First writer’s retreat

Last September, I hurried together a trip to Rathlin. As per the objective, it was cheap, (£60 a head OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAall inclusive), and didn’t mean me stressing over a big group or cancellations. The six of us came from Belfast Writers Group, people I’d got to know over two years, and could depend on. The location was inspiring and the prepared content would be self-fuelled, in the barcamp ethos of everybody brings something. As it was only Alex prepared a presentation, the rest of us either ran out of time, or decided to ad lib. (An earlier draft of my plan made used of a timetabled plan for teaching, readings, private writing, group discussion and time set aside for leisure)

In many ways, the beautiful location worked against the order of things. Rathlin is wild and flourishing, enormous through it’s limits. It was short-sighted thinking this heart-winning location could coop six creatives in a bungalow. It took much buckling down to get us each to write one short piece from a set stimulus point. Once we’d done that,we agreed, post Doctor Who, to entertain one another with an evening lock-in, the compositions and a bottle of wine. There were alternate takes on my breakfast breakdown, observations of the beautiful environment and eerie descriptions of local myth. It was worth resisting the charms of the local pub to allow us to bond beyond friendships, as creatives working and evolving in a singular space.

1200px-Rathlin_Island_Northern_Ireland_17Rathlin Island Northern Ireland 17” by Brian O’NeillOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

(In defence of the pub, it gave inspiration for three of the tales in our canon. We got there after the group-session, and it was one of the prettiest night-skies I’ve ever seen)

On the logistical side of things, plans changed as they do. Lynda, our un-official leader, chef and driver had to drop out at short notice. Holly volunteers to provide wheels and everyone can take turns at breakfast and lunch prep. My food shop plan needed help, so Holly wheeled in there too.

We weren’t dependent on Lynda to fill a bunk as one person slept in over-flow accommodation. Alex signed up a few days before. A few people had dietary concerns. These posed little problem,  required I do an hour or two of research, which, in a perfect would be just common altruism.

I got a lot from this weekend, and am indebted to Holly, Alex, Ellie, Bruce and Philip for making it happen. Also for the inspiration, the Midwinter Comics Retreat crowd, led by the painfully missed wunderkind Debra Boyask.

Leaning Over Rathlin - by Ellie Rose McKee

Leaning Over Rathlin – by Ellie Rose McKee

I want to do another one of these soon. It’s proving a bit of a chore finding venues to accommodate more than six while keeping a low price. I think these things are worth chasing though, particularly in a time of mass unemployment.

If you’d like to be part of a N. Ireland Spring creator’s retreat, drop me a line. It’s safer than Facebook to use the comments function below.

And you can read the piece I wrote on Rathlin, an alternate take of the weekend at Skypen.

…Evening of Swing Has Been Cancelled

The gallery launch I blogged about for Feb 7th is cancelled. I am not a member of the ABC Collective. Half the group have left. I’m really in a position not to say why. I don’t even know if it’s still together.

Something of a pity.

I consider the local gallery art scene, like most, sewn up by cliques. Don’t get me wrong, some of my best friends are part of these. Some of the best artists too, afforded promotion by the established and protection against the elements.

So when a gallery opens up that doesn’t select only from a fine art degree background, of their own people, it was something of a challenge to this artist to pull his weight. I was thinking about how I was looking forward to being in a clique and knowing of the problems of that, getting through it.

Inclusivity, as it turned out, need not have been a problem.

Half the galleries in the city are run entirely by volunteers. I first noticed this back in 2010 when I ran into a director of a major gallery, waiting at the Jobcentre to sign on, same as me. If they’re not threatened with getting their dole cut, there are many gallery directors who are self-employed, lucky to see an allowance equivalent. Only thread-bare funding is available for essential running costs, which elitist lizards seem intent on vacuuming into their bulbous mouths.

Just because those creatures can’t be artists, doesn’t mean we can’t try to practice the lifestyle anywhere.

Bubble Shore - MDG Boston

Above: Bubble Shore, by MDG Boston

 

 

Seeking aspects of my exclamation mark, heyhey, lets-go, sugar-boy schtick? Up-front El of Textfilms has commissioned a comic from me, to hang in Patsy’s Parlour bar, Ormeau Road from….oooh, 20th February. My comics work made BleedingCool twice this month, once for To End All Wars (top graphic novel list), and for Baillie’s Colchester Tapestry. And there’s a new short story published by Jay Faulkner’s withpaintedwords.com ‘Sea Legs’ is a bit of a departure from my usual style and I’ve gotten some great feedback so far. It’s based on that photo up above, by MDG Boston. Go and read that; it’s free.

It’s art.

So, a new Belfast artist collective…

Based out of an un-used but functional building on the Holywood Road, there are eight of us; a crew of writers, photographers, painters, poets, puppeteers and a musician. The core group have circled around one another for a year or two, pulling up chairs at the same open mics or at Dominique’s Bohemian Tales Café Club; so all should go according to plan, of some kind.

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29 Holywood Road, BT4 is a two-storey building that’s been vacant since 1998, the same time I began my practice it happens. The rental bill-board advertised a rent free period which is agreeable as the building is roomy, central and in good condition, once cloths and paint started licking it. This month we removed glass, rubble, wood from a large attic workshop, danced as the first sparks of electricity brought heat, kettle and computer to life, run spray and hot cloth over kitchen and bathroom and had one of those boring General Meetings: after a morning of sultana and cherry debauchery I may have wound up as secretary/admin/website guy. The first draft of this was typed at my own desk in the office I share with Dominique.
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I put up a Soundcloud interview with Dominique Hoffman a few months ago. Bohemian Tales is the story of an every-man living in the upheaval of Prague, 1967-68. The book has aspects of Euro literary café culture. In a marriage of social-creative event and book promotion, Dom’s monthly Bo Tales Café Club seeks to evoke the spirit of that. ABC is her baby, and the collective are the baby’s family.

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She and muso/writer Jim McClean have been arranging plasticine models, frames and toy trains around the place.

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On February 7tht we have our first public event, the Café Club. I’m sure we’re not ready yet, but it’s beginning to look the part.

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We’re getting there.

birthday invite

You are Cordial Juicily Invited…

Birthdays are a funny thing. I retain a child-like anticipation, but they often fail me like pron. This year seems to be a mutant strain, the aforementioned squib being particularly dry. I’ve been blessed in that Dominique Hoffman is running her Bohemian Tales Café Club; a particularly unique book tour that incorporates all the ingredients of her novel of the same name. Namely, the European literary café; free international tea, cakes, poetry and prose readings. It’s a splash of culture in Northern Ireland’s grey mono-culture eyebrow-meeting splodge. To celebrate Christmas, Dominique (and Crafty Emma Gilles) are running an Arts Fayre which will post Bohemian Tales beyond the exclusive in-the-loopers.

Crafty Manor, Maple Leaf, 41-43 Park Avenue, East Belfast BT4 1PU

It’ll also bring out the work of the new CE Arts Collective which I’ve been invited to join, along with Andy ‘The Hat’ Ward, Jim ‘Comic Nomad Many Hats’ McClean, David Davies, apparently having unusual names is a prerequisite.  David and Andy will perform poetry, Jim will have plasticine and puppets, I’ll have comics and cards, it should be a good afternoon. No, it will be a great afternoon. 11:30-3.

After the post-con home-load, I’ll be opening doors to nearby apartment for a bit of chilling, and we may take a trip to Horatio Todd’s. Then for 9pm, it’s back to Crafty Manor for an event Emma and chums have put together. Honky Tonk #2 boasts some films, live music, a dj set and a cheap bar and you can pay in advance through Eventbrite. Those who know of Emma and Crafty’s work will probably tell us that a fantastic night is in store. I guess I’ll be doing more than alright this year.

 

birthday invite

(Click to enlarge)

In other news, there’s been a lull in writing due to illness, but it’s not stopped me from working up some new material.

Next March sees the release of Belfast Writer’s Group anthology, which I can’t recall the name of, but it’s got to do with mythological beings. For that I’ve stitched together the long-awaited Spide: The Lost Tribes which bears little resemblance to it’s parents. Those who looked at second drafts two years ago can expect a free copy of the tale on request, in the format of choice. I’m also working up Flesh Mob, a tale I wrote for Uproar Comics in 2012 and was rejected, and revised for Borderline Press in 2013, before the artist stiffed me, and conned the publishers into doing the same.  Skip a year, better luck. Studio NI should have it to you in 2015 as part of their ten year celebration anthology Tense Situations.

I’m toying with a massive over-haul of this site; less pro portfolio, more good old blogging for the sake of it. Check back between now and Christmas, and if you can’t wait, follow me on twitter.com/andrewluke

Next up is a preview of my 24 hour comic and something for the season.

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New Book Days

Well, finally it has arrived.product_thumbnail

To End All Wars – The Graphic Anthology (TEAW as we’re calling it), was worth the wait, for it’s a prestigious brilliant collection. Editors Clode and Brick and publishers Soaring Penguin have done a bang up job. You can get the 320 page hardcover from Amazon for £13, or if you’re feeling generous, £18 from the publisher. £2 from each edition goes to Doctors Without Borders.

To my surprise, another graphic novel with a few pages from me in it popped up this week. Factor Fiction Press published the Midwinter Comics Retreat Flipbook which comprises Project Gogglebox and Tea And Relative Diffusions In Shropshire. It’s 56 pages, and with postage comes to £6.50 from Lulu.

Something tells me I’m not quite done  making comics as I thought…

Last week, I appeared on Bangor Community Radio with Arts Hour host Ellie McKee to talk about the book. Both of us were short on sleep but managed to get a competent broadcast out. Listen for me turning the tables on Ellie around the 17 minute mark.

 

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Here’s a video put together by Brick to show off TEAW. You could play it while listening to the interview, but you’d be missing out on the wonderful soundtrack he sourced.

Ellie’s Four Season Summer is out now for Kindle at this link-up, and Season’s End will follow on August 31st.

Four Season Summer Seasons End Out August 31st

 

 

Guide Gods

Treading the Boards

If you’re near Glasgow this week you can get along to ‘Guide Gods’, were performer Claire Cunningham explores religious narrative and faith through dance, live music, humour and audio interviews with religious leaders, academics, deaf and disabled people, and me.

Guide Gods

Claire’s website has a list of this week’s dates  and according to Composer Derek Nisbet on his Guide Gods blog, the show “is part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme, and will then travel to London’s South Bank Centre and on to Belfast Festival.”

Recently I’ve struck up rather nice working relationships over Open Mic sessions with musician Jim McClean  and actress Lindsey Mitchell. To this end we’re working on a play together, a condensed Game of Thrones play. We’ll be performing the comic act at the Sunflower Festival, TitanCon and are talking of a screening of the play at a well-known Belfast gallery.

Writing this, I’m surprised that my voice is making the transition to theatre. This last year, it’s been all about the writing. Writing prose over, scriptwriting for comics, feels refreshing and liberating. I feel like I can earn some money if I work hard enough. Unlike comics. a beautiful medium, were grossly underpaid workers are slowly subsumed by a culture of silverfish turned woodworm rot.

Ahem…

Writing prose is enough of a departure from scriptwriting to enthuse: I feel like an amateur who can achieve professionalism and a paycheque. Knowing I have a lot to learn is a great feeling. I’ve been encouraged by the Belfast Writers Group and open mic audiences at Skainos and Lindores. Last month, I applied to return to university on a Creative Writing Masters so I can up my practice.

Parting shot to the world of comics (for now), is the short, Bottomley – Brand of Britain. The product of much research, it’s been adapted with care by artist Ruairi Coleman and letterer John Robbins. Here’s how editor Jonathan Clode pitches it:

Horatio Bottomley, patriot and publisher of John Bull, the newspaper of the people. But behind his rousing public speeches and staunch support of the troops hides a conspiracy that would reveal one of the greatest swindles of WW1.


That’s Bottomley’s mistress, Peggy Primrose, in Panel 4, putting her hat back on after it was knocked off in the squash.

The tale appears in To End All Wars, a remarkable 320 page graphic novel with  stories by a number of established underground comixers. It features the return of the  remarkable Steven Martin of WW1 comics series, Terrible Sunrise, as well as Jenny Linn-Cole, The Pleece Brothers, Sean Michael Wilson, Joe Gordon, Selina Lock, Steve Earles, Robert Brown, John Maybury and shedloads of others.

The book is released on July 17. Copies are available for pre-order now on Amazon or, at the same price, direct from publisher John Anderson at Soaring Penguin Press. Costs £18 all inclusive and proceeds go to Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders.

king joffrey longthorne

Christmas Live! (Part 4 – The Conclusion)

Previously in Panto – Deed Poll to  Prison, Thames IslandsWoolworths songs, and now the conclusion

“Welcome: To the Palace of the Mountain King!” yells Joe Longthorne. He’s cross-legged in fanciful silver ball-gown, plumes of white feathers around the collar. Sat upon The Iron Throne, a peacock’s splendour of daggers elevated upon cascading steps, he motions his head downwards to Jetfire, Heller and the others. All are caged but for John Craven.

king joffrey longthorne John Craven Betrayal

“Driving home for Christmas”, he harks, “These people are just the same as me!” Risen from his throne clapping, he ponces grandly down to meet them. He teases ruby fingernails along the bars of Jetfire’s cage. “Well, well. What have we here? A Transformer. More than meets the eye, I’ll say! Aye Eye!” he laughs now. “Well my darling. I must say I’ve never tried to impersonate one of yours. What crimes have you committed?”

“I-I..you..Your government won’t allow me to live here, unless I work for the arms companies. But I ha-have a degree in neuroscience that could help many people.”

“I see, you’re, caught” Words tickle out as Longthorne reaches through the bars and strokes Jetfire’s arm.

“You sold us out John Craven. You’re a traitor!” yells Heller, unable to control himself.

Longthorne laughs again. A light girlish laugh, at first endearing like the best bowl of cereal then obsequious, as if steeped in milk for four days. Yet not sour.       “John is here at my pleasure. Think what we could do by ruling together John. I could dress for you and you could dress for me. Lipstick and eyeliner, oh, it’s so much fun.”

“Well, it’s not out of the question” said John raising an eyebrow and smiling.  With the same smile he shakes his hairy head like a jolly dog. ‘No’. “No, I’m afraid it wouldn’t work Joe.”

“Oh come now. I’ve dressed as hundreds of celebrities. But the truth looks so good on you.”

Miley Merrick rattles her cage fiercely and slides to it’s base. Tori reaches through. “It’s okay Elephant Girl. You’ll be noticed soon.”

“You there! Let those women go!” demands Carnacki.

“You’ve had so many identities that you don’t know who you are anymore. Who’s really in charge here?”

Heller saw Longthorne was shaken by this observation and pressed home the advantage. “Did they do to you what you’re going to let happen to John Craven? Filled full of wires and zapped with shocks to become just another tool of the State?”

Longthorne rages. “What about you Autobot? Do you think I’m just a weapon?”

Jetfire spoke with sadness.

“I just know myself. I’m Jetfire. That is who I am and I’m glad of it. I can think of nothing worse than not knowing who one really is.”

Just then the ground quakes.

John Craven rushes to the window. “Joe, it’s the London Met dressed as Boba Fett. Hundreds of them.”

Six officers enter the room and surround the prisoners as the news-reader darts behind Tori’s cage.

“Whooooo disrupts my Coronation?” asks Joe.

“Coronation Longthorne? This is bad comedy!”

It was the Wooden Blocks. Haunting mannequins, ghosts of expression. Daniel Cameron, and with him his lieutenants Neil Clegg and Gordon Osborne. “Why are these scroungers not in rehabilitative security at the Winter Snaps?”

“You serve at my leisure Daniel.” cautioned Longthorne.

“Oh?” Cameron’s face puffs like a blowfish. He turns to Neil and Gordon. “Haw Haw Haw Haw” he yawps and they echo his cackles. “We serf at his leisure?”

The words sound baby-speak, mocking, twisted.

“HAW HAW HAW HAW HAW” and for a full minute all the politicians and guards hawed.

“Joe, if you can be anyone, don’t be a no-one”, says Jetfire and there is silence.

“Who played you Joe?” asks Heller.

Joe looks over to John Craven beaming back a broad smile. He tosses bunched keys across the room.

“I won’t allow it!” yaps Gordon and stamps his feet three times. “It’s not fair, it’s not fair!”

Now see Joe Longthorne punch Neil Clegg in the face.

“Target Special Agent Longthorne!” yells Daniel Cameron.

Every heavy firearm in the room raises to Daniel Cameron’s head until he is clear of their sights.

“He’s slipped into costume!” calls one of the shock troops, aiming his weapon at Gordon. All guns turn. Everyone is still. John Craven and Tori Amos pause with those caged, watching, considering. Then, Daniel Cameron moves. He’s running off stage there, like a big yellow-belly scaredy-cat and is shot full of rapid bangs. The sound echoes around Chumberly Village Hall. You could almost run around later with your friendsand pretend to be shooting Daniel Cameron, that’s how loud it was. The London Met Boba Fett shock troopers turn on each other. Their guns are squeezy washing up bottles with water inside and they squirt shots and fall to the floor. There is one left standing.

“Joe Longthorne!” he says, approaching Neil Clegg. He detaches his cartridge from his gun and shakes it up and down then opens it by screw top. He bashes the base of it and tomato ketchup drollops out and covers Neil Clegg’s bloody nose. Then the trooper kicks him in the bollocks.

“Arghieee, that really hurt. Mummmieeee!”

Our heroic band are out, rescued, but Miley Cyrus bum-rushes the Shock Trooper into an open cage and it closes behind the two of them. Captain Heller’s gun points to the Chancellor’s head. The Surfer comes around to join him.

“Not so fast Gordon Of Osborne.”

“I knew we’d find out who’s really behind this.”

Osborne pulls his own face off. “He was inside one of those Shock Troop uniforms.” says Joe, who were beneath the mask. “I dressed him in it after I punched Neil Clegg.”

“I’m glad” says John Craven.

“Now I am free I can begin to heal this battered heart. Thankyou, my new friends.”, he says eagerly shaking the robot’s hand. “I have something for you.”

Joe reaches into his pocket and pulls out two small books, which he gives to Jetfire and Captain Heller.

“Passports: Jetfire, for your citizenship and Captain Heller – we’re going to need a good leader to take this country from the dark ages. What do you say? Will you stay and help?”

“And forget all this ever happened?” asks Heller sceptically.

“I agree. And don’t you all have homes to go to?” asks Carnacki. “Now, shoo! Off you pop! Out into the street!”

And with that the performers exit, pushing Miley and the trooper off-stage.

 

 

* * * Curtains * * *

 

‘Do they Know it’s Christmas?’ charges towards the speakers. It’s a cover version by Rammstein. The actors bow; we clap.

 

“Well Ta Gnat Thank Gad It’s Tham, In Staidddd of Yoo”

 

They take a second bow and throw out Punk prowls and Kung-Fu kicks.

 

 

* * * Curtains * * *