Responding to uncertain times, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival leaps into a virtual setting for 9th – 11th October 2020
Kendal, 11th May 2020: Although movement restrictions resulting from the Coronavirus Pandemic look set to ease in the United Kingdom over coming weeks, event organisers across the country still face uncertainty over social distancing measures in response to the international health crisis. The uncertainty is problematic and even for events taking place later this year, decisions needed to be taken within the next month on arranging travel, accommodation and more for guests from across the globe.
In response, the Lakes International Comic Art Festival has, after discussion with funders including Arts Council England, decided to switch its annual weekend from a physical gathering to a virtual get together of comic creators – maintaining its strong international flavour with its many partners from across the globe, who include the Lyon BD Festival, Quebec BD Festival and the Czech Literature Centre.
Seizing the moment and making an opportunity of adversity, the organisation, whose remit also includes local community outreach, creator exchanges, year-round workshops and comics publishing, is therefore delighted to announce Lakes International Comic Art Festival Live (LICAF LIVE), taking place 9th – 11th October 2020, basing operations from Kendal, Cumbria, but, for this year, involving a host of comic creators from around the globe, joining in with the fun and creative energy from their own countries.
A carefully curated and produced weekend of largely free, pre-recorded and live material (with some participatory elements), featuring a range of both British and international guests, LICAF LIVE will celebrate comics in all of its guises and create special learning opportunities through a series of online workshops. Accessible for a period of time to enable people to dip into it at their leisure from different time zones, it will be informative, entertaining, thought-provoking and inspiring.
Planned innovative and ambitious virtual events include creators “showing off”, new formats for getting up close to creators’ lives and interests; celebrity guests and many “Interactivities” – quizzes, personality tests, exhibitions, audience participation events and more.
In addition, the Festival is delighted to include a dedicated strand of programming, Infinity and Beyond, focused on the cutting edge of comics into the digital sphere, through technologies such as Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and more, brought to you by creators and companies at the forefront of this fast-developing, ground-breaking expansion to the medium.
The weekend-long event will also include a number of awards and announcements including the new Comics Laureate (taking up the torch from current incumbent, Hannah Berry), the winner of the Myriad First Graphic Novel Competition, the launch of the Breakthroughproject anthology and the winner of the Festival’s Race Into Space Comic Strip Challenge.
The Festival’s web site is also being transformed to reflect the change of focus, with a special Virtual Marketplace built and designed by Joe McGarry and brother Luke to highlight the creators, publishers and retailers who would have been part of the annual Comics Clock Tower in Kendal Town Hall.
Seeing the switch from a physical event to a truly international, virtual gathering, Festival Director Julie Tait says she and the organising team welcome the challenge, along with key partners.
“It became increasingly clear that restrictive measures will continue for some time and that, when they are eased and we return to (the new) normal, festivals and events will be the last things to re-enter the public domain,” Julie explained. “There are so many unknowns, such as the situation with international travel, amongst other things, so we spent many hours revisiting our position, which was to continue plans for a physical event.
“The bottom line is even if the Festival could have gone ahead in October, it is highly likely there are going to be distancing measures which make many of our Festival elements impossible to deliver without undermining their purpose and appeal – for example, our hugely popular, free Comics Clock Tower and Family Zone.
“LICAF normally goes into medium speed mode in May and full speed in July. International travel is usually booked by now to get the best prices and routes and marketing spend begins. So we needed to make a clear and positive decision, relay this to our partners including volunteers and then to our audiences so we can take them with us and, like us, encourage them to see it as an opportunity rather than a threat to LICAF.
“Rather than do nothing and ride the storm into next year, we have decided to take the opportunity to run a virtual weekend and to create a dedicated virtual Comics Clock Tower, running from June until May 2021, and be ready for planning ahead for the return of our annual, physical event in Kendal in October 2021.
“We’ve been delighted by support from the Arts Council, and our international partners – some already embarking on a similar virtual path this year.”
Julie is also keen to stress that LICAF LIVE will be clearly be “located” in Kendal and the Lakes, which she feels reflects an image of the popular Cumbrian town and the South Lakes as an area for cutting edge creative use of technology.
“Elements of the programming will offer interesting, inspiring and entertaining takes on Kendal and the South Lakes,” she teases.
“Some of the event formats could enable increased collaboration, learning opportunities and sharing of challenges and opportunities between creators at a global level,” she suggests.
“A virtual approach will enable us to experiment artistically and to try new kinds of events, presentations and live draws which could be taken forward into the physical festival in the future. It expands our vision and enables us to experiment with digital events and the digital medium – and, potentially broadens our audience… which is both daunting – and very exciting!”
• Check out the first of our virtual projects – LICAF Colouring Sheets – here on the Festival web site | Have fun with the LICAF online Animated Colouring Book | Check out the colouring entries on Instagram so far at #licafcolouringcomp2020