Supporting Local Artists: An Interview with Bab Mag

Grolsch Canvas

Creativity is born from collaborations and seeing other people's processes.

There’s great strength to be found in creative communities. Whether it’s an upcoming art collective or an exciting subculture, a sense of community and collaboration can give life to bursts of creativity, with ideas, influences and inspirations bouncing from person to person. It’s this sense of community that Bab Mag are celebrating with their new magazine, which launches this Friday. Focusing on the local creative talent in the UK’s Midlands – ranging from iconic pioneers to unknown artists – Babmag is a beautifully designed and thoughtful addition to the seeming resurgence of print magazines. We spoke to Callum Barnes, one of the magazine’s founders, about supporting local artists and bringing people together.

Hi Callum. Can you tell us a little about Babmag and what you guys are doing?

We champion local talent and document the subcultures around Birmingham and the surrounding areas. There’s a heritage of creativity here that some people perhaps don’t know exists, so we want to put that on display to people. People from the West Midlands, creatives especially, haven’t really been too forward with self-promotion, so the idea is to create a platform for those artists to promote themselves and give themselves some credit.  

Plume: Tabula Rasa / Hollow Percipience

Where did the inspiration to start Bab Mag come from?

Just the fact that it doesn’t exist. The majority of people involved in the project are creatives ourselves, and what comes from that is that we’re around extremely creative people in every aspect. Speaking to them and from our own experiences, realising there was a lack of somewhere for creatives to get that exposure. We just felt that it needed to happen.

It’s an idea we’ve played about with for the last two years and the opportunity arose to put it together. We felt that if it didn’t happen now then we might miss out on it and someone else might do it, perhaps not in the way that we feel that it should be done. We’ve got such great circle of creative people around us that we’re able to approach them in less of a formal manner, which means we can give people a better insight into the way they think, operate and go about their creative processes.

How important do you think it is to celebrate local talent and build a creative community?

Massively – when you go to the epicentre of creativity in a city then the connections are already there, but it’s important to make it welcoming for creatives to enter those circles and become part of them. Creativity is born from collaborations and seeing other people's processes, so it’s good to bring these people together to celebrate what it is they do and hopefully encourage other people to do creative things. 

There’s a heritage of creativity here that some people perhaps don’t know exists, so we want to put that on display to people.

Gent48 painting the 40ft substation wall in Sellyoak, Birmingham. Photo Credit: Callum Barnes

You’re releasing your first issue of Bab Mag soon – what sort of stuff can people expect to see in there?

It’s a celebration of culture and creativity within the Midlands. One of the most exciting people we spoke to was one of the pioneers of the underground culture, and the culture that we’re all about, Goldie. We’ve also got some street art from Gent 48, some traditional sign writing and some young local talent who perhaps haven’t been given a chance to shine as of yet, photographers such as Tom Bird. There’s a whole heap of different stuff, from people who are already putting their stuff out there to people who haven’t had the chance to do so.

People are on their computers all day, everyday, so the idea of actually picking something up and reading it is becoming important again.

Why did you decided to create a physical magazine as opposed to keeping everything digital?

Physical magazines are just more tactile and I think people are taking to them a lot more lately. Two or three years ago you’d go into some of the independent shops in Birmingham and there wouldn’t be many magazines, whereas now there’s a resurgence. I think it’s because people are on their computers all day, everyday, so the idea of actually picking something up and reading it is becoming important again. The magazine is more of a celebration of what we’re trying to do and putting it into a physical form kind of cements it in history and makes it a bit more real.

DarkCircle. Photo Credit: Vicky Grout

Can you tell us about the process getting it from an idea to print? What were some of the challenges?

We made a big point of giving ourselves plenty of time to make this happen. We could have easily decide we were going to do it and then tried to get everything together in a couple of months, but we gave ourselves around six or seven months to really decide what we wanted to do and put together a really consistent image. If you look at the images we’ve put out online they’re very structured – we always credit the artists in a particular way and make sure the artists are the main focus point.  

After that it was the process of deciding who we wanted to profile in the magazine. We’re fortunate that we know a lot of these people already, so actually talking to them wasn’t too difficult – it was more the process of deciding who was going to go in there. 

It’s important to make it welcoming for people to enter creative circles.

You mentioned that you’ve paid a lot of attention to the visuals. How important do you think great visuals are when it comes to editorial?

It’s eye-catching. With magazines you get three types of readers – those who love to read it, those who really like the images and will have it as a more visual-led experience and those that combine the two. Being a creative platform the imagery is naturally going to be pretty good so it’s important to make sure you show that, especially if that’s what you’re focusing on.

Bab Mag launches on 5th March in the UK – find out more about the launch and where you can get the magazine here.

Unconventional by Tradition

Discover how urban creatives helped us design our new packaging.

Read more