good trouble: a zine that puts the pro back into protest
With contributors that range from original art protestors to writers dissecting topics as varied as climate change, LGBT art residencies and the 90s rave scene, Good Trouble is driving political change one leaf of broad sheet at a time.
Self publishing will never end, and hurrah for that. Good Trouble is the latest in a long line of zines that charge the reader to take action. Starting life online, Good Trouble, whose contributors include artists Eve Ackroyd and Peter Kennard, as well as Tunisian singer Emel and legendary wildlife photographers and conservationists Paul Nickle, is printed on broadsheet paper and available in exchange for a contribution to War Child. The brainchild of Dazed's former Editor Rod Stanley, the zine focuses on the point where creativity and art meet protest: as they say, if you can effect cultural change you can effect political change.
Rod, hi. Why did it feel important for Good Trouble to exist in print as well as digital?
Hanna, hi. It had been a while since I'd been involved in publishing, apart from writing the odd piece -- but Good Trouble came into being at the end of last year as a digital-only publication focused on arts and activism. There were never any plans for it to exist in print form, but one thing led to another and here we are. I was asked to get involved in a panel discussion and event in New York about art and protest, and I offered to produce a zine on the spur of the moment. It's been enjoyable working on a print mag again, but as this is mostly black and white and in broadsheet newsprint, it also felt quite different in some ways, so that was fun.
We are living in a charged political climate: What was the initial impulse that cause you do start it?
I suppose I've always been interested in how arts and culture can affect social change, so I'd had a vague desire in the back of my mind for a while. But the US election last year made me feel now was the time. Like a lot of other people, I felt shocked and depressed and angry. It just felt like an 'all hands to the pump' moment, and lots of people I know started wondering what the hell to do and how to get organised. I went on the anti-inauguration protests in DC, which was wild, then the Women's March and got involved in some various other things, but I also thought it would be interesting to try and create a tiny corner of the web about creative resistance. I've also grown really sick of social media and the clickbait/content farm model in the last couple of years, and I think the current web environment might be becoming more conducive to smaller, DIY, one-to-one publications.
What are some of the topics you have covered?
We've had stories on female artists creating an anti-Trump exhibition, an interview with Adam Broomberg about his anti-fascist art project, a great little short film from the London women's march, DIY protest zines, a beautiful photo story of the Standing Rock Sioux people resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline, Tunisian singer and 'voice of the Arab Spring' Emel, an LGBTQ art residency on Fire Island, archive photos of British 90s raves and protests, a story about the KLF's Jimmy Cauty and his riot in a shipping container, and a visit with legendary wildlife photographers and conservationists Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeir. It's all about where creativity and art meets protest and trying to affect positive social change, essentially -- 'good trouble', which is a phrase I borrowed from the congressman and civil rights hero John Lewis.
Every feature has a very particular aesthetic to it - most self publishers try to do this as well as words, why did you wind up working with an art director?
I'm just about able to manage the website on my own by basically fiddling around with Squarespace settings until it looks ok. But a print project is different and I wanted to try and create something that was a beautiful object and quite collectable. Like, if someone looks back at this in 10 years time, that it would be a little time capsule - I love looking at old indie-publishing magazines from other decades, for example. Plus I really love partnering with great art directors and, well, I know my limitations, basically. Richard Turley has been a friend for a few years and I love his design work. It walks the line where a slightly neurotic level of technical detail breaks down into chaos, and I felt that would be perfect for this project. I also worked with my friend Francesca Gavin, who leant on her extensive contacts book to help with the art dossier, and the good man Charlie Robin Jones, who was very supportive and helped me pull it all together. And Harris Elliott brought in legendary political artist Peter Kennard. Thanks guys!
What have been your favourite features so far?
All of the above ones I mentioned. I really enjoyed interviewing Matthew Smith about his time photographing the rave and protest scene in the UK in the early 90s -- some of those moments, like the Criminal Justice Bill protests, were probably the first political things I went on, I was maybe 17 or 18. And soon after the website was live, the Tunisian and NY-based singer Emel came to a photo studio in Brooklyn and noted how great it was that we were doing original photography (thanks, Alex) because most other magazines couldn't afford it any more. I laughed, because Good Trouble was nothing more than a few files on my laptop at the time, but it also made it feel real.
Who reads good trouble and what do you hope they'd take away from it?
It's really interesting to see who is turning up. The Instagram account seems to be picking up quite a few younger followers, who I suppose are responding to the combination of a positive message and powerful imagery. I guess that if it can connect even a handful of young people to more established organisations, and they then maybe decide to get involved or go on and do something else, I'd be happy with that.
Get your copy of Good Trouble here.
Text Hanna Hanra