While at St Paul's I helped out with the senior arts magazine, SPA, going on to be assistant editor on one issue, and then edit one issue. I really enjoyed this experience, and it really revealed the wealth of artistic talent there was throughout the school, being a showcase for the pupils' artwork, poetry and prose.
I am now involved with Sidney's own arts magazine, Sneeze, having laid out two issues in 1999 / 2000, and helped with the overall editing. The profile of this magazine, founded by the current editor, Oci Stott, a couple of years ago, is really impressive, considering that she began it so recently and with practically no backing, though the student union gives us a photocopying budget for the year.
2001 / 2002 brought a new artistic project: I am on the editorial committee of Works on Paper, which promises to be a very exciting and innovative magazine. We're currently in the production stages, and with the wealth of talent exhibited in the contributions, it should turn out to be an excellent magazine / book / whatever genre-busting thing it is destined to be.
Yes, believe it or not, in Lent Term 2002, Smiley Ben, the terminally lazy philosopher, began coxing. But fear not - worried that we would leave Cambridge never having rowed, Helen Cherry and I decided we should form a philosophers' boat (yes, a truly terrifying prospect!), so we set about gathering together a joke, one-afternoon-a-week eight, so that we could enjoy a fun, no stress paddle about.
We actually entered a race, the Cardinals Regatta (granted, a joke race), which we weren't doing too badly in, right up to the point where Helen managed to dislodge her seat from the slide! We still finished the racecourse, on a few lengths behind Robinson I, with just five people rowing! We even rowed in fancy dress - in typical philosopher-style dressing as famous paradoxes!
Sad, I know, but as this website is a testament to, I am very interested in (and constantly amazed at) the wonder that is the Internet. I truly believe that it will act as a democratising force, and that many people stand to benefit from the sort of revolution it may bring if used wisely.
This fascination also manifests itself as an interest in Free Software, a socialist (though that's a controversial suggestion) development model whereby people all over the Internet donate their time for free developing and improving software, out of interest in the way it works and creating something lasting and worthwhile, rather than purely an interest in money. I follow the developments more philosophically than for any other reason, and find it breeds a real optimism about the future!
I also follow the movements of a number of community sites, getting my news from Slashdot, and sub-editing for h2g2, and love the ability to get to know people from all walks that you wouldn't normally. Okay, Ben, stop gushing.
Meditation and T'ai Chi
At university there are loads of opportunities to get involved in things that you might otherwise never try. Two such things in my case were Buddhist Meditation and Yang Style T'ai Chi.
I meditate with CUMABS (Cambridge University Meditation And Buddhist Society), led by two ordained members of the Western Buddhist Order, where we do two different meditations - Mindfulness of Breathing which involves concentration of the breath to centre and relax you, and the Mettar Bavner, a visualisation meditation intended to increase your feelings of Mettar (loving kindness) for fellow humans. I've found this a very valuable experience, though often a struggle.
I do T'ai Chi with the university T'ai Chi society, which teaches a range of different classes. In 1999 / 2000 I took part in the Yang Style class, which actually taught Chi Gung, a series of movements intended to increase your awareness of your body and mind, and benefit your health.
During 2000 / 2001 I learn the Yang Style Short Form, a complete, 24 movement T'ai Chi form. Yes, some might call this waving your arms (and legs) about, but I do find it very relaxing, as well as it helping me to focus, and learn coordination. T'ai Chi is a really nice way to just take time out for oneself, even if it's only an hour's class a week. It gives you a chance to reflect, let the worries go, and just escape the normal hectic live that most of us put ourselves through these days - I'd highly recommend it.
Philosophy is one of the few subjects where when you reveal to people that you're studying it they usually give a big reaction. Often it's one of 'Ooooh, I'd hate to study that', but most frequently the response is 'Cool'. I'm studying philosophy because I have a genuine interest in it, and have even recently been spotted discussing not just pub philosophy over my pint!
For my 20th birthday, my parents and I went halves on a lovely SLR camera (a Minolta 505si, if you're really interested), which turned out to be the Best Present Ever(TM). I've been snapping away pretty seriously ever since, and some of the results can be seen in the images section of the website.
I've also begun learning to develop my own black and white films and prints, and am slowly getting the hang of it (I'm smudging the negatives much less than I used to!). It definitely really great to be able to produce pictures from the click of the camera all the way to the finished print, and gives you such control at all the different stages (which gives you multiple opportunities to correct previous mistakes!).
I couldn't explain why, but the theatre has always been an amazing fascination for me, and I am interested in just about everything theatrical. Being at Cambridge has given me a unique opportunity to see a huge number of plays very cheaply, since there are always several plays on a week, ranging from Shakespeare to new writing festivals. In fact, the new writing has been some of the best stuff, and there are obviously people out there with a lot of talent!
In the past I've done a lot of acting (including MacDuff in out primary school production of the Scottish Play, at the ripe young age of 11!), and also had the opportunity to direct at St. Paul's - Edo will never let me live down directing Beckett at 16, even if I only directed his shortest play, Breath - weighing in at just 35 seconds long, and a couple of other plays, including one I co-wrote.
In the summer of 1997 I was lucky enough to get a work experience placement at the National Theatre Studio, the National Theatre's research and development wing, working on an adaptation of Gita Mehta's A River Sutra with a fantastic company called Indosa.
I have also helped organise two 24 hour theatre events with a group called Death by Theatre, where 40 young people (13 to 18) turn up at a real theatre at 7PM one day, and perform a production to parents and friends just 24 hours later. These challenges are enormous fun, and a great experience. For more information email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to them at:
433 Petticoat Squareor phone or fax:
London E1 7EB
020 7247 3871
Since travelling round Europe with Pete in the summer of 2001 I have got the travel bug, and badly. It really saddens me that many people only see a tiny portion of the world in which they live, be that simply for lack of funding, or out of lack of interest. The current plan for the end of 2002 till 2003 is to travel around India, Nepal, South-East Asia and Australia, spending five months teaching English to students in Nepal. Hopefully this will keep the travel-thing at bay for a little more time, but I'm also hoping that I will discover just what I should do with my live, approaching the world of work as a citizen of the world, rather than a little-Englander.