In 1966, a group of Church Stretton clergymen of different denominations established an inter-churches ecumenical newspaper for our own local community of the Strettons. And so, in February 1967, Stretton Focus with the strapline ‘Community and Interchurch Newspaper’ started out as a 4-page insert in the national monthly Christian News which allowed local groups of churches to contribute their own sub-section. It cost 6d.
The first issue bravely expressed the fears of the founders, who wrote ‘Now that joint inter-church ventures are common, we in the Strettons may be the first to share a common newspaper. This exposes us in all kinds of ways. It exposes our disunity, it exposes us to public scrutiny, it challenges our relevance.’ This was clearly quite a significant development for the community as a whole!
In 2001, our printers in Welshpool informed us that we, and one other paper, were the only customers still using the centuries old method of ‘cut-and-paste’ of typeset text onto large sheets of paper before sending to the printer. With new computer printing technology we were told that Focus should not go on burying its head in the sand but adopt the new specialized computer programs to generate print-ready copy. This prompted a radical redesign and style of paper with the result that we produced a 40 page magazine with the first issue being in February 2002. We also changed the strapline to ‘Community Voice of the Strettons’ to represent the shift from a church emphasis to a broad community monthly.
From its humble beginnings over 55 years ago, Stretton Focus has steadily progressed to become the 60 page colour publication that it is today. At heart it remains the same as it is still produced and delivered by an ever changing and evolving group of dedicated, unpaid volunteers. Prudent management of the company has meant that, over a period many years, the company has been able to build up a capital reserve. The decision was taken that some of the funds could be given back to the community by way of a grant to assist in the funding of projects designed to be of benefit to the community and so the Stretton Focus Community Grants Scheme was introduced. Many local projects have benefited from this Scheme and this work has helped us to win a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service in 2016.