Southend on Zine – a review

Dave – the editor

Southend on Zine

Graham Burnett

Published by: Pritty Toons Press

Available from here: https://spiralseed.co.uk/product/southend-on-zine/

As the title suggests, the book documents fifty years of Southend’s underground and alternative press. Actually, it does a lot more than that – it documents the counter culture in and around Southend-on-Sea over the last half a century.

As you can imagine, researching the material for this book took a lot of work. Much of that was through interviews with the eclectic range of people who made up and in a good few cases, still make up the radical and alternative scene in Southend. Then there was the slog of transcribing the interviews! Finally, there’s the commentary putting everything into context to create a work that runs counter to the many shallow stereotypes held about Southend, simply because of it’s location in Essex. Graham Burnett has done a superb job in pulling this project together over a period that hasn’t been an easy time for many people.

As regular readers of this blog may be aware, we’ve very recently relocated to near Bristol. A city that is renown for its radical and alternative culture, although it has to be said, it is over-hyped at times. Being what’s termed a blow in the the city, I can hold up a copy of Southend on Zine and holding my head up, rightly state that down in what used to be our corner of Essex, we had our own rebellious culture that’s still evolving and carrying on.

The published interviews run in chronological order, starting off with Mushroom back in the early 1970s, running all the way through to Anna Armitage and Sonny Green operating in the present. They encompass hippies, punks, skins (not the boneheads!), artists, poets, permaculturalists, bio-regionalists, community activists and rabble rousers amongst many others. Featured are the venues that played host to many of the events and activities that made up the counter culture in Southend-on-Sea. Some still survive, new ones occasionally emerge but sadly, a fair few have disappeared. The one I really miss was The Railway Hotel in Clifftown Road which was a venue we used on many occasions from 2016 through to early 2020.

After the interviews, there’s a compilation of the front covers of the various radical publications that have hit the streets over the last half century. These range from the hand drawn, typed and Letraseted through to the slicker looking publications put together using desktop publishing. Even in the age of the Internet and seemingly universal social media, there is still a place for printed ‘zines.

Much of the history documented in the book deals with the period before the advent of the Internet and social media. The only way you could find out what was going on was either through word of mouth or via a ‘zine. In the pre-Internet era, printed ‘zines played a vital role in getting the word out and linking people together. As we’re in an age where the government is cracking down on protest, as we’ve argued elsewhere, printed material distributed under the radar will have a vital role to play into the future.

On pages 128-133, you’ll find the interview Graham conducted with me in what now feels like a different life back in 2019. The interview took place in the garden of the sadly defunct Railway Hotel in Clifftown Road – a venue that was one of the main hubs for the alternative scene in Southend. The Heckler, Alternative Estuary and the side project I was involved in with a few comrades from London, DIY Culture are featured in this section, along with images of the publications. I’d like to express my sincere gratitude to Graham for including us in Southend on Zine, particularly given our sometimes difficult and contrarian views!

Like Lockdown Diaries of the Working Class, Southend on Zine is a brilliant example of grassroots, do it yourself publishing funded by people with a passion for the issues being covered and written about. This is a way of kicking back against corporate dominated publishing and giving real voices the audience they deserve. Long may this noble tradition continue:)

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