The Lakes International Comic Art Festival has held the first workshops for its ambitious Breakthrough project, which aims to give under-represented individuals a chance to express themselves through the medium of comics.
Five aspiring comic creators – Abbigayle Bircham, Danny Christie, Halima Hassan, Hannah Hodgson and Michael Lightfoot – are taking part in the inaugural 18-month mentoring initiative, co-ordinated by writer, publisher and editor Tim Pilcher.
The project was set up by the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, in conjunction with Arts Council England, Wellcome Trust Fellowship, Soaring Penguin Press, Quarto Books and other partners, with the aim of giving under-represented individuals a chance to express themselves through the medium of comics – and to hopefully open up a career pathway within the publishing industry.
The initiative – which sought applications from anyone aged 18 and over, who has not previously professionally published comics or had the opportunity to study art or creative writing in Further Education – will will run for approximately 18 months, and had its first gathering for workshops at Chicheley Hall, Buckinghamshire, near Milton Keynes, last weekend.
The Breakthrough project will culminate in an exhibition of the participants’ work and production of an anthology book which will act as a portfolio to hopefully gain them employment or to start a career as a self-employed comics creator.
“The Breakthrough Initiative got off to a flying start, and all the creators have such fascinating and diverse approaches and experiences, ensuring a truly unique publication. Their sheer enthusiasm and dedication to storytelling was inspiring,” said Project Co-Ordinator, Tim Pilcher.
“The Breakthrough initiative will teach the participants the skills and techniques of comics in order to empower them to tell their own personal stories of living in Britain,” says Festival Director Julie Tait.
“This will include several workshops and remote one-to-one mentoring leading to them completing their first finished comic strip. Ultimately, these stories will be collected into an anthology providing a revealing snapshot of life in Britain today.”
MEET THE BREAKTHROUGH CREATORS
Abbigayle Bircham is an artist from North London with a 2:1 BA (Hons) Degree in Film and Moving Image Production.
Currently working as a production assistant in podcasting and radio, she uses her spare time to build her portfolio, as well as write and draw for her webcomic The Devil’s Advocate, which has its first completed chapter self-published online.
When she’s not working, she’s drawing angels, playing dungeons and dragons, and getting yelled at by her cats.
Danny Christie was born in London but raised in Coventry. His background is Jamaican and he has been into comic books his whole life. His mother was a strict Rastafarian who did not believe in watching TV, so his childhood was spent mostly drawing and living in his imagination. When he moved to live with his grandparents in Coventry as a child, he was then given access to TV and he became interested in sci-fi, cartoons, and movies.
As he got older, Danny began rapping and producing instrumentals (grime, hiphop, RNB, etc), and would design CD covers. He also got involved in theatre and acting at Coventry Belgrade, and this is what sparked him to want to make a movie, which remains his ultimate goal.
Last year, he published his first ever graphic novel The Mystical Legend of Eagle-Ras for sale via Amazon – so the ball is rolling.
Danny’s music, comics, and ultimately my movies are not all intended to simply entertain, but also to try and challenge or highlight every day issues he has faced as a member of the British BME community.
Hannah Hodgson is a poet and blogger who lives near Kendal. She has won a number of competitions for her poetry and her first pamphlet, Dear Body, was published in 2018. She began getting into comics while in high school at QES, Kirkby Lonsdale. One of the librarians, Gemma Sosnowsky, ran a comics club, and opened Hannah’s eyes to the diversity of comics. She has had a few ideas for a graphic novel cooking ever since.
Halima Hassan is a writer and editor based in London. She moved to the UK with her family about 15 years ago and comics were some of the first stories she read in English. Comics remain a constant in her life and she looks forward to learning more about this medium/industry and her place within it. She enjoys storytelling and is currently looking to write stories inspired by her own and her family’s experiences as immigrants.
Michael Lightfoot has exhibited his paintings and drawings in several exhibitions over the years and also worked as a storyboard artist, illustrator and mural painter. He has usually also had to do other things too to get by; including working as an art teacher in a mental hospital, convenience shop worker and box packer in warehouses. Early last year, he was a founding member of the association ‘Artists for Brexit’ which was created so as to provide a platform for the voices of Brexit supporting arts workers.
A comics fan since childhood, he’s become increasingly passionate about storytelling and the comics medium for his personal work, and in 2014 he had a story published in the crowd-funded World War One themed comic anthology, To Arms.
He could not be more thrilled to have got onto the Breakthrough program, and hopes that taking part in it will indeed enable him to breakthrough into working in the comics industry.
• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival runs from in Friday 11th – 13th October 2019 at various venues across the town