Sunday, 23 November 2014

Thought Bubbled 2014!

TB14 with the new TB TeePee!
And relax, or maybe I should say stop smiling as that's all I've been done since last week's wonderful Thought Bubble Comic Arts Festival in Leeds, or TB14, to give it its hip tag!

Accent UK have been lucky to attend and support each and every Thought Bubble since its modest 2007 start in Leeds Town Hall basement and while its had its up and downs, (which I commented on last year,) at TB14 everything really seemed to come together to finally deliver the potential the show has long promised.

Build it and they will come....TB's TeePee!

Now don't get me wrong, Thought Bubble has always been one of the most enjoyable and inclusive comic conventions/festivals in the UK but rather strangely, for us, has never produced the level of sales that other, less celebrated shows have. A lot of factors affect this and while Dave and I are experienced enough not to purely judge the success of a show on sales alone, it has been a puzzle and we've often deliberated whether its down to location, attendance, competition or maybe just fatigue, coming as it usually does, at the end of a long convention season.

Inside the TB TeePee - Travelling Man stall

Well whatever the reasons, TB14, blew all our doubts and expectations away, it may have been the innovative new layout - hello TB Teepee! - an increase in numbers or maybe, just finally our range of books 'clicked' with its audience but our sales started briskly with many return readers and steadily carried on the whole weekend. A quick tally at the end of Saturday surprisingly revealed that we'd comfortably thrashed the whole two days of TB13, and by the festival's close we'd more than doubled last year's numbers!

The Accent UK table stock at the start of TB14

Most 'long-time' exhibitors we spoke to were similarly happy but one or two and a few of the newer ones were more restrained in their praise with some table placements and guest queueing said to be problematic for some. I suppose the truth is that with an eye-watering 400+ exhibitors, most with new books, the TB14 competition was fierce and sadly punters have only limited funds so there will undoubtedly be a few casualties, which maybe applies to us too in our previous TB outings?

Certainly I know that despite having a few wanders around I missed seeing lots of people that I'd hoped to catch up with and again failed to see any panels or any of the guests - with a brief exception of White Death's Robbie Morrison and The Goon's creator Eric Powell - which perhaps indicates the scale to which TB has grown.

The new books on the table - note WesterNoir book 4 sold out!

New books always seem to go down well at TB, and this year Accent UK had two, Tales of WesterNoir and Stephenson's Robot, as well as the latest WesterNoir issues which had debuted earlier in the year. Dave and I were again joined by Scott and WesternNoir artist Gary Crutchley, who's enthusiasm is contagious and grin grew bigger and bigger as the WesterNoir sales continued, selling out of the latest, Book 4 on Sunday afternoon.

Andy, Dave and Scott raring to go!

Our table neighbours this year was none other than Andy Bloor, Wolfmen artist and Accent UK book designer, who with writer and fellow AUK contributor, Mo Ali were launching their debut book Midnight Man which seemed to sell very well at the show. On the other side was familiar convention face and another talented AUK contributor Richy Chandler who is really prolific at the moment and one of the UK's rising stars. Further down was another rising star, Sally Jane Thompson, but such was the busy nature of the show, other than a wave and smile I didn't get the chance to chat.

Ed Murphy and Jim Alexander share a moment
Letty Wilson and fellow Dundee Mlitt in Comic Studies graduate Nathan Langridge

I was though able to catch up with many familiar faces at the show and for once won't attempt to list them all but special mentions for recently 'discovered' creators Danny McLaughlin and the Irish Uproar  Comic Crew, Neil & Anna of the Scottish Treehouse Comics Crew, fellow Dundee graduate, Letty Wilson (who was selling the terrific 'Weird Moose' comic I saw her draw page by page at Glasgow Comic-Con in the summer!), Erin Keepers and the delightfully talented Sara Dunkerton (more of whom in a later post!) who were all enjoying making their Thought Bubble debuts. Also pleased to catch up with new comics dynamo Jessica Martin who launched her Vivacity book and the returning talented Portuguese trio, Andre Caetane, Ines Galo and Antonio Silva.
Portuguese artist trio of Andre, Ines and Antonio who we'd first met at TB13

Meanwhile here Gary Spencer Millidge & Col share a moment

Returning TB stalwarts included Sean Azzopardi, Matt Brooker (D'Israeli), Mark Buckingham, Gary Spencer Millidge celebrating Strangehaven's welcome return, Selina Locke & Jay Eales, Gary Northfield and the unexpected appearance of the awesomeness of Bridgeen Gillespie whom Dave and I had somehow missed last year and promptly fell out over her last Kate Bush pocket mirror - only joking Bridgeen, I think Dave's going to surprise me with it for Christmas!

Mark Buckingham & Gary Crutchley catch up!

I should look happier here - see the gaps of sold out books!

I could go on but for Dave and Gary's thoughts on the show go here and here and there will I'm sure be lots more reportage out there for those who want it. Needless to say, we had a great time and for us, TB14 has finally cemented its position as the UK's most important and fun pure comics show, well done all concerned, a perfect way for us to finish the 2014 convention season.

The obligatory TB14 haul photo!

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Tatton Park Moments of Reflection

Tatton Park's WW1 Commemorative Flame

The centenary of the outbreak of World War One has quite rightly been in the spotlight allowing everyone time for reflection either on their own or as part of an organised event.

For someone with a lifelong interest in history and military matters I too have spent much time reading and reflecting on the conflict and its legacy. This interest and my close connections with Tatton Park lead to me earlier this year joining a small research team and contributing to an exhibition held there to commemorate the war and its impact on the estate, its workers and of course the Egerton family.

The exhibition took its "We Will See it Through":Tatton Reflects 1914-1918 title from a rousing recruitment speech given by Alan De Tatton, at Knutsford town hall shortly after the wars outbreak - no mean feat given that at the wars declaration he was enjoying a spa break in Germany and initially held captive!

The preparation for the exhibition was both challenging and rewarding as we slowly uncovered many fascinating stories and from an original concern about whether we would have 'enough' material it soon became clear that the worry would be about what to leave out. Sadly, even in a sizable display room, there wasn't room to include everything but we included some fascinating exhibits both from Tatton's collection and through loans and donations from relatives of those connected with Tatton at the time.

Sadly I don't have any close-up pictures of the display items - sorry!

There weren't photos of some of the featured estate workers, so I provided these images

The children's colouring & reading table proved very popular!

The exhibition was appropriately opened on 4th August 2014, the centenary of course of Britain's declaration of war 100 years before. Coincidentally the date was also Maurice Egerton, Tatton's last Lord's, 40th birthday. Tatton had also been chosen as one of the focal points of the local council's WW1 commemorations, under its Cheshire East Reflects banner. This saw the installation of an eternal flame in its grounds which was lit by Tatton's MP, chancellor George Osborne in a special commemorative event on the 4th August which I attended.


As Tatton's 2014 season draws to a close, preparations for the forthcoming Christmas event are underway, meaning that our WW1 exhibition has now closed. Research though continues and it is planned that the exhibition will return, updated at a future date as commemorations reflect the wars duration.

Given the exhibition's closure and today's armistice date I thought it timely to show a few of the exhibition and the commemorative flame images here. Thanks again to everyone who contributed to the exhibition and for the many poignant visitor comments and memories received which gave a deeper meaning to this year's commemorations.  

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Coming soon.....

Well there's Thought Bubble just round the corner now to draw this year's successful comic convention season to a close. The plan is for Accent UK to have two new books launched there as befits the UK's most complete comic show in terms of just about everyone in the UK's independent comic community being there, so we'll see.

Just waiting for confirmation that they're good to go before all is fully announced although if you check out both Dave West and Gary Crutchley's blogs you'll find pretty of clues I'm sure!

But try these in the meantime;

In the meantime the word on Dave and Gary's WesterNoir series continues to spread with a new review of the first three issues by those fine folks at Travelling Man right here. What more excuse do you need to pick up the books yourself? Well if you buy these at Thought Bubble, not only will we also have issue 4 but Gary should have new exclusive and original sketches for those buying the first 4 issues!

Oh and I think that Accent UK's long time friend, artist and designer Mr Andy 'Wolfmen' Bloor will be our table neighbour as he launches his and Mo Ali's (another AUK contributor!) new book, Midnight Man!

Either way mossey on down to Leeds and table 46 in New Dock Hall on 15th and 16th November for a real good time, you hear!