Our Cats Shop

Statement issued by governing body
OUR CATS responds...

As we go to press, reaction is just beginning to filter in from readers already angered by the GCCF’s actions over the last few months.

Many have written directly to HQ with very specific questions, only to be told to wait for this statement. Early indications are that the statement poses more questions rather than actually addressing some of the key areas highlighted by exhibitors over the last few weeks and months.

Whilst OUR CATS is not permitted to publish the statement in full, for legal reasons, there are sections which have already raised eyebrows amongst concerned breeders and exhibitors. It now appears that the trigger was pulled by the then Chairman Betty Shingleton and the then Vice Chairman Julia May as the statement says:

It was considered by the Chairman and Vice-Chairman that the time had been reached when it might be necessary to investigate the possibility of an alternative solution for the provision of an official GCCF Journal.

This conclusion was apparently reached as the committee had done some secret research into the filed accounts of OUR DOGS, a long established limited company and the parent company of OUR CATS, and on this basis the decision was made to allow the Official Journal to be placed into the hands of people with no trading accounts or publishing experience whatso-ever.
The GCCF went on to say:

We were immediately advised by our solicitors that, until they had satisfied themselves of the precise nature of the contract between GCCF and Our Cats and decided on our course of action, the matter must be kept totally confidential.

Vince Hogan, speaking for OUR CATS said, “Yet again we were completely unaware that the GCCF was digging around our financial records. It seems strange that they have been happy to allow us to publish the paper for the last 24 years, when profits on OUR CATS have never been high anyway... how could they be when we put everything in for the GCCF for nothing! If we have been seen to be lacking, or have failed to produce an issue I could have understood their attitude. As it is, we have NEVER missed an issue of OUR DOGS or OUR CATS from the inception of both magazines, OUR DOGS since 1895.”

Apparently the GCCF was concerned that OUR CATS readers may lose out financially, the statement says:

Secondly, it was necessary to take into account the fact that, the members of the Fancy who subscribe to OUR CATS pay in advance could lose any such advance payments had OUR CATS not been given a sufficiently long period of notice.

Again Vince Hogan comm-ented, “It is commendable that the GCCF is worried that readers may lose out...but why did they not bother to ever speak to me at a show, or pick up the phone and ask if there was a problem? Of course there isn’t, and we would never have left people high and dry. I’m sure readers will be comforted to know that the GCCF is taking their responsibilities seriously and we hope that this attitude will be maintained in the future, should anything go awry with any future publisher who may not be backed in depth as we are... but the GCCF would not have known that... they never asked!”

No control

It seems from the GCCF statement that much background work and activity has taken place with the new publishers as proposals were made and then two meetings took place to establish ‘their expertise in publicity and design’. No mention is made of journalistic ability or experience or status in the publishing world. No mention either of financial matters or stability, which seems strange as the GCCF has put such emphasis on this regarding OUR CATS, the incumbent publisher.

It would appear that the GCCF wants to exert a greater amount of control on the new publishers when it said in its own statement:

A major concern has always been that the GCCF has no control or influence in the way in which our information is made available to our ‘members’ by our ‘journal.’ Some believe that over recent years OUR CATS has become less sympathetic to our needs.

A position of influence

OUR CATS publisher and director of OUR DOGS Dave Cavill said, “OUR CATS has always strived to publish everything sent to us by the GCCF in an unedited fashion.

We have NEVER refused to publish anything... what we have done is question things such as the legality of printing peoples full personal details in the case of disciplinary hearings, and adjudications from 30 years ago, or more! In these days of data protection, you have to be certain of what you print. The GCCF seemed to think we were being difficult, rather than just careful.”

This desire for influence and control seems at odds with the letter written to OUR CATS by Betty Shingleton, where despite being offered a ‘regular, more chatty column’ in OUR CATS, Mrs Shingleton refuses (see page 3). This opportunity was also offered to Gordon Butler when he visited the old OUR CATS offices some years ago during his previous term of office. Again, nothing was forthcoming from GCCF. This seems to have been conveniently forgotten by the anonymous writer of the statement, which seems to be big on opinion, but low on fact.
Equally, throughout this entire situation over the official status, OUR CATS largely through its News Editor, Nick Mays, have offered the GCCF a right of reply in every issue...and every time, the same reply comes back, NO COMMENT. So we have an impasse; OUR CATS offers the GCCF the opportunities, they refuse, then they complain about lack of input and influence.

Where will it all end?

The GCCF has clearly nailed its colours well and truly to the mast both in this statement and in recent solicitor’s letters, carried in the paper. It clearly does not want to continue its association with OUR CATS and there appears to be a number of agendas running here. The anonymous statement issued by the GCCF lists a number of alleged complaints by un-named people and un-named judges. It states that since the change to a fortnightly paper that there has been a ‘steady stream of complaints’ to the GCCF office. The team at OUR CATS states that it finds this very hard to believe as it is now eight years since they went to the new format and although there were comments at the time, “There has been no stream of complaints which is suggested by the anonymous writer of the statement... let’s have the facts if they exist.” he added. “ We occasionally receive the odd comment harking back to the old days, but then, grass was greener and summers were longer and petrol was cheaper. Life moves on. What we genuinely receive are many comments and letters congratulating us for having the show reports far more up to date than ever before and in print, not just on line, and if and when there are missing items we do our very best to find them. What we tend to find, just as much as any possible omissions of our own is that judges sometimes miss their own reports in the paper, or some judges do not submit at all. Some are quick off the mark and email them, others are very late and handwrite them, and this means it is impossible to publish them all in very neat batches...that desire is totally unrealistic; I explained this to John Hanson at Lincoln Show this year, but clearly at that stage the die had been cast.”

On the agenda

OUR CATS is aware that the whole subject is on the agenda for the next delegates meeting in October, appearing courtesy of the Blue Persian Cat Society which has tabled two motions. Many delegates want questions answered but the GCCF has tried to acknowledge the dissent in their statement as follows:

The Executive are aware that opposition is being expressed by those who object to the lack of publicity and thereby lack of opportunity to express their opinion before the decision was taken and by those who object to the person(s) chosen to try to take over the role. However, having decided that OUR CATS was no longer providing the service we desire for the majority of the members of the Cat Fancy, the EC has endeavoured to provide a smooth transition to a viable alternative.

So it would appear that the Executive Committee has decided, clearly led by the then Chairman Betty Shingleton and Vice Chairman Julia May, that OUR CATS service was apparently failing so badly that a radical change had to be made and to place the task in the hands of someone with no expertise or track record in this field whatsoever, a decision that has already been questioned by many to date. (see letters in this issue and over the last few months). At the same time, the same person was also given the role of publicity officer for the Supreme Cat Show, apparently assisting the Show Manager, Julia May. It seems strange as well that the statement only suggests that people are unhappy about ‘the lack of publicity’ of their decision. Many think this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Quite how the EC has ‘endeavoured to provide a smooth transition’ is also somewhat of a mystery. If this is smooth, what does rough look like? The same comment keeps cropping up, ‘if it ain’t bust, don’t fix it’. Many people reading the long awaited GCCF statement will still wonder why such a dramatic split had to happen now and what were the real motives behind the move, all the reasons given seem so flimsy. Again, people will ask, will this dramatic move leave the cat fancy and the GCCF in a better position? It is difficult to see how any of this helps and of course the publishers and directors of OUR CATS have been left with a very bitter taste having soldiered on in the cat fancy for many years with little of no support from the organisation that has now put the final boot in.

The outcome of the delegates meeting later this month is eagerly awaited by many in the cat fancy who see this as something more than a struggle between rival publishers... it has become a test of how democratic the GCCF is and the fancy as a whole. There are many more pressing items affecting the world of show cats at this time whether or not OUR CATS remains or goes (the latter being the more likely). This torrid affair has left many doubting the ability of the GCCF to address these issues in a professional manner.

The above letter from Mrs Shingleton written as the then Chairman of the GCCF has been reproduced as background, in response to requests from readers.

Regrettably, the GCCF chose to reject the four ideas put to them by Our Cats which were intended to help in the specific area of communications only.

The second part of the letter deals with apparent grievances from the GCCF.