Comics Laureate Hannah Berry has launched a long-planned UK Comics Creator Survey, for everyone making comics in Britain today, aiming to “snapshot” the industry – and use the results to help support it.
Built by the Audience Agency and funded by Arts Council England, the British Council and the University of Dundee, the survey is for everyone making comics in the UK.
“Over the last couple of decades, the UK comics scene has exploded into the wild, experimental, thoughtful and provocative artistic frontier that we belong to today,” says Hannah Berry, whose work as Comics Laureate is supported and co-ordinated by the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and Lancaster University.
“To find ways to ensure that this level of creativity and growth can be encouraged, supported, and sustained, we need to get an accurate breakdown of the situation,” she adds.
The Comics Laureate champions the role of comics in improving literacy in schools, libraries and education. Hannah Berry, who took over the role from Walking Dead artist Charlie Adlard, is an award-winning graphic novelist, comics creator, writer and illustrator.
The UK Comics Creator Survey has been designed to gather information and generate insights about comic producers across a range of creative practice, and at all levels of activity.
“If you are UK-based and make comics or cartoons for public consumption, I want to hear from you,” Hannah explains, “regardless of whether you are an internationally renowned comics legend or a newcomer working in secret on your long-form graphic novel or posting strips on Instagram. If you make comics then you are a part of the UK comics community and this survey is for you.
“The questions cover who we are and what we do (generally-speaking, I mean: it’s all anonymous); how much we make from different sources and to what extent we’re having to subsidise that; what obstacles we’re facing and what support we need to keep on making and selling comics; as well as (new for 2020!) how much of an affect the Coronavirus Pandemic has had on livelihoods and working practices”.
The results of this UK Comics Creator Survey are expected to be released in June 2020 and creators are being asked to submit responses by 18th May 2020.
The findings from this survey will be drawn up into a full report and made freely available online, complementing other research such as the Fair Pay for Artists Project instigated by Thought Bubble Festival, which was funded by the National Lottery through Arts Council England.
“The data will paint a more accurate picture of the comics industry, its strengths and shortcomings,” says Hannah, “and hopefully show us what we need to do in order to support creators working within it.
“The underlying anonymous data may also be made available to organisations working within comics, literature and the arts for funding and research purposes if it will benefit the comics community.
“Most importantly, this information will be used to start a discussion – between you and I, and everyone else making comics – about what steps we need to take to keep making and selling comics in these uncertain times,” Hannah hopes.
As part of the survey, the British Council is conducting additional research for the purpose of assessing potential production opportunities in the sector, and there is an option within the survey to sign up to help provide further responses.
“The University of Dundee’s Scottish Centre for Comics Studies is pleased to collaborate with the Comics Laureate, Hannah Berry, to investigate what is needed to support and grow the UK’s comics community,” commented Professor Christopher Murray, Comics Studies, University of Dundee.
“I have been discussing this project with Hannah for several months and very much agree with her that we need a much better sense of the challenges facing comics creators at all levels in this industry so that we can identify opportunities.
“This ties into research on comics as a creative economy being conducted by the Comics Studies team at the University of Dundee. We are proud to co-fund the survey and look forward to the results, which we hope will allow us to develop strategies and build networks and infrastructure that will support comics creators in the UK.”
“Lancaster University is thrilled about the launch of a major study led by the present UK Comics Laureate Hannah Berry,” commented Natasa Lackovic. This important study is a big step forward in understanding the work by UK comics creators, their needs and how best to encourage, sustain and support their creativity and growth.
“Over the last couple of years, Lancaster University has collaborated with LICAF and UK Comics Laureates on a number of events via its graphic novels and comics hub ReOPeN. By co-sponsoring the work of UK Comics Laureate, Lancaster University shows its commitment to supporting UK arts, art industry and community development.”
“We’re delighted to continue to support the work and role of the Comic Laureate and we’ve been looking forward to seeing the launch of the UK Comics Creator Survey,” commented LICAF Festival Director Julie Tait. “Like other major British comic event organisers, we’ve long supported special creative comic projects alongside our Festival weekend every October, as part of our commitment to creators, and to help promote the industry, through both commissioned work and a growing range of international exchanges”.
UK COMICS CREATOR SURVEY: PARTNERS
Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. They want to grow skills, knowledge and networks to help establish the conditions in which creativity and culture can flourish across the country, and conduct research, give expert advice, promote partnership and do other activities to help the creative and cultural sector develop
The British Council creates friendly knowledge and understanding between the people of the UK and other countries. Through its arts, education and society programmes, we give opportunities to hundreds of millions of people worldwide each year
The University of Dundee has long been an active champion of the comics form. Its Masters in Comics & Graphic Novels at Dundee is at present the only course of its kind in the UK
SUPPORTING THE COMICS LAUREATE
Across Lancaster University academics in many different disciplines share an interest in images, comics, graphic novels and illustration and their transformative potential. Academics from Languages and Creative Writing to Physics, Educational Research to Design, Health and Medicine to Sociology, are researching, teaching and working with researchers, authors and artists worldwide. Together they are seeking to explore and share the wider application of this medium, and to use their interest and expertise in graphic fiction and comic art to benefit initiatives such as education and community projects. These include the ReOpen project and projects such as Joe Decie’s 2018 graphic narrative “Communities in Control”, about health inequalities in England
LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL LINKS
• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is back in Kendal in the Lake District 9th – 11th October 2020: www.comicartfestival.com | Tickets for this year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival will be on sale soon