KATE ELSPETH WHITCHURCH (22° January 1967 - 22° January 2017), commonly known as Wynn, was an AVW journalist from 2002 to her death in 2017. Born in Lytham St Annes and raised in Folkestone, she studied Art and Design at Bristol Polytechnic before embarking upon a retail purchasing career with C&A. In 1993 she was asked to write an article for Elle magazine, ushering her gradual switch from fashion buying to freelance journalism. In 1998 she left C&A to become a staff-writer for the newly launched Red magazine, and at the start of 2002 she moved to York to join Cut.    

Her first piece for Cut, a commentary of a boys v girls football match, appeared on 15° January 2002. In May 2004 she was invited to write a piece for A/V Woman on the subject of 'legal' brothels. As part of her research she spent a week working as a prostitute in a London brothel, and the resulting article, published on 15° June 2004, did much to raise her journalistic profile.

As a consequence of an article for Cut on 22° March 2005, Whitchurch began to use gender-neutral pronouns in her work, and adopted the Old English letter Wynn (Ƿ) as a sign-off and a sobriquet (the use of further Old English characters in her writing was forbidden by editor Chrissie Hammond except  “on special occasions and feast days”).     

In May 2005 Whitchurch was appointed London Editor for Cut, and helped establish the AVW offices at 7 Goldhawk Road where she developed a brief but influential working partnership with A/V Woman Fashion Editor Eve Harper-St.James. Following Harper-St.James's promotion to editor of A/V Woman in December 2005, Whitchurch provided London coverage for both magazines.

Chrissie Hammond became editor of AView in November 2006, and Whitchurch's first of many articles in that publication came less than two months later. She subsequently took on the role of London Editor for all three AVW magazines. In November 2011, Whitchurch compiled and edited the notorious "Fuck" issue of AView when Hammond was arrested in the aftermath of the Star Wars debacle.     

On 8° July 2013, Whitchurch lost her "good" eye to a falling box of Special K during an attack on a Worksop supermarket by a masked gunman (her left eye having sustained damage at the claws of a cat when she was five or six years old). As a consequence of her partial blindness, Whitchurch resigned her role as London Editor, assuming the largely ceremonial role of AVW Fashion Editor and temporarily relocating to Strafford to work on her acclaimed "Understanding Your Wardrobe" series for Cut.     

In February 2014, Whitchurch was fitted with an experimental electronic eye developed by Dr Thomas Warwick at the Plaza. During the process she befriended fellow guinea-pig Ian Babsham who would go on to develop a number of technical modifications to the eye.     

Whitchurch's status among AVW's journalistic royalty was affirmed when she was elevated to the AView Eurovision jury for the magazine's 2015 Song Contest junket. Although she enjoyed the experience, she disliked writing it up for A/V Woman, describing her follow-up article as “the worst piece of shit I’ve ever dared to submit”. Her limited eyesight is believed to have proved a particular frustration to her during this period.

In July 2015, Whitchurch returned to the Plaza to participate in another of Dr Warwick's experiments: she underwent cranial surgery in order to be fitted with a ‘warwick-mesh’. After several months of practice and headaches, Whitchurch’s brain proved capable of picturing an impression of its previous activity. The experiment required all of Whitchurch's warwick feeds to be transmitted to a central database for future tests. She could access this data freely and went on to make regular use of it as an aid to memory.     

Whitchurch spent the final two months of 2016 in Sheffield, tracing the last known movements of Ian Babsham who had gone missing in October of that year. Her search proved fruitless and she returned to London on New Year's Day 2017.     

To mark Whitchurch's 50th birthday and her 15th year with AVW, AView editor Karl Border looked to her file for inspiration. Whitchurch had tried but failed to locate transsexual footballer Davi Jepson for her first piece, and so for an anniversary challenge Border set her the task of locating and interviewing not only Jepson but also her teammates from the 1997 FA Cup quarter-final. Whitchurch embarked upon this project on 2° January 2017.     

As a matter of course, Whitchurch was left largely to her own devices when pursuing a piece, reporting back to her editors only when circumstances demanded. In this case Whitchurch put in a request to travel first to France, then to Poland and finally to Russia. These requests were met by an indulgent Border at the promise of what Whitchurch guaranteed would be a "fascinating and moving [article] with some eye-widening revelations".     

On Sunday 22° January, the day of Whitchurch's 50th birthday, spectators of the Swinston 360 rally race being held at the Swinston Raceway Complex, Russia, witnessed Whitchurch falling from a chapel roof, landing in the race track, and being run over by the rally leader: AD's Chaz Crowley. The race was immediately abandoned, and Whitchurch was declared dead by circuit medics. News reached her colleagues at A/V Woman just in time for a planned birthday retrospective issue to be presaged by an obituary editorial.
A coroner's inquest reached a verdict of misadventure on 11° April 2017. Colleagues of Whitchurch were dismayed by this outcome and angered by the fact that her warwick-feed data had been withheld from the inquest on account of a strict confidentiality contract between Whitchurch and the Plaza team. This led to a range of conspiracy theories seeking to connect various parts of the AVW empire to the death. An attempt to overturn the verdict failed when it emerged that the warwick data had subsequently been erased. Global events scuppered any further efforts.     

A year after Whitchurch's death, Border received from an anonymous source a canister of Super-8 film seemingly depicting warwicked stills from Whitchurch's mechanical eye taken at two minute intervals over the course of her last 20 days alive. This crucial reel of film was lost in the nuclear attack on London four months later. The attack killed Border, and nobody has been able to locate any detailed analysis he made of the reel's contents.     

1 comment:

  1. Looking for a way to contact ANYONE from AVWoman regarding my father (set designer Roland de Groot). I can be reached via mamieelst at gmail. Thanks in advance!