Friends and colleagues of retiring Richard Ingrams are calling for him to be reinstated as editor of The Oldie.
On Friday, Ingrams announced he was resigning from the magazine he founded 22 years ago after being summoned to a disciplinary hearing by publisher James Pembroke.
Due to take place yesterday, Ingrams (pictured, James Young) said he would not be going because, at 76, he felt "too old" to attend.
Since Press Gazette broke the story, Ingrams has spoken to a number of other media outlets about the move. He wrote in the Mail on Sunday: “At my age the lure of disciplinary hearings, never high on my list of life’s pleasures, is not what it was. I decided to walk and almost immediately felt a great sense of relief.”
But Ingrams indicated this morning he would be willing to take his job back – "so long as [Pembroke] accepts the few changes that I have already outlined”.
Ingrams wrote in an email to Oldie contributors and supporters, including Terry Wogan, this morning: “After the Google driverless car we now have the Pembroke editorless magazine, as from next week The Oldie will have no editor.
“But who will want to take the job on and face a demoralised staff, angry contributors and readers cancelling their subscriptions…? A poisoned chalice situation if ever there was.
“The magazine can be saved if enough protesters force Pembroke to accept the seriousness of his situation. I am prepared to resume the editorship so long as he accepts the few changes that I have already outlined.
“It is a slim hope but if enough of you rally to the flag we might prevail.”
In the email, seen by Press Gazette, Ingrams denied any suggestion he had resigned “due to pressure from the workload”, adding: “My resignation made with reluctance and regret comes as a result of finding it impossible to work with James.”
Commissioning editor Jeremy Lewis, who has been made acting editor of the title, said there was no way back for Ingrams.
In a follow-up email, which he sent to all those contacted by Ingrams, he said: “I do hope that you will continue to support and write for The Oldie, which Richard has made into such a wonderful magazine over the past twenty-two years.
“It's a miserable situation, made much worse by the fact that – like all of you, I'm sure – those of us who work at The Oldie like and admire both parties in the dispute. The staff, myself included, knew none of this until a week ago, but having talked to and listened to both Richard and James it seems obvious that relations between them are beyond repair: as Richard himself says in his email, he now finds it 'impossible' to work with James.
“I know for certain that there is now absolutely no chance of the owners of The Oldie re-employing Richard.”
Lewis said that The Oldie had already received "a number of applications" to fill Ingrams' job.
But this email has not killed off hope for those who want to bring back Ingrams.
Valerie Grove, the magazine’s 'wireless' correspondent since its founding, said Ingrams' supporters were hoping to “implore them to talk again, to try to restore the partnership which has made this unique magazine”.
She said the “history… pulling power… and strange glamour” of Ingrams combined with Pembroke’s “businessman’s energy” created the “perfect synergy”.
“And it’s unbearable,” she added. “Because we fear for the future of the magazine without either of them.”
Press Gazette understands that supporters of Ingrams have discussed staging a protest outside the magazine’s central London office, but Grove said this is unlikely to happen because most are based outside London.
But the former Times columnist said that she and others were in the process of drawing up a statement to encourage a reconciliation.
“Both of them have our emotional support,” she said. “Because it can’t be easy for James to read the stories. So we do sympathise.”
Grove revealed that The Oldie’s own agony aunt, Mavis Nicholson, had written a letter to Pembroke, with Ingrams copied in.
In it she said: “I’m sticking my neck out. Even with all that’s been said in the press, I think you and Richard should calm down and get together and continue with the unique magazine you’ve both worked for. Just turn over the page and unite.
“I’ll listen to your two moans if you like, and I’ll tell you that with all of them they won’t count when you realise what a unique magazine The Oldie is with you both there. I fear for its future otherwise.”
Oldie journalists are working from home this week and Press Gazette understands that Ingrams arrived at the office near Tottenham Court Road today to find himself locked out. So he instead went for a coffee nearby with Independent journalist Patrick Cockburn.
The Oldie is independently published by Oldie Publications Ltd. Publisher James Pembroke led a buyout of the title in 2007 when the new owners inherited £1.7m of losses.
In September 2010 Pembroke told Press Gazette The Oldie was on course to turn a profit that year on turnover of £1.9m.
Last year, The Oldie circulation hit a record figure of around 45,000 per month.