Voices: ‘You can disagree with opinions but not experiences’

Photo by Julia Wrzesinska/Mayn Creative | Design by Maria Caldora

Since its beginning in October 2017, the Voices project has been one of Penryn Campus’ leading student movements. The magazine has been praised for its open discussion of sensitive issues which may otherwise be overlooked and providing a platform for students to speak out about their experiences. Lars Mucklejohn spoke to Editor-in-Chief Albert Duker about the project and its aims.

Albert is a third-year English student at the University of Exeter. Currently in his second year with Voices, he started as the managing/web editor last year before becoming editor-in-chief this year. Albert described joining Voices as “a bit of a leap of faith”. On becoming editor-in-chief, he described how “I didn’t think I would be qualified, and I had no idea how to run a magazine. Somehow I passed the interview and was appointed in that role. I quickly learnt a lot on the job, and now I run the show!”

The project

Albert described Voices as “a student-led campaign/organisation which provides a platform for people whose voices might ‘previously have been lost in the noise’”. The project aims to “highlight ideas/identities/groups that may be misunderstood or have a stigma associated with them, and we highlight them in a creative and informative way”.

Each volume of the magazine covers a certain issue, with titles including “LGBTQIA+”, “People of Colour”, “International”, “Body”, “Community”, “Gender”, “Survivors”, “Disability”, “Women”, “Pride”, “Faith”, and “Black History Month”.

The project “helps bring awareness and can hopefully be a catalyst for change at university”, said Albert. As it has evolved, the project has been represented in a number of other mediums, including a podcast and videos which too “share the authentic experiences of students”.

“Not to inflate our own self importance, but I think it’s important to have a place for students to voice their own unfiltered opinions and experiences. You can disagree with opinions but not experiences”, said Albert on the importance of the project. He described the magazine as being “an archive of experiences”. Through Voices, participants, some anonymous, tell their own stories. As a result, collaborating with a large number of people, the project is able to gather “experiences in a plethora of fields as well as something for students’ portfolios”.

Volume XIII

The first volume of this academic year, number 13, focuses on Black History Month, and Albert described being “obsessed with every article”.

With the first-ever volume of the magazine also focusing on Black History Month, Voices is now revisiting the topic. Albert said that “as a black man”, also the first black editor-in-chief of the magazine, “I had an opportunity to correct some things I felt that issue had got wrong”.

He recognised that black people have frequently been discussed in terms of “death and suffering” in the media this year. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other black people at the hands of the police this year have led to Black Lives Matter protests and other forms of demonstration around the world, including in Falmouth.

In this latest volume, Black History Month is explored “as a celebration, highlighting black joy, beauty, and intelligence, whilst also making sure we’re still amplifying voices and ideas”, said Albert. In the project’s first two podcast episodes, he “interviewed guests about their experience as human beings and how, whether positively or negatively, being black/mixed impacted that”.

“The stories! The journalists hit it out of the park”, Albert remarked regarding the highlights of producing the latest volume. He added that participants’ “openness and willingness to share was honestly key to everything”. “There is some of the best writing I’ve ever seen in Volume XIII. Everyone was amazing. Jo’s article gave me major insight and changed how I view not only the university but also the world, Joshua’s allowed me to understand him better and has lowkey shifted my politics. Sharlene’s poem at the end? Powerful”, he said.

He praised Julia, the photographer, from Mayne Creative. “That’s how you shoot black people/darker tones. Lights for hair texture, tone, complexion, everything was taken into account, and every single person looked like a pro model”, he said. As a result, “it was an empowering feeling personally, and it translates brilliantly to the magazine”.

What’s next?

For Albert, the future of Voices looks bright. He hoped that the project “grows and grows”, wishing to “venture into other alternative forms of media” and, when possible, run events.

The next volume of the magazine will focus on mental health. Albert noted how everyone goes through difficult times, adding: “I think one thing the mag has done amazingly in the past is being blunt and raw, and I really want to continue that in this next one.” On choosing this topic, he said: “I think it’s important to touch on topics I or my team can relate to. Our generation has done a great job of normalising mental health discussions, and I hope people can pick up this next one and not just empathise with the next stories but learn more about themselves and hopefully their friends as well.”

A highlight for Albert this year was starting Voices: Out Loud, a podcast run in collaboration with Surf Radio. “Shout out to all my guests. None of that was rehearsed, questions made up on the spot, brilliant authentic conversation, ranging from the informative to the personal”, he said. He hoped to record more episodes of the podcast, alongside producing more magazine volumes and printed copies: “Watch this space.”

The latest volume of Voices, “Black History Month Pt. II”, is out now, and the project is on social media.