Page last updated at 12:51 GMT, Thursday, 11 November 2010
Planet magazine's 200th edition goes into orbit
John Barnie, Jasmine Donahaye, Helle Michelson, and Ned Thomas
The magazine has had four editors in its first 40 years

In the summer of 1970 Britain elected a Conservative Prime Minister and West Germany knocked England out of the World Cup.

It was also when a new cultural magazine called Planet was launched at that year's National Eisteddfod.

In the summer of 2010 Britain elected a Conservative Prime Minister and Germany knocked England out of the World Cup.

Some things never change, and Planet now celebrates its 40th anniversary by publishing its 200th issue.

The meeting was held in the middle of the party and everyone's high spirits might have helped because WH Smith agreed to distribute Planet
Ned Thomas

The Aberystwyth-based magazine was founded by Ned Thomas in the wake of the decision in 1967 to devolve the function of The Arts Council of Great Britain in Wales to be carried out by the Welsh Arts Council (WAC).

"The arts council's literature director, Meic Stephens, had a vision of creating a publishing base in Wales that hadn't existed before," said Mr Thomas, whose magazine aimed to create a forum for debate about the political and cultural fabric of Wales in English.

"It is interesting to note that culture was devolved to Wales 30 years before political devolution took place and I have no doubt that Planet wouldn't have been born without the existence of WAC."


Before the launch of Planet in August 1970, Mr Thomas had to struggle to find outlets to sell the magazine.

Planet - edition 1
The first edition was launched in August 1970

"I was determined to reach as many people as possible so I tried in vain to persuade regional managers of WH Smith to stock the magazine.

"I ended up writing to their head office in London and they agreed to meet me in June 1970.

"But our meeting was held on the day after the General Election so I arrived at WH Smith's head office when all the staff were celebrating the Conservative Party's election victory.

"The meeting was held in the middle of the party and everyone's high spirits might have helped because WH Smith agreed to distribute Planet."

The magazine soon courted controversy by highlighting issues raised by Welsh language campaigners.

Ned Thomas
Planet wasn't published between 1979 and 1985

"It was a good time to start a magazine because the Investiture had taken place the year before and there was a lot of unrest and protest in Wales," said Mr Thomas.

"The Welsh Language Society was considered beyond the pale by the Welsh press so the first dozen or so issues were devoted to the Welsh language protest which was then driving the political agenda."

But in 1979, on the eve of the first devolution referendum, Mr Thomas decided Planet would no longer be published.

"I believed that a no vote would mean that Planet's stance and ideology had failed, and a yes vote would mean that Wales needed a magazine published more often than once every two months."

But by 1985, Mr Thomas was persuaded to re-launch Planet, and with improved funding, the magazine employed John Barnie as a full-time assistant.


Mr Barnie took over the reins as editor in 1990 when Mr Thomas moved to work in Cardiff.

John Barnie
John Barnie highlighted green issues during his tenure as editor

"I tried to provide a sense of continuity with Ned's Planet but Wales had become a more confident nation by the 1990s," said Mr Barnie.

"Ecological issues were driving the agenda and I commissioned a wide range of articles by scientists to write on climate change and the mass extinction of species."

Mr Barnie's wife, Helle Michelson became Planet's editor in 2006 and oversaw several changed until she stood down after publishing the 200th edition this month.


"We decided to change from a bi-monthly magazine to a quarterly which meant that we could provide longer and more in-depth articles," she said.

Jasmine Donahaye
Jasmine Donahaye is Planet's new editor

"This also meant that we were less topical, but setting up a website allowed us to provide more up to date articles online."

Planet's new editor is Jasmine Donahaye, who first came across the magazine when she was student in California in the 1990s.

She said: "Each editor brings his or her own particular interests and concerns to the job, but wider social and political developments also determine the direction the magazine takes.

"Planet has been at the forefront of political and cultural debate in Wales, and in these uncertain times, it has a particularly important part to play."

The launch of Planet's 200th edition takes place at Aberystwyth Rugby Club on Friday, 12 November.

Welsh newspaper firm to continue
31 Jan 09 |  Mid Wales
Daily Welsh newspaper abandoned
15 Feb 08 |  Mid Wales


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