Thursday,12th of April
In the morning it’s the day of the student conference. But so far there is actually a lack of students. From what I hear, their train from London has given up somewhere undefined. So the start of the student congregation is delayed indefinitely so far, but it doesn’t really matter as there is so much else going on. It is actually impossible to keep track of it all, and I am getting pretty hyper and excited by now.
Upstairs in the main hall, registration takes place, and this year’s ADM bag is actually a practical green rucksack with a cool NUJ logo. I quite like it, though it is a little bit plastic (?), but it is certainly one of the free bags with a high re-useability factor. Inside is some tourist information, the agenda and announcement for fringe events.
Another stall in the hall is for reimbursement of expenses and for booking tourist like events, 2 of those include visiting the ITV central studios. One has a musical theme and the other one an art and culture one. Unfortunately there is too little time to be able to participate in everything.
The hall is also the main coffee and tea providing facility and socialising area. The lunch which is provided here is excellent. We have the choice between Mushroom and Chicken Stroganoff, traditional Italian Lasagne, some cheesy vegetable pasta, rice and potatoe wedges and maybe even some more which I could have forgotten. There is a salad bar as well including Tomatoe and Mozzarella mix, green leafed salad and some unusual chickpea based herbal veggie excitement. There is an incredible warm, soft, red and sweet rhubarb crumble with custard on offer and fruit salad. Fantastic. Whilst I am delighting myself with the culinary experiences we meet up with the rest of the Edinburgh Freelance Branch.
Thom excitedly tells me something about a motion of ours, which I completely forgot about because it actually has been quite a while ago that it was worded and put forward. He seems to be occupied with organising some standing orders, which so far I believed is a former bank turned pub in Edinburgh offering the cheapest beer prices on a Wednesday evening. All will become clear tomorrow when the intelligent discussions and debates kick off. I am looking forward to that.
Downstairs is a the internet access centre with about six little Macs set up. It works very well so far, very impressive. The exhibition is being set up and campainging stalls such like the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Workers Beer Company, the NUJ centenary history project, some refugee support group, a campaign against domestic abuse and Thompsons solicitors are presenting themselves and their activities.
At about 2pm, the student meeting starts. There are about eleven of us, with quite an international input: we have got French Ingrid, Hungarian Janos, Pakestani Ifar, me as German Ulla and – dunno if that counts – two Irish students.
Till about half past five, we mainly talk about establishing student chapels, work experience and student media. Jeremy Dear, the general secretary, drops by and tells us that students might soon have a representative on the NCTJ and explains that work experience whilst being on a course and work experience after finishing the education are differently legislated. Later one seem to fall under National Minimum Wage regulations. He talks a little bit about the astonishing results of the recent work experience survey the NUJ has conducted and points us to the NUJ website to view the list of experiences. He says that later on this module is intended to be interactive.
Chris Morley also talks to us in his function as the outgoing president of the union. The next suggested president is a woman, a fact of which he seems proud as it generally believed to be still a rare occurance. He stresses that he is a working journalist and not paid for the union work he does and is elected for only a year to chair the ADM and the NEC. He states that he took part in an ADM in 1986 for the first time as an activist.
Ifar luckily encourages us to take a picture of us all with the organisers of the student meeting. Pics as usual also on Flickr. You could try to spot the students and the NUJ staff in the picture it can be a bit misleading if attempting to differentiate who’s who by age.
Linda King presents the trade union courses and Paul Bradshaw the blog. At 6.30pm there is an introduction to all new delegates, but me and Ifar are heading off by then to the fringe event of the Media Workers against the War, which also means we miss the book launch about the Black Journalism History and the dinner with the mayor in the Birmingham Museum.
It is astonishing how tiring a meeting can be. Sitting around for about three hours doesn’t seem to be that strenious, but it somehow is. Especially as we all don’t really know each other yet that well. The suggestion about establishing student chapels is quite interesting. I haven’t really thought about it, but even in Edinburgh we have several universities and colleges which all seem to offer some kind of journalism related courses: Napier University, now Telford College, and what I did not know but Colin told me as he studies there: Queen Margaret University with broadcasting, film and tv. Then there is Edinburgh University of course with its weekly student newspaper and Fresh Air FM. So having some NUJ chapels there would also be quite beneficial to bring media students in Edinburgh together in general. Oh and there is Stevenson College and Jewel&Esk, but dunno if they offer any courses relevant to us. There is a little bit of a passionate enthusiastic discussion about the role of campaigning and actions in student chapels taking place. With the more careerist wing of the students wanting to leave it to either the NUS or the parent NUJ. This takes us to debate why students are not allowed to vote in ballots, such as the recent question about affiliation to the CND.
Hm, maybe this could even be a good thing because of the frightening depolitisation of students. Unfortunately most students are not anymore the radical idealistic troublemakers wanting to change the world but instead want to “progress in the industry”. Maybe I should add the word British in there? There still seems to be some student action for social justice in Greece going on though, and anti-tuiton fee activities in Germany and wasn’t there some student connections with the Parisian suburban rioters? But actually even in Germany there isn’t anymore that much of a revolutionary drive at the moment. Seems like since the collapse of real existing socialism and communism the attraction of any alternative more social justice system has wained, giving way to the neoliberal greedy way of life, impacting of course on students as well, and not only in the way of tuition fees but also idealistically.