What is Comic Barcamp? [By Gar Shanley]

The following is a piece written by Gar Shanley to help promote the Comics Barcamp Belfast event of 2011. Half of the piece is an interview with me so I’ve taken the liberty of reprinting it here, HOWEVER, you should all visit Gar’s website as he is a very funny man, and a pleasant man too.



I awoke in the dead of night to find Andy Luke at the bottom of my bed again. “I’m thinking of arranging a Comics Barcamp”, he whispered. “What’s a Barcamp?” I asked.


He answered: “Barcamp.org describes it as ‘an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from participants who are the main actors of the event.’

He continued: “A barcamp isn’t a bunch of creatives getting pissed in a pub, though there’s room for that. It’s a conference, very structured. The rules are that you must learn something or go somewhere where you can. More importantly everyone must contribute something. This could be a talk, a ride to the destination, crash space, breakfast, t-shirts, headed notepaper or time. There’s a lot to a barcamp, also different ways of doing it. The central crux is knowledge transfer and pooling.”

“So basically, everyone shows up at a destination, says what they would like to do and a roster/schedule is drawn up?” I said.

Andy nodded and elaborated: “I’d like to do a piece on comics writer pitching, and if someone asks, I’ll talk about my external funding experiences. Schedule expectations are fluid. People can register their interest in presenting a particular subject online before the event. It is not until the morning of the camp, where this is fixed on an open grid structure – a wall-plan in the reception lobby of the day’s events which will run across two conference rooms. Arrive at a reasonable hour and you get to pick your slot. So in short, it’s disorganised until it isn’t. A central organising committee should shape organically. Barcamp is in the hands of you.”

I asked Andy where such an event could take place.

He answered: “Blick Studios on the Malone Road is a lovely arts conference centre at an affordable price. Neither date nor venue are fixed at this time. The biggest issue among my concerns is sponsorship. Ideally, no money should change hands. Donations are investment. So perhaps Forbidden Planet might donate the £100 for one of the rooms, and 50 or 100 of their bags to hold conference packs. A local graphics company might donate £50 for the second room and some headed notepaper. An arts shop might donate note paper and pens etc. Traditionally, barcamps work on a tiered sponsorship system with the biggest sponsors being rewarded a higher marketing profile through the event as in bigger logos on name-badges. ”

He went on: “The venue ideally has wi-fi. It’s possible that the organising committee could operate through a back-channel web-chat. IT Barcamps have a lot of activity with central twitter hashtags, presenters providing their informal sessions in the form of an online powerpoint, document etc. The event could be live-streamed to remote goers.”

I asked Andy if this kind of event has this been done before in relation to comics.

“I don’t know if anyone’s ever done a comics barcamp before,” he answered. “ The socially structured Caption is the closest I can pinpoint. If there’s a comics stall, it’ll be communal but I think this might be where rucksack sales come in.”

Andy then concluded by saying: “I would like to invite some local professionals outside of comics work to re-grow the populism. Obviously, comics folk are lovely people, jubilantly casting off chains of solitude – but sometimes as we do so we get our own heads up arses. I blame the drink. Guinness!”

Then Andy vanished, as if he was never there, and I was left thinking the idea was ambitious but equally doable, Andy’s idea sounded like a very good one. Watch this space for further developments.

If you are still uncertain as to what a Barcamp is exactly watch these lovely people:

And here’s a useful links by Andy:





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