ELCAF 2017 – the East London Comic Art Festival – took place, for the second year, at the Round Chapel in Hackney, also utilising the nearby School Rooms.
“Friday is definitely the day to go,” I decided to remind myself next year, as I found it quieter and calmer than the weekend, when I’d attended the Festival in previous years.
On arrival, I bumped into co-founder Sam Arthur outside the Round Chapel in the burning hot early afternoon sun, who waxed philosophically about the hard work that had gone in to this year’s (and every year’s event). I then headed in. ELCAF had begun for another year.
As always, there was no shortage of activities and attractions. The busy main hall of the Chapel was packed with creator and publisher tables, with a more peaceful balcony above the hall. (You can sit there and read purchases as I often did throughout the day).
Adjacent to the main hall was a workshop and art room with a talks room nearby. Outside, there were two marquees for further talks and tables, which would come into fuller use as the weekend got busier.
You can really feel the creative optimism in the air at this event. ELCAF and its parent company NoBrow are really holding open that door between experimental art and comics. The creators attending are pushing what can be done with the medium more and more these days, and there is no greater champion of this approach than the ELCAF crew.
Early on, I took time and sat with the events organiser Angela Francis and ELCAF artistic director Ligaya Salazar. Both were taking a well-earned five minutes break as the event got into its stride.
The content of ELCAF is something that is examined from every angle in the run up to the event. A curated exhibitors list was again a key feature this year (a practice integral to some other events, of course), with an eye on promoting those who have something new being released. Access is given to creators on the Friday that may not necessarily reflect the same table structure on the weekend.
Ligaya told me that this was to allow the opportunity to exhibit to as many people as possible in a very competitive field.
Here, I also have to give a shout out to the volunteers as well, who were helpful to a person and whose enthusiasm echoed the event’s ethos. At least a couple of times over the weekend, I was asked what I had bought and what I was looking for. (Eat your heart out, MCM!)
I managed to catch up with some creators as well.
Andy Barron is someone who I have been following since he sent me his trippy and (almost) indescribable book Mantra. A colourful, psychedelic assault on the senses that deals with growth, death, sexuality and stripped down human emotion, it is highly recommended.
He has a new book out inn the same universe called Tantra that I then went and sat and read. I’m pleased to report it delivers more of the same gloriously infectious crazy examination of a world far beyond the norm.
Find out more about Andy at www.andyillustrates.com or follow him on Twitter @omcommics
I then caught up with old pals Avery Hill Publishing. Ricky Miller and Dave White, who had that creative locomotive, Tillie Walden, with them. “The Hill” continue to put out exceptional work that never fails to wow. All involved with running this groundbreaking company do so in conjunction with busy day jobs, which just goes to show what can be donee when you put your mind to it.
Highly recommended from their recent releases is Goatherded by Charlo Frade.
I finally got to catch up with Josh Hicks. I got to interview him for downthetubes last year, when he released the hilarious Glorious Wrestling Alliance issue 1. It was great to hear that issue 2 is on the way with a possible third issue next year.
He’s recently paired up with the folks at Good Comics and was releasing Human Garbage at ELCAF. An anthology of his shorter stories it has the greatest contents page ever in print!
I also I finally tracked down Todd Oliver, who had been so kind as to send his new series Boxes into The Awesome Comics Podcast. We are all fans of this comic. I did an audio interview with Todd that’ll be appearing on the Pod soon, but can thoroughly recommend Boxes as a crazy and original slice of life comic (if your life was like a Monty Python animation). I bought all three print issues (issue 3 was released specially for ELCAF) and grabbed a couple of £5 sketches as well.
This was actually Todd’s first convention and it was great to see he was quite the popular figure. I can see this guy only getting bigger and bigger on the scene.
Next to Todd was the man only identified mysteriously as Pencil Bandit. I hung about chatting to him and Todd for some time. I even got this excellent ‘Batman’ from him…
Find more Banditry at www.pencilbandit.com
There’s been a a lot of talk recently in the comics community about the validity of conventions these days. Many seem to be thinly veiled cash grabs based on the use of ‘Comic’ in the name and then cramming the place with plastic toys and fading celebrities. I would suggest that to those who seek a comics event with true creative credibility that they look to the East London Comics Art Festival.
A visual feast of comics art and community this is, in my opinion, the UK Comics event of the year. I have been going for the last few years and have never failed to walk away with a sense of the real creativity growing up around the brilliant home grown comics indie publisher NoBrow. Always a hubbub of chatter, music and fun and original designs this is an event for all. No fanboy cliques here.
OK, I’ll admit it. There is a higher than average number of nose piercings and quite an annoying DJ playing music (please note here that I am old!) but generally the vibe is great.
You know what? In a way it’s kind of refreshing that I don’t recognise that many people inside. Fresh faces are always needed. Go away and create…
ELCAF is easily one of the high points of my comics and art year. Comics should be accessible to everyone. The creation from idea to being in someones hands being read is, to me anyway, what events like this are about.
Many thanks for reading
All photos copyright Tony Esmond
Antony Esmond is a comic reviewer and writer - his hips don't lie.