The Lakes comics best was just held in the beautiful Lakes District of England; it’s a collegial show that aims to fit into the Angouleme mold with a community wide takeover, and there are two must read reports on the event. First might be one of my all time favorite con reports as Zainab Akhtar and Claire Napier have a lengthy report that doesn’t shy away from how the event fits in to the UK comics scene:
So where does the Lakes International Comic Art Festival fit into this picture? It has a unique facet in terms of its locale and in its aim to be a community-driven event, garnering the participation of shops, businesses and schools. Three years into its conception, it’s still a relatively small and relaxed festival. If you’re visiting for the weekend, there’s plenty of time to both explore some of the surrounding Lake District attractions and walk around the various comic at leisure. The curious thing about the Lakes has is its proximity to Thought Bubble: set 4 weeks before an established festival that offers everything it does and more -including many of the same guests- doesn’t make much sense and makes differentiation even more difficult. With the rest of the UK calendar open for a strong creator-focused convention, I’m not sure why the Lakes is tabled so close to Thought Bubble; an early summer date would likely benefit it further in terms of footfall and people checking it out. It remains to be seen whether the UK comic scene/audience is robust enough to sustain two very similar festivals a month apart, and what impact the Lakes growth may have on Thought Bubble.
In that vein I talked to a few artists and small press outfits who said they wouldn’t be returning because it simply wasn’t worth their while in money made back some despite being invited as guests (which generally means travel and accommodation is paid or provided for). Motivations for attending a convention are obviously different for comic creators who table for a multiple of reasons: to sell their work and make money, to meet peers, friends, and associates in the community that they wouldn’t normally see, to exhibit work for visibility, to make connections, and so forth. These goals shift depending on the convention: different events are geared towards different goals.
That also had a great time tho, read on.
Frank Santoro also went and has a more over the moon response:
The Lakes International Comic Art Festival was, without a doubt, the most enjoyable festival I have ever been to. LICAF mixed the “high” and “low” together and blended it in with the general public in a way we can’t quite pull off in the States. The festival takes over all of Kendal, which is a beautiful small northwestern English town. Every cafe, bookshop, clothing store: they all have comic-book-related material on display and for sale. There was a bookstore window display with children’s drawings. One was of Batman and it read “Darwyn Cooke,” and the other was a cartooned version of Seth (!) drawn by a grade schooler in the same arrangement. I think that about sums up the show for me. Darwyn Cooke and Seth are completely at opposite ends of the spectrum in North America—and to see them presented together and also hanging out in the hotel bar together swapping stories (they’d never really talked much before despite being both from Ontario) is a testament to how different and special the Lakes Festival is, I think.
It really is different in the States. We’re more fancy-flea-market-at-a-nice-hotel and less cool-wannabe-Frieze-art fair/trade show. Plus being in that little town was so nice. It’s sort of what we do—but better. They mash everything together. The high and the low. We separate it. The Batman guy doesn’t usually go to the same show as my Comics Workbook students do. So, LICAF was refreshingly 2015. One gets to see the change that is happening on top of an established foundation of the last ten years of crazy festival growth in North America. Less growing pains. Maybe the exhibit there next year will have books and art and antiques and clothes and food and fold it even more into the town like “vintage fairs” we have here. A festival with a main focus but with something for everyone. People are already doing that in the States. Putting it all together and not sequestered it all in a hotel or VFW basement. Some comics shows are more like “etsy fairs” because the people there make Godzilla toys and comics people like that shit. There’s overlap. There are also dividing lines. But, I digress… sorry.
Frank also learned the hard way that driving on the other side of the street is hard. Heed his experiences.
The Lakes is part of a move to create more relaxed festivals that treat comics guests in a more VIP-like setting, and give attendees a more relaxed feeling while getting the whole town on board. CXC in Columbus is an American show trying to fit into this mold. Meanwhile, shows like the recent ReedPOP Paris Comic Con are bringing the US comic con model with media guests and a wider pop culture focus to the European market.
What does it all mean? More. It means more. More cons. More CAFs. And which cuisine will reign supreme? We’ll see.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.