Nathan Shoesmith and three other Norwich students founded political news website The Speaker, in 2018. For the first couple of years he would write an reflective end-of-year article. Until last year, that is. Here the Lancaster University student talks about why 2020 was worth writing a book about
The idea of The Speaker was formed in a classroom at the start of 2018. Myself, and a group of other students felt that there wasn’t really anything out there that made politics accessible and understandable for the wider public, but particularly young people. In times of major change, from Brexit to climate change, we saw a need for young people to be able to understand politics and have their say – as such, The Speaker was born and launched two months later at speakerpolitics.co.uk.
Right at the start of 2020, things looked good and there were no signs that things were to quickly worsen. On January 16, 2020, I suffered a blow to the head which at first seemed fairly innocuous and minor, though after days of struggling to walk or see properly and having incredibly difficult head pains, I was admitted to A&E for emergency brain scans.
Fortunately, my scull was still intact, though I continued to experience symptoms of post-concussion syndrome. My nerves had been damaged in the injury and later in the year I had to start wearing glasses for the first time in my life. Now in 2021, I am well on the road to recovery though my ability to take part in some sports or work long hours without pain is still restricted. It’s fair to say that I could have had a better start to 2020…
Like most people, adapting to lockdown life was a challenge. I think some of the things I’ve missed most are being able to travel more freely and to visit friends, family and loved ones. As such, when I have been able to do these things over the last year, it has been extra special and something that I’ve grown to appreciate a lot more.
From a professional point of view, it has been an incredibly busy year. While the rollout of The Speaker’s Education Service slowed, our readership dramatically increased – and I regularly found myself questioning government ministers on topics from mental health to economic support and coronavirus restrictions.
I don’t think there has ever been a time in which people have been so interested in politics and the news more generally. During the first lockdown, daily Downing Street briefings became part of the daily schedule for many families and for a while were seen by many as unmissable TV. As the pandemic has continued, that interest has decreased somewhat, but with tough restrictions remaining, it is perhaps unsurprising that interest and awareness of politics has increased.
Recognition is not the reason I, or others, do the work we do – it is because we enjoy it and want to be able to have a real positive impact on other people’s lives. It is always nice though to hear that the work we are doing is making a difference and I was honoured to be named on TechRound’s 29 under 29 for 2020 and the The Independent’s Happy List 2019.
Each year at The Speaker, I write an article on New Year’s Eve looking back at the major events of the year. Over recent years, that has been quite some task – with an awful lot happening in UK and world politics (not just Brexit). In 2020, we felt that an article alone wasn’t enough, given the sheer scale and extent of events that had taken place during the year. Our solution? A book.
2020 As It Happened, now available on Amazon, recaps the year of unprecedented events as it happened. Through adapted impartial reporting and analysis, the books covers top stories from the UK and around the world, coronavirus and non-coronavirus related.
2020 will forever have an important place in history and I think it’s vital that we have a record of how it unfolded and changed our lives.
The Speaker has grown massively since launching and we’re keen to continue moving forward with that growth. As part of our mission moving forward, we’ll be expanding our Education Service, which helps schools, educational organisations and their students gain an improved understanding and engagement in politics.
I often get asked whether a new book is on the horizon. At the moment, there are not any plans to work on a new book, however, that may change depending on what the future holds. I think we could write a book about every year, but it would detract from the significance of 2020. The year of 2020 really was different and that is why we felt it was worthy of a book.
Graduation seems like a long way away yet, so we’ll have to see how the world is looking at that stage. As it stands, I’m keen to push forward on the growth of The Speaker and continue working in the communications/media sector, but also working on a number of charitable and community projects that have even more of a positive impact on the lives of others.