Hands holding lots of small booklets of artwork (Art zines). Life Solved logo and episode title to the left

Dr Jac Batey is behind an enormous archive of material collated for Zineopolis

  • 14 October 2021
  • 14 min listen

An enormous archive of self-published magazines is helping researchers catalogue and explore social history here at the University of Portsmouth.

In this episode, Dr Jac Batey explains how her passion for zines has escalated into a valuable library of material for researchers, historians and fans alike.

What is a Zine?

Zines are mini publications that capture personal experiences on a wealth of subjects. From fan communities to social commentary, these illustrated and creative works give an unparalleled insight into thought and opinion beyond the mainstream media, something that is invaluable to social historians:

The nature of production, often cheap and quick, means these Art-Zines reflect the thoughts and hopes of the day (quite literally).

Dr Jac Batey, Senior Lecturer

Dr Jackie Batey is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Art, Design and Performance at the University of Portsmouth. She explained how zines are an important expressive medium for illustrators and creators such as herself:

There seems to be something quite liberating for the maker. You're in control of the narrative rather than always being swept along by circumstances or organisations or institutions.

Dr Jac Batey, Senior Lecturer

Zineopolis is born

Jac had the idea to create Zineopolis in 2007. This collection of more than 300 art-zines sees people exploring issues as diverse as veganism, animal rights, technology, politics and mental health, offering a visual language and communication where other mediums might fail.

She began to build the collection by working with a network of fellow enthusiasts, archives and libraries such as the Wellcome Trust Glasgow and Barnard Zine Library.

Illustrators with a message

Many illustrators use zines as a way of communicating ideas and narratives on issues that exist on the fringe of mainstream media but nevertheless have communities interested in engaging in conversation and even activism.

Jac first started making her own zines on long rail commutes before and during the 2008 economic downturn. She began to sketch on the train, incorporating her responses to personal conversations she overheard. Before long, she realised that this way of connecting with and interpreting other people’s experiences was uniquely informing her work:

The more I associated with people, the more I found I was getting a better connection and more feedback than I ever had as a commercial illustrator to change the direction of my work in a radical way. I look back now if it was like a little 20-year potted history

Dr Jac Batey, Senior Lecturer

Realising the value of these ‘potted histories’ of personal experience was the big motivator to collaborate on compiling Zineopolis. She also thinks that zines can capture a diversity of experiences and provide a valuable tool for personal development due to their existence in the cracks of mainstream representation and media.

The Zineopolis collection can be accessed physically by visitors to the University of Portsmouth, but if you’re curious to learn more and explore a few of the digitised artworks, you can find them on the Zineopolis website.

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