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November 18, 2010

Graham Bannister: Journalist who launched own paper

By Bernard Silk

Graham Bannister, managing director and sometimes editor of Derbyshire lifestyle magazine Reflections, has died aged 59.

When Graham had a brain scan to determine his illness, he reported: ‘The bad news is it’s a tumour. The good news is – they’ve found two brains.”

He was not to be so light-hearted later: “I know the Beast – and it can’t be dealt with.”

Graham was diagnosed in November 2009 and treated at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield, for whose staff he had much praise. He died at Ashgate Hospice, Chesterfield, on 28 October.

Born in Chesterfield in 1951,Graham studied journalism at Richmond College, Sheffield, where he met his wife-to-be Anne.

After working as a reporter for the weekly Derbyshire Times and evening Chesterfield Star – and freelancing for BBC Radio Derby – in 1983 he launched the Property Gazette, which soon became the the Chesterfield Gazette, the town’s first free weekly paper.

Although not then a businessman, Graham researched the project, drew up a business plan, got a bank loan – and the Gazette became a reality.

And, after an initial struggle, the paper finally became so successful that it was acquired by Johnston Press.

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In 1992, Graham founded Reflections. It has become the largest targeted lifestyle magazine in Derbyshire.

In his mission statement, Graham noted that the aim was “to engage with readers to provide them with a magazine which celebrated all that was rich in the area in which they lived”.

Graham was a man of enthusiasms. When enthused, he would stride up and down the room, rubbing his hands gleefully as he described his vision of what he proposed. This was not always to be.

A mention of the matter the following day could elicit an abstracted: “What?”. No more might be heard of it.

That is to say he was volatile, impulsive… and sometimes infuriating. But he was an unusually shrewd yet kind and generous man who possessed a wicked wit.

In day-to-day dealings he was immensely thoughtful and hospitable, it was almost impossible to pay for a meal when dining out with Graham. He could also help in practical matters and often did. He was able to do most things around a house (including re-build one, which he once chose to do).

Graham knew cars, and computers, inside out and would lend a hand if people were having problems.

Energetic and active, he was an accomplished classical guitar player, travelled the world, and loved a good discussion.

Graham is survived by – and received massive support during his illness – from his wife Anne, grown-up children Sarah and Robert, and family and friends.

Staff at Reflections – including Mike Snow, Jenny Kelly, Rob Bannister, Ben Bates and Carol Silcock – have made huge efforts to ensure the magazine production process continued to run smoothly during Graham’s illness.

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