Sheffield Beer Week: Interview with Jim Connolly

We caught up the artist behind Kelham Island Brewery’s quirky pumpclips, Jim Connolly, for a quick natter about his art, working with beer and, of course, his favourite tipple…

Hi Jim! Having spent time in Manchester and Sheffield, has either city influenced your art work?
Yeah definitely! At a young age I was deeply gutted to discover that shows like ‘The Hulk’ or ‘Nightrider’ weren’t shot in Sheffield and I think my art prints like ‘The Man Of Steel City’ or ‘Steel Finger’ were a way to bring the excitement of that world to Old Steely. I focused my Manchester work purely on the music scene, but it has some amazing back streets that are straight out of a comic-book or 70s New York movie. It’s important to take influence from your surroundings and I’ve got love for both towns! I’ll still take Pulp over Oasis though…

Glad to hear it! How did you get into illustration?
I guess from a young age I always had a drive to draw things, as my little girl does now, and I was most drawn to animation and comic-books. I went on to study illustration at Manchester Met, the only other similar course of its kind was in Winchester and Manchester seemed like more of a party town and a lot easier to reach. Like Sheffield, it’s a big music-loving city which was a big factor too.

When did you realise that you could pursue a career in art?
I’d played in bands in Sheffield for years and had a sideline of gig poster and CD cover work which later evolved into art prints about the city. When a couple of those, about the Tinsley Towers destruction and Henderson’s Relish, made a splash I decided it was time to focus on what I loved the most. I wanted a comic ‘style’ I could call my own and to call my own shots.

How did your work with Kelham Island Brewery come about?
The brewery approached me in 2012 having seen my Sheffield-themed work and offered me the chance to do a beer about the 40s sci-fi serial ‘King of the Rocketmen’. It sold out super-fast so they offered me the dream gig of creating six superheroes and villains for a special series of ales. It’s been a cool relationship to say the least!

And you’re hosting an event there for Sheffield Beer Week…
So on Saturday 9 March (at midday) I’ll be doing a talk about all my work for the brewery, showing off all my personal faves and explaining how I go about creating a pumpclip. Entry will be free as I understand it!

Lastly, all-time favourite beer?
Cask-wise, I loved Pale Rider long before I got the Kelham Island Brewery gig! Keg-wise I’ll take Weightless IPA by Red Willow, a Macclesfield-based brewery. Ones to watch I reckon!

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