The date: May 2003, that's fifteen years ago.
Fifteen years is quite a long time, it's a lifetime for a dog or
a cat; or a fifteen year-old teenager.
So, how did it all start?
Let's go back there (dot dot dot ... )
I'd been talking to my father, the author J.B. Pick. He was
fascinated by the potential of the internet but was a total disaster anywhere
near technology of any kind. Knobs came off in his hand, his electric
lawnmowers never worked, the whole field of technology was a foreign land to
him, and as a foreign land, it intrigued him. Was it really possible that
anyone, anywhere, could publish something on the internet and that it would be
available for all to see?
"What about setting up a web-site, or whatever it's called,
where I and Atkins and others could publish some of the writing which other
publishers were too short-sighted to publish?" He inquired.
"Yes, it would be quite easy." I foolishly volunteered.
"I have mountains of writing that will never get published now
because it's time has passed. That doesn't mean that it isn't worthy of
"Well quite. You sort out this stuff and I'll look into setting
up a web-site for it."
Some time later a large envelope of typed papers arrived.
"Oh dear" I thought "I'm really going to have to do this
A week or so later I was playing on the internet rather than
working when I mis-typed "Winamp.com" whilst looking for updates to that still
most versatile music player.
Up came the message "cannot find Winamop.com" which I found
highly amusing. No, of course it couldn't find Winamop.com, it didn't exist,
but perhaps it should?
Within a half an hour it did exist and the idea for our little
literary site had formed.
I reasoned that if I, with my fat fingers, had managed to catch
the "O" key on the way to the "P" in Winamp, then others may do so too and we
would start off with some passing trade as it were.
The implied competition in the name went to my head and I
decided that we could reward those who decided to contribute to the site with a
mop as an incentive..
I looked around the hardware shops on the High Street and
discovered one place selling the old-fashioned string-mop-on-a-wooden-handle
kind of dish-mop. They were quite cheap and could be fairly easily posted in a
cardboard tube. I bought six.
A Winamop mop
Quite how much incentive to a budding writer a small dish-mop
would be I didn't know, but it seemed like a fun thing to do.
All set then. Six mops and a domain-name, now all I needed was a
I have a personal web-site and had been doing basic HTML page
building for some time but the results always looked very amateurish. I wanted
to hit the ground running with a professional looking front page and a
consistent theme throughout.
Well, as I'd nicked Winamp's name (almost) I thought it'd be
funny to nick their web-site too and build Winamop on the framework and look of
the Winamp front page. That would give me an easy way in to a nice looking
My son is quite an capable graphic artist so I cajoled him into
doing our logo and other art-work for the site so that it looked like, but
wasn't using any of the actual graphics from Winamp. I didn't want to be
It wasn't all that easy to adapt Winamp's front page but we made
a reasonable attempt that worked on most browsers and even incorporated style
sheets so that the basic colour scheme of the whole site could be changed en
See what it looked like here.
One major headache was getting the technophobe's (J.B. Pick and
John Atkins) typed material into the web pages. Badly typed faded pages with
crossings out and corrections are fiddly to OCR so quite a lot of re-typing had
to be done. And, as may be deduced from the original "winamop" mistake, I'm not
the world's best typist!
Despite this, and having a full-time job to do, by May 5th 2003
we were on-line and open for business with stories and poems by J.B Pick, John
Atkins and the team.
My obsession was that we should be listed on search engines as
soon as possible as nobody, other than a fat-fingered Winamp enthusiast, was
going to find us until we were on Google or their ilk.
Back in 2003 there were a large number of competing search
engines. I actually paid money to Lycos (who?) to list Winamop and soon after
we had some results. Shortly afterwards we were on Webcrawler (remember that?)
and of course Google.
Now that we could be found we received our first serious
contribution from the big wide world in the form of two short stories from
Wayne HW Wolfson who became a great supporter and friend. We were "gaining
traction" as I believe the expression goes!
I continued to send out mops until the end of 2007 when I
stopped, David McLean being the last recipient, proud holder of mop number 32.
32 mops must have cost me close to £100 to send out. Something I hadn't
really considered was the fact that most of our contributors were overseas and
the postage costs were high. I often wondered what customs officers would have
thought about a cheap washing-up mop being sent half-way round the world. Why
would anyone do that?
During our first year we were building the site with
contributions from our team J.B. Pick, John Atkins, The Doktor, The Weevil, MH,
JH and me; but we did receive contributions from Wayne HW Wolfson, Chris Major,
THETEXTBEAK and Maxwell Chandler.
By 2004 I'd got fed up with the Winamp look and we spent some
time coming up with the less fussy scheme that we've stuck fairly closely to
ever since. We never delete anything (unless requested) and we have so many
pages now that it'd be a mammoth task to change it all!
In our second year we added poets Michael Internicola, Samantha
McCulloch, Sean McGahey, Jeremy Gosnell and Ashok Niyogi; and story-tellers Jon
Ware, Martin Friel and Marc Fiszman to the site.
Since then we haven't looked back, all due to those who send
Winamop stuff for no reward.. not even a mop!
We received our first submission from great supporter Martin
Green in 2006. 87 pieces later and he's still writing for us today. KJ Hannah
Greenberg is close behind with 85 contributions since joining us in 2008, and
she's still one of our most regular contributors.
Of our original team we have lost John Atkins (in 2009) and J.B.
Pick in 2015. The rest of us are still here but tend to take a back seat as
there's usually plenty of good material coming in. Thank goodness!
One contributor I haven't heard from in a while is Donal Mahoney
who has written 64 pieces since he joined us in 2011, I hope you're still out
I did notice a drop-off in contributions when the "Blogosphere"
became all the rage and a lot of writers decided to place their work on their
own blogs. I feared that this would sound the death knell for sites such as
Winamop but I guess people still need a way of advertising their wares to the
world and we are one small way of doing that. See it on Winamop the go and read
the blog.. perhaps? Whatever, the flow of material has been sufficient to keep
us on a monthly schedule for the last few years.
How many more years can we keep this up?
Well, I'm game if you are!
All the best