we are words + pictures

September 30, 2009


boy hand


Word got around that waw+p were having a pop-up stall at Brick Lane’s Tea Rooms market. What was to be there was unclear to me, but I expected ‘zines. The ‘zines (short for fanzine) should have certain things in common. That is to say, they are:


Strictly amateur

Payment may be taken after the fact (and money is nice), but the making of the ‘zine is a labour of love. 


Easily made and reproduced.

Anyone should be able make one, either by hand, in a high street copy shop or illicitly on somebody else’s photocopier. 


Show the hand of the maker 

Not too perfect. There is always a flaw, of sorts, albeit a carefully calculated one. ‘Zines are not to be confused with folk art.



Anything goes, pretty much. ‘Zines are a direct transfer of information from the maker to the reader, the literary equivalent of home-made christmas cards.



If these were made for ‘the man’ (unless the world has changed in a particularly horrible way) they would not look like this (witness Justine Frischmann’s transformation from being the coolest, edgiest kid on the block, pre-Elastica, to being just another girl in a leather jacket).


Drawn from life

Directly, indirectly, tangentially, obliquely, whatever.



The Bayeaux tapestry was a ‘zine. ‘Zines predate comics and have probably existed since a caveman first decided to draw a moustache on someone else’s wall painting.



Perhaps the first stories a child writes are really ‘zines, pictures with captions. 



We all want to leave traces. Materials vary more with ‘zines and therefore take on more of a significance than they would with commercially reproduced work.


Abide by no rules

If one thing unites the makers of ‘zines it might be that they don’t want to belong to a club that would have them. 


Anyone can make a ‘zine, true, but waw+p are selective. There is still a lot of choice, though, and as I’m laying the books out on the seat next to me this becomes clear. I have:




publisher unknown, undated,

see illustration above

Visually and materially the most striking thing on the stall, this is beautifully made by hand, with inserted pages covered in obsessive handwritng and screen prints. The one that you (or at least I) instantly wanted to own. My work colleagues were very impressed with this one in particular.



Marc Ellerby,


http://www.marcellerby.com, 2009

Has to be read to be appreciated, but once you get going it’s great. Then you can’t stop.



Philip Spence,


http://www.ninjabunny.com, 2009.

I love this, not least because of its surprises (there were layers of unwrapping to get through too, and we all like presents). It is just like listening to someone talking. And made you feel like they might be quite nice to know. The book itself is a beautiful thing to own. The review from the Forbidden Planet website can be seen here, with more images.



frightened john

Gareth Brookes,


http://www.appallingnonsense.co.uk, 2008

The simplicity of this is very appealing and the drawings bear scrutiny very well. It didn’t leave the most pleasant taste, but then it clearly isn’t meant to. The best story and the ‘zine which is most evocative of a place.




Sean Azzopardi,


http://www.phatcatz.org.uk, 2007

The least palmable and most meaty of the ‘zines, this is more of a novel and hence needs a review of it’s own to do it justice. Sean was there at the stall and was kind enough to do a sketch in the back of the book for me (which is highly appreciated, see the rules of ‘zine, above). His claustrophobic descriptions took me right to the security desk the protagonist had been stuck behind.



the nose book,

publisher unknown, undated

See below.


Thank you to Matt, Mark and Julia for curating and manning the stall,  and putting up with my questions. Apologies that I questioned the value of the (uncredited) nose book. Seeing me smiling on the way home, the ice cream man gave me a free 99.  Even with the high per page cost, It was a good pick.


This seems to be the way it is. We are words + pictures bring small pleasures to times and places where such pleasures might not otherwise fit. The books are can be concealed up the sleeve and are easily palmed in a boring meeting. They can mostly fit into a smallish envelope and can be easily posted as a surprise present, with one first class stamp. They can go anywhere. 


It is the same way with waw+p. So what next, now this finished work has been presented? It is very difficult to criticise the work of a collective, especially when the work is so diverse and has been made in the way it has.


Material efforts will always be seductive and help distract the eye from text (which may become secondary). If there is a choice to limit the form of the work (a choice Gareth, Sean and Mark have all made, to a greater or lesser extent), then all the emphasis is thrown onto the text, which has to then stand up. This applying of constraints is a good test of how good the content really can be. Hence, work driven by the writing is what I’ll be looking for on waw+p’s stall next time. And I want there to be a sequel to the nose book.



fanny in the door










Lastly, an apology. I missed the Badger book. It’s gentle illustrations make a good counterpoint to the other content that I saw.  I’ll check it out online. Sorry to everyone else whose publications I also did not get to. Until next time.


Another story:

When this was being written, there was a man standing next to my seat complaining. That is normal enough for South West trains, but what was not normal was that he had a live pigeon on his head (which had ridden there throughout the journey), and was complaining about it crapping down his back. 


2 Responses to “we are words + pictures”

  1. […] final confirmation our next stall date pretty much as I type. We also got a lovely write up from Architect/dream reclaimer/customer Alison Sampson. She is good […]

  2. […] to placate you, there’s a glowing review of the WAW+P stall in Bricklane, of which my ‘Reasons..’ comic gets a lovely […]

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