Life lessons from Eleonora Duse

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She may have died 90 years ago, but the gospel according to the Italian actress Eleonora Duse still rings true. Dazed charts the top ten pearls of wisdom to take on board from her illustrious life, including what to do to get over your ex and how to handle the press.

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JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE A CHILD STAR DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO LOSE YOUR SHIT

Before you shed a tear for the corrupted youth of today’s child stars, spare a thought for Eleonora (Bieber–take note). The daughter and grand-daughter of impoverished Italian actors, Eleonora was only four years old when she joined her family’s acting troupe and began a hefty work schedule that sent her touring across Europe, South America, Russia and the United States. She managed to pull it all off without any known criminal convictions or rehab stints. In her adult life she used her experience of early fame to become a mentor for younger stars.

THE BEST WAY TO GET OVER SOMEONE IS TO GET UNDER SOMEONE ELSE

Eleonora didn’t have the best luck in love – her first lover, journalist Martino Cafiero, left her mid-pregnancy and she tragically lost the child. This didn’t perturb her, and she engaged in numerous passionate affairs with men and women throughout her 65 year life. Her lengthy list of lovers includes writer/prince Gabriele d’Annunzio and Italian feminist/cross dresser Lina Poletti.

PAY YOUR OWN WAY

Eleonora shirked tradition at a time when many women relied on pocket money from their husbands. She established her independence early on in her career by setting up a theatre company and taking on the roles of manager and director. During her affair with d’Annunzio she provided more than just creative support – she also paid all of his bills, including the rent.

GET OVER YOURSELF

Eleonora coined a new acting technique that she described as an “elimination of self”. While other actors in the period were dependent upon a set of over the top stock expressions and lashings of make up for their portrayals, Eleonora internally connected with her characters to enable her performances to come to life. She shunned make up and opted for subtlety over artifice. She has been described as “the first modern actor” for her pioneering performance technique.

DON’T TAKE CRAP FROM ANYONE, EVEN IF YOU ARE SLEEPING WITH THEM

She had a long standing rivalry with actress Sarah Bernhardt. When Eleonora’s lover d’Annunzio cast Sarah in one of his plays over her, she promptly ended the affair. Although d’Annunzio had already written four plays for Eleonora, she wasn’t willing to stick around for such insolence.

NEVER COMPLAIN, NEVER EXPLAIN…

It’s working for Kate Moss, and it worked for Eleonora. While rival Sarah Bernhardt relished in the public gaze, Eleonora refrained from interviews and let her performances do the talking. Her elusiveness contributes to her legend – all that remains of her is one short film, Cenere, and the accolade of others.

…BUT ENJOY IT WHILE IT LASTS

Not all publicity is bad publicity, as Eleonora discovered when she became the first woman and first Italian to be on the cover of Time Magazine in 1923. She enjoyed reverence from the likes of Charlie Chaplin, who described her as “the finest thing I have ever seen on stage”. Anton Chekhov noted “I’ve never seen anything like it. Looking at Duse, I realised why Russian theatre was such a bore.”

GET SOME FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

Eleonora got herself some loyal followers in the shape of President Gover Cleaveland and his wife during her tour of the United States. The couple were in such awe of Eleonora that they attended every single one of her performances. This led to the controversial decision on Mrs Cleaveland’s part to host the first ever white house tea for an actress.

BUT DON’T FORGET TO KEEP IT REAL

Eleonora stuck by her pals in their hours of need. When her close friend – American dancer Isadora Duncan – lost both of her children in a car accident in the river Seine, Eleonora rushed to her side. She spent several weeks counselling her at a seaside resort in Viareggio.

LEAVE YOUR MARK

Eleonora has been a muse to many artistic geniuses. A young James Joyce kept a portrait of Eleonara on his desk and modern dance pioneer Martha Graham worshiped at her alter. Her influence continues to flourish as Dazed takeover star Stacy Martin picks Eleonora as her definitive acting inspiration.

Squatters’ Paradises

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The coalition government has launched a ferocious war on squatting. In September 2012 a law was passed to criminalise squatting in residential buildings. Aside from the sometimes fatal implications (as was the case with the death of Daniel Gauntlett) the new law disregards the extraordinary contributions to British culture – check out the achievements of Bristol’s ArtSpace Lifespace and Peckham’s Lyndhurst Way.

The latest example of squatters fighting for their right to shelter is occuring at the Hart Gallery on London’s Islington Upper Street. As the gallery is a commercial property the squatters have successfully avoided eviction, and to mark this, Dazed celebrates our top ten most defiant squats, from 70s gay lib to 00s art parties.

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THE SOUTH LONDON GAY COMMUNITY CENTRE, BRIXTON

In 1974 a squat formed on 78 Railton Road, Brixton. This squat offered a communal space for individuals wishing to openly express their gay identity. It was a haven for gay people from all walks of life to unite in social activity and political action. Railton Road became a hub of activity for those wishing to challenge social injustice. It boasted two women’s groups, an Anarchist News service, a union for people on welfare benefits and Icebreakers (a gay liberation counselling group). The squats were eventually swallowed by the Brixton Housing Co-op in early 80s.

EILEEN HOUSE, LONDON

The Self Organised London collective began occupying this former university building to fight the “gentrification” and “social cleansing” of the area. The squatters sought to prevent the redevelopment of the building into luxury flats. In spite of a petition with 50,000 signatures and a campaign spearheaded by the nearby Ministry of Sound, planning permission was accepted by the Mayor in December 2013 to construct a 41-storey tower on the site.

AGNES SQUAT, LONDON

The Victorian terrace began its life as a squat in 1969. The council bought properties with the aim of tearing them down and extending Kennington Park. After the council’s plans were scuppered, the houses were left to the squatters to rebuild. It wasn’t until 2005 that Lambeth Council was successful in removing the squatters. It took 200 riot police and bailiffs to get rid of the residents. The only property that survived was a Rastafarian temple, said to have been visited by Bob Marley in the 70s. The temple was also eventually closed in 2007 after supposedly being taken over by drug dealers.

GROW HEATHROW, LONDON

Grow Heathrow evolved out of a desire to prevent the construction of Heathrow’s third runway. The occupiers have taken over the former site of an illegal car breaking yard. From this focal point a community has blossomed that lives without dependence on fossil fuels. In spite of the imminent threat of eviction, Grow Heathrow continues its peaceful occupation.

!WOWOW!, LONDON

The art collective kick started in Peckham in the early noughties as the result of a surge in numbers of art graduates without employment.“After I left college I lost my job and decided I didn’t want to pay rent anymore,” says former Camberwell graduate and artist, Matthew Stone.“So I researched it and start squatting in Peckham with my friend James Balmforth. That’s how !Wowow! began.”The !WowoW! movement helped to launch the careers of Stone, fellow artist Balmforth, fashion designer Gareth Pugh, and video artist Adam Faramawy.

BITCOIN SQUAT, LONDON

In a former Buddhist temple in London the creators of the Bitcoin movement reside. The crypto-anarchic, enigmatic movement is using radical technology to topple the role of government and banks in our financial affairs. This hacking fraternity is cloaked in secrecy. Only the hacker name of the creator – Satoshi Nakamoto – is widely known.

PARK LANE, LONDON

In 2009 a group of squatters with expensive taste moved into two seven storey houses on Park Lane, each worth £15 million. The houses boasted views of Hyde Park and the chance to rub shoulders with the oligarchs and Sheikhs of Mayfair. A group of 30 artists, students and musicians inhabited the buildings, even having their own keys cut, until sledge hammer yielding bailiffs turned them out.

CLIFTON WOOD HOUSE, BRISTOL

After weeks of camping out on a public green on behalf of the Occupy movement, these squatters decided it was time to move up in the world. The protestors found an abode in a property that was once Bristol’s most expensive house. The empty £3 million, 8 bedroom dwelling is located in Bristol’s most affluent area and comes complete with indoor swimming pool. The inhabitants were eventually kicked out by the police, much to the delight of hostile local residents.

HOBO HILTON, LONDON

In 2012 50 activists occupied an abandoned BT building in High Holborn and christened the space ‘Hobo Hilton’. Contrary to its name, Hobo Hilton was not set up as a residency for homeless people.  As part of the Occupy movement Hobo Hilton offered a space for education, creativity and revolutionary group work. Participants included Green Peace and key figures from the Bitcoin movement. The group was conveniently evicted on the eve of a 100,000 strong anti-cuts demonstration.

THE REALLY FREE SCHOOL, LONDON

The Really Free School set itself up in Guy Ritchie’s £6 million home on London’s Fitzroy Square. Dubbed the ‘middle class squat squad’, the group aimed to re-imagine Gove’s free schools and provide ‘a collective learning process directed by your own desires’. Lessons on offer included ‘Spanish for activists’ and ‘Skill up on tax havens’. They were reluctantly evicted after losing their court battle, while wearing Vinnie Jones masks.

Quarter life crisis

You have got your very own kettle, your fancy dress kit and your berocca.  Weeks of anticipation are heading to a climax as university begins and your childhood gets waved away.  Your opportunity to prove yourself as a self sufficient adult has finally arrived.  Or so you think. Fairly quickly you realise the glamour of being grown up does not quite correlate with the reality of your first year experience.  You find yourself sleeping with no bed linen as keeping up with laundry finds itself low on your list of priorities, you feel tired all the time and you may even find yourself getting an ickle bit homesick.

And just as you start to get the hang of things, three years have flown by in what feels like three months and the real world starts to beckon.  You don’t feel quite as wise as you had anticipated you would feel at this point.  What you do feel is the weight of debt, fear and nostalgia.  ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ becomes ‘what are you going to be?’ Your freedom seems to melt away. Your time has run out.  The Quarter Life crisis has begun.  Everyone seems to be settling down with cushty  £40,000 a year jobs in ‘the city’ or are commencing a life of intellectual superiority with the pursuit of a masters. Do we have to leave the student bubble already? Can I really no longer get my student discount?

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The symptoms of a Quarter Life crisis are numerous. Some find their inner Kerouac and decide a life on the road is the way to be. They opt for travel over job applications, and believe a mud hut in Uganda will hold the answer to their problems.  It is common for these gypsy types to latch onto a cause, maybe tree related or the grievances of a remote Indonesian tribe, to establish a greater purpose in life and replenish their souls after three years of hedonistic debauchery.

There are the sufferers of PUD – post university depression.  PUD sufferers return home to the comforts of Ma and Pa and proceed to wallow in the pain of their lost youth.  Jeremy Kyle and Loose Women become your best friends as your indecision concerning what to do next stops you from doing anything, at all.  Your mum’s gentle probing ‘Sent in any job applications recently?’ is met with barks of ‘I’m in a transitional phrase, leave me alone’ or ‘there aren’t any jobs, blame the recession’.

Some fellows refuse to get off the ‘lash train’. Tinged with the tragic, these ‘pardi animals’ rave into their thirties and are held back only by the onslaught of back pain and beer bellies. Your heart never really left student clubland and your ring tone is still Cascada’s ‘Every time We Touch’. Usually found cruising around town blaring out some ‘massive tunes’ or mud wrestling at all the summer’s festivals.

The ‘schemers’ already have a job by the end of first year, for fear of missing the boat. They have a crystal clear career plan (CEO by 30) and nothing is going to stand in their way. While some students wasted their holidays working in bars or exploring the world, the ‘schemers’ spent their time completing  internships and filling out applications to every graduate scheme going.

The ‘Eternal Students’ decide keep their heads buried in their books. The warm womb of a library is more appealing than the brutalities of the jobs market. They complete degree after degree till their name is followed by every letter of the alphabet.

Published in the University of Bristol student newspaper, The Epigram, January 2013

Take Twitter with a pinch of salt, it’s not the full story

The world looked on with dismay on the 19th April as what should have been a wholesome, family friendly, feel good event was turned on its head with the Boston Marathon bombings.  At the centre of the breaking of this news story stood the mouthpiece for Joe Public, Twitter. When a big story breaks we no longer sit glued to our television screens for our fix – we turn to our phones and laptops for real time revelation.  Rather than watch a suited and booted news reporter digest the information for us, we are turning in our droves to ‘first hand accounts’ online for a more affecting relation of events, as it happens, where it happens.

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The Boston Police department headed on to Twitter to dispatch information to the public, such as @Boston_Police ‘Suspect in custody. Officers sweeping the area. Stand by for further info.’  CNN reporter Anderson Cooper even halted his live report to turn to his phone and tweet to the world that the suspected bomber was in custody,  ‘#Breaking: Boston Police say marathon bombing suspect #2 is in custody. @andersoncooper reports on #CNN with more information’.

The Twitter gods appear to be enjoying their status as a news providing network.  In 2009 the question asked to users for status updates changed from ‘What are you doing?’ to ‘What’s happening?’, a signal of the shift from the network as a platform for the voicing of private matters to those of public concern.

Does Twitter spell the end for good old fashioned news reporting? Can we get all the information we need in 140 character hits? The answer is, most certainly, no.  Twitter has proved instrumental in the organisation of protests in recent years, its influence so profound during the 2009-10 Iranian election protests and 2011 Egyptian revolution that the respective governments blocked the service.  It is also thanks to Twitter that we found out about Ryan Giggs’s naughty side, in a mark of protest by users disturbed by the impact of injunctions upon freedom of the press.  Twitter can get information into the public eye that may be otherwise blocked by media channels, however there is a darker side to the ostensibly earnest hash tag.

While Twitter is able to rapidly spread information to colossal volumes of people, there are no checks and balances for insuring that the information is correct.  I am by no means advocating censorship of social networks, but implore Twitter followers to tread cautiously.  Twitter is primarily a medium for speculation.  As well as keeping us updated concerning developments in the Boston Marathon bombing saga, Twitter also produced droves of unverified drivel.  Apparently marathon runners who witnessed the bombing kept running past the finish line and straight to the hospital to do their bit to help the wounded and give blood.  It was also instantly assumed by many tweeters that the bombs were an act of Muslim terrorism.  However, if you believe everything that you read on the network, it was also pulled off by right wing white supremacists.  Some tweeters became embroiled in a witch hunt by wrongly laying  the blame at the door of missing person Sunil Tripathi, who has since tragically been found dead after a battle with depression.

Another Twitter offender, or ‘twat’ as they are more tenderly referred to, is Sally Bercow.  The wife of the Commons speaker has ended up in a libel battle after she decided to use Twitter to link former Tory chairman Lord McAlpine to an allegation of child sex abuse.  Her use of an innocent face smiley was no protection against accusations of slander. While journalists are trained in the defamation laws, no such instruction is given when you set up your Twitter account.

Within the confines of 140 characters, tweets can appear to be lucid and definitive.  The little blue bird seems so dependable.  As cute as he is, he’s not a stringent checker of facts.  When put in perspective, Twitter is not a serious challenge to news broadcasting – remember the top three most popular accounts are held by Justin Bieber, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry.  While one can come across gems of information there is a lot of fluff on there. Behind the comforting invisibility cloak of a computer screen everyone fancies themselves as a highly reputable social commentator/news reporter.  Twitter can offer a tip off at best, but not the full package.

Published in the University of Bristol student paper, The Epigram

Does affirmative action foster an anti-white prejudice?

In November 2008 Barack Obama opened his Presidential acceptance speech with the message ‘If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.’  The election of a man of mixed racial heritage to the job regarded to be the most powerful in the country should have been the moment that America broke down the last barriers of racial discrimination.  America should have finally become the country it always wanted to be, in which ‘all things are possible’ for all individuals, regardless of one’s racial heritage.

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A recent study conducted by Harvard Business School and Tufts University suggests that Obama’s victory has not pushed America into an era devoid of racial prejudice.  According to the study, racial discrimination has emerged in another form. The pendulum of discrimination has swung in the other direction, as the study proposes that it is the white majority population that now feels effected by racial bias.  Approximately 200 white and 200 black people were randomly selected from a national census and asked to rate racist attitudes against blacks and whites in every decade from 1950 onwards.  Eleven per cent of white respondents gave the current level of anti-white racism the maximum rating of ten points.  The authors of the study point towards an issue of ‘severe legal and social controversies’ creating a form of ‘reverse racism’.

Affirmative action appears to be playing a crucial role in engendering these feelings amongst the white population.  Affirmative action originated in the 1960s as a way of forcing employers to ensure they did not discriminate against applicants on the basis of race, creed, colour or national origin.

Some whites feel they are now at a disadvantage when applying for jobs as employers go out of their way to fulfil a secret quota of employees representing ethnic minorities.  Whites also feel discriminated against when applying for educational institutions, as demonstrated in the case of Fisher vs University of Texas.  Abigail Fisher and Rachel Michalewicz, both white, applied to the University of Texas at Austin in 2008, and were denied admission. They claim the university discriminated against them because of their race, violating the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th amendment.  The supposed anti-white bias has created an America not compatible with the Declaration of Independence, which proclaims ‘all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’  A society that continues to give advantages to individuals based on race undermines the Founding Fathers commitment to equality.  Many whites feel America’s cherished individualism has lost out to political correctness.

The facts and figures regarding the socio-economic position of black people suggests the supposed anti-white bias has not produced an imminent threat to the white population’s position as the wealthiest ethnic group in the States.  Currently the black unemployment rate is almost double the employment rate of the white population, with 14.1% of blacks unemployed compared with 7.4% of whites.  Things do not look to be improving for the black community, as the racial gap – having narrowed between 2005 and 2009 – has once again widened following the recession’s June 2009 end. Analysis of Census Bureau data by Sentier Research has revealed that in the past three years the median annual income of black households has fallen by 11.1%, which is over double the 5.2% inflation-adjusted decline experienced by white households.

America’s complex history as an ethnic melting pot has left many wounds unhealed.  As the authors of the study suggest, America is still struggling to reach a ‘post-racial’ era.  The media’s rhetoric continues to focus heavily on race, with Obama unable to shake the tag line of America’s first black President.  It will take many more Presidents from ethnic minority groups for the novelty to wear off, and many more years of socio-economic development amongst America’s poorer ethnic minority groups to ensure race disappears as a means for judging the merit of an individual.

Published in the University of Bristol student newspaper, The Epigram, February 2013 

The plight of the independent bookshops

Upon returning home to south London for the Easter holidays, I experienced a mortifying sense of loss.  As an English literature student it will come of no shock to the reader that I like books.  They are my friends.  The ones with the pretty front covers and gold trimmed pages are like an aesthetically attractive peer – you like to look at them and caress them and if you open them and like the contents then well, that is an added bonus.   There are the books with the coffee stained pages and nibbled edges.  Those are the friends with most fascinating personalities.  You know that they have seen a lot.  It will appear inevitable to the reader that, as books are my friends, I see book shops as a kind of social club.

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My most beloved book shop, My Back Pages, is situated in Balham and has seen me through my degree’s reading lists with heavily discounted and brimming with character second hand books.  I like to open a copy of Tess of the d’Urbervilles and read the pencilled scrawls ‘To Maggy, I am so sorry, Love Simon’ and think who was Maggy and why did Simon think that (spoiler alert) a book about the sexual assault and subsequent death of a young woman was an appropriate way of saying sorry. You just don’t get that thrill in Waterstones.

The lovely Irish man who runs my beloved book shop can no longer afford the rent.  Like so many other independent retailers, he has had to pack up and sell up.  Inevitably he will be replaced by a Foxtons or a cafe called Bumble Bees or something equally as nauseating.  My Irish man blames ‘Margaret Thatcher’s free markets catching up with us’.  The strength with which he feels this charge is starkly apparent as he made the statement with little sign of remorse for the fact that Mrs. Thatcher had passed away the day before.

Whatever one feels about Thatcher’s economic policies, there are a few others who need to be held to account for the plight of the independent book retailers.  Amazon does an amazing job of offering cheap books delivered straight to your door.  Kindles mean fewer people are buying books full stop.  Even high street chains are suffering – who remembers Borders?

Without these charming one off establishments, Britain is at risk of turning into one great barrel of homogeneity.  Every high street will consist of an estate agent, a chemist, a supermarket, a Costa/Starbucks/Nero, a Nandos and an arbitrary charity shop.  An area’s ‘artiness’ will be measured by how many of these arbitrary charity shops there are.  Gloucester Road and Stokes Croft are currently trying to fend off such influences, but if parts of London are anything to go by, such as Brixton and some of East London, they won’t last long.  In fact, as I write this, the Foxtons in Brixton is being graffitied by a disgruntled local.  I implore you not necessarily to graffiti, but to support your local shops before the world turns into one gigantic estate agent.

As a wise woman once told me (my mother) ‘If all the world were flat as sand, and all the sea were gravel, how blank and drab our maps would be, how sad would be to travel’.

Published in University of Bristol student newspaper The Epigram, May 2013

Kuoni targets families with new Neilson tie-up

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Kuoni is targeting the family market through a new partnership with Neilson Holidays as part of a drive to work with more companies.

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Mark Duguid, vice-president of commercial and product, said the announcement comes as the operator seeks to create customers for life, not just special occasions.

He added that the deal would mean Neilson’s full range of 14 Greek and Turkish beach club holidays will be sold in Kuoni shops and via its personal travel experts.

“Our core market has traditionally been couples, and a large share of our business is honeymooners who are looking for something really special,” Duguid said.

“The challenge we have is that we lose some of those customers when they have children and move into the family market, so we wanted to find a travel partner with great quality resort hotels geared to the family market which matches our profile.

“As our retail business grows there is a clear opportunity to work with carefully selected like-minded brands that complement and expands our own in-house product range.”

Neilson specialises in the family market with activity-based trips to keep children occupied. Holidays on offer include the Vounaki Beachclub in Paleros, Greece, which opens in May 2015 and offers windsurfing, mountain biking and children’s clubs.

Duguid said: “The clubs are all high quality and have a great reputation. The focus is more on activities and quality of tuition and less about room furnishings.”

Richard Bowden Doyle, chief executive of Neilson, said: “Neilson’s beach club holidays are all about having a go at whatever it is that takes your fancy, from stand-up paddle boarding and waterskiing to tennis and mountain biking.

“I know our ‘relax as hard as you like’ ethos will appeal to Kuoni customers.”

Neilson is one of several operators Kuoni has signed recent commercial deals with. Ski Independence trips are now on sale while Kuoni’s Stay and Cruise brand has seen it work with a number of cruise lines including Celebrity, Cunard and Azamara.