Author Topic: Congratulations to Chris Howes and Judith Calford - 30 years at Descent  (Read 638 times)

Offline David Rose

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Researching a forthcoming book, I've been working through a stack of old copies of Descent. This morning I came across no. 84, the issue dated October/November 1988. On the cover was an atmospheric shot by Gavin Newman of a chap at the top of the first pitch of Rhino Rift on Mendip, complete with Petzl carbide light. And on page 3: an editorial by Chris Howes, 'my first as Descent's new editor'. Two weeks earlier, it goes on to explain, 'a small box of material arrived by courier, along with the news that my application for the post had been successful'. (At that time, Descent was owned and published by Ambit, a firm based in Stroud.) Prophetically he added that he felt confident he had 'a new role to play for the future'. He added: 'Descent has been published for nearly 20 years, and I am sure it will still be serving cavers well into the next century.'

And here Chris and Judith still are, serving our community as they have done every two months without fail for exactly 30 years. Getting that first issue out was clearly a rush, although even then it contained several interesting articles, with regional news round-ups, accounts of exploration, and a fascinating piece by Peter Johnson on Lamb Leer in the seventeenth century. But all the photos apart from the cover were in black and white, and the layout was somewhat basic, and the paper too cheap for high quality reproduction.

The intervening decades have, it's fair to say, seen a lot of progress. Many more stories per issue, a plethora of superb images, a bright and varied layout, and of course, full colour glossy reproduction on every page. The magazine continues to burst with domestic and international news, and riveting feature articles: in the current issue, no. 264, these include pieces on the latest finds in Yorkshire's Long Kin West, the Thai cave rescue, sea cave surveying, and caving in Zimbabwe.

Having written a few articles for the magazine myself, what always stands out for me is Chris and Judith's incredible professionalism and attention to detail. Earlier this year I took part in an expedition to Mexico which achieved a significant connection, adding nearly 10km to the Huautla system. I was dismayed to see that coverage of the trip on the august National Geographic website contained several significant errors, although it was beautifully illustrated. Apparently no one bothered to fact-check it. You can't just imagine Chris and Judith ever allowing shoddy work like that through.

As I know myself first-hand, times have been tough in publishing for quite a long time - and Chris and Judith have been Descent's publishers for 20 years, as well as its editors. Climbing magazines which one thrived have shut. We are truly lucky to have them, and their magazine. Long may all continue. So if you don't already subscribe, I urge you to. And meanwhile, raise a glass to this anniversary, and if you see them, buy them a bloody drink! 
« Last Edit: November 11, 2018, 09:16:39 pm by Pegasus, Reason: added photo - you need to learn, David :) »

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Re: Congratulations to Chris Howes and Judith Calford - 30 years at Descent
« Reply #1 on: November 10, 2018, 08:40:18 pm »
I quite agree David, a brilliant publication and one all cavers should support by buying it.
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Offline caving_fox

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Re: Congratulations to Chris Howes and Judith Calford - 30 years at Descent
« Reply #2 on: November 12, 2018, 09:16:46 am »
Congratulations both! I've not been reading it quite that long, but it's always eagerly anticipated.
If the world didn't suck, we'd all fall off.

Offline mrodoc

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Re: Congratulations to Chris Howes and Judith Calford - 30 years at Descent
« Reply #3 on: November 12, 2018, 04:32:06 pm »
I think we should also remember Bruce Bedford who set the magazine up in the early 70's during the dying days of The Speleologist (last issue was in 1969). What I find equally impressive is that some people featured in the Speleologist are still actively caving. Descent under Bruce Bedfords' editorship was notorious for its lateness so much so that it in a memorable photograph by Chris Howes it was sent up mercilessly. Chris brought a punctuality and professionalism to the magazine that has endured and the days of deadlines whooshing past (to  partlially quote the late Douglas Adams) is a distant memory.

Offline ogofmole

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Re: Congratulations to Chris Howes and Judith Calford - 30 years at Descent
« Reply #4 on: November 12, 2018, 05:15:10 pm »
I have always enjoyed reading Descent, long may it continue.

Offline chunky

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Re: Congratulations to Chris Howes and Judith Calford - 30 years at Descent
« Reply #5 on: November 12, 2018, 06:24:09 pm »
Just to echo others sentiments and congratulate both Chris and Judith on what is a stunningly professional publication. I am privileged to call them both friends and know just how much of their lives they have dedicated to this magazine. No matter what time of day you pop in for a cuppa they are always beavering away, working on the next issue.  :clap2: