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The PPA Festival 2015

The PPA Festival 2015

Next week the PPA – the UK lobbying group for magazine publishers – holds its Festival, a reinvigorated version of their annual conference. We caught up with CEO Barry McIlheney to find out more about the change.

The new PPA Festival format seems far more open, and less of a traditonal trade show, than the old PPA Conference. Explain the thinking behind this shift.
The old traditional PPA conference worked perfectly well back in the day, but last year we completely reinvented it to better reflect the faster, more interactive, more dynamic sector we have become in recent years. I also felt that running a traditional conference no longer reflected the glamour and passion and wit and downright sexiness of modern magazine media.

So we invited in some of the big names - people like Tony Parsons, Mark Ellen, Victoria Coren Mitchell - who wrote for our titles and got some of our top editors to interview them. People seemed to love it, especially the chance to move around between stages and hear so many different speakers from so many different areas of the industry and beyond. And being an old hippy, I quite liked the idea of this year calling it a Festival rather than a conference, and building on what we did last year.

We now have more than 70 speakers across four stages, and we are encouraging people to move around and check out all the different acts, from the big CEOs to Sali Hughes, from Dylan Jones to Davina McCall. We don’t quite have a Green Fields area yet, but we're working on it.

It’s great to see independent magazines given a presence. What do you think the mainstream publishers can learn from these speakers?
There’s a revolution going on out there - which magCulture is of course a part of - as these bright young digital natives discover the joys of print. And it's now easier through technology to produce a magazine about something you love than at any point in our history. Put these two things together and you have this fantastic explosion of beautiful new magazines catering for practically every taste known to man.

So I think at the very least the mainstream publishers will see some incredible new talent at work. As well as a heartening reminder that passion and print still rock. I love the way magazines have become so cool again. Beards, tats, and mags.

When we last spoke you were very positive about the future of our industry. Do you remain so?
Even more so if that's possible. I’ve worked in it now for 30 years so I'm certainly not blind to the challenges that exist, but fundamentally the world seems to want great content beautifully packaged across multiple platforms and speaking with a distinct tone to a clearly identifiable group of people. That sounds like magazine media to me.

The PPA Festival takes place next Thursday (May 21) at B1 Location House, Southampton Row, Holborn.
Full schedule and last few tickets available at

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