When Simon Moreton previewed zine-style anthology Lettuce Bee (co-edited by Moreton and Ali Bamford) to us here at Broken Frontier he described its contributors as “old friends, new friends, strangers, and peers from all over the place; some of them make things for a living, some for a hobby. Some needed pestering to make anything at all, and some were already making things just for the sake of doing it.”
I reproduce that soundbite by way of emphasising the community feel of this project; one with a cross-media approach for which the word “eclectic” seems wholly inadequate. Among the names involved are a number of our own Broken Frontier ‘Six Small Press Creators to Watch‘ from across the years including Jayde Perkin, Sabba Khan, Peony Gent and Brigid Elva. The joy of Lettuce Bee is in the diversity of the work on show that ranges from comics and illustration to text pieces, poetry and photo collage, and the ever changing presentational approaches from creators like John Porcellino, Delaine Derry Green, Andrew White, Joff Winterhart and many more.
Much of the work herein is, perhaps unsurprisingly, of the autobio variety. Peony Gent (below), whose graphic poetry continues to tread new ground in comics, impresses again with an account of days in May that transitions between her abstract realisations, photographic actuality and her lilting lettering; allowing us to experience the same events in multiple iterations. Sabba Khan takes us back to a childhood perspective of the world in a short story that touches on themes of sibling rivalry and gender, with two panels in particular seeing a shift in the brother/sister dynamic that is frighteningly powerful in its portrayal.
Jayde Perkin’s ‘Paving Paradise’ is re-presented here giving her ever expanding audience the chance to interact with the strip in a larger page space. It’s a potent piece that details Perkin visiting her hometown after the death of her mother, one that I’ve said before at Broken Frontier “underlines how loss can suddenly make us feel totally disconnected from what should be both the welcoming and the comfortable; how the familiar can be both recognisable and suddenly terribly alien, filled with the echoes of a past that suddenly seems remote and detached.”
There’s a number of offerings here that talk to us on a shared level of experience. Jeff Miller’s ‘Sex Pistols’ is a written account that speaks of the first tentative steps we take in interacting with and discovering pop culture. John Porcellino (King Cat Comix) provides a non-comics entry that combines text and photography and finds a contradictory comfort in a polluted local environment. While completely different in style, Brigid Elva’s cartooning also shares a thematic link with much of this work – fragmentary observational offerings that bring us into their creator’s worlds for a few brief moments with a tangible connectivity.
Andrew White merges in and out of minimalism and impressionism as creation and meditation intersect with as much being said in the white spaces between as it is in his hazily detailed landscapes. Rob Jackson provides detached landscapes of Winter Hill Moor from the perspective of passing it on the way to work that have a fateful poignancy to them, while graphic novelist Joff Winterhart (above) gives us a series of snapshot vignettes of passengers overheard on the bus. To underline just what a varied collection this is, among the other work there’s an account of an ancient burial from Meriel Harrison, intricately detailed otherworldliness by Jacob Knill (below), and a re-creation of a disappeared German cathedral by Timothy Senior.
And therein lies the appeal of this collection. We can dip in and out of its disparate contents, enjoying each comic/article/poem on its own terms, revisiting and reinterpreting along the way. Experimental yet accessible, alternative but accommodating, Lettuce Bee works as both print-form creative hub and an inviting community platform. It’s exactly the type of group project that has felt missing on the UK small press scene over the last couple of years and one that we need now more than ever.
You can order Lettuce Bee online here.
Review by Andy Oliver
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