24th July 2023
Shine 2023 speech by alumni winner Eliza Clark
On Shine School Media Awards day 2023, we had three memorable speeches by amazing and inspiring women.
We’re showcasing each of the speeches on the website to read what was said which had such an impact on the award nominees on the day.
The second speech is by Eliza Clark, 2022 winner of the Terry Mansfield CBE Award for Tomorrow’s Talent.
Writing this speech, I was hit by a sudden wave of nostalgia for my school and gratitude for the opportunities it provided me with. The Beacon could not be made by any other school, it couldn’t be fully understood by anyone not related to Handsworth, and when we made our edition, we certainly never expected it to be read by industry professionals. If we had written it with this wider audience in mind, perhaps we would have got rid of all the HOE jokes (it stands for Handsworth Old Edwardians, I promise!). But essentially, the same can be said for every magazine, paper, podcast, etc represented here today – media can be used to both represent a school’s unique identity, and help to shape it. Every year the Beacon magazine is always highly anticipated – each edition takes on a new concept, such as decades or across the world, but always with similar articles and the same Beacon essence. So our magazine is not in isolation, the success of 2022, plus all that came before and provided inspiration to us – so in this sense The Beacon as a tradition is like a river, strengthened by its annual tributaries.
I almost didn’t apply for Beacon editor back in late 2020 for various reasons like unpredictable lockdowns. But I remembered how the students in previous years had inspired me and I knew I wanted to leave some kind of a mark on the school, aside from a name on a register and a set of exam grades. The Beacon was a very special opportunity, totally different from shows and orchestras and other aspects of school life that I’d been involved with before. Since year 7 I’d thought I’d like to get involved when I started year 12 – not because it was a route into a journalism career (as I didn’t know much about that or think I wanted it) – and it was never because of leadership – it was because I appreciated the effort, the reflection, the fondness for the school that all went into it. It was always one of my highlights of the year when the delivery of fresh glossy magazines came in june, everyone in form time telling saying aha look at page 7 or oooo there’s a really horrible picture of me in here aha or wow that cover’s gorgeous – it creates such a lovely buzz. In our edition we wanted to both reflect the positivity that already existed within the school, as well as highlighting the Beacon’s identity of providing that light itself. It’s things like the Beacon that people remember from their time at school, and which separate a school from an exam factory. Perhaps the only thing this government is good at is making artistic pursuits feel unworthy (this is something I feel very passionate about.) and we need outlets like magazines in schools in order to prove that our society still deems creativity worthwhile and something that the school is actively proud to showcase. It’s so lovely to see something on the arts/media side be appreciated and gather an increasingly high profile within the school community, partly as a result of our success at Shine, and I hope this legacy that’s already existed for decades, is never compromised.
I am set to complete the work experience offered to me as part of the Terry Mansfield prize next week, which I am very much looking forward to. As our prize for Best Magazine at last year’s Awards, two of us got the opportunity to experience a day at the Times Educational Supplement office. We had practice making our writing punchy and concise, insight on how to create unique and engaging podcasts, amongst various other areas. One main piece of advice that stuck with me was to discover your niche as it’s not possible to cover everything without a sense of direction. One of the kindest and wisest teachers I knew at Handsworth quoted Rumi on our Positivity Page: ‘Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you truly love. It will not lead you astray’. It’s not cheesy, it’s absolutely true. I have always known this lesson, as someone who is reasonably headstrong and stubborn, but being told it from multiple directions, including from people active and successful in the industry, solidified it and feel it’s worth reiterating the same sentiment today. Journalism to me originates from passion, something to spread across a group of people connected by the same interests or organisation, but with awareness and celebration of that group’s diversity and differences… something that’s successful in its authenticity and honesty and genuine care for its content. So theatre is my thing. Life’s richness comes from the nuances between everybody’s experiences and theatre provides a safe, closed capacity wherein we follow such stories and think about what they say about the wider human condition in all its beauty and ugliness. I think journalism is similar in the sense of sharing a narrative, therefore its capacity to be beautiful in its ability to spotlight and perhaps shape perspectives. And what’s really special about creating a magazine, for example, is its ability, that live performance doesn’t have, to be contained and read long after its conception. In Beacon terms, it’s nice to have a momento that marks this stage of both Handsworth and our personal histories, memories solidified, so to speak, in something that you can pick up and flick through.
My experiences from The Beacon and Shine have led me to look at theatre in a slightly different way, as an observer, a sponge. It’s given me the confidence to write more, and I’ve become engaged in the arts and culture magazine at university, mostly writing reviews of student plays (some of which will be used for Edinburgh Fringe publicity). Just last night, I got the opportunity to watch an interview conducted by Lena de Casparis from ELLE magazine, with the actress Sophie Turner, at my old theatre group, which Sophie also went to.
As much as having a solid understanding and passion for all aspects that go into a play has helped boost my journalistic writing, my growing journalistic eye has helped me inform my own theoretical and practical understanding of theatre better and what theatre’s place is in the wider community. It is now a hope of mine to create something that chronicles the creative process, in more depth than stagey news or gossip, perhaps in one fixed region where you can have a more detailed focus. I wish for the gap to be bridged better, the gap between creatives and critics, or the performer-spectator divide, so to speak, of which I fit into both parties. We’ll see where this idea leads! Whether I do decide to pursue it or not, whether I do decide to pursue a career in journalism at all, I have learnt a lot from this experience: notably the importance of teamwork and playing to individual strengths; organisation and communication as editor; most importantly, though, confidence in what you’re producing. It’s always nice to have some validation, and validation on a national scale like this was just the cherry on top for us last year.
Finally, I want to reiterate my thanks to last year’s judges for presenting me with this award, for allowing me to be part of this wider forum of alumni, and to those at the Stationers’ Company, TES, and Hearst (including ELLE, Red, and Prima) who have presented me and our team with these truly life-changing opportunities. I don’t use that phrase lightly. Thank you again to Ms Gallagher and well done to you and the 2022 team, including Aashi and Maria, for your continued success this year – may The Beacon’s light never go out!
Read the other keynote speeches from Shine 2023