HOW many papers get responses like these?

“I have every one of these copies earmarked – the guys keep asking when the next issue is out.” (Phil, a volunteer distributor who delivers 50 copies to workmates at Chivas Regal)

“Thank goodness they’re here, people keep coming in and asking us for the new issue.” (Balloch Tourist Information).

“I started coming to this Tai Chi class after reading about it in the magazine.” (83-year-old former boatbuilder)

“I came along to the Awestruck Art Gallery opening because I read about it in the Clydesider and thought this was something we should be involved in.” (Richard Cairns, executive director of infrastructure and regeneration, West Dunbartonshire Council)

“The last issue went fast. Think it was about 80 copies.” (Chris Pollock, Dumbarton Station Café)

“I won an Employability award because my adviser read your article about the gallery and put me forward.” (Jim O’Donnell, local artist)

“I had moved away from Dumbarton for years and when I moved back I was shocked at how depressed the people had become, folk seem to have given up hope. Your magazine is changing that, people are taking pride in their community again.” (Sam Paton, local business owner).

The secret of the Clydesider magazine, read by around 25,000 people, is who owns and writes it – locals from West Dunbartonshire, shaping stories about their own oft-maligned communities, under the encouraging eye of professional journalist, editor and adopted Clydebanker, Amanda Eleftheriades-Sherry.

“Some of our contributors are local writers, retired teachers, aspiring journalists – but the majority have struggled with a range of life challenges, including mental and physical health problems,

long-term unemployment, kinship caring and drug/alcohol problems.

‘‘We run citizen journalism training but I don’t want to curb individual style or stop natural voices coming through. I encourage people to write as they tell stories to their friends in the pub or shop.

“I’ve had to set my own professional style aside – though I’ll correct grammar and spelling. The aim is to instil confidence not conformity.”

Amanda grew up in a village in the Fens in south-east England and was the eldest of nine children. Her family were Greek Cypriots, a background which made her feel like an eternal outsider -- not part of any community.

That changed in 1996, when she started a job with the Dumbarton Reporter after a degree at Dundee University and a journalism course at Glasgow Caledonian, and she moved to a flat in Bowling.

“I fell in love with the whole area because I was so quickly accepted by the local community. I thought I’d be here for a couple of years, then go for a job with a national paper like the Herald, then maybe the Guardian.

‘‘But after a couple of years here, I didn’t want to move. I was trusted by people with their most personal stories – and there was a lot going on. But community stories got lost amongst murders, stabbings, drug trafficking. Bad news always took precedence. It wasn’t balanced.”

Amanda left the paper in 2003 and spent eight years working for a local alcohol research unit.

“I was seeing a totally under-reported community whose life experience is known to the general public in only one way. I was getting to know people in the recovery community and seeing their creative talent. There was vast untapped potential. All it needed was a showcase.”

In 2014 Amanda went to Firstport, which gives advice and business support to folk starting social enterprises. She applied for a start-up award and a social enterprise grant. The money took a year to come through and financed a pilot issue featuring an interview with Irvine Welsh.

In the process, Amanda’s own personal life changed dramatically too.

“In the hunt for a room to rent, I went to look at space in the Yes Clydebank shop. That got me hooked into the campaign. I met photographer Charlie Sherry and we got married in 2017. We had meetings in our flat and though discussion often got side-tracked on to independence, we always brought it back to community.

“We need something for everyone in West Dunbartonshire – happily there are plenty other places for discussion about Scottish independence, so the magazine is community, not political.”

Stories have featured two brothers who cycled from Clydebank to Russia for the Moscow Olympics; a former cabbie who set up a charity to help isolated people and now has 100 folk at social afternoons twice a week; and a regular showcase of local musicians and artists and their work.

Why does it work? “I think what people enjoy about the magazine and why people are willing to tell us their stories is because they recognise Clydesider celebrates what people can do – often against extreme odds – instead of highlighting bad news.

“Being a social enterprise makes us a bit different – our constitution states we are not for private profit, we have an asset lock to ensure the company assets stay within our community .

‘‘Clydesider Creative Ltd has a social remit to showcase the creative skills of local people and to be produced for the community by the community.

‘‘We aim to have an advertising/editorial ratio at 1:4 and once we reach that (along with income from training) our basic costs will be covered.”

Over 60 people have contributed to the magazine content to date and another 15 have helped with everything from DIY repairs in the office to web design and distribution. Volunteers take 10,000 papers each quarter to shops, cafes and businesses and hand them out in shopping centres.

It’s a hyperlocal success story -- but the Clydesider is not alone.

A Carnegie Trust survey of hyperlocal journalism in 2015 found 68 community run newspapers, newsletters or online news pages in Scotland.

Meanwhile an Independent Community News Network (ICNN) has been set up by the Centre for Community Journalism at Cardiff University, which runs courses to raise skills amongst citizen journalists.

Amanda Eleftheriades-Sherry says: “Many readers are wary of online content from distant sources because they can’t decide if it’s fake news.

Many would-be advertisers are also wary of spending money on some local free papers, which might not get read because they are full of syndicated copy and advertorial.

‘‘We are part of the community we write for and advertisers know every edition is read cover to cover. We’re not in it for the money, we’re in it to empower our community – I think that builds trust all round.”

So as conventional newspaper business models face challenges, maybe trust can build a new future for the hyperlocal community-owned press.

Back copies of the Clydesider

Next free event on community news in Cardiff Oct 15,