Interview with Mélanie La Roche, General Manager of the Montreal Comic Arts Festival

Interview with Mélanie La Roche, General Manager of the Montreal Comic Arts Festival


To mark the 25th edition of the Bédélys Awards, Copibec is teaming up for the first time with the Montreal Comic Arts Festival, to be held May 24-26 on Saint-Denis Street, by awarding two additional $500 bursaries to the winners in the Bédélys Québec and Bédélys jeunesse Québec categories. The names will be announced on May 23.

Can you give us an overview of the program for this 13th edition? Are there any not-to-be-missed events?

This year, we’re offering over 60 free activities. For the first time, we’re offering drawing conversations thanks to Télé-Québec’s La Fab à dessin. Artists will discuss topics related to their comics, and draw live for the public to enjoy. This will be an opportunity to discover Dans l’univers de Djibril Morissette-Phan and watch Caroline Lavergne and Anne Villeneuve discuss watercolors and travel. The round tables are also always a personal favorite. They allow us to delve deeper into certain themes that have left their mark on comics, such as Environment: with great power comes great responsibility. We’ll also be offering a number of creative workshops, live drawing sessions and Comic Quizzes.

We’re also presenting a number of outdoor exhibitions, including Montréal imaginaire, which lets us rediscover different aspects of the city represented in comics, The 500 Years of Indigenous Resistance by artist Gord Hill, and Les chercheuses en BD (Women Researchers in Comics), which showcases the careers of women in science today.

Last but not least, the festival is an ideal time to meet our favorite artists and make new acquaintances thanks to hundreds of hours of book signings.

The Bédélys Awards, organized by the Montreal Comic Arts Festival, are in their 25th year this year. How does the Festival support and celebrate the talent of Quebec’s comic artists?

The festival opens on Thursday, May 23 with the Bédélys Awards evening. This event celebrates the quality of works from here (Quebec category, Quebec youth category, independent Francophone and Anglophone category) and abroad (foreign and youth category). A total of $5,000 in bursaries will be awarded this year, including 2 additional bursaries of $500 thanks to Copibec.

The Montreal Comic Arts Festival is also producing an exhibition to showcase the finalists throughout the month of May at the esplanade Tranquille in the heart of the Quartier des spectacles, as well as presenting the winning works and their creators during the festival.

Does organizing a comics festival present any unique challenges?

An outdoor festival always brings its share of unforeseen events, the main one being the weather. Fortunately, with a versatile and well-prepared team, we can find solutions and welcome festival-goers regardless of the weather. The pedestrianization of the street also brings its share of challenges, but we can count on the support of the SDC Saint-Denis and its merchants, who give us a warm welcome.

How would you describe the way audiences in Montreal and elsewhere perceive comics today? Have you noticed any changes in interest or understanding of the medium over the years?

Every year, more and more people come to the festival to celebrate comics! Quebecois comics have achieved greater recognition both here and abroad, and the quality of what is produced is the main reason for this. Whether you’re a youngster or an adult, whether you prefer more cerebral or lighter reading, whether you want to laugh or cry, there’s a multitude of titles available. The Montreal Comic Arts Festival is delighted to showcase both published and self-published artists, those just starting out and more established artists in its programming. Our festival, which in its early days reached out more to a community of enthusiasts, now makes it easier for new readers to discover the medium.

What trends or developments have you observed in the comics field in recent years, and how does the festival respond to them to remain relevant and stimulating for its audience?

Comics can tell a variety of stories, as well as raising awareness and popularizing a multitude of subjects. In recent years, artists who published online in the form of webcomics have come to present their books at the festival. There’s obviously a strong interest in manga. I’m far from an expert, but we have a programming committee headed by our programming director, Virginie Mont-Reynaud, who keeps a close eye on new trends in comics to identify artists to invite for a diverse program full of great encounters.