Aux Zine makes prisoners suppose creatively

Prisons were at the center of the debate during the Covid 19 pandemic. Outbreaks were a source of continuing concern and led to calls for early releases and probation hearings remotely, although only a fraction of them were carried out. With facilities in the UK overcrowded, prisoners have been held in solitary confinement essentially 24 hours a day for the past three months, with limited external visits and educational initiatives.

With this in mind, InHouse Records took on the task of launching Aux, a weekly zine that was distributed to prisons and prisons in the UK and US. The non-profit organization founded by Judah Armani is the first fully functional record label that was launched in prison and founded with and by prisoners. InHouse Records describes itself as a “label for changes that want to see safer communities, fewer crime victims and prisoners; Rehabilitation and preoccupation with dignity and aspiration ”.

The zine was designed by Armani to "fight potential fears and frustrations and support prisoners without being inside," explains Hannah Lee of InHouse Records, who taught graphic design at HMP Elmley in Kent before the lockdown and is now helping to create the zines.

“The decision-making process for publishing a weekly zine was very quick. When the blockade began in March, programs like InHouse Records were suspended because only essential personnel were allowed into the prisons. For the over 86,000 prisoners in the UK, this meant staying in their cells almost 24 hours a day, ”says Lee.

Aux's design is lively and colorful, and is often inspired by the old posters and album covers that were included in the pieces. It contains fonts donated by the Or Type and Signal foundries.

The first edition was completed in less than ten days and was “raw and a bit rough on the edges”, which Lee attributes to the urgency of the project. Since then, the team has been producing the zine weekly and has distributed 30,000 copies across the UK. Deliveries run out at a similar time each week to create a structural element that Lee says is important when normal routines have been changed as they were.

The zine is in the form of a music publication with interviews, tips and informative guides in seven sections: creativity, writing, music, well-being, rhythm, production and culture. Each issue contains a new poem or text by one of the label's graduates, and has included interviews with Sopranos actor Joe Ganascolli, comedian Tom Ward, and musician Yazz Ahmed.

The content is determined by the music educators, many of whom have had no experience writing articles, but who compensated for this with "a connection and relationship with the prisoners," Lee says. "(The moderators) know which artists they are inspired by, who they dislike and who can be of use to them to discover them."

The direction of the zine is also determined by Lee's experience in teaching graphic design in a prison, an initiative proposed by Armani, in which she covered the basics of typography, logo design, advertising and marketing, poster work and album art.

"Although I was torn apart because of my jeans on display (apparently there are signs at some clubs on the door that prohibit entering 'bootcuts') and the nicest comment I have received in three months has been' you are not so crappy & # 39; was deeply rewarding and this first-hand experience helped me a lot in designing the zine, ”Lee says.

The zine also includes a CD, which Lee says works like a podcast, with a summary of each section and a selection of tracks to work with. Creating an audio accompaniment to the zine tries to take into account the different literacy rates among prisoners and is designed to help improve literacy skills by allowing people to read while listening.

Aux appears to be a complete success: Even after the restrictions on the prisons have been lifted, the team plans to continue producing the zine once or twice a month, and Aux has been well received by readers, according to Armani. Many have even shown an interest in how to play the guitar, which InHouse could respond to with acoustic guitars donated by Fender.

"It was incredibly positive, but that's only beginning to tell part of the story," he says. Armani would like to point out the difference between public closures and the type in prisons (“one measure is protection-oriented, the other punishable”), which affects the role and importance of zines.

"Aux not only helps to create a safe and empowering environment for prisoners, where they can study the magazine, improve literacy or develop technical skills, but also serve to convey far more powerful messages. How we act in a society that is becoming more and more contactless by evoking more and more human reactions, ”says Armani.

“Aux-Magazin is carefully and beautifully designed because we want to convey a value and meaning to every reader who picks up a copy. If we want to see real change, we have to start doing things differently, and Aux magazine does just that. ”

The zine picks up on Armani's belief that creativity is a powerful healing mechanism. "The creative process is good for the soul, good for the mind, good for our well-being," he adds, adding that "it can inspire others to think, engage, and change."

"Without the consistent opportunity to promote creativity, emotions like anger, frustration, fear and insecurity are channeled into less healthy coping mechanisms," says Armani. "Creativity heals."