Photograph by Etienne Gilfillan
Remarkably still in his early twenties, Kirk Truman, Editor & Founder of Journal has already created a burgeoning publishing empire; a series of magazines focused on the London neighbourhoods of Fitzrovia, Soho and Bloomsbury with a Mayfair edition due to launch soon. The free magazines, found in shops, bars and cafes around Central London look beneath the surface at the people, the businesses and stories that make each of these London villages unique in their own way. Although the Journals have profiled menswear designer, Oliver Spencer, legendary Soho tailor, Mark Powell, Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet and actor Martin Freeman, and looked at Soho’s institutions such as the French House, Ronnie Scotts Jazz Club and The Groucho Club, and partnered with brands such as Sunspel, Shinola, and Filson, the focus isn’t just on names and places.
Early features in the first edition of the Fitzrovia Journal included the West-End’s smallest cafe, a film processing darkroom and a theatre bookstore. From the start, Journal has offered a fascinating insight into the life and character of the people who work in these vibrant areas of London. The publications have covered everything from Fitzrovia’s history as the centre of the rag trade in London, as well as the bespoke tailors, leather bag makers, restaurants, barbers, bike shops, filmmakers and artists in the area today.
Photograph by Adedoton Adesanya
We spoke to Kirk about London, Fitzrovia and his stable of magazines.
Mark Baxter by Kirk Truman
What was your experience and view of London before you lived here?
London was always in my mind. From about 16 I was living between Leicester and Central London as my girlfriend at the time was living in Fitzrovia. I moved to London in 2010 to study and quit after 3 weeks; it wasn’t for me, and soon I began working for Liberty of London where I worked until I started Journal. London fascinated me; open-minded, never sleeping and diverse. I wouldn’t be me without this city.
Was Fitzrovia the first place you landed in the city?
I briefly spent some time living in Waterloo and then Hoxton. I decided to live in Fitzrovia in early 2012; it was familiar, vibrant and booming with opportunity. Its been interesting living here as a fly-on-the-wall. Fitzrovia is new blood and has only very recently come to define and establish itself. I’m a Fitzrovian; its home and I don’t see myself leaving any time soon.
Jack Bond by Kirk Truman
Did the area inspire you to start a magazine or was the magazine something you wanted to do anyway?
After writing a fiction novel set in the neighbourhood, I decided to create a free quarterly publication bringing together photography, illustration, print and journalism, and The Fitzrovia Journal was born. I stopped working at Liberty department store after the first issue was released in print, and it quickly became popular among residents and those working in the neighbourhood. I would have never dreamed 10 years ago that I would be the owner/ founder of a series of magazines, but life has a way of guiding you and with Journal I’ve found my vocation in publishing.
The Journals have expanded rapidly was this planned or has it developed organically?
I realised the popularity of the Fitzrovia issue was something I had to try and spread, and so I realised that Journal could also capture the spirit of other neighbourhoods. This led to the Bloomsbury Journal and Soho Journal.
Gary Kemp by Kirk Truman
What do you think are the elements that make the journal unique?
We want each reader to feel like the publication they pick up in print matches the character and essence of their London village. Really, the success of Journal is in Londoners themselves. They keep coming back to read Journal every quarter. We’re a publication for Londoners, about London living. I strongly believe we produce the best free quarterly publications in the neighbourhood. If I didn’t I’d hang my up hat up tomorrow.
You feature a lot of interesting characters in the magazine, how do you decide who to focus on?
Its all about timing, diversity and relevance for us. I usually find its about the right place at the right time, opportunities come up, and we take them when the time is right.
Jack Bond by Kirk Truman
Who have been the most interesting people you have met through the magazine?
That depends on your definition of interesting. For me, there are a few features I have put together that I will feel sentimental about.
Comedian/actor Griff Rhys Jones and gallerist Rebecca Hossack were two very early features which I put together for our Fitzrovia issue, and they’re arguably my favourites. Griff and Rebecca are neighbours of mine, and both brilliant creatives and business minds.
Rebecca was an especially wonderful mentor to me in the beginning when I started Journal almost 4 years ago. Griff (perhaps unintentionally) taught me about the idea of a London village, and how really the idea of a village doesn’t differ all that much throughout the UK; people, businesses, culture & diversity. At the time I met Griff, he was putting together a festival about a poet Dylan Thomas, who has a strong association with Fitzrovia’s bohemian past. The festival was a huge success in Fitzrovia, and captured the spirit of Dylan and what makes Fitzrovia different to other London villages. He’s brilliant, and I really don’t know how he manages to be a comedian, businessman, producer, presenter and writer all at the same time; I guess only Griff knows the answer to that. There is a spark of genius about him.
Oliver Spencer by Kirk Truman
Fitzrovia, Soho, Bloomsbury, Mayfair? Whats next?
Theres a lot in the pipeline, but thats all under wraps for the moment. Watch this space (or page).