Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Day of Reckoning: FSFC Election Results and One Year of SWIW

Envelopes opened, dreams relinquished. Apparently.
Photo - Lewis Shaw

Today, for those of you who haven't been outside for the past 12 hours, was sunny. As well as being uncharacteristically shiny, today was also regarded by candidates, the countries Treasurer and I with the ominous title of the day. Inside Café D, people who I had seen with confident smiles but an hour earlier were now lip-bitingly, hand-shakingly nervous, side by side with their competitors and the sudden realisation that everything they had been working for may or may not be crushed in the next 10 minutes. Whilst outside the sun was shining, inside there were clouds, and it reminded me of a line from Richard III I had misquoted earlier - 'Now is the summer of our discontent'.

Café D wasn't packed to the capacity that it had been last week, which left a bad taste in my mouth concerning the debate as to whether people actually care or not. However, the cheers were still loud as Simon Jarvis, College Principal and certified legend. He could have chosen any number of words to describe what was to happen, but he chose to go with 'The current SA members coming up and relinquishing their positions to the next generation'. What followed was gracefully so, as all the current members came up, were given the envelopes, and announced their new protegee's.

Without any further drama, here is - in list form, for the sake of the uninformed - what was in the envelopes:

Kieran Eyre - President
Edd Jones - Vice President
Amara Odidi - Treasurer
Lucy Magri-Overend - Communications
Tiffany Le - Publications
Katie Hopkins - Sports
Oliver Cole - Charities
Claire Weston - Equality, Diversity and Community Links
Jess Turnbull - Learning Experience
Indeera Shankla - Performing Arts
Anna Brown - Environments
Carmen Vieria - Events

Old dogs, new tricks. That's not to say that they're prostitutes.
They're not. I promise. *digs hole*
Photo - Lewis Shaw

Because I'm a faithfully informative and completely unbiased journalette I can't broadcast my opinions on the results in public, let alone have those sorts of thoughts, so instead of ranting for a few pages about how I hate/love each and every one of them, I asked Mr. Jarvis to spill his excitedly staccato thoughts over my dictaphone:

Are you happy with the turnout of the elections?
Fantastic turnout, terrific. The amount of people voting took their responsibility seriously, great candidates, great result, and I'm sure they're going to make a fantastic SA.

Is there anything you look forward to working with them with?I just think it's a terrific opportunity for all the students at this college to develop, to grow in-role, to mature, to understand how the college works better, and also to improve the place itself - they're going to transform this college.

How are the new SA going to be introduced?
They'll start after Easter, and their first real engagement will be on the Information Evening on the 25th of April, where they'll be helping me with that. There'll be a little bit of a handover from the old SA, and then they'll be up and running. September will be when they really hit the ground, but we'll run them in before then. 

However, as I mentioned earlier today wasn't just an important day for the future of the college. Today was also the announcement of the new budget in England, changing the financial outlook of the country and the way that we are going to be living for the next year. However, something that is more relevant to the countries fate was going on here - as StuffWhatIWrote celebrated it's first birthday. 

It's strange to think that one year ago, I was sat in a field at school writing into an exercise book about how much I hated my life. The irony being that the consequent posting of it on the newly made blog changed my life over a year, giving me so many new and awesome projects, people, and pudding to work with. Okay maybe not so much pudding, but alliteration is hard work.

In celebration of this, I've posted a short history of the site under 'About this Blog' in the side bar - because let's be honest, it would have been self obsessive before now. All I can say is that I hope everyone who has read from the beginning all the way to the new readers who are part of the hundreds of new people I gained over the last couple of weeks will keep on reading this blog, as I have some pretty big plans for new and improved stuff - whether it's interviews, adventures or some slightly different pieces - that I think you're going to really dig. 

Thank you all,

Friday, 16 March 2012

Blood, Sweat and Saxophones: FSFC Elections Day Four

Photos - Lewis Shaw

Sweat is settling on your brow. You can't stop fidgeting. Every second brings a new thing to worry about. Meanwhile the crowd are displaying their arsenal of techniques - booing, popping balloons, air horns, chants. Your academic career might just be about to change for good, and the only people who stand between you and that goal are stood around you. So what do you do to them? Sabotage? Assault? Bribe?

Shake hands and swap tips - that was the general consensus, as the Presidential Candidates gathered at the side of the stage this afternoon. Considering these were people who for the past month had debated, competed against, and belittled each other, the atmosphere was surprisingly friendly - nervous, but friendly. 

The afternoon offered up a diverse array of candidates, who - despite all writing about chairs in their manifestos and all attempting to bribe me in some way - had no real common ground. This hustings asked for a lot - while the week had seen some purely gimmicky candidates and some abundantly serious ones, Presidential candidates had to hold the crowd whilst simultaneously convincing them that they weren't complete morons. Luckily, they all seemed to take the advice of my panel of experts - in one way or another anyway.

Photo - Lewis Shaw
Blake Howell

Before Blake went on stage, I told him he was the first person I had ever seen going on stage with a saxophone around their neck. I wasn't lying, either. 

After a jazzy sax solo, the sharply dressed ginge took to the microphone, outlining all the things that are 'essential' in a President; juggling, saxophone playing, big posters, nice suits, completing a Rubix cube in under a minute, and being able to make ginger jokes whilst doing all of these things. 

Despite the Obama-esque sheen of his manifesto and propaganda, Mr. Square Mile Investment Banker Blake seemed to ditch his professionalism for hustings, instead injecting a metaphorical syringe of swag into a few minutes of gimmicky goodness. Although this was a relief in some ways, I felt a bit deprived of a candidate who took himself too seriously. You can't make jokes about well-rounded candidates.

Photo - Lewis Shaw
Edd Jones

I know for a fact that Edd had been reading these blogs, paying close attention to the tips given by the panel and taking mental notes of what was good and bad - and it showed. 

As well as bending down to the microphone to make himself look as much like BFG as possible, Edd adopted a unique tactic - an almost completely 50/50 blend of entertainment and thoughtfulness. This took the form of giving the audience a motivated and passionate piece of his mind, whilst slowly stripping out of a full wedding suit to reveal a 'VOTE FOR ME' shirt. 

However, he did also say the words 'Let's make this year a party year!' which was a bit cringey. 

Photo - Lewis Shaw
Dan Bright

If I had to choose one 'Wild Card' out of the candidates, it would be Dan. This is partly because he was the only candidate not to take to the stage in formal attire, and partly because I can barely remember what happened when he went on stage.

All I can remember is a lot of booing, a bit of rapping, a bit more booing, him reciting bits of his manifesto from memory, him saying the word 'cotch', and subsequently him being booed off stage.

Sorry Dan...

Photo - Lewis Shaw
Piya Mandal

Efforts for Piya Mandal to get herself elected as the (first?) female President of the SA included a hilarious array of posters, depicting her grinning face on various monuments, old propaganda posters and cartoon characters. Other efforts included telling me how much she enjoyed my blog posts whilst simultaneously telling me to what degree she could ruin my life if I wrote bad things about her.

To be fair, she was very nice about it, but the unfortunate thing is that Piya sung a song: and that is something that I have to stretch my abilities of bullsh*t to write anything about whatsoever. However, to help me along a bit, she wore a leg-cut dress, throwing out an Angelina Jolie leg-bomb several times during her husting. You go girl.

 Photo - Lewis Shaw
Kiran Eyre

Describing himself in his posters as 'The Magic Guy' (Something I resent due to being in different circles of wizards) Kiran Eyre is quite frankly the master of hype. The roar of cheers and applause he received as he came on stage would  make you think that he went round giving free blowjobs beforehand, and judging by the tired look in his eyes, that wouldn't have surprised me. 

However, he took to the stage with a guitar, busting out a frankly incredible solo before doing something that was just a slightly bit strange. Claiming that hustings required him to be 'thick-skinned', he took a knife from his pocket and began cutting into his arm, inspiring screams and giving the audience the amount of blood they had been asking for all week. 

Once finished with his self mutilation he began talking with such speed, volume and passion, that for a moment I completely forgot that I was in hustings, closing my eyes and envisioning a packed club with a severely bleeding DJ. 

Voting has now begun, votes being electronically gathered from any computer on the network until Tuesday. Before I report on the results with Simon Jarvis next Wednesday, I simply wish all the candidates the best of luck, and all the voters some wise choices. Have a good weekend.


Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The President, the Publicity and the Pisshead: FSFC Elections Day Three

(L-R) Crisp Packet Lady struts her stuff, Tom Jones turns on his swag and

a Treasurer candidate addresses the absent testicle.

Photos - Lewis Shaw

Today saw the third day of the FSFC Electoral hustings, and the candidates for Equality Diversity and Community Links Officer, Treasurer, and Environmental Officer take to the arena. The slightly more serious sounding places on offer brought with them a relieving emphasis on speeches and ideas, but the afternoon wasn't without it's hi-jinks.

Highlights included yet more Cult of Personality for now-President Russell, Claire Weston (Equality, Diversity) body-popping in a Superman costume, a man with one testicle ('They said I needed balls to do hustings so I was a bit unsure at first...') a surprise visit from Tom Jones (A Welshman sharing the name of the soul-singer - who sung 'It's Not Unusual' at the request of the audience) and a girl who seemed to think it was a fashion show, arriving in a dress made of crisp packets and strutting around to music.

Photographic evidence that the only thing better than a
Bodypopping Superman is the audiences faces during it.
Photo - Lewis Shaw

Over the previous days a lot of questions have been raised about hustings - what's good, what's bad, and what's effective? So in the name of good political coverage, and for the good of informed voters, I assembled something that all electoral coverage has - a panel of experts in the field to give advice for the Presidential candidates speaking on Friday. The first person I spoke to was the man in the know - President of the Student Association and Cult Personality Russell Fleming.

Russell 'The Love Muscle' Fleming addresses his fans.

Photo - Lewis Shaw

You ran for president last year and won – what was your general approach to hustings?
My whole campaign was similar to Barack Obamas – I copied the ‘Yes We Can’ motto, but my hustings was sexed up a bit. I went on stage in my campaign t-shirt with a towel wrapped around my waist, and told everyone I was commando – obviously I wasn’t allowed to be, but I whipped off my towel and threw it into the audience halfway through, and I had a pair of the brightest beach shorts going underneath.

The hustings for president are on Friday – do you have any tips for the people who are running this year?
Definitely. The presidential is the most brutal hustings, people really want to take the most out of you that they can. If I have one piece of advice for the people on Friday it’s just keep going – don’t let the crowd stop you because if they do they’ll just get a hold on you. Have a plan and stick to it.

How do you think hustings has changed since last year?
I wouldn’t say it has gotten worse or better. One thing I mentioned last year was that nobody could actually see it - I wanted it to be in the sports hall so that at least the majority of the college could get in, because you can’t get that many people into Café D. So this year we broadcasted it through screens around college, so I was pretty happy with that, that’s my legacy now. I think it’s been toned down since last year, a bit less brutal.

People do an entire array of strange, weird publicity stunts for hustings – what’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever seen someone do?
The year before mine there was a girl who covered herself in cream, tipped a tub of strawberries over her head and said ‘Look at me – strawberries and cream’. I can’t remember who she was or what she was running for – but she won. Kind of shows you the power that hustings has.

My second panel member was native-Texan Lizzi Dee - public speaking expert, scholar and blogger whom I worked with on The Thought Report, who could offer her professional opinions on the subject.

'This is your speech? Good God man, give up before
they destroy you completely.'

You were elected President of Art and Debate Society last year and you have experience speaking outside of there - what kind of thing did you do to get elected?I got elected mostly from experience - I was involved in both before, and was always very organised and leading. People voted me in not just because I had the capacity to put changes in place, but because I wanted to help instead of just get something to put on my CV as well. It's important for people to know that you're genuinely enthusiastic.

The outcome of a husting is very much affected by the audiences reactions and whether they boo or not - is this fair, and do you think that this will be reflected in the way they vote?
In a debate I think it is very fair for the audience to vocalize whether or not they agree with a certain stance being presented by a nominee. When you're campaigning you ought to be selling your ideas to people, not trying to cater to them. When you cater to them that's usually when the booing sets in - the general public is usually smart enough to see through empty promises.

There are alot of different publicity stunts done at hustings - what is effective and what isn't?
I know this really isn't a stunt, but a lot of politicians have body language consultants. They to certain things to make them more like the "average" man and more relatable. I feel like hype is too easy. It's easy to pass out freebies or get someone cool like a celebrity to come out and talk about how great your are and what a game-changer you are. It's hard to make everyone feel like you are on their level and advocating for them as someone who genuinely understands their situation. I guess having proper body-language while campaigning is a more subtle form of a stunt.

My third and final 'expert' fills a seat on the panel that is usually filled with oddballs - comedians, actors, or union leaders. Ross Gilligan - a blogger, scientist and full-time alcoholic from Oxford - has little to do with the subject, but gave me a surprisingly large amount of good answers considering he was halfway through a 12 pack of beer at the time of interview.

"I'd like to come on stage wearing nothing but a fedora and
a trench coat."
Photo - Hana Clements

Have you ever spoken in front of a crowd? And if you have, what are your general tactics?
I have quite a few times actually. Well sometimes a little bit of alcohol can help to loosen the tongue. Not enough to get tipsy though or the talk is going to get incredibly embarrassing for you, and funny for everyone else. Generally, I find treating all talks as though you're recounting anecdotes to a large group of eager listeners is a great method. The main thing however, is to make sure that you've prepared adequately for the talk. Know exactly what points you're looking to make and be sure to find a way of remembering them.

What shouldn't you do when speaking? 
Reading from notes is one of the worst ways to give a public speech. When a speaker reads aloud from a prepared speech they make little eye contact with the audience, making them less engaging, and can easily be thrown off by simple spelling mistakes and misread lines. This leads to an awkward speech.

"Reading from notes is one of the worst ways to give a public speech."
Photo - Lewis Shaw

FSFC Hustings have seen all sorts of publicity stunts, from shark rappers, to dancing nuns and guys waxing their legs. What publicity stunt would you do if given the opportunity?
I'd like to come on stage wearing nothing but a fedora and a trench coat, letting the old family jewels hang loose, while delivering a heartfelt and serious speech on a sensitive topic. I'll call it 'How far can I get before being thrown off stage'. My backup option, due to certain laws that limit my public actions, would be to hire a team of back up vocalists to emphasise every point I make while I stand on stage in an alligator costume. Kids will love it.

Hustings is a brutal and bloodthirsty past time, where alot of people with good ideas and alot of people with no ideas are smushed together - do you think that the brutality of a hustings should really effect how people finally vote?
I find the very idea of hustings a complete shambles on behalf of the voters. It's all too easy to get caught up in the general mood of a crowd. If a person has good speaking skills, knows how to cause a stir in the audience, and how to dominate a debate they can easily come out on top in the eyes of the listener, even if their policies don't actually complement those of the voters. I find it to be more of a peer pressure oriented debate. If you find yourself surrounded by those on the side of one talker, you'll be more likely to listen to their side.

What would you replace it with? 
I would replace them with a unbiased speaker going through the points of each speaker and fielding questions out to them, minimizes the speakers ability to manipulate a crowd. Either that or ponies. Ponies are good.

Tomorrow there will be no hustings, due to an awkwardly placed HE trip. However, the arena will return on Friday to see the Battle Royale - the Presidential Hustings. You can find Lizzi's blog here, and the blog documenting Ross' life with alcohol abuse here.

- Lewis

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Fear and Loathing on the Hustings Trail: FSFC Elections Day Two

(DISCLAIMER: This is an observational piece and is no way endorsing or promoting Thomas Howell's campaign for Charity officer. If anything this would persuade you not to vote for him. I mean seriously, he's a moron.)

Yes, she is dressed as a shark. Yes, she is rapping.
Photo - Lewis Shaw

The second day of hustings came and went with rapping sharks, copious amounts of booty shaking, a general acceptance that performing is okay if you're running for Performance Officer, and a surprising amount of really good female rappers. Current President Russell had his cult followers in the audience (The words 'YOU'RE NOT RUSSELL' were shouted every time someone who wasn't Russell went on stage) and the words 'Do your eyebrows!' were also yelled at everyone, but I'll get back to that later.

However, today was different in a number of ways - firstly I was able to actually get into the pit to take photos - secondly, I was able to get into the pit to take photos because I was following around one of the candidates for the day.

Tom Howell, who was running for charities officer, let me interview him and follow him around for the day, in attempt for me to get an insight into what it was actually like to do the hustings, and to answer some of the rhetorical questions put forward in yesterdays post. Namely, 'Do you think this is a good idea?'. I asked the hobo-clothes clad chap that and several other questions as he hopped off his moped this morning:

We are out in the cold morning to emanate the response you will probably get from the audience. You are running for charities officer – what is your general husting tactic?
Try my best not to sh*t myself on stage.

Tom trying his best to look nervous first thing in the morning.
Photo - Lewis Shaw

What are you doing when you get up there in front of the masses?
I’m going to get my legs waxed by the audience. They’ll have to pay a little bit to do it, and the money will go to charity, so it’s killing two birds with one stone.

Do you think it’s gonna get you the votes?
Hopefully – I think the whole point of hustings is bloodlust and pain, waxing is painful, so I’m just going along with that.

Is there anything you’d want to change or do differently if you got elected?
I want to get everyone else more involved and hands-on. At the moment you just get told ‘It’s pink day, wear something pink’ and that’s it, there’s nothing else to it. I’d be more ‘What do you want to do? Well let’s make money out of that.’

After the interview, a kind lady whose name I don't know joined our conversation, assuring Tom that it would certainly be painful, and that there would most probably be blood as well. Thank you lady.

I thought about things as the day rolled on and continued to get more and more nervous for no apparent reason. I had a read through Tom's manifesto - the words 'dedicated' and 'motivated' were repeated several times, and it made sense - considering that in all of an hours time he was going to get strangers to wax his legs on stage to gain the approval of a blood thirsty crowd.

When I got to the arena Café D, Tom and the other candidates were there, as well as a slowly increasing crowd of people. To give an impression of how nervous people were, let me simply say that the words 'sh*tting myself' as well as 'bricking it' were said by at least every candidate, and I'm no mind-reader, but I'm sure many people began considering alternative careers as brick layers. I had a quick word with Tom:
You’re going on stage in about ten minutes – are you beginning to sh*t yourself?
Yeah, there are so many people here. It’s starting to get to me.

I’m not even speaking and I’m bricking it right now.
I’ve just realised that there is also the danger of me pissing myself, and I’m wearing ¾ lengths so let’s hope that doesn’t happen either.

You’ve got all your equipment with you – waxing strips and paper cup. Looking at it makes me nauseous, what about you?
My hands are shaking. It’s like I’ve got dildos for fingers.

Tom didn't need to fake nervousness the second time round.
Photo - Lewis Shaw

Tom's subsequent take to the stage was a complete roller-coaster of emotions - he was first on, and so was booed rigorously as soon as his foot touched the stage. The audience seemed unsure about the leg-waxing, and then slightly disappointed when he didn't scream with pain. Someone at the back yelled 'DO YOUR EYEBROWS' at the top of their lungs, and before long, the audience was baying for his eyebrow hair. Did he do it? Let the next photo explain.

Denial, pain, acceptance, pain, denial, pain, awestruck audience.
Photos - Lewis Shaw

How did that go?
That was interesting. Went up to get my legs waxed, came back minus some eyebrow hair. At least they’ll remember me for something.

How do you think they took it?
They started chanting everyone to wax their eyebrows. It’s like I became an icon of eyebrow-waxing. I ended up waxing my competitions eyebrows.

Do you think that was really a good political move?
They’ll remember me as the guy who started it, so hopefully it’ll all work.

Best of luck, we’ll see how you will do on Friday!


Monday, 12 March 2012

Lambs to the Slaughter: FSFC Elections Day One

Reconstruction of FSFC Hustings 2012
Film - Gladiator

I’m stood at the back of the back, behind the glass, in a corridor jammed with people trying to see through the window into a room packed like a sardine can full of baying crowds and swaying candidates. Whilst the outside world carries on as normal, the people of Farnborough Sixth Form College are on the edge of their seats – whether they’re standing in the crowd, staring through the windows, or packed around the monitors that echo the event around the buildings – because today is the beginning of the elections, and the first day of hustings.

Hustings – a slightly adjusted definition for those of you who don’t know - go a little bit like this: an innocent line of Student Association candidates go up on-stage (In order of office position that they are running for) in front of an audience encouraged to heckle, let off balloons, and generally bay for their blood in a way that should wean out the weaker candidates and sent them running in tears from the stage – an occurrence which happened/nearly happened a surprising amount of times. Whilst the audience are booing and throwing around phallic-shaped inflatables, the candidates are meant to entertain or subdue the audience - or in even rarer cases - actually make a speech and talk about what they would do if they were elected.

I stood outside in the corridor, making casual banter with other onlookers, and trying not to flinch too obviously when another person came on stage and the crowd let out a roar of convincing blood lust. A skinny little dude with a sheet of paper and the microphone comes on stage, with a smile reminiscent of a man trying to play the charm offensive with an unfed alligator. He raises his arms in a feeble attempt to get everyone cheering and the corridor spectators simultaneously sigh – he’s trying to get them ‘hyped’. The sound that follows is neither booing nor cheering – just a kind of confused ‘Uh…’ as if the crowd is collectively saying ‘Are you serious? How’re you going to dance with all that in your hands?’

With equal amounts of sadistic entertainment and disappointing lack of thought processes, I watched as the crowd verbally butchered candidate after candidate after knee-knocking, nail-biting candidate. There was no discrimination – if you walked onto the stage, you received at least some kind of boo – but the thing is, the people who got the worst of it were the people who seemed to have some kind of speech, idea, or manifest to propose to the audience. It seemed like the only way to get a positive response was to be good at dancing, singing or rapping.

With the exception of one or two people - namely Tegan’s honest bid for Publications Officer and Lucy’s routine for Communications Officer (She was half naked, dressed as a telephone, dancing to dubstep – excuse me for finding that both hot, clever and entertaining) – there was about as much sense made on that stage as there was in the audience. I looked down at which nominees were speaking today – Sports, Communications, Publications and Events. Then I thought about what I had seen – a girl dressed as a nun doing a number of dance routines, a man in a wetsuit, and someone trying to rap Lady Gaga.

Maybe it was the countless heads bobbing in the way, the glass clouding my view and the incomprehensible shouting contest between candidate and audience, but the whole thing made little to no sense. A certain degree of crowd mentality is understandable, but at which point do you think what you’re doing is a good idea? Is it when you’re writing your rap-manifesto crossover? Is it when you’re practicing the Macarena in front of your bedroom mirror? Or is it when you’re climbing into your nun costume? At which point did you think, ‘Damn, people are going to vote for this!’

All I can hope for is that as the week goes on begin people use their heads, and that when faced with a ballot paper outside of a baying crowd, people can make good decisions. Hopefully the people of Farnborough Sixth Form can do that, and maybe, just maybe – we might get a good line up for the Student Association 2013.

- Lewis