Tag Archives: students

Birmingham Visiting Writers Programme: Simon Armitage

On Tuesday 29th of January, renowned poet Simon Armitage appeared in the Bramall Music Building as part of the ‘Birmingham Visiting Writers Programme.’ It was the first event that the English Department had held in the new building and the turnout was remarkable. Every seat on the lower tiers was filled, and the balconies were even opened for surplus spectators. It was clear that this visitor was popular, and a huge number of people were eager to see him.

Simon Armitage reading

After a short introduction, Armitage took to the stage with welcoming applause. To many, this literary figure will be remembered as a favourite from GCSE English Literature, as a number of his poems featured in the Anthology course book. He has had 10 volumes of his poetry published, and has been awarded a CBE for his contribution to poetry. But he is a humble man in every attribute; from afar, with his faded jeans and a baggy suit-jacket, he looks like your best friend’s Dad. But peer a little closer and his brothel-creeper shoes and gold pirate earring give away his eccentricity.

From the start of his lecture, it was clear that Simon Armitage’s well-known stage presence and charm were still very much intact as he regaled us with amusing anecdotes from his childhood and his home-county of Yorkshire before getting to the serious stuff. His first poem ‘The Shout’ recalled a science project from his school days. After this, a reading of ‘Zoom’ – one of his first published poems about a cartoon show’s credits – left everyone in the room a little bemused but completely hooked. Following this, Armitage read some of his translated pieces, including ‘The Green Knight’ (which, incidentally, Disney approached him about to use for a new animation). Next, we were treated to one of his ‘Flash Fiction’ pieces titled ‘The Net’ – a slightly longer poem with a prose-like structure.

Forty-five minutes flew by, and soon it was time for some discussion. With some great questions from the audience, we were delighted with a number of quick-witted one-liners and amusing stories – in particular, a hilarious recollection of an embarrassing misunderstanding about ‘cashback’ in Huddersfield Sainsbury’s that left everyone laughing out loud.

Photo by William Fallows

Photo by William Fallows

However, Simon Armitage isn’t just an entertainer – he proved that beneath his showman exterior lays an extremely passionate and pensive mind, and his ponderings were both informative and thoughtful. Upon being asked whether his consideration of his readers affected his writing he profoundly responded: ‘There are only 26 letters in the English Language. But if you put them in the right order, you can explode something in someone’s mind, thousands of miles away, hundreds of years apart, in complete silence.’  And after just an hour in the same room as him, it would be safe to say that he had enthralled and impressed every member of his captivated audience.

By Megan Evans @mkevans92

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The Student Lock-in – worth the hassle?

Student lock-ins are shopping events held frequently around Birmingham – enticing all students in the city to squander their student loans by taking advantage of big discounts and offers. Shopping on a Saturday, in the Birmingham Bullring, is for most, as enjoyable as attending a 9am seminar with a hangover. I discovered that student lock-in events can be a similar experience.

Lock-ins tend to run outside of day-to-day shopping hours (usually between 6pm and 10pm) and involve the big-name chains such as River Island, H&M and Topshop; offering out-of-the-ordinary discounts for students.

But here’s the catch (well, one of them) – it is key to sign up online for these events, which involves a tedious online form. Then, upon arrival at the Bullring, there is a queue to pick up your confirmation of registration before you can actually start shopping. This whole routine is what one might call – for want of a better word – a ‘faff’.

Granted, if you are willing to go through the motions, lock-ins can be brilliant when it comes to finding bargains. For example, Forever 21 – a huge high street store exclusive to Birmingham and London in the UK – has, on several occasions, offered a huge 21% discount for students. So, if one had seen something in there prior to the event but couldn’t justify paying full price, these sort of events can make buying a treat less of a blow to the student purse or wallet.

However, with some of the shops (Mango for example), there is a further requirement – having a standard University ID Card is not enough. For a few of them, you’ll need an NUS card – so it is a good idea to check the small print before setting your heart on something.

The main thing that personally turns me off is the sheer amount of people. Topshop during a lock-in can get pretty claustrophobic, and if you’re more of a ‘browser’ the packed shops are not ideal. In addition to this, it’s near impossible to try anything on as the queues become ridiculous. 

On the other hand, lock-ins can be a great way to socialise – making a refreshing change to a night out. And for some, a lock-in may prove to be a cheaper alternative! As well as the shopping perks, a lot of food chains also offer deals during these events – big names such as The Homemade Burger Co. usually make an appearance on the list. So it does provide a cheap meal out for a group of housemates who don’t fancy 9p noodles for the 4th night running.

Lock-ins can be fun. But if you are looking for an easy amble around the shops then you’re better off going on a weekday. If, on the contrary, you are a ruthless bargain-hunter with your eye on the prize, you could find a real gem. Or a pair of gems.

 Megan Evans

@mkevans92