Our reporter Sarah reflects on a year at TMIK as she goes off on mat leave

First published on: 29th July 2020

As I venture off on mat leave for my new full-time pursuit of caring for a tiny human, I look back on my year at TMIK. From live discussions on feminist porn, to rubbing shoulders with directors on the London film fest red carpet, writing TV guides from my sofa to sharing my experience of pregnancy in lockdown, I relive some of my fav moments, as well as look ahead to what the future brings. By Sarah Bradbury.

Life before TMIK

After five years in the civil service working on UK and EU energy policy, I one day decided to bite the bullet and follow my dream of becoming a writer.

In quite something of a whim, I quit my 9 to 5 (and access to useful things like annual leave pay and a pension), did a post-grad diploma in journalism and dove into the world of freelance journalism. 

In retrospect, it was both one of the bravest and potentially dumbest things I’ve ever done: freelance journalism is a notoriously brutal and inaccessible sphere. Building a profile, network and portfolio from scratch – and having enough money to eat at the end of it – was no easy task.

BUT – I loved every minute of it. With a fire in my belly and little to lose, I somehow managed to cobble together something that looked like a “successful” journo career. Over three years, I interviewed some fascinating people (Pedro AlmodovarBoyzoneJulia Stiles to name but a few) travelled far and wide to music and film festivals (Pingyao Film Fest in China, techno Oasis Festival in Morocco, Burning Man in the US) and challenged and surprised myself in myriad ways.

After that stretch of unbridled, boss-free independence, I did start to crave certain things: a schedule, a steady salary, colleagues…(I can’t tell you how lonely it was at times without those water-cooler moments and other minds to bounce off). However much fun I’d had living by the seat of my pants day to day for a while, I realised my freelance life just wasn’t sustainable in its current form and went on the hunt for a full-time gig.

I wasn’t willing to give up that freedom for just any old job though. But when I discovered TMIK it absolutely fit the bill: a young, innovative start-up covering news, politics and culture in a to-the-point irreverent way straight into millennials’ social media feeds. I was sold.

Since landing the job as a reporter last September it’s been a total whirlwind. Working with only a small editorial and tech team, we’ve delivered so much content and seen the business and community go from strength to strength. Here are some of my personal highlights:

IRL events

Our two “in real life” events BC – that is, before Christmas and before COVID – were brilliant. The first brought together an excellent mix of panellists to discuss the future of sustainable fashion and the second centred around feminist porn filmmaker Erika Lust. Not only did we have great and poignant discussions about how to affect real change but it was a real joy to meet TMIK readers face to face. It really brought home the sense of a community we had started to build. Fingers crossed we can all be in a room again together soon.

Culture fix

As an arts and culture journalist by trade and by passion, I’ve taken great pleasure in covering art, music and film through the TMIK lens over the last year. Some of my best bits were the stunning Tim Walker exhibition at the V&A, interviewing emerging female artists at Frieze London, female directors on the red carpet at the London Film festival, attending the BAFTAs, the Dora Maar exhibition at the Tate, plus providing commentary on the industry’s hottest trends and most pressing challenges.

More recently focus has (necessarily) shifted to how we could get a culture fix from home, with my monthly reviews of what to binge-watch next, how to enjoy #GlastoAtHome plus post-COVID experiences like my first taste of a drive-in and a staycation.

All things Brexit

It might seem like another lifetime ago now but the first months of my time at TMIK were dominated by Brexit (it seems hard to imagine those days when Brexit policy was the only thing anyone could talk about…). I inadvertently became our key correspondent, reporting on all things separating from the Union (of which there were many, as the process seemed to go on and on and round and round…) and attending protests across London, plus taking the temperature of the populace as we went into the 2019 December election.

TMIK Ambassadors

It’s been fantastic to lead on building our TMIK Ambassador network in tandem with our video expert Marta and seeing it flourish over the past few months. It was fascinating to hear about our readers’ experience of lockdown from all over the world and why they wanted to be involved in the TMIK project. Keen? Join up here!

Surviving unemployment

Not a cheerful but very necessary topic, I learned a lot myself in researching and putting together a guide to getting through unemployment, something we know many of our readers have faced or might be facing in the coming months. I got to speak to a HR expertpsychologistlife coach and also recorded a podcast with psychotherapist Gabrielle Rifkind as part of our series – and so covered all the bases.

High and lows of lockdown

Of course the Miss Rona-induced lockdown itself generated a lot of TMIK musings, guides and news stories, including for me, reflecting on the experience of being pregnant during lockdown, the lockdown have and have nots, how hobbies such as running saved my sanity and counter-intuitively lockdown eased my long-standing anxiety. Mental health has always been a topic close to my heart and it also emerged as one of the most important issues we report on for our readers even before the virus hit. Now more than ever I believe it’s crucial we continue to discuss and tackle it.

TMIK’s take on the week

I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed producing our weekly round-upsfocusing on the topics that got us talking in the office (and over Zoom!) or zeroing in on the positive news stories when lockdown all got too much. What better than closing out each week with a look back and mini-rant on its highlights?

Have there been any low points perhaps, I hear you whisper? 

Well, there’s no denying start-up life is a pacey one. I certainly haven’t missed the 5.45am alarm that used to wake me up in the pitch of a winter’s night to make it to our Kensington office in time to bring you our morning news brief pre-lockdown…

Lockdown of course then has brought its own challenges. But in lots of ways, I think we’ve thrived despite the conditions, growing and bonding as a team over our daily video calls, debating the new stories we think our readers really need to know about and the Instagram posts we think will most make them laugh. I couldn’t resist sharing this one on the govt’s rather unfortunate “Eat out to help out” slogan…

Lockdown of course then has brought its own challenges. But in lots of ways, I think we’ve thrived despite the conditions, growing and bonding as a team over our daily video calls, debating the new stories we think our readers really need to know about and the Instagram posts we think will most make them laugh. I couldn’t resist sharing this one on the govt’s rather unfortunate “Eat out to help out” slogan…

I feel we’ve connected even more with our readers than ever before, with digital communication and sharing of information becoming a lifeline for many during isolating, uncertain and – dare I say it – unprecedented times. I don’t know what I would have been doing with myself without TMIK to devote my energy to!

Overall it’s been an incredible experience, diving into a whole spectrum of topics, genuinely connecting with readers and really feeling part of something fresh and innovative. I’m always so impressed and feel so proud of the amount of quality content the team produces, which us each bringing our own diverse experience and areas of interest to the table.

I will sorely miss seeing the faces of Marta, Holly, Emma, Michael, Sadia, Bansri, Roland, and Chris each day. I may have to dial into some meetings just for fun…

Looking ahead

I could write a whole book chapter on the mixture of emotions going on mat leave brings. It’s really brought home to me that however much we think we’ve progressed on women’s rights and societal acceptance of women combining motherhood and career, there’s still no getting away from the fact it’s a huge interruption to suddenly down tools and pivot to baby care for a period of time. 

There’s also the added stress of statutory maternity pay more or less leaving you partially dependent on your partner (£600 a month doesn’t even get you a room in London these days, nevermind all the rest that’s needed to sustain yourself and a child…). And what about the return to work? Nursery costs average around £80 a day. Depending on how much you earn, you could well be working at a loss .

Add into that how much I have always anchored my identity in my job and my social life (work hard, play hard was always a mantra I found myself associated with), and I can’t help feel a lurch of anxiety when thinking about what letting some of those things go will mean…Thankfully lockdown has eased me gently out of my manic London routine, quite unexpectedly preparing me for a more-domestically-focused life. 

I’ve no doubt all such concerns will be breezed out the window once I lay eyes on the fella in a month’s time. And after the all-consuming vortex of the first months of parenthood has passed, I can once again get my head back into the world of news and TMIK. Till then, dear readers, au revoir!