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A Magazine for Sheffield

Now Then #100 : Imposter Syndrome in the House of Graft

What makes this city worth fighting for, worth striving to improve? What makes it great? I’ve heard people say Sheffield doesn’t shout about itself, doesn’t boast enough about what’s happening here, doesn’t celebrate its successes widely enough. I like that about Sheffield. Seek and you’ll find. Ask and you’ll be assisted. People say Sheffield is defined by its doers, its collective getting on with it, that it's full to the brim with humility, that people in Sheffield just move on to the next task, the next project, the next to-do, the next challenge. People say we don’t see value in kudos or big mouths, that what we do is what defines us, and that what defines us is what we’re working on right now, not what we’ve achieved. With that in mind, we didn’t want this article to be self-congratulatory. After all, Now Then is just an abstraction of the people who make it. We are a community of doers, of artists, writers, musicians, volunteers, poets, sales people, designers, administrators, managers, marketeers, traders and, most importantly, a community of friends and of consensus. Together, we have been making a free magazine for Sheffield for eight years now and, while the line-up changes each month and year by year, the magazine remains something which anyone can contribute to. Anyone can pick up a copy of Now Then all over Sheffield, not just in the City Centre and the affluent south west. Get in touch and share your opinion of the world. In the spirit of Sheffield’s self-effacing drive, we’ll be working on another printed issue for you in September. These past eight years have been tumultuous. Our company, Opus Independents, was born in the shadow of the 2008 crash and our back catalogue is full of victories as well as complete fails: printing the month as ‘November' in the December 2013 issue; accidentally but hilariously describing Story Forge as a "Tory Telling night"; our third magazine in March 2008 including a quarter page of apologies for the misspelling of contributor names; the month when we sent an unprintable magazine to the printers, resulting in two blank pages; and, looking back, perhaps a favourite editorial sign-off in issue #12, “In the last issue we said you can eat the packaging at Green Steps chip shop in Hunters Bar. This is not yet the case, so for the minute we advise against it.” Looking back, what struck us was the overwhelming feeling of how little we knew when starting out. Projects like Now Then often come from a grassroots background, but actually none of us had any background at all in journalism, publishing or running a business. We knew nothing. Mind you, having your mistakes printed 8,000 times and distributed all over the city forces you to learn from them pretty quickly. Other memories that sprang to mind: writing company values while listening to Nick Drake's Pink Moon (I do remember this now, Sam); our launch party at DQ (R.I.P) in April 2008; our second year bash at the Forum with Denis Jones and Mean Poppa Lean; taking awe and late-night hedonism to a new level (who knew 'telly jumping' was a thing?); our increase in circulation from 2,000 copies in 2008 to 8,000 by 2011; producing a Manchester counterpart and proudly setting a wheel in motion; seeing artwork from the magazine plastered over bars, toilets, shop window mannequins and people's living rooms; interviewing Stewart Lee, Tony Benn, Bridget Riley, Jarvis, Hawley, Kate Tempest, George Monbiot and Adam Curtis, the latter being the pay-off from guessing his email address. In this age of strived for but wasted surplus, to us the 'why' has always been as important as the 'how'. I remember hearing a quote from Noam Chomsky early in 2007 and being blown away by its verity: “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.” How clearly we see this illustrated in the recent EU referendum debate. In many ways Now Then is a response to this. As we say each month in the opening spread of the mag, we are a vehicle for encouraging and supporting participation, activism and creativity, operating on the principle that 'nothing about us, without us, is for us'. Now Then requires around £9,000 each month to be sustainable and any profit we make goes back into the company and its projects. We print locally on quality paper stock (props to Evolution Print) and we recycle. We split the magazine broadly into thirds made up of art, articles and advertising from local independent traders only. We do this to ensure that the magazine is content-led, because it is content – voices, inspirations, opinions and discussions – that will progress the world we live in. And it does need progressing. We’ve had quite a few offers from corporate multi-nationals wanting to reach an "engaged local readership" and we’ve turned them down every time. We will continue to do so, and in doing so bring our readers' attention to where it should be – Sheffield and its local economy, its artisans and its grafters. Running a small business is no joke. It’s often a labour of love and it’s these enterprises which frequently define Sheffield, marking it out as the gem that it is and not the corporate high street monoculture of other UK cities. Heed these words Sheffield City Council (*cough* New Retail Quarter *cough*). Before writing this article I was introduced to the concept of imposter syndrome. It struck a chord with me – this notion of being unable to internalise accomplishments due to a persistent fear of being exposed as a fraud, despite evidence to the contrary – and so I wanted to sign off this article by saying that we know more than we did before, enough to know that we can do better, and we will. Now Then Magazine is produced by Opus Independents, a not-for-profit social enterprise based in Sheffield and founded in 2005. We are the team behind Word Life, Opus Distribution, Gadabout, Festival of Debate and many other projects, and we are going to make a difference. Join us. Editor: Poetry and Prose Submissions: Advertising: Artist: James Green )

Next article in issue 100

Our Fair City: Be A Champion

The murder of Jo Cox, MP for Batley and Spen, on 16 June shocked Britain. As such, the tone of this article has changed from the original…

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