Grace Franklin has spent many years in the newspaper business - she is publisher of Local News for Westenders. During her career as a journalist in Glasgow she worked with popular papers such as the Daily Record and The Glasgow Herald. She had a particular interest in writing about women's issues and social problems and was responsible for the first ever spread on the topic of Domestic Violence in The Record. Grace also wrote a series of reports on the problems of addictive prescribed drugs. However, apart from covering serious topics she had a lot of fun and learned a thing or two about ife and the newspaper business.
Grace is a gifted raconteur and she made me laugh as she recounted some of her experiences as a young reporter:
On my first day as a news reporter on the 'Glasgow Herald' I was sent to do a crit on the circus at Kelvin Hall. During the first half of the show one of the trapese artistes took a bad fall. When I went to the ringmaster at half time to ask what had happened he told me, 'I'm too busy right now - the elephants have run away!' At the end of the show he told me the elephants had been 'spooked' and thundered off down the back alleys of the hall. It was the first time in his experience such a thing had happened.
When she was returning to the Herald office, by bus, undaunted she saw another reporting opportunity when the traffic stopped as 'clouds of smoke were coming out of a tenement building'...'
Being new on the job, I got off the bus to investigate. There was a fire in the building and one of the flats which had been evacuated was being used as a Sikh temple. They just happened to be in the middle of a wedding!'
She learned fast to be prepared for anything and to spot when she was not getting the full story. Once, when interviewing a very well know female personality she felt that she 'was getting no-where' and finding it difficult to extract 'any real information'. When she challenged the woman she revealed that she was being stalked and was afraid that even the smallest detail revealed in an interview would make her situation worse!!
She has met many interesting individuals in the course of her career and some have significantly impacted upon her.
As a cub reporter, I was sent to interview a man who was 100. During that interview he taught me so much about keeping a lively, inquiring mind, that I've tried to follow his example ever since.
Grace certainly has an inquiring mind - she has a bright and courageous spirit and a keen sense of humour. When she was made redundant after 20 years as a staff writer at the Record, she decided to start her own company YAM Publications Limited - that stands for 'You Are Mad'- her colleagues' response when she informed them of her plans. She's certainly had plenty of ups and downs but for the past ten years she has been responsible for producing The Local News for Southsiders, a local Glasgow paper, which started up in the Gorbals but by issue 2 covered included Govanhill, Kinning Park and Tradeston.
The newspaper has gone from strength to strength and now covers the communities from Oatlands and Gorbals to Govan, Linthouse and the Southern General Hospital and South to Pollok and across to Castlemilk. Each month 20,000 copies are printed and distributed, free, through more than 300 busy, public spots. The paper aims to:
provide information about issues and changes so that these can be discussed and debated, questions and answers mulled over and Communication effected..
Her latest venture is producing a paper for the West End of Glasgow, which Grace sees as having 'a different 'character' from the Southside'.
Our aim with the 'Local News for Westenders' is to serve the community in the West End in the way we've tried to on the Southside by reporting fairly and accurately, sensitively and positively on the achievements of people and the issues of concern.
After ten years successfully producing the Southside paper we can be sure that Grace's venture in bringing local news to the West End will also prove to be a major success. She certainly has the right credentials for the task.
Grace is a woman with great energy and creativity and when I first met her it was with regard to a project set up for international students, who meet at The International Club, in Wellington Church, on University Avenue. She is an active member of the Church and when considering their role in the community they felt that they should be 'reaching out in any meaningful way to the students across the road.' Grace explains that:
This was before the 'no smoking in public places' ban was even being thought about. It was decided we'd open our doors on a Friday evening to anyone from abroad who wanted to socialise in a smoke-free, alcohol free place. With fellow church member, Heather McMillan, we've done this in a modest way for the past four years and offered the hand of friendship to people of many nationalities - Chinese, Canadian, Finnish, Rumanian, American, Icelandic and English. One of the first requests we had was...'can you take us to a pub?' We did! And we've gone to the pantomime, to Loch Lomond, to New Lanark and to Arran and other places. We're always looking for interesting things to do that don't cost money as most of the international students are watching every penny and this is reflected in our Programme of Events.
Jim and I were invited along to the International Club in January, 2007, to their Burns Supper and it was a memorable event. A Chinese student gave a rendition of 'Is there for honest poverty.' He did a remarkably good job and at the the end of the evening he said, in a very humble way, that he had been touched by Burns' words. The more of the poet's work he read, the more he understood that the sentiments and emotions were as important today as in the time of Burns.
Grace also contributed to this event with her address to the Haggis and believe me when I saw that she has more than a little flair for drama.
She is a huge fan of the Bard, and although born in Glasgow she was raised in Ayrshire where she attended Marr College in Troon. She says that:From earliest days at home and school the songs and poems of Robert Burns were a natural part of life. I still use a beautifully bound Burns book I won as a prize in a school Burns competition. In January I tend to be invited to give the Address to The Haggis at a couple of functions and really enjoy this.
Recently I met up with Grace to find out more about her work with Local News for Westenders and this turned out to be a most enjoyable assignation as her enthusiasm is catching. We met at the great new deli in Park Road, Sonny and Vito's where we enjoyed some of their great coffee and delicious banana loaf and lemon curd. We had a long chat and I stayed far longer than I had planned.
Jim and I were pleased to bump into her again recently, when we went along to the launch of The Salon, the G1 Group's latest West End restaurant. Grace is great company and one of life's 'cup is half full' sort of folk - in fact she is brimming over with enthusiasm and ideas and is a fine example of how to take a pragmatic view of problems. Her positive approach to life is incredibly uplifting and if even just a little of this is injected into her Westend newspaper venture then The Local News for Westenders is bound to be a huge success.
Pat Byrne, August, 2007.