The Teatles phenomenon – an interview
Some years ago, we started noticing that there was a Twitter account all about the Beatles and tea. Then a fanzine appeared, looking like The Beatles Monthly Book, called The Teatles Book. We never saw a copy for ourselves but people started posting photos of the book, then Pattie Boyd posted a picture of herself with a copy of issue 11. Next you know, the publisher was mentioned by the official John Lennon Twitter account.
We wanted to know more about the man behind, and sent him a few questions, which he kindly replied to. Turns out, he’s a Welshman called Huw Spink and he lives in Liverpool! His project about the Teatles Books have come to an end after 20 issues, but he has created a new fanzine called TEATLES in a different format, and no. 3 is out soon.
The Daily Beatle: Hello! Who are you?
Huw: Hello. I was born and raised in the middle of Wales but I’ve lived in the Liverpool for the last 17 years or so (I’ve lost count actually).
The Daily Beatle: How did this idea start?
Huw: Teatles started when my friend Melissa came over to visit from Manchester. She had seen a lovely photo of George being used to advertise a bar and wanted to find it. After a bit of searching found it and it was photo of George in Apple holding a cup of tea. We wondered if there were other phots of them with tea. It turns out there are absolutely loads!
The Daily Beatle: What’s the story of your twitter posts?
Huw: Having started collecting Teatles (my name for photos of the Beatles with or near tea) I wondered what to do with them. So I decided to make a zine (a small, homemade magazine). I set up a Twitter to advertise it. However nobody seemed interested so I dropped the zine and kept tweeting. This was 5 years ago or something. Somehow I kept building up a little following, which only came to light as I kept quitting and people kept asking me to not quit.
The Daily Beatle: What prompted you to do the books?
Huw: I’ve never been terribly confident on social media. I am very aware of how nasty it can be, but I was also aware that the little pocket of Beatledom that Teatles existed in was really lovely. And more than lovely, there were a lot of creative people involved. It made sense to turn this community into something that existed outside of social media – something tangible. So I resurrected the zine idea. But this time I got more people involved and got it printed professionally.
About the Teatles Book
Huw: I started with very little confidence, even though the people who got involved were all marvellous so I had faith in the content, if not my ability to turn it into something that people might want. I wondered about printing 25 or so. In the end I printed 50 and put a tweet out about it. I sold them all that day. So I printed 50 more. It just took on a momentum that has just kept going. By issue 19 I was printing out 300. All via social media posts and the email list that I have.
As I do all the admin myself I couldn’t really make any more as I wouldn’t have time to organise it all.
The original idea was to recreate the old Beatles Books Monthly. So the first couple of issues were along those lines – 26 pages with an editorial and all that. But it soon outgrew that idea. I really began to enjoy the design part of it, especially once I got over my nervousness about it all. So the idea was that every article would have its own character. I tried to keep everything readable and not over-designed, but it was fun and still is actually!
The zines grew bigger and I began to figure out postage prices and better ways of printing them etc. After 19 issues of The Teatles Book I decided to change it. So I made one more issue which was intended as a guide to an imaginary Teatles Museum – with information about the Beatles and Tea and the teacups they used. That felt a good way to end it.
New magazine – TEATLES
Huw: I decided to do a slightly different zine. So I have now done 2 issues of TEATLES (issue 3 is out very soon) which is different in ways that may not be totally obvious, but it has more pages and it square and (I think) a bit prettier. And a bit more expensive! It doesn’t sell as many but I love doing them, and that’s always been what its about – sharing stories and an outlet for creativity. Oh, and The Beatles. Of course.
Brush with fame
Huw: One of the ideas behind the Teatles Books was making something that had no divide between the creators and the readers. Anyone could get involved. I genuinely think that everyone has a story worth telling. These were just stories with a Beatle twist. It’s not quite the same with TEATLES but its still kind of small and cosy. I’ve never really publicised it, other than tweeting and posting about it.
I eventually started putting issues in a couple of record shops in Liverpool. One of the shops got visited by Elvis Costello and I was utterly delighted that he bought a Teatles Book! He even got in touch asking for more to give to his bandmates. Insane.
Pattie (Boyd) got in touch, asking to read a copy and I always send her one. She’d been very kind in posting about them every so often. The real dream though was getting an interview with Kevin Harrington. The person who interviewed him said that initially Kevin refused but when he was told it was for Teatles and about tea he said yes. Amazing. Apart from anything else I got lots of information about the Beatles and tea from Kevin. He also seems like a thoroughly lovely man. That always helps.
The Daily Beatle: Are you involved in the Beatle fans community in Liverpool?
Huw: In a word, no. I’m just quietly going about my own little thing.
The Daily Beatle: Why did you leave Twitter / X ?
Huw: The ethos of Teatles – creativity, inclusivity and diversity – is totally at odds with what Twitter has become. I can’t bring myself to have anything to do with what Musk has made Twitter into, even though I really miss the people I interacted with there. Well, most of them.
The Daily Beatle: What is your presence on Instagram about?
Huw: Maybe I could tell you my little John Lennon/Instagram story. I put out a tweet saying I was leaving twitter and was rather gobsmacked when John’s official twitter account did a post for me quote the lyrics to Hold On. They got in touch and said that they liked my account and even said they’d send me something as a thank you kind of thing (I sent them a couple of issues of TEATLES, which wasn’t really a fair swap).
Anyway a couple of weeks later a parcel arrived. The Plastic Ono Band book. Then the Plastic Ono Band CD Boxset. Then the Imagine book. Then the Imagine CD Boxset. Amazing. Didn’t know what to say. So I just said thank you.
Around that time my Instagram got hacked so I couldn’t use it. The John Lennon account got in touch and said they’d help me fix it. Which they did.
I still quit Twitter though.
Instagram has been great. A lot of lovely creative people. I couldn’t have done Teatles without Twitter, but Instagram is a little different – more about sharing content than opinions. Because of this I was able to make Teatles Trumps – a Beatle version of the card game Top Trumps. I had 32 artists involved in drawing the pictures for the cards. Incredible. Such talent and kindness. I feel terribly lucky!