Telum Talks To: Laura Williamson, Co-Founder / Editor of 1964

Telum Talks To: Laura Williamson, Co-Founder / Editor of 1964

By Cindy Paskalina Kweesar

Tell us about 1964 and how it got started.
1964: mountain culture / aotearoa is a quarterly print journal published out of Wānaka. Our focus is the culture of Aotearoa's remote and rural places, in particular the crossover between outdoor-and-adventure-focused lifestyles and creative pursuits including art, music, and literature. Communities like Wānaka are full of artists, writers, filmmakers, and photographers. Activities like skiing, fishing, tramping, and mountain biking are wildly creative. 1964 reflects this.

The journal was founded by our Publisher, Nathan Weathington, in 2019. He approached me after reading my book, The Bike and Beyond: Life on Two Wheels in Aotearoa New Zealand (BWB Texts, 2017), which he felt had the voice he was looking for. We've both spent time living in mountain towns both in Aotearoa and North America. We agreed that while there are some very good magazines already covering outdoor culture and adventure sports (I used to edit one of them, Spoke), there was a lot more to be written about the creativity, psychology, and eccentricities of that world.

The name, 1964, comes from the year Tititea / Mount Aspiring National Park was established. The park is a place we look at every day, and it's where we go to wander, think, recreate, and get inspired. Turns out it's also the final official birth year for the Baby Boomer generation - we sell a lot of 1964-branded merch to Boomers who find that hilarious. An unintended bonus!
How do you and your team decide which issues to cover?
Our first test is, does the story fit the "remote / rural" brief? Our second is, have we read anything like it before? We really look for ideas that are unusual, and we aim for variety. One issue of the magazine might cover an ice-climbing festival, a guy who hand-crafts valve amplifiers in his garage, a native mushroom named after Hot Lips Houlihan from M*A*S*H, and a round-up of the best, or weirdest, roadside attractions of the South Island (RIP the Tuatapere giant sausage). We also feature poetry, art, photo essays, and comics in the journal. It's a combination we feel is unique.
Are there any unexpected trends you've noticed that you find interesting?
We launched in December 2019, which on paper might have seemed like a disastrous time to have embarked on a new business venture. But, speaking of paper, we've found the pandemic has been, in some ways, positive for print. We've lived so much of our lives on-screen over the past few years. Readers are hungry for a slow, tactile, fragrant print experience.
What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The feedback. We constantly have readers tell us 1964 is their favourite magazine and that they collect every issue. I'm especially proud of what we accomplished with such a small team. We only have three permanent staff: Nathan, myself, and Leslie Eaton, our Designer. I was thrilled when 1964 was referenced in a 2021 article in the Guardian, which called us an "example of how print might be reinvented".
What are the most memorable stories you have covered to date?
I love stories that keep delighting me as I research and write them. Some of my favourites have included "DIY defence", a delve into the story of the Semple tank, Aotearoa's corrugated-iron-clad home-grown tractor tank; "Business time", a profile of the woman who runs Bon Ton, a high-end escort agency in Queenstown (the clients and escorts sometimes have a ski or a bike ride together - very Queenstown); and an article I did about Flare, a short documentary about Aotearoa's freestyle skiing scene directed in 1977 by a pre-fame Sam Neill. My favourite, though, was looking into the 1973 Superman comic in which Superman fights a Moa - a great example of a story that you need to read to believe.

Profile photo by Wānaka Festival of Colour.

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Laura Williamson

Co-Founder / Editor


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