Where did The Shrieking Violet spring from?
I was writing a blog called The Shrieking Violet about underlooked aspects of Manchester’s cityscape and culture, and turning it into a print publication, an alternative guide to the city, was a natural progression. I was frustrated with the limitations of the blog as a medium “ the fact it could only be read online, and the linear format, and wanted to expand The Shrieking Violet to get more people involved and make it more of a dialogue featuring other perspectives on the city.
I had been unemployed for over six months when the zine started, after finishing a course in newspaper journalism, and wasn’t having much success even getting work experience (local newspapers were facing so many redundancies they weren’t willing to take anyone on and even those publications that were offering work experience had six month waiting lists) so I had to do something or I would have gone mad!
When is it published?
The Shrieking Violet started as a monthly publication, and then I got a job and it became quarterly. Recently it’s been more irregular, due to a couple of special projects, including Manchester’s Modernist Heroines, a collaboration with the Loiterers Resistance Movement and Manchester Modernist Society which coincided with International Women’s Day in March. We produced a publication about ten under-celebrated Manchester heroines in all different fields across the twentieth and twenty first centuries.
The next issue will mark the zine’s second birthday!
How instrumental was moving to Manchester in inspiring you to start up a zine? Had you done anything like it before?
I had always been aware of fanzines as my dad has a collection of old punk zines like Sniffin’ Glue, and early eighties indie zines with flexidiscs stuck to the front, in the attic, which meant I’d always wanted to make a zine and admired the aesthetic. I wrote for a fanzine based in Ireland (I saw an advert for contributors on Teletext and became involved long-distance via the internet!) while I was at school, but moving to Manchester made me realise zines didn’t have to be about music and I could make one focusing on the city.
How did you get people involved?
I get the occasional email from strangers asking to contribute, and there is a Facebook group for anyone who would like to get involved. Quite often I approach people directly who I know have a particular interest — whether it’s a hobby or academic — in a subject which I think would be ideal for my fanzine.
I ask a different artist to design the cover each issue, and I love every one of the covers even though they are all so different — it’s always a surprise to see what people come up with as the brief is no more specific than having the name and issue number on the front!
What sort of content do you feature? Is it easy to find inspiration?
The aim of the fanzine is to publish things people wouldn’t read about anywhere else, or wouldn’t have thought about before, generally relating to the city. For that reason, I tend to steer away from music as there are a number of other publications in Manchester that already do that very well, and I don’t feel my zine would add anything you couldn’t find covered with more expertise or passion elsewhere! I have done a couple of themed issues — one around food and one considering the role of media (newspaper, magazines etc) in the city of Manchester. It’s important to me that the zine is ‘interactive’ — I’d like people to go away and do something after they’ve read it, and be inspired to find their own adventures, rather than just reading it then putting it aside. There are always recipes at the back so there’s an incentive to hang onto the fanzine and reuse it.
You recently organised a zine convention at Victoria Baths. How did everything go on the day?
The zine convention is the most challenging thing I’ve ever done, but it was rewarding, mainly as a networking event — people came from all over the country. It was also good to get some publicity for the spectacular building, and immerse people in the history of the Baths through workshops and tours! I was rushing around trying to make sure everything went smoothly on the day, but I made sure I sat down to see the speakers, who were all inspiring.
I saw there was a zine produced especially for the event. Was it a challenge to come up with a zine in such a short space of time?
The fanzine was a programme for the fanzine convention, and I had a clear idea of what I wanted to go in it — I wanted it to pull together some of the other Future Everything arts events that were taking place in the building via interviews with the artists involved, include context of the history of the building, give people a starting point to go off and make their own fanzines, and showcase the stallholders — so it was relatively straightforward.
Have you got any other events on the horizon?
In March, Morag from the Loiterers Resistance Movement did a walk around Manchester as part of our Manchester’s Modernist Heroines project, which will be repeated on Saturday 25 June during Manchester Architecture Festival.
I’m hoping to do a talk in the autumn about Woman’s Outlook, a women’s magazine I discovered through work which was produced from 1919-1967 by a campaigning organisation called the Woman’s Co-operative Guild. I did some research into the magazine in the National Co-operative Archive and I find it inspirational — it was quite radical at the time. The talk was suggested to me by the outreach team where I work as an activity leading up to the reopening of the Rochdale Pioneers Museum in December, which is also part of the organisation where I have my day job.
What sort of people have you met through The Shrieking Violet?
I’ve made some really good friends through The Shrieking Violet and associated events, who I probably wouldn’t have met otherwise — artists, writers, etc. I really enjoy collaborations with other groups and I’ve been invited to take part in some exciting projects — for example, I was asked to make the programme for Salford’s Sounds from the Other City music festival in 2010 as a special edition of The Shrieking Violet.
Any advice for people thinking of starting up a zine in their own area?
The best advice anyone has ever given me is make sure your pages are in multiples of four!