Livity plans expansion of Live magazine
Spin-offs planned for Glasgow and South Africa
“We’re trying to save the world through marketing,” says Sam Conniff, the co-founder of Livity, and he is not joking. Livity, which celebrates its ninth birthday this month, is more than just a Brixton-based youth marketing agency. It is home to Live magazine, a title that goes out to 35,000 young people in south and east London, with spin-offs planned for Glasgow and South Africa; and it has spawned projects such as Dubplate Drama, the interactive Channel 4 youth drama boosting awareness of ChildLine.
Conniff set up Livity with Michelle Clothier in 2001, inviting 12- to 21-year-olds to work alongside full-time staff, with O2, the Teenage Cancer Trust and Lambeth Council as their first clients, proving that business and social responsibility can be bedfellows.
Live magazine was one of their first ventures – written, designed and produced by young people with the help of mentors (including Guardian staff), covering subjects ranging from prison to survival on the streets, as well as offering music interviews and fashion spreads.
“As soon as the first issue of the magazine went out, the real social networks came into play and we got increasing numbers of young people through the door. This led to the most dynamic and exciting environment I’ve ever worked in,” says Conniff.
Gavin Weale, the chief executive of Live Futures – which includes the spin-off title Live East – was recently named the British Council’s Young Publishing Entrepreneur 2010 and plans to use the prize money to take the concept into South African townships. Live and Livity now enjoy a combined annual turnover of £2.5m, with Livity investing 25% of its profits back into bursaries for young people.
Tom Weldon, the deputy chief executive of Penguin UK, which worked with Livity to create Spinebreakers, the first books website produced by teenagers for their peers, describes the company as “like no office you’ve ever seen. There are 20 to 30 kids there. This isn’t a charity, these are very sophisticated marketers, but there’s a bigger purpose that informs everything they do.”
Albert Harvey, 19, first walked through Live’s doors in January 2009. He was immediately set to work writing restaurant, film and music reviews and is now on a three-month paid internship with Livity. “Only two weeks ago it was my first pitch [to O2],” he reveals. “I found it overwhelming at first, but because my boss has confidence in me, I had confidence.”