Most comic conventions measure their success by either footfall, social media reach or economic success. Well, I am here to report that the Moniaive Comic Festival takes a different route to measuring success.
The aim of Sue Grant and her team seems to be how they can create the most relaxed comic festival in the world – and in that, they succeeded by a country mile.
Coupled with the lack of mobile coverage due to the village nestling in the valleys of Dumfries and Galloway and the inability to pick up an internet signal when more than two foot from any router meant that the ubiquitous mobile phone became little more than a camera with a clock. Attending this festival changed the tempo of your life, even if only for the duration of the festival.
From arrival on the Friday to departing on the Sunday, nothing felt rushed and while there was plenty to do, there was no pressure to attend – well, anything.
The unofficial opening was partaking of a libation on the Friday night in the Craigdarroch Arms Hotel, where villagers, fans and creators happily intermingled and drank in the convivial atmosphere – as well as the rather nice draught beers!
The official start was at 10.30 am in the Memorial Institute and while you only had three permanent traders to choose from, there was no lack of choice in the goodies to purchase. In fact most of my festival budget was blown by 10.40 am after picking up two John Ridgway pages, three Commandos and a random assortment of British and US comics.
And you would think that after a steal like that, you would think that there was nowhere for the Festival to go but down? And how wrong could you be?
The first panel was kicked off at 11 am with Nigel Dobbyn running a Character Design workshop for a large group of young enthusiasts in the dining room of the Craigdarroch Arms. I was quietly listening in and would have joined them, but Nigel had run out of character sheets.
Other guests included Jim Stewart, Lyndsey Hutchison, Stref, John McShane, Mark Toner and Stephen Pickering. And even among those attending, you had the criminally under-rated Robert Thomson. Take a look at a perfect example of his work, below. Considering that we had so many 2000AD luminaries in attendance at Moniaive, it feels fitting to promote the art that they have inspired.
John McShane treated us all to a talk covering the highlights of his research into The Original Comic which is currently believed to be The Glasgow Looking Glass which was first published in 1825. And the festival segued into a rather mellow evening of eat, drink and be merry where the company was convivial and the discussion ranging over all things comic related.
Sunday began with locals and guest artists helping the younger attendees to get more involved in mask-making and creating their own heroes. Here we can see Jim Stewart deep in thought as his young protege prepares masks for all.
While the planned movie showings did not take place, we were treated to a bit of Manga Hair Madness, where some local models were kind enough to give up their time to be made up and to pose for three of our resident artists.
And our three artists certainly made the most of having live models as they sketched and scribbled like mad things.
The end of the festival was as chilled as the beginning and finished with one of John McShane’s fun quizzes and fellow comic fan Terry Brady being awarded the Moniaive 2016 No-Prize for absolutely demolishing the opposition.
In summary, this was one of the most relaxed, mellow and enjoyable festivals that I have been to in a very long time. I bought lots of goodies and completed a 27 year quest to get a sketch from Frank Quitely. I spent a little too much, but when the quality of the company was this good, money is the least of my worries.
Sue Grant asked me for my feedback before I left and I offered some gibberish. But now, I will say don’t change a thing because if Carlsberg organised Comic Festivals, they would be jealous of Moniaive.
Now to start saving for Moniaive 2017!
• For more information on this Family orientated comics event visit: www.moniaivefestivalvillage.org.uk