It’s always satisfying to see the broad range of material that passes through our presses, especially when it’s the work of passionate and creative individuals. In the case of Rituals & Declarations magazine, it was clear we had something curious and unique on our hands. It’s a relatively new publication that features entirely original writing and artwork that covers topics spanning folklore, myth and all things Gothic.
Delving into the origins
Having played a role in the production of Rituals & Declarations, we were interested to learn more about this beautiful and beguiling magazine and how it came to be established. It turned out, like a lot of important ideas, this one started with a chat between two friends in a pub. Those two friends were the writer David Southwell and the artist Paul Watson, who’d go on to become the editor and publisher of Rituals & Declarations. We got in touch with Paul to find out more about the origins of the magazine.
That night in the pub, David and Paul were bemoaning the lack of an independent publication that served their esoteric interests – namely “weird” fiction and art – and the upshot was Paul’s decision to create Rituals & Declarations. I use the word “weird” advisedly as it’s Paul’s preferred term to encompass the magazine’s subject matter:
“Rituals & Declarations is concerned with the Weird – artwork, fiction, and articles. I have a very broad and inclusive definition of the Weird, but Rituals & Declarations tends to coalesce around folklore, folk horror, and the gothic.”
Taking the third and latest issue as an example, you’ll find articles on the last Pagan King in England, the Weird in Video Games, the Peaschtlnnacht and Krampusnacht folk celebrations in Austria, the rituals of Thai Lanna Buddhism, and recollections of 1980s Pagan Zines – along with several pieces of fiction and visual artwork, including Paul’s own.
The idea becomes a reality
But when Paul started work on the first issue back in the autumn of 2019, he had no experience in putting together a magazine from scratch. As a visual artist and IT specialist, Paul had a good foundation of skills to build on, but still faced a steep learning curve as he developed all the know-how he needed. His ambitious plan was to release 4 quarterly editions of the magazine over the course of a year. After putting himself through an arduous boot camp of hard work and self-tuition, the first edition of Rituals & Declarations was ready for publication in December 2019.
When it came to print, Paul was in no doubt about approaching Solopress:
“I’d had a few things printed by Solopress before, including a limited edition A4 book of my own artwork called England’s Dark Dreaming, which has now sold out. So the decision to use Solopress to print Rituals & Declarations was an easy one – I’ve been consistently happy with both the print quality and the price.”
His dark materials
Because of the importance of the visual arts in the magazine, it was paramount for Paul that the paper stock and finish could do justice to the work. Accordingly, Rituals & Declarations is printed as a full-colour A5 perfect bound brochure, with the rich content and imagery reflected in the use of silk paper stock throughout. The interior is printed on 130gsm silk and the cover is 200gsm silk.
“The 130gsm silk interior paper stock is heavy enough and the finish is great for both text and the interior images – and since the magazine contains visual artwork by myself and others I definitely wanted images to look and feel professional and high quality.”
Matt lamination applied to the cover makes it pleasant to the touch, but also helps to keep the magazine in good condition while it’s in the post or on shop shelves. Perfect-bound production means that each 74-page copy of Rituals & Declarations feels authentic and substantial and will sit on a shelf with the spine visible.
As a result of Paul’s choices, Rituals & Declarations has a collectable feel that demands it should be displayed, cherished and revisited for a long time to come.
There’s a financial challenge involved in starting up any magazine, but Paul raised the stakes with his determination that all the magazine’s contributors should be paid for their work:
”There’s a disappointing tendency, both online and in print, to try to get people to supply their writing and artwork unpaid, offering nothing but “exposure”. As an artist myself I wanted to make sure that all contributors were paid for their work for Rituals & Declarations, and I’m proud that I’ve managed to do that.”
As it turned out, the magazine’s thriving circulation exceeded expectations, transforming Rituals & Declarations from a labour of love into a going concern that supports itself and pays its contributors.
Paul opted for a print run of 500 copies for the first issue. He thought that was perhaps too optimistic, but Issue 1 has twice been reprinted and Issue 3 had an initial print run of 2000 copies!
So what does the future hold for Rituals & Declarations now that the initial planned run of four editions has been fulfilled? After the success of the 2020 run, Paul’s feels that there’s both material and demand to extend the run, so fortunately for fans, a further 4 editions are now pencilled in for 2021.
Getting your hands on Rituals & Declarations
If you feel like the magazine might be right up your dark alley, all four editions so far are available to order online from the Rituals & Declarations website. It’s also being stocked in a growing number of retailers in the UK, Germany, and the US, including the iconic Treadwell’s Bookshop who were the first shop to stock it in London near the British Museum, and the shop ‘Magazine’ in Paul’s home town of Brighton. Rituals & Declarations also maintains accounts on Twitter at @RitualsZine and Instagram at @ritualsdeclarations.
If you’re interested in publishing your own magazine, you can do what Paul Watson did and visit our Brochures and Booklets page. There are a host of size and paper stock options on offer that will help you create a distinctive and professional-looking magazine.