James and the Giant Apple

What can a British magazine editor bring to America's gay readers that they don't have already? Attitude, says James Collard. Oh, and some radical shopping...; interview: James Collard
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online
ATTITUDE magazine (and what an inspired mix of arch pose and street cred that title is) could pass for a number of things. Does it do style (The Face, i-D)? Or is it men's grooming (GQ Active, Men's Health)? Could it even, with a pouting Mark Wahlberg on January's cover, be one of the new, up-front titles for women? In fact, it's Britain's biggest-selling magazine for gay men and its editor, James Collard, has pulled off an inspired confidence trick by giving it an air of cultural centrality. Its pages, one feels, are full of things it would be embarrassing not to be hip to. Collard has succeeded in taking the magazine out of the ghetto and into the mainstream, while still retaining bags of, well, attitude.

Now he has been poached by an American publishing company to edit Out. It is, he says, "the world's best job in gay journalism". But isn't appointing a Britisher to the editorship of America's biggest lesbian and gay magazine a bit like taking coals to Newcastle? We knew they liked British oldness and quaintness, but British campness? Isn't New York supposed to be the capital of the gay world? Do they really need little old us? Yes, according to Out's president Henry Scott, who describes the mag's present incarnation as "Frankly, rather dull." Out is a-hoping and a-praying that Collard "will get us into some trouble".

Collard is certainly not one to tow the line; plus, he's inherited a capacity to think the unthinkable from his dad, who spent the first 20 years of his working life as a plasterer, before sitting 'A' levels and becoming a lecturer in politics and economics. He was born in 1963 in Lytham-St Ann's and in the fullness of time went up to Durham to read music. A peculiar choice, you might think, for a gay teenager, but Collard says his college, St Chad's, enjoyed a pleasantly "camp, Anglo-Catholic flavour" at the time. After university he came down to London and got a job at the Conran Shop, where he languished amongst the exquisite household objets until he was recruited to help edit a gay guide to the capital. He was made Attitude's news editor at its inception in 1994. By May 1996 he was its editor.

Collard is in no doubt about his own worth ("I'd be editing the Sunday Times magazine if I wasn't in gay journalism," he remarks,