Thursday, 29 May 2014

Darlington Typed

Last weekend I went to Darlington. They had the Salford Zine Library up, so there were zines all over the old card shelves of a an ex-card shop on High Row. I'd popped in the weekend before and liked the people, so agreed to go down and do a bit of collaborative typewriting on the 2nd weekend that they were open.

I quite like turning up to a new town with my portable typewriter, ready for action like some old-fashioned typing-pool hero. It was pretty poo-ey weather though, so I wasn't sure how busy things would be. The square was all filled with foodstalls for a 'Darlington loves food' type event - cooking demonstrations in a marquee, that kind of thing - but as the day progressed and weather worsened, a lot of these packed up early and left. What was q surprising for me, though, was that despite this, Darlington had a buzz and was busy with people coming in for the town centre shops. It seems to actually be a functioning market town in a way that is rare these days. And what was really q great about it is that each time I went, there was some fun street theatre going on that was mobile and engaging people and gave folk something beyond the shopping and their usual routine to interact with.

Vicky from Navigator North had gone shopping and brought a roll of fax paper that has to be on the 'nearly defunct' list of things to buy. It worked well with the typewriter so we got started, and I got my first collaborator called Mel sitting with me so that between us we got a ball rolling and I started to quite enjoy myself. While she was typing I would doodle in my sketchbook, and when folks came in we'd get them to add something and see how things went. 

In the last hour I looked around and suddenly realised we'd got quite busy. Friends of the Darlington arts scene had come in and were checking out the zines and it was nice - a proper temporary functioning zine library. 

(this and all photos of the day by Navigator North)

I don't know anyone apart from the Salford Zine Library who are actively taking zines out for people to see, but it's something I really think is valuable and I hope they don't stop. 

This was the same weekend as a London event that got a little TV feature on the internet, here, and the points made by people on it are I think quite good at suggesting why zines are important. Especially in an increasingly monotonous world, where print media just reflects the lowest-common-denominators and marketing-driven repetitions, zines are one of the few places where people are encouraged to be different, do things differently and in their own unique way. One zine is not the same as the next. Your life is not the same as mine. Our interests do not need to coincide to be interesting. The more diverse perspectives, interests and passions there are, the less dead we are as a people.

We closed the shop late, because of the late influx of people, and in fact I left before the last visitors finished browsing - they were a couple of zine enthusiasts I know from other events and it was really nice to see they'd come to check these ones out, on their first ever visit to Darlo. 

I headed down to Bradford, to catch something of the excellent Threadfest they do each year. Free bands in a half dozen venues, of which I saw an amazing guy called Matthew Bourne by the ice rink, and then some of the acts at the New Playhouse, of which my favourite were the female-vocals+drums of Rattle.

(sketch of the crowd at the Matthew Bourne gig)

Sunday, after a night at my folks', and back to Darlington for a slightly sunnier day. I took the typewriter outside, and with a local photographer collaring people he knew or recognised, we got more people taking part. An inveterate drunk. Market traders. Families. People who used to have them. "I had a pink barbie one when I was a girl". Some really muscly young guys out from the gym. Street performers - the grannies on bicycles and segways who were chasing people and playing old tunes on their sound systems. We tried making pictures with text, we did typewritten interviews, we took jokes that we found in zines and reminisced about fanzines bought at gigs in the eighties.

And what was nice was at the end of the day, some folk who I had just briefly interacted with on the street had come into the shop and were spending a good while just sitting and reading through different zines. Perzines, anarchist zines, travel zines, punk zines, art zines, zines full of jokes, zines produced as part of degree shows, zines I recognised, zines I had a copy of, zines that were funny or cleverly made or intriguing and suggestive of other ways of seeing the world.

Thankyou Darlington, I enjoyed spending some time with you, and I hope to come back again soon. It's a recommended town!

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