Belgian comics in the spotlight at British festival
The most recent edition of the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF) on 11 and 12 October celebrated Belgian comics. For the seventh year running the small town of Kendal, also known as the gateway to the Lake District, was transformed into the place to be for lovers of comics. In collaboration with Wallonie-Bruxelles International, Flanders House in London and Flanders Literature nine Belgian artists made their way to the festival: Serge Baeken, Ephameron, Ben Gijsemans, Joris Vermassen and Judith Vanistendael, who write in Dutch, and the Francophone Marine Schneider, Loïc Gaume, Pascale Lemaître and Valentine Laffitte.
Something for everyone
The festival is aimed at a general public and the idea was to not only draw attention to Hergé and the Smurfs, but to show that contemporary Belgian comics are worth checking out too. A lecture by the renowned Benoît Peeters got proceedings underway. He looked in detail at – unavoidably – Tintin, but he also highlighted the absurdity of the likes of Kamagurka and Herr Seele’s Cowboy Henk.
Later all nine creators joined two panel discussions, in which they explored their work and methods, as well as their ideas about any potential differences between Flemish and Walloon comics.
A busy programme
Alongside the panel discussions, the Flemish writers also took part in some other activities. Serge Baeken and Joris Vermassen were asked to select an artwork at the Abbott Gallery, and to draw a ‘Next Frame’ for it – a kind of sequel: what do they think happens after this image? During a day dedicated to the study of comics, prior to the actual festival, Judith Vanistendael took part in a panel discussion on ‘Making It In Comics’ – with three Eisner Award nominations under her belt and with translations in eight different languages, you can certainly say that she has made it.
Ephameron took part in a Pechakucha session, a presentation format in which twenty slides are shown for only twenty seconds each, so the speaker has to be very well-prepared. Ben Gijsemans signed books for his fans and Joris Vermassen met his British publisher Stephen Robson, whose publishing company Fanfare released Mad with Joy in English.
The hectic weekend saw plenty of new contacts and numerous meetings with fans. The rain was ignored and above all: the Belgian delegation had a lot of fun!