When people think of comics they are either informed or they aren’t. When people think of comic conventions or festivals they probably think of superhero movie announcements, or of cosplayers doing their level best to replicate their favourite characters. I’ve attended such events and I’ve been really pleased to make some good industry contacts at them, but if I’m honest they really aren’t my cup of tea. That’s fine we don’t need to all get excited about the same thing otherwise there’d only be one flavour of ice cream.
When I first heard about the Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF) I was excited at the more European variety of comic festival, where creators are able to meet and discuss as well as spend time with their fans and other industry people. In my time at LICAF I’m yet to see a mob of people swamp Robert Downey Jr. but as movies haven’t yet polluted the event I have seen the likes of Bryan Talbot or Dan Berry speaking with fans in coffee shops or pubs. It’s just such a wonderfully genial atmosphere that it makes me make all kinds of flowing hand gestures. Throw in the fact that the Lake District is outstandingly beautiful or that Kendal is a wonderful place to drift through streets it induces a hyperbolic state in me that either ends in needing to rest or staying awake for several days.
Nottingham’s own Page 45 is a wonderful store and I’ve been so grateful to be able to bounce ideas or questions off them over the years. I consider the staff tastemakers and highly influential guides, so when they were announced as patrons for LICAF 2016 I was already pleased to be attending. Soon enough I discovered that Dave McKean was scheduled to perform a live production of his stunning graphic novel Black Dog: The Dreams of Paul Nash and booked my tickets to see the event at the Brewery Arts Centre. The performance itself was beyond my expectations, which is barely surprising considering that Dave had some great performers sharing the stage, and that he is one of the most talented artists in any of the dozen or so art forms that he inhabits. Following the performance I had a short and warm conversation with Mr. McKean and was jolly glad to have done so for no other reason than being a fan.
Here’s another couple of highlights about the people of Kendal who had nothing whatsoever to do with LICAF.
I’m a fairly smart guy but I have an uncanny knack to miss really obvious information. You know how Sherlock Holmes can tell you how many hair follicles someone has from across the room or how many siblings a murder victim has by the positioning of their elbow? Were I to join Holmes at such times I would struggle to clarify what was meant by “room” or if someone was even dead. Because of this I wanted to eliminate each possible avenue for error so I checked and re-checked the opening and closing times of the multi-storey car park on an independent website.
Confident in my planning and following a great day of walking with my lovely wife and we drove into Kendal for the final day of the festival.
Pulling straight into the multi-storey car park I soon enough found a space and off we went to catch up with the great chaps from Page 45. The day passes in a lazing in a rowing boat in the middle of a lake sort of way, and then after a delightful Thai meal we wandered back up to the car park.
That was gated and locked.
No matter, there was another entrance. Locked too.
We needed to talk to the attendant in the adjacent shopping centre. That was closed for business until Monday morning. The independent website held out of date information. Thanks.
As knuckleheaded as I can be, I am also fairly good in a crisis and with a capacity to deal with problems. It’s weird, somehow if I were on another planet I’m sure that I could have shrugged it off but boy, did I feel wobbly legged. I call the number on the main car park gate and am taken through to the local council automated switchboard used for everything from paying your council tax or applying for a bus pass; obliged after waiting for the beep I describe the situation with hope a distant memory.
Clever wife advises that we need to get a taxi back to the cottage where we are staying in Grayrigg. I call a firm… booked for two hours. She calls a firm: booked for over an hour, and she explains the situation should a cancellation arise and the dispatcher holds the line. The dispatcher returns:
“John’s just finished his shift, but I’ve told him you’re in a pickle so he’s coming for you now.”
John conveys us back to the cottage and just as we pull up my phone rings.
“Hello, I understand your car is stuck?”
“Yes, I’m afraid it is,” I reply, dry-mouthed and full of guilt.
“Give me ten minutes and I’ll come and open the car park for you.”
Dry mouthed and disbelieving I mention this to John and without hesitation he drops off my patient wife, and takes me all the way back to Kendal so that I can collect my car.
I live in a great city, and I’ve travelled to a bunch of them, but I don’t think there’s anywhere else where someone would have done either of those things so cheerily when there was no obligation to do anything than enjoy their own evenings.
Kendal, LICAF, thanks for being the best of your kind.