Lakes International Comic Art Festival announces “Comic Potential”, a new Comics Literacy Project

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival has announced Comic Potential, a new programme to further progress an existing body of work which assesses comics potential in the classroom, and support learning outcomes, working with four schools in the North West of England, supported by Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Arts-based Learning Fund.

Paul Hamlyn Foundation is providing £102,000 in funding for the 27-month long project, titled “Comic Potential”, which aims to improve reading enjoyment for pupils in the classroom and as a result impact positively on a range of other educational outcomes and personal skills.

The project, which will include work with staff and pupils at Cambridge Primary School, and Vickerstown Primary School in Barrow, the George Hastwell School, Walney and Sandgate Special School, Kendal, will begin in September 2022, and culminate in an exhibition of work at the Lakes International Comic Art Festival in October 2024.

The project will include in-school workshops, working with teachers and with local libraries across Westmorland and Furness and will create further resources for teachers and pupils, both physical and digital. These resources will be curated by the team at “Little LICAF”, the festival’s programme for schools and young people, who have co-ordinated much of the organisation’s comics work aimed at younger readers.

Comic Potential” will build on the two-year comics literacy work at Abraham Moss Community School (AMCS ) already carried out by LICAF. This was a project developed with teachers and school librarians and with researchers at Manchester University’s School of Sociology in partnership with three other comic festivals and organisations through the Comic Art Europe partnership. The project was supported by David Fickling Comics, publishers of The Phoenix. Workshops, delivered by professional comic artists and members of the Little LICAF team included themes like self-reflection and self-expression, communication of ideas and sharing of stories and personal experiences with randomised fictional elements.

The Scheme of Learning for the project has been devised by Little LICAF co-producers Hester Harrington and Sim Leech. Both Hester and Sim come from teaching backgrounds across a mix of Secondary and Primary school phases and have a rich history of working with youngsters in creative and educational settings. The programme of work reflects their keen understanding of academic environment and diverse curriculum requirements alongside the drive for supporting learning with comics. 

“This project allows us to continue our passion for getting comics into the classroom. We look forward to building on the success of our previous project and workshops, and honing and developing resources, comic content and experiences that can bolster youngsters’ learning in school” says Hester and Sim.

“Thanks to the support of Paul Hamlyn Foundation, we can continue to explore the comics literacy work we have already begun, through workshops, professional development sessions with teachers and much more,” says LICAF Director, Julie Tait. “We are building a new understanding of how to utilise comics as an incredibly effective learning tool in the classroom.”

“This is the perfect time to be working with local partners across Westmorland and Furness,” she adds, “both those we have already engaged with over the ten years of the Festival, and new partners, too.”

“Paul Hamlyn Foundation is delighted to support the Lakes International Comics Festival to reach more schools in the north west,” commented Catherine Sutton, Paul Hamlyn Foundation’s Head of Programme – Education. “We’re excited by the potential for comics to support young learners’ engagement and progress in their literacy learning, and look forward to seeing how the programme develops.”

“We’re really excited about this new project,” enthuses KS3 Class Teacher Kerrie Bumby of Sandgate Special School. “This is a great opportunity to be engaged in community events and for the students to have their work showcased in the wider community.

“The themes are engaging and have supported the students to widen their reading experience in a purposeful way… thus enhancing their self-confidence, self-expression, and wellbeing.”

The Paul Hamlyn Foundation was established by Paul Hamlyn in 1987. He died in 2001 and left most of his estate to the Foundation, creating one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK.

The Foundations uses its resources to support social change, working towards a just and equitable society in which everyone, especially young people, can realise their full potential and enjoy fulfilling and creative lives.

The Lakes International Comic Art Festival (LICAF – launched in 2013, initially offering an annual weekend-long festival of comics events, comprising panels, workshops, children’s events, exhibitions and more, in Kendal, moving to Bowness-in-Windermere in 2022. Since 2018, LICAF has moved from an organisation focused on an annual festival to one delivering a year-round programme of projects with social impact and an annual festival providing the inspiration and culmination of many of these longer projects. We believe comics have unique properties that transform lives and LICAF seeks to champion comics in the UK where there is still ignorance of their range and diversity, plus their power to affect change, cross the class divide and appeal to neurodivergent people. These properties are particularly strong drivers for our work.

Bullet Points

• Comic Potential recognises comics have a positive role to play in enriching learning for school pupils, especially those with particular learning challenges, an artform offering a “stepping stone” to wider reading, and leading to a more thorough connection between arts and literacy

• Comic Potential also aims to understand the positive impact comics can have on reading behaviour

• LICAF also seek to understand how teaching methods developed by the project can be applied more widely, equipping children with comic-based methods that can be applied across other areas of the curriculum including comics as a medium to communicate knowledge and understanding and as a medium of expression

• Comic Potential will use talented, published comic creatives to deliver its high-quality programme. Each creative will be experienced at delivering engaging and impactful workshops and rigorous consultation with participating schools will ensure a close fit between CP and desired teaching outcomes

• LICAF already delivers work that links directly to curriculum subject areas (its Traces of the Great War resources are here) and also explores how comics can be used as a medium of communication, expression and creativity that underpins all curriculum areas (for example, a four-panel comic presenting knowledge about the lifecycle of a butterfly or the benefits of healthy eating). 

• LICAF also publish comics exploring complex and interwoven issues surrounding the climate emergency (see

• The Lakes International Comic Art Festival takes place in Bowness-on-Winderemere, running from Friday 14th to Sunday 16th October 2022 – and is online at: | Lakes International Comic Art Festival Podcast: | Twitter: @comicartfestpod | Facebook: @ComicArtPodcast | Instagram: @ComicArtPodcast

• Head to the Festival web site now for further information about ticket options, or go straight to EventBrite and grab your tickets now