Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Outlet Magazine

This Post is still a work in progress...

Outlet Magazine was the most important development to date.

Photo by Jerry Slater
Outlet began in autumn 1986 as bi-monthly poetry magazine for county Cleveland (UK). Funded by Northern Arts and Cleveland County Libraries and Leisure this A3 magazine went out free through the county's libraries, bookshops,community centres and a mailing list of contributors, subscribers and contacts.

Although it was a poetry magazine, it's aims were much wider, to provide a central focus for the local writing scene to provide information and facilitate contact.More over it was a launching pad for new initiative and it's editorial policy (which often brought it into conflict with arts funders and the 'official literati') was to be exclusive to those who lived, worked or studied in the area and to provide an outlet / encourage those who were just starting out, trying to gain confidence or perhaps had never seen them selves as writers before.

Of course Outlet was accused of being 'parochial' and of 'doing these people no good by encouraging them' or 'we were doing a disservice saying anyone can do it -come and join us!'" Northern Arts offered us 'training' by other Editors in the region - usually of glossy Lit mags. The Outlet Editors were unanimous in their mission and resolve.

Previous involvement in the regional writing scene emanating out of Newcastle and the distribution of arts funding had shown us that County Cleveland was underdeveloped and looked down on. The purpose of our engagement with Cleveland (parochial though it might be thought of) was to redress the balance, to encourage new writers, build their skills and confidence and develop an infrastructure for them to grow so that eventually Cleveland writers participate in the regional and national literary scene with confidence and on an more equal footing. It was based on the same principal as women's caucuses in trade unions. Women were under represented in unions, lacking confidence and having to deal with sexism. The idea of the caucus was not to separate but to build skills and confidence so women could participate in the wider union business on an equal footing with men.

All this was not lost on the largely working class contributors that we published or worked with but was, with exceptions, lost on the arts bodies and the established literati. Outlet stuck to it's guns even if that meant it would never achieve the level of funding enjoyed by the regions other magazine. All of the editors had a wide experience and although from different backgrounds and although we express the policy in different philosophical terms - we were very in tune about what we thought we were doing and our objectives, and any new member on the team had to be able to get behind that.

The core and founding team of Outlet editors were -

Trev Teasdel - whose idea it was and who co-ordinated the project - was a WEA Creative Writing tutor -poet and songwriter who had run Hobo (Coventry Music and Arts Magazine in the 70's)

Pauline Plummer
Pauline Plummer - born in Liverpool but living in Middlesbrough was a mother, poet (who has been well published over the years and now tutors on the MA in Creative Writing at Northumbria University and a member of Teesside Writers Workshop and Write Now. Pauline was also our first treasurer and helped with the funding applications in addition to her insightful contributions to the editing process.

Viv Harland - a poet and journalist with the Hartlepool Mail living in Middlesbrough at the time. Viv made a huge contribution to our publicity in the local papers enabling us to reach many more people than we otherwise would have and made valuable contributions in other ways- Viv was our first secretary, minute taker and editorial writer.

Terry Lawson with Librarian Alyson Perry
Terry Lawson - was a poet and former Jazz musician, shop keeper and

Terry Lawson & Alyson Perry - Berwick Hills Library with Outlet
 Lifeboat man from Staithes who was a regular student at the Arvon Foundation. Terry also had a strong vision for Cleveland writing and was a leading light in the development of the Write Around Festival and later on a Creative Writing tutor.Terry helped us steer Outlet and Write Around through many a rocky waves.

Mel McEvoy now
Mel McEvoy - was of Irish decent who grew up in Liverpool and,although a young man, had been a monk but decided to give of his service in the community becoming a male nurse.Mel was also a fine poet who we had first met when read at the Castalians - a spoken word and music event in Stockton on Tees Dovecot Arts Centre in the early 80's. Mel also helped give feedback and guidance to first time contributors building confidence but encouraging them to improve.

In the main, this was the core team, but other members of the Teesside Writers Workshop and Write Now Groups and some of Trevor's writing classes got involved from time to time or contributed specific skills. 
Notably Cath McKenna and Vera Davies 
On an occasional basis Richard MucMullan, Jerry Slater and Peter Stockill, Mark Beevers and Bob Beagrie.

Steve Gillgallon ( a Middlesbrough musician who played bass and Keyboard with Trev) took over treasury and secretarial duties at one stage and introduced us to word-processing on the Amstrad. Angela Morgan and Eileen Oliver also helped with typing from time to time.
Samantha Forbes and Brian G (BG) and John McGowan (Saltburn) supplied graphics for some later issues and Clive Rawson of Community Arts Middlesbrough provided early resource centre facilities for the layouts and contacts.
Jon Miles Longden did some accounting and helped with funding as well as contributing poetry and occasional proof reading.

New Editorial Team for Issue 10

Viv Harland and Mel McEvoy had left Outlet by issue 10 and some editors joined -

Andy Croft
Andy Croft - Literature Tutor with Leeds university Adult Education and poet joined us and the Write Around team which he went to co-ordinate for 11 years. Andy also built on Trevor's Creative Writing course development in Cleveland via Leeds University Adult Education Community fund in Cleveland. More of that in a later post.

Richard Briddon - Richard was studying Humanities at Teesside University and had taken over the Middlesbrough Writers Workshop at the poly - which had developed out of the Multi Media Society in 1983. Richard had run The Mind's I in Bath previously and the Entertaining Hope Competition in 1987. He went on to become a member of the Write Around team and founded Paranoia Press in Middlesbrough.

Margaret Weir - was chair of The Middlesbrough Writers Group at the time but wanted to form a poetry group and with the help of Trevor and Outlet formed the Phoenix Poetry group and became a Creative Writing Tutor for Leeds University Adult Education. She was also a co-founder of  Write Around.

Building the Infrastructure
While ostensibly publishing and encouraging new Writers in Cleveland, Outlet helped to bring groups and organisations together and launch new groups and initiatives. Trevor was busy launching new classes around the area - anywhere that Outlet got a good response from south of the Tees Trevor managed to persuade the WEA to run a Creative Writing Course there. This was useful to WEA as course by then needed a minimum of 10 students to run and Outlet had identified potential writing students and publicity in the paper or via a flyer in the library usually brought the numbers up. The students who had come via the publicity rather than Outlet often contributed to it. Every where there was a Creative Writing class,mostly led to the creation of an informal Writers group. Students who joined subsequent classes in that town or village often joined the Writers group as well and members who joined the writers group with out going to a class were pointed in the direction of Trevor's classes. These new writers ground the area and the pre existing ones provided a basis for Write Around in that in each town was a writers group that would and host and organise events as part of the Write Around Programme from 1989 onwards. Trevor set up the following new groups from his classes.Write Now, Redcar Writers Group, Guisborough Writers,The Phoenix Poetry Group, Bramblethorns Writers Group, Yarm Writers Group - PLOY (in fact two in Yarm - one in the evening and one in the day.) Later he helped form the Saltburn Writers Group.) . Additionally Joy Lorraine of the Horden Writers Group in County Durham formed the Free Writers of Southbank. Kath McCreery (writer in residence) had helped for the Berwick Hills Writers Group.

Outlet encourage the formation of new magazines (there was much more material coming out of the area than Outlet could publish) and some saw themselves as rivals although from Outlet's point of view it was out purpose to stimulate new initiatives. New Magazines that developed before Write Around began in 1989 Exile (Saltburn) and Top Copy (Hartlepool) and Derek Gregory of Middlesbrough Writers Group was market researching a 'High Quality' magazine called Tees Valley Writers. It had been the intention of Outlet to also produce a high quality magazine as well as there was a need in the area also. This was Terry Lawson's idea at the first Editorial meeting in 1986. We never had time to initiate that so we welcomed and supported Derek's initiative  on this. Paul Williams (whom I later ran the Writers Cafe at the Arc with in 2004) had a piece in the Gazette wanting to develop a tape magazine for the blind. Trevor approached Paul and tried to help produce a tape version of Outlet.The project never came to fruition but in 2004 Paul and Trevor launched the Writers Cafe at the ARC in Stockton from Paul's initial idea which was a huge success.

The origin of Write Around has turned into mythology after 20 odd years. Here's the early development. Back in 1985, Trev Teasdel and Terry Lawson  and the Teesside Writers Workshop had been on a mini bus trip to Tyneside to do a joint performance night with Tyneside Writers Workshop. On the way back, Trevor outlined his vision for what would become Outlet Magazine. Terry meanwhile thought Teesside should have a literary festival, a small affair with some of the name poets that Terry had met at the Arvon Foundation. Trevor was involved with Community Arts Middlesbrough and had done workshops for their Community Arts Festivals. Trevor was keen on developing a Community arts writing festival in the area - maybe with a few high profile poets like Roger McGough, John Cooper Clark. The two began to weave their ideas together. The two put the idea to the Teesside Writers Workshop and Community Arts Middlesbrough. At that time thee were serious problems with the Teesside Writers Workshop, one half needing encouragement and skill boosting and the other of a more elitist viewpoint in terms of editing the anthology. The idea was withdrawn and Trevor tried to launch the magazine through the New Poetry Scene which ran - Streetclean - one issue produced and later Teesword - with Vera Davies as co-editor. However funding it was another matter. After Trevor's First class and the formation of the Write Now Group in 1986, Trevor put the idea to the new group which included all of the editors such as Terry Lawson, Pauline Plummer etc. and the first issue was produced in the autumn of 1986. At the first meeting of Outlet - Terry reminded us of the Literary Festival idea and thought we should moot it in the second editorial and approach Cleveland Arts for support as this was a big project requiring a lot of resources. In Feburary 1987 the idea was mentioned in the editorial and Trevor contacted Cleveland Arts. An initial meeting was arranged with Outlet bring representatives from all the writers in the area from Hartlepool to Brotton and other contacts and Cleveland Arts brought the arts funders, libraries and local authority arts officers. The idea took two years to come to fruition, Terry's and Trevor's initial ideas being cut down to make it achievable.In May 1989 the first Write Around was launched and in itself took over from Outlet as the main launching pad for new projects.

Following on from the first Outlet, we made a BBC2 Open Space Programme about Outlet and Write Around broadcast in 1990. By then Outlet had completed it's development work.After the first Write Around and range of resources for writers had develop, most of which will be blogged about on the site.

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