2022 Bibliopoe: Books by Steven J Fowler

Steven J Fowler and books
Steven J Fowler and Egidija Čiricaitė, Small Publishers Fair 2022, photo @jhmmitchell

Bibliopoe showcased books by poet, writer and performer SJ Fowler. With over fifty publications since 2010 made with many different imprints, Fowler’s books reveal the strength and diversity of British small press publishing.

Ranging from formal poetry collections to innovative collaborative selections, from letterpress limited editions to poetry stickers, bags and posters – Fowler’s unique engagement with the British indie publishing scene has seen him reimagine the process of disseminating experimental writing.

Bibliopoe captures his distinctive approach, where publications reveal context and process as well as content and product.

Fowler’s prolific output suggests poetry not just as a rarefied act of self-reflection but as an active and collaborative means of understanding the world around us through language.

Featured publishers included Dostoyevsky Wannabe, Hazard Press, Hesterglock Press, JOAN, Knives, Forks and Spoons, Penned in the Margins, Penteract Press, Prototype Publishing, Shearsman Books, Tenement Press and Veer Books.

Artist’s books and ephemera relating to print collaborations included books made with Angie Butler (ABPress) and Pat Randle (Nomad Letterpress). There were also displays of new visual poems and launches for publications made with Barrie Tullett, Egidija Čiricaitė (pictured) and Jules Sprake.

2020 and 2021

Setting by Helen Douglas, Weproductions

In 2020 the Small Publishers Fair was cancelled due to the covid pandemic. In 2021, when the pandemic was still going on Helen Mitchell decided to organise a digital Fair. She approached Fair publishers, including some new to the Fair, all of whom had websites that were set up well for online information and sales.

Fifty six publishers took part in Digital Small Publishers Fair 2021. Twenty one of them had made books that were in some way a response to Covid.

A page of ‘Lockdown Books’ was set up as a sort of digital exhibition. Later Brixton Review of Books took the images and text and made a double page spread feature of the Lockdown books. Find them here.

2019 Test Centre: Through the Archives

Test Centre Publications at Small Publishers Fair in 2018.
Test Centre books at SPF18. Photo Caspar Evans
Display of Test Centre publications.
Test Centre books and magazines.

Test Centre Publications, an independent publishing house and record label based in Hackney, London, was run by Jess Chandler and Will Shutes from 2011 to 2018. Test Centre’s varied output ranged from spoken-word vinyl LPs to debut poetry collections, experimental fiction, anthologies, interdisciplinary projects and an annual magazine of new writing, Test Centre. 
At the end of 2018, Test Centre split into two separate entities: Will Shutes’ bookdealing and occasional publishing business now operates independently as Test Centre Books, while Prototype was established by Jess Chandler as a new independent publishing house, building on the Test Centre aesthetic.
This exhibition looks back at Test Centre’s publishing history, from early limited edition pamphlets, prints and vinyl LPs with Stewart Home, Chris Petit and Iain Sinclair, and the first issues of its magazine, following the growth of Test Centre’s output and reputation into an innovative and independent publisher of poetry, fiction and interdisciplinary and collaborative projects. 
Featured Test Centre collaborators will include Rachael Allen, Sophie Collins, Wayne Holloway-Smith,  Derek Jarman, Jen Calleja, SJ Fowler, Holly Pester, Max Porter, Sam Riviere, Chris Torrance and Jack Underwood. 
Items on display will include signed, limited edition prints; promotional material for events and readings with a varied list of acclaimed writers and artists including Lee Harwood, Tom Raworth and Thurston Moore; and the complete collection of Test Centre’s records and books, never exhibited before. 
Jess Chandler’s new imprint Prototype Publishing will be taking part in this year’s fair, with all available Test Centre items for sale at the stall, on the stage, next to the exhibition.

2018 Laurie Clark: Books and Printed Matter

The artist and publisher Laurie Clark was born in New York in 1949. At the age of twenty three she married the poet Thomas A Clark. Together they founded Moschatel Press (1973) and Cairn Gallery (1986), based first in Nailsworth in Gloucestershire, and later, from 2002, in the east coast fishing village of Pittenweem in Fife.

Moschatel Press produces artist’s books and poetry collections. Cairn Gallery is a space for land art, minimalism and lyrical or poetic conceptualism. It was one of the first artist-led spaces.

Laurie Clark has illustrated many Moschatel publications and has also consistently collaborated with other small press publishers. Throughout the seventies and eighties she worked closely with Ian Hamilton Finlay, producing illustrations for books and editions for his Wild Hawthorn Press including Horloge de flore, Les Sans Culottes, So you want to be a Panzer Leader and Thermidor.

Other small press publishers Clark has worked with include Coracle (Ireland), Corbel Stone Press (Scottish Borders), Essence Press (Edinburgh), Hanne Bramness (Norway), Longhouse (Vermont), Morning Star (Scotland), Peter Foolen Editions (Eindhoven), Stand and Stare (Bristol) and WAX 366 (Glasgow).

Since 1973 Clark has worked on close to a third of Moschatel’s six hundred plus publications and editions. In the early years an Adana press was used, while in 1999 the Clarks bought a computer and began to use ink jet printing.

Laurie Clark’s recent drawings are concerned with the infinite differences and similarities of plant  forms. She is a regular at Small Publishers Fair and has only missed one year since the first year in 2002.

Concertina book showing hand-coloured individual jay feathers on each page.
Jay, Moschatel Press, 2013
Cover of Agenda Magazine showing leafy pathway.
Agenda, Volume 24

2017 Peter Foolen: Books and Editions 1987-2017

Peter Foolen is a Dutch designer, curator and publisher of books and editions of contemporary art. He lives in Eindhoven and began his life in publishing working for Peninsula Foundation (1987-1997) and October Foundation (1998-2007), both of which are based in the city. Since 2007 he has worked as an independent designer and publisher.

Peter has worked with artists and poets including: Roger Ackling, Alan Charlton, Laurie Clark, Thomas A Clark, Simon Cutts, Alec Finlay, Lesley Foxcroft, Hamish Fulton, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Callum Innes, Peter Liversidge, Richard Long, Graham Rich, Carol Robertson, Trevor Sutton, herman de vries and Ian Whittlesea.

He is a regular at Small Publishers Fair and has curated two of its exhibitions featuring Dutch artists Hans Waanders (2012) and herman de vries (2014).

“There is a focus on collaborative work, multimedia pieces, and project-based publications. As well as books, the press publishes poem-objects (flags, toys, etc), prints, and portfolios (boxed suites of work by one artist or a collaboration). Poetry is given a generous remit of allowable forms and guises, and the books and objects are finished to a particularly  high standard.”

Luke Allen of sine wave peak, writing on Peter Foolen Editions in 2016

Exhibition: Peter Foolen: Books and Editions. Photo Caspar Evans
Peter Foolen in conversation, SPF16 (in the foreground, Siglio). Photo Caspar Evans

2016 Avant-Folk Publishing in the Vernacular

The 2016 Small Publishers Fair exhibition was curated by Dr Ross Hair, author of ‘Avant-Folk: Small Press Poetry Networks from 1950 to the Present’, published by Liverpool University Press.

Avant-folk looked at small press publishers in Britain and America from the 1960s to the present day who have been influenced by both folk traditions and the avant-garde. It was a survey that included examples of late modernist, ‘New American,’ concrete and post-concrete poetry, as well as book art.

The exhibition featured work by poets, artists and publishers – Thomas A Clark, Simon Cutts, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Lorine Niedecker, Erica Van Horn, and Jonathan Williams. Publishers and magazines were Aggie Weston’s (Stuart Mills), Coracle Press, The Jargon Society (Jonathan Williams), Moschatel Press and Wild Hawthorn Press.

The Small Publishers Fair has been a touchstone to several of the publishers. Ian Hamilton Finlay’s Wild Hawthorn Press was an early attendee. Simon Cutts and Erica Van Horn’s Coracle, and Thomas A and Laurie Clarke’s Moschatel have been here every year (the latter bar one year due to illness!) since 2002.

The exhibition ‘Avant Folk’ was marked by the launch of a pamphlet published by UEA Publishing Project. There was also an Avant Folk seminar.

Click here for a review of ‘Avant-Folk’ by Michael Caines of The TLS.

To have gathered from the air a live tradition.

Ezra Pound, Canto LXXXI

Avant Folk photo by Caspar Evans
Avant Folk photo by Caspar Evans

2015 Nancy Campbell: Books and Printed Matter

Nancy Campbell is a British artist and writer whose work explores polar and marine environments. Nancy apprenticed as a letterpress printer to master craftsmen Crispin and Jan Elsted at Barbarian Press, Canada, before working as a printer and typefounder in New York.

In 2010 she was Artist in Residence at the most northern museum in the world, on the remote island of Upernavik in Greenland. It was here that her interest in the disappearing languages and landscapes of the Arctic was kindled.

The exhibition presented a selection of Nancy Campbell’s works from the last decade. These included artist’s books produced under her own imprint – Bird Editions, collaborations with other artists, including Mette-Sofie D. Ambeck, Abigail Rorer and Roni Gross, and titles from publishers such as Enitharmon Press and MIEL.

The variety of media on show demonstrated the many different forms the printed word can take, from pochoir-illustrated livres des artistes and letterpress-printed broadsides to print-on-demand paperbacks.

Many of the works on show were made by Nancy in response to witnessing cultural and climate change in coastal communities in Greenland, Iceland, Denmark and ‘the debatable lands’ on the Scottish-English border. These include How To Say ‘I Love You’ In Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet, which was awarded a Birgit Skiöld Award in 2013; and Vantar/Missing, a visual history of avalanches.

To mark the exhibition Nancy published proviso. This limited edition publication is the record of an intervention at Upernavik Museum, Greenland, and a collaboration with New York designer and printer Roni Gross. It includes additional letterpress printing by The Old Stile Press, Llandogo, Wales.

For more on Nancy Campbell visit her website and blog.

a deft, dangerous and dazzling new poet writing from the furthest reaches of both history and climate change

Carol Ann Duffy

01 Campbell_Museum Upernavik
Upernavik Museum.
How To Say I Love You In Greenlandic: An Arctic Alphabet . 2011

2014 herman de vries: books and editions

herman de vries: books and editions  was curated by designer and publisher Peter Foolen in collaboration with herman de vries. An extended version was first shown at the Van Abbemuseum in 2013-2014. Most of the works were from Peter Foolen’s own collection.

The exhibition gave an overview of de vries’ artists’ books, catalogues, cards, ‘earth rubbings’, dried plants and leaves, and editions. It also included publications from his ‘eschenau summer press’, including artists’ books by Thomas A Clark, Chris Drury and Karin Sander.

herman de vries was born in 1931 in Alkmaar in the Netherlands. He was one of the founders of the Zero movement, which anticipated aspects of Land Art, Minimalism, and Conceptual Art.

A 2015 exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, explored the movement: ‘Zero: Countdown to Tomorrow 1950s-1960s’

In 2015 de vries represented the Netherlands at the Venice Biennale. In the same year Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum hosted an extensive retrospective.

Peter Foolen Editions published the editions ‘juniperus communis’ and ‘die weise | the meadow’ on the occasion of this exhibition at the Small Publishers Fair.

herman de vries’ meadow in Eschenau, Germany.

2013 Martin Rogers and Les Colman

This exhibition was organised to remember and celebrate Martin Rogers, founder of the Fair, and Les Colman, book artist and a regular at the fair. Both died the previous year. The exhibition was curated by collector, John Janssen, who was friend to both.

John Janssen wrote at the time:

“From the start of the Small Publishers Fairs there have always been exhibitions to accompany the event, and I have been involved on two previous occasions, both times in collaboration with Martin Rogers and Les Coleman.

A Scintilla of Small Press Publishing was our inaugural show in 2002, when the Fair was held at the Royal Festival Hall, before finding its true home in Conway Hall. Then in 2009 Les Coleman and I showed Written Drawn and Stapled, American Poetry Publications 1965-1975. Through his RGAP imprint Martin Rogers published the catalogue for this. He was also very much the hands-on producer for this exhibition.

The presence of Martin Rogers, as the founder and organiser of the fair, and Les Coleman, as a regular exhibitor from the start, always had been part of the unique ambience of the Fair. Les also regularly gave readings at the Fair. So we much missed their absence due to illness at last year’s Fair. Martin died in Dec 2012, and Les only a few weeks later, in January 2013.

Our exhibition this year is a small tribute to these two artists, who both worked in many media and formats, including sculpture, publications and editioned work.

Martin and Les shared a sense of humour and light touch, which often was reflected in their work. Our selection of just a few of the more quirky examples of their work, shown in the display cases which Martin himself devised for the exhibitions he put on at Conway Hall, marks our esteem and affection for these two artists.”

Curator John Janssen, November 2013

N.B. At the Small Publishers Fair 2013, publishers were to be seen wearing a ‘Les is more’ badge. It had been made and circulated by Mark Pawson. In 2015 Coracle Press published Construction Storage Despatch. The book is a record of Martin Roger’s life as an artist, and as founder of Small Publishers Fair. Book and badge are pictured.

Construction Storage Despatch, Coracle Press 2015
Badge, Mark Pawson, made for SPF13

Exhibitions 2002 to 2012

The following exhibitions took place when Small Publishers Fair was part of RGAP (Research Group for Artists Publications). They reflect the international connections of key publishers (in particular Simon Cutts of Coracle and Colin Sackett of Uniformbooks) and RGAP director Martin Rogers.

2012  Hans Vaanders, curated by Peter Foolen
2011  Gomringer ist hier, books and editions by Eugen Gomringer
2010  Sara Ranchouse Publishing, Chicago, curated by director Sally Alatalo
2009  Written, Drawn and Stapled, collaborative publishing by writers, poets and artists in New York in the  1960s and 1970s. Curated by Les Coleman and John Janssen
2008  Cuneiform Books, Brooklyn, NY, curated by publisher and director, Kyle Schlesinger
2007  Editions Héros-Limite, Geneva, curated by guest publisher Alain Berset
2006  Readings for Stuart Mills. No exhibition but an ‘in remembrance’ screening.
2005  Christian Bök. No exhibition but a featured writer and a remarkable reading.
2004  Granary Books, New York, curated by director Stephen Clay
2003  Books from the collection of Centre des Livres d’Artistes / Pays-Paysage, curated by Didier Mathieu
2002  A scintilla of Small Press Publishing, curated by John Janssen and hosted by the then Saison Poetry Library (now National Poetry Library). This was the only Fair to be held at Royal Festival Hall.