All posts by Catherine

Arts student at Glasgow University.

Wegie Freshers

Fresher’s week has come and gone (for the Scots anyway).  So I’ve experienced three of these weeks in my life: the first as a bright-eyed fresher, the second as a mostly hungover bleary-eyed second year, and finally the third as a dull-eyed third year participant.

In first year I came to halls and received my fresher’s week care package, feeling like an old lady at Christmas. It had everything from granola to condoms, what more could you want? Then begun the awkward “meet-the-flatmates” procedure, and we collectively decided to start the PARTY at the Queen Margaret Union. It took me a few hours to realise that there are in fact TWO student unions at Glasgow University: The GUU and the QMU, and that typical mythical rivalry exists between them.  How exciting!

So the history of these unions is one of those well-known Glaswegian things: the GUU was a men’s only club, and so strident feminists opened the QMU as the woman’s alternative (right on etc.) Now of course there is no gender divide, but there is certainly a strikingly contrasting atmosphere in both venues. I spent most of my first year in the QMU. It’s less daunting, openly friendly and most of the club nights feel like a rather more extravagant house party.  The GUU however pays host to the HIVE. For those of you who aren’t aware of the HIVE or its reputation I’ll say that it’s worth a try at least…but also that the phrase “meat market” is used quite a lot… think of that what you will. I’ve been there a few times, and it’s not THAT bad, it’s just a little bit more “clubby” than anything that the QMU offers, so standard club sleaziness is going to occur. But the music’s good and it functions as good as any decent club would.

QMU’s offering is the ever popular “Cheesy Pop” which in Freshers Week has a special guest offering. Last year I believe it was two members of B*Witched (!!) and for us we had Jo and Bradley from S Club 7.  It’s the kind of wacky club night where freshers can feel like children once again and listen to sometimes ancient songs from their childhood and indulge in a pint of Magic (a QMU exclusive drink concoction). This year I went to one of the events at the QMU, namely the band night. This really showcases the best new bands that Glasgow has to offer; many new musical discoveries were made that night. Bands on offer this year were Bwani Junction, The LaFontaines, Kassidy and of course the QMU favourites Twin Atlantic.

But enough of the nostalgia; my freshers week was two years ago (!). This year I had the perspective of someone who was involved. I’m part of a student society known as STaG (Student Theatre at Glasgow) and so we had our own unique freshers week agenda. Our aim was to recruit as many new faces into our society and the best way of doing this is flyering the crap out of the campus. Glasgow being what it is we did this in adverse weather conditions, wearing bright orange t-shirts and asking people to hug the STaG bear (he’s not VERY wet from the rain I promise!) It was a lot of fun to have our own stand and contribute to the wonderful (and vitally necessary) Freshers Fair. In between flyering we would join the vast mob of people rushing to the Dominos van to get our free slice of pizza. One thing I’ve learnt from the varying experiences of freshers week over the past three years is that the Freshers Fair is something that has to be done if you want to make any impact upon the university during your time here. There is almost every society you can think of, from CUT film making to the Jane Austen Appreciation Society. At least go for the free pizza!

It’s quite easy to take the piss out of freshers week, with classically expected “debauchery,” but it is something that we all have to go through. Plus a little bit of ridicule is never harmless when the idea of the week is FUN.

Apart from anything else, this year’s freshers week made me feel incredibly OLD. Has it really been two years since I first came here?  I can’t help but envy every single young person that comes here for the first time and gets the big freshers week hug. I’m jealous of all of you!

August = Fringe

In my most pretentious opinion, there is only ONE place to be in August every year: when the beautiful city of Edinburgh explodes into an epicentre of theatre, comedy, music , dance, art, EVERYTHING.

So that’s where I’ll be, in only a couple days time: crammed on to a packed train embarking from Kings Cross to the stunning Scottish capital. For me this journey is as exciting as the journey from platform 9 ¾ (yes I have seen the plaque and will take time out of the stressful time at the station to take a picture of myself with it, I’ll add it to the collection)

The fringe is something I can’t recommend enough to any student interested in the arts. If you want to see some of the best and sometimes undiscovered theatre or entertainment for a cheap price (most of the time) then this is the place to be.  This is the place that started the careers of some of the most successful comedians in the UK: Eddie Izzard, Fry and Laurie, Sue Perkins, even New Zealand got a look-in and gave us the mighty Flight of the Conchords. THANKS FRINGE!

This will be my fourth fringe year. Four years ago, at the age of 17 I got my first taste of independence and came to Edinburgh with some friends, booked into a cheap hostel for a few nights having made sure that I’d reserved tickets for the best shows on the fringe website (top tip number 1) and had the best time. Edinburgh is my happy place, which sounds like something I whisper to myself while crying in the foetal position. I mean it in the sense that some of my happiest moments have been in that city, specifically during the fringe. My friends and I did this tourist routine for two years consecutively, and we picked up a few must-do’s on the way.

Firstly, it’s a bit lame to go to the fringe on your own (as in without parents) if you’re under 18. One of the great things about Edinburgh is its night life and during the month of August there’s EVEN MORE on offer. There’s nothing like a night in the Pleasance Courtyard or Dome, having a pint and a pancake in the Udderbelly garden or dancing like a lunatic in C venues. Please be at least 18 when you try the fringe (I appreciate that I’m talking to students so that’s definitely an assumed thing, but you never know.) When we went at the age of 17 we managed to find a Starbucks on the Royal Mile (still a cherished place of mine) that stayed open until the early hours, so we rocked it like old school jazz artists and got “wasted” on coffee and hot chocolates. If you’re not into the drinking scene then there are PLENTY of coffee shops like this that will accommodate you and your late night conversations.

Secondly, be forgiving to some of the shows that you see (unless you’ve paid a ridiculous amount of money, which seems unlikely). Most of these shows are low budget and can be very amateurish:  there’s so much on offer at the fringe you’re bound to get a dodgy one. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should dismiss any “shoddy” looking show that’s advertised to you on the Royal Mile. You can occasionally get real gems full of untapped talent. Remember it takes just one good review to make that show a sell out so get in there quick! Try everything!

Last year I stopped being a tourist and started being a participant, working in one of the venues as Front of House. This was the best way to be in the fringe for the whole month, meet lots of people and also get great work experience. And that’s where I’ll be in a couple of days again. Any August, if you’re looking for me or any young (or even old) people with a passion for the arts, then you’ll probably find us at the fringe. Be there or miss out: each year is different.

Festivalling…


Festival season is upon us. Try and ignore it if you can, but alas it’s  everywhere. We kick off with Glastonbury, and naturally this weekend we  will be bombarded with images of wannabe hippies jumping around in  mud, some with fluorescent paint smeared across their faces and  shouting at the camera how “freakin’ awesome life is!”

I hate them all.

Perhaps I’m being harsh, and bitter. This is the first time in five years that  I’m not going to a music festival, and there is a distinctive welly-  boot shaped hole in my summer. I’m jealous of these prancing idiots on      television…because they used to be me.

Some of the best and worst things have happened to me at music festivals (Reading, Isle of Wight, Glastonbury, T in the Park) and I’m fairly certain that these stories illustrate the entirety of the festival experience in all its muddy glory.

I started at Reading festival, like most London teenagers do, to celebrate the publication of the GCSE results. This was the year of 2007 (I’m sounding like an old smug hippy):  the year that the Red Hot Chili Peppers were to stun us all and cement their claim to being one of the best bands in the world. As it turned out they were to stumble on drunk, play old songs no one knew and fight amongst themselves on stage.  Reading bore witness to the hiatus and the disappointing anticlimax of the Chili’s reign. Kiedis, I have yet to forgive you, why? Other highlights of that year included being suffocated in a sea of “mosh” watching Bloc Party. Whenever I hear Bloc Party to this day I get shell-shock like flash backs that make me feel like I’m dying all over again; I ended up with a bruise on the face that day.

When Bloc Party ambled off the stage, unaware of the carnage their music could produce in these drunk teenagers, I was ready to force my way out of the crowd and find a patch of grass, maybe curl up in the foetal position and cry it out. The next band was some unknown band to me that I didn’t care about, I just wanted to leave. Unfortunately the Gods of Reading had other plans and decided to make everyone in that crowd made of concrete, immovable. Then the band came on, and I was still stuck in the mosh pit, (there’s normally an interval of about 45 minutes between each band, so this just goes to show how unsuccessful my attempt at escape was). I resigned myself to the fact that I was going to have to watch this band. The band was Arcade Fire. They are now my favourite band.

That’s one of the beautiful things about festivals, just keep walking and you’ll find a new band to sample. You’ve paid a lot of money and you get a massive choice. There are fans of these bands who would pay that amount of money to see them by themselves at an arena, where as you get about 30 bands for the price of one (albeit a very expensive one). When I gave Arcade Fire “a try” (not through choice), I was blown away. Watching them was like a religious experience, appropriate with their current “Neon Bible” album release. I’ve never seen them since; I love them but they’re annoyingly elusive little buggers.

Reading’s a special festival when it attracts these sorts of bands (Arcade Fire LOVES Reading). Other times it’s terrifying. Sunday night in 2008 was reminiscent of the scene in The Goblet of Fire when the Death Eaters attack the Quidditch World Cup (a nerdy comparison I know). 2008 was the year of the mighty Killers…who I managed to miss. I made the stupid mistake of going to see Bloc Party again, and being smothered by a guy dressed as Scooby-doo is not part of a fun festival experience. This time I managed to escape, losing my jumper in the process. I stood at the back of the field waiting for friends to find me and I managed to attract a crowd of (very burly) men who came and danced around me chanting tribally; when I moved a muscle they screamed gleefully “we’ve got a live one!” and proceeded to try and lead me to supposedly their tent or possibly man-cave. Luckily at that moment my friends found me (though they took their bloody time!)

My experiences at Reading were the start of my love affair with music festivals. Glastonbury is the kind of place you can go to without even seeing any of the music and have a beautiful time: it’s like hippy Disney land. T in the park was so rainy I think I gained two stone merely from coming home water-logged like a sponge.  T in the Park was annoying in that sense; one of the most fun things at festivals is the clothes that you wear; style magazines are full of articles on festival fashion at the moment. I had planned an outfit for every day (girlishly embarrassing I know) but had to wear the same waterproof coat every day. I looked FABULOUS but no one could tell!

So as the first images of Glastonbury come out tonight I’ll be watching with unspeakable envy, and next year I will definitely be attempting to build up on the stories that I already have. <insert festival name here>2012, HERE I COME!

Written by Catherine, Glasgow Uni

North and South: Making the move from London to Glasgow

One thing to know about me: I’m a city girl. From the age of 12 I was plonked onto a London tube and told to commute for an hour each way every day to get to school, a harsh and abrupt introduction to living in this city. London’s huge, and I’m tiny. In that sense my relationship to it is somewhat bittersweet. It’s too huge. I don’t think that anyone can really feel truly a part of it as a city, almost like if you were to disappear or leave, London wouldn’t really care. London has bigger things to worry about than you, so don’t expect people to smile at you on the tube or on the street (chances are if they did you’d think they were a psychopath). As such it’s always been hard to associate a sense of identity as a Londoner. I certainly don’t have a nightlife; the trains are ridiculous and so however much I would LOVE to stumble home at 3 in the morning, it’s simply not possible: my last train is at 12; I can walk home quite sober and coherent at about 1 if I’m lucky.

But it’s not all frustration and insignificance in the UK’s capital; it is the capital after all. I’ve seen some of the best theatre in the world and I’ve seen huge events play out in front of my eyes. Things happen in London, and it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.

 

 

I defy you to walk down the South Bank and not get a little bit pretentious and happy. In some ways I’m quite proud to call it my home. Though I don’t have much idea of what it means, I ‘m happy to call myself a Londoner…sometimes.

 

Then I moved to Glasgow, and I’ve been living there for two years now. London, and generally the south’s opinion of Glasgow isn’t the best to say the least. Films like “Trainspotting” and “Neds” haven’t really helped the city’s reputation (however many times I remind people that “Trainspotting” is ACTUALLY set in Edinburgh). I have a confession: I loved this city before I decided to study there. My mother is Scottish and so I’ve been raised around Scottish people, and Glasgow was one of the places we would visit, often to see the pantomime at the legendary King’s Theatre. Usually when people make the move to University it’s something entirely new and exciting, but I was really moving from home to another home. However much I have gone on about being a “Londoner,” I have to admit that I feel more at home in Glasgow.

It’s the second cultural capital of the UK, without a doubt. Things happen in Glasgow too, but they happen with a smile! I could go on about the wonderful theatre and music but I think it’s pretty obvious. The amount of artists and musicians and theatre practitioners that have come out of Glasgow speaks for itself: John Tiffany, Franz Ferdinand, Belle and Sebastian, Primal Scream, James McAvoy (!)  The south has got it so wrong.

London is huge, as is Glasgow, but Glasgow is beautifully manageable. Sometimes looking at a tube map in London makes you feel like you’re living in “Inception,” but the Glasgow subway system (affectionately named the “clockwork orange”) is a circle. Just a circle. You have a choice:  go clockwise or anti-clockwise. I was living in paradise; Oh sweet simplicity!

I feel at home in this city and I have loved being a student here (thank God I’ve still got two more years). The move from London to Glasgow has been an adventure; both cities are huge and cultural and a centre of activity and I’ve had the advantage of experiencing life in both.  The people in Glasgow are friendly and the character of the city is so rich you can’t help but feel a part of it. I have come here and I’m a student and a city girl again, but this time a Scottish city girl.

Written by Catherine, Glasgow University