This is the story of going to my third 'zine culture' event, the 2014 Sheffield Zine Fest.
This is the station. Here is the train. I'm so very late, I meant to get up early for this one but then I accidentally fired up Civilization V on my PC at about 8 o'clock last night and... well, you know how that goes. The train gently climbs up into the Pennines; we've had no snow this winter so the hilltops are clear where last year they were white. The person sat opposite me has fabulous hair, blonde and black somehow fading from one to the other in a way that evokes bumblebees in an adorable fashion. I decide this is a good omen for the day.
Despite being generally fairly good with geography, I'm rubbish at remembering which is which with different towns in Yorkshire and expect it to take as long to get to Leeds, so am surprised when all of a sudden here is Sheffield with its pretty primary-coloured trams. Always nervous of food at events I stop off for a kids meal at burger king on the station, getting a pair of big pretend spectacles as my toy. I'm not sure what I make of them.
Across the road to the electricworks, a gorgeous shiny new building. The
signage is good - if I didn't already know, it's clear from these
that I'm in the right place. There's a helterskelter in the reception area that you need to go up to something like the fourth floor to use; I have shocking vertigo (really - I have to psyche myself up to stand on a chair to change a lightbulb) so last year this just scared me, this year I took more time to look at it, and maybe next year I'll take a ride down it. Though it'll be best if that's when no-one of a nervous disposition is nearby as I might take a few minutes after coming to a halt to stop crying or screaming.
Past the slide and into the two main rooms. We're in the same space as in 2013 but the layout
is different this time; I think it works
There are probably more stalls, certainly there is more room for stalls, and still a fair amount of chillout space. I think losing any more of the remaining chill space would be bad, but the extra stalls make it feel more lively taken in the round.
This time I want to go to at least three; the first is standing room only so I let it slide, the next is a "mail art" workshop which I do get along to. After that there are two more sessions and I decide to go to the one not run by the facilitator of the mail art session; not because they weren't nice or anything like that, just to try and mingle a bit more widely. Alas the previous workshop in room 2 has over-run by about half an hour and so I let my aim of attending this one go too. Still, the workshops do seem to be very popular and they work well for the likes of me in getting me talking to other people.
Speaking of the mailart session, this is where I finally learn how to turn two of the recipes in the origami
book that I won at the BiCon 2013 Pass-The-Parcel workshop into
successfully folded bits of paper!
Beware I may be sitting on trains for
the next couple of months carefully folding sheets of A4 to use for
some eyecatching flyer or other using the techniques learned. I just need some kind of event or survey to want to promote...
The actual sessions are in two workshop rooms. I don't
see anyone use workshop room three but it's been set up around a neat idea, a little quiet corner of zinester heaven with typewriter, longarm stapler, guillotine and suchlike in it.
There's so much variety in an event that seems to be bringing together many subcultural strands in one place. Fringe political voices; feminist zines; music zines, which I don't touch now but a billion years ago were one of my two introductions to small press culture before I found feminist and queer zines; things I somehow remember now as "normal zines", which are probably mostly perzine stuff often about growing up; art prints and terribly artsy things that I wouldn't go near but are clearly exactly what chimes for some others. It's interesting to hear people during the day describe different ones of these subcultures within Sheffield as being especially male or female spaces.
I'm reminded of my learning from last year: at a fair like this the zines really really need some kind of explanatory label next to them that outline what they are about and who they would appeal to. A clever name and the writer's favourite kind of paper and ink isn't enough, unless you are a regular reader of that zinester's work. "This is about teenage crushes looked back at from the safety of my 20s" is grand and quickly tells you if this is your sort of a thing.
A stall has badgemaking for 50p a pop - this is always a winner at events - and a fun game of write / draw consequences that impresses me greatly with its simplicity and potential for turning into a display later in the day.
I pop a couple of BCNs on the freebies table, which is a blur of a few zines and quite a lot of flyers for things. BCNs don't look very "zine culture" though, and the two are still there when I head off home around five. They'll keep for another table the organisers host somewhere else, I'm sure.
The evening has some more ace sounding things lined up, but feels like a space where I'd want to have one or two friends there or to have a role like taking donations on the door, and besides I have my own other plans for the evening back home.
Probably 51 weekends left to get round to all that in...