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Zines at Being Human Festival 2023

Zines are playing a big role in this year’s Being Human Festival. But what exactly are they, and how are they being used to uncover fascinating humanities research?

Zines at Being Human Festival 2023

Zines can be found all across the programme for Being Human Festival 2023. Whether it’s uncovering the secrets of dinosaur bones in Canterbury, or exploring the future of health in Edinburgh, zines are providing the inspiration and the means for a whole host of exciting, hands-on activities.

The University of Salford are even running a zine-specific series –  The Anthropozine: Being Human in the Age of Zines – with a variety of zine-themed events!

What is a zine?

Zines are small, self-published magazines that embrace a Do-It-Yourself ethos, frequently involving collage and hand-drawn illustrations. Zines are usually produced in small quantities and are more concerned with self-expression than profit. 

Zines are often spaces where super-fans of anything from film and poetry, to football and gardening can express their passion with a like-minded community. There’s no interest too niche for a zine!

The independent music scene is a perfect example of this. In the 70s and 80s, many indie and rock bands connected with their audiences through zines and created a community of music-lovers beyond the mainstream. A Being Human event in Salford –  Zine Making for Sounds from the Other City – will explore just this, looking at how zines were a key part of grassroots movements in the Manchester music scene. 

Different examples of zines laid out
Build Your Creative Worlds, Oxford Brookes University, 15 November 2023

Countercultural expression

Since the publication of zines lies outside of the traditional publishing establishment, they can provide a forum in which countercultural or activist ideas can be expressed. They can be considered part of the long tradition of independently produced counter-cultural pamphlets and publications.

For example, DIY magazines were a key vehicle of the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s. Black writers, artists and thinkers – such as Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Claude McKay – exchanged ideas about black identity and culture in the pages of these publications, and critiqued the prevailing culture of the day. The University of Salford will explore this history at their event The ‘Little Magazines’ of the Harlem Renaissance: 100 Years of 'Opportunity' – including a hands-on zine-making workshop.

Feminist thinkers also found a place to express their ideas in early zines. Equal Rights, a magazine first published in 1923, addressed key feminist issues and paved the way for other feminist zines in the years to come.  

Photo of person cutting up pieces of paper at table
Making Zines in Crip Time, University of Edinburgh, 11 November 2023

Zines today

The appeal of zines, both for their creators and their readers, are clear. These engaging publications can provide a platform for a range of ideas and discussions – and what’s more, they’re fun to make!

No wonder researchers are increasingly turning to zines as a means to engage audiences with a broad range of topics. Zines can present complex social issues – such as arts policy or urban development and gentrification – in an easily digestible and accessible way.

Zine-making is also a fantastic activity for wellbeing, facilitating creative self-expression and mindful engagement. Mental health and wellbeing is one of the main themes of this year’s festival, and zines provide another opportunity to focus on this aspect of our health.

Try your hand at zine-making yourself at this year’s Being Human Festival, which will take place 9-18 November in venues around the UK.