George Viner Memorial Fund 2017
George Viner scholars Soila Apparicio, Nasim Asl & Joshua Surtees celebrate in The Chapel café bar - © Mark Thomas
Gary Younge - © Mark Thomas
Ayshah Tull - © Mark Thomas
23 May 2017
“When you succeed, be in no doubt it is because of how good you are,” Guardian editor-at-large Gary Younge told the George Viner Memorial Fund (GVMF) scholars.
Presenting certificates at a ceremony in the NUJ’s new downstairs venue, he told this year’s recipients about his own journey from unfocused graduate to newspaper columnist.
As well as writing for the Guardian, Gary Younge writes a monthly column, Beneath the Radar, for the Nation magazine, he has recently published his fifth book, Another Day in the Death of America, and has made several radio and television documentaries on subjects ranging from gay marriage to Brexit.
In his final year at Heriot Watt University Edinburgh, where he studied French and Russian, translating and interpreting, he was awarded a bursary from The Guardian to study journalism at City University and has since won many awards writing from around the globe. He is a visiting professor at London South Bank University.
The GVMF is a charity founded by the NUJ in 1986 to provide bursaries to help black and Asian students enter journalism. A recent City University London survey found that the British journalism industry is 94 per cent white, but the four latest GV scholars join more than 150 other recipients, many of whom have gone on to distinguished media careers. Applications for the next cohort of scholars is now open. More details are on the GVMF website page.
The awards are one of the flagship events on the NUJ’s calendar and it was fitting that it was one of the first to take place in the union’s refurbished downstairs meeting room, with refreshments held on the ground floor in The Chapel café bar.
Joining Gary on the platforms was Ayshah Tull, a 2009 scholar, who is now a BBC journalist/presenter. “Be nice to people on the way up", she advised, "because the media is a tiny village and you will meet everyone again."
Ayshah presents CBBC Newsround, the children's news programme, and has covered the Scottish referendum, Glasgow's Commonwealth Games and London's Brit Awards. Previously, she worked for Sky News, finding guests for breaking news stories, and was a broadcast journalist for BBC Radio 5Live. She later tweeted: “An honour and a pleasure to speak at the @NUJofficial #GVFM event tonight, so many inspiring young journos just starting out. Good luck!”
Liz Morrison with Tim Dawson
Hosting the event, Tim Dawson, NUJ president, paid tribute to Lionel Morrison, the former NUJ president who died last October after many years chairing the board of GVMF trustees. His widow Liz was awarded a “planting a tree” certificate in tribute to Lionel’s life; the planting ceremony will take place in November.
Born in South Africa in 1935, Lionel was a member of the African National Congress and the youngest detainee in the treason trial of 1956 at which Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu were also tried. He worked on numerous newspapers, including the Sunday People, Evening Standard, Sunday Mirror and Sunday Telegraph and is best known for his commitment to ensuring wider representation of black and Asian journalists in the industry.
It is customary for one of the scholars to speak on behalf of the others and this year the task fell to Soila Apparicio, who is studying an MA in investigative journalism at City University London.
“We can see the progress being made in the industry, very gradually, but very importantly," she said. "Edward Enninful is the first black male editor of arguably the most famous fashion magazine in the world, Vogue. Publications that focus on race and culture, such as Skin Deep and gal-dem are winning awards for the work they do to promote our stories.
"This advance is still too slow in mainstream media outlets. Our voices are undeniably important in the public debate on the political, social, and economic future of the UK, particularly following the Brexit vote. The rise of populist policies and nationalism makes it more necessary that the BAME perspective is heard and listened to.
“My George Viner scholarship has helped me to keep a grounded understanding of a variety of political structures and of the inequalities still faced by people of colour, women, and the LGBTQ community. These are groups I will set out to represent at the forefront of my journalism. Representation, in my view, should be one of the most important things we ask from our media, if it is to be fair and honest.
“It is an honour to be a George Viner Scholar. Without the help and relief it has provided me, I am sure that I would not have fully realised how enjoyable journalism is and appreciated its ever-increasing importance in a very confusing and volatile world.”
Soila believes she will be able to use her South American ancestry to give a different perspective on important and underreported stories involving communities that have very different perspective to those of Western liberal democracy.
Joshua Surtees made change of career in his thirties and is now pursuing his passion for journalism, thanks to the George Viner bursary. He gained experience by writing freelance articles for The Guardian, The Voice and Camden New Journal, but struggled to land a staff writing job.
Eventually, he decided to work abroad and, after receiving job offers in Ghana and Jordan, he opted to move to Trinidad and Tobago in 2013 to work for the Trinidad Guardian.
Returning to Britain a year later, he added Vice, Caribbean Beat and the Evening Standard to his portfolio. Since being awarded the George Viner Memorial Fund last year, he has completed his MA in newspaper journalism at City University and is writing for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
Nasim Asl, from Washington, Tyne and Wear, is studying an MA in television journalism at City University after graduating from Oxford University where she read English language and literature. She said:
"This funding has allowed me to train as a journalist. I’m learning from those who are at the top of their game and I’m inspired by those who really care about the industry and its future.
"I’ve received practical, hands-on-training, reported on local news stories and taken my first real steps into the professional workplace. These are opportunities I would never have dreamed of without the support of the fund. I’m motivated daily by the fact that the NUJ believed in my potential and I’m determined to make the most of the opportunity it has given me. It’s an honour to join 20 years' worth of George Viner Scholars."
Ben Hunte did not attend the awards ceremony; he was a victim of his own success. In a message to the NUJ he said: “I must apologise. I was in the studio working on my new radio series and didn’t finish until 10pm. It would be great to come and say a personal thank you to GVMF and NUJ at some point soon because I am truly grateful for the support this year.”
He said the funding had allowed him to move seamlessly from being a strategy manager at Google to following his dream of being a TV journalist after completing his journalism course at City University. He said: "While studying, I interned extensively, networked hard and eventually was fortunate enough to be given some amazing experiences.
"Since January, I have reported on several original stories for BBC News and BBC London TV News, including investigations into male domestic abuse, transgender teens and black male graduate unemployment. Several of my stories have been lead stories throughout the day and have been picked up nationally. I am now passionate about shining a light on usually-untold stories which can ignite conversations."
This summer he will present "Gay Britannia" on BBC Radio 4 Extra, a season of LGBT programming to celebrate the UK's 50th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality.
Séamus Dooley, acting general secretary, paid tribute to the trustees of the fund and to the fund administrator of GVMF, Leyla Yusuf, for her work in co-ordinating the event. He said: “This is a showpiece for the NUJ, an annual reminder of the importance of solidarity as a weapon in the constant struggle for equality. This year’s event was extra special because it was our first such event in the Chapel café bar and because we remembered Lionel with style, humour and affection.”
The George Viner Memorial Fund needs your donations to fund bursaries for the next cohort of scolars. Find out how you or your branch or chapel can make a contribution on the GVMF page.
All pictures © Mark Thomas