Illustration by Aniela Murphy/Neltonmandelton.
The Rag Factory, this Brick Lane, page will be playing host to The London Zine Symposium on the 29th of May, capsule an event celebrating DIY culture, promoting communal idea sharing and, naturally, selling a few zines. Inspired by the Portland Zine Symposium, it’s been running since 2005 and just keeps getting bigger. This year there are over 70 stalls dedicated to zines, small presses and comics, with crafty bits to see and do round every corner, as well as discussions, readings and workshops.
The Symposium runs from 12pm, kicking off with the kids’ comic workshop, making things nice, and monstrous, (pretend to be my guardian? Anyone?) and all through the day you can make your own artist trading cards! They’ll be providing all the ingredients you need, though you’re welcome to take along your own cutouts and magazine bits. These excite me more than necessary, probably because I always wanted to be a Pokémon…
The first discussion of the afternoon will focus on the DIY ethos of zine-making and its applications in the wider world – a must for anyone interested in subverting mainstream media and working their socks off to get heard. It’s not limited to the world of paper either, they’ll also be talking about forming bands and organising spoken word tours. Charlotte Cooper, a queer fat researcher and activist, and Josie Long, that stand- up comedian, are among those reading from selections and the event will be nicely rounded off by Tea Hvala and a collaborative writing working, taking the surrealist drawing game the exquisite corpse and translating it to writing, so that each story becomes everybody’s story.
Illustration by Aniela Murphy/Neltonmandelton.
I asked Edd Baldry, one of the organisers, about the superiority of zines to blogs, the importance of DIY culture, and whether they’ve ever been overwhelmed by care bears…
Could you tell us a bit about the beginnings of the London Zine ? Symposium? What inspired you to start it up? Was it very popular at ?first? How has it grown?
Edd Baldry : I was part of a collective squatting a cool building in central ? London, which we’d called the Institute for Autonomy. I was helping to? run an infoshop in the space as well as producing a large collective ? zine – Rancid News – which we distributed across the UK and Europe. So ?I was interested in getting more zine kids involved in radical spaces and radical spaces having zines that weren’t necessarily explicitly ? political. I’ve got to acknowledge though that the name, and the ? inspiration, was taken wholesale from the Portland Zine Symposium who ? do an awesome event in the US north-west every year.? From our point of view it was really popular straight away. I wish ?all the projects I’m involved with were this easy to organise. We had ? about 400 people come, with 12 stalls, at the first event and it’s ?grown steadily each year. Last year we had about 1,400 people come along, with 64 stalls selling their wares.? ? ?
What, exactly, is a zine and what part does it play in DIY culture? ? What makes a good zine? In this techno-focused age, what’s their ?attraction? Isn’t it easier and quicker to start/read a blog?
?EB: A zine is really whatever you want it to be. The only caveat is that ?it’s something that you produce yourself for yourself – at least? that’s what I think of when I think of zines. I think that zines have ? been a vital part of DIY culture since they became prevalent in the ? punk and radical scenes in the late 70s. Riot Grrrl’s a pretty good ?example where the ideas and culture of that scene were communicated ?through zines just as much as they were through the music.? ?It’s difficult to say what makes a ‘good’ zine – there’s such a variety that there’s no magic bullet. There are zines that are amazing ?because they’re beautifully illustrated, others because the ?illustrations look like a three year-old drew them. I guess anything ?that has passion for something in them is interesting and zines are no ?exception.? ?I think the attraction of zines has grown as the internet has. Having ?something that is tangible and final is quite attractive in a world of ?24 hour rolling news and ever changing churn of the internet. Also, ?zines can be read when you’re having a bath, a definite advantage over computers!? ? ?
Does the zine scene go through fads and phases like every other scene? ?Have you ever been overwhelmed by frogophiles, or carebear ?afficionados, for instance?
?EB: No, the symposium’s yet to be overrun by carebear or frog zines. But ?yeah the zine scene does tend to go through waves every few years. A ?few years ago it felt like it was totally dominated by punk zines, in ?2007/8 it felt like a lot of people who made comics started consciously ?making them as zines. More recently it seems like a lot of ? illustration students have been really taken by making zines. Those? trends tend to be reflected in the people who apply for stalls at the? London Zine Symposium – this year we’ve had loads of applications from ? various groups of students around the country.? ? ?
What is the zine scene like in London? Do you think there’s a good ? level of community? What kind of people get into it? ? What are a few of your favourite zines? Is there anyone you’re excited about meeting ?at the symposium?
?EB: I think there’s a pretty vibrant zine scene in London. A lot of that ?has to do with the group of people running the Alternative Press ?project that’s done a bunch of small scale events at places like the ? Foundry, as well as a couple of larger ones at the St Aloysius centre ?near Euston. It’s meant that there’s now zine events happening throughout the year in London, which can only be a good thing. And yeah, there’s certainly a supportive scene amongst zinesters, there’s ?not much machismo or competiveness that you get in other scenes that ?I’ve been heavily involved with.? ?I’m not sure there’s one type of person that makes zines; it takes all sorts. I guess it’s people who feel they have something to say but ?don’t want to go through the traditional channels to express ?themselves. And I’ve discovered so many great people and great zines ?whilst being involved that that’s a pretty impossible question to ?answer. Though Maximum Rock N Roll, Punk Planet, My Evil Twin Sister, ?Inside Front, 12o5 and Scanner will always have a place close to my ? heart!? ? At the symposium I’m looking forward to meeting Matthew Murray – who’s ?running the artist trading card exchange – and Geoff – who’s running ?the kids comix workshop. And of course in general I’m just looking? forward to seeing old friends from across the continent!? ? ?
How important do you think DIY culture is? What are your views on DIY as a form of resistance to mainstream media and their messages?
?EB: I think DIY’s vital. I think it gives resources and space for radical thought to grow and exist and hopefully gives an alternative to the ?hegemony of mainstream culture. You need a radical culture to exist for any radical change to happen. DIY is, obviously, way bigger than ?just zines though. I think zines can be used by radicals as a way to quickly communicate with people, but I’m not sure that making a zine ?is necessarily inherently radical. But DIY, in general, is certainly ? a corner stone in any anti-authoritarian organising be it squatting ?social centres, taking over the streets or organising a really? awesome gig!? ? ?
I like the idea of artist trading cards! Will there be other crafty ? things to see and do around the symposium? And why is the comic ?workshop only for kids?
?EB: Yeah, the artist trading cards should be cool. And I know it’s a shame ? that the comic workshop is only for kids, but then again kids tend to ?get left out of zine culture sometimes, so it’s cool that they’re going to have their own space at this year’s Symposium.
Do you organise any events based around DIY? culture other than the LSZ? If so, what are they and how can people ? get involved?
EB: There’ll be another zine in a day project at this year’s symposium, which hopefully will be printed on the day itself if all goes according to? plan. I’m afraid LZS is enough of an event to last us all a full year. ?We all put on DIY gigs, organise protests, work in social centres and ? what have you, but nothing on the scale of the Zine Symposium!? ? ?
The Individual Zine Rocks table encourages people with just one zine? to get involved, first-timers or small scale creators; do you have any? tips for people interested in getting into the zine scene on getting ?heard about?
?EB: It’s tricky to give specific pointers, though it’s worth reading Alex ?Wrekk’s ‘Stolen Sharpie Revolution’, which does a really good job of ?explaining the zine scene and all it’s myriad quirks. If you’re interested in making a zine you should just make one. Better to have tried and failed than not have tried at all! If you wanna get heard about come along to zine events, trade zines with other people and ?make sure you get copies into any shop that will have them!? ?
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