In addition to the interviews included in my feature on Crash Magazine (Eurogamer), I also interviewed Denise Bishop (nee Roberts) who was the mail order and subs person for the magazine. Unfortunately I had no room for Denise's contribution, but as it is a fascinating insight behind the scenes of Crash, here is the interview in full. My thanks to Denise for her time.
GM: How did you come to start work at Newsfield? Were you a Ludlow local?
DB: I was living in my home village near Shrewsbury at the time, which was just over an hours drive from Ludlow. It all started when I was visiting my Dad who was in hospital and in the bed next to him was Mr Frey, Oli and Franco’s Father. I used to sit and talk with Mr Frey too, he was such a lovely man. One of the days after I had left the hospital Mr Frey said to my Dad that his sons were looking for somebody to work for them at their publishing company and thought I might be suitable. From there I went to Ludlow for an interview in their home and that was the beginning of my life with the Newsfield family.
What did you think of its owners, Roger, Oli and Franco?
DB; This question brought a huge smile to my face, they are all such lovely people and I have always had a great affection for them. They are one of the nicest group of bosses that I have ever had the pleasure to work for. I last saw them a couple of years ago but I keep in touch with them via Facebook and email. They were very fair people to work for and great fun, even though there were a lot of pressures on them preparing the magazines to meet the publication dates. Roger nicknamed me “Denise’ll”, which was short for ‘Denise will do it’, it became a great joke and we still laughed about him calling it me when we last met up and when I spoke with him on the phone recently.
GM: Presumably as you were in mail order, you were there from the start when the magazine was all about mail order games?
DB: Yes, I was there pretty much from the start and I worked in the office that was below Franco’s and his parents’ home. There was only Franco and I working from there at that time for Newsfield. I used to open the post from the very excited readers, separate all the postal orders or cheques that they sent to pay for the games, and send out the games that they ordered. I used to also be involved with ordering the games direct from the software companies so in turn we could supply them to our readers. There were also the Crash t-shirts and sweatshirts that the readers couldn’t get enough of.
GM: Were you much of a games/Spectrum fan yourself?
DB: I had never owned a games console or Spectrum at all before I started working at Crash, but I soon got the ‘bug’ and I had a ZX Spectrum 48K. I loved the games, I can even remember some of my favourites, ‘Splat’, ‘Jet Set Willy’, ‘Kong’, ‘Daley Thompson’s Decathlon’, ‘Trashman’ to name just a few. I continued to play the games for a good many years. I had a job to play with them sometimes as my Mum was a lover of playing them too.
GM: What was the vibe like to start off with? I imagine it was brave new world kinda stuff.
DB: You are right, it was a brave new world, it was a huge venture for Roger, Oli and Franco, they were so dedicated to it and had such passion that’s why it worked, they drove it from the top and as more people began working for them I could see their passion for it too. The three of them were infectious, it was such an exciting place to work, the atmosphere was great. It remained so even as the company grew and they introduced new magazines. We were one big happy family and I enjoyed every day that I worked there. I made some great friends while working there.
GM: Were you surprised when they started getting kids in to review the games?
DB: No I wasn’t surprised at all, in fact I thought it was a very sensible idea, why not have some youngsters reviewing the games, after all it would give credibility to the reviews and help the readers of the same age having a perspective of the games from somebody a similar age to them.
GM: You moved into the subs department. Can you describe your role from this point?
DB: I had already been dealing with subscriptions for Crash from when I first started, while I was dealing with the mail order. It was as the company grew and we had ‘Zzap 64’ and ‘Amtix’ that the roles had grown and more staff had obviously been taken on to work in the various departments to deal with the demands of their success. I dealt with all the enquiries from people who wished to subscribe to the magazine, both on the telephone or via post. I used to have a database of the names and addresses of the subscribers on the computer and print out the labels ready to stick on to the front of the magazine packaging. We had the magazines delivered to the offices, which ended up being a huge amount, they had to be put into the plastic sleeves and labels stuck on to be posted out to the eagerly waiting subscribers. There were the occasions when I had phone calls from readers to say that their magazine had not arrived in the post, so we would send them out a replacement.
As well as dealing with the subscriptions I used to do some Credit Control work, which involved telephoning the companies who advertised within the magazine to arrange their payments to be made to us (OR should I say to ensure their payments were made to us). I didn’t use to sell the advertising space, that was done by others in the advertising department.
GM: Did you have to deal with the games that were sent out as part of the subs at all?
DB: Yes, I did in the early days, and then later they were attached to the front of the magazines if I remember rightly which was roughly about the time I left.
GM: Did you deal with readers in any way? We were quite a passionate lot!
DB: Yes, from the start, I used to get to speak to those who phoned up to enquire about the availability of the games, and other merchandise, checking if we had any in stock. I can still remember the excitement in their voices that they had got through to Crash, even if they were just speaking to me. I was amazed by the number of readers who lived outside the UK, they just couldn’t get enough of Crash or the games available.
GM: Did you ever read the magazine?
DB: Yes, I did, how could I not read Crash when I worked so closely within the heart of it all. I loved it and I still have the first 12 issues.
GM: What did you think about getting mentioned in the magazine every now and then?
DB: I think I was only mentioned within the magazine a couple of times, but was listed in the inside at the beginning under Subscriptions. I loved it, I was very flattered and honoured to be mentioned. People used to think I was Aunt Aggie, I wasn’t that was my dear friend and colleague.
GM: Do you remember anything about the Street Hawk game that was withdrawn by Ocean and Graeme Kidd had to apologise to subscribers about? (see this link: http://www.worldofspectrum.org/pub/sinclair/games-extras/StreetHawk-CrashSubscribersEdition_ApologyLetter.jpg)
DB: Golly that got my old grey matter going trying to think back to this. I have to be honest and say that I really cannot remember this at all, sorry.
GM: You got to go to a few shows – what did you do at them, and what was the experience like?
DB: The shows were brilliant; it was wonderful to be able to meet our readers and to soak up the atmosphere of the new world that I had entered from never being part of before I joined Newsfield. I used to be on our Crash stand with my colleagues selling our merchandise, including magazines, also encouraging more people to subscribe to Crash, and hand out hundreds of little ‘Oli bugs’ to our readers. There used to be so many people at the shows, it was amazing, the halls would have such a buzz. I went to quite a few over the years, to London, and Manchester to name just a couple of locations. They were long days but very rewarding ones to see how happy Crash made people, and the enthusiasm of the readers. I was also in awe when I met the people from the software companies, because of course I played their games and couldn’t believe that I was meeting them.
GM: You left in the late 80s – why was that, and how had the magazine and industry changed from your own viewpoint?
DB: Yes, I left at either the very end of 1988 or early 1989 after working with them for just over 5 years, I was very sad to leave and it wasn’t an easy decision to make, but I was driving for over an hour each way to and from work, which made it a long day. I was getting married and my home would be in Shrewsbury so I felt that it was the right time to work nearer to home. From what I can still remember Crash and Zzap 64 were still as popular and the demand for them was still there.
GM: What have you been up to since then?
DB: After leaving Newsfield I worked in the Credit Control department for a car leasing company, I used the skills I learnt from telephoning the software companies ensuring they paid for their advertising space they had in our magazines at Newsfield. After a couple of years, I joined the police and served for 22 years. I now do some part time work at a local school.
GM: How do you look back at this brief period of your life today?
DB: I look back at my time working for Roger, Oli and Franco with great affection, I absolutely loved it and it is something that I will never forget. I met some wonderful people while working there, some of who I keep in touch with today, and sadly there are several people who I have lost touch with. Those 5 years had a big impact in my life and I have always said I would only be able to work somewhere if I enjoyed it and was as happy as I was when working for Newsfield.
GM: What do you think made Crash so popular?
DB: Crash had something for everybody, it reached all ages, not just the youngsters but the adults who were avid Spectrum games players. There were interesting articles to read as well as the eagerly awaited reviews of the games. It found a niche in the market at the time.