ZC: Weird Walk, number 6 (Winter 2022/23)

Zine Corner is an occasional series in which I talk about individual issues of zines I have come across on my travels. Some of these will be about RPGs, some of them will be about horror, some of them will be about folklore, and some of them will just be weird and cool. The rest of the series can be found here.

To say that Britain is a country drunk on nostalgia would be to downplay the scale of the problem. At this point, Britain isn’t so much drunkenly sharing amusing anecdotes about the good old days or even falling asleep on a tube platform after necking a bottle of White Lightening on the way to work. When it comes to nostalgia, Britain has moved on to the harder stuff, blown through all of its credit cards, lost its home, alienated its family, and is seriously considering taking that YouTuber up on his offer to pay it to get a swastika tattooed on its face. Just one more fix and then we’ll get clean… Who remembers the cockle man? Britannia rules the waves, right lads? Another blown out vein… get Brexit done.

Now that the Corbyn project and progressive politics in general have been safely nuked from orbit and the ‘adults’ are back in charge, nostalgia is the currency of the realm and people have started reaching back in search of an alternative; another Britain, a weirder Britain, a Britain that doesn’t suck quite as much as the one that has been forced upon us by the Establishment and their anxious upper middle-class allies.

This current of alternative nostalgia is partly a product of changes in fashion and organic generational shifts bringing the 1990s into cultural focus in the same way as the 1950s overshadowed the 1980s and the 1990s themselves were overshadowed by the 1960s. However, this wave of nostalgia feels less interested in pining after lost youth and more interested in winding back the clock and seeking out the jonbar hinge that gave birth to the current cursed timeline. I can remember a 1990s that was stranger, wilder, and more interesting than the one dominated by Britpop, New Labour and glossy lad mags. What happened to that version of the 1990s? Can we go back?

Owen Tromans, Alex Hornsby, and James Nicholls’ Weird Walk is one of a number of zines that form the tip of a cultural iceberg dedicated to re-discovering, re-making, and re-claiming a weirder version of Britain.

This vision of Britain is rural but more concerned with country lanes than chocolate box villages. This vision of Britain is literary and artistic rather than obsessed with corporate franchises and whatever under-thought, focus-grouped sludge is forced down the sluice by billion dollar streaming companies. This vision of Britain is occult, weird, and transgressive in ways that the Market has yet to debase and suborn. This is a zine that hints at a Britain worth living in, its articles are introductions to people, places, and ideas as well as invitations to delve deeper and amongst the details.

The Winter 2022/23 issue of Weird Walk opens with an interview of the artist Jeremy Deller conducted by Martin Clark. Deller is one of those artists whose best-known works are often events rather than objects that can be bought or sold. For example, one of his projects was the creation of a life-size replica of Stone Henge in the form of a bouncy castle that served both as a commentary on the crass commercialisation of mainstream British history and a pointed rebuke to the managers of the real Stone Henge who seem to spend their time coming up with new ways to distance you from a monument that we used to be able to just walk straight up to and touch. The interview delves quite a way into how Deller thinks about history and nostalgia and he mentions what I consider to be one of the greatest ideas I have ever encountered: Getting a load of historical re-enactors together, dressing half of them like coppers and the other half like miners and having them re-enact the Battle of Orgreave from the Miners’ strike.

Then we have an Archer Sanderson piece about where to get started with Doom Metal that gives a little bit of history, a little bit of context and some wonderful description of the vibes and aesthetics of that particular musical genre.

This is followed by a piece by Joanna Walker about the medieval cult of St Chad and visiting the source of the Fleet river where there was once a curative spring. These kinds of pieces comprise the spine and thematic anchor of the Weird Walk experience as they are short, accessible works of psychogeography that aim to introduce people to weird, notable places that they might want to explore for themselves. This issue  includes a piece by the artist Man in the Woods about finding inspiration in his Friday walk and a piece about the myths and legends of Savernake Forest by Mark Hooper. Also included is a piece about the Templar history of the isle of Lundy in the Bristol channel by Jade Angeles Fitton. All of these pieces are well-written, distinctive, and interesting enough to make these places stick in your mind so if you happen to drive past them, you’ll be tempted to go and explore things for yourself.

One of the real joys of Weird Walk is that unlike a lot of publications that curate and explore culture, the magazine’s ‘call to action’ is less about buying and consuming stuff and more about actually getting off your arse and going for a walk. In fact, there’s a really lovely piece about an organised mass-trespass where people dressed like Morris dancers and hopped over the fences of the 12,000-acre private estate owned by the Tory politician who is notionally in charge of protecting the right to roam.  The article has a load of brilliant pictures and is basically just a series of (surprisingly articulate) paragraphs where people who participated in the trespass explain their reasons why.

Obviously, while this is a magazine about going for a walk, there are other calls to action included. Aside from encouraging you to listen to doom metal and check out the work of cool artists, Weird Walk also looks backwards to its own cultural past by interviewing some people who created an influential music scene back in the 1990s. The editors of Ptolemaic Terrascope wrote about weird alternative music and eventually started running a festival featuring some of their favourite acts but it’s hard not to see in this piece a bit of sympathetic magic: That which was, could be again. If you don’t like the cultural scenes that are presented to you by social and mainstream media, build your own instead. Who knows what might happen?

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