Young fans, unfazed by bad weather, at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Photo: LICAF

From The Trenches and In Pictures: The Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2018

Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Photo: Andrew Mark Sewell
Photo: Andrew Mark Sewell

This year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival – the weekend-long event in Kendal, Cumbria, now in its sixth year – saw dedicated comics fans brave Storm Callum in their hundreds to enjoy a weekend of creator events, exhibitions (some still on), steampunk, book launches and more this weekend.

Me and my doppleganger! Photo: Andrew Mark Sewell
Me and my doppleganger! Photo: Andrew Mark Sewell

For me, it was a bit of a different weekend to last year. For a start, as I was celebrating the 20th anniversary of downthetubes, I had a table, and running that meant that I didn’t get to see as much as I would perhaps have liked in terms of events, and even other people’s stands in other parts of the festival was fantastic, the Comics Clock Tower.

(Unfortunately, my partner on the project was unexpectedly dealing with an emergency elsewhere, not helped by the bad weather on Saturday).

LICAF 2018 - downthetubes stand
Otherwise engaged!
What I did have on sale prompted lots of memories of British comics of old, and Comic Scene sold well
What I did have on sale prompted lots of memories of British comics of old, and Comic Scene sold well

That said, I did get to see the thoroughly enjoyable Marvel vs DC Debate on Friday night (Marvel won), and to see Hannah Berry deservedly announced as the new Comics Laureate, starting her duties in early 2019; and Hunt Emerson receive his equally deserved Sergio Award for Comics Excellence from Simpsons director (and tuba player) David Silverman.

Cartoon silliness from Luke McGarry during the
Cartoon silliness from Luke McGarry during the “Marvel vs DC” event at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2018
The Festival's youngest guest Drew Marr - part of a
The Festival’s youngest guest Drew Marr – part of a “youth invasion” of comics talent this year – announces Hannah Berry as the new Comics Laureate
LICAF 2018 - Hannah Berry
Hannah Berry
Charlie Adlard hands the rile of Comics Laureate to Hannah Berry at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Hannah will begin her duties as Laureate in early 2019. Photo courtesy LICAF
Charlie Adlard hands the role of Comics Laureate to Hannah Berry at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Hannah will begin her duties as Laureate in early 2019. Photo courtesy LICAF
Hunt Emerson receives his Sergio Award from Simpsons director David Silverman
Hunt Emerson receives his Sergio Award from Simpsons director David Silverman

I also grabbed the chance to see Corinne Pearlman and Lizzie Kaye host the Myriad Editions/Unbound “New Talent” presentation on Staurday night with Jenny Robins (author of Biscuits (assorted), a graphic novel about diverse women in London out in 2020 from Myriad), Sabba Khan (currently working on a graphic novel called Pluralism) and Owen Michael Johnson whose new graphic novel Reel Love got its launch as the Festival. (Read my interview with him here).

Corinne Pearlman from Myriad Editions and Lizzie Kaye from Unbound introduce a New Talent Showcase at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2018
Corinne Pearlman from Myriad Editions and Lizzie Kaye from Unbound introduce a New Talent Showcase at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2018
LICAF 2018 - Jenny Robins
Jenny Robins
LICAF 2018 - Sabba Khan
Sabba Khan
LICAF 2018 - Owen Michael Johnson
Owen Michael Johnson

I was privileged enough to chair to events – one, a live draw with with Cam Kennedy and Ian Kennedy, aided by fellow downthetubes contributor Colin Noble, who provided a great display of Commando books, and presented Cam with a copy of his first ever Commando, published 50 years ago this month.

Cam Kennedy reveals how much comic artists are really paid (just joking...)
Cam Kennedy reveals how much comic artists are really paid (just joking…)
Ian Kennedy with the Dan Dare art he coloured on stage
Ian Kennedy with the Dan Dare art he coloured on stage

The other, a tease from Bryan Talbot and Mary Talbot for their new book, out next year, hopefully, from Jonathan Cape, entitled Rain (trailed here on downthetubes earlier this year) – a fascinating insight into how climate change affects us all, told through a very personal story of a flood-hit town in the north-west of England.

Given the weather on Saturday, the topic couldn’t have been more apt!

Bryan Talbot and Mary Talbot
Bryan Talbot and Mary Talbot

Despite being on a stand, I did get to see a huge number of creators and all friends, not only creators on the festival’s guest list or who were exhibiting (including Russell Mark Olson, who I’ve worked with recently on the collected edition of his terrific Gateway City series – thanks for the bagel!), but some who just dropped into event just to catch up with folk, a delightful element of this Festival.

These included former Marvel UK artist Doug Braithwaite, these days working for Valiant, and veteran artist Mike Dorey, who’d come all the way to Kendal from Surrey to catch up with Ian Kennedy, and seemed delighted to find veterans of the industry such as former Tharg Steve MacManus, too.

It was also wonderful to catch up with some downthetubes readers, some who I only know in many cases from the profile photographs on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. So while I did miss some incredible events, including the book launch for Traces of the Great War, and John Wagner and Ian Rankin‘s much talked about panel, interrupted briefly by an angle grinder (don’t ask!), it was great to simply catch up with folk as they walk past the panel or I saw in the local pubs or elsewhere.

Artist Sean Phillips and author Ian Rankin at the launch of the stunning Traces of the Great War anthology. Photo: LICAF
Artist Sean Phillips and author Ian Rankin at the launch of the stunning Traces of the Great War anthology. Photo: LICAF
A busy Comics Clock Tower. Photo: LICAF
A busy Comics Clock Tower. Photo: LICAF
Hunt Emerson, and award. Photo: LICAF
Hunt Emerson, and award. Photo: LICAF
Young comics artist Abi Kerner tries out a Wacom tablet during the Festival
Young comics artist Abi Kerner tries out a Wacom tablet during the Festival
Guardian cartoonist (and part-time Catwoman) Steven Appleby at a comics workshop during the Festival
Guardian cartoonist (and part-time Catwoman) Steven Appleby at a comics workshop during the Festival

You wouldn’t think that a Festival in a small town in the north of England, might prove the seeding ground for new work and ideas; chance encounters that might, perhaps, lead to greater things, creatively. But there appeared to be a load of that going on – just introducing, for example comics artist and actress Jessica Martin to B7Media’s Andrew Sewell seemed like it might be the seed for something new…

comics artist and actress Jessica Martin to B7Media's Andrew Sewell
comics artist and actress Jessica Martin to B7Media’s Andrew Sewell

Brief encounters too, such as meeting Drew Marr and mother Kelly-Ann, were great fun, as she enthused about both her son’s work and their plans for getting it out to shops around the country. While might be one of the youngest, creators at the event, the fact that he had the chance to meet another creator – Zoom Rockman – at the Festival, seem to provide further inspiration for him to go on to do even more great comics.

Kelly-Ann Marr and Drew Marr of Golden Lion Comics
Kelly-Ann Marr and Drew Marr of Golden Lion Comics
Drew Marr finally catches up with Zoom Rockman in the
Drew Marr finally catches up with Zoom Rockman in the “Scottish Brothy” in the Shakespeare Centre. Photo: LICAF

Clockwork Watch also help make this year’s festival even more fun, with Yomi Ayeni coordinating an amazing day of steam punk powered events, accommodating in the procession through the town, led by aided by David Silverman and his tuba.

The guerrilla live performances through Saturday – despite the rain – made this year’s Festival even more fun, with Yomi and team, together with Kendal College, coordinating an amazing day of steam punk powered events, culminating in a fast-paced procession through the town.

I’m not quite sure what the locals of the New Union pub made of of the final event, but I suspect it’s one that will be pretty much unforgettable for them, although there may need to be a bit more communication between landlord and his usual customers to warn them about it if it’s repeated.

“Robots” storm the Comics Clock Tower as part of the Clockwork Watch transmedia event created in partnership with Kendal College. Photo: Andrew Mark Sewell
Photo: Andrew Mark Sewell
Photo: Andrew Mark Sewell

Of the people on the massive guest list, it was smashing to catch up with creators I’ve worked with in the past, such as John Higgins, Rian Hughes, David Hine (a launching the brilliant Lip Hook from SelfMadeHero alongside artist Mark Stafford), Gary Spencer Millidge, Tim Pilcher and many others.

Also, to hear from Mel Gibson what she’s up to in terms of trying to find out from colleges and other institutions around the country just what comics they hold in there many archives. That is definitely a conversation I want to follow up on.

Publisher Tim Pilcher leads the Soaring Penguin Press team in a Mexican wave for my camera.
Publisher Tim Pilcher leads the Soaring Penguin Press team in a Mexican wave for my camera.

It’s true – Storm Callum did its best to prove a troublemaker on both Friday and Saturday nights. The weather was appalling. However, it did seem to mean that that when a person was in one venue when the heavens opened, they stayed there, with the consequence that I gather some panels were far busier then perhaps they might of been in past years when people could simply wander off to another venue.

On the downside, of course, it does perhaps mean that footfall between the great programme being was affected, but despite this, Stephen L. Holland from Page 45, the Festival’s major bookseller and book-selling partner, hinted to me that he’d broken last year’s astonishing sales record!

An astonishing variety of graphic novels were on sale from Page 45 over the weekend - and they sold well!
An astonishing variety of graphic novels were on sale from Page 45 over the weekend – and they sold well!

However, I don’t think Storm Callum could really dampen convention goers enthusiasm for the event, no matter how hard it tried, causing a lot of damage to Festival banners and more. It was a tremendous weekend, albeit a bit different for me from the previous ones, and even though, because I was pretty much alone in maintaining my table. I didn’t get around to see a lot of people I wanted to, but I did get sight of some great books. For example, the Traces of the Great War anthology, which I have talked about above and on the site before, is absolutely stunning. I thoroughly recommend that you try and get hold of a copy. It’s crammed with an amazing talent and terrific stories.

I also picked up a copy of Reel Love by Owen Michael Wilson from Unbound, which I haven’t had a chance to read yet but is a wonderful-looking story and it was great to hear him talk about it.

There was a weird disconnect for me, in that this year I had an early wander around to look at certain stalls where the creators  hadn’t yet arrived. So there were some great books that I really need to follow up from having had a flick through them. The perils of getting up early I guess.

I would however recommend you try and track down online comic Bastard Galaxia, I did chat to the team, and Merrick the Sensational Elephantman from Tom Ward. (I wish I made time to talk more with him).

I also want to follow up on sight of Dunce by Norwegian artist Jens K Styve, which is absolutely beautiful, and very funny.

 Dunce by Jens K Styve
Dunce by Jens K Styve

Overall, although this was a bit of an odd year for me, I did enjoy the weekend, and I’ve only scratched the surface in terms of people I was able to touch base with even even if it was only briefly, such as Scarlett and Sophie Rickard from Glupeot Books, creators of the awesome Mann’s Best Friend, reviewed here, who are looking for a publisher for their next book.

Actually, though, I just love the randomness of encounters at the Festival, and meetings that may launch new ideas, new projects, all in within a wonderful (if a bit wet!) atmosphere, in a terrific town where the community and business have embraced the event wholesale.

LICAF 2018 - Plunder
Festival plunder!

Plans are already progressing for the 2019 lineup and there are some great British comic writer already on board to be part of next year’s Festival. Meanwhile, if you are in the Lake District in the next couple of weeks, then do try and catch some of the exhibitions that are still running until earlier November.

My thanks to everyone who helped organise this festival – both old and new faces. You did a fantastic job and it was a real pleasure to have play some small part in making this event what it is. I’m already looking forward to next year.

John Freeman

• The next Lakes International Comic Art Festival will run from 11th – 13th October 2019 – www.comicartfestival.com

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John Freeman

The founder of downthetubes, John works as a comics editor, writer, as Creative Consultant on the Dan Dare audio adventures for B7 Media, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. Working in British comics publishing for over 30 years, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Star Trek Magazine and Babylon 5 Magazine. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War and “Dan Dare”. He’s the writer of “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz, published on Tapastic; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood for digital comic 100% Biodegradable.

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