Queer Zine Library


How Queer Zine Library and Queer Newham are advocating for awareness, inclusion and support within the Royal Docks community

Message in a Bottle was a part of our Join the Docks 2020 autumn programme where everyone was encouraged to create and submit a zine for an online exhibition.

This project was developed by two great organisations, Queer Zine Library and Queer Newham. We caught up with them both to find out more about the project and what they do to benefit the community.

Can you tell us a little bit about Queer Zine Library and Queer Newham?

Queer Zine Library is a UK-based, volunteer-run, DIY and mobile zine library celebrating radical LGBTQIA+ self-publishing. The library can be found either touring community spaces in major cities across the UK and, when this isn’t possible, it is housed in a North London flat. Queer Zine Library focuses on bringing LGBTQIA+ themed zines to spaces across the UK where community members might require support from likeminded peers and benefit from shared stories through zines. Its volunteers want zines to take up space in places where there might be less queer representation, in the hope that they will be seen and used by people who need them.

Queer Newham is a local initiative formed in 2018 to raise awareness of gender equality and support the well-being of the LGBTQIA+ community in Newham. The organisation and the team behind it believes our borough can become a safer and friendlier place for queer people to "live, work and stay".

Queer Newham wants to challenge prejudice and dismantle hate through raising awareness on LGBTQIA+ issues, creating partnerships with organisations, educational institutions and faith groups, as well as promoting open conversations between residents and providing information on gender and sexual diversity.

The Message in a Bottle project is all about zines. For those who don’t know, what is a zine?

Zines are powerful tools, documenting voices, stories, and experiences not often found in mainstream media. They are DIY publications which require no experience and few resources to make, they can be drawn comics, handwritten stories, cut and paste collages, typed reviews, screen printed art or any other medium you would like. Zines can be a chance to tell personal stories, explore passions or spread information.

As queer zine makers ourselves, we want LGBTQIA+ zines to be viewed as tools for self-preservation, activism, and independence, and we want zine-makers themselves to have a say in how their zine is catalogued.

How did zine-making originate?

Zines are rooted in the wider history of self-publishing. From radical political pamphlets from the 18th century to contemporary zines published now, zines have always been a cheap and accessible medium used by community groups and individuals to share ideas and connect with others.

As zines can be about anything, they are widely diverse. Popular types of zines throughout history include fanzines which are dedicated to a particular fandom, such as football fanzines made by football fans, punk zines featuring interviews with bands and musicians, as well as sci-fi zines made by sci-fi fans about literature, tv, and film.

Another popular type of zine is the Perzine, which is a personal zine sharing autobiographical thoughts and feelings, sometimes in the form of a diary, to share with others. While zines might be cheap to create, they are very valuable and examples of zines throughout history are now used to look back and learn about communities, people and experiences from the past.

Why is the project called ‘Message in a Bottle’?

The Join the Docks programme explores and celebrates the Royal Docks area and looks for ways to bring together the neighbours and communities that make up this part of Newham.

We felt that the theme of a ‘Message in a Bottle’ was a good connection to the water of the Docks, and the idea of floating out to reach others also relates to the process to zine making, i.e.. you publish secrets, private thoughts, your memories and unique experiences, never knowing who it will reach and what connections you will make.

What do you hope people will gain from taking part or viewing the online installation of zines as part of ‘Message in a Bottle’?

We hope that people taking part in the project feel equipped to carry on making zines and feel inspired to continue sharing their stories and thoughts.

We also hope that the project and online exhibition contributes towards a strengthened feeling of community and support in uncertain times, and we would love to remain in contact with anyone who wishes to get involved with either Queer Newham or Queer Zine Library.

The online exhibition is online now and free for all to view.