What happened when I let readers choose a future Elska city

A couple weeks ago I decided to launch a vote so that Elska readers could choose the location of one of 2021’s future issues. Although for years I've been listening to the requests of fans, I never directly let anyone take so much control, which was a scary but exciting process.

I offered the ballot only to the most loyal readers, specifically to deluxe annual subscribers and Patreon supporters. I asked each to nominate three cities, and I allocated five, three, and two points to their choices, respectively. I'm now ready to announce the first round results.

But before I do that, I have to say, what I'm most struck by is the great variety of cities people have nominated, and moreso, how unexpected many were. This excites me so much, because even though issues made in the most 'obvious' places (like Berlin or Amsterdam) do tend to sell the most, I'm most inspired by more off-the-beaten-track destinations. There were votes for places like Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan), Harbin (China), and Torshavn (Faroe Islands), all of which intrigue me immensely. I feel quite honoured that the most dedicated Elska readers think like I do, and I also feel ashamed that I assumed the nominations would be in the most predictable places. Though if I'm honest, I would have been quite pleased if New York had won the vote — then I'd be able to lazily shoot an issue based from home (I moved to New York last October).

And now for the winners:

I'm going to list the five cities that earned the most points here. The top three of them will then go for a run-off vote among our Editors Circle (deluxe subscribers and Patreon supporters). Whichever city wins WILL BE a future Elska city. Due to COVID, I can't say exactly when the trip will happen, but I'm hoping for summer, or if not, autumn.

1) Montréal, Canada

2) Barcelona, Spain

3) Buenos Aires, Argentina

4) Athens, Greece

5) Madrid, Spain

Other interesting choices to highlight:

  • I’m a bit surprised that no Asian city made the top, but if you’re curious, Bangkok had the most points of any Asian location, making 7th place overall. However, if you were to add the points for Hanoi and Saigon (both in Vietnam), it would have come just one single point behind Bangkok, in 8th place.
  • I'm also surprised that no US cities made the top 5. However, in 6th place was a US city — San Francisco / Oakland (California), and down in 9th place another US town, Chicago (Illinois). Most interesting of all is that although our single biggest customer base is in New York City, it didn't get many votes — perhaps New Yorkers are keen Elska fans but not keen on seeing themselves in Elska.
  • All three of the Baltic capitals got nominations — Vilnius (Lithuania), Riga (Latvia), and Tallinn (Estonia). None got enough points to make the top, but the one with the most was Tallinn.
  • I'm still very committed to returning to Africa at some point so that we can have more than just one issue there (Cape Town). No African city got many votes, but the one with the most was Lagos, Nigeria. Probably not very safe, but I could perhaps try to tackle it from a more journalistic perspective. Hmm.
  • One of my saddest moments of 2020 was losing our trip to Beirut, Lebanon. I had flights and accommodation booked for last September, but COVID and the explosion both put end to that. Although I never announced that trip, it's interesting that Beirut was the Middle Eastern city with the most votes in our Great Big Ballot, more even than Tel Aviv (Israel). In fact, Tel Aviv wasn't even in second place — that was Amman, Jordan, a city I never even considered featuring. Something to think about.
  • An honourable mention goes to France where a big diversity of cities were nominated. Paris got the most votes, but if you added up all the votes for various French cities, it would have reached 4th place.
  • Prague (Czechia) also had a significant amount of votes, though it was most often people's third choice, which gave it a lowish amount of points overall.
  • Biggest surprise? Only one person voted for a city in England. Damn, Brexit has soiled my country! Scotland however, both Glasgow and Edinburgh, got rather a lot of votes. Vive Scottish independence!

Alright, for those of you eligible to vote in Part 2 of our Great Big Ballot, check your emails or Patreon messages for a link to vote. I'm not going to announce the winner until probably the trip is actually about to happen, but feel free to message or email if you'd like to know the results. I'm happy to tell you on a one-on-one basis.

Cheers,

Liam

Liam Campbell is editor + chief photographer of Elska Magazine, a project about travelling the world and sharing the bodies and voices of a bunch of local guys I happen to meet.

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