“Nothing is too nerdy.” The modernist magazine celebrates 10 years and 40 issues
The autumn edition of the modernist celebrates 10 years and 40 issues of our humble little magazine. We normally don’t like to dwell on such things, but we think that, in these particularly tough times, it’s something to celebrate.
I’d love to be able to say that people said at the start ‘it’ll never last’ but, to be frank, no one ever said that. We’ve always had some great support from collaborators and readers alike. Because we have always worked well within our means, never been overly ambitious and, hopefully, never taken advantage of all the goodwill our contributors have given us, we have grown slowly but surely. While we are never going to get rich, we are on a much stronger footing than we were when we began 10 years ago.
We’ve never really sold ourselves as a ‘Manchester’ or ‘Northern’ magazine, but we don’t think we could have done what we have done anywhere other than in Manchester. It’s a city full of generous and creative people who can smell bullshit a mile away and because, we hope, we don’t deal in bullshit, people give us great support and continue to be enthusiastic about what we are trying to do.
For those of you who don’t know, we set up the modernist to champion and celebrate 20th century architecture and design. From the beginning, we haven’t really focused on the glamorous and well known but prefer to shine a light in the more obscure and overlooked areas of the subject. We tend not to feature too many articles on the high-profile architects and designers, but much prefer to look at things like a public toilet block in Accrington, the beauty of street furniture such as bins and junction boxes, or difficult-to-love infrastructure like power stations and motorway bridges. This seems to have resonated with a certain amount of a certain type of people, and we’ve built a loyal and growing legion of readers and subscribers.
Because a lot of the content is from non-professional writers, photographers and artists, who all contribute their work for free, the magazine is basically made by its readers. You will sometimes find academic-type articles, but you will also find articles from a plethora of other people from all walks of life who happen to share an interest in a specific subject. We have a saying at the modernist that ‘nothing is too nerdy’, and we hope that within each issue there is at least one article that makes the reader think ‘well, I never knew I needed to know about that, but now I’m glad I do’.
We normally have a general theme for each issue, but for the 40th edition we decided to try something a bit different. We asked a bunch of people who have contributed to the magazine over the years to do an article for us, so instead of a ‘Greatest Hits” (the sure sign an artist has run out of ideas), it’s more of a Tribute Concert.
We have an article from one of our patrons, Jonathan Meades (our other patron is Johnny Marr), who is his usual uncompromising and articulate self. Tim Dunn, who presents TV shows about railways, has written about another of his great passions, model villages. Among many others, we have articles about Campari, Bic pens, J. G. Ballard, the Northern Moor district of Manchester, and features on the painters Jen Orpin and Mandy Payne. As you can see, niche and eclectic, just how we like it. On the back of the ongoing success of the magazine, we have built a little publishing enterprise, too, where we can be a little more generous with space to people who would like to have a bit more to say than just a small magazine article. These are usually photographers, but we have also published small books for painters and collagists. In November, we will release a collaboration with Out On The Page, a project that brings together LGBTQ+ writers, to produce a small book of writings which explores Modernism through various queer experiences.
We’re sure that we’ll continue to find interesting and talented people and we will hopefully be able to continue to offer an opportunity to publish their work, and if people keep on buying our magazine and our other publications, we will continue to make them. Here’s to another 10 years and beyond.
By Eddy Rhead, publisher at the modernist
Main image: the modernist team L-R Jack Hale, Ashiya Eastwood, Gemma Parker, Eddy Rhead.
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