The Art of Disruption: Hazel Peters on No Permission Needed

The Skinny speaks to Hazel Peters about online and print platform No Permission Needed as they prepare to start work on their third publication

Article by Harvey Dimond | 30 Aug 2023
  • No Permission Needed's launch event

In 2021, Hazel Peters began attending workshops with Intercultural Youth Scotland (IYS), an Edinburgh-based charity that supports young people of colour, providing mental health services and creating space to build community, amongst many other things. During one of these workshops, the idea of creating a zine with workshop members was floated. Peters, alongside several other contributors, went on to publish the first zine under the banner of No Permission Needed (NPN), titled We, Me, Us, in May 2022. The zine, which Peters edited, was formed of responses from women and non-binary IYS members under the loose theme of individuality and collectivity. From here, feeling inspired by Intercultural Youth Scotland's ability to create community, Peters decided that she wanted to go bigger. In the summer of 2022, she shared an open call on Instagram to build an editorial team for No Permission Needed’s next publication and worked on rebranding NPN into an online and print platform. Building an editorial team of ten, as well as several graphic designers, NPN then published their second zine Scott(ish) in May of this year, featuring contributions from ten Scotland-based creatives.

Many of the people involved in publishing the zines wear multiple hats – Bébé Dulcie (aka Maryam Zaki) is the poetry editor and illustrator but is also a visual artist, poet and songwriter; while Peters is at once a poet, writer, facilitator and the zine’s editor-in-chief. As all the editors are working for free, being able to delegate to more people became a priority, as this would equate to less of a workload for those involved. As a result, the zine sings with a diverse cacophony of voices working across journalism, poetry, music, performance and visual art. Incredibly, it is also able to, at once, hold space to elevate and platform the creative practices of a multitude of people living in Scotland, create space for criticality and speak to global issues that concern diasporic communities in the UK (something the editors hope to build on in future issues). 

The team is now starting work on a third zine, which will centre on the theme of ‘the art of disruption’: whether that be disrupting institutions that have historically excluded people of colour, or the act of rest or creating community as disruptive. Alongside this, Peters is also busy with a programme of four free workshops called Sound Up, which will include a writing workshop with rapper Bee Asha (taking place on 5 September at Summerhall in Edinburgh). These creative-focused events are a space for people of colour to come together to safely meet and connect with new people. 

No Permission Needed's second zine, Scott(ish), May 2023. Credit: Hazel Peters.

Peters’ motivation in creating No Permission Needed partially came out of her own experience as a writer and the added layers of labour that Black writers contend with. Peters says: "my experience of writing in general, particularly when I’m pitching, is that I have to change how I’m presenting the story because I know that the core audience is white – there are things that I have to do otherwise it's not gonna be picked up, or it won’t resonate with that core audience. That mental gymnastics just adds another layer of effort in producing work." As a result, she wanted to create opportunities for people of colour to express themselves freely without being dictated to by white editors, or feeling the pressure of expressing themselves to a predominantly white audience. There was also a desire to look for validation within a supportive community, rather than external validation and often coming away feeling disheartened.

To guide their work, the collective published a punchy and powerful mission statement:

  • - No Permission Needed is a print and online platform dedicated to celebrating the cultures, creativity, and experiences of Black and People of Colour (BPoC) outside of the dominant media/arts landscape. 

- The name No Permission Needed is an affirmation for taking up space. It is a reminder that we don’t have to seek the approval of others. Instead, we can find approval and validation within ourselves.

  • - As BPoC we often contort our words, our bodies, and our art to make ourselves more acceptable to our white surroundings. Our projects provide space for BPoC to exist loudly, to be held, to be centred, celebrated and loved upon. 

With this bold mission statement, a desire to create and sustain space and the ability to have a local and global focus, No Permission Needed is a fresh and exciting disruption to the homogeneous, white cultural landscape in Scotland. Most importantly though, Peters tells me, she hopes to create "a space for your art that isn’t filtered through the different lenses of oppression that exist."

Submissions for No Permission Needed’s third issue are now open; editors are also invited to apply. The theme of the next zine will be The Art of Disruption – submissions close on 30 September. The submission form, as well as further information about the zine and collective can be found on their Instagram @npnzine