AN ELCAF REPORT
Another year, another ELCAF that came and went. The East London Comics and Arts Festival opened its doors at the Round Chapel for a 3rd consecutive year (7th overall since its inception) and continued doing what it does best: Gather talented comic artists, illustrators and all interested in the medium under one roof.
Under this one roof we found comics tackling an infinite variety of subjects, DIY gnome and worm pins, art books about dogs, funky ceramics, wooden toys, apparel of all sorts… you name it – There was something for everyone.
Great debuting titles included Summer Break by Lottie Pencheon and HOMUNCULUS by Joe Sparrow, from growing UK publisher Shortbox. Pencheon’s book is an insightful and beautifully drawn short narrative on the struggle with mental health, and it accurately depicts complicated thoughts and the difficulty of bursting from a disruptive emotional bubble.
Charlotte Mei from Day Job also debuted brand new zine Karaoke Magazine, a lyric book illustrating her favourite songs to sing and the words that come with them. 90s and early 2000s bangers figure in each page, as well as a great spread about Japanese artist Yakiko Ano. The portraits are so good that Seal himself approved of it.
One table that definitely caught our attention (and surely of many people) was Seoul- based Seungwhan Kim (aka Bird Pit), whose strange characterful illustrations are compiled in books big and small. And Froglump Lucy Haslam’s brand new comic Between a Defensible Space is an eerie exploration of a character’s search for an arsonist, an idea that came to her in a dream after a long period of unmotivation.
This year the layout of the festival changed slightly to accommodate more exhibitors in the School Rooms, offering workshops in the Main Hall instead. This allowed for more circulation and space, and an equal balance of activity throughout the whole venue.
The programme was once again enriching, with talks from Illustrator in residence Charlotte Dumortier, Tor Brandt, Nina Cosco and more. Visitors could create their own punchy comics, furniture in DIY dioramas and fantastic characters during workshops. Springboard Meetings also allowed visitors to set up connections and show their work to Art Directors in editorial and publishing, as well as active Illustrators in the industry.
The AOI was also present on Friday, offering a panel discussion on Creating your Own Success with Illustrators Patrick Kyle, Aisha Franz and Barbara Malagoli. We talked about the importance of creating personal work, how this feeds into commercial work, and how significant is to keep practices DIY in an age where manufacturing is becoming standardised. “I encourage everyone to experimenting with different techniques and get involved in the making of their own projects”, said Kyle.
All speakers also commented on how they are involved with their respective communities at home – Franz with Colorama, Malagoli with female Illustrators in Sao Paulo, Kyle with Toronto Comics Arts Festival. Each year the festival seems to expand and become more and more international, with exhibitors travelling as far and wide as Brazil, South Korea, Colombia and the US.
Community is certainly a great part of why ELCAF attracts such a big crowd year after year. Ruby Hinton from Quartz Collective comments: “I’ve always struggled to find my own voice and place, to belong – but in ELCAF I definitely feel I fit in and can be myself”.
The atmosphere is certainly a social setting where old friends catch up, or new friends meet each other and comment on their common finds. It almost resembles the same feeling of a house gathering, with beer generously supplied by Gipsy Hill decorated with a special edition label by Dumortier for the festival.
Yoyo the Ricecorpse and Takayo Akiyama comment that ELCAF “it’s all about the people”, and Bristol-based Jayde Perkin agrees: “The best thing about ELCAF is the community. Not only I find amazing work here – I also find my peers and friends”. Perkin is this year’s WeTransfer Award Winner, which will grant her £3500 to develop her comic I’m Not Ready into a book, to be launched next year. The Audience Award went to Beirut-based Samandal for the comic Topia.