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Alternative Press is a collective of London based artists, who formed in 2008 with the aim of ‘building an inclusive platform to showcase works from amateur and professional artists. I first came across their initiative at April’s ‘It’s Your Write’ event, at which their members held a workshop in which participant’s submissions of drawings, writing and collages were collated and published as a zine that very evening.
The collective’s first ever festival is now in full swing, and is an ambitious and international project, which they hope will promote solidarity and interaction between self-publishers and art collectives on these shores, as well as providing opportunities to form bonds with peers from a whole host of other countries. While the festival’s launch party took place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday saw Bloomsbury’s ornate Conway Hall flooded to capacity with for the opening weekend fair. As well as a main hall crammed with stall upon stall of self-publishers, authors, publishers, comic artists and craft specialists, there were also a number of workshops held. Saturday saw the ‘Cut and Paste Fun With Josie Long’ zine and poster workshop take place. I was fortunate enough to grab a copy of the endlessly enthusiastic comic’s handmade zine, ‘Be Honourable’, which was printed for her most recent tour and is packed full of drawings, incidental anecdotes and meandering wit.
On Sunday I was also fortunate to attend a screenprinting workshop arranged through collaboration between DIY printer Mark Pavey of the Artisproof collective and members of Heuberger printers (resulting in the catchy composite ‘Artberger’). I haven’t had the opportunity to screenprint since I spent my sixth form days frequenting the art department, so I was keen to get stuck in. Participants were invited to submit designs shortly before the event, so that they were printed on the day to form a unique colour zine.
This collaborative and industrious workshop very much represents the ethos of the festival. Rather than staging events with a distinct ‘talent’ / ‘audience’ divide, the diverse and interdisciplinary programme of events, which runs until the 12th of June, is firmly centred upon interaction and collaboration. This evening alone, for example, the acclaimed zine Team Girl present a ‘Comic Brainstorm’, which aims to discuss the issue ‘what do women want from comics?’, before Peckham’s Sassoon Gallery hosts an all night ‘Storytelling Zine Sleepover’, complete with zine readings, poetry and spoken word, as well as ‘Making Erotic Comics’, an evening hosted by expert in the field, Sina Shamsavari. There are also three exhibitions running as part of the programme: ‘The Swedish Collection’, featuring students from the Malmo Comic Art School, at the New Gallery until the 5th; ‘Holy Sh!t: Visions of the Walworth Jumpers’, an installation of mural paintings, at the Sassoon Gallery until the 5th; and ‘Stripburger’, a taste of the eponymous Slovenian comics publication, running at Orbital comics until the 12th.
So, whether you’re an artist, author, publisher of ‘maker’ of any kind, there is definitely fun to be had at this festival, run by a group of enthusiastic and friendly who live by the belief that to create can only be a positive thing, and that an exchange of ideas is what creativity is at its core.
The festival runs until 12th June, and the full programme can be found here: https://www.alternativepress.org.uk/festival.html
Rob Fred Parker