Young People’s Workshops Part II

Finally, my slightly delayed reflections and resources from the second workshop the Zine Library ran at Edinburgh Central Library over the summer holidays.

The second workshop we ran was advertised with an older age bracket – 13-18 year olds.

Whilst in the first workshop we focused on fanzines, for this workshop we wanted to introduce participants to the diversity of zines.

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For the warm up activity, we refined an activity we’d previously run called ‘speed-zine-ing’. In ‘speed-zine-ing’, everyone starts with a mini-zine with a different prompt word on the front and has two minutes to fill a page from that prompt however they like. After two minutes, the zines get passed to the left and then everyone has to get on with the next prompt. We’ve found this exercise really works to break down some of the worry about creating or getting something perfect. Because we wanted participants to experiment with different media etc we ran a merge of this and a take on ‘Wreck This Journal’ by Kerri Smith which we called ‘Wreck this Zine’. Every participant started with a blank mini-zine (folded from an A3 sheet of paper). A prompt came up on the board and they had two minutes to respond to it. They then passed the zine to the left, and a new prompt came up and they then had two minutes to respond to that. We told participants that they didn’t have to respond to the prompt if they had a completely different idea. And one young person decided he just wanted to work on his own thing during the game, responding to some of the prompts but not others. Generally, we felt that if someone came to the workshop they were there to participate on their own terms, and it was up to us to provide them with the tools to do so. When he’d arrived, his mum had said he had a clear idea of what he wanted to do. In many ways that’s the facilitator’s dream, as so much of the activities we come up with are about getting participants to think about what they want to do.

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We found some prompts needed less than two minutes and some needed more. El, Emily (2) and I participated in the game, whilst Brian led it (brilliantly I might add). This meant we were there to pass zines around the table, share what we’d done without criticising, and I got to actually enjoy an activity I’d devised which was really really nice! The last slide asked everyone to look back through the zines and come up with a title which was a nice chance for reflection.

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We collected these in, and El used them as a base to start off a discussion about zines. We also handed out some zines and asked them questions about them. Some were perhaps not as well vetted as others, which meant at one point a participant read aloud from a passage in a zine about spermicide, which was hard not to die laughing at. Instead we talked about how zines sometimes have odd or weird stuff in them, and I later checked with the group of girls who had interacted with the zines to discuss how zines often have more grown up content in them.

The discussion was challenging at points, as there was one dominant and quite assertive voice in the group that was doing its best to derail the discussion. El was occupied responding to this person, and the other young people were talking about the zines they had in front of them amongst themselves. We changed tack, and structured the discussion again with each participant holding a zine and saying 1 thing they can observe from it (this is where the spermicide bit came up – credit to Aylson Stewart for creating misleadingly not child appropriate zines!) As with the other workshop I’d have liked to break them up into groups and extend this bit, but time, time, time.

Emily (2) showed them how to fold a mini-zine and we provided them with a broader range of prompts – detailing ‘types’ of zine but not content. We then handed out more paper, pens, pencils, stamps and washi tape and everyone got stuck in. Unlike with the younger age group, rather than moving amongst them, each of us sat opposite the young people in the horseshoe and worked on our own zines, and chatted about theirs, the library and other things young people talk about. Everyone almost immediately had an idea, and again I gave them a time frame, with a ten minute warning, if they wanted their zines photocopied. Our warm up took a little longer with the other group, so they had a bit less time to zine in. Again, I would have liked to be able to take them down to work the photocopier. But instead I went down with the zines to copy whilst Emily (2), El and Brian plied them with biscuits and guided them through the feedback forms.

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General Reflections:

1/ We didn’t choose the age brackets, and in the future may do these differently. The majority of participants in the second workshop were 13, and I wonder if it would make sense to do one workshop that is 7-12, one that is 13-16 and then one that is 17-25 (for example). I think this might increase attendance of the older age group, whilst better allowing us to meet the needs of each.

2/ Extending the workshop by half an hour would allow us to take participants down to the photocopier in groups and show them how to photocopy their own work. This would get them interacting with the library, and also mean if they hadn’t finished they could come back and photocopy their zine at a later date. Library photocopiers are intimidating and so actively guiding them through opens up some of the community resources in the library.

3/ Young people make AMAZING zines.

4/ Young people respond to activities that challenge and interest them. Often when young people are hard to engage or get bored doing an activity – its because the activity is boring! If you wouldn’t enjoy sitting and doing it, if it wouldn’t keep you entertained, then why would it a young person?

5/We really are going to have to come up with a system of marking zines as workshop appropriate if we want to avoid any more uncomfortable conversations about spermicide.

6/ Young people use technology and social media in amazing, creative ways. They are perfectly capable of exploring questions and issues of social media use critically and thoughtfully. One participant made a zine full of illustrations of all the characters he loves on YouTube. Another suggested, in his feedback, that having video game music playing would have helped him concentrate. We don’t need to draw a line between digital and analogue, between old and new media, ways of producing our own media, ways of telling stories. This is a false binary, a hierarchy of knowledge and media production that undermines what zines are fundamentally about. We can’t simultaneously champion cut-and-paste, DIY, make your own media, and the alternative narratives of zines and judge the media, and mediums, of young people. This isn’t the same as not critiquing them or not giving young people the space, perspective and the self-awareness to explore their relationship and use of technology. But I think we’ve yet to see the creative potential that will be unleashed as young people start to use social media and other developing technologies on their own terms, in their own ways. There’s a lot of doomsday attitudes to young people and media, but I am honestly excited and enthused to see what they do, and these workshops have only confirmed this feeling.

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This is the powerpoint we used: Young People Zine Making Slide Show

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