With the print cycles of iconic publications, such as the Independent ceasing one after the other in recent years, you’d be forgiven for thinking that physical copies of newspapers and magazines were little more than a dying novelty. In the next ten or twenty years, they’ll all be gone. Right?
Last year, a few artists and writers at the University of Glasgow set up a Zine Society, which has already published three editions of their zine, Pith. Pith features remarkable drawings and poems, with each “segment” based around a different theme. Their print run is small at around 70 copies, but I’ve sought one out for every edition, due to the differing styles and wonderful creativity of the contributors.
The society was set up originally by Lara Delmage, Isabelle Hunt-Deol and Ben Boswell-Jones. Lara Delmage commented that she wanted to set up the society because “[I] knew other very artistic people at Glasgow University who didn’t have a platform for their art. I felt stifled by the purely academic atmosphere and yearned for an injection of creativity into my life. The only outlets I managed to find at the university for creative students were GUM and Glasgow Guardian, and for them I was always just illustrating other people’s work, instead of doing my own.”
She continues, “I also wanted to create a non-judgemental platform for people’s work, which we do by including everything that is submitted for the zine, regardless of personal opinion. We did this to encourage those who are less confident about the quality of their art to submit their work, and feel that this has helped a lot of wonderful artists at Glasgow Uni come out of their shells.”
I mentioned the decline in print industry in recent years and asked Lara if she thinks zines will survive this. She commented: “I think people will always want zines […] I think people like to create zines because getting work published is notoriously competitive and can be fairly elitist. Zines reinstate the creative power to the individual, which is refreshing for artists in a society wherein the arts are very undervalued and underfunded.”
Zines are often noted for being fairly accessible and affordable, as they can be funded on almost any budget. All you need is paper, pens, and access to a photocopier for the cheapest option. Of course, if you want to print more copies, or in colour, or on better quality paper, things do become more expensive. But this range of affordability and the homemade and casual feel of many zines allows for anyone to create them, regardless of their background.
It is for exactly this reason that the Glasgow Zinefest reappears every year at the Centre for Contemporary Arts for a weekend of workshops, talks, and the incredibly popular fair, where many zine-creators compete for a stall. Programme Coordinator, L.D. Davis, commented: “Zines have always been a way for marginalized and oppressed people to have their voices heard, to circumvent the traditional structure of publishing. Their affordability and unskilled point of entry makes them the perfect medium for those voices.”
Davis adds, “[t]his isn’t to say that I think all zines are forged in the fires of oppression, but that’s what makes zines great: they are a medium that can be accessed by anyone with something to say, whether it’s people who want to share their opinions about their favorite TV show, draw pictures of birds, self-publish their poetry, or anything else they feel is worthy of print and distribution. Zines are a supportive community, a subculture that welcomes people in and says, ‘tell me about the things that you love.’ Zines are for everyone, which is why they remain so steadfastly popular. There will always be people who want to say something, and there will always be people ready to listen.”
Since the technology has been available, people have been creating zines, especially members of marginalised groups. The need for minorities to be heard is more important than ever, and I think that is why we have witnessed such a sustained interest in creating and consuming zines. With the rise of the internet, zines suffered a drop in popularity when creators turned to digital options, such as blogging and vlogging. But many cite fanzines for the reawakened interest in the print version and the resultant popularity to this day. When people feel oppressed or ignored in a society, inspiration can grow from zines.
“I think that as long as we have oppression, as long as we have capitalism, Tory austerity, the wage gap, homophobia, transphobia, a society unwilling to unlearn and unpick its previously indoctrinated ideas, we will have people wishing to be heard,” commented L.D. Davis.
“And as long as there are people wishing to be heard, there will be zines.”