A Year in Review: Reflecting on the first year of The Brighton Seagull
On Monday 31 January 2022, eleven months after registering the domain and a year after first speculating how we could build a different kind of online newspaper for Brighton and Hove, The Brighton Seagull published its first weekly briefing.
Reading that now, it's very easy to see how far we've come since that initial briefing—RIP the book recommendations that only lasted one article. We've learnt so much, and we've brought so many of you along on that journey with us. If you've been here from the start, thank you! If you're only just joining, welcome! Strap yourselves in for a retrospective: a year in the life of The Brighton Seagull.
Starting off strong, in April 2022 we broke the story (a whole eight days before other publications picked it up) about the University of Brighton suffering up to £3.7 million financial fraud, having been tipped off from a source.
That same month we published Gareth Lloyd's superb 'Brighton’s unheralded role in Hollywood: When the Seagulls swooped in to help save “superstar club” Wrexham AFC', still one of our fave pitches, and one of our most-read articles, which we're very proud to have on our site.
We reviewed 26 shows at Brighton Fringe, with photography for each—pretty impressive considering there were only two people writing the reviews and they had Covid for a week of it (don't worry, they stayed home)! We also held the inaugural Seagull Awards, celebrating the best comedians, plays, sketch shows and more. We've loved seeing people share the awards online, it meant so much to us that the recipients were as excited for them as we were.
Our editor was invited to go along to The Great Escape festival as a member of the press, something she's dreamed of since 2018 when she first went. She reviewed the whole festival by herself, as well as attending delegate events to learn more about the challenges facing the music industry, and to hear about the good work being done for grassroots venues.
In November we reached a milestone of 500 subscribers! This was such an exciting moment for the whole team, and we're so grateful to every member of the flock, past and present, for being a part of Seagull.
This gave us the push we needed to start on merch: we've been giving out Seagull Recommends stickers to places we've recommended in our weekly articles (send a photo to [email protected] if you see any in the wild!), and we've got some fun mugs that the team have been drinking their coffees out of every day.
One of our biggest challenges was getting Covid halfway through Brighton Fringe. Not ideal, and it meant we had to take eight days off until we tested negative, but it did teach us an important lesson: we can't review every show ourselves! Some nights we were in the Caroline of Brunswick for four hours, watching three shows back-to-back. This year we're hoping to get more writers involved—watch this space for more on that!
Another challenge was trying to maintain a work-work-life balance—this isn't our full-time job (yet!), and Team Seagull also have full-time jobs during the day. This means every weekend we're spending hours and hours researching, writing, editing, finding photos, replying to pitches, doing website management, having meetings, just to keep bringing you content. And we love doing it! But it was definitely hard to find the balance at first, as well as finding time just to relax outside of work.
And finally, our biggest challenge: we are entirely self-funded—a small sponsorship from one of our founders being what pays for our wonderful freelance contributors. This year we're looking into ways to diversify our income, so that we can continue to pay our writers fairly, publish longer-form articles, and get our editor working part-time.
We've got big, big plans for this year! As we've said already, we want to get a team of writers together to cover as much of Brighton Fringe 2023 as we can, invest in more investigative content, and hire more staff. There may even be an opportunity for you to personally support our reporting and help us grow, so that we can do more of the stories you love—yet another reason to watch this space!
A redesign and relaunch has also been in the works for a long time, and it's finally going to happen this year. Along with that will come more merch, the naming of the seagull, and (our editor's long-term goal since the start of the weekly briefings), a podcast to accompany the articles where we can explore the stories in more depth. We also want to have an in-house photographer so we're using original photos as much as possible and, as ever, we're ploughing through the paperwork to get a seagull emoji made.