To celebrate this momentous occasion, modernist editors Jack Hale and Eddy Rhead have gone out of their way to publish a 40th double bumper issue of the premium publication. Writers and friends of the modernist’s last ten years have been invited to submit articles on the theme of congratulations, with Bic pens, model villages and Duchamp’s “Fountain” among many others.
That’s a suitably serious angle for a magazine that strives to celebrate good design while remaining decidedly independent (you won’t find a single ad on its pages). And with previous contributors including Billy Bragg, Craig Oldham, and Mishka Henner, you know you’re in good company and can expect a frank, heartfelt celebration of good design.
Speaking to Creative Boom, editor-in-chief Eddy Rhead explains that the magazine emerged from the community surrounding the Manchester Modernist Society – a project that embarked on 20th century architecture and design. “We found that we were surrounded by very intelligent and interesting people who were as passionate about Modernist design and architecture as we are.
“We wanted to find a channel for that enthusiasm, and we thought a magazine was the best way to do it. From the start, we strive to make things tangible and have always loved the print. While launching a print publication in an increasingly digital world seemed like a stupid thing to do, it was also the right thing to do. “
We publish articles on things like trash cans and highways, which almost anyone can relate to.
It is this foundation of generous and knowledgeable contributors who are willing to share their talents for free that Eddy says is part of the secret to the modernist’s continued success. Because the magazine does not employ “professional” writers in the traditional sense, it is primarily written by its readers.
“This means it’s accessible and the topic is varied and relevant,” says Eddy. “We don’t do expensive photo ops in private Modernist homes that no one can ever afford. We do articles on things like trash cans and highways – which virtually anyone can relate to.”
Another part of its appeal is the conscious lack of advertisers. Without having to worry about it, the modernist team does not have to make any editorial compromises. “We can take some risks because we don’t have any advertisers to upset. Another factor is that we have always maintained high production values, despite very limited resources, and we have always insisted on good design and attention to detail. I think our readers recognize and appreciate it. “
Factory Records has often been cited as a source of inspiration in terms of a modernist business model, especially in terms of continuing the Mancunian tradition of not waiting for London to spoon something out of them. And while Eddy points out that the Modernist team wouldn’t be arrogant enough to compare themselves to Factory, he admits that they were kind of a role model.
“The factory made a lot of very irrational decisions,” Eddy says. “Some worked, some didn’t. We can understand that. Factory opened a nightclub that changed the world. We started a magazine with articles about slaughterhouses and public toilets.
Another aspect of this influence is found in the modernist approach to design. “We have very limited resources but try to design the best publications and products possible,” adds Eddy. “Good design was in Factory’s DNA, and we hope we will continue to do so. We also try to harness local talent and act as a way to promote new and emerging talent, and hopefully give them a reason to stay in the north and not disappear to London to find an outlet. . “
With ten years of impressive articles to his credit, Eddy cannot be drawn to a favorite article that has appeared in the pages of The Modernist. Her personal highlight of the magazine’s life so far, however, is when they started getting international orders.
“Some of the articles are a bit ‘niche’, and when I see our magazine, which for many years was just two guys in an old mill thinking about stupid ideas, going to the Australian outback or to a two-horse town in the United States United States, that blows me away. We have a real mix of people reading the magazine, and it’s great that people all over the world are enjoying what we do. It’s very humiliating. “
Since launching in 2011, the Modernist has grown to include a boutique, and a special celebratory lager made in collaboration with Manchester Union Lager and designer Trevor Johnson is in the works. But what can we expect from this historic publication? “We are working on a space program and have our launch facility set up on Kersal Moor,” jokes Eddy.
“Really, we’ve always been very risk averse and have grown slowly but steadily. We try to cut our fabric within our means and love what we do too much to risk it for some crazy project.
“We had to rethink our ambitions a bit because of the pandemic, but in the near future we are planning to increase activities in other cities. We have ‘chapters’ in Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds, Birmingham and Swansea , so we we want to see them grow over the next couple of years. We want to keep publishing the magazine and have plans to evolve that too, and we also want to increase the quality and reach of our other publications.
“The store and gallery continue to be popular, and if we ever get back to normal after the pandemic, we hope to use our gallery space in a much more creative way – as we always wanted and had. Done before the plague comes down! Our motto is Towards a Nobler, Braver Age, and that’s something maybe everyone, not just us, should aspire to. “
The Modernist’s 40th special issue, featuring contributions from Jonathan Meades, Elain Harwood, Tim Dunn, Jeremy Leslie and many more, is available for purchase now.