At a Thought Bubble convention (see you there next month!) many years ago, we met a wonderful bunch of Finnish queer comic creators - including H-P Lehkonen and Sara Valta. From that friendship we'd go on to run pre-orders of H-P's "Gay Stuff" comic, localise and print a zine for Mellu Abuzaid-Ryu, and most recently we crowdfunded, printed and published Sara's collected "Polyamoury Comics"!
So we were THRILLED at the opportunity to come visit these fine folks at one of they're own festivals - In Finland!!
The Turku Comics Festival, Turun Sarjakuvafestivaalit, took over the utterly beautiful Turku main library, and a couple nearby event spaces.
There were on-stage interviews with creators, workshops and panels. Some of Nina Mutik's comics were being played on a TV screen, and a whole bunch of physical comics were in a glass display case. There were activities for kids, and an after-party for adults at a local bar - where I did about 30mins of stand-up while folks drew cultic sacrifices of Garfield... Yeah, the internet has birthed strange things.
As well as tabling with other comics folks (and taking home a gratuitous quantity of stickers and zines) we also had the pleasure of being interviewed by our friend H-P on a stage, and doing a lil workshop about how to pitch your work and organise and anthology.
Since leaving the EU *shakes fist* doing comics conventions in Europe has become more difficult and expensive, especially in countries less popular as major holiday destinations.
We absolutely could not have made it to this show on our own, and we're incredibly grateful to the festival committee and our friends and hosts for taking so much care of us.
If you're temped to check this festival out, I'd highly recommend it as part of a holiday experience. Don't bring a huge amount of stock (cosplay, queer and NSFW content were all pretty popular), and book yourself a week to just enjoy Turku; Finland's old capital and oldest city.
Outside of the festival, we visited the Tom of Finland exhibition in Helsinki; the Kiasma Museum is within easy walking distance of the train station, even for a chronic wobbler like me!
Turku is full of beautiful architecture, from the neoclassical Turku Orthadox Church, to the neo-renaissance-styled Koulu Brewery. We got to visit the enormous Turku Cathedral, locally called the 'Doom Church', and the still very much in use Old Market Hall, Turun Kauppahalli.
There are tonnes of wonderful restaurants and breweries - and most importantly to me and Gwen; the majority of menu items are or can be made Gluten and Dairy free! In the UK we usually have to settle for the one vegan option on the menu, and some chips - But we really got to just turn up wherever and just enjoy the meal.
(Please note you cannot book Finnish food places during lunchtime, it's a rule. But you can for dinner.)
Moomins - Finland won't let you forget about Moomins, there's merch and art of them around every corner, including some spooky-looking statues at the airport. I saw some of the anime growing up in the 90s, but I've heard the original is somewhat darker and more interesting - so I'm eager to give it a look. Oh, and we got a calendar as a nice 'something', as most Moomin stuff is collectable and fetches a pretty big price.
Kinda wish we got some reflectors though - everyone seemed to have on one their coats and bags, likely cause it gets so dark. Could be a nice trend in the UK, especially for when I'm cycling.
Alright! Enough tourist information, let's get down to me shamelessly gushing about comics and artists I love!
I documented a lot of the trip on the @GenderQuest Instagram, and you can find links and videos there, but I'll do another post shortly with the summation in text form.