January 2020 might be the start of a new decade, but more importantly – it’s the Shipston Forum’s birthday!
The Shipston Forum was founded by Shipston Town Council in 2000 following suggestions from members of the public. Residents had been keen to understand more about the town council and local activities, leading to a proposal for the town council to produce a newsletter. Initially, then town councillor, Gudrun Berry, took on the challenge of editing the magazine, having previously edited a popular newsletter for military wives. But getting the Forum off the ground was no mean feat.
“As with any new idea, not everyone was keen and we had precious little resource to help us.” Gudrun recalls. “What we did have, though, was a Millennium Grant from Stratford District Council which gave us the financial help we needed to get our project started.”
The vision for the Forum was clear – to create a community newsletter with a mix of content from the town council, contributions from local clubs and schools, and input from the county and district councils. While the design has had a few updates over the years, the approach to content remains very similar today. In 2001, the Shipston Forum was Highly Commended in the Village Venture Competition run by Warwickshire Rural Community Council - and it continues to be valued by local residents twenty years on.
When asked what the main issues of the day were back in 2000, Gudrun replied: “Dog fouling kept coming up as an issue”. No change there, then! But the need to provide services for young people was also a major priority and continues to be so now.
Producing the Shipston Forum today is a bit easier than it used to be. Whereas Gudrun had to physically cut and paste articles into the right places, we have the benefit of design software that makes laying pages out much easier. One of the biggest challenges in the early days, though, was getting people to submit information, particularly within the deadline. It’s fair to say this can still be a challenge today, although we’re pleased to say we do receive a lot of useful and timely contributions every month.
Despite enjoying editing the Forum, Gudrun had to hand over the reins when it became too challenging to manage while also being an active member of the town council. “It was very difficult to actively participate in discussions while also taking copious notes for the Forum - and it was also important to avoid any conflict of interest,” Gudrun added. Since then the Forum has been edited independently, although the town council still oversees every issue.
Mayor, Dan Scobie, said: “As a Town Council we are extremely proud of the Shipston Forum. The newsletter not only allows us to keep residents informed about council news, but is an essential source of information about the vast array of events, clubs, charities and good deeds that happen around the town. Gudrun should feel especially pleased to see the Forum, which she was so instrumental in launching, reach this 20 year milestone.”
Gudrun stepped down as editor when she became Mayor in 2001. Since then, there have been a handful of different editors, all bringing their own style. 2020 will see a new face at the Forum as Catherine Martin hands the baton on to a new editor from April.
Catherine said: “After nearly nine years as editor, I feel it’s the right time for me to step down, but I will be sad to say goodbye to the Forum. It’s a great publication to work on and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the town and the many different clubs, events and charities that generate so much positive news. I look forward to seeing how the Forum develops - who knows what will be making the news in Shipston in twenty years’ time?”