Read the small print

Jeremy Leslie outside magCulture – Credit Dunja Opalko

The country’s finest magazine shop is based in Clerkenwell

By Anastasia Georgousis

In a parade on St John Street, alongside a laundrette, Nisa local and takeaway restaurant sits magCulture – a hidden treasure trove of independent magazines. Founder Jeremy Leslie has over 30 years’ experience in the magazine industry and in 2003 wrote a book called magCulture, which turned into a blog and subsequently a shop in 2015.

“I was travelling abroad to attend conferences and I’d find these amazing magazine shops in Berlin and Amsterdam,” says Jeremy. “I thought London deserved to have a really good shop and realised that somebody was going to do it, and it wasn’t going to be good enough. So I thought I’d better do it first.”

So why Clerkenwell? Jeremy explains that the location was almost accidental – he was searching for a space that could be a retail space alongside an office and studio – but it was serendipity. “It’s next door to City University, which has one of the biggest journalism schools with a very strong MA course, and Clerkenwell is the heart of the old printing world,” says Jeremy. “We’re near St John’s Gate where the first magazine was produced – The Gentleman’s Magazine about 250 years ago. And I like it here. It’s a little peaceful triangle even though you’re right in the middle of London.”

In an age when social media and streaming services dominate our lives, many have heralded the death of print. At magCulture though, there’s a feeling that people want to move away from the screen and read something in print. “Digital has empowered print,” says Jeremy. “None of the magazines we stock, nor us as a business, could survive without the web. New publishers can reach a market they wouldn’t have been able to get to, and sell directly.” Both the magCulture store and its online journal have brought together a community of likeminded magazine enthusiasts – an aspect Jeremy believes is inherent to magazines. “What the new generation of independent magazines is achieving is going back to what magazines always were – focused, niche, community-based projects which pull people with similar interests together to share and develop their passions.”

The shop stocks over 600 magazines based on themes including mental health, cheese, architecture, vinyl records, plants and board games, to name but a few. Enthusiasm and expertise shines through these publications. “It’s fascinating, having that little window into that world,” says Jeremy. “Even if it’s not a topic I’m personally interested in, I’m interested in a bunch of obsessives getting together and telling me about it. We’ve got 600 windows into 600 little worlds.”

More than just a store, magCulture is trying to inspire the next generation of magazine makers, featuring online interviews with magazine creators and hosting masterclasses with experts to help people launch their own magazine. Jeremy is also be a judge on the newly launched Clerkenwell Community Photography Competition (see page-9). What will he be looking out for? “I really like this area and there’s all sorts of opportunities to record it: lots to recall, stories, and very distinct local areas and histories. It’s a great source of material and I’m fascinated to see what people enter.”

magCulture can be found at 270 St. John Street or by visiting their relaunched website magculture.com