This year was the 5th Annual East London Comics Art Festival (ELCAF) and it was a whopper!
There has been a lot of talk recently about what makes a genuine and good Comic Convention. Well, it’s this attendee’s belief that a lot of people could pay attention to this event and learn a few lessons…
I made my way through the tattoo strewn and beard-infested areas of Dalston and Hackney Central to The Roundhouse, East London. This was the new venue for the event. Deciding that I’d fit in better by grabbing a flat white coffee, I stopped at a local coffee shop. I sat at a table and started reading a recently released-comic and as I did so was approached by the waiter who told be he couldn’t wait to finish his shift to head into ELCAF and see Adrian Tomine. (the US comic creator whose Killing and Dying, published in 2015, was this year’s winner of The Story Prize Spotlight Award).
I noticed that people around me where chatting about comics! Yes, comics! Not the Deadpool movie, not cosplay, not Star Wars movies, not TV shows or video games, but actual true to life comics.
Invigorated by this turn of events compared to recent conventions, I have attended (cough, MCM, cough) I headed straight in with my pass, for an events whose line-up included appearances by Joelle Jolivet, Richard McGuire, Dieter Braun,Aardman Animations, Jan Batjlik, Isabel Greenberg and many more.
The event ran from Friday to Sunday this year and, even at 12 noon on a week day, was a bustling place. There were some bigger UK publishers there like Faber and Faber, Jonathan Cape and SelfMadeHero along with some of smaller up and comers like Avery Hill Publishing and Dirty Rotten Comics. NoBrow (the brains behind the event) had some excellent books for sale and I caught up with Angela and Emma from the team about their plans.
This year is a huge year for company. They have not just some incredible comics and graphic novels in both their NoBrow and Flying Eye ranges but it looks like there is also a Hilda movie on the horizon, based on the terrific graphic novels by Luke Pearson. Personally, I got a copy of SP4RX from them and can’t wait to crack it open.
I also got a chance to catch up with loads of exhibitors…
I got a chance to catch up with John Cei Douglas and buy a copy of Show Me The Map To Your Heart and Other Stories. You don’t get the chance to see John at many conventions and I had been recommended his work by Katriona Chapman at Avery Hill as a great talent. His work is gentle and with a gorgeous quality of line, telling personal and captivating short stories of everyday life. I can thoroughly recommend this onwards.
I got to catch up with Kirk Campbell and Gary Clap from Dirty Rotten Comics. They have been knocking it out of the park of late with their self-published anthology title Dirty Rotten Comics, released every every four months. (We reviewed their recent issue here).
It’s is great to see that they are still actively hunting for new talent and have the next issue ready to go anytime soon. Watch out for these guys.
It was great to see the mighty Andy Poyiadgi. His work never fails to impress me and his new book Veripathy was possibly my favourite read so far of this year’s purchases. It tells a series of stories set in the near future of an invention that allows others to feel your pain, anxieties, illnesses and possibly more. Intelligent and touching. It is also drawn with care, detail and is a really great looking product.
It was great to finally meet Michal Slomka, the man behind the Polish comic con Ligatura, which takes place in Poznań and Centrala – an organization promoting comics from Central Europe who set up a British arm back in 2013 (you can read an interview with Michal about why they made the move, in Polish, here).
I was really impressed with their recent English language release of Chernobyl: The Zone, written by Francisco Sanchez with art by Natacha Bustos, who was also at the event. Michal tells me that they are currently looking for a UK distributor and that they have loads of books waiting to get an English language translation and be released. I cannot recommend Chernobyl: The Zone enough. It is an incredible retelling of an important historical and political event.
• Go and have a look at all Centrala’s products at their website here (or Amazon for all their titles available here in both English and Polish), or find them on Facebook here or follow them on Twitter @icentrala. Have a read of my review of Chernobyl: The Zone here
I also got to catch up with the incredibly talented young artist/writer Matt Swan. He has been self publishing for a while but recently put out a great graphic novel through Avery Hill Publishing called Parsley Girl: Carrots. In my humble opinion, this is a next step up creatively for him and is a superbly rich and crazily told story that really has to be read to be believed.
• Have a look yourself by popping over to the Avery Hill shop and grabbing a copy here
If a convention was measured on the quality of the product and the enthusiasm of the exhibitors and attendees, ELCAF would win all the Convention prizes (are there prizes?). This is an event built on comics, art, originality and a genuine sense of community. Full of talks, workshops, a sales floor and a great area to sit down, grab a coffee or something to eat and chat about the medium.
I would recommend ELCAF to anyone jaded with the convention circuit. Go along and have your eyes opened to some incredible work that is going on in the small and indie press scene.
If I had a small niggle it was that the DJ was a little loud? (I know that this is purely a reflection on myself being an old codger and nothing else… smiley face!)
Let’s also admit that any convention that has an after show party full of free beer and popcorn can’t be bad!
A big thanks to Angela and Emma and all the rest of the staff and volunteers who put on such a great event. I can’t wait until the next one.
• You can also order those great books that you missed from NoBrow at their site here
Many thanks for reading.
More Imagery from ELCAF 2016
— ZoëAubugeau-Williams (@Zjsaw) June 12, 2016
— DefinitelyJenny (@DefinitelyJenny) June 12, 2016
— Hannah Lee Miller (@AGreatEscapist) June 12, 2016
— Kristyna Baczynski (@kbaczynski) June 12, 2016
— KaveriGopalakrishnan (@kaveriGeewhiz) June 12, 2016
— chris harnan (@mrcap123) June 12, 2016
— Fran Meneses (@frannerd) June 12, 2016
Antony Esmond is a comic reviewer and writer – his hips don’t lie.