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Dazed Secret Lectures: lessons from new media guerillas

Alternative voices in the media came together for a fascinating discussion at the Dazed and Huawei Secret Lectures, designed to inspire the next generation of creators

Last Tuesday, Dazed and Huawei hosted their first in a series of Secret Lectures – as part of an ongoing collaboration to promote the relationship between creativity and tech. In the echoing chambers of an abandoned power station, panellists explored the rise and importance of alternative voices in the media today.

Susie Bubble, the founder of The Style Bubble blog, gal-dem magazine's Liv Little, Olya Kuryshchuck of design hub and magazine 1 Granary and John Holt from Law Magazine discussed guerrilla journalism with Dazed co-founder Jefferson Hack.

The conversation touched on the importance of diversity within the media, the need to ignore negative voices and served as a reminder that we have full control in presenting our point of view – with technology playing a defining role in the creation of our personal platforms.

After the lecture, the BBZ gang and James Massiah played Vogue, Bashment and The Streets, ending the evening with style.

Here are five things we learned:

THE WAY MAGAZINES BEGIN ARE ALMOST UNIFORMLY UNCOOL

“I would love to have some really cool story but I was actually really, really lonely. I came from Ukraine and I couldn’t really speak English. I was really uncool,” said Olya Kuryshchuk about the beginnings of 1 Granary, which operates as a global support network for young fashion designers as well as a 650-page magazine. gal-dem was also founded out of a sense of loneliness, said Liv Little. “I didn’t know any other brown women existed in Bristol. I wanted to find other women like me who had similar interests and to create this vague community of all the friends I wished I had.”

The reality is that creativity doesn’t always come from a place of vision, often it’s from a place of necessity. John Holt said that he “grew up reading the Argos catalogue”, to laughs from the audience, and even though he tapped into the fashion industry later in life, when he started LAW, he felt like there wasn’t anyone talking to him and his friends back home. “If I put something in there that’s too pretentious and elitist and they don’t understand it then that’s not any progress,” he said.

ALWAYS UTILISE TECHNOLOGY

The millennial generation are often criticised for being sucked into their phones and having short attention spans. But Susie Bubble, a social media influencer, thinks these labels are unfair. “Speed is a bit of a cliched thing to levy on a generation. To say that we don’t have the time to read longform or digest things is untrue. With speed corners can be cut, but I think with the tools that are at our disposal what we create doesn’t necessarily need to be throwaway,” she said.

Little agreed: “We’re not just grabbing content from anywhere, we’re carefully curating it.” And, despite the fact that LAW's online presence is limited, Holt added: “There is news that it is important that it is quick fire. There’s a difference between LAW and the Evening Standard. One’s quick, rapid fire. One’s supposed to be cherished and looked after. It’s not something to be afraid of.”

After Hack pointed out that Bubble was “a pioneer of the idea of the individual as media” and “a mobile phone on the go being a media in itself”, Bubble also spoke about how she “hates the connotations of being called a media influencer or blogger” because of the cynicism around that part of the industry. Even so, she added later in the conversation, she’s trying to own it.

LOOK OUTSIDE OF LONDON

Little pointed out that gal-dem, who have just launched their second print issue this month, have been posting their magazines all over the world. “Everyone always assumes that London is the place to be,” she said. “But we’re trying to do more stuff in different places. It’s important for us to be cultivating those relationships outside of the city. For us to really not be lazy and do our research.”

Holt, who grew up in a small town near Peterborough, also thinks that the focus on London by the media can be problematic, while Bubble noted that “fashion is a much more globalised thing than it was 10 years ago”, thanks to the boom in Instagram, blogs and social media. Unique opportunities to develop new, alternative media can be found all over the world, and certainly in different parts of the UK – if you’re willing to look for them.

TAKE CRITICISM WITH A PINCH OF SALT

Hack was generally taking a backseat in the discussion, letting the new generation have the floor. But when it came to taking criticism, he had some wise words to impart. “We were accused of corrupting the nation’s youth,” he said about Dazed during the 90s. “Bill Clinton went on record to say we were responsible for heroin chic, responsible for knife crime. The mainstream media said we were responsible for everything that’s wrong in society.” Despite this, he persevered – building Dazed into the independent media empire it is today.

Bubble has also had to endure criticism. Unlike the other panellists, when criticism is levelled at The Style Bubble, she has no choice but to take it personally – as she works independently. But that hasn’t stopped her from engaging with her critics. “From day one it’s been haters, haters, haters. But if you kind don't engage with criticism, for me that goes against why the platform exists,” she said. “I used to cry about it but now it’s part and parcel of what I do.”

THINK ABOUT THE WIDER CONTEXT OF YOUR WORK

Kuryshchuk in particular emphasised the need to be conscious of the influence of new media. “Media has responsibility and we need to think about that,” she said. “We have the influence and we need to use it responsibly.”

Holt, meanwhile, said he is trying to dispel the idea of LAW being a lads' mag. His explanation of what he wants to achieve could change the approach men's magazines usually take with their content. “With LAW we’re trying to create a feeling, an attitude. It pisses me off a bit when people call it a lads' mag… I wouldn’t describe myself as a lad. I’m a boy, I’m into football, boxing, snooker. It’s about having bravado but still taking your nan down the shops.”

For Little, gal-dem's importance comes from never losing sight of the fact that the battle for diversity in the media is just beginning. “This year diversity is seen as being very cool. I wonder about the longevity of what we discuss,” she said, “I think nuance isn’t often portrayed. It’s by us (as women of colour) but for everyone.”