One of my favourite things to do is walk in the woods. Another is to write, and a third is to make zines. This project let me do all three, with some brilliant young people and families! We created a zine called Fans of the Forest, celebrating Fineshade Woods and the plants and animals that live there.
Zines are DIY publications – they can be about anything you like, and they don’t have to be polished, or made by professionals. They are often full of collage, drawings, and musings. The best thing about them is that they open up a whole world of creation and communication that you don’t need to ask permission to enter. One popular type of zine is the fanzine – a labour of love for a favourite band or other people you admire.
We made a fanzine for the forest by imagining it as a cast of celebrities to interview. Liz Morrison, of the Roots of Rockingham project, took us on a walk to discover fascinating and beautiful species around the woods. Some favourites were mushrooms, huge dragonflies, grasshoppers, an old oak with a space big enough to climb inside, lots of colourful flowers, and big juicy handfuls of blackberries (of which more later…). We also talked about the Chequered Skipper butterfly, which we didn’t see because it lives in a secret location; the Roots of Rockingham project recently reintroduced this little butterfly nearby, and it’s successfully settled in after being extinct in the UK since 1976. We are definitely fans of them!
Back at the Top Lodge Visitor Centre, the young people came up with interview questions they wanted to ask a favourite plant or animal. There was so much curiosity and joy thinking about real and imaginary answers to these questions – from facts about Adders, to a caterpillar who dreamed of driving a tractor. Each person created one or more pages for the zine using these Q&As, things they had found on the walk, and lots of things to cut and paste. This is where those blackberries came in – some inventive young people used them as paint to create caterpillars, night skies, and more!
We scanned each page (or photographed, in the case of one artwork which was so detailed we couldn’t move it), and I made them into a booklet, which I sent off to be printed before a launch the next week. It was such a pleasure to see the young people finding their pieces in the zine and showing it off to their parents and siblings! The stack of zines we left at the visitor reception disappeared very quickly, and we have a reprint on the way.
If you can’t get to Fineshade to pick up a copy, you can download it here! ZINE