Interview: Katie Houghton on Sistra Zine, Cats, and the Future of Print

12:00 pm


If any of you follow me anywhere online, you'll know that I've been on the lookout for exciting creatives to talk to as a continuation of my interview series, and, goodness, I've been overwhelmed by the response I've had. So many bright-eyed, intelligent, and inspiring humans have been in contact with me, and I can't wait for you all to read what's in store for the future.

(I had to make a ruddy spreadsheet.)

Today I'm interviewing the lovely Katie Houghton, the creator of Sistra Zine, and human of many interests. We get to talking about editorial work, distracting cats, inspirational women, and why zines are just damn awesome. I hope you enjoy hearing what Katie has to say; I know I did! You know when you can just tell via email that someone is really fun and happy? That's Katie. She's an absolute star.


Magic & Musings:
Thank you for taking the time to answer some of my questions, Katie! Would you like to introduce yourself and what you do?

Katie Houghton:
Hi! My name's Katie Houghton, I'm a 26-year-old editor from London. I've worked editorially in a lot of different areas, from music and record distribution to restaurants and hospitality. I have a cat named Iggy, a boyfriend called Slug, and so strong a love of pickles that I bought a set of silver, vintage pickle forks to enjoy them in all their refinery...straight from the jar.

Magic & Musings:
A woman after my own heart. Here's the million dollar question: why zines?

Katie Houghton:
I've always liked zines and independent publications. They're a lot more loose in terms of content and aren't really defined by any set rules, so they're a really fun, honest, and almost humble way of getting a message out there, whatever the message might or needs to be. I've seen zines purely geared to political commentary and zines created with the only aim of sharing 24 pictures of phallic bananas, it's anyone's game.

Magic & Musings:
Oh wow! Looks like I've been missing out on a lot of important publications! So, what was your first introduction into the wild world of zines?

Katie Houghton:
Probably a couple of years ago in Sweden. I've always known what zines are, but never really bought or considered them all that much until then. After a couple of friends of mine created BBY Magazine and we went to the launch night in Gothenburg, I've been interested in them ever since.

Magic & Musings:
I've been eying up Gothenburg as a holiday destination for a while now. Even more reasons to go! What, in your opinion, makes a good zine? What are some of your favourites and are there any we should keep our eye out for?

Katie Houghton:
Zines used to be big on the underground, punk editorial scene and they're making a pretty impressive comeback, meaning it's not hard to find great examples these days. I think it's hard to say what makes a good zine because they're not bound to anything definite. I think all I need to see in a zine is a love for the content, a great correlation between imagery and text, and just a general level of fun. Zines can be so gritty and uninhibited, so it's nice to see commitment to them in any shape or form. I really like Spellbook Zine, Prawnstar Poems, and Sula Collective. They're a lot different to my zine, but they're evocative and unique. If I was to name a magazine that really did inspire me however it would be The Quarterly: Tribes.

Magic & Musings:
Adding all of those to my shopping basket. Out of all of your work, past, present, and future, what are you most proud of and why?

Katie Houghton:
While I may no work in restaurant editorials forever, my current job has to have been one of the most rewarding. I've not only helped launch over 15 different websites with them, I've learned so much about becoming an editor and what level of management that takes. It also helps that my role has taken me to some of the most amazing restaurants, events, and theatres shows in the UK. That'll do nicely.

Magic & Musings:
Sounds like a pretty sweet deal. Do you have any specific aims when you make zines, such as a particular message you want to communicate?

Katie Houghton:
There's nothing set when it comes to Sistra and I'd love to keep it that way. Everything changes over time, and I kind of want to keep that fluidity. The only thing I want to make sure is that our content and writer base stays female throughout. However 'female' can, is, or needs to be interpreted.


Magic & Musings:
On my blog, I love talking about women, f-identitfying, and non-binary artists and their work. Who, if anyone, would you say has been an influence on your work? Do you have any favourites to look to when you need some inspiration or motivation?

Katie Houghton:
I think my friends are the biggest influence on my work for sure. Sometimes famous figureheads are hard to relate to on a personal level, so it's some of the women in my life that have been my biggest drivers. From my friend Leyya who started her own creative company geared towards supporting women of colour, to my friend Ina who spent months getting to know refugees in the Calais camps, I'm surrounded by so many amazing ladies, sometimes I have to sit back and take stock of how lucky I am.

Magic & Musings:
Goodness. What wonderful humans your friends are! Do you have a particular place you work or find yourself the most productive? Are there a particular set of things that need to be in place for things to get done? A specific hot drink? A relaxing album?

Katie Houghton:
I can't be too near a window or a cat; nothing much gets done with that puss around. For me the ideal is perched against the radiator, curtains closed, and a bit of heavy metal on the go. It sounds strange and I know it's not ideal for everyone but metal is so fun and furious that it really helps me just go for it. If the environment is too relaxed or casual, I'll likely just find cheese and watch TV insead.

Magic & Musings:
I feel the fun and fury of metal goes well with the fun and fury of zines! Maybe that's what it works so well? So, what do you do if you find yourself stuck in a rut creatively? Are there any books on writing and creativity you would recommend to others?

Katie Houghton:
I normally just take myself out of the situation. It's pretty much that simple. Writing can become very stale very quickly, and there's nothing worse than committing to something when you don't have anything to say. I'd rather leave then return to a project at a rate that suits me, than force myself into creating something that feels just 'so-so'.

Magic & Musings:
Have you ever explored working in another medium? Is this something you would consider in the future?

Katie Houghton:
I'm lucky enough to have worked editorially in both digital and print, so I've seen both sides of the coin when it comes to content. Print isn't dead as some are saying; it's just consumed differently now. Digital media is so much more visual as a standard, but so is this kind of print. It's about finding that happy balance as an editor.

Magic & Musings:
What one thing do you wish someone had told you when you were first starting out working in this field?

Katie Houghton:
That printing your own zine doesn't actually come cheap. I naively went into the first issue of Sistra thinking that the cost of a couple hundred, 24-page magazines would be a financial doddle. I could have gone the normal zine route and put a photocopier to good use, but my boyfriend went above and beyond when it came to the design so it deserved the same respect when it came to the printing process. We were lucky to know someone that could cut us a deal, but even then it's not a small price to pay.



Magic & Musings:
And time for a fun question! Can you recommend everyone reading a book you've enjoyed recently, as well as a film and an album or song?

Katie Houghton:
Absolutely! I just started reading The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood and can't put it down. It's the perfect mix of socialism, gender commentary, dystopia, and sci-fi rolled into one. Everyting I read normally covers sci-fi in some kind of sense, and I started it just as International Women's Day came calling, so the time was just right. I'd say in terms of film I really enjoyed Beyond the Gates. It's a big of cheap indie scripting, 80s-filtered horror, and light humour all rolled into one. For an album at the moment it's Nailbiter by Looming. I got it on vinyl for Christmas and love the airy, yet antagonist indie.

Magic & Musings:
Thank you so much for letting me interview you today, Katie. It's been a pleasure finding out more about you and your creations! Is there anything else you would like to say before we finish? How can people find out more about you and your work?

Katie Houghton:
Be nice to animals and follow us on Instagram here!

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