Jeremy Leslie founded magCulture in 2006 and has been championing new magazines and great editorial design ever since. magCulture has had an online shop since 2010 and has launched pop-ups at events, but the new store is its first permanent retail space.
The building was formerly a newsagents – the original sign is still in place above the door – and sits alongside a launderette, a kebab shop and a food and wine shop on St John Street.
Inside, there’s a small selection of books on editorial design (including Spin and Ken Garland monographs and Unit Editions titles) and a wall-to-wall display of magazines. The store’s original sloping ceiling and terrazzo floor has been restored and there are a handful of chairs for customers to sit and have a read while they browse. magCulture’s studio will also be moving into the building, and Leslie says there will be regular magazine launch nights and talks from editors and founders.
The selection of titles for sale is diverse – most are from the UK and US but others hail from India, Australia, Germany, Latvia, Scandinavia and further afield, covering food, art, science, culture, tech, design, fashion, photography, sport, travel and more. Alongside long-running and successful names such as Port, hole&corner and The Gentlewoman are harder to find publications like Motherland (a Delhi title which explores a different theme with each issue) and Holo, a German magazine on art, science and technology. The majority are independent, but there are also bigger names such as Dazed, Love, i-D, Wired and Vogue.
It’s a large selection but a carefully curated one: most of the titles stocked have been featured by magCulture online and have been selected both for the quality of their editorial and design. Leslie says he wanted to provide both a mix of familiar favourites and new publications for customers to discover.
“Other cities have great magazine shops with generous stocks and knowledgeable staff,” says Leslie. “I felt it was time London had that too. We have some good shops already, but they tend to also be bookshops or gift shops.”
“Many aspects of the publishing business have suffered neglect in recent time, and the retail experience is no different. When was the last time you were impressed by a magazine shop?” he adds.
Leslie took over the newsagents in May, but says he has wanted to open a joint shop and studio space ever since launching magCulture.
The opening follows the launch of Monocle’s Kioskafe this summer – a newsagent and coffee shop near Paddington station which sells newspapers, magazines and travel essentials from stationery to underwear.
In the UK at least, newsagents have had a tough few years: once the hub of their communities, many have reduced their stock of newspapers and magazines in favour of becoming food and wine shops, while others have simply shut up shop (around 10 newsagents a week were closing in 2012).
But with indie magazines enjoying a real surge in popularity – titles like Port and The Gentlewoman have circulations to rival mainstream titles, and larger publishing houses are increasingly looking to what they can learn from indie publishers – it’s great to see new spaces devoted to showcasing both new and respected titles.
Many indie mags now make most of their sales online, but this usually relies on customers knowing about them or seeking them out, making it difficult to reach new readers. It’s also incredibly difficult for smaller or less established titles to get stocked in larger stores or chains. Shops like magCulture’s and Monocle’s, however, can help give a voice to new mags and for customers, bring back the joy of visiting a store and discovering a brilliant new publication you’ve never heard of. With so many good magazines being made today, it’s surely something we could do with more of in the UK.
magCulture’s shop is open from 11am until 7pm Wednesday-Friday, and from 12-4pm on Saturdays at 270 St John St, Clerkenwell, EC1V 4PE.