Gay & Night
Text JF. Pierets Photos Johan van Walsem
Gay&Night Magazine started off in 1997 as a one-time special during Amsterdam Gay Pride. It soon however became so popular that it evolved into a monthly glossy. Distributed for free at almost all gay meeting spots in Belgium and the Netherlands, it serves as a light-hearted guide to the gay community. Editor-in-Chief Martijn Tulp and vice editor-in-chief Martijn Kamphorst took place on our Skype sofa and we promptly nominated them as funniest Dutchmen we know. Do we have to remind you that all good things come in twos?
You just celebrated your 200th issue. That’s quite an accomplishment nowadays.
MK Isn’t it?! Martijn [Tulp – ed.] joined the club when they where about to hit issue 100. My contribution came a bit later and asked for some shenanigans; when I applied for the position they told me they already had someone named Martijn and it would be too confusing to hire another one. The next day I wrote a letter signed Henk and got invited immediately.
MT Happy ever since.
What was it like, to start at issue 100?
MT It was a good thing because the magazine still had a lot of room for improvement. Still has, now I come to think about it, yet that’s called evolution. Needless to say we still have to keep our audience attentive and inspired. The magazine is a service to the gay community, so if we at some point start to notice that people are losing interest, we’ll have to close the shop. It’s great work but hard work, and still some people ask me what’s my job besides being involved in the magazine.
You feature articles from bisexuality and women with beards, to interviews with RuPaul’s drag queens and bears. Where do you keep your balance?
MK We try to maintain a balance by featuring topics that address a variety of readers. Having said that, it’s impossible to please everyone in one issue. Sometimes our focus will be on gender or bears, and in another issue you will find more content that’s interesting for lesbian readers or clubbers.
MT Not all issues are for everyone, but by offering a wide-ranging series of articles, we’re trying to make sure everyone feels tempted to pick it up at some point. We do focus on the entire LGBT scene, but most of our readers are gay males. Sometimes it’s quite hard to serve a shattered target group, but then again it teaches you how to make choices. An attitude that most of the time leads to quality.
Are we talking about an intuitive magazine?
MT For about 90%, yet we’re trying to cover all groups to the best of our abilities.
MK And that’s obviously not always in the same way. The great thing is that as a free magazine, we feel we have the opportunity to also cover niche subjects. Of course there will always be readers who aren’t happy with certain coverage, but then again, we luckily don’t rely on paying subscribers.
MT The magazine is distributed via the gay hotspots but is also available on mainstream locations, so we can afford to be a bit teasing, a bit more experimental towards a wider audience.
As a person, in what way are you both the ‘actual’ magazine?
MT Well, the fact that there isn’t much about sports and fitness probably says a great deal about the editors. On the other hand, however, there is plenty about music, which is my point of interest… and about food! I always want to publish something about how to bake a cake! You always color the things you write or feature and we do try to keep a certain amount of distance between our personal self and the magazine. That said, you can’t avoid being dragged into it with your own preferences, and many things we write about are things that catch our attention. I myself am single so I’m active on dating sites, especially on apps for bears. When I read about pandas, polar bears, etc., I was triggered to do some research on those different denominations within the gay scene, and it turned into an article.
MK I for example wrote a feature on how Asian boys are treated within the gay scene. I was out clubbing with a bunch of friends and overheard some rather hurtful remarks about those boys. That’s when the reporter in me awakens and starts asking questions. In the beginning it was merely out of personal interest, but after a while I realized that this topic might be more than suitable for an article in our magazine.
MT A quite hefty one if you ask me, on how Thai and Chinese boys are looking for each other’s company, because they can’t find any connection outside their circle.
MK And let me tell you, I didn’t have to beg for stories. A simple ‘how are you?’, and the words came running out.
Do you consider yourselves in an educational position?
MT We’re a magazine that’s not scared to face problems. So when we hear about a topic like those Thai kids, we feel obliged to write about it. To us, it’s important to keep on looking at the big picture to remain a very accessible magazine.
MK In a positive way!
MT Indeed, and that is something we actively work on. Even when a certain subject might be considered being too niche, there are still a large amount of people who would love the fact that you’re writing about that certain phenomenon, without considering it a sensational subject. We try to treat every topic as ‘mainstream’. Same with politics. We often write about changes in the LGBT legislation and focus on making the articles very accessible for those without any political background knowledge.
MK For us it’s very important to also cover the more or less ‘heavy’ subjects with a more social approach, for example by interviewing a couple of members from a movement. I think that’s our responsibility as a magazine, to feature the more committed content next to an article on, for example, gay tourism in Tel Aviv. By doing that, we aim for readers who normally won’t immerse into the subject matter. Not by simplifying, but by making it more accessible.
‘Not all issues are for everyone, but by offering a wide-ranging series of articles, we’re trying to make sure everyone feels tempted to pick it up at some point.’
Can you give an example?
MT The first thing we did when the shit hit the fan in Russia, was not making a list of what politically went wrong over there, but we looked for someone who lived there. Someone who experienced the terror by seeing his friends bashed for no particular reason. We wanted to hear the voices on the street. Sometimes – and I’m talking about the Netherlands and Flanders – we are quite easy-going about coming out of the closet or having the same human rights.
MK By telling the story of an actual person, you make the subject matter more real and in your face. Because these are the sort of things that can also happen to you.
How important is it to keep on printing a magazine like Gay&Night?
MT I’d like to keep on printing as long as possible. The way people react to printed media has gone through a lot of changes. Even newspapers experience a difficult time, because you can read everything right away on the Internet. Nevertheless it’s still very enjoyable to sit on the couch with a printed version of whatever you want to read.
MK And besides the fact that you can hold it and it ‘smells good’, you don’t have to stick to a limit of 500 words in order to not lose one’s attention.
MT Our magazine can be found in bars, clubs, saunas, restaurants and lunchrooms, so that’s a very interesting place to gain visibility. If we, as publishers, keep on succeeding in making the magazine interesting for our audience, I think we will be able to keep on printing!
I hear a lot of evolution since issue 100.
MK When you see our series of covers, you’ll notice that we started getting more and more experimental. It starts with a parade of men…
MT Cute men, if I may add.
MK …and all of a sudden we have a picture of an older lesbian woman [he’s referring to Glee-actress Jane Lynch – ed.]. In 2013 we expanded with a Flemish edition, so now we have two covers to think about. Or better yet; to play with.
MT And don’t forget that not only the tone, but also the lay-out of the magazine changed. In May 2011 we started working with our new art-director Jeroen de Rooij – we couldn’t find a third ‘Martijn’ suitable for the position. One of the compliments we hear most often is that the magazine looks too good to be free. Needless to say that makes us very proud, but credit where credit is due; design-wise, all praise goes to Jeroen.
And yet the magazine is still for free.
MK Always has, always will be. Well, I definitely hope so.
MT We know a lot of people who carry our magazine in their hearts. We work very closely with our advertisers and also the festivals and events featured in Gay&Night. They help us keep it vivid and alive. Not only gay magazines, but a lot of magazines in general recently ceased their printed editions. We are one of the few gay magazines left in the Netherlands and we try to handle that position with care. It’s what’s gained us a lot of trust from our audience throughout the years.
MK This for example entails treating our interviewees with the utmost respect and always letting them check our version of their words before we go to press.
MT We also offer cheap subscriptions for people who don’t visit gay places that often.
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