sunny days here again use
Picture courtesy of Siobhan Bardsley


Circa’91 The Zine, is a publication produced in conjunction with Sunny Days Are Here Again” fanzine exhibition of Irish fanzines, with a focus on Cork ‘zines from the 80s and 90s.  The Zine, featuring contributions from the stalwarts of Corks independent music scene from that time, recounting the time when bands organised their own gigs, recorded their own demo tapes, and wrote all about it in their fanzines.  Siobhan Bardsley, compiled the pieces. Fiona O’Mahony designed it. Anto Dillon (Loserdom) edited it. A big thanks to all three.

Colm O’Callaghan, was in the hub of Cork’s music scene,  writing at the time for both local and national music publications.  Posted below is his contribution to Circa’91 The Zine.



Fearless and passionate in devotion, and assembled mostly without
filters, fanzines gave a voice to the voiceless, hope to the hopeless and
joy to the joyless. As magazines by and for fans of music, sport and
politics, and rarely driven by the bottom line, they brought with them
the keen edge and the third ear. And, as such, provided an important
counterpoint, and often a welcome humour, to the coverage of music,
especially, from the age of punk rock onwards.


Nothing defined the physique of the die-hard alternative music fan
during the 1980s like fanzines and, for a time, they were as essential
a part of the uniform as acne, brogues and plaid shirts. Some of my
fellow contributors here have outlined the role of fanzines as socio-
cultural documents and there is no doubt that, on one level, they
certainly opened minds and turned heads. Almost always absolute
and certain, music fanzines went beneath the underground and
beyond the underbelly in search of what they believed to be the truth
and nothing but the truth, usually to the accompaniment of three basic
guitar chords. And rarely were facts allowed to disturb an argument
or a theory that sounded great in, say, The Liberty Bar, half-way
through the second flagon.


no more plastic pitches etc
Picture courtesy of Siobhan Bardsley


I was still actively contributing to fanzines as recently as 2006 and 2007
at a time when I should probably have known better. But that my co-
editor was a London-based defence lawyer and that we routinely
tapped up favours from some of our talented friends within the
established media in Ireland made the whole enterprise seem far less
pathetic and tawdry than it should have done. ‘Are you talking to your
imaginary friends on the internet again ?’, my wife would ask during
those periods, four times every year, when we’d be looking to craft the
edges and put forty-eight pages to bed.


But this was important stuff. Our primary purposes at the time were a]
to raise cash to help a supporter’s movement to purchase a football club
in North Wales and more importantly b] to explain to our readers why
this was the only practical option for anyone serious about the long-
term future of the team we support. We regarded our work as an
essential public education. And it was on similar foundations, I think,
that most of the best fanzines have been built, many of them born of
frustration with and a distrust of a mainstream media that, perhaps, is
depriving audiences , for whatever reason, of weighty information. Be
that in how it reports – or doesn’t, usually – on a property developer
who’s about to buy a football club or reviews, say, ‘Meat Hook Up My
Rectum by Tumor Circus.


‘Sunny Days’ and ‘No More Plastic Pitches’ were easily the two best and
most fondly-regarded Cork-based fanzines of the late 1980s and early
1990s, the products of sound, altruistic thinking and a genuine belief in
the twin magic of music and football. They were defined by their
unerring positivity, unlike many of their competitors who routinely
flouted the line between information and defamation. And although no-
one quite does indignant like Cork people, both ‘Sunny Days’ and ‘No
More Plastic Pitches’ rarely, if ever, acted the whack. Their targets – and
all fanzines simply must have a target, it’s a pre-requisite – were
obvious and safe. Dublin bands and Dublin teams, Dublin media and
Dublin city itself, for the most part.


nay na thrice
Picture courtesy of Siobhan Bardsley



But ‘Sunny Days’ was first and foremost a fountain of information and,
while the world at that time began and ended for many on South Main
Street, it would routinely venture out into the wide open spaces around
Crosshaven and Kinsale and report, with vigour, on random live shows
in garages and front-rooms and on the usual and unusual manner of
carry-on that went with them. With a free-form, scattergun design and a
disregard for many of the key conventions of the English language, a
core of contributors – some anonymous, others known simply and
intruigingly by their first names – would infrequently digest and parse
the vagaries of ‘indie’ for their loyal band of readers. The continuing
narratives of both The Frank And Walters and The Sultans of Ping would
backdrop and bedrock everything else ;- an allegiance to and fervour for
alternative American guitar bands and local squall, basically. And, from
time to time, a cryptic reference to who got off with who after a Bacchus
And The Pards show up in The Cricket Club.


My own favourite Cork fanzine was a short-lived affair that first made an
appearance before the 1991 Munster football championship during a
summer when, even more cock-a-hoop than usual, Cork were defending
both senior All-Ireland titles. ‘The Donkeys’ broke fresh ground in that
it was a] a fanzine ostensibly about Cork G.A.A. that b] just abused the
Kerry and Meath senior football teams and/or people from both
counties, especially those attached to the Nobber and Spa clubs. Taking
it’s title from the routinely mis-quoted Babs Keating line before the
1990 Munster hurling final, ‘The Donkeys’ was clearly delivered in a
birthing pool filled with Bulmers and raised against the backdrop of the
sociopathic menace of Kerry and Meath football.


It’s editorial staff preferred the Irish language version of Meath, which
they translated as ‘An Bhaistards’ within it’s pages, of which there
weren’t an awful lot but that, in a free-form style, took aim early and
often. Those behind ‘The Donkeys’ knew when they’d exhausted their
gags – just before last orders, you’d think – and believed strongly in the
credo that less was often more. But it was never either po-faced or
pious either and, rather, fleetingly provided a real antidote to the beige-
dipped coverage of Gaelic games in the local media. It was moderately
funny, cracked and unstintingly partisan and, as such, captured those
aspects of hurling and Gaelic football that we’d all experienced but that
we all too rarely read or heard about more broadly. And certainly not
from Jim O’Sullivan, whose dreary output in The Cork Examiner would
have drained the spirit from a vat of paint thinner.


In retrospect, the fanzines I pored over from the mid-1980s onwards
now remind me of many of Morrissey’s solo records. They attracted
extreme and unquestioning devotion, would have benefitted greatly
from strong editing, were often derided by the popular media and, much
of the time, the titles were the best things about them. And yet, for all
that, they’d routinely turn up the odd golden bullet too and, in their own
way, did as much to chronicle the more faddish and lateral aspects of
our social and cultural under-carriages as anyone or anything else.


Circa’91; The Zine is a one-off limited edition publication, and is available free to visitors of the “Sunny Days are Here Again” exhibition which takes place in Cork City Library, Grand Parade from 16-27 August 2016.

The Exhibition is curated by The Forgotten Zines in cahoots with Siobhan Bardsley


Add yours

  1. Great stuff yet again Colm…..I recall you filmed some footage (with a proper camera !) of Cork bands back in the late 80s – any tapes survive ?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Patj. Many thanks for reading through and for the kind words, most appreciated. I think you’re probably referring to a short doc we were doing for Cork Multi Channel which, like most of the great ideas, never saw the light of day. While I don’t personally have any of the raw material, I know someone who may. I’ll put in a quiet word if you promise not to tell The Guards ? All the best, Colm.

      Liked by 1 person

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