Sharing things

Season 4 conversational assortment

June 17, 2021 The University of Edinburgh Season 4 Episode 7
Sharing things
Season 4 conversational assortment
Show Notes Transcript

Some people are on the pitch! They think it's all over! It is now, it's our pick of season four! Take a break from the football and join Kate as she looks back on six conversations from all corners of our student and alumni community.  

Season 4 is all about student voices. Each episode features a student in conversation with a member of the wider community. Sharing experiences and finding unexpected common ground.

Subscribe now for University of Edinburgh community exploration and really good chat.

You can find more information on the Sharing things website.

Features trailers for Edinburgh Snap Reunion 2021: Covid Companions. A Snap Reunion is a virtual gathering. A tapestry of images and captions that we share across our websites and social media channels.  Find out how to get involved this July by visiting the website.

Music credit: We Are One by Scott Holmes Music.

We also trail our online meeting place for students, staff and alumni, Platform One. Find out more and register at

[Theme music]

 Kate  0:06  Well, that was season four of Sharing things and I am glad to report that lots of conversations happened. Thank you to our twelve guests for their time, their thoughts and their stories. We wanted to end this run of episodes with a compilation of clips, not quite best bits exactly, but moments that show the depth and diversity contained within our six conversations. So enjoy, reflect and see you next time.

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 Kate  0:36  This is Nausherwan Aziz and Neil Forsyth. 

 Kate  0:41  Naush, you mentioned that, like, you feel that you're quite a shy person. So would you say that you prefer to be the person behind the camera as opposed to the person having their photo taken?

Nausherwan  0:53  Yeah, I definitely started that way but I feel like with the debates and all and with my experiences in undergrad, I've now sort of built a good base of confidence. And now I do enjoy interacting with people. So I feel like the camera sort of also captured that transition, so to speak. But I do still prefer being the person behind the camera. Definitely, it's just a lot more fun. It's a lot more challenging to take a good photo for me, even if it's a friend's or anything else. I just really enjoy taking pictures.

Neil  1:20  So I went to school in Dundee, and we had a sort of school debate thing one day, and I kind of did it at the last minute. It was just in front of my class, and it was all pretty relaxed, or maybe my year. Anyway, I just really enjoyed it. I find it really easy kind of debating with a few jokes and things and a good argument. And the teacher said, well, we're going to take a few of you to a debate competition. And we went down to Durham University. And I just thought this would be a similar thing. You just do a couple of gags. Anyway, we've got down there from Dundee and there was these English public school kids that were just these golden kind of people who have incredible self confidence. And I just absolutely crumbled. Wheels came off and I could barely get a word out. And I think I had a similar thing when I went to Edinburgh uni actually from Dundee. I just found the confidence of some other students, and particularly maybe people that have been through things like the debating, was so kind of off the charts to where I'm from, and I suppose it is the kind of hobby that probably helps you with things like that.

Nausherwan  2:17  Yeah, absolutely. I would say it helped me a lot, you know. Now, in, over here for masters, a lot of people consider me to be more on the confident side, I presume because those years of debating has helped transform me. I also remember the first time I had to speak, because I did more Model United Nations. I remember I was representing Japan in a committee about nuclear weapons and I could barely raise like my flag. My hand was shivering. And since then, to now, I just remember, it's just been such a crazy transformation. I'm really thankful for debating experiences. Yeah you meet some very confident people.

Kate  2:49  And Neil, where do you, where do you think your confidence comes from?

Neil  2:52  It's been kind of hard earned, I'd say. When I started out, I remember when I first started to get books published, and going to do book festivals, I was an absolute nervous wreck. These were tiny book festivals. They're actually the hardest I find, from doing quite a lot of events now. If you go and do something like Pitlochry Book Festival to 10 people, that is far, far more daunting than I've done like Edinburgh or Glasgow book festivals, maybe 2 or 300, it's much easier because you just you know, you only need 10% the audience to laugh or engage and it feels quite a busy reaction. But 10% of 10 people is 1 so you got 1 person reacting at an event, it's fairly torturous. So I remember doing early things like that, and just being. . .my now wife came with me to, erm, I think it was Aberdeen Book Festival - and she often brings up gleefully, seeing me, I think I came out the toilet, gave her - this was before I went on - give her a thumbs up and then walked into a pillar because I was so nervous. [laughter] But I was-- I would be absolutely, just petrified. But I don't know, you just have to keep doing it and battle through and start to get more, more confident, I suppose in yourself and, and realise that really, with these things, make sure you enjoy it, because if you're enjoying it, you'll be more relaxed. And it's hard to catastrophise these things when you keep doing them and they go okay. Because it's harder to convince yourself, it's going to be this epic catastrophe when you know, you're actually well, I've done loads of these now and it usually goes pretty well or at worse, it's fine. But—

Kate  4:30  This is Dea Birkett and Alex Lewthwaite

Kate  4:35  How do you think that the circus has changed over the years?

Dea  4:39  Circus has always been very dynamic. It's been around for just over 250 years now. And it has always been very, as a kind of on the edge of popular entertainment has always therefore responded and sometimes set popular trends. So it has changed enormously, at different points in its history. So the original circuses 250 years ago, were all ground based. And then they slowly over about the first 50/60 years, went into the air. And it was in the 1860s when the first flying trapeze happened, for example, which was a great innovation, and it was invented by a man called Jules Leotard. And he wore a little stretchy, swimming costume kind of thing. And that's the leotard, it's the leotard is named after Jules Leotard, who was the first flying trapeze artist. So the circus has been kind of the forefront. It was very much in the late 19th century at the forefront of women's emancipation. At a time when women were not allowed to perform on a theatre stage, they could perform in leotards in the circus. So circus always had women performers long, long before any other live performance, they were in the circus. There were lots of black performers in the late 19th century too. It's always been a kind of place for outsiders. And that's something I really love about it, the fact that it's very welcoming of outsiders, and difference. You know, it's evolved, it's changed, it's wonderfully dynamic, different. So the change has been enormous and welcome.

Kate  6:35  And thinking specifically about performance, Alex, do you perform any of your music?

Alex  6:41  Well, not recently [laughter]. I had a YouTube, I have a YouTube channel, actually, that I started in my first year of high school. And I sort of regularly upload videos and that. I think lockdown was, was a good time for me, especially the first one, to just sort of spend a hundred hours on a project and, you know, spend my time that way. But my-- yeah some of my best memories are from performing. I had a, I had a-- I was in a rock band in high school. And we've played a couple of shows. And I think that's, that was probably my, my best night. If I had to pick a best night it would be one of those shows. Yeah.

Kate  7:26  What was it about it that you enjoyed?

Alex  7:29  I think it's sort of stepping out of your comfort zone. And it's sort of, it's a rare, a rare experience. Like because I, I'd say in normal everyday to day life, I'm, I'm probably like a little introverted, maybe. But I also love, like, just performing in front of like a big crowd. And apparently, that is, that is a common thing like to have that sort of brain. But yeah there's, there's something about being, I don't know, vulnerable in front of like so many people, and then just, because music is such an intimate thing that just connects, connects you and the audience. Yeah. 

Kate  8:10  Yeah. It's similar to what Dea said about, you know, when you put on the jacket, and you feel, you feel powerful and confident. So I just wondered, Alex, in sort of medicine, do you think there is a kind of performance in that? Is there a performance element in being a doctor? 

Alex  8:29  Oh, wow. Yeah, I suppose there is actually especially working as part of a team, which is talked about quite a lot in the medical profession. And they call it performing an operation, I guess.

Kate  8:46  In a theatre. 

Alex  8:47  Yeah, oh wow [laughter].

Kate 8:53  This is Gavin Francis and Rose Meikle

Gavin  8:57  So what, what I think the students have got this year is lots of really good theoretical grounding, but you know, you can't, you can't train to be a doctor sitting in your halls of residence so we need to get people out and into the community soon.

Kate  9:10  Do you think that the world has changed throughout all this?

Gavin  9:13  Oh, yeah, absolutely. Kind of cataclysmically really, I mean it's been horrendous, hasn't it? Really, really awful. And I think at this point in the year it's worthwhile, you know, really just a year since the first lockdown and we can all give ourselves a pat on the back, for getting through it. Remind yourself that rather than concentrating on all the immense difficulties we're still facing, to get on with what we do best as humans, which is kind of be gregarious and social. Just remind ourselves that whatever we've managed to achieve this year has been in the teeth of a pandemic, you know, so and kind of reward yourself and congratulate yourself for, for any achievement, no matter how minor, against these quite extraordinary odds that we've all had to face this year.

Kate  9:56  And Rose, I know that, you know, you've been keeping your, your journal throughout this and it may seem like when you're writing it, it's you know, you're sitting in your halls of residence, and it seems like it's the same thing, but do you think it will be important in the future to look back on that?

Rose  10:12  Yeah, definitely. I think that was another thing that kind of made me want to start it was not only was I going to uni and turning 18 but I was doing both of those things in a pandemic, which not that many people can say they've done. And, I mean, hopefully, we're the only year that have to experience that. So I think it kind of motivated me more to want to do it because I'm not just remembering a standard first year. I kind of have like, we my flat had COVID and I, I have like, written down like how I felt when I had COVID, how I felt about being in isolation with at that point, people I've known for like two months. I'm glad I did it, especially this year.

Kate  10:55  Probably heard that people say we're living through history. Rose, do you feel like you are? 

Rose  11:00  Yeah, definitely. Like I was saying, I think it's quite a unique experience, like, being in university halls, during COVID, I think has got a lot of things that not many people will be able to experience. And it's not all good, having COVID and everyone being an isolation isn't good, but it is unique. I think it's important to kind of remember that, even if it's not very interesting or fun, and you're just sitting in your house all the time.

Gavin  11:28  And we're going to need a lot of sociologists to map out the effects of this virus on society for decades to come [laughs].

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Sonia  11:42  What has made a difference to you over the last twelve months? What has sustained you? What has helped? Who has been your Covid Companion? A friend? A neighbour? Delivery driver? Pet? Plant? Podcast? Tell us in a single photo and let’s celebrate together. Search Edinburgh Snap Reunion 2021 and find out how you can get involved. 

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Kate  12:16  This is Elias Vasiloudes Nikolaides and Tomiwa Folorunso. 

Elias  12:22  Like, right now obviously, we're all being a lot more introspective and really internal, reflecting a lot on kind of like imagination and future. But yeah, I'm also interested in kind of like cultural studies and this idea that we are in a kind of loop of nostalgia, and that we aren't really imagining alternatives. And I think that, in in the spaces, there's so many ways in which I am immensely privileged, and I have a platform, which amplifies my voice. There's many ways that I am not privileged and able to have a platform. And for those that have access to spaces, such as you know, for example, I have access to men's spaces. I feel like it's important to kind of bridge the gap of communication, of empathy, of solidarity. Like the question, why does it matter is it's like the top of the, of the branch of the tree, and the tree has deep roots underneath it kind of like, just acknowledging that oppression and power. Yeah, that's why it matters.

Kate  13:40  Do you think that social media has, has a role to play in that?

Elias  13:44  That's a good-- I mean, that's a good question for someone who's doing cultural studies, like what is, like culture, like right now? Are we, are we like asked to provide nine second moments of attention to diverse in ever changing issues that require either hysteria or utter cynicism? That's just what it feels that, that's what social media contributes to. Does it give a platform? Yes, it does. Does it allow voices that would have been muted or silenced to be heard? Does it allow for conversations that happen across barriers or geographical, cultural? Yeah, but...[laughs].  

Tomiwa  14:27  And it does all these things, but it also doesn't leave enough space or room for kind of nuance, right? It doesn't leave-- I don't think it leaves enough-- not even like it leaves enough because I don't think these platforms were ever intended for us to have discussion. And I don't think discussion works very well on these platforms. I think it can work, and we do have discussion, but I don't think it's the best way for us as, as humans,  as people to have discussion about issues and society.

Kate  15:11  Yeah, there, there so fast paced, you know, people write stuff, and then it's gone.

Tomiwa  15:16  Right, exactly. And it can be very, very easy for points or fact, or opinion to be misconstrued, if you don't get your words right. But also, and I don't, I don't think this is a bad thing but I think we need to be careful, a lot of people don't have access to these platforms so we need to be very careful about the conversations. We cannot see them as the reality of the world we're living in, because so many people are not there. And so we can't use them as like a-- as a majority, or a good enough target group, or whatever. But also, so many of us do have these platforms in these accounts and it's so important. And I, like I'm a writer, I love stories, I love books for us to share our stories and to share our opinions and to find solidarity in doing that. But there is not often or not always enough, let me say, knowledge maybe or understanding of the context of which we're having these discussions and the history of what we're discussing. And I think you need that as well. It cannot always just be this is my opinion, this is my opinion, this is my opinion. That needs to interact or sit with fact, analysis, critique, critical thought.

Kate  16:54 This is Lorna Dawson and Emma Aviet. 

Lorna  16:59 Well, it's so important that the work that I do is for the courts so that its objective, impartial and any opinion or evaluation that I make is based on evidence, it's based on data. And we can see the importance of that in the current pandemic, the COVID pandemic, it's important that any decisions that are made are based on sound science, based on robust science that has been tested, and that you can rely on any evaluation that is made if the data that is based upon is accurate. The trouble is that you know, the most ultimate important decision of someone, their freedom in court, that's absolutely imperative. It's just as imperative however, that if you're making decisions that affect life and death decisions, such as the COVID pandemic, that has to be based on true science, and actual data, to build that knowledge base to make the policy decisions that keep us safe.

Emma  17:53  So interesting that you say that, Lorna, part of what I'm focusing on in the 1850s actually is them using the Salem witch trials, and how no one was relying on evidence there. And no one was relying on science and no one was relying on anything other than subjective opinions, to persecute and to ultimately kill so many people. And that is part of the argument that the liberal Christians were making in the 1800s for accepting science. And that is the only way to get like definitive proof. Science isn't-- has no preference to one group or another. It's not going to save someone if they don't deserve to be exonerated, it's not going to condemn someone if they don't deserve to be condemned. It's really the people who are going to be making a difference on how that's interpreted a lot of the time and if they're able to actually I guess, correctly, I don't know what the word is, assess the science or the facts that are before them. It is so relevant for today and that we need to keep that in mind and really rely on it because it's scary to see when people don't.

Lorna  18:53  It's interesting you talk about the witch trials because there's a group of people and it's linked also with Royal Society of Edinburgh, and they're reviewing all the decisions that were made in Scotland, where women were condemned to their death, basically, on a whim. It wasn't based on any, any trial, it was basically on a whim. And it was men that were making the decision that these witches were carrying out, acts that were criminal, but they weren't. 

Emma  19:20  Yeah, it is really interesting, because I know, I've heard about it and I've seen some of the things that are happening. You know, the only sort of memorial that's really in Edinburgh as of now is just a little fountain up by the castle. But I know that there's a big push for reviewing it, and looking back and, and really kind of memorialising what those women-- well, not what they went through, but memorialising those women, and some men actually, and also, I think it's really important to highlight the follies of human thought that led to that, and mass hysteria. And I mean, if anything's kind of given us some sort of flashback to that, I think it's been this last year, not only just with the pandemic, but definitely I think you can see that with some of the political events that have happened, you know, in the US for sure. There's definitely, you know, your rubric for evaluating reality differs, sometimes from other people that are out there. And I think, I think I really hope that at some point, we can all come to somewhat of a consensus, not that everyone has to have the same point of view. It can make these things seem a little bit less daunting, I think. 

Lorna  20:22  But I think that's why it's important to communicate science, well, from my perspective, so that people who are making decisions in these types of situations, whether they eat healthy food, whether they travel, whether they recycle everything, or whether they decide someone's guilty or innocent in a court situation. It's the psychology, it's all also what those people have experienced in their lives, that lead them to make whatever decision they make. But if it's based on science, we need to make sure that they can understand that science. 

Kate  21:00  This is Laura Maciver and Nicha Sarkka. 

Laura  21:05  There have obviously been the big life changing events like I was working on 9/11. I was working that day --

Nicha  21:11  oh --

Laura  21:11  -- on our radio news bulletins. So watching that unfold was, you know, something, obviously, that you would never ever forget. And listening to just the heartbreak and the  terror of what was going on was just, yeah, something that will never leave me and just this last year, as well, covering Coronavirus has, has been -- and the thing for me that's been most important about our role in that is, as I said before, listening to people's stories. I interviewed a man recently, and it just stayed with me for days, he's terminally ill, he's 38 and he's got two young children. He was campaigning for people who are on palliative care to be able to get the vaccine as quickly as possible. And he has actually now had the vaccine a couple of weeks ago, but speaking to somebody like him changes your day. It completely changes your day when you're -- and gives you, you know, perspective that you just didn't have before. So it's always the emotional impact of the news that interests me, and that stays with me. You know, I enjoy politics. I enjoy all the cut and thrust of that too. But it's definitely at the end of the day, people's stories that interest me.

Nicha  22:28  Do you think that's changed the way that you approach life? Because I think when we hear about stories, like, you know, like this person, you know, I guess like has been, has passed away from COVID, or this person is like terminally ill, or this person has lost a loved one to 9/11 you know, you always look at the news and you kind of think, well, that that's happened to them, that could never be me. Not maybe -- not consciously, but you kind of, you know, have this idea that's like, it just seems so distant and that you don't really realise that it could happen to you, or, you know, someone that you love. Do you think that that's kind of changed the way that you approach things?

Laura  22:58  Absolutely, definitely. It really has, you know, I come -- you know, I used to come home from a difficult day at work, and, and stare at my children, my sleeping children and, you know, kind of breathe them in and just be grateful. It makes you -- you know, it makes you grateful, for sure. 

Nicha  23:26  Yeah. 

Laura  23:16  And it makes you think, a lot more and yeah, it's perspective. It gives you perspective.

Nicha  23:23  Yeah.

Laura  23:24  -- I definitely think I might not have if, you know, in a different job.

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Kate  23:32  Sharing things will return in the autumn. In the meantime, stay safe, stay in touch, and if you haven’t already, check out the Sharing things back catalogue that started way back in September 2019 with Prince Chakanyuka and Kezia Dugdale. See you next time. 

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Kate  24:02  I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting members of our University of Edinburgh community. To connect with more, join Platform One, our online meeting place for students, alumni and staff of the University. To find out more, search Platform One Edinburgh. 

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