An Interview With Holly Baker: Crumble, Feminism & Edinburgh

On a dreich Friday morning in Edinburgh, we sat down with Crumble’s Editor-in-Chief Holly Baker to chat about her time so far as the first woman at the helm, what it’s like running a magazine whilst studying architecture and what she would do on a rare day off in the city.

Interview by Imogen-Naomi Herd and Thomas Scott (social media editors, Crumble) with Holly Baker (Editor-in-Chief, Crumble).

Thomas: Just to get started, why do you want to be an Architect?

Holly: I’m not sure I do.

Thomas: So, how did you end up studying architecture then? Did you have particular drive or childhood ambition?

HollyGoing into architecture was a more gradual process, there definitely was not a childhood desire or a moment of realisation that this was the degree or career I wanted. Rather it was gradual, looking around me, drawing what was around me, I really enjoyed history, particularly 20th century history looking into art movements. It all really stemmed from lots of little things that I enjoyed that came together into one degree. In regard to being an actual architect, I am not sure at the moment. I do enjoy what I do, but I think actually being opened up to the world of architectural journalism through the magazine has been really fantastic and I really love understanding how people perceive what goes up around them and really getting into the nitty gritty of that.

Thomas: How was it becoming Editor-in-Chief of Crumble?

HollyFirstly, a surprise! I didn’t realise what I was getting myself into. The ins and outs, and understanding, basically a hell of a lot to understand. It was incredibly exciting with the launch of issue two and being on the discussion panel. I felt like I found my place to speak and talk about things I am interested in. It was a really rapid process, Theo [co-founder and original Editor] showed me the ropes and I was up and running with a new issue and new team, it was controlling that momentum was the hardest part and understanding how to juggle writing, editing, organisation, finance, sales, marketing and social media. A whole series of worlds I had not been in touch with yet. It was definitely fantastic, and I enjoyed it, and still am.

Thomas: If you were to achieve just one thing as the editor of Crumble what would it be?

HollyGetting reviewed and recognised by something/someone that is really important to me or us, I think, that would be fantastic. We have had so much support from so many bodies like the Tate Modern, but getting a bit further engagement, maybe a review from a fantastic designer or architect engaging and recognising Crumble.

Thomas: I know an architecture degree can be very full on. Why commit so much time to a magazine whilst studying such a time-consuming degree as architecture? It can’t be easy?

Holly: [It’s] Definitely not easy, I am the type of person that loves to be busy, which helps considerably, and I find the busier I am the more productive I am, which goes hand in hand. It can definitely go pear shaped and there have been times the juggling has been madness. I think it is so important with such an all-consuming degree to have a bit of a release from that and have a bit of a break. To step outside of the box and understand why you are doing it, what you are doing and what you think about everything around us. For me making myself busier is almost a healthier way of balancing the two. I really enjoy it.

Thomas: You have previously said Crumble is an architecture magazine that is not really an architecture magazine, can you elaborate on that?

HollyWe have come to a point where we are trying to put in some more solid vocabulary in terms of what Crumble is and what we really want to do. We are an architecture magazine not only about architecture is maybe a better way of putting it. We want to remove it from just looking at a building for what it is, we want to look into what it does, what it creates and the people that interact with it, we want to focus on the bits that come around a building rather the actual thing itself.

ThomasWhat you would say to someone picking up Crumble for the first time?

Holly: I was very tempted recently when I was in a shop and saw someone had picked it up, to go over and say something. That is a difficult question as I don’t think I would want to say anything, I want to leave them to it. I think Crumble speaks for itself. It’s weird and if they are attracted to the weirdness of it I think that is all the better, it is what it is: it’s an interesting thing to look at and to touch and I wouldn’t want to interfere.

ThomasLeading an architecture magazine in a city with such a rich architectural history like Edinburgh, it must be quite daunting, are you afraid of trying to change the narrative?

HollyI think Edinburgh is strange as it is so unlike most cities. It’s a capital city that is also a world heritage site. It’s always trying to keep up with movements and things that are happening with music and art. It has all of these little segments its trying to juggle, all at one go, under the façade of pretty Georgian houses and beautiful churches. I think it definitely needs a little bit of prodding, we have had some fantastic articles about mad developments that are going up and some questionable decisions and all sorts of things. I think that in a city like Edinburgh, [it can be] can be daunting, but I think the fact it has so much is almost inviting. It is inviting you to question and think a bit harder about it. I think it is better to be in an environment that has too much than too little.

Thomas: You have been editor now for a bit less than a year, how do you think it is going?

Holly: Producing the third issue was a big challenge because we were trying to push on ahead with a new team whilst trying to keep a consistency with an old aesthetic, that we knew worked, and a mode of production. There were lots of different factors, it was almost like a pulling at two ends of the same string, but I think we did it successfully. We did manage to get a fantastic range of articles and I am so happy we got involved with wider things, such as the ArchiFringe 2018, and relating a little bit more to the University. It has been an absolute roller-coaster, I think very much issue three was a crossing over point and now that we are at the end of those cross roads we can now think about where we go next and decide which route to take. Now we can start to select what we think works best and what we want to take forward.

Thomas: I get the feeling that the next issue could be quite a bit different then. What can people expect?

Holly: We like Crumble for what it is but we do want to reconsider the curation of the magazine and making it more people based, I think that is the main priority. A few more interviews and interaction with real people rather than talking about such big and slightly overwhelming subjects. A bit more interaction, and closeness to people and what they are doing, specific people, people that are making change. That, I think, should drive the next issue… and we might have a reconsider over how Crumble looks, which is quite exciting…

Imogen: As the first female editor of Crumble, have you found it to be a particularly gendered experience?

Holly: I think the interesting thing about taking on a new team, it’s not so much [the fact] that I’m female but its much more about the people you surround yourself with. I remember walking into the first Crumble meeting ever in some weird seminar room back in 2000-and-whatever and I was the only girl in that room. I was a first year with some third year architects and other scatterings of people. It just very much felt like, ‘oh no’! I was a scared little first year and I definitely felt like I was in a room full of boys trying to talk about architecture and I don’t know what I’m doing and it was a bit bizarre. The interesting thing is, this transferring, for some reason the way it has gone, our team is now entirely female, you [Thomas], Dan [Managing Editor] and Kome [Social Media and Illustration] are our surviving males… I do think the fact I’m female, it is influencing change through the people who come to you. It works both way. More girls probably want to get involved because they see me.

Imogen: As architecture tends to be quite male-heavy, have you found opening up to other disciplines has maybe broadened people’s perspectives?

Holly: It’s a tricky one. It is that classic thing, people see artistic subjects as more women dominated, and as soon as you get to architecture, and because there’s a bit of structure in it, the men take over. That’s what’s been existing for hundreds of years. Opening up to different disciplines, we’ve definitely had our fair share [of both sexes]. It hasn’t been dominated. It’s been pretty 50:50 which has been fantastic. We’re looking at it [architecture] differently. Crumble’s multidisciplinary. We’re taking ourselves out of what is conventional and that is opening it up to all.

Imogen: If, when you were younger, you had read an architecture magazine edited by a female editor, would that have encouraged you more to study architecture?

Holly: I’m not sure I knew what an architecture magazine was before I was seventeen, maybe! I’ve always been inspired by women taking a front seat, in terms of, driving conventionally male dominated professions. It would have given me a bit of drive. Or at least I would have acknowledged it as being quite cool!

ImogenIf you had a free afternoon in Edinburgh where would you go?

Holly: Oh! I’d probably go to Out of the Blue [the community building where Crumble is printed in Leith]. Their vintage fairs are fantastic! I would cycle to Out of the Blue for a nice soup and coffee and then go for a pint at the Leith Depot pub, which has amazing 80s new wave music.

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