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Can I Zine?
Why you should go to Canzine, the biggest little event in the city

I have a confession; I have no idea what a zine is. I’ve had it explained to me several times and as far as I can tell, zines are like tumblr but with paper and staples. My mind can’t wrap itself around the concept. I blame the Internet. I’m not saying this to disparage zines or the passionate community that loves them, but to point out that as far as target audiences go, I’m probably not the guy a zine fair and alternative culture fest would be marketed to. With that said, GO TO CANZINE

Running annually since 1995, Canzine is the rare event in this city that has grown in popularity without becoming unbearable because of it. It’s comic con for indie creators. It has 170-odd vendors selling magazine subscriptions, posters, comics, postcards, art, stamps, illustrations and other paper-based product. There’s a book pitch competition. There’s a musical. There are art rooms. Everyone is passionate and it’s affordable (tickets are just $5 at the door. There’s also a $25 advanced ticket that includes lunch and a BP subscription.). It takes place this Sunday, October 20, from 1pm to 7pm at 918 Bathurst Centre.

And if you are an indie creator looking to network and learn, without the constant buzz of a room full of vendors, there’s year two of the Canzine Symposium, a conference tailored just for you, taking place one day earlier.

I spoke with Lindsay Gibb, Editor of Broken Pencil, the zine and indie culture magazine behind the biggest, little event in the city.


This is your second year holding the symposium. What was the feedback like coming off of last year’s event and how has the program changed this time around? 

We received good feedback last year. People liked having the opportunity to meet other creator something they may not have as much of an opportunity to do when sitting behind a table at Canzine, and wanted an opportunity to learn and share skills. This year we changed it a bit by having fewer programs, but giving presenters more time to spend with attendees, so that people aren’t just getting quick snippets of information.

You are billing the symposium as a conference for indie culture makers, does that mean it’s moving beyond just the zine? 

Yes. We know the audience that comes out to Canzine are creators and artists of all different media, and we wanted to be as inclusive as possible. We didn’t want this to be just an event for people who table at Canzine, but to open it up to people who come to Canzine to be inspired by zines and comics and the work of their peers, whether that is to inspire them to make zines or something completely different. So for instance, this year we have a speaker who talks about getting grants for all types of art, two speakers who are talking about building community in a variety of different ways (and not just through a yearly meeting at a zine fair), and how to promote any type of art through social media. There is a pretty heavy focus on printing, but I think any type of artist can get something out of the event.

What would you say to someone who has attended Canzine in the past, but hasn’t necessarily heard of the symposium? 

We made the symposium for you. We wanted to make a place, that wasn’t quite as chaotic as Canzine proper, to let creators meet each other and share ideas. It’s an opportunity to meet amazing people like Shannon Gerard who is encouraging and creating opportunities for people to publish through projects such as the Carl Wagon (a travelling bookshop and print studio) and OCAD U’s Publication and Print Media program, and Sheila Sampath who created her own activist design studio The Public, which helps people share messages of social change and anti-oppression, and JP King and Kirsten McCrae who are amazing artists with awesome ideas such as the experimental publishing studio Paper Pusher and the affordable art subscription service Papirmasse. I think getting all these positive and creative people in one space can help you to develop your own ideas and just get inspired and feel empowered to create.

What about Canzine, what hole does it fill for zine makers and indie creators? 

When it started, Canzine was one of the few zine fairs in the city, so it was a rare opportunity for zine makers to sell their wares to an interested audience. I was a vendor at Canzine from 1997-1999, and I went because, as a suburban zine maker, I wanted a chance to meet other creators (there were very few in my community), to discover other people’s zines and to share my zine with others. Now that Canzine and the Toronto zine community has grown, and there are many other zine fairs in the city throughout the year, Canzine is the largest one that gives creators the opportunity to reach the biggest audience all at once. 

Has Jay-Z ever attended? Drake?

I’m fairly certain no one will ever see Jay-Z at Canzine, but I’m gonna say there’s a good chance that Drake has stopped by in his early years. Canzine’s been a yearly event in Toronto since 1995, so anyone in the arts has probably happened upon it.

What are some of the things that someone attending Canzine can learn or encounter that they wouldn’t anywhere else? 

SO MANY THINGS! The great thing about zines is they are unfiltered publications about certain communities, subject matter and individual people’s lives and experiences that you honestly can’t read anywhere else.


Schedule Highlights:

Canzine Symposium

So you gather once or twice a year to sell your indie wares alongside your peers. But what about the rest of the year? In this workshop, two indie pioneers will discuss why you should and how you can build and sustain independent cultural communities throughout the year. With Erin Oh, co-founder of the Pittsburgh Zine Fair and Chris Fritton, Studio Director at the Western New York Book Arts Center.

Everybody Moon Jump — The Mental Health Comedy Zine Musical!

Turn your phones OFF!  Turn your face ON!  Zinester legend Dave Cave is writing and performing a musical based on all his zines…. about mental health, fitness, small town living, and being a “turbo slut”.  He says it’s the scariest thing he’s ever done…the scariest!


Vakis Boutsalis is a freelance writer in Toronto. Follow him on Twitter @VakisB.

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