Halloween: In Childhood and History

by Alice Spencer



When we were children, it was the one night of the year where you could eat as many sweets as you wanted and knock on random old people’s doors without being threatened with the police. Now that we’re at uni, it became one of several nights of the year where you can get black-out drunk and throw massive house parties. Don’t bank on the no-police part anymore though.

So how did we go from cute point A in our ASDA dress-up costumes, because you’d persuaded mum a bin bag with holes in it wasn’t going to cut it, to cringeworthy point B? Or more importantly, where the hell did Halloween even come from anyway?

Commonly thought of as one of the better inheritances from American culture, Halloween actually goes back a lot further. 2000 years further back, to be precise. ‘Halloween’, an abbreviation of ‘Hallows Eve’ adopted over the last century, actually has its roots in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. Celebrated on the last day of the Celtic year, the festival marked the beginning of winter, the season associated with death. To our superstitious ancestors the night of the 31st October was believed to be when the ghosts of the dead could return to earth to ruin crops. So logically, our wise ancestors wore animal heads and skins to protect themselves. Suddenly dressing up doesn’t seem so cute anymore.

Until the middle of the 19th-century Halloween was actually fairly limited in New England because of strict religious beliefs. It was only with the wave of new immigrants from Ireland that the celebration of Samhain was popularized to something like the Halloween we know today. The turnips carved by the Celts to ward off fairies were exchanged for the pumpkin, and less emphasis was placed on its superstitious origins as Halloween became more about the community’s children. Gone were the animal skins donned by the Celts, instead children went ‘trick or treating’ around the local community for little gifts and sweets. In fact, the US loves Halloween so much, a quarter of the candy sold annually in America is purchased for Halloween.

So from its roots in superstition, Halloween now appears in many different incarnations around the world. Perhaps the most well-known, not least because of a little-known film called James Bond, most of Latin America celebrate Día de los Muertos in November. The ‘Day of the Dead’ sees face painting and the building of private altars to honor the departed. From the celebration of the dead in Latin America, Austria’s version of Halloween is probably closer to the ghoul-fearing Celts. Between 30th October and 8th November, Seleenwoche or ‘All Souls Week’ sees Austrians leaving out bread, candles and water for the dead before going to sleep. In Cambodia, meanwhile, participants in the 15-day Pchum Ben festival don’t go to bed at all. Instead, monks chant continuously to mark the opening of the gates of Hell when it is believed the spirits of the dead roam the earth. And somehow this leads on buffalo-racing.

In humble Norwich, we like to keep things a bit more low-key. While many of us might opt for the LCR’s ‘Halloween Fright Night’, if last year’s horrendously long queue is anything to go by, Mercy’s ‘Fright Fest’ also promises to be a great night to not-remember. If you haven’t got your costume together yet, inspiration is all around on the internet and social media. Just don’t turn up in an animal skin perhaps. Animal welfare wasn’t really a thing 2000 years ago.

(photo courtesy of Toa Heftiba at https://unsplash.com/@heftiba)

Help a Hedgehog: Advice For Bonfire Builders

By Luke FarnishThere’s a chill in the air and the days are growing shorter which can mean only one thing: celebrations are just around the corner. As pumpkins and spider webs litter people’s front windows, many will be reciting that age old rhyme, ‘Remember, remember, the fifth of November’. As you dust off that box of sparklers you’re not sure will even light and sort through your clothes to see which you don’t mind burning on the guy, spare a thought for the hedgehogs of your neighbourhood. Continue reading Help a Hedgehog: Advice For Bonfire Builders

Books VS Movies (Theatre Edition) Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

By Tony Allen

As a slight tangent from the series of books vs movies, I am going to compare Alan Warner’s 1998 novel The Sopranos to its musical adaptation for the stage, 2015’s Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour. The play is named after the Scottish Catholic convent school the six foremost characters attend when they take an ill-fated trip to Edinburgh to participate in a televised choir competition and, like some UEA freshers, end up in a mire of sex, profanity and alcohol. Quite a bit of sex, profanity and alcohol, in fact.

It’s hard to argue that the show, adapted by Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall and staged by an experienced team from the National Theatre of Scotland, is anything other than an improvement on Warner’s novel. After all, his script reads like a what’s-what of alcoholic beverages for the uninitiated and includes pages full of quick-witted, yet not unbelievable, dialogue.

An impossible task though it is to compare the two mediums like for like, while both have the same plot, their perspectives diverge quite markedly. As Warner broadly concentrates on the settings they visit, and the girls’ resultant high-jinks, Hall’s script (perhaps owing as much to necessity, or the limitations of the stage, as much as his artistic endeavour) is much more interested in getting inside the girls’ minds and exploring the reasons behind, and consequences of, their wild actions. As such, it is a lot less throwaway and more encouraging of sympathy towards the girls.

This particular theatrical release thus differs from 99% of film adaptations inasmuch as it is in fact less visually descriptive than the novel. How so? The imagery provoked in the book is far superior to Hall’s barren staging, based on the weak idea that the girls are putting on some sort of show in their local nightclub to describe their big day out.

However, look past this dodgy premise and Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour gives Warner’s novel a striking lucidity simply not afforded by the novel. Its simplicity is the key to its success- condensing an entire novel into less than two hours of course requires serious cutting and streamlining. So, Hall has chosen to feature just the main six characters, the novel’s foremost schoolgirls who mimic those they meet over the course of their day.

And thanks to that, the girls are much more striking when they are laid bare on stage. A criticism I had of Warner’s book on first reading was the complexity of it. The list of the entire choir at the start was excessive, confusing, and left me trying to remember characters who had no relevance to the narrative whatsoever. However, re-reading after seeing Our Ladies, the novel makes far more sense, as the reader can streamline their attention on the six they have seen brought to life on stage.

When I saw the play at London’s National Theatre, it was quite a way through its run, having toured throughout the UK after its 2015 Edinburgh Fringe debut. The band and actresses were extremely well versed, each song was note-perfect and they knew exactly how to play specific lines for laughs, with a few minor alterations from the original script.

Of course, the play leaves some interesting details out. However, as I’m sure other contributors will note about the Hollywood counterparts to their favourite novels, the visual adaptation offers more memorable particular moments. For example, I doubt I’ll ever forget Dawn Sievewright as Fionnula holding the entire, sold-out Dorfman Theatre in the palm of her hand as she stood at the edge of the stage and admitted quietly, in stark contrast to her previous demeanour, the severity of the girls’ situation after everything had collapsed around them.

Some jokes went over the heads of those in attendance who clearly had never read the novel – so for context, Warner’s work provided important background for those of us who had done our homework- a commentary, if you like, on the play.

When it comes to the original idea- of course Hall germinated the seeds sewed by Warner, often borrowing particularly incisive pieces of dialogue. The vivid characterisation is the result of the novel, no doubt, but only one made me laugh out loud repeatedly. Only one brought me to the verge of tears at the end and made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Only one made me feel like I might just, for a couple of hours, have attended Our Lady of Perpetual Succour School too. The book was good – but it laid the foundations for the play to be even better.

Image by Tony Allen

Billy Talent Rock the LCR

By David Winlo

It has been some years since I first discovered Billy Talent, just as many since I started wanting to see them live, and roughly the same again since they last performed in the LCR. High time now then, after the release of their new album ‘Afraid of Heights’, for them to make a triumphant return to the venue.

The band played an outstanding setlist of songs from their 23-year career. The lead single and title track of the new album, a song partly about society needing to progress beyond its tendencies to exclude and hate things which are ‘other’, was pleasingly dedicated to Donald Trump. One of their older songs, ‘This Is How It Goes’, was played as though it was brand new, and is also about the illness from which drummer Aaron Solowoniuk suffers, this illness being the reason for his continued absence from performances. The setlist was impressive enough and delivered with such energy that I forgot that some of the band’s most famous and best-loved songs had been omitted… until they were included in the encore!

This tour has been given the name of the album it supports, and to that end, included five songs from the new album, as well as a mixture of previous releases. One particular of the performance was the extension of the guitar solo in ‘Devil On My Shoulder’, during which the guitar, bass and drums improvise what feels like a whole extra song together. Another was the fan-favourite ‘Red Flag’, which really got the audience going, in addition to being as important a song today as it was when it was released in 2006.

Wednesday’s performance was the first stop on their ongoing European tour, a highly enjoyable and exciting evening if you can still make it. If you can’t though, just go and grab a copy of the fabulous ‘Afraid of Heights’, and be sure to check out its review here on The Broad!

Photo by David Winlo

Books vs Films: The Great Gatsby

By Charles Armitage

A common complaint within the film community at the moment is, when a book is adapted for the cinema, the producers and director change and leave out parts of the book in order to make the film more fitting for a modern audience. This causes outrage to loyal fans of the book who miss out on properly experiencing their novel on screen. For instance, the 2009 action movie Sherlock Holmes seems to have misinterpreted how violent and prone to action Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson really were in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories. Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law do not use the powers of deduction as often as they use their fists and guns to solve a problem in the movie. This troubled many fans, myself included, at the “Americanisation” of the movie as in the original stories of Sherlock Holmes, although it is hinted he was a good fighter, did not see the need to use violence all the time as the 2009 movie portrayed.

Movies and books do not often stick to each others storyline, however, when they do, as proved in Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic The Great Gatsby, the results are positive. The movie sticks to the storyline, character development and overall flow of the original text which produces an aesthetically pleasing spectacle with fantastic acting from Leonardo DiCaprio, as the titular character, and Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway. The emotions that are conveyed through their performances really shine through and encapsulate the struggle Gatsby felt in the 1925 novel of the same name. Maguire comes across very likeable and it can be said he steals the “protagonist” label from DiCaprio as his character is the one we, as an audience, relate to and sympathise with the most even though he is the narrator of the novel as he is telling the story from his first person perspective.

Luhrmann takes great inspiration from the novel, keeping to the original plot, using direct quotes, and emphasising key plot points. This is not to say, however, that the novel and movie are 100% identical. There are some occasions where Luhrmann has missed Fitzgerald’s main argument. For example, a famous quote from the book is when the author writes “’Can’t repeat the past?’ [Gatsby] cried incredulously. ‘Why of course you can!’” However, DiCaprio delivers this line in a sort of whisper, much different from crying out “incredulously”. Another thing that troubled audiences is Luhrmann’s portrayal of the 1920s as glamorous and a general prosperous era to be living in. This is not what Fitzgerald wanted to say, however, as the novel criticises the 1920s and the people’s habits during this time. But, because Luhrmann directs the movie in such a way, it comes across as very flaunting and overblown, which although is entertaining to watch, may not make the original author very happy.

Nick’s romance with Jordan is also never explored in the movie as well as it could have done, possibly due to the fact that this could take away the spotlight of Gatsby and Daisy’s relationship. The decision to use modern music also seems an odd choice. The film is set in the 1920s yet we hear Jay-Z and Lana Del Rey music being used. This could suggest that the continuity of the time period does not matter, so if that is the case, then Nick could be writing his story on an iPad and not a typewriter.

Overall, both the book and movie are entertaining and produced with such a high level of quality that it is very hard for me to decide which is better. My earlier complaint about how the message of the movie is not faithful to the message of the book is just about enough for me to say that I personally prefer the book to the film, but I guess it depends on whether that is important to you or not when going to a movie adapted from a book.

Image From The New York Times

To TV or not TV? Top Shows to Watch with your Flatmates

By Alice Spencer

So Fresher’s is officially over. After two weeks of partying and making memories, some of which are slightly hazy and you wish you could forget, the work has started and the rest of your university life has begun. It’s likely a mass-gathering of germs from every corner of the nation has gifted many with an epic case of ‘Fresher’s Flu’. Equally likely is that you’ve blown a big chunk of student loan on Domino’s and drunken generosity. While it might seem like you’re ruining your social life at this stage of the game to stay indoors. Your health, your bank balance and, more pressingly, your 9am the next day are all screaming: ‘No!’

So how can you bond with flat mates without going out? The truth is, the answer might lie no further than a laptop and an admittedly fairly steep TV license. As we near the season of thick jumpers, we count down the top TV shows to watch with flatmates to stay cosy indoors, and to suss out the keepers from the ones you’ll probably only speak to in the kitchen for the rest of the year. Honestly, can you even be civil to someone who doesn’t love Mel and Sue?

1. ‘The Great British Bake Off’
By now the chances are you’re already a bit tired of takeaways. It seems one post-Mercy kebab too many means all the clothes you brought with you back when you were healthy are just that little bit tighter, and you’re really, really starting to miss mum’s cooking. The limited facilities in Halls rule out becoming a master chef. Under such circumstances, it seems reasonable to compromise and bow down to the kitchen prowess of others.

Whether you enjoy baking yourself or not, ‘Bake Off’ will get the whole flat together. Putting the obvious brilliance of Mary Berry aside, you’ll be amazed at how involved people can get about cake. Like, really involved. Like the person who didn’t shed a tear saying goodbye to their parents full-on weeping when Nadia won kind of involved. Because, while leaving your childhood home is no biggie, pies and puds are serious business, right?

2. ‘The Apprentice’
Sometimes university feels like an impossible struggle between keeping fit and healthy, keeping up with work and trying to maintain some kind of social life. And yet, more often than not, we manage to spectacularly fail in all three.

But rather than dwell on how those degrees we’re paying for are still actually happening, why not focus instead on the complete ineptitude of others? Lord Sugar’s batch of big-headed wannabes are back: clear your Thursday evenings for a solid hour of boardroom bickering and some pretty sassy put-downs from the big man himself.

Despite the fact no one in the flat has ever had any experience in business, you guys know exactly what those dummies are doing wrong and have no problem saying it. Watching on a laptop on a table that’s still sticky from Malibu spillage two night ago, you guys have got your lives sorted.

3. ‘Strictly Come Dancing’
Put away the frying pan, because here’s the ultimate Sunday morning hangover cure.
OK, so we were never seriously going to demand you stay in on Saturday night. You’re at university: why pretend you’re at home with your parents and your Nan when you’re not? But you can still catch up on a bit of ‘Strictly’ on Sunday morning when your head is thumping and work seems impossible.

To all appearances cringey and clichéd, now we’re older and wiser we can see how truly brilliant ‘Strictly’ is. At university when everyone has an opinion, it makes politics a bit more digestible to see Ed Balls doing the Samba in a canary yellow suit. Digestible, or it makes you slightly nauseous.
From the wacky themed dances to the spray tans and sequins, ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ is always a crowd pleaser. You might want to turn the volume down a bit when you first wake up though.

Image from the Radio Times

Livewire 1350: Schedule Release and Award Nominations

by Natalie Froome


It’s been a busy time for UEA’s student radio station. From their spectacular re-branding in the summer to the release of a new jam-packed schedule, they’ve made it their mission to become one of the best student radio stations in the country.

The recently released schedule is Livewire’s most diverse to date. Not only are a variety of musical genres represented, but there’s a multitude of new factual shows and podcasts.

To top it all off, Livewire have recently been nominated for not one, but FOUR awards at the Student Radio Awards. The annual event celebrates the talent and diversity of content in student radio, helping to launch the next generation of talent into the radio industry.

Over the years student radio has launched the careers of UEA’s own Greg James, Annie Mac, Scott Mills and several other current industry professionals.

The nominations for Livewire this year include:

Best Female – Issy Panayis

Best Entertainment Show – Tom v Tom

Best Journalistic Programming – World Mental Health Day Podcast

Best Student Radio Chart Show

The event takes place on the 10th November at indig02 in London, supported by BBC Radio 1 and Global.

Girl on the Train Review

By Cassie Waters

As someone who read Paula Hawkins’ Girl on the Train with a fascinated horror that meant I was glued to my copy for several days, I was sure that seeing the film would go one of two ways. It would either do the book complete justice and reaffirm all that I loved about it, or I would hate it, horrified by the changes made to turn it into a screenplay or by actors that I felt didn’t fit the part. However the reality was much more flat. I felt no joy or outrage at the adaptation. The film seemed to wilt, falling under the pressure of the expectations of an audience of readers. The film seemed to coast throughout, never reaching its potential. The only time I gripped my seat was at a gory moment at the end, more my own squeamishness than any tension achieved by the film.

However, despite the generally underwhelming nature of Girl on the Train, a shining light throughout the film was Emily Blunt as the alcoholic protagonist Rachel, a woman destroyed by her divorce from her husband and obsessed by the seemingly perfect life of a woman who lives near her former house. Her chapped lips, vacant eyes and slurred speech interspersed with outbreaks of pure rage at her situation made her appear both pitiable and potentially threatening. Through the shaking camera lens the audience is forced to confront what it is like to be in a permanent state of being drunk or hungover and the effect is haunting. Emily Blunt’s raw, unglamorous believability contrasted with Haley Bennett’s Megan, the woman at the heart of Rachel’s fantasies of the perfect life, who I felt came across as two dimensional and towards whom I felt no sympathy. Rebecca Ferguson, as the other woman turned wife of Rachel’s ex husband, was similarly disappointing. She didn’t quite manage to pull off the conflicting nature of a character who was both smug and self satisfied and deeply insecure. She could not compete with the on screen presence of Emily Blunt

Ultimately, the film relies heavily on the question of what happened that day when Megan went missing to interest the viewer. For those like me who have already read the book and know what will happen, the film does not do enough to make you invested in the story all over again, always falling short of the heights it could achieve, despite the brilliance of Emily Blunt. And if that isn’t enough to express the slowness of Girl on the Train, the fact my housemate fell asleep during it sums it up.

Image from The Guardian

What an Age We Live In

By Luke Farnish

What time is it?

The answer may seem simple, just look over at your clock for the time, your calendar for the date and year. But for geologists, things are not so easy. The Earth’s geological history is split into segments of varying length, from aeons which can last five hundred million years or more to epochs and ages that can last just a few thousand. Pick up any off the shelf text book on geology and it should proudly claim that we currently live in the Holocene epoch, an epoch that began somewhere around ten to twelve thousand years ago. But now this view has begun to change.

Continue reading What an Age We Live In

UEA Community Choir Launch

by David Winlo

I recently had the pleasure of watching the UEA Community Choir perform at its launch in the square on the UEA campus. After a short warm-up they sang an entertaining medley of songs, including ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’, and ‘I’m Gonna Sing’. The performance was very fun to watch, and very impressive when you consider that the event marked the first time that group of people had ever sung together as a group.

The choir was formed by its conductor, Stuart Dunlop, director of music at UEA, with the intention of bringing music to all: people who have sung all their lives, people who have never sung, and people who feel they can’t. If this last one includes you, believe me, you can. Aside from being a fan of its debut, I think the Community Choir is a very good idea because everybody can benefit from music. It has the ability to entertain, relax and connect us, so I think it’s important that there should be a place where anyone can practice and have fun with music.

The Community Choir rehearses for the first time this Wednesday, the 12th of October in the UEA Music Centre, starting with ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘Something Inside So Strong’. I encourage anybody who wants to sing to go and join, and am hopeful for more performances from the choir in the future.

Returners: dealing with stress as a second year student

By Ewa Giera

Around this time, most of returning students have already settled in their student houses (% of mould per square foot in the bathroom remains a surprise) and have begun to readjust to student life. For some, this includes re-exploring the city night clubs or takeaway nights due to reluctance to cook. Others, however, have begun to realise that this year actually counts towards your final mark, and have therefore started panicking about the pile of module dossiers and unread books neatly stacked one top of the other in that far corner of the bedroom where nobody is that keen to look.

If this sounds like you, do not fear! Here are some ways to help you reduce the stress and encourage productivity during this trying time:

1. Reorganising – A clear environment equals a clear mind – you will often find that studying/reading in a clean room will greatly help you absorb the material (since you won’t be distracted by that set of papers lying about everywhere, or by the smell of your own socks).

2. Planning your work ahead – Buying a student organiser really helps with this, especially if you find yourself having a lot of things to commit to. Simply write down the deadlines, seminars, society meetings and part-time work hours into your weekly schedule and then plan your additional study around it. Some organisers even come with budgeting help and personal development plans, if you’re really into sorting yourself out.

3. Break down all work into small, manageable chunks – I cannot stress this enough, the smaller the chunks are, the easier they are to achieve. The more you cross them off of your planner, the more accomplished you feel, and the more manageable the stress will be.

4. Visit your seminar leaders – They are here to help you, but it’s up to you to chase them up. Question what referencing types they like to see the most, check what they’re looking for in essays the most. Even though they have to adhere to the Senate Marking Scale, they will still have their quirks that you can tailor your essay to. The more you know about what they’re looking for, the less stressed you will be about having to write the essay.

5. Make use of the DOS services – A couple of times a week they offer help with essay writing, maths skills and anything else you might need for academic success. If you’re stressed that your essays are not sounding right or you can’t do that calculation, pay them a visit for almost immediate stress relief. DOS also offer counselling, which might help if everything is just a little bit too overwhelming.

6. UEA Literary Fellows – If you’re a humanities student, you might find more tailored help from one-to-one tutorials that they offer. Sign up on the sheet in the Music building and come along to sort your academic/creative writing out.

7. Meditation/Mindfulness/Yoga – There’s nothing more helpful than just relaxing for a little while – and by relaxing I don’t mean staying in bed until 5pm watching Netflix and ignoring your responsibilities (which we all do, let’s be honest). However, half an hour of meditation a day can really help if you’re looking for a respite from the craziness of university life.

Image from Unsplash

Take Aways from the First Presidential Debate

By Khalea Robertson

Takeaways from the 1st US Presidential Debate

Last Monday’s debate between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump didn’t offer any new information on the candidates’ policies (or lack thereof), respective pedigree (see previous parenthesis) or personalities (or, to use a buzzword, ‘temperament’). So, at risk of sounding like your parents during an argument, let’s reiterate what has already been extensively covered.

1    What’s the plan?

‘You don’t have a plan!’ One could be forgiven for thinking that was an accusation levelled at a certain ‘Republican’. But it was in fact aimed the other way. At the Democrat who concisely highlighted some key points of her strategy for economic stability and job creation supported by pesky things such as facts, figures and expert projections.

Meanwhile, across the divide, there stood a man who ripped into major deals and agreements negotiated within the last two or so decades with little regard for their actual contents or results or participants in their creation (because if not Clinton, who?). What he rarely provided though, was any solution for the multiplicity of problems perceived. However, as a self-proclaimed business success there was one issue Trump could dance his way around.

2    Show me the money!

Trump’s plan for the economy boils down to providing the wealthy with incentives to expand their businesses and create jobs domestically. Nothing surprising there, it’s typical conservative economics. Also not surprising is the way Trump displayed pride in how he has managed to avoid paying federal taxes, wished to exploit a collapse of the housing sector and actively searches for loopholes in the constitution in his business dealings. (Actual Trump quote – ‘I take advantage of the laws of the nation’.)

When it came to questions about his personal finances, the businessman showed incredible skill in saying a lot without ever answering the question. I think he’s trying to appeal to college students.

3    Battle of the stock phrases

Race and ethnicity. The ambiguity of the candidates’ responses reflected the complex nature of the issue. In that they did not offer plans as much as clichés. Clinton repeated the desire to ‘restore trust between communities and police’. Trump managed to use the phrase ‘law and order’ five times in two minutes.

This segment seemed to go off the rails. Clinton exploited Trump’s bleak depiction of ethnic minorities in the inner cities as an opportunity to pander to black voters. Trump countered that he had ‘developed very, very good relationships over the last little while with the African-American community’ (there is precisely zero evidence of this). He then talked about a nightclub he owned in South Florida. Clinton described American Muslims as being “on the frontlines” of the fight against IS and shoved responsibility of providing information unto them as if they hold weekly nationwide Skype conferences to suss out potential threats.

Trump was unprepared and disruptive and the only time Clinton’s outward confidence dimmed in the slightest was concerning email-gate.  Pretty much as expected then.

Image: “American Flag” by Denise Krebs licensed under CC BY 2.0