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Time Out talks us through five of its most striking covers in celebration of its 50th birthday

Ever since the Romans ambled over from the mainland, booted dear old Boudica out of her own turf and turned a bit of riverside land into a bustling little town, London has been a city in flux, an ever-changing testament to the multiplicity of the metropolitan experience. That experience is wonderful, frustrating, illuminating, alienating, incredible, and dreadful all at once, and it is an experience that Time Out magazine has spent the past 50 years attempting to distil it into a weekly dispatch that surveys everything from car boot sales in Annerley to small plate Japanese-Latvian fusion restaurants in Wandsworth.

First published in 1968, Time Out is both a resource for Londoners looking for something to see at the pictures on a dismal Tuesday night, or a place for a Sunday afternoon beer in an unfamiliar part of town in an editorial platform that celebrates one of the world’s great cities.

It is also a magazine that, like all good magazines should, understands the important of strong graphic design. After all, if the cover’s not grabbing you, you’re likely not picking it up. Ahead of a celebration of 50 years of Time Out covers taking place at the Museum of Brands on the 12 September, and the publication of Time Out 50: 50 Years, 50 Covers later in the month, below we ask the Time Out team to select five of its most striking examples from an extensive archive.

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Time Out London: Issue 1, August 1968

Time Out London: Issue 1, August 1968

The first issue of Time Out was printed on an A2 sheet and folded down to A5. With listings for ‘Buildings’, ‘Blueish Films’, and ‘Rabbit Food’ as well as art, music and theatre, it was a snapshot of London culture at the time. Tony Elliott, the magazine’s founder, cut out the cover image from a publicity shot for the Cybernetic Serendipity exhibition at the then new Institute of Contemporary Arts. “It didn’t stereotype Time Out as a hip music or fashion magazine,” Tony explains. ‘It felt completely right.”

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Time Out London: Warhol’s exclusive Time Out interview March 1971, illustration by Peter Brookes

Time Out London: exclusive interview with Andy Warhol, March 1971

Just three years after its inception, Time Out scored an exclusive interview with Andy Warhol when he opened his show at the Tate. The Warhol-pastiche cover was by versatile illustrator Peter Brookes, later one of Britain’s leading political cartoonists. "I used to call him ‘Dial-a-Style’ says designer Pearce Marchbank, “because he could do you a Hogarth today and a Renoir tomorrow.”

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Time Out London: Pearce Marchbank, Roger Perry

Time Out London: Winston Churchill, November 1974

As Britain’s press went into sycophantic overload to mark Sir Winston Churchill’s hundredth anniversary, Time Out| took a very different view. Pearce and regular Time Out photographer Roger Perry subverted Churchill’s famous V-sign to express an iconoclastic, alternative take on the old imperialist’s legacy, with the cleaner in their shared Clerkenwell studio literally lending a hand.

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Time Out London, Micha Weidmann

Time Out London: Our City, July 2005

On the morning of July 7 2005, four suicide bombers detonated explosions on tube trains and a bus. Fifty-two Londoners were killed. “We were due to go to press that day with a bubbly summer preview,” remembers editor Gordon Thomson, “and we had only a few hours to come up with a new cover. We felt very strongly that London wouldn’t be cowed by these bombings, so we came up with this simple, unapologetic message. At the vigil in Trafalgar Square that week, it was very moving to see people holding copies of this cover up as a sign of defiance.”

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Time Out London, Nick Booth

Time Out London: #ilovelondon, August 2011

After major rioting in the summer of 2011, the mood in London was volatile. Much of the media was focused on demonising the youths who were accused of setting parts of the city on fire. But Time Out editor Tim Arthur took a different approach: “We didn’t want to blame anyone; we wanted to help bring the city back together. This was the biggest selling issue in a decade, and that hashtag ended up on mugs, posters and tea towels, as well as trending on Twitter. It became its own movement, quite independent of us.”