'Reflect the city and stick to what's on'

Time Out founder Tony Elliott’s plans to launch editions in Manchester and Liverpool will come as welcome news for arts organisations, venues, promoters and readers in the Northwest.

A short-lived monthly title, The Mix, lasted just two issues earlier this year, while the city’s media grapevine has been awash with rumours that various other publishers, notably The Leeds Guide, are sniffing around, hoping to fill the space vacated by City Life.

East Midlands publisher 69 has announced it is bringing its quarterly mix of fashion, arts, and culture to the Northwest in September, but it is the proposed arrival of Time Out which has really set Manchester juices flowing.

The lifeblood of a successful what’s on title, it’s raison d’être, is just that, what’s on. Readers, I believe, bought City Life for five reasons only – what’s on, when it’s on, where it’s on, what time it starts and how much it costs to get in.

Everything else, to a lesser or greater extent, is peripheral to the core content. Get the listings wrong, or if they’re inaccurate, incomplete, and, crucially, ill-informed in an age where what’s on info is available anytime, anywhere and everywhere, then what’s the point of buying the magazine?

In my time as listings editor, we promoted, sponsored, and even commissioned arts events. We didn’t just observe what went on in the city, we contributed to it.

Your writers need to know their subject inside out. Whether they could write or not, our section editors wouldn’t have been allowed near the front door if they didn’t eat, drink, breathe and sleep their subject, and wrote with insight and authority.

A what’s on magazine has to reflect the city it serves. Doubtless Tony Elliott has correctly identified that one of the reasons City Life failed at the end was that, seduced by fashion, lifestyle and property, it simply stopped doing that.

You could have picked up the magazine in its final two years, not that many people actually did, and not know in which city the magazine was published. Time Out would do well to take heed.

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