The British Consortium of Comics Scholars (BCCS) ‘Comics Day and Tea Party’ took place yesterday, 30 May 2015, at the University of Sussex in Brighton (see here for more details). It was a rip-roaring day of academic and creative comics revelry!
The day began at a very civilised 11:30 am, with tea and coffee in the luxurious surroundings of a Moroccan Tent, perched on the campus lawn amidst trees and institutional concrete building. Nicola Streeten (@NicolaStreeten), co-founder of the glorious ‘Laydeez do Comics’ (@laydeezdocomics) opened proceedings with a very warm welcome, before we delved headlong into a critical report on this year’s Angoulême festival.
But this insight into one of the world’s largest comics gatherings was a mere precursor, an aperitif, for the rest of the day.
We had a lovely lunch (still in the Moroccan Tent), complete with mystery salad and pick-n-mix bread, before migrating across the lawn, amidst the trees and concrete, to a shiny lecture theatre. A very orthodox academic space, which we appropriated (and, at one stage, queered) for our nefarious comicsy ends. The afternoon began with a session on comics and academic research, with Will Brooker (@willbrooker) giving us a world premier of the kickstarter for My So Called Secret Identity vol 2, Matt Green leading us through his critical insights into the nature of academic research and the place of comics within it, Janette Paris displaying her development of Arch, and Ernesto Priego (@ernestopriego) expounding the intricacies of the open access academic publishing being promoted at The Comics Grid (@ComicsGrid).
After this tour de force, the main event took place: CAKE! And it was delicious. There was an apple one (that was the one I had), and there was a blueberry one (which I now regret not having). The cake was enjoyed with tea and coffee, and much conversation. We then returned to the shiny lecture theatre, to be confronted with the reality of what we had just ingested. This was no ordinary cake—but feminism cake! Famous feminist quotations had been cunningly baked into the cakes on sheets of icing paper, in an act of critical aesthetic genius. In retrospect, the cakes became slightly tastier…
We were then treated to another tour de force, this time from artists and creators talking about the role that comics-making has played in their lives and the relationships between living and comicsing. Annie Lawson talked about her early career at art school in the ’70s, and how her artistry had evolved across her life. Kate Evans (@cartoonkate) shared her politically fuelled early works, inspired by legislation, activism, amongst other things (worth checking out as quintessential examples of graphic justice, I would suggest!), and her later works inspired by childbirth and motherhood. Still on a graphic justice theme, Sofia Niazi outlined her work, highlighting the DIY Justice project that takes place at the Rich Mix, which uses arts and comics to tackle issues of social justice. Rachael House (@RachaelLHouse) then queered the space and shared her back catalogue of transgressive and norm defying zines, before Steven Appleby recounted a charming insight into his comics obsessions, from transvestitism, to science fiction, to death, to sex, to hidden fears.
The day closed with yet more cake, and also wine, and also conversation and a surging increase in the level of revelry. From Morrocan Tent to shiny lecture theatre, to the ‘cake space’ (later, ‘wine space’), the day was a wonderful trip through a cornucopia of comics madness, research, and insight, interspersed with human treats (not least of which was cake). Special thanks goes to the organisers, most notably Nicola Streeten, who helped make the day the warm, friendly and beautiful event that it was.