Fun Palaces Countdown: Zine Making with #Citylis

As the 2015 Fun Palaces launch on Saturday 3rd October approaches, Lambeth Libraries are gearing up for their borough-wide, simultaneous 11-venue celebration of arts and sciences.

In the countdown to Lambeth Libraries’ Fun Palaces, I’ll be featuring some of the amazing activities and special guests we’ve got lined up for Londoners this weekend.

We’ve already heard about Stephann Makri’s Serendipity Tours, but Stephann isn’t the only City University staffer who’s contributing to Lambeth’s Fun Palaces this year.

There will also be a Zine Making Workshop run by City University at Clapham Library.

Ernesto Priego, lecturer and course director on the infamous #Citylis Library & Information Studies course, will be joined by student and library polymath James Atkinson, with additional online support from Queen of Zines and doctoral student of fandom Ludi Price.

They’ll be helping people at Clapham Library to make zines about any subject dear to their heart. Come along on the afternoon of Saturday 3rd October to explore the wild and wonderful meeting place of the Internet, personal obsession, scissors and glue…

Read more from Ludi, Ernesto, and me on the #Citylis Zine Workshop over at the #Citylis blog.

Fun Palaces Online Comic Maker by State Library of Queensland

I’m really pleased to announce the launch of the online Fun Palaces Comic Maker.

A Fun Palaces comic

The Comic Maker lets you drag and drop characters inspired by Emily Medley’s original Fun Palaces illustration into a comic-book story of your own devising.

We’ve been working on this behind the scenes for a long time, ever since I pitched the idea of an online version of Comic Book Dice for Fun Palaces 2015.

Talia Yat and Phil Gullberg of the State Library of Queensland have run with this idea and developed it into an amazing online game, as part of the Queenslanders’ contribution to Fun Palaces 2015.

Comics created at the site will be curated and shared at

It’s been a huge team effort and thanks must go to: Fun Palaces’ Stella Duffy, Sarah-Jane Rawlings, Hannah Lambert, and Kirsty Lothian; Zoey Dixon of Lambeth Libraries; Daniel Flood of State Library of Queensland; our web host Simon Appleby of Bookswarm, plus Sandy Mahal who put us in touch with him; and last but not least our digital Brains Trust of Ed Bishop, Martin Feher, Barney Lockwood, and Steven Moschidis (“I’m tempted to say I will host it just to stop the funky emails!”).

Other Fun Palaces comics events include a workshop at Waterloo Library with Chris Thompson of Orbital Comics, and Amanda Lilywhite’s giant collaborative comic for Carnegie Library.

Go make a Fun Palaces comic online – and then check out the Fun Palace nearest to you!

Dulwich Picture Gallery at Bermondsey Street Festival 2015

This Saturday saw teens from volunteer scheme NCS The Challenge join me and staff from Dulwich Picture Gallery at the Bermondsey Street Festival.

We spent four hours on the streets of South London, playing Comic Book Dice, getting people to dress up as figures from historic paintings, and sharing strange facts about art from the Dulwich collection – like The Takeaway Rembrandt, the second most stolen painting in the world…

The NCS teen volunteers will be running their own, completely self-directed art event, PROJECT SCREAM, in Ruskin Park on Saturday 26th September.

I’ll be back at Dulwich in December for my event Your Mind Is The Scene of the Crime, an activity which invites you to explore what lies in others’ hearts, delve into the dark side of the gallery, take secrets and lies and make them into art.

Your Mind Is The Scene of the Crime is part of Dulwich Picture Gallery’s Escher season. More news soon!

Bermondsey Street Festival with Dulwich Picture Gallery and The Challenge

This Saturday you’ll find me at the Bermondsey Street Festival alongside volunteers from NCS The Challenge and the staff of Dulwich Picture Gallery, the world’s first purpose-built public art gallery.

We’ll be running hands-on art events for visitors to the festival, exploring what arts outreach looks like beyond the gallery walls and getting our young volunteers to work as mentors, workshop leaders, and creators in their own right. All very Fun Palaces – can you sense a recurring theme this autumn?

There’ll be more from me at Dulwich later this year, with an M.C. Escher-inspired play session in December. Stay tuned.

“At last, something I can talk about!” – Fun Palaces at Lambeth Libraries

After a stint carrying out research for publishers and media productions – projects which I’ll look forward to talking about when I’m allowed to! – I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be working as a creative producer with the London Borough of Lambeth, helping their library staff to devise and deliver ten Fun Palaces with local communities on Saturday 3rd October 2015.

Fun Palaces are the international movement creating pop-up venues for communities to try their hands at science and the arts. Last year, I worked with Parkes Library on Australia’s first Fun Palace which incorporated tabletop games and supervillainous challenges alongside creative play for all ages.

I’m looking forward to taking things further with Lambeth in 2015. Our events will tie in to Black History Month and feature a range of stargazing, cybernetic, all-embracing, all-ages art and adventure. Watch this space for more news.

In the meantime you can read my article “Pushing the Limits: Play, Explore, Experiment” for British librarians’ in-house magazine CILIP Update, which looks at Fun Palaces alongside other arts and community adventures from the UK, Australia, and New Zealand:

CILIP Update Finch Article Cover Image

Sign up to create your own Fun Palace at the Fun Palaces website.

When You Look You May Not See: Archives and Public Space

Just a quick post from London, where I saw this poster at Turnham Green tube station:

Richard Wentworth - When You Look You May Not See

Richard Wentworth’s When You Look You May Not See takes a postcard written by First World War soldier Herbert Wilson and simply reverses the original lettering.

The postcard comes from the University of Oxford Poetry Archive and is presented as part of Art on the Underground’s contribution to London’s commemoration of the 1914-18 war.

Richard Wentworth - When You Look You May Not See
When You Look You May Not See being read with a mirror. Photo from Art on the Underground

To me it’s a perfect piece of public art. It uses genuine everyday communication from the archives; presents it in a simple, yet challenging, way; and it’s not bound within the walls of a museum or a prestigious city-centre location – it’s flung out to the platforms of public transport in the commuter suburbs.

It’s really important to think about where we physically place arts and culture programming – you can read more on that, in an Australasian context, in my VALA keynote from earlier this year. And in their own small way, my friends in the Australian town of Parkes have also been exploring the pleasures of ‘locative literature’ in 2014.

Huge congratulations to all involved in the London project and you can read more about When You Look You May Not See at the Art on the Underground website.

Comics in the classroom: the artists’ perspective

As a writer with the shaky draftsmanship of a toddler on Red Bull, I tend to avoid discussing the visual aspect of comic book literature – this despite holding a Ph.D. which looked at the lives of many 20th century art historians!

I really struggled with art in high school. The only recognition a teacher ever showed for my artistic talents was at the age of 13, when I decorated the interior and exterior covers of my maths book with an epic stick-figure comic depicting the escapades of Jimmy Joe the Spew Surfer as he battled his way to a Ramones gig.

At the bottom of that week’s homework, Mr. O’Grady wrote: ‘7/10, some corrections to be made. Please kindly cover over the adventures of Jimmy Joe et al, or purchase a new exercise book.’ He then made me collect litter from the campus after school.

Jessica Abel, self-portrait
Self-portrait from 2007’s Life Sucks, by Jessica Abel

In this blog post, I want to redress the balance and hear artist-educators’ thoughts on using comics in the classroom. From the USA, we’re joined by acclaimed graphic novelist Jessica Abel, co-creator of the Drawing Words, Writing Pictures comics textbook. In London, Kel Winser works with children and young people creating Egyptian-themed superhero comics at the Petrie Museum of Egyptian archaeology, while Australian writer and illustrator Steve Axelsen runs workshops for young people in Western Sydney via the Westwords programme.

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The Petrie Museum, University College London: Using comics to bring ancient Egypt to life

This is the first of a series of posts supporting my article on comics in the classroom, which appears in the June 18th curriculum supplement to the New Zealand Education Gazette. Find more posts on comics and education under the comicsedu tag on my site.

One of the most exciting comic book education projects I’ve discovered takes place in the Petrie Museum, where University College London holds its collection of archaeological findings from ancient Egypt.

Supergods workshop flyer from the Petrie Museum, University College London
Image property of University College London.

It can be a tall order attracting children and young people to an academic museum, especially with a capital city’s attractions on your doorstep. Since 2010, artist and educator Kel Winser has run workshops at the Petrie, using ancient Egyptian culture as an inspiration for children and young people to create their own superhero characters.

Kel and the Petrie Museum’s education officer Debbie Challis joined me to discuss their innovative use of comics as an education tool.

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