Kian & Ryan from Newcastle Mirage
Kian West and Ryan Williams are the brains behind Newcastle’s street press magazine, Newcastle Mirage. “We’re actually pretty daggy,” they say. But they’re actually pretty cool.
Seriously, “we’re actually pretty daggy” is my favourite cool person quote ever. I first met Kian back in 2013 at the launch of their second issue of Newcastle Mirage, because my housemate at the time was on the cover. We chatted over a bucket of ice-cold beers at Steel City Collective in Newcastle. Over a delectable coffee at Suspension, we caught up again and I also had the chance to meet his partner-in-crime Ryan. There was confusion at first; I was waiting out back, they were waiting out front. But we got to chat in the end, and chat we did.
"You’ve just got to do it. You’ll never learn by watching other people. Just start and then fuck up heaps… Well, maybe not heaps… Fuck up a reasonable amount."
What a pair these two make. Kian is a marketing guru of epic proportions (I’m exaggerating, but he is awesome), and Ryan’s a graphic designer, both sharing a love of Newcastle, coffee, culture, tunes – everything the city has to offer.
We talked for ages, and I had the best time. Because we’re very similar in our ideals. Having lived in Newcastle for 25 years of my life, I love everything about it. I love the new café that pops up each week, month, year. The hidden bars, live gigs, outdoor cinemas, beaches, history, artists. There is so much cool shit going on there, and cool people driving the forefront of change.
"We’re not journalists or magazine creators. We’ve never done anything like that. We’re just a couple of dudes who wanted to do something cool. We’re in it for the love."
I admitted to the boys that my idea for this blog is selfish. I want to talk to cool people and hear about their coolness. And hopefully inspire other people along the way to take their passion and roll with it. Kian and Ryan are similar; they’re all about sharing the stories of the people doing cool things around them, in street press form. Distributing it to the people of Newcastle through hand-addressed subscription and via 80-odd local businesses each month. They literally take the piles of zines and walk through the streets, dropping them off as they go. Stopping for a coffee here and there. “It’s a nice way to spend a Saturday,” says Ryan. “And it’s good for Newcastle. So many people here are doing things that no one knows about.”
When I found out about Newcastle Mirage, I thought it was awesome and wished I had come up with the idea. Back in 2011, I tried to start a blog about Newcastle, acting as a “Tourist in my own Town” and rediscovering hidden places. Such is my passion. But on my own, it fizzed and died in favour of… you know, life. Kian and Ryan confess that having each other drives them forward. “Having a partner is great, someone to whip you, in a good way. At different points we’ve both questioned ourselves. Some months are crap, some months are awesome, some months we wonder if we should give up. But it’s good to always have someone on the flip side. To be like ‘yeah, we’re totally awesome, we’re killing it’!”
In December 2014, Kian and Ryan hosted Newcastle’s first ‘Blog Meet’ to open a space for like-minded novocastrians to meet each other, “and if nothing else give each other a pat on the back and inspiration to realise that what they’re doing is cool, and they can support each other.”
"I don’t get it when people move to a new city and go ‘Oh my god, there’s so much to do’. It’s right here in front of you. There’s a lot happening here."
As a creative, it’s easy to be crippled by self-doubt, but with 19 issues under their collective belt so far, the Newcastle Mirage team are only moving forward. I’m so inspired by these guys and excited for what they have to say and what they’re doing for a small corner of the world.
by Amy Lovat
What’s the most rewarding part of the Newcastle Mirage project?
K: We recently got a Make Your Place grant from the Newcastle City Council and they were really positive about it, they knew who we were, which was uplifting. They wanted to give us money. That was a good pat on the back and we had the confidence to do more. Then at the This Is Not Art festival last year we did a Pozible campaign and doubled our target. It’s not so much about the money but the people supporting it.
R: Newcastle is starting to embrace us.
Take me back to the beginning.
K: We first had a chat at Longbench a few years ago and just kept putting the idea out there. Reverb had just died a few months before and we wanted to do a street press. We’d both just graduated and were thinking about the next step, but it’s like, do we start our own jobs?
How does it all work?
K: Well I do more admin stuff, and Ryan’s the creative. We have around 3-5 writers each month. Some who do a column or interviews and we do a bit of writing ourselves. We don’t have a budget for it, we don’t even get paid. Generally it costs us. And usually we would put a call out on social media for musicians or artists or someone who has something to promote.
R: We’re just winging it. I’m freelancing too and Kian has a full-time job. So we’d put in maybe a couple of hours a day, six days a week.
K: It fits in around everything else. The last week of the month is worse for Ryan putting it all together. I’ll lump him with all this stuff and be like ‘you’ve got four days to make it look good’.
R: We’ve got no experience, we’re just learning on the job. When we started we made heaps of mistakes.
What kind of mistakes?
R: For me, it’s every month with spelling and grammar. Or a bit that’s bold that shouldn’t be, it breaks my heart every time.
K: It comes down to time. That’s where being a zine has really helped us because there’s no expectation that it’ll be perfect. It’s the mistakes that make it. We’re not journalists, or magazine creators. We’ve never done anything like that. We’re just a couple of dudes who wanted to do something cool. That’s what shows through, our character.
R: We’re in it for the love.
I think you have to have passion to be creative. If you want to help people or be involved with something you’ve got to do it for free. I think everyone understands that, or if they don’t they’re in the wrong industry.
K: Exactly. It’s good to have people who want to be involved. If they’re young, wannabe journalists it’s the easiest way to have something to show for yourself.
R: Just start and fuck up heaps.
K: Well, maybe not heaps.
Fuck up a reasonable amount.
K: Learn by doing. You’ll never learn by watching other people.
Is NM your full-time jobs now?
R: It doesn’t pay our bills.
Do you want it to?
K: Shit yeah.
What does the future look like?
K: The dream, if this is all we had to do, we’d do it. It comes back to the original chat we had when we were thinking about it. Everyone that’s done this previously has printed 40-something thousand copies, and their whole advertising pitch is based off how many they print. The advertiser then divides it up and thinks about the potential imprint. That doesn’t correlate at all. What is the percentage that people actually see and read of the production? They can only tell you how many they distribute and where they go. Then they assume readership based off that, but you can’t.
R: We had to think about how long it would take advertisers to get on board a production that was new and they had no confidence in.
K: Any money we make from advertising goes into printing.
R: I’m yet to drink a Newcastle Mirage-paid-for coffee.
K: It’s like having a shitbox car and you keep putting money into it, when you should’ve just got rid of it straight away. It’s a heavy workload and you’re going to be the last one that gets paid.
R: So we started a little publication so that we could scale up. We also decided on the zine for the aesthetics of it. So it’s not expected to be amazing straight away. It’s not going to grow into something glossy. We like the soul of a zine but maybe move a bit more towards magazine style.
Why did you do want to do this?
K: We love Newcastle. I spent a couple of years in Melbourne and I never felt like there was more to do there than here. I don’t get it when people move to a new city and go ‘Oh my god, there’s so much to do’. It’s right here in front of you. Maybe not on the same big scale but there’s a lot happening. It’s not too hard to network in a community.
Who’s the coolest person you know?
R: Now you have to say the same about me.
K: Pick someone else!
How did you find being the interviewees rather than the interviewer?
K: It’s not often we’re on the backend of the conversation. It feels weird. It’s funny talking about it because we live inside it. I don’t consider myself cool. But you don’t often reflect until you talk to someone else about stuff.