It all started 30 years ago… founding publisher Roger Ogle looks back at 30 years of the Link

HRH Princess Anne at the official opening of Greendown Community School on 23 March 1987

From The Archives with Link founding publisher Roger Ogle

March marks the thirtieth year since Link magazine first appeared as a regular monthly, commercial publication.

As I explained in January, The Link as a community newsletter had been produced every six weeks since December 1978, but having grown from 500 to 8,000 copies, it was time for a step-change to provide more regular community based news which would expand to keep up with the continued growth of West Swindon which was planned to be 11,000 homes.

As the first chair of governors at Greendown Community School, which had opened to its first intake in September 1986, I was one of the first to know that Princess Anne would perform the official opening ceremony on 23 March 1987. The occasion was a good target around which to launch the new look magazine.

As a newsletter Link stories were typed onto paper then cut and pasted on layout sheets, and Letraset stick-on lettering was used for headlines. It was very crude in appearance. As a monthly magazine The Link was going to have a more consistent look, yet still be entirely funded by advertising and given away so that every household receives a copy.

Computers and desktop publishing software was in its infancy and very expensive. So, producing a magazine was still a really physical, long winded activity. Instead of a typewriter I started working with a design company and spent much of January and February that year talking to advertisers and collecting and writing stories which still had to be typed and delivered to the designers for typesetting and layout. I also set up a darkroom at home in our utility room to develop film and print photographs.

Thankfully businesses bought into the idea of a monthly magazine focussed on West Swindon, and gathering news and asking contributors to write articles was quite straightforward. The tough job was actually writing the pieces for the rest of the publication which took up much of March until the royal opening.

Whereas the newsletter averaged 8 to 12 pages, the magazine was going to be 32 pages, and once the first edition was published, the next one was due just four weeks later. It was a daunting thought, and became a feature of life for both myself and my wife and business partner Ruth until the magazine was bought by James Phipps in August 2014. Many is the time people would suggest that producing The Link was a part-time hobby without realising what went into creating an informative, accurate, well designed publication.

Hitting the print deadline so that it could be in the hands of distributors at the right time has always been the imperative. It was only missed on two occasions, including the first edition when I turned up at the designers on press day to make finishing touches to discover they had not even started work on typesetting the stories and adverts, or scanning the photographs, let alone laying out the pages. It was a nightmare at the first hurdle, eventually overcome later that day after a dozen people worked at top speed.

Other stories which featured in the April 1987 edition included announcements for the housing development at Peatmoor and the agreement to build Shaw Ridge Leisure Park. The Chinese Experience restaurant was due before Thamesdown Council’s planning committee and we reported that the last committee meeting had rejected an application to build an all-terrain vehicle track on Shaw Forest Park. We described the council’s efforts to explain HIV/AIDS in a leaflet to be distributed to every household in the town. West Swindon librarian Linda Black wrote about a day in her life and Swindon Cable advertised the chance to win a video recorder, if you signed up to cable TV offering 15 channels including Home Cinema showing 28 films a week. What a contrast to today.

For somebody starting a new enterprise with only limited experience on how to deliver the product and without any business background, it was a huge learning curve to create a readable and financially viable publication. Unquestionably the support of advertisers should be recognised, without them Link would not have survived as long as it has. And as the business grew we were able to employ an advertising salesperson and also part-time writers.

In all the years it has been going, I’ve not come across any other comparable publication with such a high level of editorial whilst being delivered to homes in such large numbers free of charge.

And thirty years on, in parallel with our success, Greendown School has now achieved great things. Now Lydiard Park Academy, it is one of the top performing schools in the town and a multi-academy trust working in partnership with Isambard School in North Swindon.