Wednesday 30 April 2014

Recent gigs ramble

Hello lovely people!

I've just come to the end of the assessment period of my second term of the MA, which is a huuuuge relief. We only had one exam, but there was also an investigative and a multimedia portfolio to hand in this week, so I'm glad it's all over and done with.

That said, I still have my final project to do, but the pressure is off (at least until the panic of getting everything handed in in September happens).


Anyway, I went to a couple of gigs recently to break the monotony of revision and coursework. First was Hit the Deck fest - I totally managed to fail here, I bought the ticket, realised it was the same day as a hen do, panicked, went "Ah **** it, it's Brand New" and decided I'd skip most of the festival and just see Saves the Day and Brand New in the evening to maximise my time at the hen party. I've seen both before's Brand New! In my defence, I tried to get tickets to the London show but that sold out so fast (do I need to say it again? probably not, but, BRAND NEW).

Unlike many critics, I did enjoy the two newer Saves the Day albums, even though they're just not as good (in my mind) as Sound the Alarm, which is the record that got me into the band. They do lack that vibrancy that the older stuff has, so it's great to see the band play newer tracks live - I feel like if they'd recorded them with that much passion, people probably wouldn't have whined so much about the albums. Speaking of whining, I don't know what it is, but Chris Conley's voice gets higher and higher every year, I swear. So, Saves the Day were ok, but unfortunately not as fun as when I saw them a couple of years ago. 3/5, if you want me to give them a score.

Then Brand New came on and played a song I honestly didn't recognise, but tells me it's a NIN cover. Fair enough. I would have preferred something like Sowing Season to kick off the set, but that's not really much of a complaint. They played a pretty good mix of songs from all four albums and it was basically just as good as the last time I saw them (which was bloody fantastic) but better in that I stood halfway up the stairs in the O2 Academy so I could actually see things.  It does boggle my mind a bit that their last record came out in 2009, but nobody seems to care too much about the band bringing out new material because their back catalogue is just that good. My rating: Brand New out of Brand New. (Make of that what you will.)

Ahem. Enough of the fangirling and on to the next gig!

This was pretty special - Funeral for a Friend doing a tour in which they play the Hours album in full. They were supported by some shouty fun men, More than Life (3/5), who I probably would have enjoyed way more if my ears hadn't gone all old lady on me and begged to be let outside into the quiet. Then Boysetsfire (4.5/5) played - I actually only know one of their songs but my goodness, this is a band that knows how to rock a stage. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a band I didn't really know live this much, so stacks of hats off to Boysetsfire!

Now, Hours is a pretty special album for me. It came out in 2005, back when my music collection was tiny, so I listened to it a lot while I was working on my Art & Design GCSE and dealing with a lot of bad (like, actually bad, not just teen angst bad). As singer Matt Davies-Kreye said, tracks from Hours are fairly neglected in FFAF setlists, so them playing it in full was just lovely. They finished up the set with a few classics and a new song that wouldn't have sounded out of place of Hours, in my opinion. I'm going to go with a solid 5/5 here. I'm biased. This is just a ramble, I am allowed to be biased.

Right, I've probably got my gig quota sorted for the year now, so I think next on the agenda is some comedy...(telepathic note to Russell Howard, please play in Bristol soon, thanks).

Monday 14 April 2014

Mental Health Campaign voice concern over policy change

A student under the pressure of exams (Photo by Svein Halvor Halvorsen)
Students with problems that could cause them to fail assessments are being urged by a campaign group to voice their concerns following a proposed change to assessment policy. 
Will Anderson and Si├ón Hampson from UWE Mental Health Campaign, wrote a letter to the university that said: “If a student with a mental health issue is unaware of this policy and sits the exam when unwell they will not be able to have extenuating circumstances and we fail to see how this is fair.”

The University of the West of England published a draft document on 14 March detailing the proposed changes, which mean if a student submits an assignment or attends an exam, they are “declaring themselves fit to do so”. If they fall ill during the exam, they can submit an extenuating circumstances application to retake the assessment or have it marked again, but this wouldn’t cover students with ongoing mental health issues.

The Mental Health Campaign is urging students to share their thoughts with student representatives to combat the alleged lack of consultation with students. Rachel Cowie, Director of Academic Services at UWE, responded to these claims stating: “we are still in the process of working through the implementation with the students’ union and other student representatives.

 “We do everything we can to avoid disadvantaging any student and want to make sure we get this right.”

“Following discussion at the recent academic board we have invited the current VP welfare (and hopefully the chair of the mental health group) to meet with us to work through some case studies so we can see what implications it might have on students with mental health difficulties. We do everything we can to avoid disadvantaging any student and want to make sure we get this right.”
Ms Cowie also clarified that students had been consulted at a council meeting in November 2012, where no issues were raised.

At the moment, students can submit an extenuating circumstances form which could let them re-take an assessment where this wouldn’t normally be allowed. Some of the reasons that extenuating circumstances may apply include “unexpected deterioration in an ongoing illness or medical condition” or a “major household problem” like a fire.

Under the “Fit to Sit” extenuating circumstances proposal, if a student had trouble completing work due to either of these reasons, or various others covered under the current policy, they would not be able to apply for extenuating circumstances if they decided to submit an assignment anyway.

Vice-President for Community and Welfare, Tom Renhard noted: “The proposals are of huge concern to the Students’ Union as well as to the Mental Health Campaign and other students that have provided feedback so far given the potential negative impact the introduction of ‘fit to sit’ could have on students. These are being considered as part of a package of proposals of changes to academic regulations and would call on the university to not to continue to pursue trying to introduce ‘fit to sit’ as part of this package. 

“Some students when going through difficult periods will attempt to ‘soldier on’ and sit assessments, believing it shows dedication to their degree; why would we then try and stop this student from submitting extenuating circumstances post-assessment should there be a realisation that perhaps that student wasn’t in the best place to submit the assessment in the first place?

“As a Students’ Union we do not believe ‘fit to sit’ should be implemented and instead thrown out. The majority of student feedback gathered so far on the proposed fit to sit regulation shows that the view of the Students’ Union is reflective of its membership.”

Similar proposals for changes to extenuating circumstances and the introduction of ‘fit to sit’ were rejected by the Students’ Union at Keele University in November 2012.

A version of this story appeared on Western Eye.