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Comic Festival Apologises For Diversity Spat

Organisers of Kendal's Lakes International Comic Art Festival have apologised to a writer who criticised the diversity of the event.

Zainab Akhtar questioned the lack of racial and religious representation, retweeting one comment that said it was "a white show in a white town".

That prompted online attacks on her from the people behind the festival.

After guests started to pull out of this weekend, an apology was issued.

Director Julie Tait said Ms. Akhtar's views were valid and that their response was unwarranted, causing stress and heartache to her.

In a separate statement from the festival as a whole, organisers say they're committed to being more inclusive and are inviting suggestions for how to improve in 2018.

BELOW: Zainab Akhtar got back up online for her concerns...

In the apology, published on Tuesday, Festival Director Julie Tait said: "We would like to extend a full and unreserved apology to Zainab Akhtar. Firstly we would like to apologise for the way in which Zainab was disparaged for making valid criticisms in relation to the festival. We acknowledge that she has no ulterior agenda in expressing these criticisms and would like to apologise for making an unwarranted personal response when we should have behaved professionally, working constructively to start an honest and open dialogue.

"We accept that our response and communications were inappropriate, and that they have caused stress and heartache to Zainab and others, and we would like to further extend our apology to all affected.

"We are committed to working towards a more diverse and inclusive festival for everyone to enjoy and we accept that there is more we can do, and must do, to help to make our festival a more wonderful and vibrant place. We will be taking meaningful and positive actions to ensure our festival is more diverse and representative of the full diversity of the comic world, and a place that is equally welcoming to all people.

"On behalf of the festival team I would like to re-iterate our deep regret and unreserved apology to Zainab."

On receiving it, Zainab Akhtar again took to Twitter...

In a separate statement, organisers said they wanted to be more inclusive: "The Lakes International Comic Art Festival is a celebration of the comic art form in all its genres, styles and creative forms. The Festival exists to progress the comic art form, support the industry and to deliver an amazing festival experience for our visitors. We are now in our fifth year and each year we work hard to improve and build on what’s working and learn from the feedback we have received.

"This year, we have been challenged over our approach to diversity, specifically race and religion. The Festival is of course concerned that such comments have been made.

"We would like to reassure all our visitors and guests that we are committed and proactive in behaving fairly to all people and embrace the nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010 - age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage/civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

"We take proactive steps each year to ensure we are representing the diversity of comics and reaching new audiences. That said, we know we can always improve and we would welcome the opportunity to talk to any comic creators or interested groups who can suggest ways we can improve further in 2018. 

"We are always keen to address issues raised and tackle any matters that need to be addressed. 

"The Festival deeply regrets that the wording of some comments made over the weekend on social media caused offence. We always welcome your feedback. We are a small passionate team committed to delivering an amazing festival - thank you for your support."

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