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Simon & Erin, Roughcast
At work with

Simon & Erin, Roughcast

This week we meet two of the three founders of Roughcast, a new magazine published to centre freelancers and ‘entertain people who realise it’s worth paying to consume art’.

Away from Roughcast, both editor Simon Doherty and art director Erin Rimmer spend most of their time with digital—Simon works as Senior video strategist at Vice, and Erin Rimmer is Product design lead for Metalabel, a platform for releasing creative work. They share the origins of Roughcast as issue two goes on sale.


What are you doing this Monday morning?
Simon: It’s a writing day, so I get up at 5:30am. I’ll brush my teeth, read articles and drink instant coffee for 30 mins before starting writing at 6am. This is the most fruitful time of the day. No email traffic, no internet comments, nobody shouting on the street. It’s when I power up social media at 10am that all the problems start.

During writing time, my phone gets put in a designated spot, on a windowsill away from my desk, because I don’t go on social media or emails until later. I’ll put on some faint Coleman Hawkins music and write for four hours finishing at 9am. Then eat before proofreading and editing for an hour. That’s how I write my column in The Face and work on Roughcast articles. It’s just the easiest way because I can have grand plans to write in the evening and they do seem to make sense in the morning, but by the time the afternoon arrives I can’t be arsed anymore. Because I’ve been on social media all day by then (my full-time job, which starts at 10am, is all about social media) my creativity is killed off.


If it’s a non-writing day, I get up at 8:30am, chill for an hour and a half then start working on social media stuff for Vice at 10am. At 2pm, I’ll pop over to our ‘fulfilment centre’ which is an old Ikea Kallax Shelving unit situated next to my desk. I package any direct orders and post them at the nearby post office. Then later on we might have an editorial meeting for Roughcast—Erin, Josh (Director of photography) and me (Editor) deciding what’s going to go in the mag, what amendments we need, and so on. Sometimes we’ll have a drink, with ideas continuing to be thrashed out late. 

Erin: I usually start the day really early as Roughcast isn’t my full time job, it can be 6am or 5am sometimes. It’s just nice to have a few hours before the regular working day to dedicate to it. When I work from home I usually get peckish around 9am. Breakfast is often from Leo’s—our local cafe, where I have a hash brown and egg sandwich with tomato ketchup. I have around three coffees throughout the day at the moment, I’m trying to get that down a bit. As I work, I’ll usually listen to James O’Brian morning show on LBC or I’ll listen to OG AM then Charlie Bone’s show on Do!! You!!! Radio.


Describe your work environment
Simon: I have an old wooden writing desk, it’s a really beautiful thing. It didn’t fit in my old housemate’s new place and I’ve therefore been “looking after it for her” since 2018. Messily strewed across it (from left to right) is a cheap imitation banker’s light, a dice, an old laptop adorned with various stickers, a copy of the latest FOAM, a glass jar (containing a pair of scissors, three pens, and a tiny cork), an empty packet of salt and vinegar McCoys crisps, a piece of paper with some notes about a photo series – “4739, 4736 featured image?” – scribbled on, a charger, and four more magazines: Dirty Furniture, Butt, Catflap, and a curious one I recently found in Manchester called The Happy Hypocrite. It’s really good.


The street outside is rainy and empty, apart from one man—black coat with a fluffy trim on the hood, grey trousers, and white trainers—padding past talking on his phone. Someone has dumped a mattress on the pavement overnight.



Erin: My desk is pretty bare—just a picture, a monitor and some books under the spot I place my laptop. But behind me is our massive magazine collection, which takes up a lot of my reading time. I live on a busy street so I see a lot of weird and strange London things happening all day too, or I just watch the pigeons.



Which magazine do you first remember?
Simon: The Beano. I was an avid reader of that throughout primary school. I have a really clear memory of getting busted reading it in class, aged about seven or eight. The teacher, Mrs Husband, was furious. She took the copy away and slammed it down on her desk. Around that time, me and another pupil called Tom started our own publicationKid’s View—using staples and the school photocopier.

Mrs Husband actually agreed to be interviewed for the first edition. ‘Who is your favourite pupil?’ I quizzed her. ‘I have two,’ I remember her replying. ‘One in each eye.’ I don’t think I’ll ever forget that interview because of that answer. But Kid’s View sadly folded after the first edition, due to a lack of attention span on behalf of the editorial department. It was a challenging time for children-led media.



Erin: I’ve been obsessed with magazines for a long time, I remember reading NME when I was really young. I’d listen to their top 100 albums for the year and rate how I liked each one out of 10. That was how I basically worked out what music I liked.



Which magazine matters to you the most this morning?
Simon: I’ve been really into magazines from the 1980s recently. Especially the art, theory and culture publication ZG (it ran in the early eighties). I bought a couple off a guy on a market stall in Brighton. It’s just totally wild and untamed.


Also, Boy’s Own a fanzine covering the acid house subculture (it ran from 1986-92)—created by Terry Farley, Andrew Weatherall and others. It was a seminal time, the people writing in it didn’t know that this subculture would go on to transform music, fashion and culture forever. It was the glory days of rave culture. I’ve also been going through the anarcho-punk fanzines of Chris Low (early 1980s). Josh interviewed him about them in the latest edition of Roughcast. I really admire the spirit and principles of his work and he has some really inspiring ideas about the DIY ethos and how it relates to subcultures, youth culture and social media.


Erin: I’ve been loving The Bittersweet Review recently. I first heard of it at magCulture’s ‘We Love Queer Magazines’ event. The writing and design is amazing. Also any publication designed by Richard Turley.


Describe Roughcast in three words
Simon: Uncompromised, brash, and totally-worth-paying-for-so-grab-a-copy-now. 

Erin: Fucking read it.


The magazine sets out to support the freelance creative. What experiences led you to this idea? (how do you support them? which disciplines?)
Simon: I think that certain parts of the corporate media industry treat freelancers like shit. Late payments, missing payments, no holiday pay, no sick pay, and a general lack of respect is something I experienced when I first started writing eight years ago. Then there’s the whole constantly being asked to work for free. I only work with clients that treat freelancers well now. Research from ISPE found that 54% had been paid late and over 30% of freelancers had completed a job and never been paid at all. This astonishes me as the whole industry is ironically completely reliant on freelancers.

We pay our freelance writers, photographers and illustrators before we go to print. I would campaign for a ‘payment upon submission’ policy being rolled out in the industry, rather than the current system where you can’t even invoice until the work is published. You do the work, you should be paid sharpish. We pay within 24-hours of receiving the invoice. Because we wouldn’t commission it if we didn’t have the money good to go. But above all, we want to spark a conversation about the treatment of freelancers in the media industry.

Erin: I think we wanted to try out different standards for freelancers. As freelancers, we would like to get paid on time and have our work respected and not altered due to outside corporate interests. I’ve always thought it’s funny that designers will often be asked to work for free. You wouldn’t ring up a plumber and ask them to fix your toilet for free, right? You wouldn’t ask a chef to cater a wedding for free, would you? Is our skillset somehow different?



The cover line ‘Just fucking read it’ made us chuckle—familiar words to any publisher—as did the use of the Brussels pissing boy as a motif. What inspired these things?
Simon: We were brainstorming taglines and had a massive list of potentials, but we couldn’t decide. Then at one point, we were like, “What are we trying to say?” And someone, I can’t even remember who, flippantly said: “Just fucking read it.” That became our strapline, and I’m glad because a strapline is such an important part of a publication’s identity. It’s the very first statement of intent.

Erin: I’ve been collecting imagery as part of a design reference archive for myself. The drawing is based on one I saw on an old QSL radio card, they were custom-designed calling cards created by people who used to transmit on citizen band radios as a hobby in the seventies and eighties. I thought it was perfect as our logo as it’s just so cheeky and a bit rebellious which is the vibe we’re going for.

I later found out it is a drawing of the statue Manneken Pis from Brussels. There’s all these legends about a boy saving the city from burning by pissing on the flames and I also feel like that’s fitting too. There’s also a female version called the Jeanneke Pis which is a little girl peeing I want to switch to at some point.


The editor’s letter for issue two talks appreciatively about the indie mag world. Did you realise what you were getting involved in when you started the mag?
Simon: No, I had no idea. There’s just a lot of mutual respect and support in the indie scene. I love it all. I love going round those shops that are curated into oblivion, and speaking to the characters who ooze with passion. Everyone builds everyone else up. There’s no doubt about that.

The only problem is that my magazine collection is rapidly spiralling out of control. It’s not a disposable medium, is it? You hold on to good magazines, I have magazines I bought 15 years ago. And I still read them. The magazine to me is all evergreen content—it’s a cultural snapshot in time, that’s why they’re inextricably linked to nostalgia, forever pegged to a certain context, creating a time capsule of sorts. A digital article has a shelf-life, a printed one lives forever.

Erin: It’s a lot of work, I didn’t realise all the admin around the magazine would be a lot more effort than the magazine itself. It’s also been nice to discover how supportive the independent publishing scene is and how much creativity there is from people just doing things themselves.


Please highlight one story from the new issue that sums up what you're trying to do with the magazine
Simon: We want to support freelancers and a massive part of that to me is helping to hoist up new talent. We want to publish established names, sure, but also new kids on the block. In the second issue we have a journalism student called Jacob Grattage who interviewed a miner who got battered by the police in a brutal protest at a British Steel Corporation coking plant at Orgreave (Rotherham, South Yorkshire). Throughout the interview we hear about how while picketing he was viciously assaulted by the police and then arrested accused of crimes he didn’t commit. We published it exactly 40 years after the event—it’s important that these stories continue to be told. And Jacob Grattage is clearly a rising star in this trade.

In the third edition, we’re featuring the work of another 19-year-old, a photographer called Friedz. He photographs youth culture in inner-city London with a good dose of style. He included photography of the late Chris Kaba, the 24-year-old unarmed Black man who was shot dead by Met Police officer Martyn Blake in September 2022, and the protests following his tragic death. Blake is awaiting trial accused of murder, he has pleaded not guilty.



Erin: Jay Mitra’s piece in issue 2! The piece is called ‘I liked the way the world looked at me when I was in the closet’. It’s a personal essay exploring transness and its connection to beauty norms within society. I first found them on TikTok and was floored by their poetry. I was just in floods of tears staring at my phone and thought we had to get in contact with them. That piece in particular is just so personal and emotionally vulnerable. I think it shows the variety of content we have in roughcast. Telling personal stories is at the core of this project for me, especially stories that we don’t see represented in mainstream media.


What one piece of advice do you have for someone producing their own magazine?
Simon: Honestly, I don’t think I’m a good person to ask, we’ve only had two editions so far, we’re working on our third now. I’d feel underqualified to answer that. I’d love it if in two years time we’d be on edition 14 or whatever, and I could come back and answer that question properly.

Erin: It's really about maintaining consistency while seeking moments of inspiration amidst the admin. The whole process becomes enjoyable when you frame it as something you're doing for yourself.


What are you most looking forward to this coming week?
Simon: It’s an exciting part of the roughcast process because people are sending us ideas after we put out an open call for pitches last week. We’re working on ‘the IRL issue’, we’re covering stories and cultural phenomenon that occur outside a digital space. And those features will all be consumed outside a digital space too, as we don’t publish our magazine features online. We read all the pitches and will respond to them all after 15th March.

Erin: I’ve been away a lot with work recently so I can’t wait to catch up with some pals.


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