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Friday, 11 February 2011

2D 2011: Brush Strokes In Stroke City

2D, held at the Verbal Arts Centre in Londonderry, is the UK's most westerly comics convention and for the last four years it has been the largest comics event in Northern Ireland if not the whole island of Ireland. This year's event will take place between Thursday 2 and Saturday 4 June 2011.

While Derry's recent troubled history overshadow's much of its past, from the 3 month long siege in 1689 to the surrender of the Nazi U-Boats in 1945, as the UK's first City Of Culture in 2013 the city's future looks bright. In a city so full of history it is unsurprising that the 20th century Verbal Arts Centre is in the former 19th century First Derry School located on the 17th century walls of the city.

2D organiser David Campbell works as the artist in residence at the Verbal Arts Centre and, in a move that must leave other UK convention organisers green with envy, is able to get 100% arts funding for 2-D meaning that all the various events and workshops that make up 2-D are completely free. This even extends to the sales tables allowing not just dealers but also local, and not so local, small pressers to get their work seen by the public. Indeed a small press group, the 2D Collective, has grown up around the convention.

We tend to use the term 'convention' to describe many types of comics gatherings from small press get-togethers like Caption to large professionally organised events with major international names such as Kapow - two events that couldn't be more different. The mainland convention that 2D is most similar to is Thoughtbubble in Leeds and, like Thoughtbubble, 2D describes itself as a 'festival' with different events taking place at different times over several locations but with a main weekend daytime event bringing together signings, sketches, cosplay and sales tables which takes place in the Verbal Arts Centre. Evening discussion sessions are held in the less formal surroundings of Sandinos Café Bar at the opposite corner of the city walls towards the banks of the River Foyle.

Previous 2D guests have included major names such as Pat Mills, David Lloyd and Bryan Talbot while many local artists including familiar names such as Will Simpson and PJ Holden also take part. Guests already scheduled for 2011 include DC Art Director Mark Chiarello, writer Denise Mina and artists John Higgins, Dave Taylor, Gary Northfield, Jim Medway, Garry Leach and Rufus Dayglo.

Northern Ireland's physical separation from the rest of the UK has been something of a barrier to 2D being accepted by comics fans as part of the regular convention circuit as it is not a simple car or train journey from the majority of UK addresses. Yet considering that some fans from the opposite ends of the country take flights to get to conventions in Bristol, London or Inverness, the flights (or ferry) to get to Northern Ireland really shouldn't be seen as a step too far.

There are more details of 2011's 2D convention on its Facebook page and website which includes travel advice on how to get to Derry/Londonderry and accommodation suggestions once there.

There are more details of previous 2D conventions at the Irish Comics Wiki.

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