Ahead of the publication of REVOLUTION on Bonfire Night, we talked politics, pamphlets and people with Black & BLUE editor Beckie Stewart
It took just a few short years for Black & BLUE to establish itself as one of Manchester’s top contemporary literary exports. Founded in November 2011 by Dane Weatherman and Alex Marsh, both students of University of Manchester at the time, Black & BLUE has now grown to be a five-strong editorial team (plus designer). They host exhibitions and readings up and down the country and bring the works of artists and writers from around the world together in original, beautifully curated print publications/print journals and political pamphlets. Though the Black & BLUE founders are now based in London, there’s still a strong Manchester presence maintained through Beckie Stewart, one of the Black & BLUE editors, who has stayed in the city and continues to contribute to its creative scene.
Beckie describes the people behind Black & BLUE as “an odd handful of people, each with really diverse tastes, political views and backgrounds but with one aim: to provide a space for new writing as a counterpoint to what we view as the ‘traditional’ literary scene”. This patchwork of people and ideas is reflected in the genre-crossing nature and variety of the work they produce: annual journals of creative writing, images and art; political pamphlets; blogposts on art and words – there’s no one rule. They’re tackling as many art forms and inviting as many collaborations as possible in their attempt to re-imagine literature.
When I asked Stewart what Black & BLUE are looking for, she noted that they are “openly political…because everything is political”. Black & BLUE believe that “no one can speak from a position of neutrality anymore” so embracing the highly political nature of society through literature is what seems natural to this group of creatives. What this means for the submissions Black & BLUE want is that they are eager for “fresh writing that speaks to everyone; we want to make it accessible and break down the walls of what surrounds poetry and creative writing” – they want to challenge people’s assumptions about literature and the forms it can take in the modern day.
Talking about how Black & BLUE want to represent themselves, Stewart referred to co-founder Weatherman who saw representing younger writers as a main focus of the magazine. They wanted to “make a break from outdated literature promulgated by archaic university lecturers” which is something I’m sure a lot of students can relate to and appreciate at least some of the time (I know I certainly can!). This focus on newness and energy is in everything they create, every issue of the Black & BLUE journal aesthetically and thematically unique.
That being said, as you look at the Black & BLUE catalogue there is an underlying current that links it all. Beckie points out that the issue CITY ended on the lines “you have no idea what you are doing, that you are merely wandering the earth, no particular reason for being there, no particular place to go” (from a piece by Louis Jenkins). The Black & BLUE team felt that this could not be left on a cliffhanger – they had to pick it up in the next issue and “it was only natural the theme of REVOLUTION followed, considering pieces in CITY like Robert Montgomery’s billboards denouncing high capitalism, tweets encapsulating the rise of UKIP… it drew our attention to this shift, this un-settling.”
REVOLUTION is Black & BLUE’s boldest issue to date. To be published on 5th November, the edition features poetry, prose, art and thought that is in itself revolutionary, or is inspired by what is. A dedicated Twitter feed set up during the submissions process gave people a chance to share that exciting experience of reading what revolution means for different people around the world. Beckie talks excitedly about it as “a strong collection of writers” having received phenomenal submissions – the main problem she encountered in the process of making it was finding space in the magazine for it all! “It’s a shame we can’t feature more of it, there’s a huge pool of creative writing out there and it’s so exciting to provide a platform for some of that”.
Turning to the future of Black & BLUE I asked Stewart what we could expect from the publication.
“Much like M20Collective, we’re all for collaboration in all areas of arts – Black & BLUE work with the basis that the more people involved, the more inspired we can be and the more we can accomplish”.
This has already been a key focus for Black & BLUE in 2014: in June they put on a London-based exhibition, Illuminations, showcasing textual forms of art. The success of this project has spurred on hopes for more in the future with a pop-up gallery and other collaborative plans in the pipeline. We can also expect a follow-up to the brilliantly received political pamphlets Black & BLUE released last year and Beckie revealed that the group is “hoping to do a series of lectures”.
For anyone who wants to get involved with Black & BLUE, and we can’t push this opportunity enough, Beckie is eager to find new collaborators and submissions to the Black & BLUE body of work. After all, collaboration “is how the most progressive and beautiful things in life are formed”, she says. The contemporary, collective Black & BLUE way is certainly progressive and a great platform for future developments as yet undiscovered.
REVOLUTION is A NEW ANTHOLOGY OF REVOLUTIONARY CREATIVE LITERATURE IN SEVEN PARTS: FATHERS| CHILDREN|FUCKERS|WOLVES LIBERTINES MONSTERS|THE DEAD|NO PLACES|PLANTS & FLOWERS. Pre-order now to receive on bonfire night