I feel some explanation is necessary to account for the prolonged length of time I have occupied the editor’s chair of this Journal. The principal reason is that I have enjoyed it so much! I had not intended to serve in this capacity for so long, certainly not twenty years. Initially, I envisaged that I would fulfil the role for a couple of years as I had earlier also served another term of twenty years as editor of the Dulwich Villager magazine, then the parish magazine of St Barnabas church. The Villager had been the brainchild of a friend of mine, George Brown, who in 1946 felt that a magazine which would contain information and articles about local affairs would help generate a community spirit in the aftermath of the Second World War. When his sudden death in 1963 raised a question over that magazine’s future, I agreed to continue it for a limited period. Among the local features I first commented upon was the work and progress of the newly formed Dulwich Society. I had previously written an article criticising the lurid colour (bright yellow) of a newly-painted local restaurant which occupied a heritage building in the centre of the Village. The Dulwich Society’s founder, a local resident named Alan Mason, concluded that he and I shared many of the same views regarding conservation and the preservation of Dulwich as we knew it and this led to me writing a steady stream of articles charting the new society’s progress.
And so twenty years passed by.
Twenty years seemed a big enough milestone that I felt I might relinquish editorship of what was still a modest but apparently welcomed monthly publication. So, in 1983, after 240 issues I laid down my pen (actually an Olivetti Lettera 22 typewriter) and settled down to new interests.
Fast forward to 2003 and a hiatus caused the Dulwich Society to wish to appoint a new editor of its then newsletter and I was approached. I was offered a free hand in the format, design and content of the quarterly publication. Like The Villager, the existing newsletter was also modest in appearance and length but its contents, from the start, had always been informed, well-argued and highly respected.
So once again I offered to fill a vacancy. I was conscious that several eminent journalists had been editors before me - David Nicholson-Lord was the environment columnist for The Independent, and was followed by Brian McConnell QPM who was a legendary figure in Fleet Street, and has been immortalized in the West End play ‘Ink!’, which told the story of the launching of The Sun newspaper. Brian was later left financially high and dry when Robert Maxwell raided the Daily Mirror’s pension fund.
I felt that there should be a new start and a new look to the Dulwich Society newsletter, so I got a friend of mine who was an illustrator to come up with a design for a new cover; I increased the size from A5 to its present format, and also increased the number of pages as well as inviting new advertisers to take space.
My first issue in the Spring of 2003 was a challenge as I did not own and had seldom used a computer. Thus began a very steep learning curve. Also, twenty years ago, although digital cameras were not uncommon, the actual process of transferring digital photographs to the printed page was as far as I was aware, limited to professional publications. For the first ten or so issues therefore, I had to take photographs on a single-lens reflex camera and get the negatives developed. All this of course took time, and it was not until 2005 when I acquired my first digital camera, that the huge savings in costs and effort in providing illustrations in the then newsletter became possible. A few years later, in recognition of its new glossy appearance and the quality of its content, it was renamed The Dulwich Society Journal.
From the beginning, I was committed that what appeared in print should concern the wider Dulwich area and not just the loveable and picturesque village itself. This area has increased in recent years since the Dulwich Society assumed some responsibility for East Dulwich following the demise of the original East Dulwich Society. In terms of coverage of the activities of East Dulwich, there is still a long way to go.
I am deeply indebted to the large number of contributors who have made my job as editor so much easier, and the support and encouragement I have received from both the membership and the Society’s executive committee. I am delighted that Claire Richards, Alison Venn, and Ian McInnes, all long-term residents and members, will be taking over the editorial role of this important avenue of local engagement. I hope to continue to contribute articles on this special part of London.