Forming a collaboration

The Everyday Austerity Exhibition was a collaboration between Sarah’s research on Everyday Austerity, and drawings by North-West zine maker and creator of Today zine, Stef Bradley.

Cover of Today zine Volume 2, by Stef Bradley

Already an avid reader of the zine, Sarah approached Stef with a proposition: to create an aesthetic, accessible and engaging way of bringing the research findings to life through comic drawings.

These commissioned images were to tell everyday stories about austerity and provide a platform for marginalised voices, much like the purpose of zines.

Ready, set, draw!

Stef was provided with a selection of vignettes from the research – short but meaningful stories about everyday life in austerity – and given artistic freedom on which stories to select and how to illustrate them.

There were to be six commissioned drawings – one for each of the six families from the research – and a poster to advertise the exhibition.

In the early stages:’Making a meal of it’, drawn by Stef Bradley

There is some dispute as to when a zine become a zine, and what format it has to be in to be considered so. For now, the images here are described as ‘drawings’; the photocopied, material object is what is commonly referred to as a ‘zine’.

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Work starts on the poster, drawn by Stef Bradley

Pulling it all together

To bring everyday experiences of austerity alive, multi-sensory tools were used. Alongside the illustrated vignettes drawn by Stef, the exhibition would also include:

  • field diaries: hand-written excerpts taken from Sarah’s observation notes as part of the ethnographic fieldwork
  • audio extracts: short segments from research interviews, anonymised using digital software
  • photographs: some taken by participants, others taken by Sarah, during the fieldwork
  • material objects: collected during the research or procured afterwards, these ranged from leaf-topped carrots to lego figures

These materials would be presented in six simple wooden boxes, each accompanied by a framed drawing and a note introducing the families.

One down, five more to go!

Efforts were made to ensure that a coherent, meaningful and straightforward story was being told for each family, with each box carefully crafted and curated by Stef and Sarah.

The exhibition was to encapsulate the key messages from Sarah’s research findings, whilst also representing the complexity of participants’ experiences and voices. 

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Stef (L) and Sarah (R) making final touches to exhibition materials

The whole exhibition had a very craft-like, D-I-Y feel to it: paper copies of the poster were available to take away (and used as colouring books), home-made stickers were given to all visitors (everyone loves a sticker), and a chalk board advertising the exhibition placed outside the venue (which Stef drew… freehand!).

Go on, have a sticker!

Today zine

The Today zine has been described as “a comic of sorts celebrating the extraordinary everyday”. If you want to know more about the Today zine, you can check out an online digitalised version of Volume 2, pop into Salford Zine Library to grab a hard copy, and you can follow Stef on twitter @todayzine.