Seven years ago, in the spring of 2004, Edd Baldry had an idea. He was working out of a squatters’ collective in Central London, producing and distributing a punk fanzine called Rancid News, which had interviewed such artists as AFI and One Minute Silence. Inspired by the Portland Zine Symposium, which had gained a reputation in the US, Edd got a team together and launched what would become the UK’s first major fanzine festival.
The 7th London Zine Symposium was held on 17 April, and the atmosphere was certainly festive. In the past few years the Symposium has found a home in The Rag Factory, just off Brick Lane, and this year the venue was filled to capacity. A colourful, young crowd of enthusiasts and passers-by browsed more than sixty stalls of DIY poetry, politics, comics and art. Upstairs, throughout the day, there were workshops on zine making and DIY music, and out by the patio, the Anarchist Teapot, selling tea, beer, and burritos.
The only caveat is that it’s something that you produce yourself for yourself…
Edd was happy to chat to us about LZS. So what exactly is a zine? “A zine is really whatever you want it to be. The only caveat is that it’s something that you produce yourself for yourself – at least that’s what I think of when I think of zines. It’s difficult to say what makes a ‘good’ zine – there’s such a variety that there’s no magic bullet.”
At an event with DIY as its main subheading, you might think it was a case of anyone just coming along and setting up shop, but this is far from the case – there is a meticulous application and selection process for who gets to sell what at the fair. “The whole first-come-first-served thing doesn’t really work with an event like this. There are about sixty stalls here today, but believe it or not, we turned down around a hundred applications this year – mainly from people who didn’t quite fit what we’re trying to promote – people selling crafts, jewellery, things like that. It’s actually quite a long process, getting it down to what you see here today.”
Unfortunately, the event is entering a time of uncertainty…
Looking around the stalls themselves, the sheer variety of what was on offer was a little disorientating. Many of the sellers, like Hugh Frost selling his Landfill Editions, are committed, year round zine-sters, promoting poetry, art, comics and short-fiction, either around London or from their websites. Others, such as Last Hours, produce an online political zine, and also work to promote the writing of radical political thinkers and activists.
So what’s in store for the future of the London Zine Symposium? Unfortunately, the event is entering a time of uncertainty. Edd will be leaving the organising body after this year’s event, along with co-organiser Natalie Ridgway. “We’re looking for someone to step in after us, but at the same time there’s the question of whether LZS is still necessary. When we started out, there was nothing like this happening in London, but now several other fairs have sprung up, and some of them have outgrown us. Is there still a need for the symposium? We’ll have to wait and see.”
The real question is whether anyone will be able to bring the same kind of enthusiasm to the Symposium after they leave. But looking around at the hundreds of fans who attended LZS last Sunday, this question seemed to answer itself.
Keep an eye on the website for details of the 2012 Symposium.