The Final Goodbye

Written by Tim Glover, journalism teaching assistant

It was with some apprehension (as well as excitement) that I found myself sitting on a train a few weeks ago on my way to the Journalism, Politics and Culture Summer School. How much more daunted must the 16 Japanese students have felt as they packed their suitcases, boarded long haul flights, and prepared themselves to meet a group of strangers with whom they would be spending pretty much all of the next two weeks?

Fortunately as the summer school got off to a flying start there was little time for such anxious reflections. The programme was packed, divided between lessons, social activities, and eating meals. (The food was all excellent by the way, despite the apparent belief in Japan that English food is world-famous for being the worst.)

With all this busyness it was only midway through the second week that I realised that an extraordinary thing was happening. Despite being there in order to assist the Japanese students in learning about journalism, I found to my astonishment that my own interest in newspapers and the media (which had been pretty considerable before) was massively increasing. When I collected the newspapers every morning I found myself unable to resist leafing through them to compare their headlines were.

It was no surprise then that by the end of the course the students also showed a significant increase in their knowledge of English journalism, politics and of course culture, and not only that, but that their written ability demonstrated very impressive improvement. It was amazing to see how much they had learnt in two weeks. I even felt proud.

But perhaps the greatest surprise of all – when at last the time came to say goodbye – was the way that this disparate group of students from across Japan (plus Chris and I, the teaching assistants) had got to know each other so well, and even got on rather well. Nobody wanted to leave; tears were shed as buses were boarded and goodbyes were said. We had arrived as strangers; we parted as friends.

To attendees of the Summer School in 2014: you’re going to have a great time! Make sure you make the most of it!

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Henry V: the review

A review of the performance of Shakespeare’s Henry V, written by Charlotte Evans, our English tutor

The lighter flame was clipped shut – the Muse of fire had done her job – and we felt we had been on quite a journey! This Creation Theatre production, at the Oxford Castle, was a real flight of imagination; we, the audience, were called upon to create, inhabit and even participate in, the world of Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’ on his conquest of France. It was a genuine delight to see such an imaginative, lively and irreverent version of a play which can be dull on stage. Despite this irreverence (or, perhaps, even because of it), the players remained true to the spirit of Shakespeare’s text. Three actors each skillfully inhabited many roles; between them, and with inventively used props and costume parts, they invited us to revel in the creative potential of theatre. It was such a pleasure to look around and see the students so engaged in the performance, and to see them almost crying with laughter at the perfectly pitched comic interaction between Princess Catherine and her maid. We had spent an afternoon preparing so that everyone had a good grasp of the plot, character developments and some of the language, and this meant that they could enjoy, and appreciate, this wonderful performance all the more. What an honour for me to be able to offer students such a memorable introduction to Shakespeare!

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Our Favourite Memories

Here is a collection of our favourite memories:

Learning to be curious, be independent, and be confident with your opinion – Momoko

Having coffee breaks in the Rector’s garden since it was ‘so British’ – Rieko

Writing articles during the lessons – Nacky

Going to see Shakespeare’s ‘Henry V’ performed at the Oxford Castle – Yu

Visiting the St. Giles Fair – Yumiko

People playing the piano – Riho

Talking with Tim and Chris (teaching assistants) and going to the pub – Shimpei

The Gala dinner to celebrate the completion of the course – Kimiko

‘Henry V’ and visiting the Economist – Tomo

Tim learning Japanese – Miyu

Chatting with people and making new friends – Mika

The visit to London, especially seeing ‘War Horse’ at the theatre – Fumika

Going ice-skating – Natsuki

Hearing Christchurch Choir since it was the 1st time he experienced religious singing – Yoshi

Seeing ‘Henry V’ and role-playing debate in Charlotte’s lesson – Quianjie

‘I really enjoyed seeing War Horse in the theatre’ – Kazuma

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Fairly Fun Funfair and a Special Visit…

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(Waiting to go on a ride at the St. Giles Fair)

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(A ride sends us up into the air above Oxford)

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(Sampling a local delicacy)

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(In front of the helter skelter)

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(One of the tallest rides at the fair)

This morning we enjoyed a visit from Glenda Cooper, a leading UK journalist who has written for national newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph.

For journalists like Glenda, interviewing people must be second nature, but this time it was Glenda’s turn to sit in the interviewee seat as two brave students got the opportunity to ask her questions.

The first interview was about the role of women in news media. She told us all about the increase in the number of women journalists and the effects that this had across news media – both good and bad. Many were particularly interested to hear about the way women are performing much better than men on average in war zones – just one surprising example of the way gender roles in journalism are changing, or are different than you might expect!

The second interview was on foreign news. It seems that as the number of women in journalism has gone up, coverage of foreign news has gone down (in the UK at least). Whilst the public’s tastes are changing and many people are becoming less interested in news outside the sphere of Britain, Glenda argued that news media must not abdicate
responsibility for telling us stories of global interest, suggesting that being interested in such things is part of what it is to be human.

After the two (very successful) interviews the students all wrote articles reporting what they had heard that they found interesting. What emerged was a great diversity in subjects, demonstrating how wide-ranging the interviews had been, and not
only that but some very impressive improvements in writing compared with a week ago!

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War Horse: Timing to watch – it’s everything

The play version of War Horse by Michael Morpurgo is a must see for first-time watchers, but not for novel and movie fans. Conversely, people who did not take a liking to the novel or movie might be surprised at how grand and moving the play is. This play is not meant to be compared with other forms of art but to be enjoyed alone, if only to wonder at how realistically and beautifully Nick Stafford presented the horses and story on stage.

The most striking element of this play is definitely the puppets; the South African Handspring Puppet Productions have done a marvellous job. You will forget in a few minutes time that they are puppets, in fact the actors moving them seem to look like puppets instead. The puppets’ appearance is not something which could be called realistic, with metal piping and leather, but the movements were so real which creates the impression it was alive on stage. There were birds that fluttered above your head and ducks quacking and waddling on stage. With your eyes closed, the neighing and snorting, and the sound of their hooves was enough to make you think that there was a real horse a few meters away. Not only will you be surprised at how well the puppets move, but you will be awed at how the soldiers mount the horses and find yourself praying for them in the war scenes.

Albert, a young man, sets off to find ‘his love’, a horse which was sold to the cavalry by his father, amidst the turmoil of World War I. Tearing off a page from the notebook which has a picture of himself riding his horse Joey, he shows it to his commander in search of finding Joey and to his comrade in return for showing a picture of his girlfriend. The love for his horse is what keeps Albert going during the war, and the same could possibly be said for Joey.

This play lacks seriousness, maybe due to the fact that this is based on a children’s novel. But on the other hand, it seems as if it is supposed to lack all the tension and sorrow the main character is surely Joey, the horse. We see the world almost through his eyes, to which why there was not much background information about the war and how abruptly the war starts and ends. But the audience is sure to feel the fear which Joey senses through the humans and environment around him.

The effective usage of the backdrop screen gives depth to the stage, giving a far broader and larger scale to the play. The marriage of classic looking puppets and the modern screen gives us the best combination between a classic and modern play. The screen shows us practical information like the dates and setting, or an abstract image of fellow soldiers dying in the fight. By screening monochrome scenery, it gives the stage a gloomy yet sometimes a little warmth with the handwritten lines. The horizon seems to expand beyond the stage at the battle field, making us feel of how big of a damage and tragedy was caused in the war.

Overall, I would rate this play fairly well, in terms that though a horse is the main character, the audience got pulled into the play nevertheless. Like Joey who finds himself in the British and German sides of the war, spectators will find themselves trapped in no-man’s land, between the novel and the movie. My advice on watching this play is: if you want to see the movie, go watch it after the play.

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Posh Tricks

Written by Linda Christmas, our journalism tutor

I thought the tabloid press were the masters of the ‘Dark Arts of Journalism’.  They were the ones who knew how to get an early copy of an important report (pay the driver collecting the report from the printers to ‘drop’ one off from the back of his lorry);  they were the ones who could get an ex-directory phone number within seconds (pay the guy on the switchboard who has access to the numbers);  they were the ones who circled the right people at parties (political or celebrity-stuffed) in order to boast a bulging contacts book.

So it was with fascination that I (and the rest of the group) listened on Monday afternoon to a talk called ‘The Dark Arts of Journalism’ by Ed Lucas, a distinguished foreign correspondent who now works for the quality paper The Economist. He detailed the manipulative ploys he uses to get what he wants.  It seems the posh papers have different tricks. He suggested that it was a good idea to knock over a glass of wine in order to get the attentions of someone you wanted to meet at a party; that it was clever to distract a secretary in order that you could then read the papers on her desk; and how he once bet a colleague that he could get an item of clothing removed from the next woman who entered the lift.  (Comment on her shoes saying you want to buy the same for your wife. Then ask if you can see the label so that you are sure to get the exact copy – this means she will have to take the shoe off!) Among these dubious pearls were some straight-forward tips which were nothing but common sense: be charming, be polite, do your homework, ask only one question at a time, keep your questions short…

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Visiting The Economist

We visited The Economist yesterday afternoon. The Economist is one of the most well known magazines in the world and has 1.6 million subscribers.
 
The Economist has two principles. One is to promote a liberal, free market. For example, humans, not government, should decide what to do, in what would be called a “market economy”. The second pillar is being socially liberal. For example, historically the Economist took a position against slavery. Now it supports the abolition of capital punishment.
 
It used to focus on economy and international relations, but it has expanded its range of agenda to policy and politics. Even though its title is The Economist, its cover story may be a political one. For example, a recent cover title of an issue was ‘Hit Him Hard’. It argues that the UK government should attack Syria harshly.
 
Our conversation turned to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, because the International Olympic Committee decided yesterday that the Olympic Games will be held in Tokyo. With regard to this, the Asia Editor of the Economist, Dominic Ziegler, commented that the role of NGOs and NPOs, which in Japan has been limited, could become important.
 
Overall, what struck us was the depth of his knowledge and experiences about Japan and China.  It was a very enjoyable time! 
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