All eyes are on the same prize
It was a "bitter-sweet" note to end the Scottish School Magazine Competition last Friday, but one the judges could not have predicted: the inaugural chairman's award went to St Margaret's School in Edinburgh.
The independent school, which only days earlier had heard it was going into receivership, won the new award for an entry that did not top any category but "demonstrated excellence in many respects - particularly the quality of writing and the intelligent approach to structure and design". If spirits among the pupils and teachers were low, they must have been raised by the cheers from the other 23 schools in the room.
They came from as far afield as Shetland, North Uist and Barra to converge on Our Dynamic Earth in the capital, but what their resounding support showed was the sense of community that has grown in the PPA Scotland competition over the four years it has been running - a community of creative young people, writers, editors, designers, photographers, advertising sales-people, online journalists. Whether or not these youngsters form the next generation of Scottish publishers, they will have a host of skills to offer future employers.
Rare Beast, The Grammarian, Independent Women, Borealis - some of the titles are now as familiar as Heat, Clash or Shout to the judges. They reveal so much too about the communities they serve - whether it is PS2010 from the small village of Paible in North Uist with stories of the local vet from Holland, or The Locker from Portlethen Academy in Aberdeenshire with its award-winning interview with the school rock band. Different communities; different cultures.
But year on year, the quality improves - so much so, that the 2010 top magazine - Robert Gordon College's Eclectic - was deemed worthy of sitting alongside the professionals on the newsstands. It encapsulated everything the judges were looking for: "excellent editorial, impressive articles, imaginative design, truly professional business strategy - packed full of creativity and passion". Even the teachers could not resist a spontaneous hug for their colleagues.
The teachers from all the schools took a back seat at this event, as in so many - a point made by the Minister for Skills and Lifelong Learning, Keith Brown, who presented the School Magazine of the Year award to Eclectic. But it was striking to observe the bond between staff and proteges which makes these magazines so successful. None more than at Fernhill School in South Lanarkshire, whose award for Inspirational Teacher was greeted with whoops and screams from his affectionate first- years, producers of All Sorts of News.
Paul Fitzgerald was "someone who brought the whole of S1 year group together and involved everyone in the project from conception to production; every pupil involved in the magazine is just 12 years old; this person has coached the pupils in IT skills, supported and nurtured their ideas for the magazine, has given up every lunchtime so that pupils can spend time discussing problems and even provided a shoulder to cry on", said the judges. "The whole school should be very proud of this most inspirational teacher."
Teamwork like this was what it was all about - and it starts young. Few understand that better than Judy Murray, host for the day, Scottish tennis coach and mother of World No 4 tennis player Andy and his brother, No 1 doubles champion Jamie.
When Andy started, he was about five, she said, batting sponge balls around the house, hitting windows. At eight, he needed her for coaching and transport. At 12, he was competing overseas and required other coaches and trainers. When he was 15, he went to Spain to train, but Judy was trying to co-ordinate everyone. At 18, he had already broken into the world's top 100.
Behind every magazine lies a team of people playing different roles, she said; behind a world-class tennis player like Andy there is a "massive" team of coaches, physios, trainers, and a management team run by Simon Fuller of American Idol fame. "So I understand what it takes - in my case, it's to produce a good tennis player; in yours, it's a magazine."
This year's winners may not be earning millions of pounds, but they all receive a free QuarkXPress design package to lay out their school magazines, work experience with various publications, including The TESS, and workshops, talks and mentoring from across the industry. Ten representatives from the School Magazine of the Year team will also attend PPA Scotland's professional magazine awards in Edinburgh in November, and they will be offered the chance to have their magazine professionally printed in York, courtesy of Acorn Web Offset.
Now the tensions and expectations of this year's results are over for the young journalists, there's another link between tennis and magazines. This time it's Judy Murray's turn to wait anxiously, praying that her team at Wimbledon wins a big award: "I'll be the one biting my nails," she said; "jumping up and down in the player box all week, cheering on Andy and Jamie."
Scottish School Magazine of the Year Gold award: Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen, Eclectic
Silver: Boclair Academy, East Dunbartonshire, Bac Talk
Bronze: Paible High, North Uist, Western Isles, PS 2010
Best Commercial Strategy: Trinity High, Renfrewshire, Trinity Times
Best Design and Layout: Boclair Academy, East Dunbartonshire, Bac Talk
Best Editorial Content: Kilgraston School, Perth and Kinross, The Habit
Best Feature Article: Portlethen Academy, Aberdeenshire, The Locker
Best Magazine Cover: Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen, Eclectic
Best Online Presence: Bellahouston Academy, Glasgow, The Lane
Best Original Artwork or Photography: Coatbridge High, North Lanarkshire, Rare Beast
Chairman's Award: St Margaret's School, Edinburgh, Viva Vox
Most Inspirational Teacher: Fernhill School, South Lanarkshire, All Sorts of News - Paul Fitzgerald
Outstanding Pupil: Robert Gordon's College, Aberdeen, Eclectic - Laura Steedman (16).
- Original print headline: Different communities, different cultures - but all eyes are on the same prize