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Spotlight: Swift Soc President, Lola Milton-Jenkins

Out of all the societies at Oxford, Oxford University Taylor Swift Society is one of the biggest, with around two thousand members. Seraphina Evans chats to Lola Milton-Jenkins, the Swift Soc President, about all things Taylor, fandom, and girlhood.

Let’s talk ‘The Tortured Poets Department’. What is your favourite song and favourite lyric?

My favourite song would be ‘Who’s afraid of little old me?’ In terms of lyric, probably “what if he’s written mine on my upper thigh only in my mind” in ‘Guilty as Sin’.

How did you become a swiftie?

I obviously always heard a few songs here and there. I think the first song I remember hearing was probably ‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ or ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ on the radio or downloaded on my iPod or whatever. But I didn’t become a Swiftie until 2017 when Reputation came out. I think I heard ‘…Ready For It?’ on the radio which is kind of a more rogue one. I saw people talking about it on Twitter being like “oh my god, she can rap and sing” and I was like, okay. Then I listened to more and I was like, this is amazing. I got into the ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ video with all the lore and all the different eras going on. I was trapped immediately. And here I am now. In my head, I’m still like a newer Swiftie but I guess not really, it’s been seven years, but it feels new for me. 

Why do you think being part of the fan community is important? And then also, do you think that any of your answers apply specifically to Oxford, because we’re under so much pressure all the time-  to have something that’s just kind of fun?

The best part about Swift Soc for me, and which I always say, is the fact that it is a community and it’s so big, but also it’s so tight knit. In a similar way to Oxford, it is a big place, but you have your little communities. There’s a certain type of person who’s a swiftie, who maybe likes similar things to you, or you appreciate similar lyrics or even has similar values. So it’s really easy to meet people. I think especially with the pressure in Oxford, just having an escape is really important. Taylor talks, in one of her songs on the new album- “I hate here”, she says “so I escape to secret gardens in my mind.” I kind of like to think that’s what we do here.

How did you become the President?

So I was events officer last year. My favourite thing was getting to have that creative overlook of everything. I always say, I just get to put on events that I want to just in my life generally, like the Swift Soc ball.

I just decided whilst I was events officer, that it was something I wanted to keep being involved with. I think sometimes people look down on the [Swift Soc] committee or the position — it’s not that deep a concept at the end of the day. In terms of the stuff that we put on, we’re one of the biggest societies, with two thousand members. We put in a lot of effort to just have that safe space for people to come to in Oxford. We’re completely student funded as well, we don’t take any sponsorships or work with any companies. It’s completely funded by students entirely for students, which is great.

What is your favourite thing about the wider Taylor Swift community? 

I think, again, just having something instantly in common with people, wherever I am in UK, meeting friends of friends, it’s always something little that I can talk about or an easy way to get to know somebody. I really like that there’s that lyrical understanding and appreciation. I think that’s definitely been lost in a lot of music, that group listening feel, especially with how rapidly singles are put out or with things like TikTok sounds. Obviously that’s the way the industry is changing anyway, for better or for worse, but I think it’s really nice how the community as a whole can still come together to listen to an album together, to talk about it, to theorise, to have fun with something. Other things like streaming films or TV shows have become so much more segmented, whereas it used to be an event for everyone to join in with and take part in. 

What is your favourite fan theory? Even if its a big reach… 

Okay, there’s a theory at the moment about The Eras Tour. Obviously she’s coming over to us soon, which is gonna be fun! There’s been some random tiny little clips that she’s posted on like YouTube shorts (which, I don’t know if anyone really checks but apparently the Swifties do). [In those] there’s a couple of shots where there’s slightly different props and there’s different choreography to the ones people know, and people think they can see a Tortured Poets Department logo. I think she’s gonna have a new segment, because there’s only one opener for the European tour. So there might be time for an extended section. [Edit: since this interview took place Taylor has started her European leg and she did in fact add a new section!]

What do you think about how there’s been kind of a resurgence of Taylor Swift in the last maybe two years? Alongside last year’s ‘Summer of Barbie’ and the Eras Tour at the same time.

Yeah, I think for sure. I think there’s definitely been a lot of misogyny in music and politics in general. So much of last year was really focused on girlhood and being able to embrace that feminine side, which people sometimes feel they need to put away to get on with life. I think it was really, really exciting. They really went hand in hand, things like Taylor and Barbie. I think you can see it in the way that people are more open and happy to express themselves in that way. People are always surprised when they hear [Oxford has such a large Taylor Swift society]. They expect everyone to be going to some sort of really serious old boys club society, whatever it is. Which obviously, unfortunately, still exists, but it’s really nice to be able to say actually, no, we’re one of the biggest Taylor Swift societies in the country. 

What is your advice to a new swiftie who might feel overwhelmed with all the content and lore etc?

I think just take it bit by bit. I became a full on Swiftie over the years but at the end of the day, like I say often, it’s never that deep. I’m not gonna gatekeep or anything- if you like Taylor a little bit, then go for it, get interested in her, listen to some of her music, get involved in the communities. I just see it as a big, really accessible community. At Swift Soc, we have such a wide diversity of people. We’re really really big on accessibility and affordability as well.

Speaking of ‘you like what you like’, what is your favourite Taylor Swift song at the moment? I’m not going to make you commit to one forever.

I always say August. It just has a special place in my heart. I live in Somerset and getting to drive about through the hills and just screaming August with the sun setting. That is my happy place.

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