While dedicating an entire issue of a magazine to one city might be par for the course now, when Conor Purcell launched We Are Here, it was very much just him and the folks at Boat magazine embarking on this brave path. But what made We Are Here even more revolutionary was the high quality content, lo-fi presentation premise – all pictures in the magazine are snapped on a mobile phone, making it the anti-thesis of a traditional travel magazine in so many ways. So when we found out that he’d launched a new magazine entirely dedicated to Dublin, we couldn’t say we were surprised – but we were definitely intrigued.
First things first – is We Are Dublin a separate entity from We Are Here?
We Are Here started out as a travel magazine when I was in Dubai, and the idea was to do a different city each issue. However, earlier this year, I moved back to Dublin and, seeing there was not much in the way of magazines, decided to start We Are Dublin – the design and concept is the same, it will just always focus on Dublin with a new issue out every three months. I hope to do one foreign city a year (as We Are Here) with the next one released in the middle of next year, but am not sure of the destination as yet.
Dublin is a very literary city but there is a dearth of quality magazines. It’s also a city with a lot of stories, but those stories are not always being told. Vast areas of the city are ignored and I think it’s interesting to try and focus on that.
You’ve worked all over the world, but tell us more about your background. Where did you grow up? Have you always been fascinated by travel and the outside world?
I grew up in Dublin very happily in a middle class suburb. My parents always brought us on holidays and I remember my dad giving me an atlas when I was younger and being fascinated by the place names. They always encouraged myself, and my brother and sister to travel. My first trip alone when I was 18, I went to Greece but found that a bit boring, and ended up in Israel almost by accident. I always read a lot of travel books and non-fiction books about various parts of the world, and going to a lot of places puts so much into context, and definitely increases ambition and horizons.
Which countries are on your hitlist, both holiday- and career-wise?
I’ve just come back from Istanbul, which is rapidly becoming my favourite city. In terms of the magazine, I’d love to focus on some of the more interesting European cities, such as Marseilles and Naples. Also, a place I have always wanted to go is Asmara – it’s got an amazing architectural history and some of the best coffee in the world, thanks to its former Italian colonisers. I am going to New York next month [Ed: this was at the time of the interview. Conor is actually there right now – see @conorpurcell on IG] for the first time since 1995, so I can’t wait to see the city again. I guess the more you travel, the more you realise how little you have seen.
You’ve launched a few titles and also do some consulting for new publications. Would you say this is the best time to launch an independent magazine?
Absolutely. The cost of getting a magazine to market is lower than ever before, it’s easier to reach potential readers online, and there is a growing (and really helpful) online community of editors and magazine lovers. And even if the magazine only lasts an issue or two, you learn a huge amount about the publishing process from planning to distribution and marketing – it’s like a crash course in publishing.
What are some of your current favourite publications?
I recently picked up a copy of Hello Mr, which is great – the design is restrained in a really creative way and you can see a real passion running right through the issue. Colors is a big inspiration in terms of “I wish I could do that but have neither the budget nor the ability.” I also like B Magazine from Korea, which focuses on a different brand each issue. It’s a great concept that is really well executed.
Dubai, Dublin … can you name other things that start with D you’d like to start a magazine on?
Well, I have been to Djibouti, which was fascinating; a strange mix of otherworldly landscapes, Ethiopian and Somalian culture, French Foreign Legion soldiers and some amazing food from around the Horn of Africa. It also has amazing untouched beaches and a slight sense of anarchy. A winning combination.
Quick fire round – which of the following Irish stalwarts would you choose between the other and why?
Guinness vs Kilkenny
Guinness. It’s a meal in itself. Kilkenny is just a poor imitation.
Black pudding vs boxty
Black pudding. It’s Ireland’s answer to foie gras.
Boyzone vs Westlife
Boyzone, which says more about my age than any strong opinions on either band.
Liam Neeson vs Bono
Liam Neeson, of course – he’s the geriatric Jason Bourne. Bono is not that well liked in Dublin, but that probably says more about Dubliners than it does about him.
Gaelic football vs Hurling
I have only played Gaelic football briefly, and both are enjoyable to watch, but I would go for hurling, as there is more chance of violence.