Zine Fairs, or a Blizzard on a trestle table
I started making zines on Christmas Day 2014. There was no snow, no blizzard then; that was reserved for later wen I started selling zines at fairs. Zine events are white; really white, no matter where they happen in the U.K. With a couple of exceptions* I’m often the only black person tabling, though there are usually a some POC attending as shoppers. The Blizzard Scale explained: http://j-applebee.tumblr.com/post/160014567848/the-blizzardscale
I’ve had discussions recently with a few organisers of zine fairs held in different parts of the country about the lack of diversity at their fairs. Their responses showed a powerful ignorance of the needs and issues facing zine creators who are marginalised or oppressed (POC, Disabled, Working Class, Older, and LGBT+. All these groups are likely to be poorer, so costs for tabling, production and travel to the events will be difficult to budget for.
Issues and Solutions:
Finding out about zine events is another issue, as plenty of fairs attract tablers by word of mouth or invitation only, so marginalised creators are unlikely to find out about these events until the publicity for attendees goes out. I’ve been told by a one-woman zine fair organiser, “We can’t force marginalised creators to approach us for tables!” This way of thinking is plainly ridiculous. If organisers truly want diversity, then they have to make an effort to attract us. This could be as simple as doing a general call for tablers, but stating you’re looking for marginalised creators too; having a quota, or offering tables for a reduced fee (even if that reduction is small). These things show that you’re aware of us and want us at your zine fair.
I’ve tabled at zine fairs held in the basement of a pub, where zero customers visited. The space was down a steep staircase, making it inaccessible to creators and customers with mobility issues. This lack of consideration made me despair. Accessibility isn’t just just for those in wheelchairs – I’ve also tabled at a fair in the back room of a noisy pub where my tinnitus played havoc the whole time.**. On one horrible occasion, a zine fair was held in a London bookshop which had a racist book prominently displayed there.
The U.K is a place with marginalised and oppressed people living in every part of it. Zines are at its heart a tool created for these groups whose voices are often ignored and silenced. Nobody would know that from the makeup of most zine fairs though.
NW Zinefest https://northwestzinefest.wordpress.com,
Weirdo Zinefest https://www.facebook.com/events/865940280157674 (2017 event)
DIY Cultures http://diycultures.tumblr.com
Penfight Distro https://penfightdistro.com/zine-events/ has a calendar of Zine fairs throughout the year.
@POCZines http://poczineproject.tumblr.com is a mainly U.S based group that supports Zinesters of Colour
for actively encouraging marginalised zine creators.
**There is NO REASON to hold events in a pub nowadays. Yes, pubs can be cheap or even free, but the majority of pubs are also very unfriendly/off-putting/inaccessible for:
Women & Femmes
People of Colour
Religious people (esp if they wear religious dress)