In May this year, I headed to Canada for the Toronto Comic Arts Festival with my friend and fellow comics maker, Ian Williams (AKA Thom Ferrier). We did some teaching and exhibited and sold our comics. This is the first of three posts about my trip.
After an extremely difficult 4am start, and a wholly insufficient four hours of sleep, I managed to marshal my faculties sufficiently to get to Bristol airport. What followed was eighteen hours of aeroplanes, Parisian airport food, Parisian airport navigation failures, Parisian airport shuttle buses and food in little trays, Canadian buses and subways, and a grateful arrival in our hotel in downtown Toronto. I had met my comics comrade, and roommate for the week , Ian Williams, at Paris CDG, and soon after arriving in Toronto, he got in touch with Suley Fattah, man behind Drawing the Line. Suley promptly appeared at the hotel to give us a driving tour of downtown: Yorkville, the frat houses, the Royal Ontario Museum, the streets. We met his wife, magician Julie Eng, and her colleague David Ben. Then it was beer, thunderstorms, rainstorms and 12 hours sleep.
On a muggy and sunny Thursday we headed to the University district, where I was to give a talk in the Geography department. The talk was based on a paper I am working on, which is drawn from my PhD. A small but receptive audience fed-back some good suggestions, and my jetlagged and somewhat hazy performance was seemingly forgiven. After the talk, Ian and I headed down St George and saw hipsters and students and posts thick with staples from years of flyering. We drank beer before heading into Kensington Market. Kensington Market is most similar in my experience, perhaps, to Camden in London, a sort of chaotic area, marked by similar shops and similar spaces and similar people, but with its own logic of restaurants, bars, clothes shops, vintage shops, junk markets and vegetable shops. Here, we once again met Suley and British magician Will Houston. We ate burritos and talked about the history of magic and sleights of hand, before taking another ride around a thunderstorm smeared city in Suley’s car.
Photo by Ian Williams
Photo by Ian Williams.
On Friday we headed out to University of Toronto Mississauga, a newly revived, shiny campus out in the green suburbs and big houses. We skipped through the rush-hour traffic as our gracious host Shelley Wall showed us various blocks of town on our way out to the campus. The purpose of the visit was for Ian and I to run a workshop on comics and narrative in stories about health and illness. We spoke about our own work and experiences, got the students and staff to participate in making some jam comics, and led them on a Lynda Barry-inspired guided visualisation exercise. The resulting comics were ace (you can read more about this workshop on Ian’s blog). The faculty were incredibly warm and enthusiastic, as were the students. Feeling buoyed we were taken to lunch, where we learned of MCA’s passing and a friendly, if persistent, waitress found repetitious ways to hear me speak and demonstrate my accent.
Photo by Ian Williams
That night we headed to the Pilot Tavern, where I put a whole host of faces to names of Twitter friends, including (but likely not limited to) Box Brown, Chuck Forsman, Melisa Mendes and Doug and Emma of British publishers Self-Made Hero. Bed at a sensible hour, hazy but happy.
Tomorrow: TCAF itself.