Before I launch in to an explanation of what happened at The Guardian Student Media Awards (still suppressing the urge to scream with joy whenever I say/type that), I would like to explain just how I came to be standing in The Guardian Offices on the 27th of November, with some of the most brilliant women I have ever met.
In July 2013, my friend John sent me a link to a website called Belle Jar. I spent most of the day browsing through the articles on the site, overjoyed that I had found a corner of the internet that I could relate to. Belle Jar declared that its aim as a website was to ‘smash patriarchal norms, one day at a time’, and I decided to be brave and send in an article for the editor’s consideration. I submitted my article ‘Why I need Feminism’, and held my feminist breath. The editor, Louisa, replied saying she would be happy to publish the piece, and invited me to join the informal writing group on Facebook; my tiny walnut heart cracked with joy. At the time, I was just discovering my own voice through the medium of this blog, and through studying feminist criticism as part of my Literature degree, and Belle Jar’s acceptance made me feel more confident about my writing.
Through writing for Belle Jar and sharing the work of the numerous writers that also contribute to the website, I have managed to form a firm, feminist, friendship with Louisa and co-creator Juliette. Our mutual dislike for misogyny has taken us to see incredible women like Malala Yousafzai, Mary Beard, and we have even been to the House of Commons. It is Louisa & Juliette’s originality, effort, and dedication to Belle Jar, that resulted in their nomination for ‘student website of the year’ at The 2014 Guardian Student Media Awards (and Louisa’s last minute entry in to the competition!)
When she received the news that she had been shortlisted, she invited Juliette & I to attend the ceremony with her (I proceeded to type all further communications in Caps Lock, whilst trying not to explode with gratitude and excitement). On the night of the event, we all met at Kings Cross Station to have a pre-awards catch up. The girls greeted me like old friends, and we were escorted to The Guardian Offices by Juliette’s sister, Erika.
I won’t deny that part of the excitement surrounding the ceremony was the knowledge that there would be free alcohol and food. However, the bigger attraction was being involved in an event hosted by The Guardian newspaper. I live in a county that generally promotes looks over books (decorating your vagina with diamantes is a genuine past-time in Essex, according to TOWIE), so attending The Guardian Student Media awards was an absolute privilege for me. It is difficult to express just how much I admire and enjoy the articles I read in this publication. I still find it hard to believe they let me in the building, let alone drain their white wine resources. Louisa and Juliette quickly greeted a few students who they recognised from their own Universities, before we made our way to the front to watch the ceremony. The evening was introduced by Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian. Alan kindly reassured us that we were ‘all winners’ due to our nominations, before handing over to Rick Edwards (T4 presenter/writer) who was charismatic, sharp and devastatingly attractive.
The winners were announced and unfortunately, we were not amongst them. However, Mr Rusbridger’s previous words of wisdom softened the blow, and we decided to use the rest of the evening to our advantage. I use the term ‘we’ loosely, Juliette and Louisa were fantastic networkers; I spent most of the time nodding and grinning, hoping that would mask just how overwhelmed/drunk I was. We managed to speak to one of the judges in charge of the website nominations, and she was extremely accommodating; praising the website and informing us that we were the only website of our kind to be shortlisted. She also pointed us in the direction of two of the writers who work for The Student section of The Guardian, who were really friendly and insightful. I did manage to speak coherently to two other students who had been nominated in the photography category, and we all walked the short distance to the after party at a nearby pub together, and proceeded to drink and chat the night away.
With Louisa & Juliette’s guidance and friendship, I have patched together my disconnected thoughts about feminism, which has ultimately transformed my approach to writing. Thanks to the success of this evening, I will always look to Belle Jar and The Guardian for inspiration and reassurance, (and the GIF below).
Here we are with our Bob cuts and business cards:
(Here is a list of all the winners from the evening too)