The Low-Down on the New Job

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Remember back in February where my social media turned into this weird occurrence of purple, green, and white stipes and me looking overly happy and enthusiastic all the time? That was elections week, in which I was elected by (some) Warwick students to be their new postgraduate officer.

Well now I’m officially in post, and until August 31st 2019, I’m the postgrad sabbatical officer for Warwick Students’ Union. I know what you’re thinking, and to be honest I’ve been thinking it a lot too: ‘what on EARTH does that mean?!’ Well, welcome to the blog post. If you haven’t got a clue what my new job is, then feel free to read on.

In one line, I’m now employed to look after the postgraduate population at Warwick. But obviously, it is so much more complicated than that. For postgrad students, I’m the first point-of-call for any issues they have, for any questions, queries, or just a general chat. I haven’t had many yet, but over the year I’ll surely get hundreds of messages from students about everything and anything postgrad related, so it’s my job to point them in the right direction and help them on their journey through Warwick.

This means that essentially, I represent all the postgrad students at Warwick and do my best to make their Warwick experience as good as it can be. That means talking to all the university big dogs to push for change on issues like exam feedback, study space, fair pay for postgrads who teach, and better employability prospects. It means working with staff and students in the SU to improve our services to postgrads, from supporting our course reps to putting on more events so that postgrads feel more included in university life.

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However, I’m not alone, but in fact part of a team of seven sabbatical officers, who all do similar sorts of stuff to me. We have a president, a welfare and campaigns officer, a sports officer, a society officer, a democracy and development officer, and an education officer. As a team, we have key projects and plans for the year, as well as our individual projects, and we are the face of the union for students. I work most closely with our education officer, but everyone works with everyone on specific little projects – from improving the postgrad presence in societies and sports clubs, to improving mental health services for postgrads.

No day will be the same. Even in my first week, I’ve done interviews for new jobs, planned some events, spoken to university staff about postgrad housing, and planned campaigns with the rest of the team. It is varied, and it is exciting, and I am loving it so far. It’s difficult to pin down exactly what I get up to all the time, but overall, I’ll be working to implement the manifesto that I was elected on back in March. I hope this helps, even just a little bit, about what I’ll be doing in the next year. A sabbatical officer is a really bizarre job, but I’m definitely going to be making the most of the opportunities that it will present.

 

Royal Wedding? Here’s Six: The Worst and Best of Henry VIII’s Wives

Today, Saturday 19th May 2018, Prince Henry (yes, that’s his real name) marries Meghan Markle at St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle. It’ll only be a few metres away from where one of England’s greatest king’s, Henry VIII, is buried. Henry rests next to ‘his one true love’ and third wife Jane Seymour, who died shortly after she gave birth to his only son, Prince Edward. I know this sounds like a long-winded connection, but bear with. Because Jane had married Henry the day after his second wife, Anne Boleyn, was executed. Down the river, at the Tower of London, in the early morning of 19th May, 1536. Yes, the same day Harry marries Meghan, is the anniversary of one of the most famous executions in British history. I’m sorry to put a dampener on the mood.

But if we’re talking about royal brides, what better topic than to discuss six of the most famous royal brides this country has ever had: the six wives of Henry VIII. If you’ve followed my twitter back in April, you’ll know I’ve just done a whole load of research on this: questioning whether Henry ever loved any of his wives. I concluded he had three types of love: married love and companionship, which applied to Catherine of Aragon and Catherine Parr; passionate love and lust, which applied to Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard; and finally love of an ideal but not the person themselves, which applied to Jane Seymour and Anne of Cleves.

That essay, where I put on my proper academic hat, is probably fairly boring to read, but in my research of it, I found out a lot about, and I made some very strong opinions of, the six wives. So I thought today, as Harry weds Meghan, I’d give you a definitive ranking of the wives, from worst to best. This is going to be one big historical rant, I hope you’re all ready.

Sixth: Jane Seymour

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‘Yeah but Jane was the only wife Henry truly loved!’ I hear all the protesters cry. She was the only one who gave the King what he wanted: a son. She was the only wife who’s portrait hung in the Royal Gallery at the time of Henry’s death. She was the only one who’s clothes were kept in the royal wardrobes at the time of Henry’s death. And when the King laid to rest in 1547, he chose to lie next to Jane. So he must have loved her right? WRONG. Because yes she gave Henry his son, but she literally did nothing else, and was only loved by Henry because she didn’t live long enough for him to fall out of love with her. He only married her because she wasn’t Anne Boleyn: she was quiet, obedient, calm, (boring), everything Anne wasn’t. She had learnt her lines by the political faction around her, and did what she needed to do to attempt to bring a more conservative religious policy to England. She had very little say or control in what went on, and is such a disappointment in comparison to the other wives. Even Henry commented this shortly after their wedding, hinting that he had made a hasty choice of bride when so many other good women were on offer. Yes he was buried next to her, but that’s only because she was the only legitimate wife available (Catherine of Aragon would’ve been hypocritical, Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard were both beheaded, and Anne of Cleves and Katherine Parr were still alive). So yes, Jane ranks last, because she’s so unbelievably dull and pathetic. I’m sorry but she is, and even her son was.

Fifth: Anne of Cleves

anne of cleves

Anne of Cleves, the original catfish. Well, sort of. Because I think it’s rather unfair on Hans Holbein (one of the greatest painter’s at the time) to claim that the famous portrait of Anne wasn’t a fair likeness. The failure of this political marriage was most likely because of the bad first impression Anne made on Henry, which presented her as an abrupt and rude individual; and then his total inability to consummate the marriage afterwards. But like Jane, Anne didn’t really make much of an impact on Henry’s reign, and it was all sort of over before it started. This means we can’t really judge her on much, so unfortunately ranks lower than the other feisty characters we will encounter. However, to give Anne some proper credit, she probably got the best deal out of everyone. By the time of their marriage in 1540, Henry had become an overweight, grumpy, pretty hideous creature, so when he commented that he didn’t find Anne attractive enough to sleep with, she probably felt the same. Lucky escape if you ask me. Secondly, she got a pretty good divorce settlement out of it. Yes, when he announced the break-up, she was devastated, but when he offered her £4000 a year, houses at Richmond and Bletchingley, and a welcome hand at the Royal Court, she took it pretty well. So Anne may be a short-lived affair, but she was certainly the luckiest wife. And when you’re married to a tyrant, that’s a pretty good deal.

Fourth: Katherine Howard

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Henry had a habit of marrying someone the opposite to his current wife, and no more was this the case when Henry dumped Anne of Cleves and immediately jumped into Katherine Howard’s bed. Young (about 16 or 17 years old when she married him), feisty, and ridiculously attractive, Henry became absolutely besotted with his new wife, an absolute worldie. For him, she gave him a new youthful vigour that he hadn’t experienced for several years, and he loved it. Importantly, she didn’t really bother him politically, and was the only wife who didn’t represent a particular religious faction. Any normal man would’ve probably seen this whole arrangement as too good to be true, but for Henry – God’s representative on earth – all was right in the world. However, Katherine was a naughty little minx, and was conducting an affair with a gentleman of the Privy Chamber, Thomas Culpeper, during the Summer Progress of 1541 (so actually Kudos to her for doing it in the little country houses that they stayed instead of usual places of residence like Hampton Court). Katherine was not the only Queen that Henry loved, but she was certainly the only one who broke his heart. No one had the heart to tell him, but instead left a letter explaining what his queen had been up to on his pew in the chapel at Hampton Court. He was devastated and cried to the Council when the told him the full allegations. Then poor Katherine had her head chopped off. It’s an interesting story, but in terms of Katherine herself, she doesn’t really do much, apart from, you know. She’s probably my favourite wife to study, but being the best wife requires more than just sex, unfortunately.

Third: Anne Boleyn

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You probably all expected me to place Anne Boleyn higher up the list. And to be fair, you can’t deny her importance for British history, because this was the woman (with a few disagreements by historians over exact details) for whom Henry, dragging England along with him, broke away from the Catholic Church. Yes, that is a monumental change, so surely Anne should be a monumental woman. However, if I’m basing this ranking on how much the women actually did themselves, unfortunately Anne falls short. The one thing she did do which was important was refuse to sleep with Henry – and this wasn’t because she wanted to be Queen, but because she didn’t want to be slept with and then ignored, like Henry had done with his previous mistresses. But I don’t think Anne demanded this off Henry during their courtship, otherwise Henry’s famous love letters to her (now held in the Vatican Library) would have referenced her requests. Instead, I think Henry had chosen to divorce Catherine of Aragon because he did believe their marriage was not legitimate, and that Anne being in the picture at the time provided the support and motivation to push through with his plan.

Furthermore, she was part of an incredibly large faction at court which had facilitated her rise, and was an enemy to an equally large faction, which facilitated her downfall. Henry’s chief minister Thomas Cromwell facilitated both parts. Similarly, Henry revered Anne whilst Catherine of Aragon was still being a pain in the arse, but once she had passed away, Henry suddenly realised he may not have made the best choice. Because Anne’s feistiness, excitement, flirtatiousness, and general awe absolutely besotted Henry – when he couldn’t have her. But when they were married, and Anne did not submit to a lifetime obedience but instead kept exhibiting these qualities, Henry found it really damn annoying. For a woman who took almost seven years to be crowned queen, her fall was fantastically swift – only seven months in fact. But my point is, Anne was important for history, but this was mainly because of the people and events that occurred around her, rather than her own actions herself. She almost was in the right place at the right time, and now acts as a personification for the English Reformation in our minds. I don’t even think she committed the crimes she was executed for: adultery with five different men, including her own brother. Why? Because when you look at Katherine Howard’s affairs, she was testified against by her ladies, who had helped her conduct the affair. But for Anne, absolutely no woman was mentioned in the interrogation reports. So, are you telling me a Queen of England successfully conducted affairs with five different men on five different occasions without ANY help from another human soul? And even if they did, are you telling me they wouldn’t have eventually confessed to Thomas Cromwell, one of the most intimidating men in England at the time? I don’t think so. And that’s why Anne Boleyn ranks third: yes, she’s one of the most important women in English history, but that importance isn’t because of her own doing.

Second: Catherine of Aragon

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In comparison to Anne Boleyn, who I used to think was the greatest gal in history, I always thought Catherine of Aragon was the boring, miserable first wife who wasn’t interesting at all. Well, how wrong I was. Because the main reason why it took Henry so long to annul his marriage was because of Catherine herself, who literally dug her heels in so damn hard during the seven years. Henry wanted it to be a quiet affair, dealt with in England by his chief Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, and all kept lovely and quick and neat and sorted. Catherine had other ideas. She loved Henry, and he loved her back, and for the first twenty-odd years of their marriage, it was a pretty good one. So when he decided he didn’t believe the marriage was legitimate anymore (and his justification for this was because she had already consummated her previous marriage with Henry’s brother Arthur, and thus God had not blessed their marriage, thus leaving them childless) Catherine was, quite rightly, really hurt by it. And when Henry wanted it to be a quiet affair, Catherine thought she’d get her family in Spain, and her nephew Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor (as in, the most powerful man in Europe at the time) all involved. So now it had turned from Henry vs. Catherine, to the whole of Europe against England and it’s King. She stood her ground, forced an inconclusive verdict in England, made the case be dealt with in Rome, appealed to Rome, and then won the courtroom during the second trial, where she made the speech of her life, absolutely owned Henry on the matter, and walked out the courtroom. Her actions pretty much forced Henry to produce the Act of Supremacy and leave the Catholic Church: essentially, he couldn’t score, so moved the goalposts. So yeah. Catherine of Aragon is an absolute badass. Even Anne Boleyn pointed out the Henry that every time he argued with Catherine, he lost.

First: Katherine Parr

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If Anne Boleyn produced England’s greatest queen, then Katherine Parr certainly raised her. Because no woman did more for the sixteenth century than Henry’s last wife. A woman who married the King as a duty to God, and as a mission to (properly) draft in the English Reformation. And this is what she did, being a strong advocate for Protestantism to Henry himself (until he got really annoyed with her doing this in his old, grumpy, disabled age). Similarly, she was a monumental influence on English print culture, being the first female author to publish under her own name, writing and translating important Protestant works. Furthermore, she brought Henry’s children together for the first time in a long time, and really provided a sense of family life for a King who had not experienced much of it. She took special interest in Mary, building a great relationship with the woman only four years her junior, and raised Elizabeth: providing her with a sophisticated education in languages and translation. Basically, she taught her how to be strong, and Elizabeth’s style of leadership in the second half of the sixteenth century is largely down to the things she learnt from Katherine Parr. Even after Henry’s death, she lived with Elizabeth and continued to raise her. And luckily, she outlived Henry – so that’s always something. As a Queen and wife, Katherine made the role her own, pursued her own interests, and wasn’t just acting in relation to her husband. It was impressive, and even though she almost had it once, after she had gotten on the wrong side of Henry, Katherine survived and thrived. No woman in the reign had been more important than her. And that’s why she’s the best wife. Period.

 

I hope this article isn’t a bad omen for Harry and Meghan. I’m sure they’ll have a long and happy marriage, unlike these six, because fortunately royal marriages have changed an awful lot since the sixteenth century. And thank god for it. Enjoy the day, I’m working, annoyingly. Why couldn’t it be a bank holiday for goodness sake.

Ranking the Horrible Histories Songs: Part Five, The Top Ten

This is it. We’ve reached the end, the pinnacle, the true masterpieces of children’s television. The top ten Horrible Histories songs. The best of the best (in my humble opinion). These songs are iconic, emotional, truly part of British culture. They’ve taught me so much, and a lot of my love of history is owed to them. I cannot thank the writers of this show for creating them, you are artists and we salute you.

10. Pioneers of Transportation

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This song from series five is often forgotten, but boy do I love it. Firstly, it’s a Greased Lightening parody. Secondly, it involves the whole male cast, and the group efforts always turn out fantastically. Thirdly, there’s great dancing. Fourthly, the lyrics manage to pack a fairly big topic into a two minute song that you can understand and learn from. Documenting the work of George Stephenson, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, Henry Ford and the Wright Brothers, and they made great advances in trains, steam ships, cars, and planes, to create something of a transportation revolution. It’s such an upbeat awesome little number, how can you not love it.

9. Rosa Parks: I Sat on a Bus

hh rosa parks

And from feet-tapping musicals we shimmy on over to some old school soul to hear about Rosa Parks. Dominique Moore absolutely knocks this one out of the park (no pun intended) in her account of the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott which more or less kicked off the Civil Rights movement in America. Again, the HH team take an underrepresented history and present it in the most inspirational way, to one of the best tunes going. The use of Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ makes an excellent nod to the peaceful nature of a lot of the civil rights movement. The song takes a small story which represents something so much bigger, and it pulls it off in the most touching way. I love it.

8. The Borgia Family

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FINALLY, some Early Modern subject matter, AND it’s in the top ten. That’s because the Renaissance is the best and we all know it. Anyway, this series four number instantly presents itself as an Addams Family parody within the opening notes of the song: those iconic clicks set the dark and evil tone of the whole song. And boy do the cast do it justice: especially Martha, who pulls one of the best vocal performances of the entire show. It documents the corrupted rise and fall of the Borgia Family, including Rodrigo Borgia who became the notorious Pope Alexander VI between 1492 and 1503. They were power-hungry and notorious, and the song captures the essence of them perfectly. Also, Mat Baynton as a Machiavellian Prince? YES PLEASE.

7. Dick Turpin

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Mat. Baynton. In. Eyeliner. Okay yes he looks incredible dressed as eighteenth century highwayman Dick Turpin, but there are several other reasons why this song has made it into the top ten. It is an EXCELLENT parody of Adam Ant’s Stand and Deliver: the perfect song to document the life of Dick Turpin. It captures the nature and sound of the song perfectly, slipping in little references to other songs by the artist, and the video makes great homage to the 1981 original. It also demonstrates one of the key aims of the show: to dispel popular historical myth. Nope, his horse wasn’t called Black Bess, and nope, he wasn’t this romantic killer of legend. Instead, ‘a ruthless killer with a ruthless killer’s heart.’ But with Mat taking centre stage, it’s hard to completely get rid of the dreamy aesthetic of the story.

6. Born To Rule

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The original. And one of the best. The first ever song from the first ever episode of the show, and it still stands strong and one of the favourites. The Georgian era is often a forgotten period of history, so it’s nice for this number to tell us a little bit more about it. Even if it does reduce the kings down the ‘the sad one, the bad one, the mad one, and the fat one.’ And this is what the show does so well over and over again: capturing historical stories and figures in presenting their essence in the tiniest phrase. The song isn’t parodying any one boyband in particular, but rather the genre as a whole: sitting on the chairs, swaying, standing up on the key change. It’s all iconic, and it remains one of the best songs the show has to offer.

5. Charles Dickens

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Hands down, this is the most sophisticated song in the show. I actually feel like it was written by Morrisey and The Smiths. Wow. Charles Dickens did lead a miserable life didn’t he? But he used this to produce some of the greatest works this country has ever seen. And the song documents the link between the two, which is an area of history little well-known. Well done team. But it’s the parody of the song which makes it rank so highly. Mat captures Morrissey’s voice excellently, and a lot of the lyrics are reproduced and adapted for Dickens in such a clever way. Also, Al Murray features on the drums. Perfection.

4. The Monarchs Song

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If you don’t know the chorus to this song, get out. Just, get out, and go and think about who you are. Because The Monarchs Song isn’t about any artist or music genre in particular, it’s about the great English (and British) Monarchy, from William the Conqueror to Elizabeth II. A simple rhyme and ditty for you all to sing along: and sing along we certainly did. This song has engrained the order of the monarchs in my brain forever more, ready to be utilised in any quiz question or party trick needed. It captures the essence of the show: to teach. If you haven’t learned it, go and do so. Now.

3. The Few

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Another boys group effort making it into the top ten. This time, they’re RAF pilots in the Second World War, parodying Take That like an absolute dream. The upbeat boy-band pop feel of the music is combined with cheesy lyrics referencing several of Take That’s biggest hits. As the opening number to series four, you can really see how the production effort has greatly increased for the show: it’s a slick, well-made, flashy music video. There’s dancing, great costumes, spitfires, the whole works, and really is the pinnacle of what the show can offer. And wow does the Churchill quote at the end really hit you where it hurts.

2. Finale: We’re History

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When the team announced Horrible Histories was coming to an end in 2013, there was a lot of expectation placed on what the final song would be. And I must say, they really pulled it out the bag with this one. It wouldn’t have worked if they had focused on a specific period or individual, so I was so pleased when they produced this epic number documenting every era covered throughout the shows run. It spoke of both the good and bad parts of every historical era, not exactly leaning towards progress, but rather highlighting how if there’s one thing history is, it’s horrible. Yes it’s a Eurocentric story, but that is what the show focused on. Over four minutes, the song builds and builds, creating an overwhelming sense of nostalgia and celebration of the show. It’s emotional. I’m not crying, you’re crying.

1. Charles II: King of Bling

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There could only be one winner. Because this song is an icon of British culture. Featuring way back in Series Two, Mat Baynton’s performance as Charles II is incredible. An Eminem parody, the song captures the essence of this seventeenth century Restoration Monarch in just two minutes, telling us everything we need to know about his reign. He restored the monarchy, he had a wife plus many many girlfriends, he personally helped out in the Fire of London, and he loves to party. It’s the perfect example of the show’s genius of taking a historical topic and transforming it into something we can understand and learn from. Here, they get it exactly right. And that is why it remains our true favourite. King of Bling, we salute you.

 

So there we have it. Every Horrible Histories song ranked, from worst to best. I hope you’ve read this and gone back to listen to them, to remind yourselves of just how great they are. Honestly, this show had an awful lot of influence on me choosing history as my degree subject, and to this day I continue to utilise it in my learning. It works because it doesn’t dumb down history, it dumbs it up, and it stays true to the accuracy of the past. So thank you, Horrible Histories, thank you.

Tales from the Campaign Trail

If you really want to know what politics means to people, join a campaign for a local election. No longer are things about Brexit, immigration numbers, NHS funding, international diplomacy, but rather about pot holes, parking, trees and parks, schools, and housing. On the doorstep, you really find out what matters to the average voter, and there’s no better way to be able to make a difference to people than in local politics.

And there’s something about campaigning. We can talk about online work, national polls, or whatever else, but literally nothing beats doorstep campaigning, and connecting to voters. In locals, it’s hard to make sweeping statements about why you should vote for a particular party, because every area is different, and every candidate is fighting their election in a different way. But there are certain things that bring us all together. If you’ve ever been out campaigning, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. So, here are the top ten experiences, both good and bad, of campaigning.

10. Rain means leaflets get wet

Literally who’s idea was it to print election material on paper. Leaflets, canvassing sheets, maps, all on paper. Yeah great, until it rains, which in Britain, is an awful lot. And that means ink running onto your hands, soggy leaflets, sheets you can’t fill in, just the absolute worst. (Pro-tip: if it’s raining, pick to do the board, and run it from inside the car, thank me later). Come on guys, it’s the 21st century, surely it’s time for paperless canvassing by now?! (and on a serious note, for environmental reasons, we should probably do this).

9. Badly designed road layouts

Nothing better than a beautifully designed estate that you can leaflet without ever going back on yourself. Nothing worse than when you look at maps and layouts do not make any sense. Worst of all is when you can’t find certain houses. WHY ISN’T NUMBER 15 IN BETWEEN NUMBER 13 AND NUMBER 17?! Who on earth designed this so badly?! Ugh. Making things difficult.

8. Houses with glass porches

You’re canvassing. You get given a house with a lovely porch. Two doors, the outer one is glass. You knock and wait. They open the first door, and then stare you down, with a slightly confused look in their eye as to who you are and why you’re at their door. And between opening the first door and getting to the second so you can kick off your campaigning pitch, is the longest, most awkward wait you can possibly imagine. All you can do is stand there, with an apologetic yet hopeful smile, waiting for them to reach you. I feel painfully British right now.

7. Doors with frosted glass

‘Is that someone coming to the door or is it just me in can see moving in the frosted door glass?’

6. The perfect letterbox

Forget the politics of politics, this is the politics of letterboxes. Every single person who has ever delivered anything has some serious opinions on the different types of letterboxes. The variety is endless: sideways ones, hard bristles, soft bristles, too tight, too loose, ones you can’t find, the separate post boxes. So many, and so many are truly awful. But occasionally, you’ll get a gem, the crème-de-la-crème of the letterbox. Everyone has their favourites: personally for me it’s the inward flap, with no bristles (or soft bristles), with a good amount of resistance when you push the flap, but not too much, and the leaflet slides in just beautifully. It is a wonderful moment in ever canvassers life. Even better when you spot a whole row of houses with them. I go extra slow just so I can properly enjoy it. This sounds mad to non-campaigners, but anyone who has delivered will totally get just how important the letterbox hierarchy is.

5. Campaigning = pub (and pub car parks)

If a campaigning session doesn’t meet up in a pub car park, is it even a campaign session? And if it doesn’t start with a significant amount of waiting, faffing around, and slight confusion, is it even a campaign session? But to me, if the whole affair isn’t light-hearted and fun then it isn’t worth doing. Campaigning can be a slog, unless you make it enjoyable. And starting and finishing up in a pub is a good way to go in my eyes.

4. Feeling like you’ve brightened someone’s day just because of your visit

Yes, there’s a lot of petty annoyances about campaigning, but that’s what makes it so good. And sometimes you get those great moments that make you feel like it’s all worth it. When you meet someone on the doorstep, and the conversation you have shows how much you can actually influence people’s lives by being in politics. Sometimes, the people on the doorstep just want someone to talk to, and for me, I absolutely love chatting to them. You connect to the vastly diverse people of this country, learn about their lives, and make a little difference to their day. That’s why doorstep campaigning will never compare to anything else in politics, and that’s why it should never change.

3. Doggos are great

Ohmagawddddddd seeing the doggos is the best. I don’t know about you, but I always judge the success of a campaign session on how many doggo cuddles I got. A dawn raid is a prime doggo spotting opportunity, and fully makes the early start worth it. Cats are also okay but meh, it ain’t the waggy tails is it?

2. Unless they’re behind a door and bite your hand off

But, put that dog behind a door, then I’m going nowhere near the letterbox thank you very much. Having your hand bitten is the most unpleasant part of delivery, and once it happens, you’ll never want to deliver to a house with a barking dog ever again. I’ve been told by some hardened veteran campaigners that the way to get around this is the nifty spatula trick, but I am yet to try it.

1. Ankle Height Letterboxes

This is a cross-party unity like no other. We may disagree on politics and almost everything else, but our hatred of ankle height letterboxes binds us together beyond anything. The ONLY positive is that they’re a squat machine. Other than that: they’re painful, hard work, agonising to the point of despair. They don’t even make sense. WHY WOULD YOU DESIGN YOUR DOOR THIS WAY?! ARE YOU SATAN?! People who have these shouldn’t even be allowed a vote if I’m perfectly honest. They don’t deserve to participate in democracy. End of. You spot one coming up and have to psych yourself up to take it on. It takes up twice as much energy as any other door. PLEASE can someone write some legislation on this.

But as much as we all hate them, I did a twitter poll recently asking if you would have one yourself, in the knowledge that you’d never have to post anything through it. 38% of you said you would. So I guess this hatred has caused a little bit of evilness in us all.

Enjoy election day tomorrow. I always love the buzz of it, even if it’s long and exhausting. I wish the best of luck to all the amazing Conservative candidates across the country, especially all my wonderful friends who are standing. You’ve all ran amazing campaigns and you’ll all make fantastic councillors; I hope your voters put their faith in you. And I know we all complain, but deep down we love campaigning, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

Ranking the Horrible Histories Songs: Part Four, 20-11

We’ve made it to the top twenty! And I fear this is where it starts to get controversial, because I’m pretty certain you’re not all going to agree with my rankings. But it’s my blog so I can do what I like.

20. World War Two Girls

Now we enter the empowering women section of the list. This series two number took on Girls Aloud to document all the different contributions women made to the Second World War. It’s a funky little number, upbeat and inspiring, and the costumes, hair and make-up is gorgeous. The girls really excel in their singing too, which is one of the highlights of the show: the cast really can belt out there songs. Anyway, this little number, which often goes unnoticed, is actually rather great.

19. Suffragettes

This year marked the centenary of when some women first got the vote, and whenever I think about the Suffragette movement, I always return to this song. In detailing the violent struggle to get the vote, you can’t help but find this number uplifting and inspirational. The final line hits me hardest: ‘so all take note now women can vote, and it’s thanks to those who fought in the suffragette name.’ It is that mindset that means I will always vote in elections, even if that means spoiling my ballot paper.

18. Luddites

Now back to one of those numbers that really suits the music it is parodying. The punk movement of the late 1970s had been transported back 150 years, to document the protests against mechanisation of industry. The song parody’s the Sex Pistols so well, combined with some excellent references to other artists of the era. Also, Jim does a fantastic Jonny Rotten impression. This one isn’t often remembered, but it really should be.

17. Mary the First

hh mary

Sarah Hadland absolutely nails this Kate Bush impression. And the parody of Wuthering Heights perfectly fits Mary’s woeful reign, full of misery and despair, both personally and politically. I do think Mary gets a bit of a bad rep historically, and this song plays into that, which annoys me. But, it is still excellent song, sung really well, with the sophisticated production that made series four what it is.

16. Georgian Navy

I absolutely love the lyrics of this song, because it is just filled to the brim with football references, and it works so fantastically. There’s a bit of a lack of historical information about the actual navy, but it makes up for it with such a good parody of the England football team (except in this instance, the navy were actually good at winning things…)

15. Henry VII, the Original Tudor

As the start of this song says, Henry VII is the most unknown of all the Kings called Henry. Which is unfortunate, considering he founded one of the most important royal dynasties Britain has ever seen. But I suppose considering he wasn’t actually a legitimate claim to the throne, and his son Henry VIII kind of took up all the room, it might be understandable. However, we certainly learn lots about the original Tudor in this funky glam rock number, and so probably the reason it’s so high up the list is because I really love this genre of music. Personal preference you know.

14. Matilda(s) and Stephen… and Henry

hh matilda.jpg

Like the Georgian Navy song, this one does an excellent job at referencing ABBA songs and lyrics. It is plot driven: the complicated plot of the fight between Matilda and Stephen for the throne from 1135. This is the genius of the show: it takes a tricky historical topic and manages to work it into a two minute song that’s fairly easy to follow. It is such an underrated and forgotten song, as is its topic if I’m honest, but it is a gem, and it deserves to be praised.

13. Blue Blooded Blues

In this song I probably learnt more than in any other song. I hang my head in shame and can say, I knew very little about the Scottish monarchy. Luckily, this absolute banger sets it right, detailing the unfortunate tales of the Stuarts, who only came to England when James VI inherited the throne after Elizabeth died childless. It’s parody of Queen’s ‘Sleeping on the Sidewalk’ (not gonna lie, I did not know this was the case until I looked it up for this article), but what really makes it so fantastic is the Scottish accent singing from Ben, Mat, and especially Martha.

12. Natural Selection

If there was ever a song and a part of history that went together perfectly, it is Charles Darwin’s theory of Natural Selection and David Bowie’s ‘Changes.’ It works so unbelievable well. What I love is that it focuses both on the actual theory, but also on the historical context of Darwin discovering it (if discovering is the right word?) I don’t know why but I really love the sound of the chorus, and the way the song deals with the science really simply. It just good, and Mat is in it.

11. Literally

hh literally

This Viking Queen parody showed the massive step up the show took from series one into series two. It burst onto our screens as a rock epic, detailing all the acts of those vicious Vikings. It is such a popular song; when I asked people their opinions on the songs, Literally often came up as a favourite. But I just don’t think it is on the same level as some of the really fantastic and sophisticated stuff we see in later series. Which is why, unfortunately it hasn’t made it into the top ten.

 

Please don’t hate me if you think my rankings are wrong. Top ten is coming soon.

Ranking the Horrible Histories Songs: Part Three, 30-21

So here we are: part three. Today we’re ranking the Horrible Histories songs from 30 to 21, which means we’re getting to the good stuff. When I was putting together the list, this is where it started to get really hard: I love them all and they’re all fantastic and I’m aware that my reasoning might not be excellent in justifying where I put them. I’m sorry if I offend you at all.

30. Vikings and Garfunkel

HH Vikings

This series five song is a great example of beautiful song-writing from the HH team. What is does so well is contrast practically a whole show’s worth of sketches portraying Vikings as a particularly savage and violent people, especially in the series two song Literally (which will feature further up the list). The focus is on the geographical developments the Vikings made to England and Wales – most prominently in their naming of villages and towns, including Swansea, Scarborough Fair, and Wetherby, and the additions to the English language they made. However, whilst I love this song and it’s really chilled tones, I found when I first watched it, I didn’t pick up on the Simon and Garfunkel theme at all. Maybe it’s because it’s particularly subtle, or because the duo isn’t well-known for the children the show is aimed at, but I personally found it difficult to pick up on. Clever, but not iconic Horrible Histories.

29. English Civil War

HH civil war

Some parts of this song, I really really love. Some parts, I absolutely cannot stand. To be honest, I hadn’t listened to it for a long time, and the bad parts had totally clouded my memory. I put it on again, and wow, it’s so much better than I remember. Stuff I hate: the annoying main riff of the song, the annoying musical style dancing in the video. Stuff I love: the chorus, the lyrics. Matt Baynton as Charles I. The line ‘roundheads, soundheads, witches should be drowned heads’ is a great reference to the Puritan zealousness for witch-hunting (even though it is problematic, considering the link is more of a correlation than a cause). I also love the Royalists describing themselves as ‘we’re all toffs who cry ‘here here!’ and ‘God save the King!’ because it reminds me of some of the people I know in the Conservative party. So this song would’ve been much higher up the list if the great bits weren’t let down by the stuff that pained me to listen to.

28. Spartan School Musical

hh spartans.jpg

Cheesiest song in the whole show. And I love it. It’s not really referencing anything in particular as a song, except the American High School Musical Troy Bolton vibes, but the cheesiness just takes over and it’s fantastic. There isn’t much resemblance to what we would consider ‘school,’ it’s basically army camp, but there we go. Probably more useful than basketball.

27. George IV Solo Career

HH George IV

Again, this series two song wasn’t parodying anything in particular, but MAN it is a ballad and a half. I feel like this is truly one of the classics of the Horrible Histories music library, especially considering King George IV was such a popular topic for the show: the fat king who had to wait years and years for his father, the mad King George III, to die, so that he could finally take the throne. Jim Howick’s singing really brings the character to life, and the whole thing is educational yet very funny. It captures what the show is all about really.

26. Victoria and Albert

hh victoria and albert

From one epic to another, Victoria and Albert was a series four song which encapsulated the love story of one of the greatest couples out there. It’s such a great epic of a song, and Matha and Jim’s singing pulls it right through, especially in verse three where they sing about Albert’s monumental contribution to modern British culture. The love between these two royals oozes through; they are true relationship goals. ‘Ours was a truly grand affair royale,’ indeed. But it has such a sad ending: namely 40 years of Victoria ruling alone. The Horrible Histories team are good at doing these sad ending, as we will see in the top ten.

25. Richard III

hh richard.jpg

I have a lot of feels about this song. I’m from Leicester, I work at the Richard III Visitors Centre where his body was discovered in then car park in 2012, and I’ve written essays on the Tudor propaganda surrounding the last Plantagenet King. This song is not historically balanced. And in theory, the team should know better. But, what it does, and I do not blame them for this in the slightest, is present the opposing view to all of the awful Tudor allegations thrown at Richard shortly after his dead. As a historical figure, Richard is a true bastion of ‘Horrible Histories:’ the evil King who murdered a fair few people around him, including his young nephews, to get to the crown. But not much of it is true, or at least it’s not as simple as that. And that’s what this song makes clear, and it is so important to do so.

24. The Thinkers

HH the thinkers

The Thinkers is a great example of the show parodying a well-known song really well. Groovy Greeks are a popular topic for the show, and we had learnt a lot about them by the time this song came to us in series four (and I actually think series four is collectively the best for songs; it has an awful lot in the top 10). So this song, based off The Monkeys, brings a lot of what we already know about the Greeks together in one neat and upbeat number about some brainy philosophers. There’s Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, and Diogenes, and they absolutely rock it.

23. William Shakespeare and the Quills

hh shakespeare

This song makes absolutely no lyrical sense as a whole. It’s essentially made up of words and phrases that Shakespeare introduced into the English Language. There’s a lot and I literally had no idea. Matt is Shakespeare, and his voice is a delight. The rest of the main cast act as backing signers, and it gives the whole song this lovely big band feel. It’s the show at its sophisticated best.

22. Pachacuti

hh pachacuti

On one end of the spectrum we have sophistication, on the other we have stupidity. But that is why this series two finale is so fantastic: because it is so ridiculous. Matt is at his comic best, and the whole thing is just so damn random. The topic: I have never heard of this guy either before or after this song, and the story is bizarre as anything. Throw in Matt’s weird northern accent for singing, and strangely, it works. It’s not the sophisticated genius we know the team can achieve; it’s ridiculous, and that’s why I love it.

21. A New World

hh a new world

A New World is one of several examples where the song chosen to parody is so unbelievably perfect to the subject topic. The others are further up the list. But this one, again from series four, details the Pilgrim Fathers’ journey to the USA in the 17th Century, and the founding of modern America, and makes great use of Empire State of Mind. The lyrics are funny, the singing (especially Martha’s) is wonderful, and it’s just a really well produced song. It was hard to keep it out of the top twenty, but sacrifices have to be made.

 

Revision tips that might be useful

Exam season. It’s horrible for everyone involved. I’m so glad I don’t have to do exams anymore. But I feel the pain of scrambling for essay deadlines and cramming revision in before exams. I’ve been through it so many times. But beyond wishing you all the best of luck, I thought I’d have a look at some of the things I did for revision that really worked for me, and pass them on to you, so that hopefully they work for you too. Obviously, different things are effective for different people, and I’m not saying this is the only way to revise or write essays, but I found this stuff super helpful (and it gave me some pretty good exam results), and it’s always good to share tips right?

Writing Essays

Make it your own argument

This counts for both essay essays and exam essays. And this bit of advice isn’t saying make sure everything you write is totally original, because that’s just impossible. No, what I mean is, make it sound like it’s original. Don’t let your work be dictated by what other people say (even though it will be). Don’t write ‘so-and-so said this and so-and-so said this in contrast and I think I will sit on the fence somewhere between these two points’ because all you’re showing is that you can learn an argument and regurgitate it. No, make it your own. Say ‘I think this: oh and look, so-and-so just happens to agree with me, what are the odds eh’. Try not to sit on the fence either. I’ve always found you get a lot more credit for planting your flag on a particular position, even if your reasoning isn’t perfect, rather than just standing in the middle.

Simpler is better

When it comes to writing, it can be easy to think that if you say complicated things and use long words, you’ll instantly sound more clever. But in doing so, you’ll most likely sacrifice a clear argument, which isn’t helpful to anyone. Keep it simple. My A-level history taught me signpost sentences; to indicate exactly what you’re going to say in the upcoming paragraph. Then the classic ‘point, evidence explain’ comes along, but be clear as day when you do this: ‘this is my point and this is the example I’m going to use and this example therefore demonstrates the point I’m making.’ With markers having so much to go through, the last thing they need is to have to spend time picking out your argument in your essay.

Editing Essays – an exercise

You can only do this with essays, but I’ve found it a really helpful exercise in seeing if you’ve written your work well. At university, we do an awful lot of note-taking, and often we can’t spend hours doing so. The best articles you have to read are the ones that point out the argument really obviously, so you can write down single sentences and cover all key points. So read your essay as if you’re note-taking on an article: go through each paragraph and write a single sentence on what point you’re trying to make. Now, as it’s your own work, you’ll know what you’re trying to say. But ask yourself, if you had read this for the first time, would you know? So write down that single sentence, and then make sure you put it in your actual work. It’ll make reading so much simpler.

Revision Tips

Everyone revises differently. And everyone knows how much revision they need to do to tackle an exam. For me, I couldn’t bear to head into the exam room without knowing everything inside-out. I was never one for winging it. So usually, I’d try to do about 6 weeks of revision, 6 days a week, for about 6/7 hours a day. But you know what’s good for you, so go with that.

Timetables and Lists are your best friends

There’s no better way to put off doing revision than writing up pretty timetables for when you’re going to revise and lists of all the things you need to do. Yes this is very effective procrastination, but there is a point to it. Firstly, organisation is key. It gives you one of the best chances of keeping your head above the water. It’s also sooooooo damn satisfying crossing revision sessions off. Trust me, it’s the best.

Work out when you work best

You’ll probably have already worked this out, but we all work best at different times. For me, it’s morning (I know that is unpopular with students). So I made sure I was up and in the library for 8am. It’s also wise to work out where you work best: for me, I can’t study in my bedroom – which I associate with relax. I find it best to get out the house and into a study space. Work out these things, and you’ll be a lot more productive.

Take Breaks, drink water, eat snacks

This is obvious, but please do it. I can last for about an hour before I break, and I fuel myself with tea. It’s also good to move when you have a break: walk around, sit somewhere else, move your body and mind away from revision. Snack wise, I have to eat A LOT during revision. Brain food ain’t it? TRY to eat healthy (I tell myself; it rarely works).

Make notes, and lots of them

The best way to learn things, is to have all your material in one place. This works best if you’re studying a subject that involves lots of articles and topics, but essentially, you need to collate all the material into one document. For me, this included lecture and seminar notes, extra reading from books and articles (jstor is my best friend). Textbooks are also your best friend. So now you’ve got your material, learn it.

Drill in the Material

There are several ways to do this. And it sometimes it is going to be boring. Read your notes, over and over again. Write your notes out, over and over again. Make cue cards, which is really good if you feel like your material is really overwhelming. But drill the material into your head, and then test yourself on it. One way I really found useful was making a mind map, starting with the questions that titled each of my cue cards. Then, I’d write down the bullet points from memory onto this, and check what I had remembered. Anything I hadn’t, I wrote in red pen – which gave a visual indication of how much material I knew. It may be a boring process this, but tackling exams is easiest when all the material is stored and ready to go.

Practice Exam Papers

Exam success isn’t just about regurgitating that material you’ve learnt. It’s about applying it properly to essay questions. So, do practice exam papers, it’s simple as. Look at all the past exam papers available (which is a good way to work out patterns and common questions/themes) and practice everything you can. Most of the time, I just write plans – and the less I know of my notes, the more detailed plan I write. But it’s important to practice full answers too – to get used to how much you can write in the time, and how your essays will look. In my second year, I had a three hour exam, so sometimes one of the challenges is producing work and staying focused over a long period of time, so make sure you practice that as well, at least two essays back to back.

Look Smart, Think Smart

This is the most ridiculous ritual ever, but it works for me. During revision and in exams, I have the idea that if you look smart, you’ll feel better, and you’ll write smarter things. Therefore, I always go to exams in comfortable but smart clothes. My hair has to be up, and I always take my shoes off (yes this is mad I am fully aware, but rituals you know).

‘Luck Favours the Prepared’ – Edna Mode

Yes, I take wisdom from Pixar characters. And the sentiment is there: if you work hard and get prepared, things will go your way. The right questions will come up, and you’ll nail it. So work hard, and do your best. Because you can kick ass.

 

 

Ranking the Horrible Histories Songs: Part Two, 45-31

In the second instalment of ranking all 60 Horrible Histories songs, we tackle numbers 45 to 31, shimmying into some of the better songs the show has produced. So what exactly makes it good? Whether it puts across good, easy to digest historical information; whether it’s a good parody of the artist or song it’s based off; and beyond that, probably just personal preference. Whether it sounds good, flows right, and just works. It’s hard to justify, I know, and it was even harder to rank these songs, believe me. Part two, here goes.

45. Real Life Cowboys

Real life cowboys sums up the series two songs in a nutshell: there’s the gradual transformation towards better musical writing, but it’s still not quite up to scratch. However, it does stick to the Horrible Histories ethos of dispelling historical myths: MOVIE COWBOYS ARE NOT REAL COWBOYS. There’s also a fabulous dance routine from the boys, and Westerns are cool I suppose. So overall, it’s pleasant, but not particularly memorable or mind-blowing.

44. Work Terrible Work

The genius of the Horrible Histories’ songs comes in their parodying of artists and genres linked to the historical topic they’re portraying. But for Work Terrible Work, a series 3 song, the parodying is just too obvious, and it makes it not work. It documents the traumas of child labour in the Victorian period, but as Oliver the musical already does this, it doesn’t feel like there’s much thought involved in the song. It’s not sophisticated.

43. Victorian Inventions

Much like ‘I’m A Greek’ from series one, this series two number details the great inventions of Queen Victoria’s reign. And there are an awful lot. But with so much information being thrown at you, detailing everything from the automobile, roads, and steel, to cameras, lightbulbs, and typewriters, the educational value can get lost. Surprisingly, it doesn’t.

42. Alexander the Great

HH alexander

In theory, this series five performance should be higher up the list, considering this was when the creative minds of the show were at their very best. And true, it has a sophisticated tone to it, creating big stadium rock sounds, and is sung well by Ben Willbond. But I just think it’s a bit non-descript and goes unnoticed or forgotten.

41. Joan of Arc

This should have been Jessie J’s Do It Like A Dude, not Price Tag. I still wonder about this creative decision to this day. Do It Like A Dude fits sooooo perfectly to Joan of Arc’s story, so I don’t know why they chose this instead. I also find the singing unpleasant.

40. Mary Seacole

One of the great things this show did was shine light on the some of the more forgotten periods, and people, of history. Mary Seacole was a favourite for this, and featured several times in the show’s history, detailing her story in the shadow of the more well-known Florence Nightingale. In series four, they give her her own song, parodying Beyoncé’s single ladies. But the attempt falls flat. It sounds too overproduced and artificial, is a bit clunky, and generally could have been done a lot better.

39. Funky Monks

Hunky, Chunky, Funky Monkey, Get down! What a line. And what a better topic that the corruption of the medieval catholic church. A winning combination, and I really really like this song. But objectively, it’s not particularly sophisticated, and the slow bits are dull. Essentially, it’s a classic series two song.

38. Boudicca

Girl power of a Celtic Queen, yes you badass girl. I love it when the show does songs about powerful women, and this is no exception. The harsh rocky feel just makes you feel angry in itself, like you want to go and kill a load of Romans. Wow it’s inspiring from the original Bloody Difficult Woman.

37. Hieroglyphics

A Jackson Five parody, sung by Mat Baynton (who doesn’t wear much in this song). What’s not to like? Hieroglyphics sound awful to learn, but this song gives us the smallest of glimpses into it. It’s upbeat, fun, and generally inoffensive as a song. Very fitting as we head into the middle of the road pack.

36. Ra Ra Cleopatra

cleop0atra

Note. This is a good song. It parodies Lady Gaga well. Martha is great in it. The production is the high standard of series three. Everything about it says it should be higher up the list. But it isn’t to my taste, I’m sorry. When I listen to the songs, this isn’t one I come back to often, and I don’t really know why.

35. Owain Glyndwr

In taking on a Welsh hero, there’s only one artist the production team could really use for this song. Tom Jones’ Delilah is employed to good effect to tell this fairly unknown (unless you’re Welsh) story of Welsh nationalism. In a series five appearance, the song demonstrates what the show did well: taking a specific song from an artist, but dropping in several lines from their other famous songs too. But again, I find this particular one fairly forgettable.

34. Crassus: I’m Minted

I couldn’t find this one on YouTube. But it’s a parody of Dizzee Rascal’s Bonkers, which I expected was going to be used for a song about George III instead, but never mind. From memory it’s a good song, but I probably can’t say anything more specific than that.

33. Aztec Priests: Not Stayin’ Alive

Lawrence Rickard doesn’t often appear in songs, but when he does, it’s special. This Bee Gees number is no exception, detailing the death rituals of the Aztec’s. When I listened to it for this article, I actually found it to be better than I remember: the singing is good, the music production is good, and I remember the video being good too. But, as often with the Horrible Histories Songs, they’re not as memorable when they’re not about a famous figure in particular. Not Stayin’ Alive is a victim of this unfortunately.

32. Evil Emperors

This song had so much potential. It’s Michael Jackson for god’s sake. And it’s the Romans. A winning combination, in theory. However, what I really don’t like about this song is the singing from the four boys. It’s hardly singing, more talking to music. And it ruins it for me.

31. William Wallace Scottish Rebel

The production of this song is great: it has a great hard rock sound, Ben’s singing, complete with Scottish accent, is great, and the story is easy to taken in. But the reason this song isn’t higher up the list is because it isn’t parodying anything in particular. Taking on a specific artist is what makes the show so special, and unfortunately, this one doesn’t fully make use of that.

 

So that’s the end of the bottom 30 songs! I’m sorry if some of your favourites have been included in here (fight me in the comments). But from here on, we’re dealing with the really good stuff, and I’m so excited.

Candidate Spotlight: Liam Pearce

With the 2018 local elections being over just a month away, it’s time to head up north to the wonderful city of Leeds for another Candidate Spotlight where Liam Pearce is standing in Moortown and Meanwood. For the first time since 2004, Leeds City Council have had a full boundary review, which means all 99 seats are up for election. This is a perfect opportunity for Liam to put himself forward as a first-time candidate, and with the campaign in full flow, I went to see how it was all going.

‘There’s something really comforting about running my first campaign with people by my side who are so supportive and willing to help,’ Liam said. ‘It’s a lot of responsibility,’ he admitted, ‘but I want to make people proud.’ After campaigning so hard in the General Election 2017 it’s rewarding to be out on the streets working towards his own campaign. ‘The more you campaign and speaks to residents, the more you want to take their issues to council and get them fixed.’

With Labour having such unfeasible plans for Moortown, like reducing one of the busiest dual carriageways to a single lane road, Liam is really passionate and enthusiastic about improving the lives of local residents. ‘I want to make sure these Labour plans don’t happen,’ he said. ‘A lot of residents don’t know who their councillors are, so raising awareness is really important too.’

liam 2

But despite all the positives of the campaign, Liam isn’t much looking forward to the results night. ‘I hate waiting; I’ll be a bag of nerves and anticipation.’ But that’s only because of all the hard work he’s putting in. ‘For general elections you’re invested in every seat, but for this my mind is only on one place, and I’m determined to win it.’

But unfortunately, things might not go his way, especially as Liam is standing in a Labour held ward. If he’s not successful, this won’t put him off staying involved. ‘I really enjoy the whole campaign, from the strategy meetings to going out delivering in the rain.’ At the start, it may be nerve-wracking to knock on doors and speak to people, but you soon get used to it. And there are loads of people who helped him on the way. ‘There’s a lot of paperwork involved and if you don’t have someone who is already a councillor helping you, it can be really tough.’

So it all sounds like it’s going good up north for Liam. It’s great to see someone so excited about their own campaign, and I know that Liam will be working hard in Leeds to get the best for the city. I can’t wait to go up and campaign for him once my essays are done (and if you follow me on twitter, you’ll know the hell I’m going through right now). As always, get in touch if you want to help out. Happy campaigning!

Ranking the Horrible Histories Songs: Part One, 60-46

I think it’s pretty safe to say that Horrible Histories was one of the best, if not the best, children’s TV programme to grace our screens in the 21st century. The show first aired in 2009, and ran for five series with the same core cast of Mathew Baynton, Jim Howick, Simon Farnaby, Ben Willbond, Lawrence Rickard and Martha Howe-Douglas. In that time, it racked up numerous awards, including a British Comedy Award for Best Sketch Show in 2011 – the first children’s programme to do so.

What made the show so incredible, is that is taught accurate history, with a focus on all the gory, unpleasant and, well, horrible bits, to both children and adults, in a non-patronising way. It’s sketch format was taken straight from the adult comedy scene, as was its cast members, and it was successful because instead of dumbing-down history, it dumbed it up. And man was it funny.

But the real pinnacle of the show was in its Savage Songs, where a musical production featured in each episode (bar episode five of series one, that missed out). From series two onwards, these songs evolved into satirical epics of parody: Charles Dickens as Morrissey, Rosa Parks as Aretha Franklin, and Dick Turpin as Adam Ant. Sticking ruthlessly to historical accuracy, these songs were works of genius in their own right, and really gave the show its monumental popularity.

And now, because I am a dreadful procrastinator who should actually be working on my Masters degree, I’ve ranked them, From worst to best. All sixty, across all five series (I’m ignoring the new stuff, and the specials). In five articles, we’re tackling the best (and worst) of Horrible Histories. Here goes

60. A Gorgeous Georgian Lady and 59. Making A Mummy

Do you remember these two? Nope? Me neither. That’s because series one hadn’t really found its feet in terms of the musical genius we were given in later series. These two, once I’d found them in the depths of YouTube, are nothing to shout about. They’re essentially explaining Georgian beauty tips and the process of mummification, to some background music. Unfortunately, many of the songs from series one are like this, so I’m sorry if this is a painful bit of reading.

58. Caveman Love

I’m pretty sure this one takes inspiration from Grease. Again, it talks about how people from the past did things: in this instance, how relationships worked for Cavemen (I’m pretty sure this isn’t the correct historical terminology, but oh well). But yeah, still not that good.

57. British Things

Finally, a proper good historical figure on the mic. Here, Queen Victoria sings about how those things classed as quintessentially British in the nineteenth century, tea, sugar, cotton, even the queen herself, were actually the products of Empire. This is a good example of how the show tackled potentially sensitive topics – alluring to the slave trade which brought these goods to the British market – in a suitable way for its young audience. Musically, however, it’s still pretty non-descript.

56. I’m a Greek

I’m A Greek, luckily, signals the turn out of the dark alleyway of pretty bad series one song. Accompanied by the piano, Mat and Jim, dressed as Pythagoras and Aristotle, tell us about everything the Greeks invented for us. (Spoiler: the list is extensive). The cast recreate this type of thing when they sing about Victorian Inventions in series two, but the Greek song is not unpleasant.

55. I’m a Knight

HH I'm a knight

This song would probably rank a lot worse if I didn’t find the whole ‘I’m a Knight’ chorus so damn hilarious. It talks of the rules of chivalry, and essentially demonstrating how badly knights were at living up to their codes of conduct. They’re pretty stupid, scared of everything, and useless. There’s a lot of talk about what they’re supposed to do, but rarely live up to it. Bloody men eh?

54. Burke and Hare

Mat Baynton’s Scottish accent makes this song a lot better than it probably actually is. It tells the crime story of Burke and Hare, who sent their murdered corpses to famous surgeon Dr Robert Knox for him to dissect in his anatomy lectures. Truly sticking to the theme of the show with this one.

53. It’s Not True

Horrible Histories stuck to facts, religiously. Greg Jenner, the nerd of the show, said he’s only spotted 8 mistakes in over 4000 facts the show has put out since it began. This song from series one debunks the myths of history: basically, ignore the legends of Merlin, Robin Hood, King Arthur, and widely-believed historical inaccuracies. It would probably be higher up the list if it wasn’t for the god-awful singing from Mat and Martha. Luckily, they get a lot better in later series.

52. The Plague Song

Death by plague: a classic Horrible Histories theme. Neatly presented in a song. Bring out your dead. But with everything in series one (except for one true classic that will feature further up the list), the song isn’t bad, it’s just not up to scratch with everything else the team produces later on.

51. Terrible Tudors

Britain’s best love monarchs, the Tudors. There’s a lot to say about this dynasty, and they cover the story well. But, I just don’t like this song. It doesn’t flow right, I don’t like half of the lyrics, and it’s just uncomfortable on the whole.

50. Divorced, Beheaded, Died

HH Henry

Sticking to the Tudor theme, perhaps the best known historical fact is that Henry VIII had six wives. And their fates? We all know the rhyme of divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. But this, unfortunately, produced a song that wasn’t exactly bad, but wasn’t good either. This characterised series one as a whole. Things now get a lot lot better.

49. Blackbeard

Series two saw a lot more focus on historical figures, rather than just periods and events. Episode six gave us Blackbeard, a Gilbert and Sullivan parody, and tells his life story – highlighting the particularly gory and horrible parts. Obviously. I find it ironic how it has just an upbeat and trivial tone for such a horrific story. Pirates are a difficult topic to deal with for children: in reality they’re pretty dangerous and did some awful things, but in a child’s mind, this isn’t a concern. I’m not sure this song gets it quite right, and if I’m honest I find it quite boring.

48. Celtic Boast Battle

I’m not sure why, but I really dislike this one. I’m just not sure it works. For a song to end series three, where it feels like the team had really gotten into their stride with the songs, this feels like they’d ran out of ideas. However, I do appreciate the performances from Mat and Jim, I guess rapping is quite hard.

47. The Ages of Stone

This song almost always goes unnoticed, and when I read the entire song list, I’d forgotten how this one went. But after listening, it has quite a nice bebop jazzy tune to it, and it actually sounds rather nice musically. However, I think it falls short in its attempt to relay information. The Stone Age is fairly complicated, with a load of different sub-ages, and by throwing them at the audience in quick succession, the song fails to teach us much.

46. Australia

I can’t actually find this on YouTube. From my memory, when I first watched it back in 2013, it’s a parody of Kylie Minogue’s Lucky. But for me, being the penultimate song of the entire show, it’s just not good, or particularly memorable (as the lack of trace of it online goes to show).

 

So, there’s the first instalment. I know these one’s aren’t the best, and this was probably really dull to read, but things do get better from here. Let me know what you thought of my rankings (I’m pretty confident you’ll all disagree once we get into the top 20), and send me predictions of what you think’s to come.