“Given what a vibrant scene it is it seems only natural that the small press should get its very own day of celebration” Andy Oliver tells us about Small Press Day 2017

If only small press fans had a day to celebrate the art form, like Free Comic Book Day? Well, thanks to a valiant group of small press devotees, this July will sees the second annual Small Press Day – a day dedicated to DIY comics and micro publishing. We catch up with one it’s organisers, Broken Frontier‘s Editor In Chief Andy Oliver.

So, July 8th will see the second annual small press day, so what made you start it and why do you think small press needs its own day?

ANDY OLIVER: Like many great ideas it came from a moment of glorious spontaneity. Cartoonist David Ziggy Greene put out a speculative tweet in early 2016 about how a national Small Press Day event in shops might be a positive idea. That set into motion something that just grew and grew.

Some of the movers and shakers of the UK small press world came together to discuss ideas and shops were sounded out about interest. David, the Alternative Press’s Amneet Johal and myself (Andy Oliver, Broken Frontier’s Editor-in-Chief and ‘Small Pressganged’ columnist) oversaw the promotional and organisational aspects as the Small Press Day team.

Given what a vibrant scene it is it seems only natural that the small press should get its very own day of celebration. There are so many shops now who understand the vital importance of self-publishing in producing the next generation of comics creators and that’s reflected in so many major dedicated small press sections. This is a day that recognises that as much as it does the individual talents involved. It’s a profile-raising exercise from which everyone comes away a winner!

My aforementioned Small Press Day co-organising colleague Amneet puts it this way “SPD proves that by working collectively – focusing on what we all can do as individuals in our locality – we can diversify the small press economy by collaborating with shops to tap into the established local retail market (so makers aren’t just reliant on fairs in big cities to get their work out). This strengthens the small press scene and sense of community across the U.K, and ultimately increases the reach of self-published works.”

What events can we look forward to this year, and what events were you particularly proud of last year? (Either ones you attended or ones you heard about?)

AO:  For me, it wasn’t so much a case of feeling proud of individual events (after all – they were entirely down to the shops and individuals that organised them) as it was about feeling proud of the spirit of the day as a whole.

Being a part of both the organising team (and a site like Broken Frontier that specialises in championing the small press) meant I felt something of a duty to visit every London event on the day. As I travelled across the capital from shop to shop, though, I had a growing sense that something very special was happening across the UK and Ireland.

As the tweets began multiplying, and the #SmallPressDay hashtag trended, it was apparent that up and down two countries people had taken the ethos of the day to heart and had come together to celebrate the spirit of self-publishing with a sense of enthusiasm and collaboration that was embodied in all the signings, workshops, fairs and panels that were happening. It really was a day of true comics community and one that I look forward to seeing repeated this year.

As for what you can expect on the day, we’re currently updating the Small Press Day site with all the exciting events that are being announced but look for the same (25-plus) number of in-store signings, fairs and talks as we had in 2016.

If someone is considering running an event or just considering going to one, what advice would you give?

AO:  Firstly (and so importantly!) if you’re running an event then let the Small Press Day team know (contact details on the website). You can also talk to me directly at Broken Frontier about coverage and free advertising opportunities.  If you’re going to an event check out the shop’s itinerary – there’s some wonderful and comprehensive programming going on. My local stores (London’s Gosh! Comics and Orbital Comics) have a complete day of signings, for example, with an opportunity to meet creators from all areas of the scene. That’s the kind of thing you’ll be seeing across the UK and Ireland. And if you’re not a small press enthusiast already be prepared to have your mind opened to a whole new world!

The world of small press seems to be on a real upswing at the moment, what do you put that down to? Is it just the rise of the internet and a drop in printing costs?

AO:  I put it down as much to a growing realisation about the democracy of comics as a communicative form and self-publishing as a method of delivery.  I always like to quote something that graphic novelist Karrie Fransman said to me in a 2015 interview here because I think it resonates in regards to that question: “I think what excites me the most about the medium is how young and open it is. Unlike cinema, photography or fine art, comics are still being defined. And it’s a medium which is open for any of us to define it. There are very few barriers to entry when it comes to comics – you don’t need money to make them or any formal education.”

I think Karrie articulates it there far better than I probably could.

Is the small press community more inclusive these days, than ever before? I don’t mean just in terms of gender or sexuality, but tone and style – is it more than just hand made zines these days! (Not that those are bad of course!!)

AO:  I have a much-repeated phrase on social media that “comics can be whatever we want them to be” and it’s in the small press and DIY culture arenas where making for the sake of making without necessarily considering commercial concerns that this has always been most apparent. 

I’ve been covering small press extensively at Broken Frontier since 2011 and in that time the upsurge in interest in the scene has been a wonderful thing to behold. This isn’t just an inclusive community, though, it’s also an incredibly supportive, generous and nurturing one. That needs to be acknowledged because it’s a thing of great value and, quite frankly, great beauty too.

And finally, what’s the ultimate goal for small press day?

AO:  I would say it’s twofold. First of all it’s an opportunity for our fantastic community to come together and celebrate the freedoms and possibilities of self-publishing. But just as importantly – if not moreso – it’s a day when we reach out to those who love this form but who may not have considered reading small press books and try and make them aware of the amazing work out there.

From Simon Moreton to Danny Noble, Kim Clements to Ellice Weaver, EdieOP to Rozi Hathaway, Wallis Eates to Rachael Smith, the breadth of approaches to self-publishing in terms of both style and content ensures there is something for everyone in small press comics. As far as I’m concerned this is the richest and most rewarding area of sequential art in 2017 in that regard.

Not without reason is this known as the “Golden Age of Small Press Comics” after all!

You can find out more about Small Press Day via their website or follow them on twitter @smallpressday and find out where your local events are.

Author: Alex Thomas

Alex Thomas is the Editor and founder of PIpedream Comics. He grew up reading comics in the 90s, so even though he loves all things indie and small press, he is easily distracted by a hologram cover.