Remembering Norman Hart
Andy Jackson and Carol Rogers pays tribute to Reform’s Editor from 1977 to 1995
Norman Hart, the Editor of Reform for 18 years from 1977 to 1995, died on 19 September on his 91st birthday. Beginning his career in 1953 as a graduate trainee with the Liverpool Daily Post, Norman found a love of ‘light’ writing, especially theatre reviews, gossip columns and a column in the weekly women’s page. Brought up as a Congregationalist, he had, in his words, a ‘huge conscience about apartheid’ and wondered if he could work as a journalist in Africa.
The Anglican Archbishop of Uganda wanted to start an English language newspaper and so Norman wrote, edited, produced and distributed New Day until 1965. Three years teaching journalism in Zambia followed, after which Norman went to the US for a year to guest edit Guideposts, a prestigious religious magazine.
During his time in the US, he raised funds for an all-Africa religious news service, which was launched with the All-Africa Conference of Churches, where, as with New Day, he trained a new generation of journalists to replace him.
A brief stint with the United Bible Societies in Stuttgart followed before he flew into London on a Saturday in 1977 to be interviewed for the role of Editor of Reform.
After his retirement, Norman continued as an editor of the Lion Walk URC monthly magazine, Lion Talk, sang in the church choir and continued as an elder and lay preacher in the local area.
He travelled further afield, serving the Eastern Synod as an Advocate for Commitment for Life for many years. Norman belonged to a small chamber choir that was glad to have his tenor voice, his wit and his talent as a wordsmith, with which he entertained many a social gathering.
Carol Rogers, who served as the URC’s Secretary for Communications from 1986 to 2007, said: ‘I had the privilege and pleasure of working alongside Norman for several years until his retirement. He was in post when I became Secretary for Communications and he provided me with a great deal of background information and was always a great support to me.
‘During those years we saw Reform develop and sowed the seeds which led to the sophisticated magazine of today. I think he would have loved to be able to have a full colour magazine to work with, but during his tenure as Editor this was only a far-off dream!
‘He was first and foremost a journalist and his editorial skills were brought to Reform, showing his gift of extracting the best from any story or article that was sent to him. He sometimes was frustrated, particularly with the correspondence pages, mainly because the letters were often very long and needed some very judicious editing. He much preferred those which made their point clearly and succinctly.
‘He also had many interesting anecdotes from the start of his career as a young reporter in Liverpool and his time working in Africa. These anecdotes often showed his great sense of humour – which was sharp but never malicious.
‘I am grateful that I had the benefit of not only the skills he brought to Reform but more importantly his friendship.’
Andy Jackson is the United Reformed Church’s Head of Communications
This article was published in the December 2021/January 2022 edition of Reform