This March sees the launch of the inaugural Robot Creative & Comic Arts Convention in Sheffield. Brand new to the UK convention circuit, Robot promises to be a celebration of illustration and creativity across a range of media. This week Kirk spoke with convention organiser Darryll about his plans for Robot, the organisation process, and Sheffield’s creative legacy.
How is the build-up to Robot coming along?
It has been busy but the response we have received from everyone has been a massive encouragement. Towards the end of last year and the beginning of this I will admit that there were some highs and lows, and not necessarily in that order, but the last 6 weeks or so have snowballed in the best possible way. All the exhibitors and guests have been supportive and helped to spread the word. The amount of interest we’ve received from social media, especially Twitter, has been outstanding. It has all fallen into place and we now have most of the day mapped and ready so it’s into the promotional overdrive stage which means getting the event out there in front of everyone.
What are you most excited about on the day?
I’ve been to a number of conventions but this is the first one that I am hosting so I’ve had a very different thought process than the usual run-up expectations; have I emailed everyone the arrival details, has the venue got a good set of microphones, that sort of thing. I am really looking forward to meeting all of the exhibitors because a number of them I have only spoken to via email so it will be great to put faces to names. I am also excited to see what the Celluloidscreams team put together for the day. They run a horror festival in Sheffield and are putting a few short films together for us. They will have more of a family friendly nature, fantasy more than horror, but it’s going to be exciting. I might have to be ‘on lunch’ for that part of the day.
There are a wealth of small press conventions in the UK at the moment; how are you approaching the challenge of giving people something different?
My partner and I started out by thinking about what we want from a convention and then worked from there. As we both have art based backgrounds our goal was to hold an event that showcased the talent behind the comics and the prints that you see everywhere. We wanted to give visitors a wide selection of works to look at so that everyone will be able to find something they like whether you’re into superheroes, biographical, horror or adventure stories, whether you want something new and different to read or something exceptional to hang on the wall. We should have you covered.
Also we’ve planned a couple of Q&A sessions with a number of the guests so that people can get the chance to hear the creators talk about what they do and how they do it. The main aim for the day is to expose the public to the variety of work that is being produced around them and allow them the chance to interact with the creators of that work. If people go away with something new that they love or are inspired to be creative themselves then I will count the day a success.
Sheffield has such a strong culture of creativity. Are you surprised there isn’t more opportunity for small press creators in the area?
When you start looking around, Sheffield is brimming with amazing talent, and I’m sure the same is true of other cities. There are small events and societies in and around the city but I think that finding them can sometimes be a challenge. A lot of it works on word of mouth or knowing someone involved with the groups which has its pros and cons. Small, intimate events are wonderful and give you a more personal experience, especially compared to the massive MCM style conventions, but such events become difficult to arrange if you can’t guarantee an audience. There is a great Zine Fest which will be holding its fourth annual event in April this year and groups like Sheffield Fantasy and Science Fiction Social hold events with writer talks and ‘meet and greets’. But I’ve only just started finding these because I’ve only just started really looking for them.
I think there is a problem in Sheffield, and one I was conscious of when starting to arrange Robot, of getting people to know that something is actually happening in the city. I know people who have lived in Sheffield for years and were surprised to discover the Tramlines music festival last year despite the fact it has taken over the city centre for one full weekend every year since 2009.
I hope that this is changing though, and we have tried to promote other people’s events whenever we’ve come across them because at the end of the day we’re all one big community and people who like art also like comics and Sci-Fi books and cinema and music.
What advice would you give to wannabe zine makers and comic book creators, as a convention curator yourself?
Get in touch with like minded people. Form groups. Promote yourself wherever and whenever you can. It comes back to being part of a community. You have to take the opportunity to get yourself known among your peers as well as by an audience. Collaborations and conventions are a good way of doing this.
Also the one thing I’ve learned over the last couple of years is that it’s surprising what you can get just by asking. Go to conventions/events and talk to people who produce the same stuff as you becasue they may be able to give you some advice or even be able to help you with your work. For Robot Con I contacted a number of people asking if they wanted to be involved, believing that they would politely decline, but so many said yes. I asked Gary Erskine but unfortunately he was booked for another event however he was still very helpful and gave me some good advice and assistance. Even though he couldn’t come to the event I’m still glad I spoke to him because he still helped me.
None of this would have happened, the event wouldn’t exist, if I hadn’t gone out there and just asked people in the first place.
Thanks to Darryll for this week’s interview. Robot will be taking place on 12th March 2016, at the Millennium Gallery in Sheffield. The Dirty Rotten Comics team will be in attendance, so do come along and say hello!