Comics Pub Meets: Southern England

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


In the first parts of this series I made a few points on the comics pub meet across Ireland, Scotland and Wales. Other type gatherings where cartoonists meet in smaller festival (or fistfight) include the well-known Boycott-con and Squat-con, sometimes confused with the Barcamp. Around 2001 a writer in the Rainbow Bridge APA informed his readers of Housecons, which I quite like: organised out-of-town friend visits with dvd parties. The Pubmeet in my time, is at the centre of all this. It doesn’t have to feature sketching or comics on the table. There are anyway a few rules of sociability not obvious. In this column, I’m going to present a round-up of English Comics Pub Meets I know about.

kidson drinks

Along the coast of Southern England is Cartoon County. Meeting “every last Monday in the month (except Bank holidays) from 6pm upstairs at The Cricketers, Black Lion St., Brighton…Bring your work, bring yourselves, any time until closing.” writes Corinne Pearlman on the website’s ‘What’s Going On?” section from March. I have it from good sources that these run more regularly than site updates allow. However, this demonstrates a rule: if you’re not part of a well-knit group, check for up-to-date information. Amsel amelofbrockley(at)yahoo(dot)com may be a good point for getting in touch with the Brighton group.
A few hours up in the capital, PubDraw, made up of quite a few Camden Comics Group members, is now not running frequently. Of course, London is so well populated and linked by transport: seeing other people is a good thing too! It’s highly probable comics meets occur. I also have unconfirmed rumours of a Comic Creators Guild meet somewhere in the capital (website link in) Sci-fi genre enthusiasts may wish to pop by the Shakespeare’s Head on the third or fourth Saturday of the month, 12pm-9pm, second booth on the left. Contact Jackie or Joanna via the Facebook page.

If you happen to be reading this before Valentines Day 2010, Adam Cadwell informs me of a special Drop In and Draw event at the Notting Hill Arts Club, London from 3-6pm. Entry is £1 and only open to the over 18s. Included is the banner ad by Tom Humberstone. For more details on the event, follow this link to Adam’s blog entry.

Oxford‘s meet is weekly and tends to move around, grouping on a Tuesday evening from about 8:30pm. I’ve had many happy experiences with this lot: setting my hair on fire with laughter, heating my hands with the warm glow of genius, studying the constellation of speech bubbles and finding something in me to launch.
This group is joined at the hip with many past and present organisers of Caption, sure to be welcoming. Jenni Scott tells me the current meeting point is at The Magdalen Arms and she’s sent along a hyperlink!

Aaron ‘Smurf’ Murphy tells of Swin City owner Steve Causer in Swindon who runs a monthly group. There’s apparently a strong script-writing base and with the Visual Communications and Comics focus recently at the local college, it’s sure to be an interesting bunch. Aaron says, “(Causer) also promotes the group in Swindon’s listings mag Frequency as well as running the town’s comic printing service (UKomics)” Beer while probably not welcome on the premises, may be consumed afterwards. UPDATE: The link for this isn’t working but you can contact Swincity over Twitter.

From Bristol, Kev F Sutherland writes of good experiences at the now defunct Travelling Man group. Andy Richmond picks up the ball, “I get together with like minded types and plan projects and generally shoot the shit. But, its not organised anymore. Several Years ago we were in full swing, but unfortunately Travelling Man closed in Bristol and as that was our pre-pub meeting place everyone drifted. Fortunately, a lot of us are still doing comics, myself included. Hopefully some interesting SCAR Comics will be published this year.” Much to my delight, he responds to my query about the Puppet Theatre, “The Kochalka’s performing again, now that is an idea.Is the World ready for a couple of middle-aged men knocking seven bells out of each other?Probably, yes…”

Andrew Stitt: “On the Comic Group front: Norfolk Comic Strip Creators, Current planned Meetings – Sunday 2-6pm – March 7th & May 2nd. Taking place at: The Playroom, Norwich Playhouse Bar, St. George’s Street, Norwich”
“It’s usually the first Sunday in the month Feb-November. I haven’t sorted out April’s meeting because that’s Easter Sunday and we’re going to discuss it on Sunday.”

“The Norwich Science Fiction Group meets every other Wednesday and discusses all sorts – including comics – as well as having writing and art activity meetings. The next meeting is next Wednesday (24th)”

Chris Askham: “I don’t know of any in Nottingham – either that, or I’m just not invited to any!” Madness, Chris! Jonathan Rigby, partner/manager of Page 45 doesn’t know of any either. “The only things we do are very infrequent around anniversaries or signings. I know Notts Uni has a manga and anime society, but I haven’t got any contact info for them.” He tells me plans are underway to work up Page 45’s trading website with accompanying forum, and unsurprisingly, informal events have been talked about often. “Plus in many ways, we have such a laugh with customers when they come in, we personally don’t need an evening! But at things like our 15th anniversary booze bash last October it is absolutely brilliant to see customers who’ve never met getting on like a house on fire. We did a comics quiz at the booze bash which was a great sucess with customers.”
So, Chris is in good hands. Nearby Derby might have a Drink n Draw group too, it seems. 

The final part of this series on English pub meets will look to the North: in Birmingham, Manchester, Lancaster and Leeds. Drink safe!

Inside The Illustration Cupboard (London Venue)

A re-blog from the archives of my regular column for Alltern8; Comicking.
This is a reconstruction, so excuse the poor formatting.

Illustration Cupbard

Reviewing a London exhibit of 500 book, animation and graphic novel illustrations by over 50 leading illustrators from around the world…
On my recent trip to London, I thought I should make a visit to The Illustration Cupboard’s 14th Annual Winter Exhibition as recommended by Gravett’s List. Often a tendency with UK comics arts related events is London-centrism. A factual trait which as a symptomatic side, effects exclusivity. The showing runs until the end of January and is worth a look if not in person, then by cyberspace travel. The Cupboard’s search engine is poor; browsing by gallery or by artist will get you to were you want to go as fast.

With prints starting at £55, and originals around £200, though many at £4,000, it’s mentalism the thought of me buying any of these. The Cupboard do a full-colour illustrated catalogue for £10 (p&p UK inc) though, that’s not bad, showing over a hundred of the works from this exhibition. Here, as online, you can see John Vernon Lord’s “Drawings of a Muchness and Things Beginning with M”, cut up techique using Lewis Caroll weirdness and a little bit of Dali. I also greatly enjoyed looking at Anthony Browne’s pop sensation ‘Kong’ illustrations and was glad the website provided me with more to look at. Pictured here is ‘Kong fought bravely but in vain’

Cartoonist Chris Riddell’s black ink illustrations for The Graveyard Shift, co-authored with Neil Gaiman are quite eldritch and chilling, as is Inga Moore’s pieces from Wind In The Willows

To the left, John Lawrence’s ‘A Boy Went Forth’ from ‘A New Treasury of Poetry’. J. Lawrence’s wood engravings look like a beautiful kind of fever. A sort of white magic working man bliss surge into the Dark Ages, like Scott McCloud visiting Chaucer, in William Blake’s cab of course. In addition to these comic strip like works, the illustrations accompanying Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island are worth a look around for.

The majority of the exhibit showcases illustrations of children’s literature. The simple looking commercial iconography of Children’s Lauren Childs’ ‘Clarice Bean’ obviously stood out, as did Dick Bruna’s Miffy works.

‘Speckledy-Neckledy’: stood on each other’s backs, an ape, dog, toucan and weasel, paint the neck of a giraffe. Sadly, this doesn’t appear online, but Charles Fuge’s other work has similarities in anthropomorphic fun. Penny Dale’s work does this too, presenting family community in a place were the cynicism of age finds it hard to scratch. (My favourite is ‘Everyone Had Baths’, but sure scroll on through). Some of this work is just downright lavish though, such as Childs’ collaborations with Polly Borland and Gennady Spirin’s illustrations for Jack and The Beanstalk which wouldn’t look out of place on any Art Student’s curriculum at degree level.

There’s a strong bias for inclusion in the works for winners and nominees of the Kate Greenaway Medal. This is geared particularly for children’s illustration and I note Dave McKean is among those shortlisted for the next one. The fascination with children’s literature plays a large part in the UK’s comics culture, in modernity, reverse-engineered by Gravett and other broadsheet commentators. In many ways, this is nothing to ever get embarrassed about. It’s a much more beautiful trend than, for example, tabloids might suggest. (It serves them right for name-calling, I suppose..) Though as someone who plans on never having children and has few young relatives, I’m a little confused as to how this interacts with me. Asides from, y’know….responsibility, creativity, education, aesthetics etc.

There are big pre-mainstream names aplenty in the exhibit too. There’s an original by Herge and a number of cels from Brian Cosgrove (Cosgrove Hall) and Nick Park (Aardman Animations). Of notoriety is the work of Kevin O’Neill, co-creator of Nemesis The Warlock and Marshal Law, as well as contributing creator to Judge Dredd. I notice The Cupboard is also selling copies of his League of Extra-Ordinary Gentleman collections as well.

The O’Neill material on display doesn’t include such scenes of viciousness, I convey precariously, as there’s a Marshal Law cover on the wall. The Illustration Cupboard is adequately titled, for it’s a small and cluttered venue, resembling a shop rather than any arts exhibit in London connotations of a museum. That’s just the way of it, practical within the considerations of financial viability in tough times for the culture economy. This includes the constraints of free, and sometimes or often private viewings..what more do you want? The second floor has a hand-railed gap which helps to create an observational route and extra point for observing works below.
I found the staff attentive, helpfully accommodating, above and beyond requirements. I hope my somewhat brutal honesty doesn’t offend them, I enjoyed my visit.


Should you be visiting, The Annual Winter exhibit runs until the end of the month and the nearest tube station is Green Park.

More from me on on Tuesday 2nd February. In the meantime, my web-comic, Don’t Get Lost, is uploaded every Thursday. If you’d like to illustrate one of the many excellent comics scripts I’m involved in this year, please email me at drew.luke(at)