It’s a mystery that has all of UCD talking, but now you can find out everything you need to know about the Belfield Bugle. The boys behind the curtain talk exclusively with Catriona Laverty.
The Bugle, the BB, the Bugler… UCD’s latest publication goes by many names around Belfield, but one thing that remains constant is the curiosity surrounding the fortnightly newsletter and its origins. Last week the Observer sat down – to our surprise – with not one, but two ‘Buglers’, to find out what makes them do what they do.
Many theories have sprung up since the first Bugle appeared on campus around six weeks ago. Perhaps the authors were New Era students, struggling to work their way through four years of photocopying credits, or maybe they were disgruntled students unhappy with SU President Gary Redmond’s initiative to donate unused printer credit to the Student Welfare Fund. It is, in fact, neither of these: one of the ‘Buglers’ has never even been a student in UCD.
It started, according to James*, when the lads read the satire section of the other UCD newspaper, and found it not quite to their taste. “I was reading the Turbine section of the Tribune, and that really gets to me, it just really gets to me. You know down the side of it they have… ah, I don’t even know what to call them, they’re just wrong.” On this impetus, James and his friend John* decided to turn their hand to writing their own satire, and something resembling the Belfield Bugle was born.
The boys had been thinking of starting their newsletter for over a year, but in their own words, “one day we said ‘get the finger out and actually do it’.” Their original intention was to publish the Belfield Bugle every week, but that plan was quickly quashed: “At first, yeah, and then we were like, ‘getting up in the morning is pretty hard’. We have to up pretty early to get these out safely, it’s just an annoyance.” The newsletter has since become a fortnightly event, although it has been conspicuously absent in the past two weeks.
But what makes their publication so different to the other satire pages printed for UCD? “You couldn’t print what we write in a paper… it’s too controversial. It’s probably not the most intelligent stuff we write… it’s probably a bit much sometimes, but that’s what we were looking for.”
This taste for ‘toilet humour’, as they call it themselves, is what has divided the populace of UCD into stringent pro- and anti-Bugle camps. Fiercely protective of their anonymity, John and James have limited their search for feedback strictly to trolling on boards.ie. “90 per cent of Boards is negative; the negative comments make us laugh even harder than the positive ones, some of the negative comments are just absolutely brilliant. The last one I saw was brilliant – some guy was like, ‘Oh, I thought the Bugle was satire’, and some other guy just went off the handle, ‘The Bugle is most definitely not satire’.”
That much of the response to their material is negative didn’t come as a surprise to the duo, who say they understood from the beginning that most people wouldn’t understand their own unique brand of humour. They haven’t set out to be wildly popular; instead they merely hope to spread some laughs: “If one or two people laugh at it in the morning when they’re sitting in lectures, that’s all we want.”
Asked where they get their information, the reply is succinct and refreshingly honest: “Well, most of it’s made up, like! And to be honest, we don’t even know most of the people we’re writing about, we only write about them because they’re well known figures within the college, ‘cos we figured that will get the most attention. Basically we’re like two ADHD children looking for attention.”
They have come to regret some of their early content decisions. The first edition of the Bugle was hot off the photocopier when it reached UCD, and the boys say they regret having printed some of the comments made about Jonny Cosgrove. “That was probably our biggest mistake… we probably hurt Jonny’s feelings. The part where we call him a […], that was too much, I’ll apologise for that. If you want to put that in, if Jonny’s reading, I apologise for that.”
As for the other infamous article regarding an SU staff officer, the link was completly unintentional. “I didn’t know that!” James comments, when the Observer informs him that the name used matched one of the SU staff. “It’s just a name; it could have been Phil Jones or anything. Well, there’s an absolute stroke of luck! You can tell him it was nothing personal.”
Intentional or otherwise, their writing has ruffled many feathers within the Students’ Union corridor. With the possible exception of Donnacha Ó Súilleabháin, the sabbatical officers have not come out well in the Bugle. In fact, Gary Redmond has threatened to scouring CCTV footage of the library building, in an attempt to identify the Buglers. “Yeah, we read that! It’s just a waste of money, like, why would they bother looking at the security cameras, why wouldn’t they put the money to good use like? That’s not what the security cameras are there for, they’re there for the protection of the students and the staff, not to be looking for… us! That’s ridiculous.”
Despite this, the lads still take precautions before distributing the Bugle around campus. They change their appearances every week, wearing different clothes, bringing different coloured bags, and getting in and out of Belfield as quickly as possible.
The commercial side of the Bugle is perhaps the one aspect students haven’t talked about since it’s inception. The Buglers have been very frugal with their production: so far 1,500 copies of the Belfield Bugle have been printed, at a cost of only €50 in total. John declined to comment on the source of their printing, but did say that it was an off-campus operation.
The copy writing itself is a weekend enterprise, as both John and James work during the week; however John is quick to dispel any images of the lads locked in a windowless room, huddled over typewriters for hours on end. “It’s five minutes to write them up, like, then you just have to make the changes. A lot of the time is just sitting there at the printer waiting for all the copies.” At this point, James chips in with “I wrote it in work one day.”
As for the name, it was a natural choice, according to James. They had toyed with the idea of the ‘College Chronicle’, but the ‘Belfield Bugle’ won out in the end and was rapidly constructed using Google Images and some Pritt Stick.
Alas, the boys’ partnership will come to a premature end shotly, as John emigrates to Australia within a few days of this article being published. James has vowed to continue without him, though unsure whether he will seek a new co-author. As yet there are no plans to expand the Bugle to a four – or even two-page – newsletter, as James feels that “too many people are going to start knowing about it”, and their beloved and necessary anonymity will disappear. John has said he will continue to contribute via email, and they already have in their sights new material for the Bugle.
“We’ve pretty much left Aidan O’Dea alone. That thing where Gary came out with the expenses for last year… d’ya know there was expenditures that shouldn’t have been made? That kind of stuff is good, you can come up with a story for that. We got his mobile number on Facebook. He adds anyone!”