A brief history of Shire and it's role in the community.
In 2022 we celebrate 50 years of Shire Newspaper!
This is quite an achievement for a free local paper run entirely by volunteers.
The very first edition in February 1972 was A4 in size and evolved from a church magazine format. It was the brainchild of Fred Gould of Twyford House Further Education Centre and a committee of local worthies. Churches and community volunteers were involved. That first edition’s first page contained comments from local councillors, MP Martin McClaren, the Chief Education Officer, the Public Relations Officer of BCC and David Jacobs who at that time presented Any Questions – all congratulating and welcoming a free community newspaper.
Looking back I think they would all have been very impressed, surprised even, that the paper is still going and has changed with the times. Anyone wishing to view past editions can do so as they are in binders in Shirehampton library and make fascinating reading – a real social history. Early editions contained recipes, suggestions for creative arts, a women’s page, and all the usual reports on church activities, sporting groups, clubs etc, along with profiles of local people. Cartoonists have emerged at various times over the years, Bill Downs and Philip Squire being two memorable ones. Local poets have also been inspired to share their muse with readers.
Some very well known Shire people have been involved over the years with the production – some have sadly died, others moved away or retired but it’s their commitment in the early days that have contributed to the continuity of the paper. It wouldn’t be fair to name them as some would inevitably be left out so look at the old copies and you’ll see for yourselves.
The A4 magazine format continued until July 1975 when it then became a newspaper as we know it today.
Special anniversaries were marked and reported on, 5th, 10th, 25th (when some of the committee members were interviewed on Roger Bennet’s Radio Bristol programme), 30th when plaques were presented to Joyce Daniels, Jean Archer and Marion Robathan for long service to the paper, and the 40th anniversary when an exhibition and party was held in 2012 at the Methodist Church hall.
Shire on the web commenced in 1999. In 2022 a new 'Shire' website replaced the old Shire on the Web version.
The paper has reported on so many changes in the village over the years. The loss of iconic buildings for instance, the prefabs, old Portway Schools (both upper and lower) Swimming baths, Savoy, old health centre, Cotswold Centre when it was a tin hut, and on the positive side new buildings put up such as a new Cotswold Centre, Health Centre, Portway School now Oasis, Jim O’Neill House, the building and later closure of the Robin Cousins sports centre and of course many more homes.
Special events have been reported on including the opening of the Public Hall garden in 2000, Prince Edward’s visit in 2003, the centenaries of the Public Hall and Library in 2004, Any Questions being broadcast from the hall in that same year, a plaque to commemorate the world premier of ‘A Lark Ascending’ in the hall, a blue plaque in honour of Sir Robert Stephens on 34 Priory Rd in 2006 to name but a few.
Shire has sponsored community events over the years including exhibitions of art and craft and photography , a Shire directory and currently Carols on the Green which is very well supported. At one time the paper was also available on tape for visually impaired people but that no longer exists. Shire by post is administered by Sue Husher who ensures all ex pats who pay a subscription receive their copy each month. The numbers are decreasing because of the online availability but it is still a valuable service for many who like to keep their links with the village.
The paper is paid for by the advertisers and any sundry donations so any surplus of income over expenditure has, for the past few years been ploughed back into the community in the form of grants to local organisations. Sadly, due to Covid our advertising revenue has dropped and no surplus has been available for grants.
Our grateful thanks must go to the rota of volunteer editors (currently Sarah, Renee, Jill, Jackie, Bill, Fiona) who collate the copy on their duty month and send it to our typesetter who then has contact with the printers. When the papers are delivered to the Public Hall we have our worthy band of volunteers counting, bundling and distributing the 5000 papers locally and this team is headed up by Bobbie (with help from husband Geoff) and Bill. Other volunteers include our Chairperson, (Renee) Treasurer and Advertising Manager (Ed) Secretary (Judy) and Marilyn (Social Events/archives).
The process of producing Shire has obviously changed from that first issue, thanks to technology but we can still accommodate contributors who don’t ‘do’ computers and prefer to put their articles in the library or Post Office for collection.
We also have our two resident photographers, Bob Pitchford and Kathryn Courtney whose expertise is much appreciated. After all how impoverished the paper would be without photographs to accompany many of the articles. Kathryn also writes pieces related to local businesses and events.
So Shire is truly a community project and I hope you will agree a very worthwhile one. Without blowing our own trumpet (although come to think of it why not?) we provide a voice for Shire and surrounding area, keep people informed, provide a forum for local views, help with family history queries and getting people back in touch with each other. We also share in the ups and downs in the life of the village.