Picture this. It’s your first day at a new school. You’re a bit scared but you have an imagination the size of a meteor and loads of great ideas to make and draw worlds you want to share with your new pals. You’ve had a short back and sides at the barbers (the hairdressers wouldn’t cut a girl’s hair so short) and painted your neck with flowers up to your ears so that when you walk in, all your classmates will think, “Wow! She looks great to be around.” You bounce into the classroom feeling as confident as the sun, immediately telling your new friends how you ate octopus salad all summer and that you are ace at making ant traps.
This isn’t the introduction to a wonderful journey through childhood. This was the start of a story of optimism and self-belief almost destroyed by bullying and loneliness. This was the start of the creation of a girl cave and, with paper and watercolours, the sanctuary of the imagination.
“Hmm,” interjects my daughter Hazel. “Some bits are slightly exaggerated for emotional effect. And the timeline isn’t exactly right.”
Some seven years later and this girl and I are walking through Leeds Town Hall marquee in the throng of introverted extroverts on their way to Thought Bubble, a comic art festival now in its 11th year. We are in the thick of it with the medicated Spiderman, the bi-polar unicorns, claustrophobic clowns, shimmering green-haired vocaloid fan-girls, anxious and excited. I see my daughter has found her people.
“Nice,” says Hazel.
This is the second part of a journey where a young person enters a world in which they belong.
“Multiple artists were eager to share tips,” says Hazel. “The very first stall we approached was manned by the Portuguese artist, Andre Caetano. He gave some feedback on some of my work that my mother had brought against all better judgement. He was very encouraging and helpful. The next person we spoke to, Emma Reynolds, was also very helpful. She gave good advice as a teacher, too, about schools that will be very beneficial in the future. Speaking to the artists in general was pleasant, and I couldn’t find any fault in pricing or the quality of goods.”
Of course not. “You didn’t pay for any of it, did you?” I say.
“The whole experience was enjoyable,” replies Hazel.
Personally, I enjoyed chatting to Benedict and Dominika Tomczyk-Bowen about their kidult Moodicorn comics where they’ve created funny, tough-nut unicorns. Valentina Sannais did an ace version of our cat Robert for a fiver. Now that was value for money from an artist of her calibre.
“Although it was tiring towards the end as a lot of walking is involved -” Hazel begins.
“- Because you had to carry the camera and the bag full of all the stuff you made me buy for you,” I remind her.
“It didn’t matter,” retorts Hazel. “Because the tents are quite close by, and near to the town hall which has a cafe. This is ideal for people who perhaps don’t like crowds but still want to experience events such as this one.”
There was a Harry Potter family sat behind us in the café, who were quite shy but their daughter had brought ‘that friend who never shuts up’ with her, hadn’t she.
“A common interest had clearly brought everyone together,” says Hazel. “And it was, in a way, beautiful.”
It was and I loved being able to share that with my daughter.
“However, despite how convincing the Pennywise cosplayer was,” states Hazel, “it was beyond irritating waiting as my mum took what couldn’t have been less than 70 photos with him.”
I took three, Hazel.
The Thought Bubble Festival is the UK’s largest event of its kind – an annual celebration of sequential art in all its forms, including everything from superhero comics to independent and small press artists and writers. For more information, visit the website.