A Post-Punk Zine Offers a Glimpse of 1980s Dublin

Dave Clifford says he didn’t at first get why anyone would want to republish an old post-punk fanzine.

He’d put together who knows how many issues of Vox between 1980 and 1983. Mainly working in his bedroom.

He’s pondered why he did it. “It’s often a question I ask myself actually,” he says.

Part of it, he thinks, was “coming sort of from art school and being interested in stuff like the Dadaist and Futurist cultures of the early 20th century”.

The onset of punk music helped too. It was “more a space, a clearing I’d like to call it, that new art forms could develop in that space”, says Clifford.

“The journalist and artist had as much impact as the musicians”, he says. They added to its visual culture, spread ideas around.

Still, the thought of republishing it after all these years puzzled him, he says. “I’m kind of stunned by it really.”

But it had too much impact at the time to be ignored, says Garry O’Neill of Hi Tone Books, who is an avid collector and preserver of Dublin youth culture, and made it his mission to bring Vox to light again.

Hi Tone recently published Vox 80-83, “facsimiles of all fifteen issues and with additional insights, reflections and academic analysis”.

Finding Vox

Vox was not O’Neill’s first dive into Dublin’s past.

Hi Tone Books also published Where Were You? which it describes as a “photographic celebration of Dublin’s youth culture, street style and teen life, from the 1950s to the 1990s”.

Getting the photos for that book drew him repeatedly back to the well of quality photography that existed between the pages of Vox, says O’Neill.

“Vox was at the top of my list when I was researching and finding photos for that particular project,” says O’Neill. That’s how he struck on the idea of reprinting the magazines.

Countless others were releasing their own fanzines in the mid-1980s, says O’Neill. But “it was one of the more interesting ones that appeared”.

Music fans generally made fanzines to document music, review local gigs and albums and interview musicians. Many were haphazard. “Cut and paste, that kind of thing,” says O’Neill.

Vox was different, O’Neill says. He first stumbled on the fanzine through his older brother, who left it about the house.

A kind of left-field post-punk music was being made in Dublin and Vox was covering it, he says. “It was covering the art-scene as well, especially performance art. It also had a lot of street photography with punks, Teds and Mods being interviewed on the streets.”

The design and layout was a cut above, says O’Neill. But it was the stories that really stood out. There might have been an interview with Irish folk musician Christy Moore, a piece penned by Morrissey, or a review of a gig by local punk band The Threats.

Vox was a reflection both of the adventurous music and wider art scene in the city at the time, O’Neill says.

“It was an artistic expression, an artwork in itself,” says independent Councillor Mannix Flynn, who spoke at the launch of the anthology last week. “It captured the whole sensibility of the community that was around then.”

It needs to be remembered too, says Flynn, that it was basically a one-person show.

Some stories Clifford cribbed from “listening to John Peel at night on the radio”, he says. He read the magazine NME, too, or dropped by the haunts of punks, Teds, performance artists and other youth groups to check in on what was new.

As Vox grew more popular, independent labels like Rough Trade and Factory Benelux, and artists like Morrissey – before he joined the Smiths – would get in contact. People came to Clifford, rather than him reaching out.

“They used to sell, you know,” says Clifford. More than a thousand copies each issue. He’d post it out to fill orders, and send it to galleries. Local punks would sell copies at the Dandelion Market, which used to sit on the corner of Stephen’s Green.

For Clifford and O’Neill, it was an exciting time to be young in Dublin.

“We should reclaim that history,” says Flynn. “And ensure that history is embedded in the national consciousness and certainly in the cultural consciousness of Dublin in particular.

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Sean Finnan: is a reporter for Dublin Inquirer. He covers the north side of the city. You can reach him at sfinnan@dublininquirer.com.

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