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Keen on the zine scene

February 12th, 2009 · post by natalie · 1 Comment

Natalie, one of the founders of the London Zine Symposium, gives a run through of her thoughts on the UK zine community, and why she thinks it’s currently proving so popular

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Brighton Zinefest; Zine-o-rama; Alternative Press Fair; The Women’s Library Zinefest; Zineswap; or the London Zine Symposium; whatever they are called, the current zine scene is alive and well. Zinesters have so many zine event invites they’ll probably make a zine about them!

And it’s not just in the UK, across Europe small press and zine events have been springing up, including a second annual zinefest in Muelheim, Germany, this coming April and in May, Fanzinothèque in Pointers, France will be hosting their very own gathering.

So what’s behind the blossoming zine scene and how can we make sure it doesn’t wilt away before we’ve had time to read anything from it?

Perhaps most simply, zines are hot topic right now. Every self respecting art student, writer and ‘creative’ is putting one out. They are getting easier and easier to produce, with cheap photocopying or printing, and easy availability of desktop publishing software. Zines come in all shapes and sizes, from scrappy cut and paste ramblings, to beautifully crafted works of art. Zine gatherings tap into the need for people who have produced something to share that with the wider world. Whilst zinesters are using the internet to cross promote widely, face-to-face events are hugely popular.

Zine events are also a fantastic way to pick up interesting ideas and to meet new like-minded people. Typically you’ll find zines on a whole spectrum of topics that you wouldn’t find in an ordinary shop. As Jimi Gherkin and Peter Lally of London’s recent Alternative Press Fair, say: “The mainstream media isn’t our forum; it’s not owned by us and serves the interests and agendas of other groups. This is why the world of small press publishing is so important; there is the freedom to express, without having to serve others.”

Zine and small press events aren’t anything particularly new. We’ve had things like anarchist bookfairs, which tend to bring together radical publications, zines and distros, DIY punk gigs have also always welcomed music zines and small press and indie comix events happen all over the place. Except at zinefests there seems to be a real desire to bring together all of these different strands to create something new.

There’s just no stopping it!

The London Zine Symposium, about to host it’s fifth annual event in May 2009 started out of a desire to bring together a whole range of people: zinesters, squatters, activists, artists, and friends. It was a way to meet up with people that you might know from a protest or a gig but never really had a good opportunity to talk to as well as a chance to meet other zine makers and enthusiasts. Inspired by the Portland Zine Symposium, looking around the UK it felt like there was nothing like that going on in the UK at the time. But now they’re everywhere; people have taken up the mantle to not just produce zines, but also take control of events organised around them.

Zine festivals aren’t just hard selling events either – they have strived to be more than capitalist copycat market stall, putting on a range of additional events as part of the programme. At last month’s Women’s Library Zinefest it set out to celebrate women’s involvement in self-publishing, with women led distros and zines setting up their wares. As part of the day there was a UK-focused comic exhibition, featuring women and transgender comic makers, a discussion on the history of DIY queer zines and a feminist media collective panel, which looked at how women have worked together in the past to create independent publishing projects.

Or as Brighton Zinefest puts it, “Zine-making is all about the DIY” so it makes sense to use the day as an opportunity to skill share, and to hold discussions about other facets of the do it yourself culture. Events like these allows people to learn creative techniques like screenprinting, papermaking, bookbinding, and of course the art of making a zine; all either free of charge or for a small donation.

The zine scene is also about tapping into a mutually co-operative society – our willingness to exchange goods or services for free, especially when modern culture would rather see us charging ridiculous sums of money to learn, buy or attend anything. It’s in the spirit of shoestring budgets that zines and zine fest come to fruition, a labour of love rather than commerce. So long as we retain our energy and enthusiasm I can’t see the zine scene wavering anytime soon.

Links and dates of some zine festivals

→ 1 CommentThis entry belongs to the following categories: Articles · DIY sounds and images

1 response so far

  • Edd posted:
    Feb 13, 2009 at 6:34 pm. Comment #1

    There’s a pretty good UK & Ireland zine community up on the http://wemakezines.ning.com site. It’s a pretty cool site. Lots of nice people in cyberspace!