In 1973 or thereabouts, I snuck down the paper shop to buy a David Cassidy fan magazine. I can see it now; dishy David in a denim jacket, his long hair silhouetted against a Seventies burnt orange background on the cover. The pages and pages and pages of gushing copy and photos of the teen idol. And the fact that I’d nicked 50p from my mum’s purse to buy it.
I felt guilty at the time – and 45 years later, I still do. A bit. I needed that magazine; it would make my life complete, and 100 per cent better. Mum never knew that she’d spawned an eight-year-old thief (either that, or she never let on), but that magazine was a key part of growing up, along with all the other mags and comics I voraciously hoovered up.
I was a comics whore. Pippin, Twinkle, Bunty, Jinty, Jackie, Whizzer and Chips, Cor!, Smash Hits, Disco 45, Look-In, The Beano, The Dandy, Melanie, Pink, Blue Jeans, I had ‘em all, me. My Dad used to buy me The Beezer ever week, and when I hit 13, he said: “You don’t want that any more, do you?” I said, “No”, but what I really meant was, “Yes, I cannot get enough of The Numskulls or Colonel Blink, the short-sighted gink , even though I also have a poster of Starsky, who is my new pin-up, on my bedroom wall.”
At Auntie Joan and Uncle Jim’s, aged seven, I’d pore over all their stored copies of Punch magazine, not really reading it, but admiring the cartoons of Larry, Honeysett and Bill Tidy. I’d also sneak a look at Jim’s Victor comics that he still took, despite being wounded at Arnheim. I wasn’t that interested, only enough to know that Germans would always say “For you, Tommy, ze var ist over”, and that the Japanese would always die whilst saying “AIEEEE!”.
I grew up to be a journalist for a lot of magazines, some of which you won’t have heard of (CADCAM, anyone?), some of which you have. I was deputy editor of OK!, which is something else entirely and one day I’ll write about my nemesis of an unwanted goat in the church at a celebrity wedding. I wanted to be part of the world that shaped me, that put an arm around my shoulder when I was growing up and made a kid who often felt like an outsider feel like part of a big gang who felt the same as she did.
This is a long-winded way of saying how said I was to read of the demise of women’s website The Pool, which went into administration yesterday. It was a bold, funny, relevant website for women that used a lot of great freelance writers, but it was all available for free, like the content of BuzzFeed, who announced editorial cutbacks this week. The Pool, like comedian Sarah Millican’s online women’s mag Standard Issue, found it couldn’t survive online without a subscription model (although Standard Issue is still available as a podcast).
It’s tragic, really. Writer Andy Dawson and I were lamenting The Pool’s demise on Twitter, and he wrote: “People think nothing of spending £3 for a coffee but shit their pants at the thought of forking out for something that’ll amuse and inform them for an hour.”
An hour of fun is lovely, but even better is a lifetime of being shaped and encouraged by brilliant writers who get you – a feeling that those of us who trooped down the newsagents to hand over cold, hard cash for a dead tree will remember.
Those days ain’t coming back any time now – but unless those of us delighted, informed and amused by any kind of journalism are prepared to put a few pennies in the hat of those who are producing that delight via “tip jar” sites like Patreon, it will disappear, and all we’ll be left with is cat videos and clickbait. And as much as I like cats on YouTube (especially the one riding a Roomba vaccum cleaner), they don’t make as much as impression as that David Cassidy mag did on me – even if remembering the purchase of it still make my ears burn with embarrassment.
Clair Woodward is a freelance writer. In a former life she was deputy editor of OK! and arts editor of the Sunday Express.