Key Guide to Britain

Project Summary

A pilot project looking at a new way of compiling guidebooks.

This project thrust me into the role of the first-ever compiler of this series of AA guidebooks, which replaced the Explorer series. Notes on places featured in the guide had been assembled by teams of researchers, with the idea that the Compiler would use this material to write up the entry for that place. It was anticipated that the research material would be used for all AA guides and travel writers as we know them would be dispensed with.

Boxes of pamphlets filled my study. Research notes were emailed to me. Somehow the job of writing guidebooks had to change, and I had to trust whatever the researcher had thrust at me.

As an editorial guinea pig, I was asked to give feedback on how the process worked. It didn't. The idea of researching something for unspecific ends in order to create a mass of material that could be quarried for different projects was a fallacy. Research needs to be much more specific than that. Also the quality of the research varied hugely, both in terms of content and of style.

In the end I did my own thing and simply wrote my own text for places in England as I would for any other guidebook. That worked perfectly well within the restrictions imposed by a slightly eccentric page plan that failed to allocate enough space to describing places to visit, had a directory-style listings in a strange What to Do section (which on a region by region basis was too thin to be of use).

A fascinating project to be involved with, but I don't think the KeyGuide concept worked for entire countries. Its magazine-style listings are more suited to a city guide and the layout is a tad bewildering.

Happily, the AA soon abandoned the notion of replacing travel writers with compilers.

Copyright © Tim Locke. All rights reserved.

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