Rye News goes live

Founding trio: Dennis Leeds-George, Margaret and Kenneth Bird

It started with an idea. Just old friends nattering. Let’s have a real local newspaper – one written by local people about their lives, their views. To promote our local towns and villages.

From chat to launch of Rye News online took 18 months:  to raise the funds, to design the website and to assemble a volunteer team. Now we’ve pressed the button. We’ve arrived. How do we look and where do we go from here? That’s for you to decide. Tell us the news, write the news, give us the stories and share your concerns. There’s a lot happening, good and bad, that does not get reported, or even properly discussed. Let’s change that, and find a local voice for ourselves. Let’s support our voluntary organisations and showcase the best that we have to offer. Rye News will be what you make it.

Our team is growing, almost daily. As it grows so will our coverage. We want more volunteers, more writers, more of everything. You should join us, especially if:

  • you have a business – there is free advertising for the next three months as long as you are a local business
  • you have something to say and want the rest of us to know. We have a section, Opinions, devoted to letters and to comment features
  • you’re part of a local voluntary group – put your news through us. Footfall, or internet clicks, is what counts if you want to reach people. You may have a website already but you will gain from being on a dedicated local news website because there will be more potential readers who will come across you on our pages. Invite me along to talk to you and your volunteers. Because we’re here to help
  • you want to promote an event – well, we have a page dedicated to What’s On. Take a look, see how it provides additional publicity. Free, of course. It can be as grand as a fete or festival, as small as a gig in your back garden
  • you want to advertise something for sale – a small ad. We have a section for that, too. At the top of every page there is a Get involved panel. Choose the service you want, such as “Submit a classified ad”, follow the simple instructions. That’s it
  • you have a true news story – go the Get involved panel and submit the facts. We’ll do the rest

Some of our team you might know already. But to give you a feel, I’ll introduce some of them:

Dan Lake, chairman of the Tilling Green Residents’ Association, a man who likes to get things done. He has volunteered to run a sports section for us. He wants sports stories. If you’re happy to help him, write in. If you know Dan, personally, then phone him, or mail him

KT and Martin Bruce: they’re newcomers, having moved recently to Rye Harbour. Martin retired at Christmas, as headmaster of Christ Church Cathedral School in Oxford, after careers in education and music. He has always combined a love of literature with a passion for music. He was a chorister at Winchester Cathedral and Choral Scholar at Durham. He continues to sing and is an organist and composer. His wife KT (or Kate) says she is semi-retired. Hardly, she is a talented, in-demand professional photographer. She and Martin took photos of some of the team when we had a get-together just before the launch

Mark McGee, the incredibly patient MD of InfoJuice, who put together this website. Has an MSc (with distinction) in digital marketing; is a professional trainer, an associate lecturer with Manchester Metropolitan University and Canterbury Christ Church University. “Rye News has so much potential,” he says. “With such a dedicated group of volunteers driving this, it should go from strength to strength. It is a model that can potentially be replicated by other communities across the country”

Richard Hayden, an experienced journalist before he joined the family business in Rye’s High Street. He’s a key IT player in our team. Richard was chief-sub editor on British Medical Association News. He worked, too, on New Statesman and BBC Sport Online. He is now a director of a website – press2reset.com – that specialises in online gaming – not the gambling sort, in case you were wondering

Jane Taylor, who began in magazines, has more than 20 years of Fleet Street experience. She was for many years chief-sub editor features at The Daily Telegraph. She held an executive role in switching Telegraph staff to InDesign, the pagination system. She lived just outside Northiam for many years before moving to Rye and, for several years, has managed the charity Christmas cards shop at Rye’s community centre

Neale East, a member of so many Rye volunteer groups, a stalwart of the Rye Film Club (now forging a new future under a different name), the British Legion and Rye’s bonfire society – to name just a little of a big contribution he makes to his community

Dennis Leeds-George, one of the founding fathers of this project, along with my wife Margaret and John Izod, the illustrator. Dennis is a retired farmer and is part of our backroom team that looks after finance and all the bits you won’t see. He’s not shy of saying things. Catch up with him on our Opinions page

Margaret Bird, yes, that’s my wife. Attended sixth form at Rye Grammar School, BA (Hons) Reading University, DipEd. She ran a diagnostic unit for Down’s syndrome children at Roger Ascham School, Cambridge. Besides three adult children, she practises pottery and silver-smithing. She is a one-time curator of Rye Museum and the Shipwreck Heritage Museum, Hastings. Don’t get her started on gardening and the natural world – on second thoughts, do, because she’s so very interesting about it

Britainy Rae, youngest member of the team – so far. And the fittest. She is an event planner, promoter and pancake-loving, party girl, who has worked within the events industry for almost 10 years. She has worked at PR companies, festivals, weddings, put on “secret parties”, art exhibitions and a pop-up shop. “Rye has more to it than meets the eye where events and eccentrics are concerned and I want to make it known, on Rye News! I love the weird and wonderful and want to report on as many events as I can”

Richard Comotto, a lecturer in finance at Reading University, a long-time resident of Winchelsea where he’s involved with the archaeological society, heritage group and Bonfire Boyes. Instrumental in reopening the village shop and post office and runs the Winchelsea website

Charles Harkness, with a lifetime in journalism and Whitehall. A former deputy secretary of the National Union of Journalists. He has degrees in history, management and marketing. He has been in Rye for just a few months and is already involved with Transition Rye, St Mary’s Church, Rye Museum and the Labour Party. Very interested in the Rye Plan. Is a past chairman of Community Health Council now called Healthwatch

Tony Nunn, started at The East Anglian Daily Times, helped to launch an evening newspaper in Colchester, Essex, won the award for the best-designed evening newspaper in his 20s while there; moved to The Daily Telegraph for some 15 years, where he later joined management and was responsible for pre-press and IT. He led the introduction of new pagination systems at Telegraph plc and performed the same role at News International on its four national titles. He returned to national journalism and for five years before retirement edited an edition of The Times for Japan

Me – Kenneth Bird: my BA Law came at Cambridge. I’m a retired company secretary and legal adviser who combined his profession with the good life – 25 years on an Essex smallholding, raising children, sheep, house-cow and ducklings. A member of Rye Conservation Society, Marsh Link Action Group, Society of Friends (Quakers), Rye Museum, Friends of Rye Art Gallery, Hastings & Rother Credit Union. And more

This is too long. Others in the team – Tony McLaughlin, a graduate in history and economics, and tax consultant, Brian Moore, John Wylie, founder of Camera 1066 Club, Alyona Kojevnikov, an Australian who spent years with The BBC Russian Service, and Genevieve Barulis, a photographer and close buddy of our party girl Britainy. More on them in the future – and others who have joined us. Welcome to all of them. All of them are doing this for free – as volunteers. Why not you, too? You should, you know.