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Chinwe Russell

Doncopolitan interviewed artist and creative entrepreneur Chinwe Russell.

Words: Chinwe Russell

Photography: Warren Draper

When did you start painting?

My first attempt at painting was in 2007 after a visit to a Nigerian art market where I fell in love with some of the local art. I brought some of the paintings back to the UK and recreated some of these pieces in my own way. To my surprise, a couple of people commissioned me to paint similar pieces. I have no formal art training, being entirely self-taught and, in fact, I went to business school. In addition to my art, I also run a skin care business for the past several years.

What are your thoughts on Doncaster as a newbie in town?

Doncaster has incredible potential. The people are very friendly and frankly it was quite disturbing at first coming from the south where many people have no time for each other. There is a lot of energy here which is largely under the current. It is easy to make connections with people and there is so much potential for community projects. It feels like a blank canvas. For me as a mum, it is great for my child, with a wide range of affordable arts and culture for children. My daughter was dancing already in France and she has been able to continue her passion for ballet at the amazing Riley School of Dance. In the 18 months we have been in Doncaster, she has made amazing progress. I’d love to do something to support the dance industry in Doncaster as well, as they are largely not known to the public.

Do you enjoy exhibiting as well as supporting others to show their work?

Yes, I do like other artists. Exhibition is really the only way to get your work out there. I also love to work with other artists to help them develop their art career. I guess my business background comes in very handy. In October 2018, I won a place to exhibit at TOAF (The Other Art Fair) in London. I was also one of the 30 female artists curated out of 500 applicants to be part of an arts project titled “Not 30%”. This part protest, part exhibition, highlighted the fact that female artists at most represent only 30% of the male dominated art world. A desire to give myself and the other artists in Doncaster a place to actively sell our work led to me creating the Doncaster Art Fair which is a visual art fair with the aim of bringing artists and buyers directly together. The idea is for the buyers to come and meet the artists and discover what inspires them. It is an amazing feeling to own an original piece of art as it is like owning a piece of the artist’s soul.

Tell me about your art?

My work falls into two categories. My museum/collectors pieces are largely historical and narrative-based themes. I have created work based on various pieces of history from all over the world such as the Spanish Inquisition, the Suffragettes, the Ottoman Empire, the witch trials, the slave trade, Joan of Arc and several others. I also create commercial pieces which cover a range of subjects depending on my interest at the time and the client.

What are you working on at the moment?

It is a very busy time for me as I have several projects on the go. I am more than half way through my target of creating 30 historical themed artworks before the end of the year. I am also preparing for my summer solo exhibition which will take place at the Queens Road Design Centre. I’m equally running a pop-up studio in the Corn Exchange with other local artists, as well as the Doncaster Art Fair which will take place on Sunday the 31st of March (Mothers Day) in conjunction with the opening of the new wool market.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to get more involved in the arts here?

Come to the Doncaster arts fair, join The New Fringe. And get involved in Doncopolitan, there’s lots happening in Doncaster.

doncasterartfair.com

Follow Doncaster Emerging and professional art fair on Facebook HERE

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Space Review – The Leopard

Rob reviews “Space” a talented band that performed at The Leopard last week.

Words: Rob Johnson

 

Britpop was a musical movement that was at once instantly recognisable and yet impossible to define.The idea that Space can be lumped in with say, Suede is patently absurd. But then Space always were outsiders. Where Oasis and Blur looked backwards for inspiration, Space and their spiritual sonic cousins Pulp were much more weird and out there in terms of their influences. ‘Psychadelic’ is not a term you would use to describe Shed Seven or the Bluetones but with Space, the word definitely fits.

It is a coup for the Leopard, Doncaster’s most iconic music venue, to host a band that boasted seven top20 hits back in the ’90s and that is reflected in a packed and rowdy room. The band squeeze onto the tiny stage with Franny Griffiths’s massive keyboard taking up most of the room. As they burst into an energetic run through of Charlie M, Space don’t sound like a band approaching their 30th year together.Front man Tommy Scott is still as energetic and buoyant as ever as he swigs from a bottle of wine and declares that the crowd are ‘fuckin’ boss!’

A hypnotic and well received Money precedes a pounding rendition of Avenging Angels, a song that was written about Scott’s father passing away and is dedicated tonight to anyone that has lost somebody. In a crowd made up of ’90s survivors, that’ll be pretty much all of us then.

Begin Again paves the way for a spirited run through of The Ballad of Tom Jones, complete with Cerys Matthews on the big screen, before Female of the Species brings the house down. Space have many good songs and were far from a one hit wonder but the latter track transcends both Britpop and the ’90s to become a timeless classic. It sounds wonderful reverberating off the beer soaked Leopard walls as the crowd sways along.

A rendition of Mister Psycho does indeed blow us away but Neighbourhood is probably the highlight of the set. With the right kind of eyes it could be the spring of ’98 again as Scott runs through his bizarre list of neighbours including, but not limited to, the murderous local vicar and a petty criminal. It’s a great track and a great set closer.

Space are not finished there though as Scott bounces back on stage for one last swansong. Me And You vs The World is just as irresistible as it was back in 1996 when their debut album Spiders gatecrashed the album charts despite containing thousands of different genres and being inspired by violent movies and old cartoons.

And just like that. The Liverpool band go howling into the balmy Doncaster night. Space are still as weird and wonderful as they always have been. Long live the freaks!

Follow The Leopard HERE.

Follow the band Space HERE.

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Extinction Rebellion

Former Doncaster resident Scarlett Lee explains what is extinction rebellion is and why she got involved.

Words: Scarlett Lee

Photography: Warren Draper

When I was a kid we had The Body Shop “save the whale” socks with our bath pearls, Fern Gully, and the World Wildlife Fund panda. When I was a bit older, I watched Captain Planet with my little sister.  At the same time came fake Legos, school dinners and, one brilliant day, getting a dog. It was the early 90s and sometimes my family went on package holidays on an aeroplane because we were lucky and sometimes my mum would agree to getting Sunny Delight from the new Asda. On a birthday there might be a party at McDonalds in Doncaster and a bit later at the diner where they danced on the tables at the newly-built Meadowhall. Life was getting bigger and better.

Yet all the time it was there in the background. Things are dying far away. The animals are dying. The earth is dying. But there were also pot noodles, falling outs, a C&A dress for the school disco. And we were getting on with our life stuff because we were kids and the government were supposed to sort the other stuff out. But we could see it wasn’t being sorted so there was the odd “save the something” fundraiser. You could take the dog out in the fields after school and there were insects and birds and you thought there always would be.

Well, here we are in 2019. The shadow has been there my whole life. I’m nearly 35 and nothing got sorted. In fact, it’s unthinkably more terrible. Most of us are switched off at least most of the time but I urge you to brace yourself and truly, deeply delve into the science beyond the headlines. It will shit you up. It will make you split your brain in two because now you know and you can’t un know but you also can’t really comprehend what it means, those things you just read.

I think sometimes about all the turmoil/displacement/misery of Europe in the first half of the 20th century and what those people would say if you went back in time and showed them what the future really looks like but all we can do is deal with what we have. But what exactly can we do? I always wanted to do something, but what? Recycle, yes. Don’t fly, maybe. Vegan food? Local economies? Yes to all of that. Great work, we need them! But the powerful people need to do differently. We need new structures and systems to get through this. Now we’ve had this IPCC report saying 12 years left to save ourselves – and all the scientists seem to reckon it’s super optimistic anyway. And they aren’t saying 12 years carry on as you are, like there’s still time for a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit. They are saying “totally change the way we do things now” to even have a hope that life will look anything like it has before. Yet, fracking and runway building is still going off with political backing. Our Saint Attenborough has got on telly a bit to tell us it’s dire, but he’s even said he has reined it in, he’s scared to turn us off with such dark predictions. It’s on the news but not the most important item. Connect the dots. The refugees are being displaced over resource and land rights due to climate collapse. That war over there is because of this. That flood is because of this, too. Young people are striking from school on Fridays because, to paraphrase teen activist Greta Thunberg, what’s the point in going to school if you won’t have a world to grow up in?

In this mess Extinction Rebellion got started. We call it XR. It’s easier to say. XR is just a piece of the resistance but it feels significant and it’s spreading around the world. Going on marches is not enough; we don’t have time. I joined my local group in Nottingham. The strength of XR is in our networks and organisation and, to be honest, our desperation. All of us are new to it. Many have “never done anything like this before”. We aren’t politicians or activists. We’re working things out as we go along and we all have to step up. Some of us are willing to get arrested. Some aren’t or can’t and that’s ok. There are three demands.

1)Tell the truth. Because it has never been on the news, not once, how bad it really is. The government don’t tell us this is worse than anything we have known. Ask anyone with a science background. Ask Google. That’s why we barricaded the BBC and targeted government departments.

2) Legally binding policies to achieve zero carbon emissions by 2025. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY. It’s radical, it will be hard, but what alternative have we got? Think about it. What can be as bad as this is going to get?

3) Form a citizen’s assembly to mobilise this war effort because the government is not equipped. Our systems aren’t equipped.

In Nottingham, our council has just pledged to go carbon neutral by 2028. It’s not perfect; it’s the same as zero carbon and it is not legally binding. It does mean the council is aiming to be the first in the UK. It’s not enough but we can’t sleepwalk any more.

Join us.

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Drugs Uncovered

Rachel Horne talks about the extreme violence in our communities and its relationship to the UK drug trade.

Words: Rachel Horne

Photography: Warren Draper

On the 18th of January this year I attended a conference hosted by Aspire’s Recovery College. I was there to hear a talk by author Neil Woods after reading “Drug Wars”, a book he co-wrote with JS Rafaeli. For me, their work has been instrumental to my own research exploring the illegal trade of drugs in our communities and how it’s shaping life in Doncaster.

Almost every aspect of our lives is affected by the British drug trade and our consumption of drugs. We might not see it and join the dots but the the world of illegal drugs and the criminal underbelly it inhabits have transformed the fabric of British society into something unrecognisable.

Author Neil Woods knows the world of substance misuse and addiction better than most due to his work as an undercover police officer where he faked his way into the world of crack and heroin to observe it first hand. You’d think he would be anti-drugs and in full support of our current drugs laws. The staggering truth is, after 20 years working undercover catching dealers, befriending and living amongst other drug users, he believes that, at best, he has disrupted the UK drug trade for a mere 18 hours. What’s more, he believes he has contributed to making the whole problem much worse. He states: “when you catch someone for dealing, it creates an opportunity for someone else to step in. Police are merely taking out the competition for other dealers. There is no benefit at all from police involvement with drugs”.

Many members of the public might find this shocking to read, and believe that more policing and big expensive undercover operations will make our streets safer. According to Neil, policing has no effect on reducing drug taking or crime. He suggests: “it only leads to more violence as each generation of gangster get more and more extreme. Extreme violence is a learnt thing off the back of prohibition and the system we have created”.

So, when policing drugs makes no sense, when banning them only drives the numbers higher, what is the answer?

I’m joining a movement to lobby MPs for a drugs policy reform in the UK. I’m writing to my MP Rosie Winterton, to ask if she will meet others campaigning in parliament to address current drug laws. Through regulation, we can take the drug trade out of criminal hands and put doctors, pharmacists and licensed retailers in control. In the UK, drug-related deaths are at record levels, our prisons are in crisis, and drugs are getting stronger. Out of 2.8 million students in the UK, a recent study found around 80% take illegal drugs that are unregulated. Almost one in three drug overdose deaths in Europe occur in the UK, which we can all agree is unacceptable. Drugs aren’t going away and prohibition isn’t working. We can take action. Join my campaign in Doncaster but also support the work of Neil Woods and the other former law enforcement officers at Leap U.K. that are pioneering this movement for change.

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Be A Pole Queen

An anonymous reader shared there journey into pole fitness in Doncaster.

Roughly one year ago, after ending a long-term relationship, I decided to try a pole dancing class to reconnect with my neglected feminine side. Feeling very dislocated from my body, I was looking for something new that could help me find my inner vixen. Not only did pole dancing look fun, I’d heard it was one of the best workouts you’ll ever do.

My Pole Studio Doncaster started 10 years ago and runs regular classes above the recently refurbished Hallcross pub at the top of Hallgate in the town centre. The classes are one hour long and a mixture of stretching, dancing, climbing, yoga, and gymnastic style moves which mean it’s not boring and a constant challenge. Because of the nature of the class, pole is literally the best thing I’ve ever done for my mind and body. People of all backgrounds and body shapes take part, plus a couple of boys too which I didn’t expect.

The world of pole dancing fitness is relatively new but it’s growing in respect as a serious athletic discipline if not an art form in its own right. As a newbie, I love the challenge of a new move and watching and learning from my fellow pole queens. The instructors are talented and patient so you will find yourself climbing and twirling around the pole faster than you could ever imagine. If you stick at it long enough, in a year you’ll be hanging upside down doing what’s known as “the crucifix”, which means you have  no hands on the pole with your bare thighs holding you in position. It’s such a buzz.

Pole class also feels like a family and it’s great to connect with new people at each class. In October, there’s a show held at the Glass House in Kirk Sandall where everyone gets to show off a new routine, friends and family members all attend. There’s killer heels, booty shaking, duets and a raffle. I attended the show last year but didn’t perform. It was such a lovely positive experience seeing everyone proud of their bodies and what they had learned. In a world of “everyday sexism” and the “Me Too Campaign” the pole show creates a safe environment where women of all backgrounds and ages can have fun, look stunning and show off their moves. Instead of being heckled and harassed for our sexiness, women were being respected for their bodies and what they can do.

The world of pole dancing might be a little niche in Doncaster, and an escape from normality, but what it’s doing in terms of health, fitness, body confidence and self empowerment is bloody magnificent. Get on it. Be a pole queen!

(You also don’t have to be a girl. Pole kings are welcome too)