From the day I bought my first copy of the Grimsby Town fanzine, Sing When We’re Fishing, at the age of 10, I knew I was into zines. But even before then I’d experimented with self-publishing, making one-off short run (one or two copies) works by hand on subjects including British Prime Ministers, crisps and wrestling. Typically these ‘zines’ would have a very strong opening couple of pages, then I’d lose interest and eventually give up, leaving blank pages at the end with the rather ambitious title ‘Notes’, just in case my writings stimulated any radical thoughts that desperately needed jotting down.

Being from Grimsby, I was unaware that zines were really a thing. Once I started buying Sing When We’re Fishing, I probably worked out that other football supporters at other football clubs made similar publications. I don’t think I would have imagined that people made zines about anything other than football. My 10-year-old brain wouldn’t have been able to comprehend that people could be enthusiastic enough about any other subject to want to go to the effort of making a zine about it.

I continued buying Sing When We’re Fishing throughout my teens and even contributed some incredibly dull articles for it, with provocative titles like ‘Steve Livingstone is Better Than Bradley Allen and Here’s Why’. When I discovered the internet I kind of forgot about zines and presumably so did everyone else in Grimsby, because Sing When We’re Fishing disappeared, replaced by a whole host of official and unofficial websites, all full of idiots getting angry at each other.

Skip forward a few years and, as a very low-level pop star doing loads of gigs on the DIY indie-pop circuit, I started getting asked to do interviews for zines. I suddenly became aware of a whole scene of zines about something I was really interested in. Rather than fruitlessly looking for coverage of things I liked in the mainstream press, I discovered a whole world of people enthusing about things that I was enthusiastic about.

That’s when I decided I wanted to make my own zines, but it actually took a couple of years before I got around to it. I guessed I didn’t have enough to say or enough talent in anything to make it worth the effort, but slowly but surely I came around to my current thinking – that anyone who wants to make a zine can make a zine. Also, Liz, my girlfriend, is dead good at illustrating, so we work together to mask my terrible writing skills.

While doing various zine-related events in the Manchester area, I became aware of Salford Zine Library, a not-for-profit archive of self-published stuff housed, confusingly, at Nexus Art Café in Manchester. A little later on, we noticed that Craig, the guy who set it up, was appealing for someone to take over running the place. We jumped at the chance and, for the last two years, have been running the zine library with help from some very good friends.

The zine library has around 1,500 zines that have been donated from around the world and you can pop in whenever you like. There are some sofas in there, but you can also take stuff out into the café if you’d prefer, as long as you take the zines back into the library. We’ve recently been awarded some Heritage Lottery Funding to catalogue the collection and make this catalogue available via a flashy new website, which should be ready to go live soon.

We don’t have a collection policy and are always looking for people to submit their zines. When people ask what we want to achieve with the zine library, I usually say something daft like, “Promote zines, zine makers and DIY culture, and encourage people to read, make and talk about zines”. We work with schools, colleges and university groups regularly and are always up for collaborating with nice people.

One such collaboration is Northwest Zinefest, a one-day event we’re doing at the Star and Garter on Saturday 30 May. We’re working with the creators of the Chapess Zine and Mythologising Me to organise a zine fair, so zinesters from across the region and beyond can come and sell their ace zines. It’s free to enter and there’ll be free workshops to get involved in on the day too. We hope to see you there. Maybe you’ll be inspired to make your own zines and submit them to the zine library.


Steve Carlton