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Are you zine friendly?

There's a zine resurgence happening and zine producers convened last week at the Alternative Press Festival to celebrate the fact.

It seems like we are being taken over by the digital world nowadays. Higher, more accurate and faster technologies, together with the easily available social networking and, let’s not forget, the current economic climate, make it rather hard to believe that certain people would stick to their guns and produce material for print. For print??!! Yet the insurgence of the zines in the publishing underworld is happening, and we should really watch out.

The Zine Friendly event at the Foundry in London, as part of a weekender affair, was the perfect platform for zine producers to mingle with peers, sell and display their works of art, discuss techniques and topics, reflect on current difficulties and pencil in forthcoming meetings. The zine scene is vibrant, open-minded and very welcoming to new talents and ideas. As soon as one approaches the zine desk, it is obvious that there is a huge amount of love and respect for the works on display. As organiser Jimi Gherkin explains, "This is a feel-good environment; people do this for free so they have total freedom to express themselves. Quality becomes an objective thing because we all encourage everyone to produce something, and we all know that we are bound to find someone that likes or hates the piece. The mindset is to allow people to have the chance to create something that they would not do or do not dare to do on a daily basis." In fact, these people not only stem from creative artistic backgrounds but also from professional environments like accountancy, teaching or IT engineering, professions, which do not have anything to do with the publishing world.

Gareth Brookes, co-organiser agrees, "In this day and age, where everything is sort of controlled and spread and processed by the internet, people of all kinds feel they need an outlet and they need to go back to the basics with a hands-on self-rewarding hobby." It is the tangibility, the idea of being able to hold a zine that has been cut and painted and adorned with crafty materials, sparkles, staples, fabrics and papier mâché, that encourages communication and creativity. "With the Internet you can control the content somewhat, but not the layout. And the way you present and display a content is as important (if not more in certain instances) than the text itself."

Jim and Gareth came up with the idea of a Zine event in April 2008 and found such a great enthusiasm on people that they got hooked and went on organising more. "Some people get involved so spontaneously. This pub owner we met loved it to the extent that he offered his place for a Saturday event, no fees or anything, such is the passion and interest of certain people." Peter Lally and Saban Kâzim came on board later on to help organise events. The variety in demographic seen in amongst zine lovers and producers, is also reflected in the subject range of works produced – from poems to diaries, comics, photos and manga-like story lines. Poetry is now a performance feature that has been incorporated to these events by fellow zine lover Ceri May, who adds, "Poetry has always been seen as a detachment from what you learn in school and because of that baggage, there is a disconnection with the zine movement that I am trying to fix by participating here."

Highlights of this Zine Friendly day were James Nash’s diary comics The Present Is Not a Purgatory, Eleanor Jane’s photographs of the Western USA, Bedsit Journal Comics by Richard Cowdry, Gareth Brookes; poetry in ‘The Smell of the Wild’ and Neptune Factory’s Vampire Free Style magic comics.

The Zine Friendly, however, not only provides a setting to buy and sell zines or a simple discussion area but also a creative board to doodle impromptu streaks of genius and a Collaborama corner was set up, where ideas could manifest. "We are aiming to approach other places in the UK besides London," says Jim. "It really takes one event to create a domino effect. July was the International Zine Month with a huge array of European events. We do not make this for money – we do it for the love of zines and for the freedom they provide."