I’ve been the Managing Editor of VNA magazine for 2 years now. Before VNA I started off running bars and putting on exhibitions in Bristol with people like Sickboy and Xenz. I also started an art & culture magazine called Porn, which ran a few issues before my partner in the mag had mortgages and babies – real life responsibilities that I’m still avoiding. I’ve always loved art, from classical to contemporary and I followed that love to London, where I discovered a new passion in life, Free Beer Thursdays.
There was a really vibrant scene in East London with a bunch of great little galleries like D*Face’s Stolenspace and Charlie’s Pure Evil, and always something going on Thursday nights, so we used to bowl round Shoreditch in a big crew getting drunk for free and checking out new art. It felt like a kind of secret club for a bit.
George Macdonald started VNA as a simple black and white zine documenting street art and graff in 2006, around the same time as Stolenspace started. Greg Beer came on board in 2007 to help with design and shape it up into the proper mag it is today. Most of the other guys following suite pretty rapidly – Zang on copy, Ben and Pete on digital and later Gin and Geoff (which the Yanks insist on pronouncing Jee-off) stepped in to help with editorial. Currently, we also have regular contributors all over the world – Damo, Jodie, Charlotte Jansen and Eddie Zammit in print, plus all the amazing photographers, filmmakers and bloggers that keep VNA buzzing.
I first fell in with the VNA guys when I was abroad in Barcelona with my ex-girlfriend and all the Monorex guys for one of the Bread & Butter conferences. Everyone was being really cliquey and I ended up in a cab with the Creative Director Greg. We were just being really dumb and doing stupid stuff to amuse ourselves, trying to lick our elbows and generally being idiots. We hit it off and I started writing for the mag when I got back. That was 2009 and I’ve been with VNA ever since. This early video of the team by Pro from ItDrewItself is from back when we had even less of a clue what we were doing.
From my position at VNA as staff writer in London, I got hacked off with the dismal grey British winters and bailed to Sydney, where I worked as the Aussie correspondent for a couple of years, getting to hang out with legends like Lister, Sprinkles and Days as well as running Ben Frost’s Stupid Krap (into the ground) for a year. Eventually I got hacked off with fighty Aussies and moved to the States on a whim, getting a journalist visa through VNA then working as sole US correspondent. At the same time I was spending time helping Buff Monster out the studio in NYC – where I learned a lot about product standards and expectations and customer care – he’s fastidious.
Whilst I was in the US, we lost our office manager, Ro, when she was struggling to keep up her commitment due to Crohn’s disease – she’s now working with Matt at Give Crohn’s A Slap From Me. After finding a temporary fix for the day-to-day running of the mag, we finally decided between us (read: I spent ages trying to convince everyone) that I could run the magazine. I jumped in at the deep end and began helping to building the brand as best I could – it was as much about learning to say no to things as it was about saying yes and working to build relationships and networks wherever we went.
From getting invited out to POW! WOW! In Hawaii, to Nuart in Norway and Murals in the Market in Detroit, to launches at Subliminal Projects and Thinkspace in LA and curating and hosting projects and panels for Urban Nation in Berlin, it’s all shaped the global community that we’re part of today. Exercises in trust and networking have really helped to expand VNA as a magazine and a solid document of the contemporary urban art scene.
Over the past few years, we’ve made a conscious effort to grow up a little as the people, attitudes and institutions around us matured and developed. With the platform of the magazine giving us access to incredible artists, we’ve been able to open doors and explore more and more of the ith people throughout the world and keep expanding and reaching out to new audiences.
Check out our blog and buy the latest issue online here:
Videos courtesy: Fifth Wall TV – Itdrewitself – James Sharrock / Burning Eye – www.burningeye.com.au & Samson Orenuga
Image credits: George Macdonald / VNA, CYRCLE – James Sharrock / Burning Eye
Portrait credit: Charlie Cook