For the last two years, I have been going with friends to the This Is Not Art festival in Newcastle. It's a big weekend-long festival which fills the centre of the city with words and ideas and music and strange visions. There's also a day-long zine fair in a rooftop carpark which is great fun and very busy, to the extent that I can usually make back the money I spent on getting to Newcastle by the number of zines and Noire prints I sell.
Last year, the NSW Government pulled their monetary support for TINA, throwing the whole festival into chaos. TINA made the money back with donations, but the tone of the festival nevertheless felt different - smaller, more cliquey, less inclusive. TINA is run by whoever volunteers to run it year-by-year, which means that the nature of the festival is ever-changing. Perhaps that was the reason for the different atmosphere. Or perhaps it had something to do with where the money was coming from.
Nevertheless, I had fun and went to weird theatre pieces and even made some money back at the Fair.
This year, one of my housemates has volunteered her mum's house in Newcastle as a crashpad, so more of us are planning to go to TINA and zines and stories are in the air.
However, yesterday I discovered that the registration fees for a table at the zine fair are $45, plus public liability insurance ($15 or so). This may not seem a great deal, except that last year the fees were, if I recall correctly, $15 including the insurance, or perhaps $25 all up. And the event is being run not by volunteers like it was, but by a professional events management company.
This news has ruined the tone of TINA preparations for me somewhat. I'm not entirely sure if I want to bother registering for the fair.
Zine fair are not, and never have been, about making money - in fact, if anything, they are about losing money in return for experiences, fun, new friends, and zine love. It costs petrol money to get to Newcastle and back, money for food and sundries in the city, money to photocopy, money for paper, and a great deal of time making the zines. The thrill of having a stack of beautiful papery creatures in your hands, as well as the joy of seeing friends, is what makes the whole thing worth it.
But putting $60 on top of all that just to sell the zines means that a lot of zine newcomers and people who just can't physically afford it won't be able to come. And that means that the zine fair will be smaller. More insular. Less fun. Old friends might not be there. Professional salespeople might be - and I have nothing against professional salespeople, even at zine fairs (many do), but the thing with professional salespeople is that it's not at zine fairs that they make their money. Nobody does. And now, the forecast looks bleak for the whole fair.
This is all presumably because TINA's finances have taken a severe hit in 2012. This is why it is so, so important for governments to support creators in what they do. Many are going to sneer at that sentiment, dismiss it as lefty crap. But the thing is, the government are the ones who have organised our society to run on money - not zine love, not connections and friendships and mutual support and sticky tape and stamps, but on cash. And, of course, we all have to adapt to that system and just suck it up when we end up on the poor side of it, which, us being students and zinesters, is pretty often. But when the government then withdraws the monetary support that they provided, we are left in the lurch and in the dark. Creators without resources. Creators forced to pay $60 to show other people their work. And that is just fucked.
So, perhaps, it's time to rely a little more on zine love, connections and friendships and mutual support and sticky tape and stamps.