The last four issues of BAITCameron Walters

Let’s start with a big one: what is BAIT?

BAIT was founded in Easter Term 2017, in the wake of the money-burning scandal, as a way for artists and writers in Cambridge to register their anger and raise money for homelessness charities. The magazine’s audience and length have both grown to the point where we attract 200 submissions (and growing!) for each termly issue. We feature art, essays, poetry, prose, and more! But though the charities we support have changed — from Jimmy’s to SolidariTee to the Whitworth Trust — the spirit of community & creativity as a vehicle for positive social change has remained constant. That spirit feels more needed than ever at the moment.

What charity is Issue Nine supporting?

At the beginning of the process of putting Issue Nine together, we wanted to donate to Addenbrooke’s Charitable Fund — but recently, in light of the murder of George Floyd and global protests against structural racism, we decided to donate to Black Lives Matter UK. Black lives have always been under threat from all forms of racism, but the pandemic has made these inequalities even more painfully visible. Black communities are the most vulnerable in this pandemic; death rates are up to four times greater than in white ones. 

This is not new. Black people have been fighting racism for hundreds of years. Sadly, many people are only now waking up to the issue. We’re at a crossroads with the opportunity for radical change. It seems like there is a growing awareness of the responsibility non-black people hold in educating themselves, having conversations that might be uncomfortable and looking at the ways in which they perpetuate racism in their daily lives. We hope to contribute to this.

"We wanted to give people the space they need to express the emotions that have dominated these months"

Previous issues have focused on specific themes: Britishness, Sex, Memory. Why did you decide to put out an open call for submissions this issue?

BAIT has always been themed — but as we were launching submissions at the beginning of the UK lockdown, we felt offering a completely open creative platform would be more fitting. We definitely didn't want to make this issue into "BAIT: The Quarantine” because people use creativity to escape as well as to explore their current situation — and everyone knows what the circumstances are without needing to be told. Equally, carrying on with an unrelated theme wouldn't have felt right - we wanted to give people the space they need to express the emotions that have dominated these months, whether that be in specific reference to the pandemic or in their own particular stories and lives.

What’s the issue itself like?

The issue has more art than ever before, and it’s been particularly exciting to see the variety of visual media grow. One favourite is Sophie Beckingham’s painting ‘Frances in Cambridge’ — of her grandmother visiting last term — which feels so evocative of those much-missed connections with loved ones. We’re lucky to have the wonderful folk at Playtime contributing a playlist to mix up your lockdown listening. There’s also been an increase in longer prose pieces and reviews, which has made the magazine a more varied read -  Karolina Filova's absurd and touching ‘Golden Hour’, which sits somewhere between Douglas Adams and Ali Smith, is a highlight.

As we’re all at home, there’s a thread running through the zine of domestic moments. If we were to label it, perhaps this would be the issue on domesticity — but it’s also another reflection on memory, and on how we relate to the outside world, and on family and friendship. It’s brilliant, too, to see how pieces can sit together on a page and talk across media: Abbie Schneebecke’s photo of a wide, crisp blue sky and Ella Gold’s expansive, warm poem ‘Honey-Yellow Horizons’ seem like they were made for each other.

The issue eight launch at Motion SicknessMiriam Emefa Dzah

And how’s the launch going to work online?

The digital issue will be launched on an online platform on Friday 12th June, and we’ll have a launch video of some contributors reading and presenting their work, all shared through Facebook. We want to make it as much of an event as possible, so the lovely Joe Turrell is also whipping up a mix to accompany the launch in lieu of an in-person party!

The readings and presentations themselves should be thought-provoking and informative - when engaging with a piece of artwork, it can really help to have some insight into the artist’s ideas about it, to get a personal angle on the piece and to better understand where it’s going. Hearing writing read aloud is always one of the best bits of launch night: we’re so glad we can still preserve that (and make it more accessible!).

"Our launch parties have always had the goal of giving back to our submitters"

Can a zine help create a sense of community when we’re absent from Cambridge?

It’s brilliant to be able to provide a shared platform for new creations, at a time when writing or making art alone at home might feel quite isolated. It’s great for people to be able to connect over their work and celebrate their friends getting featured. As editors it is a wonderful feeling to be able to channel our energy into a project that is the product of so many people's efforts; going through all the submissions really felt like hearing the voices of all our submitters and reminded us why BAIT and other student magazines are so good for promoting artistic expression in Cambridge.

Working together as our editorial team is a brilliant experience (whether in a tiny classroom in Cambridge or over Zoom) and our launch parties have always had the goal of giving back to our submitters by welcoming them into this community as much as possible - we are nothing without them. We hope that our virtual launch this time around will be a celebration of the amazing talent that makes BAIT what it is, and a reflection of the community behind it that extends far beyond a little team of editors. 


Mountain View

Thief: A Short Story

Lastly, where might BAIT go in the future?

Next term’s going to be hard for everyone, but especially for freshers - we’d love to figure out something that would help forge friendships among the newest members of the Cambridge arts community. We think it’ll be more important than ever that BAIT be accessible, transparent and welcoming so that people feel able to get involved, even in an environment that might breed isolation. The fact that the magazine is growing with every issue is allowing us to reach an ever wider circle of people and make sure that BAIT isn't an exclusive club but a buzzing, evolving community. We really hope that growth will continue!

The BAIT Issue Nine launch takes place at 8pm, Friday 12th June. Find the event page here!