WHOEVER SAID PRINT WAS DEAD HASN’T BEEN TO THIS CLERKENWELL STORE
Words by Christina Dean
Jeremy Leslie started blogging about editorial design back in 2006, sharing his years of experience in art directing and magazine making at the likes of Time Out, Blitz, Nike and Virgin Atlantic, with the world.
With more and more people asking where they could find the magazines that magCulture was featuring online, Leslie decided to help by creating a space that would sell them. magCulture opened as a shop in Clerkenwell in 2015 (just half a mile away from the presses that produced The Gentleman’s Magazine in 1731, which was the first time a publication used the word magazine), stocking over 600 titles from around the world, and it has been managed by Danielle Mustarde since 2020.“Our motto is ‘We love magazines’ and promoting that sentiment is our raison d’être. We’ve been dubbed the ‘spiritual home of indie publishing’ and, we hope, that’s precisely the vibe we put out into the world – London and beyond,” she says.
It’s undeniable that we live a large portion of our lives online and with technology advancing at a relentless rate, digital is the norm. For Danielle, that only serves to throw the world of print into sharper relief. “The further and deeper we push toward technological advancement and digital spheres [insert the Metaverse here], the tighter those who care about are going to hold onto the stuff of print,” she says. “In fact, and certainly over the last couple of years, we’ve heard of more people coming to us as a conscious act toward moving away from phone screens and laptops, and turning back to something they can hold in their hands and feel the texture of between their fingers. Printed stuff grounds you in a way that screens cannot.”
It was that love of print, of not wanting to read on an iPhone or a laptop, of wanting something tangible that helped keep the shop going through the pandemic. The doors may have been closed but the team could get online and click & collect orders out to their customers.
There are over 600 different magazines in the shop (including our very own Sausage Press) and great care is taken in the presentation of all these titles – the shop is a celebration of design after all, so it’s only right that all the amazing design created by the publishers gets a chance to shine. Then here’s the million dollar question; how does a magazine make it onto the shelves? “There’s no hard and fast rule, it’s more of a ‘gut-feeling’ thing. Each magazine that we receive (and we receive a lot) is handled on a case-by-case basis. The only real rule is that we ask to see everything IRL, rather than digitally. We need to get our hands on each new title so we can feel its texture, weight and presence,” explains Danielle. “Other than that, it’s really a case of hitting the mark editorially, design-wise and––best of all––bringing us something we haven’t seen before. Something new! Tick those three boxes and you’ll very likely make it onto our shelves.”
As you can imagine for the shop manager, and for a place where the selection on the shelves changes weekly, Danielle’s personal favourites change a lot, but at the moment, “I’ve got the current issues of Emergence, New Philosopher and LSTW (Lez Spread the Word) on my coffee table at home. I’m also eyeing up the new Holo #3: Mirror Stage, an art, science and technology publication from Berlin, and I’m waiting on the latest edition of running magazine, Like the Wind, which is an old favourite.”
Though the shop has probably become the most well-known facet of magCulture, it is but one facet of the brand. There’s also the editorial arm, magCulture Journal, where you can find mag reviews, industry news and interviews, and where Danielle writes the ‘It’s this one thing’ column on niche publications. There’s the magCulture Podcast, hosted by Jeremy and featuring other magazine makers. There are magCulture Events, including one-off events in the shop throughout the year and the flagship magCulture Live New York in the spring/summer and magCulture Live London in the autumn/winter. Those two, Danielle says, are “a chance for people to come together, meet in person, share information and enjoy magazines and everything that they’re about”.
Then there are other less public-facing aspects of the business, including student visits, commercial collaborations and editorial design consultancy. “This is something that those who interact with us a shop only might not even be aware of, but it’s still a crucial part of what we do here,” explains Danielle. “Everything from helping those looking to redesign an established publication, to someone starting from scratch with a new launch who’d like a little expertise.”
The next magCulture Live London event is happening at the end of November but the world of print never sleeps. “On top of that, we’re working on growing the newly-created magCulture Club, our combined membership and subscription service. Oh, and we’re always on the lookout for the most exciting new magazines out there, of course…”
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