Sex

'Lyra' Magazine Gives a Radical Perspective on Lust, Love and Sex

Georgina Gray's new magazine 'Lyra' takes influence from the radical magazines of the 60s and 70s.

by Amelia Abraham
15 September 2016, 12:00am


Photo by Spencer Tunick

If you really sat down and tried, you could turn a lot of pages in the space of 30 days. While we've spent over a decade providing you with about 120 of those pages every month, it turns out that VICE isn't the only magazine in the world. This series, Ink Spots, is a helpful guide to which zines, pamphlets, and publications you should be reading when you're not reading ours.

Self-love, vanity, lust; all topics to stop and consider for Lyra magazine, a new journal covering sex, culture and contemporary thought. It's a heady mix: Issue One's content page opens with an essay on lust from Cambridge philosopher Simon Blackburn, features think-pieces on "Allah's Sex Slaves", "Spitting" and "The Big O", and discusses the work of artists from filmmaker Chantal Akerman to Paul Verhoeven (yes, the guy who directed Showgirls... using "artist" loosely here).

Throughout the magazine, there's a constant emphasis on cross-generational conversation; interviews with wise elders like octogenarian artist Molly Parkin and former Nova magazine agony aunt Irma Kurtz. There's also a mix of old talent and new among the artwork; the magazine features photography spreads from Spencer Tunick – the famous American photographer known for his group shots of nudes – and rising Ukrainian photographer Sasha Kurnaz.

Lyra's founder and editor, Georgina Gray, says she wanted to create something that feels both nostalgic and new. I spoke to her to find out more.

VICE: Hi Georgina. Can you start by telling me a bit about you? What made you want to start Lyra?
I'm a journalist, Polish by origin. I've always loved magazines – I spend a fortune on them – and I've always been a feminist as well. I started Lyra because I would sit at the dinner table with friends and we'd talk about things that bother us. We're young, ambitious and intelligent people – we have the power to try to change things. One day I decided that, if I want to actually have a voice, I should publish a magazine. I wanted to make it cross-generational in emphasis because I think we don't look to other generations for life lessons; we just look at older people like they don't exist.

Does the team reflect that ethos?
Yes. I'm 48 now – I'm of a much older generation than the people I work with. Our other editor, Jago, is 22. I saw him give a talk discussing a magazine he works on called Hysteria, and I liked the way he expressed himself. We went for coffee, I told him what I wanted to do and he said, "OK, let's make it happen." We were the most unlikely couple. Jago's mum is only two years older than me, so the cross-generational ideas thing was there from the beginning and is really ingrained in the way that we work.


Photo by Sasha Kurmaz

Lyra Issue One says it's "for women" on the front cover, but you're working with a guy on it, and a lot of your contributors are male. Isn't that statement limiting?
I think we've since realised that it's for everyone – that to say it's for women is a bit of a contradiction. It was almost a commercial decision, but hopefully when people read it, it will be passed on. That boyfriends and friends will read it and think, 'There's something for me here, too.'

Why did you decide to be a print magazine rather than digital?
The digital space is not tangible and we have a lower attention span when we read online, which means our mind sometimes jumps. Meditation and mindfulness are on the rise, which makes me ask, where are we going as a civilisation? I think it's more important than ever to pause and take time over things. A print magazine with long editorial can offer that escapism and the chance to engage with something on a deeper and more profound level.

What were your influences when you created Lyra? You feature two interviews with journalists from 70s magazine Nova... I'm guessing that had a bearing?
Definitely. I couldn't find the exact magazine I was looking for in life, until I came across Nova. I was surprised such a radical magazine could exist in the 60s and 70s. I started buying old issues of Nova online. It's such a treasure. I don't think there's been a magazine remotely like it, except maybe a slightly similar publication in the US called Viva – that was published by Penthouse and was a bit more more erotic.

What was very special about those magazines is they were brave and bold, but had strong critical stances and strong opinions. They didn't patronise or offer answers; they were just really intellectual and profound and demanded the reader to think for themselves.

Can you give me an example of what they covered?
Nova wrote a lot about the pill, racism, homosexuality, political corruption and different fashions. Molly Parkin, who we interview in Lyra, was the fashion editor, and she says they had advertisers, but everything they did was freethinking. The editor let them take up any topic. He didn't say, "No, we'll upset advertisers if we do this," or, "This isn't very politically correct." Plus, it wasn't just put together by graphic designers; it was done by artists.

It's good that you so obviously pay homage to Nova in Issue One of Lyra. I noticed you have a column dedicated to Spare Rib magazine, too?
The influence of the media, and the history of women's magazines, is incredible. I think it's important to look at how we're progressing in this sense. That's why we want to look back – to learn, rather than jump on topics that are relevant now, but ignoring how other generations looked at them. We need to look at issues like how we talk about the orgasm and ask: "Are we making progress? Or are we regressing?"

What are some of your personal highlights from the mag?
Spencer Tunick's work. We wanted to give a space to sexuality, because very often it's not being addressed at all, or addressed in a sensationalised manner. We included Spencer's work because he takes nudity and sexuality out of a lustful context and into the street. Also, the Showgirls essay – it's quite a demanding article from Philippa Snow, an incredible writer. You might ask: Why are they analysing an old film like Showgirls? But when you read it, you realise how the film influenced existing films today. It shows how much we're progressing.

Talking of progression, what's next for Lyra?
Issue Two is about vanity. We select carefully what goes in the magazine and the blog between issues. The blog has to reflect what's in print. Being quarterly, it's difficult to keep audiences interested in between issues, but we want to create a dialogue, a critical stance and a debate. We're currently looking at doing forums with speakers that are relevant to us and workshops where people can learn something new.

Thanks, Georgina.

Lyra is distributed across the UK and Europe, via Antenne books.

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