Nicki Minaj Takes Newcastle

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‘If you can dream it you can be it’

 

This weekend Nicki Minaj brought the Pinkprint Tour to Newcastle Metro Radio Arena in the penultimate leg of the show, and as expected, it was a celebration of spectacular magnificence.

The show began on a somber yet powerful note, setting the scene the 32 year old emerged from the fog clad in a funeral-esque ensemble (complete with veil) to the slow beat of All Things Go and I Lied. Though this hush was short lived and the tempo quickly began to escalate with The Crying Game, paving the way for a show that would only continue to up the ante barely pausing to breathe.

From there Nicki commanded a fearsome presence during her hip-hop classics, with the crowd reveling in the expert delivery of her razor sharp lyrics and undeniably catchy hooks. Often times hip hop artists fail to deliver the high intensity of their songs on a stage. Kendrick Lamar, for one, as brilliant a lyricist as he is often struggles to keep his own flow on stage, and he is far from the only one guilty of this. Not only did Nicki achieve the level of quality present on her albums but she went above and beyond making phenomenal use of the huge LCD display and her troupe of incredibly talented back-up dancers.

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Nicki and several of her back-up dancers.

 

As the show continued with Top Ten hit Anaconda and several costume changes, the crowd was almost at fever pitch before being brought down again by Marilyn Monroe and Grand Piano. This second set of acoustic songs, performed in beautiful succession and accompanied by the magical piano playing of her band, helped to create a wonderful feeling of intimacy even inside the almost fully booked stadium of 11,000 people.

This momentary slowing of the tempo quickly transformed into what most of the crowd was there to see, a complete run down of all her pop hits in quick succession, from Superbass to The Night is Still Young. ‘If you can dream it you can be it, don’t let any man tell you what you can’t do’ the artist told the crowd before launching into a spectacular final performance of Starships, in an atmosphere that was more similar to what you’d expect to find in the dance tent of your favourite festival than a hip-hop/pop show in the North-East of England.

When considering just how intense the show was it’s also important to note that not one month earlier a member of Nicki’s road crew was murdered in Philadelphia, almost leading to a cancellation of the tour.

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The final costume change, complete with Roman-Reloaded style wig

Going to a Nicki Minaj concert comes with certain preconceptions, chart music is all garbage (half truth), women can’t rap (lie), pop shows are a waste of money (another lie). If any one of those 11,000 people had similar thoughts to these before attending they would have almost certainly been dashed to bits by what a truly wonderful performance this was to experience.

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mima Welcomes Georgina Starr Exhibition

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Artist Georgina Starr at mima.

The newest installation from acclaimed artist Georgina Starr has opened this week at Middlesbrough’s mima.

The exhibition, titled I, Cave began with a unique opening ceremony involving dancers, poems, and music to create a hauntingly beautiful aesthetic.

The packed gallery was in awe as the dancers, several of which attend Teesside University, walked silently through the gallery carrying various pieces of the exhibit to be displayed upstairs, including a brain made entirely out of chewing gum that had been chewed by Ms Starr.

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The Tunnel (2015)

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Le Cerveau (2012)

Mima Marketing and Communications Assistant Rosemary Stubbs said that: “As a gallery we look at works that are from more than one medium so we look at a whole range of different movements and styles and the idea that we can have so many different kinds of exhibitions is great because it means we can attract s o many different people to come and see them.”

“This one’s really special because Georgina is Northern, she’s from Leeds so I think that’s really good to have because local pride is important, Leeds isn’t necessarily local but in terms of Art, it’s quite rare to see someone so successful from the North of England.”

I, Cave focuses largely around the theme of caves and orbs that symbolise the womb and rebirth.

The pieces themselves included The Lepidopterist’s Case (2015) a tank of moths that routinely mate and die in a three day cycle, The Blows (2013) a wall of chewing gum bubles which symbolised how personal it is that bubbles are created by your breath, and an audio visual film piece involving dancers achieving incredible poses whilst still maintaining enough breath to blow bubbles. All of this combines to creat a truly memorable experience.

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The Birth of Sculpture (2015)

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The Blows (2013)

Speaking about her motivations for the show, the Leeds born artist said that: “In two years I had this idea I was going to do a show and I’ve just been working and the work sort of slowly built up, and I thought whatever I was working on at the minute would become the show. Which is what you see before you today.”

“Some of the works are very very old, but they’ve never been show in that way before.”

One of the more memorable pieces of the exhibit, Mum Sings Hello (2009) involves a 16 year old vinyl recording of Ms Starr’s mother singing the Lionel Richie Hit Hello on an answering machine in  that slowly decays as the recording continues creating a somber yet remarkable tone to the whole exhibition.

“I really wanted her to sing this song, and it’s a recurring song in my work, I’ve used it in video and various other pieces and I just wanted to hear her sing it. I never thought I’d reuse it but there’s just something about my mothers voice.”

“I’ve never actually shown that as a work before so it’s all these little kind of connections that some are old and then bringing it together with the new.”

The exhibit will be on display at the Mima gallery until  May 28.

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Campaign to make people smile.

A Group of Teesside University postgraduate students have launched s campaign to make people smile.

The group – calling themselves Smiling Heroes  – appeared on the ground floor of  the Middlesbrough Tower and handed out flowers, balloons and sweets.

Smiling Heroes  are a group of postgraduate Multimedia Public Relations students at Teesside University.

They held this live event to try and make people happy.

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Smiling Heroes

Hundreds of people, included students, tutors and visitors  wrote down some things about “what makes you smile?” or just signed their names to support the campaign.

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“What makes you smile?”

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People wrote down “what makes you smile”

 

 

Find out more  about the event by clicking on the video below:

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Clear the ring for the Teesside University Circus Skills Society

The Circus Skills Society of Teesside University has turned out to be a great success story.

The society was founded last year by student Amanda Shaylor and now attracts more than a dozen students each session.

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Teesside University Circus Skills Society

The society is for beginners and for professionals, members can chose between varieties of different equipment.

Beginners are advised to start with juggling or poi spinning, but the more advanced members can  also try diabolo, plate spinning, staff manipulation or unicycling.

The Society has regular sessions in the Main Hall of the Brittan Building on  a Wednesday from  1:30pm – 3:30 pm and Saturdays from  1pm – 4 pm.

Teesside reporter Daniel Vinzens spoke to Amanda Shaylor, founder and head of the society.

Watch the video to find out more about Teessides Circus Skills Society:

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International students celebrate Easter in Liverpool

International students from China and Malaysia attended an Easter event at Liverpool English Conner.

The English Corner was founded in Liverpool Gospel Church in 2002 to help international students learn more about English culture and help improve their English language skills.

It runs every Friday from 5pm-7pm and various topics are discussed.

Jo, an English Corner organizer said: “It is vital to have an  interesting topic to talk about as practicing English, talking to each other is the most important part of English Corner.”

Students hold thier eggs

Students hold thier eggs

In order to make international students learn more about Easter, Jo talked in detail about Easter culture including Easter history, theological significance, Easter eggs and even the Easter Bunny.

The students then took  part in a classic game of  ‘ hunt the Easter egg’ with 50 eggs being hidden  in four rooms.

The winner  Anna Li, from Liverpool Belvedere Academy School, got 13 eggs.

“This is the first time I have joined the Easter activities despite being in the UK for four years,” She said.

Sherry, a Chinese student studying Economics at Liverpool University, said: “I came to English Corner last year, but I am a big fan.”

“It makes me learn more about British culture. I can improve my grammar and  communication skills.”

 

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New Q app keeps drinks flowing at Middlesbrough Empire

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The Middlesbrough Empire Theatre.

The Middlesbrough Empire has started using an app called Q App, which allows clubbers to order their drinks from their smartphones, to pick up at the bar.

I went down to test it for myself, as well as talk to a variety of people about the app.

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The new app allows you to order a drink from your phone.

 

 


 

The app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store, or Google Play.

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Review: House Of Cards.

It’s the political drama that’s gripped viewers across the world.

The show is an adaptation of both the BBC series and the novel of the same name written by Tory politician Michael Dobbs.

Kevin Spacey play Francis J Underwood, a ruthless and manipulative politician who after being denied the position of Secretary of State, hatches a plan to get himself into a higher position in the U.S. government.

Corrupt politicians, recovering alcoholics, prostitutes, money laundering, war with the Russians and the Chinese, the programme focuses heavily on the murky and more often than not illegal side of politics while sparing little time for anything else.

Objectively speaking Francis or ‘Frank’ Underwood is a deplorable human with only his power and legacy in mind, he stops at nothing to trample on his rivals on the way to the top and has little to no regard to anyone around him but a few close allies.

Plotting: Kevin Spacey breaks he fourth wall as Francis Underwood.

Plotting: Kevin Spacey breaks he fourth wall as Francis Underwood.

These are his wife Claire, who is just as callous and manipulative as her husband. Chief of Staff Doug Stamper, a recovering alcoholic who also displays just as much old-heartedness as his boss. And finally bodyguard Edward Meecham who is a loyal and faithful servant to the Underwood regime, seeing his rise from House Majority Whip to President of The United States.

This said, he has a way of transfixing the viewer and making you long for anyone who stands in his way to be completely obliterated.

This is where the genius of the show lies.

Frank often breaks the fourth wall and speaks to the viewers as well as subtly looking into the camera during scenes of particular importance. The ending of season two being the most impressive piece to camera of the show so far.

All three seasons are available on Netflix and season four is scheduled for 2016 and while creator Beau Willimon states that decisions for the each season are made after the current one has been completed, lead Kevin Spacey says the show could go on for as many as 12 seasons.

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Social Media users play a dangerous game.

Ask yourself how many times you have been scrolling through your various platforms of social media and found something that was funny. Now decide if it was funny enough to like, share or retweet. Now think, if that original post was insulting or “defamatory” to anyone in anyway, you have now just become liable to be sued by the defamed person. This isn’t the only way that you can be in trouble on social media either.20150318_133143_HDR

Social media in the past few years has increasingly become part of everyday life for most, especially young people.

With sites such as Facebook and Twitter becoming ingrained deeper into people’s lives, the law has had to adapt and to change in order to keep the peace. Members of social media have been unwittingly becoming involved in legal disputes due to their and other’s use of defamatory language on social media.

The Guardian reported that there has been a 333% rise in the amount of cases from 6 to 26 with many high-profile incidents being blamed such as the Lord McAlpine case.

It is becoming increasingly evident that members of the public are unaware about the dangers of what they put on social media.

Forensic Psychology student Beth Gell said “No I actually didn’t. It seems so bizarre with all the stupid stuff that gets put on there but I guess a lot of creepy and offensive stuff goes on there too so it sort of makes sense.”

Social media is often used by people as a way of expressing themselves and allowing others into their thoughts and personal opinion as well as their lives.

With convictions rising for defamation committed on social media, is freedom of speech being breached?

History student Jordan Crosby said “Well I think it depends on what is said. If it’s classed as defamation then yes they are open to be sued, however if what is stated is a matter of opinion then yes suing would be a breach of freedom of speech.”

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Memories of the Holocaust 70 Years On

Earlier this  year, I travelled to Krakow, in Poland with a group of other Teesside University students, to learn more about the Holocaust.

We visited Auschwitz, Auschwitz-Birkenau and the Schindler Museum, and even got to talk to a survivor of this tragic event in history.

After the trip, I was inspired to create a short film about my time there, which was shown at an event on the 70th anniversary of the Holocaust.

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LGBTQ Safety In Middlesbrough

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Crime statistic recently released by Cleveland Police show that hate crimes against the LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, inter-sexual, and asexual) community have nearly halved since records began in 2010.

Life has never been easy for the queer community (an umbrella term sometimes used by LGBTQIA people to refer to the entire LGBT community) with harassment being a part of everyday life for some people and often worse for others. But new figures show that hate crimes in Middlesbrough against the LGBT community have been on a steady decline over the past few years.

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The graph shows a significant decline over time, and although there is a bump this past year, there is an almost 50% reduction in assaults motivated by hatred against the LGBT community.

Cleveland Police said that there was no specific reason for this decline. The force said:  “Cleveland Police treat all such incidents seriously and are acted upon accordingly. We do not hold any information as to why the figures changed in 2014.”

This could be a positive sign of changing times? In the last few years gay rights in Britain have gone from strength to strength and crime statistics seem to be reflecting this change.

However, this doesn’t mean that the fight for equality is over. Local queer activist and artist Lee Ward said: “It’s saddening that these hate crimes even happen in the first place and it saddens me even more that you never hear about them in the news.

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Lee Ward – Queer Activist/Artist

“That’s not even taking into consideration the amount of victims that don’t come forward either because they are too scared and just have to deal with it. As a systematically oppressed people we often internalise our abuse like that.”

“It would be nice to see more clearly publicly available information on how and when a queer person can and should report a hate crime. It doesn’t help that I, and many people, don’t actually feel safe around the police.”

These sentiments are quite common within the LGBT community and still need to be addressed.

In the 2013 survey by LGBT charity and activists, Stonewall, found that one in six members of the LGBT community had been a victim of a hate crime since 2001 and only two thirds of those people had reported it.

A total of 85% of these incidents involved harassment, pestering and intimidation and 10% had experienced physical assaults.

The assumption that assaults may be down in the Middlesbrough area is clearly a good thing but it doesn’t mean that the much larger problem of general homophobia has disappeared.

A Middlesbrough victim of one such attack, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “It’s a hard thing to come to terms with, that for some reason people will want to attack you just for existing. I know that working class areas like Middlesbrough aren’t exactly the most liberal thinking places but incidents like this are a black spot on our entire nation.

“In my case, the attack never led to a prosecution but I was lucky that the attacker decided not to come back. Just like with bullies in school the ‘tell the teacher’ approach can often lead to more hatred if the attacker isn’t dealt with harshly enough.

“I’m not saying that we should be treat any differently when it comes to the protection of the law, but things like possible ramifications and how hard it is to initially tell someone need to be taken into consideration if these figures are to fall again.”

As Britain becomes more open and inclusive of the Queer community, especially since the legalisation of same-sex marriage in March 2014, it stands to reason that these numbers should continue to fall.

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