Jeremy Leslie

Photography by George Marshall. Interview by George Tyson.
Jeremy Leslie is owner and editor of magCulture, a London-based website and bricks and mortar shop dedicated to championing editorial design. Survey recently visited Jeremy at his shop on St John Street, in Islington, to learn about his life-long devotion to the printed page, and hear about his views on the future of independent publishing. He wears items from the City collection.

Tell us about the origins of magCulture.

MagCulture began with the book of the same name. I wanted to counteract the general assumption that print was over. This was 2003 – 13 years ago – and we’re still here. I was writing about magazines online, and people would contact me and ask where they could buy them. I started to sell a few of the harder-to-get titles online through the website, which grew to hosting various pop-up shops that sold magazines exclusively.

The market has grown so much, and about 18 months ago I realised that London needed a really good magazine shop. I knew someone was going to do it – and I also knew that if I sat back I’d be really pissed off if they did – so I had a go.

The online shop, which has the complete range of magazines that we sell here, has more authority and depth because there’s a physical store. It makes it concrete.

It’s the same with Rapha. In the early days, you didn’t have shops. But people want to interact with the product, and know a bit more about it. It adds to the culture. For the magazines, they deserve a space that matches the love and attention that has gone into the making of them.

The shop is a former newsagent. How did you come to find it?

When I first saw it, the space was just a boxed in, traditional shop. It seemed like a really ordinary space. They’d put in a false ceiling that covered up the saw-tooth roof, so we ripped that out, and then pulled up the floor to reveal the original terrazzo flooring from 1958, which was an incredible find. It’s from a similar period to the Barbican, and has that same ‘palaces for the people’ feel to it.

Have you always lived in London?

I grew up in London. I studied here, and I’ve always worked here. I’m a Londoner through and through. I can’t imagine living anywhere else, apart from maybe New York.

When I had a studio in Covent Garden, I used to cycle to and from work everyday. Now, I’m a little further away and ride a scooter, but I still have my bike. It’s amazing to see the provision for cycling in the city. It’s becoming a legitimate mode of transport, and receiving the attention from planners and local government that it deserves.

You studied graphics at London College of Printing. What drew you to magazines?

I did a degree course in graphics. I suppose it was only towards the end of my studies that I realised how much graphic design and magazines had to do with each other, which sounds ridiculous now. When it came to my degree show, I redesigned a film magazine called Stills, which made me focus on how important magazines were to me – I just hadn’t figured out the relevance of design. When I left I got a job at the studio of City Limits, which was a sort of alternative ‘Time Out’, a very design conscious magazine, and I got the bug from there.

You recently spoke at an event at the Rapha Cycle Club Spitalfields, alongside the makers of Rapha’s Mondial magazine, about the future of independent publishing and magazine making.

We stock 270 magazines, but I could fill two or three times this space. There are so many people wanting to make them, and it’s a truly international phenomenon. I’m heading to a conference that I help programme in Singapore tomorrow, the U Symposium, where a lot of people from the UK and Europe are going to speak about magazines, because there’s such an audience over there. Titles like Apartamento and Cherry Bombe are huge in the Far East.

The idea that an old medium is summarily dismissed by a new one is a very flawed argument – and it’s always made. Radio was considered dead when TV arrived, but it’s still thriving. A lot of the titles I write about and sell here are alive and kicking because of the internet, not in spite of it. One of the successes of the digital age is the spread of print culture, and I can only see it improving.