Around the mid to late 90s I found myself more and more involved with the shopfloor at Nostalgia & Comics, and particularly more involved in trying to push the product mix to include some of the great stuff that was being published.
I was particularly involved in pushing the wonderful British stuff that was being published at the time. We sourced this direct from the publishers and actively restocked so we had every issue in.
Particular successes for us included:
Kane by Paul Grist.
Strangehaven by Gary Spencer Millidge
Sleaze Castle by Terry Wiley and Dave McKinnon
We had a separate section in the shop and aggressively promoted all of these titles. I had lots of nice phone calls and emails with all the creators involved. All in all it was a great time for us and for the titles involved.
About this time Pete Ashton (weblog) was heavily into the small press and self publishing scene. He ran a small press distributor: Bugpowder (which later mutated into the excellent website here) and was a frequent visitor to the shop. Pete and I got talking on various occasions and we ended up stocking several of the comics and books he represented on our shelves and did a nice little trade in them as well.
After months of doing this Pete gets it into his head to organise a little convention, more like a formal pub meet with events and a few guests. He called it BrumCAB97 (Comics and Beer) and billed it as an informal mini-convention with the emphasis on meeting and chatting about comics in a relaxed environment.
Pete's always been at the sharp end of the ideas business, very early on he was running fanzines, doing the BugPowder distro thing, organising comic pub meets and got into this blogging lark very early as well. So the idea of getting a few dozen quality British comics names together seemed like a really good idea at the time.
To tie in with this we decided that Nostalgia & Comics should invite some of the British writers and artists we'd been supporting for so long down to sign and appear at BrumCAB97.
From memory and the convention booklet I can make a list of: Paul Grist, Terry Wiley, Dave McKinnon, D'Israeli, Jeremy Dennis , David Morris, Fiona Jerome, Jason Cobley, Lew Stringer, Paul Rainey. But there were others.
So we set the date; all scheduled to take place on the weekend of 6th & 7th September 1997.
Anyone spot the huge problem with that date?
Go to this BBC page to find out.
Okay, all back. We'd managed, through no fault of our own to schedule a really nice Brit comic weekend on the one weekend of the year where NO-ONE was in Birmingham.
As Terry Wiley put it when I asked him for his memories:
Ah yes - I recall it was a lovely day for it, if it wasn't for the tumbleweeds blowing along Queensway it would probably have been a pretty good turnout!
I remember the hotel TV was showing the funeral on EVERY CHANNEL.
So when we went to BrumCAB later I remember we all went to a Balti house and the Oxford crowd started having a loud conversation about some unscrupulous person committing necrophilia on Diana! I was surprised there wasn't a fight ;)
The next day I think the drinking started early, while the TV showed REPEATS of the funeral, for god's sake - and Jeremy Dennis ended up with D'Israeli drawing on her (jeans) leg with a Sharpie....
I was never a big fan of Princess Diana. I'd long thought she was an aristocratic waste of space who should have known exactly what she was marrying into. Her job was simply to produce the heir and the spare, shut up about any of hubbies infidelities and wave at the right points. But the simpering, stupid woman decided not to play along.
I know it was a tragedy that she died in such a terrible accident. But she was stupid enough to get into a car with a drunk driver high on something or other.
Of course, as these events were unfolding, all I was really thinking about was what impact it would have on the attendance at the weekend. Selfish and small minded of me I know. But I certainly wasn't going to be part of the herd of cattle weeping and moaning for a woman they didn't know and who probably secretly hated them.
Come the day of the mini con we set everything up and got the shop all nice and ready for our guests and the customers. The guests turned up. The customers didn't.
Even on the bus into the shop that morning I knew we were onto a real loser. I think there were two other people on the bus. And they were just drunks still reeling from last nights wake or something or other.
When we got into town it was even worse. The silence of the city centre was incredible. I've always loved the quiet that descends on Birmingham in the early hours of the morning (before the clubs kick out anyway); it has a wonderfully unreal feeling to it.
But this quiet was very different. This was the quiet that signalled that we were going to have the most embarrassing of days.
Bless the guests though. They were very sympathetic and understanding. They sat behind the table and amused themselves for a couple of hours before we all headed to the pub.
We held our own wake that night and it had absolutely nothing to do with some royal bimbo.
Pete has put up his account of the weekend as well - here. Well worth a look.