First it was a palace, then the home to the Inland Revenue; now Somerset House is morphing into a grand space for radical publishing and DIY activism. Its exhibition ‘Print: Tearing It Up’ charts 100 years of magazines – from the glossy mainstream to the political underground – and investigates a medium that’s refused to concede defeat to the digital revolution. And this weekend, the show will go from observation to action, with off-shoot Process, a two-day festival of zine fairs and print workshops led by OOMK, artists-in-residence at Somerset House Studios. Ahead of the fest, we speak to three London zine-makers who are making noise in the media, on their own terms. Print is dead, long live… print!
OOMK (One of My Kind)
Rose Nordin is one of the founders of OOMK, a zine exploring feminism, faith and identity.
What is OOMK, how would you describe it?
‘OOMK is both a zine and an art publishing collective. We have a wider network, with different artists who may have contributed to the magazine or consult on it.’
Why did you decide to go with the name?
‘We were called “One of My Kind”, it’s a song [by Conor Oberst]. We liked the fact that it was about being very exclusive, but also very inclusive at the same time. We made a point of saying, “We are looking for Muslim women to contribute half of this content.” We wanted to detract from the post-9/11 discourse around Muslim women and their “oppressed” status.’
What was the beginning of OOMK?
‘I met [OOMK’s editor-in-chief] Sofia and immediately felt connected to her, it was nice to see another brown face in the zine space. It was a really predominant white punk, white feminist aesthetic going on. It didn’t make us feel unwelcome, but it did not make us feel welcome. The zine world is a beautiful space. You don’t have to have a level of ability or status to be involved, but there was that little bit of a clique.’
What London zines do you rate?
‘Jacob V Joyce makes illustrated zines. They’re unapologetic, and the work is really cool. And Soofiya Andry [of the feminist Bloody Hell zine], their work is really important.’
What advice would you give to someone starting up a zine?
‘Go to fairs a lot and talk to people. It’s not about being in front of desk, coming up with a branding strategy. It’s about the people you meet.’ www.oomk.net
Stylist Charlotte Roberts started satirical fashion mag Mushpit along with friend Bertie Brandes in 2011.
What is Mushpit?
‘It started off as a satirical fashion teen magazine, where we wanted to create a platform for people who were feeling disillusioned with the fashion industry, and feeling like they weren’t welcome. It’s clever dressed up as stupid. That’s what we like to say.’
Where did the name come from?
‘We lived in this very garish new build in Dalston, and when we moved in, it had these very plush mushroom-coloured carpets, so we merged “plush pit” and “mosh pit”. Everyone used to come back, “We’re going to the mush pit!”’.
Is there a piece of Mushpit work you’re really proud of?
‘We did “the diary of a fuck boy’s house”, with artist Natalia Stuyk, which was a 3D rendering. And we have a male centrefold in each issue, which is always quite hilarious.’
If Mushpit were a person, what would they be like?
Sharan Dhaliwal launched Burnt Roti, a celebration of South Asian heritage and talent, back in 2016.
What is Burnt Roti?
‘It’s a South Asian lifestyle magazine, online and in print. It’s a mag that focuses on the stuff that South Asians don’t usually tend to talk about, because there tends to be stigma around it. Mental health, sexual health, identity. It talks a lot within the diaspora communities, in England, and outside as well.’
Where did the name come from?
‘When I was young, my mum would be like “okay, we need to teach you how to make a roti.” I knew the reason behind it, it was, “I want her to learn how to make a roti so that she can feed her husband.” So I was pissed off by that. From a young age I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be owned by anyone. So they tried to get me to make rotis, and I would purposely burn them. It was like a small [piece of] activism, within myself.’
What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start a zine?
‘Listen to ideas or be part of a different one. When I started it was very much “this is my idea” but I’m a North Indian, light-skinned Punjabi. I have a very different life compared to a lot of South Asians. Colourism, racism, it doesn’t affect me like it affects a lot of my South Asian brothers and sisters. So I can’t be the South Asian voice, I need to learn, I needed to speak to people. People came up to me and said: “We love your magazine, BUT…” Instead of saying, “screw you.” I went “Shit… maybe I haven’t thought of that.”’ www.burntroti.com
The ‘Print: Tearing It Up’ exhibition runs at Somerset House until Aug 22. Free.
Process! Festival runs Sat Jul 21-Sun Jul 22 at Somerset House’s River Rooms and Lancaster Rooms. Tube: Temple. £7.
Need more mags? You’re in luck, there’s going to be an exhibition of Time Out covers.