The ExpoZine fair held last Saturday was filled with creative talent. The event, held in a church basement on St-Dominique, featured over 185 creators of small press, comic and zines. David Widgington, publisher or Cumulus Press (www.cumuluspress.com), explained what a zine is: “A zine is usually something made with paper, but can be made with other things as well. It’s usually created by a individual who collates, writes, draws, then folds the paper in half and sells it for a dollar or two, or gives it away. It is a self created format of distributing one’s own work, without any intermediary. A zine could also be someone who gets a group of people together, takes stuff from them, and puts it out. It’s basically a do it yourself aesthetic,” he said.
ExpoZine was created in 2002 to provide a place where underground publications outside mainstream media could reach the public. It regroups individuals from the English and French community in Montreal. Widginton elaborated on who attended the fair saying that “the people are mostly from Montreal. There are people from Toronto, from Ottawa and also some from the U.S. There are poster artists, people making their own zines; people making magnets with their zines, someone is selling jams with their zines. There are small press publishers, comic publishers and also zinesters who make their own comics,” he said.
ExpoZine was well attended, with people flowing through the numerous tables. One could really feel the positive buzz and atmosphere which is a trademark of any well run community event. The great atmosphere was complemented by a live DJ and some food provided by the church. Having the event for only one day helped keep the energy going from start to finish.
Many different independent newspapers and magazine creators were in attendance. Dru Oja Jay, coordinating editor and founder of The Dominion (www.dominionpaper.ca) was one of them. His monthly newspaper started 2 years ago as a .pdf file and grew later to print format having homeless people distribute them in Ottawa. Contributors from all over the country are writing for the grassroots paper. “We basically try to focus on issues that do not get covered by corporate media, the Globe and Mail, the CBC, the National Post, the Gazette or the local dailies. We try to zero in on stuff that gets ignored. One of the main reasons for our publication is [to expose] the workings of power. The word dominion is defined as the exercise of control over a specific territory or sphere of influence. So we focus on power and how that plays out locally and internationally,” said Jay. The Dominion also covers environmental issues, Canadian poetry, agriculture and health issues as well.
Another local magazine publisher at the event was Ron Saba, editor Montreal Planet magazine (www.mtlplanet.ca). The monthly magazine, which he started last March, covers topics such as politics, human rights and social justice causes. Saba commented on how there is no shortage of good material coming out of Montreal. “As an editor, stuff finds you,” he said.
Saba also elaborated on some of challenges facing independent media saying that “the hardest part is distribution. Some of the distributors are owned by publishers. So you have this terrible situation where people who are publishing stuff are in control of the people who put the stuff in front of people. It is something that Canadians have to be aware of. Because we are given the illusion that with all these new book stores that there is a free flow in information, but in fact there isn’t. It’s anything but that. You only see what is given to you; you don’t see what doesn’t get to you,” he said.
What one did see at ExpoZine was a lot of community support for alternative media which we don’t hear about often enough. For more information on Expozine and some of the magazines mentioned, visit www.expozine.ca.