Allocated my very own 6' x 8' cell in the former prison on day one, I could be found alongside artists and writers (fellow inmates) from 2000 AD, including John Wagner, Greg Staples, Bryan Talbot, and David Roach. Surprisingly light and airy, the cell was plenty big enough for me to exhibit recent works in, and there was space outside the cell door to set up a table for sales and showing works in progress.
The following day, with everyone from the prison moved to the castle grounds due to a communications setback, I shared space with top talent such as Frank Quitely, Laura Howell, Nigel Parkinson, and Lew Stringer - a somewhat surreal experience for this independent artist!
Despite the occasional, brief downpour of rain and gusts of wind, those of us outdoors enjoyed mostly calm, warm weather, which encouraged both festival goers and general visitors to the venue. However, the changing weather combined with the increase in numbers under the five pop-up marquees provided did at times make things uncomfortable. A traditional festival tent or large pole tent with everyone under one roof would have been preferable.
My advice for fellow artists exhibiting at similar outdoor conventions is to take along protective plastic sleeves or polythene sheets for protecting your display from wet conditions. Reusable tacky adhesive also helps keep prints and other small press items from being blown away by gusts of wind. If possible, also have someone accompany you. While fellow exhibitors are usually happy to watch over your space in your absence, they can suddenly become busy with their own so it helps to have someone with you to assist with setting up or looking after your things while you network, attend talks, grab lunch, or make a dash for the toilet.
Regardless, it was warming to see so many fun activities, impressive cosplayers, and enthusiastic visitors enjoying themselves around what is an historic and pleasant town. The festival organisers and ground staff clearly worked hard to deliver such a bold venture and in my view succeeded in getting things off to a very promising start.
In essence, the event felt like a celebration of the comic art medium and this is ultimately what comics conventions and festivals should be about. I very much hope to see Comics Salopia return even bigger and better next year.