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Lost City

We Chat to Sophie Gargett, the Nottingham-Based Editor of Creative Culture Magazine The Dilettante

16 January 22 words: George White
photos: Ekam Hundal

Artists, agony aunts and adorable cats - ‘creative culture’ magazine The Dilettante really has it all. We hear from its Nottingham-based editor, Sophie Gargett, about what people can expect from this peculiar publication…

Those of you who frequent local watering holes like The Malt Cross and The Angel Microbrewery might remember a fancy little zine by the name of The Dilettante Gazette - a compact broadsheet delving into offbeat topics ranging from the Bright Young Things to ghost stories at The Peacock Public House. Well, thanks to one of the minds behind that popular little publication, Sophie Gargett, this charming source of eccentricity is back - and better than ever. 

Now taking the form of The Dilettante magazine, this bigger, bolder release will once again shine a light on the weird and wonderful, providing a source of escapism from this humdrum world through strange stories and peculiar people. And it’s no secret that we all could do with that right now. “I think that over the last two years, we’ve just been so connected to a computer or mobile all the time. Now people are realising that they would really like to have something tangible, something they can hold,” Sophie explains. “It's nice to look at things on paper rather than on a screen. I feel like we've been swept along in technology, whereas there is a lot of beauty to print.” 

We at LeftLion are, of course, in agreement - and the word beauty is certainly apt for The Dilettante. Taking inspiration from arts Deco and Nouveau, the magazine is charmingly crafted with an eye-catching vintage design, offering an aesthetic that Sophie believes is unlike anything else out there. These remarkable visuals make the issue feel like a treat, a collectible that is worth savouring. 

The content itself ain’t half bad, either. In the first issue alone, there is a deep dive into the life of French painter Henri Rousseau, an exploration of imposter syndrome and its detrimental effects, and a remarkable retelling of the story of Mrs Chippy, a ship’s cat who met a rather unfortunate end during the infamous Shackleton expedition down to Antarctica. Simply put, there’s a little something for everyone, from art enthusiasts to feline fanatics.

A lot of the articles come from just talking to people, coming up with ideas together and evolving them into exciting topics. It’s all about collaboration

“It does have a bit of everything,” Sophie laughs. “There are a few overarching themes that I always like to include, like inspiring articles that can help people or stories of eccentric individuals who've lived interesting lives. But a lot of the articles come from just talking to people I know who are interested in writing for us, coming up with ideas together and evolving them into exciting topics. It’s all about collaboration with other people.” 

A key focus of the magazine is ensuring its writing is accessible to anyone. The term ‘dilettante’, after all, refers to “a person who cultivates an area of interest, such as the arts, without real commitment or knowledge” (all hail our overlords over at Google). “The Dilettante is for people who are interested in things like the arts, but don’t want to go too serious with it,” its editor muses. “They don't want to be an expert. They're not looking to be the best at any one thing - they're just interested in a lot of different things. So catering to those was the real starting point.” This commitment to the not-quite-committed is the ultimate “ethos” of the magazine, she continues, reinforcing the idea that - in a world where social media platforms like Instagram have made many think that only perfection is permissible - “no one has to be the best” at what they do, but rather just embrace their joy for whatever that may be.

There is a really welcoming culture for creatives in Nottingham, which I really enjoy

This is a philosophy Sophie has tried to uphold since the days of the Gazette, so, besides being bigger, how is this new iteration of The Dilettante different to the old? Well, mainly through its broader scope, focusing no longer solely on the happenings in and history of our own city, but the wider world of the curiously creative. “The Gazette was a free zine specifically for Nottingham that we published every couple of months, but it was quite limited because we were obviously mainly writing about Notts and we had limited space,” Sophie explains. “So this was a real chance to expand on a lot of things and have a wider outlook.” 

If you’re worried that the magazine will lose some of that famous East Midlands magic that made it so charming in the past, however, fear not. Sophie speaks fondly of the influence of Nottingham and its community on both herself and the magazine, saying, “There is a really welcoming culture here for creatives, which I really enjoy. Brighton, where I lived before, has such a reputation for being a creative place, but I didn't really find that sense of belonging or encouragement down there. It was a stark difference when I moved here, which I really love.” This “really friendly community” will continue to guide the writing style and spirit of The Dilettante, she continues, with the NTU graduate forever channelling the character of this vibrant city, and its “big print culture”, into her work. 

Provided the Government doesn’t beans everything and drag us back into a perpetual state of lockdown, Sophie is planning to bring this community face-to-face once more, aiming to supplement the bi-annual release of the magazine with gatherings and events centred around eccentricity. “When we used to produce the Gazette back in the day, we'd have society meetings where anyone could come along and have a chat about bizarre things that they've come across,” she muses. “That was a lovely little group that we created back then, and I'd love to do that again at some point. The last couple of years have been hard, but we definitely want to get back to that.” Whatever happens, one thing’s for sure - this strange and fascinating city will always be at the heart of this strange and fascinating publication.

Issue one of The Dilettante magazine is now available to purchase at the Dilettante Society website

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