Over the course of our Creative Manchester adventures we have met quite a few ‘zine and book makers, who always cite fairs as a brilliant way to promote and sell their wares. Self-publishing is booming in Manchester, and for an insight into what it takes to set up and run a fair we spoke to Alessandra Mostyn, founder and director of the Manchester Print Fair. Alessandra staged the very first Manchester Print Fair at the Night and Day Café in September 2011, and has since gone on to organise five more, with the sixth coming up on the 12th of October at 2022NQ.
Alessandra recounts how attending local fairs with her own self-published artists’ books inspired her to try and improve on the format, and to think about how both the sellers, and the buyers could benefit. What does or doesn’t constitute a zine is not entirely clear, and a vast range of related objects and printed materials can fall under that umbrella, prompting Alessandra to expand on the typical zine fair; incorporating all kinds of print and illustration, including fabric and jewellery, as well as artwork, and of course self-published books and zines. The fair has also grown with each new incarnation, and Alessandra is understandably pleased that all 37 tables for the October fair are already booked up!
Another aspect of The Manchester Print fair that crucially sets the event apart is the on-line ‘seller profiles’, that are published in the run up to fair, and are also available afterwards. As well as being a brilliant tool to drum up excitement before the event via social media, these seller profiles also allow potential buyers to browse and to plan who they might like the visit, or to find a seller afterwards. This focus on the relationship between buyer and seller is central to Alessandra’s approach, right down to the table plan, defining the nurture of a creative community as a central motivation, and encouraging sellers to consider how they want to present themselves.
Fairs offer a unique opportunity for artists and audience to interact with each other, which as Alessandra describes, can be an exciting and emotional experience, with your heart and soul laid out on a table. However, it needn’t be scary, and fairs are also a relatively cheap and risk-free way to bring new ideas out into the open, and above all to communicate. We think that Alessandra has done an amazing job with Manchester Print Fair, working on her own to present, design and promote the sort of fair that she would like to sell at; bustling with engaged buyers and talented sellers, where conversations are started and friendships formed.
Written by Lauren Velvick / Photos by Elle Brotherhood