«My grandfather used to know a few of our clients back when he had bookstalls in the Sixties». In conversation with the founder, James Laffar.
We Love Print magazine stall in London
Set in the heart of East London’s creative bustle, Old Spitalfields Market is one of the city’s oldest marketplaces. Once a traditional food market, today a shopping hub for the local hipster community. Open seven days a week and particularly busy at weekends, the market offers food, fashion, design and crafty objects. From niche indie brands to established names like Diptyque (scented candles), & Other Stories (clothing) and even Chanel (make up). Ra&Olly, magazine distributors, used to supply a newsagent based in the market. A few years ago the company decided to set up its own stall in Old Spitalfields – We Love Print. Here the creative crowd comes to browse at new publications and old classics. It searches for inspiring new projects and breaking news.
From specialized sports to high-end fashion, We Love Print offers timeless publications such as World of Interiors and National Geographic, sitting alongside rare magazines from all corners of the globe. The assistants, Hugo and Monica, provide useful information on what’s out that month, what cover is a special edition and the sought-after back issues that are worth investing in.
There has been a market on the site since 1638 when King Charles I gave a license for flesh, fowl and roots to be sold on Spittle Fields, which was then a rural area on the eastern outskirts of London. After the rights to a market had seemingly lapsed during the time of the Commonwealth, King Charles II re-founded it in 1682, in order to feed the burgeoning population of a new suburb of London.
Lampoon review: We Love Print magazines selection
The modern version of the market started off in 1991. The wholesale fruit and vegetable market moved to New Spitalfields Market, Leyton. While, the original site became known as Spitalfields Market. Leading British architects Foster+Partners redesigned the market stalls for Old Spitalfields Market in October 2017.
Being at the center of a revival in the area, the eastern end of Spitalfields retained its old charm in Horner Square and Horner Buildings, which are Grade II listed buildings. George Sherrin designed these market buildings for the last private owner of the fruit and vegetable market, Robert Horner. Their development took place between 1885 and 1893. The original Victorian buildings and the market hall and roof have been restored.
Ra&Olly is a family-run business that has been distributing publications across the UK since 1969. Today, it supplies London’s best magazine stockists including the Tate, MagCulture, Design Museum and Claire de Rouen. James Laffar decided to open We Love Print due to his attraction for the customer base of Old Spitalfields Market and its creative atmosphere.
«People really value a well produced magazine as something they can keep and associate themselves with, something to be kept and collected», says Laffar. «When a customer comes along to WeLovePrint, browses through our selection and discovers a magazine, he/she can almost become part of a club of like minded individuals looking forward to picking up the next issue».
This concept of a club of like minded individuals extends also to Ra&Olly’s clients and partners. «We deal with a large number of stores and publishers who we have great relationships with. With some of the London retailers we have relationships going back years. My grandfather used to know a few back when he had bookstalls in the sixties. Recently we have begun working closely with MagCulture where we have started hosting regular social events for the publishers we work with. The idea is for everyone to get together, have a drink and discuss ideas and experiences».
The collection of weekly publication at Ra&Olly
A typical day at Ra&Olly starts with collecting any time sensitive weekly publication, such as The Economist, from the various printers or fulfillment locations. Then vans are loaded at the warehouses, ready for deliveries around three or four am. The rest of the morning and afternoon is spent delivering to stores and fitting in meetings.
However, there’s much more than that to the job. For example, scouting for new titles or helping creative partners develop their project into potentially successful magazines. «Originally I would look for magazines I liked and felt would sell well in the stores we supplied» says Laffar. «New publishers now approach us on a weekly basis. It is great to see the production of many new magazines. We do try to help out most independent publishers. If the magazines aren’t great we try to give them advice on what to improve. Sometimes it could take a few issues to get it right and it’s nice when we have been through the process with them to the point when they feel it is a success». An interesting blend of cultural work and manual activity, with a big spotlight on relationships.
When it comes to finding great magazines, or even great books, London truly offers a unique setting. An outstanding number of independent bookstores, publishers and cultural hubs represents the city’s literary culture. However, the Coronavirus outbreak has caused their temporary closure. The post-pandemic future scares several people in the industry. For this reason, they are focusing more and more on digital media. Nevertheless, Laffar has a different opinion. «The current situation will have an effect on the future of printed magazines. People may have the time to engage with a magazine. They will escape from the constant interruptions on digital media platforms. I just hope retailers can hang on over this time and re open after the situation has subsided».
We Love Print
10 Bishops Square, Spitalfields, London
A magazine stall featuring all titles, new publications and back issues.