This may class as some kind of massive understatement, but we’re rather chuffed that the issue you hold in your hands right now is our 50th edition: chuffed, proud and immeasurably thankful. It’s sometimes easy to lose a sense of occasion when you’re wrapped up in the regular cycle of producing a monthly magazine, but we’re as pleased to be bringing you this issue as we were about bringing you Issue 1, way back in June 2010. To celebrate reaching this landmark issue we’ve decided to do things a little differently, but we’re not going to spend it looking backwards or slapping ourselves on the back. Instead we’re going to focus on where we are now in November 2014, what challenges still face us as a publication and as a creative community, and why we hope we’ll still be here in another 50 issues’ time.
A real sense of togetherness characterises what we’ve felt has developed over the four and a bit years of our existence, fuelled by a thrillingly prolific group of artists who’ve kept us on our toes in documenting all the goings on during this period. Regular readers will be used to us preaching about this; for once we thought it would be nice to let the artists who make up this community have their own say on it. In the search for a bit of perspective, this month we spoke to four of the biggest success stories during our 50-issue tenure: the variety of views expressed by them shows how diverse our scene’s make-up is, but also – and perhaps more pertinently – how many gaps there are still to plug. There’s also some fantastic artwork and photography throughout this issue, which has been dreamt up by some of our regular contributors. We wanted our 50th issue to feel like your regular Bido Lito!, but also to make you pause and think about the wider picture.
Too often I find that we’re in a frantic rush to consume and produce everything we do nowadays, getting so wrapped up in the dash to hit deadlines and tick boxes that we forget to enjoy the process of making and taking something in. This is particularly evident in the way we consume news, a process that’s been exacerbated by the advent and reliance on social media platforms, which give us ready access to things we didn’t know we wanted. The ease with which content is generated and disseminated online can at times be crushing, especially when you look at the time and effort that goes in to producing a monthly printed magazine. I suppose it begs the question: why do we bother?
Well, we bother because we care. Producing Bido Lito! can occasionally be a challenge, especially in those final few moments before a deadline (sorry Deb and Luke!), but there’s nothing quite like that feeling of satisfaction when you see the new issue land. Seeing your ideas, words and images come to life on a page is one of the most gratifying aspects of the job, and I still well up with something verging on parental pride when I see people reading the magazine, or commenting about one of our reviews on Twitter and Facebook. People have relationships with physical products in ways that are both obviously and subtly different to their interactions with pixels on a screen, and for as long as that remains the case, we’ll still be doing what we do. One of the things that I like best about magazines is their durability: long after we’re all gone, these bits of printed paper that people have poured their heart and soul into will still be around, as documents of this time and this place.
It’s pretty obvious that I’m a print enthusiast, but don’t read that as equating to being a Luddite who is anti-online publishing – far from it. Creating and maintaining a smart, engaging online identity to Bido Lito! is actually something that I enjoy immensely. When we first set up the magazine we didn’t have a website or a Twitter account: now, not only are bidolito.co.uk and @BidoLito integral to everything we produce, but we also have a presence across a further ten social networks and online platforms. The key is how to make them all fit together so that they complement the central element that is the magazine, but not in a way that overloads our streams with needless replication of content. I still feel very protective of the physical issue, but I think that people’s habits of getting hold of and consuming the content they want have changed so rapidly that physical and digital presences have to exist side-by-side with each other, or else they both fail. The internet has changed the world of journalism completely, primarily through democratisation and ease of access to content. There is now more comment than ever on news, current affairs, music, sport and anything in the public domain, and the dissemination of it is virtually instantaneous. It could be argued that this dilutes the overall worth of any journalism (in print or otherwise), but I think it’s made every writer and aspiring journo more savvy and aware of what a reader wants. The web is a beautiful circus of contrasting things: for all those knee-jerk, reactive news items and RKO Vines, there are webzines like the Quietus who specialise in longer, considered and well-referenced articles. Rest assured that, in some dark corners of the net, there are people revolutionising the way we look at the world.
When asked to pass on some wisdom for the young indie publisher in a piece for Huck Magazine, former editor of Stool Pigeon, Phil Hebblethwaite, counselled: “celebrate the sense of occasion”, and it’s something that I totally agree with. Good-looking, wide-format print products are rarer than you may think, so you ought to take the time to appreciate them, rather than craning your neck to cast jealous glances at the amount of copy other people have churned out in the same time it’s taken you to put 32 pages together. You could see that Stool Pigeon was wise to this, but when they pulled the plug on their venture in February 2013, it was done so with a jaded sigh from the team behind it, as though they were glad it was over. “I still love doing what we do,” Phil Hebblethwaite commented in his obituary-of-sorts on Stool Pigeon’s website, continuing: “perhaps what I’m trying to say is that running out 60,000 copies of a free newspaper six times a year and distributing them to 100 cities/towns across the UK has become untenable, and also increasingly less effective and exciting than publishing journalism online.” When cast alongside similar closures of established titles The Word and The Fly, and the decision of Artrocker to shut down its print operation and go to being a tablet-only publication, it does seem as though the lot of the printed magazine is an increasingly doom-filled one. Though it’s been widely reported that sales of physical magazines are on the decline rather than the rise, what shocked me most about Stool Pigeon’s closure was the lack of enthusiasm for the venture by the magazine’s creators. It was with the air of a man who’d had the stuffing knocked out of him that Hebblethwaite said in his closing-down statement: “I wanted to do much more online, but the newspaper sucked up nearly all our resources and time. It’s proved impossible to do both as well as we’d like and, to be frank, we’re knackered.”
Inevitably, this announcement precipitated a slew of “is print dead?” comment pieces, the type you get periodically when people have become tired of the “vinyl revolution” and “what is psych?” articles. Though it wasn’t a ringing endorsement for the format – especially for the free press model that we use – I wasn’t buying that this represented some kind of death knell. Alongside the continued success of music-based periodicals Loud And Quiet, Crack, VICE and The Skinny, there’s also a burgeoning sector of niche print titles which are renewing faith in the format. The success of titles Delayed Gratification, Colors Magazine, The Ride Journal, Offscreen, Boat Magazine, 8by8, Pickles, and the jewel in the crown, Little White Lies, shows not only the possibilities of exploring print as an exciting means of communication, but how people are willing to part with their cash for desirable and beautiful products. All the people behind these titles – as well as Stack Magazines’ Steve Watson, who brought all these to my attention – are proof to me that print is still the most interesting format to work in. I’d like to thank them all for inspiring me – and I’d also like to apologise to them all for borrowing a few of their ideas!
I’m going to leave the final words to Marc Valli, Editor-in-Chief of Elephant. In his Enditorial for Elephant’s Autumn 2013 issue, Valli writes enthusiastically about our generation’s concept of presence, or lack thereof: asking whether we’ve lost the ability to actually experience the moment rather than capturing it for the posterity of our online profiles. The closing passage pretty much sums up what we at Bido Lito! feel about our monthly endeavours, but presented in a much better way than I ever could. I’ve tried to re-hash this on countless occasions to pass it off as my own, but I think it’s best if I leave it untouched.
“Reader, we printed it. Why? Because we still believe in the act of sharing this space with you. We like the fact that it has dimensions, weight, texture, a sequence, a logic, a starting point and a full stop (however lame). We are reassured at the thought that it won’t dissolve in your hands, that the ink won’t wash away, and are excited by the fact that it will lie there, just as it is now, tentatively open, sticking a bit to your fingertips and basking in your gaze, your gorgeous attention. There is no need for a password and the window won’t close or time itself out. And hopefully, together we can make this party, this gathering, this special occasion, last just a little while longer.”
Tabitha Jussa is a photographer based in Aigburth, who was a double winner at the 2014 Liverpool Art Prize. Tabitha scooped both the main prize and the People’s Choice award at this year’s competition for her socio-political work documenting urban spaces in the city, and how these spaces define who we are. Her entry built upon this body of work by examining high-profile and controversial examples of regeneration projects to highlight the triumphs, failures and short-sightedness within society of the treatment of people and place.
We are delighted to be able to showcase some of Tabitha’s work in our 50th issue, especially as we see a lot of parallels between her subject matter and some of the issues facing our creative community today. When asked to comment about the nature of the work she does, and what inspires her, Tabitha replied: “Something that can engage people. I enjoy making pictures that people find interesting. You can look at them in a casual manner or look at them in their architectural details. Or you can look at them in depth and think ‘why are these buildings in the state that they are in?’”
You can see more of Tabitha’s work, as well as get in touch with her, at san-guine.com.