The corset that can make your waist smaller

Here is a piece that I have written for the fashion section of Keele’s Concourse Magazine. This is the first time that my article has been in print and online and so I am very happy and very thankful for that. 

What many would consider an old-fashioned and uncommon form of body sculpting is actually witnessing a renewed wave of interest, with an increasing number of women undergoing the modification.

The act of waist-training was a common procedure in Victorian Europe, consisting of wearing a corset so tightly underneath your clothes that it would physically synch your waist in. Worn all-day, the corsets can be progressively tightened, gradually altering the natural shape of the waist. The re-emergence of these corsets has caused quite a stir within the media – and not only amongst the fashion conscious. Some are pinning this as a step too far in terms of the already popular body modification. Others may argue that it’s just individual preference; many people spend hours in the gym slaving over the perfect body.

So, what’s the big deal with wanting to make your waist smaller? We are currently seeing the start of a new trend whereby “real women” are the future, pushing the message that we should be striving to be more than just “Kate Moss-Skinny”.

On a weekly basis we are exposed to interviews and articles of Millie Mackintosh (formerly starred in Made in Chelsea) promote the notion of “Strong not Skinny”, as well as the curvier, vintage look being idolised once more. However, what the likes of Marilyn Monroe; Dita Von Teese; and Bettie Page all have in common is that iconic hour glass figure with the sought after slimmed-down waist.

Take Ethel Granger, for example. Ethel became famous in the 1950’s and 1960’s for being the woman with the smallest waist (awarding her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records). She began training her waist due to her husband’s preference for tiny waistlines. Her waist measured in at only 13-inches, an 11-inch reduction from her original 24-inch waistline. You have to ask – what is the catch

The likes of Kim Kardashian and Jessica Alba have revived this trend once more, admitting to wearing them to get back into shape. Now before you go out splashing the cash on one of  these corsets, (of which can cost upwards of £50) let’s look at the facts. This process can  actually inflict a lot of harm upon the body.

The corset is not particularly a quick-fix solution and takes months (years, even) of wearing the corset in order for your waist to decrease in  size. Also, if you stop wearing the corset for extended periods of time, then your waist will just return to its original shape and size. So, after months of putting your body under strain, not only are the effects not permanent, but the waist-training can also cause severe health complications. Breathing can become more difficult due to the compression of the lungs and similarly, the ribs can be damaged or even cracked because of the pressure of the constriction.

Waist-training seems to be yet another phase in our bid to be beautiful. In a world where media controls the way we think and the way we perceive ourselves, it is no wonder that women will go to such lengths to gain the perfect figure. This is a just a manifestation of what was initially our striving for an unnaturally skinny body – now we strive for an unnaturally curvy body. We need to love ourselves, love our skin and our shape and not harm ourselves for the sake of reaching perfection. A notion, that I daresay, does not exist!

See the full article at:

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Let them shut the door and teach!

Since September I have been helping out as a teaching assistant for a local high school and sixth form. When I first began at the school I worked closely with the SEN team and enjoyed working with the students that SEN helps and have now moved on to working closely with the teachers of history.

For my paid employment I am a note-taker and so autism, social and learning impairments interest me anyway. I enjoy working with students that fit this category as it is rewarding work and they are extraordinary individuals. At the school I shadowed an English and Math test and also an ASDAN session – topics that made me feel confident that I could help out. Here I could really see how the learning support helps students that would usually tend to struggle. Regular tests are done to monitor progress, provisions are put into place if no progress is made and you can see a real sense of promoting positivity within the SEN scheme. The team are patient and work hard for the students – regardless of the barriers that they face.

After my time with the SEN, I began working closely with the history department, a department whose’s subject I love. I felt very comfortable with this move as it enabled me to put my own knowledge to the test and actively try and guide the student. The A/S and A-Level groups interest me the most as I don’t feel that far away from their stage now! They are undergoing the same exam and coursework topics as I did and so I feel like I can really help. Again, this department has teachers with such a strong passion, not only for history, but for teaching as well.

So here is the rosy picture of teaching, and this is the picture I can honestly see. I see educated teachers that want to teach, but instead they are forced to jump through hoops, hit impossible targets and complete superficial tasks. These obstacles that are put in place by higher governing bodies are achievable on paper but actually take away from the teaching experience. Essays, mock exams and homework need to be marked- that is a requirement that comes with the territory of being a teacher. However, having two other higher-ranking teacher’s re-mark the work to check for accuracy proves time-consuming and unnecessary. If there are failings in the teacher’s marking, then there are failings in the school or recruitment providers that have employed a less-than-satisfactory staff member.

Another major issue that affects many social sectors, including education, is that of funding. Taking money out of school’s helps no one in the long-run. If we give our future work force, our future inspirational groups a lesser education then what will that achieve? A less educated generation, that is all it will achieve. More children, more money – that such be the rule of thumb. Instead it now stands that there are more children but less money. There are more students than chairs, more students than text books and more students than computers – how can they have the quality education that we in the UK pride ourselves on?

Let the teachers close their doors and teach their children to get the highest qualifications they can. Don’t take away funds and put impractical goals in place. Let’s see a change! After all, we’ll pay for it in the long-run.

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Finding it tough living at uni? Find a peer mentor to help

Here is another piece that I have written for Keele’s Concourse Magazine, they all seem to have been published at once but I’m certainly not complaining! I’m so grateful for them even reading my work – never mind featuring it on their website. Here is an article about using mentoring services and student support networks in order to settle those first-year nerves and really get stuck in to University life.

The introduction of student-to-student mentoring schemes within higher education to help new and existing students with all aspects of University life;

What has come to light more recently through the media is that a common theme for some university students is the idea of ‘dropping out’ of Higher Education or common complaints of not enjoying it.

However, new help is being made available by some Universities within the UK in the form of student mentoring.

Student mentoring is a scheme close to my heart after I fell into the category of ‘potential Uni drop-out’ during my first year.

At my lowest I was given a leaflet about mentoring and through the scheme I began to talk about what I liked and disliked about my course, how positive my future could be, and began to put things into perspective.

I am now currently entering my third year at University and I am proud to say that I have not only volunteered as a mentor myself but have now been appointed senior mentor of my discipline in order for me to help others.

Duties as a mentor include talking to existing students about their grades, worries and fears as well as introducing new students into the fold of university life.

Students studying the same or similar disciplines can be paired up with a mentor who then emails them to meet up and chat, talk over email or just to check stress levels during exams and times of homesickness.

Potential students can enrol in the mentoring scheme whilst still in college if the scheme is in place at their first choice University.

Once receiving their results and securing their place they can be matched up to a mentor in order for them to ask any questions prior to their arrival at uni.

What is great is that apart from official papers and documents, our mentors are the first friendly face/voice from the university that a student speaks to – and who better than someone who has very recently been through it themselves!

Through email any questions can be asked, from course content, interesting sites in the area or just whether to bring a kettle or saucepans?!

This relationship lasts all through that student’s time at University in order to remove the stresses of deadlines, workloads, essays and exams, as well as the new and sometimes daunting social aspects of university life.

Higher education is a huge time of transition in a young adult’s life and having that person to talk to can really help with fitting into social events and settling in halls of residence. Students will always listen to other students’ advice more than lecturers just because we all think we are clearly more clued in about drinks at the SU than a 30-something-year-old lecturer!

Through my own experience of being on both ends of the mentoring scheme, I can see only benefits of the confidential student-to-student support and would urge more students to get involved in mentoring for the HEAR accredited hours, the experience for your CV and just for self-satisfaction to know that you helped!

And for any of those who aren’t involved in this scheme; 1) why not?!, 2) try and talk to people, such as counselling offices and student support about how to get involved, and 3) just try helping people, if you see a fresher looking lost then point them in the right direction or tell them about an up and coming social event.

The university students of today are the graduates and future employees of tomorrow so with the rise in tuition fees, we should all be supporting each other to stay in education rather than leaving students to think about ‘dropping out’ before they’ve really got settled in!

The full article can be found at;

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Beat the bullies in Bullying Prevention Month

Here is another article that has been written by myself, and has been published by Keele University’s Concourse Magazine about raising awareness about bullying as it is something that is overlooked as we get older;

Not everyone will know that October is ‘National Bullying Prevention Month’, a topic that should be close to many students’ hearts.

Numerous students will have either fallen victim to bullying or know someone who has been bullied over the years.

Bullying can cover a wide range of different social mistreatments including: name calling; vandalism or theft of personal belongings; exclusion from activities; or even physical abuse.

As we get older we make the assumption that the number of cases of bullying decreases.

This is because bullying is usually associated with primary and secondary education and the classic idea of playground intimidation or isolation.

However, acts of bullying can persist throughout an individual’s life, through college, university and even into the work place.

This month is all about raising awareness of bullying and pushing for its prevention and what better place to start than on campus!

The first step to its prevention is in its awareness. Keep vigilant in and around University as the bullying may not come in the more obvious forms that we would assume to see.

As young adults, there are very few cases reported of students standing in open areas with many people milling around them, hurling vocal abuse at an individual and being encouraged by the laughter of onlookers.

Instead, as we grow up, the bullying does not disappear but instead becomes much more discrete and a lot less identifiable.

This is why its awareness is so important! Look out in halls of residence and accommodation for students who keep their heads down and walk past their peers and flat mates, or those students in the Student Union who appear to be on their own for extended periods of time.

Sometimes these students may just be homesick or be quite shy individuals rather than be the victims of bullying but either way you will have still offered them a friendly face and a helping hand which may be all that person needs.

In the case that the student is being bullied however, preventative measures need to be put into place in order to safeguard this student and get them enjoying University life again. Firstly, try and discuss with them what has been going on – this may not be an easy process and a long-term repertoire may need to be built with the student in order for them to open up to you.

This is a great opportunity to go for a coffee in Chancellor’s, or get lunch with them in Munch and offer them friendship as well as adding them to your own social circle at Keele! Secondly, offer them other people to talk to, perhaps a discussion with a personal tutor or visit the Student Support team who would be more than happy to help.

Student Support could help with a change of accommodation, if that is what is needed, or possibly professional counselling or a student mentor to talk to.

Overall, there are many options that Keele can offer a student who is struggling with bullies.

Finally, and possibly most importantly, you cannot force a student to seek help from the University or surrounding organisations and you will only isolate them further if you break their confidence and go behind their backs to do so.

This said, if you believe that a student is in danger to themselves or to others around them then you must report this to places like Student Support who can intervene if necessary to help a student who really needs it.

Keele University should be a safe place for all students. It should offer only friendly faces and exciting opportunities. Don’t let our University be brought down by bullying; think carefully about your actions towards others and look out for students who don’t look happy or content.

October is just one month, make people aware of bullying, and let’s prevent it not only for October but forever on campus.

The articles can be found at;

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When Fashion Meets Historical Controversy

Here is an article that I have written and that has been published by Keele University’s Concourse Magazine about a “fashionable” jumper that appears to reference the events at Kent State University in the most insensitive manner.

I’ve always thought of myself as sometimes being a bit “out there” when it comes to my fashion – sometimes this has been my complete downfall! But I have always looked at latest trends and considered if I could pull them off. One new trend that I certainly will not be following has come from the popular high-street shop, Urban Outfitters, who have designed a jumper that could make even the wildest fashionistas reel!

UO have released a jumper for sale emblazoned with “Kent State University” with the university logo. This vintage jumper appears to be tinged with bloodstains and contains a few small holes. The popular high street shop however, have claimed that it is not a reference to the tragic school-shootings that occurred in Ohio in 1970, but that the jumper is just a distressed design that is made to look “vintage”. Although UO have dismissed their clothing’s relevance to the events of 1970, the item still seems to be in bad-taste.

The Vietnam War split the American population entirely and led to numerous protests across the country; a famous one being at Kent State University. Students of the University had been protesting for 3-days on campus grounds against America’s involvement in Vietnam. It was on this third day that National Guardsmen, who trying to keep the protest peaceful, were ordered to open fire on the students; an order that they shockingly carried out. These terrible shootings led to 4 students being killed and 9 being left wounded and in hospital. This was a terrible event in American history that should be remembered with pride for those brave students who were willing to stand up for what they believed in. However, UO appears to be addressing this event with too much nonchalance.

UO have released a statement to say that the jumper is of a vintage-style and therefore has been made to look distressed. The design includes the red-splatter stains across the front of the jumper, supposedly reminiscent of sun damage, and also small holes, not to be confused with bullet holes, apparently. I am unsure as to whether this item has just been greatly misjudged as to how offensive it is or simply the company’s pure ignorance to any historical matter. The jumper went on sale last Sunday, September 21st, and, by the following day, was quickly removed due to the uproar. UO were swift to remove the item from their website but the fact still stands that this jumper was designed in the first place.

Fashion is supposed to be a statement, but that does not mean it should be oblivious to the world around it. The idea of controversial fashion should encompass outfits such as Lady Gaga’s eccentric meat dress or Katy Perry’s carousel dress. It should not encroach on sensitive subjects such as the death and injury of university students who ironically wanted peace. We want to see fashion that represents individuality, not ignorance. So make a statement with your clothing, whether that is political, feminist or any other stance- just make sure you take into account the affect it can have on others. Wearing a jumper that represents the death of innocents isn’t a declaration, it’s just unnecessary.

This article can be found on Keele Concourse’s Website at;

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Day One of my High School Work Placement

I haven’t blogged in a while, instead I have just been reproducing previous work – I hope that does not look too lazy! From today I have began my work placement within a high school and sixth form. I have chosen the slightly easier option of returning to my old school, St Thomas More Catholic College. To my surprise, following the three years that I have left the school, a lot has changed. These changes not only include the buildings and layout of the school but also the teachers and staff members. I began to feel a bit out of my depth.

However, once I had been greeted and I had chosen my favourable departments, I began to settle in and learn a few things!

Picking up a teaching technique seems the most daunting experience for any to-be teachers. From 9am until 12 noon I watched two staff members teach an A-Level class, including one student who was assisted by an SEN (Special Education Needs) worker. A-Level is an interesting year group for myself as it is the closest to my age and also the curriculum I am most accustomed to. It is also a more challenging age-range in terms of educational content which is something that I enjoy. Furthermore, the SEN aspect proves very beneficial to my new role of employment at Keele University as a note-taker for autistic students. The skill set for interacting with these students is rather varied in comparison to students that follow the socio-developmental norms. This is the student group that I would like to home-in on in the future.

Overall the most useful teaching techniques I observed were those involving visual aspects such as the use of diagrams and using varying coloured pens: black for the students answers; red for the teacher’s marking; and green for the students corrections. Another essential area to learn is the use of exam papers, definitions for easy marks and the use of analogies to improve understanding. The practical elements in a classroom also prove useful in engaging students with the task itself and also with each other. This time ‘on-task’ allows a teacher to approach students individually in order to assess their knowledge and gauge their understanding. Many students may not want to single themselves out to express their struggles so this method is a great way to avoid that dilemma.

My first day has proved quite useful towards me reaching my final goal of becoming a qualified teacher. Next week I will be working in the history department, the subject that I wish to pursue as my career. So keep posted for more updates about my work experience!

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Memoirs of James Millikin

Published on 27/11/2013  on from my time at Englesea Brook Primitive Methodist Chapel and Museum

Local Preacher, Belfast Circuit (1811 – 1850)

James Millikin, of the Belfast Mission, born March 20th 1811, to parents who were strict members of the Secession Church. Although in youth Millikin wanted to play and have funs with friends like any other child, he also recognised his strong desire to be pious. He received an education, as best as could be offered, by his parents and also the Presbyterian Ministry about the ways of God and piety.

Following this he moved to Belfast where he met a man who he befriended and who took him to a Methodist Chapel for service. Here Millikin’s eyes were opened and for the first time he understood that he had been saved and had found salvation from faith. This awakening transformed his goals in life; to always think before speaking, to imitate Christ in his example and to bring sinners to repentance.

Some years later, the Primitive Methodists came to Belfast where they greatly impressed Millikin and caused him to want to co-operate with them wholly. Millikin relished in preaching and began to walk 16 miles daily to preach twice around Belfast for a cause that had exceeded all his expectations and brought him to salvation.

Millikin became a very active member within the community by declaring refusal of any intoxicating substances and so becoming a member of the Belfast Total-abstinence Society. He also succeeded to become the delegate to the Sunderland Conference of 1849.

However, this active nature took its toll on Millikin’s health as it deteriorated and he grew ill from the cold and wet travels to preach for the Primitive Methodists. The illness he contracted proved fatal for him and on July 20th 1850, he joined his seven children in heaven. On his death bed he was promised by his wife and remaining child that they would stay with the Methodist community to be looked after and to ensure their return to him in heaven.


By Robert Hartley

The Primitive Methodist Magazine, 1850, p. 707 – 708

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