A Conversation with Oh Comely

I caught up with Liz Ann Bennett, from the amazing print magazine Oh Comely, a “lifestyle magazine with life”. They write about a vast array of different things, with each issue having a central theme. They also feature a ton of photography and illustration in each issue, making Oh Comely Magazine a truly collectible piece of print.

Owl Eyes: So how many people are involved in creating an issue of Oh Comely Magazine?

Liz: I guess that depends on how you would count those involved. We have a full-time team, but we also have people who work with us part-time too on creating each issue. And then there are all of our contributors who make up each magazine. Having over 100 pages, it just wouldn’t be feasible to write everything ourselves so we draw from a variety of freelance writers and for each issue we have a guest illustrator too.

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OE: And how do you come up with each issue’s theme?

L: We have a number of brainstorming meetings, where we just put down all the theme-ideas we think could work and are interesting. Then we try to bulk some of the best ideas out, and really work out if they will have the mileage for a whole issue. Sometimes we have what sounds like a really good idea, but when you think about how you could make an issue out of it, it becomes clear that there isn’t enough scope.

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OE: What’s your favourite issue to date?

L: That is difficult because I’ve been involved with the magazine for over 6 years. I have lots of favourites that meant something to me at a particular time. Issue 6 stands out to me (the one with the feature on dog-walkers) that’s definitely one of my favourites. I’m also very proud of how the latest issue (issue 27 – The Body), has turned out. ‘The Body’, as a theme, raises some sensitive issues, so it was maybe risky, but I think that it has worked really, really well! We were able to do a big feature where we photographed and interviewed 13 of our readers. It’s one of the biggest features that we’ve done and I’m really happy with how it turned out.

OE: How important are aesthetics to Oh Comely?

L: Well, they’re completely crucial really. Being a print magazine, we need to be collectible and we have to justify ourselves as being worthy of print. The combination of words and images and illustrations that we use is very important, and works really well in print.

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OE: Why did you decide that Oh Comely would be a print magazine?

L: There are so many things that print publishing can do, that online can’t. Print is fully immersive. It lets you sit down with something, to read and enjoy the images, and lets you completely focus on what you’re reading. I don’t know about you, but I don’t read anything long online, there’s too much distraction. Plus, I think print gives you the opportunity to make something that people can treasure; you can’t cut images out of things online and stick them on your wall, in the way that you can with print. Sometimes, especially with images, having something down in print can just really enhance the way that it looks too!

OE: What is one of your favourite magazines to read?

L: Lucky Peach. It’s a really fun and well-written food magazine. They pick a theme each week, similar to us, and they’re really inventive! When the Mayan apocalypse stuff was going on, the had an apocalypse-themed issue and tried to see how they would survive if there was a disaster. They sent people out to find edible plants and got a plant expert to explain what they were. Most of them ending up being poisonous and they couldn’t eat them. I’m not particularly foodie, and I don’t think they’d ever let me write for them, but by reading their magazine it kind of feels like you’re getting the chance to see into someone else’s world, which I really like.

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OE: Is there a specific person or idea you would love to feature in Oh Comely?

L: In terms of dream ideas, I think we’re really lucky in the fact that we’ve been able to achieve a lot of them by this point in the magazine. There are a lot of famous people in films and music that we would definitely like to feature: one of our team would really love to interview Tilda Swinton. Some of the dream ideas haven’t happened, but that’s tended to be because they just wouldn’t work. One idea that one of our writers had, was that he’d really like to make a cake the size of a room and eat his way out. We really thought about trying to make it happen, but then we realised that it probably wouldn’t work anyway!

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OE: Any advice for those interested in getting into the magazine industry? How did you get involved in Oh Comely?

L: Well I took quite a different path, as I was involved in the start-up of Oh Comely Magazine, and that’s rare and won’t be the way in for most people. My advice would be to really develop your skills, work on your craft. If you’re a writer or a photographer, work on those talents and they will be useful in any magazine situation. They are transferable skills, and it’s important to be adaptable. Also work on the things you aren’t very good at, and improve. There are so many roles within magazine publishing that you could end up doing so in whatever part of the industry you end up in, having those skills will be really important.

Oh Comely is a beautiful bi-monthly print magazine, available in newsagents like WHSmith, and online here. You can also buy back issues or sign up for a subscription. They are a magazine that “inspires people to be creative, talk to their neighbours and explore new things”. We definitely recommend checking them out!

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