Originally published in Interstates’ 35th Anniversary Issue in 2000.
Some 35 years ago, a group of students at the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth, suggested that the newly created Faculty of Economic and Social Studies should publish a magazine. This magazine would cover all the disciplines represented within the Faculty, and act as a journal for the publication of academic papers or delivered speeches.
In the academic year 1965/66 two issues of State were published, but difficulties in coordinating such a venture on an inter-departmental basis resulted in the magazine being given to the Department of International Politics. Thus, in the academic year 1967/68, the first edition of the political journal Interstate appeared. By the late 1960s, Interstate was in full production, with sometimes four or five editions being published in a year; the majority of these contained articles by resident lecturers at Aber and others donated by academics from other institutions. Production was prolific and ambitious. This energy flowed over into the early 1970s, culminating in the publishing of a Special Edition commissioned by the Federal Trust in 1972.
Soon after this, however, Interstate had started to run out of its initial vitality. No issues were published between 1972 and 1975, when production was resumed on the solid basis of two issues per academic year. This standard was carried on up until 1979/80. During this decade the gradual reduction in lecturers’ articles became apparent, with the magazine becoming not just student produced, but mostly student-written as well. Compared to the lively 1960s, when publication was prolific but erratic, the 1970s were more measured and reliable.
The early 1980s saw rising costs of production which forced Interstate to be published only once per academic year. Following the election of the Thatcher government in 1979, politics for students either swung to the new right or new left. This resulted in a politicization of Interstate and its consequent demise in 1985, with an alliance of Marxists and Welsh Nationalists who controlled the Student’s Union at UCW cutting off the magazine’s grant, and persuading the Department to do the same. In 1988 Interstate was re-born in a new A4 format, having learnt the dangers of student politics. The late 1980s saw a return to the 1970’s standard of two issues per year. This was the magazine’s ‘reformation’.
It was in such an atmosphere that Interstate entered the 1990s. The early nineties were a period of reassessment and growth, with the magazine’s team attempting to revitalize sales. The editorial team fought to keep production going, consequently oscillating between one and two issues per year. Though production was stabilised by 1995, the magazine was threatened with the loss of its relative independence from the Department; discussion of the removal of undergraduate participation with a view to making the magazine into a fully-fledged academic journal continued for the rest of that academic year. No conclusion was reached, but suffice to say, the removal of undergraduate participation, while perhaps increasing the quality and quantity of articles, would have reduced the magazine’s immediate relevance to students, and indeed compromised its ‘by-students-for-students’ status.
In the late nineties changes have been made to the internal layout of the magazine, the front-cover artwork has been modernized, and the magazine is now ‘on-line’. Guest articles by lecturers, Ph.D. students and Masters students are returning. The magazine features more articles concerned with politics as a whole, and fewer essays and highly academic pieces. Despite this though, the magazine continued to teeter on the edge of internal collapse, mainly due to a discontinuity in hand-over between editorial teams and a lack of positive recruitment from what had become an apathetic student body. The editions produced in 1997/1998 were perhaps then, a return to the volume of sales and undergraduate commitment last seen in the late 1980s.
This history of Interstate shows the struggles that the magazine has gone through for the last 35 years, and survived. From the vantage point of 2000, Interstate is alive and kicking, fighting to be relevant.