Last week, the Institut français du Royaume-Uni put on their third grand celebration of comics from France and beyond: the BD & Comics Passion Festival. I was only present for two of the four days, so I’m not in a position to review the event (there is already Andy Oliver’s excellent review on Broken Frontier). Instead I just want to thank curator Hélène Fiamma and all the staff at IFRU who worked so hard to make the festival what it was; a joyous, inspiring success.
I was unable to attend last year, but my mind was made up this time by among other things, the clear, attractive website (not all comic festivals achieve this!) and a glittering guest list which included François Boucq, Etienne Davodeau, Posy Simmonds & Hunt Emerson. I could afford to stay in London for one day and booked the Saturday, which had most events that appealed to me. Then came the big announcement, Comica would be bringing Jaime Hernandez to the festival! Realising that one of the greatest cartoonists of my lifetime would be interviewed by someone as smart and erudite as Woodrow Phoenix, I immediately filed this under ‘Once In A Lifetime’ and made arrangements to attend on Thursday as well. My fragmented and last-minute bookings were dealt with brilliantly by the Institut’s Morgane Mervin, who was just as friendly and helpful during the busy festival days.
I arrived in South Kensington a couple of hours early for Thursday evening’s sold-out event, just in time to be engulfed by a river of French schoolchildren pouring out of the Lycée français Charles de Gaulle. The festival was overflowing with kid-friendly events including workshops and competitions, and some of the amazing artwork the children created over the long weekend can be seen on the BD&CP Facebook page. I had some work to do, so made straight for the Institut’s ground-floor Bistrot. (To be honest, I could have spent the whole weekend in that one room; croissants, pain au chocolat, croque monsieur were all delicious.)
The Hernandez talk attracted a lot of talented artists and writers; Joe Decie, Elliot Elam, Mo Ali, Leah Moore, Craig Conlan to name just a few. We all filed in to the Ciné Lumière, palpably excited to be in the company of one of the greats. Woodrow Phoenix was the perfect choice of interviewer. His questions, informed by a vast appreciation of Hernandez’ work, brought out a fascinating conversation which didn’t require the audience to have read every issue of Love & Rockets. Hernandez was honest, modest and wise and treated the full house to a live drawing at the end. I spent a lot of the following day thinking about what he’d said, a fascinating and inspirational evening.
I returned on Saturday having bought a ‘Pass Fan’ for the whole day. I attended four events but there was a lot more going on, including signings, film screenings and more workshops. I was pleased to see the friendly faces of Cinebook behind one of the tables in the lobby, as well as Soaring Penguin Press, Gosh! comics and The French Bookshop. It was a very well-attended day and business seemed to be good for the booksellers. In the Salon, I saw Marc-Antoine Mathieu present his extraordinary book/digital comic 3″ (trois secondes) which had me literally open-mouthed at its originality and technical ambition.
After lunch, another once-in-a-lifetime event: Posy Simmonds and Etienne Davodeau creating a comic before our eyes. This was followed by Hunt Emerson and François Boucq collaborating on their own ‘Drawing Duo’ live event.
The final event on Saturday was Drink & Draw, the first event of its kind, where wine expert Tim Atkin guided the audience through five glasses of French wine, each glass accompanied by a live drawing from Davodeau, Boucq, Emerson, Regis loisel and Penelope Bagieu. It was an intoxicating combination!
I was sorry to be leaving London when another whole day remained of BC & Comics Passion. Next year I intend to be there for the whole festival, from start to finish.
Thank you, Institut Francais, for an absolutely brilliant time. A friend on Twitter compared the gleeful nature of my #BDComicsPassion tweets to “a dog with its head out the car window on the motorway ” and that isn’t far from the truth. I really did enjoy every minute of it.