The Power of Print Prevails
by Leah Abraham.
On Saturday 29th June we hosted our first event at South Kilburn Studios, The Power of Print. Leah Abraham attended and shares her first impressions of OOMK, the enduring power of independent publishing, and the radical power of the printed word.
Having only recently discovered OOMK zine by chance, I was not sure what to expect from their Power of Print event.
I was, however, truly pleased to have found it both engaging and resourceful. On the day of the event the South Kilburn Studio was transformed into a vibrant and thriving educational hub and everybody was welcomed with warm smiles and encouraged to interact and mingle. Out on display were a vast selection of leaflets, pamphlets and zines to browse through. The fruits of OOMK’s labour, the beautifully crafted ‘One Of My Kind’ zine, was also on display exuding its distinctive charm and charisma. The handcrafted trinkets sold alongside the zine, sentiments of self-produced works, resonated within the creative space and were matched by the air of comradeship. OOMK demonstrated their diligence in their supportive role towards other small press and independent publications; a real sense of community effort was alive and well and truly kicking.
Aurella Yussuf of Blackfeminsts.org began proceedings by providing a well-rounded ‘Herstory’ of print interactions in feminist dialogues. Her presentation outlined how print was used as an effective propaganda tool for the much needed political agendas of the Suffragette’s, and in advocating equality within the elitist Art world (see Guerrilla Girls). A presentation by fellow Black Feminsit-a, Rianna Parker, on the provocative 2nd wave feminist magazine Spare Rib followed. Spare Rib’s bold and brazen print activities stood out as a particularly empowering highlight of the talk, and I gained a real sense of how it fought to combat archaic conceptions of gender, race, class and the treatment of women in British society. I was pleased to discover that a small spread of the now out-of-print Spare Rib magazines were up for sale courtesy of the Feminist Library archives.
OOMK team members, Hudda Khaireh and Heiba Lamara, delivered an articulate and insightful talk on the legacy of the Caribbean publishing house New Beacon Books, and its affiliated archive, the George Padmore Institute. It was interesting to hear how the two establishments created a pathway for self-defining autonomous movements and in turn led to international acclaim for many of its affiliated writers in mainstream publishing (think of John la Rose, Sam Selvon, and Linton Kwesi Johnson). I was curious to hear their thoughts on how the digital revolution had affected small independently led specialist publishing houses, like the New Beacon Bookshop. This prompted a discussion on the romantic novelty of books and aspects of their tangibility. To have something of substance to store in your own treasured collection meant it was unlikely that the seemingly isolating world of cyberspace could offer the same delight.
Gail Chester representing the Feminist Library rounded off the series of talks with some final pearls of wisdom. Her anecdotes and vivid personal accounts of the feminist movement in the UK accompanied an intriguing commentary on the revival of print and its abilities to bridge the gap between activism and academia.
The event came to a close with a sound bite to really mark its triumph: “Print stands the test of time and it will stand the test of time”. Having been initially unsure as to what OOMK was about, I was bowled over by how comprehensive and informative the discussions and talks were; not only was it refreshing to witness a symposium of speaker’s directed by Women, the depth at which the content was explored was also commendable. OOMK expressed a sincere interest and passion in sharing and celebrating both the personal and political achievements of print. I left with plenty of food for thought, renewed in faith and hope that the Power of Print has and will continue to prevail as one of the most innovative forms of expression.