Rupert Murdoch might be struggling to flog his papers but we reckon the aging media mogul could learn a thing or two from this vibrant scene of print-peddling creatives.
On a Monday night in November, an effortlessly cool crowd of bespectacled magazine editors and snappily dressed designers and publishers gather at an east London venue to celebrate independent magazines, swap business cards and, obviously, take advantage of the free bar. The Stack Awards, (hosted by founder of Stack Magazines Steven Watson) is basically a big two, ink-stained fingers up at everyone who predicted that e-readers and endless internet scrolling would kill off print. Guess what? It's still here, smelling great, feeling great and frustrating typesetters everywhere.
Here's a guide to four London magazines, which scooped awards or were highly commended on the night, plus a bonus one we think you'll love if the news makes you feel, well, a bit shit.
1 The one for fashionistas and zine-fiends: Buffalo Zine
This carefully crafted chameleon of a magazine almost defies categorisation. Each tongue in cheek issue of Buffalo Zine from creative directors David Uzquiza and Adrian González-Cohen picks an established genre and parodies the heck out of it. Whether that be a glossy catalogue, a hardcover book or a newspaper, flicking through each edition is like unfurling a beautiful matryoshka doll.
On peeling back the layers of 2011's launch issue, you'd encounter a magazine, in the style of a tabloid newspaper, which – stay with us – contained photographs of newspaper spreads surrounded by annotated images of magazines. Kind of like a fun, sexy palimpsest of modern culture.
Hackneyites will love the fifth issue, which instead of parodying, pays homage to the duo's early 20th century Hackney studio and the street it lives on. David tells us making this issue was like having the keys to an amazing hotel and wanting to invite all your friends over:
Our building is like a time capsule, you go inside and it even smells like 1975. It won't be around for much longer so we wanted to do a little tribute to this disappearing part of east London.
In the process, they unearthed interesting stories about the building's connections. The mag features a medley of characters from fashion photographer David Bailey to East End thugs the Kray twins — and Pamela Anderson even graces one of the covers. Oh yeah, there's always more than one cover. David says it's this "lack of structure, boundaries or seriousness", which sets them apart from other fashion imprints.
You can buy Buffalo Zine online and from these stockists.
2 The one for hardcore music fans: The Move
If you're into records, clothes and raves then you'll devour The Move with the excitable enthusiasm of someone bumping into an old friend (while on a 3am sesh). Jack-the-lad DJ and editor Tom Armstrong told Stack founder Steve Watson "every generation should have its own representation in print". This is what The Move sets out to be.
To young people now — who feel smothered by all the countercultures of yesteryear, with nothing much to claim as their own except flat whites, fixies and a lifetime of hemorrhaging money on shoddy flatshares, this magazine says screw that. Youth and club culture are still thriving, you just have to know where to look. Luckily Armstrong does.
The mag is rooted in London's underground music scene but occasionally spills out across the map with stories ranging from wartime Bosnia to dancehall Jamaica. Says Armstrong: "It's a troubling time for Londoners at the moment with gentrification often making us feel as though we're not welcome in our own city, so it's important for me to show the positive contributions made by people here, past and present."
Positive contributions such as the Yussef Kamaal cover feature in issue one, which highlights how strong the UK's music scene is right now, to Jumpin Jack Frost's tales of Brixton gangs and the Jungle scene in the '90s, which harked back to the London that Armstrong fell in love with as a kid.
According to Steve, The Move also gets top marks for the most confrontational editor's letter: "In a divided world, we need club culture more than ever but it's under attack from sexless pencil pushers out for revenge on something they could never understand. This is our way of saying bollocks, jokers!"
Who would Armstrong most like to see reading his mag? "Before we started I would've said Gilles Peterson, but he actually does read it now, haha. So I'll say Chuka Umunna. He seems like a top bloke and I think he'd be into it."
You can buy The Move online and from these Stockists.
3 The one for citizens of the world: Migrant Journal
What do you think of when you read the word 'migration'? We all carry stereotypes in our head, which are reinforced by the media and the people around us, and all it takes is a beautifully executed magazine like Migrant Journal to dislodge such views.
Editor Justinien Tribillon tells us:
We take the concept of migration back to its root, disconnect it from the contemporary negative political discourse, and explore it with fresh eyes.
We want to show that we live in a world where movement, circulation, migration is intrinsic to our way of life.
That doesn't just mean stories exploring the circulation of people but also ideas, capital, goods, birds and seeds.
This is less a London magazine and more a European project made up of contributors from all over the world, including Zurich, France, Spain, Germany, and Austria. "Of course, that super diverse identity is exactly what London is all about" Justinien says, "London has a vibrant cultural scene with organisations like MagCulture and Stack shaking things up".
But the team say Brexit could mean relocating their London office to Europe if custom tariffs go up.
Who would Justinien travel the world over just to see them reading a copy of Migrant Journal? "It’s a tricky question: do you want to send it to someone you admire or to someone whose political discourse you loathe like Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage or Donald Trump, hoping Migrant Journal could change their mind. But you know what, these guys are probably a lost cause anyway. Let's send it to Barack Obama, hoping that he can share it with his 100+ million followers on Twitter and enable us to reach a massive readership.
"We're printing for the many, not the few!"
You can buy Migrant Journal online and from these Stockists.
The one for cycling-enthusiasts: Rouleur
On the face of it, this is a magazine about cycling but once you delve into its thick, glossy pages, you realise it's about so much more. Yes, you'll find high-quality coverage of the Tour de France and other big events in the sporting calendar but it's the engrossing human interest stories, that'll make you miss your tube stop.
The article that clinched them the Stack award for best non-fiction saw freelance journalist, Andrew Curry, spend 12 months getting to know a group of Syrian men who had taken the perilous journey along the Balkan route to Germany. All had cycled professionally with the national team in their now war-torn country and they rocked up at Berlin's Velodrome hoping to continue their sporting prowess.
"It's a story that transcends sport," says editor Andy Mcgrath, (who is working on a feature about the Tour of Iran, which aims to turn Western stereotypes of the region on its head.) It's a gripping narrative which uses cycling as a prism to explore the ongoing refugee crisis, the Syrian civil war and the determination and courage required to succeed when very few are on the sidelines rooting for you.
"Whether you're an avid cyclist or not is besides the point, you just have to be interested in people to get along with this mag."
Who would Andy cycle to the moon and back to see reading his mag? "Hmmm… you’ve put me on the spot there. Personally, I'd say Roger Federer: because he's cool, classy, intelligent and he'd love our features. He's the kind of modern man who loves print and has a stack of magazines on his coffee table."
You can buy Rouleur online and from these Stockists.
The one for anyone sick of the news: Positive News
If the news makes you sigh, tut, cry, shout, want to kick something (or someone), then you're not crazy and you're not alone. Studies have shown how negative news can cause depression, anxiety and increased fear of others. The antidote your mental health is crying out for comes in a neat, understated paper-bound package.
When we talk about 'positive news' we don't mean the cheesy boy-rescues-cat-stuck-up-tree type of story. This co-operatively owned magazine (the first of its kind) is more about shining a spotlight on the individuals, communities, charity and, yes government initiatives which are creating innovative and exciting solutions to the world's many complex problems.
While London has faced its share of tragedies recently, editor-in-chief Sean Wood and his team have been busy bashing out the capital's good news stories, from the city's first community fridge in Brixton and affordable housing solutions in Lewisham to the world’s first Museum of Happiness, based in Camden. Wood says:
London businesses regularly make our headlines too — from the city's first plastic-free shop opening, to the launch of a new taxi app by a driver-owned co-operative that aims to offer an ethical alternative to Uber.
Furthermore, it's not even about suppressing the bad stuff, it's just about ensuring we have a balanced, fuller picture of reality rather than the grim one we encounter in the morning's Metro. We ask Wood what he reckons the effect would be if every commuter swapped their usual reading material for a copy of Positive News?
By engaging with a more constructive story I think we’d see improved wellbeing. People might then feel less cynical and hopeless, and more optimistic and inspired. Less enraged and more engaged.
Wood says research on their own audience suggests that people would feel an increased sense of agency – "that their actions and choices matter and can make a difference in their own lives or wider society." So, who would leave Wood grinning ear to ear if he saw them clutching a copy of Positive News?
"Daily Mail editor Paul Dacre, in case he has a secret desire to join the media revolution and just needs a bit of inspiration."
Subscribe to Positive News here.
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