MadZines in the Lakes

In October, the MadZines team were at the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival 2021 in Kendal which promised to include ‘live draws, masterclasses, talks, presentations and a chance to get up close to the best comic creators in the world’.

LICAF2021 lived up to our expections.

We tabled at the event, showcasing some of our own work, including  zines we’d made during the course of the project,  Tamsin’s graphic memoir, Not My Shame, and the four special issues of Asylum magazine on comics.

We aimed to pull in the crowds with badges, MadZine stickers, Jill’s MadZine cookies and some ingenious minizine bunting held up with wonky garden canes!

We had pulled together a collaborative MadZines intro zine especially for this event – weaving together content from many of the people we have been working with over the past twelve months. Tamsin worked her magic, turning it into something we will probably use again….

We also made a more modest Mad Comic Classics mini-zine, featuring some of our favourite comics with critical mental health themes.

When we began this project, we looked forward to opportunities to many attend events like this, but the reality has been somewhat different – we’ve been home-based and more solitary.  LICAF2021 provided us with an opportunity both to meet interesting comic creators and researchers (such as Natasa Lackovic with her new graphic novel on student mental health, Things and the Mind) and to get to know each other better. Jill and Tamsin had worked together for over a year, and had spent twenty four hours making a zine together, but until last week had never met in person!

Our MadZines stall triggered myriad interesting conversations about mental health and comics. We made connections with people with a pre-existing interest in mental health, madness and/or zines but also others – including Kendal shoppers who had stumbled in! – for whom both the thinking and the format were quite new. We were delighted to find Ronny Worsey on the vegan/animal rights stall next to us. She had written one of Hel’s favourite articles in Asylum magazine’s special issue on mental health & anti-capitalism nearly 10 years ago.

There were unexpected encounters for us too. Serendipity is a lovely feature of events like this. A highlight was hearing journalist Andrew Humphreys and graphic reportage artist and writer Olivier Kugler speak about their comics exhibition, The Great British Fish and Chips – previously on show at the Turner Contemporary in Margate.

Before the first COVID-19 lockdown last year, Andrew and Olivier began to travel around Britain, investigating the role of immigrants in what we, in the UK, like to think as our great national dish. In conversations with fish and chip shop owners, customers and suppliers – one leading to another – they have been following the fascinating history and trajectory of fish and chip shops. This reminded us of our own work, tracing the trajectories of MadZines.

We participated in a number of workshops over the weekend, including Lucy Sullivan’s ‘drawing hands and faces’. Tamsin attended Matt Smith’s workshop on time in comics, which encouraged exploration of the time of the narrative and the time of the reading; how lots of time can be portrayed in a small space and, conversely, a short time over multiple panels.

Hel and Jill attended an animation workshop with Stephen Brown. This made us reflect on crafting and ‘slow time’ when, half an hour into the filming, Stephen announced that three seconds of content had been captured! We’re looking forward to further conversations about the strange space between illustration and animation with our collaborator Jac Batey. She has recently been awarded a ‘Developing your creative practice’ grant by Arts Council England to explore that issue.

Unlike a zine fair, at this event most of the other stalls were tabling and selling published books. However, a few people approached us with a view to zine swapping, including E. Merlin Murray with his beautiful zine, Emptiness.

We gifted lots of our zines and managed a few swops with Tamsin’s own graphic memoir Not My Shame and copies of Asylum magazine.

We encountered an extensive and fascinating selection of graphic novels and memoirs at LICAF. There were too many to mention here, but some may feature in forthcoming blog posts, or our next zine. Myriad books showcased some of their new publications under the theme of culture, class and belonging,

in a session titled ‘The Roles We Play’, from Sabba Khan’s book of that name. A room devoted to Myriad publications included Psychiatric Tales by Darryl Cunningham and Lucy Sullivan’s powerful graphic novel, Barking. We featured Barking in our Mad Comic Classics zine, but none of the others were featured at LICAF this year. We wondered why that might be and thought we might lobby for their inclusion in a future year.

We took a break from LICAF for a riverside walk to Burneside, and Edward and Florence Acland’s renovation project. Sprint Mill is one of the oldest mills in Cumbria. Like a zine, it is a place to enter and to linger in, fashioned from gathered and repurposed artefacts. We spent a while marvelling at Edward’s

collection of ‘evocative objects’ in glass jars. We made drinks, ate homemade flapjack and were warmed by Edward’s invitation to ‘make yourselves at home’. Lifting a dusty sheet, we came upon a collection of leaflets and publications and wished that we had brought some of our own.

We finish with a quote from Edward Acland:
‘There is much discussion about promoting renewable energy. Meanwhile the most neglected form of renewable energy is human energy. The market place capitalists are forever tempting us with mechanical gadgets, propelled by finite energy consuming motors. The arms and legs of human beings should be actively promoted as the ‘new’ form of fossil-fuel-free ‘machinery’.

It is those human arms and legs that craft zines and distribute them. And now, thanks to Lucy Sullivan’s hands and faces workshop, we can even make a stab at drawing them!

To download copies of our own zines, along with videos and podcasts. visit the outputs section.

[Sadly, no MadZine cookies there!]





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