THE Winter 2017 edition of Swindon Heritage, due to be published at the end of November, will be the final time the magazine goes to print, amid claims of a lack of support from Swindon Borough Council.

It will be the 20th quarterly issue of a unique creation, unrivalled by any similar product elsewhere in the country.

A labour of love for the small team behind it, the magazine was first launched as a way to not only tell the story of Swindon’s important heritage but also to pay tribute to local historians and enthusiasts who longed for more people to know about the history of the town.

While the closure of magazines and newspapers is not unusual in the digital age, most fold due to financial pressures and an inability to compete with free content being provided elsewhere.

But that is not the case with Swindon Heritage - against the odds the team have worked hard to make the magazine sustainable over the five years since its launch.

“This decision comes at a time when sales are better than ever,” said editor Graham Carter. “The magazine is self-supporting and on a sound financial footing.

“Five years after we founded this magazine, our original mission has been accomplished.

“We wanted to showcase Swindon’s fantastic heritage and also pay tribute to our colleagues in the voluntary sector whose work over many years has done so much to record it. We like to think we have done it, and them, proud.

“We’ve also organised events, with the week-long celebration of the Battle of Britain’s 75th anniversary in 2015 being the best example, while others, such as guided walks, have become ever more popular.

“We have supported (and continue to support) other events and initiatives, such as Swindon 175, which included sponsoring the replica hooter installed at Steam last year.

“We are glad to be currently working with the excellent Local Studies team at the Central Library on a project involving the Dixon-Attwell Collection, supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“And we are proud to have launched and managed Swindon’s long-overdue blue plaque scheme.

“But we are probably proudest of all to say that the Swindon Heritage magazine is unique. No other town or city in Britain has anything like it.”

Graham and the team say they have been unable to shake a feeling that their efforts to change the approach to heritage in the minds of Swindon Borough Council, another aim they set themselves at the outset.

But Graham believes a “them and us” culture still exists between the powers-that-be in Euclid Street and some in the heritage community.

“Unfortunately, rather than getting on with what we wanted to do, which was to put all our efforts into promoting Swindon’s heritage, we have had to spend far too much time in the tiring and tiresome business of defending it against questionable policies that seem designed to wreck the legacy that past Swindonians have gifted to us.

“Rather than risk silence being interpreted as endorsement, we’ve been compelled to be outspoken. Unfortunately, our efforts to protect heritage have been largely fruitless, because although we have been able to draw attention to unacceptable policies and fundamental failings, we are powerless to stop them.

“The tremendous support of those who backed this magazine and its attempts to boost the town’s image by celebrating its unique heritage, including our loyal readers, have kept us focused on our aims.

“But feeling demoralised and powerless can eventually lead to a feeling that your efforts are futile.

“That a radical rethink of the approach to Swindon’s heritage is urgently required is obvious to everyone, but we have to accept that, in this respect, this magazine has been unable to bring about any significant progress.

“We hope people can see how disappointed we are to find that, despite our very best efforts, this magazine has not been able to find a role for itself in a grander plan for Swindon’s heritage.

“But the most disappointing thing of all is: there isn’t one.”

Council leader David Renard, a long standing subscriber to and avid reader of the magazine, said he was sad to learn that it was to come to an end.

“I am very disappointed given that it has become a success story. It’s told lots of really fascinating stories about Swindon’s heritage that I had no idea about.

“The team there have brought those to light - there is a fantastic legacy that Graham and his team have left in terms of recording some of the great things about Swindon and bringing it to life.”

Yesterday Coun Renard denied that there was a “them and us” issue when it came to heritage in Swindon but acknowledged that there were some people who felt the council, for whatever reason, hadn’t done enough.

“I can point to a very long list of things that the council has done to support Swindon’s heritage - projects where we’ve worked with the private sector and the voluntary sector to keep buildings in use. The idea that we’re not supportive is far from the truth.

“That’s why the Heritage Board was set up several years ago by my predecessor - we wanted to get everybody round the table to agree a Swindon-wide approach to heritage.”

Coun Renard pointed specifically to Swindon UTC among other projects where council investment was instrumental in returning a heritage building to its original use. He restated his administration’s commitment to working to find a solution to the ongoing saga of the Mechanics’ Institute as well as a future for the Locarno in Old Town.

For the Swindon Heritage team, while the magazine is to become a treasured thing of the past, their work will continue through the much-loved blue plaque scheme and other events including the increasingly popular Radnor Street cemetery tours.