Regular slugs of news for the UK Small Press Comics Nation (huh?)
May 31 2009
here's the details of the Alternative Press Festival 2009
Wednesday 29th July – Sunday 2nd August 2009
A festival of events over five days celebrating the small press, self publishing and being creative in the print media.
Anthology Book launch
Wednesday 29th July
7pm – 9pm
We will be launching an Anthology book to showcase some of what’s going on in the small press scene at the moment; it will include work by Mark Pawson as well as a foreword by Roger Sabin and a variety of work from different areas of the scene. The evening will include the declaration of our aims and agendas in the form of a manifesto, as well as talks and discussion on the subject of the contemporary small press scene.
Housmans radical booksellers
5 Caledonian road
Are you zine friendly?
Thursday 30th July
7pm – late
At the foundry we will be having an evening to launch our idea of zine friendly events! In the two weeks around this event we will be hosting a zine wall at the Foundry and asking artists and small press creators to come down and contribute to this ongoing exhibition. There will be music and good times, the twist is that Zinesters, comix and small press creators are invited by the foundry’s owner to come along and sell their material. There will be a communal table for individual zines and the selling of zines out of bags, or diy carriers is encouraged! After all, it is a zine friendly event, the question is: are you zine friendly?
86 Great Eastern Street
Contact – email@example.com
Spoken Word night out!
Friday 31st July
7pm – Late
In order to promote poetry in the small press, we will be holding an evening of poetry, zine readings, story telling and other performances from artists creating work in the print media themselves.
93 Leonard Street
Saturday 1st August
11am – Late
We hope you’ll join us at the Collaborama (as we’ve affectionately come to know it!) an all day event which will comprise many elements of the small press coming together. Tables will be set out in the main space downstairs at the miller for zinesters, comix and small press creators to exhibit their work. There will also be space where any combination of visitors and exhibitors can get together to create pages which will be used to create a zine of the day. The garden will have a barbeque and the upstairs space will be used for workshops, film screenings and talks. In the evening Resonance FM’s Radio Orchestra will be performing a piece written by Ed Baxter which will be interpreted and illustrated live by two teams of small press artists on overhead projectors!
96 Snowsfields road
Contact – firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternative Press Fair
Sunday 2nd August
We will be returning once more to St Aloysius Social centre, where in February we held the first Alternative Press Fair. We hope you’ll join us once more for chilled out Sunday to celebrate comix, zines, poetry, book arts and radical literature. We will have space for around 80 exhibitors and many more visitors so see you there!
St Aloysius Social Club
20 Phoenix road
Then We Bought Some Chairs: A conversation with Oli Smith
In the coming weeks and months, Down the Tubes, the Forbidden Planet International blog, Bugpowder and Fictions are going to be cross-posting Q&As with the organisers of various British comic conventions. Our aim is to give the conventions themselves some well-deserved publicity and also to, hopefully, spark a wider debate about what’s good and bad about the convention circuit in this country.
(NB: Answers have been edited only in terms of spelling, punctuation and grammar, and not for style or content.)
For this first instalment, Matt Badham chatted to Oli Smith of London Underground Comics fame about their latest event, LUC 176.
Please tell us about a little about the history of your con and how it's evolved over the years.
As I'm sure most readers of this article are aware, London Underground Comics (LUC) began life two years ago as a weekly market stall in Camden Lock manned by whichever people I could drag down from their ivory towers to help me stand around for eight hours on a Saturday.
Then we bought some chairs.
Then we sat around selling literally thousands of comics to the general public and realised we had been conned in the past by the small press scene and comics events organisers telling us that the only way to network or sell anything was to give them lots of money for events that didn't cater to our needs.
So we decided to do our own conventions, to see how we did without the 'networking opportunities' of 'real' cons.
Then we met Alan Moore, Dave Gibbons, Eddie Campbell and got Paul Gravett to dance to the Austin Powers theme tune whilst we helped organise an event at the ICA and were interviewed by Radio 4.
We also ran two events in the Market with 50 exhibitors each time, a footfall of a few hundred visitors and for the first time in their life, I think EVERY small presser could afford a round of drinks plus extra from the profits of the day, or at least had 50p spare.
Pretty sweet, I think.
How is your con funded, by ticket sales, the exhibitors, a grant from the council, some other means or a combination of these?
176 is funded by GOSH! comics shop and exhibitors. It's amazing what you can get for free if you just ask. I don't think we've ever had to pay over a hundred pounds for a venue, and considering the locations and spaces we get, it's a great deal. For this special event we wanted to offer exhibitors more for their money than any other con, so we asked Gosh if they would donate some money so that we could buy every exhibitor their own canvas and provide some sort of materials to decorate them with. They were very generous.
Also, anybody who is an animator gets the opportunity to have their work shown on our massive wall screen for free. We've also managed to subsidise the booze and give out free teas and coffees.
Did I mention ambient DJ's throughout the day and live music in the evening?
As you can see, we make the exhibitor's £5 for a quarter table and £10 for a half go a long way.
(Above: London Underground Comics folks selling their wares at Camden.)
What are the overall aims of your con/event?
God, I don't know. When I started LUC I was very idealistic, but late nights of balancing accounts and replying to a million emails and organising the bloody thing have drained the political spark.
So what I would like to achieve now from 176 is for everybody to have a brilliant day out, try some new things, sell lots of their work to new and interesting people and get to see their mates. And to try and do it in such a way that they go home with a bob or two to spare.
Who is your con aimed at? What sort of punters do you hope to attract? Are you family-friendly?
176 is aimed at everyone, I want to see people who have never heard of comics drop by on the day and see what's going on. I want regular con goers to come and try something new. I want to present the small press as a stylish and professional thing to be part of, rather than rickety old vanity press in the corner. I know that's not to everyone's taste, but I don't mean change the way you make comics. I mean change the way you sell comics. Let’s make those tourists think they're talking to professional artists when they drop by. Let's show the diversity of what the underground scene can really be. It takes me mailing round everybody to find out that there are some fantastic musicians in the small press world, and some even better animators. How didn't I know that before?
And, yes, we ARE family friendly. Not only are we going to have a nice little reading area and outside tables for people to sit and read their purchases, but you've also got the animations and coffee to give people a reason to stay past a quick circuit of the room and to want to read their purchases at the event!
How effective have you been in getting those kind of people to attend?
Well, up until now we've only had events in tourist hotspots. It's not hard to attract a crowd on a Saturday in Camden if you've got 50 people in an event. 176 is well known if you like art, but a little off the beaten track. Maybe I’ll send people out flyering round Chalk Farm tube. I still think we'll pack the place, to be honest.
Can you give a projected (or actual) attendance figure for your event?
Well, we sold all our table space in two weeks so that’s 45 exhibitors (we decided not to cram as many people in as possible, but to give the people that come a really nice experience and room to breathe). So, if they're sensible they'll invite all their friends and family. Then you've got the regular gallery attendees. We're the last event of a two month long series of arty things so there'll be people attracted by that, and then anyone who picked up one of Jake Harold's sexy fliers surely won't be able to resist.
(Above: A portrait of London Underground stalwart Sean Azzopardi by fellow LUCer Dave Baillie.)
What lessons have you learned during your time running a con, in terms of marketing and advertising your event?
The youtube videos are a fun diversion, but they're there more to give a welcoming front to the people that are on the fence, to show we're friendly. But if a couple of people come because of them, then that's great.
What's nice are places like Forbidden Planet and Down the Tubes that are very good at picking up our announcements, which pretty much covers the comic circuit, and the Gosh! association should bring down some more London-based fans as well.
Do you use emerging technologies to spread the word about your con? Do you have a website or blog, or use email mailing lists?
I don't have a mailing list. It would be too long really and I'd have to keep updating the contacts and stuff. It's too fiddly. We have the London Underground Comics website and my website and my twitter and facebook groups and events so it's pretty easy to keep tabs on what's going on if you're linked to me in any way. Facebook and twitter are good because word of mouth can spread pretty quickly once they get informed that such and such a friend has joined the LUC group or whatever.
Then there's the youtube videos, which still seems to be an emerging technology in the comics world.
What about print? Do you use print advertising, have a newsletter, anything like that?
Haha, God, no. Who would in this climate? If you print it you lose money, and if you charge for it you don't get readers. No one wants to go out and get anything physical for news any more. Also, it'd be such a pain to distribute when I could just post it all on a website, and hit some randomers along the way.
What's the mix in terms of exhibitors at your con? Do you even have exhibitors?
Yes, we have exhibitors although in the future I want to maybe move away from the standard 'market' layout to events. But then I want to graffiti a building for a day as my next event. The mix is a hard balance to achieve; I love getting the newbies involved and they're very keen and up for anything. It's the best feeling in the world to know you're a few people's first ever convention. But then again I want all my old friends to come down and to have a catch up with them, so it's striking the balance of being fresh for the new punks and just the right hint of familiarity so you don't scare off the oldies. Like you, Matt.
What are your thoughts on the small press comics scene in this country? How do you try and support it (do you try and support it)?
I have a lot of thoughts on the UK small press scene, most of them revolving around, what's it for? I've had a few breaks recently in work and commissions, and none of them came from making a small press comic. I've not seen a career ladder that starts in small press and ends in professional work, I mean, it happens, but it could just as easily be a chat with the right person rather than a critically acclaimed masterpiece.
And if a career ladder isn’t your thing and you just want to share your ideas then that’s great and that's why I do it too. But is paying through the nose for a space at a con to sell comics to people you know really sharing your ideas or getting the word out? Or is it vanity press? Is it a club for people to sit around and feel famous because they're in a room with a very specific bunch of people who have all visited their site?
Convention organisers aren't helping break the vanity press mould and neither are the exhibitors who keep paying for these events. With LUC I took comics to anywhere BUT where comics fans are found: the Alphabet Bar art gallery off of Oxford Street; Camden Market; The Prince Charles cinema; the Bookart Bookshop; we've given talks at schools and libraries. If we are scouting out a venue and there might be someone there who has heard of LUC then we're not doing our jobs and we move somewhere else.
To me, art is about communicating ideas, and sharing those ideas with as many people as I can. It's not about making a new issue to sell to all your friends at a convention so that you can make slightly less of a loss at the end of the weekend. That's just mutual backslapping. And I love my fellow creators, I really do, but I don't want them and only them to read my work. Because to me that isn't small press.
How much are the tickets for your event? How did you arrive at that price? Please tell us about any concessions.
Tickets? You want me to charge money for people to come into a room and buy things? That's ridiculous. It's like WH Smith charging you to come in, even if you just want some gum. How do you get people who don’t know anything about comics to come in off the street with an entry fee?
At 176 there's reasons for everyday folk to stay and watch the animations or bands or abuse the coffee. Even if I had a panel of comics professionals, that wouldn't justify an entry fee for a family of four who don't know who any of those people are and only wanted to come in because their son saw Wolverine at the cinema.
How much are exhibitor tables for your event (if you have any)? Again, how did you arrive at that figure?
We work out what we want to do, how much it will cost and divide it by the number of people. If it's too much we cut back or find another venue. We never charge on the door, and we don't want to price anyone out of the market. It's small press, not private press. You shouldn't pay a member’s fee to take part.
Sadly that means I don’t make any money, but then I wouldn’t be best pleased to go to an event that charged me, lets say, £120 for a table. How many comics would I have to sell to break even on that? And how many more to cover my train fair, hotel bills and printing costs for this completely hypothetical event? A train to Birmingham is expensive.
Do you run workshops/events/panels at your con? Please tell us about those and how they are organised.
Every exhibitor gets a canvas. They draw/paint a picture on it during the day and we build a wall at the back of the room out of them as they are finished. Every event is accessible to all. The animation, the music, the comics should become this synergy-type entity. I don't want a convention, I want a festival.
As you've been kind enough to answer these questions, please fell free to big your con up a bit. Tell us what you do well, what your event's main attractions are and why our readers should attend the next one.
It's going to be a fantastic day filled with fantastic people. I've already gone into a lot of detail about what we offer above. I would like to say that if there are any more people out there who have animations they'd like to show or some music they might feel appropriate, please just send me an email (email@example.com) and I'll try and fit you in somewhere.
See you soon!
For more on LUC 176, which takes place on June 27, visit the London Underground Comics website here.
The Diary Continued: An Interview with Sally-Anne Hickman
Bugpowder talked to Sally-Anne Hickman recently. She’s a fantastic cartoonist who specialises in autobiography and makes beautiful (and often delicate) mini-comics. Here’s what she had to say:
Firstly, can you tell us a bit about how you first got into making comics?
I’ve been drawing since I could hold a pencil. As I got older the next step was to try and bring these drawings to life, so I studied animation for 3 years. Eventually I found that by making comics I could tell stories a lot quicker than by spending hours animating them. I had no real experience of comics and came into the world quite late on.
Your comics are auto-bio and often highly confessional. Why did you choose this approach?
My whole perspective of the genre changed when I discovered artists like Dan Clowes, Jeffrey Brown, and Julie Doucet. I realised that you could write and draw about real life experiences, truth being stranger than fiction.
My diary comic started off in 2001 as a documentation of my last year at university. The year ended but the diary continued. I do also draw fictional stories but I think it’s human nature to be a bit nosey and pry into people’s lives! There is some kind of tension just by holding a book containing private thoughts that I find very exciting. My original diaries were tiny. They could fit in the palm of your hand. I liked to reproduce them this way as small things draw people in. It reinforces the concept of intimacy in my work.
Is there a danger with confessional comics that you might reveal something that you later regret sharing with your readership? Has this ever happened to you?
I do regret some of the things I have drawn and I also regret some of the things I have done, but you can’t change the past. When drawing, particularly if it’s auto-bio, you have to sit and think, ‘Do I really want people to read this?’ Eventually it becomes less contrived and more natural, even stream of conscious sometimes. I do cringe at some of the past diaries I have drawn, especially when the people close to me read them, but I think if you can get that kind of reaction from your art then its coming from somewhere real. If something makes me feel sick then I know it’s powerful. I’m very connected to my stomach!
How did you first get your comics out to the comic reading public? What sort of reviews/reactions have you had? Where can Bugpowder readers get your comics?
I first started making comics with some of my university pals under cheesecomics.com. From there we started visiting conventions, such as Bristol and The UK Web ‘n’ Mini-comix Thing. Every time that I attend a convention, I meet someone new or someone asks me to draw a page for an anthology. Everyone has been so kind to me and helpful. Shane Chebsey and Andy Richmond from Scar Comics really pushed my diary comic. Sean Duffield from Paper Tiger Comics is an amazing person to ask for advice and inspiration. London Underground Comics has been a big thing for me too. Those guys are the funniest! Bugpowder readers can get my comics by emailing me. I’m currently working on a website with Mickey Blumental (nee Bregman) of cheese comics. Hopefully that should be done soon!
For more information on Sally-Anne Hickman's comics, email sallyshinystars(at)hotmail.com
Barry Renshaw is relaunching his excellent magazine (featuring lots of small-press stuff) REDEYE. Barry writes:
"REDEYE Vol. 2 will be a monthly full colour PDF magazine available for download for £1/$1 at enginecomics.co.uk.
You need to send your press releases, images, review copies and links to me, the firstname.lastname@example.org and start getting your work out there and seen.
Following the same format as before with news on indies from across the world, previews of upcoming books, indepth interviews with legends in the industry and future stars, definitive articles on all aspects of the medium, a huge critically acclaimed reviews section, and feedback from our readers, we'll also be including, due to popular demand: a monthly Guide to Self Publishing Q&A for those looking for some advice, an open submission for a 10 page comic strip each issue, and a rotating guest column from those in the industry. Feel free to offer suggestions for other additions to the format you'd like to see."
Hey Moneygeddon generation, got disposable income to spare? Perhaps you'd like to sponsor publishing or pre-order a copy my recently completed graphic novel. Theres are preview pages up and its GooD. Also, posting the well-received 24 hour strip 'Gran'blogged at links here over the next four days. (1)
I'm missing the Small Press Expo in Bristol today (a sister event to the downsized main Bristol comic con). Any attendees have anything to report?
If you're kicking yourself for missing that one, you might want to consider attending 2D '09 taking place from the 4th – 6th June in Derry, Northern Ireland. Which is FREE in case you've forgotten (including table space). Check out the Facebook page.
News reached me this morning of the death of Adrian Kermode, a creative writer who had many connections within the British comics industry.
If you didn't know the name, as a writer Adrian Kermode contributed to many publications including Vicious and Borderline Magazine, the latter of which included Miffy, a collaboration with Terry Wiley. He also served as co-creator with Wiley on the much-loved Petra Ecetra Petra Etcetera won the Knockabout Award for Best Self-Published/Independent Comic in the 2001 The National Comics Awards. It made Sequential Tart's recommended 'slice of life' reading list, was frequently recommended by Rich Johnston, Warren Ellis and others, and was recently exhibited in Harrods. His contributions to Borderline were as part of a winning ensemble in the 2002 National Comics Awards for Best Comics Magazine or Website. His work on Petra Etcetra was also nominated again that year. He contributed a number of strips to Factor Fiction Press and their long-running British anthology The Girly Comic, including Dr Lovemonkey.
With Mike Juniper, he was the co-creator of the independently published Dr Sorrow, and Deadman & Hyde with Kieran McKeown.
Adrian was found dead in his home on Saturday, cause as yet unknown.
There’s just one week to go until the 2009 Bristol International Comic Expo (featuring the Small Press Expo) at the Ramada Plaza Hotel on 9th and 10th May 2009 (and Mercure Holland House Hotel (Sat 9th only)) and whilst the full allocation of two-day tickets are long gone, a very limited number of other tickets: SPExpo-only tickets for Saturday 9th, and ComicExpo-only tickets for Sunday 10th can be obtained from the relevant website: www.spexpo.co.uk for the SPExpo, and www.fantasyevents.org for the ComicExpo. These extra tickets are strictly limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis – it is possible that a few will be available on the door at one or other event, but it’s recommended to reserve your ticket online to be safe and avoid disappointment on the day.
The websites also contain full panel, signing and exhibitor details, but here’s an update on the very latest news from a number of attendees:
Factor Fiction will be selling the 10th Anniversary issue of Violent!, which was originally launched by Mike Sivier at the Bristol Comics Festival in 1999. They will also have the latest issue of The Girly Comic, featuring not one, but two Terry Wiley strips, including his new series Verity. The issue also includes regular strip Space Girl and brand new Lee Kennedy strips.
If you haven't already picked one up then don't miss out on your chance to pick up a copy of The Girly Book Vol 1, which collects strips from the first nine issues. It's a lovely hardback edition and a "very reasonable price of £15" according to the review on the Forbidden Planet blog: http://forbiddenplanet.co.uk/blog/?p=12464 Though if the recession is hitting hard, then for newcomers to The Girly Comic, they will have bargain packs featuring early issues of the comic.
Classics Illustrated (http://www.classicsillustrated.co.uk/) will bring their latest pair of titles – Jungle Book and Goldilocks – to the show, as well as having great show-only offers on all of their books – check their website out for full details of all titles available in the series so far.
Self Made Hero will be bringing Emma Vieceli and Ilya to Bristol for signings of special advance copies of their latest Manga Shakespeare books (Much Ado About Nothing and King Lear respectively) – Rob Deas will also be in attendance on Saturday to sign copies of his Macbeth book. They will also be bringing Ian Edginton and INJ Culbard along for a special Sherlock Holmes panel and signing.
Insomnia Publications will be bringing the third volume of their anthology series, Layer Zero. “Choices” features work from an incredible range of new talent alondside experienced professionals from the world of comics (with work under their belts for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, Image, Calibre, Heavy Metal, 2000AD, to name a few) and some bold individuals experimenting with crossing over from other creative fields such as journalism, animation, screenwriting, sculpture, fine art and graphic design.
Finally, May 2009 and the Bristol Expo sees the release of Fetishman issue 9 'space!', a rude rollicking romp across the final frontier and beyond decency!
Saturday 9th May. Sunday 10th May. Bristol. See you there…