Contrary to popular belief held by traipsing tourists clutching camera phones and suits marching towards their City jobs, Britain’s identity encompasses a spirit far greater than anything red phone booths, Beefeaters, or the £20 pound note could ever encapsulate. It’s in suburban streets, overlooked gestures, quietly uttered slang and your older sister’s shoe cupboard. Or, as the magazine explains it, “for how long will 90s Umbro diamonds and Vauxhall Novas still align the streets, from bottom drawers and charity shops, through used car dealers with luminous stickers along pavements stuck in polka dots?"
LAW, which stands for Lives and Works, turns away from the towering society-built pillars of beauty to consider lesser-recognised but all-the-more beautiful-for-it ideas. Now in its sixth issue, scattered across the country and disseminated entirely for free, LAW is well and truly getting into its stride. We spoke to editor-in-chief John Holt about where the magazine grew from, the sacrifice he made to publish the first issue, and the three-foot tall statue of the magazine’s title that will surely outlive us all.
Can you tell us a bit about LAW? What made you decide to start it?
I studied Fashion Design at The University of Brighton, but I was always more interested in words and images than sewing machines or rolls of fabric. 90s documentary-style photographers were a big influence and a magazine seemed like a good way of collating what I was into.
I couldn’t really relate to a lot of fashion magazines at the time. When I was growing up I was more concerned about getting hold of the new Argos catalogue and looking for bargains in the Free-Ads newspaper on a Saturday. I learnt how to tie hooks by reading Course Fishing magazine, and unpicked the staples of Match for pull out posters of the football players I aspired to be.
I wanted to make something for me and my mates, with content that everyone could recognise and relate to, but was also inspiring and presented in the most beautiful way. I sold my dream car, a 1974 Ford Escort MK1, and printed 500 copies of issue #1 for my final project in June 2011.
"I couldn’t really relate to a lot of fashion magazines at the time. When I was growing up I was more concerned about getting hold of the new Argos catalogue and looking for bargains in the _Free-Ads_ newspaper on a Saturday."John Holt
There’s huge range of characters included in the new issue, from an under 15s basketball coach, to a toilet attendant and a bowling aficionado. How do you go about choosing to include these people? What’s the common thread that binds them all together?
The breadth of LAW’s content is one of the things that excites me the most and the reason that the magazine appeals to such a wide demographic.
We are trying to make a world where all features individually are complete strangers, but when they are presented together in the magazine they are all related to one central idea. Above all the aim of LAW is to document the beautiful undercurrent of Britain and shine the limelight on those who may not normally receive it, but are doing something positive that we feel somehow describes what it’s like to live here now.
Each issue presents a cross section of Britain. The content evolves from a conversation with our contributors, sometimes they approach us with an idea, sometimes we approach them, but the magazine is our collective voice saying, “this is what we are surrounded by, or into at the minute, or feel like at the moment. This is what we have learnt or found, this is what we think is important to say. This is what we want to print in a magazine, so it will last forever and never be forgotten.”
Can you tell us the story behind the marble statue on the inside cover?
That’s the LAW stone. My best mate Matthew Cussell is an incredibly talented stonemason and a hometown legend with a very kind heart. I was driving back to the Fens for Christmas, when he said I should stop off at his house because he had something he wanted me to see. I shut my eyes and was led into the kitchen before opening them to reveal a three-foot stone sculpture of LAW in the middle of the room. The light was dim and the kitchen table looked like an altar. I’ll never forget that sight.
It’s written in the issue #1 typeface and is carved out of Portland Stone, which is what St. Paul’s Cathedral and half of Regent Street is made out of. It’s the crème de la crème in stonemason’s terms and Matt spent 19 months, in his evenings and weekends, chiselling LAW out of a boulder. We asked Corey-Bartle Sanderson to shoot it for the first page of the new issue because we knew that he would capture its magnificence and we wanted it to be the first thing that everyone saw.
What would be your advice to somebody wanting to start a new magazine?
Find a gap in the market and then figure out what to sell. Make something different. Do what you’re into. If you’re into it, there will be someone on the other side of the world who is into it to. Find people to collaborate with, who can do jobs better than you and lift the magazine to a whole new level.