To call it the end of an Era is no exaggeration. It’s possible this may have passed you by which cant be allowed to happen. Hence this blog: a celebration of Christmas past. The latest issue of Dirt, #130, was the last designed by Jon Gregory. He has been kind enough to chat through his memories with me.
Jono has served as Artistic Director (a self appointed title) of Dirt Magazine since April 2007, Issue #63, and has been at it longer than anyone before him. It was Jon’s job to work with Editor Mike Rose and Deputy Editor Steve Jones to come up with and execute an Editorial plan, bringing together all the photos and writing in to a sum greater than its parts. Those beautified leaves of glossiness we love to leaf through. Jon sorted through hundreds of photos submitted each month by the world’s best photographers with the unenviable task of picking out the best to work with the planned spread. Taking inspiration from the writers words; Negotiating the number of pages; highlighting the important stories or underdogs from races; keeping regular features fresh; fitting in product and bike tests; constructing the size, scale and variety of the layout. It’s all a matter of taste and as Dirt is one of the best looking mags out there, Jon has very good taste. Something he also attributes to Mike Rose.
With a month to bring everything together before print deadline, the regular features were the first to tackle. Things start coming together with about 3 weeks to go with Mike the only one really having a good idea of what is going on. With 2 weeks to go the pressure is on, with photos and words coming in from contributors. But naturally it was in the last week when most of the work got done and contributors supplied their goods. The last few days before deadline will not be something Jon will miss.
Greggers’ first job after graduating from Camberwell college, was with Onboard magazine out in Chamonix, putting together marketing emails and generally living the life. Riding loads in the summers with the Mag crew around le Petit Balcon Nord and Sud , Les houches and Brevent. Learning how to jump properly on 20” thanks to the dirt shaped by local kids but with funds from the council. After leaving the delights of the snowboarding world he headed back to the UK for a job at Bike (motorbike) magazine, however living in Peterborough was a bit too much of a comedown and he was soon drawn to the big smog; London. Here Jon picked up a job which would be the perfect preparation for Dirt, cutting out Dildos. That is, photoshoping rampant rabbits to put inside the sealed pages of a ‘ Cliterature’ insert for Scarlet ladies mag. Here he also prepared himself for interpreting Seb Kemps Whistler Diaries through illustration by providing erotic drawings to go alongside salacious words. After 6 months of this Jono was off to Business Traveller, a magazine for business class flights with some long distance travel perks. This kept him interested for a while and he enjoyed the London life but soon he was freelancing and spotted the a job at Dirt. A very keen rider, Jon was reading the mag already and when he didn’t hear anything back from his application for over three months he got on the blower and spoke to Mike directly. Thankfully he did; he got the job.
Issue #63 had an amazing Victor Lucas photo of Brendog riding for Honda on the cover with the tag line, “From Zero to Hero”. Remember this was 2007. Jon wanted the job because it represented more creative freedom and chance to break away from the more prescriptive jobs he’d had. The lads an artist, he needed to express himself. In those early days Mike was a great guide and imparted on Jon the way he sees the sport and how he feels it should be seen. Jon credits Mike with an amazing eye for a photograph and great natural sense of style. If you’ve ever seen Mike in his bass hat this may come as a surprise. Combining this style with Steve Jones’ and Mike’s historical knowledge and love for the sport allowed Jon to shape the Mag in to what it has become. Jon’s talent and direction of the magazine lead him to be awarded the much coveted Press Gazette Magazine Designer of the Year Award in 2008 beating the likes of Elle to the top spot. Not bad for a colour blind lefty.
After 6 months working in London at Factory’s head office Jon spotted an opportunity to move out to the wilds of the Monmouth HQ, to immerse himself in Dirt. The following couple of years were spent working, riding and digging with the boys and experiencing the ‘drop in’ culture of the office. With so many industry folk calling by for a brew it was always a lively place – sometimes too lively. The progression of the Mag has been led by the sport it documents. As Downhill racing has become more professional, so has Dirt. The intensity of Jon’s early work was unsustainable and as he matured, so did the magazine. He admits some of his early work was horrendous but he was learning and trying things out, some of which didn’t work but most did, Brilliantly! Jon has an amazing eye for typography and personally I love it when he gets his crayons out. After a couple of years in the Shire Jon decided to move back down to London, he was a young man and missed the bright lights and late nights, which is where he stayed until his departure.
Dirt is a UK based magazine with international contributors trying to keep close to grass roots, a difficult balance. What makes this possible are the amazing people involved; those who put the magazine together and all the writers and photographers who contribute to it. For example, a world cup may have finished hours before but, if needed, the photos are delivered ready to go in the mag (just) before deadline. It’s those amazing people that Jon got to work with that he will be missing. The other things he fondly remembers are some of the amazing trips he got to go on. Like heading out to the 2009 Masters Worlds champs in Pra Loup in the Dirt Van which ‘Tog Grant Robinson managed to bring back to life with cable ties from a gear linkage failure. This is where Jon first met Rodney ‘Tofu Puke’ Fountain Jr, South East correspondent, which was somewhat a life changer. From there he met the rest of the SE Bummers and had a whole new crew to ride with. Another memorable trip was last years road trip with the Dirt crew and Wye Valley Warrior Johnny Everett taking in Mavic at Annecy and racing through sloppy mud around the hills of Les Gets and Morzine competing in the Alpine Battle. His racing may or may not have improved by the wise words of Fabian Barel who recommended he just ‘relax and have fun’.
So what next for the talented Mr Gregory? Well another life changer. Having seen out his notice period and beyond, Jon has taken over ‘Hands on Coffee’ with his lady, a roasting company in Wadebridge, Cornwall. He talks about coffee like aficionados muse about wine, using his hands to complete sentence and adjectives that should be reserved for sex. However, I’ve tasted the goods and he really does know what he’s doing. Importing beans from around the world, including his fiancés fathers farm in Brazil. They roast and blend in small batches keeping the coffee fresh and tasty. It was a very hard decision to make and even harder to realize but local surf breaks, great trails and a new pace of life are already making it much easier. The boys are all still in the office making Dirt happen and new lad Chris Jones has a great pedigree coming from Surf Europe and Surfers Path magazines. He’s got some big shoes to fill and Greggers is still waiting for his life time subscription to keep an eye on things.
Here’s what the others boys on the Dirt Team had to say about the passing of their good Friend Jono.
“Never met anyone who’s so good at what they do, yet so dopey (and grumpy) at the same time. Luckily the coffee seems to have sorted him out a bit”
He should have “when the hell are you going to send me those words/photos?…I’ve already sent them to you ages ago Jon…no you bloody didn’t…oh hang on…oh yeah there they are” put on his gravestone cos that conversation was like groundhog day with him.
“He was a fucking nightmare!”
“How’s about Wanker?… well funny you should say that. One of his constants was fffound. Hmm yes we all needed some antidote for Jon. I took him drinking one night, we had two, then four, then I got him to eight and he realised the size of the task and well you can guess. For years he insisted on taking his fourcross bike trail riding, managing his mood was entertaining, i think he scares Mike in that respect but then Mike can be a moody bastard as well. But i don think of that i think of a skilled racer, great company, and id like to have witnessed the lines he was spinning at the masters worlds”
“Joan will be sorely missed by all.
I’ll miss <insert name> loads, <insert name> was hard working, diligent but yet retained a sense of fun and was much liked by his/her colleagues. I wish <insert name> good luck in his/her future job of <insert job>.”
Grant is a good mate of Jono and they like to battle like an old married couple. Here’s some of Grants photographic memories of the Greggers some taken from our PL40 trip to Norway.