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City Fun: Iconic post-punk Manchester fanzine archived online – along with Morrissey contributions

By Henry Vaughan

Fanzines are something of a lost gem.

Before the advent of the internet, where any niche interest or non-conformist viewpoint can be indulged at will, the cheap, do-it-yourself fanzine provided a popular counterculture alternative to established mainstream print media.

The fanzine ethos fitted perfectly with the punk movement, with its birth sparking a wealth of British ‘zines, including perhaps the most famous and best remembered, Sniffin Glue, which ran for 12 photocopied issues in 1976.

City Fun was not the first fanzine in Manchester, but its raw, sarcastic portrayal of an incredible era in the city’s music history gave it the longevity and influence that now sees it immortalised in a huge digital archive online. 

Like many fanzines of the era City Fun was hand-made, cheaply but passionately put together and sold by hand at record shops and gigs to lovers of non-mainstream music.

Although most of the writing is unaccredited, researchers working on this new online archive have established that an article about Sandie Shaw written by ‘Burt Macho’ was written by none other than Morrissey.

Dave Haslam, one of the archives curators and former Hacienda DJ, said: “Morrissey was a reader and a fan of City Fun but he chose to write in the fanzine under the pseudonym Burt Macho.  It was just as the Smiths were taking off; the same issue carries an advert for the first Smiths single.

“John Peel said it was most important fanzine of its time, and certainly nothing will give you greater insight into the ideas and history of post-punk Manchester. It’s all in City Fun.”

The fanzine was published between 1978 and 1984 and is a remarkable eye-witness account of one of the most fertile periods in Manchester’s music history.

Its pages – filled with musings on local bands, politics, films and several diatribes directed against Chief Constable James Anderton – recount the glorious years of the Fall, the rise of Joy Division, the death of Ian Curtis, the beginnings of the Smiths and the launch of the legendary Hacienda.

But City Fun is so much more than these headline events, providing a unique insight into the city’s independent record labels, long-lost venues and half-forgotten bands.

Many contributors have since found fame, among them artist Linder Sterling, designer of the cover of issue eight, whose work now hangs in the Tate.

The Manchester District Music Archive (MDMA) website is hosting the online archive, after the MDMA’s project director Abigail Ward was tasked with tracking down old copies of the fanzine.

She said: “We asked our friends and contacts to check if they had any copies of City Fun hidden away in dusty shoeboxes in the attic. The response was fantastic – testament to how affectionately remembered the fanzine is.

“We have now digitised and uploaded every single copy and the online exhibition contains hi-res versions of every page. We hope our members will add more ‘zines from the post-punk era and that the exhibition will expand over time as our main site has.”

The City Fun online exhibition is part of Manchester Histories Festival’s on-going celebration and investigation of Manchester’s fanzines.

Festival Director Claire Turner said: “This online exhibition creates a permanent record of an era of alternative music in Manchester that’s now become internationally famous.

“The archive is a source of information to historians and a source of inspiration for subsequent generations.”

The online exhibition of the City Fun archive can be found at http://www.mdmarchive.co.uk/cityfun/

Picture courtesy of MDMArchive, with thanks.

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