Sheila Coates

Sheila Coates

Sheila was involved in the content, production and distribution of two zines in the late 70s and early 80s.
Sheila was a member of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and her first zine experience was in collaboration with CND supporters who produced Thurrock FreeZone. The Nuclear Free Zone Movement in the UK was very strong in the early 1980s; Sheila had her first experience of campaign success when Thurrock Council declared themselves nuclear free. Sheila remembers yellow and black council enamelled signs on the borders of Thurrock stating ‘you are now entering a nuclear free zone’. She regrets not having a sign as a memento.

FreeZone morphed into Reverse Order. Sheila and her comrades spent a number of years at the heart of the action, surrounded by blank sheets of A4, sitting at a typewriter, drawing, copying, cutting up, glueing, screen printing, using a Gestetnor (a type of duplicating machine), agonising for hours over what Letraset font to use for what headlines. Sheila enjoyed every part of the zine and its interlinked banner making process. She felt the end result of every edition and banner was a joy to behold. All editions of Reverse Order are archived in the British Library, categorised as Community Activism.
Sheila was exposed to the squatting movement, punk music, gigs, anarchist, feminist, socialist ideas, at a time when the production of ‘zines’ felt like being part of a subterranean web of alternative media. The zine scene enabled Sheila to move from being a passive observer to working with others to present alternative cultural narratives to the mainstream media and to provide a space to test out radical ideas rarely given expression in the political arena.

The collective act of making zines enabled Sheila to find a political understanding and ‘voice’. Sheila’s 37-year career working in the UK violence against women and girls’ sector would not have been possible without the 'zine scene’. Sheila works locally and regionally and has worked internationally with the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women. Sheila was awarded the MBE in 2008 for her violence against women and girls work.

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