Doing the Elephant Walk - Oliver East Steps Out for Lakes Festival Project
Doing the Elephant Walk - Oliver East Steps Out for Lakes Festival Project
Oliver East and the Maharajah at Manchester Museum. Image courtesy Manchester Museum
7th April 2015: Comics artist Oliver East is getting set to retrace the
steps of a legendary Victorian walk with an elephant from Edinburgh to
Manchester this week, for “Take me back to Manchester” – a project
commissioned by the Lakes International Comic Art Festival and
One of Manchester Museum’s prize exhibits is the skeleton of Maharajah, the elephant that walked to Manchester.
Maharajah belonged to Wombwell's Royal Number One famous travelling
menagerie, but when it closed in 1872, all the animals sold by auction
in Edinburgh. The Asian elephant was purchased by the owners of
Manchester’s Belle Vue Zoological Gardens and they planned to send him
by train to Manchester, but this plan altered rapidly when he
immediately wrecked his railway carriage.
Thrown off the train, his keeper suggested that they should walk to
Manchester, perhaps to secure a few extra days work, and this they did
over the next ten days.
The tale of the walk has entered zoological and Manchester folklore and,
starting out on Wednesday 8th April, Manchester comic artist Oliver East will
retrace the 200 mile walk, over ten days. He’ll be accompanied not by
an elephant but by his phenomenal imaginative, drawing and narrative
skills. To challenge himself further, Oliver will set his drawings in
Oliver has spent many moths researching the legend, studying the
comprehensive written archives documenting the walk, looking at the care
and welfare of animals in captivity in 1872 and also researching
Victorian paintings and photographs of the route, held in local
Take Me Back To Manchester will be filmed by Cumbrian based film makers Dom Bush and Simon Sylvester. The documentary film Take Me Back To Manchester
is commissioned by the Lakes Culture Lakes Ignite programme and will be
shown at the Brockhole Visitor Centre in the Lake District from 8-17
May inclusive and also at the Toronto Comic Art Festival in May 2015.
Take Me Back To Manchester will be the first time that Oliver has walked
in another’s footsteps – Maharajah and his keeper, Lorenzo Lawrence –
and the first time he has attempted an historical approach. The walk in
the Spring of 1872 was a media sensation in its day and well documented
in local papers; there are also a couple of paintings/drawings recording
the event ( one in Manchester Museum and one in Manchester Art Gallery
Following the walk, Oliver will create a comic book Take Me Back To Manchester.
Take Me Back To Manchester, which has been and sponsored by Craghoppers
and The Elephant Yard, Kendal, will be showcased at the Lakes
International Comic Art Festival in October 2015 and some work in
progress will be included as part of the LICAF Comic Art Pavilion at the
Toronto Comic Art Festival in May 2015.
Oliver will also make 20 large scale drawings that will form the basis
of an exhibition at Manchester Museum alongside the skeleton of
Maharajah. The exhibition of Take Me Back To Manchester is pencilled for
Oliver East is an artist who gets his creative energy and inspiration
from walking predetermined routes and creating comics as a result.
Previous works include the Trains are… Mint series ( walks along train lines in and around Manchester ); Sweardown and The Homesick Truant’s Cumbrian Yarn which was published last year. He also designed a few album covers for Elbow (Build a Rocket Boys and The Seldom Seen Kid).
“This is a story that sits somewhere at the back of most Mancunian's
memories without ever really knowing what happened,” says Oliver of the
original elephant walk. “There is a lot written about Belle Vue Zoo
itself, and Maharajah's life there, but little to nothing on the actual
walk Lorenzo undertook, which makes it ripe to mine for linear
"The burgeoning relationship between animal trainer and animal, whilst
undergoing such an epic trek is interesting to explore in itself, aside
from the task of getting to Manchester.
“While aspects of the book will have to fall to fiction, I feel doing
the walk myself will give the finished project so much more substance
than spending that same time pouring over old newspaper cuttings in
libraries. The landscape drawings gathered on route, the empathy of
exhaustion, the thrill I’ll have having completed the walk, these will
make it a much better project. A book born on the road.”
“Oliver takes comic art into new territory, as we discovered when we worked with him last year on the Homesick Truant's Cumbrian Yarn,”
says Julie Tait, Director of the Lakes International Comic Art
Festival. “Then, he walked the coast of Cumbria recording his encounters
with fabulous drawings and great wit. Now he takes on an even more epic
challenge presenting a legendary tale linked closely to the local
landscape which is certain to capture the imaginations of people of all
ages whether they are into comics or not.
"It promises to be memorable, especially with an elephant involved! and to tell this amazing story in a way only comics can do."
"The Disputed Toll" by Heywood Hardy, featuring Maharajah
and his keeper on the original walk in 1872. Image courtesy of
Manchester Art Gallery
Take Me Back To Manchester - Sponsors
About the Lakes International Comic Art Festival 2015
huge line up of both British and globe-spanning international comics
talent is being lined up for this year's Lakes International Comic Art
Festival, taking place 16th – 18th October 2015.
International guests announced so far include award-winning Canadian artist Darwyn Cooke, Kathryn Immonen, StuartImmonen, Seth, Kate Beaton, Michael deForge, Simpsons Comics artist Bill Morrison (thanks to the National Cartoonists Society in the US), Boulet, Winsluss, Benoit Peeters and Antoine Cossé - with many more to come.
Announced British guests include 24 Hour Marathon organiser and artist Dan Berry; graphic novelist Joe Decie, who is working on a longform project thanks to funding from the Lakes Festival; Oliver East, author of titles such as Trains Are Mint, who is working on another project with the Festival following the success of The Homesick Truant's Cumbrian Yarn; internationally-acclaimed cartoonist Hunt Emerson, creator of Calculus Cat; author David Gaffney, who has recently been working with Dan Berry on a new graphic novel, The Three Rooms in Valerie’s Head; and UK-based stitcher and prolific tea drinker Felt Mistress AKA Louise Evans, who has created a range of one-off bespoke creatures with her partner, illustrator Jonathan Edwards, including Poblin, the Festival's mascot.
The hugely successful 2014 Festival in Kendal featured a stellar cast of
both British and international creators and a number of special
exhibitions, and attracted thousands of fans young and old to the Lake
The Festival’s dedicated organisers are determined to build on last
year’s visitors numbers still further, reflecting their aim to deliver a
truly European-style comics festival involving the whole of the local
community and visitors in a truly unique comics experience.
Festival-connected events in the twelve-month run up to the 2015 weekend
include a partnership with the Friends of Lancaster Library for Lancaster Comics Day
(Sunday 14th June), which will see the announcement of the winners, and
the publication of the “Lost in Space” digital anthology June, which is
being produced in partnership with Titan Comics and will include a
cover by Festival patron Sean Phillips. Announced guests at that event
include comic writer Andy Diggle, Eddie Robson and Tim Quinn, artist
Dave Taylor and editor John Freeman,
Comics Clock Tower 2015
Applications for for tables for the
Comics Clock Tower - the Festival's free venue where the public will be
able to mix with creators and publishers – are now closed. The Festivalwill notify all successful applicants by Friday 20th March 2015
Festival Sponsors and Benefactors
The Patrons of the Festival are comic
creators Boulet, Sean Phillips, Bryan Talbot, Mary Talbot and Emma
Vieceli, and Stephen L. Holland, owner of the award-winning independent
comic shop Page 45 in Nottingham.
The Festival is supported using public funding by the National Lottery
through Arts Council England, with funding from South Lakeland District
Council and Kendal Town Council working in partnership with the Brewery
Arts Centre and Kendal College.
Commercial sponsors include the Westmorland Shopping Centre.