In 2013, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival ‘Windows on Art Trail’ made an incredible impact, involving both business and locals in the inaugural event with fun displays of comics and comic-related ephemera. As with all such activities, the aim was to draw in the local community into the enthusiasm visiting comic creators have for their art – and the plan was a huge success, echoing similar ‘outreach’ work that is part and parcel of long-establish European comic festivals such as Angoluleme.
In October, Kendal’s citizens and local businesses will again collaborate to create a unique “Windows Trail”, encouraging visitors to explore the town. It is a unique element of the Kendal comic art festival, and organisers are adamant it is an essential part of creating a comic art town.
The “Windows Trail” will run from 3rd to 24th October, taking over the windows of over 30 businesses stretching across the town, from Youdells to Kendal Fisheries and Oxfam to Waterstones.
The Trail involves schools, colleges, community groups or artists pairing up with a business/shop and creating an original comic art display. These form a trail to follow through the town and animate the festival, offering a free and colourful window on comic art from two weeks before the festival until one week after it has finished, a month in total.
Two of the groups are taking advantage of an exceptional opportunity to work closely with Festival Patrons Bryan Talbot and Sean Phillips. Bryan is mentoring First Kendal Cubs and Sean the Queen Elizabeth School.
Other creators involved in the trail include veteran local newspaper cartoonist Colin Shelbourn, artist and 2000AD writer David Baille, Sally Jane Thompson, author of the coming of age graphic novel Atomic Sheep, and Team Girl Comic founder Gill Hatcher.
Beales Department Store window will form a centrepiece for the trail, hosting an exciting display featuring Poblin and The Lakes Gang – the all-new festival mascots. The Lakes Gang have been designed by Jonathan Edwards, a regular contributor to The Guardian and made by Louise Evans, the Felt Mistress who has created window displays for Selfridges’ Christmas display.
Poblin will also feature highly in the competitive element of the trail, as the winners of the Best Window will receive a spectacular Poblin trophy. There are two awards – one for the People’s Choice for Best Window – anyone enjoying the trail can cast a vote. One for the Best Window voted for by the Kendal BID – sponsors of the Trail.
European comic festivals fully involve the host town in their activities and I’ve always been hugely impressed by the window displays you see at these events, the choice of display often designed to raise a smile even from non-comic fans. For me, this is the kind of project that really makes the Lakes International Comic Art Festival stand out, and comic creators I spoke too last year were hugely impressed and some even a bit humbled by the support the project has gained so quickly from the people and businesses of Kendal. It was a welcome reminder of how much comics are still enjoyed by the general public, as well as fans.
• The Windows Trail, made possible with support from the Kendal Business Improvement District, runs from 3rd October to 24th October 2014. Maps and voting slips will be available at participating shops and at the Brewery Arts Centre and the Comics Clock Tower. For more about the 2014 Lakes International Comic Art Festival visit: www.comicartfestival.com