Image for 10 things we learned making the new issue of Positive News magazine

10 things we learned making the new issue of Positive News magazine

The clitoris is no longer being ignored, commune living is taking off, and activist bookshops are on the rise, plus more

The clitoris is no longer being ignored, commune living is taking off, and activist bookshops are on the rise, plus more

1. The true anatomy of the clitoris

Who knew that the clitoris is 90 per cent internal? And that if you could see it in its full glory, it would look a bit like a wishbone with two bulbs attached? Not most women or men, or even doctors it turns out. But that is finally changing thanks to a small but passionate group of pioneering surgeons, activists and artists, interviewed in the new issue. They are bringing medicine’s most ignored organ out of the shadows through scientific research, a giant golden ‘Glitoris’ (pictured), and a whole lot of agitating for its anatomy to be reinstated (it was removed from Grey’s Anatomy in 1947) in medical textbooks.

Image: Patrick Boland

2. Life in a commune turns socialising inside out

For most of us, meeting up with friends requires some careful diary planning, a multitude of WhatsApps and a commitment to peel yourself off the sofa. If you live communally, however, being social is the default. Marjan de Blok, who started a floating eco community in Amsterdam – just one of the communal living projects profiled in the new issue – explains. “Before, the normal situation felt that I was by myself and if I want to be social, I need to organise it. Now it’s the other way around – it’s a social way of living, but if I want to be alone, I just close my door.” Which sounds a whole lot easier than the dreaded doodle poll.

Image: Pål Hansen

3. Ellie Goulding is obsessed with ashwagandha gummies

During our interview with Britain’s pop princess, she showed our journalist the ‘box of tricks’ she uses to control her anxiety and stay well. Among other things (see our interview for the exhaustive list), it contained ashwagandha gummies. “I’m obsessed with it,” she explained. “I have it every morning. If I don’t remember it, I feel edgy, like something’s gonna happen.” So what is ashwagandha? It’s a small shrub with yellow flowers common to south-east Asia. It’s regarded as one of the most important Ayurvedic herbs, used for treating stress, increasing energy levels and boosting concentration.

Image: Jennifer McCord

4. Burger chain founders panic about the climate too

If your whole living is intrinsically tied to one of the most heavily polluting industries on the planet, what do you do? For Tom Barton, founder of 44-site chain Honest Burgers, it is a conundrum that weighs heavily on his mind. In our interview, he opens up about his internal struggle, and describes how he set about easing his conscience.

Image: Steve Ryan

5. Activist bookshops are on the rise

In the age of Amazon, you wouldn’t expect independent bookstores to be opening their doors on UK high streets. But figures show that the number of indie booksellers is at a 10-year high, and many of this new generation have a social purpose baked into their business plan. From combating loneliness (the House of Books & Friends, Manchester), to connecting us to nature (FOLDE, Dorset) to amplifying women’s rights (the Feminist Bookshop, Brighton), this new cohort of bookshops aim to be a force for good.

Image: House of Books & Friends

6. School rainforests are a thing

With its googly eyes, zigzagging roof, temperate rainforest and lumpy yellow walls, Madrid’s new Reggio School looks like it was dreamt up by kids. And that’s because it was. Designed by Andre Jaque, who has become notorious for quirky projects through his architecture studio the Office for Political Innovation, the school is the living embodiment of the radical Reggio-Emilia method. The educational philosophy was developed in post-war Italy and sees children not as empty vessels to be filled with education, but as active participants in defining their own curriculum. The kids worked with Jaque for two years to refine the design, which includes a mini temperate rainforest planted by ecologists to provide habitat for insects, bats and birds.

Image: José Hevia

7. The Welsh Valleys have a thriving queer scene

The Welsh Ballroom Community (WBC) was launched in Cardiff during the first lockdown, but if you’re thinking ‘waltzing’, think again. In this context, ballroom refers to the queer movement that began in 1920s New York, when black and Latino drag queens began to organise their own pageants, rebelling against racism in established circuits. The movement snowballed, and there are now ballroom communities across the globe, the latest being in Cardiff. They held Wales’s first ever ball at the Wales Millennium Centre in September 2020, and the event was a sell out. WBC member Tayo Sanwo tells us why it has changed her life, in the latest issue of the magazine.

Image: Laurie Broughton

8. A broken heart is something to hold on to

Mikaela Loach is a medical student at the University of Edinburgh and a leading light of the youth climate movement. She recently took the UK government to court to challenge the subsidies and tax breaks it gives the fossil fuel industry. In her interview for our ‘life lessons’ column, she says the thing that drives her is the injustice of the climate crisis: “Having your heart break in the face of the world is a really natural response and it’s not something to change or ignore, it’s something to hold on to.”

Image: Charlie Hyams

9. You need to try paiche and goldenberry 

Marsia Taha has possibly the best chef gig in the world. Her award-winning La Paz restaurant Gustu uses only Bolivian ingredients, which she sources on expeditions deep into the Amazon. There, she meets with some of the country’s 36 Indigenous groups to cook up little known (to us) ingredients using ancestral techniques that have never been written down. Things like paiche, a fish native to the Amazon that grows up to 3m long, with goldenberry, a plant in the nightshade family. In her interview in the new issue, she explains how bringing their ingredients to a national stage is bringing them new income streams and cultural pride.

Image: Patricia Crocker and Christian Gutierrez

10. Someone has started a Noah’s Ark for microbes 

We’ve all experienced the horror of the frost-burnt package buried in the freezer. Spare a thought, then, for Prof Adrian Egli. This microbiologist’s freezer contains poo, and lots of it. Due to our modern lifestyles, microbial diversity is rapidly declining in western societies, just as research points to their pivotal role in both physical and mental health. Egli has launched the Microbiota Vault, freezing human poo from remote pastoralist communities, to preserve fast-disappearing bacteria that could in future be thawed and cultured to treat disease.

Image: Hadynyah/iStock
Main image: Maisie Cohen

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