It’s been a week since the excellent Comics & Medicine conference in Brighton, and it feels like it’s taken that long to process the proceedings. As usual (well, I say that, but this is only the second one I’ve been to – I missed last year’s one in Toronto), it was superb – quite the model of a great small conference. Astonishingly diverse, and – without wanting to gush – inspirational in every sense of the word. The best thing about conferences on this scale is that you get an honest chance to meet and talk with people; by the end of Sunday’s sessions, I really felt like I recognised everyone in the room, and had met and talked to a good number of them. And – just as it was two years ago in Chicago – it’s a genuine surprise to see what kind of people come to these conferences. For example, I had no idea that I would end up meeting anthropologists at the conference, let alone one that made comics!
The sessions were, like the attendees, extraordinarily diverse. There was the same mixture of academic and outsider, clinician and patient, experience and reportage that characterised the conference two years ago. It’s a testament both to how widespread the use of comics in medical contexts has become, and also the number of areas of medical practice and experience that are still looking for a “voice”. The theme of the conference was ethics under cover, and just about every area of ethical concern and practice was addressed. I had the great fortune to be in a session with Katie Green, Emma Mould and Andrew Godfrey – all comics writers and artists that I’ve admired since first meeting them in Chicago. My own paper was very well received – talking about some of the ethical issues encountered in the course of my One of Those People project – and I had some really positive feedback from a number of people on the concerns I’d raised; an essay version of the paper was also included in One of Those People: Zero for sale at the conference marketplace.
Beyond the papers themselves, the rest of the conference was extremely well-organised and thoughtfully scheduled. In addition to some excellent keynote talks by Nicola Streeten and David B., there was also a great Ladeez Do Comics session on Friday evening (which made me wish I lived closer to Bristol or London!), and a lovely chilled-out party on the beach on Saturday evening. As ever with these things, it was all over much too soon, but I left with a cart-load of ideas, contacts and friendly advice on my own projects. I’ll be pushing ahead with One of Those People over the next few months, and would like to pull some kind of initial chapters together by Christmas. Inspired by all the conference papers, I’ve got a lot of new thoughts about how to structure and frame these comics and medicine projects, and a long reading list of suggested books and graphic novels to work my way through, too!
Thanks to Muna Al-Jawad and the rest of the Comics and Medicine group for organising such a great conference – and I’m looking forward to Baltimore 2014 already!