Doghouse is a print magazine all about the British pub and the culture within… produced by award-winning publisher Jon Saxon, and Sunday Times photographer Richard Stanton
Conceived on a walk on Sunday November the 7th, 2010, Jon imagined a food and drink magazine along the same editorial style as his other magazine, RubberDuckMag, which had been awarded a 'Car Magazine of the Year' award that year by The Telegraph: a magazine that is currently featured in FIPP's 'Innovation In Magazine Media Report' – as well as being the first and only interactive magazine to adopt sign-language.
It would take until May 2011 to properly cultivate, and then not until April 2012 – by which time it had morphed into a title about traditional pubs and cafes – to gather together the funds; which was raised purely by fluke after Jon placed a bet to win on that year's Grand National.
Instead of picking a horse with winning form he chose a horse that best reflected his situation: “...coming here late in life after an illustrious career. Steadily losing form and could sink without trace. ...but will be a joy to watch, as he’ll jump the course with style.” Placing a 40-1 bet to win Jon later watched on in a pub as his horse won; the photo-finish of Neptune Collonges winning since becoming a constant and grounding reminder of how close the team came not to being able to produce and launch Doghouse.
The win formed the production budget overnight; covering food and drink, as well as fuel to both document the pubs (this time with a professional photographer) and to showcase the pilot magazine to potential advertisers. In the space of 10 days the photography was concluded; the ad spots confirmed; and a print run of 3000 placed. In the short space of time waiting for Doghouse to return from the printers, Jon's brother Ryan built Doghouse a pop-up pub bar – constructed from a set of mahogany table inserts and some pine shelving... all found in a nearby skip.
On May 9th, 2010, the first edition was launched at the Ludlow Spring Festival.
Edition one focussed on Ludlow, Shropshire, and an immediate 10-mile radius of public houses and traditional cafes. The second edition picked up pretty much from where the first was left, and continued on in a 20-mile radius. Each subsequent edition has linked, in some fashion or another, into a previous radius. This has so far allowed Doghouse to take in aspects of Shropshire, Worcestershire, Herefordshire, Powys, Black Country, Gloucestershire, and Birmingham. Though proving popular, the cafe section hasn't made an appearance since the second edition – largely due to logistic.
The overall objective of Doghouse is to cover as much of the country, and its pubs, as humanly possible; along the way celebrating the traditional pub, its regulars, and its surroundings – alongside a varied collection of articles; intertwining a mix of subjects; previously including the musical genius of Rodriguez, endless ghosts, famous battles of Britain, random facts, a brief history of net curtains, Wolves beating Arsenal 5-1 in the snow, naming of children, baking of sourdough bread, and fishing for pike.
Essentially: Doghouse is a rough guide to some of the greatest drinking establishments still standing in this country – each held-high for different reasons; some for their ornate tile-work, etchings in the glass, period fixtures and fittings, whilst others for their manner of service, number of cats – and sometimes for the toilets alone. Doghouse is therefore less of a point-scoring list of reviews, and more of a love-letter to the fascinating institute that is the British pub, where occasionally the building and the banter from within is better than the beer... for pubs are surely more about atmosphere; about architecture; about ideals; about tall tales, jokes and legacies; about folklore; about local history; and remembering the locals that once pitched where you now call your own.
In time we'll hopefully make our way to your local... but in the meantime, I do hope you enjoy the tales and trimmings from other people's locals we've unearthed along our travels so far.
Long may our wandering continue.
Regards, Jon Saxon – editor of Doghouse