Independently funded arts and culture magazine, Foxhole, showcases a range of new and existing creatives in the ‘fields of writing, design, illustration and photography’. Influenced by Bukowski, a stint as a musician, the spirit of self-publishing and a new found addiction to the printed form, Mark Beechill founded the magazine in 2015. With a by-line of ‘open to ideas’ the magazine’s philosophy is to cover all ‘creative endeavours and areas of alternative culture deserving of a wider audience’.
The magazine’s design beautifully balances images, tiny text and white space to create a minimalist aesthetic that is both easy on the eye and engaging. Fuelled by a general dislike for the lack of privacy in our share-all society, the magazine is only available in print and there is a sense of exclusivity to the publication.
‘I don’t want to see pictures of people’s babies, or their dinner or endless drunken selfies. It’s a bit bizarre to me that we now have to validate our existences in this way. Technology was meant to free us, not distract us.’
We caught up with Mark to talk D.I.Y, design and keeping print alive.
Firstly, can you tell us a little about yourself and your background?
My background is as a creative person who ended up doing a lot of jobs he didn’t like and took the long way around to get to where he is now! I dropped out of Uni the first time around in the mid 90’s, and eventually started making music – my first taste of any kind of D.I.Y. creativity – which kept me sane while I did various office and factory jobs to pay the bills.
After about 10 years of making music, I gave it up and around the same time started reading a lot of Charles Bukowski, which inspired me to start writing again for the first time in a long time. Again, this was a way of exorcising my demons and dealing with stress.
Through a fortuitous meeting I ended up self-publishing a book of poems and began to attend Alternative Press fairs and other self-publishing / zine events, and saw so much beautiful, printed, handmade, hand-bound, random and exciting stuff that it spurred me on to make more books and zines of my own, until I quit quitting jobs and eventually went back to higher education in 2013 to get a degree in something I was passionate about.
How did it all start and what was your inspiration?
Attending the zine fairs and DIY art markets really planted the seed that you could do anything you wanted.
I had already done three poetry books and a bunch of limited edition zines and I wanted to do something that wasn’t just my own work. In the second year of my design course we had the freedom to write our own brief for a project so I set myself the challenge of creating the identity for a magazine, and then launching it for real.
I came to the conclusion at some point that whatever I was designing should be out there in the real world (for better or worse) and that there was so much great work by people that deserved more attention, so why not make a magazine that was there to promote this work? Also, by this point I was fully addicted to the printed form and wanted to make a physical object, rather than just something that existed online.
Most of the titles of my books and zines come from film, TV or music. I guess I was listening to ‘Flyentology’ by El-P a lot at the time, as there’s a lyric in there about there being ‘no atheists in the foxholes’…the track is about something different to the magazine but on a very general level, it relates to do with having belief in what you’re doing. In a more literal way, a foxhole is also an entrance to the underground.
What’s the ethos behind your magazine?
I don’t know what passes for ‘underground’ or alternative these days but I’m interested in anything that is new or different or worthy of promotion. The original subtitle of the magazine was pretty generic but the more I asked people to be involved and to offer ideas, the more I found myself saying ‘I’m open to ideas’, and that sums it up nicely.
As a teenager I was also a big fan of magazines like Deadline and Blast!, which were a mixture of comics, music interviews and other random things and I’d like to produce something that’s never the same from one issue to the next.
Who is your target audience?
I hate that question! When I was writing the brief initially, I think I put down the target audience as being ‘anyone with eyes, two thumbs and some cash’ and somehow that was ok. I’d like as many people as possible to read the magazine so hopefully, the content will always be varied, interesting, digestible and hopefully affordable.
Your magazine is only available in print, did you actively choose not to go online? And why is that?
There are so many gorgeous print magazines out there that are ‘keepers’, I felt the best way to keep the work in the magazine alive was to put it in print.
There’s so much stuff out there online that it all gets lost so easily and there’s a danger that it won’t make any impact. You could argue that doing it as a digital-only magazine would be easier and cheaper but I think it’s so much more rewarding to produce a tactile, physical thing. Give me something I can hold in my hands.
What is your personal opinion on our digitally orientated / obsessed society?
There’s no way of not sounding like an old fart when I say this but I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s and the changes that have occurred in the last 15 to 20 years seem so massive compared to what came before. I like a bit of privacy, so I’ve never understood the need to share everything on Facebook. I don’t want to see pictures of people’s babies, or their dinner or endless drunken selfies. It’s a bit bizarre to me that we now have to validate our existences in this way. Technology was meant to free us, not distract us.
That said, though, everyone should check out Dick Jewell’s amazing book four thousand threads, which attempts to make sense of the proliferation of digital images now in existence and the changes in our behavior as a result of how we capture moments.
Does the content have an impact on the design of the magazine?
In some ways, yes, but generally it’s about balancing the text with the images and the all-important white space. I’ve seen some magazines where the design is all over the shop and it hurts my brain. I’ve seen at least one where there were just pages of dense text. At the very least there should be a visual continuity throughout.
Volume 2 of Foxhole was more collaborative in that I sent pages back and forth to Yasmine Akim, Christopher Smith and Adam Steiner to make sure that their section was as good as it could be. I may have my vision for the magazine but at the end of the day it’s there to showcase people’s work and if I can involve the contributors in the process, then all the better.
Is it standardised throughout? Did you make any changes for volume two? (Font, layout, paper type, etc.)
Volume 2 was a continuation for the most part. I wanted to give the Gallery section a bit more of an individual identity than it had in the first issue and I also wanted to try a different card stock for the cover. I think the format will stay the same for the next couple of issues at least, after which I might shake things up a bit, to challenge myself and to keep it interesting for the reader.
What have been your biggest challenges in the creation and distribution?
Putting it all together! There were a lot of things I didn’t think about at the start – it was more a case of ‘just do it and worry about everything else later’. Otherwise it might never have got made. Money is always an issue. I wanted it to be about the creativity first and am not a huge fan of advertising, so it had to be self-funded to begin with and, for now, it needs to be self-sufficient for a while.
I like that it’s all content and not having any advertising also removes a whole chunk of responsibility to someone else. The first two issues have been a mad rush at the last minute and I doubt that will change for the next one, but all the contributors have been great and you realise it’s all worth it when you see it finished and talk to people about it at different events…
What are your plans for the future of Foxhole?
I’m busy with the end of my B.A. at the moment so there will be another two issues this year and then we’ll see where we are after that. It would be great if it could be bigger and come out more often and obviously it would be nice to pay the contributors but like most creative acts, you have to do it for the love of doing it.
Finally, I think I know the answer – but do you believe print is dead?
Nah, it’s just resting.
Photographs: Paul Crawley, Laura Grimsley and Bobbie Cornelius.