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Our 2023 favourites

Our 2023 favourites

As 2023 comes to an end, the magCulture team look back at their favourite magazines of the year.

It’s been a busy year on the indie scene, with plenty of new launches as well as impressive issues from longstanding favourites. The choice of magazines available only gets richer and richer, and we’re sure you’ll have you own faves, but read on to see which ten (plus) magazines our team pushed to the top of their lists.


Jeremy Leslie, magCulture founder
Before I share my two magazines, a few words about the magazine factory that is Richard Turley and friends. It’s been a while since a new issue of his dada broadsheet Civilization appeared, but it set the scene for a series of projects and particularly the brilliant new unfashion magazine Nuts. More of that elsewhere in this roundup, but with a second issue on the way for Spring 2024 it looks to have found its place in the indie ecosystem. Meanwhile Interview continues its pillaging of Instagram celebrity culture, recording the world that founder Andy Warhol anticipated in the seventies. Circling these big beasts are others such as lit mag Heavy Traffic, and work by key Turley collaborators Echo Wu (1413 magazine) and Bertie Brandes (a series of mini zines). All reflect today—as any magazine must—but also help map our potential future, adopting difficulty and friction to dig at the gaps forming in the digital utopias we’ve been promised. Another seventies hero comes to mind, William Burroughs, and his idea that language is a virus. We need people like Turley causing trouble.

That observation aside, I wanted to focus on two other magazines that showcase the variety available in today’s indies while reminding us that strong editorial concepts will attract devoted audiences.


MacGuffin was perfect from its first appearance in 2015: a great idea, well written and edited, and beautifully designed and produced. Its defining idea—to use a single thing as a prism to investigate the wider world—is brilliant and has spawned a mini genre of its own. It’s been well-praised over the years but that very conistency is what makes it my first choice here. Their latest issue, number 13, is about The Letter and is typically broad in its coverage of alphabets, language, code, gestures and media—whatever the issue theme, you’ll always find a surprise inside. The care and attention the team apply to research and development is always exemplary, as is the decision-making around the magazine as an object. Issue 13’s front cover is particularly powerful—a pair of hands mimic the magazine’s iconic ‘M’ logo—and is probably my favourite MacGuffin moment to date. 

The Fence reflects its content just as strongly yet could hardly be more different to MacGuffin. Published quarterly, a simple warm red and black colour palette adds drama to its 56 lightweight pages. Efficiently designed to tell long form stories—and in particular London stories—expect insider reports from different industries and comical reflections on the city’s history sit alongside in-depth reports and new fiction. It gives a new generation of journalists a licence to roam, stretching them beyond the more common fashion/trend reports, and as a result oozes London in the way Time Out used to. Another reference point editor Charles Baker is keen on is eighties New York magazine Spy, but The Fence is its own thing and neither a Time Out or Spy clone.

As different as they are, what The Fence and MacGuffin have in common is the way they have each developed loyal readerships without compromising their unique editorial worlds, showing a way forward for the future of print.


Danielle Mustarde, Operations manager

is one of a welcome handful of new, indie magazines to have come out of the UK’s queer scene this year. Others include Strap, a trans masc publication from Manchester, Bittersweet Review, a queer literary magazine from London (and beyond), and Catflap, another lit mag for ‘Queers with a Disco Heart’ from Belfast which has recently made its way to London. The reason I’ve chosen Han is because it’s the one that most speaks to me.

In its own words, this slim, monochrome volume is ‘about the search for one’s identity, and the right to determine your own life and body. It’s about queerness as shapeshifting, as something hopeful, nourishing, open and radical.’ These are all notions that have come to mean more to me in recent years as my own sense of a hopeful, nourishing and radical queer community have come to be so integral to my life here in London. To see that documented by others who move in those same, shapeshifting circles is affirming and exciting and I’d encourage anyone looking to delve more deeply into their own queer community to pick up a copy and thumb through. Admittedly, it’s London-centric, but that isn't to say it won't speak to those living in Manchester, Newcastle, Edinburgh and beyond. At its core, it's about people.

A ‘portal into everyday lives’, Han is an opportunity to look more closely at the people who make queer London what it is right now, today. From drag kings, artists, tattoo artists, dancers, teachers, mudlarkers, martial artists and more, Han offers a gorgeous and crucial window onto queer culture in the capital city.


My second choice for this year’s roundup is the Greek-born, ‘biannual journal of curiosities,’ Kennedy. The first time I picked up a copy of this thick-set, bookish title was just before I began working at magCulture in early 2020. I’d just been to Japan for the first time and, serendipitously, Kennedy had recently released their Japan edition. I was immediately drawn into its pleasingly tactile, photography-heavy pages documenting editor Chris Kontos’ own trip to Japan.

This latest issue, themed ‘Family’, is no different in its ability to draw you in. Opening with a beautifully-written ‘love letter to my family’, again by Kontos (and well worth a read even if you get no further), the vast majority of the magazine features warm-hued, grainy images documenting family life—both Kontos’ and others. From mundane moments at home, to stolen moments between a parent and a newborn, to polaroid pictures of an (ex?) partner. There’s something beautiful about the images collected together in each issue of Kennedy. They invoke nostalgia and a shared understanding of what it means to be part of a family (biological, chosen, or otherwise), what it means to travel, to love, to fall out of love and, ultimately, what it might mean to be human. And that’s always where you find the good stuff.


Osman Bari, the magCulture Shop

The ones that got away: some of my favourite titles from 2023 were new launches that I (regrettably) didn’t quite manage to nab before they flew off our shelves. First, there's Quilo—the bookish magazine of ‘photographic tales’ from Brazil, beautifully produced as a counter to the socio-political climate of the Bolsonaro era. A lovely mix of documentary-style photography and short stories, whose shifts you can trace while traversing each of the country’s regions. With its exposed binding and curiously green hued pages, It’s a design object in its own right.


A title named after a former 1960s Pan-African airline also caught my eye; Air Afrique draws from the aviation history of its namesake to sprinkle snippets of archival material from the airline's in-flight magazine amongst features on philosophy, music, fashion and more. The story of the airline—a unifier for many newly independent African nations at the time—is neatly embodied by the content inside, which focuses exclusively on voices from across Africa, its geographies and diasporas. I'm not usually one for the glossies, but I found the square format, emphasis on heritage and understated modernist graphics refreshing. Keen to see how it grows with the issues to come.

Both magazines now sit very much atop my wish list this holiday season.


Katie Beach, the magCulture Shop
I was delightfully surprised by newcomer Roam this year. To customers in the shop, I describe it as a folk revival magazine, often comparing it to Weird Walk as a point of reference, but such broad generalizations miss what makes this title so great. Taking inspiration from editor Henry Rayment-Pickard’s profession as an archaeologist, the magazine is built like a compendium or catalog of finds: chock full of artists exploring nature, ancestral landscapes, folk crafts with modern messaging, not one, but two milliners, a plethora of musicians, a mummer, an opera singer, beasts, gods, and, of course, standing stones.

Such a diverse range of media and folk traditions is saved from being overwhelming thanks to the title’s singular thesis: to highlight and preserve the central themes connecting the artists, performers, activists, and more who interact with the past and regenerate cultural heritage for the modern age.

Roam sold out twice in our shop when it first hit the shelves earlier this fall, and I believe this provides a lesson in the power of specificity—no topic is too niche for magazines, and, in fact, the more niche the better.


The first impression of city magazine Desired Landscapes is its perfect size: about the same length as a smartphone and only a little bit wider, it’s compact and portable, making it easy to tuck into a bag or pocket for a day’s ramble. Sun-washed Miami greets you on the first pages of this year’sissue six, then San Francisco, Valencia (perhaps London’s dark, grey winter days are getting to me…). The walking maps for Beirut and Dhaka make it a practical guide as well as an intellectual companion. I’m a big fan of the foldout page featuring photographs of Ukraine’s endangered modernist buildings and the campaign to preserve them digitally and physically amidst war. This issue was also very helpful to me personally thanks to the interview with Walking Researcher Alice Twemlow which provided relevant references to my masters project. For such a small magazine, Desired Landscapes gives more than it takes.



Eloise Thomas, the magCulture Shop
Being a huge fan of Richard Turley’s Civilization, I was very excited about his new photographic magazine Nuts and was even more excited when flicking through it at magCulture. At first glance the minimal front cover feels unassuming, maybe even intimidating, yet inside the pages feel generous and tactile. There’s a scratchiness to it that invites readers into each photographer’s brain. From the simple marker pen scribbles to the absence of pretentiousness and wittiness of the photography, it feels zine-like despite its large, weighty format. On paper it sounds confusing which is what’s great about it. It makes so much sense as a skeletal visual commentary of ubiquitous life without taking itself too seriously.


I also love The Paris Review, from the simplicity of its design through to its content and imagery. It’s whip-smart but diary-like, the prose and poetry finds ways to reach to you with relatability. The interview section showcases artists I would never of found otherwise and doesn’t shy away from questions that dig a bit deeper than a conventional interview.  I also find its physicality endearing, disguised as a paperback book making it the perfect size to put in your bag. It never fails to charm me every time I get to read it on my commute!


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