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  • Writer's pictureMadeleina Kay

The show must go on. Mustn’t it?

Yesterday (Wednesday) was a wild and slightly overwhelming day: A photoshoot at Central Saint Martins, Rishi Sunak announcing a general election, two bizarre half-an-hour conversations with total strangers (who did most of the talking) and winning an Arts Award, before rushing off to Luton airport for an early flight to Belfast. It was all very exciting but my physical health and nerves weren’t in the best state to cope with it all!

It started off with a train journey from Sheffield to London, after packing up my luggage (again) and leaving the kitties with a 48-hour food timer. The train was packed and I ended up in a window seat (which I hate because it usually triggers my motion sickness). I started coming down with a cold the day I got back from Romania (Monday), and I could feel it spreading to my chest (not great, when I have to perform at the Northern-Ireland Assembly on Friday!). The train journey was making me feel very nauseous and I had to give up on reading my book and just sit with my eyes closed – I can’t sleep on public transport (I’m too hyper alert) – so, I just recanted song lyrics to myself in my head – I guess I find the repetition comforting.

After the train arrived into Saint Pancras, I headed straight to Central Saint Martins where I sorted out my hair and make-up (it was raining outside, so it had become messed) before the photoshoot. I had brought my “SICK NOTE CULTURE” jacket and my “EAT THE RICH” antlers to be photographed (this was slightly problematic given that I was taking my half-sized Martin as cabin luggage, so only had my carry-on bag for my overnight stuff – I had to bring a third bag to fit the antlers in, but usually the airport staff turn a blind eye). The photographer seemed a bit grumpy and didn’t react when I showed him the jacket – which may have indicated that he didn’t agree with my political statement or that he didn’t care – either way he did a good job of photographing it. We did some “display shots” with the jacket laid on a table before I put it on and did some posing – I went for a stern expression and few with my hands on my hips.

When I had a photoshoot with a professional (BJP award winning) photographer, he told me to "stick my chin out" - I'm still not convinced if it's good advice but I did it anyway because I know nothing about modelling!

I wasn't sure if the colourful "pill" buttons worked or not, but I like them here, especially as they are mismatching.

I then swapped the jacket for my plain white (fake) leather jacket and changed my jewellery from the pill beads to some blue floral jewellery to match the flowery headband. He smiled when I brought out the antlers, so I felt more comfortable and I opted for a happier expression as the antlers are intended to be an uplifting item: A joyfully defiant expression of identity.

The photography booth had great lighting and I'm really happy that you can see the colour of my eyes properly (when the lightin gis dark they often appear brown) but they are actually a hazely-green. This is important to me because my Gran had green eyes (neither of my parents do), so it feels like a special connection to her - I also got a green tree frog tattoo on my foot after she died because she loved frogs.

I took the antlers off temporarily and I went to sit in the cafeteria as I needed to take a work call and catch up on some urgent tasks… Only I was interrupted by a rock-and-roller called Albie who had seen my blue/purple hair and guitar and decided he had to have a conversation with me. I use the word ‘conversation’ lightly because it mainly consisted of him rambling at me about his career as a musician, the fact that he has more guitars than he can count and the endless series of arts degrees he seems to have studied. Needless to say, I didn’t get any of the work done – and after half an hour, I made my excuses and ran off to join the work call.

I managed to get on top of my work 10 minutes before the Arts Award ceremony started, so, I put my antlers back on and headed to the lecture theatre. The event started with half an hour of refreshments and networking – I find these moments especially difficult when I don’t know anybody there. I find it impossibly hard to start conversations with strangers, fearing dismissal and ridicule (probably symptomatic of years of trolling and ostracisation from personal communities). So, I sat on my own for about 20 minutes, messaging people about Rishi Sunak’s unanticipated general election announcement – I am honestly not thrilled about the timing. I am already emotionally destroyed by the EU elections, and so burnt out – I desperately need a break. And now we’ve got another election coming immediately one month after. The cynic in me also thinks the timing was chosen to deliberately make it difficult for students to vote (as happened with the EU referendum, where they had returned home but were still registered to vote in their university constituency). I discussed with my videographer about whether we have time to film a UK-version of a music video for my voter mobilisation song, ‘It’s Time To Vote’ – probably, but it seems unlikely I will get that break which I need. I am actually going to Albania, to film an interview with one of my research participants at the end of June and will fly home on 4th July – election day – I am hoping the flight is not delayed, maybe it’s safer to get a postal vote?

Engrossed in these WhatsApp discussions I didn’t notice a friend of mine, and MA Performance: Society student at CSM approach me. I looked up and was so happy to see a friendly face I recognised. We had a brief catch up before the organisers of the event directed us into the lecture theatre for the start of the arts award. The ceremony was a cute event, which involved a lot of clapping, recognising the efforts of teaching staff and students who go “above and beyond” their expected duties. There were over 600 nominations for these awards, and I feel sorry for whoever had to shortlist the candidates! I knew that I was on the shortlist for ‘Student Rep of the year’ and my course tutor was shortlisted for ‘outstanding teaching’ – which we both won. It was a lovely moment, very humbling and made me appreciate ever more being part of the supportive community and priveliged to be studying such a brilliant course.

Due to my flight luggage constraints and the delicacy of the sculpture, I had to leave it with organisers to collect at a later date. I then dashed back to Saint Pancras to catch a train to Luton where I was staying overnight. I had taken off the antlers for the train journey, but I was still disturbed by the passenger who sat opposite me who was drawn to my “blue” aesthetic – systematically commenting on every aspect of my outfit, piercings, tattoos, etc. (I would have found it creepy if she wasn’t a young woman). I think she may have been neurodivergent as she also delivered a long monologue about the favourite toys of her neighbour’s dog ‘Major’, which was sweet but a bit odd. She said that my aesthetic was funky and bold, but also delicate and gentle – which I think about summed it up. I was trying to be a little bit punk (with the fishnet tights, coloured hair, etc.) but I don’t think I am hardcore enough to be a proper punk. Punk laced with fragility and gentleness.

After 25 minutes of this intense conversation (again, the word conversation used loosely since I was not doing much talking), I got off at Luton and found my hotel. I didn’t get much sleep as I was quite wired after the day’s excitement and I woke at 4am as it was getting light. Since the airport was in walking distance (less than 1 hour) and I didn’t have a lot of luggage, I got up and headed to the airport earlier than necessary. I’ve decided I like Luton airport a lot more than Stansted, and Easy Jet is a lot nicer than Ryan Air, not least because of their cabin luggage policy regarding the guitar. The flight departed late after a drunk man had to be removed (it was 8am FFS!) and it nearly finished me off. I got a severe pressure headache during the descent into Belfast, and when I got off the plane everything was spinning and felt my legs wobble as I was walking through the airport. I found somewhere to sit down for 15 minutes before braving the bus journey into the centre – I am not really in a fit state to travel and perform at this point… Yet the show must go on. Mustn’t it?


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