Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Lakes Comic Festival!

Wow, well that was The Lakes last weekend or I should say The Lakes International Comic Art Festival to give it its full Sunday name, but 'The Lakes' will do just fine I think, although 'The Rain' would also be a close second!
Actually its maybe a bit unfair to mention the weather for a comic show, however when that show takes over the whole lake district market town of Kendal and involves a wee bit of walking around, the weather plays its part, more so than the normal convention centre set show that we're used to. However although the frequent drizzly rain did its best, it failed to dampen the spirits of attendees, guests, exhibitors and volunteers as we encountered probably the friendliest and best-run debut show we've ever attended - no mean feat when we recall the previous contenders.
The Comics Clock Tower & some of Kendal's Signage!
But its true, the enthusiasm of the organisers and volunteers was infectious and helped overcome the few teething problems and the vagrancy's of the local weather. Our location, The Comics Clock Tower was in fact Kendal's town hall and as such, slap bang in the centre and not one you could really miss and ideal for reaching the nearby Brewery Arts Centre where most of the talks and events were held. I'm reliably informed that it was pretty close to the various other exhibition sites, library and 'pop-up' shops too etc but we didn't venture too far from the Clock Tower so sadly missed out on much of what else was going on but that tends to happen when you're exhibiting, but for attendees there was a lot more to see to keep you fully occupied both fun packed days and evenings!
John Wagner & Carlos Ezquerra take the stage
And that was true of Accent UK too, we had a fun, enjoyable time at the show and in Kendal, with this, like the recent Glasgow MCM show being accompanied by (some of ) our families which is good to all get away and share the comics fun. We were delighted to also be accompanied by long term friend Garen Ewing of Rainbow Orchid fame and I note that Garen has already posted his thoughts on the show here before scooting of to Essen in Germany for another show, busy man!

Dave, Garen and Col - add your own caption!
Its always fun sharing time with Garen and as he was also staying with us en-route before and after the show, we had plenty of time to catch up which was great and that's one thing that perhaps Dave and I have missed a bit in more recent comic shows, in terms of catching up properly with other comic folks. Too often its just a quick hello and wave then you're busy behind your table and before you know where you are, the shows over and you've still not had a decent chat with these seldom seen friends.

10 or even 5 years ago, there weren't that many comic shows in the UK so you could almost guarantee that 'everyone' would be there and you'd usually see them about town or in the same hotel etc but since those heady heights of Bristol and Birmingham, the UK has seen an explosion of shows so there's less need to chase round the country when you can just as easily stay closer to home, meaning though that the UK comics 'scene' has arguably become more splintered than it ever was, albeit independent comics are themselves possibly more accessible than ever before?

However, The Lakes had that good old fashioned feel of 'everyone' being there as you could hardly walk down the street without bumping into familiar comic faces in unfamiliar surroundings which was nice, seeing how many people had made the effort to travel to the show.

Still I heard of a possible 3 new UK shows next year and its unclear whether the UK can really support them all? Anyway The Lakes should have no such worries, confidently announcing its 2014 dates alongside its debut programming. With the promise of even better to come, it could really become the jewel in the UK comics' crown with the real potential to match France's revered Angouleme Festival which it is using as its model.

The view of the Clock Tower first floor from the gallery
While we happily give The Lakes a positive endorsement, it was difficult to say just how busy it was with actual attendees as judging purely from our Clock Tower view, it was steady footfall without being spectacular - bear in mind our last show was MCM Glasgow's amazing 20,000 crowd! - and sales, particularly during Saturday were slow but unusually almost busier on the Sunday and while overall, our sales were respectful, they were not the high numbers we'd recently encountered. That in some ways is to be expected in a new show when really everyone is investing in the shows future and of course there was a great choice available for the punter's pound - I won't list everyone here or all our shout outs as it would take too long, but have a look again at the Clock Tower's floorplan for the names of many great creators, publishers and dealers! 
Ivan and his Elsie and Mairi new book
One special 'shout-out' I will give is to Ivan Petrus, he of 'The Nieuport Gathering' book I picked up when first meeting him at the London Super Comic Convention earlier this year. Ivan had bravely driven from his home in Belgium to Kendal, which is a long, long way and he didn't have the best of journeys but accompanied by his very good friend Gert, he settled into the show and again turned out some wonderful full water coloured paintings in his books. Sadly although he had finished the next book in his World War 1 series, Elsie en Mairi, the English version is not yet available but I had a good look at the Dutch version Ivan had brought with him, which again looks great, so fingers-crossed I won't have too long to read it, if not I may just have to try and learn Dutch!

The Brewery Arts Centre
The Graphic Memoir panel
The Lakes was also special for the fact that both Dave and I took the opportunity to attend a couple of the talks, one each each day which was a rare treat with it being years since we'd done so but The Lakes programme was so good we couldn't resist! I saw the 'Graphic Memoir' panel with Al Davison, Katie Green, Nye Wright and Mary Talbot which was very good, moving and thought provoking in places with the panelists being very open with their experiences behind their very personnel stories and the reactions they'd encountered. Ably chaired by Nicola Streeten, the hour flew by very quickly.
Joe Sacco with Steve Bell (can you spot Tin Tin!) 
The following day was the Joe Sacco in conversation with political cartoonist Steve Bell event which I was very excited about, I am a huge admirer of Joe's work and was genuinely excited about the prospect of hearing him talk. I was pleased to again bump into Jeremy Briggs of comics news blog Down The Tubes (see Jeremy's own Kendal photo report here) amongst the packed audience and we greatly enjoyed the casual and revealing discussion between these two talented artists as they explored each others creative styles, deadlines and sensitivities in dealing with often challenging material. Their talk veered around different subjects in the same way that a conversation between two friends does and while always interesting I would have liked to hear a bit more about the nuts and bolts of Joe's techniques but I did learn that he kept very detailed journals which he carefully indexed, the art for a finished page usually takes him 2.5 days to complete and with a book like Footnotes in Gaza taking some 7 years to complete, he's now turning his attention to shorter form stories as seen in the recent Journalism collection.
One of Joe Sacco's amazing panoramas from his new Great War book

I was though very delighted to meet Joe at his signing afterwards and spend a few moments with him as he kindly signed my books, he was indeed as gracious as I'd hoped and, as far as I could see, made time for everyone who queued for him, a real gent and a real joy.

And that joy was mirrored around everyone I encountered at The Lakes, chatting to volunteers, strangers in event queues, signings, the locals and is a major factor in the success of the show. Despite the weather and the respectful sales, this was a timely reminder that a true comics festival is more about the experience rather than just numbers and on that level The Lakes is a major success and one we hope becomes a regular fixture of the UK calendar, so congratulations and thanks to all involved, see you next year please!

The Lakes Haul

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