Bristol Independent Publishers

by Jo Keeling


One of the things I find most appealing about independent publishing is that it seems to have a culture of collaboration rather than competition. And why not, when a shared love of print and a growing awareness of the awesome things coming out of small publishing houses can only help bolster the whole indie magazine-buying market. It's a win-win situation.

Which is one reason why I was thrilled to hear that seven indie magazines have, this week, joined forces in the West Country to form Bristol Independent Publishers (BIP). Their aim: to prove that some of the most exciting UK magazines aren't coming out of multi-national print houses, but small studios, back rooms and coffee shops. As a shed-worker, who manages a tiny team via Skype and whose only human contact most weekdays is a chatty postman, I can't tell you how appealing the idea of a community of local mag-makers is.

I chatted to Boneshaker's Mike White about the story behind BIP and why Bristol is fast becoming a hub for innovative publishing...

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So what inspired you guys to set up Bristol Independent Publishers?

We love print - the smell of ink of nice thick paper stock and the beautiful, tactile, collectible nature of magazines. And, amongst carefully designed independent magazines at least, print is thriving. Especially in Bristol, where Boneshaker is based. BIP began, as so many things do, with a random drink. OFF LIFE's Dan Humphry and I were sharing a pint by Bristol docks when we decided to team up and turn the spotlight on Bristol's burgeoning mag culture. So a group of us including Loaf, Cereal, OFF LIFE, Boneshaker, Another Escape, Paper and Lionheart decided to band together to celebrate this vibrant print scene and to shout it from the rooftops - to tell the world about what we do. We were partly inspired by the Printout! events in London, which champion interesting magazines really successfully. We're hoping hook up with them for a Bristol Printout! event in 2014.

And what have you got planned for the future? 

Nothing's set in stone yet, but we'd like to host regular events - perhaps quarterly - to tell readers what's new, help unite small independent publishers and inspire others to get publishing too. We'll have lively talks, launch parties and perhaps some live printing in cahoots with the Letterpress Collective, which was co-founded by Boneshaker main man James Lucas.

Why do you think Bristol inspires such creativity? There's a lot going on here eh?

There's definitely something in the water here! Bristol's got a really strong and progressive creative community, and enough wild optimism to get things off the ground. 

I love the idea that all of these wonderful projects are being created in spare rooms and cafes (something I can relate to, working on my new ventures in my garden shed and relocating to Easton Thali Cafe when I need to see real people). Where are the BIP projects being made?

All over the place! The laptop is a wonderful thing. Boneshaker's mostly dreamed up on bike rides, then pulled together on kitchen tables and by the big windows in Roll for the Soul; OFF LIFE comes to life in coffee shops, rented desk spaces... and Dan's bed. Lionheart's issues often begin as scrawls on scraps notepaper or receipts, as thoughts found on on trains or out walking - and much of it's actually made in the designer's parents' garden shed. 

And what's going down at your launch night - Roll for the Soul, right?

The first ever BIP night will just be a friendly 'hello' really. It's all about letting people know that we exist and showing them what we do, and hopefully inspiring a bit of cross-pollination. We'll have a display of our various publications, a bit of waffle from me, DJs and drinking. And lots of lovely magazines to  touch/read/smell/take away and treasure.

Come along to the Bristol Independent Publishers launch night next Friday 6 December, Roll for the Soul, 2 Quay Street, Bristol.