Graphic Festival at the Sydney Opera House


Time for a travelogue blog post folks! Just under a month ago, Luke Pearson and I made the very long (but, luckily, not too arduous) journey from London to Sydney, Australia for the Graphic Festival at the Sydney Opera House. And, let me tell you, what an event it was! Art Spiegelman’s performance, ‘Wordless’, was a highlight. It was a mixture of projected slides, spoken word and live music performed by Philip Johnston and band, through which Spiegelman talked about the very first woodcut, wordless graphic novels by the likes of Milt Gross, Frans Masereel, Lynd Ward, among others. This was an amazing spectacle in the great concert hall of the opera house.

Another highlight, and something of a revelation, came from a home-grown Australian artist, Pat Grant, and his ‘Radio with Pictures’ performance. When this was explained to me prior to the event (I think the jet lag was interfering with my synapses) it just didn’t make sense… Radio with Pictures? (Cue Peter Kay “Garlic… Bread?”).  But, I got myself a ticket to the show that everyone was talking about and I’m so glad I did! The show was reminiscent of a 1940s-style live radio show with readings from different writers and creators which were accompanied by back projected comics and illustrations to form a kind of … radio with pictures! Grant’s reading of his short story concerning his father’s alcoholism was both moving, funny and, most markedly, poignant – it shook the jet lag right out of me.

Other notable events include an entertaining romp through the archives of Robot Chicken with Seth Green and co. live on stage, (with bottles of whisky). There was Dave Mckean’s musically, cinematic extravaganza and even more cinematic than that were the Cinematic Orchestra! We also heard Grant Morrison read a specially created short story and caught him in conversation with My Chemical Romance’s Gerard Way, which was much more entertaining than I had bargained for. And yes, backstage I jumped at the chance to introduce Luke Pearson to a pop star I hate to admit I had previously never heard of (real embarrassing Dad territory for poor Luke!).


Back to work though – Luke gave a comics masterclass to 20 or so lucky souls in the Sydney Opera House board room… what a view of the harbour bridge!

Before giving a Nobrow talk to the unsuspecting Sydney folk, I also chaired a panel discussion with Francoise Mouly (Raw Magazine co-founder/editor and art director of The New Yorker), Len Wein (Co-creator of Wolverine), Leigh Rigozzi (editor of excellent Australian comics anthology ‘Blood & Thunder’) and last but by no means least our very own Luke Pearson. This was a really interesting discussion about the work of editors in visual publishing – if you haven’t seen or heard of Francoise Mouly (shame on you!), we were lucky enough to have her talk through a series of slides, from the early days of Raw magazine to the covers of the New Yorker…. Amazing!


New Yorker cover image: Richard Maguire.

Finally, the powers that be in New South Wales were kind enough to host the largest fireworks display since the Sydney Olympics just for us. Well, not just for us really, it was part of something called the Fleet Review and half of Australia seemed to be in Sydney Harbour to check it out. Luckily, Luke and I had the best view imaginable from the balcony terrace of the Opera House. Big thanks to Ben, Jordan, Katrina, Teresa and Travis and the rest of the guys and girls at the Opera House, it was definitely worth 40 hours travel for our 72 hours of awesomeness on the ground!