Time Out’s relaunch and my start in print

Posted on October 26, 2012

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My first words in print, in a proper publication were in Time Out (TO). Sure, I’d messed around with a student newspaper (who hasn’t dabbled?) but that was under a couple of pseudonyms and didn’t feel like the real deal.

Even the TO article wasn’t a by-lined piece. At the end of my second year of university I had submitted two typed-up pages for a competition, reviewing the UK comedy scene. I had been to a lot of comedy gigs over the previous three years or so and felt eminently in with a shout.

The prize was a trip to Edinburgh and a place on the Perrier Award panel at the festival that year. And there might have been a case of beer up for grabs too. Yes, definitely a case of beer.

By the time I got a call from an editor at Time Out London, I was lying in bed as a spotty 21-year-old. I was recovering from chicken pox and the moment I heard his voice started jumping around thinking “I’VE WON!”

To this day I think he was perhaps sounding me out, working out if I was indeed a spotty yoof. Anyway, after a minute of small talk he congratulated me on “making the short list” and said some of my piece would be used. That was all.

Although I received no fancy trip to the Edinburgh Festival, free beer or even a bottle of Perrier water, I was ecstatic to be in Time Out. The excerpts from my piece called Mark Lamarr “fresh-faced” (that’s how long ago it was), slagged off improv as the “used condom of the cabaret scene” (whatever that means) and I wondered if an imminent Labour government would lead to fewer political jokes from the likes of Mark Thomas and Mark Steel. I was wrong on so many levels.

I wish I still had a copy.

Time out, London

But TO wasn’t just where I entered a competition, it was a gateway to the wider world of everything going on in London. Back as an 18-year-old, in a gap year, I was working and had the time and money to spend a night at a comedy club, the theatre, a club, a film and sporting event – all before the weekend came round. TO was well-read by me and my friends every week.

I hadn’t read it in years until it went free a few weeks back. I wasn’t impressed. One of the first things I came across after that relaunch was this well-informed review, pointed to from lots of places in part for its “utterly shit” line. (Not quite the This Is Spinal Tap “…it was merely a two-word review.”)

It has improved since the relaunch edition and I realised I hadn’t read a Time Out film review for years, which was a mistake. Last week we even had TO’s project director telling the Guardian how happy everyone is with the relaunch. That’s nice for them.

TO will get by fine as a free sheet. Getting people to pay £3.25 for info that was available free elsewhere online was a losing proposition. But it doesn’t feel like the publication that got me excited all those years ago, as a reader, as a kid from a London suburb or as someone wanting to break into journalism.

Follow Tony on Twitter – @tphallett

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Posted in: Film, Hyperlocal, Media