Overcoming fifth-week blues by going… blue

Overcoming fifth-week blues by going… blue

Last week Exeter student Nathan Ellis decided to beat the fifth week blues by going blue for charity.

The second-year English student painted himself blue for a whole day in aid of Progressio, a charity that works on educational, environmental and health projects in the developing world.

This summer Ellis will set off to Nicaragua for a ten week volunteer project. He hopes to raise enough to cover an £800 contribution to the charity, in order to allow it to carry on its work.

The day was spent making the most of his new colour. Ellis said: “After going blue it was an easy step into just wandering around my daily life making puns on the word blue and avoiding people wearing any white clothes.”

Ellis remained blue from ten in the morning to midnight that evening. To counter claims he wasn’t painted completely head to toe, he will be repeating the stunt at some point this week.

He said: “Some people thought it was a cop-out that I hadn’t gone blue all over,  so I’m going to rectify that. And I’m also only going to be eating blue foods just to make it even less fun.” 

A second year student from Lincoln  commented: “You thought fifth week blues was a thing before, maybe. Back in those days, it was merely a meaningless metaphor. Thank goodness we can add an actual blue man to the mix. Phew. I wouldn’t know where I would be without it. Mr Ellis is my guide, my light, my life: he likes to party in blue, I like to party in blue, let’s all just ruddy party in blue shall we?” 

The next time Ellis goes blue, he encourages any interested members of the public to approach him for a chat. Despite the rainy weather all day, Ellis enjoyed the varying reactions to his unusual appearance.

“A woman came in while I was playing the piano in the chapel, stared at the blue man singing Frozen for a bit, put money on the piano, then left. It was bluezarre.”

He had a more sobering episode whilst shopping in Tesco: “I was walking into Tesco and a woman walked past me with her friend and said really loudly ‘he looks fucking mental’.

“It was completely out of the blue and really hurtful, particularly as her language was so colourful. In many ways it is a demonstration of the sort of prejudice Progressio works to counteract.

“Ultimately, I’m just another blue man and I’m no different from anyone else. She blew the whole thing out of proportion.”

Exeter student Jack Crewe commented on how the move had been a long time coming: “Right from when I first met Nathan I knew he was blue, and I think on some level he did too.

“He spent years as a shrinking violet, but now he is a majestic Oxford blue. I’m so happy that he’s accepted who he is and can finally express himself openly.”

Another friend of Ellis’s said: “He blue himself and got paid to do it”.

Sweet charity

Sweet charity

“Oh my God, I love your skirt! Where did you get it?”

“It was my mom’s in the ‘80s.”

“Vintage, so adorable.”

Regina George may have been insincere, but there is nothing like a compliment on something you are wearing to brighten up your day. I find that the compliment is even better when the item was relatively inexpensive, no one else has it, and you did a good turn in purchasing it because it’s from a charity shop. A few weeks ago I stumbled across Helen and Douglas House in Summertown (they also have a shop in the Covered Market) and picked up a gorgeous bright red, orange and purple pleated maxi skirt for just £5. I’ve grilled Hayley Owen, the Business Development Manager at Helen & Douglas House about what it’s like to work for a charity, how money raised in-store helps the charities, and how we can do our bit.

Olivia: So Hayley, tell me a bit about Helen & Douglas House.

Hayley: The money raised through the 36 Helen & Douglas House shops goes directly towards the funding for children and young adults with life limiting conditions. When a child comes into the houses, the family is offered a number of nights annually for respite care. We make sure children have comfort, appropriate medical support and the chance to enjoy their life, even when that life is short.

O: What impact do the stores have on the funding of the hospices?

H: It costs £5 million every year to run the 2 hospice houses, the vast majority of this funding comes directly from the shops and voluntary sources. A large percentage of that £5 million need annually to run the hospices comes from our stores. Which couldn’t be done without the kindness of our volunteers that play a huge part in running our shops and most importantly the public who are the ones that fill our shops with their kind donations.

O: The Summertown store has a fantastic selection of vintage fashion. Where do these clothes come from?

H: Our donations come from all sorts of people from all sorts of places. We sold vintage in all of our shops, mixed in with the normal ‘highstreet’ clothing. We had a real build up of vintage and found there was such a huge market for it that we started to sell it at festivals, which went really well. We then came to the idea that we could reach this target market by having a shop specifically for vintage. Summertown is a great success and we have now turned our shop in the Covered Market into a vintage shop too.

O: Do you have a special interest in vintage fashion?

H: I have studied fashion for 5 years at college and University and have always been specifically interested in vintage.  What I like most is how it’s possible to mix vintage with high street for an on trend look.

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O: What attracted you to work for a charity, rather than in the private sector?

H: I volunteered with the charity and then went on to do an internship with the E-Commerce and Merchandising Manager, which opened my eyes to how interesting and detailed working in a charity is.  Being apart of such an amazing cause gives you a great sense of purpose and satisfaction. If I were working in a private sector, I wouldn’t be working to support the lives of children and young adults. . I may work as the Business Development and Brand Coordinator but if it weren’t for jobs like mine in the charity retail sector raising money, we wouldn’t have the complete funds to support the children.

O: How can students get involved in helping with the development of charity shops?

H: Students becoming involved with charity shops is definitely the future. We are always looking for new volunteers who are fresh and full of creative ideas, and that’s exactly what students are. By coming along and being a part of the shops, the retail office, fundraising or even in the warehouse office, students can make a huge difference and assist with the on going development that we have. We offer great internships and apprenticeships for students. It’s great work experience for the CV and really assists us in raising the £5 million we need every year to run the 2 hospice houses. With 36 shops, an ebay online store and many roles within retail and fundraising, there’s a huge variety of work experience opportunity.

Fashion is always changing, and keeping up with the latest trends is expensive. Trying out different charity stores is a great way to save money, ensure you have an individual look, and above all do your bit for charity. If you have any questions about Helen & Douglas House regarding internships and volunteering, send Hayley an e-mail:

A right royal affair at LMH

A right royal affair at LMH

Princess Anne will visit LMH next Tuesday to attend formal hall and present a prize for refugee projects.

The Princess will present the second annual Ockenden International Prize, and will give $75,000 to an existing organisation that helps refugees and displaced people around the world.

Ockenden’s founder Joyce Pearce attended LMH in the 1930s.

The ceremony will be followed by a special formal hall dinner, which will also be attended by Princess Anne. Sign-ups are available to LMH students beginning from 4 February.

Rebecca Ward, Alumni Relations Officer at LMH, told students: “College will provide alcohol, at no extra cost.”

“We hope to see a full Dining Hall on Tuesday 18th February so encourage all your friends to sign up,” she added.

Stephen Claypole, a trustee of Ockenden International, said it was “appropriate for [Princess Anne] to visit LMH because both Ockenden International and Save The Children Fund have their origins at the College.

“We are very pleased that the Princess has agreed to present the 2014 Ockenden International Prize. It’s enormously important to our work to have her support,” he added.

A record ninety-seven applicants have applied for the prize this year, including the Norwegian Refugee Council Zimbabwe and ActionAid India. They will present their projects to a panel of five judges, led by broadcaster Michael Buerk.

According to the administrator of Ockenden Prize, Corrie Parsonson, the prize organisers had asked Princess Anne “because of HRH The Princess Royal’s interest in related charities,” as she is President of Save the Children Fund.

Ockenden International was founded in 1951 with two other English schoolteachers. Their initial aim was to help displaced East European youths reintegrate into society after the war.

In addition to the annual prize, Ockenden International also funds a Junior Research Fellowship at LMH.

Northern Lights: A Paradise Lost.

Northern Lights: A Paradise Lost.

The contrast between the university’s gilded youth and the homeless population of Oxford is perhaps at its most galling when clothes are involved. The romance of scholars in sub-fusc and well-heeled girls in ball gowns sits uncomfortably with the city’s ranking as the fourth worst place in the country for homelessness. Presented by Sarah Fan at For Fashion’s Sake and the Oxford Cocktail Society, ‘Northern Lights: A Paradise Lost’ offered an excuse to dress up and sip cocktails in aid of The Gatehouse, an Oxford-based charity which offers food and refuge to those sleeping rough.

With pieces still on display from the Edgar Wind Society’s Material Exhibition, Freud provided an atmospheric venue for a nostalgic foray into Phillip Pullman’s parallel Oxford. The striking web sculpture suspended from the ceiling gave the former church a touch of the gothic, while the checkerboard catwalk was reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The doors opened fashionably late, however the queue provided a welcome opportunity for pre-show style spotting. The veritable forest of faux fur cast against the neoclassical backdrop of Freud was almost a show in itself. This, then, was Lyra’s Oxford, only with fewer daemons and more sartorial sidekicks.
For the boys, sheepskin coats and sheepish grins dominated the catwalk. The clothes, which were mainly the models’ own, were an eclectic mix. Baroque smoking jackets and paisley waistcoats were almost Wildean in style, while the girls showcased occasion wear kindly donated by Coast and The Ballroom Emporium. Shimmering, silver eye make-up complemented the silky gowns and cocktail dresses: if Lyra ever had an eighteenth birthday party, this is what she would have worn.
Perhaps even more fashion-forward than the models were OxCock’s dapper triumvirate themselves. Channeling Audrey Hepburn in ‘Funny Face’, Kostas Chryssanthopoulos, Otamere Guobadia and Cai Wilshaw all sported muted turtle necks and sartorial self assurance, both of which promise to be big looks for AW13.
Commenting on the success of the night, Cai Wilshaw revealed: “We managed to raise over £1000 in gross ticket sales, which is a testament to the hard work of the team as well as the benevolence of Oxford students. We’ve got great plans for the future – bigger and better than before – so watch this space!”

Teddy Hall student in Indian charity cycle

A Teddy Hall student has raised over £3,000 by cycling 540km across India this summer.

Fourth year mathematician Kevin Minors completed the cycle in order to raise funds for the charity Childreach International.

No stranger to adventurous means of fundraising, last summer, he climbed the 5,895 metre Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, raising over £4,000.

Minors said the most difficult aspect of the trip was psychological.

He commented: “I found myself constantly questioning whether I was actually making a difference in India by being on this trip, or was I just another tourist out to find a new display picture and photo album[…]it was very tough at times.”

The trip took Kevin through the arid northern state of Rajasthan, completing his expedition just outside the state, at the world famous Taj Mahal.

Childreach International, Kevin’s chosen charity, works to secure basic rights for children across the world, providing education, medicine and security. He found his charity at a “Choose your Challenge” fair in Oxford two years ago, and has now raised over £7,000 across his two trips.

After his fundraising drive, he spent another week in India observing the local culture.

Although Kevin has no trips planned in the near future, he hopes to continue his fundraising throughout Michaelmas term. In fifth week, he is participating in Oxford RAG’s bungee jump, commenting, “How often do you have the opportunity to go bungee jumping?”

Blues go blue for charity

Blues go blue for charity

PHOTOS/Toby Mather

Oxford’s top athletes have set aside their sticks, oars, bats and balls to bare all for a charity nude calendar.

The Oxford Blues Charity Naked Calendar, featuring photos taken by Jesus student Toby Mather, exhibits 70 Blues athletes, their modesty kept intact by a host of cunning camera angles and strategically-positioned objects.

Teams featured in the calendar include athletics, fencing, lacrosse, netball, polo, rowing, rugby, squash, swimming, tennis and triathlon.

Ollie Bristowe, a member of the rowing team at St Peter’s, adorns April with his disrobed 6’ 4’’ frame. He said: “I was just hanging out in the boathouse when some guy turned up with a camera. Apparently it’s for charity.”

Though far from the first of its kind in Oxford, the RAG-organised calendar marks the first time such charitable nudity has been coordinated on a university-wide scale. The project is RAG’s latest fundraising effort to help meet its target of raising £100,000 for its student-elected charities this year.

Other recent initiatives have included Dodgeball Cuppers, their annual Summer Twist cocktail event, and a burrito-eating competition.

The proceeds from the calendar will be shared between RAG’s four chosen charities for the term: The Oxford Food Bank, Education Partnerships Africa, Students Supporting Street Kids and Giving What We Can.

Edward Higson, president of the Oxford chapter of Giving What We Can, lauded the calendar as “an arousing success” and its athletes as “fit”.

RAG Events Officer Nathalie Cooper commented that, while the calendar has only recently gone on sale, it has “already generated quite a buzz” and that they are “really pleased with the final outcome” of the calendar. She added that the RAG committee are “optimistic that it will raise a lot of money for our four great causes”.

Mansfield student Iain Mandale, who this year rowed Oxford’s Isis boat to victory over Cambridge’s Goldie during the Boat Race, said that a few problems had been encountered during the photoshoots. “The inevitable shrink came on as soon as we entered the breezy boat bay – it’s always best to warm up properly before a session”, he commented.

The charity calendar is available to buy online from the Oxford University Shop for £10 and can be found here:

PHOTOS/Toby Mather




Bloom-ing Idiotic

Bloom-ing Idiotic

[caption id="attachment_43478" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Godfrey Bloom, UKIP.  PHOTO/EUROREALISTNEWSLETTER Godfrey Bloom, UKIP.

When I heard UKIP MEP Godfrey Bloom’s “bongo bongo” comment, I couldn’t let it be laughed off as another ‘silly’ comment from a party which we allow to spout inflammatory, not to mention racist, rhetoric. Not only was it a misleading argument about where foreign aid is spent but it also encouraged the kind of derogatory perception of Africans that first allowed for the ransacking of their country through imperialism.

That we gained hugely from colonialism and have a responsibility, as civilised human beings, to give something back is an argument I strongly believe in. Unfortunately, others find it unconvincing. It seems that UKIP members generally lack any form of compassion for people who aren’t pure-blooded Brits, so I shall also explain how giving foreign aid benefits the UK too.

Firstly, was the phrase “bongo bongo land” insensitive? The Um-Bongo advert where animals are dancing around saying “um bongo, um bongo, they drink it in the Congo” is fun; it associates Africa with positive things like juice and music, not suckling from the teat of its donors and playing home to money-wasting savages. “Bongo bongo land” depicts the latter; it reduces an entire continent of at least 55 states to a vague, uncivilised jungle-land, of the kind Conrad portrays in ‘Heart of Darkness’ (published 1889). Many people I speak to still think Africa is one country, which demonstrates the lack of understanding people bother to acquire about this beautiful area, home to its own governments, policies and budgets, just like us. The reaction to the recent Zimbabwe elections frustrated me because of people’s out-dated and essentialist views. “Look,” they pointed at TV screens and newspapers, “Africans can’t do democracy. Even if their elections weren’t rigged, they would still vote for a dictator because they are tribal people who like to blindly follow a leader.”

I cannot deny that there is corruption in parts of Africa (exemplified through Mugabe), which makes the giving of foreign aid very difficult. Some leaders (like President Mobutu in Congo) have tyrannised their people and sapped their country’s resources for their own profit. Yet we supported Mobutu during the Cold War; Britain and the USA, just like the Soviet Union, financially and militarily propped up tyrannical rulers so that they had ‘allies’ in the Third World. We provided the weapons and ammunition to Congo, lying abandoned in warehouses after the Cold War, which are now in the hands of M23 rebels who terrorise the Eastern provinces and keep the region in a dangerous state of instability. The weapons from our intervention in Libya in 2011, where we deposed a leader that we did not like, filtered South to the Islamist Tuareg rebels in Mali who then began an offensive to depose their government just last year. We need to understand that all of this conflict has a long and complicated past, in which we are embroiled at every step: to dismiss all Africans as ‘inherently’ violent, tribal or incapable of achieving stability is not only ignorant of their culture but also of our own country’s history. We cannot, as UKIP would hope, view the UK as a vacuum.

Foreign aid is spent supporting the protection of human rights, providing innocent people with food and education so that they have the energy and resources to help their own country become stronger. It supports civil society, political parties, free and fair elections, so that the seeds of democracy can be planted and grown gradually. This is not a pile of Lefty idealism, pissing money up the wall, as UKIP might have you believe; the Tory-led coalition government’s decision to ring-fence the foreign aid budget in 2010 shows that the need to invest in the developing world is a valuable policy for any government in the modern world.

Giving foreign aid benefits the UK for several reasons: firstly, if we don’t help the Third World, other countries will. China, our economic super-competitor, is currently embarking on projects in Africa to build roads and help infrastructure so that this developing continent can become a viable trading partner and so that China can better access the much-needed resources which Africa possesses. If we stand back now, we will lose out in the future. Secondly, terrorists are borne from areas where instability rages (Somalia fast becoming a new example); failing to invest in their children will lead to further security threats in the future.

Finally, foreign aid could help address the very issue which UKIP cares about the most: immigration. Pretending the UK exists in its own bubble, locking down our borders and only looking inward will not help. Investing in developing countries and helping to improve their economies will prevent many people from wanting to live in the UK, where they believe they will have a better quality of life. People often shy away from the issue of foreign aid because they think it is purely given out of guilt, with no real gain to anyone because of corruption: this is simply a lie which Bloom and his colleagues should be prevented from spreading. Referring to “bongo bongo land” is unacceptable; this is 2013. The people in our ex-colonies are just as intelligent, creative and capable as we are and Bloom would do well to learn a thing or two from them.

Dire Straits for Cowley’s People’s Supermarket

Dire Straits for Cowley’s People’s Supermarket

[caption id="attachment_43301" align="alignright" width="300"]20130804-205146.jpg PHOTO//Andrew Walmsley[/caption]

The Oxford People’s Supermarket has this week faced the prospect of closure, having fallen upon financial difficulties.

£20,000 in donations are required from members in order to ensure the long-term survival of the enterprise, with donors receiving shopping vouchers and shares in TPS. Unless these funds are raised successfully in 60 days, the existing board of the supermarket will be required to stand down and an administrator will be brought in. The current Honorary General Manager of the co-operative has decided to step down from his position next week, and paid staff have been given notice of redundancy.

The supermarket, which recently celebrated its first birthday, is owned and run by a team of volunteers and shareholding members from both the local community and student body. The Cowley Road enterprise aims to sell locally and ethically sourced groceries at fair prices, and was originally established under the slogan “for the people, by the people”, based on a similar supermarket in London.

A board meeting held by directors on 30 July concluded that problems with the supermarket’s cash flow and low takings are making its current business model unviable, as there are insufficient assets necessary for making long term investments.

Hannah Hoechner, member of the supermarket and St Cross student explained: “We do not have adequate cooling facilities and good enough ventilation in the shop to stock a lot of fruit and vegetables. We would like to offer a broader range of products, including more local products, but we don’t have the necessary cash to improve our storage facilities and to stock up.”

She added: “It has been difficult for us to increase our sales and turnover after the fire at Cycle King’s next door in March. The pavement was closed, which kept customers away and brought down our sales.”

Oxford students who are currently members and customers of the co-operative, expressed their disappointment at the prospect of closure.

Rebecca Roughan, student at Regent’s Park and non-active member of The People’s Supermarket commented: “It’s really sad to see TPS falling apart because it just shows how overwhelming the chain supermarket’s chokehold on the industry really is.”

She added: “If such a widely supported community project cannot thrive against the [Tesco] man then what hope is there for the rest of the local shops? Plus they never gave you change in all 5ps.”

Abigail Burman, first year student at Corpus Christi and customer of The People’s Supermarket, commented: “I really hope it doesn’t close. The market is only once a week, and the local farmers’ market is only once every two weeks, so they’re the only place in Oxford that regularly has affordable local produce. I do almost all of my shopping there during term time.”

An ‘Extraordinary General Meeting’ was held on Friday night to assess the financial situation. Following the meeting, in a message to members and volunteers, the supermarket’s board of directors requested their assistance with drafting a new business plan, and in assessing the profitability of its products. An additional meeting is due to be held next week to consider the issue further.

The People’s Supermarket is now aiming to raise funds through crowdsourcing platform Buzzbnk. Donations can be made at:

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