Cover of the first issue - December 2006
The design change in November 2007
Early in 2006, the magazine founder Mark Wall was looking for a new direction. With a back ground in Corporate Training focused on Leadership, Innovation and Change, Mark was seeking to work a little closer to home, reduce the number of days travelling and generally slow the pace of life. He was seeking to apply his skills to the local business community. Mark soon realised that the local small and medium enterprises were not able to provide the volume and depth of work needed.
Serendipity acts in strange ways. Mark’s daughter, Erin, after leaving Thomas More School in Eltham had attended Dartford Grammar School prior to heading off to Nottingham University. On a return visit to home, in March 2006, Erin asked Mark to drive her to a pub in Darford so she could catch up with old school chums.
Not having been to Dartford in many years Mark was shocked by what he saw, a town on the decline, closed and bordered up shops that more resembled a war torn city than the vibrant business district he remembered from past visits. Mark's conclusion was that the Blue Water Shopping Centre had eroded the attraction of the area. Mark thought - the same could happen to my high street.
This thought along with the knowledge that Eltham had lost some of its local pride in the shadow of the media glare bought about by the murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 and the Macpherson Report into police action (or lack of it). In 2006,13 years after the murder, Eltham - in general - was considered racists by many, while clearly for the majority of people living in Eltham this was not the truth. Like any part of London, Eltham had its unsavoury fringes and was no better or worse than most of London.
Mark began to form an idea that would both help small businesses survive in difficult times by encouraging people to use local businesses and help the people of Eltham to reclaim pride in their town, promote a message of understanding and tolerance while seeking out the good in the community.
In April 2006, Mark, very bored, decided to publish a small newsletter, not as business but as a community exercise. His life was about to change.
Mark's first idea was for a small parish style newsletter speading good will and promoting business and community. This evolved into an idea of a small A5 publication, Mark moved forward in this idea, finally settling on a an A4 glossy magazine style production.
About the same time the Eltham Town Centre Partnership (ETCP) was finding its feet. Mark approached the then Town Centre Manager (TCM) who, at that time, showed little interest in the idea. Mark discovered later that the TCM had resigned the position, hence the lack of interest.However from those early interactions Mark was invited to join the board of the ETCP.
Eltham Traders (ACE)
In the preamble to the publication of the first magazine, Mark began to visit the small and medium businesses in the town, introducing himself and the idea. Most businesses were interested, but not enough to commit.
It was during this period and through these meetings with businesses that Mark realised that the Eltham Traders Association was inactive and had virtually closed for business some 2 years before. Mark, understood the need for business to both openly compete as well as work together, behind the scenes, to develop a vibrant high street. Mark believed that the businesses in Eltham needed to join and to have a common voice to promote the town centre. However the old ‘guard’ of the traders association were not interested in the traders association resurrection and openly worked against Mark's idea. They declined to allow Mark to use the old name. Determined not to be defeated, Mark set about to developed the Association for Commerce Eltham (ACE), which has evolved and is now using the name ElthamSE9. Both ElthamSE9 and ACE are registered and owned by Mark. ElthamSE (ACE), was established alongside the magazine.
As they say the rest is history.
Ready, Set, Go ....
Starting in March 2006 Mark began the work of establishing ACE, the traders association and setting out the operating guidelines, vision and mission for the magazine, named finally as SEnine. By October 2006 much work had been done ready for the December 2006 launch.
ACE began its rocky life, while in December 2006 the SEnine magazine with issue number one, with 24 pages and a print run of 3000 copies was circulated. There were a number of business that were brave enough to put faith in the idea, most are still advertising today.
The traders association ACE (Association for Commerce Eltham, now referred to as Elthamse9), along with the magazine were launched and started to grow.
There were a few individuals that also helped the magazine get off the ground in the early months. Mark’s family stand out - wife, Joanne, and daughters - who not only supported the idea but pitched in and walked up and down the streets of Eltham to deliver the magazine each month until it grew to be able to afford to pay people to do this important task. John Webb joined the team a few months into its life and after 12 months of submissions and stories was appointed editor. His background in journalism helped develop the reporting and story telling side of the magazine as well as and helping evolve the quality of the articles that appear in the magazine. Mark focussed on leadership of the publication especially in design, corporate development, image, sales and marketing. Local businessperson Bryn McNeil was also active in the development of ACE. A new Town Centre Manager, Alison Harris, had been appointed. Alison was very supportive of the efforts to develop ACE.
A group called Friends of SEnine developed and began meeting on a regular basis to encourage and assist Mark and SEnine. They are now over 300 strong.
In November 2007, a man named Marek Kolodziel, a professional graphic designer contacted Mark and offered his assistance at a greatly reduced fee. His expertise lead to a changes in the magazine and laid the foundation to its current professional design and layout.
Volunteer writers have selflessly given their time and expertise. There has been a steady core group and others that have come and gone over the years. A few stand out as worthy of special recognition. Jane Webb has appeared in every issue. John Kennett who’s Historic Eltham stories have help provide the magazine with maturity and credibility. And the hundreds of people that have contributed stories and pictures over the years. A list of the current team can be seen -HERE-
The magazine has continued to grow from those first steps. It has increased it page count and circulation in steady steps without losing any of its appeal as a magazine dedicated to the community. It has continued to improve with each edition and now has a circulation of 11,500 copies (February 2015).
The years 2012 - 2014 have been tough trading years, and during that time the magazine set up plans to make sure that it survived the toughest small businesness 'shake-out' in recent history. During this time of 'batton down the hatches' the magazine continued to make its way, but expansion plans were put on the back burner.
Moving into 2015 the longer term aim is to begin to slowly increase the circulation and page count again and over the next three years move toward creating a legacy that is a community owned asset, that not only serves the community but is owned by it.