In praise of Indiecon
Have you ever eaten gherkins for breakfast? If you’re German, the answer is probably, “Erm, yes. Obviously.” But for a sheltered British person like me, gherkins for breakfast is a bizarre and exotic treat, and the sort of thing I only ever indulge in when I’m in Hamburg for Indiecon. (Their excellent breakfast buffets also have lots of cheese, pastries and other lovely stuff – it’s not just pickles.)
For five years, from 2014 to 2018, I went to Indiecon every year. It was run by a small group of friends who worked together as Die Brueder, an agency based between Hamburg and Berlin, and I loved their obvious passion for independent magazines. It started out as a small conference held by Lake Alster in a lovely building that could only seat around 100 people, and over the years it morphed and expanded to become a giant independent print marketplace, talks and networking held in a vast warehouse in the city’s industrial harbour area.
I couldn’t make it in 2019 so we sent Vicky, our subscriptions manager, instead. And in the last two years they somehow managed to hold socially distanced versions of Indiecon, but restrictions on travel meant that I didn’t make the journey. So I was really excited to be back there this weekend, in a new building that didn’t even exist the last time I was in the city, and surrounded by makers and lovers of independent magazines.
There were talks by independent publishers on the Friday and Saturday nights, and I particularly enjoyed hearing Maya Moumne speaking about her work publishing Safar magazine, and Pang Xue Qiang’s explanation of how Singaporean life shapes Meantime magazine. I also loved wandering around the hundreds of stalls browsing magazines, zines, posters and other printed stuff, and meeting up with all the magazine people who I haven’t seen for years, or who I’ve previously only ever emailed with before.
But even more than that, I loved having the opportunity to stumble across people and things I probably wouldn’t otherwise have come across. I think that’s partly a hangover from the pandemic – here in London we haven’t been locked down for a long time, but this is the first event I’ve been to in years with such a wide range of interesting and inspiring people to meet. And it’s also partly due to Germany’s incredibly strong independent print scene – we’re lucky to have lots of great magazines based here in London, but that can sometimes trick me into thinking that I’m seeing everything I need to. Travelling to Hamburg again reminded me of the thrill I used to get when I’d visit Indiecon, or the QVED and EDCH events in Munich, and discover a whole new perspective on independent print.
This time that meant meeting the people behind Berlin’s brilliant Drucken3000 risograph print studio, and seeing some of the lovely things they produce. Also from Berlin, Michalis Pichler is one of the people behind the city’s Miss Read art book fair, and an artist and author overflowing with strange and lovely print projects. And I loved getting together with the people behind German magazines like Hinterlands, Occulto and Slanted, and making plans for delivering those titles on Stack at some point in the future.
Next year will mark the 10th instalment of Indiecon, and I’m already looking forward to being back there for the big anniversary. There have been some changes at Die Brueder and two of the original founders have stepped away (Malte and Martin, I hope we have chance to meet up again at some point in the future). But the remaining brothers and the whole Indiecon team have done a brilliant job of returning post-lockdown with a genuinely international and hugely fun independent publishing event.