The local branch of the arts group Metal invited me to give a talk to a group of comics creators at Chalkwell Hall on October 2nd as part of a five day, residential culture LAB called Inkhead, a week of study and creativity in the Essex seaside town of Southend.
Chalkwell Hall is a beautiful Grade II listed Georgian building, renovated by Metal, set in the picturesque Chalkwell Park, about twenty minutes walk from where I live. I could hardly turn down an offer to contribute to a comics event so close to home, only somewhat daunted by being asked by Metal to speak for two hours, “about [my] life in comics.”
This was my first attempt at throwing together a PowerPoint presentation, limited to the couple of days leading up to the talk, and ultimately it surprised me on how well it went. Speaking to the creators (plus a sizeable contingent of the Metal arts group) in what was essentially 120 minutes of almost unadulterated narcissism, I used a chronological history of my career as a springboard for my opinions and philosophies about comics, creativity, freelancing and self-publishing.
A plastic folder containing ten pages of notes I had prepared for myself didn’t get opened, as I managed to ramble on regardless, and somehow my unrehearsed presentation concluded with one minute to spare. I then spent some further time answering some astute questions from the well-mannered, warm and receptive audience.
I was invited to hang around for some pea and leek soup, eaten on the terrace overlooking the rose garden in warm autumn sunshine, which gave me the chance to mingle with the LAB’s hugely talented constituent parts; Alexandre Szolnoky (Buddha Boy), Amy Ison (stepping from fine art to comics), Clio Isadora Delcour-Min and her amazing-looking Risographed zines, Carl Doherty of the Shelf Abuse blog, Daniel Locke, (Out of Nothing), freelance illustrator Dominique Duong (The Black Cloud), Emma Burleigh (My Other Mother, My Other Self), Priya Kuriyan (Ebony & Ivory), Ros Asquith (Guardian cartoonist working on a spectacular new book), autobiographer and fellow comic festival veteran Sean Azzopardi (Voice of the Hall) and Wallis Eates (Fear of Mum…Death and the Shadow Men).
The day also gave me the opportunity to finally meet bestselling local horror author Syd Moore (The Drowning Pool), as well as catching up with the other marvellous Metalheads who made the whole thing happen; writer Colette Bailey, designer Camilla Fox and painter Simon Monk.
After lunch I stayed on to watch a question-and-answer session with local comics celeb Warren Ellis, and two brief but concise and fascinating presentations by Laydeez do Comics founder Nicola Streeten (Billy, Me & You) and Pratheek and Tina from Indian publisher Kokaachi, highlighting their fine body of work.
The five-day exploratory LAB concluded on the Friday evening with a Drink & Draw & More evening open to the public, which I also popped along to. Each of the creators involved gave a three-minute presentation of their own work, which was a real fun half hour. As you might imagine, there was drawing, drink, music and a better opportunity to converse with the Chalkwell Hall crew in some further depth.