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Montreal Comics Arts Festival goes bilingual


Drawn & Quarterly artist Seth

This year, Festival BD de Montréal – the Montreal Comic Arts Festival – will operate as a bilingual event for the first time since its inception four years ago.

The 2015 festival, which runs from May 29 to May 31 at Espace La Fontaine, features over 100 Quebec-based and international authors, more than 40 exhibitors, and special programming reflecting the event’s dual official languages.

“We consider Montreal a hub where the French and the English community meet,” says Johanne Desrochers, FBDM’s co-ordinator. “We wanted the festival to represent that fact.”

The linguistic move comes on the heels of similar efforts by the Toronto Comic Arts Festival. TCAF kicked off its annual event earlier this month with a bilingual welcome party hosted by Montreal-based publisher Pow Pow Press. Pow Pow debuted four English translations at TCAF, including Michel Hellman’s Mile End.

Desrochers says although it’s a coincidence, she’s happy that both comic festivals are making efforts to cater to both of Canada’s official languages.

“I guess that’s just a trend in the comic society, [that] all languages are trying to reach out to each other,” she says.

Desrochers adds that more comic publishers have shown an interest in the festival as a result of their efforts. Drawn & Quarterly, which has exhibited at FBDM since 2012, has played a huge role in attracting English publishers to the festival, tapping into Montreal’s English comic community via its retail store in Mile End. D&Q author Seth, who designed this year’s FBDM poster, will be attending this year’s festival to discuss the latest instalment of his long-running comic Palookaville.

To celebrate the publishing house’s 25th anniversary, FBDM invited several additional D&Q authors, including Sylvie Rancourt and Marc Bell, to speak. Along with a special panel, the festival curated an exhibit of 25 D&Q titles published over the past quarter century.

The festival’s move toward bilingualism couldn’t have come at a better time for D&Q.

“It was a happy coincidence that [FBDM] wanted to go bilingual the same year we were looking to celebrate our experiences being an English publisher in Quebec whose books are available all over the world,” says marketing director Julia Pohl-Miranda.