Words by Jess Ralph
Much like the music and the fashion, zines were a direct product of 1970’s punk culture – spawned from its reactionary, DIY ethos and abrasive fuck-it mentality to anything conventional or coded with the traditions of what had gone before. Taking unlikely cue from the techniques of the hand made titles of sci-fi geek fan clubs in the 1940’s, a generation of guerrilla publishers, angered that the mainstream press were taking no notice of their scene, marched to the photocopier with a vision to create the kind of magazines they and their mates wanted to read. With Burroughs-esque copy and paste text and a provocative visual language, titles such as Sniffin’ Glue and PUNK across the pond filled their stuck together pages with gig reviews, punk literature and poetry, social commentary and if-you-know-you-know punk scene gossip. The revolution had a lasting impact on the British magazine industry – The Face and i-D both started life as Blitz kid zines.
Fast forward 45 years and a new generation are harnessing the creative and community generating powers of the zine, sticking two fingers up to the peddled proclamation that print is dead and creating similarly DIY publications for their niche and pop-culture disillusioned audiences. For those that may sniff at the relevance of good ol’ printed black and white post digital revolution, zines are arguably now more relevant than ever, giving space for underrepresented voices and emerging creative talent. More, providing tangible escape from the cultural white noise and swamp of pseudo-authenticity of social media.
Here are UNDERGROUND’s picks of five of the best UK based zines right now:
1. SORT Zine
One for lovers of the dark, dirty and macabre, SORT zine has its roots in East London’s queer underground, where Sort Studio creators stylist Matt King and filmmaker Joseph Delauney – who also run cult archival fashion hotspot Aro Archive – saw the need for a publication that reflected their own, and that of fellow freaks, fuck-ups, aliens and outsiders’ gothically twisted yet refined creative vision. Expect fetishwear inspired fashion experimentations and deep dives into the worlds of techno, industrial and noise.
Don’t let the the “Welcome to the dollhouse” tagline fool you – Polyster is anything but sweetness and light, its visual celebration of all things kitsch and camp more in line with John Waters’ subversion and the recent Gen Z femininst reclamation of the Y2K bimbo aesthetic. The zine covers fashion, culture and identity with an intersectional and cyberfeminist slant.
3. Dance Policy
Manchester based Dance Policy knows that its with the smaller venues that the proper music, proper fun and heart of club culture lies. Wanting a “gentler revolution in music reporting”, the zine features interviews with up and coming DJs and event promoters, photography and longer pieces on nightlife and youth culture.
4. So Young
Focusing on the shiniest emerging talent and releases from the world of underground alternative and indie – all wrapped together with magazines deliciously unique illustrations – So Young has been running for 39 issues so must be doing something right. The mag were early promoters of the acts associated with South London’s recent post-punk renaissance – Goat Girl, shame, Fat White Family and Black Midi to name a few.
Plaster is a contemporary art poster zine with postmodernist, pop-art sensibilities. Each issue is dedicated to profiling a singular image maker, posturing the artist as a pin-up with a mixture of images, interviews and essays. The latest issue is dedicated to photographer Harley Weir.