Thursday, April 01, 2010

UK Thing Review

First of all I would like to thank everyone who came to see me at the UK Webcomix Thing. It is always a pleasure to meet my readers and this year some people had come a huge distance, which was hugely flattering (I assume I wasn't just a diversion on the their way to get a "pickup only" armoire they had purchased on eBay).

Stuck as I was behind the table all day, I wasn't able to get around as many exhibitors as I would have liked. But I saw some great work by the likes of Warwick Johnson Cadwell, Dan Berry and Rob Jackson. I wish I had been able to see more. And I was sitting between Naniiebim and Philippa Rice, both of whose stylings rather showed up my own work.

But it was clear that the breadth of work coming out of the UK continues to grow and I am thrilled to see it.

The show was a little less busy than it has been in previous years. I think that, despite the eccentric manner in which it is run, the "UK Web And Minicomix Thing" has been the closest the nascent UK scene has to an SPX or MoCCA. The MCM Expo and Thought Bubble, while excellently run, are hybrid events which put off some indie comics readers. That said, I think they are improving year-on-year. (Conventions like BICS are inevitably horror shows for indie artists.)

The church fete atmosphere, central London position and tiny admission fee of the Thing offer few barriers to entry, and that usually makes it one of the year's most successful shows for me.

I do wonder though if some of the organisation's eccentricities are beginning to harm it. Regular exhibitors will be well familiar with the stream of passive-aggressive emails that accompany your attendance at the show. And I've seen foreign exhibitors bemused at being asked to man the ticket booth and "tuck shop" for an hour. There were no major foreign exhibitors this year and one has to ask if this isn't part of the reason that attendance seemed a little flat.

Since the event is not publicised in any fashion other than by the exhibitors, a few more big names would benefit everybody exhibiting. It may be that a little organisational flair is required in the next few years to return what is, astonishingly, a blue chip UK comics event, to its prior rude health. With similar London events beginning to appear in the calendar, it may have begun to fade naturally.

But given that it is largely down to the Herculean efforts of one man, I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to have this day out with you all for the last six years. Hopefully I will be back next year.


Fddd said...

I wasn't aware of the internal "politics" you mentioned there but otherwise you hit the nail on the head there.

I had attended for the last 4 years but I didn't come this year for the reasons you mentioned - as other than yourself (our original reason for attending), there weren't any other names I knew. Especially missing were R. Stevens, Pontus Madsen, Dr McNinja, Weebl and the constantly noticable absence of Jeff R ;)

Sounds like it's a case of someone needing to shout "Dumbrella, ASSEMBLE!" but at the same time it sounds like the passive aggressive ego of the organiser might want to let go of a little pride to make the event a little more accessable to generic public, and those who don't want to think of themselves of uber geeks (or students).

To use a term I used with you last year in emails - they need more big names and less students sitting around eating crisps. Bring the names and I'll be back next year, even if I am too old now ;)

Keep it up though! It easily is the best placed event in the UK - hopefull the other guys will come back next year and maybe a few more!

Joe Decie said...

manning the tuck shop is annoying. I know it's all the efforts of one guy but you can attend similar events with cheaper table space without having to sell cans of warm coke for eighty pence.

JonathanCR said...

I went to this one largely on a whim. I had never been to it before and didn't really know anything about it. But on the day my better half was busy, the event was actually within walking distance of the flat (though not in a direction I'd ever gone before, so it was an Adventure getting there), and although I was familiar with almost none of the exhibitors, I thought it might be worth dropping by and seeing what it was all about.

It was fun. I must admit I wouldn't have gone at all if Mr Allison hadn't been there, as he was the only one I was really familiar with, and it was good to be able to say hello (if in an embarrassingly fanboish way, but I did the same thing to Francis Wilson once, it is my curse) and buy a poster. It's true that it very much has a church fete sort of feel to it, and it was rather odd but pleasant to be browsing through the stalls chatting to the exhibitors, most of whom didn't seem to expect to be familiar to the browser and were happy to explain their wares. A lot of the stuff was good value and I ended up spending more than I'd planned to.

It was hard to find. I found the university that it was in easily enough, but where was the event itself? I wandered into the right building, tried to follow the signs, and ended up slipping into the hall by what turned out to be some kind of minor entrance to the side, like I was gatecrashing it, and had to be directed by a kindly exhibitor to the main entrance so I could pay like an honest person. That didn't seem quite right!

Anonymous said...

It was my first visit to the webcomics thing, and indeed my first visit to anything comic related since I came to the UK from New Zealand, five years ago.

The two main draws for me were you, Mister A, and the redoubtable Roger 'Fred The Clown' Langridge. Judging by the crowd clusters, I think your stand was one of - if not THE most popular one there.

The rest of the exhibitors I didn't know from adam, but after clicking through a few of the links on the 'thing' homepage, I earmarked a few other creators I wanted to check out...

I gave my time to 95% of the stands, and had a brief chat with most of the creators. If the creators gave me a good enough sales pitch, I would buy their product, even if I wasn't initially that keen on it... which would explain why I ended up spending something in the region of £150+!!!

As an 'event' though, it wasn't much more than a comic dedicated car boot sale. The planned panels were cancelled, and the animes playing on the stage were muted...

There was one poor bastard, who I don't think had ANYONE at his stand the whole time he was there... mainly because his artwork looked no better than if a young schoolkid had done it. His writing could have been the best since Shakespeare, but that abysml art was enough to put me off... Its guys like him, unfortunately, that need to be weeded out... but you can't really have a vetting process - if someone can pay for a table, they can be there... you just won't be seeing him at the bigger events...

Overall, I had a good time, as it was my first one... lets hope there is one next year, and it'll be better! I've already got a list of people whose stands I'll be revisiting!

If the event is to continue, it needs to have more 'names', and (as has been said) less 'students munching crisps'.

The fannying about with the central line tube probably didn't help matters...


Fddd said...

To be fair, crisps are awesome.