Josh Burt, The Clerkenwell Post
Following our recent look at the role of London’s area magazines at the first of our Edit events at the Hoxton, we start the new week with magCulture’s local publication, The Clerkenwell Post. Editor Josh Burt has worked for magazines including FHM, more! and J17, and has been editing the Post since 2018. We speak to him as the magazine gears up to celebrate its tenth aniversary.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
Well, I’m about to move from the cluttered spare room of my house to a nice insulated shed in the back garden, so my commute will literally be ten paces across a concrete patio, past my kid’s various footballs and skateboards. No rushing for trains, no sweaty tube carriages. Can’t wait.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
The view from my current office window is of my beautiful new office, just standing there, staring expectantly up at me, waiting to be decorated and moved into. My desk, meanwhile, is in a perpetual state of organised chaos.
I like to plan what I’m doing by writing things down on bits of A4 then forgetting about them completely, so it’s littered with important biro scrawlings which even I can’t make out half the time. There’s also a mountain of magazines, records, and a Nintendo Switch within reaching distance for when my brain feels like it’s about to cave in.
Which magazine do you first remember?
My gateway drug into great literature was actually comics. I used to collect Marvel superhero comics in the 1980s – X-Men, Alpha Flight (of which, not bragging or anything, I still own the entire run), Daredevil, The New Mutants, The Fantastic Four – and I have a soft spot for things like Whizzer and Chips, and The Dandy too.
But the first magazine-magazine that really made an impression on me was Sky, the 1990s pop culture bible that felt massively glamorous and sexy at a time when famous people were still reassuringly extraterrestrial and out of reach – the problem pages featuring the wonderfully unsympathetic agony aunt Karen Krizanovich were the stuff of legend. Then, of course, there was Viz. What 90s teenager wasn’t into Viz?
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
It’s such a shame that so many have bitten the dust over the last few years. I cut my teeth at places like FHM and more! magazine, and still feel like there are demographics there to be catered towards.
The so-called ‘lads mags’ in particular are often misrepresented when filtered through a 2019 lens, painted as the swaggering home of beer-swilling misogynists and toxic masculinity, but they were honestly capable of brilliant insight and even the odd shot at sensitivity (I once wrote a piece about how to approach people if you’re shy!). It would be interesting to adapt one of those to the modern climate.
But in terms of what’s on the stands now, I love the look and feel of Apartamento – it feels precisely how a modern magazine should feel in the grips of a digital age. It celebrates quirk and paraphernalia, and has a strange post-apocalyptic quality to it, as though you’re observing a wonkier world that has somehow managed to exist away from the internet. It manages to be aspirational and nostalgic at the same time, which is no mean feat.
Can you describe your magazine in three words?
Doing its best
What’s your relationship with Clerkenwell locals – the people and businesses – beyond the magazine?
It’s strong, the readers are loyal, and we’re forever striving to create a space where everyone feels represented. Clerkenwell is a really unique area and people, quite rightly, get very evangelical about it. There’s a strong sense of history, of Dickensian London, of traditional Italian culture, but also of forward-thinking industry, with it cast as a global centre of design.
Then in amongst that, somehow, there’s a quaintness to it too, like it’s a secret village orbiting the hustle and bustle of central London. I like to think that our affection for it bleeds through in the magazine, which is why locals have hopefully taken us to their hearts too.
Do businesses approach you to be featured in the magazine? How do you choose what to focus on?
I like to find a theme for each issue, which can easily incorporate any number of businesses in the area – whether it be “Clerkenwell Outdoors”, or a recent issue which focused on LGBT life in Clerkenwell, or one coming out later this year dubbed “Clerkenwellness”.
There’s certainly no shortage of businesses keen to be featured inside, whether it’s a design showroom, a new restaurant, an old restaurant, a co-working space, a flower shop. We’re in a lovely position, because Clerkenwell appears to provide fertile soil where independent businesses can grow and thrive, and we’re always looking beyond the usual big hitters to find the plucky underdogs starting to make waves.
What’s the relationship between local history and current goings-on in the magazine?
It’s nice to have a mix of both. There is so much history in the area that it’s an inescapable part of its appeal. We recently ran a long piece about the iconic Trade club night at Turnmills, for example, which has as much to do with Clerkenwell’s evolving folklore as Charles Dickens or Smithfield Meat Market. But it’s really all about finding the perfect balance, and making sure that the magazine is relevant in the here and now, and not stuck peering too intently at the past, beautiful though it might be.
What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
We’re nearing the end of our Clerkenwell Design Week issue, so I’ll spend most of the week checking over the pages before it all goes to print. That’s my favourite part of putting the magazine together, it’s also when I get to see the sterling work from our excellent designers Cai and Kyn.
What are you doing after this chat?
I’m going to see if I can finish sprucing up our ‘What’s Happening’ pages for the next issue, then I’ll most likely pour myself a nice glass of something cold. Then possibly another one after that.
The Clerkenwell Post CDW 10 Year Anniversary Special will be available at the MagCulture Shop from May 15th