Monday, 17 November 2008

The Best Convention Of The Year.

That's what a lot of attendees, guests and exhibitors are saying about the Leeds Thoughtbubble Show that was held this Saturday gone and I have to say I'm inclined to agree. It was a terrific day and the way Thoughtbubble had matured from an intimate little affair in the crypt of Leeds Town Hall in 2007 to a full-blown, bells and whistles, must-be-there comics party at Saviles Hall in 2008 was nothing short of remarkable.

The Time Bomb Comics weekend in Leeds started on the Friday where, after an excruciatingly long train journey that wound it's way between grimy Northern town after grimy Northern town, my wife Suzanne and I met up with The Sisterhood artist Dan Barritt on the Friday night. This was the first time I had managed to socialise with Dan since meeting him last year, and it was a great opportunity to get to know him better. Dan had sorted out his own table for Thoughtbubble and was feeling nervous as to whether he would sell any of the lavish posters of his artwork he had spent the week producing. I assured him he had nothing to worry about and Dan started to relax, no doubt helped by the stunningly cheap bar prices at the venue he'd chosen for our get together: The Angel Inn. A pint for £1.39 on a Friday night. I kid you not.

The Saturday of the show was wonderfully stress-free (if a little heavy-headed) as it turned out the hotel we'd booked into was, quite literally, a stone's throw from the Thoughtbubble venue. Saviles Hall is located opposite the Royal Armouries and turned out to be a wonderful venue, with a large reception area leading into the main hall beyond. Walking into this hall I realised how big this year's event actually was - over 100 tables that could give the BICS main hall a run for its money. We found our table and quickly set-up and the first attendees were let in bang on 10.00am - and at 10.01 we made our first sale.

There seemed to be an endless stream of people coming through the doors, a lot of them in a baffling variety of costumes and for the next 7 hours we had an almost constant stream of people looking at our comics. Some of them bought, some of them didn't, but each of them seemed delighted that Leeds was hosting such a vibrant comics festival. There were families on day trips (one man had driven his daughter up from Cornwall that morning for a birthday treat and was driving back straight afterward) and people who were discovering modern comics for the first time (a man in his sixties had read about the show in the local paper and was overwhelmed, and overspent if his heaving bags were anything to go by). Then of course there were the rest of us, who already know how great comics are and were just soaking up the vibe.

And over the day the vibe became The Vibe, as everyone began to agree that there was some atmosphere about Thoughtbubble that was making it a bit different to all the other comics gatherings. There was a real feel-good atmosphere in the hall, people were having a good time - even the exhibitors that weren't actually selling that much were enjoying themselves. By the end of the afternoon The Vibe had soaked into all of us. Then was the after-party, held in the nearby casino where some of the day's talks had been held and which was obviously going to be going on for a lot longer after we left at just before midnight.

So why was Thoughtbubble so damn good? Well, it could be that the eclectic range of exhibitors, panels and guest made it a show for everyone, or it could be that by being a single day convention it removes the "very slow Sunday" syndrome that the two day events can suffer from. Maybe. But a lot of the reason for Thoughtbubble's success falls at the feet of Tamsin and Lisa who'd organised the show and produced a wonderfully organised event - something that had been evident from the pre-show planning, to be honest - and maintained a cheerful can-do will-do prescence right until the very end.

You did a fabulous job, ladies. May your Bubble never burst.

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