DUBLIN’S MAGAZINE SCENE
In 1984, in a little known movie called Ghostbusters, a character named Egon declared “Print is dead”. Move forward thirty years and witness newspapers anxiously straddling the print/online fence, threatening pay walls as they hedge their bets. Magazines, however, are experiencing a renaissance. Independent publications which focus on quality and long form, embracing design while eschewing throwaway content, are starting to spring up again.
Is Dublin finally getting a maga-scene it deserves? Prowlster caught up with Rosin Agnew (Guts Magazine) and Conor Purcell (We Are Dublin) to find out.
Guts Magazine is a “bimonthly magazine of confessional writing and personal essays.” Or at least it will be when the first issue comes out. Its Kickstarter campaign, which went last week, has already hit its target of €3,000 and shows no sign of slowing down. The video for the campaign name checks an impressive list of contributors while nailing a perfectly irreverent vibe.
We Are Dublin
We Are Dublin is a quarterly publication that focuses on Dublin, the good, the bad and the ugly. Issue One of the magazine was praised for both its vibrant design and also for the quality writing, which included an essay on a lost Dublin bus route by raw talent, Rob Doyle.
So who are you guys and what do you do?
RA: I’m 25, Italian-Irish and an only child. I first came to Dublin as part of an Italian circus. I was the elephant trainer. That was six years ago, and I’ve stayed ever since, loitering around Dublin publications as a writer and journalist. I work on the online newsdesk in The Irish Times and I do Totally Dublin.
CP: I’m Conor and I edit We Are Dublin, a new(ish) quarterly magazine about the city called We Are Dublin.
Sum up respective your publications?
RA: Guts came about because I was really keen on doing a print publication and because I was sick of feeling that writing was the runt of all the creative fields. There are loads of imaginative initiatives springing up from all places in Dublin, but they all seem to originate from people working in graphic design, or furniture making, or illustration, or music, or coffee, or street art, and never from writers. If writing was involved with any of these projects, it was also always of secondary importance – you always hear ‘this is beautifully designed’ as opposed to ‘this is really well written’. Writing and writers had become the flaccid side-salad to the main dish.
CP: We are Dublin is an antidote to the slick, PR-dominated magazines that tend to dominate the newsstands. We are not glossy, not flashy and don’t try to sell products in the magazines. The aim is to showcase a different side of Dublin and hopefully entertain people while we are at it.
Why come out with a print magazine now?
CP: The simple answer is I moved back to Dublin after thirteen years abroad (South Korea, Hong Kong and Dubai) and wanted to set something up here.
RA: Since we made our Kickstarter goal in less than three days, I’m going to say that we’re doing it now because people want it now!
Why not online?
CP: I think there should be some thought into what content goes online – some content is better in print, and while we do have a website, it’s more a place to promote the magazine. But the default mode of ‘build it and they will come’ with regards to websites is a model that never really worked.
RA: We’re going to have an online presence, but it really is all about the print product, because of the beauty of the design, the quality of the printing, and the artwork.
“Writing and writers had become the flaccid side-salad to the main dish.” – Roisin Agnew
Conor, WAD is already an issue in, what’s your commercial model and what’s the plan for the magazine?
CP: The idea is to generate enough through sales to cover costs and I hope to meet that goal by issue three. While we are open to advertisers, it would be better to wait and hopefully shoot the ads ourselves – this helps the reader and the advertiser. The aim is to get better each issue and to discover new writers. I hope we publish stories that no one else is publishing and to get in all the shops I want to be in. Long-term the goal is to be sustainable and something that is around in five years.
What the standard of print magazine like here, is there a scene at all?
There are a lot of magazines that should be online as no real thought goes into the production or design. Dublin obviously has a great literary heritage but seems to have less of a graphic one. There are a few indie magazines that are doing good things: Cult, which is a great music magazine, Dublin Review, and Root + Bone, which is based in London but is run by an Irish guy and is really good.
Who’d be your dream editor, art director, writer?
Clay Felker who basically invented the modern city magazine at New York, or David Remnick who is taking New Yorker to new levels. Matt Wiley is a big inspiration and has done great things at Port and loads of other magazines. In terms of writers, it would be great to get Denis Johnson to come to Dublin and write something about the city.
Rosin, Guts is putching itself as a collection of honest essays. How honest are the writers going to be?
Ha! Very honest. It’s funny though because I keep catching people coming up with buffers for the self-exposure, and often they’re very clever. You set your story in the past, you use humour, you use poetry, or you use mock-analysis.
If you had to spill your guts over something, what would it be?
I had originally written a piece for this first issue called 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover, about getting dumped about 19 times by the same person, and constantly ending up in ludicrously pathetic scenarios. I don’t think it taught me much about life, except that I seem to relish the funny aspect of things that most people would be horrified by, and almost get a kick out extremely nasty scenarios.
Other print inspirations?
RA: The White Review, The American Reader, Root + Bone, Cereal, Rookie, The Plant Journal, Little White Lies, Printed Pages, We Are Dublin (hollah!).
CP: In terms of city magazines, New York magazine is great – the perfect mix of intelligence and charm and very different to two other great New York magazines, The New Yorker and the New York Times Magazine. In Dublin I really enjoy the Dublin Review. Other independent titles I like are Acid (a surfing magazine), Bloomberg Businessweek and loads of other tiles I buy for the design more than for the writing.
Is Dublin ready for these magazines?
CP: I think Dubliners enjoy good quality writing and good quality design. There are a lot of people that still want beautiful print products and our aim is to reach some of those people. People here are hungry for good content, and in some ways that’s far more important than the medium.
RA: They better be because it’s too late now and it’ll be a real damp squib if they’re not, all the people involved will blame me, you’ll regret ever having interviewed me, I’ll get evicted, my boyfriend will leave me, and I’ll have to go back to elephant training.