Chalkboard, handily decorated by Lando
The inaugural Bristol Comic and Zine Fair was held on Sunday 25th September 2011. The venue was the friendly and trendy Start the Bus, companion pub to The Nation of Shopkeepers in Leeds (which hosted the recent Leeds Alternative Comics Fair). Organised by the Bristol-based Bearpit Zine crew (whose number also includes Dave ‘Decadence Comics’ Lander and Nick ‘Misinterpreted Complications’ Soucek), the event was underpinned by a focus on underground, alternative publications. Mainstream comic fans and artists are catered for well by the regular Bristol International Comic and Small Press Expo each May, but we wanted to push something a bit different. Instead, it was the DIY ethos of the zine movement and the belief that creativity begins anywhere and is for anybody – as much as the medium of comics itself – that inspired us to organise this event. That and the strong desire to flog our wares to an unsuspecting public.
The well-stocked and splendidly maintained communal table.
The breadth of talent who made it out for the show was genuinely exciting. Stallholders familiar to the world of small press comics included Nick and Dave, new-Bristol resident and artist behind webcomic Private Study, Graham Johnson; Thom Ferrier, Gareth Brookes, Paul Ashley Brown, Rob Jackson and comics-scene stalwart and Comics Bits Online head honcho, Terry Hooper. We also had a number of zine distros present, including Kebele Community co-op, anarchist press Last Hours, Bristol printers Pigeon Press and a host of other excellent makers.
Comics by Gareth Brookes and friends.
The day itself got off to a damp start, with the stallholders braving the unappealing swathes of early morning rain for the 11am setup. There was a bit of trepidation on our part: the tables supplied by the venue were a bit saggy and wonky – the sort of spindly, spidery wallpapering aides, so familiar from family DIY disasters – and we were worried there wouldn’t be sufficient for our stall holders. But it turned out just fine: we had plenty, and besides, they were lent to us by the excellent folk at the venue for no cost and we’re not about to bite the hand that feeds. So it turned out our organisational skills were even more accomplished than we thought; we even had a tick-sheet. There was also free cake, baked for the stallholders by stitcher of fine goods, maker of fine foods, and provider of fine photos, Bianca. This was nothing if not an inspired piece of bribery to curry good favour from our stallholders. Initial reports suggest success…
Terry Hooper (l) and Paul Ashley Brown (r) point and laugh at someone.
Overall, we feel the day went really well – and the feedback from the stallholders was similarly positive. Any event like this can do with improving: there’s some refinement to be done on table layout, advertising and the like, but generally we’re pretty pleased with the way it went.
Our thanks go to the Start the Bus for their help, to Claire Carter for staffing the communal table and to everyone who helped spread the word or who came down and checked out what was going on. Watch this space for announcements about the next event. Alternatively, email the Bearpit Zines crew to join our mailing list!
All pictures © 2011 Bianca Soucek.