2D: Northern Ireland’s Festival of Comics

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for (now extinct) Alltern8; Comicking.

The European City of Culture 2013 is the site for 2D. Although in its early years, the Derry/Londonderry festival is the closest Northern Ireland has gotten to a proper comics ‘con’ (if you must), and shows every sign of holding in there.2D

This year’s guest list is as impressive as previously: Pat Mills, Glenn Fabry, Leigh Gallagher, Rufus Dayglo, Garry Leach, Gary Erskine, Colin McNeil, Ilya, Emma Vieceli, Steve White (Titan), Will Simpson, Stephen Mooney, Nick Roche, Davy Francis, Bridgeen Gillespie, Phil Barrett, Maeve Clancy, Stephen Downey, Joe Campbell and the 2D Collective. Oh, and Paddy Brown and myself will be there too.

Details on the event have been slow to emerge and the organiser wasn’t available for interview. It appears the Facebook page may be the place to watch having supplied the above details and the following events list:

Tuesday 25th May – Friday 4th June – 2D presents ‘Irish Comic Art’ exhibition at the Void Gallery.

Thursday 3rd / Friday 4th June daytime – workshops

Friday 4th / Saturday 5th evenings – panel discussions

Saturday 5th – Comics Open Day

Somewhere among all that, “2D will be hosting the Titan Talent Search with Steve White (Titan senior editor). There will be opportunities for portfolio reviews and there will be prizes for the best portfolios. Anyone interested or would like to find out more please get in touch. Full details to be released soon.”

In previous years, the Thurdays events have typically been aimed at children and teenagers. On Fridays and Saturdays, the approach is much more all-ages, with these events being held at the Derry Verbal Arts Centre, high up the wall and hill. The Comics Open Day there provides free tables for guests and exhibitors, so for artists on a shoestring budget like myself, it’s a godsend. In the evenings, the event is at Sandino’s, a traditional Ulster pub, the sort of place historic yarns might be spun and where the smell of booze is a beautiful thing.

2D banner

My memories of last year’s 2D Festival are alcohol-informed, though not all of it. Genuine laughter, smiles, education, dancing, positive feedback and great conversations. I scribbled notes during the panels but they’re hidden through travel, time and the War on paper-eating Silverfish.

I’d got into the centrally placed Sandino’s Friday night, a colloquial bar with a whiff of heart. Upstairs, ‘The State of Comic Art’ is underway, featuring at centre the visually recognisable D’Israeli and Rufus Dayglo. A seat opens up near Bridgeen Gillespie, but the tiny spirited bar is packed. The ‘Eclectic Micks’ panel right after discusses Irish comics art and industry, and Bridgeen may have went on a bit of a quality rant there. Like she did on this video Fractured Visions, a two-part open source documentary shot around the event.

Fractured Visions: Interview with Malachy Coney

Fractured Visions: 20 September 2009

[UPDATE: The films were made by Craig Smith, “PhD student with research interests including: motion comics, comics, animation, mobile games and digital media.” You can follow Craig @motioncomix on Twitter or via his eponymous weblog on wordpress.]

(Missing from original article, Screenshot from the documentary featuring Bridgeen, organiser David Campbell, Declan Shalvey, David Lloyd and Malachy Coney)

With thanks to Declan Shalvey’s blogging skills for filling in the gaps in my memory.

Cameraman and reporter stand with Dierdre de Barra and Hilary Lawler (Longstone Comics) the following morning. At the Verbal Arts Centre outside by Derry Walls, high and windy, and I can see the whole sprawling city below. It’s kinda magnificent. Inside I take my free table, a bit Friday-fragmented.

(Re-united with Paddy Brown after years and meeting Barrett and Paddy Lynch: that called for a few drinks)

Below: My hangover wears off. Sourced from the Irish Comics Wiki.

The venue is quickly busy and my first chat with the public is a family and child asking me to draw Spider-Man. I’m flattered and panicked: I have the illustrative abilities of an earth-worm, oh, and most of my comix contain cussin. Heavy colouring pencils go into gear, but it’s still terrible. I send them away with a free, inoffensive comic. Sales trickle and rush, but there’s consistent quality interaction as many people come over for a look and a chat. On the edge of the central promenade, I have a clear visibility. When I nip off to check out the rest of the view, Brown is feverously out-sketching the beloved Will Simpson. The large upstairs hall of the Verbal Arts Centre is jammed, so I can only make it through the mosh pit to pass a gift onto David Lloyd before I’m carried out again. The centre’s hall is plastered with drawings from the children’s workshop: a monster drawing wall. D’Israeli has some good photo captures of that (such as the one below)

Monster Drawing Wall 2d by Matt Brooker

The evening session at Sandino’s included more panels and presentations. Whoops went up when Bryan Talbot announced he’d been presented with an honourary degree from Sunderland University for his work on Alice In Sunderland. Organiser David Campbell got in a few jars and distinctly treated me with a level of care and respect I very appreciated. The only flaw was one that every comics festival organiser makes: the venue was flooded with loud music, which cut conversation and willful intent to dance. Outside, the smokers and non-smokers gathered for those. I stood delicately on the fringes of conversations with Talbolt, Dayglo and Mike Collins and others. I wasn’t the only one with a romantic tear in my eye for a truly great festival experience.

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