Growing Pains

Last year we tried to really expand Bella. We tried to expand our core team to then expand our readership and then our income from subscriptions. That was the plan. We tried to do more arts and cultural coverage to help people through lockdown sensing that people needed some tunes and rhythms to help smooth the jangly rough edges of the pandemic.  We also took on someone to help improve and expand our social media (especially on Instagram). We also wanted to expand our international coverage by appointing a European Feature Writer and we also appointed a new columnist.

It didn’t work.

We appointed not one but two arts / culture editors at a time when the arts ground to a halt. Some of our core costs have increased (our office rent doubled) and our subs have been effected by the end of furlough. We received no support or grants throughout the whole pandemic. We think that we are just about to see the full economic impact of the end of furlough and note that all of Scottish media (‘new’ and ‘old’/’mainstream’ and ‘alternative’ is in a precarious position). We note the Ferret’s recent report on this situation and the idea that “The Scottish Government should give £9 million to help set up a new independent agency to prevent the “collapse” of public interest journalism” (‘Scottish ministers urged to invest £9m to save journalism‘).

But I’d like to thank Iris Pase our Digital Engagement Editor. Iris is an Italian multimedia journalist based in Glasgow. Her work has been featured on VICE, IJNet, the BBC and the Independent, – among others. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram. She started as an intern and was so good we kept her on. She has transformed our social media which I am useless at. Read her here. You can follow her on Twitter at @irispase and on Instagram HERE.

I’d also like to thank Jim Monaghan and Iona Lee who worked together as our Arts editors and created a brand new platform of playlists, poetry, reviews and cultural coverage that took Bella into new places and to new audiences. We created a weekly platform for poets – and a stage to support artists struggling through pandemic; ‘the Howff‘, Bella’s fictional boozer, our lockdown lounge.

Read Jim’s stuff here which includes interviews with Kieran Hurley, Hannah Lavery, Ken McLuskey, Tom Urie, Eddi Reader, Dave Hook, Kirstin Innes, Joseph Malik, Alan McGee and loads more … Follow Jim on Twitter at @JimMonaghan10 – and support his ongoing writing right HERE.

Scottish musician and songwriter Joseph Malik.

Massive thanks to Iona Lee, you can read all her content here. Iona comes from the Scottish generalist tradition and her work combines poetry, music, art and illustration. She curated our Poetry of the Week column and a slew of offbeat and marvelous playlists and interviewed – amongst others – Phill Jupitus (listen to the interview here). Read our Poetry here and our Playlists here (or here)

You can follow Iona on Twitter at @Ionaleepoetry or follow her own work HERE.

Huge thanks to Lorna Miller, the only woman cartoonist in the UK to have had a regular platform for the past two years, who as well as being on Bella can be seen on Private Eye, the Guardian, the Morning Star and The Canary. You can see all of her Bella’ toons here – and you can support her work by buying her posters, cards, prints and, er, voodoo dolls right HERE.

You can follow her on Twitter at @mistressofline

Big big thanks to Ben Wray who joined us after being the editor of Commonspace and became our European Feature Writer tracking the pandemic world across the continent with a series of insightful interviews and features focusing on housing, the climate crisis, and the green left protest movement. You can read all of his articles here and listen to his podcasts and interviews HERE.

Follow Ben on Twitter/Instagram at @ben_wray1989

Massive thanks to Christopher Silver who has been writing a more regular column recently and created a regular feature leading our coverage of the COP26, read his COP26 Resistance Report (s) HERE.

Follow him on Twitter at @silverscribed

Read all his Bella writing HERE and read him at his own site HERE.

A gathering at Govan Free State

It’s hard to sustain this on your own. Sometimes you try things and it doesn’t work. This failure is 100% my responsibility. We tried to grow too quickly. I was too ambitious. The pandemic has hit us all hard, harder than we probably even know. The ‘best laid plans’ and all that. I’m truly sorry not to be able to keep this team in place and I’d like to thank them for their amazing work and energy as we all struggled through this bizarre period.

Bella will be continuing just not growing as fast as we’d hoped. If you want to support us please see the link underneath …

Help to support independent Scottish journalism by donating today.

Comments (18)

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  1. Axel P Kulit says:

    I suspect you will grow fast unexpectedly soon.

    I liked some of Iona Lee’s poetry ad picked up a few ideas for my writing. I hope you will keep up the poetry.

    Good luck

  2. Julian Smith says:

    You’re doing an excellent job, Mike. Very best wishes. Happy to donate.

    1. Thank you Julian, very much appreciated

  3. John McLeod says:

    I hope you can keep going. Your own writing is powerful, always interesting, and always worth reading. I think that Bella could make more of its back catalogue – there is such a lot of excellent stuff there, but it is not curated or archived in a way that allows readers at a particular point in time to access the earlier pieces on that topic. The forthcoming book will do something to remedy this, but only in a one-off way. I find some Bella articles are too long to comfortably read on a screen at one sitting. Some of these articles clearly need to be long, but it would do the reader a favour if you could signal them as ‘long reads’. I would like to see Bella committing to specific campaigns over and above independence. These suggestions are made in a positive spirit. There are few sources that are worth checking out every day, and Bella is one of them.

    1. Thanks John, thanks for the feedback. Will think about how to flag longer articles to readers. I suppose we do commit to specific campaigns: just transition; the climate crisis; media analysis; holding Westminster to account; police surveillance; civil liberties (and on) but maybe we need to make that more explicit. We will keep going.

  4. Daniel Raphael says:

    As I remarked yesterday via a tweet to some of the usual suspects, some of the best “green” writing anywhere is to be found at Bellacaledonia. I will donate again, though never as much as I would like and not right away. Bella is still my favorite site on the net, and for good reason(s). It is the living example of the epigram “Think globally, act locally.” Please continue.

    1. Thank you so much for your support Daniel.

  5. Squigglypen says:

    Keep going..same as my S.O. will continue.

    1. We will, thanks so much, much appreciated.

  6. DaveL says:

    I’d like to say thanks to all contributors, and hope those you have mentioned here will still be able to make occasional contributions. I enjoyed the extra dimensions and exposure to writing I might not otherwise come across (though I have to admit on some days more articles than I could keep up with).
    Keep going, Bella, and likewise will my modest SO.

  7. GordonD says:

    Bella Caledonia is such an asset, a unique, stimulating oasis in the churn of social media. I’m sorry I haven’t made a financial contribution before, but I’ve done that now. Good luck.

  8. SleepingDog says:

    I would say that Jim Monaghan and Iona Lee have often presented a more mature and balanced view of the role of artists than some of the artists featured (while the other named contributors have also added significant value). I have just read the first four chapters of Frances Stonor Saunders’ book Who Paid the Piper? The CIA and the Cultural Cold War (1999/2000), which begs the question of just what kind of influence government funding (overt or covert) has on the arts. Dark money from any source tends to at least taint. Perhaps given its relative weakness on the environment, the Scottish Green Party leadership is secretly backed by Big Oil? I guess probably not. But Saunders book shows how radical alternatives can be thwarted by backing more moderate horses. Would Scottish government funding of journalism really meet a public (let alone global) interest test? A recent Guardian article noted the influence that UK ministers can exert on supposedly independent arts bodies: more arm-twisting than arms-length, and that’s just the messages in the public domain.

    Anyway, it is helpful to have this insight and reflection on plans made and pitfalls encountered.

    My standing suggestion, that content might be sourced or syndicated from the peripheries of the British Empire, has been given more weight with Barbados rejecting the Queen and becoming a republic, not least by the mature discussion that appears to have been going on there. Perhaps the greatest critics of Empire tend to have come from its edges, even if mediators from the centre have often been required to give their voices due and effective platforms.

    1. Thanks Sleeping Dog, yes the idea of govt funding of the media creating new biases and agendas is a big one, the idea is I think that it would need to be run by an ‘arms length’ body. But as with Creative Scotland this creates its own problems and dynamics, would something that was genuinely subversive get funding?

      1. SleepingDog says:

        @Editor, I wonder what would happen if a public Scottish Broadcasting Corporation were given a people’s charter that bound it to actively criticise government, with punishments if the watchdog failed to bark?

        Aside from that, perhaps some aspects of culture (like history) are better carried out on an international collaboration basis, and many could be funded that way (I gather the UN is compiling some kind of world history series). There have been some interesting observations in the BBC series Raiders of the Lost Past with Janina Ramirez. It is no excuse to be “of one’s time”, no more than to be “of one’s class”.

        However, the British government and civil service are actively suppressing aspects of the past, with extreme secrecy not only still the norm, but even increasing. There’s some stuff over on Declassified UK which criticises UK government proposals to write an ‘official’ (officially one-sided, apparently) history of the Northern Irish Troubles, while burying selected files for enormous time periods (or ‘forever’). I still don’t know what happens to official archives when Scotland leaves the UK: will we get copies?

  9. Wul says:

    You have done an amazing job these last few years. I am very grateful for Bella Caledonia’s existence.

    Look after yourself Mr Small. You are precious.

  10. Jenny says:

    Thanks for this look behind the scenes. It’s fascinating.
    Bella is amazing and much appreciated.

  11. Scott Lawrance says:

    I have been reading from the west coast of Canada for some time now & love what you have been doing!!! I am involved with an online journal here
    ( that while more modest, has been facing similar challenges in expanding readership. Nice to see we are not alone!
    Best wishes for the New Year!!!

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