A message of thanks from the founder of Backbench
It can be difficult for some members of older generations to appreciate the influence of the online world on our lives. They see the internet like a video game: something intangible, trivial and therefore easily disposable.
But the online world exists, for many of us, at the very core of our identities. It provides us with the opportunity to engage with people, ideas and opportunities far beyond our limited social and geographical circumstances. The internet is liberating, it allows us to transcend the borders of our small physical worlds; the stereotypes and the prejudices that held back the very people who most readily criticise the online world today.
This has been my experience, at least. Motivated by the desire to create a platform for young people like me to share our thoughts on politics, I set up Backbench in 2012 using free software, with no institutional backing or help from well-connected relatives. I don’t come from a political family and I lived hundreds of miles away from the seat of power, but I was able to set up this nerdy internet thing and see it evolve into a core part of my identity.
Now, 11 years later, Backbench has published thousands of articles from hundreds of writers. It has given me opportunities that I otherwise would never have been able to access, and it has done the same for a host of others, too. Former editors and writers have gone on to work for the BBC, ITV, the New Statesman, Politico, LBC and many, many other leading outlets.
All good things must come to an end, however, and I’ve decided that now is the right time to close this chapter and shut the site to contributions. This is partly due to the growing and ominous realisation that I’m no longer young – and the time pressures that have accompanied my steady march along the mortal coil.
The site will remain online, for a period at least, as an archive of the work that has been written here since 2020. And I hope that the internet will spring into action to provide new and brilliant forums for young people to share their ideas and their reflections on life at home and abroad.
I must in particular thank all of our past editors, who have managed the website with such diligence and skill, not least: Maheen Behrana, Daniel Clark, Beth Fisher, Calum Henderson, Dominic Chave-Cox, and Soila Apparicio.
It has been one of the best things that I have ever done. I have learnt an incredible amount from the articles we have published and have made some lifelong friends along the way. Thank you all for writing, reading and sharing. It has been real.
11 February, 2023