I’m sitting at home in Belfast in 2012 wrestling with a huge decision. Should the magazine, which Una Murphy and I, are about to launch be called VIEW or The Wave. We decided on the former, and the rest as they say is history of a sort.

VIEWdigital founders Brian Pelan and Una Murphy at the launch of the 60th issue of VIEW in Belfast

I had recently left the Belfast Telegraph (a decision I’ve never regretted) and had spent about three weeks watching daytime television. I had even become a fan of Loose Women. But a voluntary redundancy payment could only last so long and the clarion call of economic existence was growing louder by the day.

A chance encounter with a former colleague, Joe Mitchell from Brazier Media, led to the idea of starting up a magazine.

“Why don’t you do something about the voluntary/community sector in Northern Ireland,” said Joe.

In my then ignorance, I replied: “What’s that”?

It has been a roller-coaster ride since that initial conversation. We’re now on our 60th issue of the magazine. A time for some sort of reflection on where we came from and where we’re going.

The early days are a rapidly diminishing memory. It was all about trying to get VIEW noticed, and, more importantly, how to make the publication a viable enterprise.

Issue one of VIEW magazine

The first issue will always stay with me, especially for the interview with north Belfast man Jim Pierce who sadly died in 2014 – two years after I first met him,

He had just been awarded Older Volunteer of the Year by Belfast City Council. I was keen to learn more about his story and arranged to meet him at his home. I sat in the kitchen and listened as Jim told me why he had got involved in helping the suicide prevention charity, Lighthouse. Both his twin daughters, Georgina and Geraldine, had taken their own lives.

“When I go to the Lighthouse charity in the morning I will meet someone who is walking the same road,” said Jim. “Part of what I do is talking to other people who have also lost loved ones through suicide. I always pray that the tragedy of suicide doesn’t come to someone else’s door.”

The 21st issue of VIEW represented a major turning point in the life of the magazine. Up untill that time the publication had a range of stories about the community/voluntary sector. We were now to start producing themed issues. The 21st issue was the first one with its in-depth look at homelessness.

I can still remember my chance encounter with a young homeless man called Kenny. He had just spoken, very eloquently, about his experiences on the streets of Belfast at a homelessness conference. I asked him would he like to tell his story in our magazine? He told me in no uncertain terms that he was not interested. Thankfully, he changed his mind.

His image is on the front cover of the 21st edition. The story inside of Kenny and his friend James was superbly told by journalist Lucy Gollogly, with powerful images from photographer Donal McCann.

So many great people have assisted VIEW in our journey, including Frances Connolly, photographer Kevin Cooper, and VIEWdigital board members Mary McManus, Kathryn Johnston and Kelly Andrews. A special mention must also go to a range of writers, including Harry Reid, Kylie Noble, Jane Hardy, Megan McDermott, John Higgins, Faith Gordon, and Mary O’Hara, for all their articles in the magazine.

As part of preparing the 60th issue, I had a look back at every one of our publications since we first started. I decided to select a range of people whose voices have always been important in social affairs issues. They include Professor Paddy Gray, WAVE organiser Alan McBride, disability rights advocate Andrea Begley, Mental Health Champion Professor Siobhan O’Neill, prison rights campaigner Erwin James, economist Dr Conor McCabe, and former UN housing rapporteur Leilani Farha.

We also carry an interview with parents Alan and Jennifer Roberts about the battle for truth about their nine-year-old daughter’s death in 1996.

All these pieces come under areas that VIEW has long covered – health, housing, prison reform, victims, disability rights, and suicide prevention.

The aim of our magazine is to present a range of views on different topics.

On a personal level, I have always been interested in the underdog, and in asking hard questions of those in power and who control the purse strings.

I have always been inspired by those who are prepared to take the difficult road in the search for answers to social injustice, and write about it, despite the objectors, critics and spin doctors.

A colossus of journalism was the reporter Robert Fisk who sadly passed away on October 30, 2020. He was uncompromising, determined and utterly committed to uncovering the truth at all costs. We at VIEW magazine will always hold firm to Fisk’s vision of a better world.

As someone who has been involved in journalism for more than 30 years, I am delighted that we are still going. I will try to aim now for 100 issues of VIEW, even though I can hear playwright Samuel Beckett’s words in the recesses of my mind: ‘Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.’

And by the way, I won’t hear a bad word about the TV programme, Loose Women.

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