Saving the Reliant Robin
Today newspaper was a great place to work. It revolutionised printing, being the first paper to print in colour. It took a while to settle down ( in the first few editions, pictures were so out of register that they would have looked better through 3D glasses ). But the paper was a new experiment, trying new ways of working and everyone was in it together.
The picture desk was situated in the middle of the room, between the newsdesk and the news writers desk. I sat back to back with a writer, whom I shall call Nigel ( why not? ). We would often chat about stuff throughout the day, and if I came across anything of note, I would pass it on to him.
This was the early nineties, when the economy was in real trouble. Norman Lamont had been vilified for seeing green shoots of economic recovery, when there patently were none. Interest rates were yo-yoing, people were losing their homes and everyone was hunkered down, hoping to last it out. I used to keep track of events by listening to LBC first thing in the morning, and then late into the evenings. Mike Dickin was the usual host of the Graveyard slot. He had an acerbic style which didn’t always go down well. This was before mobile phones were in general use and so phone-ins needed regulars to get the programme off to a good start. He didn’t encourage loyalty. I remember once, after being particularly abrupt to callers the previous evening, nobody called in at all. It was great to hear him desperately fill the air.
One night Dickin interviewed the chief executive of Reliant cars who said that the recession was actually good for Reliant because people wanted cheap cars and that sales were up. This seemed odd and I mentioned it to Nigel the next morning. He rang Reliant, confirmed the story and it appeared as a two paragraph filler in the news section. Nigel and I were quietly satisfied.
The next day we were amazed to see the Daily Mirror. The puff on the front had a brightly colured Robin reliant with a model leaning over it and the line ” Win a Reliant Robin! ” Inside they had a double page spread with pictures of the busy workforce in the Reliant factory and the CEO grinning like a cheshire cat. This, they said, was one good news story – Reliant were bucking the trend. A great story for british industry. The competition tag ran: ” 1st prize one Reliant Robin, second prize two ! ”
Reliant ceased making cars in 2002. But I like to think that Nigel and I did our bit.