The audio journal Unknown Public was devised by editor John L Walters and publisher Laurence Aston. Aston is a record marketing consultant, music adviser and manages film music composers Zbigniew Preisner and Jocelyn Pook; UP editor John L Walters writes regular CD and live reviews for The Guardian. He began his career as a composer/musician (Landscape, Zyklus) and record producer (Swans Way, Mike Gibbs). He has edited the graphic design quarterly Eye since 1999. Aston and Walters run the company with the help of many supporters, collaborators, freelances and full-time assistant editor Min Yen Ong.
To date UP has produced seventeen issues which have featured a huge variety of new work by more than 500 creative musicians and ensembles. The company has always sought interesting partners for collaborative projects, one of which was Unknown Public Radio, The Network on the Net. This was a 24-hour internet radio service celebrating 30 years of the Arts Councilís Contemporary Music Network. Aston and Walters also set up pianist Joanna MacGregorís SoundCircus label, whose releases, including MacGregorís Play (her most successful album to date) are available by mail order from the SoundCircus website and in all good record stores,
Other collaborative ventures have included two series of concerts at the South London Gallery that featured musicians associated with Unknown Public and SoundCircus. Performers included Cathy Lane, Walter Fabeck, Jonathan Impett, Live Batts, Joanna MacGregor, Iain Ballamy, John Butcher, Billy Jenkins, The Shout, Helen Chadwick and Echo City. Root & Branch was a collaboration with the English Folk Dance and Song Society, a CD journal for traditional music in an uncoated board wallet with supplementary materials. UP compiled the eight track Winter turns to Spring CD for Warner Classics; collaborated with Gramophone magazine to produce Gramophone explorations 2 in 1997, a 100-page journal with cover-mount CD featuring extracts from earlier issues of UP; and they produced .comp, a limited-edition CD featuring tracks by artists on the autumn/spring 2000/01 tours organised by the CMN.
Unknown Public has always featured innovative design work: the original identity and art direction was by John Warwicker and Tomato, and the third volume features a series of guest art directors. Issue UP09 was designed by Richard Hollis, UP10 by Stuart Bailey, UP11 by Lucy Ward and UP12 by Jon Barnbrook. UP nos. 13-17 and 01-04 Volume one were designed by Marcus Ainley Associates.
Unknown Public Ltd. is a not-for-profit company currently receiving core funding from Arts Council England. The company won the music section of The Prudential Award for The Arts 1995. New developments in 2006-07 will make it possible to release new issues more regularly, along with several exciting new collaborations with other publishers and arts organisations.