not use them but I believe we all have to be realistic and say that there is no energy source that can replace fossil fuels at this time. Renewables will over time become more significant and fossil fuels will slowly phase out especially when they become economically unviable. Unfortunately, this will not be for a while. This of course needs to change in the future as fossil fuels are only a temporary solution, but there are ways to reduce its environmental impacts with Carbon Capture Storage and using more gas.

If you have anything to say on the topic, please feel free to comment below!

My Return to see Memphis the Musical – Shaftesbury Theatre 17/10/15

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After I watched Memphis the Musical for the first time (Read my last blog post), I absolutely fell in love with it and when I found out that it was finishing on 31st October 2015, I knew that I wanted to return once more. I do have to admit that I still wanted to see Matt Cardle, so they effectively went hand in hand!

Seeing the same show twice in quick succession was a brand new experience for me. When I told my friends and family that I was returning, most questioned it and wondered why. I was anxious about returning since I did not know how this would change my perception of the show. Also, I bought a cheaper ticket since, being a student, you cannot afford such luxuries twice! After talking about Memphis (which must have seemed never ending) I had convinced my mum to tag along.

We arrived at Shaftesbury Theatre and sat in the grand circle, located on the far left side. The view itself was fair considering the price paid, but obviously the difference was noticeable from my seat last time. In the end, I could see everything which is all that matters!

As the show started I found myself excited like before. Not long in and Matt Cardle appeared! I do admit my face lit up! For some reason I had it in my head that he would be unable to perform, like before. Therefore, when he entered the stage, it hit me! I should probably mention that I went on Beverly Knight’s last day in Memphis. You could tell it was her last day because she had such a noticeable fire in her belly, which in other words meant her vocals were absolute perfection. This was strange as she was phenomenal last time, but you could just tell she was giving it her all!

I felt for Matt Cardle when it came to vocals. His softer voice is less noticed and heard when there were duets etc., since Beverly is a powerhouse. Throughout the whole show, I was waiting on one song in particular. As I said in my last post, ‘Memphis Lives in Me’ is favourite song, sung by Huey (Matt Cardle). This song is the point where he ‘screws up’ and afterwards is left with nothing. The actual song is about how he is expressing his love for Memphis and how he does not feel comfortable being anywhere else. Memphis is all he knows and it’s where his success all began. The line, ‘I couldn’t even try, to run away and say goodbye, here I was born and here is where I’ll die’ sums up how he felt when offered a job in New York. For these reasons I find the song empowering and compelling as the lyrics describe the situation perfectly.

When Matt Cardle sings, I always feel he tells a story that somehow gets to me. After he finished, I found myself in shock, almost in tears. It was without a doubt the best live piece of music I have ever heard. At the end of the show, I was not as overwhelmed as before, but I still had a smile on my face. It was amazing how much more I noticed from seeing the show again and it still left me with a genuine sense of happiness. I guess that is a sign of a good show!

Although I really liked the understudy of Huey (Jon Robyns), I felt there was more chemistry between Matt and Beverly, perhaps because they have worked together on more occasions. The ‘extra’ chemistry only made the story more real and believable in my mind. I noticed the Ensemble far more this time. They were truly fantastic and I never doubted at any point that they were not enjoying themselves.

After the show, I once again made my way to stage door, hoping to meet Matt Cardle. Over 100 people had turned up. When Beverly Knight came out, there was huge excitement from what can only be called a large crowd. Matt Cardle had still not come out. Eventually we decided enough was enough and accepted he was not coming out. I guess it made sense; considering it was Beverly’s last night, he did not want to take any of the attention away from her and rightly so!

Returning to see a show really is great and I would recommend it to anyone! I still absolutely love Memphis and, for me, it’s sad to think when this blog is posted it will have already finished. I wish all the cast the best of luck in the future and I really hope the show returns as I would have no doubts about going for a third time!