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On the making of ‘Lindsay’: Ten minutes with Beth Ellen Wilkinson

WORDS BY SABINA McKENNA

How she built a magazine from scratch. 

Beth Ellen Wilkinson is a name growing in recognition, both here and abroad. She is the founder, editor and creative director of Lindsay, a biannual print magazine of worldly essays, interviews, recipes and photography that is rapidly earning its place on the shelves of an expanding number of stockists around the world. 

The publication’s tagline is ‘a magazine celebrating the importance of culture and place’. This importance is highlighted through thoughtful, long-form stories that find their foundations in different locations around the world. It’s a borderless and considered approach to storytelling that separates Lindsay from a mass of titles and has earned it its clout as a publication worth reading.

The story of how Beth created it – leaving full-time work and going out on her own – has become a hallmark of the magazine. And however risky they might have been, her efforts to date have resulted in four beautiful issues and numerous experiences, lessons and triumphs along the way. 

Her remarkable drive and talent is evident in how far Lindsay has come in three short years. Though she has no regrets, her key takeaway is that patience is a virtue as valuable as hard work.

Beth, tell me about the moments leading up to starting Lindsay. What was missing from the existing publications you were reading? 

I’ve always been interested in exploring ‘place’ from the perspective of cultural identity and history and didn’t feel like there was another magazine doing that. It’s not about where to eat or the most beautiful places to visit, it’s about understanding the intricacies of what makes a culture or a place what it is on a very intimate level.

It must have been huge to leave the security of your work, especially without having started a magazine before. How did you decide where to start?

I read a lot and spoke to a lot of people – I haven’t stopped learning. I think it’s important to plan and be strategic, but at the same time, you also have to be responsive. Being too fixated on a particular vision won’t allow you to see new opportunities. A lot has evolved for Lindsay along the way.

It must have been a huge workload. How did you balance work and life as it expanded?

It’s a difficult question and something that I’ve thought about a lot. It’s some unexplainable deep love that has enabled me to keep going at times. I have tried to establish ways to balance everything better, but at the same time, there are a lot of questions around when work is actually just a part of life. I remember watching the Ryuichi Sakamoto documentary after we interviewed him and being so fascinated by the way his work and life are so intertwined. So I think it’s about carefully balancing the parts of your work that bring you joy and the parts that take a lot of energy, and how to not let the latter take over.

How have you navigated uncertainty in the making of Lindsay?

When you do something that isn’t a regular pathway, uncertainty is part of the process. You can’t help but question the decisions you’re making and the risks you’re taking. It’s not possible for me to know where Lindsay will go or who will say yes or no to what idea I have, but that’s also part of the beauty in it all. I’ve also had to become resilient to be able to keep going knowing that uncertainty will always be there.

Is there a moment that you can share that was a specific learning curve?

When I went to New York to launch the second issue at McNally Jackson. Naturally, I wanted to make the most out of the trip. So I spent so long setting up as many meetings with potential advertisers or partners or contributors as possible, that it was crazy when I actually got there. And then I would have to come home each night and do my day’s work on top of my full day of meetings or shoots. 

I didn’t really think it through and it was very hard. I learnt so much from that, and it made me realise that you don’t need to do everything right away. There are always going to be more opportunities down the track.  

Well, it definitely paid off. You’re very skilled and driven, but if you could attribute your success to something in particular, what would that be? 

Mostly passion and hard work. But really so many things come into play. I think luck is part of it and, like you mentioned, you need to have the skills to create what you’re creating – that’s fundamental – but there’s also a million other things. Courage is a big part of it. Being okay that it all might fail but doing it anyway.

Yeah for sure. So how do you see Lindsay expanding from here? 

Lindsay is an idea, not just a magazine, and that could come to life in so many other ways. I have ideas for printed books or a podcast or video content, so many ideas. On top of that, I have been quietly working on my creative agency Oak Park Studio. Essentially Lindsay will be a key project coming out of the studio and also a way for me to do what I have done for Lindsay, but for other brands and projects. 

lindsaymagazine.co

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