Tabloid Press’s Finest: The Sunday Bastard
Following on from the previous two week’s posts 1 and 2 about my attempt to find the publicity stunt for charity to end all publicity stunts, here’s part three of five. It’s 1974, a more innocent age, and a group of Plymouth students are attempting to convince the British press that Cornwall is about to rise up and throw off the shackles of English rule. Warning: Do not try this at home.
So, we’d raised the army. We’d mailed the initial press release. We had the pictures of our training excercise (nose blowing scenes deleted) …
Now we had to post them. Which meant another trip down to Truro to get a Cornish postmark. This time we went in plain clothes – which for me in 1974 was purple jeans tastefully flared to almost cover the platform shoes, a frightening amount of primary colours above the waist, and more ginger hair above the shoulder area than anyone would believe possible.
Off to Fleet Street went our pictures accompanied by a new proclamation. Not only were the Free Cornish Army openly training in Cornwall (see accompanying pictures) but we were planning a day of action on March 7th.
We also sent the press pack to the local and regional papers. One of the papers – which for legal reasons I will call ‘The Sunday Bastard‘ – I had tangled with before.
Cue flashback: A few months earlier I’d been interviewed about the upcoming Rag Week by a reporter from The Sunday Bastard.
“What are you planning?” he’d asked. “Anything new this year?”
Naturally I didn’t say a word about our intended liberation of an adjoining country. But, after a long list of proposed activities, I mentioned we’d also hired a train to London – a commercial venture quite common in the West Country to take shoppers/sightseers to the capital for a day. This was Cedric’s idea – he slept with a model train under his pillow.
The reporter suddenly became animated. “Isn’t that the day of the League Cup final at Wembley?” he asked.
It was. “So Argyle fans could take the train to watch the team in the final?”
This was an absurd question. Plymouth Argyle, the local soccer team, had reached the fourth round of the cup but hadn’t the slightest hope of making the final. If there’d been a cup for never having won a cup, Argyle would have been first in the queue to receive it. But I thought I’d humour him. After all, he might be a fan. So I agreed. “Yes,” I said “They could.”
On Sunday the paper devoted a whole page to the interview. Along with the catchy headline. STUDENTS GAMBLE CHARITY MONEY ON ARGYLE REACHING FINAL.
It was my first and last newspaper interview. And, to make matters worse, none of my fellow students believed me when I said I’d been horribly misquoted. It was just the sort of thing I would have said, they told me.
But revenge is a dish best served on the front page. And The Sunday Bastard was about to pay big time.
Next Week: How to knock a General Election result off the front page