Brighton is well known for being an independent-focussed city. Take a step away from the seafront and you'll be greeted by a vast variety of boutique shops, jewellers, coffee shops, and bars catering to the various subcultures on offer. Except, it's never had a shop dedicated to independent publications. Well... until December 2014, when Magazine Brighton opened its doors in the infamous North Laines.

Since its humble beginnings, the store's reputation has grown massively. Hell, the same can be said about their collection of magazines (they stock over 300), which are sourced based on the staff's own interests and influences, as well as recommendations from the customers frequenting the store.

Photographer and Brighton local, Chris Lanaway headed down to the store to find out what all the fuss is about.

Magazine Brighton

Hi Martin! Before Magazine Brighton opened back in 2014 there was yet to be an independent magazine outlet in the city. I've always found this strange given the nature of Brighton and the support that independents seem to get within the community. How did the concept of an independent magazine store in the North Laines come to you and how did you go about opening the doors to Magazine Brighton?

I've always loved magazines and then indie magazines. I've always loved Brighton, too, and have been coming here since I was 5 and have lived here for about 10 years. The two seemed to go together to me, too. In a past life, I used to travel a lot and came across stores that sold indie mags all around the world - although it was unusual to come across a shop dedicated only to indie mags. For a while indie mags had two shelves in Borders in Churchill Square but after it closed, nothing.

When I decided that I should cut back on my old life I got the chance to do something I wanted to do. That something was indie mags, which I thought must have an audience in Brighton. We asked some agents to look out for shops for us in Trafalgar Street which I always loved and they told us it might take a few months to find one. But... three weeks later, our current shop came up in just the right place, so we went for it.

I knew lots of the magazines, so that was a start. I'd made friends with Sandeep Garg who runs Shreeji News in Chiltern Street, London (he's also an Aruveydic medical guy) and he was great in helping us make links with distributors. All sorts of indie shop owners were so helpful with their advice and support. I'd started things in my past life so that bit had been done before.


Magazine Brighton
Magazine Brighton

What are you views on digital media and how it enables views to obtain information? Magazine Brighton started as a store first and then later went online with a web shop; was that always the plan?

Yes. The indie mags are physical things. They read and look fantastic but they also feel and smell fantastic, too. The physicality is a big part of what they are about so we wanted a physical shop. The number of people who come into the shop and comment on how good it smells is fantastic. The idea of the shop is to make a surplus, obviously, otherwise it isn't a real business if we just subsidise a loss. But we want to use the surplus (when we get there) to fund new mag start-ups in Brighton so we also wanted the shop to be a sort of destination place for people who love them like we do. The online started because a) people from outside Brighton who weren't close to somewhere where they could get these mags asked us to and b) the extra we earn from online sales out of Brighton might help us to get over the break-even line a little quicker.


Magazine Brighton
Magazine Brighton

More recently there has been quite a swift resurgence in analogue material be it music/vinyl, film photography, books, and not forgetting magazines. Do you think the introduction of digital media in these areas has focused the printed/pressed media industry, fuelling a resurgence? Or alternatively, have consumers become nostalgic about the concept of the tangible creativity that's obtainable through physical media like vinyl and magazines?

Everything balances, I think. You exercise hard and rest and so on. There's nothing wrong with digital and when I still travel I take my iPad with me and I have newspapers, blogs and mags on there in one small, lightweight device in my bag. It's brilliant. But nothing serves every need we have and my iPad doesn't really let me share what I have on it with friends; it doesn't let me have a print feel in my house; it doesn't let me feel the mags and so on.

I think this is happening generally. There's nothing inherently wrong with mass-produced things provided they don't do it at the price of hurting people, but they can't serve every need we have deep inside us. So great coffee does something that instant coffee just can't do; craft beers, vinyl and artisan bread or a well-made sweater do the same. So, I think indie mags - for a small proportion of the population - bring a kind of deep satisfaction that digital just can't.


Magazine Brighton
Magazine Brighton

Can you talk us through your current favourite title?

This is easily the most difficult question I am asked. I so love the craft and passion involved in producing these magazines that I love them even if I don't always think they are for me. It's like looking at a painting that you wouldn't have in your house but you still think it is amazing. So I have lots of favourites and on any given day... because I have been buying and collecting indie mags for a long time I also have mags that I have loved over the long-term.

I don't really want to answer this question, as you can tell.


Magazine Brighton
Magazine Brighton

You claim to offer 300+ titles covering everything from fashion to beer - that's quite a lot of magazines! How have you come across the titles you stock? Do you source them yourself and through your employees or is there also outside input?

We obtain about 60% of our magazines through distributors and 40% direct from the publishers. This is good news and bad news in terms of running the shop. Dealing direct with each publisher is great because we make contact directly with the people who are doing what we admire. The downside is that each direct contact requires its own invoicing and payment that takes time and a lot of looking after. Jean, my wife, does all that backstage for us brilliantly and occasionally curses because six invoices a month would be better than 60 invoices! We research titles all the time. Every time we go away at least half a day and probably more is spent in stores that sell indie mags. We get contacted by people from all over the world who would like us to sell their mags and, of course, the distributors often keep us in touch with what is happening.


Magazine Brighton
Magazine Brighton

I remember paying a visit the day after you had opened, there were just a few titles generously displayed throughout the store with a strong aroma of fresh paint filling the space. A lot has changed in the short time you've been open. I was especially blown away by the diversity of the titles on display and the sheer quantity that was on offer! What are your plans for the future? Do you plan to host events lined up in the shop?

The real plan for the shop is to start making a surplus and helping people in Brighton start good magazines. So any short-term plan we have is to help us get to that point. The margins are very low on mags and lots of people have told us we should have started a coffee shop as well because the margins on coffee are better. But we didn't want to be known as a coffee shop that sold some indie mags; we wanted to be the indie mag store.

Going forward - and this is still more a dream than a plan - it would be good to have a bigger space so we could feature some of the great zines that are out there and also so we could expand into selling indie books that have some sort of connection with the mags. There's a tiny part of me that would like to run the store alongside someone else doing something that fits with us nicely. Perhaps we might become the indie store that also serves coffee one day!


Magazine Brighton