Highlights: December to February

Here’s a round-up of all the main events of the last 3 months.


The Live Magazine team completed the distribution of issue 1 of Live Magazine SA, with 50,000 copies going out to shops, schools, universities, libraries and malls, as well as into the hands of young people at taxi ranks and train stations via our street team distribution network. The distribution concentrated on urban and township locations across Cape Town and Gauteng initially, with two phases of distribution before and after Christmas.


In late February the second issue of Live Magazine SA came back from the printers and began its distribution. Featuring supermodel Carmen Solomons (from Kraaifontein) on the cover, the magazine covers issues including gangsterism, beauty, press freedom, financial awareness, careers guidance, homosexuality and xenophobia, as well as featuring fashion, music, cars, cartoons, gadgets and a sideways look at racism and political correctness.

Personal highlights are the 5 page photo-documentary feature shot in the Eastern Cape by Cebisa Zono, our guide to surviving university life and our cover story interview with Carmen Solomons (not to mention the beautiful photography shot by 19 year old Dylan Louw).

You can read the whole issue online here.

We’re also excited to be working in partnership with Johannesburg-based media arts organisation Kileketla for the distribution of issue 2.


Several member of the first cohort of Live Mag SA core contributors have progressed from the project, some into full time tertiary education and others into full-time work. Highlights include Lauren Snyders (who got a full-time role at Bush Radio and can be sometimes heard reading the news), Cristle Mokwape (junior editorial role at Stellenbosch University), Vanessa Kungwane (who secured a Rhodes Scholarship to study in Grahamstown), and Jayson White (went on to Big Fish film school on a bursary).

We inducted a brand new cohort of young people in mid February, including referrals from our NGO partners Ikamva Youth in Masiphumelele.

Meanwhile, the team have been inundated with requests to get involved via email, SMS and our Facebook page, from readers who have picked up the magazine all over the country, and are working on a system to able to offer the ability to contribute to young people outside Cape Town in a fair and meritocratic way.

We appointed a new editor, Ndu Ncgobo, and deputy editor, Jessica Edgson, as well as brand new range of editorial positions for other contributors.

We also introduced a new range of contributor incentives including a Wall of Fame for alumni, and the Ultimate Overlord prize – where one contributor each week received a bonus voucher for performance, as well as qualifies to wear the coveted Ultimate Overlord t-shirt.


Live Magazine SA is in the process of registering and qualifying for an official Audit Bureau of Circulation rating, which would give us an official circulation figure. We were pleased to find out that we would be able to have our street team distribution audited (currently makes up approximately 30% of our circulation), and that we would receive our rating in July 2012.


In February I completed my final project plan and pitch of the Fellowship Year which will focus on building and launching a mobile site for Live Magazine SA. As part of this process my team and I spent a large amount of time speaking to industry experts, meeting agencies and trying to decide the best platform and approach. In the end we have decided to go with a WordPress driven solution and are delighted to announce that we will be working with Cape Town-based agency Creative Spark for the build.


Live Mag SA recruited a new part-time editorial mentor, Lee Middleton, an American freelance journalist based in Cape Town. We also continued to work with a host of existing and new mentors, paid and voluntary, across several disciplines, including documentary photographer Alexia Webster, and artist Mike Saal helping with illustration – as well as guest talks from Rufus Pollock, Richard Dejager, The President Design agency, filmmaker Richard Starkey, and a communications workshop from actor Mary Steward.


Google SA agreed to another 6 months of sponsorship of our YouTube team, working in parallel to the editorial team to create youth culture content in video. Our aim over the first half of 2012 is to build up our channel and its subscriber base, showing how video content can entertain, inspire and educate, whilst training a rolling cohort of young people to become YouTube experts. The deal includes advertorial in Live Magazine.


In December I was delighted to find out that the Shuttleworth Foundation had awarded me a second year of Fellowship beginning on March 1st 2012. The focus for year 2 will be building on a whirlwind first year to establish the business model, build our team, grow our revenue streams and make significant progress towards sustainability, as well as launching on mobile and developing a small hub in Gauteng.


Live Magazine SA and its contributors. Mentors were featured in Arise magazine in the UK, SA’s Sunday Times, Wallpaper* magazine (mentor Nkuli Mlangeni), CityPress (editor Nicola Daniels), the Cape Argus, Cosmopolitan (Cristle Mokwape), and Drum magazine (Nkuli Mlangeni and Nicola Daniels).


Live Mag SA members, including myself, collaborated with the MAL Foundation and got to the Common Pitch South Africa finals presented by Design Indaba http://www.commonpitchsa.com/ for a collaborative idea that would bridge the societal and geographical divide between established and up’n coming creatives in Cape Town.


Live Magazine SA produced a beautiful new edition, with a simultaneous release with Live Mag SA, and hitting a 50,000 print run, distributed across the UK.

While the mothership, Livity UK, were winning awards left, right and centre, with 3 MAA Awards for our Final Verse campaign, and we were included in NESTA’s Britains Top 5o Radicals. Viva!

Issue one: The Finish Line

I don’t know what to make of issue 1 yet. Seeing the spreads go up on the wall of our office over the last seven days has been exhilarating, painful, stressful, long. The finish doesn’t resolve itself quickly – seemingly endless processions of correction and amendments. Despite going through this process countless times before, it never seems to get any easier… and for our young team, it’s the first time.

But on Friday afternoon at around 5pm, we finally signed off the last page and there, in front of our eyes, had appeared a complete magazine. Too tired to celebrate properly, we made peace with the fact that there was nothing much more we could do apart from try and have a relaxing weekend then prepare the magazine for print on Monday morning.

Here’s a sneak peak of what’s inside…


Live Magazine SA: Day 3

Day three saw the group stepping up a gear when Cosmopolitan maagazine’s Deputy Editor led a superb masterclass on how to put together a magazine: from the tone of voice and front cover, to the Pillars of Content and deadlines…

Cathy Lund on what makes a cover

Furious note-taking

Live Magazine SA's 'pillars of content'

Live's tone of voice

Live Magazine South Africa: Day One

140BBDO’s office in Bo-Kaap was filled with an extra level of noise and buzz today when 20 young people and a bunch of media mentors piled in for the first day of Live Mag SA’s induction week.

Intros on the morning of day one

Live Mag SA's first editor Nicola (right)

After getting to know everyone with a series of entertaining interviews, we fled to the board-room where I presented the whole background of Livity, Live Magazine and the ten year journey that took me and the Livity/ Live methodology from the backstreets of Brixton to the southern tip of Africa.

Presenting the story of Livity (full version)

Rahul, Celeste and Albert from Live UK then presented how they put the UK edition together, before we rounded off the day creating portraits of who our typical readers were…

Creating audience profiles for SA readers

All photos by Chris Saunders

Live Magazine South Africa: the new recruits

The Live Magazine SA team: (from l to r) Nana, Xolani, Cristal, Nicola and Lauren

Twenty one young people will be walking in to our office in Bo-Kaap, Cape Town, next Monday to start a journey that I hope will be life-changing for everyone involved. They are the first ever Live Magazine South Africa team. A diverse group from all across the Cape, with a range of backgrounds and abilities, but all driven by the need for experience, to taste the working world, and to become the voice of youth for their generation.

Competition for places was fierce, despite this being a voluntary opportunity. And for issue one, we are creating a core team which includes some young people who have some skills and experience, but matching this with a regular outreach programme to outposts in outlying townships to make sure there are weekly opportunities for grassroots involvement and contributions, including the Ikamva Live contributors; with the core team acting as peer mentors.

Get to know: the Live Mag SA team meet together for the first time at El Burro in Greenpoint

These 21 will be the core brains behind creating the first issue from top to bottom, assisted in their first week by Rahul Verma (editorial mentor) and Celeste Houlker (Editor) from Live Magazine UK, who will be flying out from London on a skills-transfer mission.

Week one will see us getting to know each other and talking through the history of the magazine and Livity UK, who our audience is, how the process works, why we’re doing this and, ultimately, what we are going to put in the magazine. Cathy Lund, deputy editor of Cosmopolitan, will be spending two days helping us to put the issue plan together; Chris Saunders will be talking about his career and overseeing the commissioning and shooting of photography; while Lynne Stuart and Greer Valley will be overseeing design, layout and illustration.

But, most importantly, the 21 young people who turned up bright-eyed, bushy tailed and on time for a welcome lunch yesterday, will be in charge, and this truly is their turn to show the world what the young people of South Africa are made of.

Week 12: Live Magazine SA is all systems go

Almost three months since landing on these shores, and now the decision is made. The first issue of Live Magazine South Africa will appear in early November. It is decided, so it has to happen. It’s not just an arbitrary decision – the background is I’m feeling confident enough in the emerging model, team, scope, and partners to press the red button. And to have copies ready in time for when Cape Town is gearing up for summer, school holidays and the city coming alive.

The broad challenge for issue 1 of Live Magazine in South Africa is this: 1) give a life-changing experience to a group of underprivileged young people in the hope of lighting the touch paper of their future prosperity. 2) Producing something of value and overwhelming interest to a mainstream youth audience. 3) convincing commercial brands to invest in advertising in a youth-created magazine before it’s even launched.
The plan: to recruit up to 20 young people aged 18-25 as the ‘pathfinder’ group who will create Live Magazine issue 1. They’ll be working with our professional mentoring team over a period of two months to make the issue from top to bottom.

The criteria for young people: determination, attitude, initiative, need. They don’t have to have the skills and experience, but they do need to have shown a spark, an energy, a motivation. We’ll be recruiting via our network of NGO partners that I’ve developed over the last two months, with a short process featuring an application form and a brief interview.

This is a unique phase of the project – creating this core team to make the first issue and then building the project out from there: adding on outreach workshops into specific communities, creating the mobile channel to scale content, and then creating additional editorial hubs in other cities. But hitting scale with the first issue through a large print run and distribution in both Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Live Mag SA issue 1’s production office will be embedded within Cape Town advertising agency 140BBDO in their office in De Waterkant, bringing the young people into town into an open plan space of around 90 square metres. BBDO are generous advocated of the project, offering us space, support through their networks, and access to creative mentors.

There are some exciting additional elements to issue 1 that I can’t wait to confirm – including some nascent ideas around mobile video, an overnight design challenge and a small posse of international visitors – all TBC.

The core project team is now in place, with Claire Conroy and Nkuli Mlangeni at the controls of commercial/brand development and project co-ordination, having worked with me on the Ikamva Live project. I’m also in disussions with Lynne Stuart, who oversaw the IkamvaLive design, to play an overseer role again, with photography mentoring from Chris Saunders, Jo’burg-based fashion photographer.

The only missing link: an editorial mentor – one of the most crucial roles. Recruitment is underway, and we’ve had an amazing calibre of applicant so far. Applications close on Wednesday.

Things are lining up, and excitement is bubbling away. On Friday we had our first day working together at BBDO, plotting, planning and aligning schedules and objectives. But what we all got most hyped about, once the main agenda was dealt with, was the work that this group, whoever they may be, are going to create… I can’t wait to see it.

Week 8: some things I learnt from Ikamva Live

Sneak peek: Ikamva Live front cover

This morning I sent our one-off Ikamva Live mini-mag to the printers, less than seven days after the first word of the content was written. The magazine was all created by a team of almost exactly 20 young people, aged from 14 to 21, but mainly from the lower age groups.

The core group, who spent the first three days getting a quickfire background to making magazines, were from Makhaza in Khayelitsha. A second squadron from Masiphumelele parachuted in at the beginning of Content Blitz week and hit the ground running. We were operating out of a cluttered classroom at the Tsiba school in Pinelands, which by the end of the week was adorned with moodboards, flatplans and biscuit crumbs… with a computer room on hand for those needing to type things up or research.

It’s not over yet: we have the launch, the distribution, and our experiment with linking the content to a mobile channel via Mxit to contend with yet….

But in the meantime, here are 7 things I learned from the week:

1. You can get a lot done in one week: we did it, we made it. And it feels good. In all honesty, I was in two minds about doing this project, entirely due to the short time-scale I had to prepare for it, with a ten day trip to Geneva hoving into view (only returning the day before we started) and an already-packed meeting schedule. I had no idea how capable the learners were, how many of them we had, or whether I would be able to pull together a reliable mentoring team in time. By hook, crook, a little persuasion, a lot of goodwill, the odd sweaty moment, lots of driving around, and a flurry of phone calls, hastily-devoured sandwiches and late nights, the team managed to pull it all together.

2. Some people just GET it: Every day I rocked up to the Tsiba school with a bakkie packed with a different collection of odd-fellows as mentors. Everyone who turned up mucked in, even though they weren’t journalists (see point 3 below). Sometimes with barely a 30 second briefing from me, we had people sitting down to work on pieces with kids they’d never met, for a magazine that didn’t yet exist.

We couldn’t never have done any of this without the hard-work of Lynne Stuart, our design mentor; but particular mention must also go to volunteers Nkuli Mlangeni (stylist and photographer) and Claire Conroy (marketing and advertising), who both stayed the distance and got the very best out of the kids… with an honourable mention to Cebisa Zono, who would have been there until the end had he not, sadly, had to return to the Eastern Cape. The Big Issue team, as well, were generous with their time, advice and input, spending a whole afternoon with us at the end of the preparatory week.

3. Some folks are flakey… or maybe just afraid: I had numerous offers of help and support from Cape Town journalists. I replied to every person, followed up as much as possible, and even squeezed in meetings with one or two to try and reassure and explain what was gong to happen. Aside from the Big Issue team, who came down to be interviewed, not one of the journalists showed up. I’m left wondering why…

Maybe I wasn’t reassuring enough, maybe I didn’t explain it fully, or maybe they are all just incredibly busy. Those are some of the more generous conclusions I’ve come to. The one thing I’m convinced of is: come down once, get stuck in, and almost always you’ll want to come back and do it again. Mentoring is a two-way experience - valuable to mentor and mentee, but I realise I have an ‘education’ job to do to persuade people in this city of that. And I’m determined to succeed.

The Ikamva Live team

4. Stay focused: Live Magazine, when it launches here, will need to be focused on an older age group. Our Ikamva Live team got a lot out of it. And although there will be plenty of opportunities for high school age kids to get involved and interact, the real sweet spot I think is post-matric, age 18 and above. I’m more convinced than ever that Live needs to help those who have already overcome the hurdle of getting their education, but are still left lost and unemployed…

5. Be clear, and don’t break promises: one girl, who joined the team late (we never found out why), was harder to communicate with the rest, and looked tense and unhappy for most of the week - possibly due to a lack of confidence in herself and her ability to speak English. She revealed that she was interested in photography, and I suggested she take the photos for the Simphiwe Dana interview later that week. She shrugged and I decided not to push it, and then later in the week forgot to ask her again.

After the interview happened (and unaware that it had taken place) she came up to me and asked me if she would still be able to take the pictures, as I’d promised her she could. I had to apologise profusely, but she simply walked off, clearly annoyed and upset. I’m now trying to hatch a plan to make it up to her.

6. Ikamva Youth is truly changing lives: whatever they’ve created here, it’s working. With 5 branches nationally, and more on the way (including an international chapter in the works), the model clearly rocks. In our interview with her for the magazine, founder Joy Olivier revealed that their matric pass-rate has never fallen below 87%: an astonishing statistic for a demographic who regularly drop out or scrape through. I have much to learn from their disciplined approach (where attendance is key and only dedicated learners succeed), and there are brilliant synergies and ways of working with each other in future.

7. The kids are alright: more than alright, in fact. They were truly admirable. The Ikamva Youth learners who put themselves forward for this Media course qualify to become Ikamvanites by hard-work and dedication. They turn up three times a week for extra tutoring and then give up the vast majority of their school holidays for more of the same. They’re bright, determined, hard-working, fun, open-minded, enthusiastic, polite, attentive and I loved working with them, as did all the mentors.

It was easy to forget that the team all spoke Xhosa as their mother tongue. They were shy to begin with, as kids are when they have to speak and write in a second language. And it was also pointed out to me that my English accent is sometimes hard to understand (and in fact sounds weird). Aside from the language barrier (which also made feedback and instructions sometimes difficult for the ones who were less confident in their English) the days were long. I was thinking how bitterly I would have resented giving up every day of my school holiday, and how fatigued I’d be by 3pm after an 8am start to a daily dose of maths and science tutoring. Every day they powered on until 4.30.

To quote Simphiwe Dana, in our interview with her in Ikamva Live - ‘It is very difficult right now for an African child. You have to make it against all odds. If you are raised by grandparents, you’re probably raising your siblings yourself. If your father’s there, he’s an alcoholic, your mother the same thing. Some days you go without eating. You don’t have textbooks. Your neighbourhood is not safe. Everything is stacked against you. And that is the reason why you must succeed. So you can say one day, despite the odds, “I made it”.’

Towards the end of the week, I was packing up and trudging out of the building with the other mentors, taking one of those long exhales that teachers or child-minders must enjoy when the whirlwind of youth exits the building at the end of the day. The kids were all packed onto the slightly ancient bus in the parking lot, but I saw one figure running towards me. It was Anathi, who’d been quiet for most of the first few days, but had revealed himself as a more than competent, in fact rather eloquent, writer.

‘Gavin’, he said quietly. ‘Are we going to do this magazine again? I love being a journalist…’