Is Independent Publishing the new Punk?

So yes, I’m old enough to have been there at the dawning of the cultural revolution that was Punk and all the subsequent kaleidoscopic offshoots that blossomed from that defiant root, planted in the industrial ruins of what was Broken Britain in 1976. What was bad about that time was the sense that an entire generation – mine- was surplus to requirements. What was great about that time was the very real sense that no one was watching over you, no one cared what you did with yourself or what you might be up to in the shadows of those abandoned factories in the tail end of nowhere.

Sniffin’ Glue fanzine was the start of it for me – missives from the front line dispatched on rough and ready photocopied black and white sheets held together with a single corner staple. Punk was pandemic, bursting out in the regions and the rural backwaters and connecting up via independent networks, via mail art, letters, friendships made at obscure gigs at tiny venues, records bought from a handful of rogue shops or directly from the artists, and fanzines written by the people that you’d buy them from at gigs – fanzines that destroyed the accepted notions of who could be a journalist, an editor, and the notion of what a publication ought to look like… In a time before home computers; the aesthetic was defined by thick felt pen and Letraset, typewriters and words torn from the newspapers. Every town had its own titles – often two or three.  Here in Northampton we had Burnt Offering, NN4 9PZ, in Corby they had Pulled Up.

I learned how to put out a record from talking to UK Decay, who took me through the process and told me how distribution worked. I was 20. I put out a single by Northants based Trance, a post punk new wave band, and we distributed it across the UK via a whole range of independent wholesalers. All via the networks we made, the people we met and the information we exchanged.

That’s happening again now, in a different form, via crowdfunding, via independent and self-publishing, limited run digital publishing and e-book downloads, promoted via social media networks, information sharing, personal recommendations and cultural blogging sites… Now anyone can write a book, publish a book, get a book out there into the world and get it read. The hard part is cutting through the static – getting your book into the hands of the public.

Northampton flies a strong flag. Local author, Alistair Fruish, and one of our organisation’s founder members; his novella, Kiss My Asbo, is now going into a third edition. Alistair recently featured in the line up for our May Collider event at NN Cafe in Northampton, supporting the Quietus’ John Doran, who was there to read from his own new book of memoirs Jolly Lad, out now on Strange Attractor Press, and Northampton based dub poet, Roger Robinson, who has several collections out via Peepal Tree Press. Northampton author Steve Loveless’ novella Hibakusha, and my own surrealist novel, Secret Cages, have reached almost a thousand people between them via paperback and kindle. Musician and author Greg Bull‘s recent book, Not Just Bits of Paper, covering that third wave of Punk that hit in the 1980s and 90s is now readily available in the Rough Trade shops and via Amazon. Maverick genius Ethan Harrison has just followed up his self-published Illuminati Hunter with a new novel about a gay vampire TV chef. And Jamie Delano‘s new Leepus Books imprint has issued a series of books by himself and other local authors.

The world is coming alive again with the kinds of independent voices you would never find published in the mainstream press.

Punk is alive and well and living in between the covers of a paperback.

Barry Hale, perusing the shelves of the Virtual Library – May 2015