Beyond the Seminar: Shakespeare Week

A belated Happy Easter to you all!

The Easter break is slipping past us at a shockingly fast pace, but with so much to look forward to over the next few months that isn’t an entirely bad thing.

Although we have the final mountain of essays to surmount in the next few weeks, English Literature students can look forward to an exam free third semester. This means that we have plenty of time for end of year shenanigans such as the annual ‘Pimp My Barrow’ Day (more on that closer to the time) – although sadly, unlike last year, we don’t have Radio 1’s Big Weekend on our doorstep.

Before we reach the promised land of third semester however, there are a few exciting things on the calendar…

As some of you may know, next month will be the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death (and his 452nd birthday). To celebrate this the Drama Society (whose committee I am on) are organising a whole week of activities – including lectures, film screenings, a monologue slam, and a very special production of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’.

I’m very much looking forward to the week (18th-24th April), but I have also surprised myself with how much I have enjoyed helping to organise the different events. All of the week’s activities have been dreamed up and organised by students for students. There have been meetings upon meetings and numerous emails, phone calls and brain storming sessions, all of which culminates in something tangible that is enjoyed by hundreds of students. Watching something that was once just an inkling of an idea in your head become a campus wide campaign is so rewarding – it shows how with work and effort you can have a real effect on the world around you.

A shorter way of putting it is simply that it’s amazing to be standing on this bridge between being somebody who things just happen to, and being a ‘proper adult’ who can make things happen. I’m beginning to realise that the things you learn at university aren’t just things you pick up in your seminars and lecture halls, but all of the extra opportunities it provides. It may sound like a cliché, but it’s true.

Anyway, for now I shall leave you with our exciting festival line-up. As always feel free to email me with any questions you may have.

line up

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All Elections great and small…

So we’re a week on and the election furore has yet to fully die down. We now have a Minister for Equality who voted against same sex marriage, and a Disabilities Minister who voted for the Bedroom Tax and against protecting disabled children’s benefits… but hey it could be worse, at least UKIP lost a seat.

UEA is most well-known for its arts graduates, figures such as Matt Smith and Ian McEwan. However, it seems more fitting at the moment to discuss those graduates of UEA who have gone on to climb the political greasy pole.20141214_135104

Because there are a surprising number of UEA alumni who have served time in either the House of Commons or the House of Lords, I shall limit myself to those who are currently members of Parliament.

The longest serving UEA MP is Caroline Flint (Labour) who received a BA in American Literature and History combined with Film Studies, and was elected to Parliament in 1997.

Flint has held a variety of positions including Minister for Public Health (2005-2007), Minister for Employment (2007-2008), Minister for Housing and Planning (2008) and Minister for Europe (2008-2009). She is currently the Shadow Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change.

Most famous for co-founding the parliamentary dance troupe, Division Belles, and for admitting that whilst Minister for Europe she didn’t read the Lisbon Treaty (the document which codifies the rules of the EU… *awkward*)

Then we have Karin Smyth and Rachael Maskell, both of whom did their BA’s at UEA and are now both new Labour MP’s as of last week – the very best of luck to them.

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And then we have the man who might be termed UEA’s enfant terrible (although without any of the positive connotations), Douglas Carswell. UEA is generally considered a progressive left wing university, all the other current ex-UEA MP’s are Labour for example, and yet somehow we went terribly wrong with this one.

Carswell is currently the only UKIP MP in the UK, having defected from the Conservative party in 2014. He is a climate change sceptic, opposed to same sex marriage and laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation, and dislikes the NHS. Carswell was also revealed to have claimed over £30,000 in expenses to cover the furnishing of his second home, so all in all, a bad egg.

On behalf of UEA, I apologise sincerely.

But in our defence we have also provided the world with the eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), Greg James, and Charlie Higson, so we’re probably allowed one let down.

When you look at the list of UEA alumni there are many politicians, both in the UK and abroad. It does make you wonder if there’s currently anyone at UEA who will one day appear on the famous alumni list.

In other ‘election’ news, I have just been elected as the Drama Society’s Union and Equality Officer (maybe not as exciting as becoming an MP but still). It was a rather last minute decision to apply, but having now met the new committee I am excited to get started.

So fingers crossed that the Tories don’t muck up this country and that I don’t muck up my new position.

A Fork in the Road

“TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
…”

-Robert Frost

Despite what the title of this blog may lead you to believe, I am in fact not just a Literature student, but also a Drama undergrad. Drama is something I picked up at GCSE and sort of forgot to ever put down again.

Drama classes are the strangest classes you could ever hope to take part in; one week might have you pretending to be a tree, the next you might have a lengthy debate about the meaning of life, the universe, and everything. No other subject is quite so diverse or exciting.

It is in drama that I have made some of my dearest friends, fallen a little bit in love (and out again), laughed until I’ve cried, wept in frustration, and on numerous occasions made a right prat of myself.

It was with this in mind that two years ago I applied to universities for places on their English and Drama BA’s, I just couldn’t choose between my two favourite subjects, and it was because of this that I came to UEA – in my opinion they have the best English and Drama joint honours course in the country (I may be a little bias). Had I been applying just for English, I don’t know if I would have looked at UEA, not that they don’t have a good reputation for Literature, but so many uni’s offer it that you would have to be a bit more ruthless when cutting down the list, and East Anglia wasn’t somewhere I would have immediately chosen to be (when I was younger I had often fancied going to university in London). But here I am.

In the interim between A-levels and starting uni, I took a year out and trained with a theatre company in London. We were all trainee actors but our directors and creative teams were all professionals, some of whom are renowned in their field. This was a wonderful opportunity to see what the life of an actor is really like, and the answer is that it is hard. You might have 9-5 rehearsals for ten days at a time, then have only a day off before you are called in again, you’re always short on money (I went for a month once living on £5 a week for groceries) what with the price of rent and travel, and at the end of all that you might not even like the play you’re working on – but that’s the life, and for some people it’s all worth it.

However, for me, it is not. I started uni no longer sure whether drama was what I should be doing, but I decided to stick it out for a while and see. I’ve made so many great friends on the course and I have really enjoyed some of the classes, but at the end of the day I just don’t think that this is what I should be doing. As I write this post, on my desk sits the form that I need to submit to request a move from English and Drama, to just English. Despite my conviction that this is the right step for me, I still find the form reproachful and feel that in some way I have failed already, after nearly four years of practical drama classes the notion of just stopping seems almost unthinkable. I feel in my heart that I shall always be a drama student even when I am no longer studying it, and will always hope to be considered in some way a part of that community, as strange as that might sound.

But there it is, and we shall see whether I live to regret it.

I hope that in writing this post I can show other students, or prospective ones, that you don’t have to fear making the wrong choice of subject at university, because there are always ways of changing your path, if you can find it in yourself to do so.

Until next week, adieu.