Category Archives: Big Issues

My take on the bigger issues – everything from animal and women’s rights to poverty and charity – usually when they catch my eye in the news.

A week in the life of an Elephant Nature Park volunteer

imageI’m so happy to hear how much you guys have been enjoying my elephant-themed posts this week – it’s been such a highlight of my trip to become a part of the work at Elephant Nature Park and I’m glad to know reading the posts have been a highlight for you. I really hope that by reading my posts on the background of elephants in the tourism trade has helped to teach you something, and that you enjoyed the interview with founder Lek Chailert. This post is something that has been requested over and over again by friends, readers and travellers met have met along the way – this one will focus on my time spent as a volunteer at the sanctuary. I spent a week volunteering at the centre in Chiang Mai back IIn the middle of March and to say it was life-changing would be an understatement. I know so many people who would love to have the same experience but worry it is not worth the money you have to pay to get there. Well I’m here to put any questions and worries to rest, to assure you that including a volunteering placement in your travels is one of the best decisions you could possible make.imageAlong with around 70 other weekly volunteers, I was picked up from my hostel in the city and taken straight to the charity’s office where we paid the balance of the placement, picked up our t-shirts and water bottles, and met some of the other volunteers. Once loaded on to the buses, we were shown a brief video giving us some background on the Park and the work that goes on there, along with a quick chat from the guide. When we arrived at the Elephant Nature Park, we were taken straight out on a tour of the property, given a talk on what work goes on there, the history and the plans for the future. We were given a talk on safety and good practice around the elephants, plus an outline of our jobs over the next few days. After a delicious and huge vegetarian buffet lunch, we were moved into our dorm rooms which held three people each and were right next to the elephant shelters where the creatures would sleep at night. To say we were all excited was an understatement. Later that afternoon we got to watch the elephants being bathed and fed, and spent some time unloading huge trucks full of melons – one of the funniest jobs as we ended up making up songs and turning it into a game/competition. That first night we were invited to a special welcome ceremony in which we were blessed by the local village elders and a priest who gave us blessing bracelets for good luck and safety. After a delicious dinner, we all headed to bed so we would be ready for our 7am start.imageimageThe early start didn’t agree with most but I actually had the best night’s sleep I’d had in ages and woke up feeling refreshed and excited for what lay ahead. Surprising considering we had all been woken up at 5am by the elephants in the shelter behind our dorm when one had a bad dream and started trumpeting, but the others soon calmed her down. It was amazing to be sleeping so close to these stunning creatures, and even more amazing to have them walking around just metres from where we ate all of our meals. I’ve heard some volunteers complain about the lack of time spent with the elephants but I have no idea where they could have got that from, we’re with them constantly from the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep. After breakfast, Team C were taken off to the fields a bit further away from the sanctuary where we would spend the first morning on the hardest job of them all – corn cutting!  We were given machetes and were told to cut down the corn, arrange it in piles and once it had been bundled, to carry it to the truck. It wasn’t an easy job, but it wasn’t as bad as we expected. Our group was amazing and we really worked together and put all of our energy into it, we had the job done quicker than any other group and celebrated with a picnic and a ride back on top of the corn before getting to spend an afternoon tubing on the river that ran alongside the Park. We also took the opportunity to help bathe the elephants in the river afterwards which was just lovely to be so close to them and to play in the water with them.imageIt was a pretty awesome first day and we were all riding high until we headed to the communal areas that evening to watch a film put on by the staff. It was one of the most devastating and shocking things I have ever watched and within minutes most of the room had tears running down their faces. I’m not normally a very emotional person, but I was a wreck watching that video. It was all about the elephants that are kept at the park, the situations they have come from and various other horrifying stories that Lek herself has caught on film of witnessed. It was one of those things you have to watch, you learn so much from it, but it absolutely breaks your heart. Dinner afterwards was a sober and quiet affair as everyone mulled over what we had seen, it definitely brought the group closer together and unified us in our anger and pain over what we had seen. It was a wonderful experience to be surrounded by individuals as passionate about this cause as myself. I couldn’t sleep that night, I think after the video I just had too much on my mind but soon enough the sun hit the window and it was time to start all over again. For that second day of work I was helping to clean up the park by clearing the leftover food from the fields – this was one of my favourite jobs because it gave you the chance to watch the elephants in the park just acting naturally, unbothered by us they played and ate as they would in the wild. Some of the babies were a little boisterous and decided they wanted to climb into our van which gave the girls a bit of a shock as the whole thing started to rock with just a coup,e of them left inside. Again, our job was completed quickly and we had plefty of free time to help out with dog walking, to write in our travel journals and to watch the elephants around the park.imageAfter lunch, we headed out on an elephant walk in which our team leader took us out around the elephant sanctuary to meet the elephants and to hear their stories firsthand. I mentioned a few in the earlier posts that were particularly devastating but there were loads who had back legs, bad backs and were blind from bad treatment, one elephant had a severely broken hip she had learnt to deal with over time, it had been caused by a horny bull in a forced breeding programme and now, years later she still cannot walk properly. We had the chance to see the baby elephants in action, and playful they are! With a very protective family including an adopted nanny, you have to be careful not to spook the animals because despite us being far across the field from them, she became anxious and charged at us. It was pretty crazy, we had to sprint across the field out of the oath of this stampeding elephant, half of us lost our flip flops and another girl ended up falling face first in the mud, a pretty dramatic day in all! We rounded off the afternoon by playing with the lonely dogs in the dog shelter at the park, where they have over 400 dogs needing homes. Then that night, we had a Thai culture lesson which was brilliant, our guides taught us about the history and customs of Thailand, about the language and the Chang Chang Chang elephant song! imageMy next job was elephant food – unloading trucks of melons and pumpkins then washing and helping prepare the food for the elephants, particularly for those with special dietary requirements. This was hard work because these elephants go through so many melons it’s unreal – trucks carrying four tonnes of melons roll in daily and need to be prepared. But once again, team C smashed it, made it fun and were done in no time thanks to a cracking playlist provided by our team leader who seemed to have a fondness for Avril Lavigne. In the afternoon, we spent our time helping to wash down shelters and having water fights as we prepared the elephant’s bedrooms for the evening. After dinner, we finally got to meet the woman behind it all, Lek gave a special talk and presentation with another horrifying film for us to watch. This one was even more harrowing than the last and I’m not ashamed to say I was a blubbering mess. Everyone in the room was left shell shocked but insanely inspired after hearing first hand from this tiny woman all that she had achieved and overcome to reach this point and how she had never let herself become disheartened by the terrible things she witnessed but used her anger to fuel her work. Meeting someone so inspiring was one of the best moments of my trip and I left on a high despite the sad things we saw that night.imageThe next day passed in a blur of preparing elephant food, watching the elephants be fed and joining in, bathing them and generally loving life. It would be so easy to have stayed and to live that life every single day. So simple, but so rewarding, I woke up every morning raring to go and finished each day with a heart full of happiness at what we were doing there. That final night at the Park, they organised a special Northern Thai meal with special foods and fabulous entertainment from the local schoolchildren I had been teaching just days before – they all danced for us in traditional costume which was wonderful. It was so sweet, they all recognised me from the school, and came over to say hello – more on my teaching experience in my next post. We had a brilliant last night together and prepared for some really sad goodbyes the next day – in such a short space of time we had become a little family. The next morning, we took to our final jobs of clearing elephant poo – which was definitely not as bad or as smelly as it sounds. Then we headed back to Chiang Mai where I spent the night at a hostel with some girls from the Park and a larger group of us met up to shop, eat and drink cocktails at the local market. It was a perfect end to one of the best weeks of my life.

If you are thinking about volunteering at Elephant Nature Park but aren’t quite sure, or are worried the money of it will cut into your backpacking budget. Don’t worry for a second longer. I can honestly say that it was one of the most amazing and rewarding experiences of my life and that it will stay firmly in my heart forever. Both the people I met and the things that I ddid and saw have changed my life and it has inspired me to do more to help by writing and sharing my experiences with others I meet along the way. Why go elephant trekking or riding when you can experience these creatures in a natural state – unharmed and unafraid – see how they behave when they are happy and safe. Spend money and know that it is going back in to helping to save other elephants from the tourism trade, from abuse and cruelty rather than the back pockets of cruel people who harm elephants. Spend your money wisely and it could be the best experience you have travelling like it has been for me so far.

Ab Lucy sign off

Elephant Nature Park – Behind The Scenes Interview

imageSince volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai, Thailand, it has become a regular topic of conversation with friends, family, fellow travellers and complete strangers. Everyone seems to have elephants on the brain and its little wonder why, these majestic, intelligent and simply beautiful creatures seem to capture the hearts of most. Why? For me, it’s always been something in their eyes. Elephants seem to have eyes that tell a story, much like humans, you can tell there is more going on in their heads. That they think and feel in similar ways to us – whether you agree of. It is another matter, but I’ve always felt that elephants have a lot in common with humans which is why it has always broken my heart to hear about cases of poaching and animal cruelty. The more I read about it all, the more it tore me apart to know that such amazing creatures could be so brutally targeted by my own species. Sad how you can feel so ashamed of your own kind at times, but I guess some brains are just wired differently.

Something that has come up again and again in conversations are the same questions about how to know if elephants are being treated cruelly, what is cruel treatment, whether elephant riding is okay and so on… Of course I answered all of these as best I could after learning so much firsthand at the sanctuary, but the journalist in me couldn’t resist talking to the expert about it all. Lek Chailert is the founder of Elephant Nature Park, and during my week long volunteering at the centre I was lucky enough to meet her and to sit in on a talk she gave about her experiences, her work, Elephant Nature Park, elephant cruelty and tourism, and the future. It was simultaneously fascinating and devastating – within seconds she had the whole room captivated, and in less than five minutes she had the whole room in tears. I have never met anyone so passionate and true to her cause, and I have never felt so inspired by a single person. Lek has achieved so much in the face of great cruelty and adversity, she has never given up on her mission and remains stronger than ever and full of determination to make her dream of freedom for elephants a reality.

A week of volunteering left me desperate to do more and help in any way I can, and my best way of doing this is to write, to photograph, to interview and to share all of this with all of you. I know I have many friends and followers who are big supporters of the volunteering programme, who love elephants and are strongly against animal cruelty, so I thought it would be great to share my interview with Lek on here so that you can all hear firsthand from her of the reasons behind her work. By hearing exactly what is involved in domesticating elephants, you can make a decision for yourself about whether you really want to ride an elephant or participate in elephant tourism. As Lek says herself in the interview, the most important thing is educating people on why it is wrong. I hope very much that you are finding my elephant-themed week on the blog informative and interesting, I hope that you too will feel inspired to help by sharing this post with your friends, family and social media followers – you could be helping to save an elephant out there from being subjected to cruel treatment.

Check out the video below for my full interview with Lek Chailert. 

If you have any questions about Elephant Nature Park or the topics covered in this video, please do leave them below and I’ll do my best to answer. I have a final post in keeping with the elephant theme coming up this Friday – focusing on my time as a volunteer and what I thought of the experience.

Ab Lucy sign off

An amazing cause – Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai

imageMy travels have been made up of several incredible, life changing experiences so far, but there is one that has stood out more than any other. The very second I booked my week volunteering at the Elephant Nature Park, almost a year before I went travelling, I knew it would be one of my highlights. Now, after I’ve completed the week, I look back and wonder how any other travelling experience could top it. In just seven days I learnt, saw, experienced so much, it changed my view of the world, gave me a new passion and inspired me to write and share it with you guys. I can’t thank the team at the Park enough for letting me be a small part of their mission, and I can’t thank all the other wonderful volunteers enough for sharing the experience with me and making it the best it could possibly be. After meeting other travellers along the way and talking to them about elephants used in tourism for riding, shows etc, after hearing about the misinformation they have been fed and believed, it shows that it is more important than ever to educate travellers, holiday makers, tourists, backpackers and everyone else on what is really going on beneath the surface of a booming industry in Thailand and across Asia.Before travelling to Asia, I had read and researched a lot about elephant treatment which influenced my decision to volunteer at ENP instead of any other centre.imageDuring my week there, I learnt far more than I ever did reading, I saw firsthand video footage of mistreatment and torture captured by the founder, Lek, and met elephants that had been rescued from such horrors and heard their stories, saw their wounds. Some had been rescued from logging and had terrible injuries including broken hips from forced breeding, others from tourist camps where they were forced to give rides until their backs broke or were seriously damaged, many were blind from where trainers had stabbed them in the eyes for not complying with orders, others suffered mental illnesses from the extreme torture they had been put through. One story that broke my heart was that of an elephant who was constantly trying to care for and take the baby of another, she was traumatised because her own baby had died. She was forced into logging on steep mountainsides, carrying huge trees and enormous weights every day while pregnant. One day, she went into labour up a hill and when her baby was born it fell down the hill, it died in the amniotic sac and she couldn’t save it. They say an elephant never forgets, well her heart won’t forget the child that was taken from her through this disgusting treatment and despite it happening years ago, she clearly still lives with that pain everyday.imageThe centre was founded by Lek, who has led a life fuelled by her passion and love for these amazing animals and has dedicated years to campaigning, researching and more. Finally it looks like some governments are starting to listen and take note, but it has been a long hard road for her and her team. The centre started over 20 years ago with just one elephant, Hope, who still lives there today and is the big man of the park, but now they have 44 elephants to take care of. These range from elephants aged one to 80 and all of them have special needs thanks to their injuries, all of them have specific diets and personalities which must be catered for. It is a hard and demanding job, but one of the most rewarding I have come across. One baby elephant at the park is a shining beacon of light for the others and those who work there, Navann is the only elephant at the park who has not gone through the traumatic and horrifying Phajann Ceremony to make them usable for tourism and trade. This means he is a lot more boisterous and cheeky than the rest, but it is lovely to see the freedom and happiness of an elephant who doesn’t hold this innate fear thanks to the ceremony.imageThis is something that needs to be clarified for all those who I have spoken to who try to justify elephant riding and tourism, the ones who say the elephants look well treated at that time. Every single elephant used in tourism, for trade or logging has been through a horrific process that can last a week, a month or even longer. The baby elephant is ripped from its mother when it is still immensely vulnerable and needs her care, it is taken away to the jungle where it will go through a process to break the animal’s spirit. It is tied up, beaten and terrified, then it is forced into a crush which does exactly what it says on the tin. It is barely big enough for the baby, crushes its body and removes any power and strength it had to move and free itself. It takes away all independence and scares the poor creature beyond anything you could imagine. For days, weeks or even months in some cases – as long as it takes – the creature is shouted at, stabbed with hooks, has pins and nails driven into its flesh, burnt on its head and legs. The elephants is deprived of food, drink and sleep until it conforms to certain behaviours, loses all fight through fear and will eventually perform tricks you seen in shows like elephant painting, climbing through hoops, dancing, elephant riding, the list goes on. Whether they look like they have no obvious injuries at the time doesn’t matter, by riding or partaking in these experiences you are funding and supporting years of mistreatment and an industry that still works on the basis of mistreatment.imageI’m not saying that those who have done this are awful people, I too have sat on an elephant, it is just a lack of education that makes us do this. People get caught up in the whole thing and forget to look past the initial excitement. When it comes down to it, most people I asked – just like me – found the elephant riding experience underwhelming and would prefer to have walked beside the beast to appreciate its full beauty. When you know what the ride is doing to the animal – because yes the weight is uncomfortable and can cause injuries for an elephant, especially when you consider that many of them already have bad backs from previous mistreatment and logging. And many of them are being hit by the mahouts, or have slingshots used on them while you are sat atop them, just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean then aren’t doing it. The mahouts know we tourists don’t like to see this treatment so they keep it out of sight, and out of our minds. But the problem is that we need to put it in people’s minds, at the forefront of their minds when they go travelling, on holiday or visit these exotic countries. Our responsibility to these animals doesn’t stop because we are on holiday and on a break from normal life. They are more important than ever.What can we do to help aid the work of Lek and the Elephant Nature Park? Share this post with your friends and family, make them understand what is behind the industry and educate them so they don’t support it. So many don’t know a lot of this information or have been fed misinformation, help me correct that and make a change.

How do you feel about elephant treatment in Thailand? Is it something you were aware of before reading this post? 

Ab Lucy sign off

Let them eat cake: Luck, Positivity & Morality

soulIt may have been over 2000 years ago that Jesus’ mama and papa rocked up to that little stable in Bethlehem right before she popped him out and those Three Wise Men turned up, but I still haven’t managed to figure it all out. I’m talking about religion and spirituality – I always loved studying the different religions at school and particularly identified with Buddhism and Hinduism. Not entirely, I must add, and this has been my problem with religion ever since. I just find that I don’t completely agree with any of them, and yet, I can’t class myself as an atheist because I do believe there is something out there bigger than all of us. What exactly that is, I can’t say.

I’ve found over the years it’s helped me to pick out certain parts of different religions and almost mix-and-match to form my own belief system – to be honest, I think this is what many people do as taking the Bible literally word-for-word would be a bit silly if you ask me… (Burning Bush anyone?) This may seem a bit flighty to some, but I actually feel that it really works for me and that it keeps me open-minded. I love the parts of religion that don’t centre around the gods but more around human behaviour and morals. I like the bits that focus less on trying to convince you of this higher force and more on how the universe works and the idea that we are all interlinked somehow. Because, Burning Bush aside, I’ve always believed the real magic is what happens between people – the way we interact and the choices we make.

Cake Tapas at Roots Norwich

Cake Tapas at Roots Norwich

On Morality

This year I’ve been faced with a couple of moral dilemmas, challenges to my own belief system thanks to the behaviour of other people. I’m talking about situations where I have been asked to keep secrets that I didn’t think were right, when I was expected to lie on behalf of someone else. I’m also talking about situations when I was called on to forgive people for horrible behaviour – we’ve all faced those. I’ve faced them all and come out with a clean conscience, but it wasn’t easy. Sometimes we’re faced with making a decision between a friendship and doing the right thing, but I guess we have to question whether the friendship had any real value if we were asked to push our morals to one side. I’m not saying that right and wrong are black and white, I know full well there is always a grey area, but we all have that gut instinct. And I always say, if something doesn’t sit right, you know you shouldn’t be doing it.

On Luck

Two things I’ve always loved are the concepts of luck and karma. I really identify with the idea of karma, I feel that I have to because so often bad deeds seem to go unpunished and the good ones go unrewarded. But I have come to accept that perhaps they are, just much later on and by the time this happens perhaps we have moved on. I’ve always felt that we make our own luck in this world – that what we experience is a direct result of what we put out into the universe. Promise not to get too hippy on you all but it really does make a difference when you put good vibes out to those around you, and they really do come back to you. I wrote a post back in February about the Power of Positivity after I went through a rough patch at the start of the year, when I suddenly noticed that my awful mood really was bringing down the mood of the whole office. I hated that I could have had such a negative effect on those around me and it made me realise that I could never hope to be positive if I didn’t make the first move.

Being kind, loving & generous is a perfect addition to any outfit – wear it well.

sky

Since then, it certainly helps that I couldn’t be happier at the moment, I have been dedicating myself to working hard and being the best I can be. And it really has made a difference. Not only is everyone around me happy and full of plans and excitement for the future, but that luck and happiness seems to be coming back to me. I don’t know if it is just coincidence (I don’t really believe in coincidences) but I seem to be on a bit of a lucky streak at the moment! Don’t believe me? Well, in the last two months I have won cake tapas, tickets to see Bombay Bicycle Club and a signed picture, and a mulled winter cider kit. I have also been given the amazing opportunity to review a lovely London restaurant and have been shortlisted in the UK Blog Awards. Now I can’t say that this is all down to good karma – but it definitely all seems to have come at once. My point is, work hard, be good and kind, and stick to your morals, and good things will come of it all. It seems to be working for me so far and, let’s be honest, who wants to live with the guilt and unease of acting like a dickhead – especially at Christmas?

Have you been faced with a situation that has tested your moral code? Tell me about your lucky streaks!

Ab Lucy sign off

Body shaming and a confidence boost

jphugs_blueI stumbled across something wonderful last week and it made me feel so happy to read about that I just had to share it with you guys. The Jubilee Project is a team of volunteers who work together to create short films and documentaries in their spare time to increase awareness and inspire action. Their vision is to produce entertaining content that will empower, enable, and inspire others to do good as well. Three guys started the project following the Haiti earthquake in 2010, when they started busking with hopes of raising $100 for the relief efforts. They fell short so made a video about it, they ended up raising over $700. Now they continue to create meaningful videos that will affect audiences and make them think about wider issues, with the mantra #DoingGoodIsContagious. So their latest video – which you’ll find below – is what I wanted to share with you.

It shows the incredible difference between adults and children – culture and society. With 50 adults and children asked the same question – If you could change one thing about your body, what would it be? And without a moment’s hesitation, all of the adults launch straight into things they don’t like and parts they wanted to change. The children? They seem stumped at first, unable to think of anything to change. But then they launch into superhuman additions they would like to have – mermaid tails (yes please!) and cheetah’s legs – because they don’t think there is anything wrong with the body they were given. So innocent and pure, they minds are yet unchanged by society and the horrible body shaming and expectations that are thrust upon us over time. Is this not yet more proof that no-one is born hating their body – we are the ones teaching them to?

I know I’ve written before about body confidence (here and here), but I haven’t yet focused on the problem of body shaming in society. The fact that you can be as confident as you like, but advertising and media and even just people on the street are often waiting to tear you back down again. It’s so sad to see how the views of these youngsters will change over time as they become more affected by the views of those around them, which in turn have been placed on them by advertising campaigns like the Victoria’s Secret one, or even music like the Meghan Trainor song. You can take either of these are you want – and to be honest, the song doesn’t really bother me a huge amount as I think it’s garbage anyway, but the underwear campaign is a different story. I don’t really understand why anyone would have let that campaign be released in the first place when it gives such a clear message that anything other than a Victoria’s Secret model is not perfect. What planet are these people on? Do they really think that 99.99999999% of the world’s population are the exception instead of the rule?bodyHearing all of the adults listing several things they would change and clearly feeling very uncomfortable about parts of their bodies was really sad. To think you have these amazing individuals who have had lives, friendships, have loved and had children – and yet they are still unhappy with the way that they look. It really warmed my heart to hear one of the young girls saying she actually really liked her body and wouldn’t want to change a thing – I wanted to scream at the screen and say DON’T CHANGE! Don’t listen to the media, ignore those billboards and stay happy as you are. She was one of the slightly older ones and you can tell it won’t be long until she too is affected by both and becomes insecure about her appearance. The clock is ticking. But then that final clip of the video makes all the difference – the oldest lady in the video says that she is happy with her body, her grey hair and her wrinkles because without those she wouldn’t be her. That woman is an inspiration and someone we should all take note of – I know I would much rather be like her than any of the other adults in the video.

It makes me feel quite sad that the majority of people will go through their lives without feeling truly happy with their appearance, despite it making up such a tiny amount of who they are. Why do we have to spend the majority of our lives – from being a child to entering our golden years feeling insecure? We’ve all got bits and piece that work, legs that get us from A to B, noses that can smell and tongues that can taste… So why, when we have all this on our side, do we have to go full circle before feeling confident again? Well as far as I’m concerned – we don’t. We all make our own decision to be happy or to be sad. We choose whether to let the haters bother us, whether to listen to those around us. Whether to feel fat on the beach in a bikini. So it’s time we all stopped listening to everything around us and start listening to that voice inside that says “You’re fabulous”. It’s easy to miss because it often gets squashed down by the one that says “You look gross” or “You’re fat” – but is far more important to pay attention to. I’m not saying it’s the easiest thing in the world, but changing your mindset is the first step to feeling content. The best way to change your mindset? Stop jumping straight to telling yourself about those ugly, fat or wobbly bits when you look in the mirror, make it your business to compliment the bits you like first. Three nice things for every one complaint and you’ll soon start thinking and feeling differently.girls1

What part of your body do you love the most and why? How do you feel after watching this video?

Ab Lucy sign off

Guest post: Writing Therapy, Self-Help & Bereavement

Picture by Julie Jordan Scott

Picture by Julie Jordan Scott

I thought I’d share with you a recent guest blog post that I wrote for the Youth Service at the Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust. I was really pleased to be asked to contribute to their new Youth Blog – an exciting platform, which will feature on the service’s website. Over the next few months, the new blog will include advice, information, musings and real-life stories from special guest bloggers, to support the emotional health of young people in the region. I hope you like my post and if you’re interested in becoming a guest youth blogger too, there’s more info at the end of this post. You don’t need to be an existing blogger, nor do you have to be from the region, you just need to have an interest in supporting the wellbeing of young people. You can also read my guest blog post here.

I’m pretty lucky to have not suffered any mental health problems in my life, but I do know a surprising number of people who have suffered with anxiety, agoraphobia, depression and various other conditions. And with two parents who used to work as mental health nurses, it is an issue that is never far from my mind. Not being any kind of expert on the medical side of the subject, I thought it was important to take a look at ways of coping with the struggles of being a teenager. All too often, teenagers come to attention for the wrong reasons because they don’t know how to cope with the emotions and struggles going on in their own lives and end up misbehaving or acting out. What is important, for all of us regardless of age, is to have an outlet for our stresses and worries. For me, I love to write, to go to the gym, and to be by the sea – these are the things that help soothe me. This post is all about writing as therapy and helping yourself to cope.

Picture by Erin Kohlenberg

Picture by Erin Kohlenberg

“Being a teenager isn’t the easiest. Take it from someone who knows, someone who has been there and done, or seen it all. I was lucky, I had a good group of friends and a great family around me to see me through it all, everything from bad boyfriends to constantly changing friendships and grieving for loved ones, but not everyone is that lucky. It’s one of those times in our lives that, when you look back on it, flies by, but at the time can seem never-ending. All those petty dramas, fall-outs and rows can seem life-changing and devastating at the time, no matter how much your parents or teachers tell you it isn’t the end of the world. Well it is for you, and sometimes it is hard to imagine a life the other side of the wall that has built up in front of you, and is holding you back.

Trust me, you’re not alone. I’m now 24-years-old and I still feel like the world gets a bit much sometimes. The problems are still very much the same – boyfriend dramas, worries over friends and family, trying to do your best at school or work but failing… But now we have a whole load of other ones to deal with as well, like money, buying houses, unemployment… the list goes on! My point is, we are all dealing with our own dramas and worries, and while it is easy to get caught up in our own heads sometimes, it is important to realise that others do understand what we are going through. It might not be easy to talk to them about the problem, but knowing they understand can help make things a bit easier by offering some small comfort.

So what happens if it all builds up and you can’t cope any longer? It’s important to have an outlet for all this worry, stress and anger, otherwise it will only take over your life. I let things get too much earlier this year and had to take a big step back from everything because I just couldn’t cope with even basic stuff any more. I let it take over my life and it started to ruin my life – don’t make the same mistake. I turned away from my passion for writing when actually it was journalism and blogging that helped bring me back to reality and to get my life back in order again. Writing is such a release for me – for some it is music, poetry or art but for me, writing is the most soothing of all. Despite being pretty articulate, I’m actually terrible at expressing my emotions in person – typically British! My boyfriend and I will row better over text than we do in person, because otherwise we just laugh when we try and explain the problem to each other!IMG_6816I’ve always found it easier to write down my feelings and thoughts, and it provides me with such a sense of calm. It’s almost like I’m counselling myself by putting pen to paper and just writing down the problem. I find it actually helps put the whole thing in perspective and that it helps me see a light at the end of the tunnel. When my nan died it was a shock for me. She had been ill for a while with cancer of the throat, but how poorly she was had been hidden from me and my sister so she could enjoy her last few months with us. I wasn’t fully prepared for her to go so quick and when she died I really struggled to cope. What got me through was taking it upon myself to plan the memorial service and writing a tribute to her, which I then read out in church. Reading it out is, to this day, still one of the hardest things I have ever done, but the writing of it really helped me to say goodbye in the best way I knew how.

Writing can be such a great tool for coping with your problems – that’s why I became a blogger, to fill the void left alongside journalism. Blogging helps me to deal with issues and problems in life, alongside writing about my passions. Whether you write a public or private blog, it is a great way of keeping a diary in the modern age – you can access it anywhere at any time – when you need it most. And sharing it with others can really help those who are suffering or struggling, just like you.”

Would you like to be a blogger for the day? Perhaps you have a story to tell or something you’d like to voice about a mental health issue? Well, now is your chance. Everyone is welcome to contribute to the NSFT Youth blog. The Youth Service is not only inviting young people in the region but also teachers, mental health experts, parents, carers, service users, friends and the local community to talk about a range of topics including: recovery, stigma, therapeutic interventions, loss and bereavement, self-harm, friendships, stress, anxiety, bullying, eating disorders and any other issues affecting young adults and children. For more information about the Youth Service, click here, and if you’d like to contribute, contact the team of editors to find out more.

What helps you to cope with struggles and problems? Do you find writing therapeutic?

Ab Lucy sign off

Why is “feminism” turning some women into characters from Mean Girls?

rulesoffeminismI was too busy to write this post last week, but it’s been playing on my mind ever since and I’ve now actually delayed another post to share this with you guys today. Those of you who don’t follow many blogs might not be aware of the scathing column written by Independent journalist, Chloe Hamilton, about the nation’s number one blogger and vlogger, Zoella. This attack came completely out of the blue, and interestingly at a time when Zoe Sugg is at the top of her game, winning awards, becoming a charity patron, launching a beauty range and more. Perhaps more to do with attracting attention than actually making a valid comment? Zoe has the amazing success most bloggers dream of and aspire to. She is a beautiful young girl, both inside and out, who vlogs to share her experiences and struggles with anxiety with others, creating a support network for teen girls across the world. Pretty amazing for a 24-year-old! With over six million subscribers on her YouTube channel, she must be doing something right and is nothing short of an inspiration to a lot of us.

I’m sure you can already tell I disagree with the column, but my concern is not so much the viewpoint of the writer, but the fact that she felt the need to be so nasty while making her point. Chloe is welcome to feel that Zoella reinforces certain stereotypes and perhaps doesn’t represent the “typical” view of feminism – but where is the need to describe her as “the latest creation spat out by the YouTube machine” or slate her “brand of sickly sweet girl power”? And what is the “typical” view of feminism anyway? There are so many stereotyped ideas of a “typical feminist” that I wonder how anyone could say what a feminist looks, speaks and acts like. This column is pure nastiness and really just embarrasses both the Independent and the “journalist” behind it, who quite frankly both appear to have published the piece to stir up reaction and page views. Well I’m sure it has worked, considering the reaction from countless bloggers and vloggers across Facebook and Twitter, and I hate to give the article the time of day because I know it just gives the writer what she wants. But I’m more concerned with the greater cost to “feminism”.feminismToo many already consider feminism a joke – a way to justify beating down men at every opportunity, to not conform to society expectations, to just kick up a fuss at every given opportunity – I’ve seen and heard these views given several times over the years. They don’t understand that in its purest form feminism means “the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes”. The reason they don’t understand this? Well, because feminism has become a bit of a fashion statement, I’m not saying everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, but all too often I am seeing women using feminism as an excuse for their behaviour, when actually there is no excuse. I’m not talking about those who are campaigning, who stand up for those who are mistreated because of their gender – those who are underpaid, treated with no respect, or even abused simply because they are women. These are the good feminists, the true feminists who are paving the way for women. They are the inspiration to us all to follow their lead and do the same, to stand up and say something when we see real-life sexism and inequality.

I’m talking about those who are using “feminism” as an excuse to slate successful women and who use their own medium, whether blogging, writing, vlogging, “journalism”, social media or something else, in an attempt to bring them down or leech off their fame. I’ve seen a few examples of this recently, a couple over Twitter that were indirectly attacking a woman seemingly out of jealousy because she was successful and yet they felt the need to attack her looks and the way she dressed, and the way she wrote. How sad. No matter how indirectly you dress it up, we all know who you’re talking about, and honey, it doesn’t make them look bad – that’s all on you.pat-robertsons-quotes-4This latest attack by Chloe Hamilton is far worse because it targets not only Zoe’s success – which has caused her to become an inspiration for millions of teen girls. But it also launches an assault on how she has made her living – I just struggle to understand how a young woman who has found a hobby that she loves and turned it into a huge career through hard work can be seen as anything less than inspirational. Although many may not realise it, blogging is hard work – it takes up a huge portion of your life and is a massive commitment. You spend hours each week writing posts, videoing them, shooting pictures, brainstorming ideas. We do it because we love it, but as a professional journalist, an editor and a blogger, I can say I spend a lot of time perfecting my posts and I know others are the same. So the fact that Zoe has dedicated so much of her time to creating a brand, to promoting it, to working with her viewers and communicating with them is no mean feat. And the fact that for a long time she wouldn’t have been getting paid for any of it – just shows what a hard worker she is.

My next question is why does Chloe Hamilton hate Zoe so much for enjoying make-up, for trying out hairstyles and for liking getting dressed up? Since when has any of this stuff meant you are any less of a feminist? I love make-up, fashion, getting my hair done and styling it, not because it makes me pretty for men to look at, but because I enjoy the process of treating myself. But I also love equality, I love that my gender does not prevent me from getting an education, that it doesn’t have to hold me back from certain career paths and I hate that there are women out there who are preyed on because of their gender, who are raped and attacked and persecuted. Isn’t that the essence of feminism? Not what lipstick I’ve put on today. Or the fact that we choose to wear lipstick at all.

femChloe needs to try watching Zoella’s videos about her anxiety and feeling confident in your own skin, she represents and covers all these important issues alongside beauty and hair – that doesn’t mean she is going back on what she has said. Instead she gives us the boost we need and represents the girl-next-door, showing that everyone struggles with confidence and fears, but that it’s okay and that we don’t have to worry. She then gives girls the techniques and the tips so they can do make-up and hair well if they need it to boost their confidence or make them feel better individually, not for men.

Perhaps Chloe needs to spend a day in a high school to understand that the majority of teen girls want to learn about make-up and hair, they want to feel pretty and confident. I was a real bookworm at school and loved spending time with my friends, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to get dressed up as well. Zoella isn’t playing on insecurities of youths, she is talking about her passions and her loves and they are obviously shared by girls across the world or she wouldn’t have such an enormous following.sisterTaking a quick look at the bigger picture here, something that Chloe seems to have missed. When Zoe is encouraging teen girls to enjoy innocent hair and make-up tutorials, or videos about anxiety and coping with it – shouldn’t we be grateful that all these millions are tuning into her videos? All that time they spend watching them is another few minutes they are not watching and idolising “celebrities” like Rihanna, Nicki Minaj and the rest of the women who feel the need to take their clothes off or dance provocatively while aiming their music at teen audiences. Zoe Sugg is making a credible difference to young audiences already because she respects herself, she is a successful woman who has forged a career in an industry that is only just beginning and she is a real girl, who doesn’t have a team of make-up artists and retouching equipment that makes her seem perfect. She isn’t afraid of her imperfections, she just finds ways to live with them and be happy with them.

Sorry this has ended up being such a long post, but I think it is something that really needs to be said. Women need to stop attacking each other and instead look at the real problems. Green is a terrible colour on some people and jealousy is a nasty emotion. Isn’t it time we all started building each other up and being proud of our success stories? I’m happy and lucky to have a fantastic group of women as my friends, all strong feminists with big personalities who support and encourage each other to the bitter end. And the blogging community has been such a warm and welcoming place full of words of encouragement, congratulations at every small success and generally a huge amount of support at every stage of the game. We all believe in equality and women’s rights, otherwise we wouldn’t be voicing our opinions on the internet, creating these little spaces for our voices to be heard. THAT belief, THAT support and THAT passion is what we are proud of and what we love about blogging. That is what we should focus on and that is the future.

What did you think of the Independent column? What do you think about the Mean Girls who are calling themselves feminists?

Ab Lucy sign off

It’s On The Ball – Have You Checked Yours?

IMG_6818With amazing timing, I was invited to the second annual Tobi’s Ball on Saturday night – a black-tie fundraiser for Norwich-based charity, It’s On The Ball, which works to raise money and awareness of testicular cancer. It took place just days after I suddenly spotted a load of publicity for a special Channel 4 programme fundraising for cancer research and celebrating reaching the point where as many people survive cancer as succumb to it. A huge landmark in cancer research and the development of treatment, and how better to acknowledge this amazing change than by helping to raise awareness of a lesser publicised form of the disease and raising money for such a good cause? Anyone who has lost anyone to cancer, or who has suffered themselves, will know how hard it is to watch someone you love go through that. The fact that this charity in particular was set up by a group of men who had all suffered and survived the disease makes it all the more important to me, because the chairman of the charity is in fact my boyfriend’s dad. Vince was diagnosed with cancer twice – yes lightning does strike twice – but bravely fought it and won the battle both times, long before I knew him. Knowing how much my own father means to me, and to my family, I know that we are all very grateful he had the expert medical care he did and that it was spotted early enough so that he could be here today for his son and his own family.

The ball was hosted by Sprowston Manor, in Norwich, and the entertainment could be found in the ballroom marquee, which was draped with icicle fairy lights with blue lighting and was decked out with fantastic decorations – my favourite were the choice of vases filled with mini chocolate footballs, as the charity is particularly targeting footballers. The whole evening was organised with a certain level of cheekiness which really added to the atmosphere, and it was amazing to think this was only the second time it had run – it was so polished and well-organised. We luckily arrived just a minute or two before the apocalyptic thunderstorm hit, and thank goodness we did as the people coming in after us were drenched! Dressed in our finest, we were looking forward to an evening spent doing something a little bit different – the ball promised drinks, a three-course meal, a raffle, live entertainment including musicians, a singer and disco, an auction and some great speeches – not bad for £40 a ticket, especially when you know that money is all going to such an amazing cause.IMG_6804The entertainment kicked off with welcome drinks and some live music by two very talented musicians on the saxophone, clarinet and various other instruments, before wedding singer Tommy Winn, who has now proved a huge hit two years in a row, took to the stage. Kicking off the ceremony was professional footballer Paul McVeigh who compèred for the evening and talked us through everything from the menu to some great games that livened up the crowd and later, the auction. He was very popular and had a great way with the crowd, who he had in stitches for much of the night. There were lots of great ideas for fundraising games which had us competing to win prizes from bottles of wine to cash prizes, and I loved the way the donations were in built into the evening – it was really nice to donate money while having a bit of fun. After three-course dinner – which also made me chuckle because the starter and dessert were both ball-shaped – of stuffed balls, chicken and passionfruit tart with sorbet, we were all pretty stuffed, but were treated to coffees and homemade shortbread – a lovely touch!

The meal was followed by the auction, which sported prizes including a signed Barcelona football pennant, a spa package, some signed football shirts and Formula One goodies. A pretty amazing spread and really good fun to watch the auction unfold and people got more competitive and even started bidding wars on their own tables! It was really fun and probably one of the highlights of the night, particularly as they managed to raise over £3,000 from the auction alone thanks to some very generous bids. It’s times like that when, as Mark and I said to each other, it makes you wish you were rich enough to be able to slap down a grand on the table and give it all to charity – what a great feeling, to know you made such a difference to the total at an event like this! But we know we all made a difference that night, whether it was paying for the ticket, buying raffle tickers, playing the games or even having professional photos taken in exchange for a donation to the charity. We made sure we did everything and it was money well spent, plus we all had an amazing time!IMG_6813After the dinner and auction, there were the speeches, led by Vince as chairman. His speech was perfect – short, simple, but really hit you hard and I found myself welling up as he spoke of a young lad, Alfie, who I had met only a few weeks previously. Alfie lost his dad to testicular cancer, and his mum has been left a very young widow thanks to the disease. The pair both hugely support the charity, but couldn’t be there on Saturday because they were walking the streets of Norwich, raising awareness by taking part in the Stand Up To Cancer walk. Truly inspiring and, as I’m sure you agree, the perfect example of why this charity’s work is so important – with more research and awareness, the lives of countless fathers could be saved so that they can be there to watch their sons, and daughters, grow up. Throughout the evening, the organisers had also created a slideshow of photos from various other fundraisers held throughout the year which was displayed on the back wall. The night continued with a lot of dancing, chatting and great music – I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a packed dance floor for the entire evening before!

I’ll finish with a bit more information about It’s On The Ball – the charity aims to support patients and their families by providing support packs and a buddy-system to the newly diagnosed, plus there is financial assistance available to help with travel and accommodation costs for those required to travel to London for specialist treatment. They also hold several events throughout the year to help raise awareness at locations including The Forum and University of East Anglia in Norwich. While other fundraisers are held throughout the year, Tobi’s Ball contributes a huge part of the money needed by the charity – with over £7,000 raised at last year’s event and expectation that this year’s will beat that total. This year, the charity was named Charity of the Year by the Norfolk Football Association which has hugely helped to raise awareness and funds for It’s On The Ball. Word is spreading thanks to the hard work of the trustees and volunteers, but more still needs to be done. So why not get involved somehow? Help raise awareness like I am now and make a difference. Even the tiniest donation will make a difference to the work of It’s On The Ball, but there are other ways of getting involved – why not just take their pledge to check yourself, or your boyfriend, every month? Just running through their check-list for a few minutes every month could help you notice instantly if anything changes and the earlier the diagnosis, the greater chance of survival.

Vince, Anne, myself and Mark

Vince, Anne, myself and Mark

Do you know someone who has been affected by testicular cancer? Have you been to a charity ball – what was your favourite part?

Ab Lucy sign off

 

When did crazy fans turn music into a dictatorship?

jaxxI love music. I love music of all kinds and can’t imagine a life without the poetic combination of soulful melodies, dancing beats and country drawl winging they way to my ears. Something that I pride myself in, although I know some say that this is evidence of no taste at all, is that I have a serious love for many different genres of music. I am not prejudiced and you will find my happily listening to rock music one day, and dancing in a club to electronic beats that night. You’ll just as easily find me at a jazz festival or a folk gig, as you will singing along to some old country tunes. Does that mean I have no taste at all? Or does it mean that I am just more accepting of different types of music? Much like my attitude to most things around me, I am very open to trying new things and try to reserve judgement until I have experienced something for myself. Music is no different and I wouldn’t rule out a genre, or an artist, because:

It only takes one song in just the right setting and moment to connect with your emotions and make you fall in love with them.

Music is a funny thing, I’m sure there is a whole world of psychology out there and plenty of theories to do with how our brains are wired, that explain why we connect so much to music. But to me, it is not something that can be explained using science. Music tugs on our heartstrings, renders us speechless, keeps us dancing to the bitter end, takes us on huge highs and through our darkest times, brings tears to our eyes, and gives us hope. It has been tracked through the ages as something that unifies us as people, from the slaves who used to sing to show their strength against those who enslaved them, to powerful songs that have been used in politics and wartime, to the modern day politics of programmes like X Factor that have us huddled round the TV every Saturday night. There is something about all of these types of music, and all the others I haven’t mentioned, that speaks to us.

The music touches us when words aren’t enough to explain an emotion or feeling.

It’s something we can all identify with to some extent, although I know for some the pull is stronger than for others. We have all experienced that moment when a song appeared to speak the words we couldn’t say, that moment when a song touched our hearts in a way that no loved one could. So when we all understand the beauty of music – why do some people seem to struggle with allowing others to choose their own music? When did music become a dictatorship?john newmanOkay, that may sound a little over-dramatic to you, but in the last few weeks this is something that has really been brought to my attention and I just can’t make sense of it. I’m talking about everything from when your parents or grandparents make comments about your choice of music – they say it is “just noise” or they “can’t listen to that rubbish” and wonder “what ever happened to the real talent?” Despite them having idolised their equivalent of today’s acts when they were our age. Some refuse to accept that times have changed and that just because they do not enjoy our musical choices as much as those from 60 years ago – that we can’t possibly enjoy them either. Where’s the acceptance? Why can’t we enjoy listening to a DJ play beats as much as they enjoyed listening to ABBA or The Beatles in their heyday?

They’re not the only ones, there’s also those who are stuck with their heads wedged firmly in one genre – often these are the ones who say those who say they like all music are actually tasteless – and refuse to enjoy anything outside of that. How limiting it must be to only enjoy one type of music, it would give me a headache if I only listened to one style of music. But I find it sad how different musical genres can sometimes be quite segregated – I have found that on occasion when I have gone to a rock gig or a ska night, that I will get some funny looks because I don’t look like the average crowd for the gig – and yet once the music starts, I seem to be having more fun and loving it more than anyone else. And those who just instantly brush off any other type of music as “crap” just because it doesn’t fit the genre – why not give it a listen and see what you think before putting it in a box?skaAnd finally, the crazy obsessive fans. Well, these seem to be popping up all over the place with Instagrams, Twitter profiles and even Facebook groups dedicated to how much they love Justin Bieber, One Direction or even UB40. I’m sorry guys, don’t take this personally but having experienced the wrath of some of these fan groups of late – I can say that they are quite aggressive, over-protective of a person they don’t even know personally and often scare other potential fans away. It seems odd to me, no matter how much you love a person’s/group’s music, to bind yourself to them in an obsessive way and, in some cases, refuse to acknowledge other types of music exist, or even other artists within the same genre. Of course, this doesn’t apply to all “super fans” but those who have had the light shone on them seem to be putting a lot of energy into propelling an artist (whether actually talented or not) into the spotlight, regardless of other tastes.

I was surprised recently when my announcement of an upcoming interview with UB40 over Twitter was met with huge backlash and rather aggressive comments over the band’s break-up, which happened six years ago! Rather than keeping with the spirit of reggae, as I’m sure true reggae stars would insist, I was sent a series of rude, uninvited and progressively angry tweets that insisted my interview was with fake artists and that the other rival group had been cheated out of fame. Can I just raise the question – who cares? Personally, I feel that the personal issues between the band members had little to do with the music, considering my favourite songs were released long before it all happened. Plus, it is none of my business, or the business of any of these “fans” what has happened – why are they taking it so personally? Between them they have managed to alienate a potential fan of the rival band – what true fan would want to do that? What reggae-lover would want to spread aggression and negativity? These fans could not understand that some of us just want to enjoy the music without all the anger, rivalry and competitiveness because to us, the music is all that matters.rudimentalSorry, I realise this is turning into a bit of a long post, I’ll start to wind it up. Basically, my whole point here, is I don’t understand what makes anyone feel entitled to dictate the musical tastes of another. A bit like your choice of underpants, or how to raise your children, it is a personal choice. Yes, of course, recommendations are always welcome and I love when people suggest a band or an act I should check out – especially if they know me well and think they are perfect for me. But musical taste is personal, it is something unique to each individual – like a fingerprint – and no-one can tell you what to love. If you love listening to Dolly Parton and heavy metal – who is to judge you? I certainly won’t be.

What do you think of the idea of music as a dictatorship? have you ever experienced the wrath of the “super fans”?

Ab Lucy sign off

Festivals: Where are all the female bands?

10397834_10152219575647617_2424544814853925969_nI know I seem to have festivals on the brain  at the moment, but we are slap bang in the middle of festival season, so you’ll have to keep reading these posts for a few weeks yet. Anyway, this one is slightly different to all my reviews and reminiscing posts about previous festivals – this one is focusing on an interesting infographic that was sent to me by the guys over at Farfetch about the number of female bands performing at the world’s top three largest music festivals. Despite the crowds surrounding the stages at festivals being full of women of all ages, whether they arrive in huge groups or in pairs, it seems that most of the line-ups for 2014 were dominated by male acts. Where are all the female musicians when it comes to the stage? This infographic focused solely on three of the world’s biggest festivals, starting with our very own Glastonbury Festival, which saw 175,000 flocking to Pilton between June 25-29. These figures were compared with those from Denmark’s Roskilde Festival which attracted 110,000 between June 29 and July 6. And finally, Belgium’s Rock Werchter which saw a further 110,000 between July 3-6.1004604_10151480508882617_1052791188_n

How big is the gender gap?

Let’s kick off with the figures on how many acts featured female members at each of the festivals. Glastonbury saw a whopping 83% of male performers to just 17%, but actually this was the highest percentage of female performers. Roskilde saw 88% of male performers compared to a mere 112% of females. But Rock Werchter showed the greatest gender gap with just 11% of female performers compared to 89% of males. Glastonbury may have been storming ahead, but still stood at only 17%!

Does genre matter?

As you can imagine, there seems to be a wider gender gap for some musical genres than others, and perhaps that is why some festivals in particular are struggling with the number of female artists. Women were best represented in pop, then rock acts at Glastonbury, with electronic, R&B and world music trailing behind. Over at Roskilde, pop remains the top representation of our gender, followed by rock and jazz, with further and much smaller representation in funk, experimental, electronic and world music. Rock Werchter, music like Glastonbury, went hard on pop and rock female-led acts, with far smaller numbers of electronic acts, then folk, jazz and world.

10487487_10152219585252617_90964267184016065_n

Who’s headlining the festivals?

Another sorry result for the ladies who were distinctly absent from the headline acts, in fact entirely so from Roskilde which featured no female headliners! Rock Werchter wasn’t far behind, with just 6%, and even Glastonbury only boasted a mere 15% – although this did include the fabulous Dolly Parton!

Is it a popularity contest?

The research team spent some time looking at Facebook likes and comparing both male and female acts to see who appeared most popular – these were used as record sales information was not available. Some of the top acts at the festivals included the male-led metal band Metallica who took to the main stage at Glasto and Rock Werchter this summer and boast 37,423,683 likes. Hip-hop artist Drake took the main stage at Roskilde and has 34,000,000 likes, he was joined by rockers The Rolling Stones who have 19,000,000. Skrillex represented electronic music at both Glasto and Rock Werchter on secondary stages and has 17,514,547 likes. While rockers Kings of Leon took to the Rock Werchter main stage with 12,000,000 likes, joined by Pearl Jam who have 9,997,000 likes. Finally the ladies chime in, popstrel Lana Del Ray headed to the main stage at Glasto with just 9,461, 785 likes. Ellie Goulding took to the stages at Glasto and Roch Werchter with 9,409,676 likes, with Imagine Dragons and Ed Sheeran trailing behind.

Bucking the trend?

One of my favourite festival moments of the summer is actually one I wasn’t even there for, I watched Dolly Parton’s performance at Glasto live on TV but loved every second, I felt like I was there. She line-danced all over that stage, entertained the huge crowd of over 100,000 with her fabulous and funny stories at the Pyramid Stage. She actually drew a larger crowd than Arcade Fire and Metallica – both headline acts! So it seems that although male acts might be more popular on paper and to the booking agents – but when it comes to winning over the audience, it’s anyone’s game!

10590525_10152223383927617_4194751662331272017_nIt’s strange, this is something I hadn’t really thought about before. Considering all the festivals I have been to over the last three years, particularly this summer, I had never actually paid attention to how many female acts there were, or even what genre they seemed to stick to. After reading the infographic and really starting to think about it, I’ve certainly noticed that the majority of acts I have seen live this summer have definitely been male acts or male-led acts. I only actually remember seeing a handful of female headliners and one group featuring women taking a headline slot. While at We R FSTVL, Annie Mac was shockingly the only female act I remember seeing and while she really is a great role model and champions the female DJ, doing it alone perhaps highlights a real lack of women working in the electronic music genre.

At Secret Garden Party, one of the most impressive performances came in the form of Foxes who took a sunny, daytime slot on the Main Stage, while the powerful strains of Martha and the Vandellas had the whole crowd on their feet in one of the headline slots. This festival was probably one of the more female-friendly for acts but was still lacking slightly. BoomTown Fair actually went in the opposite direction with almost all of the acts I saw being male or at least male-led – I only remember seeing one act with a female singer, but there may have been others from times when I couldn’t quite see the stage. It’s a bit sad if there are actually all these female acts out there who are working their butts off and just aren’t being given the opportunities to perform on main stages at festivals – but is this a bigger problem with the music industry? Or is it simply a case of there are more men out there who want to be musicians to the level of performing at festivals? I’m not quite sure…10556415_10152190746577617_6474017272307128048_nWhat do you think about the figures and about the questions they raise? Do you think this highlights a bigger problem with the music industry – or are there just not enough female performers?

Ab Lucy sign off