PunkGirlDiaries blogzine #1
If you’ve ever held a Riot grrrl zine in your hands or read about the music scene in Punk or Sniffin’ Glue, then the PunkGirlDiaries blogzine is for you. What’s a blogzine, you might be asking? It’s a 21st-century reimagining of the zine, using technological advances while adhering to the DIY ethos of punkzine culture. Oh, and can I mention upfront that this is a 10” square-shaped zine? Yes, you’ve got it—it’s like holding a 10” EP in your hands.
PunkGirlDiaries is Vim Renault and Lene Cortina, to put their punk names front and center (you may also know them as Ruth of PO! and Polly of The Popinjays). Their work together began with punkgirldiaries.com, but the lockdown gave them a chance to make something material, something tangible that honours women in punk. So they expanded on features in their blog and added new interviews, punk histories, opinion pieces, art, and design work. They did the layout themselves and had it printed up in a limited run. Of course, they’re not stopping with blogzine 1. More are coming, and blogzine 2 is already in the works.
The blogzine hearkens back to the fanzines of the 1970s and 1980s, paying homage to those early DIY works with typewriter fonts and digitized DYMO tape letters. Yet the blogzine also speaks to the present, with its tactilely pleasing pages and visually awing design work. Forty pages of full colour! It may be DIY in the sense that Vim and Lene didn’t know how to design a print publication when they got started on the project, but the blogzine is so polished. I got a chance to chat with Vim and Lene shortly after their blogzine release party on May 12, and here’s what they had to say about its DIY features and punk roots:
“Punk was all about do-it-yourself, but it was never about do-it-yourself-and-be-deliberately-crap! It was about do-it-yourself-to-the-best-of-your-ability. In the past you could only photocopy by hand and print out a small run, but now ‘to-the-best-of-our-abilities’ means we have the digital tools and technology to make it a book.” Both Lene and Vim gleefully clarified, “we haven’t followed any of the existing design rules.”
Attention to materiality in this blogzine will warm the hearts of anyone keen on preserving punk ephemera. Would you believe it even has an ISBN number? As a quick refresher, ISBN numbers are those 10-digit or 13-digit numbers assigned to books that allow them to be easily categorized by booksellers and libraries. When I first saw the blogzine and noticed the ISBN number on the back cover, I knew there were two possibilities: either the ISBN was invented by Vim and Lene to deride the commercialization of punk, or it was actually an ISBN number so that the blogzine could be bought, sold, and catalogued. It’s the latter, Vim and Lene told me. They’re “thinking historically,” they explained, hoping the features they’re writing can be retrieved by readers of the future. “Where are all those things that were made in 1982?” they asked me rhetorically. Most of those items are indeed rare. Some of the punk zines, of course, are now sold by high-end music memorabilia and rare book dealers—sometimes for hundreds or more. Good luck finding a full run of City Fun, for example!
But back to the ISBN business. Like Lene and Vim explained, many of the zines made in the 1980s or earlier simply don’t exist anymore. “So even though the ISBN makes it seem a bit corporate,” they told me, “it also allows it to exist in cataloguing databases, and would even allow it to be catalogued easily in The British Library.”
Part of their interest in creating a historical record concerns the surprising ephemerality of digital media. Indeed, it was a catalyst in their desire to put their blogging work in print. “We became aware that the blog, the internet, could be like recording something on Betamax,” they said, and explained how, “in however many year’s time, it could just disappear.” The printed blogzine, and its accompanying ISBN number, are ways of ensuring that the music and lives they’re documenting remain of the material world.
I haven’t even gotten to the fabulous contents of the blogzine. The cover has a badass design by Sadie Hennessy, an artist who PunkGirlDiaries describe as an “extremely smart shenanigator.” Inside, pieces span from the punk scene of the 1970s up to the present moment. The blogzine asks readers to grapple with the sexism The Slits experienced touring and playing gigs, and it offers historical context for punk on television.
Another page offers readers a “field guide to London’s original punk rockers” with a biography of Debbie Juvenile. It also contains contemporary interviews with Alannah Currie (of Thompson Twins) and Juliana Hatfield (of The Lemonheads and The Juliana Hatfield Three). A small advertising section even provides information about where to buy PunkGirlDiaries t-shirts.
Blogzine 1 and subsequent issues all feature original artwork, and they’re designed for readers across the globe. While Vim and Lene initially started the blog to write for themselves, they soon realized they were gaining interest from all over the world—from the U.K. and Europe, but also from Australia and the Pacific, North and South America, and South and East Asia. The geographic and temporal reach of their work shows in the content they create.
I don’t want to give away any secrets, but I’ll offer you a teaser: the next blogzine just may feature an interview with Big Joanie, the contemporary London-based band that describes itself as “Black feminist sistah punk,” as well as artwork from Pat Naylor.
For Vim and Lene, creating the blogzines is “a real labour of love, a real work of love.” For readers, these blogzines are the print material we need these days. The contents demonstrate what it means to write for a globally vibrant audience interested in tying the rise of punk in the 1970s to the work of DIY culture, protest, and change in the present.
The first blogzine had its official release party on May 12, complete with a playlist to match. Readers can expect the next blogzine soon.
Audrey J. Golden is a literature and film professor who lives in Brooklyn, NY. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram, and you can check out her personal website to learn more about her writing and her archive of books, records, and ephemera.