We’re used to seeing new independent launches into traditional areas of magazine publishing. Travel, food and sport are all popular subjects that attract constant attempts at reinvention. Other areas that had seemed to have faded away suddenly return – the music mag, for instance is making a spirited comeback at present and there are some great new literary magazines. A more general contemporary theme is craftsmanship and the handmade, with publications like Hole & Corner using the physical act of magazine-making to reflect their subject matter.
Against this context it surprises me there aren’t more small magazines about gardening. I’ve always enjoyed The Plant, but since the apparent demise of New York title Wilder I can think of no others. So new British mag rakesprogress is a welcome addition to the genre. The editors, publishing creatives, describe in their intro how caring for their own garden inspired them to launch the magazine.
It’s no surprise, then, to find more of a concerted effort to offer advice on gardening than you find in The Plant, with a topical section about what you should be doing in your garden at this time of year and simple, clear advice, for instance, on making your own compost (above).
But the magazine gets a little confused with its other elements, more general cultural stories related to gardening but adding up to a slightly schizophrenic mix. We hear from photographer Martin Parr about his series of rhubarb growers (above), and about a campaign to save a brutalist university building and its landscaped open spaces (also above). I’m a fan of discursion but here the tangents fly a little too randomly.
The editors Victoria Gaiger and Tom Loxley are a photographer and writer respectively, and they’ve assembled some senior names from London publishing — people like Guardian columnist Tim Dowling, who writes lightly (above) about his attempts at cultivating an allotment.
My favourite story in the issue is a series of eccentric images by Finnish artist Riitta Ikonen and Norwegian photographer Karoline Hjorth of nature-lovers in highly styled situations (above). A strength of the magazine is the imagery – photography and illustration – throughout.
Some of the features would benefit from running a few pages longer; the pace of the issue is a little stop-start. Despite a clear desire to plug into the familiar indie mag aesthetic of comfortable space and gentle typography, it feels like a need to squeeze in so much content has jeopardised the overall texture.
Despite that, rakesprogress has identified a clear gap and the first issue makes a good start at filling it. There’s enough about this first issue to leave me looking forward to a more focused second issue.