I just wrapped up participating in The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival, which was held Oct 13-15th in Kendal, Cumbria, U.K. This was the 5th year of the festival, and the first I have attended. It was a marvelous time and a very unique type of event. Much of the lovely town of Kendal was taken over by the Festival, with window/storefront displays and events all over the village.
LICAF is not a comic con, it is a celebration of the art and writing in comics, both past and present. Yes, it has a “dealers room” of sorts but you won’t find many people selling toys and old comics or collectibles. It’s mainly focused on creators and publishers showcasing their latest works in the form of graphic novels and comics. But the “Comics Clocktower” is only a small part of this very active and diverse festival.
I didn’t get to attend more than a fraction of the panels and presentations that took place over the weekend, there were that many. I participated in a couple, including the “Quick on the Draw” event that kicked things off Friday, my caricature class, and the “MAD vs. Viz” panel on Saturday. I also did a session in the “Cartoon-a-Room”, where kids (and whomever) got to draw with many different artists and just be creative. I also attended the “There’s Only One Aragonés” presentation celebrating the career of the great Sergio Aragonés.
There were many incredible artists and writers there. It was a great pleasure to meet and get to see the work of some I’d never gotten a chance to do either with before. The Australian’s Caravan of Comics creators were particularly fun, although I didn’t get a chance to do more than just meet a few of them. The talented Stan Sakai from the U.S. was also here, as was groups from Canada, Finland, and many other countries.
But the talks and attending creators are things you’d find in other comic cons, though. It was the other events and programs that set the Lakes apart for me. The Festival celebrated both “The Spirit” and “The Moomins” with several exhibitions and other events and unique activities. In spotlighting Will Eisner’s work and career, the Festival had the “Revealing the Spirit of the Lakes” competition, where students from around the world were invited to celebrate the incredible creative comic art legacy of Will Eisner and “The Spirit” by imagining a vigilante hero or heroine for the Lake District with their own comics page/short story. The top five artists pages were displayed in the Festival Cafe and a winner was announced over the weekend. There was also a spectacular “Spirit of Eisner” exhibition at the Brewery Arts Centre, which was the heart of the Festival’s events.
“The Moomins” are a series of books and comic strips by Finnish artist Tove Jansson… sort of a cross between Dr. Suess and “The Fraggles” if you need a reference. There was a terrific exhibit of art and felt sculpture commissioned by LICAF to celebrate the work of Jansson. This multimedia exhibition by artists Jonathan Edwards and Louise Evans (Felt Mistress) was really spectacular. There were also two full days of ongoing events and exhibits called “We Love ths Moomins” at the nearby Westmorland Shopping Center.
I’m only scratching the surface here. There was also the annual Festival anthology edited by Dan Berry, assembling comic stories created during the Festival’s Cartoon Cafe Challenge sponsored by Wacom over the weekend and printed within 24 hours of creation. A store window decor contest that took place throughout the town. A special publication spearheaded by comics expert historian John McShane called the “Spirit Centenary Newspaper” features a cover by Becky Cloonan and work by Brendan McCarthy, Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips, Graham Dury and Simon Thorp, Chris Samnee, John M Burns, Sergio Aragonés, Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo, Seth, Jason Latour, Jonathan Ross and Bryan Hitch, and Michael Cho.
The town of Kendal was incredibly charming, and the LICAF a perfect fit. If you ever have the chance to attend a future Festival, don’t miss out.
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