Find out what a zine is and be inspired by their radical history – then make your own mini zine on a subject you care about.
What IS a ‘zine’?
- The word ‘zine’ (pronounced ‘zeen’) is short for ‘magazine’ – the first ones were ‘fanzines’ and then that was shortened again to just plain ‘zine’.
- They are self-published, so they are outside of mainstream media. This allows marginalised voices to be heard, and provides an alternative to media that is driven by commercial interests and traditional power structures.
- Zines are non-commercial, and are printed in small numbers. They are underground publications that tend to have niche audiences. Zines provide a vehicle for ideas, expression, and art. They build connections between people and within groups.
The radical history of zines
Zines were first created by fans of science fiction in the 1930s, but quickly acquired a reputation for being a medium for counter cultural ideas and radical thought. In the 1960s and ’70s the form was adopted by art and literary magazines that combined art, politics, culture and activism in one publication. Then in the 1980s the punk scene became huge and zines flourished – sharing interviews and anecdotes about the bands but also expressing anti-authoritarian ideas and political revolt.
In the 1990s the riot grrrl scene emerged, as an alternative to the male punk world of the past. It encouraged girls and women to start their own bands, make their own zines, and get their voices heard. Riot Grrrl birthed a feminist movement, with ideas expressed, shared and amplified through zines.
Zines continue to be used to share art, culture, politics and activism. They have been instrumental within the feminist movement and LGBTQ+ activism, they were also part of the setting up of UK Uncut and the Occupy movement. They are a grass roots vehicle for expression, and as such are a vital tool in shaping social change.
For a more detailed history of Zines check out this article in the Independent or this Brief History of Zines.
Mini Zine: Topic
Think about what topic you would like your zine to explore. There are no rules, one way to start is to think about what topic you would happily go on and on about for hours to anyone who will listen! Could that be your focus? Are there ideas you want to share? Thoughts you could express through drawing or writing? A particular thing you feel passionately about that you want to shout about to the world?
Mini Zine: Mechanics
1.Fold the sheet of paper in half lengthways.
2. Fold this in half widthways.
3. Fold in half one more time.
4.Completely open out to an A4 sheet. You now need to cut along the line shown. This spans the two central sections.
5.Open out the cut so that your paper makes a + shape.
6. Fold into a booklet and start deciding what to put on which page…
Mini Zine: Distribution
Unfold your finished zine and photocopy it a few times so you have some copies to share. Once they are all folded up, consider how you want to share it. You could gift zines to friends or family, you could leave them in strategic places in your area for people to find. You could ask a local shop or cafe if they would ‘host’ a pile of them for people to take.
Take it Further
If you have enjoyed your foray into radical publishing, you might also like our Images to Icons activity about the power of symbols, or check out Back of the Bus: Remix and get some ideas for protest lyrics you could share in your zine.