INTERVIEW: Laying Bare the Stripped Team at Edinburgh Book Festival

tumblr_inline_mr7kyaTjY11qz4rgpThis months see the launch of Stripped a brand new comic festival which is being held as part of the Edinburgh Book Festival between 10th -26th August.

The event will be a celebration of all things comics with talks, signings and a two day Mini Comic Fair. Some of the guest down to appear at the festival include Neil Gaiman, Garen Ewing, Grant Morrision, Paul Cornell, Lauren Beukes,John Higgins, Emma Vieceli, Neil Gainan, Posy Simmond , Bryan and Mary Talbot, Kieron Gillen,Roger Gibson, Warren Pleece and more.

As I was at the  Edinburgh Book Festival last year and now I am trying my best to not be upset about the fact that the year I can’t attend some bright spark decides to host a massive comic event.

Anyway in an attempt to sooth my jealously I caught up with Kirsten Cowie the Marketing Officer for Stripped and Janet Smyth the Book Festival’s Children and Education Programme Director to find out a little more about the event.

So why did you decide to put together a festival like Stripped?


The idea came about because it was the thought of doing something that no other mainstream UK Book Festival does and also because we had seen the popularity in previous years of the graphic events we did. It was also a way to pull together the children and adult programmes – especially those crossover events that are of interest to teens as well as adults.

How long has Stripped been in development for?


This year the Book Festival features over 700 events and 800 authors. From choosing what shape and themes the Festival might follow to opening the gates on the first day takes over a year. Believe it or not the team have already started booking authors for the 2014!

What have been some of the challenges of putting a festival of this size together?


One of the biggest challenges seemed to be whittling the list down to accomodate only 40 events!


We did have quite a short-wish list of those authors we were aware of or had read. Then myself and Roland, our Associate Director, visited many, many publishers and just learned about the vast range of books, writers and artists working with each other. We then had a big white board pinned up in our office and started to put on names and makes connections between writers and artists who work together, those who have worked with DC, Marvel and 2000 AD and those who work with the small, independent comic producers, those that are also novelists etc.

Obviously this will appeal to comic fans but what steps have you taken to attract non comic readers?


We really want to introduce reluctant comic and graphic novel readers to just how diverse and wonderful they can be. On the Festival site itself we have curated an exhibition of graphic novel artwork, allowing all 200,000 of the Festival’s visitors to get a taste of what’s on offer!


Stripped was designed to sit across all aspects of the programme and so there are kids events, school events, graphic novels in translation, literary adaptations and, of course, cabaret style events as part of Unbound in the Spiegeltent in the evenings. Involving Neil Gaiman as one of this year’s guest selectors – also meant that we could introduce fans of his novels and children’s books to his work with Graphic Novels.

There’s a huge amount for people to see with very 40 events on offer. Which ones (say three ) would you suggest someone completely alien to comics should attend?


We have Posy Simmonds – known to many for her Guardian cartoons as well as other cartoonists from broadsheet papers and so there is that familiarity for those audience members who might not think about reading a graphic novel.


Paul Gravett is hosting an event inspired by his recent book 1001 Comic Books: You Must Read Before You Die, an encyclopaedic guide to the rich heritage and cultural influence of comics throughout the world. The event should be a fascinating introduction to what graphic novels are and why so many of us are so passionate about them.

I’d also recommend Bryan and Mary Talbot’s event, they will be discussing their recent Costa Award-winning Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, a beautiful literary graphic novel that will surprise and delight audiences who think comics are all about lycra clad avengers.

Oh and just one more – we will be showcasing some really extraordinary small press comics producers at a Mini Comic Fair on the 24 and 25 of August.

What’s your current biggest selling panel for the event?


Neil Gaiman is a firm Festival favourite and his event this year discussing The Sandman: Overture  sold out in just a few hours!

What can you tell us about the Comic Death match?


At this stage I still can’t reveal too much, but I can promise you it will be a fantastic event! We have some AMAZING judges and some very talented participants who will be using their finest drawing skills in a fight to the death! Or a fight till the bar closes anyway.

Are there any events or guests in a particular you looking forward to seeing yourself?


Chris Ware and Joe Sacco discussing their work will be fascinating! Chris recently described Joe as ‘a living example of what one should aim for not only professionally, but also on a simple human scale, which is to try to understand other people and the extremes of human cruelty and sympathy.’ Both these creators have such prolific talent and obviously greatly respect each other’s work despite such different subject matter.

I’m also big fan of Bill Willingham’s Fables, so I’m particularly excited about Lauren Beukes and Inaki Miranda’s event discussing their work on the spin-off series Fairest.

What comics are you reading at the moment?

Janet: For me, the absolute joy of working on Stripped is the fact that I have been introduced to so many incredible books.

I loved Goliath by Tom Gauld – the illustrations, the gentle pathos of the story is so affecting.

One of the books that went a long way to informing our programming was Nelson ([BCA winning title from Blank Slate – Joe] by a range of authors and artists and I think that is such a clever publishing project as well as a really great story with so many interesting twists and some wonderful illustrations.


I have really enjoyed re reading all the incredible books in the Stripped programme as well. Glyn Dillon’s The Nao of Brown is a particular delight – the story is complex, sweet and funny and all rendered in such beautiful detail by Dillon.

We have an advance copy of Gareth Brookes’ The Black Project in the office too. It really is a remarkable piece of mixed media art with a deliciously twisted storyline.

Are there any ways that us comic fans out there can help with Stripped?


Come along to the Book Festival and spread the word! Tickets start at just £5 and there are some great free events like the Jura Unbound comics death match, the Amnesty International Imprisoned Writers series and the Mini Comic Fair.

You can tweet Stripped @StrippedFest.

If you had one sentence to convince someone on the fence about attending what would you say?


There are so many exciting events and creators crammed into four days you will want to move into Charlotte Square Gardens – just take a look

Reporter: Nuge

Source: Stripped

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