In the mid-twentieth century, Barbara Cooper took her first steps into the publishing world as the Personal Assistant to the Chief Editor at Max Parrish. The first manuscript Barbara was given to read was From an Antique Land by Sir Julian Huxley; the second was Down with Skool by Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle. (To this day, Barbara still has the original manuscript and original sketches.)
This episode came to the end when, sick of running out of money by Thursday of every week (even then, £7 didn't go far in London!), an opportunity arose to undertake a trial assignment for Woman magazine. This involved interviewing a girl who rode a motorbike on the Wall of Death at Bellevue in Manchester, but it all worked out well and Barbara was hired... for £15 per week plus £30 per story on the Woman's Mirror page! Whilst at Woman, Barbara wrote a regular column on leading sportswomen.
The next step was a particularly brave one for a woman in the 1950s: freelancing was definitely out of the ordinary. One of Barbara's clients was Everybody's Weekly, whose editor sent her on a story with a BBC crew to cover a planeload of children travelling by BOAC from their homes in Nigeria to school in England. This marked the first step in an association with the airline that lasted for over two decades.
For BOAC, Barbara produced two children's books first of all: The BOAC Book of Flight and The Speedbird Book. Next came The BOAC Traveller's Digest—an attempt to rival Pan Am's world travel guide—followed by a series of booklets, known as the Regional Guides, which covered many of the major destinations served by BOAC (and later, after the merger with BEA, British Airways). Some of these destinations were unique at the time and being 'opened up' for the first time, so Barbara was sent on the proving flights into places which sound exotic enough now, but back then were positively mind-blowing!
Renting an office in the BOAC building in London, she formed Threshold Books to produce some 50 guides for the airline as well as a series for the BOAC Junior Jet Club chronicling the adventures of a friendly Jumbo Jet called 'Dilbert'. Other clients at this time included Qantas Airways, the World Wildlife Fund (now known as the WWF), The Royal Ballet, and the Royal Opera House.
Barbara made her first steps into equestrian publishing in the 'sixties when she became a devotee of the sport of eventing and published the first books on Badminton and Burghley, In the early 'seventies, she produced Riding for the Gold for Midland Bank—a prophetic title if ever there was one, as it came out in the year of the Munich Olympics, scene of individual and team triumphs for Richard Meade and the British Eventing team. Out of this came the annual Horse Trials Handbook, also sponsored by Midland Bank, which ran from 1974 to 1982.
Friendships formed working on the Horse Trials Handbooks led to Barbara starting to work with The Pony Club for the first time, where she set to work transforming The Manual of Horsemanship and publishing a comprehensive range of titles for them for over 25 years. In 1985, she devised the Threshold Picture Guides series, which have gone on to be a long-running success story (although now, to her immense regret, no longer under her control).
In 2004, Barbara published The Puncs books, a series of titles aimed at helping children to learn and undertand the art of punctuation which have gained praise and recognition from every corner of the globe.
To this day, Barbara remains hard at work on numerous projects and hopes to complete her autobiography before too long.
A lifetime creating extraordinary publications
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