Friday, December 22, 2023

'How to produce a feminist magazine': Bad Attitude - radical women's newspaper (1992-97)

Bad Attitude was a London-based radical women's newspaper that ran from 1992 to 1997. It was put together by a group of women (mostly friends of mine) operating for much of this time from an office in the anarchist squat centre at 121 Railton Road, Brixton. The paper was an ambitious project, aiming for high production values and international coverage while having no funding and no paid staff. Unsurprisingly it eventually ran out of steam but not before many great interviews, news stories and other articles.

The story of Bad Attitude is told in some documents in the 56a infoshop archive, which also has a collection of the paper. The first document is a letter promoting Bad Attitude to potential sellers (bookshops etc). It promises that it will be 'wicked, witty and wild' and 'will inherit and expand the success of Shocking Pink and Feminaxe - members of the collective worked on both these publications... with a mission to overthrow civilisation as we know it Bad Attitude will put blander publications in the shade'. Distribution was handled by Central Books, originally set up in the 1930s to distribute Communist Party publications.

Five years and eight issues later the collective issued a 'Bye Bye Bad Attitude' letter to subscribers. 

 'BA brought a class struggle, anti-state approach to feminism that is scarce in any nationally distributed publication, and we managed to have few laughs along the way. It was  something worth fighting for! But life is change and the core of BA members have moved on in different ways — in  some cases, out of London. Lack of enough money and lack of energy have re-inforced each other, though our low overheads have enabled us to carry on longer than others. 

Most imporant, we're feeling the knock-on effect of changes in the benefits system. It's no   easy to sign on, keep going with the odd earner on the side and devote yourself virtually full-time to a project like BA. With wage cuts, pressure on low-rent housing and squatting and all the other survival hassles, it's also become more difficult to live on  part-time employment. This has made it difficult to find new collective members who can make the commitment to a regular publication on the scale of BA... Still for the overthrow of civilisation as we know it'

The group hoped that others would pick up the torch and with this in mind they 'How to produce a feminist magazine or how we did BA' with various practical points and 'advice from burnt-out baddies':  'Don't be over-ambitious. When we started as a bi-monthly. we roughly kept to schedule for a year. We also got ill! In retrospect. this sense of burn-out hung over the rest of the time we published. even as we went to quarterly. to bi-annual. to....non-existent.  It's better to start off with a publishing schedule you know you can stick to without giving up the rest of your life. 

At the same time, photocopies won't get the word out. Printing an attractive. well-produced publication makes it more accessible to those who don't already have a determined mission to read extremist tracts. And remember partially-sighted women will be interested too in what you've got to say. Try and get as many people as possible involved from the very beginning. We started off as a group of five or six, with the idea of involving more women when we published. But women coming in often didn't feel quite the same commitment. even though we tried to work out ways of including new volunteers. When we were overstretched we got stuck. We didn't have enough women to work regularly and train new volunteers which made it difficult for new women to get involved. which meant we didn't enough of us to  open the office. put out the paper and train volunteers...and so on'.

Bad Attitude benefit party during Hackney Anarchy Week 1996, held at the Factory Squat in Stoke Newington (more details of the Week at Radical History of Hackney)

Bad Attitude stall at Pride, Brockwell Park, 1993 - with Rosanne Rabinowitz (left) and Katy Watson

See previously:

Remembering Katy Watson (Bad Attitude collective member)

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