A happy return to the ‘real’ world

My return from an incredible and at times surreal month in Cape Town has been met with its fair share of problems in my personal life but there’s plenty of great stuff going on in my professional-ish life.

I say professional-ish because as much as I would like journalism to be my profession it’s not exactly paying the bills at the moment. But as young man, still in education, I am willing to accept my lot and get on with it.

I take every opportunity thrown my way, knowing the experience is what’s important. However mundane the story or however little I know about the person I am interviewing I will, under no circumstances, turn it down. That’s the mantra and so far it’s working.

I am now regularly contributing to Click Liverpool after the success of my South African blog (I’m heralding it as one even if they’re not!) and I am also working with a new website, Purple Revolver as it attempts to establish itself as one stop shop for all your movie and music news needs.

Central to this effort will be our coverage of the Creamfields festival next weekend from which we will hopefully be reporting live throughout Saturday and Sunday with interviews, reviews and gossip.

I’m hoping my experience working at Liverpool Sound City earlier in the year will be helpful. Although something tells me that there is a big difference between hundreds of gigs held in 30 venues across one city and a big piss up in a field in the middle of nowhere.

And finally, going into my last  year at LJMU I’m hoping to play my part in making LJMU Journalism the biggest, baddest, and best student journalism website you have ever seen or something along those lines.

And along the way hopefully I won’t neglect my blogging duties and get back to writing less about me and more about this odd world we live in.

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A visit to Robben Island

Mandela's cell

In my final Cape Town days I made it to Robben Island, a long held ambition to visit a place of great historical significance.

The island – where Nelson Mandela and many of those who fought for civil rights for blacks and coloureds were imprisoned – serves not only as a popular tourist haven but as a constant reminder of South Africa’s troubled past.

The prison is untouched from when it was closed in 1990. Above the entrance a sign reads “We serve with pride”, an irony not lost on anyone.

After a 45 minute boat ride from Cape Town harbour we were first taken on a bus tour around the island. We visited the lime quarry where Mandela and many others toiled for days on end for no other purpose other than to be worked to the bone.

After the bus tour a former prisoner took us on a tour of the cell block culminating in a visit to the prison cell where Mandela was held for nearly 30 years in the most basic of conditions.

The prisoner’s name escapes me but he had spent seven years in Robben in the 1980s for colluding with the armed wing of the African National Congress. He was lively in conversation but physically frail and the effects of his time in the prison will have had long-term effects.

Afterwards the boat takes you back to the main land via a trip to the inevitable gift shop. Robben Island may be located somewhat away from mainland South Africa but that does not affect the popularity of these often sold out tours. It underlines the enduring legacy of Mandela and the ANC’s struggle for equal rights in South Africa.

Having visited the island, going back to work my finals days in the Vrygrond settlement was sad in many ways, and not just because I was leaving. For all the pain and suffering endured by so many to achieve an end to apartheid in many ways it still exists in this country.

Many people are stuck in a never-ending cycle of poverty and have little chance to escape from it when they come from a township like Vrygrond which affords so few opportunities to its people.

The kind of projects set up here by the group I volunteered with have undoubtedly helped. But what does it say about South Africa when the poorest of the poor rely not on their own country but on the goodwill of foreign students and foreign organisations?

I leave South Africa believing that whilst it may have broken free from political apartheid, cultural and social apartheid will carry on for generations to come.

In this respect it has been an eye opening experience, one I will cherish and never forget. With some luck I hope to return one day.