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The Official Bryan Talbot fanpage / Articles / Conventions
 

Bryan's report on the Kemi festival

 

"The World's most Northern Comics Festival" took place in its regular venue of the Cultural Centre of Kemi, Finland on 15 -17 May 1998. Just south of the Arctic Circle, this tiny town (population under 25,000) has hosted this event for17 years, its stated intention being to "celebrate all the different directions of comics".

The town council of Kemi is keen to promote tourism there and, indeed, the Comics Festival is overshadowed each year by "the snowcastle project". This involves the building of the biggest snowcastle in the world, something that brings Kemi hundreds of thousands of sightseers and global media coverage every spring. The castle is so large it contains facilities such as a working pub and a church that holds wedding ceremonies.

The Festival itself, the oldest and most famous in Scandinavia, is more on the scale of a UK convention than a huge event of the likes of Lucca or Angoulême, with only a handful of dealers tables, signings, an exhibition and talks by the guest artists. What makes it different from a UK con is that entry is free and the organisers reckon on between 5000 and 7000 visitors.

Previous guests include Jose Muñoz, Hunt Emerson, Robert Crumb, Neil Gaiman, Baru, Gilbert Shelton, Serge Clerc and Miguelanxo Prado. The foreign guests this year were Jeff Smith and Vijaya Iver of BONE, Swede Anders Westerberg whose beatiful new album HJÄRTE BLOD ("Heart's Blood") has just been published, and myself. BONE is very popular in Finland and the fifth collection has just been published there, ahead of any English language edition.

Usually guests arriving at festivals are plunged, jet-lagged, right in the middle of things and expected to do interviews, signings, sketches etc. Before this festival the guests, Finnish artist Ilpo Koskela and media critic Haikki Jokinen were taken far north into the wilds of Lapland for a day or two to the house of painter Reijo Raekallio in order to relax and get to know each other. There we ate reindeer stew and were treated to a traditional "smoke sauna", after which we rolled naked in the snow. I kid you not. This short break was a brilliant idea, giving us a chance to get to know each other and making us feel welcome, refreshed and ready to face the fans.

As opposed to any comic event in Britain, Kemi gets national publicity from both newspapers and television. Interviews for a half-hour programme dedicated solely to the festival were filmed over the weekend. At one point we rented a rat from the local pet shop to give a bit of visual interest to the bit concerning the forthcoming Finnish edition of THE TALE OF ONE BAD RAT!

Each year Kemi holds a comic competition, the winners being published on the first day of the festival and their artwork exhibited. These included Reijo's hilarious ELEFANTTI; a full colour "picture-book for adults" written by Maippi Tapanainen. A thriving small press was also in evidence.

The festival was fun; laid back and friendly. The Saturday night saw a con party, mainly featuring bands composed of Finnish comic artists. The LEMPI award ceremony and a reception, followed by another sauna, rounded things up on the Sunday.

I strongly recommend Kemi to both pros and fans; if you fancy a short break next May, you'll get a warm welcome in Finland. For further information contact;

Ilpo Koskela

The Arctic Comics Festival Finland

Rautatienkatu 13 B

FIN-90100 Oulu

FINLAND

tel. +358 8 3121 540, +358 400 514 540

fax +358 8 3121541

email: [email protected]

 

Also check out the report on the Milan and Brazil festival, or return to the articles page.

 

 
   
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