November 12, 2017

Double Dagger

Double Dagger issue 2 autumn 2017Letterpress printing

The most recent Stack delivery I received is the beautiful 2nd issue of Double Dagger, a broadsheet style magazine about printing. I love reading printed magazines and books in the age of Kindles and e-readers, although I know nearly nothing about printing. So I found it fascinating to learn more ‘behind the scenes’ of the mechanics and craft of the process of letterpress printing. While a lot went over my head, what I did absorb was incredibly interesting. For instance, why colour is the new bold in the printing world…

The Problems with Print Double Dagger

Double Dagger letterpress printing issue 2Freedom using vintage technology

When unfolded and opened, the vastness of Double Dagger is totally immersive; the magazine obscures everything else around it. The sheer size of the magazine also helped me to visualise the scale of printing presses. The issue was printed using vintage technology: a 1970’s Heidelberg Cylinder Press, type that was cast in hot metal and all the layouts are designed by hand. This gives Pat Randle and Nick Loaring, the founders of Double Daggers, the freedom to stop the press and make adjustments if needed.

Illustration in issue 2 double dagger

Colour will be the new bold double dagger Craftmanship in the digital age

As we increasingly type and read on keyboards and screens, printing retains a connection to the craftsmanship of producing art and literature. Although letterpress printing is physically restrained by the ability of presses, Double Dagger celebrates these limitations and showcases the beauty and richness of the craft. Double Dagger’s front and back covers, and intricate illustrations are even more astonishing and complex because they weren’t printed digitally.

Double Dagger issue 2 hexagon

*The magazine’s name, ‘Double Dagger’, is a symbol used in typography to denote a footnote if an asterisk and a dagger has already been used.

Double Dagger issue 2 was sent to be through my Stack subscription

Double Dagger issue 2 front cover

November 4, 2017


Cereal independent magazine volume 14Cereal is a minimalist travel and lifestyle magazine with thick pages of beautiful photography. It was one of the first independent magazines I read, and I found it refreshingly different to the mainstream, glossy-paged but disposable magazines from high street shops.

Cereal independent magazine Shetland islands volume 14 north sea

Portugal in Cereal magazine volume 14Instead, Cereal is crafted for coffee tables. Heavy cream pages feature stunning travel photography (all images are exclusive to Cereal), and are accompanied by vivid descriptions of the featured locations. It was nice to return to reading Cereal and explore Chicago, Edinburgh, the Shetland Islands, Mexico and Portugal through volume 14’s pages.

Cereal magazine volume 14 tulum mexicoSince creating the biannual magazine in Bristol in 2012, founders Rosa Park and Rich Stapleton, have made travel guides for cities across the globe. This year they published their first book, These Islands, with striking images, poems and prose showing the beauty of the British Isles.

The minimal aesthetic and dramatic images combined with Cereal’s authenticity (Rosa and Rich never recommend somewhere they haven’t been) means that every volume I’ve read, no matter how long it lives on my coffee table, is kept for travel inspiration and treasured for years, on hand for whenever wanderlust strikes!

I bought Cereal volume 14 from Sampler

October 15, 2017

Do What You Want

Do What You Want magazine front coverA zine about mental wellbeing

Do What You Want is a magazine about mental health created by Ruby Tandoh, of Bake Off fame, and her girlfriend Leah Pritchard. Both women have suffered from mental health problems and the zine shares many people’s experiences, to raise awareness and reduce isolation for other people living with mental health difficulties. The profits of the magazine go to charity and not-for-profit organisations.Do What You Want Magazine alcoholism story

Do What You Want inside collageA broad spectrum of mental health

The zine is a hybrid between a resource book for different mental health problems, and a series of personal essays and interviews. The contents page lists each feature with sensitive subjects highlighted for the reader, and a comprehensive guide of resources for where to seek help. I was impressed by the attention to detail and consideration for readers. Other magazines tend to focus on a particular topic for each issue, but Ruby and Leah have curated a one-off magazine, which covers all aspects of mental health from depression to eating disorders to men’s mental health. Do What You Want shows just how broad the spectrum of mental health is.

Do What You Want George Almond

Do What You Want CollageStories from a wide intersection of society

The personal essays and interviews are sensitive, thought-provoking pieces from a wide intersection of society. Interviews with famous women Mara Wilson and Sara Quin of Tegan and Sara on mental health and illness, are stories of trauma from refugee Aamna Mohdin, the cost of care for the mentally unwell, and self-employed mental health care tips. The magazine is beautifully illustrated and designed, and is deals with each mental health story in a warm, positive way. The message is clear in Do What You Want: people are not their mental health disorder, and compassion and understanding is needed for everyone who suffers with one.

I bought Do What You Want online from their website.

October 1, 2017

Breathe Magazine

Breathe Magazine issue 5 and issue 7 ‘Breathe and make time for yourself’

Breathe is a bi-monthly magazine about meditation, mindfulness and taking time for yourself. It’s not technically an independent magazine in the traditional sense, as it’s published by GMC (Guild of Master Craftsman) Publications, and on sale in high street shops like WHSmiths and M&S. My reservations about the magazine changed when I bought a copy on a whim. I found advert free content, inspiring and uplifting articles, thoughtful illustrations and carefully considered resources inside.

Breathe magazine inside pages


At the heart of Breathe is the belief in slow-living and mindfulness to counteract our fast paced, impersonal, materialistic culture. I was delighted to discover that Breathe gives gentle advice to its its readers, without being self-congratulatory or preachy. The suggestions for a slower-paced life are achievable; the inspiration for a moment of calm to be found among the city, rather than suggesting that we’ve all got to move to the countryside to find peace and quiet in our hectic lives!

Breathe magazine paper cut outsBreathe Magazine Escaping flatlay

Independent focus

When I began reading independent magazines, I found advert and gossip column-free publications, with inspiring, relevant and stimulating material in them. Sitting among the one-dimensional women’s lifestyle and glamour magazines, it is heartening to see magazines like Breathe and The Simple Things among a mainstream market.

I bought issue 5 and 7 of Breathe in M&S and WHSmiths. Issue 8, not featured in the photos, is out now (and it’s great!)

September 17, 2017

Racquet Magazine

Racquet Magazine cover of Roger Federer 2017

The stories surrounding tennis

Just as the Wimbledon tennis tournament ended this year, Stack posted Racquet magazine through my door. The 4th issue of Racquet, a US quarterly independent magazine, focuses on American tennis players and gives a fascinating insight into some of the most well-known champions’ careers.

Racquet is perfectly pitched whether you’re a tennis lover, or you don’t know much about the sport. Issue 4 of the magazine has a phenomenal wrap around cover photograph of Roger Federer winning his 5th crown at Indian Wells. The detailed photography and attention to layout continues throughout the issue.

This magazine isn’t one that I would normally pick up, but really enjoyed reading. We live close to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club where the Wimbledon tournament is held. Every year, where we live in South West London explodes in ‘Wimbledon Fever’. The streets are decked out in green and purple flags. Our local pubs sell Pimms on tap. When we walk to the station in the morning, the roads are full of Wimbledon cars with blacked out windows. The buzz of the tennis tournament dominates our area, and it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement.

It was brilliant to read beyond the headlines of the sport and uncover some fascinating details about tennis that I never knew before. Getting to know more about Venus and Serena Williams’ incredible careers. Finding out about Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe’s road to fame. Tennis is a huge spectator sport in Britain, and it’s heartwarming to discover that across the ocean in America, Racquet is just as passionate.

I received issue 4 of Racquet magazine as part of my Stack subscription. 

August 21, 2017

Positive News

Positive News issue 88 2017 first quarter front cover

‘We can share a new story of what it means to be alive at this time. A story that will unleash human potential instead of drowning it in a sea of anxiety and cynicism.’
Editor’s letter, Positive News issue 88

Doesn’t it feel like we’re in an endless cycle of news? I don’t know about you but I feel stuck amongst divisive voices, all clamouring to tell me what’s happening in the world from their perspective. I feel compelled to be informed, and want to be interested. Lately though, I’m exhausted and dispirited hearing about the world around me. Perhaps it’s the political times we’re living in, but it’s not helped by the unrelenting negativity in the mainstream news.

Positive News independent magazine issue 88

Positive News is a uplifting read whether you feel bombarded by the news or not. It doesn’t soothe readers with frivolous stories about rescued puppies, but validates concerns. It covers some of the most alarming and uncertain situations that we’re collectively facing, just from a positive position. The housing crisis becomes an article about floating homes; the rise of fascism is instead a piece on how to move beyond political division in society; India’s women suffering from gender injustice is reported on from the angle of the people who have benefited from a creative education programme designed to educate women on gender inequality.

Whilst it doesn’t break the boundaries of the form of an independent magazine, Positive News breaks the boundaries of journalism. Instead of feeling paralysed by the news, reading Positive News I felt unusually empowered.

I received issue 88 of Positive News as part of my Stack subscription. 

June 19, 2017

Anxy: The Anger Issue

Anxy Magazine The Anger IssueAnyone feeling angry? I sure am. Trump, Theresa May, Brexit, the widening gap between rich and poor… there’s a lot to be angry about now. Anxy magazine’s The Anger Issue hit the shelves at just the right time.

Anxy magazine is a project funded by Kickstarter backers, based in California. It aims to smash the stigmas around mental health, with The Anger Issue as the first issue. A whole magazine issue focused solely on anger, undisguised by other themes, feels rare and bold; anger is a controversial emotion that our society allows us to feel (sort of) but rarely express openly and vocally.

Anxy looks at many different forms of anger, and the affect on our mental health in bottling it up, or in not understanding the source of our rage and taking action.

Anxy Magazine Our Secret Language

We’re given a close up view of Kate Speer’s journey from psychiatric hospitalisation to recovery, driven by anger at medical professionals’ failure to rehabilitate her into society themselves. The anger of Turkish Kurds, living ‘like refugees’ in their own country. Retail employees’, restaurant managers’ and hospital nurses’ experience of having people’s anger directed at day after day. And Margaret Atwood’s advice for those who feel driven to anger at the state of current events.

Anxy Magazine People Shout At You

Anxy Magazine Nothing to Worry About

Anxy Magazine Margaret Atwood Isn't Angry

I had assumed that the sheer amount of anger in Anxy would overwhelm me, and perhaps even increase my own anger. But it was cathartic. Reading others’ experiences of anger helped me feel less alone with my anger and removed some of the shame attached to the emotion.

Healthy expressions of anger are marginalised, with women expected to contain and diffuse their anger, and men’s typical outlets being anger and aggression, so I was particularly relieved to read ‘Gaslighting: A Hate Story’, ‘Between the Binary’ and ‘Removing the Mask of Masculinity’ probing into the binary gulf in gendered experiences of anger.

Anxy Magazine Fight or Flight

The writing within Anxy is human, compassionate, rage-fuelled and frustrated. Anxy forced me to take a heavily critical look at society’s inability to incorporate anger into an emotional spectrum, untarnished by shame. I cannot wait for the second issue.

Anxy magazine  website / Twitter / Instagram / Facebook

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May 29, 2017


The beginning of this post signals that the wedding has happened! I am married and I am overjoyed that I have more time for reading independent magazines again, and writing about them! 

Illustoria is a magazine for creative kids and their grownups. But even as a grownup without kids, I fell in love with the simple story-telling approach Illustoria bring to nuanced concepts like friendship, determination and loneliness. The Californian based magazine is published quarterly, having been founded in summer 2016.

Issue 3, Outside-In, had a surprise on every page: comics, DIY ideas, and book recommendations, all with beautiful eye-catching illustrations. This is a magazine you want to spend time with, pore over, and return to time and again. It made me wish I had a little person to share it with. The little person I was would have adored Illustoria, and still does!

Illustoria  website / Twitter / Instagram / Facebook

Illustoria issue 4 ‘Grow’ is available to buy online 

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February 27, 2017

Indie Mags – Phox Pop

The lateness of this review doesn’t reflect how quickly I read issue 2 of Phox Pop* magazine; it was devoured within a couple of days over Christmas. (Lack of natural light and knee-deep wedding planning conspired to keep me from blogging!)

Phox Pop is a well researched, engaging and beautifully designed magazine. It defies easy categorisation into a broad independent magazine theme. Instead, Phox Pop is driven by curiosity; the website simply states Phox Pop is ‘a free-range selection of stories’. Meticulous research has gone into every page, bringing together tenuous topics such as the origin of the banana; urban geodes; and how to become a wine god/dess. Since when did multicultural Australian identity sit easily with monarch butterfly migration? Each page turn leads to more detailed and fascinating facts, as delightful as they are intriguing.

Phox Pop is created by Amy Freeborn, who has a background in newspaper journalism, digital publishing and editing. With Phox Pop she says that she ‘made the magazine that I would want to write for, and read, myself: rather than pitching ideas to multiple other titles, I would write them all for my own title, and hope that other people would be as interested in reading them as me.’

I love that issue 2 of Phox Pop hasn’t been moulded into a theme; that the topics are diverse. It feels like a labour of love, as if any interesting facts that Amy has heard, seen or experienced have been plucked and polished for Phox Pop. They are much shinier and engrossing facts than skim reading the same information on Wikipedia due to personal stories that root the research; from female astronauts to hunters of render ghosts – reading about their lives widens our own world.


*So where does the name Phox Pop come from? It comes from the phrase ‘vox pop’ an abbreviation of a Latin phrase that means ‘voice of the people’. The ‘v’ has been replaced with ‘ph’ from the Greek ‘phos’ (light) to indicate different art forms.

Phox Pop website / Twitter / Instagram / Facebook

Phox Pop issue 2 is available to buy online and issue 3 is due to be released on 20th March and can be pre-ordered

See more reviews of independent magazines

January 26, 2017

On My Bookshelf: I Capture The Castle

On My Bookshelf is a series of my most favourite books, frequently recommended to friends, family, and now to you!

I write this sitting in the kitchen sink. That is, my feet are in it; the rest of me is on the draining-board, which I have padded with our dog’s blanket and the tea-cosy.

When a friend recommended I Capture the Castle to me several years ago, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t already read it. It’s one of those books you can return to year after year and still find utterly enchanting. Cassandra Mortmain’s diary mirrors the frenzied attempts I had as a teenager to document every moment; the fights with my siblings; the longing for life to be interesting; falling in love for the first time. Her eccentric father, bohemian step-mother and the family’s hand-to-mouth lifestyle living in a crumbling castle are far more romantic than my teenage-hood ever was!