Looking Sideways Action Sports Podcast: Matt Barr

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Matt Barr is a journalist, business owner, podcast creator and host of the Looking Sideways Podcast

Growing up in the UK, Matt has been involved in action sports media since the mid 90’s. He became the Editor of Whitelines Snowboarding Magazine and was writing about snowboarding, skateboarding and surfing as a freelance journalist for action sports publications and national press. A decade later he set out to start his own marketing agency, All Conditions Media, working with brands in the outdoors, adventure and action sports space. 

In 2017 Matt created the Looking Sideways Podcast where he chats to action sports athletes and industry personalities. 150 episodes in he has just released the first Looking Sideways book. He has also calibrated with Patagonia on Type 2, a podcast about activism in action sports and the outdoors.

Tune in to find out how Matt started off in journalism, running his own agency, podcasting and what future projects he has in store. 

Listen to the podcast:

Transcript:

Oli Russell-Cowan: Was it skateboarding that you got into first before the whole snowboarding thing started?

Matt Barr: Yeah. Skating first. Probably quite a common story. I met a group of friends who were into it. I just got hooked straight away. Like, I think we all did, really. So this would have been 1989. Just super all in immediate. I was an avid consumer of all things skateboarding in magazines, videos. So that kind of set me on the path.

I was really lucky to meet a group of friends who I’m still friends with now, who are a little bit older than me. At the time are a couple of years older than me, which when you’re 13 is a big gap, isn’t it?

They kind of seem like they had it pretty dialed. They’re all really good skaters. They’re all into snowboarding. I followed them really. I had an immediate group of friends that were super into it and then I got into the Manchester skate scene and kind of went from there. 

Oli: Then you were studying in Sheffield, right? Did you go straight there after school?

Matt: I went to university when I was 18. I was always super into writing. I was sort of an English Lit geek. I kind of always wanted to go to university. It was a pretty good way of getting out of Manchester, which I was very keen to do when I was 18. Like anyone you just want to leave your hometown don’t you. I didn’t work hard at all. Pissed three years up the wall at University as you do when you’re 18.

I got my first gig as a journalist when I was at university. So these friends that I described, they were all quite good snowboarders. They all started getting coverage in the UK mags at that time, like Whitelines and Snowboard UK. Even back then there was quite vibrant little media scene in the UK, as I’m sure you remember.

They were being interviewed and they asked me if I’d write the interviews for him, basically. So I did that. And that was how I got into it originally. The first one of those that I did was when I was 19. I was going into my third year of university, that was for Snowboard UK.

Eddie Spearing, who’s a guy that was running Snowboard UK and was a bit of a father figure for the UK industry. At that point, he was really encouraging to me, he was like, ‘this is really good. Do you want to do any more?’ I think he recommended me to Whitelines. So then I did some stuff for Whitelines and kind of went from there.

Oli: When did you take it from doing features and interviews to getting more involved with Whitelines?

Matt: That was when I left university. That was all to do my mate Chris Moran, who’s one of those kids that I met when I was younger. I went to the same school as Chris.

He was like, ‘we should just tell them that we’ll be their full time staff.’ I was a bit like, what can you do that? They were trying to run the whole thing from a shoestring budget.

‘The pitch we made to them was, just give us your budget and we’ll do the whole thing for you.’

At a time there was only one lad really, a guy called Chod (Tudor Thomas). Another proper legend of British snowboarding, who was running the whole thing. So I think, from his point of view, it was like, yeah, actually, that’s gonna save me a shitload of work. They paid us peanuts really, at the time. But we didn’t really care. Our plan was always to go and do seasons.

So for us, it was a really wicked way of getting away and doing something around snowboard. I got to write which was what I wanted to do. So yeah, it came from there. The first winter we did was 97 and we had a chalet Meribel. We did the whole magazine from there. In fact we hand wrote and faxed everything, which goes to show how long ago that was.

The year after that, we scrape some money together to get a computer so we had one laptop. That was just when people start getting email addresses. That was starting to transform publishing the media. So we could send everything electronically at that point. I ended up staying at Whitelines for nine years, I think. There was a big bunch of mates. There was me, Chod, Chris Moran, Ed Leigh, Nick Hamilton. James MacPhail later on.

Between me, Ed and Chris we did everything really. I think we’ve all claimed editorship at various points. We just did the whole lot. I kind of did every sort of roles that you could get on the editorial side of the magazine.

Oli: Were you all living together over in Meribel at that time?

Matt: Nick was traveling, because he was shooting. His responsibility was to basically get the content for the entire season so that required him to be on the road. We had a base in Meribel first few seasons and then bases in Chamonix. But we traveled a lot.

I think I did like three seasons in Meribel and two seasons in Chamonix. Then I did about five, traveling. That was kind of when I became a more officially editor when Ed left. That was when Ed’s TV career started taking off. So I sort of took his putative job. I just decided to travel because you just needed to be out and about. To be totally honest it was a bit of a blank check to travel.

We were very lucky. We’d have a meeting every July, where we would sit and plan the next season’s magazines. We would literally go, where should we go this year?

Over the years I went to Iran, Lebanon, Russia. I went to a lot of places that you wouldn’t really considered to be snowboarding destinations. I just thought, well, when am I ever going to get a chance to travel in this way.

Going back to the same French resorts or American resorts, which was an amazing privilege, don’t get me wrong. But it seemed a bit underachieving with the kind of opportunity that we had. It was a real chance to see the world really. So we did.

I actually apologised to my old publisher, when I saw him at ISPO about three years ago. I haven’t seen him in about 15 years. It all got a bit fraught when we left. As I got a bit older and thought of this bloke desperately trying to keep this magazine together. Here’s me submitting an expense claim for the trip to Iran that I’d done.

We were a bunch of absolute piss tankers really. I think it made the magazine what it was. When you do something like that you’ve got a responsibilities to represent the culture of snowboarding, clearly. You’ve got a responsibility to the industry as well, because as Brits we felt really proud. We felt like representing British snowboarding culture and the industry was a really important part of the job.

But equally, I just thought it was really important to show them that there was more to snowboarding than that well-trodden path.

It was a really Halcyon period. That was my whole 20’s basically. The five of us that were involved in that, now are a bit like. We were pretty lucky. That doesn’t exist anymore. You couldn’t do that now.

Watch the full episode on Rad Season’s YouTube channel or Facebook Page.

You can follow what  Matt’s up to on his instagram page welooksideways and be sure to check out Matt’s new book – Looking Sideways Vol.1 diving into the surf, skate and snow culture of California.

 

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Oli Russell-Cowan

The concept for Rad Season came about when I was trekking around Latin America. I found it difficult to find cool events and festivals going on that were a bit different and had an element of adventure and general radness to them. I knew that there was always something rad worth going to somewhere in the world, but there was no single platform bringing them together for like-minded people. With over 15 years experience in international business development, spanning multiple industries including action sports, events, media, digital, ICT, travel and tourism, I decided to combine them all with Rad Season.

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