Feminist Times is recruiting members

Rather late:
Charlotte Raven has a website for her new venture. It is to be called Feminist Times: http://www.feministtimes.com. Hipbone was rejected by lawyers as being too closely associated with Spare Rib (a bit puzzling that). As a Daily Telegraph writer pointed out, backbone might in any case have been more appropriate.

Raven is also asking people to become members in order to fund the project.

You can pay anything from £111 a month to £5 a month to become a member. This is what we used in the old days to call a “funding subscriber”.

I think that Charlotte’s plan for funding is sensible and could work well as long as enough people get behind it. Its clear that a feminist magazine cannot work as a commercial project with the advertising subsidy that other women’s magazines attract and its equally clear that any magazine needs to be able to pay staff and contributors if it is to maintain quality over any sustained period.

I very much hope people will join and subscribe. I think a thoughtful magazine aimed at women would be a big plus. I am still sad that Raven didn’t try to resolve issues around reviving Spare Rib. I think they could have been resolved and we would all have been stronger as a result.

Sadly when women disagree its labelled a “cat fight” and something to be avoided at all costs. When men fall out they are not accused of ‘dog-fighting’ it is seen as a necessary process of competition during which new ideas emerge. We shouldn’t be afraid of conflict but we do have to learn how to use our skills of resolution rather than retreating into mutual recrimination and hurt.

I haven’t decided whether to subscribe, I want to see it first, but I certainly wish them luck.

Charlotte Raven chooses Hipbone

After a month of deliberation in which, according to a report in the Ham and High, the shortlist of names was thrown out, a new list was drawn up and the putative magazine’s paid-up members chose Hipbone.

This development has had little or no press coverage which seems to indicate just how important the title Spare Rib was to the project.

We will watch developments with great interest and keep you posted. Thanks to all those who have shown an interest to date. AP

From Marsha Rowe and Rosie Boycott to Charlotte Raven

Charlotte Raven will announce next week the new name of her magazine. Personally I am sad that she took the impetuous step of announcing the re-launch of our magazine without talking to us (yes that really happened). Most of us would have loved to see Spare Rib re-born but this was not the way to do it. With her energy, determination and contacts I am sure that she will launch a magazine that will be talked about. With any luck it will also be sustainable. I will certainly check it out. AP

Here is a statement from Marsha and Rosie:

We would have liked to work with Charlotte on her venture, and we are sorry not to be involved.

We were flattered that she wanted to use our name, but she should have realised that, if she wanted to build on its reputation, she needed first to have asked us and to have our blessing.

It is important for young feminists voices to be heard, and the more feminist website networks and magazines there are, the better. We wish Charlotte lots of luck, and wish it had turned out differently.

Marsha Rowe and Rosie Boycott

How Marsha Rowe heard about the new ‘Spare Rib’

I knew nothing of Charlotte Raven’s plan to relaunch Spare Rib until the announcement in the Guardian in April. This was the magazine that I had co-founded. I was flabbergasted.

Charlotte had not contacted me, and we had not exchanged emails. She also could have reached me by by phone or by post.

On Saturday 27 April, I was in Sydney, on the tail end of an emergency two-week trip. I woke to a flurry of emails about the news. Old Spare Ribbers were saying that they were astounded, shocked. They expressed a sense of betrayal, as well as of some interest and hopefulness about a revival. They had strong loyalties to the magazine, its heritage and the value of its name. Why had they, and I, not been contacted, they asked. What about permission? One old Spare Ribber asked: “Did Charlotte think we were dead?” (Extract from Comment is Free)

Marsha explains further:

Charlotte is wrong to say that she contacted the co-founders in March. She failed to reach me. She says that she sent emails, but I never saw them. When she did not hear from me by email, she could have tried contacting me by phone or by post. She did neither.

Rosie and I had our first meeting together with Charlotte on May 17. We told Charlotte then that we wanted to license her the use of the name, but before we could so, we wanted to be confident about her venture. We asked her to delay, so that she could first send us her plans and proposals, and a business plan. We wanted to make sure that the project had a viable infrastructure and that we could ensure the integrity and reputation of the name. She agreed to do this.

We set about registering the name, because we wanted to be able to grant her a licence, once we were happy with her plans.

As Charlotte herself said, the name was iconic, ‘The name still evokes powerful emotions and associations.’ Charlotte had already raised £6,000 on the back of the name, and, by the end of the week following the news of her venture was leaked in the press on April 26, she had raised a total of £27,000.

In fact, Rosie and I had been previously interested in re-starting Spare Rib in some form. I had discussed the idea of a web version two years before, with Angela Phillips, the journalist who took the cover photo for the first issue of Spare Rib. Rosie had, separately, thought about a possible re-launch of a print version. We would, then, have had to register the name as a trademark. But at that time we were both too busy to go ahead, so we did nothing.

This was another reason for our welcoming the approach from Charlotte. We both felt the time had come.  We liked her ideas and we took her venture very seriously. Which was why we put so much effort into wanting to ensure her proposition was viable.

But Charlotte went back on her agreement to pause. As well as further press announcements, she held a public meeting on May 24, and forced us into the unhappy position of sending a lawyer’s letter, saying that we needed to see her plans before we could license her the name.

We first heard of Charlotte’s decision to find another name when the Guardian rang us.

Spare Rib: we may be old but we are here

Spare Rib 1 photo: Angela Phillips

Spare Rib 1 photo of Suzette and Pip by  Angela Phillips

We (old Spare Ribbers) have done our best to keep this quiet and not to cause a public ‘cat fight’ but now I feel that the facts have to be public. I have no problem at all with the launch of a new feminist magazine. Indeed the more the merrier,  but I think if someone wants to re-launch a magazine that already has a history and a following, then it is necessary to talk to the people who launched it in the first place. You cannot just walk into someone’s house, open their wardrobe and say, “You aren’t wearing these any more I think I will have them”!

Well I might let my daughter do that but certainly nobody else. In this case the clothes were removed by someone that none of us had ever even met or spoken to.

I suggested that Marsha and Rosie send out a press release last week.  They didn’t want to make waves and, at that time still hoped that Charlotte would agree to the very minimal safeguards they wanted to put in place to protect the name and the legacy of Spare Rib.

The facts are these:

Marsha was not informed about the re-launch of Spare Rib  before the first announcement in the Guardian. Charlotte may have intended to talk to her but she didn’t make contact and in fact Marsha was in Australia with her sick mother when she was first informed that the magazine she started (with Rosie) was to be re-launched by someone she had never even met or talked to.

Rosie had been informed (by email)  and had asked Charlotte to talk to Marsha. She was about to go to Africa where she would not be in touch and didn’t have time to discuss it with Marsha before leaving.  Rosie had not said she would be involved with the magazine.

Marsha and Rosie finally got in touch with her after the initial publicity and asked her to do several things including slowing down the launch so that safeguards could be put in place.

She was given plenty of time to do this but has decided not to.

Charlotte acted with no concern at all for the originators of Spare Rib, she has made no effort to find us, or even to credit us for our work (which has appeared widely in the press). She did not organise a meeting for ex-Spare Ribbers or invite us to the meetings she did organise (only those who signed up and paid were invited).

We have kept our concerns quiet and only discussed them amongst ourselves because we wanted to give the re-launch a chance to succeed but there has been a great deal of unease- particularly about reports of some of the material ‘our’ magazine was likely to contain.

Please make sure these facts are circulated widely.
Angela  Phillips

This is  Charlotte’s letter:

“Dear Supporter,
I’m writing to you to update you on important developments with the magazine, which will be made public later this week.

As you’ll know, we had been due to launch the next phase of the membership system by now, and I’m delighted to be able to announce that it will go live next week, and the website will launch later this summer. But the delay has been due to a difficult development which I want to share with you here.

When we formed the idea of relaunching Spare Rib I contacted both the original co-founders, Marsha Rowe and Rosie Boycott, back in March. I naturally wanted to share with them our plans for the new magazine and member led campaigning movement. Rosie responded very enthusiastically at once, and was entirely supportive. I heard nothing from Marsha, but wrote to her again several times in April she got in touch to say she had only just received my emails. But her initial response was, like Rosie’s, very positive, and we had two constructive meetings.

We made clear that Spare Rib is a member led not-for-profit organisation.

Although our legal team had established that the name Spare Rib had never been trademarked, I naturally wanted to share with them our plans for the new magazine, and was delighted to have their involvement and blessing. However, without warning, two weeks ago they instructed a team of lawyers who have now threatened us with legal action, including an injunction, if we use the name Spare Rib without Marsha and Rosie’s permission. On 3rd June, 20 years after Spare Rib’s closure, Marsha applied to trademark the name, which we only found out through our lawyers.

Our lawyers have advised us that we would have a good chance of success, were we to go to court, but the last thing we want is a protracted legal battle. It would mean suspending all work on the launch, and exhausting precious financial resources on legal fees. Worst of all, it would be an ugly and entirely wrong note on which to be launching. I had hoped to be able to resolve the issue by meeting directly with Rosie and Marsha, to discover their conditions for permission to use the name, as these have never been communicated to us. They have refused to meet with us without lawyers present. The biggest area of conflict has been over our vision for Spare Rib to be more than just a magazine, but also a grass-roots movement. We seem unable to reach an agreement on this issue, and so with great sadness we have concluded that further negotiations would be an unaffordable waste of our funds and our time.

We have therefore decided to rename our organisation. This will enable us to continue with everyone’s fantastic work, and maintain the amazing momentum and spirit of the project, which has gathered pace so wonderfully over recent months. We want our members to be involved in the renaming process, so we are launching a national naming bee via Twitter and our website.