When I was young and innocent and still had hope, and the sky was blue and all this were fields, I spent rather a lot of time writing for a webzine called ak13.
Every Tuesday night a crowd of us would meet up in a pub in Peckham and drink several pints of beer in the optimistic belief that we were having an editorial meeting. We’d talk about the week’s news, discuss unusual angles we could take on things, and go away in cheerful ignorance fact that many of the great ideas we’d come up with were never going to get written.
But plenty of others did – and the result was rather lovely. We had a trends column, a list of words plucked from the ether and placed at random under headings such as “drifting” as if it were a Day Today sketch. We had Marketing Mike, a fictitious brand consultant who’d suggest ways of re-branding difficult subjects. To improve Al-Quaeda recruitment rates, for example, he suggested a pair of new kids channels, Wahabibies and Al-Qids. (Mike ended up doing rather well for himself. His byline later described him as the Minister of Brand for Estonia, I seem to recall.)
We’d try to reconcile politics and finance long before it was fashionable; come up with silly top ten lists (“Reasons why the War on Terror is a dead ringer for the Godfather trilogy”); or simply run with entirely lunatic notions. I once wrote an essay explaining that, if you really wanted to understand New Labour, all you needed to do was follow the career path of Four Weddings and a Funeral writer Richard Curtis. It was 2,000 words long.
We had no money, minimal advertising, and most of our number had very little time either, but still we managed to build something that was, briefly, good. The hits were climbing, its reputation growing, and one rather lovely review described it as like all the best bits of the Sunday supplements.
Not long after the 2005 election, ak13 stopped publishing. The lack of income, and various other things going on everyone’s lives, simply made it impractical to continue. Also, I think, we were doing something that, in retrospect, looks a bit ill-timed. Back then, the new new thing, the toy all the cool new media kids were playing with, was the blog. We were trying to create a magazine, publishing chunks of material in a weekly burst, with issue numbers and everything. We were trying to do something new and somehow managed to make it look incredibly old.
I don’t care. It was great, and it was ours, and for one bright moment I thought it was somehow going to make our fortunes.
A couple of weeks ago, after sitting there doing nothing for nearly seven years, the site finally went dark. I entirely understand the reasons for the decision, and looking back most of the stuff I wrote then is nowhere near as good as the sort of stuff I write now. (That’s not going to stop me reposting it in some dark corner here, of course.)
All the same, though, ak13, remains one of the most exciting things I’ve ever worked on. For years afterwards, strangers at parties would occasionally ask if I were the Jonn Elledge who’d written for ak13; I know at least one of the others has had the same experience. Maybe, just maybe, we’d been on to something.