Mental health issues on the rise in Leicester hospital staff

By Courtney Stevens

The Number of NHS staff in Leicester hospitals who have reported absent due to depression and anxiety has increased since the start of the pandemic. 

Over the pandemic NHS staff have been under a lot of pressure to keep everyone safe and healthy which has led to an increase in depression, anxiety, burnout and other mental health issues. 

Becca McDonald, a third-year nursing student at De Montfort University, said her mental health has suffered during the pandemic: 

“I’ve found my social anxiety is a lot higher now and I’m finding it difficult to adapt back to normal.’ 

“I’ve noticed stress levels increasing drastically since the pandemic with lots of healthcare staff having to take time off due to their mental health or stress.”  

Figures show that between September 2018 and October 2019 there were 1,320 members of staff who reported absent due to mental health issues compared to 1,768 members of staff who reported absent between September 2020 and October 2021. 

Miss McDonald has noticed the impact the pandemic has had on NHS staff: 

“I try to avoid taking days off and I push myself to be productive, saying that, I have had to take one or two days off because of being completely exhausted and I know that I can’t practice safely if I’m not mentally equipped.’ 

“Lots of staff have left their jobs, either because of long covid making them too ill to work in healthcare anymore, or because of the issues that went on during the pandemic causing people to dislike their job and finding it better to leave.”  

Figures also show that there is a difference in the number of men reporting absent compared to the number of women.  

Between September 2018 and October 2019, there were 1,169 women and 151 men who reported absent compared to 1,549 women and 219 men who reported absent between September 2020 and October 2021. 

During the pandemic staff were offered extra support due to the rise of depression and anxiety that they were experiencing.  

40 well-being hubs that were opened to give all health and social care staff access to psychologists. 

Miss McDonald said there is support available to her through the university: 

“The well-being team are incredible, offering six-week blocks of counselling when required.  

“I am also aware of NHS staff being signposted to classes such as meditation or yoga to help those that may benefit from them.”  

TV Priest live at Firebug, Leicester: a raw, orchestral post-punk trip

Review by Shaikha Rahimi

Gone are the days where rock gigs are only about hair whipping and top-of-the-lungs screaming. From chest patting to the lyrics to swinging the microphone stand across the stage, Charlie Drinkwater draws a line between the audience and the band through emotion. And, above all, by being quintessentially TV Priest.

TV Priest’s debut album showcased who they are as a band as well as their versatility, and their second album hammered down their sound. Uppers was an unapologetic political statement and the predeceasing album seems to have traces of that, too. The earsplitting guitars and drums combined with Drinkwater’s vulnerable and honest lyricism created juxtaposition like no other.

Drinkwater, whose artistry is not limited to music, was profoundly immersed in the lyricism throughout the show. He did not stop at satisfying the audience’s ears; he brought the visuals into it. His stage presence is theatrical in a sense, and he almost innately feels the urge to act out his lyrics. “Life only comes in flashes of greatness,” he exclaimed, with his hands over his head. 

TV Priest on stage at Firebug. Image by Shaikha Rahimi.

One Easy Thing, one of TV Priest’s most known tracks, had to make it to the setlist, and the band’s ability to immerse the audience into the lyricism shone through once again as Drinkwater said: “And when you used to laugh, rooms used to open for you .. like a mother weeping.” 

He does it once again as he repeatedly patted his chest while building up the crescendo: “I need to sleep, so very, very deeply. But I am on the call, and I am waiting.” This moment was the highlight of the night. TV Priest put on a show that is well-rounded and strikes a balance between theatrical elements and rock music. I would not have been surprised to see curtains closing the show. 

With the size of Firebug’s venue in mind, it already felt like an intimate gig. But Drinkwater took the artist-fan interaction up a notch by sitting at the edge of the stage during Limehouse Cut, one of the many profound moments during the show. Contrary to the studio version of the track where Drinkwater’s vocals are low-pitched and sonorous, he howled and quavered: “Won’t you follow, follow me?” into the crowd without a microphone. Drinkwater is certainly au fait with sustaining fan interactions. “You can find us around our merch stall after the show selling T-shirts to pay for petrol,” he said mid-show. It seems transparency is not limited to his lyricism.

For the audience, this is a rollercoaster with consistent highs and no lows. It encapsulates meaningful lyricism, with zestful stage presence, and timeless sound. Drinkwater’s commitment to the vulnerability of his lyricism carried the audience through a plethora of emotions. He was clearly submerged in the guitar, bass, and drums. You could just see it in his face, and you cannot help but surrender to the intensity of their marvellous crescendos. Nothing held TV Priest back. This show was incised with energy, sensational vocals, and unparalleled stage presence.

The support act were London-based alternative-rock band Modern Woman. Their music is hard to label and is mysterious in its intent: post-folk-meets-art-rock. The layered instrumental excellence of the violin – yes, a violin – and the electric guitar with the rhythmic cymbals created a goosebump-inducing sound.

But it was TV Priest’s night: a show that felt like a raw, orchestral post-punk trip that gave the audience a thrilling adventure that was all about screeching guitars, pounding drums, and authenticity.

TV Priest’s current European tour takes in France, Belgium and Switzerland and concludes in Köln, Germany on Friday, November 25. Buy tickets at https://www.tvpriest.com.

TV Priest to play Leicester show

By Shaikha Rahimi

The post-punk band will play in Leicester’s Firebug at 8pm tonight.

London-based rock band TV Priest will play Leicester’s Firebug Bar tonight. The post-punk band are touring in support of their second studio album My Other People.

TV Priest are best known for being signed by Sub Pop Records, a Seattle-based record label that achieved fame for signing central players in the grunge movement such as Nirvana, Mudhoney, and Soundgarden.

Frontman Drinkwater said the band enjoys travelling to refine the sense of community while playing shows for their fans. “We’re lucky to be out doing all of this and meeting our people. It’s the reason you get in a band, really,” he said.

“We have been all over Europe so far – and have been to Amsterdam for the first time, which is amazing. We just came back from the US and Canada in August, so we’ve been busy. It’s been a busy last couple of months.”

The band premiered One Easy Thing on February 15 as the lead single for their second studio album.

“The suit of armour [in the music video of One Easy Thing] is metaphorical in lots of ways in terms of how I interpret music and how music is so rooted in emotion.

“I always strive for an element of honesty in our performances. I like to bring a range of emotions. When you go to a show, you go through so many different feelings – one minute being more combative and angry, the next minute tender, and then maybe funny. I try to be as open and honest as possible in the way I am on stage by letting the emotion of the song be the conduit,” said Drinkwater.

This UK and Europe tour is the band’s second tour after they have toured their debut album Uppers.

“The first time we toured we were very keen to shake out and shake off a lot of the frustration we’ve had from being separated for two years. So, the nature of that tour was quite intense, punky, visceral, and loud. It’s not to say that we moved away from all that, but this album has got a few more tones by the nature of it. We’re very keen on showing that and playing with a bit of light and dark.

“We play loud music most of the time, but this time I want to show it’s not just who we are as artists. We’re capable of showing emotions other than anger,” said Drinkwater.

And, he added: “[On this tour] I’ve allowed myself to be more of a singer in lots of ways and to have moments where I draw melody. It’s really strange because sometimes when you listen to a song you sort of disassociate a bit, and for me, that’s really special. Even for the rest of the band, we try to play around with the technicalities of a song to expand the kind of sound we’re producing. The boys invest a lot of time learning about different sounds to create something that feels more considered than just back-to-back noise.”

“We play loud music most of the time, but this time I want to show it’s not just who we are as artists. We’re capable of showing emotions other than anger.”

The band kicked off their tour in Diksmuide, Belgium on October 23 and will continue touring the UK and other European cities before finishing in Cologne, Germany on November 25.

Doors will open at 7pm and the show will start at 8pm at Firebug Bar. Tickets are priced at a face value of £9.

Tickets are available for purchase at https://www.seetickets.com/event/tv-priest/firebug/2312962.

The band will play 13 European shows and 12 UK shows to include Leicester.

Meet Joe Black: star of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK plays Leicester

On the road: Joe Black’s Club Cataclysm tours the UK and Ireland with 18 destinations to include Leicester.

By Shaikha Rahimi

Brighton-based drag artist Joe Black has embarked on his Club Cataclysm UK and Ireland tour, with a show at Leicester’s Y Theatre tonight.

With ticket prices starting at £22.50, the dark and decadent one-man show is set to be a sarcastic take on the current state of the world. 

The tour started in Dublin on Wednesday, October 26. The drag artist will tour the UK and Ireland before finishing in Brighton on Sunday, November 20.

The dark cabaret drag artist and musician is best known for competing on the second series of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK. Black has expressed his love for music is one of the main reasons he is pursuing his career. 

The Brighton-based drag artist regularly performs in his hometown, specifically in festivals such as the annual Brighton Fringe festival.

Club Cataclysm follows Black’s successful UK tour Decopunk which was held in the spring of 2022.

“Club Cataclysm is very much a hark back to my roots as purely a dark cabaret musician. It’s nice to revisit that with a more deep well of experience and to focus on bringing that back to life.

“It’s very unapologetically ‘Joe Black’, which I think for an audience that came to me purely through Drag Race UK is going to be interesting! It’s pretty far removed from the usual post-show content done by people,” said Black. 

He has described Club Cataclysm as ‘less pop princess, more punk cabaret.’

Black said he comes up with the title of his tours through alliteration. “Usually I’ll take words I love and see what other words can allude to the same thing,” he said.

“Decopunk came from steampunk. Less goggles and airships, more dark glamour perhaps .. ?

“Club Cataclysm almost felt like a speakeasy for me. Part cult, part speakeasy. Some apocalyptic bunker where people go to forget their worries.”

Club Cataclysm will see Black return to performing many of his original numbers. 

“With Decopunk I had someone else with me on the piano, so I didn’t do any live music myself really. This time it’s just me on my own, so I’m being let loose to cause whatever chaos occurs to me at the time and in the moment,” said Black.

Black’s latest single Final Curtain premiered on September 30, 2022. According to an interview with Strong Island, there is a long-awaited album on the way after Club Cataclysm.

In a post on Black’s Instagram promoting the single, he said: “I haven’t written my own song in years and this is one I am very proud of. Sorry to other Drag Race alumni that it’s not a club banger and I’m breaking the usual post-Drag Race tradition. (I’m not sorry).”

Club Cataclysm is set to indulge the audience among neon-lit rubble as it ‘veers ever quicker towards the end of the world as we know it.’

“Join me for an evening of devilish dirge, vaudevillian villainy, and musical mayhem,” said Black.

Audiences attending the show should expect ‘songs, stories, nonsense, tomfoolery, jazz, blues, and polka.’

“And a megaphone. I’ve fallen back in love with megaphones. Loud. Obnoxious. Glorious,” he said.

“Accordion, ukulele, and piano in tow, the soundtrack to the end has never been so jaunty. A cataclysmic cabaret to celebrate that nothing really works out in the end.

“An evening of mire, mirth, and dirge – oh my! It’s last orders at the bar, so let us toast and drink up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride,” said Black. 

Doors for Club Cataclysm open tonight at 7pm and the show starts at 8pm at Leicester’s Y Theatre.

Tickets are available to purchase at https://joeblack.seetickets.com/tour/joe-black.

Leicester residential programme for the disabled under threat after council cutback

By Zarina Ahmed

A residential department in a Leicester-based school for special needs children is under threat of closure after the city council began a consultation last month on a proposal to withdraw funding.

Ash Field Academy’s residential programme is an extension of its curriculum, in which students can attend after school and even spend the night.

It had been funded by Leicester City Council’s Higher Needs Block but due to an overspend in their allocated budget, the council are looking for areas to save money.

Tom Barker, a teaching assistant at the school and a workplace representative for Unison – the trade union which is helping organise the campaign to prevent the closure – said: “They’ve [the council] got this idea that education is just Maths and English – which, it is, but, in some settings, it also independent living, physical development and communication – that is certainly the case in our school.

“Leicester City Council needs to stop cutting services; people already can’t afford to live and disabled people are often the most vulnerable in our society.

“If the Labour-run council represents something different from the Conservative government, then why do they keep cutting services?”

The programme had been rated as ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted for its ability to increase the pupils’ outcomes.

Mr Barker said: “For some students, access to the residential service can mean the difference between remaining at home for the rest of your life or living independently.”

As well as pupils losing the chance to gain independent skills, staff who have worked there for as long as 30 years are at risk of losing their stable livelihood.

“It is a tragedy to lose that amount of experience. The people that have worked there are incredible,” Mr Barker added.

Cost of living crisis protest taking place offering additional support for the academy’s programme

Previously, there had been a protest in Leicester led by the campaign group ‘Enough is Enough’, in which around 600 people attended the demonstration, including Barker as a speaker.

Nationally, Enough is Enough, which had been initiated by Mick Lynch, secretary of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union, wants to coordinate a fight back against the cost of living crisis, and more than half a million people signed up to the campaign in the first 24 hours.

More protests and campaigns have been planned in the future for people to take a stand against the changes that will affect Ash Field’s residential programme.

The proposal to start winding down the funding for Ash Field’s residential services will begin in 2024.

If you would like to get involved, sign the Hands Off Ash Field Academy campaign link and read the website for more information.