LICAF festival programming

Diversity, quality and originality: our approach to festival programming

About Lakes Arts Festivals

Lakes Arts Festivals was established in 2012 to create and present an annual international comic art festival (as opposed to a commercial comic con) – the Lakes International Comic Arts Festival (LICAF) and associated educational projects.

It was, and remains, the only comic art event of its kind in the UK taking over a whole town, covering every genre and currently with more than 30 international partners. Our purpose is to enable all types of people to pursue their passion for culture and creativity through the accessible and dynamic medium of comics/graphic novels.

Our mission is to create awareness and understanding about comic art through an international festival and year round programme of work with social impact. As a result of this work we have been become the UK’s leading development agency for comics.

If you would like to find out more - the LICAF Business Plan 2023-2024 is available to download at the bottom of this page

What is the aim of the festival?

We aim to raise the status of comic art as a legitimate and important art form. Our approach is to support comic creators and bring their work to as wide an audience as possible. We help do this by hosting an international festival of originality, diversity, breadth, quality and innovation. We also develop programmes of work to nurture and support emerging talent in the UK.

How do you select the festival artists and creators?

Our approach is to present a distinctive programme of the highest quality, encompassing all comic genres. We aim to work with a high calibre of comic creators from across the world to showcase their work in the UK. We actively seek out diverse voices from under-represented groups and give them a platform.

We are approached by artists from all over the world who are interested in being part of the festival. Our festival Patrons also make recommendations and we seek out new artists each year to ensure the programme is diverse and of interest to our audiences.

What does diversity mean for the festival?

Diversity is vital to our ethos as a festival. We strive to programme a diverse and accessible festival that appeals to both comic fans and new audiences.

The festival has an Equalities Policy and Action Plan that forms part of our Creative Case for Diversity. This sets targets for how we develop and monitor the diversity of our programme and the organisation in terms of Board, Patrons and Staffing.

We are committed and proactive in behaving fairly to all people and embrace the nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 – age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

The festival reflects and celebrates the interconnected and global world of comics and attracts an ethnically diverse guest list. We are committed to being at the forefront of promoting and celebrating comic art on an international stage.

In terms of our audiences our aim is to create a programme that has relevance to the broadest range of people and is welcoming to all. This means we work with our festival venues to ensure as many as possible are inclusive and accessible to audiences with disabilities.

We know, for example, that the comic art industry is currently male dominated and we work to ensure we attract high quality female guests each year.

Neurodiversity is a long-term commitment for the festival that started back in 2016 when we formally adopted OCD ACTION UK as our festival charity. This relationship continues to develop over the long term and we also regularly programme activities and events with mental health charities.

Each year, we proactively reach out to comic artists and creators from every continent. We also aim to encourage artists with particular viewpoints, whether this is based on race, religious belief or because the artist is seeking to tackle a particular political or social issue. All of these factors are important to us as festival programmers.

Above all, we want to attract high quality and inspiring work that will appeal to our audiences and has artistic merit.

Do the type of guests who attend change each year?

The festival usually has a number of specific themes. Sometimes these themes are based on geography or a particular genre of comic art. The themes do influence the guests we attract to the festival and also the appeal the festival will have with certain audiences. The diversity of the themes is an important part of the festival and ensures the festival continues to evolve and appeal to different audiences.

How do you broaden the appeal of the festival to guests and audiences?

As well as hosting the festival each year, we also commission specific projects that aim to bring new creative collaborations together. These are often projects that are deliberately designed to reach out to new artists and new audiences. We also listen to our audiences and take on board recommendations and suggestions for new themes or new guests. We are constantly seeking new ways of broadening the appeal of the festival.

From April 2018 the festival will work in partnership with Arts Council England to ensure the our major annual weekend event and year round projects meet our aims, reflecting the full diversity of the comic medium and continuing to learn from the best practice of other arts festivals.