Since 2012, online music publication Damn Magazine has been covering music news and showcasing musicians making a positive change in the world. With its rock n’ roll aesthetic and daring name, the publication has historically skewed towards a younger demographic.
But this year, when Damn Magazine editor Emily Kennedy heard a radio show encouraging Canadians to write letters to seniors during the pandemic, she was inspired to reinvent the publication.
“I can write a letter, sure, but I would love to make [seniors] a magazine, a whole magazine,” says Kennedy. “I wanted to give seniors consideration, to let them know that people are thinking about them, and that they matter in our lives.” She enlisted longtime colleague Matthew Harrison, a biographer and former senior editor of Ottawa Magazine, to tackle the change in direction.
“We’re targeting that space where generations interact.”
Kennedy’s vision evolved into a four-issue, one-year pilot project built around exploring general interest questions with an intergenerational twist, to encourage dialogue between people of all ages.
“We’re targeting that space where generations interact,” says Kennedy. “The magazine certainly considers seniors in many ways, because that’s sort of at the heart of it, but the through line is always that there’s a cross-generational aspect.”
While the magazine targets all ages, it makes itself particularly accessible to seniors: The text appears in a large font, the names of seniors aged 65 and older are bolded, quirky merch making light of age and ageing is peppered throughout the pages, and the publication ends with a friendly glossary of terms.
“Instead of picking up space in the article to explain a term, where we’re making a judgment that the reader doesn’t know what it means, we put it in a glossary so that it doesn’t break up your reading of the story,” Kennedy explains.
For Kennedy, the aspirational nature of magazines renders them an exciting medium to explore the intersecting interests of generations. “If you think of magazines like Vogue and Vanity Fair, a lot of the reason people pick them up is because they love to look at the fashion and … the lifestyle of celebrities and kind of aspire to it,” she says. “So that aspirational quality also works in younger people always wishing that they were older, and older people wishing that they could be younger.”
This sense of longing for adventure, connection, experience, or belonging is felt throughout the magazine’s mosaic of colourful articles. “Timeless Tartan” describes the ubiquity of the iconic pattern in Kennedy’s family through generations. “Going with the Flow” recounts the journey of the Wilhome Family Farm that has been passed down in the Williams family for over 200 years, growing and adapting through war, ecological transformation and radical technological evolution. “Moto Mavens” profiles women of all ages united by an ageless passion for motorcycle sports and a yearning for the open road. Each biker, from 29-year-old Avory Allmand to 63-year-old Gevin Fax, nostalgically recounts how she was motivated, inspired or inadvertently dared by someone older than her to discover the classic sport. “I got it from my Papa” immerses the reader in the musical universe of Toronto pop-rock star Scott Helman, whose latest album Nonsuch Park is a loving tribute to his grandfather’s dedication to finding the joy in life.
The magazine exudes warmth and familiarity in its unpretentious tone and eclectic topics. The authors effortlessly tie generations together throughout the stories, highlighting objects that have been passed down and repurposed through generations, and celebrating the ways children, parents, and grandparents toil to achieve the same goals, whether running a successful business or relishing the simple joys of life.
“Our audience is this kind of intersection in the middle of young and old. We hope that it can create a community where those generations can meet and … find common interests and have conversations and have something to connect them,” says Kennedy.
Ultimately, Kennedy says she hopes Damn Magazine will enable readers to feel seen and represented regardless of age. “We didn’t want to really target ‘older people,’ because what does that mean? It’s such a wide swath of the population, depending on how you view it. It’s all relative,” says Kennedy.
She adds that the magazine’s history lends itself well to their new editorial vision. “We’ve got roots being kind of a rock n’ roll music magazine, and the name embodies that too: Damn Magazine. It’s a little edgy. That, too, is kind of how we view seniors and every generation. Your personality stays with you and you can be just as cool or edgy at any age.”
Kennedy says she also hopes that this first print issue will provide potential sponsors with a better sense of the vision and intention behind the project. “Until we had a real physical product, it was a little difficult for us to explain: we want to do a magazine for seniors, but it’s not for seniors. It’s covertly for seniors. It’s for all the generations,” Kennedy says with a chuckle.
“…we want to do a magazine for seniors, but it’s not for seniors. It’s covertly for seniors. It’s for all the generations.”
She encourages readers to reach out to the publication with any cross-generational stories they would like to share. As well, if they know a senior who is feeling alone or isolated, Kennedy encourages them to reach out to Damn via Twitter or email. “We’ll see if we can reach out to them or send them a magazine or … a piece of merch. Just kind of goodwill and trying to build that community,” she says.
Damn Magazine is currently running a two-for-one campaign in the Ottawa region: Each sale of the inaugural issue provides one issue to a senior.