Posts Tagged ‘ Bournemouth ’

STANDF1RST Online – Geo’s Story

This is the link for an article I wrote for the third pilot edition of the new Bournemouth University newsmagazine, STANDF1RST Online. This went live yesterday and we’ve already had some fantastic responses from people.

Geo’s story.

Enjoy! :):-


Gay Pride for the less effusively exuberant

It’s Pride time in Bournemouth again. Make that ‘Bourne Free’. The weekend of the year when thousands of gay people come together to show solidarity, be visible, take a stand and, by-and-large, be such over the top  stereotypes that even Mary Poppins or —yes, really— Dorothy would be embarrassed.

This year’s theme? Wait for it… yes, it’s cowboys. What a surprise. An excuse for all the campest of the camp gay men to get their tooshes out and advertise. Whoopdedoo, I can’t wait.

I’d be interested to see a theme that wasn’t aimed at the easiest stereotype to avail or an attempt at toning down (whilst still maintaining a celebration of) the whole thing.

How about rendering the rainbow symbol in pastels to represent the gentle gays (and lesbians) or dusky colours to represent the less flamboyant, in your face of us. Something to paint us in less than stereotypical colours for a change, to alienate us less from our hetero peers as opposed to the current and pervasive trend of driving a wedge.

Now I’m not saying that a lot of gay, straight and trans people don’t enjoy and appreciate the über-camp thing…

…and visibility is important and yes, without events like having this taken place over the years  I wouldn’t  be free to be who I am. The events are important.

I’m just saying that a little more balanced representation would go a long way.

For example, more representation of gay women. This is true in other gay arenas,  the most obvious of which is gay clubs, most of which are so male-oriented that the majority of lesbians don’t go there. Or, for that matter, [gay] people who don’t want to listen to stilton-caliber cheesy dance music or the Village People or —I can hardly bring myself to type it— Steps.

Rant over.

An interesting article regarding the tendency of gay parades to include or rather disclude clothing is here.

The “worthless” demographic: beggars, buskers, Big Issue sellers and students

I recently read an Independent article regarding the homelessness problem in Bournemouth. The article itself is dated 1994, but the issues raised in it are ever current and, according to the Council’s reports, on the rise. The article, however, is written in a biased and inflammatory manner and carefully omits certain things. For example, when describing the increased incidence of hotels having to take in people receiving social security and housing benefits, the article doesn’t elaborate on the two such hotel guests who didn’t live like pigs or become violent,

Former guesthouse landlady Janet: ‘I was facing having the place repossessed. I took in four, just to tide me over. Two of them lived like pigs, not like people. The place was filthy, windows and furniture were broken. They were always drunk. Then they stopped paying regularly. I went in to get my money and one of them just hit me across the face. I had to call the police to get them out.’

Yet the article does include the vitriolic bile of people who choose to throw university students in with smack addicts as a demographic.

‘We don’t want any of them,’ said one tight-lipped elderly resident. ‘Not the scroungers, and not the students – they’ll only go on the dole themselves when they finish their courses. Bournemouth is marvellous – but it needs to be saved from all these layabouts.’

Not all students are lazy, nor are all homeless people scroungers. This particular tight-lipped elderly resident may speak for many, but certainly not for everyone. By the same token it could be said that all elderly people are crabby, pessimistic, resistant to change, hating of young people and ensnared in the haze of bygone ‘golden years’. Also not true.

Golden years are those in the past that people prefer to see through rose-tinted glasses, not that were particularly any better as a matter of fact, e.g. Jack the Ripper was murdering people when the streets were still lit by gas lamps and the first half of the 20th century was riddled with wars. Yet these eras were no doubt viewed by many nostalgics as ‘golden days’.

It’s a mater of perception. Mine is that there were/are no golden days, only recollections with the gristle and grime omitted or the viewpoints of sheltered, cotton wool-wrapped individuals who haven’t seen enough of the real world to be able to offer a balanced view.

But I digress…

The point is: do the exceptions prove the rule when it comes to lazy students and drug-taking homeless people?

The following is a truncated version of a feature article I wrote for my degree concerning homelessness [‘lazy’ students is another issue].


Thirteen years ago I held a steak-knife to a man’s throat. I told him to leave me alone to sleep. Needless to say, he wasn’t impressed, but neither was I. He had somewhere to stay. It was nearly October, it was cold and I was about to sleep on the beach. I had a car blanket, he’d had other ideas. He left issuing threats, but fortunately I didn’t see him again.

There are many myths and assumptions regarding homeless people, some of which possess an element of truth and others that do not. I spoke to Jo, Dave and Pepsi about their experiences of homelessness and it is their words with which I hope to elucidate some of the notions surrounding what is becoming an ever more prevalent aspect of life in ‘sunny’ Bournemouth.

Myth 1: Homeless people will disappear if you ignore them

People avoid the homeless for several reasons, such as them being ‘dirty’ or wariness of ‘catching something ‘. It is possible to be clean when homeless, but it’s a catch-22 situation. The public expects a certain appearance of homeless people, otherwise they question or disbelieve that they are homeless at all. Being unwashed, unshaven and wearing stereotypically travelleresque garb is part of this expected image. Clean shirts and white trainers are a no-no. The worse I dressed, the more (Big) Issues I sold and I know others, including Jo, Dave and Pepsi, have found the same. The public wants scruff, but when it gets it, it recoils.

Myth 2: All homeless people are junkies, crack addicts or alcoholics

Some of the homeless who are addicted to hard drugs such as heroin, crack and alcohol often seem ‘out of it’, are ruder, pushier and sometimes abusive when asking for money. It is this kind of behaviour that gets noticed, not the quiet, polite people just trying to scrape their next meal together. This behaviour doesn’t just extend to the public either. There’s a rule on the street: Don’t beg off a beggar. It’s etiquette. The few people that breach it tend to be the ones who are quite far along the path of addiction. It’s important to point out that —though there are an awful lot of addicts who are homeless— many homeless people do not even use drugs. moreover, stereotyping to the contrary leads to a lot of negative and abusive behaviour towards them.

Myth 3: It’s their own fault homeless people are on the street

This blanket assumption is what psychologists call the Fundamental Attribution Error, which, put simply, means that we attribute our own errors to external factors others’ errors to internal factors. It’s never our fault, but it is theirs.

Granted, with some people it is; for Jo her relationship with her parents became irreconcilable as a result of “teenage stupidity and stubbornness” and there are people who get into drugs and lose their homes for not paying the rent, but since the recession —and before that when industrial and unskilled work started being outsourced abroad—  jobs have been evaporating. [Not to mention the people whose home life is abusive and they have no where left to turn]. This leads to a vicious circle: no job = no address, no address = no job. It’s worth remembering that next time you hear someone shout ‘get a job’ at busker, beggar or Big Issue seller.

This is another point of contention. Selling the Big Issue is not begging. A product, bought at wholesale price, is being retailed. There is an exchange. Indeed, standing on the high street prey to people’s contemptuous, pitying looks and occasional abuse is not an easy job. Being a Big Issue seller can make you a sitting duck. They know where to find you and they know that no one is going to come looking for you. The murder of Westbourne vendor Ralph Millward last year is testament to that.

Some people, however, choose homelessness. Pepsi and her boyfriend have been vending the Issue for a couple of years in Bournemouth centre. She said, “I did get a flat a while ago, but I felt trapped in, so I left. I like the open air and I earn my own way selling this so I don’t see the problem.” Life on the street is different for everyone, it can be both unbearable and enjoyable and often alternates between the two.

Myth 4: Homeless people are lost causes

Sometimes this is true. A man on the street at the same time as me, Zeb, had collapsed most of the veins in his body through injecting heroin into them and had resorted to his jugular, which is, in the long-term, fatal. Zeb hasn’t been seen for years, but his companion has. Thirteen years later he is still begging, still lying and still hooked.

But it doesn’t always have to be that way, not for everyone. I was on the street for eight months, Jo for six. I built a career in retail before going to university, Jo has been a happy employee of the post office depot for nine years. A man I knew, Mac, was on the street for years selling the Issue between Bournemouth and Ebbw Vale (in Wales) and is now the manager of a fishing shop. There are success stories from the street.

Q&A: Hayley Martin on social media

A seven question ‘witter’ with Hayley Martin on how she’s finding the increased use of social media on the second year of the Communications and Media (BA Hons) course at Bournemouth University‘s prestigious Media School.

Q: How are you finding the experience of blogging?

A: I like the concept of it and I’ve found some really interesting blogs to read, but I’m just getting into what to write.

Q: What do you prefer about blogging to Twitter?

A: You can go into more detail about what you’re interested in, but I don’t think you can have a blog without Twitter to blog about.

Q: What do you find most useful about Twitter?

A: All the PR and social media people I’ve made friends contact with on there and getting random news in my feed.

Q: How do you feel if, for whatever reason, you cannot access your social media for a length  of time.

A: I’d like to say it wouldn’t bother me, but I think I’d feel a bit cut off from the world. It’s just so easy to get hold of people on SNS and social media.

Q: Where do you see computer technology going next?

A: Apparently Google will be able to anticipate what you’re searching for and not send you useless or irrelevant sites.

Q: Why do you think social media is so important?

A: Because everyone wants to belong somewhere and with social media there’s so many opportunities for people to join that no one needs to feel left out.

Q: If you were a fruit, what would you be and why?

A: A star fruit, because I’m an odd shape, but when you cut me open you see how much of a star I am.

Hayley can be found on WordPress here and Twitter here.

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