Polly and Ruth answer questions about the print blogzine that they created during lockdown 2020, based on their punkgirldiaries.com blog.
Part fanzine, part analytic journalism, part Blue Peter annual, punkgirldiaries blogzine is a 40-page visual treat for fans of punk rock bands, fashions and attitude. Blogzine 1 has original art, colour clashes and loads to read. It includes interviews with Juliana Hatfield, Fiona Dutton of Defiant and Alannah Currie of The Unf*ckables, nostalgia for Doc Marten boots, Jackie magazine and Top of the Pops as well as a critical look-back at the sexism of the 1970s. The first edition of 200 books are numbered and are of interest to punk collectors.
Where did you get that cover from?
Ruth: The 1950s?
Polly: It was specially created for us by the artist Sadie Hennessy, who describes herself as a “shenanigator”. We were more than delighted when she agreed to do the cover for issue 1.
Who are the two women on page 34?
Ruth: I think it’s Polly’s mum and ‘Auntie Valerie’
Polly: Love that picture, but those gals are way too glamorous for that! It’s actually a photo taken at one of those 1970s dinner and dances by my father, who was working as an events photographer. We’d love it anybody recognised them!
How did you manage to produce the zine when you live in different cities and everything was in lockdown?
Ruth: We decided to do it by email; later we established the format and contents by text message. The next day we did a video chat where I corrected all the spelling and Polly explained about graphic layers. We found a great community printer, Martin (famous in Sheffield) who was about to furlough himself but was rescued by our little job. You might think that we just flung it together, but there were a lot of hours put in just at that point where the whole world changed and there was nothing left to go out for. Many of the pages have been published in the blog already, but we re-wrote some and created new content too.
Polly: Deciding to go into print triggered a series of steep learning curves for us, especially with Photoshop. Luckily there are plenty of communication options, so we had daily, sometimes hourly check ins and updates of our progress. We laughed a lot as well.
Who’s going to read it?
Polly: I think anyone’s who’s even a teensy bit interested in the whole punk ethos and era. We’re all about variety as well; we’ve included exclusive interviews, some semi-serious opinion pieces, there’s also some humour and original art. I also think that style-wise it’s very much of that punk fanzine era.
Ruth: We talk about this a lot. Punk professors are definitely going to read it. They’ll enjoy the graphics and colour, along with the typewriter-y fonts. But they’ll despair that we didn’t include any footnotes. Hopefully they’ll recommend it to their students with blue hair. Also some really old people who might have been alive in 1977 may read it too. We hope that they’ll love it and not send us picky emails about how we got something wrong, we only want emails and tweets from people who like it, obviously!
What’s keeping you awake at night?
Polly: The deafening silence of previously busy roads! I also wonder whether or not we can take some of the lessons we’ve learned from this into the future.
Ruth: I do worry about venues and the possibility of gigs in the near future. But it’s also a mistake to eat tiramisu late at night because of the strong coffee.
Which page do you think has the best colour combinations?
Polly: Love this question! When I was reading up about layout and design, there were plenty of suggestions about selecting a colour palette and then just sticking to that throughout your publication. But then the first rule of punk club is that there are no rules, so screw that. I think that The Unf*ckables pages have come out really well, the combination of a very sparky interview, combined with photos and graphics.
Ruth: There’s quite a lot to choose from – the lilac/brown contents page, the pink and blue bin bag page, but I think I’d go for the 3 shades of purple with yellow on the Juliana Hatfield page.
Where are you going first – dentist or hairdresser?
Polly: Haircut!! Currently sporting a disgusting ragged DIY moptop.
Ruth: Dentist, as one of my teeth has sadly succumbed to French bread and started to crumble. No fluoride when we were young.
Why did you decide to do a print version of your blog?
Ruth: We suddenly realised that online things could easily get lost to history as technology changes. Also publishing a book makes us proper authors. Books are just great!
Polly: Definitely the lost in technology thing, but also because “why not?”
What other music books have you read recently?
Ruth: Zoe Howe/Celeste Bell’s book about her mother Poly Styrene, which is fabulous, two of Viv Albertine’s biographical books; I’ve now gone back to re-read Jon Savage’s England’s Dreaming, but this time I’m making notes!
Polly: I’ve recently re-read Tracey Thorn’s Another Planet, which I’d first gobbled down several months ago. It’s very evocative of the era, the endless diary entries of not much happening, the lists of records, and the toe-curling teenage snogs. I’ve almost got too much to say about this book and I’d really like to interview Tracey for the blog.
Is there anything in the zine to make you laugh?
Ruth: Some of the wry comments about sexism stupidity in the late ‘70s are amusing, the interview with Alannah Currie ex-Thompson Twins about her first band The Unf*ckables is a riot. I think the funniest bit is about 1977 punk band Defiant. They got hyped by the NME, and now have allegedly ‘the fourth rarest record of all time’ which doesn’t really exist because they just stuck their own labels on old 7” singles. The blogzine is a treat for difficult times; visually, it’s a lot of fun, but it’s also a great read!
Polly: There’s definitely a strand of humour that runs through it. It’s a bit like a print version of a massive night out with your most pop-knowledgeable, funniest, and most sarcastic friends!