Alex Hadyn-Williams

As usual with BAIT, this term began in the holidays. The moment where us four first-year-going-on-second-year editors took over completely from the soon-to-be-third-years who’d taught us how to run the zine deserved a grand ceremony, but it was actually marked by Jonny adding Cate, Miriam and Alex to a Messenger group chat named ‘BAIT Issue 10’.

The first thing that needed deciding, we realised, was a theme for our Michaelmas issue. Last issue, before lockdown, we’d bandied about ideas in the Jesus College bar. BAIT on Sound and Vision led to a not-entirely-joking BAIT on Bowie — or would we prefer Absurdity, or Home, or Borders? This time round, Zooming from our living rooms, we settled quickly on the latter. It felt like a chance to take BAIT back to its politicised origins as a combination of art and radicalism. After all, the name’s there to suggest it’s polemical and provocative.

“It felt like a chance to take BAIT back to its politicised origins as a combination of art and radicalism”

We drafted submission guidelines and trawled the archives (well, the Google Drive folders) for old issues we could upload through the hot days of late August. Alex got bored and spent a day editing a photo of Meryl Streep on a video call to make it look like she’d bought every copy of BAIT, while Cate re-organised the bank account and sent an unholy amount of confirmation emails. With little to do beyond long walks and overheating, menial zine chores were a relief.

One of our editors was following @cambridgeuniversity2020 on Instagram, hoping to spot their future college kids, and realised that it was a perfect opportunity to introduce new people to BAIT. After we reached out and they posted an advert for us on their story, we realised this wasn’t going to be an ordinary term. Our Instagram had 670 followers before the story, but we woke the next day to find it pushing 800. On the chat, “is anyone a little overwhelmed by the interest lol” met with “and they have no idea we’re just four first years winging it completely hahaha”.

We put together a video for the virtual Freshers’ Fair and reminisced about when, desperate to find the elusive Cambridge arts scene, we’d stumbled across BAIT right at the back of Kelsey Kerridge during last year’s in-person Fair. After the return to Cambridge, a hectic move-in and our sole in-person meeting in the Newnham marquee (without Jonny, who was busy self-isolating and accumulating houseplants), the levels of interest continued to blow us away. We opened applications to join the team in Week 1, and more people applied than in the magazine’s entire history to date.

“It’s bizarre to think that the six of us still haven’t met in person, but it’s also pretty special — and oh-so-2020 — that we’ve been able to make a 112-page zine despite that”

One upshot of the move to online interactions was collaborating more than ever with other societies. When we came together with our friends at Mosaic., the Cambridge Review of Books and Notes to host a joint Freshers’ panel about the zine scene, we expected our mums, and maybe our cats, to turn up. In the end, about forty people watched. It was so heartwarming to see — our little creation, which had felt so personal over the summer, was actually interesting to people. When the New Hall Art Collection at Murray Edwards— Europe’s biggest collection of art by women — reached out to us on Instagram and suggested a collaboration, we wondered if this was Making It Big™.

Then, there was a zine to make. Joined by two new brilliant members, Audrey and Sienna, we powered through a six-hour decisions meeting, helped by tea, toast and increasingly lucid jokes. Selecting from 185 clever, funny and beautiful submissions was always going to be hard. As the Google Sheet filled with yes, no and maybe, we kept on saying how good everything was and how hard, but fun, that made our jobs.

By the end of that epic, though, it felt like we had a coherent magazine, with pages put in a theoretical order on yet another Sheet. After a weekend spent mostly with one another’s pixelated faces, we decided to take a break to enjoy the last few days before the second lockdown came in. BAIT takes up a lot of time, and as we’re a small, non-hierarchical team, it takes up a lot of our hearts as well. From time to time, stepping away is necessary.

Week Five, on the other hand, saw the five designers on free-trial Photoshop, designing pages and putting more thought into em-dashes and page number positions than our degrees. Then came proofreads, content noting, more proofreads and interviews for new members to join us next term. Miriam put together a beautiful cover with an arty friend’s photo of a Japanese classroom, Jonny uploaded the pages to Mixam (our printing company) and Alex — sitting in a stairwell to get WiFi — sent off the print edition. After months, we were pretty much there.


Mountain View

An Introduction to the Cambridge Zine Scene

Organising BAIT in a socially distanced world has been a challenge — three of us had to self-isolate at different points, putting paid to our ideas of an in-person picnic and meaning a Zoom brunch was the best social we could manage. It’s bizarre to think that the six of us still haven’t met in person, but it’s also pretty special — and oh-so-2020 — that we’ve been able to make a 112-page zine despite that.

When the virtual launch rolls around on the 28th and our brilliant submitters read their writing, hopefully all those hours on Zoom and Adobe and Google Docs and Messenger will have been worth it to help create a little community, and a little comfort, in dark times. Then we’ll do it all again, because we just love it.

The launch of BAIT on Borders will be live on Facebook and Instagram at 8pm on the 28th November, featuring readings, a downloadable poster, virtual mingling and the release of the zine itself.