Friday, 23 March 2012

Have zines, will travel: Caribou caravan at Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention

Visitors to the Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention in May will be able to step inside one of the country's more unusual zine stores – a zine shop inside a vintage caravan, which will be pulling up outside Victoria Baths for the day.

Nottingham-based artist and zine-maker Annie Atkinson set up Caribou in 2011 as a shop and gallery inside a small vintage caravan to showcase and sell the work of artists, writers and musicians working with an independent and DIY ethic. Annie makes the zine Flick my Ankle, as well as other mini-zine boxes such as Ultra Horse Fags and an ET mini-comic box.

Annie was originally going to open a bookshop in Nottingham selling unique art books, zines and furniture but decided to scale down the project and go back down to an idea she'd had a few years before of opening a teashop in a caravan. She explains: “I saw some other people in Canada, Australia and America were doing a similar thing and I thought it’s okay to do it now, because if there are others doing it then I’m not completely insane…so instead of a teashop it’s become a travelling art shop! But the potential for tea will never die.”

The caravan was acquired after a long hunt. Annie admits: “I wish it was a romantic story but I bought the caravan from a man on Gumtree! I had been looking for ages for the perfect one and this one came along and so we drove across the country to get it.”

Caribou is filled with artists' work, records, found mix tapes and a ‘listening booth’ in the form of a Fisher Price tape player. Annie also has an illustration photo booth, where visitors can sit and, instead of having their picture taken, have a picture of their face hand drawn by Annie. The caravan is kitted out to incorporate seating when the shelves are folded away, so there is room to do small workshops and activities such as zine-making. As well as stocking fanzines, hand made books, cards, jewellery, mix tapes, records, prints and ceramics, Annie sells reconditioned typewriters that she has lovingly repainted.

Among the more unusual items are flexagons: small, illustrated paper pieces that fold in on themselves three times to reveal different images. Annie says: “No-one seems to really get them! I have one with the characters of the Royal Tenenbaums, with different hairstyles in each folded image. You have to see it really to understand what I mean. Come into the caravan and you’ll see!” Annie's best seller is the Plastic Knife series comprising zines sent from Australia which come with a plastic knife stuck to the front cover. Annie says: “People go wild for them!” Japanese cut and paste zine Kosho Kosho, where the reader can cut out and make things like an illustrated paper iPhone, is also popular. Other big sellers are moustache teacups Annie paints herself.

The caravan was based inside Hopkinson Gallery in Nottingham until February, and since then it has been to various locations around Nottingham, including North Sherwood Street on Sundays, where it is open to passers by. Annie says: “We’re hoping to take it to more places around the UK, and then hopefully conquer Europe (in a non war sense)!”

Annie describes the experience of running Caribou as “immense”. She says: “People have got in touch from all over the world wanting to sell things in the shop, help out with volunteering and get involved in other ways. I’ve been invited to do talks about the zines at writers' clubs, and I’ve been invited to book festivals and events. It’s been really great and I hope it continues to get people excited!”

Visit Annie's blog at

Step inside Caribou caravan at the Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention, Hathersage Road, Manchester, Saturday May 19 between 10am and 5pm.

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