West Country Voices is one year old: much to celebrate; much more to do

West Country Voices (WCB) launched a year ago with the help and support of Louise Houghton at Yorkshire Bylines, Mike Galsworthy and Tom Brufatto at March for Change and the blessing of Peter Jukes and Simon Colegrave at Byline Times.

Run by a team of volunteer, citizen journalists, editors, proof readers and a picture editor and read by lovely people up and down the region and beyond hungry for a candid, challenging counter narrative to the right wing press, WCB has had a great first year, almost reaching one million site views at the time of writing.

12 months ago, we set out our stall, writing:

Welcome to the first edition of West Country Voices, a new online paper for people in Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset. Run by volunteers and showcasing local writers, West Country Voices will be scrutinising and calling out those in power, challenging the narrative spun by the mainstream media, and giving a voice to those with something important, enlightening or entertaining to say.

We like facts. We like human stories. We don’t like lies. We don’t like false promises, soundbites, waffle. We are fed up with politicians ‘getting away with it’, whether it’s spending our money with their mates or hiding the truth because it doesn’t suit their agenda, or just cynically blagging it, hoping we won’t notice or that we’ll feel too depressed to do anything about it.  No more. We’re watching and we’ll be telling you what they are up to, so you can make up your own mind, having got the facts.

We pay our elected representatives and they need to be reminded to put their constituents and their country before their party. We aren’t party-political, but those with power will get a hard time from us if they abuse it or throw it away, as every MP who chose to give away their power to vote on trade deals did, earlier this week. Brexit was allegedly about ‘taking back control’; most West Country MPs seem happy to give up that control at the flick of the government’s whip.

What’s more, they gaily clap like seals for the NHS, but then vote to keep it on the negotiating table for the US healthcare companies to pick at. The arrogance, duplicity and corruption are simply unacceptable. Those in power are relying on us to shrug and say, “What can we do?” But if our democracy is to survive the many assaults on it from without and within, shrugging really isn’t an option.

It won’t be all politics, although the fallout from Covid-19 and the impact of Brexit will affect us all, whether we like it or not. We’ll be bringing you a wide range of subjects and distinctive, high-quality writing with a local twist or a local focus; we hope to earn a place in your lives, wherever you are in this glorious part of the world. In turn, you can help us by sharing our articles, especially on local community sites, and telling your friends and family about us.

Maybe you have a good story to tell or would like someone to tell it for you? Get in touch. We’ve got editors in each of the four counties who would love to hear from you. We are, genuinely, all in this together.

We headlined with Tom Scott’s devastating piece on the Russia Report. It’s depressing to note that nothing has been done to address this disturbing interference in our democracy and the many links Johnson and his government have to powerful Russians. Looking back at that first edition, the common thread is that lies and corruption have increased and yet remain unpunished.

It is perhaps fitting that our current ‘hot’ story features an MP finally calling out the lies in the House of Commons and being punished for so doing. We have tried all year to call out lies. We aren’t going to stop.

But we aren’t all about politics and corruption, the NHS and climate emergency. We try to offer our readers a really rich menu of subjects and writing styles and we are always on the look out for new voices and fresh angles.

Thank you all so much for being with us! Stay with us and help spread the word as we enter a second year which promises to be more challenging for those prepared to put their heads above the parapet and speak truth to power.

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