Culture Diary is the ultimate pocket guide to cultural events in Liverpool from the formidable arts team behind The Double Negative. The handy fold out guide features a curated list of exciting art, design, music and film events with each venue indicated on a dazzling fluoro city map.
We sat down with Co-Founder and Editor Laura Robertson to find out more…
HOW DID THE DOUBLE NEGATIVE COME ABOUT?
It came out of a need for arts criticism in Liverpool. Back in 2011, my partner Mike Pinnington was freelancing as a culture writer and I was running The Royal Standard Gallery & Studios; we noticed a lack of dedicated critical arts press to reflect the huge amount of galleries and exhibitions on offer. We decided to team up and start something, and The Double Negative was born! It’s a space where on any given day you can find a really thought-provoking and quite academic piece, sat alongside comment on the arts industry, opinion and listings. There’s something for everyone with an interest in a serious look at the arts; we have a real interest in promoting Liverpool as an ambitious, connected and outward-looking city.
Photo credit: Craig Magee
YOU DO IT WELL, AND THE CULTURE DIARY DOES A GOOD JOB OF FURTHER PROMOTING THE ARTS IN LIVERPOOL. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO TAKE THE STEP INTO PRINT?
Well, we love art guides and city maps: last year I visited Glasgow, Sheffield and Newcastle in quick succession and came home with pockets full of what’s-on leaflets, fold-out maps and postcards. I like drawing and making notes on them (as opposed to just using Google Maps). All my favourites were a quick-look, one-stop microcosm of creative spaces and places.
Coming back to our Liverpool office and speaking to the team about a lack of the same in Liverpool, we wondered: why don’t we print our weekly Culture Diary article? A popular selection of curated listings featured on The Double Negative every week aimed at cultural connoisseurs in the North West and around the UK. So we did; teaming up with local designers Matthew Buckton and Sam Garroch, and G. F. Smith papers, we came up with a Cool Grey and Pantone Fluoro Red pocket-sized calendar and city guide, advocating Liverpool as we see it: achingly cool, sometimes under the radar, sometimes completely odd, always unique, and a top place to visit.
IT’S A GOOD LOOKING AND HANDY ADDITION TO OUR FRIDGE! HOW MANY ARE IN CIRCULATION? HAS IT BEEN WELL RECEIVED?
We have been circulating 10,000 per quarter (four issues per year). That means we’ve been able to do a really good spread across the UK; Liverpool and within a two-hour drive time, including Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Leeds, Hull, Carlisle, Blackpool… plus creative cities a bit further afield, like London, Glasgow, Birmingham, Bristol, Newcastle. The pick-up rate has been fantastic to be honest, we can’t keep up. I’m just so glad people like it and find it useful!
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOUR TEAM AND CONTRIBUTORS?
We have a wonderful team of around 400 contributors who live around the UK and in Spain, China, the U.S. They are all arts professionals in some way or another: journalists, arts writers, curators, photographers, artists, historians, designers, architects… We platform their new writing and opinion and it’s what makes us tick. Without them we’d be nothing. Which is why we try our best to get involved in good funding opportunities and training programmes wherever possible, like Be A Critic and The Contemporary Visual Arts Network (CVAN) Bursary, and running the NW Writers Meet & Greet. We’d like to continue to be involved in more business and training support in the future.
WALK US THROUGH YOUR AVERAGE DAY?
I’m based at Elevator Studios with the formidable Smiling Wolf design studio. After getting a pot of coffee on the go, I’ll typically read any newly submitted articles and sent editorial feedback. I’ll also research upcoming events and send out callouts/invitations to interview someone or review a show, depending on what’s coming up. After that I’ll sort out the day’s social media (especially Twitter, which we find sparks the best conversations) and start writing a new article. I also run the business day-to-day so it’s also really important to contact at least one new person regarding online advertising, teaching, workshops or talks — which is the income that keeps the website alive.
HOW DO YOU SEE LIVERPOOL AS A HOME FOR CONTEMPORARY ART? IS IT GOOD BASE FOR ART CRITICISM?
I think Liverpool is an incredible place for contemporary art: the more I travel the more I see how lucky we are to have such a condensed offer of free, accessible art on our doorstep. Indeed, the entire North-West is a hotbed of really varied activity — from large public galleries with national collections, like Tate Liverpool, to outdoor showcases like Yorkshire Sculpture Park, to the tiniest artist-led studios and workshop spaces, like The Royal Standard and Hotbed Press.
There’s no scene without a good variety of activity, however, and I believe arts criticism has an important role to play both in supporting artists and programmers, but also pushing the ambition of what we do. The Double Negative has a more holistic approach I would say to supporting the art scene: we’re as likely to pair writers and artists up to discuss their individual work (which is invaluable from a professional development angle) as we are likely to critique an exhibition or concert.
The resources and attitude in Liverpool allows anyone with an idea to start and grow it. Start-ups can find support here. What I don’t like is the amount of time it’s taking to open any new artist-led spaces here: The Royal Standard opened around 10 years ago and we’ve only had a handful of pop-up and independent art spaces emerge (and sadly disappear). Sort it out, arts graduates.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR TDN AND THE CULTURE DIARY?
It’s nearly the end of our printed Culture Diary trial year, which is insane. Issue Four is out in October, and I’d really like to do a special edition illustrated map of Liverpool for Christmas if that sounds good to the fans. Next year, I’m talking to a few organisations about some special editions of Culture Diary – maybe in different cities! Watch this space…
Follow The Double Negative on Twitter here and pick up your free copy of the Culture Diary at The Cow&Co Café while they last.