DMU students undress for charity calendar

The December entry (Photo: Kirsty Blackwell Photography)

By Cristina Olaru

Members of the Equestrian Society at De Montfort University have undressed for an annual charity calendar.

The Naked Charity Calendar, which has been in the running for five years, raises money to support the Riding for the Disabled Association.

The charity, which has Princess Anne as its President, helps people with disabilities from all over the UK. DMU students join the local branch each week to give a hand with the horse and pony therapies.

Henry Johnson (Picture: Cristina Olaru)

Calendar organiser, media student Henry Johnson, said: “Our society members go down there and help out with the horses and help out with the disabled people riding the horses. I think is great, sport is very therapeutic for anybody with disabilities, especially horse riding because the horse is an animal who gives back unconditional love.”

Despite the controversial approach of the calendar – a bit raunchy, he said – Henry proudly pointed out that they were thrilled with the sales so far.

The equestrian team created the calendar with the initial thought that it would be eye-catching and in this way, they would raise money more easily and also, because it genuinely fits with their society.

He said: “If we just did a normal calendar with few horses, then will be nothing special about it. We’ve done it black and white, with black underwear, we made it classy, so is not done in a distasteful manner, but is still the naked aspect which is a reason for people to buy it.”

The courage of the students attracted the attention of the Leicester Mercury, which published the Equestrian team’s decision to strip every year for the RDA.

Henry urged other students to consider charity work, saying that the best way to do it is by picking a charity that is close to you, that you can relate to, because it will make you work harder and motivate you more.

1 january

The January entry (Photo: Kirsty Blackwell Photography)

For more information about how to buy a calendar, contact the society via its Twitter account @DMUEquestrian or  e-mail

Has Instagram changed the way we eat?

Saints of Mokha has a large Instagram following.

By Conor de Smith

Apicius, the first-century Roman gourmand and author, is credited with the aphorism: “The first taste is always with the eyes.”

In fact, some of the largest increases in cerebral blood flow occur when a hungry brain is exposed to images of desirable foods. This might go some way in explaining why the phenomenon of ‘foodporn’ has changed the world’s eating habits over the last decade.  

The British public are sharing images of food more than ever before with a huge amount of this food-centric media revolving around the photography uploaded on social media platforms such as Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. More than 130,000 pictures of food are shared on Instagram every day in the UK and one-in-five Britons have admit to sharing photos online once a month.

Ever since its launch in 2010, food has been a great provider of content on Instagram. The immensely popular social media site, which boasts 600 million monthly active users, specialises in photosharing and around 208 million posts have been tagged on the app with the “food” hashtag since it was founded.

The introduction of mobile phones with in-built cameras have made sharing pictures of our food easier than ever. Taking a photo of an aesthetically appealing ‘freakshake’ or ‘raindrop cake’ has become customary when dining out, but is this changing the way the public consume food?

Breakfast, for example, has shifted from unphotogenic cereal or jam on toast to the bright hues of avocado toast – there are nearly 750,000 #avocadotoast hashtagged photos on Instagram –  and trendy smoothie bowls. Some meals are now social media magnets and some cafes or restaurants aim to hone on this ‘free advertising’.

In Leicester, there are dozens of independent establishments that utilise social media in order to draw in customers. Some, such as the Toast Inn, have become self aware and have called a fruity Prosecco drink infused with candyfloss ‘I want that drink I saw on Instagram’. Sex sells and ‘food porn’ is no different. In 2005, for example, M&S’ sales skyrocketed by 3,500% when the supermarket launched an advert showing a chocolate pudding with an extravagant melting centre.

The younger generation are the main culprits with 18 to 24-year-olds five times more likely to share photos of their food online than the over 55s. According to research by Zizzi, 18-35-year-olds spend five whole days a year browsing food images on Instagram, and 30 per cent would avoid a restaurant if their Instagram presence was weak.

This consumer behaviour is literally changing the way some restaurants, cafes and eateries approach their business. Omar Sacranie, owner of a Leicester coffee shop called Saints of Mokha, believes he runs his store differently because of social media.

“A lot of the launches we do are on Instagram,” says the 20-year-old. “When I look at people of an older age and how they construct a business, it is very different to how I do things. They will launch products in-store, everything is in-store for them, while I like to launch things online. I find it more efficient and easier to do things online.”

The store opened in the summer of 2016 and has proven to be a huge hit on Instagram. In March 2018, there were 50 geotagged posts of the store or its products. The majority are aerial views of wonderfully designed coffees and cakes, while others focus on the wooden interior which is made entirely of recycled pallets from factories.

Mr Sacranie is very aware of the power of photographs. Above the counter, there are dozens of polaroids of customers that staff have found eccentric or interesting with messages underneath. These are rarely placed on Instagram but they add a personal touch to the cafe. “I would cover the whole shop with these pictures,” he says but was adamant that he has never sold a product due to its ‘Instagramability’.

“I don’t think people put photos first. I have considered making something because it looks good on Instagram, but it is not the main crux of the decision. I’ve not thought ‘this is picturesque, I’m going to sell it’ if it doesn’t taste good, if it’s not efficient, if it’s not popular, if it’s not a familiar taste – there’s a lot more that goes into a dish for me.”

Leicester Food posts photos of establishments such as Cake Club & Doughnotts.

Some are very aware of this amplified word of mouth and restaurants such as Media Noche in San Francisco designed their restaurant to be perfect for Instagram, from the floor pattern to the lighting. Some chefs have labelled this strategy, putting this much focus on style, dangerous. It is a risk many are taking due to the impact these social influencers harbour.

In Leicestershire, the Instagram account ‘LeicesterFood’ is unrivaled when it comes to followers and influence. Going public in 2016, the account now has near 7,000 followers by offering high-definition photographs of the city’s most popular food trends. Its hashtag, which users can place below their photos to get featured, has been used over 10,000.

Pia Chauhan, 26, runs the account as a hobby and makes no financial gains from the account, but does get invited to the opening of some restaurants in return for some coveted online exposure. Instagram is difficult the monetise for influencers without seeking brand deals so why has it proven so popular?

“It is very easy to use,” said Miss Chauhan. “It’s very visual and attractive. Also, people seem to be more active on Instagram compared to other social media – especially the younger generation. For me it’s a hobby, I enjoy it and I can pass time. I also get invited to new restaurant openings and food events to eat for free.”

It appears traditional newspaper and magazine restaurant reviews are losing their influence over millennials in favour of online round-ups, social networks and influencers. One anonymous publicist, however, says influencers can become a burden for top establishments. They say these social media stars have demanded not only the complimentary meals, plus-one’s, and a free buffet of every dish on a restaurant’s menu. The publicist added, “I get emails: ‘I have 114.3K followers. Here’s where I’d like to go.’ Miss Chauhan believes that befriending influencers can be vital to the success of local businesses.

“It’s free advertising for them and they can connect with other local businesses,” she says. They can showcase their food and target them to the Leicester population very easily and with minimal effort.”

The fear for long-serving food creators is that ‘minimal effort’ might start to creep into the food industry due to Instagram but, for now, ‘Instagrammable’ dishes are here to stay in a big way.

Graduate Roberto launches career as international photo-journalist

Roberto Palomo

Former DMU international student Roberto Palomo is launching a career as a freelance photojournalist.

“I know it’s going to be a tough journey, however, there is nothing as beautiful as fighting for your dreams,” says Roberto.

Journalism and Media and Communication graduate Roberto will spend at least until the end of the year in Central America looking for newsworthy stories and documenting life there with his camera. His aim is to photograph and write about the political and social situation in countries such as Cuba, Haiti, Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.

“Cuba is experiencing historical changes; Haiti is the poorest American country and the whole region suffered the consequences of a hurricane last summer. There are interesting stories there to photograph and write about,” he said.

Roberto, who graduated from DMU in 2016, flies to Cuba this week.

He spent the last year in Barcelona, in his native Spain, where he decided to focus on his photography. He attended various workshops, talked with journalists and collaborated with charities defending refugees’ rights.

His portfolio includes many striking images taken in the streets of the city.

This image captures life on the streets of Barcelona


He believes the best way to get attention from editors is to raise a profile and the internet and social media is a tremendous tool to expose and give visibility to his work. Thanks to other colleges and his own research, Roberto has found a strategy for his ambitions.

“My strategy is to combine time collecting stories with time circulating it. I have designed my own website, created social media networks, made a list of potential publications and agencies to target, researched photograph libraries and competitions and, most importantly, made contacts within all areas of journalism and life.”

A Barcelona street scene

He has saved money, packed his bags, got his laptop and camera ready, and aims to make his own way in the industry.

He adds a message for those looking forward to becoming journalists: “Do not get too obsessive about earning money, it will distract you from your professional purpose. Think that recognition will arrive at some point, if you put your effort into a project.”

Roberto’s work can be followed at and on his social media profile on instagram/bobypigeon or

He says he is always happy for people to contact him.


A piece of tranquillity amongst the city centre



Situated in the heart of bustling Prague 2, the Charles University Botanical Gardens are a sacred spot of tranquillity. Originally opened in 1898, the gardens boast some 3,000 plant species in the outdoor exhibits alone. Each plant has been transferred to the garden from their original sites around Central Europe, with each representing a unique collection of genetic resources.

The gardens are predominately separated into separate sections according to their species with areas dedicated to plants such as cacti originating from South America. The garden is not only home to some of the most beautiful flowers and plants in Europe but it also houses so called ‘useful plants’ such as tomato, celery and artichoke plants along with aromatic plants such as peppermint and lavender.

Walking through the gardens, it’s hard to hear any of the traffic passing through the busy streets surrounding the gardens. With plenty of benches dotted around the garden and a dedicated gazebo, there are plenty of spots to sit back and take in the beautiful scenery, or to just take a break from city life.

It’s clear to see that the garden is forever developing and expanding with space dedicated to stock plants awaiting their turn to be featured in the public display areas. Whilst these areas are not open to the public, many of them are visible from the many walkways and paths located around the gardens.

The garden is set out in a somewhat terraced design, with different levels accessible by the many pathways and steps throughout the space. With views changing from level to level, the most spectacular views are clear from the top terrace which overlooks the entire garden and gives a glimpse of the many greenhouses and Faculty of Science buildings located on the site.

Alongside the extensive gardens there are also a group of large greenhouses, which are home to a wide variety of plants and flowers. The greenhouses are divided into three main sections, with one dedicated to Tropical plants, one for Subtropical plants and one dedicated to plant cultivation and technical purposes.

The tropical greenhouse is dedicated to some of the most beautiful plants in the world including the much-loved waterlily. Perhaps the most special of them all is the Santa Cruz water lily, known for its large round thorny plate-shape leaves, the flower blooms for just two nights. Amongst all of the tropical flowers, including the delicate orchid species, are a small selection of tropical fish species which can be viewed by the public.

The subtropical greenhouse has been split into two different atmospheres, a dry and a humid atmosphere. Within the humid atmosphere there are a large selection of Mediterranean and Australian plants, which during the summer months are located either outside of the greenhouses or in the outdoor container garden near the main entrance. This area of the greenhouse is home to some of the most interesting and unique plants the gardens have to offer.

Finally the dry subtropical greenhouse, home to an impressive range of cacti and dry climate plants. The atmosphere in this greenhouse is maintained to ensure that tenants are in the optimum condition at all times. This area is the part of a large permanent exhibition which is constantly replenished.

The gardens and their greenhouses are a piece of tranquillity amounts the hustle and bustle of the capital city. Situated just a quick tram ride from the Old Town Square, the gardens are easily accessible and well worth the visit. Whether you are interested in plants and flowers from around the world or are just looking for a bit of peace and quiet, there is something for everyone.