The contract to write A-Z of Loughborough for Amberley Publishing was signed in August 2019. Publication was set for August 2020. Research was going well, and the text was written up in good time. That just left the accompanying photographs to select. I say ‘just’, but this is always a major undertaking and one for which I am rarely adequately prepared! I say ‘select’ because over the years I’ve taken many photographs of Loughborough and there was no doubt in my mind that I had plenty that would be suitable for inclusion in the book – the problem was finding them!

A-Z of Loughborough was my third book for Amberley, and after the experience of writing the first one, with its 100 or so accompanying photographs, I had made a mental note that in future I would collect photographs I thought I might need as I went along. Following my own advice, I had done this for the A-Z and, for the most part, I was glad I had done so. I say ‘for the most part’ …

Although I had plenty of useful images, my filing system for my digital photographs is totally inadequate so it has always been time-consuming trying to track down the ones I want at any time. Sometimes the searching was fruitless, not even yielding them at all, even though they were there, somewhere!

The 300 Spartans chip shop during the floods of 2020. (A-Z of Loughborough, Amberley Publishing)

Added to the problem of retrieval, is the reality that what you end up writing isn’t always what you’d planned to: I’d identified 178 possible entries for an A-Z, and certainly wrote up more than the 80 that were eventually included in the book. Or you write too many words and find yourself chopping out bits, so pre-snapped photographs end up not always being suitable, and in some cases, if you write something new, photographs haven’t even been captured!

So, with not always being able to find some of the images I knew I needed from my collection, it often proved quicker to just go and take them again, and this usually worked! As there were also a few new ones I needed to take specifically for the book, I carefully planned out a photo-taking route, with just one month to go before the manuscript had to be submitted. But, I was thwarted at every turn …

Firstly, I found myself having to spend a few extra days at work; then, adverse weather conditions struck, leading to floods in the centre of Loughborough, and then – something I could never have predicted - imposed imprisonment indoors as the coronavirus pandemic struck the country. Luckily, I had managed to wade through the floods and get a few photographs, and in the days before the lockdown I managed to take a few more.

Alderman Tidd. (LLLSVs, A-Z of Loughborough, Amberley Publishing)

Having said that, although I was still working during the pandemic, I managed to save a couple of hours a week from not having to commute quite so far to work: the journey now was simply down the stairs from the bedroom, along the hallway, past the kitchen and into the ‘office’. This, of course, gave me a bit more time to hunt around the pc files for photographs I already had to accompany the text of the book.

The A-Z is an alphabetical tour around Loughborough, using letters of the alphabet as hooks on which to hang stories about local events, about the life of the people of Loughborough, and descriptions of the natural locality. As I said, I had ended up with 80 short entries covering topics ranging from Alderman to Zeppelins, via Thomas Glover, the Model Farm, and the River Soar, and so required around 100 photographs to illustrate the text, as well as three stunning photographs to showcase on the cover.

Producing a readable and entertaining text I can do, taking photographs that truly represent what I see, but in an appealing way, and perhaps from a quirky angle, I’m not so good at! I’m a compact point and shoot kind of photographer, who hopes for the best. Having said that, some of the best photographs I’ve taken are the ones where I have thought little about the placing of the subject matter, the lighting, things in the background and so on. Conversely, on days when I thought I’d get some good pictures of buildings, because it has been a ‘nice’ day, the buildings come out overly dark, almost silhouetted against the bright blue sky.

Mountsorrel granite cross memorial on Swan Street. Granite sett, in the middle of the road marking the spot where one of the Zeppelin bombs fell in the raid 31 January 1916. (A-Z of Loughborough, Amberley Publishing)

Thankfully, around the time I was writing ‘A-Z’, the Local and Family History section of the Loughborough public library had digitised some fantastic portraits of local people and gave permission for me to include some of these in the book. Although the majority of photographs I chose to include in the book are late-twentieth-early-twenty-first-century colour, a small proportion of older, black and white photographs were a very welcome addition. So much so, that I chose one of them for the book cover, and this really does look great, surrounded as it is by a picture of a very modern Loughborough building on one side and a refurbished cast iron milepost on the other.

As you will have gathered, the manuscript did reach the publisher by the deadline, despite the lockdown and despite the inadequacies of my digital image filing, but because of the pandemic, publication was delayed for a year. The book eventually came out in August 2021.

Lynne Dyer's book A-Z of Loughborough is available for purchase now.