Suzie McCracken

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Guest Editors Emma Watson Russell Brand


for our MA website XCity+. We’re poor students in need of hits. Gwan.

P.S Yes, I did make these trump cards, with drop shadows and everything. Possibly my proudest moment. THEY’RE SO GROSS I LOVE THEM.

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© Nivine Keating


For uni. It’s over now so you cannae go see it but you can enjoy my words. Hopefully.

Sometimes you’re thankful when the artist assumes you’re an idiot. Tess Berry-Hart, the playwright behind Sochi 2014, has mercifully provided a definition of verbatim theatre in the programme for us luddites who missed the format’s fashionable peak in 2011. Knowing that the script is compiled from interview extracts, written sources and media commentary allows the audience to soak up the history lesson in Russian gay rights, neatly centred around the current Olympic occupation, with a self-satisfied smirk.

And it certainly is a lesson. The fact that being gay was only decriminalised in Russia in 1993 is something we should have known. The fact that Russia was ostracised while the West swam in acid and sexual liberation seems obvious, but Stephanie Beattie, playing a journalist, reminds us with a jolt: “While you guys were having the 60s and 70s, us guys were having the Soviet Union.”

There are plenty of lines in this vein – excellent summations of attitudes, histories and mindsets. In particular an exchange between activist Peter Tatchell and a group of anti-gay protesters makes my blood run as cold as the bobsleigh track: when Tatchell asks why they are angry at gay people and not the corrupt government, the protestors reply: “They’re easy! We can get them. We can’t get the others.”

The cast of five scurry around the tiny pub space in brightly coloured tracksuits, moving rapidly from one instance of injustice to the next. Adam Venus is excellent glue for such a high-paced production in his portrayal of imposing and authoritative figures, from Putin himself to a CNN anchor. A scene juxtaposing voices from the Russian establishment and apolitical organisations like the IOC with past proclamations about the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany is deftly executed. With any less care it would have descended into the theatrical equivalent of an internet comment thread, but the script cleverly examines its own artifice with flair.

There are also attempts to engage with the problematic elements of the anti-Russia protests. Stephen Fry’s documentary fodder, masquerading as a moral crusade to boycott the Winter Games, becomes a trope of impotence. But then we’re told that a petition, which Fry retweeted, actually succeeded in freeing Russian LGBQT activist and asylum seeker Ira Putilova from a detention centre in the UK. Her story is a heartening one, but it’s clear that the tweets and media attention guilted the British government into releasing her. The play’s claustrophobic structure means this scene comes minutes after we’ve witnessed a teenager be urinated on by those trying to cleanse him of his sexuality – something Putin has instructed his institutions to permit via turning a blind eye. The point is made that all governments are fallible and easily swayed, it’s only the direction of the pendulum’s swing that divides East and West.

Sochi 2014, which defies its small venue and smaller budget with gusto, sometimes works too hard on keeping arguments water-tight when it should be fleshing out characters. But this piece of theatre does its job well. It not only entertains and educates, but shines a light on the LGBQT residents of Russia in the hope of prolonging the media coverage for a little longer. Let’s hope it helps keep the vulnerable out of total darkness.

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photographic talent in action


Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith at the Design Museum

Until: March 9 2014

Part retrospective, part hero-worship, the Design Museum’s ode to Paul Smith has punters queuing along the riverbank during deepest winter. Suzie McCracken finds out how the world-renowned fashion designer earned his multi-coloured stripes. 

The Design Museum, unlike its more sombre brother the V&A, is concerned with intrigue and entertainment rather than academia. Enter Paul Smith: the obvious king of both those attributes, and prince of eccentric Englishness to boot.

“Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith” explores the history and character of Smith’s work, using his personal belongings to recreate working environments and put his notable contributions to the world of design on display. It also comes with a side of Smith himself, with cardboard cut-outs of him striking a pose and a giant wall-painted “HELLO” putting a grin on the faces of guests ascending the stairs.

It begins with a three metre square (translation: no cat-swinging here) reconstruction of Smith’s first Nottingham shop, filtering visitors into the main exhibition via a tangible representation of his oft-cited humble beginnings.

The main thoroughfare is an enthralling rogues’ gallery of art from Smith’s collection, featuring celebrity snaps (Noel Fielding adorned in a floral blazer) and twee tokens of affection (doodles of Daleks) donated by outlandish admirers.

There’s a space devoted to a selection of Smith-designed clothing, staged like a sartorial aquarium for contemplating a jacket made from embroidered Afghan blankets. A plethora of his collaborations are displayed with everything from emblazoned Evian bottles to a striped Mini Cooper. The Paris hotel room where Smith sought to sell his first collection – six shirts and two suits – is excellently reimagined in the style of a “Paddington Bear” set, with the two dimensional chandelier hanging above the bed-cum-display area a testament to Donna Loveday’s creative curation.

The stand-out enclave is “Inside Paul’s Head”, a room filled with screens and mirrors that endlessly reflect images of bicycles melting and neon lights flickering. The central monitor displays a kaleidoscopic tunnel of Smith’s hollowed-out head while snippets of audio interviews with the designer are played. The effect is that of being inside a giant zoetrope, and it symbolises Smith’s scatty genius perfectly.

Of course, that room shows nothing of Smith’s designs. The exhibition focuses so much on the man’s magnetism that it can feel like a celebratory cult. The informative titbits on the walls are straight from the horse’s mouth – his copy just awkward enough to make you feel like Smith is following you around the room, whispering quiet insights into your ears. It’s visitor-bait, but who cares when Smith is so damn interesting?

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I asked the PSNI how many racially motivated crimes there were in N.I during 2013. I did this because I was curious and apparently I have a penchant for face-palming. The PSNI publish a yearly report on the figures but it’s only been sporadically reported on and I wanted all the numbers in a easily digestible chunk.

26 people had their lives threatened between 1st January and 20th November 2013 because of their race. See numbers below and the full FOI response here.

racial hatred NI foi


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