The Culture of Anonymity: Radical Zine Culture
Zine culture emerged from the punk scene during the 1970’s, after a punk fan, known as Mark Perry decided to create the pioneering publication ‘Sniffin’ Glue’. The zine took the form of eight A4 pages, bound with a staple in the top left corner. The cover titles scribbled across the front in felt tip may have looked imperfect compared to other publications, however, it was this simple notion that opened the doors to DIY zine culture. Mark Perry proposed his readers make their own zines, and by the following year, Sniffin’ Glue had contributed to punk culture and independent print in many important ways.
The past 40 years have seen some rapid changes within the print media. First off, the commercial print industry is struggling with the advent of online. However, zine culture has expanded and continues to serve as print’s thriving subculture. With the industry's money being put into commercial publications, zine’s allow creators to be as politically minded, creatively conscious or niche as they choose. ASBO spoke to two creators active in the scene, to see what’s going down and London’s cultural significance in the art of zine making.
Speaking to Beccy Hill, creator of London’s ‘Sister Magazine’, who started the publication in her final year of university, she spoke on London’s zine scene saying, “It's so inspiring to see and to be a part of. Considering I started Sister five years ago, there's so many more girls out there now doing their own thing and self-publishing.”. Becky’s not wrong, with a growing amount of feminist-based zines such as Polyester, Ladybeard or OOMK, women are creating a space for their voices through this DIY platform.
The independent bi-annual publication, hopes to expose female talent, culture and opinion. Speaking on the inspiration for the magazine, Beccy shares her other influences away from zines: “I had collected a lot of DIY feminist zines and literature, which were much more focussed on content than aesthetic. I wanted to create something that combined both style and substance for girls, and it's amazing to see how much choice is out there now”. One part of zine culture, which has changed dramatically over the decades, is the aesthetic of the zine. From punk zines being made with pen, paper and a clip, to in many ways, being a scene with some of the most visually pleasing publications in the industry.
Tom Armstrong is the editor-in-chief and founder of The Move magazine, a quarterly that celebrates the culture brought to London through its live music scene, he explains that: “I felt the music and clubbing culture we’re famous for in the UK wasn’t being represented anymore. I’d previously worked at an online mag and felt the internet was very limiting to the kind of stuff I wanted to do, so I went into print.” With an increasing number of online magazines, the quality of print can be further appreciated.
However, with the growth of online publications, running print magazines are often hard to fund, Joe explained: “One thing I would say is it’s expensive and the market for them still isn’t HUGE, so start small and DIY, and see where it goes.”. Although the market is still small, the independent publishing scene is creatively thriving, “not just in London but the whole of the UK. I can see publishing going the same way as vinyl and re-entering the mainstream, which would be sweet. There are new print mags popping up every week at the moment, especially in London.”
With the history of zines embedded in punk culture, ties to activism and subculture commentary continue to be the core element to many publications. With many political changes, both in the UK and USA, I asked both editors for their thoughts on how zines are important for a politically engaged younger generation:
“Very important. We aren't waiting to be asked or invited into the sphere of current affairs, we're barging our way in and filling a very important void. We are relevant because we are our own audience, and we want to give people a voice to those who need it,” said Sister magazine editor, Beccy Hill.
Editor of The Move, Joe Armstrong agreed saying, “100%. The influence of the traditional media is dwindling, less people read those toxic newspapers that act as government mouthpieces, and I think the younger generation understand that these old institutions lie to us constantly. Young people are the most politically engaged they’ve been for decades, and it’s important that they create independent platforms for their views.”