Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Review of the year 2008

Review of the year 2008

It says a lot about the unpredictability of this year that I'm writing this from the dressing room I'm sharing with 4 drag queens, a juggler, a magician and two breakdancers, behind the Spiegeltent in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens where I've been performing with my Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppets almost every night since the end of November (we'll have played 30 shows by Jan 4th). I'm pretty sure I didn't predict that a year ago.

Indeed early in the year it looked like this would be the year The Sitcom Trials really took off. In February the Trials won a Fringe Report Award, as a result of the 2007 series produced by Declan (Hill) and Simon (Wright), and was picked up on my Martin Witts at the Arts Theatre who offered the Trials a regular slot. He was also keen to promote and nurture the show, using his showbiz contacts to maybe take it to the next stage, TV and greater success wise. So Dec & Si spent months reading and selecting scripts ready for an Autumn season, only to have their plans put on hold when the Arts Theatre got sold. The new venue is the Leicester Square Theatre, and all going well The Sitcom Trials' revival will resume in Feb 2009.

Another part of my plans for 2008 took a knock when The Beano, for whom I'd been writing and drawing an increasing amount since 2004 changed the look of the comic and abruptly stopped using my serialised Bash St Kids Adventures. A great disappointment, as I have produced some of my favourite work in the last few years, not the least being Spring 2008's Bash Street Zombies and Attack Of The Beano-Snatcher's, and the 2009 annual's Reservoir Dodge. But writers and artists have moved on from DC Thomson through no choice of their own after a much longer run than mine, and I am happy with the time I've had there. And it's an ill wind that blows no good. It's meant more work for Bob Nixon whose strips are appearing a lot more these days, he's in the current Christmas Beano for example, despite the fact he's been dead for five years.

The two strings to my bow that saw the greatest amount of plucking in 2008 were the Comic Art Masterclasses and the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre. The classes were, of necessity, promoted more heavily following the loss of the Beano work, though they had always paid about twice as much per day as writing and drawing for DC Thomson, still I'd have preferred to be doing both. It would be both indulgent and boring to list all the schools, libraries, colleges and art centres who've had me in to present my unique class (at the end of which the pupils have produced a comic that they take home, along with a caricature by me, and have learnt the comic strip artform inside out), but I can at least count them all. Excuse me one second... okay, so I have spent a total of 92 days teaching comics, from Inverness to Ilfracombe (both repeat visits, I've done 8 days in both I think), Leicester to Lincolnshire, Cheshire to Kent and most points inbetween. Ninety bloody two days. That's a quarter of the year teaching. Not bad going, though maybe in 2009 I really ought to think about moving it up a notch. Comic Art Masterclass on TV maybe?

Oh yeah, forgot. The Comic Art Masterclass featured on TV this year. Interviewed by Gyles Brandreth on the One Show in July. Yes, I think that counts as an achievement.

The other TV of note was, of course, with The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre. In January we were interviewed by Scott Mills on Unplugged on BBC 3, which was fun. Then we made an appearance on the Culture Show during our Edinburgh Fringe run, which was brilliant. The rest of our apperances, on Current TV and MTV, we didn't even see but they did exist, somewhere. And then there was YouTube, lots of YouTube. Some very big viewing figures, and increasing respect. Maybe we can turn that into money in 2009.

The Socks in fact made more money in 2008 than every before, with an Edinburgh run that earned twice what the previous year's had done, and which led to the 2009 tour which is already bigger than the 2008 tour which was 4 times bigger than any tour I've ever done before (with either The Sitcom Trials or solo, neither of which managed more than 8 dates at a time. Now we are doing nearly 30 dates). And it can't hurt to list the Socks 08 towns:
Tunbridge Wells, Milton Keynes, Halifax, Hull, Bury, Brighton, Redditch, Glasgow, The Hague, Oxford, Great Torrington, Bridgwater, Bordon, London, Cardiff, Guernsey, Darlington, Peebles, Manchester, Exeter, Swindon, and Beford.

The tour and the Fringe led to the current Edinburgh Winter Wonderland tour which is paying the equivalent of twice what we made from the Fringe, so hoorah us. We also acquired a BBC TV producer who is interested in seeing us on TV, as are we. So in 2009 he and we shall talk more. Meanwhile he has the script for the Socks sitcom on his desk, I wonder if he's read it.

Apart from the Socks success, the art classes, the last of the Beano, some caricaturing and a few rare stand up appearances, I also ventured into self publishing with The Socks comic selling well in the run up to Christmas, and Hot Rod Cow and Sinnerhound both ready to go to print in the new year, if I feel there'll be an audience for them.

My biggest crime of the year must be my carbon hoofprint. How many flights? You really want to know? Flitting variously between Edinburgh, Inverness, Guernsey, Holland and home, I have run up a collossal 26 flights (inc my return from Edinburgh next week). And those are mostly easyjet, so I must have spent nearly a hundred quid on them by now.

Have I missed anything? Still happily married to Heather, Captain the cat's still with us - okay, this has now turned into a round robin. Plans for 2009? Let me think....

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