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Foyles: A Graphic History Billboard Exhibition

The history of Foyles, London’s famous bookshop and 2012 Bookseller of the Year, has been illustrated by a stellar cast of graphic novel artists including Bryan Talbot, Hunt Emerson, Warren Pleece, Karrie Fransman and JAKe, to mark the launch of the 9th annual Comica Festival this November. Curated by Megan Donnolley, the comics exhibition has been installed on the hoarding in front of 107-109 Charing Cross Road, the former Central St Martin’s Art College building, next door to Foyles flagship bookshop on 113-119 Charing Cross Road.

Foyles bookshop will move into the especially refurbished 107-109 Charing Cross Road building in 2014 and the comic strip ends with an imagining of what the new Foyles may look like when it opens. Other images illustrate well known events in Foyles history. Foyles is asking customers to get in touch with memories of the old shop and good ideas for the new one via this new page on its website

In 1903, two brothers, William & Gilbert Foyle, failed their civil service exams and took out an ad in the paper to sell their used textbooks. Such was the demand that they procured more, sold them too, and what they would humbly call The World’s Greatest Bookshop was born.
What follows in this comic exhibition is a short history of Foyles over the years, as visualised by 14 of Britain’s finest comic artists, from its origins in the Foyle kitchen, through its various moves up and down Charing Cross Road, to its current incarnation. We end with an imagining of what the new Foyles building, on this very site, may look like when it opens in 2014.

Read Mark Sinclair’s coverage of the exhibition for Creative Review Magazine. You can see all of the artworks on the Foyles website.

Here is a selection of a panels by some of the artists (biographies and links for all the artists follow below):

Foyles is founded in the Foyle family kitchen in 1903 - John Miers

Foyles moves to its first premises on Cecil Court, where they are so busy the police suspect illegal activity - Mr Steven Appleby

Foyles moves to 135 Charing Cross Road and expands to include new departments including music - JAKe

Christina Foyle joins the business, founding the famous Foyles Literary Luncheons and travelling as far as Russia to collect debts -  Karrie Fransman

Charing Cross Road is bombed heavily during war time, and William dubs the bridge crossing the crater Foyle Bridge - Krent Able

Foyles began a series of book clubs, including the Catholic Book Club, to which the Pope belonged under a pseudonym. When he failed to pay his debts, William sued and became the only person to sue the Pope - Bryan Talbot

After the court lifted the ban on Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Foyles sold out of 3,000 copies in a single day - Hunt Emerson

The Literary Luncheons grew in scope and grandeur over the decades, with everyone from George Bernard Shaw to John Lennon to Haile Selassie to Margaret Thatcher as speakers - Woodrow Phoenix

The old Foyles payment system is the stuff of legend, sending customers from one window to another to another before they could finally leave with their book - Oliver East

Theft from Foyles was also rampant, with everyone from students to actors to spies ferreting books out the doors - Warren Pleece

Christina Foyle’s eccentricities were many, and her hiring and firing practices did not always garner the best reactions - Hannah Berry

In 1999 Christina passed away, and her nephews Bill and Christopher renovated the shop from top to bottom, bringing it into the modern era - John Miers

During this time, independent jazz cafe Ray’s came to live instore at Foyles - Rob Davis

The bookshop today is home to over 200,000 titles over four floors, with sections covering everything from art to zoology, plus a jazz cafe, events space and gallery - Donya Todd

In 2014 Foyles will move premises to this site, 107-109 Charing Cross Road, and the long history of the bookshop will enter a new era - Rian Hughes

Biographies of the artists:

Hannah Berry is a Brighton-based graphic novelist, sporadic illustrator, occasional teacher and Booktrust’s seventh online writer in residence. She so far has two graphic novels to her name, Britten & Brülightly (2008) and Adamtine (2012), both published by Jonathan Cape.

Hunt Emerson has drawn comics since the early 1970s and has published around 30 comic books, mostly with Knockabout Comics.  He was included as one of “75 Masters of European Comics” by the French comics institute, the CNBDI.  Currently his work appears regularly in >b>The Beano, Fortean Times, and Fiesta, and his latest book is his comics version of Dante’s Inferno (Knockabout 2012).

Karrie Fransman has created comics for The Guardian, The Times, The New Statesman, The Telegraph and Psychologies Magazine and published a graphic novel The House That Groaned with Random House’s Square Peg. You can see her comic stories, articles, strips and sculptures at her website (click name). 

JAKe has drawn comic art for The Prodigy and The Mighty Boosh, as well as working as an illustrator for a wide range of clients. His acclaimed debut graphic novel Hellraisers, ( with Robert Sellers ) is published by SelfMadeHero. His other recent books are How To Speak Wookiee (Lucasfilm/Chronicle Books) and The Mammoth Book Of Street Art ( Constable Robinson )

Warren Pleece started drawing comics with his writer brother, Gary in the late 80s and 90s and then onto working as an artist on numerous titles for the Vertigo imprint of DC Comics. His latest books include The Great Unwashed, published by Escape Books and Montague Terrace, published by Jonathan Cape next February.

Krent Able is a London-based, half-Inuit comic artist (his name roughly translates as ‘He Who Draws The Night, At Night’). He has been making comics since 2009, primarily for the UK’s infamous music magazine, The Stool Pigeon. His Big Book Of Mischief compiles all of his appallingly hilarious, rockstar-abusing comics and illustrations for the first time.

Rian Hughes is a graphic designer, illustrator, comic artist, author, and typographer. Recent books include CULT-URE: Ideas can be Dangerous and Lifestyle Illustration of the 60s, and his comic strips have been collected in Yesterdays Tomorrows.

Mr Steven Appleby lives a deluded life in London. He spends his time watching and listening to the people about him, then puts their secrets into his cartoons. His latest book is Steven Appleby’s Guide to Life, a collection of his Loomus cartoons for The Guardian.

Rob Davis is an artist and writer who is best known for adapting and illustrating Don Quixote for SelfMadeHero and his work on Nelson for Blank Slate Books which he co-edited with Woodrow Phoenix.

John Miers makes comics, teaches comics, and is working on a PhD about comics at Central St Martins college of Art and Design. You could say he quite likes comics. Recent publications include Solipsistic Pop and Studies in Comics. View more of his work on his award-winning website (click his name).

Bryan Talbot has worked on underground comics, science fiction and superhero stories such as Judge Dredd and Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Vertigo titles include Hellblazer, Sandman and Fables and has written and drawn several Eisner Award-winning graphic novels. In 2009 he was awarded a Doctorate in Arts. He is currently drawing Grandville Bête Noire, the third volume in his series of steampunk detective thrillers.

Oliver East is a creator of comic books about landscape and travel, published by Blank Slate Books. These include Trains Are…Mint and Berlin And That.

Woodrow Phoenix is a writer and artist, who creates books, stories, comics and stuff like that from his studio in Aldgate. He lives in London and Cambridge. 

Tickets: Free and open 24/7 on the street!
Where: Foyles, 107-109 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0EB
When: November 2 to March 31, 2014


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