When it comes to venues for a comic convention, you won’t find many more picturesque than the Blackfriars Priory in historic Gloucester – home to this weekend’s True Believers Summer Variant. This ancient priory was a truly one of a kind venue that made for a really fantastic day out for punters and creators alike.
With this being another event run by Stuart Mulrain and his team at True Believers, the whole day was impeccably managed and in the part of the priory where we were tabling, there was a fantastic selection of small press superstars, flying the flag for DIY comics. Arriving just before the cut off time, we set up hurriedly in our corner between Midnight Man creator Andy Bloor and Gloucester comic shop Proud Lion. And as we caught our breath we were able to look out at the high vaulted ceiling and distressed stonework and realised that after our hectic journey in it was an incredibly calming and inspiring venue for a convention which helped steady our nerves and prime us for a day of selling our new issue of The Pull List to a host of eager punters.
The hall where we were was split into two sections, with those of us on the lower ‘north range’ looking up at the elevated ‘south range’. Down on our level were myself, the aforementioned Mr Bloor, Steve from Beyond The Bunker with Moon (who we were looking forward to meeting after missing him at previous shows), the King Legacy boys Jay and Liam Frettingham and Dave Cook, and also the super talented Nick Prolix who has some great new all ages work to show us. But the star attraction for our little corner were the Etherington Brothers, Robin and Lorenzo, who not only had a table stacked with their wonderful books, but had strings of fairy lights behind them, making them look very much like the main event – something they claimed they would asking for at all future appearances!
As the doors opened, a slow but steady stream of punters began to enter, including the odd cosplayer, but mainly families and people interested in discovering more about what was happening here today. As a result, we adapted our sales technique a bit to introduce people to the world of small press and indie comics (rather than assume they knew what we were all about), which seemed to go down well and we some great chats with people who had never been to a comic convention like this before, had no idea about indie and small press, or simply just wanted to see what was going on in the priory that afternoon. Along with these newbies we also had a great chance to chat with old friends like Roli Thomas and new friends like Andy “Off Twitter”.
Although things never got hectic during the day, and there were the inevitable lulls in footfall, the people who came by our stall all seemed keen on interacting – we had very people blank us and walk past – which made for a really nice experience. These quiet moments meant we had a chance to catch up with our fellow creators in the north parade, which meant hearing about the hidden messages in issues of Moon from Steve, or catching up with Andy about future Midnight Man plans. Or simply being talked into enthusiastic submission by both Etherington Brothers, who were their usual bundle of energy and positivity, as well as being very complimentary about The Pull List, and were keen to share lots of details about their plans for the superbly successful Stranski in the coming months!
With the venue being relatively small, we were able to pop up to the upper part of the hall without ever leaving our table out of sight, and this meant we were able to catch up with the guests up there, like NPC Tea’s Sarah Millman, (who we gave a copy of the new issue of The Pull List to, seeing as she starred in it), as well as seeing the wonderful Steve Tanner whose Flintlock we persuaded a couple of people to pick up (and who was there with his family as always). We also caught up with Owen Watts and Lady G from the Psychedelic Journal to hear about their future plans for comics involving photocopiers and webcomics with cats and jam (as well as a history lesson about the place, with some top facts about monastic acoustics!). While also on the floor were late arrivals Emily Owen and Gav Mitchell who filled a late cancellation spots to sell their excellent Brain Shoodles and Trolltooth Wars.
With it only being a 4 hour convention, and with us flying solo, we were unable to go out and check out other parts of the hall, but we heard good things about the panel rooms – especially from the King Legacy boys who were making their panel debut, and I’m sure were naturals. While in the other hall were the illustrators and back issues sellers, and we were told with it’’s lower ceiling it was less bright and cheerful and so we definitely had the best spot in the venue!!
As the day wrapped up it was a another chance to catch up with the other creators and look back on a very successful and enjoyable day. With many having adjusted expectations for the day – with it being a new event in a new location – the consensus was that we all seemed to have had these expectations exceeded. For us personally, we did very well, and the quality of people we talked to throughout the day meant we had a great return on our day. But more importantly we had a really enjoyable time, which is all you can ask for when this is a hobby not your living. And this was they key to the day. Whether it was the weather or the location or clientele, everyone was in a really good mood and so fed off the positivity, in turn making it into an even better day for everyone involved. With the West Country convention calendar feeling slightly emptier this year with no Melksham or Bristol, this was a fantastic substitute and a further example of how the True Believers brand is becoming one of the most enjoyable and most reliable banners on the UK convention circuit. We already can’t wait for February and a trip to the main show in Cheltenham!