Monday, 2 April 2012

Interview: Craig John Barr, director – Self-Publishers of the World Take Over

From enthusiasts scribbling alone in their bedrooms to professional design collectives, fanzines are made by people of all different interests and backgrounds. A film made by Salford Zine Library, a growing archive of self-published material, brings together the stories of fanzine makers from around the world, showing who they are, what motivates them and how they go about getting their work out into the world.

Self-Publishers of the World Take Over was conceived a couple of months before a recent exhibition at Salford Art Gallery and Museum which put on display the Library's diverse collection, ranging from football fanzines and science fiction pamphlets to photocopied free sheets and hardbound artists' books which cost £50 per copy. What all of the material in the library has in common is that it is all independent and self-published – and that it was all donated. The documentary consists of talking heads of the makers behind the collection, aiming to create, says the film's director, illustrator and designer Craig John Barr, a “focus point that tied the exhibition together”.

Craig had to find a way of making the film cheaply – and quickly. As well as showing clips of fanzine makers talking about their work, the film needed to go back to basics and act as an introduction to fanzines. Craig explains: “Lots of the people who went to the exhibition hadn't really seen zines before and they were just there to visit the museum, but I couldn't really find a film about fanzines that hadn't been shown in Manchester before.”

The film is constructed around questions about the zine-making process, featuring responses recorded by Craig and cameraman Luca Rudlin around Manchester and Salford, or footage shot on SLRs and webcams by zine-makers in other countries including Brazil, America and Australia. Craig and Luca visited several design studios in Manchester, including DR ME and OWT Creative in Hope Mill, Ancoats, and Manchester Municipal Design Corporation, who are based in Hotspur House, as well as zine-makers such as Vapid Kitten and the Shrieking Violet. Craig also made stop motion animations using a webcam gaffa taped to his ceiling.

He explains: “I never, ever thought I would make a film. At first I thought it would be easy – I would just interview people and cut and paste it together – but then I realised it needed to have a structure.” 

Footage was recorded over a month and then Craig had the job of sifting through around twenty hours of film. Despite the challenges of making a film from scratch – and having to learn new software and enduring a bout of flu during the editing process – Craig says the film “does what it set out to do”.

He says: “It's satisfying seeing people watch it and go away knowing what zines are. Some have since gone and bought zines.” He continued: “I wanted to get as wide a range of people as possible, from professional graphic designers to people making zines in their houses and show the different backgrounds that people who make zines.”

He explains: “Zines aren't just about design or about counterculture. They can be about anything politically, or they can be completely unpolitical. There was one girl who just made a zine about volcanoes. She has been making it since she was seven and now she's in her mid-twenties and still getting her parents to photocopy it. Another takes photos of people asleep who she has encountered on her travels.”

Self-publishers of the World Take Over has now been shown at a zine fair in Tooting, as well as Leeds Print Fair, and is soon to have its first airing in America. Craig has observed that viewers of the film particularly enjoy the 'How to make a zine section'. Craig says: “People like the message that you could go away and make a zine yourself quite easily and duplicate it quickly. A lot of people found ways of distributing unrealised projects and sharing things with their friends. Several even went away and made a zine and then sent it to me. A lot of people were also interested in the discussion of online versus digital.”

Craig started Salford Zine Library in January 2010 when he and fellow illustrator and designer Matthew Walkerdine were living in Salford, and the collection was initially housed in the city's Islington Mill arts venue. Craig and Matthew both made zines and, after contributing to zine libraries in cities such as Los Angeles and Toronto, realised that Manchester and the North West lacked a zine library.

The Library has a steady stream of donations, which arrive at the library via Craig's postbox, and contributions now number around 1,500. Craig explains: “Zines are everywhere – everywhere there is an element of counterculture people are making zines. There are hundreds and hundreds of contributions that come into my mailbox from everywhere. India, Tokyo, Taiwan, Latin America – Chile, Brazil etc. In India, zines are mainly graphic design. In Sao Paulo they're linked to the punk scenes which goes back decades. I get some really odd zines. People seem really happy I've asked them to contribute to the library. They are happy their work is getting seen.” In future, Craig would like to classify the material in the library and create a catalogue.

It's not uncommon for visitors to turn up at Craig's flat with boxes full of zines. He said: “People come up to me and say they've got a load in the loft and every now and then someone comes and knocks on my door with a box.” One box came from a printers who, every time they were asked to do a print run of a zine, printed one extra and added it to the box.

Salford Zine Library co-founder Matthew has since moved on to Glasgow, where he was a co-founder of Good Press gallery and Craig has been looking for a permanent home for the collection where it can be seen seven days a week, which he has now found at Nexus Art Cafe in the Northern Quarter, Manchester City Centre. Salford Zine Library will be based at Nexus from May and the Library has launched a fundraising appeal to help bring the space up to shape. Find out how you can help:
Self-Publishers of the World Take Over will be screened at the Victoria Baths Fanzine Convention on May 19 at 12.30pm upstairs in the committee room in the former superintendent's flat, followed by a director's Q and A.

Extracts can be seen on Salford Zine Library’s Youtube channel at

1 comment:

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