At the recent Youthwork the Conference in Eastbourne, something extraordinary and unexpected happened. I was there with the rest of the Youthwork Magazine team, advertising a splendid offer (which is still available at time of writing – subscribe to Youthwork Magazine and get the new Soul Survivor CD free), and various people stopped by the stand to tell us how much they enjoy the magazine. Which was lovely, but thankfully wasn’t the unexpected thing.
One man however, told us that while he enjoyed the current magazine format, he felt one thing was missing. In fact, he was still deeply disappointed that, way back in April 2005, I had taken the decision to kill off the magazine’s ‘comedy’ (and I use that word tentatively) column, Bjorn for Youth Work.
If, like my brilliant but young team, you are now shaking your head, do not fear. I’m not sure anyone else remembers it either. But this man did, and for me this came as a surprise affirmation.
A year earlier in 2004, the then-Editor John Buckeridge told me – his wet-behind the ears deputy – that our previous humour column (written by the legendary Nick Page) was coming to an end, and he asked me to seek out a replacement writer. A few weeks later, I came back to him with the pitch for ‘Bjorn for Youth Work’, the fish-out-of-water story of a Swedish youth ministry volunteer who had moved to England to work in a health club (yes, I’m aware that’s not particularly high-concept). But here’s the thing… I didn’t tell him who the writer was – and I said he wanted to remain anonymous. On the strength of the sample column he said yes, and I went back to my ‘secret writer contact’ to tell him the good news. And of course, my secret writer friend, was me. Because of course, I don’t have any friends.
The column lasted for 12 issues, but since we never actually got any feedback about it until about eight years later, I let the story run its course and then pulled the plug, having been made editor of the magazine in the meantime. And so since then, Bjorn has sat redundant in some distant corner of my PC, or gathering dust on the shelves of the very few Youthwork magazine collectors out there.
But then… ‘Man At Conference’, as he will now forever be known, got me thinking – since my blog is already a collection of fairly random articles, what would be the harm in re-serialising Bjorn here? Granted, it probably won’t find much of a readership, but maybe you will be the one person who enjoys it. A brief glance shows that most of the references haven’t dated too badly (although there are a couple of glaring ones). Just try to read it with low expectations, and then you can’t be disappointed. So, here, over the next 12 weeks, is Bjorn for Youthwork. I’ll try to retrospectively sort out some clever indexing system, but for now…