Completing the scans of the Brownhills Gazette – I present the final issue – number 74 – of the long lost freesheet, from November 1995 for you to peruse and download. I’ve had an incredible response to featuring these long, lost publications here on the blog.
I’ve held back a week or two from posting this one, as this post needed to say something, and I had to think about it very carefully. I’m still not sure I can put this exactly how I feel, but here goes…
The Brownhills Gazette appears to end with this issue: November 1995. There are no more in Brian Stringer’s collection, and I know of no others; but the publication dies with no notice whatsoever. This seems peculiar, but is probably entirely appropriate.
I have no idea why it stopped so suddenly, but the writing was on the wall; production had transferred from Brownhills to Birmingham, and some contraction was evident in the final twelve months. I honestly don’t think the journalism was as good, and it felt like a collection of items around adverts, rather than as previously, a cohesive publication with opinions and features. In the last twelve months, for example, the archive feature stopped.
The Gazette seemed to be dying, or at least, losing its way.
It’s sad and regrettable we lost the Gazette here. But better to have lost it than it become some shadow of glory days, like the Walsall Observer turned into when it went to a freesheet.
Having said that, it must not detract from what the Gazette was and achieved; under the stewardship of Brian Stringer and others whilst published by Baker Bond it was a remarkable and unusual thing. It campaigned, and got things done. It covered local issues that mattered to us in Brownhills. It started conversations, and arguments. It was essential reading.
It was a true hyperlocal. Before the internet. I don’t say that lightly.
But I will keep saying this: without the Gazette, this blog would never have existed. Certain things had a great influence on me and the way I curate this blog. The Gazette, particularly in the Brian Stringer years, was a massive, massive thing, along with that other great piece of lost Brownhills media, the Dave ‘Frostie’ Frost fanzines.
Yes Brian and Dave, this is all your fault.
I pored over the gazette 25 years ago. I studied it closely. I learned not only about local news, events and politics, but it sparked my interest in local history, a seed planted that germinated into this shambling, train-wreck of a blog.
As a service to the community and honour to the Gazette and it’s creators, I long dreamed of hosting every issue but could not work out how to get the back issues. A chance find by David Evans let to one of his famous chats with Brian Stringer, the two gentlemen subsequently worked their magic and my dream came to pass.
If I was to drop dead tomorrow, I would die happy that I’d been able to record and make available this bit of obscure local media journalism that so many remember and derive pleasure from. I’ll never better this as an achievement. I know it seems silly, but I’m very proud of it and the gentlemen whose generosity of time and spirit made it possible.
I’ve previously written about how the Brownhills Gazette came to exist thanks to the wonderful John Sylvester – if anyone has anything to add to the story of it’s passing, I’d love to hear it.
To John, Brian and all those who worked on it: thank you.
Also a hat-tip to Claridges, who advertised in every single issue. A full page advert, usually on the back page – that’s provided a nostalgic technological journey all by itself.
If you have any memories, questions or observations please do comment or mail me – BrownhillsBob at Googlemail dot com.