Meet The Girls Behind The UK’s Growing, Female-Led Zine Scene

Get offline and meet the girls who are cutting, sticking and creating badass feminist zines

Meet The Girls Behind The UK's Growing, Female-Led Zine Scene

by Kerry Flint |
Published on

Zines are thriving across the UK and beyond, as a growing female-led DIY scene develops and distributes in the most welcoming community ever. DIY publications about punk, feminism, anarchism and eco topics have been an integral facet of counter and sub-culture since the 1970s.

Today, the world of zines continues to be a roller-coaster ride of creativity and ingenuity that offers a refreshing alternative to listicles, clickbait culture and advert-laden press.

Amazing women in the zine scene are creating and promoting gigs, screenings, workshops, marches, exhibitions, fairs and libraries; offering support and welcoming new members around the country. There's plenty to get involved in, whatever your flavour, whether it is bad-ass comics, Spiceworld screening or shouty girl guitar music.

A 'zine' is short for 'fanzine' and by definition is a non-commercial often home-made (DIY) publication usually devoted to specialized and often unconventional subject matter. That is but a broad definition however as the zine world is progressive and evolving. Its a way for critically and often politically thinking women, queers, POC, trans, genderqueer, non-binary, intersex, disabled, working class and otherwise marginalised peeps to exercise their voices. This results in some of the most engaging and welcoming communities, events and, of course, zines imaginable, all providing supportive and provocative outlets for discussions around many fascinating, need-to-talk-about topics.

At a time when young people face mass unemployment and creatives are often expected to work for free, many have turned to DIY publishing to gain exposure and support each other. Up and down the UK engaged and inspiring women are coming together to create and distribute the kind of content they want to hear, without the restrictions and regulations often faced by the mainstream press. At a time when more and more people are being pushed to the margins and muted they are literally taking things into their own hands. How could you not want to get involved in that?

We chatted to some of the brilliant women behind some of the best zines around (about fab topics ranging from periods to feminism in Harry Potter) to get the low-down on DIY zine culture.

Cherry Styles

Who better to start with than Cherry Styles, who is the founder of The Chapess zine, as well as Synchronise Witches, Based in Manchester, Cherry co-organised the first North West Zine Fest and makes up one quarter of the Salford Zine Library team.


When did you start being interested in zines and involved in the scene?

I started making zines when I was a teenager. I grew up in a pretty average small town punk scene and have always been super involved in the DIY scene. Working with the Salford Zine Library helped me meet new people when I first moved to Manchester. The zine community is consistently supportive and welcoming and I've met a lot of the best people I know through zines, both online and IRL.

It seems like a great female led collaborative scene. What do you feel bonds you and drives your work?

I was talking recently with Alyssa Rorke and Sara Sutterlin about our work together, and kind of how our different identities overlap, none of us are easily pigeon-holed. Alyssa talks very passionately about publishing her own work out of frustration that no one else would.

Can you tell me about starting your zine, The Chapess?

The Chapess was started by my friend Zara in the summer of 2001. I took over as sole editor in 2013 after Zara had her daughter Florence. I've always been interested in reading and writing and books, and music. I got all of my early musical education through zines - which looked easy enough to make so I decided to start my own. The Chapess was a direct response to a job/group of students Zara and I were working with (I've worked in education since graduating in 2008) and our hope was to make feminism relevant to younger girls, especially those in rural areas with limited resources, like me.

What are the benefits of creating a zine?

It's had an enormous effect on my life. I've been able to run workshops, give lectures and do paid work off the back of the zine, which has been amazing and allowed me to make some big changes in my work and life. I sell the zines though my online distro Synchronise Witches and post out parcels all over the world, each week. The zine has a dedicated and varied fan base, it's really nice to get emails from people all over who are reading the Chapess, and it's always incredibly humbling to read folks' responses to it.

Can you share any tips on starting your own zine?

It's really easy! The Chapess is definitely the most polished (for want of a better word) of the zines I’ve made.

Try to visit a zine fair or zine library if you can (we have a public zine library here in Manchester) and see what draws you in. Think about your intent and motivation for making a zine, you're not going to make any money from it but you have everything (else) to gain. My friend Carolina wrote about this.

I use a free publishing program called Scribus, which is pretty much just like Indesign. I’m the least tech-y person ever and it’s really easy, even if you are actually making whole pages with paper n glue and want to scan them in you can literally just drop stuff where you want it - I would totally recommend it.

Soofiya Andry

Soofiya Andry is a London based Graphic Designer, Feminist, Activist, Weekend Anarchist and Zinester (phew!). She created a superb feminist, intersectional zine about menstruation, called Bloody Hell.

When did you start being interested in zines and involved in the scene?

I’ve always been interested in zine culture. I’m a graphic designer but I’m really interested in politics and activism and zines seemed to perfectly bridge my two loves. Often zines can be packed with politics and can be by-products and extensions of activism. So I feel into the scene naturally. I’ve worked on a handful of fun, quick zines and longer, heavier ones too.

Zines about zines, zines about anarchism, zines about feminism, and lots of stuff in-between, and I started selling them at zine fairs (I prefer this to online, as zine culture is linked to a strong community and you can meet some amazing people, doing some amazing work) after a few zine fairs you get a real taste for it, and I then helped put on my own zine fairs with local groups and it's been brilliant ever since.

What motivated you to create your zine, Bloody Hell?

I have Poly-Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), which among many of the symptoms can affect how you menstruate. I’ve been on and off pills to deal with the symptoms. It’s gotten worse for me in the past year or so. I’m working with my GP to help keep things in hand, but it’s tricky. I guess, in a way this project is a nice little cathartic release for my experiences with menstruation and PCOS.

What response have you had to Bloody Hell?

Bloody good! I’ve had some great conversations both in person and online about it, people love to talk about periods - don’t underestimate that! Everyone has been really supportive over it. Everyone, from friends to colleagues got involved and submitted pieces to the zine and contributed to the crowd funder. Even people I haven’t spoken to in years shared it and helped me promote. Publicly there was a lot of great press for it too.

What made you want to be involved in something DIY?

It’s an opportunity to self-publish and disseminate information in a way which isn’t possible in the mainstream publishing and media; which is often dominated by white, middle class voices. Zines allow you breakaway from that. There are no rules, there is no right or wrong way to make a zine and I loved that. Its easily accessible and anyone can make one. Its this inclusivity at the heart of the DIY ethos which is what I love and want to be involved in.

Do you feel that many of the underground zines are a response to how women are treated online and even offline?

Yeah I think zines, by their very nature, allow for alternative views. I think the ease and accessibility of the the zine format (easy, quick DIY publishing) allows people to connect on a level and almost directly because of the strong community built around the culture. It opens up social circles and allows women, and other marginalised folk to platform themselves. Often press and platforming can be quite elitist and alienates people from working class backgrounds, but zines help change that.

I know lots of zine-makers who have intersectional politics at their forefront, they want their work to be accessible everywhere, whether it's large-print, usability, affordability, theses considerations aren’t always addressed by mass market publications. Zines allow folks to showcase themselves and work in an autonomous and often more authentic way.

Can you share any tips for starting your own zine?

Start with a topic you love, it can be anything, whether it's your cat, your favourite food, the music you're into, name it. If you're interested in the subject and your heart's in it, you’re likely to have an amazing time making the zine and feel really passionate about distributing it too.

Website: soofiya.comTwitter: @Soofiya C

There are currently no paper copies of Bloody Hell (Soofiya will be doing another print run in a few months but only selling them at zine fairs) but you can get a

digital copy here

Kirsty Rowles

Swansea based, Kirsty Rowles, is a feminist, fangirl, hufflepuff, zine extraordianaire and professional nice person (doing so much cool work to help others). She currently has an open call for submissions for issue #4 of her brilliant zine, Sonorous; Feminist Perspectives on Harry Potter.

So, what got you into the zine world?

I learned about the existence of zines through a local feminist group I was in, and specifically through Cath Elms, who runs Spill the Zines. I was involved in writing for and putting together the compzine we produced. I figured that there were likely to be a lot of people in the centre of the Venn diagram of Harry Potter fans and feminists and that there was a lot to say about gender and other social justice topics in the series. I 'recruited' two of my best friends to help - Cath to help me navigate the zine scene and Emily to do the illustrations.

I started Forever Incomplete because by that time I had been reading zines for about a year and I was very inspired by the honesty and the presentation of other people's perzines. I liked the way people (overwhelmingly women, at this time I had only read one zine by a man, and I don't think that total has gone up significantly since then) were telling the truth about their lives, saying things you would never come across in mainstream media but that I could relate to.

Can you tell us about the community you entered into when creating a zine?

The best thing for me about being involved in zines is the way it has brought me into this network of awesome, right on women/queers. When you've read someone's zine you already know them quite closely, I think, even if you have never met or only speak to each other occasionally.

Do you think this stems from the DIY aspect?

I have never really identified with zines being DIY, though I know that they quite literally are! I just see them as another thing to read, a very different experience to picking up a mainstream magazine. They are a way for oppressed people to take charge of their own representations, I think. They make LGBT people, women, disabled people and people of colour 3D in a way, which is rare in mainstream media.

Tukru Dearest is a top zine-maker and distro mistress based in Kent. She produces a perzine called 'your pretty face is going straight to hell', and runs a zine distro called vampire sushi distro.

When did you start being interested in zines and involved in the scene?

I first found out about zines on the internet when I was about 15 or 16 (late nineties) and I actually made a couple of my own before I eve saw a zine in real life. I grew up in rural Finland, with no local access to currency exchange and paypal wasn't really a thing then, so making my own zine to trade was my best option. I moved to UK in 2003 to study photography and forgot about zines until my third year at uni.

I started making 'your pretty face is going straight to hell' as soon as I graduated and that's when I really started getting involved with the zine scene (there wasn't really one in Finland 15 years ago.). I also started Vampire Sushi Distro in 2009 because there was maybe one other distro in UK back then that did perzines and it seemed like a good idea at the time. No regrets!

Can you share any tips for starting your own zine?

Just do it and try not to worry too much about whether it's 'good enough' or if anyone is going to be interested - tbh this is still something I worry about after 10+ years on though, so that's easier said than done. There seems to always be someone who will relate and find comfort in your zine. It's likely your first zine wont be a masterpiece or as good as your fifth or 20th zine AND THAT'S OK. There's no need to be perfect, just make a thing that works on the practical side - leave margin space on all the sides and number the pages. It'll make your life easier later.

What are some of your favourite zines?

So many! I get most excited about new issues of: 'Telegram' by Maranda Eizabeth, 'Lady Teeth' by Taryn Hipp, 'Hard Femme' by Kirsty Fife, everything by Amber Dearest (previously 'Culture Slut', but her latest is called 'Critical Breakfast') 'Motor City Kitty' by Brianna dearest, 'Sonorus; Feminist Perspectives on Harry Potter' and 'Scratch That Itch' by Kathleen itch. I could go on forever, especially about old zines. I have a 'permanent collection' of about 400 zines, and a big stack of zines I need to read/decide whether I'm going to keep them!

Beccy Hill

**********************Sister Magazine's editor in Chief, Beccy Hill, started the zine in her third year of uni and they've just released the brill fourth edition.

What is it like working on your own zine?

The DIY aspect is very important to me and Hannah (Sister art director and my best friend of twelve years), we always call ourselves DIY divas because we do absolutely everything ourselves. We don't have a budget, we don't have a team, it's a very small group of three girls grafting in our spare time around working full time jobs to make ends meet. We do it because we really fucking believe in what we're putting out there!

Is print important to you?

Distributing offline is important - I have loved print and magazines ever since I can remember and my dream was to be a writer. However, when I graduated with a degree in Journalism, shit got real and I realised it was very difficult to secure a job in that arena. After many job applications I was just like, you know what, I am a writer because I write all the time so I'll just publish it myself. Print feels so much more special than online, it really captures a moment in time. You can't edit or delete it, people can't comment on it - it just exists.

Do you enjoy meeting other people involved in the scene?

**Events are an important aspect of what we do because it means girls can meet one another and hopefully end up collaborating on something or becoming great friends. The zine community is so exciting and it's great to get people to meet up in real life.

**You can grab the mag online here


More zines by women in the UK

The Parallel Mag

Heroine Magazine

The Girls Are

Queen Track Zine

Fan Club Notts

The Music Zine

Visit From The Stork

Harmon Town

Out Of Print**



**UK Zine fairs

Camden Zine Fest (Camden, London, UK)

Edinburgh Zine Fair (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK)

Exeter Zine Fest (Exeter, Devon, UK)

Book Arts Fayre (Cardiff, Wales, UK)

Bradford Zine Fayre (Bradford, UK)

Bristol Radical Zine Fest (Bristol, UK)

Bristol Comic and Zine Fair (Bristol, UK)

Birmingham Zine Festival (Birmingham, UK)

Brighton Zine Fest (Brighton, UK)

DIY Cultures (London, UK)

Glasgow Zine Fest (Glasgow, Scotland, UK)

Handmade and Bound (London, UK)

International Alternative Press Festival (London, UK)

International Alternative Press Festival (London, UK)

Leeds Zine Fair (Leeds, UK)

Loosely Bound Zine Extravaganza (Bradford, UK)

Manchester Print Fair(Manchester, UK)

Norwich DIY & Zine Fest (Norwich, UK)

Nottingham Zine Fair (Nottingham, UK)

Self Publishing Fair (Derby, UK)

Sheffield Zine Fest (Sheffield, UK)

South East London Zine Fest (London, UK)

Tooting Zine Fair (London, UK)

Victoria Baths Fanzine Fair (Manchester, UK)**

Sign the petition against the closure of The Feminist Library, London


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Follow Jess on Twitter @Jess_Commons

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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