Fleet Street journalist Alan Qualtrough has set up a dedicated newspaper for the Stonehouse area of Plymouth. The journalist and editor has previously written for the Express, Western Morning News and Plymouth Herald and will launch The Stonehouse Voice, a new community-run newspaper for the Stonehouse area of Plymouth, on Friday (27 September) to coincide with the first day of the Plymouth Art Weekender.
The free, 16-page newspaper is written by the community for the community at a time when areas like Stonehouse are under-served by local news media. The new publication aims to be inclusive and to support local residents to tell their own stories.
The project is funded by Power to Change, the independent charitable trust that supports community businesses across England. Real Ideas Organisation (RIO), a Plymouth-based social enterprise which works as the trust’s ‘catalyst’ to strengthen the community business movement in the city, is helping to deliver the newspaper project on the ground.
The Stonehouse Voice was set up by Alan Qualtrough, a former Fleet Street journalist whose previous roles include news editor of the Sunday People and assistant editor of the Sunday Express. Later Alan was Editor-in-Chief of regional newspapers the Western Morning News and Plymouth Herald.
Alan, who now runs his own art practice and print studio in Plymouth, has long been concerned about the decline of local media outlets across the country.
He said: “Democracy depends on people having access to good, accurate news journalism in their local area – but for too many communities this is sadly lacking these days. Launching The Stonehouse Voice has been a hugely rewarding experience that has demonstrated just how many people across the community want to contribute and tell their stories. It’s exciting to launch our first edition at a vibrant cultural event like the Plymouth Art Weekender.”
Mark Gordon, Director of Communications and Partnerships at Power to Change, said: “Community journalism is increasingly important for people who want to stay informed and connected to what’s happening in their local area. We’re delighted to provide funding to support the launch of The Stonehouse Voice, which demonstrates the positive impact of different people coming together to make life better for the whole community.”
The newspaper has emerged through close collaboration across the whole community, with local residents, businesses, journalists and artists all helping to shape its content and share ideas and skills.
The first edition covers the conversion of derelict buildings in Stonehouse into new exhibition spaces and a report on new crime-fighting measures in the area. The newspaper will be available in community venues and public spaces across Stonehouse and on Our Plymouth.
The Stonehouse Voice has outsold its own expectations for advertising, with local businesses taking advantage of the much cheaper cost of buying advertising space in the paper compared to other publications. Any surplus revenue is used to pay the newspaper’s contributors.
Alan’s intention is to turn The Stonehouse Voice into a Community Benefit Society so that it can provide a model for other community journalism projects across the country. It has already appointed a six-strong editorial board featuring representatives from RIO and other leading community organisations in Plymouth such as Nudge Community Builders and Iridescent Ideas.
About Power to Change: Power to Change is the independent trust that supports community businesses in England. Community businesses are locally rooted, community-led, trade for community benefit and make life better for local people. The sector is worth £1.05 billion, and comprises 7,800 community businesses across England who employ 33,600 people (Source: Community Business Market 2018).
From pubs to libraries; shops to bakeries; swimming pools to solar farms; community businesses are creating great products and services, providing employment and training and transforming lives. Power to Change received its endowment from the National Lottery Community Fund in 2015.
About The National Lottery Community Fund: We are the largest community funder in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.
We are passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything we do is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.