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Oct 21, 2015 1:51 PM ET

Archived: magpie magazine: The arts scene in the Gulf is booming

iCrowdNewswire - Oct 21, 2015

magpie magazine

The story of the project

The arts scene in the Gulf is booming: it needs a magazine that can describe, document, inform, entertain, discuss, promote, and generally support the broad sweep of artistic and cultural activity here.

magpie is that magazine, and we want you to share in the project.

Why a magazine? Because things are happening in the arts and culture scene in the Gulf –  and that needs a focal point; because there isn’t such a magazine here at present, not one that that covers the full range of creative endeavour; because there’s already a healthy level of interest, and it’s growing …

Why magpie? Because a magpie is noisy and distinctive; and because a magpie is a collector of interesting things. All of these are aspirations for the magazine.

What will magpie cover? We’re looking for artistic and cultural subjects – events, people, debates, anything of interest really – that fit our definition of creative, imaginative activity that doesn’t have a commercial purpose as its principal motivation. The artist might sell their work, but selling isn’t the main reason they create it.

We will look at fine art, sculpture and 3D work, literature, film and photography, music, theatre and dance. Ultimately however we will feature anything that feels right; if it’s creative and imaginative, and if it fits our own definition, it’s included. We think that the variety of content and the range of what we’ll cover will prove to be interesting, entertaining, informative, and maybe even enlightening.

Just a magazine? We’ll start with print, but we will support that with an active social media presence; we want to be talking to and with our readers all the time. Beyond that, we see obvious opportunities in online – initially with a calendar of events as an app, website and regular enewsletter.

Commercially we want to broaden our revenue base as quickly as possible. We’ll investigate other print and online publishing products, and we’ll investigate the opportunities for becoming an active player in curating exhibitions, promoting events, etc.

When will it appear? If our crowdfunding is successful, we will launch magpie in mid November 2015. The second issue will be a bumper start-of-the-year start-as-you-mean-to-go-on edition on 1 January 2016, and publication will be monthly thereafter.

What will it be like? Superb. We value design, and we want magpie to look great – for instance, we intend to commission individual covers from named artists and graphic designers, building up a library of original artwork. Here’s one of the cover drafts for issue 1.00.

That focus on design will work hand in hand with our content, which will mix news, reviews, interviews, previews and thoughtful features. Our tone will be knowledgeable and entertaining, and while we will avoid pretentiousness at all costs we won’t talk down to anyone.

Have we done anything like this before? Oh yes. Dennis Jarrett created Culture for Turret Media a couple of years ago, a well-received but short-lived supplement to Abu Dhabi Week. Culture provided an early test of some of the ideas that have been refined for magpie magazine. Check it out here.

How can you stay involved? We intend that magpie will operate as a kind of network or club that is open to anyone who shares our enthusiasms and ambitions. So we will run an active social media programme, we’ll be inviting reader participation in forward planning, and we’ll seek feedback and input by other means such Editor’s lunches and small town-hall meetings.

A lunch invite – to eat and chat alongside key players in our world – is one of the pledge level options we’re offering to supporters. Another that will allow supporters to get directly involved is the Readers’ Panel, a private mailing list that provides a semi-formal mechanism for commenting on both general and specific issues: how we’re doing generally and where we can develop, what particular articles worked well and what we might consider for future issues.

And of course there’s the option of direct participation in the success of the magazine – a proportion of profits will be reserved for a Readers’ Syndicate.

We want you to be part of this.

Pledge. Subscribe. Buy subscriptions as gifts. Tell everyone about us. Tell advertisers to advertise with us. Share our Facebook posts. Enjoy the writing. Comment, criticise and commend: we read all emails and all posts.

We’re at www.facebook.com/magpiemagazine (already active) and www.magpie.ae(building slowly). Come and join us!

But mostly, support the arts and the cultural life of the Gulf. While that’s vibrant and buzzing, we have our reason to exist.

How the funds will be used

An apology to friends in the UAE — this crowdfunding platform doesn’t allow me to specify dirhams, which is is why I’ve had to convert everything to Sterling … In fact the required amount is AED 130,000, which I’ve rounded up to £25,000.

Why AED 130,000 – where’s the money going?

We’re being pretty conservative in our costings because we want to run a professional operation. This is not a hobby publication; it’s the start of something big.

Much of the total required will be spent on basic business setup procedures and especially obtaining the necessary licences and permissions. In particular, we need a media licence to print a magazine. We will also have to pay commissions to the crowdfunding platform we use and currency translation charges as we receive pledged payments.

Much of the rest of the money will be spent on producing and distributing the first issue of the magazine, notably paying freelance contributors and the print bill.

None of the AED 130,000 will be used to hire nail technicians, buy Lamborghinis or pay for trips to the Maldives.

What happens if we don’t reach the target?

If we don’t hit the AED 130,000, the money you have pledged won’t be taken from you (or if you have sent a cheque, it will be returned to you). We’ll rethink the project and find another way to make it work.

What happens if we beat that target?

We set up the business, produce the first issue, pay everybody and see how much we have left over. At a minimum we’ll use the experience to refine our business plan, and we’ll use the first issue to solicit advertising, subscribers and (if we need them) outside investors.

Hopefully we’ll exceed our target by a long way, which will enable us to get magpie magazine up and running on a regular basis without having to look for external financing. The key milestones are …

• AED 130,000: we produce a full print run (at least 3,500 copies) of the first issue of magpie, along with a social media presence and a website.

• AED 300,000: we can fund the pilot and the first four issues of magpie – including a full-time ad salesperson.

• AED 500,000: we can produce the magazine for a full year, fully staffed and able to invest in development projects.


The two major issues that we’ll face are distribution and advertising sales.

Since there’s no door-to-door mail delivery in the UAE, it can be tricky and pricey to get copies into the hands of paid-up subscribers. In the short term we’ll focus on deliveries to PO boxes; in the middle term we’ll use a personal delivery service and build up a network of single-copy sales outlets (including conventional places like airport shops and bookstores as well as coffee shops, galleries etc). Our future costings include these items.

Advertising may be a problem if the established publishers decide to view us as competition; they will be able to drop their ad rates to make life tricky for us. In practice we don’t see this happening, because our limited circulation and modest ad rates will represent little threat to them.

A more immediate problem will be finding the right kind of person to sell our ads. We need someone who will identify with the magazine and be part of the team, not just a sell-anything-to-anyone sales specialist. We will use the magpie community to find the right individuals for the team (and there’s a position-vacant ad in this pitch).

What’s in the first issue

> From street art to fine art: the Banksy effect comes to the UAE

> Self-publishing: satisfaction, success or self-delusion?

> The triumph of poured concrete: Abu Dhabi’s iconic modenist architecture

> Me and My Studio: Julia Ibbini’s workplace and how she works in it

> Previews of upcoming UAE events: Abu Dhabi Art, Dubai International Film Festival, Tacit Group and other upcoming NYUAD shows. Madame Butterfly, and more …

> Previews of international events including Cairo Design Week, London Jazz Festival, Contemporary Istanbul Art Fair and Design Miami

> Reviews including Kronos Quartet and No White Walls in Abu Dhabi, Dubai Drama Group’s The Importance of Being Earnest and the first Dubai Design Week; plus Barjeel Art Foundation’s ‘Debating Modernism I’ in London

… and much, much more!

Contact Information:

Dennis Jarrett

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