Following on from artists’ book fairs at Plymouth University and Plymouth Arts Centre, Counter was established in 2014 as a nomadic annual event drawing together artists, collectives and book works to make friends, sell books, buy books, share work, share knowledge, learn something new, start conversations, ask questions, try to find answers and exchange ideas.
Organised by self-proclaimed keeners, Counter 2014 happened with the help of favours, sponsorship from paper merchants G.F Smith and a lot of unpaid hours getting the word out to people that might like to be there too. In 2015 the artists behind Counter have been granted an Arts Council England Grants for the Arts and offered support by KARST to run the event and host a programme of invited guests, alongside the tabling artists, independent press and others sharing their wares.
This years’ programme is a diverse blend of individuals and collectives from the South West and further afield. Headliners, Ladies of the Press* will be coming from London to perform and document the day with their Live Press, capturing the activities at Counter in a free zine; a representative of artist collective AMBruno will be giving a performance lecture; and independent artists’ book specialist Maria White will be speaking about some of the pieces in her private collection of book works, on display at the event.
In 2014 Counter inhabited Plymouth Arts Centre for one day. This year the fair has moved to KARST in Stonehouse, has grown to 30 tables and added a launch party. With many exhibitors travelling to Plymouth from across the country, the night before, the party will be a chance for people to get to know each other without sitting behind their tables and it’s also a way for Counter to showcase other kinds of work. Devon-based artist Mark Leahy will perform at the party and Bristol’s Howling Owl Records will share music from their independent label.
At the heart of Counter is of course, the artworks exhibited and for sale during the main event. This year visitors will be able to browse and buy handmade one offs, screenprints and letterpress, riso printed publications, activist zines, comics from Cornwall, annuals and quarterlies, text works, e-books, audio editions, maps and data, postcard collages, absurd narrative, photography, poetry and much much more. It’s also a place for anyone interested in finding out about artists’ books and self-publishing to meet others. This year’s visitors could be future exhibitors and the artists behind Counter don’t mind if those people are artists in museum collections or someone on the verge of publishing their first radical parish newsletter.
So what are the future plans for Counter? Although a little secretive, the organisers are ambitious. With more applications than the 2015 venue could accommodate, next year’s event is likely to be bigger but beyond that there are all kinds of possibilities for this bunch of D.I.Y enthusiasts.