(Updated with photos: 21 Oct 2014)
I didn’t manage to get to the Lakes International Comic Art Festival when it started up last year so it was on my ‘to do’ list for this year. I was born in Cumbria and lived in Kendal for a few years and I’m a lifelong comics fan so to have a comics event in a town which means a lot to me is a pretty damn fine thing indeed.
You may know from reviews of last year’s event that many commented on what a good location Kendal is for something like this. Not the easiest of places to get to by train by any means but a relaxed, chilled out town with all the festival locations within a reasonable distance of each other.
As others have said before, it really does feel as though the festival takes over the whole town. Locals and their children mix with hard-core comics fans and, at the risk of sound cheesy, an event like this really does bring a bit of brightness to a pretty grey world.
The Comics Clock Tower proved, for me, the hub of the whole thing of course and it’s great to get in there and glance at the comics on sale whilst saying hello to familiar people you may bump into. There was a real buzz about the place and some very nice festival merchandise on sale for anyone wanting a permanent memento of a happy day. The Brewery Arts Centre was also very busy and the Forbidden Planet team seemed to be doing a roaring trade (John Freeman tells me Page 45 certainly were in the Clock Tower, to the delight of shop owner Stephen Holland). Special mention to the box office staff who were very efficient at sorting out tickets and the ‘front of house’ festival volunteers.
The place I really couldn’t wait to get to was the Abbot Hall Art Gallery, which features “The Great War in Comics“, a display of First World War comic art (the exhibition runs until 6th December), notably that of Joe Colquhoun who drew Charley’s War for Battle. As a late 1970s/80s comic reader this stuff is absolutely my era and it was a joy to see the originals of such wonderful artwork which had originally been printed on cheap newsprint paper.
Considering Joe had to churn out a strip a week, it is remarkable what a high quality of work he produced and you do not have to have been a Battle reader to appreciate how good the art is. It truly does deserve to hang in an art gallery.
My long journey time meant I only managed to get to two of the scheduled talks but they were the two I most wanted to see and they were both corkers. I had wondered if John Freeman really would be able to cover 50 years’ worth of Doctor Who comic strips in 50 minutes (celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the Time Lord’s comic strip incarnations next month) but he managed it with his usual enthusiasm (and five minutes to spare!) and gave a great overview of the Doctor’s adventures in strip form. This talk was attended by a wide age group and seemed to be well received.
The Great War in Comics on the Sunday morning was also well supported and there were some genuine insights into both the comic strips and the nature of war from the experts there – a very good panel indeed.
One of the great things about the festival is that there’s no ‘them and us’ between the guests and the attendees. You’d see Lew Stringer having a coffee outside the art gallery or Bryan Talbot taking to fans outside the Brewery. Overall, I really do think there was something for everyone and I very much hope this event goes ahead again next year. Be there.
• The next Lakes International Comic Art Festival will run from 16th – 18th October 2015. Web: www.comicartfestival.com
Former Co-ordinator of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society. Publisher and Editor of comics-related fanzines. Contributor to books on Doctor Who from Virgin and Miwk Publishing. Contributor to cult TV fanzines and periodicals.