The weeks leading up to it were spent in photocopying frenzies at libraries, getting photos processed, flyering and promoting, and folding and stapling and sticking and stamping away.
We were excited to be stocking new zines from Surrey, including mental health and travel zines from Human Bean Zines (We Are Adventurers, and Feeling Alone?, which can be viewed on our zines page), and from Michael Weller (a long-standing self-publisher who has been with zines/independent press since 1977/punk and who is full of great stories and knowledge). We were also promoting for the new charity TeamStrick, a sexual assualt support and awareness group linked to the campaign group RAINN, and a member of SW Zines had worked hard to make their first ever zine in aid of this cause (donations were taken on the day for the charity).
A couple of us tabled at the fair. We felt welcomed by the organisers, and even in those first few seconds of arrival, we could tell how much dedication and work had gone into organising and putting DIY Cultures Fair together. You can never, ever underestimate how much work it takes to do this stuff! From making a zine to hosting a table and selling your wares to something as big as holding and promoting an event - it all takes huge energy and commitment. It was nice to find that we were once again tabling next to Sky Nash with her illustrated press and assorted wares, and we got to know new people around us too, such as Alovera comics.
More moving still was hearing about the unfair barriers women all over the world face when it comes to music/bands. I was sad to hear about Pragaash, a group of teenage Muslim women who had had no choice but to disband after they received death and rape threats by Islamic militants after performing as a band, because they were deemed to be breaking religious codes of conduct. The song they played on the video screen was such a sweet indie-pop tune, such talented kids - I wanted to cry.You can read more about them here. That's the thing, sometimes it's easy for people to assume women have equality nowadays when there are some visible female pop stars, but circumstances and issues like this don't often get widely addressed/recognised.
Thank you to the wonderful speakers of Black Feminists for their excellent talk - Stephanie Phillips, Aurella Yussuf and Rianna Parker were so authoritative and articulate and inspiring.
Other talks throughout the day included ones on unemployment (I thoroughly enjoyed the guy who had turned stand up comedian after so many dispiriting experiences on the dole (Saban Kazim of Gissa Job Zine, who made a zine on the actual paper that you use when you are filling out your job search). I learnt a lot this day. You see things in a new light, and it's so important. Here how the language of unemployment has changed - eg it was once known as 'social security', something solid that we should all be able to seek out in times of dire need, now it is known as 'welfare' as if people are getting a hand out and it actually helps them when really it is a fight to live on the paltry sum alloted. Other speakers here were Sarah Tea-Rex (Graduating in Unemployment Zine), and Robin Bale (Dole arts).
The film about DIY artists was great too, which was DIY or Die (how to survive as an independent artist, featuring Ian Mckaye of Fugazi & Lydia Lunch). It will stay with me this quote even if I can only paraphrase it a little, which is how people might not 'get it' (your work) at first, they might find it weird and it might not fit in, but have to keep persisting with your work, because there will come a time when it isn't new or weird and someone out there 'gets it'. Very true.
The panel on Prisoner Zines, Writing & Creavity was also enlightening. And there was a discussion about 'craftivism' which perhaps I hadn't quite fully appreciated till now, but will investigate, since I protest and am creative so combining both is an ideal.
Since there were two of us on the stall (thank you so much Vicky for your hard work and help here! Really could not have done it without you!!!), there was opportunity to explore other stalls and talk to other small press/zine makers. I always enjoy the sharing of info with people at these events. I recommended independent printers, art/zine libraries, zines, I swapped flyers and learnt about others' work (zines and far and beyond), and I bought many, many wonderful, amazing creations. A week on, I have caught up on rest/sleep, and am still enjoying reading all the many zines I bought. The breadth of perspectives you get with zines is simply unique, and it keeps me sane in a chaotic and unaccepting world.
Here's to more events from Sofia Niazi, Hamja Ahsan (who let's not forget make 'zines too! Go here and here), and their friends and many volunteers (let's also not forget how many kindly volunteers were involved!), in the near future!
Now... go and read a 'zine!