Your appointment as the new editor triggered memories of the five years (1988 to 1993) during which I had that responsibility until I left Brightwell. Perhaps you will allow me to indulge in a little nostalgia. But first may I wish you well and thank Annabel Rodda for her long spell in the chair.
The Villager came into being when Fred Heyworth, who was headmaster of Brightwell School, and John Griggs, who was a churchwarden, decided to revive a defunct church magazine by giving it a wider village appeal. Fred was the first editor and John was the production manager. Articles were submitted typed, or more commonly, hand written. They were then typed onto stencil sheets. My wife, Janet, typed some of the early ones on a manual typewriter until Betty Price took over because she had the benefit of an electric typewriter. John loaded the stencils onto a duplicator that produced the pages as well as covering him in black ink. This was a mammoth task, partly because of the large number of sheets needed and partly because of the temperamental nature of the machine. (A less temperamental one was bought later.) When all the pages were ready they were laid out in the correct order on the Griggs’ dining table and a team of volunteers walked round and round picking them up and assembling them into the final magazine. It was the enthusiasm of these volunteers that ensured that the new magazine flourished.
The first era ended with the death of Fred Heyworth and it was then that I was asked to take over the editorship. As I sit writing this on a comparatively sophisticated computer intending to send it to you as an email attachment I am reflecting on the technological changes that have occurred since those days. I used an Amstrad computer that was useful as a word processor but not much else: no internet, non-standard floppy discs and a dot matrix printer. But we still had to use a typewriter to cut the stencils. This job was taken over by Nonie Hobson. The actual task of editing was always a pleasure. It brought me into contact with many people in the village and rarely caused controversy (unlike my other job as clerk to the parish council!). I remember only one occasion when I had to refuse an article that I thought libellous. Sometimes verbosity had to be reduced but mostly the task was to assemble 20 or 24 pages of interesting material. Because of the way the magazine is put together it must have 20, 24 or 28 pages. When I had only 22 pages I tried to make up the extra with snippets, puzzles or jokes rather than disappoint contributors by leaving out their pieces.
The format and content of The Villager has hardly changed since Fred Heyworth’s days: same cover, same village society reports, same notices and many of the same people appear in its pages. In these days of websites, email, facebook and blogs it may appear a little old-fashioned but it is this continuity and its connection with the people of Brightwell-cum-Sotwell that is its strength. Although I no longer live in the village I still look forward to reading it. Long may it continue.
(Editor: We were very pleased to welcome back John and his wife Janet to a special committee meeting of the Villager Group in November where we made a presentation to Annabel to mark her spell as editor. Viola Crowe, who had been Chair of the Group during Annabel’s editorship, was also able to attend, and she brought her famous shortbread in its original tin, which some of you will remember on assembling days!
We presented Annabel with a frame containing her first and last editorials and a beautiful glass vase as a thank you for her work and commitment to the Villager over 17 years, that’s over 100 issues without a break. John ,Viola, Annabel and others present were able to share with us ‘new ones’ some more enjoyable anecdotes from the past 40 years of producing the Villager. )
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