Zine affair

The third-annual Zine Fair promotes independent press publications

Kingston Zine Fair founder Bill Gillespie (right) and Richard Tyo are two of four organizers of the annual event that will run at the Artel tomorrow.
Kingston Zine Fair founder Bill Gillespie (right) and Richard Tyo are two of four organizers of the annual event that will run at the Artel tomorrow.
Richard Tyo makes collage zines of poetry, songs, stories and images.
Richard Tyo makes collage zines of poetry, songs, stories and images.

The best way to get involved in zines is to make one, says the founder of the Kingston Zine Fair. Along with his passion, Bill Gillespie has invested his money into the event for three years.

He started the one-day showcase in 2009 to support the dwindling number of zine-makers in Kingston. Gillespie shifted his focus from creating his own zine to facilitating a place for other zinesters — makers, buyers and readers.

“The people who make [zines] don’t really have a place to put them,” Gillespie said. “They tend to leave town, so we lose that talent.”

According to Gillespie, there have been zines in Kingston since he emigrated from Scotland in the late 1970s. He’s been to several major zine fairs across the province, including Canzine in Toronto and the Ottawa Small Press Fair, where he’s seen hundreds of different interpretations of the independent publishing method.

“There are some very political zines, there are some very apolitical zines,” he said.

Last year, the Levana Gender Advocacy Centre at Queen’s participated in Kingston’s Zine Fair for the first time — focusing on topics of sexual consent, queer identities, radical disability and rape culture. The gender advocacy organization bought another booth for this year’s fair. Full booths cost $10 and half booths are $6.

“There was a wide variety of materials that folks were promoting, ranging from political publications to comics, to collage, to poetry,” Levana co-ordinator Vlada Bilyak told the Journal via email about last year’s fair.

Levana’s headquarters, located at the Grey House, house the only zine library on campus, with over 95 zines for sale or loan. Bilyak, ArtSci ’10, acknowledged that Kingston’s Zine Fair is small but said it serves a local interest in alternative forms of media.

Gillespie said turnout for the first Zine Fair was sparse. When it launched in 2009, the fair hosted four vendors. This year, the event has 10 vendors from Kingston, Toronto and Ottawa. He said the event attracts around 100 viewers and customers each year.

“There’s a lot more interest from zinesters from out of town, because they’re used to this kind of thing,” Gillespie said, adding that events like Canzine and Montreal’s Expozine attract hundreds of vendors annually. “There hasn’t been anything like this [in Kingston] … a lot of people still don’t know how to even pronounce ‘zine.’”

The DIY fair is held at the Artel, but the space isn’t big enough to accommodate the growing number of vendors participating in the event. Gillespie said they’ll likely need a larger venue for next year.

“I don’t think Kingston will ever be that big,” he said. “I’m hoping it’ll be something like the Ottawa Press Fair, something modest between 20 and 30 vendors.”

Gillespie and the Zine Board — the four-person council in charge of planning the fair — will apply for a grant from the Kingston Arts Council to finance next year’s event. For the last three fairs, Gillespie has covered all the expenses himself, including the cost of renting a venue and advertising.

Richard Tyo, the host of CFRC’s Free Radio, has handed out his zines at Zine Fair since the event’s inception. He said he sees it as a great opportunity to network with fellow zine lovers.

“It’s sort of a hub for people like that,” he said. “You get to share your zines and you get to meet the people that actually get them.” It takes him an average of a week to finish a zine — delicate palm-sized leaflets containing songs, poems and collages. Tyo often gets donations of around $5 for his work.

But he doesn’t do it for the money.

“It’s just my creative outlet,” he said. “The whole getting published in a magazine thing, I haven’t really tried per se, but it’s easier to just type it up on a type writer, print it out, and hand it to strangers.”

“[The point of Zine Fair] is to give zine makers a place to show their zines to people who might want to read them,” Gillespie said.

The third annual Kingston Zine Fair will take place tomorrow at the Artel from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

What's a Zine?

Bill Gillespie said a zine is an independent publication with a DIY aesthetic. A zine-maker doesn’t have to answer to editors or advertisers and have complete control over their product.

The end product can vary in its look. A zine can be a handmade magazine — photocopied, hand-stitched, collaged or stapled together. It can also be a more
elaborate small scale publication. The key is to make the publication your own, Gillespie said.

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