In today’s guest post I talk to Ben Godfrey and Nathan Connolly, some of the team behind The Night Light, an online arts magazine based in the fair city of Manchester.  Read on to find out about funding (or lack of), what they look for in submissions, and doing it yourself.

How did the Night Light get started?

NC: The Night Light began somewhere in 2009. It was definitely the winter but I can’t be anymore precise than that. It was me and Tom (co-founder of the site) at the time and we had talked about doing something of Night Light nature for some time. One night we went out to try and discuss it and ended up drunk. We were then approached by some sort of night time poetic vagrant who read poems in exchange for beer money. One poem he told us made mention of the light of night. The name came from that and evolved from that point. There is a much more poetic reciting of that story by Tom on the ‘about’ page of our site.

BG: Tom and Nathan had this sort of epiphany, I imagine like at the start of Ghostbusters when Bill Murray’s swigging out of a paper bag and convinces Dan Aykroyd to start a business with him. I really liked the idea. I’ve always had an idea in the back of my mind to flex some dormant creative muscle and thought it kind of a shame for everyone to have like individual blogs or gallery pages that four people and a dog would read. So combining our efforts in a co-operative setting seemed both practical and really fun. Twelve people and three dogs.

The site takes stories, poems & plays; essays & articles; visual art & multimedia; and events – who are you guys and where do you find the time to go through all that stuff?

NC: The short answer is that we don’t. There is a lot more we could be doing with the site but at the moment it exists purely on our own after work steam. As to who we are: three dudes with Internet access. I’m not sure we can claim much more esteem or reputation than that really.

BG: We’re trying to work out a plan to be more organised but at the moment it’s a hobby we tend to whenever we we’re a bit bored. Only messing, we love it.

Why online? 

BG: I think the original idea of Tom and Nathan’s was to go straight to print. But that takes more preparation and, crucially, money. There’s the obvious answer too of how far and wide we can get with one website as opposed to printing a couple of hundred pamphlets or books.

NC: We always wanted it to be print and had imagined it as such from the beginning but when it came down to it we couldn’t afford it. We’re broke, all three of us, and the Internet is free so we thought it better to get something started. Since that time I think we have all gained a little more respect for what can be done for nothing on the generosity of really talented and generous people. I dread the day these people recall their favours because my debt to them probably equals my student debt by now.

Have you got any desire to go into print publishing? Why/not?

The Hapless Badger (Hassan Torossian and Nathan Connolly)

NC: Of course we want to go into print.

BG: We like artefacts and nicely produced tangible stuff. If and when we get around to it, I know we’ll make sure any physical Night Light material will be really beautiful. We know too many good designers and illustrators for it not to be, really.

NC: We also want to go into moving image and more live shit and all kinds of stuff. It is a definite that we intend to get into other mediums and, slowly, we are just making the best of what opportunities come our way with what resources we can muster.

BG: Also, getting involved in print media at a time when that’s supposed be a terrible idea appeals the belligerent teenager in me.

Are you funded or voluntary?

NC: Voluntary. We need funding but, again, time and resources. I think we also secretly like the fact that we aren’t accountable to anyone.

BG: It’s totally a hobby at the moment. We’ve spent bits of money since we started but between us it hasn’t been much. At the moment we’ve no plans that require a lot of money. When we do, we’ll definitely look into making friends with kindly rich patrons of the arts. Right now we’d only blow it on stationary and booze.

How do you see yourselves fitting in to the Manchester and UK arts scenes?

NC: Tough question. We are collaborating all over the place and our submissions come from the Internet so they aren’t even limited to the UK.

BG: I haven’t thought about that before. I know we’re not a unique operation in terms of the idea but we’re an individual organisation because of the people involved. We wanted to provide a platform for us and our friends to release our work to a shared audience and we’re doing that. The more attention the website gets the more we can provide that service to the contributors.

NC: I think we all love Manchester as we choose to live here and we have a massive respect for all that is equated with the city. The arts scene here is great and we are glad to be a part of it and to be welcomed by it but, again, we aren’t limited by it; the Internet negates location. The great thing about the events side of TNL is that we are able to remove the limitations of being web based so that is good.

BG: We’re trying to sort out some kind of collaboration with another website at the minute and we’ll see how that goes.If we can fit in at all to an existing scene or established group I hope it’s through collaboration. If we can find like-minded people anywhere – Manchester, England or anywhere – I’d like to figure out ways to work with them. One of my favourite contributions to The Night Light came from Canada. I’m a little bit obsessed with Europe’s eastern border so I’d like to find some people out there to work with.

NC: To answer the question: I don’t know. Communities are great and any community that welcomes us we are glad to be a part of. That is essentially what I have learnt by doing this thing on the web.

What do you look for in a submission?

BG: I’m not qualified at all to set out a framework or whatever. The things I’ve responded the most strongly to have all been quite different. I suppose the quality they’ve shared is, above anything else, a genuine voice. I read a lot of stuff – and I’m guilty of it myself – where it feels like the author is trying to emulate some concept of an ‘author’. Like, words they’ve chosen seem a bit disingenuous and break the flow of, often, good stuff. My favourite pieces work as well spoken as they do written. A genuine voice, yeah. I suppose I look for that.

NC: The difficulty is that we try and deal with many mediums but above all we look for someone having something to say and a way of saying it. But, ignoring that bullshit laden sentence I think the rule is that if one of us cares enough to argue the case for something then it deserves to go up.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever read?

NC: Anything where someone just writes and doesn’t think about the why or the how. As in why they wrote it and how they wrote it.

BG: I actually spent an hour or so the other week reading Black Eyed Peas lyrics online. I can remember exactly why but it’s a really stupid reason. Genuinely, fucking unbearable shit.


You can find the magazine on Twitter and Facebook, or read it here.