Impolite Conversation is a place where we can talk about the things we were told not to discuss in polite company - politics, sex, spirituality & religion and money - as well as science, culture, personal development and more. Our content is not all risqué or even rude: When we use the word "Impolite", we're talking about an attitude - one of not blindly following conventions or authority, especailly when they divide (or even oppress) us. Are you Impolite? Find out more about us here and join or community here

Interview with the Editor

Founder and Editor-in-chief Matthew Wherry sticks his head above the parapets and answers some questions

 

HC:

Hello and thanks for joining us. Let’s start with an easy one: Where have you been hiding for the first ten editions? ;-)

 

M:

I made a conscious decision in the beginning to let the writing stand for itself – there’s a balance between showing leadership and enabling other people to lead and come forward, and I knew there’d be plenty of time for me to show my face later.

 

HC:

Publishing is in your family; can you tell me more about your background?

 

M:

My parents both worked in book publishing: Dad worked for Transworld and Penguin then co-founded Bloomsbury. Mum worked for lots of big names including Jonathan Cape, Bloomsbury, Vintage, Hamish Hamilton and Pavilion. It’s a massive influence. One of my friends followed his dad into the music business because that’s what his dad would come home and talk to his mum about; there were musicians and music business people around the table at Sunday lunch – and writers, booksellers and publishers around my parents’ dining table.

 

I’m very fortunate to have the background I do but there’s more to what shapes my world than that. I went to a top London school but one of my first jobs was on my grandparent’s market stall in Liverpool. I’ve had a wide range of experiences, which is what makes Impolite Conversation what it is. We here to be more representative of society and to give a voice to people from all walks of life.

 

HC:

What made you set up Impolite Conversation?

 

M:

Several years ago, I realised that there weren’t many magazines that I looked forward to reading every month and of those, none of them represented my world very well. There was The Face, which was great whilst it was independently owned but lost its soul when it was bought out by one of the big magazine corporations; I liked Private Eye but it was aimed at forty something men, and I was in my 20s, Viz I’d grown out of by the time I was 25 – that’s a slight exaggeration… But there just wasn’t anything out there showing my world.

 

Nothing represented my family, my friends, the world I lived in, the positivity, the cheerfulness, the ideas we were exposed to, the writers, the philosophies, the politics or the music. The cultural things I liked weren’t promoted by the big conglomerates, so people didn’t hear about them. For example, there’s a great writer called Rupert Thompson, who I first came across when I was about 15, and he’s still is not very well known. I want to get in touch with him actually; he’s the kind of person I’d love to feature in Impolite Conversation. And there are many artistic people like him, creating all sorts of amazing work, who don’t have the recognition they should. Take my brother’s band The Herbaliser – not many people have heard of them but they’re great.

 

I also wanted to create a more representative medium, giving voice to people who may struggle to be heard – more women, more people who were born abroad and more people from ethnic minorities. I come from a mixed race background and lots of my friends weren’t born in England, or have parents who weren’t. 40% of Londoners these days were born abroad but where are they represented in the media?

 

Another reason I started the magazine – there were quite a few, weren’t there? – was for a different approach to topics like politics and sex: I wanted a more grown-up, more European, discourse between the genders about sex, one that’s less “Oh look what so-and-so did in her car in a layby” – that prurient and puritanical attitude that’s so prevalent in this country. Other British publications still have such confused attitudes towards sex.

 

One of the things I’m proud of is how unisex IC is. Men used to talk about sex in Loaded and women in Cosmopolitan but I’m not aware of any other mainstream publication where both genders can discuss sex together. And likewise with politics – I wanted to talk about that in a different way too; less partisan and attacking, more consensual perhaps. And if that’s possible…

 

HC:

Tell me about the recent changes at Impolite Conversation; why did you decide to expand your staff?

 

M:

Producing a magazine was taking up a lot of my time before we took a break (between the sixth and seventh editions) and it was taking me away from my paid work. Also what we produced wasn’t always to the standard I would’ve liked. So when my childhood friend Becky said she was looking for a job, it was natural to mention that there was an unpaid role here that I knew she’d be great at. And so we have a fabulous new deputy editor and Becky’s taken on a lot of work that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. She commissions, she reviews, she edits, she writes, she manages and she’s developing the magazine – all sorts of exciting things.

 

Becky has also brought onboard a brilliant Science editor, Sarah Barnett. Sarah worked for Focus, one of the biggest science magazines in the UK and brings really high quality science reporting to the magazine. She’s a real asset and a standard bearer for what we would like more of going forward.

 

Now, with Becky and Sarah’s help, Impolite Conversation isn’t taking up so much of my time and our standards are much more consistent. Although being IC we need some more light-hearted stuff too. We need more humour and some cartoons, and I’d like to do more about the Arts, especially the visual arts and photography. So if you’re interested in contributing, or you know someone who might be, please get in touch.

 

HC:

How have you found producing the 10th edition?

 

M:

I’ve loved it – production is faster and easier, now we’ve done it a few times together,  so we can spend more time on the content. But things will be changing; this is a good magazine and it would be great to be able to pay our writers and editors and take it to a wider readership, so we intend to commercialise it in the next six months. It’s a labour of love at the moment and I like it’s anarchic unpredictable, noncommercial nature but it isn’t the way forward. In the future we’ll be more disciplined and regular, like more established magazines.

 

HC:

What would you like to see more of in terms of public interaction with the site and how will that work?

 

M:

I’d like more engagement in the comment sections on the site and on Facebook but to be honest I think this will grow organically. We’re also looking to increase the number of things that people who join as members can do. So for example, we might release content to members days or weeks before it’s available to the wider public.

 

HC:

Can you explain a little more about the members’ side of things?

 

M:

The idea has always been that IC will be a co-operative, so when we start making a profit this will be shared amongst the writers, editors and everyone else who has made it possible. Everyone who’s interested in the company can have a stake in it.

 

When I was younger I’d sometimes tell my Dad that I had an idea for a magazine and he’d say “brilliant Matthew, what’s it about?” and I’d tell him and he’d say “that’s nice but it’s all about the execution isn’t it? Let’s see it when you do it,” and I’d go “ok Dad”. And then he’d say “oh, and where are you going to get the £100,000 you need to do it?” because that’s what setting up a magazine cost before the internet, when there was only print.

 

For many years I didn’t act on my ideas for magazines because I didn’t want to borrow that amount of money; that investment would have saddled the company with the same problems so many other publishers have – investors. You’d have a few rich investors wanting a say in what you publish, and you’d be reliant on advertising for income. I didn’t want that kind of interference but I suspected it would happen.

 

Nowadays, you don’t have to print, costs are far lower and you can reach a much greater potential audience at a fraction of the price, so you don’t need that huge initial investment. So one of the ideas we’re considering is setting up subscriptions so that readers can support us with micro-investments and donations. We’re also in the process of adding a blogging feature to the site.

 

HC:

If you could change one thing in the world what would that be?

 

M:

I’ll out myself as a complete hippy. If we could find a system that distributed food, shelter, water, energy and opportunity equally without money, I’d love that. It’s the Star Trek model isn’t it?

 

HC:

How do you see IC progressing?

 

M:

Within a year we’ll have advertising and subscriptions and we’ll be paying at least token amounts to our writers. This is a big commitment to make, as we’ll be a proper company. Say we had a thousand subscribers paying a pound a week. That would only be £52,000 a year but I’d love to have that amount of money coming in to start with, coupled with some advertising. It would at least make the magazine viable. I’d also like to have a system in which the subscribers can say which of the writers their money is paid to, with a bit of wealth redistribution so there isn’t too wide a pay gap between the most popular and less popular writers.

 

HC:

And that way you can maintain your artistic freedom and that slightly anarchic feel to the magazine?

 

M:

Exactly. There’s too much group thinking and predictability these days…

 

M:

I would see us as a Social Media company: Wouldn’t it be great to be something like a cross between Facebook and The Guardian, Buzzfeed or the Huffington Post that shares its profits with its members?

 

 

Hannah Clive

About the Writer

Hannah Clive is a singer/songwriter. You can listen to some of her music, and find out more about her, on her website.

 

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