On a sunny Saturday afternoon back in spring 2004, I went to an exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria (Pretty sure it was the Edvard Munch one), and looking around the gift shop magazine rack afterwards, just as they were about to close, I noticed something unlike any of the other books or publications there. It was called Dumbo Feather, pass it on. I was working as an editor of another magazine at the time too, and this one looked, and also felt completely different.
It was, and still is.
Kate Bezar founded the “mook” as she called it (half magazine, half book) back in 2004, to be something real, honest, and that you would buy and pass around to your friends. And in the beginning the covers looked like these:
Kate had previously worked in marketing and although she had saved up a fair sum of money, she still took a huge leap of faith to start it. With the help of her art director, Jim Parry, it quickly became much more than just ‘some magazine’. Which was her plan from the beginning.
In 2005, I met Kate for a coffee in Newtown in Sydney. I had gone up to Sydney for a few days, and I emailed her telling her I ran a student magazine in Melbourne and what a huge fan of Dumbo feather I was, and she agreed to catch up.
I’ll never forget her pulling up to the cafe in Newtown in her tiny, Mr Bean-style car. I forget the colour, I think it was white, but either way, the car was absolutely packed full of back issues of Dumbo feather. Piles of copies in the backseat and on the passenger seat. She had about a million copies of it in there. If you wanted a lift from her, bad luck, you’d be walking.
This was someone doing what she was doing for the pure love of it. And I’m sure it was mega stressful and full of worries, but it seemed like that didn’t matter at all. She was so cheerful and helpful, especially to an aspiring writer like me. She also offered me a job proofreading one of the interviews for the next issue, which I was thrilled to do (Matt Butler, in 2005).
Then, before she pulled away, she also gave me a copy of every issue up until that point. Probably to help her clear her car out, but that was an extra treat.
In each issue of Dumbo Feather, they interview four inspirational people and have an honest, heartfelt and deep conversation with them, publishing each interview, word for word. It was magical when it first started, and it’s still magical that way, unlike any other magazine I’ve seen in this country, or in the world for that matter.
And I’ve looked.
I’ve traveled throughout Europe, North America and parts of the Middle East looking in every book store and newsagent I could, for something similar. In Paris I stumbled on The Purple Journal, which was great (unfortunately it doesn’t exist anymore though), and it had elements of what made Dumbo feather so good, but it still wasn’t anything like Dumbo feather.
Dumbo Feather has just celebrated the 50 issue milestone. Congratulations, guys. That is so great. May there be infinity more.