Sunday, 4 October 2015



I've just been up in Kendal installing an exhibition for the upcoming Lakes International Comic Art Festival. I was paired up with YWCA Kendal, who operate the cafe & business resource centre that I'm using, as well as providing accommodation for young homeless people upstairs, via Impact Housing Association.

The exhibition tells a number of interweaving stories, centred around the themes of home. I wrote this when preparing the Questionnaire that I used to elicit input into the stories from various users of the building:

Home is an essential human dignity
Home can be a building
Home can be other people
Home can be a state of mind
Home can be a place of safety
Home can be a place in which to grow
Home can become a suit of armour
Home can lock people in - or out

I've been writing and illustrating these stories for the last two months, and it's been a turbulent awful two months for a lot of people, as the refugee crisis in Syria and elsewhere has ramped up to unexpected and entirely predictable proportions. It weighed heavily on my mind while writing around the subject of homes and homelessness. Initially, I tried to focus more on homelessness in the UK, but that didn't feel right either. In the end, I've worked on the universal underlying issue, which is seeing other people as "other", attempting to take away their humanity. We do it because we're afraid.

Main Course

I'm not writing this post to promote my exhibition. I should be working on something else this afternoon, but this won't wait. I need to rant. I read an article just now (thanks to Tauriq Moosa for bringing it to my attention on Twitter - I highly recommend his twitter feed for uncomfortable ethical issues, he does a great job)

So, here's the article. In summary:
- in Hungary, a camera-woman was filming refugees being held back by police
- the line broke, and the refugees ran through, towards the film crew
- the camera-woman panicked, and kicked out at a young girl running towards her
- this was caught on film
- camera-woman loses her job, faces criminal trials, and becomes subject of an internet witch-hunt

While I condemn her actions completely - what she did was stupid, disrespectful and small-minded - my heart goes out to the camera-woman. My heart goes out to the refugees too, of course, what they've seen on the journey this far beggars belief. Oh, and my heart goes out to the police tasked with holding the line, and the one-dimensional saps hurting in their witch-hunt.

We kick out when we see a rabid animal running towards us. We kick out in our nightmares. We stamp on snakes, cockroaches and other vilified creatures. The camera-woman got confused between a small, vulnerable child who's been through hell, and a dangerous nightmare monster. Not an easy mistake to make, you say? Various arms, legs and tentacles of the international media have been promoting that exact confusion for the last few months (google for hopkins cockroach norovirus sun Roszke, just for starters). And it gets under our skin, even the best of us aren't automatically immune to the gradual erosion of common human decency when faced with a barrage of hate-n-crap.

This isn't a new trick, by the way. The US soldiers in Vietnam referred to locals as "gooks" to encourage dehumanisation. The Nazis in Germany depicted Jews as sub-human. Trace the line back out through the twentieth century and beyond, through Machiavelli's advice, backwards into antiquity. (Certain sections of the Old Testament and other early literature probably have some good stuff in this vein?) Demonising the other is part of who we are. (Yes, it is "we" - "they" don't do it, "we" do. Geddit?)

Faced with this barrage of hate-n-crap, we all need to be on guard more than usual to counter the confusion between human and monster. The camerawoman in this story failed that test. She deserves the criminal charges. Being fired? I can't decide. The witch hunt? Definitely not.

Her employers, who fired her, and saw a bad PR event running towards them, kicked her out with a similar reflex. (I can't find out much about Nemzeti TV just now - their website's been hacked, google just turns up variants of this story... so no idea what their general ethos is). They've distanced themselves, for the sake of their reputation. Anyone taking pot-shots at her from the comfort of the internet has also drawn an ethical line between "us" and "them".

Don't believe the hype. Everyone involved in this chain of events is human. And that means everyone's got the capacity to be a monster, by letting fear replace our view of the other person with some demonic image, some nightmare rabid-rat-snake that only exists in our heads.

Alexandr Solzhenitsyn's old quote seems an appropriate point to end this rant on:

"If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?"

When (not if, because this is big enough to engulf us all) I'm faced with the split-second choice of whether to kick or not, I hope like f**k I make the right choice, and don't have to face the many internal and external consequences. I don't feel complacent about doing so, and - whoever you are, dear reader - neither should you.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Window Trails

After setting up my own Window Trail, I took a stroll round the lovely town of Kendal to see what else was already in place. Here's my holiday snaps.

I'm excited to be part of this, and thanks to all the other participants for also taking part. Mounting my own exhibition's fun, mounting it as part of something bigger is funnerer.

Farrer's Tea & Coffee featuring Poblins by Jim Dog Art & Anthony Dixon

St. Patrick's C E Primary School doing Oxfam

Andy Poyiadgi's exhibition at Brew Brothers artisan cafe

Soutergate Gallery by RV Projects Group

Turning Point by Independence Studio feature recycling/fair trade superheroes 

Close-up of Soutergate

Brew bros. open late during festival for Tea-n-Poyiadgi connoisseurs

This is not part of the Window Trail, just standard window dec at an estate agents, but I'd like to do a comic that looks like this! (There's some cut-out paper style stuff at my exhibition at YWCA, getting into that look.)

A cartoon fox at white Stuff, where Mike Medaglia will have his exhibition (don't think it's up yet?) Look out for that, it's on sale for charity 

Iridium stationers, feat Gareth Hopkins' original take on "To Kill a Mockingbird", which he hasn't read!

Installation of the Exhibition

Follow up to the Process post from a couple of days ago.

I've been in Kendal today, at the Foyer Cafe run by YWCA Kendal, installing my exhibition (twice! "Washable" glue-spots didn't do the job, so I had to re-stick everything with "extra strong" after they started falling like little autumn leaves. The blobs are transparent, but just about visible from outside - special prize to the person who tells me which panel has the most blobs on it!)

Big thanks to Heather Lindsay, Resource Centre Manager at YWCA, for being available to let me in and help out. Also to Sandra from the festival Comic Art Trail, for dropping by and giving some good advice.

Phase 1 of the exhibition is now done. Phase 2 is in progress, and will be installed first thing Saturday morning before I go to improvise at Brewery Arts.

Bookmarks featuring work from the exhibition are on sale from the cafe, and the art/narratives will be collected into a book in time for the Festival weekend (and hopefully a bit sooner). All profits from these go to the YWCA Kendal.

Lot of glue spots harmed and swore at in the making of this exhibition!

I remember the day I came up with the idea of making a square with a lone panel in the centre - it's Deeply Significant, folks

Friday, 2 October 2015

Process: Exhibition

Last couple of days I hit that scary / exciting stage in the project where everything came off the computer, and got printed out. Finally giving me some notion of how the installation is going to be. Each square is 20cm roughly, there are 170 of them, laminated and mounted double-sided to be readable from inside or outside. 

I'm up in Kendal tomorrow setting it up. Will post some more photos when it's up.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Electricomics sans iPad - a (fairly non-techie) How-To

If you're following news about Electricomics, and want to see what the fuss is all about, but you don't have an iPad, you can still read the comics, with a little extra work, in a web browser. Thankfully, most of the work's one-off, so once you're set up, it'll be easier for subsequent reads.

Reading them in this way is not in any sense going against the project, by the way. The project is an open, extensible platform for reading comics. The official iPad app is the only supported reader at present, but the system's designed from the ground up to support other readers.

NB: This won't let you read the official electricomics by Moore, Doran, Ennis et al., those are ipad-only for now. You can use it to read Electricomics you've made yourself, or third-party ones, including mine


Electricomics are built using HTML and Javascript, and run in a web browser. The iPad app displays the comics inside an "embedded" web browser.

The URL you enter into the ipad App will download a ".elcx" file, which is a zip file containing HTML, javascript and images in a web-friendly format. To read them in a browser, you simply unzip the file manually, and look at it through a web browser.


Here's an example tweet, pointing to a really good Electricomic by Lars Schwed Nygård and Torgeir Trapnes:

Click the link in your web browser/twitter app, and it'll download a .elcx file to your computer.

Change the suffix of the file to ".zip", and your system (Windows, Mac, Linux) ought to recognise the file as a zip file, and open it up for you. Once opened, you'll have the following sort of folder structure:

The highlighted file, index.html, is the one you want to view in your web browser.

Double-clicking the file will sometimes work, but sometimes the javascript will only work if the pages are served up by a web server, rather than directly from the filesystem. Fortunately, there are plenty of small easy-to-setup web servers that you can use. Here are a couple of suggestions to get you started.

Windows and Mac (GUI) - Fenix Web Server 

Fenix is a user friendly web server with a graphical user interface. After installing it, run the app, and set up a new web server with whatever name you like, and pick a "port number" - I've gone for the whimsical '54321' (if you don't know port numbers, stick with that, it's probably OK on all systems). The server needs a folder too - point it at the folder you unzipped your Electricomic into. Start the server you've created,  and then open a web browser, at http://localhost:54321 (you can bookmark/favourite this to avoid typing it in every time). Here's Fenix and the web browser running side by side.

If there is no "index.html" file in the folder, Fenix will show a file listing (see above), so you can click down to the electricomic, at which point, you ought to see the "Tap to Start" message. (You're on a proper computer, so "tap" means "click"). Happy reading!

When you're done reading, stop the Fenix server, or close the Fenix app.

Mac or Linux (Command Line)

You probably have python installed on your computer. Open a command prompt/terminal, cd to the Electricomic folder, and type the following:

$ python -m SimpleHTTPServer 54321

(thanks to, which has several recipes of this type). Now open the web browser, go to http://localhost:54321 as above, and you're ready to read.

When you're done, close the terminal window, or hit Ctrl-C to stop the server.