After graduating in 2012, a close friend and I decided to start our own independent magazine – a decision that the more I think about, the more I appreciate.

Titled Tusk Journal, our aim was to celebrate the creative landscape of both Manchester and Liverpool; two cities that, at the time, felt as though they were breaking away from an industrial past and surging towards a bright, exciting future.

As the cities evolved, so too did we. Together we worked with Everything Everything, we sat-in with Mary Anne Hobbs and attended more exhibitions than you could shake a paintbrush at. It was the best of times, but it came at a cost.

For every stride the magazine took forward my life took a step back, and even as our reputation grew, the nights, debt and stress grew that little bit more.

Living in a one bed flat, with rent, tax and bills never far away from the door didn’t help, and soon enough life as Alex Lester, Editor-in-Chief, soon became more of a romantic notion as opposed to a sustainable, healthy lifestyle.

Of course, the money soon ran dry and in 2014 I left my flat and spent the next few months surfing the sofas of friends, drinking too much at one side of a bar and working through the night on the other.

My temper ran short, my outlook blackened and my actions became selfish and cruel. On the outside I was grey, washed out and thin. God only knows what things looked like on the inside.

But that was then, and this is now – and when it actually boils down to what matters, the latter trumps the former every single time.

This narrative is by no means original, and life in your mid twenties rarely lives up to the expectation set at during those dreamy teenage years. For me, like millions of others, those years were troublesome, heavy and fraught with stress, anxiety and sporadic bouts of depression, but that’s not to say I’m not thankful for them.

So if, at the time of reading this, you find yourself in the midst of a crisis, conflict or ill-fated master plan, do not worry. Life is full of hurdles and circumstance can and will, at some point or another, make you its bitch. Just make sure that none of what you tackle is wasted. Make every experience count.

No man is perfect, and if anxiety, stress, depression or any other form of mental battering forms part of your story, don’t shy away from it, embrace it. It’ll make you into the person you were always meant to be. And that’s a beautiful thing.

Below you’ll find a selection of photos from that special era, each telling their own unique story. I hope you enjoy them as much I enjoy looking back on them.


Man playing piano Man smoking against wall Trees