Leeds Guide closes
Sad tale of what's-on mag's demise
Sad tale of what's-on mag's demise
Independent magazine Leeds Guide had debts of more than £153,000 when it went into administration at the end of last month, records show.
Its staff, looking forward to the weekend after a busy week producing the monthly what’s-on publication, were abruptly told to clear their desks and not return. Leeds Guide’s editor Tom Goodhand admitted that the closure was disappointing and “came as a shock”. He took the phone call on 24 February saying publisher Leeds Guide Ltd was going into administration and had to break the news to his colleagues.
Since it launched 15 years ago, the publication had enjoyed success as an entertainment, events, arts and culture guide for people in West Yorkshire. The magazine cost £1.50 and printed 17,000 copies per issue, with a reported 30,000 unique hits to its website each month.
The company was set up and owned by Bruce Hartley, who studied medicine at Leeds University and went on to found the publishing and graphic design company in 1997. Hartley now lives in London but was closely involved in the running of the company. He was unavailable to comment.
More than 10 members of staff lost their jobs, and production of the company’s associated titles also came to an end, including City Living, a free publication aimed at professionals in the city centre, Plush, a free lifestyle magazine for readers in Harrogate, and annual publications such as Student Guide and Dining Out.
Others who had worked there, who asked not to be named, said it was a surprise that Leeds Guide lasted as long as it did, blaming management for the publication’s closure.
“Those in charge were unreceptive to new ideas, inflexible when it came to changes that would improve the business and obsessed with being in control of every detail of the day-to-day production of the magazine,” said one.
Another member of staff cites an incident in 2010, when a £1,000 bike was stolen from behind a “secure” door in the building. “We found out that the CCTV cameras installed in the main office and downstairs weren’t working properly and the footage was being streamed but not recorded – making them of no benefit to the safety or security of staff.”
Last year the company went from being a fortnightly publication to monthly, and was looking at ways to reduce its print costs. One idea was to incorporate City Living, which came free as a separate publication, into the main magazine, in order to reduce costs further.
Ali Schofield, who worked at the company for over four years as lifestyle and dance editor of Leeds Guide and editor of Plush, explained how those present were told about the closure.
“We were called in to the boardroom in the middle of the afternoon,” she said. “I was half expecting to be told we’d done well that week and to be taken to the pub. Instead we were told to pack our desks and leave.”
Some staff were upset that the closure happened “with no warning at all”.
Schofield said: “We had been reassured only a few weeks ago that the company was doing fine [in a meeting to announce the departure of the then managing director, Ian Macdonald, who left in January 2012].”
Goodhand insisted Leeds Guide’s closure wasn’t a result of mismanagement but the decline in print media sales.
“Like many local publications at the moment, it was more that it was a victim of the recession and changing media trends,” he said.
At the time of its closure, Sophie Haydock was employed by Leeds Guide Ltd on a part-time freelance basis