Indiecon festival is back

We love Indiecon. The festival, which is organised in Hamburg by the publishing house Die Brueder, has been a regular fixture at the end of summer since it launched in 2014. Over that time it has shifted locations several times and morphed from an intimate conference to a large-scale magazine fair, and it even managed to put on a socially distanced event in 2020 — probably Europe’s only independent magazine event of the entire year. 

Indiecon was back again this year with the theme ‘Reflections’, welcoming 1000 guests to a former freight yard in Hamburg’s city centre for three days of stalls, plus a two-day conference of panel discussions on how indie publishing can affect social change, and shift perceptions around identity and the self. 

We asked Indiecon’s Nina Prader, who curated the conference, to report on the discussions from the 2021 edition.

Day 1: Publishing for Social Change

We opened the festival with a conversation about how indie publishing could create social change. On the panel was Nina Vukelić and Rafaela Kaćunić, of This is Badland magazine, a biannual publication about art and culture from the Balkans and beyond, and Kemi Fatoba of Daddy magazine, a Berlin-based publication that examines tough issues (like racism, sexism, homophobia, and discrimination) through a humorous lens. The discussion was moderated by cultural journalist Ariana Zustra.

Rafaela was honest about the fact that publishing is not exactly lucrative, saying “I would rather eat and shop less, so I can make a magazine”. Kemi shared strategies for making the magazine financially viable; it distributes online because of the high percentages distributors take, and it makes merch. One popular product is the ‘Daddy Bundle’: a tote bag, a T-shirt along with a magazine.

The conversation was invigorating, but it was also realistic about the amount of hard work that goes into print and distribution.

Day 2: Critical Design for Critical Futures

The second panel of the festival was a conversation between Anna Broujean of French food and art magazine Club Sandwich, and Liz Gomis, the founder of Off To magazine, a publication dedicated to capital cities across the African continent. The discussion was moderated by Lars Weisbrod, a journalist for Die Zeit.

The panel was focused on how design, and magazines more generally, could be used to make better futures. Liz spoke about the importance of going beyond expected stories about capital cities. The next issue will be about Kigali and will focus on how the city is building a new future.

Anna spoke about the mechanics of designing a magazine. Club Sandwich bases every issue around just one food-type (previous issues have been titled The Pickle Issue and The Chocolate Issue, for example.) In one great moment, she described devoting 300 pages to the egg: “I could have done five ‘Egg’ issues”. Anna also spoke about balancing the desire for sustainability with the desire to make a physical object, and mourned the recent loss of the infamous green magazine kiosks that Karl Lagerfeld got his magazines from in Paris. 

Liz and Anna make titles about very different topics, but they were united in their love of the medium. In unique ways, both Club Sandwich and Off To demonstrate how critical cultural questioning can be done in style.


You can watch excerpts from the panel discussions via Indiecon’s instagram page.

Indiecon’s conference was curated by Nina Prader in cooperation with Die Brueder, Designxport and Zeitverlag.

Images by Malte Spindler

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