There’s much been written and spoken about the future of publishing, the march of digital platforms and how print can survive. We think of the monolithic print empires in the discussion and not the smaller publications. Yesterday, an email dropped into my inbox from the Editor of Gin & It, Kate Hawkings with an attached press release from Tim Hayward, Editor of Fire & Knives and founder of both publications. From it, I was sad to hear of the demise of Fire & Knives and Gin & It.
The email outlined the vision of what they’d started, how far it had come, the great work put in by a passionate team of collaboraters and the ultimate realities of this kind of enterprise. I say enterprise. It wasn’t necessarily a commercial venture, with the aim initially to cover costs. What Tim descibes as - a brave experiment in uniting writers and readers at a chaotic time in publishing.
For those who haven’t had the chance to hold these publications in your hands, I say seek them out. For a lover of paper publishing, everything feels just right. The paper stock and weight, the illustrations and absence of advertising. Picking up a copy, you treat it with reverance. Like a favourite book; taking care not to crack the spine or mark it with greasy fingers. And this is before even getting to the content. This was the food and drink writing that many crave to read – and to write.
Fire & Knives ran for fourteen quarterly editions, with its younger sibling just two boozy editions, of which I featured in the second and sadly last. It’s no secret that you wrote for free. I’ve been advised many times by writers that this is something they will not consider. That they should be paid for everything they do and if you think otherwise, you’re a schmuck. If everyone took this view, publications like Fire & Knives would never have got off the ground. For me personally, seeing my piece on the Six O Clock Swill in Gin & It was a defining moment. It was a validation that I can do this. Further commissions came from that piece. Paid commissions and a piece in future editions of Fire & Knives and Gin & it. They won’t be seen in print, but it again gave me that boost that everyone needs who spends their days in front of a backlit screen. In Tim’s words – we were pioneers in what has turned out to be a fertile and growing corner of the publishing world. We’ve championed great work and seen many of our writers go on to more mainstream acclaim. I can’t claim great acclaim, but I’m glad to have been inspired and been a very small part of something that will be remembered. This isn’t an obituary, maybe more a written wake… If that’s the case, I’m raising a glass of something appropriate and wondering whether there’s an afterlife.