Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Lakes International Comics Art Festival - A lot of rain but was it a washout ?

This was the first ever The Lakes International Comics Art Festival and promised to be an event like no other in the UK as it appeared to be taking over the whole town of Kendal for at least a weekend.
We booked early and so had a room in the Premier Inn, which was pretty central, and as we live in Cheshire it was only an hour and a half up the motorway on Friday night. So the logistics were OK and despite the one hour and a half being nearer two hours (not entirely due to my driving), my wife, daughter and I soon found ourselves in Kendal on a wet Friday evening.
Meeting up with Colin and Garen Ewing (of Rainbow Orchid fame) we all went off in search of food (and drink). Colin and Garen had arrived much earlier in the day and had already got the lay of the land, and pointed out the Clock Tower, where we'd be spending the next two days.
An enjoyable evening catching up with Garen and talking about all sorts, with Colin's wife Karen joining us after a much more tiring journey (due to weather and traffic).
Saturday then presented the challenge of getting the stock, which was in my car outside the Premier Inn, to the venue, which was too far away for any talk of carrying it there (well, Colin quickly stopped any thoughts I might have had). So we negotiated the one way system and parked my car in the Clock Tower car park (which was around the back). A token (which Colin had remembered to print off) displayed in my car gave us free parking for the two days. Result.
And pretty soon we were all set up and ready for the people to come in.
Yep, Stuart Gould, true to his word, arrived with our new banner, the WesterNoir one (drawn by Gary Crutchley, designed by Andy Bloor and coloured by Matt Soffe). It brought a lot of colour to our stall and really stood out well.
As we thought that the number of customers making it to Kendal might be low,, Colin and I allowed ourselves to take time out from behind the stall and attend some talks. Leaving my daughter Jemma to handle the stall when needed, she's an experienced hand now and does a great job.
Jemma at a quiet moment...
Colin went to Joe Sacco's talk and I caught Ed Brubaker's and Kurt Busiek's over the weekend. They were all very enjoyable and well worth the £6 entrance fee.
My wife, not a comic reader, enjoyed wandering around the town and taking in the atmosphere, as well as the Bryan Talbot art exhibition, which I was annoyed at myself for missing.
Another meal, this time at the Premier Inn as we were too tired to find anywhere that involved walking, and Saturday closed with us talking comics, much as it had started.
Sunday was pretty similar to Saturday, and strangely so were the sales. The sales figures for a slow Saturday equalled a pretty good Sunday (as Sunday's are usually much slower than Saturdays). So. My one concern for the event had been that Kendal was a little two small and difficult to get to, and that this would effect the number of people coming through the doors. Looking back, I guess this was partially true. There were a good number of attendees, more than I expected, but it didn't compare to the numbers of people hitting the bigger shows like Thought Bubble. Consequently sales were down on the larger events. But they weren't bad. And when we look back to the first Thought Bubble and our figures there, this event doubled it.
Was the event a washout from a sales perspective then ? Nope, not at all.
Was the event a success ? I think it was a big success. It had a good mix of creators, professional and non-professional, superhero and non-superhero. The events and the hall itself were very well managed (queues for signatures being channelled down side corridors rather than obstructing creator tables was a big success). The venue and parking etc were very good, the organisers allowed access to the kitchen so we could pop and get a coffee (and they even brought water around to us now and then).

Me, Garen and Colin catch up as the event winds down.
What did stun me was the way the whole town got in on the act. It wasn't just that they had banners up. Most of the shop windows had a comic themed display on show. Lots of locals popped in to support the show and even the staff at the Premier Inn were in super-hero costume.
Great stuff.
Great show.
We'll certainly be booking up for next year.

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