Thursday, 20 April 2017

HIATUS -- AGAIN




Yep, it's me, going on another break. Don't worry I'll be back, just not before I've fended of the fierce dragons* that are my A Level exams. The past eight months have been consumed by angry merepeople, sleeping potions inhaled at the wrong times, and many a tear which I will not be pouring back out into my Pensieve. So I've packed my bag, polished my sword, and am [definitely not] ready to face the fires of destruction. However, I'm wielding my Gryffindor a little more than usual, and am hoping that coupled with my Ravenclaw sorting can pull me through what are going to be a traumatic final couple of months of A Levels. Hopefully, at the end of this, the tears, intense anxiety, and serious ennui, only making me work harder will be sending me on the way to my next desired adventure.  This is a temporary farewell, until the sun of mid-June comes around and I shall be somewhat free. Until then, Mischief Managed.



*No dragons were harmed in the making of this hiatus post. I actually adore dragons and would never willingly harm them... unless they were attacking my beloved fictional characters. Obvvviously. 

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Event Recap: Angie Thomas at Waterstones Deansgate



I made sure to arrive early for the event, but despite that, the events room of Waterstones Deansgate was packed on the evening of Monday 11th April. It was shock - I don't think I've ever seen the room so full before, but that was to be expected given the nature of the book up for discussion. Angie Thomas' debut novel The Hate U Give (on the cover the formatting spells out THUG) is a fictional depiction of the black shootings at the hands of police in America. It is a topic that is so widely reported, and continuously shocking that it's hardly surprising how well the book has done since it was published in the United States less than two months ago. Now, The Hate U Give is being published in the UK, and Angie Thomas had flown over to promote the book. 





Aside from the current and recent shootings in the US that have made headlines, Thomas' story was heavily inspired by her background in Mississippi. In America, Mississipi has a bad reputation. "Mississippi is the parent you love, but can't get away from." Her background was known for all the wrong reasons. Thomas feels a disconnect between from what is seen as 'common black trauma' and her own experiences. She was partially inspired by a conversation she had with a family member who was a policemen about how behave around policemen as a POC. The fact that someone who was a policeman had to discuss the potential threat of their colleagues behaviour with her was jarring. For Angie Thomas, the conversation that's probably had with black children in the UK in comparison to that of the US is very different. In the US you're taught that a small misstep could end your life; if you move your hand out of your pocket, you're assumed to have a gun. To her - and to everyone - that is a horrifying reality. 




The Hate U Give began as a short story written in Thomas' senior year of university, as triggered by the murder of Oscar Grant back in 2009. The divide between her black neighbourhood in Mississippi and her private "very white" college in reactions to the shooting weren't missed by the author, who noticed that some said Grant deserved it, despite the fact that he was an unarmed young man. She felt that the stories she wanted to write wouldn't be listened to, but instead was encouraged by a professor to share the story, which at the time was told from several different perspectives and won awards as her senior project. It was Thomas' aim to give a voice to those who had been silenced, and in the praise that has been accredited to The Hate U Give, she has done exactly that.

Following the murder of Tamir Rice in 2014, she felt pushed to make what had been the university-praised short story into a full-length novel. The aim was to condense systematic racism into a 300-page book, which took a while, but was successfully achieved. Condensing such an issue is hard, but Thomas' aim here was to be quick with the information whilst still explaining the matter in enough depth. For Thomas, young adult fiction was always the category she wanted to place the novel in, as she can never see herself writing for adults. Another reason for making the book YA was down to the fact that the victims of these shootings have and are often young people, and young people are effected the most by them - they see themselves in the victims. With the rise of social media, young people are activists and are politically aware, including in areas such as the #BlackLivesMatter campaign. We wouldn't know about half the stuff we know about if it weren't for social media. Encouraged by people using social media to get their voices heard because otherwise they're silenced. This cannot be the only way though, hence writing a book about otherwise silenced voices. As Thomas rightly put it, YA books can open people's eyes in ways that others really can't. 



Given how many and varied the responses are to movements such as Black Lives Matter, Angie Thomas was worried about how the book would be receive. Some people respond to the idea of Black Lives Matter by saying that 'white lives matter,' but that isn't where the problem lies. As Thomas remarks, "if house is burning we don't focus on the one that's fine - we look at the problem not the peaceful." Despite her concerns, a negative response is the polar opposite of what The Hate U Give has received. It's amazing reception, both on the internet and within other spheres meant that the novel debuted at No.1 on the New York Times' Bestseller List back in February. On top of this, the film rights have been acquired with some big-name actors potentially attached to the upcoming adaptation, which filming should commence on this summer. 

Thomas is proud of what The Hate U Give has achieved thus far, and how far its message has spread, but she is quick to point out that she doesn't want to be famous, "I want to get my groceries done without being recognised," but at the same time, she wanted to share her voice. Things are soaring for Thomas, but despite the NYT, film rights, and working on second novel, there's something better than all of that: being in position where black teenagers come up to her and thank her for the book - for her, that is better than anything. 


Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Event Recap: Warner Bros. Studio Tour London's Forbidden Forest Preview.




It's no secret that I'm a huge Harry Potter fan. I live it, I breathe it, I even have a job writing about the wizarding world! Since the first time I entered the Great Hall five years ago, I've considered Warner Bros Studio Tour London to be my favourite place anywhere. I'm yet to cover plenty of the globe, but there's something about walking within the walls of the studios, surrounded by Potter fans and the sets where everything was filmed that has always felt incredibly home-like for me. It had been three years since my third trip to the studios and I didn't think it'd be another while until my fourth... until Amber, queen of the blogosphere and my great friend, messaged me asking if I wanted to be her +1 to the preview event for the Forbidden Forest expansion. (Because who else could you possibly invite to something Harry Potter themed?!) Obvvviously I said yes, and a couple of weeks later, we were on a train from Euston to Watford, heading back to the mothership. 



Three times admittedly in the past had been a lot, especially when at the time it looked like nothing would be changing, but you can never have enough Potter and so to me, visiting in three consecutive summers felt like going home after a rough school year. But in the time between my third and fourth visits a lot had changed. Of course, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is now in the world and not just in development and the sequel is being filmed within Leavesden; and the studio had expanded to feature Platform 9 3/4 and entry into 4 Privet Drive. Although we were there specifically to attend the preview of the Forbidden Forest, I was just as excited about going and seeing things that were newer additions. 

This is probably why when, as Amber probably expected and was totally camera-ready for, I started crying as soon as I turned a corner and locked eyes with the Hogwarts Express. I first went to the real Kings Cross and Platform 9 3/4 back in November (again with Amber, following the Fantastic Beasts premiere), and adore it there. Warner Bros Studio Tour's reconstruction of the station however felt even more surreal - probably down to the fact that obviously the train is there, but just everything felt so pure and beautiful and naturally I had a minor breakdown. 





We also got the opportunity to go into Privet Drive, which was a massive shock given that it's meant to be closed to the public right now. To go in there and know that those rooms were where so many crucial scenes, especially in the earlier films happened, and DHP1, was to say it in a cliche - magical. 

Okay, onto the Forbidden Forest, because that is the reason we got to go. Out of every set that you will stumble across whilst at Warner Bros Studio Tour, the Forbidden Forest is by far the most immersive one. Every set is stunning, but the Forbidden Forest is the only one where it is very hard to notice the construction work (unless you actively go looking for it,) and so the set feels like you truly are walking among the trees of the Forest. Additionally, this is probably the most interactive set as well: there are places where you can reach over the bars and touch the trees, and spots along the way where visitors have the opportunity to control the lighting and weather (yes, there's wind and storms), not to forget the spiders. Marketing promotes this as being the home of trees, Aragog, and Buckbeak, but there is so much more! I should probably keep the secrets, but one thing I will say is this: you will never look at a Patronus in the same way again. 


It's worth mentioning for anyone planning a visit that this isn't the best place for photo opportunities, which is great for adding to the dark, intense atmosphere of a dangerous forest. And don't worry if you're scared of spiders, there's a spider-free alternative route, which is an excellent afterthought to the set. Whether you love or hate spiders, like or dislike the Forbidden Forest within the Harry Potter films, this wonderful little addition to Warner Bros. Studio Tour is something you must see!

The day was amazing, but it was however tainted by the Westminster Terror Attack, which occurred whilst we were still in central London (although we didn't realise this until we arrived at the Studio Tour.) Regardless of how jarring those few hours were, as Amber said in her event recap, it didn't have its desired effect, and a few days later we were back at Parliament Square, protesting against Brexit (more on that soon.) 

Thank you so much to Amber for inviting me as her plus one, and to Warner Bros. for you know... inviting Amber so she could invite me. If you want more about the day, and my idiocy, then take a peek at Amber's vlog of the day!