The Newton Abbot comics and book arts convention was great: I’m really glad I went down to Devon to be a part of it.
Here are ten reflections, in no particular order:
- The train journey. I was staying in Exeter so took the train to Newton Abbot both days. This meant enjoying one of the most beautiful stretches of track in England, with the windows full of water and sky as the train first skirts the shoreline past Dawlish and then turns to trace the banks of the estuary at Teignmouth/Shaldon (coincidentally the setting for Satin and Tat, my abandoned-for-now graphic memoir).
If you are a fan of Studio Ghibli you will only be able to think of this:
- The enthusiasm. The whole thing had been arranged by two keen and hard-working comic-loving library staff, with enthusiastic buy-in from local comics shop Gnash, and creators such as myself who were keen to speak about and sell our work. Considering they’d never done anything like this before, those two staff members really pulled off something massive!
- The building. It turns out that Newton Abbot library is a huge, attractive building, historic-looking on the outside and clean and fresh on the inside. With a café, several large meeting rooms and a massive digital screen, it has the capacity to run an even more ambitious festival in the future. There’s space for 5 or 6 concurrent events all under one roof – and that’s without spreading out to venues across the town, which would also be brilliant.
- The potential. I really really hope they carry on and do this annually, for two reasons. First, there’s no major comics festival at this end of the year and this end of the country. The comics community would be really glad to have those gaps filled.
Second, I could see it becoming a massive boost for the local area, in the way that LICAF is for the Lake District.
- The discovery of a Totnes comics massive. I already knew that some LDComics pals were close by, in Totnes and Bristol, but it was only when I attended the convention’s kick-off panel that I found out that there are several more comic artists in the area, including Plymouth, and there is even a 2000AD artist in Totnes. (If I’d listened more closely to Panel Borders, of course, I would already have known this).
- Contributing a talk. A couple of things here:
First, the audience were so engaged and enthusiastic, and a lot of them came back the next day to talk to me at my table and buy the books I’d been mentioning. It felt like the session had been really worthwhile and… dare I say meaningful to some of them?
The other thing is that I now have a decent 45 minute talk that doesn’t just describe how I created my last few projects, but has a strong theme of ‘anyone can do this – if you want to make comics you don’t have to wait for someone to ask you, and here’s how’. So if anyone else would like to hear that talk, let me know, I’m up for it.
- Meeting and re-meeting people. It’s always such a pleasure to meet new comics people and expand or re-establish my network of friends and acquaintances.
- Buying new comics! You’ve got to do this at comics, events, it’s the law.
Fortunately I chose really well, picking up two of Emma Burleigh‘s thoughtful works on adoption, Wallis Eates‘ retelling of local people’s stories (which has some real parallels with my own current project) and Wendy Howarth‘s beautiful little pamphlet giving tips on how to make natural inks (with stunning examples of work she’s painted with them too).
- A zine library. Creators donated their zines by post and in person. I believe this is now a permanent feature of the library, so perhaps will inspire a new generation of comic makers to spring up in Devon. Spot any by people you know?
- Bonus! New street art in Exeter. I only took a couple of snaps of this passageway in Sidwell Street, but I really like its style.
And that’s inspired me to Google who the artist is: Scott Gillespie.