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Zine Scene

By Aaron Bronsteter

Magazines are not for everybody, especially those with eclectic interests that range from Lucha Libre wrestling, breaking into buildings and vegan cooking and that’s why ‘zinesters strive to diversify the variety of what is available to read.

At Sneaky Dee’s, a venue containing a Mexican restaurant on the first floor and a concert space on the second within a brilliantly painted landmark on a busy corner of downtown Toronto, you’ll find a creative clientele who take an active interest in the local music scene and in today’s case, an interest in the do-it-yourself media.

The Cut and Paste ’zine Festival is entering its twelfth year and continues its loyal allegiance with the venue where it all started, the second floor of Sneaky Dee’s.

A ’zine can be described as a magazine that is put together independently, usually autonomous of corporate interests and is often distributed within a community either at festivals, concerts or independently owned businesses such as music and bookstores.

The festival was started by Stacey Case, 38, a do-it-yourselfer who has carried this attitude into his occupation as a screen printer creating band merchandise such as t-shirts, posters, buttons, stickers and hats with famous clients like Sum 41 and The Constantines.

The idea for a ’zine festival came to Case twelve years prior at the Small Press Book Fair that was dominated by what he referred to as stuffy hippies and poetry. Case was selling his own ’zine at the fair, and that’s when his idea hit him.

“I came to Sneaky Dee’s afterwards, drinking some of my profits,” said a gung ho Case after another successful ’zine festival. “I thought…I’ve got to organize a convention for ’zines and nobody had ever done it before.”

After the festival, Case was with a friend at the time who doubted the idea would ever materialize, but Case was determined to prove him wrong. Minutes later, he approached the owner of Sneaky Dee’s to reserve the upstairs for a date two months later and the Cut and Paste ’zine Festival was born.

“That’s what I do, that’s how I put my ’zine together,” said Case of his idea for the name Cut and Paste. “There were no computers – only typewriters, photocopiers and glue sticks.”

The festival itself contains 25 to 30 vendor tables with a variety of ’zine topics like comics, DVDs, CDs, and most commonly, informational ’zines.

This is not the only festival of its kind in Toronto, the more popular Canzine, organized by Broken Pencil Magazine, a magazine about ’zines, also exists.

For the committed ’zine publisher, any chance to showcase work and network is golden.

At Cut and Paste, the titles and their topics vary widely: Infiltration features accounts of people breaking into closed buildings, CTRPLLR, a staple in the Waterloo community has concert listings and CD reviews, and Oh My Golly!, contains the personal musings of its creator.

There is plenty of bartering among vendors eager to discover what other like-minded ’zine authors have to offer a growing community of independent writers.

The authors rarely produce ’zines for financial gain. They see ’zines as more of a creative outlet and a medium for self-expression.

To sell a ’zine is to sell a piece of one’s self, a visual or written facsimile of one’s life, beliefs or interests. Knowing people take interest in what they produce is the sort of currency ’zine authors are able to achieve without help of a major publication or corporate funding.

“I have a hard time looking around because I get freaked out by all the new stuff,” said Case as he watches the vendors pack up their tables. “I think the vendors come to Cut and Paste because they know there are a lot of people like me who will think what they do is cool and there’s enough of us to support something like this.”

Case himself is re-entering Toronto’s ’zine scene with his latest contribution, CineMad.
“I’m a low-budget filmmaker, so I’m doing a ’zine where I interview low-budget filmmakers from the past,” explains Case. “I collect 16 millimetre reels, and each ’zine is going to come with a DVD of film that I’ve collected.”

As the afternoon winds down, the vendors usually leave with a bag of ’zines they have purchased or traded their ’zines for as the day progressed.

“This was a vintage, classic Cut and Paste and I had people here who had been to the first ones, beaming with a bag full of ’zines,” said Case after another successful festival. “After 12 years the festival hasn’t changed, except for the guy who I get the tables from and who’s behind the bar and the vendors behind the tables.”