Back to the future

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Standing on a street corner selling one’s wares is generally the mark of the prostitute, the Jehovah’s Witness and the football fanzine editor. Certainly you need to be slightly mad – or maybe just desperate to do it – but I find it also has a strange charm I find. Charm? Were you get to meet all human life on the corner of Zampa Road and the club entrance gate before a Millwall game. Whatever and whoever you can think of, will come up at some point and engage with you. And I for one love doing it.

I never thought that I would like the selling part. When the sadly departed former editor of NOLU Keith Pegg first tapped me up to become a writer for his excellent magazine a few years back, that was all that I did. Write. No designing, no printing, no selling. I was just an anonymous voice who appeared online and then in NOLU. Quite a luxurious position to be in really. But with Keith’s passing in 2005, bit-by-bit I got more and more involved with NOLU. Until by 2009 I finished up taking on the whole editing, production and selling role, all rather than see the magazine die.

Anyway as you will by now have noticed, the name of this magazine is no longer NOLU. My last edition as NOLU editor being the edition sold at the home game v Leicester last April. Like all good arguments, the cause of the dispute was both trivial – and at the same time large. I would however like to place on record my thanks to Beryl Pegg for the loan of both the NOLU name and famous lion head logo. May I also put on record my thanks to everyone who helped write, print or sell NOLU during my time with it. In my three years as editor of the title, I enjoyed myself immensely – and in the end, that’s all that counts. So to mark the end of one of the club’s two founding fanzine names, here is the text of an interview – that was never published due to events overtaking me – that I did with the editor of an online football magazine www.totalfootball.com late last season about the place of the traditional football fanzine in the modern game:

Q: How long has the fanzine been going and how many editions have you done now?

As with all myth and legends, nobody seems to know for sure when NOLU 1 first went on sale, well certainly nobody has told me anyway. Our most recent edition was number 127 and was sold prior to the Leicester match on April 14th 2012 (a 2-1 win for the Lions incidentally).

Q: Do you still think there’s a place for printed fanzines and if so why?

Well as you’d expect me to say, yes I do. The internet has naturally changed the place of the fanzine dramatically. Back in the ‘80s when NOLU and TLR first started they were both the main source of rumours, unofficial news and comment for many fans. The rise of the internet means that the printed fanzine can’t compete on that front any more. I do think however that we can still provide a good read for Millwall fans – views, comments and humour etc. People still seem to want a paper product to read before the game, at half-time and on the train going home. Until the day comes when we all are hooked up to Kindles or smartphones, I think we will have a place. I certainly hope so anyway, because the fanzines make the game richer. The fact that we are produced by fans, for fans means that we can still give something back – and that for me is important.

Q: Is it just a labour of love for you or do you make any money from it?

It certainly is a labour of love. The sheer amount of work and co-ordination required to get NOLU written, edited, printed, folded and stapled – erm what am I forgetting? Oh yeah and sold on matchday is something I hadn’t really accounted for when I started. It’s akin to a dance in many ways, you have to work on each component part – and hopefully bring it all together like a bossanova for the two hours leading up to kick-off. You hope it comes together anyway. Luckily I have built-up a group of Millwall writers whom I rate very highly. When you can say that you look forward to receiving each person’s article in the email box, then you know that you’re producing something that you yourself would want to buy and read. And that is my only measure that I work by. Does this magazine interest me? Would I want to read it? For as long as I can say yes to those questions, then I’ll carry on. As for making money, well my best advice to anyone wanting to develop and sell fanzines to make money is to instead find a career in the City. You’ll make more, with less effort. Anyway all of our profits after production and running costs are donated to charity. That’s something that I’m very proud of.

Q: With more focus on following football online now, how sharp do you think the drop in demand for fanzines has been in recent years?

Online message boards are king nowadays – and that won’t go away. And like all social media they have very many strengths – mainly based around speed and instant reaction – and many weaknesses. Strangely the weaknesses are also based around speed and instant reaction too. Online, those strange people called trolls can run amok. I mean it’s not always you want to read someone’s internet hate campaign is it? So I sincerely hope that the traditional print fanzines will continue – I certainly intend to do all I can to sustain what I still see as an integral part of the football fan’s experience.

Q: Do you think there is a future for fanzines and if so what do you think it will be that will keep them going?

When I took over as editor of NOLU late in 2009, the magazine was in crisis. Back then we were still getting it produced via a professional printer – and the costs of this versus the ‘still a quid’ price tag just weren’t viable. The solution was to fall back on the traditional photocopied route and so slash the production costs. The gamble being whether the grainier look of the magazine could be made up by the quality of the writing. So far I’m happy to say, we’ve done ok. These days we print on my home printer and the main production outlays that we have are the paper, toner and printer drums.

Q: What sort of content do you publish in your fanzine?

Millwall comment from as wide a range of voices as I can muster. Sometimes we’ll have differing viewpoints within the same edition, but that’s what makes the fanzine so great in my opinion. As with the previous answer though, everyone who writes for NOLU are people whose views interest me. If that stopped, then I’d stop too.

Q: How do you go about putting it all together?

The main tip for any aspiring writer (of anything – not just football fanzines) is to keep a notepad – or nowadays smartphone -ready to hand for those thoughts, ideas and comments that you hear all around and which tend to cross your mind in the moment – before leaving forever. Write them down and you have the basis for any article, novel -or fanzine that you care to think of. The hard truth though is that at some point you’re going to have to turn the telly / video game or DVD player off and actually write some stuff down to a deadline. If you can take pleasure in that, then you’re 80% of the way toward producing something that others will want to read – and hopefully buy. You have to be slightly mad to enjoy all this.

Q: Do all / most other clubs have fanzines and which are some of the best fanzines? Do you know what?

I genuinely don’t have a clue about what fanzines exist at other clubs. Burnley last season sent a couple of (unwanted) editions of theirs to me, trying to extend the hand of soccer solidarity I imagine. But honestly I found it all a bit tedious. I know that I’m supposed to say that I’m part of one big football happy clappy family and am only too pleased to read what the Seagull Soars or Palace Ultra Monthly (made-up titles), but really I’m not bothered about other clubs. This is a Millwall magazine, for Millwall fans -call me insular if you like. Enough said.

Q: What’s the best story you have ever published?

My personal favorite was Jim Nash’s account of the famous hand-grenade throwing incident at Brentford in 1965. The follow-up plot to smuggle a land-mine into Selhurst Park deserves to be made into a retro-period lad’s film in my opinion.

The Archbishop

‘reproduced from CBL Magazine with permission’