A former editor of a strikers’ weekly newspaper is turning a “lost” cause into a publishing phenomenon.
Chris Arnot, who once led sacked evening newspaper journalists in a union-backed publication at the end of a seven-week national strike in 1979, is now on a winning streak as an author of a specialist book genre.
The ex-Nottingham News editorial chief enjoyed “the best summer of his life” last year as he researched material for his latest published work – Britain’s Lost Cricket Festivals.
He toured Britain, going from Abergavenny to Bournemouth and back to where he lives in Coventry – talking to former players, ground staff, club secretaries and spectators to relive the glory days when cricketing greats Denis Compton and Barry Richards came to town for one week only, packed the beer tents and captivated the crowds.
Cricket-crazy Chris Chris said: “In the past, you could get so close to star players at cricket festivals. You had people like Ian Botham and Viv Richards right in front of you.”
“Now the cricket festival is becoming an endangered species. Players prefer a stable wicket, and during the festivals they were playing in local parks and on school pitches.
“But I think when we lost them, we lost something particularly English,” added Chris, a former Coventry Evening Telegraph features editor.
“It’s something you can still see when you go to Cheltenham to see the cricket, as I did on a glorious summer’s day last year.
“People are just sitting there and chatting together. There’s an intimacy that you simply do not get at big grounds like Edgbaston and Lord’s.”
His latest tome is the second in a series which began with Britain’s Lost Cricket Grounds’ in November 2011 – a book that has sold so well that it is now in its second edition.
And that ‘lost’ theme has turned into a late autumn publishing timetable with Britain’s Lost Mines last November and Britain’s Lost Breweries and Beers as well as Field of Dreams – Grounds Football Forgot But the Fans Never Will in November 2012.
Chris’s regional newspaper career began in December 1972 with a reporting job at the North London Weekly followed by a feature writing post at the Nottingham Evening Post.
That came to an abrupt end in January 1979 when as one of 28 journalists at the then T Bailey Forman-owned Nottingham Evening Post he was not allowed to go return to his old job after the national strike, involving all the country’s NUJ regional members, ended.
The Nottingham journalists, financially backed by the union, launched a weekly title called the Nottingham News – in opposition to the city daily. The then Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough assisted the strikers’ publication, refusing to talk to the editorial staff at the Post.
Chris was a co-editor of the title for 19 months before joining Radio Nottingham.
The paper folded early in 1982 when the last of the original striking journalists found alternative employment – three of them finishing up assisting the launch of the UK’s biggest free weekly at the time, the Nottingham Trader.
Chris moved from radio to a 10-year stint at the Coventry Evening Telegraph before going freelance more than two decades ago.
“I’d say researching this latest book gave me the best summer of my life,” he added.