Maura McHugh had a wonderful time at 2D Northern Ireland Comic Book Festival in Derry last weekend. As usual there was fantastic hospitality by the gang from Derry’s Verbal Arts Centre who organised the festival. All of them, including the volunteers, and the admins who most of us never see, did a wonderful job….
I arrived in in the city on Friday afternoon, and while my drive up had been easy, the final navigation through the narrow, steep streets was a stressful ten minutes. After lunch, and time to rest, I headed out to dinner where I began meeting many of the other guests of the convention – some of whom I knew, but many were new to me. There was a big guest list this year, so I kept meeting people throughout the weekend.
Then we strolled along the River Foyle, and on to Sandinos where the first panel of the evening was starting. It was about the Irish comic book industry, and this year the festival staff were rigorous in ensuring that everyone kept the noise levels down so the panellists could be heard – which was very helpful.
Once the panels ended most of us stayed in Sandinos until the wee hours of the night, despite the loud music. I was a bit tired and bleary the next morning, but I pulled myself together and arrived in the Millennium Forum before 10am.
The new venue was great – with lots of light and space, and the dealers were spread over two floors. Last year we were stuffed to capacity in the Verbal Arts Centre, so the guests and dealers were pleased to have plenty of room this year. Everyone was busy setting up tables, and Rob Curley and I got a nice spot by the stairs, beside Tony Lee and Dan Berry.
My friend Malcolm Hutchinson brought along his copy of Twisted Fairy Tales for me to sign, which was a lovely treat.
The venue quickly got busy, with a large numbers of visitors: men, women, girls, and boys all swept past our tables. The fact that the festival is free to enter means it’s a very welcoming and encouraging environment for newcomers as well as firm fans of the medium. Lots of children wore costumes, and there was a variety of cosplayers, some of whom were very impressive.
When you’re behind a desk selling comics you don’t get a lot of opportunities to see other people or go to panels. Rob and I were able to give each other a few breaks from duty, but most of our day zipped by as we hawked the Atomic Diner titles.
After we closed shop for the day and refuelled, we trooped down to Sandinos again. That evening I took it a bit easier, and managed to escape at a somewhat reasonable hour after a long chat with Maeve Clancy (in my opinion the coolest woman in the Irish comic book scene). The evenings were just as important as the days’ events as that was when many guests did a lot of our socialising.
The following morning everyone was interested to see how the festival would continue since it was the first time we had a two-day Comics Fair. The Derry Marathon was going on the same day, so there were lots of extraordinarily fit people huffing up the steep Derry hills as we slooped down them to our venue.
While the day started off quiet, by the time noon rolled around a continuous crowd of people streamed through the doors so we were busy all the way up until the end of the day.
Although festival director, Dave Campbell, was accosted by a trio of fictional guards as the event wound down. “Great job!” they roared, “But get us the same venue and two days next year also!”
A lot of people had to leave at that point, so a smaller group of fans and guests wandered around Derry that evening trying to find a pub with enough room for all of us. We finally found a deserted pub, and the startled barman suddenly had to accommodate a large influx of thirsty people.
I kept meeting people for the first time that night. Even during breakfast the next day I was still introducing myself to people – and there were some I never met. I don’t want to list everyone I met as it often smacks of name-dropping, but thank you everyone who took the time to chat to me – I loved all the conversations.
I left Derry tired but happy, and already looking forward to next year. I consider 2D Comic Book Festival the ‘Thought Bubble of Ireland’, because it’s developed into a festival that showcases a wide spectrum of comic book work, and clearly supports and encourages the new talent that is bubbling up in the Irish comic book scene. Everyone who is working in comics in Ireland was at 2D this year – and if they didn’t attend they had a good reason that prevented them from going.
Roll on 2D 2014!
• There are some more photos of the event on Maura’s Flickr set
About Maura McHugh