City Fun: The Hidden History of Manchester's Favourite Fanzine
Curated by: Abigail Ward, Dave Haslam, Mike Noon & David Wilkinson
Photos by: Matthew Norman & Abigail Ward
Introduction by: Dave Haslam
Special thanks to: Working Class Movement Library, John Burscough, Ashley Kennerley, Liz Naylor, Jon Savage, Mat Norman
Thanks to: Anthony Langan, Mike Noon, Lynette Cawthra, Jane McDonald, Ray Teal, Dave Edwards, Martin Ryan, Jackie Whatmough, Jennyfer Trethewey, Bill Mather, Phil Painter, Andrew White, Michael Pollard, Bob Dickinson & Richard Boon
The classic fanzine era starts in 1976, the year punk broke, and gave birth to hundred of fanzines in Britain, among them ‘Sniffin Glue’. Locally there were a number of fanzines that pre-dated ‘City Fun’, including ‘Shy Talk’ run by Steve Burke, Mick Middles’s ‘Ghast Up’ and Paul Morley’s ‘Girl Trouble’. Launched in 1978, ‘City Fun’ went through two major incarnations although, as with many other activities in the city and elsewhere at the time (e.g. Grass Roots Books, On the 8th Day, and the Leadmill), it was always run as a collective. In addition, most of the writing is uncredited.
The original founding personnel were Andy Zero and Martin X. In 1980 there was something of a coup and Liz Naylor and Cath Carroll took charge, although it remained loosely run as a collective. In later years there were some brilliant covers by Brian Mills, but from its conception there had always been an interest in graphic design; Linder Sterling designed the cover of issue 8.
In this aesthetic awareness and in other ways, ‘City Fun’ was breaking the classic fanzine formula, just as post-punk music itself sought to break beyond punk formulas. ‘City Fun’ was never just about the music, and, under Naylor and Carroll it increasingly moved its gaze away from the local music scene, always looking at the bigger cultural landscape. Covering film, politics, and sexism, plus insightful psychogeography and anti-James Anderton diatribes, in many ways from its mid-period onwards, it had more in common with the underground press of the early 1970s (eg ‘Mole Express’) than it did with ‘Sniffin’ Glue’.
In a project funded by Arts Council England as part of Manchester Histories Festival's ongoing celebration and investigation of Manchester's fanzines, we have attempted to digitise every issue of ‘City Fun’. It remains something of a work in progress. At the time of writing, 665 pages are available to view and there’s a zoom facility, a comments section, and a search box. The task was always going to be difficult, given the erratic nature of a publication like ‘City Fun’, with multiple personnel involved, a complicated system for numbering issues or forgetting to number or date issues.
In these pages you can enjoy some Ray Lowry cartoons, or find out how much it cost to see New Order and Crispy Ambulance play at Rochdale College, get eyewitness commentary on the Moss Side riots of 1981 or read a guide to the gay village before it was the gay village. If you want to know who Burt Macho is, or when Joy Division premiered ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, check the comments, or just take a trip and (re)acquaint yourself with the gossip, the in-jokes, the half-forgotten bands, the controversies, and the characters. Nothing will give you greater insight into the ideas and history of post-punk Manchester. It’s all here.