When A School Organized A Comic Con In Birmingham

By Olly MacNamee

Usually at this of the year up and down the lengths and breadths of Great Britain, primary and junior school teachers give up a great deal of their time to put on a Summer Fair. My own daughter’s school chose the theme of the seaside, only for the whole thing to be a washout, for the third year running. So, it makes sense to consider the British summertime – which can be more temperamental than a Bleeding Cool forum poster – and look to create something for the local community, the kids and the parents, that can be done indoors.

IMG_9668Water Mill Primary School here in Birmingham decided to create a mini-comic con in its school and this was a great idea. Like San Diego Comic-Con, it sold out well in advance. And, while all the activities and workshops took place indoors, the sun was out allowing the littluns to run around the school’s play area throughout the afternoon.

Damian Johnston, the brains behind this endeavor, really put on a great show and created a blueprint from which other schools could learn. Something I am already considering at the High School I work at come the autumn term.

IMG_9704Joining him were the local talents of Laura Howell (The Beano) and British comic book alumni, Hunt Emerson (Calculus The Cat), who were kept busy all afternoon drawing portraits and cartoon characters relentlessly. Indeed, so busy were they I could only say the briefest of hellos to them as they beavered away, keeping many, many children and their parents happy. Laura only broke off from drawing to present her comic strip workshop, which saw the children of Water Mill Primary School create their own quick comic strip, involving a very lively portion of fish and chips (or Fries as you incorrectly call them, my dear American readers) attacking the customer, only for him to turn into Fisherman himself. The power of imagination in young children is amazing and what they learnt was invaluable; any ideas can become a comic strip, the wackier the better. And, set in one of the school’s classrooms, they were superbly behaved, with hands in the air awaiting Laura’s attention. I would certainly recommend booking her and her workshop if you are a school or a library in Birmingham, as she did really well with the kids and included everyone and their ideas in some way or form.

IMG_9685There was also a good array of old-school computer games on offer, from the Nintendo 64’s Mario Karts, which I couldn’t resist a quick spin on, to even older consoles, including a NES! Add to this the huge wall-length display of 1980’s toys, and the school was successfully transformed even for just the afternoon.

IMG_9672Add to this the different activities the pupils were encouraged to get involved with – inking, colouring, gaming (of the trading card variety as well as of the aforementioned pixel variety) and designing your own baseball cap, badge making and the school’s very own comic (which I forgot to grab in all the excitement) – and what was delivered was a successful, fun day which can only build and build in subsequent years.

IMG_9701So, if you are in education and you want to try something like this out for yourself, take a leaf out of Damian’s books and go create. You will be surprised who will get involved if you only ask.

IMG_9743Olly MacNamee teaches English and Media, for his sins, in a school somewhere in Birmingham. You got a comic you want reviewing? Get in touch through Twitter @ollymacnamee or Facebook

About Hannah Means Shannon

Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. Independent comics scholar and former English Professor. Writing books on magic in the works of Alan Moore and the early works of Neil Gaiman.

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