Celebrating Scotland’s stories and diverse voices through comics

Posted: 19 April 2022, in News

2022 is Scotland’s Year of Stories, a year to celebrate what is special and unique about the tales we tell about ourselves. The communal, fundamentally human shared experience of storytelling seems like the perfect antidote to two years spent battened down – and it’s a wonderful time to be working with stories, to laugh, to learn and to heal.

My organisation, Magic Torch Comics CIC, works with schools and community groups to tell stories using comics. People usually nod politely at this point – we hear comics and think superheroes and can’t quite imagine how the explosive spectacle of Marvel movies squares with the everyday stories of communities we know. In truth, the medium of comics has been telling and sharing inclusive and personal stories from diverse creators for decades. Our own comics have included collaborations with pensioners, women in the Asylum process, care experienced young people and individuals experiencing mental health challenges. We’ve created comics which share folktales and urban legends, adapted historical archives for new audiences, described the work of the Scottish Parliament, explored climate change and of course, there are some superheroes too.

Finding Asylum – artwork by Mhairi Robertson

Comics are often a collaborative medium, with writers and artists working together to tell a shared story. We have an additional collaborator – you. From pupils learning about local history or undertaking a literacy project, to activists sharing personal reminiscence about their time on a picket line, our work invites participants to explore the language of comic storytelling and to be directly involved in retelling that story in the comic medium. Whether it is defining the dialogue and sound effects in Gaelic / Arabic language comics or designing characters which effectively represent diverse communities, the groups guide the story.

The completed comic output might be what we celebrate and share – and we will often have community book launches to do just that – but the process itself is where we find joy, where discussion, connection and creative conversation happen. Everyone has a story to tell, not everyone believes their story is worth telling. And crucially, for many people we work with, workshops are where they are listened to, where they understand that their story has value – whether it’s a story of their community, or a personal story.

In a year full of stories, we’re delighted to be working on a range of projects over the next few months. Story Ceilidh is creating a storybook and event with New Scots families supported by VisitScotland / Museums Galleries Scotland. In June we’ll finally be launching our Common Good Comics publication, showcasing stories of social enterprise from across Scotland, the project is being delivered in partnership with Glasgow Caledonian University, Yunus Centre for Social Business and GCU Archive Centre, with the support of National Lottery Heritage Fund. Later in the year, we’ll be sharing ‘Occupy!’ a comic telling stories of occupation and sit-ins across Scotland organised by Govanhill Baths Community Archive.

Common Good Comics – artwork by Robin Henley

And like many organisations, in our own recovery from a difficult two years, we’re looking at new ways to develop and share what we do, from escape rooms, interactive fiction and desk top gaming, to accreditation for some of our projects. We aim to be celebrating stories long after the sun sets on a year of sharing them. Maybe we can help you tell your story too.

Paul Bristow is a Director / Practitioner for Magic Torch Comics CIC and also works as a freelance writer / storyteller for organisations across Scotland.

Many of the groups publications can be read and downloaded for free on their website and ISSUU page

Headline artwork is by Eve Greenwood from Climate Stories.

@magictorchcomix / @pjbristow