I quizzed the infectiously enthusiastic Mr Gherkin in the following penetrating manner, in order to elucidate the aims and objectives of the forthcoming (and terribly exciting) Alternative Press Festival
AN: So Jimi give us a quick round up of what the Alternative Press is about and what we can expect from the Alternative Press Festival.
JG: What we’re about is pretty simple, and that is, promoting creativity through self publishing. It’s something that we know a bit about ourselves, and something which satisfies our creative needs, makes us happy. We want others to experience that. We’re constantly bombarded by stuff in the mainstream media, entertainment and arts. Don’t get me wrong, some of it’s really good but the institutions that run it and their motives are bogus. It encourages mediocrity and passivity. Never do they say “give it a go” only “buy, buy, buy”. We want to show people what is possible, and encourage them to try for themselves. The festival is our way of trying to reach out to many different groups of people, we’re trying out different venues, different approaches to the idea of small press events. We’re all pretty sick and tired of events that reflect the old “comic con” format. We’re experimenting. Hopefully we’ll bring in people from all different kinds of backgrounds, radical literature, comix, there are a lot of groups of art students these days producing zines or starting collectives, distros and such. It’s great to have them involved too.
AN: Sounds pretty broad. What do you think these scenes can learn from one another? What for example could a small press comic creator learn from a small press poet?
JG: Good question, very specific though. I never really thought of it like that really. The point is that it’s good to look at what’s going on outside what you’re into. It broadens your scope as a creative person (as everyone is). I don’t want to go to events, see the same people every time, the same work. But that’s what’s happening, a lot of the time these things seem like a really sad annual get-together of piss heads. A comic creator could learn a lot from a poet and vice versa. Just as we learn a lot from each other as people. It’s nice to meet people outside your usual group of friends, it opens your eyes to how people live, their beliefs and ideas. This makes you a more tolerant, open individual. Just as being a comic creator, meeting zinesters, poets or whatever makes you a better artist. At the very least it could give you something to write about outside the subject you normally might tackle.
AN: You’ve said that one of the aims of the festival is to get more people involved in small press and to encourage creativity, but do we really need more small press creators? What would you say the individual gets out of making their own publications?
JG: Well I think that it makes people feel good to be creative. It makes you more confident in your ideas. A lot of people have ideas but they keep them to themselves, maybe they think they’re not clever enough, or maybe it’s just that they’re not encouraged to give their opinion enough. Self – publishing is, I think, a remedy to that mentality; once you’ve done it, it’s hard to say “I’m not good enough” anymore, and then when others give you good feedback it really cements that. I don’t know if we need more small press creators, however, I think people, at least need to know about the small press. I think people need to be creative, I know I do.
AN: Moving off the subject of the Alternative Press for a moment, how did you first get involved in the scene? Was there a ‘eureka’ moment when you knew that you wanted to do your own stuff?
JG: No, no eureka moment… I’ve always drawn, you know, but never felt I was good enough to be a “proper” comics artist, it seemed so difficult, writing off to publications, sending work here there and everywhere. I never did all that by the way, by the time I would’ve been old enough to get into that, I wasn’t into those kinds of comics anymore. I just started submitting work to small zines and stuff, and started getting some good feedback, eventually I had enough material for a comic, so I put one together. That was it, I was exposed to the scene. I met a lot of cool people. I was inspired by their efforts to get their work out there. So, I thought, why not organise an event in London?
AN: What do you think of the small press comics scene at the moment? Is it changing? Where do you think its going?
JG: I think it’s becoming a lot more diverse. There’s stuff out there now that it’s hard to define what it even is! People ask me “what’s the difference between a comic and a zine?” I find it hard to answer. There are “comics” that some people wouldn’t even consider are comics. There are art books that are amazing creations of folding techniques. Zines that read like diaries. I think that is awesome! It really is wide open for anyone to try what they like. I think like anything, some people are happy to keep things the way they were… that’s fine for them, personally I like change. The thing about the small press scene, is that each title is so personal to it’s creators that it’s difficult to pin down exactly what the scene is about anyway. It’s about what ever people want it to be.
AN: What would you say to someone who has never made a comic or zine before but wants to get started? How does the Alternative Press help them?
JG: If you want to get started then there are lots of things you can do to ease yourself into it. First of all find a couple of zines or small press comics that are made collaboratively, that is to say they feature the work of many people. Get in touch with some of them. Go along to an event, or some comics shops have a small press section such as orbital or gosh! Or even go to myspace or something and type in “zine”; you’ll find tonnes of stuff. That’s the way I started. Or if you feel confident, just go for it. Get it done and out, before doubt starts to set in. We’d be happy to help anyone out there who wants some advice, just email us, or come along to one of our events. We’ll be happy for you to put some stuff on a communal table. At the Collaborama event on Saturday 1st August you can even join in to help us make the zine on the day. I think that a lot of it is inspiration or disgust that gets people going! Seeing something wicked and going “ I love this stuff, I’m going to have a go!” or equally powerful “this is complete shit, I can do better than this!”