Sunday, 25 July 2021

20 Classes and a funeral. Travels with my art - and no air con

Lumiere projection on the church outside our hotel, Kings Lynn

In July 2021 I have more than made up for all the driving I didn’t do in 2020. Nostalgic for 2020, and all that blissful staying at home drawing graphic novels!

My travels in July have been too far and too detailed to bore you with. If you’ve read my comic class posts, the nice ones with photos of the kids work in, you’ll see I’ve been up to North Yorkshire twice. And that’s just for starters. Check out this timetable of travels:

June 27/8/9 - Drive up to Grassington Festival (in fact a hotel in Burnsall). Do a school on Monday morning, then The Socks do The Frog & Bucket in Manchester that night, and I stay over halfway at a Holiday Inn in Burnley, then do a day at school in Beamsley North Yorks Tuesday then drive home to Clevedon.

July 2 - Lichfield, The Socks play the Garrick Theatre

July 3 - The Socks play Clevedon, a blissfully short drive

July 5 - Ysgol Y Lawny in South Wales have their classes on Zoom. Luxury.

Jul 8 - Overstone Primary Northampton, and back.

July 11/12/13 - Bristol Comic Con for the day, then drive back up to Grassington Festival, staying in hotels in Burnsall and Kettlewell, doing classes in 4 schools (the last one on Zoom from the school down the road, because they had to self-isolate) then home to Clevedon.

July 14 - Blowers Green primary in Dudley, and home.

July 15/16 - To Somerville Primary in Birmingham, and home each night.

July 17 - To Baldock Arts Centre in Herts, and back. Return journeys on Friday and Saturday afternoons take at least an hour longer than normal, of course, it being the summer.

At this point the summer heatwave kicks in and, though I have mocked people for moaning about the heat online, it is worth noting that my air conditioning is broken in my car (it needs “re-gassing” apparently, which costs £250 and which I decided against when it was serviced back in the cold, wet, wastes of April or May) so I’ve been doing these very long journeys in a very hot car with the windows rolled down. I’m just saying (that I’m an idiot who should have got as air con fixed when he could, and not leave it till the week after next which will be, inevitably, way too late!)

July 18 - Hev & I travel up to Bodelwyddan to see Hev’s parents. Hev’s Auntie Kathie has just died, so the funeral is about to happen. So we go up for this first visit, and will be back again a few days later. Drive back July 19.

July 20 - I have to go up to Kings Lynn to do a school and I convince Hev to join me. Am glad I did as she has a great time, staying in her first hotel in over 18 months and having her first time alone in a strange town in all that time too. I think that’s good for her, though to be fair it is balanced up by her having to share the hell of my air-condition-free car on the hottest days of the year. (They are very hot, though I’m not ungrateful and will never complain about the few days of good weather this country sees in a year!)

July 21 - I do Howard Junior school in Kings Lynn, then Hev & I drive to Bodelwyddan. It is a very long and very hot drive indeed.

July 22 - Kathie’s funeral. We watch it from outside the chapel on Zoom, because of limited numbers inside, then take Audrey out for tea and cake, with Annette and John. It is Aud’s first time out of the house, virtually, in a year and a half, and is a good time, given the circumstances. Hev and I drive home that night.

July 23 - I have to drive up to Shrewsbury for the Comic Con and persuade Hev to come with me. Glad she did, as this is another very welcome break for her, plus we get a four poster bed which would have been wasted on me alone.

July 24 - I do a class in the morning in Shrewsbury, then Hev and I drive to Bedford where the Socks do a cracking show at 6 o’clock at night, then we drive all the way home to Clevedon.

I haven’t counted up to the miles yet. But July goes Clevedon - North Yorks - Manchester - North Yorks - Clevedon - Lichfield - Clevedon - Northants - Clevedon - Bristol - North Yorks - Clevedon - Dudley - Clevedon - Birmingham - Clevedon - Birmingham again - Clevedon - Baldock - Clevedon - Bodelwyddan - Clevedon - Kings Lynn - Bodelwyddan - Clevedon - Shrewsbury - Bedford - Clevedon.

Next week is a bit quieter. But you wait for August…

Friday evening meal at Shrewsbury Comic Con with Mike Perkins, Charlie Adlard + wife, Shane Chebsey, Sam Morgan, Sara Prince + partner Lee.

Friday, 23 July 2021

Peppa Pig Frenzy - comics by kids in Dudley, Birmingham, Baldock


The Peppa Pig pandemic reached critical status this week, as kids continued to come up with pig-related titles for their group comics, despite my best efforts. These were from Blowers Green Primary in Dudley.

Somerville Primary in Small Green, Birmingham, who were kind to have me in for a day in a half, managed to reach Peak Peppa by not only coming up with two Peppa title out of the three comics we produced, but by virtually naming two exactly the same! I show them the comics produced by previous groups and, even though I try not to draw attention to them, sometimes they are overwhelmingly influenced by ones they spot. 

So it was that we went from The Day Peppa Pig Ate Bacon to the following day's Peppa Pig Eats Bacon. Sigh. Lovely kids, great classes, all the same. And I'm rather pleased by the variety of not-bacon Bacons I found to put on the cover (for the record: two Francises and a Kevin).

My pre and post pandemic experience came full circle on Saturday with my return to Baldock Arts Centre in Herts. It was the very last place I did a Comic Art Masterclass, in March 2020, during the week before lockdown. Though the kids had to be socially distanced, and it's far from sure that things are over (Delta and Lambda variants abound at time of writing), it was good to feel back to normal, and for this class to symbolise some sort of partial closure on the past 18 month's novelty. 

The celebrities these seven groups chose to star in my demonstration strip were Michael Jackson, Billie Eilish, Tom Holland, Snoop Dogg, Stan Lee, Boris Johnson, and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and TwitterHe is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show

Monday, 19 July 2021

Fat Guy Steals Little Guy's Food - new comics by kids from Grassington to Northampton

A busy week and a bit of Comic Art Masterclasses began with Ysgol Y Lawnt who, despite being only an hour's drive from home, wanted the classes done on Zoom. I was, of course, more than happy to do this, secure in the knowledge that they'd be the last Zoom classes for a long time.

The first early start and long drive of this busy season saw me jetting to Overstone in Northamptonshire, to teach the Year 3 and 4s. Starting what was to become a bit of a trend, they saw the Peppa Pig comics that recent classes had come up with, and immediately could find nothing funnier. To be fair, theirs was probably the best of the Peppa Pig themed covers that was to come. (See the next blog for those examples).

Cracoe and Burnsall schools are both up in North Yorkshire, and were part of my second visit to the Grassington Festival, for which I remain excessively grateful. A four and a half hour drive each way notwithstanding, the festival pays for my hotels and have been brilliantly supportive throughout my two trips. Oh look, another Peppa Pig title, probably the most subtle of the bunch (the rest are still to look forward to).

Kettlewell and Grassington primaries, completing my four day/two part Grassington Festival visit, included the most ironic session of the month. Grassington, in the afternoon, had all had to go home because someone had tested positive for Covid. So I had to do the class by Zoom, from Kettlewell, just a few miles down the road. Very strange, but we did it with style.

The celebrities these 8 groups chose to appear in my demonstration strip were Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane (twice), Raheem Sterling (there may have been some football on this week), Simon Cowell, Boris Johnson, James Charles, and Ariana Grande.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and TwitterHe is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Minging Detectives & Eurovision for Edfringe

Announcing two Socks shows for Edinburgh Fringe 2021 - both on Zoom, and both on sale now!

August 6th - Minging Detectives. The Socks are reviving their 2015 crime show, with some new material and the usual aftershow party for anyone who can tolerate an hour of cops & robbers gags. From Scandi noir to Line Of Duty, nothing is Unforgotten. Get it?

August 20th - Eurovision Sock Contest. Their latest show, which debuted online in May, returns with some new songs and, of course, a new chance for the audience to choose a winner. Will it be the Eastern Bloc's Azherbi-Curious or France's Jonni Forrina who wins? Only you can decide. Followed by a night in the Loft Bar.

Book now and spread the word, we'll see you there!

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Covid rules relaxed, some predictions

My Facebook is a right proper mish mash of Cassandras, Polyannas, and the odd Right Said Fred. (That is predictors of doom, over-optimists, and the bloody-minded ranging from mask-
haters to stuff-and-nonsense get-on-with-itters). All following the announcement of relaxation of rules from July 19th.

I would suggest that, like most things in this country, we're divided 50/50. 50% are going to continue wearing masks and being cautious of spreading infection, whether out of fear or consideration for others. And 50% are delighting in the apparent freedom of being able to do what they like (these include many people who aren't bothered about the restrictions that were just placed on the right to protest, of course, and also include many people who have never washed their hands when leaving a toilet cubicle and resented ever being told to.)

My prediction is also split. The Polyanna in me says that the stats show that the recent wave of infections have led to hardly any hospitalisations or deaths (compared to previous waves) so vaccination is working and soon Covid will be taken as seriously as the annual rounds of flu, no more or less so. So my inner Polyanna says the war will be over by Christmas.

My inner Cassandra is, of course, a believer in Sod's Law, and knows that anything that can go wrong - especially if affects me earning money - will go wrong. So I predict I'll get a positive Covid test, if not next week then sometime soon, and I'll lose a fortnight's lucrative work. And I know that someone else's test could still wipe out school visits and events I'm expecting to go to.

So that means August, when I have lots of school visits, including my first flight for 18 months (to Northern Ireland), will be scuppered; October's full week of schools leading up to the Lakes Festival will go to pot; as will November's week of school leading up to Thought Bubble. These are worst case scenarios, but if there was some way I could put money on them (to cover the loss I'll make if they don't happen) I would.

What will happen? Who knows? But I thought I'd get my predictions carved in stone, so I can point back at them and be happy I was wrong, or take small consolation in being right.

Yesterday was a day of Zoom classes, which now feel extra weird having been in actual classrooms for a couple of weeks now. Not being able to hear kids laugh (sound was particularly bad as this was a "big screen" class, rather than on individual devices) is all the more jarring when you've been starting to get used to it again.
I have more Zoom classes still to come (you can join the July 29th one here: ), and they're still as much fun for the kids as ever. But I look forward to them remaining the exception.
Next week I have 6 days in a row of actual school/art centre visits. (Or, given that Wednesday's school are asking me to do a Lateral Flow test, I might have 2 days of classes followed by 10 days of cancelled work, which would lose me more money than I earned in all of March. Fingers crossed.)

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and TwitterHe is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Bart's Bottom - new comics by kids from Yorkshire to Windermere

This must be the furthest travelled between classes in one day: the morning session was in Windermere in the Lake District, and the afternoon session in South Bristol. The morning was, of course, virtual, and the afternoon session was in real life.

Threshfield in North Yorkshire was, however, a real life in-person visit, and the furthest I've driven for 18 months. A four and a half hour drive and an overnight stay, all paid for courtesy of the wonderful Grassington Festival, who'll be having me back again in a fortnight.

Boyle & Petyt Primary in Beamsley had the same number of pupils as yesterday's Threshfield, but instead of squeezing them into one class of 34, divided them up into two groups. Twice the comics, that's all good by me. The comics on this visit have been my favourites for ages. I find it much more stimulating to be creating the covers in the classroom. Somehow Zoom or virtual classes lass a little stimulus in that way, I guess cos the kids can't really see what I'm drawing as I draw it.

The celebrities these 6 groups (Thunder Chicken is from the class I did at Clevedon Literary Festival two weekends ago) chose to appear in my demonstration strip were George Washington, Thomas Brodie Sangster, Taylor Swift, Dwayne The Rock Johnson, Donald Trump, and Marshmello (a Youtuber, I'm told).

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and TwitterHe is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show

Tuesday, 29 June 2021

Socks do Beat The Frog & a garden party

Well, last night's journey to the Frog & Bucket was worth doing, just to get out there and experience doing gigs, but sadly The Socks couldn't grab the audience's attention.

We were 6th on the bill of competing new acts, each trying to last 5 minutes before being gonged off (by three audience members who got to hold up cards if they didn't like the act). Three acts before us had been gonged off, and two had lasted the whole 5 mins, none had been that bad or that great.

We came on after an interval, so I'd had time to erect the set and be ready sat on stage for the start of the set. Then, when he introduced us, I was doing the set without music (which would have been too complicated) so I go on cold, with my "20th Century Fox" sign and me just singing the music. Then when the first Sock says "hello" we get no reaction at all. That's never a good sign. We get nothing for "shit he's got a guitar", nothing for the quick costume change. We really were not grabbing their interest, and when that happens I'm really not sure what to do. I ploughed on with our best opening material, but when a room is thinking "what's this nonsense?" rather than "ha ha what's this nonsense?" you can really feel it's going nowhere.

Although we got good laughs from parts of the room for some funny lines, all in all they just weren't a Socks crowd, and after about 2 minutes the three cards had gone up and we were off. We got probably our biggest laughs from me then having to sidle off stage with the set, remaining unseen.

As I was packing up backstage I heard all 4 acts after me getting gonged off too, so the audience were just in that kind of mood. The plus side was I didn't have to stay to the end of the show and got back to my hotel by about 11.30.

As I type this it's Tuesday morning, and I'm looking forward to a 50 minute drive to my school near Grassington, a day of classes, and a four and a half hour drive home. It's good to be back on the road again.

In contrast, just two nights earlier on Saturday the Socks played Zion Arts in Bristol for their 10th birthday party. It was a garden party, we were on at 7pm, we were following an avant garde pop act who sang in Japanese, and we absolutely stormed it. We did half an hour, opening (with proper music cues) pretty much exactly to how we opened the Frog & Bucket. Only at Zion they were amused from the start, thought we looked and sounded funny, then found everything we said funny. We interacted, we got bigger and bigger laughs as the time rolled on, and before you could believe half an hour had passed, they'd had the "TV Ariel" routine, the I'm A Sock song, Ship In A Bottle, Earth Song, The Magic Routine, and for the first time in ages Star Wars, which went so well I shall be resurrecting it for future shows (I'd done it for the previous night's 20 minute set for Wollaton Arts Festival, which also was a stormer, and which turned out to be on Zoom, I discovered the day before, having been all set to drive to Nottingham for it!).

So, for the record, the last three Socks gigs of June were a storming 20 minutes online (a paid gig by the way), a storming 30 minutes out doors (an even bigger paid gig), and a poorly received 2 minutes in a comedy club (unpaid). On balance we're actually doing rather well.

July 2 - Lichfield Garrick
Jul 3 - Theatre Shop Clevedon 

July 24 - Bedfringe 

Aug 1 - Jul 4 - Derby Bar One 
Sept 3 - Whitchurch Comedy Fest
Sept 4 - Stourbridge Comedy Fest

Sept 17 - Bridport Arts (Shakespeare)

Oct 5 - Old Joint Stock

Oct 8 - Ropery Hall Barton

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Comic Cuts episodes 13 to 16 + a trailer

Easily the most laugh-filled Comic Cuts recording came this week with the recording of episode 13 which, spookily, goes out on Friday 13th of August. It was Adam Roche of The Secret History Of Hollywood's contribution that did it. I recorded four shows in a day (Tues Jun22nd) then took the next two days to edit them.  

Aug 13 - Adam Roche & Hannah Berry 


Aug 20 - Rachael Smith & Paul Kerensa 

Aug 27 - Nerine Skinner & Steve Noble 

Sept 3 - Bennett Arron & Susan Murray 

Comic Cuts on Buzzsprout

Comic Cuts on Apple Podcasts

Comic Cuts on Spotify

Comic Cuts on Amazon Music

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here 

Thursday, 17 June 2021

Piggy The Biggy - comics by kids, online and for real


After a bit of a break from schools, during which I've gone a bit bonkers in the production of my new podcast, thanks to my inability to stand idle for five minutes, in the past week I've returned to Comic Art Masterclasses with a vengeance. This one, with Stockton libraries, was the only one squeezed into the latest half term (in contrast to February's half term, when there was one every day. This time, with schools back, the online classes aren't so vital to everyone. This, however, was one such).

It was the greatest delight to be doing classes with the International School in Hannover again. I was scheduled to fly there in April 2020, which obviously didn't happen, and I recently learned that the teacher who'd had me in, Kathryn Eagle, is moving on, so these really didn't look like happening. But lo, she appeared with the good news that they'd found the money and the time, and two days of Zoom classes went ahead, with years 6 and 7.

A novel feature of these days meant that, with a combination of their German time table, and the time zone difference, I started the classes at 7.30am and was finished by midday. A whole day's classes in what feels like half a day. 

Don't tell everybody, but these two days of Zoom classes also worked out way more profitable than travelling in person. Because my day rate has gone up since my last visit in 2019, the total on my invoice for these two days was just £90 less than a two day visit back then. Despite the 2019 visit including flights, airport parking, train into town, and a hotel! And, of course, involving an extra day's travelling. I could do more of these Zoom gigs to international schools, I do hope they'll continue.

That said, I love travelling to these schools in far flung locations, especially Hannover which has one of the best art galleries I've ever visited. I like having an excuse to go to these places, however not-quite cost-effective it might make things.

A bit of travelling that I certainly didn't mind was making my first return visit to Ruskin Juniors in Swindon since 2019. I've been going there every year since at least 2011, possibly longer, teaching the Year 6s. And, stop press, they've already booked me for 2022!

I'm still not taking these real life school visits for granted, as everything's still not quite back to normal. Just this week the relaxation of rules got set back a month, so my scheduled visit to the London Film & Comic Con in July has been cancelled (or rather the whole event has, I'm not really the headline in the story). But it's starting to feel normal, and I'm happy to say I'm loving it. Real laughter, photocopied comics for the kids, listening to podcasts on the journey. This is what we want.

The celebrities these eight groups chose to star in my demonstration strip were Ariana Grande (twice), Bill Gates, Lionel Messi, Albert Einstein, Elvis Presley, Kim Kardashian, and Michael Jackson.

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. He is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show

Sunday, 13 June 2021

Back on stage, and back on the flipchart

The Socks made their return to the live stage this week! Their first stage gig since they played a birthday party in Margate in February 2020, the Socks headlined Widcombe Social Club in Bath, on a bill with Danny Buckler and Mandy Muden, and Chelsea Birkby. Haven't seen Danny and Mandy since they were in the 2002 Edinburgh Sitcom Trials performing, as Danny remembered and I'd long forgotten, I See Dead People, written by Jovanka Steele. But I digress. Mandy was en route to another gig that Danny was driving her to, so she grabbed 5 minutes extra stage time by warming up the show and introducing him.

The Socks did a 25 minute headline set and it went brilliantly. Getting good laughs from crowd work to begin with, then giving them I'm A Sock, An Actor Prepare, Earth Song, Magic, and ending with Walk On The Wild Side. A joy to do. Biggest thanks to Nick Steel for giving us the perfect comeback gig after a year on Zoom.

To be strictly accurate, Friday in Bath wasn't the Socks very first live gig. By way of a warm up, we played a 10 minute sat an an open mic night at Cloak & Dagger in Bristol on Wednesday. A very different environment from Widcombe Social Club, this was a mixed night including music and poetry, without an MC, and we opened the night cold, in broad daylight, at 8pm, to a room of about fifteen people. But we got away with it, getting great laughs from the Magic routine, and passable response to the rest of what we did. 

I didn't bring any music with me, just stand-up material, so it was flatter with less impact than we usually have. I think I was echoing the simplicity of the many Zoom open mics we've done this year, where our pure talking heads made all the impression that was needed. I realise that, live, so many of our routines benefit from the musical punchline, so I won't be doing 'musicless' Socks appearances again in a hurry. Also 5 minutes on Zoom is a lot shorter than 5 minutes in real life where you become very aware if you've not heard a laugh for ten seconds. Which is what it's all about, and why I needed to break myself in with a warm up gig like this. It really helped prepare for Friday's headline slot in Bath.

In the same weekend that the Socks returned to the stage, I returned to the flipchart, giving my first public Comic Art Masterclass (outside of a school) since March 2020 (that was at Baldock Arts Centre, now you're asking). And it was easy to get to, being in Clevedon.

As part of Clevedon Literary Festival, I did a sold out masterclass to 30 kids, in the Princes Hall bar, after which I unfurled my new pop-up banner for the first time and sat behind a table with my books and comics. I sold out of Captain Clevedons, and came within one copy of running out of the Prince Of Denmark Streets I'd brought with me, ending up selling a satisfying £130 worth of my work. My iZettle card reader got its first use in two years, proving dizzyingly simple to use. Bring on those comic conventions, I'm ready for you all!

On the flipchart I wheeled out a new version of Captain Clevedon, which is how I envisage her looking if I ever get round to producing a second issue. I'm not sure the "mankini" costume, that I originally designed way back in 1994,  looks any less dodgy on a female figure than a male. Also, though CC did a roaring trade and sold out in Clevedon, I doubt it'll do similar business anywhere else on the planet!

Kev F Sutherland, as well as writing and drawing for The Beano, Marvel, Doctor Who, and graphic novels adapted from Shakespeare, runs Comic Art Masterclasses in schools, libraries and art centres - email for details, and follow him on Facebook and Twitter. View the promo video here He is the host of the podcast Comic Cuts The Panel Show

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