Friday night I decided to head across to the Lakes Comic Art Festival in Kendal, where the town has been besieged by the UK comics industry for a weekend. Having captured several strongpoints across the city centre, the Festival had not only won a battle of occupation – but one of propaganda. Everywhere you walk (not that there are MANY places to walk in Kendal, which is a teeny tiny nice little place) the shops had transformed themselves:
And many more. The main area of the Lakes Festival was held in this here clock tower (I know I’m posting a lot of photos up top, but I’ll run out in a mo):
Which had four rooms for people to display their comics. Most UK publishers found room, in fact, with possibly 2000AD and Blank Slate being the only two major players to be absent. SelfMadeHero, NoBrow, Great Beast, Avery Hill and several others all found a space in those four rooms, and each of the rooms seemed pretty equally balanced, for me. There was something interesting or somebody I knew in all of them, which was nice.
I only had a very flitting visit – I drove across with Eisner-Nominated Comics Journalist Zainab Akhtar ™ that morning, and drove back that afternoon, so it was a handful of hours during the daytime. That meant I likely missed at least half the people I would’ve usually absently waved at. However, it also meant I met a few people whose names sound familiar but I hadn’t been able to place before – like Robin Pierce, who puts out the Curia Regis series – and buy some comics I’d been missing for a while – like How To Make Awesome Comics by Neill Cameron and Raygun Roads by Owen Johnson (who is a very well dressed person which made me feel immediately ashamed as I resemble a homeless pottery-maker) and Indio.
Hiding behind Zainab for half the festival, whilst she hid behind me for the other half, we alternately flapped at people like Gary Northfield, Joe Decie, Kristyna Baczynski, Dan Berry, Kate Ashwin, Paul Duffield, Lee Robinson, Adam Murphy, Neil Slorance, Colin Bell and loads of others. There wasn’t a huge cram on space – there were a lot of people there, but having things split across various rooms and sites seemed to make everything a bit easier.
The Phoenix had a room to themselves – we had a quick nip inside, where they were using the area to host a heap of workshops and events.Another building had a queue for a talk by Dave Gibbons, who was earlier that morning announced as the new “Comics Laureate”. That basically means he’s going to be an advocate for comics as a way to promote literacy in children (and adults) across the next two years. The guides and volunteers were all really cheery and friendly, especially in helping point out where the various strongholds of the festival were. I think a few people would likely have struggled with that – when we walked into the signing room, it looked a little empty.
Despite it being the hardest place to find, that wasn’t true for a ‘make your own superhero’ area hosted by Art Heroes and artists like Robert Deas. This was an absolutely packed little area, tucked around inside the shopping centre, with the walls covered in ideas created by kids.
I got a few other comics – a physical copy of the first Widdershins book by Kate Ashwin, a Luke Pearson book which Zainab excitedly thrust at me, the new Art Heroes anthology comic ‘Endangered and Other Stories‘, and a few others too. It was a neat little day. It feels a little in the shadow of Thought Bubble, it has to be said, as most of the people here will also be hosting tables in Leeds as well. But it was a nice event, run well and with an enthusiastic crew of volunteers. Everybody I spoke to said they’d been doing pretty well on their tables, too, which is good – none of the rooms were crowded, but the people who WERE present were all buying comics.
We also got to catch up with a few people we weren’t expecting to – Richard Bruton was there with his family, as was Christopher Butcher, one of the founders of TCAF. Comic makers seemed to feel free to move off from their tables and wander round the town, too – there were countless stories of Boulet appearing from nowhere to pick up comics and chat with people, and I saw people like Sean Phillips, Gail Simone and Becky Cloonan all having a look round to see what they could see.
So it was a good time! A fun jaunt up North-er.