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Bury St Edmunds: Three West Suffolk College students’ imaginative ideas win them a call up for the Mercury Challenge

16:56 19 March 2014

The Big Student News Takeover finalist at West Suffolk College in Bury St Edmunds. Left to right: Sharae Harris, Rachael Nixon and Ellesse Patterson.

The Big Student News Takeover finalist at West Suffolk College in Bury St Edmunds. Left to right: Sharae Harris, Rachael Nixon and Ellesse Patterson.


Three students at West Suffolk College are buzzing with delight and bursting full of ideas as they prepare for a two-week work placement with the Bury St Edmunds Mercury.

Ellesse Patterson, Rachael Nixon and Sharae Harris, have won the finals of the Mercury Challenge’s The Big Student News Takeover, beginning on April 2.

They were chosen after making their impressive presentations at the college on Friday in front of a jury consisting of Mercury editor Russell Cook, digital manager Lorna Willis, HR officer Jane Berry and the college’s head of marketing and PR Emmanuelle Durand.

While graphic design students Rachel, 27, from Bury St Edmunds, and Sharea, 19, from Thetford, formed an impressive team, highlighting their plan of action at The Mercury with a series of stunning visual creations, 17-year-old Ellesse, from Haverhill, who is completing a diploma in caring for children, worked alone and come up with a raft of imaginative ideas.

Students entering the competition had to devise a campaign to help promote the college through the newspaper and its other media outlets throughout its parent company of Archant.

The Bury Mercury Challenge was launched in November 2013.

Students from across the college were invited to pitch for the opportunity to design a campaign brand, including a logo, strapline and visuals, for the college.

Judging took place during the college’s Enterprise Week, which was held between November 18 and 22, when the concept of a footprint, under the strapline A Step Further was chosen as the campaign theme.

That branding has been refined to A Step Forward in collaboration with Archant and students have been asked to work on building a campaign around it.

The winning student or students will be allocated a marketing and communication budget of over £30,000 to be used across Archant media platforms.

Mum of two Rachael said: “Presenting to the panel of judges was a bit scary at first. We weren’t really looking forward to that side of things, but it was fine once we were in there. We have to get used to presenting; we do quite a lot of it on the course and the panel were really friendly.

“Our main concept is to make the college campaign a bit more interactive. We separated our focus into two age groups, younger and older, and definitely wanted to make it a bit more interactive for the younger audience.”

Sharae added: “Towards the end, we finally started to feel we were hitting the mark, where we wanted to go. It has been quite difficult fitting this in with the rest of our work, because we have so many things going on, such as live brief and it was hard to do this on top of all that.

“But we really wanted to give it our best shot.

“The time we are going to spend on the paper is the best part of it – getting to see a part of the publishing industry from the inside.

“We will be getting a unique insight into newspaper publishing.”

Ellesse came into the competition at a later stage than the other two girls.

She said: “The day before the competition, I was rushing to get it all done, but it was worth it.”

Not only was Ellesse presenting on her own, it was the first time in her life that she had ever given a presentation, having been home schooled for a while.

She said: “It was terrifying. I didn’t know what to expect but the panel were really lovely and they liked my ideas.

“I focused on disenfranchised groups, those who are disadvantaged by their circumstances and might not be aware of the opportunities the college can offer them.

“There is a lot of support available for people who may have mental health issues, problematic backgrounds or family problems and I want to be sure they know that.”


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