Having read the interview by Natalie Collins with Magnify editor in chief Ruth Afolabi in the Church Times this week I was intrigued. So I did a bit of searching and found, unsurprisingly for where the interview was conducted, that a newsagent near work was one of the very few stockists of this magazine, although it can also be ordered online.
It wasn’t hard to pick Magnify whose sub title tagline is Faith, Feminism, Fashion out of the shelves of arty and indie coffee table mags, but it wasn’t easy either. That made a good change, something Christian but not cringey. It fitted the shelves in this outlet which caters largely but not exclusively to young professional hipsters, their youth-tribe predecessors and students.
The shop, magazine and the church I am working in are also close to Shoreditch and so when Savage talks of the “rise of a kind of ‘hipster’ cultural capital” (Savage, 2015, p113) it’s impossible to ignore the relevance in the geographical location this magazine is being produced in. The area, I’ve noted over the last year as I’ve worked around here, has negative as well as positive aspects. The cultural capital and the consumerism it spawns, as many have noted, requires economic capital to engage in it. But as Justin Welby (2018) and others have noted young adults in the UK are seeing a reversal in fortune compared to the previous generation. A large number of people working around here are doing jobs in coffee bars and restaurants which are minimum wage and so below the London real living wage amount.
At £10 an issue and located only in a handful of issues this beautifully produced product might be seen as a good example of the contradictions which abound here of products which could benefit many and which have great ethical roots being branded with a certain level of exclusivity and put economically out of the reach of many. It’s not the first time I’ve come across this cover price for a good quality niche magazine round here.
Whilst looking to put this publication in its context the interview between Collins and Afolabi gives useful information too. It tells us that the editor in chief is British Nigerian and studied in Durham (it doesn’t tell us Bailey rather than Hill College but it does tell us she has a private education and so I’m guessing it’s likely). All of this is important in understanding the aspirational and entrepreneurial approach of the magazine mixing as it does high end, expensive fashion with a form of Christian Feminism which, to me, harked back 25 years to the work of Elaine Storkey in What’sRight With Feminism.
The design or overall mix of Magnify is refreshing for a Christian publication aimed at Women. From the Black Panther star, Letitia Wright, on the cover to the examination of inspirational quotations and beautiful pictures that would not be out of place in Porter this is a contemporary and beautiful magazine. The discussions of singleness and adoption are interesting, well presented reads. The article on Light in our wounds tells the story of former gang member Karl Lokko and is powerful testimony.
That again brings me back to the conundrum I have with this magazine. Even though the starting point of their theology and feminism seems to be in a different place to my own and as such I’m not sure if it’s coming from a place where LGBTQI Christians would be able to find themselves at the moment represented it’s exactly the type of magazine I’d like the young people in my church to be reading. Let me explain many of the young people I’m in contact with are second or third generation British West African (primarily Ghanaian). This magazine speaks well into their culture and articles such as “Daily Acts that Make a Difference” by Sabrina Dougall very much reflect what we are teaching them in church and what we want them to develop in their own lives. It’s also professionally produced and so does not send the message that Christianity is naff, as such it gives them a thirst for good production values in their own places of worship and may encourage them to help us as a church (local and wider) move into the place we need to be. Yet, it is £10, not so easily available and the nature of its funding seems to be that the next edition will be out at some unspecified time in the future. The use of this as an ongoing resource to nurture our young people then becomes difficult.
Then there are the sorts of issues about consumption and neo-liberalism which Walter Brueggemann has raised. Brueggemann, (2014) and others have spoken out against the economic model which the cultural models are built upon. They argue particularly emerging culture are built upon a neo-liberal market ideology. This creates, according to Brueggemann an idol or god which is based upon the need for more and more effort to meet “endless desires and needs that are never met”, (Brueggemann, 2014, p13). They have also been particularly critical of the advertising industry. This podcast tells you a bit more.
So would I recommend it? Clearly yes, it’s a great publication. Would I like it to see it develop a little more to be even more inclusive? Yes of course. The main thing is though I would like to see this product get some major funding behind it and become generally available (say for a cover price of £5 – which would still be high for many but may enable people to buy a few copies to get passed around).
Brueggemann, W, (2014), Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now, Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville
Savage, M, (2015), Social Class in the 21st Century, Pelican Books, London
Storkey, E, (1989) What's Right With Feminism, Third Way Books,
Welby, J, (2018), Reimagining Britain: Foundations for Hope, Bloomsbury, London