There are plenty of reasons to visit the traditional walled city of Angoulême, with its beautiful Romanesque cathedral, and its town hall built from the ruins of a medieval castle. But from 28th to 31st January, many of the visitors will be amateurs and professionals from the world of the comic book, and they will be here to attend the largest event of its kind in Europe, which has been hosted by the city since 1974.
Exhibitions, themed areas, concerts and conferences are among the activities that make up the programme of the upcoming 37th Festival. There will even be a graphic marathon, where authors compete to create a 24-page comic within 24 hours. Entrance for a single day, permitting access to almost all events, costs 14 € (about £12.50) and one for four days is just 30 € (around £26.50).
Life in Angoulême is centred on the world of comics or bandes dessinees, as the French say; so much so, that the main shopping street bears the name of Herge, the creator of Tintin. Then there are the twenty painted façades decorated in the style of Francophone illustrators that can be admired as you stroll around the city centre, as well as the Maison des Auteurs, a centre for young authors. Best of all, though, is the Musee de la Bande Desinee, which opened its doors in 2009. The museum houses a splendid collection that ranges through the whole history of the genre, starting in mid-nineteenth century with pioneers of the illustrated story such as Rodolphe Töpffer, through to the greats of today, such as Chris Ware. The display cases include the works of many other great artists and authors of this genre from around the world, including George Herriman, Winsor McCay, Herge, Stan Lee, Frank Miller, Daniel Clowes, David B., Hugo Pratt... there's even a small selection of manga.