Andrew Hosken’s recent book, Empire of Fear, Inside the Islamic State provides a galvanising account of the rise and current state of ISIS. He starts with a rather basic question: ‘who are these guys?’. A fundamental confusion that he expresses through an unlikely analogy (that of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid). It seems an important place to start. Over the past few years we’ve witnessed dramatic shifts in their leadership, their allies (notably, their tempestuous relationship with Al Qaeda) and their territorial strongholds. Exacerbating this, their regular rebranding makes even reference to the organisation strangely confusing. A metaphor that is returned to throughout the book is that of cancer, which goes some way in explaining their ability to spread unpredictably, shifting into ever new, dangerous shapes. Andrew’s work makes great strides in offering clarity on this topic which is prone to being sensationalised and misconstrued. Particularly, he focuses on the political conditions that allowed this group to exist in the first place, portraying a perfect storm of factors of which the West played a definite part. By understanding these antecedents, he suggests, we can start to understand the group’s hydra-like ability to rise from the brink of defeat and strike time and time again.Continue Reading →
In our Magazine Rack we celebrate the best of indepedent magazines and Port Magazine certainly fits into that category. A long standing favourite, we at The Holborn have been reading their work since their launch five years ago. So we were excited when we got the chance to sit down with Dan Crowe, Port’s Editor to find out more….Continue Reading →
Next in our Magazine Rack we ‘explore’ a new launch, Let’s Explore Magazine. LEM is a magazine about inspiring people, projects, travels, brands & ideas.
Kilian Idsinga, Editor of Let’s Explore was one of the very generous individuals who helped take The Holborn to print back in 2014 when we crowdfunded our launch and we very excitedly returned the favour recently. We were then delighted when the magazine landed on our doorstep and since then it’s sat well thumbed on The Holborn HQs coffee table. We sat down with Kilian to find out more: Continue Reading →
I’m visiting places around Stockton on Tees because my girlfriend is from here. Her parents still live in Norton, which is half sleepy Georgian village and half fighty pubs, but we want to see Stockton itself because that’s where she grew up. Continue Reading →
To relaunch our Magazine Rack feature, where we seek out the people behind our favourite magazines, we got in touch with one of favourite new discoveries from last year. Now on their third issue, their ‘Defiance’ issue, Lobby is an architecture magazine which is unlike any other we’ve read. Our three words would have to be: vibrant, innovative and enticing. We sit down with Editor-in-Chief Regner Ramos to find out more:
From this distance it can be hard to fathom the strangeness of childhood; the peculiar “X”s on unwritten maps, those self-tailored taboos of what was absolutely okay and what was terrifying beyond imagining. As a child I had no fear of horror films, finding Hammer’s melodramatic gentility rather cosy. They were fairy tales played out by well-spoken gentlemen; the gushing blood palpably orange poster-paint, the alabaster décolleté barely a distraction. Equally I remember being greatly disturbed by an episode of the Austrian/Japanese cartoon series Vicky the Viking which showed the cartoon squiggle of Vicky’s cock and balls under his tunic, like a lonely dim sum with a Poirot moustache. Facing hordes of axe wielding warriors was one thing, but to doing so without your underwear? Terrifying.Continue Reading →
“Are you a sponge or a stone?” Uncle Monty asks a cowering “I” in “Withnail and I”. It’s not a question we need ask of David Bowie. When Marc Bolan travelled the globe he never strayed far from the hotel mini-bar, but Bowie embraced the world, tirelessly heading to where the action was, soaking up the latest local idioms, appropriating whole scenes and trends and rebuilding them in his own pale, awkward image.Continue Reading →
Our library correspondent John Patrick Higgins went on holiday and sent us this…
I went on a holiday which is very out of character for me as I’ve never quite got the hang of them. But I’d longed to go to Cornwall for years: all those Arthurian myths and legends, the tors, the Great Grimpen Mire and its attendant bad tempered phosphorescent dogs. The wreckers, the smugglers and the romance of the sea, with all those spume lashed groynes wading out into the white water. Of course, you don’t really get that in St. Ives in early September. You get a lot of tourists. But you also get dramatic landscapes, beautiful and often empty white sand beaches, picturesque fishing villages with winding cobblestone streets and some surprisingly confident seagulls.Continue Reading →
As part of this year’s London Design Festival, Sir John Soane’s Museum will showcase ”pieces”, a selection of contemporary works created in response to the numerous fragments of ancient sculpture in Soane’s collection. Curatorial collective Workshop for Potential Design has invited five artists and designers – Paul Elliman, Gemma Holt, Sam Jacob, Peter Marigold and Study O Portable – to reinterpret the historical pieces, and create works that respond to and explore the concept of the fragment.
Inspired by the Museum’s unique collection, the participants have all created original pieces which formulate an intimate yet diverse body of work in the Museum’s No.12 Breakfast Room.
Curators Tetsuo Mukai and Bernardette Deddens explain their curatorial approach: ‘Each ancient fragment within the Museum suggests an incomplete, yet intriguing picture of the whole. These fascinating pieces invite the viewer to speculate on the whole, and encourage us to draw our own, unique conclusions. The objects themselves offer tangible, yet imperfect, insights into the past, while the incomplete pictures they leave prompt discussion and interpretation. The exhibition explores the idea of how the incomplete could shape the complete’.
We got in touch with Tetsuo and Bernadette to find out more.
Here at The Holborn we are not just about well-polished brogues and scotch older than our fathers, we also hold intelligent and thought-provoking dialogue in high esteem. After all we are all about a slower more considered way of life, taking time to think about the issues of the day and having open and honest dialogues with others from all walks of life. This is where The Holborn Essay comes in, a regular column where we invite someone in, sit them down, give them a gin & tonic and get them to regal us with their thoughts on the world today. For this essay we invite parliamentary researcher and community activist Mario Creatura to talk about the world’s increasing urbanisation and what it means for all of us.
In the bookshelf we explore the literary lives of men and women who we at The Holborn hold in high esteem and for our inaugural issue we spoke to renowned Furniture and lighting designer Terence Woodgate. Terence initially trained as a design engineer, however, fascination with purer forms of design led to a decision in the mid-80s to retrain as a furniture designer at the London Guildhall University. Woodgate established his first design studio in London in 1988. Working from his London base, Woodgate began to build his reputation as a thoughtful designer of both style and practical innovation. Examples of his work are held in the permanent collections of the Museu d’Arts Decoratives, Barcelona and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London. He has received several design industry awards at home and abroad.
I sit down at my desk. Even before opening my computer, or thinking about the words I might use to start this article, I make sure that my tobacco, papers and filters are within reach, and that my small ceramic blue ashtray – which I made myself in a pottery class a few years ago, just to have a perfectly sized one – is empty and clean. I know that if I want to be able to fill a few pages I’ll need them; I’ll need the nervous rolling of a cigarette, the scratch of the lighter, the bitter taste in my mouth, the cloud of smoke around me, the empty stare at the wall just a few inches from my face.
There’s a very good chance that you’re reading this whilst sipping from a cup of coffee. Yes, I know – hardly an observation of the century. However, there’s an awful lot to be said about the meteoric rise of roasted beans and hot water, now the nation’s favourite brew. The humble cup of tea has been truly ousted by the flat white coffee, which, according to leading economist Douglas McWilliams, is so significant that the FWC even has its own digital economy named after it. Continue Reading →
Welcome to The Bookshelf, our column where we ask journalists, actors, designers and esteemed others to tell us their five most loved and treasured books and why they adore them so. This week we welcome molecular mixologist and world famous bartender Tony Conigliaro. Continue Reading →
Look around you, people of The Holborn, as you lounge in the lacquered sophistication of your study. There is the puckered luxury of your Chesterfield, mirrored in the buffed brogues that adorn your feet; the subtle complexity of the tumbler of malt Scotch, cradled between your fingers like a crystal flower. All is as it should be; all is perfect. Or is it? Your lap is empty; your imagination unfired, like damp clay. Surely you, who value quality and detail above all else should be able to find some distraction to complement and enrich your world, possibly wrapped between two shiny covers and equipped with that “new book” smell.Continue Reading →
There is artistic congestion in London. Too many people with done up top buttons – a clear sign of artistic tendencies – are calling at bingo halls; too many are making ends meet, rather than making. Does it not make sense, given this creative-surplus, to evacuate a chunk of London’s hipsters to the regions, where there are, relative to population, more opportunities to shine?
I’ve read the book, of course. I didn’t see the film “Twilight” though, so I’m not sure I get all the nuance and subtlety of E.L. James’ characterisation. Certainly Anastasia’s habit of biting her lip is not Bella’s from the “Twilight” series, but actress Kristen Stewart’s. So in a sense “Fifty Shades of Grey” is a film based on the fan-fiction of the movie of the book “Twilight”; which is quite the pedigree.
With the aid of the British winter I was able to enjoy The Museum of Comedy alone, as torrential rain kept fun-lovers away from the puddles of central London. The crypt of St George’s Church in Bloomsbury offers a small shrine to the comedic greats that have walked the planks up and down the UK over the last century. Continue Reading →
‘My professor didn’t like it, and I got a shit grade’: Q&A with Alvaro Franca, Typewritten Portrait Artist
I didn’t meet Alvaro Franca in the lobby of some cutting-edge hotel; and he didn’t arrive wearing cut-off denim or an expression that suggested both genius and regret. I didn’t even buy the guy a coffee, having blown that month’s budget on pretzels. I sent him a bunch of emails, that’s all, and he sent some back, and then I tweaked them so that it sounds like we actually met. Such is the modern way.
Our errant taverns correspondent Jacob Ward returns and has found himself nowhere near a respectable watering hole and so filed this irate copy from the heart of middle England titled, Bourton-on-the-water: The prettiest shit-house in England.
As an editor you can make people do things. I told Alice Brace to go to Paris (by bus), find someone with a beard, and then ask them about ART. She found Julian Feeld – photographer, DJ, author, auteur – and here’s what he had to say.
On 28th September 2014, the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement broke out in Hong Kong. Yoyo Chan’s friends have been camping on the streets and braving themselves against tear gas, pepper spray and police batons for the last two months. This postcard is based on a recent telephone conversation between Yoyo and a friend in Hong Kong, while Yoyo was a resident writer at the Shakespeare and Company bookshop in Paris.
We at The Holborn, as you will find out over time, love maps. We often praise the work of one of our favourite companies Herb Lester Associates. Maps are a thing of beauty, mystery and intrigue. They are an integral part of our visual culture, on walls, on rooftops, as statues, in palaces, schools, homes and offices. They appeal to our pride, our sense of belonging, and our aspirations. And to do this, they employ artistic motifs, devices and meanings. In short, maps are not about just geography. There are maps on paper, vellum, parchment, silk, marble maps, tapestry maps, maps on coins and medals, art and propaganda posters. They are used to brag about the size of one’s plot, to control populations, for scientific investigation, and to inspire us to explore ever further.
So to kick off this cartographic column we delve into the past to bring you the delights of Charles Booth’s poverty maps. Charles Booth was one of those remarkable English Victorians profoundly concerned by contemporary social problems, he recognised the limitations of philanthropy and conditional charity in addressing poverty. Without any commission other than his own he devised, organised, and funded one of the most comprehensive and scientific social surveys of London life that had then been undertaken. So when the results of last years census are analysed by the broadsheets it is interesting to see how a previous census was transformed into the maps below and how Booth used them to highlight poverty and its issues in Victorian London.
Booth’s concern was born from the mass urbanisation caused by the Industrial Revolution. How the well-off had begun to segregate themselves in cities like they had never done before. The resulting divisions between poor areas and better off ones caused many problems, let alone for the police force. Using the 1891 census information he wanted to explore how big this problem was, how poverty affected a geographical area. He started to conclude that where you call home may not only affect how well you lived, but how well you behaved.
The maps were born out of Booth’s acknowledgement that the detailed technical findings of his multi-volume report would rarely reach those directly affected by it. So the maps were published and opened up his findings to a whole new demographic. The maps have many colourings which dictate the economic background of the inhabitants.
Black: Lowest class. Vicious, semi-criminal
Dark Blue: Very poor, casual. Chronic want.
Light Blue: Poor. 18 to 21 shillings per week for a moderate family.
Purple: Mixed. Some comfortable, others poor.
Pink: Fairly comfortable. Good ordinary earnings.
Red: Well-to-do. Middle Class.
Yellow: Upper-middle and Upper classes. Wealthy.
The maps illustrated in a way that other forms couldn’t that 30% of London’s population lived in poverty. Booth’s worked showed for the first time the moving nature of London, it alive with movement. We’ve all heard the phrase, ‘oh, that area thats the new Soho’ etc. But Booth expressed it back at the turn of the century, commenting on his work and the movement of richer people to other areas he said, ‘The reds and yellow classes are leaving, and the streets which they occupied are becoming pink… whilst the streets which were formally pink turn to purple and purple to light blue’. The maps offer some interesting contrasts with modern London. Booth’s maps show Chelsea predominately blue and black, Wapping, now home to News International and riverside million pound apartments was largely black. The maps also showed how the middle classes congregated around the main roads into the city such as Finchley Road & Kingsland Road and that poorer people settled around railway yards and canals.
The maps were exhibited at Toynbee Hall and were celebrated. Pall Mall Gazette called Booth ‘a social-Copernicus’. The wonderful story of these maps were the direct and wider political influence they had. As a result of the maps and Booth’s work the Public Health Amendment Act prioritised the local provision of water and sanitation. Then the Housing of The Working Classes Act of the same year enabled local authorities to purchase land for improvement and thus start slum clearance. The maps also started a revolution in urban planning, one which was rooted in social justice, more green spaces were created, cul-de-sacs, courts and alleys were avoided.
These maps changed both London and Britain, and show how maps can both illuminate and inspire. Since were The Holborn the maps included in the article are of Holborn itself.
Explore the maps yourself here.
It has been a couple of years since Jeremy Leslie, industry figure and author of ‘The Modern Magazine‘ dubbed this decade’s explosion of new independent print titles the ‘golden age’ of independent publishing. Our ever expanding magazine rack shows that the flow of exciting, innovative magazines seeking out more and more readers is not slowing down. And a few weeks ago we were yet again pleasantly swept away with an fresh and interesting take on a design magazine. Dirty Furniture, a crowdfunded title like ourselves, explores the world of furniture and design but instead of exploring furniture as ‘lifestyle items’ they are instead ‘interested in what happens after an item leaves the showroom‘ looking at their cultural, political and historical context. The magazine is conceived as a finite series of six, each taking a piece of furniture as its theme- Issue One looks at The Couch. We sat down with Co-Editor Elizabeth Glickfeld to find out more:
My natural facial expression, I am told, is that of a slapped tuccus. ’What’s up with you?’ friends will ask. And the thing is, nothing’s wrong. I lead a privileged existence, with the time and resources to shop at Waitrose four times a week. So why the long face? My suspicion is that the woman I was born to be – the woman creeping ever closer to the surface – is a curmudgeon. Whilst I am still a long way from kicking Tiny Tim’s crutches from under him, the curmudgeon in me is starting to have evermore influence on how I think, how I feel and even how I act. For example, when it was brought to my attention that Mary McCartney was exhibiting a collection of snaps entitled ‘Monochrome/Colour’ in Mayfair, my response was to make a derisory porcine noise before dismissing McCartney as a charlatan who dines out on her surname at least thrice a night.
As we head deeper into winter, Beijing’s skyscrapers and apartment buildings are disappearing into a ghostly putrid film resembling fog. The city’s intricately carved pagodas, temples and pavilions form a startling contrast to the masked tourists who visit them.
Every now and again a postcard lands on the mat at The Holborn’s hypothetical central London offices. This one came from Milton Keynes:
Each week The Holborn will introduce an artist. They might be a poet, playwright or plumber. So long as the words are good we don’t care. Jonny Rodgers is a poet from the Northwest. He is currently completing a PhD in English Literature at the University of Manchester. His poetry has appeared in plenty of reputable magazines. Or so he says.
The son has a gift:
he can change faces.
His father, the guerrilla,
once had a team on his tail.
Four days tracking
and he’d only picked off
the youngest soldier
who had chosen the wrong tree
to piss under.
To deal with the rest
he’d slipped a blade under
the rookie’s cheeks
and unhooked his face
The son knows
this is extinct ferality,
that now control grows
from a roll of notes,
and an American smile.
When the faces are already
blank and unknowing
you don’t need to peel them off.
If you want to be introduced by The Holborn, submit to library@holbornmag,com
Welcome to The Bookshelf, our column where we ask journalists, actors, designers and esteemed others to tell us their five most loved and treasured books and why they adore them so. This week we have a man who is frequently referred to as a younger, British Michael Moore, but without the political agenda. Tim Samuels is an award-winning British documentary filmmaker and broadcaster, whose work is characterised by approaching serious topics in direct, provocative and engaging ways to produce hard-hitting and emotive work.
Tim’s films have included ‘Power To The People’, ‘The Poles Are Coming’ and ‘Art For Heroes’. He is also a regular presenter for ‘The Culture Show’ on BBC2 and continues to contribute reports to ‘Newsnight’. Tim has also made a number of highly regarded documentaries for BBC Radio 4.
Super Sad True Love Story, by Gary Shteyngart
A richly dark satirical look at New York in the unspecified near future. By which point the US economy has gone belly up – China is all-dominant and thinking about foreclosing the US – and information technology has made its absurd yet logical leap into people lives. Around peoples necks hand ‘apparati’ devices, laying bare the most personal of information. Why waste inefficient time chatting someone up in a bar, when a quick scan on your apparati will tell you who in the is most compatible in terms of status, money and fuckability? Set against the meltdown of moral norms and economic collapse, the central character Lenny Abramov, tries to maintain some old world normality – and love. It’s the third novel by Gary Shteyngart – a New Yorker who was born in Russia. A Brave New World for the age of austerity.
To The End of the Land, David Grossman
It’s hard to divorce the emotional reality from the power of this stunning work of fiction. Israeli author David Grossman began writing this novel in 2004 when his eldest son Uri was starting his army service. Around the time that Grossman was finishing the work three years later, his son was killed – serving in the Second Lebanese war. He was nearly 21. It was on the eve of the ceasefire. The novel he’d been writing had at its core a mother driven to desperation by her son’s army service. She heads off to walk across northern Israel just so that she won’t be at home if the army notifiers should come to tell her that something has happened to her son. It’s a stunning elegiac journey across the land and soul of Israel, from one of the nation’s most thoughtful commentators on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. No wonder Obama reportedly took it away on holiday with him
Suddenly a knock on the door, Etgar Keret
I’m not generally a fan of short stories, but Etgar Keret’s are sublimely irresistible. Another Israeli author – but from the tradition that likes to poke fun at authority and reality. Keret’s short stories are a stream of consciousness generally written in one sitting – they can range from a couple of pages, to an 85-page novel. Each is an absurdist, satirical treat. The pathological lier who finds one day that all his lies come to fruition. The man whose last mortal words were ‘without cheese’. The zip in a boyfriend’s mouth which leads his girlfriend into a different man inside. A two-page story about a haemorrhoid which feels almost prophetic. Indeed, there is something parable-like in many of Keret’s stories. This is Keret’s first collection for ten years – and deliciously delivers.
Half Blood Blues, Esi Edugyan
An unexpectedly absorbing novel, following American jazz musicians who end up in Paris in 1940 – not a time or place for one of them to be a mixed-race German, or ‘Rhineland Bastard’ in Nazi slang. Canadian author Edugyan quite remarkably brings this world to life – jazz infuses the pages, the underlying menace of being caught lurks, band loyalties are pushed to breaking point. It’s not the sort of book I’d instinctively go for, but have been recommending it ever since. It thoroughly deserved to be nominated for the Man Booker – and would not have been an unworthy winner.
Northerners, Sefton Samuels
To declare an overt interest, the photographer is my father. These are the photos I grew up around – documentary snapshots of the changing face of the North. A world where fancy-pants celebrity mixes alongside serious poverty. Captured in black and white, Northerners reveals George Best broodily hanging outside his menswear store, LS Lowry lounging at home, Coronation Street taking root in the 1960s – whilst the nearby streets of Salford and Moss Side look almost Victorian in their poverty. Whilst many of the photos hang in the National Portrait Gallery and V&A, this is the first time they have been brought together as a collection -document to the charm, character and profound change that underpins the North. Broadcaster Mark Radcliffe introduces the photos.
Welcome to The Bookshelf, our column where we ask journalists, actors, designers and esteemed others to tell us their five most loved and treasured books and why they adore them so. We ask how they came across these titles, be it found in the bargain bin at Oxfam, handed down by a slightly drunk bearded uncle or simply a chance encounter through Amazon’s ‘You may also like’ function.
This week we peruse the bookshelf of London based stylist Sarah Gilfillan. She has had many years experience in the fashion industry, initially as a stylist on photo shoots. She has worked on menswear editorial pieces for magazines and newspapers including Loaded Fashion, Attitude, and The Independent. On TV for shows such as That Gay Show, Swank and Designed by Emanuel. She also had the privilege of working with various bands and celebrities including Ewan McGregor, Coldplay, Chris Moyles, Badly Drawn Boy and Rufus Sewell. She has styled for many advertising and PR campaigns such as Topman, Fred Perry, Bodyshop, Virgin and Coca-Cola amongst others.Continue Reading →
Francois Mitterrand, the French president at the time of Serge Gainsbourg’s death, called him, in a surprisingly emotional obituary, “our Baudelaire, our Apollinaire” with the sort of off-the-cuff erudition that’s made me a life-long Francophile. Our premier at the time was Margaret Thatcher, a woman who is to poetry what Baudelaire was to self-effacing good humour and an early night.
That the President of France felt the need and, no doubt, a political compunction, to address a pop singer’s death is extraordinary: I wouldn’t hold your breath, Sir Cliff. But Serge Gainsbourg was much more to the French than a singer. He was part of the national character: glib, dishevelled, waving a gitane like a wand, seemingly fuelled only by mischief and irreverence (though actually fuelled by heroic quantities of booze) he was France’s court jester; the gadfly that nobody batted away; the splinter the skin grows over.
That was the Serge that I fell in love with. Look at him, with his frog face and his sheep’s ears, dressed in those immaculate sixties suits, squiring a succession of toothsome dolly-birds. He couldn’t sing, he couldn’t dance, and his stage-act was a few nervous shrugs and a tic, and yet he exuded a black and white, post-existential, pastis-pissed cool. Closer investigation of his records yielded a surprising truth: they were really, really good. Though too old for pop, he was a chansonnier and jazzer, he never seemed to despise it, looking at the various new forms of music pop threw up as problems to be solved, idioms to be reborn in his image. From his subversive ye ye records, his appropriation of African rhythms, the plundered prog, country, reggae and electro: he did it all. Melody Nelson, generally considered his masterpiece, remains astounding; half an hour of doom-laden elastic bass, a seventy piece choir and Serge so close to the mic that he appears to be trying to burrow into your head. And I suggest he would be a bad tenant.Continue Reading →
As you know, we at The Holborn are print-devotees, and are quite good at keeping our ear to the ground about the news titles consistently emerging from an ever-expanding independent magazine sector. Well we started to hear murmurings and whispers about this new title, ‘Special Request‘. On the phone to an friend who is an editor of a great magazine himself, he drops into the conversation “Oh you must check out Special Request, it’s great”, before moving on to another more pressing topic without telling what the magazine was about. So we decided to do something about this and grabbed a copy and being rather impressed, we got hold of Paul Sethi (Founder & Creative Director) & Tom Viney (Co-Editor-in-Chief) to have a chat.
Boat Magazine is biannual that for each issue moves to a new city and works with local talent – writers, photographers, artists, and musicians – to get a snapshot of life in that place. Boat Magazine describes what they do, ‘We go to cities that have big stories to tell and our team works day and night to find them, capture them, and get them into the pages of Boat Magazine.’
We discovered Boat Magazine eighteen months ago with their second issue based in Detroit, they have also been to Sarajevo, London, Athens & in their latest issue Kyoto. When we reviewed the Athens issue earlier in the year we were effusive in our praise, so when Kyoto arrived through our letterbox we decided to get in touch with the good people behind Boat Magazine and ask them a few questions about their work.
Boat Magazine is a fascinating and to our knowledge unique concept. Where did the idea come from?
Davey and I started Boat Magazine as a way to show off our design studio – www.boat-studio.com. We never intended the magazine to be a commercial product (or we would’ve at the very least named it something else!) but it has been really well received so we’ve just kept going.
What does the magazine seek to achieve? What’s the story your seeking to tell?
We try to tell a different story in the cities we go to. Firstly, we spend more time there than most journalists and since we’re independent we don’t have anyone above us requiring specific stories or angles. That means we get to let our stories develop really organically. For example in Sarajevo I got my hair cut in a local beauty salon in order to meet locals – that turned into us meeting the guy who runs the hotel across the street who knew a musician who toured around Europe to critical acclaim and then that musician let us come along to a rehearsal of his new band… And on and on. We try to get under the skin of the place and shed a light on the people who are living there. They almost always ask us what we expected to find and how it compares to what we’ve actually found and it’s always so different! In Sarajevo you’d expect these people to be living under a cloud of post-war sadness but they aren’t. It’s actually a vibrant, creative city.
The magazine has a terrific production quality. Tell us about the decisions around production and design.
Our Art Director, Luke Tonge, has been with us from the start and he always tries to make each issue feel like the city it’s about. That has been a real aid to the content – it’s nice to be reading about a place from pages that also look and feel like it. We’ve wanted to make sure it feels indie, as well, hence the uncoated paper we use. But with Kyoto we had some stunning photographs from an amazing photographer, Christo Geoghegan, that were quite dark because they were taken at night. We used gloss paper for that section to make the photos pop a bit more and it’s worked really well. The decisions we make always try to boost the content instead of being design for design’s sake and I think that’s why it stands out!
How does the magazine and the studio work alongside each other?
Well to begin with, the work we get into the studio subsidizes the work we do on the magazine! So financially the magazine is really dependent on the studio. It has raised our profile a little bit, though, in that people find out about the studio through the magazine. That has been a really great two-way relationship. It’s also nice for everyone in the studio to have that moment when the magazines land and you can see and feel an actual object we’ve all worked really hard on.
Where do you and your team take your inspiration from? Do you have any office favourites amongst other publications?
We have two camps, really. There’s the design side who are really into well designed magazines. And then there’s the content side. I think it’s tough to find magazines that do both really well! We all look up to Port Magazine – they have both great content and good design. I’m a typical sucker for The New Yorker – you really can’t beat the journalism there, it’s always so phenomenal. Delayed Gratification, Inventory, and Smith Journal are favorites in the studio, too!
What is the experience like decamping to a different city every six months and producing a magazine?
It’s so stressful but so incredibly fun. There’s always this immense pressure to find stories – “what if we land and there’s nothing to talk about!” But that has never happened – we always fatefully seem to meet one of those people who just knows everyone and everything about the place. We run around like mad from early morning until late at night and get back to the house we’re staying in with a hundred stories and ideas to talk about each night. It’s so great to collaborate with people on that intense of a level – staying under one roof and eating together. It is 24 hours a day of work, but it’s such a great feeling when someone gets an insane photograph or lands an amazing interview.
Tell us more about the time spent in Kyoto? And what’s special in this Issue?
Kyoto is by far our most different issue. We tend to be attracted to chaotic, layered, loud cities and Kyoto is the opposite. It’s quiet and peaceful and private. I think it also looks the most different of all of our issues but it really feels like Kyoto feels. The city is really historical and traditional so this issue feels very heritage-y which isn’t necessarily a very Boat thing to focus on, but everyone we met there seemed to have roots to ancient crafts and traditions so we made sure that was reflected. It was the hardest city to properly meet and get to know any locals, but the ones we did were incredibly inspiring and insightful.
As publishers of a successful independent magazine how do you see the health of the industry at the moment?
Well I think that’s a very subjective thing to talk about because it depends on what model you’re working to. We don’t subscribe to the traditional advertising model because we know enough about advertising to know that it just doesn’t work for a publication like ours (or for very many independent magazines at all, really). We have always been a design and content studio first so the magazine has been a great marketing tool for our studio, albeit a very expensive one! But the future for Boat Magazine, as a printed magazine anyway, is always up the air! We have to keep a hold of it fairly loosely because the whole industry is in such flux.
What can we expect from Boat in the future?
We’ve got a short list of cities for the next issue. We’re also playing around with the idea of doing something more digital and interactive. We’ll throw a bunch of things up and see what sticks!
MHG & ES
Last week we looked at some famous London Public Houses with connections to great and the good of the literary world in our Bookish Boozers article. Keeping up the theme of drinking and writing we take at some cocktails which are interwoven into the literary world.
Ernest Hemingway: The Mojito
“A man does not exist until he is drunk.” – Ernest Hemingway
– Hemingway is associated with a number of cocktails (he was, after all, a heavy drinker), but none more so than the Mojito. According to Hemingway & Bailey’s Bartending Guide, the mojito was invented at La Bodeguita del Medio in Havana, Cuba, where Hemingway drank them.
William Faulkner: Mint Julep
– It should also be no surprise that the Mint Julep was William Faulkner’s drink of choice. Faulkner, a Southern writer par excellence, was himself no stranger to alcohol and was notorious for heroic month-long benders between novels, and the whiskey-haze in which he ended his career, moonlighting as a screenwriter in 1940s Hollywood (incidentally, another pit of decadence and depravity, where he was able to write both The Big Sleep and To Have and Have Not).
When he wasn’t slugging back bourbon straight, Faulkner would famously have his Mint Juleps by his side as he wrote some of the most central and lasting creations of 20th century American literature (The Sound and the Fury, As I Lay Dying and Absalom, Absalom, to name a few).
Raymond Chandler: The Gimlet
“a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s lime juice and nothing else” (Terry Lennox in Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye)
– The word “gimlet” used in this sense is first attested in 1928. The most obvious derivation is from the tool for drilling small holes, whose name is also used figuratively to describe something as sharp or piercing. Thus, the cocktail may have been named for its “penetrating” effects on the drinker. Another theory is that the drink was named after British Royal Navy Surgeon Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette KCB (served 1879 to 1913), who allegedly introduced this drink as a means of inducing his messmates to take lime juice as an anti-scurvy medication. Though it was Chandler who popularised the gimlet in America when his famed detective Philip Marlowe introduced it in The Long Goodbye.
Tennessee Williams: Ramos Gin Fizz
– Tennessee was a man with a wildly creative mind and refined taste, but also an unshakable lover of gin. Whether it was a martini or his beloved Crescent City classic, the Ramos Gin Fizz, Tennessee is remembered by many locals and historians who knew him as a man who enjoyed many an evening (or perhaps an early morning) tipple. Apparently locals still drink this famous Southern cocktail in honor of Williams especially as the drink was featured many times in his writings.
Ian Fleming: Vesper Martini
“A dry martini… One. In a deep Champagne goblet…Just a moment. Three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it’s ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?” – James Bond
– In Fleming’s Bond series, the Vesper Martini is the first drink Bond ever orders – and the only time he orders it. The Vesper differs from Bond’s standard cocktail of choice, the martini, in that it uses both gin and vodka. Bond would later be known for ordering vodka martinis.
F.Scott Fitzgerald: The Gin Rickey
Fitzgerald’s passion for gin apparently stemmed from the belief that it could not be detected on the breath – though his raucous behaviour at the parties he and his wife Zelda so often attended no doubt revealed the truth. A boozer in the truest sense of the term, Fitzgerald’s favourite tipple was the gin rickey. Though the rickey can be made with everything from scotch to rum, the gin-based version endured, no doubt due to Fitzgerald’s hearty endorsement.
Oscar Wilde: Absinthe
Known for his love of Absinthe, he famously intoned, speaking of his time drinking Absinthe at the Cafe Royal, “The first stage is like ordinary drinking, the second when you begin to see monstrous and cruel things, but if you can persevere you will enter in upon the third stage where you see things that you want to see, wonderful curious things.”
It is an all-too-common scenario: a friend is visiting London, and you want to take them out for a pint at a ‘traditional’ British pub, but, being a person of some distinction (you read The Holborn after all) you also want to wow them with your smarts and literary knowledge (and not end up in a J D Wetherspoons).
Well, I’m here to help.
Perhaps not as famous for its literary watering holes as say, Dublin, London still has a great many pubs with proud literary histories.
Arguably the most well-known is the Fitzroy Tavern on Charlotte Street (16 Charlotte St, London W1T 2LY), which is believed to be Fitzrovia’s namesake. Frequented by a whole host of well-known bohemian writers in the 1930s, its regulars included George Orwell, Virginia Woolf and Dylan Thomas. Now owned by chain pub-owning giant Samuel Smith Brewery, it still retains most of its unique charm. It is jam-packed with punters most nights and the beers are very cheap (some under £2! Unheard of!). Ensconced amongst some wonderful restaurants and bars, The Fitzroy would be a good first stop on a night out to soak up a little of London’s literary past.
The George Inn on Borough High Street (75-77 Borough High St, Southwark, London SE1 1NH) is London’s only remaining galleried coaching inn, and was (at least once) visited by the one and only Charles Dickens, who then went on to mention it specifically in Little Dorrit. It is also thought to have been ‘Shakespeare’s local’, though proof remains unsupported as to whether or not the bard ever truly set foot in the establishment. Regardless, it is a lovely historic pub in a great location, with decent food and service.
It would be a disservice to this list not to include The Lamb on Lambs Conduit Street (94 Lamb’s Conduit St, London WC1N 3LZ) in Bloomsbury. Once a regular haunt of Charles Dickens, who lived around the corner in Doughty Street in the late 1830s, The Lamb is a sort of upmarket pub with a distinctly homely, traditional feel. If its Dickensian past wasn’t ‘writerly’ enough, it also played host to many a romantic rendez-vous between Sylvia Plath & Ted Hughes in the early 1950s.
Heading out west, we have The Dove in Hammersmith (19 Upper Mall, Hammersmith, London W6 9TA) which not only boasts the World’s Smallest Bar Room (see if you can find it), but has also played host to a number of notable wordsmiths throughout its long history. The poet James Thompson allegedly wrote the words to Rule, Britannia here. Ernest Hemmingway and Dylan Thomas are two more weighty names said to have clinked glasses at The Dove. If you catch London on a rare sunny day (or if your friend happens to be visiting around the time of the Oxford-Cambridge boat race), it is a wonderful waterside spot to grab a beer.
The Pillars of Hercules is an old rickety pub on Greek Street (7 Greek St, London W1D 4DF). With an average selection of ales and lagers and somewhat questionable, hit-and-miss service, it may have somewhat lost its charm these days. However you can excuse all that, because of its rich literary history. The Pillars of Hercules was a bustling hotspot for the London literary set in the 1970s – Clive James’ second collection of literary criticism is named after it (At the Pillars of Hercules, 1979) due to most of its contents being written there. Ian McEwan, in a recent interview with the Guardian, said “Who would want to hang out around the Pillars of Hercules? Only those bent by this passion for writing books. We were absolutely determined to become writers. We didn’t use words like ‘passion’, but we acted them out. Writing was the only important thing.” It was here McEwan met Christopher Hitchens and formed a connection with Martin Amis and Julian Barnes. Perhaps its Soho location gives the Pillars a vague sense of pretension, but I maintain it has a good long list of names you can casually drop into conversation with your utterly impressed visiting friend. Do mind the crowds.
Even in a city so overflowing with the bizarre and exciting tales of its own history, it is somehow all too easy to step out for a drink and step in to a boring oversized chain pub which appears to have developed a (carpeted) dance floor. Instead, make a beeline for one of these little gems and spin a yarn about Sylvia Plath’s love life. I assure you, your friend will appreciate it.
(There is in fact a London literary pub crawl available to do – http://www.londonliterarypubcrawl.com/ – where the group is guided through the city by actors dressed as ghost writers! As in, the ghosts of writers. Not people who ghost-write.)
Trust Neil Gaiman, quirky mop-haired writer and master of ingenious collaborations, to inspire the alliance of such an interesting array of British talent in the BBC’s recent radio dramatisation of his popular novel, ‘Neverwhere’.
Recently aired on BBC Radio 4 & dramatized by the inimitable Dirk Maggs (who also produced episodes of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for radio between 2003-2005), this production of Neverwhere consists of 6 episodes and stars some big-name British voices. The cast is a veritable Harry-Potter-style list of British darlings, including James McAvoy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anthony Head (Dancing On The Edge), Natalie Dormer ( The Tudors, Game of Thrones fame), David Harewood (Homeland), Bernard Cribbins (Doctor Who, Zulu ) , Andrew Sachs (Fawlty Towers), and Johnny Vegas (The Libertine), with a peppering of other recognisable names and voices from pop/nerd culture.
If you haven’t read the novel (which I would highly recommend you do, at your earliest convenience), or seen the original 1990s television serial, it centres around Richard Mayhew (McAvoy), a conventional and unassuming Scotsman who comes to London to work in the City and lead a normal, run-of-the-mill existence. All this is turned upside down, however, when he stops on the street to help an injured girl called Door (Dormer) and as a result, is flung headfirst into the world of London Below.
If London Above is the London we would all recognise: the Gherkin, a muddy river Thames, red double decker buses and hoards of suits and tourists, London Below is the London of the forgotten. A hidden city right beneath our feet, it plays host to a plethora of bizarre (and oftentimes comical) characters, a floating market, baronies, beasts and angels – for instance, the Angel Islington (Cumberbatch) a simple but clever play on names. There is also a real Earl of Earl’s Court, and some rather west African-sounding monks at Blackfriars.
And so the scene is set: a rich, mythical, gothic wink-and-nudge world of London Below. The Lady Door is on a mission to find out who killed her family, and Mayhew is along for the ride. They are pursued by the creepy, bloodthirsty cutthroats Mr Croup and Mr Vandemar, and aided by a hunter called Hunter, and the mysterious Marquis de Carabas.
With such imaginative and rich source material, it would never have been a problem making this story compelling. However, beyond that, I think what Dirk Maggs did here was to almost create a whole new story, within his own soundscape. My experience of Mayhew’s journey was totally different listening to it being acted out by McAvoy et al than it was when I read the same characters as words on a page. The layering of sound creates a depth that really fleshed out each setting in my mind’s eye. A sewer sounded like a sewer, a tube station like a tube station, and an angel’s candlelit grotto sounded exactly like an angel’s candlelit grotto.
There is a reason the ‘big names’ in the cast are such ‘big names’: because they’re excellent actors. Truly excellent actors appear to be able to do acting without even their good looks to aid them. It is impressive, how much meaning, drama, humour and character can be expressed through the medium of voice alone. McAvoy is at his best as a bemused and baffled mortal encountering London Below for the first time, and I think Cribbins as the croaky, cockney Old Bailey was one of my absolute favourites. Keep an ear out for a cameo by Mr Gaiman himself, in fact.
Adapting Neverwhere for radio must have been a large and difficult task, as all adaptations presumably are. How can you squeeze all the plot twists, action, hilarious characters and expansive themes a novel can carry into three and a half hours of radio play? Maggs pulls it off with aplomb, crafting a new form of story out of an old one. The voices, music and sound effects converge to evoke a distinct feeling of darkness, mystery, magic and the fantastic. I would recommend listening to it as you gaze out the rain-spattered window of a double decker bus, or wander about the cobbled streets of Fitzrovia.
This dramatisation works as a standalone piece – you don’t need to be an existing Gaiman-ite to appreciate its colourful, tongue-in-cheek portrayal of London or understand the depth of characters’ motivations. Hopefully it has achieved a two-way pull, and drawn a literary/television audience to a new format of entertainment (I know I’m converted and have already been browsing the iPlayer radio app), as well as drawing some Radio 4 listeners into the wondrous world of Gaiman visionary novels.
We at The Holborn are big fans of the It’s Nice That blog and we have been buying their brilliant accompanying magazine for a number of years. So we were very interested to hear that the lovely people over at It’s Nice That were making some big changes and getting rid of their Magazine and releasing a new title in Printed Pages. We put our order in and have, over the past week been perusing the great first issue of their new title. We sat down with director Will Hudson to ask him a few questions about Printed Pages.
Quite simply who would you describe the magazine? What is Printed Pages and what makes it different?
The magazine accompanies our online platform that aims to champion creativity across the world of art and design. Print allows us to do things that we can’t online, similarly to the events we run. It’s about finding the best way to tell a story. The magazine is there to add depth and discovery in an accessible format.
This is the first edition of Printed Pages which replaces the old It’s Nice That Magazine. Why the change? What was the thinking?
We first printed the It’s Nice That magazine back in 2009 and a lot has changed since then. We had made a few changes at Issue 7 in an attempt to clarify the difference between our print and online offer. With them sharing the same name we were never quite able to do that and at the same time we took a step back and considered what our approach should be. We’re keen to put something out there that’s accessible in both price and format.
Tell us about the new format and design. What does it bring to the table?
I still believe it’s really important to do something different, we always maintained from the very beginning that if we were going to do something similar to another title we’d be better off just going and working for that other title. What we recognised from the research we did is that independent art and design titles tend to cost upwards of £10 and there was nothing for less than £5 and saw this as a nice difference. It meant we could move to being quarterly and manage the editorial side comfortably and stripping it back to include 8 features (interviews/profiles/photo essays/etc…) and two regular features. The design will evolve issue on issue and what we have is something that feels very right for us.
Where do you and your team take your inspiration from? Do you have any office favourites amongst other titles?
We’ve very lucky we get sent a phenomenal amount of things through the post and the team are very proactive in bringing in things they’re reading and referencing so we naturally take inspiration from a whole host of different things.
How do the It’s Nice That blog and Printed Pages work together?
The online tends to be the very current up to date stuff, we post on average nine articles a day. The magazine allows us to step back and add that element of depth and discovery. Crucially both have a great breadth, predominantly covering graphic design, illustration, photography and art but going beyond that to include, fashion, film and product design as well as the tone in which we write.
How does the economics of a small title of yours work?
We’re a growing business, we’ve been lucky in that we’ve never had to borrow money and we’ve grown very organically. Each of the online, magazine and events side has it’s targets and they vary from audience to monetary.
How do you see the health of the independent print magazine industry?
Like all industries there are exciting things happening and stale things happening, there are the established to the emerging, big audiences to small audiences, essentially everything is part of a cycle and things will grow and things will die. What we have to be mindful of is we can observe all these things while being part of it.
What can we look forward to from Printed Pages in the future?
An exciting, engaging quarterly magazine that will inform and entertain in equal measures.
MHG & WH
The Quest for the Perfect Pub is truly a wonderful book,
‘One by one the old pubs are being swallowed up by the catering chains, whose thrusting, Next-clad young executives are at this very moment roaming the country, Their acquisitions are speedily turned into half-hearted ‘theme’ pubs, probably called Funsters, Hank’s or the Raj, where a plastic mill-stream. bar staff in Stetsons, or a yellowing pith-helment on the wall are considered to be bold and radical statements in ‘Leisure-time programming’. If you feel like blowing up such places, or merely hitting the landlord, then this is the book for you’
I first came across this book last summer while walking with some friends over The Peak District National Park in Derbyshire. With the aim of ourselves making various pilgrimages to some locally renowned boozers. One of our company, who in fact writes the Taverns articles for this very publication, had a battered old book about him which he was perusing at every available resting point. Now at first I did not take much notice as much as I love pubs, and I do, I am unlike my friend who can be found often reading The Good Pub Guide or CAMRA leaflets for his bedtime reading. I frequently noticed he was laughing out loud as he sat engrossed in this book, a reaction totally unknown amongst anyone reading a book like the Good Pub Guide, I was intrigued.
And so I was told the story of Nick and Charlie Hurt’s Quest for The Perfect Pub. Published in 1988 it was set against the backdrop of pub closures (sound familiar?) and a butchering of traditional pubs by property tycoons and the big breweries; ‘The Voracious Eight’, as CAMRA dubbed them; Allied, Bass Charrington, Courage, Greenall Whitley, Guinness, Scottish & Newcastle, Watney Mann & Truman and Whitbread. As Nick and Charlie saw it, and as I have heard many other pub lovers say today, CAMRA had done a great job at resurrecting the dying art of brewing good beer, but what was really need now was a Campaign for Real Pubs. So they set off on a journey around England and Wales to find the surviving great british boozers.
Here at The Holborn we have celebrated a collection of great pubs, but so far the majority have been in London, this book purposefully omitted London (and other major cities) and we are told in the introduction the capital’s drinking holes would be dealt with in a second book. And here lies the tragedy about this book, and why it is a rare and special item to own for a pub lover, is that there was only ever one print run. The authors don’t mince their words in this book, especially when it comes to certain breweries and what they were doing to pubs at the time. And so one of the breweries threatened to sue the publishers and the small publishing house confronted with the powerhouse brewery backed down and removed the book from publication. For this reason I am unapologetic about my over use of direct quotation from this forgotten book in this humble review.
On the aforementioned trip, thanks to the aforementioned companion and his connections we were treated to an audience with one of the authors, Charlie Hurt. Charlie now resides in the Peaks and met us for a lunchtime pint in one of his top pubs from the book, The Barley Mow at Kirk Ireton, and regaled us with stories from his adventures and discussed the current fortunes of pubs that our band of ale drinkers love up and down the land. I’ll readily admit I am a little fuzzy on the details of that lunch.
So to the book, and the title. The Quest for the Perfect Pub. Nick and Charlie’s inspiration for the title came from none other than George Orwell, who once wrote;
‘My favourite public house, ‘The Moon under Water’… consists mostly of regulars who occupy the same chair every evening and go there for conversation as much for beer. If you are asked why you favour a particular public house, it would seem natural to put the beer first, but the thing that most appeals to me about ‘The Moon under water is what people call its ‘atmosphere’…it has no glass topped tables or other modern miseries and, on the other hand, no sham roof-beams, inglenooks or plastic panels masquerading as oak… ‘The Moon under Water’ is my ideal of what a pub should be…but now is the time to reveal something which the discerning and disillusioned reader will probably guessed already. There is no such pub as ‘The Moon under Water’ George Orwell 9th February 1946.
Their quest was to prove Orwell wrong, though was the perfect pub the modern equivalent of the Holy Grail, mythical, wonderful, unattainable? They spent three months with many ups and downs scouring the land, and in their effort visiting over 2000 pubs.
This is one part adventure story of two brothers on the road, another part documentation of British Life, and another part political stand against the destruction of pubs. There are times when the authors readily admit that because of levels of alcohol consumed they are not overly sure what happened or can’t quite give a full report of the experience of the evening in the chosen drinking hole, or reports are told of very boisterous evenings. Other times Nick and Charlie offer you glimpses of why public houses are so important to the fabric of our British lives. In one of the top ten pubs, The Cresselly Arms in Cresswell Quay, they recount;
‘Maurice and Janet Cole, publicans extraordinary. Mrs Cole performs her neat slippered scuttle along the bar. She has a winning smile. You order a pint of her impeccable Hancocks which she taps with confidence into a jug and then into your sleever. She passes the time of day and returns to more pressing matters. The coalman’s glass is empty. It must be filled.
Maurice Cole enters the pub very, very slowly, the reason being that on his arm is an old gentleman of one hundred and one in a flat cap and a 1930s suit. He has recently gone blind, so Maurice has fetched him down to the Cresselly for his lunchtime drink. He guides him to the table, fetches two halves and sits down with him.’
And at times they can no longer contain the rage;
‘The continuing desecration of the classic country pub is, on a par with the desecration of a beautiful church, an act of vandalism both architecturally and it terms of the community. And to those who may consider our attitude too traditionalist, too steeped in nostalgia, we would reply that everywhere we travelled we met as many young people as old who felt a sense of loss and outrage at what was happening. Time and time again we would make enquires as to the best pubs only to be told in reverent tones about Grumpy Bill’s place in the next village, or of old Joan in the Red Lion down the road. Then the pause and the added rider: ‘But he/she is not there any more…it’s been revamped by the brewery…it’s now a restaurant/holiday home.”
Though it would be very hard to use this book as a guide to visit pubs, with it being 25 years on & considering the rate of pub closers, the categorisation of the pubs is superb. They are ranked with a star, two barrels or one barrel and categorised as One Room Drinkers (ORD), Good Little Local (GLL), Lively Little Local (LLL), Good Market Town Hotel (GMTH), Good All-Rounder (GAR), Great All Rounder (GGAR), and the Good in a Tight Spot (GITS).
It would be interesting to know how many of the 300 pubs listed in the book are still open or as they were. We can confirm some are, as some of our favourite pubs such as the Barley Mow in Kirk Ireton, Seymour Arms in Witham Friary and the Tucker’s Grave are all as the Hurts describe 25 years ago. Maybe what is needed is for some adventurous young chaps or chapettes to document the current state of play and find the current best three hundred or so pubs in the land… A quest of our very own. Who is joining me?
We at The Holborn have a great love of cartography and we especially as children of the eighties like these maps of locations from early computer games, classic comics and our favourite cartoons. Beautifully and simply designed these maps are from company City Prints. They also do a wonderful collection of city maps, university campus maps, and football stadiums. Enjoy.
These days when we write, whether for work or pleasure, we instinctively head straight for the computer and type away. And why not? Typing is easy and fast, it offers the convenience of spell-checks and layout templates, and once we’re finished our work is effortlessly disseminated via printer, email and the Internet for all to see. This is all very well and good and thoroughly convenient and modern and practical and time-efficient and so on. But if your mind works like your dear correspondent – and I pray for your sake that it does not – then you might reflect on us all, hunched over glowing screens, hammering away at plastic keyboards, marshalling unseen legions of silicon semiconductors to our will, and you might conclude that it all looked a bit dreary and industrial, a touch conformist and maybe, well, just a teeny tad totalitarian.
Meanwhile the process of writing, actual writing, that timeless union of the physical art of penmanship and the cerebral powers of language, has been cruelly relegated to the servile duties of an aide-memoire. With no laptop handy, we scribble onto sticky notes, scrawl shopping lists and doodle on the backs of envelopes with the aid of cheap, disposable and environmentally unfriendly ballpoints and glutinous gel pens. We neglect that special power of handwriting to produce something unique: an original composition, in an individual script. Many of us here in The Holborn feel that this should not be. So we turn to that most illustrious and refined of writing instruments: the noble fountain pen.
Perhaps the last time you even saw a fountain pen was in your school days, when it was squashed into your games bag and subsequently ruined your rugby kit, prompting your father to strip to his jodhpurs in a fury and thrash you with a length of birch. Fear not, I can help. Of course not with your unresolved childhood trauma, don’t be silly. But if it’s a recommendation for a fountain pen you’re after, I would humbly suggest you strongly consider something from Pelikan’s Souverän range.
Widely regarded as some of the best writing instruments in the world, they’ve got the lot: a unique and time-served pressure-equalising differential piston system; massive ink reservoir; brass components; quintuple-lacquered resin barrel; and most important, iridium-tipped, diamond-ground, rhodium and gold plate nibs that are readily interchangeable and available in a range of sizes. They really are beautifully crafted things. Certainly there are other, pricier pens out there, adorned with swanky hand-cut engravings or incorporating more precious materials into their design. Observe, for instance, this overdesigned carbon fibre Italianate monstrosity (though perhaps not if you’ve just had a heavy lunch). It’s yours for a mere thirteen hundred and twenty quid with no change for a ciabatta. But few of these alternatives, if any, will match or surpass the writing characteristics of the Pelikan.
Best place to get one? You can pick up the mid-sized M600, my preference, from Cult Pens for £180. If your budget won’t stretch that far, the M200 uses all the same mechanisms as the pricier Souveräns but lays off on the expensive materials. It will also give you years of impeccable service. Yours for £60 from the same place.
While you’re there, pick up a bottle or two of Diamine ink. It’s excellent stuff, British made, and comes in a broad variety of colours to suit all tastes. Best to steer clear of permanent and registrar’s inks for now, since some are acidic or contain iron compounds and they can royally bugger your new pen if you don’t know what you’re doing.
“But ” you may cry in indignation, “Why bother? Is it not just the worst sort of sentimentality and neo-Luddism to harken after hand-writing in the modern age? Don’t you even want an iPhone 5?” Of course, the great innovation of typesetting has given us everything from The Oxford English Dictionary to Penguin Books, from The Wall Street Journal to Heat magazine; and computers have spurred us on to create inestimable and ever-growing quantities of blogs, essays, articles, opinion-pieces, periodicals, polemics, and public notices of all descriptions. All of this does great service to society, with the obvious exception of Heat magazine. But in all these cases, technology is aiding the process of writing with the broader, impersonal public in mind.
What print and computers cannot do is to make your writing personal. As soon as the typesetter’s block or the digital interface is placed between the writer and the recipient, some element of the human connection diminishes: the letter, diary, poem, note, or whatever-it-is that we intended to write becomes that bit less personal, that bit more standardised, less unique, more mundane. If you are writing with someone in mind, whether it is a letter to a friend or to someone whose work you admire, or even for your own gratification in a diary or jotter, then you do yourself a great disservice if you do not write it by hand.
So it is that in my idyllic and unrealisable vision of a better, brighter, more human, more enlightened and altogether sexier world, we would all be enthusiastic amateur writers, eagerly sending and receiving great quantities of handwritten letters, furtively swapping diaries with loved ones and closest friends, fervently leaving a paper trail of our emotion and experience behind us as we live our lives. Yes, I did just say that handwriting makes the world a sexier place. Think about it. Sex can only connect you with the animal aspects of a person. Writing connects you with the human.That is a far more personal thing to share, far more intimate, and it possesses the power to move you so much more deeply, and to change your outlook on life forever.
Hopefully by now you have leapt from your seat in a passion, sworn against typing another word on a computer ever again, and swept the contents of your desk to the floor in the grandiose throes of your excitement. If so, relax. Sheepishly recover your computer from the floor and stick an Elastoplast over that conspicuous crack in the screen. You’re still going to need it. But don’t forget to treat yourself to a fountain pen, or if you already have one sitting unused on a shelf, take it down, dust it off, send away for a bottle of ink and promise yourself that the next time you go to write, you make sure to take it personally.
This week in The Magazine Rack we look at cycling magazine The Ride Journal. The concept of a cycling magazine may make you think of a glossy affair packed full of technical articles about different frame materials and gears accompanied by male models advertising very tight high tech lycra. Well this time you’d be wrong, this publication is less about the bike and much more a bout the Ride.
Ride describes their mission; ‘The idea was to create a journal filled with personal stories. We know that most people who share our obsession with bikes don’t want to be pigeon-holed as roadies, freeriders, track racers, BMXers, XC riders or even commuters. They are just riders. So we wanted to create something for them, and also for us. Something that crosses both cycling and international borders. Bikes have changed people’s lives in so many ways and we wanted to gather a small selection of these tales.We didn’t want to give reviews or race reports, we wanted to get under the skin and expose the passion that flows through riders veins.’
The Ride, has a desire to profile the personal experiences of riders, and their finished product feels like a story book. It’s fun and playful front cover has both a sense of wonder and adventure woven into it, like a compendium of tales from your childhood. It’s weighty nature, just shy of 200 pages, and its design layout make it feel like the journey you make through a compilation of short stories, I almost bookmarked the magazine when I first started my way through it, an act I have never before committed as an avowed magazine junkie.
We have the seventh issue since Ride started in 2008. Founders Phillip and Andrew Diprose set out to create something different to the usual cycling magazines, they put the word out to people from all across the globe. They quickly discovered it wasn’t just them who wanted to see such a journal; then all kinds of riders and cycling enthusiast got involved. They describe that time as ‘A snowball effect took place and what was planned to be 80 pages soon grew into the beautiful monster sized journal we have finally ended up with’
Not only riders helped make it happen, as they not only wanted incredible stories, but also wanted the magazine to be visually striking. So they approached their favourite artists, illustrators and photographers and the rest is history. The other rare and special thing about Ride that once you know it becomes evident from the feel of the magazine is that Phillip and Andrew don’t pay themselves, all profits go to charity, they really are in it truly for the ride.
So to the Issue. As I mentioned its packed with a series of short tales, which are all accompanied with a beautiful illustration and occasional broken up by a longer feature. One thing I particularly love is the great variety amongst the contributors, which gives you a feel for the great diversity of people who take to two wheels and the different ways they do so. So we have a tale from Ben McCall from Sheffield who cycled from the West Coast to the East Coast of America in 13 days, 11 hours and was assisted in his final push by a cycle shop in Knoxville, Tennessee.
We also have article from Formula One driver Mark Webber on his love on cycling, and from Mr.Sideburns himself Sir Bradley Wiggins on his Tour win last year. Interesting to find Wiggins comments on the Lance Armstrong debacle in his article; ‘rather than feel let down by him, I think that whole generation let us down, I don’t think this has happened to any sport, where a void has been created in a whole era’. Also included are articles by Aaron Gwin, back-to-back winner of the downhill World Cup, and German cycler Jens Voigt.
Though it’s the great stories from the everyday reader that truly make this magazine. The best compliment I think I can give The Ride is I’m not a cyclist, bar the occasional adventure on a Boris bike, but I loved this and shall be looking out for Issue 8. It’s the adventure I love about Ride, for instance my favourite article is about two guys who ride their Bromptons across the Shetlands with a inflatable dingy on their back. No ferries and buses, just fold up the Brompton and blow up the dingy and switch to paddling. Brilliant!! One these two men was adventurer Alastair Humphreys and was part of his series of ‘micro-adventures’.
This week in The Magazine Rack we take a look at the boozy little sister of famed food journal Fire & Knives. The second title from the people behind Fire & Knives is a wonderful journey through the world of all things Alcoholic. Gin & It is very much in the vein of the award winning Fire & Knives, the small size, the same text heavy pages accompanied by a plethora of wonderful full page illustrations.
And also like Fire & Knives each article is a pleasure to read, a brilliant bit of alcoholic based journalism. The magazine has that journal type feel, as if I’ve picked up a book of short essays, beautifully complied in this one item for my enjoyment. I’ve been enthralled since the magazine landed on my doorstep, reading quotes to my partner as we sip on our after-work glass of red. Laughing about Samantha Kilgour’s attempted revival at the fortunes of pink fizz, ‘pink fizz has an image problem. It’s considered girly, frivolous and tacky in a way thats its plain straw-coloured sister isn’t. Its’s just not fair: this Cinderella of a wine has been neglected, oft-mocked, consigned to the dodgy side of the tracks with the likes of Blue Nun or Black Tower’ and nodding in agreement of Lucy Holden’s, Withnail and I quoting, article on the rise of Alcohol as a fashion statement; ‘In a world where we fight for individualism like it’s the last item on the rack. how can every inch of life not be used as a vehicle for expressing ourselves? Like fashion, alcohol has gained cultural significance within social and geographical boundaries; drinks are an expression of the life one wants to lead’.
Gin & It have assembled a veritable feast of experienced food writers from food writer and Great British Menu judge Matthew Fort to twice winner of the Glenfiddich Award for Drinks Writing Richard Ehrlich. Match with some young talented writers sourced from all corners of the food & drink worlds and you have quality running through the veins of this new publications.
The range of articles covers an impressive range of drinks and subjects, from a piece of curious drinks history explaining the relationship between the french beverage Benedictine and the northern town of Burnley, an argument for always drinking out of the right glass, and a guide to how to pick a bottle of wine by it’s label.
For anyone who loves drink, and all that surrounds it, or even if you just love good writing, I’d recommend checking out Gin & It. Lose yourself with a glass of your favourite tipple in the pages of the great vintage of a magazine.
Welcome to The Bookshelf, our column where we ask journalists, actors, designers and esteemed others to tell us their five most loved and treasured books and why they adore them so. This week we welcome famed explorer and documentary maker Paul Rose.
A man at the front line of exploration and one of the world’s most experienced divers and polar travellers, Paul Rose has been helping scientists unlock global mysteries for the past 30 years in the most remote and challenging regions of the planet.Paul is Vice-President of the Royal Geographical Society, an active explorer, television and radio broadcaster, a field science expert and published author. He has been working in Antarctica and the Arctic every year since 1990.
A popular and sought-after presenter, his television credits include the highly acclaimed BBC Oceans, Voyages of Discovery, Take One Museum and Meltdown. He reports for BBC News and makes regular appearances on BBC Breakfast, current affairs programmes and Sky News.He was the Base Commander of Rothera Research Station, Antarctica, for the British Antarctic Survey for 10 years and was awarded HM The Queen’s Polar Medal. For his work with NASA and the Mars Lander project on Mt Erebus, Antarctica, he was awarded the US Polar Medal.
The Kingdom by the Sea, A Journey around Great Britain – Paul Theroux
Climbing big mountains and skiing across icecaps is no place for extra weight. Every gram counts: I use the best lightweight equipment available, work out the food and fuel to be just enough, carry the barest minimum of spares and never take any spare clothes or anything that “might be handy”. This means no underwear changing and ripping up books.
Kingdom By The Sea by Paul Theroux is a lovely simple book about his journey around Britain and was ideal for my first expedition to Mt McKinley in Alaska. His reflections on Britain made a welcome diversion from the arctic temperatures and high altitude efforts of our climb. By dividing the book amongst the three of us tent partners it kept me true to my “weight is the enemy” credo and after three weeks on the expedition we had all had each section a few times. I taped it back together when I got home and, now 30 years later, I recently read it in the correct order for the first time.
Starts Beneath The Sea – Trevor Norton
Diving defines me. I remember being 11 years old and my life’s heroes were in their prime: Jacques Cousteau had co-invented scuba diving and was travelling the world with his dive team on Calypso. Hans Haas was making those fabulous black and white shark films and my ultimate hero, Mike Nelson, as played by Lloyd Bridges in Sea Hunt, was having proper diving adventures by rescuing pilots from downed jets and flooded mines and all of the beautiful women in the world wanted Mike to teach them to dive. I had just failed my 11+ and new nothing except that I wanted to be a diver.
I finally became a diver in 1969 and after 43 years of continuous diving, often in the world’s most challenging conditions, I am still as keen on being underwater as I ever was. I just love being underwater. Trevor Norton captures this feeling better than any other writer. His Stars Beneath The Sea brings to life the determination, dedication and sometimes sheer lunacy of the loveable pioneers of diving.
Jaguars Ripped My Flesh- Tim Cahill
Jaguars Ripped My Flesh. Surely one of the best ever book titles? Tim Cahill was one of the founders of the beloved Outside magazine, a must-have monthly from the late 1970’s for all dedicated outdoor adventurers. I loved that magazine and Tim Cahill’s column was always one of the highlights. Jaguars Ripped My Flesh came out in 1987 when I was busy teaching the US Navy scuba diving programme, mountain guiding in Ecuador and Alaska, running a travel agency and outdoor equipment shop and was in danger of forgetting the fun of adventure.
Tim Cahill reconnected me to the reasons I love an adventurous life. He writes with a vitality and freshness that has always made me want to travel with him I’m sure that one day I will do just that. You know you are going to love him when you see some of his other book titles: A Wolverine Is Eating My Leg, Pecked To Death By Ducks. I’m already working up a title for our shared journey.
The Eight Sailing/Mountain Exploration Books – H.W.Tilman
This book lives next to my bed and I have read it more times than any other. It was bought for me by my friends at Impact International before I headed to Antarctica to be the Base Commander at Rothera Research Station. They knew I would be travelling heavy in a remote region and could finally afford to keep my books in one piece! They also knew I had been inspired by HW Tilman’s “Put your boots on and go” approach to expeditions.
The Eight Sailing/Mountain-Exploration Books in this one big compilation is the essential book for everyone who needs to sense the true spirit and value of adventure and exploration. I have all of HW Timan’s books, but the beauty of having these eight stories handy at the bedside is that I can be instantly transported to a selection of explorations in Patagonia, Greenland, Antarctica, South America, Iceland and the Southern Ocean. From the comfort of my bed I really feel I share those triumphs and tribulations. He was an unbelievably tough, determined and talented man who wrote beautifully.
Explorers of The Nile – Tim Jeal
Finally the book I finished last night, a very welcome Christmas gift, Explorers Of The Nile by Tim Jeal. You might think that as Vice-President of the Royal Geographical Society that I would know everything about Victorian explorations in Africa. I walk past the Statue of Livingstone each time I come into the building and amongst our enviable comprehensive collections we naturally hold a wonderful range of objects and maps from early expeditions searching for the source of the White Nile.
I do know a lot about these expeditions, but Tim Jeal does a brilliant job of weaving in new research to provide really clear insights to Speke, Livingstone, Baker, Stanley and Burton. He brings a freshness to the stories and it feels like reading them for the first time. I raced through the book so when I have had a chance to recover from the diseases and spear wounds I’ll read it again.
Tucked away In Barnards Inn off High Holborn is a little known gem of London intellectual life; Gresham College. Sir Thomas Gresham, founder of the Royal Exchange, left his estate jointly to the City of London Corporation and to the Mercers’ Company, which today support the college through the Joint Grand Gresham Committee under the presidency of the Lord Mayor of London. Gresham’s will provided for the setting up of the College—in Gresham’s mansion in Bishopsgate, on the site now occupied by Tower 42, the former NatWest Tower—and endowed it with the rental income from shops sited around the Royal Exchange, which Gresham had established.
Gresham sought to establish an Oxbridge in London, but one with a anti-elitest philosophy, prescribing a free lecture to be delivered every day. This anti-elitest and egalitarian spirit still exists in the College today, as it continues to offer free lectures, though not quite one a day, but a count of 140 lectures a year is still very impressive.
Excerpt from Gresham’s Will:
“shall give and distribute to and for the sustentation, mayntenaunce, and findinge foure persons from tyme to tyme to be chosen, nominated, and appointed by the said maior and cominalty and cittezens and theire successors, mete to read the lectures of divynitye, astronomy, musicke, and geometry, within myne owne dwellinge house in the parishe of St. Hellynes in Bishopsgate streete and St. Peeters the pore in the cittye of London … the somme of two hundred pounds of lawfull money of England, in manner and forme followinge, viz. to every of the said readers for the tyme beinge the somme of fifty pounds of lawfull money of England yerely, for theire sallaries and stipendes, mete for foure sufficiently learned to read the said lectures; the same stipendes and sallaries, and every of them, to be paid at two usuall tearmes in the yere yerely, that is to say, at the feastes of thannunciation of St. Mary the Virgin and of St. Mighell tharchangell, by even portions to be paid….”
The early success of the College led to the incorporation of the Royal Society in 1663, which pursued its activities at the College in Bishopsgate before moving to its own premises in Crane Court in 1710. The College remained in Gresham’s mansion in Bishopsgate until 1768, and moved about London thereafter until the construction in 1842 of its own buildings in Gresham Street. Gresham College did not become part of the University of London on the founding of the University in the 19th century, although a close association between the College and the University persisted for many years. Since 1991, the College has operated at Barnard’s Inn Hall, Holborn. Barnard’s Hall, formally the Mercer’s School was the setting for the lodgings of Pip in Great Expectations.
There are seven professors seats, Divinity, Astronomy, Music, Geometry, Law, Physics, Rhetoric & then added in 1985 Commerece. Some famous names have held these seats over the centuries, such as John Bull, Christopher Wren, & Robert Hooke. Current professors include world-renowed composer Christopher Hogwood and historian Richard Evans famed for his popular work on Nazi History.
Despite demographic studies showing that a large majority of those visiting the free lectures are over 55 the current Gresham College is moving into the 21st Century. Their lectures, like the one below by Visiting Professor of Political History Vernon Bodgnar on Labour politician Roy Jenkins, are available to download online, and they are planning a smartphone app to come out later in the year.
Despite the wonderful online resource of brilliant lectures that the college offers and the fact that Dickens described Barnard’s Inn as ‘The dingiest collection of shabby buildings ever squeezed together in a rank corner as a club for Tom-cats . . . ‘ I strongly suggest attending a lecture at this beautiful venue. The hall is a small intimate space and is full of 14th Century splendour.
The college also often do lectures elsewhere such as the Science Museum, the Guildhall and The Museum of London. They also host an annual special Lecture, last year was the speaker John Bercow, and previous speakers have included historian Niall Ferguson and Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury. All of this from a small and relatively unknown 400 year old college tucked down an alleyway off the bustling thoroughfare of High Holborn.
This week in The Magazine Rack we head stateside to have a look at Lucky Peach. As a Londoner I’m am currently drowning in trendy diner food; premium burgers, Hot Dogs, Po Boys and mountains of pulled pork have formed a meaty wave of edible Americana which continues to hit the capital. London joints such as Meat Liquor, Meat Wagon, Bubbledogs and (street food hero) The Rib Man have been keeping the capital topped up on meat and squeezing into their jeans for a good two years now. So Issue Four of this US quarterly food journal is great if you’re looking to swat up on the nuances of the US food craze.
There aren’t a plethora of great Food Journals out there, probably given that food writing is a surprisingly hard journalistic task. Often you trawl the blog sites and find restaurant reviews or recipes that talk endlessly about minute details and nothing about the story behind food, the experience and if you’ll allow me to be so verbose, the poetry of it all. The other thing that is so often missing from food writing is quite simply; the fun! Mixed in the mist of Gordon Ramsay’s expletive ridden rants and Lloyd Grossman talking as if he’s making love to that Creme Brûlée there is a world of just celebrating the enjoyment and love of food with a cheeky smile on our face. The Americans are particularly good at not taking their food too seriously; now I don’t mean they don’t love their food, they do, they just have a lot more fun with it. Maybe it’s because as American food expert Jonathan Gold says in the opening interview of the Issue, “American Cuisine is about being nostalgic for food that doesn’t really exist’. With no traditional cuisine, no rigid rules like the French & Italians, a country full of immigrants write their own culinary history, no holes barred and having a hell a lot of fun doing it.
So Lucky Peach is refreshingly different from European food journals. Imagine a combination of Man Vs Food with some of the wit of Giles Coren in an accessible printed format. It’s full of brilliant quirky cartoonish illustrations and some great recipes to boot. Issue 4 is nicely stacked up high on different takes on US food, you almost expect it to be served with a complimentary pickle on the side.
The Issue spans a good range of different areas and cultures of the States, though the Editor apologies for the lack of breadth on the opening page. There’s a great article by a member of the native american tribe the Ojibwe who despairs that he can’t actually describe his tribes cuisine, and goes on a journey through history to discover what it is. Did you know that in California 90% of independent doughnut shops are owned by Cambodians? Well I didn’t, and now this culinary mesh has a term, ‘Khmerican Food’. Then back across on the East Coast we delve into the world of the Philly Cheesesteak.
Away from salivating over cheesesteaks and doughnuts Lucky Peach delves into American food culture. A look at Warhol’s relationship to food and an exploration of the relationship between food and cinema in the States. And it wouldn’t be complete in An American Food issue without of review of 1982 film ‘The Dinner’ (starring Mickey Rourke, before..the incident). Here’s the trailer, which may be the cheesiest three minutes ever assembled outside the town of Chedder.
So for some good and fun food writing I suggest looking stateside and picking up a copy of Lucky Peach.
We are back in London for our latest Artisans Column. We’re excited to have one of our favourite companies, map and travel guide makers Herb Lester. Herb Lester is made up of duo Ben Olins & Jane Smillie. Ben tells us their story…
The beautiful game has rarely produced many a beautiful magazine. In actual fact sport and sports writing in general often don’t produce publications of exceptional quality that you would display on your coffee table and read time and time again. Yes there are great sports writers out there, Matthew Syed at the Times, or Donald McRae at the Guardian for instance, and a plethora of great sports photographers. But these are found in daily newspapers not magazines. For a long time I’ve looked for a quality written and produced football or rugby magazine to no great success. No offence to Rugby World or Four Four Two, which are good publications, I wanted something with a bit more care and attention put into each issue. So I was quite happy when I stumbled across Green Soccer Journal.
Green Soccer Journal is a biannual football magazine (suppose my search for a sports magazine that puts more care into production was going to lead to something not that regular) which describes itself as taking ‘an innovative approach to the worlds most popular sport’
The task of writing a biannual sports magazine is a challenging one. Sport moves fast and it is difficult to write something which is still relevant and fresh at the end of the 6month cycle. Issue 4 above I happened across this week is the Autumn/Winter issue so has been out quite a few months. But the content doesn’t seem dated at all.
The first thing you’ll notice about Green Soccer Journal is the photography. It is quite simply stunning and consistently so throughout the issue. Especially the shoot that accompanied the Alfie Allen (above) and Alexandre Pato interviews. The quality of paper and finish is very impressive and at 144 pages long is well worth the £8 price tag.
Though this isn’t just a glossy fashion magazine using football as a front. There’s a brilliant behind the scenes look into Sky Sports coverage of and relationship with Premiership Football. Great interviews with actors Alfie Allen and Phil Daniels (which the video above accompanies). And a really incisive look at Arsenal captain Thomas Vermaelen and accompanied by some great photography.
Though the highlight of the magazine for me comes in the form of the plainly designed opening 20 pages. Devoid of the later beautiful photography this section is just formatted largely with plain black text on a white background. Though here we find some of the most interesting pieces. A guide to the clubs of Moscow, looking at their origins and history, an analysis of goalkeeper Buffon’s signature by handwriting analyst Adam Brand and a look at the influence of Italian maestro Arrigo Sacchi. My two favourite pieces well worth a read and a great exhibition of what a magazine like this can do is Dr.Martin’s look at the psychology of the footballer and Marc Edworthy’s personal testimony of his experience in football with agents.
My only disappointment with the Issue was “The Streaker’ feature, a reasonably explicit naked photo-shoot with model India May. Once I got over the amusing juxtaposition of a beautiful glamorous model in of all places the terraces of Leyton Orient’s ground, I felt the feature was out of place in a quality publication like this. Especially as the women’s game has made great strides over the past 12 months to have the only woman in the magazine with her top off doesn’t help to dispel accusations of sexism in football culture. But putting that to one side this is a great publication which I’d strongly recommend to any discerning football fan. So I find myself uttering a sentence at the end of this review that I didn’t expect to hear me say in life, ‘get rid of the breasts and it’s fantastic’.
”Martin: Nothing matches.
Frasier: Well, it’s a style of decorating – it’s called eclectic. The theory behind it is, if you have really fine pieces of furniture, it doesn’t matter if they match – they will go together.
Martin: It’s your money”.
Whilst ambling round the back of the Waterstones on Piccadilly recently, (like the bookish loner I am) I came across ‘American Modern’ a particularly smart coffee-table tome from American interior designer; Thomas O’ Brien. O’ Brien; who I was previously unaware of has made a career of translating regular notions of modernism into a generous array of styles that the lay person can attain easily within their own homes. He interprets a range of styles from casual to formal, primarily using recycled, salvaged pieces and vintage urban materials.
Much like Roman & Williams (who we previously featured here) O Brien’s style is defined by the link between traditional and modern. It is O’Briens belief that people are frequently afraid to experiment between styes, but they are consistently attracted to something other than what they currently live in. The traditionalist being drawn to modern things and the modernist craves a few antique touches. The breakthrough being that once attempted it is obvious that these elements can coexist and actually look better together.
The book itself is broken down into chapters concerning separate visual styles (‘Traditional modern’,’Formal Modern’, ‘Vintage Modern’ etc) each subtly different but distinct enough for you to locate yourself within numerous pages of excellent photography (my own favourite is the ‘American Modern’ chapter). Each chapter describes a project which exemplifies this visual style, projects carried out by Aero; O’ Brien’s own design film.
There’s a practical charm to O’Briens work, it doesn’t require a large manor house, extensive budget or design know-how to achieve (which suits me).
Simple, generally inexpensive ideas such as framing posters & photo’s, re-upholstering used chairs and recycling old fittings are all staple practices of his work.
I leave you with some of the fine photography from ‘American Modern‘:
Welcome to ‘The Bookshelf’. Our new column where we ask journalists, actors, designers and esteemed others to tell us their five most loved and treasured books and why they adore them so.
This week we welcome Monocle‘s Culture Editor Rob Bound to guide us through his selection.
A Season With Verona- Tim Parks
There are two reasons to choose this book. First of all, it’s a wonderful evocation of Italy from a writer who doesn’t deal in cliché, can’t afford Tuscany and isn’t looking to re-hash Peter Mayle’s Provence, disguising it as a transcendental search for his soul via grubbing about on a farm. No way, José. Instead, Tim Parks gets hugely into Verona FC and casts his “look at Italy” net far and wide with subtle strokes and graceful leitmotifs. Travelling to fixtures on cranky trains and rickety coaches with crotchety fellow fans puts hairs on this writer’s chest. What a man! I also chose this one, as it was the first gift my father sent me after I’d moved to London from Sussex. I came home after a late night one morning after I’d lost my job to find this on the doorstep and it moved me to see his left-handed writing on the brown paper parcel. I read the book differently, perhaps, because of that; but it’s a famous winner (unfortunately Verona weren’t as often) for anyone that cracks the spine.
The Magus- John Fowles
This is a spellbinding novel from a real master. The Magus is a bewildering and addictive story that takes a bright, confident, slightly cynical young man and puts him on a far-flung Greek island to see what happens when his reason, education, atheism and moral fibre are tested. Who by? That’ll be the Magus, a mysterious man who sits somewhere between Dr No, Prospero and a JG Ballard antihero in the canon of shifty magicians. What happened to books like this? I might be doing The Magus a huge disservice by calling it a literary thriller – maybe a thrilling piece of literature? – but it’s wonderful to find yourself still sat up in bed at 03:47 with your fingers clawing at the next page. This one was a gift from an old flatmate who bought it at Oxford because it had a sexy cover. If only he knew.
London Orbital -Iain Sinclair
There’s a quote on the back of this handsome Granta version of London Orbital that describes Iain Sinclair as “the demented magus of the sentence” – the publishers obviously knew that potential readers would see that as a compliment. What a thing this is: the magus in question walking the M25 and writing dementedly about it while nursing blisters from the familiar, the excluded and the alien terrain he encounters along the way. I absolutely love this book. Who but Sinclair would do it? Who but Sinclair would claw through the gorse and mud and discarded washing machines that surround the road that surrounds London…and then write about it so beautifully? Old asylums are “executive” apartments; Dracula looms at Purfleet; the gangster tarmac leads to Essex. I’ve started to re-read it already.
Very Good, Jeeves- PG Wodehouse
This is a slim, prim and perfect (or it was, this is an edition from the 1950s) Penguin paperback. It smells delicious, the cover’s a classic, the story’s wonderful and the writing untouchable. A Wodehouse or two on the shelf is essential for one’s sanity and not unlike one of Jeeves’ legendary hangover potions – they’re a cure for all ills, a balm to a blue mood and, possibly, highly addictive. There’s no point in me singing the praises of Jeeves, Bertie or Wodehouse, all of whom are capital chaps, so it’s just to say that this particular little volume was a gift from the Aladdin’s Cave of vintage books that is Ripping Yarns in Highgate. It’s a mid-walk, pre-pub shop to get lost for an hour and buy a wonderful gift for someone you adore.
Cocaine Nights- JG Ballard
Of all the (almost) contemporary favourites that stamped on the other’s cliff-edg’d fingers to get onto this list I chose Ballard above Julian Barnes, Kazuo Ishiguro and Martin Amis because Ballard did what John Fowles achieved and wrote novels of ideas that were riveting as stories, too. This is my favourite of all his books (although Super Cannes, High Rise and Concrete Island have the bruises to prove the scrap) because it’s so perfectly balanced between the plot and the point. And it’s a pretty cool cover, isn’t it? I remember laying it carefully on the table in a railway carriage so as not to “spill” it and the lady opposite gave me the most amazingly hostile stare.
This week from the magazine rack we pull one of our true favourites; drinks magazine Hot Rum Cow. A magazine for anyone who is interested in the world of drinking. This isn’t a publication aimed at the connoisseur, this is for anyone who is fascinated by how their drink is made, loves the stories and history behind their pints, for those who love trying something new or rare or just downright strange.
Described as “a modern magazine steeped in our historic love affair with booze.” it has tapped in perfectly with the new drinks culture that has emerged in recent years, a scene with a much more considered attitude to booze which has gone hand-in-hand with a rise of microbreweries and a real interest in an alcoholic landscape beyond fizzy warm lager and impossibly coloured alcopops.
The magazine is beautifully produced, with a nice balance of text and image and not overly loaded with adverts. Its a pleasure and an ease to flick through the pages, attractive and easy to read. Well written articles accompanied by great photography and beautiful illustrations.
Editor Simon Lyle describes the magazine in his own words, ‘”Hot Rum Cow is for people who are enthusiastic and curious about what they’re drinking. We want to celebrate the stories and personalities behind unusual drinks from around the world, and champion high-quality beers, wines and spirits from independent producers. And we want to present all this beautifully, with lavish design and some stunning specially-commissioned illustration and photography. That’s the idea.”
The magazine is onto it’s second issue now. Each focuses around a particular drink, though does contain much more than that drink inside. The first issue was gin the second is cider. Below is Hot Rum Cow talking with Monocle magazine about the first issue.
So on to that second issue which focuses on our much beloved mistress, cider. There’s a history of cider in Britain, a guide to making your own cider press, a profile of Scottish cider producer Thistly Cross (including their Whisky Cask Cider) and some Cider Photography. Outside the world of apples the issue tells you how to make your own vermouth, interviews Gypsy Brewing godfather Mikkel Bjergso, and has a look inside the country’s smallest pub The Nutshell. My personal favourite from this issue is an article about the world of lost, shipwrecked and unopened bottles. The article looks at bottles unopened, from whiskey discovered on the sunken ship the SS Politician to coronation ales for Edward VII bricked up in a cellar for 75 years. This is the kind of article that epitomises Hot Rum Cow for me, that sense of curiosity, fun and adventure about the world of drinking.
So for any of our readers who have a love and a passion for drink I would go out and grab a copy of Hot Rum Cow. So what next for a young publication like Hot Rum Cow, editor Simon Lyle told us “At the moment, we’re taking things slowly and making sure everything is right as we build up sales and subs across the world. We now have a great team at the Royal Academy of Arts managing ad sales and we’re looking at opportunities to run events, brew and sell our own booze and dish out some awards. Who knows, maybe one day we’ll have our own Hot Rum Cow bar.” If and when that bar opens you’ll be sure to find The Holborn team behind it.
To celebrate 150 years of London’s Underground we look at the designer of the iconic Underground Map. A map that is an iconic piece of British design, that revolutionised the design of urban railway maps around the world. Harry Beck’s design was also a significant development for the world of graphic design and cartography, being one the first popular examples of charting abstract information.
During the 1920s, Beck worked as an engineering draughtsman at the London Underground Signals Office. In 1931, he proposed a radical new design to illustrate the rapidly expanding Underground system. The Underground Group’s draughtsman, Fred Stingemore, had been finding it increasingly difficult to squeeze new lines and stations into his map. Beck could see that the network had become too big to represent geographically, and worked on a solution to the problem in his own time.
‘Looking at an old map of the Underground railways’, he said, ‘it occurred to me that it might be possible to tidy it up by straightening the lines, experimenting with diagonals and evening out the distance between stations’.
Beck’s solution was to map the network schematically, using a system based on electrical circuit diagrams. London Underground was initially sceptical of Beck’s radical proposal — it was an uncommissioned spare-time project. The Underground’s publicity department rejected his proposal, however, after he made a series of modifications, the design was approved. After a successful trial production of 500 copies of Beck’s map in 1932, the map was given its first full publication in 1933 (700,000 copies) and the reaction of the travelling customers proved it to be sound design and it immediately required a large reprint after only one month.
Beck’s contribution was impressive; the name of this electrical draughtsman has become an international byword for public transport schematics. His principles of neat 45 degree angles, elimination of topography and equalised station spacing have been emulated by urban rail map-makers from Atlanta to Zurich.By mid-century, Beck’s London diagram was ubiquitous and it was beginning to catch on: Sydney’s rail network was depicted in Beck style from 1939.
New York had its first Beck-esque diagram by 1958, Moscow and Osaka: 1970, St Petersburg: 1971, Munich and Tokyo: 1972, Melbourne, Montreal and Glasgow:1976.
It took until 2000 for the Parisians to join the rest of the world with a Beck-esque design, which is particularly curious because Beck actually designed a map for the Paris Metro, again not commissioned but unlike London it was not taken up.
Parisians are not the only ones who are not fans of Beck’s design. An academic at New York University has carried out a study confirming what most of us already knew: Harry Beck’s tube map design sometimes confuses people into making longer journeys than necessary.
Zhan Guo has published a working paper looking at whether a map based on distorted geography can distort travellers’ perceptions of reality – people still get the tube from Charing Cross to Embankment, even though in the time it takes to get to the Bakerloo platforms from the Strand, you could have walked to the river.
He concludes ‘the map effect is almost two times more influential than the actual travel time. In other words, Underground passengers trust the tube map (two times) more than their own travel experience with the system. The map effect decreases when passengers become more familiar with the system but is still greater than the effect of the actual experience, even for passengers who use the Underground five day or more per week.’
Though the alternative geographical map would be totally impractical. And we lose what was voted the second most popular piece of 20th Century Design. And Londoners love it so much there is a campaign to bring Beck’s design method to the cities cycle maps.
This week out of the Magazine Rack we pull oh comely Issue 13. For those unfamiliar with oh comely I think the best and most appropriate word I could find if forced to give a one word answer to the question ‘Whats that magazine like?’ it would have to be friendly. As the magazine describes itself ‘It is a magazine that makes people smile, full of quiet moments and stories. Read it with a cup of tea or a toddy.’ This is definitely one for a rainy day in front of the fire, a magazine you want to make time for and a magazine you want to return to like an old friend, which in my opinion are two of the best compliments a magazine can be given. I recommended this to my sister and she picked up her first copy while stranded at a wet rainy train station in Lancashire hundred of miles from home; she remarked that it brightened up her day and made her slightly dreary situation all that easier to deal with.
The aesthetic of the magazine is undoubtedly feminine and I would edge towards calling it a women’s lifestyle magazine. Though I have heard oh comely described as ‘a magazine designed with women in mind’ which could be seen a nice linguistic marketing pitch but do believe it best describes where it sits. Another way to see it is an arts, design and craft magazine aimed at creative people in their 20s and 30s. Though I believe the best magazines always transcend gender boundaries and are enjoyed by all; thats definitely what we hope to achieve here at The Holborn with a predominately male writing team. Often in my opinion very gender specific magazines can often be damaging to both genders as they often perpetuate gender stereotypes and prey on gender specific insecurities. If you do take Oh Comely as a form of women’s magazine then it is an incredible breath of fresh air in that category that should be celebrated. It’s continued success (it’s one of the few magazines you’ll see in this column that you’ll be able to buy in WHSmiths) is testament to the gap it has so successfully filled in the market. If there are any of our male readers still unconvinced then go out a buy a copy and read the article on Charlie Allen and the art of a bespoke suit.
So what other delights does Issue 13 contain? A wonderful interview with actress, director, screenwriter, producer, editor and singer-songwriter Julie Delpy charting her varied career and relationship with her work. A chat with Scottish Indie band Frightened Rabbit’s frontman Scott Hutchinson and director Martin McDonagh talking about his new film Seven Psychopaths. These interviews are well written, warm, interesting and accompanied by great photography. My personal favourite in the issue is Oliver Daltry’s article describing his relationship with inanimate objects and his guilt of discarding previously loved items; a set of feelings I really empathise with. Chuck in a set of short stories, a recipe, a few stunning photo-shoots and an article about the delicate art of shipbuilding and you have Issue 13 of oh comely, a collection of curious things. If you London based I’d also recommend checking out their film club. And Ill leave with one of the short films oh comely Film Club play before the main feature, Diego Maclean’s adaptation of former U.S.Poet Laureate Billy Collins’ poem The Art of Drowning.
This week out of the Magazine Rack I would like to share with you Issue 8 of the Slow Journalism Company’s Delayed Gratification. A quarterly magazine published about the previous quarter’s news (the issue just released looks at July-September). They pride themselves on being the last to a headline. The slow journalism philosophy frames itself against 24 hour news cycles, twitter and breaking news. As they say themselves; ‘Like the Slow Travel and Slow Food movements, Slow Journalism is dedicated to taking time to produce something of quality. Unlike most media organisations, we don’t spend our days trying to beat Twitter to the chase. Instead, we allow journalists and editors the time to do what they do best: canvass expert opinion, sift evidence, gain perspective and deliver the final analysis on stories.‘
This offers a refreshing approach to the news, not only allowing journalists time to produce articles of great quality but also to frame the subject in terms of the wider narratives running across the period. It also creates something of rarity, a news or ‘current’ affairs publication which visual and production wise is of high quality. The Delayed Gratification issues I own will be kept and treasured, and returned to in years to come as almost a form of almanac to look back on times passed. The issues contain beautiful original artwork such as Vhils’ ‘Everything is Ephemeral 3‘ used for Issue 8’s cover. And wonderful info-graphics such as the one below.
The magazine fits in with a trend of magazines publishing in quarterly form and returning to print, an antidote to the information heavy world of today. As editor Marcus Webb says, “The type of magazine we are hoping to create can only exist in print or on tablets such as the iPad. It has to be self-contained and enjoyed in context rather than as an information smash and grab between meetings. In terms of content, we feel that the sheer volume of news both online and off make a considered, curated quarterly almanac a very timely new product. We just hope there are enough people out there that agree.” Well we certainly agree and are enjoying seeing Delayed Gratification go from strength to strength.
So to Issue 8. A wonderful and beautiful info-graphic breakdown of the stats from the London games. A trip into the past and a July long gone (that of 1969) and a interview with the then infamous Welsh terrorist John Jenkins, who set bombs off at Prince Charles ceremony as he become Prince of Wales. An absolutely fascinating look at the developments in 3D printing and how the technology could result in untraceable cheap guns being made at home. A story about hailstones in Russia the size of chicken eggs from August and an analysis of the friction between Hong Kong and China. The magazine contains a wonderfully wide collection of articles covering the whole globe, from frivolous to very serious, and all damn interesting. Hopefully I’ve wetted your appetites enough to join in the Slow Journalism Revolution.
Roman & Williams are a favourite design firm of mine (I rather sadly have a few). I love the fact their spaces look deliberately practical and used.
To celebrate the firm’s ten-year anniversary, Roman & Williams share a selection of projects that includes buildings, interior design, and product development in a new book: ROMAN AND WILLIAMS: Buildings and Interiors. Their substantial portfolio includes interiors for Manhattan’s Ace Hotel (and restaurant The Breslin),The Standard Hotel, The Dutch, Facebook, Stumptown, and The Royalton Hotel. In each case, their approach which encompasses building, designing, collecting, and living where no detail is overlooked is wonderfully encapsulated. A work ethic which strongly references where they honed their practical craft, as filmset designers.
The interview below has been filmed rather beautifully too, it showcases the ascetic and look of their work perfectly which plays with light to create an open and individual world. It also includes an intelligent and personal discussion on architecture and design. Roman & Williams is Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch, they are architects, interior designers, furniture designers, and painters.
“It’s a shame to only have dreams at night. You should have a few opportunities during the day.”
– Stephen Alesch
This week out of the magazine rack I’d like to share with you Issue 4 of Boat Magazine. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Boat Magazine, they are a bi-annual publication from Boat Studios who are based in London. Every issue the magazine team relocate to a new city, and work to tell the hidden story of that city. They choose somewhere relevant, complicated and challenging and seek to tell stories which often go against the prevailing narratives in the media or at least add illumination and character to the headlines. They really do live up to their claim to be an antidote to lazy journalism. Previous issues have seen the team travel to Sarajevo, Detroit and London.
This Issue though is Athens and is in my opinion Boat’s best Issue so far. As you would expect it focuses on the economic crisis that has engulfed the country. Considering much of the rest of Europe’s eyes have been strongly focused on Athens, and endless column inches have been written since the crisis hit in 2008, it is a real achievement to have created a magazine which is so fresh, engaging, challenging and human. Just a scan across the articles there are some interesting facts that debunk some myths about Greece, the most startling of which is that OECD data shows the average ‘lazy’ Greek worked 2120 hours a year. That’s 328 more than the average American, 467 more than the average Brit and 690 hours more than the average German. In fact only Koreans worked longer hours. We are taken on a journey across the life of Athens, from articles on the city’s drug problem, to a TV station which is being run by its employees despite none of them having been paid for over a year. Then a insight to the fans of lower league football team in a rough part of town who run their club like a co-operative. The collective and community based nature of Greek life is brilliant exhibited in the fact we are told that the Greek word idiot (ἰδιώτης, idiōtēs) derives from ‘idios’ meaning ‘private’ or ‘one’s own’, wherein an idiot becomes synonymous with some who acts as ‘a private citizen’ or ‘individual’.
Though Boat’s greatest strength I believe is that you can tell on every page that the issue has been created in this nomadic fashion. That the team have lived in the city, have worked with Athenians, ate, drunk, shopped and conversed with them. It gives the issue a really human feel, and it presents both an honest and respectful picture of Athens. It leads you to despair for the state of the city currently but realise life goes on (for example the Wedding attended above), and also offers hope for the future. So other than encouraging you to pick up a copy, I shall leave you with a film made by Sam Rowland for the issue on the rise of cycling in Athens.