Tony Allen and Sophie Bunce chatted all things Concrete with two of our ex-contributors
Cameron Tucker: From Norwich to Sri Lanka and back again
With talk of the LCR, Pimp My Barrow and the Blue Bar pub quiz, chatting to Cameron Tucker was as ‘UEA’ as an interview can get. But I am well acquainted with the LCR and was most interested in his memories of Concrete, which conveniently, he was honoured to give.
After joining Concrete in 2011 he spent three years contributing to the Travel section. A few other societies caught his eye at the Freshers Fair, but perhaps, in his own words joining ‘the Cocktail Drinking Society of course (sorry, “Cocktail Making ”)’ was for different reasons. While at UEA he was also involved with Livewire and talked of trying to ‘emulate our beloved Greg James’ on the radio when presenting a range of entertainment, factual, and music shows.
He also fondly recalled the ‘the joy of taking over the airwaves with Livewire Award nominees Jamie Heath and Sam Day.’ Particularly the way that Jamie ‘always signed off, on a Sunday midnight, by playing the national anthem. Very BBC.’ Very UEA. As a society, Concrete opens a lot of doors for students, and the same can be said for Cameron.
He commented that he missed the first fortnight of third year ‘when completing a placement with The Independent. This was ‘an opportunity which came about through Karen Schaller of the School of LDC and Careers Central.’
It was encouraging to hear the experiences he had, as he was ‘in no doubt that the freedom Concrete gave me to choose my subjects and writing styles helped me get what was an eye-opening opportunity’ and lead to him being offered writing experience at Exploration Online. But what is he up to now?
‘Since gaining an MA in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Sheffield (2016), I have travelled the world as a writer and radio broadcaster. I have been on-air and online in Hong Kong, Sri Lanka, South Korea, and closer to home in London and Weymouth, for over a year. In May, I will be moving to Kent to join the KMTV team as a Video Journalist, covering the Tunbridge Wells patch.’ It turns out quite a lot. I was also keen to find out his views on the transition of the newspaper from 2011 when he first joined to how Concrete runs today.
Cameron commented that ‘The paper’s presence on social media has ballooned’, an aspect of the society which now plays a large role in its success. He comments that ‘When I first joined, I don’t think there was anywhere close to the 5,000 followers that Concrete now has on Twitter. I believe in the coming years there can be a similar transformation on Instagram.’
Cameron also puts this achievement down to the papers reach. ‘No story goes amiss from the sharp-eyed editorial team. Like all successful media outlets, Concrete knows its audience and appeals to them with a diverse selection of stories presented without bias. “There is also an engaging and easily accessible online platform to match.”
As the paper has battled the change from print to online content, Concrete has truly embraced the nature of multi-platform journalism. However, something I can very much relate to, was Cameron’s emphasis that ‘no feeling eclipses seeing your byline in print. I still have all my articles hoarded away in the attic, even though I can find them at a click of a button on the Digital Archive. It’s like the book versus Kindle debate; nothing can replace the feel, smell, indeed the whole sensual experience of holding a book. Same goes for picking up Concrete in The Hive.’
Cameron maintains that ‘while Concrete has successfully, and enthusiastically, joined the digital revolution, it should always stay true to its captioned and columned roots.’ I couldn’t agree more. With memories of ‘rounders outside the Terraces, Cards Against Humanity in the Plantation Garden, treading the boards of the Drama Studio, post-seminar pints with Dr Matthias Neumann and meeting the great Dr Geoff Hicks’ picking just one favourite moment from his time at UEA was a question Cameron could not answer. Instead, like any good journalist, he posed a question, “how many pages have I got?”
Talking Sky TV and musical instruments with Emma Murphy
Emma Murphy was Venue’s Arts editor in 2011-12, her final year at UEA. Throughout her degree, she was a regular contributor to Concrete’s Sport section, and wrote for the first ever edition of Venue in 2010. After graduating, Emma worked at Sky Sports before assuming her current position at Essex Music Services. She is a keen football fan, supporting West Ham, and has also written for and about non-league side Billericay Town.
Emma told us that she comes back to UEA “at least once a year if I can [and] I always grab a Concrete to read later.” She praised Venue’s redesigned format, commenting: “I love the new Venue! It’s really moved on as a separate piece and everyone involved in that transition should be really proud of what they have accomplished.” While at UEA, Emma took part in a variety of activities such as competing for the Dancesport team, including at Blackpool’s famous Winter Gardens. Emma also practised ballet, was a member of the Creative Writing Society and worked as a student ambassador. “I liked to be involved in student life and I have absolutely no regrets,” she reflected.
Getting into Concrete from her first year, Emma said: “I signed up straight away at the Fresher’s Fair in my first year at UEA; accosted the Music editor for a feature I had an idea for and wrote it that day. Being involved in Concrete was definitely one of the best choices I made during my entire time at university.”
She continued: “Derby Day was always something special; I was very closely attached to Concrete Sport by my final year and I loved covering Derby Day more than celebrating Christmas! However my absolute pride and joy was interviewing [boxer] Barry McGuigan. What an honour.” Emma revealed how her time writing for and editing Concrete has helped her career: “I cannot tell you the amount of times I have talked about it in interviews for jobs. The actual editing was inconsequential in the end – it was the organisational side of things, the managing a team of writers, deadlines, attention to detail. All of those additional skills are the things that have most impressed employers over the years.”
After graduating, Emma retrained as a sports journalist at college a short walk from the Sky Sports studios. Calling it “a really exciting time,” Emma secured several coveted internships at FourFourTwo magazine, The Sun’s Sports desk, and Sky Sports, which led to a job with the broadcaster.
There, Emma witnessed first-hand the continued gender disparity in sports journalism, remarking: “Unfortunately the gender gap was so severe, and the treatment so bad, that I am not a journalist anymore. I genuinely believe that if I had carried out all my work, my education and my training in exactly the same way I did, but had been outwardly male instead of female, I’d still be doing it and would have been very successful.”
Now, following on from her Concrete experience, Emma works as part of Essex County Council as Schools Instrumental Music Co-Ordinator. “It is my job to make sure that as many children in the county as possible have access to instrumental lessons and music-making opportunities, regardless of where they live or what their background is.” Having written for Concrete’s Music section and played the flute since age 8, her passion for the job is clear: “I recently bought a piano and started having lessons again and music formed a big part of my passion for dancing and the arts.”
Addressing current UEA students and those soon to graduate with an interest in journalism, Emma had this advice: “Be prepared to work hard, source your own opportunities and get proper training and accreditation. When you’re in it, is a fascinating, fast-paced and very exciting job, but it is very cut-throat.” She added: “Get as much experience as you can in as many areas as you can – you might surprise yourself where your strengths really lie!”