We first met Jude Rogers through rock’n’roll – she was writing a piece about independent labels for the Guardian if I remember correctly. I went for a few beers in the pub nearest the office to meet her to talk about bands and formats and how to adapt and survive in the proverbial last days of disco (and indie and folk etc). That all became a lot less interesting after we started talking about our nascent nature website and Smoke, her magazine-based loveletter to the city we both called home (we’re also both Welsh so we probably gassed on a lot about that too). Soon after, Jude wrote a beautiful piece for Words on Water then embarked a series of observational walks (Lines Made by Walking) for us. When she got in touch the other day saying that Smoke had an ace new website, we asked her to write a few words explaining it. Over to you Jude. (Robin)
Once upon a time, there was a magazine called Smoke: A London Peculiar. It was born in a pub in Lamb’s Conduit Street, and came to life in a bedroom just off the Lambeth Walk. It was a fanzine, that was the idea, only for a city, not a pop band.
It first appeared in 2003, put together by Jude Rogers (that’s me, then a wannabe writer, now a writer for The Guardian, The Word and Q) and Matt Haynes (ex-Sarah Records and Shinkansen). We sold it in the old-fashioned way, shop to shop; two issues later, it was selling 5,000 copies. It ran to sixteen lovingly-put-together editions, featuring words written on the steamed-up windows of late-night buses, London’s campest statues, love letters to train lines, photographs of bins that claimed not to be bins, even a shipping forecast made specifically for the city.
In 2010, we took a sabbatical as the publishing industry had collapsed; you probably read about it online. But faced with a flood of London books unstemmed by the Thames Barrier – London’s Most Banal Unfacts, London Is A Big City, Isn’t It: Will This Do? – we knew we had to come back. We knew we had to do it, for us, and for you.
Now Smoke is living gorgeously online. Contributions, just like they were in the old days, are welcomed with open arms and grateful inboxes to firstname.lastname@example.org .
We will also be producing two books: From The Slopes Of The Olympus To The Banks Of The Lea: A Peculiar History Of The London Olympics (to be published this Autumn, to trawl the past, present and future of that thing happening over the summer), and Night Bus To Camden: A Peculiar History Of London’s Music Venues. Contributions are similarly welcomed, particularly if they’re about that time you pole-vaulted into Stratford’s Theatre Royal, or accidentally ended up playing spoons for Ultrasound at the Vortex. For more information about these, have a peer here: http://smokealondonpeculiar.co.uk/index.php/current-projects/new-book-projects/.
This is our new Peculiar, rising wide-eyed from the ashes. Just like smoke, in fact… we hope you enjoy it.
Jude Rogers & Matt Haynes, Smoke: A London Peculiar, May 2012
For more information or interviews, email email@example.com. If any Caught by the River readers want to submit ideas or articles, email firstname.lastname@example.org.