A weekend of workshops, awards, and wonderful student journalism in Sheffield
By: The Gaudie Delegation
Report from #SPANC22
Friday – Recap by Anttoni James Numminen
Excited and a bit tired, three of us departed Aberdeen train station at 8am for our six-and-a-half-hour journey to attend the Student Publication Association National Conference 2022 in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
Though The Gaudie’s delegation was made up of five people, one was travelling from Edinburgh and the other from London. Luckily for those of us travelling from Aberdeen, we had a direct train to Sheffield, which allowed us to settle down and get some work done on the way. Thanks to a generous grant from the University of Aberdeen Development Trust and their great donors, we were able to attend the conference in the first place and also travel there sustainably and easily. The last time I or anyone from The Gaudie was able to do something similar, was for the SPA regional Scottish Conference in Dundee in 2019.
In addition to working on essays, we also decided to create a special Bingo sheet for the Conference. Most University of Aberdeen students will have come across The Gaudie’s famous Bingo sheets for the Students’ Association AGM, which was also the model for this sheet.
Clearly, it was time well spent, as our Bingo sheet was featured in the SPA’s email newsletter, its Twitter page, and even got a mention at Saturday’s awards ceremony!
We finally reunited as a team in Sheffield, with four of us meeting at the train station and then heading to our modest yet comfortable accommodation on the other side of the ‘Steel City’.
Photo: 4/5 have arrived. Courtesy of Rory Buccheri.
After a brief rest and a trundle through the town, enjoying the architecture local ales, and selection of bubble tea, we headed to Sheffield Students’ Union for the first event of the conference: a friendly get-together in the form of a journalism-themed pub quiz and karaoke night.
Though our Granite City Gaudie-team didn’t win the quiz, we proudly represented Scotland during the Karaoke with a rendition of The Proclaimers’ I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by the whole team.
But as the responsible people we are, we headed back to our accommodation for a good night’s rest, ready and fresh for an early Saturday!
Saturday – recap by Amy Smith and Isabelle Hampton-Zabotti
Amy: The first full day of panels and talks at SPANC 2022 saw many student journalists learning and interacting with industry professionals. I was fortunate enough to attend five of these talks and while I will not speak about all of them, I want to thank everyone who attended and was willing to give up some of their weekend to attend and help us grow and learn in the industry. Additionally, I want to thank the Development Trust Fund for making this trip possible.
Perhaps the most interactive panel of the day came from PA Training, who taught us how to interview during a press conference. PA staff member Sean role-played a distressed veteran who lost their dog during a house raid, and this interactive talk got the students to pretend to be reporters, trying to figure out the story. It was a clever way of getting us to engage and learn as we go, rather than telling us the information.
Another talk that I loved was the Freelance panel, with a range of guests from different sectors and niche topics. As someone planning to go freelance in the future, this panel was very informative and gave great advice when it comes to pitching, commission prices, and how to find opportunities.
Photo: Olivia and Rory are ready to start the day.
Additionally, Saturday had an hour-and-a-half break between panels to talk to other student journalists across the UK and exchange copies of our publications. It was great to talk to different students and see the incredible work they did, all before coming together to celebrate our hard work at the awards ceremony that evening.
Isabelle: I also attended a number of really interesting and exciting workshops and seminars from advice on how to craft the perfect CV to being a great editor. I found the CV workshop especially useful as Jem Collins of Journo Resources gave wonderful advice on where to find job adverts, and how to stand out with CVs and cover letters. It also covered applying for different types of roles from communication and press officer jobs to news journalism, as well as addressing the different types of qualifications that might be needed or useful when applying for those roles.
Finding out about the variety of free newsletters and websites with journalism jobs was particularly handy to find out about, and will definitely be useful in the future!
Awards Ceremony, Saturday – Recap by Olivia Smith
On Saturday evening came the event that we had been looking forward to with a fun little cocktail of excitement and nerves: the SPA awards! The moment when student journalists from all over the conference come together to celebrate their peers’ finest work.
Always happy for an excuse to party, The Gaudie team put on our glad-rags, grabbed the champagne and said a quick prayer to the journalism gods before heading for a hard-earned celebration.
Photo: The Gaudie team heading to the awards ceremony!
The mood of the evening was festive, with a sense of relief that we could once again gather in person, and the mood only heightened as the awards were given (even if not everyone was there to receive them).
Much to our delight, one of our newest writers Anasuya Virmani was awarded Best Political piece for their report on how Poland is handling the Ukrainian Refugee Crisis (their first article).
Though the six other Gaudie nominations which had been shortlisted and were up for award did not win, we were hugely proud of the work that the whole team had done, especially in expanding coverage thanks to the UoA Development Trust’s grant.
Editors-in-Chief Amy and Anttoni accept the award on behalf of Anasuya and The Gaudie, from Aubrey Allegretti (left) and Jem Collins (right). Simon Dewhurst/SPA
As the night progressed, speeches were drowned out by cheers, tears were shed, and astonishing achievements were given their due. Among the notable winners (although everyone at this conference is notable) were Kindred Magazine who at their first awards took home the award for Best Newcomer Publication and Manchester’s Mancunion won the coveted Best Publication (the SPA’s ‘Best Picture’ equivalent). It was a night of heightened emotions, but thankfully unlike some other award shows I could mention, we were spared the drama!
Sunday – Recap by Rory Buccheri: “Sunday Funday…and election time”
Of the three conference days, Sunday was the most relaxed for The Gaudie team. We went for breakfast in the morning, and we had a chance to walk around the city before attending the SPA AGM at noon.
At the AGM, our Co-Editor-in-Chief Amy Smith ran for Communications Officer against one of the current SPA executives.
Amy brought up how important it is to ensure communications are effective both with internal and external parties, and she passionately highlighted the functional aspects of current Comms and what can be improved in the future.
The final result was a close call, but it saw the current exec being elected.
The majority of people running were already involved in the SPA, and with the exception of the Training position, all people previously involved in SPA were re-elected.
It was good to see the Sponsorship candidate bring up diversity and representation in her speech. An alumnus of Forge Press (the University of Sheffield paper), suggested that sponsorship money in the future go to opportunities that champion inclusion, such as diversity bursaries.
The Diversity Bursary
Once the AGM was over, I joined a smaller group of people involved in the Diversity Bursary, of which I was a recipient this year.
We discussed the future of the bursary, how it can be expanded next year, and what we benefitted the most from.
Having been personally involved in The Gaudie in different roles for 4 years, I was looking forward to attending my first SPA conference. Unlike many other papers across the country, The Gaudie is currently relying on limited funding, which meant that only a selection of people could be sponsored, but the UoA Development Trust was able to help with funding the team’s attendance.
Thanks to the SPA bursary, I could afford travel and other costs of the conference without breaking the bank. It was fantastic to be able to do this, as I often feel that possibilities for underrepresented backgrounds could do with a lot of improvement in the industry. In this regard, the SPA really set a good example.
The bursary itself is a fantastic opportunity for your personal growth. You learn so much by attending the talks, and you get to share fantastic moments with other young journalists.
Also, it is a great opportunity to change how the industry works. We need more diverse voices, shaping the debates during conferences, making their voices heard...and simply thriving when sometimes it is difficult to do so. SPA has done a wonderful job in providing that prolific space.
Photo: Merch from the conference. AJN.
After a quick lunch, we sped to the train station to catch our train at 14.20… After a short and light day of fun and networking, it was now time for a long ride back home to Aberdeen!