Meet the writers behind a Preston music magazine that has gone global
It's the Preston music magazine being read in Indonesia and championed by big indie names.
Yet for the writers of Secret Meeting, an alternative music blog and zine, it began as nothing more than a few WhatsApp messages.
Now the pals are celebrating the first anniversary since it started life in print with a celebratory launch of its fourth edition at Plug & Taps in Preston on Saturday, February 22nd.
Co-founder and editor Philip Moss said: "We produce it locally but it's gone global. It's absolutely crazy. Now it's read throughout Europe, North and South America, and South East Asia.
"People said we must be either crazy or brave to do something in print. Maybe we're a bit of both but we believe in it."
The team - Philip Moss, Phil Scarisbrick, Joseph Purcell, Dave Bertram, Chris Hatch, Mark Jackson, Stewart Cheetham and Martin Ramsbottom - began the magazine by accident after posting an end of year music list online in 2017.
Readers wolfed it down and were hungry for more, resulting in a mainly self-funded zine that is free to record shop customers. Since its birth, it has doubled its readers, which jumped from 500 to 1,000 by the second issue alone.
"This is a passion project, a hobby that has become a bigger thing. One of my friends says that, according to some stats, most people give up within six months of starting a blog. We've been going for two years now," said Phil.
By day, the team work in a range of fields, from retail and marking to healthcare, prisons and Governmental anti-terrorism.
"We're all normal people who work full-time but you just have to stick at it. We're so driven that giving up was never going to be an option," Phil said.
Commenting on its success so far, the English teacher added: "Each week something happens that overwhelms us. It's very exciting."
Simon Raymonde, of Scottish rock band Cocteau Twins, has been so impressed by it that he's offered sponsorship from his record label Bella Union. His signings include the Beach House, Father John Misty and Spiritualized.
Simon's old flame, label 4AD, which produces tracks with Grimes, The National and Pixies, has also become a sponsor.
And Jack Cooper, of up-and-coming group Modern Nature, plus Jeff Barrett, who founded music label Heavenly Recordings, are among the zine's zealous fans.
"They all got in touch to say they love it. They were all our inspirations and now they've given us praise and support. It's just incredible. In these niche circles, they're massive names," said Phil.
Secret Meeting, named after his favourite band, comprises interviews and album reviews, and offers a unique platform for up-and-coming musicians, according to the editor.
He added: "We offer an independent voice and cover music that isn't always covered by bigger institutions. It's for people who are inquisitive, want to join the dots between artists and have a real thirst for new music.
"The music industry has changed so much. Becoming a millionaire, unless you're in pop, is not realistic anymore. The irony is it should be easier with the internet to get a breakthrough but it's becoming harder because you have to cut through a lot to find good quality."
It's an ethos that carries over to their own production, with the team using 100% recycled paper.
"We're ecologically conscious and many in the group of vegetarian or vegan. Right from the start we decided it had to be done properly and produced locally," he added.
They have even selected Preston-based brewery, Chain House, to collaborate on a limited Secret Meeting craft beer, which will be launched at the event. Dance lovers can also enjoy a DJ set from Preston act, White Flowers, while a raffle will offer vinyl and merchandise from labels such as Rough Trade, Bella Union and 4AD.
Phil Scarisbrick, co-founder, said: "We want it to be a celebration of the last few years’ work, but also some of the great things that are going on in Preston at the moment."