Hello again 🙂
This is a bumper post with some non-LDC comics/zine business attached, because for me, it was a great week for comics/zine talks, and I’d like to tell you about it (it’ll be at the end of this post if you’re interested exclusively in LDC content and want to skip that other stuff).
Manchester’s first ever LDC event took place snuggled in amongst a packed programme of comics talks, panels, workshops, launches, lunches, discussions, dinners, roundtables, keynote speeches, stalls, and probably some other things, as part of Joint International Conference of Graphic Novels, Comics and Bande Dessinées at Manchester Metropolitan University. Now, I wasn’t a delegate at this conference as I don’t have access to that kind of funding, nor was I presenting a paper as I’m not in academia. I booked the day off work, and made my way to Manchester on this sunny Wednesday to take part in the free events. I am so grateful that I could and glad that I did.
One interesting thing about this LDC meeting was its location. I have never been to a LDC meeting with no bar before. This meet took place in a university lecture/seminar room. I am interested in the places we meet – not just LDC, but any and all creative/lefty/feminist/grassroots organisers – and the levels of accessibility/inclusivity these spaces facilitate. Booze is often used as a shortcut to comfort (I say this as someone who is personally all too familiar with this, but also as someone who recognises its use in most social spaces I am drawn to), but this can alienate those people who don’t drink alcohol, as well as reinforcing our social dependence on the drink. As LDC grows, I think considering booze-free venues for some talks could be of value.
In addition to the no-bar scenario, I found the academic setting a little intimidating and frightening at first: it brought me back to the seminars and lectures at college which felt at times like my very life was in danger (I’ve had a lot of problems with anxiety in my life). In the end I didn’t experience much anxiety at all – as usual the talks were engaging and thought-provoking. I did exercise some coping strategies such as sitting near the door for a swift exit, but thankfully I didn’t feel the need to make use of that and therefore didn’t miss any of the talks. The high standard of facilities (computers, projectors, dimmable lights) was notable and a real illustration of the wealth and resources that universities hold. I have no conclusion or definitive statement to end on regarding the venue, just some reflections I thought may be of interest.
Some content / trigger warnings (which I’ve never done before so feel free to tell me if I’ve not done it quite right or have missed something), as this blog post includes references to death, and specifically death of a child; the Holocaust; rape; sexual assault.
It was cool to have two LDC founders (founding mothers?) talking at one event. Though it also feels funny to describe on here who these women are, what they do / have done, when I am actively using and contributing to this thing that they have created. If I were you, I’d just head straight to her website and read the ‘About’ page. She is great.
I was very glad to be able to buy a copy of Billy, Me & You from Nicola, “a comic based on the experience of bereavement following the death of my first child Billy who died in 1995 following surgery on a number of heart deformities.” It is hard to describe or review such a book: one which brings the reader into what is usually a very private space; shares painful, angry, and humorous truths; and expresses complex, raw emotions in a way that made me feel as though I had been trusted as a confidante by a very close friend. It is an impressive memoir that addresses and breaks through isolating taboos we have around death, particularly of children.
I have met so many brave, compassionate, intelligent, emotionally-engaged comic-makers through LDC, so I just want to thank Nicola and Sarah (below) for their work in founding LDC and making this possible, and for also being all the attributes I’ve just listed.
For me, there was so much to learn from Sarah’s talk. It was part art history lecture; part poetry on motherhood; part reflections on Judaism and Jewishness; part feminist reclamation of time and space stolen / never granted; and (of course) part biography, with images and stories of family, love, and the places that provided the setting for her life.
I was stunned to learn about Charlotte Salomon, who was a German-Jewish artist born in 1917. Her work, Sarah proposes, is possibly the first example of graphic memoir. While seeking refuge in France, Charlotte Salomon passed her body of work on to the millionaire whose villa she was hiding at, and said “Keep this safe, it is my whole life”. She was later captured and murdered at Auschwitz. Her work, her “whole life” was shown at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam in 2017 to mark 100 years since her birth.
Sarah mentioned a book she edited called “Graphic Details: Jewish Women’s Confessional Comics in Essays and Interviews” which is intelligently and glowingly reviewed by Rachel Gross here. I would love to get my hands on a copy some time as it looks to be an important collection!
Shromona Das / Bibi
Shromona’s talk was as unflinching as her Naming and Shaming graphic account posted on Facebook in October 2018, while the #MeToo movement was gaining strength on social media in India. The stories she saw being shared brought her own trauma to the surface. In this series of white-on-black illustrations, Shromona Das names the men that raped and abused her and describes how she “bears the scars which no medicine can heal”, yet they “sleep unperturbed”.
Her writing is powerful, angry, and deeply affecting. I am so glad to have met her and to have had the opportunity to listen to her discussing such trauma with striking honesty.
As well as leading a great character creation and drawing workshop earlier in the day, Rachael delivered a brilliant presentation about her work to us in the evening. I was pleased to be able to tell her that I had borrowed her book, Wolf, from Leeds central library earlier in the year and loved it. Her characters feel so familiar and true, and the pencil textures really do generate such atmosphere, that the more magical or fantastical elements of the story feel natural, feel real. Go read it! It is sad, funny, and beautiful.
I haven’t yet read all of her other graphic novel, The Inflatable Woman, as I was reading from the copy in the reading room at the House of Illustration during the Comix Creatrix: 100 Women Making Comics exhibition back in 2016 (which was amazing), but the small taste I got was wonderful, so I’ll have to look out for a copy to read properly.
These other two events link so strongly to many of the themes explored in the above, I feel it just makes sense to include them here.
There’s No Bus Map For Dementia
I arrived 15mins late for this panel, and didn’t stay for what would have surely been a fantastic workshop aiming “to find out more about the creation of the comic and to discuss ways it might be used when working with people with dementia and their families and carers”. If anyone knows of any write-ups or other outcomes from this workshop I’d love to know about it!
However, what I did see was a brilliant panel which included around 8 people living with dementia, project coordinators, and a live video link with the illustrator in the USA, who were all involved in the creation of the comic There’s No Bus Map For Dementia. They discussed the fact that every person’s experience of dementia is unique, and that we as a society need to understand and respect this in order to support people in living their best life.
The comic is one outcome of a larger project at Manchester Metropolitan University. This link takes you to a page which explains the project pretty well, so please do follow it for more information. It’s another excellent example of comics being used both as a tool to communicate complex subject matter, and an effective kind of therapy, where people can engage with difficult subject matter in a creative and practical way.
Bradford Zine Fair
I just want to give a massive shout out to Bradford Zine Fair for organising such a wonderful event & including seriously interesting talks as part of the day. I sadly didn’t catch the talk on Bradford Zines with Bradical Press, which would have been undoubtedly fascinating. The social media accounts for the zine fair are a SUPERB resource on the different people who had stalls on the day – go check it out.
The talk that I did manage to see was ‘All all zines mental health zines?’ with the radical af Hamja Ahsan (twitter instagram) writer of Shy Radicals (twitter instagram) who is just class. I’d encourage you to read all his stuff and follow his social media accounts! You will then notice that my sketch bears very little resemblance to Hamja himself.
AND Jen Fox (instagram) who is also radical af! She is a librarian with lots of good opinions on zines, on libraries and on the positive effect the combo of these two can have on people’s mental health!
Thanks so much to both Hamja and Jen for talking powerfully and eloquently about the power of zines.
That is it! What a long blog post. Hope you have read something that sparked some inspiration and that you’ll come away feeling like making stuff.