My life in zines

I've been making diy queer zines and comics since 1999. Since those heady days of the late 90s I've made over 50 zines, set up 2 zine distros, I helped set up the zine collection at the Stuart Hall Library with my previous colleague, Sonia Hope, I've set up the zine collection at Tate Library, I established the UK and Ireland Zine Librarians group with Leila Kassir,I've contributed to zines, I've made split zines, I've made 24 hour zines, I've made zines which have never been photocopied or seen by anyone other than me, I've organised various zine talks, I've spoken on panels at zine events, I've hosted zine workshops, and still I have only ever bothered to learn how to make zines using scissors and glue because I am lazy and because it's fun.

I started making zines when I was 15. I lived in Dewsbury,  a small town in West Yorkshire. I didn't have any friends, I was badly bullied, I was queer but not yet out and I was lonely. In the absence of what the internet would later become, zines were a lifeline. A tangible physical presence which told me that things were going to be ok. 

I started reading fanzines when I was 14/15 completely by accident. I was obsessed with the band bis and started reading zines made by members off that band. I also read an article in Just 17 which mentioned zines like Organ and All About D and Friends and Paper Bullets. Yes that's right J17, a mainstream teenage girls magazine got me into zines. So the next time you roll your eyes because another mainstream publication has decided to run a feature on zines because zines are having a come-back (um, they never went away mate), just think about how far reaching that can be.

I think the first zine I ever bought was All About D and Friends fanzine.

First zine I ever bought!

I read about bands and gigs and riot grrrl and queerxcore movements and teen-c bedroom pop which anyone with a toy keyboard could make. It felt a million miles away from my teenage bedroom boredom, but I wanted to be part of it so bad. 

I'd sellotape £1 coins to the back of a bit of cardboard and send them to zine makers and get their zines sent to me in the post in envelopes crammed with glitter, sanrio stickers, fliers for other zines and distros, and friendship books. They were a lifeline. I discovered riot grrl and queerxcore punk bands through those fanzines, I learned about other people that were like me, people that were completely different to me, or people that I wasn't brave enough to be like yet. I learned about politics with a pop culture lens that made it easier for me to understand. And yeah, sometimes I just loved a good old fashioned Drew Barrymore collage...

Some of the zines that got me into reading/writing zines

I didn't have friends in my own town and so I relied on penpals and zines to keep me going, penpals who became lifelong friends and family. And then I realised that I could write one, I could actually make my own zine! And it didn't matter that my town was small and that I was young and clueless, in zines every voice matters, so I got my typewriter and scissors and pritt stick and began to write my first zine. Here's an illustrated bibliography of every zine I've ever made since then...

Angel Food #1-3 (1999 - 2001) 

 Angel Food was a riot grrrl/bratpop zine about the music I loved, as well as little stories, rants, and pictures to do with my own life. Seleena Daye was my penpal at the time and she also contributed artwork and stories for the zines. In fact she's the one that encouraged me to start writing my own zine in the first place. 
 I cheated with the record reviews  I wrote as I couldn't afford to actually buy many records so I mostly just reviewed whatever singles I heard on John Peel that month. 

Go Lola # 1-4 (2001 - 2002) 

In 2001 aged 17 I attended Ladyfest Glasgow which was the most inspiring and life-changing weekend ever, I still firmly believe that. And because of that Go Lola was a mix of music and personal stuff with much more political/feminist writing than previously. Although my writing at this time is very student-y and right-on without knowing very much about the subjects I was writing about and it makes me cringe so much. As with most zines written in my teens, I can't really bring myself to go back and re-read much of Go Lola but it's the one that I'm most proud of as I can see a transition to more personal content.

The Day Bob... #1-2 (2001-2002) 

The day Bob... was a mini perzine which I co-wrote with Seleena Daye. The title of the zine is a total in-joke that isn't funny or understandable to anyone other than the 15 year old versions of Seleena and myself. The Day Bob... lasted a couple of issues before Seleena took it on full time as her own zine and I went back to writing mini perzines alongside my main zine Go Lola

Dee Dee Strikes #1-6 (2001 - 2002) 

The flats for Dee Dee strikes sit in a drawer in my house and I am unable to look at them without cringing my face off. I'm so glad that I did a limited print run of this zine because it's just painful to even look at now. Dee Dee strikes was written under a pseudonym because I was a dramatic teen and wanted to write personal bits and not have my friends know it was me. It was painfully personal and is absolutely horrific to read back. It was the first time I had mentioned my own queerness in zines as I was too scared to mention this in my main zine Go Lola and re-reading them now it's super obvious that I was a super lonely clueless weirdo queer even though I tried too damned hard to appear confident and completely self assured in those pages. 

Radical Cheerleaders # 1 - 2 (2002) 

After Ladyfest Glasgow 2001, Seleena Daye and I formed the first UK Radical Cheerleaders, we called ourselves Radical Cheerleaders of the North. We were bratty and obnoxious and we genuinely believed we were the greatest punk act of all time. We wrote a self titled zine and took it with us to our debut performance at Ladyfest London 2002 which explained who we were and contained our cheer lyrics and pictures of Kelly Kapowski. We later released a split cassette with The Mombies and wrote an accompanying 2nd issue to go with the tape at our gigs.

Cut out and Keep # 1 - 5 (2003-2005) 

I hadn't written a new issue of Go Lola in almost a year so I began a new zine called Cut Out and Keep which featured interviews with bands as well as personal pieces. I started playing in bands like Smartypants and The Booklovers, and also performed solo diy casio pop songs as Supercasio, and as I became more involved with the Manchester queer feminist music scene I started writing about it. It was exciting writing about my friends who were also in bands and talking about the things that we were organising and doing. I gave away copies of Cut Out and Keep at the monthly riot grrrl indie pop club night I used to co-run called Shake-O-Rama.  

Dewey Decimal Love #1 - 2 (2006)

In 2005 I went to library school and started a course which would make me a qualified librarian, having worked as a library assistant for the past 2 years. I opted out of the masters degree as I couldn't afford to do a proper academic qualification, and instead I completed a postgrad diploma - the only real difference is that the pgdip course is so much cheaper and doesn't include a final year thesis. While I never really got to write a thesis, I did do a bunch of research for one so instead I turned part of that research into a zine and published two issues of Dewey Decimal Love, a zine about the problems with library classification and cataloguing. Like most of the zines I make, it was a super niche subject for a niche audience.

Cooties Attack (2007)

In 2006 I formed a band called Cooties Attack with my friends Huw and Melissa. We played casio bedroom pop and we were awesome. When we released our first EP I wrote an accompanying Cooties Attack zine to take with us to gigs and give out to people in a bid to convince them we were amazing. The zine featured fake top trump cards for each of us, silly stories, interviews, and bits about Superheroes and Harry Potter.

A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008)

This was a zine I co-wrote with Cooties Attack member and BFF Melissa. In it we wrote about being poor and how to have cheap fun i.e. staying at home and living in your own world. It featured recipes of cheap packets of noodles, a guide to being poor, and bits about our favourite boxsets. It's the first zine I co-wrote with Melissa and we always had so many plans to write lots more zines together. This never happened as when it comes to writing together we are both far too lazy and would be more likely to stick High School Musical 3 on and eat sweets.

Hogwarts Jamboree (2009) 

In 2009 I organised an all day wizard rock festival called Hogwarts Jamboree with Melissa. DIY Harry Potter concept bands played including my own wizard rock band Shrieking Shack Disco Gang,  we screened the documentary We Are Wizards, and held workshops, quizzes, and and had a dance party. I made a Hogwarts Jamboree zine for the event featuring interviews with all the bands and essays on HP and fandom, and most importantly a hot take on why I hate Hagrid. 

School is a Battlefield for your heart (2009) 

The best way to get over a significant life-altering break-up is to compile a mammoth zine documenting the history of teen television from The Wonder Years to present day, right? I love teen tv, I love teen lit, I love teen films, I love teen culture, I always will. And so I tried to validate this in a zine talking about the importance of Peter Engel and how much of a game-changer My So Called Life was. It was a 60 page love letter to teen tv shows and it kept me afloat that summer when my brain wasn't doing too well. It's weird that although this zine isn't personal at all and doesn't offer any glimpse into what I was going through at the time of writing it, looking back at those pages I know exactly what I was going through and exactly why I needed the distraction of a huge zine project like this. Zines save my life sometimes not just as an outlet for the personal junk in my head, but sometimes as a way of giving me creative projects to take my mind off things.

Dear John Hughes (2009)

A mini zine I made about John Hughes films and a tiny attempt to  hour talk about class and Pretty in Pink. It's a pretty cringey zine but it was very cute and if I can shoehorn class into pop culture then I will.

Insomniac: aka too cool for sleep 2011 

I didn't write zines for a whole year and it's weird to think of that now. I did end up contributing to lots of other zines published in 2010 but I was never inspired to write my own zine at that time. I've had real bad problems with sleep for as long as I can remember. Insomnia and sleep paralysis are now a standard part of my life and sometimes it can really screw things up for me. In an attempt to feel better about my shitty sleep disorders I wrote a light-hearted mini comic about insomnia.

Me + Bruce (2011) 

I have a fully all-consuming lifelong obsession with Bruce Springsteen which I just can't explain and so the Me and Bruce zine series was born! In this first zine which is part zine/part comic I talk about growing up with my dad, being recently dumped by my girlfriend, and how being a fan of something makes me feel. Hopefully I made a zine that even the biggest Bruce haters can read, and 6 years later this series is still going strong.

Joining the Dots (2012) 

PCOS (poly-cystic ovary syndrome) affects a fucktonne of people  with ovaries. I was diagnosed when I was 21 and I became very fed up with the misdiagnosis/mistreatments I received. Online resources were geared towards people who were trying have babies or people who wanted to lose weight. So I wrote a fat positive queer positive zine about it instead, offering alternative advice and using examples of crappy conversations I'd had with doctors. Writing Joining the Dots was a brilliant experience as I received contributions from my friends which made me feel less alone and gave me the inspiration to be fierce with doctors even when I feel scared and stupid. 

Bad Rep 2012 

In 2012, Bad Reputation, the queer diy club night I had organised for 2 years with my best friends came to an end. To mark the end I wrote a zine to give away free at the last ever Bad Rep club night. The zine is a shoddily drawn comic illustrating a transcript of an interview we once did with our awesome friend Johanna where we discussed the reasons for starting a diy queer club and the importance of queer spaces. 

Me + Bruce (and my dad)#2(2013)

The second issue in the Me and Bruce zine series looks at why a queer punk would ever put Bruce Springsteen up on a pedestal.In the zine I talk a lot about class and how I appropriate Springsteen's lyrics to relate to my Dad, my family, and growing up in Dewsbury. 

How to be a radical cheerleader (2013) 

In Summer 2013, me and Seleena were due to host a workshop at Indietracks festival all about Radical Cheerleading. Unfortunately due to stupid work commitments I wasn't able to make it. So my contribution to the workshop was a  zine all about Radical Cheerleading. 

Dancing in the Dark (2013) 

I've been a dancer all my life. From dance lessons when I was a kid where I was a terrible ballet dancer, to working out the moves to Janet Jackson's Rhythm nation in my bedroom, to dancing at diy queer clubs, to adult dance classes. I wanted to write about how it felt to be a fat dancer, a queer dancer, a hairy dancer. I wrote this super personal zine about how I love my body, about finding strength in dancing, in finding community in queer dance spaces, and getting inspiration from queer and trans and fat positive dance companies such as Big Moves and Irreverent Dance. I'd really love to do a follow up zine with more contributions, and it is my absolute dream in life to start an all fat dance troupe. So get in touch.

Irreverent Dance showcase zine (2013)

I made this zine for our queer/trans/fat positive dance performance showcase while i was part of the Irreverent Dance group. In the zine I interview Irreverent Dance founder, Amanda, as well as including the most moving and inspiring quotes from fellow dancers in my community. Making this zine was hectic as it was done just a couple of days before the actual dance showcase and I broke the photocopier at work trying to do a print run of 300 zines in one evening.

Me and Bruce #3 : Because the Night Belongs to Batman (2013) 

Having a zine fest right around the corner always sets a good goal for completing a mini zine. And so for Queer Zine Fest 2013 I added a third zine to my Me and Bruce series taking favourite Springsteen lyrics and setting them against my favourite Batman panels. After a year of writing heavily personal zines it felt like a nice break to do something that was fun. 

Burnout (2014)

I started 2014 feeling completely ill and exhausted from burnout from taking on too many projects. I get creative burnout about once a year and despite acknowledging that and writing a zine about it, it will probably happen again. 

BruXcore (2015)

I've got a mild life long obsession with Irn Bru, my favourite fizzy pop and decided to dedicate an entire fanzine to it. I talk about drinking irn bru as a kid with a chippy tea on friday's to the time that Allison Wolfe tried some for the first time at Ladyfest Glasgow 2001. Some ace friends have contributed Irn Bru themed recipes, and another contribution takes us on a behind the scenes tour at the Irn Bru factory.

Library show and Tell: zines (2015)

In July 2015 I hosted a free library show and tell event at Tate looking at zines in the library. I work for Tate library and a few years ago I started a zine collection there, expanding on the existing collection of artists' books. The show and tell event featured a display of those zines and also looked at library practice, mostly exploring how art librarians differentiate between artists' books and zines in art libraries. I made a zine for attendees including my own personacriteria for identifying a zine vs the criteria I use as a librarian.  The zine was a limited run of only 60 copies for attendees, but a reference copy can be found in the Tate library collections. 

UK Zine Librarians zine (2015)

In 2015 together with Leila Kassir, we formed the UK and Ireland Zine Librarians group. We wanted a space for everyone working with zine library collections. I compiled the first zine made by our group for International Zine Month and contributed a piece about my own library collections. It features zine contributions from Salford Zine Library, British Library, Manchester LGBT Zine Library, LCC Library, LCF Library, Poetry Library, Stuart Hall Library, Women's Library, and Zineopolis. 

I love Food Network (2015)

I made a 24 hour zine while off work sick dedicated to the Food Network and decided to focus on another of my big loves in life: The Food Network. I love Ina Garten so much and I hate Jamie Fucking Oliver to death, and I hope that's reflected well in the zine. 

Slayerfest (2015) 

In October 2015, me and my band The Potentials organised a Halloween event called Slayerfest. We are a Buffy themed band, so the event was mostly Buffy themed, and we got all our mates to play. I made a zine celebrating Slayerfest, and interviewing all the other bands playing like Yiiikes, Snob, Wolf Girl, Charla Fantasma, and PAMs. I also wrote lots about why Buffy was important to me, why we'd formed The Potentials, why I hate Xander so much, and I even included an extract of a totally vanilla Buffy/Faith fanfic full of feelings and a bit of hand-holding I wrote when I was a teen.

Cool Schmool #1 (2016)

Cool Schmool is a diy comic I made while out of action after fracturing my ankle. Cool Schmool was originally supposed to be a zine about having ocd after struggling with a bad episode earlier in the year and not being able to talk about it. I quickly chickened out of being that open and honest in my comic and as a result there are only 4 pages dedicated to my ocd in the whole comic. The rest of the comic documents moving house, fracturing my ankle, fomo, and being obsessed with Scully's hair from season 4 of The X-Files. 

My Mad Fat Zine (2016)

I became proper obsessed with this tv show a few years back and made a joint fanzine with Seleena (our first joint zine together since 2001!). We talk about why My Mad Fat Diary was so important to us and looked at representations of fat girl sexuality, 90s fashion, teen girl friendships, and the Longpigs. Plus some incredible art from the lovely Emma Thacker

Making Zines (2016)

An 8 page mini zine I made for the zine workshop I co-hosted at Gosh Comics for pride. I've since used this zine for other zine workshops I've hosted with ideas for zine topics and how to make simple mini-zines. 

Not Queer Enough (2016)

A mini comic I made as part of the zine workshop I co-hosted at Gosh comics for Pride. In the comic I talk about my insecurities around not feeling queer enough, what it's like when friends scrutinise your relationships and stuff and how frustrated that was making me feel. Zines are pretty great for addressing those difficult conversations you don't know how to have with people in your life.

Sick Sad World Tour zine (2016)

A compilation zine I compiled before going on summer tour with my band The Potentials. Featuring contributions from Fomo and Whatevers, interviews, comics, puzzles, and a guide to tour pilates

Bite Me (2016)

A Buffy inspired compilation zine with pieces from the now out of print Slayerfest zine on why I hate Xander, odes to a techno pagan, and an extract of a Buffy/Faith fanfic I wrote when I was 17. As well as new contributions and art from Megan Pickering, Sarah Broadhurst, Polly Richards, Zak Kilburn, Ingrid Boring, Sofia Hicks, Stef Bradley.

Cool Schmool #2 (2017)

Issue 2 of my comic zine Cool Schmool is about being sober, being fat and eating in public, Eastenders as a communist utopia, feeling sad, Harry Potter and the EU referendum, the problem with lads, and friendship breakups. I have to be honest, I was really really sad when I wrote this. I mean REALLY sad. And After Laughter by Paramore had just come out. And I'm getting better at being more honest in my zines but it's also super scary.

Queering the library (2017)

During May, June, July 2017 I worked on a series of displays and talks around queer art history in Tate library. Sadly I couldn't be there at the final event which I'd worked on all summer. Since I couldn't be there to give the talk I'd planned I created a zine instead for attendees to read as they looked round the display or to take away with them after. The zine looked very specifically at the nature of cataloguing lgbt art history in Tate Library, and addressed some of the problems in library cataloguing and classification, and the impact this has on queer art historical research. I'm in the process of adapting this beyond the specifics of Tate Library for a bigger zine in the future.

Taking up Space (2017)

I made this comic zine in 24 hours for International Zine Month. It's a mini comic about being a fat girl, taking up space in public, feeling like some spaces aren't for me, and people needing space away from me. 

Me and Bruce #4 :

 Queers on the edge of town (2018)

Part 4 of my Me and Bruce zine series, this is part zine/part comic documenting what it's like to be a queer Springsteen fan. In the zine I imagine Springsteen as the butch lesbian of my dreams, declare themes of loneliness in his songs as the ultimate small town queer experience, and use the lyrics from Backstreets to narrate a 6 page comic documenting my first queer relationship followed by first queer heartbreak. The special edition of this zine also includes poster pull out and postcard set. 

Things I didn't learn at library school (2018)

Made is 24 hours for International Zine Month 2018, this zine is a collection of personal reflections on the realities of working in libraries based on things I learned after leaving library school. Like how academics will never give you reading lists on time, libraries and mental health,the importance of joining a union, and how to do small print runs of your zine on the office photocopier. 

19 years and 55 zines later and I still love making zines. I'm constantly inspired and surprised by zines, I always want to get better at making them, and I still feel like I'm learning and trying to improve. And without fail I still always hate everything I've ever made and want the next thing to be amazing. 

My next zine Cool Schmool #3 is coming soon....

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