The Lakes International Comic Art Festival has launched its ambitious Breakthrough project, which aims to give under-represented individuals a chance to express themselves through the medium of comics.

Breakthrough is an 18-month mentoring initiative co-ordinated by writer, publisher and editor Tim Pilcher, set up by the Lakes International Comic Art Festival, in conjunction with Arts Council EnglandWellcome Trust FellowshipSoaring Penguin PressQuarto Books and other partners, with the aim of giving under-represented individuals a chance to express themselves through the medium of comics – and to hopefully open up a career pathway within the publishing industry.

Tim previously edited two projects in Brighton for Queenspark Books (Brighton: The Graphic Novel and Brighton’s Graphic War) which helped launch the careers of several comic creators (including Ottilie Hainsworth, Jaime Huxtable and Pete Katz). Brighton: The Graphic Novel  was the most successful book in the publisher’s 45-year history.

The initiative will start in April 2019 and initially offering six places, it will run for approximately 18 months, culminating in an exhibition of the participants’ work and production of an anthology book which will act as a portfolio to hopefully gain them employment or to start a career as a self-employed comics creator.

Announced at last year’s Lakes International Comic Art Festival, the initiative is open to anyone aged 18 and over, who has not previously professionally published comics or had the opportunity to study art or creative writing in Further Education.

“The Breakthrough initiative will teach the participants the skills and techniques of comics in order to empower them to tell their own personal stories of living in Britain,” says Festival Director Julie Tait.

“This will include several workshops and remote one-to-one mentoring leading to them completing their first finished comic strip. Ultimately, these stories will be collected into an anthology providing a revealing snapshot of life in Britain today.”

The Festival are especially interested in those voices that are underrepresented within comics, including the BAME and LGBT communities, but also particularly interested in applicants from poorer, working class backgrounds; those with mental wellbeing concerns or Special Educational Needs; Senior Citizens, and people living in rural areas.

Historically, comics have been a medium that has high accessibility for dyslexics, reluctant readers and as a cheap mass market form of entertainment. But in recent decades the working class, and other voices, have become increasingly underrepresented within the mainstream media, and are often excluded from current creative print and online comics resulting in their stories not being told and shared.

Breakthrough seeks to give those people agency and in doing so, build their self-esteem and hopefully lead on to a career creating sequential art, whilst inspiring them to become a positive reflection for subsequent creators.

The Festival is interested in mentoring stories that reflect what it is like to live on or below the poverty line, concerns about identity and place in society, health and wellbeing and what it means to be a UK citizen. This can be done through fiction, comics journalism, autobiography or any genre the participants feel is appropriate.

“Breakthrough is an incredibly exciting project to help launch the comics career of some of best British creators yet to be discovered,” enthuses co-ordinator Tim Pilcher. “We are looking for people from right across the UK who have a burning desire to tell their stories in sequential art, yet don’t know how to do it yet.

“We will give them all the skills and knowledge they need and the participants’ work will then be published in a graphic novel anthology, putting them on the first step to a brand new profession.”

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