We were able to slip out for a morning last week to take a trip to see our new printers. We're in the final stages of production of the next issue, which you'll receive in January just in time for Big Garden Birdwatch, so it was good to take a bit of a break and get to know a bit more about how Birds magazine is produced.
Wyndeham Peterborough is a short trip up the A1 from RSPB headquarters at The Lodge, so Joel and I set out with Tim Norman, who is a very important man: Head of Logistics at the RSPB. He’s in charge of the RSPB’s print requirements, which includes, of course, the printing and mailing of our biggest publication of all, Birds magazine.
It was my first ever look behind the scenes at a printing operation and I have to say that the size of the operation is MASSIVE! It really brought home just how many copies of Birds magazine are produced (the circulation is more than 600,000 copies every issue) and how much time and effort it takes to make the final product. There's a lot to do after Joel presses 'send' and those electronic pages wing their way off to the printers. Our work may be just about over, but it all begins for the printers. Andy (above left) and Dan (second left) gave us the lowdown on Wyndeham to start with. They are the ones looking very smart in suits, like Tim, while a fourth scruffy individual turned up in distinctly more casual wear...Thanks to them both for a really interesting and enjoyable grand tour and were so helpful. They also provided an excellent lunch – what better way to start a successful new working relationship?
Parts of the 'shop floor' were a bit like something from a movie and the stairway (below) put me in mind of the Axis chemical factory in the Batman movie where Jack Nicolson falls into a vat of chemicals and becomes the Joker. Sorry, that was just my overactive imagination at work. I would like to point out that the health and safety regulations and environmental credentials of the print operation were very impressive.
I was blown away by the efficiency of the operation from the guys in the office to those in charge of the actual production of the copies of Birds. Some of the machines run at 35 mph and as many as 9,000 copies are glued and finished per hour – that is FAST! The presses also run for 24 hours a day to make sure that all 49 regular magazines produced at the printers make it off the presses and ready for mailing in time. I'm pleased to be able to report that I resisted the temptation to press any big red buttons on the presses as well (see below). As Andy said, you would get the worst paper cut ever to stick your fingers in with the copies running through at that speed.
The smell of the ink and the noise of the machines really gave us a feeling of what it’s like at the ‘business’ end of magazine production once we'd left the office upstairs - not the same as sitting in my nice quiet office that’s for sure. Joel and Tim have been in the print business for a long time, so I hope I didn’t embarrass them too much with my ‘Oohs and ‘Aaahs’ at the presses turning, and insisting on having my photo taken in front of every piece of big, flashy machinery...
We were shown Birds’ slot in the well-organised electronic schedules for all the printing done at Wyndeham. We’ll be printing over the Christmas period (we haven’t told RSPB Production Manager Dave Storey that he’ll be working over Christmas on ‘press passing’ duty - sorry Dave). Binding will take place on Boxing Day, so it’s a real festive occasion for the next issue of the magazine.
So the next Birds magazine you get, you have our friends at Wyndeham Peterborough to thank. I’m certainly looking forward to seeing how the new magazine looks.
We had a slight wobble when the battery on our camera ran out after three shots, but luckily our friendly new colleagues at Wyndeham helped us out by loaning us their camera, so we were able to get some shots to give you a peek behind the scenes of our new printers.
Andy (far right) and Dan show Tim and I some of the paper it takes to make a magazine.
Tim (left), Birds designer Joel (centre) and me kitted out in hi-visibility jackets and ear plugs for our grand tour.
My jobs to do in the garden list is currently topped by 'Clean leaves out of the pond'.
I dabbled a bit last weekend and managed to clear those nearest the surface, but I'm waiting for slightly better weather (wishful thinking, seeing today's dreary affair) to roll up my sleeves and get properly stuck in.
While I was busy leafing through the debris (sorry, bad joke), I was surprised to come across a newt tadpole (an eft), which will presumably now overwinter in the pond. Adult newts leave the water to hibernate on land, but the young can stay underwater apparently for winter. Have you seen any newt activity in your pond recently?
Which brings me onto a little something we've been working on for the next issue of Birds. You may have seen, and hopefully enjoyed, the wildlife illustrations in the magazine as well as all the photographs, which I know so many of you enjoy.
It all starts when Birds designer, Joel, and I get together to throw around some ideas about what interesting bits of behaviour we can illustrate and explain in the magazine. Joel then goes off and starts sketching our some 'roughs' of how it might look in the magazine.
Which might look a little something like this as it starts to take shape.
He then gets in touch with one of our excellent illustrators - in this case Robin Carter - to produce the illustrations. It's always exciting to get the original artwork in the post in that 'handle with care' bubblewrap package and see what we get to scan into Birds magazine.
I hope you'll enjoy the finished newt article in the spring issue of Birds magazine. Look out for it on the 'Wild about' pages. Don't forget to come back and compare the finished product with what you've seen here!