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Posts Tagged ‘Salford Zine Library’

UoM%20scanned%20documentJust over a week ago I had the unexpected pleasure of visiting Everyday Austerity: An Exhibition of Everyday Life in Austerity, a collaboration between Dr Sarah Marie Hall of the University of Manchester and Stef Bradley the zine maker, which was drawn from research compiled by Dr Hall on the subject of family life and austerity.

This was a beautifully executed, simple but effective, exhibition that was both smart and thought provoking, but never, ever miserable.

People think of austerity in simplistic shades of sepia and grey, and in doing so, they miss the complex, technicolour reality of it: It was how the six families were represented that was the really refreshing thing.

Each section of the exhibition made use of written introductions to the families, their own particular situations, and how austerity had affected them. These were set alongside a carefully arranged display box of visual representations – photographs, carrots from an allotment, a recipe for a bulk batch of veggie chilli, a book on how to cope financially in times of austerity, which was due to be flogged on eBay along with old children’s toys to raise funds… There were lists of worries, lists of things to buy that could be afforded that week… and these visual items were equally as powerful, as thoughtfully placed, as evocative, as the notes, and sections of the interviews, which could be listened to on iPod mini’s.

The interviews themselves were frank, honest, candid and refreshing in their neutrality. There was no steering of interviewees towards a particular narrative, no aggressive questioning, because this is research, not journalistic vox pops, and it was part of the patchwork of field work, a long story, not a short, knee jerk story impulsively yanked from the unsuspecting.

We were asked to answer questions regarding our own views of austerity before, during and after viewing the exhibition, the idea being to measure if people’s views changed, and if so, how.  While my own views hadn’t shifted too much, what the exhibition brought home to me was the amount of creativity and ingenuity being brought to bear on the unyielding sanctions and limitations of austerity by those most affected by them. Oh, not in a Blitz Spirit ‘Let’s all pull together’ kind of way, more in a ‘Batten down the hatches, lets work through this bastard’ kind of way.

What this work does is provide a multi faceted, complex picture of austerity in the UK. It is not Benefits Street, but nor is it Das Kapital, it is – in many ways – refreshingly neutral. Which, as a position, is needed.

There are plans to create a zine from the exhibition, using the research, which might seem an odd concept but, in the context of the seismic shifts of perspective zine making has undergone these past ten years or so, with writers and creators increasingly focusing on areas such as psycho-geography, on cities and the writers relationship with the city in which they live, it perhaps isn’t so surprising to find a zine concerned with austerity.

Daniel Defoe’s A Journal Of The Plague Year, George Orwell’s Down And Out In Paris And London… Why not a documentation of the realities of austerity? State of the nation, or kitchen sink, dramas are no longer written. There will be no Love on the dole, or The Manchester Man, nor even no Ruined City, but Everyday Austerity: The Zine will fulfill a similar role. It won’t be done for entertainment, nor will it be done for titillation, or voyeurism, but for knowledge, for education, for remembering, for empathy and understanding.

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Yesterday was the second Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention, and Too Late For Cake had a small slice of the action.

Victoria Baths, all hail

Yes, I went paper for the day in collaboration with friend of the cake, David Wilkinson. Paper copies of the Stockport special edition of Too Late For Cake are still available, and right now we’re trying to decide what to do with them. If you’d like a copy, please post a comment below and include your email, and I will get in touch with you.

I arrived not long after the event started at 10:30am and, as is the case with all zine events I’ve been to, the first hour or so tends to serve as time for people to look at the stalls and exhibitions, and generally orient themselves and find out where the food and loos are. I managed to find the stalls, including Manchester Municipal Design Corporation who were selling our previously mentioned publication, but I couldn’t find David or convention organiser Natalie Bradbury.

Future Everything had stalls, installations and exhibitions downstairs at the baths, and I watched somewhat bemused as a young woman tenaciously attended and adjusted a wooden bobbin device on the floor. It was attached to a long thread of wool which was trailing down from some slowly unravelling crochet, which was itself suspended from the ceiling. I believe the idea was that it would start to unravel at the start of the day, and just be finished unravelling at the end of the day.

I went in search of the loos and café after that, and observed a rather puzzled group of girls trying to negotiate breakfast in the café only to discover that soup, cake, sarnies, crisps, biscuits, tea and coffee were what was on offer instead.

I instantly warmed to the café because they served the tea out of a teapot into polythene cups, and they got you to add your own milk and sugar. Also the teapot was wearing a tea cosy. I had bourbons and tea and texted David and Natalie.

I had a brief hello chat with Natalie a little while later in the café, and caught up with David by the MMDC stall, where the paper edition of Too Late For Cake had been installed. I also had a rather excellent vegan whoopie pie (like a french macaroon but Americanised) from the vegan cake stall. David was good enough to point out that heavy work with a tissue was required afterwards.

Stall holding

We lurked by MMDC for quite a bit, then David went for a wander and I went off to watch Salford Zine Library’s film Self Publishers of the world take over. I found it really interesting as there were a lot of mancunian and salfordian zine makers in there, including MMDC, Natalie, and some I didn’t recognise. It was interesting to hear people talk about their work and how they write and produce, the mechanics of it, as well as why. The Q&A was interesting as well, as I didn’t know a massive amount about the library.

I missed quite a bit of Rotheram Zine Library’s talk because I was in the café thoroughly enjoying a veg pie with pickled beetroot and pickled cabbage, plus more tea. There were mushy peas on offer, but I didn’t fancy them. In a city that seems to have wholeheartedly embraced the Pannini, it is refreshing to encounter proper warm, filling, nutritious food of the kind your mum used to feed you. And it was homemade pastry.

I had a similar regional good food experience when I was a student at Bolton and, on bonfire night, was introduced to culinery bliss in the form of black peas with salt’n’vinegar.

Fanzine making workshop and lovely stained glass

After I’d scarfed down my scran, I went back to the superintendents office where the film and talks were being held, and caught the remainder of Rotheram Zine Library’s talk. I think I may have missed the crucial bits, but I did enjoy hearing about their new projects, which revolve around ‘found’ content. There is one in which they’ve taken random nonsensical bits of footbal commentary and turned them into an epic poem, another about badly tagged clips on Youtube that people have uploaded of themselves, often singing, and another of re-constructed impressions from old photo development equipment.

It sounded as though Youtube was a real source of fascination, particularly the discussions that take place beneath clips, or used to until Youtube changed the format. Me and David talked to them afterwards and they seemed really nice. David did a zine swap later.

The next talk was David’s, and our friend Clare and David’s mum and dad arrived, also Dave Haslem. After David had soundchecked his music for his talk, and got his slides ready, he nipped out and I caught up with Clare and then had a bit of a chat with Dave Haslem, who confessed he had spent an impressive amount on fanzines, including Too Late For Cake.

David did a very good job on legendary Manchester fanzine City Fun, he made it very irreverent and funny, which is appropriate. He also kicked off his talk with a Ludus song, which was a fine idea. I learnt quite a few things I hadn’t known before (I have started the City Fun odyssey at the WCML, but I haven’t even reached the halfway point yet…) which is always good.

Some of the crowd who’d come for David’s talk stayed to watch mine, and just before my talk Making a noise: an express ride through the world of punk and riot grrrl fanzines and the UK feminist underground, 1977-2012 I had a very interesting conversation with a PHD student in the front row who had read the interview I did with Natalie via email for For Books Sake, about riot grrrl.

The talk itself was a bit of a blur. It felt as though it was descending into the chaos and that I had to keep wresting it from the jaws of disaster, but the feedback I got from people seemed to suggest otherwise: They couldn’t understand why I felt it had gone badly. And they seemed to enjoy it. I was particularly thankful for David’s dad, who laughed heartily at all the crucial bits. I even got some unexpected laughs: the idea of a 2nd generation RG zine from Wilmslow amused people no end.

I really liked the glass floor in this corridor

Anyway, I got through it, the slides seemed very effective, and people said they’d enjoyed it so all is well. Major speech trauma over, I can move on now.

Afterwards I chatted with Clare, David, his mum and dad and a couple of other people, many of whom I didn’t know. We drifted back to the stalls before packing up time. Almost all the vegan food had gone, and some of the stalls were packing up.

We sold just under half of the Too Late For Cake’s which, for a fanzine exclusively about Stockport, isn’t bad. We gave £3 to MMDC, who’d also done well, for subletting their stall to us. Clare bought a copy and she and I got embroiled in a very long but fascinating conversation with a bloke called Richard who does a zine, is one half of the duo who do Under the pavement on the Manchester online radio network, and who used to live in Bradford in the nineties. He said he’d really enjoyed the talk, but how weird it had felt to hear me talk about people he’d known then in Bradford. I did quite a bit on the Leeds and Bradford Riot Grrrls, and he’d known Sarah Bag, Lianne Hall and Jane Shag Stamp. He was telling us about the RG club night Frocks’N’Docs at the 1 in 12 club, where the men had to wear dresses to get in. Apparently there was some trouble with skinheads on one occasion, and a surreal punch up between skinheads and weedy punk blokes in drag. One of his male friends also had the surreal experience of a trip to A&E in a silver dress after walking into a lamp post while walking through Bradford. I miss seeing cross dressed men at gigs, there used to be quite a few around in the mid – late ’90s, especially in London and Leeds.

After we’d settled up, me, Clare and David wandered down Hathersage Road to Oxford Road, chatting. Upon reaching Oxford Road we all decided we wanted to go home and eat something, so said our goodbyes. I headed back the way we’d just walked, then walked down Plymouth Grove to Longsight.

In Longsight, a spirited (in both senses of the word) preacher was doing catechism via a microphone and PA system outside the bookies. Not sure which religion he was endorsing, but Pakistan got an emotional mention, which might narrow it down a bit possibly. Then again, maybe not.

I got home feeling very stimulated, content, happy but exhausted.

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