19 ideas for the summer of 2019

We’ve updated our 2018 summer guide just in time to make sure that you have your best summer holidays ever! We’d love to hear how many of these activities you manage to tick off over the next few weeks.

1. Swim outdoors

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The perfect activity for hot weather! Don’t forget rivers and lakes as well as the seaside – this site has loads of inspiration as well as some vital safety advice. You may also be lucky enough to live near an outdoor swimming pool – London alone has several, listed here, and there are some spectacular pools around the country as well.

2. Listen to live music

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There’s something magical about live music, especially on a summer’s evening.   As well as festivals of all kinds, and concerts up and down the country,  you might well find free live music sessions in your local park or in the garden of your local pub.  If you like classical music, or think you’d like to give it a try, you can’t beat the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London; you can hear world-class performances on a “promming ticket” for only £6.

3. Make something

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Away from the demands of term-time, you can really get stuck into a big art or craft project. You could try:

  • painting a big canvas for your room (blank canvases aren’t too expensive here)
  • making a collage – from magazine scraps, fabric, photos, or a mixture!
  • sewing a simple skirt or dress for yourself

Find lots more ideas and advice in our Make Beautiful Things pages and on this US DIY Projects for Teens website.

4. Go somewhere new with a friend

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Exploring new places – countryside, towns, cities, seaside – is the perfect summer activity, and doing it with a friend makes it much more fun. You could walk or cycle to nearby places, or explore further afield by bus or train. Take a picnic and some water and see what you can discover! We’ve got practical advice on travelling around the UK here. Keep yourself safe with our tips here.

5. Earn some money

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It’s very satisfying to earn your own money, and it’s even better if you can find a job you like; browse our suggestions for part-time and holiday jobs here and see what you can find locally. Even if you don’t want a regular job, or can’t find one, you could perhaps:

  • see if family or friends would be happy to pay you for particular tasks that they don’t have time to do themselves (cleaning or decorating perhaps)
  • sell some of your art, craft or cooking at a local craft fair or fete.

6. Cook a meal for your family

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It’s very satisfying if you can put a whole meal on the table for your family, and whoever normally cooks will really appreciate the break.  Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated, especially in the summer – try a pasta dish with salad or a simple curry. We’ve got all the help and information you need on our cooking pages,  including a guide to meal planning here.

7. Try a new sport

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See if your local park or sports centre has any summer taster sessions or courses – some might even be free like these.  Many parks have free-to-use tennis courts and you can find free tennis sessions here.  Find a free-to-use table tennis table here. You could try intensive ice-skating lessons at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham or canoeing or golf around the country.  If you don’t want to do anything too organised, just round up some friends and some cheap equipment and try football, cricket, French cricket, rounders or badminton in your local park.

8. Get a different hairstyle

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You don’t have to do anything radical, but time away from school gives you the chance to experiment with a different look.  See if you’re tempted by any of Elle Magazine’s 2019 trends.

9. Spend a night camping

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Camping can be as simple or elaborate as you like – you can even camp in your back garden if you have one, with a basic 2-person tent for around £20 from Argos .  If you’re venturing further afield – best with family or friends to begin with – you might find this camping beginner’s guide useful.   You can make it easier for yourself by camping in sites where the tents have already been set up for you! The YHA has a range of options in some beautiful locations.

10. Join your local library

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If you’re not already a member of your local library, now’s the time to put that right. Find your local library here. As well as giving you free access to as many books as you want, of whatever kind, all summer long, your library is a great place to find out about other activities and events happening in your area over the summer.

11. Watch a film

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As well as the new blockbusters at your local cinema, see if there are any open-air screenings of classics near you – they’ve become much more popular over recent years and can be a really fun way to spend a summer evening. The two new films that have caught our imagination are:

  • Toy Story 4   (U) The series just gets better and better. Funny and full of heart.  Out now.
  • The Lion King (PG). The live action remake – opening on 19 July.  Spectacular scenery, great music and one of the most powerful Disney stories of recent years.

12. Give your bedroom a makeover

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For rainy days or when you’ve had enough sun. Get rid of clutter (paperwork, clothes you don’t wear any more, all the random bits and pieces that seem to collect everywhere);  rearrange the furniture; give the walls a lick of paint; reorganise your storage; display your remaining possessions in whatever way pleases you most. See our page on managing your possessions for more suggestions.

13. Walk a dog (not necessarily your own)

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Dog-walking in the summer is pure pleasure, as you’ll know if you’re lucky enough to have a dog of your own. If you don’t, see if you can walk a friend or neighbour’s dog one day;  make sure the dog is safe with other people first and check if there’s anything particular you should do or avoid on your walk. You could also see if your local kennels need help over the summer, or volunteer to walk dogs for elderly or terminally ill people through the Cinnamon Trust.

14. Go on a course or workshop

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Summer holidays give you the chance to learn more about the things that interest you, or to try out something you’ve never tried before. There are all sorts of workshops and courses around the country, on all sorts of subjects; some are very expensive, some very cheap (or even free), and most somewhere in between. Try:

15. Visit a relation on your own

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Sometimes it’s fun to switch up the family dynamics and visit your favourite relations without a big crowd of  siblings or parents. You’ll be surprised how much you discover about each other, and it’s a good way to start becoming more independent.  Don’t forget to make sure that your visit is convenient for everyone involved, and plan your travel carefully – see here for further help and advice.

16. Eat breakfast outside

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When the weather’s good, and you don’t have to hurry off to school or college, eating breakfast outside is the best way to start your day.  Take time to make yourself something you really like – cereal with fruit, scrambled eggs, something nice on on toast – and enjoy the sights and sounds around you.

17. Pick your own fruit

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There aren’t so many pick-your-own fruit farms as there used to be, but it’s a great summer tradition to try if you can – find inspiration here and see if there’s a farm near you here .  And wherever you live, it won’t be long until you can pick blackberries for free.

18. Go to a fair

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Because nothing says summer like a fair. There will almost certainly be one near you this summer!

19. Save the world

Environmental awareness is the big story of 2019. Be part of the story and do one thing or make one change to improve the environment for yourself and future generations. See some suggestions on our post here.

Don’t forget to follow Agnes on Twitter, where we’ll be retweeting all the exciting summer events and opportunities that we can find.

And whatever you do, we hope you have a summer to remember!

 

 

A Christmas songbook

Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without music.  Everyone has their favourite tracks, but we hope that you’ll find a new favourite in our special collection below. Whatever Christmas means to you, and whatever your Christmas mood – make it better with music.

The best Christmas pop song ever, no discussion. Beautiful, haunting and unique

Mariah Carey giving it her all
For everyone missing someone at Christmas
A wall of Christmas sound from 1963
UK Christmas No.1 in 1978. Forget about being cool and enjoy it.
James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, with a funky Christmas message
Pop legend Annie Lennox with a new take on this traditional carol
Joyous chorus from Handel’s Messiah – a Christmas essential
This is how you do a traditional Christmas
Simple but beautiful carol
Joni Mitchell – very sad but very beautiful
Modern Christmas folk from The Fleet Foxes
Medieval Latin carol sung by British folk band Steely Span
You can’t get more Christmassy than Tchaikovsky’s Nutracker ballet – and this clip gives another chance to see the wonderful Francesca Hayward in action.

Five phenomenal books written by teenage girls

Girls write. Girls write school essays (prose), short stories (fiction), diaries (non-fiction), songs, poetry, and reams and reams of text messages (dialogue). It’s hardly surprising then that there are lots of great books out there written by girls in their teens.

Jill Murphy wrote The Worst Witch while she was still at school although it was rejected by publishers on the basis that children would be frightened by the outlandish notion of a school full of witches. Catherine Webb had five books published before her twentieth birthday writing her first book, Mirror Dreams, during her summer holidays when she was just fourteen. She continues to gain critical acclaim under the pen name Claire North. Anya Reiss became the youngest playwright to have their work staged in London when her play Spur of the Moment was published and performed in 2010. She was eighteen.

The following five books are remarkable for more than the youth of the author or their commercial success. Each caused a furore at the time of their publication. Each has had, and continues to have, a profound impact – on individual readers, on the publishing industry, and on the way the world views young women.

1. Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born in August 1797, the daughter of William Godwin, a leading author and philosopher, and of Mary Wollstonecraft who wrote the first major feminist work in English. In Vindication of the Rights of Women (published 1792), Mary Wollstonecraft argued that women were not naturally intellectually inferior to men but only seemed so due to lack of education. Tragically, Mary Godwin was only ten days old when her mother died. She became very attached to her father who gave her free rein of his extensive library. By her early teens, Mary had read all of Shakespeare and much more besides.

Celebrity authors of the era were frequent visitors to the Godwin home, among them the young poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mary and Percy fell in love but William Godwin disapproved – understandably since Shelley already had a wife and child. In July 1814, a month before her seventeenth birthday, the young couple eloped to the continent.

By the summer of 1816, Mary, Percy, and their infant son were living in a villa near Geneva. Their neighbor, the poet Lord Byron, suggested that they each compose a ghost story – just for fun. Mary, eager to do her parents proud, took the challenge seriously. Percy was impressed by her story and encouraged her to expand it. Frankenstein was finished in March 1817, when Mary was aged nineteen. When it was published, anonymously, a year later most reviewers had no doubt that the book had been written by a man, and given the setting in Geneva, probably by Percy Shelley. Frankenstein was re-printed in 1823, this time with Mary’s name on the cover.

Frankenstein opens with a series of letters from Robert Walton, a young Arctic explorer, to his sister in England. In the first letter he describes his great excitement at the prospect of discovering lands ‘never before imprinted by the foot of man.’ A second letter continues in the same enthusiastic vein but with one complaint, ‘I have no friend, Margaret.’ In his third letter Walton reports a bizarre incident. He has witnessed a strange creature, ‘a being with the shape of man, but apparently of gigantic stature,’ racing across the frozen terrain on a dog sledge. Shortly afterwards, Walton says, he rescued a man, half dead and hardly able to speak, from the ice. This stranger, a man called Victor Frankenstein, begs Walton to help him in his pursuit of the creature on the sledge. To convince him, Frankenstein relates the sorry tale of his monstrous creation.

Mary Shelley’s creation is a spell-binding and thought-provoking book. Frankenstein’s nameless monster begs the big questions:

‘Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come?’

What, in other words, is the spark of life and what makes a living, thinking, being into a real person?

This is no scare-at-bedtime ghost story. In fact, it’s not that scary at all but it does demand some hard thinking. At a time when science began to take giant leaps for mankind, Mary Shelley wisely questioned the responsibilities of scientists. She perceived the power of words and called language ‘a godlike science.’ She is credited with inventing the genre of science fiction.

More than anything else, Frankenstein is a very sad book, a story which seems to prove that of all the agonies a soul can be forced to endure, the worst is loneliness.

 

2. The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank.

There’s a spoiler right on the first page of this book:

Anne Frank was born on 12 June 1929. She died while imprisoned at Bergen-Belsen, three months short of her sixteenth birthday.

The reader knows from the outset that Anne won’t be getting out of this alive. This signaling of impending disaster in a book is called fore-shadowing and makes a big difference to how you read Anne’s diary. Every emotion is intensified. Every moment of joy seems all the more precious, every moment of hope all the more poignant.

Anne Frank made the first entry to her diary on 12 June 1942, her thirteenth birthday. Nazi Germans were already in occupation in Amsterdam and within weeks the Frank family was forced into hiding. Their ‘secret annexe’ was the attic of a spice warehouse, the entrance flimsily disguised by a swinging bookshelf, the family at constant risk of sneezing fits from the rising pepper dust.  Anne’s diary is a riveting blend of normal teenage tribulations and wartime terror.

‘Who else but me is ever going to read these letters? Who else but me can I turn to for comfort?’

Most writers will tell you that a book can’t exist without a reader, even an imagined one. Some writers imagine for themselves a perfect reader – the person who they know will understand and appreciate their words. There can be no book, at least I can’t think of any, where the reader feels how much they are needed more than this one. It feels as though Anne is speaking directly to you. It seems so because she is. For Anne Frank, you are the perfect reader.

Anne herself became aware of the potential historical significance of her diary in March 1944 when she heard a Dutch Cabinet Minister saying on the radio that letters and diaries would be collected after the war. She even dared hope that she might become a writer or a journalist.

‘I want to be useful or bring enjoyment to all people, even those I’ve never met. I want to go on living after my death.’

It seems almost a miracle, a testament to the strength of her spirit and the power of each reader who read the book and passed it on, that this young girl’s diary has been translated into 70 languages and sold more than 30 million copies. Anne Frank, at the age of 15¾, had written one of the most influential documents of the Second World War.

 

 

3. Bonjour Tristesse – Françoise Sagan

In 1953 Françose Sagan was forced to miss out on a summer holiday with her family and instead attend a revision course ahead of re-taking her baccalaureat exam. Rather than study, the 17-year-old sat in a café near the Sorbonne University, in Paris, and wrote a novel.

Bonjour Tristesse (which translates as Hello Sadness) opens with 17-year-old Cécile enjoying a contentedly idle holiday on the Côte d’Azur with her widowed father and his young mistress. Cécile, who has failed her summer exams, neglects her study, works on her tan, and indulges in a romance with a handsome, and keen, young law student.

Cécile never knew her mother. Her father is ‘just a big baby’ and offers nothing in the way of moral guidance, being more concerned with toning his stomach muscles. Elsa, the beautiful girlfriend, has no interest in a parental role and this suits Cécile just fine.

Cécile’s lazy idyll is threatened by the arrival of Anne, an old friend of her mother’s who insists that Cécile behave properly and do her homework.

‘How difficult she made life for us, with her sense of dignity and her esteem.’

Cécile rejects the opportunity to gain a mother figure in her life and devises a plan to rid herself of Anne, and her nuisance morality, for good.

Bonjour Tristesse is the opposite of a coming-of-age novel. Cécile is a character who fails to develop a sense of morality- she doesn’t grow up. It’s difficult to have any fondness for an amoral protagonist and similarly difficult to avoid transferring judgement onto the author. No wonder, then, that Bonjour Tristesse caused such an uproar on its publication in 1954. Sagan’s youth and gender, combined with her extraordinary insight into the machinations of an amoral mind, made her debut novel an immediate and sensational success.

Within weeks of publication Bonjour Tristesse was simultaneously garnering literary awards and fierce criticism. Some critics hailed Sagan as France’s answer to F. Scott Fitzgerald. Others labelled the book immoral and worried that Sagan would damage the image of young French women in the eyes of foreigners. Still more claimed the book could only have been written by someone much older, most likely a man, and that the teenage author had been invented as a marketing ploy.

Sagan, meanwhile, abandoned her studies at the Sorbonne, bought herself a Jaguar XK140 convertible, and basked in her celebrity. She went on to write twenty novels but none matched the impact of her scandalous debut.

Like it or loathe it, Bonjour Tristesse forced the establishment to accept that a young woman could, in fact, produce a novel of exceptional literary merit.

 

4. The Outsiders – S.e. Hinton


Published in 1967, when Susan Eloise Hinton was 18 years old, this may be the original of the Y.A. species. The Outsiders was written for teenagers, about teenagers and by a teenager.

Hinton was disturbed by the ongoing clashes at her high school between two gangs from opposite ends of the socio-economic spectrum. They called themselves the Greasers and the Socialites (Socs).

Hinton kept these gang names in her book and wrote the story from the point of view of Ponyboy Curtis, a 14-year-old boy and a Greaser.

‘When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home. I was wishing I looked like Paul Newman- he looks tough and I don’t- but I guess my own looks aren’t so bad.’

Ponyboy’s parents were killed in a car crash so he and his two brothers rely on each other. They stay out of trouble as much as they can, and they’re careful not to get caught when they can’t. One night Ponyboy’s friend Johnny kills a soc, leading Ponyboy to re-evaluate how his world works.

Hinton began writing The Outsiders when she was fifteen. Her personal experience and understanding of the motivations of her teenage classmates  gives the book a ring of authenticity. Ponyboy is credible because Susan Hinton knew his mind.

The book was an immediate hit, winning a place on the New York Herald Tribune’s Best Teenage Books List in 1967. The Outsiders became a standard text in many U.S. schools but has been banned by many others because of the strong language and scenes of gang violence and alcohol abuse.

The Outsiders was direct and honest and portrayed American high school reality like no book had ever done before. Hinton, who was advised to publish under her initials to disguise her gender, changed the expectations of young readers and created a demand for books that were truly relevant to teenagers.

More than fifty years on, Ponyboy Curtis remains a truly relatable character and The Outsiders remains a relevant and thought-provoking book.

 

5. I am Malala – Malala Yousafzai

When Malala Yousafzai was born, in the Swat province of Pakistan in 1987, the neighbours commiserated with her mother- a baby girl was no cause for celebration. Her father, Ziauddin, took a different view. He looked into his newborn daughter’s eyes and fell in love.

Ziauddin believed that nothing was more important than education. He ran a private school, hired male and female teachers, and welcomed both boys and girls even after the Taliban threatened his life. The Taliban is an extremely conservative Islamic group which shuns Western influence and seeks to exclude women from public life.

Horrified to witness the Taliban taking control of Swat, Ziauddin spoke to journalists. Malala, at the age of eleven, joined his campaign. She spoke at political meetings and wrote a blog about her own experience for BBC Urdu. Malala’s mother fretted that her daughter would get into trouble with the Taliban but Malala was more concerned for her father. The Taliban, after all, had never come for a girl. Ziauddin, meanwhile, slept away from home for fear his family would be forced to watch him die.

One Tuesday morning in October 2012 15-year-old Malala left her home to go to school. She hasn’t returned since.

When her school bus was stopped by a man asking to speak with the girls, Malala and her friend Moniba thought he might be a journalist.

‘”Who is Malala?” he demanded.
No one said anything, but several of the girls looked at me. I was the only girl with my face not covered.
That’s when he lifted up a black pistol. I learned later it was a Colt45. Some of the girls screamed. Moniba tells me I squeezed her hand.’

Malala survived. On her sixteenth birthday she gave a speech in New York to 400 UN delegates imploring world leaders to guarantee free education for every child in the world.

‘Let us pick up our pens,’ she said. ‘They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.’

Her book, I Am Malala, is her response to that man on the bus. With help from award-winning journalist Christina Lamb, Malala provides more than just a riveting personal account. The book provides an accessible overview of the history of this conflict torn region and hammers home the message that education is the key to peace.

Continuing her campaign to raise awareness of the plight of children who are deprived of education, Malala has travelled to Jordan, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and even to Barack Obama’s oval office (it’s quite small, she says). In 2014 Malala Yousafzai became the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. You can watch her speech here.

It beggars belief that even 200 years after the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women education for girls is not something we can take for granted. Malala Yousafzai’s book belongs on the same shelf of outstanding feminist writing.

 

Get Writing – A Book by You

Read some advice on keeping a diary here. Take a look at Movellas, a social writing website for teenagers and young adults.

If you’ve got a story burning inside you, be it your own history or a work of pure fiction, write it down.  Publication in your teens is well within the realm of possibility.

 

 

Agnes Q&A with Royal Ballet star Francesca Hayward

One of the most exceptional ballet dancers of our time, Francesca Hayward is a Principal at The Royal Ballet, based at The Royal Opera House in London. She fell in love with ballet when she was very young and attended ballet classes before gaining a place at The Royal Ballet School at White Lodge, Richmond at the age of 11. She graduated into The Royal Ballet in 2010 and has worked her way up from the corps de ballet to be one of the company’s leading dancers.

The life of a Principal ballet dancer is one of hard work, drive and determination. It’s also incredibly busy but Francesca took time out of her hectic schedule to talk to us about her life as a dancer and what it was like growing up knowing that all you wanted to do was dance.

[Portrait photo by Andre Uspenski)

What does ballet mean to you?  It’s something I’ve never questioned. It’s just something I can’t stop doing and I wouldn’t dream of doing anything else. I’m really lucky that my life has worked out in a way that means I can dance every day.

What is your first memory of dancing?  Being in my living room when I was about 2 or 3 years old and watching ballet videos and being completely enthralled by them, especially ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’. The music spoke to me and the stories made me want to dance. I never saw it as the dancers just waving their arms around, I somehow understood what they were saying with their bodies.

What did it feel like, going away to school to study dance from the age of 11?  It all happened quite quickly, going from having a lovely home life to suddenly realising I would have to live somewhere else if ballet was going to be my life. It wasn’t scary, though – I thought it was very exciting. As an only child I thought it would be like having a sleepover every night.

Photo by Alice Pennefather


Did you have any concerns or worries about it?  
When I first arrived, there were parents dropping off their children, everyone was excited and meeting everyone and making friends, then when our families left it hit us all that this was it. It was weird, but I never felt very homesick because my home was only a couple of hours away and I got to see my family often. I spent a lot of weekends with the girls who lived too far away to go home – they’d either come home with me or I’d choose to stay with them at school. I still have strong relationships with the friends I grew up with at school.

Did you find going through adolescence difficult in such a critical environment?  I have always had a very positive and healthy body image and come from a really grounded family who, more than anything, just want me to be healthy. I do remember, though, that around the ages of 14, 15 and 16, I was spending every day looking at myself in the mirror wearing a leotard and tights (which is not flattering for anyone) and examining my body from every angle. At the time it was difficult, but I stuck to my guns and worked really hard and came out of the other side – and I’m so glad I didn’t do anything silly or start thinking unhealthily.

Are injuries common and how do you cope with them?  Every dancer is always nursing something on different levels. I’ve coped with something painful throughout my career and training. Sadly, that becomes quite normal. When you’re a ballet student there’s a fear of saying you’re in pain because you may be held back to protect you when really you want to be doing everything. It’s the hardest time to take a step back and look after yourself. I’m much better at doing that now.

Just before I joined the Royal Ballet I hurt my right foot and needed to have surgery if I was to be able to dance properly again. Afterwards, I had to wake all the muscles back up, from my knee to my toes – it took a long time and I still have to look after it every day.

How much time do you spend rehearsing/dancing? Every day starts with a 1 hour, 45 minute ballet class, then rehearsals are from 12 to 6.30pm. We try to have an hour for a lunch break before 3pm. If we have a show in the evening, we finish rehearsals at 5.30pm and we’ll be on stage at 7.30pm in full costumes, hair and make-up so there’s not really time for a break.

Do you ever get nervous before a performance?  I do, yes, but I’m learning about that. I almost feel more relaxed when it’s a big performance or a bigger challenge because I feel I’ve got less to lose – sometimes I’m more nervous in smaller roles since I’ve become a Principal because I think people expect higher standards. I’m also less nervous when I’m dancing in a role because I’m dancing as a character rather than dancing as me.

How do you manage to channel the emotion of the dance?  I think I can relate to people well and have a lot of sympathy and understanding of what someone is thinking or feeling and how they behave. That helps me on stage – trying to become someone else is one of the most enjoyable parts about a performance for me.

Is there a lot of competition among your peers?  It’s not something I generally think about. People presume there is a lot of competition and films like Black Swan don’t do the ballet world any favours. They’re not correct and nothing I’ve ever witnessed is anything like it. School was the hardest, competition-wise, because there are only so many contracts available for the jobs that are worth going through all the years of training for. There is healthy competition in the company but it’s a very supportive atmosphere. I think it helps to have worked my way up through the corps de ballet and been given bigger roles. All my friends are rooting for me and shout encouragement from the wings when I’m dancing a difficult part, which is wonderful.

Do you have time for a life outside dance?  It’s a learning curve. Even when I have an evening off I’ll be preparing for the next day, sewing pointe shoes (which can take 2 hours) or answering emails. Finding time to do regular things like laundry and going to the bank can be difficult. On a Sunday, some of my friends will do things like going on a hike but that’s my worst nightmare – staying in bed until midday is what I want to do! It’s important to completely switch off and have time not talking about ballet and to spend time with my family and friends.

Do you have time to wind down and relax after a performance?  Sometimes you’re very conscious that you have a hard day the next day and you know you’re not going to feel great, no matter what time you get to bed. After a show, wigs and make up have to come off, I’ll have a shower, then go home and eat something. I do like to spend a bit of time relaxing because I’m still buzzing even though I’m exhausted. Sometimes I get a little memory loss from being so tired straight after a show and parts of the performance will come back to me during the night when I’m trying to sleep.

How does it feel to be in the public eye with lots of attention and a role-model for younger dancers?  When I became a soloist I was asked to do interviews – I found it a little strange that people were suddenly interested in what I had to say because I was the same as when I had been in the corps de ballet. And now that I’m a Principal there is even more interest in me. I don’t want people probing into my private life, so I’m cautious about that. I don’t want people disturbing my family. But there are lots of good moments. Sometimes when I come in through the stage door, I’m handed lovely letters from children which is wonderful and I feel privileged to have made an impact on so many people – it makes it all worthwhile.

Photo by Spiros Politis


If you could go back and give your teenage self some advice, what would it be?  
I think I’m still trying to improve myself but the older you get the more you realise it doesn’t matter and you like all these things about yourself that you once hated. I’d say just try to enjoy being you and accept yourself as you are. And have fun. Life is too short.

Do you think ballet is a good hobby even if you’re not going to make it your career? Definitely. I personally hate any other form of exercise like going to the gym or walking! I always found that a ballet class helped me to forget my troubles when I was young. It’s such a wonderful escape and I always come out of a class feeling uplifted. It’s almost a form of meditation and it’s one of the best ways of toning the body and keeping fit.

Is there any point in taking up ballet in your teens or is it something you need to have been doing from an early age?  If someone wants to dance professionally it’s probably too late to take up ballet unless you’ve been born with Nureyev*-like talent. There are stories of people starting ballet late and doing incredibly well, so I would definitely not let that put anyone off. Be realistic about it, though: it is hard work.
[* Rudolf Nureyev was one of the most famous dancers and choreographers ever. Born in 1938 in Russia, he died in 1993 after a long and celebrated career.]

For someone who has no knowledge of ballet, what would you suggest they watch first?  ‘The Nutcracker’ is a brilliant one to start with, but if you like the more realistic stories, there’s ‘Mayerling’, Kenneth MacMillan’s dark ballet inspired by true events.

Is there an affordable way for teenagers to go and see live ballet?  You can become a ROH Student and access to affordable tickets. If you can be proactive and organised, there are many tickets that are cheaper than going to the cinema. My tip is to go for standing tickets in orchestra stalls where you’ll get an amazing view. You’ll have to stand but you’ll be able to see the whole stage.

 

Here are a couple of videos of Francesca dancing – in the classic role of The Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker (from the BBC ‘Inside The Nutcracker’ documentary) and in the more contemporary Sink or Swim (which was made in association with the charity Mind). Both are absolutely wonderful.

Useful links:

The Royal Ballet

The Royal Ballet School

 

 

 

 

 

10 ways to own the new school year

It’s that Back To School time of year. Whether you’re excited, nervous or just a bit bored by the whole idea, here are our top tips for making it work for you.

1.  Work out what you want to achieve  

You’ll be happier if you take some control of your own life and work out for yourself what you’d like to achieve during the coming year. Write down some realistic, achievable, measurable goals – big or small, academic or otherwise – and do your best to make them happen.

2. Get to bed on time

Getting enough sleep is vital for your wellbeing. Check out our tips on sleeping well here, and get into good new-term habits as soon as you can.

3. ask for help if you need it

Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. Don’t let problems of any kind build up and weigh you down.  If you need help with schoolwork see here; if you’ve got family worries see here; if you’re anxious about your mental health see here. There is always something that can be done to make things better.

4. Don’t spend your whole time comparing yourself with others

There will always be people who are cleverer, richer, better-looking, more popular or more talented than you, as well as people who seem to be cleverer, richer, better-looking, more popular or more talented than you. And it doesn’t matter! Concentrate on making your own life as happy and fulfilled as you can.

5. look for the positive

Life won’t always go your way and people won’t always behave as you’d like. But every experience you have and every person you meet will help you to grow and develop. Don’t spend time thinking about things or people that make you feel bad, deal with problems as they arise (see 3 above), and look for the good in everything.

6. Try something new in school

If you try a new club or activity at your school, you’ll get to know a different group of people, as well as having fun and learning new skills.   You might even discover hidden talents and start to see yourself a bit differently. Keep your mind, eyes and ears open.

7. Try something new outside school

Having a hobby or interest that’s completely separate from school will help you to relax, allow different parts of your personality to flourish, and keep school worries in perspective. Nobody needs to know what it is, unless you want them to; so find something that you, yourself, really enjoy.

8. Streamline your routines

Setting up a daily or weekly routine for yourself can save you time, energy and worry; you know that you’ll have time to do everything you need to do and routine tasks become almost automatic. See more about managing your time efficiently here.

9. sort out your bedroom

You’ll be happier if you have a space of your own that is tidy, organised, and makes you smile. See more ideas for sorting out your possessions here.

10. Spend at least an hour a day – even on school days – doing something you really, really enjoy

Cooking, reading, listening to music, watching your favourite TV programme – even just lying on your bed daydreaming…. Doing things you like is good for you.

 

 

 

18 ideas for the summer of 2018

The World Cup may be over, but the sun’s still here and the summer holidays are just arriving for some of you.    We’ve got 18 ideas to help you make the most of them – let us know how many you manage to tick off over the next few weeks!

1. Swim outdoors

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Even more tempting thanks to the summer heatwave! Don’t forget rivers and lakes as well as the seaside – this site has loads of inspiration as well as some vital safety advice. You may also be lucky enough to live near an outdoor swimming pool – London alone has several, listed here, and there are some spectacular pools around the country as well.

2. Listen to live music

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There’s something magical about live music, especially on a summer’s evening.   As well as festivals of all kinds, and concerts up and down the country,  you might well find free live music sessions in your local park or in the garden of your local pub.  If you like classical music, or think you’d like to give it a try, you can’t beat the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall in London; you can hear world-class performances on a “promming ticket” for only £6.

3. Make something

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Away from the demands of term-time, you can really get stuck into a big art or craft project. You could try:

  • painting a big canvas for your room (blank canvases aren’t too expensive here)
  • making a collage – from magazine scraps, fabric, photos, or a mixture!
  • sewing a simple skirt or dress for yourself

Find lots more ideas and advice in our Make Beautiful Things pages and on this US DIY Projects for Teens website.

4. Go somewhere new with a friend

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Exploring new places – countryside, towns, cities, seaside – is the perfect summer activity, and doing it with a friend makes it much more fun. You could walk or cycle to nearby places, or explore further afield by bus or train. Take a picnic and some water and see what you can discover! We’ve got practical advice on travelling around the UK here. Keep yourself safe with our tips here.

5. Earn some money

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It’s very satisfying to earn your own money, and it’s even better if you can find a job you like; browse our suggestions for part-time and holiday jobs here and see what you can find locally. Even if you don’t want a regular job, or can’t find one, you could perhaps:

  • see if family or friends would be happy to pay you for particular tasks that they don’t have time to do themselves (cleaning or decorating perhaps)
  • sell some of your art, craft or cooking at a local craft fair or fete.

6. Cook a meal for your family

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It’s very satisfying if you can put a whole meal on the table for your family, and whoever normally cooks will really appreciate the break.  Cooking doesn’t have to be complicated, especially in the summer – try a pasta dish with salad or a simple curry. We’ve got all the help and information you need on our cooking pages,  including a guide to meal planning here.

7. Try a new sport

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See if your local park or sports centre has any summer taster sessions or courses – some might even be free like these.  Many parks have free-to-use tennis courts and you can find free tennis sessions here.  Find a free-to-use table tennis table here. You could try intensive ice-skating lessons at the National Ice Centre in Nottingham or canoeing or golf around the country.  If you don’t want to do anything too organised, just round up some friends and some cheap equipment and try football, cricket, French cricket, rounders or badminton in your local park.

8. Get a different hairstyle

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You don’t have to do anything radical, but time away from school gives you the chance to experiment with a different look.  See if you’re tempted by any of Elle Magazine’s 2018 trends.

9. Spend a night camping

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Camping can be as simple or elaborate as you like – you can even camp in your back garden if you have one, with a basic 2-person tent for around £20 from Argos .  If you’re venturing further afield – best with family or friends to begin with – you might find this camping beginner’s guide useful.   You can make it easier for yourself by camping in sites where the tents have already been set up for you! The YHA has a range of options in some beautiful locations.

10. Join your local library

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If you’re not already a member of your local library, now’s the time to put that right. Find your local library here. As well as giving you free access to as many books as you want, of whatever kind, all summer long, your library is a great place to find out about other activities and events happening in your area over the summer.

11. Watch a film

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There are lots of blockbusters coming your way this summer. Try:

  • Incredibles 2  (PG) The long-awaited return of everyone’s favourite superhero family. Action-packed, stylish, warm-hearted and funny. Out now.
  • Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (PG).  Eagerly awaited by the millions who loved the original film. Abba songs, sunny Greece, and Cher. Out now.
  • Mission Impossible – Fallout (12A)  out on 27 July. Tom Cruise goes again, to very favourable reviews.

12. Give your bedroom a makeover

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For rainy days or when you’ve had enough sun. Get rid of clutter (paperwork, clothes you don’t wear any more, all the random bits and pieces that seem to collect everywhere);  rearrange the furniture; give the walls a lick of paint; reorganise your storage; display your remaining possessions in whatever way pleases you most. See our page on managing your possessions for more suggestions.

13. Walk a dog (not necessarily your own)

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Dog-walking in the summer is pure pleasure, as you’ll know if you’re lucky enough to have a dog of your own. If you don’t, see if you can walk a friend or neighbour’s dog one day;  make sure the dog is safe with other people first and check if there’s anything particular you should do or avoid on your walk. You could also see if your local kennels need help over the summer, or volunteer to walk dogs for elderly or terminally ill people through the Cinnamon Trust.

14. Go on a course or workshop

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Summer holidays give you the chance to learn more about the things that interest you, or to try out something you’ve never tried before. There are all sorts of workshops and courses around the country, on all sorts of subjects; some are very expensive, some very cheap (or even free), and most somewhere in between. Try:

15. Visit a relation on your own

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Sometimes it’s fun to switch up the family dynamics and visit your favourite relations without a big crowd of  siblings or parents. You’ll be surprised how much you discover about each other, and it’s a good way to start becoming more independent.  Don’t forget to make sure that your visit is convenient for everyone involved, and plan your travel carefully – see here for further help and advice.

16. Eat breakfast outside

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When the weather’s good, and you don’t have to hurry off to school or college, eating breakfast outside is the best way to start your day.  Take time to make yourself something you really like – cereal with fruit, scrambled eggs, something nice on on toast – and enjoy the sights and sounds around you.

17. Pick your own fruit

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There aren’t so many pick-your-own fruit farms as there used to be, but it’s a great summer tradition to try if you can – find inspiration here and see if there’s a farm near you here .  And wherever you live, it won’t be long until you can pick blackberries for free.

18. Go to a fair

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Because nothing says summer like a fair. There will almost certainly be one near you this summer!

Don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, where we’ll be retweeting all the exciting summer events and opportunities that we can find.

Whatever you do, we hope you have a summer to remember!

 

 

Summer holiday ideas

The perfect summer holidays involve a mixture of activities and laziness. We’ve collected together a huge range of activities you might want to try; we’ll leave the laziness up to you.

Head for the beach – even if you’re in the city

The real beach is always best and wherever you live in the UK you should be able to reach a beach on a day trip. Many of them have special events over the summer – regattas, carnivals, themed festivals. Check your local newspaper/news website and find out more about travelling round the UK on our pages here.

But if you want to stay closer to home, you can find “pop-up” man-made beaches in cities including London, BirminghamNottingham, and Cardiff.

Get fitter and healthier

Try setting yourself some realistic, fun challenges and targets over the summer holidays. You could perhaps try to:

  • go for a walk or jog every day (best in the early morning or evening on hot days). Free, available everywhere, and works just as well by yourself or with friends and family
  • play some sort of sport or game once a week – even something as simple as football in the park, or bat and ball on the beach will leave you feeling more relaxed and happier
  • learn some new recipes for good food that you’ll actually enjoy eating (there’s no point forcing yourself to eat something you hate – especially in the holidays)

We have lots of advice and information on our health pages, including eating well and getting enough exercise.

Set yourself a Summer reading challenge

Rediscover the joy of reading for your own pleasure, away from the demands of school or college work. You may be too old now for the libraries’ annual Summer Reading Challenge but you can still use your local library – and perhaps even set yourself your own challenge? You could perhaps aim to read:

  • All the books on the Agnes reading list!
  • All the books in Zoella’s 2017 Book Club
  • One new book each week
  • Only books by authors you haven’t read before
  • Only books written by authors from different countries
  • Books set in places you’re visiting over the holidays

Or you could, of course, simply read absolutely anything you want to.

see a film in the open air

Open-air cinema used to be something that only happened abroad, but more and more UK places are taking a chance on the summer weather and showing films outside. Normally these are older films and classics rather than new releases, but there’s something very magical about an outdoor performance. Even better, some are free!

Time Out lists the London options here. Outside London, the best place to look for outdoor screenings near you is probably your local newspaper website; for example The Birmingham Mail has compiled a list of outdoor film showings in the Birmingham area this summer and Kent options are listed here.

See a film inside a cinema

There are lots of good films out this summer. Depending on your taste you might like:

  • Dunkirk (12A)(out 21 July – great cast including Harry Styles!)
  • The Beguiled (15) (out now – Sofia Coppola’s American Civil War drama, set in a girls’ boarding school)
  • Baby Driver (15) (out now – action chase movie with great soundtrack)
  • Wonder Woman (12A) (out now – a female superhero for once!)

 

experience a Summer concert or festival

Check out your local newspaper or news site for concerts, events and festivals near you – be prepared to give everything a go!

The two big summer festivals are the Edinburgh Fringe – find details here  – and the London proms – details here. Do check them out if you’re in or near Edinburgh or London over the summer. They both offer a huge range of events, and a very special atmosphere – and there are bargains to be had.

Not so many bargains at music festival weekends, but if you have the money you could perhaps try Wilderness in Oxfordshire (3-6 August), Boardmasters in Cornwall (9-13 August), V Festival in Essex (19-20 August). Don’t forget to check the age restrictions and advice on what to bring.

Go on an adventure holiday

The YHA offers adventure holidays in some of the most beautiful parts of Britain, giving you the chance to try new activities in a friendly, supportive environment – check them out here. Some are already booked out, but there are still some places available: £379 for five nights/four days of non-stop action, all accommodation and meals included; some bursaries available.

Enrol on a summer school or course

There are summer schools and courses all around the country on all sorts of subjects. Some are very expensive but these are worth a look:

  • science and engineering workshops at the Royal Institute in London, throughout July and August – many are already sold out, but have a look to see what’s still available here
  • 4-day fashion summer schools for 11-18 year olds at the Fashion and Textile Museum in London £300 per course – or for only £10 you can learn to draw like a fashion designer on 16 August
  • FREE residential cyber courses around the country run by the National Cyber Security Centre (part of GCHQ) – again, many are fully booked but you might be able to find something that suits you here
  • FREE portraiture taster sessions and 3 day workshops at the National Portrait Gallery in London for 14-21 year olds – see here
  • FREE swim safe courses around the country for 7-14 year olds – learning how to swim safely outdoors, run by Swim England and the RNLI. You can also volunteer to help at these courses if you’re 18 – or if you’re 16 or 17 and accompanied by an adult. Find more details here

Teach yourself a new skill

If you can’t afford a course or summer school, try teaching yourself! Don’t forget our own Life Skills pages, including cooking, crafts , first aid and simple DIY. Other possibilities include:

  • a new language (or at least some words in a new language!). Duolingo is free and a good place to start
  • a musical instrument – YouTube is your friend
  • map-reading – ready for your summer expeditions (see below)

Do a big project

It can be fun to get stuck into a big creative project over the summer holidays. You could try:

  • painting a big canvas for your room – blank canvases are quite cheap to buy, for example here 
  • making a giant collage – cutting out pages torn from magazines or catalogues, or perhaps bits and pieces from your holiday adventures (tickets, brochures, photos…)
  • painting your own curtains  – buy simple calico and some fabric paints and let your imagination run riot.  Get inspiration from some curtains recently painted by our friend Sarah Campbell on her instagram.

Have a look at our Make Beautiful Things pages for further inspiration.

Do a long walk/bike trail

Doing a long walk or bike trail can give you a real sense of achievement. Find a like-minded friend to go with you, see what footpaths or bike tracks are near you, and plan your expedition thoroughly beforehand.

Get a holiday job

Lots of places are looking for casual workers over the summer – check out our suggestions for part-time work here.

And finally….

Get the best summer sounds with our handpicked 17 tracks for the summer of ’17!

We hope you all have the best summer ever!

 

General Election update

As you know, there will be a UK General Election on 8 June 2017. General Elections are a vital part of UK democracy, and the result will affect you all. See more about how the UK works on our page here.

If you can vote, we urge you to do so; your vote could make a real difference. You will need to be 18 or over on 8 June, and have registered to vote; if you haven’t yet registered, register now at this link; you’ve got until 11.59 pm on 22 May if you want to vote in this General Election.

Even if you can’t vote, you can still play your part in the election; and even if you don’t think of yourself as politically active, it’s good to know what is going on in your country.

With that in mind, we’ve had a look at the manifestos of the three main political parties, which were published this week. A manifesto sets out what a political party would do if it was in Government – how it would raise and spend money within the UK, what changes it would make to UK law, and what actions it would take internationally. A manifesto aims to persuade voters that the political party’s aims are the right ones, and that the party will actually be able to achieve them in Government.

The manifesto documents are long and detailed; they cover important issues like Brexit, the NHS, defence, industry, immigration, law and order and the environment. If you have a particular interest in any particular issue, find out what each party is saying about it – you can find the links to all the manifestos below.

Below, we’ve  dug out a few points from each manifesto each that refer particularly to young people (though it has to be said that there are not that many…).We’re not making any comment or judgement on any party or any policy ourselves. We have simply presented these proposals as the manifestos present them, and in alphabetical order of party! We’ll update with other party manifestos as they are published.

You are the future; you decide.

THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY

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You can find the full 84-page manifesto (called “Forward, Together”) here.

  • Schools  The Conservatives say they will continue with their policy of free schools, building at least 100 a year. They will allow new grammar schools (currently banned), but these will have to allow pupils to join at other ages, not just 11.
  • Technical education and apprenticeships The Conservatives say they will reform and improve technical education to provide “a  real choice between technical and academic routes” at 16. They will  establish new “institutes of technology” in every city in England, providing both degree courses and higher-level apprenticeships. They will create 3 million apprenticeships for young people by 2020 and introduce “significantly discounted” bus and train travel for apprentices.
  • Mental health The Conservatives say they will publish a Green Paper (a document with Government proposals) on young people’s mental health before the end of 2017. They will reform Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services so that treatment is provided more quickly and nearer home.
  • Domestic violence The Conservatives say they will introduce a new Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill; this will provide for a new aggravated offence if behaviour is directed at a child. They will create a domestic violence and abuse commissioner in law.
  • Digital world The Conservatives say they will “educate today’s young people in the harms of the internet and how best to combat them, introducing comprehensive Relationships and Sex Education in all primary and secondary schools to ensure that children learn about the risks of the internet, including cyberbullying and online grooming”. They will give people more control of their own data, including the ability to require “major social media platforms” to delete information held about them at the age of 18.

The green party

You can find the full manifesto (called “The Green Party for a Confident and Caring Party” here).

  • Schools The Green Party says it will bring Academies and Free Schools into the local authority system, abolish SATS and reduce class sizes.

 

  • Further and higher education The Green Party says it will scrap university tuition fees, fund full student grants and greater public investment in further and higher education. It will restore Education Maintenance Allowance and “enable apprenticeships” to all qualified young people aged 16-25.

 

  • Housing The Green Party says it will protect young people’s housing needs by reinstating housing benefit for under-21s, stop Local Authorities declaring young people “intentionally homeless”, and invest in community house-building projects to provide affordable, secure housing options for young people

 

  • Work The Green Party says it will scrap age-related wage bands and will raise the national minimum wage to living wage levels for all.

 

  • EU The Green Party says it will guarantee the rights of young people to study, work, live and travel in the EU, including through schemes like Erasmus.

 

  • Health The Green Party says it will provide more funding for sexual health awareness campaigns and greater access to free condoms and sexual health clinics. It will remove VAT from sanitary products and ensure

 

  • Voting and citizenship The Green Party says it will introduce “non-biased” political education and promote active citizenship. It will lower the voting age to 16.

 

  • Public transport The Green Party says it will phase in free local public transport for young people and students

 

THE LABOUR PARTY

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You can find the full 123-page manifesto (called “For the Many Not the Few”) here.

  • Schools Labour says it will create a new unified National Education Service (NES) for England to move towards “cradle-to-grave learning” that is free at the point of use. It says it will not “waste money” on free schools or grammar schools.
  • Further education and apprenticeships Labour says it will restore the Educational Maintenance Allowance for 16-18 year olds, and invest more in the Further Education sector. Further Education courses will be free at the point of use. Labour says it will “set a target to double the number of completed apprenticeships at NVQ level 3 by 2022”.
  • University education Labour says it will reintroduce maintenance grants for university students, and abolish university tuition fees.
  • Social security Labour says it will restore housing benefit to 18-21 year olds.
  • Mental health Labour says it will increase the proportion of mental health budgets spent on support for children and young people. It will ensure that access to a counselling service is available for all children in secondary schools.
  • Looked after children Labour says it will extend “Staying Put” arrangements to support all children and young people in residential and other forms of care until they are 21.
  • European Convention on the Rights of the Child Labour says it will make this convention part of UK law.
  • Domestic violence Labour says it will appoint a commissioner to set new standards for tackling domestic and sexual violence. It will make age-appropriate sex and relationship education a compulsory part of the curriculum “so young people can learn about respectful relationships”.
  • Digital world Labour says it “will ensure that young people understand and are able to easily remove any content they shared on the internet before they turned 18”.
  • Voting Labour will reduce the voting age to 16.

THE LIBERAL DEMOCRAT PARTY

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You can find the full 94 page manifesto (called “Change Britain’s Future”) here.

  • Schools The Liberal Democrats say they will scrap the planned expansion of grammar schools. They will include in SRE teaching about sexual consent, LGBT+ relationships, and issues surrounding explicit images and content. They will “challenge gender stereotyping and early sexualisation, working with schools to promote positive body image and break down outdated perceptions of gender appropriateness of particular academic subjects”.
  • Training for work The Liberal Democrats  say they will improve opportunities for vocational education, and expand the range of vocational qualifications. They say that they aim to double the number of businesses which hire apprentices.
  • Mental health The Liberal Democrats say they will ensure that schools provide immediate access for pupil support and counselling. They will make the promotion of wellbeing part of a school’s statutory duty. They will improve access and waiting times for mental health services, and consider establishing a new dedicated mental health service for children and young people.
  • Travel The Liberal Democrats will introduce a new Young Person’s Bus Discount Card, for young people aged 16–21; this will give a two-thirds discount on bus travel
  • Voting The Liberal Democrats say they will introduce votes at 16 for all elections and referendums across the UK.

 

UKIP (UK Independence Party)

You can find the full 63 page manifesto (called “Britain Together”) here.

  • Schools UKIP say they will open a grammar school in every town, and will adapt the old 11+ system to add transfer examinations up to the age of 16. They will require Ofsted to conduct snap inspections of schools when parents or pupils have raised concerns that girls are being offered unequal access to music, dance, PE or drama lessons, or are otherwise discriminated against. They will make first aid learning compulsory so that all pupils obtain a “Basic Life-Saving Diploma”.

 

  • Work education/training  UKIP say they will introduce a scheme similar to Germany’s Dual Vocational Training system, in which students attend classes at a vocational school and receive on-the-job training at a company. They will introduce practical lessons on “employability” and setting up your own business into the syllabus.

 

  • University education UKIP say their long-term goal is to abolish tuition fees entirely once economic conditions allow. Meanwhile they ill immediately restore maintenance grants and abolish tuition fees for undergraduate science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students, provided they work in their discipline and pay tax in the UK for at least five years after they complete their degree. They will cover the cost of all tuition fees for medical students, provided they commit to working within the NHS for at least ten out of the fifteen years after they qualify.

 

  • Mental health UKIP say they will develop a national school-based counselling strategy for England, on a par with Wales and Northern Ireland. Specialist counselling services will be available in all secondary schools. UKIP also say they will review advertising, broadcast and editorial codes so that healthy body images are promoted and men and women are treated with dignity.

 

  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) UKIP say they will strengthen the criminal law on this. They will implement a screening programme for girls identified to be at risk of FGM from birth to age sixteen, consisting of annual non-invasive physical check-ups. They will also carry out additional check-ups on girls at risk when they return to the UK from trips to countries where FGM is known to be customary.

Do any of these proposals inspire you? Do you think you should be able to vote at age 16? What other issues do you think the parties should include in their manifestos? Get in touch with us, via Facebook, Instagram or at contactagnesforgirls@gmail.com.

 

Agnes Q & A with legendary textile designer Sarah Campbell

Sarah Campbell is an internationally acclaimed textile designer. Collier Campbell, which she founded with her elder sister, Susan Collier, created distinctive, colourful patterns over many decades for a huge range of fashion and homeware producers including Liberty of London, Cacharel, Jaeger, and Marks & Spencer. Collier Campbell designs were even used by Yves St Laurent in his first off-the-peg collection in 1971.  Since Susan’s sadly early death in 2011, Sarah has worked alone, creating a beautiful range of textiles and homeware products, and running inspiring textile workshops for all ages.

We are absolutely thrilled that Sarah has agreed to answer some questions for Agnes.

Photo of Sarah Campbell by Miki Yamnouchi

What was the best thing about your teenage years?

I made some good friendships which are still going strong.

What was the worst thing about your teenage years?

Confusions and disappointments – with myself, my family, politics and the world.

What advice would you give your teenage self?

Have courage, but don’t be foolhardy.

Did you have any ideas about your future career when you were at school? Did you always know that you would do something creative?

I wanted to be an explorer, and planned to read anthropology and archaeology at Cambridge! I never considered creativity as being a special ‘thing’  –  I don’t think it was a word that was used very much.

How did you become a textile designer?

I started as a teenager helping my older sister Susan, who was developing her career as a textile designer. She was busy, and soon had two little children, and because I could draw and paint she asked me to come and help her with her work…. I learnt about design by doing it really.  We worked together for fifty years.

What do you enjoy most about being a textile designer?

I love painting, I’m fascinated by pattern, I’m drawn to what’s called the decorative arts – so, for me, the best thing about being a textile designer is that I can enjoy all those things and earn my living too.

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

My latest new idea..

What is the best part of running creative workshops for teenagers?

Young people seem to have a natural confidence; it’s lovely to offer the space, time, ideas, materials and the opportunity to use them all without the constraints of school, curriculum and sensible-ness.

What would you say to girls who think they have no creative or artistic talent?

You do!

Do you have any particular suggestions for girls who might want to try something creative but don’t know where to start?

My advice generally is start with what you can do – things develop. For instance,  look around you – it’s worth noticing what you like, what pleases you, and really considering what and why that might be. It can be a tiny thing – the way you like to arrange your cup and plate at table, say – write a description, paint a picture, compose a poem, make a collage about it, invent alternatives, make a little book about them…you’ll soon start to think creatively and then there’ll be no end to what you might make and do.

Sarah Campbell

April 2017

If you’re feeling inspired, check out Sarah’s website which is a wonderful feast of colour and pattern; it also gives information on her upcoming workshops and talks, which come highly recommended by Agnes.  You can also follow Sarah on Instagram.

And don’t forget to check out our own Making beautiful things pages for more creative ideas.