An evening of Music and Dance

One Friday evening in January (19th, to be more specific), a group of LANS students went to see ‘An Evening of Music and Dance‘ with the Birmingham Royal Ballet and Royal Ballet Sinfonia. This one-off concert consisted of an alternating mixture of classical music and dance excerts performed in the beautiful symphony hall, with introductions by the director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, David Bintley. The pieces were generally light-hearted and joyful, and we all left with smiles on our faces.

Evening dance 2The six dances showcased an impressive range of style and skill from the performers. The show opened with the Act III pas-de-deux from The Sleeping Beauty, a classical piece requiring a perfectly executed balance of strength and grace. This was contrasted with others, such as the far more contemporary After the Rain: pas-de-deux and the comedic La Fille mal Gardée clog dance, an entertaining fusion of ballet and tap performed in (you guessed it) clogs. My personal favourite was the finale: pas-de-deux and solos from Don Quixote. It was a fiery and exciting dance with many leaps and jumps culminating in a series of seemingly never-ending spins from the ballerina.

The music performed came from a variety of sources, including dance (The Miller’s Dance and Final Dance from The Three Cornered Hat), opera (prelude to Hansel and Gretal) and film (The Adventures of Robin Hood: suite). Beyond being able to say the pieces were performed very well, I do not know enough about music to be able to comment on them, so I turned to my more musically talented friends for advice (shout out to Alice Sharp and Joanna Stell)! They commented on the excellent Cor Anglais solo, as well as on the overall high-quality performance and well-chosen, entertaining pieces. They also liked how the music of Spartacus had repeated themes that changed subtly to reflect the emotions of the characters in the dance, with a more innocent variation for Spartacus’ wife that switched to a note of apprehension when he considered the war.

Evening dance 3, Giselle-Iain-Mackay-as-Albrecht-photo-Bill-Cooper-681x1024This concert was also of significance as it was the second to last performance of principal dancer Iain Mackay, who has been with the Birmingham Royal Ballet for 19 years. He and his partner, Jenna Roberts, danced After the Rain and Spartacus: adagio of Spartacus and Phrygia. According to the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s website “Iain created the role of the Prince in David Bintley’s Cinderella which premiered in 2010 and was broadcast on BBC Two to millions of viewers on Christmas Day that same year. He is also known for his outstanding performances as Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, the Third Seminarian in Carmina Burana and most recently for creating Prospero in David Bintley’s 2016 production of The Tempest.”1 He took his bow here to a standing ovation and huge round of applause.

1 https://www.brb.org.uk/press/birmingham-royal-ballet-principal-dancer-iain-mackay-to-leave-the-company-after-18-years

Contributed by Eleanor Teather, LANS year 1

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Macbeth, Mark Bruce Company, at DanceXchange

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The Witches in Mark Bruce’s new Macbeth (Photo Nicole Guarino)

On the evening of February 8th 2018, a group of Liberal Arts and Natural Science (LANS) students attended a performance of Macbeth at the BirminghamHippodrome. The show was part of the program curated by DanceXchange company and produced by Mark Bruce company. The show portrayed the classical Shakesperian story through a variety of cleverly perfected dance choreography . Having no prior knowledge of either the story or the style of dance, I had no idea what to expect.

In actuality, I was glad I had no preconceptions, for I was able to truly appreciate just how impactful this piece was without the influence of context. It was surprisingly easy to just sit back and watch the dance unfold, without the scramble to find lost threads of plot I’m a little ashamed to admit I experienced at the ballet. The interpretive nature of this dance meant that, where a particular intricacy of the story was hard to convey, the emotions that motivated the action could be portrayed in a way that told it more effectively.

Indeed, even if I hadn’t been able to follow the action, the movements of the dancers were exquisite. Macbeth being such a dark and tortured piece, there were moments it seemed that the performers were throwing themselves entirely at the mercy of the emotions they had to bring to life, wildly tossing and turning in the air yet somehow never once missing the mark. It was feral and graceful at the same time, and throughout I had to keep reminding myself of the intense training necessary just to create that illusion of effortlessness. In fact, within every scene the style of dance and choreography perfectly conveyed the emotions of the characters. For instance, the Macbeths fluidly dance around each other as Lady Macbeth attempts to convince Macbeth to murder the King. This section was built on anticipation with choreography centering on push and pull as Macbeth is coerced closer to sin.

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Jonathan Goddard is Macbeth and Eleanor Duval Lady Macbeth in Mark Bruce’s new Macbeth (Photo Nicole Guarino)

Another distinctive scene with a clever use of dance and theatrics was the depiction of Macbeth seeing ghosts. In this scene, Macbeth is staring at a character on stage. This character was just murdered by Macbeth, with the audience as witness. It is then made obvious that said character is now a ghost through the clever theatrical positioning of Lady Macbeth. She moves to stand in front of the murdered character and slowly raises her arms in question. At this point it becomes clear that only the audience and Macbeth are visualising the murdered character, with the rest of the cast unable to see anything. I thought this was especially clever, not only in showing that the character is not truly there, but also in encouraging the audience to feel his distraught confusion in a more powerful way. This is because the audience has witnessed the murder of the character and then sees thecharacter come back to the stage; thus, they are also confused as to why they are seeing this character again along with Macbeth. Indeed, this type of emotional portrayal was integrated throughout the performance.

After the show we had an opportunity to partake in a Q&A session, in which the choreographer, Mark Bruce presented various perspectives on the production.

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Post-show Q&A session with choreographer Mark Bruce and members of the cast        (Photo E.C. Toescu)

For example,  he revealed that he found inspiration for his stylistic choices in various films and it was evident that he aspired for a performance as compelling and complex as a film, at least interms of special effects. He achieved this through his fantastically innovative use of props and body paint. Though most of the fights were conducted gracefully, through dance, there were scenes in which the sheer brutality of war had to hit home. One way to be suggestive was the use of body paint; applied so seamlessly that it appeared part of the dance, with the use of colours complementing the plotline perfectly. It didn’t need to be explained to the audience that two black lines down the cheeks meant death and finality. We knew! The set was not a traditional, static one, fading into the background as it would in most plays anddances, but become active and involved in the action at various times. This made for a fascinating watch. Ambiguous wooden poles that added to the threatening atmosphere for most of the first act became a stake for a severed head, bars behind which the dead were trapped,weapons for warriors of the revolution. Their journey followed that of the characters and added to the sense of instability, political and personal. I can’t pretend to know thespecific ins and outs of the plot even now, but the fear that something unstoppable had been started was felt perhaps more deeply by the audience than it would have been had it been vocalised.

The presentation of Macbeth through the dancers and their director was truly captivating. The visual mediums of the performance were complemented by the music score – a perfect mixture of haunting instrumentals and jarring, threatening sound effects – to create a truly nightmarish ambiance. Despite knowing nothing of the plot or medium prior to the evening, I came away deeply surprised and with a significant understanding of the emotions and story underpinning Macbeth, at least in the interpretation offered by Mark Bruce’s company.

Contributed by Claire Fletcher and Charlotte Joiner

 

Arsehammers – a monologue by Claire Dowie

An early January event – going to Crescent Theatre, that company of amateur theatre, run by volunteers but feeling quite professional, to see a production of two of Claire Dowie’s famouos monologues, staged by an incredible youth theatre company, Stage 2, founded in 1988 by Liz Light.

Clare Dowie Arsehammers

You walk in … and are overwhelmed by a sense of nostalgia; you see a group of kids playing a distoreted version of snakes and ladders with a die half their size and a splatter of childish glee across their faces. The audience is seated all around the room, as if encasing the children, centre-stage. The lights are bright and colorful, cheerful, much like the kids’ demeanour. They’re all dressed in overly bright shades of red, blue, and yellow; radiant and whimsical.

Stage 2, pic2The repetitive counting as they move their allotted steps adds a sort of ominous feel to the setting, as if this childish whimsy won’t last. The lights eventually dim, and there’s silence; darkness.

The kids appear centre-stage, spot-lit, each with a toy-like prop and an exaggerated excited grin; they’re all engaged in play, happily oblivious, until they start speaking. They talk of a grandma gone to live with the angels, of a granddad who’s alone and might come to live with them. There’s excitement and wonder about them, but also sadness; as each kid speaks a bit of the narrative, they sit down, as if resigned, and continue to play with their props in a more subdued manner.

The lights dim once more and explode into sudden brightness, mayhem, and laughter. There’s sudden, projectile noise: protests to being fed false stories about angels and death. The monologue evolves into vivid dark imagery and angry tones, talking of death and claiming to be more mature. The music and the lights seem to follow the tune of the monologue, rising in pitch and brightness, until it reaches a crescendo and then falls, the lights slowly dimming and the excitement dwindling, as if the children were crashing after a sugar high.

Silence and darkness descend once more, and then they’re spot-lit; four of them are centre-stage with the rest lined at the back, each holding fast onto their toys. It’s a slow progression from then, they all slowly move to the centre, forming a V-shaped gathering; they talk in slow, eerily synchronized tones, of how granddad had gone out and not come back, of how the parents had been worried and out searching, leaving the kids at home, upset, confused, and angry. The dialogue is simple, but packed with emotional reverence, it leaves you feeling sympathetic, and oddly apologetic, longing to reach out and hug the hurting children.

Stage 2, pic1The tone shifts once more, the performers easily breaking into five groups, all engaged in excited play. It’s reminiscent of the fickle nature of childish thought and fixation, how easily they can go from angry and reserved to excited and animated.

The music, having picked up once more as the kids began to play, eventually fades, and they’re all still, as if in a game of dancing freeze, but they break away slowly, exaggeratedly, moving around the room with grand gestures and overly enunciated talk of the war. In a brilliant display of production, the childish speculation and mayhem about granddad’s exciting adventures to weird and wonderful lands is juxtaposed by loud short bursts of music, as if telling of war times, but subtly; hinting at the real reason for granddad’s spontaneous disappearances, as opposed to the gleeful speculation of super powers.

They envisioned a dance they imagined he would always do before venturing out on one of his adventures, a silly little thing with an equally silly chant, but one they tried to copy one too many times, only to burst into giggles or disappointed sighs, wishing and hoping they would once more go back to playing hide and seek with granddad, instead of him always hiding away, leaving them alone, with a little sister too immature to entertain and a mother too frustrated to fully connect with.

The atmosphere slowly shifts again, its more solemn, more tense; granddad’s not with them, or so the parents say, but he seems perfectly alright, seated on his armchair with his binoculars slung around his neck, only he doesn’t talk or play, just stares ahead into a void, scaring and worrying the kids. They all pile into a car shortly after, being told by mum and dad they’re visiting granddad’s new home. It’s not quite clear why he couldn’t just stay with them, but they weren’t sure they wanted him around either, not if he wouldn’t play with them, so the journey was spent in confused sulking.

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The desolate mood dissipated once they arrived at granddad’s new home; it had nurses and doctors in fancy clothes, and many other grandmas and granddads. They asked a reception lady that smelled a tad funny about this new place they’d be running up and down and all around in, and she told them granddad would be working with experts, lighting a new fire in their little tummies. He would be working with experts, with cool gadgets and machines, and saving the world all the other grandparents. The kids were beyond happy, even proud.

Only, mum was crying in the car on the way back, and they had to pretend not to notice because dad was driving on as if he didn’t notice, but it became harder and harder to ignore her tears and her sniffles the louder they got and the longer they continued. You could never contain curiosity for long, and so they asked, and mum told them granddad would not be coming back, that he was very sick, and they had to leave him there.

Alzheimer’s! The word resonated with the kids, because they’d been chanting ‘Arsehammers’ to themselves for a while, believing it to be granddad’s secret trick for traveling, but no, he was only sick. The mood dims and dulls further, as does the light, to show the dawning night. It was hard to fall asleep that night because it was hard to not think of granddad and all they’d believed so far, but eventually sleep came.

So did granddad, jolting them awake with a loud bang and a crash, as he performed the silly dance, loudly exclaimed ‘arsehammers’ and vanished. The next morning was frightful and full of tears as mum told the kids granddad was dead, but their little hearts held onto the fantasy – he was only at home with grandma and the angels – as they silently played with their toys; a sharp contrast to the cheery attitude at the start.

Contributed by Arooba Shami, Year 1 LANS

pictures by E.C. Toescu

 

Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition

birmingham-symphony-hall stageOn Wed 7th Feb 2018, the Symphony Hall housed another classical music evening, a concert that combined well-loved classical repertoire, as well as unusual yet enchanting compositions is sure to be a hit with classical music lovers of all ages- and this performance of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition was no exception.

Performed by the fantastic City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), the first half of the concert was a wonderful mix of calm, soothing melodic lines that filled the entirety of Symphony Hall, and sharp, energetic rhythms that could catch anybody’s attention. Listeners were treated to the upbeat and whimsical ‘May Night: Overture’ by Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), and then whisked off to Spain during Falla’s (1876-1946) ‘Nights in the Gardens of Spain (1915), featuring talented pianist Javier Perianes.

After the interval, Modest Mussorgsky’s (1839-1881) music took central stage. The famous ‘A Night on a Bare Mountain’ opened the second half, using the orchestration of his friend and admirer Rimsky-Korsakov; a piece as delightfully eerie as expected, that also served as a nice introduction to the main feature of the concert- ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’.

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One of the many ‘takes’ on the “Pictures at an Exhibition” – the cover of the Emerson, Lake and Palmer album presenting their interpretation.

This piece, originally created as a piano work, was presented in the more famous format, orchestrated by the renowned French composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937). The piece depicts various pictures seen at an art gallery, from gnomes to hens, the music perfectly captures the weird and wonderful artistry seen in such galleries. Featuring memorable musical motifs depicting beauty as well as comedy, the overall experience was thoroughly enjoyable and uplifting.

Hearing classical music being played live is always an amazing experience for anyone – a fellow classmate commented on the fact that being able to see all the instruments working together to produce such a sound gave her an appreciation of classical music and orchestration in general.

In conclusion, the concert was a great night out for all who attended- a memorable event for sure!

Contributed by Alice Sharp, Y1 LANS (Music)

WBBL & BBL Cup Final 2018: Nottingham and Cheshire Takes Trophies Home

[Learning is something that happens in unconventional places — the emotions, team challenges, and spectator dynamics on display at major sporting events come to life in the LANS first year team-building visit to the Raymond Priestly Centre (Lake Coniston)]

One student’s response to a LANS Cultural Programme event, by Kia Vue, Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences (first year student)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nottingham Wildcats just won the WBBL Cup Final and the BBL is setting up

Over 10,000 people came to see history being made at the Arena Birmingham on January 28th as Ashley Harris of Nottingham Wildcats and Tricia Oakes of Caledonia Pride starts the Women’s British Basketball League (WBBL) by tipping the ball.

The crowd sits on their edge of the seats as the game continues to be neck to neck throughout the first three quarters. Nottingham has been to five WBBL finals in the last three seasons; however, has not won one. And the Scottish team, Caledonia have only been playing their second season in the WBBL, which makes it hard for everyone to truly pick a side.

As the fourth quarter drew close, the Nottingham Wildcats were able to secure the title and scored 70-66 over Caledonia Pride and Ashley Harris named MVP.

In between the WBBL and BBL, the famous Pro:Direct Slam Dunk Contest was incredible. The highlight of this was perhaps Manchester Giants’ Austin Rettig who lined up four mop boys and slam dunked on them. Rettig scored an overall 58/60 which ultimately made him the 2018 Pro:Direct Slam Dunk winner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cheshire Phoenix accepting the BBL Cup Final’s trophy

Worcester Wolves’ Dallin Pachynski secures the first quarter by scoring most of the points with 25-21 over Cheshire Phoenix; however, the Wolves seemed to fall behind after that for the rest of the game.

Ending the first half with a foul from Phoenix, the score was 41-40 with Wolves falling short on one point and the fans continue to cheer for their team as the third quarter starts and the game became either team’s territory.

However, as the fourth quarter draws to an end, the Wolves was beaten by the Phoenix with the score of 99-88 and Malcolm Riley named MVP. The Wolves played a mean game and there was fair competition throughout.

Overall Malcolm Riley scored 26 points for the Phoenix and Michael Ojo scored 18 points for the Wolves. Both teams did incredibly well, and truly had the crowd roaring and supporting them all the way.

Vice Chancellor’s Challenge 2017, a Reflective Report

The VCC competition is a new scheme that recruits teams of students to work across disciplines on issues relating to global challenge. In 2017, the topic was Sustainable Cities. Student teams were supported by staff from across the university, including our Vice Chancellor, Professor Sir David Eastwood. LANS students were finalists in 2017.

By Natacha Askovic (Liberal Arts and Natural Sciences, fourth year student)

Why did I immediately feel that a topic on Sustainability was one for me?

The year I spent in Sweden as an exchange student [the LANS Year Abroad] has contributed a lot to changing my mind-set, to making me grow up as an individual and a student. Taking courses in Sustainability (Sustainability: Greening the Economy – lessons from Scandinavia) and Environmental Governance have greatly contributed to shaping my knowledge on global environmental issues and the various theories underlying their understanding, as well as the different solutions used/suggested to limit their effect and/or deal with the situation we have brought ourselves in.

I can say now with hindsight that I had already developed, even before Sweden, strong interests in topics related to ecology on one side, and social studies on the other. It is also mostly the reason why I decided to go to Sweden, even though at the time of applications, I did not use these terms to refer to my decision to pursuing my exchange studies in Lund; it is only after studying there and being part of a very sustainable and environmentally-friendly community that I was able to truly phrase what made me want to go there in the first place – and what actually attracts me about Scandinavia, and Sweden in particular.

At the end of the day, what I have known for years now is that I want to make sure the world that surrounds me is a better place – and that I never leave it worse off on a daily basis! – and throughout my experience at University, I have been led to consider SUSTAINABILITY as the framework in which I would develop both myself as an individual and my future career.

I found out about the Vice Chancellor at the beginning of my second semester abroad, when I was already more aware of my appeal for these themes, and I was truly driven by the topic of Sustainable Cities and Communities, simply because I felt that I was part of a Sustainable Community living in a Sustainable (Student) City – among a lot of other things, I learnt how to recycle EVERYTHING in Sweden, using literally the 8 different bins we had in our flat!

“Could you have the answer to a global challenge”: the LANS approach to the Challenge

Now the VCC is over, I strongly believe that we stood out from the rest of the groups, as LANS students, with regard to our approach. Our team was made up of five members, each of us having very interdisciplinary profiles, and this was both very beneficial and challenging in the first phase of research. In my case, my academic areas of interests are mainly centred around economics and international relations. In the specific given framework of Sustainability, I was immediately attracted to the questions related to Green Economy, Circular Economy and green political thoughts (Ecosocialism, Bioenvironmentalist ideas, the institutionalists approach to global environmental issues). Considering this is a topic that I am truly fond of, I enjoyed doing a lot of research on top of my already solid background on the questions we raised as a team regarding how we could tackle the challenge.

Quickly after we had our team constituted, we were faced with a few difficulties, difficulties that I feel we managed to successfully overcome. I believe that the first and probably main challenge for us while we were still abroad was to settle on a topic/project and this was for several reasons.

The first one was common to all of the teams and related to how vague the instructions were. The expectations on the significance of our project as a solution were also very unclear [this was the first time the scheme had run, and the expectations evolved as the project developed]. Secondly, as LANS students, we all have very interdisciplinary profiles already, with majors from various colleges, (and thus also different research methods, academic perspectives etc.) and we were asked to work on an already very interdisciplinary and very broad topic, which I think did not necessarily mean that it was harder for us, but rather we would approach the question differently from the very early stages compared to the other teams. Last but not least, we were all abroad making physical meetings impossible and also faced the difficulty of finding suitable times for Skype calls as we were in different time zones (Sweden, South Korea, Germany and Australia).

For all of these various reasons, it seemed hard to settle on a topic. When we started running out of time, it was decided that every single member should come up with a solution rather than an issue relating to sustainability, and from there find the problem(s) it relates to/solves, thus making the project both innovative and interesting and having an actual impact. We would then all vote and so Urban Gardens was the solution we settled on.

I offered to work on the idea of closed loops, a project that would involve circular process – having in mind the research on circular economies very promoted in Sweden and at the EU level – since circular/closed processes and cycles, or loop models, could be applied in a lot of different areas (academic, industrial, manufacturing, waste management, and actually urban gardens too!). Not only do I believe this bit of input influenced a lot our research and project as well, but also that it is absolutely essential to the concept of sustainability, since it could resolve the paradox that resides in the growing interest in environmental issues on the one hand, and the importance granted to economic objectives (growth) in the current world on the other hand.

BUGGs working on their platform: the long-term implications

As I learnt throughout my module on the Greening of the Economy, the concept of ‘sustainability’ does not only refer to environmental impacts and practices, but rather relies on three pillars, i.e. the economy, the society and the environment. Very quickly, I understood that the social one was at the heart of sustainability since societies as a whole are included within the economy, which in turn is part of the environment that surrounds us – indeed this is HOW we have decided to organise our societies on a global scale. We hence felt that if we (and when I say ‘we’, I mean anyone who has any interest in sustainability), could work within this pillar and help people develop a sense of connection with the environment while at the same improving social cohesion, empowering communities by teaching them how to be more self sufficient together, this was both life-changing for so many people here, around us in Birmingham, and at the same time a great step in the pursuit of sustainable development.

Urban gardens – or community local food growing – would help build both social cohesion that is so essential for all the individuals for so many obvious reasons – among which well-being, personal development, more (equal) opportunities… We pictured it as a process relating to the grass roots, or bottom-up approach: by shifting back the focus to local action, this could trigger realization of the importance of say more environmental friendly practices by the individuals; it could also impact on consumption habits, nutrition-related awareness and so on. Shifting the focus back to the local level means defining an improved quality of life and thus creating visions of sustainable lifestyles. This in turn leads to the need to work on designing, supporting and governing more sustainable cities where people have a good life and hence shows the key role that innovation and clean technology have in this greening economy.

Then, developments at the business and innovation level are expected to also lead to increased awareness and involvement at the governance level, with effective strategic planning and integration of policy instruments. This is the reason why we believe that working on the social pillar at our level is the best way to trigger this long-term process while still getting these very powerful short-term benefits, essentially related to food security, increased social cohesion, development of important skills etc.

To recap, I would say that it was not so much that we consider environmental or economic aspects of sustainability as less important than the social ones, but rather that as students asked to work on sustainability, the most REALISTIC and EFFECTIVE approach to Sustainable Communities and Cities was to start with a focus on the social sphere of the concept. Thus, Birmingham Urban Gardening Group (BUGG).

The benefits of participating?

I think that the most rewarding aspect of being part of this team and what made me so proud of us was literally knowing how feasible and concrete all of this is. We did not just come up with a utopian project relying on years of deep research, or huge finances. It was thought through to be as practical and achievable as if it was to be done tomorrow. We exactly know how we would proceed with our online platform, serving as a link to all the community gardens and people wanting to get involved in the offline community it would serve. We know we would go to schools and talk to children, and show them what they can do. We know this would bring families together to urban gardens, and create a strong connection to the environment and awareness on food practices, as well as help them all develop strong skills while meeting people they would not get to know otherwise, and so bringing communities together.

The final year is challenging enough but at the end of the day, I study because I believe in myself and what I can achieve through my studies. Studying is not just about satisfying my parents or making sure I earn enough money, it’s about the impact we can have as individuals, it’s about our beliefs and how we use our skills, our knowledge, our strengths and weaknesses to satisfy our values.

As written in the Brundtland Report (1987), ‘humanity has the ability to make development sustainable to ensure it meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’ and ‘technology and social organisation can be both managed and improved to make way for a new era of economic growth’. With the aim of developing a sustainable project for the VCC, we manage to reach policy advisors, to meet community gardens managers but also communities who already are part of it, and to offer a solution to tackling food poverty (a topic that’s close to my heart, and that I am focusing on for my LANS dissertation too!) and the strong inequalities, and reduce the lack of social cohesion in the area of Birmingham.

In conclusion

Despite the challenges raised here, I think that the VCC highlighted how much we have benefited from our course: team work (for the core modules) + interdisciplinary modules + stimulating debates thanks to the our very personal perspectives. I think that our project was also about making compromises for each of us, both very obviously on the topic and maybe less on the entire expectations related to the project. I think that it is easy to see how much I have learnt on the concept of sustainability though this work, but also on the development of a project of applied sustainability in relatively long-term. A topic on Sustainable Cities and Communities is of genuine global importance, and I already had a taste of its practicality while doing my placement this summer at the Economic Department/French Embassy in Croatia and working on the state and potential of the Energy sector; I was glad to work on the VCC because it meant creating from scratch something more concrete and achievable, which also added to my experience to the field.

Lake Coniston Photo Diary

Below is a photo diary of the June 2017 Coniston trip by Simon Scott:

Day 1

At 8am, we set off by coach from the North Gate for the Lake District.  After a pretty good journey, we were welcomed by the team at the Raymond Priestley Centre and had lunch. I think it’s fair to say that most people, if not everyone, was a bit apprehensive about what to expect, but any concerns dissipated pretty quickly when we got straight into the activities:
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The groups were pushed in their tasks and had to coordinate and communicate well.  It’s worth noting that the team at the Raymond Priestley Centre have a full range of activities to choose from, and every year they select the more advanced ones for LANS students, who have a good reputation for working well together.

After the activities, dinner was ready.  I cannot emphasise this enough: I was told that there would be plenty of food and was sceptical about this, but there was way too much and we were never without food for snacks.  Everyone was tired after the travelling and activities, so opted for puzzles, Love Island, pool or table tennis, while others read.

Day 2

Everyone was up on time for breakfast, and then met in the meeting room before starting activities.  Two groups went on the water:

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Another group went out onto the ropes:

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Then the groups switched over after lunch:

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After the day’s activities, John addressed everyone in the meeting room to tell us a few things about the following day’s activities.

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In the evening, we made packed lunches for the next day and then most people went to the pub after dinner.

Day 3

After breakfast, we convened in the meeting room before getting stuck into another full day of activities:

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Unfortunately, I was confined to the Centre with a foot injury so couldn’t join the groups on their activities.  These photos are from later in the day as they worked as one group:

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I should mention that the views, not surprisingly, are spectacular (although the photos don’t do it justice):

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Day 4

In the morning, we met up in the meeting room after breakfast.  Yesterday saw the end of the main activities: today we had three to choose from, including mountain biking.  After lunch, we had time for a group photo before catching the coach back to Birmingham:

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It was an amazing trip and the team at the Raymond Priestley Centre made us feel very welcome.  People were asking me if they could come again next year.  I cannot recommend it highly enough!