Raising the flag to celebrate 42 years

WSPU flag badgeIt’s our 42nd wedding anniversary today and Bryan has surprised me with a present! I am now the proud wearer of an antique enamelled brooch in the shape of a flag that bears the slogan ‘Votes for Women’. It’s an authentic piece of merchandising originally sold by the Women’s Social and Political Union.

He arranged to buy it, without my knowledge, when we were in London at the beginning of May. Suffrage historian and antiquarian Elizabeth Crawford supplied with it the following information:

Unusually, it’s possible to date this badge pretty accurately. It is marked on the back with the maker’s name ‘Toye’, which was in usage between 1898 and 1909 when the passing of a new Companies’ Act meant that henceforward it was known as ‘Toye & Co’. Toye produced much of the WSPU merchandise, including the Hunger-Strike medals.

The 31 December 1908 issue of Votes for Women lists all merchandise that the WSPU was selling at that time – and this ‘flag design’ brooch is not included. However, as the WSPU was about to launch its big fund-raising event – the Exhibition at Prince’s Skating Rink – they had clearly added to their wares and the 14 May 1909 issue of Votes for Women included amongst the new items this Brooch – described as ‘Flag (words “Votes for Women”) 1/- each.’

page 62 topThese items are now extremely rare and highly collectable. I’m perfectly certain that Bryan paid vastly more than one shilling for it! I’d admired the design (seen in photographs) and wrote it into a WSPU shop scene in Sally Heathcote, Suffragette. You can see Kate’s loving representation in the first panel on page 62. It’s also one of the items in the box at Sally’s bedside at the beginning and end of the book. I never expected to hold the genuine article in my hands. Wow.

A totally unexpected anniversary gift, though actually he gave it to me around three weeks ago. When the brooch arrived, he was bursting to tell me about it and couldn’t wait! I shall wear it with pride.

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Some upcoming events in July

Another busy month ahead!

Bryan’s going to be at the London Film and Comic Con from the 11th to the 13th. I’ll be travelling down with him, then heading out west for the Telegraph’s literary festival in the picturesque location of Dartington Hall, near Totnes. Then on the 14th we meet up with Kate Charlesworth in Newcastle for a team event at the lovely Lit & Phil. With Bryan’s Brainstorm! exhibition opening at Astley Hall too, there’s plenty going on!

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Saturday 5th July – Sunday 14th September
Brainstorm: The Art of Bryan Talbot
Art Gallery, Astley Hall, Chorley, Lancashire
Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays 12 noon – 4:30pm during School Summer Holidays Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 12 noon – 4:30 pm
Free admission.





Friday 11th – Sunday 13th July London Film and Comic Con
Tickets here

Ways with Words




Saturday 12th July The Inside Story of the Fight for the Vote
Costa Award-winner Mary Talbot tells the story of maid-of-all-work and militant feminist, Sally Heathcote,and her involvement in the battle to secure the vote for women. She tells of Sally’s life and times and explores how her work shaped the lives of women today.
4.00pm £10 Tickets available here
Ways With Words: Festival of Words and Ideas
The Barn, Dartington Hall, Devon

Lit&Phil logoMonday 14th July Shoulder to Shoulder with Sally Heathcote, Suffragette
Mary Talbot, Kate Charlesworth and Bryan Talbot in conversation about the making of the historical graphic novel. Sally Heathcote: Suffragette is a gripping inside story of the campaign for votes for women. A tale of loyalty, love and courage, set against a vividly realised backdrop of Edwardian Britain, it follows the fortunes of a maid-of-all-work swept up in the feminist militancy of the era. Sally Heathcote: Suffragette is another stunning collaboration from Costa Award winners, Mary and Bryan Talbot. Teamed up with acclaimed illustrator Kate Charlesworth, Sally Heathcote’s lavish pages bring history to life.
7.00pm FREE
The Lit & Phil,
23 Westgate Road,
Newcastle upon Tyne,
Telephone: 0191 232 0192
Email: library@litandphil.org.uk

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So, here’s my schedule at Loncon 3!

LONCON3_logoIn draft, at least. Loncon 3 is the 72nd World Science Fiction Convention and the first to be held in London since 1965. With Bryan among the Guests of Honour, we’re there for the whole shebang.

Here are the panels I’ll be participating in over the long weekend:


Tove Jansson’s Moomins: Their Legacy and Influence

Thursday 12:00 – 13:00

It’s 100 years since the birth of Finnish author/artist Tove Jansson, the award-winning creator of the beloved Moomins. Moomins appeared in novels, illustrated books, comic book strips and today are celebrated with their own theme park called Muumimaailma (Moomin World).

Why did Jansson’s Moomins capture the attention and affection of the panelists, and how do Moomins continue to fire the imagination of new generations despite being nearly seventy years old?

What is the legacy of the Moomins, and how do they continue to influence European comic books today?

Kate Laity (Moderator), Lynda Rucker, Alexander Dan Vilhjálmsson, Mary Talbot and Karrie Fransman

Rewriting Gender Defaults

Thursday 18:00 – 19:00

Several recent novels, including Ann Leckie’s “Ancillary Justice”, Kim Stanley Robinson’s “2312”, Kim Westwood’s “The Courier’s New Bicycle”, Deb Taber’s “A Necessary Ill” and Kameron Hurley’s “God’s War”, have tried to imagine futures with increased gender diversity, or changed gender defaults. This panel will discuss how writers in English approach the technical aspects of challenging and disrupting gender binaries: how do issues such as narrative voice or structure affect our impressions of the worlds created? What are the strengths and weaknesses of different choices?

Roz J Kaveney (Moderator), Alex Dally MacFarlane, Julia Rios, Geoff Ryman and Mary Talbot

Revealing the Real World Through Comics

Saturday 11:00 – 12:00

It can be argued that cartoons have a long tradition of grappling with, and commenting on, poltical and domestic problems through editorial cartoons and illustrated satire.

Yet it’s generally considered that the rise of autobiographical comics came about in the 1960s, and has slowly become popular as an means of expression in the intervening decades – especially after Maus won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992.

Why have comic book journalism, graphic memoirs, and tackling social issues through the medium of comic books and cartoons become so popular? What can we reveal about the real through a medium that often uses abstract or surreal images combined with text to tell a story?

And why will they earn awards from the literary scene, when their fictional counterparts rarely get listed?

Maura McHugh (Moderator), June Madeley, Grá Linnaea and Mary Talbot

Grandville@Loncon3Writing and Pitching Comics

Sunday 11:00 – 12:00

A discussion about creating comic books from the writer’s perspective. Breaking into comic book writing can present a unique challenge for new writers, because the route in is usually different than for artists (there are no portfolio reviews for writers).

Then there are basic issues, such as formatting scripts, which aren’t even clearcut.

How do writers craft the pitches that get them jobs as comic book writers? How do they proceed once they get the gig? What’s it like to liaise with artists, colourists, letterers, and editors?

What are the joys and perils of collaborating with so many people?

Maura McHugh (Moderator), Paul Cornell, Mike Carey, Mary Talbot and Debbie Lynn Smith

Panel Borders podcast of Graphic Lives talk at AusNZ festival

AusNZ fest logoA couple of weeks ago I was in London for a new festival: the inaugural Australia & New Zealand Festival of Literature and the Arts taking place at King’s College. I’d been invited to join a panel on ‘Graphic Lives’ with two other creators, namely New Zealander Sarah Laing and Anglo-Australian Evie Wyld. Chairing the session was Alex Fitch from Panel Borders and he’s just released a podcast of the talk, edited and available here. For technical reasons, he was unable to include Evie’s contributions (too much feedback on her mic) so he’ll be interviewing her again at a later date.

Photo tweeted from the audience by @LouiseArtistGraphic Lives pic@JLouiseArtist

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Back to the Edinburgh International Book Festival again!

EIBF logo 2014Today the festival have released their programme for 2014. I’ll be there with Bryan again. This time we’ll be with Kate Charlesworth too, talking about Sally Heathcote, Suffragette on Saturday 23rd August. More details here.

WSPU BADGEKate and I are taking part in another event later in the day. It’s a launch for the graphic novel commissioned by the festival, IDP: 2043. We’ll be appearing with Denise Mina and Irvine Welsh. Details for it are here.

Page1 Ch6The box office hasn’t opened yet but tickets will be available from Tuesday 24th, later this month. There are lots of other Stripped 2014 events going on too, so we’re anticipating a long weekend that’s as good as last year’s. Hope to see some of you there!

Handbook of Language, Gender, and Sexuality

Handbook coverAlso out this month is a rather different sort of publication that I’ve contributed to. It’s the second edition of an enormous reference tome for students and scholars of gender, sexuality and language. If it’s anything like the first edition, the contributions will all be highly readable scholarship with global reach and relevance. And it’s a snip at £120!

The book is The Handbook of Language, Gender and Sexuality and it’s edited by Susan Ehrlich, Miriam Meyerhoff and Janet Holmes.

My contribution is Chapter 31 Language, Gender and Popular Culture. It contains sections on Popular culture; Magazines, friendship and community; Broadcast talk, gendered styles and professional identities; Talking with the television; Creative engagement: putting gender on the agenda. The last section focuses on cartoons and comics and draws examples from Posy Simmonds and, briefly, from my own Dotter of her Father’s Eyes. Well, fancy that!


On the road with Sally Heathcote

Woman'sHourA flurry of activity for the Sally Heathcote team last week!

On Thursday Bryan and I were in London for a visit to Woman’s Hour in Broadcasting House. Our eight-minute slot with Jenni Murray went out live at about 10.30 am. It’s still available for listeners here. Later that day we joined conference goers at Birkbeck College, University of London. The symposium was in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the excellent but little-known BBC drama on the suffrage movement called Shoulder to Shoulder. Listening to the cast and crew reminisce was delightful and I was thrilled to learn who the producer was: the amazing Verity Lambert of Dr Who fame. I had no idea!
Birkbeck 1
On Friday afternoon I presented Sally Heathcote Suffragette. After my talk, which concluded the conference, Bryan and Kate joined me for a brisk signing session in Birkbeck’s Peltz Gallery. There’s been a lovely exhibition of Sally artwork there which sadly ends tomorrow (23rd May 2014).


Birkbeck 6Birkbeck 5Birkbeck 4


Two more events on Saturday. Signing for one and a half hours solid at Gosh!

Gosh 20 Gosh 13Gosh 7Gosh 24Gosh 8Gosh 15

Then on to an evening event at the Cartoon Museum, chaired by Hannah Berry.
Cartoon museum 2

With Director-Curator Anita O'Brien and naughty Hannah

With Director-Curator Anita O’Brien and naughty Hannah

Photographs by Dianne Barry

With Dianne Barry. Thanks for the photos!

With Dianne Barry. Thanks for the photos!

The tour wasn’t over for Bryan and me. On Sunday we made our way to Norwich for an appearance at the Norfolk and Norwich Festival, in the lovely setting of Norwich cathedral hostry.




A green man

A green man

The gates of hell

The gates of hell

4 demons sharing an Uncle Joe's mint ball (I think)

4 demons sharing an Uncle Joe’s mint ball (I think)


Before we went for our train home on Monday, Bryan risked permanent neck injury photographing all the ceiling bosses in the cathedral cloister. Here’s a few.














While there, I learned that Norfolk was the birthplace of the heroic Edith Cavell, World War One nurse and humanitarian. Cavell treated soldiers of all nationalities – friend or foe – and took part in an underground network that helped 200 Allied troups to escape from German-occupied Belgium. Shockingly, she was shot by German firing squad on 12th October 1915.



To BUCKINGHAM PALACE! 100 years on

page 150 bottomToday – 21st May 2014 – marks the centenary of the suffragettes’ attempted entry into Buckingham Palace. By 1914, demonstrations had turned nasty. Some of the demonstrators were armed with clubs and paint bombs, but there were 1,500 police and the crowd on the street was hostile.

BuckHsDemoPolice were suppressing public gatherings by the WSPU, so the deputation to Buckingham Palace involved months of planning in secrecy. A very large empty house in Grosvenor Place, overlooking Buckingham Palace gardens, had been lent to them and 200 women gradually and surreptitiously gathered there (there are interesting first-hand accounts in Antonia Raeburn’s book, The Militant Suffragettes (Michael Joseph 1973)). Then, the day before, the WSPU distributed their customary handbill announcing their plans.To Buckingham Palace

On the day of the demonstration The Times carried a small news item announcing it, then much more substantial coverage of the ‘Suffragist Riot’ the following day. For a horrified observer’s first-hand account, see Campaigning for the Vote: Kate Parry Fry’s Suffrage Diary, edited by Elizabeth Crawford (Francis Boutle 2013).To Buck Palace back

Sally Heathcote sallies forth

Digital SpywelcomelogoIt’s been a delightful, busy couple of days. Down to London last Thursday for the opening event of Comics Unmasked: Art and Anarchy in the UK, a major new exhibition at the British Library curated by Paul Gravett and John Harris Dunning. Before it began, Kate, Bryan and myself did an interview for Digital Spy, though it was tricky finding a reasonably quiet spot to record, away from the cavernous foyer. The place was filling up fast. I’ll have to go back for a proper look at the exhibition itself. There were so many people that it was hard to get close enough.BL Comics Unmasked launch

BL projectionsigning Sally in FPIn the morning, we called in at Forbidden Planet. Three people signing copies can get a bit complicated, so we had a bit of a production line going on.

Then on to Foyles for more of the same, with some Dotter copies for good measure.


Sally’s public appearance was the following evening. The first British Library event linked to the exhibition, marvellously, was the premiere of a biographical film on Bryan combined with the launch of Sally Heathcote, Suffragette. The Graphic Novel Man: the Comics of Bryan Talbot is a lovely tribute created by Digital Story Engine, available to preorder here.  Its first screening, I’m pleased to say, had a rapt BL talk audience. Afterwards I shared the stage with Bryan and Kate for an interview with Rachel Cooke. A lengthy book signing followed – and they sold all their copies of Sally! They had a range of Bryan’s books available and he started to get confused at one point. Someone went away with a James Joyce sketch in Sally and a Sally sketch in Dotter. I do hope he was pleased!BL talk 3BL talk 2

Then on top of all that, I got to read a flotilla of glowing reviews on Sunday!

The Independent

The Observer

The Sunday Express
But Kate’s Ma is furious that her daughter’s only mentioned in its headline (and justifiably so!)

The Skinny

DSC04992Foyles signingPhotographs by Dianne Barry.