An Interview with Queer Zine Fest London’s Organiser
I interviewed Charlotte Richardson Andrews, organiser of London’s first ever Queer Zine Fest that’s taking place in December - Beth Siveyer
What was your main motivation/inspiration for hosting a queer zine fest?
I got sick of trawling through stacks of heteronormative zines at all the usual fests (as great as they are) in search of zines that reflected my experiences. I thought if I felt like, it was possible that others might feel like that too. I decided a festival organised by queers, for queers, in a queer-friendly space seemed like the most obvious, productive and exciting response to this. Queers have been a bold presence in the zine world, shaping the culture and innovating it, so I felt like it was time we had our own fest. I want QZFL to be a space where queer stuff is central and celebrated, rather than an incidental presence. QZFL was also about feeling more personally connected with fellow queer zinesters and overcoming isolation. I’m a freelance writer/journalist by profession and a lot of the work/writing I do is solitary, labouring over a laptop, muttering to myself, walking around in pajamas, obsessing on the internet. Writing, collaborating and contributing to zines is my favourite incentive outta the hermit work bubble. I heart the life-affirming community that zine scenes affords, the cultural validation and the friends I’ve forged through it.
How many/what kind of stalls are confirmed so far?
TONS! (Check out Facebook and Tumblr for full lists) We have distros from London, Leeds, Manchester, solitary zinesters, first time tablees, old hands, imported zines from as far a field as New Zealand and a number of previously out-of-print stuff getting a special reprint just for the fest (mainly courtesy of the Old zines For Old People table being run by Bill Savage and the Unskinny Bop peeps). I’m also super proud to say we’ll have material by queercore legend Larry-bob Roberts (of Holy Titclamps and Queer Zine Explosion) at the fest, along with wares from QZAP.com (Queer zine Archive Project), one of the most indispensable queer zine resources on the net. Bookmark them!
Any other activities e.g workshops, talks, readings etc?
Details for workshops and talks/panels are still being thrashed out, but confirmed speakers include queer UK zinesters Charlotte Cooper (POLY, KINK), Chela Quint (Adventures In Menstruating), Bill Savage (Pamzine) and Jay Bernard (BUDO), with more to be confirmed soon. I believe Chela will be doing a comedy set along with an educational workshop, and we’ll have 56a Info Shop running a couple of talks/workshops on squatting and zine archiving. I think there a big links to be made between squatting, queer and zines cultures – chiefly concerning autonomy, community and diy values – and given the increasingly harsh legislations being levied against squatters by the ConDem govt, I’m keen to show solidarity. We have room for a few more workshops, so do get in touch if you’re reading this and wanna facilitate something queertastic. As well as workshops, QZFL will also include exhibitions including posters of inspirational European women from Melanie Maddison’s Shape & Situates zine series and Deborah M. Withers’ touring exhibition, Music & Liberation.
Favourite queer zines?
Oh, where to start! We used zine art work for our 4 QZFL posters, so I should mention those: Nancy by Alex Long, Cinnamon Bunz Fanzine by Seb Fierce, Smug (by me, cover illustration by Louise Zergaeng Pomeroy) and Why Can’t You Draw Something Nice? by me and Michelle Mendonça all rule. Also, stuff by Charlotte Cooper, Pamzine, The Collective Scathings of Ioana Poprowka, Fag School, Shotgun Seamstress, Shape & Situate, Cristy C Road’s stuff, the Scumbag zines, JDs. I’m totally, utterly in love with Edie Fake’s work at the moment. His Gaylord Phoenix book is out of this world, and broke my heart into a million, cosmic pieces.
How do you feel about the representation of queer culture in the UK?
I don’t know if I see queer culture in the UK as complete and connected, and therefore able to be represented in any one, holistic way. The events put on by queer squat communities seem worlds away from affluent queer events at Southbank, for example. I think queer culture is subject to the same class, race and gender divisions in the wider world too; queer scenes can be in/ visible, accessible/closed and non/intersecting. My favourite queer culture is lo-fi, politicized, weird, geeky, intersectional - the stuff that disrupts dominant mainstream culture rather than assimilates with it. I also dig queer culture that unites young and old queers. I recently wrote an article on queer women in zine culture for DIVA magazine, which involved tracking down a number of older queer zinesters who’d been active in the 80s/90s and instrumental to creating vibrant queer zine scenes, here in the UK and elsewhere. I became keen not only to track down their early, mostly out-of-print work, but also to invite them to become active again, if only for a one-off burst of creativity pegged around the fest. My hope is that QZFL will allow younger queers to meet older queers and forge creative, fulfilling cross-generation friendships. As well as celebrating queer zine lineage, I hope the fest will encourage would-be queer zinesters young and old to feel inspired and empowered to create zines and add their own voices to zine culture.
Do you have any advice for anyone hoping to start their own queer event or zine fest?
Taking Cultural Production Into Our Own Hands, which I highly recommend checking out, has an excellent piece by Red Chidgey on this very topic. Like a lot of punk bands, I announced the fest before I had any idea what I was doing! A lot of it has been learning-as-you-go. Its been a diy, low-budget affair so far, though I’m heavily indebted to Jo and Rachael at Space Station Sixty-Five who reached out and offered to host QZFL. I’ve also been helped along the way by a tide of enthusiasm and supportive words from fellow queer zinesters, loved ones and friends. On a practical level, I’d recommend these things: excel files for planning all the geeky logistics/timetables/schedules, the www for spreading the word and loved ones for support and encouragement.
Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/232251613569656
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