Illustrations by Rachel Macnaghten
Introduction by Jacob Reid
Jeremy Clarkson likened column writing to gas – “it fills the available space”.
Colleagues from other papers might agree. The print deadline is fast approaching, there is an ominous blank space on page seventeen, and left with no choice, the editor-in-chief comes knocking. “Please can you get me eight hundred words from a columnist? Within the hour would be great, thanks petal.”
But The Oxford Blue does not come in physical form. We do not have blank spaces to fill, we don’t have a page seventeen, and Zaman and Andrew do not call me petal.
Nevertheless, I think Clarkson was on to something.
During the interviews, Oliver shared his ambition to do some on the ground reporting from the Middle East. Sophie gave me the strong impression of someone whose notebook of musings and rambles could fetch millions at auction. Jade’s passion led me – usually not a potty mouth – to agree that what she was discussing “boils my piss”. Carol made me laugh, Laura made me relate, and Meg showed me life from another perspective.
The “available space” in this columns section is as big as their collective interests, experiences, hopes, fears, beliefs and styles.
That’s pretty darn big.
I can’t wait for you to get to know each and every one of them.
Must Read Voraciously to Improve Style by Sophie Benbelaid (Tuesdays)
Hello, I’m Sophie (she/her), a soon-to-be third year French and Russian undergraduate student at New College, and I’m a bookaholic. Usually, you’d find me traipsing about with a canvas bag containing at least one book and on the hunt for many more… but now I’m stuck behind a laptop, desperately trying to make my big escape to Moscow for the first leg of my year abroad. Bookworm that I am, my column – “Must Read Voraciously to Improve Style” – is inspired by a *particularly* encouraging comment from my tutor’s report (I’m over it, I swear). Every week I will write about the real-life applications we can draw from books and how our style can be improved with a little nudge from them. Expect some Austen, some Bronte, some Proust and Tolstoy (pending the arrival of my academic brain), and some other modern authors. It will be fun, it will be books galore, and the ultimate proof of why, as Lemony Snicket once said, you should never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.
Minority Report by Oliver Buckingham (Wednesdays and Saturdays)
Between 1982 and 2002 the British journalist Christopher Hitchens wrote a column entitled ‘Minority Report’ for a radical left-wing American weekly called The Nation. The name referenced a Philip K. Dick novella of 1956: The Minority Report, later adapted by Steven Spielberg into a hit blockbuster starring Tom Cruise. But Christopher had selected it because of his tendency to shun the political consensus, which landed him on the minority side of countless issues. Throughout his raucous 40 year career – kick-started by a third-class PPE degree from Balliol – Hitchens maintained one rule: ‘My own opinion is enough for me’. There was no majority so large, and no reputation so inflated that he would be deterred from trying to prick it.
Attempting to draw comparisons to someone so erudite, witty and prolific is extremely foolhardy, but my intentions with this column are the same. It will focus on politics and international affairs. It will be concerned with issues both big, such as the evils committed by the world’s despots and authoritarians, and small, like when a BBC journalist referred to Bill Cosby as Bill Clinton. It will be bullish, sometimes snarky, hopefully witty, and definitely interesting. Boredom is the enemy, as is conformity. You will not agree with everything I write. I certainly hope not. What would be the fun in that?
Ay Up, Make Some Room Fer Us by Laura Norris (Thursdays)
I’m Laura (she/her), and I just finished my first year in English and Spanish at Magdalen. As your typical first-gen, northern student, I often find Oxford to be a world far off what I’m used to. So, I decided to write ‘Ay Up, Make Some Room Fer Us!’ to fetch a little semblance of home to Oxford life. The stories, memoires, and tales I talk about go from the light-hearted classics to gritty, raw experiences, and just a taste of things offered above the Watford Junction. Through this column I have hopes of spreading my own love for the gravy-wielding, more-often-nippy-than-not regions that make up home, along with showing that we aren’t all misty morning moors and mad women stuck in attics.