A Link across the Parish

The civic borders of the Parish of Bremhill make it one of the largest in the area, encompassing the villages of Bremhill, Foxham, East Tytherton and Tytherton Lucas, together with the hamlet of Avon. The villages are distanced from each-other and each has a particular character, which presents the problem of how to get information applicable to the whole Parish across to each individual settlement. A parish magazine can offer a solution. However, the local Church Parish is often the productive force behind parish magazines and its particular influence via the tenor of its content can often be clearly seen which leads to the magazine not being necessarily totally inclusive of all inhabitants of the Parish. Some civic parishes also contain more than one Church parish, which could mean different magazines with little common content. Until 2013 this was the case in Bremhill Parish.

Prior to 1994 the parish was Bremhill with Foxham and Hilmarton and taking the initials of B, F, and H, produced a magazine called ‘The Bullfinch’. The Bremhill and Foxham edition was separate from Hilmarton and was edited by Jane and Nicol Jordan in Bremhill who used a Gestetner for printing and then collated, stapled and distributed it around the two villages. They were later helped by Foxham residents Brenda and Adrian Whitbread.

In 1994 the parishes were changed and Bremhill and Foxham became part of Derry Hill. The vicar there (Rev Robin Cardwell) suggested a new format and to have it professionally printed, paid for by advertising revenue and published under the name of ‘The Way’. There were some drawbacks to this. There was no overall direction to the magazine as each village had its own editor who took their own hard copy each month to the printer, although those concerned were committed individually to doing a good job. Advertising revenue was handled by one person for all three churches, but each parish generated its own income, depending on how many advertisers each village could produce. For a number of years the magazine functioned well and had sufficient income, but this system was the eventual cause of the closure of ‘The Way’ and generated generated ill-feeling between the villages.

During 2012 some irreconcilable differences of opinion arose, due to the disparity of money raised by each village. A new vicar, Rev Ann Massey, had been appointed in 2010 and in 2012 wanted the magazine and its finances ‘updated’. Each parish paid for the magazine by the advertising revenue they generated, but the problem was that each parish generated differing amounts, meaning some did not cover costs. For example, Bremhill made a loss of £1047 in 2012. There were several unproductive meetings not helped by the fact that the vicar was not regarded by some across the parish as the most popular and sympathetic person! Some parishes wanted to pool revenue, others did not and agreement was difficult to find. The outcome was that Derry Hill, not wanting to continue to make a loss, decided to produce their own magazine and so ‘The Way’ closed at the end of 2012. Bremhill and Foxham each produced an interim, short newsletter for a few months while meetings and questionnaires were held to elicit opinions and ideas. There was strong support for a civic, rather than Church magazine, which would encompass the whole, civic, Parish and which had one integrated publishing team. Dr David Stevens as Committee Chair was a major contributor to this and Bob Harding and John Harris were brought on board for the production. I joined the team as co-editor with David Stevens. David is still editing and is now also Treasurer and, as well as editor, I have also taken on the role as Committee Chair.

The first magazine with colour was produced in May 2013, but distributed only in Bremhill to judge reaction. The principle was decided at the outset that the magazine should be delivered free of change to each household in the Parish and that the new magazine was to be self-financing, with an advertising manager to develop revenue and that this could be supplemented by annual donations if necessary. The content was to be wider than previous, containing such as articles, book reviews, poems, puzzles as well as all kinds of local news and announcements to inform and to engage the interest of the whole Parish. July 2013 saw the magazine professionally produced with colour in its new format delivered to the whole civic Parish and it has been well received since then. I may well be biased (!), but I feel it has been very successful, due to the enthusiasm and dedication of the whole production team. It set out to be an inclusive magazine which I feel it is and in fact, several people have expressed an opinion that the magazine, since 2013, has played a role in helping to unify, to some extent, a somewhat disparate Parish. During the recent pandemic we also emulated the cry of the Windmill Theatre in London during the last war ‘We never closed’ since, when we were unable to print and deliver due to lockdown, we published on-line.

Ewen Bird