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Dyson at Large: Red light delivery for city’s free weekly

Stopped at traffic lights outside St John’s Wood tube station in London, it was a new experience to be handed free newspapers through the window.

Note the plural – two of the same copies were handed out to every car, regardless of whether or not they were carrying passengers.

It’s a novel way of distributing papers, and seems to be one of many employed by the St John’s Wood & Maida Vale Express, otherwise known by its Wood & Vale masthead title.

A free district edition of the paid-for Hampstead & Highgate Express, the Wood & Vale covers the north-western part of central London, in the City of Westminster, bringing fame and glamour to its content.

As well as the Olympic-linked visit of Michelle Obama and David Beckham for the main picture, the splash involved a noise row with angry local residents after rock stars Bruce Springsteen and Snow Patrol broke a 12.30am curfew in Hyde Park.

One resident felt “earthquake-like tremors” over a kilometre away in his house on Edgware Road, and the local Marylebone Association ‘condemned’ Westminster Council for putting commercial gain ahead of residents’ rights.

The next four news pages were filled with the Wood & Vale’s own district content, including a murder probe into a missing Marylebone woman on page two, and a celebration of a local 100-year-old carrying the Olympic flame on page three.

A row over plans to move a popular library to an underground location led page four, while page five told how a father and disabled daughter raised £14,000 for charity by climbing Italy’s 4,000-foot Gran Paradiso mountain.

The only other district page changes were the lead item on the letters spread on pages 20 and 21 and, interestingly, separate adverts for the lucrative ‘Massage’ and ‘Escort services’ on page 35.

Otherwise, from page six onwards, the content was the same as that found in the Ham & High, with highlights including:

  • two spreads on the St Pancras, Camden and Islington legs of the Olympic torch relay on pages 6,7, 8 and 9;
  • ‘Roof extension leaves me in dark, says playwright’ on page 11, describing Bafta-winner Sir David Hare’s two-year battle with neighbours in Hampstead;
  • the plight of a Highgate greengrocer whose trade is threatened by demolition plans to make way for a superstore and flats on page 12; and
  • ‘Agent poisoning inquest will not hit council funds’ on page 19, reporting how the inquest into KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko’s death in Bloomsbury will be paid centrally by the Ministry of Justice.

The Archant-owned Wood & Vale had 120+ stories on 35 news, features and sports editorial pages in a 44-page main book, with reviews and listings in a centre-stapled 12-page ‘etcetera’ leisure guide; not too bad for a free paper hand-delivered through the car window.

There was also a glossy property supplement, although with nothing to buy for less than a million pounds this was of little use to the average passing motorist.

The circulation figures for the Wood & Vale are combined with the Ham & High, and total 12,472 according to an independent audit listed by the Newspaper Society.

This appears to be split between print and web according to one of Archant’s own sites, with heavily promoted e-editions of both the Wood & Vale and Ham & High available free online.


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  • August 15, 2012 at 10:46 am

    If two copies are handed out to every motorist, are Archant’s distribution claims a bit dodgy?

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  • August 15, 2012 at 11:19 am

    I suspect it’s more of a lazy distributor Bear.
    He’ll probably get sacked now.

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  • August 16, 2012 at 10:05 am

    I quite like this front, but it’s squashed in at the top. The net effect is that the puff panel headline ‘He’s neither pretty nor vacant’ looks like it belongs to the picture story directly underneath it.

    With the lead, I would also have moved the concert pic from the fourth leg to the second, so it’s not lost to the advert.

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  • August 29, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    The Gran Paradiso is 4000 metres high not feet, ie approx 10,000 feet higher than Big Ben (!) otherwise the usual informative and entertaining piece

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