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by Predrag Cvetkovic

BEEKEEPING - Learning and teaching

Interview with John Phipps, the editor of The Beekeepers Quarterly

part 1 (1 of 4)


1. Mr. Phipps, you are the editor of famous British magazines “The Beekeepers Quarterly“and “Bee Biz“.  Please, introduce yourself to our visitors by saying something about you and your editorial work.

J.P. I have been involved in beekeeping for over thirty years and like many beekeepers I have a great thirst for beekeeping knowledge. However, the good thing about knowledge is that it is something that you like to share - the more interesting and exciting the information  you have found, the more desperate you are to pass it on to others. Maybe this is why I was a teacher by profession and enjoyed nearly thirty years of teaching agriculture - a subject in which the pupils were able to be involved in a practical way. As well as having pigs, sheep, goats, poultry, rabbits and cattle on our school farm we also had bees. When children first came across bees there were always two reactions - 1. an inbred fear of them, and 2. they thought they were wasps because they didn't look like bumblebees. The fear was usually generated by parents during the children's formative years and their ignorance of what honeybees look like is still perpetuated by the media in its wider sense - and it always bugs me to see (even in beekeeping works) honeybees looking like bumblebees. So, both my enthusiasm for passing on news and information and my wish to educate are probably two key factors which lead me first to writing articles on beekeeping and then on to creating and editing journals.

My first articles were written for the general public - usually those interested in nature - and they were published in "The Countryman" magazine in the UK. Soon after that I had a monthly column  in "The Smallholder" magazine which covered practical aspects of beekeeping for those who were interested in self-sufficiency. I also wrote for the National Farmers Union countryside magazine, again on topical beekeeping issues  for the farming community.

My first shot at editing a beekeeping magazine was  for the British Isles Bee Breeders' Association. The founder, Beowulf Cooper, when he was at our house one evening asked my wife if I would take on the responsibility of editing "BIBBA News". I don't know why he didn't ask me directly. I learned a lot from Beowulf, not only about writing, but about beekeeping in particular and his ideas have influenced me greatly . He was a true mentor and I was saddened when he died.
Putting together BIBBA News was good fun but, like all editors,  I had the great problem  not only of getting enough copy, but also of getting it in time for the deadlines. In those early years, all the text had to be typed with a fresh carbon ribbon on the typewriter and then all the articles, pictures and diagrams had to be pasted onto boards, the headlines and titles having to be done with the notoriously difficult Letraset transfers. However, when it was all done you could see exactly how the publication was going to look.


Harvesting honey

The next step in my writing career came through meeting Jeremy Burbidge of Northern Bee Books. We got on well together from the very start as we were both interested in old beekeeping books - though he was the seller and I was a purchaser! I can't remember exactly how it came about - it must have been through buying some of Herbert Mace's old beekeeping annuals - we got to talking about reviving such a publication. So, for 1983 we produced the first in the series of The Beekeepers' Annual, and this publication continues to come out annually. In part it is a complete directory of beekeeping organisations for the UK with contact details of the various  officers. Another part is a desk diary with space for notes and records, and additionally there is a section with beekeeping articles.  In the mid-years I passed over the editorial responsibility to others, but took up the editorship again a few years ago.


When we first published "The Beekeepers' Annual" we soon realised that the information needed revising  more than once a year. I suggested that we produce a "Supplement" which could be produced maybe a couple of times a year to keep beekeepers  informed of these changes. We adopted an A4 format - which gave us space for an interesting layout and for us to be able to use large photograhs. This gave us an edge on the other national beekeeping magazines as they were half the size.

"The Supplement", with 12 pages, ran for only two issues, October 1984 and May 1985, then in Autumn1985 we produced the first issue of "The Beekeepers Quarterly", with just 26 pages, and over the years it has gradually evolved into the 56 page, full-colour  journal that we have today.  The current journal incorporates "Bee Biz" which was started a few years ago, edited initially by Matthew Allan and later by  Anna Lucia Merlo.  "Bee Biz" , a journal for mainly the commercial sector, appeared only infrequently and I volunteered to take on the role of editor with  the aim of producing three issues each year. Whilst I suceeded in doing that, I often found that I had  a conflict of interests - for many articles were suitable for both  journals and subscribers do not like to see the same articles in each of their magazines. 


Spraying comb with Mellomex to prevent wax moth damage

  Editor's apiary - as they were when the editor bought the hives


2. We have found out that a fusion will be made between the two magazines you edit. What will the new magazine be like? How often will it be coming out?

J.P. We have now produced three combined issues of the magazine and it will continue to come out as a 56 page, full-colour magazine four times a year ie, each season.  I expect it will take some time to get the balance just as I - or more importantly - the subscribers would like it, so I am always pleased to receive suggestions for improvement.

We are only a small team that work on the BKQ/BB: the publisher, Jeremy Burbidge; the designer, Mike Barrett; the advertising secretary, Julie Dower, and myself as editor and my wife as sub-editor. We all have known each other over a long period of time and work well together. Each person has their own job and we have no committees to work under and have complete independence from any beekeeping organisation.


3. “The Beekeepers Quarterly“has been famous for its wide access to beekeeping, variety of columns, friendly and optimistic spirit and a large number of correspondents from around the world. Will you keep these tendencies?

 J.P. Thanks for painting such a good picture of the magazine. Our success has been achieved through the contributions of many beekeepers from all over the world. Originally, and still today, some  UK readers are disappointed that many of the articles originate from overseas.  They must look at the content of the articles - not where they come from - for most beekeeping issues are of global importance now. No one can afford to be parochial; we have to learn from other people's experiences from all over the world. What is a problem in one country might affect  another only too quickly.

I hope that our readers feel that they are part of one big global family untouched by politics, race or religion. The writers give freely of their time and I know for many an enormous effort is required as English is not their first language.  I remember in the early years, before the internet and email (almost all the magazine is conducted this way now), I had correspondents who might have been in trouble even for listening to English programmes on the World Service of the BBC  through which they learned the language. In some parts of eastern Europe it was even impossible for some writers to be sure of having a supply of envelopes or stamps to send their articles to me. During the wars in Yugoslavia western government sanctions made it impossible for me to send the magazines to the correspondent there. Writers have made a real effort to contribute and many of them have been involved with the magazine for a great number of years.
So yes, this a trend I wish to continue and I will be very pleased to hear from beekeepers who  live in countries which are not yet represented.


4. Can you tell our visitors how to subscribe to the new magazine?

 J.P. To subscribe contact: jeremy@recordermail.demon.co.uk  or log onto www.beedata.com (where a pdf sample can be downloaded free of charge), or  www.apiservices.com



part 1 (editorial work, BKQ magazine)

part 2 (beekeeping in Greece)

part 3 (beekeeping in UK, working with children)

part 4 (contemporary courses in global beekeeping, the future of beekeeping)

more pictures 1

more pictures 2

more pictures 3