Mum & Dad, along with my Aunt & Uncle, were clearing out some stuff from my grandparents bungalow over the Christmas holiday and found, in a box of my Grampy’s things, a copy of the Phoenix Student Magazine 1985-6.
This was Montsaye Comprehensive’s first issue for a few years - I’d seen one when I first started, in 1981 or so - and I think it went down rather well. I wrote articles and stories for it and co-edited with Rob Nichols, Mark Guyett, Sean Marshall and Steve Corton.
We were in the Sixth Form and it’s quite clear to see that ‘alternative comedy’ (as it was called then, typified by ‘The Young Ones’) had made its mark on us. Some of the humour is stupid, some of it works a treat (the school trip report is still funny) but it’s the attitude that tries hardest to sparkle - we were 16 years old and fighting the establishment (albeit from a pleasant Comprehensive nestled in the heart of the
I read some of it over the weekend and whilst I clearly wasn't as smart as I thought I was back then, some of the pieces have flair and the whole thing was a lovely blast from the past.
We decided not to go with the usual A5 zine style, stapled in the centre but would go for a side-stapled A4 format (which had never been done at the school). Rather than have a perfunctory cover on coloured card, we would have a glossy cover with specific artwork (produced by Sean Marshall, using Rotring pens). This was long before the advent of clip-art, so Sean also drew every bit of artwork seen in the mag (including that in some of the ads).
Although we got help from the staff, the five of us took the project on ourselves, sold the advertising (itself a nostalgic kick, since a lot of the businesses are no longer trading) to fund the printing and made quite a bit of money, which we gave to charity. There was also an ‘official’ magazine, which wasn’t as professional in its presentation and didn’t, as I recall, sell anywhere near as much.
The Phoenix was the first time I’d ever really put my work out there to people who weren’t either immediate family members (poor old Dad used to have to read everything) or close friends. It was great to write something that I thought was scary (“The Funhouse”) or funny (“Kung Fu The Mung Wu Way”), run it past my co-editors and then see it published. Hearing people talk about it after that, kids I didn’t necessarily know, was a real rush and I still get that same thrill today.
I remember the whole process of putting the magazine together well, I remember having a great time doing it, messing around with friends but creating something at the same time and whilst it might not stand up to too close scrutiny today (twenty eight years later), I wouldn’t change a thing about it.
left to right: me, Rob Nichols, Mark Guyett, Sean Marshall, Steven Corton
The Phoenix Editorial Team, pictured in the Kettering Evening Telegraph, November 1985
(the magazines are spread out on the litho machine, whereas we had it photocopied at a college in Kettering)