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Ask The Leaders

February3

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In the run up to the general election, there has been an increasing amount of rhetoric addressing the fact that young people have the power to swing the vote. Social media has played a vital part in this movement and most of my discussion about currents affairs are now triggered by an article shared on Facebook or a controversial tweet or hashtag. It is incredible the way the digital world can influence so much of what makes up our reality.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of being part of a select, live audience made up of young people who have contributed to an initiative run by Sky News, called ‘Stand Up Be Counted’. The aim of this campaign is to amplify young voices and get the youth actively engaged in politics – particularly through posting vlogs online. I attended a unique event titled ‘Ask The Leaders’, hosted by Facebook’s central London office. The day was an engaging and valuable experience where young people like myself had the opportunity to ask major party leaders questions about the issues that concern us; it was live streamed online and on Sky News. We heard from Natalie Bennett, Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg and David Cameron. I got the chance to ask the Prime Minister about the significance of cross-party initiatives in steering the progression of democracy and government in the UK.

Considering the youthful population of the studio, it was somewhat unsurprising that tuition fees, graduate unemployment and rising house prices were among the many topics discussed. It was also eye-opening to hear about personal encounters with anti-Semitism and Islamophobia which shaped some of the questions raised. Adding to this personal touch were two leaders in particular; Natalie Bennett shared her experience of becoming a feminist at age five when she was told that girls were not allowed bicycles while Milliband spoke about the past of his immigrant parents who fled from persecution. In fact, in retrospect, all of the leaders displayed a certain level of honesty: Clegg, rather exasperated at one point during confrontation about tuition fees, said “I wish I was Prime Minister, I’m a human being, I wish I could do everything that I promised but I can’t”. The Prime Minister himself also admitted to “putting my hands in my head” every Wednesday at five minutes to twelve before having to face the so-called “nightmare” that is PMQs.

Although these attempts to be genuine and sincere can undoubtedly be seen in a positive light and I appreciate and respect the leaders for doing so, during lunch I had a conversation that made my optimistic self a little more suspicious. I was speaking with a guy who disagreed with Milliband’s repetitive references to his family’s history; his grandmother had also been a survivor of Auschwitz but he argued that something so personal should not be used to score political points and to gain the approval of potential voters. This really made me question to what extent we can trust the emotional oratory of politicians. Nevertheless, it is a much-needed reminder that these party leaders and all politicians are indeed human beings; flawed, imperfect and created with the complex nuances of their individual personality and ways of communicating. They are not distant robots whose worlds revolve solely around taxes, budgets and elections. Yes, they do need to be held accountable for all of their actions – we live in a democracy and they are there to represent us but their humanity should be validated too.

One question that particularly stood out for me demanded an explanation for why the British flag was flown at half-mast when Saudi King Abdullah died, when he had an appalling record of human rights violations. I enjoyed this moment so much because it revealed that young people in Britain are not only aware and engaging in the political scene here in the UK but we are passionate about issues spanning the globe. When defending his actions, another young person was dauntless in asking David Cameron whether oil had anything to do with it. This fearlessness, this unashamed stance in being audacious is something that I think made the day such a success and such a joy to be part of. We were not afraid to be provocative and to say what we really thought. If this generation is going to be the one to break down the barriers of apathy and mediocrity, this is definitely the way to go.

*Review* – The Theory of Everything

January30

Theory_of_Everything
(Disclaimer: I do not own this photo. This is the theatrical film poster for The Theory of Everything. Full ownership is Focus Features)

From the very moment that I saw the trailer, I knew I had to see this film. Within only two minutes, I was captivated by the beautiful musical score, the stunning scenery of Cambridge and the promise of inspiration. The film did not, however, meet my expectations: it exceeded them. So much that when I left the cinema, I was already arranging a time when I could go and see it again.

The essence of the film’s brilliance is undoubtedly rooted in the phenomenal prowess of both Eddie Redmayne and Felicity Jones as actors. Redmayne shines with a light that cannot be dimmed; he flawlessly captures the transformation from Hawking’s carefree days to when motor neurone disease had taken its toll – both physically and psychologically. Yet even amidst these significant changes, Redmayne manages to retain and successfully portray the boyish charm and wit that first won his wife’s heart. Jane Wilde’s persona vividly comes to life with Jones’ admirable acting; she poignantly epitomises the inward struggle between hope and despair. The initial romance and infatuation between Stephen and Jane is playful and heart-warming but their relationship swiftly develops into an extraordinary union where a daily determination to overcome the odds is imperative.

Although it has been noted by critics that the domestic turmoil presented in the film is fleeting and perhaps unrealistic in its relative tameness, I cannot help but applaud the subtle frustrations and the latent power struggles; the passive-aggressive way that Hawking agrees to play croquet, the unspoken significance in the moment when Wilde brings a wheelchair home, Hawking’s silent resistance to the spelling board – it is these subtleties that make the conflict presented irresistible. In keeping with this theme of subtleties, what also makes the film a success are the little, seemingly inconsequential details that produce something that is visually stunning. The way the milk in the coffee transforms into a black hole or the way the embers of the fire are made to resemble the stars; everyday things are intertwined with the idea of cosmology and it is beautiful to watch. It reminds the audience that Hawking is exceptional not only in his inspirational fight against his illness but also in his ground-breaking scientific discoveries. I also particularly liked the way in which the film interjects footage of the characters that simulates the style of a home-video; adding to this sense of daring authenticity that wonderfully permeates the entire movie.

The soundtrack of ‘The Theory of Everything’ is sublime. Redmayne and Jones do a spectacular job of portraying the incredible story of the Hawkings but where the words or expressions of an actor reach its limit in conveying inexpressible emotions, the music brings these senses to life, igniting feelings that would have otherwise remained dormant: it is effortlessly moving. Just listening to the soundtrack on my laptop at home makes me relive those moments in the film and it is like my heart is being pierced anew. My deepest gratitude and praise goes to all those involved in the production of ‘The Theory of Everything’ for communicating the difficult, complex and messy facets of relationships while evincing the simplicity of the beauty of love.

Jump in the Pool

January13

jump in the pool

Taking risks is a part of life that we can either embrace or continually shy away from. These last few days have felt rather surreal and they will forever be a reminder of why sometimes the precarious choices are the best ones. If my future self ever reverts back to sitting around the pool of life, hesitantly dipping my toe in now and then, this memory will give me impetus to jump right in.

On Saturday, I received an unconditional offer to study English Literature at the University of Cambridge. I did not quite believe it at first and my excitement has made sleeping for the last two nights nearly impossible. But all of these feelings, the anxious thoughts, the ambitious daydreams, the keen research, are all a consequence of a risk that I dared to take last year. After my first year of Sixth Form, I was set on the fact that I would take a Gap Year: I had seen the positive effect it had on my older brother and I wanted to broaden my horizons and break out of the bubble full-time education can create. My first time applying to university was both good and bad; there were disappointments and successes. I was rejected by Oxford without an interview but received offers from two great universities: Exeter and Nottingham. By the end of the year, I had accepted Exeter and Nottingham was my insurance.

Before I knew it, it was summer and A Level exams were upon us but throughout the revision and the talk of UCAS and university, one question lingered at the back of my mind: should I re-apply to ‘Oxbridge’? I was already taking a Gap Year so I definitely had the option, without having to drastically change my plans. When it was time to finally make the decision, I was incredibly hesitant. In order for me to apply to Cambridge the following year, I had to decline my offer from Exeter. This was a dilemma; Exeter is an excellent university and everyone I spoke to told me how amazing it was and there was no way of knowing if I would even get into Cambridge. But I took the risk, and it paid off.

The most miserable way you could spend life would be allowing your fears to forge your future and your doubts to dictate your destiny. I find it amazing that new-born babies have reflexes that simulate swimming when placed in water. This only convinces me more that human beings were not created for life on the sidelines; there is an inherent longing for adventure and an instinctive resourcefulness that makes us swim and not sink – even at the most vulnerable stage of our lives. Choosing to jump in the pool taught me invaluable life lessons and has resulted in one of my greatest achievements so far. My next step: diving in the ocean.

My writing elsewhere

December12

A blog I wrote about this year’s 4Talent days is now live on The Guardian website. Have a look:

http://www.theguardian.com/sustainability/blog/2014/dec/09/guardian-education-centre-4talent-young-journalist-workshop

I am also a TV critic for W!ZARD Radio Media. Check out some of the reviews I’ve written over the last few months:

http://www.wizardradio.co.uk/blog.php?a=FopeJegede&pg=1

New Poem!

October19

This week marked the six month anniversary of the abduction of the Chibok girls. I wrote this poem quite a while ago; it was the best way for me to express my concerns. With the news that the Nigerian govt. may have made a truce with the culprits, I hope I can make a difference in any way that I can.

July30

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