420 in Manchester

Manchester’s Platt Fields played host to 420 this year amongst thousands of other places around the world. By the time I arrived things were in full swing and it was a chilled out atmosphere all around.

Hundreds of people gathered and shared in some good vibes and peaceful protest. The police presence did not seem to deter the fun as I saw no bother whatsoever, and so I wanted to try and find out more about why people have decided to come down to 420 this year, and what pot use means to them on an individual level.

When I arrived I sat down for a cheeky one and had no problem kicking up a conversation. We sat and looked around us and saw the flags flapping in the wind, the music playing and people chilling. There was something hanging in the atmosphere that was more than weed, it was a sense that everybody felt comfortable with what they are doing and rightfully so.

There is a popular misconception around the main stream media which tars all pot smokers as hopeless layabouts, however, a lot of the people I spoke to hold full-time jobs. Take Anna for instance.

Anna was happy to talk to me and expressed that she had been smoking cannabis since her late teens and so it has been something that has been on and off for half of her life.

‘I don’t do it every single day because I have a full time job now, and it’s quite stressful you know, every so often.’

On the topic of media representation of cannabis, Anna highlighted the types of stories that have become common place, such as those claiming of fatalities that are directly linked to cannabis.

‘There’s so much hypocrisy when we look at things like alcohol and tobacco, and yet I know much more people whose lives have been ruined by those things than those that have done a bit of weed on occasion.’

There were such diverse spreads of opinions as to why people believe that it should be legal, such as those who believe that it is a gift from God, or those that just don’t see an issue with having a smoke like it is a cup of tea. One gentleman, however, was also willing to share that his grandmother

‘Smokes it like it’s a joke and it helps her. She’s moving around, she’s happy. When she doesn’t, she’s in pain.’

The medical benefit of cannabis is quite possibly the strongest argument in favour of its legalisation and I was able to chat to people who have witnessed or experienced first-hand these benefits. Such as Asia, who told us that when she damaged her back, the doctors suggested that it would take around six weeks to heal, however, Asia is convinced that it is the cannabis that cut this recovery time to two weeks.

Asia and several other people were not so quick to suggest that cannabis is the cure to all medical problems but are in favour of more research being undertaken so that we can know for certain what this drug can help us with.

To hear these stories from people showed that cannabis is a much bigger issue than the media likes to portray and that it is a key concern of many people living in the UK today and the turn out certainly reflected this idea.

On the other side of the park there was an ice cream. Next to it, several parked police vans. Was it an elaborate rouse? No, it served bloody good ice cream.

Speaking to two Community Support Officers I found that they had a very similar attitude to Cody who says that ‘It’s a nice social thing to do and it causes no harm at all. Completely safe and it is just something nice that brings people together.’

In fact, the PCSOs said that they had received no trouble and so I drew there attention to the fact that if it is working here in a group of hundreds of people, then people shouldn’t fear arrest for doing it in their own homes, or on a day other than 420.

What 420 seemed to show was that there is no problem with legalisation, and that large gatherings such as these can only further to demonstrate this view point. It was clear to me that a lot of people take issue with how the media treats the subject, and moreover, how the media has made them feel by slapping labels on people that they know nothing about. I got chatting to somebody when I arrived who wishes for his name not to be used. They said that the media seems to confuse what it means to use drugs and what it means to abuse them. It is an issue that is reported on time and time again, and not just for cannabis either but for other substances.

More education is defiantly needed, and the more and more people who express their personal views about it will only help this process along. I genuinely had a beautiful time in Platt Fields and I met some really fantastic people from all walks of life, with their minds and their own reasons for being there and it was wonderful to get their views on an issue which is very much close to my heart.



In Praise of Timothy Spall

As Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner has hit the Cannes Film Festival staring Timothy Spall as the title role as the controversial and hugely influential Romantic artist, it is worth spending a bit of time discussing why Timothy Spall is worthy of a great deal of attention as we take a short trip through his life and his career.

Timothy Spall is working class through and through as he is the son of a hair dresser and a postal worker in London who successfully secured a place within the National Youth Theatre before moving on to The Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) where he was awarded the Bancroft Gold Medal for showing the most promise out of all of the actors in his year.

This level of classical training prepared Spall for the two years that he spent working with the Royal Shakespeare Company, a highly prestigious British Theatre Company which has had the likes of Dame Judi Dench, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Sir Ian McKellen within its ranks!

It can be argued that Spall’s time as a stage actor is what really makes him a fantastic screen actor, as many the characters that people have come to love, such as Beadle Bamford in Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet, Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter films, and Simon Graham in The Last Samurai, are incredibly theatrical in the sense that they ludicrous caricatures that are played with painful accuracy and humour, despite the fact that some of them are dark and grotesque as Spall really gets hands on with the physical performances, especially as Pettigrew, the rat-like traitor who betrayed Harry’s parents. It moves his acting from superb delivery and diction into a different field entirely as he seems to work each of his characters to their full potential.

Now, this is not Timothy Spall’s first outing with Mike Leigh, and hopefully it will not be the last as the two of them have successfully demonstrated that they gel well together with classics such as Life is Sweet under their belt which has Spall playing the socially awkward and often destructive self-confessed mastermind of cooking, Aubrey back in 1990. His character is well remembered for his unintentional humour and pseudo accent that he has as he decorates his restaurant in bizarre ways to appear up-market. Leigh and Spall manage to evoke humour in tragedy, as poor Aubrey descends into drunkenness because nobody has turned up on opening night due to him forgetting to post the adverts, resulting in some of the best depressing drunkenness that you can ever hope to see captured on film, all with unintentional hilarity.

It would seem as though the Spall family has acting in their blood, as Timothy’s Son, Rafe Spall has become quite a notable actor is his own right as he has appeared in such films as Anonymous as William Shakespeare, and Millburn in Ridley Scott’s stunning Prometheus which is excellent, regardless of what some might say as they complain that it wasn’t the Alien prequel they were waiting for (sigh). Rafe has also appeared in stage productions such as John Gabriel Borkman by Henrik Ibsen, which raises the question as to whether or not preparing on the stage makes you better on screen.

Whether this is true or not, Timothy Spall has won a number of awards for his acting, including Best Actor at the Monaco International Film Festival for his role in My Angel in 2011, and he has been nominated for several more awards such as Best Actor at the BAFTA Awards, The British Independent Film Awards, and the European Film Awards.

It seems that Timothy Spall’s career is on an upward curve, and after his recent performance in Mr Turner, which has been heralded as a ‘career-making performance’, where Spall even took to learning how to pain in order to perfect the role, which may bring a lot of attention in terms of awards towards both Mike Leigh and Timothy Spall this year. Spall’s performance as JMW Turner in the ground breaking biographic has a tremendous amount of promise and you should check it out as soon as you can.