Released last year, Playing Out by Jim Medway is a 48-page story about Connor, Kieran and Jamal mooching around Manchester City Centre – but these youths are cats portrayed as humans. downthetubes contributor Matt Badham has just re-plugged the title, published by Blank Slate Books, over on Creative Tourist, so we thought we’d take another look ourselves.
It’s the Summer holidays in Manchester and Kieran, Jamal and Connor are doing what any self-respecting kids would do on a Saturday: killing time by walking around the city centre. Aimlessly exploring the shops, the trio find themselves window-shopping for trainers, hunting for money in pay- phones, drooling over the older girls from their school and traveling to the top of the multi-story car park just to see the view.
A kid’s-eye perspective of life, Playing Out is for all of us who fondly remember weekends spent marauding with no money and precious few responsibilities. As the boys travel around, the real story is told not by what they are doing, but through the conversations and interactions they have along the way. Disgruntled shopkeepers distrust them on principle, local goths become the subject of both their ridicule and secret awe and off-duty teachers blow their minds by having a life outside of school too.
“It’s a book well worth seeking out,” Matt enthuses on Creative Tourist. “Medway’s illustration deploys a clean, open style that sees him working in the anthropomorphic tradition he has adopted as his signature: each character is portrayed as a cat. It could feel mannered, but thanks to a combination of expressive text and images Medway conjures up fully fleshed-out characters.”
Comic creator and illustrator Jim Medway has been running his Create Comics sessions for over seven years, involving infants to elderly, all backgrounds and abilities, in schools, colleges, galleries, museums, libraries, and community venues across the country. The sessions are a fun introduction to the basic techniques used in making comics, and don’t rely on any significant drawing skills as all games, activities and exercises emphasis simplicity and clarity above all.
In schools, pupils are empowered in creating their own strips and often publishing whole comics. Teachers are inspired by the potential for engaging reluctant readers with new material, and often harness the class’s imaginative cartooning energy across the curriculum; depicting the Victorians, Greek Myths or science experiments. He’s also run them for adolescent or adult mental health support groups and for community groups and venues, Create Comics workshops have been successfully used in tackling and addressing issues, in consultation exercises to gauge responses to particular or specific problems, and in simply giving a voice to the often invisible silent or overlooked.
• Playing Out by Jim Medway, published by Blank Slate Books, is on sale in all good bookshops and available online from publisher Blank Slate Books