Category Archives: Newsfield

Aliens over Ludlow – Newsfield invades the Buttercross!

Aliens Over Ludlow - handbill

Who would have thought that a small market town 150 miles away from London could become the heart of British 8-bit games magazine publishing for almost ten years? Now, you can find out something of how it happened first-hand, as a fascinating ‘time capsule’ from the late 20th century has materialised and taken its rightful place alongside displays going back thousands of years in a Shropshire museum.

Aliens over Ludlow – the Newsfield Decade is a small, but extremely interesting, exhibit currently on show at Ludlow Museum, that documents with photos, original artwork and, naturally, magazines, key elements of the all-too-short but blazing history of one of the British home computer revolution’s most prominent publishers – Newsfield, a company which had its origins literally just around the corner from the exhibit’s venue, Ludlow Museum. And they had one hell of a ride.

1-2 King Street, Ludlow (right), the one-time home of Newsfield, adjacent to The Buttercross
1-2 King Street, Ludlow (right), the one-time home of Newsfield, adjacent to The Buttercross

Newsfield Publications Ltd was founded by Roger Kean, Franco Frey and Oliver Frey in 1983. Based in the top three floors of number 1-2 King Street, Ludlow, Newsfield published a number of hugely popular computer game magazines from the mid-1980s to early-1990s, which at one time were everywhere to be found in British newsagents.

In the 1980s, the Newsfield offices, which were then above Victoria Wine, “…were a hub of games playing and reviewing, a journalistic endeavour that produced hundreds of thousands of words every month across 4 or 5 magazines, with all the design, layout and technical production carried out on the middle floor.”   They even recruited keen young games reviewers from Ludlow School!

'Crash' Editorial team meeting in 1984 at the King Street premises, 1st floor. L to R: David Western (designer, page layouts), Roger Kean, Oliver Frey, Matthew Uffindell (staff reviewer), Kevin Foster (assistant editor)
‘Crash’ Editorial team meeting in 1984 at the King Street premises, 1st floor. L to R: David Western (designer, page layouts), Roger Kean, Oliver Frey, Matthew Uffindell (staff reviewer), Kevin Foster (assistant editor)

Their top magazines were, most memorably, Zzap!64 (dedicated to the Commodore 64 and launched in May, 1985 as the sister magazine to Crash, it later incorporated Amiga game news and reviews), Crash (launched in 1983 as a software catalogue, it evolved into one of the top mags covering the Sinclair ZX Spectrum) and the short-lived but fun Amtix! (for Amstrad CPC gamers, launched in November 1985 but only running for 18 issues).

Gargoyle Games team members mix with Newsfield staffers outside ‘The Reader’s House’ close to Newsfield's offices, 1985. L to R: Roger Kean, Greg Follis (Gargoyle), Matthew Uffindell, Roy Carter (Gargoyle)
Gargoyle Games team members mix with Newsfield staffers outside ‘The Reader’s House’ close to Newsfield’s offices, 1985. L to R: Roger Kean, Greg Follis (Gargoyle), Matthew Uffindell, Roy Carter (Gargoyle)

This line-up was later supplemented by a number of interesting but rather less successful magazines covering role-playing games, film, horror and youth culture. Faced with financial difficulties at a time when the home computer and magazine market was changing, the company sadly went bankrupt towards the end of 1991.

Zzap Editorial team, 1st floor King Street, c.November 1985. L to R: Julian Rignall, Gary Liddon, Gary Penn, Roger Kean – note the Sinclair user logo, stolen off the side of the EMAP stand at the recent PCW Show.
Zzap Editorial team, 1st floor King Street, c.November 1985. L to R: Julian Rignall, Gary Liddon, Gary Penn, Roger Kean – note the Sinclair user logo, stolen off the side of the EMAP stand at the recent PCW Show.

The end of the company didn’t spell the immediate end for some of their magazines though. Another magazine publisher, Europress, continued to publish Newsfield’s flagship publications, Zzap!64 and Crash, for a further six months before the former was relaunched as Commodore Force and the latter sold to rival publisher EMAP and merged with Sinclair User. Continue reading Aliens over Ludlow – Newsfield invades the Buttercross!

Top British gaming publishers recognised with blue plaque

The proposed plaque.
The proposed plaque.

One of the UK’s most prolific home computer gaming publishers of the 1980s-90s is to be honoured by Ludlow Civic Society  in the now-defunct company’s ‘birthplace’, Ludlow, with a special blue heritage plaque!

Newsfield Publications Ltd, usually referred to simply as Newsfield, was founded by Roger Kean, Franco Frey and Oliver Frey in 1983. Based in the market town of Ludlow in Shropshire, England, Newsfield is most famed for publishing a number of popular computer game magazines from the mid-1980s to early-1990s.

Crash Magazine issue 1
Crash Magazine issue 1

Newsfield’s home computer/gaming magazines included:

  • Crash (focusing on the Sinclair ZX Spectrum)
  • Zzap!64 (covering the Commodore 64)
  • Amtix! (a short-lived Amstrad CPC publication)
  • The Games Machine (a multi-format games mag)
  • Raze (rebranded from The Games Machine and focused on Japanese consoles)
  • Complete Computer Entertainment Guide (a multi-format, quarterly magazine)
Zzap!64 issue 1
Zzap!64 issue 1

This line-up was over time supplemented by a number of less successful magazines covering role-playing games, film, horror and youth culture – for more general info, see Wikipedia’s Newsfield article.

Newsfield HQ

Newfield’s headquarters between 1984-1989 was the upper three floors of number 2, King Street, a place of pilgrimage for avid 8-bit retrogamers even today. This is where the plaque will be fixed for posterity.

Importance of gaming industry

The plaque also effectively recognises the importance of the rise of the 8- and 16-bit games market in the 1980s and 90s and subsequently of retrogaming today.

It is hoped that some kind of unveiling of the plaque will be held in the near future so that fans of Newsfield’s seminal magazines can come from far and wide to view it.

Plaque icture courtesy of Roger Kean.