Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Comics Scene

A number of people have been writing to me regarding my comments on the Quick Questions in the Ireland Comics website and agreeing with me on the need for some sort of co-ordinated mechanism for the comics scene here in Ireland - and possibly in Britain as well. Thanks Andy for your invitation - I've replied to you and I would love to sit down and talk with you and the others about this. Just get in contact with me, you have my address. Basically I think there's a lot of talent out there but it's all very disparate and what is needed is some sort of mechanism, whether it be a general comic, a website or simply a forum in which creators can show their work. Ireland, and in particular Northern Ireland, is something of a cultural backwater as far as comics and a number of other media ventures are concerned. I sense that the climate is changing slightly but it will be glacially slow and it will never achieve the level which occurs in places like the Netherlands, France or Italy. Of course they receive some support from their respective governments - Metal Hurlant used to recieve a grant directly from the French Culture Department. I think Eppo in Holland might get something but I know that Rob van Bavel who edits it had drawn down monies from elsewhere. Here in Northern Ireland the situation is very different. True, the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure here is getting slightly excited over recent filming here in the Province - witness Game of Thrones and Your Majesty which was filmed at the Paint Shop in the Titanic Quarter as well as City of Emerald but how far their enthusiasm will take them is open to question. Probably not down the graphics road. About a year and a half ago Adrian Lutton and I applied under the aegis of Fool Moon Graphicks for a grant from the Creative Industries Innovation Fund to see if we could start and educationally based graphics package. The Minister for Culture then was the DUP's Nelson McCausland who was famous for his interference and rigid views on culture. Consequently the process kept getting delayed as the Minister kept getting involved and in the end we were turned down. The money went to all the usual suspects - such as Borough Councils and formal Arts bodies and we realised that the Government here were not interested in any form of creativity at all - at least a form of creativity which they couldn't directly control. Although Minister McCausland has gone to another department, I would assume that his Sinn Fein successor will be more interested in pushing through an Irish language bill than looking at graphic proposals. I did try another project, relating to comics in education but this too was turned down and I was directly told by a public representative that young people would be better served reading their Bibles than comics. So if we are looking for some form of public funding similar to the Continent then we are facing I would think an uphill struggle. That doesn't mean that such a struggle shouldn't take place and maybe other people know of other funding sources. I also think there has to be a change in mindset both here and in England - here comics are simply viewed as material for children, on the Continent they are not. In France and the Netherlands they are viewed as an important artform, hence the government funding. And it's the same in England - why else did the great Don Lawrence have to go to Amsterdam to have his work recognised and why is Sidney Jordan's work more popular in Italy than it is in England? - that sort of thinking has to be changed and it will take both time and effort to do it. But I think it is achievable. I'm willing to talk to anyone about it and see if we can work out a way forward and I would thank everybody for their interest in 1949 and Joachim Darke - I think there is the basis of something solid in Ireland and i these contribute to it, then I'm happy. They seem to be stirring up some debate anyway which is always good. O.K. soapbox over - I just had to get that off my chest. We're thinking of putting more comics up but as I said earlier there have been technical problems which aren't fully resolved. But keep looking. If you want to make any comment about the above then feel free. The ball's in your court!

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