Every year Team Hi-Ex make the trek to Bristol for the Comic and Small Press Expo. It's actually an easy trek due to direct flights between Bristol and Inverness, in fact it's more expensive getting to the airport- go figure.
Bristol Con has gone through a few changes the last couple of years. It was traditionally the biggest UK comic con, held in the Isembard Kingdom Brunel railways shed next to Temple Meads station, It was always mobbed and in the South West in May very hot and sweaty. For various reasons in needed to downscale and move venue. So it was split into two events. Mike Alwood, (who has always been a brilliant support to Hi-Ex) and his team ran the main comics event in the Ramada Hotel, while Mal from Fallen Angel and her team ran the Small Press event in the Mercure Hotel around the corner. The Small Press event was initially quieter and only lasted one day, but this year it seemed to be the main buzz, with many professionals choosing to be there instead of the Ramada.
The distinction between Small Press and mainstream comics does seem to be growing blurrier in the UK. Floppy sales are dropping and independently published work is getting better and better in standard. New technology also means it's becoming easier to publish good quality comics and speed up the process between doodling in a bedroom to selling nice looking books.
The comic convention scene has also changed since the beginning of Hi-Ex. There were only around four big events in the UK at that point, I believe there were 11 last year. Traditional selling and distribution models are stagnating and downsizing, but the fan base and creative talent is clearly growing. Exciting and challenging times!
The Bristol Expo has been limited in the number of attendees it can fit in the two hotel venues, but next year it will be back to the railway sheds, with the two organising teams working together.
Meanwhile our business of promoting Hi-Ex at these other UK events has become easier and easier, with guests now coming up and introducing themselves and asking if they can come. Word of mouth is a wonderful thing!
It looks like we will have a top-notch guest list again for the 31st March and 1st April 2012. We hope to have some new book launches at the event, and as ever new talks and happenings. It is important to have a lot of fun and provide children friendly activities to stimulate a buzz in the North of Scotland, give something for families in geographically isolated communities something of their own. But also events like ours are important to raise the understanding of comics as an art and literary medium, to overcome 'establishment' dismissal of the medium. It is a brilliant way to not only get reluctant readers engaged, but it can also deliver very sophisticated 'high brow' concepts.
We also like to get the professionals together- quite a few projects are well underway now that have been hatched at Hi-Ex. It is important in any industry that people get together to move things forwards collectively.
We hope to have a new website as soon as possible, and will be chasing funding for all it is worth and scurrying about the country creating networks and schmoozing our little Hi-Ex socks off to bring you the latest freshest most exciting comics happenings for Hi-Ex 2012!