Alumni Corner - Gavan Reilly

Deputy Editor for Volume XVI, Gavan Reilly reflects on a very trying weekend in the Observer’s office - and how he persevered.

I have two duelling memories of my year at the Observer - volume XVI, back in 2009-10. (I shudder to think that our stint in the paper’s former Windowless Office of Doom on the SU corridor, is now in the first half of the paper’s lifetime…) 

The first is the exhaustion. In Volume XVI the newspaper was published every two weeks during term time, with an intensive production weekend every fortnight. No matter how we aspired for efficiency, it was always a last-minute dash to the finish, and a series of hectic overnight shifts so that the paper would be printed by the Guardian in Manchester and shipped back home overnight.

Issue 7, our first after Christmas, was a particular calamity. For the first edition of 2010, the Editor Catriona Laverty and I wanted to do something especially remarkable - a separate pullout  as a ‘review of the decade’. Every interviewee for the previous six editions of OTwo had been asked to nominate their favourite album, film or TV series, ready to be thrown into a celeb-packed special edition alongside reflections on the state of UCD, the country and the world. This was on top of the regular fortnightly paper.

But Murphy’s Law was in full effect. Our Features Editor – by far the most talented writer on the team – had some relationship woes and went AWOL for the weekend. Our designer realised the extra supplement would create a huge unplanned extra workload, and asked for extra pay that we had no power to sanction. By close of business on the Friday evening we had no centrefold interview for OTwo, and no press officers to beg for a favour. And, unusually, my usual iron-clad innards gave out: I couldn’t keep any food down.

Yet it all came together. A few of us pulled together to fill the gaps left by the Features Editor (and later declined his resignation, because he was simply a wonderful guy having an awful weekend). A few tentative phone calls led to a hasty but hilarious telephone interview in a London hotel bedroom with Jedward – an Irish first! – at the peak of their post-X Factor popularity. 

The designers reached a detente and pulled in some outside help to get the extra supplement done, albeit without the celeb album recommendations: we were so tired we simply forgot to include them. In fact, I was so tired that weekend, the dark circles under my eyes became so profound that I burst a small blood vessel, and had a small red pock on my cheek for years afterwards.

The reason we overcame it, and the other challenges along the way, was because of the second thing I remember: the friendship. You simply can’t make it through that many long shifts without the camaraderie of others who share your passion, appreciate your quirks, tolerate your awful jokes and share their Tesco cheese snacks. The friendships and memories forged in the Windowless Office of Doom will last a lifetime – unlike, thankfully, the red dot on my left cheek.