The End is Nigh

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Catherine McLaughlin

So today marks the final day of Northumbria University’s Fine Art Degree Show. It all closes at 4pm so get yourself down to catch a final glimpse of all the amazing work on display. I will be doing my final performance in Gallery North at 2:30pm which is both exciting and unbelievable. It will also be my final performance in Newcastle (for the time being at least) as I will be moving to Edinburgh this summer – another wonderfully artistic city! Time for some exciting exploring in a new place, yet much to my delight I will still be relatively close to Newcastle and my much loved BALTIC on the Quayside. Following my work this year, I plan on taking a break from performance art and instead hope to  focus more on my research, writing and theory – with of course some practical thrown in here and there.

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Matthew Young & Nikki Lawson

I was delighted to meet up with Luke from Left Leg Gallery the other day who is interested in collaborating with me having seen some of my work and the Degree Show, so there are definitely some exciting practical elements for the future! We met up, discussed and had a really interesting conversation which touched on so many different topics, but primarily focused on both of our interest in the gym; the culture, the colours, the ‘uniform’ if you will, the mindsets, the stereotypes and this will form the basis of a future collaboration.  It was really inspiring to talk to someone so enthusiastic and interesting and who shared so many of my views. It is moments like this where I could not be more happy to be making the kind of art that I do and feeding off the energy of the places and people.

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Kathryn Harker

I will be incredibly sad to leave Newcastle behind but saying goodbye to studio life I think is going to be the hardest aspect of my farewell. Seeing the diversity of Northumbria’s Degree Show really made me realise this. Going from seeing all the experimentation among my peers on a daily basis, to making art without this strong sense of community, is going to be a strange sensation. I will just have to find myself a new unit in which to make my art! Yet I love the fact that in the studios here I’d have no real idea of what someone’s work consisted of and then I’d walk into a project space where they’re experimenting one day to total surprises. I love the fact that people work with things I myself would never even consider, such as camera obscuras and natural light. In saying this I am referring to Kathryn Harker’s technical photography and the way in which she has transformed a space into an experience through her manipulation of light (above). Depending on the time of day you go, your experience of the piece will be entirely different and I think this ephemeral quality is incredibly appealing. As is the beauty of the light that is captured, it feels so delicate and fragile, especially given that you know it’s going to inevitably shift and flutter away at any given moment.

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Paul Barron

Ephemeral qualities of course apply to Performance Art and it’s strange to think today is my last performance as a student of Northumbria University. After two weeks of the Degree Show being open to the public, it is now time to take it all down, de-install and start a new chapter in our lives. It will be sad to see the studios gradually return to their summer state of emptiness. Seeing installations coming down and the skip filling up. I feel in a sense that people will be dismantling parts of themselves, as the more our practices have evolved and the more work we produced throughout our time here, the more we ourselves have became apparent in our work. People’s characteristics, interests and issues, all became more evident through the artwork, through the statements of intent and through the way in which it was all displayed. Each decision was a reflection of the person, of the way in which they considered their work, in many cases it was a physical extension of themselves.

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Dale Harmer

I think this is what I find most beautiful about art. I have lived and breathed it since childhood, always drawing after school , carrying pencils in my bag and doodling expansive patterns and flowers across my hands (much to my mother’s discontent!) So I can’t imagine life without it and I will never have to. But I think being on this course has been the creative journey that I’d always imagined, it has been the challenge that I needed to push myself into realms previously unexplored. And I think it’s safe to say anyone would say the same; fellow students would probably never have expected certain things of themselves and I think that’s amazing. To realise a new medium or technique or discover a new artist who transforms your way of thinking. When you dedicate three years of your life to making art, you become so immersed in it that personally at least I feel my life will never be the same again.

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Marcus Wheeler

And I could not be more excited by that fact. I have a whole new way of thinking and seeing artwork. I have met so many different people, learnt so much and am eager to learn even more. Although today marks the end of the show, it also marks the start of so many other things. Thank you Northumbria, it’s been a pleasure!

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Woon Prize Nominee Hannah Barker

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Tyler Coop

I can remember being in my first year of uni and looking up to the third years thinking it was impossible that one day I would be putting on a show. I’ve always kind of felt that when I looked up to older students even at school; I remember wondering how people sat exams, how people traveled by themselves, how people had the confidence to drive cars, etc etc. All these thoughts feel silly and irrelevant now looking back, because of course you learn and grow and change. I didn’t realise however quite how much an art course would change me. I never imagined I would go down the route of performance art, if anything I’ve always been someone who shied away from the stage and was instead content painting background scenery and doing backstage make-up. Yet during the time on this course I have experimented with mediums I never planned to work with such as sculpture, print, photography, video, projection, all sorts. I’ve really pushed the boat out in ways I never imagined or expected.

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Woon Prize Nominee Sheyda Porter 

I think that’s what’s so wonderful about embarking on a course as practical and creative as this. Not only are you exploring your artistic potentials, but you are also exploring the tools which allow you to realise your ideas. You’re learning so much theory too, with all the seminars, Art History lectures  and of course extensive research and reading meaning my knowledge of the artworld has grown so much. As has my coffee table collection of artist books which are now looking to require a bookshelf…

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Saman Ahmadzadeh

That’s partially the exciting thing however, the fact that my bookshelf keeps expanding. The fact that despite finishing this course, I am nowhere near finished. There’s so much more to explore, there’s so much more to experiment with. Despite all of the nostalgia I am currently feeling, I am also feeling incredibly inspired. Seeing everybody’s work come together in this way is amazing not only because there are some incredibly strong and thought-provoking works, but also because we have witnessed one another’s artistic journeys. We’ve seen experiments in the studio go horribly wrong, or moments where tubes of purple paint explode everywhere (yes, it had to be all over me), moments where you walk into the studio to find your studio floor has been taken over by glitter, glue and sprinkles (I have the best studio pal – we are the messiest bunch together and it’s been great!)

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Rebecca Gavigan & Victoria McDermott

So seeing everything reduced to this clean cut and perfectly executed Show is almost overwhelming. I suppose it must be kind of like being a director and finally watching your own Broadway Show. You’ve had moments where everyone is yelling backstage, costume changes haven’t worked, scripts haven’t been learnt, people are stressing and scrabbling around. Yet on the night it all flows smoothly and could not be more perfect. And in that moment you have a feeling of pride in how it has all came together, in how the stress and tears of backstage have dissolved as the characters dominate the stage. I suppose it’s kind of like that, just instead of one director, there are seventy-eight emerging artists.

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Joseph Crookall

Seventy-eight of us whose work could not differ more greatly from the other. I will always remember local artist Narbi Price saying in one of his talks at Vane Gallery, that the more artwork that is made, the more there is a burden on artists to come. This has stuck with me because it is so very true. A lot of people dispel history and say it’s in the past, it doesn’t matter. Yet in being an artist and making artwork it is absolutely critical you know your history, you have to be so aware of what came before you. I have found this particularly vital in looking at the female body in Performance Art, because the 1960s really shaped a lot of things today in that realm and no one can ignore that. So when Narbi said that, it really hit home and seeing such a broad range of work in the Degree Show alone, it’s resonating with me more than ever and making me excited to push things even further.

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Alexandra Karyn

Northumbria University Degree Show 2016

 

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Jack Davison

It’s degree show season at the moment which is why I have been so absent from this blog. It’s nice to finally sit back and be able to enjoy the artwork without the stress of deadline, rushing around like a madwoman and having to juggle so many things. Today marks the start of the final week of Northumbria University’s Fine Art Degree show. It’s open daily 10-5pm so get yourself down here if you fancy a look! I’m exhibiting in a curated environment along with seven other students in Gallery North and at the time of putting all of this together I was also organising and coordinating the degree show catalogue that goes alongside the show (hence my prolonged absence from the blog!) Thankfully I had a brilliant team to work with in putting this publication together, however it was a lot of hard work to say the least and it has taught me a lot about time management! I’ve learnt a gained so much from the editing process and putting things to print so it’s been a fantastic (but at times) stressful experience. As has putting together a curated show. I have never experienced anything like this before, so it was really interesting to work so closely with others whose work differed so greatly from my own.

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Kat Bevan

Putting together a Degree Show is even more work than you imagine; there are so many tiny things that pile up and make all the difference, I couldn’t believe it! My to do list at the time was just endless and expanding constantly, especially with all of the work that was going into the catalogue. As a course we were all so busy during the preparation period that none of us had any time to see each other’s work in advance, so preview night last week had the most amazing atmosphere as everything was revealed. Instead of being all rugged in studio and paint splattered clothes, everyone was dressed up beautifully and we all finally had the chance to see each others’ work!

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Alan Barrett & David Graham

I must say I am proud to be a part of this show. There are so many incredibly works on display and the diversity of it all just amazes me. I was fortunate to have an insight into a lot of people’s practice prior to the show given the amount of text editing I was doing for the catalogue, so it was particularly rewarding to see it all in person on the night. Even still I was not prepared for the level of professionalism, the attention students had paid to the smallest of details and like I said the range of work. There was everything you could imagine and beyond present; performances, glitch based videos, fully immersive installations, workshops, digital art and green screen, unconventional painting displays, you name it, it was all there!

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Jenny Wheatley

I think  a lot of us were nervous for the preview and opening to the public, but on preview night I feel every student let go of any of those feelings and instead just felt relief and delight. It really was an incredible moment to see everyone come together after all their hard work and I think the show really does reflect the efforts that have gone into it. The pieces are full of so much energy; walking into Jack Davison’s installation with it’s  bombardment of pink and heavy club music is instantly absorbing. As a viewer you feel transported from the University corridors you had just left into an erotic jungle of disco balls and plush pink velvet. Being in a studio with Jenny Wheatley for two years now has been amazing, as I’ve seen her practice grow and adapt on a first hand basis – I’ve seen the tiniest of changes day to day. So when this year she started deconstructing the materials incorporated in painting and playing about with jars filled to the brim with paint, I was incredibly excited to see how her work would evolve for the show. The end result is an expansion of bold beautiful colours which cascade from wall to floor with a scattering of paint filled jars littered across the canvas.

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Jordan Boyle

I think that what the most exciting aspect of the show; seeing three years worth of people’s work come together in this environment. It’s incredibly strange having submitted and now being finished, I feel almost numb at the thought of it all coming to an end.  Not that it’s really coming to an end, I will never ever stop making art – for me that would be like stopping breathing! Studio life however is over for the time being. One day I will hopefully be able to afford one again, but I will be sad to say goodbye to such a creative environment. Coming in every day and making work alongside people, having them tell you when it’s rubbish or when it’s worth it, pushing your practice into realms you never expected, utilising all the facilities, it’s an experience I will never forget and I am so incredibly grateful for.

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Daniel Mupungu

Walking round the show you can see that people have made the most of these aspects; students have pushed the boundaries of what art is and what it can be. Yet students have also furthered aspects such as the studio aesthetic. That fully immersive feeling of making and the tactility that comes with it. A prime example of this would be Alice O’Hagen’s stunning work, I am so drawn in by the way in which she has captured the trace of touch and human gesture within the materials. I love the way in which she plays with softer elements which manifest in the form of duvets and evoke a strong sense of comfort, against more solid plaster and clay-based materials. Then there’s fact it is all more ceiling as opposed to floor based which personally I find incredibly compelling, given it plays on the conventions of sculpture and it’s almost like an Alice In Wonderland topsy-turvy environment.

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Alice O’Hagen

I think one of the reasons Alice’s work appealed to me so much was not only because I felt wrapped up by it and could imagine every movement in its making, but also because I almost long for that immersive sense of making again. Having worked predominantly with performance this year, I am ready to take a break from it and go back to painting for the next while. That is not to say I am giving up performance, I don’t think you ever give anyartform up, but you have to do what feels right at the time. Given that I have been performing live for both assessment, the preview and throughout the duration of the show, I have found it can be quite draining both emotionally and also physically (especially given my performance requires me binding myself up in 24 metres of ribbon! Quite restricting to my breathing let’s just say…) So for now I’m happy to take a break from it and instead bury myself in a pile of artbooks and sketchbooks as I start doodling and painting away with my watery inks. After all this hard work, it’s time to take it easy and enjoy the show!

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Marina Collinson 

Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia Part II

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‘Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia’ is a unique exhibition unlike anything I’ve seen in Newcastle before, despite having lived here for almost three years now. This show  perfectly encapsulates what contemporary art represents. It is about making art in the present and using this as a platform to reflect and comment on the world around us. The strength of this show lies in its explorations of history; the revolution in Iran and how an oppressive regime followed, forcing artists and musicians to close shop and adapt to more censored ways of working. Yet throughout the show this historical narrative is not overly explicit and loud in its protest, but instead it is subtle and sophisticated. Snapshots of the world and stories of the past come through in the objects, in the travelling and collection process that has been carried out.

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One of the things I love most about this exhibition is it creates a real sense of the nomadic lifestyle. The evidence of travelling to far flung places and finding hidden gems is entirely present throughout. It makes me want to be more imaginative with my findings. I am a sentimental person in the sense that I have an old shoe box filled with my special moments. The box contains what would be considered throwaway items to most people, such as a cinema ticket or a used stamp, but for me these little things hold precious memories. My box contains items such as concert tickets, doodles done on restaurant napkins, brooches, Kinder Egg toys, clothes labels, cards I’ve been sent, photographs, plastic and childish rings, the list goes on. Now, some people may consider that junk and to an extent I suppose it is, but each of those items retains a precious moment for me; a good time where I was laughing with my siblings or joking with my boyfriend. Through items we capture and record life and ‘Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia’is the perfect example of this. 

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Having lived and travelled a lot throughout my life, it’s fair to say I have my fair share of collected exotic items. Little marble statues from India, patterned scarves from Kenya, silver rings from Oman, postcards from all over Scotland. These items are the little jigsaw pieces that come together to document my life and where I’ve been. I love the surprise of going into an old handbag pocket and finding within it a keyring I picked up on my travels. Much like curator Sara Makari-Aghdam, I find stories in the items we keep and I think that is why I love this exhibition so much, because I can truly relate to it. Sara discovered her father’s old cassette collection of Persian pop music years ago and it has fueled and inspired this show. What I find most intriguing about objects is their own personal journey; if it’s a vintage dress who owned it before it was procured? What kind of occassions was it worn to? Was the person told by their lover that they look lovely? Looking at old items, all these questions come flooding to my mind. Through objects a strong sense of presence comes through and in ‘Vinyl Icons: Persian Pop and Turkish Psychedelia’, this presence is excitedly overwhelming. 

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

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It’s weird, but sometimes the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is the thing that makes me feel most Scottish! That’s not because there’s a bunch of Scottish memorabilia in it – far from it! Instead there’s an impressive collection of artworks ranging from Francis Bacon, to Andy Warhol, to David Hockney, to one of my favourite artists Samuel John Peploe (part of the Scottish Colourist movement). Having lived abroad most of my life, there are moments where I struggle to find places where I feel truly at home or have a strong connection with. This Gallery has become one of those places of nostalgia. I remember visiting it for the first time when I was seventeen, living back in Scotland for the first time. Sixth Form was what I’ll call my ‘art awakening’; the period in which I realised what kind of art I wanted to be making (Barbara Kruger was a key influence at this point). So the combination of this revelation along with several art trips to this Gallery during that time have made it a very sentimental place for me. 

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This of course is partially due to the sheer beauty of the place. The gallery’s architecture in itself is stunning (I think it’s safe to say I have a crush on Edinburgh architecture!) and the lush greenery surrounding it only enhances the feelings of tranquility. As does the presence of water, which on a beautiful sunny day like last Friday, sparkles and dances in the light. 

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Walking around this landscape is an incredibly serene experience and although it is still relatively central to Edinburgh’s center, the hectic bustle of the city seems distant and far removed. Almost as if you are stood in an art filled bubble of peace. This swirling blend of land and water can’t help being viewed as an impressive Land Art piece, which for me brings to mind the works of Richard Long and Robert Smithson with his iconic ‘Spiral Jetty‘. 

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In the grounds there’s also works by Henry Moore, who in my opinion is the father of all sculpture. His ‘Reclining Figure‘ series, one of which is pictured above, was a huge inspiration to me at the time I discovered it. I was and still of course am, fascinated by the blend of abstraction and figuration; by the way in which he has designed his pieces to allow the eye to travel smoothly along the figure. Barbara Hepworth is another sculpture pioneer who I greatly admire and on my list to one day visit is the Yorkshire Sculpture Park! Although I greatly enjoy modern art, I also love stepping away from it and looking to older masters. Particularly given my interest in the human body; there is nothing more exciting than exploring how body art has evolved throughout the decades.

In Time

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It’s always funny looking back at old artwork. This is because I look at it with all of the feelings and emotions I was applying at the time of its creation, yet I’m also looking at it with my more current artistic views. So there ends up being this two-way reading of a work. What I felt then and what I feel now. Which can either be quite paralleled, but more often then not is more of a “what the hell was I doing?!” kind of reaction. It’s sometimes quite amusing to see the difference in the two thought processes. One of the reasons I am so grateful that I’ve made art throughout my life, is that all my works are essentially a document and narrative to my growth and development. Or at least, to my development as an artistic practitioner. It is me expressing myself during a given time period and over the years my drawings have taken on all sorts of forms. These include Beatrix Potter-like creations of animals in clothes, fashion illustrations, running inky portraits, landscapes, sketched copies from the work of Egon Schiele and Michalengelo, life drawing, the list goes on. The above image is from my experimental phase with Indian and batik ink. I love the fluidity and seeping of colours, as I never know how a piece is going to turn out, which for me is incredibly exciting. This way of working led onto a whole bunch of ink-based experimentation and essentially changed the way I paint forever, as I still apply dripping and watered-down techniques today. Funny how one thing can lead to another and you never look back!

If Only…

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I was looking through some old photos on my laptop and came across some snaps I’d taken years back at the exhibition ‘From Death to Death and Other Small Tales: Masterpieces from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the D. Daskalopoulos Collection’. I could kick my younger self! If only I could go back and relive this exhibition knowing what I know now! I must have been about…seventeen when I saw this? I think. So only really starting to realise the direction my art would take. This exhibition, although I did not realise it at the some, had some really big names to it. Artists such as Paul McCarthy, Mona Hatoum, Helen Chadwick, Ernesto Neto were all part of it. I have researched and studied them all since being at uni and therefore have an entirely new found appreciation for their work. 

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It gets worse though. Other artist work included belonged to Marina Abramovic – one of THE innovators of performance art. One of the most prominent females in what had previously been a largely male dominated art form. One of my current main influences! Marcel Duchamp as well, one of the pioneers of the Dada movement which not only fueled Surrealism but was the platform for conceptual art. Joseph Beuys, again very revolutionary and brought about a whole new dimension and meaning to the word sculpture. 

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Knowing what I know now, I could not be more frustrated by the naivety of my younger self. I was looking at revolutionary artwork by revolutionary artists and I didn’t even know it! So frustrating…The absolute worst past is that the entire exhibition is centered on the human body which is of course the subject of all my work these days. If only I could see the entire exhibition again!

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I think one of the works I would be most excited to see again is the work of Ernesto Neto (above). I still remember my reaction when I walked into the room. It was not the site that struck me initially; it was the smell. He had filled his installation with a variety of spices to the point that is was almost overwhelming. Yet it was also incredibly exciting as for the first time I was experiencing multi-sensory artwork! It actually inspired me to use spices in my own work. Slight mistake given that at A Level you have to paint your final piece in two days straight. Not good when you’re using spices – I don’t think curry powder has ever given me such a headache!

Reminiscing

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I think a lot of the time the danger with art is over thinking it. There is all this pressure on you as an artist to be conceptual, to have ideas that feed and fuel your work, when sometimes all you want to do is sit down and paint. I think that’s why I like this piece. I was flicking through images on my laptop and came across this work from First Year. It’s nothing special, but it just cracks me up every time I look at it due to it’s connotations. I am religious about going into uni. I hate being ill. However, on this occasion I was so hungover I should probably have been smart and stayed home. Did I though? Of course not. Instead I came in wearing sunglasses, looking like I’d just rolled out of bed and carrying a very strong black coffee. What should have been a complete write off of a day ended up being quite a laugh. 

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I was definitely not my usual production self. Instead, I choose to nurse my hangover by lying on this large roll of paper and just tracing my body in different positions. It was very interesting actually as I didn’t just use a singular line, I used colourful scribbles. And it was surprisingly therapeutic. Not that there’s anything therapeutic about being as hungover as I was! But hey it was self-inflicted, so what can I say? I had a good night, just a killer headache in the morning!

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Needless to say, my studio pals found it hilarious. For someone who is normally up gyming at 7 in the morning, lying curled up on a roll of paper is the last thing they would have expected walking into my studio. I think that’s one of the best things about working in a studio environment, you never know what’s going to happen! One day someone’s studio might have nothing in it and you wander where the hell they are. The next day it might be like a Mary Poppins handbag of surprises and blow you half away! You just never know…I think in this instance, I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. But to me, it’s better to do something then nothing. Scribbling in these colours led to a whole new series of works (see https://themindofmilla.com/2015/10/12/first-year-work/) and that’s the thing, you just never know what’s going to happen.

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So why waste a day? Why sit and do nothing when you can get up and go? Why become a zombie in front of Netflix when you can walk along the Quayside, or go to the library and read a book, or go out with friends and have fantastic conversations? Do what excites you, be spontaneous, be stupid, do all the things you’ll regret and learn from when you’re older. And have fun while you’re at it!