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.