Now Then magazine has acted as a sort of alternative resource for Sheffield since it started publishing in 2008. It both signposts, and is stocked in, the city's hives of independent business and creativity.
Around the publication of its 100th issue in 2016, we asked editor Sam Walby about the then, the now, and the future of the magazine.
What was the original idea for Now Then?
Put simply, we wanted to create the kind of free print magazine that we would be interested in reading ourselves, and which we couldn't see in Sheffield at the time – something content-led, visually appealing, political (with a small 'p'), independent, artistic and community-minded. Central to that is Now Then's focus on what we call "citizen journalism" – trying to open the platform up to local people who are interested in contributing and have something interesting to say, who are expressing themselves as engaged citizens rather than polished professional writers.
Another core belief of ours was, and continues to be, that independent businesses, community groups and charities give character and uniqueness to our increasingly homogeneous cities, and should therefore be promoted and celebrated, alongside the abundance of creativity and healthy activism in Sheffield.
Where does Now Then operate from?
It's a great pleasure to be based at Portland Works, the birthplace of stainless steel. We are a bit of an anomaly amongst tenants here – there are still plenty of metalworkers and other "traditional" grafters here, alongside makers of bikes, gin, art and music – but I think it's been beneficial to be part of a really mixed building complex. It has kept us from disappearing up our own arses.
Are there any articles or interviews that you're particularly proud of over the last 100 issues?
We've managed to cross quite a few people off our bucket list over the past eight years, many of whom I never thought we'd have the chance to interview – Michael Palin (twice), Benjamin Zephaniah, Jarvis Cocker, Kate Tempest, Nils Frahm, Explosions in the Sky. On a personal level, interviewing the comedian Stewart Lee, after three years of badgering his PR company, was a highlight.
What makes Now Then a good fit for Sheffield?
I think of Now Then as a mirror, reflecting all the great stuff happening in the city right back at it. Hopefully we have helped set up some positive feedback loops in the process, encouraged people to keep on with whatever it is that they are bringing to the city, and made readers aware of lots of good stuff that's right on their doorstep. Given how bad Sheffield is at bigging itself up, I see our job as shouting about our collective achievements as a city, of which there are very many.
Now Then covers a lot of environmental and charitable projects; was that always the aim or is it something to do with the nature of Sheffield?
I think Sheffield is a charitable, welcoming, green city, so really it's a reflection of its character. As a social enterprise, we are particularly interested in projects, commercial and non-commercial, which aim to improve the world we live in. What's the point, otherwise?
- Words by
- Lucy Holt