Contributors

Exeter Observer welcomes contributions from aspiring or experienced writers, editors, photographers and film makers who want to help create and deliver our independent public interest community journalism.

We offer support to help regular contributors develop story ideas, learn core journalism skills and gain confidence.

If you are considering contributing to Exeter Observer please see our contributors guide.


Bethany Collins

Bethany Collins is a politics student at the University of Exeter hoping to specialise in public policy.

She has lived in East Devon for most of her life, and has a keen interest in local government. She has been actively involved in campaigning with independent parliamentary candidate Claire Wright.

Since starting her degree she has engaged with the university LGBTQ+ society and has a strong passion for climate activism.

@bethanyjcollins

Chris Musgrave

Chris Musgrave is a trade union official, political activist and former Exeter city councillor.

He has a background in employment law, campaigning and election management, and has a passion for social and economic justice and protecting the environment.

Since deciding not to stand for re-election in 2019 he has focussed on democratic and financial scrutiny of local government, seeking to expose waste and inconsistency wherever he finds it.

Chris is also Chair of Trustees for Exeter-based Intercom Trust, an advocacy charity supporting LGBT+ communities across the South West.

@chris_musgrave

Chris Wood

Chris Wood is a climate activist, skeptic, philosopher, grandfather and computer programmer.

He marched with Rock against Racism in the 1970’s, hitch-hiked around Europe and worked as a despatch rider before becoming a self taught computer programmer.

Chris has worked with Exeter’s youth offending team, been a children’s advocate and, on occasion, has jumped out of perfectly fine aeroplanes.

He has also studied philosophy and psychology at Oxford as a mature student.

His software development company had offices in Surrey and California until the family moved to Devon at the turn of the millennium for a radical life change.

@joffa42

Claire Wright

Claire Wright is an independent councillor on Devon County Council and parliamentary candidate for East Devon.

She has been a Devon County Councillor since 2013, winning the largest majority of any county councillor two terms running. She represents Otter Valley and sits on the Health and Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee, among other appointments.

She stood as an independent parliamentary candidate for East Devon in 2015 and 2017, when she won a 25% vote share. Her 2019 campaign attracted national media attention when an MRP YouGov poll found she was the most likely Independent to be elected in Britain. However, despite increasing her vote share to over 40% the national swing preserved 150 years of continuous Conservative East Devon representation at Westminster.

She was previously a councillor on East Devon District Council from 2011 to 2015 and Ottery St Mary Town Council from 2009 to 2013. Her professional background is in public relations, mainly for the NHS and other public sector organisations.

Other posts include Deputy Chair of the Local Government Association Community Wellbeing Board, which represents the position of local government to Whitehall, with a focus on health and social care. She is also a Woodland Trust Tree Champion for Devon. You can find out more about Claire on her website.

@ClaireWrightInd

Daniel Clark

Daniel Clark was a Local Democracy Reporting Service reporter based in Exeter.

He covered Devon County Council and the county’s district councils and other public service organisations for the BBC Local News Partnerships, a public interest democracy reporting and journalism service in which Exeter Observer is a partner.

@HEDanielClark

Eleanor Andrade May

Eleanor Andrade May is a seventeen year old climate activist with Fridays for Future Exeter.

When not striking, she attends sixth form at Ivybridge Community College.

Her interests include local government policy-making and sub-national Green New Deal development and delivery. She campaigns for UK-wide reform of the whole education sector to prepare students for the climate emergency and ecological crisis with Teach the Future.

She also enjoys photography, data science and Ten Tors.

Freya Garry

Freya Garry is a member of the UK Climate Resilience team based at the Met Office in Exeter.

Freya’s work contributes to a UK wide project on Climate Resilience, the Strategic Priority Fund for Climate Resilience.

Freya is passionate about promoting diversity and inclusion across science and is involved with diversity initiatives in Exeter.

Freya co-founded the Women in Climate network at the University of Exeter, is involved in the PRISM Exeter network and is a keen climate science communicator, participating in the Climate Stories project.

More information is available on Freya’s Met Office profile.

@freyagarry

Jenna McGill

Jenna McGill is a court reporter and NCTJ Diploma student who is doing portfolio work experience with Exeter Observer.

@JennaMcGill20

Laura Davies

Laura Davies has a background in education, teaching in London primary schools for seven years during which time she was an active union member.

She has worked for a number of local, independent businesses since moving to Exeter five years ago, and has become increasingly involved in climate activism.

Laura is a keen cyclist, ornithologist and part-time DJ, playing at Exeter Pride the past two years.

Leigh Curtis

Leigh Curtis is a contributing editor of Exeter Observer and a director of its publisher Exeter Observer Limited.

She has a background in print design and production and project and account management with leading London media and design agencies.

She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Art at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she has also managed exhibitions and degree shows.

@leighcurtis

Louise Stinchcombe

Louise Stinchcombe is a freelance educator specialising in religious studies and history and has over ten years' experience working in a range of educational institutions.

She graduated with an MA in Religion in Global Politics from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, in 2017 and continues to take an active interest in world politics, conflicts and gender-based violence.

Louise is a budding naturalist with a keen interest in conservation and rewilding and has been involved in climate activism since 2018.

Martin Redfern

Martin Redfern is editor of Exeter Observer and a director of its publisher Exeter Observer Limited.

He has 25 years’ experience working with public and private sector organisations in multi-stakeholder contexts to achieve social change goals, and has been actively engaged with public policy and practice around climate change since the 1992 Rio Summit.

He holds a Master’s degree with distinction in Journalism at Birkbeck, University of London and has a background in campaigning, project management and multimedia design and development.

He is a member of the National Union of Journalists and the Society of Editors and is an accredited UK press card holder.

@martinredfern

Mike Myshko

Mike Myshko is a filmmaker, photographer and designer.

He has a background in physics, animation and web development, and is passionate about telling unique stories and helping bring small projects to life.

After working on a number of well-received feature films, co-producing and selling an award-winning film to Amazon, he is now looking to develop personal projects focussed on environmental issues, democracy and minority voices.

Mike also has a first class BSc in Broadcast Technology and is a member of BECTU.

More information is available on his website.

@heymyshko

Moragh Mason

Moragh Mason is a researcher and contributing writer for Exeter Observer.

She has a background in the public sector in a variety of roles. The ones she enjoyed most involved investigation and report writing.

Since escaping the world of work she continues to put those skills to good use. She is concerned about the loss of green space in Exeter and is involved in the campaign to save the Clifton Hill sports centre site from development.

Naomi Parkinson

Naomi Parkinson is an artist and campaigner working in marketing and events.

She has lived in East Devon since completing a degree in Film and English in London.

She is an environmental campaigner and active community participant, recently contributing to Independent Claire Wright’s general election campaign.

@NaomiDJPerfect

Peter Cleasby

Peter Cleasby is a contributing editor of Exeter Observer.

A former senior civil servant, specialising in policy development and managing public business, he subsequently became a freelance policy, management and governance consultant, and a trustee of several national and local charities.

Today, he has escaped from the boardroom and works - unpaid, of course - as a watch-keeper at Exmouth Coastwatch, research officer for Exeter Green Party, occasional blogger, campaigner for openness in public life, and doing any other interesting odd jobs that crop up from time to time.

@Peter_Cleasby

Piers Forster

Piers Forster is Professor of Physical Climate Change and Director of the Priestley International Centre for Climate, University of Leeds and a member of the UK Climate Change Committee.

He has played a significant role authoring Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports and currently has a coordinating lead author role for the IPCC sixth assessment report.

@piersforster

Roz Harding

Roz Harding is a jazz saxophonist who teaches at Exeter College where she also leads the Jazz Project and Jambassadors.

She has performed in a wide variety of ensembles and recording projects. Her music has been played on Jazz FM and BBC Radio 6 Music and she has played live on air for BBC Radio 3 and at venues including Ronnie Scotts, The Vortex, London Jazz Festival, Kings Place, Cheltenham Jazz Festival, Women in Jazz and Birmingham Jazz.

She can be found playing in Mike Westbrook’s The Uncommon Orchestra, Kate Westbrook’s GRANITE, Dave Holdsworth’s New Brew, Emma Welton’s A Quiet Night In, Billie Bottle and the Multiple and leading her own project SUPERMOOD. She has also started working with Tom Glazebrook and his visual theory of music Meta-Harmony.

Roz has been involved in numerous youth projects in the UK and Europe, including Devon Youth Jazz Orchestra, and teaches at Exeter College, Plymouth University and South West Music School.

Sam Sleeman

Sam Sleeman is a climate activist, writer and student.

Sam works with Fridays for Future Exeter to mobilise the Youth Strike 4 Climate movement and organise around a Green New Deal.

He is reading Human, Social and Political Science at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and has been published in The Guardian, The Ecologist, The Big Issue and Open Democracy.

Sam enjoys cycling, climbing on Dartmoor and making documentaries.

@sleeman_sam

Vanessa Miles

Vanessa Miles is a portrait, editorial and events photographer and has been a photography tutor at Exeter Phoenix since 2013.

She has exhibited at Exeter Phoenix, Exeter Picture House, Plymouth Art Weekender and The Art Institute, Plymouth and her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Times, Country Life, The Ecologist and Resurgence.

She works with individuals, workshop groups, families and organisations and is a frequent collaborator on scientific and environmental projects.

More information is available on her website.

Recent stories
Independent local business on Paris Street, Exeter

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Prospects improve for pop-up Paris Street and Sidwell Street tenants wanting to stay on development site

Council leader Phil Bialyk says it will be "some years" before planned CityPoint redevelopment affects repurposed retail units, and that council "would want" to accommodate artistic and cultural initiatives and independent local businesses "should they wish to remain".

Greta Thunberg outside the Swedish parliament building in August 2018

Interview  ⁄  Climate & environment

Greta Thunberg calls on world leaders for honesty at COP26

An interview with climate activist Greta Thunberg on the eve of the COP26 summit published in partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global media collaboration.

Clifton Hill sports centre

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Council plans to scrap affordable housing requirement for Clifton Hill sports centre site redevelopment

Council-owned and financed developer cites unpublished report which values council-owned land for student housing despite council decision ruling out this use.

Liveable Exeter Place Board agenda October 2020 redacted

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

City council outsourcing Exeter local government to unaccountable Liveable Exeter Place Board

An Exeter Observer investigation of Liveable Exeter Place Board has found that it is a de facto decision-making and governance body which exercises public functions with the potential to affect everyone who lives and works in Exeter.

Exeter city centre from Exeter Cathedral roof

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Freedom of Information requests reveal Liveable Exeter Place Board "chumocracy" overseeing the city

Despite the significance of Liveable Exeter Place Board's role in determining the city's future, its members are selected and appointed on a secretive, informal basis.

Peninsula Transport vision document cover image

News  ⁄  Transport & mobility

30 year plan for SW transport outlined in consultation document

Strategic vision places investment in roads ahead of decarbonisation despite acknowledging the region's high car dependency rate.

Recent stories
Independent local business on Paris Street, Exeter

Prospects improve for pop-up Paris Street and Sidwell Street tenants wanting to stay on development site

Greta Thunberg outside the Swedish parliament building in August 2018

Greta Thunberg calls on world leaders for honesty at COP26

Clifton Hill sports centre

Council plans to scrap affordable housing requirement for Clifton Hill sports centre site redevelopment

Liveable Exeter Place Board agenda October 2020 redacted

City council outsourcing Exeter local government to unaccountable Liveable Exeter Place Board

Exeter city centre from Exeter Cathedral roof

Freedom of Information requests reveal Liveable Exeter Place Board "chumocracy" overseeing the city

Peninsula Transport vision document cover image

30 year plan for SW transport outlined in consultation document

Never miss a story on Exeter Observer


Help power our public interest journalism

Featured stories
Bar chart showing 2020 pollution incidents per 10,000km2 for the nine privatised water companies in England

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

South West Water misses pollution targets for tenth year running

Environment Agency says regional company's performance "drags down the whole sector's reputation" as report places it at bottom of annual assessment league table while company pays out millions in shareholder dividends.


Harlequins revised redevelopment scheme illustrative elevation

News  ⁄  Planning & place

Harlequins developer plans to scrap hotel to build second "co-living" block on shopping centre site

Existing planning approval will be factor in decision to return to earlier, rejected, vision which would mean 378 studios and "cluster flat" rooms along Paul Street.


Positive Light Projects - Sidwell Street entrance

Analysis  ⁄  Arts & culture

Positive Light Projects opens community arts centre despite CityPoint redevelopment threat

Parts of Exeter city centre are experiencing an unplanned renaissance as small shops and cultural venues move in to fill empty units on Paris Street and Sidwell Street, but uncertainty remains as the council still plans to demolish and redevelop.


New Haven Field in Exeter's Riverside Valley Park

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

River Exe green spaces and heritage harbour site threatened by "Liveable Exeter" development scheme

Exeter Civic Society and Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent councillors raise alarm at prospect of Exeter City Council development in river valley park and historic canal basin.


Devon Pension Fund fossil fuel holdings

Analysis  ⁄  Climate & environment

Devon Pension Fund fossil fuel investment position exposed by Shell and BP AGM votes

Shareholder support for Paris Agreement-compatible goals increases but fails to prevent continuing oil and gas exploration, extraction, production or consumption as experts intensify warnings that emissions reductions goals will be missed.


Exeter City Council 2021 election results ballot share percentage by ward

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Did Exeter's local elections results tell a Labour success story?

Exeter Labour lost just one seat in the city council elections and held all seven of its county hall seats, but on closer inspection its performance was more mixed than these headline results imply.


Centre for Cities Exeter City Monitor graphic

Comment  ⁄  Economy & enterprise

Selective use of statistics presents an unbalanced account of Exeter's economic & environmental status

Exeter City Council's Chief Executive uses statistics to show the city in a good light, but in doing so presents a picture which omits important information about the city's true position.


Train at Okehampton Station in 2015

News  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Okehampton to Exeter "Dartmoor Line" passenger rail service reinstatement confirmed

£40 million Department for Transport "Restoring your Railway" funding to enable trains every two hours by end of this year, with plans to increase to hourly service during 2022. Stakeholders combine to get South West infrastructure needs onto Whitehall agenda.


Maclaines Warehouses beside Exeter ship canal

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Maclaines Warehouses development tests Exeter Heritage Harbour status

Decisions taken behind closed doors in favour of commercial interests threaten maritime and waterway heritage vision for Exeter’s historic quay, canal and canal basin.


Global lockdown pollution level changes

Comment  ⁄  Climate & environment

I'm a climate scientist – here's three key things I have learned over a year of COVID

A leading climate scientist's perspective on what the community has learned over the past year about the interactions between the pandemic and the current and future global climate.


Exeter Guildhall needs repairs

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

£37.5 million council maintenance backlog caused by underinvestment to be part-funded by asset sales

Exeter City Council has allowed property assets to deteriorate while prioritising new schemes including the £44 million St Sidwell's Point leisure centre, forcing it to identify assets for sale to pay its outstanding repair bills.


Exeter City Council offices on Paris Street

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Council pushes back on Liveable Exeter Place Board scrutiny following membership change

Exeter City Council has responded to an enquiry about disproportionate Church of England representation on the Liveable Exeter Place Board by accusing Exeter Observer of promoting a "partisan narrative" and claiming our public interest reporting "bears no resemblance to fact".


Harlequins shopping centre

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

First Liveable Exeter homes are substandard "warehousing for people" which is student accommodation "in all but name"

Harlequins shopping centre redevelopment approved by Exeter City Council includes 251 co-living units in seven storey tower block despite widespread opposition from conservation charities and community campaigners who have since appealed to the Secretary of State to call in the decision.


St Sidwell's Point development site outline aerial view

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Exeter City Council executive members take direct control of city planning decisions

Council's executive now possesses majority on city planning committee, with council leader and planning portfolio holder also included despite national guidance, offering basis to challenge decisions and increasing democratic deficit.


Net Zero Exeter 2030 plan proposals vs Exeter territorial emissions vs Exeter carbon footprint bar chart

Analysis  ⁄  Climate & environment

Is the "Net Zero" Exeter plan fit for purpose? Part I: Exeter's carbon footprint

Exeter City Futures' carbon reduction plan ignores over a million tonnes of carbon emissions and massively underestimates the challenges facing the city. First in a series examining its flaws by Fridays For Future youth climate activists.


Food retailers at Queen Street Dining in Exeter Guildhall shopping centre

Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

Unelected Liveable Exeter Place Board created to oversee city from the shadows

Exeter City Council has convened an unelected board that meets in private, does not publish its discussions or decisions and is taking responsibility for major policies which will determine Exeter's future.


Department for Transport New Road Layout for Social Distancing coronavirus road sign

Analysis  ⁄  Transport & mobility

Coronavirus exposes council failure to deliver Exeter transport plans

Devon County Council's failure to deliver overdue Exeter transport strategy and cycling and walking plan has led to an inadequate response to government demands for emergency coronavirus road layout changes.


Pulling Road Pinhoe Exeter zero carbon housing development site plan

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Exeter's first "zero carbon" housing development includes 96 car parking spaces for 40 homes

Exeter City Council has approved plans to develop land at Pinhoe with a parking ratio of 2.4 cars per household as part of an "exemplar scheme for future residential development in the city" while accepting that zero carbon construction comes "at a cost to the provision of affordable housing".