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MagCulture Shop, London. Magazines are reflections of our society

Clerkenwell is at the heart of the print industry in London being home to the first publication that used the word Magazine to describe a periodical in 1731

MagCulture Shop in London

Positioned down the street from St. John’s Gate, with its white, red and black facade, is the MagCulture Shop. A Mecca for print-aficionados, Jeremy Leslie established the MagCulture shop in the Clerkenwell district of London. Launched in 2015, the shop focuses on independent-publications apart from a handful of mainstream names. This five-hundred-square-feet space presents a display brimming with publications that celebrate editorial design.

Spanning over six hundred magazine titles, their selection ranges from Rubbish FAMzine, i-D, The Surfer’s Journal, Little White Lies, Poster Boy, Pipette, Aesthetica, Plastikcom, The New Yorker, Broccoli, Where The Leaves Fall, The Economist, Pin-Up, Are We Europe, Delayed Gratification and Homo Alone to name a few. The shop also hosts talks and launches with the makers of the magazines it sells. «All the aspects of what we do have the same underline to them. We love magazines», says Leslie. 

The Gentleman’s Magazine was a publication founded in 1731 by Warwickshire businessman Edward Cave. It was Cave who coined the term Magazine to describe a periodical. The production of the publication took place at the St. John’s Gate in Clerkenwell and ran till 1922. Cave’s office was located in the Council Chamber, a room which he shared with the English writer and poet Samuel Johnson who published A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755. Published every month, it covered facets of Georgian life and included topics such as medicine, history, scientific discoveries, political debates, foreign and domestic news, letters to the editor, crime and punishment. It was the first periodical ever to use the word Magazine in its name. 

Jeremy Leslie, MagCulture Shop’s founder

Born and brought up in London, Leslie pursued his graduation in Graphic Design from London College of Printing. The British punk revolution in the seventies stimulated his fascination with magazines. Grooving to the tunes of the emerging punk rock scene led by The Sex Pistols and The Clash in London, Leslie developed an interest in the live music scene, and found himself gravitating towards fanzines and music press.

Having a lack of interest in advertising and logos, he recognized editorial design as his preferred medium of expression. «You could be a part of the content as well as express the content. That’s what drew me into it. I like making content and telling stories with design being a part of it», says Leslie. He worked as the Art Director of Blitz and then Time Out, and later served as the Creative Director for content marketing agency John Brown Media. With over twenty-five years of experience in creating and managing magazines, his work has since expanded into writing and editing, event curation, speaking and hosting.

The MagCulture brand was instituted as an editorial design resource thirteen years ago by Leslie. Initiated as a blog, over the years the brand has evolved into a magazine shop in central London, a design studio, offering strategic creative services, and Mag Live, an annual event positioned to celebrate the magazine culture while questioning their future. «The shop is the physical rendition of the MagCulture brand. The online platform had existed for ten years before I thought of opening a magazine shop», says Leslie.  

Lampoon, Magculture
MAGCULTURE: A shop representing independent-magazines

London’s print industry heart

The idea of opening a magazine shop arose from the need for having one. Since its inception, the MagCulture blog has been writing about magazines while identifying the growing wave of independent-publishing. «We would get queries from our readers about where to find the magazines we wrote about». Leslie realized that London did not have a single go-to shop that represented independent-magazines. «There was the need for a shop in London that takes as much care with the presentation of magazines as the magazines take with the presentation of their content».

However, it was not a prospect in his head until he went on a location hunt and discovered what he was looking for. «As soon as I found the current shop location, I knew it was going to happen», adds Leslie. Leslie chose the district of Clerkenwell for his acquaintance with the neighborhood. «Our previous design studio was in Clerkenwell. It was the part of the city I knew. But it was more to do with the actual shop location we found». 

Before MagCulture shop, the location was being used as a newsagent store with a dilapidating display, and an old school business model. «Its a unique space, but the old occupants made it look as ordinary as possible. Hence, it failed». Replacing a faltering newsagent, Magculture found its home in a parade of shops that are at the base of London’s first council-built tower blocks.

There are ten shop units divided into various combinations. The MagCulture shop occupies two of these units. The building itself is a representation of modernist design and was built in 1958. Clerkenwell is at the heart of the print industry in London being home to the first publication that used the world magazine in it. «Having moved here we realized that we are next to the Big City university which has journalism courses. Aligning with what we do», adds Leslie. 

Lampoon review: MagCulture’s living space

Leslie roped in Vitsoe. A furniture brand situated on Oxford Street that specializes in shelving systems for bookstores. Having worked with them during the London Design Week, they remained Leslie’s first choice. «I share a rapport with them and have been their customer», said Leslie. As renovations began, the ceiling was removed to allow the original saw-tooth roof to permeate sunlight into the shop. Blue vinyl floor tiles were peeled back to reveal a mid-century monochrome terrazzo floor with red grout. «We unearthed by chance something that I could have only dreamed of installing. By serendipity, we achieved the colors of MagCulture. Black, white, and red. Its one of the first things people notice when they walk in». 

Chairs and tables are provided at the shop for the customers to pause, flip through the magazines and consider purchases at their own pace. «People spend around forty minutes poring over everything, which we welcome. The creators of the magazines have invested their time and effort. So our customers should be free to examine every page if they want to». Keeping in-store events is part of the design. They’ve held gatherings with magazine editors who come along to present the latest issues. The shop also facilitates window displays with partner publications and hosts open-house readings, discussions, and signings. «It is a living space», adds Leslie.

Lampoon, Here Issue 14
Here, issue 14

MagCulture Boxset

When asked about the creative flow while selecting publications for the stands, he responded, «there is a certain standard we try to meet with our curation». Leslie had the vision to present the magazines in a gallery format so that people enjoyed looking at them. «We tend not to keep too many black and white zines as thats whole another world», adds Leslie. Commenting on the ease of self-publishing and small-press media, «people must get to publish what they want. To maintain valid, independent and strong voices that question the mainstream. Magazines are reflections of our society and our lives at any given moment in time». 

As of today, the shop only stocks English language magazines sourced from the west, but are looking to expand their reach. «We are beginning to get magazine titles from India and other parts of the world that have linguistic and long-standing traditions of publishing in English», says Leslie. The shop runs a magazine subscription model – MagCulture Boxset. Subscribers receive a curated set of five magazines every quarter. A mix of genres is sent out with reading notes describing each magazine in the box. «We exist for people who love magazines but wanted to reach out beyond and get other people excited about magazines through our boxset», adds Leslie. 

The annual MagCulture conference, Independence

The MagCulture website was revamped this month. The online platform had existed for ten years before the shop came into the picture. A popular segment on the blog, At Work With, running for over a decade, features conversations with editors of different magazines. People featured in this segment include Stephen Petch, Creative Director of The Economist, James Cartwright, Editor of Weapons of Reason, Steven Soon of The Saturday Evening Post.

Magculture has also published, Independence, a limited-run book covering interviews with twelve indie-magazine makers by Jeremy Leslie. The annual MagCulture conference is a live version of their online platform. «It is a whole day of talks where we build on what we do». People from independent as well as mainstream publications come and speak. «Our focus on creativity and the making of magazines, rather than the business models or the funding, sets us apart from other publishing conferences», adds Leslie. It attracts, in fact, industry professionals and aficionados seeking to broaden their editorial horizons.

Covid-19 impacts on the publishing industry

Shedding light on the challenges faced by an independent bookstore, Leslie points out how the high costs of distribution of magazine shipments remains a nightmare for the industry. «The best thing about a magazine is also the worst thing about a magazine. They are made of paper». Due to the pandemic, the shop struggled with uncertainty owing to the lockdown announcements. «We open and close all the time. So we downsized the number of staff and launched our click and pick service for people to buy from the website and pick it up from the store».

Their website also witnessed a surge in online sales. «We are currently shipping across the globe every day». Utilizing their social media reach, Leslie hosted Instagram live sessions on the MagCulture handle with industry thought-leaders during the lockdown. «Im confident that we will come out stronger than we went it», adds the sixty-one-year-old.

About maintaining an environment of inclusivity at work, Leslie says, «we present a broad range of voices in the shop, and support women, trans, black voices as they emerge. We’re excited how young people are addressing these issues and turning to print to express their opinions». Challenging the assumption that printed matter is approaching extinction, Leslie created a go-to place for curated independent-magazines and remains positive about their future. «We are witnessing the publishing world change. We are going back to where magazines came from as they are becoming a niche product», he adds. 

MagCulture Shop

270 St John St, London EC1V 4PE, Regno Unito

MagCulture Shop is a bookstore in the Clerkenwell district of London. Jeremy Leslie founded it in 2015. Mag Culture focuses on independent-publications as well as on a handful of mainstream names.

MagCulture Shop

270 St John St, Clerkenwell, 
London EC1V 4PE,
United Kingdom

Chetna Chopra

The writer does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article.

check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore Hemp production in Italy
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check and buy on Prototipo Store
item collections in limited edition
crafted according to our editorial search

Hemp / made in Italy
Lampoon is working to restore
Hemp production in Italy
as hemp is the one and only
natural vegetal fiber sourceable in the country
for more info, please email us at [email protected]

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