18/10/2016 – Nottingham Writers Studio

The overarching theme for this, our third session, unexpectedly turned out to be DIY, and as such this was possibly our most grounded session to date, soliciting a torrent of questions from and discussion among our audience. The tone was nicely set by Kevin Brett, organiser of the Nottingham Comicon, the fourth edition of which will be staged at the end of the month, on Saturday 29th October at Nottingham Trent University’s Newton Building. Kev’s a comics creator, mainly of self-made publications for young readers. In 2013 he tried to book a table at the prestigious Thought Bubble comicon in Leeds but was knocked back. So our Kev and his wife thought ‘Bogger that…’ and went to work setting up their own convention. Fully exploiting the relationships Kev had built up through social media, they staged NerdFest at a local hotel and were surprised and delighted by its success. Since then the rebranded event has grown exponentially, as has the revenue they’ve generated for their chosen charities. And that’s what most impacted on our audience – not only Kev’s can-do attitude, but also the Brett’s total commitment to the fun of all that hard work and their desire that charities (mostly local) should benefit. What’s a comicon? Truck on down to Newton Building and find out!

The Boys in the DIY Band… Kev Brett, Steve Larder and the man under the hat, Adrian Reynolds.
            The Boys in the DIY Band…   Kev Brett, Steve Larder and the man under the hat, Adrian Reynolds.

Next up, the ever-so self-deprecating Steve Larder. Something of a living legend in the zine world, Steve is now in his tenth year of producing Rum Lad, a vehicle for his wonderfully skewed retelling of everyday stories of overheard snatches and snippets gleaned in pubs, record stores (and y’bet we’re talking vinyl), on the hoof, amongst friends, in his head, and at gigs (he’s in a punk band that’s not averse to jetting into America and touring sitting rooms). Steve opened our eyes to the underground network that exists and is growing around zines, which are the ultimate in DIY copy/print self-production and somewhere between a street mag and indie comic. His own are glorious smorgasbords of fabulous line illustrations, anarchic ‘toons and chunks of handwritten observations, and are much sought after by the international ‘swopsies’ brigade that make zines such a vital vehicle for ‘to-Hell-with-the-rules’ self expression.

The big man under the hat was wordsmith Adrian Reynolds. What he kept under there was a fascinating take on the people politics of trying to stay afloat as a writer, not only of comics (which he is relatively new to. Check out his Dadtown.), but also indie films, animation and plays, and mainstream work for Aunty Beeb. Bravely he made no bones about the latter having a catastrophic impact on his mental health (yup, Aunty can do that, no sweat!), but it was clear that his more recent excursions into on-line and indie comics writing better suited his relaxed approach to scripting-sans-bullshit. He went into detail, showing us email exchanges with his editor at DarbyPop (a blog definitely worth a read) regarding the appearance of a character for an LGBT story he had crafted. This raised some important questions from our audience about the value and role of editors, and it was here, in the Q&A and discussion, that our session really came alive.

More than a handful of people expressed how the evening had instilled confidence in them, in their own DIY work, in carrying on regardless and just keeping going, and if Nottingham Does Comics is about anything, it is precisely that – helping local comics creators and the city’s culture of comics to grow. So a big thanks goes to our contributors for the example they set, their inspiration and encouragement.