Heatons Guardian

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Long before MOOR Magazine existed, and in a time where there was no Facebook to share local information, The Heatons had its own newspaper. Melissa Marriott meets Lesley Brush, the woman behind Heaton Guardian, the free weekly paper from the 1990s.

Back in the early 1990s, Lesley Brush was Managing Director of the South Manchester Reporter, (publishers of several free weekly papers) when the company decided to buy The Heaton Moor and Heaton Chapel Guardian. Lesley explains: “William and Anthea White owned the paper at the time –  we were mostly buying the name and advertising contacts though, as it had no editorial content in those days. It looked more like a classified section with lots of adverts, and was a simple A1 folded sheet. But I knew it was a good investment as nearly all the local shops and lots of local services advertised in it. I’d bought my own house from a lineage advert I’d seen in it!”

Taking the newspaper over in December 1991, the name was changed to Heaton Guardian and editorial content was introduced immediately. The front page of the first issue shows advertisements from Grassé, Reddish Joinery, Blaggs, George Ball and Sons, Alan Ainsworth and C. Bardsley Cycles…. suggesting that it clearly pays to advertise in local press (!) as all these businesses still exist (Will’s Wheels is what was previously C. Bardsley Cycles). The front page story is about the opening of Didsbury Road Primary School following the merger of Heaton Moor Infant School and Didsbury Road Junior School.

The Heaton Moor and Heaton Chapel Guardian had previously been produced and printed from the buildings that are now occupied by George Ball and Son Funeral Directors, but when it became the Heaton Guardian, (an altogether bigger publication), Lesley had to find larger premises so the paper moved to Shaw Road (in the building that’s now Shaw Staff, the recruitment specialists in social care). Everything from the printing to editorial and even photography (in the cellar) was housed there.

“The only problem was that as it was so close to home for me, I’d often work later than I should. There were no laptops and no other way of working from home back then so I could often be there until very late” Lesley explains. “My fantastic child minder Jackie would sometimes drop the children [her sons Sam and Joel]there and in those days I’d let them play on the field behind St. Paul’s whilst I kept on working. A weekly paper doesn’t ever let up.”

Lesley is full of praise for the staff who worked on the paper. “There was a great energy and commitment to making the Heaton Guardian a success both as a newspaper and a business.  We tended to recruit young reporters and photographers who we then trained up, with the Heaton Guardian often being the first step on the ladder for them. They were lucky. We had a very experienced editorial director who had edited a national daily.”   She laughs wryly, adding: “Admittedly some of our writers from the wider South Manchester Reporter group were quite colourful characters. Unfortunately, one even ended up in prison and at one point we were getting editorial copy sent to us from Strangeways! But luckily that wasn’t typical.”

Both production and distribution of a publication like this is a major operation. “I remember we had a fantastic distribution manager, Mavis Twemlow, who managed the delivery teams for the Heaton Guardian and Reddish Reporter papers every Thursday. Lots of the delivery was done by local boys and girls but it took a huge amount of co-ordinating. She was brilliant.” Hang on a minute, I know that name, I thought. Mavis is now the school crossing patrol (AKA Lollipop Lady) outside Norris Bank Primary School! I tracked her down and she confirmed with a grin: “Oh yes it was a big job I can tell you. I got a shock the first time they delivered 25,000 newspapers to my house  – they had to go out to every home in The Heatons and Reddish.” MOOR Magazine goes to 10,500 homes and businesses in The Heatons – the exact same print run as the Heaton Guardian had. Even though we’re only published every two months, the distribution is a huge undertaking, so to manage that on a weekly basis is quite a feat….I take my hat off to you Mavis!

So were there any big stories that Lesley remembers or is particularly proud of? “At that time Heaton Moor Reform Club didn’t allow women members and that was one of the ‘causes’ we took up. I don’t know if we can claim to have been entirely responsible, but subsequently, females were allowed in.”

Lesley left the South Manchester Reporter group at the end of 1994, the company was bought out in 1995 and the Heaton Guardian folded. Now working for the Student Support Centre that delivers a home tuition programme for children, Lesley looks back on Heaton Guardian with a real fondness. “It was crazy hours but good fun. And of course, as I was a resident of The Heatons it was nice to be producing a free newspaper for my own community.”

Do you have any memories of the Heaton Guardian? Maybe you were one of its journalists or one of the boys and girls who delivered it each week? Did you advertise your business in the paper or did you have a story or your picture printed in it? Get in touch with us at hello@moormag.com and we’ll share the best memories in the next issue of MOOR.

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