Beat Scene was founded in 1988 by editor and publisher Kevin Ring in Coventry, England. His personal fascination for the Beat Generation, in particular Jack Kerouac, was sparked in 1971, but he was frustrated that information about Beat writers and their books was hard to come by in the UK at that time.
The first Beat Scene and subsequent four issues were thin A5 booklets. Initially, there were only 200 copies produced and hand assembled on the kitchen table. As well as the principal Beat writers: Kerouac, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, the magazine has featured Lord Buckley, James Jones, Chet Baker, Richard Brautigan, Lew Welch, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Lenny Bruce, Ken Kesey, Jack Hirschman, Raymond Carver, Robert Frank, Gregory Corso, Diane Di Prima, Jack Micheline and Carolyn Cassady (who was the first of the magazine’s interview subjects). The poet and Kerouac biographer Tom Clark has contributed to the magazine but was also interviewed by Ring.
Charles Bukowski was frequently mentioned in the early issues and when issue 9 was in preparation Ring received an unsolicited letter from the Los Angeles based poet and novelist along with a parcel of previously unpublished poems. These were offered for publication at the magazine’s usual rate, which at the time amounted to a few complimentary copies. Over the years Bukowski continued to contribute poems to the magazine and issue 12 included a flexi-record of him reading. Bukowski was interviewed by Ring for Beat Scene and its sister magazine, Transit. After Bukowski’s death in 1994 Ring compiled a special memorial issue. There was another Charles Bukowski special issue in 2004, to mark the tenth anniversary of his death.
Complementing the magazine is The Beat Scene Press , which specialises in publishing classic beat interviews or new, longer articles on beat culture. This includes a series of pocket chapbooks, usually limited to 125 signed and numbered copies. Amongst those in the series there has been texts by or about Dan Fante, Gary Snyder, William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Charles Bukowski, Tom Clark, Jack Kerouac, John Clellon Holmes and Richard Brautigan.
Beat Scene's companion magazine Transit has regular contributors that include Michael McClure, David Meltzer, Diane di Prima, Barry Gifford and Tom Clark.
An American publication with similar contents was Moody Street Irregulars, edited and published by Joy Walsh during the 1970s and 1980s.