A lot of us feel dissatisfied with the mainstream women’s magazines – or even if you don’t mind reading Cosmo occasionally, sometimes you get the urge to read something really different. Well ladies, I know exactly how you feel – and the answer is to get hold of some ZINES!
I know how difficult it can be to get a foothold into the world of zines. I, for one, never experienced anything like this when I was at school (and I wish I had). Oftentimes, it seems that it’s only possible to get copies of these things if you are active in whichever ‘scene’ they are focussed around: riot grrrl, for example, or punk. But I hope that by printing some contact details here, more young women will be able to dive in to the fantastic, vibrant, UK zine scene. (I have concentrated on UK zines for the time being – but many of them contain contacts for other excellent European or international publications).
There’s so much good stuff out there – it’s really cheap, and it’s real; it’s refreshing, it’s exciting! Go for it!
(p.s. I haven’t been able to get permission from all the featured zinesters to reproduce their addresses here – if your zine is here but you don’t want it to be, just let me know and I’ll remove it straight away.)
Many thanks to Jane Collins, who contributed the majority of the reviews here. But first, let’s start off with her own zine, Electra.
[n.b. These zine reviews are now quite old. It is probably best to email or write first to check whether they are still available.]
Electra is a music-focussed zine with a feminist twist. It’s a HUGE A5 zine, with about 65 pages which will keep you engrossed for ages!
A fun article about the top ten tunes to dance to (with hilarious descriptions of the dances too)
The zine is focussed on music, including interviews with band members, reviews of Ladyfest Scotland, tales of shopping for second-hand vinyl, and a fun article about the top ten tunes to dance to (with hilarious descriptions of the dances too). And there’s much more! But it’s not just music: Jane knows her feminism and expresses it in articles on body image, Sylvia Pankhurst, women in advertising, and a really fascinating and inspiring article on the death of riot grrrl and the future of feminism. There’s also just enough personal stuff to make it interesting and to delve a bit deeper into the author’s brain! Electra also features contributions from other zinesters, and news of various UK girl projects such as Anna’s distro and Linzy’s film project. At the back are LOADS of useful, in-depth zine reviews, most reprinted below. I also liked the layout and design of the zine: it’s filled with cool pictures, and each page has a different style. I particularly liked the design on the riot grrl article, the tribute to Bette Davis and the women in advertising rant. Very distinctive – I can’t wait for the next issue!
From what I can gather, Synthesis is an anarchist-hardcore-punk-straightedge-vegan-activist-feminist zine; but whatever the labels you put on it, it makes for darn good reading. Amongst other things, Issue 4 features articles on human rights, abortion, Nestle, UK politics and sisterhood. Issue 5 is really professional looking and comes in a funky purple, black or green cover. There are hundreds of articles in here: from in-depth interviews with activists and bands, news about gm food, and protest actions, surveys on human nature, and general other pro-women stuff. Both issues feature amusing hardcore predictions for the coming years, (e.g. “March 2010: Quaker-core has been sweeping the punk scene for the past 2 years. Silent gigs have become all the rage for middle aged hardcore kids who are now almost all in an extreme state of deafness.”) and articles on Laura’s continuing studies into children’s rights. Synthesis Issue 5 also comes with a really cool, free patch with either “pro-choice” or “smash-sexism” logo! How cool is that! There is also a Synthesis distro where a lot of the stuff is free. Write and she’ll send you a package so full of interesting and subversive stuff you’ll feel like it’s Christmas all over again. Check out the website too – it features the amazing guide ‘Fight Like a Girl.’
50p, Isy, Anarchist Teapot, c/o Tillbury Place, Brighton BN2 2GY OR from Synthesis distro – see above for details.
A close escape from being stampeded by a herd of cows – and her bad experiences whilst “on the rag”
Morgenmuffel is an excellent zine. It’s full of cartoons and drawings by the amazing Isy. The cartoons tell of what’s been happening in her life; from a part-time job at the post-office, her work with the Anarchist Teapot (a catering co-operative), her trip to protests in Barcelona, and her retelling of the binmen’s strike in Brighton. It also includes short personal cartoons, like a close escape from being stampeded by a herd of cows – and her bad experiences whilst “on the rag”. Also features a recipie at the back. In the middle of the zine is a fantastic pull-out called “Fighting Back”: a hand-drawn leaflet on self-defence for women and girls, which Isy has given up copyright for – photocopiers at the ready! Give it to all your friends. For an example of Isy’s artwork, visit her website
The following reviews have been kindly contributed by Jane Collins of “Electra” and first appeared in Electra #3.
50p and A5 SAE. Laura, Over Abington Cott., Abington, Biggar, Lanarkshire, Scotland ML12 65F
Rather a plain looking zine this one. I didn’t get a cover! this zine focuses on reviews and intrviews with your regular indie fodder. However it’s written in a witty style and has a very on-the-ball rant about the Manics and their politics. A sympathy for short people gets my vote obviously. Reviews: Easyworld, Feeder, Helen Love, Muse, King Adora, Crackout, The Donnas and Murray the Hump amongst others. Interviews with McKlusky, Ballboy, Purple Munkie, Union Kid and Monkey Steals the Drum.
Free with stamp or nice swap. Michelle, 14 Laverdene Road, Sheffield S17 4HJ England
A groovy article about comp tapes and how to decorate them
This is like a mini-zine really, made up of a couple of A4 pages and all hand-written. It’s written whenever Michelle has the time but I’m reviewing the most recent one, not sure which number it is. This issue is mostly taken up with a groovy article about comp tapes and how to decorate them, etc. Also features record ‘n’ zine reviews, thoughts and opinions on stuff and an admiration for ’80s and electro, hooray. It’s really well written in an honest, sarky style. Very witty and refreshing. You can get a whole bundle of old issues if you send Michelle a bit of money. I’m not sure how much ‘cos Michelle’s a vague kitten but I’d say from about 50p to a quid. Well worth it as well as the old issues are full of great stuff. From reading them Michelle is a big fan of Bis (Steve is interviewed in one ish), an obsessive fan of the Human League and Heaven 17 and other eighties bands. She also writes about minor tv and radio personalities (hello Stuart Maconie) culture and reviews zines and records sporadically. A really good read so get writing for nice envelope of swag. I like Michelle, she reminds me of me at three o’clock in the morning but with a better tape collection, damn.
I thoroughly enjoyed issue two of Firefly and brilliantly this issue is even better than the last. It’s packed with loads of ace stuff like music, gig reviews, fab articles and interviews. Vicki does a lot of music reviews again which I adore, her demo reviews have got me itching to hear the likes of Gazoonga Attack and Moonkat. We also get zine reviews, Nick Cave, and Twist five and a V2000 report. What makes this issue super super special is that it’s got an interview with the fabulous Janet Weiss of Quasi/Sleater-Kinney fame. Hooray!!! Also fab interviews with great bands like Electrelane and Gertrude plus lesser known folks like Moonkat, Violet Tumble and The Cherry Bombers. There’s an inspired piece about alternative girls who would rather be a girlfriend of a band member rather than a band member in their own right, very true. And I hope the ‘Rock is Dead’ article about the demise of Korn, Limp Dickshit and the rest, comes true, here’s hoping! Loads more articles including ones on Queen Adreens, dancing, Bangs, Bikini Kill and that staple of zines – the kids cartoon. Fabulous all round. Also features a short story written by yours truly. At a bargain 50p this is a real gem.
Go Lola #1
£1 + A5 SAE, Holly-Pop, 168 Old Bank Road, Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, WF12 7AF
Holly is the coolest and the revolution will definitely be happening with such a great zine around
Holly’s old zine was Angel Food but she fancied a change and Go Lola was born. Angel Food was great but I think Go Lola is even better. It’s maybe a bit more personal and I think Holly’s writing for herself more which is really great. The best article in the zine is ‘Cartoon Girl’ which is intelligently written and makes a lot of sense. It says that we need new heroes, new music and a new plan of action if we’re ever gonna change. It’s a really inspiring article and one all zinesters should read. Holly practices what she preaches by interviewing new and exciting bands like GG Action, The Blue Minkies and Safety First plus the groovy and newly married(!) Manda-Rin. Her reviews are still top notch and feature great bands like Le Tigre, Valerie and The Donnnas. As with Angel Food, the excitement for music is catching. There’s an important article on racism which everyone should read and the personal bits are honest and touching. Holly is the coolest and the revolution will definitely be happening with such a great zine around. And I just know that its gonna get better and better. Oh, there’s just too much good stuff to mention, the big-up to Salt & Pepa is enough to make this a zine that you need to get. There’s also a piece by me about bitches so you’ve got no excuse now! Oh, and the cover design is aboslutely the coolest thing.
Missfit is about three A4 pages and Ramona is only one page long. Both zines are quite personal, sometimes quite sensationalist. Nice to see total honesty though! Ramona also features some reviews and a recipe. Missfit has poetry (including a pro Barbie one, boo!), and opinions on sex and relationships. Really cute pictures in both.
There are some gorgeous drawings in here which alone you should buy this zine for
This is the zine that’s come out of the central England riot girl chapter. But apart from being a mix of views from different girls in one group this is also simply just a really good zine. Has a mix of contributors and practically none of them are name checked so I can’t give plaudits to anyone specifically! However I really enjoyed the articles on Straight Edge, homophobia, women in the workplace and love. There’s a list of recommended reading which looks really interesting and there are some gorgeous drawings in here which alone you should buy this zine for. Also has zine reviews and interviews with Tamra from Lucid Nation plus much more.
Paper Doll Cuts
£1 + A5 SAE, Miss Michelle, 20 Pasture Ave., Sherburn in Elmet, North Yorkshire, LS25 6LG
This is Miss Michelle’s first zine and it’s mighty pretty. Quite a diy format all tied up with string. Slightly difficult to read at times though. This zine is enthusiastic about the following: Queen Adreena, Betty Page, Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore and much to my delight Selma & Patti out of The Simpsons. The article on groping in the moshpit was really disturbing. Also has a piece on pornography which gives both arguments, for and against which is good. And an interview with Ringaskiddy. Groovy.
This is a zine made up from a load of articles by different people within the riot girl scene in London and surrounding areas. Thus it makes for quite an eclectic zine. Features a mini interview with Kat Bjelland but is made up of articles on girls opinions on music and women in music, body appearance and sex. Most pieces are well written and very enthusiastic, the format is a bit plain though, although this is to keep costs down. It’s cool to see a zine made up of girls from one area, it reflects how that particular areas sees things. My favourite articles were on body image by Claire, girl drummers by Vicki and Rainy’s essay.
I can only say that this is the only decent account of riot girl that you will ever need
Okay, so this zine is a bit pricey but it’s covering copying costs so you’re not being done! This zine has got good stuff in it like Fake Boyz, As If, Book Reviews, rape protection, and Electro Body Music. However the best thing about this zine is most definitely the long essay on riot grrrl in the UK, it’s practically a book, the only difference is that it’s not in hard back. Cazz’s writing is super intelligent, witty and thoroughly well researched. It’s a history of the movement including interviews with British riot girls which is such a good idea. It is fascinating to learn of everyone’s different experiences within riot girl and it’s particularly good to read real people’s opinions instead of some cynical media type. It’s also interesting to learn so much new stuff about the history of riot girl given that I only got into the likes of Huggy Bear and Bikini Kill a few years ago. It’s difficult to write a good review of this zine because it is so much like a book that I could only do Real Girls justice by writing a two thousand word critical essay on it. But I can only say that this is the only decent account of riot girl that you will ever need. It’s a study of music, culture, society and young women in the nineties and it is written so clearly and accessibly. If you’re interested in music, women, culture and ultimately history you should get this zine.
This is the second issue of Starlette, it has intelligence, humour, feistiness and a whole load of punk prettiness. Interviews with bands like Schulte/Eriksson, Pretty Fury, Safety First (when they were Witches of Oz), Sugarcoma and Twist. The interviews are fantastic with a lot of them being done face to face with the band which makes them all that more in depth. I like the range of bands as well, not just indie but fab metal nads as well. The best interview of all though is with My Ruin. They often get ignored by zines so it’s nice to see them featured so heavily in this one. It’s a long and interesting interview with all the band and the divine Miss B sounds so cool. However this zine has a lot more than amazing interviews to offer. There’s stuff on the Craft, Lolita Storm, live reviews including Babes in Toyland, school and voting rights. Plus some fantastic feminism which is right on. Cool!
Emotional and tragic in places but is written with a sensitive style
This is a story zine. Basically a book sized story being self-published by Cazz. As you would imagine, having written to such a high standard in Real Girls the writing in this story is excellent. It’s based around the story of two girls, Simone and Layla. They’re both in their late teens and dealing with life without their parents. Discovering their sexuality and how best friends can become strangers to you. It’s all set in Manchester which makes for interesting reading for me being a bit of a stranger to that city. This story is emotional and tragic in places but is written with a sensitive style that emphasises with the characters. Cazz is a fab writer of fact and Touch Sensitive sees her take on fiction and produce an easily readable, interesting story.
Varla’s Passed Out Again #2
£1.50, Available through the Synthesis distro (see above for details). Or, email [email protected] for details on how to get copies.
Yay! What a great name for a zine. A very eclectic, kooky and unique zine at that. What first struck me was the fab drawings in the zine, really lovely, juicy and full. There are some cool articles about making your own films through buying a cheap camera from Argos. Glad to see I’m not the only one who partakes in sheapo shopping. Also some insights into Red’s sex life with tips and fave things. Also features Fire Dancing, Riot Girl Essex and some personal snapshots of life and I’m not only talking about the personal writings of Beth; there’s a rather amusing vagina snapshot here! And what is it with Essex? So many groovy types live there!
It’s consistently a good read but some articles just jump out at me as absolutely excellent pieces of writing
When Rainy says in her intro that she feels her zine has changed so much she almost thought of changing its name, you know she’s really serious about the fact that this issue is very different from the last. You still get Rainy’s chaotic, poetic, almost lyrical writing style but her subject matter and some of her thoughts have progressed from the first issue. Luckily for us zine readers Rainy’s ch ch changes are all good. She’s ditched the courtney/drew pics and gone for her own unique style of presentation. I can only describe the change as pchitzo-grrly-angry-messy-riotous-glam-harsh zineage.It’s consistently a good read but some articles just jump out at me as absolutely excellent pieces of writing. Encompassing intelligence, humour and aggression in an easily digestible way. When reading I thought that this would be the kind of mag I’d like to buy in a shop – so accessible yet so fab ‘n’ groovy. I love the article about graffiting and feel inspired to go out and create written havoc in the streets of Llandudno. The interview with Lola Flash is inspired and one of the best zine interviews ever. The lovely Anna Bombshell gives us her thoughts on Ladyfest Olympia and Chris makes the points that need to be made about mayday 2001. Rainy’s music taste has obviously evolve and this shows in her zine with her giving coverage to dhr style noise and fucked electro as well as interviewing many cool bands like Pie Delay, Princess Superstar, Switchblade Kittens, Goofball, Moldy Peaches and Electrelane. This zine is so ace so go and get it!
This is the debut zine outing from the lovely Maion but reading this zine you’d never guess it. This zine is packed with so much good writing it’s silly. And I don’t mean a few rants that male you go ‘right on’ but them you quickly forget. This is inspiring and thought provoking stuff. Don’t get me wrong, this zine is witty and packed full of girl sass and ‘lady vibes’ but it just delivers the message in such an articulate and intellectual way that it makes you really think. It also delivers a couple of belly laughs which always endears me to a zine. The layout is funky with loads of beautiful and interesting pictures, the Kate Bush one being the best and the cover is sweet whilst amusing at the same time. But enough of my waffling let’s get to the content. When I said this zine was inspiring, I really meant it. ‘The 5 Step Revolution’ talks about female oppression and really gets down to the facts and the facts hurt. ‘51% of the population are astonishingly and illogically seen as a minority. Inferior beings, something close to slaves, as they have no choice and often no clue as to their positions.’ Marion’s take on feminism is radical as it is sensitive. She’s no man-hater (she sees the term as a contradiction) but she’s not fluffy or insipid either, she writes tough and she writes the truth. A real highlight of the zine are the encouraging statements near the front of the zine ‘Do not let your idols intimidate you’, ‘You are just as good as they are.’ She reviews bands and albums with a unique ‘wordy’ style and refreshingly criticises what she doesn’t like. It’s fresh, truthful, funny and femme-shaped. I implore you all to buy it. It’ll probably be the best bit of underground writing you’ll read all year. Oh yeah and I’ve written a couple of articles for it also but don’t let that put you off.