Author Archives: Christian Olsen

Local Election 2018: A country divided

“The country remains to be as divided as its ever been” says Peter Catterall, professor of History and Policy and political expert.

After the 2018 local elections left many people wondering who was the clear winner, Peter Catterall puts the lacklustre attitude down to political parties who “failed to capture people’s imagination or attention.”

All parties have seemingly got something to celebrate, and equally to be disappointed in, with this election’s results.

Here’s what he shared with WNOL about the election:

It seems the election can be defined in one sentence from the political expert: “there’s a sense of disengagement that is palpable.”

Labour victory in Redbridge

Labour keep control of Redbridge, with a massive increase from 36 to 51 seats in the 2018 local election. Their closest competition was the Conservatives, who lost 14 seats which brings their total number of seats to 12.

The Liberal Democrats lost all three of their seats in the borough.

Despite Labour’s obvious success in Redbridge, there was a few close calls

The count at Redbridge Sports Hall lasted 11 hours, taking place from 9:30pm to 8:30am.



Redbridge remains a Labour borough of London.

The result is one of Labour’s largest victories in London, after they made few gains but failed to claim London targets Westminster and Wandsworth.

Also against Labour was the loss of Barnet after the Conservatives claimed control. This comes after months of alleged anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, which is widely believed to have impacted the vote of the borough due to the large Jewish population.

Redbridge Labour Party are holding a celebratory party in Ilford on Sunday to thank all the activists, candidates and party members.

Leader of the Redbridge Conservative Group, Paul Canal congratulated Labour on their success.

View the full list of results for Redbridge here.


Streaming: The saviour of the music industry?

The US music revenue has risen for the second consecutive year – marking the first two times that there has been a substantial increase since 1999, according to an annual report by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

This dramatic change has occurred in recent years mostly due to the arrival of streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music and Tidal. It was only a few years ago that music executives and artists were claiming that streaming would be the final nail in the coffin for the dying music industry. And while there are still claims that artists are under-compensated for their contributions to the services, it is clear they have brought a new lease of life to the industry. The report showed that there was a rise of 16.5% to $8.7 billion in 2017, the highest it has been since 2008. Music streaming subscriptions have played a role in this growth, with figures more than tripling in the last four years.

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Statistics: Christian Onions

While streaming numbers are on the up, the report claims digital sales saw a significant 25% decrease for the year – illustrating how the use of streaming services is leading to a decline in the purchasing of digital and physical songs and albums. In 2016, the RIAA announced they were including audio and video streams as part of their gold and platinum certifications. Despite the radical move this was considered at the time, the industry has come to embrace the format, as it more accurately reflects the way that people are consuming music today.

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Despite the growth in revenue, artists and streaming services are still not adequately compensated for the volume of listeners that enjoy the music. According to RIAA Chairman and CEO Cary Sherman, this has resulted in a ‘value gap’: “the gulf between the amount of music being consumed and the compensation that platforms return to music creators for exploiting music.”

Of the nearly $9 billion in revenue from 2017, $5.7 billion came directly from streaming services, representing the largest recorded music format in terms of value. The steady rise is certainly worth celebrating, but it is important to note that the figures are still only at 60% of the music industry’s peak level.

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Statistics: Christian Onions

Spotify has been making headlines on its own recently, after debuting on the New York Stock Exchange to the value of $26.5 billion, a figure higher than predicted. In fact, Spotify is now worth more than Twitter, Snapchat and Dropbox. With more than 70 million listeners worldwide, it is by far the most popular music streaming service. Apple music trails behind in second place, with just over half that amount.

In order to understand their streaming habits, I spoke with a few students – the generation considered responsible for the rise of music streaming. This is what they had to say:

Interview Findings:

Q1: What music streaming service do you use?

Results show all participants use a streaming service of some sort. Spotify proved to be most popular, with 40% claiming to be active users. 20% admitted to using Soundcloud, 20% use YouTube and 20% Apple Music.

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Graphics: Christian Onions

Q2: How much do you pay? Is this reasonable?

While all participants thought the price they paid for streaming services is reasonable, there was very little range in the amounts – 60% paid £5.00 and the remaining 40% took advantage of free services such as Soundcloud and YouTube.

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Graphics: Christian Onions

Q3: Since using streaming, have you found that you listen to music more often?

I was curious to know whether having streaming subscriptions encouraged users to listen to music more often than before they began streaming. The results show the participants unanimously answered ‘yes‘ – citing the variety of choice as the main reason.

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Graphics: Christian Onions

Q4: Do you like the service you use? If so, what is it you like most?

There was another unanimous result among the participants when asked whether they like the service they use, they all answered ‘yes‘. When stating what it is they like most about the service they use, there were a few key words that stood out: ‘easy‘, ‘cheap‘, ‘recommendations‘ of music, ‘variety‘/’choices‘ and ‘simple‘.

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Graphics: Christian Onions

Q5: Have you discovered any new artists from the streaming service?

Most participants mentioned they often discover new artists on their choice of streaming service – crediting playlists for introducing new talent or recommendations of new music. One interviewee had experience with both Apple Music and Spotify, and stated that Spotify was superior when it comes to discovering new artists:Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 19.08.58While there is still plenty of uncertainty surrounding the world of music streaming, it seems like the ‘trend’ brought about by the millennial generation is likely to stick around for a while. It is difficult to predict exactly what impact it will have in the long run, but for now at least, streaming is the saviour the music industry has been crying out for.




#MeToo and Time’s Up: What’s the difference and why do they matter?

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Image credit: Damian Dovarganes/AP

What is #MeToo?

On October 5th, 2017 The New York Times published an exposé detailing multiple allegations of sexual assault made against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Within the article, Ashley Judd and Rose McGowan were named as two of the countless women alleging he had sexually assaulted them.

One of his most vocal critics was actress Alyssa Milano, who tweeted: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.” Within hours, thousands had replied with their personal stories, and #MeToo became a movement unlike any other, tackling the topic of sexual assault and harassment head on.

‘Me Too’ dates back to 2006, when activist Tarana Burke coined the term as a way to bring together and support victims of sexual misconduct, with a focus on young girls of colour. Burke was inspired to take action after she had a conversation with a 13-year-old girl who told her about the sexual abuse she was suffering at the hands of her step-father. She describes the movement beyond the hashtag as “the start of a larger conversation” with the goal of “disrupting all systems that allow sexual violence to flourish.”

What is Time’s Up?

As a result of #MeToo, a group of over 300 women in Hollywood were inspired to form the Time’s Up movement, widely considered as the next step for #MeToo. Safety and equal opportunities in the workplace are the main goals of the organisation, aiming to eradicate workplace inequality, citing the imbalance of power as the root of sexually exploitative behaviour.

me too prominent figures

Kerry Washington, Reese Witherspoon and America Fererra are among the many high profile names backing the movements. Image credit: Mireya Acierto/FilmMagic; Christopher Polk/Getty Images; JB Lacroix/ WireImage

The group, spearheaded by the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Kerry Washington and America Fererra, aim to get new legislation passed to protect women in the workplace by focussing on issues such as equal work environments and equal pay. Christy Haubegger, a CAA executive who helped to launch Time’s Up, spoke to Time Magazine and had this to say: “Time’s Up was founded on the premise that everyone, every human being, deserves a right to earn a living, to take care of themselves, to take care of their families, free of the impediments of harassment and sexual assault and discrimination.”

Inspired by the #MeToo movement, a survey on sexual harassment in the workplace was conducted by the BBC in October. More than 2,000 British adults were involved in the survey, with the aim of providing updated figures regarding sexual harassment. This ranged from inappropriate comments to sexual assaults, at work or a place of study. Some of the findings from the survey are below:

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While #MeToo and the Time’s Up movement are separate entities, they were both launched on the back of the courageous victims coming forward, triggering an unprecedented global crusade to end sexual misconduct and assault. Despite all that has been accomplished since the groundbreaking New York Times exposé in October, for now at least, time’s certainly not up for Time’s Up.

Living with fibromyalgia: Niemah’s story

“I hate…” begins Niemah, glossy red nails clawing the lid off her nearly overflowing coffee cup, “that I always end up ruining a pair of jeans every time I do this.” Reaching for an assortment of brown and white sugars, she leads the way through the coffee shop to an empty table with all the knowing of someone who visits daily.

Upon her request, we met in her local Starbucks, “at least you know what you’re gonna get” she says with a shrug, justifying her choice. Upon first impressions, Niemah is nothing like what I imagined. Confident, funny and seemingly strong – not the typical description you can give of someone living with a serious illness.

Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 19.48.59She is a 20-year-old university student of English literature with ambitions of becoming a published author, and a proud Muslim happily engaged to her boyfriend of two years, Bashir. This is what she insists you must know of her before you learn that she lives with the debilitating musculoskeletal pain and fatigue disorder, Fibromyalgia. “I don’t introduce myself by mentioning my illness first – that doesn’t define who I am. I like to present what I am most proud of first: my education, my family, my religion.” But that isn’t the only reason she has reservations about people knowing straight away, “chances are people either won’t know what fibromyalgia is, or they think it’s all in my head.”

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Statistics: Christian Onions

While most illnesses are related to one part of the body, or one system, fibromyalgia is a more complex condition that can be difficult to understand or diagnose – mostly due to the fact that it can impact the whole body. While scientific research on the issue is limited and the cause unknown, symptoms can develop after a form of physical trauma, psychological stress, physical injuries or illnesses. To say that Niemah doesn’t let this hold her back in life is an understatement. When we met on a cold Wednesday morning, she gave me an insight into the surprisingly optimistic, criminally misunderstood life of a fibromyalgia sufferer.

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Statistics: Christian Onions

“Like most people, you live for years completely misdiagnosed. For me, it was four years ago that the pain started to become something I couldn’t ignore.” Half the struggle for people living with fibromyalgia is reaching the point of diagnosis, with the immense lack of knowledge on the issue often leading to months, or even years of misdiagnosis.

For Niemah, it was an eight month nightmare of agonising pain before she even heard of fibromyalgia for the first time. Watching Niemah whilst she describes the pain is like watching a perfected routine. This is something she has had to do more times than she can remember, “It’s hard for people to understand this because if you get a feeling of pain you can usually link it to something, like “oh, yeah, I have this pain because I worked extra hard at the gym this morning” but you take it easy, a bit of rest, and its gone. Fibromyalgia is like that, but you can’t link the pain to anything you’ve done, and it doesn’t go away with rest. That’s the best I can explain it.”

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Statistics: Christian Onions

The bubbly, warm character sat in front of me becomes more subdued as we delve further into her story. Eyes glazed over, Neimah relives her time in college before being diagnosed; “I was regularly missing classes, I had my friends and teachers constantly frustrated with me, I was falling behind on my work and had this pain on top of all of it.”

Answering to other people was one of the most difficult things for her, “I had no explanation. You know, people would say “so what is wrong with you?” and I’m like, “I don’t know.” You look so stupid saying that. Most people know what is wrong with them when they are ill, or they certainly don’t have eight months of not knowing what their illness is.”

In a bid to lighten the atmosphere, we change the topic to what life is like today. She sits upright in her chair, sighing in relief, “I wish I knew back then that life wasn’t going to be awful all the time. There’s obviously a long way to go for sufferers in general – there’s still no cure, no certain known cause. But for me, in this moment, life is good.”

Life for her isn’t without its difficulties, though. “The pain is still there” she states, “but the way I deal with it has changed.” It is a process, she informs me, that took her “a bloody long time” to get right – everything from deep tissue massages and yoga to marijuana cream have all helped her to deal with pain. “Recently my arms and wrists have been my problem areas and the cream worked so well for me. Obviously I don’t do it all the time, but I’ve found what works best for me based on where the pain is at the time.”Screen Shot 2018-04-11 at 15.47.58Fibromyalgia has been in the spotlight more than ever in recent months, due to Lady Gaga’s Netflix documentary, where she reveals that she has been suffering with the illness for some time. Released in September 2017, Gaga’s documentary brought much needed attention to the issue, resulting in a new peak in google searches of ‘fibromyalgia’.

“That was so amazing” Niemah explains of the moment she heard, “to have someone as famous and adored as her coming forward to say “this is real, this is happening and it’s happening to me” was just so unbelievable.” She cites this as a turning point for the illness, “even if people still don’t know what it is, they probably know Lady Gaga has it and all of a sudden it’s ‘real’.”

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Global interest in fibromyalgia over the last five years based on google searches. Source:

Taking a final gulp out of her coffee cup, stained with maroon lipstick, she offers advice for anyone recently diagnosed; “Try not to stress. I know that’s really annoying to hear, easier said than done, I know. But stress will only cause you to be in worse physical pain. Get to know your body. Once you understand your body, you can begin to find pain relief. Talk to people – find forums online. When you’re first diagnosed I think it is so important to know that there are thousands of people out there that feel the same as you – you aren’t alone.”

You can learn more about Fibromyalgia here.