May 30, 2009

An Interview With Kath Rhodes Editor of 'Welsh Country' Magazine

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An Interview with Kath Rhodes editor of Welsh Country: "the pan Wales magazine that is essential reading for those that are passionate about the countryside of Wales, Welsh Food, Welsh Property and the history of Wales."

Americymru: What is Welsh Country magazine and what is it's mission?

Kath: Our Welsh Country magazine mission is to promote the wonderful Welsh countryside to visitors and locals too. We want to ensure that everyone, wherever they live, knows what an amazing country Wales is and how much there is to do and see here.

Americymru: Can you tell us about the history of the magazine, how it came to be?

Kath: In November 2009 Welsh Country celebrates its fifth birthday and it's amazing how quickly that time has gone. My partner and I had been living in Wales and were in partnership with a super equestrian publication until the owners wanted to alter its direction, which we didn't think would work, so we had an amicable parting of the ways and they are still great friends of ours. So the question was: 'What do we do next?' We spent over six months researching a magazine idea and spotted a gap in the market for a pan-Wales magazine. More research, endless meetings including with Visit Wales, Forestry Commission, National Trust in fact any Welsh group or body that we thought might or should support us in our efforts!! Meetings and yet more meetings and we were still convinced that not only was there a huge market in Wales for the type of magazine with the format that we had planned, but also a massive market abroad with expats.

Americymru: What does Welsh Country magazine have for its readers, what does it offer?

Kath: I was looking for an eclectic mix, hoping that anyone - whatever their age, taste and passion, will find something of interest in our pages. We cover both countryside and lifestyle, all we need is a Welsh link and we'll try and cover it. We also listen to our readers and really appreciate their feedback and suggestions. Our advertisers are of course as important as our readers and we work with them as closely as possible to ensure they get the most out of Welsh Country to grow their businesses. We pride ourselves in 'thinking outside the box' which is possibly the reason so many Welsh Government agencies aren't always as helpful as they should be with us - but hopefully they'll take their blinkers off very soon and we can work together and help each other!! It's so important that we make a huge effort with our advertisers because we want them with us for the long-term and to develop good relationships with them and us. Many advertisers now sell Welsh Country magazine for us whether it is in their art gallery, farm shop or coffee shop , this is a big help in our direct distribution and also gives them an extra source of income. Again it's another way to work together and help each other.

Americymru: Tell us about a typical issue, what articles and features would readers find?

Kath: BBC's Mel Doel has been with us from our early days and writes her feature about what's happening in the Welsh countryside with topics as diverse as bee keeping, Post Office closures, Barry Swan Rescue Centre, how Wales is suffering in the climate change, the Welsh milk industry meltdown, Welsh piers and the allotment lottery - those are just samples of topics Mel has covered. Tom Hutton does our walking pages and encourages us to enjoy Wales on our feet. He tries to find walks around Wales and Tom's another freelance writer that was with us from the start. Occasionally we look at equestrian events and I have recently returned from Badminton following Australian Matt Ryan who has been living in Abergavenny for many years and is swapping nationality to Britain . Also riding there was Monmouthshire owner/rider Sara Squires who did amazingly well at her first attempt, actually beating Olympic Gold medallist Matt............. We have more Badminton news on our website

Our fishing expert Moc Morgan takes care of those who love spending time and enjoying the peace and quiet on Welsh riverbanks. Geoff Brookes, again another writer who has been with us for years producing and preserving tales of sadness and sorrow as he uncovers stories behind old gravestones. His first book is now out - Stories in Welsh Stone' - and I'm pleased to report sales are going well. Richard Cain of Penlan Perennials is another long-term stalwart who keeps up up-to-date in the garden and takes some superb photos so we always have a really colourful and inspiring feature. Steve Judd , astrologist, star-gazes for our readers and sends in horoscopes - but maybe like me, you 'only believe horoscopes if his prediction is good!' Then of course we have Welsh food - another topic we are so passionate about. We started promoting Welsh food in our early days, really before many then got on the bandwagon. We then ran an ongoing ' Buy Local - Eat Local Campaign' that was followed by a 'Best Of Welsh' guide which lists lots of excellent food producers and I'm pleased to say many of them now do mail order, which is so important for many people living in rural areas or perhaps have just very busy lives. This guide is not only helpful for end-users, but for hotels, delis, coffee shops etc. who are wanting to show our visitors how good Welsh local produce is, whilst of course reducing food miles. One of our food producers was so delighted with the work we have done to promote local produce that she recommended me as a Local Hero in last year's Countryside Alliance Awards - I didn't win, but the nomination was a huge boost for me and my team. We also cover news in Wales, music, book reviews, beauty products, clothing, motoring, interviews and history, as I said it's eclectic........................

Americymru: How is Welsh Country different from other magazines?

Kath: Although people still think we are either fully funded by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) or funded by Visit Wales, we are the only pan Welsh magazine that is not funded by WAG. Welsh Country has always been produced, published and printed in Wales. Mind you being loyal to Wales does cost though, as we could print in France and it would be far cheaper!!

There is a pan Wales magazine that is very political but we at Welsh Country want to show Wales in the best possible light so we never publish any negative comment at all except in the 'Grumpy Old Geezer' feature, where he whinges about the price of diesel, the closure of Tourist Information Centres etc. That certainly does not mean that Welsh Country does not see problems within government both local and national, as we are constantly contacted by smaller businesses that are having problems with Welsh bureaucracy of one sort or another. As a consequence Welsh Country have regular meetings with both Members of Parliament that sit in London and also Assembly Members and Ministers from Cardiff.

It’s good to put something back into society and I personally cannot stand big bully tactics or unfairness and if we as a small part of the independent media can make our voice heard privately, rather than in print then I feel we are doing some good. I see that as an important role for Welsh Country, our behind-the-scenes work, and the People In Power know that if we can't change and improve things by talking - then we have the option of using print...........

Americymru: Do you accept freelance content or submissions from your readers?

Kath: Occasionally we do, but we are restricted in amount of spare space we have. In the past we have run a feature about Welsh Abroad - why a person, with Welsh connections moved abroad, their background, when they moved and what they are doing now. Of course we need to know what they miss most about Wales too, but with our growing appreciation of Americymru maybe we should bring that feature back. So don’t hesitate to email me and you never know your story may be in print in the future.

Americymru: Any advice for writers and other would-be content submitters?

Kath: Yes please read Welsh Country first and then you'll understand what we are aiming for which is to entertain as well as inform. Would-be writers must get a feel of Welsh Country and only then email me with ideas first please.

Americymru: What's your day like as an editor?

Kath: Busy, busy, busy - oh for more hours in the day. The month after an issue has been printed and distribution has been done, we have a post-print meeting to see what queries have arisen in last few days before the printers, plus I get feedback from my team when they have at last got a copy in their hands. Then we talk about the next issue, which I will hopefully have lots of ideas for, but you can be sure my team will have lots great ideas too. A publication like ours could not survive, especially in these tough times, without the enthusiastic group of people that we have working for us - they are brilliant.

I also use that month to catch up on - yes, you've guessed it - meetings. These could be with our printer, Rural Affairs Minister Elin Jones, our local Member of Parliament Mark Williams, with a food festival or a producer, my list of meetings seems to go on for ever, but at least boredom is never a problem and variety is certainly the spice of life here at Welsh Country.
The month before we go to print obviously gets very hectic as we are often chasing or querying features, promised images which have either not arrived, or simply aren't good enough quality for us.

Our Pamper pages are photographed in-house by Tony, our talented designer, so they take some time to finalise, but feedback on those Pamper pages has been amazing, when we have been told by those in the beauty industry that we are as good as Vogue, that's a good incentive to keep us all working hard to maintain our high standards. Writing, proofing, tweaking, seems to be constant parts of my day, plus taking calls and dealing with hundreds of emails. I'd be lost without email that's for sure. Regular editorial meetings with my team are vital to keep everyone in the loop and ensure we hit our print date. Or I could be trying to sort out an interview with one of our Welsh celebrities or out with our tradestand promoting Welsh Country at Food Festivals or tourist events, it's a very varied day with no time to get bored.

Americymru: How can people in the USA get subscriptions to Welsh Country?

Kath: Visit our website is one way or you could tel: 00 441559 372010. Both take credit and debit card payments.

Americymru: Any final message for the members and readers of Americymru?

Kath: I'm so delighted to have made contact with you all at Americymru and looking forward to building a strong and mutually beneficial relationship with you as we both seem to be on the same wavelength. I know how much so many of you miss Wales and I really hope that by reading Welsh Country - your countryside magazine for Wales - we can give you another link to your homeland and you can get that longed-for taste and feel of Wales each issue.

Interview by Ceri Shaw Email

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