The ink was barely dry, metaphorically, on the piece I wrote acclaiming the 40th anniversary edition of Ian Anderson's treasured magazine fRoots.
Stretching to 148 compelling pages, the bumper edition itself was barely half-read. And along comes this little bombshell, from Ian himself.
The jewel that has been, for four decades fRoots (if we include the last few editions of Southern Rag before the title changed, initially to Folk Roots, and the new publication was launched), has faded. "I’m so sorry to bring the news that fRoots Magazine is suspending publication," Ian's sad message begins. We knew he was in discussions over a takeover and hoped to stand down as editor; we didn't know those talks were doomed to failure.
Back to Ian:
We are very proud of having recently published our 40th anniversary edition and that over those four decades every single issue came out on time. We are also very proud and aware of what we have contributed to the folk, roots and world music scene and many artists’ careers over that time, and the high regard in which we are held as a result.
We were thrilled to get a Lifetime Achievement Award this year from Folk Alliance International. We were truly humbled by the response to our Kickstarter campaign in 2017 that gave us the breathing space to look for a better future plan for the magazine.
This resulted in our past six quarterly issues of greatly increased size and quality, which have all been wonderfully received and were the best we have ever published.
We have worked tirelessly with many allies over those past 18 months to secure our future and have been in advanced discussions with potential publishers to take fRoots into their existing companies.
We were given confidence that this would happen, but sadly it was not to be. In trying to find a sustainable business model we have had considerable help and advice from supporters with wide-ranging experience, particularly Alan James who explored all possible ways to source official funding before his sudden death a few months ago.
It is frustrating that there are no Arts funding schemes available to us, in spite of our unique contribution to arts that do qualify for funding and our ticking of many of the boxes that are expected of other supported Arts organisations.
Unfortunately being an unfunded single-title publication in a specialised music field is now barely viable and many other music titles of far greater prominence have fallen this century.
Changes in reading habits coupled with decreased advertising support in the digital age, along with current political and economic uncertainties, are a major hindrance.
fRoots retains great unexploited potential and we know that the right expertise and investment could unlock this.
However, personally, after 40 years of producing fRoots – the past four unpaid – and having invested a very substantial amount of personal funds that I am unlikely to ever recover, I am unable to take it any further myself.
As you may imagine, this causes me great regret. My heartfelt thanks and enormous gratitude go out to everybody who has contributed to or supported fRoots in any way down the years.
The fRoots team will continue to seek potential publishers, funders or major benefactors/angels and in the meantime we are looking into ways to keep an enhanced web presence for reviews, news, podcasts etc – to keep the fRoots brand alive.
But for now we are reluctantly stopping taking further subscriptions and have put plans for the Autumn issue on hold until further notice.
The current and back issues remain on sale on the fRoots web site. Ian Anderson Editor/Publisher, Southern Rag Ltd
Adopting the ugly hashtag #fRexit - as Frexit, the wannabe French version of Brexit, supported there by many fewer than voted for self-harm in the UK referendum - Ian posted a follow-up message of thanks for the many warm messages of sympathy and support he received.
For those who do not see his social media activity, this is what he said: "Overwhelmed by so much appreciation. Thank you all so much.
"Just want to clarify that if the worst happens, as likely, and there's no solution I shan't be putting my feet up.
“Will certainly be enjoying lots more non-deadline, non-stressful time to spend on life (sorry Karen & Cathia, you'll see more of me!).
”But I've really been enjoying doing gigs again and seem to be getting into my stride – the couple I did in Northumberland last week with Ali A were particular fun (hint: Winchester Thursday and Green Note on Sunday).
“The old boy's twang-mojo has not yet left the building, it seems. Gis a gig! "And I've possibly got a book to write, plenty of books to read, a lot of old negatives to scan, a podcast to keep doing, and many wormholes to go down . . . and maybe a select few projects too if they're offered. I won't be bored."
Names easily recognisable to lovers of folk and roots are prominent in the stream of comments.
For the splendid singer Linda Thompson, Ian's message suggested that "this is going to be the best I.A. period yet".
Others - Hilary James and Ian's former wife, Maggie Holland - looked forward to seeing him at gigs.
Maggie even expressed an interest in a renewed (musical) collaboration, writing: "Well, me old pal me old beauty, I'm up for some dual-header gigs if anyone's interested ..."
As for me, I am distraught as the passing of the magazine - unless a miracle intervenes - so soon after a space shortage forced me to dump a huge pile of back issues.
But I am relieved I never got round to reproducing an article I wrote for The Daily Telegraph when fRoots - still Folk Roots, a title I always preferred - reached its 10th anniversary (that's the cutting above).
Under Ian's editorship, I said then, the magazine had developed "from an overgrown fanzine circulating south of London into a bold, influential and quietly prosperous monthly".
At least it remained bold and influential - if latterly a quarterly - to its last breath.