Iwas so unprepared for Verbal Remedy to storm into my life that I nearly missed our first radio show. There were simply too many things to take in at the beginning of my final year at university that I nearly sacked the whole thing off. I thought of the name literally hours before – without looking it up to see if it had been taken (thankfully I got lucky) – and we went on air in an explosion of abrasiveness and controversy. Our first debate topic was ‘Has our generation been damaged by pornography?’. I like to think that set the tone for the next four years.
Despite the shaky start we found our feet quickly, and the interviews kept coming. From periods and designer vaginas to mental health and LGBT issues, the best people we could scramble – very often fellow students, but also lecturers, artists, politicians, film directors and more – would come and sit in a makeshift studio at the Newcastle Students’ Union and speak about their views. Often we would have texts, tweets and calls; the guests would watch in horror as the listener count went up, and more and more messages started coming in. I, on the other hand, relished in it.
Pretty soon I started blogging about our escapades, and through hundreds of iterations and bribes to computer science students, the Verbal Remedy site we have now started forming. To be honest, blogging was intended to be a side project – a place to document the other things we’d been up to – but before too long it became clear that what we were writing had taken on a life of its own.
What follows is a whirlwind…
(look, I know we shouldn’t have changed our logo this many times but this one is here to stay, we promise!)
We recently celebrated our 300th post on the website and there are dozens of different talented writers responsible for them. I quickly realised that people weren’t simply coming to Verbal Remedy for a byline or an extra section on their CV; these were writers who didn’t have many other outlets, not because of talent but because of subject matter. These were the days before sites like Gal-dem, Babe, and Bustle, and before sites like Buzzfeed were taking on the gritty, feature-length articles that they do today. We were amplifying voices that had previously been banished to dark corners of Reddit and Tumblr – suddenly they had a tiny little spotlight.
Some of our proudest, most far-reaching posts have been those that challenged the status quo in radical ways. I was humbled to be able to publish my wonderful friend Rosie Goodman’s account of how she struggled – and ultimately overcame – cancer in her early twenties. When one of our writers came out as non-binary it was a privilege to publish their first post on the journey they’ve made. When 137 people were killed at an Eagles of Death Metal gig in Paris in 2015, our tireless editorial assistant Iqra stepped up and wrote about reconciling her love for punk rock with her Muslim faith. These are just a few of the amazing writers that have set the precedent for future posts.
Taking things offline
One of Verbal Remedy’s proudest developments in my eyes has been our move offline to run events such as panel discussions, film screenings, and workshops for schools and universities. An online movement is still a movement whether you take it offline or not, but it was great getting out into the community and meeting our audience face to face. Here are some of our most successful events:
- Festival of the Zine – a celebration of zines and zine making at B&D Studios, central Newcastle
We ran two of these and will be looking at doing a third in 2018 – keep your eyes peeled!
- Film screenings at Tyneside Cinema
Fifty Shades of Grey in February 2016 and Elle in March 2017, both with a panel discussion and introduction by us
- Workshops galore!
Including Newcastle University, Sunderland University, Gateshead College, Burnside College and Churchill Community College
- Conferences and keynote speeches
Including WordCamp Edinburgh, Inspiring Women Conference, Mind the Gap Mental Health Conference and more
What does the future hold?
There’s no doubt that the future is bright for Verbal Remedy. I’m so excited by what the team brings to the table every day and I’m confident that we’re only going to get bigger and better.
If you’d like to get involved then we’d love to have you. We’re always looking for new writers, new volunteers and new suggestions of ways we can take our content to more people. You can email us and ask about the opportunities available or view our blogging guidelines by clicking here.
A massive Happy Birthday to everyone who has helped Verbal Remedy become what it is today – here’s to another four years!
To the blog