A community of independent writers, artists, and thinkers gathered at the 4th annual Richmond Zinefest on Saturday, October 16th. It was the largest Zinefest since its inception in 2007, with more than 300 people in attendance. Organized by a handful of passionate individuals with help from local radical and anarchist groups, and held at the Gay Community Center of Richmond, the event went off with out a hitch.
Zines are self-published magazines, often associated with radical or independent movements and ideas, though Nicole Harris, one of the event’s organizers, explained they had a broader audience.
“Basically, it can be about anything. We have literary zines, comic zines, personal zines; all sorts of things. Usually put together by staples, photo copier, and some paper!”
Harris sat at the registration table with Liz Canfield and Kat Ennis-Sears fellow organizers. They had worked tirelessly to make sure the day went smoothly, and their hard work paid off.
“It’s been a great turn out. People have come on bikes, people have carpooled. We’ve had a steady flow of folks from all over the city all day long, so it’s been a really positive event. People bringing their kids.”
With vegan and non-vegan food options provided by Lamplighter Coffee Company, and fund raising help from the Wing-Nut Anarchist Collective and the Flying Brick Zine library, folks came from around the country to share their home made print.
Matt Dabinksi publishes independent comics with a group out of Washington D.C. aptly named “the DC Conspiracy.” He said interest in zines has faded from our nations capital.
“Now its kind of scattered. A good thing about a zine fest like this, it kind of pulls it all together. If you don’t have a shop in your city, there is this one spot this time of year where you can see what everyone else is doing, and that is lacking in DC. One of the reasons we come down to Richmond is to see what’s going on down here.”
Dabinski has made it every year to Richmond’s Zinefest, and he considers it to be a kind of personal muse.
“Its always been very fun. Very inspiring to see the other stuff going on here in terms of comics and screen printing and lit in general, its just a good time.”
Cheyenne Neckmonster made it from Louisville, Kentucky, to take part in the festivities. She said Louisville’s zine culture wasn’t exactly booming.
“Its not really a Mecca for things of that ilk.”
Her feminism zine, Neckmonster, and her zine distribution outfit called “Copy That Distro” had a nearly empty table by the time I spoke with her.
“I came here with 2 crates of zines and I think I’ll have a scant one at the end, so that’s good.”
Though money was accepted at all the tables, a fair barter system was also used, with zine-for-zine trades often use. Neckmonster said most folks involved in zine production don’t do it for the money, but for the message and the movement.
“Running a zine distro and doing a zine, you’re gonna run it at a loss. Its kind of a privilege to be able to do zines and that’s why I try to make it as cheap as I can for the people who want to have them.”
Local zines were represented, but I went to Richmond’s zine source for interviews on the subject.
The Flying Brick Library has been running its free, all volunteer, radical book renting service for almost 11 years. Located at 506 S Pine St., it’s an outlet for alternative thought and conversation in the Richmond community. With over 2500 zines and another 2000 hard-to-find books, it’s a unique space in our quiet river town.
Volunteer Librarian, Salem Acuna:
“That’s one of the things that we try to let everyone know. It’s a library, but it’s also a space, a place for people to hang out, organize, have meetings.”
Acuna has been involved at the Flying Brick for almost 2 years. He said he still had more zines to stack, but took time to sit down with WRIR.
“Since I’ve been working here, ive had people, after just being in Richmond for a bit, find a way to get
here, drop off a zine, and move off to were ever they have to go.”
The freedom of the semi-public space can have its downsides though.
“There are all sorts of people from different backgrounds and different stories, so it can be easy to say the wrong thing without knowing your saying the wrong thing. But, for the most part, everyone is really respectful and there is an understanding of what the brick is and the people here and its and open environment were people can share ideas and stuff like that.”
Nathan Stickle, a fellow volunteer, who actually lives in the Oregan Hill row house were the Flying Brick resides, said the library had become a valuable resource to local VCU students as well.
“We’ve had several students coming in looking for books for research papers and stuff like that, they had to do something on a more obscure political topic, and they couldn’t find it at their local library or the VCU library.”
Though books aren’t the only things held at the location.
“We do all kinds of stuff, discussions, film showings, workshops, pot lucks, acoustic shows”
Stickle remembered one particular discussion group, held a wile back, dealing with gun control. He said it was one of the largest attended discussions he had ever seen at the Brick, and the folks involved included Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, Unitarians, and even students who had been victims of the VA Tech shootings. The Tech students were working to reform VA gun laws, and had attended a number of similar events in the hopes of getting their point across.
“One of the students who was shot at VA tech who’s been working to close these loops holes, said that of all the politicians, public debates hes had, that that was the most civilized, honest and good natured discussion he ever sat through.”
Back at Zinefest, Annie Brown, creator of “Lips,” a feminine-sexuality zine, had advice for folks considering starting a zine.
“If you see a problem in your community and you wanna make a difference I think putting your ideas on paper and distributing that will create a ripple effect that even you don’t know how far it will go and who will see your words.”