Fer a while now AccentUK (that’s Dave West and Colin Mathieson to all those
reg’lar readers of this here Blog) have been planning to attend the major Comic festival in Helsinki.
It’s the largest festival in northern Europe and has bin going since 1979.
I decided to tag along and see fer myself just what goes on at one o’ these shin-digs.
Any trip has gotta be planned well and this was no different.
Dave was to pick me up at 6.30 Thursday morning and then we were to drive to Colin’s.
There we would take a short Taxi ride to the airport.
Dave was keen to be going so got to mine a bit earlier: -
6 A.M. Luckily I was up and about, so while he had a coffee I finished packing a heap of sketches in my bag.
He almost got the surprise of his life as Karen (my beautiful partner) came downstairs to say goodbye.
Thing is, she didn’t realise Dave was there and she wasn’t wearing much at all…
It was fortunate I heard her coming down the stairs and managed to warn her of
Dave’s presence before she reached the bottom of the stairs.
She soon scarpered back up to the bedroom where I joined her to say my goodbyes.
Then, we were off to Colin’s, talking all things WESTERNoir and comics in general.
Forty-five minutes later we arrived at Colin’s where they loaded me up with a selection
of their books.I now realized why they were keen to have me along…
I was to be their “comic mule”…
Colin’s weighing of the suitcases was nothing short of inspired as, loaded down in books as we were
all our bags came just under the individual limit of 23KG...
A short taxi ride later, the bags checked in…the three of us pass through
security with no problems…it was now time for a full English breakfast before we fly.
Well, it had been such a rush to get here that none of us had eaten.
Now, the older I get the more I less like to fly. I mean 300 tonnes of metal hurtling
through the sky just ain’t natural is it? But I’d taken a herbal remedy to combat
the anxious feeling, so I’m feeling Ok (except when there is turbulence,
or the plane tilts…I ain’t too keen on the tilting) even, when the flight is
delayed for an hour over a broken light.
It’s a balmy 21 degrees when we touched down in Helsinki two and a half hours later.
Definitely not the norm for the time of year but none of us was complaining.
Pre-warned that taxis were very expensive we hopped on the airport’s
own bus for the thirty minute journey into the city centre.
And that’s where we were dropped off, right by the train station, not five minutes
from the Hotel where we were stopping.
Credit certainly goes to Colin fer organising such a well planned trip.
After dumping the suitcases in the hotel room, first order of the day was
to find the venue in which the Festival was staged…and that took next to no time indeed.
The other side of the train station and another five minute walk…
A huge Marquee tent had been erected slap dab in the middle of a pedestrianized thoroughfare,
and people were already milling around and setting up their stalls, well the bigger ones anyway,
although the Festival wasn’t scheduled to open until 4o’clock Friday afternoon.
That sorted, we go and search for something to eat, ending up in an American sports bar,
chock-full of TV’s peppered around the room showing a Hockey match between Finland and Russia.
It’s here we find out just how expensive food and beer is in Finland…
it came as a bit of a shock I kin tell ya. I began to wonder if’n I bought enough cash with me.
After dinner we strolled around looking for a pub closer to the Hotel, which we found easily enough (just across the road from the Hotel in fact) and settled down to chat about the forth coming Festival.
Dave and Colin had no expectations at all of how many books they’d sell.
The nearest comparison they had were the Danish conventions they’ve attended.
So, with thoughts on what tomorrow would bring, we head back to the Hotel and
settle down for the night.
To make the trip as cheap as possible, Colin had booked a single room fer the three of us,
not that I mind of course…
He did warn me that a certain somebody does snore extremely loud
(no names mentioned…Cough cough…Dave).
Luckily I’d bought some earplugs at the airport and damn me I was sure glad to have ‘em…
Friday morning and after a hearty breakfast we set off to the venue loaded
with about ¾ of the books we had brought.
We find a table in the international section and set up.
Now Dave and Colin have been doing this for over ten years and they’ve
got setting up down to a fine art…Ten minutes…tops and we’re ready to have a
looksee at who else is attending.
There’s a load of exhibitors, not only the Finns but quite a few international folk: -
Italian, German, Latvians, Australian, Mexican an’ more besides.
Seems like a real popular festival to visit, an’ no mistake.
It was not due to open until 4o’clock that afternoon so with plenty of time to spare
we decided to have a wander around the city and see what delights it had to offer us.
And I have to say…from the brief stroll we did that Friday afternoon it has a lot to offer.
We’d planned Monday to be a sightseeing adventure but from the bit we saw on
Friday afternoon we were all much taken with the place.
Especially, when we happened across a very impressive Academic Bookstore (Akateeninem kirjakauppa)
Selling books and graphic novels in Finnish and English...slightly more expensive than in Britain, because they charge VAT on their books but nonetheless a mighty fine store indeed.
We arrived back at the venue with time to spare before it opened to the public
and we introduced ourselves to our immediate neighbours. Nadia Bordonali and Luigi Filippelli an Italian couple, who publish a whole range of good-looking books under their MalEdizioni banner and Tony Sandoval, a terrific Mexican artist currently working in Germany.
After a quick chat, the doors (or in this case the tent flaps) open and within five minutes the Marquee is filling up with comic-hungry folk. It’s not too long before we make our first sale, then another and another.in fact we have a steady stream of customers until the festival closes for the day at 8 P.M.
Having a quick tally of the afternoons sales, Dave and Colin are pleasantly surprised
to find just how well we had sold. We leave the marquee and mosey off to
find something to eat, quite optimistic about what tomorrow might bring.
End of Part 1