Which, it could be said, is something of an unusual proposition from London streets all too frequently strewn with half-baked free sheets of sloppy copy and less-than great artistic endeavours.
Now about to celebrate the launch of its ninth issue, Bare Bones was created by Harry Malt and Chris Bainci, founder of brilliant illustration magazine Le Gun , which quickly developed a cult following. Funnily enough, Bare Bones – with its not-too-precious, yet carefully constructed and frequently subversive copy and artwork – has done the same, having spread its tabloid-shaped wings as far a field as New York, Paris, LA, Berlin and Malta.
Created in east London, the free paper has no advertising or sponsorship. Instead, it is funded by its contributors and the sale of beer and t-shirts at the launch parties held to herald each issue.
‘It really is a labour of love’, says Malt. ‘When we started, we wanted to do something not too precious that would be a good showcase for people to put work in that didn’t have to be commercially viable. People could say or put what they wanted in there – that’s why we give it away for free.’
Though there are no strict editorial themes for each issue, the content is more often than not created in response to what’s going on in art or politics, or on contributors’ personal observations on their lives and travels. Among the raft of illustrators, artists, designers and writers that have graced the pages are Neal Fox, Heretic , Simon French, Emily Evans , Niall O’Brien, Robert Rubbish and Richard Milward.
Malt says, ‘We never really set themes – I suppose people loosely decide [what they submit] depending on whatever’s going on at the time. Now we’ve got more writers, and Michael Smith who edits and finds writing and more fiction. From the piece of writing we get someone to illustrate it, so it’s nice when the imagery takes a lead from the written content.’
Bare Bones used to be published quarterly, though this has been pared back to a more ad-hoc approach. ‘It was taking up so much of out time that we decided that rather than trying to rush it, we’d do it when we could to have more control over the content,’ Malt explains.
So where do Bare Bones’ creators see it going in the future?
Malt says, ‘In my fantasy dreamland I visit, I’d like to see the circulation going – with each issue we try and up it. When we started, at the time we were both really dismayed at the free papers you see everywhere in London and how facile and pointless the content is.
‘I think that’s such an opportunity for people – if everyone got up and went to work and saw some brilliant piece of art work or read some brilliant piece of writing. We want to keep up the circulation and the quality of the work but at the same time, not take it too seriously.’
Bare Bones Issue Nine launches on 13 April with a party at Neu Gallery, 30a Redchurch Street, London E2. Visit http://www.ourbarebones.co.uk/