The Ashwater People
Ashwater Press was begun by Ken Coton in 1990. Martin Plumb came on board in 2004.
Blame my Dad – and his Dad! Both originally lived in Fulham. By the time I was old enough to go to football, my parents had moved to Whitton, an outpost on the Southern Region line, but with quick access to Putney Station. The die was cast.
First Fulham pictures?
I'd been interested in photography since my early years when my aunt brought me a Kodak 'Baby Brownie' camera back from Canada. I still have that camera. Once I had got a better camera, I took it to Craven Cottage, starting with reserves matches, and then proper matches. That was in the early Sixties.
Involvement with the club?
It came about by happy accidents. One of the people who worked in Dad's office (he worked in Fulham for Fenning & Company, a supplier of marble and granite) was a mate of Johnny Haynes. Dad gave some of my action shots to his colleague and he showed them to Haynes – and, well, I ended up going on to the pitch in front of 30,000 fans to take a portrait of the great man. Within a short time I was taking pictures especially for the club to put into the programme. Fulham were one of the first clubs to use action pictures in this way.
Up and down the country?
During the following years I travelled up and down the country, photographing my favourite team and supplying pictures for the programme. I experienced it all – mid-week matches, tight programme deadlines, a trip to Wembley, getting soaking wet, arriving back home in the early hours but having to immediately process my films and produce prints. It was hard work - but a joy! I had early on become self-employed, but I still had to take into account the demands of other people I worked for. However, they knew my priorities, and everything fitted in well!
Photography then and now
In those days, of course, it was all film cameras, and after taking a picture the film had to be manually wound on. No five pictures a second here! Usually one shot of a goal attempt was all that was possible. Floodlights for night matches were not very bright and, with ordinary films not very 'fast', I often resorted to using a special product called 'recording film', designed I imagined for spying and other nefarious purposes. Pictures were very grainy, but at least I usually got a picture. Of course I didn't know whether I had any usable pictures (or indeed any pictures at all) until I had developed my films – hence my hesitation when fans asked me when leaving a match whether I'd got the goal!
Why the name Ashwater?
It's a nice name, isn't it? I used to visit long-standing friends in the middle of Devon, near Halwill. Nearby was a tiny village called Ashwater. Other friends nearby had a small farm and they let me dig up a small ash tree to take home. So it had to be Ashwater. The ash tree is thriving still.
First Ashwater book?
It wasn't a Fulham book. For some reason, at the beginning of the Nineties I had the desire to learn proper printing with a printing press and print my own books. I knew nothing about what was involved, but bought a Rotaprint printing press. I soon found out that printing is fiendishly difficult, but I managed to print and publish a book about photography, a basic guide called Happy Snapping. After a few more ventures I realised that printing should be left to the specialists!
First Fulham book?
When in 1992 Dennis Turner came around suggesting we should co-operate on a book featuring my Fulham photos, I had learnt enough to be able to prepare the book for printing – though to be printed by proper printers not by me! The book - Fulham's Golden Years - was a great success and set Ashwater on a long career of producing Fulham books.
Ashwater has produced over 20 books on Fulham Football Club, latterly with Martin Plumb on board. The early books were produced in association with the club or with their support and encouragement. There were book signings at the club and copies were available through the club's shops. This began to change during the production of the Johnny Haynes book. For about a year we had worked on the book in conjunction with the club, but they suddenly withdrew their support, leaving us in the lurch. We have no idea why. Subsequently hardly any of our books have been available via the club. However we are pleased to say that the club took a few of our Fulham Photos Volume Two books.
When did you become associated with Ashwater?
I got involved with Ken as early as 2003, when my daughter was doing her photography degree.
The Riverbank books
I started writing whilst recovering from an operation just to pass the time! I began with a detailed history of the club from the mid-Sixties. I showed Ken the draft in 2005 - and the Riverbank series was born. Since then I have written and published two more books in total covering six seasons. A fourth volume is written and awaiting the light of day.
Something about yourself
I was born in Hammersmith but grew up in Laleham, near Staines. I attended Ashford Grammar School and began supporting Fulham in 1963. After studying accountancy, I spent over thirty-five years in software consultancy with leading software houses. This covered many business disciplines, from defence to airlines, oil and accounting, but primarily focussed on retail.
I'm a self-taught left-handed professional musician specialising in guitar and keyboards. I've played with top musicians and I've made over 2,000 live appearances. As a sideline I enjoy teaching mathematics, statistics and music. I've also had retail shops in the furniture and giftware trade.
Writing for Ashwater, of course! I've also contributed to the heritage football magazine Backpass. I enjoy heritage railways (especially the Great Western), fishing, walking, the countryside and cribbage. I've been a freemason for over twenty-five years. I live in Ascot and have three adult daughters and three grandchildren.
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