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Karen

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Guest Steven Dedalus

What's actually in it? (I didn't find the website particularly helpful)

I'm always interesetd in nice paper.

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What's actually in it? (I didn't find the website particularly helpful)

I'm always interesetd in nice paper.

there's a couple of interviews, with a coal merchant and a butcher, a bunch of nice photos and quotes, overheard conversations etc, a piece about someones arthritis and so on. There are a couple of sample pages on the website...I mainly got it to give to my mum because she has recently developed a habit of reading shit like hello! magazine.

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Dispatches | Media | The Guardian

Magazines

Beelzebub relocates to the Cotswolds

More than six months after his sudden exit from the Bristol Evening Post, Barry Beelzebub is back in an editor's chair. He now rides the genteel Cotswold hills at the helm of the region's coffee-table glossy Cotswold Life. His reappearance is not, to Beelzebub watchers, without irony.

For the uninitiated, Beelzebub is a columnist of stark and uncompromising views, whose rants - often at the "massed ranks of lentil-eating, sandal-wearing Guardianistas" - were the source of much controversy when aired by the Bristol Evening Post. No surprise that they found a home there, given that Beelzebub and former Post editor Mike Lowe are one and the same. Lowe left the Post last June after nine years, during which he created Barry as the voice of what were billed as "devil's advocate" columns, and began at Cotswold Life last week.

As Beelzebub, Lowe had a talent for causing offence that may not be quite what the ladies of Cheltenham look for when they buy Cotswold Life. This may be the magazine in which Joanna Trollope vented her spleen about gastropubs containing Kate Moss, but controversy is not its thing. And it is decidedly Barry's.

Take the following vintage Beelzebub. Barry had no need of an offensive cartoon when he enlightened the world with the following brainwave: "Some Muslims believe it is a mortal sin to have anything to do with pigs ... So why not equip our boys with pork bullets? The towel-heads will then spend all their time dodging flying lumps of crackling-and-black-pudding bombs while we roll down the road to Baghdad unimpeded."

Being a devil's advocate is, of course, to take an opposite view purely for the sake of argument. Thus, Beelzebub on an overture to attract Gypsies to the police force - "like asking Louise Woodward to babysit" - and women's rights in the workplace: "If builders can strip to the waist while at work, why can't a woman get her baps out whenever she wants?"

Lowe's first issue of Cotswold Life was not, it must be said, awash with racism, minority-bashing and page-three stunnas, but many (and not all of them lentil-eaters) might conclude that he gives Beelzebub far too free a rein. But is he likely to care? The devil does, after all, look after his own.

Charlie French

Fanzines

A life that's just plain ordinary

Given the magazine-buying public's seemingly insatiable appetite for celebrity tittle-tattle, launching a publication devoted to the humdrum lives of unknowns would seem risky at best.

But the first issue of Karen - named after founder Karen Lubbock - won Emap's Publishing Award for Best Lifestyle Fanzine of 2005, with judges declaring it "an utterly original publication".

The magazine shuns celebrity and sensational real-life stories, favouring everyday people and the mundane details of their lives. Each copy of issue one was signed by Lubbock. The edition featured Ben, a West Country farmer, explaining how he roasted road-kill peacock for dinner, a recipe for Neil's favourite tea - two pints of Worthy's, followed by jacket potato with diced onion and melted cheese, cheese-and-onion quiche with beetroot, diced carrot, lettuce and cucumber - all sprinkled with grated cheese and smothered in salad cream - and Jackie's weather diary.

"Karen is a reflection of the rise of celebrity magazines," explains Lubbock. "I am interested in how magazines focus on celebrity culture and how we're regaled with the minutiae of their lives. But I'm really interested in the minutiae of non-celebrity lives and elevating it to that kind of celebrity status through the magazine - however mundane, ordinary and boring it might be."

Karen is observational, quirky and gentle, consisting of conversations that Lubbock has had with friends, acquaintances and strangers. Photographs are affectionate, and its layout is bold and clear. It also has a unique relationship with its contributors. "I value the people in the magazine and make sure they're agreeable to appearing in the magazine, and they check the copy," explains Lubbock, who produces the magazine from her base in Rodbourne Bottom, Wiltshire. "I don't want to abuse the trust I have with the contributors. Without people contributing, I would have no magazine."

Lubbock self-distributed the first issue of Karen, which has now sold out, and issue two is available in specialist bookshops, such as Borders, thanks to a distribution deal with Central Books. However, the increased print run means Lubbock has not been able to sign each copy, though if you buy a copy through her website (KAREN MAGAZINE - MADE OUT OF THE ORDINARY), you will find a free gift on page 3: a hand-picked, pressed leaf.

Rahul Verma

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