Caught by the River

"We wanted our magazine to be like a Samuel Palmer watercolour!"

26th January 2010


(BS. Andy used to live in second-hand bookshops and discovered the crow picture in a box of old engravings. It’s an absolute gem and (sorry I never mentioned this) was one of the reasons we chose the title of Country Bizarre).

The second part of our interview with Bernard Schofield (read the first part HERE);

JB. I love the art in Country Bizarre. In fact, to me, its design is also its message. Was this the case?

BS. “The art – the look and feel of the magazine, its atmosphere – this was our great driving force. We wanted people to pick it up and be transported into another world.”

Who contributed to the first issue? Do you remember how long it took you to put it together?

“We wrote everything in the first issue ourselves. The only other contributor was Millie Chamberlain, an artist who worked on Yellow Submarine (sister to brother Laurie who I was with at art school) who did illustrations for us. Took us a week or two to write it and we did the artwork in one evening. Andy was working at National Cash Registers up on the Marylebone road at the time and we made a midnight visit and printed it off on their press.”

Had you already decided on the ‘seasonal’ publication dates?

“Yes – it seemed logical and convenient.”

How did you distribute the first issue? I remember you telling me that you left them in public places – including seats of buses – for folk to pick up. Were all of the issues free? You mentioned ‘Cranks’. That’s the whole food restaurant, right? Did you distribute through there?

“The first issue we gave almost all of them away – leaving them in select places where we thought people of a like mind would pick them up (colleges, art schools etc – even on train seats). Then we got lucky through Cranks. A friend of ours worked in the Soho shop and they took quite a few of the second issue. By then we had got to know all the cool outlets and gradually we got more and more issues into the sales area.”

Cast of characters;

You mentioned such a lot of people. I’ll list them back at you. Could you maybe put them in order of appearance and tell me how they contributed please;

Ted Cookworked at The Architectural Press who published our first two books (Country Bizarre’s Country Bazaar & The Complete Country Bizarre. He also did some pretty nifty illustrations for us including the apple pic you like so much.
Ron Hoemajor, major player. Ron became the third partner and printed almost all of the Country Bazaar magazines we published in the eighties
Betty SwanwickHUGE influence. Betty taught illustration and drawing at Goldsmiths and introduced me to Samuel Palmer, Edward Calvert, Edward Bawden (a close friend of hers) and all the arcadian artists we were crazy about. Talk about atmosphere – we wanted our magazine to be like a Samuel Palmer watercolour!
Richard St Barbe Bakerof The Men Of Trees society. He was our hero – a giant of a man who wanted to replant the deserts of the world with trees (and began to in Morocco). He communicated with us on occasion because of our tree planting aspirations. Incidently, Richard St Barbe Baker was the man who invented the caravan. He had this vision of people being able to stay in the woods and forests in one of his caravans (which were small and green so as to blend in with the environment – unlike todays monstrous caravan sites which don’t.

Who have I missed?

“Eventually there was a whole host of people who contributed one way or another – Peter Blake (who went on to edit The North Devon Snail), wildlife nuts Flod and Margaret, Sue Farrow, Liz and her ma Mrs Frost (of the Sevenoaks Women’s Guild!), Smiling Sammy, Bren the Wen, Elaine Randell (poet who edited her own poetry magazine), Mick Larking, Kerraugh, Mar, and Liz Walker to name but a few.”

And this is where the story of Country Bizarre comes to an end, but not, however, the vision;

BS. Much to our astonishment the magazine was more or less an instant success and we had the most amazing people on our subscription list. We could have gone on and on but we made a decision to stop editing when we were commissioned to write our first book Country Bizarre’s Country Bazaar which was published by Astragal Books in 1974 (Fontana brought out the paperback version in 1976). Then in 1976 Astragal Books published The Complete Country Bizarre – a bound version of all the magazines. Unfortunately the reprint was on nasty shiny paper having none of the lovely inky black on cartridge of the original mags. Andy then went on to do his Whole House Omnibus (Astragal Books) in 1978, and the same year I had The Urban Dwellers Country Almanac published by Cassells. I really loved this book, arguably the best thing I ever did outside the magazines, full of great pictures, paintings and artwork.

As time went on Andy and I began contemplating a follow-on magazine to Country Bizarre and in 1982 we published the first Country Bazaar. It was very similar to the original mags, but far more artistic, and this time on an A4 format. We were incredibly lucky to meet a printer, a lovely man called Ron Hoe – in effect the third partner – who produced beautiful copies of each issue. All told there were twenty five issues of Country Bazaar and they were instant collector’s items! Unfortunately we were never able to cover our costs and so in 1988 we called a halt to the magazine.

In 1981 I had Events In Britain published (Blandford Press), a guide to all the festivals, old customs, fetes, fairs etc in the UK and full of unique photos plus my own illustrations. The last book I had published was Garden Wisdome (Harper Collins) in 1993 which was full folk remedies and old customs/traditions in gardening.

Post Script:

Discovering Country Bizarre has been a real joy and a lot of fun for me. It became a bit of a mission and it’s had a happy ending. I like finding things from the past, things that I can link to my present, they somehow help me to understand my inability to keep still. I also believe in passing it on, sharing the information, keeping it alive. I do it with records and books and it was something that we discussed whilst plotting the reasons for starting Caught by the River. Little did we know then that we would find that definition from a well dressed, forty-year old, ‘eco’ fanzine.
This one’s for the dreamers. (JB).