Honouring Phil Sutcliffe

LONDON FREELANCE Branch's own Phil Sutcliffe was made a Member of Honour at this year's NUJ conference. He has promised to show up for his surprise presentation in December's meeting. Hillary Macaskill surveys Phil's unique contribution to the freelance cause.

Phil Sutcliffe accepting Membership of Honour at this year's Annual Delegate Meeting
Phil accepting Membership of Honour at this year's Annual Delegate Meeting

Phil Sutcliffe joined the NUJ in 1970, starting work at the Newcastle Evening Chronicle, just before the staff came out on strike. Phil - with long hair - was, even at that young age, inspirational and enthusiastic, cheering people on in a difficult and depressing strike.

In 1979 he joined London Freelance Branch - around the time of the IPC freelances' strike - yes, you read that correctly - freelance strike. In another strike at Morgan Grampian, Phil and fellow Branch member Andrew Wiard were key to achieving a settlement for freelances, after holding out when the staff had returned to work.

As a music reporter, Phil was the first journalist to interview Sting, and he covered the Siouxsie and the Banshees split for Sounds. He's interviewed Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Emmylou Harris. He says he knew that interview would go well when she said to him - "I see we use the same hair dye". Phil's  email address is Greyhair. I salute someone who is grey and proud of it.

Phil once passed over a branch meeting on the flimsy pretext of having to interview Bruce Springsteen. But he also once passed over a lucrative interview  - of Meatloaf - to give a Getting Started as a Freelance course for London Freelance Branch.

Phil has been Chair of London Freelance Branch and Freelance Industrial Council, and now he is a National Executive Council member. But it is the work on the ground that is so important to him and on which he works tirelessly:  on training; on taxation: Phil was fundamental in seeing off the Inland Revenue in their attempt to tax at source ever-greater swathes of freelance work; on copyright; and on email networks. Those lucky enough to be at the meetings that marked the 25th and 30th anniversaries of his joining the NUJ  will remember that he bought everyone a drink in celebration - bringing together his generosity  and the significance to him of belonging to the NUJ.

Phil in his acceptance address at conference said "nothing has ever happened to me, so that's the anecdotes out of the way" and - typically - used the time to push the cause of freelances.

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