Stuart Baillie

04.03.04

I wake up in the hotel with my mind already racing through the four days ahead. Since I joined Dog World six months ago, everyone had said “wait until Crufts”. The event is a hectic four days and the production of the Crufts edition usually takes us well into the wee small hours of Wednesday morning to complete.

Although I’d been “acting” editor since October, my confirmation as editor had only been announced the week before what is the most important date in the canine calendar, so I had lined up a number of meetings with readers and contributors as well as existing and potential advertisers.

We’ve also been making tweaks and adjustments to the paper; a nip here and a tuck there, so I’m looking forward to getting some feedback.

I’m also looking forward to meeting up with Kennel Club top brass, some of whom were none too happy that the week before Crufts we revisited the story about the original best in show judge standing down and her husband resigning from KC activities.

For us, Crufts is not just an editorial exercise, it is a major marketing and PR opportunity, a chance for DWto be seen by the entire dog world.

I also have the chance to make a presentation to Jane Lilley, who is celebrating 10 years as a columnist with us. A positive day ends in chaos when the NEC car parks become gridlocked as a result of an accident on the M6.

05.03.04

After the chaos of the night before the Kennel Club is keen to make clear the traffic problems were not of its making. In addition, the NEC has booked further events over the Crufts weekend and the Kennel Club has concerns as Crufts alone filled the NEC car parks last year.

One of the great strengths of DW is that many of our staff are among the most revered judges in the canine world, so I take time to wander around the judging rings having a look at colleagues’ judging style. We’d also just run a major feature on a US breeder called Sylvia Hammarstrom; it was great to get a chance to meet her.

06.03.04

When we arrive at the NEC, chief reporter Chrissy Smith and I are met by concerned Kennel Club staff. The additional events booked into the NEC make it look as if car parks will be overflowing by 10.30am. NEC officials want to direct visitors to car parks eight miles away and then charge them to take a bus back in.

What causes real concern is that many exhibitors are arriving with their dogs and other show paraphernalia and it’s impractical to bus them in. As people start to arrive in halls they recount tales of huge hold-ups getting to the show. We hear of people having turned back out of frustration – the day they have been preparing for, for months, has been ruined and their opportunity to show their dog at Crufts has evaporated. Not surprisingly there is a great deal of anger.

Dog World: a whippet won it

The Kennel Club sets up an interview for Chrissy with a senior NEC official. It’s the NEC’s chance to speak directly to the people they have upset.

I know I can trust Chrissy to make the most of the opportunity.

07.03.04

Parking and traffic issues still dominate conversations around the rings. I’ve been pleased with the positive response from our readers to the paper.

I decide to leave about 4pm to reach home on the south coast in time to watch best in show on television – somewhat ironically I get caught in traffic on the M1 so a two-and-a-half hour journey turns into a four-hour marathon.

08.03.04

Surprisingly, I sleep well – I expected to have a restless night since my expectation was for organised chaos at the office today as judges’ reports, photographs and our writers’ reports begin to pour in.

When I arrive I find the staff who have been in over the weekend have made good progress and we are off to a good start. I never cease to be amazed by the depth of knowledge of our staff and feel honoured to lead such an authoritative team.

As a large proportion of our staff are dog lovers they can’t contain their enthusiasm as the pedigrees of the top winners go together and we start to plough through the photographs.

Just as we are winding up for the day the office is hit by a power cut – servers go down. IT reboots them ready for us to make an early start tomorrow.

09.03.04

Arrive at 7.45am to make an early start but the area has been hit by further power cuts and the servers are still down. We are using better-quality paper for a wraparound and it affects the colour pagination so we need to replan elements of the paper.

After processing copy and pictures yesterday, it’s into the meat of getting the pages laid out, proofed and passed.

It’s all hands to the pumps as the pages come together. Our best in show photographs – one of which will form our front page – look stunning.

We pass our last page at 10.30pm, several hours ahead of schedule.

10.03.04

I have to confess to still being on a bit of a high from the whole thing. I speak to colleagues about how things have gone before attending the production meeting to start the cycle for next week’s paper. I then take the afternoon off, safe in the thought that in another 52 weeks we’ll have to do it all over again.

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