Put down your phones, it turns out print is not dead

Defiant Clerkenwell magazine shop trader says business has never been better

Friday, 8th April — By Charlotte Chambers

Jeremy Leslie IMG_8557

Jeremy Leslie at magCulture in St John Street, Clerkenwell

IT has long been said that print is dead or dying, with both newspaper and magazine sales apparently dwindling as ever more people choose to get their news and gossip fix online.

With people still rushing to the Tribune’s dispensers every Friday, we beg to differ.

And so must a trader in Clerkenwell who defiantly opened a magazine shop in the face of all the doom-mongering – and now says business has never been better.

Jeremy Leslie said since the pandemic began sales at magCulture – opposite Finsbury Library in St John Street – have only got healthier with people prising themselves away from their screens.

There has been a burgeoning market in new magazines, he said, as people “finally had the time” to start that magazine they had never quite got around to until now.

Importantly, joked Mr Leslie, “all the pubs were shut”.

The former creative director of a magazine publishing house with 30 years’ experience in the industry, Mr Leslie said: “I saw this new generation of magazines coming through that confounded the expectation that everything was just failing.

“And I got tired of this endless narrative that print is dying and print is dead. And [while] there are lots of natural obvious things that are no longer there, there’s this other type of magazine that is just lovely things full of well written, well presented [matter].”

He added: “I just put my money where my mouth was and said, right, I’m going to prove the naysayers wrong – and we have.

“We’re definitely part of something: there are more people coming in through the door with new magazines recently than ever before and I think people need this.”

He admitted that while his store would never become a chain on every high street, and would probably always stay “niche and small,” it was nevertheless serving a very important role.

It tickles Mr Leslie that his shop is just half a mile away from the site in St John’s Gate where the world’s first publication to have the word “magazine” in its title, The Gentleman’s Magazine, was printed in 1731.

Since opening in 2015, magCulture now stocks 700 magazines – all of which are non-mainstream, and most relatively niche.

“I look at them as kind of a window – each one a window on a separate world,” he said.

Among the more unusual titles sold are ones that encompass both football and art together, called Oof, and another called Advanture, about travelling and living in a van, which launched during lockdown in response to people’s desire to get beyond their four walls and travel the UK.

“People are always asking ‘where’s there a gap [in the market]?’ and it’s hard, really hard to think of a gap. And then someone walks in with a magazine,” Mr Leslie said.

“And they fill a gap. A great example in terms of weird niches is Oof. It’s the kind of niche where you don’t think ‘why has this never happened before?’ You think it’s so, so niche. And yet this is issue eight.”

Mr Leslie is always open to having magazines submitted, but what is he looking for? “There are three sections” he said. “There’s the idea in the first place, the execution and the production values. They need to tick one of those.

“The best ones tick all three.”

And who are the customers that just have to have the latest edition of a niche magazine?

“We have customers who are obsessed by magazines – there’s a scene. They know all about magazines and they collect them,” he said of a certain band of clientele. But not all his customers are devoted to a particular title. Many just come in looking for a particular subject, and many are also just looking for something to lose themselves in for an hour.

“We have people who just see them as another form of distraction or entertainment – something to look forward to as a treat,” Mr Leslie added.

Related Articles