21 July–5 Aug: The International Alternative Press Festival

The second International Alternative Press festival, a celebration of creative exchange and self-publishing, came to an emphatic close last weekend. The fortnight had kicked off with eleven exhibitions dotted around Bloomsbury and concluded with a fair featuring over 100 artists, writers and self-publishers, as well as workshops sharing the tenets of a variety of crafts, all hosted by Conway Hall.

The programme boasted many literary treats, including South London writers group The Read Horse, who told stories complimented by live illustration, and Abi Palmer’s What’s New Pussy Cat, an odd but endearing presentation about how insomnia led the young writer to a fascination with an Amazon reviewer.

The result of my hands-on hour with We Make Books

Other highlights include the workshops, mostly free to attend and led by experts of a range of artistic endeavours. At Structo magazine’s event, So Bad It’s Good: Adventures in Terrible Writing, editors Euan and Kieran steered the class through literature’s most wince-inducing and exposition-soaked lead sentences, and it was great fun collaborating on woeful verse. I was also fortunate to spend a hands-on hour with We Make Books, where designer bookbinders Lina Avramidou and Manuel Mazzroti demonstrated how to make three kinds of instant bindings, and should be thanked for their patience with my lack of folding finesse. As a result, I am particularly pleased with my pocket-sized fold out sketchbook, the cover of which is now adorned by a lino print I produced during another workshop with the award-winning artist Gareth Brookes.

Illustration by Isabel Greenberg

Then, during an hour of automatic drawing, Dimitri Antorka-Pieri (a.k.a.”Jimi Gherkin“) shared work inspired by hypnagogic states, i.e. somewhere between sleeping and waking. A session on blindfolded drawing to an ambient noise soundtrack demonstrated how taking a risk with your art can produce results unfettered by logic or inhibition.

Elsewhere, I was particularly impressed by the work of comic artists Marc Ellerby and his table-mate Isabel Greenberg, the winner of last year’s Observer Jonathan Cape Graphic Short story Prize.

As it was last year, the enthusiasm that imbued the atmosphere at the festival made it not only enjoyable, but affirming. I left feeling inspired to put my new skills to use, and look forward to next year’s instalment.

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