Author Archives: Generation Plymouth

IN CONVERSATION WITH: KATE TAYLOR

“Everyone comes with their own set of experiences and being young doesn’t mean you aren’t able to do the job.”

By Tobias Chalcraft

Kate Taylor is a Labour party councillor for Devonport and was first elected in 2012, in her late teens, before being re-elected in 2016.

In addition, she is the cabinet member for ‘Health & Adult Social Care’ on Plymouth City Council. However, while originally intending to seek re-election in the 2020 local elections, she has since decided that her career in elected politics will end at the postponed 2021 elections, as she seeks to prioritise her personal life and wellbeing.

In this socially-distanced email interview, we discussed how the council and her department have responded to COVID-19 in Plymouth, as well as her views on the Labour party leadership and being a young person in politics.

What role does Plymouth City Council play in tackling the Coronavirus?

“The virus has impacted on every service and aspect of the council”, Kate says, before explaining that COVID-19 has made the council “work very differently” in terms of varying issues, such as “homelessness, waste, parks, economic delivery, education and transport”.

Kate then outlined how Plymouth City Council oversees the coordination of communication and messaging, as well as controlling the infection rate in Plymouth’s 97 care homes via testing and support for staff. Likewise, the council has delivered care packages in the form of training & funding, as well as coordinated PPE, to secure the required protections for Plymouth’s care providers.

Local government has also taken responsibility for the government’s shielding programme via ‘Caring for Plymouth’, which Kate describes as “a collaboration between [the council], our healthcare providers and the voluntary and community sector to ensure that people are supported in terms of food, medication deliveries and emotional support”. ‘Caring for Plymouth’ has recently been expanded to benefit thousands of Plymouthians via the ‘Good Neighbours scheme’, which has helped both those who have been instructed to shield and those who have not.

Working with local partners has also been crucial to the council’s response to COVID-19, with partners such as Elder Tree and St. Luke’s helping with the formation of “innovative projects” such as the ‘Care Hotel’ and the ‘Care Home Liaison Service’. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Kate says that herself and colleagues “have worked non-stop to ensure the provision of vital services despite the challenges.”

What does your cabinet role in ‘Health & Adult Social Care’ require of you? How has this evolved during the pandemic?

“My budget runs into the tens of millions and no two days are the same – I can go from discussing our budget, to opening one of our fantastic Health and Well-being Hubs, to reviewing business cases for new, fit-for-purpose accommodation for those with learning disability, and most recently, helping to coordinate our responses to the pandemic.”

Duties for Kate’s role include overseeing services for older people, mental health, drug & alcohol and learning disabilities. She is also the lead for Plymouth being a ‘Dementia Friendly City’, which the councillor described as a cause very close to her heart. Furthermore, as the figure responsible for Public Health, she chairs the Health & Wellbeing board and delves into city-wide issues such as oral health or sexual health services.

“There are lots of meetings – decision making bodies such as Cabinet, or full meetings of the City Council – or more accountability-based meetings, such as Scrutiny, where I am grilled on my decisions or my budgets! Amongst this, I still undertake casework for my own ward and work part-time too.”

Predictably, the Health portfolio at Plymouth Council has “evolved massively” over the last few months. Before the pandemic, Kate could “get on with checking in on the day-to-day running of services and set the direction for the authority in these areas by deciding our priorities and just getting on with it”. Today, she feels that COVID-19 has made her feel “like the spotlight is very much on [the health] portfolio”.

Kate then looks to the national level, “I’ve been keeping an eye on what is happening elsewhere in the country and I am pleased that, so far, the levels of infection in Plymouth have remained low. I’m not complacent though and work every day to ensure it stays that way”. 

You started your political career as an 18-year-old, who had yet completed her A-levels. What advice would you give to other young Plymouthians who want to enter the political arena?

“When I first started out, people thought I was too young, too inexperienced. That’s a load of rubbish”. Kate goes on to say that “Decision-making in Plymouth needs a wide variety of voices, including young people. Everyone comes with their own set of experiences and being young doesn’t mean you aren’t able to do the job”.

Kate goes on to outline how young people’s experiences, including her own, can really boost a political career. “I was a young carer and didn’t realise until I picked up the Health portfolio just how much I know about the subject from all those years I spent caring for my Grandad. Those experiences aren’t insignificant. If you feel you have something to contribute, don’t let people put you off.”

Having supported Lisa Nandy in the Labour leadership election, are you happy with your party’s new leadership?

Kate stands by her decision to support Nandy and says that “obviously I am disappointed that my choice of candidate didn’t win”. However, the Labour councillor then states that “ultimately, I am desperate to see a Labour government in this country and will back Keir Starmer all the way to achieve that aim”.

 “It isn’t enough to just oppose measures we don’t agree with, we need to set our stall and offer a vision for the country which people believe in, enough for them to vote for us. If Keir is the man to do that, then that’s enough for me. I feel hopeful that his election as leader leaves us one step closer to that goal”.

What is something you’ll miss when you leave elected politics in May 2021?

Kate starts by saying “there is a huge deal I will miss about elected politics” before saying how she has met “inspiring people” and enjoyed the opportunities that are only accessible from a career in politics.

However, she makes it clear that she will particularly miss the opportunity to help her local community – “I wouldn’t be able to guess the amount of people I have been able to help over the last eight years in one way or another, directly or indirectly, but I am so pleased to have had the opportunity to do so”.

what will student life be like this year?

Although it may still seem like a bit of a way off, it will soon be that time of year where we’ll be getting knee-deep in some studying again.

By Elliot Chard-Maple

With the next academic year on the horizon, we are all very much aware of the shift that is likely take place with COVID-19 still impacting our day-to-day lives. For new students, this might seem daunting, and that is entirely understandable. 

For returning students like myself, you will already be familiar with the transition to online teaching via the likes of Zoom. During these, quite frankly, unprecedented times, online seminars were strange at first. However, as long as we have our stable internet connections, we should be fine in the coming month. I will say, though, that I’m in the minority with an atrocious connection. As I attempted to attend seminars, my connection would drop time and time again to the point where it was impossible to listen in.

Fortunately, it appears that as of writing this, lectures will be recorded. We can only hope that seminars, should you suffer from weak Wi-Fi like myself, will also be recorded. Missing seminars due to low attendance is something that can be amended, but if you’re like my poor Wi-Fi and I, missing an online seminar would simply be unfair. 

But what of our social lives? What of the many students who are hoping to spend more time with their friends before they are launched into graduation and beyond? And what of the new students who have relocated, unfamiliar with Plymouth or its people?

Although social media has been our best friend over the last few months, it simply cannot replace the face-to-face experiences you can have while at university. Right now, it seems late-night drinking with your pals is a distant memory. All we can do is hope that things change in time. 

If you’re like me and are very concerned over how the university year will operate, I don’t blame you. I am about to become a third-year student and am very interested in how our timetables will work. Will we be required to physically attend university for seminars, for example? For me, that is an awkward position to be in due to my partner’s health condition. On the other hand, there are some people who just want to get outside and make the most of that wonderful university experience that may only come along once in your life.

Whether you want to be at the university physically, or want to remain at home to keep loved one’s safe, there is one thing we can all agree on: we all want COVID-19 to come to an end sooner rather than later. For now, we all must be patient and hope for the best.

An interview with ‘Big Girl’ star and creator Emily Jane Rooney

“Me and my friends still have arguments about Niall and Harry now.”

By Annabel Jeffery

It’s a dull and rainy afternoon in Plymouth when I speak to Emily Jane Rooney, 23, about her hilarious one-woman show ‘Big Girl’. But Emily’s warm hello is quite the antithesis to the weather. “I’m so sorry, I’ve just realised that I’m on the way to Tesco to get some buns!” she says from outside her home in London, and I immediately know that this interview is going to be far from dull.

‘Big Girl’ is Rooney’s debut solo show, which is hard to believe. Her tremendous confidence and ability to captivate an audience is that of a long-standing and established performer. ‘Big Girl’ was originally due to tour around the UK, but due to the COVID-19 lockdown, Emily has recorded an exciting digital version of the show.

Watching the hour-long “Sofa Edition” from my own home, I feel as though I’m having a catch-up or gossip with a friend. I find myself giggling at regular intervals at Emily’s references and impersonations and pulled into thought by her three poems that evoke more emotion and deeper meaning.

All of this combined creates an hour of complete escapism at a time where we are still slightly limited in social interaction.

When asked to explain the show in her own words, Emily says: “Big Girl came at a time in my life when I was like, ‘What am I doing ?’” Written in 2018, while she was still at the University Of Plymouth studying acting, she goes on to tell me that with ‘Big Girl’ she’s “reflecting upon everything”. This includes growing up as a fat, queer and working-class woman in Essex, and things that she was “quite oblivious to” when she was younger: “I was aware that I was big but I didn’t realise the connotations that came with being a fat person and I think that came with age.”

These taboos are addressed in the four poems performed throughout the show: ‘Big Girl’, ’I Like Myself Bare’, ‘Let’s Talk About Women’ and ‘Untitled’. Each deal with topics of body positivity, identifying as queer, feminism and not knowing what your future holds. These come from Emily’s own emotional experiences with these topics. She explains, “I’ll cry, I’ll be really upset about it, I’ll talk to a friend, I’ll sit down and listen to some sad music and make myself cry more, and then I’ll write about it afterwards, after I have a different perspective on it.”

Whether you’ve experienced them or not, Rooney helps her audience to understand these issues, whether that be through poetry or by being so completely easy to relate to: “I like talking about things that others don’t talk about because I think they are things that are relatable.”

This is also seen through the more easy-going references she makes as we chat: “Everyone you talk to who is 23 will be like: ‘I know my favourite One Direction singer’. My friends and I still have arguments about Niall and Harry now, and we’re adults.”

As I ask Emily about her experience filming ‘Big Girl: The Sofa Edition’ during lockdown, she shares that it was much harder , adding that one of her favourite parts of the live show is “knowing who’s in the room”. 

During the live stage performance, she explains, “People come in and I’m there, giving out biscuits and having a cup of tea, and I just like connecting with people in general… I’m like an old woman that just wants to know about everyone’s life.” She hopes that there will be a chance for one last live performance of ‘Big Girl’ in London in September, dependent on the restrictions on live performances by then.

What’s next for Emily then? As she says at the end of ‘Big Girl’, she doesn’t know, but she “just wants to be happy”. She shares that she is no stranger to the pressure that young people face about being expected to know what you want to do, reiterating “It’s okay to not know what you want to do ever. There’s a song by Baz Lurhmann called ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’ – listen to it, it’s really good. In it he says that the most interesting people he knows are 40 years old and don’t know what to do with their life, and I’ve always remembered that.”

She jokes “I really like plants, so maybe I’ll be a florist one day.”, before sharing this refreshing advice for people of her generation and younger: ”Try everything, I say this, just try everything.”

‘Big Girl: The Sofa Edition’ will be available to watch at Reading Fringe Digital until the end of August: https://readingfringefestival.co.uk/whats-on/big-girl/

You can also listen to Emily’s recommended song, ‘Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen’, here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sTJ7AzBIJoI

Messenger Joins #MissingLiveTheatre Campaign

The Theatre Royal Plymouth’s Messenger sculpture has been wrapped in pink tape today.

By Megan Potterton

Across the UK, theatres remain closed and unable to stage live performances. In life before Covid-19, these were busy and vibrant buildings – but COVID-19 has changed that.

Many of the UK’s most popular theatres are currently locked up, empty and, most worryingly, seem to have been forgotten about.

Today, in collaboration with theatres across the UK, #scenechange has launched the #MissingLiveTheatre campaign. Beginning with the National Theatre, #scenechange designers and theatre staff will wrap theatres with pink barrier tape reading ‘Missing Live Theatre’. The campaign hopes to give a ‘positive message of hope and visibility to the industry.’

And Messenger is joining in!

Today, Theatre Royal Plymouth staff have helped to wrap the Messenger sculpture in the campaign’s vibrant pink tape. In doing so, they have joined theatres across the country in this beautiful message of hope for the industry.

The Theatre Royal Plymouth installation has been designed by artist Tom Piper, who also designed ‘The Wave’ of 7,300 individual bright red ceramic poppy heads originally shown at the Tower of London in 2014.

The #MissingLiveTheatre campaign comes at a particularly poignant time for the Theatre Royal Plymouth. Last week, the theatre announced that more than 100 jobs are at risk as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.

The installation today is a reminder of the importance of live theatre in our city.

Commenting on the national campaign, #scenechange said: “As businesses begin to reopen, the doors of theatres remain firmly shut, whilst we navigate a way back to live performance. Today as we launch #MissingLiveTheatre, we want to bring joy and colour to theatres across the UK and Ireland, whilst highlighting the ongoing impact of Covid-19, and what we as an industry and local communities are missing.”

Finishing Year 11 in 2020

Well that’s one for the history books.

By Annabel Jeffery

On the 20th March, schools shut their doors to all but a few students. “Exams will not take place” were the words that some rejoiced at, whilst others almost cried over. Two months ago, I was the latter.

I’d worked consistently from the start of my GCSE year, with my supposed first experience of exams looming over me from September last year. I’d seen GCSEs as a first step, but still one I wanted to excel in, the perfectionist that I am. I didn’t know what to expect, but this certainly wasn’t it.

Therefore, I was in denial when this announcement came. My phone buzzed with excited, confused and tearful friends at once. We half-heartedly “carried on” in school the next day, unsure as to how our grades would be decided and our futures looking blurry. Prom was put on hold (which we considered as cancelled), along with all of the other Year 11 experiences we’d waited for. In those final days we said goodbye to those we weren’t expecting to see leave for another few months.

For me personally, the uncertainty and unpredictability of the lockdown and pandemic has been the hardest part. At first, it was considered that we might be able to collect our results earlier. Now, the original results day of the 20th August has been confirmed, meaning a 5-month wait instead of the standard 2 months.

Moreover, these grades are evidently not what they should have been.

We still had three months until exams, meaning most of us still had more to do and further to go in achieving the grades we wanted. Whereas now, our mock results – the exams we’re supposed to make mistakes in order to learn – are being used as a factor in our final grade. 

I can’t help but feel extremely guilty for feeling this way. The pandemic is ultimately a far bigger concern. Sacrificing GCSE exams is a minuscule thing in comparison to NHS workers putting the lives of themselves and their families at risk. In some ways we could be considered the luckier ones – we get our results and carry on. The years either side of us still have exams that they are missing content for and some have only just gone back to school part-time. I’m also aware that Year 13 have got much bigger concerns over university due to their exams being cancelled as well.

Although, throughout these past few months, I’ve not known what to do next. Carry on revising? Start looking over A level content?

Like other students in this position, I’ve gone from working harder and feeling under more pressure than I ever have done, to doing practically nothing – leaving my brain unoccupied. The question I keep asking myself is: if to work hard means no meaningful results, then why bother?

On the other hand, whilst the first few weeks were a welcome chance to relax, I’m now starting to feel ready for a routine and a small amount of work. I thought that this was just my personality, but speaking to a few others in my year, similar thoughts have been brought up. We feel, and rightfully so, a bit forgotten.

Fortunately for me, my school has set small amounts of “bridge work” for each A level subject. This mostly includes reading lists and research for my subjects, which I’ve been gradually working away at, but schoolwork is only one element in school life.

Although I am someone who has struggled with anxiety around school and has not really enjoyed it, I find myself itching to get back. Seeing friends, leaving the house to study and having something to work towards are things that cannot truly be replicated during this pandemic. To be honest, whilst I’ve set a few goals, most days the most exercise I can do is running to the sofa.

But that’s okay, because all we can do for the time being is to sit and wait.

We can’t plan any celebrations for the exams we never had, even if we wanted to. But, for now, having a picnic with friends does the job nicely.

Life in Lockdown Update: amber weeks

Lockdown was easy at the beginning; having a few lazy days, thinking that this madness would only last three weeks. But then it got harder and longer. 97 days. 139,680 minutes. 8,380,800 seconds – and counting.

Luckily, lockdown restrictions are starting to ease. For people like me, who started this lockdown alone, being able to see other people makes an enormous difference.

I guess I don’t need to keep talking to my bedside lamp anymore. Sorry, Sebastian.

The worst thing about lockdown is the effect it is having on my mental health. It wasn’t at a great point before all this started, but I had begun making progress. Now I am back to square one. I am still struggling daily, just like so many people out there.

Life returning to normal is just as daunting as lockdown. I am scared about life going back to something normal. After so long, am I ready? Are we ready? What even is normal anymore? How will life change again now? 

I wasted the first few weeks of lockdown doing nothing but playing games and watching TV. Then I started trying to stay proactive and be constructive. That lasted a little while, but I soon ran out of assignments and I’ve now taken a pause from my blog. In fact, I have stopped writing in general – this is the first thing I’ve written in weeks.

I feel I have lost my voice, lost my fire. I have completely lost track of the days and do not follow any sort of plan now. I spend some days in bed doing nothing, but other days I get up dressed and find something constructive to do.

It isn’t easy. But with lock down easing, and hopefully ending soon, it is time to start getting back to normal life. It is time to start getting back into a routine.

I haven’t personally gone out and experienced the city centre since the shops have started to slowly open again. I did, however, experience going on a train recently. Just seeing how empty the station and train were was a completely weird experience, but it was reassuring to see most people following all the guidelines to keep themselves and others safe.

So, maybe we are ready to start appearing from our homes and having some normality back. It is exciting to see what our new lives for the next few months will be and how we will continue to band together as a society to get through this year together.

I personally don’t care that the shops are opening again, as I am a hoarder and this time has been good for me to stop buying things. I only really wanted McDonald’s and the clubs to open again. I miss being able to gather with my friends and relax together, dance and sing, meet new friends, and just be young and free.

Two members of my family tested positive for the virus at the beginning of the pandemic, and it was horrifying, but to be able to sit here and tell you all both members made a full recovery makes me feel so grateful and lucky.

The Covid-19 lockdown has affected everyone in different ways. At first everyone was enjoying the time, then the isolating nature of lockdown and the impact of how deadly the virus is really hit, which made us all scared and confused. But it is amazing to see how every community, big or small, has come together to help and support each other through this time.

It’s also great to see how humans taking a step back has helped the planet heal, even if only a little. It is amazing to see these positives come out of such a negative time, but they are important and should be acknowledged and appreciated.

Big Sis C.I.C reach £18,000 in community fundraiser

By Affinity May

Big Sis C.I.C have already raised £18,000 to support girls’ mental health in the South West – but they still need your help!

Big Sis C.I.C is a South West based organisation supporting young girls in their mental health and wellbeing. Their work involves ‘helping girls across the South West during and post Covid-19 to develop confidence and resilience whilst preparing for puberty‘.

One in eight young women between the ages of 17-19 struggle with suicidal tendencies in the UK. Big Sis C.I.C’s work with primary school aged girls is important in helping to bring this statistic down for future generations.

Big Sis C.I.C is currently raising money to launch its Plymouth Pilot programme, ‘Big Sis Mental Health Mentoring Programme’, in schools across the city. They have already successfully reached their inital target of £18,000 and have now set a stretch target of £25,000.

By donating to their community fundraiser you will allow them to reach two thousand and twenty girls in schools across the region and work with them on the areas of emotional literacy and menstrual education, as well as training 300 student volunteers to be mentors for the programme and pay for their advanced DBS checks.

This programme offers a safe place for girls to ask questions and discuss the topic of growing up. A lot of young girls struggle with mental health issues in regard to body image and confidence. One of Big Sis C.I.C’s main focuses is to ease the puberty transition period, as this is a crucial time where girls need as much support as possible.

The programme consists of 12 different workshops, focusing on everything from menstrual cycle education and body positivity, to emotional literacy, mental health awareness and games to identify feelings.

Alongside directly supporting young girls in developing good mental health, Big Sis C.I.C also equip immediate support networks with useful information. Parents, carers, teachers, and schools are all provided with helpful resources through workshops and programmes, helping them to feel confident in supporting girls while they go through the major life change of puberty.

The programme will also create local opportunities for young women studying education degrees to volunteer and learn new skills as a Big Sis Mentor.

Big Sis C.I.C have received wonderful feedback from the public on their previous work. Commenting on a Big Sis workshop, Sara, a mother, said: “it has transformed the relationship with both of my daughters, broken a taboo. I feel so much closer to them”.

Ten year old Lilly also commented: “Discussing periods with strangers was going to be the most embarrassing experience ever, but it was fun, I learnt a lot and I really enjoyed it in the end.” 

And Mark, a father, said, “puberty is a big change in their lives and it will affect their future and their relationships forever”.

Big Sis C.I.C’s Plymouth Pilot programme will reduce the uncertainty, fears, and anxiety that arise for many young girls as they enter puberty, as well as strengthening girl to girl bonds. The more money they raise, the more work they can do in helping to support the mental health of girls growing up in our city.

You can donate to their fundraiser by following the link below.

https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/big-sis-girl-to-girl-mentoring

The Big D

By Annabel Jeffery

“Not to be too deep”, but death is inevitable. We don’t know how, nor when, but it is unequivocally part of the human experience – something that nobody can escape. It is beyond race, class and gender.

Evidently, the worldwide pandemic has emphasised this more than ever: over 40,000 confirmed deaths just in the UK, with thousands more across the world, including those who have not had access to life-saving treatment for other health conditions. Multiply this and you are given the number of friends and families to be affected by this for the rest of their lives.

Yet, our society does not talk about it.

“Loss” and ” passing away” are prime examples of this, with many fearing the use of the word “death”, in particular amongst those who are grieving.

While we may talk about the death immediately after or for a few months after, inevitably life carries on, leaving friends and family members of the deceased to carry on alone, also cautious of upsetting each other.

As someone who has experienced this myself, I decided to start a poll on my Instagram in order to gain perspective on this issue.

Here, I asked my Instagram followers , ranging from the ages of 13-55, with the majority being of the teenage demographic, the following questions:

  • Would you know what to say/would you feel comfortable talking to somebody who is grieving?
  • If not, would you reach out for advice on how to talk to someone who is grieving?
  • How long would you say that the “grieving period” lasts for?
  • If you have lost someone, has it felt different to deal with during this lockdown?

The results were varied: Overall, 50% said that they felt comfortable to speak to someone who is grieving and of those who said they didn’t, 86% said that they would reach out for advice on how to talk to someone who is grieving. Considering that most people want to help, the generally well-intentioned results didn’t entirely shock me.

However, the responses to my third question were rather varied, from comments such as “A couple of weeks”, ” 1 year” and “3-4 years”; to “Forever”, ” It never ends” and “You can only learn to cope”. The general consensus I received was that it depends on the relationship between the deceased and the bereft.

Furthermore, in response to my final question, those grieving during lockdown gave comments such as: “There are no distractions from it.” and ” It hasn’t set in, it won’t until after lockdown” and many agreed that being at home where most memories are made escalated their pain.

The truth is that grief for most people, while a collective experience, is also extremely isolating and does not have an expiration date. Unfortunately, it is something that nobody tends to fully understand until they finally go through it. This does not mean, however, that it should not be talked about. It is a trauma that, in my opinion, needs to be addressed head on, now more than ever.

This social taboo does not end there. Sudden deaths, like those faced by many families during the pandemic, mean that these important discussions do not happen and many questions are left unanswered. We need people to feel that they can open up about death, even during a pandemic.

So, where does Plymouth enter into this conversation?

In October 2019, Plymouth became the first “Compassionate City” in England. According to the local hospice charity St Luke’s: “A compassionate city or community is one that recognises that care for one another at times of crisis and loss is not simply a task solely for health and social services but is everyone’s responsibility.”

Places such as schools and cafes have since been involved in this, with the aim of educating as many as possible about death and opening up the discussion.

Are you ready to start the conversation?

To find out more visit : https://www.stlukes-hospice.org.uk/plymouth-a-compassionate-city/

University of Plymouth Students Reflect on Lockdown Exams

By Tobias Chalcraft

COVID-19 has impacted our lives in many ways and exams are clearly of no exception.

While you might think alternative coursework, or even a classic essay, may be wise in these circumstances, most departments at the University of Plymouth decided to push ahead with exams in an online format.

Rather than receiving a 2-hour exam in Nancy Astor or Plymouth Pavilions, these new exams involve a paper becoming unlocked on our Digital Learning Environment (DLE) at a fixed time. You then have 48 hours to type up responses on a word document and upload the completed work onto the same site before the deadline passes.

This has understandably been interpreted as a less intense alternative to usual exams.

Casually researching appropriate academic literature on the internet replaces trying to access information that has been etched into your brain over the last few weeks. The heart-stopping declaration that “YOU HAVE 5 MINUTES REMAINING” is replaced by the beats of your favourite playlist. The only strain on your hands in these exams comes from picking up your sixth cup of tea.

We interviewed a handful of students from University of Plymouth to get a better insight into how they interpreted completing their exams during these unprecedented times. We started by asking if they preferred this format and responses generally showed a preference for this year’s arrangement, as opposed to preceding physical exams. 

Hannah, a University of Plymouth student, said, “I think it allows for students to fully show their understanding and depth of a topic as they are able to identify and use literature which is relevant to the subject”.

Another student added , “I found it easier to collect my thoughts and think more rationally and the [extended] time limit was an even bigger bonus than the usual two hours”.

On the other hand, some students felt “pretty indifferent”, or even said they preferred the traditional way of completing exams. One commented, “it was fairer in the sense that it allowed a better evaluation of students’ preparation”.

Although lockdown measures put in place to tackle COVID-19 have increased loneliness, there seems to have been a positive effect on students’ anxiety. One student said that online exams have “been so good for anxiety. I barely go outside as it is and having to go in an exam hall is b******s”.

Furthermore, there seems to be a divided opinion on how stressful these digital exams were, in contrast to the traditional format. One student said that she preferred the online experience because “cramming loads of information into my mind and trying to remember it isn’t really a good test of knowledge”. Meanwhile another undergraduate, Taku, said this year’s practice was “definitely a benefit as I felt more confident and sure of myself”.

Other students like Giulia, on the other hand, believe that these tests have been more demanding because “if you are ‘competitive’ student, you will not be able to simply work for half a day. [This year’s exams were] 48 hours of stress and constant perfecting, so I think that it was harder on my mental wellbeing than the normal 2-hour exams”.

When asked whether these online exams will be of benefit or nuisance to their grades, it was clear that most interviewees were unsure. Hannah said, “I really don’t know! You would think it would be easier to get a higher grade as you have access to books and the internet but as a consequence of this, the marking criteria will be a lot harder!”

Meanwhile, some students remain optimistic. Levi found having more time to find relevant sources to be “very beneficial” and thus hopes this will translate into a desirable outcome. 

Aside from lacking clarity and varying impacts on mental health, remote exams have also removed closure for students. One third-year student summarised this: “These exams seemed so anticlimactic. I missed having the satisfaction of hearing the invigilator telling me to stop writing and knowing I was done. This being the final year of my course added to that dissatisfaction. Submitting an exam on the DLE and then going back to play video games didn’t feel nearly as rewarding as finishing a physical exam”.

Adding to this, final year students are mourning their final nights out of university life: “while Zoom gives you the chance to celebrate with a couple of beers, it is a poor substitute for that last messy night out to put you off alcohol for life”.

Likewise, Giulia added that “being able to enjoy a drink with all my peers to celebrate together and the feeling of having accomplished something are the things I missed the most”.

COVID-19’s dramatic theft of students’ last few months of university can be seen in this final contribution from a final year student: “I have missed everything. The sounds, sights, smells. As jarring as they could be, they will not be there for me again. I’ll treasure university as an experience, but it’s passed now.”

Devon-Based Comedy Night Raising Money for South West Charities

And you can join in from your living room!

By Megan Potterton

Are you looking for a way to spend yet another evening in lockdown? Then look no further. ‘Belly Laughs at Home – Devon’ is taking place tonight (Sunday 7th June), and you can join in from the comfort of your own sofa.

At 7:30pm this evening, Devon-born comedian Charlie Baker is set to host a very special ‘Belly Laughs’ event. He will be joined by a number of his comedian friends and familiar Devon faces, including Josh Widdicombe, Mark Olver and Dom Bess.

This one-off gig will be live streamed online, meaning you can join in, raise money for charity, and be entertained by some of Devon’s finest comedians, without even leaving your house.

‘Belly Laughs at Home’ will celebrate the beautiful county of Devon, while also raising money for three very important South West charities: FareShare South West, Devon Air Ambulance and Daisi. All proceeds will be split equally between the three charities.

There is a suggested donation of £4 to join in on the fun, however the ‘Belly Laughs’ team say that they understand this is an ‘uncertain time for everyone’. They are encouraging viewers to give what they can to support the incredible work of these local charities.

Mark Olver, the founder of ‘Belly Laughs’, said:

We do stuff in that area where food, comedy and doing good stuff for others meets. We’re known most for our January gigs but the world’s gone a little bit crazy right now and I think Belly Laughs At Home could be the antidote to that – for a couple of hours anyway. I’m always blown away by people’s generosity at these events and am sure we can raise some money for these great causes whilst having a bit of a laugh at the same time.”

The ‘Belly Laughs’ team are also encouraging viewers to join them in buying a takeaway from their favourite local independent restaurant, as “it wouldn’t be a Belly Laughs gig without a good meal”.

For more information on how to donate and further details of tonight’s event, click here.

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