Peninsula Voice

Peninsula Voice was a very popular magazine published in, and all about, West Penwith.  In many ways, it was the inspiration for this site, clearly more than a nod to it gave us the title for this place, because of the voice it gave to people who didn't necessarily have one anywhere else.   Here one of the members of the Peninsula Voice collective, Martin Val Baker, gives us a quick summary of what it was all about:

It all started as pub talk in the beginning, a few friends in the St John’s House Penzance, speculating that it would be a good idea to produce an alternative West Cornwall publication covering politics, arts and the environment. The local weekly newspaper ‘The Cornishman’ was part of the Daily Mail organisation and a little staid, it was crying out for a competitor. We drew up a list of a dozen or so possible contributors and called a meeting in a back room at the Art Centre.

From the start there was terrific enthusiasm for the project and we decided to go ahead as soon as possible. Few of the others had any experience of putting together a magazine, so I did insist that it should be properly typeset to mask our stumbling attempts at journalism, rather than typewritten like most similar publications of that time. We decided to work as a collective editorial board with whoever was sitting round the table on copy night having an equal vote on what went in to the publication.

Our first major decision was to find a name for the thing. For a whole evening the arguments carried on, everybody’s perception of the publication was a little different and consequently the suggested titles were as varied as the people at the meeting. I remember I sided with Des Hannigan’s suggestion 'Hard Times’, Mike Sagar came up with ‘The Huer’ - in the end we had to vote in reverse to find a compromise title we could all live with, ‘The Peninsula Voice’.

Throughout the spring of 1982 we planned for publication and finally the first issue of the Voice hit the streets in May. To begin with none of the articles were signed - we had at first a policy against personality cults rather than a fear of recrimination and also definitely there were to be no poems! The main features were an article on glue sniffing by Mike Sagar, Mike Rossendale on a suspicious looking bunker at Land’s End and the first of Des Hannigan’s fine ‘Hard Times’ columns, Jean Hellyer did the first cover and Liz Leechey produced the first of a regular cartoon strip ‘Tradgwith Tales’.

The rest of us filled in with snippets of news, reviews, previews, a ‘Whats On’ spread and we gathered in a few advertisements from sympathisers. In the days before cheap computers, pasting up the Voice each month was a long and laborious task. In fact it took a whole weekend of toil in my cramped Mabbots Yard workshop and like the editorial meetings this was a communal job often with a dozen or so people involved.

I would half-tone the photographs and then we would match them to the typesetting which was the only visuals done out of house, often original illustrators would be on hand to add that little bit extra bite. We prided ourselves that the paper looked interesting by trying to break up long columns of type and by using cartoonists Clive Wakfer, Mick Tracey and Mike Green and photographs by Ashley Peters, Mick West, Rich Henty and Annette Robinson.

I found an old encyclopedia from the 1920’s with some extraordinary photos of people from all over the world and each month would reception them for the Voice. Sue Monro and later Mike Venning and myself began a series of interviews with local artists, writers and performers. Ashley Peters produced a string of striking portraits to illustrate the articles.

However the Voice was best known for its effect on local politics; this was in the midst of the Thatcher years and our local district council was in the hands of a bunch of Tories whose features seemed ready made for the wonderful caricaturing skills of Clive Wakfer. Our main writers on politics were Des Hannigan, Mike Rossendale and later Peter Wright Davies whilst Robin Kewell and Andrew Mc Douall covered environmental matters and we even had a gardening page by ‘Old Hodge’ -gardener Roger Lowry. Other contributors covered a wide range of subjects particularly music, entertainment and the arts, the idea was to provide a platform for views and opinions that did not appeal to the local papers.

There is a complete archive of all the copies of Peninsula Voice held at the Morab Library but we would like to creat an online archive of the papers as well. The papers are a potentially valuable resource for anybody wanting to research that period of the area's political and artistic communities and as such we feel it is of some importance to make a digital version. However, obviously this is a fairly labour intensive and time consuming job so we are hoping that we can find someone who might be interested in undertaking it. If you think you might be interested, or know someone or a group who might be interested, please do get in contact with us.

Martin Val Baker