Hit & Run: Red hair? It's so this season
Tuesday 08 September 2009
As a child I used to get called "Duracell", "copper-coloured top", "ginger-nut" and "Orangina", admits Jordan Adams. "When I was a teenager groups of boys used to hang out of their car windows and yell at me, 'gingaaaaaaaaaaaaaaar!'"
There's little chance that Adams, a 35-year-old music teacher from Brighton, would have heard these "gingerphobic" terms bandied about at Roodharigendag (redhead day) in the Dutch city of Breda. The two-day event, which took place last weekend, is a gathering for people with natural red hair. The event, which started in 2005, was the brainchild of Bart Rouwenhorst, a 38-year-old Dutch scientist and a part-time artist who, to start with, wanted to paint 15 red-headed models. However, after placing an ad in a local newspaper, he attracted 150 models, and decided to photograph them all in Breda's town centre. The idea of a group photo featuring redheads snowballed in popularity and last year 2,000 of them from 20 countries were featured for the picture; around 3,000 turned up this year.
"Redheads always stand out and it's difficult to find a place in this world," explains Rouwenhorst. "This is a festival that celebrates difference."
But red hair appears to be fiercely fashionable. BBC2's preposterous Desperate Romantics focused on the Pre-Raphaelite painters and their adoration of redheads, Hollywood's newest sweetheart Amy Adams is red and proud, flame-tressed Lily Cole is arguably our "hottest" model and the third in line to the throne, Prince Harry, is a ginger. The increasing success of Roodharigendag – the festival is experiencing "100 per cent growth each year" – is another sign of a redhead renaissance.
"This festival is unique," adds Rouwenhorst, whose favourite redheads, for the record, are Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age and Meryl Streep. "The people don't come for somebody famous who has red hair, they come for each other."
Rousing stuff and it makes me, a reddish-head myself, want to break into "all we are saying is give redheads a chance". However, a lot of redheads don't feel the same way.
"The very notion of a redhead festival depresses the hell out of me," says 29-year-old Dan Sait. "I don't subscribe to this 'we're special' crap, either. As far as I'm aware I have no special ginger-witch powers, I just happen to have a hair colour that makes white van men want to throw empty cigarette packets at me."
James Spencer, a 37-year-old from Ipswich, concurs, pointing out: "I wish I'd thought of such a pointless way to make money." Rachel Drayson, a 29-year-old teacher from Surrey, is a little more relaxed about the idea, but confesses she "might be unnerved by my sudden non-uniqueness".
Bart, who is blonde, not ginger, points out that there is a little prejudice towards redheads in Holland, but maintains it appears much worse in England. Sait agrees: "As an English bloke with red hair I've certainly had to put up with way more than my fair share of random abuse but there's nothing I can do about it.
"As a kid the abuse was non-stop. Amazingly, at nearly 30 years old, I still, very occasionally, get people bellowing "Ginga!" from cars."
Perhaps it's time to follow Rouwenhorst's lead and set up a British Rood-harigendag. After all, if it can happen in the Netherlands, where only 2 per cent of the country has red hair, maybe it's only a matter of time until the Scotland (13 per cent) and Ireland (with 10 per cent) embrace the idea of a redhead celebration too. Here's to UK redhead day 2010. Ben Walsh
Cyber cat coup on the calendar
Cats coveting cheeseburgers with comically misspelt captions, cats coolly playing the piano and carefree cats in cute poses. The internet is crammed full of photos – and films – of felines. Sure, dogs have their online fans and even ferrets get some cyberspace, but cats are the true kings of the web. However, these ruthless colonisers are facing a coup that could see them ousted from the top of the tree. Popular blog Urlesque has declared tomorrow the 'Day Without Cats' online, and the campaign is gaining ground in the blogosphere. But really, what's the web without moggies? A hollow, hairless mockery. Roll on Thursday. R ebecca Armstrong
Why it's penknives at dawn for the Scouts
Be prepared: it's the famous Scout motto, coined by Robert Baden-Powell when founding the movement in 1907. But how does it apply to media firestorms? That's where half a million scouts find themselves this week with the news that they are not to carry penknives around. The advice comes from the May edition of the Scouts' in-house magazine Scouting, which warns against the impact of a series of "high profile fatal stabbings" in recent years. You see, traditionally Scouts were encouraged to be packing blades (under three inches and they're legal), to teach the importance of trust (in carrying a knife you have to exercise responsibility). Now, apparently, the implements are only to be allowed for "specific tasks" as leaders are worried about them being used for bullying. Presumably "specific tasks" doesn't mean shanking a competitor in the sack race, more sawing off a twig to roast a sausage (to get the coveted Camp Cook badge) or slicing rope (Sailing badge).
Except that the Scout Association is now claiming this press attention is just a storm in a Trangia-stewed tea cup. "We've always said that you need to carry knives only in appropriate circumstances; so if you're using them to cook something that's fine; but if you're appearing on stage in front of 300 people then that's clearly not," says the organisation's chief spokesman Simon Carter. Make up your mind, lads. What would Baden-Powell think of all this dilly-dallying? Rob Sharp
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