The local ukulele club is not the first organisation that comes to mind when looking for pagan good times, but down my way they hold an annual May ball in celebration of Bealtaine. Interestingly, this is held in the local Catholic church hall and whilst I’m not sure what Pope Benedict would have to say about such things, I’d like to compliment him on the excellent bar with which this diocese is blessed.
The evening consisted of a number of sets from some brilliant local bands, including the aformentioned hosts of the event, interspersed by some slightly odd ‘alternative’ morris dancing and the traditional maypole dance. It all threatened to go a little bit ‘wicker man’ at one point but thankfully the glittery glamour of the Actionettes came to the rescue with their synchronised shimmying to 60s classics. They were fabulous in their vintage gear – though it was slightly disconcerting to have what looked like a small herd of Ellen Lindners on stage in front of you!
The impulse buy. It never fails: put me in a shop when I’m tipsy and a completely random purchase will result. As was the case on Saturday when I found myself leaving Smash Bang Wallop in Crystal Palace (after a few plastic cups of fizzy wine) with a clockwork tin robot. He is currently lord of all he surveys (the kitchen) until I find a more fitting home for him. Probably somewhere away from kitchen implements:
Whoa there, boy.
A short bus ride up the hill from my home in south London is Crystal Palace, once the site of the long-vanished Victorian exhibition hall but now the location of a new festival of children’s books and book art, organised by the brilliant Alex Milway, author of the Mousehunter series.
With the support of the local library, the excellent Bookseller Crow bookshop and trendy gallery/gift shop Smash Bang Wallop, Alex put together a series of workshops, readings and an exhibition to showcase what’s current in comics, book illustration and story-telling.
Sarah McIntyre and protégé outside the Bookseller Crow.
My bus arrived in time for me to catch the tail-end of picture book creator Viviane Schwarz‘s reading. I’d been to the launch of her most recent book There are Cats in this Book some months ago, and it already has a happy place on my bookshelf. Younger readers were obviously charmed by it as much as I am.
Viviane draws for a fan.
Next up was Guy Bass who gave a lively reading from his funny series about Dinkin Dings (see the author video for a taste of Guy’s entertaining style), the boy who is scared of everything.
Guy does an ‘afraid’ face.
Meanwhile at the library, the workshops were well underway: zombie and monster art, cat costume design, skyscaper creating and horror writing had already taken place by the time Emma Vieceli led a couple of comic book workshops focusing on character design followed by a giant comic jam. Sarah McIntyre, Kate Brown, Gary Northfield, Viviane (and me) took part whilst Garen Ewing documented proceedings for me with my camera. I think the participants enjoyed themselves – they were certainly very enthusiastic and had a real grasp of story-telling, particularly if the stories involved being killed by ninjas. Candy Gourlay has a write-up of the workshop and the rest of the festival here.
We learn how to draw.
Character designers at work. L-r: Gary, Kate, Emma, Viviane, me and Sarah.
Me trying to follow on from Gary in the demo comics jam.
The day finished with a visit to the exhibition at the gloriously named Smash Bang Wallop gallery and a little light refreshment. Some great art on display, with Garen‘s Rainbow Orchid prints looking fantastic (he has plans to sell some from his site) and always nice to see Tozo nestled amongst such good company.
Tozo at the exhibition.
L-r: Shocked Sarah, Viviane and Alexander Gordon Smith (writer of scary ‘Furnace’ books).
It was a great day out and Alex deserves so much credit for all the effort he put into organisation and publicity – it certainly went well enough for a second festival to be on the cards for next year and I can’t wait to see what Alex comes up with next!
And a bone for my friend…
This triple-headed comicbot (or possibly a design for a nerd version of the Charlie’s Angels logo) was inspired by a day spent selling comics at the Alternative Press Fair. Myself, Sarah McIntyre and Wes White shared a table and barely found ourselves with a few minutes of quiet all day thanks to a very busy event.
I knew organiser Jimi Gherkin and team had put a lot of effort in the publicity of the event and it certainly paid off as from the door opening until the end of the day the place was chock-a-block with punters. Everyone seemed to be selling, whatever their style or subject matter and there appeared to be many people new to the comic and creative arts scene.
Jimi’s always keen to have a mix of alternative and applied arts in with the comics at the few events in which he’s been involved. It’s an area I’ve personally found hugely interesting and there was plenty of inspiration for future projects on the handmade books and prints side of things, which I intend to pursue.
Couple of snaps:
I recently had my monthly shearing at the barber’s. My local barber is Turkish, and whilst he doesn’t run an official ‘Turkish barber shop’, he still does the little extras that you might expect, including the flaming taper in the ears for those hard-to-get follicles (although my barber uses his cigarette lighter in place of the taper – this is south London).
I find getting a haircut one of the most relaxing ways to spend a half hour and have been known to nod off whilst in the chair on occasion. Aside from the snip-snip of the scissors and the buzz of the clippers it’s usually very quiet: just old men with the afternoon newspapers and the occasional sulky kiddies bribed into compliance with the promise of a Chupa Chups lollipop.
So handy to have feet that can peel fruit. I’ve been working on a project that I really enjoy but the tight deadline has driven me slightly bananas (hence the above pic). I’m in the home straight now, better get back to it.
I (sadly only briefly) met up with Sarah McIntyre and husband Stuart, and Will Kirkby for a pint in a recommended pub in Borough on Friday night. An A-Z was required to navigate through the dark and meandering Victorian streets, but cozy beer treats awaited at the Lord Clyde.
According to the blurb, the pub is located near the site of the Tabard Inn (starting point for Chaucer’s Canterbury pilgrims) and Dickens lodged nearby whilst Dickens Snr. was locked up in the Marshalsea debtors prison on Borough High Street. We only talked about comics, of course.
One of the downsides of working at home in winter is the extra cost of having to heat your home during the day. Thankfully, southern England is some distance from the Arctic circle so hypothermia is unlikely if I leave the heating off. But a few extra layers are required – this is how I accessorize for my day at the coalface.
The throw goes over the knees in the style of a Victorian invalid. The long johns were bought for a skiing trip to Austria in 1988. I’m not sure if it’s right to be proud of having underwear that’s twenty years old.