At the Cambridge Creative Fair the other week I had maybe three or four conversations about the lack of coherence in the art/music scene in the fair city of Cambridge. And, again, at the inaugural Cambridge Zine Boogaloo meeting, we spent a while talking about the lack of art centre in Cambridge.
Unsuprisingly, the world-famous university here is at the centre of nearly everything in this little town: geographically, financially and, if you are a student or lecturer, socially too. That’s all well and good, of course, but the actual town of Cambridge is quite separate from the institution and has been neglected.
I think also the proximity to the giant throbbing cultural hub of London doesn’t help the situation: the fact is that it’s much easier to jump on a train for 45 minutes and get your kicks in the Big Smoke than it is to prepare a proposal, seek & secure funding and then organise a local art space. And meanwhile, the city council seem to be convinced that there actually is an Arts centre in Cambridge (but there isn’t). We need a Sticky Institute or a Hopkinson Gallery of our own.
But I don’t want to have to go to London, Nottingham or Sydney: I live here.
Everyone seems to know everyone in Cambridge. There are lots of little communities of artists of all stripes across Cambridge; connected through friends, acquaintances and workmates but with no place to call home. Lots of little art spaces have cropped up in town recently (a lot of the time, it seems to be a strategy used to keep squatters out of abandoned buildings), but they are all very temporary. Bona fide small-to-medium sized music venues, easily accessible to any and every local teenage garage band, have been closing down.
Anyway, buoyed by reading the excellent DIY or Don’t We? Zine, and by Nottingham-based zine-night Raw Print Club and by a similarly like-minded friend, we set up the Cambridge Zine Boogaloo to promote zine culture, alternative publishing and DIY skills to the unsuspecting Cambridge public. There are even rumblings of starting a Cambridge Zine Fair proper.
I always used to snub the idea of community (hey man, I grew up under Thatcher: it’s not my fault), but really, right now I can’t underestimate its importance in getting and staying inspired to make stuff and do more RIGHT NOW, to make Cambridge an awesome place to be.
Six or seven folks came along to the first night of the Zine Boogaloo (discounting the three young ‘uns who appeared thinking it was a zine fair, and who then slinked off to the bar when they found it wasn’t): a combination of zine makers, zine enthusiasts, artists, illustrators, gig organisers. Despite not having any kind of plan for what we were going to do on the night, a good time was had by all and interesting conversations, I think. I, at least, came away buzzing with ideas on new projects to start and things to think on.
Or maybe start a zine nite in your town … if you build it, they will come. Take Revenge of the Print 2011 into 2012 and beyond …