Bella Futures

keyboardactivists.jpgThe Advisory Board of Bella Caledonia voted unanimously to keep the online magazine going at an emergency meeting in Edinburgh on Tuesday night. We agreed that Bella still has a vital part to play in Scotland’s future; creating space for debate, an arena for new writers, and a focus on culture, language and politics which supports but also critiques and reaches beyond the independence agenda. Editor and co-founder Mike Small agreed to stay on as editor with additional editorial, administrative and business support while Bella is completely restructured – the site will keep publishing but the company will close and re-start as a media collective – details of the new structure will be announced before the end of January.

Board member, writer and co-founder Kevin Williamson said, “This weekend’s closure announcement by Mike Small arose from the constant pressure of being the sole individual responsible for almost every aspect of Bella’s publicity, production, commissioning and financing. We realise it’s too much for one person to manage – however dedicated or capable.”

The Board also recognised the editor’s salary has become overly dependent on the vagaries of crowd-sourced fundraising efforts, which has added to the stress and insecurity of that role.

The Board deeply appreciates the money donated by readers in the last few days, the flood of goodwill messages and the many offers of practical help. We’ll be working through all of them. Bella is not in debt, there is no prospect of bankruptcy, and there is no immediate appeal planned for cash. Any new donations will be transferred into the new company.

Since its launch in 2007 Bella has grown to be a vital online magazine written by a pool of hundreds of talented writers, known and unknown. The magazine has in many ways been a victim of its own success and has simply been running on an unsustainable basis. The Board is resolved to correct that. We are committed to retaining its independent voice and hope our readers will continue to support us as we work to take it to the next level.

Once again we’d like to thank our supporters and promise we’ll do our utmost to make sure Bella keeps publishing. We will set out our expansion plans once the restructuring is complete.

Comments (54)

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  1. Connor Beaton says:

    This is great news. It is critical that we have a diversity of voices, and strong, pluralistic new media outlets – not just to win independence for Scotland, but also to make sure that independent Scotland has the most vibrant democracy possible. You have my support.

  2. John O'Dowd says:

    Wonderful News

  3. One_Scot says:

    To be honest I do not know much about the site, but I do think it would have been a great lose to the aspirations of Scotland had it folded.

  4. Andy Gray says:

    Speaking as someone who has made sporadic although small financial contributions in the past, on trust, I would be greatly encouraged to make further and greater contributions to ‘Bella’ if I understood the management, administrative and financial structures in place.

    Is Mike Small the only ’employee’?

    Who are the ‘Advisory Board’? Some names and experience outlines please?

    What are the legal structures in place?

    Why don’t you publish your audited accounts (at least in outline) so we have some idea of where our money goes?

    Aren’t these all the typical problems of a small enterprise grown big? What’s the problem?

    The loss of ‘Bella’ would be a tragedy. I’ve only been reading it for the last couple of years though, so please don’t assume we all know everything about its beginnings and its progress. Surely there are a lot of new girls and boys and out here? So don’t underestimate the support – communicate.

    If I’m missing something, please forgive me, help me.

    This is too important not to get right though.

    1. Hi Andy – thanks for the comment. I’ll try and answer your points. The site evolved from being a blog like an other just run by a couple of people, then it grew and grew. The board are listed here:
      https://bellacaledonia.org.uk/contributors/

      They are purely advisory. I am the only full-time member of staff but we also pay contributors who make their living through writing, though some also contribute for free in support of the project. All this is being revised though. We found that the project became too much for one person and we are trying to create structures that are stronger and more collective. We’re getting some professional business development advice and trying to grow the project.

      “Aren’t these all the typical problems of a small enterprise grown big?” Probably yes.

      Strength out of adversity (hopefully).

      1. Andy Gray says:

        Mike, thanks for your very prompt response to my comments. I think the three words in that response which are most important are “professional business development”.

        When I asked who are the ‘Advisory Board’, you referred me to a page that lists your ‘Editorial Board’ and your ‘Contributors’. While I’m sure these folk are more that competent to advise and support you on the visioning, creative and writing side, I didn’t see too many names who were admitting to being Chartered Accountants or Solicitors. Time for 360 degree advice surely?

        If you had financial and legal advice (of a developmental and entrepreneurial sort) to match the quality of your editorial and contributory advisors, ‘Bella’ would be, well . . . . . something even greater than it already is.

        All the more so since important though I believe this is, YOUR time is clearly far too valuable to be spent on it. You need a support system which leaves your mind free to do the valuable thinking, writing and provoking(!) which is, for me at least (although surely for many others also), the hallmark importance of ‘Bella’.

        One last thought. An ‘Advisory Board’ should do just that – ‘advise’.

        Where does ‘responsibility’ come into the equation?

        “Trust me, I’m a media collective!” will only take any of us so far. If I make a donation to a charity (or voluntary group, political party, etc.) which does work I care about, there may be an Editor or Chief Executive or similar post holder, there is also (usually) a Board of Trustees who hold legal and financial responsibility for the work of the organisation and the stewardship and appropriate spending of its funds. (This may or may not be an appropriate comparison – you get the idea though I hope.)

        If ‘Bella’ and Mike Small are to survive and thrive (please! please! please!) structures need to be in place which will support that aim. I find it very hard to believe that your readership does not include some individuals, supportive of the general stance of project ‘Bella’, willing and able to offer their professional (non-literary) skills to that end.

        Either way, I’m sure we are all waiting to hear further news.

        1. Thanks Andy – agreed on all parts. WE are in the process of putting in place much of the structures you describe, and will publish all the details as soon as they are in place.

          1. GreatClunkingFist says:

            Not often I admit it, but I’m a chartered accountant. PM me if I can help.

  5. bringiton says:

    It is vital that Bella continues for the sake of the independence minded community.
    God knows there are enough anti-independence publications out there which need to be countered.
    It has built up a good following over the years and has a brand name which many people recognise even if they don’t actively support.
    I will continue with my monthly donation until someone tells me otherwise.
    Keep the faith.

    1. Marcia Blaine says:

      yes, many anti-independence publications on whose websites the readers’ comments are very often of the ranting green-ink variety. On Bella there is thoughtful well-argued debate (using civilised language). This reminds me of the early days of Guardian online. More strength to Bella Caledonia!

  6. Angus Farquhar says:

    hugely relieved to hear you can carry on, inspire and remain a thorn when debate is needed. I like many would happily subscribe annually and free for those who can’t. Best of luck as you go forward.

  7. Lucy says:

    What exactly is a media collective?

    1. That’s a good question Lucy! There’s various legal entity’s and we’re exploring the options with some advice from people with business development expertise. It could be a CIC or a co-op or a charity, all have pros and cons. The main thing is that it will have a structure that means that it’s not just one person involved and that will be a good thing in lots of ways.

      1. Gordon Keenan says:

        Great to hear you’re staying around. Can I urge that your new business model does look to reflect at least some of the cooperative spirit and values that have been shown by many supporters. It is a realistic way to raise significant funds and broaden your core member base without conceding the editorial independence you require. Best Wishes

  8. Douglass MacGilvary says:

    Good move!

    Best wishes for the future!

  9. muttley79 says:

    Very good news.

  10. Gary Elliot says:

    Great news – not just for the politics but for the culture, particularly Scots and Gaidhlig which lack such an outlook in other places.

  11. Alan says:

    Good. I’m glad Bella is having a rethink about the best way to continue and hope it works out.

  12. asklair says:

    Not a reader of Bella Caledonia, more of a Wings person, but a derversity of “our” media is so important. Very glad its not folding, all the best to my fellow travellers on the road to freeing our selfs from the corrupt palace of westminster elite.

  13. Donnie McRitchie says:

    Excellent, in a time when Scotland has over ninety percent of its news and media owned and directed from outside Scotland and hostile to Scottish self determination, we sorely need the likes of bella and others to start to address that imbalance.

    Without bella and others we have the likes of the mail, express and record peddling misinformation and british propaganda.

    Let’s unite take the fight to phoney corrupt uk press and media!

    Good luck bella!

    1. Asty Taylor says:

      Exactly.

  14. Douglas Scott says:

    This news has cheered me up considerably.
    I was very sad to hear of the likely demise of “Bella” , which I have donated to on a number of occasions and will now continue to do so if necessary

    Continued success to those who are committed to the growth of the new magazine in whatever format is agreed upon

  15. Willie says:

    When you consider the ” taxation ” levied to fund the organ of propaganda that is the BBC you realise 1) how welcome online editorials like BElla Caledonia are and 2) what an affront to democracy the BBC is.

  16. Thomas Potter says:

    Good luck with the new Bellacaledonia venture.
    Too good a site to go down.
    Didn’t agree with the SNP bashing when a solid unity was required at the time but as was said it’s no good having a yes type echo chamber.
    Best wishes and let’s get this Independence thing done.

  17. Ray Bell says:

    Gum fada beò a Bhella is ceò às ur taigh.

  18. sid says:

    Great news, now we need to replace Sturgeon.

    1. Dave Smith says:

      Why did you feel the need to add that..?

  19. Neil Mcrae says:

    Gu math thèid le Bella Caledonia ‘sna làithean seo

  20. ben madigan says:

    glad to hear bella has found a way to move forward. great news!

  21. John Denver says:

    Where do i send my cheque to again, payable to whom?

      1. The John Denver says:

        Dosh in post 🙂 use it wisely, and next time ye struggelin, will ye let us now earlier big man. Cannae mindread!

        (The) John Denver 😉

  22. Grant Buttars says:

    This is great news. Our political and cultural landscape would be significantly poorer without Bella.

  23. Jo says:

    Good news! Congratulations!

  24. Jack Donaldson says:

    Andy Gray’s comments are very sensible. Proper legal and financial expertise on board would be wise. Personally I feel that there are many disparate independence ‘collectives’ that really need some direction. Take for instance Independence Live which on the whole does an excellent job and has much potential, however it seems to be run by a single person and doesn’t appear to have any organised structure behind it. If the new media is going to be seriously taking on the union media, it needs organising, structure and a business plan.

    1. Agreed Jack, that’s what we’re aiming for. I suppose we evolved and sometimes were too busy to stop and do proper development work. We did put together our board after the referendum – but its clear we need better structures and models now. That’s what we’re going to do.

      1. John O'Dowd says:

        “If you had financial and legal advice”: Whatever you Mike do not, please do NOT get so-called expert advice of an accountant. If you let accountants near Bella – they really will kill it.

    2. Independence Live says:

      Hi Jack

      Independence Live currently has an anarchistic structure which doesn’t mean we are not organised and suits us at this moment in time but that may change as things change. We have one fulltime member who manages this by crowdfunding (very stressful but worth it) about three times a year instead of one yearly chunk as we are just not sure the support would be there for a yearly donation. Our anarchistic structure means that decisions don’t fall on one persons shoulders like Mike who we hold in the highest regards along with Bella.

      Anyway we have plans, oh yes. One of them will be opening up an Indy Live office (donated) in Glasgow soon for doing productions (livestreams/video), training & meetings. Maybe that could morph into an Indy Production Centre & Indy Meeting Centre for other Indy groups to use…

      Got to get ready for tomorrow SIC event. Could be more than a few Indy Live people kicking about so please come say hello. Peace.

      LIVE SIC EVENT:
      https://livestream.com/IndependenceLive/SIC-BUILD

  25. Maxwell Macleod says:

    This may sound absurd to some but although I am not a supporter of nationalism, preferring a federal solution to the undoubted problems so often defined, I am a supporter of Bella.
    Having attempted and failed to run a web site ( Scotland Quo Vadis ) which only ever reached four hundred odd, and that was on a good day, my admiration for Mike Small is huge as I know how demanding the task can be, and I was only aiming to do about a tenth of what he has achieved. And still failed. The role of the credible website is becoming increasingly important. I notice that the attacks on the conventional media suggest that they all have devious motives, that may in some cases be true, but there is also the agenda of many of our collapsing nationals now being edited by tiny groups of poorly paid youngsters who are under the cosh of the accountants to deliver to certain advertising criteria, so the market has a role to play too. You cant dodge the reality that sixty two per cent of Scotland didn’t vote Yes and if you are trying to stay alive you have to go with the market. This week’s Yelllowatergate scandal also brings up the issue of fake news. Its becoming increasingly impossible to know whats true and whats false and its only organs of integrity such as Bella that enable the truth to filter through.

  26. Morag Williams says:

    I was devastated to read that Bella was closing/closed so am thrilled to read that it will be revamped.

    I’ve been following the debate and yeah, not everyone agrees with Mike and/or other contributers and yeah there have been a few typos and a few grammatical errors and I haven’t agreed with everything I’ve read and on and on. Wow! Are these really big deals?

    No! Squabbling about petty details is mere amunition for the establishment and that is not helpful for anyone with a conscience/concerned about social justice/independence/the environment . . .

    The big deal, surely, is actually having Bella and it is a great relief that some people are willing to devote their resources to same. It is not unusual to have volunteers and paid employees in organisations, even in very large organisations eg Lifeline (Australia).

    Quality journalism is essential and so it is entirely appropriate that an editor is paid. Whether or not that is Mike is a matter for Mike and others willing to work to make Bella work.

    Great to read that some business acumen is being sought and hopefully some transparency regarding the admin and the finances.

    Best wishes from Australia!

  27. Fynesider says:

    Both Andy Gray’s & Jack Donaldson’s comments are commendable, as is your response to them.

    Good luck….

  28. John Macleod says:

    Excellent news…read about this change of events in the National, my sadness about the possible demise of Bella has been lifted.
    Hope to be able to contribute by some sort of subscription in due course…..we need you!

  29. Alex P says:

    I am greatly relieved that Bella is to continue. The huge proportion of media in Scotland that is controlled from outwith, is part of our democratic deficit. I have noticed the change in vocabulary and viewpoint. Not so many years ago Britain was frequently called England in the media (particularly the BBC), now England is called Britain. Historians on the BBC frequently refer to Britain’s 1,000 year history, writing out of their records the separate existence of Scotland for 700 of these years. We need our own voices, to remind Scots of their culture, heritage, and that we are all Jock Thamson’s bairns. I have made a modest contribution to the kitty, and hope that you can organise a subscription model.

  30. Frank says:

    I’m glad Bella has survived but it’s been a bad PR week for the magazine – surely the board should have met and agreed a strategy before making premature announcements? Anyway, pleased Bella is still with us.

  31. Alan Stewart says:

    Excellent news. BC has been most valuable over the years. It would be a sad loss.

  32. Crubag says:

    Pleased to hear that BC will be continuing in some form. The Internet has potential, good and bad, and I think sometimes the indy sites can become echo chambers (WoS, Derek Bateman, The 45 on Facebook) and that doesn’t move thinking forward. BC stands out for its broad range of views, even disagreement!

    The union sites, such as there are, avoid that by having hardly any comments or commentators – tumbleweed.

    And best wishes to Mike Small. Ten years is a long time to be doing anything, never mind something so time-consuming and largely thankless. I’m guilty of being a non-paying, speak your brains, commentator, but will certainly contribute in the future. So, thanks to Mike for all his work to date.

  33. Ted Parry says:

    Very glad to hear you’re continuing. In Wales we have still not reached the stage of having an independent media with these kind of problems, and we need your example in order to build it.

    But I have to add this: mainstream media survives on physical cash, rather than the online transfers that independent media is forced to seek. Until we can just walk into a shop and give money, or stick a fiver in the post, those people with no bank facilities or ‘basic accounts’ are excluded from giving support to independent media.

    Meanwhile, newspapers happily hoover up the small change of the poor.

  34. Wul says:

    I’m very relieved to hear that Bella will be continuing. I got a real scare this week when I thought you were going to shut. Some of the articles published here have got on my wick and some have felt like a criticism of my own worldview. They always make me think though, and give me pause to consider other points of view.

    The comments below are an essential part of the Bella experience for me and I get a lot of new information and sources from them. I’d hate to lose that.

    I’ve made one-off donations in the past but I realise that you can’t run a sustainable enterprise on that basis. I’m happy to chip in with a regular, contribution from now on. If enough of us do that, then perhaps we can free the Bella team up to concentrate on the job without worrying about paying their bills.

    1. Thanks very much Wul, all help appreciated

  35. Somhairle says:

    Great news. You and your contributors put most of my thoughts (;-)) into words.

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