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The Introduction of the National Living Wage.

In 2015, George Osborne announced in his budget that the UK were going to make sure that, by 2020, we would be on £9 an hour, well deserving of the title “the National Living Wage”.

However, despite the fact that inflation by 2020 would arguably make £9 an hour less impressive (seeing that the Living wage rose by 40p in November), there is also a catch. At the moment, the only changes are going to be for people aged 25 and over.

The justification of this by the government is that it will allow young people to “secure work and gain experience” as well as to “maximise the opportunities” available to them.

Now, this seems fine and well, apart from the fact that this is pretty much going to screw over young people AND people over 25.

Just think about it. At this moment in time, the national minimum wage is £6.70 an hour. This applies (currently) to anyone over the age of 21, with the minimum wage for 18-20 year old workers being £5.30 an hour, and a staggeringly low £3.87 for people under 18. This means that, BEFORE the changes, people over 21 are earning £2.83 an hour more than under 18s (and £1.40 more for people aged 18-20) for just being older. Say what you want about ‘gaining experience’, they are doing exactly the same work as someone who is 21+, and it’s not that fair.

From April 2016, the situation is going to be even more clouded. This is due to the government’s 2020 “living wage” plan making its first progress, boosting the wage from £6.70 an hour to £7.20 an hour for people aged 25 and over. This means that, especially people who are working in shops and other customer service industries (as well as other employment that works on a minimum wage payment), the wage gap between 17 year olds and 25 year olds is going to be an incredible £3.33 an hour. Simply for being older, 25 year olds are going to be paid almost DOUBLE the wage of someone under 18.

You might, however, argue that 16-18 year olds “don’t need the money as much as 25 year olds”, because they spend it on unimportant things like university funding, or even a car or driving lessons. Whatever arguments you say about teenage spending, there are adults that spend their wage on pretty much similar things, whether it be video games, alcohol, or trying to avoid getting £50,000+ in debt to study at university. It doesn’t mean that their work is less valuable, or that they put in less effort.

Look at 18-20 year olds, if you want another side of the argument (I’ll be getting on to my current age bracket, 21-24, soon). They are getting paid £1.90 less despite being legally classed as an adult. At that age, finding work isn’t about getting some extra pocket money, it’s either finding work to complement further education or as a full time job, and, therefore, trying to save up to move out and become independent (seeing that they legally have to pay council tax anyway).

This becomes even muddier when it comes to the 21-24 year old workers. This is pretty much consisting of graduates and the independent adults from the 18-20 section, with some mature students thrown into the mix. This group has all the responsibilities as people 25+. If you have a person working in a shop that’s full time (I’ve classed this as 40 hours, but some companies differ) and 24, and another person that’s full time and 25, there shouldn’t be a £20 per week difference in their wage. The only reason they are being paid £20 more a week is because of their age. When you are doing something like retail, having 1 year more experience or being 1 year older doesn’t make a fucking difference. Being 24 as opposed to 25 doesn’t make your bills, your council tax, or your mortgage repayments (okay, with this government, this example is stretching it a bit far) any cheaper. It’s exactly the same financial responsibility as an 18 year old would have, so why do people 25 and older get placed on a minimum-wage significantly higher than people that have the same responsibilities financially? £2o may not seem like much per week, but it adds up to an extra £1,020 a year just for being a year older, which is just simply ridiculous. If you were working 40 hours a week at 18 years old, someone aged 25 and over would be earning £3,952 more a year from April. The exact same job, the exact same responsibilities, but your age (and the concept of experience, we mustn’t forget about that) means you earn nearly four grand less a year, because fuck you, 18-20 year olds – lots of love, George Osborne.

The Living wage issue doesn’t just affect people under 25, though. Seeing that 1 in 20 (or 5% of the population, roughly 3,250,000 people) are on minimum wage at the moment, and the suggestion of it increasing to 1 in 9 by 2020, people over 25 will more than likely find themselves too valuable for businesses to employ them. Significant amounts of high street companies hire 16-20 year olds already because of their lower wage cost, but increasing 25 y/o+ workers’ wages by 50p an hour (and steadily rising in the future) will just make the cheaper, more affordable teenagers even more worthwhile. Sure, they will earning more, but they will most certainly see doors close in the future because of their extra expense.

The living wage is being heralded as a “masterstroke“, but without other increases to the minimum wage for younger people, it’s quite simply adding another tier to the minimum wage and rebranding it as “living”. All it is doing is making a clear statement that people 25 and over apparently work harder than people under 25, and that they deserve to be paid more because of it. I’m sorry, George Osborne, but as someone that has suffered through the minimum wage tiers and austerity cuts, and not had a rich family to bail me out whenever I needed it, I know when I’m being served shit despite being told that it’s champagne.

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Happy New Year! 2016 Resolutions and saying goodbye to 2015.

The end of the year is finally upon us. 2015 has been a mixed year for the world, with terrorist attacks, Donald Trump, and a majority Conservative government putting a significant dampener on the whole thing.

For myself, it’s been pretty fun. I’ve graduated university with a 2:1 grade, had a load of fun adventures with people, and trying to settle into adult life for the first time. It’s been a good build-up, but I think there’s a long way to go, and that’s why I’m going to have some New Years resolutions, just to keep me in line and for something to work towards. These are in no particular order, but they shall be a list with explanations.

  1. Become vegetarian.
    This year, I’ve been gradually working towards vegetarianism, cutting meat out of my diet and either finding alternatives to replace it or having meals without any meat replacements. I’ve not cut it out completely yet, but by December 31st, 2016, I would like to be a full vegetarian. It’s because of a few reasons, mainly moral, but I won’t go into it.
  2. Move back to Leicester.
    Of course this had to make it, it’s my home from home, nearby a large portion of my friends, and the city I have spent the last three years, of which I love.
  3. Get a career-based job in a field I want to work in or begin a Masters degree in journalism.
    This is a bit vague and indecisive simply to be realistic. I would rather save up some money and get work in an English-based field before going back into education, just to get some professional experience on top of work experience and my education.
  4. Build up my journalism portfolio.
    Already under way with The Mixed Tape, but I am going to be getting heavily involved with Vulture Hound now that my hours are cut down again at work. I want to really get my journalist portfolio full of articles and getting my name out there.
  5. Travel to at least one different country.
    Seeing that I’ve not left the UK since 2011, I think it’s about time I visit somewhere different. It doesn’t matter where, as long as I travel to a different country, I’m happy.
  6. Lose some weight.
    This has been a constant one for the last few years, to little success. But I am wanting to get some weight lost purely for my health, and just feel a bit fitter and better about myself again.
  7. Improve my mental health.
    This is something new that I’ve not often spoken about before. For roughly 6-7 years, I’ve suffered from depression. For the first time in my life I’ve went beyond the basic counselling session and I’m currently going through CBT, or cognitive behavioural therapy, to help directly target my depression and help my brain function differently. I’m also taking anti-depressants alongside therapy, hoping that they will aid me too. Here’s to a (hopefully) happier 2016!
  8. Get some creative writing published.
    I’d absolutely love to get some poetry or a short story published in the near future. I’m sure I’ll be keeping you informed on here!
  9. Get some significant work on my novel done.
    The plan is there, and I’m a few thousand words in, but I’ve not been able to write as much, recently. I’m planning to get at least half of my novel written this year. This is here to make sure I do…
  10. Read more books.
    This is an important one. The ratio of books I own to books I’ve read is shockingly disproportionate. If there’s anything I need to do, it’s to get a lot of them into my “Read” pile, and out of my monstrous “To Be Read” pile.

So, that’s my 10. What resolutions do you have in mind? Feel free to comment them on my post! I hope you all have a Happy New Year!

– Corey

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Writing projects in Cumbria, and the Borderlines Festival, Carlisle.

The books I bought at Borderlines Festival, Carlisle.

The books I bought at Borderlines Festival, Carlisle.

It’s been a while since my last blog post, my utmost apologies. I’ve been going through the motions of getting settled in Cumbria and joining the working world, so my blog posts have taken more of a hit than first expected.

In regards to writing, I am now writing for an online music journalism website called The Mixed Tape, which is very exciting! I’ve already reviewed a couple of things on there, so feel free to have a look to try and find me!

My creative writing projects have mainly been writing little bits when I can, but nothing huge. I’ve made a bit of progress with a novel idea thanks to a train journey last week, but other than that it’s mainly been poetry or small chunks of prose. It’s a habit I’m going to have to get back into, which is something I didn’t really want to do as a writer.

One fun thing I’ve done this month, however, was visit Carlisle for the Borderlines Festival on the 5th of September! I started the day at a Poetry Breakfast hosted by Malcolm Carson and John Lucas. It was a nice start to the day, sipping a cup of coffee surrounded by fellow poets. I even performed a couple of poems myself! It wasn’t the best place for it, however, because the Tullie House cafe had Museum guests enjoying a breakfast and having light conversation in the same room as the event. It would have been better in a smaller coffee shop that could let your voice carry a bit better, and even possibly have a microphone and speakers. It was still fun and I left with (another) poetry book for my book collection by John Lucas.

The next event was a lot more concerned with providing a guide for writers, as Marian Veevers (whose pen name is Anna Dean), where we looked at using local record offices for inspirations to crime novels. It was a lot of fun (after a few tech issues!) and the tasks were really interesting and insightful. Definitely something for me to consider when novel writing!

After lunch, I sat down to a talk by Tom Harper and Simon Toyne, who were talking about their latest novels (Black River and Solomon Creed, respectively) and how to write thrillers (without becoming Dan Brown). It was definitely my favourite event of the day, as they discussed fun stories, how to edit with fellow writers, the idea of using a location vs creating a location, and much more. I, again, left the event with a book. A signed first edition of Solomon Creed with some really lovely black trimmed pages. Definitely something I’m looking forward to reading!

The last event was listening to a book reading and talk by Katherine Norbury, who has recently released The Fish Ladder, which is part travelogue, part memoir, and was an interesting change in content from the other events.

The only problem, now, is that I have to wait until next year for the Borderlines festival to come back around (unless I go off on adventures to other reading and literary festivals in the future), but as a Borderlines Festival virgin, I was very much impressed.

I’ll be posting some updates about my writing in the near future, as well as typical rants and comment pieces more than likely working themselves onto here, too.

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Slam poetry and Poetry Is Dead Good

Been a while since I’ve posted on here, I’m currently stuck applying for jobs and trying to stay in Leicester, so I’ve been a bit preoccupied.

I went along to my first slam poetry night last week, and ended up doing an impromptu performance for the first time in a few months. It was a slam competition in the basement of The Exchange in Leicester, and ran by the organisers of Poetry Is Dead Good in Nottingham. The poets were beyond fantastic, and whilst I didn’t end up getting into the final in Nottingham next month, I have been invited to do my first set of poetry as a guest poet in the near future for one of their monthly spoken word nights, which is something I’m really excited for!

I will hopefully be able to post more information in the future, but for now it’s an exciting prospect and I can’t wait to get involved in such a fantastic poetry night.

For my writing, I’m working on a few poetry pieces mostly, just so I can get a collection together for the night. Other than that, I’m getting back into prose writing by planning and writing short stories to fit into my dystopian world that I started building when I studied Writing Place. It’s a nice change from course-related stuff, really.

Hopefully I will be adding to the blog in the near future, with content on my writing, as well as some discussions about writing, starting up a Leicester Writing Group, and some other fun* stuff.

*fun not guaranteed

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Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe!

A few weeks ago, I got 30 questions from Tor.com’s Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe off my tutor. It was a class about getting press opportunities and getting your writing (and yourself in general) out there.

So, I have decided I’m going to do a 3 part blog post where I answer 10 questions from the pop quiz, just so you get to know me a little better.

So, here it goes.

1) Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the internet.
Well then, this is a good one to start with. I have a phobia of bees/wasps/hornets that I’ve had for as long as I can remember. Apparently I was stung by one when I was very little, so that’s probably why. I’m more than okay with the concept of bees, I understand they’re necessary, but it doesn’t stop me freaking out when I see one.

2) If you could be incarnated as any historical figure, who would you like to be?
I answered this one in the class, actually. It’s either Ramses II or George Orwell. Two very different people!
Ramses II because he was arguably one of the biggest Pharaohs in Egyptian history, with his legacy being plastered (or, more accurately, built by slaves) all over Egyptian temples, including Abu Simbel, which is often considered an “8th Wonder of the World”, and most certainly in the 7 wonders of Egypt.
George Orwell because he is one of the most intelligent and thought inspiring writers of the 20th Century. His fictional work has changed society in so many ways, as well as his equally spectacular non-fiction work. It would be an honour as a writer to be able to step into his shoes, even if only once.

3) What is your favourite short story?
Now this is a tough one. I really like Angela Carter’s work, especially The Bloody Chamber. It’s pretty messed up but fantastic writing. I really enjoy The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway, too. I understand these are both novellas but I don’t often read that much short fiction (I am trying to get myself into it, however.)

4) Describe your favourite place to read/write?
My favourite place to read/write would probably be a coffee shop? It sound kind of stereotypical and student-y but I always manage to relax and get into a certain mindset to concentrate there, especially for writing. I also find it easy to read in bed, too. I sat down the other day and read pretty much half of Gone Girl in one go. I got into a zone.

5) If you could choose your own personal theme music/song to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?
I originally said 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky, which would be pretty awesome. But I think the Game of Thrones theme song would be amazing, too.

6) If you regenerated as a new Doctor, what would your signature outfit/accessory be?
I think a Doctor with a broken pocket watch would be cool as a kind of plot creator. Like, it would be kinda odd for someone who travels space and time to have a pocket watch that didn’t even work, and it had some kind of significant use to it that saves him at the last minute, or something.

7) Do you have a favourite underrated/unknown/under-read author?
I would most certainly say Jonathan Taylor. I had the pleasure of being taught by him in the my second year of university before he left, and his debut novel, Entertaining Strangers, is one of my favourite books. I am looking forward to his new novel coming later this year!

8) Battle to the death, which weapon do you choose: A) Phaser, B) Lightsaber, or C) Wand?
I’m pretty much stuck between the lightsaber and the wand. The phaser would be useless against the other two. The wand would be the most versatile and dangerous (If you know what to do with it…), but the lightsaber is much cooler (from the perspective of someone raised on the Star Wars films), so it’ll probably have to be B) Lightsaber.

9) Do you have a favourite word/phrase/etymology?
I’d probably say… shenanigans. As well as it being very fun to say, it also has an interesting history. It is a word that first came about very recently, as new as 1855, according to the OED. It was also first noted in America, so it was less than 100 years after the country became independent from Britain that the word first came about. It is also interesting because it doesn’t have any clear etymology, where it came from prior to that, and is pretty much unknown, even to the OED, which is pretty fascinating. It’s as if it came out of nowhere.

10) Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?
Hm. I’m not too sure. I was doing research for a poem in my first year of university and I pretty much memorised one soup recipe that I used as a structure. Other than that? I did a lot of research into phobias for a project once, and that Nyctophobia is the fear of night and/or darkness.

Thank you for reading the first 10 answers! I will post up another 10 tomorrow!

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States of Independence Review – De Montfort University, 14th March, 2015.

Logo owned by States Of Independence

Logo owned by States Of Independence

On Saturday, I went along to the annual States Of Independence book festival in Leicester, hosted by the Leicester Centre for Creative Writing and Five Leaves Bookstore from Nottingham.

I went to the festival last year and it was a lovely day, but this year was extra special, the official launch of the novelette I co-wrote, Going Nowhere, and I was selling it at the festival along with fellow students’ work.

The day got off to a great start, the official launch of the publications. This featured readings or summaries of each book, and a chance to sell our books for the first time, which was very exciting! Unfortunately, this meant that I have to miss out on a talk about Leicester murders, but I’m glad I had the opportunity to go up with my co-authors, Charlotte and Thom, and read extracts from the book we worked so hard towards.

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa - CivicLeicester

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa – CivicLeicester

The next event I went to was The Speculators – A Model for Tea Drinking and Writing. The name pretty much sold it to me. It was an interesting talk, with conversations about the Leicester based writing group and how they came to be, as well as conversations about Fantasy and Sci-fi, which were also interesting. It wasn’t what I expected, but that isn’t a bad thing! I also want to apologise to the people at WORD! for missing their talk, I’m sure it was a lot of fun, as it always is!

Next up was Rod Duncan’s Steampunk Safari, which was probably my favourite event of the day. He ran through lots of different aspects to Steampunk culture, from video gaming, to cosplay, to Steampunk literature! (Though the last one was expected, given his Phillip K. Dick award nominated Steampunk book, The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter.)
The talk was very interesting and Rod covered a lot of ground (impressive for 40 minutes…), and definitely opened my eyes a lot more to Steampunk. The event ended with a delightful extract from Rod’s book, before answering a few questions from the audience.

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa - CivicLeicester

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa – CivicLeicester

Torn between a talk on Doctor Who and the future of future-fic, I decided to go with the latter, and saw Alex Davis cover the tricky subject of what’s going to happen to dystopian, fantasy, and sci-fi novels in the future, and, potentially, all novels in the future. This resulted in a great discussion between the crowd and Alex, the man who runs Boo Books in Derby, and was a very thought-provoking and interesting talk, especially to those who are writers and readers of future-fic, such as myself.

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa - CivicLeicester

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa – CivicLeicester

Last but not least, we have the delightful East Midlands Book Awards Shortlist! A pretty much packed lecture theatre watched over glasses (okay, plastic cups) of wine as the nominees were announced, followed by a short reading from each of their books. To my surprise, one of my current course tutors, Rod Duncan, was announced in the shortlist with The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter! Even though this resulted in hearing the same passage from the book that we heard at Steampunk Safari, it was great to see that he was a contender! Another nominee which was a surprise for my friend was Kim Slater, with her book, Smart! Both are great contenders for the book, so I wish them both the best of luck!

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa - CivicLeicester

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa – CivicLeicester

Then it goes on to the book stalls at the festival. As usual, the festival was filled with tables full of books all around the ground floor of DMU’s Clephan building. It was a beautiful sight for readers, not so much for the bank accounts of said readers. I started out by buying other publications by fellow students. These were Let Me Explain by Graeme Tait and Adam Womersley, The Other Half of Me by Jennifer Masters, A Citizens’ Guide to Lungsod by Maw (Matt Watts), Jamp (James Parnell), and Suzwo (Suzi Woolley), and The Nemophilist by M. Haggerty-Wood and Gryphon Moffat! I will comment and cover their books on a separate post some other time.

Third Year DMU Students' publications

Third Year DMU Students’ publications

Next book I bought was After The Fall, which is an anthology of short stories about what would happen if technology failed us, and the effects it had on the world. This is an anthology by Boo Books, and it features work by Adam Roberts, Allen Ashley, Mike Chinn, Caren Gussoff, and more.

Boo Books anthology, After The Fall

Boo Books anthology, After The Fall

After that, I got Kim Slater’s book, Smart, after the shortlist was announced, and got it signed by the author. It’s the story of a teenager with learning difficulties who finds a body of a homeless man, who then decides to investigate when the police don’t care. It has been compared to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, and looks like a fantastic read.

Smart and Incognitum definitely win my choice of best cover designs!

Smart and Incognitum definitely win my choice of best cover designs!

Then it comes to the poetry books. The first purchase was Incognitum by Aubrie Marrin. What first attracted me to the book is its absolutely beautiful cover. The poetic content inside was just as fantastic, too. I am very excited to read through it.

The next few poetry books were all one large purchase. Nine Arches Press had a 3 for 2 sale, so I kinda did that. Extra poetry books (or just books in general) are a great way to get me to buy things

The first book I picked up was Earth Records by Alistair Noon. It looks at place, and, like the title suggests, has content which covers most of the world with a turn of the page. The next was Issue 14 of Under The Radar. I’ve wanted to buy previous issues of this anthology but never got around to doing so, so it was good to finally get a copy. The third book (that I was also looking at before Earth Records) is After the Goldrush by Peter Carpenter. Just flicking through it, I found some great poetry, and was definitely worth getting.

Nine Arches Press' poetry books!

Nine Arches Press’ poetry books!

Overall, States of Independence was a fantastic (yet costly) day for me. As usual, it delivered a large amount of culture and book related fun right on my doorstep, bringing the East Midlands writing community together for an entire day of talks, book launches, shortlist announcements, and more. The only problem is we have to wait until next year to do it all over again.

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa - CivicLeicester

Photograph by Ambrose Musiyiwa – CivicLeicester

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