Live Launch: the movie

The Directors’ cut of our launch party in June, featuring breakdance, comedy, skateboards, house music and me sounding like John Major…

New on the site: Wall of Fame

One of the biggest challenges of any social enterprise is proving or showcasing your social impact. But over the years we’ve always felt that the clearest way of showing the difference this work makes is to showcase the stories of the people who’ve come through the doors and go on to do amazing things…

New on the site from today, we’re publishing our Wall of Fame: an ongoing record of the success stories of young South Africans who’ve made amazing steps forwards, with a shove from us – sometimes a big shove, sometimes just a little one. But from the stories we are hearing of Live Graduates, whatever their level of education or ability, the experience being at Live Magazine gives is proving a vital addition to their CVs.

And some of these inspiring young people are going into impressive job roles at magazines, newspapers and agencies…

You can keep track of our ongoing Wall of Fame here - and even as we publish this round, there’s already several more to add…

Wax on, wax off: lessons The Karate Kid can teach us about tackling youth unemployment

Miyagi: Now, ready?
Daniel: Yeah, I guess so.
Miyagi: [sighs] Daniel-san, must talk.
[they both kneel]
Miyagi: Walk on road, hm? Walk left side, safe. Walk right side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later
[makes squish gesture]
Miyagi: get squish just like grape. Here, karate, same thing. Either you karate do “yes” or karate do “no.” You karate do “guess so,”
[makes squish gesture]
Miyagi: just like grape. Understand?
Daniel: Yeah, I understand.
Miyagi: Now, ready?
Daniel: Yeah, I’m ready.

I must have watched Karate Kid ten or twelve times before the age of 10. I was besotted by the boy-done-good, underdog-triumphs-over-high-school-bully-hegemony vibe in the 1984 classic starring Ralph Macchio and Noriyuki ‘Pat’ Morita. For those too young to appreciate the golden age of 80s teen films, it told the story of Daniel Larusso, a troubled latchkey kid from a single parent family who moves to a new neighbourhood. He is harangued by the cackling cool kids at his new high school who are all, it turns out, training in Karate at the same local dojo.

One evening, having battled to escape his pursuers (on BMXs, of course, it being the eighties) he runs into janitor Mr Miyagi, a lugubrious, diminutive, Yoda-like Japanese man who speaks in pidgin-English aphorisms and has a Bonsai tree fetish. To cut a long story short: Mr Miyagi turns out to be a karate badman and puts Daniel through a crash masterclass that sees him slogging his way to the finals of the local karate tournament, kicking his arch nemesis’s ass with an ostentatious swan-kick, and, of course, getting the girl in the process. The end.

I’m not sure the film would stand the test of time. Even as a mere slip of a boy I remember finding Macchio’s character annoying, but fawned at the crying-in-the-rain lost love eighties scenes when things go awry with his beloved (Elizabeth Shue - be still my beating eight-year-old heart!) to a crushing soundtrack of Bananarama’s Cruel Summer: although in summary I imagine it to be mawkish, outdated and over-acted.

But even to my jaded, overenlightened, thirtysomething cynic’s mind, there’s a lot of Zen wisdom in the film, particularly from Miyagi. As well as a sentiment to the film that makes it a stayer. And, in all serious seriousness, one particular scene has real resonance for me, especially in the context of Live Magazine…

Miyagi and the evil sensei

In the film, Miyagi puts Larusso into an informal Karate apprenticeship, having made an audacious pact with the pugnacious lantern-jawed dojomaster (who is training up all of Daniel’s nasty little tormentors as vicious facsimiles of his own troubled Vietnam-vet soul) that they will leave him alone if Daniel wins the forthcoming karate tournament. This apprenticeship involves Daniel volunteering his time to Mr Miyagi during his school holidays, and turning up every day at his Japanese-style paper house to perform a series of tasks. At the beginning of each day, Miyagi sets the task and then buggers off.

First day: paint the house with horizontal brushstrokes - LEFT!/ RIGHT!/ LEFT!/ RIGHT!

Second day: paint the fence - UP!/ DOWN!/ UP!/ DOWN!

Third day: Wax the car with circular motion - WAX ON!/ WAX OFF!

After a good few days of this Daniel loses his rag, thinking he is being taken for a ride by Miyagi: that he’s been been duped into acting as a temporary manservant for his little japanese guru.

Daniel-san looking a wee bit grumpy about the old Wax on/ wax off vibe

As a result, in the most memorable scene in the film, he confronts Miyagi with something of a quasi-testosterone-filled pubescent tantrum. Only to realise that the seemingly onorous tasks he has been labouring away at have in fact formed the basis of self-defense techniques for the esoteric Okinawa-style of karate that Miyagi is schooling him in. It’s then a mere short sprint, a few crane-kicks and windswept beach scenes later that Daniel is raising a monolithic trophy as the junior kung fu king of the universe and stealing off into the moonlight with Elisabeth Shue.

So how does this relate to a youth magazine in Cape Town?

This week we put issue 3 of Live Magazine to bed. Our young design team bear the brunt of this final stage: it ain’t pretty nor fun. It involves late nights, endless changes, losing of temper and much furrowing of brows. And it tests the resolve of a team who are, essentially, volunteers.

LIke Miyagi with Daniel Larusso, we’re trying to blood these young people in the working world so they will be not only strong enough to survive (against the odds) but flourish into the economic battleground that lies ahead of them. They might not realise what they’re learning.

And it’s not only in the final stages, when an issue gets stressful, that difficulties arise. A few months ago we realised there was a general sense of discontent among the team about what they were getting out of the ‘deal’. They were turning up every day, working, and we (the professional team) were getting paid but not them. We had decided not to provide lunch, but buy bread every day so that there are snacks for those who might not otherwise eat much – this became a complaint that our catering wasn’t good enough.

I then announced to them all that our project had been refunded for a second year by the Shuttleworth Foundation. Seen out of context, the view from some of the Live team was that, well, none of the money makes it way through to them. I know that some of the team thought: how is that fair? And when you know that there might not be much money coming into the household, or pressure from parents to put bread on the table, it’s hard not to consider their point.

Why am I here? they think. I’m not getting paid. I’ve worked hard. I’ve given my time. But what am I getting out of it? Like Daniel Larusso, it can lead to a bout of serious discontent.

Miyagi: Your friend, all karate student, eh?
Daniel: Friend? Oh, yeah, those guys.
Miyagi: Problem: attitude.
Daniel: No the problem is, I’m getting my ass kicked every other day, that’s the problem.
Miyagi: Hai, because boys have bad attitude. Karate for defense only.
Daniel: That’s not what these guys are taught.
Miyagi: Hai - can see. No such thing as bad student, only bad teacher. Teacher say, student do.
Daniel: Oh, great, that solves everything for me. I’ll just go down to the school and straighten it out with the teacher, no problem.
Miyagi: Now use head for something other than target.

Not that I’d ever go so far as to compare myself to Mr Miyagi, but I’ve had to have a few chats to discontented young people who are desperate to earn money and questioning their choice of taking up an unpaid internship. As well as trying to point out the benefits of why they’re here, I’ve also had to look a couple of our trainees in the eye and tell them I don’t think it’s my company’s responsibility to put bread on the table. It wasn’t easy and I didn’t love having to say it, but I believe it’s true.

At Live we’re not just dealing with one Daniel Larusso. We’ve got a rolling team of 25, and not all of them will succeed in the way we/they hope. That’s disappointing. And it honestly gives me sleepless nights to think we haven’t delivered for someone because of some fault in our delivery.

But the fact is, in 9 months we have seen (out of approximately 42) 12 of our core team move into full-time work, and a further 9 return or carry on into full-time tertiary education. That’s almost 50% into employment or education. So we know it works. But 50% of making it work needs to come from the individual.

Daniel Larusso about to unleash his victory-clinching crane-kick, and opening the door to finally losing his virginity

In actual fact, to stick my neck out, I believe it’s absolutely the right model: we provide the platform, the expertise, the mentoring, the contacts, the environment (and the travel expenses to get to the office). As a result, it’s not our responsibility, in my view, to be the provider of everything else. The ball is in their court there. We are not a charity, and we don’t want to be a soup kitchen. It’s unsustainable and I fear it ends up in a ‘dead aid’ situation: how can you keep the onus on progression if everything is provided. As long as we are constantly working and committed to make the offering as valuable as we possibly can: and never waver in that commitment by losing sight of our core social purpose, then I think we should all be permitted a decent night’s sleep.

We do still need to do more: more one-on-one employability mentoring, more job skills workshops, more/stronger links with employers and more PR around the fact that we exist and are have a pool of talented young people to employ.

We may not be as mystical and magical as Mr Miyagi – and I’m yet to catch a fly in a pair of chopsticks – but we are committed to making sure all the wax on/wax off makes our young team into future champions.

[Miyagi karate-chops the tops off three beer bottles]
Daniel: How did you do that? How did you do that?
Miyagi: Don’t know. First time.


Live Mag SA: Issue 3 sneak peek

Issue 3 will see a slight update in the design of Live Magazine SA, to bring it into line with the UK edition. Our four design musketeers, Sivu, Ryan, Clint and Thabo are hard at work, and here’s a little preview of how things are looking, with a story about Umuzi Photo Club…

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 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!