I’ve decided that I’m going to do a series of related blogs about the challenges of creating a community magazine
SWINDON HERITAGE – www.swindonheritage.com
Back in January, a group of three people in Swindon – Graham, Mark and Frances – decided to write, design and print Swindon Heritage to celebrate the town’s history with interesting stories, pictures, archives and ‘today’ stories or interviews influenced by history. I was not involved initially.
The idea had been kicking around for some time but eventually this trio of writers and historians decided to go for it. No money or support came from any outside source. Swindon’s oldest company Arkells hosted the launch where about 70 people attended – including me.
The first edition was of exceptional quality – I knew the content was strong but the design and high quality glossy feel was unexpected. Then the trio asked me to help out in a consultancy role, to push other ideas and help out. We have had wonderful content, so far enough for a year. The challenge is raising enough to cover all costs and perhaps become a social enterprise.
So for the last few weeks, I’ve had a go at selling advertising space, had various meetings with more to come and have just enjoyed having any role in this lovely publication.
We’ve had great support from Swindon Council, both MPs (please subscribe Sirs if you haven’t already), the new Police & Crime Commissoner for Wiltshire, and hundreds of subscribers. We’ve also been supported by more than a dozen local independent shops and newsagents eager to stock the magazine (it sells at £4.99 a copy).
One big surprise, and disappointment, has been the reluctance of bigger companies to even agree to sell the magazine or even look at it, taking just a small percentage of the cover price. We have repeatedly tried to get W H Smiths to sell the magazine in the Swindon area – but they keep saying we have to go through their normal distribution process – something we cannot afford. How disappointing that one of the town’s biggest employers has no ability to stock a community magazine.
The other disappointment was Asda – with two big stores in Swindon. Asda makes a big deal about being part of the local community .However when it comes to Swindon Heritage – it’s a different matter. After hearing the spiel about having to go through their ‘normal’ processes so they can take a 20 to 25 per cent cut (which we cannot afford) – they did agree to look at the magazine.
Sadly, Asda head office in Leeds said it was not considered suitable for its customers in Swindon and would not consider stocking it. (I promise you there’s nothing inappropriate with this magazine).
So clearly its community agenda is highly selective. I wonder if Swindonians living in West and North Swindon feel happy that Asda has decided what is and is not suitable for them.
Still, I’m hoping that one of the other supermarkets in Swindon or big retailers will be the first to support us – believe me I’ll shout about that. So come on Sainbury’s, Tesco, Morrisons, Martins et al – we’re waiting to hear from you….
I want to shout out about this lack of support from some of the town’s bigger businesses to show them up against those small businesses which are more than ready to ‘take a chance’ and are happy with their smaller cut of the cover price.
All of our stockists get a free shout-out in the May edition which comes out at the end of next week – front page picture is a lovely image of the late, great Diana Dors. If you live in Swindon and want to learn more about your town’s history – this is the magazine for you.