People of Marvel: The North's new Hand-Raisers
Despite having deep roots in editorial and publishing - The Guardian was founded and known as the Manchester Guardian from 1821 until 1959 - today the North of England's editorial reach is not reflective of its vast output.
Nationally and internationally renowned for its football, well-loved soaps and appreciation of a well made cuppa tea, the North (whilst still maintaining its love for the aforementioned) is well overdue a perception shift.
Jessica Howell and Jenna Campbell, two work colleagues who met whilst working at Thomson Reuters have founded NRTH LASS, a print magazine on a quest to prove its not so grim up north. I took some time out with the pair at PORTER + Cole. Here's what I learnt.
Both heralding from the North of England (spoiler alert), Jess and Jenna conceived the idea for their magazine in Summer 2017. Finding that there was nothing out there that they wanted to read that reflected working women, NRTH LASS was born. "It's about knowing that you're not alone in your own views", Jess comments. That moment in class when the teacher asks if anyone has any questions and you keep your hand down, hoping someone else will ask the question on the tip of your lips, NRTH LASS is the opposite of that.
Jenna, herself a self-confessed hand-raiser, and Co-Founder, Jess have created a firm hand in the air, serving as a beacon - and a vehicle for 'north lass' activity. They added: "The north is a real, authentic mix of metropolitan cities, historic towns, and iconic landscapes; all thriving because of its community of grafters. The people are not shy of a challenge and the north itself is often underestimated. For us, it's full of unsung heroes waiting to be heard."
Issue one features some serious heavyweights; Liz Cottam (on the cover), Masterchef 2016 semi-finalist and restaurant owner, Kerry Harker, Co-Founder of Leeds cultural institution, The Tetley and Opera North, England's national opera company.
The magazine is a cool and clean read and the profiles have been selected with time and care, drawing out the less obvious voice. With subtle undercurrents of northern female perspectives, Jess and Jenna's skill is in their ability to 'not shout'. All articles could be read in any national broadsheet, yet the intention for change is undeniable. Having been asked questions from London-based colleagues such as: "What do you do up North?", Jess and Jenna's frustration with the North's cultural disconnect is what drives them. Both home birds, they chose to resist a move to London after university to kick-start their communications careers and instead are transmitting their narratives live from the north.
In their own words NRTH LASS is quite a 'sweet publication' yet as a collection of stories it is a powerful voice for women who wouldn't ordinarily have the confidence to talk about their work.
The outreach strategy is similarly balanced. The magazine is stocked across the UK in Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, Sheffield, Bath and London - and the magazine itself features news and events across five northern cities: Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield, Liverpool an Huddersfield. A unique approach when much local journalism is region specific and has little impetus to travel.
The magazine's design is not ultra feminist (the Leeds-based design team are a male/female duo), nor does the magazine feel as though it is a 'women-only' publication. Jess says NRTH LASS is 'highlighting women, not excluding men', and this approach is making it a popular read for both sexes.
They say that you can't please everyone but NRTH LASS must be very nearly there. What is so powerful is that they've done it in such a poised, level-headed - and arguably feminine - approach.
No 80's adoption of male traits, clunky suits or shoulder pads - no shouting, preaching or opinion-overload, this magazine is clever, polite and cool as a cucumber. It's being lapped up in the south of England with more stockists in London than any other UK city. Their mission is to inspire people about being in the north and they appear to have succeeded where others have not. The colourful, cultural and warm 'northern essence' has been bottled into a collection of beautifully bound pages. It is no wonder then that the world is welcoming it with open arms.
Why we should be inspired by NRTH LASS:
- They are lovers of magazines and chose print as their medium for NRTH LASS to stand out from bloggers.
- They're not fixed on those working from cities, but also want to hear from people working from home, in small towns and rural areas.
- They think we should 'get rid of the word feminist' - "Do we even need a word?"
Issue one available to buy online at coloursmayvary.com