2016 review banner

2016 in review

2016 review banner

It’s 31st December 2016, which means that it’s the end of another year. There’s been a lot of talk about the awfulness of the last year, particularly concerning deaths and politics, but I want to look back at the personal positives, month by month.

BBC Broadcasting House at NightJanuary – although it seems like a distant memory, I kicked off 2016 with a tour of the BBC with Media Society, where the people were so bright and cheerful that I knew I wanted to work there. I also wrote a LOT of articles for the Orbital and started doing radio on Thursday mornings. The month ended in Wokingham at the CU Weekend Away, which was a refreshing break.

Louise Jones and Beth Carr, Orbital Magazine award winners
Photo Credit: Laura Denham

February – again, February is very long ago! I used the lack of presenters on Valentine’s Day to do a Valentine’s special of Entertaining History and finished my day off by watching Bridget Jones’ Diary for the first time. However, my ultimate highlight of February, and perhaps my year, was winning Best Journalist for The Orbital at Societies Ball.

March – the month of my 20th birthday and lots of other cool things too! I was in the band for Pirates of Penzance by the Savoy Opera Society and I got elected to the position of Head of Training for Insanity Radio 103.2FM. I also went to my first Student Radio Conference in Cardiff, which was amazing fun, and built a TARDIS out of Lego.

Tim and Beth on Let Them Hear with Lizzy FretwellApril – revision is my main memory of April but I also cut my hair off to raise money for Evelina London and donated the hair to the Little Princess Trust to make wigs for children. Tim and I also successfully applied for a Christian radio show on Insanity Radio 103.2FM called Let Them Hear, which is still going!

May – exams always overshadow May but there were some good points too! Let Them Hear continued and a particular highlight was Tim doing the show solo while I was in an exam. I also gained a position on the editorial board for the Orbital as Deputy Arts Editor, which I had been hoping to achieve for six months.Beth Carr in the Insanity studio

June – so many great things happened this month! I attended the first Interfaith Ball in the Royal Holloway Picture Gallery with lovely friends from CU and amazing tiny bowls of food. I masterminded the pre-recording and summer holiday schedule for Insanity that secured us enough content to cover the whole summer. I started my two regular shows at Coastway Hospital Radio and aired a special show for International Scoliosis Awareness Day on Coastway and Insanity Radio. I also got the chance to cover the EU Referendum for the Argus newspaper, doing my first all-nighter to cover the count in Horsham. Oh, and we saw Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!

July – the first full month of a long summer saw a new job unpacking and plugging in computers and my first major work experience at Create Productions as part of the Royal Holloway Placements Scheme. It was also the beginning of being part of the regional SRA Training Day, alongside Smoke Radio from Westminster.

Selfie with Paul Layzell
Credit: Paul Layzell

August – my dad retired and we went on a short holiday to Bournemouth (I ate a three course meal outside of my own house for the first time in years and I was so proud). I did have the slight misfortune of trapping my finger in a car door but that pales into insignificance compared to the amazing week I had as a small part of leading R4@Woolie! I also went back to the Science Museum for the first time in AGES and it was amazing.

The Insanity/Rhubarb team with the QuarterlightsSeptember – I met Paul Layzell and the Quarterlights, celebrated a whole year with Insanity, interviewed Alex Manzi on the eighth floor of BBC Broadcasting House: if there was one month that shows how amazing student media is then this is the one! I also started my third year with courses that I really enjoy.

October – one of the hardest months as I struggled with anxiety and depression but also one of the most amazing. I met rising star Tom Walker, saw #SRADayLondon turn out amazingly, and joined a brand new family: Voices of Holloway! A Night At The Theatre was a great experience and the following week I went to Come In Your Socs (which is the societies club night at the Students’ Union) with three societies (I started at Voices, then Insanity, then actually arrived with the Orbital but mixed around once we arrived)

Credit: Student Radio Association
Credit: Student Radio Association

November – I kicked off the month at home for a well-earned rest, but also went to the wonderful Sorted, which was a spiritual recharge and accidental R4 reunion. The following week was the SRAs, where we didn’t win but had a fun time together as a radio station, and then the rhubarbTV Training Day, which was a fab day learning about all things broadcast and something Jon and Catriona (the organisers) should be very proud of. It ended with another CU Weekend Away too, both productive and restful. I also started my podcast, ‘Doctor Who and the Dissertation’.

Nativity castDecember – the month just gone has been as busy and good as all the others. I’ve had the Voices of Holloway Christmas Concert, multiple Christmas meals, R4 reunion, the Unscene Festival, Create work experience for the second time, chances to see friends from slightly far, the Let Them Hear Christmas Special with added audio drama, work, rest, study, relax, seeing family…

Of course all of the events above don’t count the wonderful friendships I have made and maintained over the year. From those who have been there for years and years to those who I’ve only just had the pleasure to meet, this year has been one I wouldn’t have got through without your love and support. I couldn’t possibly list everyone for fear of accidentally forgetting anyone so I hope you all know who you are!

Ballot boxes arriving in Horsham

Blogmas 9: #EUrefSussex

You may have noticed that before the influx of posts for Blogmas, my blog has been pretty empty over the last few months. This does not mean that I haven’t done anything, maybe more the fact that I have done a LOT and have been too busy to update it with news of what has been occurring. Today I wanted to look back on the Referendum on membership of the European Union in Britain and the exciting things I did over the election night.

The EU Referendum took place on 24th June 2016, a week or so after I moved back home for the summer. I am part of the Student Publication Association Facebook group and a mild acquaintance (We’ve never actually met but I’ve heard fantastic things!) posted about opportunities to cover the election with The Argus, my local paper. I sent a speculative CV over to the contact and thought little of it but, to my surprise, got a reply asking if I was able to drive over to Horsham to cover their election count. Although I’m veering away from a career in journalism, I thought it would be a great opportunity and something I would be unlikely to get the chance to do.

On the night, my role was to live tweet the Horsham count and then write an article about the result for publication in their election special the following day. It was my first ever all-nighter and one of my first night/morning drives, but it was a great experience. As a 20 year old ‘workie’ I was the only member of the press in the press gallery and struggled to find anyone official to speak to, save the organisers of the count and a few prominent campaigners in the area.

The live tweeting of the event was my clear strength over the evening and you can relive all of the action over the night on my Twitter moment ‘#EUrefSussex – Horsham’. Getting my name and face in the local paper was pretty cool too, even if it was only 10 words of my own work – the experience definitely showed me that I don’t want to deal with the harsh, fast editorial world if I can avoid it.

EU Referendum Live – Horsham

Today the UK have gone to the polls to decide whether we should leave or remain part of the European Union, the first referendum of its kind since 1975, when the same question was posed over the EEC. Overnight, ballot papers will be sorted and counted, with results being announced from 399 counting places .    the close of polls at 10pm and 7am, when the last areas are expected to declare. The overall result will be announced from Manchester tomorrow morning.

Already billed as a historical event for the country, many national and local groups will be up all night, reflecting on the event and speculating on a result where, for once, every vote counts – the local figures are combined to create a national figure for leave and remain, rather than simply counting the result from area to area as in the General Election. I am excited to be involved in reporting the action for the Brighton Argus and I will be based at the Horsham count, helping them bring results to readers from across Sussex. I will be tweeting all night and a report of the result will be printed in Saturday’s paper.

You can follow the action on the Argus website, by following #EUrefSussex on Twitter or via my personal Twitter @escarr15.

And please, if you haven’t voted yet, go out and make your voice heard. Don’t let your indecision cause the wrong decision.

Elections and campaigning

Today is the day of Police and Crime Commissioner elections, local council elections, and elections for the London mayor. Next month will see the EU Referendum, where the UK will decide whether to remain part of the European Union or become independent from it. A year ago, on the day of the General Election, I wrote a post on my blog entitled ‘Facebook and political campaigning’, which was a very in the moment response to the amount of friends who were posting about their political affiliations on social media. However, in the last few months I have been heavily involved in campaigns for student elections, where much of the campaigning is online. How far have I contradicted my own words from last year?

“Political campaigning has no place on social media, unless it is for the purpose of encouraging the act of voting” – I was vaguely part of two campaign teams during the Students’ Union officer and media head elections, strongly sharing my support for the candidates I believed to be the best on Facebook. I did this via text posts, in which I also explained the reasons why I had chosen to back that candidate, and added profile pictures and cover photos which showed who I supported. I also aimed to encourage people to do their own research and vote in elections which they may otherwise have not have known about (in the case of the media head elections particularly). There’s no doubt that my words last year have become hypocritical, but the SU elections are a particularly grey area. There was no physical campaigning for the media head candidates, leading the campaigns to be solely based online and via word of mouth. My investment in the media outlets on campus meant that I was very keen to get my favoured candidates elected and so I was active on social media, but had this been a national election I would not have been as vocal on social media.

“I am becoming increasingly irate at the multiple posts from people blatantly promoting their political affiliations” – This is very true. I don’t want to see a news feed full of Vote Labour/Vote Conservative/Vote Green etc. posts! They get aggressive and that is not encouraging for anyone else to read who holds different political views. In local and general elections the opportunity arises for physical campaigning and I feel that this is the better way to gain support from the electorate. In fact, even during the SU elections I found it more helpful to see manifestos in paper form than online. Actual political party affiliations are best kept outside of social media.

“By all means use your right to vote, in fact I implore you to do so” – If this is the only thing you take in from this post, please take the opportunity today to vote in whatever elections are going on around you! People died so that a wide spectrum of the population can have a say in who represents them in government. Whether it’s a Police and Crime Commissioner, a Borough Councillor or the London Mayor, please take the opportunity to vote.

Although I may have not listened to my own words, please take care on your usage of social media around the election season. Be open to those with other political views and make sure that the idea of voting is at the forefront of any campaigning you do.

World Press Freedom Day

On my noticeboard I have a calendar that highlights certain national and international days of interest, and this morning I noticed it was World Press Freedom Day. I did not know a thing about this at the time, but I do understand the importance of the freedom of the press, so in addition to briefly explaining this important international day, I think it would be worth sharing a few thoughts on press freedom.

Set up by the United Nations General Assembly in 1993, World Press Freedom Day is designed to celebrate press freedom and its fundamental principles as well as examine how free the world’s press is, defend those in media whose independence is being attacked and remember those journalists who have died in service. The specific date has been chosen to mark the anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration of 1991, a statement of principles for press freedom collated by newspaper journalists from Africa, where there were many problems facing print media. The day also involves an international conference, held in a different country each year (and sometimes on a different day depending on when May 3rd falls in the week), where media professionals, organisations and agencies from the UN assess how free the world’s press is, normally associated with the theme of the conference, this year entitled ‘Access to Information and Fundamental Freedoms’. Since 1997, it is also the day on which the UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize is awarded to someone who has made an outstanding contribution to defending or promoting press freedom in the face of dangerous or difficult circumstances. This year’s winner is investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, who is currently imprisoned in Azerbaijan for her work as an investigative journalist. You can find out more about Khadija, the day and events surrounding it on the UNESCO website.

Student journalism has been known to be quite restricted and subject to censorship by SUs, particularly surrounding election coverage. Of course, this is by no means comparable to the intense threat to press freedom elsewhere in the world and we certainly do not end up in prison for anything that we produce. However, there are definitely steps that can be taken to make the student press more free. This year’s NUS Conference saw the passing of Motion 314, a motion described by the Student Publication Association as safeguarding “fair, accurate and vital coverage to student union elections” (You can read more on the SPA website). This looks to ensure that student media can provide content that make the incoming officers more accountable and provide fair coverage of SU elections to their readers, who are of course the sole electorate. The Huffington Post wrote a good article on this, entitled ‘We Need to Encourage Free Speech at UK Universities, Not Silence’ and I would strongly encourage reading this via the link. It must be remembered though that SUs do act in the interests of the organisation and of students: many censorship measures were in place to ensure that the media does not favour one candidate over another and the importance of a free but fair press should not be overlooked. This goes for all forms of media, not only print but broadcast media, and avoiding libel and malpractice can be as easy as educating yourself on the law and what can and can’t be said by the media, particularly during elections. I therefore want to end this post with a video produced by Jon May, the Media and Development Co-ordinator at Royal Holloway, outlining Student Media Law for the May elections and EU referendum this year.

Let’s celebrate the free press that we enjoy in the UK and strive to maintain its freedom across the world, not only on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day but at all times.