26th May 2012 9:56am | By Editor
In 1983, TNT Magazine opened its doors in Earl’s Court. It was the bible for Australian, Kiwi and South Africa travellers in London.
The office itself was hub for backpackers, who would often pop in, wanting to place their messages in the publication or share their stories. Many of these ended up working for the mag. Here, we chat to some former employees.
Graeme Johnstone packed his bags and, family in tow, helmed the team at Australasian Express, TNT’s predecessor, in 1980, at TNT Towers. He recalls a strapping young lad, in his early 30s, by the name of Bryan Brown, who would visit the office on a daily basis to discuss the film Breaker Morant. “There were plenty of young women in the building who coincidentally, at that very moment, happened to have a message that needed to be delivered personally to my desk,” Johnstone, 64, recalls. Of course, Brown went on to become one of Australia’s best-known movie stars. Johnstone became TNT’s Australian correspondent, until he returned to Melbourne in 1986 to work at The Sun, and now pours his creative juices into writing books, poems and musicals, including Normie, soon heading for London. In pre-internet days, TNT served not only as a vital service for news, jobs, accommodation, travel and entertainment, but an anchor for intrepid Antipodeans. “People would spot the sign in Earl’s Court Road, amid the many Kangaroo Valley travel agencies, and simply come in to have a chat, soak up the atmosphere and feel like they were temporarily back ‘home’ again.”
Aaron Langmaid, who worked at TNT between 2002 and 2005, says it was as irreverent inside TNT Towers as everyone imagined. “I remember almost laughing ourselves to death during weekly beanbag meetings to discuss story placement and headlines, pulling crazy faces for TNT road tests and getting letters of invitation for sex romps in Hackney. I never did go,” he says.
Some days, it was serious, adds Langmaid, 33, who now works on the sports desk for the Herald Sun in Melbourne. “One week I’d be interviewing Tony Blair’s spin doctor, Alastair Campbell, but then the next I’d be eating whale on a press trip to Iceland.” Of course, the hard work was always rewarded. “We always had a beer on the desk every Friday,” he smiles. Langmaid adds: “TNT helped heal homesickness and made us proud to be expatriates living it large ... it also stopped my bedroom door from banging on windy nights.”
It was not long after packing his uni books and following the well-worn path to London in 2008, that South African Darryn Lee was thumbing through TNT and spotted an ad for an advertising sales executive. The rest was, well, a valuable lesson in the equivalent of “how to sell ice to an eskimo, or beer to an Australian – and we all know how difficult that is,” Lee, 27, says. In keeping with TNT’s fundamental principle of modesty, Lee and his gang of salespeople called themselves the ‘Dream Team’, despite not always hitting targets. But when you’re selling beer to an Australian ...“We managed to keep the ship afloat during the early recession and kept up the true TNT spirit. I also got to sell and work on the TNT Travel Show which was an incredible experience that ended off with an epic after party.” Lee’s visa only enabled him to work for a year in the UK, but he says it was one of the best of his life – enhanced by travels on the cheap thanks to connections made through TNT. “I look back and think how lucky I was to find that job,” he says.“I basically went travelling to land a job that focused on a large travelling community in one of the most interesting cities in the world. Priceless.”