Friday, 21 July 2017

International Zine Library Day 2017


I'm a zinester and I'm also a librarian, and I'm also a zine librarian. It's pretty ace.

Liz Prince rules my heart


I was about to say I've been lucky enough to work with zines in most of my library roles in the last 10 years, but it's not been luck so much as it's been hard work,  lots of sneaking around, lots of educating colleagues on the merits of zines, and lots of challenging conversations.  While zine libraries are nothing new it can be really tough to get zines into an existing library collection, or to convince colleagues that  photocopied scrappy booklets are just as important as other materials in the library. 

In 2009 I set up the zine library at Stuart Hall Library with my colleague and super star librarian Sonia Hope.  We slowly began to sneak zines into the library and then we sneakily re-wrote the collection development policy to include zines. After a lot of sneaking around we launched the start of our new zine collection to lots of excited interest but also some resistance. We had some pretty challenging conversations along the way in order to get the zine collection taken seriously and today thanks to Sonia, Nick, and Stephanie the zine collection is growing strong. 



I moved over to Tate Library in 2011 where there wasn't an existing zine collection, but there was a pretty impressive collection of artists' books and artists' serials. The definitions of zines and artists' books, particularly in the context of an art library is pretty blurry and so in 2014 I was able to introduce zines into the collection on the understanding that it developed the idea of self publishing in the arts and complimented the existing artist's books collection. It's still very early days and I'm trying to promote the zine collection as much as possible. I think the benefit of having zines in the collection is that it opens up definitions of self publishing in art. It's great being able to use zines in our group visits, displays, and workshops in the library, to encourage young people to make their own works, and also to encourage people to broaden their definitions of self publishing beyond glossy photobooks and slick artists' books as things which are accessible, cheap, and easy to make themselves. 


Zines are also great for including radical voices and critique in libraries. I love that the art zines in our collection can be accessed and used for research by our readers in the same way that Catalogue Raisonnes and exhibition catalogues are. Zines can be used to educate, share knowledge on lesser known subjects, and provide radical alternatives to established art history publications in our library. 

And so to celebrate International Zine Month and to to mark the end of a bunch of queer library events I've hosted recently, I've been able to set up a display of queer zines outside the library reading rooms. The zines in the display case have been used as part of the Late at Tate session, the Queer and Now event at Tate Britain, and were also featured in our Queering the Library and Archive event a couple of weeks ago and are now having a bit of a rest before heading back to our library shelves. I hope that by having this display people will want to come and read zines or include their zines in our collections. The queer zines are on display at Tate Britain just outside our reading rooms until the end of August. 


And as part of International Zine Month it's also International Zine Library Day today! Tomorrow I'm  hosting a free zine making workshop at Tate with artist and zinester and all round good egg Seleena Daye and the zines made on the day will be added to the library zine collection with permission of the creators. I really hope it's the first of many zine making workshops we get to do in the library. 




I set up the UK and Ireland Zine Librarians group a couple of years ago with the wonderful Leila Kassir. At the moment it's an online space for people working with library collections to ask for help and share advice. We are a very small group  of UK and Irish librarians but if you work with zines in a collection regardless of job description or job title then please do join us! We need you! At the moment I'm working on setting up a directory for UK and Ireland zine libraries similar to the annual list I used to publish and hopefully this can be an up to date resource for anyone wanting to access zines for free or to donate their zines to libraries. 

If you're a zine librarian based in UK and Ireland then help us with our online directory 

If you make zines then please consider donating a copy if you are able to, or contact the library to offer your zine for purchase. Many diy community libraries rely solely on donations, some libraries have a smaller budget to buy a few titles, and other libraries have a much bigger budget. All zine collections are different, but the benefit of all zine libraries is that they can provide free access to your zines to a huge range of people, sometimes beyond the scope of your intended readership, and can be looked after and stored for a very long time. 

I was moaning just yesterday that I've been pretty inactive this International Zine Month when really what I meant was that I haven't put out a zine this month like I usually do. But my work with zines in the library has pretty much taken over my life recently and I'm close to burnout levels, so once the workshop tomorrow is done I'll be taking a nice break before getting my next zine out in September. And I'll also be watching wrestling because I've somehow gone 33 years without it and now I've discovered it I don't ever wanna go back to watching critically acclaimed telly again.








Sunday, 2 July 2017

Bruce Springtzines

I wrote a piece on my all time favourite subgenre of zines - Bruce Springsteen zines! You can find the blog post over at Zine Nation


In the guest blog post I write a little bit about the history of Bruce Springsteen fanzines and focus on current queer Springsteen zines, including zines like Butt Springsteen by the wonderful CJ Reay from Black Lodge Press. 

For International Zine Month I'm bringing back my Bruce zine bundle where you can get Issues 1-3 of my Me and Bruce zine series for £3 from my zine shop

And since it's International Zine Month, now seems like a good time to announce that the next issue of my Bruce zine series - Me and Bruce #4 : Queerness on the Edge of Town is out SOON!




Thursday, 25 May 2017

Bent Fest

It feels like a hot minute since my last zine fest but this weekend is queer xmas aka Bent Fest! There will be a special Bent Fest Zine Fair on the saturday giving space to queer zinesters and distros. 



I'll be tabling on Saturday and I'll have copies of my new comic zine Cool Schmool and my usual zines with me. 



I'm also playing Bent Fest on sunday with my queer diy Buffy the Vampire Slayer themed band The Potentials. The whole weekend is gonna be amazing and I'm so excited. I hope to see you all there!

Zine workshop

Every now and then my zine life matches up with my day job at Tate Library and I'm doing a lot of rad stuff around zines at the moment, including organising and hosting a zine making workshop for International Zine Month and International Zine Library Day in July. 

I'll be hosting the zine making workshop Saturday 22nd July with Seleena Daye where we'll be focusing on creating zines in response to exhibitions, displays, and artists in the Tate collections. If you want to critique an exhibition, make a fanzine about your favourite artist, or talk about artists and artworks missing from the collections then come along to make zines with us.

All materials will be provided and it's free to attend, but booking is essential as there are a limited number of spaces. Book a place here.

There will be a display of some of the zines in our library's special collections for you to draw inspiration from and you can add your completed zine to the Tate library after the workshop.  


Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Cool Schmool #2

Issue 2 of Cool Schmool is here!


Cool Schmool is my shoddy diy comic perzine and issue 2 is about being sober, Eastenders as a communist utopia, Harry Potter and the EU referendum, the problem with lads at gigs, being fat and eating in public, meeting Bruce Springsteen, being 'too much', friendship breakups, and feeling a bit sad. 


I'm gonna have copies with me at Glasgow Zine Fest this weekend and you can also pre-order copies via my zine shop.


Tuesday, 21 March 2017

ZIne fairs 2017

So zine seasons is definitely in swing. 

Here are some upcoming zine fairs I'll be tabling at in the next few months with new zines and everything!




Leeds Zine Fest
Leeds Central Library
Saturday 25th March 2017 11am - 3pm




Leeds Libraries zine exhibition
Leeds Central Library, Room 700
You can also find some of my zines at the Leeds Library zine exhibition throughout March.







CCA Glasgow
Saturday 29th April  11am - 6pm
Rich Mix London
Sunday 14th May 12 - 7pm





Thursday, 9 March 2017

The economy of zines


There are two conversations on zines that just go round and round and round until the end of time. The first being "All hail the resurgence of zines! Zines are back!" And we all roll our eyes because we all know that zines never went away, but every now and then The Guardian or Vice will inform us of their return.
The second one is "Yeah but what is a zine? How do you define them? And should you  define them?" 

I started making zines 18 years ago and those conversations were already old and tired back when I assembled cliched Drew Barrymore collages for my early riot grrrl fanzines in the 90s. They can be good conversations to have though, as zines change and adapt and I know we'll keep having them, particularly around defining zines. 

The term zine is not an abbreviation for magazine, it is its own thing, which is zine 101. Sometimes you still see zine written as 'zine with the apostrophe as though something is meant to come before it. To be honest, when I was a teenager I hadn't even considered that zine would be short for magazine, and I had assumed that 'zine was an abbreviation of the term 'fanzine', which were the first few types of zines I ever read. So my viewpoint on this is totally skewed anyway. 

In the last 10 years zines have gained more recognition which is honestly great. It's easy to be cynical when a major website or newspaper does its annual story on the world of zines, but my entry point to self publishing was from the time that Just 17 featured an article on fanzines and diy music, as part of an interview with defunct 90's teenage grrrl band Vyvyan. They printed a list of UK zines such as Abuse, All About D and friends, and Glitter Underground and I sent off  for my first ever zines. I was much more likely to read an issue of Just 17 than I was to read a zine aged 13, and Just 17 changed my life for real.

This was the greatest issue of J17 of all time. Honestly I just want to make a zine about how 90s teen magazines changed my life. 
The rise in zine recognition is great: there are more zine fairs than ever before, you can find out how to make a zine by reading Rookie or watching youtube tutorials, you can buy zines online rather than having to send £1 coin sellotaped to a bit of card in the post to a stranger, there are zine workshops in public libraries, it's ace! And the term zine itself has become much more diffused. 

In the last 10 years or so, the term zine has been used interchangeably with things like artists' books, small press comics and illustration, independent magazines, photobooks, etc. All of these things are forms of self publishing and are radical in themselves for operating outside the traditional mainstream forms of publishing. And zines themselves have changed. From political pamphlets, to football zines, sci-fi zines, fanzines, perzines, punk zines, art zines, poetry zines, photo zines, and beyond. They haven't always been one thing, and they should never be just one thing. It's important to see them change and grow.

But despite the change in audiences, themes, and subject matter, the term zine is always rooted in diy non-profit forms of self-publishing. That is really their only defining feature. anything else - subject matter/format/binding/style - is fair game. 

I'm aware that zinesters often come across as petty when we discuss and try to lay down the parameters of what is a zine and what isn't a zine. It's just a term and why can't we embrace change, and who the hell are we to decide? I've been making zines for 17 years, I'm co-founded two zine library collections at the Stuart Hall Library and Tate Library, but I'm not a guardian of the term zine, my opinion doesn't actually mean shit, and I honestly have no right to tell you what is or what isn't a zine. Nobody does.

Defining zines isn't petty though when it comes to the economy of zines. The point of zines is to make them as cheap as possible and to distribute them as cheaply as possible. Are there problems with the zine model? Totally. You have to know what a zine is to be able to access them for a start, And to make them you need access to a cheap photocopier, etc. 
Zine culture, like a lot of activist culture is guilty of being too white, elitist, cliquey, and inaccessible. But the very basic idea of zines is to share your ideas and create something quick, and very cheap. It doesn't have to look glossy and professional. Of course if that's your aesthetic then that's cool too, but zines are non profit.

One more time: Zines are non-profit. That's the big defining feature. It doesn't make your artists book, comic, magazine any less radical or important or inspiring if they are made for profit or to develop your career. People need to eat and pay rent and make a living and writers and artists deserve to be paid. Artists should asbolutely be able to make a living from their art. 
It also doesn't mean that zines are inherently better than other forms of self-published works. These works are still radical, they just might not be zines, and that's totally ok. We can still co-exist, we still table at many of the same zine fairs because we are still operating under the same umbrella of diy self-publishing.  It just doesn't make them technically zines. Because zines are non profit.


London's queer zine fest 


The art of the zine swap is a major custom of zine culture. This has always been part of zine life and zinesters openly trade their zines with other zinesters for free. You don't view it as losing money, you view it as exchanging your ideas and that's really the point of zines, to share ideas quickly and cheaply.  Most zines are meant to be shared and passed on, and it's common to see anti copyright/copyleft disclaimers in zines encouraging readers to make and distribute your own copies/scans of the zine and share with others. It's part of what makes a zine, that it can exist outside of normal economies. And while this non-profit model works for zines, it probably wouldn't work for independent magazines for example, which requires profit to sustain the work and to pay writers.

The reason why zinesters feel passionate about defining the term zine is because we've seen diy models of production co-opted by people precisely trying to make a profit or to elevate their status, using diy as a stepping stone to 'making it.' 

It can feel gross to overhear someone bragging about how much money they have made from their zine. We've cringed when people apply the term 'business model' in relation to their zines, when creators discuss promoting and marketing goals in relation to zines, when people refer to making zines as their job, or when we've picked up an expensive art magazine filled with advertisements calling itself a zine. Absolutely none of those things would bother me if the term zine was removed from the situation.  Want to make a living from your art? Go for it, I want to support that! Want to crowdfund your book? Sounds good, I'm in! Want to set up a independent magazine and pay your writers? I'm so down for that. 

The term zine comes with a history and context which implies radical methods of publishing and sharing.  It's not just a bunch of zinesters being petty over semantics saying 'you can't sit with us.' You can definitely sit with us, there just needs to be an understanding of that context. As an art librarian for the last 10 years I've seen the trend of lecturers and teachers  in art schools using the term 'zines' interchangeably with 'artists' books' on book making courses without explaining any of the cultural history and context associated with that term. Art students then create artists' books, calling them zines, and then get frustrated when they aren't able to sell their artists' books for £30 at zine fairs when the average price of a zine at the same fair is £2. The context of the term matters.

Zines aren't just a way of describing a cut and paste aesthetic in the same way that 'punk' wouldn't be applied to a designer t-shirt  covered in safety pins. I don't think anyone wants to police who gets to call their work a zine because that establishes hierarchies and rules which go against the point of zines in the first place. And this conversation will be repeated over and over until the end of time anyway.I'm sure zines will continue to adapt and change in ways we haven't thought of. I just hope they always maintain that link with non profit diy publishing.