2016 – wtf happened?

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Seriously. What happened?

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penguins just cuddling and stuff

 

2016 was one of those rare years that dragged on and on. In terms of politics, terrorism, celebrity deaths and the rest of it – the year was pretty awful.

But some good stuff happened, I promise.

See here, here and here for great news from all over to make you feel all warm and fuzzy. Now I’mma be self centred for a sec and reflect on all the cool shizz I’ve done in the past 12 months.

  • Rocked my braids like the true Jamaican Queen that I am.
  • Dragged my sorry self to our VSO post volunteer round up weekend thing to learn more about development (would’ve been cool to learn this all before we went to Kenya for 3 months but whatever)
  • Saw my big sis perform in Austria. She deserves all the praise because she’s a showgirl these days. Her costumes are a solid 10/10 and she gives all the cheese which warms my cold soul
  • Stopped buying clothes! Yas. I watched The True Cost at work and omg I felt all the feels. The fashion industry scares me a lot and if everyone saw the way our clothes are made and the conditions that people work in to provide us with cheap, fast fashion, maybe we’d settle down and stop buying so much sh*t in H&M.
  • Stopped eating meat. Ok I do this most years to some extent but I was full pesci from April until October. (In October I moved to a farm. sorrrrrrrry). Meat free is fab and of course this year I’ll be turning to the veg again
  • Was a big brave gal and went to the barbers loads to shape up my unloved undercut. Barbers are a scary world for a wimp like myself, especially in foreign countries. But you know what, I braved it. And had alcohol slapped on the back of my head with zero warning.
  • Got a real life adult job and moved into a proper adult house with other adults and we adulted together. Nah, but for real, my housemates kept me sane (Vasantha I’m mainly speaking to you hun) and my job made me so happy. Oxford was sweet (hella pricey) and my friends there are 100% baes.
  • Spoke in parliament about how it’s kinda unfair that girls in developing countries are denied the right to go to school. Whether is because of their culture, family’s opinions or health problems. It’s not on. So yeah I shimmyed up to the House of Commons and spoke alongside real life adult women who also thought it wasn’t ok.
  • Campaigned A LOT.
  • Went to a lot of festivals. Ok this isn’t an achievement at all but maybe it’s worth noting that I pitched my fair share of tents this summer. As well as coming up with innovative and creative solutions to carrying in alcohol.
  • Sent adorable letters, presents and postcards to my pals. It’s taken me a while to realise that the majority of my closest friends live in different cities, counties and countries to myself. Instead of being as lazy as I am usually, I actually made to effort to send cute stuff to my faves. And I got a lot of cute stuff back so yayy
  • Ran a marathon in a country where the weather is comparable to THE SUN.
  • Learnt to just follow my heart a lil (I’m saying it as if I never used to do that before. Who am I kidding) and take my unemployed self to Namibia for 2 months. And it was so worth it.
  • Showed Chloe the amazingness of Otjikondo. And we realised how friggin cool the rest of Namibia is. (yaaaaas we climbed the worlds highest sand dune, big up)
  • Showed J the absolute BEAUTY of a city which we like to call Cape Town. And had the best time discovering new places and asking him to take multiple candid photos of me just casually walking down a cute street or chilling on the beach

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So yeah. I haven’t blogged much at all this year. And maybe some of y’all think I’ve just been staying quiet and not getting on with much. But I can honestly say I’ve been pretty busy (and not having the patience to deal with slow wifi to upload posts) and had a fab year. Filled with weird moments, new buddies, drunken regrets, empty bank accounts, dodgey outfits and a whole lotta love. How was your year?

peace up, a town.

Maz

xo

11 signs you’re starting to adult.

Uncategorized

Oh no.

I’ve been trying to run from this for at least 3 or 4 years. But I admit defeat – I’m slowly transforming into an adult.

Crap.

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Here are some signs you’re also going through this inevitable transition..

1. You enjoy watching Location Location Location

What’s more, you’re actually putting yourself in the position of the first time buyers – ‘hmm yeah they’re right about being so close to the main road. Great access to the train station and decent schools though’. No I ain’t guna buy a house. Why do Phil and Kirsty make looking at them seem so fun though?

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2. You write a list for a food shop

and actually stick to it.

3. You’re friends with real life adults

And they’re not just your parents friends- they’re your friends. Adults – imagine that!

 

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4. You leave a decent night out because you know you’ll feel like hell at work tomorrow.

You may get home and stay up even longer watching cringey proposal videos on YouTube but the good intentions were there.

5. Saying that, sleep is your best friend

You stick to a bed time most nights which is so unbelievably sad but feels so good.

6. Your mates are getting pregnant and married and you congratulate them

Because it seems intentional now…

7. You silently judge teenagers outfits.

Too many crop tops, not enough jumpers girls

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8. People at work come to you with questions

You think I know the answer? I have no idea what’s going on mate

9. You no longer see the appeal of junk food.

It’s gross, it makes you feel awful and you’d rather a nice pasta salad.

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10. You strategically plan annual leave to get maximum beach/festival/lying on the sofa time

Being paid to do a whole load of nothing is a beautiful beautiful thing.

11. Fitbits.

Fitbits everywhere. Basically a glorified, overpriced pedometer. But gotta have one. Counting steps each day – how very adult of me.

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tired of this shizz.

Despite all of these signs, you just gotta remember that you’re nothing more than a lost child, blagging your way through this mess. Keep at it 🙂

Maz

x

insta.

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I bloomin love instagram. As I’m genuinely a little sad that I’ve barely travelled at all this year, here’s a look back at my fave travel pics and a shameless plug to follow me on instagram.

3 months in Kenya meant seeing lots of beautiful animals. Giraffes, elephants and rhino in walking distance from my house.

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💧🌲

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I went to Latitude with Oxfam a few weeks ago. Lake swimming was definitely a highlight.

Christmas markets in Vienna are so cute. Austria is definitely underrated.

I love goats more than life itself.

I spent a few months in Cape Town and it is without doubt, my favourite place on earth.

What happened to Pont des Arts in Paris? Have the padlocks gone now? I lived in Paris for 8 months and loved going to all the cheesy tourist attractions as well as the lesser known areas.

I’ve never met a boy as happy as Himba.

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Amsterdam #amsterdam #travelphotography #marysprojectyear

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A few years ago we had a very dramatic NYE in Amsterdam. As crazy as the town is, it’s also calm and picturesque.

Otjikondo in Namibia is my second home. When the kids aren’t doing massive cheesy grins for the camera, they can look quite cute.

 

 

That’s all for now

Mary x

I’m running 26.2 miles for ONE reason.

Africa, Europe, Sport, Uncategorized

Around a year ago I was well on my way to running 600 miles over 8(ish) weeks for VSO. I’d been running so much that a few gals suggested I may as well run a marathon. Let me stop you there. One does not simply run a marathon just cozzzz. But still, I signed up for the Isle of Man full marathon and ran the 26.2 miles on 9th August, my 21st birthday.

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look at me go, right at the front…

Not content with just the one marathon to my name, I signed up for the Lisbon marathon with my good pal (probably an over statement) Kate and we’re shimmying over to Portugal to take part on 2nd October this year. Soooo, we have less than 2 months to quit whining and get on with training for our second marathons (she ran the London Marathon in April).

Instead of raising money for a charity, I’ve decided to do things a little different and raise awareness for a cause quite close to my heart. (I say that, a lot of causes are close to my heart but stick with me here)

UK Youth Ambassadors

So, in return for me sweating my lil booty (and back, arms, legs, forehead, everywhere) off, I’d like my lovely friends and family to hear about and get involved with ONE campaign. I want to raise awareness for ONE and all the world changing, life saving work they do. See, ONE isn’t a charity. We (I’m a ONE member along with 7 million others) don’t dig wells, we scream n shout to get governments to change the law so a well has to be dug.

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I’ve been a ONE youth ambassador since March this year and their approach to ending poverty and  preventable disease is refreshing. It’s not always easy to get your local MP or media to care about your work with ONE but as a group of around 50 UK youth ambassadors we’ve managed to make a real impact resulting in meetings with MP’s, speaking in Parliament, creating university societies and visiting the OECD forum in Paris (yessss we ate all the croissants).

‘ONE’s 7 million members are critical to this work. They come from every walk of life and from across the political spectrum. They’re artists and activists, faith and business leaders, students and scientists. They take action day in, day out — organising, mobilising, educating, and advocating so that people will have the chance not just to survive, but to thrive.’

Fancy joining the 7 million people and making your voice heard?

What can you do?
First things first, get yourself onto their website – click here woo woo
Next, see what campaign we’re currently working on and choose what interests you the most and take action either by signing a letter or petiton.
Tell your local MP if they’re not doing enough about the issue and what they can change.
Write to your local newspaper about how you’ve put your name to something you truly care about.
Pass it on. Send this link to someone you know – let the movement spread
Let me know, a simple Facebook comment will let me know how many people stand with ONE just because they read this blog post.

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Why?
We’re one race. We live in the same world. Why should where you’re born determine your quality of life? I’m not asking for money, anyone can put their name forward to something they care about.

When?
Now would be fab. But any time before October 2nd would be perf.

What’s next?
I’ll be writing some more blog posts in the run up to the marathon. (Run. Get it…?!!?) with some more info on ONE’s work and what I’m personally doing as a youth ambassador. Sound iite?

OH and use the hashtag #MazRunsForONE when sharing – because errrrybody loves a hashtag

Thanks,
Maz

get involved.

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Just chillin’ with Mhairi Black at our launch

10 things I learnt at my first time at Glastonbury

Europe, Uncategorized

in bed, 6 am Monday morning. We left Glasto a few hours ago and I start work at 9. power through mary, power through.

My first time at Glastonbury was a beautiful one. I won’t get gushy but it’s hard to describe the magic of such a huge and diverse festival. Here a few things I learnt over the past 5 and a half days from the UKs biggest festival.

  1. Simply arriving on site is a bit of a mission. – we were doing fine until about a mile away where we hit queues at standstill for hours and hours. Some came from Bristol and what should have been a 45 minute journey became a 16 hour one.
  2. Mud. Mud is evil. – the heavy rains prior to the week had caused the worst mud Glastonbury had ever seen. It caused traffic problems, it made it take FOREVER to walk between the stages and it was in for embarrassing you when you took a fall.
  3. glastonbury is really big. – Yep, everyone will tell you how huge it is but it’s not until you’ve seen it from the top of the hill that you can see how massive it is. It’s not that the stalls or stages are particularly massive but there’s so many of them. Each area is like its own mini festival.
  4. its impossible to see it all. – I missed out on the greenpeace slide and didn’t get a picture by the sign but when it takes a few hours to walk to these places, you just don’t have time to do it all.
  5. but that’s ok. – you don’t need to be super organised and strict with your schedule because you’re on holiday in your weird bubble of jam packed chill
  6. hippies are cool. – I used to think hippies and rockers and everyone in between we’re so extreme and hardcore and separate from my own life. But after going to a few festivals this summer I’ve realised that people who identify with these extreme stereotypes (or just look like they do) are normal and nice and not so different to myself.
  7. performers and organisers are great at paying tribute to people we’ve lost. – we marched and sang for Jo Cox, there were secret tribute parties for Bowie, dance nights for Prince and Coldplay allowed Viola Beach to play on the pyramid stage.
  8. days are great but the nights are better than expected. – silent discos, cheesy pop, trance in a colourful tent outside, giant sculptures with bars in, interactive installations and art work which surrounded clubs. It was all going on.
  9. campaigning is a great way to experience it. – I was lucky enough to go to Glastonbury with Oxfam to campaign for our new effort to support the refugee crisis, Stand as One. Free ticket, showers, meal vouchers, meeting awesome people, getting to know more people from work, engaging with festival goers and other charity workers were just a few reasons why I’m glad I went as a campaigner. ALSO, we walked for miles and miles each day so saw most of the site before it was so busy.
  10. British musicians are just amazing. – I could talk alllll day about how great some acts were but I’ll try not to bore you. Watch the BBC coverage and make you own mind up but personally, I was impressed by Jess glynne, Coldplay, Disclosure, Bastille, Adele and Laura Mvula. Coldplay know how to put on a good show, we didn’t want to leave at the end of the night 😦

BASICALLY. I had a wicked time in the mud and rain. Surrounded by friends, yummy veggie food, amazing music and a good vibe. Everyone should experience Glastonbury at least once in their life. Allllll the fun.image

Mary X

 

p.s. Shoutout to Monish and Samantha for organising everything for the campaign team. I’m not sure how you were still awake by Sunday evening but 10 points to you, woo. And new people I met, you’re all pretty cool. 5 gold stars for y’all.

Who ONE the world? girls.

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‘Mary, what the french fudge are you doing in Paris?!’ I hear you cry! Well i don’t. But I’ll imagine I do.

WELL CHILDREN, I’m a ONE youth ambassador (of course.) and we’re ready to tell world leaders to stick to their word when it comes to fighting poverty. 

Yah.

I’m on a mission to end poverty. Laugh all you like (or just think I’m a tad over ambitious) but extreme poverty has been HALVED in the past 15 years. So what’s stopping us from eliminating it in the next 15 years?

‘Yes Mary, great plan but what the heeeeck has that got to do with Paris?’ I hear you cry – seriously guysies, stop crying plz.

Ok let’s get real.

I’m set to join forces with hundreds of activists at an international summit in Paris to call for action for the worlds poorest. 

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I’ll join more than 250 young campaigners from eight countries at the ONE Summit, which will run alongside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Forum at the start of June.

The OECD Forum will see delegates from some of the world’s richest countries come together to discuss major global issues, including how to end extreme poverty. 

As ONE youth ambassadors we’ll be there to demand they put their money where their mouth is and make decisions that boost global development, with a focus on girls and women. Because I honestly believe they are the key to ending poverty. 

We’ve got a jam packed schedule which includes meeting high-profile individuals (you know I love a good celeb of the development world!) – including Erik Solheim, chair of the OECD Development Assistance Committee, and Andre Vallini, French Secretary of State for Development – and planning to meet with politicians from the UK and other countries. And what I’m most excited for is this the stunt! We’ve got a world famous location planned to hold a massive stunt to bring more attention to ONE’s asks. 

We want the worlds media to hear our call for the OECD to implement policies that have a special focus on girls and women, to help change the fact that Poverty is Sexist. I harp on about it a lot, but when women are prioritised they have the power to improve the lives of everyone in their communities. There are key opportunities for this to happen, such as the replenishment of the Global Fund – an organisation that helps protect people against preventable diseases such as HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis – later this year.

Saira O’Mallie, UK Director (interim) of ONE, said: “Our Youth Ambassadors are one of the greatest assets the UK has in helping raise awareness of the significant progress we’ve made toward ending extreme poverty. Politicians know this and listen when they speak. I can’t wait to see what they achieve this year.”

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This is the third year the Youth Ambassador programme has run in the UK. Previously, Youth Ambassadors have attended the G7 Summit in Munich and the UN General Assembly in New York.

I’ve loved campaigning with ONE in the past few months because of everyone’s shared passion and energy for working towards eradicating poverty. Call us crazy but we’re here to bring about a change.

If you’d like to keep in the loop with our activities search for #ONEyouth2016 on Facebook, Twitter and instagram. You know I thrive off social media activity so would love for anyone to get involved from wherever you are!

From Paris, France

Mary 

biz x

About ONE: 

ONE is a campaigning and advocacy organisation of over seven million people taking action to end extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa. Not politically partisan, we raise public awareness and press political leaders to combat AIDS and preventable diseases, increase investments in agriculture and nutrition, and demand greater transparency in poverty-fighting programmes. Read more at http://www.one.org.

Insane in the brain.

Uncategorized

Salut hunnies.

sitting in Pret in Gatwick airport trying to take in the dramas (good & bad.) of the past few days. As ya do.

It started out well; Friday night we had people over for drinks then went for our first ‘housemates night out’ on Cowley road. Fun times all round. Especially teaching Tim how to dab (we.are.cooooool.)

On Saturday Jordan & I headed to South Park in Oxford for the first day of Common People festival – will fo sho do a post about that separately cos I have some lush candid pics of me looking longingly into a festival field that are too edgy not to share…

We met up with a few St Albans people, Jordan’s uni friends and bumped into a whole heap of Oxfam people. Good times good times. Being the sensible adults that we’re pretending to be, we went home instead of out. Ready for round 2 on Sunday. Jordan & Maz (just referred to myself in the 3rd person lol who am I?) were campaigning for Oxfam’s new Stand As One petition so had a lotta fun taking pics of festival goers & generally bumblin’ around in the sunshine. We finished our shift and went to enjoy the evening’s music at 5:30ish and all was dandy until 11ish. I’d been loving life in the mosh pit at the dance stage but decided to shimmy out of because, you know, there’s only so much you can be thrown and whacked around.

As I carried on dancing I saw someone’s head (I think. could’ve been an elbow.) in the corner of my eye. It whaaaaaacked into my forehead and made the loudest crack/bang noise I’d heard (in terms of things whacking into my head). It knocked me sideways and I was in a very panicked sense of shock. I beelined my way out of the crowd, straight onto the grass and burst into tears. Tears were streaming, almost flooded the place. Finally Jordan was like ‘Medical tent?’ – errrr yas good shout b. They checked me over, all ok apart from dizziness. Was ready to get going home when I just started vomiting. WHICH IS ALWAYS FUN. The lady keeping an eye on me was kinda worried so told me to go to A&E which I knew would happen because little old me is a first aid starrrr.

Obviously the festival had to end at the same time so cue mega rush of people all wanting taxis at the same time. No luck for us getting one because, life aint always kind eh. We ended up walking there – it was as fun as you can imagine.

I know how long it takes to be seen at A&E so mentally prepared my throbbing head for a long old wait. I reckon we got there at 11:30, we were done by 3:45am. Yeah. It was a long night in hospital. I knew I was fine but really didn’t want to risk some weird bleeding to the brain or something especially when I was off to Paris in the morning – great timing there head butter.

The doctors and nurses were mega babes and reassured me all was well but said if I were to vomit again in the next few days then to defo go back. We taxied home, had a few hours sleep, woke up early so I could pack for Paris.

Left Oxford at 8am, reluctantly drove back to Welwyn Garden with Calvin Harris as our musical cheerleader, dropped J home and bombarded my parents with the concussion story. They sympathetically told me to hurry up and get ready because we had a hour until we had to leave for Kings Cross so I could get the ONE coach to France. 15 mins before we were due to leave I was sick. And again. And again a few more times. TMI?


‘We have to take you back to the hospital’ Dad told me. I knew I had to go. So there was another reluctant trip, this time to the Lister hospital, whilst I messaged our team leader Billy to tell them not to wait for me at the station 😦 No Paris for me. At least not right now anyway.

Luckily the wait wasn’t as bad at the Lister. I was passed around doctors and nurses who gleefully flashed lights in my mouths, ears and eyes and asked me to ‘follow my finger’ a few more times. It was determined it wouldn’t be safe to send me home without a brain scan so I was carted off to a big alien abduction looking machine to check out what was gwarnin’ in my head. It wasn’t as weird as I thought it’d be, just lots of sliding in and out of this huge white machine. My results came back as all fine which was a relief. The doctor was happy to let me go home & to Paris. I was ordered  to stay away from screens; TV, phones, laptops (not that easy for work or writing this buuuut a little can’t hurt.) and that I’d definitely feel a bit crap for a few days because my brain was bruised.

Shirley and I went home, booked a flight for this evening so I could go to Paris and decided it was best I went for a nap. I woke up from said nap feeling like death had hit me sideways. Dizzy, nauseous, headache but luckily it wore off. Dad drove us to Gatwick and i said bye to ma & pa. Since starting to write this I’ve moved from Pret to the boarding lounge to the plane. And lack of Wifi (omg so excited to get to France and hear people pronounce it ‘weeefeee’) means this’ll probs go up when I reach the hostel.

So yeah, this has been my concussion story. Pretty moving eeeeeeeh?
Will avoid mosh pits for at least a week and hopefully won’t have to repeat this drama.

Au revoir losers
Maz xoxoxoxxxoxoxxxoxox

 

Rumble in the Jumble 5!

Uncategorized

#RITJ

On Saturday 14th I attended the fifth annual Rumble in the Jumble on behalf of Oxfam Fashion.

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If you’re anything like me, you love having a root around through piles of second hand clothes, hunting for something that you can picture yourself wearing. Now imagine that a huge number of those clothes and accessories were once owned by your fave celebs and it gets pretty exciting. The cherry on top of this massive fashion cake (you know what I mean..) is that proceeds go to Oxfam GB – supporting the Music Circle’s work in Myanmar! I was in second hand/celeb/charity heaven!

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TOMORROW is ALL about.. (@themusic_circle)

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What is Rumble in the Jumble?

RITJ was set up in 2012 by TV presenter Dawn Porter, Caroline Flack and Radio 1’s Gemma Cairney and now run with additional help from The Music Circle, a subsidiary of Annie Lennox’s The Circle.

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Where?
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Oval Space, London, E2

Who was there?

Gemma Cairney was hosting so was busy keeping shoppers and stall holders happy and had boundless energy all day (impressed & jealous). I also spotted and chatted to Laura Whitmore, Caroline Flack, Dan from Bastille, Angela Scanlon and Georgia LA

Why?
The Music Circle will be funding Oxfam who intend to make long-lasting changes to gender equality in Myanmar. Increasing women’s political representation and advising on policies which will influence the whole society to include and welcome women in positions of authority. In raising awareness that it is right and appropriate for women to share decision-making roles with men, changes will become widespread and sustainable.
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If we lift up women, we lift up everyone. 

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Queues at 12

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As the doors opened at 12, the room was filled with hundreds of thrifty shoppers of all ages rooting between the stalls. There was a great mixture of clothes, accessories, books and records. I chatted to a few stall holders; some had been rumbling for years and for others it was their first year. But everyone was buzzing about the day ahead and mad busy selling, chatting, replenishing stock and dancing along to the great tunes the DJ’s were treating us to.

As well as my fave pics from instagram, I’ve included my own photos from the day. Designer gear, high street finds, kittens, DJs, vagina costumes and everything in between!

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This guy bagged a Fred Perry polo, previously owned by Yannis from Foals.

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Just wearing Keira Knightley’s maternity coat. Not pregnant, just fancied trying it on!

 

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Women empowering women

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This top once belonged to Olly from Years and Years – prettttty cool

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‘I found Kiera Knightley’s mac!’

 

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The smashbox team were busy glamming us up – great make up skills and hair tips for this season. Apparently we should be experimenting with hair braids by using different hair chalks and watching the colours blend within the plaits 🙂

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Salem, is that you..?!

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Actual Elton John’s ACTUAL sunglasses.

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Can you guess who once owned this…? Only bloomin’ Kate Moss! I chatted to the lucky lady who bagged this; she is real life buzzzzzing to wear it on holiday

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A Maccabees mac for this lovely lady

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Angela Scanlon in her fave find, fluffy, bally, worn in red Lacoste jumper.

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Marina’s dress from Marina and the Diamonds – so cute. So jealous.

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Signed Bastille, the 1975 and Marina gear

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With Clara Amfo after her DJ set

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An anti FGM charity showing us that vagina’s should have fun too

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Fill a bag for £5?! Er, yes please.

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Having a hunt for our fave items; loving this bright Topshop jumpsuit

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Gemma and Angela getting their pose on

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Laura picked up Caroline Flack’s floaty ASOS number

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Pips Taylor is the sequin queen

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Just a little bit in love with Laura Whitmore’S puppy Mick

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Labrynth’s blazer – you know, to just wear casually and blend in with the crowd…

 

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View the whole album hereeee

 

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🙏🏼 #RITJ

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Flack fam 💕💕💕

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🐶👜 @karllagerfeld ❤️ #choupette #mickspics

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Because it was such a great day, we trended number on Twitter in the UK – sooooo decent

MASSIVE shoutout to you reading if you came along on the day – I hope you had as good a time as I did!

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Big up to all the DJ’s – the tunes were fab the atmosphere was great.
High five to the amazing brands & services who donated items for RITJ. You allowed us all the find some jazzy pieces, cool services & raise even more money.
Thumbs up, hugs and endless fist bumps to the celebs who donated clothes! Kate Moss, Elton John, Annie Lennox, Fearne Cotton, Stormzy; the list goes on and on. Here’s to you superstars for using your platform for such a great cause & contributing to making the crazy world of fashion a little more sustainable. You da best.
And lastly, all the congratulatory gestures (can’t think of anymore.. pat on the back!?) to the organisers & stall holders! Gemma, Gen, Kate and everyone involved – such a great event pulled off with style. AH-MAZ-ING
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That’s all for now but stay tuned for my next post where I’ll show you my fave purchases from the day & how I’m stylin’ them. And head over to Oxfam Fashion Blog for more goss from the day and celebs fave items – coming in the next few days 🙂

Peace
Mary x
Where to stalk me.
Twitter
Facebook
instagram

Fair Tax talks – OxOx 2016

campaigns, Uncategorized

Fair Tax: what does it look like and how do we get it?
Oxfam and University of Oxford co-sponsored Symposium

#OxOx2016 #FairTax

You know you’re a true adult when you spend your Tuesday evening at a conference on tax evasion.

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As dull as it sounds from the outside, it was surprisingly interesting. At work lately we’ve been covering tax evasion, the Panama Papers leak, tax havens and how it contributes to poverty. Because all the content is sent our way, it sometimes passes over my head and I don’t fully understand whats going on from all sides (which I probably should). I’m also a ONE campaign youth ambassador and we’re calling on our MPs to do more to pressure David Cameron ahead of the Anti-Corruption Summit on 12th May to ensure tax transparency is a priority. Basically tax is a big deal at the moment and I want to learn more about how we can make it fair – to people like us and those living in poverty.

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The event, hosted by Oxfam GB CEO Mark Goldring, brought together the shared knowledge of Oxfam’s directors and the University of Oxford’s African Studies Centre during the aftermath of the ‘Panama Papers’ scandal.

Dr Carlos Lopes from the UN’s Economic Commission for Africa was the keynote speaker. He introduced the notion of fair tax in Africa.

Dr Lopes told the room about how 6 out of 10 unequal countries in the world are in Africa – mostly in southern Africa. Coincidentally, 6 out of 10 jobs in Africa are classed as informal, which means employees are vulnerable to external shocks. Imagine if you had no protection over being fired out of the blue and no savings as a back up in case this happened. The closest comparison I can think of is being on a zero hour contract; no job stability and the inability to plan ahead.

‘We need to advocate for inclusive structural services – which will be economically empowering’ – Think less about international aid and more about how poorer countries can help themselves because money will be accessible to them if everyone pays the correct taxes.

‘The Panama Papers shone a light on tax evasion and now the whole world knows how bad it is’ – this is so true. I had very little interest in tax evasion until the Panama Papers leak, this Panorama story is a simple explanation of the global issue. Now that the world is listening, we need to take action to ensure this is the last tax scandal we have to witness.

’50/ 60 billion dollars are lost annually for Africa. Imagine the impact that could have in reducing poverty and increasing productivity’

Dr Lopes makes it simple; billions of dollars are disappearing. From countries who could desperately use the funds because of their current inequality status and vulnerability.

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The next speaker was Jayati Ghosh is Professor of Economics at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, School of Social Sciences, at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, in New Delhi. As one of the world’s leading economists she spoke with confidence, grace and humour.

‘Taxation is part of a social contract – but the contract isn’t fully developed’ – No one is really sure where they stand in this contract so can get away with paying the bare minimum or nothing at all.

‘Flat tax means the burden falls heavily on the poor’
‘We’re encouraged to reward compliance. but what are we doing about those not paying taxes?’ – what are the rewards of paying your fair share of taxes? Healthcare, education, public services? These are available to those who avoid taxes too.

‘Thanks to Panama Papers we can see the illegal tax activity but not all tax avoidance lives in Panama or the Caymen Islands – some of the biggest tax havens are British Virgin Islands and the City of London’
‘If we’re serious about reaching the Sustainable Development Goals we need to get serious about tax avoidance’ – Basically, how can world leaders call for a more fair and equal world if other leaders, celebrities and big brands don’t pay their share of tax?!
‘Oxfam need to show up the tax havens in the UK’

Next up was Winnie Byanyima – the executive director of Oxfam International. Before that, she served as the director of the Gender Team in the Bureau for Development Policy at the United Nations Development Programme.

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Winnie believes that tax is a political issue. Representing Oxfam means being politically neutral on most topics but maybe this one is unavoidable.

‘Tax has the ability to create a fairer society due to the distribution of health and education.’

‘1 company tried to avoid paying $400million in tax in Uganda. Which is more than the government healthcare budget for a whole year’
‘We need an increase in transparency – which requires a global agreement from companies, country by country. The world is watching the Anti Corruption Summit’

‘We must call it what it is – it’s theft’

 

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Kevin Watkins is Executive Director of the Overseas Development Institute. His research focuses on education, globalisation and human development.
‘Google/Amazon/Starbucks think tax is voluntary, like making a donation’ – how do large corporations get away with treating the necessity of pay taxes like a voluntary action? Why do we still consume from these companies who avoid what we pay as citizens everyday?

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‘In Pakistan tax is like an elite sport, incredibly rich people aren’t recording their wealth. What are you doing with that money? We need to format a smart strategy ahead of the Anti Corruption summit.’

‘It may be Africa’s problem but it needs a global solution’

Jayati ended the session with a question from the audience. A lady asked, how can we reward those who do pay their fair share of taxes? What are the carrots? ( a metaphor for rewards.)

Her answer was that ‘carrots for compliance didn’t work – sadly we’re only left with the stick for punishment..’

‘..and sticks work best when you don’t have to use them’

The event was really interesting to attend. Hearing from such prestigious directors and economists was truly inspiring and increased my interest in how our governments are going to tackle tax evasion.

Tomorrow is the Anti Corruption Summit. All eyes will be on London and David Cameron. Decisions made will decide the global position of wealth and poverty. As soon as taxes are fair, more money will be available for education, healthcare and jobs for the world’s most vulnerable. And the sooner that can happen, the better.

Mary

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p.s. you can watch the summit live here use #AntiCorruption to join in with the conversation