Brits living in Spain seemed to understand the issues behind Britain’s EU referendum rather better than people in their homeland, judging by stories turned up in Malaga by Coventry Journalism students.
The chairman of Costa Tories told Alpha Ceesay she was angry that she’d be denied a vote in the referendum because she had lived outside the UK for more than 15 years – yet she owned property and paid tax in Britain.
That was one of a few dozen pieces turned out by second-year students exploring the Brexit debate in three cities: Malaga, Bristol and Coventry.
Six students spent a working week in Spain while another 14 set up a newsroom for three days at Bristol youth hostel, in a prime location on the waterside.
A smaller group explored the big issues in Coventry.
Among the home team was Luke Ambrose, whose headline summed up the general situation. It asked: Does everyone understand what we are talking about?
All students found the topic challenging. Either people didn’t want to talk about a subject few understood, or they didn’t speak English. In Spain, seeking out expats solved the problem.
The owner of an Irish bar in Malaga told Adonelle Sagoe he wasn’t worried about the referendum – Ireland would remain in the EU.
And Jemma Cullum found a British estate agent in Malaga didn’t fear a collapse of the expat housing market if Britain voted Out – because most of his buyers were Scandinavian.
In Bristol – a European city of sport – the team produced several stories related to football and community sports, including an interview with the head of a sports charity.
Jessica Allen, Natalia Kaluza and Libby Beacham filmed an interview with Bim Mason, founder and head of the Circomedia circus arts school in Bristol – while his students practised juggling and acrobatics in the background.
In her web piece, Jess wrote: “Circuses aren’t the first thing you think of when you consider Britain leaving the EU – even if politicians do seem to be clowning around.”
Dr Mason was very concerned about the prospect of Brexit because of the strong co-operation between circuses and physical performers across Europe. His school is funded by the European Union.
Ben Masters and his team produced a daily video diary recording their experiences, and the difficulty of pitching up in a strange city and trying to find stories.
Aaron Virdee takes a positive view in one of Ben’s vlogs: “We’re really relishing this opportunity to be in a different environment and try out new things,” he says.
In his final piece to camera, back home in Coventry, Ben is candid about the challenges.
“It’s been quite a stressful few days back in Bristol,” he says. “I went there to try and find out more about the referendum and I’ve come back hopefully with a wider knowledge.
“Not many people wanted to speak about it and the other half didn’t understand much, didn’t know much. No one really wanted to share their opinion, even off camera.
“We know what to expect now when we go out in different towns and cities. I believe I gained a lot from this trip and so did my team mates.
“I reacted to situations where I didn’t have a story and ended up I did have one. To go to a city I’ve never been to before and learn something new.. that’s why I became a journalist. I want to step past boundaries.”
Students who flew to Malaga were subsidised by Coventry University’s Centre for Global Engagement, while the cost of the two-night trip to YHA Bristol – accommodation, breakfasts and transport – was wholly met from course funds. Future trips are planned.
Main picture: Zara Flynn at Bristol Docks. Photographed by Jess Allen