What Steven asked Medway comic publisher and Breakthrough Party activist Ian Sharman
On comics, leaving the Labour Party, and waiting for a breakthrough.
In the latest in our series of one on one interviews, we talk to Medway comic publisher Ian Sharman about working in comics, leaving the Labour Party, and joining a fledgling political party instead. Previous interviews have included Medway Labour leader Vince Maple and local author Aidan Hehir.
Where were you born?
I was born in All Saints Hospital, which isn’t there anymore. Chatham born and bred.
What jobs did your parents do growing up?
My dad was an architect, he worked for Kent County Council. He designed Dover courthouse. My mum was an English teacher.
How did you find school and university?
I found school awful. I loved junior school. I went to grammar school in Rainham. I hated pretty much every minute of it. There was an expectation that because we went to grammar school that we were clever and we should be good at everything, and no. My parents were going through a divorce in that time, so it was a tough time. University, I kind of went because I thought I should. I got there and was deeply unhappy and left after my first term. I was studying Philosophy and Cultural Studies at Manchester Metropolitan University.
And you left to break into comics?
Yeah, took me about 12 years, but I left to break into comics. I went up to the Glasgow Comic Art Convention with my portfolio in hand and had reality slap me in the face quite hard. I was young, and none of the UK publishers were interested in me. Some of the little indie guys were like ‘yeah we could do something’ but because I was young and arrogant, I was too devasted that nobody was willing to pay me. No concept of paying my dues at that point.
What was your first full-time job?
Working as a print finisher for Kent County Council at Springfield. Running photocopiers, folding paper, literally folding booklets and stuff for the council. It was… I kind of enjoyed it. Eventually, they moved it from Springfield. The day after the move they went ‘yeah, we don’t need you anymore.’
Where have you lived outside of the Medway towns?
The only time I have lived outside of the Medway towns was when I went to university near Crewe for a few months.
Star Wars or Star Trek, and why?
Star Wars. But I still love Star Trek. Why Star Wars, it’s a tough one. I think because it combines elements of fantasy and science fiction. I love the epic feel of Star Wars, the fact it is telling big stories, with the galactic consequence, whereas often Star Trek is telling stories about individuals and as much as it claims to feel as if it is on a planetary scale, the stories are of individual people. Which is great, but the thing I like more is the big galactic stories.
Which political parties have you been a member of?
I was a member of the Labour Party. I joined the Labour Party while Ed Miliband was leader. Mainly because I wanted to be able to have a say in who would be the next leader. Ed was alright, but I thought we could have somebody better than Ed. I got particularly enthused when Jeremy Corbyn took over. Very much agreed with 99% of his politics. I got to see him in person a couple of times. When they launched the European election manifesto here in Gillingham, because I was a member of the party, I got invited to that. It was fascinating seeing how the machine works. When Sir Keir Starmer took over the party, I was very much, we must get behind the elected leader of the party. I would be a hypocrite otherwise. He has come in with a mandate and made all these pledges which sound good. As he broke pledge after pledge, I was like I’m not going to stick around for this. I’m obviously not welcome. I was following the Breakthrough Party on Twitter, and one of the members DM’d me and invited me to join. I thought about it, and a couple of weeks later I took the plunge and joined.