Monday, 28 May 2012

Pathetic Fallacy, Last Orders and The Summer Ball

Afternoon all,

I, like all of you I’m sure, am pretty chuffed that the sun is out.  Campus seems like a different place, suddenly it’s awash with people as if the students of Reading  University are solar powered.  Of late, just having a scour over campus, there seems to be quite the element of pathetic fallacy what with the current weather. Now that them gloomy grey skies are out the way and the suns shining everyone seems a lot more chirpy.  The shorts are out, the dangerously misinformed donning the ever fetching “crocs” and those without sensitive teeth are straight in on the ice creams. Smashing.

Being ever the optimist I want to talk about what you’ve all got to look forward to once those exams are over! A minor distraction allowing you to procrastinate and have a peek at something coming up to get you through these last few days/weeks.

Perhaps I read too much into these things but to me the university year has a strange way of fizzling out.  There is a huge build-up of pressure around exams which starts before Easter which is way too early! As a student, every day seems to be a bit of a countdown, you struggle to maintain the motivation to keep going through the revision.  Then the day arrives that you finish your last exam… there’s a mandatory polite shandy or two…or three… or a couple of jugs of pimms followed by in my case a somewhat hazy evening.

Once the initial euphoria has worn off however,  you crazy Van Wilders out there ( you know who you are) no doubt will have a feeling like someone has just rung the bell for last orders at the bar a little bit too soon.  People start going home for the summer, it all ends a little bit too quickly.  This was definitely my experience last year, I loved every second after I finished exams, but it was all ending too soon, it didn’t seem as if there was a fitting way to finish all this university lark off.  That is until the Summer Ball came around…

It’s very rare that you have one of those evenings where everyone you hope to see will be in the same place.  Where there is the opportunity to round off the year or a period of your life on such a grand scale and where you’ll be given the perfect opportunity to say goodbye to people and the place that has played such a large part of your life over the last few years. 

I’m hugely excited about this year’s summer ball, a great line up, open for longer than ever before, a bigger festival tent than ever before, more acts, a bigger fun fair, more bars. It promises to be a brilliant event, In fact for the first time ever we are randomly selecting five lucky tickets for VIP treatment.  Those five people will get to bring three mates with them to a champagne reception, they will have access to our VIP lounge where they will be given a jug of Pimms, a bottle of Grey Goose vodka and iced buckets of beer.  They’ll be given food vouchers for the evening and queue jump for all the fairground rides. They’ll will also be given VIP stage views for all of the acts and most importantly they get a free breakfast in the morning!

While I was writing this blog I thought back to last year’s Summerball… I’m hopelessly in love with Ellie Goulding so it struck me as very odd that she is not the first thing that comes into my head when I do remember that evening…instead like the sentimental old man I’m become, I remember:

Being stood in a festival tent in the middle of a field at 6am, with the sun coming up, Slightly merry (one too many merry) , Singing Never forget by take that in an incredibly manly voice, my suit in an absolute state covered in hog roast apple sauce, looking around me and being surrounded by some of the best people I’ve been fortunate enough to meet.

That was what Summer Ball was for me, after that I remember feeling like I had done my bit with studying at Reading. I felt like I had said all the goodbyes that I needed to and had finished my time as a student on perhaps the best high I could have possibly done.

I hope that you all are fortunate enough to experience what I did last year at this years summer ball and that it’s a brilliant evening. Finally if on the 17th June at 6am if you see someone a little worse for wear in a slightly scruffy suit claiming to go by the name Ben Haines ensure that he makes it safely to Mojo's for a glass of water and some breakfast.

Cheers boys and girls
*winning smile/optimistic grin
See you all soon


Wednesday, 16 May 2012

International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia

Hello everyone, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ken Smailes and I am the outgoing President of RUSU’s LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans) Liberation Group and the RUSU LGBT Part Time Officer.

Today is an extremely important day for the LGBT community globally; it is the International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia or simply IDAHO for short. This day is celebrated every year on May 17th to highlight that the unfair treatment of the LGBT community still happens around the world and still within the UK. It is a day for the LGBT community globally, to join together with the rest of the world and stand up against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

To put the rights of the LGBT community into context, I want to give you a brief history lesson. In 1957 in the UK, Lord Wolfenden, who at the time was the vice chancellor of the University of Reading, wrote a report that called on the removal of homosexuality as an illegal act. It was with this report and continued pressure on the government that homosexuality finally became legal in the UK in 1967. Ever since 1967 the LGBT community in the UK has been slowly receiving more and more rights in their fight for equality. It was only in 2002 that LGBT couples, or single LGBT individuals were given equal adoption rights. Now it looks increasingly more likely that same sex couples will be able to marry. Yet these rights that the LGBT community have in the UK are not universal and even in the USA, in some states, LGBT people can still be removed from their jobs for simply defining as a different sexuality. Equality for the LGBT community has not been achieved in the UK or worldwide.

Unfortunately instances of homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are also still very real within the UK and the wider world. This unfair treatment of the LGBT community can come in many forms, whether it is physical harassment, murder, derogatory use of the word ‘gay’ or many other things, for many individuals it is all still too real an occurrence. I was shown this video by a member of the LGBT group recently and it really put the problem of homophobia into context for me:
Today is however a day to create change!
Yes homophobia, biphobia and transphobia is still a very real part of the LGBT communities life but we can all put an end to this, by simply standing up for the equal treatment of everyone. No one deserves to be treated differently just because they are of a different sexuality or gender or sexual orientation. Everyone is equal and we should show this through our actions.

Unfair treatment of anyone whether they are of a different race, gender, sexuality etc doesn’t have a place on our campus or within our community and let’s demonstrate this through our actions.

Ken Smailes
RUSU LGBT President and RUSU LGBT Part Time Officer

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

NUS LGBT Conference 2012

Ken Smailes 
NUS LGBT Conference, a weekend of drama, policy, motions, Manchester nightlife and development of LGBT rights. I can honestly say I have never been to such an encouraging and thought-provoking conference. The Reading University delegation decided that we would all write a blog/report so that you and the society can see how we voted on your behalf and to encourage you to get involved in the LGBT movement and the fight for ever-increasing rights. 

Over the weekend, I attended a number of different workshops, the most interesting and important to me was one titled ‘faith and sexuality, a dialogue’. This workshop had a lot of relevance to me as I grew up in a very Christian family and have always found the relationship between faith and sexuality particularly difficult to negotiate. The workshop gave advice and how to workshops to have an open and frank discussion about how sexuality and different faiths can work together; you don’t just have to have one or another. It was also really interesting to see how many people at conference both defined as LGBT and as with faith, which was encouraging.

The weekend was mainly filled with motion debate; these motions go into NUS LGBT policy and dictate how the campaign is run over the next year. I am happy to say that the majority of policy passed was brilliant, it included motions to encourage more work on helping trans people parent, sexual health, more equal representation of bisexual people and continuation of the campaign on ending the blood donation ban for men who sleep with men. The motion that did seem to be most controversial was that including Harry Potter and Dumbledore as a gay figure, this definitely brought some strong opinions from the conference floor. All these motions and discussion was really heartening but did make me want to stay on another year to be able to work on these new campaigns!

Lastly the highlight of the weekend for me had to be the NUS LGBT awards and Gala Dinner which celebrated 40 years of the NUS LGBT campaign. There were a total of six awards up for grabs and Reading University Student Union LGBT was eligible for 5 of these. I am very proud to say that we were shortlisted for three of them, which means we were in the top five for these categories out of nearly 100 institutions!! These were Campaign of the Year, Society Development Award and LGBT Higher Education Student of the Year. To get this amount of shortlists was incredible; it is testament to the work of the society, the amazing people in it and the lengths we have all come. You should all feel so proud of yourself and I know we are only going to get better year on year.

Ken Smailes
LGBT President and RUSU LGBT Student Officer