The Short List – Tom Murphy, some of Colossive Press

Disclosure – Colossive Press published a zine by me and I have published two contributor only zines with one of the Colossive Press people.

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ZL – You’ve published a number of zines now, through Colossive Press, have you any plans for new publications?

CP – Oh yes! Putting out the first few things through CP last year was a bit like opening the floodgates to ten or fifteen years’ worth of ideas that I’d not had the opportunity or confidence to pursue. They’re all at a fairly nebulous stage, so I need to focus on one at a time and get it done – it’s easy to get a bit paralysed and not know which way to go first.

Ahead of the Sheffield Zine Fair on May 18th, Jane (my wife) has compiled Things My Dad Saw (But Never Bothered Mentioning) – a book of intriguing photos by her dad, Gordon Gibbens, who was also the subject of How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life (At Least for a While). As well as his street art photography, Gordon used to hunt down press launches, demonstrations, festivals, marches, etc. As a result, there’s a lot of splendid and strange shots in his archive.

Things Dad Saw cover 1200
Things My Dad Saw

We’re also launching 3:52 AM, an A6 zine of words and photography by our brilliant friend VJ Sellar, based on her experience of insomnia (and raising money for the Maggie’s Wallace centre in Cambridge). I like to think we’ve coaxed her into the world of zines, and hopefully there are more to come.

Given the time I’d also like to publish more things by other people, as a bit of a patron. I’d like Colossive to be a bit like Ghost Box or some of the small music labels I follow on Bandcamp, finding interesting work with a strong identity and bringing it to the world.

 

ZL – Do you remember the first time?

Odyssey 7
Odyssey 7 Manchester

CP – At my age, most of my “firsts” are lost in the mists of time. However, I’d say that the first work in the print medium that really blew my mind was Bryan Talbot’s Luther Arkwright. As a teenager I was a casual and slightly ironic reader of whatever comics I could find in the newsagents of Chorley. However, when I landed a plum part-time job at Morrisons (in 1985), my horizons soon spread to Odyssey 7 in Manchester, where the world of comics opened up in front of me like a thousand-leaved lotus blossom. And one of the first goodies I picked up was book one of Arkwright.

Even though I was also getting into series like Swamp Thing, American Flagg! and Moonshadow, Arkwright totally captivated me with the intricacy of the narrative and the incredible craft of its execution. When, after a seemingly interminable hiatus, the second and third volumes dropped, Talbot’s mastery of the medium just seemed to expand exponentially.

Page from Luther Arkwright
Page from Luther Arkwright

As much as anything, the whole work implanted the idea that at their best, whether dealing with the mundane or the cosmic, comics could do stuff that other mediums couldn’t even dream of. That notion has kept me coming back, through thick and thin, for 30-odd years.

 

ZL – Given an unlimited budget and all the time in the world, what would be the project you’d make to be remembered by?

CP – Ha – I’d have no idea what to do with a budget! I guess a full-blown Croydon Spaceport visitor experience somewhere in the town’s now legendary Whitgift Centre, complete with historical artefacts, audio-visual displays and – naturally – a lavishly furnished gift shop.

Ad Astra cover 1200
Ad Astra

ZL – Ad Astra is an alternative history story, what was the initial trigger for that idea?

CP – Oh blimey… I think that somewhere along the line, during a period of creative paralysis, I had an idea for a series of one-page text-and-image concoctions under the overall title Going Somewhere, Going Nowhere, based on the idea of travel and journeys. Little one-shots I could aim to wrap up quickly.

One of the notions I had was a voice remembering when the 119 bus used to go as far as Croydon Spaceport, how it used to be packed with people going to see the launches etc. I think that came about from the heritage work being done at the site of Croydon Airport – the very first London airport – and the sort of faded sci-fi, “lost future” feel that some of the town gives off.

Anyway, one of the benefits of my characteristic procrastination is that the idea had time to germinate in my noddle into something a bit richer. I started to come up with a more detailed timeline and cast list for the short and ultimately disappointing history of Croydon’s municipal space programme.

Another influence was a bit of street art that thousands of people walk past every day without even noticing. Underneath Blackfriars Bridge in London, the pedestrian underpass is decorated with tile displays showing alternative plans for the bridge, scenes from its construction etc. However, some enterprising ‘guerilla historian’ has dug out the Letraset and staged a bit of an intervention to come up with an alternative history involving flat-pack bridges from Argos and lost instruction manuals. I loved the element of absolute toot being delivered in a very straight-faced way.

The final piece of the jigsaw was the discovery of Flickr Commons, where various institutions make their image archives available with no copyright restrictions. With NASA and the San Diego Air and Space Museum among the participating institutions, I soon found plenty of images that lent themselves to gags or unlikely developments. Once I’d cracked the format, it kind of wrote itself.

 

ZL – You’ve had a lot of success and good feedback from ‘How Graffiti Saved My Dad’s Life…’ As that’s such a personal book, what does that feel like and mean to you?

CP – We’ve both been blown away by the response to the book – and we’re very proud on Gordon’s behalf. The initial aim was to showcase some of his photographs and the brilliant work of the street artists he admired. But Gordon was such an amazing man that Jane just had to tell his story.

Gordon was effectively written off when he received his second terminal cancer diagnosis in July 2016. but within weeks he was out with his camera again. Although he was clearly very frail, nobody on the graffiti scene really knew how ill Gordon was or what he was going through. Many of them have only found out recently through the book – something we now regret in a way.

There’s been a massive wave of affection and admiration for Gordon from all over the world, both from those who knew him and from complete strangers. We always knew what a brilliant person he was, of course, but it’s been great to spread the word. And although she’ll kill me for saying this, I’m pleased that more people now appreciate what Jane went through and what an amazing support she was for her dad.

All profits from the book are going to St Christopher’s hospice in Sydenham (south-east London), from where Gordon set off on some of his final graffiti trips. With a little help from our friends – including Steve from London Calling Blog, who organised a charity street art walk in Penge – we’ve now raised more than £1,300, and we hope that figure will continue to rise. (We’ll also be donating the profits from Things My Dad Saw…)

We’re very pleased and proud to be able to support such a worthy cause in return for all the help St Christopher’s has given our family. Jane’s mum Pat was also cared for there, and following Gordon’s death, Jane received bereavement counselling through the hospice. Its work is absolutely vital to the local community, but it remains alarmingly underfunded.

Ultimately, the message of the book is: find something you love doing then find a way to carry on doing it. That’s one of the driving impulses behind DIY culture, and it’s what we’re both trying to do with Colossive.

 

 

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content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

The Short List – zines.need.you

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ZL – What is your history with zines and how did that lead to zines.need.you?

 

ZNY – I began writing zines as a teenager – as a kid I’d make my own little magazines but didn’t realise that zines existed until I was about 16 and got into mailart through the internet. I made 20 copies of my first zine on a photocopier in a newsagent in 2001 and gave it to my friends. I’ve been making them intermittently ever since – zine fests help foster a community of zinesters, and more recently Instagram is good for seeings what’s out there. I’m not particularly prolific in terms of making zines but I think about them a lot and love them as a way of sharing experiences and ideas. Zines Need You is a new project that came out of thinking quite hard about who doesn’t get heard in the zine scene and how that can be changed. I’ve been involved in DIY scenes for 15 years and wanted to use that familiarity to open the door a little wider. I’m a middle class white punk and zine fests often feature alot of people like me – it can be a little too comfortable and I would like that to change. ZNY seems like a low key place to start – its a small project to help get zines into print that might not otherwise be published. We’re keen to do a good job with a small project rather than promising the world and half-arsing it – we’ve committed to printing a zine a month for 2019 then by the end of the year we should have some idea of whether its sustainable to continue.

 

 

ZL – What sort of process do you use to decide on recipients for the zines.need.you monthly publishing deal?

Helen Dearnley @helendearnleyillustration
Helen Dearnley – second zine published under the scheme

ZNY – There isn’t much of a process so far as it’s early days, and certainly no standard criteria for inclusivity. We are keen to avoid people feeling like they have to list all their points of marginalisation in order to get our attention so we’re largely trusting them to decide for themselves whether they need our help or not. We also don’t want people to feel like we’ll only print things they’ve written that focus on their experiences of oppression because we want them to be as free as anyone else to write about whatever they like. Some of my favourite zines are hilariously frivolous and making those shouldn’t be a luxury, you know? I think there’s a danger that those financially supporting projects can end up expecting to have influence over what is created, so in this project we’re trying to be mindful of that dynamic and so far staying out of people’s creative process as much as possible. That said it’s been really cool to get lots of queries about different parts of zine making and nice to be able to share knowledge about printing, cut and paste, mini zines, zine fests and so on.

We are bringing our experiences and knowledge of anti-oppressive practice to this project so there is a core ethos to who we are interested in hearing from. We’re keen for this project to show solidarity with communities of colour, disabled creators, neurodivergent folks, working class makers and so on, and especially the people who live in the overlap of those identities. There have always been rad zines being made by these folks but there are more that haven’t been printed for lack of funds and encouragement and that’s where ZNY hopes to offer a signal boost.

 

 

ZL – Do you remember the first time?

 

ZNY – The first zines I came across were ones that I got in the mail as part of art swaps coordinated online. The first few I got came from Australia and America and turned up in these wild envelopes covered in stickers or made out of x-rays. They absolutely blew my mind – looking back now the content wasn’t anything exceptional but the realisation that you could just crack on and make a zine and that there were other people out there who would read them was huge. Like I mentioned before I had been making these little homemade magazines since I was a kid and I’d always had this fascination with the form of magazines – free gifts and cut out coupons and letters pages. Finding there was a big scene of scrappy homemade versions of magazines was wonderful, and also tied into to other interests like anarcho politics, feminism, punk, etc etc. I grew up in the countryside and our house was down a long lane. Once I was home from college I was miles from anyone so my lifeline was MSN messenger until I found mailart and zines. It was the first time I felt connected to other weirdos and gave me hope that I could get to a city and find some in real life, which I did as soon as I could. So while I’ve read zines since that are more interesting or better written, those first zines will always be special.

 

ZL – You’ve just announced your first recipient hit on the heels of what looked like an extremely well received launch, how does that feel?

 

ZNY – It’s been very unexpected – we were hoping for maybe 50 instagram followers and to tick over quietly but then we got 800 followers in the first week and we’re still growing. The project was conceived as a small and self-sustaining project (basically we committed to putting our own money in for the first year) that didn’t need donations. So we didn’t think massively about getting attention other than trying to get the word out to people who might want printing. But now that people do seems to have noticed us then it’s nice to think that our featured zinesters might get some extra readers. And getting some donations has meant that we can increase our monthly budget which is really exciting.

 

ZL – You get to build the world’s most exciting web platform, people flock to see it, which five creators do you first showcase and why?

Jacq Applebee on WordPress
Written in Shadows by Jacq Applebee, first to be published by Zines Need You!

ZNY – First up would be Jacq Applebee, our February zinester, because they write about so many different topics with realness and humour and generosity. I would love a world where Jacq’s zines got left around on bus seats and in hotel rooms so that people who really needed them would stumble across them.

Then it’d be Saffa Khan who is well known in the scene but should really be a household name. She makes these exquisite and intimate zines that are precious and profound and beautiful – she has her own risograph machine and has really pushed things forwards with her use of colour and interesting layouts. I always want there to be a space for splotchy cut and paste zines but I love that there are DIY artists making things beautiful too.

Third and fourth is a double whammy of Holly Casio and Seleena Laverne Daye who each put out their own zines but  are close friends who met as penfriends on Teletext back in the day! They’ve been around zines longer than me and they kind of personify what I love about DIY – I first came across them as radical cheerleaders supporting The Gossip in 2003, since then between them they’ve been making art, zines, podcasts and loads of other shit. Since people are flocking to see my web platform I’d hope their showcase meant they could spend less time working and more time making glorious weird shit because it makes the world better. It’s hard to pick a final creator because I could go on forever so I’m going to pick a non zine wildcard, Kensuke Koike who is a collage artist I follow on instagram. His work is so simple and total genius, he manages to conjure humour, subversion and the unexpected out of a few cuts in old photos. It’s nice to run across people who spark off that sense of wonder and possibility with their work so I would recommend him to everyone, not that he needs my help!

 

 

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content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

The Short List – Nyx of Sea Green Zines

Disclosure – I have worked with Nyx on a contributor’s copy only zine before and am currently working with her on an anthology planned to release in June.

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ZL – You were one of the first YouTube channels to discuss zines, but there seems to be a wave of sites recently, how does that feel?

Nyx – I’m struggling for the right words, to be honest. When I started reviewing zines on my blog, zine enthusiasts seemed few and far between when you stepped off the We Make Zines site. And when you did find others, you’d almost be just as likely to find places that hadn’t been updated in a long time or clearly stated they wouldn’t be posting/reviewing/etc anymore. I hesitate to call it ‘renewed’ enthusiasm because there are many people who were there all along, but it does feel thrilling to be able to see so many sites, channels, and socials popping up where people are letting their zine love shine.

 

ZL – Do you remember the first time?

Nyx – I always loved books and reading, but the first time I truly fell in love with a book – or any creative work for that matter – is when I read The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley. I fell completely and utterly in love with the world she created (since before I could read, I’d had a strange, unexplainable conviction that I was meant to be in a much more arid environment than I was), I loved the main character, Harry, who just wanted to fit in, and I of course loved the adventure of hidden heritage and going with your heart even when your head didn’t quite understand.

I rented and re-rented The Blue Sword from the library so many times, always desperately hoping that it would end up in the excess bin where I could purchase it. (The internet existed, but I certainly didn’t have a bank or credit card to use online.) That book gave me the courage to write my own first novel with a world all my own. A novel I would spend a lot of my pre-teen and teen years rewriting many times and loving every minute of it.

 

ZL  – Given an unlimited budget and all the time in the world, what would be the project you’d make to be remembered by?

Nyx – Oh, my gosh. That is a question I think about quite a bit, both on the darker side with life being what it is and wondering if/how I’d be remembered and on the lighter side with what I would like to do had I the ability. My first thought went straight to a dream of mine to set up a multi-vendor website for zinemakers that doesn’t charge a huge amount of fees – big fees being a huge hindrance to people who want to sell $1-$5 items.

With an unlimited budget and all the time in the world, though, that would be thinking too small.Don't Call Me Cupcake 1

I would love to be able to set up a beautiful, relaxing distro bistro. Ha ha ha. A nice, open space that has coffee and nice food, plenty of tables and some comfy couches/chairs, a zine library section, and a zine shop as well. There would be a performance space in the corner for bands and zine readings as well as an adjoining room or two for holding workshops, zine club meetings, and we could even bring in travelling zinemakers to chat about what they’re working on – who could then sell their goods in the shop, of course.

This building would be paid for in full and a trust put into place so no one would have to contemplate selling it to pay the bills, etc. There’d be solar, water filters, and even a community garden space out back.

That might still be thinking too small, but I reckon it’d be fabulous.

 

ZL  – You’ve decided to start a distro up, can you give us some details about that and how it feels being trusted to rep other creators’ work?

Nyx – That I certainly have! I remember years back when I was first diving into zines: I was reading Stolen Sharpie Revolution, and when I got to the part about distros, I thought, “I want to run a distro someday.” Here we have the first little step. The distro will be officially opening within the next month – barring any hiccups. It will be its own shop tab on Sea Green Zines and will launch stocked with zines from Australia, Japan, and the US as well as my own.

Zine Pile

These kind of things need to be taken slowly and carefully if they are meant to last, so I’ve only been able to approach a few zinemakers so far. (I’m not selling on consignment and thus am approaching zinemakers instead of the other way around.) With reviewing, it’s all about my love for a zine. As a distro, it’s not enough to just love a zine; the zinemaker needs to trust me with their work. To have all positive responses so far has been absolutely brilliant.

 

ZL – I know you talked a little about having been published as a prose writer, but not in any great detail, could you tell us a bit about the experience?

Nyx – I’ve been writing stories since I could write. Even when I was very young, I understood that I was physically born to my biological family, but I was convinced that I wasn’t where I should be. Where I’d truly come from and where I belonged. I spent a lot of time thinking about that ‘other’ place and writing the stories that bloomed from there.

My first stories were not nearly so serious, though. One was about my brother letting out a nuclear fart that made humanity move to Mars, and another one about the ‘real’ story of the three little pigs and how history had it all wrong. Funny how I was so sympathetic to the wolf back then when, many years later, I’d start a series about werewolves.

I’ve been published in a few anthologies with short stories and non-fiction (Chicken Soup for the Soul if you’re familiar). I was lucky in that the experiences of submitting were clear cut and not at all vicious. Yes or no, read the contract at least a few times if it’s ‘yes’. It was an easy, straightforward introduction to mainstream publishing.

My three novels are self-published, though. I was never very patient, and that was to my detriment given the first book could use a rewrite. Live and learn, right? I taught myself along the way about formatting, layout, and so on, and it gave me the chance to meet a lot of great people who were/are cover designers, freelance editors, etc.

I adore zines through and through, but writing will always be my first love.

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

Review – Pocket Thoughts Annual #1

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Pocket Thoughts Annual #1

I love this little 16 pager in both thought and fact.

 

The Thought

It’s a gathering of a whole murders row of zinesters who gang about with each other online, by which I mean, there’s the core of a whole online scene here.  The thought that appeals so much here is the feeling that someone’s gathering up the troupe to put on a classic repartee performance for the audience. It’s the zine equivalent of a British ensemble cast. They all have their character they do so well that you never tire of seeing them do it. They’re all so good at what they do, they bring something new to it. They all like each other so much, that they just play together well and it’s damn fun to watch it all happen.

I love the thought that someone has finally put together this little scene as a physical object, it feels like the moment a notional thought has coalesced, a dream made reality is probably a step to far, maybe more a zine scene fest for your pocket?

The fact it’s a 16 pager of curated guests is as fitting as it gets really. Proper zine scene diy glory at its photocopied, immediate best. I should clarify why I say curated. Even if this wasn’t a by invitation production (by which I mean – I  have no knowledge of whether this was by invitation, or just ended up this way) you can still see who is in touch with who in this scene here. It’s really, as I say, a murders row of all the biggies in their scene. This isn’t some exclusionary thing though, just a gang of online friends putting a best foot forward for the fun of it to let people know what they’re at and invite them all in on it.

 

The Fact

It is a great little zine with everybody putting in a great turn. I literally liked everything in there. All killer, no filler is fair here – depending on your tastes of course. To expand a bit on that – this is just a great collection of zine creations. Its very typically zine; rough, Contents Listall about the personal. It get’s in there and talks quick and cheap or it speaks it’s own poetic idiom and asks you to meet it with your arms open. By that measure, everything is great because I feel that I get to know each contributor from their single page, there’s not one where I come away wandering what that person is about. As the zine is labelled ‘a showcase of zinesters from around the world’ you can’t ask for more.

For my own personal tastes, there are some that I connected with more than the others, but that’s more about me and my tastes and nature than it is about the quality of one over the other. I’m not going to go over them all, but 2 examples that stand out are Richard Larios’s (feral publications) piece, which is just so quick and blunt and to the point it made me absolutely smile. Literally the zine equivalent of a hardcore punk 30 second blast of rage. I don’t know if anyone knows who Steve Ditko is or what his later career after SpiderMan and Doctor Strange was like, but this had that same blunt, political smash of his later work (though a different political take). Latibule’s piece just struck a chord with its cleverly poetic image. What struck me was the way they both use the same language, but one is spitting and the other is singing (both in the best way).

To stop myself disappearing into a detailed little synopsis of every piece, what I want to say is that I like how the pieces have been ordered as much as I like the pieces. I like that there’s such a range of style and approach, but I also think that the individual pieces have been placed in an order that flatters each piece as part of the whole.

I’ve used the analogy of an album of music being about the whole rather than the strength of individual tracks and I think that this is the case here. What is all the more amazing is that this is the equivalent of a scene compilation but feels like an album and not a collection.

Really glad I got this and if you’re interested in zine scenes, this is a great little taster of this group.

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019

Review – Coffee & People 1 & 2

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five o'clock zines header

 

 

 

I don’t intend doing this often but Craig is someone who promotes zines and zinesters very effectively on his instagram account five o’clock zine – go follow that link and check out all of his reviews.

 

 

 

Review – Coffee & People 1 & 2

Two classic mini-zines this time round. A7 single pagers, typed and pasted up then photocopied and stuck down.

A lovely, immediate and simple format.

Coffee & People
Coffee & People – the perfectly formed mini-zone format

A format perfect for the two little stories told in these zines.

It’s very easy to say (and imagine) that such zines are just quickly thrown together, with little thought and can be quickly consumed and thrown away with little thought.  In truth the medium prevents great depths; the content likewise, is seemingly small and inconsequential in the grand scheme. All of this is true. All of this misses the whole point of the worth of these items.

These little zines are the hand of friendship reached out from another world, reaching a stranger in a strange land. They’re a conversation on a bus or bumping into the friend of friend you barely know. You may share the same proximity, but not the same world. They are in essence, one of the reasons I find great virtue in zines. They open ways of seeing I never knew existed and focus my eyes for a few minutes on existence as I’ve never seen it before.

Coffee & People
Coffee & People 1

Coffee & People works this well, keeping the language simple and clear, getting out of its own way and letting it be a conversation, rather than a didactic exercise or the florid flexing of some personal neuroses. What recommends these to me is getting to sit and experience a life never lived in a world I know nothing about, (something I’m always going to immediately like, it’s my current jam).

Coffee & People
Coffee & People 2

Of the two, issue 2 is my favourite with it being more focussed on what it’s telling us. It satisfies more, even though (or maybe because?) there’s less in it that I recognise from my own life.

 

I also like how inexplicit it is when coming full circle at the end.

In the end, these stories will not rock your world, they will not plumb the depths of the human soul. These stories will open your eyes to another human life and let you see what it’s like to be alive as that person, even if it’s only for a few minutes. If that’s your jam, then indulge with these homemade lovelies.

 

 

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Previous Review- Warglitter 1

 

all art copyright and trademark it’s respective owners.

content copyright iestyn pettigrew 2019