AN INTERVIEW WITH JEREMY LESLIE OF MAGCULTURE

Tell us about yourself. What's new in London?

I live in South London with my wife, Lesley. Our two adult sons are currently away travelling. I’ve lived in London all my life and couldn’t imagine living somewhere else unless it was as big and noisy. 

It’s fantastic and awful here; fantastic because it’s a throbbing, welcoming, creative, ever-changing place that never gives up. Just when you get bored, another thing shoots up. But also awful because like any big city, London can be hard and cruel. And right now our government seems hard set on increasing awful at the expense of the fantastic. 

 

We know you probably get asked this question very often, but what are some of the most eccentric magazines you have come across recently that you would recommend? 

I love a magazine that confounds expectations, that’s why I continue to find Singapore’s Rubbish FAMzine so exciting.

Three other examples come to mind: Civilisation, a New York publication that fills its huge, broadsheet pages (an absurd, old-fashioned and thoroughly impractical format) with text and infographics that reflect the minutiae of millennial life in NYC. It’s compelling to read, and contradicts design rules brilliantly.

Then there’s Ordinary, which features an object in a plastic bag on its cover. Inside there’s no written content, just different creative treatments of the object on the cover. They’ve had a washing-up sponge, a sock, a plastic straw; on the latest issue its the card tube from inside a toilet roll. 

Thirdly, a new discovery from my recent trip to New York. Day Plus Night is a tiny publication, the size of an old cassette tape, that is packaged in a see-through cassette case. It’s designed to look like an eighties tape inlay card, and is a written mixtape: it contains 14 stories, each written by a different writer about a different song. It’s a lovely editorial idea beautifully finished by the design concept.

 

You wear many hats - writer, designer, curator... amongst many others. Which role do you feel most at ease with?  

The more I wear them, the more similar those hats seem. I find myself selecting, curating, editing all the time, whether that be for the shop stock, the line-up for a conference, an article I’m writing, or a piece of design I’m developing. 

Each involves gathering, looking, evaluating and selecting. All the elements influence each other and I try to hold it all together and heading in a consistent direction. We’re busy but I’m more concerned with quality than quantity. 

 

What are some of the genres of magazines that you wish to see more of in the industry?

I want more practical politics mags to help define the truth of our world — this is important in print where lies are harder to get away with. 

 

What are some of your pet peeves when you are looking at a magazine? Is it bad typography?

Ha! I see too many magazines that let themselves down in terms of the basics: typography, print quality and writing. I understand this — there can be a gap between ambition and execution especially with poorly resourced independent launches. How often does a magazine launch in the perfect state? I focus on development from issue to issue, looking for improvement. 

What peeves me is when a magazine doesn’t try to be itself — it looks/reads too much like another one. It’s hard work making a magazine, so it had better have something special and/or original to it.

 

Could we ask what a ‘typical’ day is like since you are handling the shop, studio and website at the same time, or is there no such thing as a ‘typical’ day for you?

There is no typical day. The many parts of magCulture are permanently in flux and developing and can’t easily be assigned to single days. But all the parts interact and we’re forever adapting and adjusting. 

Key members of the magC team are part time so their presence helps me focus on their part of the whole. 

Tuesdays and Thursday centre around our events and conferences with producer Stephanie Hartman. On Mondays I plan the content for the Journal with freelance writer Thea Smith. Jamie Atherton manages the magCulture Shop, so most days I’m liaising with him on stock, new submissions and displays in the shop. 

Then there’s the design work, for our own projects as well as clients. There’s my consultancy role with publishers Maison Moderne in Luxembourg, and planning and recording our monthly podcast. 

Plus we always have visitors: editors dropping off their new issues, regulars wanting a chat, deliveries from distributors. 

The Shop has been a revelation, it’s great to have a public space alongside the digital presence. It’s been described as the spiritual home of independent magazines and that’s just perfect. 

It’s busy but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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