Annual Dinner 2016

The evening was a successful getting together of old acquaintances and “acquaintances of old”. Many Old Loughts only meet each other at this event and many happy memories are brought to mind and shared; although some of them rather painful, particularly involving the “boot room”.

Some Old Loughts this year came especially for this get-together from far afield; including Cornwall and Scotland.

The outgoing President presented gifts of wine to his Hon Secretary, Malcolm Trowbridge and Hon Treasurer, Roger Timms. The incoming President was presented with a number of gifts from the Association, including some prints of the old school and even a pair of binoculars (all the better to keep an eye on those of us in the back row).

This year, as with last year, we were privileged to be joined by Mr & Mrs Houston, the Headmaster and Senior Teacher at Loughton School, respectively, who many of us remember from the mid-1950s onwards. They wouldn’t remember each of us, but we all remember them with warm affection for their contribution to our futures.

The meal was very enjoyable, Graham Finch was Master of Ceremonies and the new President’s speech was most entertaining (see below) and held our attention despite a rather vocal end table demonstrating the art of cracker-biscuit hurling at another table throughout.

It is reliably reported that the typo on the menu, pictured above, was deliberate to see who amongst us is observant.

The evening included Remembrance Day thoughts and poppy sales, together with the role call of those Old Loughtonians who gave their lives in the wars.

All too soon the evening was over and a new Presidency ended its first day.

The President’s Speech:

Good evening.

The only reason I stand before you now is because Alex Speechley persuaded me to join the committee about four years ago!

I had been to the 2012 Olympics to watch the hockey, and was indeed lucky enough to see England playing, but what really caught my attention was the pitch. The game seemed to have changed a fair bit as well, but knowing the OLs had been an official training venue, it led me to respond to an invitation to attend a summer party here and get a close up of the new pitches.

I was bit surprised that Alex recognised me at all that afternoon, but he did, and then very surreptitiously proceeded to chat me up, and hey presto I’m now Malcolm’s lackey!

The other thing I didn’t know was that Dennis wanted to stop doing the magazine, and so Alex, who seemed to know more about me than I did, obviously had a cunning plan up his sleeve, and I fell for it!

Indeed I’m very grateful to him for persuading me to get involved as I’m delighted to be reunited with the association after such a long absence, not by choice of course, because I have some very fond memories of my time playing for the OLs Hockey Club, being best man to Ray Hamilton, and a brief liaison with the Masonic Lodge.

It is only now of course, in retrospect, that one can appreciate the bonds such a club forge, so it gives me great pleasure to remind myself that I’m actually a Vice-President and should do more to support it. I was very pleased, therefore, when Alex proposed that we give the club give a sizable donation a couple of years ago.

With regard to Loughton, I have to say that I don’t really remember too much of my school days, but I do recall that my first venture into the art world did actually start at school. I did a poster for the society I belonged to for an open day event, and to cut a long story short, it lead me to study lettering at our finishing school in Walthamstow. Towards the end of the course, one of my tutors suggested I should try to get into the London School of Printing.

One of my tutors there was Harry Beck, who you may recall designed the now iconic tube map, but the tutor who really set me on my way was Derek Birdsall. He gave me my first job on leaving college with his design group in Bloomsbury, working one day a week for each of the four designers for the princely sum of ten pounds a week!

This was of course the early sixties, Derek had shot to fame as the designer of the Pirelli Calendar, and I found myself working on publicity for Lotus Cars with Derek, and posters for Joan Littlewood’s Stratford Theatre Workshop for another designer in the group. I maybe didn’t realise it at the time, but it was a hugely innovative era for the arts, music, the Beatles first hit was in 1962, and indeed graphic design.

A year or so went by and then one day Derek said that one of his friends had been asked to become the art director of the Sunday Times’ new colour supplement, and was looking for an art assistant. He encouraged me to apply, and much to my surprise I got the job! Derek meanwhile started working on new magazines like Nova and Twen, the first of a new breed of glossy magazines that were quite revolutionary for those days.

Mark Boxer was the editor of that first ST supplement, married to Anna Ford of course, and he persuaded Tony Armstrong Jones to become the resident photographer. This was all very exciting, but the downside was that Princess Margaret would frequently arrive in the office to take Lord Snowdon home, but was not allowed up to his studio on the roof! She was not my favourite person I have to say, and so I was very pleased to escape when the opportunity to move to the Observer came along.

In fact it was just two years later when the Observer was forced into producing a rival supplement or lose out in the circulation war with the ST, and needless to say, Derek was approached to be the art director and asked me to join him. Unfortunately for Derek, the job went to Romek Marber who had just completed the redesign of Penguin books, but by this time I had already resigned from the ST, and so was very grateful when Romek decided to keep me on!

This was still only 1964, I was still playing hockey, Steve Mathison was captain, Ray Hamilton was centre forward but more importantly an insurance broker, so when my salary shot up to £1500 a year, I asked him if he could get me a mortgage, which he did, and so I got married! I think the house was the princely sum of £6000 which seemed like a huge amount at the time!

The house had in fact been built by a freelance designer I introduced to the Sunday Times by the name of Peter Sullivan, and just out of interest, it was Peter who was sent to Aberfan to report on how that disaster happened. His sketches were so good that it was decided to publish them exactly as he had drawn them, and so began the era of info graphics.

Unfortunately my playing days were soon to be brought to a grinding halt when my working week changed to Tuesday to Saturday. I began to lose touch with the club and it was also difficult for me to get to lodge meetings on a Friday and so I was eventually obliged to resign, but I have to say that if anybody is thinking about joining the lodge, it is an excellent way of keeping in touch with other old boys.

So it’s nice to be back, thank you again Alex, and indeed to be teamed up with the best editor I’ve ever worked for, well almost, Malcolm!

Talking of being back reminds me of the 38a bus. I think I have the unique distinction of growing up on it. Possibly Chris Plant spent a lot his early years on it as well, but I started at the age of 5 travelling first from Walthamstow to Woodford Green, then from the age of 12 to Loughton. Miss a couple of years and then back on it again, but in the opposite direction this time, up to Mount Pleasant for the years I was at college.

The LCP was in Back Hill, just off Farringdon Road, almost opposite where the Guardian used to be, and so when that paper bought the Observer in 1994, I found myself, again, literally, over thirty years later, back where I started!

After 15 years on the magazine I was switched to the paper, which was of course a very different animal altogether, and, unfortunately for me, was just prior to the time when the transition was about to be made from hot metal to cold set. This was challenging enough in itself, but it also brought me into direct confrontation with the print unions, of whom we shall say no more!

On a lighter note, a regular feature of our week for those of us working late was to go to the pub for a quick break on a Friday evening with the sports desk. We couldn’t stay long, but they often didn’t come back until closing time, and one particularly memorable incident sticks in my mind when Hugh McIlvanney returned very pissed, to be asked by Ken O’Bank, the managing editor, where his copy was? McIlvanney, a tough Glaswegian, took exception at this and said it was still in his foocking typewriter, whereupon Ken strode over to his desk, grabbed the machine and flung it out of the window!

Fortunately it missed a bloke on the pavement some two stories below, but the police were called and Ken found himself editing the paper on Saturday morning from a cell in Snow Hill police station!

On a Saturday evening after the first edition had gone, at 5.40 precisely, we would again retire to the pub and wait until we felt the floor tremble. This told us the presses had started to roll and we would to rush back to do the first edition changes. The machine room was below the pub as it happened, so very convenient!

Although wine bars were not particularly popular in the days of ‘the street’, El Vino’s being the exception, they did begin to flourish around the mid eighties, and our nearest one was very close indeed, a mere hop and a skip out through the van-way, up a back alley and into the back door of Punters, less than a minute!

Situated just behind Ludgate Hill it was very popular with the city bankers who got in there soon after midday having started very early in the morning, and so by the time we arrived they were already in extravagant mood and the pink champagne flowed! So much so in fact that the picture editor often found it much more to his liking to run his desk from there midweek, so rather than return to the office he trained the girls behind the bar to answer the phone pretending they were his assistants!

Sad to say, this idyll didn’t last long before new technology took over our lives, the paper moved to Battersea, Fleet Street lost all its newspapers, and sadly lost Dennis!

What would we have done without Dennis I wonder? Would we even have a magazine today without his years of selfless dedication to it? We owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude which I’m delighted to say has now been fully realised by a motion passed unanimously at the AGM earlier tonight, to appoint him as an Honorary Vice President. Sadly, Dennis can’t be here tonight, but thank you Dennis. Malcolm and I will endeavour to follow humbly in your footsteps but I very much doubt that we have enough years left to match those you devoted to it!

The Secretary has also asked me to announce the addition of two more Honorary Vice Presidents, namely Roger Timms and Richard Oakman. Sadly the death this year of Arthur Westall created the vacancy, but the AGM wholeheartedly agreed with our Hon Secretary, that all three members should be recognised for their individual contributions to the Association after so many years of loyal service.

And so ladies and gentlemen, it brings me to the moment of asking you to be upstanding and drink a toast to the continued health and wellbeing of the Association, in spite of all David’s gloomy foreboding!

I give you ‘The Old Loughtonian’s Association’, and may we continue to flourish for a good few years yet!

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