Talk of the Toon: Lakes International Comic Art Festival

David Banning
Lakes International Comic Art Festival, Brewery Arts Centre, Mary Talbot

Graphic artists and superheroes descend on Kendal next month for its first Comic Art Festival.

Cartoon drawings and toads aren’t what you’d expect from a weekend in the Lake District (well, maybe the toads), but for one weekend next month, that’s just what you might find. Celebrating the very best comic art from around the world, the inaugural Lakes International Comic Art Festival runs from Friday 18 – Sunday 20 October at venues across Kendal and Cumbria. The festival programme takes in thirty events, including workshops, a special family zone and panel discussions. Kendal Town Hall hosts the Comics Clock Tower marketplace, where visitors have the chance to meet comic art creators and watch them sketch. And the toads? They come courtesy of the award-winning Hawkshead Brewery’s “Tall Toad,” a golden ale brewed exclusively for the Comic Art Festival.

People new to comic art can get a taste for the medium’s highest standard of art

The last twenty years have seen a significant rise in the popularity of comic art. Graphic novels are now recognised as vibrant art form, with Mary and Bryan Talbot’s graphic novel, Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes winning, for example, the biography category in the 2012 Costa Awards. The Comic Art Festival counts the Talbots among its founding patrons, alongside Cumbria-based illustrator, Sean Phillips, who has worked for US comic giants, Marvel and DC. All three show work at Kendal’s Brewery Arts Centre and Wildman Studios over the festival weekend. “They should provide an excellent way for people new to comic art to get a taste for the medium’s highest standard of art,” says festival director, Julie Tait.

As well as exhibitions, Ruskin’s Cafe and Bar on Stricklandgate pays homage to iconic British magazine, Viz as it transforms itself into the Fnarr Bar for the festival’s V for Viz exhibition. Younger visitors have the chance to be crowned Prince or Princess of the Lakes by designing an original Beano character, while the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere explores the gothic elements of comic art via an exhibition of Birmingham cartoonist, Hunt Emerson’s Frankenstein-inspired drawings. With the help of such graphic art pioneers (and a specially designed Toon Map of Kendal), it may well be that the first Lakes International Comic Art Festival heralds the dawn of a graphic novel golden age.

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