How/when did you get the idea for A Tale of Three Cities?
Alex: We both took years abroad in our third year and I think it was Rosa who first suggested that we created an arts journal when we got back to Durham which we called the Fun and Beautiful Journal. We worked so well as a duo and enjoyed working on it so much that we didn’t want to call it a day when we graduated. I moved to London, Rosa moved to Paris and Ralph (who launched this project with us) moved to Berlin; uniting the three cities in some way was the logical solution.
Rosa: Yeah, we decided to do the Fun and Beautiful journal over Skype. I was living in a mental home in Bordeaux (an accident), Alex was in Buenos Aires. A Tale of Three followed naturally – because the thing is, it wasn’t just us moving to London, Paris, and Berlin – it so many young creative people were and are, and we want to reflect that.
How easy was it to start it/get funding/stockists etc?
R: At first, I thought to myself “this is such a brilliant idea! why hasn’t anyone done it before?!”. Now I know. Because it is difficult. Working across Europe, over email, takes time, and there can be delays and miscommunications. But it’s more than worth it. Funding-wise, we realised pure print was never going to be a money tree, so we decided to launch events hand-in-hand with the magazine. We do The Book Club in Paris, and The Book Swap in London. The premise is simple: you bring a book you have loved and swap it for a book someone else has loved. We have up to 350 people at each one, and DJs, and literary cocktails (Tequila Mockingbird, that kind of thing).
What has the general reaction been like?
A: The journal has been received really well. Just by being gutsy and walking in to bookshops we’ve managed to get ourselves stocked in wonderful places such as the Wapping Project (East London), Shakespeare and Co (Paris), the B-Store (London) and Colette (Paris). We get a lot of emails from people in New York and San Francisco as well asking to buy copies of the journal – I’m not sure how they heard about us over there but it’s obviously a great sign that the word’s out.
R: My personal reaction was that of someone who had just given birth (but without the pain). I think it’s beautiful and fell in love, and every time I look at it, I feel those two things again.
What are your plans for the future with it?
A: I’d love to see a full collection of the journal, with each spine a different colour lined up in interesting little bookshops all over the world. At the same time I don’t think we want to plan ahead at this stage, things like this are better to evolve organically with each issue.
R: Hear hear.
What advice would you give to students who would like to do something similar? In terms of either writing in general or just setting up an independent project.
A: It’s a lot easier than you think. It took quite a while from the conception of the original idea to actually creating Tale of Three. But it’s that first step you take which suddenly makes everything happen. I was so nervous about how the magazine would be received or whether we’d find contributors and stockist and raise awareness about our project, but it all just fits in to place in its own way and works. You just have to be confident and really create a project you believe in and want to put a lot of time into.