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Editor's comment: January 2017

PUBLISHED: 12:12 10 January 2017

Gloucester Tall Ships Festival © Caron Badkin / Shutterstock

Gloucester Tall Ships Festival © Caron Badkin / Shutterstock

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Rivalry is good: editor Mike Lowe discusses the competition between regency Cheltenham and resurgent Gloucester

Many moons ago I had the great honour of being editor of ‘The Citizen, Gloucester’ to give it its Sunday name). Across the motorway in Cheltenham was our sister newspaper, the Gloucestershire Echo. At the time, my opposite number and myself were the two youngest daily newspaper editors in the country…and we acted like it.

The rivalry was intense, never more so than on Gold Cup day when the real race was to get a newspaper to Prestbury Park first. (Bear in mind that this was in pre-digital days and the hot-metal Citizen was printed on an ancient press in a cellar on St John’s Lane before rumbling onto the streets in the early afternoon.)

All sorts of ruses were employed to beat the opposition – an abandoned van parked across the loading bay of the Echo, for instance – and a halt was only called after I hired a helicopter one year resulting in a mass faint in the accounts department.

(A diversion: In those days, if you wanted a colour picture on the front of your newspaper, it had to be sent off to be processed three days before publication. I know nothing about horses, but I’d spotted a picture of a rather attractive grey on the front of Horse & Hound, so we bought it and planned it in. The horse turned out to be Desert Orchid, and by sheer luck The Citizen was on the racecourse with a colour picture of the winner of the Gold Cup within minutes of that famous race finishing. The pubs of Gloucester were busy that night.)

I don’t know what the staff of these previously rather sleepy titles made of our antics. I do know that we improved both newspapers immeasurably and revitalised those newsrooms.

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So the point of this rambling reminiscence is that rivalry is GOOD. It’s all too easy to cruise along thinking that you’re doing a great job, but it’s only when you glance over your shoulder that you realise that the competition is catching up. Which brings us back to Gloucester and Cheltenham.

Gloucester, despite its magnificent cathedral and rich history, has always been seen to be the poor relation to Cheltenham’s nouveau riche Regency promenades. But the sands are shifting, Gloucester is resurgent, to the point that Cheltenham is now having to keep an eye on this outsider coming up on the rails.

Thanks to the efforts of the Marketing Gloucester team, the city is overtaking Cheltenham as a tourist destination; is being recognised as a world centre for heritage; is redeveloping the Quays, Blackfriars, the prison, the bus station and Bakers Quay; and is at the heart of cultural renaissance with the Tall Ships Festival, sculpture trails and other arts events. Oh, and they’ve finally knocked down the Golden bloody Egg.

These are exciting times. It will be interesting to see how Cheltenham responds to all this activity across the motorway.

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I’ve written before about the iniquities of the ‘discretionary’ service charge – does it go to the staff who’ve just provided you with an excellent experience or not? On page 90 of the January 2017 issue, we take a closer look at what happens to that money.

I think the message is clear. Before you commit to that 12.5%, ask your server what happens to it. If the staff don’t get it, then have it removed from the bill and tip in cash. Admittedly, this might not benefit the back-of-house workers, but there is no excuse for penny-pinching bosses to use this unfair tax to top up staff wages. The more of us who make some kind of stand, the quicker things will change.

For more of Mike’s musings, follow him on Twitter! @cotslifeeditor

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