Project Summary and Reflection

Outside(R) Zine Festival took place across various venues in Coventry between Friday 7th October – Sunday 9th October. Outside(R) was the result of a collaboration between two Warwick Postgraduate researchers, Carys Hill and Hande Çayır, The Pod, a secondary mental health social brokerage and cultural hub which sits within Coventry City Council Adult Social Care, and Hannah Williams, a Warwick University alumni and former Development Worker and Social Advocate at The Pod.

The aim of Outside(R) was to bring together zine makers, readers and lovers from different groups – the local community, DIY community, and students and academics from Warwick, Coventry and other universities – and encourage people to establish new connections and explore the potential of zines as catalysts for learning, meeting and connecting. The theme invited a variety of people and topics: from anyone who has experienced feeling like an outsider (including women, queer people, people of colour, disabled people, trans people, fat people, sex workers and anyone who is otherwise marginalised), to anyone whose practice links to the outside (e.g. urban walkers, psychogeographers, allotmenteers, nature lovers, plant enthusiasts, architects).

The first event of Outside(R) was “An Audience With…”, a panel event held at Fargo Village, Coventry. We invited three panellists with different approaches to and relationships with zines to discuss the politics and emotions of zine-making. I (Carys) chaired the discussion, and the panellists were: Jess Noble, a Sociology student at Warwick who makes zines covering themes of feminism, sex and masculinity; Wade Radford Zane, a zine maker based in Warwickshire whose work covers themes of sexuality, sexual freedom and domestic abuse; and Tamsin Walker, an artist, illustrated and PhD researcher on the project MadZines researching zines and their role in contesting mental health knowledge and practice at the University of Central Lancashire. The topics discussed covered a wide range – I asked the panellists about how they came to zine-making, how zines offer ways to communicate messy and complicated feelings and experiences, in what ways zines are specific as a way of communicating, the role of the materiality of zines in their capacity for feeling and storytelling, how they feel about sharing their zines, and the politics of making and housing zines in institutional contexts including universities and libraries. We had some questions from the audience towards the end, and also an interval with music from CO-EXIST presents: Hell No. Co-Exist, a multi-media performance ft Lucy Anne Sale and Andy Whitehead, which was organised by The Pod.

The second event was a Zine Fair which took place at Coventry Cathedral. We tabled sixteen different zine makers and collectives who were selling their zines who came from across the UK. This included a collective student table with Jess Noble’s zines, ‘Bad Sex is a Political Issue’ and ‘Feminist Masculinities’, and my zines, ‘A Zine About Being a Working Class PhD Student’ and ‘I went to a feminist conference (+ it made me feel normal)’. The zine makers came through a variety of connections – some of them were people I had met at previous zine festivals, some were people The Pod had connections with, and some were people who had applied via our call for tables on social media. There were also workshops throughout the day, including from PhD researcher Pavine Phung, ‘Stitched with love: stories of family migration’ and academic Nirmal Puwar, ‘Space Invaders: What can a Cathedral become for outsiders?’. We advertised the festival through posters, social media, word of mouth, and mailing lists, and this was reflected in the diversity of people who came through the Cathedral doors: some were long-time zines lovers, some were curious about zines, and many saw something happening in the Cathedral and wandered in to have a look around. I was a bit nervous before the Zine Fair that we would only have zine-lovers come – although zines have a long political history based in communities, zines and zine culture can be quite intimidating to people who aren’t familiar with them. Being in a city-centre location really helped with this: people could pop in and wander around without the feelings of nervousness that can come with feeling like an outsider at an arts event.

The final event was a Brunch, held the day after the Zine Fair at The Pod. We wanted to have an event which provided some space for discussion, reflection and planning for the future. It was lovely to sit down and chat with some of the people who had come to the fair – we wanted Outside(R) to have a life and legacy beyond just the three days it took place.

Putting Outside(R) together wouldn’t have been possible without the various funding we were supported by. Arts activities are often a labour of love, and all too often this labour goes unpaid. Particularly during a cost of living crisis, it felt important that we budgeted for this. Thanks to funding from Coventry University’s Wellbeing Community Project Fund we covered venue hire, the Sunday brunch provided by The Pod, advertising (including a local graphic designer who made a poster for the festival), paying workshop holders at the zine fair, and paying the musicians from the Friday night. Funding from the Centre for the Study of Woman and Gender helped pay for Jess Noble to print some of her zines to table at the zine fair, and funding from IATL enabled us to pay each speaker at ‘An Audience With…’ for their time, and some of mine and Hande’s (it’s worth pointing out here that when applying for IATL funding, they ask you to allocate funds to reimburse some of your own time). I think my biggest regret funding-wise was not allocating funds for the zine makers at the zine fair. There were discussions between all the different people involved in making Outside(R) happen about the budget, and through these discussions it was decided that a chunk of the IATL funding should go towards a DJ at the Zine Fair. In the end, we couldn’t book a DJ in time, and this funding ended up being unused and repaid to IATL. On reflection, in recognition of the commitment to help out everyone as much as possible, perhaps that budget would have been better spent on, for instance, a travel fund for all the zine makers who had travelled so far to come and be part of Outside(R). I regret that this didn’t happen, and learnt an important lesson for next time: before you budget for fancy stuff, make sure everyone gets paid!

Thanks to everyone who made IATL happen: the other organisers, the funders, the workers at the various venues, the zine makers, and all the people who came along.