The creative industry has become exactly that—an industry. As student loan debts in the US are calculated somewhere between $902 million and $1 trillion (and rising) and in the UK student loans outweigh their American counterparts, the job market is slowly drying up. Students are graduating and moving back in with their parents, working at cafés and restaurants, or taking on unpaid internships.
“For three months you do a load stuff and by the end of it you’re doing the work that someone else is being paid to do—then you get really angry and leave. But before you’re out the door, the next person is in there just as enthusiastic as you were,” says Alec Dudson, Editor in Chief of Intern. Intern is a guide—in the form of print magazine, talks and workshops—for young creatives trying to navigate the treacherous world of internships, freelancing and starting a career.
Intern also explores the sometimes rewarding, sometimes exploitative nature of internships—which Alec has had his own taste of. After graduating with a Master in Sociology at Manchester University, he found himself working in bars with no direction for his career. “A friend of mine brought a copy of Boat into work. It was the first issue—‘Sarajevo’, from 2011. I really appreciated that their crew went there and tried as much as they could to embed themselves into the situation instead of projecting meaning onto the place. It seemed a lot more like a documentary film type of approach than any of the stuff that I’d seen in magazines when I was growing up,” he says.
“Despite doing nine months of internships, nobody in the industry I was keen to enter was ready to pay me.”
This prompted Alec’s fascination for the burgeoning independent magazine scene that led him to intern with Domus and eventually, with Boat Magazine. “Bittersweet thing about it, was it was unpaid. So it presented me with a bit of an issue—trying to live in London for seven months without an income—so it was bar job, bicycle and sleeping on people’s couches. There’s this idea that you start off with no experience, then you gain the experience which gives you more value, then someone will be prepared to pay you full time. But despite doing nine months of internships, nobody in the industry I was keen to enter was ready to pay me. It was then that I started setting something up of my own,” says Alec.
Launched by a Kickstarter campaign, the first issue of Intern came out in 2013—a venture that combined Alec’s learnings from editorial internships with keen networking skills in the middle of London’s booming indie mag scene, “In London, every other week there is some independent magazine having an event or maybe a talk series by It’s Nice That or something by the Magculture guys.”
Inside Intern Issue Four:
Creative Career Paths
A few years (and issues) later and Intern has hollowed out a nice place for itself within the indie mag scene, netting interviews with notable creatives like Jessica Walsh, Eike König and Mike Perry—however at its heart, remaining a champion of emerging talent. You won’t recognize many of the names appearing on the covers of Intern—but it likely won’t be the last time you’ll see them. “The idea was to create something that was for and by all these people who were all trapped in the circle of underpaid and unpaid work. With the intention firstly, of showing that their work had value to people on the outside and secondly, showing them that their work had value by actually paying them.”
“Having that little boost in confidence and pride in what you’re doing is what makes or breaks it.”
In the era of online ‘content sharing’ where ‘exposure’ is traded instead of actual money, paying contributors seems almost novel—though it offers rewards for Alec: “When I ask our contributors to invoice us, I always tell them ‘if you’ve never invoiced someone before, just drop me a line and I’ll talk you through how to do it.’ A lot of the times it’s their first invoice. And it’s really nice seeing that 001 on the invoice. We get a lot of those. It’s great to see that switch in people’s mentality—where they’re like ‘Wow, I get paid for this now!’ Having that little boost in confidence and pride in what you’re doing is what makes or breaks it.”
“The magazine serves as a really good way to take a step back from all the noise,” chimes in Andrew Bennett, Intern’s feature editor, “and it’s not just about railing against unpaid internships. We can support young people by giving them a platform to showcase their work or supporting someone like me to be involved.” Alec and Andrew began working together when Andrew was just 16 years old—writing album reviews for a website Alec was running at the time. Now a university student, Andrew is a poster child for Intern’s faith in the capabilities of young creatives.
Andrew is remarkably lucky though, having exited the traditional means of the career track—getting an internship, toiling away doing grunt work and then moving (if all goes to plan) onto a good position—but the sad truth is that most people are stuck in that very predicament, or worse. “There’s a constant accusation of millennials: that they assume everything will be lined up for them. You have to work hard to get what you want but I do not think that it’s unreasonable to assume that after being loaded with £13,000 worth of student debt that you should be broadly employable. I think that’s fucked,” says Alec, “There’s always this lingering accusation of entitlement but hopefully the stories we tell will convey the message that it’s going to be hard to make it—nothing comes easy.”
Spread the word
Intern's workshops and talks
In addition to the magazine, Alec leads workshops and lectures under the Intern banner. In these, he shares the knowledge he’s gained about the independent magazine game and his impressions about the current state of affairs in the creative industry. The photos below are from a magazine workshop he led at the 180 Creative Camp in Abrantes, Portugal. As of October 2016, he is a visiting lecturer at Leeds College of Art.
“You can make any magazine with good content but by having a mission throughout it, it does something more than just sit on the shelf hoping someone buys it.”
“But when the vast majority of internships are unpaid it exacerbates the situation where only a small group of people can afford to live in, say, New York and work at an unpaid internship,” adds Andrew.
As a platform for emerging creative talent, Intern hopes to even out the playing field. “I find it painfully problematic that cultural production comes from this tiny subset of people that can afford to work unpaid with the hopes of gaining a position,” says Alec, “One of our key concerns is diversity—especially in the creative industry. You’re producing culture, the whole idea of that is to reflect the world that surrounds you.”
Intern’s wide range of interview subjects and featured artists speak to their dedication to diversity—featuring art, works and experiences from young creatives everywhere between Buenos Aires and the magazine’s base in Manchester (including former MoreSleep intern, Jack Walsh). “You can make any magazine with good content but by having a mission throughout it, it does something more than just sit on the shelf hoping someone buys it,” posits Andrew.
It’s this ‘practice what you preach’ mentality that drives Intern, and all but ensures its lasting legacy as a publication—an increasingly difficult feat in the close-to-oversaturated indie magazine market. “None of these magazines could have existed without the internet. That’s the sweet irony of it all. We’re, as a generation, producing print publications because we’re sick of the internet. There’s more noise on the internet than there is in magazine stores—though they’re moving in that direction,” says Alec, “Many indie magazine publishers are thinking, ‘I have this print magazine and that’s my space—people will respect that because it’s legit, it’s in print.’ That’s fine, but if that’s your sole motive for being in print then it won’t last very long. You’ve got to create an ongoing, lasting value. Even the prettiest of independent magazine stores leaves you overwhelmed for choices.”
Thank you Alec and Andrew for speaking with us about Intern’s mission of empowering young creatives.
Alec Dudson is the editor in chief of Intern as well as a freelance writer and editor, workshop leader and an associate lecturer at the Leeds College of Art’s Graphic Design department. He is currently based in Manchester.
Andrew Bennett is features editor of Intern and is currently a student at the University of Bristol. In addition to working on Intern’s print magazine, Andrew also assists with workshops.
Find more of stories of FvF’s favorite indie mags in our Print Matters section.