Finding Isla Charity Event | Eeman Y

On Friday the 1 st of February, Finding Isla was performed in the Senior Hall, open to the staff and students, along with a successful raffle. All this was in aid of MQ. Written and directed by one of our very own students – Jane A – this play was created along with help from her very good friends. The play focused mainly on mental health and bullying, a huge topic in today’s discussions everywhere. The performance was in partnership with MQ (“transforming mental health through research”), an organisation based on the progress of mental health awareness and relief, which also received the entire £205 raised. In the play, a teenage girl finds herself in a whirlwind of depression, bullying, friendship conflicts and more with no way to survive it… something that can connect and relate to others as well. Like other patients worldwide, Isla has a spectrum disorder, which she struggles with in social media, and daily life. Isla, through the guidance and use of her friends and herself mostly, gets through the bullying and self-hate, portraying the message: ‘mental illness doesn’t change you as a person’. After an interview with the play’s creator, Jane, on her inspirations and motivations that had driven her to choose this topic, she expressed that the more awareness worldwide for this topic, the better. Jane also said on the question of “What was it like making your own play with your friends?”: “They’re amazing! I’m so happy my friends could act in it.”

Overall, I think the whole event was praise-worthy and well-organised. The portrayal on stage in terms of acting, the script, lighting and audio and the use of humour lightened a topic which may be easier to fully grasp put into a positive situation. The message they were trying to convey together with MQ was shown beautifully to the audience in a sensitive and successful way. In total, Jane and her friends made £205 in aid of MQ, which will hopefully carry the chain of mental health and disorder awareness in future days.

An interview on all things weird, wild and wonderful with Mr Loveday | By Eeman Y and Olivia R

Backchat: Do you believe in aliens?

Mr Loveday: I do believe there will be alien life discovered at some point. I’m very hopeful! There’s something amazing called the Fermi Paradox that you should, every reader, should go and find out about. It’s something I think about a lot, it freaks me out.

If you were a child at Hogwarts who would your best friend be?

I think I would have been friends with (…) I wouldn’t want to be with the core group! I suppose Neville seems like a nice guy, definitely! The reason why I wouldn’t want to hang out with the core gang is they’re always getting into trouble and death-defying feats. I wouldn’t want to fight snakes and defeat evil wizards.

There’s this TV character called Jessica Fletcher, who solved murders every time she went on holiday and everyone says, who on earth would want to be Jessica Fletcher’s friend? You’d end up dying or being arrested around her.

If you could describe yourself with one noun, verb and adjective, what would they be?

Now you’re testing my English abilities. (…) Enthusiastic. A noun, a tree! And swaying. Yep! An enthusiastically swaying tree.

On the spectrum, what is your inspiration in life?

Okay, quite a few. One of the main guys at the top because he has just been writing some articles I’ve been reading, is a guy called Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He was a South-African freedom fighter, essentially, who was very important in trying to put together South Africa after their difficulties with apartheid.

What do you think is the best gift you could ever give somebody?

Your time, I guess! Making time for other people is something we really struggle to do in the modern world. We are not taught to do it anymore. We text, we swipe. We don’t do much else in human interaction.

Thoughts on social media and phones in school…

Well you may remember an assembly I did on Internet Safety Day and my line of argument is, from an evolutionary point of view, our brains aren’t very good at coping with new shiny gadgets… they make us freak out. I’m very interested and concerned basically about the impact social media will be having on us long-term. Like our friendship circles, or how we see ourselves. Our self-worth and how stressed we are, always having to check or be exciting.

There’s a lot of pressure when you’re in your twenties after when you’re at university and getting jobs… seeing other people being successful and you think that you’re not being successful. In terms of mobile phones in school, I think you guys will have the rest of your lives to be hooked up to devices. I think six hours in a day while you’re trying to study things, wouldn’t be a bad thing not to have your phone with you.

On the spectrum that is life, where would you place yourself and why?

The spectrum of life? (…) It could be a really exciting period.

Fearless | By Grace H

I see bravery in the most unexpected of places.
I see it in a child, barely eleven years old, crouching in the playground, hand outstretched,
reaching out to a girl lying red and tearstained on the ground.
I see it in the boy who sits at the back of the classroom. His classmates mock him and throw things. It’s sometimes hard to tell what hurts him more;
the sharp sting of pencil lead piercing his flesh or
the harsh words that make his feeble frame tremble like a thumping heart.
Fearlessness comes in other forms too; 
a man in khakis leaning down to kiss his children on their heads, not knowing if this is the last time he’ll look into their eyes.
a teenage girl crumpled on her bed like a broken doll, mascara running down her face in a wave of black. She bites her lip, clutching her phone so tightly her knuckles turn white.
then she takes a breath,
then another
and another
and gets up, scrubbing her face with a dirty sleeve.
With fearlessness often comes defiance, 
like in the two girls who walk down the street, grasping each other’s sweaty hands.
Their fear is almost tangible, but they lift their chins and look directly into the
eyes of the world, 
daring it to speak.
Across the world, a child is crying.
Its mother is trying desperately to silence it, but nothing will stop the terrified wails wavering from the depths of a worn blanket.
She is only young, and the baby was not her choice, but the moment he opened his eyes, she knew
she would trade her life for him in an instant.
And she might have to, if his cries are heard by the soldiers swarming the street like ants over rotting fruit,
sucking the life and wealth from the earth.
Still, she closes her eyes, 
and rocks him in her arms.
The shouts of the soldiers get closer, 
and she murmurs a prayer under her breath.
But the fearlessness that surprises me most is in those at the end of their journey.
The frail,
the old,
the sick,
the weak.
They know that they are nearing the end, and
yet they lean back and close their eyes,
like they are only sleeping,
swap smiles with their loved ones,
share a last word of wisdom
or wit.
Humankind is, on the whole, a cowardly race,
too prone to fighting wars 
over petty problems, 
naming themselves warriors and kings, 
smothering themselves in glory like bears with fresh honey,
boasting bravery and courage and strength.
But those who walk upstream,
pushing against the ebb and flow,
turning the tide 
drip by drip,
are the true warriors.
And have fearlessness inside them that makes them kings and queens
a thousand times over.
Bravery is found in the most unexpected of places.

Image Link: (03/05/21)

Tank Man | By Georgia L

I never realised how hard the fall would be. Others had tried to warn me, to help me prepare. But it’s more painful than I imagined.

Waiting, watching. Waiting for some kind of release. Watching my purpose come apart around me, piece by corrupted piece. Existence itself slowly drooping like a withering flower, ever so gently ripping gaping holes in my universe.

The fact that I can’t stop it, or even move, makes the fall all the more terrifying. Falling backwards, pinned by the pressure, having to watch the apocalyptic destruction of Heaven with dark and regretful eyes. I’m so used to being powerful that this knocks the wind out of me. My weakness. My vulnerability. A brand-new feeling of fear. I’ve never had anything to fear before, a privilege that I didn’t realise I had until now.

I, and everyone around me, used to be flawless. Perfect bodies accompanied by perfect spirits existing in a perfect universe. But soon enough, His idea of perfection changed, and everything became twisted. Broken. Flawed. The ground we walked on changed, the homes we lived in became dust.

He was most powerful spirit ever to exist, and the oldest. He had been here since the beginning of everything, and this was the destruction of everything.

My back hits the earth, and the pain of thousands of years of existence crashes down onto me, filling the lungs that I don’t know I had and clouding the brain that feels heavier every second I lie on this planet. Moving is impossible, at least until the sky is dark and freckled with the stars that I’m so used to seeing below me. The worst part is seeing the shooting stars and knowing they’re my brothers and sisters hurtling to the earth. This isn’t their fault. I want to scream, but all that escapes me is a quiet whimper that sends stabs of pain through this thing the humans call a body. This isn’t their fault.

The gentle cushion of my wings slowly dissipates, and I’m left lying on concrete, wishing my existence would cease as quickly as breath snuffs out a candle. Heaven has ceased to exist, and I am full of fear.

But then my remaining senses finally light up. I finally hear the conundrum about me. I finally smell the blood-soaked earth. Panic and chaos, screaming and shouting, smoke bombs and tanks. I finally understand where I am. Beijing. Tiananmen Square. 1989.

Only the downfall of perfection could allow what I see before me to happen. Only complete and utter corruption could cause this. Death is everywhere. It has infected everyone. No one in this place will walk away, not unless this nightmarish brutality stops. I’ve never cried before, but by God do I cry now. All these people, deserving of a beautiful and happy ever after, but with no Heaven left to go to.

The sound of fear is everywhere. Pounding feet, desperate screams and the sobs of those who have already accepted their deaths. These people used to look small and pathetic to me, but now, stood here amongst them, I realise I am exactly where I need to be. The only reason these creatures turn against each other is fear, this thing that I finally understand. But being fearful isn’t equal to being weak. These humans that live through fear every day are stronger than I have ever been.

The advancing tanks will crush everyone who remains. Dead, alive, young, old, they don’t care who they kill anymore. They’re too scared to see what they’re doing is wrong.

While everyone around me runs, I stand my ground. I cannot let this happen. I at least have to give those who are not ready to die a chance to flee. The tanks stop. Crush me, if you will. But please, just leave them alone.

I can’t put my emotions into words. For the first time in eternity, I’m feeling. And I don’t know how to express it.

My hand stretches out in a gesture of power and defiance. A gesture of no.

And suddenly, I am fearless. For everyone on this planet, I am fearless. Instead of heavenly fearlessness, when you have no need to feel fear, this is the kind of fearlessness you feel when protecting people. When rushing into the road to save an oblivious child. When giving your life for someone who deserves the rest of theirs.

Compared to these people, I have so much of my life behind me. But them? They have yet to accomplish so much. They have their whole existence ahead of them. Me? I’ve already lived mine a million times over. Since the fall of Him, what else can I do with this new-found mortality? I am willing to lay my life down, for them. For the people already dead, for the people I’m trying to protect from death. For as many as I can. Isn’t that what I was created for? To protect? To be fearless for those who can’t?

They called me the Tank Man. Once everything was over, once everyone had been mourned, my legacy would continue. The actions of a lonely angel, newly mortal, trying to make themselves worthy of the existence bestowed upon them. Letting their fear drive them to be fearless, and hoping that the actions of one could save the lives of a million.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) | Leah T-S

AI is technology which can carry out ‘human’ tasks, such as decision making, visual perception and speech recognition. It is an area that is growing and developing massively, it will be increasingly used in our daily lives.

Loads of fast and interactive algorithms as well as data are developed giving the software the ability to automatically understand and learn from patterns and features in the data without being directly programmed. The AI can therefore have the capability to understand and make decisions from the situation they are in.

Although AI is on the path to reaching the out of reach science-fiction ideas of having robots which reflect human activity. There are still lots challenges that need to be overcome for us to reach these goals. For example, all the AI that we have in our daily lives are specialized with the software having a very specific function. This means that a system that will play chess would be unable to play poker. Therefore, AI is far from being a representation or replica of humans because our brains can do an unimaginable number of different things in a day, compared to the one task that the current AI is able to do. For AI to overcome this challenge a great number of algorithms would have to be developed for every single situation that we encounter. This is nearly impossible to develop.

So, why is AI important if the current software is unable to replicate the way we think? AI achieves incredible accuracy through deep neural networks. This was never previously possible, showing that developing AI is worth while, as it is successful and extremely useful. The accuracy has improved due to deep learning. This is a technique that analyzes the data more thoroughly using neural networks that have many hidden layers. The deep learning models learn directly from the data, so the more data you feed them the more accurate they become. Due to this great accuracy, AI techniques can now be used to find cancer on MRIs with the same accuracy as highly trained radiologists. This shows that AI is becoming increasingly helpful and important for us.

Every industry has a high demand for AI capabilities due to it’s amazing qualities. For example, question answering systems that can be used for legal assistance, patent searches, risk notification and medical research are areas that especially need support from AI software. Some industries where AI is used now include:

  • Health care– personalized medicine and X-ray readings can be provided through AI. Also, personal health care assistants will encourage patients to exercise, eat healthier and remind them to take any pills. The AI software can act as life coaches for many patients and help them through any recoveries.
  • Manufacturing– a specific type of deep learning network used with sequence data, called recurrent networks, can be used in manufacturing. These forecast the expected load and demand by analyzing factory IoT data as it streams from connected equipment.
  • Retail– AI can provide virtual shopping capabilities which are able to give personalized recommendations and discuss purchase options with the customer, making the experience effortless and more enjoyable with the extra help. Furthermore, AI can improve stock management and set layout technologies in retail (for example Specsavers framestyler app)
  • Sports– AI can capture images of game play and analyze data to provide coaches with reports on how to set out and organize the game better. This includes optimizing field positions and strategy.

The possibilities of AI gone on and on, but it is not going to take over humanity and leave us jobless anytime soon. AI is purely used to elevate and improve our tasks and routines and support us in many different ways. Therefore, robots ruling over us is not a reality that we are going to face.Overall, AI is there to support all of us and provide human-like interactions. They are not there as a replacement for humans, but instead it is software which can make decisions and carry out tasks in a human like way, due to the many algorithms and the deep learning techniques used. Although there are challenges which we need to be overcome, the technology is still developing and changing our lives in unbelievable ways.

Image Link: (24/04/21)

LGBT Rights | By Raven

LGBT rights have been fought for for hundreds of years. While early on in time homosexuality was tolerated, there were numerous religious laws incriminating gay people within their religion. In the 16th century, Henry VIII, along with disbanding multiple monasteries across the country, introduced his own law making male homosexuality punishable by death. After being reenacted three times, it was decided that it would be in force ‘for ever’. During the 17th century, despite there still being laws incriminating homosexuality, King James I had many male lovers. Near the end of the 18th century an essay was written by philosopher Jeremy Bentham that explained how homosexuality was not damaging to men, or the population. However, due to beliefs at the time, this essay was never published.

Moving into the 19th century, the 16th century law was repealed, only to be replaced by another law which again made homosexuality punishable by death. 30 years later, this law was abolished. This, however, was not the end. Another 30 years later, the criminal law amendment act meant homosexuality was yet again illegal, although no longer punishable by death. The 20th century brought more drastic changes to the lives of the LGBT community. More gay clubs and societies began appearing, then the war began. When World War I began, the men left, meaning homosexuality between women was more common. It had seemed too little a problem when the laws were first introduced, however the war made it more prominent, so the criminal act was amended to include women.

After the war, homosexuality became a topic of public discussion, due to songs and books being published which brought the subject into the public eye. Not long after discussions began, the first cases of gender reassignment surgery appeared. A book was written about a man named Maurice in 1932 called ‘Amazing Change of Sex’, making the public aware of what was happening. During this time, homosexuality was still illegal, and was often punished in horrific ways. One of the most famous cases being Alan Turing, who undertook chemical castration instead of going to prison in a bid to continue his work, however the treatment eventually drove him to insanity. After many deaths and centuries of fighting, in 1967, homosexuality was decriminalised in England. While the laws only extended to men over the age of 21, the LGBT community was finally making progress towards equality.

Things progressed quicker after the law was introduced. In 1972, the first London Pride Rally was held, which is still celebrated today. Through the 1980s, the criminal justice act extended to Scotland and Northern Ireland. With the discovery of AIDS and the link to homosexuality, things did not become any easier for gay people, as they were constantly avoided and frowned down upon. Eventually, in 2001, laws were amended to give gay people the same rights as straight people, however it was another 5 years before anti-discrimination laws were put in place. In 2004, same-sex couples were allowed to form a civil partnership, but it was in 2014 that they were allowed to marry. This was the first time the crown had openly supported the LGBT community, with the Queen making the comment to the Lesbian and Gay Switchboard on their 40th anniversary: ‘Best wishes and congratulations to all concerned on this most special anniversary.’

A step back was taken in 2010, when the Pope heard about the new laws, saying they went against natural law, however pride parades continued, and progress continued towards full equality. Now, we have more LGBT characters in literature and film than ever before, meaning younger generations are more open and accepting. There are openly gay celebrities and it is usual to see pride across social media platforms. Despite coming a long way, the fight is not yet over. There is still discrimination and homophobia across the world. The US are fighting for the right to fight in the army for trans people, and often LGBT people will encounter homophobia during their everyday lives.

We are a spectrum of people, and the rainbow has come a long way, but we’re still striving to reach the pot of gold at the end.

Image Link: (24/04/21)