TCBF – Treviso Comics Festival Takes Off
by Giulia De Gasperi
Treviso’s Comic Book Festival, or TCBF, now in its eleventh year, has established itself as one of the most important and popular comic book festivals in Italy and beyond, attracting artists, publishing companies, and fans from all over the world. This year the festival runs from September 24th to 28th, with a preview scheduled for September 20th.
According to TCBF organizing committee member Alberto Polita, “Treviso isn’t new to this kind of event; its attachment to the world of comics is almost thirty years old.” Indeed, before TCBF, there was “Treviso Comics,” a prominent event that unfortunately came to an abrupt end. Undaunted, in 2003, the Associazione Fumetti in Treviso, a non-profit organization that brings together people of different backgrounds with a deep love and passion for their hometown, organized “Fumetti in Treviso,” a small-program event whose aim was to eventually bring a large-scale comics event to the city.
“Fumetti in Treviso” became TCBF in 2009. Inspired by other successful Italian comics festivals like Bologna’s BilBolBul and other European counterparts in Lucerne, Lienz, and Helsinki, the organizers felt the time was right to make TCBF international.
Every year since, the event calendar of TCBF has expanded and the number of activities and participants has increased in terms of artists, publishing companies, and fans. The focus is still on comic books, but the festival organizers have incorporated other art forms in the program – illustration, music, videos, and calligraphy. Thanks to the hard work of the organizing committee (it takes an entire year to put the program together) and of about sixty volunteers, TCBF is now one of the most important comic book festivals in Europe.
The calendar is chockfull of events and activities that take place all over the city centre. One of the characteristics that makes this festival unique is the involvement of downtown businesses. The project was initially called “100vetrine,” (100 window displays), born out of promotional and artistic needs. During the festival, owners of businesses located in downtown Treviso lend their windows to cartoonists and artists who decorate them with their art. Last year more than 200 businesses participated in the event. This collaboration benefits all parties involved: the city showcases the works of artists; the artists get free visibility; and businesses attract customers.
With the festival’s vast and varied program, the city of Treviso comes to life. Fans and art lovers in general can stroll through exhibits set up all around the city. Because of Treviso’s smaller size, artists, musicians, editors, and illustrators are more approachable. TCBF makes it easier for fans to meet their favourite artists during the many openings that take place during the festival.
Forty exhibitors are taking part in this year’s festival, twenty of which are from outside Italy. There will also be twenty exhibits of original works, three musical performances, live painting events, and ten workshops where visitors can test their skills as comic book artists and learn from the masters. Meetings with artists and authors, and the exhibition market take place on September 27th and 28th.
“Every year,” Alberto Polita explains, “the organizing committee chooses a festival theme.” This year’s theme is: “Vado a vivere a Treviso!” (I am going to live in Treviso!). The aim is to raise awareness about the “brain drain.” Young Italians have been leaving Italy in the last decades due to lack of opportunities.
The international character of TCBF is reinforced with the selection, each year, of a “guest country” whose artists’ work is given special attention during the festival. The focus is on countries whose comic book art is less well known. Guest countries have included Sweden, New Zealand, and Denmark. This year the special guest is Portugal.
The artists participating in this year’s festival include Spaniard Joan Cornellá, known of his irreverent art work – who is coming to Italy for the very first time, and Italian Giuseppe Camuncoli – well known in the United States for his work with Marvel.
The Treviso Comic Book festival is also a great opportunity for publishers to showcase their work and to test the market with their recent publications. Publishers are more inclined to participate in an exhibit than to simply attend via a booth.
Giulia De Gasperi is originally from Treviso, Italy. She currently lives in Summerside, PEI.