Wessex Scene isn’t dead just yet, but it needs you now more than ever!


“What the fuck happened to Wessex Scene”, asks Southampton’s proudest pub toilet door, Crushampton. I think it’s a pretty valid question, and I say this as someone who loves it. Well, someone who loves their own articles anyway.

Wessex is currently a bit dead. Not completely dead, but going that way. It’s not for a lack of enthusiasm, mind you. It’s just not really physically there. This isn’t happening at other unis – so what gives?

It’s pretty easy for people online to bonfire the committee, lulling yourself into believing that it’s entirely their fault. It’s always easier to blame individuals rather than a set of decisions that have put them in an impossible position. But it’s never been their fault – Wessex’s reclusive way is the direct result of SUSU’s penny-pinching and lack of attention to detail (in my opinion).

Wessex Scene – née Wessex News – is older than the University itself. It’s coming up to nearly 90 years of continuous publishing. It is older than any living member of my family, and probably yours too. Generations of writers, academics, journalists, politicians and more have contributed to the corpus of the Scene. It may not have a great reputation now, but when students actually protested things it was there with them. It has a tremendous – definitely not spotless – legacy. Some have charitably described the Scene’s output as “self-obsessed psychodrama written by people desperate for a column in the Times”. Critics have been even harsher, suggesting that they actually want jobs at The Tab!

SUSU are very much the first domino in a sea of dominos made of misery that have been key to the downfall of student media; they used to give Wessex a few thousand a year to print the mags, but now that’s down to a guaranteed £500 – which is barely anything in print terms. It’s surprisingly expensive to print a magazine, especially when it’s free and there’s no profit. SUSU have in the past helpfully suggested to us in student media that we should charge our members access to making stuff – something I have responded to at Surge Radio with a one-word reply: “No.”.

If that’s not enough, SUSU are seemingly addicted to evicting Wessex Scene and The Edge from their offices. They currently have no offices whatsoever! In one case, all of their possessions – including decades of papers – were just dumped into that glass room at the front of the SUSU building, without them actually telling anyone that it had happened! Careless, clueless, and reckless. “Making a magazine can be done online”, SUSU retorts as a means to justify itself, ignoring the fact that actual newsrooms still exist and serve to be a great way of getting people to work together. Getting rid of social spaces kills the social atmosphere, and that in turn kills the paper.

I believe in the importance of student media in a far more ideological way than just worshipping Wessex. Student media is a public service that acts as an archive of all human behaviour at this uni, important, ridiculous or not. Thoughts, feelings, views, all of which would be lost otherwise and can never be studied after the fact. In the present, this reminds people that they aren’t alone in feeling the way they feel. In the future, it will be used to help understand the views of students at the time. I’ve learnt so much about student activism from reading 70s Wessex, from a time where SUSU actually had teeth – maybe that’s why SUSU are so happy with binning it.

How does this get fixed? Well, SUSU needs to give Wessex a permanent place to live in the building, and we need a guaranteed budget again. Until then, you – yes, you – need to fight back against this. Write to SUSU and tell them you think they’re not doing enough. Or more constructively, tell everyone you know that Wessex still lives and that they need to read it or write for it. Reach people. Get them to pick up a copy. Tell everyone you know that you’re in it, and beg them to pick up a copy. Phone up your mum and get her to pester the editor for a copy. Demand – and showing how much of it there really is – is the best thing we have at our disposal. We have to be as desperate and shameless for survival as real media is.

So go on. Share this article. The survival of the world [Wessex Scene] depends on it.

Will I? No. Do as I say, not as I do.


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