Amelia’s Magazine | An interview with Jonny Gordon-Farleigh, editor of STIR magazine

STIR to Action book cover by Bec Young
STIR Vol.1 cover by Bec Young.

New magazine STIR carries the strap line ANGER. ANALYSIS. ACTION. For anyone disillusioned with the current state of affairs it’s a must read collection of articles, interviews and radio shows which question the direction in which our supposedly ‘civilised’ world is going. This weekend they take part in the Stoke Newington Literary Festival, chairing a discussion about ethical fashion at 12.30 on Sunday 9th June at the Town Hall.

STIR to Action book illustration by German Gullon
STIR to Action book illustration by German Gullon.

Find STIR to Action online and now in print, as a volume of collected writings and interviews about co-operative and community-orientated alternatives, all accompanied by imaginative illustrations (many of which have been created by artists that will be familiar to Amelia’s Magazine readers). I spoke with founding editor Jonny Gordon-Farleigh.

Food Justice, illustration by Sarah Jayne-Morris.

Stir has made the leap from online to printed publication: first as the book, STIR Vol.1 and now as a print version of the magazine. What prompted the move and what has the journey to print been like? A steep learning curve?
I think all platforms – both online and offline – are really important and we are still publishing online but also as a quarterly print magazine. I think we need to use different platforms strategically and so I’m not going to say one is more important than the other. It’s obviously very difficult to publish time-sensitive articles in a quarterly magazine that only appears every three months. I like to think of our quarterly magazine as slow news – issues that need time to be properly analysed and understood and to also give space to develop potential alternatives. On the other hand, if a campaign group wants to publish a piece about an event or mobilisation next week then I will publish on the online blog and distribute via social media. We are also looking into publishing a small free paper with selected content from the online blog and print issue so it can reach places that don’t sell magazines, such as social enterprise co-working spaces. It has actually been a well-paced launch into print from building an online readership to building an offline community through events. I needed to know and felt we had the support before launching into print.

STIR to Action Book illustration by Alex Charnley
STIR illustration by Alex Charnley.

Was crowd funding easy to do? What have been the highs and lows of taking this route to publication? 
Crowdfunding was an interesting process for so many reasons. Firstly, crowdfunding allows us to fund projects without appealing to wealthly individuals – philanthropists – and also avoids the restrictions and conditions of grant-making bodies. Also, it creates an international community of co-creators and contributors for your project: Those who couldn’t contribute financially, offered their skills as graphic designers and artists. We even launched the book at The Firebox because a campaign group (Counterfire) couldn’t give us money as they were fundraising themselves, but did have an amazing event space in Kings Cross. Crowdfunding also allows you to self-publish and this gives you control over the creative process. The biggest problem with self-publishing is distribution and this is something we need to seriously address. The publishing industry had a monopoly on this before the emergence of the internet but anyone will tell you that it’s still really difficult to distribute your own work. (Hell yeah! – Amelia) So finding ways of distributing the funded book was certainly challenging.

STIR to Action book illustration Wizard of Oz by Edd Baldry
Wizard of Oz, STIR illustration by Edd Baldry.

How did you find the contributing illustrators, and what was the process of their contribution?
I had worked with a few of the contributing illustrators before – Edd Baldry and India Rose Harvey — and also knew a few from other publications like the Occupied Times (Alex Charnley). However, Twitter was very helpful in finding new illustrators (thanks for the tweet Amelia!!) and I would have to say most of them enthusiastically responded to a call-out on Twitter. The creative process was largely asking them to respond to the an article. We would then talk about the ideas and see what could work to represent the piece. Every artist is different and that’s what makes it so interesting.

STIR to Action Book illustration by India Rose Harvey
STIR illustration by India Rose Harvey.

How did you decide on the content of STIR Vol.1? Who contributed and what have they written about?
The content for STIR Vol.1 was selected from two years’ worth of online publishing at and we chose the articles and interviews that really showcased the emerging community-led and co-operative alternatives in our food and finance systems. We then invited 10 artists to contribute original pieces of art for the printed publication (see above).

We had a whole range of contributors including an economist, David Boyle, from the New Economics Foundation who wrote about the disconnect between wealth and money and how we need to design and scale-up alternative forms of exchange such as local currencies. The philosopher and Defend the Right to Protest activist Nina Power analysed the London Riots of 2011 with a review of a new book that was published on the events. I also published a piece by Guppi Bola and Bethan Graham about food justice, why the food system is broken and what creative communities around London are doing to change it for the better. We also featured the story of the Real Food store in Exeter that came out of Transition Exeter and was funded through a community share scheme, as a look at the rise of new social enterprises. The founders of Co-opoly – the boardgame of co-operatives – wrote about their new creation and how Monopoly was originally created during the New Deal era in America to teach tenants how to deal with bad landlords.

STIR to Action Book illustration by Alicja Falgowska
STIR illustration by Alicja Falgowska.

Anger is a cornerstone of your creation, which is somewhat at odds with the positivity of the Transition Network, of which you are part. Why do you think it’s important to find an outlet for anger?
It’s an interesting question and I definitely think there is a case for anger. There is something almost admirable about the Transition Network’s early decision not to engage with what might be called antagonistic campaigns, but there has definitely been a significant shift recently — the ‘No’ campaign to Costa Coffee in Totnes was fully supported by Transition Town Totnes. Also, I think it’s important to say that ‘No’ campaigns are far more effective and likely to succeed if they are part of a positive effort – like the initiatives that make up the Transition Network.

Also, insisting on always being positive is problematic as it can become as counterproductive as being the constant bearer of bad news, an argument that Smartmeme – a creative campaign agency – make in STIR Vol.1. So I think it’s philosophically shallow to see anger as a deformative emotion, if it’s part of a campaign for change it can have a reformative effect. Anger without new political options can be dangerous and that’s why the positive work of the Transition Network is really important. It’s worth saying that anger only transforms into cynicism when we accept the false political choices we are given and give up on alternatives.

STIR magazine issue 01 2013
STIR magazine issue 01 2013.

Another point to make is that as the Transition Network scales-up and mainstreams itself, it will have to challenge the current distribution of resources and space. It is not good enough to say that you won’t shop at a multinational supermarket, when they are draining resources and space from the communities, distorting business rates, and making it far more difficult for community-owned shops to establish themselves.

This can also be explained by an interview with George Monbiot about land inequality and how UK land prices have gone up 10-12% in the last few years. The land buyers, in this instance, are city bankers who are using their bonuses to invest in land. This has made it ten times more difficult to use the land for alternative purposes, such as land co-operatives and community farms. We need to be angry about this and find ways of challenging land inequality and access if we going to be able to do the positive work that the Transition Network promotes.

On top of this, while the aspiration to generate your own energy is something we all should be pursuing, we also need to insist – through protest, direct action and lobbying — that the fossil fuel industries keep it in the ground. All of that positivity will be irrelevant if these industries are not disrupted by public action. Lastly, I’m very suspicious of categorising activists. It suggests that there is one kind of person who will do the negative work, such as lying on airport runways or occupying power stations, and then on the other side you have the people who do all the positive activity like community gardens and upcycling workshops. I think we have the capacity to do both but should always remember to do it for the fun of it!

Will there be a STIR Vol.2? If so what can we expect from it?
As we’ve launched a quarterly magazine, the STIR volumes will most likely be bi-annual. We publish so many unpredictable stories I couldn’t really say!

Where can people get hold of the publication?
We sell STIR Vol.1 in our online shop here, and readers can sign up for a subscription for the quarterly magazine here. Our quarterly magazine – STIR – is being sold in 30 shops across the UK (find stockists here) and we have just started working with an ethical distributor – INK – so potentially lots more in the near future. You can buy the first issue of our new magazine with this Amelia’s Magazine Special Discount offer: click here for 25% off cover price and free P&P (£2.95).

What are your hopes for 2013?
It would have to be to continue to collaborate with more social enterprises and co-ops in working towards bringing the ideas in the magazine into our communities.

Categories ,Alex Charnley, ,Alicja Falgowska, ,Bec Young, ,Bethan Graham, ,Co-opoly, ,Counterfire, ,Crowdfunding, ,David Boyle, ,Defend the Right to Protest, ,Edd Baldry, ,George Monbiot, ,German Gullon, ,Guppi Bola, ,India Rose Harvey, ,INK, ,Jonny Gordon-Farleigh, ,Kings Cross, ,London Riots, ,New Economics Foundation, ,Nina Power, ,Occupied Times, ,Real Food, ,Sarah Jayne Morris, ,Smartmeme, ,STIR, ,STIR to Action, ,STIR Vol.1, ,Stoke Newington Literary Festival, ,The Firebox, ,Totnes, ,Town Hall, ,Transition Exeter, ,Transition network, ,Transition Town Totnes, ,twitter

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Amelia’s Magazine | Best of D&AD New Blood Illustration & Graphic Design Graduates 2012: part one

New Blood graduate show 2012 -Ivana Thomas
Image by Ivana Thomas.

This year the New Blood graduate talent show eschewed the lofty halls of Free Range at the Truman Brewery and relocated to a cramped custom built exhibition space in Spitalfields Market. I popped down to do a bit of talent spotting on the night the awards winners were announced so it was immensely busy, making it hard enough for the average punter to get around and doubly so for me since I had brought Snarfle in his pram. As usual this was a huge show so I have left out the work by colleges whose stand alone exhibitions I visited at a later date but this still leaves me with a huge amount to share… and it’s taking me forever to get these blogs online (Snarfle, again). It also takes ages to get everything together but I think it’s really important to include as much information about the designers and illustrators as possible, so that any prospective employers can track them down should they want to.

Because illustration and graphic design are becoming ever more entwined I’ve decided to blog about them together. Here we go….

New Blood graduate show 2012 -Richard Sweeney
At Burton and South Derbyshire College Richard Sweeney showcased his branding skills with this confident piece of artwork for the Dam Busters, created for the Derwent Dam Museum.

New Blood graduate show 2012 -Melissa Preston
New Blood graduate show 2012 -Melissa Preston
The crafting influence on graphic design continues apace at this year’s shows: at Edinburgh Napier University graphic designer Melissa Preston embroidered Money Can’t Buy Me Love and other slogans on cotton.

New Blood graduate show 2012 -chris cole
Loved this multi image plane print for the RAF Museum by Chris Cole from Norwich University of the Arts.

New Blood graduate show 2012 -joe smith
New Blood graduate show 2012 -joe smith
There was some live action at Cardiff Metropolitan University in the form of a twitter message chalk board by Joe Smith, graphic communicator.

New Blood graduate show 2012 -Alex Johnson
Beautiful typography on old fashioned packaging by Alex Johnson.

New Blood graduate show 2012 -Eliot Wyatt
There was some very promising artwork on display at Bath Spa University so I was very sad to see that I missed their stand alone show at the Rochelle School. Eliot Wyatt asked whether gangs are defined by what they do or the way they look? Delightful illustrations in very fashionable slightly off neon colours (the risograph influence).

New Blood graduate show 2012 Tess Redburn
Tess Redburn‘s colourful lithographic print also caught my eye.

New Blood graduate show 2012 -Melissa Leiva
I liked expressionistic portraits by Melissa Leiva at the American Intercontinental University.

New Blood graduate show 2012 -Hannah Bartlett
Paper cutting was alive and well with Hannah Bartlett at Carmarthenshire College. Check out also her jellybean poster!

New Blood graduate show 2012 -Ruth Wood
More 3D paper cutting on a poster at Nottingham Trent by Ruth Wood.

New Blood graduate show 2012 Maddy Crampton
Sussex Coast College Hastings showcased typographic interpretations of bird sounds by Maddy Crampton.

New Blood graduate show 2012 -Kirsty Turpie
New Blood graduate show 2012 -Kirsty Turpie
The Waitress by Kirsty Turpie at University of Dundee was a worthy winner of a Best New Blood award.

New Blood graduate show 2012 -Megan Elizabeth Taylor
New Blood graduate show 2012 -Megan Elizabeth Taylor
Megan Elizabeth Taylor painted these intriguing figures at Glasgow School of Art. So badly mounted though… tut tut.

New Blood graduate show 2012 Gabriella Marcella DiTano
New Blood graduate show 2012 Gabriella Marcella DiTano
New Blood graduate show 2012 Gabriella Marcella DiTano
Gabriella Marcella DiTano won Best New Blood with her outstanding display of 80s influenced artworks. Love that cassette tape packaging vibe she’s got going on.

New Blood graduate show 2012 -Megan Brooks
At University College Falmouth Megan Brooks created a response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria – a decorative pattern that on closer inspection was revealed to bbe 10,000 hands raised in the V for Victory sign – each representing a protestor who has died in the crackdown. She has projected 10,000 Syrians onto buildings to raise awareness and is another Best New Blood winner. NB – I love a description next to a piece of work, makes it so much easier to understand (and to describe to my readers).

New Blood graduate show 2012 -Joanna Halpin
Joanna Halpin chose the decline of bees in Britain as the subject of her appealing graphic poster.

New Blood graduate show 2012 -Kudzai Dyirakumunda
New Blood graduate show 2012 -Kudzai Dyirakumunda
Kudzai Dyirakumunda london riots news block New Blood graduate show 2012 -Kudzai Dyirakumunda
I was immediately drawn in by Kudzai Dyirakumunda‘s work, London Riots, on the stand from The Arts University College at Bournemouth – inspired by egalitarian commentary gleaned from twitter and featuring wooden blocks engraved with quotes, shattered glass, riot helmeted police, and stunning typography – another deserving New Blood winner.

New Blood graduate show 2012 Blaire Frame
Blaire Frame created this lovely graphic collaged poster at University of Wolverhampton.

New Blood graduate show 2012 Juliet Bankes
New Blood graduate show 2012 Juliet Bankes
Yet another one of my picks chimed with the New Blood judging panel: Juliet Bankes at Oxford & Cherwell Valley College (part of De Montfort University) displayed Memory and Preserving V. In these she deconstructed the meaning of simple objects – spatulas and serving spoons from a manor house are embedded with lives past: home produce grown on an allotment, the old village ways.

New Blood graduate show 2012 -Ivana Thomas
New Blood graduate show 2012 -Ivana Thomas
New Blood graduate show 2012 -Ivana Thomas
I also absolutely adored curvaceous illustrations by Ivana Thomas, who took inspiration from Slovak proverbs which have an equivalent in English such as ‘Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.’

More coming up soon!
Read my second blog review of New Blood 2012 here.
Read my third blog review of New Blood 2012 here.

Categories ,2012, ,Alex Johnson, ,American Intercontinental University, ,Bath Spa University, ,Bees, ,Blaire Frame, ,Burton and South Derbyshire College, ,Cardiff Metropolitan University, ,Carmarthenshire College, ,Chris Cole, ,D&AD, ,Dam Busters, ,De Montfort University, ,Derwent Dam Museum, ,Edinburgh Napier University, ,Eliot Wyatt, ,embroidery, ,Free Range, ,Gabriella Marcella DiTano, ,Glasgow School of Art, ,Graphic Design, ,Hannah Bartlett, ,illustration, ,Ivana Thomas, ,Joanna Halpin, ,Joe Smith, ,Kirsty Turpie, ,Kudzai Dyirakumunda, ,London Riots, ,Megan Brooks, ,Megan Elizabeth Taylor, ,Melissa Leiva, ,Melissa Preston, ,Memory, ,Money Can’t Buy Me Love, ,New Blood, ,Norwich University of the Arts, ,Nottingham Trent University, ,Oxford & Cherwell Valley College, ,Preserving V, ,Proverbs, ,RAF Museum, ,review, ,Richard Sweeney, ,Risograph, ,Rochelle School, ,Ruth Wood, ,Slovak, ,Spitalfields Market, ,Sussex Coast College Hastings, ,Syria, ,Tess Redburn, ,The Arts University College at Bournemouth, ,The Waitress, ,University College Falmouth, ,University of Dundee, ,University of Wolverhampton, ,Visual Communication

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Amelia’s Magazine | Single and Video Review: I Like Trains – Sea of Regrets

iliketrains sea of regrets
My favourite music videos are those which take you on a narrative journey such as that for the new I Like Trains single, Sea of Regrets. In this 8 minute video Ben Lankester times his story in perfect harmony with the highs and lows of this emotionally extravagant song. Actor Segun Akingbola beautifully embodies the character, a man who is leaving something undetermined behind to head into the great unknown. The result is a silent cinematic piece that stands up to its own scrutiny.

Director Ben Lankester is a founding member of The Progress Film Company. Visit their website to view a film about the London Riots, asking Why Has This Happened?

From today I Like Trains are in the studio with Mercury Prize nominated producer Richard Formby, who worked on the Wild Beasts albums. Read my previous interview with singer Dave Martin here – I look forward to their third album!

Categories ,Ben Lankester, ,film, ,I Like Trains, ,London Riots, ,Mercury Prize, ,Narrative, ,review, ,Richard Formby, ,Sea of Regrets, ,Segun Akingbola, ,single, ,The Progress Film Company, ,video, ,Why Has This Happened?, ,Wild Beasts

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