Monday, 8th February 2021
The College community are just a short way through their #The101Challenge – 101 miles to be walked each by a number of staff and students in the 101 days from 19th January to what would have been Captain Sir Tom Moore’s 101st birthday. The fundraisers have already reached their target with donations going to NHS Charities and are now feeling more inspired in their endeavours as they’re now walking in the gentleman’s memory.
Last Monday (1st February) was the start of LGBTQ+ History Month. We kicked off the day tweeting a slide about it, posting a presentation to our Google Classroom and publishing the latest weekly blog on the College website, featuring a link to the same presentation with a bit more context about the event. Very shortly after these went ‘live’, the LRC received emails from other staff members with further ideas to share with our College community.
Maybe it’s because, instead of piecing together a static display and sticking it up on a wall, we have more fully embraced the use of the digital media platforms we have at our fingertips and are sharing ideas that way, but having other members of College staff or students wanting to contribute to our ideas is, quite frankly, absolutely lovely. We regularly had one senior member of staff congratulate us on a display well done but we generally had little idea of how staff and students generally appreciated our work, whether we were getting it right – or not as the case may be. Interaction and collaboration with college staff and students whilst working remotely is a wonderful thing and hopefully this is the way forward once we’re back onsite when our doors are finally open wide again.
Which brings us nicely around to the emails themselves. One missive brought to our attention was the role Brooklands played in the extraordinary life of Roberta “Betty” Cowell.
Betty was born Robert Cowell in 1918 and began a love affair with motorcars at a young age. By the time she started university, she was also to be found sneaking into (here we go) the Brooklands racing circuit offering to help the mechanics and drivers. By 1939 she had competed – as Robert – in the Antwerp Grand Prix. The onset of World War II saw her switch from cars to planes as an RAF pilot but at the end of the war, she was back to racing cars and she founded her own team. And it was at this point that Robert – or Bob – began the change to Betty.
It was a slow transition with Betty still living as a man for a few years but in 1957 Roberta Cowell won the Shelsley Walsh Speed Hill Climb. This is one of the world’s oldest motorsports events, and the publicity and awareness garnered from a transwoman winning it was immeasurable. Here was someone with a distinctly heterosexual history – a fighter pilot, a prisoner of war veteran, a successful motor racing driver, a family man (up until 1948) – confounding perceived views that men wanting to become women was homosexuality. That life is a lot more nuanced.
One of the other staff emails concerned the gay film director and activist, Derek Jarman, who had obviously been an inspiration for one of our tutors. Dan shared this recent article about Jarman’s cottage in Dungeness which had been up for sale and amidst fears that it would be sold to a private owner, a successful Crowdfunding campaign was set up by Art Fund, with support from the likes of Tilda Swinton and David Hockney. The building and its garden will now be conserved and at some point post-pandemic, will be opened for public viewing.
The campaign was obviously set against the backdrop of lockdowns, tiers and furloughed workers, but, as Stephen Deuchar, director of Art Fund said “Derek Jarman’s final years at the cottage were an inspiring example of human optimism, creativity and fortitude battling against the ravages of illness, and in that context the success of this campaign seems all the more apposite and right for its time.”
Attached to Dan’s email was this article about the Dungeness cottage. He has also worked on a presentation about the artist to share with us. He says “Whilst studying at Chelsea College of Art, I was fortunate enough to discover his films due to a well stocked video library containing a vast array of archived art house films. It was the first time I had seen films that were so openly gay and felt incredibly inclusive and intriguing as his style was exiting and filled with vibrant colours and included such strange and flamboyant characters”. You can view the presentation here.
Recent books to consider
Being a library, we’ve had a look at a few books that we’ve enjoyed recently that feature characters from the LGBTQ+ community. We’ve added a couple of TV shows to the mix.
In a limited series about the Wild West of the 1880s you don’t expect to have lesbian supporting characters, but, in it’s plot, written and directed by Scott Frank (who also co-created and directed The Queen’s Gambit) lesbianism is weaved sympathetically into its scenes. In La Belle, a town inhabited largely by women following a mining accident that wiped out most of the men, two strong women (Mary Agnes and Callie Dunn) come together in the dusty wasteland and amidst rape, murder and the harshest of weather, to find love. Much overlooked, ‘Godless‘ is not for the faint hearted but is a brilliant watch – currently streaming on Netflix.
Things a Bright Girl Can Do by Sally Nicholls
The story starts in 1914 just before the start of the first world war. It focuses on 3 young girls who are keen supporters of the Suffragette movement, fighting for the right, as women, to be treated no differently than the men that surround them. Each girl comes from a different social background and approaches being a suffragist differently. Middle class Evelyn drags her beau Teddy to meetings but becomes part of the famous hunger strikes, May is a Quaker living with her widowed mother and values diplomatic and non-violent means to protest, and Nell, distinctly working class and willing to literally fight for the cause. It’s the blossoming relationship between May and Nell, against the backdrop of the fight for women’s rights, and the attitudes of their families and society in general that is at the heart of the book.
(The LRC received multiple copies of this book in 2020 to distribute to our students as part of World Book Night.)
How It All Blew Up by Arvin Ahmadi
A recent book about Amir – 18 years old, American, gay and Muslim who travelled half around the world to avoid being at home when it looked like his family were about to find out about his sexual orientation. He has no plan but he finds himself flying to Rome. Once in Rome, the story follows him as he meets new friends and finds himself caught up in the sort of life he can have if he’s free to be who he wants to be.
The story is told mainly through Amir’s eyes but the author has cleverly interwoven the points of view of his parents and sister by having the tale told retrospectively from an airport interview room. Amir’s narrative is interspersed with their actual views rather than his supposed ones and it is wonderfully done.
It’s a SIn (All 4)
This current show is helping Channel 4 break its own records. Broadcast weekly on the main channel on 22nd January, it was accompanied at its launch with the complete series being streamed on All 4. Ian Katz, Channel 4’s chief content officer, said: “The extraordinary performance of It’s a Sin is a reminder that powerful drama with something important to say about the world can also be commercially successful.” And what did the show have to say?
Spanning 1981-1991 and set in London, the series follows a group of young people during the early years of HIV/AIDS. Written by Russell Davies who has been behind other brilliant programmes featuring LGBT characters, the series tackles the devastating consequences brought about by Aids. It’s a show full of warmth, fun and wonderful, likeable characters but in the words of Graham Norton “Your heart will be broken, warmed and lifted”.
The Binding by Bridget Collins
A delightful tale of forbidden love and the art of bookbinding. See the review below for further details – it’s not bookbinding as we librarians know it.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
This book has been described as an epic Irish tale. We meet Catherine Goggin as she is forced to leave her small Irish town aged 16 and pregnant. She arrives in Dublin to give birth and the baby is given over to what she hopes will be a better life. Cyril is adopted by Mr and Mrs Avery, a wealthy couple, but he is kept at arm’s length and always reminded he is not a true Avery. He feels rejection fron an early age then again when he reveals he is gay. The story unfolds as we journey with Cyril and his quest for happiness. This book is so beautifully written – although there are some heart-breaking moments there is humour too.
And has anyone watched the final episode The Bay (ITV)? There’s a lovely but brief moment with one of the supporting characters and his mate. As it’s not aired yet (although you can watch on ITV Hub) we will say no more.
Chinese New Year
According to the Chinese zodiac, 2021 is the Year of the Ox. The year starts on 12th February and continues until 31st January 2022. The year is a lucky one and is perfect for relationships, whether talking about love or friendship, and working hard (like an ox) will be rewarded.
A modern issue to bring to the awareness of our teenagers is ‘County Lines’, where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs. The name County Lines refers to the mobile phone lines being used by the gangs to organise their criminal activities. The LRC have done a presentation to support this curriculum topic here.
The Binding by Bridget Collins
A book club choice rather than a personal one but I’m so glad it was otherwise I would have missed it. And what a treat it was.
Set in a Victorian-like era, young Emmett Farmer, living in the country with his parents and sister, has been unwell and is struggling to keep up with his usual duties. His parents receive an offer from a binder – Seredith – to take him on as her apprentice. Books in Emmett’s world are very different to the books in ours. Although there are ‘trade’ books, scorned upon by binders, which contain simple stories, books are generally made by those gifted in binding – the ability to take someone’s memories and bind them within a beautifully crafted book, to be locked securely away. The memories – often painful – are now forgotten, and can only be released by the destruction of the book, although the books can be read by other unscrupulous people for their own enjoyment.
Emmett is confused as to why he is wanted as an apprentice by someone he has never met but nevertheless he journeys to her home to learn her trade – and discovers a book with his name on it…
This is a delightful story. There’s mystery and mysticism bound up in a forbidden love story as we read about Emmett, a young man named Lucian and what happens when their paths cross, and how perhaps love should never be forgotten – however painful.
There’s a great Twitter account called Bookcase Credibility (@BCredibility) which highlights all that’s good (and bad) about the shelves that sit behind people as they conduct their online interviews and discussions. The actual tweets are generally good humoured and occasionally poke fun at the owner of the shelves. Maybe there were too many jokes to be had though because one company during the pandemic that has seen an increase in sales is Bookbarn International – a business that loans books in bulk as ‘window-dressing’. It’s customer-base would normally primarily be TV and film production companies but in 2020 a new type of client emerged – the Home Office Client. There are a number of people out there willing to pay for the perfect *Zoom meeting backdrop. Read more about it here in this BBC article.
*Other meeting platforms are available
Worried about fines as we enter another lockdown? No problem. All loans have been renewed and fines waived while the LRC is closed. Book returns can wait until the College has safely reopened.
E-Book of the Week
Each week, the LRC will be highlighting an e-book that we feel will be of special interest to certain students. This week, it’s an e-book for our Level 1 Health & Social Care and Childcare students.
Simply click the Brooklands College Login link here and access the book using your College student ID and password.
Access our virtual library online
You can search for e-books on the library catalogue or directly through our e-book providers.. Click on the Shibboleth login if requested and select Brooklands College. If you have any problems please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact us with an area you are interested in or your assignment title and we can suggest some resources for you.
The LRC website contains links to our resources, our online catalogue and is full of information about LRC use, plus there are book reviews, links to our displays and other items of interest. It is only available to College members (sorry) and can be found through links on the LRC Google Classroom, and on the staff and student intranets.
LRC Google Classroom page
Tutors have been invited to join the Classroom and will be passing the joining code on to their students. It’s full of links to resources, and helpful advice and tips.
Please contact us at email@example.com if you need support with e-books, e-resources or anything else.