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The Bulletin at 60: Former publisher John Stuyck recalls how his mother Monique Ackroyd founded a publishing phenomenon
Monique Ackroyd would never have recognised The Bulletin as it is today. She would be proud but also shocked by the changes the magazine has experienced.
Her culture and background in journalism was all about typewriters, ink, lead and print. Her first work experience at the Yorkshire Post entailed interviewing pilots returning from missions over occupied Europe during the Second World War.
Later, living in Brussels and divorced with three children, she needed work to make ends meet. Well-meaning friends, and the memory of her late father who created one of Belgium’s first advertising agencies in the 1930s, encouraged her to launch a eight-page newsletter in 1962.
The Bulletin became her fourth child. And ever after, she saw all the employees as her children. The newsletter became a magazine in 1965, reflecting the fast economic expansion linked to many American companies setting up operations in Belgium.
For many years, like most working mums, she had to combine the needs of her children and the growing demands of an expanding business. She was lucky, being in the right place at the right time when Brussels grew from a small European city to become Europe’s capital, headquarters of the EU, Nato and a host of international companies. The expat community rose from a few thousand residents to well over 250,000 today.
The magazine grew as well, and slowly the number of staff increased. The early pioneers included Nelly Vandercam, former wife of Belgian artist Serge Vandercam, who handled advertising from 1963, Aislinn Dulanty who joined in the mid-1960s, Cleveland Moffett and many others.
A few, such as John Miller or Ben Tarring, used their experience at The Bulletin as a stepping stone to national publications in their home countries. Others, including Katharine Mill, Susan Carroll and Clare Thomson, went on to work for NGOs or the EU. The Bulletin could also rely on the vast pool of Brussels-based correspondents covering the international institutions. These included Eric Kennedy, John Palmer, Giles Merritt, John Hellon, Lionel Barber, John Lambert, Rachel Johnson, Geoff Meade and Patricia Kelly.
As Brigid Grauman became editor in 1990, succeeding her late mother, Aislinn Dulanty, The Bulletin expanded again and the company went into contract publishing for Sabena, Belgium’s then national airline. It was an activity that mirrored the success of The Bulletin and fuelled further development.
When I became The Bulletin’s publisher in 1985, we were experiencing the first difficult switch to computers that required investment and adaptation to new working methods. The collective effort of everyone ensured a transition that few outside the company noticed. The magazine was then widely recognised as a publishing phenomenon, locally outselling all international English-language media combined. Its influence on Belgian life was much more significant than the actual size of the company, and its success reflected the continuing growth of the international community until 2008.
And then, the world changed. The financial crisis and the fast development of the internet ate into the advertising revenue and The Bulletin’s model started to suffer. Today, thanks to the hard work and dedication of those who have coped with the changes over the past few years, it is still around, giving a voice to foreign residents and helping the international community enjoy life in Belgium.
Some of my most enduring memories of The Bulletin include the Grand Place demonstration to liberate the square from parked cars in 1971. The protest resulted in Monique, Aislinn and a few others being packed off to the police station for many hours. I’ll never forget the endless proofreading at the printers, with the constant clanging of the presses. Other highlights are anniversary celebrations that included a huge bash in the Colonial Palace in Tervuren in 1992 and a concert with Toots Thielemans at Bozar in 2002 (pictured above), and the storming of the Castle of Beersel in 1977.
There was always a genuine family atmosphere at The Bulletin. It may have been connected to the maternalistic figure of Monique Ackroyd, or the regular efforts to help employees who were facing difficulties. The Bulletin was a family business that managed to remain a happy company.
John Stuyck, publisher of The Bulletin from 1987 to 2008, is the son of founder Monique Ackroyd (1925-2010). He lives in Brussels and remains active in the international community, sitting on the board of the American Club of Brussels.
Photos: The Bulletin staff and office (Ch de Waterloo, Uccle) in 1992; John Stuyck; Monique Ackroyd (right) with Toots Thielemans (left) at Bulletin concert at Bozar