Fifteen years ago, two friends decided to create a magazine for Rhiwbina. The pair reflect on their last decade and a half
On a sunny August day in 2007, two long-time friends sat down with a blank A4 note pad and a pen in a Rhiwbina garden. They didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the start of a journey that’s taken them to every corner of Rhiwbina village – and into the glare of stage lights at award ceremonies.
It all seems like a long time ago now and for co-editors Patric Morgan and Dr Danielle Dummett, the magazines have become an integral part of their lives.
“Creating and sustaining a successful publication against so many odds has been very hard work,” says Patric.
“While other publications have the support of a large team behind them, the fact that we are fiercely independent has meant that we’ve done all the work ourselves – everything from writing and designing, through to supporting our advertisers and hand-delivering the magazines door-to-door throughout Rhiwbina. We live and breathe the magazines every day of our lives.”
There have been many challenges along the way, starting with the very first issue which was published way back in 2007.
“From the outset, we decided that the magazine had to be a high quality publication,” says the magazines other co-editor, Danielle. “It needed to have relevant and readable features that readers would relate to. With that in mind, we planned on having our first issue out in time for Christmas.”
With no funding or financial backing behind them, the pair visited the local shops to source advertising to fund the first issue.
“The initial response wasn’t quite we had hoped for. We had one shop owner who told us that Rhiwbina had a magazine back in the 1980s and that it never worked because they couldn’t get enough advertising; then we had someone telling us where to go with the words ‘Don’t you know there’s a bl**dy recession on?’.
“It wasn’t until we visited Paul and Mags in Serenade that we got our very first advertiser. Paul smiled at us and said ‘Count us in.’ Once Paul was in, everyone wanted to go in!”
With funds raised to finance the first issue, Rhiwbina Living was officially launched in November 2007. But there were more challenges ahead.
2008 proved to be a tough year. While Danielle was working full-time as a Clinical Psychologist, Patric was working full-time as a teacher but also holding down four other jobs that filled his evenings.
“We worked on the magazines whenever we could – usually in the small hours,” says Patric.
But worse was to come. The second issue was published in March and as they had done with their first issue, they entrusted a company to do the deliveries for them.
“About a week after the deliveries were finished, we started getting phone calls from local advertisers who said that they hadn’t received their copy. Since they lived locally, they should have had one so we started getting concerned. We did some digging around to find that only 12% of our stock had been delivered. Two battered boxes containing what was left of our magazines was handed back to us.”
“We really felt that we’d let our paying advertisers down,” says Danielle. “While we sought expensive legal advice, we decided that we’d run all of the spring advertisers in our summer issue at cost to ourselves. Before we could make any decisions from a legal point of view however, we were floored by news that Patric’s teenage sister Alice had a rare form of aggressive cancer in her knee.
“She spent nine months in hospital having chemotherapy and surgery, and had to learn how to walk again following an operation to give her a replacement knee. Danielle’s step-dad also died suddenly in October that year, just as Alice was starting to recover.
“2008 did have its good points. In November that year, after much demand, we launched our second title – Whitchurch and Llandaff Living.”
In 2010, Patric left his teaching post for good to concentrate solely on the magazines.
“Everything we do has all been self-taught,” says Patric. “Back in the early days, we were producing the magazines on a bashed up computer and using Microsoft Publisher. We’d then upload all our pages onto a memory stick and it’d usually be about 4 or 5am by the time we hand-delivered it to our printer who lived in Y Groes.
“After our disaster with the deliveries on Issue 2, we decided to do them all ourselves – something we still do to this day. For the first few years, I never had a car so I literally had to carry each box individually to different parts of Rhiwbina, deliver its contents and then go all the way back home to get another box.”
But every year that passed meant another year to hone their skills and improve the product.
In 2014, Living Magazines picked up two prestigious awards at a UK awards ceremony. And in 2017, they were crowned Community Business of the Year at the Cardiff Business Awards. They were up against some big names like the Wales Millennium Centre and Big Learning Wales.
“To be recognised as Community Business of the Year for the whole of Cardiff meant so much to us, especially since we were approaching our tenth year,” says Patric. “The judges commended us for our passion for the magazine which we feel because of the contribution it makes to the community.”
But then of course, the world got turned upside down in early 2020 when the pandemic struck.
“Like all other small businesses across the world, Covid hit us really hard. Most of our advertisers were forced to close, meaning that for a while, we couldn’t fund any new issues of the magazines. Due to the novel nature of the virus, we were also unsure as to whether we were safe to hand-deliver magazines door-to-door. Were we putting our readers at risk and were we putting ourselves at risk? Frustratingly, we had to wait and see.
“Eventually, with the rollout of the vaccines, and things starting to open up, we were able to publish some issues. Combined with the decline of the economy, very little in the way of government support, plus some serious health issues of our own, we somehow managed to come through. It’s had a knock-on effect, both in terms of the magazines’ schedule, and on our emotional health but we’re getting ourselves firmly back on track so that we can provide the award-winning service that we’ve been so proud of.”
The pair are now planning another year of publications for the residents of the village.
“After fifteen years, you’d think that we would run out of stories to publish but that’s the beauty of speaking to people in the community – there’s always a gem of a tale to tell.
“One of the biggest things that we have learnt over the fifteen years is that there lies a story behind every door in Rhiwbina,” says Patric. “The everyday people we see around our village all have a story to tell. And in a way, it has been our duty to document these for generations to come.”