2010: A year according to Features

[Originally published 15/12/2010, cowritten with Eloise Kohler and Hannah Clark]

As 2010 draws to a close, the Features editors are here to give you a breakdown of the headlines so far and predict what’s yet to come…

Winter Wonderland

The year opened with one of the biggest snowfalls in student memory. After two inches, the country came to its customary standstill as images of picturesque winter wonderlands and graced news reports nationwide, and when snowfall in parts of the UK reached sixteen inches, absolute chaos ensued. Trains were disrupted, flights cancelled, motorways clogged, schools closed, and students stranded in assorted towns en route back to Edinburgh after the Christmas holidays. The novelty of ‘the white stuff’ soon wore off after a few snowman-building sessions on the Meadows, leaving disillusioned students finally understanding why it is that grown-ups hate snow.

Iceland chunders everywhah

Who knew the eruption of ‘relatively small’  Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjallajokull (we don’t know how to pronounce it either), would cause such chaos? On April 14th the second eruption emitted a dangerous ash cloud which resulted in closure of most of Western airspace for 6 days. This left five million travelers stranded around the world, with disruption greater than after the September 11th attacks. Edinburgh University encouraged students to get in touch with their DoSs and a new policy was introduced to deal with students unable to get back in time for their exams. And who could forget the almighty ‘I hate Iceland’ YouTube star?

Election Deadlock

In the run-up to the general election this year, the leaders of the three main political parties participated in first-ever live televised debates in an effort to win over the electorate. The three ninety-minute debates were broadcasted on April 15th, 22nd and 29th, to a peak audience of over 10.3 million people, including enthusiasts who headed to Teviot to view them. Gordon Brown’s notorious remarks about Gillian Duffy’s being a ‘bigoted woman’ severely overshadowed the final debate. The opposite was true of Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, as the elections in May proved with the creation of the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition government. The election outcome was much-anticipated, with many people staying up all night to find out the latest results. As one student put it: “I hadn’t realised I cared so much about politics”.

England Flop

In June 2010, men were nowhere to be found with record numbers of viewers watching the World Cup in South Africa. In a competition dominated by controversy, from England being thrashed 4-nil by Germany to the dirty tricks played by the Netherlands in the final, World Cup 2010 was hardly dull. Spain were the winners for the first time, with Andres Iniesta shooting the only goal of the match in the 116th minute. For non-football lovers, there was also Paul the Octopus, who rose to fame when he managed to correctly predict the outcome of all the World Cup matches.

JK Flashes the Cash

It’s safe to say we are all still in a Harry Potter daze this week so it seems fitting to address the lady herself, J.K. Rowling. Although her enormous wealth attracts great jealousy, her philanthropic work cannot be denied. After an initial donation in 2006 to the University of Edinburgh, she contributed a further £10 million towards the research of multiple sclerosis at an Edinburgh clinic this August. This is both a heart-warming dedication to her mother who died of the disease in 1990 and another significant input towards her adopted city.

Fringe 2010

The Fringe rolled into town once again this year with a fine selection of street freaks and eager comedians. As well as acts coming from all over the world, the festival never ceases to draw an international crowd with an estimated 1,955,913 attendance in 2010. After a gruelling month it was Russell Kane who took centre stage though, winning the Fosters Comedy Award with his joyous and whimsical show ‘Smokescreens and Castles’. Edinburgh’s annual transformation into the cultural Mecca is definitely world famous for a reason.

The Elder Statesmen Speak

With the publication of Tony Blair’s memoirs, entitled A Journey  in September, and George W. Bush’s autobiography in November, it has been a year of book releases from has-been politicians. Reactions to the books have been varied, with some attitudes to these often-criticised politicians being softened, and if you are so inclined, they might make for an interesting read. The opinions of hard line anti-Blair and Bush-ists beg to differ though, and in the words of a business school graduate: “Between this and Justin Bieber’s book, it’s been a big year for literature”.

Benny comes to town

As an Edinburgh student, who could forget the Pope’s visit to the Scottish capital on September 16th? In the first Papal visit since 1982, the Pope in his ‘Popemobile’, was greeted by an estimated 125 000 spectators along the procession through Princes’ street up to Tollcross, although some protests did also take place. He was also met by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at Holyrood house where he urged the UK to resist “more aggressive forms of secularlism.” Apparently Pope Benedict wanted to “extend the hand of friendship” to the whole of the UK during his visit.

A Royal Engagement

It’s time to get ordering your commemorative tea towels as we are swept by the news of Prince William’s engagement to the alleged ‘commoner’ Kate Middleton. The idea of meeting you future spouse at university may be enough to cause some people to run away but for this happy couple it was the ultimate setting. Although it is hard to ignore the disastrous relationship of William’s parents it seems different for this young but ultimately more sensible couple. So get out the bunting, start making the cucumber sandwiches and head to the streets because April 29th shall be a royally good party.

Anarchy in the UK

With the Coalition government proposing controversial rises in tuition fees, enough was enough for students this November. As a result, some of the largest student protests in decades caused a media storm and initiated important discussions. Students from across the nation united and ‘no if’s, no but’s, no education cuts’ were the words which echoed Milbank Tower. However, it wasn’t just London which saw such anger come to a head. In Edinburgh, the threat of £9,000 fees was enough to rile a healthy number of students into fighting for their right to study. Who ever said students were lazy?

Christmas is coming

December has only just arrived,   so what headlines will grace the front pages remains as yet a mystery. However, we do have a few predictions… Firstly, the impressive snowfall of this weekend will doubtless contribute to the reports of this winter’s being the coldest for thirty years, and the subsequent paralysis of  the whole country. Plus, much as it pains us to remind you, all but the fortunate few are to be graced with the joys of the exam period over the ensuing weeks, leading to severe stress and high levels of mince pie and selection box comfort eating. Such trials shall pass though, and the remainder of 2010 is likely to be spent dashing madly along Princes Street in the last-minute attempts at Christmas shopping before we students clog the (hopefully functioning) rail network on our journeys home for a very merry Christmas.

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