Bringing together designers, illustrators, photographers and writers across the region, NRTH LASS proves that it’s not so grim up North. Holly Allton talks to co-founders Jenna Campbell and Jessica Howell about why the North is so special.
With a passion for northern charm, Jenna Campbell and Jessica Howell conceived NRTH LASS in an office kitchen back in 2017 with the focus of celebrating women across the North of England. From the metropolitan hubs of Leeds and Manchester to smaller towns and villages, the magazine promotes women in business, art, literature, travel, and start-ups across the region.
HA: What was it that made you think: ‘you know what, let’s create a publication’?
Jenna: We thought about the art and cultural sectors in the North and how [they weren’t] getting the same coverage as other parts of the country. It became a platform rather quickly because I think a lot of Northern women felt the same way and wanted to speak about how you can be successful in the North and not have to relocate your life to achieve your goals.
What does being from the North mean to you?
Jess: The values and modesty of Northern people always come to mind. We have a long history of grafters. We work hard, but we don’t do it for recognition or to overturn the opinions of those from outside areas.
Jenna: Being from the North means not taking yourself too seriously and making sure [to] look after one another because it is the community that you build around you and immerse yourself in that counts and will serve you well in the future.
"It is the community that you build around you and immerse yourself in that counts and will serve you well in the future..."
What is something uniquely special about the North?
Jess: We know how bloody great the North is! To the rest of the UK, we’re often stereotyped or there’s generally a lack of knowledge regarding the North. We can use that to reconstruct ourselves with the time, energy and talent of northerners and challenge how we’re represented to the rest of the UK.
Jenna: For me, the North is the embodiment of community spirit and grit. There is an in-built moral compass if you will. People are so forthcoming to lend a hand and offer their support, whatever the request may be. I think being from the North has taught me never to get too big for my boots because there is always someone doing something better or more noble than you.
Is there anything you do outside of NRTH LASS that carries a similar inspiration?
Jenna: In my day job, I am a writer and editor of a food, beverage and hospitality publication called Supper. I come into contact with so many inspiring people who have devoted themselves to their craft and becoming leaders in their field. I must also mention that I am addicted to podcasts, they are a constant source of inspiration. Listen to Elizabeth Day’s How to Fail; it is amazing.
Jess: I’ve recently started photographing for start-ups and small businesses. I’ve primarily worked with Northern businesses and female founders which has been a huge inspiration to me; seeing women taking the leap into developing their passions keeps me working toward my own goals and strengthening my skills in order to help them achieve theirs.
Is there an article that you’ve read recently that really inspired you?
Jenna: In a recent issue of Elle, the journalist and former Editor of Refinery29 UK, Sarah Raphael, seemingly had it all in terms of a high-flying media career [at 27]. However, [the impact of] this success caused her to rethink her entire professional life and eventually step away from this world. I think it was a reminder that social media is merely a curated showreel of best bits and what looks like an amazing life on the surface is only one element of someone’s reality.
Jess: I’ve been following the photographer Karen Staniland-Platt of @withpassionandpurpose for a while and she recently wrote a blog article on how to turn your passion into your career. She works primarily with women and her work showcases the strength in building each other up. It was so valuable to hear the early struggles and advice from such an established creative and it really gave me the encouragement I needed to keep pushing forward in my own projects.
What does female empowerment mean to you?
Jenna: For a woman to feel truly empowered I believe she has to feel like the gap between men and women does not exist. For this to happen - to exist in a world where we are hired, respected and rewarded based on our talent, not our gender - I think the conversation has to meaningfully involve all of us, not just women.
Jess: When women embrace their struggles, I think it makes us all stronger. I think it takes an extremely strong woman to admit when they’re struggling and to share that with others. As women, we’ve been conditioned to ‘plow on’ and yet in a room full of women, if we admitted one struggle, it’s guaranteed that at least one other person in that room will have experienced the same situation. That’s how we start to connect and build each other up; even better, we get to do it together.
You’ve achieved so much in two years, where do you see the magazine in the next two?
Jenna: Personally, I would like to see our platform act as a vehicle for social change in the North. Whether this is supporting issues like ending period poverty or educating young women on potential career paths and shaping their own futures. To cover and report on even more women and help those who might not know how to, reach their goals and receive the support and encouragement they need to get there.
Jess: We need to take smaller steps to make NRTH LASS open as more of a community of Northern women and to really refine who we are - whether that’s a magazine, a blog, event hosts, or a combination of platforms. It would be really interesting to work with young women, using our experiences in building a venture outside of London and outside of the traditional routes to show that there are alternative options for a fulfilling career.
To end on a note that could only scream NRTH LASS, is there a female at the moment that you want to shout out and celebrate?
Jenna: I absolutely love Jacqui McAssey who founded [the project and zine] GIRLFANS. It exists to give female football supporters visibility and a sense of belonging in football culture. I think it is a brilliant way of changing the narrative around women and sport and Jacqui is just a lovely person who has really captured the essence of the current mood around representation.
Jess: Kiera and Aimee from Feel Good Club are making such big steps to bring people closer to their best and happiest selves. Not only are they bringing about change through an online shop full of feel-good items, they work closely with freelancers and fellow entrepreneurs to encourage collaborations and form a movement of better mental wellbeing.
Interview by Holly Allton
Feature Illustration by Patricia Estrada
Visit www.nrthlass.com to learn more and discover many inspirational women hustling up North.