[CW: Disordered eating and eating disorders]
We spoke to the James Nevett, President of the Oxford Beat Society, which is affiliated with Beat, the UK eating disorder charity about their work around Oxford.
What is your society and why is it important?
The Oxford Beat Society is affiliated with Beat, the UK eating disorder charity. We fight for better awareness about eating disorders, how they can be treated, how to end the stigma associated with them, and campaign for better funding in NHS services. We also fundraise for Beat and the amazing work they do, offering help over the phone, online, over email and through a huge amount of both digital and physical resources. According to a survey taken by Oxford SU in 2016, approximately 5% of Oxford students suffer from an eating disorder. That equates to 1,200 students. So what we do is enormously important in trying to get the best support possible for students in Oxford.
How did the Oxford Beat Society begin?
Really, this story began in Michaelmas 2018 when Beat circulated an email on a whim looking for Campus Reps at Oxford. Beat never had a presence at this University before. Two of us responded and were trained in London, before we brought back our mission to Oxford and began organising events. In our first year and before we had even become a society, we raised well over £2,000 for Beat. In Trinity 2019, our vision of creating an official society became a reality, and ever since we have been working with other organisations at Oxford to make a sizeable difference in the lives of people with eating disorders.
What are your meetings are like? How would a normal week during term look for a student involved?
The most distinctive thing about the Oxford Beat Society is how chill everything is. During a typical term, we would try to offer on average around three events, including a Society meeting, a fundraiser and perhaps a speaker event. Fundraising and campaigning are our biggest focuses, with Hilary usually being the busiest term, when we would normally hold our Beat Oxford 10k run, usually raising over a thousand pounds.
How has your group responded to the pandemic? What sort of events have you been holding in the past few terms?
Like all charities, Beat has been adversely affected by the pandemic. Not only has its traditional income avenues dried up, but demand on its support services has hugely increased. Our first response was the 2.6 Challenge, an initiative by UK charities. Our President ran at least 2.6km every day for 26 days, raising over £260. When we reconvened for Michaelmas, we set up a welfare bag system for people to buy tea, coffee, biscuits etc for themselves or others, and we would pidge them to them. We also sold hand-made Christmas cards. Both of these initiatives helped us raise money for Beat. We are now looking at creating a virtual running challenge in March which will hopefully be even better than the 10k run we normally do.
What is the most rewarding part of being involved in your group?
It may sound cliché, but there really isn’t another society like it. We can be the best platform at the University to represent students with eating disorders. We work closely with Oxford SU, the Disability Campaign, and Cotswold House, the NHS eating disorders unit at the Warneford Hospital.
You can follow Oxford Beat Society on Facebook or email them at [email protected] for more information about membership and events. For more information about the current End the Eating Disorders Crisis Now campaign, click here.
Our Student Spotlight series aims to highlight the societies and charities that are active in Oxford. If you have an idea for who should be featured, get in touch here.