The Pantograph Punch relaunches
Rosabel steps down as editor (but refuses to leave completely) and welcomes the Pantograph Punch's dreamy new team, including Editor-in-Chief Janet McAllister and editors and writers Lana Lopesi, Sarah Jane Barnett, Hera Lindsay Bird, Alex Taylor and Kate Prior.
When the time comes, how do you walk away? It's something we started asking ourselves three years ago. The edtiorial team back then - Matt Harnett, Joe Nunweek and I - had gone away to Matt's aunty's bach for the weekend, and the question of the future came up pretty quick. When you create something together, it holds so much of yourself, so how do you know when it's become its own organism? How do you know it'll stand on its own? Or maybe those were the wrong questions to ask. What even was this thing we'd be walking away from? People change. You change. Maybe walking away wasn't the question. Maybe it was knowing when to shut the whole thing down.
When we launched The Pantograph Punch in 2011, we had pretty modest ambitions. We wanted a place to share the great bits and pieces we’d been reading and we wanted to write some of our own stuff too. Over the years, the site evolved with us. We published more and more new writers, and they blew us away with their intelligence, their style, and their weird interests. We wrote about the beautiful and deeply-flawed world around us. We excavated untold histories. We had revealing, intimate conversations with artists. We hosted fights. We had brutally honest conversations, but they always came from a place of generosity and care. It was – and still is – an exciting place to be. It’s the kind of writing I love, and the kind you don’t get to see heaps of.
We made mistakes. The name, for one thing. Nobody remembers the name. People still call it ‘The Pantographic Punch’ and I'm always too shy to correct them. There was a summer where our site was hacked and it looked like we'd turned into an online Viagra shop (definitely still an option if we ever get despo).
We were all working full-time for a while, juggling the site in the evenings and weekends. That was a bad idea too, and we burned out pretty quick. For all our talk about valuing our writers and paying everyone, we weren’t very good at paying ourselves, and I remember convincing Joe and Matt very early on that we should “treat the site like our own small business” and "invest our time and money into it." I was like a kid playing house, using language I didn't fully understand. We pay our editors now.
Recently, I interviewed a producer who described their role as the protector. I really like that. We’ve grown hugely over the past few years – both in terms of how often we're publishing and how many people read us, and our events programme has taken on a life of its own. This year our season included everything from a K-Pop showdown in Albany to a pop-up exhibition in an abandoned mall in Papatoetoe to a whole series of storytelling nights in the CBD. It's been amazing. But throughout all of this, I had this terrible feeling that I wasn't doing everything as well as I could be - I was just doing a lot.
I love the site. I love our writers. They have so many urgent and articulate and profound things to say. So the question changed this year from whether to walk away to when and how. It feels important to me to protect this space, and to help it flourish, so I'm stepping down as editor in order to focus on all the stuff that makes us a more sustainable organisation, including our events, our partnerships, and our membership scheme (you can help support what we do here!)
I’m stoked to be presenting our new editorial team. It’s a dream line-up and I can’t wait to see what they do next.
Introducing The Pantograph Punch
Our new Editor in Chief is the smart, fiery Janet McAllister. She’s one of the best writers in New Zealand and I still can’t believe we get to have her at the helm. Her words explode off the page and leave an imprint in your brain.
Janet will be supported by our founding editors, Matt Harnett and Joe Nunweek, who are not only phenomenally good writers, but two of the best editors I've had the good fortune to work with. Their devotion to developing new writing continues to astound me, and we owe a lot of our best pieces to them.
You might know Lana Lopesi as the preternaturally talented founding editor of #500words, which will be closing its digital doors at the end of year. She joins Francis McWhannell as the co-editor of our visual arts section (he's currently in Venice doing an internship at the Guggenheim, no big deal) and together they'll be playing at the edges of what art writing can be.
We’re also thrilled to announce a new partnership with The Dowse Art Museum. Over the next twelve months, we’ll be publishing four pieces that look at four of their exhibitions, starting with an upcoming interview with the incredible Erica van Zon (note: for those who don’t know how our partnerships work, our kaupapa revolves around editorial integrity. We choose which exhibitions we write about and how, and if we review anything – we’re under no obligation to – we reserve the right to write a negative review).
Expect intoxicating conversations, excerpts and reviews (and reviews of reviews) with two of New Zealand's best poets: our new Books Editor, Sarah Jane Barnett (A Man Runs into a Woman, WORK) and our new Books Writer, Hera Lindsay Bird. We've also got a special project in the pipeline, and I guess that's what they're looking at in their profile pics.
We’re still figuring what we want to do with our music, TV and film sections, but in the meantime, meet writer and composer Alex Taylor.
Alex’s work has been performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Enso Quartet, 175 East, NZTrio, and the Taipei Chamber Singers, and his opera – based on David Herkt’s The Last Delirium of Arthur Rimbaud – premieres next year.
Alex joins the team as our resident music writer, and he’s a damn good one. The way he writes about classical music and opera is urgent and engrossing (something I never thought would be possible – at least for me) and he has no qualms about holding bad work accountable (something I never thought would be possible – at least within a small community).
Joining award-winning writers Sam Brooks (Auckland) and Adam Goodall (Wellington) is award-winning writer, filmmaker and dramaturg Kate Prior. The way these three write about theatre invigorates me. Their reviews are incisive and exquisitely crafted and their conversations are rare gems.
Kate will be leading the theatre section, with Sam and Adam looking after our review coverage. Kate plans to grow this section to showcase a multiplicity of voices, while exploring the boundaries of practitioner, critic, and academic. She's interested in the interplay of authority and uncertainty, and in experimenting with the often spiky voice of criticism. She wants to break free from the idea that New Zealand theatre criticism = reviews, and plans to smash that mould as often as she can.
We’re delighted to be continuing our partnership with Silo Theatre (writing the essays in their programmes, and running events alongside their shows) and to be launching a partnership with Playmarket (which will involve unearthing select pieces from their archives, which currently aren’t digitised).
This year, in addition to our CBD events, we launched a pilot programme of events called Satellites with the support of Auckland Council. Through this, we staged a series of free events in the suburbs, including a K-Pop Showdown with international choreographer Rina Chae (who’d recently returned from LA where she'd been dancing with Beyonce and Bieber), an underground food tour along Dominion Road and a pop-up poster exhibition in the old (and currently abandoned) Papatoetoe mall.
We’ve also been lucky to have RNZ as our broadcast partner, and worked closely with them to produce the jewel in our 2016 programming crown – Dead Air, a night of live storytelling with John Campbell, Carol Hirschfeld, Wallace Chapman and Noelle McCarthy. Videos from this night will be launched over the summer, and our shows from 2016 will be broadcast then too.
Our events team are Rosabel Tan, Sophie Dowson and Hayden Eastmond-Mein. We're in the middle of planning for next year, and will be launching our 2017 season next month (god help us).
Finally, a big part of what I'm going to be doing next year is figuring out ways we can pay our writers and editors. As part of that, we'll be looking at establishing more strategic partnerships as well as looking for sponsors for our sections, our features, and our events.
Our house rules: We maintain editorial control over everything we write. We don’t write copy. We don’t accept copy. We’ll acknowledge at the end of our posts where a piece is part of a partnership arrangement. In some situations, there might be comprehensive coverage involved: with Silo, for example, we write about all of their shows for their programmes, but we choose what that looks like. We’re under no obligation to review shows, but often we do, and it’s not always positive. We believe - as do our partners – in honest and critical coverage, and as much of it as possible.
That’s us! We’d love for you to come celebrate these big changes with us and to meet our new crew at our end-of-year event, RULES OF THE GAME. It’s a late-night storytelling event on the set of Silo Theatre’s unruly absurd show Perplex, and features tales of rule-breaking and rule-making with Hera Lindsay Bird, Thomas Sainsbury, Lucy Zee and Alice Snedden. It's hosted by Jess Holly Bates. It’s gonna feature a giant pass the parcel.
Rules of the Game is on Wednesday 16 November at 9pm, and if you use the code word PARTY you’ll get $22 tickets. We’d love to see you there!