I first ‘met’ Jo Pollitt and Lilly Blue when they got in touch with me sometime last year to ask a few random questions about blogging (none of which, from memory, I could answer…). Further investigation unearthed the fact that they were starting a new magazine for children, featuring art and words and wonder. I admit I struggled to get my head around the idea when I first read about it, but I did love the images they put up on their blog and Facebook page.
I received a copy of the very first issue of BIG Kids Magazine in the post this week and couldn’t believe how beautiful it was. Mr7 couldn’t believe how cool it was… he has spent a lot of time this week leafing through its pages, and is already planning his submission for the next issue.
I invited Jo and Lilly to the Fibro to answer a few questions about how the magazine started – and why they thought the world needed BIG Kids Magazine right now.
What made you decide the time was write for a new magazine?
Jo Pollitt: “Firstly, I wanted to buy one that my own son would love and couldn’t find it! (Now he is the ‘senior’ editor of BIG.) Both Lilly and I believe that kids are so much smarter than the commercially driven work that is generally projected at them en masse. There are very few Australian magazines for kids that are responsive to the imagination of a child’s world (outside of games, movies, and TV characters), and we felt that it was imperative that there be a choice in the market that reflected that world with more of an open and challenging viewpoint. And that would also be cool. Because kids are cool.”
Why a children’s creative-arts magazine?
JP: “We are artists ourselves and this is our area of expertise. We are also voracious magazine readers! Many little girls I know want to grow up to be dancers, and are always very interested when they find out I am actually a dancer and Lilly is an artist. That these professions are our ‘day jobs’ means we know some incredible creative artists and had a feeling they would be generous when it came to sharing art and ideas side by side with kids (and they are!).
More than ever before, the world needs great thinkers and visionaries and we feel it is our responsibility to encourage, value and provoke creative thinking and curiosity in kids. Through the BIG pages, hierarchies of art are broken down and new conversations emerge between the work of kids and artist grown-ups.”
What was the hardest part of getting the whole project started?
JP: “Without doubt, the formalising of the business-related paperwork and the defining of our current partnership has been the hardest. I had not seen Lilly for 12 years (we have only skyped once and have still not met) so the working out of roles and sharing of dreams and future imaginings has been an extremely intense journey! The creative rigour between us is invigorating, and allows us to plough through the less fun parts. We both share a work ethic that is relentless and have high expectations of the other, which provokes questions, the occasional cross-fire and many shared long-distance celebrations. As mothers who work from home in baby sleep times and after hours, it is always a challenge to meet those expectations!”
Why did you decide to print the mag, rather than doing an e-zine as per trend?
JP: “We wanted kids to be able to hold the artwork in their hands, to be able to scribble an immediate response (the pages are matt and fab for random responses!). We wanted parents and kids to be able to sit side by side and share pictures, stories and ideas. We want it to be able to be thrown on the playroom floor, to be picked up or tossed about at will (it has a sturdy spine!). We wanted the magazine to be available in ‘play time’ and not relegated to the ‘screen time’ culture that is already so pervasive. We want to encourage a love of reading, a love of art, of dreaming, and provoke some questions about the big world we all share.”
I notice that the theme of the next issue is Treasure Islands – how can parents and kids get involved?
“Draw us a map of all the places you have been – they can be real and/or imagined – and send to firstname.lastname@example.org (there are guidelines on the website) and we will feature it on the BIG blog and possibly even in the actual pages of the magazine. Register to participate in the BIG child artist response project (CARP), and an artist will create something in response to your child’s map-themed artwork with the two works then published side by side. Or write to Luca (email@example.com) with specific things you’d like to see in the magazine or tell him the things you like/don’t like in this one.”