Meandering past Thai restaurants, doorknob shops and gentleman’s barbers on Bath’s Broad Street, you suddenly come across a surprising discovery. Peer through the large glass window halfway down and you’ll find yourself seduced through a door into a colourful world of fashion, art, film, photography and much more.
Magalleria is a magazine emporium. Inside this postage stamp-sized, one room shop you can leaf your way through over 1,200 different independent print magazines on everything from Nordic knitting to campervan culture.
As he moves aside a stack of left-wing alternative news publications so that I can sit down, Magalleria’s owner Daniel laughs: “I sometimes feel like I’m living in the world’s most bizarre charity shop.” He glances at the over-spilling shelves and rainbow piles everywhere. “But I really wanted this to be a place that welcomes people of all interests, a place for magazines that wouldn’t have a home otherwise.”
I run my hand along the spines of the Art and Design section, feeling the firmness of the paper, the satin quality of the exquisitely designed covers. Noticing how hypnotised I am, Daniel comments, “I think people are attracted to the physicality of this new generation of magazines. They’re not just for reading. They’re beautiful, collectible objects in themselves.” In a world of digital news and social media, I definitely understand the appeal of being able to read (and grasp) something so tangible.
Daniel explains how he came to the UK from New Zealand in the 1980s to work in publishing. Here he met his wife Susan and, when the pair decided to give up their work in banking and health communications respectively, they decided to set up shop (and home) in Bath.
“The city seduces you with its beauty”, he reflects. I hear a bark from under the table from someone not wanting to be excluded. Daniel laughs: “And of course it’s a great place to have a dog. Enzo is welcome everywhere – especially in Magalleria. He’s our resident shop dog three days a week.” A sliver of whippet face pokes out in agreement.
Daniel got the idea to create Magalleria, the only shop in the UK entirely devoted to magazines, when he was sent a copy of Eight by Eight, a stunning large-format publication focused on bringing quality story-telling and stylish design to the world of football journalism. “It’s amazing to realise how much creativity there is in the world. Magazines cost less to make than a book or a photography exhibition – so you can afford to be more experimental. I think it’s also important that they cover so many topics. You can find anything you’re interested in, which means people can relate to it. So many people come looking to find themselves in the covers they pick up.”
As I look around Magalleria’s white-washed walls and wooden shelves which burst with ideas and talent, I understand immediately why the shop feels so at home in Bath, a city with two universities (one of them a national pioneer in design and photography), lots of creative agencies, architects, and a fantastic food scene.
Since it opened in 2015, Daniel and Susan’s cornucopia of covers has become so well-established that it is now a pilgrimage spot for magazine lovers from across the UK and even further afield. “We have so many creative people sending us their work to stock. From New York fashion publications to local photographers from Bath.”
At this moment a customer approaches Daniel to ask about the shop’s collection of anarchist philosophy publications. It turns out he’s a visiting professor from London with a love of both fashion and Marxism. Every time he lectures in Bath, he makes sure to pay a visit to Magalleria.
When I ask Daniel why he believes independent print magazines have become so popular in recent years, he admits: “I think we’ve all become a bit overwhelmed with our ‘instant culture’ and the immediate gratification it brings. These magazines take a long time to get to print. They bring you slow news, long-form stories, in-depth reflection – not a rushed response.”
I then follow up with the question I’m most interested in: “If you were to add your own magazine to Magalleria’s shelves, what would it be?”. Daniel smiles guiltily at the piles around him: “It would have to be a magazine on collecting. After all these years I feel like I could become an expert on the psychology of collecting. We have some customers who buy the same magazine in four different covers.”
As I finger the thick paper of a bi-annual publication dedicated to all things to do with water, I understand exactly what Daniel means. While click-bait new websites can barely hold me beyond the shouty capitals of their headlines, these photos and stories plunge me right into the poetry, the beauty and the importance of water. I leave the shop without the magazine but with the realisation that I am soon to become another of Magalleria’s collectors.