Stevie G: DIY vibes are alive and kicking

In his weekly column Stevie G reflects on fanzines - including some created as part of the Change the Beat creative project with teenage asylum seekers, refugees and migrants in Cork
Stevie G: DIY vibes are alive and kicking

Young Cork teens participating in the Change the Beat at The Glucksman.

The Do it Yourself (DIY) vibe has been a part of music for as long as most of us have been around. It famously provided the basis for much of the punk scene which emerged in the 70s, and it tied in with ideologies that supported self-sufficiency and independence from the mainstream music industry.

The DIY ethic is very prevalent in today’s music too, but before we explore that, it’s worth celebrating the excellent Publish and be Damned exhibition that recently ran at UCC Library in partnership with the Cork Zine archive. The Curators, Siobhan Bardsley and Fiona O’Mahony, curated an impressive collection of Cork fanzines that came out here between 1975 and 2005, in a crowd sourced exhibition that included zines such as Sunny Days, No more plastic pitches and Zeitgeist, amongst others.

These fanzines represented a counterculture without a filter, and provide an incredible document of their times. I remember going to buy many of them as a kid growing up, in various record shops and indeed in the little comic shop and printers run by Jim Morrish and his family on Father Matthew Street. It was an incredible window into an exotic world of gigs, bands and artists that I couldn’t yet experience properly as a teenager, but it was a big inspiration for me.

DIY culture led me to eventually start my own fanzine, but sadly Mumbo Jumbo only ever got to issue 1 before the actual reality that it was a huge chore put me off, and I never did one again. These fanzines were usually a labour of love, and thankfully many of those who did get it together to publish them regularly managed to overcome many obstacles and ended up providing a major social and cultural document of times in the pre-internet era.

These days social media may have taken over, but you can feel the DIY ethic all over in websites such as Tumblr, Soundcloud, beatstars, Youtube and even the now defunct Myspace. Rappers, singers, producers, designers and many other artists continue to make their own way in the world through their own ideas and creativity, and thankfully technology has made self-sufficiency far more accessible and affordable than before. Ultimately, creativity is about the idea more than anything else, and ultimately, anyone can make great art. The internet now means we all potentially have an immediate portal to the world, and the DIY vibes are alive and kicking all over.

Even fanzines, often said to be a thing of the past, continue to be published in physical and online formats, and this summer I was lucky enough to be part of a project that involved young people creating their own fanzines in Cork. Change the Beat is a creative project that involved around 30 teenage asylum seekers, refugees and migrants, steered by the Glucksman Gallery in UCC and local artist Shane O’Driscoll and also involving Cork Printmakers and the Lavit Gallery.

The work, including various art prints and even some fanzines, is currently on display in a number of public spaces in Cork city, ahead of a short film documenting the project, made by Colm Walsh, that will be screened at Indie Cork this Saturday morning. Shane, who I previously wrote about recently in my article on street art, is a perfect example of how art that is seen as counterculture can eventually become the mainstream. He and others, previously confined to painting walls on backstreets, are now getting commissioned to do big walls in public spaces such as the ESB substation on Caroline Street.

The underground can become the overground in a manner of days, and the next big rapper, singer and producer is probably making music and art in his or her bedroom right now as you read this, armed with little but some great ideas and some big dreams. The possibilities are endless and it makes making art exciting, despite the huge obstacles always in the way. “Making it big” may be the dream of some, but making great art is enough for most and it’s hard to put monetary value really on what is created in the end.

The DIY ethic means that a producer can now pretty much do everything on his or own creative terms, and that freedom is is worth an awful lot to many of those creating. It’s a stressful life that we all live, and it’s hard enough to pay rent through making art, but there’s a reason why many will continue to do their own thing on their own creative path!

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