Archive for September, 2010

Meeting of Minds

September 17, 2010 Leave a comment

This week we had the first editorial meeting of the year.

This issue has gone very badly.  Many pages of material were not handed in, with some of the culprits not even bothering to apologise or explain, leading to hasty re-writes.

Not an auspicious start to the year.

Beyond plans for the next issue (if Features keeps mocking my planned sci-fi expo piece , I’m going to have something bad happen to him) two big announcements are that both I and the Editor are leaving.  She wants to leave after Christmas, to concentrate on her third year, while I’m heading out ASAP to work on the radio station like I always planned.

So, if you have excellent English, or think you can do the top job, feel free to apply.

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Bins, Bins, BINS!

September 10, 2010 Leave a comment

Dropped into the SU office this afternoon for a bit of business and guess what had arrived…our placement bins!

Here’s one all wrapped up, just to get your attention.

And here’s the front view of one out and loaded up with our end of year issue…

And a nice side view to show it off.

I  love it – it’s lean and elegant, like it should be.  Look to these turning up at all major access points!

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The Off-Cuts – Part 1

September 6, 2010 Leave a comment

Not everything written gets into the magazine, especially under the old regime.  Three issues were written, even though they were not printed – and some of those were my favourite bits.

So here’s a piece from the archive – a column I wrote for the start of last year.  I had hoped to get it into this issue, but we’re cutting down on regulars, on account of already having loads of them.

So here it is: Mature Students.

The Verve is all about the new people this month, all those people flooding in for the new academic year.

Of course, there’s something we’re forgetting here. Amidst all the incitement to get hammered (or, as I like to call it, ‘networking’), collect sexual conquests and blow the student loan on household goods you never knew you needed, one thing is being forgotten.

Old people.

Or, as the term is nowadays, ‘mature students’. I’m not quite sure if that’s to stroke egos, or imply that older students smell like an adventurous cheese.

Either way, I’m here to tell you what’s useful from an older point of view; where to go if you prefer The Clash to Puffy Diddler or whatever the kids listen to nowadays, what it’s like in class and where’s good to eat. You can thank me with beer.

After all, things are a different on the other side of the age gap. When it comes to pubs you actually want to leave at chucking out time; in the clubs you’re more Granny Smith than forbidden fruit and in the classroom, the desire to learn can feel over-enthusiastic.

Throw in the hyperactive pace of teenage life and all of this can leave a mature student feeling like they’re caught in a whirlwind. That is, if whirlwinds were constantly on the phone to their friends about something or other.

Point is, we oldies need things a little different. Coming back to uni after spending years in the Wide World of Work can feel like coming back to secondary school – and not in a good way. A lot of secondary school behaviours still apply here, most annoyingly cliques. Yes, you’re trapped in a Teen Movie and you need to get out.

Which conveniently brings me to my favourite subjects; eating and drinking. If you’re in North Campus, head out and up Holloway Road. It’s packed with great food places of all kinds – Caribbean, African, Chinese, Greek, Turkish, Indian…the list goes on. Amici (spotted up and down Holloway Road) make the best cappuccinos. And if you nip up the back, by the science building, there’s a Chinese café opposite Arsenal’s entrance.

If you prefer a more heh, liquid lunch, head out past the overpass, again up towards Seven Sisters. On your right is the Coronet, a Wetherspoons with no music and lots of old men Waiting For God. Past that, further up and on the left, is the rock bar Big Red. It’s a place where you can spend more on the jukebox than drinks and there are pool tables for everyone. Try the nachos.

If you need to pick up some food or goods before going home, Morrisons, Argos and Waitrose are on the way to Seven Sisters Road. Tescos lurks near the Highbury and Islington station and stashed up the side of Stapleton House. Getting cash is a pain – free machines are outside the Rocket, both Tescos and at Santander bank, just past Morrisons.

I haven’t been to the city campus much (twice in the last year or so), but the Hoop and Grapes on Aldgate High Street is a good pub, both for beer and food. Fortunately it does special beers at cheaper-than-average prices. Most importantly there’s a Weatherspoons a stone’s throw from Tower Hill underground.

Inside the classroom, things are a little different.

One problem I constantly rubbed up against was the silence in classes. Most students won’t say much at all if they can get away with it, especially in Year One when everything’s still new. After all, they could be embarrassing themselves in front of people they fancy. But the great thing about being mature (cheesy?), is that such concerns died off years ago. Say something. Break the ice. Even if they don’t follow your lead, you’ll get marked out as someone who is willing to step up – and a good tutor will tell you to shut up if you dominate too much. Mine did.

If there are other students who don’t like you hogging the limelight, they’re welcome to get involved too. There’s an old line about how the young know everything and the middle-aged suspect everything and I quite like being suspicious of definite statements and positions. I’m not against trying things out – anyone who’s heard stories from my sex life knows that – but being older and more open-minded really does improve the learning experience.

The last big thing about life as a greybeard in London Met is that you’re not alone. The university takes in many older students, all of them wondering if they were just as bad at that age and whether they have the stamina to do it all again. My advice is do what you want; just don’t overdo it.

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Why Should I Care Who Jack Is?

September 6, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve just had an email land in my editorial inbox from something called ‘Who’s Jack’.

Honestly, I don’t care enough to read and find out.  Because this, kids, is how you do not market something.

What do I mean?  Well, I’m a editor for a London university’s student mag.  Mostly I improve other people’s spelling and language, occasionally I write.  Often I spend my time talking stuff through with our esteemed editor about members of staff and planning how to survive if/when our budget gets cut out from under us.

I already read a lot – I go through papers, blogs and even some magazines, so when I get something coming my way, I’d expect there to be a reason for it.  But not in this case – and worse, it has a cover featuring of Jedward.

Not only did I suddenly lose interest, but I puked over my keyboard.  (The ‘(‘ sign now has carrot stuck under it.  This is Jack’s fault, whoever Jack is).

Because I don’t care about Jedward.  I barely cast half an eye over the West End as it is.  And my idea of cool clothing is T-shirts with one-liners on them.  Most of my magazines come with political jokes, hot goth chicks, exotic recipes or pictures of Spock on the cover, not some gurning muppets with known only for their ‘There’s Something About Mary’ hairstyles and for ruining the Ghostbusters theme tune.

And I don’t know why I’m receiving this, because there’s absolutely no message or comment with it.  Am I receiving this because I may want the work?  Because, as someone in the game, I would show solidarity at their effort?  Because I live in London and like to go out?  Because someone signed me up?  Because I might want to appear at an upcoming Jedward event with a pickaxe and matching bodybags? Why, damn you, why should I care?

Answer, there is none.

But the point about this isn’t about them – it’s about us.  The first rule of marketing is to know something about your customer.  If they don’t have a reason to care about your product, they’ll be angry at the intrusion (where did they get my email, anyway?).

If they weren’t the kind of people who could be hooked in, you’ve just wasted time on a non-customer.  When we discuss content there’s always the thought behind everything of ‘why would students care about this?’ Sometimes it’s practical, like how to houseshare without killing each other.  Sometimes it’s about important changes to the uni, like the 3 modules piece.

And sometimes it’s because we’re undergrads and should show some intellectualism, damn it.

And when we pimp the resulting mag, we do so on student groups.  I’m not saying our marketing’s great (mostly because I think ‘non-existent’ is a more accurate term’), but we try to get it out to people who, like us, will care.

Because it doesn’t matter how much one writes; one is nothing without an audience.

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New Year, New Challenges

September 5, 2010 Leave a comment

Well, we’ve made it to the second year of publication.  Well, the second half of the first year, seeing as nothing was published under the old regime.

As I write, submissions for Issue 4 have been coming in,.  I’ll check them, the design team will lay them out and I’ll sub them again, just to tidy up.  Our writers are good, given how English is usually their second language, but…well, it’s their second language so there’s always something to tidy up.  Quite frankly they do pretty damn well.  On the other hand, one of the biggest errors in last month’s issue came from a native English speaker!

We’ve got a banner for the Freshers Fair – I saw the near-final image yesterday and it looks very professional.  We’ve been pretty blessed when it comes to designers, given the small and new nature of the mag.

This semester is going to involve a lot of tidying up.  We have a new (and disturbingly well organised) Communications Officer and as it’s most of our final years, we need to find replacments (ever wanted to be Dep. Ed, Sub Ed and Writer?  Email me now at to reveive your long hours and blearly eyes!)

We’re also going to be looking a lot of processes this semester.  We’d like to avoid the claims of ‘bad journalism’, the threatened legal action and assocaited stress this year…but that’s a subject that deserves it’s own post.

It’s going to be a long and tiring year, with the added stress of passing things on, but if we do it right London Met gets to keep a high-quality source of info and entertainment.

And that’s what it’s all about.

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