A farewell to Magma

It’s the end of an era on Oldham Street. After almost 20 years, Manchester’s beloved art bookshop has made the heart-breaking announcement that they will close from the new year. As Mancunians, we cannot ignore the colossal loss of what has been a pillar of our creative community.

Magma was a hub for students and local creatives to browse its vast magazine, book and artsy gift collections. It has been a significant gateway into the realms of fashion, art and culture. Entering the store allowed you an hour’s escape from the cold and rainy street outside, an immersion into a new world of aesthetics and culture. From architecture to travel, Magma stocked books and magazines to suit the tastes of artists and musicians, foodies and hikers.

We cannot ignore the colossal loss of what has been a pillar of our creative community

Shops selling magazines and zines in Manchester are now few and far between. Rare Mags in Stockport and the online retailer 20k and a dead sheep are excellent, but it is astounding that there are not more considering the number of colleges and universities dedicated to the arts in our city. To have access to physical magazines is a necessity for many creatives, and for former Fashion Promotion Tutor at MMU, Kelly Joseph, Magma was one of the first spots she would send her new students to:

“This is the place to go to get your fashion magazines, and it’s not just your standard Vogues, Cosmopolitans and Drapers. You can go there and get some really interesting, current, exciting publications that you can use to inform your research.”

Magma in Manchester
Photo: Tom Taylor

For young creatives today, this entry into the world of alternative arts publications and editorials is fundamental; to discover magazines and books you didn’t even know existed but come to love when you find them in store. Kelly confirmed that:

“If you have to find it online, you have to know what you’re looking for, whereas with Magma you go in and it’s a happy discovery.”

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In a climate where shopping with independent and local businesses is becoming increasingly essential, must we now turn to the world of e-commerce to purchase these specialised publications?

Magma’s devastating announcement follows on from another Northern Quarter gem, Nexus Art Café, who closed their doors for good back in July after struggling to weather the storm. In light of Manchester being placed in tier 3 at the end of this lockdown, actions must be made to avoid the loss of further cherished shops and venues. Now, more than ever, we must join together to help boost and support our city’s irreplaceable businesses over the Christmas period.

Avoid shopping with Amazon. Shop local. Buy from independent retail.

Reaching over 6,000 Instagram likes and counting, Magma’s staff used the announcement to show their unwavering support for shopping local, despite the circumstances of their closure:

“I’ll close by saying… Avoid shopping with Amazon! Avoid shopping with bookshop.org! Shop local. Buy from independent retail. Support the arts.”

So, what will be next for 24 Oldham Street? With the looming presence of the rental sign, will this space be swiftly accommodated by a new Northern Quarter hotspot, or will the building stand empty, a haunting memory of what was once one of Manchester’s most treasured spaces? The ray of optimism in the final lines of Magma’s heartfelt message must be used now as an example to the rest of our community.

“Cherish the shops you love! You’ll miss us when we’re gone.”

Gabriella Fittes is a Mancunian studying Fashion History and Theory at Central Saint Martins. Her work centres around fashion, art, history and the movements that drive them. Follow Gabriella on Instagram @gabifittes