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05th Feb 2010

Black Market this weekend

Andy and I will once again be running the Black Panel small press comics stall at the Black Box, Hill Street, Belfast (it’s in the Cathedral Quarter – here’s the Google map) on Sunday. As well as our own, we’ll have comics by Patrick Lynch, Philip Barrett, Deirdre de Barra, Hilary Lawler and the rest of the Longstone Comics crowd, the Berserker Comics boys, Stephen Downey, John Robbins, Gar Shanley and Cathal Duggan, Alan Nolan, Deirdre Ruane, Tommie Kelly, Edel Ryder and Gareth Hanrahan, Davy Francis, Aidan Courtney and friends as Gaeilge, Lee Grace and his band of illustrators and graphic designers, and, new to the Black Panel this month, Malachy Coney!  With variety like that there’ll be something to appeal to just about anybody. Hopefully see yez all there then.

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08th Jan 2010

Some news

I’m going to be on the telly! On Tuesday I will be travelling to Glasgow with the League of Just Us, a team of Belfast-based comics folk, to appear on the BBC’s quiz show Eggheads! From left to right: PJ Holden (Judge Dredd, Battlefields); Me; Reggie Chamberlain King (the forthcoming Layer Zero: The Exile); Aidan Largey (Layer Zero: Choices, our reserve); Aimee Durkin (Stephen Downey’s model and girlfriend); and our intrepid leader and team captain Stephen Downey himself (artist of Cancertown, Slaughterman’s Creed and the team drawing; also a man who talks faster than the human mind can comfortably process). Wish us luck!

Then, on Sunday 17 January, I will be stallholding again, selling an ever-growing selection of Irish small press comics at the Black Books book fair, the Black Box, Hill Street, Belfast. Andy and I have decided to call our stall, to tie in with the theme, The Black Panel. Unfortunately Andy will not be able to make it as he’ll be in London to hear Mark Thomas, so the role of glamourous assistant will have to be filled by someone else. More when confirmed.

And finally, someone who has too much time on their hands has rewritten The Big Lebowski in the style of William Shakespeare. As The Knave says of his rug, while playing ninepins:

It was of consequence, I should think; verily, it tied the room together, gather’d its qualities as the sweet lovers’ spring grass doth the morning dew or the rough scythe the first of autumn harvests. It sat between the four sides of the room, making substance of a square, respecting each wall in equal harmony, in geometer’s cap; a great reckoning in a little room. Verily, it transform’d the room from the space between four walls presented, to the harbour of a man’s monarchy.

Posted by Posted by paddybrown under Filed under Belfast, Black Market, Black Panel, Blog, Friends and family, Funny, Irish comics, Personal, Travel, TV Comments No Comments »

09th Dec 2009

Andy Luke’s column on our recent comic-selling adventures

My esteemed colleague Andy Luke, previously of Caption and London Underground Comics and my co-stallholder at Independents Day in Dublin and the Black Market in Belfast, is now blogging at Alltern8, and his first post is about those very experiences, and the DIY comics scene in general. Here’s Andy (left) with Belfast comics elder statesman Davy Francis at the Black Market last Sunday.

Posted by Posted by paddybrown under Filed under Belfast, Black Market, Black Panel, Friends and family, Independents Day, Irish comics, Small press comics Comments No Comments »

29th Nov 2009

Black Box Market next Sunday

Black Market December 2006

Next Sunday, 6 December, is the monthly Black Market, from noon to 5pm at the Black Box, Hill Street (in the Cathedral Quarter), Belfast. Their blurb says it’s “a celebration of creativity and the DIY spirit, a marketplace showcasing the work of independent artists, designers, illustrators and crafters alongside bountiful stalls from collectors of records, books and vintage clothing”, and Andy Luke and I will have a stall, selling a selection of Irish-produced small press comics, including our own.

Admission is free, and since it’s the festive season there’ll be “sweet and savoury homebaked/cooked delights available”, and “music from guest DJs”. I hope we’l see loads of you there.

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21st Oct 2008

24 Hours Comics – post script

Well, I did it. I completed 24 pages of comics, plus a cover, within 24 hours.  It’s called “Something”, on the grounds that, well, I had to call it something.  Once it’s scanned and I’ve figured out where to put it, I’ll post a link. Here’s a photo of the first three pages, taken when I had no idea where it was going, just drawing images as they occurred to me:

The event was held at Catalyst Arts, a studio/gallery space in an old converted industrial building of some sort, and was organised by Catalyst’s co-director Fionnuala Doran.  I’d met Fionnuala once before, at the 2D Comics Festival in Derry in June.  A few days later I ran into her working at Waterstones and struck up a conversation.  Except, as it turned out, it was actually Fionnuala’s twin sister Aideen, and she had no idea who the hell I was.  Bit embarrassing.  Aideen, who’s also a co-director at Catalyst, showed up to help out for a while, but didn’t do a comic like Fionnuala did.

The other person I knew was Andrew Croskery, who’s a regular at the Belfast comics pub meet in the Garrick on the first Thursday of every month.  Here’s Andrew hard at work on his comic, “The Four Seasons”, which from what I could tell depicted Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter as bickering sisters.  Looking forward to reading it properly.

Everyone else was new to me, and I’m having a hard time keeping their names straight in my head.  Here’s a wider shot of the studio:

That’s Andrew again in the foreground, Michael just behind him, And on the sofa, Vicky on the left, and (mind completely blank) on the right  There were others drawing, and quite a few others who dropped in to offer moral support.

I think my experience drawing without pencils probably stood me in good stead.  Jonny (not pictured) had never drawn a comic before, and I think completely misjudged how long it would take him, starting off with tight, detailed pencils on full-size, ruled-out boards.  By the middle of the night he’d got maybe four or five pages done, and realised he’d never get it finished that way, so he had a few hours kip and started again, drawing at A5 directly in brush and ink. He got seven pages done like that and they looked gorgeous – if he’d taken that approach from the start he’d easily have got a 24-hour, 24-page comic done.

We had a webcam link-up with the Dublin event, in the far more salubrious surroundings of the Central Hotel.  Here’s a link to a message board post with some of Cliodhna Lyons’ photos.  As you’ll see, nobody in Dublin spent the night drawing with their coat on with the hood up and wrapped in a duvet, as hotel function rooms are a bit warmer than artists’ studio spaces in converted industrial buildings.  Not that I’m complaining.  I’m pretty warm blooded.  I just wish I hadn’t had to sleep on the floor.  Getting a bit old for that.  Next year I’ll bring a camp bed or something.

Anyway, the webcam link was a bit awkward because although we could both see and hear the Dubs, they could only see us, because they’d neglected to bring any speakers (and not, as initially thought, because we didn’t have a microphone).  We started by holding up handwritten notes, and the Dubliners did the same until we pointed out we could hear them fine.  We ended up using some kind of text chat thing, although I couldn’t type fast enough to have proper conversations, but never mind.  Later on when I was half-asleep I’m pretty sure somebody was using it to tell Dublin dead baby jokes.  Anyway, hello to Cliodhna and Kyle and “Declan” and the rest.  Liam and Craig of the Comic Cast have done a special edition podcast interviewing some of the Dublin participants.

Oh, and we had a barbecue.  Catalyst has a balcony where they’ve rigged up a barbecue out of an old wheelbarrow.  We ate well, largely thanks to Andrew, and some of his mates who couldn’t stay but brought food anyway. That looks like Andrew on the left, the guy in the middle is Richard, who was one of the participating artists, and bending over to his right is Maria, who’s from Germany, didn’t do a comic, but subtitles sporting events for the hard of hearing on German TV for a living.  In the background are two more moral support people whose names have gone, but their presence was appreciated.

Hopefully it’ll be an annual event and get even more popular.  Roll on next year I say.

Edited on 6 November to correct a certain degree of confusion over names

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28th Sep 2007

Belfast: own your Irishness!

Growing up protestant in Belfast, we’re constantly impressed with the assertion that “Ulster is British” – and most definitely not Irish. I remember going on “camp” with the BB (we actually slept in a church hall) in the Isle of Man, and having an altercation with the girl in the chip shop over this very issue. “I’ll have a chip, please,” said one of the BB lads. Don’t remember his real name. We called him Pastie. “Are you Irish?” says the girl. “I hate the way you Irish people say ‘a chip’ instead of ‘a portion of chips’.” “I’m not Irish,” says Pastie. “I’m Northern Irish.” Took me to go away and study in England before I realised how ridiculous that sounds.

How can you live in a country (or a failed statelet, if you’re a Republican) called “Northern Ireland” and not be, in any sense, Irish? Even if you’re politically British, you’re at least geographically Irish. And why should the Republic of Ireland get to define and monopolise the term? I’m Northern Irish. I’m not Republic-of-Irish. But I’m still Irish.

I think we have more right to call ourselves Irish than anybody. Republican murals look like political cartoons, stylistically completely international. Loyalist murals look like Celtic folk art. There’s a loyalist mural on the Newtownards Road known as “Ulster’s Freedom Corner”. It’s not on a corner. It’s on a straight stretch of road. How much more Irish do you want?

That’s the other thing. As well as not being Irish, the typical protestant attitude is that we’re not, unlike that uncivilised rabble down south or those treacherous fenians in our midst, Celts. There’s a school of thought that says, because Cú Chulainn, the hero of the Ulster Cycle, is described as “small and dark” in some stories, and the Romans described the Celts as tall and fair, Ulster people were never Celtic and always ethnically distinct from the rest of Ireland. Frankly, we’re more Celtic than anyone. The Romans rolled over the Celts because they could always divide and rule – there’d always be the odd tribe that’d much rather side with the imperialist invaders than be nice to that lot down the road. Sound familiar? The other thing the Romans agreed on was that the Celts wore moustaches – and there’s more moustaches per head of population among Ulster prods than any other country in the world. If you’re at Heathrow looking for the departure gate to Belfast, just look for a group of guys in dark suits with moustaches and follow them.

Anyway, all of this is merely a prelude for a link to a piece on another blog, in which an Egyptian girl called Super-S tells of how she fell in love with Ireland from afar, was disappointed by Dublin when she finally visited, but found that Belfast delivered every Irish cliché she could have hoped for. QED.

Posted by Posted by paddybrown under Filed under Belfast, Northern Ireland, Personal Comments 9 Comments »

17th Aug 2007

Protestantism, football and shame – theatre critic post

Just been to the Grand Opera House in Belfast with me ma to see a play, A Night in November by Marie Jones, starring Patrick Kielty. Like just about every play produced in Northern Ireland since God was a lad, it’s a comedy about sectarianism with a single set doing multiple duties as a variety of locations – a football terrace, a living room, an office, a golf course, New York, etc – with a tiny cast – tinier than usual in fact: just Kielty. He plays Kenneth Norman McAllister, a mildly bigoted Belfast protestant who is shocked by the extreme bigotry hurled by Northern Ireland football fans at visiting Republic of Ireland fans during a match at Windsor Park in the qualifying for the 1994 World Cup, learns to love “the other side” and eventually goes to New York to support the Republic in the World Cup.

Now, it’s very funny, and Kielty performs it very well, playing not only Kenneth but all the other characters in asides. But its subject matter is political, and politically, it’s crap. Its message is, prods are uptight, snobby and conventional, not to mention sectarian, while fenians are happy, free-spirited and spontaneous, and not a sectarian thought would ever cross their minds. When prods support their football team and hurl abuse at their opponents, it’s out of hatred, but when fenians do it it’s in a spirit of fun and togetherness. Prods are horrible, and can only redeem themselves by realising how horrible they are, rejecting everything about themselves and switching sides.

I don’t know much about Marie Jones, but I understand she’s a Belfast protestant herself. So am I. I went through an adolescent phase when, after learning about the crimes “my side” had committed, my sympathy for the “other side” became idealisation – a lot of us do, in adolescence. But it didn’t take long to realise how unrealistic that was. Yes, terrible things have been done by and on behalf of the protestant community in Northern Ireland, but it helps no-one to be ashamed of who you are. It’s possible to reject sectarian hatred and tribal loyalty without rejecting your own identity. In fact, it’s better if you don’t – how can you speak to your own community if you’ve rejected them and effectively joined another, or at least become a wannabe?

There are no positive images of protestants in this play, and no negative images of catholics. Although Kenneth checks under his car for IRA bombs, this is part of the comedy, the lowly clerk imagining he’s important enough to be a target; meanwhile, the play is bookended by a pair of horrific loyalist atrocities, which contribute to Kenneth’s change of character. Who is this supposed to speak to? I can’t imagine Catholics appreciating the patronising, “magic negro” portrayal of their community, and for a protestant, this play is an extended terrace chant of “you’re shit, and you know you are.” That’s hardly helpful to anybody.

Edited to add: Here’s a link to a review of another production of the play from the Montreal Mirror, that expresses what I was trying to say a bit more articulately and succinctly. Scroll down to the bit entitled “November Unmemorable”.

Posted by Posted by paddybrown under Filed under Belfast, Northern Ireland, Politics Comments No Comments »

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