Creative Practitioner Case Study — Kian West & The Newcastle Mirage
Kian West is the managing director of The Newcastle Mirage, which is a limited free “street-press” zine based on all things local to Newcastle. I wanted to learn more about his creative work practices for the publication, as well as how he defines himself as a Creative Practitioner.
Before Kian established the zine, he was a DJ in Newcastle with a background in Graphic Design. Over time, Kian noticed a gap for a local zine as the previous gazette, which had run for only two years, had terminated.
This project for a zine purely based on local-only content began when Kian met a designer at one of his DJ gigs. Ryan, his colleague for the publication is responsible for building the zine with all of its content + advertisements, whilst Kian’s main role is to coordinate the content between their writers and their advertisers.
The key to keeping this project alive after 4 years running is maintaining clear communication amongst their advertisers, businesses and people that form the content of the zine month-to-month. Keeping the dialogue as free flowing as possible whilst maintaining social equity really hammers home the core of the zine. The fundamental core of The Newcastle Mirage is Promoting positive ideas from motivated people within the local community, whilst keeping in mind that it is the content that drives the magazine, not its advertisers.
In terms of the creative practices that Kian undertakes in his role at The Newcastle Mirage, it’s fairly broad-spectrum in that there is no one-way to approach everything that needs to be done. Essentially, Kian needs to think as a creative practitioner to get the best results possible for the whole project.
· He needs to be coming up constantly of different ways to attract advertisers without using typical sales techniques, which is typically what most start-up publications do.
· Forward-thinking is a priority. As soon as an issue has finished developing its content, Kian needs to be thinking about what local news can feature in the next months edition of the Mirage.
· Constantly developing and improving their tight-work practices to prevent further issues arising in subsequent publications.
· Constantly managing the social media/ marketing side of the Newcastle Mirage to try and grow their audience / knowledge base.
The term “Creative Practitioner” is something I have only just recently become aware of, which can be used to describe a wide variety of professionals. There doesn’t seem to be any specific description as to what a “Creative Practitioner” is, so I thought I would take this assignment as an opportunity to familiarize myself with the term better. Through the interview I had with managing director, Kian West of the Newcastle Mirage, I have become more understanding of the term and how Creative Practitioners can blend into a wide variety of different industries. Throughout this blog, I will be comparing the differences between free street-press zine The Newcastle Mirage and other more widely known publications of a similar nature.
The Newcastle Mirage is a project that has grown into something that definitely challenges industry expectations, stemming from the core that it is based upon. Kian was very clear in our interview that he wanted to make something that had a sense of value to it. He said that “it is the local content that drives this magazine, not our advertisers”. Being able to find the that balance between the two is a major challenge that I’m sure any creative practitioner would struggle tackling. The main way that this magazine is financially supported is through its advertisers. A problem that they are constantly battling is making sure they have enough advertisers each month. Most publications implement typical sales techniques to attract more advertisers. The challenge that The Newcastle Mirage faces constantly is their policy not to harass clients with sales tactics. Audiences are interested in a magazine because of its stories, how their presented and the relatability of the story and not because of how many ads are featured. Fortunately, both Ryan and Kian have pre-established advertiser relationships from previous work they have both done. Also, word of mouth through their fan-base generates a lot of advertiser enquiry as well. That being said, Kian needed to work quite hard at the start of this project as they had a social media following that needed establishing to gain a wider audience. Kian had to build up their Instagram, which in turn meant that needed to think both creatively and economically to get the product off the ground. This involves a lot of networking in the most organic ways possible.
Aside from managing the Newcastle Mirage’s advertisers, Kian needs to source content for each month’s zine. As a previous issue is in its finalization process, both Kian and Ryan are keeping their ‘noses to the ground’ on new and upcoming events around The Newcastle area. The aim is to support the community as much as possible, so that the community naturally supports them back. In this month’s issue, there is a story about the Newcastle-based visual artist James Drinkwater. He agreed to have an interview with the Mirage, which was pretty major for this street-press publication considering how talented and widely-known James Drinkwater is. Having someone this reputable as this in their magazine gives the project some edge, and encourages other local-artists and creatives in the area to contact the Mirage for publicizing themselves. It’s all about finding the right sort of local based content, to try and form a symbiotic relationship between the clients and the publication. The tone of the article that was produced from this interview stays true to the core of the Newcastle Mirage. The way that the conversation clearly flows between Ryan and James Drinkwater captivates their audience in a highly relatable format. There isn’t a sense of showmanship at all when reading this article, which is a tone that frequents different kinds of publications. Essentially, this article is a perfect example of how The Newcastle Mirage highlights arts, culture and local events in humble and engaging way.
Smith Journal is also an Australian-based publication produced under the Frankie Press group who also publish Frankie Magazine and Slow Magazine. The core of Smith Journal is to bridge the gap between creators and thinkers, as well as presenting as an aesthetically pleasing source of inspiration filled with stories both old and new. An article way back from 2012 in one my treasured Smith Journals was approached in a similar fashion to how Ryan from the Newcastle Mirage approached the interview with James Drinkwater. My example that I am using is an article which is also an interview with a Creative Practitioner. Luke Ryan from Smith Journal Magazine interviews Jon Ronson who is a documentary maker, writer and journalist who is well known for his 2004 film “Men Who Stare at Goats”. The tone of the interview is exactly the same as how Ryan approached James Drinkwater. Both The Mirage and Smith approached their subjects in quite a relaxed fashion, which led to the article being more readable and relevant to the reader. From reading both of these articles, the tone is quite heavily influenced by the subject as opposed to the interviewer guiding the subject to create a “certain type” of content. The reader walks away from reading an article like this feeling as though they have read a genuine representation of the person who was interviewed. Even the titles of both of the articles that I have mentioned here stick to that humble and “earthy” perspective, ensuring that the reader feels as though the subject was able to really express themselves clearly and honestly. “My Influences” is what Luke from Smith titled his interview article as, “A Chat with James Drinkwater” is what Ryan from the Newcastle Mirage titled their interview article.
Not all publications are like this when representing a Creative Practitioner in an article. There are different target markets for different publications, which can make for some interesting comparison among similar contexts. For example, a recent article published in the street- press magazine Broadsheet — Melbourne takes a look at another reputable artist, (Del Kathryn Barton — Visual Artist). The tone of this article is a lot more authoritative by comparison to the articles I mentioned previously “Spiders, Bunnies and Armani Suits: Del Kathryn Barton Hits New York” is an article structured showing how the writer has illustrated the subject as a widely-known and talented Creative Practitioner, with a list of accomplishments and descriptions about her exhibitions. “She’s in New York at a good time. Brooklyn Museum’s Georgia O’Keeffe retrospective gives as much prominence to O’Keeffe’s wardrobe as her work, acknowledging that creative work does not exist in a vacuum — it’s informed by daily aesthetics, and vice versa.” Imogen Eveson, Broadsheet Magazine. This article reads as an elaborate and ambitious depiction of the Creative Practitioner who was interviewed.
Target market and audience are the only elements that will ever truly influence what a publication is going to be like. There needs to be a consistent tone within each publication so that loyal readers can revisit the publication expecting writing styles, aesthetics, tone etc to be pretty much the same, (but obviously with different content). Kian wanted to create a zine that would be treasured by his audience, similar to how car fanatics collect a certain magazine or myself with my stack of Frankie magazines. The approachable nature of the way that content is presented in The Newcastle Mirage, and Smith Journal to a different extent, really encourages audiences to respond in that way. Another tool that Kian has implemented to encourage a loyal audience is by allowing people to purchase subscriptions of the zine. As the Newcastle Mirage is a free street press publication that can be found in local grocers, café’s etc, the subscription option means that they can secure their own copy without the chance of missing out.
Both Ryan and Kian are very connected to their audience as up until four months ago, all issues of The Newcastle Mirage had been hand delivered to each of the collection points. In terms of variance to other publications, this practice of being so connected to their product out of necessity is starkly different to both Smith and Broadsheet. Hearing reviews first hand from audiences and businesses serving as collection points would have really helped mold the zine to fit their audiences better. In our interview, Kian was telling me that he has devised a system with his colleague Ryan to determine how many units had been collected from their drop-off points. This is so they had some sort of understanding as to how the public were receiving this project. In my understanding, there is a little more freedom when you start a publication from scratch like this. Budgets and relationships with advertisers, as well as audiences are yet to be fully developed. When reflecting on how The Newcastle Mirage has grown, this means that the local community focused content of the publication evolves in a way that is true to it’s native and central focus, Newcastle.
This blog/ assessment has led me to research the different practices of Creative Practitioners in a similar field to myself. From this research, I have gained some valuable insight as to how important a theme or core to a project can truly be. As seen in Broadsheet Magazine’s article on Del Kathryn Barton, Smith Journal’s article on Jon Ronson and the Newcastle Mirage’s article on James Drinkwater, there can be a variety of different ways to represent a Creative Practitioner inside a zine or a magazine.
Unless the style of writing matches the core of the publication, as well as the audience that drives it, an article presented in a disassociated tone can alter the reputation of the publication. A solid and well executed core or theme to a project will ensure that it is received well by the target-market.
· The Newcastle Mirage. 2017. Newcastle Mirage. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.newcastlemirage.com/. [Accessed 22 June 2017].
· Broadsheet Magazine — Melbourne. 2017. Spiders, Bunnies and Armani Suits: Del Kathryn Barton Hits New York. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.broadsheet.com.au/melbourne/art-and-design/article/spiders-bunnies-and-armani-suits-del-kathryn-barton-hits-new-york-victoria. [Accessed 22 June 2017].
· The Newcastle Mirage. 2017. a chat with JAMES DRINKWATER, by Ryan Williams /June 9, 2017. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.newcastlemirage.com/stories/a-chat-with-james-drinkwater-by-ryan-williams?rq=James%20. [Accessed 22 June 2017].
·Smith Journal Volume 05. Summer 2012/2013. My Influences — Journo, Doco maker and writer Jon Ronson talks through the people and stories that inspire his work. Interviewer Luke Ryan. Illustrator Sara Hingle. https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B6fEiUXaHaVlLXB4YmpDeTNnLTQ