Well, this is a bit of a wounder. I alluded in an earlier post on the Angoulême comics festival that the attendance was being disputed, and in a
must read wrap-up of the 2015 festival Matthias Wivel covers everything and has a much more knowledgable breakdown of the dispute. In the past it has been a tenet of faith that 200,000 people attend the festival, which fills an entire medieval style town on a hill. This number has been cited as a reminder of how the French love their comics, how robust the European comics scene is, and in general how Angoulême is heaven on earth for comics lovers. While all of that remains true, it now seems that festival organizers may have been inflating the attendance a tad and it’s more like…15,000-20,000.
As many had been suspecting, it turns out that the festival—instead of simply counting tickets sold and accreditations given—has been counting the number of entries to each tent during the course of the festival, which is a quick way of multiplying the actual number of guests by a factor of ten. Embarrassing, and not a little sobering for everyone (including yours truly) who has been profiling the festival at the level of the great comparable cultural manifestations in France such as the annual book fair in Paris, which actually has around 200,000 guests, and generally been taking it as an outsize manifestation of the reach of European comics culture. (Speaking from more than a decade’s experience at the festival, I should add that the numbers given in the report seem on the low side, even when one accounts for the large number of accredited, and thus not-counted guests. I suspect the truth is more complicated, and that actual numbers are larger, even if it is clear that they were never close to the official ones).
Having only attended once, I can back up Wivel’s assertion in the last paragraph. As I walked around, I though the 200,000 number seemed…enthusiastic. However only 20,000 is also way low, as the streets were crowded and you needed to stand in line for anything that was cool.
I’ll have a special look back at Angouleme from retailers Josh O’Neill and Andrew Carl up on the site later today but in the meantime, Wivel’s post is highly recommended.