What makes a Zine, a Zine?

a hand holding a printed copy of RACEZINE

What exactly is a zine? As the Zine (pronounced zeen) becomes more and more a part of mainstream art and culture, and ahead of our new Zine, CENTRE, we decided it was well worth answering the question many of you may have been pondering quietly, but never dared ask aloud: “Just what exactly is a Zine?”

Is it a cheap way of displaying and disseminating art, a vehicle for the distribution of political ideas, maybe a glossy collection of photos in a trendy indie bookshop, or perhaps an important format of 20th and 21st century art? Are they handmade, each one unique, printed in small circulation or in bulk quantities? Are they ‘high-art’ or punk?

The not so simple answer, (you’ll be pleased to know) is nowadays people use ‘Zine’ to refer to any, and all of the above. This may seem like a bit of a contradiction, and that’s because it very much is.

In order to understand this contradiction, it’s helpful to have a very brief history of Zine-making. It’s hard to pinpoint a particular time or instance of The First Zine, but there are a few pretty good examples throughout the 20th century of the format, for instance, Sci-fi fan literature and ‘fanzines’ from the 1930s onwards. Fans of existing Sci-fi literature used the format to discuss published stories and share theories/fanfiction amongst themselves, bypassing the need for controlling or selective editors and publishers.

The format also became popular amongst hardcore fans of different music genres, including Rock ‘n Roll, Punk, and paving the way for commercially successful publications like Dazed, Vice, and NME. Latterly Zines were used as a way of disseminating political ideas and organising political thought, like the Queercore and the Riot Grrrl movement of the 80s/90s. These zines were characterised by a Do-It-Yourself aesthetic, and at their root was a desire to centre marginalised voices (although Riot Grrrl as a movement was fairly white and heteronormative), to subvert and challenge unequal power structures, and to foster a sense of community in shared experiences. (woo)

Unfortunately as with most things, as the Zine has become increasingly popular, it has also begun to be appropriated by corporations. (boo) For example, that expensive glossy photo-book in the trendy indie bookshop that we mentioned earlier. The Zine DIY aesthetic is also one that corporations have attempted to appropriate. Despite this, and the introduction of the internet, the Zine as a physical object, continues to be an important format for contemporary activists and creatives.

So what content actually goes into a zine then?

So we’ve covered where Zine’s come from, now what’s in them…This time the answer is pretty simple…anything goes! Just some examples of things might be; stories, poetry, prose, collage, photos, drawings, visual art, recipes, scanned objects/items, song lyrics, reviews, letters, articles, research, infographics, political manifestos…the list goes on!

Feeling intrigued and inspired? Check out our open submission to have your work printed in CENTRE Zine in collaboration with RACE ZINE and Okocha Obasi.

Image credit: Race Zine, 2019, courtesy of the artist, Okocha Obasi.

Lets meet LoUis CYfer!

With just over a month until our our Cabaret College, we caught up with award winning drag king and actor Lucy Jane Parkinson, aka LoUis CYfer who we’re collaborating with for this set of online workshops..

LoUis CYfer was the first Drag King to win the crown at Drag Idol UK and has gone on to become a well known performer in the UK cabaret scene. A regular collaborator with theatre company Milk Presents, they have performed in theatre shows across the UK, balancing their acting and writing alongside appearances as LoUis CYfer. Having led some drag king workshops for us back in November 2019 we’re thrilled they are back to work with us on the Cabaret College. 

An androgynous person dressed in plastic gold armour poses with a hobby horse while a glitter canon goes off behind them
Lucy Jane Parkinson in JOAN. Milk Presents.

Q. Can you tell us about your past work?

As well some stints working in a Chinese takeaway and Morrisons, I have worked in in some of the best cabaret bars in the UK. I’ve travelled all over the world from Texas to Australia, performing both cabaret and theatre. I’ve run workshops which raise awareness around gender, masculinity and drag, alongside some of my favourite people in the whole world (Milk Presents). Together we cleaned up at the Edinburgh fringe a few years ago winning a Fringe First, a Stage Award and Spirit of the Fringe for our hit cabaret theatre show: JOAN. I’ve done lots of work with Milk Presents with shows such as BULLISH and video poetry projects like MY ENGLAND. Before lockdown I had just finished a restoration comedy at the Young Vic Theatre and a drama for the BBC.

Q. What is the character of LoUis CYfer like?

LoUis is like nobody I’ve ever met, he’s charming yet cheeky, he’s strong and masculine but delicate like a soggy dandelion. He’s a dickhead that you can’t help but have fun with.

Q. What got you into drag / cabaret and what do you like best about it?

I was an artist studying my masters and at the same time was having a complete identity crisis; LoUis was my way of processing my confusion. The best thing about cabaret is that the show isn’t someone else’s script, it’s all your own, and having a stage for your voice, (albeit to pissheads), feels like a great opportunity to create discourse in an entertaining manner.

Q. Is there anything about drag and cabaret you’d like to see change? 

Drag and cabaret is always changing and is constantly in flux, if you want me to say I’d like to see more kings I’m not going to do that … What I would like is to be able to see more arts funding for this genre as lots of cabaret artists are living hand to mouth. It would be good if we could apply for funds to make our travelling performances more like conventional touring theatre in terms of having a team and budgets for lighting and sound. Being on your own and doing everything can be a real stress and sometimes you forget to enjoy it.

Q. What do you hope to achieve through the Cabaret College? 

I want to improve the quality of the work on the scene. I’m sick of seeing people have to enter all these competitions to get recognition. It’s not a good start and doesn’t facilitate self – sufficiency and critical reflection for the artist. It is crucial to equip creative people with the tools to make good quality work.

Q. As someone working in the performing arts how have you adapted under COVID? What are you excited about working on in future? 

I’ve gone digital baby!!! This includes working with my own avatar as a way to explore character and technology. I’ve started my own podcast called FANNY KLUB and have been working with my partner in crime Rebecca Banatvala on our queer theatre company Korupt Kabuki. We have been writing monologues for actors to perform to camera, writing our own comedy show BOXTICKERS and thanks to Daisy May Cooper we have been writing our first treatment for a TV show about how we met. It’s been all go here at HQ.. Before lockdown I was due to start 6 months at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in Twelfth Night so once things open up again I’m hopeful they will begin rehearsals and I’ll get my big break back!

Lucy leans over a table to help share drag king makeup skills to two participants who have painted on some thick eyebrows
LoUis facilitating a drag king workshop for Andro and Eve. Nov 2019

Can you tell us about someone that inspires you? 

Without trying to sound like a dickhead, no particular person inspires me. I find moments and memories inspiring but to be inspired I feel like you have to see something in someone else that you aspire to be or have.. I don’t feel like I’ve had the opportunity to see myself in anyone yet. Having said that I wouldn’t mind waking up one morning to find I am Jodie Comer, Victoria Wood, Robin Williams, Cathy Burke or Daisy May Cooper.

To find out more and apply for a place on the Cabaret College course head here and complete the short application form. Deadline 30 July. You can find out more about LoUis CYfer by following him on Instagram. 

Who is Okocha Obasi?

Head & shoulders portrait of Okocha Obasi. He is stood against a white wall in bright sunlight, wearing some oversized and chunky orange sunglasses.

Ahead of the launch of our new zine, Centre, we caught up with RACEZINE founder, recent graduate and our latest collaborator, Okocha Obasi (he/him).

Okocha is a graphic designer and recent graduate from Leeds Arts University. In the past three years, he has created an array of projects, characterised by bold designs and themes that are socially engaged and conscious. Obasi is the creator of the RACEZINE whose aim is to platform creatives of colour, and Okocha has produced many projects including a non-profit zine, performance events and colourful and infamous club night TONGUE N TEETH. (All whilst completing his Bachelors degree – crazy right!?)

Q: So, Kocha, what can you tell us about your previous projects?

A photograph of a RACEZINE clubnight.
A party-goer at TONGUE N TEETH, image courtesy of the artist, Okocha Obasi.

Okocha: I do a range of different projects ranging from styling, art direction to speculative focused critical design. I use whatever medium is needed to prove or communicate an idea. I like to blur the lines between different practices in order to create visually cathartic pieces of work, hence why I see myself more as artist, than ‘graphic designer’. Whether it’s a poster, club night, event, motion graphic or textile design, all my projects have purpose and direction for impact. For example, my brand RACEZINE COLLECTIVE was made out of the pain of being the Othered my entire life. I created a zine publication known as RACEZINE to share the voices of creatives of colours who tend to go unnoticed in the white dominated Northern art-spaces. Other projects include TONGUE N TEETH, a club night which welcomes those othered, in a temporary carnival-like space, offering moments of escape.

Q: When did you get into zines, and what is it you like about them?

Okocha: I have always been into zines, and since I was young have enjoyed looking through independent bookstores or zine libraries up and down the country. I like how they can take any form, style and narrative, allowing less-heard voices to become physically achieved and known. There’s something very timeless about how zines represent certain eras, highlighting different the social issues of different periods, provide commentary and can be a form of liberation or rebellion. I like the power of self-publishing things, which bigger establishments might view as too
‘risky’. Zines themselves are forms of protest against what is allowed or expected, which naturally makes them an expression of punk. And punk, has always been political and pushing the boat where’s it’s never been and that’s very exciting.

Q: What do you like about living in West Yorkshire/Leeds?

Okocha: What I love about Leeds is the definitely the club nights, as I have had many good (and messy) nights out!  I also love that many people are very down to earth and genuine, it feels like you can breathe more so than London at times. There’s definitely been a surge in creative collectives which is always inspiring. I love the D.I.Y attitude that comes with these collectives, that often comes with being thoughtful about who and why they are creating spaces. On a personal level, I grew a lot in Leeds as well for a range of different reasons, which I will always thanks the city for. Overall as a creative it’s a good place to fail, learn and succeed, as it cheap and accessible for many different things. 

Q: What do you find challenging about living in Leeds?

Okocha: I think there are a lot of white dominated spaces, which can feel very suffocating as PoC. I think also the mass amount of students made me very anxious as some people views definitely did not align with my own. I wish there were more regular art shows which are not inherently fine art and white. I think it’s great a lot of different art spaces are created by DIY collectives, but I wish there were more radical exhibitions and shows, led by established art organisations & spaces.

Q: What do you hope to achieve with Centre? 

Okocha: I hope to represent all the voices meaningfully and create a loud, bold and visually cathartic zine publication. One which will be cherished by all those who get a copy. I definitely want it to be completely different to all my past work in regards to style….just expect every page to be visual ecstasy….that’s all I’m going to give away for now 😉 

Q: Can you share with us someone that inspires you?

Okocha: My mother’s strength runs through my blood. Being completely resilient to any downfall what comes her way has always made me realise even in the darkest times we can rise. My mum taught me how to survive independently and warned me about every bad wolf in the world from a young age. I think that’s why I see the world the way it is and with that, find strength in using light to reveal the dark.

Q: I think it’s only fair to finish by asking you the same question we’re asking of all the artists who submit a response to Centre. Can you tell us, in 50 words or less, what matters most to you? 

Okocha: Being unapologetic. I am young but feel like I’ve lived a long life due to a range of experiences, good and bad that have shaped who I am today. I have grown, broken myself and grown again, which has taught me now, more than ever, to be completely unapologetic in everything I do.

a hand holding a printed copy of RACEZINE
RACEZINE, 2019, image courtesy of the artist, Okocha Obasi

You can see more examples of Okocha’s work, and follow him on Instagram, here.

Title image credit: Okocha Obasi, photographed by @undinemarkus.

 

CENTRE, a new zine!

This summer we’re very aware that many LGBTQ+ people will be missing the annual Pride celebrations, places where communities can come together and feel free, standing up for what matters to them.

We’re also aware that as event organisers, we can’t physically bring people together. That is why we are collaborating with artist Okocha Obasi to create a zine. Obasi is a graphic designer and recent graduate from Leeds Arts University, and the creator of the RACEZINE COLLECTIVE whose aim is to platform creatives of colour. RACEZINE COLLECTIVE has produced projects include a non-profit zine, performance events and infamous club night TONGUE N TEETH.

Through our collaboration we’re launching the new zine ‘Centre’. The hope is that this can act as method to connect folx across the North of England and provide visibility and a voice to our queer community, particularly those often marginalised.

So with that in mind, here’s what you need to know about our latest project!

CENTRE: A new zine

What’s at your centre? What matters most? What are your hopes for the future, and how is this informed by who you are?

CENTRE is about centering untold stories. We want responses from all ages, and all walks of life, but are particularly interesting in hearing and documenting Queer and QTIBPOC stories in the North of England. We’re also keen to hear from LGBTQIA folx identifying as neurodiverse, deaf or disabled.

We’re looking for responses in the form of: Letters, personals stories, personal historical materials, recipes, interviews, art, comics, drawings, prints, paintings, spoken word, intergenerational collaborations, short stories and anything else that you want to share with the world.

To submit something all you need to do is complete our Google form and attach your submission there. If you have any issues using tech, or need extra support, drop us a line and we’ll do our best to help you.

Deadline for applications is midday on Monday 10th August.

We cannot guarantee that all work submitted will make it into the published zine, however we may (with your permission) publish your work on our website instead.

The zine will be published in the Autumn and launched with a special online event. More details to be announced!

We look forward to receiving your work!

Drag King Workshops Online

Next week we’re producing our first online version of our drag king workshops, and collaborating with Christian Adore to do so.

This 3 week course is designed to give participants tools needed to make an original drag character, and have some fun exploring what can be done with them! This short video gives you a good idea of what the workshops will involve and a sense of what Christian Adore is all about!

 

Workshops take place at 7.30pm GMT on the 8th, 15th and 22nd July. We might not be physically gathering in Sheffield, but there’ll be plenty Yorkshire charm!

Booking for each workshop closes at 10am the day before in order that participants have time to prepare the materials they need and get the Zoom link from us.

Sliding scale tickets available and free bursaries for those with restrictive incomes. Contact us if you’d like a free place. Or book now to get in on all the fun!

 

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