English Newspapers in Corfu
The origin of English-language journalism in modern times begins with the Corfu News. Jenny Wickham, co-Editor of the original News, writes [in a letter to The Corfiot Magazine]: ‘George Keck and I came to live in Corfu in 1964. He had been there several times before, and he and a friend planned to buy some land and build a small house that George could live in during the winter and let in the summer. George was a musical instrument maker and painter. There were the usual delays over the land, which was at the back of Perama, and eventually we decided not to bother. We found a nice flat in the town which seemed the best thing for a year-round base.
‘We had very little money and lived rather on our wits, making necklaces for tourists. George painted and I wrote articles for English papers and magazines. I worked for two weeks at the Lucciola Inn and learnt some really good Greek recipes.
‘We met a Dutch diplomatic couple who had taken early retirement. He, Bernard Servatius, became the Dutch Consul, and they were full of ideas of things to do, and were considerably better off than us. Together we started a restaurant in the Upper Plateia. It only lasted 18 months, with constant trouble from various categories of the police. And during the winter we planned the Corfu News. I can’t remember the early negotiations, but we certainly spent the end of winter selling advertising and travelling round on our scooter.
‘Looking at the paper now, I think we did rather well. Though we never made a penny out of it, it did keep us busy.
‘Some older residents might remember George Maddocks (Gamma), which lived in the Palatianou house next to the old Nomarchia, an ex-BBC man who spoke twenty-odd languages, including Vlach. He jumped from one language to another, changing his gestures as he spoke.
‘We then got involved with a tour operator from England, Sunscape Holidays, and acted as couriers for the first two years. We produced a practical guidebook – at the time there was only John Forte’s book [Venus of the Isles], which was a good read but short on information.
‘We had had some very well-made chairs and tables made for the restaurant, and we felt there was a market for them in England. They were knock-down, with separate rush seats, and we found someone in England to assemble them. We exported several loads on Sunscape’s charter flight and discovered that we really had to be in England to service the business. Eventually we hired a truck and came out to collect a load. The Greek customs were very suspicious and couldn’t understand why anyone should be exporting these things. They made such a to-do that we were forced to find an alternative, which was Yugoslavia, who could supply the items assembled and by rail [Typical of the Greeks to shoot themselves in the foot!].
‘After that we only made brief visits until 1975, though my records show that we got a quote for reprinting the guide book in the early seventies.
‘Corfu was so different when we first arrived. We were on the very first bus to Kassiopi – probably at the end of 1964 – and everyone cheered as we passed the police post at Pyrgi.’ [North-East Corfu was a controlled zone, and you needed a pass to travel beyond the police post.]
Jenny Wickham’s guide book – ‘Corfu: A Practical Guide’ – is a record of a Corfu long gone. It warns people who intend to rent a car that ‘there is a slightly disturbing habit among Corfiots of switching off, rather than dipping, their lights when approaching another car.’ It recommends that visitors planning a longish stay rent ‘unfurnished accommodation in the older part of town. A basic flat… may be had for as little as 700 Drs. per month.’ In contrast, you could stay at the Castello Hotel (‘Comfortable converted 19th century castle in its own park’) for 233 Drs. per person in a double room, demi-pension terms.
In Corfu Town, you could book into a D class hotel for between 30 and 40 drachmas a night, but would have to pay extra to have a shower or bath.
A trip to Kavos is recommended, ‘a scattering of houses strung along the shore with a fine view towards the folded mainland hills. A church of repute, St Procopius, stands behind a pink washed wall amidst the orange trees. Cavos [sic] possesses a small restaurant where lobsters are served (more cheaply than in a north) and rooms can be had for an overnight stay. The beaches along this coast are sandy and deserted, and the bathing is shallow and safe for children, with the occasional olive groves to provide shade.’
Some things changed later, didn’t they…
The Corfu News continued under various editors until the mid-1980s, when an advertising-based paper called ‘Corfu Sun’ briefly filled a gap. In 1990 The Corfiot Magazine published its first edition, unprecendently set to continue for twenty years under the same publisher/editor. You can freely read a number of back issues at www.thecorfiotmagazine.com
More lately, The Agiot releases a monthly online magazine on www.theagiot.com , plus there is the new Corfu Gazette.