I was recently invited along to the Scream Zines event in Leeds with Seleena who i co-produce Poor Lass Zine with. We were asked to join a panel discussing our zine journey; how we discovered zines, what our first ones were, how we went about making them as well as any hints & tips along the way. I wanted to cover the topics on here and then also go a little deeper into that journey as i found it super interesting to learn more about the others’ on the panel (hello zine idol Kirsty Fife) and would love to open this further with readers of this too!
How did you get into zines?
I started getting into riot grrrl when i was about 15 and that brought with it the politics of DIY culture. A huge part of the new culture i was learning about was self publishing; primarily zines and distros. I started out looking for archives of seminal zines or magazine cuttings online (which at the time was super difficult as a lot of it hadn’t yet been archived – this was like 2001/2) things like the riot grrrl manifesto and flyers full of political messages circulated at the time of riot grrrl. The first time i actually picked up a real zine – in my hands – was at a DIY festival in Bristol – the zine was Taryn Hipp‘s Girl Swirl. It was a perzine and detailed her personal life as well as her passions, politics and it was hugely influential to me when considering the personal as political – an ideology that’s now at the forefront of everything i do.
What is the story of your first zine? How did you go about making it and what was it about?
It wasn’t until years later that i plucked up the courage to put out my first zine. Incidentally, i’d decided to set up a zine distro instead prior to that, collecting my favourite zines from all over the world and ones i thought needed to be circulated far and wide due to their political nature or awesome message. I was running the distro as part of the collective i was a part of Lola and the Cartwheels and this meant doing lots of trades at events, linking up with awesome writers and activists and eventually, after a few years of running the distro i felt the time had come to make my own.
The first zine i put out as a zine project, outside of the collective (we often produced mini zines with our listings in, political flyers to be passed round at events and more limited run print one-offs for events) was The World’s A Mess and Yr My Only Cure. The title was of course taken from Le Tigre’s Eau D’Bedroom Dancing song and for me it encompassed what the zine’s message was about – the world may often be a shitty place but YOU make me feel so much better about it.
I was battling the demons of my youth and beginning to share some of those feelings and how i wanted to tackle them both in my online writing under a pseudonym and now, as a zinester in a limited print run of zines delivered to my peers. It felt like a special club we were all a part of, all sharing our stories of hope from a very realistic and often problematic place – all looking to share that pain and instead offer salvation to fellow readers and contributors. TWAMAYMOC was a collective zine where i reached out to people who inspired me and asked them who inspired them too. It was creating a chain of motivation and positive influence – with a view to sharing ways we’d grown, felt supported, took influence and been able to then feel better, I wanted to share stories of inspiration and let others know, yeah sometimes this shit is stifling but you know, we feel it too and let’s get together and do something awesome about it.
What do you feel are the main hurdles to making a zine?
Making a collective zine is HARD. There are some huge benefits to making one as your first zine to sort of test the water – you don’t need to provide all the content, you get so much inspiration from the contributors and you can reach a wider audience due to everyone sharing their involvement. Where it becomes difficult is you’re working alongside everyone else’s schedule and writing times. This can sometimes mean an issue taking the best part of a year to get to print as you’re waiting on an awesome contributor to finish up, you don’t have enough entries or perhaps you feel the tone you wanted isn’t quite there or you’re not representing enough diversity in your approach, subject or experience.
Tip: while a deadline is great to guide people, set out with realistic expectations and work with your contributors along the way ensuring they’re still keen and up for sharing, along with regular updates on progress.
In terms of perzines, getting that first page down or nailing down that idea is for sure the hardest part. Once you’ve got a pile of A4 pages together, folded them up into an A5 trad zine set-up, you have your zine – it’s there in your hands – now go go go, write something and fill it! Motivation can be hard sometimes but if you choose something to cover that lights your fire, sparks your creativity and imagination or something you feel so strongly about, you’ll be sat typing furiously and finish it in one night!
Why do you make zines? Who do you make them for?
Every zine i make is for visibility, both for me and my own voice and for everyone else out there seeking someone like them they can identify with.
My zines & also my online oversharing started out as a outlet to be my true self in a world where family, work, education and the society we live in can sometimes stifle. I didn’t feel as a teenager that i could express myself which resulted in some damaging and negative behaviours. Finding my people helped me become my best self and learn to funnel the frustrations, hurt, negative energy and trauma into something creative and positive i could use to benefit myself and others.
With Poor Lass, we decided to start the project after being spoken on behalf of way more times than we’d like by supposed peers and fellow activists. As working class people we are mis-represented constantly, often written off as human beings seemingly unworthy of opinion due to a qualification level or salary figure. It was important for us to make this zine happen and fill it full of our stories, all of collective, different but united stories for ourselves and for those who had never heard people like us too.
With Get Real it was truly one of the hardest things i have ever written. Again though, i felt i needed to stand up and be counted, let others know that fucking hell, sometimes life can be the pits but you know – people care, there’s support around you and you can get better, just don’t be too hard on yourself.