Inspired by the memory of her beloved father, University of Dundee PhD student Megan Sinclair has created a new comic that explores bereavement while raising both awareness of heart disease and funds for vital medical research.
Close to the Heart will be launched at a symposium at Dundee Comics Creative Space on Wednesday 21st November. The publication centres on the sudden death of Megan’s father, George, who suffered a fatal heart attack in his sleep at the age of 53 in April 2014. She says the event turned her family and life upside down but her determination to do her father proud helped drive Megan towards First Class Honours and a Masters degree with distinction before embarking on her PhD in Comics and Education.
Despite its origins in tragedy, Megan says the overall message of Close to the Heart, which explores the importance of communication in helping people cope with grief, is one of hope.
Wednesday’s symposium focuses on public information comics produced by the Comics Studies team at the University in collaboration with academic and non-academic partners and aims to explore the impact of comics as a mode of public engagement as well as a research methodology.
The event begins at 10am with guest speaker Nicola Streeten, an illustrator, graphic novelist and author of Billy, Me and You, discussing her own experience of comics and grief. Other talks centred on graphic health will follow, along with a workshop, and roundtable discussion.
Close to the Heart will be officially launched at 7pm that evening and members of the public are welcome to attend both the symposium and the launch event. The comic is free but donations, which will be given to the British Heart Foundation, are welcome.
People can register for the symposium here and to attend the launch of Close to the Hearthere.
The comic will be launched to the public on Wednesday 5th September at Dundee Comics Creative Space, Unit 7 in the Vision Building at 7pm.
For more information on the project please see the University of Dundee press release beleow:
A new comic created by the NHS and the University of Dundee aims to get high-school age children and the wider public thinking about the gift of Organ Donation. The comic book, entitled ‘The Gift’ is being launched to coincide with the NHS Organ Donation Week in Scotland on Monday 3rd September.
‘The Gift’ was written by recipients of organ donation, the families of donors and University of Dundee and NHS staff. The 32 page book, inspired by the tragic death of a University lecturer’s son seven years ago, shares the heartfelt stories and life experiences of individual patients and their families those affected by organ and tissue donation.
Mayra Crowe, a University of Dundee lecturer, said it was a pleasure to see her son Andrew’s story feature in ‘The Gift’.
She said, “Over the last seven years, I have had the honour of being an ambassador for the NHS Organ Donation campaign. During this time I have meet courageous and selfless people. But a hard part of this is trying to explain to kids that unfortunately sometimes children die. My own son Andrew died suddenly from a brain aneurism and our family were faced with a challenging decision. We never knew what Andrew’s thought about organ donation were but we did know what kind of loving person he was. Thanks to Andrew’s organ donation, nine people now enjoy a renewed quality of life. For me, being an organ and tissue donation ambassador has provided a platform to tell my son’s story. Now, I hope this comic will do the same.”
Lynne Malley, Specialist Nurse Organ Donation with NHS Tayside, said, “Almost 600 people are waiting for an organ transplant in Scotland at the moment but there are not enough organs to meet these needs and sadly someone dies every day whilst waiting for an organ.
“We hope that this new comic will raise awareness of the importance of organ donation and prompt honest conversations amongst loved ones. Lots of people think they would be unsuitable to donate organs and tissues because of medical history or lifestyle choices, but each potential donor is individually assessed and we need people from all ethnicities and backgrounds to register.”
‘The Gift’ was published by UniVerse, at the University of Dundee, coordinated by Laura Findlay and produced by Rebecca Horner of Ink Pot Studio. The artists and writers involved in the comic include Mayra Crowe, Damon Herd, Rebecca Horner, Laura Findlay, Chris Murray, Golnar Nabizadeh, Ashling Larkin, Elliot Balson, Catriona Laird, Letty Wilson, Helen Robinson, Megan Sinclair, Philip Vaughan and Norrie Millar.
‘The Gift’ is the latest in a series of educational comics designed by the University of Dundee’s Scottish Centre for Comics Studies, and produced by Ink Pot Studios, which is based in Dundee Comics Creative Space. It follows on the success of ‘Fibromyalgia and Us’ (2017), which was downloaded over 12,000 times. Future projects from the University of Dundee’s comics department include comics on heart disease, Coeliac disease, suicide awareness, and disability rights.
Professor Christopher Murray, director of the Scottish Centre for Comics Studies notes that comics are a powerful medium for communicating such stories, “comics present a visual narrative, and through the arrangement of sequential panels on a page, and the interaction of words and images, a compelling and engaging narrative can spring to life. The medium of comics relies on a combination of play and problem solving to engage the reader and are an excellent way to communicate complex information and subjective experiences in a relatively straightforward way”.
In recent years autobiographical comics, many of them dealing with health and disability, have been critically acclaimed, and there is now a research network, Graphic Medicine, that is devoted to comics about health and medical issues. The University of Dundee hosted the annual Graphic Medicine conference in 2016, and this helped to prompt researchers in Comics Studies and various partners, including colleagues from Education and Social Work, Law, Nursing and Health Sciences, Life Sciences, and the Leverhulme Centre for Forensic Science, to work together to produce a series of comics that address important issues. The Scottish Centre for Comics Studies has also recently worked with The Brittle Bone Society, Sistema Scotland/Big Noise Douglas, and various other partners, to produce public information comics.
As Dr Laura Findlay, a researcher within the Scottish Centre for Comics Studies, and coordinator of this project adds “we hope that ‘The Gift’ helps promote the NHS Organ Donation week, and we extend our thanks and appreciation to all those who consulted on the project and helped create this comic”.
On Friday December 1st we were very pleased to host the launch for a new comic raising awareness of fibromyalgia. Produced by the University of Dundee and our very own Ink Pot Studio, the comic illustrates the ongoing life transitions of those who have fibromyalgia as well offering information about the condition.
A pain clinic psychologist recently said to me that more needs to be done to raise the awareness of health care professionals about fibromyalgia. With some progress in research, there is a better understanding of fibromyalgia compared to what it was even two years ago. However, whether your own doctor, physiotherapist or other professionals understand this complex condition, still feels like a lottery. So one day lying in bed, with a fibromyalgia flare up, I started thinking of creating a comic about it. I fired off emails to a few people who all thankfully came on board.
This comic has been designed with the purpose of raising awareness of fibromyalgia amongst professionals, families, and communities. It illustrates the ongoing life transitions of those who have fibromyalgia as well as its impact on significant others. It highlights the importance of a strong support network to enable people to adapt to the multiple transitions triggered by fibromyalgia and flourish despite its substantial challenging consequences.
As well as Divya the contributors included health professionals, other people with the condition, comics scholars, and artists: Andrew Keiller, Lynn Kelly, Judith Langlands-Scott, Christopher Murray, Anj Snape, Jonathan B. Snape, Nik Snape, Freddie Warden, Bryan Whittingham, Elliot Balson (Artist), Zu Dominiak (Artist), Damon Herd (Artist), Rebecca Horner (Artist), Ashling Larkin (Artist), Norrie Millar (Artist), Helen Robinson (Artist), Letty Wilson (Artist).