Cross-posted with permission from Andy Luke’s LiveJournal
Comics Barcamp, an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment, happened on 3rd September 2011 at Blick Studios, Malone Road, Belfast.
Sponsored by Blick, DriveThruComics.com, Paper Tiger Comix, Don’t Panic! and Roger Sabin, it proved an intense event with discussions, demos, and interaction from attendees.
The first comics barcamp in the UK and Ireland, it pooled knowledge and shared it amongst comics creators and other people with an interest in the industry North and South of Ireland and a follow-up event in the South will take place next year.
Here, organiser Andy Luke offers his own take on the Belfast event…
Lots to tell about one of the first ever Comics Barcamps. So I may as well start here.
Followingthenerd.com (FTN) professionally shot a few interviews with folk in the morning but had to leave for midday. (They’re working on a TV pilot). Posters were still being assembled around them and breakfast being consumed, brought along by myself and Jennifer Hanley on a reduced-to-clear croissant hunt.
The first session kicked off at 11:30 with Ciara Brennan, my new Absence liason at UnLtd, a charity which supports social entrepreneurs. She and I spoke about the group: its funding potential and the Southern equivalent. We gelled, and the piece gelled, clearing away my misgivings about UnLtd’s case being treated as pie-in-the-sky.
I folllowed this up with a piece on Writer Pitching with visuals of huge spiderplans and mind maps I made. There were jokes made about my bachelor status but more importantly I got people thinking, and Gar mentioned he’d like to try a proper personal project and raise the bar on his own work. There’s an MP3 of this which I’m going to try to match with visuals of the pitch.
The presentation led to an intense discussion of work patterns and passions (kind of the point), and we ran well over the allotted time.
Lunch next, and everyone who tried it enjoyed Richard and Aofie’s spicy noodle soup and the Mediterranean bread I sourced. We’d plenty of food and drink to keep going and Marc (of FTN) brought a few bags of crisps.
Attendance numbers were low, fluctuating between 7-10 (with 14 overall), so much that we felt best to restrict ourselves to one conference room. We didn’t regroup to around 3.00pm. I didn’t pick up much lunchtime chatter as I was helping with the food and trying to set up uStream.
Gareth Watson‘s session about portfolios on WordPress was a bit tired I felt, as I knew half the group already used WordPress. He knew his work though, so the best parts were when people asked questions. He would move to an unseen slide and explain exactly what we wanted to know. He also offered us some free consultation. The session ran to nearly an hour, tighter time control next time.
Paddy Brown‘s piece, “Getting it out”, was a carefully scripted manifesto rallying against my own proposal of comics and business, stating that it was the love of the art that could only be achieved by an amateur approach to give the finished work better results. He used historical examples, and examined modern routes such as FPI, co-ops and speciality bookshops. He did it so well I almost gave him a standing ovation. The version on the web is poor sound quality, but he may be up for reprinting it at some point.
Gar and Deirdre had to catch their train to Dublin, so the session broke into informal discussion about the Black Panel and a Dublin co-op. In short, the former needs a serious re-tooling (I said) if it is to survive the year. Gar has a site in mind for the Dublin venture, and I made a point of saying they’d have to properly man-up before he undertook it. I mentioned he and Dee may like to perform a proper case study on London Underground Comics as an example of how to do it well.
The final piece was my own on digital distribution. I had 15 minutes to deliver it but it’s the sort of thing that could really benefit from knowledge pooling, so I may wheel it out again. Then to clearing up the venue and balancing an enormous vat of soup on my lap in the car home. Lazy takeaway at Paddys and the best Doctor Who I’d ever seen.
Richard said afterwards, “I really feel that I learned a lot today”, and I think this summed up everyone’s experiences. As the person with the least involvement in the comics business, he said, “The industry seems like a really terrible place to work. Particularly in Belfast.”
Richard probably knows me best and has been the closest to all the work I put into this event. The people who participated appreciated the sponsors and supporters, who were notable in facilitating hope for improvement.
We learned plenty about how to run a barcamp and I’m quite certain we’ll see a comics camp in London, Dublin and somewhere else in the next nine months.
• Comics Camp afternoon recordings on uStream (poor sound and slow loading)
Andy Luke is a writer who draws. He has made comics, notably: Bottomley: Brand of Britain (with Ruairi Coleman) for the double Eisner-nominated To End All Wars anthology; Absence: a comic about epilepsy, (with Stephen Downey), winner of an UnLtd Millennium Award; and the critically acclaimed Gran: a 24 hour comic.
He’s also written widely on the form as well as co-producing NVTV’s The Invisible Artist documentary (with Carl Boyle), on Belfast’s underground comix scene. Andy has also contributed short prose tales to the anthologies 12 and Tense Situations.