GCN Evolution: Ireland's National LGBT Magazine Is Changing

The Evolution of GCN, Gay Community News magazine written on a bleached wooden background

As GCN approaches its 30th Anniversary, the magazine will be changing to better reflect the LGBT community it represents


In 1988 Ireland got a second TV channel, the Molly Malone statue was unveiled on Grafton Street, David Norris won his case against the Irish government at the European Court of Human Rights (which ruled the existence of laws in Ireland criminalising consensual gay sex to be illegal) and Ireland hosted the Eurovision Song Contest for the third time. And from a little office at the top of the Hirschfield Centre in Dublin’s Temple Bar, GCN was published for the very first time, with the mission of becoming central to the evolution of Ireland’s gay community. Almost three decades later, as we get ready for a whole new era of GCN, we trace the story of its design over the years.





The first 1988 Issue in the Evolution of GCN, Ireland's National LGBT Publication with the words Gay Community News on the cover
With a radical look created Niall Sweeney, (who would go on to become the designer behind iconic queer Irish brands, Alternative Miss Ireland, Powderbubble and Pantibar) the very first issue of Gay Community News was marked by its attention to white space, with its masthead and headlines running down the side of the pages, rather than on top. Edited by Tonie Walsh and Catherine Glendon, it featured articles about cross-dressing, Ireland’s ongoing criminalisation of sexual conduct between men, and a quiz about what rights readers enjoyed, or mostly didn’t, as gay and lesbian citizens of Ireland.



The 1988 Issue in the Evolution of GCN, Ireland's National LGBT Publication with images and words on the cover
Seven issues in, and Gay Community News got a new look, also designed by Niall Sweeney. With the word ‘gay’ clearly picked out in a black box in the cover’s top left-hand corner, we were out and proud. The cover story was about the singer Sylvester, who was critically ill with Aids-related complications (he died in December 1988), while the centre pages held a report on a lesbian and gay Kiss-In at Dáil Eireann. There were articles on a leather and denim night in Dublin (at which the DJ, Albert O, “couldn’t mix for nuts”), and the precarious future of the popular Sides nightclub as its premises went up for sale.



The 1989 Issue in the Evolution of GCN, Ireland's National LGBT Publication with images and words on the cover

Just over a year later, designer Annabel Konig reimagined the brand, with the word ‘gay’ expanding to become a logo in itself. “The next few months will be critical for lesbians and gay men in this country,” the front-page opinion declared, as GLEN launched the Campaign for Homosexual Law Reform. Elsewhere there was a feature about the film Torch Song Trilogy and a round-up of international gay news.



The 1992 Issue in the Evolution of GCN, Ireland's National LGBT Publication with news and images on the cover

‘Holy Homophobia!’ shouted the cover headline of the new Gay Community News, beneath which appeared a story about the ban on Irish lesbians and gay men marching in the New York City St Patrick’s Day Parade. Designed by Sandy Campbell and Richard Prenderville, the new look and feel aimed to reflect a broadsheet newspaper, with plenty of news, views and reviews
beneath snappy headlines, all edited by Francis Thackaberry.



The 1996 Issue in the Evolution of GCN, Ireland's National LGBT Publication with drag queens and school kids on the cover

For the first time Gay Community News moved in the direction of a magazine, with a specially commissioned full-colour cover photo (by Niall Sweeny and Eamonn Doyle), at the centre of which sat Panti, in her first ever cover-shoot. Inside there was a feature about a kiss-in at the Turk’s Head on Parliament Street (formerly the gay Parliament Inn), which had instigated a door policy banning gay people, and there was a special three-page section for women called ‘Lesbian Life’.



The 1999 Issue in the Evolution of GCN, Ireland's National LGBT Publication

With a major design overhaul and new branding from Maurice Farrell, Gay Community News was abbreviated to GCN for the first time. Although still printed on newsprint, the overall look, with it’s rounded masthead logo and interior feature design veered more towards magazine. Editor Aengus Carroll wrote that he hoped “the paper will be more readable and accessible,” while inside there was reporting and opinion on the nail bomb attack on the gay Admiral Duncan pub in London’s Soho district, in which three people died and 70 were injured. There was also discussion of the new phenomenon of chat rooms on the Internet.



The 1999 Issue in the Evolution of GCN, Ireland's National LGBT Publication with the number 2000 on the cover and a swirl of red and purple

GCN went glossy for the first time, to celebrate the turn of the millennium, with editor Michael Cronin behind the wheel. The page-count jumped to 68, and it was packed with news and features, including a tribute to Quentin Crisp who had just passed away, aged 90, reports on an attack on gay bar, The Crow’s Nest in Belfast, and a feature about a new campaign about disclosing your HIV status to your partner.



The 2003 Issue in the Evolution of GCN, Ireland's National LGBT Publication with Aiden Shaw on the cover and the words Shaw Shank Redemption

With complete rebranding and new design, courtesy of Fionán Healy, GCN went full colour, and changed format too. The new size was ‘magaloid’, a cross between magazine and tabloid, and the drive was to keep a sense of the GCN readers had known for 15 years, while offering a new product entirely. The mix of politics and community was retained, with a new emphasis on cover stars, interviews and lifestyle content. The inaugural cover star, Irish gay porn king, Aiden Shaw, caused some controversy, lots of new columnists were introduced, including a HIV ‘Positive Thinking’ column from longtime activist Noel Walsh, while the interior celebrated the people who ushered in decriminalisation ten years previously.



The 2009 Issue in the Evolution of GCN, Ireland's National LGBT Publication with Mika on the cover in lime green pants on a bicycle

“GCN may have changed, but fundamentally it’s the same as it was the very first time it was published,” declared editor Brian Finnegan as a new design and branding was launched, designed again by Fionán Healy. A major readership survey informed the new design, the size was smaller so it was easier to carry, the colours popped, and there were new sections including food reviews, fashion and grooming advice, and a rolling back-page opinion, the first of which featured Una Mullally asking why the mainstream Irish media was reluctant to engage with the fight for marriage equality.



The last 2017 Issue of GCN in the current format

Two years after the Marriage Equality referendum brought same-sex marriage to Ireland, heralding the country as an inclusive and progressive society, GCN’s final cover in this format depicts the stark, iconic imagery of Joe Caslin’s George’s St mural. The GCN logo is a bold white, indicative of just how much the magazine’s identity has matured since 2009.



A question mark to symbolise the unknown 2017 relaunch issue of GCN, Gay Community Magazine

After eight years in the current format, a huge readership survey that asked you what you wanted from GCN, which continues to be integral to LGBT Ireland almost 30 years on, we’ll be presenting an exciting new brand identity and design, both in print and online next month. Our launch will take place in Pantibar on June 16, at the start of the Pride celebrations, and everyone’s invited. We’re very excited about the changes we’ve made. We hope you like them too!

Get a look at the brand new GCN at our relaunch event in Pantibar on June 16 2017.

© 2017 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.

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