Wednesday, 21 December 2016

President Trump will have worryingly little opposition

There is just less than one month to go until Donald Trump is inaugurated as President of the United States. Many Americans are relying on the system of checks and balances outlined in the US constitution and other forms of scrutiny to protect their civil rights. Also, to prevent Trump from implementing any of the regressive policy ideas he discussed in the campaign. However, I don’t think Trump is going to face many significant obstacles when making any kind of decision as President.

The Republicans have maintained their majority in the House of Representatives and the Senate, making it far easier for Trump to pass legislation – a luxury that Obama only had for two of his eight years.

During the campaign, many Republican Senators refused to endorse Trump however, like almost everything said in the campaign, many are retracting their defiant comments. Now there is a Republican in the White House, they have a chance to make real differences. Congressmen and Senators have nothing to lose by working with Trump; every Trump victory is a victory for them so the Republicans are in a win-win situation.

Supreme Court
Obama spent the last year of his presidency trying to appoint a Liberal by the name of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court following the death of Antonin Scalia in February 2016. Due to Republicans refusing to schedule a hearing for Garland in the Senate, Obama was unsuccessful in his appointment attempt. Trump, on the other hand, should face no problems appointing a Conservative to the court. From what he has said in interviews recently, the judge will likely be pro-life and anti-gay marriage.

It is also likely that Trump will get the chance to appoint further justices to the Supreme Court over the course of his term. The Liberal, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the Conservative-leaning Anthony Kennedy are both over 80 years-old. Given the opportunity, Trump will be able to upset the current balance of the Supreme Court and make it lean conservative.

The media industry is currently going through a fake news crisis which is undermining the credibility of even respectable titles. Most of the fake news that goes viral on social media comes from Conservative leaning sources.

Furthermore, Trump supporters are very sceptical of mainstream media. A national Quinnipiac University poll in October revealed that 55% of likely voters said that they think the media is bias against Trump. Furthermore, Trump has spent the last few weeks tweeting almost endlessly about the bias of the mainstream media.

In the past, the media has had the means to sway public opinion and scrutinise decisions with some weight however nowadays there appears to be a larger trend in people only reading news that they want to believe. Trump is subtly encouraging this because it works in his favour.

Foreign Policy
With regards to foreign policy, Presidents are not subject to the same checks and balances that they are with domestic policy. For example, Trump can press the ‘nuclear button’ or order a military intervention (like what was seen in Vietnam and Iraq) without running it through Congress first. With rumours that the transition from Obama to Trump is chaotic and RealClearPolitics’ Simendinger and Caitlin Huey-Burns describing Trump’s cabinet as “loyalists”, Trump’s ability to make educated and thought-out decisions in times of crisis will be undoubtedly compromised.

There is a well-known phrase in the politics sphere that goes “you can’t do anything in opposition”. Sadly, for the Democrats and liberal media, that is even more true in a time when some opposition - any opposition - would be beneficial for democracy and the future of the US.

Monday, 12 December 2016

The 2016 MacBook Pro is a waste of money

In October, Apple announced an update to the MacBook Pro line. The 13-inch and 15-inch models are now thinner, lighter, and boast a Touch Bar. The Touch Bar sits at the top of the keyboard, replacing the line of function keys, and changes the menu options depending on what app you are in. Many guess this the closest Apple wants to get to creating a touchscreen Mac anytime soon. However, after a month of use, many have deemed it useless. And that is only where the problems with the 2016 MacBook Pro begin.

For any computer aimed at professionals to be decent it needs to host a wide variety of ports so it is a versatile device. Apple have however scrapped the USB ports, SD-card reader, HDMI port, and Thunderbolt ports and replaced them all with USB-C ports which are still a rare oddity. Even the MagSafe charger port has gone which is a step backwards for Apple. Numerous times when I’ve tripped on my charger, the magnetic-ended cable has just clicked out of the port rather than sweeping a £1000 laptop onto the floor.

Apple was one of the first computer manufacturers to get rid of the optical disk drive in 2012 and although many found that irritating at the time, it wasn’t the end of the world because there was a trend in people downloading software and media from the internet rather than via a disk. Hardly anyone uses USB-C though so it is a nonsensical move from Apple as hardly any devices are compatible.

The lack of ports has forced many to delve into the ugly world of dongles simply to get their current cameras, chargers, external hard drives, monitors, and leads to work.

Lighter and Thinner
Why are tech companies obsessed with making lighter and thinner devices at the expense of functionality and battery life? If you want a lightweight MacBook, get the new so-called 'MacBook’ or MacBook Air. I, like many, would rather have a slightly heftier MacBook Pro though as long as it means getting a longer battery life, a deeper keyboard, and a more diverse range of ports. The old MacBook Pros are convenient because they are the sweet spot between the power and capabilities of an iMac but the portability of a MacBook Air. The new 2016 MacBook Pro compromises too much.

Touch Bar
The new Touch Bar is a great feature if you’re part of Apple’s marketing team as it makes the new MacBook appear special and your job easy, but, to everyone else, it's just an expensive gimmick. All the features and options you need already on screen so you can just use your mouse to click on them. The Touch Bar interface has been under scrutiny as well. On some menus you scroll, others swipe, and on others you press through menus. There is no uniform interactive language.

The only thing worse than a Mac with a Touch Bar is the prospect of a Mac with a touchscreen. But that, my friend, is a rant for another day.

Half of the people who own MacBooks don’t even need them; a £300 Windows PC would be suffice for their word processing and internet browsing. So why do so many people own a MacBook? It’s a fashion statement. A key part of the appeal is the luminous Apple logo on the rear of the screen and the iconic start up chime. However, on the 2016 MacBook, in attempt to remove everything that people liked about MacBooks, Apple has removed both of these quirks. The Apple logo is still on the back but it is only reflective and the laptop now turns on silently.

And here is the cherry on the top: it costs £500 more in the UK! Apple have raised their MacBook prices everywhere but many say that Britain has been subject to the steepest increase because of Brexit and the economic uncertainty that brings.

Overall, if you’re considering getting a 2016 new MacBook Pro, consider ye olde 2015 MacBook Pros first. They are just as powerful, have a battery just as long, but come with more ports, and a light up Apple badge. You should also ask yourself if you really need a MacBook Pro at all. Lenovo, Microsoft, Dell and HP all have exciting, practical laptops for the same price or cheaper that are just as good.

The Wall Street Journal:
The Independent:
Casey Neistat’s Twitter:

Saturday, 26 November 2016

AUDIO: Trump has won. Now what?

References (in order of mention)
'Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson Is This Year's Sexiest Man Alive!' from People Magazine
'Bernie Sanders: Donald Trump harnessed anti-establishment anger' from The Guardian
'Hillary Clinton Made the Same Darn Mistake as Al Gore' from History News Network
'Felony disenfranchisement: The untold story of the 2016 election' from Salon
'@transition2017 update and policy plans for the first 100 days' from Donald J Trump's Twitter
'Barron Trump looks dazed and nauseous through dad Donald’s election victory speech after staying awake for nearly 24 hours' from The Sun
'Election 2016: Exit Polls' from The New York Times
'List of United States presidential elections by popular vote margin' from Wikipedia
'Paris Hilton reveals she voted for Trump' from The Hill
'Kanye West: I didn't vote but if I did, 'I would have voted for Trump'' from CNN
'Beyoncé - Single Ladies' from YouTube
'The real Clinton email scandal is that a bullshit story has dominated the campaign' from Vox
'Clinton's lead in the popular vote surpasses 2 million' from Politico
'Trump Is Self-Sabotaging His Campaign Because He Never Really Wanted The Job In The First Place' from The Huffington Post
'Watch: How Nigel Farage became friends with Donald Trump' from The Telegraph
'Republicans hold the House and Senate, but will that end the Washington gridlock even with President Trump?' from LA Times
'ABFoundation' from Twitter
'Melania Trump takes on cyberbullying: 'Our culture has gotten too mean'' from The Guardian
'Very organized process taking place as I decide on Cabinet and many other positions. I am the only one who knows who the finalists are!' from Donald J Trump's Twitter
'Sessions dogged by old allegations of racism' from CNN
'Michael Flynn, Anti-Islamist Ex-General, Offered Security Post, Trump Aide Says' fron The New York Times
'The crowd chants "lock her up" as Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn criticizes @HillaryClinton in his speech at the #RNCinCLE' from Politico's Twitter
'Ringside With Steve Bannon at Trump Tower as the President-Elect's Strategist Plots "An Entirely New Political Movement" (Exclusive)' from The Hollywood Reporter
'Mike Pence—Conversion Therapy True Believer—Adds More Hate to Donald Trump’s GOP Fire' from The Daily Beast
'‘Hamilton’ Had Some Unscripted Lines for Pence. Trump Wasn’t Happy.' from The New York Times
'Hillary Clinton seen hiking day after conceding US election' from The Guardian
'Three ways Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has made history' from Salon

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

City students vote to ban The Sun, Express, and Daily Mail

City University students have voted to ban newspapers including The Sun, Express, and Daily Mail, saying they have “no place” on campus.

The motion, aimed at opposing fascism and social divisiveness in the UK media, argue that the three newspapers in question “demonise refugees and minorities” and “actively scapegoat the working classes.”

The newspapers in question give a platform to far-right figures such as Nigel Farage, Richard Littlejohn, and Katie Hopkins; people who City students argue shout not have a voice in the mainstream media.

The newspapers’ front page headlines have also stirred controversy recently. The Daily Mail dubbed three senior judges “Enemies of the People” after they ruled that Parliament should have a say on Brexit. Earlier this month, the Express compared the court’s Brexit decision to a crisis on the same level as World War Two.

This decision to ban the newspaper comes only weeks after Lego announced that they would no longer be using the Daily Mail for free giveaways. The lobbying group ‘Stop Funding Hate’ is urging John Lewis, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer to do the same.

The City University motion also resolved that University contacts in the media industry should reach out to journalists and shareholders of the three newspapers in question.

Esteemed Sunday Times columnist Camilla Long tweeted that City’s decision to ban the three papers is “100% pathetic.” Many more argue that it will be a breach of freedom of speech if the University attempts to dictate what students can read and cannot read.

According to The Guardian, some journalism students at City are threatening to pull of the union in protest against the decision. City has a renowned journalism department and many graduates go on to find jobs working for the Sun, Mail or Express.

It is unclear how City will attempt to ban the newspapers. The journalism department has already stated that they will not block students’ access to the newspapers. Furthermore, some students find the notion absurd that walking through campus evening holding the Daily Mail might be against the rules soon.

Although student unions around the country have previously boycotted The Sun in protest of topless page three models, a blanket ban of three major newspapers has never been done before. The consensus on this ban appears to be: if students don’t want to read The Sun, Daily Mail, or Express, they simply shouldn’t buy it.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Donald Trump: One Week as Preisdent-Elect

It has been just over one week since billionaire Donald Trump defied the pollsters and surprised the media by getting elected as the next President of the United States. Donald Trump has, unsurprisingly, had a very busy week and voters have been given some more clues as to what exactly the Trump presidency will look like.

Anti-Trump protesters have taken to the streets of US cities over the last week to voice their opposition to Trump’s callous rhetoric. Trump responded to these protests on Twitter, initially calling the protesters “unfair”. However, he later tweeted: “Love the fact that … protesters … have passion for our great country. We will all come together and be proud!” The second tweet probably came following a gentle reminder from the White House or a member of his staff that the campaign is over now and he needs to unite the country. I suspect the public will begin to see a reserved and less impulsive Trump more frequently now he is President.

Trump has been appointing Republicans to key positions in his cabinet this week. So far we know that Reince Priebus is going to be Trump’s Chief of staff and Steve Bannon is going to be Chief strategist. Priebus used to be Chairman of the Republican National Committee and is known to be close with House Speaker Paul Ryan. Bannon is an ex-Goldman Sachs financier and has already sparked controversy due to his position as executive chairman of an alt-right news website which opposes immigration and cultural diversity. So far these appointments lack relevant White House experience therefore it will be interesting to see if they even last in their current positions.

Already, the Office of the President-Elect has began the transition from Obama’s administration to Trump’s. Obama met Trump on Thursday and the Wall Street Journal has since reported that during the meeting Trump expressed his surprise at the scope of the duties. They also reported that many Trump aides were "unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama’s term”.

Trump also began making phone calls and meeting with senior international politicians. British Prime Minister Theresa May was the 10th world leader that Trump contacted causing many to speculate on the state of the "special relationship". Though, Trump apparently told May the UK was a "very, very special place for me and for our country." Trump seemed to be more interested in another British politician this week though: Nigel Farage. They were pictured together in a gold-plated elevator having campaigned together last month. Is Farage expecting a new job working closely with President-elect Trump?

Trump did his first television interview since the election result with CBS’s '60 Minutes'. He admitted he had no regrets regarding anything he said on the campaign however it became clear that many of the things he said on the campaign weren’t to be taken literally. Furthermore, following a meeting with Paul Ryan, he stated that issues which were going to be addressed on the first day in office include healthcare and immigration.

This first week has been extremely telling and already we are seeing Trump appear more presidential. I think Trump will quickly discover how difficult the job is and that he is in fact no better than any regular Republican politician. His ambitions for “better healthcare for less money” and to destroy ISIS will prove to be far easier said than done (duh!). Also, his temperament which was very public during the campaign will be made private and his use of social media will decrease. Donald Trump will never be a stereotypical statesman like any other US Presidents in modern history (especially since his anti-establishment rhetoric is part of his appeal) but it will be interesting to see how close to that he is willing to go.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Six weeks in London

I have lived in London for approximately six weeks now and I love it.

Coming from a town with a population of about 100,000 to a city of 7 million didn’t scare me. I was looking forward to being just another face in the crowd. I’m far from popular but whenever I walked through high row in Darlington there was the inevitability that I’d run into someone who I knew so I was looking forward to being amongst complete strangers. 

Also, as far as cities go, I think London is quite town like. There aren’t an overwhelming number of skyscrapers like what you see in New York or Tokyo. And although there are large buildings, they are the size of what you would expect to see in any town centre.

Here are my other main observations from living in London:

Eye eye: the London Eye
The Tube is one of the best things about London. No matter how far I run/walk, Tube stations are never more than 10 minutes away so I can always get home easily. Also, the TFL staff are excellent. They are approachable, friendly, helpful, and have a good sense of humour.

Therefore, Londoners my age don’t drive. In Darlington, most my friends at least start lessons once they turn 17 but all the Londoners my age I’ve spoken to have no desire to learn (at this moment in time anyway). Public transport is so good, they have no need to drive.

The cost of living
Rent charges are a joke. I am fortunate enough to live on a university campus (the only university campus in London) and even the accommodation price here is as bad as everyone makes out. I have a bathroom, kitchen and dining area that I share with another five people, no lounge area, and a decent sized bedroom. But, for the same amount of money anywhere else outside of London I’d have a much larger bedroom, a shared lounge area, and an en suite.

I have deeper concerns about next year when I am kicked out of the university accommodation and need to find private accommodation which I know will not be as good value for money as where I am living now.

Me: out of my depth at
London Fashion Weekend
Stuff to do
Even though my room isn’t as big as the rooms of my friends who live on campuses outside of London, the amount of time I spend in there is minimal. There are hundreds of parks in London, scores of sites to see, dozens of free galleries and museums, as well as daily one off events such as London Fashion Week, the Chocolate Show, and various craft markets. No plans for the weekend? I just need to open an app such as Doji, Hype, or Fever and they suggest tons of things for me to do.

Despite the fact I live in London, I would still very much consider myself a tourist - it’s hard not to be.

Londoners (and southerners in general) are stereotyped as being unsociable sorts who keep to themselves but I’ve found people are just as friendly here as anywhere else in the country.

Last month, I walked six miles to Camden town and was leaning against a wall as I caught my breath when a guy in his late 20s noticed that I’d been stood in the same spot for about 10 minutes. He approached me and cheerily exclaimed “I’m sorry mate, I don’t think she is coming” before ardently walking off again. This is the sort of random banter I thought was exclusive to the north.

Furthermore, when I was in the cinema earlier this week, the stranger sat next to me struck up a conversation about the ridiculous number of trailers that are shown before the film.

So, from my experience, Londoners are lovely.

I am looking forward to the next three years living in London. I hope in that time I can find reasonably priced accommodation and get a part-time job to help cover the costs of the vast amount of dark chocolate and Innocent smoothies I survive off. For today though, I’m just loving the fact that I can wake up on a morning and run along miles of canals without the fear of ever running out of city, being able to record a video of myself doing press-ups without others even battering an eyelid (because London is full of strange people doing odd things every day), and then being able to sit in lectures and be constantly reminded by the rumble of the Central line in the distance that I am in - what many consider to be - the best city in the world.

I, Daniel Blake

I heard about this movie only a week ago. Friends on Twitter were posting links to the trailer with captions along the lines of: “Who is going to take Theresa May to see this then?” My lecturer had also made a couple of references to it in his seminar, highly recommending it.

The premise of the film appears simple: a bloke in Newcastle has suffered a heart attack and is looking to seek the appropriate benefits from the Jobcentre since he can't work— but is denied the allowances he needs.

Before I booked tickets for the film, I typed it into Google and found a clip of the BBC’s Mark Kermode talk about the film with a rare positive passion he reserves only for remarkable pictures. I also discovered the plethora of awards it had received/been nominated for over summer.

The cinema was packed. I sat between a father who had come with his son and a women who obnoxiously ate fruit continuously throughout the entire film. After an age of adverts, the film began.

Every now and again the screen would erupt in laughter however it was too real for me to find amusing. There was a moment where the hypocrisy of the bureaucratic benefits appeal system is so ludicrous, many found the irony entertaining. However the fact that it was a truth being exposed removed all sense of humour for me.

I felt the same about the scene where Daniel Blake is using a computer for the first time and he literally runs the mouse up the monitor. Where others in the cinema found humour, I was struck by how the difficult the system makes it for people born in an older generation but who are in need.

I, Daniel Blake is a masterpiece entrenched in the dejecting truth of the failures in the welfare system. It has a geniality to it though. Daniel Blake is a warm, optimistic, funny character (which may be down to Dave Johns’ background in stand-up comedy).

I’d recommend everyone to watch this film — not for the entertainment value but rather to be enlightened about what some people, out of no fault of their own, need to suffer because of flaws in the state.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Modular smartphones are definitely not the future

In 2013, a tech start-up called Phonebloks teased the concept of a modular smartphone. The idea was, when you want an improved camera, longer battery life, more memory, or to upgrade any feature on your smartphone, you simply replace a compartment rather than go out and buy a whole new device. This would allow smartphone users to prioritise features. For example, amateur photographers could sacrifice speakers for a larger camera or if a longer lasting battery was developed, they could easily swap out their old one.

Project Ara
Google even toyed with the idea of bringing a modular phone to market for a while. They called it ‘Project Ara'. Google proved with prototypes that it was technically possible to make but on 2nd September 2016, rumours emerged that Google had shelved the project. This may have been with good cause.

Modular smartphones would never have been commercially viable. Forcing the customer to prioritise features when they could buy the latest Samsung, iPhone, HTC, or Google phone and get the best of everything would never have worked. Admittedly, I imagine many would be drawn to the personalisation aspect of owning a smartphone that they basically custom build. However, moto maker and quirky phone cases offer enough personalisation for many.

Furthermore, modular smartphones may have caused customers to be more hesitant before upgrading their phones which would ultimately cost the manufacturers in the long run. If consumers could simply buy a higher quality camera module every few years, they would think twice before splashing out on a whole brand new smartphone.

Although modular phones appear to have been scrapped, I hope that the technology developed for them is put to use on other products as it would be fascinating to see where modular technology might actually come in useful.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Olympic aftermath: Stratford four years on

The Olympic stadium
On 6 July 2005, the International Olympic Committee announced that Great Britain would be hosting the 2012 Olympics. Although London had hosted the games twice before, the last time was over half a century ago so suffice facilities were non-existent. Therefore, it wasn’t long until development on a 490-acre Olympic park began. Stratford, in East London, was designated to be the place for the development.

The Olympic and Paralympic Games were a success. The organisation leading up to and during the games were highly acclaimed thanks to multiple ‘London Prepares’ events to test the organisers’ abilities, the opening and closing ceremonies were fantastic entertainment for the whole country, and the games themselves ran smoothly - with only a minor hiccup involving empty seats at events. But what about the legacy?

As well as the immediate benefits (such as tourism, facilities for aspiring athletes, etc.), the games in the Borough of Newham have had long term effects on the local area. Residents and businesses in Stratford now benefit from London Overground’s vastly improved East London Line. Additionally, the new Westfield Stratford City shopping centre led to jobs being created and means locals don’t need to travel all the way to Oxford Street for luxury brands. This is where the advantages mostly end though.

The negatives of hosting the games largely outweigh the positives. For one, before the games, businesses in the industrial area that the Olympic park was built on faced eviction and were forced to relocate which caused many businesses to suffer due to the high cost of office space in London. The Evening Standard’s Simon Jenkins wrote “The Stratford site ... lost 300 businesses and 14,000 jobs in its cluster of factories, warehouses and canal-side businesses."

The entrance to the Stratford Centre
Secondly, the flocks of tourists lasted as long as the games did. The small amounts of tourism that do still exist are concentrated exclusively in the Olympic park and Westfield Stratford City shopping centre; nowhere near Stratford High Street and the Stratford Centre. Locals hoped that the £8.77bn, which was the final cost of London 2012, would improve the area in which the author Charles Booth once described the people as “lowest class; vicious, semi-criminal”. However, walking from Westfield to the Stratford Centre feels like walking from one world to another. The A118 divides the old and the new areas thus highlights the stark differences. Westfield and the Olympic Park are spacious, luxurious, and well-maintained areas whereas the Stratford Centre and high street are aged, rundown, and cramped. The Guardian’s Tom Wilkinson writes "the old shopping centre clearly didn’t fit with the image Newham council wanted to project to the world. As the Games approached, the council tried to hide the building behind a particularly egregious piece of public art”.

Westfield Stratford City shopping centre opened in 2011
When I visited, residents in Stratford High Street revealed that they were dishearten with the Olympic legacy. Instead of opportunity and prosperity, the lack of new houses has forced many out of the area and small companies struggle to make business. One market stall owner said that Westfield had forced him to reduce his prices in fear that he would lose customers.

Moreover, there was a promise of new housing following the Olympic games; 31% of which is supposed to be affordable housing. Lots of the construction work is still underway however experts say this 31% figure is extremely optimistic because of large amounts of attention the area is getting from private foreign investors.

Building the Olympic stadium allegedly cost the taxpayer around £537m and a further £272m to convert into a Premier League football stadium. West Ham, the football team who won the bid to play in the stadium, currently only pay rent of £2.5m per annum (with a £15m up-front fee) meaning they would need to be in the stadium for the next 318 years for the public money to be replenished. Some justify this ‘steal’ of a deal by looking at Greece’s Olympic stadium from 2004 which has been abandoned and is sat gathering dust.

As for the future of Stratford, experts predict large growth in the area with the creation of new office space and new housing. However, I suspect that growth is likely to go unnoticed by the current residents who are still suffering from the Olympic and Westfield developments. The mostly unused Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (as it is now called) appears to be the consequence of incompetent legacy planning by the organisers of London 2012 and now it is the local working class people and small business owners who are paying the price.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Donald Trump probably won the second presidential debate

The second Presidential debate between the Republican candidate Donald Trump and the Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton took place on 9th October 2016. The two candidates didn’t stray far from their tried and tested styles: Trump with his simplistic answers shadowed by his aggressive passion, and Clinton with her calm technique and reserved responses which sound overly-rehearsed. The debate covered a wide range of issues varying from healthcare to foreign policy but answers from both candidates were frequently unfocused. As for the ‘winner’ of the debate, that depends on what your definition of winning is.

If the criteria for winning the debate is making the most evidence-backed, compelling arguments to deal with the questions, then Clinton won hands down. She kept her cool throughout the debate, even when put under pressure by Trump. However, if the definition of winning the debate is persuading undecided voters to vote for you, then I suspect that Trump won. Here’s why:

Often, when Trump was regurgitating his nonsensical rhetoric, Clinton would smile - probably highly amused by how easy Trump was making it for her. However, for Americans who are not politically educated and don’t fact check, Clinton’s grins could be perceived as her not taking the issues seriously or making light of them.

Clinton’s smiles were biggest when Trump came out with statements which she knew were lies and, when she got a chance to speak, Clinton would encourage viewers to visit her website to ‘fact-check’ Trump and find out the truth. However, it is becoming more and more evident that we live in a post-fact world and even the most politically uneducated among us know that candidate’s websites are not the ideal source for correct information. Clinton gives off a shifty impression to many and Trump has dubbed her ‘crooked Hilary’ numerous times so when Trump presents his false version of reality and Clinton just refers to her website, it is not a suffice response. Clinton's inability to outright deny lies individual lies with evidence proving it makes her look guilty. Ultimately, I think in those situations, it means Trump has come out on top.

TRUMP: So we’re going to get a special prosecutor, and we’re going to look into it, because you know what? People have been — their lives have been destroyed for doing one-fifth of what you’ve done. And it’s a disgrace. And honestly, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. 
CLINTON: In the first debate... I told people that it would be impossible to be fact-checking Donald all the time. I’d never get to talk about anything I want to do and how we’re going to really make lives better for people. 
So, once again, go to We have literally Trump — you can fact check him in real time. Last time at the first debate, we had millions of people fact checking, so I expect we’ll have millions more fact checking, because, you know, it is — it’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country. 
TRUMP: Because you’d be in jail.

It is clear from social media that many Trump supporters are highly suspicious of the media and think that there is an anti-Trump media conspiracy. During the debate there were a number of occasions when Trump argued that Clinton had spoken for too long or that Clinton was allowed to respond but he wasn’t. For those sceptical of the media, this only throws fuel on the fire.

One of the notable examples of this is when Trump brings up the issue of Clinton’s private email server to deflect from the questions he had regarding inflammatory comments he made about women. The issue of Clinton’s emails was talked about excessively at the last debate, has had days’ worth of airtime over the past year, and thousands of articles can be found about the ‘scandal’ online. Nevertheless, Trump was infuriated by the chairs of the debate when they pushed for him to address the question given to him rather than diverge back on to the issue of Clinton’s email. I think many who don’t read the news as much as they should might perceive this as the media attempting to protect Clinton and attack Trump. In reality, the subject of Clinton’s emails has just been exhausted. Regardless, the chairs snubbing of the issue that Trump raised will work in his favour as it made Trump look like the victim being ignored by the biased pro-Clinton media.  

Despite criticism following the first debate for interrupting Clinton, Trump still did it a total of 15 times (whereas Clinton only did it five times). I think many undecided voters will not see this as a negative, rather as Trump simply wanting his views to be heard - and isn’t that what America wants when they’re doing dealings on the world stage? Clinton’s passive method of waiting her turn, although customary, respectful, and polite, could be perceived as her lacking passion. Some might think, if she disagrees so profoundly with Trump, why wouldn’t she try and stop him in his tracks?

Finally, Trump frequently ignored the question and instead attacked Clinton. The attacks were so frequent and on such a breadth of subjects, it made Clinton look like a dangerously flawed candidate. If you don’t focus on the discourse of the debate, you forget there was a question and instead are just left with the two candidates trying to get one-up.

In conclusion, it is a matter of political education and knowledge. If undecided voters don’t digest news (possibly because they don’t trust it), I think Donald Trump will have emerged from this debate appearing to be the strongest candidate: ruthless, straight-talking, and passionate. For Americans who are more politically educated though, and do consume news regularly, they will be able to see through Trump’s blatant dismissal of important issues, his oversimplified rhetoric, and be extremely concerned about the prospect of him becoming present. With election day in only 4 weeks, we will soon know what significance, if any, the debates had and who in fact won.

Debate Transcript:

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Theresa May: a new Margaret Thatcher?

Above: a horribly executed face-swap of
Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May
Yesterday, Andrea Leadsom withdrew her candidacy in the Conservative leadership contest leaving Theresa May as the last woman standing. Theresa May became leader of the Conservative party with immediate effect and yesterday afternoon David Cameron announced that he would step down as Prime Minister after PMQs on Wednesday. Quite rightly, there has already been plenty of speculation on what kind of Prime Minister May will be. Some have been bold enough to compare her to Margaret Thatcher. But is she going to be the next ‘Iron Lady’?

Obviously, they are similar in the sense that they are both women Prime Ministers (a rarity UK history) but, in terms of policy, May seems to be less radical on many issues.

Margaret Thatcher was conservative through and through. She took a hard-right social and economic stance; promoting privatisation, introducing poll tax, and doing nothing whilst inequality and poverty rates grew throughout the 1980s. Meanwhile, May is pro-hunting, pro-smoking in public areas, and has an inconsistent record when it comes to civil rights and liberties. She voted against a bill in 2002 which would allow gay couples to adopt children however in 2013 voted in favour of same sex marriage. Additionally, she has supported the 2015 Conservative manifesto pledge to abandon the Human Rights Act and replace it with a UK Bill of Rights (a bill which faced large public backlash so has since been put on the backburner). However, May has renounced Cameron’s austerity measures to eliminate the budget deficit before 2020 and stated that she thinks that workers should be on the boards of major firms. The case can therefore be made for May being an extremely moderate conservative. For every hard-right policy she has backed, she has supported a soft-right (sometimes even liberal) policy to balance it out.

Although May has been outlining her aims over the past few days, the public can’t be blamed for being bit confused about her positions regarding some key issues. For example, although she voted for increasing the rate of VAT to 20%, she has recently criticised David Cameron in The Times for doing that. Maybe May was forced to hold her tongue in the past and tow the party line (because of collective ministerial responsibility) so she could retain her position in the cabinet. It is clear that from the policy announcements she has made over the last few days, she is drawing subtle contrasts between her own agenda and Cameron’s. As for May being the next Margaret Thatcher, it seems unlikely but only time will tell.

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Angela Eagle will be better for the Labour Party if they want to win the next general election

Elections are won in the middle ground. Analysis of historic voting behaviour in the UK suggests that the more affluent people in society tend to vote Conservative and the working classes tend to vote Labour. A large factor contributing to winning an election is appealing to the floating voters in the middle ground.

Kudos to Corbyn
In the 2015 General Election, Ukip, the SNP, and the Green party managed to rake in over 6 million votes for the first time. Labour’s core working class vote seemed to have splinter off and many turned to alternatives like Ukip, the Greens and (in Scotland) overwhelmingly the SNP.

Since summer 2015 when Corbyn was elected leader, it can be argued that he has started to win back the working class support at a rapid pace. With the backing of the trade unions, the surged Labour party membership, and his new brand of more honest, straight talking politics, Corbynmania has reared its head up and down the country.

However, that isn't enough if Labour wants to win the next general election. Winning back their disillusioned working class voters is step one but step two entails winning over some of the middle and upper class also. Angela Eagle thinks she is the woman who can do this.

Eagle swoops in
The ex-shadow First Secretary of State and MP for Wallasey revealed that she was going to run against Corbyn yesterday. Although she hasn’t singled out any key policy differences between her agenda and Corbyn’s, she says that she aims to unite the party. This is something which needs doing if Labour stands any chance of being successful again. Although Corbyn has a mandate from the Labour members, he lacks the support of his MPs. Corbyn cannot be a one man party.

However, unless Corbyn somehow isn’t on the ballot paper when the new vote for Labour leadership happens (which would be a democratic outrage), it is very unlikely that Eagle will stand any chance of becoming leader in the near future.

She had a first opportunity to make a strong case for her leadership on ‘Sunday Politics’ with Andrew Neil this morning however failed to answer the majority of questions and failed to come across as a potential strong leader. Instead, she tried to shift the focus of many questions on to Corbyn’s flaws.

Her leadership bid is still very young so it won’t be long until Eagle might move into the spotlight of her own campaign and stop being hung-up on why many Labour MPs think Corbyn has failed.

Overall, even if Angela Eagle isn’t the solution to Labour’s lack of support and divisions, neither is Jeremy Corbyn. Angela Eagle stands a far better chance of appealing to the more broad electorate. However, what Corbyn lacks in support from MPs, he more than makes up for in the way he has rallied the support of young people, the working classes, and voters who had started to find alternatives to the Labour party. Regardless of where Labour goes next, if they want any chance of success, Jeremy Corbyn needs to be involved. 

Friday, 8 July 2016

Leadsom should not be underestimated in the battle for Conservative Party leadership

David Cameron only announced that he would be resigning as Prime Minister just over two weeks ago but the Tory leadership contest to replace him is already well under way. Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom are the last women standing after beating Michael Gove, Stephen Crabb, and Liam Fox in ballots by Conservative MPs. May was an EU 'remainer' and Leadsom campaigned as an EU ‘leaver’. They represent an interesting cross-section of the Conservative party as what they stand for and their motives for running are intriguing.

Theresa May
With 90 Conservative MP endorsements and the bookies putting her odds at 1/3 to be the next Tory leader, it seems inevitable that May will be the next Prime Minister. She has a wealth of experience in foreign negotiations as she served for 6 years as Home Secretary and she calls herself "not a showy politician" which means that few people have preconceptions of her and she could start her term with a clean slate.

Although she was anti-Brexit, she has since accepted the result and has stated “the campaign was fought, the vote was held, turnout was high and the country gave their verdict… Brexit means Brexit.” This is unsurprising as during the EU referendum campaign she was virtually silent. Many at The Spectator predict that she was playing the long game all along and being quiet so she would be in good standing in the case of Brexit and Cameron resigning. Her strategy appears to have paid off as she is now favourite to be Tory leader… not that opinion polls can be trusted.

One thing which strikes me is, if May wins the Tory leadership contest it surely defeats the point of Cameron resigning in the first place? Replacing one anti-Brexiteer with another seems a waste of time.

Andrea Leadsom
Leadsom has emerged as the dark horse in this race for Tory leadership. She appears to have come out of nowhere but many are already pumped about her potential. Leadsom is currently a junior minister and has only been in Parliament for six years.

In the last few days she seems to have been appealing to social conservatives; speaking out against gay marriage and talking about her Christian views in a series of TV interviews. Appealing to the right-wing of her party which might just pay off. There is around two months Leadsom now has to portray herself as material for the next Tory leader and PM. From what we have seen in the last week, she definitely seems up to the job however she is going to have to fight a excellent campaign to beat May.

If history is anything to go by, David Cameron can be likened to Andrea Leadsom because he too was the underdog candidate in the Tory leadership race in 2005. He was overshadowed by David Davis right up until the end of the contest when Cameron managed to win to the surprise of many.

No matter who wins the leadership contest and becomes the next Prime Minister, Boris Johnson (leader of the EU leave campaign) should not be allowed to walk away from the turmoil that Brexit has so far created. When a Brexit department is inevitably set up, Boris must be made the head of it so it is him who is held accountable for Britain’s exit deal from the EU and the other changes that follow.

iOS 10: Lockscreen and Notifications

Today the iOS 10 Public Beta was released and I downloaded it in hope that it would bring a plethora of changes, small and large, which streamlined and improved the iOS experience. The update, although still a beta, is very stable and resembles iOS 9 in almost every way conceivable apart from the lockscreen and notifications.

Notifications are now large. Apple calls them “rich” however they just take up lots of space now which is inconvenient if you have lots of notifications to rifle though. The size of these large bubbles also means that you can’t see as many of them on your screen at once. This is more of a step backwards in innovation than a step forwards.

The widgets tab (accessible when you pull down from the top of the screen) used to be sleek and modern however in iOS 10, widgets looks like notifications and, like notifications, are inconveniently large. The widgets tab is now also accessible if you swipe to the far left on your homescreen or lockscreen - there is no escaping it! Widgets and notifications have become ugly hindrances rather than helpful in most cases.

On the lock screen, you can now interact with the huge notifications in a more dynamic way, access the widgets panel (as mentioned above), and access your camera by sliding right. Apple has ditched its iconic ‘slide to unlock’ method and replaced it with ‘press home to unlock’. This uses Touch ID to unlock your phone. Failing that, you are then presented with the passcode screen. It does seem like a security improvement as there are no longer multiple options for unlocking your phone and you are forced to use Touch ID first.

Also in iOS 10 are the addition of apps such as ‘Home’ and the ability to remove first party apps but these aren’t features that will be used by the average user. I will also admit that iMessage has been vastly improved however I don’t use iMessage so those new features will just get in the way when I need to text somebody.

And that, basically, is all that iOS 10 is. It’s a little disappointing that Apple seems to have ran out of ideas for the 10th version of its mobile operating system. They’ve changed notifications and widgets for the worse and the lock screen is different but probably just as productive as the old lock screen.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Scratch my last idea. Picture this: Fantasy Shadow Cabinet

Scratch my last idea. Picture this: Fantasy Shadow Cabinet. It would work a lot like Fantasy Football. You pick your imaginary team (in this case MPs) and then get weekly points depending on how well each of the players have performed.

When you first sign up you start with X amount of influence so you can buy around 20 MPs and assign them positions on your Fantasy Shadow Cabinet. Each Labour MP will be worth different amounts of influence with Margaret Beckett (known for claiming £600 worth of hanging baskets during the expenses scandal and who has probably passed her career climax) being somewhere towards the cheaper end of the spectrum and Tom Watson, renowned for his ruthless opposition to Rupert Murdoch and already a member of Shadow Cabinet, being one of the most expensive MPs to buy.

Then each week your MPs will get points assigned to them for promotions, transfers, asking questions in parliament, and being a good egg in general. However your Fantasy Shadow Cabinet can be penalised for being demoted, resigning, getting bad press, or any general blunders (such as reading an autocue wrong, falling over, or eating a bacon sandwich in a funny way.)

You can go head to head with your friends, set up a league at work, or simply play for fun. Regardless of how you decide to play, with the turmoil in the Labour party currently and the prospect of a new Shadow Cabinet daily, this is the perfect time to play this game - as soon as it has been invented.

A mockup of summer 2016's hot new online game

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

8th Darlington Scouts' Garden Fete: an explainer video

A brief video explaining the 8th Darlington Scouts' annual Garden Fete on Cockerton Green.

100 Years with the 8th:

Credits: Edited by Liam Pape, maps by National Library of Scotland, Music by Guy Garvey (Harder Edges) & Dick Walter (Confidence Link 1), with thanks to Robert, Daniel, Ken, and Neil

Monday, 20 June 2016

Can the Brexit prediction polls be trusted?

A few months ago when politicians started stating their stance on Britain’s place in the European Union and it became clear that Cameron, Corbyn, Osbourne and May were in favour of staying in whilst Johnson and Farage were the political heavy weights wanting out, the referendum seemed done and dusted before it had began and Brexit was a mere fantasy. However, with only a few more days to go until polling day, for whatever reason, the Vote Leave campaign has grown in support significantly and the polls are now neck-and-neck. However, can the prediction polls be trusted?
The Financial Times 20/6/16

It is a general rule that you can expect a 2% margin of error with prediction/opinion polls however every poll in the build up to the 2015 general election was completely wrong. Up until the day before the election, it was predicted that no party would get a majority and Labour would end up forming a coalition with the SNP. In reality though, the Conservatives got a majority of 12! This has caused many to rightly take prediction polls with a pinch of salt recently.

In May 2015, although the prediction polls predicted the number of seat wins for each party wrongly, the vote share percentage was pretty much perfect – a fact glossed over by many in the aftermath of the general election.

It is very unlikely, but maybe the prediction polls are predicting the result to be close purposefully in a ploy to increase turnout and make the result one with a high democratic backing.

I don’t believe that the prediction polls are currently completely correct as I think what people tell the polling companies and what people actually vote will be different in many cases (like the ‘silent Tories’ in 2015). Britain will most definitely vote stay inside the EU; I predict, by at least a 7-point difference - however it is worth remembering that I predicted that Donald Trump wouldn’t win the Republican nomination. Regardless of whether I’m right or not, what follows the result – whatever it may be – will be very interesting.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Why Politics should be on the national curriculum

Politics can be a difficult topic to understand at the best of times. Being able to cut through the jargon, waffle, and spin, that makes up is everyday politics (especially during campaigns), is a skill that takes practise, knowledge, and lots of time. It is because of this inaccessibility to political understanding; many choose not to participate in politics.

In recent times, general election turnout in the UK hasn’t been higher than 66%. This figure can be partly explained by people feeling unrepresented by the current choice of parties and people having no faith in the political system. I think the largest proportion of people who abstain simply don’t feel politically educated enough thus are disinterested. This is a problem which can be addressed very simply.

Introducing politics to the national curriculum in secondary schools and teaching pupils the basics of government, sovereignty, and their rights would be extremely valuable to many. And teaching political processes such the legislative process and how to register to vote can only have a positive effect on society.

Politics in the national curriculum would make lengthy, complex campaigns seem more straight forward and encouraging young people to get their voices heard would make politics more diverse and less white, male, and stale.

However, there might be some drawbacks to politics lessons. For one, there is no guarantee that the teaching would be neutral. Everyone is entitled to their opinions however being introduced to politics in a completely neutral way is important in order to be able to recognise why people have fundamentally different ideologies. Additionally, how would the subject be taught? Putting an exam at the end of the course might be counterproductive and make even more people resent politics. But if there isn’t an exam, teachers and students might not take the subject seriously. Finally, would it be wise to encourage kids to share their philosophies (bearing in mind they will vary from far-left to far-right) in an environment that is so prone to bullying.

Overall, something needs to be done to dramatically increase turnout and participation. Getting people interested and engaged with politics at an early age might by the catalyst for that to happen.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

16 things wrong with the new Top Gear

A few weeks ago Top Gear relaunched with a new studio, new(ish) track, and new presenters following Jeremy Clarkson’s ‘fracas’ with a producer in 2015. I started watching Evan’s Top Gear without any preconceptions. Although I really did like the old Top Gear, I believed the new Top Gear could survive – maybe even thrive - without Clarkson, Hammond, and May. Sadly, it hasn’t lived up to my expectations and I have been severely disappointed. Here is a list of some of the things wrong with it:

  • Matt LeBlanc is too dry and straight for Evans' loud, shouty, child-that’s-ate-too many-E-numbers personality. They don’t complement each other as co-presenters.
  • The celebrity interviews for ‘Star in a Rallycross Car’ are stale and repetitive. In the interviews, there is lots of emphasis on rating the guests’ first cars and their best cars but Jesse Eisenberg (episode 1) doesn’t drive! So it seemed like a waste of time talking to him that much about his car history. In episode 2, Damian Lewis was one of four guests. Shame it wasn’t just him; would have made a better interview.
  • Whilst we’re on interviews, the combinations of guests have been weird. Ramsey and Eisenberg didn't go well together and although the interview lasted 10 minutes, no much was said.
  • Evans shouted too much.
  • Evan and LeBlanc were both too happy to drive Reliant Robins (episode 1).
  • LeBlanc is too monotone.
  • Sabine Schmitz is funny and a car expect. She seems underused considering how much she could add to the show.
  • There is too much audience interaction and opportunities for clapping, oohing, and cheering. It's a TV show, not panto.
  • The Reliant Robin challenge had no point to it. I thought it was Britain Vs America at first however they were in identical Reliant Robin only painted with different flags.
  • Who are the presenters again? In the South African challenge during episode 2 it was hard to tell if the presenter was Eddie Jordan or his celebrity guest, Sharleen Spiteri.
  • This has been said before and it will be said again: there are too many presenters. One of the best thing about Clarkson’s Top Gear was the camaraderie between the hosts but there are that many hosts now - and that many guests always with them – it’s hard for the audience to form any sort of bond with them when they can’t forge a convincing and genuine friendship between each other.
  • There are too many other people in each episode. In episode 1 alone, guests included the Brownlee brothers, a heavyweight champion, two Top Gun guys, people from the restaurant, and the Blackpool mayor. It would have been nice to have a bit more focus on the new presenters – especially in episode one.
  • Humour-wise, it was not edgy at all (with the exception of one comment from LeBlanc about "your mom’s G-string". There were too many jokes where the punchline was 'better cut that bit out in the edit' in a very PG fashion.
  • Too many references to stuff that only diehard fans who have followed the Top Gear news closely over the past few months will get (e.g. Evans being sick). This would be a good thing if there was already a cult established around the new presenters but they needed to make a good first impression rather than make inside jokes.
  • For a car show, there has been surprisingly little said about cars. The two main presenters are car fanatics rather than car journalists or experts. Therefore, the shows have been lacking car reviews with substance. Evans and LeBlanc seem to simply recited the basic statistics and then yell 'wooohooo' a lot before giving a superficial amateur conclusion.
  • It is too repetitive. There were two similar races in the Reliant Robin challenge (episode 1). We knew which one was faster so the second race with all the obstacles wasn’t necessary. Likewise, in episode two there were too many timed races.

Most of these problems could be easily resolved by cutting down on the number of presenters and guests and ensuring that the presenters are car experts who have a bit of camaraderie between each other (probably easier said than done, I know). I’d like to see Chris Harris and Sabine Schmitz in a superior role to what they are now. However, I can understand why the BBC put two TV heavyweights in the driver’s seat instead. It might have proved even more fatal giving a show of Top Gear’s size and popularity to a YouTuber and a German.

Finally, to be fair, the episodes have been improving as they go along as Evans is adapting and everyone is growing comfortably into their roles.

Friday, 17 June 2016

WWDC 2016: the most boring Apple conference yet?

Highlights include: 3x bigger emojis, the native ‘Stocks’ app can be deleted, and OS X is now called MacOS!

Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is the one of the most anticipated technology conferences every year. It is way bigger than Google I/O and it makes Microsoft’s Build look like a lame nostalgic reunion. The opening event at WWDC is iconic as it is when Apple shows off the next version of iOS to developers and the press. In the past, WWDC has been where products such as the iPhone, the redesigned Mac Pro, and the App Store have been announced as well as many significant upgrades to iOS. However the 110 minute opening presentation hosted by Tim Cook seemed extremely uneventful this year.

The main announcement regarding the Apple Watch was that apps will now load almost instantaneously (7x quicker than in the past, according to Apple) however that was expected in the first version of watchOS and it is embarrassing that it has taken Apple until version 3 to finally do it. This news was met with a surprisingly serious applause from the audience.

The main announcements regarding tvOS and OS X were that OS X is now called MacOS and Siri will be available on both. This isn’t exciting news though if you see Siri as a fun novelty rather than a useful tool - like what I expect most people do.

iOS 10: *yawn*
Apple had taken almost a hour to get onto iOS 10 and I was left with a feeling of disappointment when I learnt that the only major changes were that notifications have been redesigned so you can’t see as many of them on your screen now, and iMessage has turned into a complex multi-media experience with fireworks, scribbles, and emojis that are now 3x bigger.

Most of the keynote seemed to be spent talking about the newly redesigned Maps, Photos, and Music apps which were accompanied by awkwardly long demonstrations. It’s worth pointing out that most of the time when Google redesigns an app, they just release it without having to invite 5000 developers to gasp and applaud at the update in a self-indulgent display of hype building.

The most interesting news from Apple this month wasn’t even from WWDC; it was from a press release a week earlier which stated that they were restructuring the way apps can be purchased on the App Store. In the future, users will be able to subscribe to apps rather than buy them with a one off payment. This is something that will completely change how millions of people use their phones... yet it wasn’t mentioned even once at WWDC.

Maybe the problem is that Apple has just been too good. iOS is on its 10th version now and maybe Apple is running out of creative ideas to redefine smartphone software. So instead they are opting to refine what they already think is perfect and create as much hype about doing so as possible.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

Making '100 Years with the 8th'

After the success of ‘The Camp’ (the Senior produced documentary about summer camp 2014), I wanted to set myself and the Seniors a bigger film project so in January 2015 we started working on ‘100 Years with the 8th’; another documentary film shot over the course of one year which captures what the Group does.

Planning was fairly easy. We knew that the combination of filmed events overlaid with interviews, and a tear jerking, slow music montage at the end, worked (as that is what we did in ‘The Camp). That basic vision offered a perfect foundation for the film which could easily be built upon.

By April, that skeleton had expanded to include scripted interviews. These were sometimes for comic effect but sometimes simply so information could be given in a concise but natural way. By November, we had written and shot a fictional prologue set in the year 2082 which included spaceships, walking sticks, and dodgy moustaches. And by December, the voice overs for the fast-paced 100-year history section had been recorded.

Making the film feel smooth and not sporadic was an initial challenge. There were over twenty 8th events which were covered in the film and ensuring that there was some sort of continuity throughout was something identified early on. We didn’t want the movie to seem like 20 separate short films stitched together so I did two things:

The timeline

  • In January, I made a hybrid linear/modular timeline. This meant telling the story of the centenary year in chronological order (from January to December) but making chapters for each section (for example the Cub sports day, laser wars, and Jay’s animals are in the same chapter although they happened months apart).
  • I conducted most of the interviews at the end of the year so even when footage of different events is shown, the interviews have some continuity as the interviewees are sat in the same location with the same people.

Recording the plethora of events and activities that the 8th Darlington Scouts were doing to celebrate their centenary year, as well as their usual programme, was easier than you’d expect. It entailed just shooting random things on our smartphones, point-and-shoots, or the camcorders that the group purchased during the summer and praying that we can edit them together later in some orderly fashion. In the twenty-first century, it would appear, equipment is not an issue.

The storyboard for the opening scene
When I first pitched the opening scene set in 2082 to the leaders they were somewhat sceptical. I envisioned an 84-year-old member of the group returning to the Den to reminisce and finding the 2015 log book. He opens the book and what he reads is illustrated in the footage from 2015 making the actual film some kind of prolonged dream-sequence of what he is reading in the book. In November 2015, a basic storyboard was sketched, spaceships were generated over the den using an 89p movie effects app, and the 84-year-old man was created by giving Maverick a pound-shop moustache and a walking stick. Seeing the surreal opening sequence, rather than just hearing a pitch for it, convinced the leaders that it was appropriate for the film and we were allowed to keep it in.

Editing at the Den
Editing some 40GB worth of raw footage was a five-month task which began in December 2015. It was a gruelling job which was frustrating at times for example when someone had said something dynamite in an interview but was being shouted over by someone else rendering the footage unusable. Nevertheless, the editing was a joy. Most of the editing happened at home with the exception of three days that happened at the Den. The days at the Den were also when the voice overs were recorded. This sometimes meant listening to Poppy and Maddie attempting to pronounce unexpected tongue twisters such as ‘at Oxford’ and ‘Harrison’s laundry’ dozens of times until they got it right. Despite the slow progress at times, it was good fun.

The pre-premier was in April 2016, this was an opportunity for me to show some leaders and the Seniors a first draft of the movie to get their feedback before the final cut. Unsurprisingly, they asked me to remove lots of swearing, some inappropriate bits, and some scenes which dragged on too long. Though, on the whole, they seemed to like it.

The actual premier was on May 4th at the Scout HQ. Over 50 people turned out to watch the 43-minute-long movie which was projected onto the wall behind the stage. One day later it was released on YouTube and it has thankfully met a warm reception. Since the release, viewers have called it ‘fantastic’, ‘excellent’, and said ‘It really shows what a great Scout Group the 8th is, always has been and hopefully always will be.’