My apologies for the delay on this article: seeing as I only attended the one day – the Sunday, at that – I felt that I was really kind of an interloper to the event. There have been some wonderful summaries of The Lakes International Comic Arts Festival – by Bleeding Cool and Comic Book Resources, for example – but here’s my take on the little that I saw. Enjoy…
If there’s going to be one disappointment for myself this year, it’s going to be missing the huge amount of this incredible event – at this point, I’m still slave to the daytime job, paying the bills, putting food on the table, etc…
…and so, I found myself last month doing what I do for living (if you can call DJing that!), then driving throughout the night to the Lake District, tucking myself up into a duvet in the back of the car in a car park on a cold Sunday morning for a couple of hours to wake – somehow – in the picturesque town of Kendal.
The festival had already been running for a couple of days, with some incredibly talented and recognised headliners, already making their mark – Dave Gibbons had been honoured with the countries first Comic Lauriate title, as well as his own featured panels on the Friday and Saturday; Gail Simone had talked Batgirl And Beyond, in-between taking a long extended vacation in the area (ruined only by a god-awful cold once the event had finished and, well, upsetting news of a break in back home); Bone‘s creator Jeff Smith had racked up the airmiles and travelled to Kendal for a rare visit to the UK… And I’d missed it all. Damn it!
That wasn’t to say I was going to miss out on what the Sunday had to offer. After wandering the grey, dark morning streets for an hour or so, I made my way to the box office and paid for two panels: Becky Cloonan, discussing her philosophy to self-publishing, and a head-to-head art jam between Rian Hughes (Soho Divas) and Sean Phillips (Fatale).
While I had the opportunity, I killed time in between these panels by taking in the talent on display in the Comics Clock Tower (a free-to-attend Artists Alley), checked out the Comics Family Zone, hosted by the wonderful chaps of The Phoenix at the Shakespeare Centre, and bathed in the work of Doug Braithwaite in a gloriously curated exhibition, entitled The Universe Within. And this was just the tip of the iceberg – there really was so much to see in every square inch of this picturesque town.
The panels, in short: Becky Cloonan is a quiet, slight woman whose modest, self-effacing manner belies the raw talent she throws into every one of her projects, as well as the drive and ambition she exudes in her self-published work. It was a great opportunity given to us to hear, first hand, about the tenacious beginnings of Becky’s own creations, whilst still working under the yolk of the major publishers (something she still balances between today). This was a wonderful panel and I look forward to the opportunity to speaking to Becky one-on-one someday. (Hey, she said she’d come on the Hangouts with us, someday – I’m holding her to that!)
Divas And Fatales: I had no idea what to expect from this panel – whether it would be a sitdown interview affair or something like I had experienced before, artists sat up at a panel table under the glare of neon lights, knocking out rough ink sketches. Instead, we got a wonderfully moodily-lit theatre, a Burlesque dancer striking various poses and two master artists talking about their approaches and influences, while producing art, projected on screen, in front of our very eyes.
Admittedly, Sean Phillips can talk the hindlegs off a donkey and create some amazing art but can find it difficult to do both at the same time! Distracting himself on a number of occasions, he often found himself boxed into a corner by the time limit (and, more than once, missing a leg in his sketches!) but it was still wonderful to see the differing approaches of these two artists. A joy to watch – and listen to, too: Sean had put together a cracking soundtrack of 60’s and 70’s film and TV scores which matched the evocative nature of the subject.
It was at that point that I recognised that the free wifi available wasn’t going to quite cut it when it came to hosting that evenings Cup O’ Tea Hangout so I made my way out into the cold showers that were starting to blanket the town and started on my drive home. And there I was, wishing I could stick around to hear the drunken conversations of post-con piss-ups – always the best ones to attend!
All in all, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival is a stunning showcase of comic talent and it’s encouraging to see an entire town embrace it in such a warm and generous manner. To discover that this event is only in its second year, put together by somebody whose background doesn’t even involve comics, purely off the interests of her children, and is so regarded and established on an international scale is simply staggering. The content on display is rich and widespread, the choice of guests is simply mind blowing, and it’s also fantastic to see that a large portion of the festival dedicates itself to introducing comics to people of a young age.