This one is personal.
My first teaching job was at Dick Sheppard school in Tulse Hill – to all intents Brixton; the school does not exist any more – for one reason after I left the Deputy Head was stabbed on the steps of the school. I really got into working there. The kids were difficult. Before I worked in China, I used to have an adage, the best and worst kids I taught were the black kids at Dick Sheppard. But the system was clearly failing these kids for all kinds of reasons but it was not the teachers. Undoubtedly there was the problem of teacher expectation but mostly the teachers worked hard. But the system odds they were fighting were just too much.
This part I am not sure of. At the same time as I was disillusioned with teaching, I began doing a part-time job helping the kids from the Youth Centre (mostly the same kids) with word-processing – wordstar whatever that was. The next thing I recall was resigning as a teacher and beginning work on a magazine – Young Journal – in the same building.
I remember only one thing about the first magazine, and that was just before printing. I knew a typesetter, and he agreed to do the typesetting. I had no idea what I was supposed to give him so I printed out everything, and the Friday before printing Monday gave them to him. He refused. For the next issues I learnt what was required, but for this issue I had to go home, get out my printer and spraymount, and layout the first magazine. I worked solidly and sleeplessly that weekend, and by Monday lunch-time took it up to the printers. I remember being pleased with myself for finishing it, and being pleased with the quality of the first magazine – a pleasure that soon went when I saw the typeset magazines 2, 3 and 4. I have put online 2, 3 and 4 but the first has gone.
The most important result of all that effort was that the magazine had gained some credibility. The Area Youth Office gave us a small budget that paid for future printing, typesetting and some photos, I continued to be paid as a part-time youth worker and the basis for the magazine was set. Publishing the first magazine also brought in new writers which was better as I was still “sir” to many. But perhaps most importantly there was a magazine to show the community. It brought in the first ads but more importantly it brought cooperation – they wanted to help the kids – black youth.
Typically I remember Angela Wynter. The interview had been arranged and the writer, Carol Billy, called in sick; I went to do the interview. Scared of losing the interview I expect I fronted up and tried to explain. I remember an unwillingness, then courtesy and a fascinating interview in front of the fire in her Clapham (?) flat – including learning about duppies. Carol was then able to write the article – Magazine 3 pp 6 and 7 – 1st pdf.
London was a metropole, and Brixton apart from having a Caribbean community also attracted African exiles who were always looking for print. In issue 2 I interviewed Omwony-Ojwok on Uganda – Magazine 2 pp 6 and 7 – 1st pdf, and for issue 3 I interviewed Ndeh Ntumazah – Magazine 3 p13-14 – 1st pdf. They both became friends and teachers. I worked often with Ndeh. He asked me to type up the interview with him, and I discovered when creating the Young Journal website and doing a search that the interview had been printed verbatim in the book “Ndeh Ntumazah A Conversational Auto-biography”. And I am suing them for royalties – joke. Seeing this google page was a great honour for me. When I think of injustice in life, I think of Ndeh, a wise and intelligent man I believe of royal descent, having to work in exile as a car park attendant. I have no concerns about giving back to my politics teacher.
I had visions for the magazine. I wanted subscriptions, more ads, to make it commercial enough to pay the writers. But all of that fell flat. In the middle of working on the fourth issue my personal life went through upheaval, and I left Brixton for Brighton. I committed to the fourth issue but it was a struggle. I heard rumours concerning a fifth issue but no more involvement for me. I believe there was a fifth issue but I am not sure – I lost contact.
Moving to Brighton made a trade unionist and activist but I sorely missed all the contacts I had made within the Brixton community. My personal life in Brighton remained in upheaval all the time I was there until eventually I started afresh in Botswana in 1993 where I was happy for 6 years before travelling further until retiring here in Thailand 11 years ago. The magazines have always been prized possessions, are now not in such good condition because of the travelling, and only now have I put them online.
One testimony to the writers the magazines are timeless and can be enjoyed now – except for 140-character culture not being able to read so much and demanding colour instead of black-and-white. Enjoy the Young Journal:-