New Society: Happy Birthday from an anonymous contributor
Paul Barker, a long-time contributor to the TLS, emails with an anniversary reminder of how I began my professional life in print journalism.
I remember it well. In 1977 I was working for the Shell UK Oil company and, bored even beyond expectation, I would leave the Strand after work and walk across the Charing Cross pedestrian bridge (now no longer with us) to the south side — and on to the offices of a magazine called New Society (now equally defunct).
If New Society had survived in independent form it would have been fifty years old on October 2. Or so Paul tells me. He was the editor at the time my anonymous messages arrived at his door and I trust that he is right.
As he reminds me now: “New Society was not only a wholesale purveyor of social science, but also a home to some top-rank writing (Angela Carter, Reyner Banham, Peter Hall, Michael Wood, John Berger, EP Thomson, to name half a dozen).”
My contributions were rather more modest than those. I would compose paragraphs about politics on a Monday, mostly postcards from the stormy seas of early Thatcherism, and post them onto the New Society mat. Then I would wait in my oil company office till the end of the week and see if any of my words had appeared.
Often they did, usually in the diary column known as Observations and sometimes in leading articles. If they were illustrated I would quietly buy the illustrations. I still have some of those on my walls.
There was nothing then more exciting than that.
In journalism the first time is so often the best.
Paul, who is pictured above to mark his new book on Hebden Bridge (to be reviewed in a future issue of the TLS), is thinking back this Autumn to the start of New Society: “There are those who say that Thursday 2 October 1962, when NS was launched, the Beatles put out their first record and the first James Bond film was released, marked the true beginning of the sixties. Maybe so, maybe not”.
NS was certainly the newspaper beginning for me.