CEO Spotlight: Lucas Belenkly of Top Third Ventures

Cooking methods in third world countries have caused millions of deaths through passive smoking, but one company is attempting to change that. In the spotlight this week is Lucas Belenkly of Top Third Ventures, the business responsible for the world’s first energy efficient cookstove.

lucas belenkly

Millions of people across the developing world cook over an open fire, requiring them to search for firewood and inhale copious amounts of smoke on a daily basis.  Providing a practical alternative for people earning less than an average of $2.50 a day has proven difficult so far, but the team at Top Third Ventures believe they have an easy to use solution.

Through extensive consultation with local customers and smart design, the Baker Cookstove burns one third as much wood compared to an open fire while producing half as much smoke. If you are interested in learning more about the Baker cookstove and its story, you can view their website here.

Following a successful investment campaign on crowdfunding site indiegogo Top Third Venture’s CEO Lucas Belenky answered a few questions about himself, the Baker cookstove and the future of the company.

Now that you have reached your Indiegogo target, what is the next stage of the Baker Stove’s development?

Down the road we will design a product for use with charcoal, as the current model is designed for wood. But the idea is to never stop innovating [and] always make something better for our customers. We are investing in improved production methods to achieve a lower price and higher quality.

Now that you’re starting to reach a larger market, what kind of feedback are you getting from customers? Is there a need to make changes to products in the future?

We are getting mostly positive feedback, but some of our customers have complained about different things. We sat down with each one and talked about what they didn’t like, which led to two minor changes that improved the product. We then conducted a full scale recall so everyone could have the modified product.

The response from our customers was great.  They loved that we listened and that we acted. This kind of responsiveness is normal for most consumer product companies but it is rare here in Kenya.

bakerstove cook stove nairobi

Why do you think this problem hasn’t been solved before? Have similar companies not been as responsive to local needs?

That’s a really good question. The idea of providing customers in developing countries with efficient cookstoves has been around since the 1970s. Until around 2005 it remained the space of NGOs and charities. The emergence of the carbon credit market in Europe in 2005 changed a lot. Most cookstove companies, including mine, earn carbon credits from the customers’ use of the stove. These can be sold to companies or governments with the EU providing the largest demand. But recently it’s been the case of what you hinted at. A lot of stoves out there do not properly address the culture and local traditions of their customers. Sort of like telling everyone in the US to drive a smart car, the products are efficient and good for the environment on paper but often impractical to use.

It appears from your online biographies that you have quite a bit of experience working with carbon credit markets. Do you see carbon markets playing a large role in sustainable development projects in Africa?

I do. So far its mostly China, India, and other emerging countries that benefited from the carbon market mechanisms. But more and more the focus is shifting to Africa. What’s good about carbon credits is that you earn them depending on how successful the project is. You need to track your impact and report it to the certifying body. So poor projects won’t survive, which is a good environment for effective projects to flourish.

It looks like you began working as a consultant on some of these sustainable projects in Africa almost immediately after graduation.

That’s correct. I went to Ghana when I was 16 and something about the experience never left me. When I finished my master’s degree in 2009 the financial crisis was in full swing so I decided to volunteer in Africa for a couple months. During those months I was introduced to the concept of carbon credits and the idea of putting a price on pollution really interested me. It’s very rewarding work because you are making a difference at the global level and locally in the communities.


What motivates you and how did you get started? Might you have any advice for someone in a similar position who wants to make a difference?

My advice for someone else would be if you want to work in this part of the world it really helps to be here. About starting a company and implementing a vision, I would say you need to throw everything behind it and have blind faith.

Do you think that is something anyone could do? Were there important connections or opportunities that came your way?

I like to think anyone can do it but I was very fortunate to have the right business partner when I started. He has extensive experience setting up companies and building brands, something I knew very little about when we started. His network was also very valuable. He brought in the design team that gave the Baker its unique look.

What are your plans for the future of the Baker cookstove and what are the biggest challenges that will have to be overcome?

We are focusing our sales initially in Laikipia county in Kenya. Next we need to ramp up sales, expand throughout Laikipia county, then Kenya, while also developing our charcoal stove. The biggest challenge will be first setting up high quality, large scale production, then effectively distributing and marketing the products. Distribution in rural developing countries is very difficult but as a company we take an evolutionary approach to our challenges. We are quick to modify or even discard a strategy if it isnt working, so I’m confident we will overcome these challenges.


Smartphone app could “raise quality of outcome” for stop and search victims

Report by Pierre Fox

ew stop and search victims mobile app a stax

Smartphone users are now able to submit information related to their stop and search experiences, thanks to a newly launched mobile app.

The ‘Stop and Search’ application allows users to upload details of their police encounter, including the participating officer’s badge number.

The app allows for both named and anonymous submissions, and all information will be added to a report set to be released after a year.

The police force is currently under investigation for stop and search malpractice, following a report claiming that 27% of stop and search incidences were either not legally justified or lacked recorded justification altogether.

As well as offering users the chance to submit their experiences, the app informs users of their legal rights during a stop and search. Commenting on the uncertainty facing recipients of the police check, app designer Aaron Sonson told Al Jazeera: “It’s just worse if you don’t know what you can say or do to get out of that situation.”

The three men spearheading the project have declined police funding in order to avoid any conflicts of interest. “It’s really important to let people know we’re independent from the Met” Satwant Kenth, another of the app designers, explained.

Superintendent Simon Rose of the Metropolitan Police, has wished Satwant and Aaron luck with the app, hoping to work with them rather than against. According to Rose, the new accountability provided by the app could help “raise the quality of outcome” when officers stop and search members of the public.

The app will soon be available to Apple users, and is currently available on Android and BlackBerry phones.

Why is International Aid the “punching bag” of Austerity Britain?

As the debate on International Aid trundles on, and reports of its inefficiency fuel the fire, George Hopkin explains why foreign aid is a budget we cannot afford to cut.


In Britain, international outlooks are not very popular. The common theme seems to be that we British should fight for our independence from the EU, battle against the stifling lawyers at the European Court of Human Rights, and make sure our borders – and trading regulations – are working harder for hardworking British people. With this kind of attitude, it is only natural that international aid is going to take a punch or two.

So, there it is. International Aid acts as the punching bag of Austerity Britain. But, as the sceptics try to pull the drawbridge up between the UK and the rest of the world, I wonder if they really know what aid is or why our government gives it.

Let’s investigate. 0.7% of the UK’s national income goes towards aid. £12 billion is a huge amount of money but, in current government spending terms, an amount that is fractional. This money goes to charitable organisations such as UNICEF, and the governments of countries that suffer from deep poverty—having many who struggle as part of what most people will only ever see as a statistic: the 1.4 billion impoverished worldwide.

Our government works hard to make sure that each and every pound we give is sent to the right organisations, with 4 out of 43 groups cut due to ill-performance. Nations that no longer need aid do not receive it—the Russias, Chinas, and South Africas of this planet with developed national governments and rising economies. Efficiency is at the heart of this process.

Looking at root causes of poverty, the aid does not just provide a temporary relief. International funding helps with infrastructure; it teaches better farming techniques; it makes sure that clean water is more of a constant, and not just a luxury.

And this is not just an issue of compassion. This is about humane, economic support of the kind that we should be expected to give in an increasingly globalised world. It is about advanced nations holding out a hand to bring others up with them—modern Britain with the old colonies is a good example of a duty-bound leader supporting those with fairly young systems.

We are lucky, in Britain, to have had two consecutive prime ministers who understand this, sometimes, difficult reality. First, Gordon Brown wisely ring-fenced our international aid budget, then David Cameron delivered upon that same promise by leaving it unharmed.

Cameron earlier this year stated his government’s position, declaring: “To those who are sceptical, I would say it is not only a moral obligation that the better-off countries have to tackle poverty in our world when we still have over a billion people living on less than a dollar a day, but it’s also in our interests that we build a more prosperous world.

“If we don’t, the problems of conflict, the problems of mass migration, the problems of uncontrollable climate change are problems that will come and visit us at home.”

In these words, there is caution enough for those whose minds are drawn to inward problems and who forget that there are people elsewhere that are struggling harder than us, with our way out one of the only ways available.

If we do not give what little we can, then the consequences of our actions will come back to haunt us in politics, economics, and social justice. We need to move away from the view that charity starts at home and realise that the ladder of prosperity must not be pulled up behind us.

Evil media? It’s not a conspiracy. It’s our own short-sightedness

How and why has the international media ignored protests in Bulgaria, Brazil and, even EgyptJem Collins sheds light on the reason so many journalists leave important stories on the shelf.


Bulgarian protests have mainly been ignored by the international press

Being a well-informed world citizen is simple. Newspapers, radio, rolling 24-hour news channels, live twitter feeds and websites are all just a tiny part of the sprawling international offering that makes news consumption effortless.

It is also extremely important. Without a good grounding in news and current affairs we become isolated, whether on a local, national or international scale. And if we isolate ourselves from other cultures we lose the ability to empathise with their problems, resolve conflicts or even simply understand the world around us.

Keeping ourselves informed of new developments is also empowering; it gives us the tools and knowledge to help us change things that we believe are fundamentally wrong. After all, how can you successfully oppose something if you do not know that it is happening or the context surrounding it?

So, we ask ourselves, how is it, that in this massive global network of information it can feel like we know less than ever before? Just this week reports came in of mass protests in Bulgaria, with thousands of people on the streets in the cities of Sofia, Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas in anger at an allegedly undemocratic government.

But it is a story that has largely been ignored by the mainstream media – you will not find this news on your Sky TV sets or BBC twitter feed.  It is also a story that is just one of countless others, not worth even a passing mention on the inside page of your quality broadsheet. How many people have heard of the Icelandic protests of the early 2000s that led to country’s financial reform for example? Or what of the horrific rape of countless young men and women in the US army?

From a few scattered examples alone it is clear that there is an inherent bias in the way we report the world, but why? Is it, as some suggest, a conspiracy perpetuated by our governments to keep us from rioting against the traditional power norms? Perhaps we should be looking a little closer to home.

In 1965 two media researchers, Johan Galtung and Marie Ruge, attempted to discover exactly what makes ‘news’. After detailed analysis of scores of international news stories they came up with a list of things all the stories had in common; what they called news values. Ranging from continuity to meaningfulness, their final list of 12 ingredients to a “good news story” still says a lot about our society’s effect on the media.

While many other researchers have suggested additions or modifications to Galtung and Ruge’s initial points over the past five decades, they still all broadly fit within three categories; audience identification, pragmatics of media coverage and impact. Note the first grouping in particular. Put simply, if a story does not conform to what an audience relates to, media organisations will not cover it.

In the society of today we are only really interested in ourselves; stories from far-flung destinations do not sell and neither do those from countries with vast cultural differences. If the audience does not see how the story is relevant to them, it just will not work. Whatever our high minded expectations of the press to hold power to account, media organisations still need to pay the bills and ultimately exist to make money. Papers, broadcasters and online organisations alike select the stories their audiences are interested in reading – which is not necessarily the same as the ones they should be reading.

And what of the internet, heralded as the arrival of infinite knowledge for all? Surely we now know more than we ever did before? Not so, argues Professor James Curran of Goldsmiths. The internet may well be filled with limitless ideas and information, but that does not mean the traditional giants do not hold the most sway.  In the UK, for example, the top ten list of most visited news websites does not contain any surprises with the BBC, MailOnline and the Guardian heading up the top.

Perhaps most poignantly, however, the internet gives us an opportunity to ignore what we do not want to see. Don’t want to read about the protests in Bulgaria? No worries, there are thousands of cat videos waiting for you instead.

Thousands sign petition to get rid of gay ‘cure’ apps

Report by Kieran Watkins


A petition asking Google and Apple to reject apps attempting to ‘cure’ people of being gay has been signed by more than 100,000 people.

The ‘Google: No Apps for Gay Cures’ petition was set up on May 29, 2013 to urge the technology giants to rid their online stores of the controversial applications, which have been deemed “harmful” and denounced by leading organisations and governments worldwide.

It came in response to one app available to download on Apple iTunes and Google Play called ‘Setting Captives Free’, which claimed it could teach you how to stop being gay.

The free download states it is “Christ-centred”, and helps people “find freedom from habitual sins and learn to grow in grace”.

According to their website, more than 418,879 people have benefited from Setting Captives Free, although the app has a 1.7 out of 5 star rating on Google’s marketplace.

The petition argues however that the apps are harming the LGBT community.

Writing on the petition page, it states: “’Gay cures’ pray on people who are deeply worried they might be gay, convincing them that they have a serious illness.

“That can lead desperate people to depression or suicide.”

Such practises like the objectives behind ‘Setting Captives Free’ have been denounced by organisations including the America Psyciatric Association and the Pan-America Health Organization, as well as many governments.

Users of Google Play have also condemned the free download. Commenting on the app listing on Google’s marketplace, Josh Campbell said the app was “absolutely disgusting”, whilst Mickey Ricci called the application “bigoted”.

In just 24 hours from the launch of the petition, the app disappeared off the iTunes store, but remains on the Google marketplace.

With 164,658 signatures so far, help the petition reach its goal of 200,000 by signing here.

How to avoid the demons of the book industry

A new report by Ethical Consumer has outlined the good, bad, and ugly of the British book industry. We dish the dirt on the best and worst book sellers in Kent and beyond

penguin books subversive press

In 2012, an article outlining the biggest tax avoiders in UK business led to a huge backlash against multinationals, with Starbucks reporting its first British loss since opening stores in the country. Yet Amazon, one of the most unethical of the lot, has managed to sustain little impact. With so many high street book stores closing, and the lack of clarity plaguing tax avoidance figures, it is harder to change book shop than coffeehouse.

We should therefore be grateful for a new report, released by Ethical Consumer, outing the angels and demons of the book industry. Some of the results are to be expected, but many more will surprise you. Please forgive the paragraph headers below, which have been ordered in reverse for suspense.

The ugly

Tesco’s book provider, ‘Uncuva’, uses the highest number of offshore tax havens, including the Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Jersey, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. Other book franchises in the “red band” of tax avoidance are Kobo, Kindle, Google, Waterstones, and The Book Depository.

Google has dealt with public criticism in high places for refusing to pay more than 1.5% tax on its £359 million UK profit, so the ranking is understandable. More shocking is the fact that Google shares this mantle with the beloved British bookshop Waterstones. The franchise arose suspicion after it was reported that the company’s parent organisation is based in Bermuda, a well-known tax haven. Waterstones responded through a statement on its website which reads: “As a UK registered and domiciled business, Waterstones fulfils all its tax obligations. This will include both the payment and reporting of all necessary UK taxes, as set out under UK tax legislation.” However, this explanation does little more than assure customers that they act within the law, a useless assurance given that tax avoidance is completely legal.

The bad

Apple logo

Nook, Sony, WH Smiths, and Apple have all used some kind of offshore haven, scoring them a seat in the “amber band” of tax avoidance. Most companies in this band utilised tax laws in Hong Kong to pay less money to HM Revenue and customs.
Apple, at least, pays 12.5% tax through the Republic of Ireland, but scored amber, as its overall tax payments outside of the United States come to a measly 2%.

WH Smiths, Nook, and Sony scored amber due to their offshore sister companies and refusal to publish their tax dealings. The report explains: “Multinational companies often shift profits between subsidiaries [sister companies run by the same owners] in different jurisdictions, allowing them to dump their costs into high-tax jurisdictions which can be deducted against tax, and shift their profits to tax havens, where they pay little or no tax.”

The good

The above is disheartening, but bibliophiles should not lose hope. A surprising amount of large organisations have scored a green rating, including sellers of ebooks as well as physical editions.

On the high street, Blackwells is the most ethical, paying its fair share of the UK’s 24% corporation tax. Blackwells, one of the highest ranking ethical retailers, is popular book seller across the UK and Canterbury offers its own mini store on the University of Kent’s main campus.

Those living in Kent should also take advantage of what charity stores have to offer, with the Oxfam bookstores in Rochester and Canterbury offering a lovely atmosphere and a mind-boggling array of books at heavily discounted prices.

The best news, however, is the range of online booksellers offering digital and physical editions of popular and specialist books.

The most transparent and ethical book company, the report claims, is Bertram’s. The store, which started in a chicken shed and grew to become Britain’s most successful wholesale book supplier, offers shipping around the country via its website. Proceeds from the Guardian Bookshop are also handled ethically, the report said.

Meanwhile, the following ebook/e-reader stores also ranked highly in terms of ethics:
 Archos, Bebook, Bookeen, Boox, Elonex, Gobook, Iriver, Libre, Pixelar and Pocketbook

For more information on the companies which do or don’t pay their fair share, check out Ethical Consumer’s Tax Justice Campaign.

Harmless fun? The pitfalls of ‘Rate My Shag’ culture

It’s time to reassess how ‘fun’ some facebook pages really are, writes Jem Collins.


During the last month, social networks have witnessed an explosion of “Rate A Shag” pages, where users are actively encouraged to rate their partners’ performance for all to see.  As one page for the University of Kent, now banned, asked: “Have any stories about your conquests? A ‘mistake’ you need to get off your chest? Or just want to give credit where its due for a job well done? Well here is your chance!”

It’s simple: just send a private message with the full name of your unsuspecting partner, a rating out of ten and any other notes you wish to add. What could be simpler? The page admins will even keep your name anonymous to spare any unwanted embarrassment. Don’t worry about feeling guilty for divulging private information either – it’s only “bantz, a bit of harmless fun” one student explains to me. Except sexual humiliation simply isn’t funny.

Whether you see sex as part of a long-term loving relationship or simply a recreational activity to fill time on a Sunday afternoon, there’s no denying that it’s one of the most intimate acts possible between two humans. It leaves us almost entirely exposed; and not just in terms of flesh on show. Making love, bonking, getting jiggy with it… Whatever you call it and whatever the circumstances surrounding it, sex is unquestionably an agreement of privacy and trust between two people. It leaves us at our most emotionally vulnerable and, for the most part, what happens in the bedroom should stay in the bedroom.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t talk about sex; on the contrary. Frank and open discussions about intercourse and its implications provide a clear benefit to society. Malicious online shaming, however, does not. One student I spoke to about such pages was aghast. “It’s absolutely disgusting. Firstly there’s no way to prove that somebody has ever spoken to or seen a person, let alone slept with them, and even then it’s a vindictive way of verbally abusing someone.”

Indeed, the whole system is inherently biased towards abuse. Protecting the name of the writer offers a further cloak of cyber anonymity and a clear opportunity for misuse. Of course we should all be free to be as liberal as we like when discussing our own sex lives – but not at the cost of someone else’s dignity.

And sexual humiliation can have devastating consequences. Charities and police forces alike have reported countless calls from “hysterical” teenagers, upset at rumours posted anonymously online. One 22 year old told the BBC she was even approached at work following an online “slut shaming”. She said: “There was a boy who had the webpage up and pointed at me and said, ‘Oh, so if I gave you twenty quid what would you do for me? My main worry was that my dad saw it. The moment he would have seen my name and the word sex by it, I knew that it would have cause uproar. He would fly me to the rest of the family in [the middle east]. It would be all over. I would never see England again and that would be how I’d live.” The girl even said she considered taking her own life.

While the main bulk of sites linked to universities have been shut down, the problem is far from gone. Copycat sites spring up in seconds and the Facebook staff themselves admit they’re having trouble keeping on top of the problem.  Perhaps more worrying, however, is the internet culture that is creating and feeding these sites and millions others like them.

The web may offer countless opportunities, but its very nature distances us from real life and morality. In the cyber world we’re all one step removed from our own identities – we can be whoever we want to be and do whatever we want to do – and crucially we’re one step removed from the consequences of our actions. The internet doesn’t come with tangible faces, voices or feelings, leading to a dangerous breeding ground of abuse, cruelty and humiliation that’s all too tangible for the victims.

So before you press enter on that “hilarious” picture of the weird looking guy to the “Spotted in _____” page, or reveal all on last night’s encounter, stop and think for a second. Would you really drag someone up on stage in front of millions of people to yell that they are crap in bed? Didn’t think so.

Meet the founder of Canterbury’s most eccentric music festival

Last year, a group of friends set up a series of music festivals with a twist. Today, their last gig has attracted fans from all over Canterbury and beyond. Subversive Press asks its amicable founder, Heatha Akosua, what makes for a successful DIY concert.


When I talk to Heatha, she has just finished packing away four years of her life into boxes. After graduating from the University of Kent, she is now moving back to London to leave her musical stamp there too. It is safe to say that Canterbury’s concert lovers will miss her dearly.

Acting as the driving force behind a series of mini festivals this year, Heatha Akosua’s events have attracted students and young people from Kent and even further afield. The last in a series of sessions rounded off last week with a bang, boasting eight artists and bands, barbecue food, henna tattoos and, according to facebook, 100 attendees.
The caliber of artist is also impressive. One veteran band from Heatha’s live sessions, Syd Arthur, will be supporting Vampire Weekend on tour this year, and many more have appeared on TV and in music publications. When I asked a long-term attendee of the festival how Heatha finds all of these great acts, he replied: “I’m pretty sure they find her.”

Now, here is the twist. These festivals happen in her living room and all the artists play for free.

heatha akosua Victoria Anne Bulley and syd arthur

Left to right: Victoriana Bulley, Liam Magill of the band Syd Arthur (now supporting Vampie Weekend), and Heatha Akosua

Punters are not charged either. “We suggest a contribution for the food and drink” Heatha explains, “but we don’t make a profit. All the money goes straight back into more events.”

Canterbury is seen by many as a town which caters for students, so what led to two undergraduates taking the time and effort to set up something like this? Heatha explains that her friends were not big drinkers or party-goers, just fans of music. “We felt all the events in Kent appealed to the freshers. We love live music but never really knew were to go.” Soon, Heatha and her friend Victoriana Bulley had decided to track down some up and coming bands to play in their living room. The artists brought their CDs and merchandise, then played for a close group who enjoyed new music. The event soon evolved into a roaring success.

However, like all grand ideas, the thought of a front-room festival provoked its fair share of naysayers. Luckily, Heatha found support in her best friend, Victoriana, who acted as a positive backer, and collaborator, when others doubted. “Even my friends were telling me ‘yeah, it’s not going to work’” says Heatha, recalling the difficulties they faced earlier in the year. “I mean we had no contacts, nothing. I couldn’t have done it without Victoria.”

Their last festival, held earlier this month, proved against all odds that it really is possible to run a great event with next to no money. The gig saw artists graduate from the front room to garden and every single person in attendance seemed happy, grateful even, to be there. The event featured food, sociable people and, of course, jaw-dropping acts. Musically, we saw everything from the gritty but angelic to Jamie T’s slightly ruder younger brother and many of the artists will, presumably, go on to attain a similar kind of success to their predecessors.

Medway's Natalie Evans playing at Canterbury's Mini Festival

Medway’s Natalie Evans plays at Canterbury’s Mini Festival

With the popularity of the last concert alone, there was clearly scope to make a lot of money, did that ever cross their mind? “Nope. We didn’t really care about that. It was purely for enjoyment. I guess in London our plans are to make a little money out of it but I’m sure it will go directly into creating more events.”

Blown away by the generosity displayed by so many of the artists, Heatha is happy to now have the chance to offer something back in the future, after relocating to London. “We found incredible artists this year and I feel we are giving them more opportunities to play to a more varied but important demographic: Students and young people, the key players who can shape their success.”

Many are sad to see the founders of Canterbury’s favourite mini festival leave, which begs the question, is there somebody set to carry the torch next year? Heatha believes there may well be, so it seems the art of the backyard festival will not die out. “A few younger people at our events say they will do similar things next year which is brilliant. Hopefully we’ve started something great.”

Heatha’s advice to those taking over where she left off? “Canterbury has some crazy talented people. I think the idea is to involve everyone. Don’t make it hip or exclusive; just be open and great people and acts will come.”

music fans enjoy Heatha and Victoria's last festival before leaving for London

Music fans enjoy Heatha and Victoria’s last festival before leaving for London

Hoping to take over London, the events this year have provided invaluable experience for Heatha and Victoria in the path to even bigger things, and the gigs are only getting more mammoth. It look as if London will be host to a great deal more festivals at the hands of the two ex-students. “Fingers crossed!” Heatha says.

However, Canterbury has not seen the last of Heatha, as she will be back in October to help out with the city’s Oxjam gig. You can keep up to date with Oxjam’s Canterbury Takeover here (date to be announced) or check out Heatha’s amazing photography here.

Doctor Who? We need more strong women, but not as the Doctor


The public needs strong women, but the tokenistic casting of one will not help the cause, writes Holly Stewart.

Whatever one’s views on BBC’s Doctor Who, there is no denying that for lots of small children the Doctor is a terrific role model. He is brainy, never uses violence, and says intelligent things like “Geronimo”. He is a top bloke, if you will.

However, with Matt Smith recently announcing his departure from the series this December, the internet has lit up with the suggestion that the new Doctor be female.

If the show casts a woman as the Doctor it would be hard to have qualms with this in principle, but putting a woman in the role for the sake of having a female Doctor is a token gesture, in the same vein as proving you are not racist by reminding people that you like Bloc Party.

We still have a long way to go in terms of gender equality. An article by founder of “Everyday Sexism” illustrated this with some shocking figures. In the media specifically, we have a problem. Only 250 of last year’s top grossing films were directed by women. And, although the campaign to end page 3 is picking up momentum, the media has a long way to go, even if The Sun does make this decision.

But how much would putting a female in charge of the TARDIS really change things? There is a distinct lack of strong female leads on TV, granted. You can argue that a female Doctor would whoop us into getting used to having powerful women on television, characters that are not seen as one-dimensional objects, girlfriends, wives, or mothers whose wit and intelligence is applauded – rather than just accepted as it would any other male character.

Including women for the sake of including women, or in this case, including women for the sake of Steven Moffat trying desperately to prove that he isn’t a horrific sexist moron, isn’t something necessary to feminism. We can do much better than this. What we need is a new breed of TV show, no more plucky post-feminist lipstick comedies – but awesome television or film dramas, sci-fis, or police shows. Anything, in fact, where female leads do not play the role of the sexy bad-ass.

Sue Perkins Moffat Doctor Who

Many Fans are asking for Sue Perkins to be the next Doctor, but does will this help women’s representation?

Helen Mirren, Sue Perkins and Olivia Coleman would all be fantastic as the Doctor, but they’d also be brilliant in something new and exciting, something better where the BBC are not writing in equal gender representation to fill a gap they have not yet filled. We need to concentrate on writing new TV shows with strong female leads, rather than adding women into dying ones.

Review: Students explore the meaning behind “celebrity”

What happens when students are given a budget of £3,500 to create their own art show? Nigel Ip explores the finished exhibition: “Two-faced fame”


For those not in the know, the University of Kent has a Print Collecting and Curating module which provides students with an opportunity to organise and set up their own exhibition. They are given a budget of £3,500 to purchase and loan works of art from various print collections across the UK. Led by the art historian, lecturer and Studio 3 Gallery curator Ben Thomas, the programme is a unique hands-on introduction to the art world and its market. This year, the resulting exhibition focuses on a very popular subject amongst the general public: celebrities.

Two-Faced Fame: Celebrity in Print 1962-2013 explores the withering status of the celebrity icon. Many of the prints in this exhibition are by British contemporary artists whose prints focus on celebrity pop culture. Among their influences is the Pop artist Andy Warhol, who famously stated that “In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” With Youtube celebrities on the increase, it would be very difficult to prove him wrong. Nowadays, anyone can be a ‘celebrity’. Post a video of yourself doing just about anything and you could be the ‘next big thing’. This deterioration of the celebrity status is where Two-Faced Fame begins its artistic journey.

Brushed up against the walls of the Studio 3 Gallery are images of recognisable celebrity icons. Andy Warhol is introduced to us through Gavin Turk’s Fright Wig (2011) series, while Banksy gives us Kate Moss in the guise of the neighbouring Marilyn Monroe (1962) screenprint. David Bowie makes an appearance with Debbie Harry, both of which flank a peeping Michael Jackson screenprint by Gary Hume. Amy Winehouse featuring in the nearby Belshazzar’s Feast (2010) by Gerald Laing, while a proud George Bush stares righteously into the distance, constructed out of pornographic images. However, the limelight is stolen from the other celebrities by yet another Marilyn Monroe; that of Peter Blake’s MM Silver (2012) who dazzles elegantly above her visitors, indulging in the fame that she used to know.


But as the title suggests, there are two faces in the world of fame: that of being an iconic figure, and that of being turned into a mass-produced commodity. One of the exhibited works is a mirror, entitled Your Authorised Reflection (2009). In the bottom right-hand corner is Gavin Turk’s signature. By looking into the mirror, our reflection instantly becomes part of the artwork. Our status becomes temporarily elevated as a result of the artist’s branding on the mirror, hinting at Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain of 1917. Hanging on the outside of the gallery is GSG’s The Great Leveller (2013), a montage of celebrity and civilian mugshots. Both social statuses are in line with each other. Fame is now a level playing field. They are now equals within society, being no better, nor worse than one another.


Overall, this year’s students have presented us with a wonderfully exciting exhibition that appeals to the wider community in a way that many of us can relate. The works on loan are eye-catching, vivid and in several cases, psychologically engaging. Some are even comedic, as was the case with Peter Blake’s R.A. Students Art. But most importantly of all, they show how celebrity culture is addressed in modern art, as well as in modern-day society. Fame elevates us to the point of recognition, but it also dehumanises us, turning us into a product of everyday living.

peeps ukc art copy

Two-Faced Fame: Celebrity in Print 1962-2013 runs until June 14, 2013 at the Studio 3 Gallery, University of Kent, Canterbury,