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.
This is Charlotte’s letter:
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.