Introducing Dispatches: We caught up with the founder of new Cambridge zine

Dispatches is a new Cambridge-based creative non-fiction zine

Dispatches is a brand new student-run Cambridge zine, whose primary focus is on creative non-fiction, something very rarely seen in other student zines here in Cambridge.

The team is also currently accepting visual art and poetry, and their first issue will be divided into five distinct sections: “Town Shufflings”, “Personal”, “Current Affairs”, “Humour/Satire”, and “Arts”. Their first round of submissions closes on Monday 24th January, so we spoke with the zine’s founder, Megan Hickes, to find out more.

Current “Dispatches” Profile Picture on Facebook. Image credits: Dispatches Team.

For all that the Cambridge zine scene is diverse and filled with numerous high-quality publications, there is still by no means a zine for everything. Megan highlights her frustration at the lack of opportunities within the scene to write creative non-fiction: “I only started thinking about starting up a new zine when I felt that there weren’t many opportunities to write creative non-fiction. I’m really interested in what makes writing engaging and how writers can craft their own voice by writing from their own perspective.

“I went to lectures last term on 20th century magazines (The New Yorker included) and found the relationship between images, poetry and journalistic writing very exciting. I love how it allows a culture to be captured almost accidentally; connections between seemingly disparate pieces can leisurely catch a reader’s attention simply because they are all appearing in one place. And so, I thought that opening a space where this can happen in Cambridge would be really great. (Also, Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch may have had something to do with it…I recommend it!)”

It seems this initial spark of interest led to a fully developed idea for a zine fairly quickly – the Dispatches Facebook page was only created on the 12th December, and applications to join the committee of editors and designers opened up just a week later, on the 20th.

So, what can we expect from Dispatches this term? “The plan is to release online issues via our website throughout term and then (fingers-crossed) look at making a physical copy later down the line. I would love to distribute physical issues at some point, but I am also very fond of the accessibility of a website which can allow it to reach a wider readership.”

Megan highlights how it’s best to take one step at a time until the zine becomes a more widely established presence, but adds she she “would love for Dispatches to be publishing a range of writing from across lots of subjects/colleges regularly throughout term-time. It would be amazing if it could be carried on after I have finished my degree and for it to be known for drawing together a community of great writers.”

Reflecting on the process of setting up a zine entirely from scratch, she says that while she thought it would be intimidating, that hasn’t been the case at all. “I have just been so heartened by all those who have supported this venture so far. I have a lovely committee of earnest and enthusiastic editors, publicity officers and designers which is making the process easier than when I was in the early stages. There is a lot to think about, but it is reassuring that there is a whole team behind it now collaborating and giving time to it.”

It’s true that there’s a genuine sense of community within the arts and creative scenes here in Cambridge, and a number of noteworthy and original zines have popped up this year and are already attracting a range of submissions.

“I am really looking forward to seeing the Blackbirds’ first issue and I love the aesthetic of Lunulae,” Megan adds, acknowledging that while Dispatches is “a bit different”, “the existence of so many wonderful zines has definitely inspired me to get involved. It is a really thriving community.”

Indeed, I’m sure that founding a zine is something that lots of people here in Cambridge dream of doing but don’t have the guts – or the time – to. To these people, she says, “Just go for it! Well, after thinking about what your vision is and knowing that you are doing it for the right reasons, just go for it!

“I think the best thing you can do is get in contact with people who have experience or are involved in the zine scene already. I’ve had nothing but encouragement and helpful advice from people who know what they are doing, and we wouldn’t be at this stage if I hadn’t reached out to people. No question is a silly question.”

If you want to get involved in the zine’s first online issue, send submissions to [email protected] by 24th January. If you miss this deadline, though, don’t worry: submissions will be re-opened later in the term for Dispatches’ next instalments, and in the meantime, you can check out their Facebook page here or their Instagram page here.

Feature Image Credits: Eve Cobb.

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