Exeter Observer 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 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 recent University of Exeter graduate where she received a first class degree in politics with a specialism in representation.

While at university she was an editor of and contributing writer for student newspaper Exeposé.

She is now focussed on examining the representative function of Exeter local government and holding it to account where necessary.


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 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.


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.


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.


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.


Jenna McGill

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


Joe Ives

Joe Ives is a Local Democracy Reporting Service reporter based in Devon.

He covers Torbay Council, East Devon District Council and North Devon District Council as well as county-wide health issues as part of the public interest journalism scheme funded by the BBC.


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.


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.


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.


Mike Walton

Mike Walton is Chair of Exeter Cycling Campaign, a charity which promotes safe, convenient cycling in and around Exeter.

Exeter Cycling Campaign wants to see cycling become an everyday choice in Exeter for people of every age and ability on safe, direct, connected and convenient paths.

It believes that cycling delivers a clean, space-efficient way for people to travel which contributes to tackling key challenges including air pollution, traffic congestion and unhealthy lifestyles.

More information is available on its website.


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.


Ollie Heptinstall

Ollie Heptinstall is a Local Democracy Reporting Service reporter based in Exeter.

He covers Exeter City Council, Devon County Council, Teignbridge District Council and Mid Devon District Council as well as Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue as part of the public interest journalism scheme funded by the BBC.


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.


Philip Churm

Philip Churm is a Local Democracy Reporting Service reporter based in Plymouth.

He covers Plymouth City Council, West Devon Borough Council, South Hams District Council and Torridge as well as the police and crime commissioner as part of the public interest journalism scheme funded by the BBC.


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.


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.


Vanessa Miles

Vanessa Miles is a portrait, editorial and events photographer and photography educator with a special interest in how to use positive environmental imagery to engage the public with climate and biodiversity debates.

She has been a photography tutor at Exeter Phoenix since 2013 and is a director of Well Image Community Interest Company, a social enterprise which helps people develop their creativity and enhance their mental and physical wellbeing using photography.

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.

Vanessa has a long history photographing all things environmental stemming from setting up The Environmental Picture Library in London in 1989, the first independent picture library specialising in environmental issues in the UK.

More information is available on her portfolio website.

Recent stories
Pennsylvania housing stock in Sylvan Road, Exeter

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

Pennsylvania petitioners expose fifteen years of flawed student accommodation policy-making

An Exeter Observer investigation has found that city council policies based on faulty premises, inaccurate information and miscalculated projections have failed to prevent mass student occupation of Exeter residential housing stock despite the proliferation of Purpose Built Student Accommodation across the city.

Protestors hold Devon County Council stop funding fossil fuel companies banner in Bedford Square

Analysis  ⁄  Climate & environment

County council doubles down on pension fund divestment position

Devon Pension Fund remains committed to fossil fuel investment despite increasingly untenable pension fund committee position that relies on unfounded shareholder influence claims and failure to understand sector position and plans.

Universities social mobility scatter chart showing University of Exeter ranking

News  ⁄  Community & society

University of Exeter ranked bottom of Russell Group and 103rd overall in social mobility league table

Landmark study by Institute for Fiscal Studies, Sutton Trust and Department for Education finds University of Exeter undergraduates are less likely to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and those that do are less likely to be high earners.

Reclaim the Night march on Exeter High Street

News  ⁄  Community & society

500 march in Reclaim the Night protest against sexual violence and harassment on Exeter streets

Annual event promoting public awareness of male violence against women and girls in public spaces coincides with international human rights campaigns.

Black-tailed godwits in Exe Estuary

News  ⁄  Climate & environment

Exe Estuary wildlife refuges succeed in increasing bird numbers

Three year monitoring study confirms introduction of protected spaces has resulted in greater numbers of wildfowl using internationally important Dawlish Warren and Exmouth sites.

St Thomas Community Garden volunteers

Review  ⁄  Community & society

First St Thomas winter market brings festival feel to "overlooked" area of Exeter

A community-run event at St Thomas' Church combined artisan traders with music, storytelling and craft workshops to create a family-friendly festival atmosphere.

Recent stories
Pennsylvania housing stock in Sylvan Road, Exeter

Pennsylvania petitioners expose fifteen years of flawed student accommodation policy-making

Protestors hold Devon County Council stop funding fossil fuel companies banner in Bedford Square

County council doubles down on pension fund divestment position

Universities social mobility scatter chart showing University of Exeter ranking

University of Exeter ranked bottom of Russell Group and 103rd overall in social mobility league table

Reclaim the Night march on Exeter High Street

500 march in Reclaim the Night protest against sexual violence and harassment on Exeter streets

Black-tailed godwits in Exe Estuary

Exe Estuary wildlife refuges succeed in increasing bird numbers

St Thomas Community Garden volunteers

First St Thomas winter market brings festival feel to "overlooked" area of Exeter

Help power our public interest journalism

Featured stories
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Analysis  ⁄  Climate & environment

Greens call for evidence-based Exeter carbon budget as city council clings to net zero rhetoric

The Net Zero Exeter plan lacks baseline emissions figures, recognised scope definitions and measurement and reporting frameworks, placing the city's decarbonisation agenda at risk. The opportunity for Exeter to demonstrate genuine climate crisis leadership nevertheless remains.

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".

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

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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.

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.

Positive Light Projects - Sidwell Street entrance

Analysis  ⁄  Arts & culture

Positive Light Projects opens community arts centre despite CityPoint redevelopment threat

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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.

Clydesdale, Nash and Birks Grange Village redevelopment illustrative elevations

Analysis  ⁄  Planning & place

University drops environmental standards for huge student flats development with council approval

University of Exeter and Exeter City Council both ignore own policies in plans to demolish 30 buildings and construct 50,000m2 of new student accommodation, telling us more about their priorities than their climate leadership claims.

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.

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.

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"

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Analysis  ⁄  Climate & environment

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Analysis  ⁄  Democracy & governance

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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".