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IZM Interviews: Lou Viner (Our Victory Line / Lincoln Zine Fest)

Lou is a 30 something zinester and zine fest organiser from Lincoln, UK. She’s been writing zines for around 10 years, and currently writes a perzine called Our Victory Line, and has put out a collaborative zine called Yr Faves Are Problematic. Lou’s zines are open and honest accounts of her life and her mental health, work, and losses, but also document the joyful things – like being a music fangirl, her travels, trips to zine fests, and fat empowerment.

Our Victory Line 5 (Lou Viner). A picture of Lou's zine. It is printed in bright pink ink, with an image of a woman in ancient-style dress looking out to sea, next to an anchor.
Issue 5 of Lou’s perzine Our Victory Line

Hi Lou! Most of the zines of yours I’ve seen have been perzines, what do you enjoy or find rewarding about making them? How did you get into zines generally?

I think the main reason I write perzines is because those were the only zine I knew of for a few years – the people who I discovered zines through mainly wrote perzines, so when I started, that was the natural path for me. I got into zines from Livejournal – someone I followed made a beautiful, full colour perzine with their words and photography. I was also part of a swap and sell community, and people on there were selling zines there too so I bought some and so it began. I googled and found some distros in Canada and bought some other zines, then found distros in UK and off I went.

I find them rewarding in a way I am not sure I can explain. I feel like writing my words down is cleansing and also validating. When people pass that pound coin to me over a table or press that ‘buy’ button on etsy, it does more for me than I think I know. People want to hear what I have to say. It’s a strange thing really.

A few years ago I saw you doing zine reading from one of your perzines at Northwest Zine Fest – what was that experience like for you? Is it something you’d like the opportunity to do more of?

Oh my, I remember that! Gosh, it was a weird experience. Everyone else who spoke before and after me read these amazing, happy and weird stories and I chose something really depressing, if I remember correctly, and told everyone to be safe and look at pictures of cats afterwards! That is the only reading I have ever done, for some reason. I would love to do more. I am a bit of a natural performer, but I think reading my own words always stops me from speaking. I much prefer people to read them in their own time!

Yr Faves Are Problematic (Lou Viner). Lou's zine, which has the title, plus an image of a snake, and the words "a compliation zine"
Lou’s compilation zine, Yr Faves Are Problematic, a zine about the complicated feelings people have over cultural products people love, but know have issues.

You’ve also made a collaborative zines called Yr Faves are Problematic, how does that compare to making other types of zines?

So far, there’s only been 1 issue because of how hard it is to do a collaborative zine! So many people so interest in writing for it, but life is busy. At this point, even I haven’t written anything for the second issue. But then it sells so well!

What kind of style do you have as an editor, do you try and push a zine in a certain direction or are you more hands-off and let it be dictated by the people taking part and their submissions?

As an editor, I try not to do too much; I did choose not to include some submissions to the first issue as after reading them, they went above being problematic faves and veered into just down right bad people! Also, one story was about a family member so I felt it didn’t really have a place in the zine. I didn’t have a huge amount of submissions though, so there wasn’t much editing to be done thankfully.

Your Faves Are Problematic (Lou Viner). Image reads: Call for Submissions. Your Faves are Problematic, issue 2. A zine about your faves being bad. Tell us your stories - from the slightly troublesome to the full on cancelled. Submissions to - thiswaltz@hotmail.co.uk by August 31st.
Call for Entries for Yr Faves Are Problematic, which is currently open for submissions.

Aside from making zines you also run Lincoln Zine Fest – can you tell me a bit about the experience of organising that?

It is a love/hate relationship! I had always wanted to do a zine fest in Lincoln and when I got wind that someone else was possibly going to be doing a similar event, I jumped at the chance to get in there first. I can be a bit controlling so I tend to do it all myself – with a little help from my partner and my pal Bettie, who runs Sheffield Zine Fest.

Images reads: Lincol Zine Fest. Underneath there is a cartoon illustration of 3 people. They are holding zine making equipment: a stapler, pens, scissors, glue in their hands.
Lincoln Zine Fest artwork by Emma Thacker

It’s tough, I’m not going to lie – it’s difficult when you can’t get funding so have to pay for everything yourself, which thankfully, in the past, I’ve had to privilege to be able to do. I asked for help from people in the local zine/art community but when they found out there may be a monetary aspect to it, they lost interest. It’s also tough not sharing the work out, but I’ve made my zine bed, so I am going to lie in it, you know?

I love it though, on the day, and after, when I see all of the work come together and with the support of both the local community and from those further afield. Lincoln has a growing zine scene, which is mixing with the growing arts, spoken word and music scenes, so I can only hope it continues to grow.

How do you go about making the zine fest accessible to more people?

I always ensure firstly, that the location is accessible, which I have been lucky with, in the fact that though Lincoln doesn’t have many independent venues, those it does have are accessible. I’ve also made use of the local library and arts building at the University, which are of course accessible as a requirement.

Regarding other aspects of accessibility, I’ve ensured that other than giving preference to people who are part of marginalised groups, I’ve also given preference to Lincoln and Lincolnshire zinesters and creatives over ‘out of towners’. This ensures that a bigger community is reached, and introduces new people to the world of zines. By embracing the arts community in the city, it brings people who may not know a thing about zines into a free space, where they can discover something new.

Like most events in 2020, Lincoln Zine Fest isn’t running this year due to Coronavirus, but can you share any news about what might be happening in the future for LZF? And if the sky was the limit – what would your dream future for it be?

LZF 2021 will be at a completely new venue within the city, where we are going to be working in close conjunction and partnership with the organisation. I’m not sure I can say much more at this stage but I am very excited to be working with them and look forward to the event! If the sky was the limit, I would have as many tables as I could fit in the biggest venue in the city, all for free, with visitors coming from far and wide, but alas, that is just a dream!

Over the past decade the biggest shift in zine making has probably been social media. Zinesters used to get their work out in very different ways – listings in other zines, pen-paling, distros, local activist centres and then later personal websites. How do you think this shift has affected zine culture?

I think it’s changed massively – both in a good way and a bad way. I miss reading the little snippets about someone’s zine, sending some pennies over paypal and waiting for a week or two for a zine in the post from a far away country. I often hate the way zines have become somewhat commercialised – every one is making a zine these days. There is a fine line between gatekeeping and protecting the community though and this is something I really struggle with personally. On the other hand, social media has opened the zine community up and let in people who wouldn’t have known about zines otherwise. It’s a slippery slope. I am not a brand, I don’t even really refer to myself as writer, even after all these years!

Can you share some of your favourite things from the zine world?

I could go on for hours about my favourite zines and zinesters but I’ll try to be short

Some of the best zines I’ve read, not by people listed above are: Fucked – on being sexually dysfunctional in sex-positive queer scenes, Working Class Queers, Pansy, and Telegram. I have over 100 zines in my collection so I would struggle to tell you all my faves! (I’m sorry if I’ve missed anyone! It’s not intentional)

What else have you been enjoying, or been inspired by lately?

I am a self confessed fan girl – with my main focus being the band Deaf Havana. Their music is a massive influence for me. I hear their lyrics and I hear the words of a perzine being sung to me. Other influences are my friends, their work, their lives – I try to surround myself with people who I am in awe of.

I’ve been reading less and less to be honest – with COVID19 and lock down, I’ve found it tough to focus. I’ve been working from home so after a day sat in front of a computer in my house, I like to just switch off and watch something that I can either completely focus on or completely lose myself in. I’ve been watching a lot of documentaries, mainly things like Anthony Bourdain – Parts Unknown and other food and travel shows. I’ve also been watching I may destroy you on BBC iplayer. Though dark, it’s absolutely amazing and Michaela Coel is faultless.

Do you have any projects you’re working on right now?

I have started writing my ‘Guys with guitars’ zine, my ode to my fan girl nature, but as I said before, sitting in front of the computer at home, whilst I’ve been having to do my job from home, has meant I don’t like to sit and write too much on my laptop. But it’s not going to be a rush job, I am going to take my time. I’ve written a few bits for the next issue of my perzine but again, I am letting the words come out when they can and not letting myself get too bogged down with it.

Where should people go to find find out more about you?

My zines can be purchased from Pen Fight distro or from my etsy shop – and my social media for Lincoln Zine Fest, which is on facebook, twitter and Instagram.

A graphic that reads: Brown Recluse zine distro. For and by people of colour. PO Box 22281 Oakland, CA 94623. BrownRecluseDistro.com. Snail mail and online orders.
Brown Recluse: a zine distro created to support and centre zines made by queer and trans people of colour. See more about them at brownreclusedistro.com

Any final words?

I want to take this opportunity to highlight the amazing zines and outreach people like Queer Zine Library, Tender Hands Press, and Brown Recluse Zine Distro, are doing right now. As with most communities, even the zine community has a race problem, a privilege problem, and we should listen to marginalised voices more, lift them up and give them the space they deserve.

Zines forever, Lou


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IZM Interviews: Lou Viner (Our Victory Line / Lincoln Zine Fest)

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