Small Press Day 2021: Connecting Through Grassroots Comics
By Mara Radut, Megan Cooke and Millie Kiel
Every summer, the UK and Ireland celebrate Small Press Day (SPD) – an initiative that focuses on self-publishing, DIY culture and micropublishing. It is mostly centred on self-published comics and magazines – coinciding with World Comic Book day – and aims to celebrate up-and-coming creative artists based in the UK and Ireland. According to the Small Press Day website, SPD is “designed as an event that requires minimal organisation for everyone involved but will ultimately be hugely rewarding for shops, creators and the small press community.”
How Does It Work?
SPD is a chance for sellers, activists, creators and readers to connect and discover the newest additions to the universe of comics. By dedicating a whole day to self-published comics and asking sellers to reserve a small space in their store in which to stage the event, SPD hopes to gather like-minded people to celebrate comics across the UK, Ireland and beyond.
Speaking to David Ziggy Greene, 1/3 of the organisers team, SPD also aims to function as an aid for creators who are starting out and are unsure of the steps they need to take further after making their own publications. This can manifest in the form of contacting retailers, to then garner attention and readership. “At the same time,” according to Greene, “[SDP] was started to give retailers an excuse to show their customers new creators.” One of the goals of SPD’s small team, made up of Greene, Andy Oliver and Amneet Johal, is to act “as a promotional tool for the day,” meaning it acts as a backdrop to in-store events arranged by retailers with the purpose of networking. The idea is that SPD remains a backdrop and not an organiser of each event, as the end objective lies in building people’s confidence in networking. Sellers who plan on participating may submit an event through the SPD website, which will be supported and promoted on SPD's social media channels.
On 14 August this year, the event was held online for the second time in a row in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In collaboration with Alternative Press and Broken Frontier, SPD urged people to engage with the event in a multitude of ways. Shops were asked to show off their small press sections along with purchase links by using the hashtag #SPDShopLocal, to encourage people to buy locally. Artists were incentivised to post four pages of their small press comic, with the hashtag #SDPBFReview, in return for a review from Broken Frontier’s Editor-in-Chief, Andy Oliver. Lastly, the wider community was given the task of drawing attention to small press titles they deemed worthy of recognition by using the hashtag #SPDRecommends.
Despite being an online event for the last two years, SPD saw an unexpected triumph in the form of community expansion and becoming more international. It defied expectations by accomplishing everything it had set out to do and more – creating a special day and a hub for readers of comics, as well as connecting people from all over the world. Packed with hashtags coming in from sellers, creators, and buyers, SPD’s Twitter page displays the vibrant scene of this year’s edition of the event. It is always so heart-warming to see a community coming together to support small presses and enterprises. Even in such trying times, there is still hope that human connection is one of the most precious things we have, along with our love for art.
Initiatives like Small Press Day are so crucial to independent publishers and creators – especially in the wake of COVID-19. With sales down because of closed shops, any way to encourage readers to engage with books and art is key. It is also this kind of engagement that helped us all get through the tough year we’ve had, whether we’re a reader, writer or illustrator. This will always be one of the core strengths of independent presses. The smaller size helps to create a greater sense of intimacy between the reader and the publisher and as a result there’s often a sort of reciprocal loyalty. Through supporting an event such as Small Press Day, people are able to help small presses support them, with comics and books to read during difficult times (who else read a LOT more than usual during the lockdowns?!). This reciprocal loyalty is so apparent in the sheer number of tweets that rolled in on Small Press Day. The level of engagement despite being kept apart by the ever-present COVID-19 pandemic just goes to show how important this relationship is to so many people.
We cannot wait to see what the future holds for Small Press Day. Hopefully a return to the bricks and mortar shops that play an important part of the publishing and comic book world.
You can find more info about the event on their website.
Until the 2022 edition!