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Note: The following news story was written as part of my Medical Journalism module at Westminster University. The story was sourced by myself, and is an exclusive. Feel free to comment.

US soldiers who develop alcohol problems when returning from war are not being given the support they need, a new study reveals.

Image courtesy of stockxchng

Figures from the US-based Walter Reed Army Institute of Research have show that at three-four months post-deployment, 25 per cent of soldiers serving in Iraq have screened positive for alcohol abuse. Some 17 per cent reported being late for work following the misuse of alcohol, while four per cent admitted to driving under the influence.

Dr Joshua E. Wink, who led the study, said that ‘Battlemind training,’ a US army support programme for soldiers returning from war is not enough:

“While Battlemind has been validated for a number of positive mental health outcomes, it has not been validated for reducing rates of alcohol misuse. Results from this study could be used to enhance existing reintegration training, such as Battlemind. Greater awareness can lead to better monitoring by unit leaders or peers.”

US army

Some 1120 US soldiers were surveyed regarding their experiences in combat; those who screened positive for alcohol misuse had more military experience than those who tested negative. Mental health problems – such as symptoms of PTSD and anxiety disorder- were also higher in those who tested positive. Alcohol misuse was measured using a two-item alcohol screen combined with an alcohol-related questionnaire. Alcohol rates among soldiers were higher than a similar survey taken in 2007.

Mr Wink said: “There had been little work done examining the association of specific combat experiences with later alcohol misuse. Many have looked at the anatomy of war zone stress and its role in the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but not alcohol use disorders.”

Official figures from the US army state that 9,200 soldiers sought treatment for alcohol abuse in 2009, a 56 percent increase since the war in Iraq started in 2003. Today marks the beginning of Alcohol Awareness Month in the US.

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Copyright of Claire Noble

Candidates from the constituency of Harrow East went head to head in a public debate, criticizing each other on issues surrounding race and health.

Dubbed an “electoral bluewash,” the borough of Harrow East, is 56th on the Tory target list, and it is likely that incumbent MP Mr McNulty, who was involved in expenses claims last year, will lose his seat in the forthcoming General Elections.

UKIPs Abhijit Pandya and the Liberal Democrats Nahid Boethe also put forward their campaign, in what many believe is a two-man race between Labour and the Conservatives. Chaired by former Harrow Times Editor, Charlie Harris, candidates had one minute to give their opening speech, and it was arguably, the mildest part of the evening.

Mr Pandya started by addressing his idea that “multiculturalism is a bad thing and one that leads to segregation”. He told the audience that UKIP was putting forward the concept of “one Britishness”.

“We need to emphasis British culture, by bringing all the different communities of Harrow together. No other party is doing this. We need to say, ‘you’re here now, you’re British,’ come and learn about Shakespeare and Wordsworth,” he said.

Ethnically diverse

Tony Mc Nulty hit back by calling Mr Pandya, “a BNP man in a suit”.  He urged residents to celebrate their roots and their culture and disagreed with the notion that multiculturalism is a “dirty word”.

Addressing Mr Pandya directly, he said: “You haven’t got a clue what you’re talking about, the notion that multiculturalism equals separatism is rubbish. Everyone on the stage has been to each and every community, not celebrating their isolation but their unity.”

Harrow is one of London’s most ethnically diverse boroughs, and has the highest density of Gujarati Hindus in the UK.

On the subject of transport for Harrow, and the numerous amounts of weekend tube closures, Mr Mc Nulty blamed Metro Net and TFL, calling them: “Nothing more than two small kids in a playground”.  Both Mr Blackman and Mr Mc Nulty criticised Boris Johnston for the failure to build disabled access at both Harrow on the Hill, and Stanmore station.

Cuts

Mr Mc Nulty said: “If these services, under the management of the Mayor are failing, then that means the Mayor is failing. He continued to say that Boris Johnston had written to him personally to “forget about repairs, until at least 2016”.

Both Mr Blackburn and Mr Mc Nulty argued over the threat of 50 million pounds worth of cuts aimed at Northwick Park Hospital. Mr Mc Nulty said that “people need to stop lying, there are no cuts for the hospital.”

Mr Blackburn hit back by saying: “It’s not fair to say that. Elective surgery is being transferred to Central Middlesex hospital, there are cuts facing Northwick Park Hospital, that’s the truth.”

Criminal sanctions

Candidates then moved onto the next topic, the expenses scandal. Tony Mc Nulty was last year exposed by The Daily Telegraph for claiming second home allowances on a house that his parents lived in. He has since apologised to his constituents, and in the Houses of Parliament, and paid back the correct amount. A Stanmore resident told the panel: “I’m afraid MPs in Parliament just do not get how annoyed the public are over the expenses scandal.”  Bob Blackburn, continued,  to a round applause by saying: “What I hear on the doorstep is, ‘how does he have the cheek to stand again’.

Mr Pandya said that UKIP would push for criminal sanctions on expenses claims if they were to come into power,  and said that a new building for party members to spend the night in would solve future expenses scandal.

The debate closed with questions on foreign affairs in which all parties agreed on a possible two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Sophie Stevens bathroom design. Image courtesy of The Queen of Hoxton

Situated in the shadows of Shoreditch, The Queen of Hoxton boasts the best interior designs, from the UK’s most talented artists.

Outside the venue a spray-painted sign reads on the door: ‘Welcome to the Queen of Hoxton, a youth club for adults’. Pink graffiti-style drawings adorn the sides of the building, and you can tell from the outset that this bar does not contain a single trace of magnolia paint.

As part of their first birthday celebrations, The Queen of Hoxton ran an online competition asking various artists throughout the UK to put forward their ideas to illustrate throughout the venue. A complete re-vamp ensued, resulting in customers stepping into an artistic space, making it so much more than your typical East-End pub.

Designs range from window stencils by graffiti artist Pure Evil who interconnects the theme of humans and conflict with the softer images of rabbits, butterflies and polar bears to individual bathroom designs, pleasantly know as the “washroom galleries”. One of the washroom galleries illustrators Sophie Stephens describes where her ideas come from:

I wanted to do queens from past and present, and I really wanted to do the female toilets because I liked the fact they were a bit grotty. Eventually, it evolved into a boudoir scene” she said.

Tip Toe Collectives' installation art

The creative process

Her 60s monochrome design oozes the glamour of a real-life powder room, and never before has a trip to the bathroom resulted in an almost unwillingness to leave.  A fashion illustration graduate who started her freelance career by launching a series of T- shirts for celebrity fashion designer, Henry Holland she describes what inspires her to produce such intelligent, quirky designs, pausing she says:

“I try not to have creative heroes. “I am inspired by people, fashion, humour, weirdness, the macabre and history. Jealousy fuels my inspiration to work harder and inspires me to make better drawings. I find Alejandro Jodorowsky’s films very encouraging. And I’m very jealous of Aurel Schmidt- she is far too talented.”

On the Ground floor, a large-scale installation by Tiptoe Collective’s Mark Whittle, James Nicholls and Ian Caulkett infuses colours that give the feeling of a frantic, yet wonderful runaway circus.

“We have never doubted that we have the ability to work in the creative industry; it’s just having the determination to keep going” said Ian.

We draw inspiration from pop art, Warhol, Caulfield, right through to the way Banksy has made the medium his own. But there are some great contemporaries out there, Blu for instance. The creative process for any artist is individual in itself. English Socialist Graham Wallas presented one of the first models of the creative process in his 1926, work the “Art of thought”.

In this, he outlined that the process involved five stages: preparation, incubation, imitation, illumination and verification. Explaining their personal steps towards the creative process, Ian said: “When a project first comes in we tend to sit there and look at each other for a bit, waiting for an idea to form, which never seems to happen. An idea usually hits us when we least expect it, from which point on, generally speaking, we’re all on the same wavelength” he said.

When asked if they have any advice they would like to give to young artists, Ian said: “Don’t forget your paintbrush.” The Queen of Hoxton, although youthful in age, serves as a canvas for the showcasing of the best talent in Great Britain. So, the next time you visit this club, remember the names, you might just see them at the next Tate exhibition.

Heading up Topman CTRL online for the month of April, Chew Lip’s  James Watkins and Tigs sit down with DIY to talk success, SXSW and a fondness for bum smacking.

Chew Lip's James Watkins and Tigs at Topman, Oxford Circus.

Hi guys, thank you for joining us. How is everything in the world of Chew Lips?

Tigs and James: We’re jetlagged, we just arrived back from SXSW last night.

As a new band, playing SXSW is a pretty big deal. Can you describe the experience for our readers.

Tigs: Mind-blowing. You walk down the street, catch someone’s eye, and they smile. Even if it was just for a second, people are so warm, and always want to talk. It was incredible.

James: It’s definitely a lot more laid back from UK festivals.

Tigs: I really cannot stress that point enough, I have never seen anything like it.

James: After we arrived, we went down to the lobby of the hotel, met another band and got chatting. We shared a taxi with them into town and ended up at their show at the Copa Cabana, which is your classic SXSW club. We had just met these guys, and ended up at their show. This is what it is like.

You clearly see an obvious difference from the UK and US crowd?

Tigs: I don’t know if SXSW is typical of your US crowd. I think it’s just a special festival. They’re not shy in telling you what they like they properly go for it. Even the bands are clapping. That would never happen here, bands are too cool to do that. The crowd get so enthusiastic, high-fives and everything.

James: I’m not a natural high-fiver though.

Tigs: I am. At SXSW I spent a whole night running through the street just smacking bums, no one said a thing, everyone was just so happy. (She laughs) I’m sorry this has nothing to do with your question.

Blame it on the jetlag

Tigs: I’m babbling on now aren’t I?

James: Yes.

That said SXSW really helps young bands to gain exposure. Have you had any offers that might help you crack America?

Tigs: There are deals on the table from this trip, which is why a lot of people go out there. All the right labels came and we are in talks now. You need a big label to crack America; you can’t do it in low-key way.

You’ll definitely go back then?

Tigs: Oh God Yeah, we’re going to New York in six months for a few shows.

Despite your debut album, ‘Unicorn‘ not being released in the US you have a growing number of fans (During their performance at SXSW the entire crowd sang along to every one of their songs) were you surprised at the crowd’s response?

Tigs: I was shocked and surprised. You play in front of industry crowds, and industry crowds are cack, they don’t give you any promotion. But when we were there it was a packed room, the front two-thirds knew every word not just the singles, but the whole album. I was touched. And we haven’t even had a release over there. They’re probably ripping it off online.

We’ve heard the term ‘overnight success’ being used a lot in relation to Chew Lips beginnings. Is this the case, or did it take a very long way to get to where you are today?

Tigs: Both. We got noticed very quickly. But, we spent a long time writing before we put anything out, because we wanted it to be good. It was our fifth show when we started to get touted by management companies. For any band that was ridiculous, because we weren’t ready for it at all, and we weren’t very good. We had something but we weren’t polished, it was rough and messy. But you can’t chose when you get attention.

Do you worry about the fact that with fame comes the fear of selling yourselves out, and bowing down to certain industry standards?

James: I think if you change who you are to become big then that is selling out.

There has been a lot of criticism over the use of advertising in Lady Gaga’s single  Telephone, where would you draw the line?

Tigs: If something came up that we didn’t find morally unacceptable, and they wanted to use our song, that had already been ripped off online to promote their product then we wouldn’t have a massive problem with that. Like the classic example of bands in a mobile phone advert. Obviously we wouldn’t let them use it for something like a tampon advert. Gaga can do whatever she wants. She is so out there anyway and makes all her own rules. In American that is totally acceptable, here people do not forgive you for things like that. Here, that is viewed as selling out.
James: As long as you don’t bend over backwards for people it’s fine.

So what have you got lined up for the summer, any UK dates?

James: It’s shaping up quite nicely.

Tigs: We played 35 dates last summer, and with some of them, we punched way above our weight. We opened for the Killers at Hard Rock Calling for example, which was crazy. We will be more selective this time with UK dates because there is like five festivals every weekend now. We’re doing the Montreux Jazz festival. Everyone from Bo Diddley to Stevie Nicks has played there. We’re also playing at Exit festival in Serbia, Rock n Seine, in Paris. And in the UK, we are doing Lovebox, V, and Camden Crawl.

Copyright of Claire Noble

Peckham has long been associated as an area of high crime rates and crumbling Victorian architecture. But, beneath this shoddy exterior lies a bubbling art community that is rapidly declaring its takeover of East-London’s hedonistic art scene.

A chatty crowd assembles outside the doors of Auto Italia. It seems that punctuality is a necessity for members of this club. They are an hour early. And, as the doors open, the crowd pours in. Ladies wearing tea dresses, the majority sporting tomato-red hair, pick up their paint pots and begin to weave their drawing onto one of the eight shop windows. While men, donned in plaid shirts and battered plimsolls quickly find a pane and get creative.

This is Auto-Italia, a project lead space that aims to explore and support the ideas of a growing peer group of artists. Situated in a disused car show room in South-East London, their values are simple; non-hierarchical powers, that allow all ages, all humans and styles to take part in a communal art space. Today hosts Sumi-ink, an ongoing drawing collective by LA based duo, John Finshbeck and Sarah Anderson.

Project coordinators of Auto Italia, Amanda Dennis, and Kate Cooper explain the concept behind Auto Italia as being: “All about inspiration”. “The building was donated; we have no overheads and can concentrate on putting our money into these projects. It’s a fantastic place for young people to express themselves” said Amanda.

Copyright of Claire Noble

“Auto-Italia has been going for over two-and-a-half years, we’ve had over 30 projects here and some in the Tate, but Sumi-Ink is the first of its kind in London. I haven’t seen it done anywhere else.” said Kate. She gestures with red-nailed hands: “Grab a pot and get stuck in”.

Friendships

Paintings range from witty slogans like “don’t milk over spilt tears” to portraits of social issues, nature, the quirky and bizarre.

In the words of Pablo Picasso: “The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?”

This quote could not be more relevant to today’s art session as each painting portrays a hilarious, distorted view of reality as they see it.  Hannah Tindle, a fine art student at St Martin’s College is drawing a rather manic looking Edward Norton inspired stick character, she giggles: “I only live down the road from here, I should come more often.”

But these drawings are far from off-putting. In fact these paintings, all shared by strangers help to establish friendships, as while admiring each other’s work, they begin to chat like friends. The concept of sharing each other’s ideas and encouraging artists to work together is a core factor of what Auto Italia represents. Kate Cooper looks around the room and smiles at the large crowd that has now assembled inside, she plops her paintbrush into her plastic pot and says:

“Our primary focus is not allowing the artist to work alone; we all engage and interact with each other.” It helps to bring the art community together. You would think they were a snobbish crowd that is the main perception. But look around you, there not at all. I went to art school for four years and never picked up a paintbrush, now’s my chance.”

Copyright of Claire Noble

The Sumi-Ink club has seen shows in, Chicago, Malmo, Paris, New York, Tokyo, and Bahal, India.

Peckham Pavillion

Sarah Anderson is floating around the room, busily painting each piece of clear pane she spots. As co-founder of the Sumi ink club, she describes its formation as a way of: “Gathering with friends”. I lived in Providence, Rhode Island and we would always meet in the street. It was our only way to get expressive, and draw our emotions. We could draw whatever we wanted, without constraint, this is what we pride ourselves on today, and it’s non-hierarchal,” said Sarah.

This low-key artist run space has been making the headlines not only in the UK but also in America. The New York Times recently ran a story documenting that the East-End art scene is no longer more and that if you want art, it’s right here, in Peckham.

It heralded the South-East London art scene as a ‘countercultural challenge’ to the ‘established north-of-the-river world of the Frieze art fair and the gentrified East End’.

Auto Italia is just one of the many artist led spaces that are emerging around South-East London. The Hannah Barry Gallery, home to some of London’s most talented artists, and project space Area 51 are beginning to make their mark on the art world. The Peckham Pavilion, an exhibition organized by the Hannah Barry Gallery, propelled her work to fame at the 53rd Venice Biennale, a major contemporary art exhibition held once every two years in Venice.

With this commendable set of values, the South-East London art community can only continue to flourish. And maybe, just maybe, tease East Londoners South of the Thames to see what all the fuss is about.

Copyright of Claire Noble

The following article was written for my Magazine production class, at the University of Westminster. Together with my colleagues, we are in the process of designing and creating our own glossy style magazine called MUSE,  that will be available on April 30.

I’ll upload my own contributions to the magazine, and also share with you my In-Design layouts.

Like Marmite, you either love or loathe Rossy. For those preferring the latter today marked a triumph, as Jonathan Ross announced his resignation from the BBC after 13 years of service.

Stressing that money was not the reasoning behind his departure,  the announcement, made this afternoon came completely out of the blue. In a statement Ross revealed that he has decided not renew his contract when it ends in July this year.

Revealing that this step was not “financially motivated” –  I somehow found this pretty hard to digest.  I recall reading a piece about massive pay cuts being slapped down on the beebs high earners – up to 50 per cent.  And as the highest paid star in the corporation  –  of course they were going to come after Ross first.

Agreeing  to the cut –  insiders later said it was not enough.

The question everyone  now asks is: who will fill his lucrative Friday night chat show spot, Radio 2 show and  film review programme.

  • After his announcement Ross took to his Twitter and thanked  fans for supporting his decision saying:
  • ” Thanks again for all the kind words – nice people! Love to you all.”
  • “It’s reported that his contract, issued for three years untill July 2010  was worth an estimated 18 million.

Friday nights, who do you want to see presenting?

Dan Le Sac at the Roisin Dubh, Co.Galway

A palpable sense of excitement pulses through the crowd tonight as Essex duo Dan Le Sac vs Scroobious Pip manage to once again sell-out  their Galway  gig at the Roisin Dubh.

Bar, toilet trot complete I make my way to the front. I’ve caught these guys live before and the clever use of theatrics and stage owning is worth front row presence alone.

Opening to a killer mash-up of the antiques roadshow theme the trumpet barely gets a chirp in as Dan smashes it with the darkest, dirtiest  electro beats known to man.

Pip fully suited avec cap takes to the stage  suitcase in hand suggesting the  use of theatrics that’s to come.

Good God you’re a noisy bunch” grins Pip as he launches into a verse from ‘Waiting For The Beat To Kick In’  closely followed by ‘ The Beat That My Heart Skipped’.

This double act, upon first glance are polar opposites on all levels.  Yet  at that work incredibly well together. Pip delivers his spoken word with passion, character and comic interjection. While Dan provides live electro pulsed hip hop beats,  as a dancey backdrop to Pips poetic flow. The perfect balance.

Pips cheeky crowd rapport emerges  as he asks the crowd: “Hey, have we got any shitty couples here tonight pretending your still in love?” while launching into the closest version of a love song you’ll get from these guys. “Look for the woman” sees the duo’s strength shine as Dan takes to the mic and delivers his view of dried up relationships. Feeding into this raw genuine spit of emotion Dan recalls his last visit to Galway as an unforgettable one. Their début album ‘Angles’ hit the shelves that very day.

Scroobious Pip at the Roisin Dubh, Co. Galway.

Flow of adoration

Albeit, there is a darker element to their music, as  lyrics wise these guys deal with some pretty heavy content – as Pip puts it himself:  “Hmm chant, suicide, revenge and murder just the perfect thing to get you going on a Saturday night”. Yet, they manage to draw you in, educate you on reality while simultaneously giving you a bloody good time.

After all –  that’s what a gig is about right?

Delving into the darkest track off their début, Pip embraces each word as if  reflecting on his own personal experiences.

The use of  crowd interaction is outstanding as Pip embraces the audience as if on first name basis,  which in turn leaves us nothing short of putty in their hands. Keeping this up, Pip asks with a half grin:Do any of you guys listen to UK Hip Hop?” while launching into the funniest, wittiest and quite frankly honest attack on the UK Hip Hop scene to date.

Thou Shalt

‘Fixed’, a clever re-working of Dizzie’s ‘Fix Up Look Sharp’ provides a communal nod of approval from the audience. They, like the band seem to tire of Hip hop’s constant wishes of dropping the proverbial “lyrical bombs” on our asses.

Euphoria erupts as Le Sac drops the beat to the familiar ‘Thou Shall Always Kill’. Leaving any still member in the audience trampled.Drawing to a close, the crowd will not loosen their grip,  and with the familiar “ONE MORE TUNE” chant a sweaty but willing Le Sac and Pip emerge back on stage providing a sexed up, fast paced version of Prince’s ‘Cream.’

Exiting the gig, a flow of adoration seems to emerge from the lips of every punter. For some this is their first Le Sac vs Pip gig. Others it’s simply a re-visit coupled with met expectations. To quote a line from the witty pop culture piece,  Thou Shalt: “Thou shalt not use poetry, art or music to get into girls pants. Use it to get into their heads.”

Mission Complete.

Click here to see if a Dan Le Sac vs Scroobious Pip is happening near you.