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Features / Miscellaneous

A final goodbye to London’s Wardour News from i-D, Dazed, Fantastic Man and many more

For any Londoner, or anyone visiting the capital, with a love of the printed page, Wardour News in Soho was the go-to spot to find the niche, interesting titles alongside the big hitters. It’s with a heavy heart that we use the word “was” as, at the end of last month, the newsagent closed its doors becoming the latest victim of rising rents in central London.

Founded by Raj Patel, Wardour News filled the bookshelves (and emptied the pockets) of many a magazine and book lover for 34 years. With special window displays dedicated to the latest big issue or an exciting new-comer, its inside was always stacked floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall with anything you could wish to get your hands on. In celebration of the important role that Raj and Wardour News played in championing independent magazines, we caught up with a series of creatives from the likes of i-D and Fantastic Man to say a final goodbye to the shop.

Wardour News, you will be missed!

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Fantastic Man

Eliot Haworth, Fantastic Man

INT: Can you tell us about the first time you visited Wardour News?
Eliot Haworth: I really can’t remember but it would have been as a child. I’ve always lived in London and I’ve always been aware of it somehow.

INT: What do you think is the importance of Wardour News to independent magazines?
EH: Huge. To have a space so full of magazines and to have independent titles given an equal footing with commercial titles is so important. I haven’t had much dealing with them in terms of ensuring the magazine is stocked at the shop, but I’ve always gotten the impression that they welcome independent magazines and provided a supportive platform for them.

I really liked that Marfa Journal featured the owners in one of their issues and then the guys made this little sign with a picture of their spread and stuck it on the shelf because they were so happy with it.

There’s also something so special about a British newsagent being chock full of amazing magazines. Not a bookshop, not a specialist mag boutique (nothing wrong with either of these by the way), but a proper newsagent that also sells lottery tickets, chocolate bars and cigarettes. It automatically places any magazines that are stocked there in this long lineage of printed matter that one can buy from the corner shop. From newspapers to glossies, to trade mags, to pornos. You exist alongside all of that and it feels validating.

INT: Are there any ways in which Wardour News has helped your publication?
EH: Through our lovely window displays. They also put our magazine in a nice big pile at the entrance of the shop. They also never seemed to mind me coming in and reordering their shelves from time to time if I noticed Fantastic Man was hidden behind other mags. Or they just didn’t spot me. It’s a naughty habit of mine. Probably the latter because I know they have zero tolerance for people messing around. No reading! I’ve always found that strictness endearing rather than off-putting.

INT: Is there a certain magazine you used to go there for, or a magazine you’ve bought which is particularly memorable?
EH: It’s the default place I go to buy all magazines. I don’t need to think, “Oh where can I get that from?”, I just know that I can go there, a five-minute walk from work, and they will have it, whatever it was. I will miss it.

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i-D Magazine

Matthew Whitehouse, i-D

INT: Can you tell us about the first time you visited Wardour News?
Matthew Whitehouse: I think I first went in while mooching around Soho after having moved to London. I was attracted by how visually stimulating it looked. That big typeface logo and all the mega mags in the window. 

INT: What do you think is the importance of Wardour News to independent magazines?
MW: It’s kind of unquantifiable, isn’t it? A place where you can pick up a copy of some niche, avant-garde fashion publication and a Wispa at the same time. Where else can you do that? Not in your local Morrisons. 

INT: Is there any ways in which Wardour News has helped your particular publication?
MW: Always stocking it in a nice visible place, as well as stocking the Japanese edition. 

INT: Is there a specific magazine you used to go there for, or a magazine you bought that is particularly memorable?
MW: Arena Homme + with Morrissey on the cover. Weighs a fucking ton. 

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Rough Trade Magazine

Liv Sidall, contributing editor of Riposte and ex-editor of Rough Trade Magazine

INT: Can you tell us about the first time you visited Wardour News?
Liv Sidall: I have no idea! I feel like it’s just always been there, like bees or Helen Mirren.

INT: What do you think is the importance of Wardour News to independent magazines?
LS: It brought them into the real world! The independent magazine world is a collective of people who all strive to make good magazines – but that can happen very much behind closed doors. What magazine shops, events and get-togethers do, is bring those freaks who spend all their money and time on making magazines together IRL.

That’s what I loved about Wardour – you’d go in there and silently “mingle” with the other freaks. I’d go in there and flick through magazines I had worked on to see my name in print – and I imagine everyone else standing silently in there flicking through big glossies was doing the same thing: picking up their own magazine to make it look popular. Like what Jefferson Hack told Vogue about him putting the first Dazed in Wardour and watching from across the street as someone picked it up and bought it. Wardour was one of the only places magazine-heads could go and mingle among their own people – not that you’d ever make small talk to discuss the mags, you’d be too busy trying to look cool.

INT: Are there any ways in which Wardour News has helped a publication you’ve worked on?
LS: No, not directly. It’s stocked nearly all the magazines I’ve written for but I can’t think of anything in particular. I remember when Alex Moshakis and I were making It’s Nice That Magazine No.7 when I was an intern and Alex made me work on getting it stocked in shops across the world. I remember him putting extra importance on getting it in Wardour – that was a strict order. I can’t remember if we ever actually did though.

INT: Is there a certain magazine you used to go there for or a magazine you’ve bought which is particularly memorable?
LS: No, I tend to go there when I’m waiting for friends in Soho and just read as much as possible in the time I have to kill, which – while inexcusable – was never as frowned upon as in other shops. In newsagents and service stations I tend to buy Viz or The New Yorker or low-key paper-y mags, if I went to Wardour I’d splash out on an cripplingly expensive shiny, floppy, heavy glossy. There’s something kind of decadent about buying a glossy mag in Soho then reading it in a nearby pub, isn’t there?

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Spin, Adventures in Typography

Tony Brook, Spin

It’s Nice That: Can you tell us about the first time you visited Wardour News?
Tony Brook: I remember being sent there for “research” during my first job in the “big smoke”. As a relatively young man down from the country, it was quite overwhelming, I had never seen quite like it, used as I was to my small local shop (for local people). It blew my mind.

INT: What do you think is the importance of Wardour News to independent magazines?
TB: It was an iconic destination, it seemed to stock everything that had ever been printed in a magazine format without prejudice. I understand that its demise has nothing to with the popularity of magazines which are as popular and inventive as they ever were, the MagCulture store is living, thriving proof of that. But it was a central hub, a meeting place and full of surprises, it will be missed.

INT: Is there a certain magazine you used to go there for or a magazine you’ve bought which is particularly memorable?
TB: I remember buying the first ever copy of i-D magazine there. If only I still had it!

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AnOther

Maisie Skidmore, AnOther

INT: Can you tell us about the first time you visited Wardour News?
Maisie Skidmore: With absolute clarity – I was a nervy intern working at Dazed & Confused in my holidays from an English Literature degree, when I probably should have been buried in the library. One of my tasks at Dazed was to trek from the dungeon office on Old Street to Wardour News to stock up on the new issues of various independent magazines for the print team to read. I was still fairly new to London at the time and I remember stepping inside, 20 quid clasped in my clammy hand, terrified to ask Raj Patel for some obscure title (which of course he always had). At some point in that process, I realised there was more for me on the shelves there than I would find in a lifetime of scouring Medieval texts in the Maughan Library.

INT: What do you think is the importance of Wardour News to independent magazines?
MS: What is that extremely quotable line about how, in a library, it’s not the book you’re looking for that has the answers, but the one next to it? I love walking into a magazine shop for one specific title and coming out weighed down with seven different ones. It’s the purest and most magical kind of discovery. It can change everything. 

INT: Is there any ways in which Wardour News has helped your particular publication?
MS: Hopefully in thousands of instances of unexpected discovery like that one I just described. But more unpredictably, our name is printed along the canopy outside it in enormous letters. 

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Dazed

Ashleigh Kane, Dazed

INT: Can you tell us about the first time you visited Wardour News?
Ashleigh Kane: My first few years in Soho were spent working in restaurants, so on my breaks, I would go to Wardour News and see what I could buy to give me some sense of the world outside of hospitality. Although I had a lot of fun at those jobs, I really wanted to find my way into art and fashion. The magazines in Wardour News gave me an incredible amount of choice, viewpoints, and they never tutted at me for lingering too long reading.

INT: What do you think is the importance of Wardour News to independent magazines?
AK: When I went past Wardour News, all I would see was my friends, collaborators, and colleagues’ magazines and zines in the windows and on the shelves. I don’t know the process that it takes to get your mag in the window but they seemed to be so supportive of everyone who is willing to give the publishing world a good, solid go.

INT: Is there any ways in which Wardour News has helped your particular publication?
AK: Jefferson [Hack] told us all a story about how Wardour News was the first place to stock the first ever issue of Dazed. He said that he and Rankin were able to put some copies of it in the turnstiles that used to be out the front of the shop and that they waited across the road for someone to pick it up and buy one – hours later, someone did. The fact that Dazed had its name above the shop is pretty telling of how well that relationship latest over the years. I also write for Hayley Brown’s music magazine Brick. I always go there to pick up my copies when it comes out.

INT: Is there a specific magazine you used to go there for, or a magazine you bought that is particularly memorable?
AK: When I first came from Australia, I used to go there to buy these really Australian mags called Russh and Oyster, they kept me in touch with back home. Then I moved onto buying mags such as Dazed, before my time here, and Mushpit. Places + Faces is stocked there too. The whole experience of going to Wardour News is memorable. Bless them!

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Twin Magazine

Becky Smith, Twin Magazine:

INT: Can you tell us about the first time you visited Wardour News?
Becky Smith: I guess way back in 1998 when I worked at Vogue – I’d go there for ciggies and to find all my favourite independent magazines. I was always full to the brim with so many different titles that you couldn’t find anywhere else… but they would always be like: “It’s not a library!" They have to stop putting the rent up for people like this as it’s crippling to small businesses that are integral to the community.
They were always supportive with Lula or Twin, anything I started up… lovely guys!

INT: What do you think is the importance of Wardour News to independent magazines?
BS: It was so important. They have always been so supportive and the first to experiment or take on new publications.

INT: Are there any ways in which Wardour News has helped your publication?
BS: Yes, they were so sweet and did a Twin special in the window – anything they could do to help.

INT: Is there a certain magazine you used to go there for, or a magazine you’ve bought which is particularly memorable?
BS: Nothing specifically, it was just more that you had such great choice and I always came out with a bag full and felt so inspired… I couldn’t wait to get home and binge on fashion and art magazines.