Somewhere In My Heart……

This is Glasgow…

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This is the city I was born in, and spent the first 21 years of my life before moving to Bristol. It has without a shadow of a doubt shaped me, though not as I am now as there’s bits of Leicester, London, Nottingham, Bristol and all the other places in the UK, and across the world that I’ve stayed in, visited or passed through. It is however Glasgow which molded me. I’ve blogged briefly about my life there, but the city itself I’ve only recently touched upon the city itself as it’s as much a character in my life as anyone I’ve every known, and in some cases it’s been more so.

Glasgow is a city like now other. It’s not got the horrible disconnect from reality London has. Or the distance from anything relevant that say, Leicester does. Or is as sometimes horribly contrived as Bristol can be. It is a schizophrenic city with extreme poverty lying only a mile or so from extravagance, then again, the city’s always had some of that but now people seem to forget that people living in the likes of Easterhouse, or those that come from the East End, or the working class streets of Maryhill and Possilpark (that’ll be me) are the beating heart of Glasgow. This is a city that embraced the basic socialist idea of trying to drag everyone out of the gutter, not just the chosen or lucky few.

It’s a city which encouraged kids like me to take an interest in art, or film or anything that wasn’t seen as ‘traditional’ working class pursuits, because frankly, it’s a city whose philosophy  was to drag us all up, give us the basics we needed to survive and send us out into the world like spores. That’s one of the reasons there’s so many Glaswegians living in every nook and cranny of probably every city on the planet. Well, that and the whole escaping poverty thing.

It’s the city that taught me that people like Edwyn Collins and Roddy Frame were cool. It’s the city I helped, in my own very small way, the future of Glasgow’s comic scene. It’s the city I learned to appreciate me for myself. It helped give my soul the callus it needed to push on into the world.Some of that edge has been blunted over the years as I’ve been worn down over the last few years but I can still draw upon what Glasgow gave me. It’s that certainty of thought, of purpose, even when you know you’re not entirely sure of what you’re doing.

This is Maryhill Road in the 1970’s. I’ve mentioned before that I seem to remember most of my childhood in Glasgow in black and white so this is how I remember the area then.

I’m glad the city is clean. I’m glad we’ve moved on. But I miss those times. I miss the glorious bleak beauty of industrial Glasgow.I miss the community. I miss the variety. Yes, Glasgow is now a fantastic cosmopolitan city, but like any city that’s been heavily gentrified it’s gained much, though at the same time it’s gained the same vacuous people who take over former working class areas and change it for the worst. See also Stokes Croft in Bristol, but that’s a topic for another time….

That aside, Glasgow is still in essence the same. It’s moved on. It’s better in places, worse in some, and in several cases it’s not moved on at all. It’s a sum of it’s parts and that’s the beauty of it.

I don’t know whether I’ll move back. I may in the next few years, or I might not but if I’m to do it then it’s going to be the next four or five years. If I don’t then I’ll probably wander the earth…..or not. I do want to move back but much is dependent upon the next 12 months or so, but whatever happens I’ll always carry Glasgow within me. That will never go away…………

Hazy, drug filled loved up summers-One Dove’s White Love

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There was a point back in 1993 when things sounded like they’d come from another world, and the Glasgow band One Dove made that sort of sound, and as I was living in Bristol at the time of this coming out I didn’t realise my home country was capable of making this sort of music.

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It was a revelation to me. It still is every time I hear it. Sadly One Dove seem to have fell into the sort of band a few people remember but it’s worth listening to this to hear what might have been, and indeed, was for just a short time.

Would you like some Orange Juice?

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People have asked ‘we liked some of that jingly jangly Glaswegian guitar pop from last time, but have you something that features Edwyn Collins walking round a tinfoil version of the Tardis?’

Well, here it is. Edwyn Collins doing one of the best pop songs of the 80’s in one of the worst but at the same time brilliant, videos of the era. In fact I think Collins is one of the UK’s best songwriters of the last 30 years but has been mainly so underappreciated for the vast majority of his career when lesser people have gathered praise for frankly writing shite.

I was lucky enough to meet Collins in the 80’s as he was walking down Woodlands Road in Glasgow past the comic shop I was hanging around in at the time. I managed to splutter out something like ‘I think you’re brilliant’ before hiding behind a copy of Daredevil. I met him again in the early 90’s when he played the Thekla in Bristol when he was popular as a solo artist for a while. Both times he was charming and didn’t laugh at me for being a spluttering fool telling him he was brilliant…..

Anyhow, enjoy the tinfoil Tardis…

The Eisnercon-Glasgow’s First Comic Convention

eisnerconI mentioned in an early blog post about the Eisnercon, and went into detail about GLASCAC but haven’t said anything about the first real comic convention Glasgow held in 1986. This isn’t to say Glasgow didn’t have large comic related events, it did, but they were either the large Marts that the comic shop, AKA organised, or the signing sessions held at AKA featuring a lot of the rising British talent of the time but there wasn’t the big convention of the type we’d be familiar with today.

By the mid-80’s Glasgow was well established for holding regular SF conventions with Albacon being the regular one held over a weekend during Glasgow’s Fair Fortnight, which grew out of the original Faircon which is (and will be) a blog in itself. Anyhow the idea from John McShane, Pete Root and the others at AKA was to organise a large 3-day convention along the same lines as what was being done with SF conventions and to have a full programme of events, dealers room, film room (ended up being a video room but more on this later) and of course, a bar which would never, ever close unless it ran out of beer.

The convention was to be in the Central Hotel in Glasgow mainly because this is where the SF conventions had made a home so the management and staff were used to working with such events and that it was a cheapish, good central location. It also helped reduce the risks as although comic conventions were fairly common and frequent south of the border they also fell quickly by the wayside in a lot of cases, so a good location was paramount as was a good guest list which could be counted on with AKA’s connections but the convention needed an American guest for credibility and it got Will Eisner.

I’m going to have to make a confession here that I vaguely knew Eisner because of The Spirit, and his influence upon Frank Miller’s work but I really didn’t know much else even though I was by now firmly embedded in AKA and John McShane and several other customers adored his work. I was moving away from being a superhero reader only thanks to titles like Love & Rockets but it was still early days however this convention would change a lot of my reading habits forever.

John had managed to get Eisner as the main guest along with Marv Wolfman who was still riding high from Crisis on Infinite Earths, while we had Bryan Talbot as the main British guest along with a couple of dozen others including Alan Davis, Alan Moore, and Alan Grant. This was a huge deal getting someone of Eisner’s stature and the British guest list would still pack out halls today so anticupation was huge.

One day sitting around AKA various jobs were being bandied around so people could do them and I fancied my hand at doing the film room, but unfortunately we couldn’t afford getting a projectors, films and paying for them, so we downscaled to a video room. One of AKA’s customers was a chap by the name of Hugh Campbell who used to do a nice wee fanzine called Fusion. Yes, this is a Grant Morrison cover of Kid Marvelman…

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It also used to be printed and assembled in the back shop of AKA and I did one issue, #5 I think, but it was a splendid fanzine which Hugh did a great job with. Hugh also had an amazing collection of VHS videos, including some pre Video Nasty versions of films which instantly appealed to the gorehound that I was back in those days, but the idea was to get a programme to appeal to everyone & to run it really late, or indeed all night, which meant people could kip in the room overnight.  The Central were amazingly accommodating and to this day I’m amazed at the stuff they let pass during the conventions they had there.

We publicised the convention in the shop, not to mention the other shops in Glasgow and Edinburgh, plus in the comic press and anywhere we could. Expectations were high and we’d tried to make it as affordable as possible, but advanced numbers weren’t what everyone hoped but there was still the will with everyone involved with AKA to make it work, plus we didn’t know what would happen on the weekend itself.

By the time the weekend came I’d got around 40-50 films from Hugh and built up a programme which I thought would go down well with things like the Superman films, Blade Runner, and  of course, a few Video Nasties. I’d also got myself a few minions to help and to allow me to dive out to the bar.

If all this sounds fun can I point out that organising convention can be fun but it’s also extraordinary hard work, not to mention that if something fucks up (as it did) then you’re held responsible and people will delight in telling you that but thankfully the convention came and went along it’s way quite smoothly considering that we were all utterly and totally blagging it as running a 3-day con with all it entails is an entirely different beast to running a mart.

As for Will Eisner he was a complete gentleman who had time for everyone including the tosser who thought he could tell him about perspective! How can some spotty faced wee wanker tell the man who drew this about perspective?!

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Moving on…

The video room was going well with the odd technical problem being dealt with as and when but I’d worked out that if I put really long films on in the evening then it’d give me time to grab some food, or a drink or get my head down for an hour or so. There was also an incident with a young girl who became upset by a scene near the start of the film The Howling which features an extreme scene of rape which takes place on a TV screen in the background of one scene. I hadn’t thought of that incident for years til being reminded of it.

The main programme consisted of talks & a lot of Eisner doing classes in drawing which were amazing to watch as the man was a genius. I don’t really remember much else of the programme as I was busy/sleeping/drunk but what I saw was fun, but the dealers room seemed awfully thin of customers. In fact the honest truth was the entire weekend was thin on the ground when it came to attendees with a rough estimate of 300 or so people there over the 3-day event.

It didn’t make it’s money back. It may have been an artistic success but AKA couldn’t afford to bankroll another one so we fell back on signing sessions and the bigger marts and there wouldn’t be a big convention in Glasgow again til 1990.

Looking back at it I suppose you could say it was ahead of it’s time and you’d be right. Had it been held in 1988 then things would have been very different but it was influential in helping some Glasgow based creators get some connections, plus Eisner’s classes clearly influenced some people to take up drawing but it’s sadly fell down the back of the sofa of history and been forgotten about. I’d like to get more stories from it as it’s an important bit of British comics history that needs to be fleshed out, so if anyone reading this wants to add anything then feel free to contact me as I consider this very much a work in progress…

Let’s talk Camera Obscura….

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In my on and off series of songs I love you might be wondering ‘where’s your famous Glaswegian jingly jangly guitar pop you’ve went on about? and here’s finally the first example in all it’s jingly jangly glory. Yes it’s all a bit studenty, yes, it’s a bit Byres Road, yes it’s a bit too knowing, but it’s a perfect bit of pop music that sounds fantastic and it references a Lloyd Cole song so that elevates it even more.

It’s impossible not to be cheered up by the song and the video so enjoy…..

The Rise and Fall of the Glasgow Comics Art Convention part three

Part one. Part two.

And here we are finally arriving at 1994 and things are all a bit odd, so stick with me as there’s a bit of background needed for this one.

I’m in another bit of a limbo situation after coming back to Leicester from working in Bristol for a bit, but I was still helping the lads out at London comic marts and it was at one on Sunday the 6th of February 1994 that Chris (one of the two owners of Comics and CD’s along with Marr for those who haven’t kept up) broke it to me that we’d be doing that year’s Glasgow Comic Art Convention (GLASCAC) next month & do I want to work it? Obviously the answer was yes, so I remember jumping back onto the bus back to Leicester to head to the legendary Pump & tap for what was my birthday drinking session. See, that’s why I remembered the date perfectly!, but back to the Pump and Tap..

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As it was a Sunday I wasn’t expecting a lot of people, but was nicely surprised by the turnout, but the most impressive thing that Amanda had turned up out of the blue. Now I’ll go into the full tale of Amanda and myself another time, but I’d admired her from afar for bloody months, if not years until one night I was in another Leicester pub (the late lamented Magazine) with my then landlady Kate for a drink and her and Kate got chatting while I was in the loo. I joined in the chat, discovered we got on like the proverbial house on fire and invited her down to the Pump for my birthday, which she did. As said, I’ll tell the full story of us another time but to cut things short we started seeing each other from the night of my birthday.

Groovy.

Fast forward a few weeks and I’d asked Amanda if she wanted to come with me to Glasgow, which she resoundingly said yes, but as we were both relatively skint I couldn’t afford the train, so got the bus, though she got travelsick in cars, so forked out for a train. This meant we had the situation where I left first to go to Glasgow, but Amanda would pull into Glasgow hours before me, so after a phone call to Andy Sweeney (one of the AKA crowd I’ve mentioned often before) I’d left it so that Andy would meet Amanda at Central Station (seeing as she had red dreads and piercings before such things became fashionable, she would have been easy to spot) and decant to a pub where I’d eventually join him. I’d also asked him if we could crash somewhere which he said he’d sort out.

With this all planned I started my long and painful bus journey to Glasgow on a clear spring day, while Amanda jumped her train to Glasgow, and in these pre-mobile days all we had was trust in people’s abilities so as my bus pulled off the motorway into Glasgow I hoped everything was alright. I hadn’t anything to worry about as Andy had excelled himself and rescued Amanda from the throngs of Central Station, but placed her in the care of Bridget, his partner of the time, and her sister Magz and her partner, Gary Erskine and few others. Andy had managed to get us a place to crash at Gary’s flat for the first few days, then the rest of the week or so we were there at Bridget’s which meant a flit across Glasgow but it made sense in retrospect as Gary lives a long way from where the con was being held, and Bridget was much nearer.

The plan for the first few days was to show Amanda the sights of Glasgow and then on the Friday, meet up with Marr and Neil (one of the remaining Comics and CD’s staff) at the Central Hotel (where Marr and myself had stayed two years earlier) on Friday to help unload and set up for the weekend. I’d also brought up a load of comics of my own to sell and I had a feeling Amanda and myself would run out of cash which turned out to be perfectly correct, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first few days were great as I showed Amanda around Glasgow, even taking her to Maryhill to show her where I came from which is the only time I’ve done that with a girlfriend. She also had to get used to Glasgow’s climate which at the best of times is erratic but in spring it’s all over the place so she got sun, snow, rain and hail all in the same few hours but walking through Kelvingrove Park in the snow was, and is a wonderful sight to behold.

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In the evening we met up with Gary and Magz before heading back to their flat to crash as the next day we had to flit over to Bridget’s flat. This is when Amanda had forgotten to take her medication to had a wee scare which wasn’t helped by both of us being horribly drunk, but I managed to calm her down the next morning and we packed up our stuff from Gary’s flat and headed off to meet Bridget and crash at hers for the remainder or our stay in Glasgow. That was after another day going round the city, this time in the city centre where we got wolf whistled by builders near Glasgow Green for snogging. To this day this is the only time I’ve been whistled at by a builder.

Money was starting to get tight as we were in the pub or eating out or going around the city like crazed loons, but I’d told Amanda I’d make a mint off the comics I brought and not to worry and I suppose she had faith in me, so she went along for the ride. As the Friday dawned I left Amanda with Andy at AKA as I met Marr and Neil at the Central to escort them to the venue which was a hotel which is now a Jury’s on Jamaica Street, so we could unload and set up which was a bit of a task, but the three of us did it, and I went back to pick up Amanda from the pub she, Andy, Bridget, etc were in so she could meet Marr and Neil and get ready for the weekend, and of course drink more beer. She later said when we got back to Leicester that she’d never drank as much in her life up til then, and to be honest, it was a pretty hardcore week but overwhelmingly fun.

Bridget had kindly let Amanda and myself crash in her bed for the Friday by ourselves while she kipped on her pull-down bed as we’d left the pub early as we (I’d tried to convince Marr that Amanda could help up and she pulled an innocent smile which worked on him)  had to get up early on Saturday morning to finish setting up, plus I had to price up my comics (I’d brought up around 50 or so quality items) but Amanda brought up on the way back from the pub on Friday night she was down to a few quid and I only had a fiver and some change left so I really needed to sell some comics on the Saturday (we’d not get paid from Marr til the Sunday assuming we made our money back) and get us some cash in our pockets for the Saturday party at the convention hotel which is normally a wonderful affair.

I remember giving her my last few quid to get everyone some teas and coffees and then pricing my comics up in the hope they’d sell ASAP. As we were setting up Neil pointed out that Amanda was getting some attention from the other dealers, then I remembered that I’d brought a woman into the lion’s den and a female at a comic convention was rare back then. but one behind the dealers tables was virtually unheard of at the time. This however, gave us an advantage as once the doors opened and the fanboys poured in we noticed the fanboys would hang around our tables trying to cop a look of Amanda which saw Marr and myself drag Amanda into a serving position right in the middle of our huge amount of tables while I took my position at the end where my own comics were plastered on the wall display.

The con was busy, very very busy. In fact it was the busiest GLASCAC out of the three I attended, and like 1992 we were coining it, not to mention pissing off Glasgow dealers who were overpriced but pissed off at us selling stuff for cheap and in bulk though again, Pete Root of AKA took advantage of this to clean us out of some titles.I’d also sold a few of my own comics, and got about 30 quid in my pocket, and by midday that 30 quid had grown to 70, and I’d barely touched my pile of comics, so I was frantically replacing one comic I’d sold on the wall with another, and selling that. By one ish I’d hit 100 quid, and I told Amanda how much we’d made so bunged her 30 quid as she wanted to go back up to the West End to go round the bookshops for a couple of hours as the smell of sweaty fanboys was annoying her, and now the rush had died down the rest of us could cope with things.

That isn’t to say she hated being there, she was hanging round the bar with Andy and Bridget, and also she’d made friends with the Bastard Bunny table opposite us who were trying to convince her to do some modelling for their merchandise. More on this later….

The Saturday afternoon moved on and we were having a storming con. We were selling boxes and boxes of stuff which was great as this meant less to load up on the Sunday going back and of course, more cash in the till. Late in the afternoon Amanda came back after being sunburnt and caught in a snowstorm on the same day.

Ah, spring in Glasgow….

Once Amanda returned, I took the opportunity to dive into the bar for a few bevvies and to mingle with people, not to mention take stock of mow much cash I’d made which turned out to be quite a bit. In fact, if I ended up selling everything I had left at even half price I’d end up going home with more money than I came up with, so flush with this knowledge I necked another beer or three and headed back to our tables where Marr and Amanda were merrily chatting away and serving punters. Amanda told me she’d sold another 40 quids worth of my comics, so in that first day we’d made nearly 150 quid. Not bad for a days work!

The day drew to a close which meant heading back to the bar for a few more drinks, before getting something to eat (which considering how skint we were in the morning was an achievement) before heading to the hotel bar for a session. There we mingled with the stars, but it seemed to mainly consist of drinking an awful lot, which by now was taking it’s toll on Amanda who was ready to pass out.

See, this is the thing and the big difference between British and American conventions. In the US it’s all about the day, but here it’s about getting the day over with so you can get into the bar ASAP, and of course, sneak a session in during the day. It’s a hard regime which she wasn’t used to and seeing as Dez Skinn wasn’t going to, errr, let us use his hotel room, we headed back to Bridget’s flat to crash leaving everyone drinking heavily.

The next day was the last day which meant hangovers and the hassle of packing up. We prepared for this by having a wee wander through Glasgow in the early morning  on the way to the con and having a nice wee bit of breakfast by the Clyde, before diving back into the con for the last day.

Surprisingly for a last day it was busy, very busy. It also came as a surprise when I was told that Frank Plowright (the organiser) was thinking of knocking the Glasgow conventions on the head and that the following year was likely to be the last as it was too much stress organising two big conventions a year basically by himself which was and is, an amazing task.

That would set the tone somewhat for the rest of the con which turned into something like the last day of school with people’s trousers being stolen and nearly thrown into the Clyde (only returned after the owner had to pay a tramp two quid for them) , and other pranks galore. Mainly though it involved selling more comics, including selling everything I brought up which meant several hundred quid profit, plus whatever Marr paid me for the weekend.

In the meantime Amanda was still be lured by the Bastard Bunny people to do something for her, so I bought he a spiffy BB woolly hat, and we agreed we’d do something when we got back to Leicester and get in touch with them to see where we go from there. Before then we had to pack up which we did fairly quickly which meant Marr and Neil could head back to Bristol in good time, and Marr didn’t just pay myself but gave Amanda some cash for helping out which helped make a good week even better for her.

I’ve spoken before what the last day at a con feels like, but this was like the best party in the world and a wake at the same time. We didn’t want to leave. Seriously. If Bridget or Andy or anyone in Glasgow had said ‘stay here and leave your lives in Leicester behind’ we would have, and we actually discussed doing something like that, albeit drunkenly. But we didn’t so we just had a few drinks on the last night, before leaving early as we were heading back to Leicester the next day, which was probably for the best as we were getting too cosy in Bridget’s flat (plus we wanted our bed/s), so we said our farewells and slinked off because we didn’t want a big farewell, and we were getting a bit teary.

Next morning Amanda saw me off at the bus station as she was get the train back, which gave her an hour or so to say her farewells to Glasgow before getting the train which would see her arrive before me. We’d agreed to stay at our separate homes the night we got back but I swung by where she lived and that agreement went out the window.

As for GLASCAC, the 1995 con was the last one. I didn’t go, but I would return to Glasgow for that summer’s T in the Park festival, but Glasgow would be without a big comic convention for some time, but with the passing of GLASCAC a bit of comic history passed on. It’s not often spoken about now among the cosplay and nerd love of modern conventions, not to mention the fact most cons now do seem to be tied up with things outside comics which is a bit problematic for me, but then I’m old school. As far as I know this series of blogs are the only history of GLASCAC knocking around the net and that’s a shame so if anyone stumbles across these blogs who do want to add something, then feel free. I’d love it.

And oh, Amanda and myself did a series of pictures with her modelling the Bastard Bunny hat which means I fulfil the promise I made a time ago to explain the following picture….

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There’s more pictures I could put up but I love that one most of all. It’s just fun and we had a great day doing those pictures. Pity we didn’t get round to sending them to Bastard Bunny for a variety of reasons but it felt like an opportunity lost, but then again much of that time felt like an opportunity lost….

The Rise and Fall of the Glasgow Comic Art Convention part two

Last time I recounted the tale of the first Glasgow Comic Art Convention (GLASCAC) and what I remember of it. This time round I’m going to tell what I remember of GLASCAC in 1992.

The End.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s not strictly true. I do remember some things……

In 1992 I was living in Nottingham and was half in/half out of the comics scene. It was all a bit of a limbo time for me as the reason why I moved to Nottingham from Leicester is far too dull to go into here and now, but I was doing alright and still keeping my finger in comics working for the lads in Bristol on and off, which meant the odd trip down to Bristol, as well as regularly doing the Nottingham comic marts, as well as the odd Leicester mart. I was doing some casual work as well on building sites, as well as the odd warehouse job but most of the time I just sat around Nottingham pubs chatting up Goth girls.

So in the spring of 1992, I was told by Chris (one of the Bristol lads) that we were going to do GLASCAC, and in fact it was going to be Maurice (Marr) doing it alongside myself. Now I knew this meant Marr driving the van I’d nicknamed The Blue Slug from Bristol to Nottingham, and I thought, an overnight stay at the house Chris’s company (Chris also worked in Nottingham for a large clothing company) had for him to stay during the week. Nope, Marr drove from Bristol to Nottingham where he picked me up and then we hit the road to Glasgow in a giant zig-zag across the UK.  This was all on the Friday morning, so by the time Marr picked me up in Nottingham in the morning, he’d been on the road for hours already.

Poor sod!

But once we were on the road things became a bit jolly as we laughed and gossiped all the way to Glasgow, and I know I’ve made this point in my blogs before, but this really is a wonderful country to drive though once you get out the cities. We did however have to get to Glasgow by 5pm as John McShane of AKA had said he’d sort out a hotel room for us both. Trusting that he’d get things right this time, all we had to go was drag the Blue Slug up to Glasgow in time. As it worked out we did quite amazing time, as pulled into Glasgow just as rush hour was kicking off. Marr spent this part of the trip following my directions and commenting on the similarities between Bristol and Glasgow which I’d not noticed before.

Sadly we got undone by Glasgow’s then new one-way system which meant struggling to drag the Blue Slug 20 yards down a street to AKA. After some help from a policeman we eventually drove all the way round the city centre to get to where we needed to be and speak to John to find out exactly where he’d booked us into. Amazingly, John had booked us into the Central Hotel and in a twin room, not a double room, and a hotel that held a lot of history for me.

Marr and myself found a secure carpark, parked up the Slug, checked in and promptly stuffed our faces before getting ready to go out to a pre-con drinking session. This is where things go sketchy through a mix of tiredness and alcohol, mainly alcohol though, but even though Marr was pretty much dead on his feet we found our way to the bar where this session was planned and it ended up being some dreadful neon clad nightmare of a bar, and I’m not sure exactly who was there but I do remember Andy Sweeney of AKA with his then partner Bridget, her sister Magz who was seeing Gary Erskine and a load of people who I didn’t really know as they’d been former AKA customers who graduated to being part of the inner circle after I’d long left. Also there was a chap named Doug who I’ve mentioned before but in the future from a 1992 perspective if you know what I mean?

Marr stayed for a couple of drinks that night before going back to the hotel for a much needed kip, but I sadly didn’t and chose to drink like a bastard til the wee small hours. The next morning I remember regaining conciousness as Marr was heading down for breakfast. Somehow I pulled myself out of bed, dragged on some clothes and crawled downstairs for some breakfast, and seeing as it was a buffet breakfast, I filled up on all the square sausage and bacon I could before going back to the room and throwing it all up and feeling much better. Of course I came back down for more…

The Saturday morning was about setting up so once we’d finished eating breakfast and throwing it up, we drove round to the venue which was a hall in Candleriggs which ended up being the most bloody awful place to hold a convention as it was a nightmare getting the tonne of comics we’d brought into the dealers room, but we struggled and we did and at this point we realised that we were causing a kerfuffle with some of the local dealers who had snuck a look at our stock and were getting very annoyed we were selling things for 50p that they were selling for 10 quid and over. Oh dear. How Sad. Never mind.

Other dealers however saw this as an opportunity, especially Pete Root of AKA who cleaned us out of certain comics, before selling them at a profit to himself and undercutting his competition.  Once the doors were open and the general public came in and we were discovered we made an absolute mint to the point on that first day we’d made back the money for the trip and were in profit.There’s always a nice buzz at the end of the first day of a con as a dealer if you’re counting the empty boxes not just because it means you’ve made money, but also because you don’t have to lug it back into the van on the last day.

That night Marr and myself tagged along with Andy and the others for a meal, before Marr went back for a kip as the next day he faced a horrible drive back, but I went into the night drinking heavily as usual , but I do remember stopping short of being utterly stupid and grabbing a reasonably early night as I didn’t face the loading up.

I did miss some more carnage along the lines of what Alan Davis drew in a convention programme afterwards…

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This incident featured one of the owners of a certain comic shop in Glasgow who shall remain nameless…..

Anyhow, the Sunday came. We carried on doing well. We sold loads of comics, I tried to be nice to Forbidden Planet Glasgow. I drank a few beers and we ended up saying cheerio to everyone before packing up painfully and slowly. Thankfully the Blue Slug was less heaving than coming up but we still faced a trip going back but thanks to some truly mental driving Marr got me back to Nottingham in around five hours before heading back to Bristol and that was the end of that….

Thing was I’d tried to make some plans which all came to nothing. The main one was to get a database of all the independent comic shops in the UK and form a loose alliance along the lines of The Chain With No Name in order to form a powerful group to stop, or at least combat the power of the Forbidden Planet chain. I should have pushed on with that as if it’d worked we’d see a very different marketplace to what it is today.

Hey ho….

I wouldn’t return home to Glasgow until the next GLASCAC Marr and myself worked in 1994. This deserves a blog to itself as eventful isn’t the word for that week or so I was in Glasgow that time…..

The rise and fall of the Glasgow Comics Art Convention-part one

I’ve previously blogged about UKCAC and it’s history through my eyes, but I kept talking about it’s spinoff, the Glasgow Comic Art Convention (GLASCAC) being destined for a separate  blog, so here we go…..

GLASCAC was born initially as part of Glasgow’s European City of Culture celebrations in 1990 and Glasgow  was chosen for this spin off as the city was throwing around money like confetti on anything which would bring people to the city, plus comics were huge at this point and Glasgow was a creative centre for the booming comics scene thanks to the sheer amount of creative talent often championed by AKA Books and Comics in the city.

Frank Plowright, one of the UKCAC organisers, saw a chance to do something in 1990 so he grabbed the opportunity. Unlike most conventions then, and even today, it wasn’t advertised and publicised just to the comics fan but to the wider public not just in the UK, but across Europe and the world as part of the city’s celebrations. In fact I remember seeing it advertised in Tube stations across London from the middle of 1989, and also at Heathrow and Gatwick airports. It got extraordinary coverage nearly a year before it happened in spring 1990, and to this day I’ve never seen any mart or convention in the UK get the sort of coverage that first GLASCAC did.

At the time I was still working for Neptune Distribution so the plan was to do a huge launch of the colour version of St. Swithin’s Day by Grant Morrison and Paul Grist, as well as generally pushing Trident Comics and try to sweeten up our existing customers and take the piss from those who thought we were stirring things, which as I’ve outlined before, we were.

The convention was to be held in Glasgow’s City Chambers which is to this date the most impressive, if somewhat impracticable, venue for a comic convention I’ve ever been to but it was an amazing venue with it’s gilded halls and marble staircases. Thankfully all we had were a dozen of so boxes of Trident Comics titles which we shipped to AKA who kindly stored them for us before we all made our way up from Leicester, though myself, and another lad Nigel, had to first do the regular Friday shipment of comics even though Geoff (the MD) had left for Glasgow from East Midlands airport early on the Friday morning.

This meant being driven to London, doing the shipment and then hopefully having it done in time for the teatime flight to Glasgow from Heathrow. A long day was ahead, but on what was a lovely spring day we went from Leicester to Heathrow, where we picked up the shipment of that weeks’ comics, drove back to where our warehouse (by warehouse I really mean a large room) was in Staines where we sorted out the shipment and to get it out on time so Nigel and myself could get our flight, we had to drive to the ANC depot by Heathrow Airport to drop it off by hand before being driven to the correct terminal at Heathrow and unceremoniously dumped at the entrance where we discovered we had plenty of time to get ready for our flight.

This is where I point out that flying around inside the UK at this time wasn’t as common as it is today, so as we piled into the BA departure lounge we ended up mingling with various politicians, musicians and businessmen who eyed us both with  suspicion as we looked very out of place as we were still in our work clothes which were covered in dirt and muck. Both Nigel and myself dived into the very plush toilets in the lounge to change before emerging like new men ready for the weekend ahead, though I’d decided to stay on a few days longer than everyone else to prolong thing as I hate farewells and the final day of events like this.

During the flight Nigel and myself decided to pose as pop stars going to Glasgow to play a gig, so we came up with the name The Stray Toasters after the comic of the same name just to take the piss out of some of the businessmen sitting around us who were sneering at us under their breaths. Thankfully for everyone the flight was less than an hour and we landed at Glasgow Airport in the early evening, which left us only the task of getting to our hotel  Now we weren’t staying at the Copthorne Hotel which was the convention hotel where Geoff and two of the marketing team, Viv and Adam, plus Martin Skidmore (editor of Trident Comics) were staying. No, we were slumming it at the nearby & cheaper Central Hotel which at that time had become just a bit shabby, but I liked the place and so did Nigel so we got into Glasgow city centre, made our way to the Central, checked in and found our rooms where we both changed to get ready to meet up with Geoff and the others at the Copthorne. This also meant Nigel got his first experience of Glasgow city centre which shouldn’t have come as a huge shock seeing as he was a Geordie used to going out in Newcastle, but it was fun in that short walk between hotels.

I need to also point out that in these pre-mobile days things had to be arranged just by saying you’d be in a place at a time while hoping everyone else stuck to their part of the arrangement. That’s easier said than done but it turned out that when we met up with Geoff and the others, they’d had a perfectly nice day in Glasgow while we’d be grafting like wankers in London and dashing around.

Anyhow, the first night in the hotel was about pressing the flesh and saying hello, not to mention drinking heavily. In fact most people were drinking heavily. Very heavily. Amazingly heavily. I remember drinking a lot with John Wagner who we’d gotten on-board for Toxic!, our competition to 2000AD which was due to come out in 1991. I remember seeing Nigel staggering around and at some point early in the morning deciding to beat a discrete retreat and pulling Nigel back to the Central as we needed to crash as we were due up early the next day. We did leave behind us a night of carnage as Alan Davis noted in a cartoon he did for the next UKCAC programme.

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I won’t name the person Davis references, but at the time they thought they were a huge name in the industry, and yes, this actually happened.

Moving on…

Getting up early on the Saturday was painful, but I did it, staggered to get breakfast where I found a very peaky looking Nigel turning into a huge breakfast which was a great idea. After this we’d arranged for Nigel and myself to go to AKA, pick up our boxes (yes, we did all the bloody graft) then head to the City Chambers to set up. We’d been positioned next to where John Wagner and Alan Grant were selling and signing copies of The Bogie Man and their associated memorabilia, and near AKA, but far away from Forbidden Planet or anything Titan related.

It was also the weekend where a huge Poll Tax demo was scheduled outside in George Square to coincide with one being held in London. We didn’t know this til it actually started but it gave Geoff an excuse to nip outside with me to sell copies of St. Swithin’s Day as an ‘anti-Thatcher’ comic to protesters who helped make the issue effectively sell out in it’s first weekend.

In fact the entire convention was a roaring success. Numbers through the door were huge, and not just comics people and the same old faces, but new people and kids who were there for the fun of it. That first day was simply amazing and I remember sitting with John Wagner laughing at how well the thing was going.

That night, Geoff had arranged to go out for a meal with John McShane, Pete Root and the rest of the senior AKA crowd in order to wine and dine them, but I couldn’t be bothered so I tagged along with Andy Sweeney who was part of the new AKA group who’d replaced me when I moved from Glasgow a few years earlier. I think Nigel tagged along too as we went for a meal, got a bit pissed and headed back to the Copthorne for the Saturday evening’s drinking where I challenged Pete Root to a Neptune Vs. AKA football match on the Sunday morning.

That evening was fun. Lots of good banter and in fact much more relaxed and fun than the London based UKCAC due to the lack of media whores (who shall remain nameless) trying to annoy people to get a break into comics. It was just a laugh!

Next morning I got up early, changed into trainers, etc for the footy match, and went to the City Chambers to meet Martin Skidmore and the rest of the AKA lot to walk down to Glasgow Green for our kickabout. Thing was the AKA crowd were hanging apart from a few and Martin had tried to wake up Geoff and VIv but she wasn’t answering and Geoff had been a wee bit sheepish when Martin had tried to get him out his hotel room. I remember sitting on those marble steps of the City Chambers with Martin going ‘he’s not shagging her is he?’ before we both laughed it off and headed back to our respective hotels to get change and come back to mock John McShane’s immense hangover.

The last day also went amazingly well. Frank walked around looking happy as it’d went amazing well, however we also awoke to the Sunday papers which told the story of the riots in London the previous day which concerned a lot of people as they were heading back to London that night, or early on Monday morning. I wasn’t due back until Wednesday though as I’d arranged to meet my then girlfriend of sort in London on Wednesday afternoon before heading back to Leicester at the weekend after.

The convention drew to a close with the overwhelming response being positive. Neptune had picked up some extra business. Trident had sold itself well, and we’d sold pretty much everything we brought with us. I even drunkenly abused some FP staff which was fun. It was a success but the main thing people wanted to know was would Frank do another, which he said he would but that would mean organising two big events in a year pretty much by himself.

As the Sunday progressed the convention thinned out as people left and dealers packed up to leave. Geoff and the others from work were heading back to Leicester that night so they left, while Nigel was going back to London that night as well, so I was all on my tod and now I was officially not representing the company I decided to have a serious drinking session with whomever was left. I’d went out with Andy and the bits and bobs of AKA people who were still standing, and as we walked through George Square on a stunning spring evening all you could smell were the flowers blooming. It was beautiful and then we all dived into a pint glass for the next few hours.

I woke up back in my room at the Central feeling awful, but I didn’t need to work, so I stumbled down to get breakfast, filled my plate and had a thoroughly nice day chilling out in Glasgow, though when I did catch the news about London I was starting to become concerned as it was looking like a warzone.

Tuesday was supposed to be sorting a few family things out, but I wisely thought against it and instead spent the day in Kelvingrove Park sitting around reading comics before heading back into the centre to have a final drink with the AKA crowd before heading back to London the next day.

I painfully checked out of the Central the next day, headed to Glasgow Airport with a stinking hangover, and got on my flight to Heathrow where the majority of conversation in the departure lounge was about the riots in London over the weekend. As we landed I thought I’d go into central London first before heading up to Camden to meet my girlfriend. this was mainly to see whether central London had been levelled but it hadn’t but the damage was still visible and the effects of that day ended up spelling the end of a Prime Minister, but there was something eerie about walking though a half empty London (people were avoiding the centre) on a weekday. Eventually I headed up to Camden but that’s another story….

GLASCAC would indeed return the following year, but I wouldn’t be there for a variety of reasons and wouldn’t actually return to the convention til 1992, and in fact I’d only go back to Glasgow once in that time which was for Andy Hope’s wedding later in 1990. The story of the 1992 GLASCAC and beyond is coming up in the next part so do please come back for that….

Find me on a pale horizon-The Rise and Fall of Festival Culture in the UK-part one

As those who do follow this blog might know I’ve been doing a series of blogs about my experiences at the Glastonbury Festival from 1992 onwards, but there’s a bit of a larger story to tell in regards festival culture in the UK.

There’s been festivals of some shape or form in the UK since the 1950’s. You can study the history of the growth of festival culture by looking at the excellent site, The Archive, which details festivals from 1960-1990, or searching out the splendid Festivals Britannia documentary that BBC Four broadcast a few years ago. It’s really the story of my perception of what happened to festival culture from the late 80’s onwards that I’m on about.

As I’ve outlined in the past, I grew up in a very working class part of Glasgow which didn’t mean I was ignorant of festivals as I knew they existed thanks to reading the NME from an early age, but that was mainly things like Reading Festival when it was going through it’s Jurassic phase. I only really learned about the wider world of festivals after reading an article about Glastonbury in an edition of the NME from 1985.

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I was intrigued by the sounds of Glastonbury and the idea of a load of people sitting in a field somewhere listening to music and generally getting together. Not that was an alien concept to me back in Glasgow in the mid-80’s as sitting around Kelvingrove Park was a pastime, plus the odd open air gig used to happen in Glasgow so I’d had a tease but nothing anywhere near the full experience.

It wasn’t until I moved to Leicester in 1988 and drifted gently into various scenes in both Leicester and London that I started to dive into the whole festival culture. Leicester was, oddly enough, where I experienced my first full one day festival with the Abbey Park Festival which was a one day event normally held in August in Leicester featuring frankly a selection of some pretty naff bands, but I enjoyed the whole ambiance of the day and it was fun most of all.

Most of 1988 and 1989 was spent splitting my time between London and Leicester which was easily done thanks to my job, and being a young man with more money than sense I took great advantage of the delights and pleasures of London at a time when rave music was not only at it’s peak but it was colliding with other cultures such as the traveller and punk culture which is where it caught me. I used to finish work on a Friday and rather head back to Leicester, head into London to see gigs, or hang around various pubs in Camden or Kentish Town. I’d stay overnight wherever I could, so a floor, a bed or when there was a comic mart the next day, I’d find a cheapish hotel round Holburn and spend the previous night in Soho after being at the Astoria til the wee hours.

Then in 1990 I decided to take the plunge and go to that year’s Reading Festival, which had seen itself make the dinosaurs which used to play there extinct and started showcasing bright new talent from both sides of the Atlantic. I didn’t end up going, but I did start going to various free festivals on my increasing trips to the South West of England, and I’d stumble across groups of ravers in London pubs who’d drag me to a field somewhere in Hertfordshire.

When I left my job and became rooted in Leicester I fell out of that lifestyle, but festival culture was still attractive to me because it was very much still an underground and alternative thing to do, plus the free festivals were fun, but had a huge element of danger to them thanks to the somewhat dubious people often involved with them, not to mention the gangsters who’d follow them around selling drugs. Most of the time though the free festivals of the early 90’s were fun affairs which sometimes seemed never to have an end as they’d go on and on and on….

There was also a beginning and end to the summer with Glastonbury kicking it off with this huge life affirming party to welcome the summer months and Reading ending it with this dirty, filthy party in a field next to a railway line.

By 1992 or so the amounts of festivals had started to grow partly due to the response to the Castlemorton festival which saw the government start to crack down on free festivals, which meant all these people who were going to festivals wanted to go somewhere and there were decreasing amounts of places willing to host them. By the time the Criminal Justice Bill became law the amount of free festivals were dropping to single figures, and the days of the illegal rave were numbered. This meant big business saw a market and a chance to repackage what was an alternative and underground culture for a mainstream, so by 1993 you had the Phoenix Festival rear it’s head in what was the first attempt to introduce a new major festival to the calender to challenge (the 1996 lineup is to this day the best of any festival of any kind I’ve ever been to) Glastonbury and Reading.

The first year was frankly a disaster with security extinguishing campfires and getting people to turn off soundsystems which for those of us used to free festivals was a bit of a shock, also there was not enough water standpipes and toilets. It never really recovered from that first year as it gained a reputation after this, but it was where the campsite cry of ‘BOLLOCKS’ originated which hung around festivals up til the early 21st century. It did peak with the 1996 festival though more of how that failed in many ways in the next part of this series of blogs.

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Phoenix never really brought in the mainstream punter, but rather the Glastonbury/Reading veteran & the person who couldn’t get their free festival hit any more.  Attracting the mainstream would mean a change in the mainstream itself, which is exactly what happened when Britpop broke which meant the mainstream wanted to see bands like Blur or Oasis or Pulp and they played lots of festivals, so the mainstream slowly started feeding into festival culture. It wasn’t until 94 or 95 that people started seeing festivals as something to do rather than a Spanish holiday or a trip anywhere else. The fact you now had festivals organised by beer companies (Reading was only sponsored by Carlsberg Tetley) like T in the Park and also by large mega-companies like Virgin with the execrable V Festival.

And that sets up quite nicely my experiences at all the festivals I went to that wasn’t Reading or Glastonbury in the 90’s. This gives you a little bit of background as to what was happening and in the next part I’ll outline the exploitation of festival culture by the corporations and how it all went horribly wrong.

 

The Great Glasgow Comic Shop Wars- 25 years and one day later…..

Yesterday I wrote a blog. It seems to have been quite the kerfuffle, but as you can see from reading it there’s good reasons to as even I find it quite amazingly angry, bitter & and twisted some 24 hours later. However I stand by every single bit of it but this is a last word (for now) about that particular chapter now that Andy Hope has revealed he’s writing Fantomex for Marvel Comics.

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I know Andy is doing interviews and kindly Tweeted yesterday’s blog on his Twitter account which is why I imagine yesterday’s blog had more hits than anything else I’ve ever blogged about, including my Glastonbury blogs. So this is to say thanks to Andy, and I hope that when people stumble across this blog they go back and read my little biography/history lesson.

Just to make it easy here’s the links to each part.

Part One

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Epilogue

For those people coming to this fresh, yes, there are huge chunks probably missing but I didn’t feel that served the story I was trying to tell. I am going to do a history of Neptune Distribution (I’ve made a start but trying to read my handwriting from 25 years ago was a task then) but my main priority for the summer is writing about Glastonbury and festivals in general as anyone with even a passing knowledge of this blog will have sussed out how much of my heart lies there these days. Not to say comics are dumped, but sitting in a field in the sun with like minded good people beats sitting in sweaty comic shops, warehouses or offices full of marketing people talking about comics.

Though in saying that there has to be a way to combine both & oddly enough I’m working on that….

In closing, I’ll be rounding off my history of my experiences of Glastonbury, tackling a few more blogs about my experiences of other festivals and then I’m going to do a big juicy history of Neptune Distribution with all the sex and violence intact…