Category Archives: Culture

Julian Assange’s case as pandemic unfolds

Assange has been at the Belmarsh prison since May 2019. His lawyers and family say his mental and physical health are deteriorating dramatically. A group of 60 doctors have stated in a letter to UK authorities that Julian Assange could potentially die in prison. They “have serious concerns about Mr Assange’s fitness to stand trial in February 2020.”

Video Credit: Belmarsh prison footage by Carolina Lupanciuc
and footage by Ruptly at https://www.facebook.com/Ruptly at the Westminster Magistrates court

For more than 10 years protesters demand for Julian Assange to be freed. We can see them back in January 2020 in front of the Belmarsh Prison chanting. A group of protestors called the Gilets jaunes came all the way from Paris to support the movement.

As the global pandemic unfolds, journalists and Assange supporters alike are continuing their efforts to spread the message of Assange’s condition. The British government states that mass gatherings should not take place.

There aren’t strict regulations that prohibit citizens from protesting, however the UK government has issued an advice note for people participating in protests that you could read here :

http://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/20201105_stac_advice_note_-_participating_in_protests.pdf

“The current advice in the UK is that due to the coronavirus, mass gathering events should not take place.”

The right to protest is imbedded in many international treaties as a human right. Many consider that Jualian Assange’s case is also tied to our freedom of expression. Our foundational freedoms are currently being defied by a public health threat on a global scale. The question remaining is, how this threat will shape the future of democratic governance?

Featured Image credit: Spanish protesters wear masks of the ‘Anonymous’ group and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Photograph: Jon Nazca/REUTERS

Coronavirus: Free video games for NHS workers

Thousands of NHS staff are being given free access to video games as a way of saying thank you for their hard work during the pandemic.

Some of the biggest game companies like Konami, EA, Sega and Xbox are involved in the Games for Carers initiative.

The studios say the games can be used by NHS workers when they want to relax and get some down time or wish to provide relief for their families.

The Games for Carers initiative is supported by UK industry body Ukie, marketing firm Keymeiler and dozens of other video game publishers and developers.

The UK games industry has helped to share the government’s Stay Home, Save Lives messages in some of the most popular games like Fortnite and FIFA during the Coronavirus pandemic.

Digital and Culture Minister Caroline Dinenage said:

“We have worked closely with games companies to help keep people safe and I am delighted the sector is continuing to support the NHS in such an innovative way.”

If NHS workers wish to get access to their free games, all they have to do is visit the Games for Carer website and enter their NHS email address – even though the site went down for a few hours because of the high level of interest.

The Games for Carers initiative was the idea of Scottish video game journalist Chris Scullion, who was inspired after being sent a free gaming code himself and then contacted Ukie in order to involve major game companies on a mass scale.

She also said she hopes this initiative goes some way to help NHS workers understand how respected and valued they are.

(Image source: courtesy of Canva)

The show must go on!

With all the live events and music shows being shut down left and right, artists everywhere have had to make the tough decision to postpone their concerts until further notice.


Our favourite artists are trying to come up with creative ways to keep music alive and keep us entertained in these gloomy times. While in the previous years music lovers would start planning for the festival season by now, there are very little signs or hope for a normal summer season at all. If you’re tired spending your days on the couch, turn the music on, open the windows and dance all your worries (and calories) away for a minute or thirty.

Tame Impala released a new playlist playlist on Youtube called “The Slow Rush in an imaginary place”. In the background the listener can hear people cheering and having fun. If you miss live music dreamy atmosphere, grab a pair of headphones and immerse yourself into this Tame Impala psychedelic goodness. Travel into the past, or maybe the future. You decide.

Coldplay’s front-singer and a many other artists delighted their audience on Instagram with live at-home concerts. Chris Martin spent thirty minutes playing his best tracks on piano encouraging other artists to do the same. His live has been viewn over 4.7 million times and inspired people to share their own version of their #ToghetherAtHome over 58.000 times.

Sam Smith has also shared three performances singing by himself live, all the way from his living-room. Due to the recent events Smith decided to postpone the release to his third studio album and change its title.

The english indie rock band Nothing but Thieves have been meaning to realease new material for a quite a while. Their new song “Is everyone going crazy?” seems to have been written exactly for our times and relates to out current struggles. It’s a great catharsis song, recommend 10/10 for headbanging and aimelessly jumping around the living room.

“Is anyone else feeling lonely?”

Social media use has increased drastically and we’ve seen many musicians’ new ways to have fun and engaging with their fans. #Quarantinekaraoke, live-at-home-concerts, virtual festivals and gaming twitch streams… We can’t help but wonder, what’s next?

As we wait for the new wave of digital music interaction incited by the quarantined musicians worldwide, people have turned to music to feel less lonely in their homes.

What might seem like a catastrophy for the night economy could become a transformation of the music industry itself. New platforms for music broadcasting are emerging.

#DigitalFort is a two day event showcasing over 100 artists. This is meant to be an online festival to help raise money for those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One can have fun and be of service at the same time. Hopefully you have a good internet connection and you’re even luckier if you have some nice neighbours… the party can finally begin!

Coronavirus and fake news: UK government to tackle misinformation

The government is tackling misinformation being spread about the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cabinet Office’s rapid response unit is working alongside social media firms to remove fake news as well as harmful content.

It will attempt to tackle a range of online issues such as criminals running phishing scams via email and “experts” who claim to be legitimate but are issuing false medical information.

The special unit is dealing with as many as 10 incidents each day.

Alongside emails, text messages are also being sent out by scammers to target people who are worried about the coronavirus outbreak.

On 24th March, for example, the government began sending text messages to people, urging them to stay at home. Hours later, numerous fake versions of the message began appearing on social media sites.

The only official text message sent to people by the government

Messages are also being sent that contain survival guides, offers on masks and false COVID-19 treatments such as CBD oil.

One of those messages that stated people had been fined for breaking the lockdown rules contained a link that is likely to take you through dodgy websites that attempt to install malware or steal private and personal information.

Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, said “we need people to follow expert medical advice and stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives.”

The government have also decided to re-launch the “Don’t Feed the Beast” campaign which urges people to think carefully before they post content online.

It comes after the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee’s former chairman called it an offence to knowingly share misinformation about COVID-19.

Social media companies have announced efforts to fight the spread of misinformation about the virus outbreak.

Mr Collins is also launching an online service that allows members of the public to post screenshots of any information they’ve been sent relating to COVID-19.

 

Political rap: a new genre or an excuse to attack politicians?

‘Rest in Peace Jack Merritt, you’re my brother in arms’, Merritt, a rehabilitation officer who lost his life following the London Bridge Attack in November, was one of a few names given tribute at the Brit Awards this year.

Rap, took centre stage at the music awards where British rapper Dave, used his performance to call out Prime Minister Boris Johnson, branding him a ‘real racist’, highlighted the disparity between Kate and Meghan’s representation in the British media and honoured Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, the two victims of the London Bridge terror attacks. 

“In the case of the Prime Minister, he is not a racist at all”

A culture that has birthed popular genres such as hip-hop and grime and known infamously for its misuse of drugs, and degrading of women is now at the heart of spreading a political message. Whilst the British rapper’s performance has been commended for bringing attention to the reality that Grenfell victims are still out of accommodation, despite losing their homes to a fire in 2017, and has called attention to the neglect of the Windrush generation, Home Secretary Priti Patel criticised Dave’s performance, stating in an interview with Sky News: 

“I don’t know what those comments are based on. It’s wrong to make judgements about individuals when you don’t know a particular individual as in the case of the Prime Minister. He is not a racist at all and I just think those comments are highly inappropriate.”

Despite Dave delivering a powerful performance, it was Stormzy’s domination of the same stage in 2018 that may have set a precedent for the former’s performance, calling out the former Prime Minister, Stormzy said: “Theresa May, where’s the money for Grenfell” and unapologetically called out the Daily Mail. Both rapper’s performances were praised for drawing attention to social issues, but do musical artists have a right to be political? 

In a society where we have the liberty of freedom of speech, it could be argued that people and musicians alike are free to express their views; and despite the negative connotations often associated with rap music, political speech in music is not a contemporary movement. American hip-hop group NWA’s song, ‘F*** tha Police’ protested against racial profiling and police brutality, in 1988.

Whilst Dave’s performance may have ruffled some political feathers, his acknowledgement of social issues through music, may have paved the way for a new genre of rap.

[Photo by Thibault Dandré from Pexels]

“WE WANT MORE NUKES”

An ongoing protest outside Westminster Abbey received a mixed reception as members of the royal house attended a service at the Abbey.

The already high police presence was increased prior to demonstrations and a “die-in” which commenced at 12pm. 

Tourists and City workers stopped to take photographs, with one construction worker blazing “We want more nukes.” 

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Two separate demonstrations were organised. One demonstration condemned a service supposedly thanking the peace nuclear weapons had created. It consisted of vicars and clergymen and other supporters of the Anglican Church.

The second, which did not have affiliations to the church, encouraged disarmament and slated the government for their development of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). The die-in condemned the collateral damage caused to human life and the environment by previous governments. 

Opponents of the protest returned with pro-nuclear weapon comments “Big up nuclear war, it’s exactly what we want.” 

People from all walks of life attended the protest, with students, pensioners and young families, and even a few pets in attendance. 

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One protestor said “I want my children, and grandchildren and their children to have a world to grow up in.” She was physically and emotionally moved by the events unfolding. 

Pointing to the Abbey, the pensioner said “I’m here because Weapons of Mass Destruction are absolutely immoral. “I don’t think they’ve (WMDs) ever been a deterrent.”

The protest had slowly been gaining momentum in the early afternoon with protesters aiming to maintain the “die-in” for as long as possible. 

Photos and text by Zubair Karmalkar

Why does the boyband novelty never go away?

The Beatles, Take That, Westlife, JLS, 5 Seconds of Summer, One Direction, BTS, The Vamps. What do all these have in common? They’re all boybands. And we’re all obsessed with them.

It feels like the world has been obsessed with boybands since the beginning of time. There’s just something about a group of boys that can sing. Men, women, boys and girls – we all love it. It all started with Beatlemania in the 60s and, since then, it’s been a bandwagon that nobody can seem to get off.

As pop royalty Take That begin their eight-day residency at London’s O2 Arena in celebration of their 30-year anniversary, it’s time to take a look at why the novelty of boybands just doesn’t go away.

There’s a level of loyalty, when it comes to boybands and their fans. Look at bands like Take That; they’re 30 years into their career and stronger than ever. Granted, they began as a five-piece and are now a three-piece, but Gary, Mark and Howard haven’t been short of success.

They’re arguably one of the only bands that have made their situation work. They broke up in 1996, following Robbie Williams’ 1995 departure but reunited in 2006 (still without Robbie). In 2010, Robbie re-joined the group for their Progress album but his comeback didn’t last long and, in 2014, it was Jason’s turn to hang up his microphone.

Take That are perhaps the only band that have evolved as their members have left but, at the same time, have managed to stick to their roots. Fans of the group are some of the most dedicated fans in the world – no matter what, they’re always supporting. And that’s something that goes for boybands in general.

Think about the Jonas Brothers. They disbanded in 2013 and made their comeback six years later, in 2019. Having had successful solo careers, it’s always a potential risk for anyone going back to their boyband roots but, with boybands, one thing’s for certain: the fans. They may have grown up and in some cases married and had children but the devotion doesn’t go away.

There’s something about having a band that you grow up with. And every generation has one. From the likes of The Beatles in the 60s to One Direction more recently, there’s always a band for people to obsess over. There’s always one you can relate to – whether that be the music, or a member themselves. And that stays with you. The support and connection you feel to a band in your teenage years, for example, will 99% of the time stay with you for a lifetime. And then it becomes about nostalgia. The older you get, the more you’re reminded of the impact these bands and their music had on you – the happy times, the difficult times, the times that you wouldn’t have been able to get through without the support of your favourite band. And that’s why the novelty doesn’t go away; there’s nothing quite like it.

So if you love boybands just as much as us (and the rest of the world), have a listen to our Spotify playlist – a compilation of WNOL and WNOL readers’ favourite boyband songs.

Avengers: Endgame breaks the box office

Marvel Studios has dominated the box office this week with the release of Avengers: Endgame on the 25th of April. A culmination of 21 films, Endgame has grossed over £357 million at the box office in the US and Canada in its opening weekend. It’s now expected to pass Avatar as the highest grossing film of all time. This is all happening in the week before Star Wars Day (May 4th), a day celebrating another of Disney’s highest-grossing properties. Star Wars and Marvel have been neck and neck in box-office ticket sales since the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015.

Box office opening weekend (1).png

Reactions to the latest film have been positive, with a rating of 95% from 427 reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Matthew Norman of the London Evening Standard says in his review that “the only complaint about Avengers: Endgame is that it raises the bar so high that there may well never be a superhero movie to match it.”

Twitter has been packed full of fan reactions and emotional tributes to the 11 years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

 

Star Wars Day: How to celebrate

From the UK to galaxies far, far away, fans of the Star Wars franchise can be found clad in capes, a collectors t-shirt and ready with a lightsaber. Since 2011, May the 4th has been heavily regarded as Star Wars Day with a play on words of the famous line, ‘May the force be with you’.

Although not affiliated with George Lucas or his former film company Lucasfilms, the day is recognised by the creator, and is celebrated by fans every year. From viewing parties, to costume parties, and even a murder mystery, here are the best ways to spend Star Wars Day 2019. And may we just say, ‘May the force with be with you’.

Events in and around London

Star Wars Experience at Madame Tussauds

The Star Wars Experience at Madame Tussauds is a permanent fixture but what better way to spend May 4th than immersing yourself in the Star Wars world? Travel to a galaxy far, far away with 18 life-like figures of famous Star Wars characters and 12 sets. From Jabba the Hutt to Chewbacca, and Yoda to Darth Vader, there’s everything you need to become part of the franchise. Prices start from £29 for an adult (16+) ticket.

May the Fourth Be With You Cabaret at The Apple Tree 

Hosted by Marc Anthony and headlined by Lily Snatch Dragon, why not head to The Apple Tree in Mount Pleasant, London for a night full of sci-fi themed cabaret? Priced between £5-£10, the independent pub is offering alien themed performances, karaoke and a DJ to celebrate one of their favourite days of the year. The venue is encouraging dress up so you might as well go all out and channel your inner Yoda for the night.

Star Wars Day Stand Up Comedy at the South Kensington Comedy Club

We all love a bit of comedy so, if you’re celebrating May 4th, head to the South Kensington Comedy Club for a night of Star Wars themed comedy. Hosted by the club’s resident MC Star Wars fanatic Ashley Gorman, the night will be full of laughs – especially if you really embrace the theme and dress up. Oh, and it’s free!

See our other Star Wars coverage here: 

May The Fourth Be With You: The Jedi Robe Shop

Star Wars fans and actors pay tribute to Chewbacca actor Peter Mayhew 

If you can’t get to London, don’t panic – there are plenty of other ways you can celebrate.

Dress up!

What’s more fun than becoming someone else for a day? Especially when it’s your favourite movie character.

Throw a Star Wars party

Grab your friends and get partying. Make it a viewing party – you can watch the films in order of release or spice it up a little. This is the order that we prefer:

WNOL'S STAR WARS TIMELINE

Comics

Interestingly, Free Comic Book Day is on May 5th. What better way to continue your celebrations of May 4ththan reading the Star Wars Adventures comics? Set in the Star Wars universe, the comics are the perfect way to experience the franchise in another way.

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