Last week, we sat down with Mike White from Boneshaker, a beautiful and socially conscious cycling magazine produced in Bristol and read worldwide.
Bristol & Bath by Design: Tell us about Boneshaker. Cycling and Bristol are established bedfellows but we’d really like to talk about some of the reasons Boneshaker started here.
Mike: Boneshaker was born out of The Bristol Bike Project. James Lucas one of the founders, rode from Bristol to Sweden and then, when he returned to Bristol, began to work for a refugee charity in the city. He noticed that these communities were marginalised not just socially but also geographically. Their access to transport was limited and they often spent hours walking to get to the meetings they needed to attend to secure their future.
James and his friend Colin Fan began collecting old bikes and fixing them up for the service users of the charity. This grew pretty quickly to the point where James had to clamber over bikes just to get into bed each night. Around the same time, he noticed that giving someone a bike wasn’t enough. You had to create a sense of ownership and self-reliance. So, the scheme developed into workshops where marginalised people in need of affordable and sustainable transport could ‘Earn-a-Bike’ by coming along and refurbishing a donated bike themselves. The Bike Project has grown ever since, and now works with people from all walks of life.
The more involved he became with the Bike Project, the more James realised that such projects were evolving all over the world. The team were increasingly aware of the ways cycling was spreading positivity and driving social change both close to home and across the globe. It was out of a desire to share this positivity, to advocate for cycling and to provide a voice for the ways that cycling can have a social and political impact on communities that the idea of Boneshaker grew.
Bristol & Bath by Design: The magazine strikes a balance between being visually striking and socially engaged. Would you talk a little bit about this balance and what design means to you as a team?
Design has always been at the heart of Boneshaker – we wanted to create something beautiful as well as worthwhile.
Our Creative Director, Chris Woodward, currently oversees the design process. On any one issue, we’ll have up to 15 freelancers submitting layouts, too. Chris then brings the issue together as a coherent whole. We often talk about the tricky act of balancing style and content, - and of how some magazines often seem more concerned with style over substance - but twe try to use our strong visual identity as a gateway, luring people into the politics and poetry of life on two wheels.
Bristol & Bath by Design: Are the majority of your design team based locally?
No, our team of freelancers does include people based in Bristol but it also stretches as far as Russia and Brazil. The most important thing to us has always been whether we like what they do, rather than where they are. This goes for our writers, illustrators and photographers too: working like this means the stories we share come from people with a real investment in what cycling means to that part of the world.
Bristol & Bath by Design: What does the future hold for the magazine?
We're always evolving, in a rather organic, unplanned way. We now produce regular podcasts to add audio storytelling to our portfolio, and we're embracing digital, with all issues now available on sites like Readbug and Magster.
Whilst the printed edition comes out twice a year, each fresh volume has an issue number only, rather than being dated to a month or year. This is because we want it to have a timeless quality, with articles that could be read anytime rather than being tied to a particular event or period. Boneshaker's never go out of date – most of our readers keep and collect them, like books.
Design comes in here too, because working hard on production values encourages our readers to keep and share our issues. As we begin to explore creative partnerships with brands we like, we're realising that our 'timelessness' can mean that it’s difficult to work with partners with very specific timeframes. So we are also exploring the idea of a more regular publication that has a more commercial and current ‘news’ feel to it, balanced with a stronger political edge.
There’s also our podcast - the Boneshakercast - which is a growing part of what we do. We’re thinking about new ways to incorporate that because adventure doesn’t just read well on the page, it sounds rather nice too.