Fans of the zine scene
IN THE 1980s heyday of independent record shops, there was an important, non-music ritual that’s often forgotten. After steadfastly looting the new release racks, it was time to hit the obligatory space – usually the countertop, a table or pinned to the wall to stop people pinching them – for “zines”.
Zines are self-produced publications. Most often, they were made by hand and duplicated using a photocopier.
Print runs were short and the aesthetic was a DIY one: cut-and-paste typography, own photos, and a general disregard for publishing etiquette. Zines have been ubiquitous here since the 1970s, peaking in the late 1980s/early 1990s, but there is still a dedicated scene today.
This weekend the first annual Dublin Zine Fair, organised by Sarah Bracken, takes placeat the Ranelagh Arts Centre. “I have been going to the London Zine Symposium for the past few years and felt that we really needed one here,” says Bracken. “Having a fair in London has made the scene grow and has inspired so many people to make, or seek out, independently produced publications, so we hope that happens with the Dublin one.”
On Saturday, various zine-creators – from writers to illustrators, artists to graphic novelists – will gather to sell and exchange work.
One participant, Anto Dillon, is a zine afficionado who has has been involved in numerous publications over the past 15 years. Along with his brother Eugene, they created the popular Loserdomzine. First published in 1996, Anto Dillon was inspired by the sheer number of home-made publications around.
“I started reading zines in the early to mid-1990s. There was an active scene in Dublin and I was really curious, so I picked some up in Freebird and Comet [Dublin independent record shops] and was inspired.
“For us, it was about supporting local scenes, especially music, so we’d interview bands and write reviews.”
This interest led Anto to explore the global history of zines, culminating in a college thesis on their history in Ireland.
“There were fan fiction zines – where fans would write stories and collaborate with others by letter – going back to the 1950s, but the real starting point was the 1970s,” he says.
In March 1977, Stephen Rapid of Dublin band The Radiators from Space launched Raw Power,considered to be the first Irish fanzine. There were only two issues published, but the second carried the first-ever interview with The Undertones.
Bracken discovered zines in art college on a trip to New York, and was amazed not just at the volume that existed, but the diversity in style, execution and content. Along with Andrea Byrne, she set up Baby Beef Independent Press and starting publishing a zine that included poetry, stories and photos.
Like many, she graduated from traditional cut-and-paste fonts to more high-end work with binding that she sewed herself.
“While zines continue to survive globally, the internet has affected its culture. From blogging to Twitter, many now choose to forego the expense and hassle of production for an online platform.”
However, Anto Dillon says that blogs haven’t replaced zines, but that the decline is based on something else. “Content, and the means of distribution, has changed. Zines can’t compete with the immediacy of the internet, so they’ve had to become more visual. There has to be more of a reason for it to be on paper, which is why comics haven’t converted well to the internet. It’s a creative thing too, though – we have so many distractions these days that it’s hard to allocate the time to create something.”
Bracken is more optimistic about the connection between zines and the internet. “The internet is something we’re so used to, but handmade zines are special – you want to keep them, collect them. And the internet is an important platform to advertise that work.”
At the inaugural fair, there will be countless zines, comics and art for sale, and the day will end with a screening (with popcorn) of zine documentary $100 and a T-shirt.
Bracken believes the effort involved in making zines is to be respected and is here to stay. “I love how personal and unique they are, and making it yourself takes away the elitism.”
Dublin Zine Fair takes place at Ranelagh Arts Centre, Dublin, this Saturday from 12pm to 7pm. Free admission. See loserdomzine.com