Exploring The Zine Scene

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Tonight is the best night I have had in as long as I can remember, and it’s all thanks to The Manchester Art Gallery Zine Fair and Launch Party. Yesterday I was looking for Manchester events in a vain attempt to find something to write about in a feature assignment. I happened upon an advert for something called Zine Dreams.

Since learning about fanzines in a music journalism lecture last semester I had wanted to know more about them, but I was completely unaware of the zine culture awaiting me on my own doorstep. It’s safe to say that after tonight I am no longer ignorant to this fascinating world!

I was expecting the place to be full of pompous hipsters on my way there. To be honest I thought I would feel stupid and out of place. Thank God that I let my spontaneity get the better of me and didn’t change my mind about going.

I was welcomed by a huge number of stalls displaying all kinds of zines and magazines, with topics ranging from the underground Manchester music scene, photography, graphic design, short fiction and comics. At first, it was hard for me to understand exactly what some of the zines were aiming for and the roles they play within society. However, as soon as I got talking to some of the creators and promoters of these awesome works of art, I realised that there was nothing I really needed to ‘get’.

Zines are to be enjoyed. Zines are there to promote the work of really talented people, be they craftsmen, photographers, artists or ‘thrifters’. Not least, they certainly aren’t the confusing or pompous publications I first thought they might have been. Once you get to know the people behind them and realise the passion they have for what they do, then that is all you need to see.

Manchester DJ, Journalist and writer Dave Haslam was hosting a launch party alongside the fair for a zine he has compiled to accompany an exhibition currently on at the gallery entitled ‘Dreams Without Frontiers’. Listening to him speak alongside other contributors was something that you don’t get to see every day. It was a cool moment, even for the likes of me – a clueless beginner.

I came away from the fair with few free zines, three photographic prints by a guy called Swnd (who was genuinely stoked that people were interested in his work, making it even more of a pleasure to purchase them!) and a music CD compiled by Dave Haslam and The Factory Foundation, the proceeds of which are being given to the mental health charity C.A.L.M.

Best of all, I bought myself an hilariously dark and strange comic book called ‘Land Lubber’ by an artist called Joe List, who very kindly drew a character inside the cover of the book for me. It’s extra special knowing I own one of a kind.

It was inspiring to speak to two artists in depth at their stalls too. One of these artists – John Allison – is already well established when it comes to his web comics. Not only that, but he is an ex-journalism student and was kind enough to give me his email address so that he could help me with my future assignment. I also spoke to a very creative and unique lady, whose ‘Freegan’-inspired work you can find here, about how she is just starting out in the scene and how much she loves what she does.

It is not difficult to realise that I fell completely and utterly in love with this evening and everything to do with it. My eyes have been opened to the world of zines and I have even started considering how I can contribute myself.

I urge anyone interested in any forms of art mentioned above to look out for the fanzine culture in their own city and find out more about this awesome form of art-distribution.

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