Monday, 31 December 2018

My year in zines 2018

Evaluating your worth through your productivity isn't healthy, neither is comparing your achievements with other people, especially at this time of year. And really, just surviving the year is enough. 

It's been a tough year and looking back on things I've made and done can feel weird, but it can also feel comforting to know that during some bad times I've found  space to make things, some of these things are never seen by anyone else and are just for me, and I'm forever grateful to queer diy zine communities for providing some much needed escapism outside of real life stuff at times. I wrote about the zines from 2018 which inspired me and kept me going here

At the beginning of the year my band The Potentials broke up and I was so scared that my year was going to be devoid of any creativity and wondered what I would do with myself now.
Photo by James Birtwhistle

And it turned out that the answer to that was just to make a bunch of zines, talk about zines, and host a bunch of zine events.

I made Queers on the Edge of Town zine which was part of my ongoing Me and Bruce zine series. This zine  looked at queer lonliness, appropriating lyrics, and imagining Bruce Springsteen as the hot butch girl of my dreams.

I also created a postcard set and print to go along with the zine

As part of International Zine Month this year I made my new zine Things I didn't learn at Library school, which was a collection of peronal reflections on working in libraries.

I was super proud of working on creating and editing the Art Box zine anthology which was made in collaboration with 6 schools and artists Paula Varjack, Åbäke, and Rhiannon Adam. It was a massive project which saw young peple responding to the work of Basquiat in a zine format and I'm so happy that the legacy of these workshops lives on in this zine.

I contributed to a zine accompanying Fat Blokes, the new dance show by Scottee. The zine celebrated fat bodies and queer diy culture and was compiled by the wonderful Unskinny Bop. I contributed this comic about re-learning to love dancing as a fat girl after seeing Beth Ditto perform at Ladyfest Glasgow 2001.

I wrote about the UK and Ireland Zine Libraries group for a special issue of the Art Libraries journal which was published this year. The special issue featured so many other rad zine librarians such as Leila Kassir, Siobhan Britton, Debbie Cox, Ruth Collingwood, Stephanie Moran, Nicola Cook, Loesja Vigour, Steve Carlton, Ingrid Francis and I'm proud to be associated with you.

I also hosted a zine cataloguing workshop with Nicola and Loesja with other art librarians at the Arlis conference this summer.

I hosted zine making workshops with University of Arts London, Barbican, Camden Arts Centre, Haringey Libraries, Ravensbourne, Poplar Union, Tate as well as with schools in East London.


Turns out I really love to chat and I gave talks about zines at Goldsmiths, The British Library, and also ended up giving a last minute keynote on my Me and Bruce zine series at Graphic Brighton. If anyone wants me to give a talk on Springsteen and comics and zines then please help me make my dream of talking about Springsteen for a living a reality.

I curated a display of queer zines and co-hosted an intro to queer zines and zine making workshop with Ruth Collingwood as part of the queer and now fest at Tate Britain.

Photo by Ruth Collingwood, LCC

Every year I make the resolution to say NO to more things  and to manage my time better, well I can honestly say I kind of did that this year. I said no to so many things. I said no to projects I really wanted to do and worried that I'd missed my window of opportunity, I cancelled on things at the last minute for the sake of my mental health, and I said no to things that I just couldn't fit into my schedule as I work full time and didnt want any additional pressures. Saying no is hard but I said it a bunch. And it felt great.

I know it looks like I've done a lot of things this year but honestly the groundwork for so many of these things was laid last year and I've learned to share workloads and collaborate with people more so that I don't feel responsible for too much. I'm so happy to have collaborated and worked with so many rad zinesters and librarians this year.

And if you're wondering what happened to the UK and Ireland zine libraries zine, or why I've been quiet on zine workshops and why a lot of my zine output seemed to stop around 6 months ago it's because I have a full time job as a librarian and this summer I fought against a restructure and lost but then became a union rep. It has been a tough time and it felt like everything else in my life was shadowed by this. I got signed off work with stress and cleared my schedule for a whole 6 months because I am just very good at saying no to things now. 

And my take away from this is join a union.

Hopes and dreams for 2019: Say no to fake diy.

In 2019 I want to be more selective with the zine workshops I do, thinking about the intentions of large organisations and art institutions working with zines and thinking about if the output will be authentic and diy or a quick cheap way to tick a diversity box or target a youth demographic. 

Zines are radical and diy and political and important, but a workshop with a big name arts organisation this year left me cold when the zines made by participants in a 3 hour zine workshop were thrown into a bin by a curator at the end of the day. It made me realise that so many of these instituions view this shoddy diy culture as disposable and unimportant and not real although I can't deny that they pay well. But really in 2019 I would like to not spend my time chasing unpaid invoices from insitutions that can damn well afford to pay and spend more time making zines and comics with people who give a shit.

It is wild but 2019 is my 20th aniversary of making zines so my most important  zine resolutions for next year are to read more zines, make more zines, go to more zine fairs, visit more zine libraries,  and do more work with the UK and Ireland zine libraries group. 

Thursday, 13 December 2018

2018 zines

This year has been a blur, and I'm sure once I've had a minute to catch my breath I'll do some kind of run down looking back through all my various zine activities this year. But honestly it's just much more fun to look back and hype up all the amazing zines I've been able to read in 2018. Thanks to zine makers, zine fests, and zine libraries everywhere for getting these fun and inspiring zines into my life.

Sapphic Angst Fest by Georgina Turner

This was the Broken Pencil zine awards 2018 winner all about Berena on Holby City because queer representation on telly is pretty much my favourite subgenre of zines.

Fat Blokes edited by Unskinny Bop

I'm a bit biased because I have a comic featured in this zine, but the whole zine compilation is a collection of fat positive stories and art, resisting psychic death and glorifying obesity published to coincide with Fat Blokes, the latest show from Scottee.

My fluffy son: comics about Bennie the cat by Siobhán Britton

A wonderful homage to the best cat Bennie featuring a collection of comics and drawings of Bennie's origin story, his fave things, and his nemesis.

Poor Lass no. 8: Identity edited by Seleena Daye and Em Ledger

The final print copy my fave zine Poor Lass ends on such a wonderful note. Featuring a collection of stories from working class contributers. The zine may have ended but lives on in the new Poor Lass podcast.

Reserve and Renew: the LIS mental health zine

This zine was a very timely and perfect companion to my own spiralling mental health as a result of working in libraries. I find it equally rage inducing and validating to read about other library workers and their experiences which are similar to mine. Strongly recommend this to anyone working in libraries.

Residency by Olivia Sparrow

A really raw and honest zine made during an art residency with Manchester School of Art. The zine discusses class and mental health and uses writing, images, and real emails sent between Oliva and the university.

We let our battles choose us by Ed Blair 

A really wonderful piece of writing in the form of a mini zine dedicated to wrestler Masashi Takeda. It's such a joyous zine about loving wrestling as well as some of the fucked up ways it can be problematic and difficult to engage with. For fellow wrestling and zine pals I also urge you to check out Ed's zine distro Holy Demon Army

Fuck what you love vol. 3 edited by Claire Biddles

A zine series all about popstars and crushes with contributions from women and LGBTQIA people. Popstar crushes is my other favourite genre of zines and this series is just so wonderful, personal, and earnest. (I can't find a link to the buy the latest issue but you can click through to buy issue 2 of this amazing zine)

 Glorious wresting apocalypse by Josh Hicks

  This is the third issue in the wrestling alliance series and while I was going to make a seperate post about my favourite comics from 2018 I really just wanted to squeeze this onto the zine list for now as it features my all time most relateable panel in a comic which I'm sure all zinesters can relate to.

Kinky zine

Everyone's favourite queer punx band broke up this year and instead of leaving us with a national helpline like Take That did, they've left us with this beautiful zine with lyrics, photos, and art work from their time together.

Queer Grief zine

A really powerful and hard to read zine about queer grief with contributions from queer conributors. This features some very powerful contributions and is a beautiful zine to read and share.

Lonely zine by Soofiya

A really lovely mini riso zine about times of lonliness capturing moments of isolation felt by someone who is visibly gender non-conforming and ace. I love that Soofiya's zines are small enough to carry in pockets and share with other people. 

Keep Going by Heena

I was so sad to have missed Over Here Zine Fest ths year but absolutely made up to get this long awaited zine from Heena in the post instead. Anxiety, depression, and bikes in Heena's new perzine and I'm hoping there is more to come.

Queer Crush by Melissa

Seriously pop star crushes is the best fucking zine genre of all time. I don't make the rules. This mini zine was made on the occasion of Melissa coming out and compiling a zine of old celebrity crushes. I love zines that deal with feelings of imposter syndrome and not being queer enough, and combine that with pop crushes then this is just perfect.

Sew irregular zine

Sew Irregular is a zine all about clothes and fashion including the Salvaged project, Janelle Monae as a fashion icon, embroidery and mental health, and drag. 

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

There is power in a union

Hey everyone! August was a write-off because I sprained my ankle and was surprised with a hefty restructure in the library where I work and then experienced a scary mental health spiral.

I'm slowly replying to emails, I'm slowly sending zine orders back, and my zine workshops and events start up again at the end of this month. Thanks for being patient, please accept this crappy blog post in lieu of a 'apologies for the late reply' email which I probably owe you but cannot be bothered to send.

And most importantly, join a union. Restructures are absolutely no fun.

Things I didn't learn at library school zine

Monday, 23 July 2018

Things I didn't learn at library school

My new zine Things I didn't learn in library school is out now

As part of International Zine Month this year I made a 24 hour mini zine about the realities of being a library worker based on things I learned after library school.

Things like how academics never give you reading lists on time, the importance of joining a union, and how understaffing and underfunding libraries  directly impacts on your mental health every single day. 

I sold out of the print run this weekend at Process Zine Fest but I'm getting new copies back in stock this week so you can order now

Friday, 6 July 2018

Queer zines

It's July so it's International zine month and today is zine pride day: a day to read, share, buy zines by LGBTQIA people.

Quite a  lot of queer zines from my personal collection are on loan this month for various workshops and displays, but I raided my remaining zine collection to pull out some of my favourite queer zines through the years.

Some of my queer zines

I've been doing some zine talks and workshops recently with UAL and in each of those talks I've discussed why I started making zines. 
I started reading and making zines 19 years ago when I was a lonely queer and didn't have any friends and didn't yet have the internet. I read zines to find my people and I made zines to build communities. I'm not being dramatic when I say zines saved me. I was so desperate to find examples of queerness and zines were a physical dispatch from outside of my small town letting me know about queer writers, artists, punx, and activists. 

And even now 19 years later I'm still making zines for the same reason. I'm still always looking for my people, still looking to learn about new voices, still hoping to educate and challenge myself, still wanting to make connections. 

I wrote about queer lonliness in my most recent zine Queers on the Edge of Town

And so I'm forever in debt to the queer zines of my teenage years as they did what Bruce Springsteen sadly couldn't do, they gave me friends and connections and Team Dresch and Tribe 8 mix tapes. I came out to people through my own zines, and I found my own voice, my own friends, and my own communities.

Queer zines forever!

Queer Zines by Rachael House
(I love this so much!)

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

Me and Bruce at Graphic Brighton

Later this month I'll be talking at Graphic Brighton , a conference organised by University of Brighton. This years theme is comics and music. 

Hunt Emerson

I'll be talking about my comic zine series Me and Bruce which I created in desperation to justify my lifelong obsession with Bruce Springsteen where I explore my queerness, my family, class, relationships. I use comics, collage, and text to construct a mythical version of Springsteen which belongs just to me, creating space for myself as a queer woman in the Springsteen fandom.

Me and Bruce #4

Come hear me chat about all this and more at Graphic Brighton conference on Friday 20th July. It's free to attend but you'll need to book a ticket here.

Wednesday, 13 June 2018

Zine Cataloguing

I make zines and I'm a librarian, and I'm also a zine librarian! Some of you may know I'm part of the UK and Ireland Zine Librarians group and next month I'm hosting a zine cataloguing workshop at the Arlis Conference with Nicola Cook and Loesja Vigour from the Wellcome Library.

This will be the first in what we hope is a series of workshops/discussions/meet-ups around zine cataloguing in the UK and Ireland.
In our last meetup we discussed our goal of creating a zine cataloguing toolkit for anyone to use which would be free of library cataloguing jargon and accessible to all regardless of job title or professional status.
Our workshop will be a chance to share our experiences of cataloguing zines, the ethics of zine cataloguing, and discuss our hopes and dreams for a collaborative toolkit.
While there's lots of existing resources and guides on how to catalogue different kinds of library material, the idea behind a collaborative zine cataloguing toolkit would be to make this information accessible to everyone. What happens when library systems and cataloguing standards aren't equipped to deal with zines? How can we use our own subject headings? How can we catalogue without library management systems? And how can we make this work more accessible to zine librarians who aren't cataloguers?
It would be great to make this workshop and toolkit collaborative and so we want to hear from you! We’d really like to hear what your fears, concerns, issues (and successes!) are around cataloguing your zines so we can incorporate them into the workshop. And if you are coming along to the conference and would like to be more involved, let us know – the more the merrier!
You can reply via our email discussion list, our twitter, or to our email

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Darkness on the edge of town

It's the 40th anniversary of Darkness on the Edge of Town album this month. If you like your Bruce songs painful and emo with some classic pop bangers then this is the album for you.

I write about Bruce Springsteen a lot. I make zines and art about how Bruce Springsteen songs make me feel, but I think it's fair to say that Darkness on the Edge of Town features the most in my work.

I wrote my first ever issue of my Me and Bruce zine in 2011, shortly after meeting Bruce Springsteen for a few very powerful seconds at a screening of a documentary. The documentary looks at the making of this album and talks about how hard it was to make, how Bruce was frustrated and angry during the whole process. Which was fitting as I made Me and Bruce #1 to get me through a difficult breakup where I listened to this album constantly. Meeting Bruce at the screening of this documentary felt like my life was starting again.

In Me and Bruce #2 I wrote about class, family, and small town claustrophobia in relation to Darkness on the Edge of Town. I talk about my dad and his life using lyrics from the song 'Factory' which is about Bruce Springsteen's own dad and his factory life.

I even changed the meaning of the song 'Racing in the Streetfrom the record to be about my dad and being working class. I did a reading from this zine at Sounds from the Other City fest last year organised by the wonderful Salford Zine Library but I'm also available to give TED talks on why this song breaks me.

And 2 years ago I visited New Jersey and drove down the actual real life road which inspired the song 'Racing in the Street' as well as seeing the very real but now defunct factory where Springsteen's dad worked. (these adventures will be in Looking For Bruce -  the next issue of my Me and Bruce zine series out next year)

Darkness on the Edge of Town is the kind of album I play when I'm feeling sad and want to lay down in the dark. The guttural raw howling during the intro of 'Something in the Night' is honestly the most fucking emo thing I've ever heard in my entire life. And I'm a My Chemical Romance diehard.

Thanks Bruce for giving me zines to write  and an album to obsess over my entire adult life. I feel like I'm still finding new things in this album to obsess over even now. I'm always finding new meaning, and I guess that means there are still more Bruce zines to come.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Unskinny Bop

As part of the wonderful new show Fat Blokes created by Scottee, my fave queer fatties Unskinny Bop were asked to collaborate on a zine to accompany the show.

The zine is here and it's hot off the press! The zine features a comic from me about dancing and fatness and the time I saw Beth Ditto when I was 17 at Ladyfest Glasgow 2001.

Ladyfest Glasgow was probably the most formative experience in my life. It's amazing to be able to pinpoint the moment when everything in your life changed, and this entire weekend changed my 17 year old self for real. The Gossip played their first ever UK show that weekend. I was in the front row as Beth Ditto sweated on stage and eventually stripped down to her underwear. She yelled that there was no body positivity workshop taking place that weekend so her fat body on stage would have to do.

The following year I attended the first ever Unskinny Bop at Ladyfest London 2002. Dancing and sweating in a club night which celebrated rad fatties with a podge pop countdown was a dream come true and despite my very recent initiation into the stay at home club (thanks sobriety and bad brain), Unskinny Bop has continued to be a space for me and my fat queer friends to dance and it's so exciting to hold another unskinny bop zine in my hands after all these years! 

The zine features fat posi pieces on resisting psychic death, fat heroes, rad fatshion blogging communities, fat babes in bands, bears and queer spaces, fat trans bodies, dancing and of course agony aunt Dr Ruth. 

The zine accompanies the upcoming Fat Blokes show but I'm also really excited at the idea that these zines will  be distributed across queer venues, weightloss groups, infiltrating and taking up space with a celebration fat bodies and voices.

sneak peak of my comic contribution to Fat Blokes zine

The Fat Blokes zine will be available digitally very soon. But for now you can find the very first issue of the Unskinny Bop zine from 2003 here

I can't wait for Fat Blokes to come to London in November, but in the meantime you can see previews in Manchester this month.