Countdown to Thought Bubble 2013: Interview with Clark

thoughtbubblelogo2013Well then here we are nearing the end of another year on this crazy spinning top called Earth. Jack Frost is gearing up to start nipping at people’s toes, after the fabled Elf downsizing of 2012 Santa is doing a last minute run down to Argos for pressies in the Autumn sale and yes comic fans that means the Thought Bubble Comic Convention  is bearing down upon us. As it is becoming a little tradition we also see the return of my little countdown to the event. Over the coming weeks I hope to have features and interviews around the event  as I will be giving my picks of stuff worth checking out whether they be panels or events or specific titles.

Thought Bubble 2013 runs 17th – 24th November with a huge convention on the 23rd & 24th, and over 90 events at venues across Leeds!

With exhibitor tables selling out faster than GTA V creating a demand for a third hall to be opened up this sees Thought Bubble or TB to its friends looking to surpass itself yet again. This is a convention who knows who its target audience and as it has grown has managed to tread that fine line between becoming a big corporate convention and a convention that is still able to deliver a very friendly and personal experience to its visitors, exhibitors and guests. I say this as someone who has worn some of those hats at one time or another.

For this first entry in my countdown I thought I would take you behind the curtain to meet Clark Burscough, who is one of the convention organisers.

Geek Syndicate: So what can we expect from this years Thought Bubble?

Clark Burscough: Ooh, all sorts of fun stuff! This is our biggest Thought Bubble yet, with 90 events spread across more than a week of programming. There’s (hopefully) something in there to please everyone: we’ve got some great all-ages workshops and masterclasses this year for any aspiring artists out there; a great programme of film screenings in association with Leeds International Film Festival; and our centrepiece two-day convention on 23rd and 24th November with hundreds of guests and exhibitors from around the world! It’s going to be a busy week, for sure.

GS: Do you feel an increasing pressure to keep raising your own bar with Thought Bubble?

CB: Definitely, all of which comes from us not wanting to disappoint the amazing folks that come to the show each year – we get such great feedback, and such friendly people attending our events, that we want to keep making it bigger and better for everyone involved, and to allow us to bring even more amazing creators to Leeds!

GS: What do you attribute to the continued success of the convention?

CB:I’m not sure there’s one single thing that we can boil it down to – we’ve had all the pieces of the puzzle fall into place for us on a number of occasions, but I think we owe our biggest debt to our amazing volunteers who make everything so fun to work on, and all our wonderful guests and exhibitors who keep coming back year after year and giving the show some incredible energy. People, I think – it’s definitely down to the people that come to the show.

GS: What has been the easiest and the hardest part in the build up to this year’s event?

CB: Hm, there isn’t a whole lot of the organising part that’s easy, other than maybe thinking up who’d be on our dream list for the festival (all of whom said yes, yay!) – it takes about 9 months to bring everything together, and everyone on the team works really hard to try and make sure that attending the show is as easy as possible for everyone involved. I guess the easiest part of it all is working with the Thought bubble team, because we have a good time doing it, and then the hardest part is the occasional runs of not having any sleep. But sleep is for the weak, right?

GS: You have a lot of varied panels, as always. Can you talk us through how a panel is actually organised? Do you suggest your own panel ideas or is it merely creators etc approaching you with there suggestions?

CB:It depends on the panel, really. A lot of them are pitched to us by creators or publishers, in which case (providing we have the room in the schedule) we’ll give them a slot, and then include the synopsis and contributor line-up that they send over to us in the programme. For those that we organise directly, we have a look through the guest list, figure out what/who people are going to want to hear about for that year, and then try and get as many different creators on panels as space and time will allow, as well as working with moderators to find out who they think would be best involved. You’ve also got to factor into that people’s travelling requirements, and any signing slots they have set up, so in the end it all becomes one big su doku puzzle, which might not actually have a correct answer.

GS: Now the speed at which the exhibitor tables were released was crazy. Have you go any plans on how to handle the volume of demand next year in terms of when tables become available?

CB: We’re always looking at how to streamline any of the processes involved with organising the show, and we’re constantly assessing and brainstorming what’s working well, and what could be improved, but at the moment we’re focussing on this year’s festival, and making that the best we can. We usually have a big meeting in early January to go over the previous year’s Thought Bubble, and to look at what we can improve for the next festival, making sure we’re growing in the right direction.

GS: What stand out indie comics have been doing it for you this year that will be at the convention?

CB: Personally, I never have time to do any shopping for myself at Thought Bubble’s convention, with great power comes great responsibility, you know? But I’d definitely be checking out everyone who was nominated for this year’s British Comic Awards shortlists – all their stuff is really great, and really deserves a thorough reading.

GS: What can you tell us about Best Joined Up and the Bubs lounge?

CB: Both of those are two new projects that are launching at this year’s Thought Bubble, and are thanks in no small part to some very generous funding from Arts Council England. The Best Joined Up crew will be providing some amazing artwork that folks will be able to see at the convention, and Bubs Lounge will be a new relaxation space for those who need a little rest after trying to see all our three exhibition halls have to offer. We’ll have full details on the two projects in our free festival guide, which will be available online soon, and which is being printed by the lovely people at Newspaper Club in a massive tabloid newspaper, which is another new enterprise for 2013’s festival.

GS: The comic convention part of Thought Bubble currently runs over two days, would you ever consider expanding that to maybe three days?

CB:We’re always looking at ways to improve the festival, and the events that it comprises, but for the time being, we’re focusing on a two day convention, and making that as enjoyable as possible. This year sees our first ever show with three halls, thanks to some amazing help from Allied London, and we’re hoping that this expansion will make the convention weekend even bigger and better than ever.

GS: Have you ever thought of going the thought of MCM and having other Thought Bubble Festivals in different locations throughout the year?

CB: I think part of Thought Bubble’s charm is that the year builds up to it, giving it an incredible energy once it rolls around, so having more Thought Bubbles through the year could dilute that. We love being able to turn Leeds into the centre for the comics industry for a week every year, and we’ll continue to keep trying to make this festival, and its location, the best we can. Everyone at Thought Bubble has a special link to Leeds, and it’s where we all met, so we feel an affinity to Yorkshire that I don’t think we’d get anywhere else.

GS: What the thing you most proud in regards to this year’s event?

CB: As with last year, I think it has to be the charity anthology that we’re publishing on 6th November with Image Comics. We’re hugely grateful to everyone involved for giving up their time and energy for free in order to let us put out an amazing comic that raises money for the Barnardo’s charity, which is a cause close to the heart of Thought Bubble. Hearing people from around the world saying that they enjoyed the collection of comics we’ve brought together is always amazing, and knowing that in doing so we’re able to help out vulnerable children makes it all the better.

So big thanks to Clark for taken time out to answer our questions. Remember for all the information on the Who, What and How of Thought Bubble then check out Thought Bubble’s main website. You can also check out their blog and follow them on Twitter.

If you’re launching a comic at the convention and want to get the word out then drop us a line at [email protected] and I’ll see if I can give you a mention in one of the upcoming countdowns.

Reporter: Nuge

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  1. Nice interview! I’m so psyched for this, this will be my…fourth event I think? They’ve got better every year – very cool for you to get the thoughts of someone at the heart of the action too.

    • geeksyndicate /

      Thanks mate, glad you enjoyed the interview. Like you I’m a massive fan of the event!

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