Bookshop Interview: Picturing “These Islands” with Rosa Park
We met with the authors behind our initial offering of titles to discuss their work and learn about the publishing process.
Last week, we posted our conversation with Dr. Christina Dean. Part II in the series brings us an interview with Rosa Park. Rosa and her colleagues at Cereal Magazine recently launched their first book, These Islands: A Portrait of the British Isles. We marked the occasion at their fête hosted at the Sunspel store on Chiltern Street here in London on an early evening in Spring.
Rosa is Co-Founder and Editor in Chief of Cereal, an independent travel and style magazine published biannually.
Rosa Park: These Islands was created not to be a guide to the British Isles, but to provide visual respite and inspiration for its readers, on the theme of The British Isles. We don’t actually tell people where to stay, or eat, or visit within each area that we cover. We wanted this book to educate people on the subtle yet complex political, historical and cultural nuances of these islands (a term the Irish came up with to replace the term The British Isles, which we address at the very beginning of the book), and to visually inspire the creative community that are readers of our magazine. This is why we paid such exacting attention to the photography style, the design and layout, as well as the production, in terms of paper choices, finishes and binding techniques.
Secondly, when we made this book, we outlined that the goal wasn’t necessarily to get everyone to travel to these places, but to make them more aware that they exist, and to offer a fuller context to these places as it’s not done very often within contemporary publishing. It would make me elated to find out that our readers did end up visiting say, Glencoe or Isles of Scilly, but even if you don’t - it would be wonderful to know that you’ve read our book and now know it is there (you’d be surprised how any people don’t!), and that it is there for you to visit in the future when you can.
Third, we knew from the early days of Cereal that our first book had to be on our part of the world. This was fuelled bymy personal love for The British Isles, and the fact that the global community know so little about UK and Ireland beyond London, and it’s a shame, because there is a lot of beauty and interest here. And we wanted to produce a book that celebrated this region and spread the word on its varied landscapes and cityscapes - to portrait that it rivals the beauty of say, Italy or France. Most people want to visit The Mediterranean when visiting Europe, but if we can have just one person even consider visiting the UK instead after picking up our book, then we’ve done our job. We want to raise awareness and create interest - the action will come in time.
TA: How did you approach the writing process for These Islands differently than you would an issue of the magazine?
RP: It had to be dramatically different from the magazine, because our primary objective was to make sure the book had its own identity and own voice. We didn’t want it to just be a longer version of the magazine. In order to do this, we kept the text much more succinct, and poetic and looser in style. The writing is written from a first person’s point of view the entire time, and is highly visual in its language, to corroborate what you’re seeing in the accompanying photography. In the magazine, we get a bit more technical, historian, geeky.
We also understand that the nature of ‘coffee table’ books is to be more visual, so with that in mind, we kept text per place to no more than 700 words. this is with the hope people will actually read it in its entirety, as so many of us are guilty of buying beautiful tomes and flicking through the pics and leaving it on a table or on a bookshelf without having read one word.
TA: What was the best part of self-publishing?
RP: The freedom. The freedom! We could literally do whatever we wanted. That is exhilarating.
TA: Can you show or tell us something we’d be surprised see or know about the making of These Islands?
RP: It took us almost 3 years to make this book - which may or may not come as a surprise to people. But it was a long process to first pick the destinations, then photograph each one in different seasons, then write about each place, then commission the paintings, then to figure out which essays and charts we wanted to produce for the appendix section that would serve to be more educational, and to discuss - at great length - what kind of production technique we wanted to pursue. Just picking the paper took months and months! I hope the effort and consideration and time shows.
TA: Last time we spoke you recommended Belle Mont Farm in Saint Kitts for its sustainable farming practices. Which kinds of standout sustainable hospitality did you find closer to home?
RP: I actually haven’t been to an eco friendly property within the UK recently, which is a shame! I am sure they exist but I personally find that the the bulk of UK tourism is fuelled by country manors and estates that become boutique luxury hotels, or rustic gastropub with rooms, it would be nice to see a surge in beautiful, ecofriendly properties. I did visit The Scarlet in Cornwall several years ago, which embodies sustainable values and that was a lovely stay.
TA: Do you embody a slow lifestyle in other aspects of your life? How so?
RP: I’m afraid I don’t, though that is my goal in life! My work keeps me going at an incredibly fast pace, but i think your life always ebbs and flows - so you have fast periods and slow periods. So whatever is happening at the moment, you should just embrace and roll with it, and see where you end up! Maybe if you ask me next year or in two years time, I will be leading a much more slow lifestyle (one hopes!).
Follow Rosa on Instagram @rosaliapark.
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