Photo Review: East London Comics and Arts Festival 2015

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The 4th East London Comics and Arts Festival (ELCAF) was held today in the hip East End of London, just off Mare Street between Hackney and Bethnal Green. Spread between two warehouse style venues  it was once again a combination of the cool and the comics. This festival is the brainchild of the ever excellent NoBrow Press and whilst it has got a hipster element it also has a lot of heart.

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Making full use of a much bigger space than last year it was still packed to the rafters. We had a couple of rooms for talks, a marketplace/stall area, a café, a kids area and an exhibition and all were easily accessible. I personally spent most of my time on the floor buying comics and chatting to the creators. Some of the bigger companies were there including Drawn and Quarterly, Jonathan Cape and NoBrow themselves.

I had an absolute blast from all day. This is a convention that is more about comics than some kind of perceived trendy style, more about a community than an industry, and more about poetry than blockbuster. I got to catch up with a few old faces and some new ones.

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Rachael Smith and Adam Cadwell were once again table partners and it was great to see that both of them have some fascinating things happening in their careers. Rachael is launching a new book through Avery Hill Publishing in August called The Rabbit. I have seen a sneak preview (more on this soon) and it is looking like more of her quirky excellent storytelling after the critical hit that was her last big release House Party. In full colour throughout it will be well worth your time and money I guarantee.  There are release parties at Travelling Man in Manchester on the 28th of August and at Orbital Comics in London on the 11th of September.

You can find Rachael at www.rachaelsmith.org or on Twitter @rachael_ for more details.

I’ve been a fan of Adam’s after discovering his book Blood Blokes and interviewing him for another website (shhh don’t tell John – it was a while ago – forget I said anything?). I was asking him about the next issue of Blokes and he tells me that it is in the works but he’s got an upcoming story with Eric Esquivel on writing duties coming out of Vertigo Comics called SFX Slam (that releases on the 1st of July). He showed me some pages and they look incredible. It’s got a punk rock/Love and Rockets feel that you have got to see.

You can find Adam at www.adamcadwell.com or on Twitter @adamcadwell

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Speaking of Avery Hill Publishing I got to catch up with David White (who won T-Shirt of the day) and Tillie Walden the creator of the fresh off the press The End of Summer. I had missed the previous night’s release party so it was great to meet her and grab a sketched in copy. Tillie (who officially makes me feel old as she was born in 1996 and is already releasing graphic novels) is hugely talented and the book is a fantastical world of heartbreak and mythology. It’s full of quietly thoughtful splash pages and deeply felt dialogue, I read it on the train home and really enjoyed it.

You can find Tillie at www.tilliewalden.com or on Twitter @TillieWalden

You can find Avery Hill at www.averyhillpublishing.com and on Twitter @AveryHillPubl

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It was great to chat it up with Gillian Guerz (pictured above with Joe Sparrow in the background).  A collaborator with Mariko Tamaki on a number of projects, I bought the anthology Pack Mentality from her that features a fun story of hers called ‘Dry Skin’ that gives flaky skin a little bit of a Turtles ‘Krang’ vibe to it (you should probably grab a copy as that goes absolutely nowhere in explaining it!)

You can find Gillian at www.gilliang.com

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Through an amateurish chunk of schoolboy French, some shouty hand signals, and a just in the nick-of-time interpreter I was blown away to finally get to talk to (and watch work) the super talented Victor Hussenot. Earlier this year I got to review his excellent book The Spectators (see my downthetubes review here). No quick sketching in the front of a book for this creator, I watched him paint full watercolour pieces. Incredible stuff. If you pick up one book this year this is the one.

You can find Victor at www.victorhussenot.com or on Twitter @HussenotVictor

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Otto Press had a prime spot as you walked into the main hall they were sitting right under the spotlight. They are an independent publisher of art books and comics coming out of London. They were giving away the new issue of A Few Ocular Anecdotes which is a Comix Reader/newspaper sized comics anthology. It’s got some stunning full colour artwork by Peter Cline.

You can find a copy at www.ottopress.bigcartel.com or follow them @ottopressUK

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It was awesome to catch up with Andy Poyiadgi and to see his new sci-fi mini comic Epsilon. I loved his NoBrow 11×17 release Lost Property (read my downthetubes review here) that came out last year and this was a book I had to read straightaway. I popped off and grabbed a quiet coffee and absolutely fell in love with this quiet story of the last conversation ever (pick yourself up a copy to see what that means).

You can find Andy (he’s not as stern as his photo makes him look) at www.ajpoyiadgi.com and on Twitter @ajpoyiadgi

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After bumping into Tiny Pencil (aka Amber Hsu) at a Gosh Comics event recently I finally got to talk to her properly and grab a copy of the intricately detailed and imaginatively grotesque anthology that is Tiny Pencil. A book that is both beautiful and repulsive all at once it tackles art on a page like no other anthology out there. I tweeted the cover and it straightaway got ‘Where do I get that?’ replies.

Get your eyeball assaulted and caressed over at www.tinypencil.com or follow TP on Twitter @TheTinyPencil

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I was great to catch up with old mucker Gareth Brookes and meet his table mate Wallis Eates. Gareth is hard at work on his new ‘trippy’ book and Wallis is busy self publishing comics. I bought You Chew I Spew from her and she kindly cut off some of her hair and taped it into the back cover. This gift of DNA was both unexpected and kind.

You can find Gareth at www.gbrookes.com and on Twitter @brookes_gareth.

You can find Wallis at www.walliseates.tumblr.com (she’s not on Twitter – I know this because it says “I’m not on Twitter” just below the sellotape and hair).

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It was grand to chat to Babak Ganjei and buy a copy of his fresh off the press book Early Learnings. I know that it was fresh of the proverbial as he only self-printed the book last night. It is full of autobiographical stories that experiment with style and technique. A couple of the pages really reminded me of (pre-Star Wars) Jeffrey Brown books like Clumsy.

You can find Babak at www.babakganjeiworks.com or on Twitter @BabakGanjei

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This was a great event that lives up to a true weekend event. It has enough to fill your Saturday and Sunday with a sales area, an exhibition, restaurant and talks that were all easy to find your way around and full of easily identifiable staff willing to help.

The NoBrow crew have put together one of the best Comics Festivals I have been to for years. They got in some great guests like the aforementioned Victor Hussenot and cult favourites like Sam Bosma (Fantasy Sports) and Jillian Tamaki (Skim) as well as some enthusiastic creators from the UK and around the world. It was really fascinating to see so many European titles that I hadn’t seen before. Last year the venue wasn’t big enough for the crowds but this year whilst it was extremely busy there seemed plenty of room to move about and grab a coffee. I easily spent five hours walking round and chatting and the time just flew by.

NoBrow is a hugely experimental company who never fail to astonish me with their depth of output. Seek them out at www.nobrow.net and on Twitter @nobrowpres

Look out for the event next year at www.elcaf.co.uk and on Twitter @ELCAF.co.uk

Many thanks to Angela for helping me out with this review and all the people generously giving of their time and talent to make this a really excellent show.

Thanks for reading – it is always appreciated.



Categories: British Comics, Events, Featured, Reviews

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