Comics are distributed in and out of Ireland by small pressers visiting different festival cities on tour. In Part 1 of this column I’ve recounted our experiences at the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival in Belfast and in Part 2, at the 2D Comics festival in Derry.
Also, probable liver damage.
(Above: Tommie Kelly’s new book From Rags To Rockstars and a piece from the new Something Wonderful series. If you’re funds are low on the ground, Tommie has made Something Wonderful available as a legal torrent: see the second link above for details)
It’s a two hour scenic beauty ride to Belfast by Translink’s Bus service. I’d taken the insomnia ticket the night before. It had come in at a few seconds. The Black Box is a fifteen minute walk from the Europa Bus Station. Paddy’s mum had the car out, and dropped me off to set up our monthly stall. Paddy wisely went home to Doctor Who. While I performed the gargantuan feat-breaker two comics festivals in a row without a stop?
Nay. It was “dead”.
Not a single sale. Barely a look.
The market looked finer than it ever had. Stalls were front loaded with a variety of miscellany, a harem of printed papers, silks, badges, poi staffs and knitted wear. Ben Allen afforded me a few words of comfort. Ben is great like that. He’s a regular fixture at the market who plays around with pop art and printmaking. He takes his inspiration from artists who are fans of music, Peter Blake, Robert Crumb…
If you’re on Facebook, take a look at his profile or read an interview about his work on Northern Irish iconography.
Above: Ben Allen’s drypoint etching of Cara Cowan, from his workings out of The Creative Exchange.
As it turned out, everyone in Belfast may have been recovering from festivals. The Hay Festival and Belfast Titanic Maritime Festival. Would it be too much to ask of my home city to get over flogging a dead ship?
The weekend has left me feeling spiritually drained so perhaps it’s time I started thinking seriously about this.
Bloody Hell O’ Clock, Paddy might have said. Having slept for most of the last day, I’m a bit chirpier. I jump around sunlit fields looking for a laptop socket and the conductor informs me we have none. The sea outside Dublin looks the finest. I’d gotten a day return for £10 online, well worth it, and the tram to the dockside was 3 euros return. It was a smooth but unusual ride, as if Gene Roddenberry himself had returned to drive me by limo to the end of a street. We wander around for a while, looking into buildings still being completed. Sat outside on benches with cigarette and gourmet hotdog. More building fronts visited, with concrete and dust and hardhats coming and going. The front is laid out with tents offering ghee and cakes and paintings and prints and trinkets. Paddy spots a group of tents off to the side, four of them. And we set up stalls.
Above right: Barry Keegan, Gareth Gowarn, Robert Curley, Maura McHugh and Stephen Daly. Both photos made available via Rob Curley.
I was a bit nervous about selling comics outside but the sun never stopped and the wind was weak. English-based creators had come over for the day: Leonie O’Moore (There Goes Tokyo) and Jenika Ioffreda (Vampire Free Style) I’d my sales patter working fine and teamed up with Paddy to offer a special on our 24 hour comics which worked well.
Opposite, an attractive woman named Anna sat on the bench engaging the comic I’d written about my late grandmother, Eileen Lucas. Beside her, laid on the bench was her boyfriend taking in the sun. I watched them for a while and it was very pretty. The boyfriend exercised his legs and came over to the stall.
“My girlfriend says if I wish to know what your comic is about I should get to know you.”
Shyly, he retreated. I watched them for a few more minutes before joining them on the bench where we talked for ten about family, nationality, weather, comics and all sorts. Connecting with complete strangers are either side of the space between panels in a good comics festival.
Parts of the day went by like tumbleweed too. There were workshops for kids on creating comics and a pop-up book workshop by Maeve Clancy which I would have loved to see.
I suspect festival organisers part-agenda in workshops for kids is to prevent established creators from abandoning their stall-hosting responsibilities.
(Check out Maeve’s pop-up book created for Lisa Hannigan’s video to “Lillie”)
I did manage to abscond for a few hours though, checking out the spit-roast pig, sharing coffee with a lovely environmentalist and visiting other stallholders such as Damien O’Reilly, whose Pinback Magazine is a glossy follow-on from his 2000-era artzine, Paper Cuts. (And well it looks too) The evening ended with a few beers at Maeve Clancy’s home before the Roddenberry tram treated my weakened bladder most delicately.
The Point Village gig was organised by Hilary Lawler. This is the link to her weblog where there are a number of lovely drawings.
The Black Panel will be selling the works of Irish mini-comics creators at The Black Box, Hill Street, Belfast on Sunday 4th and 18th July. We’ll also be picking up new comics at Summer Edition 2010, Filmbase, Temple Bar, Dublin on 24th July for selling in Belfast on August 1st.