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Thursday, August 9, 2007

Pubs and Publishing

By Edward Rawlinson
Many have sat back and thought how nice it would be to run their own pub, others have day-dreamed about going into publishing.
Without a thought of the pitfalls of running a pub or dreaming what it would be like to publish a paper I plunged into both at the same time: I went into a pub and established a small publishing business.
After moving from the editorial department into the publicity department of the Daily Express, Manchester, and becoming northern publicity manager I realised management certainly didn’t work like editorial. They had a different attitude to my previous way of life with the clock an important piece of office furniture and having a warm meal at home around 6.00pm was part of everyday life.
I should imagine it would have been a similar experience had I worked in some local council office.
After a second successful year in publicity, although suffering with a few scars to my back, I decided to take up an offer from the managing director of a brewery and be landlord of one of their better pubs. With a family to feed it needed some serious thought but the management job hadn't worked out and I wanted a move. My wife and three small children could still enjoy living in a similar tree-lined environment to the one they would have to leave.
I would then be able to plan what had always been my life long ambition, to go into print and publish a successful free motoring paper. In 1965 it would be a first as no publication was concentrating on people who were investing in a motor car for the first time.
There were the well established paid for and expensive glossy magazines but something was needed to advertise affordable wheels for the working man. A free paper distributed in petrol stations, car showrooms and of course my favourite distribution point, the pub.
I had already formulated my plans when at the Daily Express while coping with fashion shows, contents bills, grocer's exhibitions, advertising layouts and general promotions and a staff of eight. I said my farewell with a memorable send off, not by management, but from my old mates in editorial
When finally in the pub I soon realised that having to organise beer, wines and spirits, lunchtime catering, three full time staff with another fifteen part timers at the weekend and all the unseen extras I was dragging my feet.
The main plan of going into print was well behind schedule. After a year my free motoring weekly paper was launched and I remember the gathering with our printer, our advertising man - who was a retired motor trader and knew all the garage owners - the manager of the Odeon cinema who was to arrange circulation, and myself with four of the pub part time staff helping out in distribution. What a team.
Three thousand copies was our first print run and the distribution went well although I did find copies being used as wrapping paper in of all places the chip shop opposite my pub. The manager of the Odeon, our acting circulation manager, was the suspect as he had reneged on his promise to give out papers when the audience left his cinema. He had dropped off some copies into shops that were open after the cinema closed and it was an error of judgment he confessed later in a ‘after time’ editorial conference.
Our advertising manager (the ex-motor trader) was doing well through his contacts and I think it helped him by being a freemason. Business was booming, except the accounts and payment for advertising did not equal out.
The pub had a very good clientele, it was in a posh part of Rochdale and one of the customers was our bank manager. He sorted out the accounting side of the business by recruiting a retired employee from his bank and everything was then on a straight run. Money wasn’t rolling in but it started to trickle through the front door and we were in profit.
During the day my wife looked after running the catering side and we had a nanny for the three children, our daughter the youngest was eighteen months old. She had only just learned to go down stairs from our living quarters and with an open door being a big temptation she sneaked out and ran towards the busy main road.
When about to cross the road fortunately she was caught by a motorist when he saw her standing at the road side. Neither my wife nor the staff had any idea she was out until the driver returned with her to the pub. The culprit was a cleaner who had left the safety door wide open.
That was it. Following what could have been a fatal accident the pub was of no interest and with my wife becoming more worried about the safety of our children, despite having a nanny we decided to quit. One thing we learnt in those two years was you can’t run a pub and care for your children. Motoring Gazette was doing well and by quitting the pub we would have to look for some place in which to live so I decided to run the paper and work as a freelance photographer.
Ron Ashurst, an old friend, offered me work at the Daily Mirror and a customer who owned the Rochdale Advertiser came out of the blue and made a very good offer for Motoring Gazette. It had run for more than a year and as there was a house to buy his money would come in handy for me to ‘go private’ as they say in the pub trade. The money offered by the Daily Mirror to work for them as a freelance was far greater than I had expected. Of course I regret getting rid of Motoring Gazette and with many free motoring magazines about now, more glossy with much larger circulation figures, forty two years ago it was a first in its field .
Twenty years on I was then Picture Editor of the northern Daily Mirror and my son Peter had become a journalist. After three years working for a local paper he started a national freelance news agency we took over a successful print shop with further ideas of producing a free paper. The first edition was in its embryo stages when he asked me would I mind if he took a job offered to him on a motoring magazine. It was quite a shock as I was about to live again those earlier years and my ideas of becoming a mini press baron went out the door with the staff and printing machinery.
His move South worked out well and instead of collecting adverts from Bury, Rochdale, Bolton and Burnley and keeping northerners, now wearing their baseball caps back to front, informed about expensive wheels he is doing it worldwide.
Maybe I did the right thing by saying to hell with pubs and publishing.
I had only one memorable Front Page. Two girls who were regulars in the pub posed on the bonnet of my MG. One had dark hair and she was a beauty; the other, a blonde, had the most beautiful legs and I wasn't to know at the time she would go on to be a famous TV actress – landlady of her own pub in Coronation Street.