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Voice35Years: Santa drops in on The Voice

FESTIVE CHEER: The issue was a Christmas bumper edition, which detailed Santa’s own visit to The Voice offices

THE VOICE celebrated the climax of its first year of existence 35 years ago by publishing a bumper edition of the newspaper on January 1, 1983, which was packed with Christmas news as well as looking towards the New Year, much like what we plan to do with next week’s edition.

As we continue to delve into The Voice archives, the front cover of the January 1, 1983 edition had a picture of ‘Santa’ and a black family celebrating Christmas, decked out in The Voice T-shirts along with Christmas greetings to all its readers.

But to emphasise it was a special time of year, the lead story carried the headline ‘Laughing OAP visits The Voice office’, and reported the news of an elderly gentleman dressed in red and having a long white bead who had visited the newspaper's office unexpectedly bearing gifts for the staff.

The Voice reporters, with an eye for news, proceeded to interview the elderly man who had mentioned something about a reindeer and sledge parked on the double yellow line outside and that he was on a mission to spread goodwill to all men and women. He told The Voice: “I shall be busy around the 24th, but I felt I had to pay a visit to the number one paper in London first.”

Turning over to page two, the lead story headline was ‘Ford defy ruling’, which reported that the management at Ford Motors Dagenham plant had refused to reinstate an Asian worker, Athiringal Velayudhan, despite an Industrial Tri- bunal ruling in his favour over a sacking matter.

The Voice said Mr Velayudhan had been employed at the plant for eight years and after undergoing an operation he was advised to take sick leave, which he did, and headed off to India to visit his family.

On his return to work, he was asked to show his passport by the plant’s personal manager but he refused as he was under no obligation to do so. Ford Motors reacted by sacking him for absence from work in unacceptable circumstances and Mr Velayudhan did not get any support from his union.

When the case went to tribunal, the panel ruled that Velayudhan did not contravene the plant’s disciplinary code and that he should be re-instated in his job. The Voice said Mr Velayudhan had turned to Workers Against Racism to take up his case.

Over on page three, the news team were busy covering a variety of stories. The lead story headline was ‘Vital witness missing’ and reports that a key witness into the brutal stabbing of lawyer Malik Owusu had gone missing from his Brixton flat.

The Voice reported that the witness, Edmund Beaumont, until the end of September 1982 lived in Pym House, Overton Road, Brixton, where the murder of Mr Owusu took place, but since detectives last contacted Beaumont, his flat had been vacated and boarded up. They believed he had simply moved away without suspicion.

Also on this page was a story that questioned the controversial appointment of a white South African woman as Race Relations Advisor in Headlined, ‘A spy in Camden’, The Voice story said the eight-strong Camden Council for Racial Harassment raised the issue at its first meeting after its only black member Mr Osifo claimed the new advisor, Jan Dryden, was ill-suited. “I know she is a spy working undercover,' he told The Voice.

But Ms Dryden dismissed the allegation. “There are white people who are anti-racist. Look into my background if you need assurance and see,” she said. Mr Osifo pointed out however, that black people were the ‘most racially harassed group’ and although the Council was created to make black people safe in Camden, they are “ironically not included in solution processes”.

The other big story on the page was advice to Voice readers that the New Nationality Act, which would come into force from January 1, 1983 was a complex piece of legislation that needs to be scrutinised individually. Under the headline ‘Does the new Bill affect you?’, the story advised that the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants had copies of booklets that would assist those concerned about the Act.

The feature story on page five was an interview with 18-year-old Shani Benjamin who was the winner of The Voice ‘Search for a Star’ competition and the newly-crowned reggae artist said she was “overwhelmed with joy” and in a state of shock.

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