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.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Sheffield Zine Fest 2017

It's the first zine fest of the year for me in just a few weeks as I'll be heading to Sheffield Zine Fest 2017 on Saturday 25th February.

I'll have all my zines with me plus a new mini comic zine. Sheffield Zine Fest is one of my favourite of the UK zine fairs. It's not as overwhelming and anxious making as some of the bigger fairs, and there's a good mix of zinesters with more focus on diy zines rather than artists' books/expensive arty zines. Nowt wrong with those, but it's the cheap zines scene where I feel more at home. See you there!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

New year new zines

I know that just because it's the new year doesn't mean that I have to make resolutions, I can make change anytime I like during the year. But it's like when I start a new notebook and the first page is all untouched and perfect and I do my neatest handwriting using my proper best pens and I feel like oh shit maybe this is the notebook that will sort my life out and then by page 4 everything is a mess again. It's nice to get swept up in the optimism.

2016 was both hard and good in lots of ways. In the wider world there were lots of bad things happening - celebrities were dying and fascisim was rising. I also lost family members this year, I saw less my of friends than I liked, and I was ill a LOT.

My health was awful. I fractured my ankle, I had an operation on my bum, I had infected cysts, I had tonsillitis 3 times, and my arthritis knocked me back on crutches again. My mental health was super bad and my ocd came back in a pretty massive way after laying dormant for most of the year before. My weird patterns and rituals came back, I developed new and annoying nervous tics which I couldn't control, one of these got so bad it threw my back out. Solidarity to everyone else on super long waiting lists for cbt and other mental health treatments.

But lots of amazing things happened last year and I'm pretty glad they did, especially when it came to zines.

I decided that my lack of artistic ability didn't actually matter and started my new diy comic zine Cool Schmool.

I also made 4 other new zines - My Mad Fat Zine, Bite Me, Sick Sad World Tour zine, and Not Queer Enough. I tabled at a bunch of zine fairs like Northwest zinefest

 I took part in a roundtable on zines, hosted 3 workshops on zines and did a zine reading with Salford Zine Library gang. 

Basically zines continued to rule my world and I don't see that stopping any time soon. I spent most of my christmas break listening to the Moana soundtrack and working on two new zines that I hope to have out later this year and a mini zine in time for sheffield zine fest.

2016 was also the year I tried to manage my burnout better. Making zines and comix and writing and playing in bands outside of work can be a lot of, well, work, especially when my health was shit. I played a bunch of gigs with my band The Potentials, I also played bass with Yiiikes. We put out a new ep, recorded a new single, made a pop video and went on summer tour with a bunch of babes. 

The Potentials photo 1_zpsoz4pow0a.gif
Beware the burnout!

I also hung out with my bff Bruce Springsteen last year, have I mentioned that?

I don't make new year resolutions but I do have some stuff I'd like to do this year. And if I don't do them then it's ok, I won't beat myself up over it. I want to make more zines, be more posi, be a better activist, stay at home more because being away from home every single weekend is making me poor and tired, finish this online art history course I've been dragging out, go the doctors more rather than just leaving things to get worse for a year and then being too scared to go, and I dunno, maybe listen to the Moana soundtrack more. 

See you at Sheffield Zine Fest in Feb!