The end of an era … and a new one begins

After 34 years and 204 issues, Chris Howes and Judith Calford are handing Descent on to new management.

Descent was launched in January 1969 by Bruce Bedford as a small-format black and white magazine. In 1979 it moved to the current A4 format and in 1983 Bruce handed over the publication responsibilities to Ambit Publications, though he remained as editor until issue 82 in 1988. Keith Creighton of Ambit stood in as editor for one issue, but with issue 84 Chris and Judith took over the role. In 1998 they bought the title and, as Wild Places Publishing, have been responsible for both content and publication. Descent 288 is Chris and Judith’s final issue.

Chris and Judith told Darkness Below: “Taking the decision to pass Descent to new owners and editors was distinctly difficult, as might be imagined after spending 34 years with the magazine embedded in every aspect of our lives. But for us the time was right to move in other directions, with new caving publication projects to complete, having ensured Descent’s longevity.” Chris went on to say: “It will be strange not to spend time picking up on the quirky and offbeat caving news items that spring up continuously, and reporting these on Newsdesk – feedback has always been strongly appreciative of these.”

Judith added: “I think I’ll miss not being deeply involved with recording everyone’s caving activities for posterity, but I won’t miss checking facts, such as dates and places, or tracking down some nuance of history in order for the report to be accurate. I’ll still be looking up grid references on maps though, as that is always interesting.”

Wild Places Publishing will be continuing as a publishing house and dealer in books, old and new, with a new title coming soon.

Chris Scaife is taking over as editor in partnership with Carolina Smith in the form of the newly created Stalactite Publishing. This is a completely new company, not to be confused with the long-vanished Stalactite Press, publisher of Jim Eyres’ autobiography The Cave Explorers.

Chris has a lifetime of experience in the outdoors and a long list of publications to his name – including numerous contributions to Descent. In 2019, he produced the Caves of Northumberland, shortlisted for that year’s Tratman Award.

Chris Scaife told Darkness Below: “Chris and Judith have done an incredible job with Descent. It’s a high-quality publication and a vital part of the caving world. These are big shoes to fill, but we’ll do everything we can to keep up the good work.” Carolina added: “We have been lucky that Chris and Judith have been so helpful. Although this is quite a daunting time for us, we are looking forward to it all.”

Subscribers can be assured that all current subscriptions will be carried over to the new company and contributors, too, should know that all unpublished material has been passed to the new editorial team. The new website for all things Descent goes live on October 1st and there will also be a new editorial email address. Until midnight on the 30th September, subscriptions, back issues and other Descent merchandise will be available from Wild Places Publishing.

Correspondent: Graham Mullan