Christmas in Paradise: Part 2

map1Magenta Bay flame tree 3Nouvelle Calédonie: le Pacifique au Coeur (as it says on the tourism websites). Two basic requirements for Paradise, for me at least, are lush tropical vegetation and vibrant colours. There’s plenty of both here.
Magenta Bay flame tree 2
We’ve chosen to stay in the centre of the capital, Noumea, rather than down by the tourist beaches. It’s just a short walk to the marina on Magenta Bay anyway. That’s where I photographed these flamboyant flame trees (Delonix regia). They’re native to Madgascar apparently, though now grown throughout the tropics.

fish faceThere’s a market every morning near the marina. I reckon Fishface here is going to end up in the next Grandville.

Another lovely spot is the Place des Cocotiers. Plenty of shade to shelter in, but I must admit I’m now experiencing severe fan palm envy. The eponymous coconut trees are splendid too, though standing under them in high winds must be hazardous!
Place des Cocotiers
fan palm
And here’s our Bryan sitting under a banyan tree.

Bryan & banyan
These amazing trees are everywhere. Some of them are massive. Ficus prolixia, I think.
banyan 2
museum interiorOf the three museums in Noumea the Museum of New Caledonia was the most different, hence interesting, for me (the other two are city and maritime museums). It’s full of Oceanic and Melanesian artefacts and reconstructions, such as these intriguing carved roof trees and door posts:




and this traditional building:

museum hut
We’re avoiding the main tourist beach area, but we do go to a secluded bit of coastline. A short taxi ride out of town, the Kuendu Beach Hotel is a beautiful spot for lunch, as you can see.

I love trees! The amazing columnar pine, or Cook’s pine, is New Caledonia’s signature tree. It’s Araucaria columnaris, a relation of the monkey puzzle.
Kuendu Beach Hotel
Kuendu trees
I decide on the caesar salad with crevettes, then sit back and enjoy the view.
Kuendu restaurant
Kuendu restaurant view 3
Kuendu Beach
water liles Kuendu Beach Hotel 2
hibiscus lutea
more Kuendu trees
Tree porn, eh?

I intended to dip my toes in the ocean after lunch, but we take up the offer of a lift back into town instead. An overnight thunderstorm has wiped out the restaurant’s credit card machine, so that the lunch bill does the same to our small supply of local currency. Thanks to the local teacher for driving us back to Noumea – the kindness of a stranger in a faraway place.
Kuendu Beach flame tree

Christmas in Paradise: Part 1

Happy New Year!

What’s all this about Christmas in Paradise? Well, that’s where we went over the Christmas period, partly doing research for another book but mostly for a long-awaited warm-weather holiday (our first ever, I believe). Now I like my adopted home town a lot, but let’s face it, it’s 52 degrees north and we’re close to the winter solstice. Paradise is not going to be round the corner, is it? We have to do the journey there in stages.

First stop: Singapore. We stay in the predominantly Chinese Balestier district; adjacent to our hotel are the two local places of interest:

A taoist temple:
Taoist temple 2
and the Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall.
Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall
Sun Yat Sen Hall balcony

Dr Sun was a Chinese revolutionary, the inspiration for the international movement that led to the overthrow of the Qing dynasty in 1911. He became the first president of the Republic of China.

Zhongshan2Ten years ago I was a visiting prof at Sun Yat Sen University (Zhongshan in Mandarin) in Guangzhou, so the name was already familiar to me and I’d a vague idea who he was. It’s interesting to learn more about his life and the historic upheavals he was part of.

Next stop: Sydney. The next stage of our journey involves an overnight flight with a budget airline called Scoot. It feels like an airborne primate enclosure, but with toddlers. We emerge dazed, weary and confused.

Are we there yet? No!

But we’re booked in for a couple of nights at a great apartment in the heart of downtown Sydney. It’s easy walking distance from there to Hyde Park and St Mary’s Cathedral and the weather’s lovely:
HydePark fountain&St Mary's
Then there’s the Art Gallery of New South Wales:
artgallery of NSW
The Royal Botanic Gardens and the harbour:
We spend a great evening with Bryan’s cousin John, a Sydney resident. He shows us round the oldest part of town, the Rocks. Here’s the two of them by the observatory overlooking the harbour:
John and Bryan
Then we’re off for a seriously bracing ferry trip round the harbour the next day:
Sydneyferry tallship
We’ve another flight in the evening. It’s just a short one this time. Our destination is a South Pacific island called la Grande Terre, part of the French territory of New Caledonia. And it’s starting to feel a lot like paradise…
Magenta Bay flame tree

Wigan Comic Con keeps the geeks aglow

logoUnless you’re from Wigan, you’re probably not familiar with Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls. They ‘keep you all aglow’, you know. Wigan Comic Con (the logo is a spoof of the Uncle Joe’s label) was really far more about film, TV and cosplay than it was about comics. It certainly attracted a crowd of locals, many of them queuing up in the wind and hail when we arrived. I hope they had something keeping them aglow!

There were lots of family groups there and it was a bit of a family event for us too. It was the first comic con for our niece Rebecca, there with her boyfriend Adam; it must have been the first for young Tyler Talbot here, too. Meeting Batman was the highpoint for him, I think.
Tyler with Batman
Becoming Junior Batman made him pensive, though. Here he is with Alwyn, his dad.
Batman Tyler copy

WiganComic Con







That’s the last event of the year done and dusted. Next stop is closer to home for us: Sunderland Comic Con on 21st and 22nd February 2015. It’s just round the corner from home, in fact. But that’s not until February and now I’m signing off.

So, see you next year!

Joyeux Noël et Bonne Année!


CROSS – A Political Satire Anthology

Cover-350x516I’ve been so busy over the past couple of months that I haven’t got round to blogging about this anthology of political satire that Alwyn and I contributed a 4-pager to. Until now, that is. Published by Disconnected Press, it was launched at Thought Bubble in Leeds last month. This was an event I wasn’t able to attend, as I was occupied elsewhere (Jonathan Cape’s Comic Creations event in Bristol, since you ask).

As its back cover announces, the collection is a call to people across the land to think about who governs us and the decisions they make on our behalf. It’s a rallying call to get out and vote. It’s available from the indie publishers here. Surely it’s the perfect gift for all your politically-minded, angry friends!

Those loveable chum(p)s, Dave and Boris, drawn by Alwyn Talbot (from our ‘Preparation for Leadership’ strip):
A sinister line-up by Soffe, that was used in the Kickstarter campaign:









A tribute to Rik Mayall drawn by Matt Timson (from ‘Deception’, written by Cy Dethan):

November: Grandville Noël launch, a graphic novel evening and some lovely people

Sally pageEarlier this month we were in Bristol for Comic Creations, a Jonathan Cape graphic novel evening at the Watershed, along with Fumio Obata, Isabel Greenberg, Nick Hayes and Steve Bell. Part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas, there were some great talks and an appreciative audience (nice little report by Kayleigh Gibbons here). But the highpoint of the evening for us was afterwards, when we went out to eat with Steve and the legendary animator Richard Williams. He’s best known for his work as director of animation on Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but I think perhaps his most outstanding was the animation he did for the anti-war film The Charge of the Light Brigade back in the sixties (clips on YouTube).

Cartoon Museum logoThe launch of Grandville Noël at the Cartoon Museum in London was this week’s main event. It was a lovely evening with an interesting mix of people (including Lee Harris and his daughter Amira in the photos below). A couple of days later we were back in the Cartoon Museum, when Bryan did his talk on creating graphic novels. In between he signed what was quite probably Forbidden Planet’s entire stock of Grandville Noël.

Noel launch party

Noel launch

Noel artwork at launch

Bryan signing Noel for James

Noel launch by Will Brooker
Thanks to James Robertson and Will Brooker for the photographs.

October update: a month of festivals

“This is the first graphic novel I’ve ever bought!” How I love hearing that!

We’ve been on the move with Sally Heathcote again, starting with Charleston in CharlestonEast Sussex in late September. And, yes, we seem to be making converts as we go. At book signings following our literary festival talks, some people are sure to say: “This is the first graphic novel I’ve ever bought!”

Our Charleston Small Wonder Festival appearance was in an old barn fitted out as a performance space, in the grounds of the Bloomsbury Group’s farmhouse and garden. The house became home to the artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant in 1916.

Palace GreenKate joined us for a Durham Book Festival event, which was in the Palace Green library close by the castle and cathedral. In the morning I’d been in the equally imposing Durham Town Hall, conducting an interview with Laura Bates on her Everyday Sexism project and book.




ManorHouseAfter that Bryan and I zoomed off to Ilkley for another literary festival. Continuing the architectural theme, Bryan did his graphic-novel masterclass in a lovely old stone place adjacent to the Manor House, a fine Tudor building. Later in the day, we both took to the stage to talk about Sally Heathcote, 

IlkleyPlayHouseSuffragette – and make some more converts – in the Ilkley Playhouse. Someone in the audience (one Jane Aitchison) tweeted enthusiastically about a scene in the book that’s set close by, on Woodhouse Moor. There are some great reviews on the Pickled Egg blog/online magazine. Just look what Jess Haigh and JY Saville have to say about the event.

More new graphic novel readers!

A few days later, we were off to the Cumbrian market town of Kendal for the 2nd Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Julie Tait and her team excelled themselves.  As one reviewer remarked, “this year everything seemed to be ‘more'”. Here’s a sample of reviews: Jeremy Briggs, James Bacon, Lew Stringer, Stephen Holland (Warning: endearing effusiveness in a very long post!) Infectious enthusiasm all round. And badgers.



Bryan and I each hosted an event. I facilitated Audrey Niffenegger’s presentation of artwork in the Brewery Arts Centre Warehouse Café. Bryan did a career interview with Dez Skinn in Screen 1. Kate and I joined Bryan in his own career interview, where I do believe there was a badger in the audience!



Brewery Arts Centre

Brewery Arts Centre












And, yes, more picturesque stone buildings were involved.

Comics Clock Tower (aka Kendal Town Hall)

Comics Clock Tower (aka Kendal Town Hall)

It was a lovely weekend – for us it included a chance to catch up with Jeff and Vijaya Smith, who we hadn’t seen in years. While they were visiting the Lake District, it was a pleasure to take them to some locations from The Tale of One Bad Rat, such as this one: Cartmel Fell Church.















Town Halls have been a bit of a theme recently. A few days after the Lakes we were in Cheshire with Kate for another literary festival. The imposing red sandstone Chester Town Hall was the venue for our event. It was chaired by Mark Lawson, who Bryan and I ‘met’ on Radio 4’s Front Row when Dotter was shortlisted for a Costa Award.























The three of us rounded off the month with a trip to Dundee for the Scottish Book Trust Comics Lab and Dundee Literature Festival, both of which took place at the university. While we were there, Bryan and I saw Woodrow Phoenix’s presentation of his big book, She Lives, which we’d missed in Kendal.WoodrowBigBook

DundeeComicsLab Woodrow'sSheLives
















Next stop: Jonathan Cape’s Comic Creations evening, part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas on 14th November. Bryan and I will be appearing with Isabel Greenberg, Fumio Obata, Nick Hayes and Steve Bell. Maybe see you there?


Podcast on the making of BBC’s Shoulder to Shoulder

Birkbeck 6Back in May, Birkbeck University of London hosted a conference commemorating the 40th anniversary of Shoulder to Shoulder, an extraordinary BBC series on the suffragettes. I was there talking about Sally Heathcote Suffragette, as I’ve mentioned previously. We also had an exhibition in Birkbeck’s Peltz Gallery. There’s now a podcast available of the conference discussion of the making of the Shoulder to Shoulder series. It’s chaired by Joan Bakewell, who leads with observations about women working in the BBC in the early 1970s. The panellists have some fascinating reflections on how making drama for television – and indeed how the BBC itself – has changed since the 70s. (Bryan and I pipe up in the open discussion that follows.)
The panellists:
Angela Down (Sylvia Pankhurst)
Patricia Quinn (Christabel Pankhurst)
Sîan Phillips (Emmeline Pankhurst)
Waris Hussein (director, ‘The Pankhursts’, ‘Annie Kenney’, ‘Lady Constance Lytton’, ‘Sylvia Pankhurst’ episodes)
Moira Armstrong (director, ‘Outrage’, ‘Christabel Pankhurst’ episodes)
Graham Benson (production assistant)

Birkbeck 5Birkbeck 1

Another month of festivals coming up…

The festival season is upon us once more. It’s starting with the Small Wonder Festival in Charleston this coming weekend:

smallwonder-festival-header14Sunday 28th September
4pm Suffragette. An illustrated talk by Mary and Bryan Talbot
Chaired by Corinne Pearlman
Small Wonder Festival
Charleston, East Sussex BN8 6LL. Tickets available here

It’s near Brighton, so we’re looking forward to catching up with Hannah Berry while we’re in her neighbourhood. Sure to be fun!

Then in October we’re doing a string of events, some of them with Kate Charlesworth:

Durham Book Festival logoSaturday 11th October
1.30pm Bryan and Mary Talbot and Kate Charlesworth: Sally Heathcote, Suffragette
Chaired by David Herman
Palace Green Library
Durham Book Festival
Tickets available here

Also on that day, I’ll be appearing in conversation with Laura Bates:

10.30am Laura Bates: Everyday Sexism
Chaired by Mary Talbot
Durham Town Hall. Tickets here

Ilkley Lit Fest logoAfter that, Bryan and I will wend our way over to Ilkley:

Sunday 12th October 2014
1.45pm Bryan Talbot workshop: How I create a graphic novel
Manor House Museum: Education Room

4.30pm Bryan and Mary Talbot discuss their stunning new graphic novel, Sally Heathcote, Suffragette.
Ilkley Playhouse – Wildman. Ilkley Literary Festival. Tickets here

Screen Shot 2013-10-01 at 17.44.04Then, guess what? Kendal Comic Art Fest is back!

17-19th October 2014
2nd Lakes International Comic Art Festival
Book all events here

These vibrant limited edition prints are available for pre-order at the Lakes Fest now

These vibrant limited edition prints are available for pre-order at the Lakes Fest now

Saturday 18 October, 18.30 – 19.30, Brewery Arts Centre Warehouse Café
Meet the Creators: Audrey Niffenegger (hosted by Mary Talbot)

Sunday 19 October, 14.30 – 15.30, Brewery Arts Centre 1
Brainstorm: The Art of Bryan Talbot (hosted by Mel Gibson)
Kate and I will join in towards the end of this discussion.

Thursday 23rd October 2014
7.30pm Mary and Bryan Talbot and Kate Charlesworth
Chester Literature Festival
Chester Town Hall
Chaired by Mark Lawson
Book here

Finally, we’ll be rounding off the month with a trip to Dundee. Applications now closed for this one, though:

25th October 2014
Comics Lab 2014

Phew.mary-talbot.jpg Sally Page 53 bottom

Vintage podcast with Sally Heathcote Suffragette

FrontCovercroppedThere was so much going on back in May, when Sally Heathcote Suffragette came out, that I’ve overlooked an interview we did in the Random House building. It was the week we were in London for a spot on BBC’s Woman’s Hour, then a Shoulder to Shoulder conference and related exhibition of Sally art at Birkbeck College. We were also occupied with a busy signing at Gosh! and an event at the Cartoon Museum. This was my write-up of the week’s events: On the road with Sally Heathcote.

Fortunately, the interview is still online as a Vintage podcast. In the podcast we follow Vagenda authors, Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett.

I’ve also just found this nice little review in a blog called Tiny Library. 5 out of 5 for Sally! Thanks, Tiny Library, whoever you are!
Gosh 7

The 2nd Lakes International Comic Art Festival!

comicartThe second Kendal festival is almost upon us. The main programme is online here where tickets are available too. So what are you waiting for?

The dates are 17th – 19th October 2014. The main venue is the same: the Brewery Arts Centre in the heart of Kendal. There’s a host of amazing guests, so the hardest thing will be deciding who to go and see. Check out all the other things going on too. There’s the Comics Clock Tower again, lots of exhibitions and much more. Just look, here! You can still watch Digital Story Engine’s festival trailer on YouTube too.

I’ll be participating in these events:

Saturday 18 October, 18.30 – 19.30, Brewery Arts Centre Warehouse Café
Meet the Creators: Audrey Niffenegger (hosted by Mary Talbot)

ExhibitionPosterSunday 19 October, 10.30am – 12pm, Forbidden Planet in the Brewery Arts Centre Malt Room
Signing at Table 1 with Bryan

Sunday 19 October, 14.30 – 15.30, Brewery Arts Centre 1
Brainstorm: The Art of Bryan Talbot (hosted by Mel Gibson)
Kate Charlesworth and myself will join in at the end of this discussion.

And finally:
Grandville Print now available to pre-order!
This year, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival asked seven artists to produce a piece of artwork each for a special limited festival edition of 60 high quality A3 giclee prints on beautiful paper to raise money for the event. Bryan drew this Alphonse Mucha-inspired poster of Billie from the Grandville series. The other prints are by Sean Phillips, Emma Vieceli, Mark Buckingham, Rian Hughes, Duncan Fegrado, Doug Braithwaite and Junko Mizuno. They will be available from the Brewery Arts Centre during the festival and are available to pre-order now. To see the other prints or to pre-order click here.