This past weekend I had the pleasure of being one of the speakers at the online LDComics Festival, giving a presentation on the Gosh Comics and Broken Frontier Drink and Draw, now in its seventh year of existence in various formats, both in-person and on social media. While the session was recorded for posterity we’re also making the text available here as well, written up from my notes for the session for those who prefer to consume their media that way (or in case there are any pogonophobics out there who would prefer not to look at my face for half an hour!).
Six and a half years later, over 200 guest artists, several pubs and many friendships formed… it’s been quite a journey. The story of this comics community success story begins in 2015…
The Secret Origin of the Gosh Comics and Broken Frontier Drink and Draw
Back in 2015 I was approached by Tom Oldham, the Events Manager at London’s much loved Gosh Comics shop, about the possibility of Broken Frontier collaborating with Gosh on a new monthly event. The idea was that we would pool our resources to create a monthly Drink and Draw event that would create a relaxed and informal atmosphere for attendees in the company of a rotating list of guest creators from across all areas of comics publishing. Unlike many other drink and draws advertised in London, ours would also be entirely free to ensure greater accessibility.
I would promote the event on Broken Frontier with reviews or interviews of the guest artists’ work and host the evening in the pub, and Gosh would similarly promote it through their channels and on the night with a pre-session spot in the shop offering discounted copies of the guest artists’ work to attendees. I jumped at this as an opportunity from the very beginning because from a Broken Frontier perspective I could immediately see how it could work not just as a community collaboration between ourselves and Gosh but also as a springboard for championing the work of emerging voices in comics.
Debut Night, June 25th, 2015
The Drink and Draw debuted on Thursday June 25th, 2015. Our first evening was in the John Snow pub in Soho with guest artist Tom Humberstone and our Artist-in-Residence (for the first year), Danny Noble. It has to be admitted that first night was a little haphazard as, in hindsight, we didn’t really know what we were doing in terms of a format. (We also couldn’t actually book a space in the pub so we had a number of people there extra early trying to spread out over as many tables as they could!). By chance that evening I hit on the idea of having themed drawing rounds with art being shown at the end of each round. It worked so well that it became the format we have used ever since.
Over 200 Guest Artists since 2015!
Over the years we have moved through a number of different pubs before finding a permanent home in an upstairs room in The King’s Arms in Soho. We’ve had over 200 creators coming in as guest artists over the years and we’ve offered a blend of emerging talents like Shangomola Edunjobi, Peony Gent, Nic Mac and Shazleen Khan with established graphic novelists like Karrie Fransman, Hannah Berry, Isabel Greenberg and Gareth Brookes, and creators who have worked for high profile US publishers like David Hine, Emma Rios, Ariela Kristantina and Katie Skelly.
International Guest Artists
Around festivals we’ve been able to bring in US and Canadian creators. And we’ve had a number of successful collaborations with our friends at the Institut français we’ve put on some special nights with leading French creators, including a most memorable one with the legendary Baudoin.
Co-hosting and Collaboration
After the first year Tom at Gosh stepped back from being the Gosh presence at the D&D and my friend Nora Goldberg became co-host. Any of you who attended a Drink and Draw during the many years Nora was working on it will know what an integral part of its success she has been over the years. Without Nora’s passion and commitment it would never have become the event it is. She was crucial to that and I really want to acknowledge that contribution. In the last year of its in-person format I was joined by Clare Wood and then briefly Will Humberstone as co-hosts from Gosh before we went online-only.
The Drink and Draw became so successful in the end that the monthly events quickly became too popular for the space we had. Including this memorable night in 2017 when people were even sitting on the floor.
(Art by Joe Decie on the theme of ‘Giraffes on Bicycles’)
In recent years we have been indebted to the team at the King’s Arms for being so welcoming to what we were trying to do with the Drink and Draw. What’s become so important about it is that it’s become far more than a social event. Creative projects and collaborations have come about because of it, artists’ work has reached new audiences, so many friendships have come from it, and it’s become a wonderful, supportive comics community in itself.
The talented Joe Stone has been designing our posters since we went online
When we were hit by the events of March 2020 we knew we had to keep the Drink and Draw going in some form. I suggested to Gosh that we could run it with the same format but do it over Twitter instead. We already had a hashtag #GoshBFDD that we’d been using to promote it on social media. So we decided we’d go the same way with guest artists choosing a theme and sending us a quick illustrated doodle representing it that we could then use a drawing prompt on Twitter.
We post these prompts (with the hashtag #GoshBFDD so everyone can find them) in three batches at 7.30pm (UK time), 8.15pm and 9.00pm, from both the Gosh Comics Twitter account and the Broken Frontier Twitter account. Attendees have 30 minutes to draw something fitting that theme, after which we’ll have 15 minutes where the guest artist picks a winner before the next round begins.
The advantage of this has been that we’ve been able to expand our audience beyond the London scene and a whole new community has built up around it, including international participants. We have also been able to add more international creators to the mix too as guest artists.
Return to in-person
We recently had something of a return to in-site events in very controlled formats. Nora has returned to the Drink and Draw frontlines to host events for Hackney Comic + Zine Fair, at the Institut français, and alongside an exhibition of Drink and Draw art the D&D had a very special Thought Bubble night opening the events on the festival weekend on the Friday evening in Harrogate.
So where do we go from here? At the moment in-person events will have to remain special one-offs for the foreseeable future but we’re still running the Drink and Draw online. It was so popular there in lockdown that almost immediately we increased it from monthly sessions to fortnightly ones. And when we finally do get back to regular in-person events I’m sure we’d like to keep the online version going in some format to support the wider community we’ve built up there.
Last mention to Gosh for being so forward-thinking with events like this and in terms of being not just a shop but a community hub too. It’s been such a pleasure working with them all these years on the Drink and Draw!
The Gosh Comics and Broken Frontier Drink and Draw runs every two weeks on Twitter. Keep checking Broken Frontier and Gosh and BF’s social media for announcements.