The March 2001 issue of BB, which opened with an editorial on ‘Foot-and-mouth and birdwatching’, was my first as editor. Twenty years on, this is my last issue: April will be something of a joint affair and after that my successor, Stephen Menzie, will be on his own. I’m confident that Stephen will do a fantastic job and I look forward to seeing BB’s continued evolution.
The last 20 years have passed all too quickly, but memories of that rabbit-in-the-headlights feeling of the first few months remain vivid. BB was in a precarious position in early 2001 and there was no guarantee that it would survive the year. On balance, given that I had no job security in Shetland either, and given due consideration of Peter Oliver’s assessment of the business, it seemed a risk worth taking. It is incredibly satisfying to leave knowing that the organisation is secure, the editorial pipeline is strong and the future looks bright.
Pulling BB back from the brink was truly a team effort, and many people helped me through those early, chaotic months. The original board of BB 2000 and the five-man editorial panel were both incredibly supportive. David Christie, standing in as editor when I arrived, remained as my assistant for a year; he had a colossal input and taught me a great deal about the job in a short period of time. Colin Bradshaw went out of his way to welcome me to BBRC, with which the previous regime had had a fractious relationship. Several people made a special effort to write content at short notice when the tank was empty.
By the following spring, the staff team that I have worked with ever since was in place. Mark Corliss, our designer, was there from the start. Hazel Jenner arrived three months after me, and April 2002 marked the arrival of Caroline Dudley and Peter Kennerley. Mark retired last year but the rest of them remain, and they have all been brilliant. As has Adrian Pitches, who has delivered News & comment for nearly 20 years, and Richard Porter, who has long had an unofficial board responsibility for keeping the editor sane.
At the risk of this page turning into a big thank-you section, I should like to acknowledge the support of all the members of the board of BB 2000 since 2001, chaired in turn by Richard Chandler, John Eyre and Adam Rowlands, and with whom I’ve genuinely enjoyed working. Add to that all representatives of the BB Charitable Trust, the Editorial Panel, the Behaviour Notes Panel, BBRC and everyone else who has appeared on the inside front cover in my time. Indeed, I am genuinely grateful to everyone who has contributed anything to BB at any point during the last 20 years, ranging from regular delivery of the large annual reports down to the shortest of short notes. On a personal level, I first met Agnes, who in due course became the ‘Editor’s wife’, in my first year at BB and she has put up with A LOT. Thanks also to Harv and Rory for taking me out birding. And deepest apologies to anyone who I have inadvertently forgotten to mention.
Back in 2001, I genuinely thought that BB could remain relevant, and economically viable, far into its second century. I still think that. In 2001 I wouldn’t have predicted that we would still be using paper but it’s now clear that the future is not paper-free. BB Online, finally launched in 2020, allows subscribers to access the entire archive and, whether or not you read each new issue in paper format, that is such a big step.
For the moment, my plans for the future extend to little more than developing some expertise in making cakes and spending more time birding. Ever since David Parkin mentioned the phrase to me, my aim has been to leave while people are asking ‘why is he going?’ rather than ‘why is he still there?’ – but you subscribers will be the judge of that. Thanks for reading.