The Diary: Fans of the ’zine

Fanzine Festival duo Chella Quint (lef) and Bettie Walker at the Electric Works, where the event will take place.
Fanzine Festival duo Chella Quint (lef) and Bettie Walker at the Electric Works, where the event will take place.
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IN the age before the internet, they were the reading fodder and writing forum of choice for punks, footy fans and science fiction geeks

The humble fanzine – home-produced mags full of prose, poetry and pictures of questionable copyright – provided a creative outlet for thousands of youngsters in the Seventies and Eighties.

Writers tended to have a little spare time, a lot of snotty opinion and, only occasionally, a basic grasp of the English language. Readers tended to find their hands covered in dried ink and glue.

But now these do-it-yourself rags are back in fashion.

Next month will see Sheffield Zine Fest 2013 being held at Electric Works in Concourse Way, off Sheaf Street, city centre. Organisers are promising more than 30 stalls, several workshops and a handful of readings, and they’re expecting some 500 people from across the country to attend.

“What’s the point of fanzines now we have the internet?” says co-organiser Chella Quint. “There’s so much point. They’re real for one thing. You can hold them. It’s something people have put their heart into. You don’t get that investment with an online blog.”

The fest’s fanzines themselves are diverse, indeed.

From one woman’s guide to how to deal with street harassment to a series of make-belief love letters exchanged between planets; from notes and illustrations on fixing a bike to one little charmer called simply Opinionated Nobody, it seems there is no subject too big, too trivial or too random to turn into a strangely compelling read.

Fans of mindless drawings might like Mindless Drawings; lovers of Man United may appreciate Why I Hate Chelsea; and anyone who likes illustrations of girls kissing (and frankly, who doesn’t?) could do worse than flick through Anatomical Heart.

And they’ll all be available to buy, barter, swap and shop at the fest. Prices range from a quid to three or four.

“People write about some pretty random subjects,” admits second co-organiser Bettie Walker. “But that’s the beauty. There’s something for everyone.”

The pair themselves got into fanzines through their love of music – “I wanted an excuse to talk to They Might Be Giants,” says Chella, 36, a New York City native now living in Meersbrook. “I started a fanzine so I could interview them.”

And they met, appropriately enough, at a fanzine fair. They would bump into each other at events across the country – London, Manchester, Bradford – before getting to know each other at the first Sheffield Fanzine Festival in 2011 at the now shut Cafe Brezza.

“The people who organised that aren’t in Sheffield any more,” says Bettie, a 29-year-old mental health worker from Gleadless Valley. “So we decided to carry on the legacy.”

Zine Fest is on March 16, 12-5pm. Visit www.sheffieldzinefest.wordpress.com