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Cotswold Life Editors

PUBLISHED: 10:39 05 January 2011 | UPDATED: 14:54 20 February 2013

Roy Faiers

Roy Faiers

It must rank as one of the best jobs in publishing, but who were the men (no women, as yet) who were fundamental in Cotswold Life's success? Katie Jarvis reports

Roy Faiers


"Hello and welcome to this, the first edition of Cotswold Life, an entirely new magazine and the only one published for England's loveliest region."


And so begins a legend. As Cotswold Life celebrates its 40th birthday this month, the fascinating fact is this: the first ever issue - published in October 1967 - still shines forth with a clarity of vision that holds true to this day.


On the front cover is a full-colour picture of Chipping Campden with the iconic church of St James - one of the finest built on the rich proceeds of the Cotswold wool trade - just visible in the background. Among the pages (yours for three shillings) are still-familiar advertisers such as Hobbs and Chambers and Jackson-Stops & Staff: Forty years ago, you could have snapped up 3 Royal Crescent, Bath, ('entirely redecorated in 1966') for 16,500 leasehold.


The list of contents, too, resounds with features that would be far from out of place in the current edition. There's an article on Cheltenham's Everyman Theatre, where Miller's A View from the Bridge and Shakespeare's King Lear were on the bill; readers enjoyed a focus on the village of Tarlton; instructions on how to collect porcelain; and a meal review at the Crown Hotel in Cirencester, whose author dined on ravioli, steak (well-done) and cheese and biscuits, followed by a coffee and a brandy. Would the writer of 'A Cameo of Stow' still be able to say today: "Stow, wreathed in antiquity, cloaked in the mysteries and recollections of yore, greyed and lichened by time, has been mercifully by-passed by the clarion blasts of progress"? Quite probably, yes.


Perhaps that's not surprising. For the man who founded the magazine - and owned it for two decades - knew exactly what his readership wanted. Roy Faiers still works within a few hundred yards of Cotswold Life's present offices. From the historic Alma House, he runs This England and Evergreen, magazines he went on to found after Cotswold Life, on similar principles: celebrating the best and most charming aspects of this beautiful country of ours.


Although his first foray into publishing had been uncharacteristic - a publication entitled Humber Industry and Fishing Review - he was yearning to write articles about the countryside. Thus, in 1961, Roy established Lincolnshire Life in his home county, the first in the family of 'Life' magazines. More magazines swiftly followed in Devon, Dorset, Somerset and Norfolk. Buoyed by their success, he turned his attention to another beautiful part of the country that he barely knew: Gloucestershire.


"In fact," he recalls, "I was intending to call this new magazine Gloucestershire Life: I thought it was a lovely title. My next step was to approach people at WH Smith's to let them know in advance that I intended to launch a new magazine. Then one of them rang me up and said, 'You'll have to think of another name. The other company which has a magazine down here - Gloucestershire Countryside - has added the word 'Life' to its title.'"


Far from throwing Roy, the unexpected hurdle produced a leap of inspiration. From nowhere, the idea of 'Cotswold Life' tumbled into his mind. "I was very lucky: it's a far better title."


To kick-start the magazine, he 'imported' from Lincolnshire Peter Chapman, a first-class journalist, and Colin Carr, an outstanding artist whose quirky drawings of Cotswold market places and old-fashioned pub scenes bustled with humour, poignancy and character. The few inside colour pages were often devoted to Colin's artwork - in those days, colour printing was an expensive, time-consuming process.


The two Lincolnshire incomers enjoyed their time in the Cotswolds so much, that Roy himself decided to move down with his family. The Faiers started off in Chipping Norton before buying in Cheltenham. The move to such a central location was ideal: As the owner of a private pilot's licence, Roy used Staverton Airport to visit his print works at Exeter, as well as keeping an eye on his other magazines all over the country.


The second issue of Cotswold Life - published in January - shows how well the magazine was received. In his editor's letter, Roy says, "Within a few weeks we were almost completely sold out and many local newsagents were completely unable to meet the demand." Indeed, the letters pages are full of praise from locals and tourists - with just the traditional gripe, such as one from the owner of Tarlton's Manor Farm, who was 'considerably annoyed' to read the article on the village!


The magazine continued from strength to strength. Mrs Joan Dale, a farmer's widow from Bourton-on-the-Hill, was taken on to sell advertising. "She was a wonderful person. She knew so many people and she could sell advertising so brilliantly," Roy says. "When she died in 1996, I gave the eulogy in church for her. I likened her to aircraft carriers, one of which I served on during my time with the Royal Navy: HMS Formidable, Indefatigable and Illustrious. People who knew her were in fits of laughter. Joan would have loved it."


Roy wasn't finished there. Three months after launching Cotswold Life, he published the first This England magazine, celebrating customs, traditions, heritage, towns and villages on a national scale: in short, an ambassador for everything English. Evergreen, its sister publication, followed in 1985, as did more 'Life' magazines - Hampshire, Somerset and Wiltshire.


When Roy finally sold Cotswold Life to Hon Hugh Tollemache, the character of the magazine had been firmly established. As Roy Faiers put it way back in that first issue of 1967: "We shall seek to portray the true spirit of the Cotswolds and its people, both past and present."



John Drinkwater recalls his time as Editor of Cotswold Life from 1989 to 1997




LOOKING back, it was probably the best job I ever had.


Editing Cotswold Life in the 1990s offered the freedom to create a monthly magazine with absolutely no interference from the proprietor, the Hon Hugh Tollemache who was completely hands-off. "I'll leave it to you, John," he would say. Wonderful!


Hugh, owner of Beshara Press, had acquired the magazine from Roy Faiers, proprietor of This England. Money was always tight: with no staff writers, photographers or sub-editors, I relied on freelances, many of whom were not professional journalists, but keen amateurs with a passion for their subject.


But there was also my band of stalwarts whose contributions appeared every month (and still do, in some cases, I see). Sue Clarke wrote on equestrianism, and Gordon Ottewell produced a monthly Wold Walk with a map. June Lewis, with her unrivalled knowledge of the hill region, played a major part in creating the local flavour with one-off features and the popular series 'My Cotswold life' focusing on people who lived and worked in the area - from shepherd to hotel receptionist, from lord of the manor to Cotswold warden.


The month would begin with a planning meeting in our offices at the grand-sounding West One House (actually an attic room overlooking the Ladies' College). Ideas were thrown into the ring, accepted or rejected, and the issue would gradually take shape, until 28 days later, it emerged, butterfly-like. These were the days before email, of course, and copy arrived typed or handwritten on A4 sheets; photographs were glossy prints you held in your hand, rather than peered at on a computer screen.


Over time, lifestyle areas were expanded, notably fashion, interior design and eating out, partly because they represented the lives of our readers (or the lives they aspired to, perhaps), and, if I am honest, because we hoped they would attract advertisers.


Wining and dining became an important part of the magazine, with regular restaurant reviews and a series on chefs and their signature dishes, using brilliant photographs by Mark Osborne. Fashion was at first in the hands of the late Joan Dale, who always took her dog, Bobby, on assignments, but was also later expanded under our fashion editor Maureen Butler, and we took over Cotswold hotels for numerous fashion shoots, using local students as our models and borrowing clothes from Cavendish House and others. We also majored on interior design, with a long-running series on beautiful homes.


Reflecting the social scene also became a priority, and each month Mike Charity would don his faithful evening suit and head off to take pictures of the great and the good nibbling canaps for charity, and Charity.


Of course it was not all beer and skittles. I had no advertising budget or money for promotions; my plans for a radio campaign came to nothing; and the fees we paid writers and photographers made nobody rich. And they were long days, with phone calls stretching into the evening.


But there were definite consolations: we ignored all politicians, crime, elections and world crises. The fall of the Berlin Wall, the Poll Tax Riots, IRA bombs and the Fred West murders - they were not for us. Instead we concentrated on what makes the Cotswold special, fishing in a small pond, but a happy one.


Yes, I think it was the best job I ever had.


David MacDonald and his parents, David and Elizabeth, bought Cotswold Life magazine in April 1997. David MacDonald, senior, edited it for the first two-and-a-half years before his son took over, using the name David Clifton to avoid confusion.




When we bought Cotswold Life, it had an old-fashioned look - hardly any colour whatsoever - and was very thin. But it enjoyed a loyal core of readers, and we decided it had the makings of a local 'Country Life'.


The first problem was that none of the sales staff had company cars: they couldn't get out there and sell. The second was that the magazine wasn't sold in any of the supermarkets. So I went round visiting them all - Tesco, Sainsbury's, Waitrose - as well as all the newsagents and wholesalers. I got a very good reception: they could see we had an established product.


Probably our biggest innovation, though, was to introduce the property section. We wanted the magazine to be the first place people would look if they wanted to buy a gorgeous house in the Cotswolds. With that in mind, we decided only to include property over 250,000 - which was a lot of money before prices went through the roof! It took several attempts to get it launched but, when we did, it affected our circulation big time. The readers might have bought it to dream, but there was no doubt that estate agents were getting the right responses!


As for editorial, there were a lot of good things already being done before we took over. What we did was to make sure there were plenty of human interest stories. In those days, we didn't have Kate Moss and that guy from Blur; we weren't so much interested in celebrities. We interviewed locals with stories to tell: a councillor, a sausage maker, or a quirky craftsman. One particularly popular series we ran was on the history of the Cotswolds: how they were built on the wool trade. Another was looking at older people participating in sport, from weightlifting to falconry.


Wildlife was with Mornay Button; and we took on Jane Garner as the regular fashion writer. To begin with, we had a few complaints from elderly ladies. One wrote to tell me: "I had to rip out the fashion pages so my husband couldn't see them. They were full of swimsuits and lingerie."


We introduced education, food and Christmas gift guides; we produced the first Cotswold Wedding Magazine, and we expanded the motoring section. It was also at this time that photography became such a vital part of the magazine.


Most important of all, though, everything we did had a Cotswold slant; everything was about being proud of the Cotswolds.


I think we sowed the seeds for the Cotswold Life you see today. We put all the elements in place; the editors who came after us simply took it to the next level.


I'm now a 'life coach', working with all kinds of people who are dissatisfied with their lives; it's about trying to help them to be happier. In a way, it's not dissimilar from the sort of thing that magazines like Cotswold Life try to do. Newspapers are all doom and gloom - they make people miserable; a magazine is about the good things that happen. Reading Cotswold Life takes your mind off tragedies and focuses you on the positive instead.



David MacDonald is a trained life coach, who also specialises in neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). For more information on his work, call him on 01242 680023 and 07726 996939, or visit www.lifecoach1.co.uk


Peter Waters was publisher of Cotswold Life magazine from October 2001 to December 2005. He is now deputy editor of Norfolk's Eastern Daily Press, the country's biggest-selling regional morning newspaper.



Did you know that the Cotswolds stretches to Wales? In my early days as publisher and editor of Cotswold Life the circulation manager used to say that was how far I'd distribute the magazine if it meant selling a few more copies. I used to raise an eyebrow, as if to ask: well, why not?



In my four years on the title I don't think we ever established exactly where the Cotswolds' geographical boundaries lay, but it made for an interesting debate with people I met. Did it end in the north at Chipping Campden? Or push on to Stratford and perhaps beyond? Was Bourton its eastern perimeter, or possibly Witney? Did it go over the Severn into the Forest; beyond the Thames south to Malmesbury? The most obvious explanation was that it encompassed the stone walls, rolling pastures and upland sheep pens (hence Cots-wold) along the limestone ridge from Shipston-on-Stour to Bath, but I'd like to disagree. In my limited experience the Cotswolds is less a place and more a spirit, as elusive as Brigadoon if you move here and don't care to assimilate.



A year after I became publisher, I read an article in The Times that said the Cotswolds were populated by bored husband-swapping housewives who made plum jam, dressed in leather trousers and - this still makes me laugh - 'wore the post-orgasmic look of the lingerie models in Cotswold Life magazine'. As often with these things, it probably said more about the author than her subject. Does this caricature exist? If she does, there's a few men who'd like to meet her, but then there's the other clich of the Labrador-walking, welly-wearing Barbour brigade. How accurate is that? Sure, you'll see a few of them at Badminton or the National Hunt Festival, but they're far from the majority. Neither are the culture vultures seen at countless festivals.



I enjoyed an anecdote from Jilly Cooper, interviewed by Katie Jarvis (one of the handful of stars who serendipitously came together at the same time to help more than double the magazine's circulation). The author told of accepting a dinner invite in her early days here, arriving in evening dress, bejewelled and dazzling, accompanying husband in dinner jacket, to find that the hosts and their other guests were dressed down scruffily in jeans and patched jackets. Perception and reality.



Here's what I think of the Cotswolds: it's actually a vibrant and diverse community of people in an area that's a thriving, working environment and not just the upmarket theme park of repute. Cotswold Life - as any good lifestyle publication should - reaffirms their sensible choice to live in one of the most beautiful corners of the country and endeavours to help them make the most of it.



The magazine in your hands is imbued with the spirit of the Cotswolds. I'd like to think it helped create it by celebrating and championing the best things about life here; by showcasing many of the people and organisations advancing its causes, from the Rural Community Council and the AONB to individuals such as Charles Martell and Nell Gifford. It reflects a truly unique character of countryside and people. To me, launching the Food and Drink Awards to recognise the important role of the region's producers, growers, suppliers and hospitality establishments epitomised what the magazine is about.



So, the Cotswolds doesn't stretch as far as Wales then. But I'll tell you this: there are many neighbours who wish they had just a little of the magic produced by this outstanding area and its inhabitants.


Peter Waters was publisher of Cotswold Life magazine from October 2001 to December 2005. He is now deputy editor of Norfolk's Eastern Daily Press, the country's biggest-selling regional morning newspaper.



Did you know that the Cotswolds stretches to Wales? In my early days as publisher and editor of Cotswold Life the circulation manager used to say that was how far I'd distribute the magazine if it meant selling a few more copies. I used to raise an eyebrow, as if to ask: well, why not?



In my four years on the title I don't think we ever established exactly where the Cotswolds' geographical boundaries lay, but it made for an interesting debate with people I met. Did it end in the north at Chipping Campden? Or push on to Stratford and perhaps beyond? Was Bourton its eastern perimeter, or possibly Witney? Did it go over the Severn into the Forest; beyond the Thames south to Malmesbury? The most obvious explanation was that it encompassed the stone walls, rolling pastures and upland sheep pens (hence Cots-wold) along the limestone ridge from Shipston-on-Stour to Bath, but I'd like to disagree. In my limited experience the Cotswolds is less a place and more a spirit, as elusive as Brigadoon if you move here and don't care to assimilate.



A year after I became publisher, I read an article in The Times that said the Cotswolds were populated by bored husband-swapping housewives who made plum jam, dressed in leather trousers and - this still makes me laugh - 'wore the post-orgasmic look of the lingerie models in Cotswold Life magazine'. As often with these things, it probably said more about the author than her subject. Does this caricature exist? If she does, there's a few men who'd like to meet her, but then there's the other clich of the Labrador-walking, welly-wearing Barbour brigade. How accurate is that? Sure, you'll see a few of them at Badminton or the National Hunt Festival, but they're far from the majority. Neither are the culture vultures seen at countless festivals.



I enjoyed an anecdote from Jilly Cooper, interviewed by Katie Jarvis (one of the handful of stars who serendipitously came together at the same time to help more than double the magazine's circulation). The author told of accepting a dinner invite in her early days here, arriving in evening dress, bejewelled and dazzling, accompanying husband in dinner jacket, to find that the hosts and their other guests were dressed down scruffily in jeans and patched jackets. Perception and reality.



Here's what I think of the Cotswolds: it's actually a vibrant and diverse community of people in an area that's a thriving, working environment and not just the upmarket theme park of repute. Cotswold Life - as any good lifestyle publication should - reaffirms their sensible choice to live in one of the most beautiful corners of the country and endeavours to help them make the most of it.



The magazine in your hands is imbued with the spirit of the Cotswolds. I'd like to think it helped create it by celebrating and championing the best things about life here; by showcasing many of the people and organisations advancing its causes, from the Rural Community Council and the AONB to individuals such as Charles Martell and Nell Gifford. It reflects a truly unique character of countryside and people. To me, launching the Food and Drink Awards to recognise the important role of the region's producers, growers, suppliers and hospitality establishments epitomised what the magazine is about.



So, the Cotswolds doesn't stretch as far as Wales then. But I'll tell you this: there are many neighbours who wish they had just a little of the magic produced by this outstanding area and its inhabitants.

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