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April2012 June 2012


CityViews CityViews

GAVIN WEALE LIVE SA Live SA is a magazine written, designed and produced by South African youth, many of them from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, with the help of industry mentors. Founder Gavin Weale explains how this project is helping to bridge the gap between town and township, and create opportunities where there seemed to be none before.

on to study full-time. Our core team is a mix of kids from diverse areas like Khayelitsha, Mannenberg and the Northern Suburbs. Some were unemployed and unemployable, some involved in drugs and crime, or in prison, or doing nothing, before they came to us, and it’s been awesome to see how they’ve changed.

Your vision for the South Africa-based version of Live magazine – the UK youth culture magazine you founded – won you the British Council’s UK Young Publishing Entrepreneur of the Year award for 2010. How close are you to making this vision a reality? We’re in year one of a three-year project and it’s going well. Twelve of our contributors have landed full-time jobs and nine have gone CV

CV Who puts the magazine together and what are the logistics of recruiting people to work at Live SA? In the past year around 85 contributors have worked on the first three issues. There’s usually a core team of around 25 kids per issue, recruited through a call to action in the magazine, and through targeted physical outreach via a network of local partners. We’re inundated with people wanting to get involved so we safeguard opportunities at the magazine for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds that need the opportunities the most.

kids facing far greater challenges and obstacles. There’s sometimes a sense of apathy here – the kids aren’t nearly as competitive as I’d like them to be – but they’re surprisingly open and unencumbered by the previous generation’s issues. CV What made you decide to base the initiative in the city centre, as opposed to within the communities where most of the young people taking part in the project live? We intentionally decided to establish Live SA in a neutral space in the CBD to help prepare kids for the reality of working in the city. We were fortunate enough to be offered space within BBDO’s De Waterkant headquarters, and it’s been cool to see our mainly townshipbased contributors integrating with the traditional ad agency world.

What are some of the similarities and differences you’ve encountered between running the initiative in the UK and here in SA? Young people definitely have similar aspirations but there’s a gulf between the levels of aspiration here and in the UK, with South African

Photo: Lisa Burnell

Gavin Weale looking out from the BBDO headquarters in Cape Town

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CV How does mobook publishing differ from conventional book publishing? Mobooks are published on mobisites and partner platforms like Mxit. There are costs to this, but not in the league of traditional print publishing. A mobook is typically published one chapter per day and readers vote and comment daily as the story rolls out live, which is exhilarating and nerve-wracking!

Apparently Yoza’s pilot project attracted 300 000 complete reads in its first year? Yes, Yoza’s uptake figures reflect the undeniable hunger for good reading material in SA. Millions of people can’t afford books, but want to read stories of every kind. Free stories accessible on cellphones make this possible.

Photo: Lisa Burnell


Cape Town is South Africa’s publishing hub. Is it the mobile publishing hub too? It is. It’s also the pioneer city for mobook or cellphone story publishing in SA, with credit due to Michelle Matthew’s Novel Idea project, Karen Brooks’ publication of the first book sold on Mxit, and Steve Vosloo’s, a teen cellphone library, for kickstarting the industry.

Find out more about the Live SA team by reading the backpage interview with editor Ndu Ngcobo. Then visit the publication online at and learn more about Gavin’s work at


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FIRST yEAR SuRvIvAl 2012/02/10 3:40 PM

CV Isn’t it difficult to read a novel on a mobile phone given the size of the screen? Not for teens. A recent story was the equivalent of an 80-page paperback and had more than 7 500 complete reads in its first month on mobile.

Editor-in-chief of Yoza, SA’s first cellphone library launched in 2009, tells us about and why teens reading books on a cellphone is a good idea.

CV What plans are being put in place to make Live SA sustainable? We’re set up as an NGO funded primarily by the Shuttleworth Foundation, but we’re working towards generating our own income through advertising revenue. We’re currently distributing 50 000 copies per issue throughout urban and township areas nationwide, but with SA being so mobile rich, we’re launching our mobi site too this month.

Summer Issue Two

The fiercest mag for all SA youth

bution here. Yoza advocates that access to books is not an elitist luxury, but a human right – and has set an example of how this can be practically addressed through mobile. The project has had a knock-on effect, with newer projects mobilising for the same cause. A thriving local mobook culture with more mobooks in more languages for more people would make a profound impact on literacy in SA. What types of stories are currently available on and who creates these? Genres include romance, action, drama and horror – everything CV


“Until now, print publishing hasn’t managed to reach or make a consistent effort to empower young people, so we’re trying to connect with and influence them in a meaningful and positive way.”

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Louise McCann, editor-in-chief of South Africa’s first cellphone library


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Do you think access to these free stories will positively impact literacy in South Africa? There is a direct link between the amount of books a child has direct access to and their achievements in later life. Yoza’s 38 constantly read books make a small contri-

that appeals to emotionally intense teenagers. Contributors have included the likes of local literary stars Lauren Beukes, Sam Wilson and Charlie Human. I also recently ran a story workshop for teens in Khayelitsha and we collaboratively plotted and developed a mobook set there.

Check out online:

SA is book poor and mobile rich Louise explains:

of households own no leisure books of households have more than 40 titles on their bookshelves of public schools in South Africa have functional libraries



of urban youth own their own cellphone – hence the birth of the made-for-mobile book in SA

City Views: Discover Cape Town as a Literary City  

City Views: Discover Cape Town as a Literary City, June 2012

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