Uncle: First series good – second series better?


By Rhea Turner

Sex, drugs and Witty one-liners form the basis of this new BBC Three comedy.

Uncle shows what happens when maturity levels meet in the middle as Andy, an irresponsible musician, takes care (or attempts to take care) of his straight faced, wheat intolerant nephew Errol.

The episode carries themes of classic role reversal, with childish Andy burping on his voicemail and 12-year-old Errol indulging in blackmail.

There is slapstick humour in abundance as scenes depict a car accident involving a van which displays the words ‘Whack-it’ and a scene where Andy is contemplating suicide, with a method that includes a bath, stereo, scissors and a piece of string.

In scenes reminiscent of a less tame ‘About a Boy’ Andy also poses as Errol’s father to win back his ex-girlfriend.

There are a few touching moments which are ultimately, overshadowed by the scenery, which include a gay strip club called C-O-X and an embarrassing musical number which sees Andy dancing around with half naked men serenading his ex girlfriend.

Uncle sees Nick Helm make his acting debut in the role of main character Andy. As his first gig as an actor, Helm is strong in his execution but the lack of emotion in the piece does not allow for him to display versatility. Despite this, Helm’s unlikely alliance with his nephew, is strengthened by the performance of Elliot Speller-Gillott, who steals the show as quirky Errol. In only his fourth on screen appearance, Speller-Gillott shines with his no-nonsense attitude and awkward charisma.

The sit-com which is written and directed by Oliver Refson, famed for his comedic shorts ‘The Hardest Part (2010) and Wrigley (2004) lacks warmth but makes up for it with its witty one liners.

Adult humour runs consistently through the programme, with an equal measure of bad language and funny moments. If you are a fan of simple laddish humour you won’t be disappointed.

  • This review was written to coincide with the second series of Uncle, now available on BBC iplayer.

The rise of the cyber bully

By Rhea Turner

When most people think of the word crime, a mugging or a murder springs to mind. But there is a new crime on the rise and it is tearing lives apart.

Cyber Bullying is the new crime on the block. Statistics show that a shocking half of adolescents and teenagers have been bullied online, with the same percentage having engaged in cyberbullying and more than 1 in 3 young people has experienced threats from cyberbullies.

Cyber bullying is invading people’s technology and their homes. And the impact it is having is devastating. Like any form of bullying, victims can be left with low self-esteem, confidence issues and isolate themselves. Unfortunately this is not the worst of it.

In October 2006, Megan Meier an American teenager was found hanging three weeks before her 14th birthday. An investigation into her death found that her suicide was attributed to cyber bullying through social network Myspace.

Codie Wileman, 19, is a student from Church Gresley who knows only too well how cyber bullying can damage people’s lives. She was cyber bullied by someone she knew for over a year on social media platforms including ask fm and facebook. During this time Codie was labelled ‘weird and fat’ as well as an ‘attention seeking ugly sl*t’ and told to ‘slit her throat as it would be better for everyone if she was dead.

She said: “Cyber bullying is emotionally destroying. It was the worst year of my life. I felt unwanted and often went to bed hoping that I wouldn’t wake up in the morning. Because its on the internet it is public and I constantly felt like I was being laughed at. I didn’t feel like I had the freedom to wear what I wanted or be myself.

It was so mentally draining. Cyber bullies don’t think about the scars, the pain and the consequences. The problem is they probably don’t even realise what they are doing and maybe they would think twice if they knew that cyber bullying is a criminal offence.”

Codie advises victims of cyber bullying to report it and hopes that by doing so they will raise awareness of the dangers of cyber bullying and the seriousness of the crime. She said:           “Tell someone before it gets too late, don’t allow some low-life on the computer to define who you are.”

Codie also has a message for the cyber bullies. She urges them to think before they act, she wants them to know that they are destroying lives.’

Emma Riordan, 26, is a community manager from Mackworth, Derby. She monitors social media activity in the video games industry and has witnessed vile acts of cyber bullying which has resulted in trauma for people she knows.

She witnesses cyber bullying on a daily basis in her job but was shocked when a colleague of hers was abused personally on twitter.

She said: “She was the victim of abuse on a scale I’d not seen before. They were insisting she was a fraud and impersonating someone else, calling her ugly, telling her she should kill herself before someone else killed her to do the world a favour. It was horrible. From the nature of the tweeting, the person behind the abuse was clearly suffering with some sort of mental illness or issues but it was still disturbing to see.”

The experience opened Emma’s eyes to the strength of social media platforms and the anonymity they provide for bullies. She said: “These cyberbullies feel that by masking their identity they can get away with appalling behaviour.

“Those who hide their identity perhaps feel they can say things online that they couldn’t bring themselves to say in real life. And because the abuse is carried out privately rather than in public with witnesses, that the victim is less likely to speak out.”

Cyber bullying can have many long -term effects and has the ability to make victims feel very alone.

Emma said: “The abuse goes directly to the personal devices with which victims rely on in their everyday lives, it violates them. And can go unseen by the victim’s relatives.”

But what happens when the tables are turned on these bullies?

Brenda Leyland, 63, committed suicide after being exposed as a troll who targeted the family of missing girl Madeline McCann. She tweeted about Kate and Gerry McCann 4,220 times in a year accusing them of neglect and playing in a role in their daughter’s disappearance. Shortly after being confronted by a news crew on her tweets, Mrs Leyland took her own life.

Such tweets, messages and threats are prominent in todays technologically based culture, and increasingly in gaming, but Cyberbullying is not a game. It’s a crime.

If you are the victim of cyber bullying and would like some support contact: http://www.cybersmile.org/helpline

Case Study

A 24-year-old English woman, Michelle Chapman, was recently sentenced to 20 months in prison after bullying herself on her own Facebook page. She created multiple fake accounts and posted crude, hostile remarks on her personal Facebook page, with the purpose of framing her mother and stepfather.

Chapman set up multiple profiles in the names of her family members, and sent herself many abusive messages over the course of a year, many of which, were of a “very unpleasant sexual nature.”

As strange as this case is, it’s had real and harmful effects. The marriage between her father and stepmother deteriorated in the wake of the allegations, and several other relatives of Chapman’s had their lives disrupted by police.

“People have suffered a great deal of distress as a result of your wicked behavior,” the ruling judge in the case said.

My Relationship with: Depression

By Rhea Turner

As I sit across from Anna I can see the fear etched on her face. She fumbles with her hands and looks shiftily around the room. She is about to address one of society’s biggest taboos as she tells us about her difficult relationship with Depression. This is Anna’s story…

“Growing up everything was normal. I had a family and friends and I had dreams and aspirations like everyone else. I would never in a million years have predicted the path that my life was going to take.”

Anna was just 17 when she met and fell in love with Anthony Steel.

“He was 24 and the cheekiest most caring man. I was head over heels.” Their relationship developed quickly and it wasn’t long before Anthony was asking for Anna’s hand in marriage. “Everything was perfect, and when we found out I was expecting we were over the moon. I wasn’t scared for one minute.”

The pair were driving to Anna’s first ante-natal scan when tragedy struck. The couple, alongside Anna’s mother were involved in a serious collision with a lorry. The crash claimed Anthony’s life and left Anna and her mother critically ill.

Anna’s life was turned upside down. “I had lost the love of my life and my world was just turned on its head. I was in the hospital for a really long time and when I got out everything was different.”

After being discharged from the hospital Anna was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and post-natal depression. She says: “I just couldn’t cope. I was a mess and I struggled to look after myself and care for my daughter.”

Anna knew something wasn’t right but tried to hide it. “I tried to act normal, it wasn’t until I had a huge panic attack in a supermarket I admitted to myself that I needed help.”

Her depression spiralled when Anna was forced to nurse her dying mother, watching as her health deteriorated.

Anna reacted by walking into violent relationships and financial difficulties.

“My life as I knew it was gone and I couldn’t cope with the past. I didn’t realise it at the time but I was allowing myself to be punished. I blamed myself for Tony’s death and I didn’t believe that I deserved to be happy.”

“That’s when the anxiety started to get the better of me. It became bigger and bigger and It began to take over my life. I stopped going out of the house. My relationships suffered and I lost a big part of myself. I gave up on me.”

“I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t look after myself. I couldn’t be around people. I became claustrophobic in the most open of spaces. The smallest detail like picking up my children from school would trigger a panic attack.”

As Anna’s anxiety and panic attacks developed she was diagnosed with Agoraphobia, a condition which is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of open or public places. She was prescribed with a number of anti-depressants including amitriptyline and citalopram, and beta blockers to help with her anxiety.

She says, “There is no way to explain a panic attack. It was the scariest feeling, I felt like I couldn’t breathe, like people were closing in on me and I was going to die.” Her depression and anxiety was so bad that she became confined to her home. “I literally spent the last twenty years of my life trapped in the same four walls.”

It was when Anna hit ‘rock bottom’ that she decided to take control of the disease.

“I became paranoid. There were moments when I felt like I needed a way out. For me the worst time was when I thought I could hear voices coming from the television. They were speaking directly to me. They were telling me to hurt myself. I decided then that I couldn’t go on like that. I had wasted half of my life and I was ashamed of the person I had become.”

For the past year, Anna has been attending counselling sessions and has slowly been working up the courage to leave the house. Two weeks ago she went to her city centre for the first time in 16 years. “I reached a point where I had to step up. I wanted to be better, for myself and for my kids.”

Anna thinks it is important to share her experiences with depression with others. “People can be quite ignorant. There is such a stigma attached to depression and mental illness. I think there is a lack of understanding, education and awareness around the subject. When I was really ill, people said awful things to me. They told me that I was lazy and just using my illness as an excuse but no one would choose to have depression.”

High Profile cases such as the suicides of actor Robin Williams and footballer Gary Speed have highlighted the extent to which people hide and suffer in silence and Anna has urged people who feel low and depressed, to seek help.

“If you cannot talk to a friend talk to a stranger. Don’t be afraid, there is help available and by suffering in silence you let depression take hold of you and control your life.”

Although there is a long road left ahead Anna knows ‘there will be good days and bad days’ but she is ‘determined to not be a victim of depression anymore.’

Thankfully for Anna, today is a good day and she is hopeful that there are plenty more left to come.

For more information, visit: http://www.supportline.org.uk/problems/depression.php

Or call: 0845 790 9090

 Did you know…?

  • Women are 70% more likely than men to experience depression in their lifetime.

  • Men and women experience depression differently—while women tend to experience sadness and guilt, men often feel restless or angry and are more likely to turn to alcohol and drugs to cope.

  • Only 50% of people actively seek conventional treatment for depression, although a majority of people do find some relief through treatment.

  • Depression causes unnecessary suffering and is a risk factor for suicide.

  • Women and adults between the ages of 45 and 64 are most likely to meet the criteria for major depression; however, over 3% of youth ages 13-18 have also experienced a debilitating depressive episode.

  •  All statistics sourced from: http://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/conditions/anxiety-depression

Is immigration a dirty word?

by Rhea Turner

Immigration is the word on everybody’s lips as politicians step up once again for the General Election. Promises to cap immigration and save the country dominate the headlines, but is addressing the issue of immigration negative or necessary?

Rhea Turner took to the streets of Leicester to speak to the people that matter, the voters, to find out their thoughts on immigration.

Joanne Jordan, 25, is a child care worker from Leicester. She believes that immigration is not problematic but beneficial to Britain, she blames politicians and the media for stigmas surrounding immigrants and thinks that the public should be more educated on the topic instead of pointing fingers of blame.

She said: “I don’t think that immigration is a problem in this country and I don’t think that putting a cap on immigration is a good idea, it will probably cause more issues and make migrants more of a target for people’s ignorance.”

She believes that migrants are represented negatively by the media and are painted as people who steal jobs, scrounge off the welfare system, and cause trouble.

She said: “I think Immigration policies are used to enrage the working class in order to make them feel hard done to, and give them someone to blame. Most people form their opinions on immigration based on what they see in the news, which tends to be negative and exaggerated. But statistics show that immigration is beneficial to the country, in moderation.”

Joanne believes that by addressing the topic, politicians create a smoke screen that manipulates voters. She said: “They (politicians) incite and encourage anger in the working class so that they have someone to blame for the impact of their own policies. It is actually the politicians who cut public spending and do not increase the working wage to the living wage but it is easier for people to believe and blame ‘foreigners’ for taking jobs and claiming benefits. The general public are not well informed on the matter and if they were they would realise that immigration actually generates more income in this country than it costs.”

Joanne praises cities like Leicester for their multicultural ethic insisting that they are a credit to Britain. “I think Leicester offers culture, understanding and empathy. It also allows people to teach the younger generation that we are all people and we are all the same, unfortunately not everybody has that attitude.”

“Immigration has proven to benefit the country in many ways. It brings in various skill sets to the country and increases the diversity of our communities. It allows us to learn about and appreciate other cultures whilst expanding and improving our own.”

Pedro Rosa, 29, moved to Leicester from Portugal five years ago. He currently works as a barman whilst studying for an accounting degree. He believes that Immigration is a social issue perpetuated by negative representations from the media and political parties and would consider a cap on immigration to be advantageous from a social perspective, but detrimental economically.

He said, “Research shows that immigration has minimal effects on issues such as unemployment, wages, health and social services. In 2011 only 7% of migrants claimed benefits, in comparison to the 17% of British nationals that claimed benefits during the same period. However when migration increased 35% in 2005, media coverage increased over 300%, showing the disparity of the representation of fact vs social concern.”

Pedro also believes that politicians use immigration as a strategy to detract from the real issues.

“In times of depression people look for something to blame, and the poor people that come to the UK to escape poverty, hunger and persecution, are, by consensus of opinion of the majority of the British people, in fact to blame for a global recession affecting everyone.

The politician’s agenda is to win votes by siding with public opinion, and not to educate people about the facts of immigration. It is easy to maintain the eye of the public on such issue, whilst swiftly decreasing taxes for the richer and cutting benefits for the poorer. It’s a “magic trick”, look over here, don’t pay attention to what is happening over there.”

Pedro insists that the topic needs to be addressed as an educational process rather than an issue which needs to be resolved. He said: “Politicians treat it as an issue when they know that it’s not the size that they depict it to be. There are more positive aspects to immigration than negatives, but the positives are rarely spoken of.”

Despite recently admitting that Immigration is out of control, Prime Minister David Cameron insists that Immigration is critical to Britain’s success. Speaking to the Daily Express he said: “I’m proud that this is a country where people can arrive with nothing and make something of their lives through sheer hard work, and enabling some of the brightest from around the world to come here is critical to our economy. If we simply closed the door to immigration, it would have a damaging impact on British jobs and livelihoods.”

Recent studies found that Leicester’s migrant population has increased by 71.7 % from 64,560 to 110,843 in 10 years. Despite the challenges immigration brings, Leicester is a city that pays homage to different walks of life and welcomes people from all over the world.

Dr Carlos Vargas-Silva,Senior Researcher of the Census project, told the Leicester Mercury: “Leicester is interesting in many ways. We expected it to be an important destination for immigrants to the country, but what we found is it is also much more diverse than most other areas. People come to Leicester from all over the world.”

There may be implications due to the amount of migrants coming into the country but without them the country would crumble.

Maybe it is time that the politicians acknowledge how migrants make Great Britain great…but for now the future is in the voters’ hands.