Lost in London – Lost in Wonder

If you are thinking of taking up a new magazine subscription for 2012, or giving one as a gift, then let me tell you about a wonderful discovery. It is called “Lost in London” and even for those who live nowhere near the capital it is, quite simply, one of the most thoughtful, beautiful print magazines I have ever seen. And I found it quite by chance.

In the lower ground floor of the Daylesford Organic shop in Pimlico there it sat amidst all the other food, gardening and lifestyle books, magazines and journals. I was lost in reading from the start. It is printed on soft, recycled paper by eco-award winners Cambrian Printers, with illustrations and photographs that you will want to cut out and paste on your walls. The writing is scholarly, intelligent, in-depth and considered. This quarterly magazine is an extraordinary, handbag sized treasure and its £10 price is a fraction of its worth in terms of delight and discovery.

Editor Lucy Scott and Art Editor Tina Smith have set out to create a catalogue of personal insights into the more unusual, quiet and rustic charms of London. There is so much more than meets the eye if you visit this vast, rushing, crushing metropolis, and they and all their contributors have walked the streets and parks to seek out the flora, fauna, people, places and ideas to create collections of rus in urbe stories and features. The result is enchanting, and it is all done, remarkably, from their kitchen table.

Each edition is based on a season and a concept, usually inter-related so that the ideas and structures tie in and there is a holistic, organic framework. So for instance, the winter 2011 issue was about “silence”, thinking about invernal quiet, and the autumn 2011 issue was inspired by “hidden things”, as in squirrelling things away, or finding hidden gems. There is obviously a very strong vision, a tight, editorial discipline and a benchmark of excellence that is uncompromising across 100 pages. The high quality control is a craft in itself, and it is evident that the writers and artists who contribute have taken time and effort to compose intelligent and researched work.

The magazine came to be in an era when the digital world seems to be taking over the literary landscape. Lucy and Tina had ideas of their own.

“The launch of Lost in London was inspired by a few things we saw happening in the magazine industry. We had heard a lot about “print being dead” and we didn’t agree with that. People do want to read books and magazines but given new technologies like the iPAD and Kindle, we think what they want from printed-paper products is changing. We think standards need to be higher now and to compete with other forms of media, magazines need to have more love, craft and care involved in them than ever before. They need to be more special than they used to be; higher quality paper, production values and give the reader and real visual experience. We wanted to make something that people would not want to throw away and would be an object in its own right.

We thought Londoners were becoming a lot more interested in simple pleasures and simple living. As country lovers at heart, it was an interest we identified with and were interested in personally (so that helps us a lot). You could argue Lost in London is tapping into a bit of a zeitgeist that has come about because of the recession. Although we do think the interest in allotments, growing your own, craft, wildlife and green spaces is a bit more rooted than that, and with our growing collective efforts towards more sustainable living, it is hopefully a way of life which is here to stay for a long while yet.”

Lucy also explained her commissioning  and production philosophy.

“With contributors, we brief them very clearly about what we are looking for at the outset. With writers I tend to brief people quite tightly and make sure they understand what I am looking for. With artists, the brief can be a bit looser than that and it is important that it is (though Tina may disagree here?). There have only been very few occasions when we have not been happy with what has been submitted so we have been very lucky in that respect.”

Just to give you an idea from older editions, there are many foodie-gardening-foraging highlights to keep you riveted. “Life Aquatic”, illustrated by Amy Wicks, Lucy writes about the Thames and its estuary, a vast home to a huge eco-system, counting sole, sea trout, otters, seals, dolphins, porpoises, smelt and eels amongst its inhabitants.

Helen Babbs has created a pocket paradise of self-sufficiency and fragrance in her roof top garden above her Holloway flat. Holloway? I hear you cry. Yes, the busy, arterial route that runs alongside Camden and Seven Sisters Road. Helen writes “In spite of the inevitable sirens, helicopter buzz and bus roar, the space is calm and somehow floats separate from the seething urbanity that surrounds it.” She plants sacks of potatoes, walls of runner beans, herbs in boxes and strawberries in hanging baskets. There is also a handy list of other hanging gardens in London and blogs you can read to find out more information.

“Let it grow” is an interesting review of many of the small, passionate groups in London that are growing their own food to sell and distribute. Mike Phillips takes a look at The Capital Growth project, launched by Rosie Boycott and Mayor Boris Johnson to help Londoners gain access to sustainable, locally produced food. There are many community, housing estate and allotment initiatives you would not even know existed, bringing growers, landowners and markets together. “By using the tiny gaps that inevitably spring up in a city and by filling in the cracks with growing spaces, Londoners are keeping alive the strong tradition of London food,” Mike writes.

South London cook Laura Tibbs writes about the foodie delights of the Northcote Road in Clapham, from fishmonger to greengrocer, gastro pub, street market and honey shop. There are three recipes: mussels, tomato, chilli and garlic; rhubarb and almond tart and purple sprouting broccoli and new potato and feta frittata.

Foraging enthusiast Felicity Haythorn tells us about the culinary joys of nettles and other wild weeds. Helen Ginn extolls the virtues of homemade elderflower champagne. “Farmers to Market” tells the tale of London farmers Ximena Ransom and Emma Brodrick, who work at the Tree Nursery and Forest Garden at Hackney Marshes, growing food for local residents through a social enterprise scheme run by Growing Communities {written by Lucy Scott and photographed by Keiran Perry}. In West London, Sara Ward tells us about keeping chickens {despite random attacks from an urban fox}.

A bit like “Random Spectacular”, published by St.Jude’s, another wondrous accomplishment, you come to realise there is so much creative talent across many different, exciting types of independent media. As a writer and a foodie I have come to learn much from this serendipitous find. I look forward to learning more.

Further Information

Lost in London www.lostinlondonmagazine.com

Follow Lucy and Tina on twitter: @LostinLondonmag

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