It’s a very strange feeling that this is the last 'Back Chat’ I will ever write. Patti Rudling, who was Assistant Editor from 1980 to 1985 came up with the name and I have found it a great discipline to research 10 different topics a year on which to write a piece for our wide readership – and make it fit a page of print. The odd thing is that I never liked ‘composition’ at school and it took a reader to point out that I have written an essay more or less every month for 30 years.
I can never hope to thank everyone by name for their many and varied contributions to the magazine’s success over the last 43 years. However, having begun by mentioning Patti, whose employment with us predates the management buyout in 1986 and who was an excellent colleague, I thought I’d continue by naming those staff who have made the greatest difference. First and foremost is Janet Donell (now Campailla) who overlapped with Patti in 1984/85 and, apart from a brief gap in the late 1990s, has been involved with the magazine ever since. She began full time on the subscriptions/editorial side and returned part time to look after finance/legal. Without Janet, I simply could not have run the company and she has filled in whenever we have been shortstaffed, which includes her having helped me edit this issue. Pepe Keightley has also shown immense versatility, starting in editorial in 1989 and covering conferences for me as well as doing many hours of editing and then (when she could not offer me so much time) taking on the book keeping, which I had foolishly outsourced to devastating effect. Belinda Devenish picked up where Pepe left off editorially, sharing conference attendance with me and then showing tremendous leadership skills when I was seriously ill two-and-a-half years ago. In fact, I had such an amazing team in 2012 that most of the outside world was oblivious (as was intended) that anything was amiss. Apart from Janet and Belinda, both working very part time but who upped their hours, Vicky Hoof as Production Editor and Lucinda Devenish as Advertising & Editorial Co-ordinator rallied to the cause by not only keeping the magazine’s schedule on track but also handling the outside world and Gretta Mattoon even came back as Subscriptions Administrator to fill a gap there. They kept the show on the road and I owe them all a debt of gratitude both for both their individual contributions and for working as such an incredible team. Gretta has taken the Subscriptions Administrator’s role to a new level of sophistication, staying with the magazine to the final issue, and Lucinda returned in December to see me through the last two months. I could not ask for more.
Long-term readers will remember Anna Stoddart, who came in as my PA on the editorial side after the management buyout and then morphed into the first Editorial Co-ordinator. To me, Anna embodies a contradiction of the saying that ‘no one is indispensable’ – she worked with us here for 13 years and I still miss her ability to lay her hands on anything one might think of. Someone I’d also like to mention from the past is Linda Carey who was with us for 11 years and who – like Janet – was here at the time of the buyout. In those days, advertising went with production and it was this joint role that Linda was so good at. As production became more computerized, we decided to marry up editorial with production instead. Here, Sophie Putman was one of our greatest assets. Starting off as Editorial/Production Assistant, she became our first Production Editor before going off to Australia and then returning as Assistant Editor. Most recently, Louise Cleghorn has been our Production Editor – and this valedictory issue is the only one in the last two years for which the magazine’s production has not been her responsibility (any inadvertent errors here are therefore mine).
At board level, Martin Crossley, senior partner of Harris Graham who founded the magazine back in 1971 with Patrick Sergeant of Euromoney fame, was Chairman from 1973 to 1978 (as well as Editor from the start). He was followed by Malcolm Ballisat, also a Harris Graham partner, who was Chairman from 1979 to 1993 and provided me with great encouragement at the time of the management buyout. Martin Lutyens was then Chairman for around 10 years, giving me wise counsel and support in the background to this day. We have also had a number of company secretaries over the years but the one who stands out for his strong contribution is Derek K. Lyons, OBE. He was recommended by a friend, Judith Fletcher, and had no connection with our field but served us loyally for nearly 22 years, refusing to take an honorarium.
To return to the present, a big thank-you to all our contributors and advertisers in this issue – it is because of you that we are now going out on a high note. I need to pause for a year and then I intend to do a round-the-world trip in 2016 and say a personal farewell to as many readers as possible.