I hadn’t been to P&BD for three years – I hadn’t realised that it was so long but it moved to Rochelle School a while ago and I’d never been to the new venue. Inside it was hot and very very crowded. What I love about the event is the lack of explanation and any kind of conventional sales material: most people just lay their wares out of a folding table and that’s all the explanation you need. At one end of the market there are publications that ape various commercial magazine conventions like a fixed format and logo but usually with unrelentingly non-commercial content (the copy of Mono-Kultur that Yol bought me on the Wu Tang and chess) and at the other the one off artist books, like the map of Hackney with a CD of Ridley Road market traders talking about property prices. In between you get the very fanzine ones that vary from Harry Pye‘s The Rebel to plain B&W photocopies that look most like Sniffing Glue but with lower production values.
My first thoughts on leaving the show were that although it’s not that well known an event it is very inclusive and very participatory which has remained pretty much the case since the first fair. The other thing I’ve been thinking about since then is to wonder what effect the internet has had on self-publishing and in particular the low-end fanzine part of the market. While you’d believe blogging, free webspace and free software to manage your blog would have killed off publishing as a mode of self-expression Publish and Be Damned seems to demonstrate the opposite is actually true. Pushing through the crowds with the their carrier bags full of dead trees and ink or waiting 15 minutes to get to the front of a particularly busy stall you realise that there is something quite special about stuff written, montaged, scrawled, copied and printed on bits of paper that are then (in many cases) lovingly folded in half by hand and stapled especially when it’s as good as Calvin Holbrook’s Hate Magazine.