The Story Behind: The 50th edition of The Drouth

SAYS Scots magazine, The Drouth, on its website, about itself: “The Drouth (‘The Thirst’) is a quarterly magazine published in Glasgow, Scotland. Founded in 2001 by Mitch Miller and Johnny Rodger, we continue to pursue our original remit, to give space to writers and artists to stimulate debate on literature, film politics, reportage, visual culture, music and architecture.”

The website continues: “Every issue has a particular theme, a guest editor (usually someone of distinction in a given field) and guest cover artist. Our contributors are artists, scholars and commentators who engage with prevalent political and social concerns through their respective disciplines. While we provide a theme and some initial ideas, we offer contributors freedom to explore new ideas and unfamiliar territories.”

Until the 15th of next month, an exhibition celebrating the magazine’s 50th edition is being staged at the Reid Ground Floor Corridor, Reid Building, The Glasgow School of Art, 164 Renfrew Street, Glasgow.

Here, Miller and Rodger answer the questions…

What exactly was the brief?

There was no brief exactly – but 14 years we ago we noted that there was no magazine in Scotland that covered literature, art or politics in-depth, from a Scottish perspective. So we made one.

Our first issue came out in June 2001, under the theme of ‘Change’. Since then, each quarterly edition has had an unifying theme that is addressed from various different angles  – and it’s interesting how many other magazines seemed to have adopted that idea since then!

We see our job as providing depth and complexity around a given subject. We are not a magazine that there’s to reinforce tribal certainties, lifestyle, or your latest Facebook status update.

What first struck you about the job?

The range of competences involved – you have to deal with people, production, finances – and still retain a clear idea of what you want to achieve, thematically and creatively.

Describe the process from conception to completion

We do four issues a year, but, even so, there’s rarely much pause between each edition. Issue 50 is 120 pages thick – that came from a long process of identifying contributors and compiling the copy. We generally start with the theme we want to address, and then commission around that.

Once the copy comes in, we can get to work on the running order, let the guest editor take a look, while we pull together the inside illustrations.

The cover art is usually one of the last things to come and it’s always quite exciting to see how the artist has responded to the theme.

Pantone numbers, fonts, use of space, kit, etc?

When we started, we used to typeset in PageMaker and glue the illustrations into the gaps we’d purposefully left, all laid out on Johnny’s floor!

This was then made up with litho process at the printers.

We’ve been digital since issue four, though, and now work with Graphical House.

The font on issue 50 is not one you’ll find on InDesign though – it was a bespoke font designed for us by Colin Raeburn of Graphical House to celebrate issue 50. It’s based on Glasgow’s Titan Crane and called ‘Drouth Titan’ and we’re delighted with it.

What most excited you about the project and what pleases you the most about the finished article?

With issue 50 and the accompanying exhibition, it was a great opportunity to see the past 14 years of your life laid out, and take stock.

We’ve also been blessed to work with some great artists, writers and thinkers who have, as a rule, been incredibly generous to a small, independent magazine.

Being able to celebrate that, say ‘thank you’ in print and on the walls of the Glasgow School of Art was hugely gratifying.

Any particular inspirations from your past that have shaped you and your work?

We’re both active in our own spheres (Johnny as a writer and Professor of Urban Literature  at Glasgow School of Art, and Mitch as an artist/illustrator and postgraduate researcher) so we frequently pull in ideas and contributions from those we encounter in our professional work.

Our editorial board is also assembled from many different disciplines and areas of expertise such Scottish/English literature, music, television, film and journalism, so they are also able to bring their own perspective to the magazine.

Been impressed recently by someone else’s work?

The original idea for the exhibition of a magazine, its processes, its images and texts and how it is all put together is something we got from a visit to the ABC Museum of Illustration and Design in Madrid.

Most folk visit the Prado and Thyssen when they hit the Spanish capital. But this brilliant little building in a little-known, working-class area, by architects Aranguren and Gallego, is one of the most exciting and dynamic centres of graphic culture in Europe.

They put on wonderful exhibitions of ‘zine and other print culture absolutely free.

Everybody in this business certainly should visit it.