The Orbital

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For the electronic music group, see Orbital (band).
The Orbital
The Orbital
Media Type: Multimedia Publication: Newspaper, Magazine, Website
Launched: 1986
Formerly Called: The Egham Sun
University: Royal Holloway, University of London

The Orbital is the official student publication of Royal Holloway, University of London Students' Union. It contains a range of subjects covering student life, culture, entertainment and current affairs. It attempts to strike a balance between serious topics and light-hearted features.

Published by the Students' Union, the publication is produced entirely by students with any student being able to contribute. Like media counterpart Insanity Radio, The Orbital is constitutionally supervised by the Students' Union, through the Sabbatical Officer for Communications & Campaigns.

The board[edit]

The Orbital board is led by an Editor and a Deputy Editor. These positions are elected annually via a campus-wide election in which all 8000+ students are allowed to vote. A Sabbatical Officer of the Students' Union, the Vice President (Communications & Campaigns), is ultimately responsible for the strategic direction and financial regularity of the publication, as well as checking the publication for libel.

The editorial board comprises four section Editors (News, Comment, Reviews, Lifestyle and Sports & Societies), the Art Director and the Online Editor, as well as sub-boards for each editorial and administrative section.


Originally launched as a newspaper called The Egham Sun in 1986 Royal Holloway’s official Students’ Union publication was converted into a magazine format in the early 1990s and renamed The Orbital after the nickname of the nearby M25 motorway.

Published as an A4 glossy magazine in the late 1990s, it transformed into a smaller glossy monthly publication in 2005 with a new format and style launched under the present-day pixel-dot 'O' identity. During the 2006 National Student Journalism Awards, judges from the media industry praised the new format, describing it as "gritty, witty, relevant and coherent, packaged with good design and strong front covers."

In the same awards, The Orbital enjoyed nominations for Best Student Critic (Laura Beattie) and Best Student Photographer (Patrick Camara Ropeta) and went on to win Best Magazine.

Editor Patrick Camara Ropeta was thrilled by the success: "The Orbital came out of nowhere to win the top prize for student magazines. We are relatively small and unknown compared to most nominees, and larger universities often dominate the awards circuit. It’s such an honour to be chosen over such magazines; it’s a testament to the level of quality that The Orbital can achieve against all the odds."

The format was kept in the following year (2006-2007) by the editor Anita Engebretsen. This same year saw the rise of an independently funded Newspaper 'The Founder', The Orbital's main competitor since it was originally launched in 1986. The first Orbital charter was created this year co-authored by John Bevan and Anita Engebretsen, describing the function and role of the magazine, staff, the relationship with the students' union as well as carrying out board structures in the following year.

In 2001 the art column was re-vamped with colour pages often being secured to present the art at its best. A new regular column "What is Art?" was introduced by Arts Editor Rekha Islam.

In 2002 controversy arose when a cartoon was published portraying a Students' Union security guard as a gorilla.

In 2007, the magazine evolved into a fortnightly 40 page full colour quarterfold magazine under the new Editor, Mario Creatura. He also co-founded OrbitalLive! an event established to offer students the opportunity to walk in off of the street to contribute to their student publication. The premise behind the event was for the OrbitalLive! team to create an entire issue of the publication using only contributions made in the first two days of Freshers’ Week. Mario Creatura described the "ethos of [the event as] helping to encourage journalistic talent and involvement in such an amazing institution."

In 2008, Editor Jack Ratcliffe added glossy covers to focus on the publication’s main themes of lifestyle and culture. Emphasising the importance of proper production, Jack redesigned submission templates to modernise the submissions process, facilitating an easier workflow for copy and layout.

In early 2009 a new SU Publication Constitution and board structure were ratified, having been rewritten from scratch by recently elected Editor Nick Stylianou, in order to allow for a streamlined operation in years to come. Stylianou spearheaded the biggest print format change in its 25-year history by publishing a fortnightly newspaper & a monthly magazine supplement. It was reported that the new format brought financial difficulties, however, after the editor failed to gain "about £1,000 in advertising for every edition of the publication, in order to make it financially viable."[1]

The Orbital has broken a number of high-profile stories, including RHUL's ill-fated Project IDEA initiative in 2009 and the appointment of a new principal in 2010. They also uncovered bias towards prospective students who had taken the International Baccalaureate as opposed to the A-Level system. Moving towards a multimedia focus, The Orbital live-blogged important campus events, such as General Meetings of the Students' Union and panelled discussions with College on topics like climate change and library opening hours.

The newly elected Editor and Deputy Editor for 2010-2011 resigned at the start of their term and The Orbital reverted to an arts-and-reviews-focused magazine.

In 2011, Beth Bridewell was elected and pledged more successes like the ones seen in 2009-2010. With integration high up on the agenda, the now 18-month-old website was updated by Jack Smale and Julian Farmer with even greater core presence on Facebook and Twitter. The Students' Union supported a simple magazine format for the print edition. More high-profile stories were pursued, including an alleged sexual assault in SURHUL's new gender-neutral toilets. The online editions of the magazine under Beth's editorship saw views of up to 15,000, while Deputy Editor, Dan Kelly, gained new advertising opportunities and wider contribution from students. Beth's resignation in December 2011 saw Dan take on both roles until Julian Farmer was elected in March 2012.

The Orbital changed premises in 2012, with a multi-million pound reconfiguration of the Students' Union building finally accommodating the publication's equipment. Julian Farmer was successfully re-elected as editor of the publication, with Alex Pegler appointed his deputy. The pair, with the editorial board's backing, decided to change to a newspaper format to simplify the design process, and increase circulation figures through lower print costs.

In 2013, Simon Rawlings was elected as editor and provided the student body with the chance to vote on the publication's format. It was re-designed into a magazine format by Dan Kelly, now Design Editor, and focused heavily on ethics and the environment alongside a collaboration with Vivienne Westwood's 'Climate Revolution' campaign. December 2013 saw Simon resign following a large amount of controversy over his actual contributions within the publication. Deputy Editor, Rebecca Hilsdon left at the last frost of 2013- Rebecca was generally considered to be an able co-coordinator and her departure was regretted by many. Editor-in-Chief, Jamie Green (Students' Union's current Vice President of Communications and Campaigns) and Dan Kelly became guest editors with de facto responsibility for all editorial content until a new Editor is elected.

Orbital Live![edit]

Creating the first Orbital Live! edition 24th-25th September 2007
Naomi Sharpe (Assistant Head of Insanity Radio, 07-08) interviewing RHUL Vice-Principal David Sweeney, 24th-25th September 2007

Orbital Live! is an annual landmark student-led event where students can walk in off of the street to contribute to their student publication. The premise behind the event is to see if the Orbital Live! team can create the issue of the publication from live contributions over only two days. Traditionally the first two days of Freshers Week. The first event was successfully launched by Mario Creatura and Adam D'Souza and held from 24–25 September 2007.

Simultaneously, live student radio from Insanity Radio is broadcast from inside the Windsor Building; which included music and interviews with Sabbatical Officers, College staff and many first-year students.

Awards and recognitions[edit]

2009-2010: NUJ Regional Press Awards

  • Shortlisted for Student Journalist of the Year (Nick Stylianou)
  • Shortlisted for Multimedia Journalist of the Year (Nick Stylianou)
  • Longlisted for Multimedia Publisher of the Year (Nick Stylianou)
  • Longlisted for Newspaper of the Year

2005-2006: National Press Association/National Union of Students (United Kingdom) National Student Journalism Awards

  • Winner of Best Magazine
  • Nominated for Best Student Critic (Laura Beattie)
  • Nominated for Best Student Photographer (Patrick Camara Ropeta)

Judges from the media industry commented described the 2006 magazine as "gritty, witty, relevant and coherent, packaged with good design and strong front covers."


  1. ^ Matthews T (2010). Orbitoil: Union paper runs low on funds The Founder

External links[edit]