“Since this year’s SU elections, The Siren has been pretty quiet. Dissertations and assignments crept up out of nowhere, testing our minds (read: procrastination skills) to the absolute limit. A lot has happened in the month or so we’ve been gone, as Swansea Students’ Union continues to have more ‘scandals’ than I’ve had hot dinners. Then last night, some good news – Swansea University won ‘UK University of the Year’ at the What Uni Student Choice Awards, and came 2nd and 3rd in categories awarded to Best Students’ Union and Best Clubs and Societies respectively.
Considering our SU President is currently suspended, not to mention the bad press the Union has had this past academic year, these awards may have many people shaking their heads in disbelief. The awards are presented to the universities who achieve the most votes online, and so in all likelihood some will argue that those nagging emails we’ve been getting to vote in order to potentially win prizes (yes, I actually read those things) have led us to win, rather than our university’s merits.
Of course, these aren’t the only awards that Swansea University has received this year. At the NUS Wales Awards in March Sam Booth won Student Journalist of the Year, and we at The Siren picked up the Best Student Media Award in a category where SU-TV were also nominated. So why did we not write about this win as soon as it happened?
The compulsory award selfie – because you didn’t really do anything unless there’s proof of it on social media
I can only speak for myself but I was pretty deflated after our win. We received some really lovely comments from people at the event and also friends online who wanted to congratulate us for the win (metaphorical best response award I give Roisin’s all caps locked, expletive-filled text). In spite of all this encouragement, one tweet let me down. While it’s true that you should try to ignore internet haters and trolls, as these people would rarely have the courage to say these things without hiding behind their computer screens, this is easier said than done. Having blocked the user from our account I can only paraphrase what was said, but still I remember that one comment better than any other:
‘Anyone can nominate themselves for, and then win an award’
Why did this get to me so much, and not other charming comments such as; ‘No one read The Siren two weeks ago, and no one will read it in two weeks time’? , and my personal favourite from our Islamaphobic photo comment piece; ‘this is a pathetic excuse for a blog’. I did nominate us for this award, as I encouraged our other proofreaders and writers to do. People at these awards are often nominated by their corresponding Student Unions. The Siren, on the other hand, receive absolutely ZERO funding and official support from our Union (besides the transportation to the awards, before someone calls expenses scandal). So we had to nominate ourselves, as we do every year. How does this make our achievement any less significant? This need to justify our achievement, on top of personal attacks on writing style towards individual writers, left me holding a piece of paper which I felt was worthless. I was smiling on the outside, but inside I was telling myself how pathetic we were.
Yes, my writing style is emotive here. I mostly write comment pieces which employ this technique because this is how I like to write. I don’t want to gloss over how I felt, because sometimes this is the reality of being involved in a student media outlet that receives no official support. I try my best to be objective, but in the end, neither Natalie or I want to become straight-laced news journalists, so we create things that web ourselves would like to read. Ultimately this was one of the points the judges liked when looking at our NUS nomination, the fact that our writers work so hard for us but don’t necessarily come from a student media background. I’m done with apologising for our news coverage, or any of the other ways we choose to do things because the whole point of The Siren is to represent a different, more realistic student voice.
I’d tell anyone wanting to get involved with The Siren that the majority of writing we do is of a more opinionated, comment piece style, which often means divulging your own experiences and putting your own personal spin on things. Sometimes your views might be slightly wrong or misinformed, or people just won’t agree, and you will definitely get picked up on this. But remember you’re still just students – you’re literally meant to be learning things whilst you’re here, otherwise you just aren’t doing things right.
To anyone wanting to get involved with The Siren, (and I highlight ‘anyone’ because, yes, ‘anyone’ should be allowed to write and report on events at Swansea University, just like ‘anyone’ can nominate themselves for an award), now is the time to get involved. The vast majority of this year’s team are final year students – meaning that we need a brand new cohort of writers, proofreaders and editors if we want to continue next year.
There simply needs to be another media voice in Swansea, if not only to challenge popular opinion, but also to bring together like-minded individuals who want to have fun and write in their spare time. If it wasn’t for my involvement with The Siren, I wouldn’t have become such good friends with Natalie, who has been a constant support and inspiration to me. I wouldn’t have met the incomparable Roisin, a lady who’s gone on to do great things with her journalistic talent and will continue to do so. I also wouldn’t have met my boyfriend Laurence, and wouldn’t have been half of the most annoying twosome since Jedward. I’ve had wonderful support from Georgia and Sarah, our proofreaders (HOW HAVE WE STILL NOT MET YET GEORGIA?!?), and an amazing set of very talented writers who have helped us pull through when Nat and I felt like throwing the towel in.
Thank you to anyone and everyone who’s supported us and taken the time to read our articles. Long may it continue.”
Further proof that Zoe’s hair has been every colour of the rainbow since starting uni
“I started off writing for The Siren in 2012 and little did I know then that my little contribution to article-writing for the Literature section would eventually lead to a role as co-editor in my Masters year. Sometimes it was hard trying to keep up with things when exams and deadlines loomed closer and I feel incredibly lucky that I got to share this role with Zoe, who has been absolutely amazing in her role and always dedicated and on the ball with everything that’s been going on in this eventful year at Swansea University!
Is it something I would recommend to others? Absolutely.
The Siren has given more than just the opportunity to get writers’ pieces out there and have a shot at article-writing. It’s been more than just a little side-project to put on the CV. What it’s done is given a relatively shy girl a lot more faith and confidence in herself and a real insight into various aspects of life within the University that I’d previously overlooked, having been too busy sitting in JC’s working (ie.checking people out over books I wasn’t reading or drinking tequila for lunch…I do have a degree I swear).
Natalie did so well at Movember she put our male writers to shame
It’s been wonderful to work with so many different individuals each with their own unique voice in their article-writing or dedicating their time to proofread. The Siren has always been about letting students share their individual voice. And our award for Best Student Media at NUS Wales this year only confirmed for me what I felt– we’ve got a hardworking and committed team who volunteer their time to this because of their passion and not because they want financial gain.
I’m quite emotional about leaving. The Siren has been with me through “losing my open-mic poetry virginity”, some great festivals, gigs, dating experiments and postgrad life. It’s helped me meet interesting people and lifelong friends. It makes me sad that these are the final words I’ll be typing out for The Siren when it’s something I feel has grown with me through my final years at Swansea University. I’m sad not to be working with the team anymore. But one thing’s for certain. The Siren is going to some very capable hands and I feel certain it will continue to grow in success with a brand-new and talented team.
And if anyone asks me to reflect on my University days, The Siren will be one of the first things I’ll enthuse about.”