Angoulême has a rich literary tradition since the chronicles of Adhémar de Chabannes in the 11th century, through the royal family of Valois-Angoulême in the Renaissance, or Jean-Louis Guez de Balzac in the Great Century and Honoré de Balzac in the 19th century. Since François the 1st, Angoulême has been an important paper house with a varied and high-quality production of letter paper (famous Angoulême vellum) to cigarette paper.
Comics tradition can be found everywhere in Angoulême and new projects have been developing for almost 50 years thanks particularly to the International Comics Festival. Today, nearly 200 cartoonists have settled around the city, while there are 30 companies (publishers, colourists, scriptwriters, etc.) that are directly linked to comics, not to mention the 75 firms dedicated to animation, digital art and multimedia.
Angoulême’s Visual Arts Campus is renowned in Europe for its teaching in the Comic Book and Visual Arts fields, offering a unique range of courses from Bachelor to Doctorate level. 1,200 students enroll in one of the 30 degree courses every year, provided by 12 higher education centres. The students’ own work regularly receives awards at national and international festivals and competitions. The Visual Arts Campus operates within a particularly close-knit international network (Europe, Canada, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia among other countries).
An economic development centre, Magelis, has been set up to support and strengthen the growth of the creative industry. Specialised cultural facilities (such as the International Centre for Comics and Visual Arts, or L'Alpha media library) have sprung up, and support schemes (including design grants, Centre for Writers, aid for corporate real estate, business incubators and more) now foster creativity and cultural businesses.
Urban planning projects take this new dimension into account (redevelopment of brownfield sites, repurposing the Saint-Cybard neighbourhood and Charente riverbanks for the visual arts, integration in the “Action Coeur de ville” national scheme for revitalising mid-sized city centres, street furniture, street signs, etc.).
COLLABORATION WITH OTHER CITIES
As part of “2020, the National Year of the Comic,” Angoulême partnered with the CIBDI (International Centre for Comics and Visual Arts) and launched an international comic strip contest on the topic of “post-pandemic cities.” This international contest invited artists from UNESCO Cities of Literature to create a comic strip on their vision of their “post-pandemic city”. Bucheon, Quebec, Nanjing, Reykjavik, Slemani and Ulyanovsk are taking part to this shared project, as well as three Angoulême sister cities, Hidlesheim (Germany), Hoffman-Estates (USA), and Turda (Romania). The creations will be compiled into one single “post-pandemic cities” exhibition, presented during the Angoulême International Comics Festival. An international panel selected a winner, who will be invited to the 2021 International Comics Festival. The “post-pandemic cities” exhibition will then become a traveling exhibition within the Cities of Literature Network.
INTERNATIONAL AWARD FOR CREATIVITY
By 2023, Angoulême will organise an International Award for Creativity in the field of Comic Art-based urban design. The winner of the international competition will have the possibility of integrating his or her design into Angoulême’s urban landscape. This initiative is not only expected to further enhance Angoulême’s already strong Comic Art identity, but also to raise the profiles of young international creators looking to make a name for themselves in this field. UCCN Cities recognised in the design category will be part of the project such as Saint-Etienne (France), Graz (Austria) and Montreal (Canada).
POST-PANDEMIC CITIES CONTEST
The Angoulême International Comics Festival, held at the end of January, has become the meeting place of the comics planet! Since it was founded in 1974, the International Comics Festival has given rise to a whole new local ecosystem, which is now a fully-fledged driver for the socioeconomic and urban development of Angoulême. Every year, nearly 250,000 visitors flock to the Festival across 12 different sites citywide. All international comic book genres are represented, through outstanding exhibitions: 80 years of Batman, American artist Richard Corben, Japanese artists Taiyo Matsumoto and Tsutomu Nihei, Italian artist Milo Manara and Israeli artist Rutu Modan. With nearly 2,000 writers, 1,200 publishers, 1,000 journalists from all around the world, the festival has become an unmissable event on the professional calendar. The Market of Rights and Licenses is also a key professional forum within the festival.
Angoulême Se Livre was founded in November 2018 by Cosmopolite, an independent local bookshop. This annual book fair features 60 guest writers who host signing sessions, exhibitions and public readings for 4,000 visitors.
Since 2002, the Maison des Auteurs (Centre for Writers) has provided a unique workplace for 300 French and international artists, with residencies that can last a few months to a few years. In November and December 2019, five international comics writers related to Angoulême took part to a residency in Gurnah, Egypt, near Luxor. These artists worked with the local community, artists and Egyptologists to share experiences, learn new practices, and expand their knowledge of Egyptian culture and heritage. They created a common exhibition, presented during the 2020 Angoulême International Comics Festival and Cairo Comics Festival. It will travel to Tunisia for the French language summit in 2021. More information about the Gurnah residency is available here.