Boat does London

by Steve Watson in April 2012
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The third issue of Boat came out last week and it’s another belter. Their first issue (on Sarajevo) reproduced a short story by Dave Eggers, their second (on Detroit) included a piece written specially for them by Jeffrey Eugenides, and this issue (on London) has stepped it up again with pieces by Nick Hornby, Jon Ronson and Lee Rourke amongst others.

I can’t think of any other small independents that manage to keep on pulling in the big name literary talent, but that might have something to do with the fact that this magazine isn’t about them. This isn’t a literary magazine – it’s a magazine that literary people want to appear in.

That might be because Boat gives them space to write about their home city – a subject close to most people’s hearts. It might be because it’s run by Davey and Erin, two very nice people whose enthusiasm for their magazine is infectious. And it might be because, unlike most other editors and creative directors, Davey and Erin don’t mind running work that wasn’t created specifically for their magazine.

In other places that’s thought of as a bad thing, but here it doesn’t matter. There are no egos at Boat magazine, so if a piece of writing helps them to build their picture of a city, it goes in. Simple. (Jon Ronson’s piece had been written before but not published, but of course the majority of the magazine was commissioned for them, like this piece by D’Arcy Doran and Elizabeth Dalziel.)

Issue three builds on what went before but it also sees a bit of a departure for the magazine, because whereas before they’ve been outsiders in a strange city, this time they’re at home. Erin’s welcome letter plays on the fact that she’s not from London, but she’s by no means an outsider so the team have shifted their focus and dealt with the idea that no matter how long you’ve lived in London, you’ll never know it in its entirety.

The result is a kaleidoscope of Londons; a fantastic mishmash of people united by nothing other than the city they live in. It ranges out across the whole of the city and yet it feels very personal; it presents views and perspectives I’ve never seen in 10 years of living here, and yet it all feels pleasantly familiar.

Summing the whole thing up, I’d say that the Boat view of London is about difference – whether dealing with trainers or community activism, market stalls or views from the top deck of decommissioned bus routes (above, one of my favourite photo stories in the magazine). That difference can often be a source of conflict, but Boat contains it and presents it in its own world, and in doing so presents another totally unique view of a city.

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