We first came across Lionheart Magazine last summer, when we interviewed Bath-based illustrator Eleanor Hardiman and stopped by Magalleria, her favourite local independent shop. Its beautifully illustrated cover immediately stood out to us and when we eagerly turned the first page, it read: “Make your home, wherever it is, a sanctuary, an artist’s retreat. While your inspiration flies in from your adventures, both little and large. There is no set shape, but shapes will help form your vision, life and art. Always take your time. Art is forever your friend. You are a Lionheart.”
Little did we know that a few months later we were going to meet with Helen Martin – the author of these roaring words – at her home in Bristol and have the opportunity to find out more about the inception of Lionheart and its organic growth over a delicious slice of homemade carrot cake. Printed on thick, uncoated paper inviting the reader to experience its warm and tactile quality and explore the richness of its content, the magazine is a celebration of life, learning and growing, sharing stories of intelligent, inspirational and empowering women artists, makers and dreamers.
For those who do not know you, who is Helen – the mastermind of Lionheart Magazine?
Hello! I am a 33-year-old writer and editor and a mother of two young children with a spring baby on the way. We also have one cat and one kitten. We live in Bristol with a view of the trees from our windows, starting every day with a bowl of porridge and mug of coffee – + music and pregnancy yoga – then go from there.
What is your most vivid childhood memory?
I remember sitting with my class in a circle at primary school, everyone was asked by the teacher to share something, maybe an experience or how we spent the weekend. I remember I felt a thrill as my chance came to tell my story. I started with a very over the top, “Well!” Everyone giggled and I remember grinning like a cat. Then I went on to tell my story, I can’t remember what it was, but I know that I often still start stories with “Well!” I love the start of something. The very beginning of hearing someone’s story, the start of a book or film, or arriving somewhere new for the first time. It’s always what I remember most vividly about any experience. Later comes the immersion, the mood and reflection. The start feels new and captivating.
How did the idea for Lionheart Magazine come about and what made it worth pursuing?
It was 2011 and I felt like there were worlds of talent, strength, beauty and ambition out there that I wanted to document (and I thought perhaps weren’t being reflected in the media). I wanted to share these stories through a tactile print magazine that was accessible, interesting, intelligent, exciting and inspirational – interviews with artists and architects, stories on relationships and a sense of place, true love, design, style, poetry, real homes (including rentals), travel, food, crafts, music and the joy of learning and exploring. At the time many people told me this was a ridiculous idea, print was dead. But just as many people heard my idea and were right behind me – PHEW! – contributing, following and encouraging. Enough people purchased the magazine’s first issue that I could do the next one. Now I’m working on issue nine with some brilliant contributors. I just love the content and design by my old friend, Holly Giblin. I’m really excited for this one!
Lionheart… How did you come up with the name for the magazine and why is it meaningful to you?
This came from a focus group I organised in London, the writer – and Lionheart contributor – Jess Furseth came up with the name. As the city bustled and hummed I circled the name again and again in my notebook. There was the reference to bravery, the theme for the first issue, the roaring passion behind it and it also felt empowering. I love the name even more now, I feel as a woman, as I’ve grown older, that roar is stronger than ever. The ROAR is in us all, that’s for sure. (90s fact: my first ever email address was email@example.com. Lions have never been far!)
Lionheart Magazine is all about the joy of discovery, the beauty of togetherness and womanhood. Can the reader interpret this as a feminist statement?
This is the roar. I want every female reader to feel the joy of what is and can be; a treasure of endless possibilities – through creativity travel, career, words, art etc. To enjoy their ambition, friendship, love, sisterhood, motherhood. A celebration of life, learning and growing – together. When we support and collaborate great things happen, there’s a peacefulness, as well as POWER.
Do you identify as a feminist? What do you think are the biggest challenges facing contemporary feminists?
Yes, yes, yes. In this country, work and motherhood is still a really big issue. Ambition and intelligence doesn’t leave a woman once they have children. Childcare costs can be preventative to work, mothers have to juggle, working at night, nap times and the weekend. Many, including myself, have gone freelance or started their own business, but it’s hard work. I believe men and women should have equal parental care. I’m hopeful things are moving, but there’s still a long way to go. Women simply want EQUALITY. In general, there’s still such a bias towards men. I heard on the radio yesterday, men are assumed competent until they prove otherwise, women are assumed incompetent until proved otherwise. Just no! We need to begin with mutual respect and appreciation right from the very start, a change in culture from childhood. Raising an equal future. I have a lot of faith in the kids.
Lionheart Magazine was born in 2011. How has the creative scene in Bristol changed since its first issue and what do you think is driving the transformation of the city’s creative culture?
Bristol is a city that embraces ideas. From the outset there has been brilliant support for Lionheart and I am hugely grateful to all those who I have collaborated with, discussed ideas over coffee with and those who have come to the launch parties, dinner parties, quiz nights and cafe days. A huge thank you to everyone. Through social media, my blog and Twitter, then with the rise of Instagram, following an idea and building a community has become accessible. In Bristol people will embrace your dream with you, they’ll see your call out on social media and come and say ‘hi’. This has only grown with ever more social, real life meetings taking place. Whether that’s workshops, talks, co-working opportunities, dinners – or magazine parties! Bristol’s creative community continues to change and flourish in new and exciting ways. At its heart is an independent spirit and can-do attitude.
What are some of the challenges of running an independent magazine?
The fear! First on print day, then that no one will buy the stacks of printed magazines sitting in boxes in your house. It’s a bit daunting having those physical brown boxes sitting there, an eyebrow raised. But I guess, hope and belief in the magazine is what you have. Just need to get them out there – something else that can be tricky when you’re time limited and one human. Then there’s the admin, keeping everything rolling no matter what, when maybe you’d rather roll over – in bed! But I love doing the magazine and I’ve learned to let go when I need to. It’ll be fine! (great, deep breath)
How has motherhood influenced your journey and shaped your vision for the magazine?
I think I trust my instinct more than ever, it’s filtered through every part of my life. Motherhood is so wild and amazing, I absolutely don’t know what I’m doing, but my anchor is that instinct that I believe in and I tune in to. Some days are upside down, they were before, others shine bright. It’s all absolutely a journey, both motherhood and Lionheart. I love being on this boat, steering, floating and being out there in the world. Both are co-existing, growing and informing. One big thing, art, music, expression etc. is even more important to me now too, I can see how it makes humans bloom from the very start.
What makes you roar?
What is the most important lesson you learned about yourself since starting Lionheart Magazine?
That yes, I can do it – whatever it is – I just need to start.
What was the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
To follow my instinct. Care of my midwife, Liz. I felt her belief in me as I embarked on my biggest ever adventure.
What advice would you give to someone wishing to embark on a similar journey?
To always keep hold of your passion, to never forget why it is you want to start something – that’s the essence behind your project, the driver and motivation.
What does the future hold for Lionheart Magazine?
Hopefully many, many more issues with more people enjoying the magazine. Plus maybe some more events or workshops… I’d love that.
What about your personal dreams and ambitions?
Pretty everyday, I think?! I love to travel, read, learn crafts, paint, improve my cooking skills, write and sketch in journals, cycle, make scrapbooks, meander around the house, country and city, photograph, go on ‘dates’ with my partner where we eat delicious food and walk in the woods, sit cross legged on the rug making wall hangings and marbling paper with my children, yoga, watching live music and crying in films – as well as, on the flip side maybe, challenge myself in new ways that might scare me a bit. More of all of these things. I guess I’d like mainly in life, to have fun and enjoy it, eyes open. My family and an outlet for words and stories are all I need as I sit here growing this kicking baby. I guess, maybe a cup of tea and a biscuit right now would be pretty welcome!
And now a Max Frisch question: Would you like to have perfect memory?
Memory by its nature is so subjective, I don’t know if by being a memory it can ever be a perfect reflection?! We are only experiencing something now, us, right now, as we are. Memories are subject to whole worlds of previous experiences and sensations, of feelings and future ideals. Regardless, I wouldn’t! I love that we have our own interpretations and memories are flecked with feeling and emotion. I love to be transported back through the senses, but I’d never want it to be perfect. I’d rather enjoy an element of them, make new memories and live right now.
Can you recommend us:
A book: The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson.
A song: Mystery of Love, Sufjan Stevens.
A film: I’m just about to watch Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri tonight – and I can’t wait to watch Lady Bird!
A place to eat: Albatross Cafe in Bristol – where I had my last launch party – delicious coffee, food and atmosphere. Lots of plants and pink.
A place to sleep: Tulum, Mexico – the sound of the insects in the trees, the warmth and scent of greenery and flowers.
A place to visit: Sri Lanka
Thank you, Helen for the delicious carrot cake and inspiring conversation.