Category Archives: Redbrick

Send me on my way.

There are lots of things to consider when writing one’s final editorial.  So, when finally confronted with this inevitability, I looked back to Steve Jobs’ 2005 Commencement speech at Stanford University; the co-founder and CEO of Apple manages to perfect emotion and inspiration and led me to consider how with hindsight, we can connect the dots of our lives to see how the things we originally thought of as setbacks have propelled us to where we are meant to be today.

In first year, my father presented me with an unmissable opportunity. He had fixed a Guardian reporter’s car and as a result, was able to offer me an indispensable email address. I was immediately unsure what to do with it but after days of questioning myself – and severely undermining my confidence – I emailed that reporter and as a result, landed myself a week’s work experience. If I hadn’t conjured up the guts to email the reporter that day, I would not be writing this now and my adoration for journalism would not have been confirmed.

Another setback in confidence in second year saw me cross my name off of the Editorial Assistant interview list for Redbrick, before re-writing, re-crossing and eventually re-writing it again. This hindrance could have led to me not even interviewing for that position, let alone interviewing successfully. My lack of involvement would have disallowed me to progress onto the Deputy Editor role and as a result, it is deniable that I would be so certain of what I want to do with my life after graduation.

Redbrick is a magnificent society and most importantly, student publication. Determined to continually improve and innovate, all of those involved with the paper work daily to provide a platform and opportunity for student voices. I would like to say thank you to all of those who have made my time at Redbrick an incredible and inspiring experience. Exceptional thanks go to the Proof-Readers whose final editorials I have every faith in reading in a few years’ time…

But doing something you love has to be done with people you love and it is now that I should like to especially thank some of the great friends who Redbrick has allowed me to make. Micaela Winter, my co-female ally in the committee, your outstanding generosity has saved my sanity on many a Thursday morning. Likewise, Rosa McMahon, thank you for sharing this experience with me. We were in it together from the start and I’m proud to see how far both of us have come from that first Features meeting back in 2009. And finally, to my Editor Sam, to whom I should thank for tolerating my mood swings, encouraging my creativity and remedying my passion (also known as stress…). You have been so hard working and enlivening this past year, and your enthusiasm and ambition for the paper is true sentiment to its visible excellence. Never afraid to push the boundaries, you have propelled Redbrick to be more professional and sophisticated than it has been before and your abilities in inspiring those around you will allow for the paper to flourish in all of our absences next year. In the words of the Matilda Soundtrack (eh Sam!) I shall say ‘send me on my way…’.

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Redbrick Editorial: A Day in the Life of a Redbrick Editor…

With the Guild Awards attended, the AGM booked and this being the final issue of term, it felt an appropriate time to shed some light on what goes on in the darkened basement Redbrick Office. In recent weeks, Redbrick‘s name has appeared on Social media sites against some harsh comments and criticisms. I am the first to say that we delight in comment and contribution from our readers but some abuse received following an article in last week’s issue was particularly disdainful.

At Wednesday’s AGM, we will be hearing speeches from a record number of candidates for our Editor and Deputy Editor positions and I thought it important for the rest of our readers to realise what goes into producing a weekly 28 page Redbrick; I can assure you that it is more than a crossword and occasional spelling mistake…

As a Deputy Editor, I work alongside a Co-Deputy to organise the smooth running of the paper and support my Editor. We help to organise a large team of over 25 Section Editors, who themselves spend up to twenty hours (often more) in the Office every week assembling their pages. And this group of hardworking and dedicated people are not the only ones; the Writers, Proof Readers, Editorial Assistants, Arts Directors and Online team are all imperative.

The stages before going to print are many, and from the initial idea to the produced publication, there are at least ten stages to go through before the final article can be picked up on a Friday morning – and many more hours spent too.

Being a Redbrick Editor isn’t something that we do for fun, necessarily. Although the Office ‘banter’ and weekly whiteboard odds are enjoyable, I believe I speak on behalf of most of us when I say that the amount of care and passion that goes into the paper far exceeds the ‘fun’.

Our attendance at the Guild Awards on Tuesday summed up our affections with Redbrick. Whilst we mustered together two and a half tables full of people for the Awards ceremony (of which we were nominated for four awards), the Office downstairs had a significant number of Section Editors still working on their pages, putting together a twelve page Sports pullout, The Lion, and live-blogging a local Arts Festival.

The continued success of Redbrick is something that we all desperately want and work for every day. When I welcome in the new committee next Wednesday, I am sure that they will feel exactly the same way as I feel and they all already know the problems that Redbrick are facing next year due to cuts. I can only hope that our sense of adoration for the newspaper has made an impression on them and that they will continue our fight to keep Redbrick as it should be; ambitious, enjoyable and weekly.

Printed in Redbrick: 25th March 2011

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Redbrick Editorial: Apply Within

When the Guardian published an article at the beginning of November, claiming that graduate unemployment was at its highest in seventeen years, I admit that I felt a little nauseous.  As we currently survive in this destitute economic climate where even the most employable doctors and intellects are jobless and there are seventy applicants for some graduate jobs, my own career aspirations and thoughts about working in my desired profession after graduation seem increasingly pessimistic.

Yet, this week I stumbled upon a potential new age of recruitment whereby you inevitably succumb to the preferences of an undesired job.  Many of you may have noticed a group of attractive, slightly-cloned, chequered shirts wandering around campus over the past few weeks.  They have taken over the library, local nightclubs and even Fab last Saturday and are on the hunt for new ‘talent’ to work in their highly anticipated, new American store in the Bullring.  Yep, that one by the Bull, which, under corporate policy, booms music at 80 decibels and has been known to be adverse to you wearing a Poppy or a prosthetic limb…

I have noticed them indiscreetly checking out every person who walks past them, seeing if they have the looks to suit the store’s image, deeming skill and experience as blatantly unnecessary.  A friend, who has no retail experience at all, was scouted out a few weeks ago and offered a job as a Model in the new store.  She has since been for fittings and ‘meet and greets’ and has learnt that her role mainly consists of standing at the door and saying the ‘phrase of the season’ which is ‘Hey, what’s up?’, something which is totally alien to her but which she may choose to endure in order to maintain earning a living.

The point I want to raise is, in desperate times, are we susceptible enough to go to desperate measures?  And where have we got lost along the way to allow for presenting the ‘right’, but false, image for a job takes presidency over expertise and hard work?  The above example may be slight, but I wonder if this is a sign of our time.  In a world where any employment is surely better than none, are these modern ways of selling yourself out to say you’ve got a job – even if it’s not the job you want – going to take over?  Whatever happened to earning an honest living doing something you enjoy and have worked hard to achieve?

Being brought up on the notion that you graft in order to be successful and, having got myself in to thousands of pounds worth of debt to put ‘BA (Hons)’ after my name, I have never before considered being plucked from the crowd and given a job because of my face, body or clothes and I am certainly relying on work experience and proof of ambition on my CV to get me anywhere.  Yet it would seem that at a time when we are all facing potentially dire career prospects, a way in is to sell out

Printed in Redbrick: 3rd December 2010

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Redbrick Comment: How do you solve a problem like…

Misrepresentation

If we all sign up to live in a world where fast-paced button pressing is our main way of communicating, then surely we must be open to a little misrepresentation here and there.  The way that we live and learn today means that we set ourselves up for misconstruing the situation, taking something as it isn’t meant to be and misunderstanding intentions, leading us to perhaps believe caricature over truth.

We come across misrepresentation in our everyday lives, my most recent encounter being as a result of some illegal use of Wikipedia in an academic piece of work.  Apparently John Milton wasn’t alluding to flatulence when he introduced wind into his Paradise Lost descent into the Underworld…

But this is misrepresentation on a lowly scale; no one is following my every move and it hasn’t caused too much public outcry (apart from to my literature tutor perhaps).  My run in with misrepresentation is minor in comparison to broadcaster and writer, Stephen Fry’s, who denounced an article in which he featured for Attitude Magazine last week.  He suggests that his comments regarding female sexuality and women’s enjoyment of sex were highly misconstrued; through the spoken-word to written-sentence transition, they did not come across in the jovial, jolly, gay uncle manner that we would usually associate with the intellectual tweeting fiend. 

So how do we solve a problem like misrepresentation?

Perhaps we should try and be articulate and concise when it comes to communicating a message, checking and checking again before deciding upon something as being fact.  We should be more understanding that anything we read, especially online, could be falsification and should be taken with a pinch of salt.  Misrepresentation leads to huge misunderstanding and in order to avoid both, one should read open-mindedly, not jumping to conclusions and clinging on to the wrong end of the distorted stick.  Although I hate to admit it, maybe our tutors are right for scaring us off of Wikipedia due to the lack of accurate, scholarly authority; if recent stories of misrepresentation have taught me anything, it’s to go against Wikihow, pre-date Encarta 2000 and go back to the books and real encyclopaedias. 

Printed in Redbrick: 5th November 2010

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Redbrick Editorial; Debut as Deputy Editor

In a rather romanticised way, I am writing this first Editorial by candlelight in my new (but simultaneously very old) University bedroom. The lack of internet in the new house has reverted us all back to the days of Austen, with no tweeting, facebooking, poking or stalking. At the moment, my only means of internet are to shamelessly steal Redbrick Office time and run the risk of being fraped by sneaky Section Editors, or to sit in the shiny new Guild Reception and pretend to check my.bham whilst secretly entering the virtual social world…

It is this concept of social networking that has got me thinking this week. After seeing the highly anticipated The Social Network on Monday – and perhaps the absence of my own ability to have constant access to my Wall – I have come to realise just how reliant we as a student body, a young community and a society have become on social networking sites.  As becomes obvious in the film, Facebook has become an imperative tool for us to keep up-to-date, 24/7 with everything that’s going on with ourselves, our friends, our families and possibly even our enemies and exes.

We all do it. Well, over 500 million of us do. We tie ourselves up into these virtual and everlasting friendships with people we met once, we ‘like’ things we probably wouldn’t in real life and we tag and comment and create a whole new virtual life for hundreds of ‘friends’ to see whilst we hide behind a probably pretentious profile picture.

I am in no way mocking or degrading the Facebookers of the world – I am indeed one of them – but aren’t we all too embarrassed to admit just how addicted we are? Don’t we all secretly spend an hour or two a day scrolling through people’s profiles, stalking the occasional picture and wasting time, and then justifying our knowledge of everything and everyone with the staple quotation: ‘Oh yeah, I saw that on my mini-feed…’

Perhaps what made me laugh the most upon leaving the cinema, was a friend revealing that the first thing she did once the film had finished was look at her Blackberry and realise that she had four new Facebook notifications waiting for her attention. How this made the film all the more relevant and realistic and prove yet another ironic example of networking overload in a world where it is now more ridiculous if you don’t have a Facebook account; in a time when calling an old friend for a two hour-long phone call has become a quick text-speak conversation on Facebook Chat.

But whilst I may advocate that we have become an age of the networking obsessed, it is undeniable that social networking has become one of our strongest allies today. In a way, we are lucky to be of a generation where connecting and communicating with hundreds of different people is commonplace.

Over the summer, I spent my time flitting between various work placements and internships in London, meeting new people and making connections in the hope that one day I would be recognised and hopefully employed.

I’d like to think that I’m pretty socially aware. If University has taught me anything, it has been how to network and maintain relationships with people. I’ve learnt that it has to be done in order to get anywhere and I’ve somehow conjured the confidence to introduce myself to someone and make sure that they remember me. During these placements, the value of networking successfully and staying firmly on the same page as everyone else was taught to be essential so perhaps I owe a lot to our modern networking abilities.

Long gone are the days where you’d be fired if you were found to be on Facebook between the hours of 9 and 5. On some of my media-based placements, I was actively encouraged to be on Facebook all day and my superviser made me sign up to Twitter. Now, as well as revelling in a little Facebook stalking, it is all too tempting to actually ‘Follow’ people, although I admit that I am not a top tweeter yet.

Another new introduction was Linkedin.  Linkedin is, effectively, the Facebook of employment where you upload your CV, past experiences and job aspirations and link into companies so that they can recommend you. Now, no one can tell me that wasting my time on social networking sites won’t help me get a job because, actually, it could. As a final year living an imminently ending student life, getting oneself noticed and remembered in the employment realm of things is a big deal.

I feel that we have come to a point where we need to think about where the world is going to go from here. Another friend questioned what we would do without Facebook and what’s going to happen when we are married with children in thirty years time – will it still exist then? With a social networking site still to rival the international success and billion pound fortune of Facebook, is the next example of virtual insanity just around the corner or will we all wake up one day and realise that we need to take it back to basics?

If anything, my internetless University home has done wonders for my relationships at the start of this term. Although, admittedly, my housemates and I have bonded over Sky+ as our only connection to the outside world, the four of us have been sitting together most evenings talking and joking about our days and spending quality time with each other face-to-face and not from behind a screen facade.  No one has been locked away in their bedrooms on their laptops or sat in the living room with one eye on their homepage and the other on their mobile.  Having no access to social networking sites has improved my real life social connections, we even played Articulate the other evening, possibly a highlight of my University career so far.

So for all of Facebook’s wonder, modernity and relevancy it’s important to remember how we communicated before 2003.  I know that reverting back to pre-profile has been a breath of fresh air for me  and I’d encourage everyone to take a day or two off from the world of social networking.  Ironically, it forced me to see a lot more faces and books.

Printed in Redbrick: 22nd October 2010

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Redbrick Comment: Leave us kids alone

‘So where are you going?  Who are you going with?  When will you be home?’  These are familiar questions I’m certain most of us have heard.  The plight of concerned parents worried about us venturing into the big bad world alone is becoming more and more common.  I read an article the other day about parents who followed their travelling children around the world on their Gap Years.  Yes, you did read that right.  I also recently witnessed a girl sneezing and her mother calming her with tissues, mints and a carton of orange juice.  With ridiculous stories like these becoming ever present, it raises the question of how protective parents are becoming and if we will ever escape.

In the modern, cotton wool, politically correct world where kids can’t play in the mud in case they get dirty and teachers can’t tell off naughty children in case they upset them, it seems that it would be a crime for any of us to grow up and actually make a mistake.  I understand that we are our parent’s children.  They love and care for us unconditionally; it is their job to moan at us for spending too much of our loan on nights out and for sleeping all day when we ‘should be doing something productive’ but, they need to remember that we are all at least 18 now.  In the eyes of the law, we are adults; we can vote, get married and go to jail (hopefully not the latter!).  I believe it is time for them to back off a little and let us grow up and take control of our lives.  I want to make a mistake and learn from it, I want to go through a hard time to understand it; I don’t want mum to bail me out with the answer or dad to warn me of the consequences.

In reports of recent years, the ‘helicopter parent’ has become a new emergence, famous for hovering overhead and swooping down to rescue their young when needed. This new breed of parent is similar to the recently recognized ‘Lawnmower parent’, so-called for their ability to smooth out their children’s lives and mow down all obstacles. From UCAS forms to graduate job fairs, it is widely becoming known that parents are interfering too much.  Some universities have resorted to sending out ‘Parent Packs’ to advise of how to deal with a child leaving home and have recruited family liaison officers to help deal with any issues.  Some large companies have even had to deal with parents negotiating their graduate sons and daughters’ salaries!

While we laugh at the idea of a swarm of parents acting like predators to protect their offspring, it is actually a serious issue.  More and more parents are now joining up to Facebook, especially when their sons and daughters go to University, to keep tabs on what they are doing.  Luckily, I haven’t had any notifications telling me that my dad ‘liked’ the fact that I went to the library or that my mum commented on a picture of me in Gatecrasher.  But even without the net we are still slaves to what has been described as ‘the world’s longest umbilical cord’: the mobile phone.  Where the generation before us would have had to wait in line for a pay phone to call home once a week, we are contactable at the press of a few buttons, nearly all day every day!  We all love our parents dearly and appreciate all that they do for us but Ma, Pa, let us grow up and venture into the world ourselves.  We would love you even more if you were there to help us when needed and not control our lives totally.

Printed in Redbrick: 12th February 2010

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Redbrick Comment: Let’s Hall Be Friends

My name is Victoria, I’m a second year and last year I lived in Shackleton Hall. Thoughts?  Of course you have ideas, generalisations, probably a few stereotypes about what I would be like because of the place I lived last year.  Despite the chants, my dad doesn’t pay my fees and I’ve got a student loan.  I have friends who lived in Tennis Courts, Elgar and dare I say it, Mason.  Even a few from the Beeches and Pritchatts Park.  This year it would seem that your Hall of Residence, the place where you were randomly allocated to live, defines you.  Hall Rivalry has amplified for the Freshers of 09 with cruder chants coming from louder voices and having witnessed it first hand as a Hall Ambassador for the Freshers this year, I fear that the fun and banter  I used to enjoy and revel in may be being taken a step too far…

When I touched down in Shackleton this time last year, the patriotism and pride for it wasn’t half as strong and I believe it was similar for a lot of the other halls.  I didn’t even know who our RA were or what they did until the new one was elected.  But the class of 09 are already devout Shackletonians, living and breathing in not only the smell of Fusion food, but true love and admiration for their hall and now much admired President.  I think this is brilliant.  I enjoy the Hall spirit, the sense of belonging that most Freshers crave in their first few weeks of University and I believe this territorial outlook is necessary, to an extent.  The jokey chants that fly between Aitkin, Mason, Jarratt, Vicky Halls and the rest is amusing and the banter can be quite exciting.  It’s fun, it’s games and the healthy competition is a good way to meet and interact with people from different halls who you may not otherwise speak to.  In the first few weeks of Uni when you don’t know many people apart from your flat or block mates, revelling in a bit of hall on hall teasing is good and totally relevant.

But then you hear the rumours that a Fresher got egged by other Freshers from ‘opposing’ Halls.  And you hear gossip about those Tennis Court boys who urinated on Mason windows.  I was even confronted by a Pritchatts resident in Mechu on a night out who (drunkenly) made her opinions about the Vale and the ‘fat ugly’ girls who lived on it well heard.  Is this not ridiculous and a fine example of the step too far I was referring to?  Isn’t that dismissing the banter (yes I love that word) and really putting meaning to the ‘rival’ in Hall Rivalry.  I understand that in a jokey fashion we say things about other Halls and their residents but not seriously, on a night out in Mechu?!  And what does it matter anyway?  At the end of the day we are all here, studying for a degree at the University of Birmingham.  Aren’t we all in the same place? Won’t most of us move to Selly Oak after our year in Halls is up?  Shouldn’t we be making as many friends as we can rather than enemies with people who are exactly the same as us apart from their address?

The notion of the ‘battle of the halls’ is always going to be current, whether we like it or not.  I’m sure that Colourfest in a few weeks will see some fierce competition and hopefully some mutual fun for our Freshers.  I do believe it is entirely necessary to feel the Hall spirit and some pride for your Hall, but let’s leave it at that eh?  Let’s forget the aggression and enmity and make the most of Freshers year without eggs and confrontations.  I reckon we should hall just be friends…

Printed in Redbrick: 12th February 2010

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