Toxic Grafity

Horatio, the cat sitting on a copy of Toxic Grafity anarcho punk fanzine

Toxic Grafity, my old anarcho-‘zine, sometimes referred to as a punk fanzine, came out sporadically between 1978-’82, six issues with various spin-offs. TG played a key role in establishing the then emerging anarcho-punk subculture. This followed on from my earlier experiment with No Real Reason, a more conventional punk fanzine. The Epileptics, the Poison Girls, and Crass played a benefit gig for TG in August ’79, at Conway Hall in central London. The best-known issue is TG5 of 1980, which contained the Crass flexi-disc ‘Tribal Rival Rebels’, a hitherto unreleased track. TG5 sold in five figures, and also came with a free ‘Please, Fuck the System Now!’ sticker sheet.

TG sought to move on from the conventional ‘fanzine’ format, and later issues were completely devoid of material such as band interviews, reviews of albums and gigs, &ct, and sought to develop its own aesthetic using only its own original logos and imagery. My aim was to capture and express the ethos, attitude, aesthetics and politics of anarcho-punk using found images, collages, logos, slogans, ‘rant’, prose, prose-poetry, free verse, and essays. Aware of the limitations of the format and my then-existing skills set, and uneasy about some of the directions anarcho-punk seemed to be heading, I produced the final issue of TG in the early Summer of 1982.

By 1984 I had more or less drifted away entirely from anarcho-punk. My subsequent life involved entering university as a mature student aged 30 in 1989. I took a double first in Modern Languages (majoring in Arabic) and Comparative Literature. After gaining a portfolio of postgraduate teaching qualifications in lifelong learning and higher education, in 2001 I graduated with a PhD in the comparative literatures of the British occupation of Egypt 1882-1956. I worked in higher education in the Middle and Far Easts between 2001-11. Towards the end of that time I was involved in higher education development projects.

I was an eyewitness to the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings of 2011, and my support for students’ academic freedom, human rights and my opposition to the ruling regime and the imposition of martial law following the Saudi-led counter-revolution meant I had to flee Bahrain under emergency circumstances. Arriving back in the UK I suffered a complete mental breakdown, and have suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder ever since, despite numerous interventions.

To make sense of my experiences, I took an MA in the Anthropology of Violence and Reconciliation 2014-’15, in part as a form of extended Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. My MA dissertation was on mourning political death and mental health among Bahraini students. From this I developed an interest in autoethnographic writing and the concept of fractured, multiple selfhood and political agency. One consequence of this was an exploration of the shattering of my professional persona and the re-emergence of my anarchist punk consciousness during the events of 2011, something I have written and published on.

Online Toxic Grafity is in part a revival of the old print TG. As such, it has a nostalgic and archival aspect, is a platform for a bit of merch, and a space for reviews of relevant output. But more than that, I want it to be a site on which I can publish writings I have done since 1982 in multiple genres, and a platform for new writing and artworks. In this way, I hope that new material on the site eventually exceeds the historical and archival material. I’d like it to be a medium that puts the ‘me’ of 1978-82 into creative conversation with the ‘me’ of the 2020s, against the backdrop of political and social activism and intervention. I would welcome contributions from others seeking to do something similar.

In solidarity,

Mike D,             

Sussex, October 2022

N.B. In developing this site I have tried to be as accurate as possible regarding times, dates, and places, and to acknowledge where appropriate contributions from others. However, much water has gone under the bridge since 1982, and often my ‘iron chains of memory’ have become rusty of frayed over the flow of over 40 years! If I have made any factual errors, or have failed to acknowledge any contributions to the TGs of that day, please let me know, and I’ll endeavour to correct!

Toxic Grafity was post-punk fanzine produced by Mike D (Mike Diboll) 1978 and 1982, when punk was engaging with anarchism rather than just ‘anarchy’. TG (also Toxic Gravity, Toxic Graffiti, Toxic Grafitti) was a landmark of the early anarcho-punk counter-culture, post-punk subculture, and punk DIY. In late ’70s and early ’80s, TG went beyond the ‘fanzine’ format to create an “anarcho-‘zine” (or just ‘zine) . Crass, the Poison Girls and The Epileptics (later Rubella Ballet) played a benefit gig for Toxic Grafity in August 1979, and Crass recorded the track ‘Tribal Rival Rebel Revels’ for inclusion into TG No.5 as a flexi-disc. With TG Mike attempted to express the aesthetics, existentialism, attitude, culture, ethics, and politics of early anarcho-punk through collage, graffiti, poetry, prose, prose-poetry and rant. Mike stopped producing it Toxic Grafity is relaunched on this website partly as punk nostalgia archive, but also as a showcase for Mike D’s later work. Toxic Grafity online also has an autoethnographic aspect. As an autoethnography it seeks to connect the personal-political world of his youth with his personal-political world of the 2020s.

%d bloggers like this: