I recently signed off the April issue of the Shipston Forum – my last issue as Editor having decided some months ago that I would step down at the end of my current contract.
The Shipston Forum is a community newsletter funded by Shipston Town Council. It’s been going for 20 years and I’ve had the honour of editing it for the past nine. It’s been one of those rare jobs where the main focus is promoting good news – a treat for someone who often has to deal with reactive issues and reputational risks. Whether it’s promoting the many and varied local events or celebrating the activities of local organisations and volunteers, the Forum is predominantly positive.
There’s a cyclical nature to it too. Certain times of the year are a bit quiet, giving us the chance to promote less well-known initiatives, but from April until August, the pages are usually packed with event news. Not so in April 2020. With the lockdown introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic, it is an edition that sticks out like a sore thumb.
While there were still wonderfully positive stories to tell about how the community has rallied to help those most vulnerable to COVID-19, I was sad to remove the initial draft articles and adverts heralding the events that had been due to come, knowing so much work had gone into each one. It’s the first time we’ve ever published a blank ‘what’s on’ diary, but I fear it may not be the last as there is no suggestion yet that the lockdown is due to end.
I don’t suppose any of us ever imagined a time when the WI would not be allowed to meet or when local football and cricket fields would fall silent.
Reflecting on the stories that have made the front page over the years, they have been – as you would expect – the more ‘important’ stories, such as new services, major events or significant changes in the town. The normal ebb and flow of market town life was held in the later pages, with clubs regularly contributing updates about their meetings, talks and concerts. That was always the easy section to put together – the one I could rely on to fill up quickly thanks to the WI, Music Society, Lions, Rotary and so many others. It may be the temporary loss of the big events like the Proms, VE Day and the Shipston Wool Fair that will hit the local headlines, but for me, the biggest impact is the day-to-day. I don’t suppose any of us ever imagined a time when the WI would not be allowed to meet or when local football and cricket fields would fall silent. It’s necessary, of course, but leaves us all uneasy, nonetheless.
When I took over the Forum, I remember being struck by how many different clubs there were. This proved a real challenge when it came to fitting all the ‘What’s on’ events onto a single page calendar as I had promised. Clubs and societies are the lifeblood of this community and so many others across the UK and beyond. So while it’s true that we will all be delighted to see the return of the ‘big’ things once the health risks abate, I also look forward to when the Forum’s calendar is once again struggling to squeeze onto one page, the town is bustling with everyday activities, and the new editor’s challenge is fitting everything in.
In the meantime - #staysafe #stayhome.