I have lots to do today, so I’m writing a blog post at 7:45am because my mind is making connections and I want to get them down.
On Friday night, I attended a cardiParty where we visited the Incendium Radical Library. Yesterday, my partner Jellibat and I ran a stall at the Festival of the Photocopier zine fair. And today I’m roleplaying with some friends.
The theme for my weekend seems to be “community”.
Incendium Radical Library
CardiParties, for those who don’t know, are monthly get-togethers where people working the the GLAM sector visit a gallery, library, archive or museum, and then og and have dinner together afterwards.
So there’s two type of community right there: exploring different institutions, and socialising with other people in your field.
This months cardiParty visited the Incendium Radical Library in West Footscray. IRL’s goal is to make radical reading material available.
I live-tweeted the visit, which has a lot of information about the library, ho it was founded and how it operates. What I want to focus on here are two things:
One of the attendees said the reason she loved libraries is they are a place strangers can interact. Two people browsing the same bookshelf probably have similar interests.
Another attendee talked about the importance of places like anarchist bookshops and IRL as places where you can find your people.
I’ve been refining my career “mission statement” lately, and it currently stands as “using information technology to help libraries better serve their communities”.
The visit to IRL reminded me one of the biggest needs a community has is to find each other.
Festival of the Photocopier
In previous years, the Zine Fair was held in the Melbourne Town Hall. But it’s been getting bigger and bigger every year, so this year they moved to a new venue: Trades Hall in Lygon Street.
Zines have a long history of promoting leftist, progressive and radical ideas, so it felt very appropriate to hold the fair in that shrine to workers standing up for each other.
In practice, Trades Hall is huge and labyrinthine. And it didn’t help that parts of it were a construction site as it undergoes renovation. In the move, the Zine Fair lost the ability to look out and see all the participants. But it’s gained the ability for many more people to attend. That seems a fair trade-off.
The irony isn’t lost on me, though. The appeal of zines to me is that they’re small and personal and human. The appeal of the Zine Fair is how huge it is. It’s a contradiction.
I resolved it by focusing on the people around me. I said hello to old friends. I chatted to the stallholder next to us (Her name was Ella. Her Instagram is @ellarart). And we bought lots and lots of zines:
(I was particularly taken by the zine People You Met on the Midnight Train by Philadelphia Hanson Vines, a surreal comic/artzine. I showed it to my friend Alissa and she said “That’s very you.”)
When I told the comics artist George Rex we’d be in Adelaide for NLS9, she invited us to have a cup of tea with her. They served tea at the Incendium Radical Library, too.
Big huge events are great for a community to stand together and say “Look! We exist!” But it’s the small quiet moments of intimacy – like zines, like cups of tea – that build the important one-on-one connections that make us feel human.
Roleplaying games (like Dungeons & Dragons, and its many, many grandchildren) formed a huge part of my community throughout high school and university.
Some people get together to play sport. Some people get together to make music. I’d get together with my friends to tell stories and roll dice.
Now that we’re middle-aged, and it’s increasingly difficult to make time for gaming, some of my friends have noticed that our games are fun but they’re not as satisfying. Because we’re missing on all the stuff that would happen around the game.
At uni in particular, gaming nights would start with us getting together to cook diner for each other, and usually end with us going out nightclubbing together. And roleplaying was also a way for us to share ideas, to explore the books and comics and films and music that we loved.
Nowadays it’s a challenge just getting five people around a table. But I’m still thinking about all the other stuff, and how to make games feel more like a trellis on which to grow rich and vibrant friendships, rather than a chore we have to schedule in advance…
(For what it’s worth: I’m currently running a three session Tales from the Loop game. And I used Google Slides to make a slideshow to introduce the game to my players.)
As I’ve been writing this, someone has retweeted a thread on Twitter about the library as urban commons:
I was particularly struck by this comment:
8/ An urban commons is a place that uses beauty and #art to affirm the dignity of all of its participants … regardless of means
Beauty and art don’t just mean paintings, of course. Zines are a form of art. So are roleplaying games.