With a myriad of publications choosing to go strictly online these days (us included), it is refreshing to see that some magazines are keeping it old school and putting out print-only editions. That is the story behind one of our fave feminist mags, Ladybeard. The brainchild of Cambridge uni student Sadhbh O’Sullivan, it was launched by her and a team of four others (Kitty Drake, Maddie Dunnigan, Tyro Heath, and Bronya Meredith) in October 2012. With gorgeous covers and substantial content, the mag wants to bridge the gap between academic discussion and a contemporary analysis of the way female issues are represented in the media. I had a little tête–à–tête with Sadhbh about why her magazine doesn’t want to leave you feeling inadequate.
How did the team get together?
A combination of outreach through social media and getting in touch with specific people. I sent out a mass Facebook message to anyone I thought would be interested and then word of mouth did the rest.
How often do the issues come out?
Because of finals and graduation interrupting and disrupting our work on the second issue, we’re yet to establish fixed release dates. Ideally we’d like it to be quarterly.
What is the magazine trying to achieve?
There isn’t so much an “end goal” as an opening up of conversation about the new ways we can think about printed media and, in particular, feminist representations within that. The impact of the internet on journalism as an industry is inescapable, and Ladybeard is our way of moving forward with those developments in print and politics. This is united by our creative drive to make a beautiful, clever, and interesting magazine.
What are some of the most memorable stories you have published?
Sadhbh: I think my favourite was the Google translate piece about Rita Ora—Bryony Bates had put Daily Mail headlines repeatedly through Google Translate, recreating and parodying the ridiculous language used to describe celebrity bodies. The end result made me cackle with laughter and is the kind of content I love—clever, funny, but not too difficult. It was a challenging one to format though. I’m really excited for the creative potential that’s been unleashed on our second issue
Maddie: I love Henry Davey’s poem, “four tunes for eyesight,” Abbi Brown’s piece on brittle bones, and Nadav Kander’s photographs. I’m even more excited about the next issue though. My sister, Louisa Dunnigan, has written an amazing piece on the time she spent interviewing sex workers in Paris. There’s a great range between intimate stories and more academic ones.
Since you’ve launched, do you think the outlook on magazines aimed at women has improved (more intelligent magazines rather than just fashion/beauty or celeb gossip), or do you think there’s still a long way to go?
I think that people are talking about it a lot more, which is definitely a good thing. There are great blogs and even print magazines that have emerged since my initial idea, which is really heartening, as it’s happening independently of anything we’ve done. There is a change happening. That said, it’s very difficult to say there’s been an actual improvement: it’s difficult to see where changes are being made, where ideas are being subsumed and commodified by mainstream media, rendering the move useless. There is a long way to go.
Do you have regular writers on board? Do you accept contributions?
A mixture of both: as we’re still very small (and also each have something to say!) we rely on ourselves for a proportion of the content, but, as large part of the magazine’s focus is to do with representation we are keen to have a range of contributors. As we work on our online presence (watch this space!) we’ll probably bring in more regular writers, but so far our work has been focused on an amalgamation of contributions, which we happily accept!
What’s next for Ladybeard?
New issue, new website, bigger distribution, better magazines. Onwards and upwards!
To find out about how you can get a copy of the latest issue, email email@example.com.
Title image: Kitty Drake (left) and Sadhbh O’Sullivan (right). Photo: Antonio Olmos for The Observer