At the End of Week Five: On fireworks and perspective

By Eleanor Pitcher

On bonfire night, as so many others did, I attended the annual fireworks display on Midsummer Common with my friends. It was an excuse to escape the library for a couple of hours, and enjoy one of the first events of winter. I’ve always loved fireworks – completely ignorant to the science behind them, I find them enticing and beautiful. Exploding in countless colours before an entirely black backdrop, they silence the rest of the world for a few minutes. It seems like nothing else really matters, nothing but the enthralling eruption of light and colour before our eyes.

That night, a friend’s comment resonated with me- as vibrant and, often, scary as fireworks might be, they are temporary, and in a few short minutes, the sky will return to a state of clear blackness with no record of their ever being there. It was week five, and I thought this analogy applied ever-too aptly to life at Cambridge.

Since arriving here, the ‘it’s not the be-all and end-all’ philosophy has kept me (mostly) sane and (hopefully) grounded when it comes to work and deadlines. I attempt to keep a level head (attempt being the operative word) and not slave away over pieces of work I don’t enjoy. However, when too many deadlines, duties and dramas all come to a head at once, it can feel like nothing else exists outside of our little stress- and panic-fuelled bubble. Especially mid-term, everything seems to erupt in one go. We know too well that this feeling of helpless dread and worry will fizzle out come week eight, but for now, nothing else matters. Just like fireworks, I suppose.

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‘Mother Tongues’: A Review

By Mishal Bandukda

In honour of Black History Month, FLY* hosts poet and filmmaker Victoria Adukwei Bulley for a screening of ‘Mother Tongues’; a series of films capturing mother-daughter interactions as poets from the African diaspora have their words translated from English into their native languages by the women who raised them. It features Victoria herself, alongside Theresa Lola, Belinda Zhawi, Tania Nwachukwu – and their mothers. Their words are translated from English into Ga, Yoruba, Igbo and Shona, respectively.

Before showing the films, Victoria explains why the versions of the poems in the mother tongues appear first, before the English recitations, by drawing on her own experiences of language:

“The project was born out of a need to connect with my own language, Ga, spoken by people historically based around Accra, in Ghana. I’ve heard it spoken around me since birth, yet don’t understand it. My parents wanted us to be fluent in English as a priority, to make it easier for us to – well, the nicer term is ‘integrate’, but I think a more realistic term would be – assimilate.”

Victoria expresses her sadness at not understanding Ga and her longing to reconnect with a language which is at once so intimately connected and foreign to her. In each of the short films, the mother’s translation of the poem is presented before the daughter reads her work in English. We experience that same sense that Victoria has described to us, as we hear the now rising, now falling, intonations of a foreign tongue, experiencing language for its sounds rather than its meanings. As the mothers recite, the camera-focus moves from gesturing hands, to smiling lips, pausing over a dangling earring. It’s beautiful to experience.

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Girl Talk Presents: ‘The Man Presents: More Women’

By Leila Sackur and Juliette Simon

Inclusivity is at the heart of the ethos behind the genius The Man Presents: More Women, which has enjoyed a stellar run as the ADC Late Show this week. With a rotating cast of 16 performing on alternate nights, The Man Presents features a divine selection of women in comedy, all delivering character monologues which are stunning in their breadth and detail.

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Grad Talk: Becca Naylor on a different kind of law

While many interpret working in anything remotely corporate as ‘selling your soul’, Law graduate Becca Naylor shows that there’s more to a traditional Law firm than meets the eye. Having always been passionate about human rights, Becca managed to make it the subject of her everyday professional life as a full-time Pro Bono associate and Reed Smith’s Pro Bono Manager across Europe, The Middle East and Asia. Snatching a moment in an international tour (of the Reed Smith offices), Becca speaks to Cambridge Girl Talk about serendipitous school talks, hockey, and her anything but ordinary professional life.

Interview by Xanthe Fuller

So, what do you do now?

I’m a pro bono lawyer at Reed Smith, I’m responsible for managing our pro bono work across Europe the Middle East and Asia. Pro bono is the free legal advice we provide to charities, non-profits and low income individuals. We work alongside amazing charities to support refugees, prisoners, victims of domestic violence and work on projects to combat human trafficking and female genital mutilation.

Becca Naylor

 

How did you get there?

Nick Yarris came to speak at my school when I was 16, he inspired me to study law. Nick was on death row for over 20 years before he was exonerated. I was shocked by this and other injustices. I started to follow the work of Clive Stafford Smith and Reprieve.

I went on to study law at university, applied for vacation schemes and training contracts and did the LPC in London. In the gap before starting my training contract I  volunteered at Reprieve in their abuses in counter terrorism team, assisting with their work on Guantanamo Bay, drone strikes, and torture and rendition cases. I then started my training contract at Reed Smith and at the first opportunity went on our pro bono secondment to Liberty where I worked in their advice and information team. During my training contract the pro bono role became available and I applied for the job, I then did my training contract and the pro bono role for a year and when I qualified I became a full time pro bono lawyer.

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#summerstories: Stress And The City

By Cecily Bain

This summer I made the fatal mistake (yet one I make every year) of thinking the next twelve weeks were going to be some kind of mind-and-body boot camp, thanks to the rose-gold glow of Instagram and its hoard of inflatable flamingo-straddling models, all of whom I forget are paid to bleach their teeth and drink shitty tea. Like every summer to date, I started this one with ambitions of returning for my third year well-read, well-dressed, and with 1% body fat. I would be living in London for two internships, and couldn’t imagine a more glamorous and grown-up setting in which I could finally emerge from my self-constructed cocoon of cake and anti-depressants.

Joking aside, I had also convinced myself that being busy at work, finally taking up some form of exercise, and catching up with old friends would surely subdue the depression which has been largely controlling my life for the past year or two, and which few of my friends know about. My second year at Cambridge was a definite and prolonged rock-bottom; I spent the morning of my 21st birthday crying in bed over last night’s cold noodles, because I hadn’t expected to make it that far. Moving to London was meant to be a fresh start, but even outside of Cambridge I was completely overwhelmed with self-expectation, and having returned to the murmur of Bristolian accents I am much happier away from it all.

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(City Light Employee, City Light Photographic Negatives (Record Series 1204-01), Seattle Municipal Archives)

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Grad Talk: To infinity and beyond the bubble with astronaut Jenni Sidey

When it came to deciding on a career, Jenni Sidey took blue-sky thinking to a whole new level. Having completed a degree in Mechanical Engineering at McGill University and later a PhD and Fellowship position at Cambridge University, in July, Sidey was announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as the latest astronaut to enter the Canadian Space Program after a gruelling, year-long selection process. Here she talks determination, diversity in STEM and a training schedule that includes ethics, exercise and Russian conversation.

Interview by Kitty Grady

So, what do you do now?

I’ve just started a new role as Astronaut in the Canadian Space Agency. Prior to that, I was a lecturer in the Cambridge University Engineering Department and a fellow at St. Catharine’s College. For the next two years, I’ll be learning about the systems of the International Space Station, the Russian language, how to do a space walk, and much more as I prepare to eventually fly in space.

….and how did you get there?

I got here by learning as much as I possibly could in my previous roles, working very hard, and by being fortunate enough to have the opportunity to pursue my passion.

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