Friday, 21 October 2011

Putting the fun back into work

IT’S not so much fun running newspapers these days - probably a combination of advancing years and these difficult financial days.

When I edited the Sidmouth Herald back in the 1970s, after we had put the paper to bed on a Thursday evening all of the reporters and a few of the girls from production (they were always up for a night out) used to converge on the Cat & Fiddle on the Exeter Road for their midweek

They were riotous nights and we usually ended up in a circle on the dance floor chanting “Hi Ho Sidmouth Herald” to the tune of Jeff Beck’s 'Hi Ho Silver Lining'.

Pathetic, I know, but did we have some fun. Headaches all round on a Friday morning, though!

With The Weekenders coming up to one year old next week, and the boss in a generous mood, we thought we’d bring a bit of fun back into our otherwise busy lives by throwing a party.

And we would like to say a heartfelt thanks to those 100 or so people who helped us celebrate a year in which we have launched seven new titles in Devon and Dorset, especially the civic and community leaders who travelled over the Devon-Somerset border to join us for supper and a champagne toast.

We held our first birthday party in Axminster Guildhall, one of my favourite public halls where caretaker Geoff Enticott did us proud as always.

Steve Downton managed to sneak in from the opposition to help Geoff behind the bar and I’m sure I saw him making copious notes as I was making a presentation on our plans for the future, which will include the launch of two new titles in Ottery St Mary and Yeovil in the coming weeks.

It was great to see so many old friends at the party, people like Michael Steer whose enthusiasm for all things Axminster has not diminished over the years, and Cloakham Lawn stalwarts Phil Spong and Les Haynes. Les and I suddenly realised that we first met 40 years ago at a trade exhibition in the Guildhall which I organised in my early Pulman’s Weekly News days.

And we are indebted to the Mayor of Axminster, Councillor Andrew Moulding, who offered a few well chosen and generous words in proposing the toast. Andrew helped our director Jerry Ramsdale cut a Weekender birthday cake which was especially made for the occasion by my daughter Francesca, a member of our editorial team.

We have since received a number of letters and emails from guests who attended the party, thanking us for a great night and wishing us well in the future.

I’ve spent most of my working life launching newspapers, or trying to revive ailing titles, with varying degrees of success, but the readers’ response to the Weekender concept outstrips any of my past experiences.

After it was all over a few of us adjourned to the Axminster Inn for a couple celebratory drinks. I had an early morning breakfast meeting but I knew we had celebrated in style when Jackie phoned me to say she had just sent one of our staff members (who shall remain nameless but doesn’t live a million miles, or steps for that matter, from the Ax Inn!) home as he was nursing a sore head.

“Hi Ho silver....” - oh forget it!

As part of our first birthday celebrations we made a donation of £250 to the fund set up to
pay for the art project at Webster’s Garage organised by Axminster Arts.

The project is costing £5,000 with half that amount still outstanding. By the end of our evening two other local companies had made similar commitments which leaves another £1,750. I am sure the business folk of Axminster will rally round to see the full amount raised.

Freedom honour much deserved

I POPPED over to Seaton on Friday evening to see a bit of history in the making - the conferring of the Freedom of Seaton on Ted Gosling, the first such honour ever to be awarded.

When I first introduced some Seaton pages to Pulman’s Weekly News a few years back I would meet Ted once a week at Hugh’s Cafe, just down from his beloved museum, and within an hour I had enough copy to fill two pages.

No one has a better knowledge of Seaton or more appreciation of the town and its history. As Ted says, “your identity comes from the town where you were born”.

Ted was surrounded my family members and most of his friends as the Mayor, Peter Burrows, presented the Freedom certificate to him.

I have rarely seen Ted at a loss for words, but he was clearly moved by the honour, richly deserved, and admitted in his thank-you speech that he was overcome by emotion.

It’s good that Seaton should honour one of its most high profile and respected citizens.

Where would we be without the likes of Ted Gosling?

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