The Murmuring Guillemot 2017


This weekend Guillemot made our roost at Port Eliot Festival – and it was the soggiest Port Eliot we’ve known. The rain was constant, the mud was deep.

The plan was to make a daily newspaper, printing on a risograph with content provided primarily by ten talented students from Plymouth University. We started soon after nine each morning, tidying out the press tent from the previous evening and discussing what we had to cover that day, who was working with whom and how. Throughout the day the paper’s content was written, edited, illustrated, scanned, set, printed, folded and collated, and by midnight the following morning’s paper would be just about ready and packed for the morning’s distribution. 

It was terrific fun, thanks to the students and editorial team, but also thanks to the numerous visitors who came to see us throughout the festival. We had Guillemot friends like clinic’s Rachael Allen and Sam Buchan Watts, Mona Arshi, Hannah Silva (who contributed a sound poem haiku), Wyl Menmuir, Emily Barr and James Brookes popping in and out of the press tent, sharing poems and giving interviews, and we had contributions from the public. One of the most pleasing pieces we received came after we published a playful article about a monster sighting in the River Tiddy. The following day a boy named George came to the press tent to report his own sighting of the monster’s orangey fin breaking the surface of the river and of the marks in the mud where the creature had slithered in and out of the water.

The editorial team was made up of John Kilburn, Charlie Sherratt, Lucy Kerr, Sarah Cave, Ben Smith and Luke Thompson – all writers and artists – but the content came mostly from the students. We had five illustrators and five creative writers from Plymouth University reviewing, interviewing, observing, playing, making comics, posters and fake adverts, then helping to fold and distribute the paper. The five writers were Shauna Crewes, Sophie Holman, Ropa Mugadza, Caitlin Brawn and Laura Reinbach, and the illustrators were Sally Mullaney, Elizabeth Rackal, Lily Treseder, Jade Broadhead and Eloise Levien. They were a wonderful team to work with – lively, talented and willing, and delivering funny, clever content every day. It was especially impressive to see the young writers and artists develop through the festival. None of them (none of us!) had done anything like this before, but as the days went by, working from nine in the morning until midnight, the work got better and better and was being produced much more swiftly. 

We did have a couple of problems to solve along the way, of course, mostly practical printing issues. The first was the paper and came right at the beginning of the print. The all-pervading damp meant that the original paper would not pass through the risograph and we had to hastily ship in a heavier stock at the last minute (thanks Dave!). Then there was the paper folder, which should have folded and collated the paper in minutes. Except it wouldn’t turn on. We put in a late night call to the students for help. They dashed back and the tent was soon full of laughter and cider as they hand folded every page of every copy. Over the weekend, that would be some 6000 pages. From the tirelessness of Shauna and Caitlin to the impressive speed and breadth of Sally’s contributions, each student brought something different and extraordinary to The Murmuring Guillemot.

Everything we own is muddy, really muddy. Really muddy and really wet and covered in ants. The press tent, the computers, the desks, the risograph, the laptops, the ipads, the scanners and printers, the editor – all covered in ants… and mud.

We would like to thank and congratulate everyone involved for a great job.