Monday 20 September 2021

Meanwhile in Coventry - a splendid show

 Here's me and my table at this weekend's Meanwhile comic festival in Coventry, and an absolute treat it was. I did no classes, no talks, just stood behind my table and sold comics all day, then went out and talked nonsense with smashing people all night. 

Friday night was drinks at a place called Commonground, an artists studio in a creative quarter called Fargo Village. You'll see me there next to Alan Holloway, whose table I adjoined all weekend, and Tony Lee, with whom I spent the most time. Tony has the most life-changing advice for all writers, and that is to write procedural crime novels. He seem to suggests they don't need to be very good and you'll make a fortune. Well, I'm inspired enough to give it a go.

Hev and I were staying in a lovely serviced apartment (aka Hire-It House, that term is copyright Hev) which was perfect for our stay, and a convenient distance from the venue, though I must say carrying boxfulls of comics from there for just 10 minutes can still take its toll on my weedy arms.

The venue was a novelty in itself, a marque in the grounds of the ruins of Coventry Cathedral for which, I guess, we should thank the Luftwaffe. Of course the marquee got hot in the sunlight and noisy in the rain, but it was a good and light place to be, and a good few people breezed through, slightly more on Sunday than on Saturday. 

Most importantly, thanks I'm sure to my newly made point of sale displays, combined with my showman-like salesmanship I sold comics. I fear I didn't keep a good record of the cash sales, or books that I gave away or swapped, but I can tell you that my Zettle sales were £98.99 Saturday and £128.98 Sunday, the most popular book being Midsummer Nights Dream Team (12), Prince Of Denmark Street (9), and Findlay Macbeth (6), plus a couple of Socks Superheroes and Hot Rod Cows. I sold more of all of these with cash. Sadly I only took a full stock check on Sunday, but I can say I brought two boxes full and went away with only one box. So, that many. Plus three pages of original art, at £25 each. These totals weren't enough to cover the cost of the hire-it house, but I truly felt it was worth it. I made a few contacts who seem interested in classes, I got my books into the hands of a wider public, and I had a great time. The best of which was feeling accepted by the comics community again.

Here are four of the superstars of the comics world, into whose company I was delighted to be welcomed, and all of whom have done my Comic Cuts podcast and with whom I joined in the Drink & Draw at Coventry Cathedral on Saturday night. They are Sonia Leong, Rachael Smith, Laura Howell and Hannah Berry, and I wish I could be as good as any one of them. Photo by Tony Lee.

Coventry has proven itself for the second time in a month, to be a city full of treats and surprises (only a few weeks ago we enjoyed the Two Tone exhibition and the Coventry Music Museum, which I realise I haven't even mentioned in my blog), and the Meanwhile festival has been a delight. It's much smaller than, say, the Bristol cons of old, but is all the better for that, because a small group of us gets to mingle and socialise. I look forward to seeing how the Lakes in October and Thought Bubble in November compare.

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 14 September 2021

Kirknewton comic


My five days of online classes with the pupils of Kirknewton Primary School near Edinburgh have now been processed, edited, rewritten, and coloured by my fair hands and turned into an 8 page full colour comic which is about to be printed and published as part of a larger local history project. My thanks to Tony Foster for involving me in this, and giving me the chance to squeeze such great work out of the kids. Here it all is...

Shuggy Barr

Very sad news, which will mean something to anyone who's come to the Scottish Falsetto Socks' Zoom shows over the last year: I'm afraid Shuggy, aka Scott Barr, died a few weeks ago.

This photo is the way most zoom show guests will recognise Shuggy, as he watched the show on his Kindle. He was the star of the after-show chats, with his anecdotes about Larp-ing, getting lost on the way to football matches, and all the gigs he was looking forward to going to in the coming year. Our loss is, it turns out, also Guns & Roses' loss.
I first met Shug when he came to a Socks gig at the Dram in Glasgow a couple of years ago, and he was a regular fixture at our annual visits before joining us at the zoom gigs last year. Every show we would talk about meeting up when the Socks return to Glasgow, Sadly that's not happening till next year, which turns out to be too late.
We (Hev & I) are very sad about the loss of Shuggy, and feeling guilty about the number of times we muted him and told him to shut up throughout the show - the shows would have been rubbish without Shuggy. You can hear him in most of the Youtube clips we've made in the last year, especially the improv bits.
The Funeral is at the South Lanarkshire Crematorium on Thursday 23rd September 2021 at 3PM. The Family have said if you want to wear kilts/bright colours, etc feel free as Scott Barr was a proud member of the Tartan Army.

Sunday 5 September 2021

Gig reports - Supporting Paul Sinha + Minging Detectives & Eurovision

Three gigs in two nights, in Whitchurch and Stourbridge, sharing the bill with Stephen Bailey and Paul Sinha, and the Socks rocked every one. How's that for a weekend? Congratulations to Wayne Beese of Beeneese for orgnising three sellout gigs at two great venues. Whitchurch on Friday was at a hotel, in a marquee in the garden, then Stourbridge was at a pub called Katie Fitzgeralds which has a newly-built theatre stuck out the back. This was meant to be just an 8.30 show, but sold so well that he was able to add a 5.30 show, which also sold out. Excellent.

The double bill gave us hours to chat, so I came away with new bezzie mates in Paul Sinha, his husband Olly, and Stephen Bailey. Much time was spent putting the world to rights in all subjects from homophobia, to racism, to how well Olly & Paul had done in the UK Quiz Championships, which they squeezed in before Saturday's gigs. A high point of the first night was Paul fact-checking the Socks Michael Jackson routine during his own set. Thriller, he googled and told the crowd, actually got to number 10 in the charts. So that bit of material is duly amended, thanks Paul.

But look at me spending so much time talking about a few wee gigs, where the Socks only played 15 and 20 minutes per show (we gave them Star Wars in two sets, The Western in one, Sweary Poppins in one, Magic Routine in two, Earth Song in all three, Ship In A Bottle in all three, and various ad libs and other material scattered between), but I've not reported on our two Edinburgh Fringe solo shows. So, belatedly, here goes.

Minging Detectives on August 6th sold 31 tickets through Edfringe and 10 through WeGotTickets, a total of 42. I enjoyed digging out the old 2015 show, but it was a reminder of how variable a script it's always been.

Songs like Old Oak Tree (above) and others were fun, but the two divisive numbers, which I played in on video rather than re-perform (Black & White Minstrels Old Man River Police, and Hello Muddah Intifada) remain problematic and not to everyone's taste. I still think they're good satire, but I've been wrong before.

A fun show, with a good after show drinkies, but it paled in comparison to our next show two weeks later.

Eurovision Sock Contest on August 20th sold 59 through Edfringe and 12 through WGT, a total of 71. Though 71 people didn't turn up, or rather 71 screens didn't. So I'm wondering how many people bought one ticket per head instead of one per screen? Hope they felt they got value for money, it was certainly a great show. 

I promised I'd send them the video link for the show, and asked the Edfringe buyers to send me their emails in Chat. Unfortunately I realised afterward that Private/Direct Chat doesn't get saved, so I lost them all! I've put the show on Youtube for everyone to see, and hopefully they'll find it and won't mind. Being there to vote was the biggest buzz, and of course they were able to join us in the virtual bar after, which was a good one.

I changed the running order from May, making a much more satisfying show, and giving us a more balanced result. In May it was a 50% landslide for the UK entry. This time we had a tie...

1 - Nous Sommes Francais by Jonni Forinna  = 19% (9 votes)

2 - Scandi Noir by Sexiblond = 13% (6 votes)

3 - Thumping by Deconstructivist Kollectiv = 17% (8 votes)

4 - In A Bin by Graham Norton = 4% (2 votes)

5 - Stuck Ur Brexit Up Ur Arse by Fine Fare = 23% (11 votes)

6 - East Bloc People by Azherbi-Curious = 23% (11 votes)

7 - Ignore The Song by Deep C Diva = 2% (1 vote)

We had a decider conversation, allowing our overseas voters to have a casting choice, and the UK was declared winner. Most satisfying to have had so many votes spread around, a validation of my effort after all.

See the Eurovision Sock Contest full show here

4 star review from Sinners Review

Douze points review from Lothian Life

I've not decided when the Socks will do their next online show, most likely for Halloween, which could become a bit of a tradition. But, as you can see, live gigs are coming back in a big way, so maybe we'll be concentrating on those for a while.

Socks Live Gigs Autumn 2021

The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre will be touring near you sometime. Catch up with them on Facebook for the latest. 

Puppies Of War - Comics by Kirknewton kids

This week, for all five days, I did classes with Kirknewton Primary School near Edinburgh, just in the morning, and all from the back room. It's part of a project whereby I'll be taking the strips they've drawn and assembling them into an 8 page printed comic. And it's all on a theme of local history which, beautifully, they've already swotted up on in advance which meant they knew what they wanted to do before we started. As a result I abandoned some usual features of my class, in particular the "Celebrity Treads On A Worm" demonstration strip, in favour of looking at particular things they needed to draw for their strips. I may do more of this as it's actually very constructive and productive, if slightly less of a comedy show. To begin with, Primary 7 did the story of an alien abduction, which is genuinely part of local history and, obviously, a joy for them to get creative with.

On day two, Primary 6 did the Iron Age, which you'd have thought was a much drier subject than yesterday's alien abduction, but they got well into it. Especially because so many of them wanted to draw a war between the locals and a rival tribe. 

Day three was described to me as Games Day, which I thought meant Primary 5 had being doing games when they should have been thinking up a history topic. But no, there was a local games event in Kirknewton, started in the 19th century, which included pig racing and other novelties. It's a shame that I only have 8 pages to squeeze all their stuff into, because I've been sent their original art to scan and pick from, and there's nearly 30 pages from every class. That's nearly 150 pages I have to reduce to just 8! That's next week's job.

Day 4 was Primary 3. That is, in England terms, Year 2. The infants. Kids too young to do my class usually, but I was happy to include them in this project. So it was a surprise that the topic they'd chosen was World War 2. Quite how you broach the subject of war, and the RAF (who had a base at Kirknewton, whose story includes bombings and plane crashes) with 6 year olds I don't know. Well, I do know, cos the teacher decided they should actually just do animals and how they'd deal with the war. So puppy dogs it was. This comic title is actually a bit of a cheat, cos I came up with the title - something I never do. There just wasn't the time or the realistic possibility of them doing it (we were having the worst technical issues with this unfortunate class.) 

Did I mention this week was all being done on Skype For Business, rather than Zoom? So, as well as having no ability to "pin" or "spotlight" peoples pictures, they couldn't even see a full screen image of me. For reason we could never fathom, every class was just seeing a square picture of me, so a quarter of my screen was missing on either side. Why is every online technology worse than Zoom? And why has someone forced schools to use the naff substandard bad tech?

Day 5 was Primary 4 doing World War 2 again, this time with an emphasis on the local RAF base. So lots of planes and uniforms. In all these classes I was doing special drawing for the kids, for use as reference, before the 10.30 break, and emailing it to the teacher to print out, so the kids had it to use from 11 am. This worked beautifully except for Thursday's P3 where it wasn't until the class was over that I discovered the images hadn't sent so they'd been working blind. That really was an unfortunate group.

The sixth comic cover you see here was the product of a Saturday morning online birthday party class, the second in a week, booked by the folks who run Class Bento. As with the previous week's class for them, some guests were in the UK and some were in Australia, so this took place at 11 in the morning. The celebrity they chose for my demonstration strip was Borat.

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

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