TitanCon links Fandom, Indy Comics and The NI Economy

Last night I attended the press launch for TitanCon which “promises to be the biggest SF and Fantasy literaty, media and gaming convention in Northern Ireland”.

Initially run as a non-profit event for fans by fans, it has benefitted from part-funding by Arts Council NI. The move came wth the Council’s interest in HBO’s Game of Thrones which has given the city a strong economic and tourism boost.

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A three day series of events, the third day, a Game of Thrones Coach Tour has already been sold out. Friday festivities overlap with Belfast’s free Culture Night and including walking tours of the city and in McHughs Bar, readings from Ian McDonald, Guest of Honour and winner of the 2007 Hugo Award for Best Novelette for The Djinn’s Wife (2006)

The event on Saturday costs £10 admission and is held at The Europa Hotel. It includes tabletop gaming and RPGs, as well as a fighting workshop, and the launch of Boyd and Bradshaw’s “Guards! Guards!”, the Discworld boardgame with the blessing of Terry Pratchett. Local authors T.A. Moore and Peadar O Guilin will also be in attendance, along with film-maker George Clarke, of Battle of The Bone.

Miltos Yerolemou and Kristian Nairn, who play Syriio and Hodor respectively on Game of Thrones will also be in attendance. In contrast to some other conventions, photos with guests are not charged for, and attendees are asked to make a donation of their own choice to Action Cancer. Will Simpson (Batman, Dredd, Hellblazer) was one of the storyboard artists on Game of Thrones. His appearance gives perspectives on local involvement and behind the scenes representation.

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Simpson, began working in comics with his contribution to the Belfast indy Ximoc in 1980, with the strip Cuchulainn the Hound. TitanCon looks to reward that with the recognition of two other independent cartoonists as guests. Paddy Brown, a fellow author of the Cuchulainn tales in the form of The Cattle Raid of Cooley, has been active in comics arts and media since 1994′s A Virtual Circle. His cartooning and comics research has been internationally recognised by the respected Lambiek encyclopedia, and closer to home, by academic Paul Gravett and industry magazine Caption. There are unconfirmed rumours one of Brown’s illustrations are to feature on the front page of the official programme. I began creating comics several years after Brown, with contributions to a number of journalistic bodies, the acclaimed Caption and Barcamp un-conferences, and winning the UnLtd Millenium Award for my work on Absence. (See my CV at the footer for a fuller picture)

There’s also a fourth link to the world of comics. TitanCon has scheduled an evening with The Wireless Mystery Theatre. The Theatre “transports the audience back to the Golden Age of radio… as they present radio plays live on stage” The group has received some critical acclaim and includes Reggie Chamberlain-King, an occassional contributor to the online comics and mixed media site, Talesofthe.com. When announced at the press conference Ian McDonald reached to the person sat next to them and whispered, “they’re very good”.

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McDonald told the assembled reporters and representatives from the Arts Council and NI Screen to “There are a lot of fantastic science fiction roots in NI Culture: CS Lewis, James Shaw.. I ask that you support today’s local writers, be it in cinema, novels or comics.”

With the direct market and the growth of self-publishing having shattered the UK and Irish comics industry, TitanCon‘s adoption of the form at this crucial time is noteworthy.

The event is run by Brotherhood without Banners (a George RR Martin fangroup), Studio NI (Northern Ireland’s largest arts and culture group), and The Other Ones (a Belfast science fiction and fantasy society). Studio NI celebrates it’s 7th anniversary as part of the weekend’s festivities.

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