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May 20th 2021
Peeps & Places
Global

The Pandemic Pushed Me To: Start a zine in lockdown

The Pandemic Pushed Me To… Start a zine during lockdown. Our limited series exploring tales of optimism and positivity celebrates those who have persevered and overcome throughout the pandemic. We spoke to a woman whose refreshingly honest zine launched at a time when an industry hit hard by the pandemic was craving a sense of connection. 

Rebekkah Dooley is a cocktail of talent. With many years in the bar industry under her belt, a talent for illustration, a sharp tongue and an even sharper pen, she’s a multi-talented force to be reckoned with. 

In March 2020, she partnered with long-time colleague and friend, Gaz (Gareth Evans), to launch the first edition of Discard the Zine. A week later, the UK - and the world - went into its first lockdown. Little did the pair know, a fresh take on the industry, immortalised in print, was exactly what people needed at the time. 

The premise of Discard is simple: They’re an independently run and self-published zine written by people in the bar industry for people in the bar industry. With no sponsors they have no one to answer to. It keeps the publication free from agenda and rebelliously bold. Rebekkah laughs as she tells us, “we’ll never write about things like how long you should stir an old fashioned for, that’s just not our vibe.”

Between them, she and the star-studded collection of industry-leading contributors will dive in where others fear to tread. No topic is off the table - or should we say off the bar. “We prefer to cover things that haven’t been written about before,” Rebekkah makes clear, “at least from a certain perspective. For example, a piece about closing bars, or Rosey Mitchell talking about why we need more queer spaces, and Chris Cabrera talking about the importance of non-binary friendly language. But we definitely haven’t covered everything we want to, there’s so much more we want to talk about. And we want to get different perspectives from people who don’t look or think like us.” And the proof really is in the print. With a tongue in cheek foreword from the editors titled ‘Fake News’ and articles like ‘F**k You Pay Me’ by Alex Kratena, ‘Women on Whisky’ by Georgie Bell and ‘Thoughtful Tropical: The Necessary Evolution of Tiki’ by Chockie Tom, this isn’t what you’d expect from a hospitality industry publication. 

Discard the Zine has certainly captured the attention and imagination of industry folks from around the globe. Rebekkah has requests for the printed zine from over 50 countries and counting. And, when a new issue is launched online, all 250 of the print copies are bagged within a matter of hours. An impressive achievement for a project that kicked off just as the pandemic hit and the entire industry came to a shocking standstill. 

But without any sponsors, Rebekkah and Gaz also have to take on all the costs and responsibility. From producing to printing and even posting the 250 issues, they pay for it all themselves. 

So why do they keep printing the zines if they’re not making a profit? Discard’s Instagram bio is a proud contradiction, stating: ‘ Print is Dead. Long Live Print.’ Rebekkah explains, “we always wanted to do something in print, so that people could have a hard copy. Of course, this means copies are limited, there are only 250 printed zines per issue. So we do find the majority of our readers are online.’ She’s quick to express her love for the printed zine, going on to say: ‘But we would never get rid of the print aspect because it’s so nice to have something to hold. And, during the pandemic, getting something in the mail was a great respite. I think receiving a hand-written envelope with all this input from other people helped to drive that feeling of connectivity and community that we’ve all missed so much over the past year.

As Discard launches its fifth issue, just over a year on from its inception, the magazine - and those who put it together - remain as fiercely independent as ever. For Rebekkah, transparency and honesty is everything. And we can attest, this zine is a tonic for the hospitality industry.

For more insights and anecdotes, watch the full video interview. Rebekkah – we’ll be the first to try to get our hands on issue number five!