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Comoda-Mente, Italy

Comoda-Mente, Italy

Just back from a brief visit to Vittorio Veneto near Treviso, northern Italy, where I took part in a panel discussion about independent magazines. The event was part of Comoda-Mente, one of those cultural festivals that small European cities do so well. I arrived about 3pm Sunday and left 10am Monday so it really was fast but the setting and hospitality made it a real treat. We speakers were all stationed in a perfect little hotel in the hills above the city, set in its own vineyards (this is Prosecco country), from where it was a short drive to the city and the various festival venues.

That’s one of the venues above – a discreet stage and a few polystyrene seating blocks in the shadow of a medieval palace. Better than the average conference hall.

Our talk was scheduled to take place in a similar set up outdoors in a square back in town. The panel had been convened by Marco Velardi from the lovely Apartamento. That’s the line-up above: Simon Beckerman from PIG magazine; Omar Sosa, also part of the Apartamento team and designer at Barcelona’s Folch Studio; Massimo Torrigiani from new publication Fantom (and previously Boiler); and Alexis Zavialoff from the Berlin-based magazine distributors and store Motto (Cristiano Seganfreddo couldn’t make it).

We had the chance to meet each other and talk about some of the issues facing independent publishing before stepping up to the stage, and it all felt good. We had plenty to talk about, the seats were comfortable, the PA worked, there was an audience. Then the rain came and suddenly all was not so beautiful. We got soaked.

Luckily the audience didn’t get washed away, and we reassembled in a nearby palace. Which by now seemed quite normal – almost every building seemed to be a palace.

We sat on our polystyrene blocks and talked for an hour and a half in English about independent magazines, and in particular about how to define ‘independent’. Nearest we got was ‘a publication that doesn’t exist primarily to make money for the publisher’, which takes into account the labour-of-love nature of most independents, and certainly reflects most publisher’s experiences of indie publishing. Personally I think it’s easier to define the mainstream – the mass-produced monthlies and weeklies in the newsagent – and declare independent as everything/anything else. The mainstream has pre-defined business models, suppliers and processes. The whole point of being independent is to do things as you want to do them, so it’s hard to develop a single description.

I have no idea what the audience made of our conversation, but we all enjoyed it. Afterwards was dinner, a party in the ruins of an ancient cement factory, more talk, and continuous rain.

Thanks Marco for inviting me to take part, and to the team at Comodo-Mente for looking after us so well.

Finally, here’s pictorial proof that a bunch of magazine-makers are as good as anyone at posing like a rock band. L-R: Marco, Omar, Alexis and Simon.

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